Red Wings eliminated

The Detroit Red Wings failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.

The Red Wings (41-32-9) were eliminated from contention when the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 on Tuesday. Detroit and Washington each finished with 91 points, but the Capitals earned the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with the tiebreaker (36-27 in regulation wins).

After making the playoffs for 25 straight seasons from 1990-91 through 2005-06, winning the Cup in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008, Detroit has set a team record for consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, surpassing seven straight from 1970-71 through 1976-77.

Here’s a look at what happened in the 2023-24 season for the Red Wings and why things could be better next season:

The skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: Austin Czarnik, F; Zach Aston-Reese, F; Shayne Gostisbehere, D; Christian Fischer, F; Patrick Kane, F; David Perron, F; James Reimer, G; Daniel Sprong, F

Potential restricted free agents: Lucas Raymond, F; Moritz Seider, D; Joe Veleno, F

What went wrong

Severe slump: The turning point came Feb. 29-March 14, when Detroit lost seven straight games in regulation. The Red Wings had built an eight-point cushion in the playoff race by going 16-4-2 from Jan. 2-Feb. 27. Just like that, it was gone. It didn’t help that captain Dylan Larkin, their No. 1 center, missed eight games with a lower-body injury from March 6-19.

Team defense: The Red Wings rank 24th in goals against per game (3.33), 26th in shots on goal against per game (32.4) and 28th in 5-on-5 shot attempts percentage (46.3 percent). Too often they started poorly and had to come from behind. When they were streaking in January and February, they were doing it with hot shooting, hot goaltending and special teams. Eventually it caught up to them.

Goaltending: Ville Husso entered the season as the No. 1, but played only 19 games because of injuries and went 9-5-2 with a 3.55 goals-against average and .892 save percentage. James Reimer, the No. 2, went 11-8-2 with a 3.11 GAA and .904 save percentage. Alex Lyon started as the No. 3, but ended up the No. 1 for much of the season and played an NHL career-high 44 games. Hot for a while, he cooled off and finished 21-18-5 with a 3.05 GAA and .904 save percentage. The Red Wings are tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for 25th in 5-on-5 save percentage (.907).

Reasons for optimism

Steady improvement: The Red Wings bottomed out with 39 points in 71 games in 2019-20, their first season under general manager Steve Yzerman. They’ve increased their point total each season since. They had 48 points in 56 games in 2020-21, then 74 in 82 in 2021-22, 80 in 82 in 2022-23 and 91 in 82 this season. No one picked them to make the playoffs this season, but they were in contention right to the end -- one point away.

MTL@DET: Raymond nets equalizer for 30th goal of the season

Young players: Forward Lucas Raymond, the No. 4 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, set NHL career highs in goals (31), assists (40) and points (71). The 22-year-old scored big goals down the stretch and led the Red Wings in points. Defenseman Moritz Seider, the No. 6 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, set an NHL career high in goals (nine). The 23-year-old ranks second in the NHL in blocked shots (212) behind St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (215). Defenseman Simon Edvinsson, the No. 6 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, played 15 NHL games, including 13 down the stretch. The 21-year-old seems ready to take the next step next season.

Roster flexibility: The Red Wings must sign Raymond and Seider, but they have space under the NHL salary cap and several expiring contracts. They were aggressive in trades and free agency last offseason, and they continued to be during the season by signing forward Patrick Kane as an unrestricted free agent Nov. 28. It should be another busy offseason.