The Detroit Red Wings had a must-win game against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. But, unfortunately, they came up just short. Detroit controlled play for most of the contest, but some mistakes cost them. The Capitals won 2-1, and now Derek Lalonde and his team will fight for their lives in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.

The Red Wings and Penguins are right next to each other in the race for the final wild-card spot in the East. Neither team has a game in hand, either. As a result, whoever emerges victorious in Pittsburgh will keep their playoff hopes alive. Whoever loses, though, will almost assuredly miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs altogether.

Lalonde said his team was preparing for a “next level” playoff push before the Capitals game. Now, however, he made a rather eye-opening admission about this chase and why he's hoping to capitalize on this chance to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. “We may not be here next year,” the Red Wings bench boss told on Wednesday.

Red Wings playoff hopes

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Alex Lyon (34) makes a save in the third period against the Washington Capitals at Little Caesars Arena.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit is one of four teams vying for the final wild-card spot in the East. The Capitals currently hold onto the spot, with the Penguins right on their tail. The Philadelphia Flyers are also in the hunt, though they've hit quite a rough patch. The Red Wings controlled their own destiny before Tuesday but will need help over these last few games.

The Winged Wheel has three games remaining following this clash with the Penguins. First, they travel to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have already clinched their playoff berth. Next, they take on the Montreal Canadiens twice. They play their final home game on April 15 before ending their season the next day in the heart of French Canada.

The Penguins also have three games remaining following Thursday's contest. And their final game of the year could be their most important. Pittsburgh takes on the New York Islanders, who currently hold onto third place in the Metropolitan Division. That final game could make or break playoff lives for multiple teams, including the Red Wings.

Derek Lalonde gives 2024-25 outlook

Derek Lalonde's admission could catch some by surprise. After all, the Red Wings have progressed in each season under general manager Steve Yzerman. Furthermore, they've built one of the best prospect pools in the entire league. This summer figures to bring more moves to further improve their chances of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

However, what Detroit does may not matter in the end. A few teams drastically underperformed this season. For instance, the Buffalo Sabres fell well below expectations. They missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 13th consecutive season. Lalonde pointed out another team he believes could make a jump in 2024-25.

“I don’t foresee New Jersey not flirting with 100 points (next season),” Lalonde said, via “You don’t get these opportunities (all the time), and we’re in one. So, we had an opportunity last night; we came up short. We have an opportunity tomorrow against Pittsburgh; we would like to seize that opportunity.”

At the end of the day, the Red Wings can make all the moves they want. However, other teams could take more dramatic leaps forward next year. So, there's a realistic possibility that Detroit improves once again but has nothing to show for it. This season, though, the Red Wings have the opportunity they have dreamed of for the last seven seasons. And on Thursday, they can take full advantage by picking up an important victory.