Alex Lyon and the Detroit Red Wings looked down and out in the month of March. They lost their comfortable standing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs race. And they seemed outmatched on the ice no matter who they played. However, Derek Lalonde and his team have reclaimed a playoff spot with five games to go.

The Red Wings have very important games left on their schedule. In fact, their next game is against one of their direct competitors for a playoff spot. Detroit will take on the Washington Capitals at home on Tuesday night. Furthermore, they take on the resurgent Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.

Lalonde knows how tough these games can be. The Detroit bench boss won two Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 and 2021. He won those Cups as an assistant coach, though. Going through this as a head coach, especially when leading a team that isn't used to this sort of grind, is a different matter.

“Winning is hard, and we’re finding out how hard it is, especially real hockey,” said the Red Wings head coach, via “It’s the National Hockey League. Everything’s tough. But this is next-level-type stuff.”

“We’re slowly gobbling some points, keeping ourselves in the fight, and we’ve been getting some help around the League,” Lalonde continued, via “But it comes to a point (where) we’ve got to take care of ourselves. … I think it’s managing your emotions, staying in the fight, not getting too high, too low. And it’s not easy to do.”

Living in the moment

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Alex Lyon (34) looks on in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at Little Caesars Arena.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the last seven seasons. That can factor into their approach to these games. However, they have a roster full of experienced players. Detroit may not have playoff experience as a group, but Derek Lalonde has players he can rely on.

Take goalie Alex Lyon for example. Lyon has had stints on a few different teams in the NHL. Last year, he caught on with the Florida Panthers and thrived. He played 15 games and posted a .914 save percentage to help the Cats into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For him, it's best to simply live in the moment in these situations.

“I honestly didn’t know that we had the Capitals and the Penguins coming up,” Lyon said, via “I knew that we had important games. But I think that living in the moment and staying day by day is absolutely crucial this time of year — and remaining calm in critical situations. And I talk about that all the time. But that’s what the best players do.”

Who is chasing the Red Wings

The Red Wings are facing stiff competition here in the home stretch of the season. As mentioned, Detroit's next game is against the Washington Capitals. Derek Lalonde will likely send Alex Lyon out to man the crease against the Metropolitan Division club. Washington beat the Winged Wheel in their last meeting, but have lost each of their last six games.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are right behind the Capitals in this conversation. Pittsburgh seemed likely to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs once again this season. However, they have found new life. The Penguins have won six of their last eight games. They don't play until Thursday when they meet Detroit.

Finally, the Philadelphia Flyers are on Detroit's heels as well. Philadelphia spent most of the season comfortably in third place in the Metro. However, a recent skid has seen them fall out of the top three entirely. Questions around head coach John Tortorella have arisen as a result.

No matter how you view it, the Red Wings have work to do. And they control their destiny in these final five games of the season. Let's see if Derek Lalonde and Alex Lyon can lead Detroit back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2024.