Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wings Earn Playoff-Clinching Point in Pittsburgh

Finally, a shootout loss we can feel good about!

The Wings managed to pull even with the Pittsburgh Penguins late in the 3rd after giving up two leads, but weren't able to put down the Pens for good as Detroit lost their match yesterday 4-3 after a shootout.  The point from that loss was the last point the Red Wings needed to secure their berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a 23rd consecutive year, and this has arguably been one of the toughest of all 23 years.

There have been an inordinate amount of hurdles for Detroit to jump over just to get to this point--primary among them being the ungodly number of injuries the team has suffered.  Depleting what was already a roster with some big holes didn't bode well for the Wings, but then a miracle happened:

The kids in Grand Rapids turned out to be riper than we thought.

Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, and Danny DeKeyser among others accepted the challenge of filling roles far beyond their years and have been nothing short of stellar.  Add to that the young fixtures Tomas Tatar and Gus Nyquist--of whom we knew would be regulars on the team despite the weirdness with Nyquist--and you get a youth movement for the ages.

Nyquist in particular has been superb, playing the best hockey of his life ever since taking the coaching staff's advice to maintain a more shoot-first attitude.  Since then, he's taken himself all the way up to the top of Detroit's goal leaders, and the gap between him and everyone else is wide to say the least.

Dekeyser has been integral to the Detroit blueline.  The young defensive genius is easily in the Red Wings' top 3 D-men, and after the most recent injury to Jonathan Ericsson which has him still sidelined, the Kaiser has played with poise and a measure of calm that few players his age exhibit.

There are so many great stories to talk about when you look back at this year's team, and we still have the playoffs to look forward to.  Be it Pittsburgh or Boston that Detroit faces in the first round, the contest is sure to be an entertaining one!  We'll be there soon as the Wings only have 2 games left in the regular season, but the biggest challenge has been cleared: We're in.

Now, anything can happen.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Wings Learn Valuable Lesson Against Buffalo

Last night's game was way more nerve-wracking than it needed to be.

Detroit roared out to a 3-0 lead in the 1st period in their match against the Buffalo Sabres, but obviously got complacent and relaxed by the time the 2nd rolled around, because from then on the Wings let the Sabres back into the play, and only managed to scrape by with a narrow 3-2 win.  Darren Helm, Tomas Jurco and Daniel Alfredsson tallied for the Wings and Jimmy Howard improved to 20-18-11 with the victory.

I'm personally glad the Wings learned this lesson last night against the worst team in the league, because it proves exactly what the kids in Detroit need to know: Parity is the reality, ANY team can beat you any night if you don't work hard for the full game.  They almost saw it happen and almost gave away what many (myself included) would normally consider mail-in points.  The only thing is, we're way too close to the end of the season and we're still not technically a lock for the playoffs.  We do not get the luxury of backing into any wins from here on out, instead the Wings must put skate blade to throat and make sure they're playing strong hockey from start to finish.

With the standings the way they are, the most points any team below Detroit and Columbus can end with is 92.  If you factor in ROW, the Wings need to win 3 of their last 5 to be a lock for the playoffs no matter what everyone else does.  One of those 5 is against Buffalo again, so as long as the Wings turn in a slightly better effort than they did last night, that's one win, leaving 2 wins out of 4 to clinch.

That, my friends, is doable.

We're in the homestretch now, guys.  Pedal down all week means we're in.  Get it done.

P.S.:  I'd like to congratulate referee Don Van Massenhoven on his great career as an on-ice official.  He reffed his final game last night at the Joe, and we were his choice for his last match.  Enjoy your retirement, Don!  The Ref has one of the most thankless jobs in hockey, but one of the most integral and important.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Wings versus Sabres and the Magician Returns

The Detroit Red Wings will take on the Buffalo Sabres tonight at the Joe Louis Arena at 7:30pm. The Wings, who are 6-3-1 their last ten games, defeated the Sabres in the last two match ups this season. Detroit will be looking for another two points to help secure their playoff spot.

The Wings have been on fire lately, winning their last three games in a row. The big news of tonight's game will be the return of one of the best players in the league, Pavel Datsyuk. We likely see the star center play left wing in tonight's game where he won't be pushed to play as much. The line he will skate with is still to be determined.

Datsyuk has 15 goals and 18 assists this season. The magician is always a star, but has had less time
to shine this season. Tonight's game will be his first home game since December 23rd. Datsyuk has sat out 16 straight games due to a knee injury and missed 30 of the last 34 games Detroit has played. This brings the question of how much do the Wings really need to rely on Datsyuk?

Detroit has been holding their own since losing Datsyuk's key role. Players like Nyquist, Tatar and Jurco have helped keep pushed the Wings in their first Eastern Conference wild card spot. Rookie Tomas Tatar has four two-point games in the past six. There is no doubt that the return of Datsyuk will help push Detroit to their 23rd playoff appearance. However, it appears that Datsyuk does not need to play the role of saving the Wings any longer. Daniel Alfredsson is also rumored to be back in the line up tonight.

Sabres, who are 2-7-1 their last ten games, also have a couple wild cards on their own. Forward Tyler Ennis has earned three points in his last two games and Cody Hodgson has a point each of his last three games. Buffalo will be pushing to win as they face having the fewest wins in a full season since 1971-72.

Root on the Detroit Red Wings with us tonight at 7:30pm by following our Facebook and Twitter!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Jimmy Howard Wins His 150th Game as Detroit Squeaks by the Bruins 3-2

Credit goes to Jorge Nemsis on the Red Wings' Facebook Group.

The Red Wings won a game they had no business winning against the top team in the league with a score of 3-2.

Jimmy Howard also collected his 150th win in the NHL, all with the Detroit Red Wings. He's still 201 wins away from the first place Terry Sawchuk on the Red Wings' all-time wins leader.

The first goal was awarded to the Bruins with a blast from the point by Johnny Boychuk. The right-handed bruiser from Edmonton blew one past Howard at the very end of the first period after his teammate Krug had one disallowed on a sketchy call at best a couple of moments earlier.

When the second period started, the Red Wings had some get up in their skating and it finally paid off as Tatar blew one top shelf by Rask. The Finnish goaltender didn’t have a chance on the goal, as the big frame of Riley Sheahan had blocked his view. It was all tied up 1-1 after two periods and the fans, like myself, had no more nails left as the Bruins outshot the Red Wings 25-11.

Quickly in the third period, Carl Soderberg put the Bruins back up 2-1 after a PP goal, assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Brendan Smith’s brother, Reilly. That goal kind of left the Wings short of breath. Then, the Kid Line of Sheahan, Jurco and Tatar took my breath away (Top Gun reference here!) with a play that showed how much effort they give game in and game out. Tatar kicked the puck in front of the net to Jurco and the beneficiary of the Slovakian connection potted his 6th goal to tie it up at two apiece.

Then, Nyquist exploded and did what he’s been doing for the last 12 games, scoring on a near breakaway, whilst being chased by none other than Zdeno "I have a 7 foot stick and a Norris Trophy" Chara. Gustav had the eventual game-winner, as the Red Wings would hold on and win 3-2.

After the game, Claude Julien said that the team only played 50 of the 60 minutes of the game and that is what cost the Bruins the game. For his part, Soderberg said in the post-game interview that the Bruins "never want to lose two in a row" and was quick to comment that the Leafs’ game was now the only thing on his mind, putting the lost behind him.

As for the winning coach, Babcock stated in his post-game interview that a lot of the forwards didn’t have a great game but redeemed themselves in the third period with big goals. "We can play with anyone, we don’t have to watch them play. We just need to get out there and play" Babcock remains confident that his team can overcome adversity and stated that although "this wasn’t one of our best games, we found a way to win".

Now let’s just hope they can find a way to get into the playoffs with only 6 games left. One thing is sure, if the Red Wings play like they did against the Bruins, this team can surprise in the playoffs and keep the streak of playoff appearances alive.