Friday, February 28, 2014

Wings Get Ball Rolling in Back-To-Back Wins

Well there's a good way to come back from the Olympics.

Detroit was blessed with two straight games to resume the NHL regular season, and obviously they wanted to get off on the right foot to start their dash to the postseason.  They did exactly that as they decimated the Ottawa Senators 6-1 last night, on the heels of squeaking out a 2-1 OT win over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.

With the loss of Henrik Zetterberg for most--if not all of--this season, the Red Wings need someone to step up and deliver, and so far it seems like they've got just the man, or mule, for the job.  Johan Franzen is playing some of the best hockey of his career after returning yet again from concussion symptoms that had been plaguing him over the last couple months.  He really made a statement of intent with a hat trick in Ottawa, almost netting four after ringing the post.  This is the Mule we know and love, and something has obviously clicked Franzen back into Beast mode.  Whatever it is, he needs to bottle it and keep drinking it the rest of the year.

Currently the Wings are standing pat at 8th in the East with 68 points.  They hold a game-in-hand over 7th place Toronto with 71 points, and are even in GP with 9th place Washington with 65 points.  If the Red Wings can keep up this pace, they will slowly inch their way up the standings and into a more comfortable position for the playoffs.

Just please don't let it be a repeat of last year's nail-biting last gasp into the playoffs.  I don't know of my heart can take another one of those.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Let's Review, Shall We?

With the Winter Olympics finished up for all the NHL'ers who were participating, the Red Wings will soon be back to continue the remainder of the 2013-2014 season.  Before that, however, let's take a moment to get re-acquainted with our team and remind ourselves of the position we're in as the regular season prepares to start up again.

Detroit comes back into the season holding onto the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, currently ranked 5th in the Atlantic Division.  They are 6 points back of 7th ranked Toronto and hold only a single point's edge over trailing Columbus.  The silver lining here is that Detroit actually holds two games in hand on the Maple Leafs, so with a good showing out of the gate from the Red Wings, we could see that margin close to only 2 points by the time the two clubs come even in games played.  Also in our favor is the fact that Columbus HAS the same number of GP, so no games in hand for them.

On the injury front, Pavel Datsyuk is getting back into form.  He played very well in the Olympics, carrying the Russian national team on his shoulders as much as he could, but thanks to some terrible coaching, the Russians were ousted before even getting to medal contention.  I understand Dats is probably very upset and disappointed over this, but to me it is a blessing in disguise.  Pavel got in some good playing time and was still able to get time to further rest himself before coming back to the Wings this Wednesday.  All of the other Olympian Red Wings had great showings too, including our two Slovakians, Tomas Jurco and Tatar.  Even though their team went winless, those two really showed grit and determination, easily becoming two of the best players on the team even though they are still very young.

On the flipside, however, was the biggest news out of Sochi for Detroit: Henrik Zetterberg went down early in the tournament with more back issues, this time so severe that he had to withdraw completely and opt for back surgery.  Hank was quoted as saying the injury was 20 times worse than when it flared up during the regular season.  Initial reports indicate that our captain could be out at least 8 weeks, which does mean that he COULD be cleared to play in time for the playoffs or even the late stages of the season if we're lucky; however, that is a long, long time to wait to get back the guy who has undeniably driven the bus for the Red Wings ever since late last season.  Zetterberg is irreplaceable, but the question looms whether or not the organization will attempt to do so anyway.

Back at home, Johan Franzen is feeling much improved by all accounts.  Originally chosen to play in Sochi, a relapse of Franzen's concussion symptoms forced him to concede his spot, which was taken by fellow Wing Gustav Nyquist.  Franzen could be ready to go on Wednesday when the team resumes play.  The bigger question looming over management's head is regarding a guy we've barely seen this year:  How will the return of Stephen Weiss to the lineup impact the Red Wings' play?  Weiss was...ineffective, shall we say, thus far this season but it became glaringly obvious after a while that something was definitely wrong with him.  Sure enough, turns out he was battling a sports hernia and needed surgery.  Now that that's been taken care of though, will we start to see more of the Stephen Weiss who dazzled Florida Panthers fans for so many years?  With the absence of Zetterberg, one prays the answer is a decided yes.

...Oh, and Jakub Kindl had a sprained MCL that apparently is better case anyone cares.

So in short, the Red Wings come back to the season in okay shape.  The loss of Z hurts terribly, but with all the bodies coming back playing well, squeaking into the playoffs is not a far off dream.

Once you're in, anything can happen.

Here's to an exciting last dash to the end, Wingnuts.


Monday, February 3, 2014

The Defense Rests

If it wasn't clear before yesterday's game, it certainly became glaringly obvious after: this team needs an upgrade on the blueline.

I've been chirping this for months, through all the other struggles with injury and offensive droughts and whatnot.  Most of the other problems (besides injury) have cleared up, but the one thing that has been consistent is the fact that our D-corps is nigh-translucent.  If you score 5 goals in one hockey game, there are very few excuses as to why you don't win that game.  And by the ways, injuries?   The only big recent injury we had on defense was losing Rig to broken ribs, and he's back.  Honestly, he's been one of, if not THE best defenseman we've had over the last week of games.  We've run almost the exact same 6 D all year, and it hasn't gotten any better.

Smith still stinks, Quincey is a sabotaging double-agent, and Kindl looks ready to go back to the AHL.  Lashoff is spotty at best, but at least he doesn't get caught pinching like Smith always does.  The biggest offender, and I'll take flak for this and I really don't care, is Kronwall.  Let's level, okay guys? Nik Kronwall is not a #1 defenseman, he is plugging the hole with his finger, not filling it.  The style Kronwall has played since the departure of Lidstrom is not his style of play, and it's obvious.  The dude is here to bang bodies and keep enemy offenses honest, and he does not do that on a regular basis.  It's part of why opposing skaters attack out defensive zone so aggressively and get the big chances that they do.  Kronner is not a shut-down guy, he's a knock-down guy!  And before you say it, I don't care about the risk of suspension if Kronner starts Kronwalling guys frequently again.  You know why?  Because a hell of a lot of good it's done us for him to NOT do it! We're still struggling for a playoff spot and we're giving up 5 goals every other game, do you need reminded of the game against Philly??  This is not a singularity!  Our. Defense. SUCKS.

I'm not saying there's definitely an answer out there to be had at the trade deadline, but DO NOT feed me the same Ken Holland bullshit that "We like our team as it is" and "There's really no one out there that interests us." because damn-near ANYTHING is better than what we've got right now.  Management needs to stop deluding itself and WORK on fixing this very real PROBLEM.  Even if they go after someone and don't get them, at least if I can see they TRIED, that's enough for me...