Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wings Must be Better in Critical Game 4

There is a wide gap of difference between a 2-2 series and a 3-1 series.  Detroit needs to keep that mind as they head into tonight's Game 4 match-up against the Bruins, who currently hold the 2-1 advantage in this first round clash.

All reports indicate that the Wings are getting back Captain Henrik Zetterberg tonight, so long as he cleared at game-time by doctors.  You can't even put into words the boost this could give the team.  Regardless of the minutes he actually logs if he plays, Hank's sheer presence on the bench and in the dressing room will be massively uplifting and inspirational.

The only other line change expected is the slotting in of Todd Bertuzzi for his debut in this series, with the hope that his bigger frame will help drive the play to the front of the Boston net.  With these line changes, the Red Wings hope to generate more offense, but it wouldn't take much as Detroit has somehow managed to at least take one game after going three with only 2 goals.  A huge factor for this has been the decrepit state of the powerplay.  I won't be sad if Tom Renney is axed after this season, because whatever he's been trying to sell, the Wings haven't been buying all year.

We're only about 90 minutes from game time and hopefully when that time comes we see the Red Wings of Game 1 rather than the last two games.

This series is not out of reach by any means, but giving this one away tonight would almost surely make it so.  If the Wings are going to turn it up, tonight is the night to do it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Datsyuk Delights with Game One Winner

The magic just doesn't stop, does it?

I gotta tell you, last night's first round opener against Boston was exciting and entertaining, albeit a bit thuggish on Boston's end, but no one expected much else coming into this series.

What most people in the media didn't expect, however, was for the severely underestimated Detroit Red Wings to skate into TD Garden and shut down the entire Bruins squad for 60 minutes and skate out with a 1-0 win and a one game lead in this best-of-7 match-up.

It's early, and it's only one win, but it's still one win.  Three to go.

And can we all take a moment to prostrate ourselves before the glory that is Pavel Datsyuk?  Did anyone wonder if he'd find a way to turn it up in the playoffs after coming back so recently? Well, he just answered all those questions with an exclamation point, as well as what could end up being the goal of the playoffs.

We're back at it on Sunday afternoon, and my only wish is that Babs does his job of keeping the boys humble.  We've gone out and beaten the Bruins in a playoff game, so that's been proven doable.  That doesn't mean we can be lazy from here on.  Every game of this series, no matter how long it goes, will be just like Game 1.  This series will be a war of attrition, and Detroit can not afford to slack off at ANY point, or it could be costly.

If Jimmy Howard stays as dialed in as he was last game, and the skaters continue to play disciplined and structured, it's totally possible.  Franzen going Beast mode would be nice, but at least he set up the Dats goal.  Maybe Game Two will be his turn.

We'll find out tomorrow.

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.