Detroit (41-24-14) VS Columbus (32-34-14)
Well, it's a good thing Babs sees the obvious. After the mildly humiliating loss to Philly, where Detroit refused to fight back against the Flyers with any real kind of physicality, The Red Wings look to give fans in Detroit one last hurrah before the post-season as they welcome in the Bluejackets for the start of a home-and-home series.
Although the Wings have already clinched a berth in the playoffs, positioning is still important. With the top 4 seeds out of their reach, Detroit can only hope to get as high as 5th and claim home ice over any lower ranked clubs that might advance past the first round. Babcock has stated, however, that there is a good chance that with the clinch, Detroit may rest a number of its vets over the remainder of the regular season. We may see a more February-looking team in the last few games, but it would pay off to get some of the younger players more playing time before the second season begins.
With that, let's look at The Geek's Winning Formula for tonight's game!!
1.) Play with Passion - I know it's gonna be difficult for the Red Wings to drum up the inspiration for a grind-it-out 60 minutes of good hockey at this point, but it's very important that Detroit stay focussed on playing winning hockey to keep primed for the playoffs. Detroit has given up leads and lost games to hungrier teams. Now Detroit needs to remember how to be the hungrier team themselves. I do think Detroit could take Chicago in the Playoffs, I just don't want to see them square off in the first round. I'd like a nice ease-in round versus, oh I don't know...Phoenix...?
2.) PP Must Improve - This is getting to a critical point. We have too much talent on the roster to be going 0 for 3 and 0 for 4 on man-advantages, but last game VS Philly was another example. One goal difference and the Wings had three powerplays, all squandered. I don't know what Mike Babcock has to do to these players to get them to shoot the puck more, but he better figure out...like now! Detroit still cycles way to much, and they too heavily favor the shots below the face-off circles rather than getting boomers from the point. Those would require guys jumping in toward the net for a rebound, and we all know how much Wings players love to do that. Ahem...sorry, some lingering sarcasm caught in my throat. I'm going to go as far to say that if Detroit's powerplay does not improve come playoff time, we're risking a very early exit from the post-season. The PK is getting it done, keeping the games within reach, now the PP units need to learn how to step on a team's throat and make the difference in these games.
3.) Checking/Energy Lines Critical - The good news heading to the post-season is that we're getting goals, our top two lines are producing nicely. Now we need to fine-tune the bottom two lines, especially finding a way to ramp up the level of grind-it-out-edness. We've got some strong forwards, it shouldn't just be our D-men throwing the body around. Cleary and Helmet are two of the few forwards on the roster willing to punish a guy with a check. And doesn't it sound strange to say their names instead of guys like Bertuzzi and Franzen? We need more physicality if we're not going to run an enforcer on the roster, or more games will end up like the one against Philly. The Flyers found an effective way to stifle the Detroit offense, you don't think other teams won't try the same tactic? Bertuzzi is the X-factor in it all. I think that ever since the Moore incident, he's had sort of a Hulk complex, that he's afraid if The Incredible Bert gets to angry he's going to smash someone into $&#^ing oblivion. He needs to move on and get back to the punishing style that made him an intimidating forward back in the day.
Hopefully the Wings can work the formula and come out of the Joe with a W. I'll miss a small portion of the game due to a children's event I'm running (if you REALLY wanna know that bad, DM me on twitter or something :P) but I should be back and on Twitter to follow the game in no time! Till then Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!