Monday, April 22, 2013

Some Phoenix Pre-Game Thoughts.

There’s a fair few things I could say about the Red Wings’ game tonight. I could go with the one most in vogue, “the last time the Red Wings weren’t in the playoffs I was…” I would finish that sentence with “not born.” I was born about a month after the 1990 playoffs ended, so I really have no experience whatsoever with a playoff season the Wings were not part of.

                I could go with the downer’s favorite: “the Wings don’t deserve the playoffs this year anyway.” Neither do quite a few teams. The Southeast division will only appear in the playoffs on accident, Minnesota is trying to choke their way out after the two biggest signings of the offseason…but they’ll make it. Why shouldn’t we? This is a playoff system set up with a fun little failsafe; over half the teams make it. You can be below average and play postseason hockey. Add some Bettman points in and there’s no such thing as a team that “doesn’t deserve” playoffs, just teams that fell apart slightly less than the next one.

                I take that back. We’ll always have the Panthers. They’ll never deserve it.

                I’m going to go with the realist’s analysis of the situation: If we win tonight, we very effectively stay alive. If we lose tonight, well…there’s a proverbial oversized woman warming up and practicing her musical scales. The past is the past. The other games are over, we can’t fix them. Let’s live in the now, let’s win in the now and move on in the now.

                So what do we need to do? Well, anyone who’s watched even a couple of games in this Red Wings’ season can answer that very easily:

                Above all else, that team has to want it. I’m hoping and praying to the hockey gods that from Hockey Olympus on High (or Sweden) Nick Lidstrom called down to Z today and reminded him what’s on the line, reminded him that the Winged Wheel does not quit. The legends of the past two decades did not play through hell just to watch a bored, uninterested team destroy their streak the first season they went un-monitored. And that’s that.

                Oh, a more tangible need for the game you ask? We absolutely must not take stupid penalties. They are killing us this year, and there has been no sign of improved discipline. If a guy is giving his all, sells out on a play and accidentally hooks someone…maybe it’s excusable. But that’s not been the case. Laziness and ineffective defense has led to idiotic penalties, guys rushing back because they missed coverage or gave the puck away, guys not paying attention to where their stick is at…all rookie, all fixable. Phoenix is gunning for this spot, too. We can’t allow them any extra advantage in the battle or the war.

                The other things we need to fix are also all so fundamental I feel almost silly writing them. Then I remember it’s the Wings’ fault they have failed on fundamentals, not mine. Smart passes, setting up good screens, not shooting the puck into a wall four bodies thick, clear the front of the net for Howie…etc. All basics, all things we have consistently failed to do that we now MUST do.

Because tonight, as much as I hate to be so melodramatic, is our season. The product we put on the ice tonight is going to decide whether or not we get to keep controlling our own fate and is going to go a long way to sealing or breaking our playoff streak. Tonight, for the first time this season, we better get serious. No more blaming refs, injuries, missed signings, etc. Tonight, we win or lose on the basis of our ability to score and defend. In the here and the now, we are responsible for what’s left of our season, playoffs or not. That's it, it's so simple. Play hard, win, and we keep going. No more Mulligans. No more second chances. This is it. Go big or go home, fellas. And as always, let’s go Red Wings!