Friday, December 20, 2013

Wings Healing, Winter Classic Preview Tomorrow

It was refreshing to see Detroit pull out a win yesterday, especially in Overtime.  The Wings were on a nasty skid that needed stopped and they did just that against Calgary.  The question is: Can they turn that momentum into more wins?

The Red Wings will get a chance to do just that when they travel to Toronto to face the Leafs in a precursor match before the Winter Classic on New Year's Day, and they got some great news that will definitely help on the defensive side.  Danny DeKeyser, Detroit's star rookie defenseman has been cleared to play.  Having Kaiser back on the blueline will greatly reassure me, as I've been preaching about how suspect our D is this year.  I still think a 2nd or 3rd defenseman would be the best thing Detroit could shop for come trade deadline day, but DeKeyser being back in the mix makes things much more tolerable.

It was also very nice, I might add, to see Alfie step up in Hank's absence and pull the team together with a very captain-ish effort.  Datsyuk also seemed to be back to form after seeming off ever since returning from his concussion.  hopefully this is a sign of many good things to come.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wings Drop Back-to-Back Games to Bottom-Feeding Florida

The questions keep piling up, but still no one seems to have any answers.

After getting back to the win column in a gritty victory over New Jersey, Detroit has dropped two straight to one of the worst teams in the NHL, the Florida Panthers.  The Red Wings lost 2-1 in their barn, then suffered a 3-2 shootout loss in Florida's rink last night.  The most recent game gives Detroit a staggering 10 consecutive losses in the skills competition dating back to last year, 5 of those losses coming this season.

Everyone addressing the media (players, Babcock, etc.) all seem content in saying they have no answer for not only why the Wings are losing so many shootouts, but also why the Wings are losing in general.  Babs seems hesitant to come right out and say what is obvious to the fans: The team is giving up before the game has finished.  Take last night for example, up 2-0 after 40 minutes and what to the Wings do?  Frolick around with the puck and stop communicating, which leads to the signature errant passes and sloppy plays that lead to turnovers and scoring chances for the other squad.  Florida was more than happy to increase their pressure and battle back which--to their credit--they did very well.  The Panthers never gave up on the game and managed a tie before regulation's end.  The Wings, however, looked like they had lost the game once they gave up Florida's first goal, and then found a way to make their delusion a reality.

It simply amazes me how the level of confidence on this team is so low that they are literally willing themselves into losses.  Some people have drawn parallels to the February of 2008, when the Wings had to overcome great adversity before winning their most recent Stanley Cup.  I feel there is a difference, though--this year's injuries are nothing compared to that February 5 years ago, and yet we are still crumbling.

For now the Wings are afloat, sitting 3rd in the Atlantic division, but teams are hot on their heels ready to pounce and the upcoming schedule is not pretty: 2 games VS Tampa, and a game against Pittsburgh and Anaheim.  How important will the 3 points we squandered to Florida be should we get destroyed over the next 4 games, and where will be when the dust settles?  Of course that is a worst-case scenario, but with how this team has performed this year, one kind of has to prepare for it just in case.

As was the original plan Monster will be in net on Thursday and hopefully we get another body back, be it Helm, DeKeyser or Zetterberg, because we badly need them all.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Wings Grind Out a Win in Jersey

It weren't pretty, that's for sure.

Detroit needed to get the game against Philly behind them badly, while also figuring out a way to stay mentally strong through an entire game.  It seems their answer to that particular problem was to play just above sea level on an ocean called Mediocrity and somehow it worked.  Neither the Red Wings or the New Jersey Devils really seemed to be firing on all cylinders.  Obviously with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Darren Helm on the shelf, things were going to be tough, but the Devils didn't make life much more difficult for us than we did for them.

The Wings trailed first in last night's game but were able to claw their way back to a 1-1 tie before opening things up very late in the game.  Johan Franzen got the 2-1 lead on the end of a great passing play by Tatar and Nyquist.  New Jersey really got up in arms, though, when their goaltender Cory Schneider was called for playing the puck outside the trapezoid.  Personally, after looking at the replay angles, I do agree the call was a bit close, but when Tomas Tatar scored immediately off the ensuing face-off to make it 3-1 Red Wings, I stopped thinking about it.

One thing that's bothering me is the continuing lack of discipline that is leading to stupid, stupid penalties.  Detroit took 3 of the first 4 penalties in the game, the first of which was Brendan Smith.  When I saw the play, I swore he was going to take a boarding call and put us down a man for 5 minutes.  Just a reckless play that didn't need to happen and thankfully did not result in an injury.

Jonas Gustavsson improved to 8-0-1 on the season and didn't need to do much work to get there.  He did, however, make an amazing save on Adam Henrique.  The puck went behind Monster in mid-air, and he somehow twisted himself around and spun his glove hand around backwards and shoveled the puck away from the goal line.

The Wings get right back to it tonight when they host the Florida Panthers.  This will be Stephen Weiss's return to his old team, and from the way he's played this year, I'd like to offer that he stay with them after the game.  Maybe playing his old mates will finally light the fire under his ass, but I highly doubt it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Line is Drawn: How Will Red Wings Cope with Loss of Hank?

We have rarely found ourselves in this position.  We've lost each a number of times, but scarcely have we missed both at the same time.

That's right: The Euro Twins are both on the shelf.

In the midst of the growing concern of when superstar Pavel Datsyuk will return from concussion symptoms after Jared Cowen's dirty hit (yes it was dirty, stop making excuses), Captain Henrik Zetterberg is now out for at least two weeks with a herniated disc.  The Wings had been playing their hardest and best hockey all year in Datsyuk's absence, but the question now is whether or not the team and continue that trend with their leader (and leading scorer, to boot) out of the lineup as well.

Contributions from Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and many others have kept the ship afloat with #13 not playing.  Not least of the surprises has been the rebirth of Darren Helm, who is bringing new meaning to his nickname, 'Danger'.  6 points in his last 6 games, 5 of which have been goals.  Helmer has been on fire since being promoted to the 2nd line center position, and it is my hope that we see him keep improving with the added responsibility of knowing that the dynamic duo is not going to be around to provide any offense for the foreseeable future.

The ones who really need to step up, though?  Look no further than the bottom of the barrel at forward.  Detroit must have the most overpaid and under-performing 4th line in the league, even at a glance.  Almost $10 Million tied up in the ass-crack of our forward lines, and what do we have to show for it? 4 goals. 5 assists.  That's it...9 points.  Most expensive damned points on this team, to be sure.  These three: Samuelsson, Cleary and Weiss need to start earning their keep or one or more of them will not be around much longer.  Even a stubborn Ken Holland won't be able to keep weight that blatantly dead on a team that may find itself fighting for the playoffs if the offense suddenly dries up again.

We'll have to wait and see what happens tomorrow against the Flyers.  The line has been drawn, time to separate the men from the boys on this team and who can crank it to another level.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Detroit Downs Sens in Alfie's Return to Ottawa

The man who was, and arguably still is, the face of the Ottawa Senators franchise returned for the first time as a visiting player.  Daniel Alfredsson, 17 years a Senator and 13 years an Ottawa captain, made his debut in the nation's capital as a Detroit Red Wing last night.  His new team made sure to do him justice for leaving his old home.

The Wings got out to a 2-0 lead in the 2nd period and never let go of that lead for the rest of the game, which culminated in Alfredsson scoring on an empty net to drive home the dagger in a 4-2 victory over the Sens.  Drew Miller scored a pair and Johan Franzen also contributed by opening the scoring for Detroit in the win.  Jonas Gustavsson made 30 saves for the win, which puts him remarkably at 7-0-1 on the season.

This was a statement game for Detroit.  We had to win this game.  Ottawa is not a good team and even if they were, they have not been playing like it of late.  Weak teams or good teams playing weakly need to be taken advantage of.  Those are your write-off points, the games you should almost be mailing in for the W.  Teams that don't win those games are the ones hovering in the middle of the pack or worse, fighting (and praying) for a playoff spot come April.  The Sens had taken advantage of us when we weren't playing well and got 4 points out of us.  Now that the tables have turned, it was good to see Detroit return the favor and take some of those points back.

I'm still concerned mostly with our defensive core.  Even when Danny DeKeyser does return, the elephants in the room have got to be Kyle Quincey and--to a lesser extent since returning from injury--Brendan Smith.  Smith has improved his game a lot...the bar, however, had been set fairly low in that regard.  Quincey has just consistently been terrible, with the odd happy accident of him managing to properly block a shot or pass.  I'd seriously like for KH to consider getting a dependable 3rd or 4th D-man if at all possible.  I'm not assuming it's totally possible, I'm just saying I think we still need the help on the back end.  For now though, we work with what we have.

The Wings are off till Wednesday when they face the Flyers.  Still no word yet of whether Pavel Datsyuk is feeling up to returning. I remain vigilant in my wishing for him to come back.