Saturday, February 16, 2013

Wings Hand Victory to Ducks

The spirit of giving is alive and well in Detroit.  Many in Hockeytown last night would say it is too much so.

The Red Wings relinquished all control of what was an entertaining hockey game during the match's final period and absolutely handed over the game to the Anaheim Ducks.  It was Anaheim's first win in the Joe Louis Arena since 2008, and by the play the Wings exhibited in the final frame, it couldn't have come much easier.  In an instant, Detroit went from a 2-2 tie heading into the 3rd to being down 4-2 not even 2 minutes into the period.  As the final insult, Andrew Cogliano deposited an empty-netter and the final horn signalled a 5-2 defeat for Detroit.

This game proved a microcosm of sorts for the Red Wings' entire season thus far.  Just when it looks as though Detroit have got themselves figured out and are rolling, an entirely different team seems to take the ice and play as though they'd have trouble playing in the AHL, let alone in the NHL.  Such was the case yesterday, when that 3rd period rolled around and everything the Red Wings seemed to be doing right just...disappeared.

The Wings are still battling injuries, of course, but that's no excuse for a total meltdown after playing 2 pretty good periods of hockey.  Teams cannot just cease to function properly for the last 20 minutes and expect to come out with a W and the end of the night.  Sloppy passing, poor decision-making, and the turnovers...well, it seemed in the 3rd like Detroit passed the puck more to Anaheim players than they did themselves.

And so it begs the question: Who do you blame for such an epic falling off of the wheels? Whose position do you question?  Is Zetterberg not able to rally the troops like the captains before him?  Is Nik Kronwall not stepping up enough and keeping the defensive corps honest?  Is Mike Babcock running out of tricks with the amount of injuries coupled with the recent departures of guys like Lidstrom and Holmstrom?  It feels odd to voice concern for a hockey club only 14 games in, but 14 of 48 is a whole lot closer to the end than 14 of 82.  The Red Wings don't have time to iron out the wrinkles, and contrary to what Coach Babcock might say or think, Detroit is not "doing good things out there" as much as he claims.  What the Wings are doing is losing games that they have every chance of winning, and are just not getting it done.

With the loss, Detroit sits 4th in the division.  As if that's not bad enough, anything short of  half the Chicago Blackhawks roster vanishing into thin air doesn't seem like it'll be enough to leave top spot in the Central up for grabs.  So, with spots 1-3 in the Western Conference inching ever closer to being out of reach, Detroit appears like they will be mired in that dirty 4th-8th grind for a playoff spot.  With all the players the Wings are missing from injury, that is not where they want to be, but it is where they are.  Detroit must make the best of a bad situation and dig in their heels to keep from slipping back out of the playoff picture again before the season draws to a close.

For that to happen, the Red Wings need to play harder.  Save that spirit of giving for Christmas.