Monday, February 24, 2014

Let's Review, Shall We?

With the Winter Olympics finished up for all the NHL'ers who were participating, the Red Wings will soon be back to continue the remainder of the 2013-2014 season.  Before that, however, let's take a moment to get re-acquainted with our team and remind ourselves of the position we're in as the regular season prepares to start up again.

Detroit comes back into the season holding onto the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, currently ranked 5th in the Atlantic Division.  They are 6 points back of 7th ranked Toronto and hold only a single point's edge over trailing Columbus.  The silver lining here is that Detroit actually holds two games in hand on the Maple Leafs, so with a good showing out of the gate from the Red Wings, we could see that margin close to only 2 points by the time the two clubs come even in games played.  Also in our favor is the fact that Columbus HAS the same number of GP, so no games in hand for them.

On the injury front, Pavel Datsyuk is getting back into form.  He played very well in the Olympics, carrying the Russian national team on his shoulders as much as he could, but thanks to some terrible coaching, the Russians were ousted before even getting to medal contention.  I understand Dats is probably very upset and disappointed over this, but to me it is a blessing in disguise.  Pavel got in some good playing time and was still able to get time to further rest himself before coming back to the Wings this Wednesday.  All of the other Olympian Red Wings had great showings too, including our two Slovakians, Tomas Jurco and Tatar.  Even though their team went winless, those two really showed grit and determination, easily becoming two of the best players on the team even though they are still very young.

On the flipside, however, was the biggest news out of Sochi for Detroit: Henrik Zetterberg went down early in the tournament with more back issues, this time so severe that he had to withdraw completely and opt for back surgery.  Hank was quoted as saying the injury was 20 times worse than when it flared up during the regular season.  Initial reports indicate that our captain could be out at least 8 weeks, which does mean that he COULD be cleared to play in time for the playoffs or even the late stages of the season if we're lucky; however, that is a long, long time to wait to get back the guy who has undeniably driven the bus for the Red Wings ever since late last season.  Zetterberg is irreplaceable, but the question looms whether or not the organization will attempt to do so anyway.

Back at home, Johan Franzen is feeling much improved by all accounts.  Originally chosen to play in Sochi, a relapse of Franzen's concussion symptoms forced him to concede his spot, which was taken by fellow Wing Gustav Nyquist.  Franzen could be ready to go on Wednesday when the team resumes play.  The bigger question looming over management's head is regarding a guy we've barely seen this year:  How will the return of Stephen Weiss to the lineup impact the Red Wings' play?  Weiss was...ineffective, shall we say, thus far this season but it became glaringly obvious after a while that something was definitely wrong with him.  Sure enough, turns out he was battling a sports hernia and needed surgery.  Now that that's been taken care of though, will we start to see more of the Stephen Weiss who dazzled Florida Panthers fans for so many years?  With the absence of Zetterberg, one prays the answer is a decided yes.

...Oh, and Jakub Kindl had a sprained MCL that apparently is better case anyone cares.

So in short, the Red Wings come back to the season in okay shape.  The loss of Z hurts terribly, but with all the bodies coming back playing well, squeaking into the playoffs is not a far off dream.

Once you're in, anything can happen.

Here's to an exciting last dash to the end, Wingnuts.