With just over half of the shortened 2013 NHL season already in the books, the Red Wings find themselves where most fans and hockey aficionados predicted. In the ever-changing standings of the Western Conference, the Wings currently reside in 4th place with 29 points, a point total that has suffered more than once due to bad penalties, and the inability to finish a 60 minute game. But let’s face reality, barring some miraculous intervention from the hockey gods, Detroit isn’t going to win the West or the Central Division, and that’s fine. The goal for this season has always been for the Lidstromless Wings to grind it out, earn points, and finish the season somewhere in the top eight.
It is by no means going to be an easy task for Detroit to continue their 21 year playoff making streak. Fourteen of the last 22 games will be played on the road against teams that are just as hungry for highly coveted points. The Red Wings have fewer road wins than any other top 10 team in the Western Conference, and have yet figured out how to put the biscuit in the basket with the man advantage while on the road (For those who don’t speak hockey, that means zero power play goals). Take those two facts, and add that five out of the top eight teams in the Western Conference all have a total of 28 points, and it becomes very scary pill to swallow for even the most optimistic fan.
But I have always been, and remain one of the optimistic. I know it’s not going to be pretty, and I’m sure I will openly curse Jonathan Ericsson and/or Kyle Quincey at some point in the distant near future, but there is still hope and plenty of hockey left to be played. Newcomers Brunner, Tatar, Andersson, and Lashoff have provided a youthful spark, while familiar names like Zetterberg, Datsyuk,and Franzen can never be counted out for a moment of magic. There’s also guys like Helm, Filppula, Bertuzzi, and Samuelsson whose mended wings could provide a much needed offensive spark, Oh yeah, and our coach is a pretty smart guy too. It’s going to be a hard fought battle on the road, so buckle up, and “Don’t Stop Believing” Red Wings fans.
Numbers don’t lie, and the Red Wings numbers are terrible. As the Wings continue to try and find their identity in a world without Nicklas Lisdstrom, the team’s struggles on the ice are clearly reflected across the stats board. Sadly, none of these numbers come as a shock to any Detroit fan who has tuned-in to watch a game so far this season. Let’s take a second to look at some key numbers that need improving on for the Wings to find success.
The Red Wings have a success rate of 12.2% while on the power play. This total puts them near the bottom of the league in 25th place. The Detroit power play used to be a well oiled piece of machinery that you could rely on, but those days are long gone. The Wings struggle with the man advantage has carried over from last season, and let’s face it, it’s cost us a lot of games. On paper, Detroit’s power play looks like it should be a dominating force, but in reality it’s one of the worst in the league. Personally I believe that the Wings approach to the power play has become too predictable and too complicated for it’s own good. Every opposing team’s penalty kill has been able to figure out our plan and shut us down. The bottom line is, if you can’t capitalize on the man advantage situations, you won’t win games.
Now let’s check out the other side of our atrocious special teams, the penalty kill. The Wings again find themselves near the bottom of this category in 28th place with a penalty kill percentage of 69.8%. This stat goes hand in hand with Detroit averaging 15.4 penalty minutes a game. You are not going to win games from the penalty box. Officials are calling a tighter game this season, and the Wings have found themselves taking a lot of bad penalties at a lot of bad moments. I cannot express how much our PK unit needs Darren Helm’s speed and grit back.
However, all blame can’t be placed on the special teams play. The Wings need a whole lot more production from their bottom six forwards if they plan on finding success. Patrick Eaves is the lone point earner with 1 point (assist). Guys like Abdelkader, Miller, and Emmerton need to find a way to start putting some points up on the board, and Tootoo needs to prove that there is more to him than his fists (as much as I appreciate his fists). Detroit has been outscored 9-3 during the first period in their first nine games, partly due to a unproductive bottom six. Tomas Tatar has a chance to make a name for himself, and help the Wings try and make a spark somewhere in the lineup, after getting the call up from Grand Rapids.
By no means have I wrote off, or giving up on the Red Wings. There is still a lot of world-class talent on this team who has their work cut out for them. If there’s one team that can rally together, and make things interesting, it’s the Detroit Red Wings.
I’m not here to toot my own horn, but how can you not love that headline? Red Wings fans can breathe a small sigh of relief after an exciting shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight. It was by no means a perfectly executed game, but progress was made in many areas of Detroit’s game, and fans for both teams were treated to a hard fought battle.
I don’t think anybody was expecting Jordin Tootoo to drop his gloves 3 seconds into the contest, and challenge Jared Boll to a game of fisticuffs, but Tootoo’s grit set the pace for the first half of the game. The Wings came out as if they had hit the “reset button” after Saturday’s embarrassing loss to St. Louis, and functioned much better as a team on both ends of the ice. After being called up from Grand Rapids today, Brian Lashoff scored the first goal of the season at 1:10 into the second period, and looked impressive throughout the whole game. Lashoff became the first Griffin since Corey Emmerton to score a goal in his first game as a Red Wing, and looks to be staying in the lineup after Carlo Colaiacovo left the game with an upper body injury.
Special Teams woes still continued to trouble The Red Wings tonight, as they went 0-7 on the power play, and tallied 23 minutes in penalties. Professor Babcock and his team need to figure out a solution to the power play problem that has haunted us since last season.
Ultimately, progress was made, and the Wings pulled it off, walking away with the 2 points. Tootoo brought some grit back to Detroit hockey. When we needed a tying goal late in the third period, our leaders stepped up, and Datsyuk put the puck in the net with help from Zetterberg and Kronwall. Damien Brunner became more adjusted to the game, and ended up scoring the game winning goal in Datsyukian fashion (see YouTube).
There is still work to be done, and it’s back to the Joe for the home opener, and the Dallas Stars tomorrow night.
Let’s face it, we all knew life without Lidstrom wasn’t going to be an easy task. At the same time, I don’t think anybody was fully expecting the lesson in how to play hockey the Wings received from St. Louis on opening day. Detroit played horribly on both sides of the puck while showing little heart in their first outing of the 2013 NHL season. It’d be easy to point fingers and place blame on how, and why the Wings lost 0-6, but I’d rather choose to move on, and look towards the remaining 47 games left in the season.
Tonight the Red Wings hit the ice in Columbus to face another divisional rival. The Blue Jackets are coming off an opening day shootout win over the Nashville Predators, and know that Detroit will be playing with a huge chip on their shoulders.
“We have to find a way to play a lot better than that, compete harder, just play harder,” said defenseman Niklas Kronwall. “I think everyone in here is pretty ashamed of their effort. We have to be a lot better than that.”
As fans of the Red Wings, we have seen our fair share of injuries, roster changes, and dismal games over the years. Personally, I believe that there are still reasons to be optimistic. It’s only a matter of time before things/players start to gel, and the winged wheel will start to roll once again. Keep the faith Hockeytown, and don’t stop believing.
I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a blog dedicated to the Red Wings for quite some time now. Now that the NHL Lockout has run it’s sadistic course, hockey fans are able to talk shop (not to mention the time honored tradition of talking trash) once again. I opened a WordPress account and gave myself a digital soapbox to stand on where I can preach the gospel of Hockeytown. This is my first attempt at blogging and I’m still learning as I go. Sit back, relax, and “Let’s Go Red Wings!”.