Saturday, February 2, 2013

Red Wings Three-Week Check-Up

Well, kids, here we are.  Three weeks (that's it!?!) into the 2012-2013 NHL season.  There have already been a number of highlight moments.  5 point nights from Thomas Vanek.  An incredible, acrobatic save-of-the-year-candidate save from Kari Lehtonen.  The return of a healthy Sidney Crosby, and the Houdini act, and not in a good way, of Alex Ovechkin.

Through the first three weeks, the NHL's Central Division has proven that it will be a dogfight until the very end.  There are a lot - and I mean A LOT - of good teams in the Western Conference.  At this point, it seems very unlikely that 4 teams from the Central will make the playoffs.  Given that there are 5 teams in the division, and given that Columbus is a perennial dumpster fire, that means that one of Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, and St. Louis may finish the year on the outside looking in.

The Red Wings have taken the "hard road" to third in the division.  Now, that may seem like an outlandish statement, given that the midpoint in a division shouldn't be hard to get to, but remember that this is not your ordinary lot of 5 teams. Consider this: With tonight's win over the St. Louis Blues, the Wings marked their first set of back-to-back wins this season.  Going Win-Loss-Win-Loss... is no way to succeed in the NHL.  If the Wings are to power through to the playoffs, strings of wins will have to become the norm.  Especially with the way St. Louis and Chicago have played up to this point.

The Wings' season - as per usual (man, I hate that phrase) - has been littered with injuries.  I know what you're thinking. "Already?" Well, yes, already. We're only three weeks in, and the Wings have lost two defenseman, one who was a critical cog and one who was trying to play a critical role - and a few forwards.  The losses of Ian White and Carlo Colaiaccovo on the back end have made a weak defense even more porous.  Luckily, though, we got to see what we have in youngster Brian Lashoff - and I like what I saw.  Forward Darren Helm has had a nagging back injury, and Todd Bertuzzi had mononucleosis a cold the plague a sore back something that kept him out a few games. Even backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (The Monster) tweaked his groin IN THE FIRST FREAKING GAME! The injury bug never ends with this team, I swear.

I guess there are two ways to look at this season.  Glass half-full version: If the injuries are going to hit, let them hit now so we're healthy in the playoffs.  Glass half-empty version: With the abbreviated season, there may not be enough time to let the injuries hit and still make the playoffs.  I'm just hoping that everything can get straightened out in time to put a decent run together and continue the club's unparalleled playoff run.

There are a lot of aspects of this team that need to improve.  The Power Play is pretty much non-existent with the exception of 5-on-3s or the magical time when we can actually get into the attacking zone without issue.  The Penalty Kill has been putrid, atrocious, embarrassing, terrible.  Basically any negative description you can think of, that's what it's been.  The defense needs to come together and eliminate the mistakes that inevitably lead to at least one breakaway against per game.  And the forwards need to shoot more.

I have a lot of hope for this Wings team.  They are, obviously, not as good as past iterations, but I think they have the pieces to be a dangerous team if they can jell. I just don't know how long that will take, and if we have enough time to do so.

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