I know this is a little late, and after a lot of other bloggers have posted their quarter milestone reviews, but I just now got the opportunity. So here ‘tis!
As of today, the Red Wings sit fourth in the Western Conference with 29 point, which is a pace set for 116 by seasons’ end. They are only 2 points behind the leaders, and justifying how their recent swing is going, the Wings are fully capable of achieving that number.
The current five-game winning streak is their best of the season. Detroit started the season with a 5- game win streak in which they’ve outscored opponents 18-7. This stint so far has seen a score margin of 20-9, which is a slight improvement.
The game against Boston on Black Friday was some of the best hockey action I’ve seen from the Wings this season. There’s something about a nationally televised game that brings out the best efforts from the Winged Wheel. Unfortunately for Boston, their perfect November was stopped cold in front of a national audience, however, both teams didn’t disappoint in the NHL’s attempt to claim another holiday. No matter which team you root for, you can’t deny that the Red Wings and Bruins played a fantastic hockey game, complete with back and forth scoring, big hits, great goaltending, even overtime and shootout action. Chalk up a big success for the business development guys.
After 22 games, a number of standouts have come to mind.
Wins and Losses
This season is swinging like a pendulum out there. 5 wins, then 6 losses, then 4 wins, then 2 losses, and now 5 wins…. Good enough for fourth place in the West, but certainly there has been an increase in blood pressure medication around Hockeytown recently.
Top Jimmy’s having a career season right now, right up near the top of the league in goals-against and save percentage. Until last night, he was also tied for first in shutouts. He’s made a number of absolutely HUGE saves to keep the Wings on the right side of the scoreboard. Even during the Wing’s terrible slump, he’s kept them in it, giving the forwards every opportunity to score. Here’s hoping Ty Conklin can also improve his game to what it could be, and has been, to complete the Dynamic Duo.
Every time he makes the score sheet, the Wings win. Every time he doesn’t, they lose. I’m not sure how to elaborate on this, except I’m hoping like hell that he stays healthy…
Entering a contract year, a lot of speculation has been flying around as to whether the Finnish forward would be healthy trade fodder. FIlppula’s not traditionally a goal scorer, but he should be overflowing with assists. In fact, you can set your watch by Filppula bringing the puck in the zone, holding up and waiting for assistance. To date though, he’s got 7 goals and 12 assists, good enough for second on the team in goals, and third in overall points. For the record, I never believed that Filppula should be traded. He had a quiet season last year, which is really what got people talking, but I think he’s bounced back, and if he can hold onto it, he’ll solidify his place in Detroit’s top six for a long time to come.
I have been so impressed with how well Ian White has integrated himself into the fabric of this team. While he was brought in to hopefully fill the shoes of Brian Rafalski, nobody could have ever thought he’d have 4 goals and 7 assists to date, while still missing four games with a broken cheekbone. Let’s remember that even last year, Rafalski mustered only 4 goals all season, and had 44 assists to go with them in 63 games played. White is on pace for 13 goals and 57 assists. He’s a fantastic point man on the power play and is not afraid to use that hard right-handed shot. He’s one huge solution in the defense issue which has been the elephant in the room for Detroit in the last few years.
The Euro Twins
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg started the season quiet, much to the dismay of Red Wings fans, hockey analysts and replay editors across the entire continent. However, in the last few weeks, Hockeytown’s sleeping giants have begun to stir. Good news, for sure. However, not only are Datsyuk and Zetterberg scoring, but Franzen and Filppula are scoring too. With Helm and Abdelkader holding serve, we can expect some very angry goaltenders around the Western Conference.
Nominated for an All Star this year. Did you vote for him? I sure did!
I haven’t been impressed with the big Swedish D-Man ever since he signed his extension for over $3 million a year. He’s second on the team in highest penalty minutes and always manages to earn a trip to the box during crucial defensive periods. Yes, he’s young and needed a learning curve, but after the lucrative test of faith that Ken Holland gave him over the summer, Ericsson has yet to show that he’s worth the big bucks. In the last few weeks, Ericsson was paired with Lidstrom in Ian White’s absence, which was a huge promotion, but he failed to live up to his potential. If Ericsson doesn’t clean up and improve his play, he’ll be first on the chopping block, especially if Lidstrom retires this season. However, it would be mighty difficult for Ken Holland to unload him and his whale of a salary.
Mike Who? Granted, it’s only a one-year deal for a million dollars, but even then, the Wings have chosen Brendan Smith where possible over Commodore. When Commodore has played, he’s been pretty much invisible. I barely take notice of him when he’s on the ice, except when he gets sent to the penalty box or over-skates a loose puck. We all can agree that it was an experiment to bring Commodore on, and just stacking the roster with young, healthy blueliners, but I don’t think we’ll see much more of him, as long as Smith keeps his head about him.
A few last thoughts…
Despite their strong play lately, the Wings still haven’t been able to solve the Sharks. It’s a bit concerning, but it seems that the road to the Promised Land leads through San Jose this year. I didn’t think so at first, but the Sharks have really tightened up since sending Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi over to Minnesota. Detroit will absolutely have to learn how to pick apart the Sharks if they want another deep playoff run. Guaranteed, they’ll see the Sharks again in the post-season.
Now that you mention it, with the acquisition of Heatley and Setoguchi, Minnesota finds itself at the top of the Western Conference. But not for Heatley and Setoguchi. It’s been Josh Harding. The once-backup goaltender has been getting the job done in a big way, finagling big wins in low-scoring affairs.
A quarter of the season is over and I still have to wait another month to see the Red Wings play the Blackhawks….this is killing me….