Jeff Riger: Wings Hardly Road Warriors
Detroit Red Wings
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Just when you thought the Wings were back to normal, winning 4 games in a row and scoring a combined 18 goals in that span, the team has now hit the road and has now lost a couple straight, the latest to the Sharks on Thursday night 5-2. Detroit dominated the first period of play outshooting San Jose 17 to 6 and even scored on the power play, something that they failed miserably to do on Tuesday against the Blues when awarded 15 minutes of extra attacker time. Nick Kronwall lit the lamp at 17:23 and once again, just for a moment things seemed right again. Heck, they even seemed better then right because after the Kronwall goal, Detroit got another power play, essentially meaning that the worst case scenario would be the Wings leading by one after one. Of course I was wrong, because thinking back on the game, leading by a goal after one would be the best case situation considering the Sharks Joe Pavelski scored shorthanded with just 12 seconds left in the period to tie the game at one.
That shorthanded goal was pretty much all San Jose needed because as the 2nd period started, the Sharks played much better and ending up lighting the lamp at will, so much that they forced Jimmy Howard out of the game after two periods and Ty Conklin was brought in, who also gave up a goal. Howard faced 21 shots and allowed 4 goals; Conklin saw that 1 get by on 7 shots.
Detroit has now lost 5 in a row away from the Joe and continues to be the streakiest team in the game, winning their 1st 5 only to lose 6 straight, then to win 4 consecutively and now to lose 2 in a row. Follow that? Good, I thought you would!
So what is wrong with this team?
I think the answer is simple… The stars are not playing like stars!
Henrik Zetterberg finished Thursday’s game a -2, failing to register a single shot on goal while Pavel Datsyuk was a -1 only getting 2 shots on net. In fact Datsyuk and Zetterberg have been so offensively challenged early on that they have just 5 goals and 18 points combined in 17 games. Dan Cleary hasn’t been much better registering just 3 goals (one of which came on Thursday) and 6 points in 17 games while Jiri Hudler and Valteri Filpula have just 5 goals combined. Really the only forward that has been scoring is Johan Franzen who has 9 goals. Defensemen Nick Kronwall and Nick Lidstrom even have a combined 10 goals for the season which is 5 more than the Euro Twins.
Of course the worst part of the Sharks game was the fact that they lost to, well the Sharks …again! That is now twice this season and who can forget that it was San Jose that ended Detroit’s season the last couple of years. I know people love to call the Blackhawks and Penguins the Wings rival and I used to also say “don’t forget about San Jose” but I have been wrong. Because to be a team’s rival, you have to make things completive and Detroit, in recent history has been anything but.
Mike Babcock after the game talked to Fox Sports Detroit about the loss and he had a comment that stuck with me. Babcock said “the bottom line is we have to decide what kind of team we want to be and we need to make that decision pretty quickly here.” FSD’s John Keating then followed up asking Babcock if he had a sense of what kind of team the coach has? Babcock replied “we have to decide, I don’t think it’s about what you have, I think it’s about what you decide. That’s life! You have to decide what you want to be, it’s not…we’ll just walk around and see what happens. You got to make a decision, and that’s up to us!”
I admit that I use the word “panic” and “worried” a lot in Wings postgame shows when referring to the team losing, but I am neither of those words about this team. I think this squad has a ton of talent and I do believe that the stars will get back to playing like stars, and when that happens the Wings should be able to go on a roll, in fact they, at times have already proven the ability to do so. We saw “it” as recently as the first period on Thursday night, or even during the 4 game winning streak. But “it” needs to be way more consistent and until “it” is, I find myself wondering the same thing as Babcock…”What kind of team is this?”
Do you know? Please tell me!
Detroit concludes their 4 game road trip with a stop in LA on Saturday to face the Kings at 3:40pm and then a game with the Ducks in Anaheim on Sunday at 7:40pm. As like every game, you can hear both those contests on “The Ticket!”