By: Doug Karsch
As we round the final turn and head for the tape of the regular season, what we saw Monday night at Joe Louis Arena was a Detroit Red Wings team we had been waiting to see show up. While no one here is accustomed to seeing the Wings in ninth place in the conference as we make that turn, the Wings only have to reel in one of the teams in front of them to accomplish a minimal goal — qualifying for the post-season.
More on that post-season in a minute.
But first, the getting there. Monday night’s 4-0 win over Phoenix was a combination of a hockey team playing with a sense of desperation that belies an organization with the heart of a champion. And while the product hasn’t been up to par around Hockeytown, it’s still a team with a Stanley Cup spine at the core of a weakened frame.
The Wings have struggled all year coming off west-coast trips, going 0-4 in their first game home — until Monday night. Mike Babcock and company decided to flip the script and keep the Wings overnight in Vancouver Saturday night after losing in a shootout to the Canucks. That allowed for a full night’s sleep and made Sunday’s off day — a travel day. The plan appeared to work. The Wings connected on three PP goals, and killed off all four Coyote power plays. In the offensive zone, the Wings looked dangerous throughout — with Damien Brunner and Valtteri Filppula breaking droughts and connecting on goals — and creating a number of other grade A chances. Johan Franzen still has the ability to score big, big goals in big, big games. And he did it again Monday. Franzen has five goals and five assists in his last 10 games.
And what about that post-season berth that may still loom?
Well, I can’t craft a formula for an 8th seeded Wings team to upset the mighty Blackhawks, but I can’t count them out either. Too often I’ve seen the impossible upset pulled off against a top seeded Wings team. Whether it is Edmonton or Calgary or San Jose or whomever. It was unfathomably done. And in 2003 one of those heavily favored Wings teams lost to the 7th seeded Anaheim Mighty Ducks. A Ducks team coached by a guy named Mike Babcock.