This is the last thought that any Red Wing fan has at this time. With the Western Conference standings bouncing around, the Detroit Red Wings could climb. Sitting in the nine spot isn’t where the Wings or anyone thought they’d be. Amazing, yet perplexing is the continual attempt of the players to hang on to the reputation of the team. Justin Abdelkader has that McCarty fist, Jimmy Howard has found his legs, and the stars are rising over the Detroit River, for now.
Power forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have not been on par this year. Matter of fact, they’ve just disappointed. Both have contributed a combined 22 goals, 45 assists that should equal one average forward. Fantasy league owners are miffed. Formulas for improvement haven’t accrued, yet. So how long do these two need to wait and condition to get their mojo back? Right now, the outlook is to sneak into the playoffs and go from there. The original first line with Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Cleary has stood up to the test just not quite getting the grades they should.
Injuries have plagued the Red Wings. Franzen, Filppula, Holmstrom, Kronwall, and a rotating door of various key players have created buzz over the impact the AHL has and its infiltration of players that are standing out. Justin Abdelkader has taken some limelight defending his big brother team with a decent 6 points and an impressive 31 penalty points, which adds up to a few fights along the way. Returning to the line-up is Valtteri Filppula, who was striking gold before his stint on IR. His promise of the breakout candidate hasn’t been able to break out of the gate in the confines of 3 goals and 7 assists.
Minor league players can fly or faint. Detroit doesn’t rush breaking in the rookies, rather growing maturity and experience. Thus is the case of Jimmy Howard. Spending the past few seasons with the Grand Rapid Griffins, there was much hype about the Red Wing rookie. It looked dim for Howard in the beginning, and veteran Chris Osgood performed well until the Zen knocked down Osgood’s stature.
Osgood had the same problem last year. Last March, fans I talked to at the local bars in Detroit hid behind Osgood’s stroke of back luck and supported then goalie Ty Conklin. Anything to win no matter who’s tending the net. Now, over the mid-season hump, Howard has proven his ability to perform to the expectations of being a Red Wing. Weary Howard fans sing his praise but know Osgood may be back if Howard falters. And that’s what happened last season meandering into the playoffs; Conklin sank and Osgood swooped in to save the day. Not performing goaltending duties since December 20th, Osgood stood in for the bombarded Howard on Long Island Tuesday. The loss still came with a blow.
The early season prediction in the Sporting News rated the Red Wings as holding steady. “Despite some cost-cutting, Wings still look like best in West thanks to young gun,” read the headline on the Wings page. Young guns indeed, holding steady evolved into holding together with the glue kind of steady- sometimes it holds, other times not at all. Just as the Avalanche forecasters said the Avs would drop, the crystal ball for Detroit is that the team will always climb. Puck Daddy has glazed over the Wings waning season. The young guns weren’t dying out there on the ice, but keeping it respectable until the 6-0-shutout loss to the New York Islanders. Yes, it’s an Isolated game that did not revive despite a 4-1 win over San Jose and a 2-1 victory over one bump up in the standings, Los Angeles Kings. Stop the bleeding or get off the roller coaster. Something’s gotta give.
In a recent article by Bruce MacLeod, a Macomb Daily Sports Writer, some hope was offered. “The Red Wings got many good signs for the future at Monday’s practice. Skating through drills were injured forward Johan Franzen and Jason Williams and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson. The latter said that he might be able to return from a bone bruise in his knee (Dec. 14) as early as Thursday’s home game against Carolina.”
Franzen, “the Mule” needs to save us from our imprisonment of malaise. Ericsson will play wandering defense just to get into the thick of the game. The bench may be too timid to play with the big boys or they’re just not jiving. With the Olympics around the corner, the season will roll into serious contention for playoff spots that will be torn apart and broken through to the other side. It could get vicious. Let’s hope so for Detroit’s sake that Johan Franzen is the savior and can revive faith in what was to be.
Is there panic in Detroit? How about praise? Talk last season took on teams taking a dive for the highest draft pick. No one has suggested that of any team yet. Not only insulting to the players and the game, hockey in Motown is taken seriously and no joking about that stuff. If the ship were already sinking perhaps draft order would be of interest. Haven’t arrived at that dilemma yet. Recharged, retooled, rerouting takes the course of action to instill forging ahead not abandoning the cause. Let your Red Wings flag fly!