Monday, November 21, 2011

The Wiz Biz: Detroit Survives Road Trip, Saves Face

With the big four game road trip in the rear-view mirror, the Detroit Red Wings escaped with a 2-2 record, which helped keep the Wings on pace with the rest of the Western Conference. The loss against St. Louis was as close as it gets, but the 5-2 loss against San Jose frustrated everyone. For whatever reason, the Red Wings can't seem to solve the Sharks. Here's hoping for a third opportunity in the playoffs this season. There are good and bad things to focus on from last week's games.

The Good: To put it frankly, Jimmy Howard should not have been left off of the NHL All-Star ballot. His numbers reflect elite goaltending and he has been the reason for a number of Red Wings' victories thus far. His 10-5-1 record sounds good, but he has been great in almost every game he has played, racking up a 1.85 GAA and a .930 save percentage. If he keeps this up and the Red Wings can put together more of these five game winning streaks, Jimmy might get some consideration for more worthwhile accolades at the end of the season. Speaking of accolades, I think it's about time Johan Franzen earned some kudos around the blogosphere for leading the Red Wings in points and putting up a point per game. He's a threat to score in bunches at any time, including April and May. Pavel Datsyuk turned things around from an "awful" string of games as well, scoring twice against Los Angeles and setting up two goals last night against the sinking Ducks.

The Bad: As great as it is for Franzen to step his game up in the regular season...where the hell is Henrik Zetterberg? The other half of Detroit's Euro Twins is struggling offensively this season, scoring just 4 goals and 9 points in Detroit's 19 games. He has been excellent with his two way game, but he is expected to score and he hasn't been doing enough of that. Maybe it's time we called up the "Fake Henrik Zetterberg" to try his hand at scoring:

Zetterberg isn't necessarily entirely to blame for his own struggles, as his time on the power play has been a wasted effort. Detroit's power play clicked against the Sharks and Kings, registering 4 goals in 8 power plays total, but went 0 for 11 against St. Louis and Anaheim. The season's power play percentage is hovering near 17%, which is not promising. Long term success is going to require more scoring on special teams. The penalty kill has been much better, giving up only 2 goals on 13 opponent power plays, but the untimely penalties need to stop.

This week's games features yet another 3-in-4 that has become a staple in the Red Wing's regular season schedule. Wednesday is a home contest against Calgary, Friday is an afternoon battle in Boston, and 30 hours later they return home to face division rival Nashville. The toughest game is going to be against Nashville as it happens about a day after a tough Boston team and it ill require travel to return home. That, and Nashville is currently above Detroit in the standings and will want to keep it that way. At some point, Detroit will have to start Ty Conklin. I think Friday's contest against Boston would be an ideal time to play Conklin as the entire team is going to be fresh and hungry to get a win knowing Saturday is going to be a challenge.

To end on a positive note, check out Brad Stuart's bank shot:

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