On one hand, we can talk about the Detroit Red Wings team who started the season with five straight wins, including two shutouts, one of which was a 2-0 shut down performance against the Vancouver Canucks. The team that's currently riding a four game winning streak with two more shutout victories and has only given up a total of four goals in those four games. The team that features the dangerous combination of Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula who have 9 and 6 points in their last four games, respectively. We could also talk about how Nick Lidstrom looks every bit as good this season as he always has, and that another Norris Trophy is within the realm of possibility. Most impressive of all, we could talk about how Jimmy Howard has a 1.66 GAA, a .934 save percentage, and leads the NHL with 3 shutouts.
Or we could talk about the Detroit Red Wings whose power play is 18th, whose penalty kill is 24th, and whose five game winning streak was ended with a disastrous 7-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. The team that proceeded to lose 6 games in a row before righting the ship. The team that boasts the most complete duo in the NHL but yet both are struggling with offensive production. It pains me to say this but Pavel Datsyuk with 10 points and Henrik Zetterberg with 6 points 15 games into the season is a disappointment. There's plenty of time to turn it around, we'll get to that point, but it's time to be honest: what's going on there?
There appears to be two Red Wings teams battling each other from week to week. One week they look absolutely lethal on the ice, pumping the net full of goals at a fanatical pace and shutting down the NHL's most potent offenses. On other weeks, it looks like they have given up on their goaltender.
The losing streak should be an eye opener for Detroit. Yes, the start to the season was outstanding and the rebound has been just as strong. Yes, there was (is still?) a dark cloud that hovered over the team after losing Ruslan Salei, Brad McCrimmon, and Stephan Liv to the tragic crash of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane. Yes, the special teams has been horrific at times. Yes, Johan Franzen is elevating his game to a level we usually see in May. It's confusing to a fan and a blogger like myself.
The question is: where do they go from here?
Currently, they are riding a four game winning streak heading into a four game week. On Tuesday, Detroit faces division rival St. Louis (8-7-1) who are coming off of a 3-0 shutout of their own. The next three games are a West Coast romp with California's teams. Even though the Ducks (6-8-3) are having their own issues, these are three tough games, particularly the one against the Sharks (9-5-1) who have already defeated the Wings in a 4-2 game at Joe Louis Arena. Ty Conklin is likely to get a start at some point this weekend, too, which bodes ill of the fortune to come. Still, if Detroit comes out of this four game road trip 3-1 or better it will be promising given how awful the previous ten games have been at times. Then again, all four teams are beneath the Red Wings in the standings and will be hungry to crawl up the standings.
Getting back to Datsyuk and Zetterberg,
It may be early in the season to be panicking about a slide of six games, but reality is that a terrible first half of the season can dictate the second half of the season in terms of trades, signings, and even day-to-day gameplay. Thankfully it appears as though the ship has been righted.
To end on a high note, congratulations to both Mark Howe and Mickey Redmond for getting into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It's satisfying to see multiple news outlets acknowledging that Mark is getting in for reasons beyond his last name. What I love even more is how candid he was about the current NHL on television:
As for Mickey, all I can say is holy mackerel, look at that shake and bake!