The Red Wings recent struggles are quite obvious. In their last four games, the Wings have lost 3 out of 4 and 6 of their last 10. As of this writing, the Wings are 6 points back of St. Louis with one game in hand. The Wings next three games are on the road for the second California trip. I’m not sure if you guys know about this or not, but the Wings don’t have a very successful road record. I know, because this has never been written about before. I’m glad I can help point this out for the first time ever.
In addition to forgetting how to play hockey on the road, the recent injury bug has demolished the Wings. For the first half of the season, the Wings didn’t have any major injuries. Jan Mursak went down in the preseason and was lost for about half the season. Patrick Eaves was hurt in late November and is probably out for the year with a concussion. Ian White missed a few games with a broken face. Mike Commodore had a few minor injuries (sprained knee, bruised foot) that caused him to miss some time. Todd Bertuzzi missed a few games with a virus of some kind. Darren Helm missed a few games with a minor groin issue. Obviously, I didn’t want any of these to happen, but every team goes through injuries, and having no major injuries through half the year is a rarity in the NHL.
Let’s look at these injuries from another point of view: Mursak and Eaves had been healthy scratches for long stretches when they were healthy, so them being hurt shouldn’t really matter on any outcome. Ian White missed four games. That hurt, but it helped Brendan Smith get his first taste of NHL action (after the suspension). Bertuzzi wasn’t yet playing on the top two lines consistently. And we all know Commodore never really played before he was traded. Also, at only a few points were more than one or two out at a time. The core lineup never really changed. Sadly, that’s all changed recently.
It started on February 21st. I remember I took a vacation day from work since I had just driven back from Toronto the night before and had a dentist appointment that day. I checked the twitters after my dentist appointment and learned that Pavel Datsyuk would be out for two weeks after undergoing minor knee surgery. That was three weeks ago tomorrow. We were lied to! It’s believed that Pav will play on the road trip, but that hasn’t been confirmed. Okay, so a few days after Pav is out, Lidstrom blocks a shot with his foot. The puck somehow managed to break the screw that holds his cyborg foot to the skate. The part is out of stock, so he’s missed 6 games in a row now. He’s also supposed to be back soon, but who knows – we’ve heard that before. Bertuzzi also hurt his groin and has been out. Jonathan Ericsson decided to put his wrist in front of a Brad Stuart clearing attempt. He realized this was the wrong thing to do when his wrist broke. He’s out until maybe the playoffs. Jakub Kindl has an upper body injury now as well, leaving 3 regular defenseman out of the lineup. Danny Cleary has obviously not recovered from his knee issues, as he is taking days off from practice and not scoring goals in games. Oh, and Jimmy Howard has been hurt, but Joey Mac has more than played well, so that’s no big deal. Johan Franzen also should be back soon, as well. (wait, Franzen hasn’t been hurt? Oh…)
Between injuries and a crappy road record, it’s easy to be worried about the Wings recent issues. It seems like they have peaked and will not go far in the playoffs. While I agree it’s hard to see them getting the division and a 1 or 2 seed from the Blues, I think they have a great chance to do well in the playoffs. Why do I think that? I’m glad I asked myself!
The injured players will be back and rested. While we don’t want guys getting hurt, and more could still get hurt, it’s good that they have a chance to rest. As long as they can get all get 10 or so games before the season ends, they’ll be in prime physical condition for the two months of hell the players go through in the playoffs. While Nick always plays well in the playoffs, Pav doesn’t have a long history of playoff success. Yes, he’s been better the last couple of years, but he occasionally looked worn down. By missing 10 or so games in February and March, his body should be totally ready when the second week of April gets here.
Another reason why I think the Wings will be fine is that eventually, Franzen will start trying again. Even with the injuries, he has spent time on the third line recently. We all know what kind of damage Mule can do in the playoffs. He was pretty good last playoffs until his ankle went to complete garbage and he had an excuse for not skating. If he starts playing even close to what he can do, that’s a huge extra threat for opposing teams to worry about.
As far as the road record goes..well, that’s tougher to think positively about. It wasn’t very good before the recent injuries (as was talked about on NHL 36: THE JESUS). Thankfully, the playoffs are a whole different story. More than likely, the Wings will finish 4th in the West and will play Nashville in the first round. While Nashville is tough to play against, I might prefer this to finishing first or second and having to play LA/Calgary/San Jose just for the travel purposes. If one of those series gets stretched to 6 or 7 games, it might just wear down the Wings with all the flying and time zone changes. With the possibility of playing Nashville first, the travel would be ideal (well, Columbus is ideal, but I sorta maybe think they are out of the playoff picture). After that, who knows, but at least one round would have favorable travel.
And, one more thing – eventually the Blues will remember that they are the Blues and will lose 5 games in a row. I hope. Oh, the Law of Averages.
You know the drill – comment here or yell at me on Twitter if you think you know more than me or want to tell me off. Wouldn’t blame you one bit. But now, let’s just hope the Wings can get some wins on this trip and be firing on all cylinders when the big boys get back. GO WINGS!!