One bad week and you can kiss your playoff fantasies goodbye (Maple Leafs fans save yourselves the trouble and do it right now).
In a shortened NHL season where teams will likely play either 48 or 50 game schedules consistency is key. Prolonged losing streaks will be more devastating to teams then losing three hours of your life to The Hobbit during the Christmas holidays.
For the Red Wings to continue their streak of 22 straight playoff appearances it is imperative they come out of the starting blocks swinging, guns blazing, ready to rock, ready to roll, or with whatever hacky cliché one might use in such a circumstance.
Typically, Detroit’s bench boss Mike Babcock likes to break down the Red Wings’ season into individual 10 game segments in order to keep the team on task and motivated over a grueling 82 game season.
Yet, this lockout season presents a completely different kind of challenge. Teams will play an abundance of games in a shorter amount of time.
So, we will move forward under the premise that the NHL will play a 50 game season this year. When trying to understand how many wins Detroit will need to make the playoffs this year we have to take a look back at what the Wings did in their first 50 games during the 2011-2012 season:
|Games 1-10||Games 11-20||Games 21-30||Games 31-40||Games 41-50|
|W 5-3 over Senators||L 4-1 to Cal||W 3-2 over Bruins||W 8-2 over Kings||W 3-2 over Hawks|
|W 3-0 over Avs||W 5-0 over Ducks||W 4-1 over Predators||W 3-2 over Oilers||L 5-1 to Islanders|
|W 2-0 over Canucks||W 5-2 over Avs||W 4-2 over Lightning||L 4-2 to Canucks||W 3-2 over Coyotes|
|W 3-2 over Wild||W 3-0 over Oilers||W 4-1 over Sabres||L 3-2 to Flames||W 3-2 over Hawks|
|W 5-2 over Jackets||W 5-2 over Stars||L 4-2 to Avalanche||W 4-1 over Predators||W 5-0 over Sabres|
|L 7-1 to Capitals||L 2-1 to Blues||L 3-2 to Blues||W 3-2 over Blues||W 3-2 over Stars|
|L 4-1 to Jackets||L 5-2 to Sharks||W 5-2 over Coyotes||L 3-2 to Hawks||W 3-2 over Coyotes|
|L 4-2 to Sharks||W 4-1 over Kings||W 7-1 over Jets||W 3-0 over Blues||W 3-2 over Jackets|
|L 1-0 to Wild||W 4-2 over Ducks||W 4-1 over Penguins||W 5-4 over Stars||W 3-1 over Blues|
|L 2-1 to Wild(OT)||W 5-3 over Flames||L 4-3 to Predators||L 4-3 to Leafs||L 7-2 to Canadiens|
|Record 5-4-1||Record 7-3||Record 7-3||Record 6-4||Record 8-2|
So, that makes the Red Wings overall 2011-2012 record through 50 games a respectable 33-16-1 a total of 67 points out of a possible 100. A similar record in 50 games this season would certainly be enough for a 22nd straight playoff birth. The goal undoubtedly being to stay above the .500 mark in each of the 5 ten game segments.
However, there are number of other variables at play that could hinder the Wings from putting up a similar record. As I have mentioned in previous articles this is not the same Red Wing team that we are accustomed to watching. The number one question facing the Wings is: what will life without Nicklas Lidstrom bring?
A lot of problems is the realistic answer to this question. To put it simply, we can expect more lapses defensively, less offense generated from the D, ultimately resulting in fewer wins and more losses.
On the upside there will be plenty of opportunities for Red Wing youngsters to step up and prove me wrong. But, when you consider the Wings finished fifth place in the Western Conference last season with Lidstrom, there should be a lot of concern about what place Detroit will finish without him.
In addition, the talent in the Western Conference as a whole has been upgraded and should be far more competitive this season. Perennial basement dwellers such as Minnesota and Edmonton are much improved and the battle for playoff positions will be tightly contested.
One factor that could work in Detroit’s favor is the fact that there has been some talk of increasing the number of teams that will qualify for the playoffs this season. For a team like the Red Wings that will likely be battling for the last available playoff spots, any extra positions would be welcomed news.
Whatever the scenario is that plays itself out, the emphasis on consistency week in and week out will be paramount during the 2012-2013 season. Unlike in an 82 game schedule where teams have time to recover from a disappointing seven or eight game stretch, the Wings will not be afforded that luxury this year.
The bottom line is this: a great week won’t clinch a playoff spot for Babcock’s crew, but a bad week just might take them out of the running all together.