March 22, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Detroit Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader (8) is congratulated by defenseman Niklas Kronwall (55), center Pavel Datsyuk (13) and left wing Johan Franzen (93) after scoring a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Keys to Red Wings' Playoff Push: Offense

April 5 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) (center) is congratulated by his teammates for his winning goal in overtime against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. The Red Wings defeated the Avalanche 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in, oh, well over two decades, the Red Wings are on the verge of not making the playoffs. And it has a lot of people in panic mode. As if the Mayan apocalypse will come true on the last day of the season when the inevitable scenario of needing Dallas to beat Columbus in OT or regulation simply doesn’t come true and we are shoved out of that eighth seed unceremoniously. (Come on, you know it’s going to happen!)

Well, I’m here to tell you, people, to take a deep breath and relax. This team’s standards may be lower than they have been in the past twenty one years. This team may look a heck of a lot different than it has in the past twenty one years. But in all those times when they’ve looked uncertain, how many times have they managed to pull off the impossible?

Don’t lose hope just yet. In this article (and several other installments), I’ll be discussing just how the Red Wings will make the playoffs. Getting past that first round, however, is another story entirely. Let’s focus on making it there first.

In Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues, there was a lack of offense. Gustav Nyquist couldn’t bury a puck on a clean breakaway that would have given them a 1-0 lead (St. Louis scored not minutes later). In Friday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, post after post was hit and while the game was won, it came down to the last buzzer before Colorado gave up completely.

In this Thursday’s game against the San Jose Sharks, one they sorely need to at least take to overtime, offense will be key again. The team is 1-1 against the Sharks so far this season, with the one win coming in a shootout. This win is necessary, not only because San Jose is ahead of them in the standings, but because the Phoenix Coyotes are right on the Red Wings’ tail in the standings.

Offense has struggled the entire season. The team has 99 goals for and 101 goals against. But there are those glorious games when Pavel Datsyuk has four points and Henrik Zetterberg has two goals, or Johan Franzen has a goal and an assist and keeps shielding the defending goalie and everything looks like it should.

There are those moments when the 2008 team comes shining through.

Practice Tuesday morning shows a new set of lines, shaking things up:

Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Justin Abdelkader

Drew Miller-Franzen-Nyquist

Damien Brunner-Valtteri Filppula-Dan Cleary

Cory Emmerton-Joakim Andersson-Jordin Tootoo

Now, just look at that for a minute. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are back together, with Abdelkader on their line, who has slowly gotten better throughout the season (or at least better than he was when it was Datsyuk and Cleary on his line).

Miller has done nothing but work hard on the bottom two lines, so his jump up to the second line with Franzen’s strong hands and Nyquist’s moves can only mean good things. Brunner and Filppula together seems like it will work perfectly, especially with Cleary standing at the front of the net and if Filppula can keep his offense up.

The offense is there, people. It’s just finding the right mix and match until it works. Unfortunately, it seems like this team has been a stick in the mud when it comes to changing its lines. If these lines used in practice stay, well… maybe this is the magical fix we’ve been waiting for all season.

You have to keep in mind for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, you can see that this team is in the process of rebuilding. Rebuilding to what? A younger core, a different kind of defense, and goaltending that tends to save them on more than one occasion.

All hope is not lost. We just have to be patient.

Next installment: Defense!

Tags: Detroit Red Wings NHL Playoffs

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