The skinny: The Red Wings recorded their first win on Long Island since January of 2007, as they beat up on the last-place Islanders and recorded their third straight win. Daniel Alfredsson and Darren Helm scored twice, popular whipping boys Daniel Cleary and Brendan Smith combined for three assists, and Jimmy Howard ended November on a high note with his second shutout of the season. An excellent result for the Wings, who now sit at 13-7-7.
Three stars: 3. Niklas Kronwall. The 32 year-old Swede recorded two assists in the victory; he’s up to 16 assists in 25 games.
2. Jimmy Howard. Howie had a shaky November, but stopped 29 shots in his 18th career shutout.
1. Darren Helm. It’s really good to have this guy back. Two goals (his sixth and seventh tallies of the campaign), a +4, and one of the most remarkable goal-scoring efforts of the season thus far: https://vine.co/v/hP5JjYWx5lv (credit must be given to the venerable @Whoabot).
Five things: 1. Johan Franzen. The Mule has six points (one goal/five assists) over his last three games, and it’s good to see him stepping up in Pavel Datsyuk’s absence.
2. Penalty kill. Only Ottawa and Winnipeg have been shorthanded more than Detroit in 2013-14, yet the Red Wings are the only one of those teams in the top 10 in the league in penalty killing. In fact, the Wings’ 86.4% penalty-killing percentage ranks third in the NHL, behind only Vancouver and New Jersey (two teams currently out of the playoffs).
3. The large waterbird is uncaged. Gustav Nyquist scored the Wings’ fourth goal on Friday, and it was his fourth in five games since his recall from Grand Rapids. The Wings are 4-1-0 since Goose’s recall, and since he’s staying up for the remainder of the season, it’ll be interesting to see how Ken Holland sorts out the roster.
4. Eric$$on. You know who else recorded a point on Saturday? Jonathan Ericsson. He was credited with a secondary assist on Darren Helm’s shorthanded goal in the second period. Ericsson was inked to a new six-year deal on Wednesday; the deal carries a $4.25 million cap hit. It’s a $1 million raise for the former Mr. Irrelevant, who has rounded into a decent blueliner.
5. Perspective. The Wings finished November with a record of 6-3-5, and sit at 13-7-7 (33 points) heading into December. The point total they’ve accrued is good enough to place them third in both the Atlantic division and in the Eastern Conference. The 33 points would place them one point out of a playoff spot if they were still in the West, but that’s not the point (get it?). The Wings ended the month with three straight wins, and they played very well of them. They’re 8-3-1 on the road; only the Blackhawks, Avalanche, and Rangers have more wins away from their home rink. The Wings had some bad luck this month, particularly in shootouts, but perspective is key here:
A) They picked up at least one point in 11 of 14 November games.
B) They’re currently on pace for 100 points and play in the weaker Eastern Conference.
C) The forward production from players not named Datsyuk or Zetterberg (and apparently Helm, now) has been inconsistent, the defense has been either hurt or poor, Howard has regressed a little…and they’re still on pace for 100 points.
D) In December, they play 11 of 14 against Eastern Conference teams; all three of the games against Western Conference foes come in the month’s final two weeks, and two of the games are at home. They play the Panthers thrice, the Stamkos-less Lightning twice, the Flyers, the Devils, and the Islanders. Not a terribly hard slate, at least on paper.
E) There’s 55 games left.
My advice is to cool your jets (WOOO WINNIPEG PUN), take a deep breath, and have a little faith that one of the best general manager/coach tandems in the NHL will do whatever they can to bring consistency and stability to this particular Red Wings team. The Red Wings aren’t nearly as deep or talented as they were, say, four years ago, but they still have experience, leadership, and a “Big Four” of Datysuk, Howard, Kronwall, and Zetterberg. Fans get heated during losing streaks and lose any semblance of rationality, I get it, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that this really isn’t a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad team.
What’s next? Daniel Alfredsson makes his return to Ottawa on Sunday, as the Wings battle the Senators at Canadian Tire Centre (or, Ever-Changing Sponsor Centre). Puck drop is at 5:30 EST.