Good night: A look at the Red Wings that could be seen as being somewhat allegorical to their home city
I’ve been sitting here for a while now trying to think of the best way to write about this Sharks/Red Wings game, which certainly had its share of storylines.
Goal reviews, both upholding the original calls and overturning them. An absurd call for a penalty shot that ended up not mattering. Clowncar goaltending of the highest order from both netminders, who each gave up no-angle goals. Joe Thornton having his best game of the postseason, and maybe the best postseason game of his career. Pavel Datsyuk looking pretty damn bad all night. The exchange of bad line changes that led to Detroit’s ultimate ruin.
In short, the game itself was a mess.
And really, that probably tells you everything you need to know about these Detroit Red Wings of 2010.
To be sure, this is still a good team, but it’s time we faced the possibility that we are no longer dealing with The Elite Detroit Red Wings circa roughly 1986-2009.
Look, I liked and believed in this year’s version of the Phoenix Coyotes as much as anyone but really, that was a team with one real superstar player in Ilya Bryzgalov. The Red Wings of last year would have torn through them in five or six games. The Red Wings of 2008 would have swept them.
Certainly neither of those teams would be facing a 3-0 series deficit against the formerly chokeriffic Sharks, and definitely not after playing this sloppy shambles of a home game.
Yet here we are, with the Red Wings scoring 35 goals in their 10 playoff games (second-most per game in the postseason behind Vancouver, so a strong number) but conceding 30. And even that 35 is a bit deceptive as 13, more than a third of those, came in Games 2 and 7 against Phoenix.
You just don’t get the sense of menace and impending doom these days. I no longer watch Red Wings games through the cracks in my fingers, waiting for the dagger to be delivered by Datsyuk or Franzen or Zetterberg. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I watched the third period, which Detroit entered up 3-1, fully expecting a Sharks comeback, and the overtime knowing someone on San Jose was going to pick up the game-winner.
I just didn’t think Jimmy Howard would make it so hilariously easy for Patty Marleau.
This team has no killer instinct, and I think it’s just been dragged out of them. Tonight was the second game in a row in which the Wings squandered a third-period lead. They’ve allowed 11 goals in the third period or later through 10 games in this postseason. Last year they allowed 10 in 23.
My current working theory is that these Red Wings are now officially a bit past it. A full 10 of their playoff players were born in the 1970s. Almost all of their significant players this season are over 30. Only one of their top six scorers from the regular season, Henrik Zetterberg, is under 30, and he’s 29. And yes, Pavel Datsyuk is only 31 and has many miles in front of him yet, but the rest of these guys are ancient. Holmstrom’s 37, Lidstrom’s 39, Rafalski’s 36, Bertuzzi’s 34. For the most part, these are the guys who have piled up postseason points for the Red Wings when Logan Couture was making pew-pew-pew noises with his GI Joes.
Another part of the problem is that, for all the talk of what a genius Ken Holland is, he hasn’t drafted particularly well in the last decade. The reality is that all these deep runs into the postseason have left the Red Wings with not-so-much in the way of strong draft positions, and that’s illustrated in these playoffs. Detroit has just six players of the 67 it drafted since 2001 on its current playoff roster (Abdelkader, Franzen, Helm, Filppula, Ericsson and Howard).
You might say so what, but the problem is that the Wings have been able to successfully lean so heavily on their core players for so long that it both held a decade’s worth of prospects at an arm’s length from the first team and ensured that this ugly thing that’s currently transpiring would happen.
Detroit will still be good-not-great for another handful of years, but hard times are coming.
I’m just trying to prepare you for it.
Pittsburgh 2, Montreal 0
Apparently the Habs’ gameplan of “let the other team outshoot us significantly and score a couple lucky goals” only works if they’re outshot by a more significant margin than 139 percent and don’t score any goals. Go figure.