Detroit Red Wings: Injuries Instill Important Instincts
Since my last blog, the Nabakov situation has all died down. Nabby doesn’t want to play for the Islanders, and Garth Snow is telling him he has to. Meanwhile the Red Wings have posted 6-3-0 and despite some defensive lapses, have looked pretty strong. Victories over New Jersey, Ottawa, New York Rangers, Boston (twice) and Tampa Bay last night, have meant the Wings are keeping in touch with the Conference-leading Canucks. If Detroit make the most of their games in hand, then the Canucks lead will be cut to just 3 points.
The West is looking a very tight affair right now, with the Canucks and Red Wings the only two teams looking like their positions are secure. After that, 3 points separate the 3rd placed Coyotes from the 9th placed Flames.
Luckily this recent period has shown the Wings’ resilience, and we find ourselves welcoming back players from IR, rather than signing their casts. Datsyuk is back, as are Holmstrom and Cleary, and Stuart returned last night against Tampa Bay. Osgood is still injured, but his surgery was a while back now and he should soon be swapping goaltending duties with Howard again. Modano is expected to return by the end of February, and Filpulla should be back in a week or so.
On the note of goalies, Howard has found his form again, and showed his confidence in ability in yesterday’s game, saving 38 of 40. This means the weight is lifted of MacDonald who, without being unnecessarily harsh, completely bottled his opportunity. When the regular and backup goalie both cannot play, surely the 3rd choice netminder should be jumping into the crease quicker than you can say ‘goaltender interference’. Not so with MacDonald, who looked constantly nervous, frequently flapped at the puck and never looked like he was comfortable. His backup with Jordan Pearce, who was sent home with a note to his mother after bursting into tears whenever anyone asked him to do anything.
Another mention must go out to Todd Bertuzzi, who takes a lot of stick from hockey fans, and many Red Wings fans. Although true that the past should never be forgotten, Bertuzzi is certainly doing his best to make himself a key player in Detroit. His 4 goals in 2 games against Boston, showed what he was capable of, and with 12 goals and 22 assists, it’s hard to knock Todd’s contribution as a 2nd/3rd line player.
Detroit is certainly tightening up on its penalties as well. They give up around 8 minutes of penalties a game, second only to Florida as the least penalised team in the league. Couple that with a powerplay ranked 5th then the results are pretty devastating on teams that take a lot of penalty minutes.
With Osgood reaching and surpassing 400 wins, then the pressure is now off and the monkey is off his back. Maybe once he returns from injury, we’ll see the playoff Ozzy that we all know and love. It’s also nice to see Jiri Hudler putting up points again. His first half of the season was poor, and he would have been more useful if he’d laid on the ice and pretended to be a puck to try and confuse the opposition. Now he’s hitting the net, putting up points, and starting to return to form. Maybe he’ll hit his peak just before the playoffs…just maybe…