First of all, it doesn't make much sense, but I'm glad that the Wings had such a horrible mid-January. Don't get me wrong, I hate seeing my team lose, but I think it's good for them in large doses.
I thought the same thing as they suffered through February last year, managing only a handful of victories amidst a string of losses. I think if a team as great as Detroit doesn't live up to their potential, they are going to have to do something to overcome that.
Honestly, the Wings haven't played to their fullest for much of the season. However, they have been piling up wins, so it is not very significant that their play has been mediocre at times.
I think last month's five consecutive losses woke them up. It's definitely too early to say, but I think they realized they needed to fix some things and I believe they are definitely working towards it.
The wins against St. Louis and Phoenix were gritty and showed good work ethic in the team. This weekend against the Oilers and Penguins I began to see glimpses of the team I know can repeat as champions.
The biggest problem this year has been defense. The team that has led the league in almost every defensive category has shown some serious lapses. A major part of that is the goaltending.
Yes, the team has been allowing more shots than usual, but that is no excuse for the ridiculous amount of goals allowed. Ty Conklin (the supposed backup) looked solid playing against the Penguins today. The 3-0 victory is not one the Wings could have managed on the backs of their high-powered offense.
Conklin was not giving up many rebounds at all and was doing a great job of anticipating the Pittsburgh shooters. He definitely did not look like a backup goalie.
Let's look at things from a purely statistical point of view. Conklin and Osgood have pretty evenly split the starts this season, despite the plan to give Osgood the majority of the play. Their victory totals are about the same: Ozzie is 17-4 while Conklin is 18-7. Apart from that, there are some huge differences.
Conklin's stats are not amazing (2.4 GAA, 914 Save %) but they are far better than Osgood's, which rank in the bottom of the league (3.3 GAA, .880 Save %). Conklin also has six shutouts to Ozzie's zero.
I really don't like the way things have turned out this season in regards to the goalie situation. I have rooted for Ozzie since I was seven or eight, and I couldn't have been happier to see him lead the team to the Stanley Cup last year. I believe Osgood is one of the most underestimated and underappreciated goalies in league history. However, this season he just hasn't been able to recapture the magic.
I think the best plan right now would be to sit Osgood for a while. Conklin has been winning and it would be good to let him get in a groove. Osgood is competitive and he hates being benched, so instead of threatening to do that and let his competitive juices flow, I think Babcock needs to just sit him and let that happen.
I think Osgood will do what it takes to get his job back, but if he can't do that then he doesn't need to be playing like he has been.
Conklin would benefit from the display of confidence in him and Osgood would hopefully get his act together. It will definitely take more than playing, getting shelled, and then overflowing with manufactured optimism.
This has been the story most of this season, and it doesn't need to continue. Osgood is one of my favorite players and I would hate not seeing him. As much as it is deserved, I can only bear to criticize him so much.
Conklin, on the other hand, as the new guy is someone I have no problem being negative about...but he's not earning my criticism lately.
I hated seeing Osgood leave in 2001, but he eventually came back to the Wings, and was a much better goalie. I don't want to see him leave the team again, but it seems it might be the right time to bench him, set him outside the spotlight, and let him regain his groove.
When playoff time comes around I hope to be watching the "Wizard of Oz" lead us to victory again.
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