Detroit Red Wings: Shorthanded Squad Has a Lot to Prove Against Boston Bruins

Isaac SmithAnalyst INovember 26, 2013

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 14: Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins has words with against Henrik Zetterberg #40 of the Detroit Red Wings at the TD Garden on October 14, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

If fans of the Detroit Red Wings thought their season was off to an unfortunate start at 11-7-7, Wednesday night's contest against the division-leading Boston Bruins will take that to a whole other level.

The Detroit Red Wings will find out what they have as far as "replacements" go. Detroit will be without No. 1 center Pavel Datsyuk, No. 1 goaltender Jimmy Howard and occasional top-six forward Todd Bertuzzi for Wednesday's contest against the Bruins.

Datsyuk and Bertuzzi are dealing with injuries, while Howard will be given a night off to try and refocus after a lackluster start to the 2013-14 season. Howard's record is 5-7-6 with a 2.72 goals-against average and a 90.8 save percentage.

Coach Mike Babcock curiously decided to go with Jonas Gustavsson after insisting that Jimmy Howard was the No. 1 goalie, per Bill Roose, the Red Wings' beat writer.

While the decision makes sense, the timing of it could be better. Babcock defended his decision, as quoted by Brian Hedger of

The biggest thing we're doing right now is it hasn't gone as good as [Howard] would like... Let's be clear about this, we're going as far as [Howard] takes us. We've got an elite goalie who it hasn't gone as good ... when you're a goalie and it happens for you, the spotlight is on you because it affects everything.

The Red Wings will turn to Gustavsson, who holds a 5-0-1 record.

While leading the Atlantic Division doesn't mean much at the momentgiven the current domination of the Eastern Conference by Western Conference foesthe Bruins still went to the Stanley Cup Final last year, and this game will be a stick game for Detroit.

The Red Wings played notoriously poorly last season against weaker teams like Columbus and Calgary, but they seemed to rise to the challenge against better teams.

Red Wings record in 2012-13 season.
vs. Playoff Teams12-6-6
vs. Non-Playoff Teams14-8-2

Now, they will have to rise to the challenge without multiple pieces of their starting lineup, including one of the best puck-possession men in the NHL in Datsyuk.

The issue with Detroit all season has been two-fold.

The Red Wings were unable to score goals from their bottom three forward lines, but with the return of Darren Helm (five goals in 11 games) and the rise of Johan Franzen (eight points in last seven games), the Red Wings look to have solved that problem temporarily.

The other problem Detroit has struggled through this season is turnovers. Detroit has the seventh-most giveaways this season with 219 so far.

The Red Wings have often hit double digits in giveaways, but hopefully the last two games (11 combined giveaways) mark a turning point in that regard.

Jonas Gustavsson turned away 21 of 22 shots in Buffalo, but he should get a lot more work against the Bruins on Wednesday.
Jonas Gustavsson turned away 21 of 22 shots in Buffalo, but he should get a lot more work against the Bruins on Wednesday.Jen Fuller/Getty Images

Fans, players and management should get a better look at who the Red Wings can really be tomorrow night against Boston.

Although the Red Wings won without Datsyuk, Bertuzzi and Howard on Sunday night in Buffalo, the fact remains that it was the Sabres. Their 5-19-1 record speaks for itself.

The Bruins pose a little bit more of a challenge. It will be interesting to see what the Wings are truly made of when they take on a top opponent without some of their proven leaders on the ice.