Red Wings Start Slowly, But It's Not Time to Panic Just Yet

Matt ShottContributor IOctober 9, 2009

I am sure when the Detroit Red Wings were asked to participate in their home away from home (Sweden) for their first two games of the season, they did not anticipate coming back to their real home without a point.

The Wings took leads into the midway mark of the second period for both games in Sweden and showed dominance for the majority of the game, but were caught by the St. Louis Blues due to one reason: poor penalty killing. 

Obviously, being on the penalty kill is a disadvantage on its own. But before last season, the Wings were never outside the top 10 in the league when it came to stopping the man advantage.

Last year, they were 25th in the league, and so far this year they have been an abysmal 68.4 percent on the PK—good for 24th.

Now, it's only three games into the season for the Red Wings, but they cannot be expected to compete for a top three spot in the Western Conference with such atrocious stats.

Unless they plan on not taking penalties the rest of the season, coach Mike Babcock needs to figure out what they are doing wrong. 

Boasting one of the best defensive cores in the league, as well as two players who have claimed the Selke Trophy for top defensive forward, the Red Wings need something to change.

The Wings used to be aggressive on the kill and hardly gave their opponents time to shoot by being right in their faces. They need to find that magic again and not chase the puck like they have been, while also moving big bodies out from in front of the net. 

Goaltending cannot be fully blamed for this team, as goaltending has never been a bright spot for the Wings in the past and the team has won with Chris Osgood on numerous occasions.

Sure, the goaltending has not been stellar—and Jimmy Howard has not looked all too great—but if the defense is not going to lend a helping hand, the Wings are in some trouble.

After Thursday night’s game against Chicago, it looked as if Osgood had regained his playoff form—which he needs to do more often—allowing only two goals on 34 shots.

But long-time followers of the Wings know that you cannot always expect that good of a game from Ozzie, so the team needs to get back to that dominating stage that they have been at for the past 15 years. 

And Wings fans can’t be too harsh on Howard just yet. This is his first season as the official backup out of camp, and he has only played in one game that was not helped by the Wings special teams.

If after 10 games, he has still not played well—allowing five goals in every contest—then it might be time to find his replacement. Until then, let the rookie adapt to the big league game and let us not judge him on one bad game, which mind you, was played across the world. 

An early positive is the Wings continue to have a dominant power play, which is what they used to beat the rival Blackhawks.

Again, another part of the game the Wings have been notorious for is a good power play. Thankfully, they have not let that go to crap like they have the penalty kill.

As long as they continue to do well in that field, they should hopefully be able to offset the poor PK until Babcock fixes it. 

The signing of Brad May, in my opinion, is a good one. The Red Wings need a fighter who strikes fear in the eyes of opponents, while also being able to skate and occasionally score a goal here and there (unlike their previous enforcer Aaron Downey).

Not that the Wings needed it, but May also brings more veteran leadership and experience into a locker room that seemed to need a kick in the can to get back on track.

And what does May do in his first game with the gorgeous Red Wing jersey on? His job. His fight with Radek Smolenak was exactly why the Wings brought May to their team.

Welcome to D-Town, Mr. May. 

I am excited to see how this team plays once Darren Helm returns to the lineup, with his upbeat playing style and great work ethic. If you are a Red Wings fan, how can you not be excited to get this guy back into the lineup?

He is a big ball of energy and is one of the hardest-working players on the team. His energy will hopefully help the Wings on the PK, as well as other areas in the game. 

The Wings have so far continued to play their puck possession game almost perfectly. Has there been a team that can match Detroit’s patience with the puck?

This is another reason why they have been so dominant for so many years—they keep the puck out of the hands of their opponents for the majority of the game, yet still manage to pepper the opposing goalie on almost a nightly basis.

Overall, the Wings may have started the year off slowly, but it is not time to worry just yet. The season is a mere three games old and this team has A LOT more hockey to play, even though they have played an extremely large amount of hockey over the past three seasons.

The Wings are not doomed just yet, if at all. There is a reason this team was named The Sporting News top team of the decade and continues to be spoken about when discussing top-tier teams. They have a system, they play it almost perfectly, and they figure out their mistakes and fix them.

Let’s just hope they do the latter with the penalty kill as soon as possible, because that will be the death of this team if not fixed.

*Just a quick note to ponder—no team that has started the season 0-3 has ever won the Stanley Cup, so they avoided that elephant in the room. Here is to hoping for another Wings Stanley Cup appearance.