Here we are, more than a month into the NHL season and the Detroit Red Wings sit second in the Western Conference with a 9-2-2 record. Who would've known the reaction they get would be one of disappointment. It befuddles me to hear and read the talk of the Red Wings apparent inability to blow out opponents on a nightly basis.
Newly added winger Marian Hossa got off to a slow start, but has been on a tear in the past eight games or so. Pavel Datsyuk has been putting up solid numbers, making plays night in and night out.
Henrik Zetterberg has found the back of the net since returning after a short hiatus. Brian Rafalski started the season off red hot breaking the Detroit Red Wings Defense record for most consecutive games with a point to start a season. He has slowed a little in the past handful of games however.
The Red Wings defense has been suspect thus far in the 2008-'09 season.
There have been more giveaways than I can count on both hands by the normally rock solid Nick Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Even the favorably skilled puckhandler Chris Osgood has coughed the puck up against the Maple Leafs in the season's opening game.
The Red Wings aren't blowing teams out, that is definitely true. But they are getting the job done. At 9-2-2, no one should be reading or writing about how the Red Wings are struggling and aren't the juggernaut everyone thought they would be. THEY'RE 9-2-2! That's pretty damn good.
Yes, the defense has been suspect. Veterans like Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart, Niklas Kronwall will all correct the error of their ways soon enough.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the ridiculous number of James Norris Trophies won by the Red Wings Captain, Nicklas Lidstrom. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer, still a threat on offense, and could go down as the best defenseman of all time. The wrinkles will get ironed out.
The goaltending has not been stellar either. With a save percentage below .900 and a GAA of nearly 3.00, Chris Osgood isn't living up to his season last year. However, following up an All-Star season going 27-9-4 with a GAA of 2.09 and a save percentage of .914 isn't an easy task. But let's be real: he is 6-1-2. Wins are what count.
I really can't understand this. The Red Wings are somehow disappointing at 9-2-2? With the new NHL rules, how can they not score 8 goals a night? [DISCLAIMER: Those thoughts are not mine, but ones I have read and heard over the early part of this season]
Head Coach Mike Babcock said in a recent interview that "If you would've told me we'd be a .500 team to this point, I'd be happy with that."
So how do you think he feels at 9-2-2? Impressed; Proud; Relieved a bit.
But you can bet he doesn't show it. He pushes the Red Wings as hard as any coach in the National Hockey League. He challenges his players to excel. And they do just that.
Here's what matters in the long run: Winning. What's the difference between an 8-0 win and a 2-1 win? To be honest, purely just statistics. I would rather the Red Wings win 50 games and have every one be decided by two goals or fewer.
The Red Wings have had seasons where they blow teams out during the regular season and get used to that. In those seasons they faced the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. I don't want to talk about that.
What 2-1 wins do is give you that edge. They keep you skating at all times, digging for every puck, taking full advantage of every second out on the ice. All that game takes is one bounce and it's a whole different game. You're on your toes. When you're up four goals, you coast, you don't hustle as much. The close games keep you in a much more playoff-type mindset.
The Red Wings are fine. Damn fine.
What have they done 9 out of 13 games so far? Win.
What will they continue to do at an alarming rate? Win.
The Detroit Red Wings win. A lot.
You don't have to believe me, just ask their Presidents' Trophies.