Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk's Improvement Among 3 Wishes for November 2011
Last month, we submitted the first of our "3 Wishes" series for the Detroit Red Wings 2011-12 season.
Consulting that list of hopeful happenings, one can see that we actually got two out of three of those to come true.
At the time, it didn't seem necessary to wish for things like not losing four games in a row or not forgetting how to score.
Hindsight being 20/20, it might have helped to add those to the list of things we really wanted to see happen in October.
From a red-hot start to an ice-cold collapse, the month of October was a schizophrenic one for the Wings, and one they hope desperately will not prove a harbinger of their season to come.
True, their on-again, off-again schedule might have helped and hurt their record in October; however, the Wings showed plenty of flaws in their game that had nothing to do with how many they played or when they played them.
November will prove to be quite hectic for the Red Wings as they have 14 games on tap, including their first West Coast trip of the year.
Should they continue their losing ways, November could be an even bigger disaster than October; they have 28 points on the table and will need most of them to keep pace with Chicago and Nashville in the Central Division.
That said, our three wishes for November imply an overarching hope that the Wings will find a way to win again, but these three specific things should go a long way towards making that dream a reality.
Who the Hell Are You and What Have You Done with Pavel Datsyuk?
Seriously, who the hell is this guy?
Datsyuk is an unthinkable minus-five and though he leads the team with seven points (a depressing thing in and of itself), he seems to lack the finish and poise that has defined his career for a decade.
It is hard to imagine why such a magnificent player, often lumped into the top five in the world by fans and pundits alike, could suddenly look so average, but that's exactly the look he's been sporting this season.
To put it simply, our first wish is for Pavel Datsyuk to simply be Pavel Datsyuk, not this lackluster doppelganger we've seen to date.
If the Wings' best player cannot get his game together, there's little hope the rest of the team can do the same.
Can We Please Put the "Special" Back in Special Teams?
Detroit's power play is limping along at 15.4 percent, and their penalty-kill is effective 78.8 percent of the time; these stats are good for 19th and 21st in the league, respectively.
While it is still early in the season, the fact that Detroit is loaded with offensive and defensive talent and is floundering at the bottom of the league in special teams is cause for concern.
While there are (unfortunately) a slew of things that are not going right in Detroit, focusing solely on improving their special teams play could, in and of itself, pull them out of the nosedive they currently find themselves in.
With referees handing out penalties like candy, no team can afford to employ an average special teams system for long and survive.
Our wish here is that the Wings simply play up to their talent level when up or down a man.
Jimmy Howard, You Just Keep on Keepin' On, Brother
We've had our heads in the storm clouds for most of the piece, but that doesn't mean there isn't a ray of sunshine to which to turn our gaze.
This beacon of hope comes in the form of one Jimmy Howard.
Through his first six starts, Howard has been a rock, or, rock-wall, to be more precise.
He's surrendered 11 goals in this span (that equates to a 1.82 goals-against average for those of you playing at home) and it's safe to say at least eight of those he had no chance on (his own defenders screening him perfectly has become an irritating habit...maybe he should start giving them a little chop with his stick when they get in his way).
The Wings' inability to score is frustrating enough, but if that were coupled by Howard's inability to keep the puck out of the net, the Wings would be in an even worse state than they are now.
Jimmy Howard is looking solid in goal despite playing behind a team that's been decidedly soft.
If he can keep this up long enough for his team to get their heads together and match his performance, things will be just fine in Hockeytown in November.
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