The Detroit Red Wings have a knack for puzzling their fans with their play this season.
Watching the Red Wings play this season could make a "pro-line" advocate steer clear of any games involving Detroit. Sometimes they run up the score, while other nights they can barely find the back of the net, let alone get shots on goal.
Detroit finds itself at fourth in the Western Conference tonight. However, without consecutive wins in their last nine home games, that record could be a lot worse.
Detroit heads out on the road to where they will play 18 of their next 26 games with some mounting questions.
These questions will be asked and answered in the following slides.
Now, playing on the third line, Detroit's Dan Cleary likely did not expect to pick up the 26 goals and 46 points he did last season.
No offense to Darren Helm, Chris Conner and whoever else Cleary might be playing with on that line, but they are not as offensively gifted as Cleary's first- and second-line members that Cleary played with last year in Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen, among others.
Having said that, Cleary's offensive numbers have put him in a bit of a tough spot.
Cleary has just five goals and 10 points in 28 games played.
He does not have a game-winning goal yet this season; last season, he had eight game winners.
No one knows where Dan Cleary's offensive numbers have gone. He proves incredibly useful in front of the net on power plays, so the Red Wings have a great Tomas Holmstrom-like player there.
But aside from that, as the Red Wings have salary cap space, Cleary could find himself playing somewhere else by the trade deadline if his numbers do not pick up substantially.
Jimmy Howard is having a season to remember.
With 17 wins in 24 appearances, a 93.1 save percentage, a 1.85 GAA and three shutouts, one would think someone would take notice.
Apparently, these numbers were not enough to get a mention on the ballot.
Those individuals clearly were not the people putting out the All-Star ballot, as they left Mr. Howard off of the ballot.
Howard is on pace to smash his old career high in wins of 37 and could end up upwards of 45 wins this season.
The fact that he did not make the All-Star ballot proves the fact that the All-Star game needs to be re-named the "All-Popular" game, because one of the best players this season has been left off of it completely.
The good news for Jimmy Howard is that as of the week three leader update, Howard sits No. 11 in overall votes for goaltenders with 71,948 votes. Howard is the highest written in candidate in goal and second highest overall behind Boston's Tyler Seguin.
Even at age 41, Nick Lidstrom continues to defy the odds.
His six goals and 20 points are tied for sixth in the NHL, and he continues to be dominant offensively for Detroit.
Lidstrom has also benefited from Detroit's rejuvenated defense focused mindset, as he has seen his plus-minus number climb to plus-12 this season.
Lidstrom may not be playing 28-30 minutes like he is used to, but he still averages almost 24 minutes of ice time, and this has helped keep him fresh.
Captain Nick also manages to kick-start the offense, even at age 41.
His 69 shots on goal put him on pace to get over 200 shots on goal this season, his highest shot total since 2006-07.
Lidstrom's ability to shoot the puck off the back boards also creates scoring chances especially in Joe Louis Arena, where the back boards are lively to say the least.
If Lidstrom can keep up his point total (he is on pace for about 58 points per NHL.com), he should be at least in contention for another Norris Trophy.
This Norris Trophy would be special as it would tie him for most all-time with the great Bobby Orr.
So, does Lidstrom have what it takes?
If he won it last year with a minus-two rating, I think he could win it again this year.
Detroit's GM Ken Holland has a knack for finding players that have bounced around from team to team and "resurrecting" their careers in Detroit.
Ian White is no exception.
He originally came in to Detroit to try and fill the big offensive shoes of the retired Brian Rafalski, but he brought a more fundamentally sound aspect to Detroit that Rafalski seemed to lack with his occasionally bad passing.
With less risk come less rewards, but White has provided that solid first pairing right-handed shot that Detroit needed, and he seems to be slightly stronger in his own zone than Rafalski was when it comes to muscling defenders off of the puck in front of the net.
White also proves to be a selfless player.
He has shown that he is not afraid to block shots, even with his face, to prevent goals.
Over the past two decade, Detroit has taken players who apparently had no permanent team, and made them into superstars.
Stories behind names like Kris Draper (dollar man), Kirk Maltby and Dan Cleary amongst others found homes in Detroit, and Ian White looks to have proven the same.
He may only have 13 points, but he is a plus-17, good for 3rd overall in the NHL.
In short, assuming White's play continues, he seems to have found a permanent home in Detroit.
Detroit is 12-2-1 at home. The Red Wings average exactly four goals per game while at home.
However, Detroit on the road is a different story.
They are just 6-7-0 averaging 2.23 goals per game, being outscored 34-29 in those 13 games.
18 of their next 26 games are on the road, so that stretch will tell a lot about how high the Red Wings will be ranked at the end of the season.
No doubt, Red Wings fans would like to see Detroit take the offensive prowess that they have shown at home and continue it on the road, but this is easier said than done.
Can Detroit score on the road?
Well, last season they did have the second-best road record in the entire NHL at 26-11-4, so I think they can carry some of that over to this season.
Will they carry it over to this season?
That is another question that can only be answered by the Red Wings themselves over the next few road games.
Detroit is riding a hot goaltender in Jimmy Howard.
The Wings have reeled off nine straight home wins, but their biggest qualms come on the road.
Although it is great to see Detroit winning at home, its road record concerns me.
Its inability to get to the net during some road games and constantly being outskated by their opposition makes some fans—including myself—question its motives during road contests.
Due to the increased parity in the NHL, there are no "give-me" games anymore.
Detroit plays with heart and passion in its home games, but it must find a way to transfer some of that energy and increasing momentum that they have built to the many road games that stand ahead on the schedule.
The big boys are getting it done for Detroit; Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen, and now Filppula are pulling the load for the team.
With occasional contributions from their third and fourth lines, Todd Bertuzzi heating up with goals in back-to-back games and with a little help from Detroit's defense, leading the league in goals as a defensive unit, Detroit should be good to go offensively.