Shut Out Twice in a Row at Home, Red Wings Have Nowhere to Go But Up

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst INovember 28, 2009

MONTREAL- NOVEMBER 21:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings waits with team mates Pavel Datsyuk #13 and Brad Stuart #23 for the shootout round to begin during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens on November 21, 2009 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Red Wings defeated the Canadiens 3-2 in a shootout.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

The Detroit Red Wings have out-shot their last two opponents 80-42 combined.

They've been outscored 5-0.

The last time the Wings were shut out twice in a row at home was 32 years ago.

Yes, I believe this is what addicts refer to as "rock bottom."

A strange thing happened to me as I watched the Wings' latest exercise in futility against the visiting Calgary Flames Friday night.

After reeling from witnessing yet another goal against during the first minute of the game, another terrible no-goal call from an official, and yet another first-minute goal against to start the third period, a strange calm washed over me.

Watching the Wings skate around with limited purpose in the late stages of the third period, I suddenly realized, things can't get any worse for this team.

Sure, they could lose another key player to injury, but really, that would only be incrementally worse at this point.

They might get shut-out the next two games, but, they're likely to lose these games anyway, so what does it matter how?

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Their goal-tending could continue to struggle, but who cares if Osgood lets in two or 10 if the team in front of him can't score one?

Suspect officiating and hot goalies aside, the Detroit Red Wings have lost the confidence that once defined them. 

As a result, their season is starting to slip away.

At their current pace (26 points in 24 games), the Detroit Red Wings will end the 2009-10 season with 83 points.

This is eight points shy of what it took the Anaheim Ducks to get into the eighth playoff spot last season.

Now, one would be foolish to not recognize that the long-term losses of players like Andreas Lilja, Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Jason Williams, and Nicklas Kronwall have played a significant role in Detroit's decline this season.

But, as their shot totals indicate, they still have plenty of guys capable of getting into a position to score.

The problem is, they just don't have the ability to finish once they get there.

This is a classic example of what happens when you have the skill, but not the confidence to do what it takes to win.

Watching Detroit play over the past ten games (4-5-1), one can see that players are passing when they should shoot, shooting when they should pass, or simply not doing anything with the puck when they have it.

Vile Leino, Todd Bertuzzi, and Daren Helm have been most guilty of this behavior.

But, even players like Pavel Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski are playing with a hesitancy and lack of confidence that has defined Detroit's play of late.

Shots on net are great, they're necessary for scoring goals.

But, weak wrist shots into the goalie's belly and quick shovel-in attempts jammed repeatedly into his pads do not constitute what most would call "quality shots."  It increases your shot totals, but not your chances of winning.

Add to this the overall weak defensive play that starts in the goal-crease and radiates outward and you've got a recipe for an early vacation in April.

The good news is, things can only get better.

If Detroit can (quickly) find a way to start winning games while they await the return of one-quarter of their regular line-up, they have a shot at turning their season around.

However, this cannot be done until they rediscover the collective confidence to play the game the way they know they can.

They can only achieve this by winning games.

Thus, the Red Wings face not only the challenge of turning their season around but discovering exactly which came first, the chicken or the egg.