Resurgent Tomas Holmstrom Key to Detroit Red Wings' Staying Above Water

Greg Eno@@GregEnoSenior Analyst IDecember 2, 2009

MONTREAL- NOVEMBER 21:  Tomas Holmstrom #96 of the Detroit Red Wings attempts to deflect the puck in front of Carey Price #31 and Ryan O'Byrne #3 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game 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

For 13 years, Tomas Holmstrom has been the NHL's Redwood. He's been chopped and hacked, and if they could have taken a chainsaw to him, they would have done that too.

In last spring's playoffs, it looked as if the lumberjacks in the NHL masquerading as defensemen were finally about to be able to cry "Timber!"

Holmstrom, the league's premier disruptor of enemy goal creases and netminders' vision, shrunk last season. He scored a mere 14 goals.

That's OK, the optimists said. Holmstrom is a playoff guy. A player who rises to the occasion at a time where goals are uglier than Keith Richards. A time where you don't need skates, you need work boots. When there are more scrums in the crease than in a rugby match.

You don't score goals in the playoffs, you will them in. And Tomas Holmstrom was the unmovable pillar, the giant Redwood in front of the opposing goal. He took more whacks than the losing family in a Mafia war.

But it all seemed to finally be catching up to him last spring. The deeper the Red Wings burrowed into the playoffs, the less visible Holmstrom was. He was the Incredible Shrinking Hockey Player.

His age---he'll be 37 in January---and his lack of production caused know-it-all bloggers and bottom-feeding sports writers to fear that Holmstrom was at the end of the line.

Yes, I'm confessing. I was among those who whispered that maybe it was Olly Olly Oxen Free for Holmstrom's NHL career.

Who could have blamed him had he retired, anyway? It's no fun being a human pinata for 13 years.

But look who is among the Red Wings' scoring leaders as the first third of the season is nearing its close.

Tomas Holmstrom, with 10 goals.

Holmstrom looks to be no more finished than a playing of "Hey Jude" on the radio.

He's on pace to deflect, nudge, carom, knee, head-butt---whatever it takes---30 pucks across enemy goal lines this season. He's only done that once---when he tallied 30 goals in 2006-07.

Holmstrom has picked a wonderful time to regain his mojo.

The Red Wings have been so decimated by injuries and free agent losses that they barely resemble, today, the team that took the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. And that wasn't even six months ago.

So what better time for an oldie-but-goodie like Holmstrom to rediscover himself and put all thoughts of retirement and accusations of being washed up to rest?

You think Holmstrom's goals are just ugly and nothing else? The Red Wings are 7-2 when Holmstrom scores.

Though he's on a bit of a cold streak now---just one goal in his past nine games---Holmstrom is nonetheless having a surprisingly good season, doing his part to somewhat neutralize the team's losses up front.

And yes, he's still in front of the goal crease, setting up camp and making life miserable for opposing netminders, flashing his big No. 96 square in their peepers. Still taking hacks and chops.

The NHL's almost-37-year-old Redwood is still standing, after all.


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