Good afternoon and welcome to a new feature we're doing here at WIIM where we take a quick peek at the week ahead for the Red Wings and give a snapshot of what you can expect in the coming days.
It's been a very consistent season so far for the Wings, as they began with 5 straight wins and then followed that with 6 straight losses. The pitchforks have been put down as the angry villagers have retired to their homes, but they're still casting a wary eye at this team in anticipation of another prolonged losing streak.
Thankfully, they put an end to that crap with a convincing 5-0 win on Saturday night against the Ducks. Jimmy Howard recorded his 3rd shutout of Anaheim in his last 5 games against them, so maybe if he had faced them more last year we could have avoided the unpleasant situation of having Corey Perry be celebrated for something other than crying because someone mentioned his name in a not negative way.
Can the Wings use Saturday night as a springboard to another winning streak? Or was it just a flash in the pan. Follow the jump as we take a look at the coming week for the Wings.
The Wings have a relatively "normal" week with 3 upcoming games, all at home.
Tuesday: Vs Avalanche: The Wings shutout the Avs in the second game of the year, spoiling Peter Forsberg night at the Pepsi Center. Since then, the Avs have had a weird season: they are 1-5-0 at home while going 6-1-1 on the road. Their biggest problem: consistent offense. In 7 of the Avs' 14 games, they've scored 2 goals or less, putting a lot of pressure on Semyon Varlamov.
Friday: Vs Oilers: The big surprise of the season early has been the play of the Edmonton Oilers. A team that was supposed to once again suffer through growing pains has shot out of the gate to lead the Northwest Division. They had their 6-game winning streak snapped on Saturday against the Coyotes, but during their streak they beat the Rangers, Capitals and Canucks, 3 solid teams. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the latest of the Oilers' #1 overall picks, has 12 points in his 13 games, shooting out to the early lead in the Calder race. The biggest reason for the Oilers' success early has been the play of Nikolai Khabibulin. I didn't realize he was in a contract year, because he's sporting a 6-0-0 record (as of this writing) with a 0.98 GAA and .963 SV%. It's almost like he remembered he used to be a competent goaltender.
Saturday: Vs Stars: The other big surprise in the West early this season has been the play of the Dallas Stars. Thought to be dead with the loss of Brad Richards, the Stars have been getting contributions from all lines, and they currently sit atop the Western Conference standings. Loui Eriksson is off to another hot start, scoring 8 goals in 13 games, but reclamation project Sheldon Souray has been a hit. After toiling in the minors, he's proving he still belongs in the NHL, putting up 12 points in 13 games. Kari Lehtonen continues to enjoy his rebirth in Dallas, giving them a chance to win every night with his 10-1 record and 2.14 GAA and .936 SV%.
So what should we expect from the Wings? Personally, I think 3 wins is not out of the question. For a team that has struggled to score goals, they get to welcome a historic rival who has played them tough the last few years followed by 2 teams that are surprising people but don't look to have the talent to sustain that level of play over the course of an entire season.
Edmonton and Dallas are nice stories, but I'll guarantee that at least one of them doesn't make the playoffs, and I'd go so far as to say that both of them will likely miss post-season action as they come back to Earth while other teams stabilize their play. While that may not happen for another month or so, it's important to note that both Edmonton and Dallas will be playing their second of back-to-back games when they take on the Wings, with the Oilers in Boston the night before and Dallas in Pittsburgh. The Wings will also be playing back-to-back when they face Dallas, but they get to go home to their comfy race car beds.
If the Wings are serious about getting back on the winning beat, then taking advantage of 2 tired teams with inferior talent is the way to show us that the losing streak was a fluke. The big talk during the streak was a lack of execution and focus, so playing a rival followed by two surprising teams that are no pushovers at the moment should inspire the Wings to give everything they've got and end the homestand on a positive note. I'm going to go ahead and call this a perfect week, as they finish off the homestand with 3 straight wins before heading out West.