Ignorance is bliss. That's how the saying goes, and it's one that I've always enjoyed. The flip side is that you should fear the unknown, but I find denial to be a wonderful psychological tool.
That denial has come in handy for me both this past week and this entire season as a Wing fan. For those that don't know, I had the pleasure of going on a Caribbean vacation last week to watch my baby sister get married, and as a result only know the scores of the last two Red Wing games, not what actually happened. I didn't get a chance to see what other teams did, somewhat due to the spotty wifi that existed down there but mostly because a beach chair and umbrella drink had my name on them for most of the week.
It's also been my go-to response when people mention that the Wings could miss the playoffs this season. I understand that it's a distinct possibility, but until the point comes where the Wings either are mathematically eliminated or clinch their spot, I refuse to think about it for fear of needing to consume as many drinks at home as I did on vacation.
Thankfully, the team put on a good performance against a very desperate Phoenix Coyotes team and came away with a 4-0 win and a huge 2 points. This game came down to Jimmy Howard and the power play, as the former made 34 saves while the latter scored three goals. The win moves the Wings within 1 point of Columbus while still having a game in hand, and the regulation win gives them 2 more than the Blue Jackets in the all-important tiebreaker category.
I felt like this was a typical late-season Red Wing game despite the precarious position the Wings find themselves in. The Wings took everything the Coyotes could throw at them, calmly deflected it all away, and then took advantage of their opportunities to bury a less-talented team. The Wings played a patient game, allowing Phoenix to run around and waste energy while waiting for the right time to counter-attack. It was a smart, effective performance that earned them a well-deserved win.
- This game had a playoff-like intensity, so it should come as no surprise that Johan Franzen was very noticeable. He seemed to spend a lot of time in front of Mike Smith, scored a very nice goal on the power play, added the empty-netter, and led the Wings with 4 shots. There are few players who are going to be as important as he will be in this final week.
- One of those players is Jimmy Howard. Another night, another 30+ save shutout. Jimmy has played 12 straight games and 17 of the last 18, and unless his leg actually falls off I don't see any reason why he doesn't play every game the rest of the way. There's no point in saving him for the playoffs if the team doesn't get in.
- Presented without comment: with the Wings needing a win in one of their most important games of the season, their captain had 3 assists and was the game's second star. With the Coyotes needing a win in one of their most important games of the season, their captain spent 4 minutes in the penalty box during the third period of a 3-0 game.
- When I eventually get tickets to the Winter Classic next year, I can't wait to show off my new Danny DeKeyser jersey. This kid has gotten better and better with each game, and the one thing that I can't get over is how many smart hockey plays he makes in a game. He's like the anti-Jonathan Ericsson when Ericsson first started.
- Justin Abdelkader played the most Abdelkader-est game of the season tonight. He was around the net all night offensively, had a goal taken away by a great shot-block at the end, and was a major pain in the ass for most the Coyotes throughout the game. For once it was nice to see a different group of people get frustrated by him and feel our pain.
- If the Wings do get in the playoffs, their opponent better score early, because I get the feeling the Wings are a team that, if they are allowed to hang around and keep the score close, could do some damage to a high-seeded team. 4 shots in the first period wasn't good enough, even if Phoenix was essentially playing for their lives, but they held on and wore the Coyotes down. If Jimmy plays like he has all season, the Wings could be a very tough out if they can somehow make it in to the postseason.