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Paging Brian Rafalski. Brian Rafalski to the Power Play: Coyotes 3 - Red Wings 1

I don't know, man. I just don't know.

I can't recall a time when a first place overall team was this maddening to watch. The inconsistency that is displayed by these players from game to game is now so taken for granted that it becomes a parody of itself. "Which Red Wings team is going to show up tonight?" should be the lede of every single pre-game post written this season. This is magnified by a thousand on the road, where the Wings can look like Cup favourites to a team that deserves a lottery pick.

Unfortunately, there has been a disturbing pattern to Wing road games the last few weeks. It goes something like this: start out poorly and give up an early goal; play a little better, but take a penalty and give up another goal; be down headed into the first intermission; play a scrappy second period that may or may not result in a goal for the Wings to make the game interesting headed into the third; play a dynamite third period with lots of pressure to give fans just enough hope that they can win and erase all of the screaming doubt that exists in their heads.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Tonight, the gameplan for the Wings was simple; play their game, put pressure on the Phoenix defense, and take care of business against a Coyotes team they had beaten in 7 straight games dating back to last year's playoffs. But, like we've seen far too often this season, the Wings' give-a-shit wasn't working in the firs periodt, and after giving up a shorthanded AND power play goal, they were behind by 2.

Cue the comeback. Johan Franzen emerged from his milk carton long enough to score the ever elusive power play goal, and it seemed like the Wings were once again going to pull victory out of the jaws of defeat. Unfortunately, this isn't Edmonton, and the Coyotes can play a little defense in front of a good Mike Smith. Franzen, who is officially on my shit list after this one, set up the Yotes' ENG to seal the deal and hand the Wings their first regulation loss since before the All-Star Game.

How much did this loss suck? Follow the jump to count the ways.

  • I have faith in Mike Babcock. I have to, because he's clearly a smarter person that I am and knows what he's doing. However, at what point does he start to seriously shake up his lines, particularly that Datsyuk-Franzen-Bertuzzi mess? Just switching Zetterberg for Datsyuk is like putting a bandaid on a severed leg; it's not going to make much of a difference. We've talked about Franzen plenty (and will in a moment), but what about Bertuzzi? He was absolutely brutal tonight, and should have been pulled from the top line. Unless it's a shootout, get Drew Miller or Dan Cleary to play the minutes with the top line and let Bert giveaway the pen to whoever the back up goalie is that night.
  • Johan Franzen, what the hell? I don't care that you scored a goal tonight; once again, you were invisible throughout the game, and even though the Wings had a shot at getting the tying goal, you give the puck away to cinch the win for Phoenix. I know that when you go on your inevitable goal scoring tear people will fawn all over you, but I won't forget this. Nope, I've got a very long memory, and when you do finally start scoring goals in bunches, instead of being happy, I'm going to say "it's about damn time".
  • Shifting slightly here from players who deserve criticism to those who don't, I think it's time for people to really start watching Jonathan Ericsson play a whole game before he gets shit on for making one mistake. Yes, that giveaway was atrocious, but it didn't lead to a goal, and it's not like he was the only Red Wing player turning the puck over. Until that moment, he was outplaying every single Wing defenseman tonight, but you wouldn't know it from the way Wing fans exploded with rage after 1 turnover. I said this on Twitter, but I'm not an Ericsson fan by any stretch, and I think he's got a ways to go before he lives up to that contract, but he never gets any credit for playing well, and the second he makes a mistake, he gets shit on like no other player I've seen in the last 10 years in Detroit, Chris Osgood included. If you're going to rip him, then make sure you're paying attention to the damn game before you open your mouth (virtually, that is).
  • I can honestly say I've rarely seen a crowd get so quiet with the home team up by 2 goals. It would be a true shame for hockey fans of all teams in Phoenix if the Coyotes end up moving.
  • The power play and penalty kill? I just don't even know anymore. As if the power play isn't bad enough (1 for 41 on the road in their last 15 games entering play tonight), then they actually give up a shorthanded goal? This seems a little counter-productive. Then, as if on cue, the Wings crappy penalty kill gives up a power play goal to the 30th ranked PP. I don't care who the problem is or what the problem is: just fix it. Because garbage special teams will result in a very quick exit in the playoffs. That's a guarantee.
  • Joey MacDonald, welcome to the NHL. I hope you enjoy your stay as Jimmy Howard's backup. Ty Conklin? Don't let the door hit you on your way out. Joey Mac was really good tonight. He got beat by a good move by Boyd Gordon that was partly due to some over-aggressiveness, but as a 3rd string goalie he came in and gave up 2 goals, keeping his team in the game. For that reason and because the rest of the team was terrible, he's your Player of the Game.
I really don't have a lot else to add to this. The Wings' nightmarish schedule is pretty much done. With 28 games left on the season, the Wings will get to play 18 of them at Joe Louis Arena, where they are a much better team than they are on the road. The Wings will a day to travel and then it's right back to the grind when they welcome the Sam Gagnoilers to the Joe on Wednesday night.