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The Long and Winding Road of Despair: Blue Jackets 4 - Red Wings 2

This pic isn't from tonight, but it won't be long before Nyquist photos aren't relevant any longer.
This pic isn't from tonight, but it won't be long before Nyquist photos aren't relevant any longer.

When the regular season ends in just under 2 weeks, the Red Wings are going to be getting ready for their first round matchup against a tough Western Conference opponent. We'll take a day or two to reflect on what transpired since early October, and then we'll get ready for the roller coaster ride that is the NHL playoffs.

However, when we start to analyze the season and pick apart the Wings' performance, two themes will become abundantly obvious: the Wings are terrible on the road, and they gave away a crap ton of points to bad teams.

I feel like I've seen this movie before: start really slow and fall behind early; chip away at the lead and get close, but fall behind again after giving fans hope; play a dominating third to make it interesting but ultimately come up short in a classic case of "too little, too late".

The frustrating part about this is that if we can see this happening again and again, why can't the players do anything about it? This isn't about execution or playing against better teams; this is about plain old effort and "give a shit", which the Wings seem to forget on the plane for each and every home game against bad teams.

Tonight was the same thing. The Blue Jackets, who despite their record and lack of talent are still a team of professional athletes with a lot of pride, were more determined to show that they didn't like being embarrassed by Detroit on Monday night than the Wings were to repeat their performance. Combine that with an uncanny knack for Red Wing players to allow Columbus to get odd-man rushes and this one was over after the first period.

Like most of the Wings' losses this year, it was ugly. Bullets after the jump.

  • Nice of Brad Stuart to turn the puck over to the only Blue Jacket who is any good, leading to a Columbus goal. He rectified that problem by giving the puck away to a slightly less talented player that resulted in a Columbus goal, and spent the rest of the night only giving the puck away to the truly dreadful Blue Jacket players.
  • I'm not one to normally complain about a broadcast or announcers, but the issues with the clock in the first period were frustrating and Doc Emrick actually used the word "worm" as a verb, which made me picture Zetterberg performing an '80s breakdancing move.
  • For those keeping score, that marks the Wings' 7th straight road loss, their worst such streak since 1990-91 (or the first year of their current playoff streak for you young folks).
  • You know the Wings' power play looks dangerous because fans start complaining when calls aren't made against the opponent. There were a few penalties that could have been called against the Blue Jackets when it was 2-1 in the second period, but that was not the difference in this game. Still, seeing the PP score 2 goals in back-to-back games, even against a bad penalty killing team like CBJ, is cause for optimism.
  • Related: Tomas Holmstrom is your player of the game.
  • I was just about to type that the Ty Conklin hate was starting to get really old, and then he went and allowed that 4th goal, a shot that any NHL goaltender has to stop. Thanks for nothing, Ty. I understand that team didn't exactly help him out by passing the puck right to Columbus players or allowing odd-man rushes, but Jimmy Howard likely makes at least 1 or 2 stops out of those final 3 goals, and that would have altered the course of the game considerably. Good goalies make saves when the team is playing like garbage; Conklin, yet again, failed to do that.
  • The fact that Derek Dorsett is considered an important member of the Blue Jackets is all you need to know about why they've clinched last place in the NHL this early.
  • After tallying 6 points in 7 games, Gustav Nyquist was relegated to the 4th line and saw exactly 5:19 of ice time. Total. That includes both of his shifts in the third period. All 2 of them. One of my major criticisms of Babcock has been and always will be that he seems to be loyal to "his guys" and it takes something big like an injury or an insane stretch of amazing play for a new guy to crack the lineup or get time with the big line. I get that he wanted to have Johan Franzen back up with Datsyuk and try to create some chemistry again heading into the playoffs, but when all the line juggling was going on in the third period while there was still a chance of a comeback, why not put 2 players who clearly clicked back together?
  • In the same vein, people calling for Jiri Hudler to be taken off the Henrik Zetterberg-Valtteri Filppula line need to understand that Hudler is tied for 2nd on the team in goals with 23, and that's from playing on that line. Happy will always be one of the whipping boys (or one of the boys doing the whipping, depending on context), but breaking up the Wings' best line of the past 2 months is dumb. So stop suggesting it.
  • Also, I've seen a few people state that the Wings should try and tank for 6th place. I could do an entire post on this (and I might depending on the response), but here are the reasons why that's a stupid idea: the Wings are not a good road team, so falling to a seed where they'd be virtually guaranteed to never have home-ice advantage is probably not the brightest idea. If the Sharks do get their shit together and win that division, that means a 3rd straight meeting with the Teal Terror, and the Wings haven't exactly looked great against the team that has ended their season 2 straight years. That would also mean that instead of a short flight to Nashville, they're traveling across the country at least twice, so all those extra miles will add up very early and likely hurt them if they were to advance. Finally, these are professional athletes who would never intentionally tank to try and face a specific opponent, especially when that opponent isn't known. So stop suggesting it.
ELF brought up a great point in the thread tonight: we want consistency. How can this team go from looking as dominant as they did in racking up a 4-spot early in the first on Monday to losing in very embarrassing fashion to the worst team in the league? This is why there will be a lot of heavy drinking come April, because as I've said before, the question of "which Red Wings team will show up tonight?" is a legitimate one every single game.

The Wings won't have to worry about a let down on Friday, because the Predators come to town in a game that should pretty much decide who gets 4th place. The Wings could have locked it down with a win tonight and one on Friday, but they've decided that they don't want to make things easy for themselves this year.