This season has been a "one step forward, two steps back" kind of deal for the Red Wings. Too often they have put forth a very strong effort against a better team, only to come out the following game and lay an egg. The ability to string a few strong performances in a row and gain some momentum has been tough at times.
Through the first 40 minutes of tonight's game against the Jets, it looked like more of the same. Lack of skating, losing board battles, ineffective passes, no shooting. The Jets were all over the Wings, using their speed and forecheck to disrupt the Wings' attempts to break out of their own zone, and stifling them in the offensive zone, preventing any traffic in front of Ondrej Pavelec.
But there's something a little different about the Red Wings this year. After the Jets took a 2-0 lead, the feeling that the game was pretty much over didn't exist, partially because Tomas Tatar got one goal back almost immediately. Then the Wings fell behind again, but it was never a foregone conclusion that the Wings had no chance of winning, which is unlike the previous few seasons.
I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it's the injection of youth. Maybe it's coaching. Maybe it's the leaders being healthy. Whatever it is, this team has been competitive in 95% of the games they have played this season, and they're a ton of fun to watch. And when they can make a comeback like they did tonight and beat a pretty good Jets team? It's not a bad way to spend a few hours on a late November evening.
- I'm no Kyle Quincey apologist, and will criticize the guy for a bad play, but I found it somewhat hilarious to see all of the people say "that's just Quincey being Quincey" after his eventful shift in the first period that saw him give the puck away at the blueline and then take a penalty. While the giveaway was a terrible play and the penalty questionable at best, I think it's a perfect example of how there are just certain players who will carry a reputation for being bad and will always have their mistakes not only pointed out, but magnified.
- I'm pretty sure the book is out on the Red Wings' power play, and the book is "just stand across at the blue line and make them dump it in". In the first period, the Jets would stack 4 players across and the Wings either attempted to skate into it or chip it past and retrieve the puck, which was hard to do. On the Wings' 2nd goal, Johan Franzen was able to gain the zone with zone and attack the net, helped in large part to a defenseman with the last name of "Stuart" falling down.
- Strong start from Petr Mrazek, but the third goal was one that he has to stop. What I liked about him was his aggressiveness in coming out and his ability to track pucks through traffic. He is very frenetic in the crease, but in a controlled way. And if the Wings can give him some goal support like they did tonight, all the better.
- The Wings had another one of those "standing around and not moving their feet" kind of periods in the second, which ultimately led to the Jets' first and third goals. The one thing that has become very clear about this team almost 20 games into the season is that when they don't skate, they get in trouble very quickly.
- Niklas Kronwall will want to forget this one. He seemed to have a lot of difficulty handling the puck on the PP, and he had a couple of giveaways that led to quality scoring chances for the Jets. Unfortunately he was not the only one as the Wings' passing in their own zone, especially by the defense, was a tire fire. This is not an official tally, but I'd say the amount of turnovers and near-turnovers from bad passes by the Wings was in the quintuple digits.
- So that's what it feels like to see a goal scored with traffic in front actually count.
- This is the Wings' win probability chart from tonight:
- I will leave you all with this: can you imagine if the Wings have 2 legitimate young goal-scoring threats in Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, and then get a healthy Pavel Datsyuk back? And can you further imagine if Justin Abdelkader can keep this offensive pace up for most of the year? And can you IMAGINE if Johan Franzen stays healthy and keeps up his strong start? AND CAN YOU IMAGINE if Jimmy Howard's early start is proof that last year was a fluke? AND CAN YOU IMAGINE IF THEY GET THAT RIGHT-HANDED DEFENSEMAN?!?!?!?!