Red Wings’ season, playoff chances coming down to the wire

635956668550867601-ap-aptopix-red-wings-bruins

It’s easy to second-guess coaching decisions after the fact, begins many post-loss sports articles, but it was immediately clear that the Detroit Red Wings, and their recently redeemed goalie, Jimmy Howard, were not 100% last night in Boston. The direct evidence? Surrendering two goals on four Bruin shots in the first 2:44 of the game. The circumstantial evidence? A hard-fought win the night before in a game that did not start until after 8:00, delaying the team’s arrival at its Boston hotel until 2:45 yesterday morning. Howard looked sluggish, and his teammates weren’t able to bail him out. Their backs against the wall, Boston hardly let up, eventually claiming a 5-2 win.

The Howard redemption story is a nice and good one, and, if the Red Wings are able to clinch a twenty-fifth-consecutive playoff berth, there’s little reason to believe it can’t continue into the postseason, but hockey, as much as any sport, is a sucker for narratives like these, and they can color strategic decisions. Continue reading

Advertisements

2015 Detroit Red Wings Playoff Preview

The longest active playoff-appearance streak in American professional sports is alive and well. This is the good news in Detroit, where the Red Wings are preparing for their twenty-fourth consecutive NHL postseason. Their first-round opponent: the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The smart hockey folks predicted a very bad hockey season for the Wings, so the team should take some extra satisfaction in this postseason appearance. (They were right to project improvement by Justin Abdelkader, but less so for Luke Glendenning.) Their reward for consistently above-average production all season long was third place in the Atlantic Division, one spot behind their first-round opponents in Tampa Bay.

The Lightning, who got the better of Detroit in their four meetings this season, present a difficult challenge for the Red Wings.

Two areas where Detroit would seem to have an advantage, goaltending and powerplay scoring, may be mitigated by external factors. April is a bad time to host an internal goaltending competition, but neither of the team’s two primary options, Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek, has been able to carry the load to the satisfaction of coach Mike Babcock, who today announced that Mrazek will start game one. A question mark in net is not part of a winning playoff formula, but this is part of the hand these Red Wings have been dealt.

The powerplay advantage is nice, but powerplay opportunities are at their lowest in at least the last seventeen seasons, which means Detroit is likely to have fewer chances to leverage this advantage, particularly in the playoffs, where penalties already are reduced.

Detroit still has some of the best veteran and young players in the sport, as I was fortunate enough to witness in two wins against top teams (Nashville and St. Louis) this season. By my count, they had a .500 record against other playoff teams this season. They will be underdogs in this round and likely any others to which they advance, but if their defense can hold up, they have a fair shot of doing so.

There’s nothing like playoff hockey – enjoy!

Playing chicken on skates: The Predators and Red Wings pull the goalies in Detroit

We are headed back to Hockeytown this weekend to watch the Red Wings host the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. My first time at Joe Louis Arena, one year ago, was so great, and I can’t wait for this next visit.

Detroit and Nashville used to see a lot of each other when both played in the Western Conference’s stacked central division. They have fewer opportunities to square off since Detroit’s move to the Eastern Conference this year, though, so each meeting takes on greater importance.    Continue reading

The Hockey is Back: ALDLAND goes live to Joe Louis Arena

Yes, hockey’s been back in season for a few months now. In fact, in terms of games played, the eighty-two-game season already is past the halfway point. With college football done, the NFL effectively over, the NBA continually unwatchable, and college basketball not quite fully warmed up, this is hockey’s time to shine.

It also is time for another ALDLAND field trip. The Detroit Red Wings are my favorite hockey team, and while I’ve been fortunate enough to see them play a handful of times– in Colorado, Nashville, Chicago, and a scrimmage in Grand Rapids— on the road, I’ve never seen them in their famous home, Joe Louis Arena. When I realized last spring that the Joe’s days were numbered, I knew I had to make it there for a game. Thankfully, that time has come.

On Saturday night, Detroit hosts the Los Angeles Kings, the former Western Conference foes’ second meeting in a week. The Red Wings beat the defending champs 3-1 in L.A. last Saturday, and they’ll try for a sweep of the season series this Saturday.

Both teams are sitting in the middle of their respective divisions, but the Kings (28-14-5) have a decidedly better record than the Red Wings (20-16-10). Los Angeles also has the advantage in goal with Jonathan Quick, while Detroit’s recently returned starter, Jimmy Howard, still is finding his legs in the crease.

In general, the Red Wings’ injury report is full of familiar names, making it hard to know how good this team, if healthy, could be. Until its frontline starters return, Detroit has been forced to offer essentially an extended, NHL-level audition to its young prospects. This obviously is not a long-term solution, but it does seem to have infused some new energy into their team as the young players try to make the most of their opportunities on the big stage.

______________________________________________

I’ve been to Detroit for baseball games, some of which have been described on this site, but, as stated, never for a hockey game, so I have been soliciting suggestions elsewhere, and I will do the same here from anyone with prior Hockeytown experience. (I’m already planning to start my day with a generous bowl of Detroit Hockey Heroes cereal, but let me know about anything after that.) Please use the comment section below.

Thanks, and go Red Wings!

You can watch the game on your regional Fox Sports Detroit and West channels beginning at 7:00 Eastern, and we’ll have updates here and on twitter.

_________________________________________________________________

Related
The NHL is back. Here’s the best thing you can read about it.