Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Why the Red Wings are standing on a very slippery-slope

Niklas Kronwall (right) and Red Wings need to win now
Even in a 48-game season, it's early. If it ended now, the Red Wings wouldn't be in the playoffs, but they are close to getting in - just a point from being the eighth seed in the Western Conference, just four points from being the fourth seed.
 Parity rules in the NHL in an era when an eighth-seed, the Los Angeles Kings, captured the Stanley Cup last season.
But there is no sugar coating the Red Wings' losses the last two games at home to Columbus and Calgary. Down the road, getting zero points in those games could cost the Red Wings mightily. The Flames and the Bluejackets are the bottom two teams in the Western Conference. It's the only road victory for both.
The way the Red Wings' schedule is set up, it is going to be very difficult to make up ground later in the season. Winning home games now is vital. The Red Wings play at St. Louis Thursday, and then have four straight home games. In fact, eight of their next 10 games following the trip to St. Louis are at home. The downside is, in March, the Red Wings face road trips from hell. First a swing to Western Canada, then a long West Coast trip. From March 13-28, the Red Wings play eight games, seven in Western Canada or on the West Coast, with one game at home against perhaps the Western Conference's most talented team, Minnesota.
The ground the Red Wings are not gaining now against the likes of struggling teams like Calgary and Columbus at home now could be very costly later. If they don't start taking advantage of their schedule now, it could prevent the Red Wings from gaining a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in more than two decades.
The Red Wings have had their share of injuries, and there is an extremely weird dynamic to this lockout-shortened season, but, honestly, there is no excuse for the Red Wings performance the last two games. The third goal scored by Calgary last night was particularly disturbing. The Red Wings fell behind 2-0, but had scored and appeared ready to pounce in the third period, but let up a soft goal by Calgary defenseman Dennis Wideman with less than a minute remaining in the second period.
It was one of those moments when you could literally sense the air coming out of the Red Wings' sails. Too many moments like it, and their playoff aspirations will be over before you can blink and ask, "What happened?"


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