Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's litmus test time for the Detroit Red Wings. Will they pass?

The last few weeks I've become convinced the Red Wings are more than a solid pick to reach the playoffs for the 24th straight season, but instead legitimate contenders to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 2009.
Petr Mrazek: Getting it done so far
Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are healthy and have plenty left in the tank. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tarter are proving to be more than one-hit wonders, but more developing stars. The power play was a huge concern without a right-handed shot at the point. It hasn't mattered. The Red Wings' penalty killing has been as good as can be remembered. Goalie Jimmy Howard was playing well, but there hasn't been a dropoff in goal with Petr Mrazek
k since Howard has been out with injury. Defensively, the Red Wings are much tighter, and their breakouts a lot better. Detroit is one of the few teams that can feature four solid lines.
Getting a one- or two-seed is important to the end of making a deep playoff run, and these next two games, tonight at Tampa Bay, and Saturday vs. the New York Islanders at Joe Louis Arena are key to that goal.
The Red Wings are a point ahead of the Lightning in the Atlantic Division, and tied with the Islanders for the most points in the Eastern Conference.
A couple notable points:
Tatar, Datsyuk: Terrific blend of youth and experience
- The Red Wings have a game in hand to the Lightning, and Islanders a game in hand to the Red Wings.
- The Red Wings have two games in less than 48 hours (Saturday is a 2 p.m. start) and then don't play again until Thursday.
- The Red Wings only have two home games in February, and nine on the road. The month ends with a Western Conference swing that begins on the West Coast and ends in Nashville. The two home games are the 14th and 16th vs. Winnipeg and Montreal.
It is a goofy schedule, but it was a blessing in disguise the Red Wings didn't have any players at that fiasco known as the NHL All Star Game. Injuries were a huge issue last season, and so were the Olympics. There is collective knocking on wood in this town the Red Wings remain healthy, and they should be well-rested despite the grind.
The Lightning and Islanders rank 1-2 in goal scoring this season, Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and NY's John Tavares are big-time stars. It will be revealing whether the Red Wings' defense and Mrazek hold up these next two games.

My column. Sky the limit for Red Wings No. 1 draft pick, Michigan star, Dylan Larkin:

My column: The good, the bad and mostly ugly state of the Detroit Pistons:

My column. Senior Bowl reveals a couple ideal NFL Draft picks for Detroit Lions:

My column. For better or worse, private lessons have changed baseball dramatically:


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