Despite a discussion that stemmed from my article before the NHL season started, I was not trying to bury the Red Wings. In fact I was not only pointing out areas that needed to succeed for the Wings to succeed, they were area’s I was convinced would be assets this season.
Yet, despite being (in my mind) optimistic about the Red Wings season, that they would make the playoffs, but not be a big Stanley Cup threat, it seemed that everyone else in Detroit has decided that after a brutal loss in St. Louis and some shaky games after, that the Wings playoff streak is over (looking at you, Terry Foster, Drew Sharp, Mitch Albom).
However, the Red Wings are far from a last place, non playoff team. This doesn’t stem from the win last night over Dallas, but from the past few games where the extremal depleted defense has looked much better and the offense is starting to come around. Also, Jimmy Howard has looked (outside of a few plays) like a sure fire #1 goalie.
The offense has come around, they are not too old and have not lost a step, Pavel Datsyuk is still one of the best all around players in the world, Henrik Zetterberg is still a top 5 two way center in the NHL and when healthy, Darren Helm is still one of the best penalty killers anyone will find.
It just took a few games of skating for the team to find its rhythm and for Mike Babcock to find his lines. After last nights game, it appears he is onto something with Datsyuk skating along side Valteri Filppula, who is coming off an injury himself and when Helm and Ian White can get back into the line up full time, this will be a team that can at least make the playoffs.
Think of the Red Wings this way: Does anyone really believe the Blackhawks are the best team in the Western Conference? No. Outside of people in Chicago, everyone else around hockey knows that Cory Crawford will fall apart and the Blackhawks are no better than a 4 seed, but right now they are still undefeated.
Much like the Blackhawks are not going to run away with the conference title, the Red Wings are not buried quite yet. Even though we are looking February right in the eye, when teams start to separate from the pack, its only a hand full of games into the season this year, so there is no need to worry.