Thursday, October 29, 2009

Holy Crap, ESPN Talking Wings

Scott Burnside of ESPN writes a fairly lengthy article about what ESPN is calling "The Game of the Week" between the Red Wings and the Oilers.  And of "game of the week", ESPN means it's only the second most important game of the week.  In first place?  It's a tie between the World Series and every NBA and NFL game this week (for ESPN, not me of course).

Last season, the Wings scored a league-high 295 goals. For purposes of comparison, the league's best regular-season team, San Jose, scored 38 fewer goals. If the Wings played 45 minutes of good hockey on most nights, it was good enough to win.

"We could outplay our mistakes," Ken Holland explained.

But with the departure of lineup regulars Marian Hossa, Mikael Samuelsson, Jiri Hudler, Chris Chelios and Tomas Kopecky, and the early loss of Johan Franzen to a left knee injury that required surgery, the Wings don't have that luxury every night. When they play 45 minutes instead of 60 now, it usually costs them a point, maybe two, as their 4-4-2 record suggests.

Those mistakes we were trying to outplay were usually caused by two of the players departing mentioned above (I'll let you guess which two).  It's pretty much true though, as much as I hate to admit it.  Our team was so stacked last year, that despite our inconsistent and at time, horrendous goaltending, we could still pretty much float through the regular season.  But those days are over.

Although the Wings had a more-than-capable backup last season in Ty Conklin, a netminder who would have been happy to stay in Detroit, Holland and the management team decided it was time to give Howard a shot. They had invested time and money in developing the former collegiate star, and now they'll find out whether that investment pays off.

I guess I never really thought that Conklin wanted to stay in Detroit...that's kind of sad.  I mean, I've been waiting for Jimmy, his contract is up after this year, so I guess I can't really blame the brass for making that call.  Then of course Conklin outplays Howard in the second game of the season...but Howie has improved exponentially over the years.  He played great against Vancouver, if he plays well tonight, who knows what will happen going forward.

"We've got some players who aren't playing as well as they can,  But I like the makeup of our team. I think we're real close to playing good. We're in the process of finding out who we are."--Ken Holland
I think part of that identity was established from the moment that Babbles pulled Ozzie less than eight minutes into the game.  They looked hungry, determined, and angry...all of the things that were said in the off-season.  Hey, it only took nine-plus games for it to come to fruition.  One can only hope that the level of play can be sustained and not brought out only in times of desperation.

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