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What Lies Ahead

The Red Wings only have 18 games (10 at home, 8 on the road) left to play in the regular season and the race for a playoff spot in the West is tight.  The Wings will be without Pavel Datsyuk for a few more weeks, without Jonathan Ericsson for about a month, Nick Lidstrom and Kyle Quincey are both day-to-day, and of course, there is no word on the return of Patrick Eaves.  The last 18 games are going to be crucial — let’s break them down:

Western Conference Matchups

Minnesota Wild
3/2/12 @ Detroit
(1-1-1)
The Wild got the W when they visited Detroit in November.  I remember how pissed off I was when Devin Setoguchi scored that ridiculous goal in overtime after the refs failed to make a call for a dirty hit on Kronwall.

Chicago Blackhawks
3/4/12 @ Detroit
4/7/12 @ Detroit
(2-2-0)
Detroit has only hosted the Blackhawks once this season and won 3-2 in overtime

LA Kings
3/9/12 @ Detroit
3/13/12 @ LA
(2-0-0)
The Wings have beat the Kings both at home (8-2) and in Los Angeles (4-1) this season

Nashville Predators
3/10/12 @ Nashville
3/30/12 @ Detroit
(3-1-0)
The Red Wings have won both of their games against the Preds at home and also one in Nashville. The 4-3 loss in Nashville was a brutal one, and you can thank Shea Weber for that. He scored 2 goals in the last 5 minutes of the 3rd period.

Anaheim Ducks
3/14/12 @ Anaheim
(3-0-0)
The matchup in Detroit last month was a real nail biter. Todd Bertuzzi won it in the shootout with a shot that had everyone on the edge of their seats.

San Jose Sharks
3/17/12 @ San Jose
(1-2-0)
Last time the Wings visited San Jose they lost 5-2, even though they outshot the Sharks 42-28 (BARF)

Columbus Blue Jackets
3/26/12 @ Detroit
3/28/12 @ Columbus
(3-1-0)
The Wings and Jackets will play each other in back to back games, one per city. The Red Wings have won both of their games against the Blue Jackets at home and one of the two games played in Columbus. The Wings suffered a 4-1 loss to Columbus back in October right after they got crushed by the Caps—nothing like being kicked when you’re down. The Red Wings won their most recent meeting with the Blue Jackets by a score of 5-2

St. Louis Blues
4/4/12 @ St. Louis
(3-2-0)
The Red Wings have won all 3 games vs. the Blues at home this season, but have lost both games they have played in St. Louis. This is gonna be a big one.

Eastern Conference Matchups

Washington Capitals
3/19/12 @ Detroit
(0-1-0)
No technique I have learned as a therapist has helped me forget the 7-1 loss the Wings suffered in Washington back in October, after opening the season with a 5-game winning streak.  Mike Green had a 4 point game (2G, 2A) and Mathieu Perreault scored 2 goals in his team-low 10:20 of ice time. This will be Detroit’s first game home after a 4-game road trip but I have faith that the Wings will show them who’s boss — and payback’s a bitch.

New York Rangers
3/21/12 @ New York
This will be the first and only meeting between the Red Wings and the Rangers this year. The Red Wings took the win (3-2) when the two teams matched up last season in Detroit.

Carolina Hurricanes
3/24/12 @ Detroit
This will be the first and only meeting of the two teams this season.  The Canes shut out the Wings 3-0 during their only meeting last year.

Florida Panthers
4/1/12 @ Detroit
This will be the first and only meeting between Detroit and Florida during the 2011-2012 regular season.  Last year the Red Wings beat the Panthers 4-3

New Jersey Devils
4/5/12 @ Detroit
This will be the first and only time the Red Wings play New Jersey this season. The two teams met twice last season—once in Detroit, once in New Jersey—with Detroit earning both wins.

Philadelphia Flyers
3/6/12 @ Philadelphia
(1-0-0)
The Flyers lost 4-3 when they visited Detroit February 12th, giving the Red Wings their record-tying 20th straight victory at home.

LET’S GO WINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I Spy: Pavel Datsyuk

You heard them right. The crowd was chanting “Let’s Go Red Wings!” at the Staples Center this evening as your Detroit Red Wings took down the LA Kings 4-1. My favorite tweet of the game: “kings fans have been telling me the wings suck the whole game & i’m like ‘talk to me when your jerseys aren’t sparkling.'” (thx for the entertainment @hushlittleladyy) — And I agree…the only time I like my men sparkly is in Twilight.

1st Period Highlights:

  • Mike Richards scored a shorthanded goal (6:37) after Hudler made a Hudler mistake
  • Oh there you are, Pavel Datsyuk!!! Datsyuk scored his first goal since OCTOBER 21ST 37 seconds later (7:14, assisted by Holmstrom and Lidstrom) to tie it up at 1

2nd Period Highlights:

  • Niklas Kronwall took advantage of the slashing penalty against Rob Scuderi and put the Red Wings ahead by 1 (7:08, assists to Franzen and Holmstrom)
  • Brad Stuart’s (not so smart) defensive play led to a penalty shot (11:06) for all-star Anze Kopitar. Howard’s save made me feel like a proud mother…I shed a tear or two. The save and Jimmy’s reaction kind of reminded me of one of the scenes in my favorite movie: Robin Hood Men in Tights. See below.
  • Brendan Smith rushed out of the box after a hooking penalty and sped down the ice to assist Justin Abdelkader, earning his first NHL point and giving the Wings a 2-goal lead (15:38) Congratulations, cutie!
3rd Period Highlights:
  • Datsyuk stayed hungry (for curly fries) and scored his second goal of the game and 4th of the season (15:06, assisted by Johan Franzen)
“It’s not fair…look how quick his hands are” -Craig Button, NHL On The Fly

Overall Highlights:

  • Jimmy Howard was 23-24 (.958 sv%) and was on top of his game
  • Holmer got 2 assists in the 9:07 he was on the ice
  • Datsyuk is back. He wanted it…he got it. And then he got it again. Oh, how we’ve missed you.

The Wings wrap up their West Coast roady with a 8:00 pm game against the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow. Do it to it.

Wings Defense Evolving Into A Physical Unit

The change has been evident over the past half decade or so in Hockeytown. A franchise that once favored speed at the blue line has evolved into a physical unit.

In my opinion, the transition began in 2007-08. The Wings opened the season with a formidable blue line including aging Chris Chelios (a young 45 years of age that season), Nick Lidstrom, Brett Lebda, Andreas Lilja, Nicklas Kronwall and Brian Rafalski. While possibly the best passing and puck possessing defensive unit in the league, opposing forwards did not have much to worry about when entering the attacking zone. Outside of the young Kronwall – who was playing in just his 2nd full NHL season – this group was more likely to use their stick than their body to thwart oncoming attackers.

Ken Holland then made the move that I believe resulted in the Wings next Stanley Cup. Giving up only two draft picks (neither of whom would ever play for the Kings) the Red Wings acquired hard hitting Brad Stuart from Los Angeles in late Feburary.  He made sure opponents knew from Day 1 that things had changed in Motown.

Paired with Kronwall, the two formed a physical presence that manhandled opposing forwards throughout the playoffs.  Stuart took Pens forward Sidney Crosby off the ice with a devastating blow in the decisive Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Today’s group of defenseman features more than just a pair of hard hitters. Recently acquired Ian White & Mike Commodore have replaced the likes of Rafalski and Ruslan Salei (who tragically passed in a plane crash in Russia last week). Both should compliment the physical style of Stuart and Kronwall.

Add captain Lidstrom, fellow Swede Jonathan Ericsson, and young talent Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith, and the Wings have a diverse, deep, and well rounded unit heading into this season.