The Detroit Red Wings are slowly getting their injured players back, with the possible return of Valtteri Filppula and Mike Modano later this week. Their return was tempered on Tuesday night during a game against the San Jose Sharks when Patrick Eaves suffered a lower body injury and may be out for at least a week.
The Red Wings play improved and were on a five-game winning streak until the 4-3 loss to the Sharks. The main reason for the improvement was the return of Pavel Datsyuk and Brad Stuart.
However, there are still problems with the Red Wings play overall during the past two months. The turnover problem still exists as the Red Wings tend to turnover the puck due to unforced errors compared to their competition, A case in point is a game the Red Wings played against the Boston Bruins. During that game the Red Wings had eight turnovers compared to one for the Bruins even though the Red Wings won. This is a habit that cannot continue the rest of the season going into the playoffs.
A good example of the Red Wings woes this season can be extracted from the game against the Florida Panthers on Friday. Yes the Wings won the game, 4-3, but all three Florida goals were examples of how the Red Wings have performed this season.
The first Florida goal was a weak shot between the legs of Joey MacDonald. The second Florida goal was caused by a weak clearing attempt by Brian Rafalski which was knocked down at the blue line by a Florida player who slapped a shot at the net which was deflected in by Jonathan Ericsson. The third goal was off another unforced turnover by Stuart along the boards who attempted to pass the puck to a team mate toward the middle of the ice. It hit the referee and went straight to a Florida player who happily shot it into the Detroit net.
While pointing out these type of gaffes the defense men are not only to blame. The forwards also have been guilty of making lazy, sloppy passes in the defensive zone which opponents are grateful to receive. Coach Mike Babcock called out Johan Franzen this week telling him to crash the net and to stop playing on the perimeter as he has been prone to the last few weeks.
Jiri Hudler has picked up his game the last few weeks, but it helps playing beside Datsyuk who is a wizard with the puck. Henrik Zetterberg put the team on his back when Datsyuk was injured and willed the team to win. While speaking of Zetterburg’s back it is known his back has been flaring up and you can see it bothers him during games.
The Red Wings were rated number one TSN’s power rankings this week due to their five-game win streak, but that was before their loss against San Jose. The game against San Jose exhibited a problem the Red Wings have when they play a bigger, physical team. This could be a problem if/when the Red Wings play a team like San Jose, Anaheim, or Calgary in the playoffs.
The Red Wings want to finish as high as they can in order to have home ice advantage if you consider it an advantage. As of Wednesday the Red Wings are 17-9-4 at home and 20-8-2 on the road, which asks the question what home ice advantage? Nicklas Lidstrom was asked why the Red Wings play better on the road, and he stated they play a simpler game, keep shifts shorter, and play relaxed.
With the regular season quickly coming to an end the question again is, which Detroit Red Wing team will show up?