Disappointing Finish Can't Deny The Talent
Red Wings fans are still upset at the way in which the historic 2011-2012 season came to a close. How can a team with one of the leading goaltenders and the current NHL record for consecutive home victories go 4-4-2 in their last 10 AND lose home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs?
The team took quite a hit after going through a series of momentum changing injuries to stars like Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Jimmy Howard and Nicklas Lidstrom. Some would even say that Howard hasn't been the same since the injury. That slump in the season wasn't a surprise.
It also didn't help that the Wings couldn't capitalize on some of their late season opportunities which includes them falling to the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus, and then losing at home to Nashville, New Jersey and Chicago. The loss in Columbus just emphasizes the team's biggest setback of the season. The Wing's finished with a 17-21-3 record when playing away from the Joe.
The Wings PP numbers were also a key reason they couldn't capitalize on their opponents, but at this point fans have already heard what they didn't want to. On to the positives.
What the Wings may have lacked in final scores down the stretch is not an indication of their lack of talent. TCL- Red Wings writer Robert D'Aurelio wrote a piece not too long ago about the exciting potential of Gustav Nyquist, who has been gaining a nice amount of playing time in the top line, along with Datsyuk and Franzen. That experience may not show it's full impact until next season, but with the rookie's style of play and the seemingly good chemistry with his line, it's an option that Babcock will need to utilize in the playoffs.
Another addition to the Wings that shouldn't be overlooked is defenceman Ian White. The former Shark had 7 goals and 25 assists with a +22 for the regular season, and although he seemed relatively quiet down the stretch, his production for the team was nothing short of significant. His playoff experience could prove to come in handy when the Wings face Nashville in the first round.
The Wings also have weapons in Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula. The latter may be the Wings' unsung hero of the season. Hudler made quite some noise this season with his career-high number of goals and a few dazzling moves in shootouts. The fans enjoy him, and he seems to have a knack for knowing where the puck is. This is a player who needs to see more time in the playoffs. Filppula on the other hand has been one of the more consistent producers for Detroit. He saw his most productive season (23 goals and 43 assists, +18) and was one of the few players who had no injuries this season. A strong effort from him will greatly increase Detroit's chances in the postseason.
Of course these aren't the only talents the Wings can go to for assistance. Drew Miller had a good season, Joey MacDonald eased some of the concern of Howard being out, and Bertuzzi always has a trick up his sleeve. Add that with the return to health by their stars, and you have a solid team with weapons on both ends of the ice.
It didn't show in the regular season record, but there is a good amount of talent that can be relied on to take the Wings into the next round. Congrats boys, it's all on you now.