The Naughty, the Nice, and the New Year
As we approach the half way point of the season, and are hours away from the New Year, it's time to reflect back on the first three months of the 2010-11 season. In addition, we'll also look at some stats and contrast the Red Wings results after 38 games with last season's.
Not to start out on a negative tone, but lets look at the disappointing aspects of the Red Wings season so far.
The Naughty List:
- Jiri Hudler was one of the players mentioned in the first article as needing to make an impact. Needless to say that Jiri hasn't been "Happy" Hudler very often this season. He's been a healthy scratch 5 times, and had a pointless streak of 13 games to go along with a goalless streak of 17 games. His play has picked up of late, but he'll need to contribute offensively on a more routine basis if Huds wants to stay in Motown.
- Defensive breakdowns and odd man rushes against aren't conducive to winning hockey, but they've been on the rise in recent weeks. They've given up 4 or more goals 6 times in the last 3 weeks, and to little surprise 5 of those ended in a loss.
- The recent injuries to Pavel Datsyuk (broken hand) and Danny Cleary (broken ankle) have Wing's fans wondering if they're about to see a repeat of last season's injury parade. Hopefully that parade was handed off to the Blackhawks...
Sitting at the top of the Western Conference standings, one could assume that there's been plenty of good things happening for the Red Wings. In this case they'd be right. Let's see which aspects of their game has caught my attention so far.
The Nice List:
- Danny Cleary has put on a performance this season that shows just how banged up he was last season. Prior to getting shelved due to injury, "Clears" was leading the team in both goals and GWG's. He's an amazingly versatile player, and takes a spot on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd line depending on the situation. Here's hoping he won't miss a beat once he returns to the line up.
- Henrik Zetterberg has stepped up his play in the absence of Pavel Datsyuk while centering the top line and put up 3G/7A during his current 6 game point streak. Hopefully his back will hold up for him to continue a productive season.
- Valteri Filppula has been solid as the 2nd line center and has improved his offensive output over last year, and should match or exceed previous highs for both goals & points. The frequency with which he's making extremely high skill level plays is on the rise, and he's also chipped in 4 GWG's thus far.
- Patrick Eaves has done nothing less than net 11 goals while playing only about 11 minutes per game. Through hard work, determination, and a nice shot, he's the latest Red Wings reclamation project to pay dividends.
- Nick Lidstrom is defying his age, putting up almost a point per game from the blue line and himself back into Norris Trophy consideration. He's already exceeded last year's goal output by 2 goals, and is on a pace that could have him beating personal bests for goals and points.
- Nick Kronwall is showing that he's ready to add another weapon alongside his arsenal of open ice hits. He's already set a career high for goals with 8, and looks to build on a successful first half of the season.
- Jonathan Ericsson has had a nice bounce back season after a disastrous 2009-10 campaign. His elevated level of play has allowed him to play 17+ minutes per game of steady defense. While this has helped to reduce the ice time of Lidstrom, it's been at the expense of Jakub Kindl who's only dressed for 13 games this season.
- Jimmy Howard has been solid in net and hasn't appeared to suffer from any sophomore jinx.
- Balanced offense, with 7 players scoring 10 or more goals.
Let's have a brief look at some of the numbers behind this year's Detroit Red Wings and how they compare to last season.
- 24 Wins puts them 5 victories and 10 points ahead of last years pace, where they managed only 19 wins and 43 points in 38 games.
- 131 Goals For is the main reason for those additional wins. They have scored 31 more goals than at this point last season, which is nearly a goal per game increase!
- Plus 25 goal differential is a big improvement on last year's even at this point of the season.
- Shutouts against have been reduced to only one. Believe it or not, last season Detroit was held scoreless in 5 of its first 38 games!
There's still a lot of Hockey to play, but I can't help but look ahead a bit.
The New Year:
- January will be a big test for Detroit, since they'll have to play without Datsyuk and Cleary. Games against Philly, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, & Chicago, along with trip to the West Coast will make it even more challenging.
- Depth gained and experience earned from last year's rash of injuries should benefit the team as it grinds through the remainder of the season. The lessons learned last year by Abdelkader, Eaves, and Helm should pay dividends in the long run.
- Thomas Tatar made his NHL debut tonight, filling in nicely for Patrick Eaves and netting his first goal. He's an exciting young player that I'm looking at to make the jump to the NHL full time next year.
Hopefully my Red Wings will be able to maintain their current position in the standings, and it won't be 3 months until I decide to write another article. Looking forward to a good weekend, with the Winter Classic and Wings vs. Flyers on tap.