The Red Wings have endured a lot since the lockout, most of it good. There’s that one Stanley Cup of course. Then there’s that Stanley Cup they shoulda won, to go along with a hard-fought loss in 2007’s Western Conference Final.
Through it all, though, there’s one challenge Detroit’s never really faced: They’ve never had to make a statement – had to really put their foot down – in the space of a single regular game.
The Red Wings have been through way too many wars to acknowledge this game means as much as it does. But in light of all that’s happened this year, and all that remains to be determined in the next 10 days I’ll say it: The Red Wings must win, and win convincingly, in Nashville this afternoon.
Why? After a torrid opening two months, the Western Conference pack has inexorably closed on the Wings and, in the case of the Sharks, passed them by. Then there’s the small matter of the Preds still, you know, being alive in the Division race. And quite possibly Detroit’s first round opponent two weeks hence.
But this afternoon’s game is about more than statistics. Recent results demonstrate that nobody in the tightly bunched West fears the Wings like the old days. I think Detroit’s a fair bit more talented than most teams they face on balance. But the days when most would cry ‘uncle’ just cause of the Winged Wheels on the sweater are long, long gone.
That the Red Wings would never publicly admit one regular season game is more important than another is probably for the best. But no one who watched them on this last 6-game home stand is going to buy the excuse the Wings are mixing and matching, tinkering to find the right mix for the playoffs.
I was on hand to watch them play Toronto, and that victory was comprehensive. Then again, it was Toronto.
The Chicago game was fast and sprited, but the Wings’ sloppiness proved fatal. Again. And for long stretches Detroit was paralyzed by the type of cycling forecheck that San Jose does even better than the Hawks. Scary.
Speaking of scary, the Saint Louis game? That tilt was two points on a platter, yet the Wings played just as indifferent as during the worst periods of the Dave Lewis era. Lewis got run out of town because he was too nice to the players; if these country club efforts continue the question whether Iron Mike still deserves the nickname has to be asked.
And so this afternoon the Red Wings go into the barn of an opponent that – rightly – believes it should win.
The Red Wings are healthy (except prolly Pavel) again and that’s the most important ‘big picture’ thing. But it also means there are no excuses from here on out.
This is a different era of course.
The medium must be different.
But the message absolutely has to be the same.
PS PLAY HUDLER WITH SKILL PLAYERS.
PS Just asking: Is this The Borgias promo running on every Web site in the entire world :-)