If you’ve watched the Red Wings for any length of time this season, you are painfully aware of a few flaws that just won’t go away. Like the Wings penchant to get lazy “comfortable” when they don’t feel challenged. Or how about the penalty kill giving up a power play goal at the most inopportune times. Or the Wings’ restraint in not punching Pierre Maguire in the mouth when he sits between the benches and incessantly gushes about whoever their playoff opposition’s best player is.
Look, I get it: nobody is perfect. Not even me. But there are certain times when a little “encouragement” might be needed for certain individuals to help them…”find their way.” I’ve kept myself in check for as long as I can, but for some reason, last night’s loss just set me in a bad mood. And now you all get to bear witness to my frustrations and growing concern.
The list is made. There is no turning back. The “call outs” begin now.
I get it. Foot injuries suck. I’ve had my share. But what I’ve never had is the opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup. And I guarantee you that if somebody said to me, “Hey, we’ll give you a shot to play for the Cup, but first let me break a couple of bones in your foot”, I would go get the hammer myself. But me on my best day is nowhere near as good as Pasha on his worst day, broken foot or not.
Look, Datz, we love you. We really do. But we’ve been hearing about this foot for the entire series, and each day is another “we’ll see” from you. Meanwhile, your fellow Hart trophy contender Evgeni Malkin is running around just waiting for the opportunity to strike. MVP’s thrive when the going gets tough. And sometimes that tough is an injury.
It’s time to suck it up. Babcock has already told the media that it’s up to you. Well here’s a kick in the pants to try and help you along. If you even THINK you can play, then get into the locker room tomorrow night, strap up that foot REAL tight, shove it into your skate, take a painkiller and go dangle yourself all over Mellon Arena. Not only will it give the Pens another player to worry about, it might even remind some of your teammates on how bad some guys want to win the Cup and what it ultimately takes to do so.
I fully expect to see you on the ice tomorrow. Don’t let me down.
The Penalty Kill
Holy buckets is the PK bad. And when I say bad, let me be very clear: I mean abysmal. The PK is a staggering 71.4 percent this postseason, and an even more jaw-dropping 65.5 percent away from the Joe during these playoffs. These are not good numbers. And it cost them last night, giving up two PP goals to the Pens, including the game winner.
But it gets worse. These numbers are down from the regular season totals that found them ranked 25th out of 30 teams on the kill. The 78.3 percent PK rate that they had during the regular season would almost be a dream come true for this team right now.
But what’s worse is the perceived lack of effort from the guys on the kill. I conducted a random, COMPLETELY (un)scientific polling of a random number of individuals about what they see from the Wings PK. The number one response? “Alot of stick waving.” Or as the team calls it “Getting in the lanes.”
Look, simple fact is that this team is too good to be this bad on the kill. But when you watch the kill, it seems as if the Wings try and think too much and do too much guesswork on where the puck will go, rather than just going out and playing. And while guys like Nick Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski are cagey and crafty, maybe it’s time to shake it up a bit and put another energy guy like Justin Abdelkader out there. Or how about…
You told us after Game 2 that Kris Draper has been ready to go for a few days now. You told us you didn’t want to shake up what was “working.” We gave you the benefit of the doubt and trusted in the plan. Well guess what? It didn’t work.
IT’S TIME TO SKATE DRAPER!
I don’t care where he goes, just get him on the ice. Draper has been begging to get out there and play, and you know an energy guy like him is going to come out full steam ahead. Stick him on our absolutely *mesmerizing* PK unit and watch him chase the puck around like a jackrabbit and win those crucial face offs to help clear the zone. Tell him to go out and lay a hit or two on some guys. Have him chase Sidney Crosby around for a bit to give Henrik Zetterberg a rest. Hell, have him run into the stands and throw an octopus on the ice. Just have him do something. In a series that is going to be won on will and determination, Draper might have more than any other guy on the ice. Make it happen, Mike.
Hoss: You need to forget about all of the talk about revenge and contracts and how you only score goals in Game 4 and just go out and play. Go talk to Darren McCarty before the game. Dude was on the down and out, pulled himself back up and is back with a Cup worthy squad. He’ll show you real quick how to have a good time on the ice. So relax, stop worrying and, most importantly, score a boatload of goals have some fun!!!
Look guys, consider this nothing more than some tough love from someone who is probably WAY too invested in what happens this series. But no matter what happens, please don’t forget that you have an entire legion of fans that are dreaming of another Stanley Cup win, most of them residing in a place where the only good thing they might have right now is Red Wings hockey.
Look, this isn’t a “win one for the fans” speech or anything like that. Just remember that you represent a great city and great people who do what it takes to get it done. Maybe just use a little of that as motivation and channel that hard-working mentality into your play the rest of the way.
Grind it out, boys. Get this one done.