We've been waiting since...well since the start of the season for Detroit to be playing like this. Stockholm was a disaster and even though we had some impressive early season victories against Chicago and San Jose, consistency (or the lack thereof) has been the bane of Detroit's post-season existence up until the Olympic Break. Some have been more patient than others.
But now, after going 11-2-1 since the break, things are finally starting to click. Here's what some of the players told the Free Press:
"We got guys back and they got comfortable, and they got back into their regular role of playing. We knew when that would happen, good things would happen. We've hit that effort now, a pretty good stride, and had some success and are making a pretty good push now."--Drew Miller
And once again, what a great find Drew Miller was. Thank you, Tampa Bay for waiving him and letting us bring the Michigan native back home. Miller has been one of those ham and egg, hard hat kind of guys that helped us fight through all of the injuries, and has found a more defined depth-player role now that we're (mostly) healthy again (poor Kirk).
"We've played better and more consistent. I think after the Olympics, we knew we had to do this, otherwise we wouldn't be in the playoffs. During the year, we kind of just went, 'Oh, we'll pick it up, we'll pick it up.' But now we really knew that if we want to be in the postseason, we have to win a lot of games. It was a little challenge, and I think that's sometimes what you need."--Henrik Zetterberg
Yes, the Swedes coming back pissed off from the Olympics probably helped. Especially Tomas Holmstrom, who had to watch his team bow out so early on TV, was probably frothing at the mouth. Franzen, who took his spot, was able to stay healthy and get used to playing in full games. One Swede got the rest he so desperately needed to heal up, one Swede got to get back into game-shape...it worked out perfectly.
"I think we're really starting to show how we want to be playing the game, like we have in the past few years here. We're playing more quickly on defense -- anytime anyone gets into our zone, we've been doing a better job of getting to the puck and making that first tape-to-tape pass a lot quicker. So instead of spending 30-40 seconds in your own zone, now we're on offense instead much quicker. Howie has been playing great for us -- some nights when we haven't been playing our best, he still has given us a chance."--Nik Kronwall
Kronner made sure that we still have at least one player who is 100% career-wise in shootouts after Miller hit the post in his attempt against Nashville.
And how about Jimmy Howard?
Fourth in overall Save Percentage and third overall in Goals Against. Rask is kind of the outlier because he hasn't played in nearly as many games. Plus, Rask and Miller and Voukoun for that matter all play in the Leastern Conference. So not only is Jimmy going to be a finalist for the Calder Trophy (as I was chanting during the H2H game...before that second goal went in), but he could feasibly be a finalist for the Vezina this year. No way in hell he wins, but to finish in the top three would be outstanding.
B-b-b-b-bring on that Calder trophy.