We are at the halfway point of this Stade after last night's game, and quite contrary to the Ancient Greek Olympic event to which I'm referring, and quite symmetrical to last season, the great race is a bloodbath. Yes, once again, the Hockey Gods seem to have a bloodlust, one which focuses on Detroit. Recall that last year we weren't the most injured team throughout the season, Edmonton was (side note: And they got Taylor Hall? Was it really for being one of the worst teams or simply the most injured? GARY!), but Detroit was number 2. This year, I really don't care about the statistics of it, I just want it to stop.
I hope Brad Stuart is relatively okay. I know, I know, out with a broken jaw. But aren't there some broken jaws that are worse than others? Can't it just “barely” be broken. Unfortunately, we all know and love Brad Stuart, and if he stays down, it's bad. This is the man we know as the Ancient Olympic Pankration warrior who, when made to play in his defensive zone, will crush someone along the side boards so hard their lifeless, soulless body which now resembles a person-shaped bag of crushed bones crumples to the ice. Best part of those hits? When the rest of the opponent's team comes skating up to him, cross-checking him to goade him into a fight, punching his chest, grabbing the collar of his jersey or trying to work a facewash in there, and Stuie just looks away from them, head cocked to one side, grinning and seeming to say: “Hey, c'mon baby....just hockey. Just chill...”
I actually think I might miss his presence in the lineup more than I miss my own favourite player and stunt double's, Pavel Valerievich Datsyuk. His absence is surely missed, no doubt, as is the ever-hard working Dan(ny) Cleary's, but Stuie is such an underappreciated presence who has countless times shoveled out a certain would-be-goal that squeezes past Jimmah.
Oh and last thoughts on Brad Stuart: How can you forget this?
My original intent was to talk about the half-season in review. But these last 10-15 games have taken years off my life. Now, granted, they've been played in the last 10-15 days. Okay, yeah but still, our defensive pressure and coverage is not what it used to be. Not what it used to be the year we won the Cup and not what it was during our first 10-20 games of this season. Giving up 3 or 4 goals consistently is bad practice. End of discussion.
I don't see it improving with the return of Datsyuk and Cleary and Modano and Stuie either (I'm considering Valterri Filppula's absence to be very short term). It's a coaching thing, and I love Babcock because the troops bought into it the year we won and had an excellent defensive scheme in the 2008-2009 playoffs (which means I guess I still sort of blame Ozzie for our regular season GAA that year, but as on Ozzie-apologist, I'm allowed that). Oh, speaking of 2008-2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, remember this?
I have a feeling that a change in defensive strategy, or maybe just more practice time after our schedule loosens up, can result in fewer goals against per game. I mean Jimmah just isn't as focused, but his talent is still there. That second half of Friday Night's Calgary game was incredible, and the shootout is becoming a Jimmy Howard specialty. 1 goal allowed in 9 shooters faced in the “skills competition" this year. This wasn't Gary's evil plan!
I just don't know how they can turn their defensive game around without their stalwart physical leader, Brad Stuart. But hopefully it happens, and what better time for this to start? Tonight against one of the best lines in hockey that doesn't feature Pavel Valerievich and Henrik Zetterberg.
I will miss tonight's game as I'll be in Phoenix watching humanity destroy itself, and maybe meet up with a few other hockey fans at the game against the Sabres at (insert funny/dirty word that precedes -job) Jobing.com arena. What I mean by that is, of course, if there are actually people at this game, I will meet them. Lots of space between spectators at this venue.
But I need the Red Wings nation to bear down and grit this thing out against Vancouver. Luongo is a nightmare of a goal-tender, both to opposing shooters with his high save percentage and to his own team as soon as they reach the playoffs, again, with his save percentage.
Get healthy boys, watch your heads out there and Let's Go Red Wings!