I’m just going to come out and say that I don’t think this is a game to freak out about. This was not a loss like the 8-0, 8-2, or 6-5 SO losses we’ve seen the last few weeks. This was a typical end-of-season loss to a team that has transitioned to “trip ’em up mode” because that’s the only way they can keep from giving up entirely.
If you’re an experienced sports fan, you know that things don’t always work out in reality like they should according to the standings or relative ability. That’s why I’m less worried about this loss than I am about the losses to Nashville, Columbus and Calgary, all teams I’d consider less than the Wings, but all teams that could be direct competitors when it matters. A loss to the Islanders is a throwaway game. A loss to those teams will mean a history should they meet in the playoffs.
I think that the Wings have done a fair job of correcting the issues that led to the bad losses to the Predators, Jackets, and Flames. This one was a different type of game and falls under a different category of loss.
Are the Islanders an awful team? Their record indicates it. But they’re still a collection of NHL players who retain the pride and drive that got them to the League. While they don’t have a playoff spot to play for, they have the ability to trip up playoff-bound teams and cast doubts among the fans. So, they brought their best last night and came out on top of a team that brought maybe its B+ game.
I honestly didn’t think the Wings played that badly. They didn’t take the Islanders as seriously as they should have and once New York showed that they wouldn’t just roll over, they didn’t up the intensity all that much. That’s worrisome, but it shouldn’t induce panic. This game, to me any way, falls under the category of “typical late season loss to an opponent with more motivation” rather than “ugly loss to possible playoff opponent who should have faced ‘A-game’ Wings.”
Let’s not forget Joey MacDonald, who has proven to be every bit as good in his position as Kyle Quincey has shown to be in his. MacDonald played a heck of a game. The 5-7 posts look bad on one hand, but can also indicate that he only left the shooter that much. The Wings ran into a hot goalie and, as is usual with them, had trouble beating him. That’s a problem that goes back years, so let’s not connect it to their issues this season.
At the other end of the ice, Chris Osgood played well enough for the Wings to win. He got screwed by Mikael Samuelsson on the first one, and, while he looked foolish on the second, was the victim of poor defensive coverage on that one as well. I would have loved to have seen him be as strong as MacDonald last night, but Osgood has only rarely been the goalie who steals games outright. His thing is to give his team an easy way to win, and that’s what he’s been bad about this year with his penchnt for giving up 3+ goals. Last night was not one of those bad nights, however.
I’ve gotten comments in this thread about firing Babcock. Can we stop with that right now? Â That has to be the most idiotic Wings-related thing I have ever read. Babcock has brought success to this team that in some ways beats what Bowman accomplished. He is not Scotty Bowman, but he is one of the best coaches in the League today. I’m sorry but any talk of firing a coach after four consecutive 50-win seasons (yes, they’ll do it) is ludicrous and speaks to a culture in the NHL that has developed around looking for easy answers to tough questions.
What’s wrong with this team? It’s a simple matter of having been there and having done that. They have played so many meaningful games over the years that Game #75 of the regular season offers little motivation in light of what’s coming (the playoffs). This effect has to be heightened by the fact that they won the Cup last year. I’m definitely worried about their ability to turn “it” on in the first round, but I’m starting to get tired of holding it against them when they don’t perform up to my exacting standards in games that mean next to nothing.
It sucks that the Wings blew a chance to pull ahead of the Sharks, but they’ll have another opportunity and probably one after that.