Slow Start: Once again, the Wings didn’t come out of the gates at full speed. Some of that had to do with not playing since Saturday, no doubt, but it’s not like it’s a trend that’s unique to this current spread out schedule. This team has a real problem starting games on time and last night was just the latest in a string of examples. After after last night, they won’t even have the excuse of a long layoff.
Osgood: Like the rest of the team, he had a slow start. And like the rest of the team team, he was markedly improved in the second and third periods. And I think that if he’d allowed three goals over the course of the game, rather than in the first 12 minutes of the first, the final analysis of his outing would be somewhat different than we’re seeing.
But it’s not just about number of goals allowed, it’s how and when. You can make a reasonable case that all three goals were weak. He flailed on the first, went down about an hour early on the second and wasn’t in position at all on the third. That’s the how of the goals, and like the number, if those are spread out throughout the game, maybe it’s not so bad. But the when of the goals is the killer. All three in the first period, including one when the team was on the power play means you have a goalie that wasn’t prepared.
If the layoff excuse applies to the skaters, it applies even more to Osgood, who hadn’t played since the Dallas game. But the same counterpoint to the layoff excuse that applies to the skaters applies to Oz: it’s happening too often to make excuses at this point. Osgood has historically been a guy who needs to get in a rhythm of starts to reach a decent level of play, but at this stage in his career, he’s not going to get that rhythm. He has to be able to step in and play every fifth or seventh night, depending on the schedule. He has to adjust. The Jimmy injury may be good for him in that he’ll be able to get a few starts in and maybe find his game, but if he does, he needs to hold on to it for the next time he’s needed, which could be only once or twice a month.
I tweeted last night that I’m about done with defending Osgood publicly because his defenders look more and more like myopic fools with every game he plays. I still believe that the Chris Osgood that made several key stops in the second and third period exists and that he can put out that kind of work for a full game. But with every period that he doesn’t make those saves, professing that belief feels more and more foolish. I’m tired of beating the drum for him. I’ll hang on to the drum, but it’s time he started making some noise himself, you know?
This is the perfect opportunity for Osgood to put up. Even after three games, it’s impossible to extrapolate his seasonal trajectory with any real authority (however much the negativists may want to try), but the list of data is growing. Time for him to change the trajectory.
Bryzgalov: In contrast to Osgood, you have Ilya Bryzgalov. If he’s not in your top 4 list of current NHL goalies, you need to rethink your membership in the hockey fan club. The Wings were in it tough enough starting out 0-0 against that guy. Spotting the Coyotes 3 goals was basically suicidal. It took a ridiculous amount of effort to crack him twice, let alone three times. Just witness Holmstrom’s goal, which followed three consecutive point-blank shots from none other than Pavel Datsyuk.
For all their offensive talent, the Wings cannot afford to go down three goals to a team like Phoenix. The team defense has to be better and the offense has to be more dominant. Ilya Bryzgalov is too good a goalie.
The Comeback Attempt: That said, they were on a flight path to tying it up sometime in the final five minutes or so when Todd Bertuzzi got slapped with a reputation penalty at 4:08 of the third. You know the type: “omg that player just fell like a tree in a lumber work zone…is that Todd Bertuzzi? It is! Obviously he chopped him down with that tomahawk he keeps in his hockey pants. Penalty!” That, right there, is the most negative part of having Todd Bertuzzi on your team. He takes his fair share of earned, stupid penalties. But all too often, he’s basically called for being on the ice.
The refs, to their credit, caught Derek Morris’ high sticking and evened things out, but the damage had already been done. The Wings needed a flawless third period to crack Bryzgalov and the Bertuzzi powder puff call threw them off the tracks.
Holmstrom: In case I’m making the case for the Bertuzzi penalty’s role in the loss too much, I have to say that they could have gotten back on the tracks were it not for Tomas Holmstrom’s idiotic interference penalty at 15:12. It’s those moments that reveal Homer as anÂ occasionalÂ liability. He needs to be smarter than that.
Also: there was a play not long before that penalty that to me highlighted the weakness of having Holmstrom on the top line. Datsyuk rushed it in beautifully and dished to Homer, who totally fumbled it and cut the whole thing short.
Easily 7 times out of 10, Homer’s a great fit for the Eurotwins. But those three other cases really hurt. The other two see the game on a level that he just can’t match, and you get nuked plays like that one on the break. Then he takes a dumb penalty.
I love Homer and would probably buy a #96 jersey if I had the money, but it’s shifts like that that make him seem more like a power play specialist than an even strength player.
Kronwall: I wonder if he’s had a worse shift in his entire playing career. I mean, holy crap, was that awful. You know what I’m talking about. What was it? 4 turnovers by him alone? And the deal-sealer: the half-assed wave at the puck that Korpikoski ate up. Ugh. You need to rebound from that with a big night Saturday, Nik. Seriously.
Pavel: Is ridiculous. Completely and utterly ridiculous. There are plenty of great stickhandlers in the league, but Datsyuk does things with the puck that shouldn’t be physically possible. He regularly makes bona fide quality NHL players look like total fools and amateurs and he makes it look absurdly easy. He was one of the most consistent bright spots last night, even though he only ended up with one point. I think he’s headed for a big, big year.
Fourth line: Even in the first period, I thought Eaves, Helm and Miller were the Wings’ best. They had the most prolonged play in the Coyotes end in the first half of the game and had an all-around good outing, including their PK play. The team has three lines playing strong offensive hockey.
Third line: Another pathetic night, enough so that Babcock actually broke up the BFF Line and gave Cleary and Modano Bertuzzi, while Hudler got bumped up to play with Franzen and Filppula. Expect more permanent assignments to follow Saturday. Those guys are by far the weakest link on this team right now (sorry, Oz haters).
Kindl: He’s looking more and more like a rookie. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m starting to think it’d be great to have Ericsson back. Yeah, it’s that bad. For all the flak Osgood deserves for that first goal, Kindl should get a major dose for his figure skating impression that lead to the breakaway.
Team Defense: The Wings’ defensive game is incredibly weak right now, and there’s no reason for it. They have all the tools to ice the best team defense in hockey, but they’re falling short every night. With the long breaks they’ve had, you’d think there’d be plenty of opportunity to shore up that phase of the game, but they continue to rely on offensive skill rather than defensive work ethic to gut out wins. Sure it was only their second regulation loss, but it was a clear sign that gutting out wins on skill alone isn’t going to get it done in the long term.
I harp on this all the time, but they have got to find the work ethic that contributed so heavily to their success in ’08. It’s not as fun as playing pond hockey, but it works. Bring back the wholesale team defense, guys.
Next: They’ve got the division leaders next. A great opportunity to get in the saddle and start riding, I say.