Wings must win down the stretch to keep playoff streak alive

Kyle Quincey battles for the puck in a recent game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Kyle Quincey battles for the puck in a recent game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Things are looking pretty gloomy in Hockeytown. The Detroit Red Wings now have 14 games left in their 2013-14 season, and after Sunday’s embarrassing no show against Chicago and a victory over the Maple Leafs at The Joe on Tuesday, they sit one point out for the final playoff spot.

It needs to be said that the Red Wings are currently severely shorthanded on their depth chart. With injuries to Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, Stephen Weiss, Dan Cleary, Tomas Jurco, and Jonas Gustavsson the hardest hitting of the injuries at the moment.

No season in recent memory has seen the Wings roster so beaten up. That being said, the illustrious 22-year playoff streak is shaking on it’s very last limb. But all hope is not lost. The Wings will not go quietly and stranger things have happened. Look no further than the Los Angeles Kings winning the cup as a #8 seed (and doing it with relative ease) a few short years back.

The Wings showed just how resilient they have the capacity to be in their matchup against the lowly and ever underachieving Edmonton Oilers. The kids came out and made some noise for the Wings Friday night where Riley Sheahan got the party started halfway through the first period. With Tomas Tatar forcing his way by two Edmonton defenders behind the Oilers net, he threw it out front to a crashing Sheahan who buried one past the newly acquired Viktor Fasth. The Wings seemed the pull their foot of the gas as the game wore on and managed a mere 23 shots. Not to worry though as Jimmy Howard had a sensational game through 2 and a half periods.

And then, Brendan Smith made a very absent minded move with less than 11 minutes left in the game. The Oilers simply tried to keep the puck in the Detroit zone and dumped it further into the corner. Brendan Smith picked up the puck on his backhand side and blindly threw it up the middle of the ice where Ryan Smyth picked it up in the slot and put it over Jimmy Howard’s glove hand. Howie had absolutely no chance of stopping that shot. Five feet out at point blank range, good luck finding a goalie to cover up that mistake by Smith. That is the problem with the Wings this year. They get in position for the win and seem to let it slip away as time is winding down, usually with painful mistakes.

As wonderful of a game as Jimmy Howard had in regulation, he came up even bigger in the shootout. He did the unthinkable stopping Jordan Eberle who hadn’t missed all year, then deflecting Taylor Hall’s attempt over the frame. Tomas Tatar was the lone goal in the shootout which won it for the Wings and it was an absolutely brilliant attempt. It was as Datsyukian of a deke that can be pulled off and Fasth is still trying to pick himself off the ice after Tatar dragged him out of the net and roofed it over him for the win.

With those crucial two points garnered, the Red Wings headed into this week with a brutal schedule ahead of them. There are no more cupcake games on the schedule and with the Wings needing to win 10-11 of their final 14 games to assure themselves of a playoff spot. In order for that to occur, someone on this team is going to have to step up and make a statement – be it verbally or on the ice in a big way.

Sunday against Chicago was an absolute disaster. The Wings were within a goal in the 2nd period but in the 3rd the Blackhawks blew their doors off with beautiful goals from Toews and Hossa. The Wings looked absolutely deflated based on body language. They played very strong through 35 minutes and then again, let the game slip away. They need the likes of Kronwall or Alfredsson to step up and be larger leaders for the younger kids at this point. Someone needs to get angry and show some desire to win at all costs because right now they seem to be carelessly skating around the ice once they get into anything more than a one goal deficit.

With games against Toronto, Pittsburgh, Minnesota (twice), Montreal, Columbus, and Tampa Bay left for the Wings in the month of March, they may have the most challenging schedule in the NHL. All of the divisional games that they hope to win must be won in regulation as to not give up the extra point. And now there’s news that Justin Abdelkader is a bit dinged up and Landon Ferraro has been called up from Grand Rapids. This is the biggest test of resiliency for the Wings in 22 years. It’s a very trying and stressful time for fans. It’s new territory – the Wings are usually cemented into playoff position by now.

Will they fold or will the boys step up and lay it all on the line for the team and more importantly the city of Detroit?

I’m sure they would hate to be the first squad in 22 years to miss the postseason. Using the injury excuse can get played out very quickly. Lets hope they can right the ship.