My wonderful wife mentioned ever-so subtly that though she loves reading my blogs, perhaps I don’t have to write about fantasy sports all the time. Since she is far wiser than yours truly—and I had been contemplating such a daily digest type format for awhile now—the below product is the manifestation of our group think:
Living in Australia and being an American sports fan is not the easiest. With the exception of baseball—when there are no day games in America all magically occur here in Oz between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., an ideal way to make the work day fly by—you definitely need to carefully plan out your sports watching experience. And whereas I have no qualms whatsoever about getting up at 3 a.m. on Monday morning to watch my beloved Pack play, I’m equally okay with being behind a bit when it comes to my favorite hockey team, the Detroit Red Wings.
The National Hockey League season started just as I headed to the States for a wedding. So when I got back I was already five games behind. I did catch up about 10 days ago but now I’ve settled into being a couple-to-a-few games behind. With the exception of a few people from my baseball club, I’m in little danger of finding out the results. Still it is not ideal: I can’t keep apprized of the day-to-day happenings in Hockeytown and what else is going on around the league. And though I see the scores of games proceeding the next Wings tilt, it is tough to know exactly where they stand in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Nonetheless: the fact that I can watch these games at all—in stunning HD to boot; thank you NHL Gamecenter!—is not something I take lightly.
So in this periodic section I will be discussing my opinions on the current state of the Red Wings—to the best of my updated knowledge.
Date Caught Up To: (U.S.) Thanksgiving
Last Game Watched: Detroit’s 5-2 victory at home over Philadelphia on Wednesday 26 November.
The Red Wings are a much-improved club this season due to three main factors: remarkable team speed, their much-improved depth, and the superior conditioning of netminder Jimmy Howard.
Team Speed—Epitomized by center Darren Helm, one of the fastest players in the league, this is the speediest squad the Wings have put on the ice since Sergei Federov and Kris Draper were in their prime. Buoyed by budding young stars Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, and über-pest Luke Glendening, these wicked-fast skaters fly all over the ice, putting pressure on defensemen in their own end, clogging up the neutral zone, and eliminating odd man rushes against. This team speed also helps their maturing defensemen (Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith) make the simple, easy play out of their own end.
Depth—In the most recent game I watched the Wings lines looked like this:
Nyquist-Henrik Zetterberg–Johan Franzen
Tatar-Riley Sheahan–Justin Abdelkader
Helm-Pavel Datsyuk–Stephen Weiss
When you have future Hall of Famer Pavel Datsyuk (aside: pose Siri this quandary: ‘Who is the Magic Man?’) on the third line you know everyone is healthy and your team has the best depth it has had in years. In that Philly game, the third line, made up of three natural centers, tallied three of the five goals, including Weiss’ third goal in two games after coming back from myriad injuries.
Having him back is crucial because he stabilizes another forward line and is potent on the power play, allowing head coach Mike Babcock to more evenly distribute talents to his two units.
The depth extends to the blue line as well. With Brendan Smith soon set to return and rookie Xavier Ouellet playing well, Babs will have a choice to make on who is a healthy scratch with fellow defender Brian Lashoff (who has also played well when given the opportunity.) Jakub Kindl is the most likely choice but since being re-inserted into the lineup he has played much more assertively (he had two assists against the Flyers) and is the point man for the second power play unit.
Even at the goaltending position, where Detroit lost backup Jonas Gustavsson to a separated shoulder, they are in good shape thanks to highly-regarded understudy Petr Mrazek. Which brings us to . . .
Jimmy Howard—The University of Maine graduate spent his entire offseason focused on improving his conditioning. And boy has it showed! He looks quicker, fresher, and more in control of both his in-crease movements and rebounds than ever before. The Wings schedule has been very favorable, with just a couple (if memory serves) back-to-back contests. He’s played in all but a handful of games and it looks like this is finally the year where the annual springtime tradition of Wings fans worrying about their playoff goaltending may be rendered mute.
My Two Sent(ence)s™
Awhile back (maybe seven or eight years) I decided that a good way to help improve my writing was to limit my reviews of movies, television shows, and books to just two sentences. Twitter made this even more challenging by capping said critiques at 140 characters. Here are my latest two entries:
Around my friendly neighborhood of St Kilda:
“Before I started my detox . . .”
“’I’m exhausted from yodeling and jumping up and down.”
“. . . It took two hours in the shower to get it all off.”
(Answering the phone): “I’m here. On my usual corner.”