Not so fast.
It’s easy to look at Saturday night’s win over the Los Angeles Kings and think the Detroit Red Wings may have finally “turned a corner.” While it’s true that the Red Wings have been playing a better brand of hockey lately, it’s hard to forget the feelings of “back to square one” after Thursday’s showing in San Jose.
Jimmy Howard made 44 saves and looked to be as good as ever, but he looked the same a week ago in Dallas and his follow up performance was downright ugly. Howard acquired a suspected hip-flexor injury Saturday night, but if he’s OK to back up Sunday’s game in Anaheim it’s probably fair to presume he starts in net Thursday against the New York Rangers (Unless of course the Wings are playing with fire, and just don’t want to fly a goalie out to California for a game that’s already less than 24-hours away). If he does in fact start on Thursday, that’s the same amount of time off he got between starts last week, meaning Thursday’s game against the Rangers could be the real measuring stick as to whether or not Howard is “back.”
Don’t dust over the fact that the great games Detroit has put together lately have all come on the road, where they have one of the best records in the league.
The Wings will still need to conquer home ice (6-10-7) to prove they’ve turned the corner, and they’ll get a chance to do just that. After Thursday’s game with the Rangers the team will be on home ice for its next five games, four of which are against playoff teams, including the Kings, Blues, and Blackhawks.
You see, the Red Wings have put a couple of games like this together through out the first half of the season. The problem has been consistency, and while it appears they’re trending toward consistency, it’s still not enough to say a corner has been turned. In two weeks we’ll know where the Red Wings really are. One game is great, but until it’s hard to declare a team revived until you see them do it over time.
Tomas Tatar continues to impress..
A guy who is starting to show consistency is Tomas Tatar, he’s got a goal in his last three games and seems to have earned the complete trust of his head coach. Writing that he has a goal in his last three games sounds great, but it probably doesn’t do the goals he’s scored much justice. A week ago in Dallas he did his best Pavel Datsyuk impression making Dallas defensemen look silly on his way into a beautiful break away goal. In San Jose he pulled the puck out from behind the net, found a sliver of space and roofed a backhander right in the face of a helpless (and stick-less) Sharks defenseman. Then Saturday he scores a game-winning goal a day removed from his father’s passing.
Say what you will about the way the Red Wings develop players, or the fact that Tatar was leading Grand Rapids to a Calder Cup when he could have contributed to the Red Wings 2013 playoff run.
The run with the Griffins helped him as a player in a way I’m not sure a 2013 run with the Red Wings could have. It might be a stretch to say him being leaned on last spring is contributing to him being leaned on now, but the way guys play has so much to do with confidence it is not far-fetched to think some of this is the benefit of being put in a position to be “the guy” last year.