It's All About the Stars
November started on a high note. After a strong couple of games to end October, we all thought the Wings had turned things around. They continued to pick up wins for the first couple of weeks in November. All was right with the world. Our Wings were back and life was good. The skies were filled with snowflakes and rainbows and it even seemed like the stench of sewer no longer hovered around the Joe’s box office. And then…the bottom fell out. The team looked horrible. They were flirting with a record-setting scoring drought perfectly timed to ruin Thanksgiving for legions of Wings fans. On the bright side, they managed to pull things back together during their last two games of the month. I would argue that the hot and cold streaks from the top offensive guys and the two games against Dallas this month were the events that defined November.
The highlight of November was the three-game stretch in which the Wings netted a total of 19 goals. 19 goals in three games. I know. I feel like those happy days were ages ago too. For the first time, the ’09-’10 season seemed fun. I was starting to recognize the guys who were skating around with Winged Wheels on their chests as the real Red Wings. The stars had found their scoring touches. Zetterberg and Datsyuk went on a tear that to the surprise of exactly no one led the team to their best stretch of the season. The Wings were finally stringing wins together, and even though some of their wins came after less-than-100% efforts, I was happy. I was even making jokes about laughing over the Great October Panic of 2009.
And then came Dennis La Rue and his intent to blow. Now we all know what happened in that game against Dallas on the 18th. And you can also be sure that this next paragraph is going to bring out trolls with their accusations of whininess and tin foil hat-wearing. But I’m willing to make the argument that that one single moment in which every standard of reason was violated contributed to the Wings subsequent tailspin. Yes, you can argue that the Stars ended up scoring another goal after the one that should have counted. You can also argue that the Wings hadn’t been playing spectacularly well at the start of that game. However, that was their tying goal; it should’ve been a momentum swing. The kind of moment you build off of. Instead, the Wings came out afterward looking defeated. @MrsOtW pointed out on Twitter that perhaps they were thinking that it wasn’t worth the effort if they were just going to get screwed anyway. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but while it’s a perfectly legitimate feeling, I’m not sure I like seeing it manifested out on the ice.
And lack of effort was exactly what we saw. The next few games were almost hard to watch. Five goals (that counted…) in eight games? The skid culminated with back-to-back shutouts at the Joe to sandwich Thanksgiving. Suddenly we were all in the depths of despair again. Watching the Wings flounder was painful. Nothing went right. More goals were called back for inexplicable reasons. Niklas Kronwall went down with a long-term injury. The Eurotwins cooled off again. Again, unsurprisingly, when the stars cooled off, so did the rest of the team. By the end of their losing/shutout streak, the team found itself in danger of being passed by the Blues and occupying last place in the Central. They went into St. Louis the night after their second consecutive shutout and played a miserable first period. They managed to pull out a win in the shootout thanks to the handiwork of the unlikeliest of shooters and we all felt a sense of relief. But that win would’ve been meaningless if it hadn’t been followed up by another.
It’ll be impossible to tell until we see a few more games from the boys, but if they really turn things around, I think we’ll be looking at the second November Dallas game as the real turning point. It was the kind of performance that I’m accustomed to seeing the Wings deliver when I make the trek down to the Joe. it had all of the elements of a classic Wings win: the defense was solid, the goaltending adequate despite a few shaky moments, the secondary scoring was there, the goals came from hard work and net-front traffic, the big names picked up assists. They returned to the Joe where they had failed to light the lamp for an absurdly long amount of time, took a lead, and never really let the Stars back into the game. Sure they tied it up at one point, but you kind of had a sense that it was the Wings’ night. It’s too early to tell if the win actually means something in the long-run or if I’m just reading things into it to make myself feel better, but I have high hopes that this will carry over into December.
November had a lot of high points and a lot of miserably low ones. We saw the flashes of brilliance that we continue to expect from this injury-depleted team, but we also wallowed through a scoring drought the likes of which I’ve not seen in my time as a fan. We saw the top lines rack up goals at an extraordinary rate for a few games and then pounded our heads against the closest hard objects when those same stars seemingly lost their ability to finish. There were infuriating moments both from incompetent officials and lack of effort from the team. That game against Dallas toward the middle of the month was undoubtedly a turning point, and with any luck that same team’s next visit to the Joe will be looked back upon as an even more significant one. It really was a tale of the stars and the Stars.