Saturday, October 11, 2008

NHL Blogging: What Went Wrong?

I joked the other night about the Wings loss. Expectations seem to be so sky high, it's an easy target. I don't seriously expect the Wings to go undefeated. Nor do I think losing their opener is cause for divers alarums, either. Now, they drop five or ten in a row like the Tigers did, then we'll talk about panic. But the NHL season is a slog that goes on for far too many games, and losing one isn't a big deal.

Doesn't mean last night's drubbing isn't cause for concern, though. It definitely provides some reasons why a repeat is going to be tough.

First, Toronto is, shall we generously wretchedly awful team of players who'd struggle to make it on an AHL roster and run by a bunch of incompetents who couldn't find their own asses with a map and a paid guide (Suck it Leafs fans.).

That the Wings lost to them points out one thing: they're playing with a big target on their backs. The Wings aren't just the reigning champs, they're the class of the league. They've been on top of the league for so long and are so loaded down with talented players and feted with awards that they can't be anything else. Other teams are going to give them their best shot. There aren't going to be any nights off. Not even against the bottom feeders. The Wings are going to have to come ready to play each and every night and that takes its toll over the course of a long season made longer by the shortest layoff in the league – they were still playing into the postseason while everyone else except the Penguins was already resting up for next year.

Second, it's not just that the Wings lost to the Leafs but how they lost. By giving up a ton of turnovers. They gave away a bunch by anyone's standards. By theirs, we just witnessed the Great Train Robbery. The Wings are a puck control team, have been for a while now, and the amazing thing is how seldom they cough up the puck. They just don't make many turnovers hanks to smart passes and better players. Giving up nearly 20 in a game is practically unheard of.

And it bespeaks, well, a certain lack of effort. Which is the other big concern – the Wings growing complacent. Laden with talent, flushed with success, it's going to be tempting for them to get a little soft.

But they can't do that if they want another Cup. They need to be making the right plays and doing all the little things it takes because, as talented as they are, they're not that much better than the rest of the league.

Last night was an embarrassing loss. It happened at home. It happened after they rose last year's banner. It happened in front of all their fans and a pile of the hardware they'd gathered. Hopefully, that's all it'll take to shake off whatever lingering sense of self-satisfaction remained from last year's accomplishments. And the Wings can get back to skating and playing hard enough from here on out.

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