The Western Conference leading Detroit Red Wings are probably the best team in hockey right now. Balanced scoring, expert defense, and a hot young goaltender by the name of Jimmy Howard are helping the team plow through the opposition. How hot is Mr. Howard?
|2010 - Jimmy Howard||14||854||11||1||35||2.46||395||360||.911||1|
Wait... his stats are middling at best? But how does he have eleven wins on the season, you might ask? In case you're living under a rock, allow me to explain this:
That's really all the explanation that you need. The Red Wings frustrate rivals year in and year out. The Big Red Machine never dies. It might hiccup or sputter a bit, as it did last season when the San Jose Sharks knocked them out in the second round of the playoffs. But coach Mike Babcock is one of the best in the game, and could squeeze blood and wins from a turnip if he had to (unless said turnip is Chris Osgood). AJC Thrashers beat reporter Chris Vivlamore had a great quote from Babcock concerning the Thrashers today. Praise like this from a coach like Babcock should mean a lot to Thrashers fans:
They are getting over the hump. Those players can come here, and they are good players, unless there is some structure and a foundation and a way to be successful it doesn’t matter who came here. They have done two things at the same time. Their back end is very good, in my opinion. We talked about [Byfuglien and Enstrom]. Bogosian is a good player, without any question about it. So you add him to the mix. Hainsey is a good player. Sopel is a good player. That’s six guys that get the puck going. I like what they’ve done with their team. They are playing hard. They are playing smart. They give themselves a chance. And their goaltending has been outstanding. You add it all together, and they have a top-5 power play, it makes them tough.
Well, thank you Coach Babcock. Now, the trick is throwing a wrench into said Big Red Machine with everything that he praised the Thrashers for. Contrary to popular belief, the Thrashers are more than capable of defeating the Wings. In fact, they've done so three out of the last five times these two teams have met. The last victory was last season, as Ondrej Pavelec blanked them 2-0. Thankfully, Pavs will be in goal tonight to give the Wings scorers fits.
The most important thing that the Thrashers can do tonight is to get someone in there (preferably Dustin Byfuglien) to clear the crease of players like Tomas Holmstrom, who is known for planting himself directly in front of goalies. Also important is to never, ever relax against them. They've come back to win (or lose in OT) their last three games because their opponents thought that the game was over before the final buzzer. The Thrashers have to play a full sixty minutes to win tonight.