Other voices: Red Wings need to be consistently better

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Hockey analysts are nearly universal in citing the inconsistency of the Red Wings and their tendency to stray from what has made them so successful for a quarter-century.

Too much wavering in the playoffs can spell doom. But if the Wings can repeat some of their better performances, like a good number of their victories from December-February, they might beat the Lightning in the first round, which begins tonight.

The affliction, many analysts say, is a lack of constant Red Wings hockey. The remedy, they say, is to play as the Wings once did.

And that does not mean as they did in Stanley Cup years. Few expect that from this roster.

But winning in the first round would be an important step for a franchise in the fourth season of a rebuild on the fly. It would go a long way toward saving what has been a disappointing season.

Observers generally believe that even though the Lightning is playing without top scorer Steven Stamkos and top defenseman Anton Stralman, the only way the Wings take the series is if their performance is better more consistently than in March and April.

Here’s what some of them are saying:

Jeremy Roenick, NBC analyst and former player

“This (series) is a tough one for me. I think with Stamkos out, Stralman out, those are two huge holes on offense and defense that you can’t replace.

“The one thing that Tampa has going for them is their goaltender. Ben Bishop was up in the top goaltenders all year in terms of stats and his play.

“But Detroit got lucky. They backed into the playoffs. They kept their streak alive.

“I would have to think in that locker room there is a little bit of sense of release that they are there.

“I think with relief comes a little bit of, I think, a better thinking mentality. They might go out there thinking they’re the underdogs. I think that burn of them losing last year the way that they did to Tampa, I wouldn’t be surprised if Detroit comes out flying.

“They (can) use their speed to upset Tampa. I think it’s the best opportunity for them to beat them, because of the injuries.”

Mike Milbury, NBC analyst and former player:

“If you’re a Detroit supporter, you can’t be happy with the way they finished the season. They were spanked in Boston, and they were sort of embarrassed, I think, in New York.

“It was a game that demonstrated that even a depleted New York Ranger lineup could handle the Detroit Red Wings.

“They’re not on fire by any stretch of the imagination.

“Their goaltending has been all of a sudden suspect. First it was Howard and then Mrazek as the number one goaltender, and then they’re fine, and now there are some issues.

“I don’t know if Kronwall is a hundred percent. He hasn’t been quite as good since he came back from injury.

“Datsyuk, the rumors about his pending possible retirement or switch to the KHL has to be a little bit unsettling in Detroit.

“Having said all that, they have great team speed. Their power play has recently, anyway, mostly been pretty effective; had a pretty good streak of power-play goals in consecutive games.

“If they can put it together in a timely fashion, they can be OK.

“Let’s not forget that the opponent that they face in the first round is as dinged up as you can possibly be.

“So Detroit has an opportunity to find their game, take advantage of a weakened opponent, and find themselves in the second round.

“I find it an interesting matchup because there are two teams that are sort of wounded ducks here, yet they get an opportunity to play another wounded duck and perhaps get their game together — or get somebody healthy and get into that second round and see what they can do.

“Either way, I don’t think either team could be unhappy with the draw that they have. Because right now these two teams are vulnerable.”

The Hockey News

The Red Wings are at their best when they duplicate the template that made them so successful all those years under Mike Babcock. When they manage the puck well and play their puck-pursuit style, the Red Wings are a group to be feared.

Sometimes they simply need a reminder of how good they are.

Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg remain two of the game’s elite two-way forwards when they’re healthy and clicking on all cylinders. If they can show the way as they’ve done so many times in the past, the Red Wings will be a threat…

Under first-year coach Jeff Blashill, the Red Wings have been wildly inconsistent and sometimes very un-Red Wing-like in their approach. There are times when they look as though they haven’t missed a beat and others when they look as though they’ve forgotten much of what made them successful.

Although they’re still one of the league’s top 10 possession teams, the number of brain cramps in all zones has been astounding.

If Datsyuk or Zetterberg goes down, the Red Wings are sunk.

gregg.krupa@detroitnews.com

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