Thursday’s Thoughts: Second Half Preview

Road, sweet road. Or, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like the road.

The Red Wings are right where they like to be—as far away from Joe Louis Arena as possible.

Their five-game road trip continues tonight in San Jose, where they have yet to play this season, thanks to the NHL’s gerrymandering.

With the second half of the season in full gear, it’s time to look at areas that will be key to the Red Wings’ success in 2014.

1. Home ice. This has been belabored but the team’s Jekyll and Hyde thing with home and away ice is strange, to say the least. I get anomalies, but the difference in the Red Wings at home versus on the road defies that. It smacks of something mental. Believe it or not, I submit that the Red Wings feel defeated before they step onto their own ice, which is crazy talk but also crazy enough to be true. A reversal of fortune at home is crucial to overall team success in the second half.

2. Health. “The glass is half full” person will tell you that things can only get better when it comes to getting guys back from sick bay. The Red Wings are still several key cards away from a full deck, but the situation does seem to be slowly righting itself. Figure that sometime in February, after the Olympics, the Red Wings will (finally) be dressing their full complement of players. Just in time to make a playoff push.

3. Goaltending. Jimmy Howard has to prove himself all over again, and while this isn’t what the Red Wings thought they were signing up for when they inked Howie to that 6-year extension last winter, well here we are. Maybe the Olympics break will help take Howie’s mind off his (so far) below par season. But make no mistake: the Red Wings’ fortunes still start and stop with no. 35 between the pipes.

4. Daniel Alfredsson. The Gallant of free agent signings to Stephen Weiss’s Goofus. Alfie is 41 years old and it will be interesting to see whether his body can keep up in the second half, or if it will start to run out of steam. He’s had a nice, if not spectacular season so far, and with the Red Wings goal-challenged, they will need everybody on deck in 2014.

5. The Olympics. This affects every team in the league in some way, shape or form, but it might affect the Red Wings more, as they have a boatload of players heading to Sochi. In other words, the Red Wings will be, technically, one of the least-rested teams coming off the Olympics break. Will this be a factor?

6. The Power Play. When you have trouble scoring 5-on-5, a successful PP can help forgive that. After a strong start, the Red Wings’ PP has leveled off to around the middle of the pack (actually slightly below). If they can pick up the pace in this category, it will take a lot of pressure off having to score while at full strength.

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