Thursday’s Thoughts

What will we around Detroit do with ourselves in April and May if the Red Wings fail to make the playoffs?

That hasn’t happened since 1990, in case you’d forgotten.

I suppose we could take in more Tigers games, but Comerica Park keeps itself packed all season, even with the fan base splintering over to playoff hockey at the Joe.

It sure will be strange, if the regular season ends and the Red Wings are on the golf course the next day.

In order not to think that way, you must have faith that the Red Wings, currently in a dogfight with six other teams for the two wild card spots in the East, can get hot just in time to have spring hockey once again in Detroit.

It won’t be easy.

There are 29 games remaining—16 on the road, 13 at home. So the Red Wings are going to have to continue carry the water away from JLA, as they’ve been able to do for the most part all season, if they’re to accumulate the points needed for post-season play.

Under the NHL’s new playoff format, the top three teams from each division automatically qualify for the playoffs. Then there are two, at-large wild cards, regardless of division.

Right now, the Red Wings have 57 points. The two highest-ranking teams after the six automatic qualifiers—and thus wild cards if the playoffs started today—are Montreal with 61 points, and Detroit and Carolina are tied with 57 points. Three teams have 56 points (Ottawa, Columbus and Washington), and New Jersey has 55.

Crazy!

It’s only going to get crazier as the season nears the final leg. No team looks to be able to separate itself from the pack. As always, the race for the playoffs is likely to go right down to the final buzzer of the season.

The Red Wings, buoyed lately by strong play from the kids from Grand Rapids, are sure to be getting healthier shortly, as several injured veterans re-join the cause.

But don’t kid yourselves. There’s a real possibility that we won’t be able to enjoy the Red Wings playing Eastern time zone playoff games until 2015, at the earliest. Only a four-game winning streak at the end of last year’s truncated season kept the 22-year playoff streak alive.

It’s a race on several fronts. Not the least of which is the race to get players back into the lineup before any potential drop in the standings occurs.

Last year was a frantic finish. This year’s is sure to be every bit the same. But the Red Wings are far and away the least healthy team right now among the six who are in a logjam. If that changes, they should still be the favorites to be playing spring hockey yet again.

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