The Olympics were like a good vacation. You had fun, but you’re also glad when it’s over. It’s good to be back home.
“Back home,” when it comes to the NHL, means the resumption of the regular season schedule. Hockey played on the smaller ice surfaces, in arenas that have been darkened for over two weeks.
Pavel Datsyuk is no longer the enemy. Jonathan Quick is no longer a friend.
All is right in the hockey world again.
But for the Red Wings, all is not right—not even close.
They’ll be without their captain, Hank Zetterberg, for possibly the rest of the season—regular and playoffs, if there are to be any in Detroit, after Z had back surgery.
Datsyuk will play tonight in Montreal as the Red Wings’ push for a 23rd straight playoff berth continues after the just-completed Olympic break. But Pavs is hardly 100%; his left knee is still very sore, although he played very well on it in Sochi.
Johan Franzen is a question mark with post-concussion issues. He is deemed a game time decision tonight.
In case you forgot, here are some other annoyances to worry about for the 24-game home stretch.
1. Is Jimmy Howard truly back to his old self? He was getting into a groove, then the Olympics hit. Is his resurgence for real, or a mirage?
2. Will Stephen Weiss contribute this season at ALL? He seems to be ready to come back from a sports hernia, but he wasn’t exactly tearing it up before the injury.
3. The Red Wings were 6-3-2 in their 11 games prior to Sochi. Again, was this a legitimate de-hibernation? Or was any momentum the team had, negated by the Olympics?
4. Are the shootout woes in the past? The Red Wings have won three of their last four shootouts.
The Red Wings’ first two games, post-Olympics, are against the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators—on back-to-back nights and both on the road. This is a litmus test right off the bat, post-Sochi. The Canadiens will be without goalie and Olympian Carey Price due to injury. The Habs hold the first Wild Card spot with 70 points. The Red Wings have 64 points and tentatively have the second Wild Card berth, and the Senators have 63 points, one of three teams that are a single point behind Detroit for the 8th seed.
So these are two doozies coming out of the second half gate.
Time to buckle up and put the trays in the upward position. There is sure to be some turbulence over the next six weeks or so.