Friday, November 10, 2006

It's Early, But Red Wings Seem More Playoff Ready, Already

It's tempting to say, "Here they go again." And in doing so, you might feel a little shiver run up your spine.

The Red Wings are at it again -- making the regular season their playground, piling up points like frequent flyer miles. Only, when they've gone to cash them in at the end of the season in recent springs, they've been told that their flight deep into the postseason has been interminably delayed.

Yes, it's easy to look at the team's 10-4-1 getaway, including their current seven-game winning streak, and shudder, believing the Red Wings to once again be setting themselves up for knocking down by a lesser weight in the playoffs.

But this team seems grittier, faster, and bonus -- they don't let the other guys shoot at their goalie. The Red Wings are playing the tight, playoff-style hockey that wins in May and June. Which means they are in danger of turning goalie Dominik Hasek into the world's most expensive Maytag repairman. The Edmonton Oilers -- the team that sent the Wings to the golf courses last May -- came into Joe Louis Arena the other night and to say that Hasek was not needed in the first period would be a literal statement. The Oilers played the first twenty minutes and registered nary a shot on goal. Sports are funny; you spend a lot of money to get a guy like Hasek, then you build a team whose goal is to keep him from working hard enough to earn it.

I know it's early, and I know we've been fooled before. I wrote in training camp that the Red Wings were flying under the radar due to the Tigers, and that they had several questions hovering over them. But that was a good thing, I wrote. Sailing through the regular season and winning the Presidents' Trophy hasn't amounted to much over the years, so why not try it the other way?

But yet here they are, racking up wins and leaving shot-less opponents in their wake.

Its not even the end of November yet, I know. But today the Red Wings play with a different kind of purpose, and one that could bode well for them come springtime.

When they'll have to battle the Tigers for headlines again.

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