Originally posted on The Detroit Sports Site  |  Last updated 12/18/13
Somewhere, written in an undescript sports manual, there was an edict penned that Eastern Conferences everywhere just aren’t supposed to be that good. The Detroit Pistons, with a 12-14 record containing several dissapointing losses, currently sit in fifth place in their Eastern Conference, just two games back of third. The 15-12-9 Detroit Red Wings, who’ve been arguably much more uninspiring than the Pistons on the young season, are fourth in their division with only six points separating them from second place. Where else could such mediocrity actually be rewarded in the standings? Only within the Eastern Conference. Issues have been across the board for Detroit’s icers. The team is severely injured in several key spots, has multiple defensive problems, goaltending problems and scoring problems. Despite all of that, the Red Wings are only nine points out of first place and maintain a virtual stranglehold on the newly instituted wild card position with 39 points. That’s a boatload of points when compared to the rest of the competition, ranging from a host of teams at 34 down to Buffalo’s awful 19. The Red Wings have gotten off to a bad start for plenty of reasons, but fortunately, they’re playing bad in a worse conference than they’ve been accustomed to. If this was last season in the Western Conference, Detroit would currently be six points out of a wild card spot, and certainly not within striking distance of the Chicago Blackhawks in first place. Early concerns about missing the playoffs would certainly be valid in that scenario, and the Red Wings would be in much more trouble than they currently sit today. If there’s one bit of consolation from this year’s miserable start, it’s the fact that the Red Wings haven’t been truly bypassed by many teams in their new conference. Should the Red Wings be able to sprinkle in a few wins over next few weeks, they could remain in good shape as they start to get healthier in the new year. Hockey fans as well as basketball fans around the Motor City should now be counting their blessings about a move east. If anything, that simple fact should help the Red Wings get through a very tough time. Game Of The Week: Detroit at Toronto, Saturday. The Red Wings and Maple Leafs have waited a long time to play their Eastern Conference opener against each other, and the teams renew pleasantries this weekend. Not only will the game present a classical match up and a preview to the Winter Classic, but it should be important in the standings as well, with Toronto and Detroit separated by only two points. Stat Of The Week: 0-14, the Red Wings’ recent woeful power play statistics over the past week. Detroit’s last goal with the man advantage? Last Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers. Since then, there hasn’t been many signs of life from the special teams. The worst performance was an 0-5 night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who certainly gave Detroit a chance to score with undisciplined play. The Red Wings have to find a way to scratch and claw a goal home during their next power play simply for confidence sake. Dead Wings Doghouse: Goaltending. Though Jimmy Howard is gone with an injury, the replacements haven’t helped one bit. Since Saturday, the Red Wings have given up 12 goals. Jonas Gustavsson has been the goaltender twice, and Petr Mrazek once. With a lineup slumping offensively thanks to several missing stars, someone has to pick up the pieces, and it has to start in net. A much better week from both Mrazek and Gusavsson is needed for the Red Wings to get back to their winning ways. Atlantic Charting: The Red Wings have 39 points and are currently in fourth place in the Atlantic Division. Along with Toronto, they’re also ahead in the wild card standings. Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax
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