Red Wings Hockey is Back!

And it has a new flavour this time, that of stiff kittens; compliments to Chef Bertuzzi.

I’m excited once again to watch Red Wings Hockey, and I know why. Some said the return of Pavel Datsyuk wasn’t going to help the team get better and change their defensive structure or rebuild their confidence right away. Maybe they were right, and maybe it’s just coincidence that we found our game around the same time Pav and Cleary came back. Whatever the case, last week’s domination of Boston and this week’s perfect record vs. Florida teams has restored my faith.

This team is….very, very good. We’re still sans a capable backup goalie, sans Valtteri Filppula and Mike Modano, and Homer Pav and Stuey are all below 100% capacity right now. Even so, we’re wrecking people. Now granted, they are (L)Eastern Conference teams but wowzas. Incredible week-long stretch here.

But is anyone talking about the crazed ax-murderer villain and his streaky breakout of late? Props to me, first off, for working a Joy Division reference into my Bertuzzi-laden opener, but he needs no help from me to be hated. He also needs no one like me to stand up for him and speak about how great he’s been this year. He’s been absolutely tremendous. I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t happy that Kenny had re-signed him a year ago; I didn’t want his stupid offensive zone penalties, his dumb spin-o-rama in the off-wing, and his inability to stickhandle in close to the net. But he’s found another way to make the magic happen.

“Jack the Ripper ain’t got SH*T on me!”

I think he knows he’s better served crashing the net without the puck and his highly skilled teammates will get it to him. He’s also found some jump, maybe it’s playing on this team that makes him quicker but he’s finding the open places on the ice and making the most of his opportunities when they dish it to him. He’s also on a lot of odd-man rushes, almost a Cleary-like amount of odd-man rushes. Where did this come from? When did this start? Does he read our blogs? Whatever the case, I’m loving it.

Just look at the man’s stats:

              GP   G    A    Pts    +/-
2009-10 82   18   26   44   -7
2010-11 58   14   22   36    2

He may reach 20 goals, he may not. As long as we’re winning, whatever. But what pops out at me after looking at his stats has been his ability to stay healthy over the last 2 years. I really think that should be brought up more. On a team where seemingly everyone misses time, I think Bert’s been the healthiest (physically, certainly not mentally) player not named Nick Lidstrom the last two seasons. Really a strange fact considering how slowed he was with “injuries” earlier in his career. I put injuries in quotes because some didn’t consider them to be injuries, they called it karma. Ouch, just kidding Toddzilla, shake that one off.

And even though some people have trouble getting over their intense hatred for Todd Bertuzzi, which is completely well-founded, I do not. He’s turned his game around and is playing beyond expectations. I don’t know how Andrew will grade him at season’s end and even if he doesn’t earn past a B I’m still glad he’s helping our team out. Word from the Wings is that he’s also a great locker room presence. And he’s one of those very few guys that doesn’t even need to throw a punch to be an enforcer.

Lastly, he’s absolutely killing it in my fantasy league. Best dark horse draft pick of mine for sure. He has his cool-down periods but for the most part he’s been great on my team.

Is it enough to warrant buying a Red Wings jersey with #44 on it? Oh hell no, it’s not. But at least I consider it now days, as opposed to wishing he’d retire mid-season last year.