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The waiting game(s) - rest versus rust for Detroit

February 9, 2024, 12:53 PM ET [25 Comments]
Jeremy Laura
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Last night Tampa and the Islanders faced off. In terms of the wildcard race, the best possible of a no win situation ran its course. The Isles won in regulation. They now sit just 2 points back of Detroit but the Wings have a game in hand. Detroit is 1 point back of Tampa and has 2 games in hand and Toronto is 2 points ahead with 1 game in hand. The traffic jam continues as Detroit still has one more day to wait before playing.

The post All Star schedule has been baffling for the Detroit Red Wings. An extended break followed by, well, an extended break. The “rest vs. rust” debate will probably take up the pregame tomorrow but something even more interesting has the division scratching its head. Boston, who had been given the pre season label of a team on the decline still has first place in the division. Florida is in second with 5 fewer points. As much as that is not the way the pundits had the season playing out, Detroit’s proximity to Toronto and Tampa continues to be a fly in the ointment.

Detroit is at a +15 goal differential and Toronto is a +16 (Pitt is +15, 3 points back with just as many games in hand for the wild card). Tampa is a +5. The top of the division sees the Bruins at a +46 and Florida at a +32. The gap between those top two spots and the third just feels huge. So, what is the narrative going to be?

If Detroit falls short in terms of the post season, it will be a “they came very close and it looks like the rebuild is pushing ahead.” If Detroit makes it and either of TB or Toronto are on the outside looking in, uh oh. In terms of publicity, players in Florida can still escape the crowds at times. In Toronto, there is no escaping. Brian Burke used to get yelled at on the street, if fans are unhappy in that market you don’t have to guess.

There was a good point (I think by Vladdy) that Detroit has a tough hill to climb. Pittsburgh has been put on notice that falling short could lead to the start of trades and massive shifts. What do Toronto or Tampa do? Has it just been a bizarre year, or is TB declining and a lack of reliable D/goaltending hurting the Leafs? Things aren’t going to get easier when new contracts kick in.

Let me know your thoughts. Does all this time off set Detroit up for a nearly impossible February, or do you think they come out swinging and cause some ruckus in a few markets? What are you looking forward to as February rounds out?

* - the Arizona situation has started to hit the buttons we’ve talked about for the past year. The NHLPA has enough to make the league have to examine some actions. Just a side note.
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