Every day is Columbus Day
Monday was St. Patrick's Day. The NHL is making today Columbus Day at least in Detroit with the Blue Jackets in town for a game (7:30 p.m., FSN). And of course the NHL made last Sunday Columbus Day around here by sending the Red Wings to Ohio's capital for a game. And this Saturday will be of course Columbus Day in the Midwest with the Red Wings going once again to Ohio for another game … and the Columbus Day on Apr. 3, that's going to be a good one too.
Oh and let's not forget the three Columbus Days in two weeks back in November -- the nifty prelude to Thanksgiving courtesy of the NHL.
OK, so maybe this schedule isn't the cleverest idea in the history of sports marketing. But for the Red Wings, the multitude of Columbus Days is a wonderful thing.
Detroit was the first team to wrap up a playoff spot. With three weeks left in the regular season, the Red Wings have nine games that serve two purposes -- tune-ups for the playoffs and potential traps for injuries.
For the latter, it matters not who the Red Wings play. Any team can knock out one of your stars.
For the former -- the tune-ups -- the NHL's holiday-laden schedule is a wonderful thing.
All nine of the Red Wings' remaining games are against Central Division teams. That's nine games against Columbus, St. Louis, Nashville and Chicago -- none sitting in playoff position at the moment. You can't line up a much better tune-up schedule than that.
And at no position will these tune-ups be more meaningful that goalie.
Dominik Hasek is the Red Wings' playoff goalie. He was the Red Wings' playoff goalie at the start of the season. And he was the Red Wings' playoff goalie when Chris Osgood was winning every game and being named the all-star starter.
So these last nine games are a ramp for Hasek to get his game in top form.
On Sunday, Hasek's game was below average. He didn't look bad, but four goals on 10 shots isn't going to win any playoff games.
But since Thanksgiving, Hasek has played extremely well. In fact, Sunday's game in Columbus broke a string of 23 straight games in which Hasek allowed three or fewer goals.
With nine games left, Hasek can get six or so starts to feel in top form. Because of nagging injuries, Hasek played in just four of the Red Wings' 15 games leading into Sunday's contest in Columbus. That's not enough work for any goalie to feel sharp.
And despite spending very little on goaltending salaries compared with other teams, the Red Wings are stronger than most in net. Should Hasek go down with an injury, or just plain falter performance wise, Osgood is back to playing well after a mini-slump in mid-February.
The Red Wings are positioned to get good enough goaltending to win the Stanley Cup.
Add to that the news on injuries from Monday and these last nine games could see the Red Wings' championship potential improve. General manager Ken Holland said that Aaron Downey is ready to play Wednesday and that Kris Draper (groin) could possibly return. Tomas Holmstrom (abdomen) and Dan Cleary (broken jaw) are also close to returning. The team sent 21-year-old prospects Darren Helm and Mattias Ritola back to Grand Rapids yesterday anticipating better team health.
So let's celebrate the NHL giving Detroit so many more Columbus Days than the average calendar calls for. It if helps the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup, then the real festivities will begin.