26 December 2007

Merry Belated Christmas!

Update: Lidstrom's new contract is for 7.45 million a year, a bit of a discount, but Nick says his number one priority was staying in Detroit, according to an interview during the game.

The Red Wings just signed a two year contract extension with captain Nick Lidstrom that will keep him in red through the 2009/2010. Lidstrom has 900 points in 15 seasons (the top-scoring defenseman in the league), has won five Norris trophies, and been an All Star eight times - not to mention he's an all around great guy and team leader. (And have you seen that slapshot he takes while still moving at full speed? Ohhhh.) The financial terms have not be released yet; his previous contract was set at 7.6 million.

I for one, though I didn't doubt the signing would happen, am ecstatic to see it anyway. It really is the season of giving!

Speaking of the Wings, they take on the Blues again tonight. I'll be out seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but I will hopefully catch at least some of it. The team may be without Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom again (as well as Kirk Maltby), but being substantially more rested than the last time they took on the Blues, can hopefully put on the sort of performance they did against the Wild while missing those two. Mark Hartigan has been called up from Grand Rapids again, so it's a safe bet at least one of them is still sitting. For more, check out On the Wings, Behind the Jersey, Letsgowings, and Winging it in Motown.

(PS vote Hemsky! Maybe it will inspire him to get better faster.)

24 December 2007

Eat, Drink, and be Merry

In the past week, the Red Wings played the Kings (a 6-2 victory that I watched while enjoying Jumbo Margarita Night - Kms2 talks about it here), the Blues (a 3-2 loss I caught with Kathy that nobody talked about and I think that's fine - damn interdivisional games), and the Wild, (a 5-2 victory that Kirsten witnessed while I caught the Leafs on CBC, took pictures for me at, and later documented here).

Now the league is quiet for a few days; no games, no trades, nothing. Fortunately, the Wings at least realize we're going to suffer for a little while and wanted to entertain us.

Not only do they have a Season's Greetings video for us (Pavel, I love you, but "Merry Christmas" was probably enough - thirty seconds of Russian later I have no idea what you were saying), but they also gave us a set of entertaining articles in the Detroit Free Press listing different players' wishlists, gift ideas for teammates, and Festivus grievances. These are some of my favorites:
Tomas Kopecky on what he wants for Christmas: “A remote-control car.” (We're still rookies after all...)

Pavel Datsyuk on what he'd get for Kirk Maltby: “I buy him a Starbucks card, as joke, because I know he likes Caribou." (Cleary, who is apparently nicer, promised to buy Malts a real Caribou card.)

Nicklas Kronwall on what he'd get for Johan Franzen: “I would get Mule a French-language tape, because when we went to Montreal, the only thing he kept saying for three days was, ‘Je m’appelle.’ ”

Brett Lebda's grievances regarding Swedes Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg, (whose lockers adjoin his): "I get stuck in the middle of these two all the time, and they always talk in Swedish, and I never know if they're talking about me or not. It gets to me. It hurts me as a person, deep inside. I think it's going to be a New Year's resolution of mine that I'm going to start learning Swedish, and then I'm going to come in and they're all dead when they start talking in Swedish." (That one's for you, Kirsten).

Nicklas Kronwall on Valtteri Filppula: "I think Fill should start working a little harder when it comes to our two-touch games after practices. He needs to put more effort into it." (I'm glad they're picking on his soccer abilities - very important for team betterment, of course.)

Chris Osgood on Jiri Hudler: "I really wish Hudler would be an inch taller." (Stop picking on my rookie!)
Finally, they also ran an article on Christmas traditions which also garnered some spirited (literally, from Datsyuk) answers:
Nicklas Kronwall: “The TV show Donald Duck, which is on at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on Christmas Eve back home. Donald Duck and his friends celebrate Christmas. It’s about an hour and a half of cartoons. When I think of Christmas, that’s what I think of."

Pavel Datsyuk: “When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to drink a lot on Christmas and be drunk.”
Sounds like the guys are going to have a fun (alcoholic) Christmas break - enjoy, everyone, you've certainly earned it! And Happy Holidays to all our readers as well, we hope you all have a good enough time to make up for the lack of hockey.

Last but not least, the Oilers want you have a great holiday season too - Laddy Smid could you please be any cuter? Awwwwwwwww. (Decided lack of Hemsky, however - speaking of whom, he still needs your vote! Souray? Psh. Hot-Off Champion or bust!)

20 December 2007

It is, indeed, Hemmertime.

Me: 1
Elly: 0

Upset of the year. He does these things for me, you know.

19 December 2007

U-S-A! U-S-A!

Yesterday evening the Under-20 Team USA, who are as of now about four hours into their flight to the Czech Republic for the World Junior Championships, took on the Western Michigan Broncos in an exhibition game at Lawson Arena. I worked the game, but as we had few students in attendance thanks to Christmas, I basically got to enjoy it, and the following autograph session, as a spectator.

While we expected a blowout, the Broncos (who are currently beating only Lake Superior State in the CCHA and have only 4 points on the season...good job guys) put up a strong fight and only ended up losing 4-2.

Team USA, ready to kick us to the curb.

Team USA looked great together - their warmups especially had a very "Miracle" feel to them (of course the uniforms helped, but the sheer skill and the synchronized drills were everything you'd expect of this sort of team), and were very impressive, though the Broncos were no slouches either. Team USA, despite only played with its final roster set since December 4th, looked good together, although they definitely looked stronger when they were running set plays - at times it seemed like they weren't quite used to each other enough to know just where to expect linemates to be, which got them into a little bit of trouble. The team also faces the problem of having a strong set of finesse players, great skaters with excellent vision, sniping skills and hockey sense, but they fell prey to the Broncos more physical hockey on occasion - their checks weren't spectacular and for at least the first portion of the game they shied away from most physical contact. Bronco defenseman and Phoenix prospect Chris Frank, to the delight of the student section, crushed more than one member of the team before the game was over.

The goal scorers for Team USA were Kyle Okposo and Ryan Flynn mere minutes apart in the first period, Matt Rust in the second, and Mike Carman in the third. Both Bronco goals were from the new addition Max Campbell. Fans were given the opportunity to see both Team USA goalies, as they and the Broncos both swapped out their starting goaltenders with 8:54 left in the second period. (The Broncos proceeded to let perpetual third-stringer Matt Federico and his Darth Vader goalie mask have 2:57 of ice time as well - the first he's seen all season.)

Ten players notched points for Team USA, including Colin Wilson and Jamie McBain, who both had two point nights. Other notable performers were Leafs prospect Tyler Ruegsegger and Rangers prospect Bobby Sanguinetti. Second overall draft pick James VanRiemsdyk looked good, but was held off the scoresheet.

After the game, they held an autograph session where the entire team signed roster photo sheets and chatted with us. They were all charming and friendly (Rhett Rahkshani even offered to let us try his gross looking pastel green energy drink with 'protein powder' that he promised was delicious. We were skeptical and did not.)

The game itself was a great experience - the crowd was into it, and the Lawson Lunatics student section even forwent their usual "who cares, you suck!" cheers when the starting lineup for the opposition was announced. The Broncos put out a better effort than they have in quite a while (excepting the Wayne State games last weekend). Co-Captain Jeff LoVecchio summed it up saying, "Playing a team of that caliber, we knew we had to step it up. Last week was a huge step in the right direction and I think we continued that tonight." True story, 'Vecchs...now keep it up and apply it to some of those conference matches.

Team USA looked promising, while far from perfect, and should only continue to play better as the trip goes on. Hopefully they'll have a strong showing at the World Championships in Pardubice. Good luck boys, we're cheering for you!

18 December 2007

Because we love ironic humor

Does anyone else think that 'Happy Valley' is a great name to host the proposed outdoor game between Pittsburgh and Philly next year?

I'd camp out in a field for that. I'd also bring mace.

Go Pens.

That was Close (Wings 4, Capitals 3)

First of all, a note for those of you in the area who have never had the bright idea to park at Greektown Casino in the free parking before a game and People Move your way on over to the Joe: It works wonderfully and saves you $15 of parking in the Joe's lot (minus 50 cents either way for the ride). It even took what I believe was less time than sitting in the Joe's parking lot waiting for traffic to clear so you can get out.

I snagged my usual seats in section 119 for the evening but actually ran back and forth to get pictures of both teams during warmups this time - I think the Wings weren't feeling the love after the snub I gave them at the Oilers game - and wound up sitting upstairs during the third period. This jerk named CapsChick made me promise I'd even wear my Caps training camp shirt, so I did. (With, of course, my Wings jersey on firmly over it as soon as we finished documenting the evidence - do I look thrilled?)

The game was a joy to watch - after seeing the Twilight Zone hockey that was played on Saturday night, I (and I'm sure many other fans) were expecting something like a blow out against the 29th place Capitals. Fortunately for those of us there, instead it was a great back and forth game, even if the Wings were playing below what we've seen and the Caps above in order to make it that way. The Caps prevented the Wings from getting a strong forecheck going and made getting the puck out of their zone look positively easy at times - They also kept almost even with the Wings for shots on goal, which is something teams have had a really hard time doing lately.

Ovie, doing his darndest to hang around right in front of me and keep the photographer man busy getting in my way and stopping me from getting pictures.

The Wings struck first, with Tomas Holmstrom briefly tying Alexander Ovechkin's league-lead in PP goals. Unfortunately, Ovie didn't really like this idea, putting one in right off of a faceoff a few minutes later. It was interesting to watch the way the Wings played Ovechkin all night long - several times we saw him make his way into the zone, and the Wings D was determined to strip him of the puck before he could do any damage. They did a great job of playing the body rather than the puck when necessary and Chris Chelios especially robbed Ovie of the puck nicely. And they say he's too old and slow. Andreas Lilja, however, also made a couple nice moves on him. The Caps, for their part, weren't as effective at holding off the Wings' big line, but they didn't let themselves get walked all over, either.

Before the second period, Ovie took a little lap around the Wings' side of the ice. Zetterberg found him there, had a friendly chat with him, and then sent him off with a nice um, pat. (The ref promptly dragged Ovie over to the bench and presumably told him off for his wandering ways.)

Ovechkin wasn't the only force, though - while the second Caps goal was a fluky one dumped in by Jeff Schultz (eventually matched by Henrik Zetterberg tallying yet another, and the Jumbotron showing us the Zorro Z slash, which might be my new favorite reason to love the Joe, and then overtaken by Holmstrom with his second of the night), their third of the evening was all Alexander Semin, who took advantage of a delay of game penalty with only 94 seconds left and tied it all up bringing us to a scoreless OT...and another shootout.

Seriously guys, if you want a game to go to a shootout, bring me along.

A lot of Wings fans around me were ragging on Caps goalie Olie Kolzig for his poor performance in the shootout - but really, he looked great all game (better, perhaps, than Dominik Hasek, who still hasn't quite found his game, but who did make a brilliant save on what could have easilly been a game-ending Ovie shot in OT), and against a lineup of Pavel Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Jiri Hudler (all of whom went with backhands, and all of whom scored to take down the Caps for whom only Semin put one in, though Viktor Kozlov rang a scary one off the top bar), it's hard to blame him.

And just because I've found myself rather attached to them ever since training camp, I feel I have to mention that both my Capitals favorites Milan Jurcina and his little Czech friend Tomas Fleischmann had great games (enough that that I even made a little napkin sign for Flash...which I'm not sharing).


The victory brings Detroit to 5-0 against Eastern teams this season - a nice stat indeed. If you're interested in more pictures and don't mind sifting through a few dumb ones of my friend and I at post-game dinner, the ones I took can be seen here and here.

This Wednesday night the Wings finish off the homestead with a game against the LA Kings - you guys ready for this?

17 December 2007

A Day in the Capital City (See what I did there?)

Tonight The Wings play the Washington Capitals for the first time since December 9th, 2005, a game they won 4-3.

I'm spending the afternoon trekking around Detroit, but watch this space for a game recap when I get home - until then, check out Matt's game preview at On the Wings for the Detroit perspective, and CapsChick's terribly offensive "Chelios is Old" post over at A View from the Cheap Seats - look at those Caps bloggers and their lack of respect. I thought we were friends, CC, I thought we were friends.

I am totally kidding, everyone. (And on that note, don't forget to check out Elly's post right below this one - I hate to bump her well thought out response to a current issue off the main spot so quickly.)

PS: This is still going on and Hemsky needs your vote. Do it for me?

PPS: Please always, always come to us for your (and let's face it, it's there) "Getzlaf bald spot" needs. (Why am I still here?)

Yo momma so ugly the NHL banned her for life

CapsChick at A View from the Cheap Seats mentioned the other day that the Buffalo/Washington fans were having a bit of a scuffle, and so I landed on Katebits' blog post here, and the comments section got me thinking of all the different things that drive people to hockey.

Yes, I said 'drive people to hockey', like stress drives you to drink, or rowdy pets that eat your rocking chair drive you to the humane society, because I think for so many of us hockey is like that: an addiction, an escape from the ho-hum of every day life, and after so many years following the same team, it's a cushion of familiarity to fall back on and escape to, a family of 100,000 of your closest friends you've never met. Just like when someone insults your mother, stabs at your favorite hockey team can sting as deep and provoke a sometimes heated response. Anyone who has been to a game against a hated rival can attest to this....or a Leafs game, because those people are everywhere.

In many situations to those long-suffering fans, those rivalries and annoying fans are what both makes the game and provokes a trip to the pub after. What would hockey be without the buzz that surrounds a Habs/Leafs showing on Hockey Night in Canada? A Pens/Flyers trip? A Rangers....anyone game? These long-standing matchups make the players and fans more excited for the games, both feed on the atmosphere of these situations and off each other. The fans will boo and holler for a botched call or a bad boarding, and how many times have we heard the players talk about the building and the fans inside it, good or bad? As the NHL has tried to shove down everyone's throats with the 'new schedule', divisional rivals are good, but games will lend themselves to sparks regardless (The Pens fell into a set of good scuffles with the Leafs and Canadiens last year, both outside the division, for example).

Every team's fans have derogatory labels attached to them from the other side, some more than most, which begs the inevitable question: which fans are the worst in hockey? This is something that has been discussed before, and there will never be a true answer, but some are historically more unsettling than others. Leafs fans have a monumental traveling fan base, Flyers fans are notoriously brutal with words and sometimes fists, Buffalo fans also move in loud, gregarious packs, Rangers fans would sooner run over you than look at you, Habs fans shun you unless you are also a fan of the Canadiens, Islanders fans' have been known to practice their pitching arm on occasion, and the Bruins fans are all too busy watching/thinking about/counting down the days till the Sox come back to Fenway. Did I miss anything? Pens fans are a snarky, usually cranky bunch, that show up in the darnedest places, but the so-called 'worst fans' most likely depend on the team you cheer for nightly. I'm sure the Ducks don't care about the Flyers, but the Pens fans certainly do. What are the fans everyone groans to see sitting beside them, home or away?

Is that what every fan is made up of, stereotypes? Of course not, but sometimes it's fun to play into those, get into a battle of wits, make 'yo momma' jokes and see who can boo the loudest when the other team gets a goal. The camaraderie, the joy of rubbing in a spectacular goal to the Flyers' fan sitting behind you, or likewise, having to sit on your hands and zip your mouth shut so you don't rip out someone's trachea when the Flyers fans in your company cat-call on a blow out 8-2 loss to the Penguins, are what drives some people to hockey, and as I meet more of my fellow fans, I am happy to include that in my personal reasons. I would rather have the large group of Leafs fans at Mellon than just pure black and gold, although as the issue with the Capitals and Sabres, it must be disparaging to have the away crowd out-number the home. Does this mean to stop name-calling and play nice? Hell no. Part of being a fan is the right to yell at the opposing team and tell them to get a job and a hair cut, but it's also nice to take the licks as you give them out. Revel in it, make up the most ridiculous chants you can, mention to the fan next to you that you didn't know the Ice Capades were coming to town, after all, no one wants a boring hockey game (except the Devils. Zing!).

Moral of the story? Love thy fellow fan. We're all the away crowd at some point.

14 December 2007

Oil Slick (Wings 3, Oilers 4)

On the way to the game yesterday evening, Andy and I were pulled over (don't drive five over the speed limit in Jackson, kids) by a cop who, upon looking in my car, pointed down at my (Hemsky) jersey, proclaimed himself to be a Wings fan and said, "They're gonna lose." An ominous fortune indeed - I hope that cop thought about me when he saw the final score of the game.

The game itself was a great one to watch live - not necessarily because the either team played spectacularly (in fact, several of the Wings especially looked to be a little bit off their games), but because the two teams looked relatively evenly matched.

I won't lie, while the Wings are still my #1 team, I spent most of my time yesterday watching the Oilers, because I only get to see them one a year or so. I was particularly happy to see Dwayne Roloson look sharp and make a few absolutely key saves after seeing him slip in comparison to backup Mathieu Garon lately. I can't argue, of course, with my boy Ales Hemsky not only notching the first Oilers goal of the game, but also proceeding to win the game for the Oilers in the shootout, which they are now 9-1 in this season. He even got a brief chance to play goal, when a shot early on took Roloson far out of the crease, and Hemmer stepped in, looking like a deer in headlights, but managing to make at least one save to help out while Roli got back into position. Not to mention he gave me a couple beautiful photo opportunities.

It's official. Ales Hemsky loves me.

Hasek, who is from the same Czech town of Pardubice as Hemsky had this to say:

"That kid (Hemsky) is from the same town I'm from," Hasek said of his fellow Pardubice, Czech Republic, native.

"I know he's a skilled player. There was a tiny hole, not much room, but he made a very good shot."

If you live in the Detroit area, be sure to check out the Detroit News article, which features a nice shot of "Alex" Hemsky from the game last night. Thanks, proofreaders - you guys keep on making journalism look professional, okay?

As for the Wings, Henrik Zetterberg had a good night, picking up two goals, while Pavel Datsyuk was held pointless. Dominik Hasek had a decent evening, despite a scare early in the third period when Shawn Horcoff crashed the net and caught the goalie with his skate, knocking him breathless for a few moments. The loss ended a 7 game win streak for the Wings, but with home games against the Panthers (Saturday) and the Capitals (Monday) coming up, they'll have the chance to bounce back quickly. As for the Oilers, they're pitted against Vancouver on Saturday and have started this road trip off well, so I hope it continues for them.

Steve Staios is ready. (No, seriously, he barely wanted to get off the ice yesterday.)

If you're interested, I have some more photos of yesterday's warmups and the game itself that you should be able to access via those links.

Three days late and a half a bag of marbles short

I have the answer.

The reason that the Penguins lost so abysmally to the frickin' Flyers is....Chris Pronger.

Why is this Prongs' fault? Let me guide you through the quick and easy equation of: 'Seven Degrees to Why Everything is Chris Pronger's Fault'.

1. Start with the reason for your problem.
Well, in this case, it can be pinned down to two points: The Flyers got lucky, scoring hat tricks and all that (which would be Lupul and Umberger, but Lupul was the more frustrating and early pain, so I'm blaming him primarily), and the Pens had some horrific goaltending in Sabourin and (ack) Ty Conklin. Leaving aside the fact that Karma is most likely biting me in the ass for my incessant teasing of Lupul and Conks last season, we'll stick to the three people mentioned above.

2. Blame these problems on Chris Pronger.
Let's go individually down the list.

-Lupul: This one is easy. He came from the Pronger trade (along with Ladislav Smid) to Edmonton, and then because he wasn't producing and only scoring in bars with the bunnies, got traded to Philly with Jason Smith. The reason for the trade? I can only imagine it was to try to rectify the gaping wound left by the fall of the 2006 Cup run and the stinging ache in Edmonton's collective testicles by the kick Pronger bestowed on that fair city.

-Sabourin: An acquisition from the Canucks this season, he has shown up remarkably well in net for the Pens so far. His last game was against his old team when he came in to relieve a wounded Fleury, which he went on to win like he was playing on PCP. I'm sure the high after of winning in his old house was great...and probably brought back the memories of his last game between the pipes up in Vancouver, a playoff game he stepped in to relieve Luongo for, against, you guessed it, Anaheim. I'm sure the stress of having to relive that moment of Pronger-ness drove him to sleepless nights and therefore made him unfocused in net.

-Ty Conklin: Ahh Conks. What to say here. His first time wandering between the pipes for Pittsburgh, and against his old captain, Jason Smith. The last time he got to see him up close and personal was (barring the Blue Jackets game last year) during the Cup finals of 2006, which was a particularly horrible time for him. This horrible time also involved Pronger, who shortly after made his Escape to LA. Coincidence?

10 December 2007

Playing Catchup

Red Wings:

Friday night the Wings played Minnesota - I had to work Bronco Hockey, but Kirsten kept me up to date (I have a feeling it pained her to do this; sorry about that) on scores so that I could let my whole section block know we blanked them 5-0. The story of the game should have been Henrik Zetterberg's hat trick, but instead it as crazy-as-ever Dominik Hasek and his ridiculous trip on Marian Gaborik. I think he's gotten bored not being able to do that move yet this season. I'd be remiss if I didn't post it because, well, it is certainly hilarious:

Nice to see he's got his confidence back.

Sunday afternoon the Wings took on the Carolina Hurricanes at home for the first time in years. The sheer amount of red on the ice was a little overwhelming and I was working on a Logic exam at the same time so I didn't take a lot of notes. Valtteri Filppula scored a nice goal that Cam Ward actually helped him out with and Jiri Hudler had a career-high three point night (all assists). Says Babcock of my rookie: “He’s been getting better and better. Each night that I watch him he seems to be growing with confidence with the puck. … He’s got a bright future.

The game was a seesaw for the first two periods, but the Wings pounded it home in the third, resulting in a 5-2 victory and keeping this stat alive: besides an overtime victory in Game 1 of the 2002 Stanley Cup finals, the Carolina/Hartford franchise hasn’t won in Detroit since beating the Red Wings 3-0 on November 14, 1989. Interesting.

This evening (as I type) the Wings are taking on Nashville - check back post-game for a recap.

Bronco Hockey:

I haven't been keeping with the updates a lot thanks to the fact that, well the record hasn't been stellar. This past weekend, however, we took on the Wayne State Warriors (and defenseman Phil Partyka who I went to highschool with - huh.) in a weekend series of (unfortunately) non-divisional play. The Broncos shone, winning Friday's game 5-2 and Saturday's 5-1. I hear from the players that it's the first time they got to go out after a game in, well, quite a while.

The next Bronco Hockey game is Tuesday December 18th against the US World Junior Team, whose final roster was just announced, before they head off to the Czech Republic. We've been promised a staff autograph session, so if anyone's interested in any particular team members (including James VanRiemsdyk) let me know and I'll see what I can do for you.

The Broncos are looking up lately - backup goalie Jerry Kuhn, who made some spectacular saves this weekend, was recognized as the CCHA Rookie of the Week, and the team just got signed letters of intents from four new recruits - Culhane's not particularly known for his recruiting ability, but they sound sturdy enough. I suppose we'll see come next season.

In other news...

It's great to hear that Boston Bruins star forward Patrice Bergeron is feeling a bit better and making a trip back home to Quebec City. It sounds like he's improving every day and keeping up hope that he'll be back yet this season:
"I'm improving these last few weeks, like I say, and in my heart I want to get back, too," he said. "So I believe it's an achievable goal to get back this season. We'll see what happens."
We wish him the best and would love to see him back - hopefully things will only continue to get better from here on out.

09 December 2007

Reason #98 to be a hockey fan

Penguins vs Canucks 12/8/07.


Just an incredible game.

...And then there's OLNUSUS and the Flyers on Tuesday.

Go Pens.

EDIT: I love the Instigator (cbc.ca/sports/hockey/instigator).

Go Godzilla Pens.

08 December 2007

How much is that little doggie in the window?

The Thrashers, bless their little heart, have opened up their arms for the season of giving and taken Recchi off waivers. He's expected to play Sunday. I do believe that this might be 'fare thee well' for #8...although this is hardly the first time the fans have bid him adieu. Fourth time's the charm?

Good luck, Recchi! Say hi to Thorburn for us!

EDIT: In the interest of not having three posts from me in the space of 24 hours all stacked up like snarky pringles, I'll put this bit into here. Don Cherry, the blinding, make-your-eyes(and ears)-bleed icon of the CBC once more told the world how much he hates the Penguins by talking about the Recchi trade. While I'm not surprised that he spoke about the lack of class shown by the Penguins management in dumping Recchi like Jared threw off his fat pants through Subway, can he really blame the Penguins for wanting to build a better team? Yes, they could have handled it different, looked for a better way to go at the beginning of the season, but he played well last year and was worth trying for another run, even if it was for his cohesive power in the locker room.

Cherry, you know I love you, you know I'll always listen, but please, for the love of the rest of the known world, tone down the Canadian nepotism. I love Canada too, but to stumble over well-known European players? I've overlooked the raging man-crush on Tucker, but at least give the credit where credit is due, even if it's grudgingly. Canada rocks. Hockey is on. Life is good.

P.S. Who would have thought that Auld would get the nod instead of Rask? Go Boston! Also, Crosby is on After Hours. Surprise!

P.S.S. Anyone seen those Reddenbacher's 'flavor shakers' commercials? Surprise! Love it.

So, in conclusion, I think we all must ask ourselves the big question about Recchi's departure: Will Jordan Staal still live in his guest house (he does still live there, right)? Who will he ride to the rink with? Inquiring minds.

EDIT...EDIT?: Alex Auld was a beast in net. Wow. Also, the sky robin's egg blue inside of Cherry's latest wrap = sexy. Anyone else think Alberts played a good defensive game?

07 December 2007

'Oh no.....oooooooh noooooo....'

Yes, that wailing sound you hear is my reaction to the news that Ty Conklin has been called up to be the bench counterpart to Danny Saboo. Someone hasn't been watching their knob hockey. Stay healthy, Danny! My finals-stressed nerves can't take Conks in net.

I'd like to wish a hearty 'get well soon' to Flower and hope for a speedy recovery. Right when he was getting hot! At least it doesn't sound serious. (Interesting side bit about recalling Recchi...have their been prospective buyers for #8? Although the line about 'half off' makes him sound like last week's pork chops)

In other less snarky news, it's always nice to see the families of the players get into the holiday spirit and the girlfriends/wives of the Penguins have put together stockings for this year's raffle. While I would never in a million years be able to afford spending 200+ on a stocking decorated by the local lady in Geno's life, some of them are an interesting reflection of the player (the sticker-type tattoos in Malone's), and are at least worth a look. I'm sure Sykora's is going to be a great hit with the kids.

Pens play the Canucks at the late night show on CBC (10pm EST) tomorrow night. Welcome back, Sabourin!
Go Pens!

(P.S. We at NPI tease because we care, giving equally. Just ask Steph. Happy Holidays!)

04 December 2007

"Now you're gonna get it Bobby..." (Wings 4, Habs 1)

The Wings played the Canadiens this evening. The game was on Versus, and though I hear there was a neat pregame ceremony, we were unsurprisingly not shown any of it - it was nice to hear the Habs cheering Chris Chelios at the end of the evening, though.

I have a huge presentation tomorrow and thus while I watched the game I didn't take notes or have much to say except that the Wings played a strong game and the Eurotwins as usual were beautiful - you can find the official recap here, and I'm sure others will have theirs up soon. Check back! Actually I was sort of thankful I didn't have to pay attention because after hearing, in the first 8 minutes, two "Price is right" cracks from the VS announcing staff (nhl.com snuck one in there too - let's not all be so clever, guys) all I could think of as we led for the rest of the game was:

I'm glad we won so I had the opportunity to post it. Ignoring that actually I guess it might have been more apt if they'd come back and won it - but I'm not complaining.

01 December 2007

Aren't the Maple Leafs supposed to disappear about now?

I am very tired from a long day at work, pre-exam assignments, cold temperatures, artic wind, and from wasting 40 minutes of my life watching the first two periods of the Leafs/Pens game. Seriously, aside from a series of crappy calls and a constant stream to the penalty box, what else can you say? The Leafs aren't that good, there was no reason to roll over, play possum, and skate like they were sleep walking. What gives, Penguins? I actually tuned out the last 5 minutes or so of the 2nd period because I was so fed up with the play.

At least Talbot is having some fun.

30 November 2007

The Hockey Gods Love Me Again!

After two games against non-Central Division foes, I think I'm finally ready to watch hockey again. Okay, in all seriousness I missed the Preds and Jackets games because of work, but even so, when I turned on my TV this Tuesday and was met with the requisite shot of Kipper and his perpetual stoic yet quirky facial expressions, I just about yelped in joy. And uh, sorry HG, but it had nothing to do with the Flames specifically.

Thankfully, with a new, slightly-improved schedule having been approved, we will hopefully never have to sit through another month of "rivalry building" (Really? You think so? Because all it made me want was to never see those teams again.) inter-divisional play. And look, bore us less and we start winning again!

I'm quite a few days late on Tuesday's 5-3 win against the Flames, so I'll defer to Christy's recap at Winging it in Motown and just add a few highlights:

  • At the start of the game someone mentioned something about a player being "hemmed in down low". The speed at which my head jerked up to the TV screen was disgusting. Don't you judge me.
  • Jiri Hudler spent the whole game harassing Dion Phaneuf. This was hilarious to watch, as Phaneuf has 6 inches and 40 pounds on him, and it was remnant of watching someone try to shoo an annoying gnat buzzing around their head. Eventually Phaneuf took the bait and delivered a (clean but massive and probably much more than necessary for someone of that size) open-ice hit. Andreas Lilja answered the call, defended his teammate, and downed Phaneuf in record time - he's really starting to become a player you can appreciate more.
  • The goal scoring all game long was a joy to watch - almost every goal was something special. Pavel Datsyuk, who looks like he's really starting to get hot, scored a beauty just under the crossbar and then later slipped by three Flames to put in what was probably his prettiest of the season - I'm starting to think the "Houdini" nickname might catch on. He also got an assist, ending him up with a three point game. Hudler and Valtteri Filppula combined to score another beauty later on with a move that left me thinking they've been taking notes from the Datsyuk/Zetterberg team.
  • Kris Draper took an awkward hit that resulted in him leaving the game. The official word is a sprained knee, and that he'll be out 2-4 weeks, but the announcers also said he drove himself to the DMC - I'm not sure what that says, really.
Of course the fresher news is yesterday's 5-2 massacre of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Granted "massacre" might be a little strong for an end score of 5-2, but the Lightning looked weak all night long and were held to only one shot in the first period - so I'd say it flies. By the end the Lightning had managed 23 shots, but the Wings still dominated play for almost the entirety of the game. For a full recap, check out Matt's post at On the Wings. My notes are:
  • The game against the Flames was one of pretty goals - this one was of gorgeous passes that set up pretty goals. Chris Chelios started it off with a beautiful one to who scored to put the Wings on the board first. I know I've been a fan of the kid from the beginning, but the plays he's making and the numbers he's putting up in the still limited ice time he's getting are really starting to say something about him. Jiri HudlerAndreas Lilja, continuing his case to win me over, set up Tomas Kopecky later on with a pass that Daniels and Redmond continued to talk about for remainder of the game. It was great to see Kopy's goal, as well - his first of the season with a gorgeous shoulder-fake that Marc Denis completely bought into.
  • Unfortunately the game also brought about the end of Henrik Zetterberg's home point streak, which topped out at 27 games. The real unfortunate thing is that he nearly had an absolutely highlight-reel worthy goal off of another set of gorgeous passes, but he just barely clanged it off the post. Considering his record right now, I doubt he's too worried.
  • Aaron Downey once again looked good - not only is he tough, but he's intelligent. I was happy to see him avoid fighting Andre Roy despite the other's goading him all night long. The Wings were dominating and didn't need to give the Lightning any sort of momentum, and Downey knew it.
In other Wings news, they've taken a (sort of) cue from the Oilers and updated their roster page with a nice grid of roster shots linking to the separate players' pages. Nice work making what are probably the least ugly graphics you've come up with all year long, guys (seriously have you seen the wallpapers?), but what, couldn't afford the Edmonton Sears Portrait Studio method?

The next game will be this Saturday against Tracy and the Phoenix Coyotes. I'll be missing it for the first Bronco Hockey game of the year that I don't have to work, and I'm sad to be missing new 'Yote Bryzgalov's antics, but I'm sure our resident Coyotes HLoGger will update me...right?

(And how about Hemsky with a cute little empty netter against the Jackets the other day? Yay!)

25 November 2007

What's this? Penguins win two in a row?

Let's hear it for 12th in the East! Woooo!

Anyhow, good game last night, and it was about time that the Pens got one of those, especially at home. Sure, the Thrashers might not have been backed by the goaltending brick craphouses like man the pipes in the rest of the Atlantic, but a win is a win.

Some thoughts:
-Fleury played well, although not exceedingly pressed throughout the game. He seemed to stand up more, and the defense were on most of the rebounds he gave up and cleared them out pretty well. Nice to finally see the goalie and defense work well together.
-The top line was hot all night, and it was nice to see Armstrong back up there with Crosby, working well and making plays. Funny how people have been trying to bring in hot wingers for Sidney all the time and he ends up playing well with Armstrong (as before) and Ryan Malone. -I'm not complaining, mind, but what the hell happened to Malone over the summer? If it's because he got married, Mrs. Malone, we love you.
-Speaking of the top line, what the heck was with Bob and Steigy and their dissertation on Crosby and Army's epic chemistry? They were on something last night, and even though the Pens win was great, listening to that pair was almost as amusing. Looking for a glove indeed. Thank heavens there wasn't any Hockey 101 (although they did put in 'hey look, they're cycling! Look!' for the audience).
-Gonchar is second in points in defensemen and not on the All-Star ballot? Wow. No doubt Whitney deserves it, but still a bit of a slight for someone playing such a good game.

Unrelated to the game, but I noticed that the Pens site has the recap and all the assorted goodies that go along with it (Therrien, Lange, Pix, etc...) all in one neat row. The sound is dead on my computer right now so I can't enjoy most of those, but still a nice, efficient move from the nhl designers.

Hopefully a full week off won't kill off any momentum that the Pens are building up with these two wins. Next game brings Dallas to the Igloo on Friday at 7:30pm. I will miss most of the game due to broomball, but hopefully I'll come back to good news (especially since my team isn't very good. We're the Oilers of broomball with half our defense out and sporadic scoring).

Go Pens.

22 November 2007

Don't Quit Your Day Job

It's no secret the right now the Toronto Maple Leafs look to be, well, on the road to another really awesome April/May...golf tournament. As thus, there seem to be rumblings among the organization that perhaps greener pastures await. Former Leaf goon (shh, don't tell him I said it) Tie Domi was first rumored to be appearing on TV, but current agitator Darcy Tucker was shortly after said to be making his acting debut as well. With both shows now having been aired, it falls to us to decide who has the more promising acting career and who shouldn't hang up their skates quite yet - I conveniently broke down the standings for you:

The Show:
One of the most important factors in the matter is, of course, the show each was featured on. You certainly can't tell me a guest-starring role on a primetime drama doesn't garner more attention that a two minute spot on an afternoon soap. So how do the pair's acting debuts stack up against each other?

Domi: Domi is featured in an episode of the (hilariously) crass Rent-A-Goalie, now in its second season. The half-hour show follows "Cake", as played by Christopher Bolton, a "recovered-from-everything" guy living in Toronto and running a rent-a-goalie service out of a cafe in Little Italy while trying to live by a particular Code of ethics that becomes particularly difficult when dealing with the rag-tag bunch of goalies he's collected. Occasionally ridiculous, always amusing, and oftentimes offensive - but a great time (if you're me, anyway).

Tucker: Tucker, meanwhile, picks up a spot on CBC's Little Mosque on the Prairie, another half hour sitcom focusing on the Muslim population of the fictional town of Mercy, Saskatchewan. The humor is much less crude, but the show itself is charming, and the pilot episode drew a surprising 2.1 million viewers.
Advantage: DRAW. Domi's got the quirkier, more fun show, but Tucker's definitely got the network advantage - CBC certainly draws more viewers.

The Role:
Okay, the premise of the show might be important, but what really matters more is the specific role each played, right? Both actors played themselves, but the episodes themselves put the two in some spectacular situations.
Domi: Episode 2 of Season 2, Domi Daze. Domi requires a goalie to play in his charity game, Cake supplies, somewhere along the line they throw down the gloves, two characters argue over the goon vs. enforcer archetype, and no less than two statues of Domi get built.

Tucker: Episode 5 of Season 2, Mercy Beet. Tucker endorses Mercy-made beet juice in a post-game interview, the town is thrown into an uproar as beet stocks soar, he is then absent for the rest of the episode until he holds yet another press conference at the end where it's revealed that he is now supporting a vile-sounding energy drink.
Advantage: DOMI. He gets upset over next to nothing, throws a bitchfit, fights a guy who seems a fair bit less adept at fighting who really does nothing wrong...so you know, basically he's Tie Domi. Tucker...drinks beet juice and gives stilted interviews about it. Um.

Don't lie, you know it's important.

Advantage: TUCKER. Please don't tell me you require an explanation. Hate him or love him, you can't argue his good looks - even Margee understands.

Fanbase is important!
Domi: Don Cherry explains Domi's popularity like this: "People love guys who give 100 per cent and will drop them every once and a while." He also states, "He was the most popular in Peterborough. He was the most popular in New York, Winnipeg and Toronto." I suppose that's saying a lot.

Tucker: He's the #10 most popular player on Facebook's Hockey Fan application.
Advantage: TUCKER. You don't argue with the Facebook masses.

The Big Scandal:
Every actor needs a good scandal or two under their belt - nothing else grabs attention as well. So how do these two match up?
Domi: Domi's latest and greatest scandal is of course the Belinda Stronach incident: accused of cheating on his wife Leanne who then filed for divorce. Supposedly he also threatened to leave his wife penniless if she hired a lawyer - classy!

Tucker: Tucker, on the other hand, recently got a bunch of attention after his scrums with Sean Avery over his allegations that he was incensed by Avery making comments about teammate Jason Blake's cancer condition.
Advantage: DOMI. Adultery beats out libel.

Of course the most important factor is....actual acting talent. Do either of them have any? You decide.

Domi: Those in Canada can check out the episode of Rent-A-Goalie here - for the rest of you, just imagine what you expect Tie Domi acting would be like...and you're probably pretty much right on.

Tucker: Tucker starts off, well...bad, and then it gets, well, a hell of a lot worse:

Advantage: DOMI. His acting was equally bad, but he at least got to spend half of the episode playing hockey and beating people up - which he does much better than either of them act.


While honestly I would be perfectly all right with never seeing either of them try to do any sort of acting ever again, I have to admit I'm happy with this verdict - Domi's retired and has nothing else to do anyway (although admittedly I'm not sure how many people will be particularly happy to see him all over their TV screens again), and Darcy, according to Cherry, is the "Leafs' best player" - and acting offers less chances for him to beat up Avery.

Either way, I think it really is safe to say neither will be on primetime again any time soon.

Oh...another divisional game? (Wings 3, Blues 0)

I missed most of the first period of yesterday's game due to some much-needed boot-shopping ( failed) since frostbite is a very real concern of mine in having to work the WMU/Temple game this Saturday. Come on, can't we just cancel it? They certainly aren't teams worth watching...

Fortunately for me, there wasn't too much to miss. It wasn't a boring game, but it wasn't the exciting matchup of last Sunday, either. Henrik Zetterberg headed off the scoring just 22 seconds into the period, while Mikael Samuelsson and Dan Cleary contributed as well, which led to a shutout win for the Chris Osgood, his career 44th. The Blues' evening was riddled with penalties, and despite Manny Legace looking strong, could never really managed to turn the tide in their favor again. The Wings held them to a total of only 12 shots on goal.

Tomas Kopecky left the game with a shoulder injury, and won't be playing tonight, but the report is that it's minor (Kopy says "The doctor said it looks like it's just a muscle") and he would have sat this evening regardless.

The Wings play again tonight in Nashville, where Dominik Hasek, who despite starting the season off shaky (he says he knows he'll play better), will get the start against, presumably, Chris Mason and the struggling Preds. It's unfortunate for the Wings, who haven't had to play on Thanksgiving in several years, but it's great for Detroit fans who will have something to tune in to after dinner as the turkey-coma sets in. Osgood said he hoped his family would save him some leftovers, Kris Draper talked his wife into postponing the turkey a day, but griped about missing out on Thanksgiving football. Hasek made mention of spending the day playing football as well, and even Nick Lidstrom joined in:

"That's kind of different. We've been fortunate the last few years (not having to play). It's a good holiday to spend with the family, have a nice meal and watch football. But it'll be fun to play a game, too."
Well boys, unless you're really that into watching Jon Kitna get sacked and/or turn over the ball rather than give it to someone else two or three times a quarter, you aren't missing a whole lot. At least Valtteri Filppula doesn't have to worry - it's just another day to him. Asked about the Thanksgiving tradition, he replied, "I don't know the whole story," and then conceded, "I don't know any of it."

Speaking of Thanksgiving, and thus things to be thankful for, yesterday was two years to the date of the game in which Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench - he's no longer under contract with the Wings, after spending last year on long-term IR, but he's been given a job as the Wings' director of player development. I love to see things like that, it's great to see he organization taking care of their own. Also great to see is that he continues to hold out hope that someday he'll get to play again:
"I know right now nobody is going to risk their career to clear me so I can play in the NHL," Fischer said. "I know if that moment comes when I'm cleared to play, at my own risk or not, even being cleared would be such a tremendous achievement, going from no hope to some hope to actually being approved."
The character and positive outlook he's shown these past two years is remarkable, and I'd love nothing more than to see him get that chance - if anyone deserves it, it's Jiri Fischer.

20 November 2007

Penguins Update!

Penguins are 8-10-2.

Yeah, that's just about all that's different from the last time I updated (midterms and finals are killing me), are a few added numbers, and the same old situation: can't play 60 minutes, bad passing, lack of cohesive defense, breaking down between the pipes, sitting players, not sitting questionable players, the whole nine yards. I believe in Fleury, and anyone who's watched him in the last few games can see that he's doing better and trying to not get psyched-out when he lets in a goal, especially against the Islanders last time (standing up more, getting better rebound control, although not always, sticking tighter to the sides). Goalies are always the first targets when a team doesn't do as well as expected, and the Atlantic is a beast. The Rangers are on top with 25 (against the Pens and the Devils, who are sharing space in the basement at 18). That's only a 7 point difference. The Northeast has a spread of 17 between the Sens and the Sabres, and the Southeast comes in with a difference of 14 between the Canes and the Caps. The West side is closer, with all divisions ranging under 10 points from top to bottom. That makes the Atlantic the closest division in the East (the Central has a three-way tie of 22 for the bottom portion, and a difference of 7 points total), and all of the teams (as much as it pains me to say) are good teams. The top two at the moment, the Rangers and Flyers, have good goaltending, and for the Rangers, sometimes that's all that's kept them in the game. I hope Mr. Henrik gets some love letters in his locker for how well he's kept the Rangers' collective biscuits out of the fire. The Flyers, for the most part, are playing like they always have, hard, fast (well, faster than they used to), and have a good goalie to back them up. Probably one of the most improved teams in hockey from last year, and certainly from the East (then again, when you're so far down that you can't see daylight, anything is an improvement).

What about the rest? The Islanders are, again, backed by a solid goalie in Ricky DiPi, and the rest of the team isn't too bad either, although they don't seem to have any breakout areas at the moment (Isles fans, am I way out in left field on this?). The Devils, honestly, I haven't watched enough to tell where exactly they are failing at being the dominating pain in the ass they usually are, so I'll just go with pointing to Interchangeable Parts in the sidebar.

The Penguins? Well, I won't go over it again, that horse is dead and beaten into the ground, but it's neat to look at the teams in the Atlantic and think about their strong points...and one of the major factors are some just straight-out mean goaltending. The Pens have Fleury, who can be a beast (look at last season? 40-16-9, a GAA of 2.83 and a SV%.906. So far this season: 5-7-1, a GAA 3.47 and a save percentage of .893.), but they also have a strong offense to pick up (hopefully) the slack that Fleury might have while he's getting into his grove and getting better. For a comparison, Lundqvist pulled 37-22-8, a 2.34 GAA and .917 SV% last season. This season he is a disgusting 11-8-1 with a GAA of 1.79. Both goalies ended up in the playoffs, so time will tell.

Next game for the Pens is Wednesday against another great goaltender in New Jersey who just got his 500th win. Congrats, Brodeur! Hope we can keep you from 501.

Go Pens.

On a side note, our thoughts are with Pensblog Adam and his family. Our condolences.

18 November 2007

Michigan Strikes Back (Wings 5, Blue Jackets 4)

Osgood works on starting up another streak.

The Red Wings have never gone four games in a row without earning a point since Mike Babcock was appointed coach - and they kept that stat in place tonight with a 5-4 shootout victory over the Blue Jackets.

The game had a weird feel to it from the beginning - I think it was seeing the Wings in their home reds while being away at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. It started out a little worrisome, especially given the last few, when Chris Osgood, who got the start yet again tonight, let in a power play goal from Duvie Westcott. Considering the Blue Jackets' PP was 27th in the league going into tonight, this wasn't the best way to inspire confidence early on.

Fortunately the Wings got some timely help from Aaron Downey who looked great again tonight. I'm a big fan of the kid - he's a good player and excellent at getting under opponents' skin and drawing penalties without getting too hotheaded and creating problems. He managed to get Blue Jackets goalie Pascal Leclaire called for roughing, which led to Jody Shelley taking a delay of game penalty for deliberately knocking the net off its moorings. The Wings took immediate advantage of this 5 on 3 - Nick Lidstrom scored fifteen seconds in, and then set up Tomas Holmstrom to score again on the continued PP. Later in the game Downey was asked if he'd fight with Shelley and he remarked "I'd rather leave him on the ice." True to his word, Shelley tried to start something and Downey backed off and headed back to the bench smiling.

With 43 seconds left in the period, the Jackets ended up with their own two minute 5 on 3. The Wings killed it off to end the period, but fell prey early in the second to a shot from former Wings Sergei Fedorov who, Redmond remarks, has to like playing the Wings far better at home without the jeers from the crowd. The Wings killed off the rest of the penalty and directly after Val Filppula fed Brett Lebda a nice shot that went in to put the Wings up again.

A whistle after the goal, the Jackets pulled goalie Leclaire and put in Frederick Norrena - FSN Detroit marvels over this for five or so minutes, since Leclaire remains on the bench talking to Hitchcock in full gear, and then resumes his place in net a few minutes later. As it turns it, it seems like a technique Hitchcock uses when he wants to talk to the goalie, but it perplexed Redmond for quite a while.

After another couple penalties, Rick Nash rounded out the scoring for the period, getting one past Osgood on yet another 5 on 3. The Wings went back to the lockerroom where Lebda was interviewed - he promised the Wings would be looking to "try to make bounce for ourselves" in the third.

Period three started off slow, but with around six minutes left a good forechecking effort by Columbus led to a pretty flip in goal by Nikolai Zherdev who, despite falling far short of expectations last season and in training camp has come out strong and looked great so far this year. He definitely made his presence known tonight and had several great plays and scoring chances. The big line fought back, however, with a highlight reel-worthy goal from Henrik Zetterberg to Pavel Datsyuk, who played the puck between Jan Hejda's legs and stepped around him to tap it in from a difficult angle to tie the game up again with four minutes left to play, proving that he is the superior #13. Columbus had a nice flurry of shots at the end of the third, but Osgood stood strong.

The OT was some of the best hockey I've seen played all season and by far the best OT effort. Both teams nearly gave me heart attacks, and both goalies robbed the opposition multiple times. Most notably the 13s were at it again; Datsyuk nearly ended the game but unfortunately couldn't get the puck up high enough and Zherdev had a great chance on a semi 2 on 1 but Osgood gets his glove on it. Johan Franzen, Dan Fritsche and Rostislav Klesla all nearly scored as well before the five minutes were up. Before the end of the period there was a really great shot of Leclaire bouncing to the music playing in the arena.

Reminiscent of a particular Wings/Jackets game last season that went to extra shooters and eventually resulted in Sergei Fedorov scoring the gamewinner, the shootout was almost as exciting as the OT. Datsyuk (who took a shot straight on) and Jiri Hudler (who, as I predicted, notched a top shelf right backhander, his usual) scored for the Wings, while Zherdev and Nash scored for the Jackets before Franzen won in by scoring while David Vyborny missed. Fedorov did take a shot for the Jackets, but he was stopped by Osgood this time.

The Wings' next game is this Wednesday; another division matchup against the Blues. I'm getting as sick of seeing the same teams as you are, but if it promises to be as good a game as tonight's I'll gear myself up.

ATTN: (Wings 3, Blackhawks 5)

I dislike Chicago.

And I'm burning that darn free hat.

Unfortunately (or very fortunately, as I was to find out) I spent the evening working not only with Athletic Facilities, but also in the (totally non-proverbial) penalty box as the Time Out Coordinator for Comcast at tonight's WMU/Notre Dame CCHA game so I missed out on another thrashing of the Wings by the Hawks. Seems like it was a busy weekend for everyone - I don't even have a link for you to anything but the dismal scoresheet yet.

In the meantime, in case you're in the west Michigan area and want to catch my sixty minutes of fame, Comcast's local sports channel is reshowing tonight's WMU game on Monday afternoon at 3:30!

14 November 2007

Guess that's why the call it the Blues (Wings 3, Blues 4)

Well, the division is certainly getting a little more interesting.

The Wings dropped a second divisional game straight last night, despite coming out strong and taking a two goal lead in the first period, neither of which made St. Louis' Manny Legace look spectacular. The Blues, unfortunately, stormed back in the second with a string of four goals, three of which came in a three minute timespan, and two of which can be attributed to rookie David Perron, who looked exceptional when I saw him on Friday, and only continued to impress yesterday night.

The Wings put up a good fight, pulled Dominik Hasek in favor of the still hot Chris Osgood, who has so far looked to be the better goalie this season, and mounted a strong comeback bid, but despite the efforts of players like Valtteri Filppula, who notched a timely goal to keep the Wings in the game, and Jiri Hudler, who was playing extremely confidently and who was absolutely stoned by Legace at least twice. Unfortunately it wasn't enough, and the last of the Wings' remaining streaks was put to an end - Henrik Zetterberg's, at seventeen straight games with a point.

For a good player-specific recap and some interesting (and not so exciting) statistics, head over to On the Wings. While the game didn't end great, it was a good effort, and no one's got any cause to be worried yet. At the very least save that for Saturday, in the case that the Blackhawks manage to stomp all over us yet again.

Team Bonding

Outside of the two losses, the Wings have had plenty going on lately. First, on Monday the team canceled practice...and went bowling. The original intent was to go skeet-shooting, but the weather was disagreeable, so bowling it was. The team broke into teams based mostly on line pairings, and the group of Brett Lebda, Chris Chelios, Valtteri Filppula, Mikael Samuelsson, and Johan Franzen came away with the victory. It was Jiri Hudler, however, who nabbed the high score for the day with 183. Huds claimed it was "natural luck," but Cleary insisted it was a fluke, and Maltby (who had the day's high score average-wise, with just under 180) had plenty to say himself:

"I choked in my last game," Maltby said. "I missed a spare on the ninth frame and then the 10th frame I left three pins up.

"I guess the first game where he bowled 183," Maltby said, "he had four strikes in a row, so sometimes when you don't know what you're doing, that's when you succeed."

Then on Tuesday, the team plane, the Red Bird 2, got stuck in the mud leaving the St. Louis airport yesterday when it slid off the runway and its right tires sank into the mud, leaving the plane unable to dislodge. Fox has a video of the plane's status - the latest update of which is that crews are still trying to determine how to safely get the plane back onto the pavement.

12 November 2007

Filling Seats and Taking Names

I've missed a few games, I know - but his time my absence has an excuse!

This weekend I made my way down to Chicago a little earlier than the Wings did, forgoing the piles of work I have to do and making it into town for the Blackhawks/Blues game on Friday. A few years back it would have been hard to get that excited about a match up between these two teams, but the game was almost as high-energy and exciting as what I've gotten used to seeing from the Wings. Even with former Wing Manny Legace stoning them more times than I could count in the first period, the Hawks', led by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and backstopped by Patrick Lalime, who certainly looks to be recovering from what have not been spectacular seasons, pulled off the win and it looked at points almost effortless.

The most impressive thing about the game, though, was the crowd. I took in a game at the United Center last April, and I saw firsthand how true the rumors were about how dead the place was:

April 1st, 2007 - for an even more depressing view, try this.

I wasn't sure what to expect on Friday - it was a division matchup and far earlier than the season than last year's game, when it was clear neither of the teams playing would be making the postseason, so my expectations were higher than before, but it certainly wasn't what I saw when we got there. The seats weren't packed, but they were full, and impressively so. During play, the formerly dead crowd that only managed to scatter a few lame cheers after a goal or a nice hit got a full-bodied "Let's go Hawks" cheer going a number of times and jumped to their feet for every goal (the stadium, apparently anticipating this, has started serving cups of beer with lids - no joke, I saw a woman drinking hers from a straw).

November 12, 2007

The best part of the whole evening was when they announced that finally, with the passing of Bill Wirtz, this Sunday's Blackhawks/Wings game would be televised locally, the crowd absolutely erupted, stood, and gave the announcement a standing ovation until play resumed. I'm far from a Blackhawks fan (especially right this second), but it was an amazing moment for an Original Six city in which hockey was taking its last gasping breaths not even a season ago.

Of course, my excitement for the city and the team crashed and burned spectacularly after yesterday's game (even despite my rookie Jiri Hudler notching his fourth in six games and Tomas Kopecky putting on a nice show in a fight against Pat Sharp) - what is it about the Blackhawks that just kills us? Is it you, Robert Lang? Stop being spiteful! Was it me? Should I never have tried on that free hat? (And can I tell you all how much I'm really starting to hate those two kids?) There goes, once again, the chance to set a franchise record of 10 straight wins (a chance we've had three years in a row now, and never quite made it to), as well as Chris Osgood's 20-game win streak - but at least Henrik Zetterberg continued his own streak, now at 17 games with a point.

Let's hope they come out with a better effort this Tuesday against the Blues - another team who have looked much more formidable, this season, than in the past. I, for one, am happy not to have to see the Hawks again...until this Saturday.