I ended up missing practice yesterday morning thanks to a technological failure, but I did make it to the Joe to see the Wings take on the Leafs in the last preseason game of the year. The game was a little lopsided, as the Wings were running most of their A team (including Datsyuk, Lidstrom, and Hasek in net), and the Leafs looked to be playing Antropov, Ponikarovsky, Toskala, and the 2007/2008 Toronto Marlies. The last two times I saw this matchup I showed up in a Leafs hoodie to show my support - and they lost both times. This time I wore my Wings jersey...and they not only one but Hasek even got a shutout. I'm not sure what this means, but I think I'm a curse on the Leafs.
The game itself was a decent tilt, even being preseason and fairly uneven. The Wings were held scoreless in the first, but followed up with two bouts of netting two in quick succession to eventually win 4-0. Some of my notes include:
- Vesa Toskala was in net for the Leafs. Having seen Raycroft twice last year, I was hoping he would be. He put up a great show in the first period, with two brilliant saves, and looked amazing on his glove side. At least two of the three goals he let in were stick side, where he was definitely weaker, but only one was a bad goal. He also had the thinnest goalie stick I have ever seen, and liked to wander around a little bit like that other Finnish goalie. I regret to inform Jordi, however, that I was unable to steal her for him.
- In the absence of Robert Lang, my rookie Jiri Hudler seems to have found a new friend in Dan Cleary. The two were paired up quite a bit last night and seemed to be able to find each other with an ease that reminded you of a toned down Datsyuk and Zetterberg, and the pair generated a number of great scoring chances which resulted in one goal and an insanely close follow-up. A pair to keep an eye on when the season starts, perhaps? Speaking of Hudler, while he still needs to work on speed, he looks a lot quicker and more evasive out there than last year, and he's still doing a great job getting off some seriously booming shots.
- Both Nicklas (Wings) and Staffan Kronvall (Leafs) were on the ice - neither did a whole lot, but it was fun seeing the brothers skating against each other. Staffan, for the record, is a giant, in that Smid sort of way where he really seems small until you realize he is most certainly not.
- Pavel Datsyuk, as almost always, had a great night - but what was almost more interesting was how well Johan Franzen looked playing with him. He was all over the ice, picked up a goal and an assist, and had several really nice plays to his name as well. They might not be the Eurotwins, but their line is going to be awfully dangerous.
- Dominik Hasek looked spectacular, though he didn't face very many shots. Still, after the showing he had in the earlier preseason game he took part in, it was a serious relief to see him so strong.
- Both fights near the end of the game happened directly in front of my seats - the second one right up against the glass (I hear via Bethany that I was on TV during the second). The first, Dan Cleary vs. Kris Newbury, was an awesome old-fashioned NHL fight - I was surprised how well Newbury stood up to the bigger Cleary, as well.
- The second fight turned into more of a all-encompassing scrum, but started directly after I saw Igor Grigorenko lounging around on the ice doing little to nothing and yelled "Freakin' DO something Grigorenko!" His answer was to lazily cheap shot Jay Harrison in the face which started a big brawl right up against the glass three rows in front of me. Tomas Kopecky (who was looking great, much more toned, and tougher all night long) and joined in as well as Ben Ondrus and we had quite an eventful last few seconds of the game. As we trickled out of the stadium, we were informed that Grigorenko had amassed a total 29 penalty minutes - interference, unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting, and two game misconducts. Uh, thanks for doing something, Igor.
You can view the rest of my shots from the game here - but don't get your hopes up too high, I forgot my camera at home and had to borrow one, which was less than amazing.
Lastly as some parting advice for anyone planning to get seats on the glass at a game in the near future, please do not ever, ever, think it is safe to set your full beer on the ledge. Or if you do, when Tomas Holmstrom slams into the glass right in front of you, and you turn, two seconds later, soaking wet and with froth in your hair, to the girl next to you, do not be surprised when she cannot stop laughing enough to breathe for the next minute and a half. I mean no, that wasn't me at all.