30 January 2008

I'll Take It! (Wings 3, Coyotes 2)

I admit, this might be the least confident I've ever been going into a Wings/Coyotes game. Especially since the arrival of Ilya Bryzgalov, the Coyotes have been a much more intimidating team - but then again, it's tough to shake the confidence of any Wings fan given their current performances.

Henrik Zetterberg (who going into this game had an average of 2.7 goals per night against Phoenix) was back tonight - and he made his presence known, scoring about four minutes into the game from a ridiculous angle, nearly past the goal line, as for the second night in a row, Bryzgalov lets in a goal off of the first shot of the game. The big line of Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Tomas Holmstrom was reunited at the start of the game and made their presence known, following this goal up with several other good scoring chances.

Chris Osgood had a great night once again, making a slew of timely saves (including one brilliant reach-around effort to keep a puck that got behind him out of the net) to keep the Wings in the game through the first two periods in which the Coyotes excelled at getting pucks to the net. Both he and Bryzgalov fended off a bit of jostling in front of the net - Osgood was knocked over by Fredrik Sjostrom and even lost his helmet, and Bryz took offense to a bit of roughing at the hands of Dan Cleary, whom he then took a couple jabs at with his blocker, which was hilarious, I promise.

Martin Hanzal tied it up late in the first on a giveaway by Nicklas Kronwall, and Ed Jovanavski had the other goal for Phoenix shortly into the second - a one-timer that Osgood never saw - but then the tides seemed to turn.

Through the first period and the start of the second, the Wings weren't in control of the puck nearly enough, but that turned around toward the end of the second. Zetterberg at one point had about a million chances to score, and even though he didn't cash in, it seemed to instill a new sense of confidence in the Wings, but that particular rush seemed to make a serious difference in the game.

Tomas Holmstrom scored the evener in the third period, deflecting in a Nick Lidstrom shot that, in a show of just how great a player Lidstrom is, was timed perfectly for exactly that. He scored again with 7:28 left in the period to put the Wings up 3-2, which would be the final score - his first goal on home ice this season. The last few minutes of play were littered with chances from both teams, including a great stop by Osgood on a Shane Doan breakaway with 30 seconds left in the game. In the last minute of play, Chris Chelios got some time on the pp - Ken and Mickey speculated it was Babcock's way to get him off his back. Maybe a late birthday present?

Nicklas Kronwall unfortunately left the game in the third with a shoulder injury and didn't return - word is that he hurt his clavicle and may have separated his shoulder. He'll miss at least one week, and with Brett Lebda out as well, the Wings will call up a Griffins defenseman for the coming games.

The next Wings game is February 1st against the Avalanche, and with luck the team can extend their winning streak to six.

Random stat:

Of the top 9 players in the league in +/-, 6 are Red Wings. Lidstrom leads the league as a +43 and Datsyuk is second, while Zetterberg, Cleary, Filppula, and Kronwall also make the list.

Um. Awesome.

29 January 2008

Back in Red....dish. (Maybe. Sort of.)

Remember the days of this photo? It might be reality again before too much longer.

Early in the month, former Red Wing Darren McCarty, who last played in the NHL for the Calgary Flames during the 05/06 season, announced his intentions to try to make a comeback, signing with the Flint Generals and playing ten games with them (during which he compiled 3 goals, 2 assists, 30 penalty minutes, 30 shots on goal, was in 2 fights and ended up with a -2 +/-).

I kept meaning to make it to one of the Generals' games against the local Kalamazoo Wings, but life got in the way. He played his last game as a General this past weekend - a game during which he laid down a beating on K-Wings forward Travis Granbois reminiscent of the McCarty of old, and even got himself ejected. About this incident, McCarty says:

"He was chirping me a little bit earlier, trying to get under my skin. There's still a little bit of loony toons inside. I was a bit ornery tonight. He two-handed me. I'm not going to take that. I don't care how big you are. That's not part of the game.

"Maybe I was a little bit aggressive, but I've still got that in me."

Fortunately for me, my chances to see McCarty haven't yet come to an end - this afternoon he signed a 25 pro-game tryout with the Grand Rapids Griffins. McCarty is free to sign with any NHL team during the tryout, but he must do it by February 26th, the trade deadline. As to whether or not he'll make it back to the big show, Ken Holland has the following to say:
"Now we'll make a determination if that's as far as he goes or if he has another level in him. [He has to show] that his speed is up to the pace of the game, and passion and focus."
I don't know how good his chances are, or how he might fit into the Wings roster and help the team out down the home stretch, but regardless of whether or not he does make it, I think this is smart move - the Griffins have struggled lately and could use the veteran presence of McCarty in their locker room (something the Generals commented on as being useful during his brief stint with them) and it looks as though so far he's been able to make a substantial enough contribution to the team around him. Whether or not it's enough to reclaim the role he once had remains to be seen - but I'm still excited to see!

Your first chance to see him, Detroit fans? February 15th against (fittingly) Colorado's affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters. I'll be there!

(As for the Wings, they're up against Ilya Bryzgalov and the Phoenix Coyotes tomorrow evening and - happily - Henrik Zetterberg should be back in the lineup. Hope you're ready, Tracy!)

26 January 2008

It's that time again...

Everyone (including me!) is on vacation this weekend - even those players who nabbed themselves a spot at the All Star game don't exactly sound like they're headed off to be on the job doing slaving away. Case in point (I was just going to embed this video, but blogger is a whole lot of four letter words I don't feel have any place in this post right now, so I had to link it instead).

Red Wing goalie Chris Osgood interviews former Wings-now Blue Manny Legace. Sounds like those two are certainly excited to be back on the ice playing with each other. Here's to hoping they can get that under 10 goals mark they're aiming for!

The All-Star festivities are just beginning - I'll either be playing host to a bunch of friends bereft of both VS and the NHL Network, or out bar-hopping with them until we find a place that will serve us both Molson and the current most reasonable facsimile to hockey, so I won't be around to liveblog until (possibly) tomorrow, but both the ladies at both Scarlett Ice and Interchangeable Parts have promised a riveting evening of exactly thus, so swing by, I will be!

Speaking of vacations...

The Wings sent Niklas Kronwall out to the Detroit Auto Show with a mic and have been putting up videos of him perusing the cars, talking to people, and whatnot. This last segment, however, has him running into former Wing, and one of my all-time favorites, Jiri Fischer:

The interview is interesting (boys and their motor vehicles...) but my favorite part is how happy they seem to be to see each other. I just love the way the whole organization has treated Fischy, and how happy he always is to still have a niche to fit in here. Looks like they had fun!

Last but not least, we here at NPI hope everyone has a great All Star weekend, and of course...

(Don't tell Elly...)

24 January 2008

I Like a Little Hockey in my Fighting (Wings 2, Ducks 1)

I didn't count actual number of scrums that could have - and for the most part did - lead to full-blown fights in last nights Wings/Ducks battle - the third of the season - but it was a lot. Sorry, Finny, but the Ducks are an unnecessarily vicious team, as proven again in just the first twenty minutes of the game. (And have you noticed how evil they all look? Ryan Getzlaf? Chris Kunitz? I'm looking at you guys. I'm also beginning to think secretely they wanted to get rid of Dustin Penner because his big smiley bearlike self just doesn't seem to fit in with the theme.)

Right off the bad, hardly more than five minutes in, one-time Wing Todd Bertuzzi ran Dominik Hasek over for no discernible reason. He was given an extra penalty for it (which balanced out the one Johan Franzen took defending his goalie - a completely acceptable one given how dangerous the play was), but you have to wonder what he was thinking, if it wasn't simply a blatant attempt to injure.

Shortly thereafter, Ducks captain Chris Pronger had a go at it with Dan Cleary - which he started off by not punching, but instead scratching Cleary with an open palmed-swipe at his face, ending up with the result of Cleary's eye swelling shut. He left the game and did not return - can't blame him for his few second of turtling. Before the end of the period, Doug Weight tried to drop the gloves with Brett Lebda as well, but Lebda didn't take the bait. The first period was ridden with penalties (a combined 34 minutes of them) and shots of the penalty box teeming with Ducks - four, at one point.

The Ducks seemed to settle down a little bit after the first period, but this didn't stop Sean O'Donnell and Aaron Downey from going at it. The level of physicality remained high, and it was nice to see the Wings retaliate well and not buckle under it, as they're so often accused of doing. (It was also nice, however, to see that Jiri Hudler has gotten a little bit smarter about picking his battles; at one point it looked like he was set to lay a monster hit on Pronger, before he slowed up and realized just maybe that wasn't the smartest idea in the world.)

The Wings capitalized on the several power plays provided by the penalty-fest only once, resulting in a Brian Rafalski goal - his 9th of the season, which ties a career record for him. The other Wings goal was from Val Filppula, who for whatever reason always seems to play some great games against Anaheim. Tomas Kopecky, who has seemed rather quiet lately, made a spectacular pass to him after Francois Beauchemin broke what seemed like he's twentieth stick of the evening to put the Wings up two. Unfortunately, Dominik Hasek's shutout bit was ruined in the third (I blame you, CC) when Chris Pronger managed to connect with the net.

FSN Detroit was having technical issues throughout the game, most noticeable toward the end when the feed froze on the last faceoff - I inferred that we won thirty seconds later when it cut back in to a lot of Wings jumping all over Hasek.

The Wings finished up the road trip 3-0, despite the absence of Henrik Zetterberg, but his absence is still worrisome, especially when his current claim is to feel all of "2% better." Luckily he has plenty of time to rest up through the All Star break before the Wings meet up with Tracy's Coyotes this coming Wednesday.

Other Notes

During intermission, the FSN Detroit crew interviewed former Wing-now Duck Mathieu Schneider about his time in Detroit. One of the things they asked him was what he missed most about the city. His response? "The pizza." To which the announcers prompted, "Little Caesars?" Schneider agreed. Mike Ilitch would be so proud.

Sports are notorious for throwing out odd, obscure stats - but sometimes they hit on some interesting ones. Like last night, for instance, when an announcer remarked that in his 16 years in the league, Nick Lidstrom has taken one roughing penalty. Wow.

Around the League

Elly passed this along to me this morning - I do believe everyone needs a little bit of cute, soccer-playing Conks in their life.

The league decided on four games in Europe for this coming season - Ottawa/Pittsburgh twice in Stockholm and New York Rangers/Tampa Bay twice in Prague. While I'm happy to see my favorite little Petr Prucha getting to play a game in (almost) his home, I'm started to get more than a little frustrated at all these Eastern teams. I know it was the Western Anaheim/LA match up in Europe last season, but come on, is there a reason it couldn't be 50/50? I'm not actually interested in either of these matchups - for the most part because neither actually impact my team. That's not great marketing, guys.

23 January 2008

Dethroned (Wings 3, Kings 0)

All right - remember when I posted game recaps? I'm not sure if I do or not. I missed almost every Wings game for about a month thanks to working Bronco hockey and a night class - but here I am again...just in time for the All Star break. Great.

However, I've got two game with which to redeem myself, so here we go.

Yesterday night the Wings looked to keep up the precedent set in San Jose the other night, this time against the league worst Los Angeles Kings. The team was again without Henrik Zetterberg and proved one more time that while his presence is missed, the team can step it up without him. Chris Osgood got the start in net (he promises, for the record, that he only lost those couple games last week because "his hair was too long" - no, really) and wound up with yet another shutout.

The game itself was, well...kind of boring, when compared to what we've seen this season. The Wings, as expected, dominated, but not in a flashy way. If I had a dollar for every time the Kings thought they finally had the puck out of their zone only to see the ever present stick of Nick Lidstrom (© Versus) poke it back and stymie them once again, I could probably purchase the team myself. Still, it was great to see the team play well and keep the wins coming, especially when the team has a habit of falling to opponents who should be sure wins - ahem, Atlanta.

The Wings take on Anaheim tonight at 10:00 pm in the final game before the All Star break. Mathieu Schneider promises that Holmstrom is the only guy he's got a score to settle with - just kidding.

Oh and hey, LA - how come Jason LaBarbera is still allowed to wear black pads? I hope Ilya Bryzgalov and his new three year contract are protesting.

Trouble in Paradise

It hasn't all been coming up roses for the Wings though, despite the way the wins keep rolling in. Henrik Zetterberg is once again out with back problems. He didn't play yesterday and won't be in the lineup tonight either, though he is still with the team. It was a hit in San Jose that made his back pain flare up again this time - a bit different from the laundry bag that did him in last December. The injury has become a bit worrisome, even though it's been repeatedly said that it isn't a relapse of the disk problems that saw him miss 19 games last season.

Truly unfortunate is that for the second year in a row he'll be missing the All Star game. While it's great to see his commitment to staying healthy and contributing to the team, and while the All Star game is effectively meaningless, it's still disappointing, which Zetterberg has admitted to.

"Especially this year, I was voted in by fans. I was really looking forward to going. But it's best not to go, and we'll get this squared away and get healthy for the rest of the year."
Thanks, Henrik - we hope you feel better soon (and seriously, make Datsyuk do your laundry or something).

European Style?

The Wings went out and had a little fun participating in simulations with the Huntington Beach police on Monday. Players and their families (players' fathers came along for this road trip) were split into groups of three for the evenet, and most everyone remarked that it was a lot of fun and that they wished they'd been able to have more time, but what really got me was this quote from Pavel Datsyuk:
“I with Homer and Fill,” Datsyuk said. “We special KGB group, me and Homey and Fill. We have European style, jump in and everybody shoot. Ask later, who still alive.”
I wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley - wonder if that style carries over onto the ice?

Other things are important too, even if they don't have to do with the Wings

Jamie McLennan, former Calgary backup of playoff spearing fame, has a blog about playing in Japan (and when I say 'playing in Japan' what I really mean is 'taking pictures of food and making fun of Tyson Nash'). It's hilarious, I promise - I literally laughed so hard I cried. Thanks Teebz for the link!

The Oilers were in Tampa Bay last night where they mounted quite the comeback against the Bolts before losing 4-3 - the game was broadcast on Oilers PPV, and I have to say, nothing made me laugh as hard as Gene Principe's little flub in talking about the team's rookies: "Craig MacTavish needs to keep having sex - er - success." (I was also a fan of the announcers trying to use the word 'shutout' as many times as possible in thirty or so seconds to jinx Johan Holmqvist - I thought the PPV games were supposed to suck? I was so entertained!)

Oh and I hear the Leafs fired somebody...

19 January 2008

Get well soon, Penguins!

Two posts in one day? What do I think this is, Christmas?

Some thoughts on the Pens v Habs:
-Frickin' damn it, enough with the injuries, Penguins. Army into the boards on the first shift...looks like a hip/tailbone bruise, but still no word.
-Sydor and Sabourin (!) had a great night tonight. Geno was spectacular, but was it just me or did all of the Penguins seem to step it up a bit? They looked a little different from the flash and pass team that the Pens usually are, more of a grinding, hard team...and it was nice. Great game, over all.
-How wonderful is it to beat the Canadiens at home?
-The Expedia.ca commercials with the people buried in snow, crying, are gold.

-Cherry apparently thinks that Saboo looks like Ryan Miller's brother, so let's have a little comparison:

What do you think?

Pens play the Caps and their million dollar man on Monday. Think there might be a little less of the television-pimped Ovechkin/Crosby war since Sid is out?

Go Pens.

Well...damn it.

That sucks.

I won't bemoan all the horrible ways the Pens can fail because any Pens fan knows them, but as much of a kick in the nuts the injuries have been this year, we've still got some great players and I am sure that the players themselves would be the first to tie down the jersey and get out there, not counting themselves out. February is going to be an interesting month.

In the NHL last night there were four hat tricks, two of which where in the same game (Buffalo completely trashing Atlanta). Something in the water?

Is Malkin going to finally get a plane ticket to Atlanta?

Also, if you haven't seen it, check out the NHL's 'frozen moment' and look at the faces of the Pens on the bench...especially Armstrong's. Excellent.

Pens and Habs tonight, should be a good game. CBC 7 pm.
Go Pens.

15 January 2008

Things that make me happy.

The Red Wings losing their past two games to Minnesota and Ottawa do not make this list, and thus will only be given a cursory mention - I missed both games TOCing Bronco hockey (don't ask about the miserable losses), though I did record the Ottawa game and do intend to watch it eventually, but you can read all about at On the Wings, where Matt did a great job recapping it.

The Wings take on the Atlanta Thrashers tonight and I will probably miss the majority of it as well - but I'm hopeful that it will be the end of this marginal losing streak.

Meanwhile, the NHL makes me happy. Why?

  • Andrew Raycroft doesn't want to watch the Leafs suck either:

  • Ty Conklin is now 10-0-1 with .949 sv% and a 1.72 gaa. What on earth is going on? (Also I am famous on the Pensblog, but I think my sign pales in comparison to this beauty in the center. I kind of wish I'd come up with that.) Yahoo suggests, "If Conklin continues to play this well, look for him to remain the Penguins' starting goaltender even after Marc-Andre Fleury returns from his high ankle sprain." I can hear Elly wailing from here. Conklin is also the deciding factor in my move from dead last to 8th of 12 in the IPB fantasy league. Seriously. He did more than Vinny Lecavalier. I don't get it either.
  • The Oilers are winning! Perhaps it can be attributed to Ales Hemsky's recent dental decision - I don't know, I sort of liked the toothless look, and I still miss his curls, but you know what? This I can live with.
  • I can skate backwards (okay this has nothing to do with the NHL but I just succeeded today, leave me alone)!
All in all, hockey is good, isn't it?

12 January 2008

15 minutes

Steph, my lovely co-blogger, is famous!

But first, a little back story.

As any of you who have spoken to me lately may be aware, I am in deep psychological pain over the fact that Ty Conklin, the man who has become something of a long-standing running joke on NPI (in the most loving of ways, of course) is basically now filling the bright yellow pads of the starting goaltender role for my most beloved Penguins...and doing a fine job at it, to boot. Conks, who's stats so far this season are finding him solidly leading the Pens and undefeated, had puck handled his way into Steph's heart early last year with his tenacity to stay in the NHL (and Syracuse) and keep on playing, even for a myriad of teams. Meanwhile, I chorkled at the thought of him, once more, playing in the NHL post-season, and cried as the Oilers that spurned him rattled around at the bottom of the well. I made comments that I hoped that when they played the Islanders, that MAB stayed far away from Miller. And now, after being signed by my own team (something which made me wail louder than a long-tailed cat in a rocking chair factory), he is saving the very team I swore would never start him.

Steph, bless her heart, meanwhile made sure to rub it in at every available opportunity - and rightly so, since she never gave up on his little goalie self, even going so far as to make amusing and funny signs for him when she went to see Syracuse play...and now, due to his sudden, and deserved, popularity, incriminating photos of these humorous signs have shown up on The Pensblog, which is the best place to find great photoshops and people with painful signs. I'm sure more will be appearing soon, and I'm even thinking of submitting one of Conks myself....but I'm not sure I can pony up to admitting that maybe, just maybe, he might actually be good for the Pens. I'll give him this, though: he really can handle the puck. I just wish he'd do it without leaving the net in ulcer-inducing spurts and bounds.

Congrats Conks, and Steph as well, I hope you both enjoy the fame good goaltending and a great sense of humor can provide!

09 January 2008

He's 6'2, right?

How about those Pens, eh?

24-16-2 and 4th in the East. 7 game winning streak.


-Congrats to Sidney for being selected to start the All-Star game! (Roster) Not a surprise, but still nice. Chara and Lecavalier are also on the ballot, and the West is, also unsurprisingly, clogged with Wings (Datsyuk is no joke, what an incredible player).

-A quick snippet in the Post-Gazette mentioned that Talbot was practicing and looking to come back soon. Yay!

-Thanks to a heads-up from about five different people, I was informed that Marc-Andre Fleury managed to fit himself into Colby Armstrong's equipment bag and scare the bejesus out of Army. Now, this is admittedly very funny, but how does a large goalie fit himself into such a small space or does #20 just have an overly large equipment bag? Either way, I hope there wasn't anything else in the bag.

Pens and Lightning on Thursday in Tampa Bay, 7:30. Hope the guys are enjoying Florida.

Go Pens!

07 January 2008

My Team is Awesome.

I know, it's been a little while. A busy, ridiculous while.

But honestly, what else is there to say? How many times can we praise the Eurotwins' slick moves, rave about Osgood's awesome surprise success, revel in the massive secondary scoring output - and the list goes on? Last week the Red Wings finished out the first half of the season with a 4-1 win against the West's second place Dallas Stars that gave a franchise record 30 wins in 41 games. Since then, they've tacked on another 3-0 victory against the Stars and a (finally!) 3-1 win over the Blackhawks. Like those numbers? Here's some more.

  • The Red Wings have a current total of 67 points in 43 games. Second place in the league is Ottawa (58 in 41), in the conference, San Jose (52 in 41), and in the division, St. Louis (45 in 39)
  • The team's record against non-division opponents is 25-1-1. Um. Wow. The only losses to teams not in the Central Division are an early loss to Anaheim, and a shootout loss to Edmonton.
  • Henrik Zetterberg is 7th in the league in points with 54, only 8 behind league leading Vinny Lecavelier - despite missing a few games in December/January. He also has 28 goals, fifth in the league.
  • Pavel Datsyuk is 9th with 52 and has 36 assists, tied with Nick Lidstrom for fourth in the league.
  • Speaking of Nick, he leads the league in +/- with 34 and is the only defenseman who in the top 30 in points.
  • Meanwhile Chris Osgood leads the league in both GAA (1.68) and SV% (.932), and is fourth in wins with 19, which is pretty spectacular for a goalie who is essentially one half of a tandem.
Battle of Alberta noted the following stats about the Wings as well:
  • Goals for per game: 1st in WC (2nd in NHL behind Ottawa)
  • Goals against per game: 1st in WC (& 1st in NHL)
  • PP%: 1st in WC (2nd in NHL behind MTL)
  • PK%: 5th in WC at 86.4% (5th in NHL)
  • Plus/minus: 1st in the NHL
  • Shots for per game: 1st in WC by 4.0 (1st in NHL)
  • Shots against per game: 1st in WC by 1.4 (1st in NHL)
The Wings are always expected to be a strong team, but this is over and above what anyone could have expected. Personally I'm absolutely grateful to be able to watch such an amazingly talent group of players and follow the success of an awesome organization like the Wings.

Maybe we will eventually have an off year. But this certainly isn't it. I'm happy to report I've decided to echo the success of my NHL team, and the current success of the namesake of my fantasy team. Maybe their success is rubbing off on my first place finish this week, or maybe I'm just balancing out Elly's run in the basement:

So how about a hand for Ty Conklin; 7-0-0 this season with a 1.99 GAA and a .939 SV% and named the NHL's 3rd star of the week.

And while we're at it, one for my boy Ales Hemsky for taking down Sheldon Souray and winning the Hot Off 2008.

04 January 2008

Deep, insightful recap

Can I get a hell yeah?
Hell. Yeah.

Congratulations, Geno!

01 January 2008

...Really, NBC?

I wasn't going to bother watching the Winter Classic until I heard about who was in net for Pittsburgh. And now I'm glad that I made it home for the third period, if only because I turned my TV on to hear the announcers proclaim:

"That's a real strength of Ty Conklin; playing the puck."

Seriously. Seriously?

(I'm glad to see he got it done, though, guy deserves a break.)

Happy New Year!

I have come down with a horrible cold, and since sitting up is making me dizzy,
I will say only this: