27 March 2008

Red Wings 20591081489, Central Division ZZZZZ

Sorry. It's been a while. It's hard to get excited about Central Division game after Central Division game.

Ozzie wants to know if the end is in sight (I can't see it either, buddy).

(I want to issue a quick thanks to my friend Chapel for providing me with a cap of this shot from the Wings victory over Columbus - after Henrik Zetterberg's hat trick, more than just hats were apparently thrown on the ice, and Ozzie decided to have a little bit of fun with these. Chapel also noted that the glasses make a great pair with the equally 80s style helmet.)

For those of you in the Detroit area, a couple fun promotional things to note as the playoffs are coming up:
  • The Wings are jumping on that silly Team Medallion bandwagon. You can get coupons daily between Sunday March 31st and April 20th in the Detroit Free Press and redeem them at participating venues for little tiny relatively useless (but neat!) collectibles. There are 20 featured Red Wings players, plus one "team commemorative" - which begs the question, which three regulars off the 23 man roster got snubbed? I probably won't find out, but if you do, let us know!
  • This Saturday, March 29th, the Wings will hold a rare open practice at the Joe. For $5 or a donation of new or slightly used hockey gear, fans will get the chance to participate in "fun contests and question and answer sessions with Red Wings personalities", as well as watch the practice. The practice will also feature a “fire sale” of autographed memorabilia from current and former Red Wings players and coaches. Unfortunately I probably can't make it out thanks to the obscene gas prices lately, making the third straight open practice I've missed.
Also with the playoffs up and coming, the "ARE YOU IN?" slogan is being bandied about quite a bit on the website and all the new graphics - I sincerely hope this doesn't stick as the playoffs actually begin; even Fire on Ice seems bearable by comparison. As a matter of fact, even "Join the Red Wave" seems bearable by comparison.

Finally, the Wings play tomorrow night against the St. Louis Blues. Are you excited? I'm going upstate to watch the Griffins. Regardless, go Wings!

19 March 2008

"Another game against the Blue freaking Jackets." - John Keating (Hank 3, Jackets 1)

This evening I'm bored and sick of reading about African American Vernacular English - so here, have a liveblog as the Red Wings take on the Columbus Blue Jackets for about the billionth time this month:

7:00 pm Red Wings Live informs its faithful that Darren Helm will be playing again tonight - because Valtteri Filppula has a knee injury. This is the first I've heard of it, but I certainly hope it's nothing serious. They also tell us that Derek Meech will be playing LW this evening, instead of his usual position on defense. Hmm...odd. He's had a good year at defense so far, here's to seeing if it'll translate.

7:06 pm For those interested in his grooming patterns, Henrik Zetterberg seems to have shaved again. The other day they asked him what the deal was with that and he said he's just "a lazy guy."

7:10 pm They're now interviewing a 105 year old woman who saw the entirety of Gordie Howe's career. Not only is she adorable, but she knows her hockey.

7:25 pm I would like the references to Columbus as "C-bus" to stop.

1st Period
7:39 pm You know what is so sad about playing the Jackets now? The Joe sounds oh so empty without consistent booing of Sergei Fedorov. (It looks rather empty too...I know it's a Wednesday night game against the Jackets and not particularly exciting, but come on guys!)

7:47 pm This is really boring.

7:48 pm Chris Osgood makes a nice save after Brian Rafalski makes the smart play not to hook Rick Nash coming in on goal. Have I mentioned how much I love having my defensemen back?

7:50 pm Jared Boll just locked in on Tomas Kopecky, who avoided the hit, and wound up absolutely railroading Freddy Modin instead. That looked pretty painful.

7:54 pm Osgood makes a less nice save on a shot that I'm not convinced he ever saw....scary. Then he followed it up with a terrifying flurry of saves.

8:00 pm Boll took about three second shift before deciding that was enough. Kid really wrecked himself earlier.

8:02 pm The puck just deflected oddly after Osgood made a save, leaving an almost wide open net. Ozzie dove across the crease to stop the puck but not before Zetterberg snuck in and messed up the shot. I love it when Zetterberg makes those shiny defensive plays. I'm sure Osgood just loved it too.

8:04 pm Rostislav Klesla is SLOW.

8:07 pm Detroit takes a second straight offensive zone penalty as Kopecky goes off - can we please take a few more penalties? Please?

8:09 pm Dick Tarnstrom takes a huge slapshot and Osgood gloves it down - beautiful. We're told we have only 3 shots on goal right now and this upsets me.
2nd period
8:30 pm The period starts with the remainder of a powerplay that is completely useless, but the announcers then rave about Dwayne Roloson and that makes me happy.

8:41 pm A Blue Jacket (I missed who it was) absolute runs over Osgood. Brian Rafalski sort of trips over him and highsticks the guy in the process. Everyone's favorite Mick McGeough calls only the Detroit penalty - and somehow decides to put Nick Lidstrom in the box. Manny Malhotra scores to put the Jackets up 1-0 during the ensuing powerplay. Wow. Wow.

9:00 pm Not too much has been happening - an almost Wings goal and an almost hand pass that saved it, and then the Wings go back on the pp and give up a nice scoring chance to Columbus. Henrik Zetterberg has some nice chances, but nothing goes in.

9:05 pm I am certainly glad Chris Chelios saw fit to take a penalty with 2:14 left in the period when we are down by one. I am annoyed enough that I see fit to play with the appearance of my yahoo fantasy hockey avatar instead of watching the last bit of this period. Seriously.
3rd period
9:26 pm I think Zetterberg is getting frustrated at only scoring 3 goals in 17 games or something, he starts off the period with a couple really great moves and almost puts us on the board.

9:35 pm Henrik IS pissed, and now he scores to prove it - past two defensemen and the goalie ending an 8 game goalless streak and 108:45 minutes of shutout time for Fredrik Norrena.

9:47 pm Suddenly we seem to have some momentum. Funny what a goal will do for you (however, powerplay still failing).

9:51 pm Chris Chelios gets called for boarding despite vehemently protesting. At least McGeough picked the right offender this time. Still, absolutely terrible time to take a penalty, but Osgood makes a nice save on Rick Nash to keep the Columbus penalty woes going. After the third faceoff the puck skitters off to the side of the net and no one seems to notice it right away except Osgood - you can practically see the panic not only all over his face, mask or no, but just in the way he stares at it like he's debating diving on it

9:54 pm With 2:54 to go the Jackets take a penalty - not that this has helped us so far.

9:56 pm Pavel Datsyuk misses a pass that could have been a gorgeous goal. I make a noise the likes of which prompts my roommate to ask if I am indeed all right. This is replicated when, a second later, thanks to an absolutely gorgeous pass by Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg scores again! I am starting to think he should shave more often.

9:58 pm 35 seconds later, a turnover lands Zetterberg the puck yet again - Norrena comes out to stop him, but he misses, and Henrik pots it behind him for the hat trick, a natural, and the third of his career. I think my neighbors might wonder if I'm okay by now. Osgood picks up glasses someone threw on the ice and tucks them in the back of his jersey - Mickey Redmond remarks that he's got eyes in the back of his head. Har har.

Somehow that game starting absolutely boring, then got frustrating, and wound up spectacular.

Congratulations Henrik, and thanks for the spectacular show.

18 March 2008

29 again

Happy Birthday, Lord Stanley's Mug.

16 March 2008

Damn that pesky Central Division.

Just for the record I'm far from an analyst, I've double-checked this but I've not exactly done mounds upon mounds of research and this isn't meant to be anything but an observation - but I find it interesting regardless.

We've been hearing it for years - "Of course the Red Wings are awesome, the way the schedule is they play half their games against the crappy Central Division, etc., etc., etc." And no one ever seems to listen when you, after stopping and thinking, tell them that actually the Wings don't really stomp all over the division like you'd expect. In fact, for whatever reason, it's the "crappy" Central Division teams that the Wings stumble over, whether it be because they're underestimating them, they're putting in less effort, or it's just plain inexplicable.

This season, against the Central Division, the Wings are 10-11-2. That's right, the Red Wings, supposed trampler of lesser peon teams, have a losing record in their division. The one that's supposed to vault them to their lofty playoff position every year. Right now (if shootout losses aren't considered to have any more weight than a regular loss), in this division, they're only winning 44% of their games.

When you factor out the games played against these teams, the Wings are 37-9-4, for a winning percentage of a sparkling 74%. (Overall, the record is 47-20-6 for a win percentage of 64%; still nothing to laugh at.)

The Central Division makes me feel like this.

I'm not worried or anything - but I'm not really excited for the last 9 games of the season, especially looking at the frustrating losses to Nashville and Columbus this weekend. (And how about Dom Hasek kicking that puck in his own net? Johan Franzen, however, has looked spectacular lately, which while not necessarily unexpected, has certainly been surprisingly pleasant and timely.)

12 March 2008

This is more like it! (Wings 3, Blackhawks 1)

The Blackhawks have inexplicably posed problems for the Red Wings all season long, but yesterday the Wings managed to conquer what was, despite the outcome and the not spectacular play of the Hawks, a sort of tense game as the Wings never managed to really get a strong lead.

Before the game started, it was reported that Dan Cleary signed a five year contract extension that will earn him $14 million in total, 2.8 million per year. This is great for the Red Wings, who have begun to really rely on Cleary's gritty, determined play. It isn't all that often that you find a player both offensively talented and as hard working as Cleary, so locking him up long-term is a strong move.

In the wake of this news, it was awesome to see the Wings go on to win their fourth game straight. Kirk Maltby scored early on to put the Wings up 1-0, but Rene Bourque tied it up soon afterward on a bit of a misplay by the Wings defensemen.

There was a dicey moment when Robert Lang had a bit of a breakaway and Brad Stuart hauled him down, resulting in a penalty shot. Fortunately, the former Wing shot the puck right into Chris Osgood's leg pad. Osgood continued to look strong for the rest of the night, making 19 saves on 20 shots, despite not having started the past four games.

Pavel Datsyuk scored the game winner, and Johan Franzen, who had a strong game even before his goal, the empty netter to result in the final 3-1 score. Mikael Samuelsson also had a good looking game, ringing one off the post and then spearing James Wisniewski, who retaliated with a crosscheck to Samuelsson's face which has earned him a one game suspension without pay.

The Hawks didn't look awesome but they somehow managed to keep the puck out of the net often enough - I was surprised at how strong goalie call up Corey Crawford looked, for someone I'd never even heard of. And yet, their struggle for a playoff spot continues, as the Wings took this game away from them.

Other notes!

  • Toward the end of the game Jiri Hudler and Patrick Kane looked to be trying to start something - one of the commentators remarked that for once Hudler was picking on someone his own size, which made me laugh. Not so often you hear that when "his own size" means "tiny".
  • The game was Dallas Drake's 1000th, and the Wings made a mention of this during the game. They showed his family in the crowd on the jumbotron and then switched the Drake, who was smiling on the bench at seeing his family - how cute. Afterward they took a team picture to commemorate the evening - I love Henrik Zetterberg draping himself all over his Eurotwin partner Datsyuk, but where is Nick Lidstrom looking?
  • Tonight at the Joe they were handing out these posters of the current 8 Swedish players on the roster (Jon Ericsson was included) - the promotion was dubbed "IKEA Night" and the Swedish mega furniture store even sponsored it. UM. AWESOME.
  • I've often said I LOVE the Joe's music guys and their abilities to match songs to the moment, but yesterday night was absolutely spectacular. In quick succession (seriously a time span of about five minutes) they played both Alice Cooper's "Eighteen (And I Like it)" and the Beatles' "Let it Be" after Kirk Maltby's goal, "Hooked on a Feeling" when Niklas Hjalmarsson hooked Zetterberg, and "Ice, Ice Baby" as the officials took care of some problems with the ice surface. Congrats, guys, you are awesome.
The Wings sit now at 98 points on the season, 9 ahead of second place Dallas, whom they'll face on Thursday. Here's to five!

10 March 2008

Something to like about the Yankees (maybe).

The Detroit Red Wings, winners now of their past three (how great was it to see Nicklas Lidstrom back in the lineup yesterday?) could play an outdoor game against the New York Rangers next season, as the last event to ever be held at Yankee Stadium.

Um, awesome? Not only would this be an Original Six matchup that we don't get to see nearly often enough, but (and I hate both the Yankees and Bobby Abreu's batting music) how great would it be to be a part of the last game played at the old Yankee Stadium. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says it's not a done deal, but the Wings who have heard the news sound pretty excited:

Chris Chelios: "[It would be] awesome."
Kris Draper: “Would I like to be [a participant]? Absolutely. Are you kidding me?”
While these outdoor games may seem a little like contrived events meant to draw more fans into the game and show off the flashy stars, and the idea of Yankee Stadium's last big even being an NHL publicity stunt of sorts is stirring some controversy with fans of both sports, I admit - I'd love to see it happen.

08 March 2008

Where the heck did hockey go?

I really hate these three day break schedules - especially when I'm at home and without Center Ice. It doesn't help that it feels like I haven't seen the Wings since Monday because I missed Wednesday's game against St. Louis (a second straight win!) to see the Sabres play the Capitals in Buffalo.

In the meantime, here are a few pictures from the Sabres game, during which Alex Ovechkin scored numbers 53 and 54 on the season and the Capitals won 3-1:

The view from our (won off of eBay for an awesomely low price the night before) seats.

My favorite Capital Milan Jurcina, the requisite Alex Ovechkin, and new addition (it was so hard not to boo on principle) Sergei Fedorov - who actually looked better than I've seen him play in a long while. The plethora of Russians, maybe? Oh, there were Sabres there, too?

I also got the chance to meet up with the lovely Katebits from The Willful Caboose at the game which made for an even more fun evening. While I don't have any attachment to the Sabres, the fans were awesome and so was the experience (and the game, since the Caps won!).

03 March 2008

Blogging in Enemy Territory (Wings 3, Sabres 2)

Bear with me, this is going to be an odd sort of personal narrative-y recap, but the experience of seeing the Wings in another city was too fun to pass up discussing almost as much as the game.

In a whirlwind of activity that involved a lot of trains, a trip to Toronto to see a Marlies game (they lost, but as they were playing the Stars I got to jeer at Toby Petersen, so I consider it a success) and very very little sleep, I found myself in Buffalo last night at a bar watch the Wings play the Sabres. Convenient, boys - thank you for scheduling that so nicely for me.

I of course wore a Wings shirt and was jeered at on the way in to the bar (packed, as expected), but there were quite a few Wings sweaters as well. I don't know where its owner managed to pick one up so soon, but I also saw a Steve Bernier jersey making its way around the bar. I'd say it was a bit early for that, but considering his performance in his first game, sure. We took our seats at the bar and I endured another good-natured(?) round of booing while indulging in some sort of delicious amber ale microbrew.

Going in to the game I was worried, given the Wings' performance lately, but they apparently wanted to show me that it was, in fact, okay. I missed the last game due to work, so I hadn't seen him back yet, but it delighted me to see Niklas Kronwall warming up. The team seems to be pulling back together so I decided to be optimistic.

My game notes (which I stopped taking after the second period) are as follows:

  • Oh my god someone chain Dominik Hasek to a post.
  • The Buffalo announcers are concerning me. I know Ryan Miller has been a little shaky at times this season...are they trying to feed his ego by saying things like "What a great shot! Nice save!" on things like weak shots right into his chest?
  • Was that Dallas Drake who just scored? Seriously?
  • The drunk guys behind me think that "DETROIT SUCKS" can fit into the same rhythm as "Let's go Buffalo!".
  • Okay no, of course it wasn't Dallas Drake.
  • I miss Nick Lidstrom real bad.
  • That WAS Dallas Drake what the hell?
  • Making fun of the Lions is a universal method of making friends. They still, however, boo when your team scores.
  • What the heck is Aaron Downey doing on the bench there? Thanks for highlighting us looking like idiots, MSG.
  • Oh my god someone SERIOUSLY chain Hasek to a post - actually strike that, it is entertaining when he tries to run people over.
  • What's this secondary scoring thing, do we do that now?
  • No one in this bar likes me very much. (With the exception of a very drunk guy who thinks I should accompany him to a strip club post-game.)
The Wings goal-scorers were Val Filppula, Kirk Maltby, Johan Franzen and (I KNOW) Dallas Drake. There was a marked absence of score sheet domination from the Eurotwins, but it was nice to see other player stepping up.

Overall I was surprised, people were generally friendly (although seriously Buffalo, SERIOUSLY, we don't want Ryan Miller. Seriously. I promise. No less than three people mentioned this to me in the course of the evening.) and post-game we met some nice Sabres fans on the train (via...singing Queen?) and headed to a bar with them (They bought us drinks! I like Buffalo!) where we ran into......the guy who jeered at me on the subway before we got to the bar. I think this should be symbolic or something.

Anyway, Buffalo has good beer and entertaining fans but I have not been converted, though I may make it to the Capitals game on Wednesday. Take that Eastern Conference. (Oh and I still think I hate Andreas Lilja.)