30 April 2008

Keepin' it Going (Wings 4, Avs 3)

Once again I missed the game - this series has really been a disaster in viewing terms, as I was spending the evening with a friend who will be moving soon, and it sounds like it was a good one. The return of Forsberg couldn't save them, either - here are some comments from around the web:

Matt @ On the Wings: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg had probably their best game of the playoffs. [...] Peter Forsberg had some moments in which he looked dangerous, but the Wings did a great job of neutralizing him. I believe Nik Kronwall got a big hit on him and it was heart-warming to see little Brian Rafalski stand him up in the neutral zone in the third period. [...] The loss of Stastny compounded the loss of Smyth and made it much more difficult for Forsberg to make an impact. It was pretty obvious that he was playing hurt.

Mike @
Mile High Hockey: The Avs failed to take the body on Detroit's forwards as they entered the zone until the 3rd period, which resulted in plenty of opportunities for a healthy Detroit team to take advantage of a depleted Avalanche squad. When they did try to get the physical play up, it usually resulted in borderline hits that weren't called (luckily) or power play opportunities for the Red Wings. Quenneville also seemed to have the caution flag out for long stretches of the 1st and 2nd periods as the Avs looked content not to lose badly at times rather than putting the Red Wings on their collective heals.

Dave @ Gorilla Crouch: Detroit’s Big Three played a role in winning Game 3 last night, and in doing so put the Colorado Avalanche on the brink of elimination. [...] Finally, the Mule kept his improbable goal scoring run on track. He scored another goal last night which brings that remarkable run to 23 goals in 25 games. [...] Anyone who follows sports knows about the old cliche that your best players have to be your best players. Pavs, Hank, Lids and the Mule were just that last night and as a result the Red Wings are one win away from making a return trip to the Western Conference Finals.

Aaron @ The Dog and Pony Show: This Red Wings dominance was not unexpected. They were the best team in the regular season, and they are the best team in the playoffs. Detroit never had a post-lockout swoon like the Avalanche did, and by the looks of it they may never have any kind of swoon any time soon.
Let's hope so. The Wings have moved to 3-0 on the series, a familiar number this round, as both Pittsburgh and Dallas are up on their opponents by the same margin. Thursday night they battle the Avalanche in Denver for the sweep at 10:00 pm - GO WINGS.

(Meanwhile, Detroit sports fans rejoice for another reason - Tigers relief pitcher Jason Grilli is finally gone.)

Update: Mike Babcock has been nominated for the Adams Award, along with Guy Carbonneau of the Montreal Canadiens and Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals. While the award is all but Boudreau's (and I certainly think he deserves it) for turning around the Caps this season, it's awesome to see Babcock recognized for his third straight 50+ win season with the Wings.

29 April 2008

This is my favorite quote ever.

As we gear up for Game 3 of this so far spectacular series tonight, we're confronted with a seemingly rotating thanks to injury Avs lineup: Tonight, Wojtek Wolski is out, Scott Hannan is in, Ryan Smyth is out, Peter Forsberg is.....?

A "definite maybe."

Awesome. Hilariously awesome. (Just about sums up Forsberg's past...well, few seasons, now, doesn't it?)

Puck drops at 10:00 EST - GO WINGS!

27 April 2008

"Ride the Mule?" It's better than "Are You In?" (Wings 5, Avs 1)

Yesterday morning I made the comment that, since I was only going to be able to catch the first two periods of the game before having to get to campus for my commencement, "If the Wings aren't winning - and I mean blowout here - when I have to leave, there's going to be blood." While that may have been just a little hyperbolic, I certainly didn't expect the team to take such pity on my horrible luck with NBC broadcasts and do exactly that - it was 4-0 when I left for the ceremony, and when I announced the final 5-1 score, a quiet but enthused cheer snaked its way down my row of graduates.

This is what I like to see.

I missed a portion of the first period as well, because the bar I was at was full of people more interested in the NFL draft - I wished I'd heard Joe Hass' logic on the matter sooner so I'd had it to toss at them: "You can either watch Matt Millen make a mistake, or listen to the Wings fans chant “FIRE MILLEN!” after they announce the draft pick." I only missed the first few minutes though, and as soon as managed to get a bartender to make the switch I was rewarded with Johan Franzen's first goal of the night.

The Wings came out strong, playing hard, fast, dominant hockey, which was great to see after the Nashville series that oftentimes had the Wings starting out a little slower. This time they beat the Avs down from the beginning and allowed them no means of coming back. The game seemed tilted in the Wings' favor right from the beginning - Brad Stuart's wife had her baby over in LA and having taken care of things out there he came in to replace Andreas Lilja, so the Wings regained a strong defensive force while the Avs lost Wojtek Wolski for the series, and were also missing Peter Forsberg and Scott Hannan last night. Jose Theodore (being known as Jose Three-or-Four over at A2Y, which I love) did start in net, but was pulled once more after allowing four goals - he's apparently still "sick".

The Wings are played great hockey this series, and most importantly they're playing deep hockey. The Selke nominated Eurotwins impress as usual, but the second line of Franzen, Valtteri Filppula (who got impressively physical with Adam Foote last night), and Mikael Samuelsson are putting up points like there's no tomorrow, and the Jiri Hudler, Darren McCarty and Darren Helm line is quite the presence as well. It's great to see the talent shining from all places, and it's great that this allows for the big line to stay together - as good as they play apart, their best hockey happens when they're together. When the Wings play like they did last night there's just no stopping the pressure. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, they collapsed underneath it.

Actually, this is what I like to see, too. Good for you McCarty!

To their credit the Avs tried just about everything they could to get motivated and claw back into the game. After Franzen's second, Filppula and Henrik Zetterberg each notched one for the Wings, and the Avalanche looked to be out for the blood the Wings were saving me from having to spill at commencement. McCarty dropped the gloves for the first time with the Wings since his return, against Cody McCormick as the Avs tried desperately to gain some sort of momentum. With a 4-0 lead and a blatant challenge, I'm glad McCarty showed what he's (still) made of. Unfortunately for the Avalanche the fight did little to help and was followed by a string of penalties that ended the Wings up with nearly three minutes of 5 on 3 time. Peter Budaj, then in net, helped them hold the Wings off but by that point it was too little too late.

I missed the third period, but while it sounds like the Wings took their foot off the gas and made a couple sloppy plays at the beginning, the turned it around quickly and in the end it worked out all right. Joe has the liveblog here.

Both teams get a bit of a break as Game 3 in Colorado isn't until Tuesday. It's inarguable that this has become the Wings' series to lose, but the team is remiss if they don't expect at least a bit more effort coming from the Avalanche in their own building. Whether or not they get Forsberg and Hannan back (Darren McCarty thinks Foppa at least, will be back - "I'm pretty sure that, unless Forsberg's legs gonna fall off, he'll probably be in there for Game 3."), and regardless of who starts in net (one has to imagine it will be Budaj, but they seem to continue believing in Theodore), the Wings need to keep playing the way they did in Game 2, and not let this early lead allow for the debacle Game 1 almost became - or we'll be the ones making this sort of game recap post.

News on Octopusgate:
  • I explained the matter to Elly who said: "But how about fighting? That gets people matter all over the ice." Good point. How about that, Mr. Bettman?
  • Freep blogger proves that "matter" does not indeed fly off of the octopus at all - I hope he really did mail out the shower curtain he used in the experiment.
Finally, if anyone finds that the "Ride the Mule" shirts being discussed in the post-game interviews really are getting made, direct me to them, all right?

26 April 2008

My heart weeps

Angel...how could you.

That's right, Buffy fans/teenage girls, he's a Flyers fan. Well, that explains why he lost his soul in the first place.


Has anyone been counting the number of times Penguins players have said, 'Well, we played the way we wanted to, and even though we were down a couple of goals, we just keep going and trying, knowing that we're never out of a game,' and then find them winning?


Go Pens.

24 April 2008

A Good Start (Wings 4, Avs 3)

The Red Wings opened the series with a 4-3 victory over Colorado. The beginning appeared almost like it could have been a blowout, as the Wings took a 4-1 lead and the allegedly sick Jose Theodore was pulled in favor of Peter Budaj, but the team started to let the lead slip away from them as the game kept going, which left fans on the edge of their seats throughout the latter half.

I only caught the third period (I turned on the radio on my way home to Ken Kal praising Andreas Lilja's play, which I took as a good sign, considering some of his earlier gaffs) after getting home from class, and thus I didn't actually see any of the goals, but the hockey I saw was a much closer, tighter game, as predicted. Ryan Smyth looked incredible, and, like I noted earlier, the line of he and David Jones created a whole lot of great chances. Luckily for the Wings, Chris Osgood stood tall and made some incredible saves, and Johan Franzen hasn't forgotten his recently acquiring incredible scoring touch.

The atmosphere at the Joe looked awesome, and it's clear that people are really excited for this series. What I caught of this game was some fun hockey to watch, and I hope that keeps up throughout the series, whatever the final result (although, of course, go Wings!)

For a reaction from someone who caught the whole game, check out Joe Hass' liveblog over at Behind the Jersey.

"I'm Not a Puck Bunny" Podcast

For those of you who haven't heard it yet, Finny at Girl With a Puck and Connie of A Queen Among Kings put together a podcast called "I'm Not a Puck Bunny" every week. During this playoff season they've opened it up from their respective California teams and have been inviting guests on to speak about their own teams' performances. This week I joined them along with Cat from Untypical Girls to discuss current league news, this past round of the playoffs and make predictions for the next.

You can check the podcast out at imnotapuckbunny.podbean.com, if you're interested (and you should be!). Thanks ladies, for having me on - it was a great time, and I look forward to coming back if we make it through this round.

(I also want to correct a couple mistakes I noticed, listening to it again - first of all I was remiss in not mentioning Johan Franzen when Connie asked me who our clutch performers from Round 1 were - his OT breakaway goal that won game 5 for us was one of the hugest moments of the Wings' playoffs so far. Second, at the end I slipped up and mentioned seeing Ryan Smyth at a Dallas/Detroit game - obviously I meant Colorado. I also jump the gun on Nick Lidstrom's birthday - he won't be 38 until Monday! You didn't think I'd get through this whole thing without a couple grievous errors, did you?)

23 April 2008

Playoff Preview: Detroit vs Colorado.

This series is going to be exciting if Wings and Avs fans have to literally block out reality in favor of making up stories about the ridiculous events that take place on the ice. Since the possibility arose at the end of the regular season the internet has been abuzz with the prospect of a "renewal of the rivalry." In the next few weeks the stills of Roy and Osgood, Roy and Vernon, Draper getting smushed, Lemieux turtling, and the like, will populate your TVs, newspapers, and the internet like you wouldn't (or maybe you would) believe. Will it happen? Who knows - it's probably unlikely. But with the return of Darren McCarty to the Wings and Adam Foote and Peter Forsberg to the Avs, you never know.

Either way the potential for this series to resemble the frustrating one we just saw is there as well - during the regular season both teams played a close, rough game against the Wings with a similar sort of physicality and attention to preventing the strong puck control game of the Wings from overpowering them. In the end, the Red Wings wound up 4-0 against them, sweeping the season series.

Keys to Winning:

Unfortunately for them, however, their last game against the Avalanche was played February 18th - a week and some before the arrival of their trade deadline additions. While there was some discussion about whether or not the addition of Peter Forsberg would pan out and be worth it despite his injury-prone late career days, but he has one goal and four assists so far in these playoffs and has played every game. Ruslan Salei has looked great in an Avs uniform as well, notching four points throughout the first few games, and Adam Foote has provided a veteran presence that certainly hasn't help the idea of this renewed rivalry. The Wings had less going on in terms of bringing in new players, but they did bring back a familiar face in McCarty, who despite being doubted has looked better than expected thus far, even picking up a goal in Game 2. Their one acqusition on trade deadline day, Brad Stuart, has been quietly excellent. Paired up with Nik Kronwall he's given the Wings a physically-minded second defensive pair that's pretty intimidating, something the Wings get picked on for their lack of quite a bit. Stuart may miss the first game of the series, however, as the Wings have given him permission to stay in LA with his wife while they wait out the birth of his second child - very classy and sweet on the part of the organization.

After the first round of the playoffs and watching Dominik Hasek struggle while Dan Ellis was stellar, the importance of solid goaltending has only been emphasized. The Wings have decided to keep going with Chris Osgood for the time being - a decision that's very hard to argue when you look at his stats from the two games he played in Round 1 (.981 SV%, .39 GAA). Luckily it seems like, while others have been quick to attribute the term to the situation, there continues to be a lack of "goalie controversy" between he and Hasek - something that could only hurt the team. For now, Ozzie is the guy, and looking at his season and his experience, there's no reason to worry. Meanwhile entrenched between the pipes, in a serious turn-around season, for the Avalanche is Jose Theodore. Despite his shaky past couple seasons, Theodore has been strong this year, showing shades of his ultra successful past in Montreal. He made his way through six games against Minnesota with a .940 SV% and a 1.88 GAA - not too shabby. Theodore is far from impenetrable though, and not unable to be rattled. The Wings didn't let Ellis steal a series for the Predators, and there's no reason to expect Theo to get away with it either.

Looking at the blueprints, it seems as though the series will be a tight, low-scoring game with lots of checking, and in all honesty the key to winning is more than likely the team who plays the hardest; who wants it the most. The Wings top-notch defense will be focused on the top two lines, but as it was Ryan Smyth and David Jones' gritty third line who won them the final game in Minnesota. The Wings will need to respond in kind with plenty of secondary scoring (something they've done well to this point, given that Jiri Hudler and Niklas Kronwall are both tied with Pavel Datsyuk for the top playoff scorer to this point) and more than a little grit and determination. It won't be an easy series, but neither was the last one - the Wings have got what it takes; they just need to use it.


Once again the TV schedule is less than brilliant:

Game 1 -- Thursday, April 24, 7:30 p.m. Colorado at Detroit VERSUS, TSN
Game 2 -- Saturday April 26, 3 p.m. Colorado at Detroit NBC, TSN
Game 3 -- Tuesday, April 29, 10 p.m. Detroit at Colorado VERSUS, TSN
Game 4 -- Thursday, May 1, 10 p.m. Detroit at Colorado VERSUS, TSN
x-Game 5 -- Saturday, May 3, 1 p.m. Colorado at Detroit NBC, TSN
x-Game 6 -- May 5, 10 p.m. Detroit at Colorado VERSUS, TSN
x-Game 7 -- Wednesday, May 7, TBD Colorado at Detroit TSN
Cable exclusivity sure is a pain - FSN will not be able to cover any of the games VS has dibs on this round. Also unfortunately for me at least, Game 1 falls during the last final of my undergraduate career - but for once I'm happy about NBC's scheduling. My commencement is at 6 pm on Saturday night so this afternoon matinee allows me to catch it after all.

Around the Web:

For updates on Detroit make sure to visit the following:
And on the Colorado side of things:
I'm going to predict the Wings take it in 6, but I won't be surprised if it goes to 7. I'm also going to miss Radek Bonk's name being bandied about wantonly. Game one is tomorrow night at 7:30 pm - GO WINGS!

20 April 2008

Done and Done (Wings 3, Preds 0)


A familiar finish to a first round matchup, at least for Wings fans. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, this season's routing came with 100% less goalie freakouts that all but sealed the belief that the Wings would be taking game 6. It was a harder fought series than some expected, but in the end the Wings persevered the way we believed they would. Quick observations on the game:
  • The first few minutes were frightening - the Predators were playing hard, harder than we thought this team might be capable of. The sheer amount of time the puck spent bobbling around in front of Chris Osgood had me cringing. Kudos to them for being able to instill that sort of fear in Wings fans everywhere - but unfortunately they couldn't keep up the pace.
  • Speaking of Osgood, the longer this game went on the better he looked - Dominik Hasek didn't have a horrendous season or anything, but Babcock's decision to play Ozzie after Hasek dropped two games straight is looking pretty damn good right now. He's only gotten to play in two games, so these are obviously skewed some, but his stats? .981 SV% and a .39 GAA.
  • Not to sell the opposition short, Dan Ellis was playing well again - the fact that he came into these playoffs inexperienced and played as strongly as he did should give Predators fans a lot of heart for the coming years. He nearly singlehandedly kept them alive through some parts of this series and as much as we said he was no Kipper, no Roloson even, to steal away this series, he did his damnedest to prove us wrong.
  • Darren McCarty is having an amazing year. The fact that he got the opportunity to come back the way he did was one thing, the fact that he could perform well in the IHL was a given, in the AHL was a happy surprise, but seeing him back with the Wings scoring goals and playing the body like he did on those two defensemen that allowed for Jiri Hudler's third period goal is far beyond what anyone expected. Not only has he turned into the feel good story of the year, but he's gone from capable of playing at this level to a serious asset. We owe some serious thanks to Kris Draper for salvaging his career.
  • Niklas Kronwall is excellent. No seriously, how well has he been playing lately? Someone needs to build him a little bubble so he can stay healthy all season because he is a serious force. I love him paired up with Connie's Brad Stuart, too. While our defense terrified me a little at the start of this game, guys like these make me worry less for the future.
  • Nick Lidstrom's game winning goal was awesome. I mean, okay, it was a little ridiculous, yes. But it was awesome. When they interviewed him afterward he made it sound like he was trying to get that bounce in there and I for one hope he was - making the fact that it succeeded even more awesome. Not that I want it to be somewhat flukey goals like that to be what move us through the playoffs, but you have to admit, things like that are fun. And in this series we needed a little fun.
While this series frustrated me to no end at times, and while I have never been so sick of looking at Nashville's blue and puke yellow, it wasn't all horrible either. Maybe it's just because we generally only see Nashville during the regular season and, let's face it, just because we're the Red Wings doesn't mean any other team in our division is going to get all hyped up to see us 8 times a season any more than we are them. It was really great to see all the fans in Nashville give their them the support they did - maybe we write them off a little too quickly as a hick team that's just waiting to be moved to a hockey market that cares. The fans in this series were screaming, yelling, throwing catfish (which, still, ew - even if that makes me a hypocrite), and the city itself seriously got into it as well - throwing a viewing party at the Sommet Center where fans could watch the game on the jumbotron? Now that's cool (Becky, I'm totally jealous). So overall, good on you guys, Preds fans, for showing you are in fact a respectable bunch - consider me enlightened.

But of course, I'm still happy you lost! At any rate, thanks boys, for staying strong through the first round - now let's make it through the second. Dates aren't announced yet for the round two but rest assured we'll be ready for you, Colorado or Calgary.

19 April 2008

That's More Like It (Wings 2, Preds 1)

It's been a frustrating week for Detroit fans, losing both game three and four over in Nashville - in fact, I didn't even make a game post for Wednesday's game because about all I could have mustered up after watching it would have been the google image search results for "margarita". And the frustration doesn't let up. While the Wings won 2-1 yesterday in overtime, moving them back up to 3-2 in the series, the game made you swear far more than cheer.

At the beginning of the series, one of the big questions was whether or not the inexperienced netminder Dan Ellis would be able to steal some games for Nashville - and last night he very nearly did. Ellis stopped 53 shots over the course of the evening, some of them absolutely painful for Wings fans to watch. Dan Cleary has at least two brilliant opportunities quashed by the kid. The Predators didn't look amazing but, with an effort like that at their back end, they looked good enough. Even with Chris Osgood, who got the nod tonight, playing well, the whole rest of the game after Valterri Filppula's first period goal had every Wings fan sitting on the edge of their seat just waiting for Nashville to seize on one tiny opportunity and tie it up - and they did, at 19:16 in the third period.

The disappointment was evident everywhere - Ken Daniels' voice as he made the call, Henrik Zetterberg's third intermission interview, my whiny IMs to Elly - but the Wings didn't let up. It would have been easy to let that devastation affect their play negatively, heading into overtime, but instead the team play hard (for the whole minute and some that OT lasted). Valtteri Filppula, who had an extremely strong game, broke up a Nashville play that resulted in the puck being coughed up to Niklas Kronwall, who in term passed it forward to Johan Franzen, the Wings Mr. Clutch, who scored on the breakaway to end the game.

The Detroit Free Press ran an article that included quotes from Kronwall on the goal:

“Dumont tried to put it out to their D-man and it ended up right on my blade, almost,” Kronwall said. “I just saw Mule in the corner of my eye and tried to give it to him. It wasn’t really a good pass, he was just able to handle it really well and he came in and scored.

“I was just like, please, please, please. We deserved to win. We played really well and just stuck with our game plan the whole time. There was never a time when we sat back and relaxed. We kept plugging away.”

Personally, I can say that Kronwall wasn't alone in thinking "please, please, please," as Franzen swept the puck up - by that point it felt like every Red Wing and every fan was thinking the same exact thing. The team celebrated after that goal like they'd just won the series - and I can see why. 54 shots on net, at home, and with the Predators missing both Jason Arnott and David Legwand, and we lose? That would be a huge blow to recover from, and everyone knew it. Luckily we won't have to - but we will have to play this next game tough, get more pucks in the net, and figure out a way to solve Dan Ellis. The frustration refuses to let up - how sick are we all of watching this Nashville team? Here's to hoping it only lasts for one more game.

No more Octopi?

Meanwhile, in yet another frustrating move for Wings fans, the NHL as decided to ban the twirling of octopi before games - by Al Sobotka or anyone else, for that matter. From now on, because matter "flies off the octopus and gets on the ice," it will now cost the team a $10,000 fee if anyone but the linesmen dispose of the octopi. Personally I really hope this gets completely disregarded and the tradition continues regardless of the extra fees - it's a huge shame to see something steeped in as much history (Al Sobotka has been twirling octopi throughout 17 years with the Wings, but the actual tradition goes back 56) put down for such a silly reason. Chris Osgood doesn't approve either:
“Certain teams and certain traditions, they should just leave them alone,” the Wings’ Chris Osgood said. “It’s a shame. It’s great for the atmosphere, and the fans love it. The league should ask the fans first before they do anything. That’s who pays to get into the rink and see the game.”
Christy Hammond has collected varying blogger opinions on the matter here, and everyone seems to agree that it's stupid, a shame, an outrage, what have you - me too.

15 April 2008

Wings in 5? (Preds 5, Wings 3)

The Wings lost their first post-season game yesterday after leading first 2-0 and then 3-2 - unfortunate, yes, a late heartbreaker, yes, the reason I ordered a fourth beer, yes, but not the end of the world. I caught the game at a bar, so I missed most of the audio and was torn between the Wings and the Tigers (who mounted a great comeback win over the Twins - sorry Kirsten!) and thus don't have a lot of really intelligent commentary. The Wings didn't look spectacular but they didn't look horrid either - Nashville is getting a habit of scoring goals in quick succession against us, which really needs to be stopped, but getting past that, the boys are still managing to score. With luck they'll be hit withe some real urgency again before the game tomorrow night and can bring the series back to 3-1.

Here's what some others have to say:

Christy @ Behind the Jersey: You have to hand it to Nashville for continuing to come back and we finally saw some offensive production from the likes of Jason Arnott and David Legwand returned to the line-up. The crowd at the Sommet Center certainly was a factor in giving the team a much needed boost after their two key goals so you have to hand it to the fans as well. The series is on and let’s just hope the Wings come back Wednesday to take a 3-1 series lead before heading home.

Matt @ On the Wings: The Red Wings team that I saw in that period and a half was not the same one that won Games 1 and 2. They couldn’t pass efficiently, they made stupid decisions on attempted hits, and they looked frazzled. This experienced group let the crowd noise and Nashville’s exuberance put them off their game.
So okay, the Predators take one - the chance for a sweep is over but hey, most of us have been saying five anyway, right? Right.

Of course, does anyone else think the Predators are getting a little bit ahead of themselves with this nonsense? "The best moment in Preds franchise history"? "You have to wonder if this was a reversal of fortune where the direction of a series was changed in nine seconds"? Nobody's saying Nashville has absolutely no shot - but that's a far cry from a reversal of fortune that's all but handing Nashville the series.

And enough with the catfish.

The puck drop for Game 4 9:00 tomorrow night at the Sommet Center - GO WINGS!

13 April 2008

Keep it Going (Wings 4, Predators 2)

Bad weather did finally cancel the baseball game I was supposed to work - but not with time for me to get to the Joe. Fortunately, it at least allowed me to watch the game from my couch, rather that missing it entirely, which I'm thankful for - because what a game.

I have to admit, like many other bloggers have mentioned, while Darren McCarty's goal in the first to start off the scoring was hardly a key to the game, it was an amazing feeling to watch it go in and to see his celebration - the same one we used to see back in the day. I watched him with the Griffins through his comeback and it was a joy to see how he only got better each time I saw him, something that doesn't look to stop any time soon, and even more so to see how much fun he was having. The man loves the game:

"[The goals are] all special in their own way. I don't know if one's more special, but they all go in the special box," McCarty said. "Those are great reminders that what I'm doing is right and I'm on the right path. Because miracles keep happening."
McCarty's comeback is getting labeled (even by Kris Draper) as the feel good story of this season and it certainly deserves it. He's done exactly what the Wings hoped he would do when they signed him to a contract to end out the season, score some goals, make some hits - after all, as he says, "It's all part of the game, it's all part of the playoffs. You've got to suck it up. Chicks dig scars, anyway."

It wasn't McCarty, however, who really cemented this game for the Wings. Dominik Hasek, despite his behind the net gaff in the second that helped the Predators to score two quick goals and tie the game up, he played like a madman, which is exactly what we need out of the crazy Czech. Sometimes it's tough to deal with Dom - every time he leaves the crease you're left wondering if he's going to be brilliant or make a costly mistake. He did both last night, but the good outnumbered the bad. The Predators were on full out attack mode through the first period, and Hasek stood strong. The man is meant for the energy and the competition of the playoffs, and he seems to have found his groove in these ones.

Unfortunately for the Predators, to crack someone like Hasek they're going to need their star forwards to get their heads in the game. And when it's Jordin Tootoo who's your best player and lead goal scorer, it's safe to say that hasn't happened yet. Speaking of Tootoo, his second goal was an easy pot after our favorite turnover machine Andreas Lilja tossed the puck right to him. The best part about that goal was Greg Zanon's obnoxious, Crosby-esque taunting goal celebration was caught mic'd up by NBC - the guy hoots and hollers and skates off yelping "Five hole, five hole!" at Dom - only to have the next Wings goal (Kris Draper) go in off of his skate minutes later, after Babcock wisely called a time out and calmed the team down. Karma's is certainly a bitch. Tomas Holmstrom, who looks remarkable upon his return and was another huge player for the Wings yesterday, notched the last goal of the night.

The Wings looked good, but they could look better. Valtteri Filppula has to be frustrated with the number of near sure thing tap-ins he's just missed on, for one. The breaks keep on coming, as well - in the first period Radek Bonk put the puck past Hasek, but he knocked the net off on the play. The goal was waived off not because the net was off the moorings, but because the ref said he lost sight of the puck. Unfortunate for Nashville, as the ruling basically everywhere is that the goal would have counted. Yet another break for the Wings, and while it may not have won them the game, it would be nice to see us get one without anything flukey working in our favor. Fortunately even with these bits of luck, the Wings have consistently looked like the better team.

The puck drops for Game 3 Monday night at 7:30 pm, GO WINGS!

11 April 2008

It wasn't pretty, but did you think it'd be? (Wings 3, Preds 1)

The Wings took the early 1-0 lead last night in their first round series with the Predators, winning the game 3-1 on a goal from the continuously red hot Johan Franzen, and two from star Henrik Zetterberg. Unfortunately all I saw was the last five minutes of the second period, and the third, but this much was clear: The Wings weren't playing their best hockey, but then, they didn't need to be.

Dan Ellis was good, but not at all unbeatable, and while you can argue that Dominik Hasek wasn't particularly tested, he did what he needed to do. The amount of pucks he saw last night is the amount of pucks we should expected him to see regularly throughout the playoffs - the Wings have been a puck possession team all season and they're certainly not going to stop taking the heavy load off of him now. Meanwhile the big Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Tomas Holmstrom line was great, while the Predators big guns faltered - Jason Arnott was -2 with no shots and J.P. Dumont a -3.

There seems to be some controversy floating around over Niklas Kronwall's hit on Rich Peverly regarding if he left his feet or not (A2Y found this shot proving he clearly didn't!), and on whether or not Zetterberg's gamewinning goal came on a play that was offsides, but leaving both of those incidents alone, the Wings were still the better team on the ice yesterday night - and whether or not they were playing as good as they can be, they were playing as good as they needed to be, a point with which everyone seems to concur:

  • Christy Hammond: Overall, it certainly wasn’t Detroit’s best game but in the end they found a way to get the win. And really, that’s all that matters. I must admit, it was certainly frustrating to see the Wings outshoot Nashville by so much and still end the second with a 1-1 tie. I definitely liked seeing Henrik Zetterberg get on the scoreboard in the first game of the playoffs. It was more comforting and reassuring than anything else to see a top player perform well in the first game of the playoffs.
  • IwoCPO: the Wings don’t need to play perfect hockey to win this series. Limit mistakes, generate consistent offense, exhibit a few violent tendencies...and steady play in net. That’s really all that’s necessary.
  • Mike Babcock: That’s what the playoffs are about, being patient and waiting for your opportunity. We weren’t great but we were good enough to find a way to win.
Well boys, I think we've reached a consensus - but if you're going to keep that up, just make sure you don't let it slip too far. Game 2 is a 2:00 pm matinee tomorrow afternoon, and I'm hoping it rains and pours so that WMU's baseball game will be canceled and I'll be able to make it after all. 70% chance, everybody hope with me! GO WINGS!

(Just one last little bit, did anyone else see Zetterberg come out as first star last night? He clapped - which is one of my favorite little hockey player quirks - but then he waved, gloves still on, only with his fingertips. He looked positively adorable - and remarkably clean shaven as well. Wanted to start fresh for the playoffs? I hope he gets as scruffy as usual by the end.)

10 April 2008

Playoff Preview: Detroit vs Nashville.

The playoffs begin tonight, for those of us in Detroit, when the Red Wings take on the Predators, 7:00 pm at the Joe. Nearly every source I've found has all but written Nashville off - in fact I think every prediction I've seen has Detroit winning the game in either five or six. Christy Hammond has compiled a pretty comprehensive list of just about everyone's thoughts on the matter and it's unanimous. Does that scare anyone? I admit, going into this matchup I don't feel anxious at all - but that isn't to say it's going to be a total cakewalk, either.

Maybe it's just because I'm not a Nashville fan (although I think the amount of times we Wings fans see them per season gives us a little bit of clout in making statements like this), but names like Jason Arnott and Alexander Radulov (though he has been quite obnoxious against us this season) don't quite strike fear in the hearts of opponents the way the potent combination of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk do. Nick Lidstrom and his collection of Norris Trophies are second in the league with +40 while Nashville's leading defenseman in points, Marek Zidlicky is approximately -7,000 (okay, okay, -5, but his presence on my fantasy team all season long has me convinced otherwise).

Keys to Winning:

There's a lot of discussion about goaltending, and for good cause. Dan Ellis is expected to star for Nashville and he has the potential to steal games for the Predators, it's true. He also has only 45 NHL games worth of experience, none of which have come in the playoffs, and he's shown that he can be shaky - he's been pulled several times in favor of Chris Mason and vice versa. Despite the fact that he's had a remarkable shut out streak and been a nice surprise for the Predators for most of the season, he still hasn't really shown enough to solidify his spot as the starter. The Wings need to get to him often and early to rattle his confidence. It's worked before, and it can work again. As for the Wings, they'll be going with Dominik Hasek who's had his own share of shakiness this season. As Kukla says, the Wings need him "insane, active and abrasive. Steady would be good, outstanding would be better and spectacular sets the stage for a long run." If Dom plays the way he did last year and the defense continues to play the way they have been in front of him, even a hot Dan Ellis shouldn't pose a substantial threat. Both teams have capable backups in Chris Mason and Chris Osgood, however, so if either starter falters, expect to see a switch made in attempt to save the series. Between them, Mason and Ellis have 5 games of post season experience. Osgood and Hasek have 202.

The Wings' powerplay has been a huge part of their success this season and it needs to stay that way. Nashville has the third best pk in the league, and the Wings need to render that statistic worthless. The combination of the Eurotwins in combination with Brian Rafalski and Nick Lidstrom on defense is positively lethal. Add Tomas Holmstrom and the hot Johan Franzen to that, and what will hopefully be plenty of scoring opportunities from the second group of Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula and the Wings should be able to crack the Predator's pk for certain. Both on the pp and off it, if the Wings play the aggressive puck-possession style game Babcock has had them running with all season against the Predators, they shouldn't have a problem, as long as they get secondary scoring and don't rely too heavily on the big guns. The team simply has too much all around talent and firepower to be stymied by Nashville's high-ranked pk and strong forechecking.

Nashville has a strong physical presence, and players like Jordin Tootoo and Shea Weber will certainly be making their presence known. Fortunately, the Wings faced three tough teams last year in Calgary, San Jose, and Anaheim, and seem to have learned how to adapt to playing against this sort of adversity. Added to that, the Wings did bulk up a bit for this season, picking up Dallas Drake, Aaron Downey and Brad Stuart, getting more out of Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen, and even reacquiring Darren McCarty, whose playing time may be limited but who will hopefully only help. Hopefully the Wings can initiate the hitting and goad the sometimes undisciplined seeming Predators into taking penalties, whereupon our pp can do its damage.

Injuries have taken their toll on both teams, but the Wings especially felt the damage through the month of February (which six of their regulars were out simultaneously) and are just beginning to really recoup their losses. Both Tomas Holmstrom (groin) and Brad Stuart (broken finger) are slated to be back tonight, as is, supposedly, Mikael Samuelsson (groin), but the Wings are still missing experienced grinder Kirk Maltby (hamstring) and have lost Tomas Kopecky, who had been playing strong lately, to a season-ending torn ACL and sprained MCL. Nashville has lost both Martin Gelinas and Jed Ortmeyer for the season (both with knee injuries) and David Legwand (foot) who is day to day and is doubtful for the opening game tonight. Needless to say, the Wings need to stay healthy to make a long run this season.


The playoff schedule, as updated as I've seen, is as follows:

Game 1 — Thursday April 10 at Detroit, 7 p.m., FSN, Versus
Game 2 — Saturday April 12 at Detroit, 2 p.m., NBC
Game 3 — Monday April 14 at Nashville, 7:30, FSN, Versus
Game 4 — April 16 at Nashville, 9 p.m., FSN, Versus, CBC
x-Game 5 — April 18 at Detroit, 7:30, FSN, Versus, CBC
x-Game 6 — April 20 at Nashville, 3 p.m., NBC, CBC
x-Game 7 — April 22 at Detroit, TBD, FSN, TBD
I had tickets to go to Game 2, but NBC decided to air the game last minute and changed its start time from 7 pm to 2 pm - I have to work a 1 pm baseball game in Kalamazoo that I can't get out of, so I'm out a substantial amount of money and likely won't catch a game until the semi-finals, thanks NBC. I also have class tonight and won't get to see Game 1 until I get home, so I for one am not thrilled with the scheduling!

Overall, the number of games I'm predicting it'll take the Wings is five. The number of times I expect to be entertained by Radek Bonk's name is infinite. GO WINGS!

08 April 2008

Happy thoughts

What a game.

Bring it, Ottawa.
Wednesday, 7pm.

04 April 2008


Your 2007-2008 President's Trophy Winners
That kid in grey looks like he's in serious pain.