01 May 2009

Playoff Preview Round 2: Detroit vs. Anaheim

Shame on me for not posting about the Wings' 6-5 sweep victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets what feels like ages ago - while it might not have been the team's greatest victory (congrats to the Jackets and their fans for putting up the fight that they did; your team has a bright future ahead of it), it was a victory nonetheless which means the Wings have moved on to their next opponent - the Anaheim Ducks, a team that the past few years have turned into a pretty big rival.

Of course this preview is late as well, but let's just pretend no one noticed that.

Keys to Winning:

First and foremost the Ducks are one of the most physical teams in the league, and a huge part of this series is going to rest on the Wings' ability to deal with this and yet remain healthy. They have to play physically, but also stay smart - the Ducks are good at getting under other teams' skin, and there's a huge difference between playing pissed and letting that anger make you stupid. Unfortunately, staying healthy isn't always something a team has much control over (and the Wings are already missing Andreas Lilja, Kris Draper, and, at least for Game 1, Brian Rafalski), and thus there are plenty of other things the Wings are going to have to do if they want to move on. In line with this, the biggest factor in this series is going to be discipline. The Wings and Ducks both have some serious powerplays, but the advantage the Wings have here is that they've done much better than the Ducks at staying out of the box, averaging 10 minutes in the box per game to the Ducks' 17.

Another factor that could turn the series in Detroit's favor is their success at screening the goaltender. While the Ducks' Jonas Hiller looked great in the first round against the Sharks, the Wings will test him early, often, and constantly with the amount of pucks they put on the net in any given game, and even more importantly have some of the best screeners in the game to block his view and tip pucks in - guys like Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, and Dan Cleary. Hiller may be strong, but a lot of that is the Ducks defense in front of him - a team that shut down Steve Mason as easily as the Wings didn't shouldn't have a big problem putting pucks past Hiller, especially with the lineup and the depth they have.


Friday, May 1 at Detroit, 7:00 p.m. VERSUS, TSN2
Sunday, May 3 at Detroit, 2:00 p.m. NBC, TSN
Tuesday, May 5 at Anaheim, 10:30 p.m. VERSUS, TSN
Thursday, May 7 at Anaheim, 10:30 p.m. VERSUS, TSN
*Sunday, May 10 at Detroit, 5:00 p.m. TSN
*Tuesday, May 12 at Anaheim, TBD VERSUS, TSN
*Thursday, May 14 at Detroit, TBD VERSUS, TSN
Around the Web:

The usual Detroit culprits can be found at:
And if for SOME reason (sorry Finny!) you like the Ducks look into:
If you blog for either team and would like to be added to the list please feel free to let me know!

And Finally:

I know Game 1 is already over and the Wings won 3-2 (expect that post soon!) but I still felt the need to post a preview, because I expect this to be a hell of a series. I want to say the Wings will win, but I feel like, given the Ducks' gritty performances so far, and the outcome of tonight's game, that it may take 7 games to do it.

I leave you with one of my favorite Mike Babcock quotes ever, on my favorite Wings rookie and Grand Rapids favorite Jonathan Ericsson:
"Big body. Actually, he looks like Chris Pronger. Except for the cross checking."
Awesome. GO WINGS!

22 April 2009

Ready With the Brooms (Wings 4, Blue Jackets 1)

For 67 seconds the Columbus Blue Jackets and 19,212 of their fans (give or take a few, including Wings blogger Christy who made the trip to watch the game) basked in the exhilaration of the first ever post-season game played at Nationwide Arena, the goal they spent this entire season fighting to achieve. 67 seconds before Tomas Holmstrom scored the opening goal, took the wind out of the crowd's sales, and began yet another thrashing of the team unlucky enough to draw the defending champs.

Meanwhile, a slightly smaller group of us watched from Hockeytown Cafe, the sight of @cjsier's Detroit NHLTweetup, as the Wings ended up winning the game 4-1, taking a 3-0 lead in the series and all but sealing their place in the semi-finals.

Christine and your intrepid blogger (we're in the middle), having forced everyone to put on their playoff beards.

Home ice advantage did little for the Blue Jackets - in fact, rather than the crowd's electricity spurring on the players to victory, it was instead, according to Sarah of The Neutral Zone Trap, the team's lackluster performance that deflated the fans: The building was just crackling with electricity, and the Jackets’ defense broke down a minute in, Detroit scored, and the life started to go out of the crowd. They hung on for awhile, tried to get the team going, but the boo birds were out in the second period, and it was just funereal by the third. Disappointing for Blue Jackets fans, but exactly what we here in Detroit want to hear.

Interesting Stats & notes:
  • Chris Osgood's shutout streak was finally snapped last night, at 144:27 of goal-less game play. After three games, Osgood's stats have stayed strong - the playoff veteran, no longer hearing much comment about his unsteady play throughout the regular season, has stopped 76 of 78 shots in the past three games, holds a .67 GAA and a .974 SV%. Meanwhile, the Jackets rookie phenom and Calder Trophy nominee Steve Mason sits at an uninspiring 3.67 GAA, .888 SV%. For three games straight Mason has allowed four goals - not at all what Columbus, or most of the media covering this series, expected.
  • The Wings continue to get point contributions from nearly their entire roster. The team's 12 goals have now come from 9 different players (Jiri Hudler has 2, Henrik Zetterberg has 3), and 14 players have points. Meanwhile, R.J. Umberger remains the only Blue Jacket to score, once in Game 1 and once in Game 3.
  • Picking up where they left off in the playoffs this past season, the Wings have returned to the physical play that took them to the finals last season. Brad Stuart absolutely leveleing Umberger was the high point last night - unbelievably, Umberger returned before the game was over. More importantly than just being physical, the Wings are being smart about being physical, and it's getting noticed: “They check hard,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Wings. “Everybody talks about their skill, but Detroit wins the fight for space, individually and collectively. That’s why they win so many hockey games. Yeah, they have skill, but in critical games, they win the fight for space. Regardless of what happens, if you don’t fight for your own space, you’re going to get run out of the building. They beat a lot of good teams by doing that.” Of course, the Wings have a whole lot of skill to back up that physicality, as well. (The Jackets, on the other hand, can't even seem to get hitting right, right now. Either that, or Mike Commodore just wanted to see what it's like to be on the winning bench that badly!)
The Wings hope to close the series out tomorrow night at 7 pm - the Wings certainly have to keep up the pace they've set so far and not let their collective feet off the gas, but here's to hoping for the sweep. GO WINGS!

19 April 2009

"I Love My Life" (Wings 4, Blue Jackets 0)

Okay, it's probably a little early for the "I love my life" sentiment - but I saw a fan yesterday at the Joe proudly carting around exactly that on a sign and I had to admit, I was pretty much feeling it after watching that game.

Yesterday night the Wings took a 2-0 lead in the series, posting a 4-0 shutout victory against the Blue Jackets in a phenomenal game that will hopefully really set the tone for the rest of this series.

The good:

  • Chris Osgood, once again looked great. He didn't steal the show quite the way he did in the first period of Thursday's game and he wasn't tested quite as much, but he still made a few fantastic saves - and more importantly made every save he needed to, earning his 14th playoff shutout. Osgood's SV%, which settled in at a seriously questionable .887 through the regular season, sits through these two games at an unreal .978, and he's sitting at 88 minutes of shutout time.
The crowd once again cheered on Ozzie's rising to the occasion - my throat hurts from chanting "OZ-ZIE OZ-ZIE!" so much!
Bulleted List
  • The team is firing on all cylinders right now - 11 players picked up a point in yesterday's game, and the Wings' 8 playoff goals so far have come from 7 different players (congrats to Jiri Hudler for being the one with two). The stars have done their parts, and so have the third-liners. Everyone on this team is hungry and it shows. The Wings are simply outclassing the Blue Jackets. It's a strong statement, but the series so far is giving a lot of backing to John Grigg of THN's comment on the matchup: "Mason did all he could, but Detroit is just too good. Any of the Wings’ top-nine forwards could play on the Jackets’ top line and there may not be a Blue Jacket blueliner who could make the Red Wings. It’s that simple." I hope so.
The Bad:
  • Columbus will come out harder and even more desperate in Game 3 on home ice - but does anybody think the Wings can't shut them down right now?
The Ugly:
  • With 8:39 left in Game 2 and the Wings up 4-0, Antoine Vermette, whose play has been less than stellar in the series so far, took issue with Pavel Datsyuk and responded by hammering him into the ice from behind and then effectively climbing on top of him. A dirty play by a frustrated player, and the sort of thing the Wings are going to have to watch out for - the Blue Jackets ended the night with 34 minutes spent in the box. However on the bright side, the Jackets haven't yet acted out too poorly thanks to frustration; things could be much worse - and the encounter spawned one of the greatest Datsyuk quotes yet: "He just used me like pony," Datsyuk said. "He was on top of me. I don't like being the pony. I want to be on top."
The WTF?:
  • Maybe he thought it was his team's only hope (a legitimate concern), but someone should probably tell Jakub Voracek that you're only allowed to have one stick at a time...

That's all I got - Game 3, hopefully another dominate performance from the Wings, is Tuesday night in Columbus. GO WINGS! (Sidenote, the Griffins are up on the Hamilton Bulldogs two games to zero as well!)

17 April 2009

Gotta Want it to Win it (Wings 4, Jackets 1)

Okay, Hockeytown, time to relax. Your worst fears have been assuaged - this team is as hungry as ever. Your Red Wings want to repeat and have no intentions of settling for mediocrity. Nevermind what parts of this season looked like - the boys have turned it back on. Granted, it has to stay that way, but nobody can complain about the effort we saw last night at the Joe, and if they keep up that kind of energy, it's going to be a great trip through the playoffs.

Of course it didn't start out that way. In the first twenty minutes the Wings not only started off a bit flat, but also spent a tremendously frustrating amount of time in the penalty box, allowing the Blue Jackets a number of nice scoring chances. Lucky for them, however, at least one Wing had his head firmly in the game - Chris Osgood quickly stole the show, played with a swagger that suggested he at least had definitely turned it on for the playoffs. When Osgood's name was announced in the starting roster, the packed Joe Louis chanted the first round of "Oz-zie! Oz-zie!" - but it was tentative, hopeful but also nervous. Not so after the flurry of diving, sprawling saves he made to hold the score 0-0 after the first period.

Despite their success early on, the Blue Jackets, playing their first Game 1 ever, looked lost out on the ice for much of the game. Rookie goalie sensation Steve Mason couldn't save them from the swarming Red Wings once the team turned it on, and Osgood stole his Hot Goalie show, backstopping the Wings to a 4-1 victory. Osgood had some words to say about his performance in both this game and the regular season:

“I don’t doubt myself ever,” Osgood said. “People that don’t know me do. I’ve played for 15 years. I have the most wins in Red Wings playoff history for a reason, not because I’m a bad goalie.”
Exactly the sort of swagger you want to hear from your number one this time of year.

Osgood wasn't the only story of the game, of course. Rookie and NPI favorite Jonathan Ericsson scored the game winner (although it was the Jackets' Manny Malhotra who effectively put it behind Mason), his first career playoff goal. The Wings' third line of Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula, and Mikael Samuelsson was huge - Hudler had a goal and two assists, while Filppula notched two assists of his own.

The other Wings goals came from Niklas Kronwall and Johan Franzen, while Columbus' was scored by RJ Umberger.

If the Wings can keep up the pace they set in Game 1, the series could be over quicker than expected - the playoffs are here, and the boys know it:
"It's been hard to find excitement before the games," Franzen said, alluding to the Wings' 2-5-1 record over their final eight games. "We were really looking forward to this playoff start. You feel it in your body. Your legs get a lot faster. Everything's more exciting."
As infinitely frustrating as it is to watch your team flounder, looking disinterested and bored, it makes it that more invigorating to see them like they played last night. Hopefully they can keep it up as the playoffs progress, but for now, the goal is to pick up another victory tomorrow night, Game 2 at the Joe. GO WINGS.

(Besides, when the opposition is already accusing you of cheating, you know you're doing something right.)

13 April 2009

Go Big or Go Home. Playoff Preview: Detroit vs. Columbus

It's official - playoffs are here. And I'm going to suck it up, stop being a terrible blogger who hasn't posted a single thing since December 10th, and get back into the grind, because now things are serious. Forget this 'work' nonsense that's been consuming my life, forget the constant driving down to the Joe (I've gone to 20 Wings games [and 1 Capitals game!] this season, including the Winter Classic, and posted about exactly zero of them), forget the desperate attempts to have a life outside of NHL Center Ice on my TV - the playoffs are here.

Yesterday night the playoff schedule hit the internet - although we already knew the Detroit Red Wings would start the post-season off against familiar Central Division foe, the Columbus Blue Jackets...so here we go.

Keys to Winning:

First and foremost the Wings have to play like they care. The team this season has an uncanny ability to turn it off as easily as they can turn it on. It's no secret that the Wings have a huge lineup of devastating forwards - Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Hossa, Johan Franzen, and on down the line. Unfortunately if the team decides to play lackluster hockey (see: Sunday's game against the Blackhawks) all the offense in the world can't save them. The talent levels are there (can you think of anyone on the Blue Jackets you really want to compare to the Wings top line talent?), but they have to want it to win it, and you know the Blue Jackets, making their first post-season appearance ever, want it. Equally important, the Wings have got to take this series seriously. Yes it's the Blue Jackets, yes again, and no it might not be a team that inspires fear in its opponents...but the last time the Wings blew them off they lost 8-2 at home.

Another huge, possibly the hugest, part of this series is going to be goaltending. The Red Wings' Chris Osgood, who took over the starting role from Dominik Hasek around this time last season, has strugging mightily this season, looking shaky at best. Meanwhile the Columbus Blue Jackets are riding rookie sensation Steve Mason and his 10 shutouts, .916 SV%. Looks pretty impressive standing next to Ozzie's 2, .887. Wings fans can hope for three things, however - first of all, that Ozzie gets it together. His game against the Predators last week, despite ending in a loss, was one of his best games all season long, and he has plenty of playoff experience. Second, that the Wings offense steps it up enough to solve Mason (the Blue Jackets have three 20 goal scorers, the Wings have five) and the defense, which has also faultered this year, can protect Osgood a little better. Third, the playoff-inexperienced Mason chokes under the pressure. Come on Wings, let's teach them that there's only one "Stevie Franchise".

Finally, the Wings are going to have to solve Rick Nash. The guy has two hat tricks against the Wings already this season and whether it be luck or skill, Nash has got our number. It's got to stop right now, or we're going to be in for a long summer.


Thursday, April 16 at Detroit, 7:00 p.m. VERSUS, TSN
Saturday, April 18 at Detroit, 6:00 p.m. TSN
Tuesday, April 21 at Columbus, 7:00 p.m. TSN
Thursday, April 23 at Columbus, 7:00 p.m. TSN
*Saturday, April 25 at Detroit, 7:00 p.m. VERSUS, TSN
*Monday, April 27 at Columbus, TBD TSN
*Wednesday, April 29 at Detroit, TBD VERSUS, TSN

Around the Web:

The usual Detroit culprits can be found at:
And if you're into the Blue Jackets, or just want to read about the competition, check out:
If you blog for either team and would like to be added to the list please feel free to let me know!
Last and probably least:

Dammit, Red Wings, if for no other reason please, please knock the Blue Jackets out fast so we won't have to deal with any more of this Ohioan rivalry nonsense - the Wings are NOT U of M and the Jackets are certainly no OSU. Stop the crossover! Stop it now! Please!

Plus, as my mother points out, the Wings should be well rested for this series - they haven't really played in about a week. Wings in 6, GO DETROIT!

10 December 2008

How much do you think they weigh?

The Red Wings received their 2008 Cup Rings this Sunday night and they're so stunning it would be a serious shame not to allow them a post of their own:

Unlike the '97, '98, and '02 rings, this one is all white-gold and covered in diamonds. The front is of course lovely, but what really impresses me is the side, and its image of all 11 of the Wings cups complete with the dates of each.

My favorite comment about the rings had to be Mike Babcock's:

"It was nice,” Babcock said. “Usually, the only one who gets that is my wife, so it was kind of nice I got some.”
Fans at tonight's game vs. Calgary will receive commemorative rings - I can't make it so if anyone finds themselves with a spare lying around....!

Don't like beer? Have some alternative hockey beverage options:

The Red Wings have joined forces with a college kid's two best friends - booze and caffeine. Granted #8 and #5's attachment is a little more classy than your average undergrad's method of indulging...

  • Recent Hockey Hall of Fame Inductee and former Red Wing great #8 Igor Larionov spent this past Saturday at two metro Nino Salvaggio locations signing bottles of wine from his Triple Overtime line. Nino's is my favorite fruit market around so of course I had to drop in, buy a couple bottles, and chat (very) briefly with the Professor. The two I purchased, the Slapshot Shiraz and the Triple Overtime Sauvignon Blanc, both look delicious, and to top it off, Igor Larionov himself (who clearly has great taste!) complimented my haircut. And all around success, I'd say! For those who didn't get to make the event I took a few pictures that you can find here. Here's to hoping the Wings win the cup again so we can celebrate in style!
  • Biggby Coffee, formerly Beaner's, which holds a dear place in my heart as the coffee shop I'd always stop at on my way in to my former job while in college at the bleary hour of 7 am (those were the days), has also decided to partner up with the Red Wings and offer a new "Number 5 Latte" in honor of the Wings' Nicklas Lidstrom. There's no word on what is actually in the drink - the closest Biggby comes to a description is the promise that "THIS ESPRESSO BASED DRINK WILL BE A SLAP SHOT TO YOUR TASTEBUDS" - but if you stop in to any Biggby location on a game day wearing Wings gear you can get a dollar off the "super cup size" and try it out for yourself! Coffee and hockey? How could it be bad?
This evening the Red Wings take on the Calgary Flames at home and hopefully the excitement of receiving their Cup Rings can inspire them to the sort of play we've come to expect - none of this come-from-behind high scoring games victory nonsense! (Although let's face it, I'll take a win however it comes.)

01 December 2008

It Begins

I'm sparing you the excuses for my absence (work work work work work) and cutting right to the chase:

Last night during NBC's Monday Night Football the NHL debuted the first big deal commercial for the Winter Classic, and it's glorious:

The commercial itself is gorgeous as a hockey commercial alone, featuring shots of players from both teams gearing up for the event, but the best part is the way the NHL seamlessly inserts Take Me Out to the Ball Game sung by Harry Caray - amazing.

I'm still involved the arduous process of getting tickets, but it's looking likely - hope to see you all there!