Thursday, April 29, 2010

Naptime Costs Wings, Sharks Take Game 1

I'm sure most of you knew when you read my preview earlier today that there was no small amount of joking in my 'prediction' of this series. Had I actually believed Detroit would take the top team in the West in 4 games, I would've used the S-word. Since the Wings, however, went into a half-a-period coma and allowed 3 goals before I could finish taking a piss, I can say 'sweep' because it's not jinxing anything. The aforementioned sidetrip to vegetable-land by the Detroit skaters was the killer in Game 1 of this WCSF match between Detroit and San Jose, as the Wings were only able to scrape together 3 goals. But Geek, you might be asking to yourself, doesn't that tie the game at 3 all? Well yes, that would be the case, if not for the Sharks earning an extra goal on a 5 on 3 that was caused mostly by laziness-turning-into-desperation. Long story short: Detroit shot themselves in the foot early and handed Game 1 to the Sharks as a gift-wrapped present.

Let's analyze this turd of a Game against The Geek's Winning Formula.

1.) Big Game Hunting - Well well, look who showed up to play tonight. That first line for San Jose doesn't look so impotent now, does it? You can't expect guys of this caliber to stay quiet forever, it just. doesn't. happen. The Sharks' top line showed up to play, and between San Jose's top 2 lines, they created all the scoring. Detroit had no answer for Joe Pavelski, who added another 2 goals under his belt, and whilst trying to solve that conundrum, Heatley and Thornton turned it on, even without their linemate Pat Marleau. This disturbs me a little, because that top line is starting to click now before Marleau even gets back, I dread letting them run rampant with the complete line out there.

2.) Make Them Doubt - Ha. What we just did was bolster their confidence in themselves by giving them such a huge early lead that no matter what we did, we just couldn't catch up. I know that the 10-15 minute bout of narcolepsy isn't something that will become a trend, but we shouldn't have been giving them a chance to begin with!! After the 2nd goal, I suggested on Twitter that Mike Babcock should've called a timeout to settle things down. I'm wishing now that he had, because it might have calmed Detroit down and prevented that 3rd goal from happening. The Wings were reeling and needed to stop and screw their heads on straight. They weren't given that chance and things just got worse.

3.) Out of the Desert, Kill the Droughts - Well, the bright spot to this game is here, as the 3 Red Wings goals tonight were more than the previous combined total goals of the 3 players who scored them. Of Cleary, Rafalski and Franzen, there was only a single goal to be had before tonight. So the good news is some of the snake-bit skaters are getting a groove back (hopefully). Let's hope we see much less catatonia and much more asserting of authority in the games to come.

I'm disgusted that Detroit lost this game, not because I'm a slappy pressing the panic button, but this is a game the Wings should have won. Do not try and tell me otherwise, because if Detroit plays the first half of that 1st period with a pulse, we're not looking at a 3-1 hole after 20 minutes. At best you're looking at 2-1 because Babs calls the timeout to wake his players up and we're getting ready for Overtime. Unfortunately only hindsight is 20/20, and we see Detroit in the same position we did last series, down 1-0. Ahh well, last one ended pretty well. No reason this one can't either.

That's it, I'm out. Need to sleep off the rage.

Till Game 2, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Preview: Wings @ Sharks, Round 2 Game 1

It's here. A lot of slappies didn't think we'd see this round, bashing on any Wing within swinging range, and yet the Red Wings are gearing up to face San Jose in the 2nd Round of the Playoffs tonight. Detroit will hopefully carry its enthusiasm from a spectacular curb-stomping of the Phoenix Coyotes in the 7th game of Round 1 into the opener of this WCSF matchup when the Wings hit the ice in HP Pavillion Arena.

The Sharks present a much different challenge for Detroit than the Phoenix team that preceded them. The key thing to watch for in this series is San Jose's attitude, as the Sharks are trying to shake a gorilla from their shoulders (it's far too big to be called a monkey now) in the form of a nasty reputation for Playoff nosedives. San Jose has consistently been one of the best Western Conference Teams in the West, yet they have also consistently been one of the worst teams in the West come Playoff time, with year after year of first and second-round exits and little to no overall post-season success to look back on. I expect this Sharks squad to be a bunch of vicious fishes come gametime, and Detroit needs to remember the lessons they learned in the desert about asserting their authority with both skill and physicality.

With this in mind, let's get to our first Geek's Winning Formula of Round 2!!

1.) Big Game Hunting - I'm not going to say that San Jose is a one-trick pony when it comes to their lineup...but I will say that San Jose's big trick is a hell of a lot better than the rest. The Wings cannot underestimate the Thornton-Marleau-Heatley line for the Sharks. The trio each had over 80 points, with Thornton pulling just one point shy of 90. No, this line has not gone crazy in the playoffs, but the offensive punch is there and may just be a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. If it does, Detroit will need an answer to slow them down. For right now the prime targets for a clamp-down are Clowe, Pavelski and Setoguchi, but we'll see how effective they are against a much better defense in Detroit's top 6.

2.) Make Them Doubt - They will never say it, but you CANNOT tell me that San Jose isn't still haunted by all the stigma around their team for all the choking they've done over the past few years in the Playoffs. What's the best way to dredge all that up? Sting them early. I really want to see Detroit come out with the intensity from the last game and smoke San Jose for an early lead. Plant that seed of doubt in the locker room and let it grow. Even if San Jose scrapes together a goal or two, if they feel they're being outplayed, this team is going to wind itself tight. The Sharks said themselves that they're still working on tossing aside the choking rep, and that they wanted to face Detroit for just that reason. I say make them eat their own words and see how long it takes to put the fear of another early collapse back in their heads.

3.) Out of the Desert, Kill the Droughts - One lingering thing that bothers me from the previous series is the number of players on the Wings roster that are still sitting at little-to-no point production. Our bottom two lines have been almost invisible on the scoresheet. This is not to say that they aren't working hard, but now that the stars are scoring, we need those depth players to stand up and be ready to put some pucks behind Evgeni Nabokov, because you know a lot of the clamp-down will be on Datsyuk, on Zetterberg, on Filppula. Supposing that San Jose comes up with an answer to our top 2 lines, we need the bottom 2 to respond in production. It's great to go out and create chaos and frustrate the other team as an energy line, but getting a goal or two helps pick your team up too. I personally have been watching Val Filppula closely in the recent games, and that boy looks hungry. I'm expecting an explosion of productivity from him in the near future, and tonight would be a prime time to see it happen. If it doesn't play out that way, though, I'm counting on those bottom 6 forwards to man up and get the job done.

The Red Wings took the season series with 3 wins (2 on the road) and 1 OT loss, so that's working in Detroit's favor. San Jose, however, ended the regular season with more goals-per-game, a better Powerplay and a better Penalty Kill. It goes without saying that Detroit will need to address this, especially the difference in special teams: limit the amount of penalties taken and damn-well cash in when San Jose checks in to the Sin Bin Hotel.

All in all, it could be an exciting series, but I'm going to make an impulsive (read: bold-borderlining-idiotic) prediction of the Wings taking the series in 4. Yes, I said it. My reasoning: there isn't a single game coming back to Detroit scheduled during the day! So to me, Detroit has no excuse to play poorly!! We'll see how that stands up as Game 1 draws near.

Till puck drop, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

The Red Bird is greater than The Eagles: Blame the NHL if we woke you up, San Jose

Man...are you kiddin' me? I really shouldn't have expected anything better coming into Round 2 today. I'm already livid that the Red Wings are being forced to start their series early because of a stupid Eagles concert (hating on the concert, not The Eagles), but on top of that I find out now that Detroit is facing a fine...A FINE...for having to bolt directly from Game 7 in Phoenix to the airport in San Jose, and not getting there UNDER CURFEW!?

I've held my tongue over a lot of things, even just from the early stages of these playoffs...but I'm going to be candid here: ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME? (Excuse my manners). According to the report, the Red Wings charter plane arrived 49 minutes past this dreaded curfew and as such subjects Detroit owner Mike Illitch to a fearsome $2500.00 fine. Yes, San Jose, we'll have those bills for you in a moment once Mr. Illitch is done wiping his ass with them.

If anything, I feel Mike should send the bill to Mr. Bettman's office for being asinine enough to schedule ahead of the concert instead of playing both games after the shows by going back to back or something. I wouldn't be totally shocked if Gary the Rat saw the opportunity to shaft Detroit once the concert was brought to his attention and was foaming at the mouth with excitement. We already kept his name off the Cup this year by beating the team he OWNS, and it's not like he hasn't tilted things against the Winged Wheel before. I get tired of this waste of humanity we're forced to call a commissioner quickly, so I'm going to move on now.

In summary, it all really boils down to two options: Either Mike Illitch pays the fine or the organization tries to fight it, which would probably cost more time, effort and money than just throwing the cheddar at them straight up.

Now that I got that out of my system, I'm gonna go look up some stats and put together my Round 2 preview. Look for it later tonight, Wingnuts!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Red Wings Revived, Phoenix Down in Game 7

Is this what you were expecting when the Wings crapped out in Game 6? My head says no but my heart says yes. Phoenix managed to awaken the sleeping giant, and the Big Red Machine came out to play. Detroit owned every single aspect of the 7th game of this WCQF matchup with Phoenix and buried the Desert Dogs beneath the sand.

Look back to my past blogs: I said that the one thing Detroit lacked that made other squads great was the consistency. The Wings were the embodiment of consistency tonight, absolutely manhandling Phoenix and showing everyone in arena what it REALLY means to face the Detroit Red Wings in the Playoffs!!

I'll sum up The Geek's Winning Formula as such: Detroit rewrote the laws of science in this one, nearly playing Phoenix into a standstill, save one flourish of favor with the Fiddler goal. The wings met every expectation I had of them tonight, be they written in these previews and reports or not. They did all the big things rights, the little things, the unconscious things. Detroit made everything click for them tonight, and now have a model game to look back and remember how they should be playing the rest of this post-season.

Yes, I know it's early, but if the Red Wings are willing and able to play like this through the rest of the Playoffs, Hockey Gods help any/every poor souls that gets in Detroit's way of their 12th Stanley Cup. First on that list? The San Jose Sharks, who earlier were calling for the Wings to win, apparently saying they "wanted a crack at them [Detroit]". Were you watching tonight, San Jose? Still looking forward to our meeting?

I didn't think so. Be careful what you wish for.

Till Game 1, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

P.S.: Much thanks to my awesome Wingnut GF Kate for the report title!!

Game 7 Preview: Wings @ Coyotes

Wow iPods suck to blog on, never doing this again...

Well Wingnuts, it's now or never. If the Wings are going to show us what they can really do, now is the time. Tonight is the last game of the series between Detroit and Phoenix an the loser is going home early. The wings were embarrassed in front of the home crowd last game, and I'm hoping to see that energize the Wings and bring about veneage like we've yet to see from the Winged Wheel.

Here is a quick version of The Geek's Winning Formula, as I'm running late and the more I type on this iPod the closer I get to snapping it over my knee.

1.) Capitalize!! - Too many missed opportunities by Detroit. If we can't convert it'll be Game 6 all over again, and we don't want that.

2.) Special Teams - Wings need to remember it's them who're supposed to score on their PP's and not Phoenix. Also need to stop breaking down out of nowhere on the PK.

3.) Remember Why You're Here - Detroit fought hard to make Playoffs, this is not the time to lay down and die!! Whatever you have left in the tank, boys, I suggest you use it tonight!!

I'll make this more "geeky" when I get home, after that you can blame any typoes and mistakes on the beer.

Get ready for a wild finish, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bad Habits Bite Detroit, Coyotes Force Game 7

"They won the special teams battle. That sucked the life out of our team." - Coach Mike Babcock

Unfortunately Mike, Phoenix won more than the special teams battles. Phoenix came into Detroit knowing they faced elimination and did what they needed to do to survive: outplay the Red Wings. Of course, the Wings didn't necessarily make that a difficult task. Detroit amassed 33 shots on goal in yesterday's 5-2 loss, and a lot of those shots were pretty good ones, quality scoring chances. Here's the problem: you need to SCORE on scoring chances for them to count for something. The Red Wings, in what is becoming a frighteningly typical fashion, blew a lot of opportunities given up by Phoenix that would have allowed Detroit to blow this game wide open. Greatest of these has to be the almost half-a-period powerplay Detroit was awarded early in the 1st period. Phoenix garnered 6 minutes of penalty time within the first 4:42 of the game, the later stages of which was a 5 on 3. What did Detroit get out of it? A 1-0 deficit by giving up a short-handed goal!!

It was from this point on I knew it was going to be a rough game. If the Wings couldn't even tie the game after the shortie went in and before the man-advantage was over, we were basically relying on lucky bounces to get pucks past Ilya Bryzgalov. Lucky bounces didn't cut it. Even when we scored to make it 5-2, the play was reviewed and ruled initially as no goal. As I stated before, the Hockey Gods do not bandwagon one team all the time, and they surely swapped jerseys from Detroit to Phoenix for the game yesterday afternoon. This is just more proof that Detroit is not giving its all in these games and that is a big BIG concern, because tomorrow is the big one, either the Red Wings win and advance, or they're done, a first round exit for the first time in years after going to the Cup Finals two years in a row.

I don't want that to happen, obviously, but the Wings have to share that sentiment and act on it!! They can't just wish their way into Round 2, damnit!! Detroit needs to bury those chances instead of shooting wide and hitting posts!! Stop wasting time cycling the damn puck for 80% of a powerplay and get guys to the net for rebounds!! Stop peeling off at the blueline and take that puck deep into the offensive zone, make guys chase you and pull them out of position!!!

You may have noticed I'm avoiding the Winning Formula in this report. The reason for this is simple: You can have the greatest, most unbeatable strategy in the world. But at the end of the day, if you can't put the puck in the net when the chance shows itself, you are not going to win hockey games. The Formula for yesterday was made irrelevant because Detroit just could not cash in when given the chance. Phoenix did, and Phoenix won. There's a simple formula if I ever saw one.

Well Wingnuts, brace yourselves for Game 7. Back in Arizona, Arena will be the loudest it's ever been, Shane Doan will likely be back in the lineup, and the Wings are going to get more battered than they've ever been in this series. If they don't come to play for reals, there's gonna be a desert funeral with Detroit's name on it.

Keep the faith Wingnuts, one more game to decide it all for this Round!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Preview: Wings VS Coyotes, Round 1 Game 6

"The bottom line is, we've got to make sure our legs are ready to go. The last time we came back for an early game, we didn't play very well." - Coach Mike Babcock

The Red Wings look to do something they've been unable to do in recent memory: win a damn day game!! Detroit plays host to Phoenix in Game 6 of this WCQF matchup and I personally do not want to see Arena again till next season. Should the Wings win their first afternoon match in eons, they will advance to Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with their 2nd round opponent yet to be decided.

So, hopefully for the last time in Round 1, let's calculate The Geek's Winning Formula!!

1.) Seize The Day!! - It hurts me to look back at how long it's been since Detroit last won an early game. I can't remember the last one they were victorious in, and this is going back months!! Detroit has got to come out standing on the gas and cannot afford to give Phoenix an early advantage. I think it was very wise of Babs to have the boys practice after getting home. As he said himself, the Wings did not benefit from the rest they took previous to Game 3. As long as the Red Wings come out fresh and raring to go, we should be fine; however, if the Wings come out flat, we're gonna need the Hockey Gods on our side to prevent a runaway game by the Coyotes.

2.) WTF Face-offs!!?? - Again, what the hell happened to all our face-off guys!? We're barely breaking 50% every game on the draws and this really really bothers me! Your first chance to control the puck comes from the face-off and we're giving that away to a Phoenix team that should not be winning as many draws from Detroit as they are. Our centers need to improve heavily on this to help ease the pressure created by badly timed face-off losses at key points of the game. Again, we've relatively gotten away with this without getting burned but man oh man, one of these times it's gonna come back and bite us bad, like leading to a tying or go-ahead goal late in a game we should have won. It just better not happen today.

3.) Maintain Physicality - We've been fortunate that Shane Doan has been out the last couple games, but should be make it into the lineup today, expect to see a much-revived Phoenix hitting game. If that is the case, Detroit will need to stand its ground. The amount of hitting and aggressive forechecking we've been doing the last while is proving effective and we cannot let up on this if the Coyotes all of a sudden start hitting back harder like early on in the series. We still need guys to drive hard to the net, punish opposing forecheckers, and win those grinding battles for puck-possession. As soon as we start letting up because of Phoenix's aggression, we're tipping the scales in their favor: physical is their style and they know it.

There are always little things that also factor in. Personally I'd like to see Detroit tighter in the neutral zone, but the Wings have tightened up greatly in the defense department, so I'm gonna lay off that for today's game.

It's almost gametime, Wingnuts! Let's cheer our team into Round 2!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Patient Red Wings Pound Pups, Take Game 5 in Phoenix

"All I'm saying is if I got a skate blade on my thigh looking like Cpt. Morgan, I'm being interfered with..!" - The Geek

Detroit came into Phoenix facing a strange situation: the Wings were playing Game 5, and it was not in their own building. Not since 1966 have the Red Wings won a road Game 5, but thanks to another outstanding performance by Jimmy Howard and timely offense from the top lines, my main man included, Detroit exploded for three goals in the third period to snatch the 5th game of this series away from the Coyotes by a score of 4-1.

I'm going to get this out of the way right now, as I'm still conversing about it as I write this and tweet simultaneously: That Jovo goal...this is why people have no confidence in the NHL officials anymore. Hi, your skate blade is about 5 inches from giving me a vasectomy, and that's not someone being interfered with?? Not that it mattered in the end, I know, but it's principal damnit!! Howard was sparkling all game long and it took a lumbering idiot stomping down on his leg to keep him from stopping the one puck that got in!!

As many said on Twitter tonight while this was going on, there's not a person living who knows hockey that can say that, had that been Tomas Holmstrom, the goal would have been reviewed, called back, and homer would be sitting in the sin bin. No contest. Had to try and keep the game interesting, didn't we Gary...?

Anyway, putting away the tinfoil hat for a sec to go over The Geek's Winning Formula!!

1.) Solid Special Teams - Mmm...we were close...! The PK units definitely passed here, as they kept Detroit in the game. We're still taking waaay too many penalties for the playoffs, and at agonizingly horrible times!! It's bad enough to give a team the man-up, but to do it late in a game with a chance to take the lead?? Discipline: we have it, we use it, but we don't maintain it. If pressured, the Wings have a penchant for getting lazy and that leads to hooks and holds and trips and...yeah, you see what I mean. PP units got to take it easy in this one but I'm still going to rip on their ineffectiveness, especially after their recent success! The cup-winning Wings squads have all had something we've yet to see fully on this year's roster: consistency. Once we see that, we'll be fine all the way to the finals.

2.) Don't Get Cocky - I definitely think Detroit passed this criteria. the Red wings could have swaggered in, but instead laid low, watching the Coyotes carefully and picking them apart piece by piece, looking for chances and exploiting them. The Wings, whether by intent or not, let the game lull its way into the third, then blasted awake from out of nowhere for a 3 goal barrage!! One has to keep their eyes peeled for opportunities, and the Red Wings did just that. Even with a 2 and 3 goal lead, Detroit never slowed, even looking for an extra goal on the very late powerplay that closed out the game. That's the kind of hunger that drives you through playoff rounds.

3.) Control the Face-offs - Oi...I'm thinking Detroit would have a much easier time of it if they really say down and worked on this. Yet again, we saw the Red Wings decimated at the dots: 25 won, 29 lost, many wins late in the game, 38% in the 1st period alone!! This is not how a team that prides itself on puck-possession should be conducting itself at the face-off!! Also, we again saw Detroit losing a lot of the critical face-offs: draws in the offensive zone, draws on the PK, on the PP. It's not the even-strength draws that kill you, it's the ones that mean something! How many goals would Detroit have had on the PP had the centers won some of those face-offs and got a quick setup?? Phoenix has been very generous in not making us pay for this, but we only get Phoenix for two more games, maximum. Round 2 would be a whole new monster, and whoever it is could very well punish Detroit for losing as many draws as they are currently.

With just one more win, the Red Wings can advance to Round 2 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This series with Phoenix is just what Detroit needed early: a tough series to keep them honest and not let them become complacent. All credit in the world to the Coyotes for a hard-fought series, but I wanna see some Coyotes get kicked around one last time, then leave Phoenix as nothing more than dust in the wind...

Until Game 6, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Preview: Wings @ Coyotes, Round 1 Game 5

"Special teams has been a big part of our success as of late. Strong special teams can win you a series or win you a game at the right moment." - Defenseman/Captain Nicklas Lidstrom"

The Red Wings will need to keep their Captain's words in mind as they suit up to battle Phoenix tonight when Game 5 of this Wings/Coyotes series gets underway. The Coyotes have already made their statement that they will be trying to press for improvement in their special teams, particularly the powerplay. I say let them, as long as we stay disciplined and don't take stupid penalties, they won't get a chance to capitalize. On the other side, Detroit is finally seeing some success on the man-advantage and I really want to see that continue. I'm sure this is big news to everyone.

Humor/sarcasm aside, let's recalculate The Geek's Winning Formula!!

1.) Solid Special Teams - As mentioned above, this will be key. Do not give Phoenix PP chances and cash in when they give the chances to Detroit. The Wings are 4 for 11 on the powerplay from Game 2 onward, much improved from the regular season stats. The PK has gotten its engine running again, yes, but let's not push luck any harder than we have to, eh? Detroit has gotten into the right rhythm to hold down the Coyotes during even-strength play, so this factor could tip the scales in one team's favor.

2.) Don't Get Cocky - The Wings are bad for this, we all know it, but we can't afford for Detroit to ease itself into this game. We need full throttle from the get-go and no letting up on a hungry Phoenix team that will make Detroit pay for taking the skate blade off their throat. Last game was the only real blowout game on the scoresheet, but the match was much closer than the boxscore would lead you to believe: the Wings fought for and earned that win, and will need that same grit two more times to get through this series.

3.) Control the Face-offs - This was the biggest concern after Game 4. Detroit did manage to pull even with Phoenix by the end of the game, but for a long stretch of Game 4, Detroit was being badly beaten at the dots. This is not something a puck-possession team should be allowing, as it prevents Detroit from possessing the puck. Call it a cardinal sin of puck-possession, call it bad luck. Whatever you want to call it, we need to make sure it doesn't happen again, because the Hockey Gods may not be wearing the Winged Wheel this time around and may just make the Wings pay for losing key draws in the face-off circle.

I'm not sure what my plans are for tonight. May be home, may be at a friend's place, might even be out at the sports bar begging the management to put the Wings game on. Hopefully you'll see me on Twitter though!

Till then, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Howard Finds Form, Shuts Out Phoenix 3-0 in Game 4

Jimmy Howard had a lot to think about coming into Game 4 of this series. Having sustained the Red Wings in their drive to the Playoffs, he was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL coming back from the Olympic Break. His post-season stats up to today, however, were far less stellar: 3.72 GAA, .889 SV%, Jimmy had a lot of people breathing down his neck looking to dub him the next Manny Legace or Norm Maracle.

Howard took all of that in stride and showed everyone, himself included, what he was truly capable of.

Thanks to Jimmy Howard's stand-out performance in Game 4, Detroit walked away with a 3-0 shutout over Phoenix to bring the series back to a draw at 2-2 and keep the Wings's Playoff hopes alive. Howard didn't win the game by himself though, as we saw a much improved Detroit team in many of the areas they were sorely lacking in previously: better defensive awareness, better forechecking, better communication. The Wings were a little soft on faceoffs, but luckily they did not let the Coyotes take advantage of it.

Let's take a look at The Geek's Winning Formula!

1.) Team Defense - Much, much improved. Detroit did an excellent job of finding guys and limiting options, not allowing a lot of quality scoring chances, and made sure to keep the flat-footedness to a minimum. Once Detroit took the lead, they clamped down on the Phoenix offense, only allowing 6 shots on goal in the 3rd period. The PK units were on fire, and were able to stun a huge 5 on 3 opportunity for the Coyotes that would have put them right back into the hockey game. Babs needs to go over the tapes of this game with the boys and drill some of the work they did tonight into their heads. If we can get this every game, this series is over in 6.

2.) Maintain Pressure - Also improved, Detroit is finding itself outhitting the Coyotes at this point in the series, and Phoenix doesn't seem to have an answer. The physical style of the Coyotes has seemed non-existent as Detroit's checking is dwarfing the resistance Phoenix is putting up. The Red Wings are battling better on the boards and causing havoc as the 'Yotes try to enter the offensive zone. It's looking more and more like Phoenix is struggling to move with the puck, and that's the way it should be, Detroit is the puck-possession team, so stop letting Phoenix play your game!

3.) Minimize Mistakes - Detroit passed in this area as well, though a couple scary moments, like Lilja's hook to set up the Phoenix 5 on 3, could have been avoided and should have. Other than the few nail-biting incidents, Detroit did a great job of making plays smartly and not creating chances for Phoenix to capitalize on. The passing was much more crisp, there was a lot less blind dumping of the puck, and guys weren't standing around so Phoenix's sneakers were stifled.

All in all, it was a very well-rounded game for Detroit that was accentuated by Jimmy Howard getting his first career playoff shutout. Now Detroit heads back to the desert for Game 5 and look to be the team to take advantage into Game 6. One of these teams is going to be on the brink after the next game, and if Detroit plays like they did tonight, it won't be them.

Till then, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Preview: Wings VS Coyotes, Round 1 Game 4

"When you turn over pucks, you don't have good defensive structure and your goaltender doesn't look as good." - Coach Mike Babcock

Coyotes Lead Series 2-1

On a dreary day in Moncton, New Brunswick, I'm hoping for a little ray of sunshine to peek through the clouds when Detroit steps back onto JLA ice for Game 4 of the Western Conference quarters between the Red Wings and the Coyotes. The series itself has been pretty bleak, with Detroit mounting very little energy and inspiration through the course of the previous three games. It hasn't been fun to watch, as I'm sure you Wingnuts are well aware. A win tonight is critical, as Detroit doesn't dare fall behind 3-1 and risk elimination.

With this in mind, let's go to The Geek's Winning Formula!

1.) Team Defense - This has been the biggest killer for the Red Wings so far this series. The Coyotes have scored at least 3 goals in every game thus far. This is unacceptable and hardly what you can call playoff caliber. Detroit needs to tighten way up and start winning some possession battles, stop taking eyes off guys sneaking in and watch positioning. This has lead to a majority of the goals against the Wings: quality chances for Phoenix due to inattentiveness by the Detroit defense.

2.) Maintain Pressure - Again we find the Wings apparently lacking inspiration to stay motivated. We need 60 minutes of playoff hockey, game in and game out. We have not seen that so far. The Red Wing forecheck has been very ineffective, with many of Detroit's goals coming from long-bomb passes through the neutral zone or one of the few fancy passing plays that isn't intercepted. Detroit needs to get bodies to the net and bang and crash for loose pucks. Granted we had one of those in Game 3 and it was disallowed (I can't stand the intent to blow rule...), that's what we need more of. The crashing, not disallowing.

3.) Minimize Mistakes - This isn't something only the defensive side of the Red Wings is guilty of. Offensively, there have been too many chances ruined by a reluctance by some players to shoot, or the numerous unnecessary offsides, or the blind, sloppy passing leading to turnovers. This is not the elite puck possession team I know Detroit to be, and they need to find themselves again. Phoenix has shown time and time again this series that if we give them a chance, they will gladly take it, so the onus is on the Wings to stop giving them those chances.

I'm looking forward to watching a much different team of Red Wings tonight, because if I don't...well, the sense of urgency in Game 5 will be there whether we like it or not. On the upshot, as I finish writing, the sun is starting to peek out and the skies are clearing. An omen, hopefully?

Till tonight, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Coyotes Tear up Shoddy Detroit Defense, Take Game 3

I just...

I keep looking for words to express how disappointing today's loss was. There's numerous reasons for it, not least of which being we had home-ice advantage as well as the momentum from the previous game. Let me get The Geek's Winning Formula out of the way first, in the same way that Detroit should have put away this game: simple and succinct.

1.) Haunt Bryzgalov - Failure, went the other way around today, I think. The reason Detroit failed here? More leaning towards that ice-dancing-while-carrying-a-stick routine they love to use from time to time.

2.) The Big 3 - Still made a splash, but one line won't carry any team by itself. Too much work was not done by the rest of the roster for a W today.

3.) The Baby Bear Plan - It was so hard to watch this game that I couldn't really gauge which side of the right mix the Wings fell off, but they fell, and hard. Bad passing, lack of coverage, atrocious turnovers. Overall pathetic effort as a team in whole.

Not pressing the panic button just yet, but wow am I ever concerned that Detroit dropped this game. When you manage to take out a team's Captain without any reprimand, you need to seal that game up. The Wings looked more like they were sorry for Doan being taken out of the game and gave Phoenix Game 3 as a present, and it feels like they just ruined my birthday by doing so (no, it's not my birthday).

Now that I can keep food down again, I'm going to get me some supper and brood about this embarrassing game. Here's to a much improved Game 4, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Preview: Wings VS Coyotes, Round 1 Game 3

"You can have all the skill in the world, it doesn't make any difference...if you don't compete if you don't win battles and you're not willing to run people over." - Coach Mike Babcock

Nice to know Babs is emphasizing this as the Wings return home to Hockeytown for Game 3 of their series with the Phoenix Coyotes. After a 7-4 thrashing of the Coyotes, Detroit looks to take their first series lead today when the puck drops at 3:00PM EST.

No rants today, let's get right to The Geek's Winning Formula!

1.) Haunt Bryzgalov - By this I mean that Detroit needs to keep the same offensive pressure on Easy Bryzy that was there last game. We proved he's very human, and very beatable, so beat him. Many, many times over. Again, keep in mind they have Jason LaBarbera as back-up. They will leave Ilya in and hang him out to dry no matter how bad we pummel him.

2.) The Big 3 - This was obviously coming, right? If you read my previous post, you'll see why I'm big on these guys right now. This line needs to keep playing well to give Datsyuk, Homer and Franzen time to get into real playoff mode. Once all four lines are clicking, Phoenix will be chasing all game long.

3.) The Baby Bear Plan - Sounds silly? Think about it: Detroit can't be too physical because it's not their game. They can't leave themselves prone or we'll see a repeat of Game 1. The Wings need to keep that 'just right' mix of style and brutality that they found in Game 2 to keep Phoenix's hitting in check and make them pay on the scoreboard.

Sorry for the sparse post this time round, but I'm actually just heading out. I should still be around for the game, so I hope to see you all on Twitter!!

Till then, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Stimulus Pack: The Big 3 are Bouncing Back

I want to speak on a few guys who played an excellent game of hockey last game. I tried to stay on track with my post-game recap, so I didn't end up talking about them as much as I wanted to. A while back, Jeff Riger from 97.1 The Ticket was asking fans after one of the regular season games to nickname the line of Zetterberg, Filppula and Bertuzzi. As expected, there were a lot of attempts by callers to merge all three names together. This would work if their last three names were James, Smith and Stone or something, but come're not going to get anything easily remembered or pronounced from mashing their surnames into one big monstrosity. So I emailed in with my theory. I'm thinkin'...Motor City, 3 forwards, cars...

I call them 'The Big 3'.

The Big 3 basically won Game 2 for the Red Wings if you look at the stat sheet: all 3 played between 15 and 18 minutes, and I realize that doesn't lead the team in ice-time, but the motto is "Quality over Quantity" am I right?

Zetterberg - 3G, +2, 6 SOG, 0 PIM
Filppula - 2G, 1A, +2, 6 SOG, 0 PIM
Bertuzzi - 2A, +1, 3 SOG, 2 PIM
Total - 5G, 3A, +5, 15 SOG, 2 PIM

That's a pretty good night's work, hmm?

Now I know some of these points came on the PP (and you know how much I'm rejoicing THAT fact), but even then did Hank and Flip share points with Filppula setting up Zetterberg's powerplay goal. These guys need to keep working together and give the first line breathing room to get comfortable. Shoulder the offensive load until Dats, Franzen and Holmstrom get their mojo back. We need all four lines doing what they need to do if we want to see the Red Wings go far, so we need to get more help from the top line. Everything else seems to be working itself out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wings Show Coyotes Playoff Hockey with 7-4 Beating

Detroit came into Game 2 knowing that it was a must-win, not for the sake of the series, but for themselves to shake off the bad mojo of Game 1. The Red Wings responded in as big a way a team can by proving their dominance through 60 minutes of tough, slam-it-down hockey. The Wings endured the hits, the punishment, and the opposition goals and came out on the right side of a 7-4 pounding to tie their series with the Phoenix Coyotes at 1 game apiece.

This was a game in which we saw a lot of the same things from the Coyotes: the idea of playing Detroit hard, hitting often and trying to throw off the Red Wings' rhythm. What wasn't the same tonight was Detroit's response: pushback that was sorely lacking in the previous match, as well as something I would liken to fearlessness (though I wouldn't say we're there just yet) and the swagger to keep pressing and keep battling. As always, for all the highlights there were some lowlights. Detroit's passing is still prone to going blind and getting sloppy which turned into some of Phoenix's goals, but Detroit proved tonight that they are good enough to overcome that.

So with that, let's recap The Geek's Winning Formula!!

1.) More Energy - More? There was so much energy coming from the Wings tonight it feels like the boys were zombies on the ice in Game 1!! What a difference, and speaking of differences: Justin Abdelkader? Nothing short of amazing, this kid is going to earn himself a permanent spot on the regular roster without question if he keeps this up. It again makes me wonder why we spent the 1.5 million on Jason Williams when Abs is what we needed to begin with. Hitting, good pressure on guys, and a touch of scoring. Brilliant. With guys like this waiting to become staple players on the Red Wings, I'm not as concerned as many people are about Detroit's future.

2.) Powerplay - Thank you whoever finally passed my sermons on to Babs about the stink Detroit's PP units were making. By the way, what was the biggest change in regards to this...? You're right! Jason Williams wasn't out there!! Go figure!! Our Powerplay guys were stellar tonight, I even felt good about the penalty Phoenix managed to kill because of all the quality chances the Red Wings were getting. 2 for 3, folks. That's they way a PP corps is supposed to run.

3.) Play Your Game - The Wings were just physical enough with Phoenix tonight to keep them cautious, and it allowed Detroit to fully open up their style of play. When Detroit can get into a full puck-possession mode, they are deadly, and they proved it tonight. They also proved that focusing on physical play is not their forte when Brian Rafalski tried to Kronwall someone and ended up giving Phoenix their 4th goal. As long as Detroit sees that thin line of how much attention they can pay to being physical and hitting back, they're fine. Hell, they looked more than fine to me tonight, that's for sure.

Well, I'ma wrap this up for now, everyone. It's late and I've used up all my survival gear (see my late game guide if you missed it!), so I'm going to bed with a smile on my face. Catch you again for Game 3, Wingnuts!!

Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Round 1 Game 2 Preview: Wings @ Coyotes

"They gave us some great opportunities, and we have to take advantage of it." - Goaltender Jimmy Howard.

After a disappointing first game, the Red Wings look to re-assert their dominance and tie the series with a win in Game 2 in Arena. It is in Detroit's best interest to split the first two games in Glendale and avoid going down 0-2 to start the series. We'll take a look at The Geek's Winning Formula in a moment, but I want to stress that one loss does not a series make. I'm not adding this to the Formula because Game 1 was an anomaly: Detroit is better than that. Giving up 3 PP goals is nothing to do with what Phoenix did, it was all to do with our boys having a very off night. It will be rectified.

Now, for the Geek's Winning Formula:

1.) More Energy - I was listening to Sean Baligian last night and he made a good point: if the Wings want to go far, they absolutely need their depth players to amp up their game. We need those 3rd and 4th lines to really start grinding, getting under Phoenix's skin and getting dirty around the net looking for those garbage goals. Detroit's energy fell to the wayside after the 1st period and it was obvious. Like I said previously, Detroit doesn't need to turn into a hitting team and get in a checking match, that's not their style, but the energy lines need to stand up for this team.

2.) Powerplay - That's all I really need to say. You know my stance on this if you've followed me for any reasonable length of time. For any newcomers: I'm angry with Detroit's PP units. I have been for the last month and a half. Game 1, going 1 for 6? I'm sorry, that game was gift wrapped and we blew it big time. Never mind the meltdown on the PK, there's no reason why we shouldn't have scored at least 3 PPG in that game. The saving grace, I think, is that Williams has been pulled from this game, which means that someone else will have to fill in his spot on the 2nd PP line (thank the Lord...). I'm interested to see the results of this shift and hope it produces tonight.

3.) Play Your Game - Detroit had a stellar 1st period in Game 1, they stuck to their style and had Phoenix chasing them all around the rink. It's a shame we couldn't take more advantage of the situation, because Phoenix eventually just ramped up the hitting and took us off our focus. Let the energy and checking lines deal with the hitting and get the goal scorers scoring goals. If everyone plays their role, Detroit will come out of Arizona with a split series. Doan and his ilk will get theirs, especially with the addition of Abdelkader, who will actually stand up for himself and his teammates, unlike Jason Williams.

I'll be around for the game tonight, so you'll see me on Twitter as it happens. Till then, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Willy too Wonky, Abdelkader Gets the Nod

In a rush of brilliance, the Detroit Red Wings have opted to bench forward Jason Williams and have called Justin Abdelkader to action in his place. At this time, it is the only confirmed roster change the Wings will make before Game 2 against the Phoenix Coyotes, and I say it's a good one.

I understand Detroit is not a hitting-type of team, I get that. I also understand that a team plays best when they stick to their style of play. But there is a major difference between changing a gameplan and just plain sticking up for yourself. Anyone who has followed me for the last little while, do you remember the game against the Flyers a couple weeks ago? What'd I say? Teams are going to notice that Detroit allows themselves to be bullied and it disrupts our rhythm. You think Phoenix caught on? Well, hopefully with the move to add Abs to the lineup, our gritty #8 will get in the Coyotes' face and help give the Wings the spunk they so noticeably lacked in Game 1.

I also like this change because (surprise!) I can't stand Jason Williams. Now before you go and say I'm just whipping him because I can, let me say that 1.) I like to do it, and 2.) I have numbers to back up my bitching. We're paying Wet Willy a Mil and a half to pad our offense, ya? Well, let's look at his final regular season stats:

J Williams, 44 GP/6G/9A/15PTS, +/-(-7), 3PPG/3PPA/6PPP
Wild Willy translates out to a 0.34 point-per-game player, and many of his games were with a healthy lineup since he was scratched during the worst of the injuries.

Now, let's look at his counterpart who was brought in for the same amount of cash: Todd Bertuzzi.

T Bertuzzi, 82GP/18G/26A/44PTS, +/-(-7), 4PPG/7PPA/11PPP
Yes, I know Bert played more games, but his average still comes out to 0.53 points-per-game. While Willy Wonka is spending 2/3 of his time sitting in his stick blade, Bertuzzi is cashing at least a point every other game.

In summary, you can look at this two ways, either Jason Williams is overpaid for what he is [actually] capable of, or we could have spent that one-and-a-half million getting someone else who could produce as many points and be a role player in this lineup, so we wouldn't NEED to go to guys like Abdelkader to provide a spark.

I'm curious to see how Abs introduces himself in the Playoffs to Mr. Doan, personally. Hope you enjoy it as much as I will.

The Case for Challenges and Further Video Review

Yeah, I bet a lot of you saw this coming, too. That's right, I slept on it, and I'm still mad as hell about what happened last night. Don't get me wrong, I feel the Coyotes earned their victory last night. I'm not taking that away from them, but there is one thing that irks me above all from yesterday's game: the missed high-sticking call on Nick Lidstrom.

Now, from what I'm reading in the press today, it turns out it wasn't so much a missed call as it was a blown call. Lidstrom was interviewed after the game and it appears as though the referees saw the play, but blamed teammate Val Filppula for Nick's torn lip. Even Lidstrom wasn't about to hold his chagrin at this ridiculous mishandling of the situation: "They said it was Fil's stick. Fil wasn't even close. He (the referee) would have been better off telling me he missed it."

Because of his gaff, the Wings were denied what would have been a 1:20 long 5 on 3, which could have resulted in a tying goal. I know Detroit's PP units were crap last night, but I have a feeling they would have cashed in with Phoenix two men down. This all leads me to my point: Why in the hell is video review not used in cases like this? It's not like they didn't have time, Lids had to get his face stitched back together anyway. If there's a stoppage in play for any reason, does it not make sense that if either team feels there's a discrepancy during or just previous to that stoppage, the tapes can be checked?? What, should Nick have said to the refs, "Yeah, Fiddler hit me in the chops with his stick AND I THINK IT HAS AN ILLEGAL CURVE, BTW." Yeah, sounds stupid doesn't it? But the officials would have had to check the stick.

Could we not implement a system that is more accurate, something akin to the NFL? Those officials take their job seriously, because they're allowed to review plays and make decisions based on what the video shows them. Would it be so bad to allow each hockey club a single challenge privilege each game? Challenge something either called or not called, have it looked at, if it needs called it's called and if not, assess the challenging team a Delay of Game penalty. At least then if the referees blow a call or completely miss something, the coach has one chance to go, "UH-UH, look at that shit again!" and keep his team from getting the shaft like the Wings did last night.

Again, all props to Phoenix for playing hard and getting the goals they did, but we were owed a 5 on 3 and were cheated. Any fan of any team who had this happen to their guy would say the same thing. That call basically cost Detroit Game 1. Yes I know, there were other factors to get them in the hole they were in, but those are things they didn't do. This is something they didn't get and should have that could have turned the tide and it makes me sick to think we're seeing this after the first damn game of the first damn round.

And people wonder why we're so protective of our Wings...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blown Calls, Botched Powerplays give Phoenix Game 1 Win

Wow, it's funny how just knowing Gary Bettman is in attendance can make a tough game even tougher. From about the time I saw that rat-faced punk in the stands, Detroit's grasp on Game 1 of their series VS the Phoenix Coyotes had all but slipped away. What was looking like a smooth ride for the Red Wings after the first period turned into an eventual derailing as the Coyotes simply kept working while Detroit basically did not, and Phoenix overturned the scoreboard to come out on top 3-2 to take a 1-0 series lead in Round 1.

I have a couple of reservations about this game. Since I didn't do a pre-game on this game specifically, let's take this as the three keys as to why Detroit let this one get away:

1.) Missed Opportunities - Ohhhhhhh-ho-ho, I'm gonna be pissed about this one until game 2, and things had better shape up at that point. Now granted, Lidstrom's goal was a seeing-eye shot, something he excels in, but our first goal was a gift, wrapped in pretty paper with a bow on top. The Wings had almost doubled the Coyotes in shots after two periods of play and yet we saw the score tied at 2-2. This is not playoff caliber performance, this is not putting in the work to finish a play. Countless one-and done's, shoot, save, backcheck. Lather, rinse, repeat. I did not see a Detroit team willing to get dirty tonight, and if some players need to sit, then so be it. Bring in May, bring in Abs, I don't care who it is, but they better be ready to hit hard and go to the damn net.

2.) Special Teams Meltdown - I can't even get mad about this anymore. I've yelled about this for weeks. Obviously no one who has access to Babcock's ear is hearing me, because nothing's changed. Hell, I'd go so far as to say it's gotten worse, WAY worse! 1 for 6 on the man-up, and you give up ALL THREE GOALS to Phoenix on the powerplay!? The only penalty we technically killed was one that was cut short by a call to Phoenix part way through our PK. I'm not saying by any means, nor have I ever, that the Wings need to score a PP goal every time an opponent takes a penalty. But seriously...1 for 6? And you let Phoenix go 3 for 3 on the first 3 powerplays they get? Uh-uh. Not if you want to advance you don't.

3.) Atrocious Officiating - Say what you want, but I'm bringing out the tinfoil. The fact that video replay is only used for some things and not others is ridiculous. Nick Lidstrom takes stitches from a high-stick, which SHOULD have given us another 4 minutes of PP time (still on the fence if it would've been a good thing, considering...), and the refs don't call it because they MISSED it!? Couldja maybe check the tapes real quick while the docs are sewing Lids's lip back together? Go ahead, you've got a few minutes. This is why Detroit needs to work hard(er) every single game, nay, every single shift: they are not going to get extra help from the referees. It's bad enough that the calls they were given were blown, but then to miss the critical one at a crucial juncture of the game? Well gee, guys, you saw the six other infractions, what happened to your eyes on that one??

This is not what I wanted to see out of Game 1, but it gives the Red Wings something to remember: play lazy and you're going to get stranded in the desert.

Here's to a better Game 2, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Special: Late Night Playoff Game Mini Survival Kit

I thought that with this game going so late and with everyone OBVIOUSLY staying up however long it lasts, I would let you all in on my patented Late Game survival kit. Most of these things any Wingnut will already have. If you don't it's no big deal, Christmas isn't THAT far away, right...?

Okay, so let's get to it, we're burning day, er...ceiling...light:

1.) Coffee Mugs - An absolute must. Any lover of playoff hockey has to learn to tolerate coffee at some point. A word of advice: lighter roast = more caffeine. alternatively if it's more your thing (as it is mine), you can substitute coffee with whatever cocktail of alcohol you prefer, as it helps ensure you'll keep yourself up with all the screaming and shouting you're going to do at the TV/laptop screen.

2) Coasters - Any amounts of drinkage is gonna require some seriously stylish spill-protection. Some fancy coasters like the ones you see pictured are perfect for the job. Not only are they sturdy and sexy but also provide great coverage for your drink-setting surface, so when you're flailing at the bullshit penalty or stomping your feet in celebration of a Red Wings goal, you know you're covered.

3.) Miniature Stanley Cup (Complete with Wings logo) - It is always important to remember what you're playing for, and what better to do that than your own little Stanley? Sporting an owner's tag, I mean...your team of choice, on the front, it's the best way to keep your eyes on the prize and not drooping toward dreamland.

I'll be up till the end of the game to do a post-game report, but till then Wingnuts, enjoy the game!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Round 1 Series Preview: Wings VS Coyotes

You saw this coming. ...Well, maybe not this specifically, but you must have known that I had to get a friendly jab in toward the competition at some point, right?? I mean, come on! It is playoff time, am I right?? Okay okay, all kidding aside I'd like to sit down and go over this series from a standpoint of overall team "grades" and how I personally feel the Wings and Coyotes stack up against each other.

First off though, let's look at some concrete numbers:

Detroit (44-24-14), Phoenix (50-25-07)

Season Series
10/22/09 - DET 2-3 PHO (OT)
12/14/09 - PHO 2-3 DET
01/02/10 - DET 4-1 PHO
01/26/10 - PHO 5-4 DET (OT)

Now upon initial review, the two teams look quite close, but before we get any further in, let's get to the grades as The Geek sees them:

Detroit Red Wings Detroit
Team Defense - B
Team Offense - B+
Goaltending - A+
Special Teams - B+
Overall - B+

Phoenix Coyotes Phoenix
Team Defense - B+
Team Offense - B
Goaltending - B+
Special Teams - B
Overall - B+

Team Defense - I give Phoenix a slight edge in this category, mostly because Detroit has suffered from a severe loss of man-games, and we're only just getting a peek right now at what the D-Corps are really capable of. Based on what we had most of the season, though? The Coyotes did keep their Goals Against lower than Detroit's and also won more of their games, so it's fair to say that Phoenix is a little more defensively sound.

Team Offense - On the other hand, through all the man-games lost from both defensemen and forwards, the Red Wings still netted more goals than the Coyotes. Considering some of the forwards that were on the IR and for how long, this definitely speaks volumes for how much more offensive firepower Detroit holds.

Goaltending - I give Detroit the better marks here, for two reasons really: First, I know Easy Bryzy has more wins than Jimmy, but if you gave Jimmy 8 more starts, you think he couldn't win 5 of them...? GAA and SV% are almost identical, so the second factor here is the fact that Jimmy is a rookie with a seasoned vet on his back. Howard is getting sage advice from a goalie who's been there and done that: Chris Osgood. Even if Howard gaffs, we know what Playoff-Ozzie is capable of. What does Bryzgalov have behind him? Jason Labarbera. Shall we move on...?

Special Teams - Looking at the numbers, the Red Wings have more powerplay goals and more shorthanded goals than the Coyotes, and this again is despite the man games lost throughout the middle of the season. If Detroit can really get on the horse and work their PP units well, Phoenix and every team after them will dread going down a man. The Wings' PK, though stout, was actually barely dwarfed by Phoenix this season. Phoenix only gave up a goal 49 times out of 317 short-handed situations. Detroit surrendered 43 goals out of 267 chances. This brings the PK percentages to PHO 84.5% - 83.9% DET.

Overall - To me, the Red Wings are more of the total package needed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. The big thing for Detroit is to stay healthy while playing at Playoff-levels of intensity. The numbers are close, but again I can't emphasize this enough, the Wings lost a lot of games from a lot of players, so the team stats are very skewed from what they could have been. Of course, had the Wings been healthy all year, we may not have been evaluating the Coyotes at all, we could have potentially won the damn President's Trophy. That's neither here nor there, though, and what you've read is what we have. Phoenix is a good team by all rights, but I don't feel they're the great team that you need to be to go far in the post-season.

So, there you have it! These are my thoughts on the matchup, and I suppose a fitting end to this little study would be a prediction of the final outcome. Before looking into the figures, I had it in my head that Detroit would take this series 4-1, but I'm going to be cautious and change my thinking to Wings in 6. Phoenix will be loathe to just lay down and die, so I think they'll put up a decent fight, but I just don't see them overwhelming the Wings, especially not in the first round when the whole team is at 100%.

Game one is tomorrow night, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Round 1 Schedule: Wings VS Coyotes

Oh yeah, it's Playoff time!! Screw the nay-sayers and laugh at the haters, we're back and ready to fight for the Cup for the 19th straight year. Detroit opens the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a matchup against the Phoenix Coyotes, and the schedule for the first round has already been released.

So, without further ado:

Wednesday, April 14 at Phoenix, 10:00 p.m. TSN, VERSUS
Friday, April 16 at Phoenix, 10:00 p.m. TSN, VERSUS
Sunday, April 18 at Detroit, 3:00 p.m. NBC, TSN
Tuesday, April 20 at Detroit, 6:30 p.m. TSN
*Friday, April 23 at Phoenix, 10:00 p.m. TSN, VERSUS
*Sunday, April 25 at Detroit, 2:00 p.m. NBC, TSN
*Tuesday, April 27 at Phoenix, TBD TSN
* Denotes if necessary.

Stay tuned as The Geek analyzes the Red Wings' first round opponent for a series preview and breaks down what Detroit can expect to find when they enter the desert.

Till then, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Razor Burn Never Felt so Good

And it begins, Wingnuts. We're playoff bound and regular season hairiness can check itself at the door!! New season, new beard.

It's about to get hairy over the next few months. Enjoy the ride, Wingnuts. We'll see you again on Wednesday.

Blackhawks Down, Red Wings Go Back Up to 5th

What a great day for Red Wings fans. Not only did we beat down the Chicago Blackhawks, but with the win Detroit clinched 5th seed in the Western Conference and guaranteed a matchup with Phoenix in the 1st round. There was also that little bonus of guaranteeing Chicago gets stuck with 2nd seed. Happy, happy day indeed Wingnuts.

The Red Wings played an average game for the first two periods, not great, but also not horrible. I do have to strongly comment on the errant passing and throwing away of the puck. That has to stop...immediately. Detroit threw way too many pucks away both in the neutral zone and in the defensive end. Sloppy plays also cost the Wings a lot of scoring chances, which is attested by the SOG totals (29-21 in favor of Chicago). The Wings were stifled offensively and were lucky to get the goals they did to win this hockey game.

But enough with that negativity, let's recap The Geek's Winning Formula!

1.) Win the Mirror Match - Detroit honestly failed in this department, and it damn near killed them. Chicago converted on the PP. We did not. This happens too often to the Red Wings and I will not come off my soapbox until Detroit finally fixes this!! As the Hawks showed us, you can't ALWAYS rely on your PK units to keep you out of the hole, you need to cash in on the opportunities given you, because you may not get any more! Chicago fixed one of their problems, but thankfully for us, luck was on the Wings' side today.

2.) Playoff Mode: On - As far as this goes, I would give the last period and OT the thumbs up, but the first two periods...well, can we say communication breakdown? So many stray passes, giveaways. We only garnered 12 shots after 40 minutes!! Come on!! A lot of control was given to the Hawks as well by Detroit easing up again on the physical side through the first two periods. The Red Wings visibly stepped this up once the 3rd started, exemplified by Brad Stuart's absolute manhandling of Patrick Kane near the end of regulation. That, my friends, was a thing of beauty. The Wings were able to keep the intensity in overtime and eventually caught the Hawks off guard as Stewie snuck in from the line and fed a wide open net what it so desperately wanted: black, vulcanized rubber.

3.) Play Hard, but Play Smart - Again, first two thirds of this game? Fail. But a pass to the boys from period 3 onward, and luckily the Blackhawks weren't able to take this game away from us early. Most of that credit goes to (who else?) Jimmy Howard, but also a couple of critical defensive plays, one by Danny Cleary and the other by Andreas Lilja, kept Chicago's scoring to a minimum in a game they probably should have run away with. The wings were notedly (and frighteningly) prone to penalties today, something that had better be a one-time deal, because pulling that in the post-season? Good way to get an early start to fishin'.

I could try to omit it and hope you didn't catch on, but I sadly didn't play the fortune-teller very well today either. Though Darren Helm did play a great game, Brad Stuart ended up being the real hero of the game, winning it in OT for the Red Wings and clinching that 5th spot for our boys in red.

Now: the playoffs. Yes, we're finally here! Round 1 gives us the Phoenix Coyotes, a team we've faced before in the post-season, but not for some time. We'll be back on TDG to preview the matchup (likely tomorrow) and give insight on what to expect from the desert dogs as the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin!

Till then, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Season Finale: Wings @ Blackhawks

"I'm just being patient out there and having fun." - Goaltender Jimmy Howard

Detroit (43-24-14) @ Chicago (52-22-7)

Good to know that Jimmy is taking everything in stride. I wish I could be as calm as him coming into today's game, but it's hard knowing that our positioning in the playoffs will be determined by our last game of the season! A win today against the Chicago Blackhawks will clinch 5th seed for the Red Wings and ensure that they will play Phoenix in the first round. Anything less and it starts to get a little dicey...

So for the last time this regular season, let's calculate The Geek's Winning Formula!

1.) Win the Mirror Match - You may not like hearing this (trust me, I don't like saying it), but Chicago and Detroit are looking very similar right now: both on hot streaks, high offense, getting help from a hot young goaltender, solid PK units, PP units's kind of disturbing how identically these two teams are playing. This means, however, that it is critical for the Wings to fix their problems today. The first team to correct their mistakes is going to win this hockey game. The way Chicago has been playing, if Detroit goes behind the eight-ball today, we're in for a long and tiresome uphill climb.

2.) Playoff Mode: On - This needs to happen now. I don't know if the Wings felt they were already in playoff mode, but the inconsistency they still show says to me there is lots of ground left yet to cover. If ever Detroit needed to put on a playoff performance, it's today. You can also bet that Chicago is going to throw everything they have at us this afternoon, as a win for the Blackhawks clinches 1st seed in the West for them. Wouldn't it be fun to spoil that party in their rink?

3.) Play Hard, but Play Smart - It's gonna be real easy for Detroit to stand on the gas, but the Wings need to forget that this is Chicago and focus on the "this team is vying for 1st seed" part. If we turn to a full attack style, the Hawks are gonna burn the Red Wings, Chicago has too much offensive talent to not take advantage of a defensive lapse on our part. Strong offense on top of strong defense is what we need today, a balanced, calculated attack. Look for chances without giving chances away, control the neutral zone, and get early pressure on Niemi/Huet (I figure it will be Niemi). Minimize the chance of falling behind and Detroit maximizes the chance of keeping control of the game's rhythm.

Well, since I only started last game, I only have a chance to go .500 on the year, but I'm counting on our energy lines today, so I'm gonna go with Darren "The Flash" Helm to save the day today! Show 'em what speed really is, Helmer!

Enjoy this last regular season game, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

This, That, or the Other: Potential Playoff Matchups

I've been theorizing, as I often do, ever since last night's game ended. The Wings reached 100 points for the 10th consecutive season, a feat though highly unlikely mere months ago, and are set to brace themselves for a long Playoff run. But one question still remains: Who will Detroit see in the 1st Round? Unfortunately, we may have to wait till the last few games of the season play themselves out to know for sure. Even our game on Sunday, when the Red Wings travel to Chicago to end their regular season against the Blackhawks, will have some potential implication as to who plays who. So through all these numbers, let's take a look at how things could possibly shape up:

As it Stands: Above
- Currently, Detroit is holding on to a slim grasp of 5th seed in the Western Conference. With a six point deficit behind the Coyotes, Detroit cannot go any higher than 5th.
- Because of the Division leaders, we know Phoenix is not going to be moving, so they're stuck at 4th.
- The 3rd seed, Vancouver, has no chance to catch 1st or 2nd, so 3rd is the home of the Canucks for this postseason.
- The 1st and 2nd seeds however (San Jose and Chicago) are tied for points at 111. The tie-breaker would go to Chicago as both teams have only one game remaining and the Blackhawks are holding two extra wins over the Sharks' heads

As it Stands: Below
- Again, remember that Detroit currently sits as high as they ever will: 5th seed.
- With Detroit's win over Columbus to bring them to 100 points, the 8th seeded Avalanche can now no longer catch the Red Wings. They are no longer a threat to the Wings.
- 7th seeded Nashville has a game left with 98 points and will play St. Louis. Nashville is leading that season series 4-1.
- The 6th seed, Los Angeles, also sits at 98 points, but hold a game in hand over the Wings as they play Edmonton today and Colorado tomorrow.

So what does it all mean? Well, that's what you came to the Geek for, obviously!! From here, I'll break down the scenarios per each potential team Detroit might play and how they get to that point.

Detroit @ Phoenix if:
- Detroit wins their last game, LA gets 3 points or less by season's end.
- Detroit loses in OT, LA gets 2 or less points by season's end.
- Detroit loses in Reg., LA and NSH both get no more than 1 point by season's end.

Detroit @ Vancouver if:
- Detroit loses in OT, LA gets 3 or more points by season's end.
- Detroit loses in Reg., LA gets 2 or more points, NSH gets 1 or less by season's end.
- Detroit loses in Reg., NSH gets 2 points, LA gets 1 or less by season's end.

Detroit @ San Jose if:
- Detroit loses in Reg., both NSH and LA get at least 2 points by season's end.

Detroit @Chicago if:
- Both teams make at least round 2, because they're not meeting in the first round as it stands. Because of the fact that Detroit plays Chicago in the last game for both teams, Detroit will have too many points to be knocked to 7th if San Jose overtakes the Blackhawks for 1st. Detroit already knows they can't fall to 8th, so even if they lose and get nothing against Chicago, they can't be pushed to the bottom seed. That combined with the aforementioned tie-breaker going to the Hawks if both Chicago and San Jose lose their last games, and we've got a guaranteed pass on the Blackhawks for Round 1.

So that's pretty much it. If you have a favorite team to face in Round 1 (if you can call it that), here's a guide as to how the Wings would get there. Pretty sure my math is solid here, but lemme know if I've missed something.

Till tomorrow, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Friday, April 9, 2010

BJ's Get the Shaft in Regular Season Finale, Red Wings Take SO Win.

It took the full 65 minutes of real hockey, and four rounds of the shootout, but Big Todd Bertuzzi finally told the Columbus Bluejackets to take a seat and ended their season with a game-winning Shootout goal to end a scoreless tie and bring the Red Wings up to 100 points, a benchmark they have now held for a remarkable 10 consecutive seasons.

Normally, I would be more loathe to give the Wings praise for having to go the distance with a team as low in the standings as Columbus, but I give credit where it is due: the Bluejackets ran us hard the whole game, and Steve Mason made life miserable for our boys tonight. Luckily our Calder candidate Jimmy Howard was equally up to the task of shutting the door on BJ scoring chances, and thankfully Columbus's PP was as anemic as our own.

Now that the festivities are dying down a bit on Twitter, let's go over The Geek's Winning Formula:

1.) Apply Pressure to Wound - Although it didn't produce goals, it produced results. I definitely felt the Red Wings pressured much better tonight than in recent games. Guys were pressing hard, not letting up on Bluejacket players on the boards and hindered cycling. It was wonderful. The pressure Detroit used in the offensive zone was obvious as well, as the Wings outshot the BJ's 45-22, a differential that is much more Wing-like in my mind. The only reason a shootout was needed has got to be Steve Mason. He showed tonight why he was the Calder winner last year, but was shown one shot too many in the end.

2.) Keep the Energy Up! - Very good showing in this regard tonight, a lot of guys moving their feet and skating hard to the puck. The hitting was by no means prevalent, but considering it's the Red Wings, that's how we like it. Detroit played just physical enough to back the Bluejackets off, and that allowed us to play our game. The boys were a little sleepy in the face-off circle, going 21 for 36, but to their credit, it was not a factor for the Wings.

3.) No 3rd Period Heroics, Please - What'd I tell ya? Play a good game, and you're likely not going to be staring down the barrel of a loss. They may not have scored in regulation, but Detroit never trailed in the game, did they? This is the important part: It takes one moment going your way to break a tie, but you have to work to come back from a deficit. If the Wings can keep this intensity and prevent themselves from fighting a losing battle, we'll have little to worry about come post-season.

Overall, it was a fun game to watch, very entertaining on both sides of the ice, and VERY entertaining following all the Tweeps on Twitter. Wow, do I feel dirty after this game!! Was a ton of fun though. If you guys are reading, you're good people and I'm glad to have shared a few (dozen) laughs with you tonight. May we share lots more through the Playoffs!!

Well, my powers of premonition apparently need some work, as Big Bert ended up being the hero of the night. So to start, I'm 0 for 1. Need to sharpen my skills for the game on Sunday against the Blackhawks, I guess...

Till then, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Preview: Wings @ Bluejackets

"Friday night, I think we need to stick to our game plan a little bit better, start playing playoff hockey..." - Goaltender Jimmy Howard

Detroit (42-24-14) @ Columbus (32-35-14)

Howie said it pretty well, as the Wings prepare to finish their season series with the Columbus Bluejackets tonight and move one step closer to taking 5th spot in the West for themselves. Los Angeles got the points they needed to make a run at the same seed, so now it's not just Nashville we need to worry about, we're under siege from two fronts. Of the two games Detroit has remaining, pretty much anyone would tell you that tonight's is the easy one, in contrast to the season finale against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. These are two points the Red Wings can't afford to pass up.

So with this firmly in mind, let's recalculate The Geek's Winning Formula:

1.) Apply Pressure to Wound - Detroit really needs to keep focusing on this aspect of the game: gaining the offensive zone and putting pressure on defensemen, grinding it out on the boards and winning those battles for puck possession. Also in the other end while defending, apply pressure to the forwards as the defensive zone is breached, not allowing puck movement and forcing turnovers. Detroit has a penchant for sitting back and just trying to block passing lanes, which hasn't been the best solution thus far, and is leading to higher scoring games than are really necessary. Sure, you stick your composite in the lane, you might stop a guy from passing, but you know what also works? Pinning him to the damn boards. Hard to make a cross-ice pass with your arms splayed across the glass. If the Wings would apply more pressure to their opponents, they would more often find themselves playing their brand of hockey, and we already know how lethal Detroit can be when they play their brand of hockey. No more being scared of moving out of position to force the opponent, we've not been defensively sound recently anyway, may as well try and force a giveaway or two while we're at it.

2.) Keep the Energy Up! - Remember Patrick Eaves in the last game? More of that, please. I love the fact that Brad May was announced as one of the Black Aces because I honestly think keeping an enforcer-type, even if it has to be an older May, will be beneficial down the stretch. All four lines need to run full-tilt and make Columbus give chase. This will naturally create rhythm and momentum for the Wings in a game that they should not lose, not after the wake-up call they received in the previous meeting. Again I feel the third and fourth lines will be crucial, so hopefully they can remain healthy through the next pair of games and into the post-season.

3.) No 3rd Period Heroics, Please - Mike Babcock said in an interview: "They did the [relax] for the first 40 minutes. But they've got enough pride and leadership to get them win." That may be the case, Babs, but it's not a good gameplan to put yourself behind the 8-ball game in and game out. This is the one bad habit that has been the hardest to kick. Detroit's drug-of-choice is complacency: Letting control of the play slip from them and, before you know it, the opponent has full control of the flow and (usually) the game, while the Wings find themselves down a goal, two goals, or worse. Then the boys have to play The Avengers and rush to battle back and save the day with a miraculous comeback. Guess what, guys? Even superheroes lose, and if you wanna play that style of complacent hockey for 2/3 of a game, you'll be doing it a lot.

As a bonus, should the Wings walk out of Columbus with the W, the Wings will have sole possession of 5th for at least a day, forcing LA and Nashville's hands to get a win in their respective games, but Nashville only has one game left. Alternatively, Los Angeles's next game is against the Oilers, so if ever we needed heroes, we need them tomorrow in Oil town.

Just for fun, I'm going to start predicting the "hero" of the game in the previews just to add a little more content, and to maybe expand it a bit if it works. Feel free to do the same in the comment section below, but be sure to give your pick a superhero (or even supervillain is fine) nickname, canon or original.

So for tonight's game, I'm gonna go with Johan "Mr. Freeze" Franzen as the game-breaker. We'll see if I have any ESP, though I'd prefer ESPN.
"Nice ice, baby."

Till tonight, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!