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!!!