Friday, April 29, 2011

Shark Fin Soup with a Side of Sweet Revenge: Wings/Sharks Preview

Wingnuts, we find ourselves in a familiar place at a familiar time of year. That's right, we've been rewarded for the Red Wings's postseason pounding of the Coyotes/Jets/Golden Seals/whatever the hell they're going to be by next year by being given a chance to even the score with the San Jose Sharks, the team who booted the Wings from the playoffs last year.

That's right, Sharks: We're back, and this time it's personal.

San Jose battled a beleaguered Los Angeles team that was hurting for offense up front with their main man Anze Kopitar out with injury. The Red Wings, however, are getting a couple of their main men back, as Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen are reportedly going to be good to go for Game 1 which goes down tonight in San Jose.

I feel that if the Wings can remember a lot of the little things they did against Phoenix, this series with SJ will be much different than last year, but only -IF-. The young guys need to keep being beasts, Todd Bertuzzi needs to make his presence physically known, and Pavel Datsyuk should be looking to put on a show every single game. Detroit is rested and ready, and we cannot afford to blow this opportunity to come out fresh and composed against a San Jose team that really struggled with the hurting Kings, something that totally sobered me as far as the lethality of the Sharks went.

One player to watch tonight will be Zetterberg. I'm hoping that he's as raring to make an impact as I think he'll be and comes back from his injury with a big first game in this series. Franzen might also be a key factor in these first two crucial road games, as he took the Sharks apart last year by himself in Game 4 of the Semis. My final pick to watch tonight is Darren Helm. I'll be curious to see who he zones in on this time around, same way he did on Ed Jovonovski in the Phoenix series. Whoever it is that Helmer targets in teal better start praying, because it's going to be hell for them over the next set of games.

It's the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's the Conference Semifinals, and it's on tonight, Wingnuts!

Class is dismissed.

Let's Go Red Wings!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Two Games up, Wings Invade the Desert

The Red Wings are showing that their 20th straight playoff appearance is no fluke, and that a mediocre regular season means nothing in the face of postseason performance.

Detroit took both games in the Joe Louis Arena to go up 2-0 in their opening round series against the Phoenix Coyotes, and now travel west to enter enemy territory.

The Wings have done well at fixing most of their regular season hiccups, the PP units are scoring goals, the defense has tightened up considerably, and we have a couple of guys who are stepping up and shooting the puck. Pavel Datsyuk has led by example, easily making himself the star of this series, with only 2 games in the books!

One thing glares, however: the penalties. Tinfoil hat or not, the Red Wings need to stay disciplined. We complain that the zebras take liberties when it comes to Detroit players, so don't give them any more reasons to send us to the sin bin!!

I have the expectation that Phoenix is going to get very nasty in these next 2 games. The hitting is going to get worse, and we need guys like Bertuzzi, Abdelkader and Kronwall stepping into guys and showing that the Red Wings aren't going to be beaten around, no matter what they want to throw at us. Per the above paragraph though, do it cleanly, please!!

14 to go, Wingnuts! Let's Go Red Wings!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Geek's Thoughts Before the Big Exam

Well, here we are again.

The second season is only days away and the Detroit Red Wings are making another run at the Stanley Cup. It's been a long season, perhaps not as arduous a one as last year's run, but the Wings have again battled their way into a good playoff position for this year's postseason.

I'd like to take this opportunity to address my fellow students of Hockeytown University, and to thank you again for the sense of comradery you all bring and for making it so enjoyable to chat with other Wingnuts while on Twitter. Red Wings Nation is pretty small down my way, but it is alive, and it is glad to be part of the big red machine.

Now, on to our boys.

I honestly believe we have, as always, a solid enough team to go the distance. There are, however, concerns that -must- be addressed. These are things I've noticed throughout the season that could haunt the Wings during the playoffs and make a hard run unnecessarily harder.

1.) Face-offs - You start the game with one, and the rest of the game is littered with them. It's how you start a play with possession of the puck, and if you can't control this aspect of the game, it's a little difficult to play a puck-possession style of hockey. The Red Wings play puck-possession, and we are not nearly good enough on the dot for our style of play. If we're depending on a 3rd-4th line center to win draws, there's a bit of a problem. I want to see my top 2 lines winning draws, because hey, aren't they the ones that usually put pucks in the net? Look, I know we're tied for 3rd in the league for face-off percentage, but 3rd is at 51.9% draws won. Barely above .500? Uh-uh, needs to be much better during the postseason, and needs to be better on critical draws.

2.) Power-Play - Similarly to the face-off issue, it seems like we succeed on the man advantage moreso when it doesn't matter, rather than at the key points in the game when a PPG would really help turn things around. Detroit is 5th in the league at 22.3% on the man-up, which isn't bad by any stretch, but the powerplays that Detroit cashes in on needs to be the more critical ones, when it really matters.

3.) Pucks on the Net - This is a two-parter. The first concern I have is the seeming lack of a dedicated shooter. As I see it right now, the Red Wings do not have a committed sniper like we've had in previous seasons. The closest I can mention would be Henrik Zetterberg, but he has already confirmed he'll be out for at least the first game of the Wings-Coyotes series. My theory -would- be to get Pavel Datsyuk the puck in the slot as often as possible, but Dats serves too many other purposes to limit him to taking the majority of the Red Wings' shots. Valtteri Filppula would be a good candidate, but he's shown he has an allergy to shooting that appears to be deathly: Everytime he gets a shooting chance, he passes. Jiri Hudler is another possibility, but his luck since returning to Detroit has been terrible.

My other concern in this area is the noted lack of shots. In the final 3 games of the season, only once did we break the 40 shot mark, and that was the 3-0 blanking Cam Ward and the Hurricanes gave us, which I pin mainly on the sheer force of will put forward by the Carolina goaltender. Yes, we lost that game, but by God, we gave ourselves plenty of chances at least. The two games against Chicago saw 28 and 31 respectively, not respectably. These were games where we did not give ourselves much opportunity to come out on top, and though we did win the final game, Chicago was poised to tie right till the end. Some of it comes from a lack of big shooters, some of it comes from stints of poor puck control and giving the opponent too much time with the puck, but it's still a concern for a puck-possession team too give itself so few chances, and it will be a far more glaring concern come playoff time.

There are other things that could use fine tuning, and I believe the Wings and Coach Babcock will do what needs to be done to hone their play back to playoff form.

Now, all that's left is to wait. It all starts tomorrow, and at the end of the day there's only 4 words on my mind:

Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Post-Penance Day, How will Wings Play Against Preds?

Coach Mike Babcock called it "Penance Day". It was the day after a jaw-droppingly embarrassing loss to the St. Louis Blues that showed fans all across the nation how important Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard can be. Between Joey MacDonald and Thomas McCollum, and along with a terrible display of team "defense", the Wings surrendered goals in the double-digits in a 10-3 spanking. It as the worst loss the Wings had been handed in years.

And it was just the thing they needed.

I truly believe that this has the potential to be the turning point of the season for the Red Wings, but it's up to the Wings to make it happen, and it begins today in Nashville. The Predators have owned the season series, only dropping the first game to Detroit back in October. Nashville's goalie, Pekka Rinne, has also had our number but regardless of that fact is the point that Rinne has been solid all season, giving up 2 or less goals 26 times this season.

In short: This is a good test for the Wings against a division rival, one that can help them really get it back on track.

Thankfully, it looks as though Jimmy Howard is ready to come back, which means Osgood can rest easy, not worrying about the fact that he could outplay Joey MacDonald even -with- a hernia. Also in medical news, Pavel Datsyuk was being re-evaluated today but it appears he will sit for another game, another nasty blow to the Wings. In games like the one against St. Louis, it becomes so apparent how effective and valuable Datsyuk is to the team between his offensive pressure and his defensive capabilities.

Either way, the Red Wings need to find a way to piece together some successful hockey, the playoffs are looming.

Enjoy the game, Wingnuts! Let's Go Red Wings!!