Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Quick Pre-Game: Wings Face Under-Fire Flames

Detroit (11-7-1) VS Calgary (8-10-1)

I'd like to take a moment and talk about the Wings for this pre-game, but seeing as how I missed both of the last 2 Detroit games, I really don't have much input.  What I've heard, however, impresses me: Datsyuk and Zetterberg seem to have found their scoring touch again, and the Red Wings are back to stocking up W's.

Tonight, they defend home ice against the Calgary Flames, a team struggling to find their form before Thanksgiving comes and goes.  Right now, though, they've little to be thankful for: 17 points in 19 games puts them 10 points behind 1st in the Western Conference...not to mention 10 points behind 1st in their own division.  Jarome Iginla is getting scrutinized as the team's leader, which means I'm worrying about him tonight, if I'm coach Babcock.

Looking for a strong game from the boys tonight to start a new winning streak!  30 minutes to puck-drop, I hope you all enjoy the game!

Class dismissed.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Curse of the Sharks Continues, Wings get Whipped 5-2

See that in the corner? That is what I'm left with after last night's game against the San Jose Sharks.  It is what I've been left with after many games against the San Jose Sharks.  It is also what I seem to see floating over every Red Wings player's head when they PLAY the San Jose Sharks.

So...SO many questions I want to ask.

The Red Wings dropped yet another match to the Sharks in San Jose last night, getting embarrassed on the road 5-2 by the home team.  This was made worse by the fact that, for the 2nd straight game, the Wings scored first and had a lead to hold onto and botched it completely.  This leads me to my 1st question:

Why do the Red Wings players seem unable to communicate with one another at all during games?

I said on Twitter last night that, at least usually, I can predict how rough of a game it's going to be for Detroit based on their passing.  If the passing is clicking, then it's going to be their game to lose.  The intensity is usually better, there's better pressure in the offensive zone, minimal turnovers, and more wearing down of the other team.  What I saw last night worried me from the beginning.  Bad passes, sloppy, errant throw-aways to no one or, sometimes even worse, right to opposing players with no Wings even in the vicinity of the puck.  This is amateur-ish play, and completely unbecoming of the talented roster that rides the Red Wing pine.  You want a perfect example of the lack of communication? Look at the tying goal at the end of the 1st period last night.  Whether or not the puck was going to be playable for Jimmah is irrelevant.  When an opposing player is barreling toward the puck the way JOE BLOODY THORNTON did on that play, you do NOT back off!  At least get down there and give your goaltender some support! As it turns out, the puck DIDN'T make it to the trapezoid, and as a result, Howard could not play the puck, and it was a freebie scoring chance for the Sharks, which they gladly obliged.

It all just went downhill from there, with the Wings piling shots on net only to see San Jose's side of the scoreboard keep rising.  This brings me to question #2:

Why do our scorers never shoot the puck anymore?

We went through this with the Mule.  Now we're noticing it with other forwards: Filppula, Zetterberg, Datsyuk.  NOBODY IS SHOOTING!  How in the name of the hockey gods do you expect to score goals when the superstars on your team are not shooting the puck!??  You know who led our team in SOG last night?  Dan Cleary.  Yeah, DANNY CLEARY, because he's definitely the biggest offensive force on this squad.  How many shots did Datsyuk and Zetterberg combine for last night?  2 shots, Datsyuk with a pair, and Zetterberg with none.  Hank almost had a shot, but he'd been so quiet all night that when he finally decided he'd give it a try, he telegraphed it so bad that he helped make Joe Thornton look like Datsyuk on the takeaway.  Oh, and guess what? That one ended up a goal, too.  Just another odd-man rush Detroit allowed San Jose which led to high percentage chances as opposed to Detroit's crappy, low percentage chances.  I still believe there's no goal scored last night that anyone can blame on Jimmy Howard of the 4 that went by him.  Which leads me to the final question of the evening:

What in the hell was Babcock thinking pulling Jimmy Howard for the 3rd period???

I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but I seriously wondered if coach Babcock had a stroke or something when this decision was made.  Ken and Murph tried to play it off as trying to shake things up on the ice, and guess what? It worked...for San Jose, as they added another goal in the final frame, woo!  Seriously, Mike: What did you think that would accomplish when you're supposed to be trying to WIN the game!?  I was frustrated with Detroit last night, but that game was not out of reach going into the 3rd; however, pulling Howard irreparably made it so.  Jimmah did not play poorly, in fact he made some great saves to minimize the damage his lackluster teammates were allowing.  Supposing Howard had enough in the tank that night to keep the rest of the pucks out, you're looking at a 4-2 score when Cleary netted his goal in the 3rd, which came at 13:38 of the period.  2 goals in 6 and a half minutes is far more realistic than trying for 3.  Even down 2 goals, you think about pulling the goalie for the extra man in the final minutes.  You can't do it down 3, it's too far.

In summary, I guess I'm looking for a few particular things from the Wings in the next few games to improve, these are:

1.) Simplify the passing game/Minimize turnovers.
2.) Scorers NEED to shoot the puck, need higher percentage chances.
3.) Better on-ice communication is sorely needed.
4.) If Babs wants to mix something up, don't start with your goalie when he's not playing poorly.

We'll have to wait and see what Red Wings team we get next game.

Class Dismissed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wings Look Slick Against Oilers, Blank Edmonton 3-0

One is a dot, two is a line, and three is a pattern...or in this case, a streak.

That's where Detroit is sitting now, after holding the youngin'-filled Edmonton Oilers scoreless.  The Red Wings saw goals from Drew Miller, Niklas Kronwall and Valtteri Filppula to rout the Oilers 3-0.  Jimmy Howard recorded his 3rd shutout of the season, and his 8th of his career.

The Wings were able to counter much of Edmonton's typical high-octane style of play by staying disciplined with the puck, minimizing turnovers, and staying physical in the neutral zone.  Patrick Eaves made his way back to the lineup tonight and was very feisty on the ice.  Another big factor on the ice, in my mind, was Darren Helm.  Helm's tenacity never ceases to amaze me, but tonight there were stints where it literally looked like he was in two places at once.  He was absolutely dogged in his pursuit of puck carriers, and relentless on the boards when battling for puck possession.

Henrik Zetterberg was a game-time decision, and even though he recorded an assist with his beautiful saucer pass to Filppula, it was obvious that he was nursing some kind of injury.  Johan Franzen also got an assist on the same goal, and continued his point streak, which is now at 7 points over 3 games.

So as it stands, the Wings move into 7th in the West with their win over the Oil.  We'll see if that holds after the rest of the night's games are concluded.  One thing is for sure: the Wings are moving nicely back into winning form.

Class Dismissed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wings Hope to Avoid Snowballing VS Avalanche

Detroit (6-5-1) VS Colorado (7-6-1)

Detroit has finally put the horrific losing streak behind them, and now the task of starting a streak in the other direction begins.  The Red Wings will be looking to win their 2nd straight game against our old foes, the Colorado Avalanche.

The roster for tonight's match is relatively unchanged from Saturday: Todd Bertuzzi and Patrick Eaves are both still out with their respective ailments, but Mike Commodore will be replaced by Jakub Kindl on the blueline.  It also appears that the splitting of Datsyuk and Zetterberg will continue, with Pavel manning the top line, and Hank working the 2nd line.

My thoughts on this game are such: I am not looking for another blowout.  We put the concerns about scoring behind us in Anaheim, the boys proved that there's no lingering issues there.  I would prefer to see a couple early goals, then watch the Red Wings lock things down defensively.  Isn't that what Coach Babcock wants in the first place? He's been trying to get the team more tight defensively, but it's a more difficult task when the offense isn't there and there's no lead to protect.  In a case like that, you worry as much about scoring to get the lead as you do about not making a mistake and giving the opposing team the lead!

My prediction: 3-2 Wings, with Filppula getting the Gold Star as player of the game.

Let's Go Red Wings!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wings Go Duck Hunting, Rout Anaheim 5-0

How's everyone's shoulders feel the day after?  Do they feel a little lighter?  I know mine do.

Detroit finally got the offensive ball rolling again and took the Anaheim Ducks to task, whipping them 5-0 on Saturday night.  Nicklas Lidstrom netted a pair, and Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg, and Johan Franzen also found the back of the net, giving the Wings almost as many goals in one game as they'd gotten in their last 6.  Jimmy Howard also posted his 7th career shutout in the tilt.

I hope the Wings remember what they did last night and can carry into their next few games, because one win does not a solution make.  At the very least, the Wings did win in dominant fashion.  I would be much more concerned had Detroit simply held on to win a 1-0 game and still not found a way to score in bunches.  Also, what a relief to see the Mule take his own advice and shoot the puck!!  2 games he goes without putting a shot on net and he goes out last night and fires half a dozen Jonas Hiller's way.  Hopefully now that he's found the twine, he can continue to do so.  We're definitely going to need it to claw our way back to the top after that little stumble.

Next up: The Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

Class dismissed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Call for Detention: Wings Winless thru 5

Before I even begin: Yes, that was a terrible no-call on Koivu.

Also: Yes, that was a terrible no-call on Setoguchi at the exact same time as Koivu.

Now, with that aside, I want to begin by saying that I am extremely volatile over what transpired last night in the Red Wings' 2-1 OT loss to the Wild.  Someone last night said it best: "The Wings deserved better, the Wild deserved less."

With that said, there's an argument to be made here.  The argument doesn't just span last night's...whatever it was resembling a game, it spans this whole 5 game winless skid we've got going on.  Anyone think I'm wrong in saying the Wings have been a completely uninspired and unfocused group lately?  Barring a rare few players, there's no jump in the skates, there's no ferocity in the corners, no drive to get to the net.  Detroit is lacking the urgency to win that most teams have all the time, minus the talent to put it to good use.

You think Columbus is feeling urgent to win some games? You damn well know they do.

And with the loss last night, the squandering of our best start in 30 years is complete: 5 up, followed by 5 down.  10 pts after 5 games, and 11 points after 10.  Pathetic and, more importantly, unacceptable in these parts.  Change is needed, but it's not the roster or the personnel.  It's the work ethic, the grit to play the same way and at the same high level at minute 60 as you did at minute 1.  The scorers need to shoot more, the checkers need to hit and grind more.  He who hesitates is lost, and the Wings have shown every time through this trek in the wilderness of losses that their easing off the gas is killing them.  Errant passes--or simply throwing the puck at no one at all--landing on the other team's sticks, half-assing defensive assignments, an unwillingness to just put the puck on net.  These are all things can can be remedied as long as the team actually works to remedy them.  They say it, oh they say it plenty, but I've not seen the boys act on all the things they've been saying they can do to get out of this rut.

When Johan Franzen was asked by Ken Kal how the Wings can improve before last night's game, he answered, "Shoot." three times.  That was three more times than Franzen actually shot at the net during the game.

See what I'm getting at...?

Class dismissed.