Sunday, April 22, 2012

Looking Ahead: Where do Wings Go from Here?

"Please Kenny bring shooter, we have good time."
It's that time if year again, but this year it has come painfully early.  The Detroit Red Wings have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, dropping their 1st Round series with the Nashville Predators.  It is the first time since 2006 VS the Edmonton Oilers that the Red Wings have exited the playoffs in the opening round.  This loss is exceptionally painful to deal with.  Detroit's play looked stagnant and uninspired, scoring only 9 goals over the course of the 5-game series, at some points barely making Pekka Rinne break a sweat.

There is, however, no single reason for Detroit's failure this postseason.  To me, it was mainly one part coaching, one part lack of team cohesion and one part inconsistency.  Injuries made life difficult for Mike Babcock and his attempts to find some line chemistry.  Many of those same injuries came at the worst possible time, giving guys on the mend little to no time to get back into form for the playoffs.  Team communication in the last stretch of the season and into the playoffs just  This is again something that gets affected by guys coming in and out of lineups from injury, but a general awareness of your teammates is hockey 101, and as The Geek, I have to give them a failing grade in that regard.

So, what does Detroit do from here?  With a long offseason to ponder options and potentially around $20 million to spend, my thought is that GM Ken Holland best get on the phone early and start finding out exactly what all those options are. Obviously a lot rides on that looming decision that comes every year now, I don't even have to name the guy and you know who I'm talking about.  Yes, Nick Lidstrom will make another choice whether to push ahead for another season or skate off into the sunset.  To be honest, if I were Nick, one of the first things I'd be telling Holland is that if I were coming back, I expect some big moves to upgrade this team.  If I knew Kenny was going to do the same thing he did at the deadline, I'd call it right then and there, it wouldn't be worth my time and another year of disappointment.

Three things are needed, in my eyes, to get Detroit past the 2nd Round again: A big grinder to compliment Justin Abdelkader's line, someone more defensively responsible than Brad Stuart, and a certified get-it-done shooter.  By the hockey gods, do we need a sniper.  We have far too many play-makers who can get the play started, but no one who can consistently finish the rush with a puck in the back of the enemy net.

Zach Parise seems an obvious choice for that shooter role.  Let's compare him to our biggest shooter, Henrik Zetterberg:

Zetterberg - GP: 82/G: 22/A: 47/PTS: 69/PIMs: 47/SOG: 267/SHOT%: .082
Parise        - GP: 82/G: 31/A: 38/PTS: 69/PIMs: 32/SOG: 293/SHOT%: .106

That's a HUGE difference in success rate, and Parise doesn't even get penalized as much.  Detroit doesn't have a dedicated shooter like this and it showed how much that hurts them in the series against Nashville when nobody could seem to solve Pekka Rinne.

Ryan Suter is the name most everyone is bandying around for a defensive plug supposing Lidstrom does retire.  I say go for him anyway, Brad Stuart seems like he's making no attempt to hide the fact he wants out of Detroit.  Even without Stuart's gaffes, the Wings needs more solidity in their D-men out side of Lidstrom-Kronwall.  Ian White is serviceable but a second Brian Rafalski he is not.

As for grit, the question becomes: How far to the side of grit do you want to go?  You could always bring a guy like Zenon Konopka in to center Abdelkader's line.  The guy doesn't score, but he's no fun to play against and is willing to drop the gloves for his team.  Oh, and there's also the fact that the guy is a BEAST in the face-off dot.  Take a look at these numbers:

Pavel Datsyuk: FO% - 56.2
Paul Gaustad:  FO% - 57.3
Zenon Konopka: FO% 58.9

Now remember of course that I'm only throwing Konopka's name out there for the grit hole that needs filled, but isn't that an interesting bonus? This guy, although he takes far fewer draws than the other two mentioned above, wins as high a percentage of his draws as they do.  Detroit prides itself on puck possession, why not have a guy that can win the draw, or if not, knock a guy's block off?  I joke, of course, but the fact remains. If Konopka doesn't suit your fancy, there are many other options for grit that come with a more balanced grit-to-offense ratio.

All I know is Kenny H needs to do something significant this offseason, because this team is lacking in a few respects.  We can't keep Lidstrom around forever, much as we want to, and that window closes faster every year. It may even close this summer.  Until Nick speaks, though, we can only hope for the best and push for a deep playoff run next season.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Simple Message for Detroit's Game 5 Success

Here it is...

Everything WILL be alright.


Let's Go Red Wings!!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Insanity Rules: Wings on Brink after Game 4 Loss

You know the adage, 'Don't beat a dead horse'...?

This applies to so many things in regards to tonight's game.

Detroit seemed to dominate the flow of play tonight, but Nashville's been eating their Lucky Charms and have somehow squeezed out another cheeky victory in which we were forced to witness brief--albeit gaping--defensive lapses by Detroit and stupid terrible luck at the worst possible times leading to chances and, in some cases, goals.  As if that weren't bad enough, the Hockey gods deemed it fitting to pull a fast one on the Wings, calling back what seemed like the 1st goal of the game, which would have given Nashville a 1-0 lead! The kicker: It was an 'Intent to blow' call!!

Hell hath frozen over!!

...for about a minute and a half, until Nashville came right back in and scored again, truly making it 1-0.  This is the kind of game we as Red Wings fans were forced to endure.  This is the kind of SERIES we have been forced to endure, as this has been happening since Game 1.  Individuals are under-committing, which is forcing us as a team to over-commit.  Look at the 2-1 goal.  Three (3) skaters follow one (1) Nashville player into the corner to create this chance.  At what point does that ever seem reasonable?

This under-commitment is bleeding into the offense as well.  The pressure from this team is unacceptable, and the piddly perimeter shots need to stop.  Get to the middle and screen the goalie.  The outside IS NOT WORKING, it hasn't worked in 4 games!  I can't recall all of the goals we've scored over the course of this series, but I guarantee you the ones that have gone in from the sides are not many.

Which gets us back to the dead horse.  At what point will Mike Babcock stop the posturing and admit that the game plan the Red Wings have been going with is not working?  The Predators have adapted to our style of play.  The Predators are not scared of us because they know what to expect and how to defend against it.  Insanity is defined by Einstein as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.

Well, Einstein was a pretty damned smart guy and I think he may have been on to something after having watched this series from Game 1 to 4.

The horse is dead and beaten, the Mule is asleep, and the Jackasses are laughing at it all over a game of ping-pong somewhere, knowing they need one more win to knock off our boys.

It's adapt or die.  Your move, Babcock.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Puck Luck Keeps Tilting Nashville's Way, Wings Drop Game 3

The Hockey Gods can be a cruel bunch, and currently that reality is applying to the Red Wings' series against the Nashville Predators.  Detroit was denied a tying goal at the end of the 2nd period and, despite a continued push well into the 3rd, fell short in a 3-2 loss at Joe Louis Arena.  Nashville now leads this 1st round series 2 games to 1 and the Wings are now forced to once again find a way to win on the road to take this series and advance.

Pavel Datsyuk got Detroit's offense going, cutting into a 2-0 deficit with a FILTHY steal from Roman Josi.  Dats was able to bring the puck back around to the front and stuff the puck in the net past a napping Pekka Rinne for the Wings' 1st goal of the game.  Henrik Zetterberg also scored for Detroit, but what really hurt the Wings was the calling back of what seemed like a goal from Johan Franzen at the end of the 2nd.  After review, the clock has turned to 0.0 a moment before Franzen's shot crossed the goal line.

Now, as far as I'm concerned, Nashville did not win either of their 2 victories by skill.  Fortunate bounces in this series have been almost exclusive to the Predators.  Granted, a win is a win, but Detroit needs to play more consistently and apply more pressure on Nashville's skaters.  If we stop letting Nashville into our zone so easily, for instance, some of the bad bounces never have a chance to surface in the first place.

The penalties also need to stop.  Seriously.  The Wings' skaters need to try to minimize opportunities for the referees to call penalties, because it's obvious that they are going to be back-breaking all through this series.  We don't have to like that fact, but a fact it certainly is.

Game 4 goes on Tuesday, and if Babs drills one thing into the boys' heads, I hope it's go get bodies to the crease area and get in Rinne's face.  We've been too soft on him in regards to net presence, and it's showing.  He's made game-changing saves all series and it's burning us, we need to work for rebounds and accept the fact that garbage goals may be the difference in winning or losing this 1st round.

We'll see what happens, and I'll be there to rant about it, you can count on that.

Let's Go Red Wings!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wings Lose 3-2 in Game 1, Weber Face-Mashing Kickstarter, Anyone?

When you look back at this gong-show of a Game 1 in the Red Wings' 1st Round matchup against the Nashville Predators, you quickly realize that it's hard to really break this game down...because it was broken from the get-go.  I'm not going to go into huge detail about the game itself, because the officiating was so terrible on both sides that it's difficult to get any real credible data from it.

What I do want to discuss is my pledge to donate to ANYONE promising a kickstarter to raise funds to have Shea Weber's face rammed into a solid pane of glass.  Because hey, if EVERYONE can do it for the low, low price of $2500.00, then why not!?

If you've not been keeping up with the news, Shea Weber escaped suspension for his ridiculously classless retaliatory attack on Henrik Zetterberg last night.  He was fined for the above-mentioned amount, and assessed a 2-minute minor at the end of the game.

Really? After the three-ring circus act that was NHL refs pretending to 'officiate' this game with the Rat in the building (Read: Gary Bettman), you ACTUALLY serve Weber a penalty at the END OF THE GAME? And a minor, no less.  That's just so cute...

If we take anything, ANYTHING, from this then I hope it's the bell ringing to awaken the sleeping giants that are the Playoff-Mode Red Wings.  If anything should get their switch flipped to get more aggressive, this should be it.

In other, related news, Darren Helm's return to the lineup was short lived.  After delivering a hit to Russian spy--I mean former KHL'er Alexander Radulov--both men fell to the ice and Radulov's skate blade just happened to be in the perfect spot to slice open Helm's arm.  He has been declared out for the remainder of the playoffs, but it was also confirmed that his surgery to repair the tendons in his arm was successful.

It absolutely behooves us to take over this series beginning with Game 2.  It's not because of any perceived threat from the Predators--of which there is none--, but simply because if the NHL won't mete out proper justice, then it falls to our boys to do it themselves.

Do it, Red Wings.  See you for Game 2.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Take a Break from Reading: Round 1 Preview VLOG!?

Ohh yes, that's right Wingnuts!  I told you before (read: threatened/warned/prophesied) that I might try to make a jump into the vlogging realm to spice things up here at the Geek, and I was crazy enough to do it!  Please be gentle with me, it's the first video of this kind I've ever actually shot and edited for Youtube, so I hope it's not too drab.

So, without further ado:

Ah yes...such a handsome thumbnail. Delicious.