Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wings Get Fleeced, Fall 2-1 to Kings

It's good to know that NHL officiating is still inconsistent.

The Red Wings were involved in an exciting game last night, where they dominated most of the play, but due to too many penalties, were deep in the 3rd period in a 1-1 tie.  Kyle Quincey had scored an odd goal and Detroit had been defending their lead well, until a 2nd 5 on 3 opportunity for the Kings was converted and evened it up.

Then, the refs stepped in...or perhaps the more accurate term would be that they stepped out.

Late in the final period, a hit put on Danny Cleary from behind caused a cut around Cleary's orbital bone, which would end up requiring 15 stitches.  No call was made.  As if that weren't bad enough, all-around dirtbag Dustin Penner was somehow able to take advantage of all four officials on the ice not looking anywhere around him and took it upon himself to clobber Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith about the head.  Miles away from the puck.  From behind.  Smith would go down in a heap and play would continue for a few seconds before the whistle was blown and a Detroit trainer could get out to assist Smith.  Again, no call was made.  The Penner no-call ended up being disastrous for Detroit, as during the next sequence, Anze Kopitar would get open in front of Wings goalie Jimmy Howard and deposit what would be the game winning goal.

While it is true that the poor offensive showing by Detroit is partly to blame for this loss, not every game is going to be a barn-burner.  There are going to be 1-0 and 2-1 games that Detroit needs to win, and by all accounts, they should have won this one, or at the very least, seen a point for OT or a shootout.  They controlled play, won the battles for puck possession, and minimized chances against them.  That should have been enough to get them through regulation with at least a tie.  Thanks to the officials eating their whistles and going to sleep, however, we now sit outside the playoff window once again.

At least the Kings didn't try that clock trick again.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Determined Detroit Pounds Predators

Last night's showing was a welcome sight, and hopefully a portent of things to come.

The Red Wings were desperate to get back into the win column as they played host to division foe Nashville, to whom they lost in overtime just 4 days previous.  The Wings did not disappoint the Joe Louis Arena crowd, exploding for 4 goals and blanking the Predators 4-0.  Jimmy Howard posted his 12 career shutout, making 33 saves in the contest, while Drew Miller, Tomas Tatar, Niklas Kronwall and Danny Cleary provided the offense for Detroit.

Miller's goal, a gritty hunt-the-rebound type play, is something the Red Wings need more of, with so many chances in previous games becoming one-and-done's.  Similarly, Tatar's goal was due to great awareness and perseverance around the net, as the puck came out to the side amidst a scrum in front of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.  Tatar was right there to grab the puck and fling it into the top of the net for the 2-0 tally.  Nik Kronwall got on the scoresheet next with a bomb that reminded us--only slightly, of course--of that other Nick who wore the Winged Wheel not so long ago.  Finally, Cleary's goal came off  deflection in front of Rinne.  Sound familiar?  This is what the Wings are looking for from Cleary, as well as injured Johan Franzen.  Detroit needs players to create a net-front presence similar to that of the retired Tomas Holmstrom.  Obviously Cleary and Franzen are no Homer, but one does what one must, and Cleary's effort is much appreciated.

Nashville got plenty of chances, despite the goose-egg on the scoreboard, just Jimmy Howard was up to the task.  Coach Mike Babcock came out nd said that for Detroit to win, they would need better goaltending.  Howard was quick to answer the call, making some spectacular saves as his teammates slowly built up their lead.  One thing that was noticeably different in Jimmy's game last night is that he was much more composed in the crease, with a lot less flopping and flailing as Howard is sometimes prone to doing.  Usually when Howard is set in the crease the way he was last night, it's a good night for the Red Wings.

So now that Detroit has finally snapped their winless streak, it's time to build on last night's solid performance.  The Wings will wrap up their 3-game homestand this evening against the Vancouver Canucks, a team they meet for the first time today.

Will the streak-breaking Canucks who tormented us last year strike again, or will Detroit stand tall at home and bring home another win?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Despite Showing Fight, Detroit Falls Prey to Nashville

The Wings may not have been victorious, but if they were one thing they were certainly determined.

Detroit fell into a 2-0 deficit early in the game, but managed to claw their way to a 3-3 tie before the end of regulation. What little luck The Red Wings had found ran dry shortly thereafter though, as Predator captain Shea Weber capitalized on a bad defensive decision and a fortunate bounce, scoring the OT winner to finish off Detroit 4-3.

Though the Wings showed much more heart in this tilt than recent others, the hockey gods were not on Detroit's side.  After almost losing Nik Kronwall to injury, Red Wings fans were relieved to see him return to the bench. That relief was short-lived, though, as Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard made his own trip down to the locker room and did not return. Backup Jonas Gustavsson came in to replace Howard and posted a solid enough effort to keep his team in the game. Cory Emmerton took a puck to the face that split him open, but he would return as Kronwall did.  As if that weren't bad enough, Detroit had already lost a man before the game even started.  Mikael Samuelsson  was hit in the hand by a puck during practice and was forced to sit out the match till he can get x-ray results to diagnose any potential damage.

Despite these injuries, and a horrendously one-sided penalty party by the officials, Detroit hung in and gave themselves chances to steal the game.  Detroit's determination was personified in the 3rd period, when Pavel Datsyuk stole the show.  Throwing a hit in his own zone, he gained possession of the puck and went to work, cutting through two Nashville players, then three more just past the offensive blueline, weaving a spell in front of Preds goalie Pekka Rinne before slipping the puck just under Rinne's arm. Rinne only got a small piece of the puck, which still managed to trickle over the goal line. As Larry Murphy said last night, you do not see Datsyuk show too much gloat after his goals, but he was obviously fired up after this particular effort paid off.

Although the Red Wings only got a point for their showing, they are at the stage where any points are better than none.  Mike Babcock said himself that the team is taking on water, and it is definitely true.  Detroit currently sits 9th in the West, out of the playoff picture, but there were positives to take from this game, which has been lacking of late.  In the end, if the Wings are going to lose games, it's better to at least steal points doing so.  Detroit will be healthy someday--hopefully sooner rather than later--and when that happens, things should start falling back into place.  It's a case where the Red Wings must simply weather the storm until they start getting the Franzens and the Bertuzzis and the Helms back.

Let's just hope that the storm only lasts so long though, because any ship that takes on water for too long is liable to sink.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Wings Hand Victory to Ducks

The spirit of giving is alive and well in Detroit.  Many in Hockeytown last night would say it is too much so.

The Red Wings relinquished all control of what was an entertaining hockey game during the match's final period and absolutely handed over the game to the Anaheim Ducks.  It was Anaheim's first win in the Joe Louis Arena since 2008, and by the play the Wings exhibited in the final frame, it couldn't have come much easier.  In an instant, Detroit went from a 2-2 tie heading into the 3rd to being down 4-2 not even 2 minutes into the period.  As the final insult, Andrew Cogliano deposited an empty-netter and the final horn signalled a 5-2 defeat for Detroit.

This game proved a microcosm of sorts for the Red Wings' entire season thus far.  Just when it looks as though Detroit have got themselves figured out and are rolling, an entirely different team seems to take the ice and play as though they'd have trouble playing in the AHL, let alone in the NHL.  Such was the case yesterday, when that 3rd period rolled around and everything the Red Wings seemed to be doing right just...disappeared.

The Wings are still battling injuries, of course, but that's no excuse for a total meltdown after playing 2 pretty good periods of hockey.  Teams cannot just cease to function properly for the last 20 minutes and expect to come out with a W and the end of the night.  Sloppy passing, poor decision-making, and the turnovers...well, it seemed in the 3rd like Detroit passed the puck more to Anaheim players than they did themselves.

And so it begs the question: Who do you blame for such an epic falling off of the wheels? Whose position do you question?  Is Zetterberg not able to rally the troops like the captains before him?  Is Nik Kronwall not stepping up enough and keeping the defensive corps honest?  Is Mike Babcock running out of tricks with the amount of injuries coupled with the recent departures of guys like Lidstrom and Holmstrom?  It feels odd to voice concern for a hockey club only 14 games in, but 14 of 48 is a whole lot closer to the end than 14 of 82.  The Red Wings don't have time to iron out the wrinkles, and contrary to what Coach Babcock might say or think, Detroit is not "doing good things out there" as much as he claims.  What the Wings are doing is losing games that they have every chance of winning, and are just not getting it done.

With the loss, Detroit sits 4th in the division.  As if that's not bad enough, anything short of  half the Chicago Blackhawks roster vanishing into thin air doesn't seem like it'll be enough to leave top spot in the Central up for grabs.  So, with spots 1-3 in the Western Conference inching ever closer to being out of reach, Detroit appears like they will be mired in that dirty 4th-8th grind for a playoff spot.  With all the players the Wings are missing from injury, that is not where they want to be, but it is where they are.  Detroit must make the best of a bad situation and dig in their heels to keep from slipping back out of the playoff picture again before the season draws to a close.

For that to happen, the Red Wings need to play harder.  Save that spirit of giving for Christmas.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pre-Game: Can Wings Keep Oil Slipping?

Detroit (5-3-1) VS Edmonton (4-3-3)

In their first afternoon game of the year, the Detroit Red Wings will play host to the similarly banged-up Edmonton Oilers.  The Oilers can definitely sympathize with Detroit's injury woes, having lost their last four games while having lost three of their four top centers.  The Wings also got some bad news heading into this match in the form of losing Todd Bertuzzi for a least a few days with back issues.

Joakim Andersson has been called up from the Griffins in light of Bertuzzi's injury, but there has been speculation that coach Mike Babcock might give Dan Cleary some time on the top 2 lines after getting his first goal of the season last game against St. Louis.

Goaltender Jimmy Howard should be back between the pipes after getting a well-deserved rest as Petr Mrazek made his NHL debut in St. Louis.  Howard's play had not been necessarily bad, but it had been obvious that he needed the time off, as Detroit's defense is still in flux between injuries and the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart before the start of this season.

The Red Wings have defeated Edmonton in the last five appearances the Oilers have made at Joe Louis Arena, and hope to continue that streak today, as a win this afternoon would move Detroit one point past the Blues, who currently sit in 7th in the West and have the day off.

Will the Wings keep Edmonton on their slippery slope, or will the Oilers get slick and pull one over on Detroit?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pre-Game: The Return of Hudler, Wings Host Flames

Detroit (4-3-1) VS Calgary (1-3-2)

In a season rife with woes for the Detroit Red Wings to frown on, they can at least say they're off to a better start than this evening's opponents: the Calgary Flames.  The Wings hope to get back into the win column tonight, but doing so will require them to hand a defeat to one of their most recently departed former teammates, forward Jiri Hudler.

Hudler, who signed a 4-year deal with the Flames, has found some personal success thus far in his first year away from the Wings, but that so far has not translated into a lot of team success.  Sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference, Calgary looks like a prime target for a whooping, but it would be very naive for the Red Wings to mail this one in.

Inconsistency has been the norm in Hockeytown in this abbreviated season.  On one night, they look like the best team in the league, and on other nights they look as though the run of playoff appearances has no way of extending one more year.  Much of this is due to injury of course, and with the recent loss of Brendan Smith on the back end, it's only getting worse.  Detroit may get Ian White back for tonight's game, however, which would be a huge bonus after just losing Smith.

Can the Wings put a damper on Hudler's return to Joe Louis Arena, or will he and his new teammates burn Detroit?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pre-Game: Detroit Hopes to Keep Rolling in Columbus

Detroit (4-2-1) @ Columbus (2-5-1)

The Red Wings should be caught between fatigue and satisfaction after avenging their home opening loss last night against the St. Louis Blues, so this evening's matchup against the Columbus BlueJackets could be very interesting.  With Detroit sitting in the middle of the conference, another win tonight would be extremely uplifting, bringing the Wings within 2 points of the Blues for 2nd in the Central.  Can the Red Wings stave off exhaustion in the tail-end of this back-to-back, or will the BlueJackets seize on a rare opportunity to hand Detroit a defeat?

The Red Wings will be looking for another great outing from its top lines tonight.  Henrik Zetterberg notched a hat trick against the Blues and Pavel Datsyuk scored the game-winning goal, while teammate Damien Brunner has been on a 5-game point streak.  Now that the big guns are firing, the defense has had a lot of weight lifted from its shoulders and has been able to get into more of a rhythm--nothing perfect, mind you, but it's a start.

There are no surprises in the lineup tonight, thought thankfully we will see Kent Huskins play tonight.  After a nasty hit from David Backes, Huskins confirmed that he feels fine and should be more than able to play this evening.  Jimmy Howard, who has been better than his stat lines would suggest, will start again tonight for the Wings.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pre-Game: Wings Seek Revenge VS Blues

Detroit (3-2-1) VS St. Louis (6-1-0)

The Red Wings defend home ice tonight and hope to take a little redemption out of the hide of the St. Louis Blues.  St. Louis pummeled Detroit into oblivion in the season opener with a resounding 6-0 score, but the Wings have come quite a way since that dreadful night in Missouri.

After thumping the visiting Dallas Stars on Tuesday, Detroit will again defend JLA ice and look to move closer to the top of the division.  Currently Detroit and St. Louis sit 3rd and 2nd, respectively, in the Central division, and a win over their division foes would shorten the gap from 5 points to 3, and leaving Detroit just 4 points behind division leading Chicago.

The injury front for Detroit is still a concern, with Darren Helm and Ian White still out among many others, but captain Henrik Zetterberg, who is reportedly battling illness, will play tonight.  Jimmy Howard will undoubtedly get the start in goal again for the Red Wings this evening.

Will the still-depleted Red Wings strike back and take vengeance for their opening night embarrassment, or will St. Louis leave them singing the blues yet again?