Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Strike Three: Red Wings Eliminated in Dramatic 2-1 Overtime Loss

We were never even supposed to be here.

The Detroit Red Wings were outsiders looking in for a good portion of the regular season.  Retirements, departures, and injuries had forced them to play a very young a very inexperienced brand of hockey, something Hockeytown was not accustomed to.  There was much frustration and much doubting as to what this team could actually achieve, and if was going to be the true 'Transition Year' where the Wings finally dropped off for the first time in forever.

We were never even supposed to be here.

Then, with a week left, Detroit found themselves at the cusp.  The chances weren't great, but with a little luck and a lot of hard work, it was possible for Detroit to squeak into the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive year. What we witnessed that week was four games of possessed Red Wings players fighting tooth and nail, and pulling off the improbable: a complete four-game sweep of the entire week, and a 7th seed in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Players like Smith, Brunner, Nyquist, Andersson and--to an extent--DeKeyser were going to taste the intensity of playoff hockey in the NHL for the first time.

We were never even supposed to be here.

With a miraculous entry into the postseason, we were rewarded with a series against the always-bruising Anaheim Ducks, 2nd seed in the West.  The Wings were under duress from the get-go, and the Ducks made life miserable for Detroit.  Pushed to elimination, the Red Wings responded and forced a Game 7 by winning in overtime in Game 6.  Finally, Detroit swung the momentum fully in their favor, and against all odds they closed out the Ducks and booked their trip to the 2nd round against the Chicago Blackhawks.

We were never even supposed to be here.

The Hawks were the best team in the NHL all year. They were strong offensively, strong defensively, had size, had speed, and had depth.  There was no hope for the Red Wings, as far as most of the sporting world was concerned.  The opening game was a 4-1 blowout and it seemed like the nay-sayers were correct.  Then, the unthinkable happened: Detroit roared back and won not one, not two, but three consecutive games and had put the league's best on the brink before many people could blink.  It was inconceivable.  Inevitably, of course, came the push back from Chicago.  The Hawks were the same solid team they had been all year, and the series would be pushed to a deciding Game 7 at the United Centre.  Still, the media and many fans had concluded that the series was a s good as over now, that Detroit had no chance of salvaging their golden opportunity to advance after blowing it on the two previous games.

Chicago drew first blood, and all the prophets out there appeared to have been on the mark.  The minutes went by, and as the Wings went into the 3rd period of Game 7 down by a goal, they responded.  The captain, Henrik Zetterberg banged home the puck off a great feed from Gustav Nyquist, and suddenly, very early in the 3rd, it was a brand new hockey game.  The Wings would not go quietly into the night.  Late into the period, it seemed like all was lost as Chicago managed to rip a shot past goalie Jimmy Howard, but a whistle behind the play had been blown and the goal would not stand.  The Wings were given one more lease on life.  Detroit responded furiously, but time would expire, and regulation would solve nothing.  This game 7 would need Overtime.

That is when it happened.  It is often said of hockey that one bad bounce either way can change an entire game.  In this case, it ended a series.  With Chicago pressing, Hawks skater Brent Seabrook pressed toward the blueline.  Detroit defender Niklas Kronwall did not try to hold the line, choosing to back off and stay between Seabrook and Howard.  Having been given the extra room, Seabrook advanced toward the high-slot area and let his shot fly.  Kronwall turned to the side and stuck out his back leg, the heel of which made contact with the puck.  That slight impact would be enough to alter the course of the puck and send it just shy of Howard's reaching glove, sailing into the back of the net.  It was over, Detroit had been eliminated from this year's playoffs.

When you look back at it, it's quite a tale.  And just think: We were never even supposed to be here.

This team performed beyond the expectations of essentially anyone who even remotely follows hockey.  The experience our young players gained from these past 14 games will be invaluable.  They have known great victory, and now they have known great defeat.  They will grow from this and they will mature, but most importantly: They will improve as a result of this.

There will be time enough to look back and analyze what went wrong and what could have been better, but for now, it's simply time to thank the Detroit Red Wings organization for another exciting year of hockey, and prepare for what awaits us in the future as fans.  From what we saw over these 2 series, I'd say the future looks pretty damned bright...

So for the final time this season, and with eyes turned towards a promising future:

Let's Go Red Wings!!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Strike Two: Wings Blow Lead, Have One Chance Left to Eliminate 'Hawks

            Let this go down as one of the ones that hurt to write. Let it go down as one of the nights I was reminded that sports often suck. What’s to be said? What’s to be said for a team that still hasn’t figured out what a 3rd period is?

Not much. But at the same time, so much. This game, our figurative strike two, was a study in everything the Wings have been this year. The first was mediocre, the second was above average with flashes of brilliance, and the third was a lot of trash time with a late, get your hopes up gut-punch of a goal. The kids played well at times, the vets not named Datsyuk disappeared for long stretches and the result of all that is, simply, we go back to Chicago for our second game 7 in a row. Here’s hoping we repeat that outcome.

                Now, where do I begin? With the bad? With the good? With the first? I suppose we can start there. We came out with, in the author’s humble opinion, a good first three or four minutes. We escaped the period with scores knotted at one. Such is our usual MO and this should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the Wings for any stretch this year. And, in the same vein, you can imagine how the time between our good first few minutes and the end of the period went. Red Wings Bingo was played and if you had “Stupid Penalty” “…that leads to a goal” “Goal by a Hard Working Lower Liner” and “Franzen Being Invisible” on your card (Along with Free Space) you probably won the first period. The Wings, however, did not. Chicago controlled most of it and coming out tied felt like a victory in itself.

                The second, consequently, was a pleasant and happy change. The Wings played like a team inspired, a team that realized it could close out the Blackhawks juggernaut on home ice in front of a building that was electric. Sure, it didn’t start well. Franzen went to the box, and very shortly after his penalty was successfully killed, another was called. You could almost hear the whole of Detroit groan. Too many men on the ice was the penalty, and it was an obvious one. It was an idiotic one. And fortunately, it was a fruitless one for Chicago. After the kill, momentum swung in the Wings direction and began to build. A BEAUTIFUL and downright filthy knuckle puck goal was the just reward for a period that saw the Red Wings truly play like a team that knew what could be achieved. The downside, though, of such a dominant period is that it left Wings fans with the feeling we’d regret not capitalizing on more chances. Going into the third, with a 2-1 lead, was a dangerous way to start. Wings fans know well how rocky our third period play can be. If only we knew just how rocky this third would be.

                I don’t even want to talk about it. I truly don’t. But I suppose I have to, don’t I? For those who did not watch, let me describe it in the best ways that I can. First there were the nerves. Typical game nerves, up 2-1 and 20 minutes away from doing what no one said we could do. Then there was the first Chicago goal. It happened quickly and it felt like being punched in the stomach. A sort of deflation followed, a sense of dread from the part of the brain that understands sports and that annoyingly optimistic cheer of “At least we’re still tied!” from the part of the brain that will never understand sports.

                Goal two was a complete deflation. Feeling left the extremities and we all sunk a bit low in our chairs, like that old anti-marijuana commercial where the girl is talking about her sister who is simply an airless human balloon. The third period, we knew, would be brutal. It’s never *that* easy. But it shouldn’t be that hard. It shouldn’t be that hard to rally a professional hockey team with a veteran core who KNOW what it takes to win a playoff series against a tougher opponent!  IT SHOULDN’T BE THAT HARD TO PLAY A FULL 60 MINUTES, RED WINGS. And yet it is. And there is the anger, just in time for…

                Goal number three. I really, really don’t want to talk about this one. Please don’t make me.

                But seriously, who calls a penalty shot on THAT weak of a slash in an elimination game of the playoffs? Who calls that? No. I will not argue that that call lost us the game because I have been a fan of hockey too long. I respect the game too much to try to argue that a penalty shot, instead of not capitalizing on our momentum in the second or not playing better defense in the third, was the reason we lost the game. But that cannot erase the fact that the penalty shot never should have been called. For those who didn’t watch the game, check out the replay. Go, do it.

                See? And if that doesn’t convince you enough, I’ll put it this way: Ed Olczyk said it shouldn’t have been a penalty shot. Ed Olczyk said the Chicago Blackhawks should not have had a penalty shot against the Detroit Red Wings. Now do you see how serious this is?

                But let’s move one, because we’ve got one more gut punch to cover before we all go to bed and toss and turn all night thinking about the couldas, shouldas, and wouldas. Brunner gave us hope. Brunner, who, if he isn’t careful will begin to pick up the nickname “garbage time,” gave us hope. With under a minute left, he put us within one. And that may have been the biggest gut punch of all. Sports have taught us all to hope for miracles, even though we know we shouldn’t expect them. And so we did. We hoped and we hoped, for the next 50 odd seconds, and it came to nothing. We go back to Chicago with one more pitch, one more chance. It’s time to swing away, fellas. No more giving up, no more 3rd period collapses. No more stupid penalties, dangerous passes in front of our own goalie or failing miserably to gain the offensive zone. A full on, full team, 60 minute effort is the only chance we have. We are capable of it, truly. We just have to do it.

And on one quick, somewhat unrelated note: If you are giving up on this team before the puck is even dropped for game 7, you are not a Red Wings’ fan. This is playoff hockey and we have at least 60 minutes of it to go. Buck up and get behind this team, that has spent the entire season surprising us and going farther than we expected. Game 7 against THIS Hawks team? Who could have seen it coming? It’s proof. Proof that game 7, this series, this season is not over until it’s over. If you want to quit on this team, don’t come back as a fan next year. We don’t need you. And now, the author has some feelings she needs to take care of with ice cream, or funny tv shows, or something. Until next time, fellow Wings fans. And, as always: Let’s Go Red Wings!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Strike One: Wings Whiff on First Chance to Eliminate Hawks

Did you get to watch Game 5? If you didn't, don't worry. You didn't miss much.

Detroit entered the United Centre with their first of three chances to end the Chicago Blackhawks' season yesterday evening.  They had spoken to the media prior to the game and admitted that the toughest game of any series to win is the fourth and final victory.  The Red Wings knew they had to stay on top of their game and play as well as they had over the previous three games.

They KNEW it, but they certainly didn't execute it.  The Wings were slow out of the gate, and flat from then on as Chicago dictated the play all night long.  Eventually the Blackhawks just wore down the Wings and before we knew it, we were staring at a 4-1 deficit that was not to be overcome, bringing the series lead for Detroit down to 3-2.

I was watching the CBC feed, so I don't know if it felt this way to anyone watching the NBC broadcast, but to me it felt like our bottom two lines completely vanished in this game.  The line of Brunner, Nyquist and Andersson faded into complete obscurity after the 1st period and the fourth line was scarcely any better, leaving Chicago with only two of our lines to really focus on shutting down.  Pavel Datsyuk, though a magician he is, was smothered the entire game.  Even still, he did get off a shot that rang the post behind Corey Crawford, but that was the closest he would get to the back of the net.

Jimmy Howard was good.  Some would argue a goal or two against that could be called soft, but he once again made critical saves to keep his team in it as long as he could, but when you're basically on your own, watching your teammates chasing the puck with no real sense of urgency, you know you're in for a long night.  In contrast to the many one-and-dones the Red Wings got out of their offense, Chicago maintained puck possession and were so deeply entrenched in our zone they may as well have set up tents.  This loss was not on Howard, it was on the entire group of skaters who didn't skate--they literally watched Chicago win this game.

Overall, it was just a terrible effort from a team that could use the luxury of ending the series early and getting a little rest.  The only good thing to come out of this loss is that, should Detroit advance, it potentially postpones the Conference finals for an extra couple days, giving injured defenseman Danny DeKeyser more time to heal and possibly make it back into the lineup, something Detroit would desperately love to see happen.

Game 6 is tomorrow night at 8 PM Eastern.  The Wings will need to learn from their mistakes in Game 5 and come out with a much smarter and more organized game if they want to close this series out at home and advance to the Conference finals.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wings Shut Down Hawks, Push Chicago to the Brink

Go back in time to before the 2nd round started.  Ask any fan on either side of the fanbase what the series score would be after Game 4.  I guarantee you not a single soul would answer you, "3-1 Detroit".  Not even the slappiest of Wingnuts--including myself--would have dared to say it.  You might have gotten a 2-2 tie from a few, but that'd be the line in the sand.  Anything more pro-Red Wings would have been seen as sheer lunacy.

Well, call me crazy folks because here we are, reveling in a 2-0 shutout victory over Chicago, and standing just one win away from moving on to the Western Conference Final.

Detroit got the pleasure of scoring the first playoff powerplay goal the Hawks have given up in the last...well, forever, as Jakub Kindl opened the scoring, while Danny Cleary buried the empty-netter late to finish off the Blackhawks for the third consecutive game--this was also the first time that Chicago had allowed that particular lowlight all year!  Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard made 28 saves in the win, many of them critical and monstrously huge.

Chicago looked like their frustration had carried over from the previous game, especially with Hawks captain Jonathan Toews.  The Chicago leader was out of sorts all night long, his worst moments coming when he managed to get himself put in the penalty box three times in a row!  When your own captain is getting so pissed he can't stop taking penalties, you know you've lost your composure.  To their credit, the Hawks had a lot of very good chances, but Howard was far too tall to the task for Chicago to break through.

So, how did the Wings do it? To me, it looked like no more than a good old-fashioned grit-fest. The Wings put their heads down and barreled forward on the offense, and when Chicago came rushing back, the heads came up and saw the ice very very well.  I know I said the Hawks got great chances, and they did, but there were numerous chances that would have been even more juicy if not for excellent backchecks and defensive plays from the D-men.  If we can get that kind of effort from the Wings on Saturday, we could be looking at a triumphant end to one of Detroit's most hated division rivalries.

We will have to wait and see what transpires in the Madhouse in what will likely be the most intense game yet in this series.

Be sure to watch for us on Facebook, and find all of us on Twitter as we rant away the hours between now and gametime!

Let's Go Red Wings!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Game 2 Intensity Carries Over, Wings Win Game 3

When all is said and done, this series will have been one thing above all others: Electrifying.

Detroit hosted the Chicago Blackhawks for the first time in the 2nd Round of the 2013 Stanley Cup conference semi-finals, and the question in everyone's mind had to be: Will the Red Wings come out with the same energy and dominance they displayed in the previous game in the United Centre?  The answer turned out to be a resounding 'yes', as the Wings battled more fiercely--and more physically--than they ever have this year, securing a 3-1 win to go up in the series 2-1 over the Hawks.

Detroit opened their scoring on an absolutely sick display from Gustav Nyquist, who made a great power move into the middle of the ice around the Hawks defender, got Chicago goalie Corey Crawford down to the ice, outwaited him, and whipped the puck past for the 1-0 lead.

Not even a minute later, Detroit would capitalize on a Blackhawks turnover that had Cory Emmerton feeding Patrick Eaves in the middle. Eaves's shot was stopped by Crawford, but Drew Miller rushed the crease and banged the puck home to extend the lead to 2-0!

The Hawks would have a chance to respond, after a non-call on a hit from behind on Johan Franzen, Patrick Kane got in alone on Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard and banked his chance to cut the lead to 2-1.  Not long after, it appeared that Chicago may have tied the game on a chance in the crease, but the play was blown down and no-goal ruled due to goaltender interference.

The Wings would answer back after didging the bullet, as Pavel Datsyuk, in almost a mirror image of his goal against the Ducks, ripped a disgusting wrist shot from the left wing clean over Crawford's right side and into the back of the net to go up 3-1.  From there, the Red Wings would clamp down and claim the W.

Detroit did it all tonight.  Shots on goal? Yep, the Wings had 30 in total, which is my magic number for playoff hockey.  If you're not getting at least around 30 shots in a game, you're not trying hard enough.  Hits? You bet, this was the hardest I've seen the Red Wings play a team as a group in a LONG time!  Even the little guys like Damien Brunner were laying some hits here and there, it was glorious!  By playing a more physical game, you pound the message home that we will not give anything up easy, and that is exactly how Detroit played.  Jimmy Howard was solid once again, keeping the Wings in the game all night long, offense cropped up from all different lines, and Detroit played close to a full 60-minute game, at least enough to secure the victory.

One thing I cannot let go, however, is the officiating.  Make what you will of the disallowed Hawks goal, I could've gone either way on it due to the wording of the rules, but the entire game was a mockery, a comedy of errors.  Calls that should not have been along with calls that SHOULD have been are were not.  I say this for both sides, by the way, because both teams were guilty and/or innocent in certain instances where the complete opposite call was made or not made.  The league should be ashamed of itself to let games be officiated to this low level of quality and make no strides to improve it.  The greatest example of this is certainly the boarding of Johan Franzen that was not called and led to Patrick Kane's goal.  Boarding or hitting from behind, you can take your pick, but that was penalty and it is ridiculous that an act that violent goes unpunished, let alone leads to a goal against for the team who could have easily lost a player for at least the rest of the game.

Regardless, the Red Wings got it done and stuck it to Chicago, giving them a chance to apply some serious pressure in Game 4.  If the Wings can take it one game at a time and come out with the same intensity and energy they displayed tonight, they can certainly give the Hawks something to be concerned about.

For now it's time to rest for the Wings, with the next game coming up on Thursday.  We'll see if the Wings can keep the momentum on their side as the playoffs roll on!

Let's Go Red Wings!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Detroit Drops Game 1 After 3rd Period Collapse

The Wings opened their 2nd round series VS the Chicago Blackhawks last night and for 40 minutes looked to be completely capable of hanging with their opponents.  Then the 3rd period happened and the Red Wings were nowhere to be found.

After a complete and utter meltdown, goaltender Jimmy Howard was left fending for himself against the rest of the Chicago onslaught as his teammates seemed to suddenly forget how to play hockey, and the score went from an entertaining 1-1 tie heading into the 3rd into what appeared to be a 4-1 rout.

Damien Brunner scored the lone Detroit goal, answering back shortly after a Marion Hossa PPG that opened the night's scoring.  The Wings did have one consistent problem, however, that lasted throughout the game: Shots on goal.  Detroit was outshot in the game 42-21.  I'll give you a moment to let that sink in...we were doubled in shots on net. Doubled. We barely got over 20 shots for the whole damn game.

I certainly hope the Wings aren't wondering as to WHY they lost...

There was much to take from this game and learn from, and it will now be up to the Red Wings to do just that, as they have until Saturday to get their collective shit together.  You cannot play 2/3 of a playoff game and expect to skate away with the W.  It's 60 minutes or bust, or more if need be! You play until that win is secured, and if it isn't yet, you play harder!!  Hopefully the extra rest gives Detroit some time to get their energy back, because they'll need a lot more of it than what they showed near the end of last night's game...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

NHL Releases 2nd Round Schedules, Wings Start Tomorrow

The schedule for the next round has been released, including all gamedays and the first four start times of each series.  Detroit's victory over the Anaheim Ducks netted them a date with the Chicago Blackhawks, in what I hope to be an epic final series as division rivals.

The Red Wings' schedule so far breaks down like so:

GAME 1 @ CHI - 8:00PM ET
GAME 2 @ CHI - 1:00PM ET
GAME 3 V CHI -  7:30PM ET
GAME 4 V CHI - 8:00 PM ET

I am unimpressed that there is an afternoon game at all, but even moreso for the fact I will miss the whole damned thing due to work.  Chicago will be the more rested team, taking care of Minnesota with relative ease, while Detroit grinded their way to the Conference Semis after a grueling 7-game tilt with the Ducks that saw the two teams in overtime 4 times over the course of the series.  Which will prove to be more advantageous: Chicago's rested bodies, or Detroit's battle-readiness?

One thing is for sure: We'll be following the entire series here at The Datsyukian Geek, so remember to check back with us here, and find us on Twitter and Facebook for further discussion about all things Hockeytown!!

Let's Go Red Wings!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wings Came to Play, Played to Win in Game 7 Victory Over Ducks

Everything came down to one final game, one more 60-minute span: You either win or you go home.  There would be no more chances.  Every goal on either side would have enormous weight and significance.  Every mistake would feel fatal.

After all, that's what it is to play a Game 7 in the playoffs.

With no more room for error, the Detroit Red Wings played like they knew what was on the line.  They controlled the pace of the play for almost the entire 60 minutes and did what needed to be done to hold back the Anaheim offensive, pulling off a thrilling win in enemy territory to win their first round series 4 games to 3. Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader and Valtteri Filppula scored for Detroit and goalie Jimmy Howard was sensational in holding the Ducks to only a pair as the Red Wings won Game 7 by a 3-2 margin.

The scoring started early as Filppula threw a shot at the net just minutes into the 1st, and Zetterberg would swoop in to bang home the rebound to take the early lead.  The lead didn't last though, as the Wings wrapped up a powerplay opportunity, Anaheim surged back after a successful kill and Emerson Etem zinged a shot past Howard to know it up at 1 apiece.

The Ducks would get their own powerplay chance around the 15-minute mark of the 1st, but an excellent read by Abby saw him intercept a pass on the blueline, skating away from the defense for a breakaway, and slipping the puck five-hole on Anaheim netminder Jonas hiller to take back the lead 2-1 on a shorthanded goal.  Abdelkader, who had served a 2-game ban during games 4 and 5, had been playing like a man possessed since returning, and his hunger was evidenced by this play: Great read, explosive skating, and a soft finish all leading up to a fantastic goal!

A few minutes past the halfway point of the 2nd, Detroit would again be rewarded for getting guys to the middle of the ice in the Ducks' zone, as Val Filppula got the puck from teammates Dan Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg, flicking a backhand shot past Hiller to extend the lead to 3-1.

From there, Detroit would maintain control of the game...up until Hank miscued and tossed the puck over the glass in his own zone.  A delay of game call was made, and the Captain would sit.  Anaheim made sure he didn't sit for the full 2 minutes, with Francois Beauchemin beating Howard and cutting the lead to 3-2.

Every Wings fan in the world went a little white, I'm sure.  We had seen this play out before: 2 and 3-goal leads blown in the 3rd and the Ducks forcing Overtime.  It was not the scenario anyone rooting for the Winged Wheel wanted to even imagine.  Thankfully, neither did the Wings, and from there Detroit managed to grind out the rest of the clock and hold on for the series-clinching win.

With a day or two to rest, Detroit now looks ahead to the Chicago Blackhawks, in what will likely be the last time the two teams will ever play a series as division rivals.  Chicago dominated the regular season series, and good on them for it.

This, however, is not the regular season.

Get ready for a crazy 2nd round, Wingnuts!  Let's Go Red Wings!!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Go Big or Go Home: Wings/Ducks Series Ends Tonight

There have been highlight reel moments, controversies, and everything in between during the six games that have made up the Detroit/Anaheim first round playoff series, but one thing is certain: One team is advancing to the second round after this evening's tilt.

The Red Wings found a way to stave off the Ducks' roaring last stand which was enough to surmount a 2-goal lead late in the 3rd period, but fell short when Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg blasted the puck past Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller to close out Game 6 and push the series to its final game.  It was not the first time Detroit had blown a significant lead in the series, but a win is a win and it is now up to the Wings to learn from their near-fatal mistakes and come out hard if they hope to knock off the resilient Ducks.

Playing hard will indeed be the key, this Wings club has been way too damn soft on the Anaheim skaters.  If Detroit wants to close this out and move on, the Wings need to grind out the Ducks forwards and kill their forecheck.  Far too many times have we allowed the Ducks to move the puck along the boards with little resistance and come out into the middle of the ice for scoring chances.  The less scoring chances we allow, the better.

Despite what some would say, Jimmy Howard has been a beast in this series. Besides the blowout in Game 3, every game of this series has been close, and that is in LARGE part thanks to Howard. He has made critical saves at critical points, and has continually kept the Red Wings in their matches.  Has he let in a softie or two? Sure, but hasn't Hiller?  The fact remains that Jimmy Howard has played lights out when he's had to, and has helped give Detroit this chance to end the series in their favor.

Play hard, but play smart. If the Wings can do that, they are wholly capable of defeating the Ducks in their own barn...or pond, or whatever the hell they wanna call it.  If things go my way, they can call it 'Closed until October.'

This is the one that counts, guys! Let's Go Red Wings!!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Late Night Thoughts on a Successful Game Six

The Wings are leaving Detroit and on a plane back to Anaheim as happy as can be. Why might you ask? Well, if you haven't heard the Detroit Red Wings were able to pull of an overtime win against the Anaheim Ducks to yet again tie the series at 3-3.

 Detroit was able to pull off the first goal with a little over a minute left in the first period at the Joe Louis Arena. Pavel Datsyuk backhanded the puck past Jonas Hiller and took the lead. Wings dominated the period with 11 shots on goal compared to Anaheim's 7, but did look a little sloppy.

The sloppiness carried into the second period, where Anaheim controlled the next twenty minutes. Anaheim had 14 shots on goal, but were not able to capitalize on one of those shots without Detroit's help. Yes, you read that correctly: Detroit had to help Anaheim make a goal. Brendan Smith ingeniously attempted to grab the puck from going past Howard and instead the puck bounced off of his body, allowing Anaheim to tie up the score at 1-1 before the second period was finished.

As this series as proved in the past, the third period was the most active. Henrik Zetterberg was able to capitalize on the power play six minutes into the third period and scored his first goal in the playoffs. Dan Cleary tipped the puck into the net next, giving Detroit a comfortable 3-1 lead. The comfort did not last long, though. Valtteri Filppula had a bad pass behind the net to Emmerson Etem, who scored the next goal for the Ducks. Less than a minute later, Bobby Ryan tied the scored up at 3-3. Detroit had a couple of chances before the end of the third, but were unable to capitalize and moved to overtime for the forth time in the

A little over the minute into overtime, Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg scored the game winning goal. The Joe Louis Arena went nuts as the Wings had stayed alive in the playoffs winning 4-3 versing the Ducks.

Some obvious mistakes was the bad bounces/passes from Detroit players that assisted Anaheim in two of their three goals. As previously discussed, Detroit always seems to allow for more goals in the third period. It seems as if they just get tired and give up, allowing for poor turnovers or bad passes that result in Anaheim catching up. The shots on goal support that as well, showing Anaheim leading 16 to 9 in the third period. It would be nice to see Detroit pull through all 60 minutes of game play and prevent Anaheim from stealing their thunder in the third period. We need a hungrier, more consistent team for game seven in order to pull off a win.

A couple victories would obviously begin with Henrik Zetterberg finally capitalizing on his shots. Zetterberg's two goals were nothing short of exciting and helpful to winning this game. Also, Justin Abdelkader being back in the line up was helpful for the Wings. His presence was known with a couple of shots on net, an assist and a stronger top line. Howard also outplayed Hiller, having a 91 save percentage compared to Hiller's 86 save percentage. Despite being outshot, Detroit battled hard
and thankfully won. The Wings are on to game seven. If Detroit wins game seven, the Red Wings will advance to the next round in the playoffs. However if Detroit falls short, the Red Wings will be the ones packing their bags and heading home until October when next year's season will begin.

Game seven will be played at the Duck's home ice, the Honda Center, on Sunday, May 12th at 10PM. What do you think the Wings need to do to win game seven? Will Anaheim win, continuing the pattern of winning every other game this series, or do you think Detroit will be able to win back to back and take the series? Follow our Facebook and Twitter for more places to share your opinion and for great Wings coverage!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Wings In Sudden Death For Game 6

The Detroit Red Wings are pinched in a tough spot tonight after losing in overtime for game five against Anaheim. The Anaheim Ducks currently lead the series 3-2. If the Ducks win tonight, that would mean a bye-bye playoff time for the Wings. Don't get too down though. If the Wings are able to fight for it and win, we will move to a game seven on Sunday.

Game Five was a nothing short of a fight from both teams. Detroit had only fallen short 31 shots on goal compared to Anaheim's 34. Detroit's Franzen and Samuelsson were able to land goals in regulation. Ducks

Captain Ryan Getzlaf and Kyle Palmieri put two up for Anaheim. After 60 minutes of game play, each team had one power play goal and one full strength goal, tying them at two. A little under two minutes into overtime, we saw a game winning goal from Nick Bonino.

People complained of a poor power play for Detroit when Daniel Winnik was given a five minute major for boarding Dan Cleary. Cleary, who managed to come back in the third after being injured in the second, is still complaining about soreness to his left side but will be in the lineup tonight. Another common complaint was the ice conditions in the Honda Center. What I think it comes down to is Anaheim skating harder and faster than Detroit. If Detroit can play how they did in the second period (minus the five minute major), we could be looking at a win tonight. Regardless, there is nothing that should be enough to hold this team back from working again in game six.

Speaking of working, Henrik Zetterberg has been hurting for a goal all series. The new captain has zero goals in the playoffs thus so far. Offensively, Z has been able to produce about 20 shots on goal alone through five games. But, the Wings captain isn't worried, stating all he could do was "continue to work hard, keep putting pucks at the net, and hopefully one or two will sneak by the goalie."  Hopefully, we will see Zetterberg be able to bank one of those shots tonight.

Justin Abdelkader will be hot tonight. The forward is coming back to the ice after a two game suspension for hit on Tony Lydman, who is still out due to headaches and concussion-like symptoms since game two. Abby
will join the top line with Captain Z and Pavel Datsyuk to hopefully give the Wings the added pressure they are looking for. After patiently and painfully watching the last two games, especially a loss in game five, Abdelkader is ready to go. Will he be changing his playing style due to the suspension? Doubt it.

Look for line changes tonight with Justin Abdelkader, who will take the first line as previously mentioned and force Patrick Eaves to a scratch. Also, Carlo Colaiacovo will make his playoff debut and replace Brian Lashoff for the lineup tonight.

Make sure to be cheering for the Detroit Red Wings at 8:00pm tonight, Friday, May 10th for game six against the Anaheim Ducks. Follow our Facebook and Twitter for more great Wings conversation and coverage!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Wings Watch Game 5 Slip Away, Play Themselves to the Brink

Was last night's game an entertaining game? Certainly. Was last night's game a well-played game? For the most part, yes.  Was last night's game an inspired performance by the Detroit Red Wings? Absolutely not.

Detroit reverted back to their inconsistent ways and played some very roller-coaster-y hockey in Game 5 at Anaheim yesterday, and crucial lapses of communication and energy led to Detroit blowing two leads and allowing the Ducks to steal the game away in overtime with a 3-2 final score, similarly dropping the Wings to a 3-2 series deficit.  The Red Wings were haunted by the squandering of a 5-minute major penalty to Anaheim on which Detroit did absolutely nothing, barely even generating scoring chances.  Up 2-1 in the 2nd at the time, it was the golden opportunity they needed to put the game out of reach.

What did they do? Well first, Brendan Smith took a holding call to end the PP slightly early.  Second, they then proceed to let Ryan Getzlaf (Yes, you know...the guy that is kind of the captain of their team and one of their best scorers...? Yeah, him.) waltz in practically undeterred and rip a vicious shot past Jimmy Howard to tie the game.  I said when the penalty to Smith was called that wasting those 5 minutes would haunt us, and how right I turned out to be.

Detroit lost a lot of steam after that, still generating a little offense here and there, ringing 3 posts by the end of the game and coming close a few other times, but the one thing I still see that has been killing us is that there is still no one going to that open space in the high slot in the middle of the offensive zone.  Everything comes from the perimeter, and skaters will wait until the shot goes in to make a move for the middle on a rebound opportunity.  We need guys in that space from the get-go, wreaking havoc in the middle and becoming a problem for Jonas Hiller.

The 3rd period would solve nothing, and off to overtime we went...or at least the Ducks and the fans went, because the Wings did NOT show up.  Nick Bonino swept the puck past Jimmy not even 2 minutes into the overtime frame after Detroit basically just watched the Ducks skating around them, providing no resistance whatsoever.  No one playing the puck hard, no one grinding guys on the boards to try to take possession, just...nothing.  Honestly, this was Detroit's game to lose, and they managed to find a way to do it.

We now sit at the edge of the cliff, needing to run the table from here on out if we want to survive to see another playoff series this year.  We will need efforts like those that got us into the playoffs to begin with from the last week of the regular season.  We have that ability, it's now up to the boys in red and white to deliver.

This series is not over, so long as the Wings don't PLAY like it's over.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Game Day Thoughts: Detroit in Anaheim for Game 5

After a riveting game four, Detroit will head back to Anaheim today to face the Ducks for game five of this playoff series. So far, the Red Wings are tied at 2-2 against the Ducks. Both teams have not been able to gain enough momentum to win back to back games, but it is safe to say Detroit fans are looking to get out on top for the first time in the series tonight.

Game four was a phenomenal game that resulted in a 3-2 overtime win for Detroit. Damien Brunner scored the game winning goal. Datsyuk also tied up the game in regulation and Brendan Smith added a goal and assist. Howard landed 31 stops in the victory. After the game, Howard admitted that he was not a match up for Anaheim's wall Jonas Hiller. But when viewing the series stats, Howard's save percentage is on 3% under Hiller's, making him a worthy opponent in my eyes.

Each game winning goal for Detroit between the two wings this playoff series has been scored in
overtime by rookie players. While being inexperience has been a worry going into the playoffs, Brunner and Nyquist have proved that worry to be a silly one. Six of the Red Wings players had made first playoff appearances against the Ducks. It appears that these young players may deserve more ice time than they are getting. Brunner and Nyquist, while both being called "heroes" of the last two winning games for Detroit, have also had the least amount of ice time. It appears it would be wise to see them more in tonight's game.

For game give, what can we expect? While it would be nice to see Brunner and Nyquist be awarded with more ice time, it cannot be guaranteed. It is not always understood why Babcock makes some of the decisions he does (**Samuelsson on the top line**), but I am sure we will witness some questionable ones again tonight. Coach Babcock did state that there were no line changes and no big moves for Detroit from game four. We will also be looking for some goals from Anaheim in the third period, which is where nine of the thirteen goals scored by the Ducks have happened. Hopefully Detroit will have picked up on that statistic and be prepared to stop the Ducks from taking the lead. Regardless if Anaheim is dominating Detroit's playing through the series, the Wings have still kept it even showing temendous fight and patience. No matter what the outcome is for tonight, I hope we see more of the fight that the Wings had through game four!

Make sure to catch game five tonight, Wednesday May 8th at 10:00PM. Follow our Facebook and Twitter for more great Wings conversation and coverage!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Back to Anaheim on Top of the World! (A Game Four Recap)

                The naming of Samuelsson to first line was an early omen. Of what, we knew not. Many (including me) thought a miserable front line situation in which Samuelsson left with a papercut or an eyelash in his eye or some other sort of silly thing that defined our day. This was not a game we could afford to lose, though, whether or not the gamble of putting Samuelsson on the first line paid off or not.

                For the benefit of those researching the Wings in future decades and centuries, having Sammy on the first line did not pay off. Having Quincey on the team as a whole did not pay off as he was a near direct cause of the first Anaheim goal. (I’ll get to the good parts of the game later. I want to get the bad out of the way.) And as many of us, again, thought most of the game: having Smith on the team not only didn’t pay off but it brought us down. A lot.

                And yet miracles happen. I could recap the first two periods for you, but let this suffice: we were wretched. We looked like a team stuck in glue, taking shot after shot after shot that had no chance, no screen, no anything. “Hiller was god-like,” commentators from all sides remarked, and as far from the truth as that actually was it seemed plausible. Hiller was no god, we were just pathetic. We came into the 3rd a goal down and the boo-birds emerged on Twitter to put a team down that has, if we’re all honest, shown a remarkable ability to survive when everyone leaves them for dead.

                Dead we were not, down we were not when that paragon of futility, Brendan Smith, put one past Hiller to knot the game at one and give us our first tally since 1936. Or game two. Who can tell? Maybe, just maybe, that should have marked the night as special. If BRENDAN SMITH can do it, can’t the Wings as a whole? Maybe. But at the time, the night looked dire.  And when the second Ducks’ goal went in, the perpetual fakers of twitter pulled off their Wings caps, pulled on their “I knew we’d lose all along” caps and settled in for what would surely turn into a loss. Doesn’t it always when the Wings play like this?

                No. Because on our team we have a man that will put the team on his back and never quit. From the left side he pulled off a shot that was so filthy, so sick that no one even knew it went in. Today we learned Pasha hates water bottles and will obliterate them with pucks. Today we learned anew that Pavel Datsyuk will not let this team go down quietly. He knotted us back up at two, and if you haven’t seen the goal stop reading right now and go find it. I’ll wait. Go. I’m not kidding.

                All set? See what I mean? Good. To overtime we went, and where Jimmy was a star in regulation he was the universe in the extra period. This was a man inspired, on a team that finally started to look inspired. A team that really looked the part of a playoff threat, not simply the recipient of a “participant” ribbon. Overtime tested our nerves, but the result was sweet. Nyquist came up the center, in with the flash of speed that youth brings (and we’ve been begging Babcock to allow). He was stopped, but there, as a man should have been all game, was Brunner to pick up the trash. Rebound, shot, score. 3-2 to the good guys and we go back to Anaheim tied.

                And if that moment didn’t define, absolutely define, what we have needed in this series, I do not know what does. That pass up the center, that burst of speed, and finally that *tiny* bit of support that makes all the world of difference fooled an Anaheim team that had our regimen down pat and had thus shut us out the game before. If we want to continue this, we will to repeat this in game five. Excellent passing, speed, and rebound support. We have the youth for speed, we have the veterans for passing, and anyone with a hint of hockey knowledge should understand the rebound support. It’s an incredibly simple concept, we just have to execute! We must dump this ridiculous strategy of shots from the point that don’t go through a screen and have no follow up whatsoever, in favor of a strategy that any peewee hockey coach could explain to you: surprise them, and be there if there’s a rebound. Simple hockey, yet thus far so difficult. Hopefully it will not be anymore.

                And I’m sure I couldn’t finish this without a mention of Abdelkader. I won’t get into whether or not I think his suspension was fair, I will say only this: we won. We won on a goal scored through a style of hockey I don’t necessarily equate with a grinder like Abdelkader. That is not to say we wouldn’t have won had he played (we all know we’d prefer him on the first line over Sammy. Let’s not kid ourselves.) But we hit a situation that hurt us, another player lost, and we overcame. We adapted and we won. And that, my friends, is Red Wings hockey. So for the benefit of yourselves and everyone around you, if you are thinking of giving up on this team any time before we have lost all four games in a series: stop. This team isn’t quitting. This team has been given up on so many times this season, and here we are: 7 seed going back to Anaheim knotted 2-2. Have a little faith. In this young group of kids that continue to impress we trust. In Jimmy we Trust. In Pavel we trust.

The Sarcasm Report: Babcock Trying to Slow Down Datsyuk, Zetterberg

DETROIT - Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has the difficult task of replacing suspended winger Justin Abdelkader on the top line with star forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. After a brutal Game 3 loss 4-0 to the visiting Anaheim Ducks, Babcock let reporters know his lineup intentions.

"We're definitely going to think about not promoting anyone deserving of playing with Pav and Hank," Babcock said, "We think a useless plug like Dan Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson or Todd Bertuzzi will slow them down enough so that Anaheim won't have to try too hard against them."

Datsyuk has been heard in the locker room swearing in the showers, and when put into Google Translate, his remarks were something like, "What the hell is this idiot coach doing to my career," and "This is the shit that makes me want to go back to Russia."

Zetterberg tried to be positive about the situation but with hilarious results.

"Sammy I've played with before," aid Zetterberg, "He's a big strong Swedish guy like me, but with a less accurate shot. Well way les accurate. And he cant' really skate. And he's kind of lanky. Wow, now that I think about it, in the four games he's played for us wasn't the combined score like 27-4 for the opposition? Isn't that stat common knowledge?"

Todd Bertuzzi will take Jordin Tootoo's spot on the fourth line, so that he won't get that much ice time, will be largely ineffective, and will have lot's of time to rest his old man back.

When asked about how awful a lineup this was, Babcock muttered, "Tell that to the GM of the year."

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Red Wings Preparing for Worst during AbbyGate, Must Respond in Game 4

Getting blown out in a playoff game to trail a series 2-1 is one thing, but the Detroit Red Wings have numerous questions that need to be answered before tomorrow night's tilt in Joe Louis Arena.  The most urgent would now have to be what the fate of grinding forward Justin Abdelkader will be after his hearing with the NHL for his collision with Toni Lydman of the Anaheim Ducks.

If Abdelkader is suspended for any amount of time, and many sources believe that he will, this puts the Wings in a very difficult position.  They are hard pressed for able bodies as it is, and the effectiveness of players like Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson are in deep question due to injury and inactivity over the course of the regular season.  If the Wings lose the services of Abby, we are basically forced to inject someone with a lot of rust on their skates into the lineup.

With the 4-0 blowout Detroit allowed the Ducks to lay on them last night, they now find themselves behind in the series with major concerns on their roster, which is a terrible combination.  Recently the Wings also lost young defensive prospect Danny DeKeyser to a broken thumb, and last night it proved just how invaluable he has been since joining the Wings.  Detroit's blueline looked like the mistake-ridden mess that it was for the majority of the year.

To make matters worse, the PP units also reverted to mid-season form and squandered chance after chance on the man-advantage.  We were treated to the "Let's pass the puck around and be cute and hope that puts the puck in the net" show that we've all come to know and hate.  Performances like the one we were subjected to yesterday make me truly believe that this team needs to be re-taught offense from the ground up, but we don't have the luxury of time to do that, so this is what we're stuck with.

Coach Mike Babcock had best dig out the tapes from Game 2 and strap all the skaters into seats and make them watch the first two periods, because those were two of the best periods of hockey we've gotten out of Detroit in some time, and it is exactly how we beat the Ducks in this series.  If we don't press Anaheim harder for 60 minutes, Detroit does not advance past this round.  'Efforts' like last night will never cut it in the postseason.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Playoff Peeves and Positives: Ideas After Game 2

Detroit has been through two playoffs games thus so far. The first one was a victory for the Anaheim Ducks, squashing Detroit with an ending score of 3 to 1. The Wings gave some effort and tied up the series last night, winning in overtime 5 to 4. The two have battled it out through two games, but who is really on top? To answer that question, let's take a look back.

In all honesty, many Wings fans were surprised to make the playoffs. While all of us were hoping and praying while crossing our fingers as hard as we could, many of us still had the realization that the playoffs may be out of sight for Detroit this year. Up until the last game was a battle for Detroit to keep a  playoff position. The entire season was rocky and inconsistent. One game you would see a team that would have everyone saying, "our Red Wings are back!!" and the next game would have everyone kicking themselves for ever thinking that. For the Detroit Red Wings, going into the match-up against Anaheim was a bit nerve racking.

The Anaheim Ducks season was quite different. Being one of the top three teams in the league, Anaheim has obvious advantages. Obviously, their record and overall points from the regular season were better. The amount of goals Anaheim produced also came out on top over the Wings, proving that the offensive end is stronger. In order to win games, you have to score goals. Pretty obvious, right? It has been argued that Anaheim has more speed and definitely throws their weight around more than the typical Wing player has.

The one place that allowed Detroit some wiggle room is the constantly examined and ridiculed Jimmy Howard. Anaheim's regular season goals against was actually three goals higher than Detroits. Wondering what this means? Anaheim's goalies Jonas Hiller and Victor Fasth, who played about equally through the season, let in more goals than netminder Jimmy Howard. Going into the playoffs, it seemed that relying on Jimmy Howard may be our best bet. Many concerns rose about Howard's past playoff performances and his ability to always seem to choke in big moments.

The last week of the regular season spoke a different story about the team wearing the Winged Wheel. Detroit was flying high with it's longest winning streak of the season, four games in total. Our Red Wings were "back" again and this time were shining bright! Anaheim was not trailing far behind in the successes of the last week, winning three out of four of the games. If Wings could hold on to this aggressive attitude, we might actually have a shot!

Fast forward and we are after Game 1 in the playoffs. The Wings are not "back". What does that actually  really mean? The real Red Wings players go hide in the locker room, too scared to touch the ice while we send these high school look-a-likes on the ice? The Wings shouldn't be leaving and coming back so often, but that was the style in the regular season so why not keep it up in the playoffs, right? Anaheim outplayed

Detroit in Game 1, making Wings fans embarrassed of how pitiful their team looked on the ice. Anaheim out-shot Detroit, had more hits, a better goaltender and played more organized hockey. The Wings had 13 giveaways through sixty minutes! That is five more than the Ducks managed all game. The only redeeming quality was a power play goal by Dan Cleary and more face-offs won by Detroit. Wings fans walked away with their head held low after a 3-1 defeat and praying for a different team next game.

And of course, prayers were answered and Detroit was "back" again for game 2 in the series; well at least for the first two and a half periods anyways. Damien Brunner landed his first ever playoff goal in the first period, while Franzen picked up two on his own. We were seeing talent from all over the team. While shots on goal were equal through the 61:21 minute long game, Detroit dominated in takeaways, faceoffs won, lower giveaways and lower penalty minutes. Detroit looked like a different team until about halfway into the third period, where Anaheim's constant challenges began to get to the Wings. Detroit decided to send out those "pretend high school players" and hide in the locker room again, while Anaheim scored three goals in a matter of ten minutes. Wings fans were once again shaking their heads and kicking themselves for proclaiming that the team was "back" yet again. Detroit needed some leadership through overtime, to shake off the bad goals and giveaways and give some momentum to play aggressive hockey. With a little over one minute into overtime, Detroit dominated shots on goal 4 to 0. Gustav Nyquist scored a game winning goal to allow Detroit to tie up the series and win 5-4.

Through a rocky season and into the start of the playoffs, all I can say is I wish to see more consistent hockey out there. If you are going to play good, then play good. If Detroit can play like they did in the last week of the regular season, then take that same attitude and desperation into the playoffs and push it all the way! There is no reason the Wings should keep hiding out and then coming "back". The biggest concerns leaving game two is losing Danny DeKeyser for the rest of the season due to a broken thumb and becoming more consistent on that ice. Continue to play offensively, passing the puck to the players wearing Red and White and producing quality scoring chances. It is an honest belief that Detroit can pull off this series and push further into the playoffs, they just have to produce some quality hockey.

To answer the beginning question of "who is on top?" It appears that Anaheim may be coming slightly ahead of Detroit thus so far, only because of the lack of effort in Game Two's third period. Can Detroit turn this series around and dominate? Absolutely. It's not over until the fat lady sings, right?

Game three of the series takes place Saturday, May 4th at 7:30pm. This will be the first playoff game of the season played on the Red Wings home ice, the Joe Louis Arena. We expect to see some added pressure from the Wings with their home advantage, but as always it is easy to suspect they will keep us fans on our toes!

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Wings Survive Epic Meltdown, Tie Series with OT Win

If you like roller-coasters, last night's game in Anaheim was a treat for you.

The Red Wings, already down 1-0 in their 1st round series against the Ducks, spotted themselves what should've been a comfortable 3-goal lead, but were forced into Overtime after a full-team collapse the magnitude of which I have rarely--if ever--seen from this club.  After going up 4-1, Detroit completely imploded in the 3rd period, surrendering 3 goals in the span of roughly 10 minutes to allow the Ducks to force extra time.  The Wings would nip their Duck problem in the bud, though, and survive to win 5-4 in OT.

Some credit is due to Anaheim, insofar as they didn't quit, but had the Wings kept playing the way they had in the first hlaf of the game they never would've found themselves in the tight spot that they did.  Playoffs or no, you go up 4-1 on a club, you should win the game comfortably.  This was far from comfortable.

Johan Franzen led the offense with a pair of goals for Detroit, while Justin Abdelkader and Damien Brunner also chipped in with goals in regulation.  Gustav Nyquist would be the one to provide the OT heroics, scoring on a PP just 1:21 into the extra frame.

Goaltender Jimmy Howard was...good--not great, but good.  He fought the puck far less last night than he did in Game 1, but still gave up a couple softies that could've also prevented this game from getting to Overtime.

Down at the other end, Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller was slow to show up to Game 2, but sealed the wall up in the 3rd after the 2nd Franzen goal, and made critical saves to keep the Ducks in it.  One particular save on Valtteri Filppula would've been in the net on most nights, but Hiller somehow got over to rob Flip and give his team momentum just before the Ducks tied the game at 4 apiece.

On the injury front, Todd Bertuzzi played last night, his 1st game back since going out with back issues early in the season, and what is probably the biggest--and baddest--news out of Game 2 is that young phenom Danny DeKeyser has been diagnosed with a broken thumb and is done for the year.  He will likely be replaced with either Carlo Colaiacovo or Ian White, as coach Mike Babcock will probably go with experience over the younger Brian Lashoff.

The series now shifts back to Hockeytown, and if the Wings can steal the show at home, they'll be sitting pretty to wrap up Round 1.  Game 3 starts tomorrow night at 7:30 ET.