Thursday, April 11, 2013

Marleau difference, as Red Wings fall to Sharks in shootout 3-2

In the crisp air of this spring day (WTF spring, get your act straight!), the Red Wings were playing at home in the hunt for a playoff spot (WTF Red Wings, get your act straight!). « To win, they have to score goals » said Ken on Fox Sports Detroit, a very smart fellow, as Mickey mumbled something about how the Sharks were going to play a « nasty game ». Joe Thornton was slated to play with Torres and Wingels after a couple of horrible games, even though Big Joe’s parents were in the crowd. This game had a strange feel to it, making it a great Thursday night game at the Joe. The bottom-line was simple: if the Wings win, they’re two back of San Jose in 5th with the Wings having more regular or OT wins. If the Red Wings lose, they risk sliding to 9th if Phoenix wins against the woeful Calgary Flames tomorrow night.

Marleau potted a shorthanded goal in the first period and Abdelkader notched his 8th goal of the season in the 2nd as the Sharks captain would win it in shootout for the visting team.

Apparently, the blurry TV feed in the first 6 minutes of the game affected the Red Wings’ on-ice play aswell. The Red Wings just couldn’t make passes on the tape that resulted in numerous turnovers. The Sharks took away every single play the Wings could have done, thus the Red Wings didn’t score in the first. This Shark’s team was huge, even without Murray at defence and it was evident in the corners and in the neutral zone where the Sharks were very active with sticks. Marleau had the only goal of the period.

In the second period, Detroit came on harder and were making better plays, aka a normal Red Wings’ game. During the couple of first minutes, Niemi made a couple of big saves, stoned Emmerton and Mickey Redmond commented on it for the next 5 minutes, so nothing out of the ordinary. All was not lost however, Abdelkader scored after Franzen did all the hard work behind the net (barely, he waltzed in like Datsyuk on a shootout attempt), matching his jersey number’s total in goals for the year. The little things the Red Wings did in this period were better than in the first; Brunner made simple plays to pick the puck out of the Sharks way, Dekeyser made great heads-up passes, Andersson poked Niemi in the back when the latter went out to play the puck and Smith played « real-gud »hockey, like coach Mike Babcock likes to say. The Wings did fall in to penalty trouble in the latter part of the 2nd period, but the 5.3 million-dollar man made some amazing saves against Marleau to keep it tied.

The third period was a very critical point in the Red Wings’ season. If they win this one, they go into Chicago tomorrow with a little bit more confidence, having won against a team in front of them in the conference. If they lose, they might be playing a little more out of desperation against a Chicago team that doesn’t make a lot of mistake, especially on home ice where they’re 14-3-2. After a Burns’ penalty, Kindl makes them pay with a shot top shelf, where moms hide the cookies from the kids (sorry kids)!  After a couple of bang and crash plays, Brendan Smith does his best Don Cherry impression after getting caught for a holding penalty  and the Sharks get a PP marker with a Logan Couture backhander from a spot he hardly had room to do so. The pace of the game then slowed down at the 10 minutes in the 3rd period, with San Jose playing a tight-checking game and the Red Wings stalling, needing the valuable point. At the 5 minute mark, Abdelkader and Filppula had great chances individually, but nothing came out of it.

With each team getting the oh-so-valuable one point, they went at it with each team still playing it safe. In this period, we heard the ever-so-rare words of « Gomez with a shot » and « Andersson on the ice in OT ». Even with their best shots, Kronwall and Datsyuk couldn’t put it past Niemi, thus bringing this game to shootout.

In the shootout, Datsyuk kept it simple for a backhand goal against Niemi and Couture mimicked him to score against Howard. For the second attempt, Pavelski and Brunner didn’t score and Nyquist almost scored on the spin-o-rama move, but Niemi had an amazing toe save. Then, the one who started the scoring also finished it with Marleau going five-hole on Howard.

All in all, it was a hard-fought game that the Red Wings kept close and got a valuable point. Now, they have to rest up and play Poop-cago tomorrow night. Let’s hope the Wings can repeat the feat on the anniversary of their 61st win of the year in 1996, coincidently a 5-3 over the visiting Blackhawks. That year, the Wings broke the record of 60 set by Montreal in 1976-77. 

Howard's 6-Year Deal Has Risks

Jimmy Howard signed a deal worth $5.3 million a year today with the Detroit Red Wings, a move meant to keep Jimmah in Detroit for the next six years. The Red Wings have certainly locked up a very capable goaltender that has stole some games in this lockout shortened season.

But here's the thing; we all have questions on if the deal was good or bad. As we've pointed out before, his cap hit is tenth most among starting NHL goalies, which means he is at the bottom of the top third of the highest paid goaltenders in the NHL. That mad sense, right? Keep up with me.

A $5.3 million cap hit isn't a concern at all because the Red Wings have a buttload of cap space. The only thing that might be a concern is the length of the deal. Is $5.3 million a good deal right now? Of course. Howard has played well and earned a big pay raise. He is a clear cut starting goalie that has made the all star game already. He is a goalie that the team has to be comfortable with in their time of retooling.

However, do you really want a 35 year old Jimmy Howard making $5.3 million per season? Obviously that is yet to be seen, but my thinking is that a 35 year old had better be a stud - think Marty Brodeur. You don't see a ton of very successful 35+ goaltenders anymore; most are in their twenties.

What you have to keep in mind is that he doesn't have to be in Detroit the next six years if things don't go well. If Ken Holland is still around maybe he will actually make a move, although it's doubtful. The Red Wings also still have some pretty decent prospects between the pipes in Grand Rapids' Petr Mrazek, Saginaw's Jake Paterson and the potential signing of Northern Michigan's Alex Coreau. If they step up, they paly, no matter Jimmy's cap hit.

The bottom line is if they didn't give Howard what he wanted and he left, the Wings were uber screwed. None of those guys are ready to play yet and Jonas Gustavsson is basically a nightmare in net. Do you see any great free agent goalies out there? Probably not. Actually, definitely not.

On the open market Howard would have got a lot more than $5.3 million. I'd say the Red Wings got him for a bargain. Get ready for six more years of Jimmy.

Six! More! Years!

                In case you missed it, and I’m not entirely sure you could have, the Great and Mighty Twitter has erupted. A minor eruption, but an eruption all the same. According to Aaron Ward of TSN (and other secondary sources too numerous to list) the Wings are close to or have re-signed Jimmy Howard to 6 years/5.3 mil per. (And then they weren’t close and then they were. As of this writing it seemed a done deal.)

                For some reason this made the Twitter angry. “We shouldn’t spend that much on a goalie, we have other guys to re-sign! He’s not elite! That's not the Red Wings' way!” said the Twitter, and for some reason people thought it made sense. People who must surely realize hallmarks of the "Red Wings' way," impenetrable defense and Homer in the net offense, have passed. People who have watched this team night in, night out and commented on innumerable occasions that Jimmy was the only thing keeping us in it. The only Wing who showed up. The only Wing worth mentioning.

                And thus I think a fitting place to start with a rebuttal to the anti-Jimmy-Contract Twitter storm is the unmentionables. We are a team that signed Samuelsson and Quincey to $3 million contracts EACH (nearly 4mil for Quincey). And while everyone and their mother agrees this was an idiotic thing to do, it doesn’t change that we threw over $6 million at two of the least useful players to pull on a Red Wings’ sweater in recent memory. Another guy, Colaiacovo, is getting $2.5 million to exist on the very edges of the collective memory of our fandom . If you’re Jimmy Howard, and you play your heart and soul out nightly to keep this team in games they often have no business being in, what do you do if that goes unrequited? What do you do if the team you give your all for doesn’t think you’re worth at least double Carlo Colaiacovo?

                First I would take a minute to feel properly insulted. Then, I would look at a goalie roster that includes Jonas “I think flopping around like a scared puppet is a sound goaltending strategy” Gustavsson and the inexperienced young guy Mrazek and say, simply: “Well, maybe you can trade for Luongo. I’m sure you can justify *that* cap hit, right?” And I’d walk away. I wouldn’t even look back.

                The scenario is a nightmare and we all know it. There’s no one who is going to replace what Jimmy does for us for the price Jimmy is willing to accept. Not right now, at least. End of. And while I still have major doubts about Jimmy in the postseason, this is the first season in a while that we finally see what it’s like not to assume the postseason is a given. This season began a new era, where we can’t coast by on an incredible defense or solid offense. We need a regular season goalie before we can even dream of the playoffs. That’s Jimmy, and in my mind that’s the end of the argument. This contract, should it come with that number, is a necessity.

                Which brings us to the “What Now?” portion of our day. According to everyone’s favorite bearer of bad news,, Jimmy’s potential deal would leave us with about $12 million (we could add several million more if we buy out some…*ahem* less than ideal signings). $12 million to sign a fair few people (here’s the link if you want to see for yourself The issue is more specific than what now, it’s: Who’s the odd man (men) out? This is my dream, folks:

                Not re-signing Filppula is a given (in my mind at least). Maybe he’ll fly off to a place we dare not mention, and maybe there he’ll win a trophy that breaks our hearts. Maybe afterward he’ll end up on Florida, or Phoenix, or some other team who is so firmly embedded in NHL obscurity we’re not even sure if they’re real anymore. Yes, maybe he’ll pull a Kopecky (who is getting paid $3 million a year, for anyone keeping score of bad deals at home.) In any event, it’s Filppula’s business. For the good of the Red Wings, it can no longer be our business.

                Another given is buyouts (compliance buyouts for EVERYONE! Or…two guys). This is the fun part, where we get to imagine we’ve never heard of certain guys
                Quincey who? ($3.775 million)

                Samuelsson who? ($3 million)

                Carlo I can't spell his last name to save my life who? (Ordinary buyout, $2.5 million)

Which brings us to a fairly delicious roughly $21 million available if the Howie deal is signed.

Remind me again why you were so worried about $5.3 million for Howard, Twitter. Remind me.

                It’s good to have our goalie locked for a bit. And if we concentrate on signing our young guys with bright futures, ending this horrible emergency vet signing strategy that saw us bring in Sammy and Cola etc., and picking up one or two above average guys in the offseason then I think next year we have a lot less to fear. And we’re not even going to think about that whole “Pavel’s probably going back to Russia when his contract ends” thing. We are going to crawl back into our safe little “Jimmy for six more years!” bunkers and not think about it even once. Not. Once. Oh god.