Monday, April 22, 2013

One Down, Three to Go as Wings Shut Out Phoenix.

For the first time in a while, we can sleep the night after a game. The Wings leave the Joe tonight two points closer to keeping that streak alive, but still miles away. We’ll get to that in a bit, though.

Finally we saw signs of life. We saw Jimmy give his all for the Wings again, but we saw a team in front of him willing to hustle and play smart as well. Brunner looked great, Nyquist was taking up the role of Helm with some brilliant bursts of speed and forechecking. Franzen chipped in on defense and offense, and for once in a great while the Red Wings weren’t Howie and Pavel and a sack of Red and White weights tied to their legs to drag them back. Heck, even Fil scored. What changed?

Well the power play was obviously brilliant. Given the Coyotes were happily giving them to us all night, it was fantastic that we were able to convert. Brunner’s shot from the point, tipped in by Franzen, was the start of something special. For long stretches this season we have been abysmal on point play and the power play, and to break through so early on both really seemed to get the morale going.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to say that. As play continued post-goal, the Coyotes seemed to remember that they, too, had a season on the line and we went quite a while pinned back in our zone. As Pierre (yes, Pierre McGuire. You may file out now as this post has now lost all credibility) put it, the Red Wings needed “to stop messing around.”   For the first and hopefully last time in my life, I agreed. Yet the pressure continued, and there was a sort of sinking feeling that came to your stomach as you thought “No…is it going to be one of these games again?” Two stupid Brendan Smith penalties added to the feeling that we’d all been through this before.Thankfully it would not come to anything for the Coyotes. The second power play goal of the period, one that turned out to be a welcome surplus, came late and certainly helped ease the pressure.

In the second, Filppula stepped up for his first goal in eleven and a half centuries. I should note at this point Pierre McGuire also stepped up, reclaiming his place as the worst person ever to commentate on the NHL by repeatedly pronouncing Filppula as Fil-pewa-la, as if he’d just eaten a very peanut-buttery sandwich. (You can all come back, the author has regained her sanity and hates Pierre once more.) It was a pretty shot from a sharp angle and immediately had people wondering: Is this what gets Fil going for the year? We all sure hope so. That was a huge plus of the game. Any time Fil can be on the scoreboard this season, things are improving.

After his goal, the game was essentially over. The Coyotes went into pure desperation mode and that almighty pillar of class, Mr. Shane Doan, proved his real mettle as an NHL captain and put his team a man down with a stupid fight. Dinner and a show for Wings fans, insult to injury for those one or two unfortunate souls..erm…Coyotes fans still watching hockey in the desert. Jimmy would have his shutout, Franzen an empty net goal, and it ended 4-0 to the good guys. One down, three to go.

Brunner had the first star, Z the second and Jimmy very, very rightly the third (play wise I would almost elevate Jimmy to the second star).  Nyquist was another that impressed, he showed quite a bit of hustle and almost got what he deserved as a shot missed by inches and caught the post. Do the same thing next game, Gus, and you will be rewarded in due time. Franzen made some solid defensive plays as well and even Quincey, yes Quincey, made some smart moves that helped out a lot. Oh, and demolished a guy. Kyle Quincey demolished a human. A human on the other team (yes, I did feel the need to specify.) Let that sink in and make you happy. Ok, let's move on.

Of mild concern was that we were still showing some of the tendencies we have all season. Bad back passes, stupid early penalties, being pinned back for long stretches in our own zone. All in all, though, this game was a vast improvement over many of our recent ones and left a much better taste in the mouth.  It isn’t over yet, however, and that’s important to remember.  We have to come out hungry again against the Kings, and we have to come out smart again. Smith needs to stay out of the box, we still need to find a way to correct our tendency to make poor passing decisions, but this was a good start. Funny, to call it a good start with four games left in the season, but it was a good start all the same. It’s something we have to build on, improve and succeed or regress and fail. Those are our choices, and let’s hope this game inspired our guys to do the former. For now, we can celebrate and sleep tight, the Wings are safe for another day!

The Losing Streak Has Ended! Red Wings Beat Phoenix

Everyone knows how badly Detroit needed two points tonight, seems like a theme this season. Don't worry; you will not be reading any complaints about the lack of performance tonight, though! The Detroit Red Wings had a beautiful shutout tonight against Phoenix, winning 4 to 0!

The Wings were aggressive and every single player was not allowing for another loss (maybe besides Cleary and Smith). The first period would seem rocky when looking at the shots on goal, 4 to 12. However, the score did not reflect the shots on goal. Within the first three minutes, Johan Franzen scored a tip-in goal on
the power play. The next penalty Phoenix suffered from also resulted in the Red and White scoring. Damien Brunner had a beautiful goal with less than a minute left in the first period. The shots on goal were few, but were quality shots. Luckily, Detroit had netminder Jimmy Howard to stop the force that came from Phoenix. Detroit lead 2-0 after twenty.

The Wings looked to continue a strong lead in the second. In doing that, they needed to shoot the puck more and keep Phoenix away from Jimmy. While Howard only had to face two less shots than the first, Detroit obviously was making a continued effort. Detroit had 12 shots and one successful goal from Valterri Filppula. That is right, you read that correctly: Val scored a goal. The Wings had successfully scored on 3 out of 4 power plays through the first forty minutes. Detroit was feeling good with a 3-0 lead.

The third period was not a different story. Justin Abdelkader engaged in a small brawl and Johan Franzen scored on an empty net. Franzen landed his second goal of the night with about two minutes left in the game. The Wings took the much needed two points with a 4-0 shutout against Phoenix.

The three stars of the game were Damien Brunner, followed by Henrik Zetterberg and lastly Jimmy Howard. While I think that Detroit picked a great top three powered by Ram Trucks, I think that Jimmy should have been first. Jimmy faced 34 shots on goal compared to the 23 that Detroit produced. The netminder did not allow one goal, giving Detroit any easy win even if they only scored once. Howard has been nothing short of

outstanding this short season. He has had a couple rocky games here and there, but since March 22 the Wings have failed to have more than a couple goals each game. Howard has been solid and proved that again tonight. 23 shots on goal is great and four of those making it into the back of the net is definitely welcomed, but savings 34 is even more outstanding. Howard is definitely my hero of the night.

One down and three to go. Detroit will verse the LA Kings on Wednesday at 7:30pm. Hopefully the fans of Detroit will bring that same playoff like atmosphere at the Joe to drive the Wings to push to another win. Until then, don't forget to like our Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more Detroit Red Wings coverage!

Some Phoenix Pre-Game Thoughts.

There’s a fair few things I could say about the Red Wings’ game tonight. I could go with the one most in vogue, “the last time the Red Wings weren’t in the playoffs I was…” I would finish that sentence with “not born.” I was born about a month after the 1990 playoffs ended, so I really have no experience whatsoever with a playoff season the Wings were not part of.

                I could go with the downer’s favorite: “the Wings don’t deserve the playoffs this year anyway.” Neither do quite a few teams. The Southeast division will only appear in the playoffs on accident, Minnesota is trying to choke their way out after the two biggest signings of the offseason…but they’ll make it. Why shouldn’t we? This is a playoff system set up with a fun little failsafe; over half the teams make it. You can be below average and play postseason hockey. Add some Bettman points in and there’s no such thing as a team that “doesn’t deserve” playoffs, just teams that fell apart slightly less than the next one.

                I take that back. We’ll always have the Panthers. They’ll never deserve it.

                I’m going to go with the realist’s analysis of the situation: If we win tonight, we very effectively stay alive. If we lose tonight, well…there’s a proverbial oversized woman warming up and practicing her musical scales. The past is the past. The other games are over, we can’t fix them. Let’s live in the now, let’s win in the now and move on in the now.

                So what do we need to do? Well, anyone who’s watched even a couple of games in this Red Wings’ season can answer that very easily:

                Above all else, that team has to want it. I’m hoping and praying to the hockey gods that from Hockey Olympus on High (or Sweden) Nick Lidstrom called down to Z today and reminded him what’s on the line, reminded him that the Winged Wheel does not quit. The legends of the past two decades did not play through hell just to watch a bored, uninterested team destroy their streak the first season they went un-monitored. And that’s that.

                Oh, a more tangible need for the game you ask? We absolutely must not take stupid penalties. They are killing us this year, and there has been no sign of improved discipline. If a guy is giving his all, sells out on a play and accidentally hooks someone…maybe it’s excusable. But that’s not been the case. Laziness and ineffective defense has led to idiotic penalties, guys rushing back because they missed coverage or gave the puck away, guys not paying attention to where their stick is at…all rookie, all fixable. Phoenix is gunning for this spot, too. We can’t allow them any extra advantage in the battle or the war.

                The other things we need to fix are also all so fundamental I feel almost silly writing them. Then I remember it’s the Wings’ fault they have failed on fundamentals, not mine. Smart passes, setting up good screens, not shooting the puck into a wall four bodies thick, clear the front of the net for Howie…etc. All basics, all things we have consistently failed to do that we now MUST do.

Because tonight, as much as I hate to be so melodramatic, is our season. The product we put on the ice tonight is going to decide whether or not we get to keep controlling our own fate and is going to go a long way to sealing or breaking our playoff streak. Tonight, for the first time this season, we better get serious. No more blaming refs, injuries, missed signings, etc. Tonight, we win or lose on the basis of our ability to score and defend. In the here and the now, we are responsible for what’s left of our season, playoffs or not. That's it, it's so simple. Play hard, win, and we keep going. No more Mulligans. No more second chances. This is it. Go big or go home, fellas. And as always, let’s go Red Wings!