Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stop Russian: Thoughts on the Datsyuk LBI

It's now been reported that Pavel Datsyuk will miss his 12th consecutive game with a lower-body injury when Detroit faces Washington on Friday.  Of course a small part of me wants to go panic mode considering the Wings' place in the standings currently, but at the same time I can't help but think it's best in the long run that he take as much time as needed to heal.  If that means he misses the Olympics I'm fine with it, even though he was honored with his country's Captaincy.

I am getting tired of the trolls who are giving Dats grief about him missing games now but expect he'll play in Sochi.  If he's healthy by then, then that's fine, but do you honestly think that he's going to risk further injury by coming back too soon, even to play for his homeland?  Before Pavel re-signed, people were going off their heads over a stupid rumor that was getting thrown around that he wanted to play in Russia instead, which he quickly and wholly dismissed.  He is a professional athlete and he will not risk losing out on the rest of his NHL contract by playing hurt here OR in Sochi by machine-gunning cortisone shots into his leg.

People need to calm down.  The season is not over, and we're only just BARELY outside of a playoff spot right now.  By the time the Olympics are over, we should be pretty much 100% healthy, or as close as a team 2/3 through the season should be.  It's fine to keep your expectations low as far as a Cup run is concerned, but when the injured are well again, 23 straight years will be well in sight.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Panthers Pounce Shorthanded, Win in the Shootout

The Panthers just kept coming as the clip the Red Wings 5-4 in a shootout.

In the first period, Sean Bergenheim got behind the defence and scored his 12th of the season, setting the pace of the game early on. The Panthers continued to play solid, forchecking hockey and kept the Red Wings at bay. The Red Wings couldn’t get any sustained pressure as Thomas wasn’t really tested. All things said, the Red Wings came on stronger in the latter half of the period and we had the making of another one-goal game.

In the second period, Nyquist put his team on the board, as he picked up a Franzen pass and beat Thomas five-hole for his 9th of the season. And then, the unthinkable happened; the ever elusive Dan Cleary, who got the call he was playing 15 minutes before the game, won a face-off that led to the Alfredsson goal that made it 2-1 Red Wings. And Cleary wasn’t the only one who had a good game, as the kids – Jurco, Sheahan and Tatar – were getting it done. The aforementioned Sheahan finished off a play by Tatar who scored on a spin-o-rama, on the powerplay and made it 3-1 for the Red Wings.

The third period had some more jump to it. Boyes and Gilbert had some chances early on Gustavsson, who stood tall, but he couldn’t help letting a Winchester shot get through him, making it 3-2 at 9:12. Cleary, never one to be upstaged, did his best Tomas Holmstrom impression and had a goal waived off for after a questionable goaltender interference call.

As the period progressed, the Panthers came on stronger, heavily outshooting the Red Wings early on but as in all good things in life, it had to come to an end. Tatar finished up a nice Sheahan play at the top of the circle and it was 4-2 for the Red Wings. Drew made "Shore" that he kept his team in the game, as he snapped a shot into a wide open net at 14:19 to make it 4-3. The Red Wings then got caught up on an odd-man rush on the power-play and shootout player extraordinaire Brad Boyes scored a short-handed marker, making it even at 4-4 at 16:14 in the 3rd.

Overtime solved nothing and Florida eventually won it thanks to a Bjugstad goal in the shootout.

All in all, there were two things I noticed in tonight’s game. One, Mike Babcock seemed to be relying on his 2nd line of Jurco – Sheahan – Tatar all throughout the game, 5 on 5 and on the powerplay and the kids responded. They finished with a very solid 5 points and +3 overall. The other positive thing is that Kyle Quincey went unnoticed throughout the game, which is a very good thing. He played a defensively sound game, even though he finished with an even rating.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wings Sting Stanley Cup Champs in Shootout

The first portion of the game was terrible.  The finish was fantastic.

Detroit came into last night's match a heavy underdog, but how could they not?  Heavily under-manned and facing the Chicago Blackhawks, one of the most prolific offensive teams in the league this year, the analysts had this one wrote off before it even began.  Surely it seemed they would be correct after the Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the 1st, but then when it all looked like the same old song, something magical happened.

The Red Wings played like the Red Wings.

Detroit managed to tie the game at 2 with goals from Tomas Tatar and Patrick Eaves before the end of the 1st.  Then, after giving Chicago the lead again in the 2nd, the Wings not only tied the game back up but actually took their first lead of the game with another pair of goals from Kyle Quincey and Gustav Nyquist.  It was lucky for us that the Wings found all this offense at one time, because the lead did not carry long into the 3rd period, as Jonas Gustavsson, who had fought the puck all night, gave up another goal to tie the game at 4 apiece.

The scoring would stop there for regulation time, and overtime drew no solution.  Alas, back to the dreaded shootout we went.  But wait...all of a sudden, we're scoring goals in the shootout, and Monster is somehow making stops at the most critical junctures, even making two saves on Patrick Kane's attempt!  Eaves and Bertuzzi banged home a pair to keep us in the game as the shootout went to extra rounds, marking save after save, until finally it was Darren Helm's turn, and he did not disappoint.  A quick snap of the stick and the puck was past Corey Crawford.  With a clutch save by Gustavsson on Andrew Shaw just previous, Helm locked up the win for the Wings over their hated enemies, as well as 2 precious points to tie them for the final wildcard spot in the East.

This game was as refreshing as it was entertaining.  We finally got a game where injuries were no excuse, the guys on the ice just worked their asses off and got the job done.  It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but it sure was satisfying.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wings Left Wanting in Beatdown from Blues

As one is normally able if they look, the tone of the hockey game last night was evident from the first 10 minutes of the match.  Sure enough, Detroit was transparent yet again.  The St. Louis Blues came into JLA like they owned the place, and from what transpired they basically did, never letting up on the Red Wings as the Blues decimated Detroit 4-1 Monday night.  Gustav Nyquist got the lone Red Wings goal, while Jimmy Howard did his best to keep the Wings in it till he left with a lower-body injury.  Petr Mrazek finished the game, giving up the last of the 4 St. Louis goals.

It was a pitiful sight, to be sure, with the only real fight coming from the energy guys: Helm, Sheahan, Eaves, Glendening and so on.  With so much top-tier talent still on the shelf, those who remain are obviously getting focused on and bore down upon, and it's choking the life out of this team.  One thing that really stood out to me was the distance from which the Blues were scoring most of the night.  Only 1 goal came from around the net front, with the other 3 goals originating from back along or near the blueline, screens or deflections all.  Why does that stand out?

Because we don't get those goals, not recently anyway and not with any consistency.  Ericsson is the only big name D-man still out, so injury isn't the problem there.  We need our defenders to start getting pucks through bodies for scoring chances.  Too many times do you see Kindl or Smith or Lashoff just bang it off someone's shin guard and back comes the opposition with an odd-man rush.  Lidstrom might've been the best, but he wasn't the ONLY one who could get a puck from the blueline to the net on this team, so someone needs to figure this out now.

The Wings will get Ericsson back for tomorrow's tilt against Chicago.  The Wings desperately need to steal some points through the remainder of this homestand and finish as high as they can before the Olympic break, and taking a point or two off the Champs would be a sweet time to do it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Powerless at the Pond, Detroit Defeated by Ducks

The yo-yo season continues for the Detroit Red Wings.

After a great showing against the Kings on Saturday, the Wings had a chance to end the California road trip with a majority of wins, but all that determination seen in LA was wasted in Anaheim as Detroit simply could not pull the trigger against the Ducks.  Despite many excellent chances, a good number of them went by the wayside as Wings players did not converge and own the middle of the offensive zone the way they needed to against a Ducks team that kept Detroit neutered along the perimeter.  Petr Mrazek got the start in net for the Red Wings and made this one a game Detroit could've taken hold of but they never did, losing 1-0 and gifting the hot-handed Jonas Hiller with a shutout and his 14th straight victory.

The biggest concern of the evening, however, had to be the Red Wings' impotence on the powerplay.  Detroit is now 0 for its last 21 PP chances, and it has seemed to matter little whether all the big guns are on the ice for the man advantage or not.  The struggling powerplay for the Wings has been a constant problem and Assistant Coach Tom Renney seems to have done almost nothing to change the flaws in the system.  We still see too much passing, not enough puck retrieval after an initial shot, and sparse movement by the defense to open up the middle of the ice.  Just last night in Anaheim, the Wings went an unacceptable 0 for 5.  Teams cannot squander that many PP opportunities and expect to go far and if this, as well as the number of other obvious problems this team has faced all year, are not addressed at the trade deadline then this may end up a very depressing year for Wings fans.

Detroit is off now until the 16th when they travel to New York to face the Rangers.  They will be without the valuable services of Tomas Tatar who will be in Slovakia to attend his father's funeral.  Hopefully we will get word in the meantime that other Red Wings, such as Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm, will be ready to go by then.  All we can do till then is believe in the team and hope things start getting consistently better.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Red Wings earn Emotional, Valuable Win in LA

Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard found a piece of himself and forward Tomas Tatar paid a fitting tribute to his recently deceased father in what was easily one of the most satisfying wins of the year.  Howard made 44 stops and Tatar scored the game winning goal as the Wings downed the Kings 3-1 Saturday night.  Riley Sheahan netted his first NHL goal to open Detroit's scoring and Dan Cleary also contributed a goal, rounding out the Wings' offense for the evening.

After a dismal performance in San Jose, Howard needed a strong comeback game to build some confidence and momentum.  Unfortunately after having done so, news broke that Petr Mrazek will get the start tonight as it seems Jimmy tweaked his hip flexor, even though he himself suggests he is fine.  Hopefully this effort is not squandered and can be built upon after he returns, unlike the night-and-day showings between Dallas and San Jose.

Tatar undoubtedly played last night with a heavy heart, with news of his father Jan's passing still fresh.  In an emotional show of character, however, Tatar endured and played, and was instrumental in the win over the Kings.  Not only did he score what ended up being the game-winning goal, but he also assisted on Sheahan's opening goal for Detroit.  The sight of Tatar pointing to the sky after his goal will not soon be forgotten.

With last night's big win behind them, the Red Wings now move on to Anaheim, where the Ducks will host Detroit.  Can Detroit hold onto the energy from last night and propel themselves deeper into playoff contention?  I believe they can, and they will.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Does Jimmy Howard Need the Chris Osgood Vacation?

It's no secret that Jimmy Howard has struggled this year.  It's a case of a great goaltender simply having what is quickly turning into a season for the Hall of Shame, with his lackluster finishes far exceeding his stand-out performances.  Things between the Hockeytown pipes are scary right now.

But haven't we dealt with this before?

Journey back to the year 2008.  The Wings rode the tandem of Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek confidently into the playoffs, and when Hasek lost his touch, Osgood was there to steal the show, taking the Wings to the promised land.  Now, jump forward to the next season.  2009's regular season was not nearly as kind to Osgood.  His play became inconsistent and erratic, and he was his own worst enemy.  It got to a point where management had to step in, giving the starting spot to Ty Conklin while Chris Osgood was sent away for ten days to get his head screwed on straight again, working constantly with goalie coach Jim Bedard.

I hope I don't need to remind Wings fans how that season ended, and how close we came to seeing a repeat.  Needless to say, the Osgood vacation certainly made a difference.  Could this same thing not possibly help to get Jimmy back to his old form?  At this point, I feel anything is worth a try.  We're currently a point away from being on the outside looking in.  If Jimmy drops the game tonight against the Kings, we will almost certainly be on the wrong side of the standings by tomorrow.

Coach Babcock has himself said that we will go only as far as Howard takes us.  Does it not then behoove us to give him every chance as early as possible to get this fixed?  If we simply say "Steady on!" and hope that it works itself out, in a month or two's time it could be too late.

Just don't send him on the Larry Murphy vacation of beer and all-day dollar hot dogs.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Classic Case of Depression

I'm gonna put this out there right now.  It's been 2 days since the Red Wings lost the Winter Classic to Toronto, and I'm still shaking my head over it.  Call me a blasphemer if you will, but that loss kinda ruined the whole allure of the Winter Classic for me.

Now to be fair, I am a long ways away from where the Hockeytown Winter Festival took place.  I did not have a chance to go--much to my the time.  Looking back on it, though...I'm not sure I would have felt like it was enjoyable to go all the way out there, get all wound up over all the hype, all the build-up...just to watch Detroit blow it in (SURPRISE!) a shootout.  I will tell you one thing, though: feeling that way doesn't make me a bad fan like I'm sure some will want to denounce me as for saying it.

My disappointment in the loss has been so great that it's taken me this long just to drum up the will to write about it!  This was supposed to be the big, legendary, once-in-a-lifetime triumph, and what did we get instead? We got placed in the record books for the largest hockey game the other guys who lost to the goddamned Maple Leafs.

Really? What reason do I have to look back on THAT with anything resembling fondness?

Again in all fairness, the game itself was quite good: back-and-forth action, saves, hits, an almost playoff-like atmosphere at times...and then it also had the shootout.  I should have known better than to get my hopes up when we got to that point, the last 12 we'd been in gave you a pretty good indication of what to expect at that particular juncture.

On the bright side, Datsyuk scored in the shootout! ...And he deked, too! He beat the goalie so bad that Datsyuk left him outside in the-waaaaaait a second...

But yes, in all seriousness, I don't look back on the Winter Classic fondly, nor do I believe I ever shall.  My one big regret is not being able to see the alumni games, seeing Yzerman skate in the Winged Wheel one last time, or seeing the Russian Five reunited...that one would have done me in.

The Red Wings need to make this up to me by winning some damned games and making sure we get into the playoffs, because that loss, I should remind you, dropped us below Toronto to the final Wildcard spot in the East.  Our asses have never been so close to the flame this year as they are right now.  Don't let the result of the WC be a portent of what's to come from here till April...