Friday, April 30, 2010

You've Got Mail, San Jose

I missed about 38 minutes of the game yesterday, as I was about 10 minutes away from the Hockeytown Cafe at the Hard Rock Cafe, watching my friends' band win a spot in the national finals for a spot in the Hard Rock Calling festival and to play with Pearl Jam, Stevie Wonder and Sir Paul McCartney. The rest of the confirmed line up is on that link.

What I did manage to see was somewhat impressive if you look at the big picture. The Wings were looking good in the third period, looking like they DIDN'T just finish a hard hitting, hard fought 7 game series on Tuesday. Many of the other bloggers have mentioned it, but I feel the same way, so I'll say it again.
If I'm the Sharks, that scares me.

If they can only win by ONE goal (scored on a bullshit 5-on-3), having been able to rest since April 24, they should be scared.
If the Red Wings stay close in this game WITHOUT a goal from Datsyuk or Zetterberg, they should be scared.
If the Red Wings stay close in this game WITHOUT a goal on the power play, they should be scared.
If the Red Wings... you know what? Fuck it.

We've seen how this team can bounce back from deflating losses, like the loss in game 6 and the way they played in game 7.

We knew that this series wasn't exactly going to be a cakewalk. We had hoped to maybe sneak in under the radar and steal game one from the Sharks, and we almost did. But the message was sent, and I'm pretty sure the Sharks got it. I think it went something like this:

"To the fine coaching staff and athletes of the San Jose Sharks organ-i-zation,

We would like to respectfully decline your offer to showcase your God-given talent and NHL-given advantage over us. We would also like to propose a counter offer to scrap a very respectable loss together out of a situation what would make other teams collapse faster than Brett Lebda at an open bar. Furthermore, we would like to issue the following warning:

Just you fuckers wait until Sunday.


Sincerely, the Detroit Red Wings organ-i-zation"

Keep your chins up, Red Wings Nation.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Revisiting the Sharks

This is an old post from my first blog. Let's take some time out and enjoy the success we've had against San Jose this year.

Dismantling the Sharks.
24 days and 11 games after putting a hurting on the Sharks in their own arena, the Wings returned. And apparently the blood was still in the water. After giving up 2 goals within the first 10 minutes of the game, which I’ll just chalk up to jetlag, the Wings woke up and made the Sharks look more like the Guppies.

Consider this: 9 SOG for the Sharks in the first 9:45 of the 16-shot 1st by the Sharks. 8 SOG in the entire 2nd period, and 10 over the course of the whole 3rd period. Take out those 9 shots that occurred before the Wings collectively decided to get their shit in order, and you’re left with 25 shots on Yimmy Howard. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Comfortably familiar. Like the Red Wings of yesteryear.
For about 39 seconds in the first period, on a penalty kill no less, Kronwall was stuck out on the ice with what amounted to one operational skate. The blade on his right skate -for some reason- came off while he was applying pressure on Ryane Clowe.
I don’t think that he really got enough credit for this last night (as all of Hockeytown was freaking out about him being possibly injured again), but I checked out the video from that again and one thing jumped out at me. From his knees, and then on one skate, he kept playing. He got in passing and shooting lanes, and doing it pretty well, I might add. Definitely an underrated moment in the game last night.
I’ve been saying it, you’ve been saying it… Yimmy needs to work on his rebound control. It’s been getting better, I guess, but both San Jose goals were directly related to his inability to control the rebounds.
Kronwall tweaked his ankle in a behind-the-play little piece of interference by Ortmeyer during Cleary’s goal. I’m positive of this. Yes, he went over and did his congratulations and all that, but he bent in a way I’d feel bad doing to Gumby. He also took a while to get off the ice. I’m not certain on his ice time after that, but I’d bet all the money in my left pocket that THAT was when it happened.
Meech’s goal was that really ugly kind of pretty. It was a nice Tic-Tac-Toe-TOE goal. Williams faked the shot, dropped it to Filppula, who then draws the defense towards the middle of the ice before passing down to Bertuzzi near the goal line. Bertuzzi made the smart play and tried to get it to (my boy) Cleary. Luckily, for all of us, and especially Bert, Meech was wandering around along the side boards aimlessly and stumbled across the puck. He decided he liked the puck, and he was gonna put it in the net so he’d know where to find it later. Despite Nabokov’s best efforts at breakdancing, it went in, and we actually had a lead. Exactly 15 people felt comfortable with that lead.
How Eaves hasn’t been offered a contract extension at this point is beyond me. He’s one of our best PKers, and he’s got a knack for getting the big, timely goal. He was at it again last night, perhaps with a bit of luck and stupidity from the Sharks. I can’t find a good replay online right now, but Joe Pavelski falls down, taking Eaves down with him as Eaves tries to skate around. Eaves slid farther than Pavelski did, creating the space that led to Eaves’ wide open goal.
I’d also like to add that Rafalski’s pass on that goal was harder than Brad May’s best slapshot.
And last, Helm went for a leisurely stroll with about 15 seconds left in the game and just happened to beat every Sharks player on the ice to negate an icing with 9 seconds left. Not that an icing there would have changed the outcome of the game. Even if San Jose scored on the subsequent offensive zone faceoff, they would have needed to score another goal in what would have probably been 5 seconds against relatively rested Wings. But it was still that grit and determination that we’ve all become so enamored with from him.
Tonight is a game against Anaheim, newly equipped with Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake from the weekend’s trade with Toronto. Another late start, so if you’re not like me and actually have somewhere to go or something to do tomorrow morning, I’d recommend taking a nap now. Well, maybe take it after you finish reading this.
The questions, of course, are going to be the same they usually are: Do the Wings have enough in the tank after the game last night in the Tank? Can Yimmy control rebounds enough tonight to steal a game, or are we going to have a team playing with him tonight? Can the Wings’ defensemen score a goal from above the faceoff circles? And the last question is can you stay up and watch the whole thing?

That was from February 3rd. It also came with this lovely little photoshop I did:


I might be the minority, but I think I was one of few people who weren't nervous or scared about the game last night. I chalk that up to my military training eliminating fear from my mental processes. But I also chalk it up to faith and logic.

The Detroit Red Wings are a far superior team than the Phoenix Coyotes. And Mike Babcock is a better coach than Dave Tippet. In a game like that, I'll take the Red Wings 100% of the time. They're just too good, too experienced, and too damn good looking with those beards to shave them.

Something odd happened at the Commune. About midway through the 3rd period, we all thought there was a penalty going to be called on the Coyotes. It ended up being against the Red Wings. Someone mentioned that it was weird to be so far ahead that we didn't have to pay 100% attention to what was going on. And it felt damn good.

I asked who was going to step up in the game. I made my case for Bertuzzi. I think all Red Wings fans know he scored 2 goals, getting ripped off on one for the ever-popular intent-to-blow rule. The referee who was closest to the play had a direct line of sight to the puck lying loose to Bryzgandalf's left, and Bert swooped in a buried it. And then the referee was waving it off. For whatever reason.

But going back to my question, who'd come up big? How's this for an answer: EVERYONE. I could easily go down the roster and name one moment in the game where they put it all out there on the ice. I think we could have put Ledba out there and HE would have had a big game.

However, I believe the turning point was late in the second, when the Red Wings were having a Commune of their own in the penalty box. Miller, Helm and Stuart were penaltized (Helm's being a bullshit interference/diving call) which meant 3 of our best PKers were sitting this one out. I don't remember the whole 3 man unit out there, because it looked like we only needed one guy out there. Kronwall.

I know Kronner's been getting shit this series for not playing to his caliber, to almost playing bad. But during that 5-on-3, he blocked at least 3 shots, and was just an overall presence. At that time, the score was 3-1. If Phoenix scores there, it's 3-2 with another penalty yet to kill. Even if we kill that second penalty off, momentum is shifted to Phoenix going into the intermission, and the third becomes an entirely different beast. Instead, we kill off both penalties, keep the 3-1 lead, and then speedster scoring threat Brad Stuart comes down on a breakaway and makes it 4-1 with 5 seconds left. Dagger. To the heart of the Coyote.

Who else stepped up? Our power play units. Not only did the Wings go 3/6 with the man advantage, it was almost always 2 minutes of straight pressure in the offensive zone if we didn't score. I saw the Wings switch from the 1st PP line to the 2nd PP line in the middle of a power play, without losing control of the puck. The Coyotes looked so out matched out there, I was a little embarrassed for them. They had no right to share that ice with the Wings out there last night.

And a side note from that, I'm glad we scored twice with Aucoin in the box. I've lost track of how many times he's gotten away with shit throughout the series, but it was good to finally see them burn because of him.

There's only one concern I have about this game. One last complaint. The Wings shot 50 pucks at Bryzgandalf, which is fine. But they gave up a quiet 33 shots on goal, too. Yimmy came up big. Some of those 33 shots were good, quality shots, matched by good, quality saves by Yimmy. Will yielding 33 shots to San Jose, Chicago or Vancouver do? As much as I have faith in this team and in our young goaltender, I don't think performances like that will continue to cut it.

But for now, let's enjoy the win.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Game Seven

Game Seven. So important that it doesn't get a number. It's all words. Spelled out, capitalized words.

Game Sevens are never fun. We don't have the luxury of losing on a flukey goal or a terrible ref's call and thinking, "Okay, we'll bounce back and show 'em next time." There won't be a next time. We lose, and everyone starts asking questions and pointing fingers. We lose, and everyone becomes a GM and a coach. We lose, and we start blaming ourselves for the superstition we left out or the ritual we forgot.

We lose this time and we bust out the electric razors and the guitar string nooses.

The song "Nothing Gets Crossed Out" by Bright Eyes jumped into my head directly after leaving the Joe on Sunday, just for the first few lines.

"Well, the future's got me worrying such awful thoughts, my head's a carousel of pictures, the spinning never stops. I just want someone to walk in front and I'll follow the leader..."

That's got to be going through the Red Wings' heads right about now, because that's what it looked like in that 6th game. No one wanted to jump out and be the hero, the leader. Our superstars were absent. Our role players were invisible. Our goalie was sleepwalking.
Abdelkader came forth towards the end of the game, and he deserves all the credit in the world for that. He looked like the only player on that ice that was pissed off about the outcome of that game.

So who's going to come out on Tuesday, if anyone? A drunken thought came to me a few hours after the Sunday debacle.

I want Bertuzzi to come out huge. I want him to score, hit, and spin-o-rama his way to a win. I want him to silence all the critics for a while.

And if that happens, we'll immortalize the day as 'Tuzzday.

All (sort of) joking aside, I still haven't completely given up hope. The way the Wings played after that first period on Sunday, I was close. I think seeing that sort of effort in person sapped the spirit out of me more than it would have on television. Seeing open nets not get pucks buried in them (Lilja), golden opportunities fucked away (Draper), weak goals let in (Howard)... it really makes you question how and why you seemed to show up with more heart and effort than the Wings seemed to.

That having been said, I read something over at The Triple Deke that bears repeating. Because I can't say it any better myself.

If you truly think that this team doesn't give a shit, that they pick and choose which games to play hard and which ones to coast, or that you want it 50 times more than they do -- then you are a fucking lunatic. Tell that to Nik Kronwall or Andreas Lilja or Johan Franzen or anyone else who has busted their ass to recover from injuries to get back on that ice. Tell that to any of the guys that watched Crosby skate the Cup on their ice last year and had their souls crushed. I'm sure you're right; they just sleep in, dick around for a few hours and ho-hum their way through these afternoon games because they'd rather count their money. I hate to break it to you but this isn't a team full of Rasheed Wallaces. Go back and read some interviews or watch some video on some of these guys' reactions to getting knocked out of the playoffs and tell me it was because of "heart." Did Stuart fuck away a turnover because he doesn't care, or because of bad decision making? I think I'll take the latter.

I'm reading too many people who seem way too entitled as fans. The Coyotes aren't a bad team as much as you want them to be. Their coach is good. Their goalie isn't some bitch bag Russian hack because he let in one or two softies earlier this series. Give them some credit. All too often I'm seeing trash comments that those same people dog on other team's bandwagon fans for, and it's embarrassing. I can be as pessimistic as the next guy, but dammit I don't act like I'm better than the fucking team. (Except Brett Lebda.)

It's true, we've been jaded. We're too used to seeing comfortable leads and Central Division titles as Valentines Day gifts that I think we don't really realize how hard championships are to win. It's a brutal game they play, and sometimes there are going to be bumps in the road. Sometimes, the other team goes back after a loss, changes and works on strategy and comes back looking good. Just because we walk all over a team for 2 games, doesn't mean the third game is a guaranteed win. A lot of times, it's easy to --in the heat of the moment, after a game when the emotions are still running high-- to criticize the team and accuse them of not showing up. I'm guilty, you're guilty, everyone's guilty.


In person, there were 2 players that seemed to stand out for good reasons: Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader.
It seemed that all the times I noticed a good play, it was made by Miller. I remember him standing out on a power play (one of the few we killed) and getting good pressure in the offensive zone.
Abdelkader... well, we all saw him lay the clean hit on Stempniak and then stick up for himself against Shane Doan's heir to the douche bag throne Derek Morris. Then, 7 minutes later, he comes back and makes Keith Yandle his bitch, sending a message to the Coyotes.

Will the message translate into tomorrow night's game? Will 'Tuzzday actually happen? Will one of our superstars step up and be the hero, or will a role player have his big game (i.e. Helm's Kill last year)? Will Yimmy steal a game, or will the defense be stifling?

Or will we be knee deep in booze and beer bottles come Wednesday morning?

Monday, April 12, 2010

If There Were No Conferences

I've mentioned quite a few times that I don't think that winning your conference should lock you into a top 3 seed. Case and point, the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have one more point, in the 4 spot, than the 3 spot Buffalo Sabres. But that's not really what this post is about. This is a breakdown of the LEastern conference's inferiority to the West.

I took all the playoff teams, complete with record and points, and stacked them all up 1-16. Using only points to organize them, this is what a 16 team bracket would look like (Note- East is Red, and West is Blue, like the All Star game) :

1 (1E) Capitals 54-15-13 = 121
16 (8E) Canadians 39-33-10 = 88

2 (1W) Sharks 51-20-11 = 113
15 (7E) Flyers 41-35-6 = 88

3 (2W) Blackhawks 52-22-8 = 112
14 (6E) Bruins 39-30-13 = 91

4 (4W) Coyotes 50-25-7 = 107
13 (5E) Senators 44-32-6 = 94

5 (3W) Canucks 49-28-5 = 103
12 (8W) Avalanche 43-30-9 = 95

6 (2E) Devils 48-27-7 = 103
11 (3E) Sabres 45-27-10 = 100

7 (5W) Red Wings 44-24-14 = 102
10 (7W) Predators 47-29-6 = 100

8 (4E) Penguins 47-28-7 = 101
9 (6W) Kings 46-27-9 = 101

Key points to think about:
  • Only one matchup would remain the same. Washington would get Montreal one way or the other.
  • Of the 8 top seeds, only 3 would be LEastern conference teams.
  • 5 of the 6 bottom seeds are LEastern.
  • The West's worst team (Colorado) gets the 12 seed.
  • The 6th best team in the league (New Jersey) is your second best team in the LEastern conference.
  • 3 of the 4 inter-conference match ups have a Western conference as the top seed.
  • In the case of Los Angeles and Pittsburgh (the only inter-conference match up with the LEast on top) they have the same amount of points, but Pittsburgh has 1 (ONE) more win.
  • The 3 seed in the LEast (Buffalo) wouldn't even have home ice advantage.

  • The average point total for a Western conference playoff team is 104.125.
  • The average point total for a LEastern conference playoff team is 98.25.
  • Take Washington's 121 points out of the mix, and the remaining 7 teams in the LEast average 95.
  • The West averages 102.86 points without their top team.(Well, it's actually 102.85714285714285714285714285714)
  • 7 of 8 Western teams have 100+ points.
  • 4 of 8 LEastern teams have 100+ points.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Quick Notes on the Calder Race

Does Yimmy Howard deserve the Calder despite having waited in the Wings' wings with a few impromptu appearances in the past few years? Does his age really make that much of a difference? Does playing for the Wings make him a long shot to win [the Calder, or Vezina, or Hart] this year? Just how good are the other front runners for the Calder?

I'm sure you've all kept an ear to the ground and have heard the mumblings about why Tyler Myers, John Tavares, or Matt Duchene deserve the award more than our beloved Yimmy. I don't need to re-hash it all for you. Here's all I'm going to bring to the table:

John Tavares: 1st overall pick (2009)
Matt Duchene: 3rd overall pick (2009)
Tyler Myers: 12th overall pick (2008)
Yimmy Howard: 64th overall pick (2003)

If you're going to disqualify MY guy for belonging to a team that didn't need him right away, who had the time afforded to him to refine his skills and wait until he was ready, then I'll disqualify all of your guys for being picked in the first half of the first round. Those guys are supposed to be good. That's why they get picked that high. Yimmy barely made it out of the second round of the draft. He was always a hit or miss kind of player. He was never expected to be the savior from day one. Instead, he ended up becoming one of the best goaltenders in the league, all the while doing it under conditions that still define him as a rookie.

To be eligible for the award, 
  • a player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season (4 in 05-06,4 in 07-08,1 in 08-09.)
  • nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league. (Only 5 total.)
  • The player must not be older than 26 years before September 15 of the season in which he is eligible.  (25 years, 173 days)
Is he eligible? Yes.
Is he worthy? Yes.
Is he going to win?

I'll still be shocked if he does.

First Round Options

Now that the Red Wings are, without a doubt, IN the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, now comes the debate on who we should want to face and who we don't want to face.

  • Chicago: So the Wings can't do any better than 5th place, because of tiebreakers with Phoenix and all that happy jazz. They're a lower seed. No home ice advantage. With that in mind, I personally kind of want to see little brother Chicago in the first round. If you can't win home ice, make it. I have no doubt that a game in Chicago will have more than enough Red Wings fans in the crowd to make some noise. Also, the Wings would probably want to come out and say, "Yeah, you won the conference, but we're still the team to beat 'round these parts." This year's Wings club went 2-2-1 with one game to be played against Chicago. Those 2 losses being shut outs back when the Griffins were playing in the NHL and the Wings were in the press boxes with suits on.
  • San Jose: The Sharks' playoff inabilities are well known. Does that make them a pushover team? Not at all. The team is still scary in a 7 game series. Any team with noted Wings-killer Joe Thornton is not a good sight to see across the ice in a playoff game. The Sharks have been consistently good for the regular season, setting up base camp at the top of the conference year after year. However, this year the Red Wings went 3-0-1 against them, making them a pretty good match up for the first round.
  • Phoenix: The Hamilton Coyotes are surprising everyone this year, not letting the 17,034 off-ice issues the past few years hamper them. Sitting pretty in a top-seed playoff position, they're one of the less favorable pairings possible for the Red Wings. A lot of people are calling them one of the scariest looking teams right now. They've got goaltending. They've got goal scorers getting hot. They've figured out what to do on the ice a lot more than they've figure it out off the ice. This year, the Wings went 2-0-2, which isn't bad, but let's not forget the debacle in late January where the Wings gave up a 2 goal lead with 1:30 left in the game to lose in OT.
  •  Vancouver: I don't know what it is, but Vancouver always scares me. But then I remember THIS and everything's okay again. Luongo's not the goalie he was in Florida anymore, when the Wings would waltz in like they owned the place and get their asses handed to them on 40 different platters, one for every riconculous save he'd come up with. The Sedins are still there, as well as goal scorer extraordinaire Mikael Samuelsson. They have talent, but they just don't seem to come with it all the time. The Wings went 3-1-0 this year, with that one loss being the 6-3 loss right after the Olympic break.

No matter who the Wings end up seeing in the first round, Detroit's going to have to come out with a fire that hasn't been there in ages. When was the last time that they started the playoffs outside of JLA? They also need to make a statement early, letting the people who wrote them off earlier in the season know just how wrong they were and maybe they should stick to a sport like billiards, because they clearly don't know shit about hockey. And they need to outlast those bitches in black in white from the LEastern Conference, the Penguins.

This has been, and will continue to be a season to tell the grandkids about for the Red Wings Nation. The injuries, the inability to score goals, let alone win games mid-season, the post-Olympic March to Playoffs, and, of course, H2H.

Let's just hope it lasts until June again.

If you're interested in what the 2nd round 
pairings could look like, the Wings 
fared like this against the other 
teams looking at playoff spots:

NSH- 4-1-1
LA- 2-2-0
COL- 2-1-1
CAL- 2-2-0

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Today is Easter.

Today, being Easter, is a time to reflect back to a man who died and what his death has given to all of us.

Roald Dahl.

Roald Dahl died in 1990. That also happens to be the last time the Red Wings missed the playoffs. Is the spirit of Roald Dahl watching over the Red Wings, and aiding their way into the playoffs year after year? Did Roald Dahl even like hockey?
I don't know, but it sure as hell seems convincing to me.

Some other interesting factoids I've come up with
  • Ever since Law and Order has been on the air, the Wings haven't missed the playoffs.
  • Ever since The Silence of the Lambs was released in theaters, the Wings haven't missed the playoffs.
  • Ever since Comedy Central's been in it's current format, the Wings haven't missed the playoffs.
  • Ever since Jamie Lynn Spears was born, the Wings haven't missed the playoffs.
  • Ever since Final Fantasy has been published and released for American consoles, the Wings haven't missed the playoffs.
  • Ever since Pee-wee's Playhouse has been OFF the air, the Wings haven't missed the playoffs.
and perhaps my personal favorite...
  • Ever since Stefanía Fernández was born, the Wings haven't missed the playoffs.
Who's that? Your reigning Miss Universe.
Also, since the Wings lost today, don't we get hot latinas anyways? Enjoy...


Happy Eavester, everyone!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Didn't We Do This LAST Week?!

So, it's been a week since I've followed any Red Wing game at all. It's been a crazy week, with things here in New River slowly crawling to a close. Soon, I'll be on a plane (or maybe just a bus) back up to Detroit for a month, where the shenanigans will come to a head.

Last week, the H2Hangover was nursed back to health(?) with the second game in as many nights against, well, the same team we're facing tonight.

Personally, I don't expect the same utterly boring/completely exciting game that we witnessed last week. Why? Some key differences I can think of this time around:
  • REST -The Wings were playing the second half of back to back games when these to clubs went to the 11 round shoot out shut out win for the Wings. This go around, the Wings have had a day to rest their legs and I'm guessing Yimmy didn't have a birthday yesterday, either.
  • ICE -That last game was in the Gaylord Center, where the ice was just about perfect if you're into pond hockey and shit like that. This game will be played in the good ol' JLA, where the ice is just about as good as you can get in the NHL.
  • NO SLOTHS -I will be busy again tonight, trying to make up for last night, doing questionable things in questionable places with questionable people. Seriously, though, I'll be having another class function (just another excuse to drink) and unable to follow the game. Which means I can't lurk over at the WIM game thread and post pictures of sloths that may or may not have contributed to the lackluster opening 65 minutes of the game in Nashville.

Other than that, just refer to my last pregame post and change all the difference in your head. For instance, that "4 game win streak" is now "7 game win streak". And feel free to change all mentions of H2H and their hangovers to my class, after the epic night of drinking and hooliganism we had last night.