Archive for January, 2004

Wings 4, Canes 4

In what should’ve been an easy 2 points for the Wings turned out to be a grueling battle for a point in a 4-4 tie versus the Canes at the Joe. Cujo got the start versus Weekes. The Wings and I were out of tune at the start of the game. I thought it was a 7:30 EST start and turned on the game to only see 2-0 Canes with 5 minutes left in the third. And the Wings had defensive lapses to allow those goals, really leaving Cujo out to dry (I saw the replays).

In the first period, I was eating pizza and watching college basketball when I realized it was a 7:00 start. The Wings didn’t show up in the first half-hour either, giving the Canes open ice in the defensive zone and leaving Cujo out to dry. At 2:37, Pavel Brendl scored unassisted to make it 1-0 Canes. At 11:40, Radim Vrbata got a powerplay goal to make it 2-0 Canes. Here’s when I started watching. At 16:35, Rod Brind’Amour came in open on Cujo, totally undressed him, and put the puck in the open net as he left Cujo sprawled on his back on the top of the crease. 3-0 Canes. And the Joe crowd was in total shock, for a Wings team that has been very solid at home this season. With a minute left, Pavel Datsyuk pulled past Eric Staal through center ice and was hooked a good 2-3 strides ahead with speed. Pavel stumbled, and Don Van Massenhoven called Staal 2 minutes for hooking rather than following the rules of the game and common sense of creating excitement. Total bull crap. Shots in the first were 12-8 Detroit.

In the second period, Cujo was replaced by Manny Legace after allowing 3 goals on 8 shots. Henrik Zetterberg got a powerplay goal assisted by Ray Whitney and Pavel Datsyuk. The score came on a tip in off a shot from the point by Whitney. 3-1 Canes. But the Canes scored 24 seconds later on a goal by Sean Hill, a bad angle, low quality shot that really stung for the Wings and Manny, after just pulling within two. 4-1 Canes, back to another 3-goal deficit. Shots in the second were 13-6 Detroit.

In the third period, the Wings and Joe crowd started to get back in the game, with Tomas Holmstrom scoring at 9:51 on a rebound from the bottom left circle, assisted by Chris Chelios and Brendan Shanahan. 4-2 Wings. Then Henrik Zetterberg scored a powerplay goal at 14:26, assisted by Brett Hull and Pavel Datsyuk. Henrik batted the puck out of midair to the left of Weekes. 4-3 Wings. Then Tomas Holmstrom completed the comeback with a pass from Brendan Shanahan to the open side with Weekes awkwardly out of position. Tomas fed it into the open net. The second assist came from Henrik Zetterberg to give him a 3 point night. At 18:31, the whistle was blown as the Wings carried the puck behind Manny to try to get a rush going. Two penalties were called: both teams were penalized for too many men on the ice at the same time!! Even Mickey Redmond said he hadn’t seen anything like that in 37 years. Shots were 17-2 in the third in Detroit’s favor.

Apparently Don Van Massenhoven has a knack for weird calls. Canes Coach Peter Laviolette was playing in the minor leagues for some obscure team, and Massenhoven was calling the game. On a play, Laviolette hooked a man on a break and Massenhoven called a delayed penalty shot as the puck drifted towards the net. Then Laviolette covered the puck with his glove in his goaltender’s crease, so Massenhoven called another penalty shot on Laviolette. So the opposition got two penalty shots, and Laviolette got the distinction of being one of the few (maybe only) guys to get called for two penalty shots on the same play. If you can’t tell, this was a Mickey Redmond story.

In overtime, the Wings got close to winning the game as the Canes played on their heels. Each team got 2 shots, and the Wings got a powerplay with about 30 seconds left in the game, when Jeff O’Neill was called for hooking Nicklas Lidstrom. The game ended in a 4-4 tie, with the Joe rocking and the Wings pretty happy to get the point after being down by 3 goals twice. The third period comeback was 3 Wings goals in 6:48.

Detroit went 2 of 7 on the powerplay, while Carolina went 1 of 4. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Holmstrom, and Shanahan really had strong games for the Wings. Ex-Wing Aaron Ward was a scratch with a wrist injury, but it was nice to see him in the post game interviews. Final shots were 44-18 in Detroit’s favor. Darren McCarty returned from his back injury for 7:31 of ice time, while Steve Thomas, reportedly out for two weeks with a cracked rib, sat out the game.

It was truly one of those games where very little goes your way, including the Datsyuk penalty shot that never was, and peppering Weekes with 44 shots, hard-pressed to score. In contrast, it was a tough night for Wings’ goaltenders Cujo and Legace, who collectively allowed 4 goals on 18 shots, but the Wings poor defense early on didn’t help the cause. Next game is Tuesday at Nashville, an 8:00 EST start, so fans like me who have 7:30 chiselled into their minds as Wings game time will be a little early for this one. Hopefully the Wings improve their away record and bring a more solid effort versus the Predators, because they took the Canes for losers early on and fell back 3-0 because of it.

GameDay: vs. Carolina (17-24-9-2, 45) 7:00 EST

Tonight is the second of two games this season between these two teams. The first game ended in a 4-1 win for the Wings on January 2nd in Carolina.

The Wings bounced back after a 1-2-2 road trip with a good 5-2 win over the Devils at home Thursday night and are now 3-3-3-1 in their previous 10 games. They got a goal from Brett Hull, just his second in 24 games and an empty netter from Kris Draper who had gone cold after rocketing to 19 goals, four more than his career high of 15. Tomas Holmstrom scored his second in 10 games on the power play and Mathieu Schneider continued his great play with yet another goal. They went 2-for-2 on the power play after going 2-for-24 in their previous six games and were perfect on the penalty kill. The Wings are 19-4-2-0 at home this season and 8-6-0-1 against Eastern Conference teams. The Wings score an average of 3.21 goals a game, second in the league, and allow an average of 2.34 which is 13th. Their power play is 5th in the league at 19.2% and their penalty killing is 8th at 85.4%. Pavel Datsyuk, the Wings’ highest scoring player, has 50 points.

The Hurricanes are 3-6-1 in their previous ten games. The are coming off a 5-4 loss to the Caps on Thursday after shutting out Toronto 2-0 on Tuesday. They are on a trend where they win one game and then lose two (one which will hopefully continue tonight). They are just 7-12-3-1 on the road this year and 4-5-0-2 against Western Conference teams. They have a 1.88 goals scored average, which is dead last in the league and a 2.46 goals against average which is just 16th. They are 29th in the league on the power play at 11.2% and 25th on the penalty kill at 81.8%. Jeff O’Neill, their highest scoring player, has 27 points.

Curtis Joseph should get the start tonight again.

Steve Thomas did not practice yesterday because of a ribs injury suffered during Thursday’s game and probably will not be ready to go tonight.

Darren McCarty participated in another full practice and there is apparently a small chance that he could dress for the first time since November 8th. That would be a great thing to see.

The Wings need to build off Thursday’s game with another win tonight. The ‘Canes are a struggling team and the Wings should be able to handle them fairly easily. We know they can play well against top teams but throughout the season, they have been beaten by lesser teams because they haven’t taken them seriously. They need to take the Hurricanes seriously because they’ve shown they can beat anybody. If the Wings play their “A” game, tonight shouldn’t be too tough a game for them. But if they come out thinking they’ll roll over Carolina, it will be a long night.

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McCabe CBA Remarks

Maple Leafs NHLPA union rep Bryan McCabe has some interesting thoughts on the inevitable lockout the summer before the 2004-2005 season, when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and NHLPA expires: McCabe on CBA

McCabe to Toronto Star: “The bottom line is, if they want a hard (salary) cap, we’ll sit out for the rest of our lives. If they’re not going to budge off of that, there’s really nowhere to go. It’s all in the semantics. They want to impose a system where we can’t direct our marketplace. What’s the point of having free agency if you can’t go anywhere? Whatever way they put it, it’s not a good deal for us. I wouldn’t be making the money I am now if it weren’t for the guys in 1994. There are hundreds of kids coming up who are going to be National Hockey League players. In the end, they deserve a fair shot at a solid marketplace and a chance to earn a decent living.”

As not only an avid Red Wings fan, but NHL hockey fan in general, I was livid at hearing McCabe refer to making a “decent living” as the millions hockey players are currently paid to play the game they love. McCabe will make $3.85 million this season. He seems to forget that most NHL fans know what it really means to make a decent living, and they are dedicated to buying NHL tickets and jerseys, and spending their time watching each game. I sent McCabe an email through the Leafs’ official website, which was limited to 500 characters:

“I am an avid fan of the game of hockey and of the NHL. And I found your comments on the approaching CBA deadline very disturbing. Your definition of a “decent living” is totally off-base. You seem to take for granted the strong support of NHL fans who are the reason you make close to $4 million. As a fan, I take offense to this claim that a decent living means making millions of dollars, and you should answer to whether you need to be paid so much to consider playing the game you love.”

I recieved the following response from McCabe a few hours later:

“The way I see it, if some one put a cap on what you can make a year you�d fight. If someone offered you 4 times what you are making right now you�d take it. So why should it be different for a hockey player? Thank you for your email.”

While I was very impressed that he responded so quickly, he really took a round-about way of answering to my questions. He didn’t address the importance of fans, nor did he say why a “decent living” for a hockey player means millions of dollars in salary per year while it means $50,000 or so for a normal individual. Many hockey players make that much per game!! McCabe makes $46,951 per game this season, so he makes a real year’s decent living 82 times a season!! But McCabe’s “decent living” is probably a mansion with 10 Ferraris. I urge you all to email him through the Toronto Fan Mail , not swearing at him or anything, just posing questions as to why NHL players are gravitating towards the decision not to play the game they love because they aren’t being paid enough millions of dollars.

Notes, links, and lines

The game last night was a whole heck of a lot more exciting than I thought it would be, that’s for sure. I was expecting the Devils to put me to sleep early on but the game turned out to be a lot of fun to watch than I was expecting.

Curtis Joseph was definitely key in keeping the Wings in the game during the first few minutes and made saves on six shots before his own team had even one. Even after a shaky start to the game, the Wings were noticeable more comfortable at home and played a much better game than any they played out west. The game never went in to long stretches of boredom with both teams actually keeping the game fast paced and moving for most of the night.

The Wings beat Martin Brodeur on some nice goals but could have scored more had he not been so strong. I was disappointed in Joseph for that first goal but he more than made up for it later on when the game was still in doubt with some very good saves.

That one-on-one play by Pavel Datsyuk had me out of my chair and yelling before I realized the puck had hit the post. I was sure it was a goal and was disappointed to say the least.

Mathieu Schneider once again showed the league how big a crime it is that he’s not on the All Star Team by having another high quality game along with scoring a key goal.

The Wings made a huge improvement on special teams and were 100% both on the power play and penalty kill including a shorthanded (and empty net) goal. Hopefully that will be the start of another stretch where teams will actually fear the Wings’ special team units.

The Captain has now passed Mario Lemieux and that is where I think he’ll stay since I can’t see Mario making another comeback and because Marcel Dionne is too far ahead of them both. Congratulations, Steve!

It was good to see the Wings play to their potential again though I’d like to see a lot more of that on the road in the coming days. They have a tough schedule coming up which includes two games with the Colorado Avalanche in a little more than a week. Hopefully they’ll build on last night’s game and carry it down the stretch as the beginning of a solid second half performance.

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Lines-
Thomas-Datsyuk-Hull
Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Whitney
Shanahan-Yzerman-Whitney
Maltby-Draper-Dandenault
Devereaux-Yzerman-Whitney
Shanahan-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull
Shanahan-Datsyuk-Holmstrom

Lidstrom-Schneider
Fischer-Chelios
Rivers-Woolley
Lidstrom-Chelios

PP-
Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull
Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom

Whitney-Lidstrom
Schneider-Woolley

PK-
Maltby-Draper
Zetterberg-Datsyuk
Shanahan_Yzerman

Lidstrom-Chelios
Fischer-Chelios
Lidstrom-Schneider

5 on 3pk-
Maltby-Draper

Lidstrom

Net-
Curtis Joseph

Wings 5, Devils 2

Playing the defending Stanley Cup Champions on home ice was refreshing for the Wings. After a bad trip out West and a continuation of a relatively bad away record, the Wings returned home, where they play seven of the next nine games, against a upper echelon club in the Devils. Ah yes, home sweet home. It was a commanding 5-2 win over the defensive minded Devils. Cujo got the start.

In the first period, Henrik Zetterberg won a faceoff against Igor Larionov and got the puck back to Jamie Rivers, who beat Brodeur with a shot that surprised everyone, at 11:01. 1-0 Wings. Then, Cujo gave up a weak goal to Erik Rasmussen at 13:48. 1-1 tie. Then, on the powerplay Shanahan fed Mathieu Schneider a good pass to between the circles, and Mathieu got off his trademark blast to make it 2-1 Wings at 16:04. Tomas Holmstrom got the second assist on the play. Shots in the period were 12-5 New Jersey. Cujo was particularly sharp in the first ten minutes, making 3-4 high quality saves on breaking Devils or point-blank opportunities. Kick save. Glove save. Clearly kept the Wings in the game for the first 10 minutes.

In the second period, Brett Hull got a bouncing pass from Steve Thomas with a bouncing puck, but was able to get a wrist shot off that clearly surprised Brodeur at 0:46. 3-1 Wings. But Turner Stevenson scored at 3:31 to put the Devils within one. 3-2 Wings. Shots in the period were 11-7 New Jersey.

In the third period, Tomas Holmstrom got a grinding power play goal assisted by Mathieu Schneider and Steve Yzerman at 8:30. 4-2 Wings, and an important insurance goal. Then, with the Jersey net pulled with their having the powerplay too, Kris Draper scored a career high 20th goal of the season at 18:58, shorthanded and empty netter. Maltby retrieved the puck. 5-2 Wings. Final shots were 33-20 Jersey, 10-8 in the third.

Blaine Angus was one of the referees tonight, most notably the guy who failed to call the high stick on Roenick that set Jeremy off, leading to the infamous water bottle incident. He made a couple calls far away from the play tonight that had the crowd collectively groaning.

The Wings were 2-2 on the powerplay, a far cry from the trend of bad powerplay execution they brought into tonight’s game.

Steve Yzerman’s assist on the Holmstrom goal put him at 6th place all time in pts with 1,702, passing ailing Mario Lemieux, who is at 1,701. The Joe crowd acknowledged the feat when it was announced on the intercom. He now trails Marcel Dionne with 1,771 pts, which is pretty much not going to happen with the looming lockout and the Captain probably having only one more season left in the tank.

Schneider had a strong night with 2 pts (1G 1A). He’s really showing the league how big of a mistake they made by omitting him from the All Star Team. Hopefully, a well-placed injury will get Schneider a sneak-in, last second spot.

It was truly a Datsyukian deke when Pavel went one-on-one with a Devil, totally undressed him, and got off a wicked wrist shot that beat Brodeur but went off the left post. I thought it was a goal, and jumped out of my chair. But I still appreciated the beauty of the move after closer look showed the score the same and the red light not triggered.

It was likely Igor Larionov’s last game in the Joe. Igor left to play for the Devils in the offseason after not coming to terms with the Wings on dollar amounts. When his daughters got a recording contract out East, he wanted to live in the New York area. So to repudiate a general feeling among Wings fans that Igor left bitter about dollar amounts, it was also a factor of living near his daughters’ recording studio. I admit I was a detractor, but Igor wasn’t very clear about why he left, so seeing his Devils salary a few numbers higher was the factor we all caught onto.

Next game is Saturday at 7:00 PM versus Carolina. The Wings are currently nine pts ahead of the St Louis Blues in the Central Division, 67 to their 58. The Wings’ record is second only to the Colorado Avalanche in the NHL. The Avs have really turned it on lately, going 8-1-1-0 in their last ten (compared to the Wings’ 3-3-3-1). Hopefully this home stand will give the Wings a chance to pull ahead of the Avs and build a lead on them.

Lindros Suffers 8th Concussion

After his 6th concussion on a brutal open-ice hit from Scott Stevens (who is currently suffering from post-concussion syndrome and is out indefinitely), Lindros was pretty buzzed. It was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, May 26, 2000. The sixth concussion in 27 months. I remember the replays showing the back of his head hitting the ice, not to mention the force of the elbow check that many called legal but I thought was dirty. He returned, as teammate Mark Recchi asked: “Is the love of the game worth going out there and risking the rest of your life? Obviously, it’s not.” He suffered a seventh concussion on Dec. 21, 2001 on a collision with San Jose’s Mark Smith. It was not a serious, and he missed only four games. And now, with his NHL career on the thread of 7 previous concussions, Big Eric suffered his eighth (not a typo) concussion in the Rangers’ 2-1 loss to the Caps Wednesday night. Caps defenseman Jason Doig smashed Lindros into the boards in the second period. He stayed on the bench, even going out on his next shift to fight Doig. But Lindros did not return for the third period. Sather: “…By her over-the-phone diagnosis after talking to our doctors, they don’t think it’s that severe.” For a player touted with so much potential early in his career, it is truly unfortunate that Eric has had so many injuries. The former 1995 NHL MVP’s career is now in serious jeopardy.

GameDay: vs. New Jersey (26-12-10-1, 63) 7:30 EST

Tonight is the first and only game this season between the two most successful teams of the past decade. Last year, the Wings ended up being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs when the Ducks swept them and the Devils finished up the Stanley Cup Champions when they beat the Ducks in seven.

The Wings finished up a five-game road trip on Monday night in Dallas with a 2-2 tie. They were 1-2-2 on the trip and are a mere 2-3-3-1 since blowing out the Predators 6-0 nine games ago. They have hit their usual mid-season slump which comes as no surprise considering they have played more games than any other team to this point. The Wings have had some trouble scoring goals and holding on to leads in the past few games and many players who are usually counted on to score have been cold lately. Brendan Shanahan has gone 10 games without a goal and Brett Hull has just one goal in 23 games. Steve Yzerman has one in 11, Henrik Zetterberg one in 12 and Ray Whitney has one in nine. Tomas Holmstrom scored his first in nine during Monday’s game against the Stars. It doesn’t help that Curtis Joseph has hit sort of a slump as well and that the defense has been weak. Neither does their poor power play, which has gone 2-for-24 in the past six games. They have only scored 21 goals in their past nine games after shooting to the top of the NHL goals-scored list in December.

The Devils will try to win four in a row for the first time since they won five from November 13th to the 25th. They are on their final Western Conference road trip of the season and won the first game 4-3 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. They have been getting stellar goal tending from Martin Brodeur, who leads the league in wins (23) and shutouts (10). The team as a whole leads the league in goals-against average with just 1.78 goals allowed per game. They will be without Scott Stevens, who is out with post-concussion syndrome (ironic, isn’t it?), though Jamie Langenbrunner may play.

Curtis Joseph will likely get the start tonight after riding the pine on Monday night. Dominik Hasek is apparently still a week to ten days away from skating, at which time the Wings will once again have to juggle three goalies.

Darren McCarty says he is close to making a comeback. “I can’t put a date on it, but sooner rather than later.” He skated through another full practice with the team on Wednesday and has not had a major setback in a couple weeks. He hopes to be back as soon as next week.

I see this as a pretty important game for the Wings. They need to get back on their feet and the first game back from a road trip should be a good time to do that. They cannot expect to get away without scoring tonight because that is exactly what the Devils will be gunning for. They will have to work hard to break the trap and hopefully their size won’t be a huge problem. They are going to have to play strong defense themselves because the last thing they want to do is give New Jersey a lead so they can turn around and sit on it. Hopefully, they’ll play some smart hockey and maybe we’ll see one or two of those big stars get a goal tonight. We’ll also get to see Igor Larionov make his last appearance in Detroit. The Professor said “I talked to Pavel (Datsyuk) and told him, ‘Don’t make any moves on me, or I’ll slash you.'” I wouldn’t be too surprised if you did, Igor. He has just 10 points in 37 games with the Devils and no goals. He has not had the best time adjusting to the Devils’ system and does not get along with head coach Pat Burns very well. There has been speculation about a possible return to Detroit but that isn’t very likely, in my mind, unless it is as a coach or in some other non-player position. Anyway, the Wings need this game to stay with the League-leading Colorado Avalanche, who have 68 points to the Wings’ 65. The Avs have taken advantage of this slump and have pulled ahead while the Blues have fortunately hit a slump of their own and have fallen behind the Wings with 58 points.

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