Archive for March, 2004

Wings 3, Jackets 2

The Wings officially won the Western Conference race for first place for the sixth time in 13 years tonight with their 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus. It wasn’t the most exciting game of the year for most of the time but had a good finish and got the Wings one step closer to their goal of #1 overall. Manny made the start, as expected, and played great for the most part.

First Period
The first period was marked by long periods of nothing play, some light chances, and some uneventful power plays by both teams. Nothing that immensely exciting, though Manny came up big on the few chances the Jackets did have and the same went for Marc Denis when the Wings had chances of their own. The Wings looked kinda flat though and didn’t seem to pursue the puck with the same intensity as they have in the last few games.

Kris Draper and Robert Lang made their returns to the lineup and were their usual selves in the first period. Draper came close a couple times to continuing where he left off before going down but couldn’t finish and Lang had a chance or two of his own. There was one in particular where he should have shot but went for a pass to Tomas Holmstrom that, had it worked, would have been a slam dunk goal but the puck was tipped by the defender and didn’t make it through. Shoot it next time, Robert!

Like I said, it wasn’t a very eventful period. Shots were 11-8 Jackets

Second Period
Things started off well for the two teams as they had great chances at both ends in the first minute. No goals were scored on the chances but they made things exciting and got everyone warmed up for some goals a couple minutes later.

Kirk Maltby made it 1-0 Wings when he tipped in a nice centering pass from Darren McCarty, who was rushing in on the right wing. The play was really made by Chris Chelios, who sent a great tape-to-tape lead pass from his own blue line to Mac who in turn made a great pass to Maltby for the goal. The goal tied his personal best of 14 which was set last year.

The Blue Jackets got a goal a minute and three seconds later when Manny Legace strayed out of the net and lost the puck. He scrambled back and the puck became caught up in his skates before coming out where Robert Lang saw it. He attempted to clear it and ended up sending it right into the back of Manny’s skate, off of which it bounced into the net. Credit for the goal went to Trevor Letowski but Lang’ll be sure to get some ribbing from the guys for his “first” goal as a Wing, Coffey-esque as it was.

After that, the Jackets got a couple good chances and a power play on a weak high sticking call but the Wings didn’t give up any goals even though they were being outplayed. Then the Jackets got their second goal. At 8:28, Don MacLean took a shot of the wrong foot (Mickey Redmond was sure to point that out) and ripped a shot past Manny up high. Not the best goal for Manny to give up and it came off some decent pressure by the Wings in the Jackets zone.

Columbus then had a couple power plays but the Wings killed them off. After taking the puck on a shorthanded chance during the first Jackets power play, they let Rick Nash come the other way with the puck and break in all alone. Not the guy you want to see bearing down on you by himself if you’re a goalie, for sure. Manny stoned him though and stoned another Jackets player on the next power play from right out in front. Besides the MacLean goal, Manny had another stellar game in goal for the Wings.

Kris Draper had a great chance in the final minute of the period but was mauled by the Columbus defense just as he was about to score. He followed that up with another great chance but still couldn’t score. Standard Draper effort.

Shots in the second were 13-12 Jackets

Third Period
The Wings got a Too Many Men on the Ice penalty 1:38 into the period and had to kill off another penalty. They were successful with the help of some great stops by Manny, one of which was, again, on Rick Nash.

The Wings followed that up with a great shift by the Tomas Holmstrom/Pavel Datsyuk/Henrik Zetterberg line. Homer had a great chance off a pass from Pavel, who dominated the shift with his puck handling, but couldn’t score. Jiri Fischer got in on the play and took a shot which Homer was able to slam in on the rebound. As he raised his arms to celebrate, he was sent flying by the Jackets defenseman. It was a great overall effort by those four players who dominated for a good 45 seconds before finally getting rewarded. The goal made it a 2-2 tie.

Holmstrom was in the middle of things less than five minutes later when he made the play which caused Robert Lang’s real first goal as a Wing at 9:03. Homer took the puck in one-on-one and got off a shot while Lang followed up on the play and used his strength to gain a superior position on the Jackets player before pushing the puck under Denis. Good goal by Lang and I hope to see more of the same from him in the next couple months.

At around 15:00 of the period, Rostislav Klesla was hit by Kirk Maltby in what should have been a routine collision along the bench-side boards. Instead, Maltby ended up sending Klesla straight into the far side of the door which had just been opened by Robert Lang. It’s hard to be sure where exactly he hit the upper corner of the bench but I will say this: I hope Klesla already has kids! He was on the ice in some serious pain and I know at least every male watching had all the sympathy in the world for the guy. If he didn’t hit it “there,” he hit it at his stomach, which isn’t much better. Hopefully he’ll be okay. I know Maltby didn’t mean to do that, it was just a complete freak accident. The Columbus fans were pretty mad about it though.

Henrik Zetterberg made a great play at the blue line when he stepped around the Jackets player and went in alone. He couldn’t finish on the play though because another Columbus player made a great defensive play and tied up him just enough that he couldn’t get a real shot off. Brett Hull followed that chance up a little afterwards by missing a wide open net. Come on, Brett. That should have been a routine shoot-in.

The Blue Jackets finally pulled Denis in the last couple minutes and the Wings immediately had a chance to score. Yzerman took the puck to the blue line and was about to shoot when he was mugged by a Columbus player in an almost knee-on-knee hit. The Captain, needless to say wasn’t too happy about it. Especially because within 30 seconds, Nick Lidstrom was called for hooking Rick Nash, who really should take up a career in acting when he retires. Give him the NHL Oscar, Mr. Bettman. It was a truly great performance by the 6’4″, 204 lb Nash when he fell after the 6’2″ 190 lb Lidstrom gave him a miniscule tug. Give me a break, Rick. I hope that’s not going to be a continuing trend. The Wings ended up killing off the penalty anyway and winning the game but that could have been costly.

Shots were 10-8 Wings for a total of 32-30 Jackets

Notes
The Grind Line and Two Kids and an Old Goat Line were both re-united tonight … Every Wings forward was healthy tonight for the first time in a long, long time … Rick Nash has a league-leading 40 goals, one more than Ilya Kovalchuck, and is 19 … The Sharks would have needed a win tonight to still have a chance at 1st place had the Wings not won themselves … Pavel Datsyuk’s five-game goal streak ended but his point streak continued: 6 in 6 … Robert Lang was a perfect 11-for-11 on faceoffs through two and ended up 14-for-16 … He played only 12:27 and Draper was out there for 16:46 … The Wings have 107 points to Tampa Bay’s 104. Both teams have two games left and the Wings just need one more win to lock up the League title

Here’s the box score.

Lines-
(courtesy GWB)
Shanahan-Lang-Holmstrom
Maltby-Draper-McCarty
Thomas-Datsyuk-Hull
Whitney-Zetterberg-Yzerman
Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull
Whitney-Yzerman-Thomas
Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom
Shanahan-Lang-Hull

Lidstrom-Schneider
Hatcher-Chelios
Fischer-Rivers
Hatcher-Schneider

PP-
Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull
Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom
Maltby-Draper-McCarty

Lidstrom-Lang
Hatcher-Chelios

PK-
Maltby-Draper
Shanahan-Yzerman
Zetterberg-Maltby
McCarty-Datsyuk
Zetterberg-Whitney
Whitney-Yzerman
Datsyuk-Zetterberg

Lidstrom-Schneider
Hatcher-Chelios
Lidstrom-Chelios
Hatcher-Schenider

6 on 4PK-Denis pulled-
Maltby-Draper

Hatcher-Chelios

Net-
Manny Legace

GameDay: @ Columbus (24-43-8-4, 60) 7:00 EST

Tonight is the fifth of six meetings between the Wings and Blue Jackets this season. The season series is 3-1 in favor of Detroit. October 22, the Wings beat the Jackets 4-1 in the Joe. Manny Legace got the start, and Shanahan had three assists. November 19, the Wings beat the Jackets 5-1 in the Joe. Again, Legace got the start, and Brett Hull had two goals. The next night, the Wings lost to the Jackets 3-0 in Nationwide Arena. It had to be a tough game for Manny Legace, who started the second night of the home-and-home. Mark Denis notched the shutout. Most recently, the Wings beat the Jackets 4-2 in Nationwide Arena on March 11. Curtis Joseph got the start, and Jason Williams had two goals.

The Wings are coming off a 5-3 win over Minnesota in the Joe. Manny Legace got the start, and Ray Whitney had two assists. For a game that the Wings� coaching staff feared could be a downer after back-to-back games against the Avalanche over the weekend, the Wings really showed up strong and gave a solid effort. The Wings lead the NHL with 105 points to Tampa Bay�s 104. And the Western Conference crown is nearly locked up, with the Wings needing only one point in three games to secure home ice advantage through at least the Conference Finals. The Wings are 6-3-1-0 in their last ten decisions.

The Jackets are coming off a 6-0 butt kicking courtesy of the Buffalo Sabres, who are fighting desperately, but likely in vain, for a playoff spot. The Jackets, on the other hand, are the fourth worst team in the league, only better than Chicago, Washington, and Pittsburgh. The Jackets are 4-6-0-0 in their last ten decisions.

Manny Legace will get the start. Kris Draper and Robert Lang are expected to return tonight. Coach Lewis says that they will play no more than a dozen minutes each, and will sit out the second of back-to-back tomorrow versus the Blues.

Goaltending Analysis:

News on Cujo is that he is out for the remainder of the season. This sounded terrible to me at first, until I regained my composure and realized that this amounts to three games. The thing that bothers me is that the Wings were optimistic that Cujo would be able to start in one of those games, so hopefully nothing has changed as to the extent of the ankle injury. My hope is that Cujo will be able to play through the pain, but I have a bad feeling that it’s not going to happen. He hasn’t been able to play through the pain thusfar, and, unless the adrenaline of the playoffs turns his ankle numb, not much will change. I do not doubt Cujo’s competitive spirit, just that his physical ailment will weigh him down. He’s taking cortisone shots to ease the pain, and will skate without equipment during the next couple days.

This ankle has bothered Curtis all season, and it’s pretty much a sure thing that he’s going to have surgery on it this summer to repair the damaged cartilage. Last summer, just before training camp started in September, Cujo came out of the closet, per se, with news that he had an ankle issue. He then had surgery on Aug. 19 to remove bone chips from the ankle. During the regular reason, he has “tweaked” and twisted the ankle to the point that we are here, at game #80, with Cujo sidelined. His status is pretty much day-to-day, and I doubt that the Wings will try to set a definite return date.

As for the starting goaltender in game 1 of the first round, Lewis says that “on Saturday, I’ll know for sure.” He has also said that it would not make sense to start Cujo if he didn’t get into the action in these last games. Either way, Manny Legace has a sound approach to the situation:

“I’m thinking that I’m starting Game 1. I have to be prepared to go, so that is going to be my mind-set — that I’m going to play Game 1. If I don’t, I would accept it — I mean, they’ve seen what Cujo can do. They’ve never seen me do anything in the playoffs. But it would be a letdown.”

That’s definitely the right attitude for the situation. Play your hardest, and leave the politics of who plays to the managers of the team. Here’s a great article about everything Manny has gone through this season, as a Wing and on a personal level.

Wings 5, Wild 3

The Wings played another relatively solid game tonight in following up their win on Saturday over the Avs, beating Minnesota 5-3 at the Joe. They couldn’t seem to get a lead and sit on it though as the Wild would not just go away. That team obviously doesn’t know when it’s time to give up! Anyway, Manny Legace made another start (not that it wasn’t expected) and look sharp again.

First Period
The game didn’t start out all that exciting, with an icing 16 seconds in and some other whistles throughout the first couple minutes.

Darren McCarty put the Wings on the board at 4:26 when he took a pass from Maltby near the blue line and then got off a perfect shot from the top of the left circle that beat Manny Fernandez cleanly. Not a great goal for the Wild goalie to give up and I’m sure his coach wasn’t too happy with it. It was Mac’s first in nine games and his 6th of the year.

Things opened up a little more after that and the Wings had some good pressure on the next shift. The Wild got some good chances off sloppy defensive play by the Wings in their own zone but Manny came up big and Minnesota just couldn’t finish.

Shanahan got called for tripping at 8:47 and the Wild got in on the offense on the ensuing power play at 10:03. The goal came from Andrei Zyuzin and was a result of poor defensive coverage on the part of the Wings who let the defenseman skate right up to in front of Legace for the one-timer. Not too impressive.

The Wings got a power play a minute or two later but it was totally uneventful. They did have some fairly sustained pressure immediately following the man-advantage, though, which got them their second goal, this time from Jiri Fischer. He scored at 14:32 on a mirror of the Wild goal: he took the pass from Shanahan who was behind the net and one-timed it through Fernandez where it barely crossed the line. It’s nice to see Fischer jumping in on the offense more.

Soon after, Henrik Zetterberg stole the puck near the blue line and went in on goal with Whitney on the other side. Instead of shooting the puck, he passed it across to Whitney who was robbed by Fernandez. I wish Hank would have shot the puck there but he made a good play regardless. It was just a great save by the Wild goalie, that’s all.

The Wings had a couple good more chances in the last few minutes but didn’t score. Shots were 12-9 Wings.

Second Period
Brendan Shanahan made it 3-1 37 seconds into the second when he took the pass from Ray Whitney and one-timed it through the top of Fernandez’s glove from the near side boards. It was a standard Shanny goal, a laser beam to the open gap in the goalie’s defenses. The goal gave the Wings some good jump and their effort was rewarded less than two minutes later.

Boyd Devereaux scored his fifth of the season at 2:25 when he shot the rebound of a shot by Jason Williams over a prone Fernandez. Though I’m not his biggest fan, it was good to see Boyd rewarded for his hard work for once. He played a hard game and earned the building’s first star honors for his efforts.

The Wild got themselves back into the game at 5:57 when Alexandre Daigle scored from the point off a clean faceoff win, a shot which beat Manny five-hole. Legace wasn’t too happy about the goal but Williams really should have won the draw or at least not let it be won so cleanly. It was kind of a bad goal for Manny to give up, though.

After that, the two teams played a long stretch of continuous, up and down hockey where there were no whistles. Jiri Fischer and Pierre-Marc Bouchard in a race for the puck, who in turn got up and almost sent Jiri head first into the boards. Bouchard got a penalty and in the ensuing scrum, Jason Wiemer and Jamie Rivers went to the box as well. The Wings got nothing more than a hit post off a shot by Datsyuk on the following power play.

They had one more power play in the period but got nothing real going in that one either. Except, that is, when Yzerman sent the puck trickling just wide of an open net after a shot from the point. The PP unit of Hull/Zetterberg/Datsyuk had a few good chances as well but there was no scoring.

In the final minute, Ray Whitney had everyone out of their seats with his hustle-play, one-man puck-control clinic inside the Wild zone that got the puck to Yzerman, who couldn’t get it past Fernandez. Seconds later, Whitney had us all out of our seats for a different reason when he went flying into Manny Legace, who went down with his knee bent at a bad angle. Honestly, my heart stopped when I saw Manny’s leg underneath him because I was sure he had hurt it. Luckily though, he got up and skated around, seemingly fine. He finished the game and if he did in fact get hurt on the play, we’ll hear all about it tomorrow. Whitney, by the way, is the same guy who created another big scare involving Manny when a shot by him in pre-game on Saturday hit Manny in the arm and temporarily paralyzed it. Stay the heck away from #34, Ray!

Shots were 12-7 Wings.

Third Period
The third period started with a couple long bomb passes to Pavel Datsyuk who either was too far up ice for it to be legal or just couldn’t handle the puck. It sure would have been exciting…. He made up for it later, though.

The Wings were outshooting the Wild 9-0 at the halfway mark of the period but Minnesota scored on their second shot at 11:28 off the stick of Alexandre Daigle. He got the initial shot and then sent his own rebound almost along the goalline and inside the far post to make it 4-3. Like I said, those pesky Wild do not know when to give up.

A little more than two minutes later, Brett Hull sent the puck out from behind the net to Pavel Datsyuk, who danced around 3+ defenders with the puck on a string and sent a backhander through Fernandez for his 30th goal of the season. The goal, scored at 13:35, was Pavel’s fifth in five games and one of the more amazing goals of the year, in my opinion.

Darren McCarty had a great chance at about 15:00 off a pass from Henrik Zetterberg but was stoned again by Fernandez, who stopped Kirk Maltby on the rebound as well. Mac could have had a couple more goals tonight but just couldn’t finish.

The Wild came on some towards the end but the Wings were able to hold them off, with some help from Manny Legace. Third period shots were 14-8 Wings for a total of 38-24 Wings.

End Game
The Wild went into tonight’s game one game under .500 meaning they are now two games under .500 (I know, amazing how that works, isn’t it?) … Hatcher’s weak shot is really getting on my nerves. I don’t know if it’s a result of his shoulder injury but he needs to start getting some mustard on those things. Come on Derian … Round 1 and 2 playoff tickets go on sale at 10:00 EST on Wednesday. If you’re able to buy those things (unlike me), you probably already know the number … Pavel has really impressed me with his backchecking skills this year. He is very good at stealing the puck and that makes it exciting to watch him on defense now too (sometimes, anyway) … The Wings just need one point to lock up the Conference title … They lead the Sharks 105-100 in points and Tampa Bay by 2 … Tampa Bay is playing Ottawa tonight at home … The Wings’ home record improved to 30-6-4-0 and they have only one home game left … They will face NHL leading goal scorer Rick Nash (40) and the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Wednesday night before heading to St. Louis to face the Blues on Thursday … The Wings are now 27-5-6-1 when Pavel Datsyuk scores a point …

Quote of the Game

“The only homer we know is Holmstrom.”

— Red Wings announcer Ken Daniels to color commentator Mickey Redmond in their conversation about biased game-calling. Thomas Holmstrom’s nickname is “Homer.”

Here is the box score, the faceoff breakdown and the shift chart.

Lines-
(courtesy GWB)
Thomas-Datsyuk-Hull
Maltby-Zetterberg-McCarty
Devereaux-Williams-Holmstrom
Shanahan-Yzerman-Whitney

Lidstrom-Schneider
Fischer-Rivers
Hatcher-Chelios

4 on 4-
Datsyuk-Hull
Zetterberg-Maltby
Shanahan-Whitney

Lidstrom-Schneider
Hatcher-Fischer

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

Lidstrom-Schneider
Whitney-Lidstrom
Whitney-Chelios
Whitney-Schneider

PK-
Zetterberg-Maltby
Whitney-Yzerman
Maltby-McCarty
Shanahan-Yzerman

Hatcher-Chelios
Lidstrom-Schneider
Hatcher-Schenider
Lidstrom-Chelios

Net-
Manny Legace

GameDay: vs. Minnesota (27-28-20-3, 77) 7:00 EST

Tonight is the fourth and final matchup between the Wings and Wild this season. The season series is 1-0-2 in favor of Detroit. November 15, the teams skated to a 1-1 tie in the Xcel Energy Center. Dominik Hasek got the start, and reaggravated his groin. He didn’t play again until December 4, when the Blues and Wings tied 4-4. Steve Yzerman tied the game up at 12:18 of the third. November 22, the Wings beat the Wild 5-2 on the road. Cujo got the start, Hull had a goal and two assists, and Pavel Datsyuk scored at 19:58. And the day after Christmas, December 26, the teams skated to a 2-2 tie in the Joe. Cujo got the start, and Kris Draper tied it up at 7:23 of the third.

The Wings are coming off a 2-0 shutout of the Avs in the Joe. It was the Wings’ most convincing win over the Avs this season (of 3). Legace played stellar and the Wings held Forsberg and Sakic shotless. Manny’s 60 saves on 61 shots in the home-home series versus the Avs catapulted him into the playoff picture for the Wings. The Wings and Lightning are tied at 103 points for the league lead, but the Wings have a game in hand. In the situation of a tiebreaker, the teams tied 1-1 in their only meeting March 8. The Wings have clinched their lead over the Avs with the eight-point swing just attained, but need to hold off the pesky San Jose Sharks, who are back three points at 100. The Wings are 6-3-1-0 in their last ten decisions, after a tough road trip where they went 2-2-1.

The Wild are coming off a 2-1 win over the Mighty Ducks. Marian Gaborik scored the winning goal at 12:18 of the third, and Dwayne Roloson got the start. It was a low-shooting affair, as the Wild outshot the Duckies 22-19. The Wild are eliminated from the playoff picture, as they have 77 points to eighth-seed Nashville’s 85 with only five games remaining. The Wild are 5-2-2-1 in their last ten decisions.

Manny Legace will get the start.

Injury Notes:

Kris Draper has been cleared by doctors to resume practicing and playing. Drapes suffered a partially torn left rotator cuff on March 3 during the pregame drills for the Calgary game that morning. Kris got caught up in Cujo’s equipment when he was skating by, and he fell awkwardly on his shoulder. Drapes has been begging Coach Dave Lewis to get back in the action, but is doubtful for tonight:

“I’m still lobbying for Monday, but I don’t think I’m going to get my way. They want me to play two of the last four (regular-season games), and I’m trying to get three of the last four. I’ll probably ease into it. I’m sure the trainers and doctors have talked to Lewie about what they want to do, and I’m just going to try to get the most out of it.”

Mark Mowers took a shot off his foot Saturday against Colorado, and is probable for tonight.

Niklas Kronwall, who broke his leg in warm-ups January 22 at Los Angeles, is going to start skating soon.

League Notes:

New Jersey goaltender phenom Martin Brodeur is the youngest (31) of eight goalies to reach 400 wins. And he did it in the fewest games (735).

The San Jose Sharks reached 100 points for the first time in franchise history.

Owen Nolan is out three weeks after awkwardly checking Senators center Bryan Smolinski Saturday night. I was watching the game, and it looked like a harmless check.

3/28 Notes

Manny in net?
Bob Wojnowski states the obvious in his column today when he says “Legace emerges in goal, but playoffs bring the ultimate test.” This is true because, as popular as Manny is now, the vast majority of Wings fans out there will turn on him the second he screws up, if he does at all.

I personally am fully confident in Manny during the regular season but I’m still a little doubtful about his ability in the playoffs. The fact that he has almost no playing time in the post season whatsoever scares me. I’d rather not put the entire weight of a Cup Run in Detroit on his inexperienced shoulders but it’s what the Wings may have to do. I hope Manny can allay my fears and come through when it counts, at least until Curtis Joseph is able to return, if he even gets a chance to play. Statements by the higher-ups in the organization would seem to deny the fact that he may start but that’s how the Wings usually are, very secretive.

Injury Updates
Friday’s tests revealed that Curtis Joseph has a slight tear in the cartilage of his right ankle, the same one he sprained on February 11th against the Sharks. Before yesterday’s game versus the Avs, GM Ken Holland said “He’s got a very small cartilage tear that has pulled away from the bone a little bit and it’s causing him discomfort.” He was given a cortisone shot Saturday and will not be able to play Monday night. It’s unknown when he’ll be available after that. More from Holland, who still believes Joseph will play in one or more of the four games remaining on the Wings’ schedule:

“We’re hoping in the next few days that injection will alleviate the inflammation. Sometimes, cortisone shots work and sometimes they don’t. If the shot doesn’t work, he’s going to continue to have inflammation and he’s going to have to deal with the pain.

It’s nothing structural. It’s something that he can play with. … But, obviously, for a goaltender it’s in a difficult spot because it’s in his ankle.”

The Wings are still not ready to openly give Manny Legace the starting job. Head coach Dave Lewis said “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

… Kris Draper had an MRI on his shoulder Friday and is now cleared to play sometime this week. He is planning on returning on Wednesday for the game in Columbus and to play in two of the last three games of the season.

… Mathieu Dandenault is expected to start skating again today and could play Thursday in St. Louis.

… Robert Lang is still skating with the team and will hopefully be back before the regular season is over. One of the guys of Gary Thorne and Co. said yesterday during the game that Lang would be playing were it the playoffs. If that’s truly the case, it’s all well and good but I say he should be playing now so he can further familiarize himself with the team at a game pace. Having him sit out for a full recovery may hurt the Wings more than bringing him back early so he can get some real playing time with his new teammates.

… Jason Woolley has a cracked vertebra in his lower back, apparently, and is not anywhere near returning. “It’s frustrating as [heck],” he said and added that all he can do is rest it. Woolley’s been out so long I’ve practically forgotten he’s still on the team. He had a great season up to his injury and it’s a real shame that he likely won’t be back this year. Unless, that is, the Wings go all the way.

On Hatcher
Derian Hatcher looked a lot better yesterday compared to the two previous games since returning from a shoulder injury. He was more physical and far less sloppy as well as noticeably more confident with the puck. He was dead even in the plus/minus category but at least he wasn’t minus-something. He played 20:46 (compared to Jiri Fischer’s 14:53).

Picture of the Day

“Jiri Fischer and a fan give Colorado’s Adam Foote the evil eye during a scrum.” (DetNews)

Looks more to me like that fan is trying to cast a spell on Steve Konowalchuk while Fischer looks like he’s Dr. Evil thinking about his plans for world domination or something.

Got a better caption? Leave a comment or e-mail it to me.

Wings 2, Avs 0

The Wings won a tight defensive battle today down at the Joe, shutting out the Avs 2-0. It was a much better effort then they gave Thursday night and they won as a team rather then because of Manny Legace’s stellar play.

The game was much less offense-oriented with both teams doing a good job of shutting down offensive chances by controlling their respective blue lines. The Wings were just able to capitalize on two of their chances and to keep the Avs from capitalizing on theirs.

The Wings have basically won their race with the Avs and now have to focus on keeping a head of San Jose for 1st place in the Conference primarily before trying to keep stay in front of Tampa Bay in the neck-and-neck race for 1st place overall.

First period
The Wings came out strong, looking sharp on defense and coming just short on offense. There was a good pace to the game initially and there weren’t a whole lot of stoppages. Both teams showed up to play.

Jiri Fischer was goaded into a dumb penalty by Matthew Barnaby when Barnaby knocked him around and made it seem like he wanted to fight at 5:14. As soon as Fischer dropped his gloves, Barnaby skated away, leaving Fischer looking like a fool. He got two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct and the Wings fortunately killed the penalty off without much trouble.

Almost immediately after the power play, Steve Thomas had a huge chance down low on Tommy Salo but couldn’t get the puck up high enough. Thomas has been a disappointment since returning from his knee surgery and rip injury and has just one goal in 20+ games. I miss the jump he had back in November and early December.

The Wings started getting outplayed by the Avs after that power play but continued taking shots from all over the place, forcing Tommy Salo to keep coming up big. They played a physical first period and I saw a number of Avs players going flying when they came in contact with a player in red. That seemed to be the trend for the whole game and I wasn’t too impressed with the Avs’ quickness to fall in an effort to draw a penalty.

The Wings got a power play of their own at 17:14 but aside from big chances by Brett Hull and Henrik Zetterberg, they really got nothing going. This was likely due to the fact that Brendan Shanahan got the shaft from the refs when they handed him a holding penalty for his proximity to Adam Foote, who happened to be holding on to Shanny’s jersey himself. Luckily the Wings were able to kill off the ensuing power play, though.

Shots were 12-11 Wings.

Second Period
The Wings came out strong again in the second period and played tight defense, as did the Avs, for much of the second 20 minutes. The Wings had good pressure on the forecheck, though, and made it even more difficult for Colorado to get anything going than their strong presence at the blue line did already. However, play was pretty sloppy offensively anyway and made it relatively easy for both teams to keep the chances down.

The refs were quiet until 8:16 (just as I was writing in my notes about how they were letting a lot go) when they slapped two penalties on Derian Hatcher, one for roughing and another for high-sticking. Both were committed on Steve Konowalchuk. The Avs had four minutes to decide the game and unfortunately for them, the Wings played a nearly textbook penalty kill and they were unable to score, even with big, strong Rob Blake in front of the net. It was a defining four minutes of the game and the Avs’ best chance to put it away. The best part about that penalty kill was that it wasn’t all Manny Legace. The Wings as a penalty-killing unit kept the Avs off the board and that’s a huge improvement over last game.

The Wings had a power play chance of their own starting at 19:37. They won the initial faceoff in the offensive zone and forced Salo to freeze the puck again. Pavel Datsyuk won the next faceoff to Mathieu Schneider who passed it back to Nicklas Lidstrom, who got it to Hull who in turn one-timed it to Nick who got it to Schneider for the shot everyone was waiting for. It was a rocket that blasted past Salo to make it 1-0 with 10 seconds left in the period. A great goal by Schneider in just his second game back from a groin injury.

Shots were 11-0 Avs.

Third Period
Right at the start of the third (1:34), Manny Legace made a save with the side of his head off a Chris Gratton shot. He looked a little dazed but was fortunately okay overall, though he had to get some work done on his helmet. Scary moment for Wings fans.

A couple minutes later, Henrik Zetterberg had a great chance on goal but ran out of real estate after holding onto the puck too long. Almost immediately after, Pavel Datsyuk scored his 52nd career goal and 29th of the year after dishing the puck to Hull who one-timed it towards the net. The puck was deflected and Pavel picked it up and sent it over a prone Tommy Salo. He is on a five-game scoring streak with four goals and one assist in that span. The Wings are now 26-5-6-1 when he scores a point. Hopefully that will continue into the playoffs.

Manny Legace came up big in the third when the game was on the line and earned a “Manny! Manny! Manny!” chant from the lucky fans at the Joe. He’s allowed nine goals in the final five minutes of games all season but didn’t allow one here as he stopped everything that came at him. The Wings did not allow a single shot from Joe Sakic or Peter Forsberg today, a remarkable achievement. They did allow five to Milan Hejduk, though, which is something they won’t get away with very often if it happens in the playoffs.

The Wings really shut down the Avs in the third, giving up only four shots. They only had six themselves but they were focusing on defense anyway.

I was a little disappointed in Zetterberg for his decision to ice the puck twice in the final minute of the game with an empty net calling for him. The first one was accidental probably but he still could have scored that insurance goal. Good thing it didn’t matter.

Final shots were 27-26 Wings.

Notes
The Wings are 29-6-4-0 at home this season and, before today’s game, averaged 3.53 goals at home. Both are league-leading stats … The Avs have won just two games in their last 13 at home … They have never beaten the Wings twice in a row at the Joe … Teemu Selanne has one goal in his last 12 games against the Wings … This is the Wings’ 5th consecutive 100-point season, going back to ’99 … Rob Blake played in his 900th game today … The Avs are just three points ahead of the Canucks, who have one game in hand … The Wings are now five points ahead of San Jose with 103 for the Conference lead … The Wings have just four games (four games!) left in the regular season … They will play Minnesota next, on Monday at 7:00 EST in the Joe.

Quote of the day
I heard this one from Gary Thorne and Co.:

“He hit me with a bomb.”

- Avs forward Matthew Barnaby concerning his fight with Darren McCarty during Thursday night’s game where he received a nasty cut near his eye.

Barnaby, by the way, looks like he’s always about to cry. Poor guy got his face mashed into the boards by Chelios (I think it was) later in the game. That must have felt good.

Here’s the box score, faceoff comparison and shift chart.

Lines
(courtesy GWB)
Maltby-Zetterberg-McCarty
Shanahan-Mowers-Holmstrom
Whitney-Yzerman-Williams
Thomas-Datsyuk-Hull
Shanahan-Yzerman-Whitney
Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull
Maltby-Mowers-McCarty
Thomas-Mowers-Holmstrom
Maltby-Yzerman-McCarty

Lidstrom-Schneider
Fischer-Rivers
Hatcher-Chelios
Hatcher-Schneider
Fischer-Chelios
Lidstrom-Chelios
Hatcher-Rivers

4 on 4
Datsyuk-Yzerman
Maltby-Zetterberg
Datsyuk-Hull

Lidstrom-Schneider

PP
Zetterberg-Datysuk-Hull
Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom

Whitney-Lidstrom
Schneider-Rivers
Lidstrom-Schneider

PK
Zetterberg-Maltby
Whitney-Shanahan
Whitney-Yzerman
Shanahan-Yzerman
Whitney-McCarty

Lidstrom-Chelios
Hatcher-Schneider
Lidstrom-Schneider
Fischer-Schneider

Net
Manny Legace

GameDay: vs. Colorado (38-21-13-5, 94) 1:30 EST

Overview
Tonight is the fourth and final game between these two Western Conference superpowers. The Wings lead the season series 2-1 with a 3-2 OT win on February 5 and a 3-1 win Thursday night. Their only loss to the Avs this season came on February 14, a 5-2 decision down at the Joe.

The Wings will be playing their first game at home after a 2-2-1 West Coast trip. They are 9-3-2 in their last 14 games and are coming off that 3-1 win over the Avs, a game in which they were dominated territorially for the vast majority of the time. The Wings got an early goal from Tomas Holmstrom and held on until the third period when they scored two more, one from Pavel Datsyuk and an empty netter from Henrik Zetterberg. Manny Legace lost his bid for a shutout when Steve Konowalchuck scored at 19:28 but he was clearly the star of the game, making many amazing saves and keeping the Wings in it when it should have been a blowout.

The Avs are winless in five (0-4-1) since a four-game winning streak. They have scored only seven goals in that time and haven’t played since losing to the Wings on Thursday night. They pretty much lost any chance of catching the Wings for first place when they lost that game (they are seven points back now, 101 to 94) and must focus on winning their division. Their only real competition is a sliding Vancouver Canucks team (3-5-3-1 in their last 12).

The Wings will need to play a much stronger game if they want to pull out a win today. Their defense improved in the first game of this home-home series but their offense was generally weak. That cannot be the case today. The Avs will play hard again and the Wings can’t rely on Manny Legace to bail them out once more. They can play at an even level with the Avs, at the very least, and should be able to play better than them. It should be an exciting game from a purely hockey fan point of view, even if the Wings don’t do their part. Hopefully they were able to get enough rest yesterday to get up for this game because it’s still an important one.

Though the game is listed to start at 1:30 EST, the puck will actually be dropped at 1:55 EST because of ABC.

Injury Update
Mathieu Dandenault, Kris Draper, Curtis Joseph and Robert Lang all had tests yesterday on their respective injuries. Ken Holland said the results would be in today.