Archive for October, 2005

10/31 Notes

Osgood: Wings “better defensively”

With the Wings’ fast start, the best in franchise history and second best in NHL history, some people are starting to look at them in the light of the record-setting ’95-’96 Wings team. That team went 62-13-7, breaking the single season wins record, and ended up with 131 points.

Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News talked to goalie Chris Osgood about it. Osgood was on the 62-win team and while he won’t equate the two teams, he has been impressed with what he’s seen so far.

He said one thing that surprised me, given the Wings’ reputation around the league for the last few years: “We’re a lot better defensively than in years past.” Better? I guess that’s true but it’s not like the team hasn’t been very good on defense recently.

I guess it ties in to Helene St. James’ Wings Corner piece today in the Freep. She points out that the Wings are 7-0 when ahead going into the third period. The Wings have been able to, as a team, defend late leads that other teams have given up around the league. I think that’s where Ozzie’s “better defense” comes in because that hasn’t always been the case for the Wings in the past.

They only led for about a period and a half in their loss to Vancouver before the Canucks tied it up and took then took the lead permanently in the second. Other than that, they’ve pulled off the win, either by coming back from behind or by leading the whole game.

Yzerman and the Olympics

Team Canada is letting Steve Yzerman decided whether or not he will play for them in the 2006 Olympics. They want the Wings’ captain’s experience but understand that his age (41) and injury considerations (groin) may cause him to pass on the opportunity.

I’d personally like The Captain to save himself for the NHL playoffs, where he’ll be needed by the Wings. Still, he answered the call of his country in 2002 and it didn’t adversely affect his play (quite the contrary, he was amazing in those playoffs, playing on a bum knee). He’s going to have to balance his country with his pro team based on his potential contribution to both. He’ll make the right decision.

(Ottawa Sun)

Former-backup not used to sitting

Manny Legace has been a backup all of his career until this season. Even so, when he was given a break by Mike Babcock for Saturday’s game, he didn’t know what to do with himself.

Pretty unusual, for a guy who’s been forced to sit behind Curtis Joseph, Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood at different points in his career, to have that kind of attitude. He’s earned it, though, by playing great in every game except Saturday’s and winning all but one. He’s finally getting the recognition he’s deserved, both from the Wings and from the rest of the league. He’s no backup.

He’s slated to start again tomorrow, though, so his rest will soon be over.

(Toronto Sun)

Quotable

“Sammy has a way he shoots it in the net, I don’t why, but he does.”

— Wings head coach Mike Babcock on Mikael Samuelsson’s fast start. The Swede has 7 goals so far this season, which ties him for the team lead with another Swede, Henrik Zetterberg. He has been a great acquisition for the Wings and continues to pay off just about every game.

Wings 4, Blackhawks 2

Wings stay perfect on the road by beating Hawks in Chicago

The Wings took care of business once again, winning their eighth straight game and improving to 11-1-0 with a 4-2 win over the Blackhawks. It was a better game for Detroit, who weren’t as sloppy as I’ve been told they were on Thursday. They outplayed the Hawks up and down the ice for much of the game and didn’t look too bad when the Hawks stepped it up themselves for stretches of time throughout the game. The Chicago skaters left their goalie out to dry a number of times and three such instances led directly to preventable Wings goals.

Nikolai Khabibulin played a very good game and was the only thing that kept the Hawks in it for long stretches of the game. He certainly looked like the “Bulin Wall” we know so well and the Hawks may now get the goaltending they were hoping for when they signed him.

Chris Osgood made his first start for the Wings in four years and looked very sharp for the most part.

First Period

Mike Babcock started Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Steve Yzerman, the recently-named “Visor Line,” with Nick Lidstrom and Andreas Lilja.

Osgood was tested early when he was forced to stop a 34-foot slap shot from Kyle Calder, who played despite what the papers said about an elbow injury, at :44.

A half-minute later, Pavel Datsyuk with Tomas Holmstrom and Henrik Zetterberg generated a good scoring chance. After taking the pass from Pavel, Hank centered the puck through the crease to Holmstrom on the doorstep, who was unable to get a good handle on it. Khabibulin got over in time to make the save and the score remained 0-0.

At 2:31, Dan Cleary made a nice personal effort along the boards before walking in on Khabibulin, who made a smart poke-check save to deny Cleary the goal.

Just a minute later, the Chicago defense left Kirk Maltby all alone out front. Yzerman centered the puck from the far corner and Maltby had all day, with Khabibulin completely helpless. He ripped a shot past Khabibulin from 28 feet out and made it 1-0 Wings.

Osgood had to make a couple good saves in the next few minutes, most notably one on Curtis Brown at 4:45 from 18 feet out. Brown had just about beaten the Wings defense coming through the middle and had a glorious scoring chance but Ozzie denied him. Brett Lebda got Brown slightly off balance with a little hook just as he was making the shot so that may have had something to do with it.

At this point, the Wings were generating pressure off what my notes calls “Chicago ineptitude.” Jiri Fischer had a big hit on Tyler Arnasson at about 6:30 that had Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond excited but I happened to be looking down when it happened and I never saw a replay so I can’t vouch for it. Hopefully I’ll see the next big Fischer hit, though (i.e. he ought to have a lot more coming).

At 8:19, Todd Simpson was called for tripping and the Wings went on the power play for the first time. They didn’t get any pressure to begin with and ended up giving up a good short handed chance to the Hawks, who almost split the defense. Their second unit, Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom-Schneider-Lidstrom, was a bit better and created some good sustained pressure before being replaced by the third unit, which included Robert Lang and Brendan Shanahan. They got off a shot or two but did not score.

A couple minutes after the Wings’ power play expired, they went on the penalty kill themselves when Mathieu Schneider went to the box for tripping. The Wings did a good job of blocking Chicago shots and not much happened except for a short flurry at the end. Soon after that penalty was killed off, Lilja went to the box and the Wings had to kill off another. The Hawks got a penalty of their own with 15 seconds left in their power play and the teams went to 4-on-4 hockey. The power play that followed for the Wings was slow to get started but when the finally got set up, Pavel’s line generated some good pressure that lasted past the expiration of the penalty.

With just over 3 seconds left in the period, the Wings touched up an icing and got one more faceoff in the Chicago zone. Yzerman won the faceoff very cleanly and the puck ended up on Maltby’s stick. He got a shot off before the horn sounded but was unable to beat Khabibulin a second time.

Shots for the period were 15-6 Wings.

Second Period

Osgood was tested early in this period as well but he didn’t come through as well as he did earlier. He made the intitial save on the play but put himself far out of position in the process and when the puck trickled out from underneath him out front,Tyler Arnason had the net all to himself and he put it away to tie the game at :43. Lilja could only stand there feeling useless.

Immediately following the Chicago goal, Datsyuk had a glorious chance of his own on Khabibulin but he sent the puck over the net and did not score. Robert Lang had a good chance of his own at 1:51, stealing the puck and coming across the net for a solid backhand shot but, again, the save was made.

At 3:24, the Hawks took the lead off a goal from Calder. He took a centering pass from the corner and was about as alone as Maltby was on his goal. Lilja was responsible for that again. Given the situation and speed at which the play developed, Osgood had no chance at that range and Calder put it past him easily. The Hawks’ two goals came on their first two shots of the period.

Thirty seconds later, Henrik Zetterberg split the Chicago defense and got a good chance on Khabibulin but couldn’t finish. Then the rest of his linemates joined him and Pavel drew a penalty. The ensuing power play was pretty uneventful except that Hank ended drawing a penalty himself before the first had expired. The Hawks did not touch soon enough to face their 18th 5-on-3 situation so far this season but the Wings did get another full power play starting at 6:10. With about 11 seconds remaining on the penalty, Mikael Samuelsson scored to tie the game up at two. He stole the puck behind the net and got a shot off but didn’t score. Shanahan sent the rebound straight back to him out front and he ripped a one-timer past Khabibulin, who was left out to dry again on the play.

Play following the goal through mid-period was mostly between the tops of the circles of the two offensive zones.

At 10:36, Osgood was forced to make a good save when a point shot was deflected on net. Again, I happened to be looking down at the time but I heard Ken Daniel’s excitement and waited for the inevitable replay. It was indeed a good save.

At 13:44, Rene Bourque was called for charging on Jason Williams and the Wings went on the power play again. Hank had a good chance all alone on net but Khabibulin got over just in time to make a good save and the rebound was cleared. The Wings’ second unit generated some good pressure but was unable to score.

The rest of the period was broken up by a Chicago power play that was cut short by a slashing call that made it 4-on-4 for the last 17 or so seconds of the 2nd.

Shots were 13-6 Wings.

Third Period

Both teams started with four players and the Wings were able to get some pressure going before their 43-second power play began. The Hawks killed that off, however.

At 3:40, Jaroslav Spacek was called for holding and the Wings went back on the power play. This time, they did score, after generating some good pressure. Shanahan had the puck around the net and got a shot or two off but the Hawks got on the rebounds. Their attempt to clear it was unsuccessful, however, and they ended up giving the puck right to Lang, who promptly scored to make it 3-2 Wings.

After this, the Hawks stepped up their play and took over for a while, generating pressure in the Wings’ zone but they were unable to get the puck past Osgood. Zetterberg had a breakaway at 10:44 but sent the puck over the net.

At around 12:00, the Wings began to take control again. They went on the power play again at 12:32 and generated a lot of pressure but Khabibulin’s play kept the puck out of the net. They got a penalty themselves but they killed it off.

The Hawks played hard near the end and tried desperately to tie things up. They did beat Osgood at about 16:30 but the puck hit the post and bounced pretty far out. Ken Daniels and some of the players thought it was a goal but play continued.

Chicago eventually pulled Khabibulin in an effort to tie the game but Henrik Zetterberg put it away at 19:32 with an empty net goal. Wings win 4-2.

Shots for the period were 13-9 Hawks and 37-25 Wings for the game.

Notes

… Brett Lebda was called up yesterday and played his first pro game at the United Center. He is an Illinois native and was replacing Jason Woolley, who has a slight tear in his groin, and Jamie Rivers, who was a healthy scratch. He played with Chris Chelios, another Illinois native son. His parents were unable to attend the game, however, since they had just left for Hawaii a day or two before he got the call. …. Dan Cleary was drafted 13th overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago and worked very hard to score a goal against his first NHL team. … It was pointed out during the broadcast that the United Center opened at the start of the 94-95 season and that none of the ’95 Blackhawks are still on the team. That roster included players such as Jeremy Roenick, Tony Amonte, Chris Chelios, Ed Belfour and Gary Suter. There are still four players from the ’95 roster on the Wings: Draper, Lidstrom, Yzerman and Osgood (Maltby and Holmstrom did not join the team until the 95-96 and 96-97 seasons respecively(updated)) … Nikolai Khabibulin wears 53 instead of his usual 35 because 35 is retired in Chicago, in honor of goaltending great Tony Esposito. … Steve Yzerman looked good in his third game. He logged 12 minutes of ice time and got another point, an assist on the Maltby goal. … One of the doors to the Wings’ bench was in their offensive zone in the second period and, in using it, they drew whistles twice when a play was developing. Even with a player going off, the linesmen are going to call off-sides, the Wings should know that. They may want to be a little more careful. … With their two power play goals, the Wings now have the most PPGs in the NHL (22). They have scored 51 goals overall and only allowed 23. … The Zetterberg/Datsyuk/Holmstrom line was very good, once again. …. The Wings are 5-0-0 on the road so far this season. …. The Wings’ 11-1-0 start is the second-best 12-game start in NHL history. Only the 94-95 Pens were better (11-0-1, when the “1” meant a tie, not an overtime loss). …

Not a bad game for the Wings. The Hawks are not a very high-quality opponent but the Wings showed some good discipline by playing well for most of the game. They just have to finish up this little mini-series on Tuesday.

GameDay: @ Chicago (3-7-0, 6 Pts) 8:30 ET

Detroit/Chicago mini-series: Game 2

Tonight is the second of eight games the Wings will play against the Hawks this season and the second of a home-away-home series that will end Tuesday. Detroit won the first game of the mini-series, 5-2 Thursday at the Joe.

The Wings have won 7 straight games and have had the best start of the franchise’s history (10-1-0). They have outscored their opponents 17-4 in their last three games, two of which were in Columbus and the latest of which was against the Hawks. They are at the top of the league standings with 20 points, three points and two wins ahead of the next best team, Vancouver. They remain the highest scoring team in the league, with 47 goals, and have only given up 21. Only Ottawa has allowed fewer goals this season (17). The Wings are unbeaten in five road games this season, their only loss having come at home against Vancouver on the 10th.

The Blackhawks have not had a good season so far. They have not been able to string wins together so far but have strung at least two losses together three times now, with the loss Thursday night. They are 2-3-0 at home this season but won’t be spending a lot of time in their arena over the next 20 games (they have just six home games in that span). The Hawks need “star goalie” Nikolai Khabibulin to step up his play. His stats are less-than-impressive and he appears to be contributing little to his team’s efforts to win.

Goalie Chris Osgood will get the start tonight and Manny Legace will get his first break of the season, according to the Freep. Khabibulin should get the start for the Hawks.

The Hawks will again be without center Tuomo Ruutu (back), and left wings Kyle Calder (elbow) and Eric Daze (back).

I was unable to see any of the game on Thursday but I’m told it was one of the Wings’ worst this season. If they play as sloppily tonight as they apparently did last game, they may be in trouble, even if they are just playing Chicago. The Hawks will want a win in their own arena and the Wings will have to be on their toes if they want to pull off a victory themselves. With Ozzie starting, they will need to give him the same support they have given Manny. I’m looking forward to seeing how Osgood looks. It’s been a long time.

Wings 5, Blackhawks 2

Detroit goes to 10-1-0

In the first game of three straight, the Detroit Red Wings defeat the Chicago Blackhawks at home, 5-2, to earn their tenth win of the season.

First Period
10:02 minutes into the first period, Chicago Blackhawks rookie Matt Ellison beats Manny Legace off of a rebound by banking it off the far left goalpost. Ellison now has five points in ten games played this season (two goals and three assists). With 7:40ish left in the first period, while the Wings were on a powerplay, Lidstrom took his typical near-the-blueline shot causing a massive rush to get the multiple rebounds. Unfortunately, we couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities, but it was a gripping, on the edge of your seats, type of moment. With 28 seconds left in that same powerplay, Mathieu Schneider sent a rocket from close to the blueline to the back of the Blackhawks net. Robert Lang and Mikael Samuelsson both earned an assist for that goal. Captain Steve Yzerman played around three minutes in his first game back from his groin injury. The Wings were outshot, 12-6, by the Blackhawks in the first period. [ Score: 1-1 ]

Second Period
With 12:33 left in the second period, Martin Lapointe brought the puck behind the net, passed it to Jaroslav Spacek at the top of the circle (to the right of Legace), who proceeded to beat Legace to get his second goal of the season. Two minutes and one second later, Pavel Datsyuk brought the puck down the ice, passed it to Henrik Zetterberg, who quickly beat Nikolai Khabibulin to notch the Wings second goal of the game. There were five penalties in this period, three of them against Detroit (Holmstrom/high stick, Rivers/holding, and Williams/hooking). The Wings evenly matched the Blackhawks in shots during the second period with nine shots apiece. [ Score: 2-2 ]

Third Period
11:58 into the last period, Schneider sent another rocket past Khabibulin from pretty much the same spot as his last goal to put Detroit in the lead. Datsyuk and Samuelsson got the assists.

With 5:03 left in the game, Yzerman played the puck down the boards. Khabibulin went to the side of the net to get it and before he could even touch it, the puck just popped up in front of the net where Kris Draper was skating to. Let’s just say it was a pretty easy goal to make, the net being wide open and all. It’s nice to see the “visor line” being effective. Plus, my two favorite hockey players (of all time) are Yzerman and Draper so I thoroughly enjoyed that goal.

With 1:20 left in the game, Lang brings the puck down center ice and pushes the puck to his right where Brendan Shanahan takes a quick shot to score his seventh of the season. Williams also got in on the action with an assist to earn him his career high in points, and it only took eleven games into the season!

The Wings clearly outshot the Blackhawks, 13-2, in the final period of play. [ Score: 5-2 ]

Notes
Manny Legace made 21 saves to become the first goaltender to win 10 games in October. FSN Detroit had the microphone on Kris Draper for the whole game and they showed clips with sound bites throughout the game. He sounded encouraging and motivating (only constructive criticism). The Wings were 2/5 on the powerplay tonight while Chicago could not capitalize on any of their five powerplay opportunities. With seven straight wins, Detroit continues their franchise best season start.

In non-Hockeytown news, the Pittsburgh Penguins got their first win of the season after beating the Atlanta Thrashers tonight, 7-5. Halfway through the first period, the Penguins were already down by four goals and came from behind to win. Mario Lemieux had two goals and three assists. The Penguins tied a team record for six power play goals in a game. The Thrashers have now lost six games in the past seven. In the past 10 games, they’ve used five goaltenders.

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