Archive for December, 2005

A Wings look back on 2005

As the 2005 year draws to a close, it’s time to take a look back on the past year. Since this is a Wings hockey blog, I’m going to do a list of the top 3 of the year in a variety of categories with Matt’s help. All categories are in regard to the Detroit Red Wings, not necessarily the NHL, in the year 2005. Feel free to leave comments saying what you would change on these lists!

Top 3 Scary Moments
3. Niklas Kronwall tears his ACL and MCL after what was supposed to be his breakout season
2. Kris Draper gets hit in the face with a puck / Nick Lidstrom gets hit in the face by the puck against the Blue Jackets Dec. 20th
1. Jiri Fischer collapses during a game (On the Wings had in depth coverage of Fischer’s press conference)

Top 3 Games
3. Detroit beat the Washington Capitals after a hard fought game, 4-3
2. Wings beat defending Stanley Cup champs Tampa Bay, 6-3
1. Wings extinguish Flames, 6-3, in Darren McCarty’s first game in Hockeytown on an opposing team

Top 3 Former Wings Moments
3. After a drama filled 2003-2004 season in Detroit, Curtis Joseph moved on to Phoenix, where he is having a good season
2. Dominik Hasek is one of the reasons why Ottawa is the best team in the league. When Hasek has something to prove, he is a hard one to beat.
1. Brett Hull retires after short stint with Phoenix and is now being offered a job with Dallas

Top 3 Goals
3. Pavel Datsyuk’s near end to end goal against Tampa Bay
2. Henrik Zetterberg’s breakaway goal against Pittsburgh
1. Steve Yzerman faking out Devils goaltender Scott Clemmensen earning the final goal of the night

Top 3 Suprising Moments
3. Pavel Datsyuk actually signs with Detroit
2. Manny Legace wins 10 games in October earning a league record and defensive player of the month honors / Darren McCarty signs with the Calgary Flames
1. The Wings go 11-1-0 in October to start off the season with a bang

Top 3 Surprising Players
3. Chris Chelios for being so silently strong at the age of 43 (just 10 PIM since November 6th)
2. Jason Williams suddenly becoming a point machine with 10 goals and 24 assists as of December 30
1. Mikael Samuelsson has a breakout offensive season

Top 3 New Wings
3. Brett Lebda re-joined main roster and is playing very well to help bear the burden of Jiri Fischer’s absence
2. Mikael Samuelsson / Johan Franzen, the “Mule,” doesn’t score a lot but works as hard as anyone on the ice, very solid
1. Mike Babcock comes in as new head coach

Top 3 Team Moments
3. Wings visit Children’s Hospital in Detroit
2. 9 Wings were selected to represent their country in the 2006 Olympics
1. Father and son southeast road trip. While the Wings performance during games on this trip wasn’t solid, both the players and their fathers/mentors got a lot out of this trip.

Top 3 Defensive Players
3. Johan Franzen
2. Chris Chelios
1. Nicklas Lidstrom

Top 3 Offensive Players
3. Jason Williams (34 pts)
2. Henrik Zetterberg / Brendan Shanahan (38 pts)
1. Pavel Datsyuk (42 pts)

Top 3 Players Overall
3. Brendan Shanahan – was on a point tear that was only recently halted
2. Manny Legace – very good when not injured, though it has been a while
1. Henrik Zetterberg – two-way force

Top 3 +/- Ratings
3. Robert Lang / Pavel Datsyuk (+11)
2. Andreas Lilja (+13)
1. Mikael Samuelsson (+16)

Top 3 NHL moments
3. 2005 NHL Draft day / Sid the Kid finally heads to an NHL team.
2. Wayne Gretzky, “The Great One,” becomes head coach of the Pheonix Coyotes.
1. Opening night. Every single NHL team played on October 5, 2005, which is quite a way to start the new season after a yearlong lockout.

GameDay: vs. Columbus (12-25-1, 25 Pts) 7:00 ET

Tonight is the fourth of eight games between these two Central Division teams this season. The Wings have won three in a row against the Blue Jackets, starting with a 6-0 shutout October 20th and a 6-2 win on the 24th. They beat the Jackets in the first shootout in franchise history on December 20th, 4-3.

The Wings are on a four-game winning streak, beating Tampa Bay, Columbus, Chicago and Dallas over that span. The Wings were greatly out-played in their wins over the Jackets and Hawks but they controlled the Stars game much more, beating a more worthy opponent 4-1. Tonight will be the 60th New Year’s Eve game, one that has become essentially a yearly tradition since 1950. Detroit is 30-21-8 on December 31st and are on a four-game winning streak in those games as well.

After the Wings beat them in the shootout, the Jackets went on to drop two more games, to the Stars and to Nashville. On Monday, they hosted the Blackhawks and won 4-3 in overtime. It was the beginning of a three-game win-streak, which includes victories over Anaheim and another over Chicago last night. Not exactly wins over the cream of the crop but they do have momentum, as do the Wings. It’s the longest win streak of the season for the Jackets.

Chris Osgood will get another start in net for the Wings, with Manny Legace headed down to GR for a conditioning stint and Joey MacDonald backing him up.

The paper reports that Steve Yzerman is expected to take part in the pre-game skate tonight.

Hopefully, the Wings can pick up where they left off against the Stars and continue playing well tonight against the Jackets. Columbus will play hard, like the last time they were in Detroit, so it won’t be easy but the Wings should be able to win one for the home crowd. Last season’s game against the Thrashers on New Year’s Eve was one of the most exciting games of the year. I doubt we’ll have that this time around but it probably won’t be boring either.

Wings 4, Stars 1

The Wings extended their win-streak to four games with a 4-1 win over the Stars in Dallas tonight. It was a better game than their last two, though they were still dominated for stretches of the game by the Stars.

Chris Osgood was without a doubt the #1 star of the game (though Zetterberg won the arena #1 star), making very good saves when needed and bailing his team out when they left him out to dry. The first period was the most extreme example of this, when for long stretches of play, Detroit seemed unable to clear the puck. The Stars took advantage of this by out-chancing the Wings 8-0 in the first and out-shooting them 13-8. The final shots total for the period is a little misleading: the Wings scored on just their third shot eight and half minutes in and play wasn’t even close until mid-period.

To compound the problems created by their inability to clear their own zone, the Wings had trouble penetrating the Dallas zone effectively, meaning their chances were more along the periphery and much less dangerous. They capitalized on a rare chance at 8:34 when Marty Turco coughed up the puck to Henrik Zetterberg along the near boards. Hank sent it to the far side post, where Mikael Samuelsson got a nice slam-dunk of a goal. The goal followed a long stretch of play in which the Stars dominated Detroit and was a bit of a surprise.

The Wings followed up their goal by coming on a bit for the next couple shifts. The pace quickened and the teams began trading chances up and down the ice after mid-period. The Wings, still riding the momentum from their goal, controlled the puck a tad more but it amounted to nothing, as it had for the Stars earlier, when Dallas scored to tie it up at 16:49.

Kirk Maltby had absorbed a big hit by Niklas Hagman behind the net, knocking him to the ice but the tables turned right then as Hagman got a hold of the puck and sent it out front. Nick Lidstrom just missed preventing the pass but as it was, it got through to Jaroslav Svoboda, who one-timed it past Osgood. The Wings goalie had no chance to stop it and the game was tied at one.

Some good Wings pressure led to a power play late in the period but they accomplished little on it before the period ended.

The second period began with the Wings on the power play for 50 seconds. They got almost nothing on this power play, except for a chance by Pavel Datsyuk in the waning seconds. This was followed up by a breakaway by Stephane Robidas who barely took a shot and was stoned by Osgood.

Brett Hull joined the broadcast for a few minutes early in the third and was distracting enough that I didn’t really digest the events on the ice until he went off the air. He did say he has no regrets about retiring, that he wishes he could still play but that he knows he can’t. He also likes what he sees of the League so far and commented that it’s hard for the refs to have real consistency.

Hull had me so distracted that I practically didn’t see Henrik Zetterberg’s goal at 4:14. Jason Williams had the puck along the far boards and centered it to Hank in the slot. Zetterberg redirected it past Turco and put the Wings ahead 2-1.

Mikael Samuelsson went to the box for a nasty but accidental high-stick on Brendan Morrow at 7:01, putting the Stars on the power play for four minutes. It was a very good kill for the Wings, who withstood Dallas pressure in their zone but also killed time by clearing it and controlling the puck deep in the Stars’ zone. Kirk Maltby whiffed on a centering pass from Kris Draper towards the end of the penalty-kill though he would have almost certainly scored had he gotten much wood on it.

Robert Lang and Pavel Datsyuk got a nice 2-on-1 chance but Pavel’s pass was blocked and it came to naught at about 14:00.

The rest of the period was pretty uneventful.

Jason Woolley went to the box early in the third and the resulting Dallas power play required Osgood to make some very good saves once again. During this penalty kill, Kirk Maltby took a stick in the face from Billy Guerin when he dove to the ice to take a swipe at the puck. The stick drew blood and may have knocked a tooth or two out but Maltby came back and finished the game strong.

Robidas went off for holding, a blatant penalty behind the net. The Wings put on a passing clinic and held the Stars in their zone for most of the power play, using the same unit the whole time and getting a couple good chances out of it, though they didn’t score.

They did score at 8:34, however, increasing their lead to two goals when Tomas Holmstrom redirected a Brett Lebda redirection of Zetterberg’s pass/shot from the top of the right circle. Lebda was way down low and got a stick on it but it hit Holmstrom’s stick before going into the net so Tomas got the credit for the goal. 3-1 Wings.

After the Holmstrom goal, the Wings set about the business of shutting the Stars down. They did a good job of it, minimizing Dallas’ chances and getting a few of their own.

Brendan Morrow went after Samuelsson at 15:07, looking for revenge on the latter’s high stick earlier in the game. He ended up handing the Wings a power play. Detroit squandered it though, allowing a solid shorthanded chance and getting a penalty on the play at 16:32.

Fortunately, the Stars weren’t too threatening, on either the 4-on-4 stretch or their power play.

They pulled Turco late in the period but it did them no good. Kirk Maltby blocked a shot at 19:07 and got a breakaway as a reward. He skated in on net and hardly took a shot, scoring an empty-netter at 19:15 to really put it away for the Wings.

Brendan Shanahan had his eight-game point streak snapped, having scored five goals and ten assists over that span.

Henrik Zetterberg had another very good game, notching two assists to go with his second period goal. He was also strong in the defensive zone, as usual.

Marty Turco still hasn’t beaten the Wings and is 0-5-5 all-time against them now. Along similar lines, the Stars haven’t beaten the Wings in nine games, dating back to January 16, 2002. The Wings are 4-0-4-0 in that span (four ties).

Next up, the Wings have Columbus on New Year’s Eve. The puck drops at 7:00 ET.

Lines

Shanahan – Datsyuk – Holmstrom
Williams – Zetterberg – Samuelsson
Zetterberg – Datsyuk – Holmstrom
Cleary – Datsyuk – Shanahan
Williams – Zetterberg – Samuelsson
Samuelsson – Lang – Holmstrom
Holmstrom – Lang – Draper
Shanahan – Datsyuk – Holmstrom
Maltby – Mowers – Franzen

D-parings

Lidstrom – Woolley
Lilja – Lidstrom
Lidstrom – Chelios
Lilja – Schneider
Lilja – Lebda
Schneider – Chelios
Lebda – Schneider
Woolley – Schneider

GameDay: @ Dallas (23-10-1, 47 Pts) 8:30 ET

Tonight the Wings and Stars will meet for the first time this season. Detroit won the 2003-2004 season series 3-0-1 and won the most recent game between these two teams, 3-0 on March 13th, 2004. The second game in that series is famous for this goal by Pavel Datsyuk (.mpg file), one that put away a 6-2 win on November 12th, 2003.

As noted by Kevin Palczynski in this week’s Rinkside Ramblings column on LetsGoWings.com, the Wings had a bit of a lucky week last week, winning two games in which they were out-played for the majority of the time.

First, they faced the miserable Columbus Blue Jackets at home on Tuesday and came out of the gates looking pretty good. The Jackets then proceeded to outplay them in the second and third periods, negating Brendan Shanahan’s go-ahead goal late in the third and forcing overtime. The Wings survived overtime and the game went to a shootout, their first ever. A combination of solid goaltending and offensive skill got them out of the shootout with a 4-3 win.

The guys then traveled to Chicago to face the Blackhawks on Friday night. They were, as Kevin puts it, “thoroughly outplayed for the first 59 minutes and 20 seconds of the game,” but they managed to score two goals in the final minute and tie up the game, forcing overtime. It looked like we were headed to another shootout but Pavel Datsyuk’s shot (apparently) beat the buzzer and the Wings won the game with a couple tenths of a second left on the clock.

Those two wins extended the Wings’ win-streak to a whopping three games and helped them maintain their lead in the Central Division over their only competition: the Nashville Predators. They are third in the league, behind only Ottawa (53) and Buffalo (51, but 25 wins – tie-breaker) with 51 points and 24 wins.

The Stars’ season started out a bit bumpy, with them going 6-5-1 through November 2nd. Since then, however, they have won pretty regularly and lead the Pacific Division with 47 points. They went 3-2-0 in their past five, with wins over Chicago, Columbus and St. Louis, and losses to Minnesota and Phoenix. They are coming off an easy 6-1 win over St. Louis last night and will look to continue their stretch of dominance over Central Division teams tonight against the Wings. Hopefully the Wings won’t make it as easy for them as the Hawks, Jackets, and Blues did.

Chris Osgood will get another start tonight but may lose his job soon. The papers report that Manny Legace is targeting a December 31st comeback from his knee injury.

Mikael Samuelsson will return from a leg bruise that kept him out of the Chicago game.

The Wings have been lucky lately but luck won’t be enough tonight. They will need to play hard for most of the game, not the other way around. They’ll be facing a very good goalie in Marty Turco and will need to play well defensively in case they don’t get the puck past him too often. This will be their first test since returning to intra-conference play after their win in Tampa.

Wings 3, Blackhawks 2 (OT)

The last game before the Wings’ Christmas break proved to be a wild one, with two late Wings goals tying it to send it to overtime, and a Pavel Datsyuk buzzer-beater as time expired in the extra session. It made for the Wings’ third straight win, and sixth win in their last ten. It also secured their place at the top of the Central Division, with the Predators threatening a share of the top spot with a win earlier tonight. It’s now 51-49 Wings in the Central Division points race – the Predators with three games in hand. The Wings lead the season series against Chicago 4-0, and are 10-1-0 in the Central Division. Pathetic. It’s easily the worst division in hockey today.

The first period opened with the Blackhawks carrying most of the energy, and the Wings hanging on until their two first period power play chances. The Wings’ best chance of the period came at 14:55 when Shanahan carried the puck from behind Khabibulin and beat him far side with a wrister – only to hit the post.

Chicago scored the only first period goal at 19:20, on a follow-up goal from Arnason. On the play, Jason Williams muffed the puck around center ice left boards, and Mark Bell stole it and crashed the net. The rebound came out to a trailing Arnason, who easily beat a sprawling Ozzie. 1-0 Chicago. Apparently Arnason was benched in the Blackhawks’ last game, the team struggling and desperate to get its players going. So it was nice to see the guy get a goal, though not at the Wings’ expense. And not at Williams’ expense. It was a terrible giveaway as he tried to pass the puck to himself along the boards, and just got beat by a hustling Bell. Shots 11-8 Chicago in the first.

The second period was much like the first for the Wings. They were outhustled and beat in the corners by the home team. It really was a boring period, with the Wings on their heels most of the time. The best chance came off of a Kris Draper shot around the 12 minute mark but it hit the post. Chicago scored the only goal of the period on another bad Wings giveaway. This time four Wings players were caught in the offensive zone after the puck was coughed up, and former Wing Martin Lapointe (now #22) carried the puck into the Wings zone with a 3-on-1. It was a give-and-go, Lapointe passing to Barnaby at center, before getting the puck back on the right side and tapping it in behind Ozzie. 2-0 Chicago.

It was also an interesting goal by Lapointe, because he had recently blasted his teammates’ effort in the last few games. Words backed up. But I didn’t appreciate his goal as much Arnason’s. Lapointe left Detroit to cash in on his one good season in 2000-2001. He missed the Wings’ Cup run in 2002, and hasn’t done anything since his breakout 27 G, 30 A last season with the Wings. Ten seasons with the Wings – the team that drafted him in ’91 and had him pegged as the next captain. What a loser. Shots 13-9 Chicago in the second.

The third period was much better for the Wings. They had probably triple the quality chances from the previous 40 minutes. Henrik Zetterberg and Brendan Shanahan had the most chances, and the night was summed up on one play. As Holmstrom found himself open in front of Khabibulin, certain to score, his stick broke as he attempted a shot. It was a frustrating moment for all Wings fans, but I couldn’t help but feel especially bad for those fans who had made the trip from Detroit for this game. The Chicago-Detroit game is always a special one in the United Center, but the Wings were really flat for much of this game.

A few minutes after I was feeling sorry for the Wings fans in the United Center, Ozzie was pulled and a comeback was staged. At 19:21, Kris Draper scored on a redirection of a Jason Woolley point shot. It wasn’t the normal redirection that you’d imagine, but more of a shot by Draper, between the circles, that snuck in under the top corner. 2-1 Chicago. After the faceoff at center, the Wings were called for offsides at 19:28. Datsyuk won the neutral zone faceoff, and the Wings gained the Chicago zone. With time about to expire, the Wings scored on a point shot from Lidstrom at 19:53. It was a controversial goal, as Khabibulin was knocked into by Lang I think it was, and he started arguing the call as he was getting beat by the Lidstrom shot. It fell on deaf ears though. 2-2 tie. Assists from Lang and Datsyuk. Shots in the period were 17-5 Wings.

The overtime was pretty uneventful, and it looked like a shootout was all but certain. Babcock was ready with his Williams-Datsyuk-Zetterberg shootout picks, but twas not to be. In the same style as their last second tying of the game, the Wings got a late goal from Datsyuk at 4:59 to make it a 3-2 win. It was a power play goal, as Duncan Keith was called for tripping at 1:52.

On the play, Datsyuk took a shot from the right circle, and, as the puck crossed the line, the green light went on instead of the red light. Everyone in the United Center thought the game was headed to a shootout, but it turns out the goal judge didn’t have time to react to the puck crossing the line before the green light went on: the red light can’t go on after the green one is triggered. The refs initially waved it no-goal, but went upstairs to review the play. All the viewers on FSN were left in suspense, as the station didn’t have a replay of the play showing time remaining in the same frame. Definitely something NFL or NBA coverage would surely have with their billion dollar TV deals, but such is the price of local coverage of the Wings. Hopefully they get that fixed for the next time it happens.

The refs pointed to center ice – it was a goal! The only replay I saw was the puck crossing the line and the green light going on a few frames later, but nothing with how much time was actually left. Nothing scientific, and I wonder if anyone upstairs had the time remaining to look at or if they just “eye-balled” it with comparing when the green light went on. Martin Lapointe was very mad at the refs after the goal, and received a 10 minute misconduct. Says Lapointe:

“The overtime calls hurt the game. It’s a big game, a big rivalry. The refs should let us play. I guess this is the new NHL. To lose a game on a cheap penalty is not the way to play hockey.”

It was a great comeback win for the Wings, to be able to score two goals in the last minute of a otherwise sloppy game to force overtime and pull off a last second overtime win. Wings fans are used to these types of comebacks, but it doesn’t really make me feel better for the three hours I spent watching this game. I was really bored/frustrated until the third period, when the Wings started playing hard, and even then pucks were hitting the post or sticks were breaking at inopportune times. It just felt like one of those nights where nothing could possibly go right – which made it really weird when 15 minutes later the Wings were headed to the dressing room with a win.

Final shots were 37-31 Wings. The Wings played with only 11 forwards. Some notable lines. Opening the game was Datsyuk-Shanahan-Draper, with Datsyuk-Shanahan-Zetterberg the most used-line in the third.