Archive for February, 2006

Wings 1, San Jose 5

My name is Kevin List, Brian’s brother, and this is my first post at On the Wings. I’m a freshman at Western Michigan University majoring in education. I’ll fill in for the crew as needed.

The Wings’ pre-Olympic six game win streak came to a halt as the San Jose Sharks won 5-1 in the HP Pavilion Center. Specific to tonight, the Wings came into the game with a 9-1-4 record against the Sharks, and hoped to sqeeze out a victory. The Wings had been the last team to not have lost by 3 or more goals coming into tonight’s game. However, several factors spawned a gradual downfall on the Wing’s strength throughout the game. In addition the absence of Lidstrom, Zetterburg, Holmstrom, Samuelsson, and Kronwall, because of Olympic festivities, hurt the Wings leading edge. All the Sharks goals came on the man-advantage. Manny Legace got the start for the Wings, and had 27 saves with 32 shots on goal, including his first penalty shot save. Vesa Toskala got the start for the Sharks, and had 28 saves with 29 shots on goal. Legace held a strong edge early in the game, but later fell apart in the third period. Numerous penalties from the Wing’s defensive line contributed to Legace’s downfall later in the game. These on the man-advantages allowed the Sharks to enact several tactical power play set-ups. Jonathan Cheechoo and Joe Thorton were two key players for the Sharks, who made many of the Shark’s power play advantages successful.

First Period

The Wings opened the game with a power play advantage, after a holding penalty against Christian Ehrhoff eighteen seconds into the first period. Two minutes later, the penalty is offset by a tripping penalty against Kopecky. This gave the Sharks a chance to put forth their strong offensive line and establish several set up opportunities in the Wings territory early into the game. With the power play at hand, Thorton tipped the puck in front of the net to the left side to Ekman, who knocked it in for a garbage goal.

This early score by the Sharks gave the Wings a wake up call to step up their defensive strategies. Because of this, the Wings failed to establish any aggressive action in the Shark zone for the second half of the first period. Instead, the Wings worked on keeping their own area secure from the Shark’s advancements.

During this time, the play went nearly nine minutes without any stoppage. Chechoo and Preissing both got a chance to make shots on Legace, however their attempts ended up in the puck going wide of the goal post. After the Shark’s failed efforts, Williams turned the puck over and got a piece of Toskala, with a slap shot on goal with only fifty-five seconds remaining, which was stopped at the net. The first period ends in the Shark zone.

Second Period

The second period started off in Shark territory with a shot opportunity made by Chelios, which went wide. Lebda made another wrist shot attempt, which his was stopped by Toskala. The play was then directed back into the Wing’s zone, where Marleau sent the puck to Michalek, who hit it off the right bar of the goal post. The Sharks got their first powerplay of the second period with an interference call on Chelios at 5:43.

Marleau took this opportunity to bring set the puck up once again in the Wing’s zone. After his failed wrist shot, Mohalic recovered the puck and shot it off the cross bar, just missing Lagace’s glove. During this play, Multby recieved a penalty for hooking, which turned the player ratio to a 5 on 3. The Wing’s defensive line put Legace in a bad situation, by receiving penalties that consistently gave the Sharks on the man advantages.

With a large gap in the Wings defensive line, the Sharks immediately took the weight of the game to the Wing zone to set up another on goal attempt. At 6:54, Thorton shot the puck to around the back of the net, where Chechoo made a backhand goal on the left side. At 18:29, the Wing’s luck finally turned around. In the Shark zone, Datsyuk tips the puck off to Shanahan, and sets it up to Lebda. He gets a shot to the left side of Toskala for a goal. This marks Lebda’s 4th shot on goal in the game and his 3rd goal overall in the season. At the end of the period, the Sharks lead at 1-2.

Third Period

The Wings started the third period out strong and began to play the out of the offensive zone. Lang turned the puck over and was the first to take a shot on Toskala. It is then recovered by Schnieder for another failed slap shot. Ekman soon turned the puck back to the Wings zone. At 4:50, Wooley recieved a hooking penalty by tripping up Michalek with his stick.

Four seconds later, Ekman gets a hooking penalty, making the player ratio 4-4 on the ice. Lang tried to sweep the puck back into the shark zone and makes a shot to the wide right of Toskala. Datsyuk retrieved the puck and weaved around Mclaren and McCuley to get another piece of Toskala, however, the shot went wide. The game is, again, directed back into the defensive end, by Marleau.

At about 7:15, Williams holds Ekman on a breakaway, causing him to fall into the Wing’s net. This resulted in Ekman taking a first-time penalty shot against Legace. Ekman’s side-to-side movement did not fool Legace, who mirrored his every move before the net. Ekman approached the goal late and snaped the puck low on the right side, deflecting off Legace’s glove. This was quite a big missed opportunity for Sharks.

Later into the period, the Wings defense began to fall apart once more. At 4:50, Woolley was caught with a hooking penalty, setting the Wings back one man. However the Wing’s short hand was short lived as Ekman received a hooking penalty seven seconds following. The Wing’s temporarly gain strength with a couple won face-offs and more action in the Shark zone. Draper and Lebda particularly played the puck well during this time and set up a couple key wrist shots in front of the goal, making Toskala a bit nervous.

Old mistakes, however, set in once more for the Wing’s defense. At 10:17, Schneider is caught with a holding penalty in the offensive zone. This failed maneuver set the Wings back once again and gave the Sharks another power play to taunt Legace. Thorton does not pass up his on the man opportunity. He won the face-off against Multby and brought the play into the Wing’s zone. He made a wrist shot on Legace, but it went wide of the net. Ekman retrieved the puck and set it up to Marleau, who banged the puck on the side of the crease, making a goal on Legace. At 11:10, Shanahan got the Wings a penalty for tripping in the defensive zone.

The Sharks used another power play opportunity to get the play into the Detroit end. At 11:41, Ehrhoff got the puck set up for a wrist shot goal. He was assisted by Marleau, and Ekman helped to screen Legace before front of the net. The Wing’s built up tensions finally snapped when a fight broke out in front of the Shark net. Cleary began the brawl by knocking Thorton to the ice and taking a few good swings at him. The center of the conflict then was directed to Berneir and Mowers, who started their own fist fight as well. The referees immediately broke up the play and took Bernier and Mowers to the penalty box with roughing calls.

At 13:48, Thorton made a power play goal on Legace, with an assist by Ehrhoff. Two minutes later, Doug Murray made a cheep hit on Multby from behind and resulted given a Boarding penalty on the Sharks. This power play gave the Wings an opportunity to set up one last advance into the Shark zone. Datsyuk tipped the puck to Shanahan, who made a slap shot on Toskala from 16 feet away. The puck was covered up by Toskala and stopped the play. Lang brought the puck back into the Shark territory and made a backhand shot, which was almost knocked with the help of Shanahan’s amazing lacrosse skills. However, the Wing’s last chances to make an impact in the game quickly went sour, and the game soon ended in the neutral zone. The final score: Wings 1, San Jose 5.







*compiled by Brian

GameDay: @ San Jose (27-21-8, 62 Pts) 10:30 PM

Tonight, the Wings return to NHL action with their third (of four) game against the San Jose Sharks. They are 2-0 against the Sharks this year, with wins October 17th (3-2 OT) and November 26th (7-6). The October game was when Kris Draper took a puck to the face, causing him to wear a visor, by the way.

Before the Olympic Break, the Wings were on a 6-0 tear, with two wins over Nashville (essentially locking up the Central title) and Colorado (sweeping the season series) as well as less challenging wins over St. Louis and Minnesota. That was with their full roster and one that was able to pick up momentum that will since have been largely lost, due to the two-week interruption that was the 2006 Winter Olympics.

The Wings will be short five of their best players for tonight’s game, the Swedes Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Nick Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Mikael Samuelsson, who won’t have made it back to the States in time after participating in celebrations in Sweden for having won the gold medal Sunday.

In response to a report by TSN yesterday that stated players returning late from the Olympics could face fines, GM Ken Holland has said he will not issue any fines, according to the Freep. Head coach Mike Babcock is understanding of the Swedes’ decision to go to Stockholm rather than Detroit or San Jose and confident that the Wings will be able to find a way to win without them tonight. It’s not as though the team doesn’t have experience being undermanned. In 2003-2004, they were plagued with injures so badly that at one point they were down 10 regulars. Still, they ended with the league’s best record, as Ansar Khan points out today.

It looked like the Wings will also be without Pavel Datsyuk, who has been having travel issues but the Freep reports he is expected to be back in time for the game. He suffered a broken finger before headed to Torino but it hasn’t seemed to have affected his play. He finished the tournament with one goal and seven assists through eight games.

Tomas Kopecky has been brought up from the minors to help fill the holes and the usual substitutes (Brett Lebda, Mark Mowers, Jamie Rivers) will be inserted into the lineup as well. 19 players will dress for the team tonight.

Since he is officially “the guy” now, Manny Legace will be in net for the Wings.

The Sharks are third in the Pacific Division with 62 points and don’t have much hope at all of catching Dallas, the division leader (79). They have won their last three games, however, including a 6-3 win over the Stars on the 10th. They’re trying to pass Edmonton for the Conference’s eighth playoff spot so this is a potential playoff matchup tonight. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov is expected back from the Olympics today but newly re-signed goalie Vesa Toskala will get the start. Joe Thornton is expected back from Torino in time for the game tonight as well and will play if he is.

It should be an interesting game. Most of the players on both teams will be very well rested and that is both a good and a bad thing. It’ll probably be a pretty messy game as both teams get back in the saddle but the Sharks will have the advantage of not missing a good chunk of their lineup. The Wings are more than competent without their Swedes but San Jose is a good team and would love to take a bite out of the league leaders.

A shortened bench

The Freep reports that the five Swedish Wings will be participating in celebrations in Stockholm and will not be back in time for tomorrow night’s game in San Jose. They will be back for the Anaheim game the following night, however.

Filling in for Samuelsson, Lidstrom, Kronwall, Zetterberg and Holmstrom will be Jamie Rivers, Mark Mowers, Brett Lebda and Tomas Kopecky, who was called up from Grand Rapids. They’re all capable players but they can’t quite fill the holes left by the Swedes.

According to A2Y, all of the other Olympian Red Wings have returned, except Pavel Datsyuk, who is having some issues relating to travel (and so, I’ve read, is Evgeni Nabokov, the Sharks’ goalie.)

TSN reports
that players who have not returned could face loss in pay for the number of days they are gone. The NHL expects all Olympians to return no later than tonight and have not made any allowances for the Swedish players, despite the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation reportedly making a special request for an exception.

I don’t mind our guys going to a celebration in Stockholm; they earned the right to kick back a little bit and bask in their nation’s glory. Still, tomorrow’s game against the Sharks isn’t a blow-off match and the Wings may be hard pressed to pull out a win with such a depleted roster.

I expect the Swedes to be ready to play (they have nothing if they don’t have momentum now) when they get back because this is the most important stretch of the season. Let’s hope the final standings don’t come down to two points. The point will be moot if the Swede-less Wings just win tomorrow night but that remains to be seen.

Maybe we ought to blame the security at the Games for keeping those guys away. Helene St. James reports that the team wanted to hop right on the plane and fly to Stockholm last night but the airport was closed for security reasons and so it didn’t work out.

Also, IwoCPO has a depressing outlook on what may be the results of Sweden’s triumph here.

And, I just noticed has a more standard Red Wings blog to complement Ansar Khan’s blog-like thing. Looks like it’s been around for a few months. Welcome anyway, George Malik!

Sweden beats Finland 3-2, takes gold

It wasn’t quite the grudge match I was expecting but today’s gold medal game between Finland and Sweden was worth getting up at 8:00 AM on a Sunday morning for. Both teams played tight defensive games, especially in the first, which didn’t make it exceptionally exciting for long stretches but there were bursts of offense that came frequently enough.

The three Red Wing forwards played together for most of the game and were pretty effective. After the Finns took the 1-0 lead late in the first, the Swedes came back with a power play goal early in the second, scored by Henrik Zetterberg off a defenseman’s leg in the crease.

Less than 10 minutes later, Niklas Kronwall, again making good use of his short time in Torino, scored a nice power play goal himself from the high slot, giving his country a 2-1 lead.

The Finns didn’t take long to respond and soon it was tied again, 2-2. It stayed that way for the rest of the second period, which ended with both teams skating four aside. The third period began with Mats Sundin winning the faceoff at center and breaking Saku Koivu’s (I believe) stick in the process. This meant the Finns were down a player on the ensuing rush and it gave Nick Lidstrom a clear shooting lane to work with. He took full advantage and put the Swedes ahead permanently just 10 seconds into the period.

The Finns put up a strong effort to tie the game up toward the end but Henrik Lundqvist was strong and so was his defense. Sweden got its second gold medal in Olympic competition and five of our Wings will be returning to Detroit with that weird doughnut medal they hand out in Torino.

Or will they? Apparently, Nik Kronwall feels obligated to offer his gold medal to Mattias Ohlund, who’s rib injury caused Kronwall to be injected into the lineup, if the latter doesn’t get a medal:

“I think he deserved it more than I have. I came in and played two games. If we don’t end up getting another medal, I’m offering a medal.”

Yeah, Nik, you came in and played two games. You also played well and contributed in a very real way to your team’s victory. You earned it.

Congratulations, Nick, Tomas, Henrik, Mikael, and Nik! Get some rest, guys, and let’s repeat 2002 (and 1998), okay?