Archive for April, 2006

Yzerman and MacLean practiced today

The Captain, Steve Yzerman, took part in today’s short practice at Rexall Place in Edmonton. I expect for Yzerman to play on Monday (Game #6 at 8pm) since it’s an elimination game. He couldn’t tell the reporters if he would play tomorrow night at that point in time.

“I feel better than two days ago,” Yzerman said. “I’m encouraged. Hopefully I’ll feel even better for game time tomorrow.”Asked if tonight being an elimination game will factor into his decision to play, Yzerman said, “Oh, no question. No question. It’s pretty simple, really, if I feel I can be an effective player, I’ll play and if I don’t, then I’m not going to play. If I’m ready to play then I will and if not, then I’ll have to step aside.”

I just hope that he will play and Yzerman’s last game at the Joe won’t be Game #2, which was the last playoff game I attended.

Additionally, the Wings called Donald MacLean, “the Grand Rapids Griffins forward who scored 56 goals this season in the AHL,” on Saturday night. Upon which, he flew to Edmonton and practiced with the Wings. MacLean has only played with the Wings three times this season, but his first goal came on the power play against the Oilers on April 11.

Game 5: Wings 2, Oilers 3

There isn’t going to be a minute-by-minute analysis on this game since I’m too disgusted to dedicate that kind of time and effort. I could just give this post 20 minutes for composition because that’s about how long the Wings’ effort lasted yesterday, but I suspect it will take me longer than that to write it.

So. The first period was everything I was expecting of the team: they showed good energy, they skated hard and created chances. Their power play was solid (though they couldn’t put it in the net) and their penaly killing was strong. They had the Oilers back on their heels for much of the period but even then you could see flashes where Edmonton was ready to take over.

For example, take Ales Hemsky’s little chance while on the power play only 6 or 7 minutes into the game. He carried it in all by himself through the defense and froze Legace outside of the crease as he headed down the right wing. His shot should have gone in but it hit the outside of the post at ice level and somehow stayed out. Not encouraging.

Dwayne Roloson kept the Oilers in it in the first and ought to get major credit for this win. When the Wings were skating hard and actually gettin chances, he was making saves and it paid off later for his team.

The Wings had maybe 3 or 4 good minutes at the start of the second period before Edmonton started pressuring four minutes in. Then, they scored, at 5:16, on what seemed like a fairly harmless play. Chris Pronger took an ice-level shot at the net and it was tipped out front by Fernando Pisani and suddenly came up to armpit level, sneaking between Legace’s arm and body before trickling into the net.

Edmonton looked good after that and then the Wings got into some penalty trouble. Shanahan went off for hooking at 7:41 and at 8:34, the Oilers scored again. It was another deflection, coming off Smyth this time, and beat Legace 5-hole.

The Wings put a little pressure on after that but the bounces were going the other way. It was very frustrating to watch. Edmonton was so keyed up on blocking shots that three skaters would fall at exactly the same time to block the same shot, but the Wings weren’t interested in taking advantage of the three Oilers having taken themselves out of the play.

MacTavish is establishing himself as a great coach in this series. Case in point: the Oilers iced the puck at 10:00 and weren’t able to change. So, he used his timeout. First, it showed a lot of confidence in his players because he didn’t foresee a time later on that he would need. Second, it gave his players a rest and enabled them to disrupt the Wings’ admittedly weak comeback attempt with a strong pressure shift after their defensive zone faceoff.

Shanahan took another penalty at 11:30 but 28 seconds later, Chris Chelios drew a cheap tripping penalty and the teams went to four a side. 34 seconds after that, the Oilers scored again. Legace had just made a big save on Shawn Horcroff but the rebound came right back to the Oilers forward and it ended up being knocked in, I think, by Nik Kronwall as he attempted to tie Horcoff up.

Hemsky again had a nice rush just after that, busting out some moves and coming in on Legace, only just running out of real estate. Andreas Lilja whiffed on the puck at the blueline and Raffi Torres pounced on it, breaking in on Legace and getting a nice scoring chance but he couldn’t score.

Shanahan finally put the Wings on the board at 18:39. He got a breakaway and beat Roloson with a quick shot. Just before the goal, however, Draper had badly tripped Peca and had not been called for a penalty, even though both players expected it. Pretty sad that the Wings’ first goal came off such a badly blown call.

The Wings looked pretty disinterested in the third. It seemed as though they thought they only needed one goal and were waiting for the right time to score it. They were not physical at all and looked tired. They were making bad passes (even Lidstrom) and could get very little going. The Oilers were workmanlike and pressured the Wings into making poor decisions, reminding us that though they had settled into a defensive posture, they could break open the game at any time. The Wings were never there for rebounds and were hardly able to gain the zone. The Oilers played very carefully, not willing to give the Wings the power play that might have sparked them.

At 15:54, Staios finally took a penalty and the Wings got one last power play. They couldn’t do anything with it, though, getting one flurry and a blocked shot for their efforts.

Babcock pulled Legace with 1:48 left. They didn’t get much and Edmonton was content to sit back and didn’t try too hard to score on the empty net.

Henrik Zetterberg scored at 19:38. It was unexpected. A nice goal but too little, too late. Babcock called his time out after the goal and it actually nearly paid off. They won the faceoff and carried it in. Lang fanned on the puck just in front of the net and the game ended up on Nick Lidstrom’s stick on the right point. Shawn Horcoff dove face first into the shot and stopped it with his shoulder. That pretty much sums up the Oilers of Game 5.

As far as big games go, I don’t remember a more uninspired performance by the Wings. I don’t understand why they couldn’t get up to play a full game in front of their fans (I suppose the tomb-like atmosphere at the Joe has something to do with that) and when they had a chance to take the lead in the series. The Oilers played great and maybe still would have won, but if the Wings had even played to half of their ability, I wouldn’t feel so ripped off by this game. They put up a performance like this and I’m supposed to get all excited about Game 6? I’m supposed to have hope that they’ll actually show up to play in Edmonton? Why couldn’t they do it yesterday?

They’ve been down 3-2 in a series before but that was in 2002 and it was a completely different team. That team knew how to win big games. This team seems to have forgotten. Sure, the series technically isn’t over but they are going to have to play out of their minds Monday night if they even want a chance at winning. I know Edmonton will “bring it” but will the Wings?

I’m not ready for another early exit. I waited two years for this? I’m tired of getting my hopes up only to have the Wings fall flat on their faces.

Tell me, Brendan Shanahan, Mikael Samuelsson, Jason Williams, and the rest of you in the Winged Wheel. Is it worth it for me to tune in on Monday night? I have three finals on Tuesday. Should I take those three hours and study or should I watch? You know what? I’m going to watch because I’m a fan and dedicated to the team. Maybe you guys could think about giving me a return on my investment.

Game #5 – Oilers 3, Wings 2

I watched the game at Dockside Sports Pub in Ft. Myers Beach with about 9-12 other Wings fans; I was shocked to see such a large “crowd” at a random sports pub in Florida. The comments made during each period were what I wrote down while watching the game. So these are during the game reactions…

Anyways, the game sucked. I’m depressed, discouraged, disappointed, disenchanted, downhearted, down, and desolate. We only played 20 solid minutes of hockey in the first period. Ugh. The Wings have to head to Edmonton with a 2-3 series deficit. Not cool whatsoever.

There are three things that scare me in this series:
1) The second period. Is it just me, or do the Wings find a way to suck it up in the second period? Edmonton scored all three goals in this afternoon’s second and I’m pretty sure Detroit sucks in the second period this series.
2) Our penalty kill. Sure we had some nice 5-on-3 kills in Game #4, but the Oilers seem to always score on one of their first few power plays.
3) Chris Pronger. He’s averaging 36:41 minutes per game this series and got an assist on all three Oilers’ goals this afternoon

First Period
– To start the game off, Willy pummeled some Oiler behind the Oilers net – my check of the game.

– During a Wings power play, Homer was alone in front of Roloson, but couldn’t find a way to get the puck in the back of the net.

– There was a 4 on 3 for about a minute producing some good scoring chances for the Wings, but no goal.

– We’re looking pretty good because we’re applying a lot of pressure and thus getting some scoring opportunities. Manny has made some key saves, but hasn’t had to deal with a lot of shots thus far in the game.

– With 3:30 left in the first, we’ve gone 0/4 on the power play.

– While I’m bummed we haven’t scored yet, we’ve been playing pretty well and Roloson has made some great saves.

End of First Period: Wings 0, Oilers 0
(Detroit outshot Edmonton, 11-4)

Second Period
– Chris Pronger takes a shot from inside the blue line whereupon Fernando Pisani flicks it into the back of the Wings net 5:16 into the second period. The Oilers have six 5 on 5 goals this series. I can’t believe we have been controlling this game and then the Oilers get the first goal. Ugh. The second period is always our downfall. Oilers 1, Wings 0

– I’m enjoying this NBC feed much more than the CBC one on Thursday night. At least they aren’t extremely biased in either direction…or so it seems.

– With 11:26 left in the second, Stoll took a shot from the center of the face-off circle to Manny’s right. The shot deflects off Ryan Smyth’s leg and goes behind Manny into the net. Oilers 2, Wings 0

– The Joe is embarassingly quiet. Rexall’s crowd puts the Joe’s to shame.

– While it’s 4 on 4, Shawn Horcoff just “poked and jammed away” (according to an NBC broadcaster) to score the Oilers’ third goal of the game with 7:24 left in the second. Oilers 3, Wings 0

– Manny made a nice save when Torres went on a breakaway.

– A guy’s wife in the pub is the granddaughter of former Wings goalie Terry Sawchuk; unfortunately, her presence did not grant us any luck.

– 1:21 left in the period, Shanny gets on a breakaway and actually gets a goal!!!! An absolute miracle since he’s had zero offense previously. The Wings can still do it since they are only down two goals at this point. However, I believe it was Draper who tripped some Oiler, which should’ve been called a penalty but then resulted in Shanny’s breakaway. Like I said before, I’ll take any goal we can get (tainted or not).

– An Oilers shot hit the post – thank goodness that didn’t go in.

End of Second Period: Oilers 3, Wings 1
(Emonton outshot Detroit, 11-10)

Third Period
– It’s not looking good. We really didn’t come out flying – not a good sign.

– Roloson made a really nice save on a Shanny/Draper rush (Shanny shot?) to maintain the Oilers two goal lead.

– With 21.5 seconds left in the game, Henrik Zetterberg scores to give the Wings and fans a tiny minute chance of tying this game up. Datsyuk and Holmstrom were given the assists.

– They left Manny in goal and then called a timeout. I believe they still left Manny in net. Why wouldn’t you pull Manny? We needed that extra man! Please let me know if I am incorrect and that they in fact pulled Manny at that point in the game.

End of Third Period: Oilers 3, Wings 2
(Detroit outshot Edmonton, 11-4)

Overall Stats
– Detroit had 32 total shots on goal / Edmonton only had 19 shots
– There were 10 total penalties in the game (6 on the Oilers / 4 on the Wings)
– Only one penalty came in the final period of the game, while six penalties came in the first period
– Detroit won 61% of the face-offs
– The three stars of the game were (in order from 1 to 3) Chris Pronger, Dwayne Roloson, and Brendan Shanahan.
– Detroit went 0/6 on the power play and killed 3 of 4 penalties.

Game 5: vs. Edmonton, 3:00 ET

Having averted near-disaster Thursday night in Edmonton, the Wings will look to take the series lead this afternoon at the JLA. They have the momentum but they cannot let up and will need to pick up where they left off in Game 4.

The big thing for Game 5 will be their even strength play, which has not been up to par, as reader firebird995 pointed out after Game 4. If the officials today aren’t as willing to call everything, this will be especially important. That said, their power play needs to continue to click and could be even better, as could their penalty kill. For the league’s sake, I hope this game is called correctly because the whining about the officiating at various times from both sides during this series doesn’t do much to help the credbility of the game.

I would like to see Manny have a strong game across the board, not just in the end after allowing a soft goal or two. The defense isn’t going to make many mistakes but he needs to be ready for the mistakes they do make.

Datsyuk needs to continue his period-by-period improvement and have an even stronger game today. The Oilers may go back to the trap and Pavel’s ability with the puck will be a key part in breaking through center.

This game is huge for both teams and may even be a must-win. Should be a good one.

Head over to A2Y, who has been blogging up a storm this morning, for more. I may add to this post as the day progresses but I have a lot of end-of-the-semester assignment crap to work on and I’ll be pretty busy with that until game time.

Quote of the Day

“There’s no question (the Red Wings) wield the influence over the series. I’m not saying we didn’t deserve a number of those penalties but there were a number that shouldn’t have been called.”

– Edmonton Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish, in his otherwise pretty reasonable comments on the awful officiating in Game 4.

Oh, for crying out loud, MacTavish, it’s not a conspiracy. It’s going both ways and sucks for both teams. And your boys will have to fight through it just as Babcock’s will.

Game 4: Wings 4, Oilers 2

With the Wings’ playoff hopes on the line in a hostile arena, Manny Legace came through with solid goaltending tonight and led the Wings to a 4-2 win in Edmonton. Legace had 24 saves on 26 shots, and Nicklas Lidstrom scored the winner on a 5-on-3 advantage in the third period. Henrik Zetterberg, Robert Lang, and Tomas Holmstrom added the other goals. Lang had a goal and two assists, and Schneider and Datsyuk each had a pair of assists. The Wings scored two 5-on-3 goals, and added an insurance goal from Zetterberg on the powerplay with four minutes left. Jimmy Howard was called up from the Griffins to backup Legace, with Osgood out with a tweaked groin, effectively eliminating the goaltender controversy before the game even started. It is possible Legace gained confidence knowing his starting spot was not in peril, at least for tonight. Yzerman did the pregame skate but gave Mowers the nod after deciding he couldn’t last a full 60 minutes of play.

The style of play at even strength was fairly open, but most of the game was special teams battles. Lebda played great, especially toward the end of the game, blocking shots in crucial penalty-killing situations. He almost added a goal on a feed from Datsyuk. Datsyuk had his best game of the series, and showed a lot of speed and good puck control throughout the game. His 23-game playoff goal slump still sticks out though. I was happy with Lang’s effort tonight, and didn’t see as many lazy plays from him. Schneider also had his most dominant game of the series, and was an important weapon on the power play. Chelios was resilient after getting roughed up all night, and was important in clearing the Wings’ zone on the penalty kill. Zetterberg has been solid all series and continued that tonight. Legace made a few mistakes that could’ve cost the Wings, and he allowed two five-hole goals that he might want back. In the end, he was solid and gave Wings fans a bit more confidence coming into Game 5. Disappointments on the night include Shanahan and Samuelsson’s scoring droughts. Shanny shot the puck out the other end on a wide open net and had six shots, and Samuelsson missed the net on more than a few scoring chances.

As for officiating, the refs called the game under the rumor that Gary Bettman might be in attendance, and they followed through by calling 20 penalties. It got to the point in the third where Brendan Shanahan fell to the ice by himself to avoid contact with Chris Pronger at the blue line. Any contact with the opposition tonight was followed by a penalty, though credit is due that the calls were fairly even, with 11 Edmonton penalties to the Wings’ 10. The total joke of officiating really took away from the enjoyment of the game, and I didn’t appreciate how any close save along the goal line led to a 10 minute review process between the war-room in Toronto and arena officials. These stoppages had the good intention of making the correct calls, but should be limited to extreme circumstances. The NHL should be very concerned about crossing the line of reviewing to the point they become the NFL, with coach’s challenges and reviews left and right. Mickey Redmond was all over the calls all night, and hated the new replay process.

First Period
The Wings got an early powerplay 25 seconds in, after Raffi Torres was caught with his stick between Kronwall’s skates. The Oilers met the Wings’ sustained pressure by blocking shots to prevent quality scoring chances, just like in previous games this series. The best chance came when Zetterberg had a chance on a back door tip- in, but couldn’t handle the pass.

At 3:17, Franzen was cut on the forehead by Bergeron’s skate in a scrum behind Roloson. Not wearing a visor, he was lucky the skate didn’t catch him closer to the eye. At 4:42, Datsyuk nearing broke his playoff scoring drought with a wrist shot from the right circle. The puck rose on Roloson, caught him high up, and would’ve trickled across the line had he not turned around and gotten his glove on it.

At 6:02, Legace made a good save on a shot coming off an Oiler 3-on-2. The play resulted in an Oiler powerplay, with Williams called for hooking behind the net. Draper and Zetterberg did a good job killing off the majority of the penalty kill, playing keep-away with Cleary. But, at 7:22, Pisani scored from Torres and Horcoff. On the play, Torres beat the Wings on the dump in, and got it off to Pisani near the left circle. Pasani beat Legace five-hole, and it was a shot that might have been saved if the Wings had a game-saving goaltender. But such goals should be expected the way the Wings played the regular season. 1-0 Oilers.

At 8:40, Winchester was called for holding and the Wings got another powerplay. The Wings had trouble gaining the Edmonton zone, with Zetterberg carrying the puck right into traffic at the line. The Wings generated some sustained pressure, but only one shot on net.

Following the penalty kill, Cleary did a good job beating Bergeron on the dump in behind Roloson, and the pressure led to an Oiler penalty at 11:34, cross checking on Greene. Soon after, Staios was also caught cross checking and the Wings got a crucial 5-on-3 advantage. The Wings scored at 13:25, on a Holmstrom redirection of a Schneider blast from the point. Holmstrom did a good job getting Roloson frustrated on the previous stoppage, and, whether it had any affect, Roloson was out of position on the shot. 1-1 tie.

At 15:30, Draper had a huge hit on Spacek, and the Wings showed a lot of energy following the powerplay goal. But every Edmonton shot on Legace gave me the sense that Legace was beatable tonight – certainly wasn’t going to steal the game – and we would need strong offense to back up his effort.

At 16:28, Holmstrom got called for holding the stick. The Wings killed the penalty with authority, beating the Oilers to dump-ins and clearing the zone to avoid a scoring chance. At this point, I noticed just how much the Wings had killed the energy of the crowd with the tying goal.

At 19:23, the Wings scored an unusual goal from Lang. On the play, Datsyuk passed across to Lang on the left circle, and a shot from Lang managed to hit the left post, the right post, and the back of Spacek’s leg into the net. The goal was reviewed at length, the refs apparently making sure it did not go off of Kronwall with on a kicking motion. It did neither, which was obvious in all angles of video, but they kept the fans and tv audience waiting as Toronto checked it out. Ruled a goal. 2-1 Wings. Shots in the period were 14-6 Wings. Faceoffs 14-9 Wings, with Datsyuk going a near-perfect 9-1 on faceoffs.

Second Period
Yzerman was interviewed during intermission, and thought the Wings had played well in overtime in Game 3, and that was carrying over into tonight’s game. He explained that he couldn’t have played the entire game tonight, and thought that Mower’s speed would be a good match for the Oiler’s speedy forwards.

Again, the Oilers committed the early penalty. This time, Michael Peca, 32 seconds in for elbowing. On the powerplay, Shanahan was hit up high by a Lang shot, and fell to his knees. The Wings sustained pressure with Shanny down, and he was forced to get up and play out the rest of the shift till the Oilers cleared. The Wings got some good set-ups with Lidstrom shooting and Holmstrom in front before the powerplay was killed off.

At 2:54, Holmstrom fed Zetterberg back-door, but Roloson was square to the shot and made one of his best saves of the night. Another game, another Zetterberg back-door chance. I’m enjoying getting used to that set-up.

At 3:43, Maltby was called for hooking. It didn’t take long for the Oilers to capitalize. Legace made a save on a point shot, but gave up a huge rebound and the Wings failed to clear the zone. Spacek scored from the right circle, beating Legace five-hole, again. This time he was thrown off by a cross-ice pass from Hemsky and wasn’t in position for the shot. It was a weak goal by playoff standards, and the cross-ice pass should’ve been broken up by the Wings’ defense, as well. 2-2 tie. And that means the Oilers have the crowd back and every shot on Legace is as tense as ever for Wings fans.

At 6:02, Manny made a big stand with the puck cycling from behind the net and chances from Samsonov and Stoll. These scoring opportunities showed the importance of Manny not giving up big rebounds. At 8:26, Lebda was called for holding to the right of Legace. It was a scary dump-in, as Manny almost got caught out of the net trying to play the puck. Cleary had a good penalty kill, and forced Roloson to make a shorthanded save.

At 11:30, Winchester was called for hooking behind Legace, coming off a 2-on-1 with Ryan Smyth. Shanahan did a good job of recovering from getting beat by Winchester by breaking up the 2-on-1 on the trail. On the resulting powerplay, Shanny had several chances on Roloson but missed the net or got off weak shots. The best chance came when Zetterberg handled the puck behind the net and got it out to Datsyuk, who fed it to Lebda back-door. Lebda had a wide-open net but somehow hit the left post. It was a bad break for Lebda, and could’ve potentially hurt the Wings had they lost.

At 14:15, Greene was called for hooking on Cleary. Williams turned the puck over to Ryan Smyth behind Legace, and the Oilers were able to clear the zone and play keep-away for awhile. This was not a good powerplay, and the Oilers outworked the Wings, even creating their own shorthanded chance.

The powerplay was nullified with an interference call on Samuelsson at 15:46. This was a terrible call, with Staios diving after Samuelsson just barely tapped the back of his leg. This set off the Wings’ bench, and set the stage for a frustrating end to the second period.

With play at 4-on-4, a Kronwall “hook” led to an Oiler 5-on-3 man advantage (after a few seconds at 5-on-4). The 5-on-3 lasted one minute. Legace was strong in this final stretch of the second, making a save on a Pronger point shot and not giving up a rebound. The Wings got it killed and were back to killing the 5-on-4. Chelios had a good penalty kill, doing the dirty work in front, but was called for cross-checking in front. This sent the Oilers back to a 5-on-3, and set off Chelios. He looked as angry as I’ve seen him, and I really thought he was going to clock one of the refs and/or get ejected for arguing the call. On seeing the replay, it was a good call, as Cheli really did cross check the guy across the face, but I guess Chelios was still upset about the Samuelsson call. The Wings were lucky the refs didn’t tack on extra minutes for Chelios’ tirade.

The Wings lasted the dozen or so seconds of a 5-on-3, and had 1:44 left on the penalty kill for 5-on-4. However, Franzen losing his stick made it, for all intensive purposes, another 5-on-3. In what could be a defining moment of the series, the Wings were able to kill off the remaining Oilers powerplay and get out of the first period at 2-2.

Third Period
The Oilers nearly took the lead over a minute in, but Manny made the save on Ryan Smyth along the post. He lost track of the rebound, but luckily the Wings were able to clear the zone. At 1:13, Holmstrom was called for cross checking. It was a phantom call, as he just bumped into an Oiler and that was it. At 2:02, Legace made an awkward save on Torres in front, and found himself way out of position with the puck on the mouth of the crease. Lucky for the Wings, Maltby was able to stand his ground in front and prevent a rebound chance from the Oilers.

At 5:06, Greene was called for tripping behind Roloson. A Pisani high-stick on Samuelsson at 6:29 gave the Wings a short 5-on-3 opportunity. And they came through huge. After switching sides with Schneider, Lidstrom blasted a shot from the right and beat Roloson cleanly. It would turn out to be the game-winning goal, 3-2 Wings. The Oilers wanted an interference call on the play, because when Lidstrom switched sides, he had slight contact with Stoll, who dove looking for the call. The crowd joined in and booed loudly.

At 8:35, Shanahan found himself staring at a wide open net when he snuck in behind Roloson. Unfortunately, he shot the puck out the other side, costing the Wings what could’ve been an important insurance goal. Shanny just couldn’t get a break tonight.

At 10:01, Bergeron was called for interference behind the play. Samuelsson missed the net on a shot, which was typical of him tonight. Legace turned the puck over the Ryan Smyth on the other end, but recovered with a glove save on the goal-line to keep the Wings ahead. The play was reviewed to make sure the puck did not cross the line. No goal. Still a Wings powerplay, even though everyone forgot after the officials went over seconds of replay for about ten minutes. The powerplay was killed off.

At 14:53, Cleary tried to hit Pronger, but instead got lifted three feet off the ice and thrown into the boards himself. It was a good effort – you have to recognize that Cleary is half Pronger’s size. At 15:22, Hemsky hooked Lebda, who did a good job moving his feet to draw the call. The Wings got their insurance goal on the ensuing powerplay, with Datsyuk splitting the Oiler defense and feeding an open Zetterberg in front. Henrik dieked Roloson out of his jock-strap and roofed it. 4-2 Wings.

The game got a bit tight when Franzen was sent to the box for slashing, but the Wings, notably Chelios, were able to clear the zone and prevent any major chances on Manny. Lebda also blocked a Pronger shot. Kronwall and Lebda being on the ice in such a key situation shows just how much confidence Babcock has in them.

The Wings finished the game with 31 shots to the Oilers’ 26. The Wings played as complete of a game as they have this series, and Manny did what he had to do to keep the Wings in it. He was shakey at times: the save on Torres, the turnover to Smyth, and the two five-hole goals. But the bottom line is that he was solid down the stretch, especially near the end of the second period when the Oilers had nearly four minutes of power play time. If the Wings can get some scoring from Shanahan, Samuelsson, and Datsyuk, they will be in a good position of putting the Oilers away. Being at home for Game 5 should be enough to give the Wings the edge, but who knows. Let’s just hope we never see referees Marc Joannette and Dean Warren again this playoffs. That was a travesty.

Game # 4 – Wings 4, Oilers 2

Wings defeat the Oilers in regulation, 4-2. I blogged during the game at Behind the Jersey, well I posted during the intermissions and then following the game. Here’s what I had to say throughout the night…

First Period
I missed the first couple minutes because OLN didn’t cut to the Wings vs. Oilers game feed until the Ottawa vs. Tampa Bay game ended (Ottawa won). But aside from the first few minutes that I saw, Detroit looked pretty good! They applied lots of pressure and had some great scoring chances.

Edmonton’s Fernando Pisani scored 7:22 into the first while on the power play. From my perspective, Cleary got caught behind the play and Pisani was left all alone in front of Manny. So when the puck popped up from behind the net, Pisani had a nice shot to get the puck in the net. Torres and Horcoff were given the assists. Oilers 1, Wings 0

A little over six minutes later (13:25 in the 1st period), Mathieu Schneider takes a nice shot from his “post” inside the blueline while on the power play. Tomas Holmstrom deflects the puck behind Oilers goaltender, Dwayne Roloson. It was Holmstrom’s third goal of the season (including regular and postseason) against the Oilers. Wings 1, Oilers 1

Five minutes and 58 seconds later, Robert Lang (who was given an assist in the previous Wings goal) shot hit two goalposts. The replays weren’t totally clear, but Niklas Kronwall was given credit for the goal after tipping it in? The CBC broadcasters speculated that Spacek was the one who actually accidentally kicked the puck in. I’m not sure. If anyone can confirm if this is correct (or inform me if it is incorrect), I’d really appreciate it! The OLN people now say it looked like the puck bounced off Kronwall’s leg and then went into the net. However, there was no kicking motion involved (the goal did go under review) and the goal stood. (Sometime in the 2nd: It appears that Lang has now been credited with the goal.) Wings 2, Oilers 1

Detroit went 1/4 on the power play while Edmonton was 1/2 on the power play. Detroit also won 61% of the face-offs.

End of First Period: Wings 2, Oilers 1
(Detroit outshot Edmonton 14-6)

Second Period
4:03 into the second, Spacek scores through Manny’s 5-hole. Yes, the 5-hole. He should’ve had that save. Some of the goals he has allowed this series have not been hard ones; but our backup, Chris Osgood, has a lower body injury (an OtW reader said it was a tweaked groin) so we had to call up rookie Jimmy Howard. Howard has four games of NHL experience under his belt so it’s pretty safe to say that Manny will remain in net. Although Manny did step it up during out penalty kills, he just needs to keep his 5-hole covered and not allow easy goals! Wings 2, Oilers 2

Matt @ Lets Go Wings forum had this to say (and I couldn’t agree more):

You can’t just give this Edmonton team life, and that’s what Legace has done. I know it’s not entirely on the netminder, but it’s not like the Edmonton goals were the result of a bad defensive play.The team is playing solid defensively, but as soon as Edmonton sniffs blood after each of the goals they scored tonight they go bonkers for a few shifts keeping the Wings scrambling… then it slowly heads back to the Detroit possession game.

It’d be nice to gain some momentum with a lead and MAINTAIN the lead for once. Please?

The Wings had four penalties this period. Cheli – what were you thinking? We were already down a man! Maybe the refs missed something Edmonton did, but we couldn’t afford that penalty. He was having fun toying with Smyth (was that the guy?), but do that when we’re not already trying to kill a penalty, buddy. I like the passion and that he’s now pissed about the ref’s call, but try to stay out of the box!

Three of those penalties came 15:46-17:52 into the period. While I was incredibly pleased that the Wings actually managed to kill two 5-on-3 Oiler advantages, we made too many stupid trips to the penalty box that we only had 7 shots on Roloson (to Edmonton’s 13).

Detroit won 53% of the face-offs in the first two periods.

End of Second Period: Wings 2, Oilers 2
(Edmonton outshot Detroit, 13-7)

Third Period
6:44 into the final period, Nick Lidstrom scored from the right corner inside the blueline. Now I’m a Wings fan and am just plain happy that he scored. I watched with my family, fellow Wings fans, and am watching the CBC broadcast courtesy of OLN. The broadcasters strongly believed it was a pick. My brother and dad thought there was obviously some contact, but Lidstrom did not cause him to spin around and fall. (Edit: I’m just happy the Wings scored another goal after Lidstrom’s shot. Obviously, this goal helped with momentum and whatnot, but I’d feel just slightly guilty if that was the only goal that got past Roloson in the third.) Wings 3, Oilers 2

Pavel Datsyuk makes a beautiful play (good stickwork and actually “pushed” past the Oilers player – I can’t think of a better word than “pushed”) and passes the puck to Henrik Zetterberg in front of Roloson. Zetterberg makes a slight deke and shoots the puck backhand to give the Wings a two goal lead! The goal happened 15:53 into the third and scored while on the power play. Wings 4, Oilers 2

The Wings went 2/4 on the power play in the third while the Oilers only had two power play opportunities and did not capitalize on either one. Detroit won 54% of the face-offs in the game, overall.

End of Third Period: Wings 4, Oilers 2
(Detroit outshot Edmonton, 10-7)

Overall Game Thoughts
The Wings needed to win this game and they did. As a Wings fan, I couldn’t be happier! The series is all tied up at two game wins apiece and we are not heading back to Detroit down, 3-1. The game’s three stars were (in order from 1 to 3) Nick Lidstrom, Chris Pronger, and Robert Lang. It’s good to see Lidstrom step up and finally get on the scoreboard.

Detroit’s offensive leaders tonight: Robert Lang had a goal and two assists tonight. The only goal he did not contribute to was the last one. I was impressed with his offensive presence tonight especially with captain Steve Yzerman out of the lineup (with a lower back injury). Mathieu Schneider also had three points tonight, all of which were assists. It’s also nice to see Pavel Datsyuk notch two assists and playing a big role in that final goal cementing the Wings’ lead.

Quick Game Stats
– Wings outshot Edmonton, 31-26.
– Manny made 24 saves / Roloson stopped 27 shots
– Edmonton’s Mark Greene went to the penalty box three times tonight (most of any player on either team / Detroit’s Holmstrom was second with two penalties). He was called for cross checking, hooking, and tripping.
– Edmonton had two more penalties in the game than Detroit, 11 and 9 penalties respectively.
– 5 of the 6 goals in tonight’s game came on the power play. Only Lang’s goal in the second period came while playing at even strength.
– Detroit went 3-11 on the power play (roughly 27%). Edmonton went 2-9 (about 22%).

The game didn’t seem to have a lot of flow with the amount of penalties this game had (20 overall). It’s hard to get a rhythm going when the whistle is blowing every two seconds (an obvious exaggeration).
– First period had 6 penalties (Edmonton had 4 to Detroit’s 2)
– Second period had 8 penalties (Detroit had 5 to Edmonton’s 3)
– Third period had 6 penalties (Edmonton had 4 to Detroit’s 2)

I just looked at the previous games’ offensive score sheets and although it seemed like a bazillion penalties were called, Tuesday’s game had two more penalties than tonight’s with 22 total penalties (each team with 11). However, three of those penalties did come during the overtime period. Last Sunday’s game in Detroit only had 9 total penalties (5 Detroit, 4 Edmonton). And the first game of the series had 16 penalties (8 apiece); none of those penalties were called during either overtime periods.

Sacamano at Battle of Alberta with his postgame reaction:

I don’t usually like to talk about the refs because in the grand scheme of things everything tends to even out in the wash; but that missed pick call on the 5 on 3 was a back-breaker.Having said that, there were about 10 other penalty calls on the Oilers that were deserved, and they did have two 5 on 3’s that they failed to convert. Terrible discipline. Hemsky was quite simply, awful tonight. In addition, like the other loss, the Oilers had zero 5 on 5 production — not that there was a heckuva lot of 5 on 5 play.

He also mentioned that the Oilers still have a strong shot at winning this series is if this is the best Detroit can do. Well, we all know Detroit can do a lot better (namely our second period crappiness), but will they actually bring it on Saturday’s game?

In conclusion…
– The Wings won and we didn’t have to go into overtime!
– I hated watching that CBC broadcast. It really made me miss Mickey and Ken at FSN Detroit.
– Obviously today’s game was a pretty important one, but I think a win on Saturday is also pretty key. I wouldn’t want to head back to Edmonton down 3-2.
– Did I mention the Wings won? Woohoo!