Archive for May, 2006

Get NHL hightlights from the iTunes Music Store

From the NHL’s press release:

The iTunes Music Store is offering a “Season Pass” for each Stanley Cup Playoff series for $4.99. Each package includes 15-20 minutes of expanded highlights of each game in the Eastern or the Western Conference Finals or the Stanley Cup Final. For $1.99, fans can download expanded highlights of individual games. Videos downloaded from the iTunes Music Store can be viewed on a computer or iPod.

This would be pretty cool if it weren’t for the fact that you can get free highlights from NHL.com (“Video highlights are free!”) or YouTube. Seems to me a better idea would have been not to charge for these. How is this going to attract new fans? Experienced fans already know where to get free highlights and prospective fans aren’t going to want to pay to see them, however cheap they are.

Link (opens iTunes, via. The Unoffical Apple Weblog)

Update (11:31 AM): A reader over at TUAW points out the irony of the fact that these are not available in the Canadian iTMS, just the US version. That’s real smart. I’d have thought the League wanted to make at least some money out of this.

Cheli returning for another year

He’ll get $850,000. Hopefully he’ll be able to compete at least a level similar to what he put out this past season. The Wings now have four defensemen under contract (the others being Mathieu Schneider, Niklas Kronwall, and Andreas Lilja) but not Nick Lidstrom, who will likely call for the league maximum. I have a feeling he’ll get it and that he’ll get it from the Wings, not some other team. They’ve kept him around for this long and the 36-year-old may only play a couple more years. I imagine Nick and his family would like to stay here in Detroit for at least another season or two.

Link

Update (11:11 AM): Megan wants me to mention Brett Lebda, who Holland says will be in the Winged Wheel next year unless he plays “his way off the team,” though he hasn’t actually been re-signed yet.

Checking in

Well, it’s two weeks ago today that the Wings were eliminated and maybe you’re all wondering where we are. The week following that Monday consisted of exams and checking out of my apartment (a ridiculous process that kept me there three hours past my appointed checkout time), then coming home and re-ordering my life on the other side of the state. Then it was back to GR on Saturday to see a couple of my best friends graduate and by then it was nearly a week since the elimination.

Last Tuesday, I had ankle surgery in which the metal plate put in when I broke my ankle in 1999 was removed. Since then I’ve hobbled around the house in a walking cast and read 870 pages of a nearly 1300-page book (Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer), killed innumerable Stormtroopers/Rebel Alliance soldiers on my laptop, watched King Kong, Poseidon, Supertroopers, Master and Commander, flipped through the TV over and over again, and been generally bored out of my mind. I have avoided reading Red Wings news beyond what IwoCPO posts over at Abel to Yzerman and read a couple roundups of the previous night’s games every morning.

Really, life has gone on. A2Y calls the elimination the “Punch in the Face,” but to me it’s more like what we used to call a “Cup Check” in football, if know what I mean. I still haven’t really dealt with it and I probably won’t until The Captain announces his retirement and it’ll finally sink in that I won’t see him play again.

As for the team I’d like to see make it all the way now, it’s the Oilers. Not because of the usual reason: “I’m rooting for [insert eliminating/hope-crushing team here] because then the Wings lost to the Cup winner and losing to them won’t be such a bad thing.” I’d like to see Edmonton go all the way because they convinced me that they wanted it during that series. Losing to them sucked because I could see it coming and I didn’t know how the Wings would stop them. When they tied it on that freak goal, I knew they would score before regulation ran out, that it was inevitable.

Now, seeing that they’ve had a little trouble with San Jose but are overcoming it with just as much grit and heart as they showed against the Wings, I would love to see the Cup go back to Edmonton again. I’m still a Wings fan through and through but Edmonton has moved up to the #2 spot in my fanship pantheon.

The only game I’ve watched all the way through since the “Cup Check” was Saturday night’s Buffalo/Ottawa game. All I’ll say is an Edmonton/Buffalo final would be pretty exciting, but it wouldn’t be for the faint-hearted fan!

Random comment: you know, after watching all these young goalies tear it up these playoffs, the idea of a Jimmy Howard/Stefan Liv net doesn’t sound so bad. Other teams are going with youth, why can’t we? Home-grown talent is the way to go now and going after a veteran goalie seems outmoded.

Thanks to our readers for posting comments and generating community during the first round. It was great to have comments to respond to and know that you guys were out there. Your insights and jokes were great and made the effort this site takes worth it. I’m sorry the playoff run didn’t go any longer because now we’ve got the long, quiet summer ahead of us.

Anyway, we’ll start posting again once things start to happen in the off-season. We should be pretty busy with all that, once it starts. For now, I’m just trying not to dwell on it.

Game 6: Wings 3, Oilers 4

Update (7:13 PM, 02. May): Okay, enough with the comments about our interpretation of, and reaction to, Hemsky’s first goal. None of us at OtW believe that goal was the reason the Wings lost and I believe Brian stated that pretty clearly in his first paragraph.

I personally distinctly remember seeing Hemsky’s foot turn, pull back, and move forward in an umistakable kicking-like motion. But, as many of you have been so kind to point out, the puck went in off the crest of his jersey, not the foot, so any type of kicking motion is entirely irrelevant.

The goal obviously should have counted and we know it wasn’t the game winner. So, don’t think we OtW bloggers, at least, believe that’s why Edmonton won, or that we are whining about it. The juveniles in the forums, maybe, but not us. The posted reaction is just an attempt to come to terms with it all.

That said, having the game tied up in such a screwy way brutally sucked and I still have a bad taste in my mouth. That’s all I have to say for now. Maybe in a day or two I’ll have more.

And, for those of you who are coming here to leave a gloating comment, acquire some class and bug off. — Matt

The Wings lost a 2-0 lead in the third period, as well as a 3-2 lead with four minutes left, and a goal from Hemsky with 1:06 remaining gave Edmonton a 4-3 win over the Wings. Edmonton won their first playoff series in 8 years, 4-2 , and did it at home. Yzerman had 13:04 of ice time, and assisted on Robert Lang’s power play goal in the 2nd. Manny Legace had 26 saves on 30 shots, and wasn’t individually to blame for the loss tonight. To blame was Andreas Lilja, who blew coverage on the winning goal as well as on the goal that made it 2-2 midway through the 3rd period. He flat out left Legace out to dry by covering the wrong guys and leaving Pisani and Hemsky open for their respective goals. Holland should be eating crow for recently signing Lilja to a 2 year, $2 million deal. Also, Samuelsson didn’t help with his turnovers and two penalties in the 1st. Finally, the Wings dominated the 2nd period with 17-2 shots, but only converted that lopsided margin in chances to one goal. That and a number of shots hitting the post will haunt the Wings all summer. Tonight it was more a breakdown in defensive coverage than a lack of offense that killed the Wings, though more goals would’ve helped of course.

First Period
Both teams started the game with energy, with Zetterberg opening the scoring chances at 0:53. On the play, Zetterberg got a point blank chance after the puck took a bad bounce in front of Roloson. The Wings sustained pressure on the Edmonton end, and Datsyuk was strong on the next shift with a chance between the circles.

At 2:36, Yzerman took his first check of the game from Stoll and appeared very sensitive coming off of it. He would play only 3 minutes and take only one faceoff in the first, due to his back injury. At 3:59, Lebda jumped in on offense and his shot almost caught Roloson off guard with Samuelsson creating trouble in front. Draper followed the rebound with his own shot on Roloson.

At 4:19, Samuelsson was caught hooking Horcoff. It was an automatic call, and a bad way to start the game for the Wings. Samsonov had the best chance of the Oilers powerplay, driving the net off the near side with bad angle shot on Legace. Cleary cleared the Wings zone (how appropriate), and the Wings killed off the first Oilers powerplay.

For the next two minutes, the Oilers commanded the tempo and stuck in the Wings zone with sustained pressure. The Wings didn’t allow any quality chances, but their offensive stagnation was disappointing.

At 7:50, Samsonov had a wrap-around chance on Legace after a Wings giveaway behind the net. Then, at 8:16, Schneider coughed the puck up at center and Horcoff nearly had a breakaway. Luckily, he was not confident with the puck and pulled back to dump it off to a teammate. The Oilers had a tendency of doing that tonight.

At the midpoint of the period, the Oilers had an 8-4 advantage in shots and the crowd was into it. The Oilers were getting a lot of odd man rushes, the result of Wings giveaways and trouble passing the puck (partly the same thing).

At 10:33, Schneider was called for high sticking behind the play, as the Wings were about to carry the puck into the Oiler zone. Samsonov was strong again, and forced Manny to make a tough glove save in traffic. The Wings had a good penalty kill other than that, with blocked shots from Chelios and finally Maltby.

Coming off the penalty kill, I noted how the Wings were in desperate need of a powerplay to kill the Edmonton momentum. Soon after, at 14:36, Zetterberg scored an even-strength goal. On the play, a falling Samuelson passed across to Zetterberg on the near side. Zetterberg took the pass and beat a poorly positioned Spacek, before deiking on Roloson to make it 1-0 Wings. It was a very timely goal for Zetterberg, the Wings needing it to kill the energy of the crowd. Now my focus was getting the Wings to escape this period still up a goal, since Edmonton had carried all the play until this out-of-the-blue goal by Henrik.

At 16:29, Samuelsson was called for high sticking, his stick riding up Jason Smith’s arms to make contact near the face. A Pronger blast at 16:35 hit the post to the left of Manny, the refs quickly waving it off. It looked good, and it was a break for the Wings that it clanked off the post.

Draper and Maltby had a shorthanded 2-on-1, but Maltby was stopped on a pretty weak shot. A Pronger interference call at 17:09 nullified the Oiler powerplay. He was called for picking a Wings player, something Oilers fans thought should’ve been called on Lidstrom during the winning goal of Game 4.

The Wings got a 40 second powerplay after Samuelsson got out of the box, but they couldn’t even gain the Oiler zone. Shots were 15-10 for the Oilers in the first period, and the Wings were very lucky to escape with a 1-0 lead.

Second Period
The Oilers opened the second period with a wrap-around chance from Pisani at 1:05, with Torres in front. Legace had good positioning and made the save on the post. It would be one of the few Oiler chances of the second period. At 3:03, Maltby had a backhand chance off the near side. The rebound fluttered out to the mouth of the crease, but there was no trailing Wing on the play to pick it up.

At 4:54, Spacek was caught hooking Lang after a Rem Murray giveaway. It was a good penalty for the Oilers to take after the turnover. The Wings powerplay lasted only 24 seconds, with a Holmstrom penalty for goaltender interference nullifying the man advantage. At 6:46, Datsyuk clanked one off the post after picking up a Spacek turnover. Williams picked up another Spacek turnover soon after, to which the CBC crew joked that Spacek shouldn’t have gotten out of bed this morning.

The story of the second period was Edmonton’s inability to convert on dump-ins, and their subsequent passing up the middle led to a number of turnovers (Spacek the culprit on a few just mentioned).

At 9:24, Cleary nearly scored after shooting on Roloson from behind the net. Roloson was awkward on the save, twisting around to grab Cleary’s rebound chance. At 11:55, Yzerman carried it into the Oiler zone and made his patented cut-back move. His shot went off the near post, and it was good to see Yzerman have an energetic shift like that. After this chance, the CBC crew began what became a complement-athon of Yzerman’s career and they basically put up all his career numbers. You can bet they were waiting to do this.

At 13:51, Pronger was called for high sticking on Samuelsson. The Wings scored just 11 seconds into the powerplay, with Yzerman centering Lang for a between the circles bang-bang play. Yzerman’s faceoff win over Stoll was crucial on this play. 2-0 Wings. At this point, shots were 10-1 Wings in the 2nd.

At 15:11, Hemsky had a near-breakaway, but he pulled up looking to pass it, apparently afraid to carry the puck and use his own speed. After getting booted from a faceoff, Yzerman had a wrist shot that went off Roloson’s shoulder and fluttered behind him. Although he lost track of it, Roloson was able to do a snow-angel and catch the puck on the goal-line.

At 16:40, Shanahan hit the post driving the net and ran right over Roloson, drawing boos and the “bull sh*t” chant. This also led the CBC crew to pull out the scripted argument that any non-call on the Wings is due to their being veterans and thus are “reputation calls.” Now that’s bull sh*t. The Wings closed out the period strong, and led shots 17-2 in the 2nd.

Third Period
The Oilers’ second period was so bad that Don Cherry came out in the second intermission (he usually only does the first intermission) to call it a “disgrace for a team at home to play like that.” Well, the Oilers must’ve been watching CBC in the locker room, because they definitely turned it around in the third. It also didn’t help when Mickey Redmond jinxed the Wings by saying we didn’t need any more goals and could just protect our lead to win. Right…when have two goals ever been enough this series?

At 1:44, Datsyuk broke in 1-on-1 with Staios, and got decked by Staios after getting a shot off. At 2:43, Winchester had a good chance in front on a one-timer, but fanned on it. This came after Kronwall failed to clear the zone. A scrum ensued, and Williams was picked by the refs for a penalty after he jumped in late. The refs have been doing this all playoffs to eliminate scrums after every stoppage, and Williams messed up.

The Williams roughing call came back to bite the Wings, with Pisani scoring at 2:56 to make it 2-1 Wings. It came off a rebound on a Stoll shot, and Manny was caught out of position after the initial save. Not a weak goal at all.

This brought the crowd into it, and Peca broke in on Legace at 3:36 after elbowing Lebda at center ice. It was a dirty hit, and the refs didn’t see it or else it would’ve been a penalty. The Peca breakaway fizzled out with not much of a shot on Manny, but Peca did enjoy running Manny over at the end.

At 6:10, Lebda hit the post from the far side, off a bad angle shot fed by Williams. I can’t take Lebda hitting the post anymore…At 6:40, the Oilers carried the puck down after the Lebda post, and Pisani scored alone in front of Manny. On the play, Lilja failed to cover his man, and left Pisani wide open and Manny out to dry. 2-2 tie. Pisani, the Edmonton native, was energetic throughout, and the crowd seemed to feed off his play.

Well, it was a new game now, with Edmonton owning the third period thus far. Mickey Redmond was eating crow after his prediction that the Wings’ 2-0 lead was enough to win it. At this point, shots were 5-1 Edmonton.

At 7:52, Moreau was called for tripping Kronwall in the Wings zone. On the powerplay, Datsyuk had a chance between the circles but switched to his backhand, and the shot wasn’t strong enough to beat Roloson. Shanahan and Lang missed the net on rebound chances.

At 10:07, Franzen scored an even-strength goal to make it 3-2 Wings. On the play, Maltby held it in the Edmonton zone and ripped it at the net. The shot went off the post, and Franzen picked up the rebound to stuff it into an empty net. It was Franzen’s 1st career playoff goal.

At this point, the crowd was killed and the Wings were generating great pressure in the Oilers zone. Things were looking great. With 5:36 left, the Edmonton crowd was begging for a powerplay and they finally got it with a Cleary interference call.

The Oilers scored at very controversial goal at 16:07, with Hemsky kicking the puck in the net following what should’ve been a high-stick on Horcoff. On the play, Horcoff had his stick above his head and redirected a point shot at Legace. Mike Leggo and Mick McGeough blew the call, as it was pretty obvious Horcoff tipped the puck with a high-stick. McGeough was the closest on the play. Legace attempted to cover the rebound off the Horcoff re-direct, but couldn’t get his glove on it. Hemsky picked up the rebound and was seen in the replay kicking it in, with Lidstrom pushing him in the back. McGeough called it a goal on the spot, and the play went under review to Toronto. It was ruled a goal. Since they couldn’t review the Horcoff high-stick, they could only review whether Hemsky kicked it in. It appeared obvious to everyone that he did, so the only reason I can see that they ruled it a goal was that Lidstrom was pushing him and could’ve contributed to the kicking motion. A bit much to go on to give the Oilers a 3-3 tie. But then again, the NHL would love to see the Battle of Alberta with Edmonton versus Calgary next round.

It was a horrible call by the league, and the Wings were as shocked as their fans were. With a few minutes left, all of us were thinking it would go to overtime and I was getting ready to find a snack. I even saw a commercial for Yzerman’s line of furniture and got a laugh out of that. But in a shocking turn of events, Hemsky scored with 1:06 left. Lilja left him all alone on the backdoor to receive a Samsonov pass, and it was 4-3 Oilers. Lilja is the bonehead of this year’s playoffs.

This is when all Wings fans saw the score and looked at the clock with shock. Here the Wings were, down a goal with only a minute left. This after being up with four minutes left. Complete shock. The Wings pulled Legace and put together a desperate, but unproductive attempt at a comeback. Moreau blocked their best chance in the final seconds. Datsyuk took the faceoff with 6 seconds left and won it, but the Wings couldn’t get one on net. And that was it. Oilers GM Kevin Lowe was seen consoling Yzerman, and the way Yzerman looked he is most likely done.

Results
The Wings’ third first round playoff exit in five seasons could bring about some changes in the locker room. Manny Legace comes to mind as the most obvious scapegoat. While no one can say he played badly, he certainly didn’t play well and gave the Wings no inspiration or confidence with his body language and post-game quotes throughout the series. It will be a huge offseason decision whether to retain Manny as the backup, or give Osgood that role. Both are unrestricted free agents this summer.

Chris Chelios will also have to decide whether he is coming back, and all indications are that he is. The Wings will gladly re-sign him. Nicklas Lidstrom is the biggest player who is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Wings will give him whatever next season’s cap allows the maximum salary to be. Also, Brendan Shanahan is an unrestricted free agent and could possibly retire with a front office job with the NHL guaranteed. But I expect him to be back next season. Finally, Steve Yzerman’s contract is up and he will have to decide on whether he is returning. All indications are that he is not – he has been bitter and frustrated all season, and, despite his jump come playoff times, his back injury really put things back into perspective of his age and physical condition.

As for coaching, Babcock signed a three year deal with the Wings last summer. By the precedent of firing Dave Lewis after his second early playoff exit, Babcock is expected to be given another chance. Ken Holland is considered a core member of the front office, but his job should be scrutinized. His signing of Derian Hatcher and Ray Whitney were predictably bad from day one, and the Curtis Joseph situation was poorly managed and an embarrassment to the organization. Just some examples of bad recent moves. Gone are the days of Holland doing blockbuster moves with unlimited resources via Ilitch, so Holland’s role on the team deserves some constructive criticism – I’m not saying he’s out but some Wings strategies need tuning.

Quotes
Manny Legace:

“I feel like going home and hanging myself. To have such a great year and then such a disappointing last two weeks. And you’re out. You’re golfing. It’s hard to take.”

Coach Babcock:

“If we had caught a couple breaks we could have been up 4-0. But coulda, shoulda, woulda. They found a way to win and we’re going home. I’m shocked that we are in this situation…We’re going to have to evaluate our team this summer and if we have to make changes we’ll make changes. We don’t want to be about winning in the regular season and not getting it done in the playoffs. It’s hard to look at our team and think we wouldn’t have success in the playoffs.”

Steve Yzerman:

“I’m flying home tomorrow and that’s about as far as I can go. I think it is best to wait a few days. Whether it is later this week or next week, I’ll be ready to make a decision on my future then. It is such a fun game to play. That building tonight, the more times you are in situations like that, the more you come to enjoy it. I don’t know that I’m ever not going to want to play. But I’ll have a decision soon.”