Archive for November, 2006

Khan: Lebda to play as forward

Apparently, Jason Williams will not be back until Tuesday night in St. Louis at the earliest. So, rather than call someone up from Grand Rapids, Mike Babcock has decided to play Brett Lebda as a forward instead of as a defenseman this weekend. According to Ansar Khan, Babcock, “would rather have both Lebda and Andreas Lilja in the lineup than anyone who’s currently in Grand Rapids.”

Interesting decision. Lebda has a lot of speed, and sometimes seems almost like a forward already, so it should work well. I like it.

Khan also says Dominik Hasek will start Friday night in Minnesota, which means we’ll have the same question about goaltending we had last week: who will start Saturday, Joey MacDonald or Dom? If it’s Joey, I hope the team will give him better support this time around.

Williams Update

Looks like Helene St James may have been a bit over-optimistic earlier when she told us that Jason Williams might return Friday. She now has an update on the injured forward’s status:

“I don’t think I’ll be playing Friday for sure,” Williams said. “Saturday, we’ll see how I feel.”

That means the Wings will have to call someone up for Friday’s game if they don’t want to be short a forward. Many have suggested we need an enforcer, a la Brad Norton. He’s nursing a back injury right now though, so if they want to go that route, they’d have to call up Darryl Bootland. Another likely option would be Josh Langfeld. Ken Holland is supposed to be in Grand Rapids tonight, so I guess we’ll see who catches his eye.

A day off

Update (3:36 PM): I’ve been told that I sound patronizing in this post and, reading over it again, I have to agree. The thing is, when I was writing it, I had frantic “let’s trade Draper, Maltby, and Schneider for Doan” message boarders in mind. IwoCPO definitely is not one of those, by the way – I just got on a tangent after reading his post.

Seeing the team score more goals would definitely be a good thing, but I, for one, am going to try to be satisfied with a hard-working, defense-oriented team because I feel they can be successful if they perfect it.

The team, in general, is playing well defensively, with just a few loose ends that could be tied up (i.e. giving up a couple goals despite allowing only 20 or so shots). Why take the team in the opposite direction? – Matt

Update (1:13 PM): Just a clarification on my snarky comments below:

I believe the team needs offense, of course, and that they need to get the power play going. But I also believe they’ll have more success if they continue to stress defensive play and not offense at the expense of defense.

Folks, this team is not going to blow out the opposition as frequently as Wings teams in the past have done simply because Babcock is emphasizing team defense. Can they and will they dominate offensively at times? Sure. They certainly have the personnel for it. Most often, however, we should be seeing consistently strong defensive efforts instead of dominating offensive performances. This is a Mike Babcock team, after all.

The power play is miserable and needs to be fixed, but, realistically, we can expect one or two PPGs per game. So we’re still not going to see 5-6 goal games.

This team needs to continue allowing only 20 shots a game. They just need to stop giving up a couple goals, which means Hasek needs to be more dominant.

Defensive diligence, not offensive dominance, is the hallmark of this team. It means they’ll be streaky, winning a few and then losing a few. It means they’ll get blown out occassionally but it also means they’ll do the blowing out themselves every once and a while.

In the end, they’ll be in the middle of the pack in the standings as well as offensive categories. They’ll be on top in defense, however. Get used to it, Wings fans. – Matt

It’s a bit of a slow news day so I’m taking the day off from blogging – unless something happens worth posting about – so I can focus on class, work, and homework.

I will point you to A2Y, though, so you can read IwoCPO’s take on solutions for ending cheap shots against the Wings. Basically, they need to increase their offensive output by getting the power play going. Once that’s done, they can score PPGs after unrelated phantom calls and then thumb their noses at the opposition bench as they revel in retaliation for a hit on an earlier un-penalized play.

Revenge’ll be sweet, if they can just get the power play going! Other teams will still be able to deal out concussions and charley-horses left and right, but, by golly, they’ll regret it when the Wings score one or two power plays. Just pray they don’t put their potential for supreme defensive prowess on hold and start allowing goals as they work on fulfiling their much more limited offensive potential.

11/28 Notes

Update (4:59 PM): Helene St. James reports that Jason Williams may return to the ice Friday night in Minnesota. Apparently, he feels a lot better today than he did last night and the pain could very well be gone in time for the game.

She says Ken Holland will be in Grand Rapids Wednesday (I’ll keep an eye out for him, though I won’t be leaving campus tomorrow) to check out the Griffins in case Williams does not return and the team needs an extra forward.

St. James believes Josh Langfeld is the most likely choice in such an event, though I think Darryl Bootland could be the one to get the call, despite what she says. Krys Kolanos, who stopped practicing with the team last week and with whom Bootland may have clashed, is now officially gone*, therefore removing a possible reason for Darryl’s recent benchings. He would bring a needed dimension, if he’s no longer in the doghouse.

*Interestingly enough, so is Stefan Liv, who has been sent down to Toledo of the ECHL in order to fine-tune his game after an awful North American debut. – Matt

Update (12:37 PM): George Malik links to a Windsor Star piece that points out that the Wings’ miserable power play isn’t operating in a vacuum: teams know they won’t have to pay for cheap shots as long as they’re facing the league’s worst PP percentage.

I can’t disagree, though only one of the three big injury-causing cheap shots so far this season (Wiliams 1, Franzen, Williams 2 below) has resulted in a Detroit power play. Kind of hard to use the man advantage for revenge when the officials aren’t calling penalties on the plays. – Matt

Update (11:37 PM): … IwoCPO is in fine form with his recap of last night’s game. Check it out here. – Matt

The Wings won last night, 2-1 over Marty Turco and the Stars. Guess Tippett’s gamble to counter history didn’t work. Definitely a win the team needed.

I caught a little of the game, but was distracted by homework (among other things) at the time and don’t have much to say on it. I will comment that they seemed to be turning the puck over a lot, though they seemed to do a fair job of getting back to make up for their mistakes. Also, is it just me or does Dom fall a lot more this year?

… I did happen to be watching when Niklas Hagman’s knee caught Jason Williams just above his own knee behind the net in the Dallas end. I saw the replay from a couple angles and didn’t immediately think “Intentional knee-on-knee contact,” but some of the Wings are saying that it was, including alternate captain Kris Draper, who’s not known for shooting off his mouth. Mike Babcock, however, doesn’t believe Hagman went out of his way on the play, which resulted in a charley horse for Williams and fortunately not any knee damage. He’s listed as day-to-day, as of last night.

If it was intentional, I’d like to see some kind of disciplinary action by the NHL because then this lack of respect would be truly ridiculous. If it was just bad luck, that’s little consolation for Williams, who doesn’t need any more injury troubles on plays like that.

… Gotta love the title of the Freep’s Wings Corner today: “Datsyuk plans to shoot more.”

Apparently, he’s afraid that his opponents around the league have figured him out and know that he’s always looking for the pass. His solution? Shoot more. I’ll believe it when I see it, Pavel. I suppose it’s a good thing he realizes the puck doesn’t go into the net on its own.

Helene St. James provides two other excuses for Datsyuk: he has no proven Shahanan-like finisher, and he’s called on more to play a defensive role, like the rest of the forwards.

Yeah, well, you still need to produce offensively, Pavel. Just because you don’t have cannon for a wingman or because you’re meant to be more responsible defensively doesn’t mean you need to skate into a crowd and turn the puck over.

Franzen Update

Helene St. James reports that Johan Franzen has a sprained MCL in his left knee. According to Mike Babcock, he for sure will not be back for the weekend’s games against Minnesota (Friday) and San Jose (Saturday). So, the earliest he’d return would be next Tuesday in St. Louis. Apparently, there are no further concerns about his concussion.

Good to hear that his knee injury is no worse than a sprain.

GameDay: vs. Dallas (16-6-0, 32 Pts) 7:00 ET

Update (9:15 PM): Uh, I guess I should have read around a little more before guessing Smith would start tonight. According to the Dallas Star-Telegram, Marty Turco will be in net, after all. Apparently, Dave Tippett isn’t worried about Turco’s habit of losing to the Wings. Not that I blame him, really… (via A2Y). – Matt

Tonight is the second of four meetings between these two teams this season. The Wings won the first game 4-3 a month ago in Dallas, the second win in what would become a nine-game winning streak.

Over the past month, the Stars have gone 8-4-0, losing to two Northwest Division teams (Vancouver, Calgary) and two Eastern Conference teams (the Islanders, Carolina). Three of their losses came on the road. They’ve won their last three, which have all been at home, including a 1-0 decision over Nashville on Wednesday. The Stars are third place in the tough Pacific Division when they’d be tied for first in the Central, as the AP’s preview points out.

Looks like the Stars have been going with rookie goaltender Mike Smith lately. Veteran Marty Turco was pulled during the team’s 5-4 win over Colorado after giving up two goals on five shots and Smith has been playing ever since, posting his second shutout of the season. Given Turco’s career record against the Wings (1-7-5), I’m guessing the rookie will get his third-straight start tonight.
The Wings have lost five in a row, including an embarrassing 6-2 loss to Nashville Saturday night. They’ve earned a point in three of the five losses, but have fallen four points behind the Predators in the Central Division. The team’s lack of offense has become a critical problem during this stretch, as three goals seems to be their upper threshold at the moment.

Dominik Hasek should be in net for the Wings.

The injury list remains the same: Johan Franzen (knee, concussion) and Chris Osgood (wrist).

The Wings better hope they can find some offense tonight or else they’ll be in trouble. Saturday night may or may not have been an “aberration,” but the lack of scoring has been a problem all season. This Smith kid looks to be very good and if he doesn’t start, Marty Turco is probably ready to beat the Wings for just the second time in his career. Neither goalie is going to be beaten by half-hearted attempts.

The game is on Versus tonight, not FSN.

I won’t be able to cover the game tonight due to homework. Sorry.

A2Y recaps last night’s game

Be sure to read IwoCPO’s scathing report on the Wings’ 6-2 loss to Nashville last night.

I only caught clips of the game, but saw more than I needed to see. So, a few comments:

It was monumentally stupid to start Dominik Hasek against one of the worst teams in the league and then start a rookie goaltender against one of the best, especially using the lame excuse “We wanted to end the losing streak!” Okay, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if MacDonald’s teammates hadn’t abandoned him to get shellacked, knowing that he would get no relief in any case.

Iwo thinks Datsyuk’s on the trading block. It’s hard to argue with that, given how uninspiring he’s been this season. Yeah, he breaks out some moves every once and a while, but he rarely finishes. Would the Wings be able to get anything decent in return, though? Everyone in the league knows the same things about Pavel we know: he doesn’t show up for the playoffs, he needs set-piece-cannon linemates to pass the puck to, he’s rendered useless in tight defense if not motivated, doesn’t play hurt, and so on. Pavel’s star is certainly falling in Detroit and has to be around the league as well.

I’ve always liked Pavel, but this was the year he was supposed to step up and take a real leadership role and he hasn’t. It’s extremely disappointing. I keep waiting for him to break out again, but it doesn’t happen.

Sending down a young gun and bringing up Norton or Bootland may be a short-term solution but it’s something that’s doable. The roster needs a shake up and it needs some of the so-called leaders to stand up and take charge.

Anyway, no one is asking for another nine-game winning streak. But 6-2 losses to rivals, that extend losing streaks to five games, are not acceptable.