Archive for January, 2007

If I were a hockey player…

I guess it’s my turn to do this thing:

Team: Detroit Red Wings

Uniform Number: 75 (wore it in football)

Position: Defense

Nickname: Psycho (another football relic)

Dream blueline partner: Nick Lidstrom (to make up for all my mistakes – who am I kidding?)

Rounding out the Power Play: Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Pavel Bure

Job: Strictly a defensive defenseman

Signature Move: No move, but I’d own the boards.

Strengths: My size.

Weaknesses: My lack of a skating ability

Equipment: Easton skates and a wood stick.

Nemeses: Anyone with quicker feet

Scandal Involvement: Frequent spectacular losses of temper.

Who I’d Face in the Stanley Cup Finals: New York Rangers

What I’d do with the Stanley Cup After Our Victory: Take it around my college to see how many “hockey fans” would come out of the woodwork

Would the Media Love Me or Hate Me: They’d have field days with the results of my temper.

Next up: Megan and Sarah, plus anyone who hasn’t done it yet.

Wings 4, Isles 3 (OT)

The Wings played about 20 minutes out of 60 last night and were able to mount a 4-3 comeback after two periods of lethargy and ineffective play. Until the third period, the best player on the ice in the Winged Wheel was arguably Jason Williams and if you’ve read this blog for very long, you know how we feel about him. For about 40 minutes, it looked very much like the Wings were not only going to lose, but like they were going to be shut out. It wasn’t until the very end of the second and the start of the third that they woke up and began to play like the team we know and love.

Dominik Hasek was in net last night and, quite frankly, looked shaky. All three goals were weak, the second and third in particular, and when he was called upon to make saves at other times throughout the game, he was not nearly as steady as he usually is, with a couple exceptions. When Dom is in net, I generally have confidence that he’ll make the save more often than not, but last night, I found myself cringing whenever the Islanders had a chance, particularly after the Wings made their comeback and we were heading toward overtime. So, it wasn’t such a good game for Hasek, but no worries. He’ll be back to form Friday.

The Islanders jumped out to a very early lead, scoring 22 seconds into the game on their first shot. They shot the puck into the Detroit zone and it cycled along the boards, with the Wings looking slow to react while the Islanders were all over it. Trent Hunter picked Henrik Zetterberg’s pocket and walked in on Hasek, passing the puck to his right to Mike Sillinger, whose initial shot was stopped with a pad save. The rebound went right back to him, however, and he had a wide open net to put it in. 1-0 Islanders.

The Isles handed the Wings four powerplays in the first period, but they were unable to do anything with them. They looked out of sync and sluggish, while New York had brought their “A” game and was looking dangerous on every rush. Fortunately, even when the Wings are playing badly offensively, they are able to put up a decent defense. They were generally able to funnel the Isles to the outside and prevent a real chance on net, and because they were out of it offensively, New York was able to do the same to them.

The last two power plays were really one, as they came in the form of a double minor for interference and slashing. The Wings were unable to get anything going until the second half when they generated sustained pressure but even then, they couldn’t get the puck in the net. It was a bit disheartening.

During the first half of the above power play, Henrik Zetterberg was nearly serious injured while carrying the puck over the blueline. Two New York defenders sandwiched him, with one sticking his knee out and nearly making knee-on-knee contact. No call was made, which is disgusting, but fortunately Hank came out alright.

The Wings were sloppy to start the second and the Islanders took advantage, generating a couple great scoring chances. Fortunately, Hasek came up big after Brett Lebda turned over the puck on an outlet pass. Two New York passes later, it was on Trent Hunter’s stick down low at the right post. He tried to go high but Dom stoned him and kept the score at 1-0.

At 7:44, Dom wasn’t so great. With the Wings on the powerplay, the Islanders took the puck away along the boards and Shawn Bates was sprung for a fast break down the left wing. He blew by Niklas Kronwall, who was caught with his pants down at center, and took off toward the Detroit end, with Nick Lidstrom getting back and the three Red Wing forwards hauling it to catch up. He released a blast from the left edge of the circle and it blew through Hasek to make it 2-0. Defensive screw-up aside, it was not a good goal for Dom to give up.

The Isles weren’t done. Following the expiration of the penalty, they were back on the offensive and scored again within 4 minutes. Dan Cleary overskated the puck along the right-side boards and Jason Blake was able to pick it up, skate unopposed to the high slot, and let loose a slapper that beat Hasek 5-hole at 11:37.

At this point, my immediate reaction was that Mike Babcock needed to pull Hasek and when he didn’t, I felt it was like giving up on the game. It turned out that the Wings didn’t need the change, but I do feel Babcock could be a little quicker to pull Dom when he’s having a bad night.

The rest of the period was uneventful and painfully boring. The first minutes of the second were much the same. Some sustained pressure in the third minute, however, earned the Wings another power play and this time, they capitalized with just three seconds remaining in it. With Tomas Holmstrom and a New York defenseman out front, Niklas Kronwall took a shot from the point that Rick DiPietro probably never saw. It beat him inside the left post to put the Wings on the board at 3:24.

The Wings scored again at 4:57 after a Danny Markov shot went off the post. The puck ended up in the left corner and Nick Lidstrom picked it up and sent it across the goalmouth to Dan Cleary, who was waiting at the post and slammed it into the net to bring the Wings within one.

They tied it up at 10:12 with a Lidstrom shot from the point that went in just under the crossbar with Holmstrom getting his stick on it out front. The rest of the period was pretty even but uneventful and soon we were headed to overtime.

A coulple notable things in overtime: Kris Draper and Valtteri Filppula broke a 2-on-1 rush, with Draper choosing to shoot and Fil just missing batting the rebound out of the air. Alexei Yashin had a chance going the other way just after that. Then, Danny Markov went all Datsyuk on us and broke out a few moves on a rare offensive foray.

Finally, at 2:57, the Wings won the game and capped the comeback. Nick Lidstrom carried the puck in on a rush, had it tipped up in the air by an Islander defenseman, grabbed it out of the air like a pointguard, stepped around the defenseman with it, walked in on net, and dished it across to Henrik Zetterberg, who one-timed it past a diving DiPietro. 4-3 Wings final.

The Wings deserve a lot of credit for not giving up on the game and for staging such a comeback, but their play for two periods was not something to be excited about. Of course, they won and so the bad things don’t take center stage, but had they lost, it’d be a different story. They aren’t going to be able to pull a stunt like that against, say, San Jose or Anaheim, and were fortunate it worked against a New York team that’s fighting for a playoff spot. The best thing about the comeback win is that it puts them just five points back of the Preds, who lost to Colorado last night. They’ll need to have a more complete game Friday night against the Blues at home.

Other recaps: Gorilla CrouchAbel to YzermanFreepNews

GameDay: @ NYI (23-21-5, 51 Pts) 7:30 ET

Update (3:15 PM): Ansar Khan reports that Mathieu Schneider won’t be back tonight after all. Apparently, Mike Babcock thinks it’s better that he sit out another couple days, even though he feels fine and wants to play. Okay, I’m all for not rushing him back, but this is getting ridiculous. - Matt

Tonight is the first and only game between these teams this season. The Islanders won the last meeting, 2-1 on December 9th, 2005 in Detroit.

Thus far in January, the Islanders are 4-6-2, with four of those losses coming at the start of the month as a continuation from a losing streak started in December. They are coming off a 5-3 comeback win over Buffalo on Saturday, bouncing back from a 5-4 overtime loss to Atlanta the previous night. Earning three points against two of the East’s top teams is an accomplishment for the Atlantic Division’s fourth place club, which is currently three points back of Tampa Bay for the 8th spot.

Alexei Yashin has just one goal in 17 games, according to the AP, while Trent Hunter has scored seven in 11, so watch out for him.

Rick DiPietro, the de facto Islander starter with a 15-year contract, should be in net tonight. He was pulled on Friday night in Atlanta, but played well Saturday, apparently.

The Wings have gone 7-5-1 in January, with two three-game losing streaks preceeding and following a five-game stretch of winning. They beat Colorado 3-1 in their last game, but lost their first game back from the All-Star Break, 2-1 in overtime to the Blues on Friday. They are 7 points behind Nashville and will have a tough time catching them for the Division lead.

It looks like Dominik Hasek will be in net tonight for the Wings. Dom turned 42 yesterday, and to celebrate, he took some of his teammates out for dinner. Which teammates? His defense and penalty killers.

Mathieu Schneider is slated to make his comeback tonight. He hasn’t played since January 7th because of a sprained MCL.

The Islanders, being an Eastern Conference team, are a bit of an unknown quantity to me. It will be interesting to see how the Wings stack up, though I don’t think they should have too much trouble.

1/29 Notes

Update (7:40 PM): … Ansar Khan, easily the most accessible Wings writer, has published a blog post in response to a claim by a certain St. Louis hockey media personality that the Red Wing lockerrom is at the point of revolt against Mike Babcock (see A2Y for details). Read the whole thing. – Matt

… The Wings beat the Avs yesterday, 3-1, and ended their losing streak. I wasn’t able to watch the game, so I can’t do a write-up on it, though it sounds like it was a bit more lopsided than the score indicates. Though the Wings outshot Colorado 41-12, they only led by a goal until Kirk Maltby scored at 18:54. It was a good thing Kirk put one in the net, though, as one of the Wings’ goals was disputed, a Tomas Holmstrom marker at 14:02. There wasn’t conclusive evidence to turn it over so the goal stood and the Avs aren’t happy, though Joe Sakic was sober enough to realize it didn’t matter in the end because his team lost the game for themselves.

Anyway, the Wings can now go to Long Island with a win behind them and perhaps build up some momentum for the stretch run.

… A big thank-you to the Avs for being so lethargic yesterday. It meant Dominik Hasek didn’t have to exert himself too much in his return to the lineup after getting over the flu. 12 shots? I know the Wings have one of the best defenses in the league, but 12?

… That’s all for now. I feel completely out of it since I missed the game. I’ll probably update this post throughout the day, but I have to go to class in a few.

GameDay: vs. Colorado (24-20-4, 52 Pts) 3:30 PM

This afternoon, the Wings and Avs meet for the third time this season. They’ve split the series thus far, with Detroit winning the first meeting, 4-3 in a shootout on January 9th in Denver, and Colorado winning the second, 3-1 on January 20th, also in Denver. The final game will be on March 4th at Joe Louis Arena.

The Avs have played only one game since beating the Wings before the All-Star Break, a 5-4 shootout loss to Phoenix. It was only their second overtime or shootout loss this month (6-2-2), but it was a hard one to swallow as they blew a 4-2 lead after scoring three goals in the second period.

Today’s game in Detroit is a short break from a long series of 8 home games for the Avs, who will host Nashville, Minnesota, Edmonton, Florida, and Atlanta before another short road trip to Dallas on February 11th.

Colorado is ninth in the conference, just four points behind the Wild for 8th and five behind Vancouver for 7th. As far as first round matchups go, I think this would be a good one, but it’s not that likely.

According to Adrian Dater of the Denver Post, Jose Theodore will get his first start since December 27th, when he allowed five goals on 22 shots.

The Wings also have played just one game since they last saw the Avs, a 2-1 overtime loss in St. Louis. It was their third loss in a row, though the fact that they earned a point is some consolation. Their month of January has been one of clumped success or lack of it, with two three-game losing streaks and one five-game winning streak (plus a separate win at the start of the month).

They’ll will be shuttling back and forth between the Eastern Seaboard and Joe Louis for the next week and a half, playing both New York teams on the road and St. Louis and Phoenix at home.

Detroit is sitting at 6th place in the conference with 66 points, nine points back of Nashville. The Sharks also have 66 points but because they’ve played 49 games to the Wings 50 and have a better points percentage, they’re one spot ahead.

As of 10:15 AM, Stefan Liv has not been called up from Grand Rapids, so it appears that either Joey MacDonald or Dominik Hasek has recovered enough from the flu to play.

It also looks like Robert Lang and Kris Draper will, in fact, return, as neither Matt Ellis nor Matt Hussey are listed as having been called up.

Mathieu Schneider may make his return this afternoon, though it’s more likely we won’t see him until Tuesday night on Long Island. Schneider, the team’s 1B defenseman, is listed by Helene St. James as one of two players most likely to leave after this season (the other being Robert Lang) as footnote to another piece promoting the acquisition of Peter Forsberg*. I’ll be extremely disappointed if Schneider isn’t re-signed, because he’s one of the most underrated defensemen in the league and the Wings are a much better team with him.

The Wings need to get back on track and a spirited game with their old rivals should be a great way to do that. If everyone’s healthy, there’s little excuse not to put up a strong performance and win a game in front of the home crowd. The game is on NBC, by the way.

*I like Ansar Khan’s take on Forsberg. (via Gorilla Crouch)

1/27 Injury Update

Ansar Khan reports the following:

… Chris Osgood broke a finger on his right hand during warmups last night and played through it. Apparently, it’s not serious, but it could keep him out of the action for a while.

… Fortunately, both Joey MacDonald and Dominik Hasek, who were down with the flu, are expected to dress tomorrow for the Colorado game. Megan points out that if MacDonald, Hasek, and Osgood end up not being capable of playing tomorrow, the best goalie the Wings have available is Stefan Liv, who will have played two games in a row after tonight (Jimmy Howard is out with an ankle injury). Not a good situation, though I’m sure Dom and Joey will be able to suit up, since they did practice today.

… Kris Draper, Valtteri Filppula and Robert Lang are also expected to be ready to go tomorrow after practicing today. Khan, though, is right to say that Matt Ellis and Matt Hussey should keep their cell phones on because they very well may have to drive out to Detroit tomorrow before the game.

… Apparently, Mathieu Schneider feels “great” and could possibly return tomorrow. Khan says that he’s more likely to sit out one more and return Tuesday, but says Chris Chelios hurt his shoulder in practice and if he can’t go, the Wings might insert Schneider earlier than planned. Chelios finished practice, though, and should play tomorrow.

… Mikael Samuelsson hopes to begin skating in a week, but there’s no further news about when he’ll be back in the lineup.