Archive for March, 2007

Wings 2, Predators 1

The Wings won the final showdown with their big Central Division rivals last night, with a 2-1 score making the season series stand at 6-1-1 in their favor in the end. It was an interesting game, with periods of tentative play interspersed with frantic, high tempo action, stretches which usually came in the second half of periods. Both teams knew how important the game was and it was really as close as they come. The Wings took first place in the Conference with the win, as both teams have the same number of points, but Nashville has the lesser points percentage.

… Chris Osgood started for the Wings and looked great. He only faced 25 shots, but had to make a number of key saves to keep the Wings in it and he came up big. The only Predator goal was just a great play and probably would have been an impossible shot for anyone to stop. On the whole, Osgood played one of his best games of the year in one of the most important games of the season.

… At the other end, Tomas Vokoun put up a good performance himself. The Wings put 30 shots on net and he was beaten by two Detroit goals that could have very easily gone the other way.

… The Predators opened the scoring at 9:10, just as a Kirk Maltby power play was expiring. After cycling it along the right wing boards, Alexander Radulov stepped out and dished dit down low to David Legwand before heading to the net. Legwand faced down Danny Markov and then sent a backhand pass to Radulov at the side of the net as he skated out of the corner along the right side boards. Radulov quickly dished the puck out front to JP Dumont, who decided not to shoot and sent the puck across to Legwand. At this point, the Wings defense was caught flatfooted and Osgood was down, having expected a shot from Dumont, who was very close in. Legwand, being further out, had a better shot at the top of the net and put it in, giving Nashville a 1-0 lead.

… That opened up the game, which had been pretty defensive until then. Todd Bertuzzi had the biggest chance in the time following the Predator goal, breaking in on Vokoun, but getting stoned at 10:10. Just under four minutes later, Todd played a part in the Wings’ first goal, as he tipped the puck over the blueline to Pavel Datsyuk, who dished it ahead to a streaking Johan Franzen. The Mule put it over Tomas Vokoun’s glove, with a surprised Ryan Suter looking on.

… The Wings took the lead at 7:30 of the second period while on the power play. Datsyuk cycled the puck along the right side boards and sent it down to Bertuzzi. Todd deked around a diving Greg Zanon and stuffed the puck on net. In the ensuing scramble, Datsyuk skated in, pulled the puck back and then put it in the net over a prone Vokoun. Another nice garbage goal by Pavel.

… Scary moment early in the third period while the Wings were killing off a penalty: Chris Osgood sent the puck up to Mathieu Schneider, who was immediately covered by a Predator. Scheider dumped the puck off behind him, but it deflected off the Nashville skate and ended up hitting the post of his own net. A nice Paul Coffey-esque moment, to be sure.

… At one point in the third period, Vernon Fiddler and Danny Markov looked to be heading towards a fight, with Markov checking his fight strap before the faceoff, but the situation fizzled out and nothing came of it.

… Others have noticed this, but Tomas Vokoun sure freezes the puck a lot, even under the lightest pressure. I understand having confidence in your centers, but it gets a little ridiculous.

… As the game wound down, the Wings put up enough offense to keep the Preds on their heels, but focused mainly on defending their lead. They were hard put to it in the final minutes, as Johan Franzen was slapped with a bogus goaltender interference penalty at 17:25. Vokoun stepped sideways out of the crease into Franzen as play went up ice , thereby preventing Johan from backchecking. It should have been interference on Vokoun.

…. The ensuing Nashville power play was pretty hectic, but it ended without a goal. Franzen came out of the box with an attitude and bowled over the Predator defenseman at the line after Dan Cleary’s valient attempt at clearing the zone. Johan’s hit ensure the puck left the zone and then led to a fast break with Kris Draper and Alexander Radulov racing for the puck. With the net empty, Radulov decided to interfere with Draper, who hauled the Predator down as a result. Both went off and the teams went to four a side with 29 seconds left.

… The final seconds had a playoff-like atmosphere, as the Predators fought for a goal like they would in an elimination game. For whatever reason, Marek Zidlicky wasn’t called for goaltender interference when he skated through the crease behind Osgood and bumped him, but it didn’t matter, as Osgood made the saves necessary until the final shot. In that last heartstopping flurry, it was Nick Lidstrom who made the save of the game and then the horn sounded. The Predators on ice slumped over, sticks on knees.

… It was an enormous win for the Wings, who wouldn’t have done it without the goaltending Chris Osgood provided. Dominik Hasek obviously could have put up a similar, it not better, performance, but with his health being the primary thing, it was smart of Babcock to use Ozzie instead. The Wings overall looked good, thuogh maybe not as good as they looked on Monday or in the last two games against Nashville. They still have things to work on, such as having faster starts than their opponents, but it was a more complete game than many they’ve played this season.

… Be sure to check out Dave’s game recap.

… Tonight, they face Dallas at home. The Stars are 8-3-3 this month, but have lost all three games they’ve played against the Wings this season. They are a possible first-round matchup, with a likely finish no higher than 5th. For the Wings, a win over Dallas would in first place outright (rather than because of a tie-breaker), and they would stay in first even with a Nashville win tomorrow over Dallas tomorrow night, as they would again win the points percentage tie-breaker.

… Dominik Hasek will be in net tonight for the Wings, and I expect Marty Turco will man the pipes at the other end.

… Brett Lebda (concussion) is listed as questionable, but may be more of a game-time decision.

GameDay: @ Nashville (49-21-7, 105 Pts) 8:00 ET

Update (3:20 PM): Helene St. James reports that Brett Lebda will not play tonight. Apparently, Mike Babcock made the decision before the morning skate was even over. She does not provide any information on the possibility of Brett playing tomorrow against Dallas, but it does seem unlikely that he’ll be back  before Sunday’s game against Columbus. Andreas Lilja will get another game in the lineup and will hopefully put on a performance similar to the one he had on Monday against the Ducks. - Matt

Tonight is the final game between these two Central Division rivals this season. The Wings lead the series 5-2, with wins November 10th (3-0), January 17th (5-3), March 6th (4-3 SO), March 13th (5-2), and March 14th (4-2). The Preds won the November 25th (6-2) and February 24th (4-3 OT) meetings.

Since the back-to-back home-and-home series with the Wings on March 13th and 14th, the Predators have posted a 3-1-1 record. After hosting the Wings on the 14th, they skated to a 3-2 win over Dallas on the 17th, but began a three-game swing out to Western Canada with a pair of . First, they were shutout by Vancouver on the 21st, and then they dropped a game in overtime to the Flames the next night. They turned things around after that, however, and finished the road trip with a 4-0 win over Edmonton on the 24th. They faced the Oilers again three days later at home and won again. The five games remaining on their schedule include tonight’s matchup with the Wings as well as games with Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis, and Colorado.

The Predators currently lead the West with 105 points, two more than the Wings’ 103. Tonight’s game will go a long way in determining whether or not the organization will be able to plan a Central Division Championship parade.

Tomas Vokoun should get the start, though Chris Mason is more than capable himself and may get the nod.

Nashville is currently missing Martin Erat (knee), Scott Hartnell (foot), Scott Nichol (thumb), and Steve Sullivan (back). Kimmo Timonen (upper body) left the game Tuesday night, but the Tennessean reports he’s “probable” for tonight.

The Wings are 1-2-2 since March 14th, with the losses coming in a four-game streak that only ended Monday night. Their last Western Canada swing ended with a pair of losses, first to Vancouver and then to Calgary. After that, they returned home and dropped a pair to Columbus and St. Louis, both in shootouts. Then, they righted the ship with an impressive 1-0 win over Anaheim on Monday at the Joe. Their six remaining games include tonight’s tilt with Nashville, a matchup with Dallas tomorrow night, and then home-and-home series with Columbus and Chicago.

Detroit stands at fourth place in the Conference, two points behind Nashville and a point ahead of Anaheim. Fourth place is probably the least desirable seeding at the moment.

Ansar Khan reported yesterday that Chris Osgood will be starting tonight, which is a definite surprise as this was meant to be Dominik Hasek’s first set of back-to-back games, not to mention the fact that Dom’s coming off a shutout and this game has enormous implications for the Division. An interesting move, but one that makes sense. As pointed out in the Free Press today, the Wings want to ensure the team’s health more than anything else, and Hasek’s health is incredibly important. In the meantime, Osgood is more than capable of giving the Wings the goaltending they need to win. Hasek will be in net tomorrow night against Dallas.

Brett Lebda (concussion) may play tonight, though that idea seems to be more a result of his optimism than any kind of doctor’s decision. He did practice with the team yesterday and has configured a helmet to fit his head with the cut, but his status depends on how he performs in the pre-game skate today.

For the first time since he was injured, Henrik Zetterberg (back) participated in his first full practice with the team yesterday. The Freep reports that he may be able to return this weekend (i.e. Sunday against Columbus). The team is well on its way to being fully healthy for the first time in weeks, as everyone on the roster practiced yesterday.

The most important thing for the Wings is that they elevate their play in these final games and therefore go into the playoffs hot. That’s why winning the Division would be so good for them, because to do so they’ll have to fight for it. They can be as healthy as possible come play time, but if they go into the postseason flat, they’ll be in more trouble than if they have an injury or two. I don’t mean to downplay health because that is a very important factor and without certain players in the lineup, they’ll be at a disadvantage, but I think how they’re playing is most important. Injuries can be made up for by others, but if the team isn’t showing up to play 60-minute games, it’s more difficult to eke out wins.

They had a great game against a very good Anaheim team on Monday, and they need to put up a similar performance tonight. Whereas the Wings are almost fully healthy, the Predators still have a number of key injuries and are therefore weakened. Nashville will be highly motivated, but the Wings should have an advantage. They won the back-to-back series in spite of injuries and ought to be able to do the same tonight when nearly fully heathy.

Checking in

Crunch time continues here, but Dave and Christy have recaps of the game, if that’s what you’re looking for. Also, thanks to Justin for posting comments throughout the game. Good to see the guys put the Ducks in their place, eh?

Regular blogging should return Thursday, once the homework load lightens and I actually have time to do things beyond stressing about papers, projects, etc.

GameDay: vs. Anaheim (44-19-12, 100 Pts) 7:00 ET

Update (7:40 PM): Correction on the post title, the game started at 7:00, not 7:30. My bad. - Matt

Unfortunately, I’m still swamped with work for school, so I won’t be able to do a preview or full recap for the game. I’ll be working on stuff tonight with the game on in the background so I may have a couple comments tomorrow, though.

Let’s treat this post like a game day thread again. If anyone has comments during or after the game, post them here and let’s see if we can’t get a bit of a discussion going.

Be sure to check out Gorilla Crouch for coverage leading up to and following the game.

Khan: Injury Updates

Ansar Khan has a lengthy blog post on Brett Lebda and Henrik Zetterberg definitely worth checking out. Basically, Brett’s hoping to return Thursday against the Preds, but next week seems more realistic. Zetterberg is skating hard and hopes to return after three or four full-contact practices, which means next week, possibly.

Wings 2, Blues 3 (SO)

Like I said, no game recap from me. I had the game on in the background and saw most of the important stuff through the end of regulation, but don’t have much else to say aside from I’m glad Brett Lebda wasn’t hurt worse than he was and I hope Ville Nieminen gets a hefty suspension for that hit.

Also, I think Todd Bertuzzi is going to break out soon. He’s getting too many chances to just score one goal when the puck finally starts going in.

Lastly, the Wings flat out need to start playing a full game. This “it’s the first period so we’re going to suck” and “it’s the third period so we suddenly want to win” crap has to stop. It’s starting to make me nervous, with the playoffs just around the corner. Chris Chelios’ first intermission interview was perfect. All he could say was how bad they’d played and that it was weighing so heavily on his mind he couldn’t think of or say anything else. I hope the other guys felt the same.

Dave has a good recap of the game over at Gorilla Crouch, including a picture of the referees and review booth officials that handed the Blues the win in the shootout. I didn’t catch the shootout, but from what I hear, it sounds like the Wings got ripped off.

IwoCPO has a good appraisal of the Wings’ current situation over at Abel to Yzerman, including a “final tidbit” especially worth checking out. I fully agree, Iwo.