Archive for April, 2007

Game 3: @ San Jose, 10:00 ET

Update (6:10 PM): George Sipple reports that it looks like there will be a roster change for the Sharks tonight: Joe Pavelski back in for Mark Bell.

Pavelski was in the lineup for the Sharks’ Game 1 win, but was benched in favor of Bell for Game 2, a San Jose loss. Bell has had hip and groin problems and the team can’t afford to wait for him to get going when they have a fully healthy player available.

This will make it somewhat more difficult for the Wings to do what they need to do tonight. - Matt

Update (3:45 PM): Good news: Bruce MacLeod reports that Tomas Holmstrom has been cleared to play in Game 4 on Wednesday after seeing an eye specialist today. He’ll fly out to San Jose with the Illitches today and will practice tomorrow. It’s not a guarantee that he’ll play Wednesday, but if there aren’t any further complications with his eye, he will.

MacLeod also reports that Henrik Zetterberg skated today, so his “flu” is apparently gone. - Matt

Update (1:55 PM): Officials for tonight: Kevin Pollack and Rob Shick will do the refereeing and Pierre Racicot and Derek Amell will man the lines. (via NHL Media). - Matt

Tonight is Game 3 of the Wings’ Western Conference Semifinal series with the San Jose Sharks. The series is tied at 1.

The Sharks are returning to their own rink with home-ice advantage for the remainder of the series. However, they only keep that advantage if they don’t lose in the Tank. They let one get away on Saturday and need to reassert themselves tonight with a win. Some keys to the game:

  • Fast start. If you haven’t noticed, three of the Sharks’ four goals in this series have been scored in the first ten minutes. The fourth goal was scored at 10:09. The Wings have shown themselves to be vulnerable early in the game and San Jose needs to continue to exploit that.
  • Press a lead. If the Sharks do jump out to an early lead, they cannot sit back and be satisfied. They need to continue to press the attack and not allow the Wings a chance to get back into the game.
  • Funnel defense. Keeping the Wings to the outside will go a long way in preventing Detroit goals. They big bodies and can do this fairly easily. They can’t allow a repeat of Pavel Datsyuk’s game winner, not with the big rebounds Evgeni Nabokov gives up.

The Wings saved their season with a comeback win on Saturday and now have a chance to take control of the series. They need a win in San Jose to regain home ice and tonight is as good a time as any to do it. Some keys to the game:

  • Start sharp. If they start out as flat as they have in both games, they’ll be hard pressed to produce a repeat of Game 2’s comeback. They need to be the team setting the tone early.
  • Special teams. They killed off six penalties on Saturday, and need to continue to be great on the PK, but the power play has to improve.
  • Dominik Hasek. Dom needs to be stellar tonight. None of that wandering-and-losing-the-puck crap and no weak goals. It is because of games like these that he is wearing the Winged Wheel rather than reminiscing over his NHL exploits in a mansion in Czechoslovakia. The Wings brought him back to win the big games and every game from here on out is a big game.

It looks like Todd Bertuzzi will be on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. I like the sound of that. I also like the fact that Valtteri Filppula has been promoted at Robert Lang’s expense. I just hope that Lang’s dead weight doesn’t become a problem in the lockerroom.

Anyway, it’s a big game tonight, like they all are now. I guess a key for both teams is to play mistake-free hockey as much as possible. Already this series has been marred by enormous gaffes and because of that, it hasn’t lived up to its billing as “the series to remember.” Let’s hope for some cleaner hockey tonight.

Dave has a great rundown of the various gameday articles.

Game 2: Wings 3, Sharks 2

There was a lot of talk before this game about the importance of getting a good start to the game, coming out with energy right away. We were expecting the Wings to do just that. Instead they came out completely flat. I don’t think you could come out any flatter if you tried. The Wings gave up a goal only 36 seconds into the game. I’m not entirely sure what happened here, as I hadn’t even settled down in my seat before the horn was blaring. It looked like a deflection, so I don’t blame Dom. The Sharks clearly had more jump. The Wings then followed up with a seemingly endless stretch of stale, listless play.

At least Hasek looked sharp…well until about 4:17, when he apparently decided that San Jose needed another goal. He went behind the net for the puck and passed it directly to the stick of a waiting Shark, Milan Michalek. He passed to his buddy Big Joe, who, using his magnificent skill, lobbed it into the open net. Aside from that single lapse in judgment however, Hasek was playing great and kept the Wings from sinking any farther behind.

Bit by bit, the Wings regained their composure, starting with the PK. At 5:29, Draper took an inexcusable offensive zone holding penalty, and the Sharks were on their first power play, which is always scary. The first unit out was Zetterberg, Franzen, Lidstrom and Chelios. All four worked really hard to contain the powerplay. Chelios, in particular, was impressive. They successfully killed it off and, in doing so, gained a little bit of confidence. However, they still failed to generate any offensive pressure. About 11 minutes into the first, the announcers shared a depressing stat – the Wings had no shots. Zero. Zip. Nada. Not one single save for Nabokov to make. The Wings were losing and their prospects of a comeback were looking extremely dim. At that point, we realized that if the Wings could not get it together, and fast, they were gonna get swept.

Slowly, they started putting their game back together. Patrick Marleau took a hooking penalty at 11:35, but the Wings could not capitalize on the powerplay. Thornton took a slashing penalty at 13:59, and the Wings powerplay was once again fruitless. They had some chances, but no goal. Around 17:30, Zetterberg passed the puck to Datsyuk, who was just inside the blueline. He turned around and passed it back to Zetter, who was racing down the boards. Hank threw a bad-angle shot on net, and it somehow ended up in the net. Nabokov was in a horrible position to make the save. It almost looked like he expected Hank to take it behind the net. It was a weak goal for him to give up.

San Jose has only one player under 6 feet (backup goaltender Vesa Toskala), but Jiri Hudler’s not scared of a single one of them. He had a really impressive effort in this game. Hopefully Mike Babcock noticed too… He was dealing hits, fighting for the puck, and backchecking. It was a very good game for Jiri. At 17:46, our littlest forward took a boarding penalty. Who knew Jiri even had the strength to knock somebody over? After this impressive and unexpected hit, we noticed little Jiri’s ice time go up (once again diminishing in the third). Watch out Sharks, you may have big scary guys, but we have Jiri Hudler!!!

The Wings came out with a lot more energy in the second period. They had another good penalty kill at 3:08 after Bertuzzi was slapped with an interference penalty. We saw a lot of good things out of the Wings in this period. The defense was joining the rush, with both Chelios and Lidstrom joining the action on separate occasions. Hasek made a number of key saves including one huge one on a 3 on 2. Hudler continued to make the most of his limited ice time, bringing energy to every shift.

The Wings kept up their play in the third and were rewarded with a goal at 1:23. Dan Cleary pounced on a turnover by Christian Erhoff (a turnover which was caused by the aggressive play of Kirk Maltby) to even up the score at 2-2. The Joe Louis Arena crowd came alive, with octupi flying onto the ice. At this point it felt like the Wings had taken control of the game. The momentum was in their favor. They were playing exactly the way they needed to be. They played a very agressive PK when Bertuzzi took a hooking penalty at 12:50. Basically the entire third period from the point at which the Wings tied it was an intense waiting game. For awhile it looked like we might be suffering through an overtime or two. It was a huge relief when Pavel Datsyuk scored the game winning goal with 1:24 left in the period. Zetterberg made another great play on this goal. He took the puck around the back of the net, and then passed it up to Samuelsson. Sammy took a good, hard shot, but Nabokov was there. Datsyuk picked up the rebound (something they had trouble doing all game) and took it to the other side of the net, where he roofed it.

The first 15 minutes aside, the Wings played much better than game 1. Once they settled down, played a sound defensive game and put on a lot of offensive pressure. It would really help offensively if they could work on getting the rebounds. Nabokov isn’t often beaten on the first shot, but he doesn’t suck up the puck like a lot of other goaltenders do. If the Wings can drive the net and start taking advantage of those rebounds, they should be able to score with ease. Hasek continues to be solid, he just needs to be careful not to have any more momentarily lapses like he did on the Sharks’ second goal. Chelios plays like he’s 30 and Hudler plays like he’s 7 feet tall -now if we could only get the whole team on board. Lang’s effortless and careless play continues, which resulted in only two shifts during the third for the Czech. So much for Babs’ denial of his being demoted. Also, what happend to first-round Lilja? I was starting to like that guy.

For game three, the Wings need to come out with some energy. I know, it’s starting to sound an awful lot like a broken record, but it’s two games in a row that they’ve given up two goals in the first five minutes of play. With a team like San Jose, that just isn’t going to work. We came back once, we didn’t the other. It’s not a risk I’m willing to take every game. Also, keep Lang on the fourth line, but move Jiri up. He brings energy that the team desperately needs, and he’s proven that his size is not a liability. The Wings have the ability and the talent to beat this team…they just have to use it.

Khan: Post-practice Update

Ansar Khan has an update on Tomas Holmstrom, Brett Lebda, Henrik Zetterberg, the top line, and Kyle Calder. Basically, Homer is staying in Detroit until cleared, Lebda won’t be back until Game 5 at the earliest, Zetterberg did not skate, Todd Bertuzzi or Mikael Samuelsson will start on the top line tomorrow, and Kyle Calder is okay.

View From Our Playoff Seat

Sorry about the delay in publishing these, but here are three pictures of our mini-shrine for games. We all have much more Wings stuff, by the way, just not at school, if it’s a little underwhelming, that’s why.

Thanks to the guys at Japer’s Rink for setting up such a great project. Be sure to check out their if you haven’t already.

otwminishrine1.JPG

otwshrineright2.JPG

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Game 2: vs. San Jose, 3:00 ET

I’m on dialup and don’t have much time, so this will be brief:

This afternoon is the Game 2 of the Wings’ Western Conference Semifinal series with San Jose. They are down in the series 1-0 after losing the opener on Thursday night. Game 3 is Monday.

The Sharks began the series on the right foot, but could use another win today to really put the Wings on the spot. To do that, I think they’ll need to be,

  • Excellent on the power play. If Game 1 was any indication, there won’t be a lot of penalties, but when there are, the Sharks need to produce.
  • More physical. They have those big bodies and would be even more effective if they used them.
  • Strong on the forecheck. If they can produce a similar hastiness in the Wings’ outlet passing, they’ll probably see a good number of turnovers.

The Wings need this game or else they’ll be in danger of collapse once they fly out to San Jose. They’ll still have to win on the road, but at least they’d be doing it from equal footing. They’ll have to

  • Come out stronger. They looked flat and rusty in the first minutes of the game Thursday and cannot repeat that or they may find themselves down a goal or two again. And any opening jump needs to last throughout at least most of the game.
  • Be more physical. Sure, they out-hit San Jose Thursday night, but overall, they weren’t the same team in that regard that they were against the Flames.
  • Stay out of the box. If they can’t kill penalties, they can’t take them.

If the Wings can’t do those things and others, they’ll need to have Dominik Hasek steal a game. This may be Dom’s series to shine.

I expect both teams to play better than they played in Game 1, so it should be more exciting than that relative snore-fest.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to watch any of the game because of other commitments. Megan and Sarah will be doing the game recap.

4/27 Notes

Update (7:20 PM): I just remembered that a Franzen-Filppula-Bertuzzi line was tried in Game 3 of the first round. It was Todd Bertuzzi’s return from a concussion, and it was classified as the fourth line at the time, so I wonder now if the media wasn’t off base when they called it a second unit (and the positioning of Lang between Hudler and Samuelsson a demotion). It does sound like Fil’s been promoted, since he and Lang basically swapped wingers, but that could be a misreading of the situation. I guess we won’t know until we see where and how much he plays tomorrow.

As I recall now, that particular Filppula-centered line was not all that successful as there didn’t seem to be much chemistry. If they try it again, at least they’d have had some more practices in which to develop some, though, so that’s something. - Matt

Update (3:35 PM): Well, it looks like we were wrong to doubt the Wings’ word: Ted Kulfan and Bruce MacLeod both report visual and audible confirmation on at least the tail-end of Henrik Zetterberg’s flu.

So, does that mean his back is okay and that it had nothing to do with his sitting out of practice? Perhaps not, since the fact that they were telling the truth about the flu doesn’t mean they didn’t “forget” to mention other reasons, in spite of what Babcock said according to MacLeod. Still, maybe it’s a little melodramatic of me to be reminded of The Captain’s habit of skipping practice is 2002. His back may very well actually be okay. - Matt

Helene St. James reports that Henrik Zetterberg still has the “flu,” as he did not practice. The party line there seems even more laughable now that Hank has played in a game and looked good doing it. So, he can play games, but not practice? Am I the only one thinking of the situation with Steve Yzerman in 2002 here?

… St. James also notes that Robert Lang skated with Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson today, while Valtteri Filppula centered Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi. If you’re keeping score at home, that would be a demotion for Lang and I say it’s about time, though I feel bad for Hudler and Samuelsson. Of course, Babcock told the media not to read too much into these lines, but, like St. James writes, “let’s do it anyways,” especially since it was a bona fide line for a stretch of play last night, according to John Niyo. I think a Filppula-centered second line would be great.

… An update on Brett Lebda and Tomas Holmstrom will not be in the lineup for Game 2, according to Bruce MacLeod. Ansar Khan writes that Tomas Holmstrom skated by himself with a helmet, but Brett Lebda did nothing, as his ankle is still bothering him and until it heals, he won’t be able to play his game. So, inactivity is best for him.

… Khan relates an interesting anecdote relating to Holmstrom: apparently, the team was surprised by the comments he made in a Swedish newspaper that indicated his return would come in Game 4 at the earliest. According to Khan, Homer was even more surprised than the organization when he found out they’d seen his comments. Khan quotes someone from the front office:

“Hasn’t he ever heard of the Internet?”

Ha. How ironic it is that someone from the Detroit Red Wings organization would ask a question like that. This is the same team that daily ignores the rising importance of the internet community (unless you shell out the $$$ for an account on Red Wings World) and remains stuck in old-fashioned ideas about media (bloggers do not exist). When will they get it like say, the Caps, have gotten it?

Game 1: Wings 0, Sharks 2

I don’t have a lot to add to my initial reaction to the games, so this’ll be relatively short.

… The opening minutes weren’t all that bad for the Wings. They had a couple pretty solid chances, but couldn’t finish if they connected on the passes. The Sharks had a strong chance or two as well, but either the Detroit defense or Domink Hasek turned them aside. The Sharks overall had more sustained pressure, while the Wings’ offense came from isolated forays into the zone. Their stick defense was good, though, so the puck was bouncing all around the zone as they kept knocking it away from San Jose players. During a more sustained and dangerous Sharks’ cycle shift, Henrik Zetterberg lost his stick and Nick Lidstrom took a “hooking” penalty, though it looked a lot more like tripping to me.

… The penalty kill started off well, as the Wings had the Sharks skating the lenth of the ice a couple times. Then, San Jose set up. They caught the Wings all on the right side of the zone, looking at Thornton in the corner. Only Henrik Zetterberg got his sights on Carle creeping up and was trying to get there just as the pass came out front and it was one-timed into the net. Carle was Lilja’s responsibility, but he had his back turned.

… Wilson sent out the checking line right after that and a strong forecheck by Mike Grier caused Mathieu Schneider to throw the puck out front, where it was intercepted by Curtis Brown. It pinballed out front to Grier, who was tied up with Schneider, but not enough to prevent a hard, turning shot that beat Hasek. 2-0, with goals scored 24 seconds apart.

… Babcock called a timeout and got the team settled down. The Sharks controled things a little more and then settled back into a efficient defensive mode. The Wings had a few scoring chances and were starting to warm up pretty well by the end of the period.

… The second and third periods consisted of the Wings putting forth a somewhat leisurely attempt at a comeback. It was as though they had forgotten the situation they were in, as I didn’t see a sense of urgency from them down to the final minutes. Individual players played well and put forth good efforts, but there weren’t many dominating shifts by the lines and, in general, even their best scoring chances were pretty low grade. They rarely were able to follow up on a shot and basically did little but give Nabokov confidence with their low-percentage shots.

… It sounds like I’m disparaging the team, but I’m not, really. They were flat, but only relative to their first round performances, which have become the standard by which this postseason iteration of the Wing will be judged. I think they could have won last night had they not made the two mistakes that led to San Jose goals. That said, they were fortunate the Sharks did not take further advantage from the number of turnovers the Wings had (27 to San Jose’s 5). They have got to be better with the puck. Even accounting for the fact that giveaways are a subjective, that kind of discrepancy is unacceptable.

… Still, the Sharks simply did not play all that impressively. They have size, but they don’t use it for much beyond walling off opponents (they don’t hit). The Wings were less physical than they were in the first round, but they still were more physical than San Jose. The Sharks are nowhere near the chippy team Calgary was, which was nice because it didn’t become a whistle-fest or a blown-call bonanza.

… It was definitely interesting to see their meek response to the Wings’ crowding of the net. I remember one instance where Todd Bertuzzi was in Nabokov’s face after a whistle and the two large San Jose defensemen went up to him and just kind of lightly bumped him, perhaps saying, “Sir, we humbly request that you remove yourself from the periphery of the crease for your presence here causes our goaltender undue stress and consternation.” Okay, maybe it was a little more obscene than that, but the point is they didn’t try to take Todd’s head off. This lack of physical anger extended to other post-whistle interactions: the most heated things got was a post-whistle scrum that lasted about 3 seconds.

… As far as individual performances went, I thought Todd Bertuzzi had a good game. He shrugged off even the larger San Jose players like they were nothing and demonstrated the hands that make him so valuable. Still, it’d be great if he could just get the puck in the net. Also, Todd, seriously, you really, really need to be more selfish. Enough with this I-must-pass-at-all-costs mindset. Shoot the puck! We know you want to contribute to your teammates’ success, but you can do that by scoring goals too.

Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were solid. Their speed and puckhandling abilities exposed the inexperience of the Sharks’ defense at times, and we can only hope they find a way to finish their plays in Game 2.

No one else really stood out as playing particularly well, except maybe Jiri Hudler. He was underutilized, as usual, however, so he did not have much of an impact.

… Overall, like I wrote last night, I’m not worried. Yet. This series is far from over and I think we’ll see a better game from both teams on Saturday. What that means for the Wings’ chances, we’ll have to wait and see.