Archive for May, 2007

5/26 Notes

… Bruce MacLeod has graded the Wings individual performances for the playoffs and posted the results on his blog. MacLeod is an astute observer of the game and his grades reflect that. Not much to disagree with there.

… MacLeod also was the first (that I saw) to post Chris Chelios’ comments on why he skipped the post-series handshake. Basically, he was overcome with emotion and couldn’t think straight for the final 20 or so seconds of the game, as he knew the team was going to be eliminated on the brink of going to the Finals for what could have been his last time. I totally understand Cheli’s excuse and I think Teemu Selanne’s comments (where he derisively said it just showed Chelios’ true character) were way out of line. George Malik has more from Chelios.

… Ansar Khan writes on Dominik Hasek, saying he’s a “good bet to return,” noting that he’s wanted back by the organization from the front office to the players and that he wants to be back himself. Mike Babcock, apparently, will look to convince him to stay.

Personally, I don’t have any problem with Hasek coming back, except for those nagging concerns over his health in the back of my mind. Of course, they handled him so well this season that it was just about a non-issue. Still, that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be as fortunate on another go-around. If Dom is capable of repeating his performance, it’d be great: bring him back. It wouldn’t be any different (except that he’ll be older) than this past season and it worked out fine. It’s just that it’s another roll of the dice.

That said, I wouldn’t be opposed to the team trying the open market or just going with Chris Osgood, with Jimmy Howard doing “enhanced backup” (I made that up) duties. Maybe Jimmy’s not ready for that, though.

All things considered, since Dom’s about the most economic option and provides the best bang for the buck when healthy, I’d be fine with them going with him again if they decide pursuing someone like JS Giguere isn’t worth it.

… Khan goes on to say that Todd Bertuzzi wants to stick around (see his comments here at Red Wings Corner). I’d probably like him to. I think a full season would do wonders for the guy. We definitely never saw what he can really do. I seriously doubt he’ll ever be back to his peak, but I know he can be more effective than he was and giving him a real role on the team would be a great way to get him going again.

… Khan also thinks Mathieu Schneider will resign re-sign. I hope so! Losing him was probably the single biggest reason the Wings won’t be playing hockey Monday night. He’s huge for this team and I hope they can find a way to work out a deal. Last time his contract was up, things didn’t go so smoothly, but I’m pretty confident they will this time around.

… Khan finishes with the unsurprising comment that and that Robert Lang is definitely gone. What is surprising, to me, anyway, is his assertion that Kyle Calder won’t be back either. I guess it’s not such a big surprise given his awful performance in the playoffs, but unless it was due to something other than an injury, I thought his regular season performance was enough to earn him a spot. I guess we’ll hear more about that soon.

Game 6: Wings 3, Ducks 4

Some notes on the game:

… I thought the Wings looked shaky from the start. The Swedes had a so-so first shift, but didn’t get much done and more time was spent in the Detroit end. It took less than two minutes for the Wings to go on the penalty kill and the Ducks looked good until they took a penalty themselves. With the team skating four a side, the Ducks again mostly controlled play, though the Wings had a couple chances.

… The Ducks’ first goal came soon after the Wings went on the power play. Pavel Datsyuk lost a faceoff to Sammy Pahlsson and Chris Pronger sent a blast that went in off Rob Niedermeyer out front. No chance for Hasek, but it was the last thing the Wings needed.

… An interesting thing happenednot long after the goal: Kris Draper tripped up Scott Niedermeyer as he headed into the Wings’ zone on a rush and the official raised his arm to call a penalty. The play stopped almost immediately and the officials conferred. No penalty was assessed because it was ruled that Niedemeyer had been off-sides when he was tripped up. Nice to see them get the call right.

… Around this time, Penner, Perry, and Getzlaf began to really present a problem for the Wings, especially since Carlyle was able to put them out against Lang, Bertuzzi and Cleary, easily the Wings’ least defensively responsible line (Cleary excepted). They were able to cycle the puck almost at will and were very rough about it. It was all the Wings could do to clear it when those guys were out there.

… Brad May took a run at Tomas Kopecky in the Detroit end, but Tomas just shook it off and popped right back up.

… Gradually, over the course of the period, the Wings began to get on their feet and the game began to settle down. The Ducks still controlled the majority of the play, but the Wings’ defensive stands weren’t Chinese fire drills any more.

… The first stage of the Wings’ first full power play was pretty solid, but then the Ducks cleared it and Detroit couldn’t set up again.

… Joe Motzko, coming out of the box, had a nice chance on Hasek, who was forced to make two strong saves.

… Early in the second period, the Wings had another power play and came very close to scoring, but Beauchemin saved a goal on a Zetterberg shot. The rest of the power play was passable.

… The Ducks iced the puck at 3:36 with their fourth line out. So, Babcock sent out Datsyuk, Holmstrom and Zetterberg. After Pavel won the faceoff, Hank sent the puck off the post. So close.

… Hasek made a great save on Perry off a fast Ducks break at 5:09. After that, play was back and forth, but I’d say the Ducks had the better chances, including one where Huskins deked in and forced Hasek to make a save off a backhand shot.

… Just as the Wings were starting to fall back on their heels again, Holmstrom drew a penalty. A great chance to tie it up, right? Yes. But they couldn’t get past the Ducks’ penalty killers and barely got set up at all in the whole two minutes.

… The Ducks scored their second goal at 9:52 of the second period. Perry was able to knock it in over a prone Hasek after a Beauchemin shot. The initial save was a good one, but Hasek was playing so aggressively that he was about a mile out of the crease and when he didn’t control the rebound, it was easy for Perry to score. Good to see Dom being proactive, but the results there weren’t so hot.

… Kyle Quincey nearly scored on a tip-in off a Samuelsson pass not long after the Ducks goal. He had a great game.

… After some strong Detroit pressure, the Ducks cleared the puck out of the rink, but the officials ruled it a deflection. Danny Markov tried to argue the call and was denied. A Ducks fan gave him some flak about it so Danny punched the glass in front of the fan. He was fortunate he wasn’t penalized, but I was glad to see him show some anger. He looked great for the remainder of the game, playing with an edge.

… The Ducks shot the puck off the crossbar late in the period and there was some question as to whether or not it had actually gone in the net. Very close.

… Right after that, the Wings took a stupid bench minor penalty. And the Ducks scored. Very quickly. There was a shot, a flurry, and a goalie doing snow angels. And an easy goal for Getzlaf. 3-0.

… After that, the period wound down. The fans were all over Hasek.

… The third period was a completely different ballgame. The Ducks iced the puck three times in the first few minutes, twice with the same unit on the ice. The Wings took advantage of this and put up some strong pressure. The Ducks got a break when Todd Marchant took a stick to the face and got to go off after an icing. A fresh Pahlsson came out and won the faceoff, alleviating the pressure.

… Just after Mikael Samuelsson sent the puck wide, the Wings scored their first goal (finally!). The puck came around to the point, and Chris Chelios threw it out front. Henrik Zetterberg redirected it past Giguere. Hope returned.

… Play was end-to-end for a while. And then the Ducks scored again. Pavel Datsyuk tried going 1-on-3, turned the puck over and the Ducks took it the other way. Moen took the initial shot, Niedermeyer missed the rebound, and Pahlsson put it in the net. Hasek was, again, on his back. Hope was dampened.

… The Ducks took a penalty at 9:44 and at 10:08 the Wings put the puck in the net again. Lidstrom took the shot and Datsyuk tipped it in. Hope was back.

… Right after the goal, Hasek turned the puck over behind the net and the Ducks nearly scored again.

… Giguere made a great save on Franzen on what should have been a goal.

… Just as the Wings were really putting the screws to the Ducks, Getzlaf took a penalty. And the Wings scored again. It was a beautiful setup, Zetterberg to Datsyuk: slam dunk. 4-3. 3:04 left.

… Right after the goal, the Ducks took another penalty. Datsyuk and Holmstrom both nearly scored, but even with Hasek on the bench and a sixth man out there, the Wings couldn’t find the back of the net. The game wound down and the Wings’ season ended.

… It was a pretty evenly matched series, but one I thought the Wings should have won. They let a couple games get away from them and then, when they really needed a win, they weren’t able to muster the required effort until it was too late. I think travel and fatigue played an enormous role in the end, so it’s not something to be surprised about, I guess. Losing two of their top defensemen to injury did not help, either. There’s much more to say about this, obviously, but this isn’t the place for it. Maybe sometime this later this week.

The Wings had a great, great season. They went farther than most people outside of Hockeytown, and some in it, thought they would and that is something to be excited about. This is a good team we have here, folks, and I think they’ll be right back there next year. I’m looking forward to it.

It’s going to be a shorter summer. I can’t wait for October.

… Lastly, I just want to thank all of you who read this blog and provide feedback. You guys are awesome and made running this site a lot of fun. Thanks for your support!

It’s over

Well. That sucked. Not a very good way to go out, to be honest, though the end was certainly breathless.

Thank you Red Wings for the extended playoff run. Thanks for giving us a chance to hope again. Thanks for fighting through two tough rounds and for making it interesting in the third. Thank you for waking up in the third period and making it a game, long after many of us had given up. Thank you for a great season. I hope it was the beginning of something, that this wasn’t the end of it.

Congratulations to the Ducks. I thought you guys were fortunate to win Games 4 and 5, but you definitely deserved to win Game 6. Good luck in the Finals against the Senators. I have a feeling you’re going to need it. Go Senators!

I’ll try to get a post-mortem up tomorrow night after I get home from work, if I’m not too depressed.

Game 6: @ Anaheim, 9:00 ET

Tonight is do or die time for the Wings, as they are down 3-2 in their Western Conference Finals series with the Anaheim Ducks. To get to this point, they lost the last two games, blowing a chance to go up both 3-1 and 3-2 in the series. The Ducks have taken advantage of Red Wings mistakes and have won games in which they were outplayed. Now, they have a stranglehold on the series.

For the Ducks, some keys for tonight:

  • Stay out of the box. They can’t count on the Wings’ power play woes continuing and they best way to ensure they don’t score with the man-advantage is to not give them one.
  • Opportunism. The Ducks are where they are now in the series because they pounced on Wings mistakes. They’ll have to do that again tonight.
  • Don’t be outplayed. They’ve been able to find a way to win despite being outplayed, but tonight, they probably want to be the ones dictating the play.

For the Wings, some keys:

  • Capitalize on the power play. The Ducks, in spite of my advice, are probably going to take a few penalties, and when they do, the Wings need to make them pay. Expecting them to score every time they’re on the power play may be a bit much, but they need to at least put it in the net the majority of the time.
  • Finish chances. They have got to find a way to finish what they start. Too many great scoring chances were not seen through to the end in Game 5 and if they can get things going in that regard, the game may not even be close.
  • Win. In the end, the above things don’t matter so much as this: the Wings need to find a way to win, whether by completely dominating the Ducks up and down the ice; by playing an even game, but having that slight edge; or by getting dominated themselves, and still getting the edge on the scoreboard. It has to happen or they’re done.

I have confidence going into the game tonight because I believe in this team and in its ability to stand up to adversity. These guys are not going to roll over and give in. I know they’ll play their best and will fight to stay alive. Will it be enough? That’s another question, because I fully expect the Ducks to do the same. I think it will be enough. The Wings at their best are better, I think, than the Ducks at their best. We’ll see tonight, but I believe we’ll have a Game 7.

Game 5: Wings 1, Ducks 2 (OT)

Just a few more thoughts on the game:

… It sure would be nice if the officials would learn how to count. They missed two or three Anaheim bench minors (and I’m guessing the Wings had too many men a time or two as well) at key points in the game.

… The Ducks probably had a slight edge in an otherwise even first period. Dom was steady, though, and so was the defense. The Wings had a number of chances of their own, though none on the power play. The Ducks continued with their slight edge into the second, but the Wings gradually took control and dominated the majority of the rest of play.

… Valtteri Filppula continued his dominance of Scott Niedermeyer with a nice chance in the first five minutes of the period. He didn’t have any support down low, though, and the chance fizzled out.

… Six minutes into the second period and we’re still wondering when the first Ducks penalty would come. It’s not like they weren’t committing anything offenses, but apparently the refs didn’t see it that way.

… It took about 6 replays for me to understand how Andreas Lilja’s goal went in. I kept watching the posts, but it wasn’t until NBC finally showed the overhead view that I saw it hit the net to Giguere’s left. Not a great goal for JS to give him, to be sure.

… Henrik Zetterberg showed a lack of concern over his own physical well-being when he laid the body on Chris Pronger midway through the period. Nice to see Pronger take the hit like a man and not retaliate.

… The Wings’ first power play was pretty pathetic. The Robert Lang chance that led to it was better than anything they had with the man advantage.

… On the next power play, though, they came about as close to scoring as they could come: Zetterberg took a shot and Holmstrom swept the rebound through the crease behind Giguere, parallel to the goalline about a foot out. Brett Hull said later that, “He shot it perpendicular!” Um, not so much, Brett, but I wish he had. Then it would have been a goal.

… Todd Bertuzzi, perhaps showing the first signs of his reinjury (could be out Game 6), had a nice opportunity to drive to the net after the power play, but chose rather to wheel and deal around with the puck. He obviously has good hands, but it would have been nice to see some bull-in-a-china-store stuff there, but if he was hurt, I guess there’s nothing to say.

… Filppula put on a nice forecheck late in the period and nearly connected with a teammate off a steal. Would have been a great play. I’m getting a little tired of saying “would have been a great play,” with Fil. He seems on the verge of breaking out and hopefully tomorrow night is the night.

… Right at the end of the period, the Ducks had a nice little flurry of pressure in the Detroit end, but the puck somehow stayed out of the net. Scott Niedermeyer lowered the boom on Dan Cleary in a bit of a nasty hit.

… Early in the third, the Wings couldn’t clear their zone to save their lives. The Ducks cycled very well for a long time, but finally, the puck somehow got out.

… Later in the period, Holmstrom nearly scored off a tip in. Another missed chance.

… Kyle Quincey took an awkward hit from a Duck along the benches. He ended up sliding along with one leg in and another out. Can’t have felt good.

… Pavel Datsyuk was called for interference at 18:13 of the third. I still haven’t seen a replay that shows anything remotely resembling interference, so I can only conclude that it was a BS call. At that stage in the game, I don’t know that the officials should be calling little crap anyway. I hate chintzy calls.

… Johan Franzen tried clearing the puck on a mad scramble in the Detroit end, but it was kept in on the line somehow by the Ducks and just seconds later, Scott Niedermeyer scored off an incredibly lucky double deflection off Nick Lidstrom. No chance for Hasek, especially after his penalty killers hung him out to dry by not clearing the zone. Even give that it was a 6-on-4 situation, it’s unbelievable that they couldn’t clear it.

… The Ducks got pumped up after that goal and looked good in OT. The Wings looked a little stunned, but not too badly.

… Lilja made a bonehead play on the gamewinner, no doubt about it. He had a guy to his left, but tried to pass it to his right, where MacDonald was and it was knocked down right away. Zetterberg ought to have been covering Selanne rather than streaking up ice, so Teemu was left alone to walk in on Hasek. Although I think Dom was hung out to dry and ultimate blame rests in Lilja, I wish he hadn’t gone down so quickly and easily. Had he stood Selanne up rather than roll, maybe he would have made the save and the game would have continued.

But who knows? It’s all pointless speculation, and I’m not going to play the individual blame game any more than I have. No one involved in that play was the reason the Wings lost. They lost because they could not capitalize on chances earlier in the game, both at even strength and on the power play. They outplayed the Ducks all over the ice, but not on the scoreboard, which is what counts. That obviously cannot happen in Game 6 or else this run will be over. Generating chances is great because it keeps the Ducks from getting their own, but they have to put the puck in the net more. They’ll need to play the best game of the season tomorrow night (though I guess they could be like the Ducks and get widely outplayed, but still find a way to steal a win). I’m confident they can do it and that they will. This is a different Red Wings team. They aren’t going to roll over, folks.

On the brink

Despite the fact that they outplayed the Ducks by a wide margin yesterday, the Wings lost 2-1 in overtime and are now down 3-2 in the series, facing elimination Tuesday in Anaheim. It was a game the Ducks were fortunate to win, because the Wings blew 5 or 6 very good scoring chances that could have made the score 5 or 6 to 0 going into that final minute. JS Giguere will get a lot of credit, but I think it was more a case of the Detroit shooters putting it in the crest of his jersey than him actually making a spectacular save. I guess you can give him credit for being in position, but the Wings made his job easier.

The Wings played a strong game, but they need to find a way to finish. They were less than a minute away from being up 3-2 in the series and had to find a way to kill off a BS penalty. Another six inches and they probably would have. One of their biggest problems in this series has been their inability, at times, to clear the zone and it really came back to bite them in Game 5. Even given the tying goal, however, they had a chance to win it, but they came out fairly flat in OT and let the Ducks take over. Andreas Lilja was pressured by two forecheckers and ended up coughing up the puck. Teemu Selanne made no mistake on the play and roofed it over a down-and-out Hasek.

And now the Ducks have a series lead after winning two games they had little business winning. It’s not over, though. I believe this Wings team is tougher than that. I’m confident there will be a Game 7 Thursday night.

I’ll have more tonight after work.

Game 4: Wings 3, Ducks 5

I don’t have much time, so this will be brief:

… I guess I overreacted with my earlier post. Looking back over my notes, the Wings didn’t play all that badly, they just weren’t up to Game 3’s level. I do think the Ducks were showing better hustle and better effort, overall, though it could be said they stole one from the Wings.

… Chris Chelios’ play on the Wings’ first goal was great. He saw the puck get shot in, sawy Giguere come out to play it, gambled that JS would put his head down and send it around the boards and was in perfect position when that’s exactly what happened. After taking the puck, he immediately threw it on net, where Dan Cleary was able to redirect it into the net. I noticed on one of the replays that the two other Wings players went to congratulate Cleary, but Henrik Zetterberg turned and went to Chelios. Not sure if it was because Hank at first thought it was Cheli’s goal, or because he wanted to give him credit for a great pass.

… Speaking of great plays, Ryan Getzlaf made one on the Ducks’ second goal. That pass was nifty, though a little slow. Pavel Datsyuk nearly got to it. I wish he had. Then the Ducks wouldn’t have scored there.

… The Ducks’ third goal was ridiculous. The puck bounced away from four Wings before Teemu Selanne found a way to chip it past Hasek. Lucky bounces, obviously, but nobody should be beating Hasek 5-hole.

… Todd Bertuzzi did exactly what he’s supposed to do on his goal, the Wings’ second: stand in front of the net and score from point blank range. Giguere had no chance, with big Todd standing there unmolested after a nice roll to shed the defenseman. Great pass by Lang, who isn’t sticking out in a bad way this series.

… Bertuzzi showed his ability again on the Wings’ third goal, centering the rebound off a Samuelsson shot and making it possible for Dan Cleary to get the puck in the net. I hope this new Bertuzzi sticks around.

… It would have been nice to see the Wings capitalize on the power play that began at 19:37 of the second period. Perry had decked Henrik Zetterberg in the back in a bit of a cheapshot. But, even with a 5-on-3 in the third period, they couldn’t get it done.

… I thought Hasek should have had the game winner, of all the goals. It was long and, yes, it was through a crowd, but it felt like a stinker.

… With time winding down, it looked like Henrik Zetterberg was one of the few Wings who felt a need to perform. He looked dominant near the end of the game. Too bad the team’s effort with Dom on the bench was pathetic. Rob Niedermeyer had an easy time of it, taking the puck from Chelios and lobbing it into the empty net.

… The Wings are going to need to put on a Game 3 effort or better Sunday if they want to take back control in this series. They’re fully capable of it and I’m confident they will.

… I’m going out of town this weekend, so there likely won’t be any posts tomorrow, or Sunday (so no game preview).