Archive for December, 2007

Wings 4, Avs 2

Just a few thoughts on the game:

… We’ve definitely established that the Wings don’t play their best hockey the second night of a back-to-back. Last night was no exception. They’ve had better games. They looked pretty lethargic in the first period and though they seemed to pick it up as the game went on, they never really struck that note of pure efficiency that has marked their best games.

… The difference between the October/November Valtteri Filppula and the December iteration is enormous. Although Fil has been a strong defensive player all season, his offensive forays earlier on ended comically more often than not: he inexplicably fell down, fanned on a shot, sent the puck wide of an open net, or failed to finish in some other way. Now, he’s a force out there and everything is going in for him. He’s become very strong with the puck, as his play on his first goal last night demonstrated, and looks like he’s picked up Henrik Zetterberg’s mantle in his absence.

This is the Valtteri Filppula we’ve been waiting for and if he can keep it up when some of the pressure to produce is off him at the return of Holmstrom and Zetterberg, the Wings are going to be even tougher to stop.

… I love it when Jiri Hudler breaks out his cannon of a shot as he did on his goal last night. He gives the impression of being strictly a wrist-shot-after-a-deke type of player, but he has that brute force side that will make him one of the team’s better finishers. He’s fun to watch because he has no idea just how small he is relative to nearly everyone else .

… Brian Rafalski: Please be more aware when you make a cross-ice pass.

… The problem with putting in a rookie like Derek Meech when Chris Chelios is a healthy scratch is that the kid has no veteran to play with. I don’t really think Meech should be paired with Lebda, but I don’t know what else Babcock can do. He can’t exactly put him with Lidstrom or Rafalski.

… It’s amazing to me that the Avs only managed to take one penalty last night. I know they’re the least-penalized team in the League, but how can a team with Ian Lapierre take only one penalty? I know I saw them get away with a lot last night, though, to be fair, so did the Wings. I guess it was just a case of the officials deciding to let them play.

Still, the Lidstrom tripping call in the third was as bogus as they come, and the referee missed a blatant penalty just before Samuelsson scored the empty netter. The Avs hauled Pavel Datsyuk right in front of the official and there was no call. At that point, it didn’t really matter, but you’d still like to see a penalty there.

… Peter Budaj is a strange goalie. It’s hard to describe what I mean. Maybe this example will help: on the Wings’ second goal, Nik Kronwall started things off with a nice play at the blueline followed by a shot. The rebound went to Filppula at the right side of the net, behind Budaj. From his knees, Budaj looked back, saw the puck on Filppula’s stick, and stood up, effectively conceding the goal. Sure, it was inevitable, but most goalies would have tried to dive back or something. Budaj often seemed to freeze or otherwise react strangely after shots like that.

… A win over the Avs always feels good. Especially when they have such an intense finish.

… To end on a personal note, I’ll be out of town this weekend (leaving southeast Michigan and heading to West Michigan) and won’t be posting again until January 1st at the earliest. I’ll probably be watching Saturday, but I’ll miss the New Year’s Eve game because I’ll be at Van Andel watching the Griffins.

This coincides nicely with the onset of a mild case of Blogger Burnout Syndrome that I’ve been feeling lately.

I hope everyone has a good weekend and a Happy New Year!


Hurricanes possibly seeking an enforcer

Update (9:52 PM): Well, I’m an idiot. As Defenseman pointed out in the comments, Maltby is the only player on the IR right now and Mark Hartigan is in his place, putting the Wings at the roster limit. That means when Maltby returns, Hartigan will go and the team will stay at the limit.

In short, Downey’s job with the Wings is not in danger and the post below is idiotic. Sorry. - Matt

After the Colton Orr hit on Carolina forward Matt Cullen last night, the Hurricanes have expressed an interest in acquiring an enforcer.

You may be thinking, “This is a Wings blog. Why is this relevant?”

Well, when Henrik Zetterberg, Kirk Maltby, and Tomas Holmstrom return to the lineup, the team will be one over the 23-man roster limit. At that point, they’ll have to send someone down to Grand Rapids and the short list of candidates pretty much consists of Aaron Downey.

“So what?” you say. “That’s at least two weeks from now. Surely Carolina will have found a trade partner by then.” That is indeed possible, though I’d call it unlikely, given the stagnant trade market.

“Alright, maybe a trade is unlikely. But what are the chances that the Wings won’t have someone new on the IR at that point?” Yes, the realist in me has to admit that another injury is definitely not outside the realm of possibility. That doesn’t mean it’s a given, though.

Again, if the Wings are healthy in two weeks, Downey’s place on the roster evaporates. When the Wings waived him earlier in the season, it was worrisome, but no team was openly talking about needing an enforcer, so there wasn’t much chance of his actually being claimed. This time, that’s not true. Also, the Wings don’t necessarily have to wait until the team is healthy to waive Downey. In fact, they’re not likely to, as doing so would delay the return of the last injured player (probably Holmstrom). So, you can shave a couple days off the full two weeks time frame.

I think it’s safe to say that few in Hockeytown would be happy to see Downey taken off waivers. I know I wouldn’t. I’d much rather he stay within the organization, where he’s widely regarded as a positive force. That’s why I’m hoping the Hurricanes find their man some other way.  It’s possible that Downey may not represent the right mixture of toughness and skill that the Hurricanes are looking for, but there’s always the chance that they’d be interested in picking him up.

If the Wings do end up needing to send Downey to Grand Rapids and he isn’t claimed, there will remain, of course, the risk of his being claimed on re-entry waivers down the road. Once he’s in GR, though, he probably wouldn’t be the first choice for the call-up, as the team would probably seek to fill another need.

GameDay: @ Colorado (21-13-2, 44 Pts) 9:00 ET

Update (9:16 PM): Just noticed that Derek Meech is in the lineup. I’d forgotten that Chris Chelios isn’t going to play in back-to-back games in the first half. - Matt

Update (9:02 PM): Not related to the game per se, but the Avs have announced that Joe Sakic will undergo hernia surgery that will keep him out of the lineup another 8-12 weeks. The Colorado captain has already missed  12 games. (via Kukla’s) - Matt

Update (8:40 PM): The Avs took Brad Richardson  off the IR today, so he’ll be in the lineup. - Matt

Update (8:37 PM): Abel to Yzerman is putting on a “Christmas Card Live Blog” tonight. - Matt

Update (8:35 PM): George Malik has a more detailed breakdown of the pre-game videos here. - Matt

Update (5:25 PM): Red Wings TV has added some pre-game interviews:

  • Ryan Smyth and John-Michael Liles
    • interesting comment by Liles in there about his time in Michigan. He says he heard about the Wings so much while in Ann Arbor and East Lansing that it turned him off to them
  • Jiri Hudler
    • Huds notes that the Avs skill will make this game a battle, even without Joe Saki’s involvement
  • Aaron Downey
    • Talks about the past rivalry, which he says is still hanging on “by a thread”
  • Mike Babcock
    • Babs talks about becoming the coach of the Western Conference All-Stars, putting Johan Franzen in the right matchups, being concerned with earning the only credit that matters (from within the organization), dealing with the “problem” of having Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, watching the old rivalry with Colorado, and defending against Avs’ skill.

- Matt
Update (3:05 PM): Shane Giroux of Colorado Avalanche Talk has posted his preview of the game. - Matt

Tonight is the first of four games between these two past rivals. The teams split the 06-07 series 2-2, with the Wings winning January 9th (4-3 SO) and January 28th (3-1) and the Avs winning January 20th (3-1) and March 4th (4-3 OT).  The teams will meet again on January 8th, February 1st, and February 18th.

The Avs are 8-3-1 in December thus far and have posted a 5-0-1 record in their last six. They kicked off this tear with a pair of wins over Nashville on the 13th and 15th and continued with a road win over LA on the 17th. Two nights later, they lost in overtime to the Ducks. They rebounded from that game with an overtime win over the Rangers on the 21st and a home win over Vancouver on the 23rd. Tonight is the third game of a four-night homestand for Colorado, who are 15-3-0 in the Pepsi Center.

Paul Stastny leads the team in goals (15), assists (28), and points (43). He is one of five 10-or-more  goal scorers in Colorado. Milan Hejduk (15), Wojtek Wolski (12), Marek Svatos (12), and Ryan Smyth (11) are the others.

The Avs will be without Tyler Arnason (wrist), Kurt Sauer (concussion), and Joe Sakic (groin) tonight.  Sakic has missed 13 12 games. Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville told The Rocky Mountain News that it’s “possible” Brad Richardson (shoulder) and Jordan Leopold (lacerated leg) will return to the lineup tonight. Ryan Smyth, who has missed the last three games, is scheduled to dress tonight.

Peter Budaj should be in net for the Avalanche tonight. He has posted a 2.58 GAA and a .903 save-percentage this season.

For the Avs’ perspective, see Colorado Avalanche Talk,  In the Cheap Seats,  Jibblescribbits,  and Mile High Hockey.

The Wings are 10-1-1 in December thus far and are 5-1-0 in their last six. They are coming off a strong 5-0 road win over St. Louis last night. The game was fitting revenge for the Blues physical win the week before. Nicklas Lidstrom, Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula (2x), and Brian Rafalski scored for the Wings and Chris Osgood earned the shutout. The Blues were not able to take it to the Wings physically as they had in the earlier game and could not find a way to capitalize offensively, even when they were occasionally handed the puck on a golden platter by the Detroit defense.

The team’s secondary scoring, a concern earlier in the season, has taken off in recent games. Filppula’s goals last night put him at seven goals in his last nine games, while Jiri Hudler has eight points  in his last nine.  Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen have also been hot lately.

The Wings will be without Tomas Holmstrom (knee bruise) and Henrik Zetterberg (back spasms) for the third game in a row.  Kirk Maltby (back) has been out since injuring his back in the team’s November 27th game versus the Flames.

As per the Wings rotation policy, Dominik Hasek will be the starter tonight, even though it goes against their usual practice of keeping him out of the second game of a back-to-back.

For more of the Wings’ perspective, see Snapshots, “Ricci to Garcia,” HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, Red Wings Nation, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, and Winging It In Motown.

The Avs are a young, talented team and will present a stiff test of the Wings’ endurance. Dominik Hasek will have to deal with the second-best net-front player in the League, Ryan Smyth, and will face a deep Colorado offense that is certain to generate strong scoring chances. The Wings will have to be more careful in their own end than they were last night because you know the Avs will be better able to capitalize on turnovers.  If they can jump out to an early lead as they did last night, things should go well, but if they fall into a hole, they may have trouble climbing out.

Blues game links

Lidstrom re-signs through 2010

Update (9:21 PM): Dave Waddell explains the significance of Lidstrom’s pay cut:

By agreeing to take a slight pay cut, Lidstrom gives the Wings more cap space with Henrik Zetterberg due for renewal after next season.

That’s not just Waddell’s analysis, as Ken Holland indicates cap space was part of Nick’s thinking. As George Malik says, $150,000 may not seem like much of a discount, but every bit of space will help the Wings re-sign Hank and maintain their depth. – Matt

Update (4:47 PM): Red Wings TV has added a video clip consisting of interviews  with Lidstrom, Kris Draper, and Mike Babcock. - Matt

Update (3:10 PM): TSN is reporting that Nick will make $7.45 million a year. (via Kukla’s) - Matt

Update (3:08 PM): Ansar Khan’s piece on the signing is here. He does not know the terms of the deal, but reports that, “Lidstrom agreed to take a slight paycut from his current $7.6 million salary.” Cool.

Khan also provides updates on some other potential free agents. He’s had “preliminary discussions” with Dan Cleary, Andreas Lilja, and Chris Osgood, but has been told by Valtteri Filppula’s agent to wait until after the season for negotiations since Fil is in the process of establishing his market value. - Matt

The Freep reports that Nick Lidstrom has signed a two-year contract extension.

Financial terms have not been released and I’m not sure what to expect there. He’s making $7.6 million now and could command that much or more, but may have taken a pay cut in order to give the Wings’ more cap room in the future. We’ll find out soon enough, I’m sure.

Also, check out this NHLPA piece on Lidstrom and the Wings.

GameDay: @ St. Louis (18-12-3, 39 Pts) 8:30 ET

Update (6:06 PM): Two new clips on Red Wings TV. The first consists of Lidstrom, Draper, and Babcock talking about Filppula and Kopecky. Kopecky himself also makes an appearance. The second is pre-game commentary from Draper and Babcock.

George Malik breaks down the first clip, as well this one on Lidstrom’s contract, here. - Matt

Update (6:00 PM): Just heard back from George Sipple. The bit about Maltby in his blog post today was an error, either on his part or that of an editor. - Matt

Update (4:42 PM): According to Ansar Khan, Kirk Maltby, Henrik Zetterberg, and Tomas Holmstrom did not fly to St. Louis and will not join the team for the remainder of the road trip.

Maltby isn’t scheduled back until “early 2008,” though he is hoping to get back on the ice this week. He won’t practice with the team until next week at the earliest.

A specialist told Zetterberg his  injury is not serious, but he won’t hit the ice again until Monday. It doesn’t sound likely that he’ll play before next Wednesday’s Dallas game.

Tomas Holmstrom’s knee bruise is evidently a bigger deal than they thought, as he isn’t expected back for at least another two weeks.

Without those three, the next stretch of games will be a good test for the Wings’ depth. After tonight’s game against a tough St. Louis squad, as they’ll face a Colorado team that’s on a 5-0-1 tear and the resurgent Phoenix Coyotes, who are 4-0-1 in their last five. After that, it’s St. Louis again and a home-and-home with Dallas. The Stars are 6-1-0 in their last seven, though they have three tough games ahead of them before they visit Detroit on January 2nd. - Matt

Update (3:14 PM): Ted Kulfan reports that Chris Osgood will start tonight after all. Dominik Hasek will get the nod tomorrow in Denver. - Matt

Update (2:57 PM): Added missing link to the George Sipple blog post below.

I should have read it closer before: Sipple says Kirk Maltby is out with a knee injury. I’m going to assume that’s a mistake on his part because the story has been “lower back” almost since Day 1 (the first reports had it as a “strained shoulder”). - Matt

Tonight is the fourth of eight games between these two Central Division rivals this season. The Blues lead the series 2-1, with wins November 13th (4-3) and December 20th (3-2).  The Wings won the November 21st meeting, 3-0. The teams will face off once more this month (the 31st) before wrapping things up with three games in March (5th, 25th, 28th).

The Blues are 1-0-1 since beating the Wings last week. They played two games in two nights beginning with Boston on the road and finishing with Atlanta at home on the 23rd. They beat the Bruins 4-1 in a game that was evidently closer than the score indicates. The Blues media hyped the game as evidence that the team can shut down two types of opponents: the highly-skilled and the physical, grinding type. The next night, however, they couldn’t hold down Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa as they blew a third period lead en route to losing 3-2 just 19 seconds into overtime. It was something of a humbling experience for the Blues, but they remained positive going into the Christmas break despite losing to the East’s 9th-place team.

Barret Jackman scored the Blues’ first goal Sunday, but is already behind pace to best his career high of four goals in a season. Brad Boyes scored his team-leading 21st goal in Boston and Keith Tkachuk got one closer to 10 goals for the season with his 9th the next night.

The Blues have no injuries listed.

Manny Legace should be in net for the Blues again.

For the Blues’ perspective, see Note Speak, St. Louis Game Time, The Hockey Chick, and The Checking Line.

The Wings won their only game since losing to the Blues, a 4-1 decision over the Minnesota Wild.  Unlike the Blues’ win over Boston, the score in the Wings’ win in Minnesota indicates a closer game than it was. The Wild were out-shot 51-19 and were only in the game at all because of their young goaltender, Niklas Backstrom. Playing without Tomas Holmstrom and Henrik Zetterberg, the Wings’ secondary scorers stepped it up, with Johan Franzen, Dan Cleary, and Tomas Kopecky all adding a goal to Pavel Datsyuk’s first period tally. While not the Wings’ best performance of the season, it was a good rebound from their loss to the Blues two nights earlier.

There are four 10-or-more goal scorers on the team: Henrik Zetterberg (25), Tomas Holmstrom (17), Pavel Datsyuk (14), and Dan Cleary (12). Valtteri Filppula (9) and Jiri Hudler (8) aren’t far behind and tonight is as good a time as any for one of them to crack the 10-goal barrier.

George Sipple reports that neither Henrik Zetterberg (back spasms) nor Tomas Holmstrom (knee bruise) will return to the lineup tonight. I’m okay with that.  Given the fact that they both came out of the last Blues game hurt, it’s smart of the Wings to keep them out of this one, even if they are well enough to play. Mark Hartigan has been recalled from Grand Rapids and will fill in tonight with Aaron Downey. Kirk Maltby (back) remains out.

According to the Wings’ goalie rotation policy, Chris Osgood would be the starter tonight. However, because it is the first game of a back-to-back, expect to see Dominik Hasek in net. If you’re wondering why, remember that the team prefers Dom undergo a full pre-game regimen in order to ensure he stay healthy and that’s just not possible the second day of a back-to-back, when the morning skate is optional. Osgood should be the starter tomorrow in Colorado.

For more of the Wings’ perspective, see Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, Red Wings Nation, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, and Winging It In Motown. HockeyTownTodd himsef has a look at the game here.

The last time these teams met, the Wings were tired and facing a highly-motivated Blues squad. This time, they’re rested, but missing two key offensive key players. It’s going to be interesting to see if the Wings can stand up to the Blues’ physicality and establish offensive dominance. They were able to dominant against a less physical Minnesota team on Saturday, so they should be able to do it against the Blues with fresh legs.

Mark Hartigan sent back to GR

Update (8:39 PM): George Malik points out that Bruce MacLeod may be right about the Wings sending Hartigan down until Wednesday:

MacLeod’s reasoning is sound here–the Wings could very well be clearing a bit of cap space by making the paper transaction of sending Hartigan down.

I hadn’t thought of that.

Keep an eye on the AHL transaction wire. If Hartigan gets re-called Wednesday, it means that it was just a cap move and that Holmstrom and Zetterberg aren’t ready to go. - Matt

Bruce MacLeod reports that the Mark Hartigan is has been sent back to Grand Rapids.

It seems unlikely the team would send him back to the AHL if they were just going to bring him back up on Wednesday, especially considering they’re on the road. So, as MacLeod suggests, this must mean either Henrik Zetterberg’s back spasms have subsided or Tomas Holmstrom’s knee bruise has healed enough to let him play.

It’s also possible that both Hank and Homer are ready to return, which would mean Aaron Downey would sit again.