Archive for April, 2008

Babcock Adams Tropy Finalist

TSN reports that Mike Babcock has been named a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy along with Washington’s Bruce Boudreau and Montreal’s Guy Carbonneau.

Although Boudreau is the likely winner, I’m thrilled that Babs is getting the recognition he deserves after three years as the Wings’ coach. A lot of coaches would kill to have the personnel Babcock has on every unit, but I don’t think that’s a knock against him at all.

The fact is, what he’s done so far has been remarkable. Babcock has changed the face of Red Wings hockey in a big way by instilling a team mentality. The team’s veterans brought up through the Bowman and Lewis years have bought into Babcock’s system wholesale. Babcock’s team dispel stereotypes about soft European Red Wings every game.

In addition to adjusting the team’s mentality, he’s done done a tremendous job of maximizing the potential of individual forgotten players such as Dan Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson.

There are times where we fans disagree with some of Babcock’s personnel decisions, but overall, there is very little negative to say about the guy and a whole lot of positive. I’d love to see him win coach of the year, for sure.

4/30 Avs Injury Update

Update (4:24 PM): This isn’t injury related, but doesn’t exactly merit a separate post: via Bruce McLeod comes the shocking news that Jose Theodore will start Game 4. – Matt

According to Ansar Khan, Paul Stastny (knee) is not expected back this series regardless of what happens.

Also, Ryan Smyth (foot) is “doubtful” for tomorrow night after not skating today.

Lastly, Peter Forsberg (groin) did not skate, but the Avs are hoping he’ll play in Game 4.

Game 3: Wings 4, Avalanche 3

Update (11:16 AM): Some more reactions to the game:

Gorilla Crouch.

Mile High Hockey. Comment: have you not watched this series at all? Darren Helm is the guy centering the fourth line that has given your Avs so much trouble at various. Sure, that line has allowed at least two goals, but still. He’s been impressive.

Earl Sleek at the FanHouse.

CBC Playoff Blog. – Matt

The Detroit Red Wings took a 3-0 lead in their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Colorado Avalanche last night with a 4-3 road win. They were the third team to do so in the same night. Pittsburgh and Dallas have also pushed their opponents to the brink of elimination through three games.

I did not take notes on the game, so some general thoughts follow:

… Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg had probably their best game of the playoffs.

For whatever reason, I had a feeling Pavel would have a big night after I saw him come out hard following the Avs’ first goal. He did not disappoint. He finished a somewhat botched (I’ll get to that) play by Zetterberg to tie the game at one, and demonstrated incredible hands on his second goal. He appeared to knock down a Brian Rafalski shot before transporting it to the left and then into the net. His pass on Zetterberg’s goal was unbelievable. Without the puck, he was a threat all night as well. He finished with only one credited takeaway, but that’s well short of accurate.

As for Zetterberg, he’s showing a newfound Datsyuk-like ability with the puck, as evidenced by his carry-in on Datsyuk’s first goal. I believe he lost the puck off the end of his stick as he cut across (hence the “somewhat botched” above), but it all turned out because he has the best linemate in the League.

Adrian Dater wrote last night that the officiating was terrible. I couldn’t agree more, though I have a slightly different take on it. Yes, the Forsberg goaltender interference call was awful. Yes, the make-up call on Zetterberg soon after was bad as well (the concept of “makeup call” is just ridiculous to me, but that’s a topic for another time). Yes, Johan Franzen could have been called for tripping when Forsberg deked Chelios out of his jock strap and left #93 alone to deal with his countryman.

All that being said, those calls were little worse than the poor standard of officiating we’ve been seeing all playoffs. I’m more concerned with the Avs’ tactics of mauling the Wings constantly and only occasionally getting called for it. The vicious Laperriere hit on Brett Lebda was just one of three or four examples of hits from behind perpetrated by the Avs. With all the slashing and roughing going on, the Avs are fortunate more wasn’t called.

… Peter Forsberg had some moments in which he looked dangerous, but the Wings did a great job of neutralizing him. I believe Nik Kronwall got a big hit on him and it was heart-warming to see little Brian Rafalski stand him up in the neutral zone in the third period.

He played with his usual edge, taking a tooth out of Samuelsson’s mouth with a baseball swing after Sammy dared to hit him. He could have gone to the box for elbowing and high sticking on that one.

The loss of Stastny compounded the loss of Smyth and made it much more difficult for Forsberg to make an impact. It was pretty obvious that he was playing hurt.

… I thought last night was Brad Stuart’s best of the playoffs. He brought a physical dimension he hasn’t shown too often since coming here.

… I also thought Brett Lebda had a strong game. The Laperierre hit apparently knocked some good play into him as he was more noticeable than ususal. His play on the Johan Franzen goal was something I could stand to see more often.

… Valtteri Filppula needs to stop hitting the post. Twine, Fil. Twine!

… Remember when Mikael Samuelsson was in our collective doghouse? I think he’s well out of it now. He’s looked pretty good this series.

… Chris Chelios had something of a rough game.

… The fourth line didn’t shine as much last night as it did at home, but that’s understandable given the fact that Quenneville could have his top unit out there against them if he wanted.

… Chris Osgood looked like his usual solid self. He didn’t really have a chance on any of the Avs’ goals, but he still made 30 saves. As long as the Wings are scoring at this rate, three goals on 33 shots isn’t bad.

… I don’t know what happened to the Wings at the start of the third. On their first bench minor, they just had six guys out there skating around, similar to Colorado’s bench minor in the second period. On their second one, Valtteri Filppula misread Dallas Drake’s intentions and hopped on before #17 was actually coming off. The Avs smartly pressed Drake against the boards on top of the puck, forcing the call from the official.

The Avs scored on the second one and brought themselves within one. Fortunately, the Wings were able to hold them off for the rest of the period or else that stretch would have really stood out as a turning point, perhaps in the series.

… All in all, a strong game by the Wings. They handled a highly motivated Colorado team and did what they had to do to take a stranglehold in the series. They now face the difficult task of notching that fourth win and it’s not going to be easy. Game 4 will be another stiff test of their determination.

Links

Highlights

In the Cheap Seats

Jerseys and Hockey Love

Jibblescribbits

Stranglehold

Well. That was interesting. The Wings withstood the Avs throwing everything but the kitchen sink at them and ended up playing a solid away game. Until, that is, a brief stretch of brain cramps in the third (two consecutive bench minors?!). They rebounded from that with an impressive finish, however,  and held the Avs to zero offensive presence when Theodore was pulled for the extra man.

An ugly win in some ways, but a message-sending one in others. The Wings showed their depth with goals from the top two lines and demonstrated resiliency that should put to rest talk that they lack mental fortitude.

As for the Avs, they can’t catch a break. Paul Stastny had to leave the game with an apparent knee injury and did not return. Peter Forsberg wasn’t invisible, but clearly was playing hurt. I don’t feel any sympathy for them, however. They played a very rough style tonight and the Wings were fortunate to come away without any obvious injuries.

Lastly, I just want to point out Pavel Datsyuk’s play on his second goal: he stopped Brian Rafalski’s shot before it hit Theodore, pulled it to the left and put it in a mostly empty net all in one motion. It’s something you have to see to believe. I just hope a good replay shows up online.

Behind the Jersey liveblog here.

More in the morning.

Game 3: @ Colorado, 10:00 ET

Update (10:05 PM): If you’re looking to watch the game on FSN Detroit, they aren’t going over to it from the Tigers/Yankees game until the end of the 8th inning. It’s the bottom of the 8th right now, with 2 outs.

For those in the Detroit viewing area, the game is blacked out on Versus. So, hurry up, Tigers!

Good thing it’s a Versus broadcast, though. That’ll mean a slightly later start.

Also, Abel to Yzerman liveblog here. – Matt

Update (9:09 PM): IwoCPO’s got the key to the game for the Wings: “play the perfect road game.” – Matt

Update (6:13 pm): Christy Hammond will be handling the liveblog over at Behind the Jersey tonight.

Also, IwoCPO has some pre-game comments here and here. – Matt

Update (2:38 PM): Adrian Dater reports that rookie TJ Hensick will play tonight in place of Smyth.

As for Forsberg and Hannan, he writes, “… we’ll see. I’ll believe it when the lineup sheet comes out and he’s not on the scratch list.”

Dater is pretty down on the Avs and their chances, that’s for sure. – Matt

Update (2:25 PM): In a couple posts, Bruce McLeod chimes in.

First, he reports that Henrik Zetterberg and Nick Lidstrom opted out of practice today. No worries, though, because the lineup is not changing. At this stage of things, players logging so many minutes can use as much rest as they can get, even if there was an extra day between games.

Second, McLeod reports that Scott Hannan “was hobbled walking around the arena.” That ought to make it easier for the Wings’ forwards to exploit the guy, if indeed he does play. – Matt

Update (2:04 PM): Ansar Khan reports that Smyth’s foot was injured when he blocked a shot in Game 2. He is day-to-day. – Matt

Update (2:02 PM): Helene St. James reports that both Peter Forsberg (groin) and Scott Hannan (foot) are “probable” for tonight, while Ryan Smyth (foot) is out.

This changes things a bit, as Smyth has been one of the Avs’ few bright spots thus far. Forsberg’s prospective return is now somewhat dampened. Fortunately for the Wings, the Avs just can’t seem to catch a break health-wise.  – Matt

Tonight is the third game of the Western Conference Semifinal series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche. Detroit leads the series 2-0 (4-3, 5-1).

A win tonight is essential for the Avalanche. A loss would put them down 3-0 and would mean certain elimination. A win, however, makes this a series. Some keys for Colorado:

A strong start. The Avs have been outplayed in the early going in both games. They have to come out swinging. Even if they don’t score right away, early energy could keep the Wings off the board and keep the ice level.

Jose Theodore. He just has to be better.

Peter Forsberg. It looks like he’ll play, barring a setback today. Tonight is when we find out whether his teammates are really so bipolar that they only play well when he’s in the lineup. Tonight we find out whether or not Forsberg will make a difference in this series.

Wojtek Wolski remains out. Scott Hannan (foot) is questionable, but if the Avs are looking to throw everything at the Wings tonight, they may find a way to get him in.

The Wings went into Nashville and lost two straight, returning to Detroit with the series tied 2-2. They obviously don’t want to see that happen this time around. A win tonight is not essential, but for the purpose of breaking the Avs, it would be preferred, of course. Some keys for Detroit:

All business. They need to pick up where they left off in Game 2 and play dominant, businesslike hockey. They can’t let themselves be distracted by the crowd or the drama involved in Forsberg’s likely return. They just need to keep their heads, whatever happens. Included in this is the concept of never easing off the attack.

Power play. If the Avs go to the box, the Wings need to score. They have to send a message to not only the Avs, but the rest of the League.

Unit cohesion. My hope is that Babcock keeps the forward units and defensive pairings he used in Games 1 and 2 together. Anything else is just a concession to Joel Quenneville. Let the Avs try to shut down our top lines. They can’t stop both Franzen’s line and the Eurotwins. Let them try to exploit the fourth line. Helm, McCarty, and Hudler aren’t stooges.

Kirk Maltby (hamstring) could be ready to play tonight, though I would hope Babcock wouldn’t make a lineup change yet. Go with what’s winning.

I have every confidence in this Red Wings team. They appear to be serious about this run and aren’t taking anything for granted. They had all of that knocked out of them in the first round. Tonight should be a good game.

Orland Kurtenblog on a recent Octogate development

The guys at Orland Kurtenblog ripped into Cody McLeod for his idiotic decision to taunt the Wings with the traditional post-anthem octopus just prior to the start of Game 2 on Saturday.

It’s worth a look, though it’s a little on the crude side and not entirely Red Wings-friendly (the octopus throwing tradition is not stupid. It’s certainly better than the Canucks’ tradition of having ugly jerseys.).

Forsberg skates, feels “great”

Update (2:54 PM): I should also include the fact that Forsberg skated with Joe Sakic and Andrew Brunette. – Matt

Okay, this is that “something big” I mentioned earlier:

Helene St. James reports that Peter Forsberg participated in practice today. Neither he nor Joel Quenneville would say if he’s going to play in Game 3, but Forsberg told St. James that he “felt great.” Basically, it depends on how he feels tomorrow. St. James  lists him as questionable.

Given what little the Avs have shown in this series, I’m no longer convinced that Forsberg alone will turn things around for them. The Wings have just shown themselves to be far and away the better team thus far and it’ll take a decline in their play for the Avs to make this a series, with or without Forsberg.

Also, St. James confirms that Jose Theodore will start. We’ll see if the show of confidence is enough to bring him back into form. The Wings will need to get to him early in any case.

Lastly, Scott Hannan (foot) is questionable.