Archive for October, 2009

Game Day Notes: @ Calgary

Update (4:16 PM): Ericsson is questionable for the game, reports Ansar Khan. Apparently, he’s sick (team won’t say it’s flu) and skipped practice. Meech’ll be in if Ericsson ends up not being able to go. – Matt

The long awaited end to this miserable road trip…

… 10:00 PM ET start. But daylight savings time ends tonight, so you’ll gain an hour of available sleep time.

… The Flames are 7th in the West right now at 7-3-1 and 15 points. They’re 5-2-0 at home.

… They had a three-game win streak going heading into a game against Colorado Wednesday, but that ended when they lost 3-2. Prior to their win streak, they had a skid of three games (0-2-1).

… This cheesetastic Calgary Sun piece (“Iginla and Olli Jokinen each rippled the mesh in the opening 70 seconds against the Avalanche”!) tells me the Flames have scored 20 of 42 goals (43, says NHL.com) this season in the first period. They’re going to come out hard.

… Somehow, the Flames are injury-free at the moment. Wish the Wings could have that kind of luck.

… Miikka Kiprusoff (who else?) will start for the Flames. He’s posting some pretty crappy numbers so far this season: 3.09 GAA and .898 save-percentage. But he does have seven wins.

… This is the Wings’ first Halloween game since the 2001-2002 season. They’re 1-3-0-0 in Halloween games since 1997-1998. The ’98 loss to Dallas (5-1) sticks out in my memory as a particularly bad game.

… The Wings have managed to get just four of a possible eight points so far on this trip. They’ll look to earn the remaining possible two tonight.

… Ville Leino is a healthy scratch tonight, which is a move I can live with. Ville has had encouraging moments this season, but they’re becoming fewer and farther between. He could use a jolt. The guy’s obviously committed to playing in the NHL—his willingness to play in the AHL last season rather than pull a Ryno is evidence enough of that. He could just use a reminder that it’s not a free ride and that a roster spot isn’t guaranteed him.

… That said, sitting Leino a game after Filppula went down with a broken wrist is an interesting move by Babcock.

… The units used in the skate yesterday (via Khan):

Bertuzzi-Datsyuk-Holmstrom
Cleary-Zetterberg-Williams
Draper-Helm-Eaves
May-Abdelkader-Maltby

Eaves will evidently see some power play time as a reward for his strong game Thursday.

The top line has some potential. As John pointed out in the comments yesterday, Bertuzzi and Datsyuk seem to develop some solid chemistry over the course of the Edmonton game. Here’s hoping it sticks tonight.

The second unit can work if Cleary can step it up and get over that 100 goal hump. And if Williams works hard. Zetterberg’ll need to try to avoid attempting to do it all himself.

The third line’s got a lot of speed and some physicality. Could be a good one tonight.

The fourth… seems like a potential penalty fest.

… The defensive pairings remain, disappointingly, unchanged. Babs is still going with the mixed up top four, and is leaving Lebda and Ericsson together.

… Chris Osgood will get back in the saddle tonight after one of his worst outings in years Tuesday. Here’s hoping he brought his head to Calgary.

… The Flames apparently like coming at teams early. The Wings have been flat out awful at defending against early pushes in their last couple games. That has to change tonight. Better goaltending would obviously help, but they need to be better defensively as a team as well. The goalie shouldn’t be called upon to bail you out so early in a game.

They need these points. Go get them, guys.

… I plan on livetweeting the game tonight: @OtW_InGame.

Wings 5, Oilers 6 (SO)

I’m begging off writing much about this one.

I don’t think I’ve been as embarrassed through 20 minutes of a hockey game as I was last night. The fact that they came back to force overtime and a shootout doesn’t negate that they went down 4-0 to freaking Edmonton. It’s still horrifying and the very fact that it was necessary kinda wipes away the awe I might have had that they were able to come back.

Feel free to vent. At this point, I feel like the team deserves all the flak it gets–maybe it’ll shame them into getting it together.

Also, read this. I can’t find it within myself to disagree.

Game Day Notes: @ Edmonton

Update (3:58 PM): Pavel’s in, officially, says Khan.

Ansar also has more on the Oilers’ health situation. Hadn’t caught on about Souray and Staios being out with concussions earlier. Comrie and Visnovsky are out with the flu, but Smid is in. Apparently, he’s recovered from H1N1. – Matt

Short on time today, so this’ll be brief:

… The Oilers are the losers of their last three games, with their most recent win coming at the end of a streak of three a week ago. Since then, they’ve lost a couple road games (Calgary and Vancouver) and a home-game (Colorado). They were shut out in that last, 3-0.

… They’re 6-5-1 with 13 points, which is good for 8th place in the West right now.

… The Oilers are one of a few teams with a player (Ladislav Smid) that’s come down with swine flu. I say getting out of Edmonton without coming down with the virus should be about as high on the list on the priorities as getting out of there with a win is.

… Nikolai Khabibulin is the likely starter for the Oilers tonight. He’s posted a pedestrian 3.07 GAA and .906 save-percentage so far this season.

… The Wings are looking to build on Tuesday’s success in Vancouver with another strong performance tonight. Here’s hoping some more attention will be paid to defense this time around.

… Pavel Datsyuk skipped out on practice yesterday after he had trouble getting a skate on. Evidently, he blocked a shot in Vancouver and the swelling got in the way. He’s slated to play, though.

… Darren Helm, who was a healthy scratch Tuesday, will return to the lineup, as will Patrick Eaves, who has yet to make an impact as a Red Wing. They’ll dress at the expense of Maltby, who’s having his best season in years, and Abdelkader, who should have been scratched over Helm Tuesday. Brad May remains in the lineup.

… Jimmy Howard will have the opportunity to follow  up his strong relief effort in Vancouver with a start tonight. He was scheduled to start before he came in Tuesday, so it’s no commentary on the status of Chris Osgood, who will get to redeem himself Saturday, unless Babcock changes his mind unexpectedly.

… The Wings need to be at their best tonight and they need to do what they can to avoid scrums and unnecessary close contact with the Oilers. The last thing they need this season is for anyone key to get sick.

This game will be a start in determining whether or not Tuesday’s game was a turning point, or just another decent game surrounded by crappy ones. Do it, guys.

Wings 5, Canucks 4

Yay, road win, yay. Today does feel much better (despite 6 or fewer hours of sleep) after a Wings win than it would have after another loss, eh?

Turnaround? Already seeing some talk from pundits about how this could be the game we look to as when the Wings turned things around. It’s, uh, a little early to tell on that and since they’ve had a couple other strong games this season that didn’t result in sustained not-sucking, I’m going to withhold judgment. At least until after tomorrow night’s game.

Guard change? Yes, Osgood was terrible last night and, yes, Jimmy Howard did his best NHL-level Goalie impression, but as with the turnaround talk, let’s reserve judgment until he’s played at least one more game (which’ll be tomorrow night, by the way).

Osbad: I, like Triple Deke, use that ironically. But it certainly applies when describing him last night. What the heck happened? Two weak goals on four shots? Osgood’s been solid overall so far this season, but that “performance” had my brain shooting out flashbacks to last year. Not cool. Get your head on straight, Chris, and come back Saturday with some steadyness, please. Still supportive, but it’s tough love time.

The other guy: Jimmy Howard is capable of playing the goaltending position at the National Hockey League level. For roughly two and three quarters periods, that is. He had zero chance on the two he did allow and, contrary to the Vancouver Sun reporter who must have watched the game on a fuzzy black-and-white TV in the Yukon with no sound, made some pretty spectacular saves to keep the Canucks from making things difficult for the Wings.

If he can come in like that on a regular start, he may just have a future with Detroit after all.

Datsyuk: Good to have you back, Pavel. More please.

Top line: Best unit on the ice for the Wings, which is exactly as it should be. Homer was a beast, Zetterberg (weak breakaway effort in the first aside) was stellar and Datsyuk was dominant.

Demolition Man: Holmstrom was personally responsible for three of five goals, though he only got two points. Heck of an outing.

Scary: The Ryan Johnson incident was terrifying. He’s fortunate he was able to get his head ducked and hit the boards with mostly his shoulder or the hockey headlines today could have be as dark as we’ve ever seen them. Totally freak play. Glad to read he’s relatively okay tonight (has a concussion).

The Stuart Board: I saw some blather about the boarding call on Stuart last night. Apparently, it was the same as the Ruutu/Tucker hit. Except that it wasn’t. It was a hockey play on Stuart’s part and a dive on Shirokov’s.

Schneider: Man, that guy still has a cannon. My wife (big Schneider fan) said last night, “You know, I love Rafi, but he can not shoot the puck like that.” No argument from me. No doubt that the Wings’ power play misses that shot. (no offense, Rafi. I think you’re a great passer.)

BertuzziWatch: Someday, he’ll score. It may be in an alumni game or something, but it’ll happen.

Shiny Forehead: Williams scored, but it was only because Luongo was blinded by the light bouncing off that thing. And because of Filppula’s cross-crease feed. And because anyone with a stick could have potted that one.

Abdelkader: Was it really worth sitting Helm for Justin, coach? I barely noticed him. Maybe that’s because he was only on the ice for 7:14.

May: I did notice him. Once. When he fought Tanner Glass (awesome name, Full House). After that, not so much. He only cracked 5:00 in TOI (5:17).

+/-: The list of guys in the minuses is interesting: Cleary (-2), Stuart (-2), Bertuzzi (-2), Filppula (-2). So that second line could obviously use some defensive practice together. (Update: John helpfully points out that these were the guys on the ice for Osgood’s troubles. Never mind.) Who wasn’t on the list? Ericsson (+1) and Lebda (+1). They weren’t so bad, which is encouraging. Still, I’d like to see them split up.

Tighten down: The Osgood Crapfest at the start skewed things a lot, so forget those. The rest of the game, though, wasn’t the Wings’ best defensively. They pulled out the win on offense and goaltending, not offense, defense and goaltending, which is what they’ll need over the long haul. Too much freedom allowed to Vancouver, which resulted in some of those great saves on Jimmy’s part. Next on the list, guys? Tightening down defensively.

Coming up: The Wings fly on to Edmonton for a meeting tomorrow night. Should be fun.

Game Day Notes: @ Vancouver

Update (8:55 PM): Been away from the computer since I left work, so I only saw this just now: Helm’s a healthy scratch tonight.

What?! Maybe Helm hasn’t been in playoff form, but you’re going to scratch one of your fastest, hardest-working guys in the middle of a skid? I don’t get it.

What I really don’t get: Helm is out, but Abdelkader is in. I get May. Sorta. But Abdelkader doesn’t belong in the lineup over Helm.

Also, I’ll be livetweeting the game tonight at @OtW_InGame. – Matt

… Another test of fanship tonight, folks. A 10:00 p.m. start against Mikael Samuelsson and Company, which would be depressing enough without that 3-4-2 start. Yay for 6 or fewer hours of sleep in the middle of the week.

… The Canucks haven’t exactly had a torrid start themselves, but they do have more wins than losses and their points are listed with two digits: 6-5-0, 12.

… They’re won their last three games, beginning with a 3-2 decision in Chicago on Wednesday and continuing with a pair of home wins over Toronto and Edmonton on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

… With the exception of a seven-goal outburst earlier in the season and a four-goal one soon after, the Canucks have maxed out at three goals so far this season. So we’re not talking a blistering offense.

… Our old friend Mikael Samuelsson has managed to hit the net enough times to lead the team in scoring with five goals (with a stunning shooting percentage of 10.9%). Henrik Sedin is next with four.

… The other Sedin, Daniel, is out 4-6 weeks (as of October 11th) with a broken foot.

… Other Vancouver injuries include Sami Salo, Jannik Hansen and Pavol Demitra. Rick Rypien is day-to-day with a sore groin. Salo and Rypien skated yesterday (which the rest of the team had off).

And Kyle Wellwood is day-to-day with a broken toe. Wellwood was the subject of a hilarious Twitter meme last week, “#KyleWellwoodIsSoFat,” which basically amounted to a ton of (in good fun) fat jokes. I have no idea where it began, or why. My favorite, though:

#KyleWellwoodIsSoFat, even Ken Hitchcock thinks he’s “let himself go”

… We’ll have the pleasure of seeing Mathieu Schneider in a Canucks uniform for the first time as he made his debut Sunday following shoulder surgery. He got just 14:15 in ice time Sunday and was paired with Shane O’Brien. He’ll be wearing #27.

… Vancouver captain (yeah), and Best Overall Goalie in the History of (Never) the World, Roberto Luongo will start tonight for the Canucks.

… The Wings are in the middle of a give game road trip that has so far been a real joy to watch. They blew a one-goal lead late in the third against Phoenix last week to lose in overtime, and then blew a second period one-goal lead to lose to Colorado on Saturday. It was their third loss in a row, though they did get a point in two of the three.

… In an effort to mix things up, the only consistently threatening line on the team, Ville Leino, Valtteri Filppula and Jason Williams, has been broken up. In practice, anyway: Babcock might not stick with it. But assuming he does, the lines could look like this tonight:

Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Cleary-Filppula-Bertuzzi
Leino-Draper-Williams
May-Helm-Maltby

Assuming Eaves and Abdelkader are the odd-men out, as they were in the skate yesterday.

… As others have said, here’s hoping this means a shake-up on the blueline as well. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed (actually, I know you have), but Brett Lebda is not a mentor and is not a fit partner to Jonathan “Still Green and Learning” Ericsson.

It’d screw up the rotation, but I’d really like to see Jonny rotate in with Nick on some shifts. Nick could handle any extra time and the other three top four guys can cope with an altered mix. I’m tired of watching Jonny flail around out there and lose his confidence. Give him a partner that can cut down on the flailing and help him gain some confidence, please.

Lebda can be solid when not called on to teach a rookie, but right now they’re foisting that task on him. And his play is suffering as a result.

On the defense, how much do we miss Lilja right now? I’ve been less hard on him than some over the years, but I never thought I’d want the guy back so badly. Sadly, it looks like that won’t be happening.

Some odds for the game from Nightmare on Helm Street. Why have I never noticed Luongo’s resemblance to Borat before? Sheesh.

… The Wings could really use a win here. “Need” is too strong for the 10th game. But we’re just shy of “need,” I’d say. It’s time to end this, guys. Take care of business.

Wings 1, Avalanche 3

I’m deferring to George on this one. Preach it, brother. If you read nothing else about the Wings today, read that.

I will add this, though: If Jimmy Howard wants to be a goalie in this League, he’s got to stop that second goal. Pathetic. I’m not saying that’s why the Wings lost, but giving up a go-ahead goal on a shot like that is not what Detroit needs from you, Jimmy.

Oh, and one other thing: Todd Bertuzzi got robbed of a goal. Stupid officials.

This team needs a win Tuesday like nobody’s business.