Archive for September, 2010

Game Day Notes: @ NY Rangers

Update (4:55 PM): And Patrick Eaves is out tonight with an ankle injury suffered in practice. Awesome. Here’s a thought: stop shooting pucks off the feet and ankles of teammates, guys.

But the biggest bit of news from that link is Babcock’s stating Drew Miller has a job. Sorry, Mattias Ritola. – Matt

Update (4:42 PM): The Rangers have posted their lineup here (Word doc).

Also, the Wings cut Thomas McCollum, Travis Ehrhardt, Sergei Kolosov, Sebastien Piche, Logan Pyett, Willie Coetzee, Ilari Filppula, Jamie Tardif and Greg Amadio (from a tryout). – Matt

Briefly:

… Like the Wings, the Rangers have been idle since Sunday, so there’s nothing to report on that.

… The Rangers are getting closer to their final roster, with 11 cuts coming down on Monday (including Wade Redden), leaving them with 27 on the roster. So tonight won’t be so much minor leaguer powder puff as Eastern Conference powder puff.

… As of this writing, the Rangers haven’t posted their lineup for tonight, but I’ll get that link if it comes.

… Newsday Rangers beat writer did tweet this yesterday:

What does the orange jersey mean? Probably that you might be watching vs WIngs tomorrow. So Prospal, Dubi, Boyle cd be healthy scratches

So take that for what it’s worth.

… Khan has the Wings’ roster for tonight. Getting closer to the real thing, too, though they’re still carrying a lot of AHL-bound guys.

… Per the pre-season rotation, Osgood was supposed to start tonight, but because of the charley horse he played through Saturday, he’s out. Jimmy will be in net instead.

… Kris Draper’s groin injury turned out to involve a slight tear, so that’s a bonus for guys like Patrick Eaves in looking to solidify a role in the lineup. Draper’s probably going to miss the start of the season.

… Modano skated yesterday, but is out again with groin tightness. Who knows if he’d be playing through it during the regular season or not, but this isn’t exactly an auspicious start for the guy, even if this is just pre-season over-caution.

… The big news is that the second line (tonight’s first) is reunited with Franzen’s return. Just in time to prep for Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, eh?

… Meanwhile, Jiri Hudler is playing with Abdelkader and Drew Miller on tonight’s second line, while Ritola (who had an “ear” injury—who knew?) is skating on the third with Helm and Eaves. Take from that what you will, but I consider that a sign that Miller’s made himself more valuable to the team for the coming season than Ritola has. Whether that means Mattias gets the ax instead of Drew remains to be seen, of course.

… On defense, Ericsson is slotted in the #2 spot with Kronwall, while Kindl is with Brian Rafalski. Were this game televised, I’d be keeping an eye on those two.

… So we had to wait until Wednesday for a game that’s not going to be on TV. Isn’t pre-season hockey fun?

The Only Season Preview You Need

No offense to anyone else, but the Chief nails it:

If Detroit’s healthy…

Whatever anyone else might think, that’s the single biggest factor in deciding the eventual champion, in my mind. There is a team or two that might have what it takes to beat the Wings in the playoffs at the end of the day, but as long as the Wings are healthy, I wouldn’t ever, ever bet against them this year, no matter who they’re playing, until the final horn of the final game.

And yes, the post title goes for you fans of other teams, too.

If that kind of swagger offends you, too bad.

On Kindl’s Fight

In a rare bit of departure from the rest of his media colleague’s topical choices, Khan’s off-day piece is all about Jakub Kindl’s “battling” for a spot in the six playing defensemen. Interestingly, it’s framed as a season-long thing, with Khan claiming he’s a lock for the 7th spot heading in to the season.

That’s something I would have endorsed even two weeks ago, but now I’m not so sure. All off-season, I assumed Kindl was too green to even be in the NHL this year, that the Wings would have kept him in Grand Rapids another year if they’d had a choice. That last part may be true, but after seeing him in camp and through the pre-season thus far, I have to adjust my thinking on his relative greenness.

At this point, it seems to me that if you compare Jonathan Ericsson and Kindl head to head, Jakub’s pulling out front. Ericsson has quite frankly looked terrible so far this exhibition season and looked as bad in camp. Kindl, on the other hand, has surprised me with a real improvement in maturity and poise with the puck. One sequence that stands out in my mind was that power play I mentioned in my thoughts on the Saturday Chicago game. Kindl’s not better-than-third-pairing mature and poised yet, but I’m now assessing him as pretty close to third pairing-ready.

He’s starting out at a disadvantage given Ericsson’s current slotting in that 6th spot, not to mention Babcock’s interest in Jonny, but I think he’s got a chance of taking that job if he keeps this up over the course of the rest of the pre-season. Maybe he doesn’t get in the lineup on the 8th, but unless Ericsson doesn’t improve and unless Babcock’s stubbornness becomes pathological, he might not have to wait that long.

Kindl’s progress comes as something of a surprise to those of us who watched him in GR, but my wife pointed out that he did improve a lot over the time he was with the Griffins, so this is just an extension of that arc.

Here’s hoping that if he does crack the lineup, he has more staying power than Ericsson, who I can’t even defend any more. Taking time to bloom is one thing, Jonny. Not progressing toward the whole flowering part seemingly at all is another.

Wings 5, Rangers 3

As it turns out, by the time we got home and got the recording of the game going, it was time for a fantasy draft, so I’ve only got a few observations on the game:

Hudler: I don’t know about you, but I thought he looked great. I really think he’s going to be the most important addition to the team this year, even if Modano hits the most optimistic projections. One thing that stood out in my mind last night (maybe for no reason—maybe this is common): the backhanded saucer pass he dealt out at one point. The guy has some serious skill. He seemed to have figured out the North American game’s geometry while he was out with the bruised foot, so here’s hoping he’s set to rack up the points this year.

Rafalski: He needs to take more days off, eh? He didn’t seem to be holding back at all last night, and that’s a great sign. He can be very, very good when he wants to be. It was good to see him return to the lineup and not ease back into it.

Eurotwins+Homer: It occurs to me that those three should be headed for a big year, given all the time they’re getting to work out the kinds. The second line got thrown off the rails by the Franzen injury, as did the third line with the Hudler one (together with last night’s Modano groin soreness. Some 40-year-old groin muscles…). The fourth line group hasn’t been the same three guys thanks to job competition. The first line is the only forward group that’s been able to be consistently together. That should pay off.

Howard: Looked solid though I thought he trailed off a bit. The second Rangers goal was a bit weak, in my mind. He didn’t have a lot of hope on the third one, though. Still got some off-season rustiness to shake off, I guess?

Holmstrom: Apparently needs to play up between the circles these days. Another waived off goal for being at the top of the crease. The referees do know it’s not ’99, right? The crease rule is not in effect. And when a player doesn’t touch a goalie at all, there’s nothing to call and no reason to waive anything off.

Elbowing: Maybe it’s just in Wings games, but it seems like the refs are handing out elbowing more and more this off-season. Abdelkader’s big shoulder hit last night earned one, for example, and Mursak got slapped with one Friday night, etc. Is this the NHL’s way of saying, “Look! We care about heads!”?

No Jonny: Probably just a case of Babcock wanting to hold him out of the third game in three nights, but I thought it was interesting that Ericsson wasn’t in given that he was supposed to get every opportunity to prove himself. Maybe it means nothing, but it’s at least possible that Babcock has been less than impressed with him so far.

Wednesday: Couple days off, then it’s out to New York for a Rangers rematch. Exciting. Slowly getting closer to meaningful hockey.

Game Day Notes: vs. NY Rangers

… The Rangers opened their pre-season schedule with a 4-3 OT win over the Devils on Thursday. They followed that up with a 5-4 OT win in New Jersey, a game that included this exciting Kovalchuk/Avery drama (yawn). Yes, Slats, lets reinforce the Boynton precedent and go after the real scourge of today’s game: innocuous hand gestures.

… The official site is lifting up Michael Del Zotto for his four point “outburst” last night, wrapping up the company-line piece with “Should Del Zotto be in the lineup again on Sunday, one can only surmise that he will aim for a better start than the one he had on Saturday. But it’s a sure bet he’ll take a similar outcome.” Dontcha know!

… Unfortunately for the Rangers’ scribe, it doesn’t look like Del Zotto will be in. The official site has their lineup here (PDF, annoyingly). Our favorite delinquent son, Sean Avery, will be suited up. Should be fun.

… Dunno which of the two goalies listed will start, but Biron may be a good guess.

… The Wings are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Blackhawks last night. It turned out that we were able to have the game on in the background for most of it, so I saw more than I expected to see.

It seemed like every time I looked over, Osgood was making a big save. The one that stands out in my mind was that play that involved Smith being pressured by Hawk forecheckers, panicking a little, trying to turn back toward the boards rather than going behind the net, and wiping out, losing the puck off his stick. The puck ended up in the slot where a Blackhawk had a major scoring chance, but Osgood turned it aside. From my perspective, it seemed like he was doing stuff like that much of the night.

So as it looked like the Wings were going to lose the game, I had a defense of Oz writing itself in my head. Then he gave up the Hossa shorthanded goal. It doesn’t wipe away the rest of the night, but it was poor timing, as the Wings had just gotten within one and were poised to stage a comeback.

But that said, Osgood’s play last night was of a quality that would have given the full Red Wings a chance to win. As it was, the B-team didn’t have the offensive horsepower to crack the high, high ceiling of, uh, 2 goals. If Osgood plays like that in his starts this season, the Wings will be getting very good work out of their backup. And he might even be able to step in on a more regular basis if he plays at that level, should the need arise.

… Other observations on last night:

  • Kindl’s surprising me. I didn’t think he was ready for NHL action, but he’s looking better each time I see him. I now think he’s an actual threat to take Ericsson’s job.
  • That’s because Jonny hasn’t gotten any better at all. He’s in serious danger, I think, to be the 7th defenseman if he doesn’t pick it up.
  • Smith had that one gaffe and didn’t look all that great overall, with one exception that I saw: that final power play where he and Kindl were on the point. I thought we got a great preview of his future contributions to the team right there. By the way, he got hung out to dry by Stuart on the Hossa goal. Sucks.
  • Fil seemed strong.

… No official word on the lineup for tonight, but it’s going to be the A-team, with maybe a couple changes. Like Hudler and Rafalski.

… So, tonight the plan is to watch the game on DVR since we have other stuff going on when it starts. No tweeting the game again. Sorry!

Lineup for Tonight

Khan has it. As he points out, interesting choice by Babcock to put Owens on the top line. When he says he likes the kid, he’s not kidding around. Also: more Tots. And Osgood gets a chance to back up my backing him up. (thanks to @8leggedfreaks19 for the pointer)