Archive for December, 2010

Hobo Fries

Checking in again before heading out to a late Christmas party this morning to say how awesome it is that Patrick “Hobo*” Eaves scored a hat trick last night. The guy’s had a great few weeks and is rising fast in my Next Jersey Rankings. Hard not to love the guy for the way he plays the game. Another Red Wings reclamation project panning out, it seems.

Go get your curly fries today!

Also, I tweeted the game last night, but don’t have time today to do a write-up, so you can check out my thoughts on the win as they came to me by checking out @OtW_InGame.

*To the Twitterati.

400

Another quick post. I just had to acknowledge Chris Osgood finally crossing the 400 win barrier. It was a bit of a slog through the 480s and 490s, but he’s done it, become just the 10th goalie in NHL history to win 400. And yeah, it is kind of ironic or oddly appropriate that he did it on a night where he had to carry the team on his back.

Watching the game on DVR, I was torn between anger at the team’s defense and what seemed like incessant 2-on-1 breaks, and pride in Osgood keeping them in the game. Osgood hasn’t had to do that too often in his career, but the fact that he has it in him to do it now, at this stage, is encouraging. If Jimmy can find some consistency out of this weaker stretch he’s been in lately, the Wings look to be in great shape in net.

Congrats, Oz!

Cleary Out, Mursak In

Checking in briefly with mention of the Cleary injury: another broken bone, another 4+ weeks without an important forward. That really sucks, especially given how strong a season Cleary’s had. The Wings’ll miss his offense (still leads the team in goals) and hustle. It just became even more important that guys like Zetterberg, Franzen, Filppula, Hudler and Bertuzzi step it up in this mid-season grind.

And everybody strap on those skate fenders, please.

Mursak’s the Wings’ choice of call-up for this situation, which is somewhat surprising given how strong a season Ilari Filppula’s been having. Megan tells me he’s very fast and strong on the backcheck, but more of a finisher than a playmaker. He should be able to bring those things to the ice even in the limited role he’s sure to have.

Merry Christmas

And Happy Holidays!

A word on posting: no more posting today, obviously, and no posts tomorrow as we’ll be traveling. This week is also tricky as family is in town so this is likely to be a light few days as far as posting. Back to regular service after the New Year.

Wings 3, Blues 4

Fatigue: It looked like the story of the game in the first, when the Blues took it to a Wings team that looked exhausted. Turns out the exhaustion may have just been a game-opening funk, as the Wings either tapped some energy reserve later in the game or snapped out of that funk. As often as we’ve seen the Wings do that this season, I’m going with the funk angle.

After a hard-fought game against the Canucks, the Wings certainly had reason to be tired last night. But their late push, especially in the second half of the third, was too energetic for their earlier problems handling St. Louis to be marked down to fatigue.

Osgood: Another try at 400, another failure. This time, I thought he could have played better. He made a couple big saves, but he probably could have had the second pair of Blues goals.

Kronwall: Another of his off nights. Not sure what’s going on with him this season.

Rafalski: Fox Sports highlighted how hot he’s been in terms of production, but it rang hollow in my ears as all I see is a defenseman that’s underwhelming in, you know, the actual defending portion of his job. Rafalski is one of the most naturally talented athletes on the team, but he’s been pretty bad lately. It’s frustrating, because when a guy who gets so much ice time is bad, it hurts the team a lot more than if some scrub is bad.

Hudler: Again had one of those nights where I was convinced he might actually get something going. He was involved in the big push in the second half of the game and made some great plays at points. He had some good chances himself, and set guys up for chances of their own. But nothing went his way. And my guess is he’ll be back to his shell Sunday, as has been the pattern. He has his solid games that make him look to be on the cusp, then he fails to cross the cusp, and retreats back into the “ugh, I’ll never break free of this” mindset.

I don’t know what the solution is. I’ve never seen a player this snakebitten. On the plus side, this is an opportunity to come up with a new phrase to describe an all-pervasive, perpetual slump, eh?

Bertuzzi: I thought he had a really strong game offensively. The Fil, Franzen and Bert line was second only to Zetterberg’s line in the big push and much of that was due to Bertuzzi.

Franzen: It certainly wasn’t because of Franzen. He had a goal, which was great, and would normally mean he’d be untouchable for a bit, but aside from his reaction to a D’Agostoni run attempt, I have little else positive to say about Mule. The guy’s been MIA in the effort department lately and in my opinion is in danger of becoming that player in the Wings’ lineup that only shows up when he feels like it.

Remember how much people hated that in Fedorov? Well, Franzen’s slowly starting to feel like that. And he doesn’t have the sheer ability to coast like Fedorov did and still be marginally effective. A Franzen that’s not working is a Franzen that’s all but useless. The Wings need Franzen to make good on his words in a Hudler article earlier this week (can’t find it, though…) where he said he just tries to work hard when the offensive side of things isn’t working out for him.

Datsyuk: I wonder if this stretch of games without him is going to further confirm a suspicion that’s been growing in my mind this season: that he’s the real heart of this team. He’s certainly taken a lead this season and even as early as last night, his absence was majorly noticeable from a fire and leadership standpoint. It has me wondering if Pavel shouldn’t be destined for the C rather than Zetterberg.

The thing, though, is Zetterberg plays the game so differently (his blue-collar style of defense is in stark contrast with Pavel’s way of making it look so easy) that maybe it’s easier to stamp Pavel with #1 leader for what he does in a more standout way than Hank does in a quieter way. I dunno. What do you think? Has this season of Pavel’s cracked the foundation of Z’s future captaincy for you or am I crazy?

The Big Comeback Effort: It started out exactly like it needed to: the Wings were handed a 5-on-3 on a platter, and the Wings promptly pulled within two. They didn’t score on the 5-on-4, but it didn’t take long to get within a goal, on Eaves’ 8th. The third was then spent in frantic flurries, which was fun, but had me, and probably the rest of you, wondering where that effort was earlier in the game. It was the same old problem for this team this season, a slow start followed later by the results of the realization that they’re down and should probably get around to scoring and pulling the win out of the fire.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. A game against a team with a goalie like Halak and the defensive ability to bend but not break is probably going to be a night where it doesn’t. The Wings just can’t spot a team like St. Louis three goals and expect to be okay. Though I will say that if there had been five more minutes to that game, they probably would have tied it up. But that’s another reason why late pushes can’t be the strategy, because of that whole clock thing.

Next: Fittingly a game after Christmas against the red-and-green Wild. Hope the team has a good couple days recharging and preparing for the post-12/25 season. They need to be better.

Wings 5, Canucks 4 (OT)

Datsyuk: First, the big story. The Datsyuk injury trumps the Wings cutting off a hot Canucks team, at least in my book. I discuss it here and here. The fortunate thing is that the injury doesn’t require surgery, or else the situation would be really crappy.

The next four weeks are crucial for this team. Guys like Zetterberg, Franzen, Filppula, Bertuzzi and Cleary will need to step up their game to compensate for the loss of Pavel, who was doing a whole lot of carrying the team on the forward side this season.

Zetterberg took some good first steps in that direction, but he didn’t have so far to go as he was already producing at a good rate. Mule, Fil, Bert, and Danny can all be much, much better. Let’s see it, guys.

Losing Modano was a body blow to the depth. Losing Datsyuk for this length of time is a head shot that can knock you down. The Wings need their other guys to make sure they stay in the fight.

The Game: Any time you have a seesaw game like this, it’s not going to fall under the category of Classic Red Wings Wins, which generally consist of wall-to-wall dominance. By the Wings’ usual standard, this was kind of an ugly one. But factoring in the Canucks’ talent level, you’ve got a win to be proud of, I think.

The Sedins are annoyingly good, and so is Ryan Kesler. While it was annoying to see the Wings unable to clear those guys from the front of the net, it’s probably good to remember that. Those three alone can cause goalies and defensemen to require therapy, but the Wings managed to hold on to their sanity and pull out a win in the end. That’s a good sign, I think, for a team that’s had a rough couple weeks.

DirecTV: I missed the whole first period because our HD box wasn’t getting FSD+ and I had to be on the phone with a customer service girl for 40 minutes. I started out really, really annoyed, but was fine by the end. Something about our satellite was out of whack, but a walk through the set up process seems to have solved the issue. Unlike Comcast, I came away from the call still a fan of DirecTV. Not hockey-related, but it did effect my viewing of the game, so I thought I’d mention it and put in an endorsement.

Officiating: Interesting choices by the refs in this one. By and large, they let the big stuff go and called a lot of chintzy crap. Not sure what that was about.

Franzen: When I cite guys that need to step it up, the name appearing in 72 pt font in my head is Johan Franzen. I have not liked his effort in recent games and have grown tired of waiting for him to hit another of his goal streaks. The time has come, Mule. More than any of the other forwards mentioned above, you need to elevate your game. Now.

Lidstrom: Another guy who could contribute more with Pavel out. He’d cooled off from his torrid start for a while, but has been heating up again lately. More of that please, captain.

Homer: Doesn’t usually do a ton of crap away from the front of the net, but his sacrificial play behind the net preceding the Lidstrom goal was great, as was his beeline to the front of the net after getting up. Couldn’t have gone more perfectly. Guy’s still valuable to this team in a big way.

Next: The Wings face off against a Blues team that has gone 2-2-0 since we saw them last. Here’s hoping they have enough left in the tank to take advantage of the Blues’ inevitable tantrum.

With Howard in the net last night, my guess is Osgood starts tonight.

An upside to the Datsyuk injury: no more guessing who’s sitting. Though the flip side to that is no stick for Hudler. He gets to feast on the carrot of the guaranteed roster spot.