Archive for March, 2011

Wings 3, Blues 10

When I read comments like the QotD from Zetterberg or what I consider to be the runner up here, I can shove down my anger and replace it with something resembling hope that this time they got the message. Unlike last time.

The February 9 loss to the Predators was the equivalent of a guy who never thought of himself as out of shape or in bad health having some chest pain that made him realize he should eat better and exercise more.

So, we got a five-game winning streak.

Then the Big Macs and deep fried cheesy bacon sticks became too much of a temptation. It started out with just that one lunch, then that other indulgence. Then we got March. Then most of any pretense of caring about eating right and exercising went out the window in the past week and a half.

And then, the full-blown heart attack, the ambulance ride, the shaming beat-down from the doctor, the whole bit.

Last night was an extreme symptom of systemic problems that have been evident in the Wings’ game all season. More often than not, they are able to ignore those problems and come out on top by sheer force of offensive ability, which is why they’ve been able to hold down the second seed in the West. But occasionally, the pond hockey act doesn’t work.

Getting thumped by the Blues, in an ideal world, should have the effect of shocking the Wings out of defensive complacency into a realization that they’ve got to get it together or face a short post-season against teams that can beat them in will even while they can’t match them in firepower.

Taking it back to the analogy, it’s time to start eating right and exercising, for serious this time. Or we’re headed for another heart attack and the likelihood of that one being fatal (to any hopes of a long run) is pretty high.

Zetterberg knows it.

It’s two weeks before the playoffs and we should be playing a lot better than this. If we play like this in the playoffs it’s going to be an early exit.

Lidstrom knows it.

We got embarrassed at home. We got embarrassed in front of our home crowd and booed off the ice and rightfully so. We were just awful tonight.

It will be a real mark of the leadership of those two men how they respond to this in getting their teammates going.

Also, part of Lidstrom’s comment needs addressing. When the captain approves of booing, that ought to be good enough for anybody. But I understand if it’s not, even if it is for me.

Though I will say I don’t need Nick’s say-so to get pissed with the team. To take it back to the analogy one more time, is the family of the guy doing him any favors supporting his bad eating and lethargy? I doubt you could make that case. Part of loving something is holding it to a standard of accountability. And that may mean being critical or pointing out possible areas of improvement. For a fan base that has no other way of communicating to a team, booing has to be the means to convey that feedback.

It can be taken too far. But booing in and of itself is not some kind of betrayal of the team. An apathetic response would be.

To be clear, I’m incredibly disappointed in the team for last night’s offering. But the basis for that disappointment is my faith that they can do so, so much better. This team has by and large coasted to second place in the West. Imagine what they could do if they hit the gas.

I hope that last night is a night the Wings look back on and say “Never again. We will be better,” with the understanding lesser blowouts with a similar lack of effort are no less unacceptable. I believe they will.

Game Day Notes: vs. St. Louis

… This is the final game between these two teams this season. The Wings lead the series 4-1-0.

… The Blues fell to 6-7-1 in March with a 3-2 shootout loss at home to Minnesota last night. They blew a third period one-goal lead to help cut short a two-game mini streak they had going.

… The shootout loss earned them just their 78th point, which is good for 13th in the Conference, and last before the precipitous dropoff to Colorado and Edmonton’s 64 and 57 points. The Blues suck, but not as bad as that.

… The loss to the Wild was the team’s first game without TJ Oshie, who made the always professional decision to sleep in past practice on Monday. The team punished him with an at least two-game unofficial suspension. So he won’t be in tonight.

… The Blues’ injuries include Barret Jackman, Alex Steen, and David Perron. Perron is still out from this.

… Halak was in last night, so it looks like Conklin may get the nod for this one.

… The Wings fell to 5-5-3 in March with an overtime loss to Chicago Monday night.

… They lost any chance of catching Vancouver with the Cancucks’ Conference-sealing win over the Predators last night. They can seal  up the Central, though, with five more points.

… Pavel Datsyuk remains out with that mysterious lower body injury, but could be back Saturday. Salei will also sit. I hope he’s getting in shape real soon because I’d like to see Ericsson sit instead.

… Joey MacDonald will get the start, and will be backed up by McCollum again. Jimmy was going to dress, but I guess minds were changed.

… The Wings let themselves be handled by a desperate team Monday. They don’t face that factor tonight, which makes it a great opportunity to get their own  game in order. With the end of the season in sight, it’s time to  get serious.

Wings 2, Blackhawks 3

Update (2:04 PM): Megan made a good point to me via IM: the decision to pass on suspending Bertuzzi can be seen as a sign that the League has moved on from the Moore incident and no longer has him pegged as a marked man. That’s a sign of progress, at least. - Matt

Update (1:12 PM): Initially had a messed up table in this post. Fixed. - Matt

Bert: First off the latest on Todd’s hit last night. He’s not going to be suspended. I said last night I’d be surprised if he wasn’t, but I think the right word in this case is actually disappointed. I’m disappointed the League sidestepped this opportunity to continue the trend set with the Cooke hit in coming down hard on hits involving the head. This is a blown decision.

I’ve been against head contact since this hit back in 2006. I’m not going to be a hypocrite and sit here claiming what Bertuzzi did is fine, or that the NHL made the right decision. What Bertuzzi did wasn’t malicious, but it was stupid and careless, and that it wasn’t malicious didn’t make it any less dangerous. Johnson could have been seriously injured and that he wasn’t is not an acceptable reason to pass on punishment.

I’m a believer in the reformed Todd Bertuzzi. I am not a part of the dominant culture that refuses to forgive  in cases of real reform. Until last night, he’d done a great job of validating that belief. But he messed up. I’m no less a supporter of him today than I was yesterday, but that doesn’t change the fact that he probably should have faced some kind of additional punishment for being so reckless. It has nothing to do with the Moore incident at all. It has to do with how these kinds of hits should be handled in light of the evidence about what that kind of contact can do.

And to be clear, if it’d been Henrik Zetterberg who’d laid on the exact same hit, I’d be saying the League screwed up, too. It’d be tougher, admittedly, so say that, but I do not want to be a hypocrite in this matter.

Anyway: Moving on.

First Period: I don’t know where this Red Wings team’s head is at. They don’t seem to realize what point of the season it is. They’re facing a home game against a team flailing to get in to the playoffs, a team with a lot of talent and a lot of motivation to stick it to them. And they come out flat. Apart from the Lidstrom goal, there wasn’t a lot of anything of a redeeming quality in the first period. The Hawks wanted it more and demonstrated it.

Second and Third: As the game went on, the Wings shook off some cobwebs and got into the game, but by that point, the Hawks had them going uphill. It’s to the Wings’ credit that even playing average hockey, they can keep the Hawks within one and tie it up to force overtime. But imagine what they could do if they, you know, used all 8 cylinders.

Watson: I don’t know if there’s a more dangerous ref in hockey. When other refs call things lopsidedly, they’re actually calling real penalties. They just let them go the other way. But Watson’s different. He just makes crap up. The Zetterberg penalty was atrocious at that point in the game, after all the other crap that was let go all night. The referee should never legislate the outcome of the game like that.

Missing the Hjalmarsson trip was even worse. This trope has been beaten into the ground over the years, but I really have to question the guy’s eyesight. And hope he doesn’t have a car. The last thing the roads of the continent need is Brad Watson driving.

But all that said, the Wings didn’t do themselves any favors in this one. From Bertuzzi’s ill-advised hit to the Wings’ play in their own end, this game was on a likely losing trajectory independent of Brad Watson.

Joey: Didn’t get a ton of support and managed to look pretty (very) good. He did his job and earned some chants in the process.

Defense: I’ve seen the Wings’ goals against average cited this month as evidence that the team’s been playing better defense in March. Judging by their average shots allowed over October-February versus their shots allowed this month, however, it may be that they’re getting some better goaltending. They’re allowing over a half a goal less per game versus Oct-Feb (2.38 vs. 3.02), but still averaging over 30 shots allowed per game. (30.85 in March, 30.25 Oct-Feb). Cut down the shot total some and I’ll be a bit more impressed with that 2.38 GAA. (stats via and Excel)

[table id=2 /]

Next: A game against a Blues team that always plays them hard with a goalie that loves to stonewall them. Should be fun.

Prepare to Lose Bertuzzi For a Few

Update (9:00 PM): Seems like the early consensus is that Bert won’t get hit with too heavy a punishment. I guess that’s possible. It doesn’t look quite as bad on repeated viewings, but I’d be surprised if his reputation doesn’t lead to something more than a game or the in-game punishment. - Matt

Update (8:37 PM): +1 to @thetinnishflash for this alternate post title suggestion: “prepare to lose the ‘tuzz”. - Matt

I think it’s safe to expect Todd to be supended 3-5 games for that. He got up a good head of steam, left his feet and hit a guy high. The head contact happened in part because Todd’s elbow rode up Johnson’s arm, but a lower hit doesn’t have that effect, so that’s not a pass. It was a stupid decision by Bert to go in like that.

Todd screwed up. Years of playing relatively clean (7, in fact) won’t matter: he hit a guy high. That Johnson came back may not matter, either. It was head contact on an unsuspecting player. It’s frustrating that he screwed up and stepped over a line he’s been so good to stay behind, especially when the team is already shorthanded thanks to Datsyuk’s injury.

To be clear, this wasn’t that nasty a play, but if the League is serious about cutting down head contact, as suspension probably has to happen. I hope things don’t get blown out of proportion because it’s Todd Bertuzzi, but realistically, they probably will, at least from a publicity standpoint.

Be prepared to deal with an uptick in accusations of dirtiness against the Wings.

Game Day Notes: vs. Chicago

… This is the fourth of six games between the Wings and the Hawks this season. The Hawks lead the season series with wins December 17th and January 22nd. The Wings won the October 9th meeting. They’ll face off again to finish the season, on April 8th and April 10th.

… The Hawks are 6-3-2 in March and are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Ducks on Saturday.

… They currently sit in 8th place with 88 points, nine points back of the Wings and four points back of Nashville in the Central. Their spot in 8th is a little tenuous, with Calgary just behind them at 87 points and Dallas a point behind that. But they’ve got a pretty good road ahead of them: they’ve got games in hand on their competitors for the final spots so as long as they win games, they’ll be fine. That means, though, that their opponents over the next couple weeks will need to be on top of their game.

… Chicago used these lines in practice yesterday:

Brouwer – Toews – Kane
Bickell – Kruger – Hossa
Kopecky – Dowell – Frolik
Stalberg – Johnson – Pisani

They may not go with them tonight, however.

… They’re without Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland, which is good news for the Wings. Sharp is annoyingly good and Bolland’s absence just means a weaker Chicago team.

… Corey Crawford will get the start for the Hawks.

… The Wings improved to 5-5-2 in March with a 4-1 win over Toronto Saturday.

… Their 97 points is close to what commentators are calling the playoff threshold of 99 points this year. They’re 12 points back of Vancouver, though, and can make out at 111 so it’d take a miracle to catch them. They need to focus instead on sealing up the Division, which will take four more wins if Chicago and Nashville run the table. They can put a big dent in the Hawks’ hopes of catching them tonight with a win.

… Looks like Johan Franzen’s in tonight. But Datsyuk’s out.

… Joey MacDonald will get the start tonight, with Jimmy Howard day-to-day with a shoulder strain. He’ll be backed up by Thomas McCollum, who’s up from the ECHL to chart faceoffs.

… The Wings had a bit of a scare Saturday and not just because of the Jimmy injury. They let the Leafs hang around too long and it took a doubly tied up game to wake them up and take care of business. They face a similarly motivated team tonight in Chicago and can’t let the Hawks’ drive to make the playoffs keep them from playing a complete game. With Joey MacDonald in tonight, playing a careful defensive game becomes even more important.