Archive for April, 2011

Game 1: Wings 1, Sharks 2 (OT)

Quick Take: This is going to be a ridiculously stressful series. I was mostly thrilled with the way the Wings were taking it to the Sharks in the first period, when the game seemed firmly in their hands. I was progressively less thrilled as the game went on and the Sharks clawed into it, but even then, I felt pretty good. Until the Pavelski goal. Instantly, I had a bad feeling that the game wasn’t going to end well. I had an instinctive sense that the Wings had missed their chance by not netting a couple more in the first. They allowed the Sharks too small a gap to overcome and once they crossed it, the Wings were at the disadvantage.

The Wings cannot give the Sharks that kind of slack.

The Sharks: I’m reminded of why I hate and have no respect for the Sharks: they’re quite frankly in the wrong California town. They should be plying their trade in LA because if there’s a more accomplished group of actors in the NHL, I don’t know who they are. Substantive examples:

  • The Bertuzzi hit on Pavelski. Wasn’t objectionable from where I sat. That’s a hockey play. Pavelski throwing his head back like that is not. Yet the officials bought it. That’s what I like to call a dive.
  • The Eaves slash on Marleau. Completely ridiculous penalty. Marleau should go out for Hamlet this summer.

There were other great examples that I won’t bother mentioning because the refs apparently stopped hating themselves long enough to ignore them. But I can say that never have I been more glad that Todd McLellan is not in the organization any more than last night after watching his players do their best WWF impressions all over the ice.

Jimmy: I thought he looked incredible. He had no chance on either goal: one came as a result of Pavelski conveniently tripping Miller as he entered the zone and walking in for an easy knock-in. And the game winner came off Stuart’s stick. He was on all night and made some great saves throughout. If he plays like that in this series, I still think the Wings have the edge as I wasn’t overly impressed with Niemi and his 24 saves. Jimmy stopped 44.

One thing he did struggle with at times was rebound control, the prime example of which is the Pavelski goal. But the blame for that one, again, comes down to Pavelski being uncovered.

Bounces: It was a weird night for bounces. The Wings were getting most of the bounces in the majority of the white ice. In the white ice regions bordering blue ice, however, they seemed to have very little luck and it really hurt their overall finish. Meanwhile, the Sharks had pucks bouncing over their sticks left and right in most of the ice, but they lucked out on the game winner and the Pavelski goal.

Puck luck. So it goes.

Datsyuk: Looked in good form with slick moves and takeaways all over. There were a few times where he went too cute, but in general, he looked dangerous and will need to play like that tomorrow.

Zetterberg: Didn’t look too much like he’d missed a lot of time. That was good to see.

Franzen: On the other hand, I was less than impressed with Franzen. The Wings need more out of him.

Bertuzzi: The Wings dodged a bullet when Todd took a skate to the wrist and headed straight to the bench. I guess either the wrist tape protected him somehow or Mickey Redmond’s theory that the skate gave him a bit of a stinger and made him think he was cut is correct. Considering how Modano’s wrist injury has probably effectively prematurely ended his career, the last thing Todd needs is a similar injury.

Helm: Maybe not quite as effective as he was against Phoenix, but I do think his line’s going to make a difference in this series.

Abdelkader: Keep your stick down, Justin. And for the record, I’m not sold on Wallin’s blood. HD picture of him on the bench revealed absolutely nothing and he claims he got stitches for it. I guess he got cut in the mouth because there was nothing external. And I guess he likes drinking his own blood or something because he stayed in the game. Sketchy.

The Crowd: Another reason to hate the Sharks: their idiot crowd. You don’t taunt a goalie in the middle of a shutout, morons. Also: the gasping at every little thing got a little old. Though kudos: you successfully managed to get in the officials’ heads and influence their decisions, it seems. Part of the Shark’s high-board act was crowd-calls.

FSD: I just want to register my displeasure with the network’s decision to join the Wings game in progress. I love the Tigers too, but a game against Cleveland has nothing on a Red Wings playoff game. We were robbed of six minutes of Red Wings hockey because of that. Update: It’s been pointed out to me that the game was shown in full on FSD+. Noted. We recorded the wrong instance, apparently.

Next: The Wings need to press harder early and give the Sharks more serious ground to make up. That is a major part of not letting officials make the game for you: if you allow your opponent a one-goal margin, a chintzy call can screw you. Better to stack the odds in your favor by creating a wide gap. The Wings can do that and need to tomorrow.

I knew this series was going to be tough. I knew the Wings were going to lose a couple/few. But I really wanted a win in Game 1. Next best is a win in Game 2. Do it, guys.

Game 1: @ San Jose

So we’ve been without Red Wings hockey since the 20th. That’s been both a good thing and a bad thing. Most of the bad is on the fans’ side, I hope. But we finally  get to see the guys back in action tonight, even if it’ll be on DVR in my case.

So, some thoughts on the series:

… The Sharks took six games to dispatch a Kings team playing without Kopitar, while the Wings swept the Coyotes. Even accepting that the Kings were likely a better team than Phoenix, that’s not a comparison in the Sharks’ favor. Had the Wings taken 6 games to eliminate a Doan-less Phoenix, I doubt we’d be seeing as much praise of them as we’re seeing of San Jose.

That it happened last year in seven games is obviously beside the point. This year, the Wings took care of business in four, and the Sharks stumbled into the second round in six. They hardly look like the better team through that lens.

… Another common thread I’ve seen in series previews is the trumpeting of the Sharks’ depth. A quick look at the numbers suggests that the trumpets aren’t sounding on the Sharks’ bench, as Todd McLellan held his fourth line to under 10 minutes each (ranging from 7:12 to 4:32 between four guys). Meanwhile, there wasn’t a single Red Wings skater with TOI under 10:00 in the first round.

That’s a line that extends back into the regular season, as the only guys to average under 10:00 on the Wings were Tatar, Emmerton and Mursak. Meanwhile, the Sharks had 8 and four of them played 30+ games.

The Sharks may indeed be deeper, but McLellan doesn’t play them that way.

… Some commentators say “depth” and others say “scoring depth.” I guess those latter folks need reminders that it was the Wings with 13 goal scorers in the first round to San Jose’s 10.

… I’ve seen some talk about how Nick Lidstrom can’t be on the ice all the time, and I say in return that neither can Dan Boyle, though McClellan sure tries at 27:10 average TOI in Round 1. Even accounting for OT games, that’s a lot. But the other point here is that Lidstrom wasn’t even the most utilized defenseman in the first round for Detroit: Nik Kronwall was. Nick’s sure to get more time in this series, as part of the reason he was held out against Phoenix was for this purpose, but the Wings’ defensive depth goes beyond Nick.

… The goalie comparison is another favorite of the “Sharks in 5-7″ crowd. There’s no denying that a Cup winner is always going to look better than a guy who’s never gone the distance, so that alone gives Niemi the technical edge. But the edge can be overstated. After all, this is a guy who posted a 3.99 GAA and a .863 SV% en route to being pulled twice in the first round.

And it’s not like the Kings are some kind of offensive juggernaut. They came in 25th in goals/game in the regular season at 2.55. The Coyotes were up at 14th with 2.76. That’s not a wide margin, but the Kings’ relative scoring power was dropped by the loss of Kopitar, scorer of 25 of their goals.

Anyway, as I seem to recall plenty of “meh” reactions to Niemi’s Cup winning contributions, I’ll take Jimmy Howard’s 4-0 record, 2.50 GAA, and .915 SV% right now.

… None of this is to say that the Sharks are a fluff team, of course. They’re very dangerous and could very well win this series. The Wings are going to need to bring their best game, which is something we saw in flashes of varying lengths against Phoenix. They did mix those flashes with long sleepwalking stretches that cannot happen in this round. Phoenix was too incompetent to do much with those, but San Jose will not let the Wings slide in those cases.

The areas in which a lot of people see advantages, I see advantages for the Wings. But all of those depend on their mental game: can they remain focused from start to finish? Can they keep their heads in their own zone? Can they maintain coverage as required? Can they play positionally so that they’re not taking penalties? Does everything revolve around the puck for them? The answers to these questions have to be yes. The margin for error against a team as talented as San Jose is a lot thinner than it was with Phoenix.

I think the Wings know that and that they’ll be on top of things in this series. I guess the last question is this: how rusty will they be after such a long break? We’ll find out tonight.

San Jose/Detroit Schedule

Per the press release:

Date Time (ET) Location TV
* If necessary
VERSUS** denotes exclusive telecast
JIP – Joined In Progress
FSD broadcast schedule via
Game 1 Fri, April 29 10 p.m. at San Jose FSD, VERSUS
Game 2 Sun, May 1 3 p.m. at San Jose NBC
Game 3 Wed, May 4 8 p.m. at Detroit FSD, VERSUS (JIP)
Game 4 Fri, May 6 7 p.m. at Detroit VERSUS**
Game 5* Sun, May 8 8 p.m. at San Jose VERSUS**
Game 6* Tue, May 10 TBD at Detroit FSD, VERSUS
Game 7* Thu, May 12 TBD at San Jose FSD, VERSUS

Looks like it’ll be a fairly easy series from an Eastern time zone fan perspective: just one late game in the first five. Local market fans dodge a bullet for Game 3 with the FSD coverage making up for Versus’ joining in progress from Philadelphia/Boston’s Game 3. But we’re all stuck with Versus for Games 4 and 5. Fun.

Waiting on the NHL

So we know the Wings are playing San Jose in the next round and that Game 1 is on Friday. We know Games 2, 3 and 4 are on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. We know Game 2 starts at 3:00, thanks to Khan.

But that’s it. We can assume Game 1 will start at 10:30, but it could be 10:00. And the same assumptions can be made about Games 3 an 4: 7:30, but maybe 7:00. I guess I should add waiting on the networks to the headline.

This is ridiculous.

Anyway, a heads up: tweeting Game 1 will be problematic as we have standing plans that will interfere with catching the game live. If we can catch up on DVR, I may pick up there,  but otherwise, it looks like Game 2 will be the first game I can tweet this round.

Also: bring it on, San Jose.

Octodrama Becoming Octogate

George breaks down the latest here.

It doesn’t jive with what Officer Bullock told me about the timing or the Deadspin-published account on the users’ role (Tommy B. said he was cheered on by ushers, though one did apparently turn him in). It is disturbing, though, and doesn’t bode well for the tradition.

On top of the clear indication that, whatever happened at the March 21 game, Round 1 Game 1 signaled a policy change, I got the impression from Officer Bullock that they may look the other way occasionally. That was confirmed by DPD’s not ticketing anyone for the two tosses in Game 2 (they hit the ice before and after the game). And there’s been no word of anyone else being fined for the other tosses that took place in Game 1. But of course, we didn’t hear about Charlie Graves’ story until now. It seems, though, that during the anthem and after the game are safe(ish).

But, assuming there’s not more to the story in terms of Graves’ conduct, his story about the full extent of the possible punishment makes it a really dangerous dice roll to throw between the opening faceoff and the final horn, goal or not.

And all the more important that throwers get proper crowd shielding. It’s a group effort, folks.