Archive for September, 2011

8 Games for Smith

Update (1:33 PM): Brendan Shanahan’s video’s out. JJ has it at Winging It In Motown, along with a breakdown. Shanahan’s reasoning is sound. It’s a good thing that they’re going after recklessness, even without intent. In theory, that should lead to some more thoughtful play league-wide.

Smith’s reaction to the suspension is here. – Matt

Update (12:36 PM): Chuck Pleiness reports that Smith will be re-assigned to Grand Rapids. So he’ll serve his suspension whenever he gets called up or makes the team. - Matt

Update (11:33 AM): Megan points out something I always forget about suspensions: Smith won’t get paid for the games he sits. At his pay scale, that’s a hit. - Matt

Update (11:06 AM): Um, quick clarification: it’s for the remaining three pre-season games and five regular season games. So he faces just five meaningful games of sitting as an NHLer. - Matt

For this. I’m not complaining. Wasn’t malicious, but I don’t want hits like that in the game, and it’s finally becoming clear that under Brendan Shanahan as discipline czar the NHL doesn’t either.

Petrella has more on the suspension at the title link. I’ll just say that I half hope the Wings hold on to Smith for 8 games this season when they don’t need him rather than wait until they do need him and have to eat the 8 games then. Except that would kind of be beside the point of the punishment. If he’s missing 8 NHL games he’d already be missing, how much of a punishment is it? He’d even get to avoid some AHL bus travel. Harsh.

If the Wings do opt to postpone his serving the suspension, though, it pretty much ends Smith’s chances of being an injury call-up. So he’d have to outright make the team next year.

Anyway, I hope he learns a lesson from this: play a little smarter.

Red 6, White 4

Sorry for the silence around here lately as we near the start of the season. A work project has kicked into high gear and by the end of the day, usually the last thing I want to do is look at a computer screen for another minute.

Anyway, we were able to attend the Red & White Game last night at Van Andel. Once we finally got a parking spot (ArtPrize + Red Wings in West Michigan = downtown zoo), it was a blast. From my minimal notes (tried to enjoy the game more than log it):

Tatar: Very impressive. He had a Datsyukian steal in the offensive zone in the first period that created a great chance and continued that shift with some more great work, resulting in a drawn penalty. His goal came on a chance he created himself and at times he seemed to be playing at a different level than the others on the ice. He’ll be fun to watch in Grand Rapids this year.

Filppula: Also stood out. He had a slick assist on Bertuzzi’s goal and then scored twice from pretty much the same spot next to the net, once off a nice subtle drop pass from Bert. He was on top of it offensively, which is a good sign.

Hudler: Seemed to get saddled with lower-end linemates, but looked good. He was trying fancy things, which is maybe a sign of much-neeeded confidence. He tried a between-the-legs shot in front of the net and though it didn’t work, it was something I could stand to see more of from him: flash. He scored on a long solo rush that ended with him roofing the puck on a hapless Pearce. Later, he put one in off Pearce’s mask. At that point he was playing against mostly minor leaguers, but still. He looked pretty good.

Franzen: Seems to be floating. One specific play really stood out: while Red was cycling the puck in the left circle, he was standing in the slot. The puck came at him, but he didn’t make any attempt to take it, resulting in it sort of floating to the right circle and the end of the pressure. He may have been trying to be a decoy, with the guy in the right circle being the one to drop the ball, but it didn’t seem like it.

AHL Ref: In the second period, he called both teams for breathing on each other and skating too close. Or so it seemed. Way too many penalties. One particularly bad call involved Aubry hip-checking Ferraro at the blueline. Textbook play that was called a trip. Ferraro and Aubry got into it a bit after the whistle.

Unfair: At one point, Team White had the Wings’ #1 PP unit out there against Stuart, Conner, Raedeke and another guy I didn’t log. Kind of unfair. They had them pinned so low, Ian White was dishing the puck around from around the faceoff dot. Needless to say, they scored.

McCollum: Looked shaky to me, but Megan assures me he always looks like he’s lacking confidence. That’s does not reassure me. Pearce is much more polished at this point, which is surprising. McCollum tried to go head-to-head with Datsyuk behind the net and ended up being so decisive in moving the puck that by the time he got back to the net, he had to flop like a fish in a vain attempt to prevent an Ian White goal.

Conner: Really impressed with his hustle. He made some things happen last night and looked good.

Top Players: I wish I’d paid closer attention to this, but at some point in the third period, we noticed that both benches looked pretty sparse and that we hadn’t seen big name players in a while. (key to noticing this was realizing Exelby was on the ice an awful lot) That shifted the balance of power a bit as Team White lost the Eurotwins and Team Red started to tilt the ice more in their favor. I admit I felt a little cheated to have paid to go to the game and only get actual Red Wings (except Abdelkader and Hudler, who played through the end) for two periods and change. But then practicality kicked in: better that those guys avoid risking injury.

More Please: I really hope the Wings opt to do this again next year and beyond. It was a lot of fun to see the Wings in town.

This is Stupid

The Stars, the team, you might remember, that unceremoniously stripped Modano of his captaincy and a few years later put him out to pasture, will bring him back via a one-day contract so he can “retire a Star.” The time for this was last summer, guys. Now it’s just stupid.

Anyway, to end of a positive note: congrats on the great career, Modo. Sorry your last playing year didn’t go better for you.

Wings 2, Pens 3

Hockey’s Back: Yeah, it was a loss. But it was hockey. So there’s that. And it’s a big, pretty cool that.

Jimmy: Not his best game ever. Not sure if that minor injury from camp has him off a bit, but he did not look sharp overall. In a couple spots, sure, but he’s got plenty of room for improvement, just like he left on the short side last night.

Smith: Very cocky and doing enough to make him look stupid for being so. Obviously a lot of talent, but just as obvious is his need to grow a bit. Big minutes in Grand Rapids should do the trick.

Brunnstrom: Points for effort. He’s acting as a solo agent within the system, but he’s showing enough that he may get tossed a contract and a seat on the Griffins’ bus. I like his skill, but he needs to stop trying to impress on his own and seek to more of a team player, which is what the Wings will be impressed with anyway.

Russian Show: Malkin and Datsyuk both came to play, with the former being the Pens’ TV crew’s favorite topic and the latter doing enough to crack through the reverie from time to time. I did note, though, that a few of Malkin’s most highly-praised plays came against AHLers, so there was an element of hype there. His drive to the net on his goal, for example, wasn’t exactly like bull rushing Nick Lidstrom.

Datsyuk’s impression was likely amped up by the Pens roster too, so to be fair it’s a little early to draw big conclusions about either guy’s upcoming season. Except that Pavel’s gearing up. His play on the Kronwall goal was pretty swell.

Control: The Wings had their periods of control in this one, but the Kunitz goal derailed one, and then it was up and down, with the down stretches feeling a bit longer as the game went on. Unsurprising with the mix of regulars and kids in the lineup, but still worth noting.

The Power Play: New coaching didn’t turn out to be an instant cure, but that also is unsurprising. I’m sure things’ll be better when the full lineup is together.

Commodore: Kind of a loper and lacking the intensity I was expecting. Not sure if that’s coaching or him working to be a good, careful citizen, or what. We’ll see.

Cleary: I’m perfectly okay with that penalty. Sure Samuelsson shouldn’t turn, but there’s also no need to deliver that specific contact.

More Thoughts. Via Hollis at TPL.

Quick Thoughts From Camp

In case you didn’t see my tweets from Traverse City yesterday, some quick thoughts on the one day of camp I was able to attend:

The difference between the organization #1 goalie and a kid fighting for a spot in a logjam: after the practice portion of the morning, the group splits into squads that do this skating routine that’s like watching team speed skating. The leader goes along a route either he decides or that’s pre-determined (I’m not sure which) and the guys behind him follow at a couple feet’s distance.

Jordan Pearce  did  his best to follow the exact route set by the leader at his best pace and ended up struggling to finish most times in his heavy equipment. I’m pretty sure he got lapped a couple times. Meanwhile, Jimmy Howard took abbreviated routes at a much more leisurely pace and didn’t keel over at the end.

Jimmy’s somewhat casual attitude was also evident in other drills, which isn’t a huge surprise as the other top tier guys obviously hold something back in these scenarios too.

Ty Conklin’s been attacked by a bush: He’s got a big beard. If he doesn’t contain that thing, he could gain some extra chest padding in the form of facial hair before the end of the season. Conks looked good in drills, so here’s hoping that translates into the season.

Hudler is very short in person: It’s kind of shocking just how short. He played a bit bigger than he is, though, in the scrimmage. Seemed to be working to try to make a splash. Wasn’t all that successful, but points for effort, I guess.

Moods: Bertuzzi didn’t miss an opportunity to slam a puck into the net or, if he missed, the endboards. He seemed annoyed. Holmstrom looked like he was just having fun. He showed off his ridiculous top-shelf-at-close-range abilities while goofing off during down time in the practice.

Eyes On Defense: Smith’s looking confident. Maybe too much so. He uses drop passes at every opportunity and is probably going to look like a moron when one of those gets picked off in the NHL whenever he gets a game in.

Commodore did some good work recovering with smart poke-checks on some drills.

Jonathan Ericsson looked serious, but still sent pucks into skates on breakout drills. He did a lot of yelling instructions, too.

During the scrimmage, Ian White looked pretty good. He has a shot that should fit well with the team’s net front guys and seemed to do fairly well with Lidstrom. He’s pretty small, like Rafalski, but has a different build. He’s obviously not as good a skater. If he can be coached to change his game some, he could fit in well.

Datsyuk: It was a little strange to see him in #24, because I kept wondering where #13 was when his linemates were out there, but he looked good. As I said before, guys of his caliber seem to hold back a bit in these things, but he did have an element of trying to one-up Zetterberg. It wasn’t in a seriously, game-time way, though. Contrast that with the young guys, who were obviously working much harder to impress, which led to a marked difference in intensity. Even with that, though, when the main team’s lines were on the ice, there was a big difference in quality of play, as you’d expect. When it was the kids, there was a lot more clump skating.

Brunnstrom: Definitely tried to stand out, and earned a goal in the scrimmage. I wasn’t blown away by him.

Tomas Jurco: Really impressed me with his use of his size and just the fact that he looked a step ahead of everyone else in his tier on the ice. I’m looking forward to watching him develop and fill out. He could shoot a little more, but he’s got the ability to cut through a defense and make a play, as well as the size to shrug off defenders. He also looks distractingly like Valtteri Filppula, so I kept confusing the two.

Eaves: Looked pretty good in his new role, though I doubt it’ll last.

Franzen: Seeing him in person and around other players and you really get why Yzerman had that initial reaction to the guy. He’s big. He didn’t do a ton in the scrimmage, except scare me when he went off hunched over and grimmacing. I think he may have just been out of breath, though.