Archive for March, 2012

Nyquist Bump Alert

Update (1:42 PM): Turns out it’s not set in stone, as expected.

He’s right about the Zetterberg line. Of course, had Goose been with Pavel and Franzen more than three shifts, maybe they’d’ve generated some offense, too. – Matt

He didn’t finish the game there, but he did get some time with Datsyuk and Franzen last night. Babcock must have liked what he saw.

It’s not for sure the way he’ll go tomorrow, but if it is, it’s about time. We fans were calling for this as soon as the news broke that Franzen would return Wednesday.

Wings 1, Predators 4

Update (12:05 PM): Corrected a couple things in the Nyquist section. – Matt

Too Conservative: Both teams started out the game carefully, not taking a ton of risks. The Wings just took it too far and too long. There was a real lack of intensity for the first 30 minutes. Then the Wings had their best shift of the game to that point, with the Zetterberg line creating chances. But nothing came of it.

And the Predators came back to score in the next shift. After that, the Predators ramped it up a bit with the Wings already behind the 8-ball.

What Detroit should have done was thrown the conservative play concept out the window and been on the Predators from the start.

Rinne: I can’t go any further in this post without mentioning this ridiculous save by Pekka Rinne. There are a lot of times where I hear hoopla about a save some goalie made and I think, “Ah, that’s just luck—if the player’d gotten the puck an inch higher, now way he stops it with his stick like that.”

But in this case, I’m floored. Watch that play. Rinne’s invested in the scrum and probably can’t see 6 inches in front of his face, but there’s a point where he gets a small window that can’t show much more than Zetterberg’s stick. At that point, it clicks for him that he needs to get to his left now. So he stretches out and not only blocks the lower section of the net with his glove, he seems to actively take away real estate from Zetterberg’s shot by moving his glove toward Z’s stick.

That’s sick. And yet another reason why the Wings needed to be on top of the Predators from the start. If you concede a lead to that team, you’re up against a goalie that can do that.

Zetterberg: Once again probably the best Wing on the ice. He was able to fool Rinne on the Hudler goal and get him to commit to his side of the net. So that was cool.

Nyquist Watch: His TOI increased to 8:50. But he was still on the fourth line for all but three six of his shifts. The Three where he wasn’t on the fourth took place in the third period with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. As should have been the case all night. Two of the others were with Cleary and Abdelkader, and his final shift was with Miller and Emmerton.

Interesting note: his last shift on the fourth line ended with the Radulov goal. Where Nyquist was the last guy to take coverage on Radulov, who would then walk to the front of the net and score off the centering pass.

Correct me if I’m wrong, though: I think Radulov became Holmstrom’s man when he crossed into the slot. Nyquist was covering the pass along the boards. And Holmstrom just stood there while Radulov did his thing. Alternatively, Emmerton should have cut off the pass, which is what he was trying to do by his positioning.

Either way, it doesn’t seem like promoting Goose to the Datsyuk line was a punishment.

Jimmy: No chance on the goals. The Wings’ D hung him out to dry.

Stuart: Another one of his less than impressive performances. It’s really disappointing. He used to be one of the most reliable defensemen on the team and now he just seems out of touch.

Close Calls: The Wings did come close to sticking in the game, hitting the post at least once and just missing on a couple other great opportunities. So there’s that to take away from this one. It wasn’t all bad.

I’m just disappointed that they had a great need for increased urgency from the start and they just didn’t produce it. This was as much of a must-win game as they’ve had all season, their single biggest opportunity down the stretch here to take control of their own fate.

The Race: Now they’re dependent on the Predators losing at least once in order to regain the fourth seed. They can’t afford any more mistakes, or they really will fall to sixth.

And I’m not convinced that’s the best route to success: slipping to sixth because they can’t get their act together. I’d rather they fight to regain 4th or stay in 5th and head into the playoffs actually playing something resembling what used to be Red Wings hockey.

Game Day Notes: vs. Nashville

… This is the sixth and final game between the Wings and Predators this season. It’s also the most important. The series stands at 3-2-0 in the Wings’ favor. Last month, this happened. But last time, the Wings had no late heroics, losing 3-2 in Nashville.

… Since then, the Predators have gone 4-4-1. They’ve lost pairs in a row twice, which will be the pattern the Wings will look to enforce again tonight: they lost their Tuesday matchup with the Blues after winning the prior two games.

… Since they’ve been idle all week, they haven’t had a chance to take advantage of the Wings’ falling on their faces Wednesday in Columbus. They’re just one point back of Detroit now and can take fourth with a win in regulation or extra time thanks to the ROW tie-breaker. This game has major implications for the final standings.

… Nashville would have to win out all in regulation or overtime to catch the Blues. Oh, and they’d need the Blues to lose each of their four remaining games in regulation.

… They clinched a playoff spot with the Ducks’ 3-1 win over the Sharks on Wednesday.

… Alexander Radulov has one goal and two assists since coming back from the KHL via a special dispensation from both Leagues. The Predators are 2-2-0 with their early/late Christmas present.

… Of note: Paul Gaustad was 65% in the circle last time we saw the Predators: 100% against Abdelkader and Helm (3/3), 57% against Hank (4/7) and 33% against Emmerton (1/3). Franzen beat him in their one matchup. Zetterberg was an awful 32% that night, while Helm and Emmerton led the team at 75% and 67%, respectively (not counting Cleary’s 2-for-2).

… The official site points out that Patric Hornqvist has put up seven goals and three assists in 12 games.

… Conveniently for the Predators, they’ve gotten healthy just in time for this game.

… Pekka Rinne will be the starter for the Predators.

… The Wings ended a skid at six games with a win Saturday over the Hurricanes. They kept at it with an emphatic win over the Blue Jackets Monday night. Then they fell off the wagon in Columbus Wednesday and lost to the worst team in hockey.

… Still, that pair of wins put them in fourth and was enough to keep them there with the week the Predators had. It also put them in the playoffs for the 21st straight year. But instead of going into this game with a three-point cushion, they risk falling behind. Should have stayed on the wagon.

… With the Blues’ shootout loss to the Hawks last night, the Central is not quite sewn up yet. Though they’d have to lose out (with no more than one point earned) and the Wings would have to win out to take it from them.

… It was, of course, an optional skate today, which either means too many guys are too banged up to hold a standard skate, even given the high stakes tonight, or they’re in denial about needing to fix anything. I’m not sure which is worse, quite frankly. I know which is more disappointing, but the other may be more worrying.

… Out of the skate, such as it was, however, came the news that still-not-meshing Kyle Quincey will be out. Babcock says it’s not him, it’s me, or something. Jakub Kindl will be in instead.

… And Gustav Nyquist will be in as well. He showed up at the morning skate, though I suspect it was less optional for him than the others. Here’s hoping he gets some decent ice time tonight.

… Jan Mursak’s the healthy scratch on the forward side.

… Babcock’s going with Jimmy Howard, which is the right decision if Jimmy’s actually all the way better. If Bedard and the medical staff cleared him, that’s a good sign. Ty Conklin will be the backup.

… This is as big as it gets in the regular season. The Wings seriously need home ice advantage if they can get it for any length of time and a win tonight is the first best step in getting it. The Predators are no joke, but the Wings don’t have to be either. If the team that showed up Monday makes it to the rink again tonight, it should be an epic battle leaning in their favor.

Otherwise… well, ask the Blackhawks how things went on Sunday.

Wings 2, Blue Jackets 4

Should Have Seen This Coming: In retrospect, this was a likely outcome following the Wings’ public humiliation of the Jackets on Monday. Graham put it perfectly:

“The Blue Jackets, who despite their record and lack of talent are still a team of professional athletes with a lot of pride, were more determined to show that they didn’t like being embarrassed by Detroit on Monday night than the Wings were to repeat their performance.”

Exactly. That’s a trap the Wings fall into a lot. They may well have it together enough going forward to take care of business in the medium to long term, but this was a trap game for them.

Stuart: Doesn’t help when the guy you generally rely on to be the second-most steady defenseman on the team has an awful night. Stuart’s been awful lately and the timing of it coincides with the virtual confirmation that he’s not returning. I doubt it’s anything on purpose, but the guy might be a tad distracted. And it’s bleeding into his work.

Conklin: Let me preface what I’m about to say with this: I will grant that Stuart & Co. did Ty no favors last night. However, I’m embarrassed that I ever thought he might have found his game in the AHL. He looks like a goalie that’s lucky to make a save again. Again, he was hung out to dry, but on at least a couple of those, an NHL goalie has to make the save.

Conklin gets to start against Nashville. Sleep well tonight. (before this went to press, the news broke that Jordan Pearce was sent back to Grand Rapids. Which presumably means Jimmy Howard will be backing up tomorrow. Even if Conklin gets torched, I doubt we see Jimmy on the ice.)

The Road: The Wings need to avoid it at all costs. Which makes taking fourth place all the more crucial. Too bad they hurt their chances of taking it by failing to go up three points on Nashville. Fortunately, there’s just the one road game left.

But this issue is by far the biggest worry heading into the playoffs. Something for the coaching staff to correct, if they can.

Power Play: At least they’ve got that moving along. That’s a start.

Nyquist: Criminally underused in this game. 5:19 of ice time, all even strength. Two shifts in the third period. I get that it was a losing effort and that the received wisdom is to lean on more experience guys in those instances. And if Nyquist were a particularly green rookie, I’d be fine with that. However, he plays older than his years and there’s at least a decent argument to be made that he would have been much more of a help than a hindrance.

I get the idea behind switching in Franzen for Nyquist on the Datsyuk line, but it’s the kind of thing that works on paper rather than in reality. I stand by my theory that a Franzen-Datsyuk-Nyquist line would have been better. But I’m not the coach.

And though I’m also not the GM, I do say Nyquist should be sent down if he’s only going to get 5:00 a night. He would be better served playing top line minutes in the AHL than sitting on the bench so much here. I guess we’ll see what the plan is for tomorrow night.

Zetterberg: Continues to be the best guy in Red and White.

Filppula: Nearly had his head taken off by a Jack Johnson cross-check in the first period that went uncalled. And apparently unnoticed by the League.

The Race: The Predators’ inactivity meant the Wings maintained their lead in the Division. But they have to win tomorrow night against the Preds to keep that lead.

Wings 7, Blue Jackets 2

That Was Fun: A 7-goal outburst by the Wings is surefire fun, but this one was particularly so. You had sweet passing, Nyquist’s first goal, goalie demoralization and all around Big Red Machine dominance. It was awesome.

Nyquist: My favorite thing about the Nyquist goal is that he wasn’t fazed by Datsyuk’s set-up. This kid gets it. Which makes today’s practice news sad.

Here’s hoping there’s some rethinking of the lineup for tomorrow, with Babcock finding a way to keep Nyquist and Datsyuk together. I bet those two could get Johan Franzen going out of the gate. Sorry Todd.

Zetterberg: What an incredible game he had. All four of his assists were great and all four demonstrated his vision of the ice, which was stellar. It’s nights like that where you start to both understand the doubters and get angrier about them.

Holmstrom: Nearly got us fries with two goals coming on actual shots of the puck that he initiated. It’s strange, because I’ve seen some grumbling about his play lately (and done some myself) and then he whips this game out. Obviously, Zetterberg had a lot to do with it, but Homer still has value. If only on the power play.

Power Play: Speaking of that. Two power play goals. That has the Wings’ PP humming along at 25% over the last four games. It doesn’t make up for their other PP work over the year, but it’s nice to see them clicking more frequently now.

Conklin: Couldn’t hold on for the shutout. Of course, the first goal was a defensive breakdown. But the second was all him. Still digging for his game. Unless this is his game. Which is probably true.

Negativity: There’s not much in this game. But I have to point out that when they let off the offensive gas, it did not come with a corresponding tightening of the defensive holes. It’s fine that they didn’t gun all night, but I could stand to see a little more focus on the defensive side in the latter stages of the game.

They tightened up after the Jackets scored, but they’d already gotten through. With that kind of lead, it made no difference at all, so it’s nitpicking. But if they’re going to put on an offensive clinic, why not put on a defensive one too?

The Race: The two points put them one up on the Predators again. Nashville is in St. Louis tonight for a game you wish could end undecided. The Wings just need to take care of business again tomorrow and go into the game Friday ready to create some more separation. That much is in their hands.