Archive for January, 2013

Skipped Day

Sorry, I was slammed at work so I didn’t have time to crank out a post on the game last night. I’ll just say that the Wings will have to play better, longer, if they want to beat a team like Chicago. As it was, they got closer than they really had any business doing.

Game Day Notes: @ Chicago

Update (6:14 PM): Okay, so this sucks: Helm is out, with a flared up back injury.

On the plus side, Brian Lashoff will stay in the lineup if Ericsson is good to go. Kindl’s time may be running out. I expect Lashoff will be watched closely tonight, though. - Matt

… This will be the first of just four meetings between the Wings and Blackhawks this season. I guess it was more important to get that extra game in against the Blue Jackets than against, you know, an all-time rival.

… The Hawks are off to a fast 5-0-0 start that includes a 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets last night. They last started undefeated after five back in 1971. A win tonight would set a team record.

… They’ve played on consecutive nights once already this season and put up six goals on night #2 on their way to outscoring opponents LA and Phoenix 11-6 on the road.

… Their 10 points leads the league, though San Jose is just two points back with a game in hand.

… Patrick Kane has 9 points already, which is more than he had over any other five-game span last season. That’s an 86 point pace.

… The Wings are just 2-2-0 and sit fourth in the Central. That’s just one point up on Columbus. You have to remind yourself that it’s early to avoid being too depressed about that.

… They played Friday and took out the Wild 5-3 in a bit of an offensive explosion you hope continues tonight against a Chicago team that hasn’t been super tight defensively (except on the PK, which is third at 94%*).

… It’s possible that Jonathan Ericsson will be back in the lineup tonight, which will bring the blueline close to full health. Just Ian White and his lacerated knee would be out in that case, unless you count Kyle “Crap Bag” Quincey as out with an injured hockey sense.

… An Ericsson return would likely mean Brian Lashoff’d be out. The Red Wings Way and all.

… Mikael Samuelsson (forgot about him, didn’t you?) and Jonas Gustavsson are out with groin injuries.

… The Wings showed they have it in them offensively to beat a highly-skilled team despite the defense being weaker than it’s been in forever. They’ll need something like the same kind of offensive output tonight.

*The Bruins and Islanders both are at 100% (!).

Wings 5, Wild 3

Data Collection Update: The Wings improved to 1-2-0 against legitimate hockey teams with this one, though parts of it looked like they’d fall to 0-3-0. The picture is filling in.

Offense Reliant: Although the defense played a solid game, this game hinted at the likely recipe for success for the Wings this season: the offense. The team will have to have a medium to high goal output with a defense the weakest the Wings have had in years.

Jimmy: Especially during the first period and middle of the second, Howard was very strong. He had no chance on two of the three goals and not much of one on the other. He kept the Wings in the game when they weren’t invested in it and the Wild were a threat. He’s even improving, which bodes well for his part in this season.

Bertuzzi: I definitely did not expect him to come back and immediately be so effective. I hope it wasn’t a fluke!

Also, I really enjoy how popular he is with the fans at the Joe. I doubt he would have ever earned that kind of reception in another city if he hadn’t come here.

Eurotwin Breakup: So yeah, spreading the wealth across two lines worked out. Stunning.

Helm: Like Bertuzzi, he was immediately effective and an impact player. Just having him in the lineup makes me feel more optimistic about the season.

Brunner: Still a beast with soft hands. His goal was a thing of beauty and he continues to be a threat on most shifts.

Z Line: The swapping in of Franzen worked out better than I would have expected. The Datsyuk line was the best but Zetterberg’s line was not far behind.

Kindl: Looked worse than Quincey. Yeah.

Lashoff: You know he’ll be headed to GR as soon as Ericsson is ready to go, but you also know it’ll be a shame. I’m definitely glad to be wrong about him. He’s an undrafted callup that outplayed a first round regular (Kindl) and would have earned a spot if he weren’t waiver-exempt.

Penalties: The Wings did a lot of standing around and that of course led to a lot of penalties. They need to work on moving their feet going forward.

Parise & #20: Parise scored a goal and was a threat, but I only really noticed #20 when JLA fans booed him.

Next: The Wings faceoff against Central-leading Chicago tomorrow night on the road. They’re four points back of the undefeated Hawks. A real challenge.

Thank You, Homer

By now, you have to have seen the Tomas Holmstrom retirement presser. If not, here it is. It’s definitely the best of the recent Red Wings retirement press conferences.

It’s just not going to be the same without Homer around. I consider him to be one of the most important Wings of his era, despite the fact that he wasn’t a great skater or of much value on the defensive side of the puck. He was the focal point of the offense for years and we’ll be talking about who will be replacing him on the power play for years, I’m sure. It won’t happen, but I would not argue if his number were to be retired.

Because nobody’s going to come close to what he did every night. No one will be able to match the commitment and tolerance level he showed out front. Nicklas Lidstrom wasn’t the only once-in-a-generation player the Wings have lost to retirement, even if he was on a whole other level. I wonder if Homer was able to have such an unemotional presser because he truly knows he left it all on the ice.

Thank you a great career, Homer—good luck going forward!

Wings 1, Stars 2

Swamped at work, so just a few brief words:

Data Collection Continues: It’s way early still, but the data collected so far on this team is not encouraging. I have it at 1-0-0 against crappy teams and 0-2-0 against legit teams. And four goals in three games.

Obviously, there are injuries that are skewing the results, but the forward corps is still pretty healthy so that doesn’t explain the lack of scoring. Not encouraging.

Brunner: What may explain the lack of scoring is what seems like 90% of the team’s scoring chances are going to Damien Brunner, who has thus far scored on like 1% of them.

I have noticed a lack of chemistry between Brunner and Pavel relative to that between Brunner and Z. That’s obviously going to happen given how new they are to each other.

But when Babcock threw the lines in a blender last night, one of the bits that slopped out onto the counter was a Franzen/Datsyuk/Zetterberg line. If we’re not going to wait for Pavel and Brunner to gel, my preference would not have been to reward Franzen (who played like a doornail), but to swap out Datsyuk for Filppula on a trial basis.

Anyway, Brunner managed to rob Lehtonen of the shutout much the way Kari robbed the Wings of goals prior to that point, so maybe he’s going to blow up now.

Lehtonen: Speaking of robbing the Wings of goals… I don’t want to take away from Lehtonen’s performance, which was very good. But I was frustrated to see the Wings make yet another goalie look so good.

Goalies in the NHL have like a 50/50 chance of either getting shellacked or kicking off a Vezina campaign when they play the Wings. (not) Glad to see that survived the lockout.

Jimmy: I thought he looked very good, though he didn’t match Lehtonen save for save. He gave the Wings a chance and it’s not his fault they blew it.

Though I wish he would have kept his skate away from Ian White.

Renney: The PP had some moments (mainly Brunner), but overall it was flat. Whatcha doin, Tom?

Tootoo: Totally wrecked a guy I think in the first period. I think the dude was a little too far away from the boards for my liking, but something like that is why you’re here, Jordin.

Kyle Quincey: [negative comment]

Next: The Wings host the Wild, so we’ll get a taste of what Life After Lidstrom could have been mingled in with what it’s actually like. Fun.

Wings 4, Blue Jackets 3 (SO)

Briefly:

That’s Kinda More Like It: As far as followups to Saturday’s performances go, this was a move upward. But still, the Jackets took the Wings to a shootout, and contrary to what James Wisniewski might believe, I’m not convinced they’re not still the league whipping boys. So, it’s a plus to get a notch in the win column, but I award no points for the execution.

Brunner: I will award Damien Brunner points for this, though. Pretty sweet.

Even without that, Brunner had a strong, if frustrating, night. He was a puck magnet and had some great scoring chances that he has to be burying before too long.

Colaiacovo: Got knocked out of the game in the third period with a shoulder injury and was largely unnoticeable before that. Now he’s out for a while and the Wings have signed Kent Huskins as an exciting replacement.

Eurotinws: Much better in this game. Between Brunner’s puck attraction and the Eurotwins’ ramping it up, this line was a threat most shifts.

Kronwall: Also looked better. He made a sweet heads up play to Datsyuk for the final real goal of the night and seemed sharper on defense.

Eaves: Had a couple chances in his first game back but otherwise I didn’t notice him a ton.

Lashoff: Gotta say I was wrong. He looked impressive in his first NHL game and managed to score with the help of a screen. We’ll see if he can carry it through but I’m glad I was wrong about last night.

Tootoo: I could have done without the dumb staged fight.

Quincey: Another poor game from him. That’s going to get old real fast if it hasn’t already.

Refs: The refs really got involved as the game went on and sapped the energy out of it. Frustrating. We lost nearly half the season, guys. Let them play.

Next: The Wings host the 1-1-0 Stars for the home opener. Jaromir Jagr already has four points.

Update: I should add that Gustav Nyquist has been recalled to replace Mikael Samuelsson, who will be out with a groin injury.

Game Day Notes: @ Columbus

… Tonight is the first of five games against the Blue Jackets in this shortened season.

… The Jackets are 1-0-0, having kicked off the season with a 3-2 shootout win in Nashville on Saturday.

… NBC Sports has picked up this game, because they know what a national viewing audience wants.

… It looks like Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start for the Jackets.

… The Jackets will go with the same lineup they used Saturday. Aaron Portzline has the scratches listed here.

… The Wings blew their first game badly, notching a 6-0 loss to their belt.

… They’re already down a few guys to injury and sickness, starting with Todd Bertuzzi and his bout of mono.

… Jonathan Ericsson is a game-time decision with a sore shoulder. He’d be replaced by Brian Lashoff, because apparently even a mostly-recovered Jakub Kindl isn’t preferable to a guy who probably maxed out in the AHL.

… Jan Mursak will be out a few weeks with a shoulder/collarbone injury courtesy of David Backes. Patrick Eaves will take his spot in the lineup and will see his first meaningful ice time since November 2011.

… Darren Helm is out of the lineup as well, with a sore back. Eaves is technically in because of that, too.

… Jonas Gustavsson is out with a sore groin and will be replaced on the bench by Thomas McCollum. Jimmy Howard gets the start.

… Ansar Khan has the lines used in practice here.

… So yeah, obviously, the Wings would do well to win tonight. A shortened season means a smaller margin for error. Here’s hoping the defense makes a 180 and let’s just go ahead and hope that for the offense too.