Posts filed under “2009-2010”

Proud

I said a few days ago that I’d be proud of this team whatever happens. And I meant it. I’m proud of this team and what it accomplished in the face of enormous adversity this year. Thanks for fighting so hard this year, Wings. It wasn’t always fun to watch you, but I’m still proud of what you were able to do. I look forward to next year and a return to the fight. Get a lot of rest this off-season and be ready.

From a fan experience viewpoint, this was among the best seasons I’ve had. Between H2H, a growing involvement with Twitter and The Obstructed View, the online Wings fan community has gotten closer than ever. That’s the great thing to take away from this year. I hope to build on all of that in the coming years. You guys are critical to my enjoyment of the Wings and are a lot of fun. Thanks for a great year of watching hockey together!

This is the point where I would usually congratulate the Sharks and wish them luck in the next round. But, for various reasons, I can’t bring myself to do that. I will congratulate San Jose fans, however, for what looks like a team that can finally shake the choke label, even if at the cost of other labels that to my mind are worse. You guys seem like a decent group of fans and deserve to finally see some playoff success, even if your team is a gutless troupe of diving cheapshot artist pukes. I hope you get to experience sweet success while at the same time I hope your team gets swept in the third round. I’m conflicted.

And now for a few words for a couple individual Wings:

Nick Lidstrom, please stay.

Jimmy Howard, please play like that for the rest of your career and never demand a huge contract.

There will likely be a time for a season/series post-mortem, but not today and not for a little bit. I’m not as devastated as I usually am following a Wings playoff elimination, but I’m not up to that task right now. We’ll see.

Game 5: @ San Jose

Short on time this morning because my dad decided to come out and help me start looking for a new car after mine was totaled Tuesday night, and, well, it’s Saturday, and I slept in until about the latest possible moment before he’s supposed to get here. So, real briefly:

Keys to the game for the Sharks:

First goal: The Wings are big boys and won’t automatically roll over if scored on first, but if the Sharks can get one past Howard and get it early, they’ll hold a psychological edge.

Second goal: Quickly follow that up with another goal and, yeah, the Wings’ climb becomes near-vertical.

Nabokov: I’m thinking he’ll need to be better tonight.

Keys to the game for the Wings:

First goal, early: Take the crowd out of it, show the Sharks that Thursday wasn’t an aberration, and follow it up again and again. And again.

Franzen: Ride the Mule, Feed the Mule, Follow the Mule, whatever. The Wings need him to have the hot stick again.

Leave Nothing: … on the ice. Nothing less than an all-out effort tonight.

Also important: Brad Stuart’s status, and to a slightly lesser degree, that of Patrick Eaves. It’s a little worrisome that Stuart’s apparently been downgraded from, “yeah, he’ll play regardless” to “meh, I might play.” And Eaves still has issues with the hyperextended elbow.

The Wings have a long road ahead of them, but they need to focus on the stretch directly in front of them. Each shift as a milemarker or whatever. Conquer each mile one at a time and you win this part of the road.

Game 4: Wings 7, Sharks 1

Mule: I’ve never seen an outburst like that. He scored like a series’ worth of goals in five minutes. I’m giving him partial credit for Bertuzzi’s goal because it wouldn’t have happened without Franzen’s shot and the Bertuzzi redirection was unintentional if not inconsequential. That was the single most in-your-face offensive dominance by a player I’ve seen in a while, if ever (hyperbole alert).

Here’s hoping it’s the start of something special. I don’t think there are that many guys who are more dangerous when they get confident like Mule has to be right now. And yes, I mean every word of that sentence.

Bertuzzi: One of his better games in Red-and-White. He had maybe the easiest assist in team history for Franzen’s second actual credited goal, but he laid it up beautifully. And continued the game with a strong, penalty-less effort. I’ll take a few more of those, please, Todd.

Stuart: Evidently, the injury isn’t so bad, so he should be in Saturday. That’s good news, because the Wings are going to need the best possible defensive corps on hand for Game 5.

Sharks On Notice: That’s because the Sharks now have to be awake. They obviously took last night for granted and effectively rolled over when the going got tough. I’m confident the Wings still would have pulled out the win in any case, but the Sharks aren’t likely to let Game 4 repeat itself tomorrow. The choking doesn’t begin until they fall at home, so the Wings’ work isn’t done yet. The Sharks aren’t just going to topple.

If the Wings can put a rare back-to-back Grade A effort in tomorrow, Game 5 should be epic.

Children: I guess I should concede that the “on notice” thing only definitely applies to mature teams. If the Sharks’ end-of-game childishness is a sign of things to come, forget the last point, except that Game 5 will be epic in that it will be another beatdown. The Sharks, specifically Joe Thornton, cannot afford to lose it like that.

Howard: A strong game that easily could have been a shutout. I’d like to see him stop the Heatley goal, but the guy had plenty of time and space. Not a critical save. A solid rebound game for young James.

Abdelkader: He’s turned into quite the agitator, hasn’t he? He needs to find a way to keep himself from going to the box, but he’s getting under teams’ skin nicely.

Energy level: It was good. I guess the idea that the team was just tired can be discredited after that effort, but that does offer up some disconcerting implications. Namely, that the team’s head just wasn’t in the series until the critical moment. That said, it remains to be seen if they can keep up last night’s effort in San Jose. Franzen has a way of sparking this team to adrenaline-pumped bursts. Here’s hoping he can do it again.

Nabokov: I’ve been saying all series that he’s looked beatable. Last night he looked pathetic. His reaction will be the key. If the Wings got to him and can light him up again in Game 5, what his teammates do will matter a lot less than if they’ve got him backstopping them solidly (obviously). The Wings need to exploit him. Specifically, Franzen. Give the man nightmares, Mule.

Long Road: Everybody’s saying this, but I might as well too. The Wings are a long way from being out of this jam. They need to focus on winning the next shift, the next period and the next game. If they have any juice left for a push, they need to squeeze every last bit out. They should last night that maybe, just maybe, they can reach the end of this particular road after all.

Ride the Mule

Well, thanks to having missed 3/4 of the season, one guy who doesn’t fit my Fatigue Thesis is Johan Franzen. And he showed that in a big way tonight. And in the process disproved the Fatigue Thesis by sparking his team to join him in a strong outing and resurrection of the Wings we know and love. Maybe they have some gas left in the tank after all. Mule does, anyway. Siphon some off him, maybe?

If the Mule can keep up even half of that pace in Game 5, the Wings have a shot. How many seeds of doubt were planted in the minds of a surprisingly childish Sharks team tonight (Joe Thornton, third period)? Dare we embrace the hope the Wings offered tonight?

I will say, though, that the Stuart injury is kinda key. Here’s hoping it’s not something that’ll keep him out going forward.

Game 4: vs. San Jose

I don’t really know how to preview this game after my post yesterday, other than to say:

Prove me wrong, Wings.

Either way, I’ll be proud. But I’d really like to be wrong about that whole fatigue thing.

Game 3: Wings 3, Sharks 4 (OT)

I’m going to keep this brief and not get into the specifics of the game.

I think it’s time to accept that this team has finally run out of gas, that all the hockey they’ve played the past couple years has caught up with them, that the toll this season and the final stretch took on an already-fatigued team is showing in this series. It’s time to accept that this team doesn’t have enough left to pull out of this and go on. And it’s time to accept that a long summer is what they need to refuel.

It’s disappointing. We hardcore fans build up a certain belief that the team is able to overcome anything, that if they just will it, they can do anything (even if sometimes they don’t–but they could!). It’s disappointing to be hit upside the head with a reality presented by a team that couldn’t hold on to at home.

Outsider will view that as choking or something similar. But my feeling is the team is gassed and that no amount of will is going to change that. We can bet that nobody on the red side wanted it more than the actual players. But there are limits to endurance and I think the Wings have it them.

This team hasn’t always fought to the level we expect of them this season. They certainly didn’t when fatigue was less of a legitimate reason, back in January and February. But they did in March and they did something that didn’t seem possible at the start of the calendar year: they made the playoffs and against considerable odds. This is new to me as a Red Wings fan, but I gotta say that means something.

Does it fulfill my expectations for higher levels of success? Absolutely not. But watch them. They’re doing things fatigued teams do and at some point, I have to stop being the backseat-driving fan that demands the impossible and admit that if they don’t have the gas, they just don’t have it. And no amount of railing about it is going to change that.

Now, I would like nothing more than to be wrong and see the Wings come out guns blazing Thursday night to start a comeback for the ages. But whatever happens, I’m going to be proud of this team and what it’s done this year. I’d been frustrated that they couldn’t overcome the Sharks and the officials so far in this series, but last night was a bit of an eye-opener to the reality that they don’t have enough left in the tank.

So. Disappointed and bummed out, but proud.