Posts tagged “Stars”

So This Is New

It’s been silent around here, but I’ve been watching. And I’ll be watching tonight.

I’ll be watching the Wings with their season on the line in a way nobody in this current group has ever experienced. The past couple games, they’ve shown sparks of life that have been largely missing this season, which is why they’re in this position in the first place. But those sparks of life could be the start of something, if they get a point today.

If they want it badly enough, against a team with nothing left to play for but pride and the chance to be the organization that ended the Wings’ playoff streak.

As far as regular season games go, it doesn’t get any bigger than this.

I hope the Wings bring the playoffs to the ice tonight.

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 3, Stars 1

21: So this is what history feels like, eh? Over the years, we’ve often seen the Wings struggle with getting over the hump on records, whether it’s an individual trying to get his 700th or the group looking to set some achievement. That, coupled with the Stars’ annoying ability to make life difficult, had me a little pessimistic going into the game. But the Wings laid any doubts to rest with that first period. It was as good a stretch of hockey as they’ve played this season and showed they meant business. It was great to see and maybe a sign that they’re just getting started.

MacDonald: Disappointing that he didn’t get the shutout, but he looked good once again. I don’t get the pundit talk of him heading back to Grand Rapids any day  now, and I’m hoping it’s just misguided assumption on their part rather than informed analysis. Mac’s done more for this team already than Conklin has this season, and as much as I like Ty, it’s time to say goodbye to #29.

Also: I wonder if teams have it as a thing in their scouting reports to run over MacDonald. Because it seems to happen to him a lot. I don’t like the implications: the guy missed games this year with a concussion as a result of getting trucked in the crease. Not cool.

Zetterberg: He’s been a bit of a mystery this season, but Chief was right: he’s earned the benefit of the doubt. He’s heating up and, I hope, on his way to shutting up people who have gone so far as to suggest it’s time to deal him.

We may never know why he’s had such a statistically down season so far, but if he keeps up what he’s been doing lately, I’m not sure I care.

The Stars: Deserve some credit for not turtling when the Wings manhandled them for a period. I would say the Stars managed to play the rest of the game mostly on their terms, with the Wings backing off their dominant stance a bit over time. The Stars were never really in any danger of taking #21 away from Detroit, but they kept it from being a rout. And I’m not even disappointed the Wings let them do that. 21 consecutive home wins takes the wind out whining’s sails.

However: I will say the Stars’ going to the box should have been punished much more frequently than a single time. Home Power Play let us down. Moving on.

Stuart: It is going to be a sad, sad day should his family situation force him to leave. But you already know that and are trying not to think about it.

The Wings: Loved the stick salute after the game. Like Clark, I don’t remember ever seeing that before from them. And I love what it might signify. Obviously, they’re thankful for the fan role in the streak. But the explicit acknowledgement of the fans like that is not something we always see. If this group has the fans in mind to such a degree, I like where this season could be headed.

The Race: The Blues lost. To Columbus. So this win put the Wings 5 points up, though the Blues still have two games in hand. Meanwhile, Nashville beat out Chicago to pull within 8. The Wings need to make it 22 on Friday against the Preds.

Game Day Notes: vs. Dallas

Briefly:

… This is the fourth and final game between the Wings and Stars this season. So far, the Wings lead the series 3-0-0, with wins November 12, January 3 and January 17.

… Dallas is 3-3-1 in February, having beaten Anaheim, Minnesota and Columbus in that span. They lost to San Jose, Phoenix and LA in regulation, and Buffalo in a shootout. The loss to the Kings came Sunday in their last game.

… They’re in 11th place right now, four points out of the playoffs with 59.

… The Dallas Morning News sucks, so my researching ability is hampered. But let me cite this one stat: the Stars have a -12 goal differential. The Wings’ is +47. But Dallas remains a threat to end the streak.

… Looks like Sheldon Souray and Brenden Morrow will be out.

… Kari Lehtonen will get the start.

… The Wings have won 20 straight at home, including three games since returning from a 2-1-1 road trip earlier this month. They beat the Flyers on Sunday to bring their record to 38-17-2, tops in the League.

… They’re three points ahead of the Blues in the Central and need a win tonight, with St. Louis in Columbus. Nashville (8 points back) and Chicago (13 back) play each other tonight.

… Johan Franzen skated today and will be in despite missing yesterday’s practice with a sore ankle.

… Dan Cleary remains out, as does Patrick Eaves. Cleary being out means more Mursak.

… Jakub Kindl should have earned another game with his outing Sunday. We’ll see.

… Joey MacDonald will be in net again, though he may be on the bench as soon as Sunday.

… The Wings are on the cusp of history tonight, which means they’ll need to be extra careful about the details. The Stars are out of the playoffs right now, but are close and still can cause them trouble. I’d expect a tight game.

Wings 3, Stars 2

Update (3:12 PM): Oh, yeah, one more thing: Loui Eriksson’s goal should have been illegal (see 10.3). Blind refs are blind. - Matt

Briefly:

Big Points: The win put the Wings in the Central Division lead by a point. It may not last long—as short as 24 hours or so, with Chicago playing tonight—but the Wings keeping pace in the race is key. The first round could really suck if they fall into fourth or fifth and have to play the Blues or Blackhawks right off the bat.

Conklin: Didn’t inspire a ton of confidence at various points in the game, but looked strong in the shootout.

Hudler: Speaking of the shootout, Hudler’s going to the Forsberg/Zetterberg move so soon after Z tried it was awesome. There he made his own luck, whereas for his goal in the second, he was given a bit.

Tightly Contested/Boring: Both teams being tired from playing the night before, this one was played close to the vest. There were moments of excitement, especially later in the game, but long stretches of play consisted of one team carrying in, getting off a shot and having it either blocked or frozen. In the former case, it’d be rinse-wash-repeat at the other end. In the latter, it’d just mean, obviously, whistles and faceoffs that too long to happen.

Which is why I don’t have a lot on this game. Kind of a blah outing.

100 Shot Man: Ian White had 7 shots, but it felt like a lot more. Probably because a good number of attempts got blocked, I assume. It’s great that he’s shooting. It’d help if the Wings would generate more traffic so that his shots are more effective, however.

Overtime Penalties: If I were a player in the NHL and facing an opponent in my end in the final minute of overtime, I’m going to mug him. There’s no real punishment for your team or yourself, so why not?

Maybe the penalized team’s goalie has to actually freeze the puck on the first shootout shot he faces, meaning the shooter can jam it in after his initial shot, should it fail. I dunno.

Next: Tomorrow night against the Coyotes, when the Blues are also active. Key points, again.

Wings 5, Stars 4

Too Close: This one ended up too close for comfort. The Wings owned the first period, but thanks to 4-5 monster saves by Kari Lehtonen, they only made it to 3-1 after twenty. Then it was a matter of having a two-goal lead halved and extending it back again, only to have it halved again. Then it was 5-4 with just under six left in the game. Uncool.

Zetterberg’s Line: What a first period, eh? They looked completely unstoppable, with Zetterberg leading as playmaker, Filppula doing some playmaking of his own and Hudler benefitting twice from their largesse. Fil in particular had a certain intensity that is awesome to see. Hudler’s a strong complement to the work of the other two and they all seem to have a great sense of what areas of the ice to head toward to maximize the scoring chance. They tapered off a bit as the game went on, but this was their night.

Datsyuk’s Line: Less impressive. A lot of times where the Wings were pinned, however briefly, seemed to be when this unit was out. At least in the first half of the game. They generated some scoring chances throughout the night, and had a strong third period, but they weren’t as good as you’d expect.

Side Note: I’m falling into referring to the four lines as: Pavel’s line, Z’s line, the third line, and the fourth line. The first two don’t get numbers. Even 1A & 1B is assigning rank, when on a given night either line could take over. I like that.

Third Line: I thought Dan Cleary had a really strong night. He was creating most of the chances for this unit through his own hard work and though he had nothing to show for it (his stats line is a bunch of zeros) I liked his game.

Fourth Line: Nyquist is going to be a player in this League, as they say. He already looks like he could hold his own. He’s the glue that holds that line of rookies together with his speed, sense at both ends of the ice and hard work. He’ll be the last one sent down, and I hope this time in Detroit will set him up for a big finish for the Griffins.

Commodore: Still looking okay, though at one point in the game a puck coming off his stick nearly got past Jimmy Howard. I’m not sure if it was redirected or what, but he needs to be more careful about cross-crease passes.

One Penalty: I don’t know if the refs were overloaded with administrative tasks once linesman Steve Miller went down with a possible concussion, but they really did not do their jobs in this one. A super chintzy call on Bertuzzi gets made in the first minute and then they swallow their whistles for the remaining 59:15 of play? Both teams got away with crap throughout the game. I’m not saying I wanted a penalty-fest, but no hockey game is that clean.

Steve Ott and Bertuzzi: Kudos to Todd Bertuzzi for standing up for Pavel Datsyuk, who Steve Ott had the gall to hit into the bench in the waning moments of the game. Bertuzzi’s method, pushing Ott through the bench door, was hilarious and approved. Normally, I’m all for the Wings making guys pay with goals, but that kind of vengeance I can take, especially on a guy like Ott.

Next: The Wings are in Toronto on Saturday at 7:00. Which really sucks. Because the Lions are playing in their first playoff game since 1999 that night. Ever since I heard the NFL Playoff schedule for the first round, I thought, “the Wings play that night, right? Meh, Lions playoff football > Regular Season Game #40.  Hockeytown or not, I’m watching the Lions,” without it dawning on me that the Wings are playing the Leafs. That changes the equation.

I’m going to have to consider this matter.

Game Day Notes: @ Dallas

… This is the second of four meetings between the Wings and Stars this season. The Wings won the first 5-2 in November.

… At the time, the Stars were second in the west with 22 points in their first 15 games. Now they sit at 10th with 43, with just 21 points in their past 22 games. But a win tonight could vault them to third, as they’d beat Los Angeles in the Pacific Division tie-breaker at 45 points.

The Western standings are crazy.

… They’ve won two of their last four and haven’t won more than a game at a time since a three-game streak leading into mid-December. They’re coming off a 4-2 win over the Bruins on Saturday, but lost two days earlier to the Blue Jackets. Prior to that, they fell in St. Louis.

… George’s full set-up is here.

… The Stars are without Sheldon Souray, who is day-to-day and on IR with a sprained ankle. Tomas Vincour and Stephane Robidas are also out of the lineup.

… To fill in for Souray,  Brenden Dillon has been called up, bringing the Stars’ complement of guys who spell Brendan wrong up to two.

… Statistical leaders for the Stars include Jamie Benn (25 assists, 34 points) and Loui Eriksson (13 goals, 31 points).

… Michael Ryder leads the team in goals with 15. Eric Nystrom leads the team in apparent selfishness with a 6-to-1 goals-to-assists ratio (12G, 2A).

… With Souray (16 points) and Robidas (11 points) out, they’re missing two of their top three scoring defensemen, leaving only Trevor Daly and his 14 points.

… The Dallas power play sits at 21st  with a 15.2% success rate. Their penalty kill is just behind the Wings’ at 81.7% (Detroit’s is 81.8%). Special teams may be a factor tonight.

… Kari Lehtonen is the presumed starter for Dallas. He’s recently returned from a groin injury that had him out for 12 games and still has some decent numbers.

… The Wings are in second in the Central with 49 points and a 24-13-1 record.

… They’re coming off a decisive 3-0 win over the Blues on Saturday. That win followed a disappointing showing against the Blackhawks on Friday in a game that emphasized their position in the Central both in terms of points and in terms of where the two teams are relative to each other in their levels of play. The Wings have some work to do to catch up.

… There was some positive injury news yesterday as Chris Conner was deemed healthy enough to be taken off IR and sent back to Grand Rapids.

… Meanwhile, Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm remain out, though only Homer is on STIR. That means the all-rookie line remains in effect.

… Khan has your practice (and presumptive game) lines here. That’s the lineup, anyway.

… Jimmy Howard will get another start.

… The Wings ended 2011 on a strong note with their win over the Blues, but the taste of the loss to the Hawks still lingers. They need to get 2012 off to a good start with an emphatic win tonight. They’ve been great at home this year, but (cue the cliche) they need to make winning regularly on their road their New Year’s resolution. It starts in Dallas.