Thursday, April 9, 2009

As of this week...

Hello all, as of this week I have been asked to join a larger Red Wings Blog community . From now on you can find posts by me on Winging It In Motown. This is a big opportunity for some great experience and working for one of the best Red Wings blogs and of course I'm going to take the offer. From now on, this blog will see very little posting, and in a matter of time it will just be a link to the Winging It In Motown only. Thanks for visiting and continue to look for my stuff on WIM. Thanks

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hossa's Pair Powers Wings Past Sabres

Dear Rest of NHL,
Look out.

Marian Hossa might be getting back on track and getting hot just in time for the playoffs. Hossa tallied goal 39 and 40 tonight in a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

Brad Stuart started the scoring for the Wings, ripping a shot past Ryan Miller with Holmstrom screening out front on the powerplay late in the 2nd period. Marian Hossa opened the third period with his 39th goal, a backhand on a rebound from a Lidstrom shot. Midway through the 3rd, Hossa added another on a great pass from Pavel Datsyuk, firing short side past Ryan Miller.

Paul Gaustad got a goal back for the Sabres less than a minute later on a scramble in front of Ozzie's net, a relatively easy goal but a goal none-the-less. Ozzie played well again, stopping 32 of 33 for his 26th W of the year. Lidstrom added an empty netter for his 15th score of the season and secured the 51st win of the year.

I didn't get to watch the game because like many people I don't get Versus, but the highlights on showed some incredible saves from Ozzie and some great passing from the Wings. Also, I saw that Ericsson got in a fight but haven't seen the fight yet. Good for him though, use that big body youngin'. You're a big part of the Wings future.

Player of the game: Marian Hossa. No doubt #1 star of the night- 2 G, 1 A, +2. Zetterberg, Holmstrom and Lidstrom are honorable mentions with 2 points each (Z and Holmstrom with 2 A each, Lidstrom with G, A)

Next game is in Detroit on Thursday against the Preds.

Game Preview: Wings @ Sabres

Red Wings (50-19-9, 109 pts)
Sabres (38-31-9, 84 pts)

Coming off a big win at the Joe, the Wings look to make it two in a row against a Buffalo team fighting for a playoff berth down the stretch.

Sabres outlook: Buffalo is in need of a win if it wants to stay alive for a chance at the post season. The Sabres have been treading water lately at 4-4-2 over their last 10 and need to win out to ensure their own destiny. The team has lacked big name star power but still finds a way to get it done, thanks in large part to Ryan Miller minding the goal. The problem with the Sabres winning out? The schedule is as follows: Wings, Maple Leafs, Canes, Bruins. Only one of those is one that they're expected to win.

Red Wings outlook: Detroit is coming off a big win on the stick of Marian Hossa late in the third period against the Wild. Not much else you could ask for out of a player like him than to come through when its needed the most. Anyway, the Wings have four games left before the season ends and need all four to win the Conference most likely. San Jose has three games left and all three are against sub .500 teams so the President's Trophy and Western Conference title looks out of reach. Nevertheless, we need to win as many as possible to get ourselves on a roll for an opening round bout with a division rival most likely.

What to look for: The Sabres have a mediocre home record while the Wings have one of the league's best road records. Look for Detroit to tighten up it's defense but the Sabres could be able to stretch the Wings with their speed. From Buffalo: Derek Roy, Craig Rivet, Tomas Vanek, and Ryan Miller. From Detroit: I'm going with underdogs, Val Filppula, Tomas Kopecky (if he plays), and Brett Lebda. Okay...and Henrik Zetterberg.

Puck drops at 7 PM ET and the game can be seen on Versus, if you have it. GO WINGS!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Breaking Down the Problem Areas

There have been a lot of reasons lately for me to be skeptical about our chances of repeating as Stanley Cup Champions. So many in fact that I am scared to make a prediction beyond first round. And here are the five reasons why I'm not making that prediction but also an upside to each:
  1. Goaltending
  2. Defense
  3. Penalty Kill
  4. Playoff Matchups
  5. Drive to win
I'll start with goaltending as it seems to be the biggest problem we face by far. We have two very capable goalies in Chris Osgood and Ty Conklin. However, how good are they going to be when the playoffs hit? I know I know, Ozzie did incredible in the playoffs last year but can he do it again? I hope so. Last season, Ozzie and Dom combined to win the Jennings Trophy for least goals allowed. When one would struggle, you could count on the other coming in to play lights out, no goals allowed hockey. Nine times last year, following a loss by Hasek/Osgood, the other goalie came in the next game and got a win. I know that's a very circumstantial stat but it does show the effectiveness that they had as a duo. Now I'm not writing off the Conklin and Osgood duo as one inferior to Hasek/Osgood, but somehow we've seen a worse performance. Osgood is playing well but at times he has let in goals that he knows there should be no excuse for him pulling the puck out of the net. Conklin, on the other hand looks like the seasoned vet and in fewer games than Ozzie he has one more win. Our goaltending though, as many around the league have noted, is not what it needs to be to repeat. The good part of this though? Osgood can catch fire at anytime and so can Conklin. Given the healthy competition for starting goalie in the playoffs, I think both of these guys will step up their game for the run to Stanley.

On to the enigma of the year, our defense. I don't know what has changed since last year but for whatever reason we are not the same team defensively. Last year, we gave up a league low 184 goals. This year? 230. That's 46 more than a year ago and there are still games to play. We've gone from +73 goal differential to +53.Granted a lot of that is probably Hasek/Osgood in net but the defense has been very questionable at times this year. It certainly does not look like the same defense as last year that had 2-3 Hall of Famers on it, yet its the same lineup. Maybe Babcock changed the way the players are matching up with opposing forwards or maybe teams around the league have just become wise to the Wings' ways. Or maybe it's just a half-hearted effort. I don't know the reason really and I don't know enough to break down tape other than the fact that our defenders are simply just out of position a lot of the time. I've also noticed a lack of blocking shooting and passing lanes this year in comparison to last year. Our defense is suspect, and teams are starting to realize that. They're finding the creases in our back line and finding ways to get to the goal. The good news? Nick Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski (having his best offensive season), and Brad Stuart are continuing to play well. Kronwall is still evolving as a player and I think he's our next Lidstrom (hence his nickname Nick Jr.). He shows excellent knowledge of the game,shows great positioning, has offensive skills that are growing with time, and as every team that faces him will tell you, he can hit with the best of them. Brett Lebda, Derek Meech, Andreas Lilja, and Jonathan Ericcson are all also big parts of our defense and will play a big role in the playoff run. Lebda contributed big in the postseason last year and will likely need to step up in the absence of Lilja. Also, its a good thing our offense is the most productive in the league.

Guh. The penalty kill this year is awful, and I don't know why. Here's the thing. Last year, we took 933 penalty minutes, 2nd fewest in the league and had a 84% (8th) kill success rate. This year, we've taken 765, 2nd fewest in the league but have only a 77% (26th) success rate. It doesn't make much sense to me as to why we've had a dropoff in penalty killing ability with 160 less minutes than last year.The weird thing is that percentage of total goals allowed that are powerplay goals allowed are the same this year and last year at 30%. So it still makes me wonder what's going on. Maybe it's just who is taking the penalties that makes our PK worse this year. Granted we didn't have him last year but Marian Hossa is a good penalty killer but his PIMs have nearly doubled from last year. I still can't figure out why we're so bad on the PK but the good news? We have the best powerplay in the league. So I guess you have to give a little to gain a lot.

The fourth thing is who could be matched up against in the first round of the playoffs. Most likely the Blue Jackets won't fall down to the seventh/eighth seed and I hope that they don't. I don't want to play against Steve Mason&Co. in round one, they've played us really well this year and could easily take the series. Another possibility is the Anaheim Ducks, which I also don't like. Anytime you have to face JS Giguere in the first round, you're gonna be frustrated y the end of the series because he can transform into a brick wall in the playoffs. A third potential matchup is intra-division rival Nashville. This would be a rematch of last year's opening round. Yet another team I don't want to face. The 6'5" Pekka Rinne has become a formidable force in net and the Preds are a physical team that knows how to play us and ruffle our feathers, thanks to Barry Trotz. A fourth potential matchup would be the Minnesota Wild. I do not like this matchup either because of their goaltending star Nicklas Backstrom. The Wild are weak in many areas so this is one of the few that I would not feel too uncomfortable with. The last and very likely first round matchup is with the St. Louis Blues. Although they recently made our defense look like a joke last time out, we're 5-1-0 against them this year and Chris Mason has some very exploitable flaws in his game. The good news? All of my fears for playoff matchups are based on goaltending, but we score the most goals in the league.

The fifth worry that I have is probably the one that I need to worry the least about. It's just hard to envision at times how some of our players will have the same drive and motivation that they did last year. Except for two players (Hossa, Conklin) all of the current roster had their name etched into the Cup last year. There've been times this year that I've questioned the drive of the team but in the end I think it comes down to professionalism and passion for success. Every player has put in their heart and soul and I think their passion is only going to increase as the Finals draw closer and closer. I think Hossa and Conklin will help contribute to this having been on the losing end of it last year after coming so far.

Don't get me wrong. I know teams around the league would kill to have the problems that we have but they are still problems nontheless. But coming off a Stanley Cup win and signing one of the most dominant offensive forces in the offseason in Marian Hossa, expectations are only for excellence and another banner in the rafters, anything short would be a failure in a city that's seen a little too much of it lately.

Hossa's Late Goal Lifts Wings

Marian Hossa once again proved his worth as he scored with 55 seconds left in a tied game to put the Red Wings up 3-2. The goal sealed the deal for the 50th win of the season and a much needed win following three straight L's.

Jiri Hudler opened the scoring for the Wings at 11:21 of the 1st with a one time shot past Backstrom on a pass from Zetterberg. Hudler showed his great sense of rink awareness by positioning himself in the low slot and waiting for Zetterberg to make a play to him. It was his 23rd of the season.

Pavel Datsyuk added another goal for the Wings, his 32nd, on an excellent play. Pavs outwaited Backstrom while skating across the front of the goalmouth and backhanded one top-shelf at the last moment, putting the Wings up 2-0. The Wings would not escape the first unscathed though as a failed clearing attempt by Chris Osgood landed right on the stick of enforcer Cal Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck, who leads the league in hits, showed his quick thinking and fired the puck on net while Osgood was still in motion back to the crease, 2-1 Wings after 1.

Marian Gaborik tied the game late in the second period on a scramble in front of Ozzie's crease. Bodies were everywhere but Gaborik somehow squeaked the puck through the mess and made it 2-2 going into the final period.

Enter Marian Hossa. Hossa had 5 shots on goal during the game and added an assist on Pavel's goal. That wasn't enough for him though and he showed why he's the $7M man. Datsyuk passed to Holmstrom who brought it into the offensive zone and dropped it off to Hossa. Marian wasted no time snapping a shot past Backstrom for his 38th of the year and the late Detroit lead.

The Wings outshot the Wild 44-23 and Osgood stopped 21 for his 25th win of the year. Osgood made some great saves and maybe it came by way of extra confidence after Babcock named him the starter for the playoffs.Both teams stayed out of the box, only 8 total minutes during the game.

Player of the game: I'll have to give this to Datysuk and Hossa. Both had incredible goals and an assist each. Hossa with the slight edge for his +2. Other candidates are Hudler and Zetterberg, who registered 9 shots on goal and an assist.

Other notes: It was good to see Chris Chelios (or as I affectionately call him-Methuselah) playing and skating so well before the playoffs. He will be needed big time in the run to the Cup with Lilja being injured and Rafalski having some problems.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Game Preview: Wild @ Wings

Detroit (49-19-9, 107 pts)
Minnesota (37-32-9, 83 pts)

Minnesota Outlook: The Wild are a bit of a jigsaw when it comes to predicting what you're gonna get out of them. They're second in fewest goals allowed in the league, as I write this San Jose allowed 2-knocking them down to 3rd. So they've allowed 189 goals but have only scored 11 more than they've allowed, but at least they're in the positive range (unlike fellow 8th seed candidates St. Louis, Nashville, & Edmonton). They're 2 pts down for a playoffs spot and are gonna be hungry for the playoffs coming into Hockeytown.

Detroit Outlook: The wings have been a bit on a slide recently (0-3, 5-4-1 last 10), but then again we don't need to win any of these games to keep our playoff hopes afloat. Vancouver/Calgary/Chicago can't catch us for 2 seed and we could finish with the 1 spot and home ice for the duration of the playoffs. Still we very much need to start getting back on the winning path. You can only take it so easy for so long or you're just going to end up hurting yourself for the start of the postseason. I don't know if Rafalski will be back but we sure did miss him in the lineup against the Blues :-/

What to Look for: A relatively low scoring game. From the Wild: Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Owen Nolan, Marian Gaborik, and the impenetrable Nick Backstrom. From Detroit: Marian Hossa, Johan Franzen, Nick Lidstrom, and Jiri Hudler.

Puck drops at 12:30 PM ET, Game is on NBC! Yay for watching it on a regular tv instead of my laptop!

In Case You Missed It...

Here is Johan Franzen's spectacular goal against the Blues on Thursday night. Unfortunately, it was in a losing effort.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Game Preview: Blues at Wings

Red Wings (48-19-9, 107 pts)
Blues (37-31-9, 83 pts)

Blues Outlook: The Blues are on fire lately. 6-3-1 in their last 10 while pushing for the playoffs. I had previously written them off for playoff contention but they've done everything to prove me wrong. They currently sit one point behind Nashville/Anaheim for 7/8 spot in the Western Conference. They dropped their last contest to the Blackhawks by a score of 3-1 but had won their previous 5 matches. The Blues are a dangerous team down the stretch, with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Red Wings Outlook: Lately, we've looked really vulnerable. And that's bad, really bad. It seems that either teams are figuring out our defensive scheme or that we're just not playing 100% which is a dangerous trap to fall in heading into the first round of the playoffs. We've gone from being ahead of San Jose to 4 points behind them for top spot in the West/League with a mere 6 games remaining, all against playoff bound teams or teams just points shy. I think the loss of Andreas Lilja has been bigger than people have made it out to be. Although Grand Rapids call up and future fulltime Wing Jonathan Ericsson is a little taller, I think Lilja uses his body more effectively and engages opposing players more often. Hopefully our young and speedy defense can step it up in anticipation of Round 1. Another note for tonight, Brian Rafalski (groin) is listed as out for the game.

What to Look for: A lot of physical play. Longtime bitter rivals only show more aggression and heart when one of their post-season life is on the line. From St. Louis: Brad Boyes, David Perron, Keith Tkachuk, and Chris Mason. From Detroit: Marian Hossa, Dan Cleary, Johan Franzen, and Brad Stuart.

Puck drops at 7:30 PM ET and as always, GO WINGS!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I've Been Slackin'

So I feel bad for how little I've been posting on here. I haven't been watching all the games though recently and don't want to pretend like I have. Its a busy time of the school year and the games are just falling at times that I'm unable to watch.

In good news, we're obviously still in first place and we clinched the Division. I'll try to get better, especially as the playoffs draw closer and closer but I can't guarantee anything. Not that anyone relies on me as their soul source of Wings info anyway :P

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Game Preview: Preds @ Wings

How do you follow a loss to the NHL's worst team? Hopefully its with a win over one of the better post All-Star break teams this season and a division rival.

Nashville Outlook: Nashville has won two in a row and are 4-2-4 in their last 10. That third column in that line is very important. They had the chance to win 4 games but were unable to win them in overtime/shootout. Thats a four point turnaround no matter which way you turn it, all losses or all wins in regulation. All losses in regulation could have very well put them out of playoff contention but the fact that they were able to get a point out of all four of those games, is one of the reasons they're still in the playoff race.

Detroit Outlook: Like I said, how do you follow a loss to the worst team in the league? You know that that type of loss is demoralizing. I didn't see the entire game but from what I did see, we were completely outplayed by the Islanders. It looked like a classic case of role reversal. They looked like the team in 1st place in the league while we looked like the last place team. Hopefully it was just "one of those nights" but I think it may be part of a bigger problem. Our defense and goaltending has been suspect all year and it could be showing more weakness as the postseason draws near. Good news? We didn't have to win. Bad news? We should have won.

What to Look for: A high energy, refocused, and reenergized Red Wings as Babcock tries to get us back in playoff shape. From Nashville, watch for playmaking by Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont,Shea Weber, and the underrated Pekka Rinne. From Detroit, watch for Jiri Hudler, Marian Hossa, Mikael Samuelsson, and Nick Kronwall. Kronner made a name for himself in the playoffs last year for laying out Predators players.

Hopefully Shea Weber doesn't bash any of our players heads in again in our pitiful attempts to fight.

Puck drops at 5 PM ET. I won't be able to watch it due to prior plans but as always, GO WINGS!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oilers and Free Agent Talk

My bad on not posting a follow-up for the Oilers game. I fell asleep at 1-0 Oilers and woke up at a 3-2 final for the Red Wings. Awesome result, I just wish I had seen us storm back and take the win.

Not much going on this week and I haven't posted much. Been busy with school and work and the like.

Nevertheless, I found a good article on the offseason possibilities for the Wings:

I wish we could keep Hudler, Hossa, and Franzen but it might be impossible.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Division Notes

I've been watching this over the past few weeks and as the season winds down, it could easily come to fruition. All 5 teams in the division are currently above .500 and 4 of the 5 are in playoff spots. The Blues are 3 points behind Nashville for the 8 spot. Now, for all 5 to make it, Edmonton would have to slip and the Blues would have to excel. Its weird to say but go Blues and Preds, as long as you're not playing us that is.

I just think its a really awesome possibility that the entire division makes the playoffs. It really shows people that say the Red Wings don't play in a tough division where they can put their words.

Game Preview: Wings at Oilers

Red Wings (48-16-9, 105 pts)
Oilers (35-28-9, 79 pts)

Lets see how the Wings can respond from a 5-3 loss to Calgary last night against a tough Edmonton team.

Edmonton outlook: The Oilers are kind of treading water at this point, hoping to hold on to that 7 spot. In all likelihood they won't climb any higher than 7 but could very easily drop out of the race all together. They're 4-2-4 in their last 10 and haven't had much recently to celebrate about. Lubomir Visnovsky, one of the Oilers best players, has been out of the lineup since February following surgery. Erik Cole going back to Carolina has left a gap yet to be filled and the Oilers may be regretting it. Patrick O'Sullivan, who came over in the deal for Cole, has only tallied 3 points in 9 games, not enough for the struggling Oilers.

Detroit outlook: With only 9 games left and 8 of the games against +.500 teams, this stretch will be a good test for how well we can prepare and stay healthy for the start of the playoffs. The good news for tonight's game is that we're 3-0 against Edmonton this season, outscoring them 16-6. Hopefully we can continue our streak against them and catch up to the Shark a little bit. Important thing to watch is how Ozzie and Conklin respond after giving up a total of 5 goals. We have a good road record while the Oilers have a worse home record than away.

What to look for: Detroit, as I always say, plays puck possession hockey and can force you to take penalties. This could be a big part of tonight's game as the Oilers take about 15 minutes worth of penalties per game and have allowed 7 of the 16 goals against the Wings on the powerplay. From Edmonton: Ales Hemsky (leads EDM in G,A, Points), Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner, and Denis Grebeshkov are all big parts of the Oilers success. From Detroit: Marian Hossa, Pavel Datsyuk, Jiri Hudler, and Brad Stuart.
Also, look for Zack Stortini to mix it up physically for the Oilers. I would like to see a Wing step up physically, but then again, Stortini would just give us another player with Lilja symptoms.

Puck drops at 9:30 PM ET and as always, GO WINGS!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Flames Down Wings 5-3

The Flames got the best of the Red Wings again, posting 5 goals on 27 shots. The Red Wings put 3 on the board on 33 shots but Miika Kiprusoff was too much.

Dion Phaneuf opened the scoring for the Flames by firing a drop-pass from Daymond Langkow off the tip of Ozzie's glove to give the Flames a 1-0 lead midway through the 1st. Ozzie let in a pretty weak goal to Jamie Lundmark and Langkow got his second assist of the game early in the 2nd period. The Flames got another goal a few minutes later as Mike Camalleri scored a powerplay goal and ended Ozzie's night, bringing in Conklin.

Pavel Datsyuk got the Wings back within 2 with his 30th of the season on a shot from a tough angle, following a rebound given up by Kiprusoff. This is when I kind of fell asleep. Glencross scored for the Flames, making it 4-1, and then Johan Franzen scored (31st) to make it 4-2. Jiri Hudler scored less than two minutes later to make it 4-3. But it wouldn't be enough, the Flames added another goal and another victory, leaving the Red Wings with a bitter taste in their mouth heading into Edmonton.

Player of the game: Pavel Datsyuk

Game Preview: Wings at Flames

Red Wings (48-15-9 105 pts)
Flames (41-24-6 88 pts)

Flames outlook: The Flames enter tonight's game on a bit of a skid, losing 6 of 10 and seeing their lead over the Canucks rapidly diminishing. Kiprusoff hasn't been exactly what he has been in the past but is still one of the best in the league and can see a rise in productivity with Phaneuf and Leopold anchoring the defense.

Red Wings outlook: The Wings are red hot as of late, winning 4 straight and 7 of 10. Osgood has been playing exceptionally well lately and has looked like the same goalie that won the Stanley Cup last year. Last time out against Calgary, Detroit lost 6-5 in a shootout after blowing a lead. I'd expect Babcock would have these guys refocused and ready to go and get that one back, especially following a break since Friday's game in Atlanta.

What to look for: Either a high scoring slugfest or a very sound defensive game by both teams. Both teams have the offensive capabilities to make it a slugfest but also have the goalies and defense to make it a 1-0 game. From Calgary: Olli Jokinen, Jarome Iginla, Mike Camalleri, and Dion Phaneuf (unfortunately). From Detroit: Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Hossa, and Nick Lidstrom.

Game starts at 9:30 PM ET and as always GO WINGS!