Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lions 28 v. New England 45: The LiveBlog

11:57am: HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYBODY! We greet you this morning from a rapidly-filling Ford Field where today, for the 71st time, the Lions play their annual Thanksgiving Day game. Lion’s fans have had little to be thankful for football-wise on the holiday for some time now: Detroit has dropped 6 in a row and 7 of the last 8 T-Day games. New England’s in town today and both teams are wearing throw-back uniforms which I especially like since I believe the old New England jersey (which dates back to when they were the Boston Patriots and called Fenway Park home) are superior in style and appearance to the present-day version. The Lions, not so much; they wear solid blue jerseys with silver helmets unadorned by the snarling Lion which has graced the Detroit headgear for as long as I can remember and I think my first-hand Lions memory dates back to, like, 1964 or so. The Pats wear red jerseys with white trim and their helmets feature that angry-looking Revolutionary War soldier about to hike the football between his legs. Good stuff for the old-time fan. Of which I am one.

But, enough about fashion. This is a battle of an 8-2 team (New England) and a 2-8 team (Detroit). The Patriots list their division standings—they play in the AFC East—on the front page of their Game Notes package. Thus, we can tell you that the Pats are tied for the lead in their division with the New York Jets. The Lions Game Notes today run 89-pages, but nowhere in all those pages are the NFC North standings to be found. We think, indeed we are pretty damn sure, that the Lions are near or at the bottom of those standings but, absent the actual evidence, we cannot say for certain. But I’m pretty sure Brad Childress was fired as Vikings coach on account of him being the coach of a 3-7 football team, which, while foul enough to be sure, is still a better record than Detroit’s.

This is only the 10th time the Patriots and Lions have ever played. Detroit is 4-5 against New England. It’s the 3rd time they’ve played the Pats on Thanksgiving Day: losing 21-26 here in 2002, beating them 34-9 in 2000 at the Pontiac Silverdome. That game, in 2000, was the 3rd straight win for Gary Moeller as Lions coach after he took over for Bobby Ross who had had enough a month earlier and who simply up and quit.

The first time these teams played, in 1971 at Schaefer Stadium, the Patriots were one of the worst teams in football and the Lions beat them easily, 34-7. From the Lions 2010 Media Guide: Steve Owens scored two touchdowns for the Lions, including a 74-yard touchdown catch from Greg Landry. The Lions also scored a defensive touchdown as Mike Lucci returned an interception 25 yards for a score. (I broadcast a high school game earlier this season in which Lucci’s grandson played, for whatever that’s worth.)

Here’s another interesting note, again from the Lions Guide: The fastest touchdown in Lions’ history was scored against the Patriots. Willie Clay (who later joined the Patriots as a free agent) recovered a New England fumble on the opening kickoff and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown only 11 seconds into the game on September 12, 1993. Detroit edged New England 19-16 in overtime. The win gave the Lions their first 2-0 start since 1985, and was clinched on Jason Hanson’s fourth field goal of the game, a 38-yarder. It hardly feels like 17 years ago, does it?

New England is 32-5 (.865) vs. the NFC since 2001, and are 8-1 (.889) all-time against the NFC North. Such is the history which augers against a Lions win here this afternoon. Our homework out of the way, our Thanksgiving dinner looming in our future, we await today’s opening kick-off…

12:39pm: Kickoff and the Lions get a quick first down on a couple of touches by Maurice Morris but the drives quickly stalls and the Patriots start from their own 19. There could have been—perhaps should have been—plenty of excitement here today. Some think, and I’m one of them, that had the Lions not blown that 10-point lead against the Jets with 4 minutes to go the last time we were here, Detroit would have had the momentum they needed to go and on the road and win against a then-winless Buffalo team and against a Dallas team having a bad year and would have been 5-5 entering play today. But they blew that lead against the Jets, lost at Buffalo when quarterback Shaun Hill—needing to complete a pass for a game-tying two-point conversion with seconds to go—instead fired the ball into the stands; and lost at Dallas when, leading in the third quarter, they gave up a fluky 97-yard punt return touchdown to the Cowboys. New England gets 27 yards on their first play of the day, a pass from Tom Brady to Alge Crumpler, but that’s all they get. Ndamukong Suh gets a sack to set a new Lions rookie sack record. It’s the 8th of the year for the 1st-Round draft pick. New England punts.

12:52pm: The Lions punt it right back. It was a 48-yarder by Nick Harris, but Julian Edelman returns it 28 yards—he would have gone all the way but for Harris’ saving tackle—and the Patriots start in Lions territory at the 43.

12:58pm: A moral victory for the Lions, at least. New England gets to the Detroit 2, but on 4th-and-1 they opt for the field goal. Shayne Graham kicks it through from 19 yards out and New England leads with 5:00 left in the first: DETROIT 0, NEW ENGLAND 3.

1:25pm: A non-moral victory for Detroit. They drive 73 yards in 11 plays in 5:00 with QB Hill twice running for first downs: first on an 8-yard scramble and then on a 13 yard bootleg the play immediately before he hit Calvin Johnson with a 19-yard TD pass. What surprised me was Patriots’ Coach Bill Belichick’s failure to seek a review on a 3rd-and-8 catch by Nate Burleson that was ruled a gain of 9 after what was, to say the least, a generous spot . The replay I saw looked like Burleson was well short of the line to make and it should have been 4th down and the Lions should have been three and out, again. But, no review was requested by New England and the Lions maintained possession and just went and matriculated that football right on down the field. On the scoring play, Johnson, falling, caught the ball in the near corner of the end zone at the goal line for his 11th TD reception of the season. (His career-best is 12, set in 2008.) It was Johnson’s 32nd career TD catch. No Lions has ever had more in his first four seasons. The score comes on the last play of the first quarter: DETROIT 7, NEW ENGLAND 3.

1:30pm: The Lions defense put another 3-and-out on the Patriots and then the Lions offense did it again: another scoring drive, another touchdown, and an 11-point Detroit lead. Oh, my. I feel faint. Again the running of Hill was the key. He converted a 4th-and-an-inch from about ten inches from the goal line the play before Morris bulled over for the score. Officially, it goes as a 1-yard TD run. In reality, it covered less than a foot. The drive took 13 plays and a big hunk, 6:24, off the clock. 5:51 to go in the half: DETROIT 14, NEW ENGLAND 3.

1:47pm: The Patriots get a long scoring drive of their own and this one is going to be close at the half because of it. The man with too many names, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, runs it in from 15 out to complete a 10-play, 83-yard New England drive that took another 5:13 off the clock and which cut the Lions lead to 4 with 0:45 left in the half. DETROIT 14, NEW ENGLAND 10.

1:50pm: Even though there is under a minute left in the half, the Lions, who still have all 3 of their timeouts, aren’t sitting on it as they attempt to get into field goal range, at least, before the half is over. And they do. Detroit, with a 20-pass to Nate Burleson with 0:02 left on the clock, drives 41 yard to the New England 26 and Dave Raynor—the former MSU placekicker who’s filling in for the injured Hanson—drills a 44-yard field goal on the last play of the half. The Lions, remarkably, got off 7 plays in the last 0:45 of the half. And so, remarkably, at halftime: DETROIT 17, NEW ENGLAND 10.

2:15pm: Kid Rock performs on the field at the break, but the Big News in the Press Box is this: Halftime Pie! Yea, Thanksgiving!

2:18pm: The Patriots are helpless in the face of the awesome professional football juggernaut that is the Detroit Lions. Detroit outgained New England 195 yards to 156 in the first half and generated 15 first downs to 8 for New England. The Patriots have the ball to begin the second half. They are quickly three-and-out. Helpless, I tell you. Helpless.

2:25pm: Uh, oh.  The Lions, the real Lions, reappear out of nowhere. Hill throws an interception to New England’s Devon McCourty and he returns 23 yards to the Lions 26. Now, that’s Lions football.  I think we all know how this is going to turn out. It’s the first mistake Hill’s made today, but it’s a beaut. Touchdown, New England. I think it took them 4 plays to get their Points-Off-Turnover. Tom Brady finds Wes Welker with a 5-yard TD pass and we are tied. (They just announced the scoring drive and it was 4 plays, just like I thought. It covered 26 yards and took 2:08). With 10:58 left in the 3rd quarter: DETROIT 17, NEW ENGLAND 17.

2:37pm: Well, how about this? Morris takes a pitch and runs it in from a foot away on 4th-and-1 and the Lions have answered New England by driving it right down the field, again. The big play was a 3rd-down completion to Brandon Pettigrew that picked up 24 yards. The thing was, Pettigrew fumbled the ball at the end of the play but caught it out of mid-air as he was going down. Detroit is getting some breaks today. Hill hit Calvin Johnson 2 plays later for 21 to make it first-and-goal at the 9 before Morris ran it in. Stefan Logan got things going with a 42-yard return of the kick-off following the New England touchdown—enabling the Lions to start the drive with good field position at their own 42. With 6:50 left in the 3rd: DETROIT 24, NEW ENGLAND 17.

2:43pm: It takes New England an entire 1:38 to tie the score. And that’s only because they ran a couple of plays before, on 3rd and long, Brady found Deion Branch wide open (I mean, really, really wide open) with a bomb and Branch, who had to wait for the ball in the vicinity of the Lions 35 and who had time to wait for the ball on account of his wide-openness, faked out Detroit corner Alphonso Smith 3 times (at least) en route to the end zone. 5:12 to go in the 3rd and just like that it’s: DETROIT 24, NEW ENGLAND 24.

2:51pm: Will the 3rd-quarter scoring never end? The answer is, “yes.” Raynor pushes a 46-yard field goal try wide right after Detroit, unstoppable today as we’ve pointed out already, moved smartly to the New England 29. New England has favorable field position off the miss and Brady completes a 26-yarder to Rob Gronkowski on the final play of the 3rd quarter and the Patriots have the ball at the Detroit 30 to start the 4th. After 3: DETROIT 24, NEW ENGLAND 24.

2:58pm: The scoring play: A 22-yard Brady-to-Branch hook-up. Again. This time New England goes 64 yards in 5 plays in 2:15 and for the first time since it was 3-0 in the first quarter, the Patriots lead. 13:45 left, now: DETROIT 24, NEW ENGLAND 31.

3:07pm: The Lions had a drive-sustaining first down catch by Pettigrew wiped out when Pettigrew’s 21-yard grab was wiped out by pass interference called on Pettigrew. I dunno. This one looked a little questionable to me. But, whatever. Detroit punts. 11:07 left. Here’s the thing. It’s only the 3rd penalty on Detroit all day. But, it’s a killer.

3:16pm: It’s been fun, it really has. But, it’s over. Brady’s 3rd TD pass of the afternoon is also the 2nd TD catch of the day by Welker, this one covers 16 yards as New England goes 84 yards in 7 plays and makes it look oh, so, easy. 6:42 is all that is left, now: DETROIT 24, NEW ENGLAND 38.

3:24pm: Hill gets intercepted again, and again by McCourty. He returns this one 50 yards to the Detroit 12 and the Patriots are about to go in again. Green-Ellis finishes the 12-yard, 4 play drive with a 1-yard blast over the left side. It’s his second touchdown of the day, and the 6th by New England. The Lions have given up 28 (unanswered) points in the last 18:36 since leading 24-17 with 6:50 left in the 3rd quarter. With 3:14 left on the clock now: DETROIT 24, NEW ENGLAND 45.

3:33PM: You don’t see this every Sunday (or every Thanksgiving, for that matter): after a couple of personal fouls against Detroit—one on the touchdown and a second on the point-after—New England kicks off from the Detroit 40. Graham promptly boots it right through the uprights. The crowd has left, mostly. So they missed it.

3:37pm: Hill completes his longest pass of the day, 34 yards to Calvin Johnson and the Lions call time-out but I don’t think it’s going to matter what with the fellows being down 3 TOUCHDOWNS at the 2-minute warning and all. It doesn’t. Hill throws incomplete into the end zone on 4th down and the Patriots take over with 1:22 remaining. Detroit has a single timeout left. If they use it, I’ll have to ask, “Why?”

3:46pm: It’s over. Officially, that is. New England scores those 28 unanswered and they win it going away after the Lions led by 11 early in the game and by 7 still late in the third. The Lions fall to 2-9 and they’ve got Chicago (7-3) and Green Bay (7-3, too) coming in here the next couple of weeks. And you can make it 7 straight Thanksgiving losses for Detroit, now. The Final: DETROIT 24, NEW ENGLAND 45.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Purdue (at) Michigan State: The Live Blog

Welcome to Senior Day here at Spartan Stadium, a mostly sunny and chilly noon kickoff.  It might be 40 degrees, then again it might not be quite 40 degrees.  It is, in other words, around 40 degrees outside.

17 Spartans are today playing their final home game ever for Michigan State.  With a win this afternoon, they will become the most successful class in the history of this institution, football-wise.  The Seniors come in to today's game with a record of 31-18 (.632), tying them with the MSU Class of 1990 which also won 31 games.  Michigan State is today looking to complete the first 7-0 home season in school history.  This the MSU Game Notes tell us.  For all their success--MSU is 9-1 and ranked #11 heading into today's game--there are a lot, and I mean A LOT of empty seats here at Spartan Stadium, which, to my mind at least, is a little hard to figure out.  I cannot imagine there are many seats unfilled today at, just to pick a venue at random, Michigan Stadium, even though the Wolverines are a mere 3-3 in the Big Ten Standings and well out of the title race.  Spartan fans, speaking of the Wolverines, are in the unusual position of having to root for Michigan today.  Michigan's home to #7 Wisconsin, and a win by the Wolverines helps MSU, currently tied for the conference lead with the Badgers and universally-hated Ohio State.  We're watching the Wisconsin-UM game on the computer and we'll keep you posted as we update you on this one.

12:12pm:  Speaking of updates...MSU, after holding Purdue to three-and-out to start the game, drove smartly and easily down the field (72 yards in 9 plays) to score on a 24-yard Kirk Cousins to Mark Dell touchdown pass with 9:01 left in the first quarter. MICHIGAN STATE 7, PURDUE 0.

12:15pm:  That didn't last long.  0:57 to be exact.  Purdue's Keith Carlos just went 80 yards right up the middle to tie the score 7-7.  It was a 2-play, 80-yard scoring drive and it took all of 50 seconds.  MICHIGAN STATE 7, PURDUE 7.

12:18pm:  It just got worse.  Ricardo Allen picked off a Cousins pass and turned it into what they call in this business a "Pick Six".  Allen intercepted the pass at the MSU 35 and went untouched into the end zone and now it's Purdue 14, MSU 7 with 6:29 left in the first.  Worse--and it must be pretty bad if its worse than an interception return for a score--Cousins was injured on the play.  We don't know the nature or seriousness of the injury, but its nature and severity are such that a redshirt Freshman from Midland, Andrew Maxwell, has replaced Cousins at quarterback for Michigan State.  And Wisconsin has taken a 7-0 lead in Ann Arbor. MICHIGAN STATE 7, PURDUE 14.

12:36pm:  Cousins returns to quarterback the Spartans and there is either one great sigh of relief here, or several thousand smaller ones.  The first quarter ends.  How can MSU be losing?  They've got 7 first downs.  Purdue has 1.  But they are.  After 1: MICHIGAN STATE 7, PURDUE 14.

12:50pm:  Another good-looking drive by MSU and the game would be tied except for the fact that Dan Conroy chose this particular touchdown, a 19-yard Edwin Baker run, to miss his first extra-point of the season after 37 consecutive makes.  It was another long Spartan drive--52 yards in 9 plays this time for what looked like it would be, until the Conroy miss, the game-tying touchdown.  With 11:10 left in the first half, it's MICHIGAN STATE 13, PURDUE 14.

1:05pm:  Cousins gets sacked to bring up 4th-and-22, but the big news is that the Spartan QB, who missed a series earlier when he was injured, had to be helped off the field. Purdue has the ball and the lead, 14-13, with 4:07 left in the half.  Wisconsin is putting the hammer to Michigan 17-0 late in the first half, so it does not look like help for the Spartan cause is forthcoming from Ann Arbor.

1:20pm:  We don't know how badly Cousins is injured because MSU hasn't gotten the ball back since he was helped off the field.  Purdue has put together their first sustained drive of the half and have 3rd-and-goal from the MSU 8 with 0:15 left in the half.  MSU has called time-out.  Wisconsin has Michigan down 24-0 at the half. 

1:22pm:  Touchdown, Purdue.  They are going to lead 21-13 at the half, a shocker around the Big Ten and a shocker here at Spartan Stadium.  What a drive for the Boilermakers: 85 yards in 14 plays.  The elapsed time: forever.  Rob Henry completed an 8-yard TD pass to Antavian Edison after the MSU timeout.  Cousins did return at quarterback to take a knee after MSU took over with 0:03 left in the half, so he appears to be okay so there is that, at least.  That gigantically long Purdue drive means they out-gained MSU in the half, 192 yards to 189.  The halftime score (and we are as surprised as you, probably more): MICHIGAN STATE 13, PURDUE 21.

1:50PM:  Three-and-out for Michigan State to start the second half, replete with a false start penalty that made a 3rd-and-2 a 3rd-and-7. Not what you want to see when you are down 8 to a team, Purdue, which had been outscored 154-39 in the four games leading up to this one.  And now the Boilermakers are driving again, moving into MSU territory.  One begins to feel uneasy about the outcome of this one, I can tell you that much.

2:02pm:  First-and-goal, Purdue.  All off a sudden MSU can't stop them.  Cortez Smith has just caught a 13-yard TD pass from Henry and with the PAT it's 28-13, Purdue.  The crowd boos their 9-1 Spartans.  After going 85 yards in 14 plays for a TD on their last drive of the first half, Purdue goes 69 in 11 for a TD in their first possession of the second.  We've got trouble with a capital "T" here in E. Lansing!  MICHIGAN STATE 13, PURDUE 28.

2:11pm:  MSU moved the ball a little before they had to punt and they have Purdue at the 2, which I like to say because it rhymes.  Now the MSU defense has to come up with a stop of some sort.  We are down to 4:00 left in the 3rd.

2:15pm:  So much for the defensive stop thing.  Henry hits Smith on a bomb down the right side for 67 and Purdue, no longer at the 2, is instead at the MSU 31.  Man, this is exactly how you lose ballgames. Purdue now has come up with their longest run of the year and their second-longest pass of the year in this one game.  Their drive stalls and MSU gets the ball back, but the 3rd quarter is now over and it is not coming back.  MSU is down 15 big points as we go to the 4th quarter:  MICHIGAN STATE 13, PURDUE 28.

2:23PM:  Things are getting more interesting but ultimately unchanged in Ann Arbor where Bucky Badger now leads 38-21.  I looked earlier this week and Michigan has something like the 5th-ranked offense and the 118th-ranked defense in the FBS which is how you arrive at scores like 38-21 or 67-65 or whatever it was for them against Illinois a couple of weeks ago.  Cousins just came breathtakingly close to throwing his second interception of the day and what a killer that would have been.  He then completes a pass to Le'Veon Bell on 3rd and 11 to keep the ball in MSU's hands.  We have 13:52 to go.

2:29pm:  That, the Purdue 44, is as far as the Spartans came go though and another punt is in order.  The Spartans down it at the Purdue 4.  Another chance (and MSU is running out of them) to get a stop and get some field position.  The clock reads 12:42.

2:34pm:  Out of nowhere and for no apparent reason, Purdue's Henry throws the oddest sort of pass--a bomb that just hangs in the air like a punt and MSU's Chris L Rucker--the only player on the field anywhere near the thing--intercepts it at the Boilermaker 40 and returns 20 yards to the Purdue 20 and the Spartans are back in business back in the ballgame, maybe, just maybe.  It's first and goal after an 11-yard run by Keshawn Martin.  State gets a real break when Purdue is offside on 3rd-and-goal from the 10.  The Spartans thus get another shot at it and they cash in when Cousins finds B.J. Cunningham in the near right corner of the end zone.  The point makes it 28-20, Purdue with 10:55 remaining.   It's a short (20 yard) drive in four plays for a huge TD for MSU off the huge Purdue turn, a giveaway that, simply put, didn't have to happen and shouldn't have happened.  MICHIGAN STATE 20, PURDUE 28.

2:42PM:  Nothing is coming easily today.  The Spartans give up a 54-yard return on the ensuing kick-off and Purdue starts from the State 40.  The defense does its part, but Purdue is close enough to attempt a 52-yard field goal, and Carson Wiggs makes it, naturally.  It's Purdue's longest field goal of the year, naturally.  8:42 to go.  MICHIGAN STATE 20, PURDUE 31.

2:50pm:  "The play is under review."  So says the ref after what might have been a 37-yard Cousins to Cunningham TD pass is ruled incomplete.  The ruling stands.  Most of us feel the ball was ripped out of Cunningham's hands by the defender after he had possession in the end zone, but the ruling is that he lost the ball when he hit the ground.  No problem.  Cousins hits Cunningham for 28 yards on the next play and its first and goal MSU.  A play later, Dell catches a Cousins pass in the end zone for the score.  31-26, Purdue and the Spartans go for 2.  A great catch by Dell means the 2-point try is good and the Spartans are back to within 3 with 6:54 to go.  This is getting good:  MICHIGAN STATE 28, PURDUE 31.

3:02pm:  MSU pushes 'em back inside the ten and then they BLOCK THE PURDUE PUNT.  JOHNNY ADAMS RECOVERS AND IT IS FIRST AND GOAL FOR MSU AT THE PURDUE 3!!!

3:04PM: Cousins, back to pass, runs it instead and scores.  It's under review as Cousins fumbled on the play.  The question--was he in the end zone already?  He was, and the TD counts.  The PAT makes it 35-31--the first time MSU has led since 7-0, a long, long time ago.  4:32 to play:  MICHIGAN STATE 35, PURDUE 31.

3:10PM:  Give Purdue some credit.  They convert 4th-and-6 when they had to (a little over 3 minutes to play and only one timeout left) and they move into MSU territory.  A late hit on Trenton Robinson moves the ball to the State 22.  2:13 to go.  Man, what a game!

3:14pm:  4th-and-8 for Purdue from the MSU 20:  The Ballgame.  And Henry is intercepted by Chris Norman and the Spartans have it with 0:44 left and they are going to win.  The Rucker interception and the blocked punt result in 15 MSU points late in the 4th quarter and this one will be over on the next snap as Purdue uses their final timeout.  MSU is 7-0 at home, 10-1 overall.  They close it out at Penn State next weekend with their hopes for a Big Ten title still, somehow, alive: MICHIGAN STATE 35, PURDUE 31.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Minnesota Wild (at) Detroit Red Wings: The Liveblog

Pre-Game Skate: We expect a low-scoring game tonight as the Wings and Wild get together for the first of their 4 regular season games. Why? The Wings have allowed 40 goals this season (2.50/game). Only 2 teams in the Eastern Conference have permitted fewer,and Minnesota, with 39 (2.29/game) is one of them. (The other is Los Angeles, also 39, also (2.29/game).

Detroit is 8-1-1 (.850) at home, the Wild are 3-3-1 (.500) on the road. The Wings have won 7 of their last 8 overall and on pace right now for a 128-point season. This would be a pretty good year, according to the “2010-11 NHL Guide and Record Book":
132 – Montreal Canadiens, 1976-77. 60W-8L-12T. 80GP
131 – Detroit Red Wings, 1995-96. 62W-13L-7T. 82GP
129 – Montreal Canadiens, 1977-78. 59W-10L-11T. 80GP

7:47pm:  We are underway.  At 6:13 Henrik Zetterberg goes off, 2 minutes for cheating.  It costs Detroit.  Brent Burns scores a power play goal on a 60-foot wrister from the right point through a screen.  At 8:16 it's DETROIT 0, MINNESOTA 1.

8:05pm:  Detroit's short again.  Justin Abdelkader was found guilty of hooking at 16:57.  The Wings have outshot Minnesota 8-6 but surprise Wild starter Jose Theodore (pr: joh-SAY Thee-uh-dohr), and we say he's a surprise starter because Minnesota's first-string goalie Niklas Backstrom has a goals-against average of 1.73--4th-best in the NHL--has stopped every Wings shot so far.  Theodore sports a goals-against of 3.02, and is tonight appearing in his 4th game of the season. The Wild have played 17.  Whatever reasoning went into the decision to not start his #1 goalie against one of the best teams in the League, it's working out well for Minnesota coach Todd Richards, so far.  After one period: DETROIT 0, MINNESOTA 1.

8:33pm: Cal Clutterbuck just fired one in from the corner to the left of Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.  It looked to me like Howard's skate was hard to the post like it is supposed to be on a shot like that but it went in anyway and when that happens, the goalie looks bad, always.  I think what happened (because it has happened to this Beer League goalie) is that Clutterbuck's shot was hard enough that it moved Howard's skate an inch or so.  The puck, for the record, is an inch tall.  If its on its side, just a fraction more than an inch is room enough for it to go in (it's physics!) and I think that's what just happened.  The time of the goal was 1:25.  The score now is: DETROIT 0, MINNESOTA 2.

8:39PM:  A note on names: The Tigers today signed pitcher Alberto Alburquerque.  This may be our new favorite name in all of Organized Ball.  Meanwhile, the man with our favorite name in all of hockey, Minnesota's #4, Clayton Stoner, is a healthy scratch in tonight's game.

8:45pm:  Detroit did not get a power play in the first period but now, midway through the second, they have a two-man advantage.  This would be a good time for the fellows to get back into this game.

8:48pm:  It didn't happen.  The Wings actually got better chances after the first penalty expired, on the 5-on-4 rather than the 5-on-3 in other words, but they didn't get anything by.  Detroit has the edge in shots, 18-10.  Minnesota continues to have the edge in goals, 2-0.  8:06 left in the middle twenty.

8:51pm:  Detroit gets another chance here with the man advantage.  While they are on the power play, we will mention that Dan Cleary has scored in 6 straight games--the longest current streak of its kind in the entire National League.  We mentioned a couple of nights ago Cleary still has a ways to go to catch Steve Yzerman, who hold the Detroit club record with goals in 9 straight.  We were wondering about the NHL record, and if you were too, you will never guess.  No, really, you will NEVER guess:
16 Games – Punch Broadbent, Ottawa, 1921-22. 27G
Way to go, Punch!  27 goals in 16 games?  Not unimpressive.  Man, we didn't even know ice had been invented in 1922!

9:00pm:  Shots on Goal: Detroit 26, Minnesota 10.  This demonstrates that Shots on Goal is a useless statistic.

9:03pm: On their 27th shot, the Wings finally score.  Darren Helm took a cross-crease backhand pass from Abdelkader to get his 1st of the season with 0:34 left in the period.  How fortuitous.  The Wings are back in the game after 2, and after a period in which they outshot the Wild 18-3.  The score after two periods:  DETROIT 1, MINNESOTA 2.

9:26pm:  On their 29th shot, Johan Franzen ties the game.  It looked like a "nothing" play, and the replay showed that it was.  Franzen was trying to pass in front to Tomas Holmstrom (in real time it looked like Homer had re-directed the pass home, in fact that's what I jotted down in my notes) but the pass hit Wild defenseman Greg Zanon in the hip before it got to Holmstrom and caromed past Theodore to tie the game just 2:17 into the 3rd.  DETROIT 2, MINNNESOTA 2.

9:32pm:  Make it 3-2, Detroit.  Patrick Eaves shot from close range and then banged the puck away from Theodore who was trying to cover in the crease.  Once he had it, Eaves went around behind the net and forced a wrap-around just over the goal line and in.  Theodore, feeling cheated, claiming he had it covered before Eaves took it away, demanded a review but the goal stood.  It's the 3rd of the year for Eaves and it comes at 4:55. And now that Detroit leads for the first time in the game, Shots on Goal is meaningful stat, again.  Detroit has a huge edge at this point, 35-12.

9:39pm:  I have connection, sort of, to Richards, the Wild coach.  His brother Travis played for Grand Rapids the entire time I was the play-by-play man for that minor league team.  At the same time, Todd was a defenseman for Orlando.  They had one of the better team names in hockey in my opinion--the Solar Bears.  Their logo was a sun-glasses wearing Polar Bear.  And there is one thing they can never take away from that Bear: Orlando won the last championship, the last Turner Cup, in International Hockey League history.  The league, which had begun in the early 1950's, went out of business in 2000, with Orlando holding the championship trophy.  I wonder who has it now.  One year the Indianapolis Ice won it and promptly lost it at the end-of-season party.  It was missing, rumor has it, for several weeks.  The Ice organization, it is further rumored, was pretty concerned about all of this.  But, eventually, it turned up.  A fan had taken it home, so the story goes. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Avalanche at Red Wings: The Live-Blog

6:59pm: We're going to have a little delay getting this one underway here at the Joe as there will be a pre-game ceremony to honor Dino Ciccarelli and Jimmy Devellano--each inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday. We told you the other night that Devellano's contribution to hockey was the invention of the European player (Petr Klima, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom et. al.) and we were only half kidding. There were Europeans in the league before Devellano came along, but he perfected the practice of signing top talent from over there. Meanwhile, it's possible I may have seen every home game Ciccarelli ever played in Detroit along with all the road ones during the playoffs. Here's what I will always remember about him: after every practice, without fail, Dino took one of those ten-gallon paint buckets, filled it with pucks and dumped the whole thing in the area of the crease. He would then spend 15 minutes or half an hour or whatever it took roofing them all from right around the net. It's what made him such a good finisher, in my opinion. I've never seen a player work as hard as Dino Ciccarelli on the art of scoring goals. It paid off for him. Ciccarelli, being introduced to a standing "O" as I write this, scored 608 of 'em in his 19-year career.

7:02pm: Game on, as they say and the Wings get 5 shots on goal before Colorado gets any and before the game is 100 seconds old. And now, at 3:14, they go on the power play. Paul Stastny for hooking.

7:12pm: The Avs kill it off, barely. I know this is going to sound silly, but I'm going to say it anyway: I'm tired tonight. Why? Because I broadcast a high school football game this afternoon. I can hear you.  "How can that make you tired?"  I'll tell you why. It's because I work hard at it.  "He's at the twenty! He's at the ten! He scores! Touchdown, Harrison Hawks!" (That's who I had today, Harrison vs De La Salle.) Anyway, you try doing that for 3 hours and tell me if you are tired at the end of it all. Harrison won 33-23, by the way, to move into the state semifinals. They are looking for their 13th State title. Two more wins will do it.  No other team has won 12. They look pretty good to me, and I think they are getting a break in the next round. Grosse Point South upset Temperance 44-42 in the fog last night to advance to meet Harrison. GP South was 5-4 in the regular season, one of a handful of teams to even make the tourney without getting 6 regular season wins. I talked to somebody who was there in Temperance last night and he said you couldn't see South's game-winning field goal on the last play of the game from the stands due to fog. But, back to hockey: Colorado had a power play but they didn't score either, so its still 0-0 with 11:00 left in the first. Perhaps a short break is in order. We'll be back in the event of something noteworthy.

7:31pm: Something noteworthy: At 12:58, Todd Bertuzzi scores his 3rd of the year on the power play. Some Av was off for doing some (illegal) thing and Bertuzzi just skated to the circle to the left of Avs goalie Peter Budaj and whipped a wrister over his shoulder. It seemed pretty innocent compared to some of the chances the Wings have had (they've outshot Colorado 10-3 right now), but that's how hockey is sometimes. DETROIT 1, COLORADO 0.

7:44pm:  Period over.  The Wings are fortunate to lead even if they did outshoot Colorado 12-6.  The Avs hit the crossbar with 0:16 left in the period.  But, the only way that counts is when its a drop-in game and there's no goalie and the guys are counting anything off the iron as a goal, which is not the case tonight in this officially-sanctioned NHL game.  Besides, each team has a goalie.  DETROIT 1, COLORADO 0.

8:03pm:  Let's see if I can describe this one for you.  Jiri Hudler just banked one in--his 1st this year--off the left skate of the startled Colorado goaler Budaj from behind the Colorado net.  Budaj has just stopped Hudler on a semi-breakaway after Hudler got to a loose puck in the attack zone first.  (I suppose Budaj could have come out of the net to get to it first, but that's a tough call for a goalie, "should I stay or should I go, now?)  Anyway, Budaj was down and Hudler got to his own rebound and banked it in from behind the net.  The goal came just 0:30 into the period.  DETROIT 2, COLORADO 0.

8:11pm:  Dan Cleary takes a pass from Bertuzzi and backhands Detroit's 3rd goal of the night past Budaj.  It's the 5th game in a row in which Cleary has scored and he ties Johan Franzen for the team lead with his 7th goal of the season at 5:50.  DETROIT 3, COLORADO 0. 
Cleary, for the record, has a ways to go to tie the record: LONGEST GOAL STREAK – 9 games – Steve Yzerman (12 goals, Nov. 18-Dec. 5, 1988; 14 goals, Jan. 29-Feb. 12, 1992).  That's straight out of the Detroit Red Wings Media Guide so I probably just infringed on a copyright or something but, gee, I thought they put this stuff in the record book so we could, you know, use it. 

8:23pm:  It must just be demoralizing to play against these guys some nights.  They did a thing on "Hockey Night in Canada" last week where they showed Detroit making 8 passes in 11.3 seconds en route to scoring a goal in Edmonton.  That's what they are doing tonight against Colorado.  The Wings have 19 shots on goal with 6:00 to go in the second period.  I bet they have 40 shots at goal--shots in the direction of the Avalanche net that missed and were therefore not recorded as shots on goal.  Their dominance tonight in remarkable; breathtaking.

8:37pm:  The second period is over, and for the 4th time in the last 5 periods the Wings have played, they have held the opponent without a goal.  The only rough spot in the period was Budd Lynch jumping the gun.  The Wings 93-year-old PA announcer announced, "Last minute of play in this period," just as they stopped the clock with 1:01 showing on the scoreboard.   Why even have a "last minute of play" announcement?  Somebody tell me.  DETROIT 3, COLORADO 0.

8:51PM:  Yours truly, your humble correspondent, is picking the 3 Stars tonight, did I mention?  Right now, I'm going with Hudler for finally scoring a goal, Cleary for scoring in 5 straight and another player I will not mention as to do so might jink him.  That is all for now.  The 3rd period is about to start.

9:03pm:  Detroit got caught with too many men on the ice when they were shorthanded and Colorado just scored on the ensuing 5-on-3.  At 5:28, John-Michael Liles scores to ruin my pick for First Star as Jimmy Howard loses his shutout bid in the 3rd period for the second game in a row.  John-Michael, for the record, may be the first hyphenated first name in the NHL since Jean-Guy Talbot or some other ancient Montreal Canadian.

9:08pm:  Phil Myre, speaking of former Montreal greats, points out that Marc-Andre Fluery, a goalie somewhere in the NHL, also has a hyphenated first name, thereby ruining my previous post about old John-Michael there.  Thanks, Phil!

9:15pm:  They just came for my 3 Star picks with 3:20 left in the game.  You have to pick before the game is over so they can get them to Budd in time which means sometimes you wind up looking like a dummy if somebody does something great after you've turned in the sheet if his names not on it.  I went with Hudler (3), Cleary (2) and Bertuzzi--the only multiple-point scorer in tonight's game--(1).

9:22pm:  And we're done.  Detroit is held to 2 shots in the 3rd but it doesn't matter as the Wings win.  Colorado pulled their goalie with over 2:00 left in the game but it didn't help them and Detroit couldn't get an empty-netter, not that it matters.  Detroit will be no worse off than tied with St. Louis for first in the division depending on how the Blues do tonight in Phoenix, and the Wings are off until St. Louis comes here Wednesday night.  And I guess we'll talk to you then.  FINAL SCORE:  DETROIT 3, COLORADO 1.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Edmonton @ Red Wings: The LiveBlog

7:35pm:  We are some kind of wedged in here tonight in the Joe Louis Arena press box.  The put two of us in the same spot and I don't know if I have room to write.  We shall do our best, that is all we can do.

The Wings, off to a great start at home 5-1-1 (.786) almost took the early lead just three or so minutes in off some beautiful passing.  Johan Franzen had Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin pulled and beaten, but he slid it right off the post.  The Oilers on the road are, for the record, 2-3-2 (.429).

The Wings did cash in a few minutes later, though.  Valtteri Filppula was left alone in front--or at least alone enough--and Jiri Hudler slipped him a pass from behind the net and Filppula made sure it wound up IN the net.  Goal at 7:22:  DETROIT 1, EDMONTON 0.

7:55pm  These teams met just 6 days ago in Edmonton, the second game of the Wings three-game swing through Western Canada.  The Wings won that game last Friday night, 3-1. Filppula scored in that one, too.  In fact, he had the game-winner, a second period goal that broke a 1-1 tie at the Northlands Coliseum (if that's still the name of the Oilers home rink.  It's tough, as you know, to keep up with who's got naming rights to the various arenas around the league these days.)

8:00pm:  The Wings lead 2-1 at 13:29 as Tomas Holmstrom banged in his own rebound and now he's got 7 points (4-3-7) in his last 9 games.  He had, however, gone 4 games without a goal until now.  If the Wings get the next one, we will look up who the Oilers back-up goalie is, because old Nikolai is taking a beating down there right now.  DETROIT 2, EDMONTON 0.

8:10pm:  Devan Dubnyk.  He's the Oilers back-up.  We had to look because we promised we would if the Wings got the next goal, and they did.  Dan Cleary--who also scored against the Oilers last Friday night--scores at 17:39.  That goal last week snapped a 9-game goal draught by Cleary and he hasn't missed since.  He's scored in each of the Wings last four games, starting with that empty-netter in Edmonton last week.  DETROIT 3, EDMONTON 0.

8:07pm:  The Oilers, who appeared in the Cup Final 8 times and won it all 5 times between 1983-'91 (see also: Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, etc.) have fallen on tough times of late.  And we're not just talking about this season--which sees them dead last in the Eastern Conference--but rather about the last four seasons, none of which has seen Edmonton in the playoffs at all. They almost made the most of it the last time they did qualify, though:  losing the 2006 Stanley Cup Final to Carolina in 7.

8:10pm  The first period is over.  DETROIT 3, EDMONTON 0.

8:34pm  Early in the second period, at 2:18, Cleary does it again.  His second of the night--his 6th of the season--makes it 4-0 Detroit.  No sign of pulling Khabibulin, though.  Which I do not understand, entirely. DETROIT 4, EDMONTON 0.

8:38pm:  Mike Modano becomes the first Red Wing to get a penalty shot here at the JLA in almost 3 years, but Khabibulin denies him.  Strange that the Wings haven't had a penalty shot at home since Filppula had one in December of '07, but that's what the Game Notes say and the Game Notes never lie, ever.  Funnier still, we happened to be talking about the fact that no Wing had had a penalty shot at home in almost 3 years over dinner tonight here in the Media Dining Room before the game.  Actually, we were sitting around listen to George Eichorn of the Detroit Monitor talk about it and, I'm not going to lie to you, it was pretty boring to be honest, but now it's all quite interesting.

8:56pm:  We're watching Taylor Hall, the #1 pick in the NHL Draft last summer from the Windsor Spitfires here tonight.  He's an Oiler now and he's got 3 goals and is (-5) 13 games into his career.  He turns 19 Sunday.  Some of my hockey equipment is, therefore, older than Taylor Hall.  And consider this: in a scant 2 years and 3 days, Taylor Hall be able to enjoy a beer after a game!   UPDATE:  Hall is (-3) tonight through 2 periods against the Wings so (if you are scoring at home) make him (-8) for his career. 

9:00pm: Filppula scores his second of the night, this time on the power play at 17:03, banging in a Franzen rebound out of mid-air.  DETROIT 5, EDMONTON 0 and I would give Khabibulin the rest of the night off, for sure.

9:05pm:  They are going to change the last goal to Franzen.  The replay shows it was his stick that batted it in.

9:06pm:  The second period is over.  I imagine this is the best news the Oilers have had all night.  It's DETROIT 5, EDMONTON 0 after 2.

9:20pm  I was wrong.  They did not change the last Detroit goal to Franzen.  They changed one of the assists on the goal but in all the excitement I didn't catch it.  Here's something else they didn't change:  the Edmonton goalie.  Khabibulin is still in there.  And just as I mention this, they do go ahead and give the goal to Franzen.  As scoring changes go, this one is notable, too, as becomes the 100th goal of Franzen's career.

9:23pm:  0:58 into the 3rd and there goes Jimmy Howard's shutout.  Dustin Penner gets the goal for the Oilers as he collected his own rebound and slammed it by.  DETROIT 5, EDMONTON 1.

9:34pm:  The Stats sheet says the Oilers are (-20) as a team tonight.  Detroit, meanwhile, is (+20).

9:41pm:  There's not too much to say at this point.  The Wings are sitting on the lead, which makes sense, and there's just not too much Edmonton can do about it, at all.  5:43 to go as Anthony Michael Hall, in the stands tonight, is introduced to the crowd via scoreboard big screen.  He was the guy who brought the flare gun to school in "The Breakfast Club" which is still, to this day, a classic and a film beloved by high school students everywhere.  This is the upside of our budding film industry here in Michigan: celebs in the stands.

9:45pm:  Homer, Tomas Holmstrom, fires in yet another rebound at 16:40 and so now its DETROIT 6, EDMONTON 1.  It's his 2nd of the night, so now he and Cleary each have a pair in what is about to be Detroit's 10th win of the year. 

9:51pm:  A meaningless goal for the Oilers with 1:15 to go.  We're not even going to tell you who scored it because it was so meaningless.  DETROIT 6, EDMONTON 2.  (Okay, it was Theo Peckham.  It his first career goal, so I guess it's not so meaningless to him.)

9:53pm:  The final score:  DETROIT 6, EDMONTON 2.  Detroit is, for the moment, in first place in their division and in their conference, but it could all change.  If St. Louis picks up a point against Nashville tonight they will be tied with Detroit.  If the Blues win, they will still be in first place come the morning.  The Blues--off to a shockingly good start this season, are here next Wednesday night.  First for the Wings though, Colorado here on Saturday night.  We'll check in with you then. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Coyotes @ Red Wings: The Live-Blog

Pre-Game Skate:  Did you know you can glean many useful and interesting Items of Note merely by looking at the standings?  It's true.  For example, did you know that only one team in the National Hockey League (Boston, 11) has played fewer games than Detroit?  And that the Wings have 5 games in hand on Chicago?  (Which is actually quite a lot in case you didn't know.)

This is the Wings 13th game of the season and, in a scheduling oddity, this is the only game on the NHL schedule tonight.

In a second scheduling oddity, this is the 3rd time Detroit has played Phoenix already, and if they lose tonight, the Coyotes will have won the season series against the Red Wings.  Phoenix scored three first-period goals against Detroit just over a week ago, on October 28th, and beat the Wings 4-2.  It was a fifty-foot wrister that made it 3-0 for the Coyotes in the 1st and it was that goal that cost Chris Osgood as Detroit got back to within a goal at 3-2 before Phoenix iced it with an empty netter.  Here's how we saw it at the time:

8:00pm:  Osgood is razzed as he makes an easy save. That's because he just gave up an easy goal. A 50-foot wrister by Lauri Korpkoski, shorthanded, the kind of shot that frankly I should have stopped and it's 3-0 Phoenix on the goal at 11:56. It's sad to hear the fans boo and ridicule Osgood. The guy has done a lot for this franchise, and just the season before last, he was one save away from winning the Stanley Cup for this town. You'd think that would be worth something, but he his is getting his rear end booed at home. It's awful.

7:43pm  This just in...DETROIT 1, PHOENIX 0.  Brian Rafalski's slapshot from the line was five feet wide but it caromed off the end boards right to Dan Cleary (the PA guy called him "Danny", is that how he likes it?) and he was right there to slam it by startled Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Detroit is 5-0-1 when scoring first this year.

7:55pm:  Tonight is the night that Wings President Jimmy Devallano is being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.  I was at the press conference when he was named Wings GM back in the early 80's when Detroit was AWFUL.  Jimmy D's major contributions to hockey are these:  He invented the European player (see: Petr Klima, Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Lidstrom et. al.) and he drafted Steve Yzerman with the 4th overall pick in the 1983 draft.  Srsly.  3 teams--the North Stars, the Whalers and the Islanders--passed on Stevie Y.  Devallano came to Detroit from the Islanders where he was Bill Torry's assistant GM when that team was winning the four straight Stanley Cups and whatnot.  About 20 seats to my left tonight is Ken Morrow who won all 4 of those Cups on the the Island.  The first of them came just a couple of months after Kenny's US Olympic team beat the damn Russians and won the Olympic Gold Medal in 1980.  You've heard of the "Miracle on Ice"?  Ken Morrow lived it.  He was the assistant coach on a team I did play-by-play for about 20 years ago and we've been pals ever since.  He's one of the nicest guys in hockey.

8:13pm:  At 19:05 the Coyotes tie it as Martin Hanzal bangs a rebound past Jimmy Howard.  DETROIT 1, PHOENIX 1.  The period ends.

8:22  Live-blogging hockey is hard!  We'll try to get caught up here in the intermission.  I was talking about Devallano going into The Hall tonight.  I'm already in, and have been for about 7 years now.  I am not making this up.  When my book, The Gods of Olympia Stadium came out The Hockey News gave it a nice review and I got a letter from the Hall of Fame shortly thereafter asking if I'd donate a copy to their library.  So I did. So my book is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and as far as I'm concerned, that means I'm in the Hockey Hall of Fame, too.  So there. 

Not that this means a lot.  Scotty Bowman once asked me about then-Wings broadcaster Bruce Martyn. "Is he any good?"  "Scotty," I said, "he's in the Hall of Fame!"  "That doesn't mean anything," Scotty said.  "After all, I'm in the Hall."

8:31pm  The teams straggle back out onto the ice.  How is Detroit not exhausted?  This is their 4th game in 6 nights--the last 3 on the road in Western Canada.  Anyway, back with the middle twenty right after this...

8:36pm  Here's a little something for you to watch during the next commercial break! 

Clever boys.  Very clever boys.

8:47pm:  PHOENIX 2, DETROIT 1.  Keith Yandle fires a shot high into the net past Howard from the left circle at 7:31.  Not much more to say about that.  It was a simple play and a simple goal and now the Wings--outshot this period 10-3--trail the hockey game 2-1.

8:59pm:  The Wings have had the last 6 shots on goal and are on the power play, still down 2-1 with 6:00 to go in the second period.  That is all.

9:09pm  The second period is over: PHOENIX 2, DETROIT 1.  Shots were 13-12 Phoenix in the period, 25-22, Detroit in the game.  This is only the 3rd time this season the Wings have trailed after 40 minutes.  They are 0-2-0 in that situation to date.

9:20pm:  I think I'm getting a headache.  I long for the old days when in the intermission they'd announce upcoming events at the Olympia and play a little organ music and the game would start again.  They are blasting some rock song right now ("You Shook Me All Night Long"--I think it's about sex) and they never, ever let up.  Not for a minute.  And it is SO DAMN LOUD!  Hockey games now are like standing next to a running jet engine for about three hours. I am not ruling out making ear plugs a part of the sportscasting gear I take to every game. Now it's "Detroit Rock City" by Kiss.  Hey, I saw Kiss at Cobo about an eon ago.  Good show, good times...

9:35pm:  13:26 to go still 2-1 Phoenix.  The Wings have had some good chances here in the 3rd, but you know...
I just found out I'm picking the 3 Stars Saturday night when Colorado is here.  I may drop by the two morning skates on game day (only somebody who doesn't know hockey calls them "skate-arounds") and let the boys know that, yes, I can be bought.  And somewhat cheaply, at that.

9:40pm:  And we're tied.  DETROIT 2, PHOENIX 2.  A shot from the left point by Lidstrom goes in.  We were arguing about whether Johan Franzen, standing in front of the Coyotes goal, had tipped it.  I said he did, the scorer said he did not.  The scorer wins.  It's the 2nd of the season for Lidstrom and it comes at 7:24.

9:51pm  Gee, it getting on towards ten o'clock and we still have 4:40 to go in regulation.  Not to mention overtime and a shootout if it comes to that.  Kids have got school tomorrow, etc.  Still 2-2.  Detroit killed penalty to Justin Abdelkader shortly after Lidstrom's goal tied this thing.

9:56pm: Scottie Upshall just hit the crossbar like I've never seen before and I'll tell you kiddies, I've been coming to NHL games since, like, 1968.  Upshall's slapper hit the bar so hard and so clean that it caromed all the way back into the Phoenix zone, travelling 100 feet, at least, in the air.  The damndest thing I've ever seen, when it comes to hitting the post/crossbar.

10:00  On to overtime.  Detroit is 1-1 in overtime.  Phoenix is 0-4.  This means one of two things:  they are due, or they suck at overtime.

10:05  The Wings win in overtime as easy as 1-2-3.  That was the time of the goal, 1:23.  It was a deflection out in front by Henrik Zetterberg on a shot from the top of the left circle by Ruslan Salei while a delayed penalty was being called on the Coyotes and the Wings had the extra man on.  Final score:  DETROIT 3, PHOENIX 2 (OT).  Detroit is 9-3-1, 19 points, 1 back of division-leading St. Louis.  Because they are second in the division, the Red Wings remain in 4th-place in the Western Conference (the top 3 positions go to the division leaders, as you know.)  The Wings are 5-1-1 at home and Edmonton, last in the West, will be here Thursday night.  We'll talk again then. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jets @ Lions: The Liveblog

1:00pm:  Remember I told you last week how the Lions stood at attention for the National Anthem much better than the Redskins did and how Detroit went on to win the game?  We have a problem today.  The Jets stand at attention as well as do the Lions, and maybe even better as they hold their hands over their hearts.  The Lions were fidgety during the anthem today, perhaps a good sign.  Perhaps it means they can’t wait to get started.

There’s a mistake in the first paragraph of the first page of the Officials NY Jets Game Notes.  They call Detroit return man Stefan Logan “Steffan” Logan.  What a sloppy organization they must be.  Let’s see if it translates into the way their team plays.

Reminder:  Detroit is perfect, 2-0, since Ndamukong Suh guaranteed after the Lions lost their home opener that Detroit would not lose another game at Ford Field, ever.

That reminder reminds me: if we were in Norway, would we be playing at Fjord Field?  (Fjord: it sounds like Ford.  See what I did there?)

1:12pm: The Lions couldn’t wait to get started as it turns out.  They’ve driven from their own 20 to the Jets, well, to the Jets end zone in 11 plays.  I mean, the Lions have driven from their own 20 to the Jets end zone in 11 plays!  (Fixed.)  The scoring play is a 10-yard Matthew Stafford-to-Brandon Pettigrew pass with 9:16 left in the quarter.  Two Jets penalties helped Detroit out, but Stafford was 4 for 7 for 75 yards on the drive, and that helped, too.

1:45pm:  The first quarter is over.  Stafford has cooled, but Mark Sanchez hasn’t gotten hot yet so that Detroit score on the game’s opening drive is standing up so after one its DETROIT 7, NEW YORK JETS 0.

1:50pm: Somebody just said a bad word—a very bad word—and it got picked up by the referees microphone as he was announcing the latest penalty against Detroit and the whole stadium heard it.  Hell, the entire Detroit and New York metropolitan areas heard it.  The game is on TV, after all.  I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to learn that profanity is being used down there.

2:10pm: A 31-yard Nick Folk field goal gets the Jets on the board 4:46 before the half.  It was the first sustained drive by NY today as they moved from their own 12 to the Detroit  8 before losing yardage on a 3rd down fumble by Sanchez.  That forced them to go for the field goal and that’s why the Lions lead 7-3 instead of being tied 7-7.

Note:  Since the opening drive when he was 4/7 for 75 yards, Stafford is 3/8 for 36 yards.

2:25pm:  This is exactly the kind of thing that kills the Detroit Lions week in and week out: with 1:00 left in the half they let Braylon Edwards get in behind the secondary and he catches a 74-yard TD pass from Sanchez and NY takes a 10-7 lead.  Just. Like. That.  The Lions had done a good job holding the Jets offense in check in the first half.  Until that very moment, that is.  Halftime: NEW YORK JETS 10, DETROIT 7.

2:50m  That Louis Delmas, Detroit safety, is one sneaky son-of-a-whatever.  He just stone cold stole the ball from Braylon Edwards after Edwards caught a pass from Sanchez on NY’s first possession of the second half, and the Lions have the football in Jets territory at the 47.  Edwards wants a do-over.  As he pouts, Detroit drives all the way to the Jets 4.  That’s as far as they get.  Well, actually, they got to the 2 on a first-down run, but then they lost 2 on the next play and then they threw an incomplete pass so Jason Hanson kicked a field goal except the Jets Trevor Pryce roughed him (he went straight for Hanson’s knee—a really, really dirty play) to give Detroit an automatic first down at the 1 by penalty.  Stafford makes like Bobby Layne (look it up, young people, or as you say, “Google it”) and bootlegs it around the right side right into the end zone.  And get this: Ndamukong Suh has to come in to kick the extra point because Hanson was actually roughed up on the Roughing the Kicker penalty against Pryce to the extent that he couldn’t come in to kick the extra point.  Suh, almost as an aside, hits the right upright with his try—no good.  His form was strictly Lou Groza.  The result, not so much.  Nick Harris, the punter, has to kick off for Detroit now.  The Lions drove 47 yards in 8 plays for the TD (Points Off Turnover for Detroit, remember) and now lead 13-7.  Hanson remains in the area of the Lions bench and is up and walking around.  

3:08pm: Mark Sanchez just pump-faked as pretty as you will ever see and it worked—his receiver was Wide Open in the end zone.  The good news for Detroit was that Sanchez badly underthrew the pass and Alphonso Smith made a leaping interception.  However, Smith forgets he’s in the end zone at the time and so, inexplicably, he tries to effect a return and is dropped at the Detroit 1.  But still, the Lions have the ball and have stopped a Jets drive. 

3:23pm:  The 3rd quarter is over: DETROIT 13, NEW YORK JETS 10.

3:40pm:  You just HATE to say this, but it looks like the Lions are going to win.  They just went 90 yards in 9 plays and Nate Burleson caught a 2-yard TD pass from Stafford.  Also, Hanson kicked the extra point so it looks like he’s okay and the Lions lead 20-10.  There’s 11:43 left in the game.  That’s why you hate to say, “it looks like the Lions are going to win,” because 11:43 is a lifetime in “Lions Years.”

3:59pm:  We have an exchange of punts here which works in Detroit’s favor as the score remains unchanged—20-10, Detroit—and now we are down to 4:30 to play in the game.  Drew Stanton replaced Stafford at quarterback for third-and-long the last time the Lions had the ball, but Stafford appears unhurt.  It may have been a case of Detroit hoping Stanton could run for a first down with the ball way back inside their own 10.  Indeed, Stanton did run, but he did not pick up the first down.  In the “Department of I Did Not Realize That,” if the Lions win today it will be the first back-to-back wins for this team in 3 years.  It may not be a big deal when the football team from your local area wins on consecutive weekends, but around here I’m pretty sure we throw a big parade replete with balloons when it happens.  I just can’t remember.

4:05pm: There is 2:46 left in the game and the Jets have gotten to within 3, trailing now 20-17.  They drove 56 yards in only 1:40 with Sanchez scoring on a 1-yard keeper.  Let the nail-biting begin and begin in earnest.  The Jets have only 1 timeout left (they burned a couple on defense when they had 12 or 13 guys on the field, twice) so there is that, at least.  Stanton remains in the game.  What’s up with that?  Stafford, who has thrown for 2 TD’s today and run for a 3rd, is wandering about on the sideline wearing a baseball cap while Drew Stanton runs the offense.  NY uses their final timeout and the clock runs down to 2:00.  3rd and 6 for the Lions, when we return…

4:12pm:  Up here in the Press Box I hear a writer, a very well-respected writer, say: “Stupid call, that was a stupid call,” after Stanton attempts a pass on the third down play and it is incomplete and THE CLOCK STOPS.  FOR REAL, DETROIT PERMITS THE CLOCK, THE THING THEY ARE TRYING RUN OUT, TO STOP BY TRYING A PASS INSTEAD OF A RUN.  THIS IS UNREAL.  Detroit punts and the Jets start from their own 22 with 1:40 to go.  There should be under a minute left—Detroit could have burned 0:40 more just by running on that third-down play.  The Jets get to around the Detroit 40 with 0:40 left, and a late-hit penalty on Detroit’s Julian Peterson gives NY 15 more to the 28.  It’s a stupid play by Peterson who should know better.  There is simply no other way to say it.  We are going to overtime, for sure.  Unless the Jets actually score a touchdown here, that is.  They won’t.  Sanchez spikes it with 0:04 left.  Here comes the field-goal unit.  It’s Folk from 36 to tie…and its good and it’s tied 20-20 at the end of regulation.  The scoring drive took 1:40.  The Jets previous drive, the one where Sanchez scored the touchdown?  That took 1:40, too.  Something is at play here at Ford Field right now and it isn’t good.  Why did Detroit attempt a pass on that 3rd down play?  Why did Peterson give NY 15 free yards with a senseless out-of-bounds hit?  And what’s the deal with Stanton in for Stafford?  Who knows, here comes overtime in Detroit.  And don’t forget that extra point try by Suh after Hanson got hurt that hit the upright.  It turns out that that is the difference in this game!

4:25pm:  NY wins the toss and Sanchez to Santonio Holmes down the middle on NY’s second play of OT goes big, really big—52 yards big—and the Jets are in field goal range and then some at the Detroit 16.  (Could you see this coming right up Woodward? You could, couldn’t you?)  It’s the 2nd-longest play of the day for NY (remember the 74-yard TD pass to Braylon Edwards with a minute left in the first half?) and what a time for it.  They send in Folk to try the field goal on 3rd down.  It’s a 30-yarder for the game.  It’s good.  The ballgame is over.  What a crusher.  The Final: NEW YORK JETS 23, DETROIT 20.  The playing field, as matters turn out today, is not the only place where profanity is being used at Ford Field.  Far from it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Harrison 28, Berkley 13

I did the play-by-play of this game, and now I'm trying my hand at a little sportswriting, you know, to go with...

A week after a pair of defensive touchdowns in the final two minutes gave Farmington Hills Harrison an improbable 37-27 win over Birmingham Brother Rice in the opening round of the playoffs, a pair of special teams touchdowns were instrumental for the Hawks in their 28-13 District Final win this afternoon over the visiting Berkley Bears.

Harrison (11-0) advances to meet Warren DeLaSalle (8-2) in the Regionals next weekend at Buller Field.

The loss ends the 41-year coaching career of retiring Berkley coach Jim MacDougall who led the Bears (9-2) to one of the best seasons in school history in his final season on the sidelines.

Harrison overcame 4 turnovers and an offense which sputtered most of the afternoon to win, primarily because the Hawks defense was able to shut down Berkley’s star running back Terrell Porter. While he scored both of the Berkley touchdowns today to run his season total to 32 (29 rushing), Porter was held to roughly half the average of 145 rushing yards per game which he brought into the contest. The only two games this season in which Porter failed to rush for 100 yards were the only two games the Bears lost this season.

Playing without their leading rusher Steve Slobin—out for the season with a knee injury sustained on the first play of the game last week against Brother Rice—the Hawks turned the ball over on the first play from scrimmage when Aaron Burbridge fumbled and the Bears recovered at the Harrison 27. Three running plays netted the Bears -1 yard and Berkley had to punt.

With 6:40 left in the first quarter, Burbridge atoned for his early bobble with a remarkable 83-yard journey of a punt return for a touchdown during which the junior wide out simply hurdled a would-be tackler at his own 25 and outraced the rest of the Bears to the end zone.

Berkley answered just before the half when Porter, open in the flat, caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jim Bernie to cap a 71-yard, 11-play drive which began when Harrison running back Austin Hunter lost a fumble and it was a 7-7 game with 0:55 left in the second quarter.

It took Harrison 0:13 to answer. Jake Vento—whose 61-yard fumble recovery touchdown with 1:48 to go against Brother Rice last week erased their 27-22 lead—stunned the Bears just as badly as he had the Warriors by taking the ensuing kickoff 78 yards to the house to give the Hawks a 14-7 lead with 0:42 remaining in the half.

Tommy Vento, who, since throwing 5 touchdown passes in the first half of Harrison’s 54-21 win over Rochester Adams on October 8, has now thrown more interceptions (7) than he has touchdown passes (6) in his last 4 games (odd, because in the 5 games prior, Vento had thrown 14 touchdown passes without an interception in 83 passing attempts) threw his second pick of the afternoon on Harrison’s first possession of the second half.

Berkley would take advantage, going 49 yards in 11 plays—capped by Porter’s 1-yard touchdown dive—to make it 14-13 Hawks with 4:38 left in the 3rd. It was here that Harrison’s Lido Zefi made one of the biggest plays of the day, busting through to block Kyle Braun’s extra point, and the Hawks held their lead, barely.

Today’s game was the first this season in which Tommy Vento failed to throw a touchdown pass. Indeed, as the game moved into the 4th quarter, somewhat amazingly, Vento had yet to complete a single forward pass. That changed when Derek Head caught a Vento screen in the flat and raced 51 yards to the Berkley 1. Freshman Lorenzo Collins blasted over the goal line on the next play to increase the Harrison lead to 21-13 with 9:25 left in the game.

Vento’s only other completion was a 31-yarder to Devin Funchess the next time Harrison had the ball, and it was the big play in a 52-yard, 7-play scoring drive for the Hawks. Austin Hunter got the touchdown on an 11-yard run with 5:00 left, giving Harrison a 28-13 lead.

Is this the Hawks year? Consider this: with enough time left for Berkley to still mount a comeback, Harrison again fumbled the ball deep in their own territory, but this time the football bounced right into the hands of Burbridge who motored for a key first down, enabling the Hawks ran out the clock.

Is this the Hawks year? DeLaSalle’s coming calling next week. We shall see…

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sparky Anderson

I was at the press conference in June, 1979 when Sparky Anderson was named Tigers Manager. It was held at noontime in the Tiger Room, the tiny dining room under the stands off home plate at Tiger Stadium where we in the media took our pre-game meals (and where we took our post-game liquor, as well.) What I remember most distinctly was the fact that the room was way too small for the number of reporters who crowded in there to cover this most momentous of announcements the Tigers were making: that they had hired a new manager. Everybody was there.

I was working for a radio station in Lansing at the time, and since the Tigers were playing Seattle that night and I had coverage, it didn’t make sense to go back to Lansing only to turn right around and drive back to Tiger Stadium so I stayed at the ballpark all day that day. After his press conference, most of the media wandered off and Sparky entertained the small group of reporters who remained behind with an impromptu get-together, a bull session actually, right there in the Tigers dugout. I was one of them. He must have spent a couple of hours with us and I will never forget that even though I was a baby reporter at the time—I was only 23—Sparky treated me just like he treated the veteran guys, the important guys like Joe Falls and Jerry Green, which, of course, made me feel like I was some kind of a big shot. He was just great. I’ve never forgotten the fact that he treated me great all that summer and all the summers that came after. (I was also at the press conference in 1995 when Sparky announced his retirement, so we are talking about a lot of summers here).

Remembering Sparky this morning, I came across the following this while leafing through his autobiography “Sparky” that he wrote with another legend, former Tigers PR Director Dan Ewald: “I enjoy helping the reporters, especially the young ones. I watch them when the walk into my room. I can tell they are shaking in their boots. It’s hard for them to believe they are talking to a Major League manager. They’re so scared sometimes they forget to ask questions. I always try to give them something. I try to lead them into a story.”

He could have been talking about me in that summer of ’79. And maybe he was. And I for that, I just want to say, “Thank you, Sparky. Thank you, George!” I will never forget you.