Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's The Playoffs!

7:20pm: Welcome to the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, everybody.  We are all of 2:16 into what promises to be a long run to The Cup by the Detroit Red Wings and already we've hit a little bump in the road.  A slight hiccup, if you will.  Pavel Datsyuk lost his man in the defensive zone and that man, Kyle Turris of the wildly over-rated Phoenix Coyotes, snapped a shot from the low rim of the circle to right of Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard over Howard's left shoulder (the short side for those of you scoring at home) and into the net and, thus, Phoenix has grabbed the early lead.  Ray Whitney and Shane Doan got the assists and as we type, Phoenix almost got another one.  A few moments after the Coyotes goal, Detroit's Danny Cleary, mere minutes after being selected in the first round of the annual Press Room Playoff Draft by this reporter, was the victim of Grand Theft Goaltender as Ilya Bryzygalov went post-to-post to rob him off a near cross-rink set-up.  One wonders if the tone for the game, for the series and for the playoffs themselves was set in that 30-second sequence.  FIRST PERIOD: DETROIT 0, PHOENIX 1.
7:32pm:  The Coyotes are on the power play for already the third time here in the first, including ninety-seconds during which Phoenix had a 2-man advantage.  So far the kill has been strong in the Detroits, but you know how it goes if you keep giving them chances.  By the way, apparently because they are worried we'll forget it, the words "STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS" have been stenciled into the ice just inside the two blue lines so there will be no mistaking this for one of those next-to-meaningless regular season games.  Ugh.  The crowd is all rowdy and ready to kick ass and all like that there and I'm thinking StubHub might be the reason.  In years past (this is the Wings' twentieth consecutive year of making the playoffs which is something they will simply not let you forget which I guess is understandable as it seems to me that when I was growing up they once went 20 straight years without ever making the playoffs) some of the seats in the early round games went patron-less.  (I'm still in Masters mode, apparently.  Every sporting event save the Masters have "fans".  At the Masters, they are called "patrons".)  No matter what you call them though, the patron-fans weren't always in the arena to see the Wings in the first couple of playoff rounds.  The other day after hockey--the hockey which I play as opposed to the hockey I watch, one of the guys in The Room was telling us he'd found tix on StubHub for ten bucks.  I suspect that's one of reasons--cheap internet tickets--behind the place being packed here tonight.  We're under five left in the first now.  A Coyote just has a breakaway and while he wound up in the Detroit net behind Howard, the puck did not.  (In all the excitement, I forgot which Phoenix player is was.  Sorry.)  FIRST PERIOD: DETROIT 0, PHOENIX 1.
7:50pm:  The first period ends with Phoenix both on the lead and on the power play (again).  This is the 4th time in the first that Phoenix has been a man (or two) to the good but in spite of it the Coyotes only outshot Detroit 11-9 in the period.  There are :49 left in the fourth Detroit minor whistled in the period as intermission comes.  END OF FIRST PERIOD: DETROIT 0, PHOENIX 1.
8:18pm:  I got a little engrossed watching the Indians-Angels on the computer--I've the MLB.TV package and I LOVE IT--and I sort of forgot about our little blog thingy here.  Ooops.  Anyway, the Wings just tied it on the prettiest little backhand you will ever see from Datsyuk.  Johan Franzen had his backhand from point-blank range out in front stopped but the puck went in behind the net where Datsyuk collected it and sneaked it past Bryzgalov on the wrap-around.  The goal came just eight seconds after a (rare) Detroit power play had ended.  Assisting on the goal were Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom at 7:38.  SECOND PERIOD: DETROIT 1, PHOENIX 1.
8:30pm:  Franzen just scored on a 35-foot wrister that Bryzgalov really should've had.  Unless the puck changed direction off the stick of a Coyote D-man and the replays were inconclusive on that question.  You'd be surprised how little the puck has to change direction before you, the goalie, looks really, really bad.  That may have been the case here.  In any event, less than four-and-half minutes after the Wings tie it, they take the lead on an unassisted goal at 12:02.  SECOND PERIOD: DETROIT 2, PHOENIX 1.
8:42pm:  The fastest way to jink the whole deal is to say it's in the bag, but the Wings just scored again and I think this one is in the bag.  Brian Rafalski wired one home from inside the blue line on the power play to make it 3-1, Detroit.  Valtteri Filppula got the only assist.  The shot beat Bryzgalov in the same place the shot by Franzen had beat him:  blocker side high.  It's a good place to shoot.  It takes longer for the goalie to get the blocker up than it does the glove simply because he is, of course, using his blocker arm and hand to hold his stick and the stick has to be lifted, too.  It slows him down just a shade.  The Wings outshot Detroit 17-8 in a period in which they outscored Phoenix 3-0 and, as we say, Game 1 here may just be over with a period left to play in it. The Wings scored their 3 second-period goals in a span of 10:22.  END OF SECOND PERIOD: DETROIT 3, PHOENIX 1.  
9:08pm:  The word right now isn't "jinx", it's "Juri".  And Juri--as in Hudler--just snapped a shot into the Phoenix net laying waste to our blocker-side dissertation of a few moments ago in the process.  Hudler went high glove to make it 4-1 at 3:16 of the third and if the Wings are going to stumble in this series (and remember it took them the full 7 games to defeat these same Coyotes last year) it isn't going to be in Game 1.  Drew Miller got the only assist on the Hudler goal.  THIRD PERIOD: DETROIT 4, PHOENIX 1.
9:15pm: Radim Vrbata of the Coyotes shot high and Howard went low and the puck went in the net.  The Wings lead is down to two, 4-2, on the goal at 7:38.  THIRD PERIOD: DETROIT 4, PHOENIX 2.
9:35pm:  We're inside a minute to go and it looks to be in the bag.  The Phoenix net is empty and Detroit almost put one in there a moment ago.  54 seconds to play and the Coyotes have called time out.  Game 2 in this series is Saturday afternoon.  We'll be here for all your playoff hockey live-blog needs.  The crowd is denied the empty-net goal that would have brought a final roar, but that's all they are denied on this night, the first night of the playoffs. (We have a LONG WAY to go.)  The Wings outshoot the Coyotes 35-28 and lead the best-of-seven series 1-0.  FINAL SCORE:  DETROIT 4, PHOENIX 1.  SEE YOU SATURDAY AFTERNOON!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Chicago Blackhwaks at Detroit Red Wings, April 8, 2011: The Live-Blog

7:38pm:  Welcome to the Joe Louis Sports Arena where, :27 into the game, the Chicago Blackhawks have taken a 1-0 lead over the Detroit Red Wings.  This is a battle of a team which is battling for their playoff life (Chicago) and a team which is getting some exercise prior to the start of the postseason (Detroit).  I said on the radio this morning that due to this, I expect Chicago to win here in Detroit tonight and in the back end of the home-and-home Sunday afternoon in Chicago.  The Blackhawks really need this game as they are hanging on by their fingernails to the eighth and final playoff spot.  The Wings really don't as they won the division and assured themselves of a place on the playoffs a few days ago.  Chicago continues to storm the Detroit net to my right here in the opening moments.  Brent Seabrook got the goal, his eighth, from Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa before this game was half a minute old.  FIRST PERIOD: DETROIT 0, CHICAGO 1.
7:42pm:  We are here at the Joe after spending the afternoon at Comerica Park where the Tigers won their 2011 home opener 5-2 over the Kansas City Royals.  Victor Martinez, in his first home game as a Tiger, cleared the loaded bases with a first inning gapper to right-center as the Tigers scored four in their first home at-bats at home this season.  Max Scherzer worked six innings of seven-hit, one-run ball to go to 2-0.  We'll be there tomorrow as the teams continue the weekend series.
7:47pm:  2-0, Chicago as Ben Smith scores at 6:07.  Patrick Kane gets the only assist.  This one recalls that awful game here last week in which St. Louis, not a playoff team, waxed the Wings 10-3.  FIRST PERIOD: DETROIT 0, CHICAGO 2.
7:50pm:  While all this is going on, I'm watching the Giants try to come back in the bottom of the ninth against the Cardinals.  This after Ryan Theriot finished off a 12-pitch about with a two-out single to score two runs for St. Louis in the top of the 9th.  SF--in their home opener--has two on with two out in the bottom of the 9th.  The Ku Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval, is up for the Giants.  He singles to tie the game 4-4.  Good stuff.  Not so good here.  Chicago score again to lead 3-0 before the game is nine minutes old.  This time it's Brian Campbell who gets the goal and this one has gotten ugly fast.  The Red Wings call time out--perhaps hoping to lull the Blackhawks into taking a nap or something.  FIRST PERIOD: DETROIT 0, CHICAGO 3.
8:29pm:  The Wings continue to prepare for the playoffs by getting booed off their home ice, which they pretty much deserve.  If it hadn't been for that nasty loss to the Blues here last week, the first period tonight would qualify as the worst period of hockey I've seen Detroit play in 20 years.  Detroit got outshot 13-5 in the first.  It wasn't that close.  SECOND PERIOD: DETROIT 0, CHICAGO 3.
8:41pm:  4-0 Chicago and it's just embarrassing.  The Blackhawks have scored on the power play at 6:44 of the second.  Hossa got it, his 25th.  Yikes, I say.  This is just brutal.  The Giants and Cardinals are into the 12th inning, so I can watch that at least.  And how about that Tiger Woods fellow today at the Masters?  He played the last eleven holes in seven-under and is third in the big golf tournament at the halfway mark, two (SORRY, THREE) back of 21-year-old Rory Mcllroy.  And here I can't even remember what I was doing when I was 21, which I am pretty sure is on account of the, eh, medication(s) I was taking at the time.  There were two great moments I saw today:  Woods' out-of-the-gallery par on #11 and a player losing a ball in a Major.  It happened on the short, little 156-yard 12th.   Graeme McDowell was the unfortunate fellow who had to slog his way back to the tee and do a do-over.  He hit into a shrubbery behind the green and with six people, including Woods, looking for one could find the ball.  McDowell made double bogey and missed the cut by, naturally, two strokes.  Those two strokes.  At least he got to play the Augusta National a couple of times, eh?  For free, too.  So there is that.  The hockey game continues but I have, at least for the time being, lost interest, pretty much.  SECOND PERIOD: DETROIT 0, CHICAGO 4.  
9:02pm:  Budd Lynch announces the final minute of the second period and the crowd roars in approval.  Meanwhile, the Giants win in 12 as Albert Pujols muffs a throw at first with two out in the inning, extending the inning so that Aaron Rowand can hit a ball between the outfielders in left-center with the bases loaded to win it for 'Frisco 5-4.  Drew Miller scores for Detroit at 19:38 and there is a scuffle at the horn which augers against the fans booing the Wings into the dressing room for the second consecutive period.  The Wings are outshot again in the period, this time by a 13-11 margin.  It is "Fan Appreciation Night" and the fans do not appreciate the effort so far.  "If this is what they think of us...(sniff.)" SECOND INTERMISSION: DETROIT 1, CHICAGO 4.
9:40pm:  Halfway through the third and I've been remiss.  This is the first post of the period.  Not that there's been anything of note to write about: still 4-1 Chicago.  It's a great night for the Second City.  The Cubbies are winning--I just saw Jeff Baker put 'em ahead 5-2 in Milwaukee with a three-run jack--the White Sox are up 4-2 over Tampa Bay and, of course, you have the, uh, little situation here.  Here's an interesting note.  Not only have the Rays not won this year, they have not led at any point in any game so far.  The last team to do that (never hold the lead in their first six games of the season) was the 1992 Tigers and while I don't know for sure, I'm going to guess that '92 wasn't a good year for the Tigs.  Oh, and so long to Manny Ramirez who retired today rather than take the 100-game suspension he was facing for getting busted for Performance Enhancing Drugs, again.  Say what you want, but the second half of the season he had when he joined the Dodgers a couple of summers ago--when they names the stands in left at Dodger Stadium "Mannywood", was one of the greatest tears I've ever seen a hitter go on.  The drugs weren't working this time around, though.  Manny's was hitting .059 for the Rays when he decided to quit rather than face the drug abuse music for a second time.  THIRD PERIOD: DETROIT 1, CHICAGO 4.
9:55pm:  Under two minutes to go here and if the Wings can hang on, at least they'll be able to say they played Chicago even for the last 51:15 of the game.  Of course, by 8:45 of the first they were down 3-1.  Oh, look.  Detroit just scored.  They've outplayed the Blackhawks in the final 51 minutes tonight.  They are, nonetheless going to lose and lose rather badly.  Tomas Holmstrom is the goal scorer for Detroit at 18:40.  And...we're done.  FINAL SCORE: DETROIT 2, CHICAGO 4.