Well, we're back. For the first time since last May, for the first time since Game 6 of the Western Conference Semi-Final against the San Jose Sharks, we are back at Joe Louis Arena for a Red Wings game. I know what you're saying: "Rich, the Wings opener was, like, a month ago. What's the deal?"
The deal is: Shutup! Do you think I don't know that? Between the Tigers being in the playoffs and my Friday night high school football play-by-play assignments (plus the fact that I blew off the real Opening Night because I hate Opening Nights in general because it's all crowded and a big pain in the whatever) I have had conflicts. Plus, I skipped the entire exhibition schedule on account of the games not counting and I figure they play enough games that do count (82 regular season plus God knows how many in the playoffs) that I don't need to burn a trip downtown for a game or games that don't.
I am badly under-informed as tonight's game begins. How badly, you ask? Here's how badly. This morning my bride asks me if I'm going to the game tonight and I say, "What game?" "I thought the Wings were playing tonight," she says. "I thought they were playing Thursday," I said. "I'm going Thursday." So, I go on-line and, sure enough, the Wings are home to the Minnesota Wild so I had to call the PR guy and make an excuse about failing to call yesterday because you are supposed to call 24 hours in advance and what not to get a credential so he's a little miffed but he says he'll leave a pass anyway, and so here we are. I'm back in the press box again...
The Wings are 5-4-0 which I happen to know because I was paying attention to the scores in October, at least. Detroit won their first 5 games and we were all planning the parade with the Stanley Cup in early June and then, wham, four straight losses. It started when I was in the press box at Spartan Stadium a week ago Saturday night for that great Wisconsin game that the Spartans won on that Hail Mary Full of Grace pass with no time left on the clock and the officials confused about whether MSU had actually scored or not. The Wings--with that perfect record--were in Washington to take on the Capitols that night. We'd get updates during the Spartans game and, to say the least, they were not good. Detroit lost 7-1 or something. "Well, if you're going to lose, you may as well go big..."we said to ourselves. The thing is, the Detroits haven't done anything but lose since that night and so now we figure they're a bunch of stiffs who will miss the playoffs entirely and so much for our nice parade.
The last loss in the current streak (I should say, "the most recent loss") came to these very Wild in Minny Saturday night, 1-0. There will be no repeat of that here tonight. Nicklas Lidstrom, in his 54th season with the Wings, tipped in a shot fired by Henrik Zetterberg at the 6-minute mark and Detroit is ahead 1-0. Pavel Datsyuk made the play out of the near left wing corner and was, appropriately, awarded an assist as well.
As I scan the Detroit roster I note that, to my surprise, there are 3 players I've never heard of and another who I did not know was playing for the Wings this season. Like I said, I've been busy. As far as the Minnesota roster goes, well, let's just say there are several names there with which I am unfamiliar. Plus, my favorite Wild--and perhaps my favorite player, period--Clayton Stoner, is not dressed tonight. Who even wants to come if Stoner can't make it, I ask? I love to say, "Look at the Stoner down there," when he's in the lineup. I never tire of it. You'd think I would, but I don't.
I'm gonna watch some of this game for a while and will check back in later.
The first period ends with Detroit outshooting Minnesota 12-4 and leading 1-0. The Wings are rewarded with warm, sincere applause.
I am somewhat dismayed as I survey the arena tonight to see two large ads sponsored by companies which have actually, personally fired me. It's a little disconcerting. Anyway, I saw an article on NHL.com this afternoon headlined "An Unforgettable First Month", or some such, so I think I'll spend the break reading that so I can learn what it is I'm supposed to never forget. Back later...
The article about the "unforgettable October" turned out to be eminently forgettable. Nothing of note appears to have happened in October. They made a big deal about the games in Finland (who cares?), about the NHL returning to Winnipeg (if you don't happen to be in Winnipeg, who cares?), and the fact that Ottawa and Edmonton either lead or are battling for the lead in their divisions. Yawn. Turns out I didn't miss a thing. That's the problem with the regualar season, no? 82 games nobody cares until the playoffs begin, by which time the Tigers season will have begun. Oh, there was a 9-8 game between somebody and somebody else on Oct. 27, so I'll go look at the highlights of that one as it sounds like that was a pretty good game. I love a good 9-8 hockey game. 1-0 here, still. Read into that what you will.
They just introduced tonight's Red Wings "Oldtimer of the Night" (they call them "Alumni", but we all know what they mean) and the "Oldtimer of the Night" is younger than me. Which is a pisser.
Oooh. I just got asked to pick the 3 Stars here on Saturday night when the Wings play somebody else. Credibility returns to my resume.
I'm planning on reading "Wonkette" during the second intermission and I have to tell you, if things don't pick up here soon, I'm not going to wait for the break.
Second period ends. Shots 21-16, Detroit. Score: 1-0, Detroit. I am glad I am not picking the 3 Stars tonight. We don't have 3 yet in this one.
The third period begins. It is 9:22pm, just for the record.
I'm starting to not like this thing and I'll tell you why: Devon Setoguchi plays for the Wild. This guy killed Detroit in that series against the Sharks last spring. Had a hat trick--which included the gamer in OT in one of the games, and scored a goal against Detroit in Game 7--a game which Detroit just happened to lose by a goal. Todd Bertuzzi just went off for slashing him. And now the Wings are two men short as Drew Miller up and Charged the Wild goalie, which, of course, you cannot do. We'll see...
Jimmy Howard made five or six really nice stops during the Minnesota two-man, so the Wings still lead 1-0. If Detroit goes on to win, this, the killing of the two-men short thing, will be what we in the sportswriting game call the Turning Point which is something which, for reasons unclear to me, is something we are always looking for: every night, every game. It gives us something to ask about. I.E., "Would you say such-and-such was the Turning Point?" Christ, a nine-year old could do this job.
It was announced during the intermission that the local power company has changed to goal lights here from incandescent bulbs to "energy-saving" LED bulbs. In addition to this "Save the Earth" initiative, the two teams here tonight are doing their part by never doing anything which might somehow cause those goal lights to have to be turned on.
If the score holds, at least on the Minnesota side of the ledger, four of Detroit's first ten games this season will have involved a shutout. I'm going to have to shut this down pretty soon so I can get down to the room for pearls. I hope somebody else has some good questions (they won't) because right now I've got exactly nothing. We'll go with the "how's it feel to end the losing streak" crap and hope for the best.
A minute to go...and the Wild tie it! Mikko Koivu tipped in a shot from the line. The crowd boos at the end of reg time. It's 1-1, going OT. I will have to close up shop here now so I can get downstairs in time for postgame. See you back here Thursday night. Calgary or somebody will be here.
PS: We are back home now, chopping up the post game interviews. Nick Lidstrom, in response to my question, said he thought there should have been a penalty against Minnesota's Mikka Koivu seconds before the Wild scored the game-winner in OT. He may be fined for so saying. You know who scored that game winner, don't you? Devon Setoguchi. I knew it. I just bleeping knew it.