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!
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