Friday, March 9, 2012

Let's Watch the Wings and the Kings!

We are about six minutes away from the opening face here at the Joe where the Wings tonight host the LA Kings.  Detroit again will be without their best player, Pavel Datsyuk (they have won twice, 2-4-1, in the 7 games he's been out), their best defenseman, Niklas Lidstrom and their #1 goalie Jimmy Howard.  For good measure, also out tonight are: defensemen Jakub Kindl and Jonathan Ericsson and forwards Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi.  That's the kind of list that could easily do in most teams.  The Wings with 89 points lead the Kings (74) by fifteen points in the Western Conference standings, but the Kings are what is know in the industry as a desperate team.  LA is in 9th place in the West, one point out of the playoffs, and are part of the logjam which as we enter action on this Friday night sees 5 teams separated by 4 points.  That's the difference between being in 7th place and 11th.

As far as the injuries are concerned, we've only just today learned today how badly Lidstrom was hurt as it was reported that it was only yesterday that he was able to get a skate on his injured foot and skate at practice.  Datsyuk was back on the ice Monday--13 days after having a knee scoped, and it is hoped that he (and Lisdstrom, too for that matter) will be back in the lineup when the Wings head to the coast next week.  The status of the other injured players is unknown as the league has for some time now maintained a tight-lipped policy when it comes to this sort of thing, but as soon as we know something, you will too!

At 7:29, Jeff Carter (18) scored off a goalmouth scramble with the Kings on the power play.  A shot hit the crossbar and Joey MacDonald reacted for a split second as if he thought the puck had gone in  the net.  By the time he realized that it had in fact not, it was too late and Carter slid the puck under him.  Detroit is 12-12-1 (.500) when allowing the first goal this season, Los Angeles is 24-4-6 (.794) when scoring first.  FIRST PERIOD: DETROIT 0, LOS ANGELES 1.

Henrik Zetterberg (17) ties it at 14:40.  Good quick passing got him the puck at the top of the right circle and his one-timer hit the back of the net before LA goalie Jonathan Quick could move from one post to the other. Valtteri Fippula and somebody else (I missed the name what with all the noise in the building) got the assists.  The goal came on Detroit's second shot of the game, LA leading in Shots on Goal right now 8-2.  FIRST PERIOD: DETROIT 1, LA 1.

The second assist on the Zetterberg goal went to Juri Hudler, for those of you scoring at home.

Ooops.  MacDonald gives up a weak one.  A little wrister from the near right boards sort of knuckled over the blocker and into the net and the Kings lead again at 17:41.  FIRST PERIOD: DETROIT 1, LA 2.

The Kings lead after one, 2-1 and the big story is that Detroit was held to 3 shots on goal, the fewest they've had in a period since they got two way back on Tuesday night in the first period in Philadelphia.  The Kings had 9 shots in the first and it was the 9th, the shot that MacDonald muffed, that has cost them in this one.  Detroit is 7-12-1 (.375) when trailing after the first, LA is 14-1-2 (.882) when leading after one.  END FIRST PERIOD: DETROIT 1, LOS ANGELES 2.

We are past the mid-point of the second period (9:39 remaining) and the Wings still do not have a shot on goal in the period, and have only 3 in the game.  What they seem to be demonstrating tonight is that the Grand Rapids Griffins cannot beat the Los Angeles Kings, but we shall see.  SECOND PERIOD: DETROIT 1, LOS ANGELES 2.

Though shorthanded by injury, the Detroit Red Wings still have Filppula and Zetterberg wearing their sweaters tonight and it's a good thing.  Zetterberg has just scored his second of the night and 18th of the season to tie the game after Filppula, making a 360-degree spin at the top of the left circle to avoid the defense, set him up in close.  Zetterberg's backhand sneaked between Quick's right arm and his body (goalies HATE when that happens) and this contest is even.  The goal came at 15:37.  SECOND PERIOD: DETROIT 2, LOS ANGELES 2.

The Wings wound up getting 5 shots in the second half of the period--including the goal by Zetterberg--and so they are hanging in there down there, tied at two after two in spite of being outshot 16-8 after two.  Of the 20 players dressing for Detroit in this game, 5 have been called up from Grand Rapids in the past week or so and those 5 players have a grand total of 18 NHL games between them.  Yet the Wings are tied here, so that's pretty good.  It shows Detroit has some depth in the organization.  And, as I say, they also have Filppula and Zetterberg.

I am not sure when Jimmy Howard, the starting goalie for Detroit, will be back.  He started last Sunday in that 2-1 loss to the Blackhawks here and did not come out for the start of the second period.  I didn't see him get hurt but as a goalie myself, I sort of kind of figured he'd pulled a groin.  It's an occupational hazard.  You butterfly; you hit the ice and spread those pads as far as you can, and your groin at some point lets you know that you are engaging in an unnatural activity.  I think that every season I've played for the last 12 at least at some point I wind up with a sore groin and inevitably it doesn't go away until a month or so after tthe season ends.  Well, it turns out that Howard has a groin pull. He's day to day.  They get better treatment up here in the National League than I do in the beer league, but I'll bet Howard feels that sore groin the rest of the way.  If he doesn't go and really tear it, he'll hurt but he'll play.  They added an assist to Kronwall on the goal by Zetterberg which tied this game late in the second period.  SECOND INTERMISSION: DETROIT 2, LOS ANGELES 2.

We are still tied here just about mid-way through the 3rd.  I'm going to head downstairs now because (did I mention I' playing tonight with a slight groin pull?) it's going to take me a little longer than usual to get to the dressing rooms.  I will update you later when I get the chance.  THIRD PERIOD: DETROIT 2, LOS ANGELES 2.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Let's Watch the Wings and the Blackhawks!

Sure, live everybody else I'd love to be watching the most important sporting event of the day, the final round of The Honda Classic, duh, but here we are at Joe Louis Arena as the Wings host the Blackhawks.  These teams have played four times this season, and each has been decided by a single goal, which makes me think we are due for a blowout by somebody here today.

Speaking of blowouts, I just checked the scoreboard and the Tigers are leading the Braves 17-1 in the bottom of the 7th down in Lakeland where they really ought to think about instituting a "mercy rule" for these spring training games.

I also checked the scoreboard and saw Ohio State 11, Michigan State 5 and was a bit taken aback until I realized that this was not the score, but rather where the teams are ranked.  The game, as it turned out, had not yet begun.  Oops, our first blunder of the afternoon. I am fairly confident it will not be our last.

A Detroit win today will move them back into first place in the Western Conference, and will tie them for first in the overall standings, although the Wings would technically be first by virtue of a better win percentage than the Rangers, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The standings are quite interesting right now.  San Jose got beat by the Blues last night and lost their Pacific Division lead in the process, falling in one night from #3 in the West to #7.  This means that if the playoffs were beginning right now, the Sharks and Wings would meet in the opening round.  Of course, whether or not San Jose even makes the playoffs is an open question.  Here's how the stand in the West as we speak:
#7 San Jose 73
#8 Dallas  73
#9 Los Angeles 72
#10 Colorado 70
#11 Calgary 69

That's five teams separated by four points, and only two of the five are going to make the playoffs.

The teams are out on the ice and we will have the national anthem and then the dropping of the puck and then the etc....

At 3:17, the Blackhawks lead on a power play goal by Patrick Sharp (25).  His shot from the left point appeared to hit Niklas Kronwall and carom in.  Kyle Quincy was off for interference at the time.  First Period: Detroit 0, Chicago 1.

The Wings tie it at 6:03.  Darren Helm made a great play--two of them, really--avoiding checks as he moved into the zone before dropping it back to Kronwall who ripped it from the line, beating Chicago netminder Ray Emory cleanly.  First Period: Detroit 1, Chicago 1.

There's a lot going on out there today.  MSU is off to a good start against Ohio State, leading 14-7 five minutes in with a Spartan win meaning a Big Ten title, and Tigers Woods shot 62 (!) today in the final round of the Honda and is the leader in the clubhouse after moving up 16 spots on the leaderboard.  He is two shots off the lead, though. Lee Westwood, with a 63, moved up an amazing 22 spots.

Gee, I was watching the State game (they are KILLING Ohio State) and I forgot to tell you the first period here is over.  Good period, 1-1 tie.  The Wings hit the post twice neither of which counts as a shot on goal and in that stat, it's Detroit 9-5.  END FIRST: DETROIT 1, CHICAGO 1.

Joey MacDonald replaces Jimmy Howard in goal for Detroit to start the second period,.  We do not know why.  I did not notice Howard getting hurt in the first.

38-29, MSU at the half.  The Spartans had a huge lead halfway through the half, the Buckeyes cut it to 5, and the Spartans lead by nine at the break.  I'd rather have the double-digit lead MSU had earlier, but at the same time, I'd rather be up nine than down nine...

The second period is over and the Wings trail 2-1 on a goal by Patrick Kane with 1:19 left in the second period.  The Wings are outplaying Chicago, but are trailing here.  The Wings have outshot 'em 17-13, and have hit the post at least three times, but are down a goal as we move to the third.  It's been tough to update what with the watching of the MSU-OSU basketball game (State's lead has been cut to 3 in what was once a blowout but which is now a too-close-to-call nailbiter) and Rory McIIlroy has won the Honda Classic by two strokes over Tiger Woods and now will become the #1 golfer in the world at the age of 22.  Oh, and that rookie we gave the #3 star to here the night before last, Bendan Smith, got into his first fight in the second period, getting the clear decision over Andrew Shaw.  Don Cherry would be proud.  End of Two Periods: Detroit 1, Chicago 2.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Let's Watch the Wings and the Wild!

Wings and Wild are on the ice with faceoff here moments away and here is your stat 'o the night: Minnesota's starting goalie, Josh Harding, has a 1.30 goals-against average and .965 save percentage in going 2-0-1 against the Red Wings this season.

This is the fourth and final meeting of these teams this season, but it is the first time they have played since Nov. 1!

It has taken the Wings (30-802, .775 when scoring first) only :35 to take the lead.  Valtteri Filppula (20) grabbed the rebound of a Henrik Zettterberg shot from the left wing half-wall and spun to beat Harding with a backhand.  17:10 to go, First Period: Detroit 1, Wild 0.

The Wings moved up two spots in the Western Conference standings last night without firing a shot in anger.  Detroit was 4th in the West when the night began, and second in their Central Division to St. Louis, even though both teams had 87 points.  The Blues owned the second tie-breaker, which is total wins minus shootout wins.  The Blues have 36, Detroit 35.  However, when St. Louis lost in Vancouver 2-0 last night, it meant that they had played one more game than Detroit, meaning Detroit had a higher winning percentage.  Winning percentage is the first tiebreaker, so the Wings moved back ahead of the Blues, back into first place in the division and back into second place in the conference.  With the win, the Canucks improved to 90 points on the season.  I think it essential that Detroit win the division.  If they don't, they likely will play Nashville in the first round of the playoffs, and I'm here to tell you, Nashville was a very good team to begin and no club, in my view, helped themselves more at the trade deadline than did the Predators.  Much better to have St. Louis and Nashville knock each other out for 7 games in the first round if you ask me.  If the Wings do win the division, they would be seeded no worse than #2 in the postseason which means they would play (and here's where it gets complicated) San Jose or Chicago or Dallas or Los Angeles or Colorado or Calgary in round one.  The difference between 7th place and 11th place in the West is four points right now.  If the playoffs began right now, just for the record, Detroit would have home-ice advantage in a series against the Sharks.  9:00 to go, First Period: Detroit 1, Wild 0.

Brendan Smith, just called up from minor league Grand Rapids has just scored his first career NHL goal from Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi (they may change the scoring as it looked to me like Justin Abdelkader got a stick on it in the goalmouth scramble which preceded the goal).  The goal comes at 16:04.  2:00 left, First Period: Detroit 2, Wild 0.

Let's meet Brendan Smith, who matched Gordie Howe by scoring his first NHL goal in his first NHL game here in the first period tonight.  He's a 6-2, 155 pound, 22-year-old second-year pro from Ontario, drafted in the first round, #27 overall, by the Wings in 2007.  And that's about all we can tell you for now.

The Wings outshot Minnesota 13-5 in the first period.  FIRST INTERMISSION: DETROIT 2, WILD 0.

3-0, Detroit.  At 7:05, Darren Helm's pass was blocked by the Wild's Nick Johnson.  The puck came right back to Helm who fired home his 8th goal of the season.  Assists to Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall, although if you ask me, it could just as easily been an unassisted goal.  The did, by the way, change the scoring on the goal in the first period by Smith.  Take away the assist to Bertuzzi and give it to Abdelkader, and you will have it right.  Second Period: Detroit 3, Wild 0.

Did you know...Since starting the season 20-7-3 (.717) in their first 30 games--good for first place in the Western Confernece,  the Wild have gone 8-19-7 (.338) in 34 games since.  They have fallen to 12th in the West, 5 points out of a playoff spot.

This just in at 8:54pm: The Toronto Maple Leafs, 1-9-1 in their last 11 games, have fired coach Ron Wilson, the nephew of the late Red Wings great Johnny Wilson.  Ron Wilson had to listen to the fans in Toronto chant for his ouster earlier this week during a  lackluster home loss to Florida, and tonight he's gone.  It was only a couple months ago, in December, that Wilson signed a contract extension.  Turns out it was a severance package.  It's like the sign in Sparky Anderson's office used to say: Every 24 hours the world turns over on whoever was on top of it..."

I'm picking the Three Stars tonight and I can tell you right now that Filppula is going to be one of them.  He just scored his second of the night and the 21st of the season to make it 4-0 at 16:35.  Then, 1:07 later at 17:42, Ian White got his 7th to make it 5-0.  Zetterberg and Kronwall assisted on the FIlppula goal--a one-timer from the high slot, while the goal by White--a blueline slapper, was unassisted.  As the period ends, we note that Detroit held Minnesota to 5 shots on goal, and lead in shots 24-10 after 40 minutes.  SECOND INTERMISSION: DETROIT 5, WILD 0.

We've 4 minutes into the third, which means I have to turn the Three Stars in about ten minutes from now.  I'm thinking about giving the 3rd star to Smith because he did score in his first NHL game and because he'd remember it for the rest of his life so why not?  Zetterberg has 3 assists, Howard's not been dented yet, and Filppula has those two goals. If I give a star to Smith, one of those three isn't going to get one.  I suspect they won't mind.

Zedtterberg just got his 15th at 5:30.  The Wings passing was such that Harding got caught way out of position and Zetterberg fired into an empty net.  Third Period: Detroit 6, Wild 0.  

The Stars have been picked : #1 Filppula, #2 Zetterberg and #3 Smith and it is 6-0 and I am heading downstairs for postgame.  See you Sunday when Chicago will be in town!