Western Conference Semifinals, Game 7 (5/12/11)

May 12th, 2011

The Red Wings epic comeback and their season came to a heartbreaking end tonight in San Jose. The Wings played well overall but the Sharks owned the first period and it proved to be too much to overcome for Detroit.

Jimmy Howard and Antti Niemi continued to play incredibly well. The defense was phenomenal both ways. It was hard for both teams just getting the puck out of their own end let alone into the other team’s end. It was another very tight game.

Setoguchi scored first and then Couture scored a last minute goal at the end of the period. The Wings were playing alright in the first period but the Sharks were really pumped up and, with the crowd behind them, they had lots of jump.

The Red Wings mostly dominated the second and third periods and had a lot of scoring chances. Zetterberg scored with a great backhand shot in the second, but then in the third Marleau scored to give the Sharks the two goal lead again. Datsyuk scored a few minutes later and from then on it was a flurry of scoring chances for the Wings but they weren’t able to get the game-tying goal.

It didn’t help losing Bertuzzi early in the game and then losing Cleary in the second period. It was later announced that they both had concussions. Bertuzzi was hit in the chin with Heatley’s helmet and Cleary collided with Hudler catching his elbow in the head. It was some bad luck for the Wings as those guys could have really made a difference in this game.

It was a disappointing outcome considering that a win would have been absolutely historic.

It was also tough to lose this series because overall I thought the Wings were the better team. Detroit won three games in regulation. San Jose won only two in regulation and their two overtime wins both came from goals that deflected in off Red Wings’ sticks. These are two very good teams and they’re very evenly matched. It made for some great hockey but it would have been a lot more enjoyable if the Wings had come out on top.

That does it for another season of Red Wings hockey. It was a great year and the Wings are in good shape to be a top contender again next year.

Now we can all root for the Tampa Bay Lightning and hope to win vicariously through Steve Yzerman.

This 2-3 loss finishes this Western Conference Semifinal series at 3-4 San Jose.

Western Conference Semifinals, Game 6 (5/10/11)

May 10th, 2011

The Red Wings faced elimination for the third game in a row tonight as the Sharks were at Joe Louis Arena for game six. The goalies again were Howard and Niemi. Franzen was out with a bad ankle so Modano was in the lineup tonight. Also, Draper was out and Hudler was back in for this game.

The Wings were in charge of this game from the first drop of the puck until the final horn. It was the most dominating performance I’ve seen in a long time. Every other game in this series has been very even, but not tonight. The only problem was that all that domination didn’t translate into goals. The Wings had tons of incredible scoring chances and weren’t able to convert. Niemi made some great (and some lucky) saves, and the Red Wings missed a lot of wide open nets.

For the first two periods there were no goals. It felt like it should have been about three to nothing Detroit, but the Sharks just kept hanging around. Then, early in the third period, Couture banged a puck by Howard and it just barely crossed the goal line giving the Sharks the lead with the first goal of the game. It felt like a terrible injustice with the way the Wings had been playing.

It had no effect on the Detroit bench. They just kept plugging away and showed no signs of concern let alone panic.

Then Kronwall came off the bench and fired a shot from the high slot after a nice feed from Filppula. Zetterberg tipped the puck in front of the net and deflected it by Niemi tying the game.

A few minutes later Datsyuk fed one across the front of the net to Filppula who tapped it in, giving the Red Wings the well-deserved lead.

Detroit kept up the pressure and San Jose pulled their goalie near the end. Helm got the puck just across center and fired one for the empty-net insurance goal. And the Red Wings hung on for the win.

They did it again. That’s three elimination games in a row that the Wings have survived. The Sharks have to be shaking their heads. It’s no mystery how the Wings won tonight though. They were clearly the better team for the entire game. Howard was amazing. Datsyuk also continued his domination all over the ice. The whole team played and skated as well as I’ve seen all year.

Now the series is all even and will be decided Thursday night in San Jose. All that’s left is for the Red Wings to cap an epic comeback and move on to the next round. Let’s go Red Wings!

This 1-3 win brings this Western Conference Semifinal series to a 3-3 tie.

Western Conference Semifinals, Game 5 (5/8/11)

May 8th, 2011

The Red Wings were in San Jose tonight for game five with the Sharks. This was the second elimination game for the Wings in this series. The goalies were Howard and Niemi. Hudler was out tonight and Miller was in.

The first two periods, and the first minute of the third period, were almost entirely dominated by San Jose. The Red Wings were getting badly outworked, outshot and outscored. Jimmy Howard kept the game close with one spectacular save after another. Setoguchi scored a tip-in goal in the first period. Then Pavelski scored in the second with a wicked shot. The Wings answered shortly after that with a great goal by Kronwall to keep them within a goal.

In the first minute of the third period Couture scored and gave the Sharks the first two goal lead of the game. The Wings didn’t get discouraged but they did get going. Detroit went to work on the Sharks and you could almost feel the momentum shift.

It started with a goal by Ericsson who was deep in the slot and picked up a rebound to get the Wings back to within a goal. Then Cleary took the puck down below the net on a wrap-around and banged away at it near the post until he shoved it in and tied the game.

In the second half of the third period Lidstrom fired a shot that Holmstrom tipped in front of the net and deflected it by Niemi giving the Wings the lead for the first time in the game. Detroit killed off a penalty and managed to keep the Sharks from scoring for the rest of the game.

This was a game that Jimmy Howard stole for his team. The Sharks had this game all but won and the Wings came back and snatched it out from under them. It wouldn’t have even been close if not for the superb play of Howard. Datsyuk was excellent even though he’s playing hurt. Franzen was struggling and landed awkwardly on his ankle a few times. He sat through much of the second half of the game.

The Sharks’ early domination was mostly due to their incredible defensive play. Detroit couldn’t get anything going at all. San Jose was all over them and when Detroit did manage to get a shot off it was often blocked. I don’t know what changed but in the third period things started clicking for the Wings. I think maybe the Sharks backed off a little. Either they were getting tired or they were just playing more conservative defensively. Or maybe Detroit just stepped it up that much more. In any case it was a great come from behind win for the Wings. This forces game six on Tuesday in Detroit. Hope lives…let’s go Red Wings!

This 4-3 win brings this Western Conference Semifinal series to 2-3 San Jose.

Western Conference Semifinals, Game 4 (5/6/11)

May 6th, 2011

The Red Wings and the Sharks played the fourth game of their series tonight with the Wings facing elimination for the first of (hopefully) four times. The goalies were Howard and Niemi. Babcock went with the same lineup as game two so Draper was in and Miller was out.

The Red Wings knew how desperate their situation was tonight but they showed no sign of panic. Both teams are very professional and have a lot of playoff experience, so I don’t think you’ll see any signs of either team being rattled. The Wings came out and played a very determined and grinding type of game. There were momentum swings but I thought Detroit was the better team for most of the night. They outshot the Sharks in each of the three periods and ended up with 40 total shots to the Sharks’ 28.

The Red Wings jumped out to the early lead scoring three goals in a row in the first period. Bertuzzi scored first with a beautiful wrist shot. Then Lidstrom scored with a great slap shot. Those were both even strength goals. Then Lidstrom scored a power play goal by knocking the puck out of the air and one hopping it into the net. Just fifteen seconds after their third goal the Sharks answered with a tip in goal by Couture. That took a little wind out of the Red Wings’ sails. They went to the dressing room up three to one after the first period.

Dan Boyle scored in the second period and then Heatley scored early in the third and tied the game. The third period was a grind with the Red Wings attacking the Sharks almost the entire time. Finally, with about a minute and a half left in the game, Helm and Eaves teamed up for a great goal that Helm scored with a wrist shot. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work at a point in the game where it was essentially sudden death. The Wings hung on to that one goal lead and won the game three to four.

So step one of the comeback is complete. The Red Wings have survived the first elimination game. Now they just have to do the same thing three more times, including two times in San Jose. They stand a better chance than most teams that have been down three games to none throughout history because of the fact that they are evenly matched with their opponent. Usually when a team loses the first three games it’s because the other team is much better. That’s not so in this case. These teams are very close. All the lucky bounces went the Sharks’ way in the first three games. Hopefully, that’ll even out before the end of the series. So far, so good in game four.

This 3-4 win brings this Western Conference Semifinal series to 1-3 San Jose.

Western Conference Semifinals, Game 3 (5/4/11)

May 4th, 2011

The Wings and the Sharks played game three tonight of their Western Conference Semifinal series. The goalies were Howard and Niemi. Miller was out of the lineup and Draper was in.

I’m sorry to say that history repeated itself tonight. It was exactly one year ago that the Sharks beat Detroit 4 to 3 in overtime to take a 3 to 0 lead in the series. That all happened again tonight. And again, it was a game that the Red Wings could have won. They played as well, if not better than San Jose, in my opinion. I thought Detroit looked pretty good. They just got all the bad bounces and San Jose got all the good ones. That’s been the theme so far in this series, although you could argue that San Jose is having better puck luck because they’re working harder. Game one of this series was lost in overtime after the puck deflected off a Red Wing stick. Game two was another one goal game that could have gone either way. And tonight’s overtime game winner also deflected off a Red Wings stick.

Jimmy Howard has been playing very well all along. The goals he’s allowed are mostly ones that were almost impossible to stop; ether deflections or screens or just crazy bounces.

Lidstrom scored a great power play goal in the first period when Zetterberg passed backwards to him in the slot. He blistered it off the goal camera and out so fast that at first nobody was sure it was in except for Lidstrom. In the second period, Eaves scored a good hard working goal that was set up by Helm and Draper, and then Datsyuk scored a power play goal.

Setoguchi had three of the Sharks’ four goals tonight including the game winner. Dan Boyle was the other goal scorer. Boyle had the game tying goal which came with less than five minutes left in the third period.

The Wings had some good scoring chances in the overtime but couldn’t finish them. Then Setoguchi got the lucky bounce and the game was over.

Now the Wings are down three games to none and we all know how dire that situation is.

On a happier note, congratulations to Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lightning for sweeping the Capitals and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.

This 4-3 loss brings this Western Conference Semifinal series to 0-3 San Jose.

Western Conference Semifinals, Game 2 (5/1/11)

May 1st, 2011

The Red Wings and the Sharks played game two this afternoon. Jimmy Howard and Antti Niemi were the starting goaltenders once again.

The Sharks dominated the game today. The Red Wings didn’t really look effective at all until the third period. The Sharks did a great job of shutting down the Wings. They disrupted the Red Wings game, and got lots more shots on goal. The shot total ended up being pretty close by the end but that was a little bit misleading because in the second period the Sharks had 19 shots to the Red Wings’ 9. Detroit also took a lot of penalties and San Jose’s first goal was scored on the power play.

Jimmy Howard was excellent in net but the Red Wings offensive production was all but eliminated by the Sharks.

The goal scorers were Ian White and Niclas Wallin for the Sharks. Zetterberg finally scored one for the Wings well past the halfway point of the third period. It was a nice goal but they weren’t able to get another one to tie the game.

The series now heads back to Detroit for game three. Hopefully, the Wings can build on the production they had at the tail end of this game and get the series back to even. They’re going to have to find a way to get around the Shark’s defense because so far they’ve been nearly perfect.

This 1-2 loss brings this Western Conference Semifinal series to 0-2 San Jose.

Western Conference Semifinals, Game 1 (4/29/11)

April 29th, 2011

Round two finally got underway for the Red Wings tonight after what seemed like an eternity of down time. The rest was just what the doctor ordered for Franzen and Zetterberg who were both back in the lineup tonight. Draper and Modano were healthy scratches. The goalies were Howard and Niemi.

The Red Wings scored the opening goal in the first period when Datsyuk made a nice feed to Lidstrom in the slot. Lidstrom slapped it past Niemi to give the Wings the first lead of the series. For the rest of the game Jimmy Howard faced a barrage of shots from San Jose. For the most part though, I thought the Sharks’ chances were not very dangerous. Even though the Wings were outshot for most of the game, I felt like they had the better opportunities to score. Jimmy Howard was superb and the Red Wings defense did a great job of keeping the Sharks to low percentage shots.

In the third period Bertuzzi was called for boarding. It was a marginal call and I thought Pavelski overreacted. It certainly wasn’t flagrant, but Pavelski reacted like he’d just been hit in the back with a sledgehammer and collapsed into the boards in a heap. It’s amazing how getting hit up high can make your legs give out like that. Of course the San Jose broadcasters from CSN didn’t have a problem with the call. They also blind to Pavelski’s knee hitting Jimmy Howard in the head earlier in the game. No matter how many times they watched the replay all they ever saw a simple snow shower. The knee wasn’t that bad in my opinion but neither was Howard’s shove afterwards. I would have had no problem with them not calling anything on the play but if they’re going to call one it’s only fair that they should call both, which is what they did. The CSN crew seemed to think that only Howard should have been penalized. I don’t know why broadcasters in certain markets feel the need to spin things like that; as if their viewers can’t handle the truth. In Detroit you can tell that they want the Red Wings to win but they also want the game to be called consistently and fairly. Mickey Redmond will routinely complain about bad calls even if they favor the Red Wings, and rightly so. Nobody wants to win a game because of a bad call. These guys from San Jose seem to think it’s part of their job to skew everything to favor the Sharks. The broadcasters in Nashville are notorious for that as well, but I digress. Pavelski went on to score during the ensuing power play and tie the game for the Sharks.

The tie held until the end of regulation. In the overtime period Abdelkader was called for an accidental high stick that didn’t look all that violent but apparently drew blood because he got a double minor. The Wings managed to kill off the four minute penalty. Shortly after that Ferriero threw a puck towards the net. It deflected off of Kronwall’s stick in front of Howard and went into the net giving the Sharks the win in game one. Ferriero was a last minute addition to the Sharks’ lineup and it was his birthday so it was quite a special night for him to get the game winner in OT.

I thought the Red Wings played pretty well tonight and just got a bad bounce at the end. They had a good start to the game, Howard was excellent and, although they were badly outshot, I thought they did a good job of limiting quality scoring chances. They need to generate more offensively, especially considering that Niemi has been inconsistent in the playoffs. He was pulled twice in the first round. The Wings have a lot that they can take from this game and build on for game two.

This 1-2 loss brings this Western Conference Semifinal series to 0-1 San Jose.

Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game 4 (4/20/11)

April 20th, 2011

Game four of the Red Wings’ series with the Coyotes once again featured a goalie matchup between Howard and Bryzgalov. Franzen was a last minute scratch due to a lower body injury so Modano was in the lineup tonight. Zetterberg was still unable to play.

The Wings scored first and, as usual, it was early in the period. This time, however, the Coyotes answered with two of their own giving them their first lead since the opening period of game one. Both of the Coyotes’ goals deflected in off of Red Wings players but Phoenix still felt a boost to their confidence and generated some momentum. Detroit was unfazed. They just continued playing their game and working hard all over the ice. Near the end of the first period they tied it up when Eaves tapped the puck in the net after being set up by an awesome play by Helm. The period ended with the score tied at two.

The Red Wings and the Coyotes each scored power play goals in the second. Hanzal scored for the Coyotes and Kronwall for the Wings. After two periods it was tied at three. I was starting to think they might be in store for an overtime battle tonight. It seemed to be the night for it since two other games had gone to double overtime earlier in the night including the Capitals and the Rangers which caused the national viewers to miss the beginning of the Red Wings game on Versus. I wish they could put the national games on Center Ice as well so that we don’t have this problem. It’s just a matter of time until somebody goes three or four overtimes and we end up missing an entire game.

Phoenix gave it their best in the third period and Bryzgalov was playing very well. The back breaker came at 13:41 when Cleary fired a shot with absolutely no angle and banked it in off the back of Bryzgalov’s leg through the tiniest of openings. It was an amazing goal and I think it really deflated the crowd and the players for Phoenix. Just a few minutes later Bertuzzi scored on a wrap-around that bounced in off the skate of a Phoenix player. With their hopes dwindling, the Coyotes pulled the goalie with about two minutes to go. After several players missed the net, Eaves finally nailed the empty net goal putting the final nail in the coffin for the Coyotes’ season.

So it was a first round sweep for the Red Wings who are really cranking on all cylinders right now. The best news is that they’re the first team done with round one so they have the most possible time to rest up and recover before round two. Hopefully, Franzen and Zetterberg will both be ready to go in time for the start of the next round. Way to go, Red Wings!

This 6-3 win finishes this Western Conference Quarterfinal series to 4-0 Red Wings.

Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game 3 (4/18/11)

April 18th, 2011

Tonight it was game three of Detroit’s first round series against the Phoenix Coyotes. The goalies were Bryzgalov and Howard. The rest of the lineups were also unchanged from game two.

This game picked up right where game two left off; with the Red Wings completely in charge. Detroit jumped to early lead again tonight. Salei scored with a slapper from the point and then Miller tipped in a point shot from Kronwall. The Coyotes were two goals down before the game was three minutes old. That pretty well took the crowd out of it and it also put the Coyotes off their game. They were playing catch up for the rest of the night.

Filppula scored early in the second period and Franzen scored early in third. They were both great shots but Bryzgalov is taking a lot of heat for not being good enough in this series. Howard, on the other hand, was excellent once again last night.

On the Phoenix side of the score sheet, they had had power play goals from Schlemko and Whitney. They can build on the fact that they outplayed Detroit on specialty teams. The Wings were 0 for 4 on the power play and Phoenix was 2 for 3. There were some very weak penalties called in this game. The roughing call on Hanzal early in the second period was particularly ridiculous. I don’t understand what the ref was thinking making that call.

They Coyotes were pretty ineffective against the Wings. They did a pretty good job of controlling Datsyuk tonight but as a group the Wings just completely rolled over them. I don’t know if the Wings are just that much better or if maybe the off-ice issues are interfering with the focus of the Coyotes. Not to take anything for granted, but at this point my biggest concern is that the Red Wings will be over confident heading in to round two where they’re sure to face much stronger resistance.

But for now it’s time to stay focused on game four which will be Wednesday night in Phoenix. The Red Wings will try to keep it rolling and close out this series early with a sweep.

This 2-4 win brings this Western Conference Quarterfinal series to 3-0 Red Wings.

Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game 2 (4/16/11)

April 16th, 2011

Today was game two of the first round of the playoff series between the Red Wings and the Coyotes. The goalies were Howard and Bryzgalov. Modano was a healthy scratch again.

This was certainly an exciting game! There were incredible individual plays, injuries and heroic returns, lots of violent hits, utter domination by the Red Wings throughout much of the game, and a heart-pounding come back by the Coyotes at the end.

Franzen went face first into the boards early in the first period and cut himself pretty badly. He was very unsteady leaving the ice. I was worried that along with the obvious cut, he might have whiplash or even a concussion. The crowd was really on Shane Doan about it because he made contact with Franzen just before the wipe out. It wasn’t Doan’s fault though. Franzen’s skate got stuck and he was losing his balance as Doan hit him. It was just an unlucky play. Doan is not a dirty player so I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. Incredibly Franzen returned in the second period after receiving 21 stitches in his face. You could see Babcock asking if he should be wearing a visor and Franzen was just shaking his head. When he skated out for the first time the crowd chanted his name. It was a great moment. Later, Franzen shoved Doan after a whistle and Doan gave him a face wash with the glove. I thought that was pretty cheap and probably hurt like hell after the injuries to Franzen’s face.

By the end of the first period, the Red Wings had three goals and the Coyotes had none. Datsyuk had a goal and two assists. The third goal was scored thanks to an incredible move by Datsyuk. He came in on Bryzgalov showing backhand but Bryzgalov was well-positioned. Datsyuk pulled the puck back between his own legs and got off a great shot. Even though it surprised Bryzgalov he still made the save, but he kicked a juicy rebound right out to the slot where the trailer, Helm, was in perfect position to bang it in for the third goal. Earlier in the first period, Datsyuk and Rafalski had each scored power play goals. The Wings were on fire.

Detroit scored again early in the second period when Holmstrom tipped in a puck that was fired by Filppula. It looked like the Wings were going to coast to an easy win, but then Vrbata scored a power play goal to give the Coyotes some hope.

Also in the second period, Helm was called for boarding against Jovanovski. It didn’t look that bad to me at all. In fact, Jovanovski’s reaction was worse than the hit, in my opinion. He came up to Helm after the play and grabbed him by the chin. He held on to Helm’s face and yelled at him. Helm made no attempt to resist or fight back, which I thought took a lot of discipline. I really didn’t see what the big deal was but the refs gave Helm two minutes for boarding. Something must have happened though because Jovanovski left the game after that and did not return.

In the third period the Red Wings got into some serious penalty trouble and the Coyotes scored two power play goals bringing them to within one of tying it up. That made for a pretty interesting finish as they battled to try to tie the game. The Wings were able to hold them off and take a two game lead in the series.

By the time this game was half over, Datsyuk had made about three games worth of highlight reel plays. He was an absolute force of nature out there. He was totally in charge of the game in the first period and the Coyotes were powerless against him. It was a treat to watch.

The Red Wings are playing great hockey right now. Datsyuk looks as good if not better than ever. Howard is playing really well, in fact I can’t think of anybody who isn’t pulling their weight. Now they shift to Phoenix for game three on Monday night.

This 3-4 win brings this Western Conference Quarterfinal series to 2-0 Red Wings.