Archive for May, 2009

Stanley Cup Finals, Game 2 (5/31/09)

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Less than a day after winning game one, Detroit is facing off tonight in game two of the Stanley Cup Finals against Pittsburgh.

The Red Wings lineup was unchanged from yesterday. They were still without Datsyuk and Draper. Osgood and Fleury were the starting goalies. The Penguins replaced defenseman Boucher with forward Dupuis.

Detroit got so much time from their third and fourth lines last night that I’m guessing fatigue will be more of a problem for the Penguins. The only thing that the Red Wings really needed to improve on from last night was the giveaways. They had a lot of turnovers and they were lucky to still have dominated the game. They did so well on faceoffs that I think that helped negate the large number of turnovers they had.

Just to clear up one issue, the media ran straight to Sidney Crosby and told him that Mike Babcock had accused him of headhunting. They made it sound like Babcock was complaining about Crosby’s play. If you listen to his comments in context though, he was being complimentary. He was saying that liked the way Crosby and Zetterberg went at each other. It’s just another example of the media twisting words and inventing controversies. When will they learn that what’s happening on the ice is exciting enough without making up garbage like that?

In the first five minutes Detroit seemed to be having some problems again with giveaways. They did a good job of nullifying Pittsburgh’s opportunities after the fact. The third and fourth lines were once again playing very well and with a lot of energy.

Towards the end of the period Pittsburgh started gaining momentum and had several good chances. Osgood was on top of his game as usual.

The first power play went to Pittsburgh late in the first period when Kronwall crosschecked Talbot. The Penguins got the puck in on Osgood. He stopped it but the Penguins had about 10 whacks at it. It was bouncing around and eventually it bounced between Osgood and Stuart and ended up going in off of Stuart’s stick. Malkin got credit for the goal which put his team up one to nothing.

That score held until the end of the period. The Wings were badly outshot in the first period and Pittsburgh had all the energy and confidence for the second half of the period. Detroit was very sloppy with the puck in their end. They had a lot of turnovers again. The Red Wings had no shots in the last ten minutes of the period and Pittsburgh had nine.

The Wings looked really sloppy in the first few minutes of the second period. They kept turning the puck over, icing it, and going offside. They just weren’t looking very good. Then the fourth line came out and had a good shift which seemed to wake them up a little. Then the top line had a great shift and nearly scored several times and Pittsburgh finally iced it. Right off the faceoff they got the puck back to Ericsson who ripped it from the blue line. Helm was in front for the tip but he didn’t touch it. The shot beat Fleury and tied the game at one each.

The Red Wings had tons of momentum at that point. Zetterberg had one especially beautiful chance but Fleury stoned him.

Detroit got their first power play near the halfway point of the second period. Malkin had taken down Ericsson and was called for interference.

Detroit didn’t score but continued pressuring after the penalty ended. Filppula did a great job at the blue line to keep the puck in and got it to Hossa. Hossa shot it with Holmstrom in front of the net. Fleury stopped the puck and the rebound came out to the side of the net. Filppula was there to pick it up and shot a backhander from almost at the goal line into the top corner of the net. The Wings took the lead two to one.

Detroit had several glorious chances in the last minute of the period which started when Cleary went very strongly to the net. Fleury had some amazing saves. They didn’t score but they really built some momentum that would hopefully carry over into the third period.

The second period overall was probably better for the Wings than the first was. They still had a lot of problems but when they turned it up a notch they were great. There were a few spurts of a few minutes each where they looked fantastic. Those runs were enough to override the sloppy play during the rest of the period. Detroit did much better in terms of shots on goal and in fact had the lead by the end of the second period.

Early in the third period Detroit brought the pressure but they didn’t score. Pittsburgh got something going at the other end and they hit a post. The puck came back across the goal line behind Osgood. Zetterberg ended up on the ice in the net. Crosby shot again and the puck ended up under Zetterberg. The play was reviewed but there was clearly no goal.

A few minutes later Abdelkader took the puck at his own blue line and skated through the neutral zone. He took it into the Pittsburgh end with two guys on him. Gill knocked the puck away from him but he regained control. Abdelkader turned around slapped it at the net. It seemed to fool Fleury a little bit and went over his shoulder into the net. That made it three to one Detroit. It was Abdelkader’s second playoff goal of his career; the first was about 24 hours earlier.

With just under two minutes left Pittsburgh pulled their goalie again. There was some chaos in front of Detroit’s net but Osgood came up with it. Then there was a shot that Osgood stopped and Talbot took another shot at Osgood. That started a big fight between Zetterberg and Malkin. Unfortunately, Zetterberg threw most of his punches with his gloves on. They both ended up with their jersey’s off which means they weren’t tied down. Osgood and Talbot were getting into a little bit, too. There was only 18.2 seconds left at that point. When they sorted out the penalties Detroit had a 5 on 3 power play for the rest of the game.

The game ended with Detroit still up three to one. They did a great job shutting down Crosby again tonight. The team defense in the third period by the Wings was just incredible. Every time the Penguins got the puck the Wings converged and took the puck away. There were only a few quality chances for the Penguins and Osgood was perfect stopping them.

Now they move to Pittsburgh for Tuesday night’s game. Pittsburgh having last change could be a big factor since Bylsma seems very concerned with getting his desired matchups. Hopefully, the Red Wings can keep their momentum going on Tuesday.

This 1-3 win brings this Stanley Cup final series to 2-0 Detroit.

Stanley Cup Finals, Game 1 (5/30/09)

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

The grand finale of this season starts tonight as the Red Wings take on the Penguins in game one of the Stanley Cup Finals. The dream rematch of last year’s finals has come to pass. Sidney Crosby wants a Stanley Cup but he’s going to have to get past the best team in the league first.

The Red Wings are a little bit banged up heading into this game. Datsyuk is still not able to play after injuring his foot blocking a shot. Draper is also still out with a groin injury. Lidstrom and Ericsson will be able to go tonight so that’s great news. Lidstrom is coming off of a groin injury and Ericsson had his appendix removed just a few days ago.

The biggest and most obvious story of these finals is Marian Hossa and whether or not he made the right choice by switching teams from Pittsburgh to Detroit. Another big story will be Chris Osgood. Before the playoffs started he was universally identified by the media as the Red Wings one weak point. In actuality he’s been brilliant throughout the playoffs.

The game started out with an awesome pace. The action was incredible; it was really entertaining to watch. There were lots of hits both ways but Detroit seemed to be getting blindsided in the neutral zone uncomfortably often. There were good scoring chances at both ends but Detroit’s seemed to be more potent in my opinion. It seemed fairly easy for the Wings to nullify Pittsburgh’s attempts.

With a little under seven minutes left in the first, Detroit started rallying in Pittsburgh’s end. The Penguins turned the puck over twice in their own zone and Brad Stuart did a great job to keep the puck in at the blue line. He shot one towards Hossa who was along the boards behind the net. The puck hit the back boards and bounced to the net where hit Fleury in the back side and went in. Hossa didn’t touch the puck so it was Stuart’s goal. The Wings were up one to nothing.

Nearing the end of the first period Stuart turned it over in his own end to Malkin who took the shot. Osgood stopped it but it bounced away from his pads. He was pretty far out in front of the crease so that little bit of separation left a gaping hole between the puck and the net. It was only about a foot away from him and he dove for it with his glove but it was too late. Fedotenko seized the opportunity and put the puck in the net tying the game at one with a minute and twenty three seconds left in the period.

The Penguins came out in the second period with a lot of jump. Osgood made some great saves but also gave up some big rebounds. Fortunately, his teammates were always in the right place at the right time to clear it away. Detroit was putting the pressure on in Pittsburgh’s end and Kronwall was tripped up by Malkin. There was no penalty called and Malkin ended up all alone on a breakaway. Osgood stood his ground and stopped him cold to keep the game tied.

A few minutes later Lebda was called for slashing and the penalty killing unit went to work. The Wings killed it off but there were some scary moments. One big scrum in front of Osgood was particularly dangerous but they were able to keep it out. As usually, Helm was great on the penalty kill. With such speed and tenacity he’s just a joy to watch.

Very shortly after that kill Samuelsson was called for holding so they were right back at it on the PK. The Wings killed it off again.

Later in the second period the Red Wings got caught in a bit of a squirrely change and the Penguins ended up with another scoring chance that looked for sure like it was an easy goal. Somehow Osgood kept it out. Then Crosby had a breakaway and made spin move. Rafalski was having none of that and stayed right with him. He still got the shot away though and Osgood stopped it.

Then Hossa drew a penalty with his strength and speed and the Wings went on their first power play. They had some chances but didn’t score. Holmstrom took an elbow to the face at least a full second after the play was blown dead and there was no call. The referees weren’t calling anything except the most blatant penalties and apparently nothing after the whistles. It made for an exciting game but it also allowed some liberties to be taken in front of the net.

Nearing the end of the second period the Wings were pressuring hard and the Penguins finally iced it. They had already been on the ice for a long shift so Bylsma called their timeout to rest them. After the timeout the Wings kept up the pressure. Franzen shot it but it was blocked and came back to Rafalski. He shot it off the back boards again and it bounced back next to the net. Fleury was watching it the whole way. Fleury dove for it but Franzen was there to chip it towards the net. It hit Fleury’s skate and bounced into the net. That made it two to one Detroit. Both of Detroit’s goals had been banked in off of Fleury after hitting the back boards.

The second period ended with Detroit up two to one. The Penguins won most of the small battles in the second period just as Detroit did in the first. They were quicker to the puck and just seemed outplay the Wings in that period. Luckily the score didn’t reflect it as the Wings scored the only goal in the period. After two periods Detroit was slightly ahead in shots on goal and hits but they were way ahead on faceoffs. However, they had 15 giveaways to Pittsburgh’s 10.

In the third period Detroit was looking pretty good. Hossa made a beautiful outlet pass right on the tape for Helm who was on a breakaway against Gill. He beat Gill easily but Gill slashed him on the hands just enough to distract him and he flubbed the shot.

A few seconds later Leino was working the puck behind Pittsburgh’s net. He passed it to Abdelkader and he one-timed it. It hit the side of the net and popped straight up in the air back towards Abdelkader. Nobody seemed to know where it was except for Abdelkader who was following it the whole way. He gloved it to the ice and shot it into the net giving the Red Wings a three to one lead. That was Abdelkader’s first playoff goal and Leino’s first playoff point on the assist.

The Penguins pulled their goalie with about two minutes left in the game. They didn’t score and Detroit didn’t get an empty netter so the scored held until the end.

The Red Wings were great tonight, especially in the first and third periods. In the second period Pittsburgh was a little bit better but for most of the game it was advantage Detroit. Osgood was amazing and the fourth line guys were just incredible. Also, Helm was a maniac out there. He had a ton of ice time and he deserves it. I wish he could play the entire game. He brings so much energy to every shift and the rest of the team really seems to feed off of it.

The Wings did an excellent job of shutting down Malkin and Crosby. Zetterberg especially did very well against Crosby. If they can keep this up we’ll be in good shape the rest of the way.

Game two is tomorrow at 8:00 PM; less than a day away. With as much ice time as the fourth line had the Wings should be more ready to play tomorrow than the Penguins will be. They really spread the ice time around.

This 1-3 win brings this Stanley Cup final series to 1-0 Detroit.

Tampa Bay Area TV Coverage

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

The local NBC affiliate in the Tampa Bay Area, WFLA, is pre-empting game one to televise the All Children’s Hospital Telethon.

This happens every year. I don’t know why they don’t just move telethon to another weekend. What difference does it make what weekend it takes place? They even did the same thing when the Lightning were in the finals.

Anyway, the game has been picked up by the Sunshine Network. If you have Brighthouse Networks cable that’ll be channel 31. I’m not sure if the HD feed will be picked up or not but if it is I believe it will be on channel 719.

Stanley Cup Finals Game One Preview

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

It’s good news for us Red Wings fans! Helene St. James at the Detroit Free Press is reporting that Ericsson and Lidstrom will both be able to play tonight in game one. Datsyuk is questionable and Draper is out. The rumor is that Draper and Lidstrom both have groin problems. Lidstrom is ready to go but Draper has a ways to go yet. Datsyuk is close to returning from his foot injury. They all skated in practice yesterday except for Ericsson but he’s still expected to play.

It’s hard to believe that Ericsson will be able to play so soon after have an appendectomy. He must be one tough hombre!

I think it’s very important that Lidstrom play and that he’s fully healthy. He did such a great job last year, along with the rest of the defense, of shutting down Crosby and Malkin. In fact, as I recall, Hossa was the Penguins most effective player last year.

The Penguins are a better and more experienced team this year, but so are the Red Wings. If the Wings can stop Crosby and Malkin as well as they did last year this should be a slam dunk. But that’s easier said than done. I won’t be surprised if Crosby and Malkin are a lot better against the Wings than they were last year. If that happens we could be in for a game seven.

Let’s hope the Red Wings can do it again! Go Wings!!!

Western Conference Finals, Game 5 (5/27/09)

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Tonight the Red Wings took on the Blackhawks with a game in Detroit. The Wings had a chance to wrap it up in this game and move on to the Penguins and the Stanley Cup Finals. It would be a difficult task with Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Draper and Lilja all still out. To make matters worse Ericsson was also out after having an emergency appendectomy. He’s only expected to miss one game which is just incredible. The Hawks were without Havlat, which is probably for the best. Khabibulin was still out as well. Osgood and Huet were the starting goaltenders.

Detroit was hot right from the get-go in this one. They had some glorious scoring chances and took 21 shots in the first period alone. Huet stood on his head and although he looked a little shaky, he didn’t let anything get behind him. At the other end Chicago had a few good chances as well. Osgood looked very sharp as usual.

Detroit had two power plays in the first, one when Helm was hooked by Sharp and another when Chicago had too many men on the ice. The Hawks were really tight on the penalty kill. I’m sure they were happy to end the period with no score.

Chicago had a lot more jump in the second period. They pressured hard and Osgood had to be, and was on fire to keep his team in the game.

Holmstrom and Fraser got into a scuffle behind Chicago’s net and both got roughing penalties. Eager was in the box as well for a 10 minute misconduct. Apparently he was mouthing off about something to the referee. It was 4 on 4 since the misconduct doesn’t cost you a man. Then Hossa was called for slashing and the Hawks had a 4 on 3 power play. Detroit did a good job killing that off. Just a few seconds later Lebda was penalized for a hook. It was a goal saving hook to negate a Chicago breakaway after a turnover so you can’t complain too much about Lebda taking a penalty in that situation. On the power play Detroit had a couple of shorthanded chances. Helm singlehandedly killed off the last 25 seconds of the penalty. He was incredible. He ducked and dodged his way around the entire Blackhawks team while they tried to take it away from him and he had two good scoring chances! His theme music should be the Benny Hill song (Yakety Sax).

The penalty parade continued in the second period. Duncan Keith was called for slashing and during the power play Holmstrom was called for tripping. Even through all of the power play time neither team scored in the second period.

Chicago had a ton of scoring chances in the first two minutes of the third period. They were really buzzing and Osgood kept shutting the door.

Then Detroit had some good chances at the other end and it finally paid off. They were really putting the pressure on and Chicago couldn’t clear it. It came back to Lebda at the point. He shot it and Cleary was in front of Huet. Cleary tipped it between his own legs and past Huet to take the one to nothing lead. It was a great goal for Cleary who had almost tipped one in on the same shift just a few seconds earlier.

With just over seven minutes left in the game Kane took the puck in and backhanded it over Osgood and into the net. Osgood didn’t give him much room but he threaded the needle. That was Kane’s first goal of the series and it was a timely one for the Hawks.

In the last thirty seconds Franzen had a wide open net on a rebound attempt. He elevated the puck and Huet was laying flat on his stomach. Huet made an incredible save with his skate to hold the tie.

The tie held until the end of regulation so they went to overtime for the third time in this series.

In the overtime Detroit was dominant. Chicago had a few chances but it was mostly Detroit attacking. The Wings were doing a great job of collecting rebounds and cutting off clearing attempts to keep the pressure on. Finally, Lebda shot from the point, it hit the backboards and came back between Huet’s knees where Holmstrom pushed it through but it didn’t go in. The puck went through Huet and come out the other side of the crease and laid there. Helm jumped on it and popped it in for the overtime, game winning, series clinching goal. It was so fitting that Helm got the goal after the great game he had tonight. Aside from Osgood he was probably the MVP of the game.

Overall this was a fantastic series for the Wings. Congratulations to the Blackhawks who had a phenomenal year and will only get better. I have a feeling that the road to the Stanley Cup will pass through Chicago in the next few years.

Now the Wings have to face a red hot Pittsburgh team. I can hardly believe that this season has come down to a rematch. It will determine whether or not Hossa made the right choice. That’ll be quite a storyline for this series.

The first two games of the finals will be back to back for some reason. They will take place this Saturday and Sunday in Detroit. Hopefully our injured guys can get healthy enough to play over the next couple of days.

Here come the Finals….let’s go Red Wings!!!

This 1-2 overtime win finishes this Western Conference Final series at 4-1 Detroit.

Western Conference Finals, Game 4 (5/24/09)

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

This afternoon the Red Wings were in Chicago for game four against the Blackhawks. Terrible news for Detroit: Lidstrom was out with a lower body injury. Chelios was in to round out the defense. Datsyuk was also still out and Draper was back out after returning for a few games. For Chicago, Khabibulin was out and Huet was in.

Havlat was fine and was in for today’s game. The fans were booing every time Kronwall touched the puck. Everyone from Chicago including players, coaches, fans and local media seemed to think that it was a dirty hit even though every national analyst I’ve heard thought it was a good clean hit and that the penalty was way too extreme. I guess that’s the hometown bias.

It was a nice treat to see the Chicago anthem singer Jim Cornelison on TV, which they showed in honor of Memorial Day. No offense to Karen Newman (she’s awesome), but Chicago has a truly classic anthem with the booming voice backed up by the organist. It’s an old school show for sure.

Detroit had a pretty good start in this game. They controlled the puck a lot more than Chicago did early on. The Wings were shorthanded again early in this one when Zetterberg was called for interference in the first half of the first period.

While shorthanded Detroit got a two on one breakaway with Filppula and Hossa on the rush. Hossa passed to Filppula and Filppula made a beautiful pass to get it back to Hossa. Hossa shot it and it looked like Huet had it but it got through and into the net to give the Wings the early one to nothing lead. They still had over half a minute of penalty time to kill off and they did so. Pretty good penalty kill for the Wings to put it mildly.

Later in the first Detroit got a power play when Pahlsson shouldered Filppula in the jaw well away from the puck. They had some good chances but didn’t score on the power play.

There was some 4 on 4 action and Chicago had some great scoring chances but Detroit worked well together and Osgood made some big saves to keep them out of the net.

With only about 20 seconds left in the first period Franzen brought the puck into the offensive zone. He snapped one high over Huet’s shoulder and found the top corner of the net. That gave the Wings a two to nothing lead in the first period and probably shook Chicago’s confidence in Huet because that was one that he should have had.

Detroit started the second period on the power play because of some garbage that happened at the end of the first. Kronwall had put a small hit on Kane at the end of the first period and drew a bunch of attention from the Hawks after the whistle. During the power play Filppula brought the puck into the zone and passed it to Hossa. Hossa took a shot and Huet stopped it but the rebound came back to Filppula who buried it to put the Wings up three to nothing with just over one period of play on the books. Filppula and Hossa were really clicking. They looked unstoppable in this game. Filppula makes such sweet passes and Hossa has such a great shot. It’s quite a match.

A few minutes later, Chicago had a power play when Detroit was called for delay of game. During Chicago’s power play Havlat got hit by Stuart along the boards almost exactly like he did in game three. He was looking down at the puck and Stuart nailed him. He didn’t get knocked out this time though and left the ice under his own power while play continued. Then Barker shot from the blue line. Osgood stopped it but the puck was sitting near the crease and Toews picked it up and put it in the net making it three to one Wings.

Immediately after the faceoff Hossa took the puck into the offensive zone. He crossed through the slot and released a shot that beat Huet and found the back of the net. That put the Wings back up by three goals and took the wind out of Chicago’s sails just seconds after they had scored.

That was the end of the game for Huet. The Hawks put in Crawford who had never played in a playoff game before.

Then the Hawks were getting called for a delayed penalty on Walker and Versteeg crosschecked Leino after the whistle right in front of the referee. Detroit went on the 5 on 3 power play. During the power play Zetterberg got the puck from Rafalski at the point. He went skate to stick with it and put it in the net. It was five to one Wings with well over a minute of power play time left to go. Chicago killed off the rest of the penalty but immediately after it ended Versteeg came out of the box and crosschecked Hudler so he went straight back to the box. That was two terrible penalties in a row for Versteeg.

With about five minutes left in the second period Eager was given a 10 minute misconduct for mouthing off to the referee. It was pretty clear at that point that the wheels had come off for Chicago. They were frustrated and making stupid and selfish decisions.

The second period ended with Detroit up five to one.

In the third period Chicago put Huet back in net and Detroit put Conklin in. The Wings just wanted to protect Osgood. I think Chicago was just putting their better goalie in. They needed him to get in the grove because he was the best they had available. You can’t afford to have a bad game when you’re the backup goalie and the number one is injured.

The third period felt like a formality.

Eager elbowed Leino in the back of the head and this time he got a game misconduct.

In the second half of the third period Detroit was on the power play and Rafalski shot from the point. Huet made the stop and the rebound came back to Zetterberg who went skate to stick again and knocked it in for Detroit’s sixth goal of the night.

Versteeg was kicked out of the game in the late stages of the third. The Blackhawks had completely lost their composure. The Red Wings were basically just goofing ar0und out there at that point.

The Wings were fantastic in this game. Considering the injuries they had to overcome it is truly incredible that they dominated so completely. They were the consummate professionals while the Hawks were losing it all over the ice. This is a testament to the depth of the Red Wings and a very bad sign for the Blackhawks in this series. Hopefully this one will be wrapped up on Wednesday in the Detroit.

This 6-1 win brings this Western Conference Final series to 3-1 Detroit.

Western Conference Finals, Game 3 (5/22/09)

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Tonight Detroit was in Chicago for game three. Chicago’s lineup was unchanged but Datsyuk was out for Detroit. He was apparently injured when a puck hit him in game two. It’s not clear how long he’ll be out but hopefully just the one game. Leino was in to take his spot. The goalies of course were Osgood and Khabibulin.

The game started with a pretty fast pace and a lot of back and forth action. Then Cleary high sticked Toews and apparently drew blood because he got a double minor. The Wings killed off the first two minutes, but on the second minor Chicago scored. The Hawks moved the puck very well once they finally got it into the zone. Havlat gave it to Seabrook at the point. He gave it back to Havlat who sent it across to Bolland. He passed back to Seabrook who one timed it from just inside the blue line. There was some traffic in front of the net, Sharp tipped it and Osgood missed it.

Then about a minute later they scored again. Bolland gave it to Ladd who took a shot on the rush. Osgood stopped the shot but the rebound came straight back and Ladd picked it up again. He pushed it through Osgood’s legs and into the net. That gave the Blackhawks an early two to nothing lead. The first period wasn’t even half over yet at that point.

A few minutes later Kronwall destroyed Havlat with a huge hit along the boards. He had it timed perfectly but Havlat missed the puck so he never had possession. He was clearly unconscious for a minute or two and a few scrums broke out. Kronwall was given five minutes and a game misconduct for interference. Franzen and Byfuglien had offsetting two minute roughing calls. Chicago had a five minute power play which would take them down to under two minutes left in the period. Havlat went to the bench and sat down for a second then went to the dressing room. He was still pretty messed up at that point. Kronwall did leave his feet slightly but that was after the collision. He hit him with his shoulder and the puck was at his feet. This was clearly a penalty based on the result of the hit, not its legality because it was a totally clean hit. Like everyone else, I was worried about Havlat and I truly hope he’s okay and can return to the game.

The Red Wings killed off the five minute penalty and then Ericsson was immediately called for holding.

The period ended with no further scoring. The Wings were lucky that it wasn’t four to nothing. During the penalties there were a couple of absolutely incredible saves and blocked shots to keep the Hawks at two goals in the first. The Wings were outshot by the Hawks 11 to 6 but that’s not surprising since they were shorthanded so much.

Early in the second period, shortly after the power play expired, the Hawks scored their third goal. Versteeg shot one from the point and Pahlsson redirected it. Osgood had moved to stop the initial shot and when it changed direction he had no chance. That made it three to nothing Blackhawks.

The Red Wing first couple of power plays in the second period proved fruitless. They had good chances and even wide open nets at times but couldn’t put it in. It just seemed to be one of those nights where the puck is always bouncing over the stick and somebody is blocking the shot. Then on their third power play they got it back to Lidstrom at the blue line who one timed it and it changed direction off of Pahlsson’s skate and went into the net. That made it three to one Hawks.

The Red Wings really started buzzing then. They started winning the small battles and ended up with some sustained pressure in Chicago’s end. They were able to get a complete change done while the Hawks were pinned in their own end and then they continued pressuring. Samuelsson made a nice pass through everybody to Rafalski and he ripped it from the blue line. Cleary was in front of the net and it looked like he deflected it into the net but Rafalski was credited with the goal which brought the Wings to within one.

Just a few minutes later Detroit scored again to tie the game with just under a minute left in the second. Holmstrom was in front of the net and redirected a shot from Ericsson into the top corner of the net. The goal was awarded to Ericsson so maybe it wasn’t tipped but it sure looked like it was.

The period ended with the score tied three to three. What a comeback by Detroit. The momentum was sure going their way. If they could keep it going in the third they could pull off another slow start victory.

The Blackhawks replaced Khabibulin to start the third period. They put in Cristobal Huet and Khabibulin actually left the bench altogether. Their third goalie Corey Crawford was on the bench as backup. I don’t know if that implies some sort of injury to Khabibulin or not but it seems strange.

The Hawks had more energy than the Wings for the first five minutes of the third. The rest of the third was wild and crazy. There were only six shots for each team but the action was fast and furious. Osgood continued to be great but the Wings couldn’t get one by Huet. The game went to overtime for the second straight time.

About a minute and a half into the overtime Lidstrom broke his stick and Filppula gave him his. The puck came to Barker and Filppula, now without a stick, couldn’t prevent his shot. The rebound sat in front and Pahlsson popped it back to Sharp who had a wide open net to shoot at. He buried it and won the game for the Hawks.

The Red Wings would have been really lucky to steal this game. They played even more inconsistently than they did in game two. They were great when they were on but for at least the first half of the game they didn’t seem to have their legs. If the Wings hope to go all the way this year they’re going to have to get used to starting out full speed right at the start of the game. There’s no time to play tired at this time of year.

This 4-3 overtime loss brings this Western Conference Final series to 2-1 Detroit.

Western Conference Finals, Game 2 (5/19/09)

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Tonight the Blackhawks were in Detroit for game two. The lineups were unchanged from game one. Osgood and Khabibulin were the goalies.

The first 10 minutes of the game seemed pretty even which is advantage Chicago in my opinion. The Hawks were a bit more aggressive than the Wings and won most of the small battles.

Detroit got the first power play when Chicago was called for too many men on the ice. The power play was pretty effective but, although the Wings generated a lot of opportunities, they didn’t score.

Next the Blackhawks had a power play when Samuelsson was called for crosschecking. On the power play Stuart was called for tripping. The Hawks had a 5 on 3 for 59 seconds. The Red Wings killed off the 5 on 3. Then Samuelsson had a chance to clear it but he threw it right to the point where Barker took it and gave it to Havlat. Havlat passed it to Toews who shot from below the goal line to the front of the net. The puck went hit Ericsson’s skate and went into the net giving the Hawks the one nothing lead.

A few minutes later Holmstrom was called for goaltender interference. It really wasn’t much. He bumped Khabibulin a little bit when he was losing his balance trying to avoid him. During the power play Detroit got some offense going shorthanded. Toews ended up tripping Datsyuk trying to get the puck back. It was 4 on 4 for a few seconds and then the Wings had a power play. During the power play Datsyuk won a faceoff in Chicago’s end and got it to Lidstrom. He passed it to Rafalski who moved along the blue line and snapped one. It looked like it was tipped by Hossa and then by Holmstrom and into the net. The game was tied at one. The goal was awarded to Rafalski so maybe it wasn’t redirected. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is changed later.

The first period ended with the score still tied at one. Chicago outshot Detroit 19 to 13. Luckily Osgood was brilliant. He made one big save after another to keep his team in the game. The Wings looked good and had a lot of scoring chances but Khabibulin was good as well.

Early in the second Pahlsson was called for holding. Osgood made a huge save on a shorthanded chance by Bolland. Then Seabrook was hit somewhere up high by a hard shot from Rafalski. He went off the ice under his own power but he was struggling. With just over a minute left on the power play Lidstrom was called for high-sticking Walker. Detroit killed off the penalty and actually generated a lot of offense while shorthanded. The kill gave them some momentum and they continued pressuring at even strength.

Detroit continued playing really well for the rest of the second period. They were really buzzing and winning all the little battles. With about six minutes left Cleary jumped on a loose puck and took off towards the net all alone. Just like in the previous game he released a beauty of a shot that beat Khabibulin. This time he went five hole. That gave the Wings the lead by one.

Near the end of the second period Lidstrom was called for holding. The Red Wings killed the penalty but the Hawks would have over a minute of power play left to start the third.

Detroit outshot the Hawks 12 to 3 in the second period but they were still trailing overall. It was a much better period for the Wings. They really amped things up compared to the first period.

The Wings killed off the rest of the power play to start the third period. Then Chicago was called for goalie interference and Osgood was also given a simultaneous call for holding. The 4 on 4 was exciting but there were no goals scored.

With just over seven minutes left in the third Versteeg released a shot from the point with Byfuglien and Toews in front. Toews redirected the shot and it went it to tie the game at two.

The rest of the period was all action but nobody was able to score so the game went to overtime.

After about five minutes of good overtime action Samuelsson stole the puck in his defensive zone. Hudler started up ice and Samuelsson led him with a nice pass and then followed along with Filppula. It was a three on one. Hudler passed across to Filppula. Filppula passed it back to Samuelsson in the slot and he nailed the game winner. It was just beautiful! What a great way to end the game.

The Wings played pretty well in this game but they still got off to a slow start. They’re lucky that the slow starts haven’t cost them yet in this series. This game obviously could have gone either way. Once they get the momentum they’re really playing well but they need to start playing hard right from the beginning.

This 2-3 overtime win brings this Western Conference Final series to 2-0 Detroit.

Western Conference Finals, Game 1 (5/17/09)

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

The Western Conference Finals are finally upon us. This afternoon the Red Wings hosted the Blackhawks in game one. This should be a very entertaining series. The Hawks have played the Wings tough all year. They’re a charismatic team with tons of young talent and great chemistry. The experience of the Red Wings should be an advantage but these youngsters play more like seasoned veterans than kids.

The Red Wings lineup was the same as the previous game. The goalies for this game were Osgood and Khabibulin.

The game started out with some good action. The play went back and forth quickly and both teams seemed to have a lot of energy.

Chicago scored first after a bad bounce surprised Osgood. The puck was behind the net and Osgood played it to Ericsson. He was rushed by Eager and ended up chipping the puck back towards the front of the net. Osgood wasn’t expecting that. Burish came quickly from behind the net and popped it between Osgood’s legs and across the goal line. That made it one to nothing Blackhawks. It was a very opportunistic play by the Hawks.

The Red Wings got on the board a few minutes later. There was a faceoff inside the Red Wings zone but Cleary stole the puck from Seabrook and was off to the races. He took it to the top of the circle and ripped a shot that went over Khabibulin’s glove hand and into the top corner of the net. It was a beautiful shot and a great individual effort by Cleary to tie the game at one.

The first period ended with the score still tied at one. It was a good period by the Red Wings. They controlled play for most of the period and outshot the Hawks 15 to 9. The only real problem was turnovers. The Red Wings had 8 giveaways and the Hawks had none according to the stats shown by NBC. That might not be exactly right, but you get the idea that the Wings were turning the puck over way too much. Luckily, the Blackhawks weren’t able to capitalize on most of those opportunities.

There was a scary incident in the second period when Eager came in along the boards to make a hit on Kronwall. He ended up flipping upside down and his skate dragged right across the throat of Burish. Luckily, he ended up with only a minor cut on his neck, but it could have been much worse.

Nearing the end of the second period the Red Wings got the puck deep in the Chicago zone. Franzen got it along the boards and took it behind the net. He made an incredible move towards the net, wrapped around with the puck and pushed it between Khabibulin’s legs into the goal. It was such a strong move by Franzen; just incredible. What a great play.

That made it two to one Red Wings and the score held until the end of the second period. Detroit was outshooting Chicago 29 to 19. Chicago had 15 blocked shots after two periods to Detroit’s three.

Early in the third period Ericsson was called for interference on Sharp. He didn’t hold him or hook him; he just got in his way. I guess it was technically interference, but it seemed like a pretty weak call.

On the power play Seabrook shot the puck from the blue line. It changed direction at least twice after hitting Red Wings sticks and then it hit Byfuglien’s stick and bounced to the side of the net. It ended up on the ice next to a wide open net and Versteeg knocked it in to tie the game at two.

A few minutes later Lebda shot one that went off Samuelsson’s foot. Samuelsson picked it up and circled with it towards the faceoff dot. He ripped it from there and got it by Khabibulin high on the glove side to take back the lead. It was a beautiful pinpoint shot by Samuelsson.

Just a few minutes after that goal, Zetterberg took the puck into the Chicago zone. He passed it across to Franzen. Franzen shot it with Cleary in front of the net. Cleary redirected it perfectly into the net. It was the second goal of the game for Cleary and it put the Wings up four to two.

For the rest of the period the Blackhawks tried to come back. They pulled the goalie with about a minute and a half left to try to pull within one. Instead Zetterberg got an empty net goal to make it five to two.

The Red Wings looked great in this game. Osgood was sharp. I was surprised that the Hawks weren’t tougher. After the way they beat the Canucks I expected them to be more of an offensive threat. It seemed to be a lot easier for the Wings to play their game against the Hawks than it was against the Ducks.

There was a bit of bad blood at the end of the game when Burish crosschecked Draper in the back. There was a scrum afterwards but nothing much came of it.

This 2-5 win brings this Western Conference Final series to 1-0 Detroit.

Western Conference Semifinals, Game 7 (5/14/09)

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Tonight it was finally game seven in Detroit against Anaheim. The lineups were mostly unchanged from game six with one exception. Draper was back in for the Wings. His speed and toughness should be a big plus in this game.

I’m still sour over the way the Ducks attacked our guys at the end of game six. The Red Wings handled it very well. Mike Babcock was angry but the players didn’t really even acknowledge it. It was a classless move by the Ducks for sure. The best answer would be to destroy the Ducks on the ice like the Penguins destroyed the Capitals last night.

The game started with little bit of an edge. Zetterberg made a big hit on Perry early on that set the tone.

Later Zetterberg was called for holding the stick and then a minute later Kronwall was called for hooking. The Wings did a great job killing off the 5 on 3 and then 5 on 4 power plays. Osgood was looking fantastic as usual. Stuart also made an excellent diving poke check to stop a breakaway and prevent a scoring chance.

Then a few minutes later Getzlaf was called for hooking Hossa and the Wings went to work. They had a couple of good chances on the power play but didn’t get anything by Hiller. The Ducks did a pretty good job of being in the way and blocking shots.

Later in the first period Getzlaf was penalized again, this time for slashing. The replay showed that it was just a tap and Franzen dove terribly. I hate to see the Wings diving like that even when it results in a power play. Nothing makes a player look more like a wuss than collapsing after being tapped. Cut the crap, boys! I don’t mind the referee calling such a minor slash. He’s sending a message to knock off the piddly garbage. I do think he should also call the dive though in that case. Getzlaf wasn’t happy but he had only himself to blame because there was no reason for even a light slash. The dive was definitely unsportsmanlike but he didn’t have to give the opportunity to Franzen in the first place. These dives are a league-wide problem and they need to go away. That’s a topic for another time though.

On the power play Zetterberg sent the puck across to Franzen and then Wisniewski stayed with Zetterberg to check him into the boards. That was a mistake as it left Hudler alone in the slot. Franzen sent a hard pass towards Hudler and he tipped it into the net. It was one nothing Red Wings.

For the rest of the period Detroit looked really good. They played hard and fast but didn’t score again. The period ended with the Wings up by one.

Early in the second period the Ducks won a faceoff in the Red Wings end. Selanne had the puck along the wall but he turned it over because he was being rushed by Lebda. The puck rolled into the neutral zone and Helm came flying after it like he was shot out of a cannon. He picked up the puck, blew by the defense and went in all alone against Hiller. He ripped a pinpoint shot that burned Hiller for the Wings second goal. What a play by Helm! You gotta love that guy!

A bit later Pronger hit Hossa behind the net. The hit was fine but afterwards he grabbed Hossa and tackled him right in front of the referee. I can’t understand how that wasn’t holding. I guess that makes up for Franzen not being called for a dive.

The Wings were really buzzing. They flying around and winning all the small battles. Then Whitney high sticked Cleary and the Wings went back on the job. During the power play Beauchemin batted the puck out of play and over the glass so the Wings had a 5 on 3 for 22 seconds. They had a glorious chance on the 5 on 3 but Pronger blocked the shot. The Wings continued on the power play. After just a few seconds of the second penalty Hossa was called for high sticking so it was 4 on 4 for a while. During the 4 on 4 Stuart crushed Selanne into the boards. Selanne went down and stayed down. The hit came well after the puck had left Selanne’s vicinity and Stuart was called for interference. So then Anaheim had a 4 on 3 power play for 1:02. They killed that off and then it was 5 on 3 for a little over half a minute. After killing that off it was 5 on 4 for 20 seconds or so. Then it was back to 5 on 5. Whew! What a great job by the Wings to kill off all of that. Osgood was spectacular during the kill.

With about five minutes to go in the second Whitney took a shot from the point. Osgood made the stop but Selanne tapped in the rebound. Osgood didn’t have chance to stop Selanne’s shot from going in because Carter had run into him and was basically sitting on his lap. I cannot understand why that wasn’t goaltender interference. In any event it was two to one Red Wings.

The Ducks got a boost from that and the Wings had some trouble keeping the puck out of their own end. They finally did though and Wisniewski tried to take it at center ice but he missed. Filppula went by him and they both dove for the puck. Filppula got up first and took it. He passed it to Datsyuk who was streaking up the slot. Datsyuk took a shot and the rebound came back to him. He went behind the net and got absolutely clobbered by Marchant. Before getting hit though he managed to pass the puck back to the slot. Samuelsson moved in and put it in the net. That made it three to one and quickly nullified the Ducks goal. Just what I was hoping for! What a setup by Filppula and Datsyuk!

A few seconds later Pronger crosschecked Hudler in the back and forced him into Hiller. Hudler was called for goaltender interference. Hudler was actually driven to his knees by the crosscheck. There was no way he could have stopped himself from running into Hiller. I can’t believe how bad that call was. Just imagine if the Wings had scored. They would have taken away the goal. I was angry enough as it was so it’s a good thing that didn’t happen.

On the power play Selanne handed it off to Pronger in the slot who one timed it. Osgood stopped it but Perry was on the doorstop and smacked it in. It was another gift from the officials.

The second period ended with the Wings up two to three. Osgood made some incredible saves to prevent the Ducks from tying the game at the end of the second period. As well as the Wings had played, it was still a one shot game heading into the third period.

The Wings continued playing very well in the third. Nearing the midpoint of the period Ericsson had the puck behind his own net but he got tangled up with a broken stick that was laying there. It caused a turnover, things got crazy and Ryan ended up scoring to tie the game. Even though the Red Wings had played much better than the Ducks in this game and this series they could be eliminated with one shot. It was maddening.

Then Selanne was called for hooking and the Wings went on the power play. The Wings didn’t score on the power play and time was winding down with the game still tied. They got the puck into the Anaheim end and started taking shots. The Wings were moving the puck all over the zone. Zetterberg ended up with it along the glass behind the net. He chipped it to Cleary who was standing in front of the crease. Cleary put it on the ice between Hiller’s knees, then gave it another tap and it slid between Hiller’s legs and into the net to put the Wings back on top. It was a classic hard-working Cleary goal.

The Wings continued to apply pressure. The Ducks pulled the goalie as soon as they could. The Red Wings fought hard and so did the Ducks but Detroit was able to shut them down. The good guys won!

It was such a relief. There were so many bad calls in this series. I don’t normally find too much fault with the officiating but this was bad. There was at least one game that the Ducks won without earning in my opinion. The Wings played so well in this series but it seemed like they had to beat the Ducks and the officials, too. Well, they did it! I don’t buy into the conspiracy theories. I don’t think the officials had it in for the Wings or anything like that. I know how hard it is to get the calls right when the game is so fast. I think it was just bad luck. That being said, it would have been a huge tragedy if the Wings had lost this series after outplaying the Ducks so badly.

None of that matters, though. It’s over, at least for now.

I’m really excited to watch the Red Wings and the Blackhawks. What a classic matchup! I can’t wait for that series. Chicago is a great team that plays well against the Wings. It should be a great one!

This 3-4 win finishes this Western Conference Semifinal series at 4-3 Detroit.