Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game 1 (4/13/11)

April 13th, 2011

The Red Wings and the Coyotes opened round one of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight at Joe Louis Arena. The goalies were Jimmy Howard and Ilya Bryzgalov. Zetterberg was sidelined with a lower body injury and is day to day. Hopefully, he’ll be ready to play by game two on Saturday. Modano was a healthy scratch.

The Red Wings got off to a little bit of a slow start tonight. They weren’t really playing badly but they made a mistake early and Turris scored with a perfect shot over Howard’s glove. Then the Wings got into some penalty trouble and had to kill off a 5 on 3. They did that and built some momentum from it along with some help from the fans.

In the second period the Red Wings really ramped up their play. The started to really dominate like we know they can. Datsyuk was really working and he scored the first Detroit goal with a nice wrap around that Bryzgalov wasn’t expecting. Then Franzen fired a long shot using the defense a partial screen and beat Bryzgalov again. Suddenly, the Wings were up two to one. Towards the end of the second period Rafalski scored on the power play giving the Red Wings a two goal lead.

Hudler scored with a beautiful shot over Bryzgalov’s glove hand in the third period. Vrbata scored one for the Coyotes but the Wings were able hold them off from scoring any more than that.

Jimmy Howard was fantastic. He made several incredible and timely saves to keep the game one to nothing early on, and he did not get rattled at all after giving up the early goal.

Datsyuk was amazing, and Franzen also had a great game. Bertuzzi had a fight with Klesla that was short but much appreciated by the fans. While Bertuzzi was sitting in the penalty box the fans chanted Todd-Ber-tuz-zi with the same cadence as Let’s Go Red Wings. As the Versus announcers pointed out, Detroit loves spunk.

This was a great start for the Wings. I’ll be surprised if Phoenix doesn’t start playing tougher but the Wings have shown that they can really turn it on when they need to. It took a little while for them to warm up tonight but they’re humming now and hopefully they can keep it rolling.

This 2-4 win brings this Western Conference Quarterfinal series to 0-1 Red Wings.

Detroit at Chicago (4/10/11)

April 10th, 2011

Now THAT was more like it! The Red Wings wrapped up their regular season this afternoon on a high note. They had a lot to atone for after Friday’s lackluster performance in Detroit and they did so in spades.

The goalies once again were Jimmy Howard and Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks needed at least one point today to guarantee them a spot in the playoffs. The Wings were already in the playoffs but a win would earn them a higher seed.

Chicago played well in the first period but Detroit weathered the storm and there were no goals after one. The Hawks scored the first goal early in the second period. The Wings didn’t get rattled and continued playing well. Shortly after the Hawks goal, Holmstrom scored unassisted to tie it up. Then Datsyuk scored a few minutes after that giving the Red Wings the lead at the second intermission.

The third period was an all-out classic battle with a playoff feel. The Red Wings and the Blackhawks traded goals. Miller, Seabrook, Cleary and Keith all scored in the third. The Wings had to kill a penalty in the final few minutes and Corey Crawford went to the bench as much as possible for the extra skater. The Red Wings held them off for the win and forced Chicago to wait for the outcome of the game between the Stars and the Wild to find out whether or not they’ll be in the playoffs. If the Stars win tonight the Blackhawks are out of the playoffs.

The Red Wings did not have a single power play in this game. There were plenty of things that could have been called and at least a couple that certainly should have been. In one case Franzen was high-sticked in the face and bleeding all of over the place and there was no penalty on the play.

It was great to see the Wings finish the season with such a great game. They’ll now face Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs starting next Wednesday or Thursday. Hopefully, they’ll be able to keep the momentum from this win going.

This 4-3 win brings us to:
104 points

Chicago at Detroit (4/8/11)

April 8th, 2011

The Red Wings put forth another disappointing performance at home tonight. The Blackhawks were in town and fighting for their spot in the playoffs. The Red Wings were also there. The goalies were Jimmy Howard and Corey Crawford.

The Wings were behind by a goal before the first 30 seconds were up. It just got worse from there. They gave up three goals in the first period and were outshot 13 to 5. They turned the puck over time after time in their own zone and they just looked sloppy and slow.

They finally scored a goal at the very end of the second period. They came to life a little bit in the third and outshot the Hawks by a wide enough margin that the shot totals for the game ended up nearly even.

It was too little, too late however. The Red Wings scored once more near the end of the game but weren’t able to come closer than two goals behind.

The Hawks won the game 4 to 2. The Red Wings will have a chance for redemption on Sunday in their final game of the season. This is a bad time to start sagging. There just isn’t any urgency in the Wings’ game right now. It’s understandable, but hopefully they’ll start to feel the urgency quickly once the playoffs start.

This 4-2 loss brings us to:
102 points

Detroit at Carolina (4/6/11)

April 6th, 2011

The Red Wings were on the road tonight to face the Carolina Hurricanes. The goalies were Jimmy Howard and Cam Ward.

Overall, the Red Wings did a lot of things right tonight. They played well except for a few costly mistakes. The big problem was that Cam Ward brought his A-game and the Wings just couldn’t find a way to beat him. They had tons of scoring chances and plenty of shots on goal but Ward was perfect throughout the night and earned himself a shutout. The Hurricanes were two points behind the Rangers for the 8th playoff position in the Eastern Conference, so they couldn’t afford to miss out on any possible points. That desperation showed in how well they played, starting with their goaltending. As well as the Wings played, they didn’t have the same level of urgency as the Hurricanes.

Even worse than the loss, was the fact that Zetterberg left the game in the first period with a lower body injury and was not able to return. Let’s hope that it won’t be the sort of injury that will nag him during the playoffs or sideline him altogether.

There are just two more games left for the Wings before the playoffs. They’re both against a Chicago team that’s battling to hold on to the 8th playoff spot in the West. We can expect to see some more desperation in those two games which are coming up Friday and Sunday.

This 0-3 loss brings us to:
102 points

Minnesota at Detroit (4/3/11)

April 3rd, 2011

The Red Wings played the Wild this afternoon in Detroit. Both teams played yesterday so the fatigue factor was about even. Detroit won in Nashville and Minnesota lost a home game to the Lightning. The goalies were Jimmy Howard and Jose Theodore. Datsyuk returned to the lineup today so that’s great news for the Wings.

After a statement game in Nashville yesterday there was some concern that the Wings could have had a bit of a letdown for today’s game against the Wild who are out of the playoff race. It turned out that wasn’t a problem for Detroit. They played another solid game and looked good right from the start.

The Red Wings had goals from Helm, Lidstrom, Holmstrom and Franzen. Jimmy Howard was excellent when called upon but the Wings did a good job of limiting shots against.

Another Red Wing goal was waved off in this game for incidental contact with the goaltender. This time it was Abdelkader in front of the net. I really can’t believe the call because Abdelkader was pushed into the goalie and he got out of the way before Brad Stuart’s point shot was released. There’s no way that goal should have been waved off. It didn’t matter in the end but this is a disturbing trend.

The Wild didn’t put up much of a fight in this one and the Red Wings rolled to a relatively easy win which clinched the Central Division title for them. Now the lowest they can be seeded in the playoffs is third. This is the ninth division title for the Wings in the last ten seasons.

This 2-4 win brings us to:
102 points

Detroit at Nashville (4/2/11)

April 3rd, 2011

The Red Wings were on the road this afternoon to play the Predators in Nashville. Jimmy Howard was back from injury so he was the starting goalie for the Wings. The Predators started Pekka Rinne. Datsyuk, Kronwall and Miller were all out of the lineup today for Detroit.

After the 10 to 3 beating the Blues handed the Wings the other night at the Joe, the Red Wings had something to prove here this afternoon. And prove it, they did. They played very well today. They were aggressive, played good, tight defense and they generated a lot of scoring chances without giving up much. They were also playing tough. Bertuzzi got into a fight with O’Brien not even five minutes into the game. It was a one sided fight with Bertuzzi landing all of the punches and taking O’Brien down to the ice.

There were some questionable calls in this game starting with what looked like the first goal of the game being waved off and Holmstrom being sent to the penalty box for goalie interference. On the replay it was very difficult to see how Holmstrom interfered with Rinne at all. To the contrary, Rinne shoved Holmstrom in the back of the head. Holmstrom was just standing there at the top of the crease. You could argue that Rinne wasn’t able to come out as far as he wanted to challenge the shooter but there’s no way they can claim that Holmstrom initiated any contact. Instead of the Wings being up one to nothing, the Predators got a power play. While Holmstrom was in the box, Abdelkader was called for boarding so the Wings were down two men for a short time. When Holmstrom came out of the box he had to stay on the ice to help with the penalty kill, which he isn’t used to doing. He accidentally shot the puck over the glass while trying to clear it. That gave the Predators a long 5 on 3. With one minute left in the period, Ryan Suter scored a power play goal giving the Predators the lead which is how the period ended.

Early in the second period Erat scored a power play goal and then Kostitsyn scored less than a minute later making it three to nothing Predators. It was starting to look pretty dire for the Red Wings even though they were still playing well; they just weren’t getting good results. Then Kindl fired a long shot that beat Rinne and put the Wings on the board. Shortly after that Bertuzzi and O’Brien fought again with essentially the same outcome as the fight in the first period. Bertuzzi landed several punches to the back of O’Brien’s head and then took him down to the ice. It was great to see Bertuzzi step up like that and the team appreciated it. It really seemed to get them fired up. They started playing even harder. They were first to every loose puck and didn’t give the Predators anything. Just a few seconds after the fighting majors, Abdelkader scored with a tip in to bring the Red Wings to within a goal of tying it up. The Red Wings pressured like crazy but the period ended without another goal.

In the third period Abdelkader scored the game tying goal. He was playing like a man possessed. It was the best game of the season so far for Justin Abdelkader. He was all over the ice and just doing it all. The Wings generated a ton of scoring chances and were throwing everything at the net but they didn’t score again in the third period and regulation timed ended with a tie. At the Red Wings’ end Jimmy Howard made some incredible saves to preserve the tie.

The Red Wings continued playing with great intensity in the overtime period. With about two minutes left in the overtime Rafalski fired a shot from the point and Cleary tipped it into the net for the game winner.

It was a fantastic game for the Wings today. They really bounced back after the big loss the other night and they had to come back from a three to nothing deficit to do it. They really showed a lot of character on the ice today. Abdelkader was excellent. Cleary also had a great game. They were the first two stars of the game. You also have to credit Bertuzzi for getting the team riled up and Howard for keeping them in the game with some very timely saves.

This win clinched a playoff spot for the Red Wings for the 20th consecutive season and also gave them 100 points for the 11th straight season. Next up for the Wings is Minnesota at the Joe tomorrow afternoon. Minnesota also played today, losing at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This 4-3 win brings us to:
100 points

St. Louis at Detroit (3/30/11)

March 30th, 2011

The Red Wings played the Blues tonight at the Joe. Jimmy Howard wasn’t ready to go yet but he’s expected to be back on Saturday. The starting goalies were Joey MacDonald and Jaroslav Halak. Since Osgood is still on IR, Thomas McCollum was the backup. Salei was a healthy scratch and Babcock said he doesn’t want to rotate between Salei and Kindl. He wants one of them to step up and take the roster spot by playing well. Kindl has been doing a lot of that lately and is very much improved from the start of the season. Datsyuk and Draper were also out for the Wings. The Blues were missing Jackman, Steen and Oshie. Oshie was suspended by the team for missing practice.

This game was one of the worst stinkers I’ve ever seen. There were far too many goals to describe them all. Suffice it to say that Joey MacDonald was hung out to dry a LOT in this game. The Wings were ineffective at clearing the puck and just weren’t playing very hard at all. I don’t know if they thought the Blues would just roll over or what but they didn’t seem to be too interested in this game. The Blues on the other hand are pretty much out of the playoff race and had nothing left to lose. They were quicker and tougher than the Red Wings tonight.

After the fifth goal Babcock put Thomas McCollum in to try to wake up the team. The poor kid is only 21 years old and if not for injuries is probably at least a few years away from being a backup for the Red Wings. This was his first NHL game and he was just abused. He gave up three more goals on eight shots.

Babcock put MacDonald back in to start the third period. It’s too bad that McCollum had to play in a situation like this for his first game but at least he got some time on the ice with the Red Wings. Not a lot of people can say that. Everybody understands that it was a hopeless situation for him.

MacDonald gave up another two goals with help from the team. In the end the Red Wings lost 10 to 3. It was ugly. Everybody on the team was ticked off but nobody seemed to be able to right the ship.

I’m sure they will work heavily in practice before Saturday’s game and there will probably be a lot of self-assessment going on as well.

This 10-3 loss brings us to:
98 points

Chicago at Detroit (3/28/11)

March 28th, 2011

It was another original six matchup for the Wings tonight as the Chicago Blackhawks came to the Joe. Jimmy Howard was out of the lineup but luckily he wasn’t seriously hurt when Lupul fell on him the other night. He should be back by Wednesday. Joey MacDonald was the starting goalie and since Osgood is on IR, Thomas McCollum was called up to be the backup. The Blackhawks goalie was Corey Crawford. Datsyuk, Miller and Kindl were also scratches tonight. The good news is that Franzen was back in the lineup after being out with a sore groin.

The Blackhawks got the scoring started at around the three minute mark when Toews put the puck in the net after the rebound came right to him. A few minutes later Bertuzzi was given a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for elbowing Ryan Johnson in the head during a hit along the boards. He skated into him backwards with his elbow up. I’m not sure what he was thinking but hopefully there won’t be a suspension. The league is really sensitive to hits like this now. During the five minute penalty Hossa was called for slashing. While it was 4 on 4, Lidstrom ripped one with a pretty good screen in front of Crawford. He didn’t get a good look at it and the puck got by him, tying the game at one. Later in the period Seabrook scored a power play goal to give the lead back to the Hawks.

There was no scoring in the second period.

Early in the third period Zetterberg had the puck down low. He tried to pass it to Cleary in front but it hit the skate of Campoli and deflected into the net to tie the game at two. That score held until the end of regulation but, unfortunately, Zetterberg was called for a hook with just four seconds to go.

The Hawks started the overtime on the power play, 4 on 3. Less than a minute into the overtime Hossa scored on the power play to win the game for the Hawks.

It was an exciting game with a fast pace and great energy. The Wings played very well tonight but so did the Blackhawks. The shots on goal were mostly pretty even. The Hawks were 2 for 5 on the power play and the Wings were 1 for 4. Detroit had far more hits and face off wins. They also doubled the Hawks in giveaways, but also in takeaways. The only difference that really stands out is that Chicago blocked a lot more shots than the Wings did. Could that have made the difference in the game? MacDonald came up big for the Wings tonight. He kept the game close but it just wasn’t enough. Hossa was fantastic for the Blackhawks. He’s playing at his best right now and he’s a force to be reckoned with.

This 3-2 overtime loss brings us to:
98 points

Toronto at Detroit (3/26/11)

March 26th, 2011

It was an old-school rivalry for the Red Wings tonight as fellow original-six team the Toronto Maple Leafs came to town for a game at the Joe. The starting goaltenders were Howard and Reimer. Bertuzzi was back in the lineup tonight but the Red Wings were missing Franzen, Datsyuk and Salei.

The crowd was really into it tonight. There were a lot of Maple Leaf fans who made the trip to Detroit and they were battling the Red Wings fans to see who could chant the loudest. Every chant of “Let’s go Red Wings!” was answered with “Go Leafs, go!” The Joe was rocking, for sure!

The game had a great pace and the score was tight through most of the night. The Maple Leafs are in desperate need of points to reach the last playoff spot in the East so they had the motivation. Detroit scored first when Zetterberg got his own rebound on the power play and banged it in. Toronto answered later in the first period when Kadri snapped one through a small opening into the corner of the net.

In the second period Detroit was on the power play and Holmstrom scored with his signature tip-in in front of the net. That made it two to one Red Wings. Later in the second period Boyce hit Rafalski hard into the boards after a pass. It looked to me like a pretty clean hit although Boyce did stick his right leg out a little bit as he hit him. Abdelkader was displeased by that and he stepped up and fought with Boyce. It was a pretty good fight but there was no clear winner. Abdelkader got the takedown, though. With a few minutes left in the period, Phaneuf cracked a pane of glass with a hard shot. As they started to repair it the refs decided to just go to intermission and finish the second period just before start of the third. The only drawback to that was that the Leafs were on a power play and they got a fresh sheet of ice to use after intermission. The Wings killed it off though so it didn’t hurt anything.

In the third period Lupul made contact with Howard in the crease. Howard was down making a save and Draper was on Lupul’s back. Lupul fell down on top of Howard. While he was pinning Howard to the ice, he swung his stick around and swept the puck into the open net. Incredibly, the goal was allowed. It’s pretty easy to score when you’re sitting on the goalie and I cannot understand why they didn’t at least wave off the goal due to incidental contact. I can see not giving him a penalty because Draper was right there and pushed him a little bit after he’d already made contact with Howard. But he clearly prevented Howard from having a chance to stop that puck. He prevented him from even getting up! As if all that wasn’t bad enough, Howard was also injured on the play. He had to leave the game and seemed to be favoring his left shoulder or rib area as he went off which is where Lupul landed on him. MacDonald came in to relieve him.

Just 38 seconds after Lupul’s tying goal, Hudler brought the puck into the Maple Leafs’ end and fired it from the top of the circle. Reimer missed it with his glove hand and Hudler scored to re-gain the lead for the Wings. The Leafs pulled the goalie at the end for the extra skater and Bertuzzi scored an empty net goal to seal the deal.

This was a great game with a lot of energy and a spirited crowd. The Leafs now need a miracle to make the playoffs. Since the Sharks also won tonight, the Red Wings’ two points keeps them tied for second place in the West. MacDonald was great again tonight coming in in relief of Howard. It’s about time he gets a win since lately he’s been playing great and still ending up with a loss or overtime loss.

This 2-4 win brings us to:
97 points

Vancouver at Detroit (3/23/11)

March 23rd, 2011

The league leading Vancouver Canucks were in Detroit tonight to play the Red Wings. The goalies were Howard and Luongo. Hudler was back in the lineup after recovering from the flu. According to the announcers he said he recovered by drinking lots of fluids and eating Doritos. Must be an old Czech remedy! Datsyuk, Franzen and Bertuzzi were all out of the lineup with problems that wouldn’t keep them out if it were the playoffs, so it’s not too serious. Osgood was supposed be back for this game but wasn’t able to go so he went back on IR and MacDonald was called back from Grand Rapids again. Mursak was also up from Grand Rapids.

Detroit played a great game tonight but the Canucks did the same. The Wings got off to a good start and applied a lot of pressure early. Luongo was incredible throughout the game. Howard was excellent as well, bouncing back nicely after a subpar game on Monday night in which he was pulled halfway through. The first period was a draw on the scoreboard but I thought the Red Wings were the better team.

In the second period the Canucks started to dominate. They weren’t allowing the Red Wings any time in their zone. However the Wings were also doing a good job of stopping the Canucks until they scored a fluke goal that bounced in off of Lidstrom. Daniel Sedin had the puck near the goal line. He threw it towards the front of the net and just got lucky. There was no more scoring in the second period.

Halfway through the third period the Canucks scored again. This time it was a scramble in the Red Wings’ end after they failed to clear the puck. Howard was getting abused by Kesler in front of the net and there were several things that could have been called penalties. After being pinned to the ice he lost his stick and still made several great saves in a row but he didn’t get any help. Eventually Daniel Sedin put it in the net again making it two to nothing Canucks. There wasn’t much that Howard could have done in that situation.

Later in the third, Hudler scored for the Wings to break Luongo’s shutout and bring them within a goal of tying it up. The Red Wings weren’t able to score another one though and lost the game two to one.

Even though they lost, the Red Wings have to be pretty happy with the way they played tonight. It was a good, tight game that was well played by both teams. I think every hockey fan would like to see a seven game series between these two teams. It wouldn’t be boring, that’s for sure!

This 2-1 loss brings us to:
95 points