Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Cup’

Stanley Cup Finals, Game 7 (6/12/09)

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Everything was on the line tonight as the Penguins and Red Wings faced off in game seven of the Stanley Cup finals.  The building was electric. The crowd was noisy and the team was pumped and ready to go.

Osgood and Fleury were the goalies for the final time this season. There were no lineup changes for Detroit. For Pittsburgh, Sykora was out and Satan was in.

The Red Wings started the game with a lot of hits and a lot of hustle. Early on Cleary won a race to negate an icing and Helm was flying around hitting everybody. Both teams had some great scoring chances but both goalies were looking good. The Penguins had the first power play when Stuart was called for a slash. The Wings did a good job killing the penalty.

The first period ended with no score. Both teams seemed to be playing their best. The Penguins outshot the Wings, but they also had a power play and the Wings didn’t.

Early in the second period Stuart tried to clear the puck from the corner. Malkin intercepted it with his skate and directed it towards Talbot. He shot and put it between Osgood’s legs and into the net for the first goal of the game. Eddie Olcyk later pointed out that the puck was dumped in from the Penguins side of the ice so it should have been an icing but it wasn’t called.

A few minutes later Franzen put a good hip check on Crosby. With Crosby hanging on his back, Franzen rode him into the boards. Crosby’s leg got pinned between Franzen and the boards and it seemed to hurt him. He was very slow to get to the bench and then went to the dressing room, still very slowly.

A few seconds later Gill was called for holding and Detroit went on the power play. The Wings failed to score on the power play but they did generate some good chances.

Just passed the midpoint of the second period Talbot took the puck away from Stuart and had a two on one breakaway against Kronwall. Talbot shot it and beat Osgood high on the glove side. That put Pittsburgh up two to nothing.

Throughout the second period Pittsburgh seemed to have more energy. The Wings were turning the puck over a lot. They didn’t seem to be clicking. They were going offside a lot and looked pretty sloppy for a few minutes.

The second period ended with the Penguins still up two to nothing.

Detroit was pressuring for the entire third period. It looked like a power play most of the time. The Red Wings finally got on the scoreboard late in the third period. Lidstrom got the puck from one point to Ericsson at the other point. Ericsson one timed it and beat Fleury. That made it two to one Pittsburgh with just over six minutes left in the game.

The Red Wings pulled Osgood for the final minute but weren’t able to tie the game. Right at the buzzer Lidstrom had a glorious chance but Fleury dove and stopped the puck with his body.

The Penguins won the Stanley Cup. The Conn Smythe trophy went to Malkin.

As great as the Red Wings were, they were outplayed in this game and this series. They had too many turnovers, and spent too much time in their own end. It was a great battle. I think both teams were better this year than they were last year but Pittsburgh improved just a little bit more. Stuart had a tough game in tonight. None of the Red Wings top scorers were able to generate much offense in this series. Hossa, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Holmstrom, and Franzen were pretty effectively shut down by the excellent defense of the Penguins.

Osgood was not the weak link as he was predicted to be. He was fantastic. The weak link turned out to be fatigue in my opinion. The Wings were somewhat banged up and looked tired at a lot of points in this series.

Congratulations to the Red Wings on a great season. They’ll be back next season and will probably be better than ever.

Congratulations also to the Pittsburgh Penguins on a legendary playoff run and on winning the Stanley Cup.

This 1-2 loss finishes this Stanley Cup final series at 3-4 Pittsburgh.

Stanley Cup Finals, Game 6 (6/9/09)

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Tonight it was the Red Wings and the Penguins in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals. Detroit had the chance to win the cup in Pittsburgh for the second year in a row. There were no lineup changes for the Red Wings in this game. For the Penguins, Sykora was in and Satan out.

I was in my home town of Bay City, MI to watch this game. I watched it with family members at my aunt and uncle’s house. It was great to be able to watch the game again with a group a Red Wings fans.

Early in the first period Zetterberg was called for goalie interference when he was pushed into Fleury by Staal. It was called by the referee in neutral ice, not the one right behind the net so you can guess if it was a good call or not. In any event the Wings killed it off.

Then Filppula was called for tripping and they killed that off, too.

The first period was not great for the Red Wings. They were badly outshot and out chanced by the Penguins. The Wings were lucky to be even after the first period. Shots on goal were 12 to 3 in favor of the Penguins. There were several good chances where the Penguins could have scored. Osgood was playing well as usual and kept the Wings in the game. The Wings did have a few good chances of their own but they didn’t score.

Early in the second period the Wings got caught in a line change and Staal made them pay with a quick goal. That made it one to nothing Penguins.

Datsyuk got hit in the head and knocked to the ice and there was no call. It looked like an elbow to the face. I guess they must have missed it because it looked to me like a clear penalty.

The second period wasn’t much better overall than the first. The Wings were outshot 12 to 9 in the second which made the shot total 12 to 24 for the game. That’s not a good indicator for the Wings but the good thing is that it was only one to nothing. The Wings had Osgood to thank for that.

Early in the second period Kennedy scored for the Penguins. He came around from behind the net and shot it. Osgood wasn’t able to control the rebound. Kennedy shot it again and made it two to nothing Penguins.

In the third period Ericsson shot from the point and Fleury stopped it. The rebound came right back out front and Draper picked it up and put it in the net. It was a great heads-up play by Draper. Just like that the Red Wings were right back in the game.

Malkin was called for crosschecking at the midpoint of the third period. That was the first power play of the night for the Red Wings. They had a few great scoring chances. Datsyuk was especially good during the power play but they didn’t tie the game.

Then Draper was high sticked in the face. That gave the Wings their second power play but they still weren’t able to tie it up.

They pulled Osgood for the last minute or so but they didn’t get it done.

This didn’t seem like that bad of a game but the shots on goal and scoring chances show that it was pretty one sided. Detroit had the same problems that they had in game five. They looked tired and couldn’t really put much together. I think Pittsburgh just plays that much better at home. They’re energized by the crowd. Also getting last change really helps them. I thought that having Datsyuk back might be enough to help the Wings win this one. He did have a great game but they just didn’t have it tonight. They didn’t seem to be hitting as much or flying around like they normally do. They seemed slower and they seemed to have trouble making plays. The Penguins were on top of them very quickly.

It’ll all come down to game seven now. I don’t know if I can take it. If it goes into overtime I’ll probably have a heart attack. Hopefully, the Red Wings will be able to pull off one more superb performance like they did in game five.

I’ll be home for game seven. We’ll be returning to Florida tomorrow so I’ll be back to watching the Wings by myself.

This 1-2 loss brings this Stanley Cup final series to a 3-3 tie.

Stanley Cup Finals, Game 5 (6/6/09)

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Tonight Pittsburgh was in Detroit for game five of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Red Wings. I was lucky enough to be in Michigan for a graduation party and family reunion. I arrived in Detroit in the late morning and drove straight through to Charlevoix. We arrived at about 5:30 PM and after a cookout, went to the Town House bar in downtown Charlevoix to watch the game with a dozen or so friends and family members. It was great to watch the game with a roomful of Red Wings fans. That’s a very rare experience for me.

That’s also the reason that I was late getting this article posted by almost a full day.

Datsyuk was ready to go for the Red Wings so he was finally back in the lineup. The only injury for the Wings was Lilja and he’s been out for several months so they’re used to dealing with that. Luckily Ericsson has been fantastic filling in on defense.

The Red Wings started out with good energy. They looked ready to go right from the start. The return of Datsyuk was a big factor. They looked much better defensively.

With about six minutes left in the first period Detroit drew first blood. Datsyuk brought the puck into the zone and passed it across the ice to Cleary. He ripped one that beat Fleury for the Red Wings’ first goal making it one to nothing.

The Wings held that lead until the end of the period and went to the dressing room up by one.

To start the second period, the Red Wings were on a power play that carried over from the first period. Just after the penalty expired Osgood made a long pass down the ice to Hossa in the offensive zone. He passed to Filppula in the slot. Filppula went strong to the net and backhanded one between Fleury’s legs. It was a great play all around. It was nice to see Osgood get a point for the assist.

Later in the second period Detroit had another power play. It didn’t take long for them to cash in. Franzen passed it to Kronwall in the corner. He skated it right to the front of the net and put it in. What a strong play by Kronwall. It was a thing a beauty. That made it three to nothing.

A few seconds later Malkin elbowed Franzen in the face and was called it. Detroit was really pressuring on the power play. They were in Pittsburgh’s end for long stretches getting great chances. Then they got it back to Rafalski at the point after a faceoff win. He moved up near the top of the circle and released a huge snapshot. Holmstrom was in front being a menace. The puck changed direction a little bit and went in giving the Red Wings a four to nothing lead.

Later in the period Kunitz and Helm got into it a little bit. Helm didn’t really do anything to defend himself while Kunitz dropped his gloves and tried to pull Helm’s jersey over his head. He was throwing punches and Helm just stood his ground without punching back. It was a stupid thing for Kunitz to do and indicated how the Penguins were starting to lose their composure. It was smart play by Helm to keep his cool. The way the game had been going the Red Wings didn’t need a lift and going back on the power play negated any boost that Pittsburgh might have felt from Kunitz’s feistiness

On the power play Samuelsson had the puck along the boards. He got it to Hudler at the point. Hudler passed to Zetterberg in front of the net. Zetterberg roofed it and it was five to nothing Wings with over four minutes to go in the second period.

At that point they pulled Fleury and put in Garon.

As the game was winding down the Penguins started taking cheap shots at the Wings. Dupuis hit Kronwall in the head and he got his stick up there, too. It got a little ugly. Three Penguins ended up getting 10 minute misconducts.

Osgood made 22 saves and got the shutout. It was such a dominant performance by the Red Wings. The fatigue that they displayed in the previous game was entirely gone. Being at home was probably a huge boost. Hopefully, they’ll be able to play as well in Pittsburg on Tuesday.

I’ll be in my home town of Bay City for the game on Tuesday so I’ll be watching with a room full of Wings fans once again. I may be a bit late with blog post again.

This 0-5 win brings this Stanley Cup final series to 3-2 Detroit.

Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4 (6/4/09)

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Tonight it was game four of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Penguins and the Red Wings. Pittsburgh’s lineup was unchanged. For the Red Wings Draper was back for tonight’s game. Datsyuk was a game time decision and skated a lot during warm-ups. Just before the game they decided that he wasn’t able to go. As close as he was today, hopefully he’ll be ready by Saturday night.

Just barely into the second minute of the game the Red Wings were called for their first penalty. Kronwall went to the box for a trip. On the power play Detroit did a got job at first but then Pittsburgh got control in the offensive zone and started moving the puck. The Red Wings had a few chances to clear but couldn’t really get control. There were a couple of point blank shots in a row. The second one went wide and Osgood moved over to the side of the net. It bounced quickly off the back boards and Malkin put it in behind Osgood before he could reset himself. Pittsburgh had the early one to nothing lead. You can’t really fault Osgood on that goal. It’s asking a lot him to stop three shots in two seconds from three different angles.

Osgood made a big stop when Crosby had a breakaway. The Wings couldn’t seem to control the puck. The passes were always in the wrong spot and they’d just end up giving the puck away. It’s a good thing Osgood was sharp. The Red Wings were getting a lot of shots and chances but they weren’t very good quality. The puck was bouncing a lot and Pittsburgh playing ridiculously tight.

Detroit had a power play chance but couldn’t capitalize. Then near the end of the period both teams traded high sticking calls within 10 seconds of each other so it was 4 on 4 for close to two minutes. That really opened up the ice a lot and things looked better for Detroit. Helm was in and being effective as usual. He made a great pass to the front of the net for a chance by Cleary that didn’t go. Then Helm cut off the clearing attempt by Scuderi. Helm shot the puck and it found the back of the net. Thank goodness for Helm!

The 4 on 4 seemed to energize Detroit for the rest of the period. They continued getting good scoring chances. I think this was another case of the great play of Darren Helm motivating the rest of the team. The Wings didn’t score during the surge but they did build some momentum that would hopefully carry over to the second period. I felt relieved that it was one to one after the first period. Even though the Wings were outshooting and out chancing the Penguins it felt like Pittsburgh had the advantage in the first.

In the first minute of the second period things looked pretty bad. Right off the bat Hossa turned it over to Crosby in the Red Wings zone and he had two good chances on Osgood. The turnovers have been so frustrating to watch. I felt better a few seconds later though. Zetterberg got the puck back to Brad Stuart who shot it from the point and it made it into the net. Fleury couldn’t see the puck because two of his own players were in his way. Filppula was in position for a tip but it wasn’t needed. Two to one Red Wings.

Detroit had a power play and then got another one with two seconds left on the first one. Malkin came out of the box after the short 5 on 3 and the Penguins started some aggressive penalty killing. During Detroit’s power play Staal brought the puck into the Red Wings end. He got in behind Rafalski and shot on Osgood. The shot beat Ozzie and tied the game at two.

Just a minute or two later Detroit turned it over in their own end and Pittsburgh turned it into a breakaway with Malkin and Crosby. Ericsson dropped down and blocked the first pass from Malkin to Crosby but the puck came right back to Malkin. On his second try he got the pass across to Crosby who put it in the net and put the Penguins up three to two.

Detroit looked flustered after that and almost gave up another one with some sloppy play in their end.

A few minutes later Pittsburgh scored again. They were passing all over the place. It was tic tac toe and Kennedy put it in the net. None of these goals were Osgood’s fault and in fact he had about three or four point blank saves during the same time frame. It probably should have been six or seven to two by that point in the game. The Wings looked like they just weren’t able to keep up with the Penguins anymore. They looked tired. Detroit had given up three goals in five and a half minutes.

Zetterberg turned the puck over to Malkin as the final seconds of the period were ticking away. He took it to the net and shot it. Osgood stayed with it all the way and caught it like it was no big deal as time expired.

In the third period Pittsburgh continued playing phenomenally well. Detroit continued to get chances but aside from few golden opportunities it was nothing too threatening.

With just under two minutes left Osgood went to the bench for the extra man. Kunitz got the puck heading towards the empty net. Kronwall hooked him. Kunitz tried to one hand the puck into the net. I don’t know if it was because of the hook or if he was showing off but he missed the net. The Penguins had a power play for the rest of the game and Detroit wasn’t able to do anything offensively.

The game ended four to two. The better team won in this game. Even though Detroit had lots of shots and chances they just didn’t play nearly as well as the Penguins. The most frustrating part was the number of turnovers that Detroit had. Very often the Wings would take the puck away from the Penguins and then pass it right back to them. That happened a lot in the Red Wings end and often turned into scoring chances for the Penguins.

The Wings are going to have to regroup and rest up and come back with some serious energy in game five. Hopefully Datsyuk will be back by then because I think they’re really missing him especially defensively.

This 2-4 loss brings this Stanley Cup final series to a 2-2 tie.

Stanley Cup Finals, Game 3 (6/2/09)

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

The Red Wings and Penguins shifted to Pittsburgh for game three of the Stanley Cup Finals. The goalies were Osgood and Fleury and the lineups were unchanged for both teams.

The Pittsburgh fans were out in force with their white t-shirts. Even though they’re the enemy I have to admit that’s really cool looking. Of course they were also booing Hossa every time he touched the puck.

The biggest concern for the Red Wings was probably that Bylsma would have a much easier time of getting Crosby on the ice when Zetterberg wasn’t out there. Zetterberg certainly did a great job against Crosby in the first two game but it’s such a team effort on defense that I think Crosby will still find a lot of traffic in his way even with Zetterberg on the bench.

The Penguins had some chances in the first couple of minutes, one by Crosby. The Wings converged well and Osgood made a couple of good stops. The Penguins looked very energized. The Red Wings were just treading water trying to survive the first five minutes.

They almost did it. With just over 15 minutes left in the period, Cleary dove to try collecting a clearing pass that was behind him. He wasn’t able to control it and it was taken by the Penguins still onside. Malkin ended up with it and passed it to Talbot in the slot. He one timed it and beat Osgood for the opening goal.

The Red Wings answered back very quickly. Leino took the puck in and sent it around to Franzen. Franzen gave it back to Leino behind the net. He took it in front of the net and shot. Fleury stopped it and the rebound came to Zetterberg while Fleury was still down. Zetterberg put it into the mostly open net to tie the game. They made it look pretty easy

The first power play of the game went to Detroit at about the halfway point of the first period. Orpik interfered with Cleary and was called for it. On the power play Zetterberg made a pass through traffic to Franzen. Gill got a piece of it but he didn’t control it and it ended up right at Franzen’s stick. He quickly shot it into the net. The deflection of the pass sort of threw off the timing of the play and I think that’s why Fleury missed it. He probably thought that the play was broken up by Gill and relaxed a little. Franzen’s goal made it two to one Wings.

A few minutes later the Penguins had too many men on the ice for about 20 seconds and nobody caught it except Eddie Olcyk.

With about five minutes left Cleary was called for holding and the Penguins went on the power play. Lidstrom tried to clear the puck and Crosby cut it off and had it point blank chance on Osgood. He shot it and Osgood went down and corralled it. It was a great save on what looked to be an easy goal.

Then Malkin made a pass across the ice to Letang. He shot it and it hit Kronwall’s skate and changed direction slightly. It was just enough to make Ozzie miss it. The game was tied at two with four minutes left in the first.

With just under two minutes left Franzen was called for tripping when his stick got caught in Adams’ skates. The Wings killed the penalty for the rest of the period. They still had two seconds of power play time left for the start of the second period.

It was a very exciting first period. Zetterberg was fantastic. Both teams played pretty well. The Red Wings had more shots but overall it seemed pretty even.

The second period was another high energy period. There was a lot of back and forth action but the defense was tight at both ends. Samuelsson hit a post and there were a few chances the other way early on. For most of the rest of the period it was dump, chase, battle, and clear without much of a real scoring threat.

Then Helm came out and worked his magic. He had the puck for a long time and ended up drawing a penalty. Detroit didn’t score on the power play but they generated a lot offense and it carried over to after the power play ended. They kept up the pressure for the rest of the period. Despite some great chances there was scoring in the second and the period ended still tied at two.

In the first few minutes of the third period the Penguins had some great scoring chances. The Wings got stuck in their own end needing a change and then iced it. The Penguins came close to scoring and then continued the pressure on the next shift. Osgood made a few big saves to hold the tie.

Halfway through the period Ericsson was called for interference. It was a pretty weak call especially considering all the non-calls that Pittsburgh had including too many men on the ice and a punch by Kunitz to Franzen’s ear. On the power play Letang shot the puck from the blue line. It redirected a time or two. Gonchar tipped it last. There was no way Osgood could have stopped it and the Penguins were up three to two.

With about a minute left Osgood went to the bench for the extra attacker. Almost immediately Talbot got the puck and put it in the net.

That was it for this one. The Penguins were right back in the series. The Red Wings again seemed to have too many turnovers, although the stats didn’t really reflect that. In general they play well, though. Just like the games that Detroit had won, this one was pretty even. A few different bounces and the outcome could have been different. I didn’t really expect a sweep but it was still disappointing. I wasn’t happy with some of the calls the referees missed or with some of the things they did call. I can’t really say was very consistent or even.

This 2-4 loss brings this Stanley Cup final series to 2-1 Detroit.

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.

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.