Archive | December 2011

What to expect this week

I’m not going to be able to blog much for you this week, unfortunately. This is the busiest week of the year for me at work. I’m expecting that I’ll be at work for 10 to 12 hours every day. Possibly even more.

Yeah, not so great.

So doing a pregame and a live blog for each game is right out of the question. I’ll check in as I can, but it’s most likely to be just a little bit of hit and miss analysis here and there. It’s going to be a nightmare of a week.

Game Live Blog, Red Wings at Predators

Pregame: Shea Weber will be out of the Nashville lineup, confirmed by Ken and Mickey. Darren Helm took a small injury during pregame warmups– no confirmation yet on whether Helmer will have to sit out the game or whether he just needs a few stitches.

1st period:

18:00 FSD said Helm is just getting some stitches, didn’t lose any teeth, and should be on the bench soon.

17:22 Detroit penalty, Cory Emmerton for hooking.

11:52 Some good pressure against Pekka Rinne by Todd Bertuzzi and Pavel Datsyuk after spending too much time in the defensive zone early in the period.

10:59 Helmer back on the bench looking kind of torn up.

9:03 Detroit GOAL! Valtteri Filppula takes a pass from Henrik Zetterberg and taps it past Rinne.

4:02 Nashville penalty, Ryan Ellis for interference on Helm.

1:15 Drew Miller blocks a dangerous shot by David Legwand, and Jimmy Howard clears the puck away.

0:13.5 Detroit penalty to Johan Franzen for holding.

Shots 9-8 Nashville.

2nd period:

17:02 Detroit penalty to Zetterberg for high sticking (2 minutes, not 4).

Heck of a PK effort by Helm and Stuart.

12:58 Ian White owes Howard a really nice dinner or something- he just put the puck on his own net and Tiberius had to be quick!

9:07 Howard comes up with an AWESOME glove save on Martin Erat at point blank range!

7:08 Possible Datsyuk goal going to review.

And it’s good! It was a wraparound and it was Datsyukian and the call made coach Barry Trotz look like his head might explode.

6:55 Goal for Danny Cleary! Nashville left him all alone in front of the net while Miller carried around behind at full speed and let the centering pass fly.

Shots tied 9-9.

3rd period:

15:49 Excellent glove save by Howard on Jonathon Blum after a bad turnover.

14:38 Another goal for Filppula! Cory Emmerton and Justin Abdelkader working hard in front of the net, Filppula picks up a rebound driving to the net on a line change.

12:56 Mickey reporting that Tomas Holmstrom is not on the bench at the moment.

10:22 Penalty to Jonathan Ericsson for tripping.

7:43 Datsyuk penalty for hooking.

5:16 Mike Underwood… er, excuse me, Mike Fisher for holding.

2:17 Blum ruins Howard’s shutout bid. *grumble* (Shot may have been tipped by Legwand, but recorded as Blum’s goal for now.)

1:18 Ken reports Holmstrom has a lower body injury.

WIN! Wings 4, Preds 1. Total shots 32-22 Nashville. (Forget the All-Star voting, Jimmy Howard for Vezina!)

Next up: Home game against the St. Louis Blues, Tuesday at 7:30.

Game Preview: Red Wings at Predators, 8:00 PM

It’s Division Week for the Red Wings this week, and make no mistake, the Central Division is not an easy place to be this season. Take a look at the division standings as of this morning (courtesy of Yahoo! Sports):

This week, the Wings play Nashville tonight, St. Louis on Tuesday, Chicago on Friday, and St. Louis again on Saturday. Points against division rivals are going to be like gold this season. The Central is a tight, tight race this season, and these end of December points could make a huge difference in the standings come spring. This week we don’t care if we get pretty wins and Datsyukian dekes or ugly, grinding wins. We just want wins– regulation wins, so we aren’t allowing the Predators, Blues, or Blackhawks any additional help in the standings.

Tonight we have Nashville. The Wings’ last meeting with the Predators was an unpleasant 4-3 loss at Nashville on 12/15/11. The Wings are reporting that they’ll have the same lineup of skaters tonight as they went with in Calgary on Thursday, meaning Mike Commodore will be in for Jakub Kindl. Jimmy Howard will be starting in goal.

Nashville media report that the Preds will be lacking defenseman Kevin Klein (flu-like symptoms). More importantly, they may be missing defenseman Shea Weber– you know, the guy who’s mentioned in every single online discussion about who the Wings should acquire after Nick Lidstrom retires (and may that day be long in coming). Weber left practice early today, which, reports Josh Cooper of The Tennessean, “doesn’t happen often, if ever.” Trevor Thompson of Fox Sports Detroit reports on Twitter that Weber will be out for sure for tonight’s game and Ryan Ellis has been called up from the minors to take his place. Pekka Rinne is expected to start in net. (Yes, I do have him as a starter for my fantasy team for tonight… hopefully that jinx will work again like it did on 11/26.)

The Wings do have some promising news to report on the injury front. Jan Mursak is expected to be cleared to play when he gets his (formerly) broken ankle checked by doctors on Tuesday. He will be sent to Grand Rapids to play a few games as a conditioning stint. Chris Conner is also close to returning from his hand fracture. He will be seeing a hand specialist on Wednesday to determine if he’s ready to play or if he needs more time. Patrick Eaves, unfortunately, is nowhere close to returning from his broken jaw. The team doesn’t even yet have a timeline as to when he’ll be cleared to start skating again.

2 hours to puck drop. Let’s go, Red Wings! *clap clap clapclapclap*

Dear Santa…

Dear Santa,

I’m sure the various Red Wings are too busy recovering from their road trip and spending time with their families, so I’m writing to you on their behalf. I know it’s the EHL (Elf Hockey League) that’s big up there at the North Pole, and I hear Rudolph is pretty happy about his non-Christmas-Eve job of being the goal light, but I’m hoping you can spread a little of that North Pole Magic down here for the boys in Detroit.

Please bring:

For #4 Jakub Kindl, a reminder to the internet fans that he’s really not responsible for Jonathan Ericsson’s mistakes.

For #5 Nick Lidstrom… what do you get the defenseman who has everything? How about an 8th Norris Trophy and a season that makes him feel so good he signs on for one more? Oh, and one entire day where no one on the internet misspells his name as “Lindstrom.”

For #8 Justin Abdelkader, a return to the gritty meanness he was supposed to bring to the bottom six.

For #11 Danny Cleary, the ability to stay on the third line with Darren Helm. I know it seems like a demotion on paper, since he started the season as a top-6 forward, but he’s really found his game since the “demotion” and he and Helm have developed into a checking line that can be a legitimate scoring threat on occasion.

For #13 Pavel Datsyuk… um. Hmm. What does Pasha need? His game has been near-perfect after he got over a slow start. Maybe just some reminders to keep shooting the puck more than passing it, and maybe some warm socks. I don’t know, Santa, you’re the expert in gift-giving, so I think I’ll just defer to you for picking out Pasha’s gift.

For #17 Patrick Eaves, a quick recovery from his busted jaw and a large serving of his favorite meal for the instant the wires are removed and he’s allowed to eat again.

For #18 Ian White, the ability to block shots with parts of his body that aren’t his face.

For #20 Drew Miller, a continuation of his suddenly torrid goal-scoring pace. Mighty Miller, indeed!

For #21 Tomas Tatar, some more time up from Grand Rapids and some goal scoring while he’s here. This is mainly because his enthusiasm upon scoring is freakin’ adorable.

For #22 Mike Commodore, the key to the exit door from Mike Babcock’s doghouse. I don’t know what Babs thinks you did, Commie, but I hope you get out soon!

For #23 Brad Stuart, a shiny new contract that keeps him here in Detroit a bit longer and also makes his family happy.

For #26 Jiri Hudler, a puckbunny of his very own, so he stops trying to get female attention by shooting the puck at the glass where female bloggers *ahem* are leaning to try to take pictures of warmups. That stings, Jiri!

For #29 Ty Conklin, a return of confidence and 2008-09 form.

For Chris Osgood and Kris Draper, because they’d fit here in the list if they were still on the roster, acting lessons before their next Volunteer Energy commercial. And yet… I love that commercial SO MUCH. “That’s a great save, Drapes! You should have been a goalie!” Makes me laugh every time.

For #35 Jimmy Howard, a very specialized tazer that he can hide somewhere in his leg pads and use on the guys who keep running him even when he’s in the protected area. This tazer should be invisible to everyone except Howard himself.

For #39 Jan Mursak, continued healing on that busted ankle.

For #40 Henrik Zetterberg, some relief from whatever minor injury seems to be nagging at him so that he’s not playing the way we’re used to seeing him play.

For #41 Chris Conner, a quick heal from his fractured hand.

For #43 Darren Helm, some work on patience. He’s improved a lot in this respect, but we still see The Flash coming in at such high speed that he’s going to fast to get a good scoring chance on a breakaway. (Although, this is a much nicer problem to have than to have someone who’s too slow for a good breakaway!)

For #44 Todd Bertuzzi, some shootout and penalty shot chances, or at least some clean breakaways. It’s obvious that his weird loopy goalie-fooling shots are his favorite part of the game.

For #48 Cory Emmerton, a seat on Red Bird 3 where he can nap without Mike Commodore taking pictures of him and posting them on Twitter.

For #51 Valtteri Filppula, more cowbell! No, wait. More of the same hard work and scoring prowess we’ve seen from him since he was put on the second line with Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler.

For #52 Jonathan Ericsson, will someone please tell this man that he is huge? And he should thusly play as if he is huge?

For #55 Niklas Kronwall, some lessons in how to KRONWALL opponents without leaving his feet on the follow-through, so controversy over borderline hits can be avoided.

For #93 Johan Franzen, aside from continuing his excellent chemistry with Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi, it would be nice if he got a reminder that when he’s playing against a goalie who is a truck, even a Dodge Ram, the best way to score is to go five-hole. That’s a weakness for all truck-goalies, unless they have hydraulics. And I’m pretty sure hydraulics are considered a banned substance by the league.

For #96 Tomas Holmstrom, the invention of super-effective back pain pills which cause no damage or danger whatsoever to any vital organs.

And Santa, if you’d be so kind as to bring a gift for the fans as well, we’d sure like to have a Stanley Cup parade down Woodward this June. Thanks, Santa! Have a safe flight tonight.

Respectfully,

The Puck Pixie

Game Live Blog, Red Wings at Flames

Pregame: So it seems Jakub Kindl will be sitting out tonight (healthy scratch). Mike Commodore finally makes his way back into the lineup.

Todd Bertuzzi said before the game, “We need to win this game for Ty,” referring to getting Ty Conklin back into net and rebuilding his confidence.

1st Period:

We have the same team of referees as we had last night. If this were a George Lucas movie, someone would be saying that they have a bad feeling about this.

Drew Miller has been promoted to the second line with Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula. Given his play lately? I totally approve. Jiri Hudler has been moved to the third line with Danny Cleary and Darren Helm.

11:53 Conk gets a pretty good save on Olli Jokkinen. Confidence, Conk, come on, I saw what you did in the 2008-09 season! You’re still in there!

7:56 Zetterberg penalty for hooking.

5:56 Hey, that wasn’t a bad PK.

4:56 Great save by Conk on Tim Jackman crashing the net!

Now, so far, only Datsyuk has a shot on net for Detroit. And he only has one. Can we get a few more, please? Oh, there, Kronwall has one now.

4:19 Bertuzzi penalty for hooking.

3:58 Calgary goal, Curtis Glencross. Puck goes off Kronwall and right to Glencross, who is able to lift it over Conk as  he’s reaching for it.

Shots in the first were 9-5 for Calgary. Ouch. In spite of the whining on Twitter, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Wings trailing 1-0 is *whispers* actually not Conk’s fault.

Why are the Flames all running at Kronwall? Are they all Kesler fanboys?

2nd period:

18:30 Calgary goal, Blake Comeau. Two on one rush and Brad Stuart isn’t able to take away the pass from Brendan Morrison.

16:02 Calgary penalty for interference to Corey Sarich.

15:28 Tomas Holmstrom to box for goalie interference–pushed Jay Bouwmeester into Kiprusoff. Unfortunately this nullified what would have been a Johan Franzen goal.

14:13 Flames goal, Glencross. Everyone gets kind of tangled up with the puck, leading to another two on one and Glencross puts it in.

9:48 Calgary penalty to Derek Smith for tripping.

3:00 Ken and Murph even sound vaguely disgusted with the lack of offensive effort.

2:32 Kiprusoff has to make a strong kick save on Darren Helm.

So, that was one of the duller periods I’ve seen in terms of offensive effort by Detroit. Come on guys, give your boy Conk some support, please? Shots 13-11 Calgary. It looks better on paper, but it didn’t look better on the ice.

3rd period:

Babcock has switched up some of the line combinations in an effort to get things going.

15:05 GOAL for Jiri Hudler! Bad clearing attempt by Smith, Hudler gets a backhand shot past Kiprusoff with Zetterberg screening.

13:35 Stuie has a “damn composite stick” moment when his shatters on a slapshot attempt.

10:42 Calgary calls a timeout. Really liking the pressure by Detroit so far in the third period!

10:10 Ian White hurt by ANOTHER blocked shot. This time his left hand. But he is staying on the bench for now.

4:12 GOAL for Ian White! Datsyuk wins a deep zone faceoff, White shoots from the point and the puck deflects off a Calgary stick past Kiprusoff.

1:50 Zetterberg shot rings off the post!

0:55.7 Icing call against Calgary, faceoff comes deep into their zone. Babs calls a timeout, and Conk will be pulled for the sixth skater.

0:34.3 Mule comes within millimeters, but Kiprusoff makes the save!

Wonderful effort in the last couple of minutes, but no good in the end. 3-2 Flames final, shot totals 31-27 Detroit.

I know a loss is a loss, but this one doesn’t feel nearly as bitter as last night’s. Granted, it would have been nice to see this sort of effort throughout the game instead of just at the end, but at least it was there.

Next up: All the NHL teams get a few days off to spend Christmas with their families. We’ll pick back up on Monday when the Wings go revisit the Nashville Predators. (8:00 PM, Fox Sports Detroit.)

Game Preview: Red Wings at Flames, 9:30 PM

Okay, so now that we’ve cleared up all the fallout from last night, we have a game tonight! Let’s go visit the Calgary Saddledome.

We have an actual goalie change to report: Ty Conklin will be getting the start tonight. This has nothing to do with last night’s game, by the way; Mike Babcock had planned to give Jimmy Howard this second game of a back to back pair off anyway. Howard says Conk has been working hard and deserves a start. “We need Ty to play. He deserves to play,” Howard said. “He’s been working his rear end off. He’s one of the first guys on (the ice), last guys off every single day.”

No other lineup changes are planned, although look for the potential for line shuffling should the Wings get off to a slow start or seem fatigued after their late night flight from Vancouver.

Calgary will be without forward Alex Tanguay, to the surprise of coach Brent Sutter. “I can’t even pinpoint anything on it,” said Sutter, who ruled out illness as the cause of Tanguay’s absence. “I will say I was somewhat surprised after the game (against Minnesota). He’s played some of his best hockey here in the last four games that he’s played all year for us. I was quite surprised to see that he was out on a day-to-day basis.” The Flames will also be without forwards David Moss (foot), Matt Stajan (ankle), and Rene Bourque (suspension). Miikka Kiprusoff will be the starting goalie.

Keep an eye on the ever-dangerous Jarome Iginla. He’s eyeing the milestone of 500 career goals. He’s sitting right now at 497, so he’d need a hat trick tonight to make it, but Iginla is, of course, more than capable of scoring hatties. Let’s hope last night’s abysmal defense rights itself and keeps Iggy off the score sheet– or if he must score, only let him get two (as long as the Wings’ offense scores some greater number than two, of course). The best scorers are supposed to be frustrated for several games before scoring a big milestone, right? Let’s make sure Iginla doesn’t feel left out in that respect!

Let’s go, Red Wings! *clap clap clapclapclap*

Update: Helene St. James of the Freep reported on Twitter that Jakub Kindl will be sitting tonight and Mike Commodore will be in.

Cleaning Up Last Night’s Party: Wings-Canucks Aftermath

1. Niklas Kronwall will NOT be suspended or fined for his perfectly legal hit on Ryan Kesler last night, in spite of Kesler and Kevin Bieksa whining that anyone who hits anyone should be willing to fight the person they hit. Even when the hit is a legal legitimate defensive play.

2. The NHL sheepishly admitted that Vancouver’s 4th goal last night shouldn’t have counted, since it was scored by Alexander Edler while Jannik Hansen was lying on top of Jimmy Howard. They would have called it incidental contact– not given a goalie interference all, but waved off the goal because Howard had no chance to make the save.

3. Meanwhile, Howard himself is really tired of being run at by opposing skaters. Howard has scrapped several times this season with players who have made contact with him. “Z never pushed him. I watched the replay,” Howard said. “Hansen leans into him, he loses his footing, just steamrolls me. I’m just sick and tired of getting run over. It’s every single game.”

Personally, as a Red Wings fan who is most specifically a goalie fan, I love that Jimmy has such a fire in him that he will get up and defend himself when he’s run at by some skater trying to take liberties. (And that he defends his teammates when they’re being pushed around by his net– the face wash of Sidney Crosby for cross checking Henrik Zetterberg comes to mind.) But this is absolutely not something he should have to do for himself every single game. It seems somehow shameful that this guy who has the team’s back and keeps them in games every single night– even games they play terribly– doesn’t have any protection provided by his own teammates. I have a horrible feeling that if Howard leaves for another team when his contract is up, this will be the main reason why. As a goalie fan, I’d be livid.

I really hope that Jimmy calling out his teammates like this, although gently and obliquely, will be enough to convince someone (or better yet, everyone) to step up and punish the guys who try to take liberties with our netminder. I’m not asking for Bob Probert style pugilistics here. But shove the guys around a little. Make them smell your nasty sweaty gloves. Do something, anything, just to put other teams on notice that running our goalie is not going to be the cakewalk it has been up to this point.

Thursday disclaimer: Wisdom Teeth Alert!

Tomorrow afternoon, I am having all four of my wisdom teeth plus one molar yoinked out of my poor gums.

This means there will be interesting medication of various kinds in play.

I don’t know what, if anything, I’ll be able to post for tomorrow’s game at Calgary. Also, if I do post anything, I have no idea how coherent it will be. You, as my readers, could be in for an interesting ride.

For now, let’s say I’m day to day and I’ll be with you tomorrow night as coherently as I can! But I take no responsibility for anything nonsensical I may post after about 1:00 PM.

Game Live Blog, Red Wings at Canucks

Pregame: No lineup changes planned for Detroit, right up to Jimmy Howard as the starting goalie. Vancouver appears to be flipping a coin to decide whether Corey Schneider or Roberto Luongo will be starting. John Keating of Fox Sports Detroit just called Pavel Datsyuk the deadliest player in the game. I did not realize that deking guys out of their jock straps was actually deadly. Daniel & Henrik Sedin’s line will be matched by Datsyuk’s line.

1st period:

It’s Luongo! Let’s turn those LUUUUUUU shouts to BOOOOOO shouts!

17:00 Todd Bertuzzi has a good scoring chance on Luongo set up by Johan Franzen.

12:15 Howard stubbornly making Vezina quality saves in spite of various Canucks crashing the net.

10:24 Howard stones Mason Raymond on a breakaway, but Chris Higgins gets the rebound.

10:03 Cody Hodgson gets a breakaway goal. WHERE IS OUR DEFENSE?

Mike Babcock calls a timeout.

6:14 Bertuzzi goal! Ian White shoots from the point, and The Todd is on the scene in front of Luongo to whack it into the net.

4:20 Goal for Alexandre Burrows on a redirection. Assists to Sedin and Sedin. (You can’t possibly expect me to tell them apart.)

0:01 Higgins and Ryan Kesler pressing for another goal at the end of the period, the puck goes wide as the buzzer goes.

This period, it was not so great, actually.

2nd period:

16:42 Luongo has to be quick to make a save on Jiri Hudler.

11:33 Not much going on in either direction, so I bust out my “Hamhuis” joke on Twitter. (“You know what the Canucks are having for Christmas dinner? Baked HAMhuis!”) It goes over… about like you’d expect.

6:13 Daniel Sedin uses his head. (Soccer-type play to hit the puck with his head at center to get it into the zone.)

4:40 GOAL for Darren Helm! Drew Miller screening, Danny Cleary makes a perfect pass from the left boards, and Helm makes an almost-Hullian snapshot past Luongo.

After commercial the goal is credited to Miller with the tip-in.

1:24 First power play of the game goes to Detroit.

0:00.1 Good hard shot by Nik Kronwall that Luongo has to scramble on.

Can we have the third period look like the last ~5 minutes of the second period? Let’s find out!

3rd period:

16:45 Ryan Kesler gets KRONWALLED! And then Kesler wants to fight. Keep your head up, kid! (As Mickey Redmond would say.) Does seem to be a clean hit, not to the head.

Kesler gets penalty for extracurriculars.

16:30 Shorthanded breakaway. Hansen slides into Howard and knocks him down, and Edler scores. Apparently there is no penalty called “goaltender interference” in Vancouver?

13:22 Delay of game penalty to Vancouver, Higgins in the box.

10:xx Bieksa and Kesler apparently can’t tell the difference between 51 and 55, as they try to avenge the Kronwall hit by repeatedly hitting Valtteri Filppula. No call on the late hit, not even an interference call.

9:00 Puck hits Ian White in the face and starts him bleeding. He just got rid of the protective visor from his last puck to face injury.

4:01 Luongo has a pretty impressive glove save on a Pavel Datsyuk backhand.

1:53 Howard to bench for extra attacker.

0:42.8 Daniel Sedin gets tripping penalty. 6 on 4 with Howard still on bench.

No good. Score remains 4-2 Vancouver at the end of the game.

Next game: Thursday 9:30 at the Calgary Flames.

Why I Don’t Have A Game Preview Tonight

The Red Wings are playing the Canucks at GM Place at 10 PM, but I didn’t write a game preview. And this is why:

When I left work at 4:30, I headed to Dundee, MI to have dinner with my friend Michelle. Dundee’s about halfway for us since I live in Toledo and she lives near Ann Arbor, so that seems to be the place to go. We were supposed to meet at Denny’s. Google maps assured me that there was indeed a Denny’s at exit 17 off US 23.

Google LIED.

I drove back and forth on Tecumseh Rd. a few times, but this did not cause a Denny’s to appear.

Finally I gave up and texted Michelle in defeat, and we went to Applebee’s instead. And it was fun, because Michelle is awesome and we gossiped about hockey and decided we would be going to the Toledo Walleye game next Tuesday night.

Then I went to Cabela’s. If you don’t know Cabela’s, it’s a GINORMOUS outdoor/hunting/camping type store. I wanted to get some flannel sheets for my dad for his Christmas present, and the store website indicated that they had some nice ones.

First thing I saw when I went in there? A woman in a white supremacist hoodie. Seriously. I was going into the restroom, and this woman with approximately 80 kids (slight exaggeration) was blocking the entry, so I said, “Excuse me.” And she stepped aside, and then I saw her hoodie. It had an equal-armed solar cross on the front, and on the back it said something about how we need to protect the white race to preserve a future for our white children.

Ho.Ly.Crap. And I actually said “excuse me” instead of just knocking her out of the way?

Anyway, I go and find the “home and cabin” section and start looking for flannel sheets. Meanwhile, rednecks in camouflage are giving me really dirty looks (I have purple hair and was wearing a Red Wings shirt). (In fairness to the customers of Cabela’s other people either ignored me or seemed perfectly friendly.) The staff totally ignored me when I tried to ask for help. I couldn’t find any flannel sheets at all. I found some very soft fleece sheets, but they all had patterns with either pictures of dead deer or plaid reminiscent of a 1970s sofa. YOU know the ones. Everyone of approximately my age plus or minus about 4 years has a baby picture of themselves on a sofa with that sort of plaid. And these are not things my dad would like!

I gave up, drove back to Toledo, and went to Kohls. Which I’d been trying to avoid, thinking it would be crowded. It was actually fine! On the other hand, their selection of flannel sheets had patterns of either (a) snowmen, or (b) 1970s sofa plaid. Sigh. I did, however, find a lovely light blue set of fleece sheets. Even better, it was originally $94.99, on sale for $34.99, and I had a coupon for an extra 15% off. Score!

And this is why I didn’t write a pregame report.

I’ll have a live blog up momentarily! (It will be of the game, not of my silly attempts at trying to shop.)