Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Oh What a Difference a Datsyuk Makes

Not that anybody noticed, but I sort of took a sabbatical over the last few weeks.  Why?  Because I'm working on a new and improved positive outlook for life, and frankly, the Wings had me dumpster-diving for expired Prozac pills ever since Pavel Datsyuk had his surgery. 

Wow!  What a tough tumble that was from the top of the Western Conference!  That home-winning streak seems so distant and inconsequential now, doesn't it?  That was fun for a bit, wasn't it?  Now it's just a reminder that a regular season achievement in the NHL is like buying a Ford Festiva--sure, it's a cheap thrill and and the spoiler is super sweet--but is it really something you're going to brag about all summer long?

Seriously, prior to the infectious rash of injuries (Howard, Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Ericsson, Kindl, Bertuzzi, Franzen, Helm, MacDonald...missing anyone?) the Wings perched atop the West peering down at a juicy home-ice matchup with an eighth seed.  That painful tailspin left them watching the Blues soar by, glancing over their shoulders at the Blackhawks, and engaged in a vicious cock-fight with the Predators.  It wasn't until Monday's 7-2 blowout against the Blue Jackets that I saw a glimmer of hope that they could hold onto the fourth seed and secure that sought after first round home ice advantage.

That glimmer was Pavel Datsyuk.  The Dangler looked as if he was back to mid-season form, worth all the MVP chatter of just a month or so ago.  Of all the injuries, even Howard and Lidstrom, it was the lack of Datsyuk that made this team look horribly average, and the slide in the standings shows that.

What made the slide more salty was the return of Cindy Crosby, not so much because I hate the guy, but because I hate the media black hole he creates when he's on the ice.  A few days ago I watched an ESPN top play of Cindy Crosby making a behind-the-back no-look pass to an open winger for a goal.  A great play, yes, but relatively routine for any star in the NHL.  The no-knowledge commentators playfully talked up the play:

ESPN Moron #1: "How many people can do that?"
ESPN Moron #2: "Just one."
ESPN Moron #1 and #2: "Crosby!"

Apologies for the anti-Crosby/ tangent, but for real, Pavel pulls those passes every game--did you see his assist on Gustav Nyquist's first career goal?--and now that the Princess's headaches are better it's back to the same-ol' Penguins-or-bust Sportscenter highlights.  AAHHHH digression!

Anyway, with Datsyuk back the team's confidence seems to have rebounded along with my confidence in them still being the best in the West.  However, that was the Bluejackets they played on Monday night.  Not exactly the best ruler to measure by.

Friday night against Nashville will be good cheese.  A preview to a potential first-round bout at Joe Louis Arena.  A sort of play-in game that could decide home-ice advantage.  Both teams will be looking to make a statement and gain some leverage.  Nashville improved via the trade deadline and by weasling Alexander Radulov out of Russia, but the Wings are getting healthy and finding their championship chemistry.

Expect to see a March playoff game on Friday!

Peace. AWP

Friday, March 9, 2012

Power Play Needs to be Kronwalled

Saw this, made me puke a little.  All that talent.

Red Wings Power Play
Even when the Wings were fully healthy, Detroit's power play was...well...a turd out there. 
Babcock knows this.  He's aware.  What's frustrating is nothing has changed for him all season long, even when his Wings were flying high with the home-winning streak.

They skate through their own zone and central ice with no sense of urgency.  Players stand on the blue line, waiting, looking at the puck as if there is no plan to enter the zone--as if the defense is going to open up and let Zetterberg skate right in.  Stood up and shut down.  It reminds me of watching the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals against New Jersey.  All that talent.  All that talent and no way to utilize it.  Hell, why not just fire the puck in from their own net and send four skaters in chasing after it?  Icing maybe, but at least they wouldn't turn it over between the blue lines!

Detroit lost to Philly on Tuesday 3-2.  They were 0-4 on the power play and gave up a short-handed goal.  Games should not be lost that way,   not in the midst of a close division and conference race.  The Blues are too good.  The Canucks are too good.  The Predators could be better than everybody. 

The Wings need to fire on all cylinders in order to keep pace for the top spot in the Central and the West.  Players will get healthy, the team will stabilize, but unless something changes with the special teams play, all that talent will merely glaze over any malfunctioning component...until the playoffs.

The power play needs a jump, a jolt, a Datsyuk, or perhaps a bone boiling blast from Kronwall.

Voracek got knocked back to the Czech Republic with that latest edition of Kronwalled!.  Good news with this hit: Kronner did not receive a suspension.  Bad news with this hit: the NHL has pooped in its own hat again.

Not from TSN
TSN's Bob McKenzie tweeted, to the dismay of Flyers fans, that the principal point of contact on the hit was to Voracek's stupid head, but it was a body-to-body check.  Huh?  I mean, that's true, but why state it like that?

Brendan Shannahan is doing the best he can to break down legal and illegal hits and deal out punishements when warranted, but the NHL is bungling the verbage of its own rules, and patience is thinning and tempers are flaring around the leage.  It was a clean hit.  The league deemed it a clean hit.  It's obvious that Kronwall didn't aim for Voracek's stupid head.  Voracek aimed his stupid head for Kronwall.

Any hockey player, and fan, knows: Hold your head up, boy! Hold your head up, boy! Hold your head up, boy! Hold your head high!

One of the Morons
 It concerns me that the league cannot come to a consensus on the rules--there is a lot at stake here.  The fans get in an uproar everytime a hit is declared dirty or clean.  Moronic anti-physicality morons feast on this controversy and use it in their war to "clean up the sport".  With concussions running rampant and NHL poster-dork Cindy Crosby continuously wearing wobble pants, the lines between fighting and hitting are succesfully being blurred by boobies who have no invested interest in the sport other than investing interest in themselves.

Clean hitting is part of hockey.  It's as much a fiber of the game as the ice that its played on, but if the NHL cannot draw a fine line with how they word its rules, the morons will win and the sport will pay the consequences.

Peace. AWP

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

So Long President's Trophy, Hello Stanley Cup?


With millions of dollars under the salary cap, Ken Holland had enough treading space to make a huge splash at the trade deadline.  What did the Wings get?  A 7th round draft pick.


Was there a blockbuster deal out there?  No--Nash stayed in Columbus.  Did any players move that I really wished Detroit would have snagged?  Maybe--Nashville nabbed Paul Gaustad AND Andrei Kostitsyn.  Were there teams around us that made immediate improvements?  Yes--Vancouver and Nashville bought and sold farms.

I still like the Quincey trade, especially after his partner went limp in the wrist, but why move a veteran defenseman like Commodore after losing a veteran defenseman like Ericsson?

By trading Commodore to Tampa, Holland opened up a roster spot.  By making that move so early on Monday, it was reasonable to assume that a trade would be made to fill that spot.  But as the Canucks and Predators kept pilfering the Sabres, the Red Wings remained all quiet on the Western Conference front.

It's a good thing that Brendan Smith will get his chance, but this couldn't be worse timing.  That home-winning streak was fun--but back to reality--the Wings are watching teams pass them on all sides.  Vancouver is now poised to run for the Presidents Trophy, and the Blues and the Predators are riding momentum towards the top of the Central Division.

Detroit is now forced to fend off these teams with Smith and Kindl, Mursak and Emmerton.  I like these players (except Kindl), but I'm not excited about relying on them to secure home ice in the postseason.  I still think the Wings are better built for the playoffs this season than they were in the last two, but the road back to the Finals just got rockier now likely leads away from Joe Louis Arena.

With Pavel Datsyuk in the lineup, Detroit was the best in the West.  It has been frightening to watch the Wings sputter without him.  That has been sufficient evidence that Detroit needs another forward, either a scorer or a bruiser.  I wanted a scorer.  Babcock wanted a bruiser.  I wonder if he's as disappointed as I am.

Peace. AWP

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sneaky Stevie

If you missed my latest post, scroll down and read it. 

Basically, I like Kyle Quincey and I'm glad he's back with Detroit, the team that drafted and cradled and nurtured him before serving him up on a waiver platter.

I also loved that it was Tampa Bay Lightning general manager and Red Wings GOD Steve Yzerman that orchestrated the three-team deal, bringing Quincey in from Colorado, then trading him to Detroit.

Then I read this little nug.  Now I love the trade and Yzerman even more.  I wonder if Lightning fans look at this as Yzerman using their team as a puppet for the Wings.  I don't care...just wonder.

Man it still feels good to stick it to the Avs!  Thanks for another one, Stevie!

Peace. AWP

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Welcome Back Kyle

I almost started crying at work when I read that Pavel Datsyuk is going to be out 2-3 weeks due to arthroscopic surgery on his knee.  Today's trade to bring defenseman Kyle Quincey back to Detroit helped me hold back the sniffles.

I really liked Quincey when he was bouncin' round the state between Grand Rapids and Detroit.  It was a difficult decision when in 2008 Ken Holland placed the young, promising defenseman on waivers, but Quincey now comes full circle back to the team that drafted him.  And who's to thank for that?  Steve Yzerman!  Thanks Stevie!

Quincey never really got his shot with the Wings, appearing in only 13 games over three seasons.  However after being claimed off waivers by the Kings, the now-veteran defenseman has carved out a nice career with some notable stats.  In Colorado this season he led all blue-liners with five goals and was tied for most points (23) amongst the defense. 

The Wings lead the league for goals by defensemen this season and Quincey adds another deadly stick to an already deadly blue line.  Check out these numbers with Quincey's season stats inserted:

Lidstrom--10 goals/31 points
White--6 goals/28 points
Kronwall--12 goals/24 points
Quincey--5 goals/23 points
Stuart--5 goals/14 points
Ericcson--1 goal/9 points
Kindl--1 goal/9 points

One area the Wings could use some help is on the power play.  Out of all the goals above, only three (Lidstrom 2, Stuart 1) have come on the power play, and three of Quincey's total this season have come with the man advantage.  That I like.

Here's what I love.  What I remember about Quincey is he has great skates for a big guy, 6'2"/207 lbs, and can help the power play and the penalty kill.  He led the Avs in total ice time (22:21) this season, which compares well with Kronner's (22:28).  He has 68 hits on the season; that would rank him third amongst Detroit's D.  He has 29 giveaways--on par with White's 28--and 22 takeaways--just behind Lidstrom's 23.

I've been sweating the impending trade deadline, watching pieces fall to different places.  I saw Hal Gill go to Nashville and Pavel Kubina go to Philly, and I thought, "Who could the Wings bring in for depth at defense?"  If I knew Quincey was available I would have put him near the top of my list.  He's resignable (restricted free agent), he's not a huge hit to the cap ($3.13M), he's young (26), and we raised him right here in Grand Rapids.

Welcome back Kyle!

Peace. AWP

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Best Thing About 21

I kinda remember when I turned 21 on a typical balls-cold night in Sault Ste. Marie, MI.  At 11:55 PM on the eve of the anniversary of my birth the bartender at the Satisfied Frog asked me to leave the bar and return after midnight.  When I came back the table was full of shots...and that's about all I can recall.

I have a similar fuzzy memory from Tuesday when the Wings broke the NHL record with their 21st consecutive home victory.  Instead of shooting tequila with my college buddies, I enjoyed a Lagunitas double IPA at Hopcat with my girlfriend for Valentine's Day.  Alas, I did not watch the game.  Oh! the sports sacrifices we make!  I did notice on the television behind the bar that Detroit had defeated Dallas 3-1 to set the record.  My girl was not impressed by the victory, or enthused with my diverted attention.  After all, it's just another game.  Just another win.  At least that's what I remember telling myself Tuesday.

Best thing about a home-winning
record?  Setting it at home!
I've had an opportunity to think about the record and I've read a few online articles and their corresponding comments from readers.  I've enjoyed the praise and I must say I do not give other teams' fans enough credit.  Shockingly enough there has been a good amount of congratulating the Red Wings from fans around the league.  There's still the haters that mentioned all the shootout victories, and a few Beanheads brought up how the Bruins actually won 22 straight sprawled over two seasons (the NHL does not recognize such records), but for the most part credit is being paid to a much-deserved milestone.  There was even praise from the losers on Tuesday.

The Wings Need an Ott
 I got a kick out of Stars forward Steve Ott's comments after the game.  "It's incredible, it truly is.  Twenty-one games in a row at home, let alone five in a row at home, is amazing. It's a tremendous accomplishment for their organization." 

An unexpected classy statement from an expectantly crassy guy.  Ott is one of the most annoying guys in the league and is always amongst the rafters in penalty minutes.  He's the type of dude that will do anything to spoil someone else's party.  He's the guy that pulls you out of bed and onto the floor and takes pictures of you on your 21st birthday.  A real jerk.

But the jerk is right.  21 consecutive victories is truly an astonishing achievement, accomplished by an incredible team.  It is a testament to the dedication of coach Babcock and all the players to reach a team goal of improving on last season's home record which bolstered just 21 wins total at Joe Louis Arena.  It is a sign that Lidstrom and the gang are on a mission to reclaim the Stanley Cup for the third time in eleven seasons, and fifth in 16. 

Ah yes, the Stanley Cup.  That's all that really matters, isn't it?  Cup or bust!  We all remember the record-setting 62-win season in 1995-96, just to get bounced by the Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals.  Remember that?  I just got pissed thinking about it.

Saluting the Crowd
Anyway, the underlying sweetness of this record in regards to the postseason is it has been necessary.  Take a look at the conference standings.  The Wings are just a handful of points ahead of Vancouver and divisional rival St. Louis, and they have played more games than either team.  The Central Division is terrifyingly good this season too--three of the top four teams come from the division.  If the playoffs started today, half the teams in the West would come from the Central.

With a Clark Kent record on the road, Detroit has had to be Superman at the Joe.  At this point in the season the home-winning record is not just a regular season novelty, it's a postseason necessity.

Peace. AWP