Friday, April 23, 2004

Game 1: Wings 1, Flames 2 (OT)

Well, I was at the game last night and got to watch the Wings get robbed of a win in person. It was my first playoff game ever and just the third Wings game I've been to (one exhibition, one regular season and now one playoff). It was a whole lot of fun even though the ending sucked. The Wings really came out strong in the first and I was looking forward to witnessing a domination exhibition by the guys. Instead, I got one by Miikka Kiprusoff. While the Wings didn't generate a ton of chances, they did get a few pretty darn good ones in the first and Kiprusoff shut them down each time. We all could see a goal coming and the everyone in the Joe would start inhaling in preparation for wild cheering but then the Wings would get stoned and that air would be let out slowly in a sigh of disappointment. The Wings were mostly still taking shots at Kiprusoff's chest and making it easy for him to stop the puck at times other than their rare decent chances. Fortunately, the Wings were not giving up many chances themselves and did a good job of containing the Flames' vaunted speed. The Wings did "score" a goal at 7:02 but it was nullified by Kris Draper's Holmstrom-on-Lang's-goal-like goalie interference on Kiprusoff. Of course no one in the Joe realized this until Draper was already in the box so we all cheered wildly and once we realized what had happened, we all sat down feeling like a bunch of idiots, a feeling which we promptly took out on the refs by booing wildly. The Wings didn't come out as strong in the second but did finally score at 6:14. Robert Lang got the goal but I could have sworn his shot went in off Shanahan's ankle. That's the thing about going to games, you don't have the luxury of the 5x-replay and I couldn't see the puck on the replays they do show. Anyway, the goal took place in my end which was cool to see. A couple minutes later, Craig Conroy hit Joseph like a ton of bricks and had 20,000 hearts stop all at once. Joseph was down for a minute or two but got up and was apparently fine. It wasn't quite as scary as it would have been in the past given Manny Legace's quite capable but I was still worried as heck. The Flames got on the board themselves at 17:57 when non-scoring defenseman Robyn Regehr scored out of nowhere on a harmless looking shot from the left point. The puck went through some traffic but I don't think Joseph was screened all that much. He just cheated and went down too early only to be beat high. Not a very good goal for Joseph to give up, in my opinion. Okay, enough with the linear summary. Now on to some impressions. Obviously Dave Lewis has absolutely no short-term memory because if he did, he would remember how poorly Derian Hatcher and Chris Chelios worked together last round. They were totally awful last night and I spent nearly the whole time yelling at them for their crappiness. They are both far too slow to be a pairing and neither one has been playing all that hot lately. Hatcher has no shot and Chelios didn't seem to remember how to carry the puck. Neither one was all that physical even though they are expected to be the team's most physical players. Why the heck they were playing together is completely beyond me. Another example of why Dave Lewis doesn't learn from the past: the fact that the second power play unit was always four forwards and one defenseman even though last round, the power play only worked when there were two defensemen and three forwards out there. He must have partially learned the lesson since he usually had Lidstrom and Schneider out there on the first unit but he needs to learn it fully. Brendan Shanahan, in his current state of relative offensive inaptitude, does not belong on the point (or maybe, even on the power play at all). The standard unit composition of 3-and-2 had moderate success last night if only in generating some half-decent pressure once or twice. Either way, though, the power play was pathetic in the most extreme sense of the word and that is something that needs to change if the Wings do not want to find themselves watching the Flames in the Conference Finals. I do not blame Curtis Joseph for the loss last night and Wings fans who are doing so are being ridiculous. He may have not been stellar but he does not deserve the full blame. One thing I noticed throughout the game was the fact that after the Wings' strong start, they gradually began to lose control of the game and that continued until the Flames took over in overtime. The Wings once again did not play a full game and that has got to change. Of course, I would like to see Joseph win a game by himself but I'd rather see the Wings win as a team and stop leaving their goalies out to dry. Manny Legace is not the answer here, the Wings playing a full 60 minutes is. They are very lucky that the Flames also were not at the top of their game either because there were many times where the Wings' sloppiness with the puck nearly resulted in a Calgary break the other way. The Wings were far too casual with the puck in their own zone and kept passing it in front of Joseph which really pissed me off. Here is an interesting factoid:
"The Wings have lost seven straight overtime playoff games at home dating back to Game 2 of the 1998 Stanley Cup finals, when Draper scored against Washington. Detroit is 2-10 overall in its last 12 playoff overtime games."
That game in '98, by the way, is one of my favorite Wings moments ever. I'd like to thank those two Calgary fans who happened to sit behind us at the game for being so quiet and reasonable. I'm proud to say that I did not hear anything beyond good-natured joking from Wings fans when they noticed their presence. I enjoyed going to my first playoff game though I wish it had ended a bit differently. The Wings need to win tomorrow to keep this series from getting out of hand. If they cannot win even when the Flames are constantly icing the puck like they did last night, something is wrong. It's a good thing the Avs lost last night too or else the Wings would look even more stupid. Here is the box score. Lines- (Courtesy GWB) Shanahan-Lang-Yzerman Maltby-Draper-McCarty Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Whitney-Williams-Holmstrom Whitney-Lang-Yzerman Shanahan-Lang-Holmstrom Whitney-Lang-Hull Maltby-Draper-Yzerman Lidstrom-Schneider Hatcher-Chelios Fischer-Dandenault Hatcher-Schneider Lidstrom-Chelios 4 on 4- Datsyuk-Hull Whitney-Lang Zetterberg-Datsyuk Hatcher-Schneider Lidstrom-Schneider "PP"- Whitney-Lang-Holmstrom Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Lang-Datsyuk-Hull Yzerman-Lang-Holmstrom Lidstrom-Schneider Shanahan-LIdstrom Shanahan-Chelios Hatcher-Chelios PK- Shanahan-Yzerman Maltby-Draper Lidstrom-Chelios Hatcher-Schneider OT- Maltby-Draper-McCarty Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Whitney-Lang-Yzerman Lidstrom-Schneider Hatcher-Chelios Fischer-Dandenault Net- Curtis Joseph


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