Saturday, April 24, 2004

Game 2: vs. Calgary, 3:00 ET

Today is the second game in the Western Conference Semifinals series between Detroit and Calgary. The Flames shocked the Wings in Game 1 when Marcus Nilson scored the game-winner in overtime, beating Cujo over his left shoulder. When Nilson scored the game-winner, I, like a lot of Wings fans in the Joe or on their couch, stared in disbelief. I've seen plenty of Wings' OT losses, most memorably in the playoffs, but the numbness is always the same. The casual, boxscore Wings fan saw that Cujo had allowed 2 goals on 18 shots, and blasted him for his performance. The diehard Wings fan saw the Wings flat in the second half of the game with Cujo solid enough for a Wings victory. But it's hard to win a playoff game with only one goal, and, let's face it, we can't be giving the hook to our starting goaltenders so easily. The way I see it, the Wings don't have the kind of goaltending that's going to steal many games this playoffs, in the fashion of a J.S. Giguere. The Wings' goaltending cannot carry the team, and Cujo and Manny have kept games within reach these playoffs. It's up to the offense to score more than one goal in a playoff game, and losses these playoffs have come down to the Wings' jacked up offense choking and sloppy defense. I will go further and say that, without Robert Lang in a Winged-Wheel, the Wings could very well be golfing right now. This is a guy who was supposed to supplement the Wings, not carry them on his back. But his 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) in 7 playoff games have been one of the few consistencies in the Wings locker room. He has lived up to the hype of his physical presence, using it to create scoring chances in these first seven games. Coming into Game 2, the Wings need to score early and get the Joe rocking. The Flames were flat early in Game 1, and the Wings didn't take advantage of it. If the Wings expect a restaurant atmosphere in the Saddledome, like how JLA often is, they'd better watch video of Calgary fans in the Vancouver series. The Wings can't blow opportunities to win at home and expect a 1572-mile trip into enemy territory to change anything for the better. Now is the time to even the series and prepare the long haul. Six or seven games is to be expected, which means more than one trip to Calgary. As for the power play, it has been absolutely abysmal for the Wings: 0-for-6 in Game 1 and 2-for-35 for the playoffs. The Wings have to learn how to use blueline blasts from Schneider and Lidstrom, and, excuse the cliche, crash the net more. Coach Lewis recounts the nightmare of failing to convert:
"We had a 1-0 lead. We had a power play. We could have made it 2-0. We didn't do that. Third period, we had a power play late. We could have won the hockey game there. It didn't happen."
The Grind Line did a great job of shutting down Jarome Iglina, a wise move after watching the Hart Trophy finalist dominate the Canucks in Game 7 with two goals and an assist on the series-winner. It's disturbing that the Wings can shutdown the main threat of the Flames, dominate most of the game, and lose. I'm confident that the Wings will react and win Game 2. While it's getting old that the Wings always seem to need a bit of shock treatment to get going, I expect Game 2 to pan out like Game 5 of the Nashville series. The Wings just can't accept going down 2-0 heading into Calgary... Injury Update On Monday, Thomas and Shananan did not practice with what Coach Lewis described as "little, minor things." Unfortunately, minor was not the case for Steve Thomas and he is out indefinitely with groin tear. Jason Williams got the go in Game 1 in place of Thomas, who will likely not return this series. Steve Thomas on his injury situation:
�I feel like I�ve had a black cloud over my head all year. The only time I�ve been healthy is when I got here. It�s hard to play when you�re not 100 percent, but that�s what hockey is all about.�
Some good news is that Jason Woolley might return in Game 2. Woolley has been out forever (read: February 16) with back issues, which were finally diagnosed as a cracked vertebra. He is healthy, and would likely bump Mathieu Dandenault up to forward in the event of a return.


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