Thursday, April 01, 2004

GameDay: @ St. Louis (38-28-11-2, 89) 8:00 EST

Tonight is the sixth and final matchup between the Wings and Blues this season. The Wings lead the season series, 3-1-1. The Wings' only loss to the Blues came on October 29 in the Joe. The Blues won 6-5, and ex-Wing Dallas Drake got 5 assists in the game. Dominik Hasek got the start, but was pulled after allowing 4 goals on 13 shots. Manny came in and played fairly well, with 19 saves on 21 shots, but it wasn't enough for the Wings. There were four first period goals, and five in the second. Most recently, the Wings beat the Blues 5-1 in the Joe. Manny Legace got the start, and Henrik Zetterberg was the first star of the game, with two goals and one assist. The Wings are coming off a 3-2 win in Columbus last night. In the game, the Wings got Kris Draper and Robert Lang back from injuries. Lang even got a goal, his first in the Winged-Wheel. Manny Legace got the start, and gave up two fairly weak goals, but made for it with key saves late in the game. With their net pulled, the Jackets stormed the Detroit crease, and I have no idea how the puck stayed out of the net for the 45 seconds of bombardment. Manny definitely stood on his head at times like these. It was Manny's career high 40th game of the regular season. With the victory, the Wings gained two points, locking up the Western Conference title with one to spare. After the Wings swept the home-home series against the Avs, gaining an eight-point swing, the San Jose Sharks were the only team that stood in our way for the first seed in the West. Until now. The Wings lead the league in points with 107; Tampa Bay has 104 points. Both the Wings and Lightning have two games remaining, but the Bolts only have to play Southeast Division foes Florida and Atlanta. By my calculations, the Wings need one more point and they clinch the Presidents Trophy. This is based on the fact that the Wings have two more wins than the Lightning now, in the case of a tiebreaker with both teams hypothetically tied at 108 points. By the way, standings tiebreakers are solved by "1. Wins, 2. Points obtained in games against tied teams, 3. Goal differential," as quoted by espn. Worse come to worse, if the Lightning win their last two games and the Wings gain only one point in their next two, the tiebreaker would not be wins (that'd be 47 apiece), season series (1-1 tie in their only meeting), but in goal differential. The Wings hold a comfortable +68 to +53 lead in this category. So it would take the Lightning scoring 15+ goals in their hypothetical two wins to overtake the Wings in this situation. I feel ridiculous for analyzing this so closely, but it's an interesting situation to consider. Tell me if I'm off my rocker.... The Blues are coming off an emotional 1-0 win over the Oilers Tuesday. Both teams took it as a must-win, and the Blues held on after Doug Weight scored at 13:46 of the first. Ozzie got the shutout with 18 saves. The win put the Blues in a better position in the West, although they are currently at seventh seed with 89 points, followed by Edmonton at eight seed (also at 89 points). Nashville is the odd-man out in this game of musical chairs (with 87 points), but they have three games left. They will be looking to pass the Oilers, who have only one game left. The Blues have three. The win over the Oilers pretty much sealed the Blues into the playoff picture, which would be their 25th consecutive playoff berth. The Blues are 6-2-2-0 in their last ten decisions. Assistant Coach Joey Kocur said on the radio that Griffin Marc Lamothe will get the start tonight in the Savvis Center, although some speculate that Manny will get the second of a back-to-back, since the Blues are a possible first round opponent. Cujo Jaded? I worry that Cujo's attitude toward the Wings is jaded by the goaltending controversy of the regular reason. Touting an un-retired Dominik Hasek, Wings' management pulled the rug out from under Cujo and put him on the trading block, sending him down to the Griffins. I remember the tears he shed at the press conference in Toronto following the signing with the Wings. The Wings showed a big commitment in Cujo by signing him through 2005, an option for 2006. And the experience has clearly been a letdown for Curtis. He could be thinking that the Wings are just going to screw him over again. I really hope this is not the case, and I'm sure that the Wings' management has sat down with Curtis and expressed their regret over the situation, but this is a valid concern when deciding the Wings' starting goaltender in the playoffs.


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