Friday, December 02, 2005

Wings 2, Flames 3

The Wings started December out on the wrong foot, losing to Calgary in front of their home fans last night, 3-2. Jimmy Howard made his second start in a row and first at the Joe as an NHL player. He was steady once again, for the most part, but his teammates didn't support him as well as they did in LA and he was denied his second win. The first period was heavily slanted in the Wings' favor with regard to penalties but in the second and third, Detroit got into penalty trouble of their own. The Flames took advantage of this by dominating play for most of the last 40 minutes of the game. First Period The game started out at a good pace. Kris Draper took the puck nearly end-to-end on the far side and got a shot off from the wing about a minute into the game. The puck went through Miikka Kiprusoff's legs and came out front where Kirk Maltby was skating but he just missed it as it went by. After that chance for the Wings, the Flames came back and controlled play for much of the first five minutes. They didn't get a lot of good chances but kept possession in battles along the boards in the Wings' end. Howard was sharp when needed but he didn't have to be stellar. At 5:52, Roman Hamrlik was sent to the box for interference and the Wings went on the power play for the first time. 11 seconds into the man-advantage, Jordon Leopold cleared the puck into the stands while in the defensive zone. It was accidental but the rules are pretty clear. The Flames got a delay-of-game penalty and the Wings got a 5-on-3 power play as a result. What followed was one of the most miserable excuses for a two-man advantage I have ever seen. The Wings made it seem like it was 5-on-5 and they were playing an All Star defense. They couldn't get set up and could barely get the puck into the zone. Finally, with about 20 seconds left on the 5-on-3, they got some semblance of a set up going but it was soon cleared. The 5-on-4 power play that followed wasn't much more impressive. I wrote in my notes that the Flames didn't really dodge a bullet, the Wings just shot wide. To get an idea, they had no shots in 1:39 of 5-on-3. None. About a minute after the Flames returned to full strength, Kris Draper took a pass from Andreas Lilja and had a nice chance on net but he couldn't finish. It was a typical play for Draper, who can't seem to buy a goal despite getting a fair amount of what can only be termed as "glorious chances." Anyway, on the same play, Dan Cleary was taken awkwardly into the boards by Chuck Kobasew, who got a penalty for it. The Wings, knowing they needed to make up for their last attempt, took full advantage of this power play. Their first set up was cleared pretty quickly but a nice play by Howard, who came way out of the net and made a nice pass with a Flames player right in his face, got them back inside the Calgary zone right away. Pavel Datsyuk got the puck from Jason Williams and sent a pass from the far corner to Henrik Zetterberg, who was skating through the circle. With Tomas Holmstrom out front and creating a distraction, Hank shot the puck into the net, just inside the far post (near to him, far in relation to the camera) to make it 1-0 Wings. The goal came at 10:30. Three minutes later, we got a little scare as Marcus Nilson had a collision with Howard in the net but the Wings goalie came out okay. There was a delayed penalty call on the Flames already, however, and then the whistle blew, Craig MacDonald went to the box for hooking. Kind of a phantom call but hey, the refs made up for it later in the game. The ensuing power play was very impressive and even further in making up for their botched 5-on-3 chance earlier in the period. They got set up quickly and scored within 40 seconds. Nicklas Lidstrom and Jason Williams were on the point for the Wings and it was their play that resulted in the goal. Lidstrom went down low and took a pass from Williams, which he redirected on net. Kiprusoff made the save but the puck went up in the air and Holmstrom got his stick on it, batting it in 5-hole at 14:03. Nice hand-eye coordination by Homer, who has improved his play a lot this year and has stood out. 2-0 Wings. A minute later, Kris Draper nearly got a breakaway but he was just a step or two off-sides. Not that it would have resulted in anything anyway. Even on his best day, Draper isn't the most likely man to score on a breakaway, even if he's one of the most likely to get a chance at one, with his speed. FSN cut to commercials after that and when they came back, the play had already started. I didn't see it develop but the play ended with a quick whistle when the puck was in Howard's glove. It fell out and the Flames pounced on it, getting it over the line. The ref waived it off though, since he had blown the whistle. Howard dodged a bullet there. The last few minutes of the period went pretty quickly, with a lot of up and down skating. The final minute was all Calgary, though, and Howard needed to be sharp on a few chances down low. Shots were 9-9. Second Period Johan Franzen went to the box less than two minutes into the period but the Wings killed it off. The 5-on-5 play that followed was fairly even. At 6:15, the puck went into the stands from the Detroit zone off Lilja's stick and though it was accidental (he meant to send it up ice, obviously), he did angle his stick and the refs slapped him with a delay of game penalty. Steve Yzerman debated with the ref for a while, as Jerome Iginla looked on, but to no avail. The ensuing Calgary power play was pretty tense. There was a big flurry down low that had Howard "flopping like a fish out of water" but in a "composed" manner (apparently - according the FSN broadcasters). The Flames generated good pressure and the Wings did a good job of holding them off, though it was mostly by the skin of their teeth, it seemed. At 9:36, the Flames got on the board. It was kind of a fluke goal, with the puck coming out front from the corner and bouncing off hitting a player out front. Howard couldn't get his legs closed fast enough and just barely trickled through, making it 2-1 Wings. Credit for the goal went to Daymond Langkow. At 12:03, the Wings almost went down another defenseman, when Darren McCarty took Jason Woolley very awkwardly into the boards. Woolley didn't get up immediately but he soon seemed to be okay and made a return. Johan Franzen went to the box a little over 20 seconds later and the Flames got another power play. Just seven seconds before the penalty expired, the Flames tied the game up. The Wings had had possession of the puck but were unable to clear it and it ended up on Langkow's stick. He sent it to Kobasew, who put it inside the near post and made it 2-2 at 14:22. The Wings had to kill off one more penalty in the period and faced serious Calgary pressure while doing it. The Flames had some great chances but were unable to score. Pavel Datsyuk had a two-step-lead breakaway late in the period but it really looked like a lackluster attempt, after the initial speed burst. Rather disappointing. The Flames got another delay of game penalty with just under two minutes remaining and though the Wings put a lot of effort into scoring, they were unable to take advantage of this chance. In fact, it probably would have been better if they hadn't gotten the power play. When they didn't score, it carried over to the third period and pretty much led directly to the go-ahead goal by the Flames. Shots were 18-5 Flames (that should tell you something). Third Period The 11 second carry-over from the last penalty of the second didn't result in anything positive for the Wings. The ended up flubbing the puck at the blue line just as it expired and this sprung Tony Amonte and Rhett Warrener (fresh out of the box) on a 2-on-0 breakaway. Amonte kept the puck the whole time and deked Howard out of his jock strap, scoring from the doorstep into a relatively empty net on the far side just 19 seconds in. 3-2 Flames. At 3:39, Maltby was called for hooking. 50 seconds later, Draper was called for the same thing. So, the Flames have a 5-on-3 power play and the Wings are down their two best penalty killers. Remembering the Wings' own attempt at 5-on-3 power play and knowing how these things usually go, I wrote in my notes: "watch Flames school us." As bad as the first two penalties were, it got worse. At 5:01, Steve Yzerman was called for high-sticking, which further extended the 5-on-3. (Coach Babcock, why was Yzerman out there on the penalty kill?) Because Maltby was still in the box, Yzerman's penalty wouldn't start until the first penalty was over (but Maltby couldn't leave the box because of Draper's penalty, which still made it 5-on-3). The Wings killed off the Maltby-Draper 5-on-3 and then had to work on the Draper-Yzerman edition. Lilja was very good on this one, putting forth a lot of effort and making some impressive defensive plays. When Draper's penalty expired, he came out of the box and joined the play (Maltby was still in there and still couldn't leave). Shean Donovan got a chance all alone down low but Howard made the save and held on to the puck. Maltby was finally able to leave the box at this point and helped kill of the rest of the penalty. It should have been a turning point in the game for the Wings, who held off the Flames' onslaught but it didn't seem to have the effect of spurring them on to greater effort. After the penalties expired, the Flames continued their pressure and forced the Wings to just ice the puck. At this point, Mickey Redmond made the point that the Wings need to get back on track. Shots were 33-17 Flames with 11 minutes left. After getting 9 shots in the first, they only had another nine in the next 30+ minutes. Later in the game, the refs started turning a blind eye to some Flames infractions, most notably a bit of very real interference on Pavel Datsyuk in the slot. Everybody in the Joe knew it was a penalty according to the new rules but no call was made. Pretty disgusting. The Flames were just good defensively, though this was helped by an apparent lack of urgency on the part of Detroit. With just over a minute left, Donovan got a step on Jason Woolley and broke in on Howard. Woolley made a valiant effort to save the play but he ended up tripping Donovan. Because it was a bona fide breakaway, Donovan was awarded a penalty shot and Howard had to face his second PS in as many games. Donovan made it easy for him, however. He tried to deke but lost control of the puck and didn't even get a shot off. I'm not sure but on the replay, I think I saw Howard make a waving motion with his glove, as though saying "Bah! That's the best you got?" If so, the kid's got a lot of confidence. Howard was pulled for the extra skater with about a minute left. The Wings got a faceoff in the Flames zone with 24 seconds left and ended up controlling it. They got some good pressure going in the waning seconds but couldn't get it past Kiprusoff. Flames win 3-2. Shots were 9-7 Flames and 36-21 Flames for the game. Notes ... I missed the interview but I am told Tomas Holmstrom made some mention of both goalies (Legace and Osgood) being hurt when talking to the FSN crew between the first and second period. The papers don't say anything about an injury to Osgood but the Freep does mention Howard taking over as starter. The rationale behind that is apparently Osgood's giving up 6 goals on Saturday in San Jose. They say Howard will likely start until Legace returns from his sprained knee (he's supposed to be out for just a week, starting last Friday). .... Speaking of Howard, they made a big deal about his helmet in his first game. He has it covered in Detroit-related stuff and one of those is a reference to Kid Rock. The famous Detroit musician was actually at the game last night, which had to be cool for Howard. I wonder if he got to meet him .... The Wings will now play 6 games against Eastern Conference teams, splitting them evenly between home and away. The highlights of these games will be their trip to Washington to play Alexander Ovechkin and Co. on the 9th as well as their game against the Pens and Sidney Crosby at home on the 11th.


At 12/02/2005 07:16:00 PM, Blogger Grampapinhead said...

The wings just handled the puck like pond hockey, with frozen fingers and wet gloves. Howard looked good, but he will have to play like rookies Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy for the wings to have any chance at the cup.


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