Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Wings 2, 'Canes 3

(I apologize for the lateness in getting this published. I was just too disgusted last night to write anything after the game.) The Wings' started their last mini-series with Eastern Conference teams off with a loss, dropping their second game in a row, 3-2 to the Hurricanes. They reverted to their practice of opening games slowly and paid for it when they allowed three first period goals. The game's first twenty minutes was just a continuation of the Dallas game, really, with the opponents wearing different jerseys. I will say that the Wings came out of the gates with a pretty good tempo, though this was more than matched by the Hurricanes and their rowdy crowd and it soon faded. There wasn't much sustained pressure from either side in the early goings, with the teams trading fairly decent chances at either end of the ice. Carolina was the first to take advantage of one of these chances and did so at 5:45 when a turnover sprung them on a 2-on-1 with rookie defenseman Brett Lebda the only one back for the Wings. Lebda backed up to just in front of Legace and then committed to taking away the pass by falling down. Matt Cullen promptly maneuvered around him and ripped a shot past the defenseless Manny Legace. 1-0 Carolina. The Wings followed this up with a slight push but didn't accomplish anything. OLN went to commercials and when they got back, the Wings were on the power play and I swear OLN didn't tell us until 20 seconds in. Anyway, Jason Woolley was called for hooking and the teams went to 4-on-4 for 41 seconds. Just fourteen seconds after the Red Wing power play expired, the 'Canes struck again, this time on the power play. It was a bit of a messed up play with Carolina passing like mad and the puck bouncing around the zone like a pinball. It came out of the maelstrom that the slot had become and ended up on the stick of a wide-open Ray Whitney to Manny's right, at the post. The former-Red Wing slammed it into the net and put his team up 2-0 at 9:21. That goal came as a shock, it was so sudden. I'd like to know how Whitney got so open. He never did that when he was with the Wings! Mike Babcock used his timeout at this point but its doubtful that it had any positive effect. The Hurricanes remained dangerous in the next few minutes and really had the Wings on their heels. A prime example of this came at 10:27 when Chris Chelios had to dive to the ice fully extended to block a pass that would surely have resulted in a goal or at least a very good scoring chance. He just barely got his stick on the puck and it was deflected but it showed a certain level of desperation. The Wings looked unprepared and disorganized. They went back on the power play at 12:52 but soon were called for a penalty themselves and the teams again went to four a side. They had a chance to go on a 2-on-1 but Robert Lang was fully incapable of managing the pass that came to him at center ice and the result was a Hurricane goal a few seconds later. Kris Draper turned over the puck at center and Eric Staal got it to Erik Cole, who took it into the Wings' zone and got off a shot, which was stopped by Legace. The rebound, however, went right back to Cole, who took it back around the net and scored on the wrap-around. Again, I was shocked and, by then, angry. That goal was just ridiculous. And since it came during 4-on-4 play, the 'Canes still got a power play. Fortunately, the Wings killed it off, though. At this point, I was pretty disgusted and wondering why I was subjecting myself to watching this when it wasn't even the end of the first period. Then I saw Steve Yzerman at center and had a fleeting thought something along the lines of, "Oh, look, he's skating all alone. It'd be nice if he could do something but he has no support." Well, Steve Yzerman, 40 years old or not, doesn't need any support. He took the puck into the Hurricanes' zone, maneuvered across the Carolina defense from left to right and then down the right boards before crossing back toward the net. Martin Gerber tried to poke check the puck away but he failed and The Captain backhanded it in as he fell, scoring just his 5th goal of the season (but now two of them have been among the best of the season). Goal scored at 16:07. I had remained quiet the whole game but when he scored, my arms went up and I yelled "YES!" I then apologized to my family for the outburst, "but that was an awesome goal." And it was. You've still got it, Stevie Y. Now, I thought maybe there was a little hope. The Wings finished the period looking a bit better but the Hurricanes still had the edge, I thought. Soon after the start of the second period, Detroit went back on the power play. This time, they did it by the book and avoided getting a penalty themselves. After some very good pressure and cycling, the Wings brought themselves within one when Henrik Zetterberg scored at 3:26. Hank was down low and attempted to pass the puck through the crease to Tomas Holmstrom at the other post but it went off a defenseman's skate and into the net for a goal. "Now, we have a game," I thought. The Wings looked rejuvinated after that and it seemed like they might really tie it up. However, as the period wore on, play became more and more even until Carolina took control again. They had a very good forecheck going, always pressuring the Wings defensively in their own zone and covered the Wings like a blanket in the offensive zone so that any offensive effort by Detroit was strangled. And so the second period went. It was a much better period offensively and defensively but after the initial adrenalin rush that came from Zetterberg's goal, the Hurricanes kept the Wings at arm's length. The Hurricanes controlled play early in the third period but were fortunate the Wings didn't score on a couple chances in the first few minutes. Tomas Holmstrom was stoned in the crease by Gerber after redirecting a pass from Pavel Datsyuk at 1:27 and Brett Lebda just missed a centering pass from Robert Lang a short while later. Carolina's Matt Cullen got a chance of his own, 1-on-1 with Woolley (I think, though I neglected to write it down) and ended up crashing the net. Pretty irresponsible on his part and dangerous for the Wings, who nearly saw their goalie injured again. Cullen was called for goaltender interference on the play and the Wings went back on the power play. It was a good power play, though they didn't score. Martin Gerber was like a vacuum that didn't give up rebounds and his defense protected him well enough to prevent a goal. It wasn't for lack of trying that the Wings didn't score and I came away from that power play feeling disappointed but understanding. The game really slowed down as the 'Canes closed down defensively even more. The Red Wing offense was relegated to the boards and their chances were minimal. It wasn't until the last couple minutes that the Wings really seemed to try to score, however. Tomas Holmstrom got a step behind the Carolina defense at 18:11 or so and though he got a shot off, he drew a penalty on the play and the Wings got a chance to even things up at 18:13. The faceoff was in the Carolina zone and soon after the Wings won it, Babcock pulled Legace for the extra skater. So, a 6-on-4 situation with 1:47 left. What followed as a crazy flurry of chances in the zone. Carolina could not get the puck out and the Wings were continually stoned by Gerber. Abel to Yzerman breaks it down:
"Lang sets up Shanny for a one timer…save. Zetterberg from the side, then the front…save, save. Lang from the slot…save. Scheider, Lidstrom, Datsyuk…Gerber stopped them all."
Yes, he did. The Wings were not going to get a break like they did against Chicago last month, in spite of all their effort. But it was exciting! Ah, my heart... The buzzer sounded and the game ended with the Wings on the wrong end of a 3-2 decision. I just tried to turn off the TV in disgust and found that the power button wouldn't work. That did not help my mood. The Nashville Predators are now just two points behind the Wings in the Central Division. Methinks a win on Thursday is required. Do you agree with me, Guys in the Winged Wheel? I don't know why but when I hear OLN announcer Jim Jackson speak, I think "South Park." Something about his voice reminds me of the narrator or one of the adults or whatever on that show (I don't watch it enough to pin it down). Pretty nasally, but from the back of his nose. Very annoying. Also, why are OLN commercial breaks so unbelievably long? And when they come back to the broadcast, they further delay showing the game I'm watching by providing "highlights" from games around the league. I'd rather see the faceoff and not miss 10-15 seconds of on ice action. As much as I hate how FSN plays the same one or two commericals over and over again during a broadcast, I appreciate how short their breaks are and that they come right back to the game. Johan Franzen did play last night but didn't stand out. He only got 7:43 in ice time so I'm guessing he's not 100%. Lines* Shanahan-Samuelsson-Zetterberg Yzerman-Lang-Draper Holmstrom-Williams-Datsyuk Cleary-Maltby-Franzen Shanahan-Draper-Zetterberg Zetterberg-Samuelsson-Shanahan Franzen-Yzerman-Cleary Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom Maltby-Draper-Franzen Shanahan-Yzerman-Lang Cleary-Draper-Samuelsson Draper-Williams-Datsyuk Franzen-Draper-Cleary Cleary-Franzen Cleary-Draper Draper-Maltby Zetterberg-Datsyuk D-parings Lilja-Lidstrom Schneider-Woolley Chelios-Lebda Schneider-Lebda Chelios-Lilja Lidstrom-Lebda Lidstrom-Schneider Lidstrom-Chelios Chelios-Schneider Lebda-Chelios Schneider-Lilja PP Lidstrom-Datsyuk-Williams-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Lidstrom-Williams-Shanahan-Yzerman-Lang 6-on-4 Holmstrom-Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Shanahan-Lidstrom-Schneider *compiled by Brian


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