Sunday, March 26, 2006

Wings 4, Jackets 5 (SO)

Update (12:37 PM): Corrected CBJ goalie's name. It's "Leclaire," not "Leclerc." Stupid mistake. Well. I hate it when I get a bad feeling about a game and it ends up being right.* All indications were that the Wings would win. They had the momentum, they had a history of beating the Jackets this season, they had the first three goals, they had it in the bag. But the Blue Jackets had the gall to score four times in seven and half minutes in the third period, becoming the first team this season to rally in the third against the Wings and end up with a win. Pascal Leclaire became a hero in the shootout, stopping all three Red Wings shooters, and the Blue Jackets head home with a 5-4 win over Detroit under their belts. The Wings were, in the first, efficient and businesslike, in the second, casual and sloppy, and in the third, arrogantly negligent and complacent. It was by far their most disappointing performance in months and ought to leave a bad taste in your mouth. It's also a wake-up call and it's good that it came now and not before it's too late to fix. The Wings waltzed out onto the ice, expecting a win, and, after they scored a couple easy goals, forgot the game wasn't actually over. I'm guilty of the same line of thought, thinking, "Gotta feel sorry for the Blue Jackets," "The Wings make it look so easy," "Maybe those Central Division weepers are on to something if only for the unfairness of these games," etc. many times during the first and second periods. It was a bit of a shock to be reminded that the Wings can underachieve with the worst of them. And now, a note to all the fat cats at the Joe tonight: Your sarcastic cheers for Chris Osgood when he made a couple routine saves after Columbus took the lead were a disgusting show of disrespect. When you were booing immediately after the goal, one could assume you were booing the team, which was right to do. But when you jeered Osgood, you stepped over the line. The skaters were at fault, not the goalie, got it? Many people with a better understanding of hockey would gladly take your place in those seats, "fans," because you don't deserve to be there. You had every right to boo the team for their lackluster performance but not to put the blame on Osgood's shoulders only. Disgusting. As I said, the Wings looked like they'd come to take care of business in the first period. They had control of the game and generated a couple scoring chances before getting on the board at 3:23. Pavel Datsyuk fought for the puck along the boards behind the net with Adam Foote and the puck squirted out to Brendan Shanahan, who sent it out front to Johan Franzen. The Swede, coming right off the bench, settled the puck down and then, moving right to left across the net, sent a shot at Leclaire, beating him to make it 1-0 Red Wings. The Wings' first power play of the game was pretty weak in the face of strong penalty killing by the Blue Jackets. The puck spent most of the period in the CBJ zone or at center, though it made it into the Detroit zone at times, causing Osgood to keep awake in case the odd shot came his way. The Wings were dangerous and looked confident, while the Blue Jackets could hardly get anything going until later in the period. Detroit scored again, late in the period, to give themselves a two-goal lead. A nice effort by Jason Williams kept the puck in the Columbus zone, resulting in a shot by him that was turned aside by Leclaire. The puck ended up on Robert Lang's stick and he sent it to Andreas Lilja literally on the blueline. Lilja released a shot from about as far out as he could be while remaining onsides and it was just barely tipped by Steve Yzerman out front. It beat Leclaire and was Yzerman's 689th goal, at 19:37 of the first. All being well, he'll soon tie and then pass Mario Lemieux for 8th all-time with his 690th and 691st goals. The Blue Jackets looked better in the second but the Wings were still hustling at this point. They killed off the first Columbus power play with a solid kill and nearly scored a couple times after it, with some solid pressure in the Jackets' end on a strong couple shifts. Nik Kronwall had a great chance with plenty of room at the blueline to work with but he had a spontaneous loss of coordination and fanned on the shot (while seemingly trying to decide whether he wanted to shoot or let the Columbus player nearest to him have the puck so he could play defense on him), looking pretty comical as he did so. It wasn't his best game, I have to say. Datsyuk had a great scoring chance at 9:59 but he took an almost lazy approach to it, going for a fancy finish rather than burying the puck in the back of the net. Not a good sign. Robert Lang scored at 12:53 to make it 3-0. The three forwards all took the puck in on a rush, with Yzerman carrying it down the right wing. Williams went to the net and Lang skated in the slot. The Captain centered the puck to Lang, who one-timed it a little awkwardly, beating Leclaire for a bit of a weak goal. Lang was laughing about it and I thought, "It's like the Wings are playing a pickup game, laughing about goals like that." At the time, I felt bad for the Blue Jackets, that the Wings could be winning so easily with such a casual attitude. I didn't realize until later that I should have been worried. Mark Mowers came to play tonight, though. He had a nice semi-breakaway a couple minutes later but just couldn't get the puck to settle down for a clean shot. He still has jump. Another Red Wing who came to play was Johan Franzen, who had that first period goal and was all over the ice most of the night. Adam Foote took a cheap penalty at 15:35, when Zetterberg lost an edge right in front of him and the ref took it to mean Foote had tripped him. Shanahan had a nice chance right off the bat, but Leclaire's glove hand was too quick. The middle part of the power play was pretty fractured but they set up again toward the end and got another nice couple scoring opportunities. Datsyuk had a glorious scoring chance, with a wide open net and everything, but he took his time and the puck ended up sliding off the heel of his stick before he could bury it. By the end of the power play, the Wings were outshooting Columbus 28-10. Thirty-four seconds into the third, the Wings were on the penalty kill. They did a good job of it, though, and got a power play of their own four minutes later. The first unit was very solid, with a couple of very near goals but the second unit was pretty scattered. Columbus broke the shutout at 7:08, when Rostislav Klesla scored off the right wing, beating Osgood stickside. If I remember correctly, it was deflected out front. Wings still lead 3-1. After the goal, the Wings had the puck in the Columbus zone and Kronwall nearly scored down low. The Jackets iced it and after the ensuing faceoff, Kronwall had another chance, making up somewhat for his sloppy play earlier in the game. At 9:50, Kris Draper's shot went off the crossbar on a nice shift by him, Datsyuk and Shanahan. Less than a minute later, Columbus struck again. David Vyborny deflected Klesla's shot from the left wing at 10:39 to make it 3-2. I started to worry. I wrote "DET needs to focus," in my notes. Kronwall coughed the puck up in his own zone not long after that but Osgood came well out of the net to poke check it away, negating a good scoring opportunity for the Jackets and saving the rookie's rear end. At 14:10, Mikael Samuelsson, looking confident with the puck (I was thinking, "Ah, at least his signing a contract hasn't had a negative effect on his play," at that moment) turned it over just inside the Columbus blueline and David Vyborny sent it up ice to a streaking Rick Nash. Not a good thing. Nash beat Andreas Lilja (surprise!) down the right wing and turned toward the net. He cut across the front and stuffed it in around Osgood to make it a 3-3 tie at 14:16. Mike Babcock did not look happy. I wrote "Wings in trouble" and underlined it, noting it was just Columbus' 18th shot. Twenty-nine seconds later, Columbus took the lead. Somehow, Manny Malhotra's shot went up and over Osgood on its way into the net for a freak goal, with Yzerman right there. The booing started and moments later, when Osgood turned aside a dump in, the "fans" at the Joe, cheered him like a bunch of jackasses. Malhotra's goal got the Wings out of their cocky lethargy and they began to play as though they wanted to win and weren't just ordained to. Unfortunately for them, Leclaire seemed to be energized by his team and didn't look like he'd be solved easily. Shanahan had a nice shift immediately following the goal and had a couple good scoring chances but wasn't able to bury it. He was slashed toward the end of his shift and looked to be in pain on the bench. Hopefully he wasn't hurt on the play. It was looking pretty bleak until Pavel Datsyuk scored out of the blue at 18:10. He entered the zone by himself and let loose a rocket from the top of the circles with Foote in front of him. The puck deflected immediately off Foote's stick and fooled Leclaire enough to go into the top left corner. The Joe was rockin', with Osgood's falsely perceived sins forgotten for the moment. Columbus put on some solid pressure late in regulation and Osgood was forced to come up big a couple times, no doubt causing many in JLA to turn to their neighbor and say "What a save!" with the same mouth they jeered him with five or six playing-time minutes earlier. The Wings had their time before the end of regulation as well, with Shanahan nearly scoring during the last 10-12 seconds, but the horn sounded and we headed to overtime. Again. Overtime was exciting, as usual, and too fast paced to get down all that happened. Highlights included Osgood's big save on Ron Hainsey 46 seconds into the extra period. Hainsey had been left wide open by Lidstrom and should have scored. Pavel had a near breakaway but a nice play by Hainsey prevented it. Neither team could score in OT so we headed to another stupid shootout. Jaroslav Balastik went first for Columbus. His wrist shot went in off the post, beating Osgood to his right. Pavel Datsyuk was next, for Detroit. He deked backhand to forehand and tried to slide the puck past Leclaire as he skated past the net but it didn't work. No goal. Rick Nash was second for Columbus. He missed wide left. Jason Williams, the Wings' "Mr. Shootout," was next up. He took a sharp angle attack and it backfired, as Leclaire was able to pokecheck the puck away. Williams is now 4-for-5 in shootouts. David Vyborny was the last shooter for Columbus. Osgood stopped the puck with his shoulder and gave the Wings a chance to force a sudden-death round. Henrik Zetterberg had to score to keep the game alive but he couldn't. Leclaire turned aside his backhand shot and the Jackets won, 5-4. Because the loss came after regulation, the Wings got a point and now lead the league with 102 points. All I have to say is they need to get this game out of their system if they intend on keeping that lead. Next, we have the Blues, Monday at 8:00 ET in St. Louis. Either the Wings rebound from tonight's loss and destroy the Blues or they fall even further and lose again. Which will it be? Abel to Yzerman game report *From the SJS summary: "Next up, we have Columbus at home tomorrow night at 7:30 ET. A should-win game and therefore one to worry about." I was a little more confident in the preview for this game: "Most years, this game would be a doubtful one because the Wings should win. However, this year, the Wings haven't disappointed in their games against the Jackets so hopefully tonight will be more of the same. The Jackets' win last night could cause some concern but the Wings ought to be able to handle it."

8 Comments:

At 3/26/2006 02:09:00 AM, Blogger Brian List said...

I was following the game over nhl.com during the Memphis/UCLA game, and couldn't believe my eyes to see 4 goals in the 3rd period column for Columbus. At least Pavs sent it to OT to salvage a point..I can't imagine the Wings losing in regulation like that! Still, not much better. Playing the Blues next will be dangerous, especially on the road.

 
At 3/26/2006 12:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a little spelling note, I'm pretty sure it's Leclaire, not Leclerc...

 
At 3/26/2006 12:35:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

Yeah, the Blues have to be pumped by watching the Wings lose like that. Should be an interesting game.

The good thing about all of this is that it should cause people to be a little more reasonable in their hopes for the post-season.

Anonymous, you are correct. Sorry. Dumb mistake.

 
At 3/26/2006 05:59:00 PM, Blogger Brian List said...

It's always dangerous to be competing for the President's Trophy come the last few weeks before the playoffs. Wings fans have plenty experience with that. If Babcock sat Lidstrom, Chelios, Yzerman, Shanahan, and Zetterberg or Datsyuk alternating for the rest of the season I would be fine with that. Bowman did that and it seems like a good strategy, as long as we maintain a 3 seed or better.

It's probably a better idea to give the team a rest than push for a 1 seed when we'd have to play the 8th seed-the hot team that just made the playoffs (in the style of a LA Kings of the past). Then again we'd lose home ice advantage, which would be beneficial against a West Coast opponent and in later rounds. It's a tough call, but I certainly am not drooling over the prospects of another President's Trophy. Wonder what Babcock is planning for the final weeks of the season...

 
At 3/26/2006 06:04:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

Too much rest could have the effect of taking the edge off the rested players. We've seen that often enough. I don't want to go into a series with the victorious 8th seed with a bunch of players trying to get back into the groove. A bunch of worn out players won't be helpful either...

As you say, it's a tough call. It's the first time Babcock's had the luxury of resting players at the end of the season. Maybe he won't simply because he hasn't before. I don't know.

 
At 3/27/2006 12:36:00 PM, Anonymous WI Wing Nut said...

I don't agree with giving up the number one seed just to rest players. Granted there are benefits, like '02 when the Wings won the cup, but at that time they had the trophy wrapped up. Even then, it took the Wings until game 3 of the first round to get their playoff legs. They were fortunate to pull out that series. Bowman took a gamble but in that case it played out in the Wing's favor. Giving up the 1 seed to rest players is a different story, though. Yes, the 8 team is often on a high having fought to get into the playoffs, but there is also a chance they could be on a low (i.e. this year if Vancouver gets the 8 seed, I would have to think that would be somewhat dissapointing that they had to fight to just get in after being high in the hunt with Cup expectations). Plus, a team that has been fighting, scratchign and clawing for every point at the end might ride that high, but they could just as easily hit a wall, giving the team that coasted to the President's trophy in the final days the advantage. Bottom line, you just never know, and that's what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs so great.

Quick note on Osgood, Matt, while I agree about the sarcastic cheers being innapropriate, I don't think Ozzie was without blame. He was clearly fighting the puck in the third period, on edge, and playing not to lose rather than to win. But, that's Osgood, spectacular at time and other times inconsistent. When he's at his best he's as good as Legace, maybe even better, but other times clearly inferior. The Wings knew what they were getting when they re-signed him. That said, I think your description of the Wings third period coverage was accurate. The word I would use is "abysmal".

 
At 3/27/2006 01:44:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

You're right, Osgood wasn't without blame. It certainly wasn't his best game but I felt the people at the Joe were putting too much of the blame on him. It was a meltdown through and through, no one player was responsible. I'd say three of the four goals he allowed in regulation were results of defensive lapses, while the other is one he should have stopped. I don't blame him for losing in a shootout either, since he only allowed one goal and our shooters couldn't solve Leclaire, of all goalies.

The Wings are in an unfortunate position because winning the West is important enough but with just enough doubt that they'll have to play hard to the finish. Hopefully they won't get too banged up in the final stretch or they'd be just as screwed as if they had rested players who then lost their edge.

 
At 3/31/2006 06:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree with most points, I must disagree with the way you slander Leclaire. He is a good goalie and will only improve with time.

 

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