Monday, March 20, 2006

Wings 7, Canucks 3

The Wings went into last night's game not needing a win per se but looking for a confidence builder. Well, they got one. Apparently, someone forgot to tell the Canucks that they are not in a position to take dumb losses because that is what this game was, a dumb loss. The Wing may very well have won anyway but the Canucks screwed themselves over, by taking a number of stupid penalties, by stupid coaching decisions and by just not trying hard enough. Chris Osgood got the start for the Wings and looked good again. Two of the three goals he allowed came off deflections and the third would have been a tough stop for anyone. He was very sharp when needed, especially for stretches of the second period, when the Canucks realized they were losing and wouldn't win if they didn't do something with the puck. Still, the game didn't do much to clear up the goalie controversy. Both goalies are playing well, if not stellar, now and that will make Babcock's final decision a tough one, if he wants a single starter. In contrast to the Edmonton game, the Wings came out of the gates flying. Robert Lang and Henrik Zetterberg both had good chances in the first but neither could score. It was not a good omen when the Canucks defense opened like the Red Sea to allow Hank to pass through and get a shot off on Auld from 10 feet out a mere 25 seconds in. At 1:45, Canucks rookie Alexandre Burrows was called for elbowing on a dangerous play involving Chris Chelios along the boards. The Wings are fortunate Cheli didn't get hurt when his head rebounded off the glass after Burrows' elbow made contact with it. Incidentally, the hit ended up being FSN's Check of the Game (I thought it was more the Cheapshot of the Game but anyway. Another thing, why is it always the opposition that deals out the Checks of the Game? When was the last time a Wing had the honor?). It was good to see Cory Cross come to his new teammate's defense, letting Burrows know he was out of line. The subsequent Red Wing power play was kind of sloppy, though they did get some pressure with Pavel's group. Burrows nearly broke in on Osgood after leaving the box but Schneider was johnny-on-the-spot with the puck at center and a breakaway was prevented. The Wings got on the board at 6:03 after Mark Mowers (who has been great) stole the puck at center and took it in on a 2-on-1 with Hank on the far wing. Instead of making the obvious pass to Zetterberg, however, Mowers found Holmstrom, who was trailing on the play and sent a pass into his skates. Homer kicked it to his stick and maneuvered around the kneeling Canucks defenseman (Weinrich?) before releasing a shot from the left circle, beating Auld high. Not a goal calculated to inspire confidence in the goalie, to be sure. Auld should have stopped it. Great play by Mowers, though. I had barely finished writing down Holmstrom's goal before the Wings struck again. This time it was Chris Chelios who kicked it off: his efforts at the blueline prevented a sure clear-out of the zone and the puck ended up staying in that end as the Vancouver players headed out on what they thought would be a rush. With two players totally out of the zone and three at the blue line, Steve Yzerman, who had been attacked by the hockey version of football's turf monkey and was on his knees facing the Detroit end, took the puck and quickly dropped it to Jason Williams, who was skating up ice behind Mathias Ohlund. Williams quickly turned around and skated in on Auld all alone, with Ohlund desperately trying to catch up. He deked forehand to backhand and beat Auld, who was left helpless on the play. I was writing "What a goal!" practically before I even thought it. 2-0 Wings, at 6:43. Apparently not satisfied with having surrendered two goals in about 40 seconds, the Canucks took a too-many-men penalty at 8:49. And apparently, even that wasn't enough for them. Less than a minute later, Weinrich was called for holding and the Wings got a lengthy 5-on-3 power play. They made good use of it and the Canucks, to their credit, did a good job of killing it off. They couldn't, however, stop the Wings after the first penalty expired. Nick Lidstrom gave the Wings a three-goal lead at 10:55 after taking a pass from Datsyuk and stepping up to the top of the left circle to take a low shot. With Holmstrom throwing a screen out front, the puck beat Auld low glove side, just inside the post. The Canucks took another penalty at 12:24 and the fans were pretty pissed off by that point. That one was a good call, though, and was a dumb interference penalty for Cooke to take. On the ensuing power play, Datsyuk split the D but ran out of real estate. His pass back to the trailers resulted in a flurry around the net, with Auld down and out, but the puck stayed out. It was otherwise a good kill for the 'Nucks. At the end, there was another flurry and Cooke, fresh out of the box, made another bonehead play, this time clearing the puck out of the rink and into the crowd. That's a delay of game penalty, folks. Luckily (or maybe not so much) for the Canucks, the only notable event of the Wings' power play was a blocked shot by Bryan Allen. The shot came from Williams and it looked like it hit Allen in the knee. It obviously hurt but he was able to skate off with some help and played the rest of the game. I guess he's okay. (but Henrik wasn't in 2003 was he, Bryan? There is some justice in the world, fortunately, though.) The Wings were making really crisp passes and the Canucks just couldn't compete. The fact that they were on the penalty kill so much didn't help but they were unable to get the puck to Osgood. The Wings continued to dominate as the period wound down. Near the end, Schneider rang the puck off the post and a power-play-like bit of pressure followed. It was sustained long enough that Todd Bertuzzi couldn't stand it any more ("Make it stop, Mommy!") and he slashed Maltby on the hand. Maltby seemed to be hurt but continued to play and when the Canucks touched up, Bertuzzi went to the box. His teammates bailed him out by killing off the penalty, though. The Wings outshot the Canucks 17-3 in the first. (They had three shots? That many?) The tables turned a bit in the second but not before Pavel Datsyuk was sent on a breakaway by Kris Draper. Auld, who must have had nightmares about it all last night, if he slept at all, was utterly alone and Pavel had his way with him. He deked backhand to forehand and beat Auld over his right pad to make it 4-0 Red Wings at 1:30. The Wings finally got a penalty of their own at 1:56 (guess who? Robert Lang). The Canucks set up and the Wings nearly scored on themselves in their zeal to clear the net for Osgood. The Canucks had a few nice chances and the Wings' defensive efforts were not entirely kosher but the refs turned a blind eye, much to the dismay of the fans. Vancouver even scored a goal but it was waived off because Todd Bertuzzi was in the crease and the ref ruled he was interfering with Osgood (he wasn't...). Chris Chelios took a slashing penalty just after that and the Canucks got a 5-on-3 power play. They made good use of it, finally scoring themselves at 3:44. Baumgartner took a shot from the point and Osgood stopped it but the rebound went right to Anson Carter, who knocked it in from the side of the net. The goal came on the 5-on-3 so they continued on the power play. Markus Naslund made it 4-2 a minute later after receiving a pass behind the goalline in the corner. He took it out to Osgood's left and wasn't challenged soon enough. His shot beat Osgood high on the glove side, going in just inside the top right corner. Not much chance for Ozzie on that one. Pavel had a nice stretch of play after the goal, in which he generated some solid pressure with Shanny and Draper, pressure that ended only when Datsyuk stumbled and lost the puck. At the other end, Pavel made a great defensive play on Carter, lifting the latter's stick just as he was about to take a shot. Carter was a little tripped up on the play but went flying like he had hit a landmine. The Canucks appeared to smell some blood at this point and the game regained some energy as they put the Wings back on their heels a bit. At 12:44, Henrik Sedin was called for hooking, a call I thought to be a bit weak because it looked to me like Franzen had just lost his balance. Well, I must have missed something because Franzen was called on the play as well, for diving. So, the teams went to four a side. The Canucks couldn't pass up the chance to take another penalty, though, and the Wings got a 4-on-3 PP at 13:05, though nothing came of it. The game got pretty chippy as the period wound down, with Franzen and Green having an altercation and both getting penalties at 16:05, setting up another uneventful 4-on-4 stretch. In the final minute of the period, Robert Lang, Niklas Kronwall and Jason Williams got a good rush going. Lang sent the puck to Kronwall on the left wing soon after entering the zone and Williams headed straight to the net. Kronwall slickly stickhandled around his prone countryman, Mathias Ohlund, who had tried to cut off the pass back to Lang, and sent a pass virtually along the goalline to the crease, where Williams was waiting to tip it in. 5-3 Wings at 19:39. (any Swedes watching the game must have been glad Ohlund was replaced by Kronwall in the Olympics. Matthias didn't have such a great game last night. Nik did.) That wasn't the end of it, though. The Canucks struck back with 1.8 seconds left, when Matt Cooke's shot deflected in off Schneider from the left wing. Weird goal. No chance for Osgood. The Canucks outshot the Wings 15-8 in the second. The Wings opened the third with a goal from Brendan Shanahan. Kris Draper caused a turnover a the blueline, after harassing the Canucks defense, and dished the puck to Datsyuk at the left point. Pavel sent the puck to Shanahan, who burned the defense (yes, Bill, Shanny is fast now. I've noticed it too. I remember once on the backcheck he caught up with the rushing Canucks player like he was standing still.) and broke in on Auld all alone. A quick shot beat Auld glove side, just inside the post and made it 6-3 Red Wings, just 12 seconds into the period. Still in the first minute, Pavel Datsyuk nearly split the D with a nice personal effort but he was tripped, drawing a penalty. The Wings didn't get much done on the ensuing power play, though. Not long after the Canucks penalty had expired, Johan Franzen wrapped up the scoring (3:42). The goal came on a completely harmless shot from the top of the left circle but Auld just plain whiffed on it as he tried to catch it with his glove. He was pulled after that one, as he should have been about a whole period earlier. Not a good end to the night for Auld, to be sure. Canucks fans cannot have much confidence in their goaltending at the moment. The scoring was done but the Wings weren't done trying. And the Canucks weren't done giving them chances. Mika Noronen didn't look bad but he could have just had backup's luck. Jason Williams, who apparently really wanted a hat trick, got a breakaway at 5:22 or so but couldn't lift his backhand shot high enough to go over Noronen's right pad. So, Williams is stoppable on a breakway after all. Robert Lang had a sure goal lined up on the next Red Wing power play but he lost control of it just as he was about to shoot. And Shanahan hit the goalpost after the penalty expired. Ah well. Seven goals was enough, right? The Canucks continued to get into penalty trouble for the rest of the game but the Wings were called a couple times too so it wasn't quite as uneven. Late in the game, with the teams skating four a side, Brendan Shanahan had a nice chance all alone in the zone. Noronen came way out of net and poked the puck away to the boards but Shanny picked it up and had a wide open net to shoot at. His shot was blocked by the defenseman, however, and Noronen didn't have to pay for his wild gamble (his desperation to avoid facing the horrors a breakaway was apparently stronger than a desire to prevent a goal - fortunate teammate placement, Mika.). Vancouver put up a passable fight to the end but really had no chance at all. Shots for the period were 12-6 Wings and 37-24 for the game. It's clear Crawford should have pulled Auld after the first period. He obviously got his guys going during the first intermission because they were a different team in the second but goaltending was just not there. And as long as the Canucks take stupid penalties, they will not go anywhere. Even though the Wings were a lousy 1-for-11 on the power play, they had had control of the game because they were frequently up a man. I won't say the officiating was completly balanced. It wasn't and the Wings got away with stuff the Canucks didn't. That wasn't why the Wings won. The Canucks shot themselves in the foot, a number of times, by taking dumb and badly timed penalties, regardless of whether or not the same was being called the other way. It was a little disconcerting that the Canucks were 2-for-2 on the power play. Come on, PK! What's that?! 0-for-2 on the PK against the Flames and you'll be playing golf the next day. James Mirtle commented here on the game at an earlier post (the Ducks game post, James? Random...):
"Well, after seeing both games of the Western swing, the Red Wings are in a different class than those two struggling teams. Vancouver didn't even deserve to be out there skating with them." (emphasis added)
Well, the Vancouver team of last night sure didn't but that doesn't mean they won't next month. I know they are still highly capable of a respectable game and, despite last night's rout, I don't relish the idea of a playoff series against them. The point may be moot, though, since they may not even qualify. They are now tied with Anaheim in points but they have played three more games than the Ducks and could very easily fall out of the 8th spot in the West. Next up, we have Nashville, at 7:30 Tuesday night at JLA. That should be an interesting one, though it no longer has implications for division standings. My confidence in the team has increased a fair amount as a result of this road trip. I'm not allowing my hopes to get too high, knowing full well that it's still the regular season and that the playoffs are entirely different. But, there's good reason for optimism. See VanCanOpEd's reaction as well as Canucks Hockey Blog's. Here is Abel to Yzerman's take. Also, more from Mirtle and a great post from HockeyNation.


At 3/20/2006 04:43:00 PM, Blogger James Mirtle said...

You had just made a comment on the Ducks game thread about how Detroit would have to be able to win in the West in the playoffs. When I read that, in the background I had the game on and it was 7-3...

I think the Red Wings will be okay. It's the West that has to worry about them.

At 3/20/2006 04:55:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

Ah. That explains it.

I agree with you about the West. As much as people try to emphasize the Wings' weakness of Division and "patsy schedule," I'm sure teams know to watch out for them. They aren't the only dangerous team, though, and that's what worries me. They've fizzled out before...

At 3/20/2006 10:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at the game and it was awesome to see how dominant the wings were. It should have been 4-0 going into the second period as they also hit the goal post. Go RED WINGS.

At 3/21/2006 12:45:00 PM, Anonymous Lisa said...

Man, as a canuck fan the games versus the wings are always some of the best simply because the way they're played. - usually.

Right now I'm at a point I dont' even care about WINS. I'll take any signs of passion and heart. - and maybe less STUPID, LAZY PENALTIES. - le sigh.

ps. hey matt :D

At 3/21/2006 01:24:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

Yeah, it wasn't the best game to watch, for the hockey fan in me, but it was fun as a Wings fan (I have to say)!

If it makes you feel any better, the Wings will soon be due for a lethargic stretch. Hopefully, if it comes, it doesn't overlap with the playoffs. Maybe (bright side), the Canucks are getting their late-season lethargy stage out of the way now in preparation for the playoffs (though if they don't pull out of it soon, they won't make it anyway).


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