Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Wings 2, Flames 1 (SO)

The Wings got their 28th road victory last night, beating the Calgary Flames 2-1 in a shootout. It wasn't a win to inspire confidence in people who were already pessimistic about their chances of getting past the Flames in the playoffs, though. Miikka Kiprusoff was just as nigh-unbeatable as usual and it was only because the Wings' have players with better moves that they won. In a shootout. Those don't happen in the playoffs. Sixty-five minutes of playing time and just one goal. Granted, the Wings only allowed one goal in that span as well but that doesn't leave a whole lot of margin for error. Anyway, on to the game. Chris Osgood got the nod for Mike Babcock and played well. Of course, he wasn't tested as much as Kiprusoff but the Flames had their own glorious scoring opportunities and he was up to the task of stopping the puck on all but one. He was a wall in the shootout, stopping both shots he faced like they were nothing. I'd say we're pretty well off as long as one of our two goalies is hot and our defense covers up the rest. Pavel Datsyuk definitely had a good night, probably giving the Flames defense nightmares, not to mention Kiprusoff. He slick with the puck the whole game, side-stepping hits and spinning away from coverage in ways that caused the Calgary players fits, even when double-teamed. He'd get knocked down and a perfect pass as he fell and at least once without looking. His goal in the shootout was great and momentarily caused Kiprusoff to look human (it was deja vu a minute later when Jason Williams roofed it on the same deke using the other hand). Too bad he's out for a week to ten days now with a lower body injury. I guess one of those double teams got him. Steve Yzerman was great again too. He had a few scoring chances that were among the Wings' best and drew penalties purely because the Flames couldn't knock him off the puck. He scored yet another goal, his 692nd and is within two of Mark Messier for 7th all-time. I cannot wait for the playoffs. The Flames controlled the play slightly more in the first few minutes of the game. I noticed that the Wings weren't passing all that well, just a step or two ahead or behind the target and that Calgary was generally there to pounce on it. Neither goalie was very much tested early on, as both teams kept the puck away with good defensive work. Kiprusoff stoned Brendan Shanahan off the rush six minutes in, with Tomas Holmstrom in his face, looking supremely calm as he did it. You have to wonder what shots look like to him. Something like the bullets did to Neo in The Matrix, maybe? Roman Hamrlik went off for interference at 7:29 and the Wings got their first power play of the night. And unlike Sunday afternoon, being on the power play just means we have more opportunities to see Kiprusoff stop shots. The Wings had their chances, with Yzerman nearly burying the puck, but they might as well have been shooting at a wall. Nik Kronwall, who I have not been impressed with recently, turned the puck over on what should have been an easy zone-clearing play and it resulted in Flames pressure that never should have happened. Where's your head at, Nik? Probably because Kronwall's giveaway resulted in tired players, the Wings got a too-many-men penalty after they finally cleared the zone. Mikael Samuelsson and David Langkow also got into a little tussle at this point so we were treated to a 4-on-3 Flames power play. It wasn't too hard for the Wings to kill it off, however, since Calgary's strategy seemed to be just skating fast into the zone and neglecting to set up around the perimeter. Osgood had to make a quick save on Jarome Iginla not long after the penalty expired, kicking out his right leg and stopping the puck with his foot for a nice one. The Wings still weren't passing very well, I thought, and though the game was fast-paced, there wasn't a whole lot of offense. Both teams were too solid defensively. The Flames handed out another power play at 16:00 but the Wings were passing so badly (particularly Jason Williams' exceptionally poor breakout effort) that they couldn't get set up until later in the PP. Then, they did set up and got off a couple shots but no goals. Calgary put the screws to the Wings late in the period and Chris Osgood was coming up big on a very long shift for his skaters. A very tired Andreas Lilja, Johan Franzen, Kirk Maltby, Chris Chelios and Kris Draper couldn't do much when Dion Phaneuf, the Flames' young stud on defense, took a pass from Tony Amonte and one-timed it past Osgood at 19:20. The goal came on a delayed penalty call on the Wings, though, so it was essentially 6-on-5, if only for a few seconds. The Wings weren't done, though. Steve Yzerman and Henrik Zetterberg each had chances before the buzzer, with Yzerman's going high in the final seconds. The Flames controlled the first minute of the second but a dumb slashing penalty by Kiprusoff cut their fast start short at 1:55. This time, the Wings set it up and cycled it, looking for that one shot, that one undeniable shot, an ordained goal. They got it but Kiprusoff didn't get the memo saying it had to go in. Pavel's pass through the crease to Henrik Zetterberg should have resulted in a goal but somehow, Kiprusoff got across in time to rob Hank on the goalline. How many times have we seen that goal go on? Many, correct? And how many times have we seen it stopped like that? I can't think of a time, either. After the power play was over and the play stopped, Pavel Datsyuk and Andrew Ference had a spat that resulted in them both receiving a slap on the wrist from the refs in the form of a two-minute roughing penalty. 4-on-4 hockey lasted about a minute before Bryan Marchment went off for holding. The 4-on-3 power play was uneventful because the Wings only got off one shot, with no one in front, causing Kiprusoff to laugh derisively as he confidently turned the shot aside. After the save, the Flames wanted to clear the zone but Robert Lang had another thing to say about it! He hounded the Flames player mercilessly along the boards ... and was promptly called for tripping. So, 3-on-3 hockey. Not often seen but we saw it twice last night. The big event of this stretch of play was a nice play by Zetterberg to Lidstrom that came to nothing because the puck went between Nick's legs. Back to 4-on-4. FSN had just returned from a commerical and was superimposing some ad over the crowd when Ken Daniels cried out, "And they score!" So, the ad pitch was cut short and we were shown a replay of the goal. It came right off a faceoff deep in the Calgary zone (right circle, in fact), which was won by Yzerman to Pavel Datsyuk to his left. Pavel took a couple steps toward the net before dropping it back to The Captain, who one-timed it quickly past Kiprusoff to tie it up. The goal came at 6:12 and was Yzerman's 692nd. Correction: After reviewing the play per request, it appears that Yzerman lost the faceoff to Lombardi and the puck was picked up by Hamrlik. Datsyuk immediately stole it from him, though, and made the pass back to The Captain that resulted in the goal. The Wings killed off the short Calgary power play that followed and both teams went back to full strength. The game kept its good pace, with both teams skating hard up and down the ice. Kris Draper went flying through center and into the Calgary zone, stepping around the Flames defenseman and his path was disrupted just enough to be considered a penalty. So the Wings went back on the power play. The puck was cleared quickly on two initial setup attempts but they had a couple chances with Pavel and Hank's group. A pass from Datsyuk to Zetterberg was too hot to handle but seconds later, Datsyuk was double teamed and sent a no looker to Williams at the point as he fell to the ice. Williams got off a good shot but Kiprusoff was too strong. Iginla had a nice chance off another Kronwall turnover (not the best guy to give the puck away to, Nik) but didn't get a shot off as the young Swede was called for hooking. During 4-on-4 play, Stephan Yelle rocked Chris Chelios' world in the left corner of the Detroit end, causing the friendly Calgary fans to cheer wildly. Datsyuk had a great shift beginning at about 16:50, busting out a couple slick moves that nearly resulted in goals by Andreas Lilja and Mikael Samuelsson. The Wings were looking really good at this stage, though solid defensive plays were seen as obvious penalties to a very vocal crowd. Unfortunately, the ended the period on the wrong foot, with Chris Chelios being called for tripping on completely harmless play. Amonte crossed the blueline with his head down and Chelios stepped up to lay the body on him but Tony looked up just in time to sidestep, but not quite all the way. He tripped over Chelios' leg (when he should have hit him full on) and the ref's arm went up just after the buzzer. The Flames began the third period on the power play but couldn't do much. The Wings got another power play before long, when Iginla hooked The Captain. It wasn't the greatest power play for the most part, though Yzerman had a nice scoring chance with about 15 seconds left in it. Kiprusoff was his usual wall self, though. Going the other way, Kristian Huselius had a good scoring opportunity and drew a penalty on the play. The Wings killed it off with little trouble and nearly scored a shorthanded goal. Yzerman ended up heading into the Calgary zone with the puck all alone and Kiprusoff gambled by coming way out and poke-checking it away. Zetterberg was right there, however, and picked it up well before the goalie could get back into the net. Rather than shoot it (two defenseman were between him and the net), Hank passed it across to Yzerman, who would have one-timed it had he not whiffed on it. The puck went the other way immediately and Osgood was forced to come up big himself. The Wings were coming on in the third but the Flames were ready for it and had a few chances of their own. About five minutes after the Flames' power play, Henrik Zetterberg took the puck through center ice only to meet Bryan Marchment. We all know what Marchment is infamous for and he was apparently looking for another notch to add to his gun last night. With Hank flying, Marchment stepped up and stuck his knee out for one of the dirtiest plays in hockey. Fortunately, Henrik saw him there and side-stepped him but just barely, as you can see:
Photo via. Kukla's Korner
He was tripped up but that was it. No call, which is disgusting. One of the league's top players almost had his knee taken out by that scum and there wasn't even a tripping call. Sick. Being aggressive is one thing, being dirty is entirely different. I can't say I'm very encouraged that no one on the team felt it necessary to defend their teammate. We had more 4-on-4 hockey not long after that but nothing much happened beyond a scoring chance involving Zetterberg and Brett Lebda. The period wound down with both teams playing evenly and we headed to overtime. The Flames got a penalty 41 seconds into OT, just after Hank sent a shot wide on good scoring chance. The Wings set up and Lidstrom got off a shot but it went high. He had another chance seconds later but this time it went off the post. Robert Lang cut the fun short at 1:56 of OT when he got a penalty himself. 3-on-3 hockey again and then a 4-on-3 Calgary power play. Lilja blocked a shot with his knee and hobbled off and Chris Osgood came up big as his teammates couldn't clear the puck. The Flames had control most the last minute or two of overtime but they couldn't score and we got another exciting shootout. Datsyuk went first. He deked backhand to forehand and roofed it over Kiprusoff, who was fooled pretty badly on the play. Matthew Lombardi was first for Calgary and he tried a backhand shot that was stopped by Osgood when he closed the 5-hole. Jason Williams was next for the Wings and he tried the same move on Kiprusoff, just going forehand to backhand because he is right-handed (Pavel is left-handed). It had the same result, beating Kiprusoff high. Jarome Iginla had to score to keep the Flames alive and he tried to snipe it glove side. Osgood stoned him and the Wings won. Click here for a video of the shootout (.mpg, 19.2 MB). The Wings are going to have to find a way to beat Kiprusoff in regulation or overtime if the want to beat the Flames in the playoffs. They just have to and they should be able to. The good thing about last night's game was that they showed they can play with a physical team and come out on top. If their offense is going to have so much trouble scoring on a good goalie, that means their defense will have to be that much better because they don't have a goalie that is that good. They lead the league with 112 points, five ahead of Ottawa, and get three days off before facing Columbus on Friday for the first of a home-and-home series. Abel to Yzerman summary


At 4/04/2006 09:01:00 PM, Anonymous Megan said...

Ok, just a few comments here, Matty. First of all, I would like to gently (and hopefully kindly) correct you on our goal. Steve Yzerman did not win the faceoff to Pavel. Calgary won the faceoff, and Pavel went right over to steal the puck and send a short pass to Stevie, who put it in the net.
Second, I believe that you do not give enough credit to Ozzie. I know, here I go on Ozzie again, but it's the truth. While Kipper was outstanding (and quite frankly, he scares the crap out of me), Osgood matched him. I saw many great plays, and I think it was perhaps the best game Ozzie has played all season. On a side note, Osgood was well composed, not taking dumb penalties or fleeing the net at any point.
Now, we seem to have found Kipper's weakness. He fled the net at the prospect of a breakaway, and he was pathetic in the shootout. The guy can be deked. And easily. He's the best scrambling goalie in the league, and he's good at making saves on screened shots. He has a lightning fast glove. But on the breakaway, he is sub-par. Unfortunately, there are no shootouts in the playoffs. We're going to need breakaways to beat him. That's the key. And dirt goals.
Now there are two guys that really need to be kicked out of the league: Bertuzzi and Marchment. Marchment is the prime example of the lack of respect in the league. They need to do something about this. Players (especially on teams like Calgary, Nashville and Vancouver) seem to forget that they are playing guys just like them. There needs to be more respect in the league. I suggest handshakes after every game, to start. It is a growing problem. Right now, I demand some form of discipline for Marchment. He cannot go running around the league taking out its stars.
Personally, I hope Calgary gets taken out before we ever have to see them. We probably wouldn't see them until the Conference Finals, so there is opportunity. Here's hoping someone else can figure out how to beat Kiprusoff.

At 4/04/2006 09:37:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

Okay, technically you're right about Yzerman's goal. He may not have won it outright but Pavel was the first player to take possession of it after Lombardi won the drop.

I think I gave Ozzie plenty credit! Sheesh!

I agree that the best way to beat Kiprusoff is by breakaways. The problem is that the Flames are faster as a team than the Wings are and getting breakaways is not easy against their defense. It would be very tough.

I'd like to see the league hand out a fine or a suspension for intent to injure. I don't know why teams keep picking Marchment up.

At 4/04/2006 11:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Breakaways are the key, but like you said Matt, they are rare on a team like Calgary. Also, the only AMAZING deker the wings have is Datsyuk (Zetterberg, Mowers, and William are good too). I have never, EVER seen anyone do the moves he can pull off. But he's out for a week or two. Although the Wings don't necessarily need him to win, they will need him for the playoffs. Let's just hope Babcock does a good job juggling the lines and the Wings can keep first place (overall).

At 4/05/2006 09:24:00 AM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

"Although the Wings don't necessarily need him to win, they will need him for the playoffs."

They need him to play well in the playoffs. If he plays like he has so far in his postseason experience, he won't help at all. They need both Henrik and Pavel to produce this time around or else they'll be out real quick.

At 4/05/2006 02:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

True. If you look at his playoffs stats in the past, you would never know that he is a player capable of a 90+ point season (he's three away...)

Good call for the correction, thanks.


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