Sunday, February 29, 2004

GameDay: vs. Philadelphia (33-15-12-6, 84) 7:00 EST

This is the first and only meeting between the Wings and Flyers this season. The Wings are 7-2-1-0 in their last ten decisions. Legace will get the start, his 10th in 12th games. This is Nick Lidstrom's 1000th game. The Flyers are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the Bruins, making for a 5-3-1-1 record in their last ten decisions. Robert Esche made the start. After the trade for Sean Burke that sent Mike Comrie to Phoenix, Burke has gone 4-3-1-0 in his first eight starts with his new team. Burke will make the start this evening. The Flyers are tied with the Senators for the league lead in points at 84, with the Wings trailing with 83. The Wings will get to showcase their newly acquired center Robert Lang. He will wear #20 and center a line with Yzerman and Whitney. Lang, who leads the league in points with 74, joined the Wings for practice Saturday. With Hatcher returning shortly, the Wings will really have to work at creating team chemistry with the addition of two superstars in such a short time. I don't expect Lang to score a hat trick or anything this evening, since he has to get used to the Wings' style and pace, but I do hope he scores a goal in front of the home crowd at the Joe. Notables: During the second period of the Leafs/Devils game on Hockey Night in Canada, Al Strachan commented on Brian Burke's status as President and GM of the Canucks. He said that Burke might be demanding $2 million dollars for his salary next season, and cited rumors as his sources. Strachan said that Burke might not re-signed by the Canucks due to such costs with the imminent lockout. Well, Brian Burke was so incensed by the comments that he came on during Hockey Night's postgame show and blasted Strachan, saying that Strachan is an irresponsible liar and should not be on CBC. Burke further said that, if he was asking for a salary with a "2" in it, he would immediately resign. Strachan had already left on a flight, and was unavailable for comment. During that same second period intermission that featured Strachan going out on a limb, Brett Hull was also interviewed from Detroit. He commented on the CBA, saying the players are together on the issue, and on newly acquired center Lang. Word is that New Jersey Defenseman Brian Rafalski may have a broken right leg after he collided with the right goal post versus the Leafs. He was skating backwards at the start of the third, defending against a rushing Leaf Alexei Ponikarovsky, when Ponikarovsky bumped him towards Brodeur and the Jersey net. Fortunately, Brodeur got out the way. But Rafalski slammed into the post full speed. They are doing further tests on Rafalski's right leg and knee, but the intensity of the collision makes a broken leg a definite possibility. That would leave the Devils without All-Star defenseman and captain Scott Stevens, out with post-concussion syndrome, and Rafalski. Bad News on Jeremey Roenick's status. He had a second MRI on his brain, and the results were disheartening. It showed that Roenick may have circulatory system damage. Commenting from his home in Phoenix: "The doctors told me they didn't want me to travel. They said they wanted to do an angiogram. I've had better days. It's not good. There is damage in there in a couple of areas and they want to know what kind of damage it is. I heard the word aneurysm and I was pretty disheartened." Doctors are going to inject dye into his bloodstream to get a better idea of the damage to the brain. Roenick broke his jaw when he was hit in the face by a slapshot against the Rangers Feb. 12. News out of Stockholm, Sweden is that Colorado Avalanche center Peter Forseberg, who has been out since February 16 with a nagging groin injury, has decided he will play for MoDo, the Swedish Elite League team in Ornskoldsvik, next season. He had played for MoDo for four seasons before starting his NHL career with the Quebec Nordiques in 1995. The newspaper Aftonbladet said that, due to the likelihood of a extended lockout through the 2004-2005 season, Forsberg has committed to play for MoDo. Aftonbladet further said that Forsberg has informed Colorado of his decision, but nobody involved will comment until the playoffs are over.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

2/28 Notes

The Free Press' Drew Sharp calls Ken Holland a pillager today in his column and says those days are likely coming to an end when the CBA expires in September. According to him, the Lang trade is

another move that pushes the NHL toward the precipice of a shutdown. The rich continually stockpile the riches, compelling less-talented teams with lower payrolls to play a sleep-inducing, defense-oriented style to compete.
I agree that the Wings appear to be picking over the remains of the Caps but let's not forget that Washington was offering up their stars to whoever wanted them. I'd rather be a fan of a team which is trying to win now while still making decent preparations for next year than one which exhibits a fatalistic view towards the league and the future. Nick Cotsonika has a different angle on the trade. He praises the Wings for what they did with it and has a mostly optimistic view of the future.
This trade did not hand the Wings the Stanley Cup: Other contenders have already made deals or are going to, and history shows that deals like this don't always translate into immediate playoff success. But the Wings didn't make this trade just for a short-term stab at Stanley. Fedorov and Igor Larionov are gone, and Yzerman is on his last legs, but the Wings will have Lang, Datsyuk and Kris Draper down the middle for years to come, assuming they sign Draper to a contract extension. Henrik Zetterberg can stay at center or move to wing.
That's the optimistic part. Here's the negative: the Wings have many key players who are up for a contract this year. They will most likely have to take a pay cut or leave the team either for another or by going in to retirement. Chris Chelios, Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman are all guys who fit that last category, though Shanny and Brett could still play. No matter what happens, the Wings will look a lot different next season, whenever it actually happens. Helen St. James says Lang will probably be with the team this morning for line experiments and that the Wings expect him to be in the lineup on Sunday for the Flyers game. In another article by Ms. St. James, she says the Wings are giving Lang a "reprieve" and would have had him back in August had Holland been able to make a deal with Caps GM George McPhee. As usual, the Caps wanted too much back then and the deal fell through. From what I've read in the newspaper, it looks like Lang is very excited to be a Red Wing and to have a chance to play for the Cup. I'm looking forward to seeing him play and I hope he won't turn out to be a bust. As long as the Curse of Luc's #20 doesn't transfer over to him, he should be fine. Here's something to think about: The Wings finally have a right handed center that isn't Steve Yzerman, though he doesn't have the best face-off percentage (43%, I think). The Wings will be able to re-unite the "Two Kids and an Old Goat Line" now that they have another center, if they want. I'm very interested to see who Lewis will have playing with Lang.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Lang a Wing

The Wings made a huge commitment to winning the Conference and Cup today when they acquired the Caps' Robert Lang for prospect Tomas Fleischmann, a first-round pick in 2004 and a fourth-round pick in 2006. Lang is tied with Martin St. Louis for first in the league in scoring with 74 points and is in the second year of a five-year, $25 million contract. Washington's GM, George McPhee, said this in a prepared statement:

"We could not have asked for more from Robert Lang over the past two seasons, he has been a terrific player for our club and we consider him as the best free-agent signing in the team's history. We have given Robert a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup while adding a good young player and two valuable draft choices to our organization. We wish Robert and his family all the best."
I am very happy with this trade since the Wings got Lang for what honestly amounts to very little and now they have arguably the top player available this trading season. The best part of the deal is no one on the regular roster was involved in the trade so the core wasn't diminished. Lang said earlier this month that he didn't want to be part of a re-building program in DC and would love to play for Detroit or Dallas, two teams he saw as real Cup-contenders. Now the Wings won't have to spread their centers so thin, especially Steve Yzerman. He's decently young (33) too and will hopefully be more than a rent-a-player for the Wings. It's a shame that so many teams have to dump their top players this year. I'd feel terrible if the Wings had to trade away Nick Lidstrom for practically nothing which is comparatively what a lot teams have done so far this season. I'm not all that happy about losing Fleischman but he isn't Henrik Zetterberg or a player of that caliber and the Wings definitely got the good end of the deal. I'm not too worried about the first round pick because that's not where the Wings find their gems. Now the actual trade deadline is going to be relatively boring for Wings fans because I doubt they'll make any other moves. The Avs will probably counter this move with a blockbuster one of their own, though they have been making a lot of minor deals which may indicate they are going that route this year. Who knows? There will be a press conference at 4:00 EST at the Joe. I'm not sure if it will be televised or not but it will very likely be on the radio (1270 AM). There is a good chance that Lang will play Sunday though they might hold him back to make sure he knows the system first. Not a pressing need at the moment so there's no rush. He wore #20 for Washington but Mark Mowers has that number here. However, Mowers may be sent down now so we could see him wearing that number after all. Check out Eric McErlain's take on the trade.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Wings 2, Flames 1

The Wings salvaged their Western Canada trip by beating the Flames 2-1 in Pengrowth Saddledome Arena. The Wings went 1-1-1 on the trip, gaining 3 of 6 possible points. Manny Legace got the start, facing up against arguably the best goaltender in the Western Conference, Miikka Kiprusoff. In a game that lacked much offensive muscle, it came down to Calgary committing turnovers inside their zone. The Wings called up Grand Rapids Griffin Anders Myrvold this morning to fly in for the game. The Wings signed him in October after a good showing at training camp. He did not get into town in time to practice with the guys before the game today. The 28-year-old Norwegian wore #22, was -1 on the night, and logged 16 shifts and 11:20 minutes of ice time. He had previous NHL experience with Colorado, Boston, and the New York Islanders. The Wings had Dandenault, Fischer, Lidstrom, Myrvold, Rivers, and Schneider in on defense. After pregame worries that the Wings would only have four defensemen dressed, Dandenault decided to play and Myrvold was called up. On the last game of the trip, and the third game in four nights, it's certainly no time to be shortchanging bodies on defense, so I'm glad the Wings did what they had to do by flying Myrvold in for the game. In the first period, the Wings and Flames traded chances. Near the 12-minute mark, the Flames had Legace on his back as they passed the puck side-to-side near the crease, but failed to get off a shot with traffic clogging things up. Ray Whitney scored his 11th of the season at 16:36, assisted by Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. The play came off a Flames turnover in their zone, which Pavel quickly turned into a scoring chance. He passed it to Henrik, who fed it across the crease to Whitney for the slam dunk. 1-0 Wings. With a minute left in the period, Holmstrom had a great scoring chance at the side of the net, but Miikka Kiprusoff made a kick save and robbed Homer. Shots in the period were 12-9 Wings. In the second period, Shanahan almost got into the scoring, but his shot hit Whitney in the crease with Kiprusoff out of position. The kind of luck Hull was having during his long goal-less streak. Steve Thomas notched his 8th of the season at 15:47, assisted by Brett Hull and Pavel Datsyuk. On the play, another Flames turnover inside the zone created a Wings' scoring chance as Datsyuk again created a scoring chance with the loose puck. 2-0 Wings. At 17:11, Jamie Rivers got into a bit of trouble after turning the puck over in the Wings zone, as he was later called for slashing Shean Donovan. The Wings didn't play very well this period, as they were outshot 15-5 by Calgary. In the third period, Chuck Kobasew scored for the Flames at 12:09, assisted by Jordan Leopold and Josh Green. On the play, a point shot beat Legace as he was arguably interfered with by a Flame, but the play went uncalled despite Manny's argument to Mick McGeough. 2-1 Wings. With 5 minutes left in the game, a Flames' offensive surge left Manny on his back in the crease, two or three Flames players in the crease, and Pavel Datsyuk gloving the puck into Manny's pads to get a whistle. They were tense remaining minutes, as the Wings were outplayed for the second straight period. It was basically 20 minutes of Flames offense this period, as shots were 17-5 Flames in the third. At 19:34, Steve Yzerman was called for high-sticking, with Kiprusoff pulled. It was a phantom call in my opinion, as both teams were playing with reckless abandon at this point. At the time Yzerman was called, three or four players were on the ice or whacking away at each other. So I don't know how veteran ref Mick McGeough picked out the Captain out of that huge scrum. Final shots 41-22 Calgary, but, more importantly, final score 2-1 Wings. The Calgary Flames wore their ugly home jerseys tonight, with the black flaming "C" logo on the front. I have no problem with their away jersey, which is white and has a flaming-orange colored "C" (a modernization of their old sweater, with the "C" a little more rounded and curvy). But to have a logo that is supposed to signify fire be black is beyond me. Have the Flames burned out or something? I guess I'm just getting tired of all the new, "hip" jerseys teams are producing for the fans' excitement, especially the alternates and modernizations of old sweaters. Hands down, the best jerseys in the league are still the winged-wheel, Boston "B", and Chicago Blackhawk, all Original Six clubs. For a team like the Flames, making the playoffs means breaking even. But coach Darryl Suter always demands hard work from his teams, and this year is especially true. The Flames have a limited payroll, and trade deadline acquisitions are out of the question for them. The Flames haven't made the playoffs since 1996, and last won a Cup in 1989 with ex-Wing Mike Vernon. This season, the Flames have a good shot at ending their playoff drought, and advancing a round or two, even. This is because they depend on hard work rather than having the biggest names, something the New York Rangers need to read up on as they fizzle away. Notables:Whitney has two goals, six assists in his last four games....Thomas' goal was his first in 10 games....Marc Lamothe backed up Manny tonight....Pavel Datsyuk had two assists tonight, making for his 19th multi-point effort of the season....Datsyuk and Hull are 36-34 in assists....Chelios was a scratch with a bruised left shoulder, and Woolley continues to have an aching back....Shanahan has one goal in 22 games, comparable to Brett Hull's highly publicized goal drought that ended against the Kings January 22, in a 5-4 win. It was Brett's first goal in 21 games (since Dec. 8 versus the Kings). Yet Shanahan has been pretty much ignored by media scrutiny during his drought, something that bothers me. Lewis needs to hound Brendan. Bowman put Shanny in his dog house in times like this, and bad-mouthed Brendan to the media. I don't even know if coach Lewis has a dog house....the Blues tied the Avs 2-2 in the Pepsi Center tonight. FSN Goofs:It was a rough first period for the crew. As they were trying to introduce Anders Myrvold, the frame froze and left a jumble of images. Then they forgot to cue color-commentator Larry Murphy's mic for the first 30 seconds of play, and all I heard from the ex-Wing was a muffled attempt at a monologue. The FSN crew forgot to put up the game clock for the first 7:34 of play. And, finally, gasp, Ken Daniels called Henrik Zetterberg "Whitney" on an offside call at 14:14. The difference in numbers is one (#40 and #41). And I'm done spouting on the boys from FSN.... (Editor: Here are the lines from the game, courtesy GWB) Thomas-Datsyuk-Hull Whitney-Zetterberg-Shanahan Maltby-Draper-Yzerman Holmstrom-Mowers-McCarty Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Whitney Rivers-Dandenault Lidstrom-Schneider Rivers-Myrvold(#22) Fischer-Dandenault Lidstrom-Dandenault Schneider-Myrvold 4 on 4- Shanahan-Zetterberg Datsyuk-Hull Whitney-Yzerman Lidstrom-Dandenault Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Dandenault PP- Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom Whitney-Lidstrom Schneider-Draper PK- Maltby-Draper Shanahan-Yzerman Whitney-Datysuk Whitney-Zetterberg Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Dandenault 6 on 4PK- Maltby-Draper Lidstrom-Schneider Net- Manny Legace

GameDay: vs. Calgary (31-23-5-3, 70) 9:00 EST

With a terrible start to their Western Canada trip, gaining 1 of 4 possible points versus Edmonton and Vancouver, and Wings will try to scrounge up two points tonight as they face the ever-struggling Flames. Legace will get the start. Under the leadership of Jarome Iginla, the Flames currently hold the sixth seed in the West and are third in the tough Northwest Division. They are 6-6-1-0 in their last 13 games. Goaltending phenom Miikka Kiprusoff is expected to start tonight. He is 15-5-2 in 23 games, and leads the NHL in both goals against average and save percentage, with a 1.49 and .940. In November, the Sharks traded Kiprusoff to the Flames for a 2005 second-round draft pick because they already had Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala. But that trade is looking more interesting by the day, as the Sharks hold the third seed in the West with a lead in the Pacific Division over Dallas. If the seeds hold for both the Flames and Sharks, the third seed meets the sixth seed first round, so we could see Kiprusoff going against his old team in the Sharks. Most recently, the Flames struggled on a road trip, going 2-3. On Tuesday, they beat Colorado 2-0, with Kiprusoff getting the shutout, his second of the season, fifth of his career. Reflecting the turbulent playoff race, the Flames' Martin Gelinas: "The win was big for us. We went from eighth to fifth with this win." They have since dropped to sixth. Notables: Glen Sather resigned as New York Rangers coach, and Tom Renney stepped in as interim coach effective Feb. 25. Joel Quenneville was fired as St Louis Blues coach, and Mike Kitchen replaced him effective Feb. 24. Bob Francis was fired as Phoenix Coyotes coach, and Rick Bowness is the interim coach effective Feb. 24. While the Coyotes and Rangers are unlikely to make the playoffs and will likely dump contracts very soon, the Blues are 2 points out of the playoffs, trailing division rival Nashville for the eighth seed at 69 points. I am surprised that the Blues made such a move, but it is likely in hopes that such a shakeup fires the team up. Quenneville is a good coach, and will be picked up in the offseason. Under Quenneville, the Blues won the Presidents' Trophy in the 1999-2000 season. They always were a good division rival of the Wings, letting us beat them up for an easy playoff round win many a time. But in all seriousness, I think that Quenneville deserves a tap of the stick for his efforts down in St Louis. The Wings may play with only four defenseman tonight. On Tuesday versus the Canucks, Chris Chelios hurt his left shoulder after 245-pound Todd Bertuzzi fell on it in the second. Mathieu Dandenault has a bruised right wrist after blocking a shot in the third. He played the rest of the game on adrenaline, but may not be able to play tonight. He can barely hold his stick. Woolley has been unable to play the past four games with his bad back. If needed, Kirk Maltby could jump back and play defense. Assistant captain and forward Brendan Shahanan has only one goal in his past 21 games. Coach Lewis comments: "I wish he could score more. He's on every power play. You'd like to see him pop the odd one in. But he's had some chances, and I'm hoping for him to break out."

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Daniel Sedin 4, Wings 2

On the second night of a back-to-back, the Wings were outhustled in a 4-2 loss to the struggling Vancouver Canucks. Daniel Sedin had 4 goals for the Canucks, with leading scorer and captain Markus Naslund out with a concussion. Legace got the start. In the first period, both teams came out flying. Daniel Sedin opened the scoring at 12:33, assisted by Marek Malik and Nolan Baumgartner. On the play, Sedin skillfully redirected a point shot from way out on the left side of the net. 1-0 Canucks. Henrik Zetterberg followed with a power play goal at 17:26, assisted by Brett Hull and Ray Whitney. On the play, Whitney fed the puck toward the net, Hull redirected it to Henrik, who poked it up over Dan Cloutier. 1-1 tie. After reading my pregame article, Darren McCarty decided that Bryan Allen had to pay for what he did to Hatcher and Zetterberg. McCarty dropped the gloves with Allen after a scrum in the corner, and got in a few punches to remind Allen that you can't dish it without taking some of it too. It was a short fight, maybe 15 seconds, but, for a Wings team that has lately lacked physical presence, it was refreshing to see Mac delivering some cowboy justice. I also loved seeing Zetterberg score against Allen and the Canucks. Shots in the period were 15-12 Wings. In the second period, the pace of play was a bit slower than in the first. Kris Draper scored a power play goal at 6:36, assisted by Mathieu Schneider and Steve Yzerman. On the play, Drapes got his 24th of the season on a point shot that beat Cloutier because of Tomas Holmstrom's presence in front of the net. Another factor that contributed to the goal was that the puck bounced off Bryan Allen in his attempt to block the shot. 2-1 Wings. Daniel Sedin scored at 9:43, assisted by Marek Malik and Nolan Baumgartner. On the play, Baumgartner had a breakaway on Legace, was stoned, but the rebound was controlled by Malik behind the net and fed out to an open Sedin, who one-timed it into the net. Definitely not Legace's fault, but rather the Wings defense, which failed to cover a trailing Sedin on the break. 2-2 tie. Shots in the period were 10-7 Wings. With 4 minutes left in the second, Chelios was hurt on a scramble near the left circle. On the play, Cheli fell to the ice going after a loose puck, and became the bottom of the pile as 240 lb Todd Bertuzzi and Kris Draper were tripped up. The result was Chelios on the ice in agony, holding his left arm and then his shoulder. As the Canucks fans had booed Cheli every time he touched the puck throughout the game, some classless pigs found it appropriate to boo Chris as he lay on the ice injured. Chelios went to the locker room, and the diagnosis is that he has a bruised left shoulder. Hopefully, that's all it is and he'll be back for Thursday's game against the Flames. And with 30 seconds left in the second, Nicklas Lidstrom let off a blast from center ice and almost beat a shaky Dan Cloutier. The play was eerily reminiscent of the center-ice goal by Nicklas Lidstrom with 25 seconds remaining in the second in Game 3 versus the Canucks. It was the first round 2002 playoffs, and, after that Game 3 gaffe, Cloutier was haunted to the tune of four consecutive wins by the Wings, a 4-2 series win. In the third period, the Wings let the game slip away as the Canucks took over in shots with a commanding 14-5 margin in their favor. Daniel Sedin scored at 13:02, assisted by his twin Henrik Sedin and Todd Bertuzzi. On the play, Daniel Sedin made a pretty move on his off-wing, and roofed the puck on the backhand on a partial breakaway on Legace. The hats rained down on the ice, with young up-and-coming Daniel Sedin notching a hat trick. 3-2 Canucks. The Wings mounted a late effort to get the equalizer. But I knew things were bad when, at around two minutes remaining, Brett Hull made a back-pass to the blue line in hopes of a point shot and nobody was freikin' there. Some scholars on the Wings bench had decided that that was the best time for a line change, so the Wings had three guys in and no defenseman covering the blue line. That's about as sloppy as it gets, especially at such a crucial point in the game. But I guess that's the kind of stuff you see when your team has played two nights in a row. It's also fair to mention that the Wings were playing with 5 defenseman with Cheli out, so I'm sure the guys were winded. At 19:26, with Legace pulled and the Wings desperately trying to hold the puck in the Vancouver zone, Daniel Sedin put the nail in the coffin with an empty net goal, his fourth of the game, assisted by Brendan Morrison. 4-2 Canucks. Final shots 33-30 Canucks. It was a disappointing result for the Wings, ending a four game unbeaten streak. And it was the second night in a row that the Wings were outplayed by the home team. The Wings have picked up 1 of a possible 4 points so far on this short Western Canada trip, ending Thursday night at Calgary. Notables: Pavel Datsyuk and Brendan Shanahan have gone 8 games each without scoring a goal....It was startling to hear Ken Daniels call the name "Fedorov," but I soon realized Sergei's brother, Fedor Fedorov, was a Canuck. And in a first intermission interview with John Keating, Fedor was extremely rude and curt, giving 3 word answers and looking away from the camera like he wanted out of there. I guess apples don't fall very far from the Fedorov family tree....Hull trails Datsyuk 34-33 for the team lead in assists....Shanahan and Fischer did a great job matching up to the physical play of Bertuzzi and Morrison, especially in the third....the Wings converted on their first two power play chances, which is impressive considering Vancouver's top-ranked penalty kill....Cujo joined the Wings in the morning skate, but Marc Lamothe dressed as backup tonight. FSN Goofs: It was a late night game, so it was hard to notice any pixelation problems because it was likely me nodding off. But I did catch road color-commentator Larry Murphy making up a word. When talking about Draper's second period goal, he said the puck "redeflected" off Allen in front, sort of a combination of redirected and deflected. Ok, I'm fishing for something. The FSN crew did a good job tonight!! (Editor: Here are the lines from the game, courtesy GWB) Thomas-Draper-McCarty Whitney-Datsyuk-Hull Maltby-Draper-Yzerman Shanahan-Zetterberg-Holmstrom Thomas-Mowers-McCarty Maltby-Draper-McCarty Fischer-Chelios Lidstrom-Schneider Rivers-Dandenault Schneider-Dandenault Lidstrom-Fischer Fischer-Dandenault PP- Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom Whitney-Lidstrom Schneider-Draper PK- Maltby-Draper Shanahan-Zetterberg Zetterberg-Datsyuk Lidstrom-Chelios Lidstrom-Dandenault Fischer-dandenault Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Rivers 6 on 5- Legace pulled- Shanahan-Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Lidstrom-Fischer Net- Manny Legace

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

GameDay: vs. Vancouver (32-19-7-4, 75) 10:00 EST

After a good effort from Marc Lamothe last night in Edmonton, Manny Legace will return to net for his sixth start in seven games at the GM Place in Vancouver. This is the second of back-to-back games on the Wings' short West trip. The Wings have a commanding lead in the Central Division, with Nashville and St Louis trailing by 12 and 14 points, respectively. The Wings are 7-1-2-0 in their last ten games, and are tied for first the in the league with Ottawa at 81 points. Vancouver is struggling as of late. The Canucks trail their rival Avalanche in the Northwest by 5 points, and have been without their captain and leading scorer Markus Naslund for the past week after a crushing open-ice check by the Avs' Steve Moore. It left Canucks coach Marc Crawford livid in the post-game interviews:

"He got a pretty nasty hit. It could have been an obstruction call, it could have been an elbow, but instead they call absolutely nothing. It mystifies me why this happens in this league. They talk about players not having respect for players. How about the officials? Should they not have respect for the leading scorer in the league? It was a cheap shot by a young kid on a captain, and we get no call. That's ridiculous."
Since the 1-0 win over the Avs last Monday that left Naslund hospitalized, the Canucks have lost two straight against Minnesota 6-2 Thursday and Edmonton 4-3 OT Saturday. The Canucks are currently the fourth seed in the West, and, if the playoffs started today, would be facing the red hot Dallas Stars in the first round. The Canucks are 3-5-0-2 in their last ten games. Public enemy #1 tonight is Vancouver defenseman Bryan Allen, who is responsible for two costly injuries on the Wings. Thursday October 16, the third game of the Wings' season, Allen got into a minor collision with Derian Hatcher that left the Wings' newly signed defenseman out up until now with a torn ACL. And on Monday November 3, he broke Henrik Zetterberg's leg on a dirty slash. Allen, who had no goal or assist that night, was voted one of the three stars of the game. So the same Vancouver Canuck people who cry out in misery in the wake of Naslund's injury probably voted blood-hungry Allen in as one of the stars of the game for breaking the opposition's leg. So I have no sympathy for those people. I look for some payback in this Tuesday night matchup against the Canucks. Hopefully the Wings have their legs after last night. The Edmonton game was boring when it came to offense, and the Wings really had to skate hard just to get a few shots on net.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Wings 1, Oilers 1

The final meeting this season between the Wings and Oilers certainly didn't disappoint, with a hard-fought game ending in a 1-1 tie. Marc Lamothe was solid in net, after some early first period jitters, and remains unbeaten in his 3 NHL starts. In the first period, the Wings were flat out outplayed by the Oilers, who are trying to sneak into the playoff picture in this final quarter of the season. There is a difference between playing well and playing hungry. Although the Wings may have executed plays well, the Oilers played with an extra level of hunger that set them above the Wings. At 6:58, Jason Chimera scored for the Oilers, assisted by Georges Laraque. On the play, Laraque passed the puck across the crease to a waiting Chimera, who tipped it in for a perfect-execution goal. Lamothe had no chance on the goal, and it really came down to the Wings failing to cover the guy on the backdoor. 1-0 Oilers. After allowing the goal, Lamothe had some jittery moments in net, having a hard time controlling the puck, but he regained his confidence as the game progressed. Shots in the period were 14-6 Edmonton. It was a fun period to watch not in terms of being a Wings fan, but a hockey fan in general. The Oilers are always a high-flying, speed skating team, and it's really fun to watch their transition game. In the second period, there was no scoring and yet there was. This is because slumping Brendan Shanahan's goal was not counted after Tomas Holmstrom was called for goaltender interference on Tommy Salo at 15:33. I can't imagine the frustration Shanny felt on the bench after the play. Shots in the period were 8-6 Detroit. The Wings slowed down the Oiler's offense after a first period of leaving Lamothe out to dry, but failed to generate much offense themselves. In the third period, the Wings really answered the call. After watching the Oilers play with playoff hockey strides for two periods, the Wings got themselves into that mode as well. It was an entertaining period. Shots on goal were very hard to come by, as the puck always seemed to deflect off a skate or body in front of the net. With less than 8 minutes left, the Wings finally cracked Salo. At 12:56, Nicklas Lidstrom scored on a beautiful wrist shot from the right circle, assisted by Steve Yzerman and Ray Whitney. On the play, Yzerman made a cross ice pass to Lidstrom, who handled a bouncing puck and got off a knuckle-ball wrist shot that beat Salo high. It was nice to see Edmonton native Whitney crack the scoring sheet as well, with the second assist. 1-1 tie. Shots in the period were 8-6 Detroit, the same as in the second. But the third was a much better effort for the Wings. Lamothe made some critical saves late to secure an overtime period. Going into overtime, it was an exciting atmosphere knowing the Oilers would be pressing hard for the extra point, with their playoff picture on the bubble. They weren't going to pull Salo though, because doing so in overtime means you forfeit the point guaranteed before overtime commences. It was a tight period, with shots even at 4 apiece. Final shots 30-26 Edmonton. It was a good pace of action tonight, especially in the third period with the Wings battling back for the equalizing goal. Hopefully they bring that kind of intensity tomorrow night against the Canucks. Notables: Scratches on the night were as follows. Boyd Devereaux with a facial laceration, and Jason Williams and Jason Woolley both listed as healthy scratches, though I know that Woolley still has a sore back....Ray Whitney's dad, who was a practice goalie for the Oilers decades ago, took some shots from the Wings coaching staff this afternoon. He was going to naturally join the Oiler's practice, but they didn't have a vacant net for him....Marc Lamothe, one of tonight's three stars, is the Wings' forth goaltender this season....Former Oiler's stickboy Ray Whitney had a great night, with an assist, +1, team-leading 4 shots on goal, and 20:43 of ice time. I wish the Wings could bottle up his energy and have him use it every game, because he really flew out there....Joe Louis Arena was voted as having the best ice, and Edmonton's Rexall Place (formerly known as Skyreach Centre) came in second. FSN Goofs: This is a new section where I'm going to detail all of the Fox Sports Net blunders of each game. Tonight was an ordinarily bad night for the FSN crew. For the entire first period, the game clock and period number that usually show up on the scoreboard were absent. In the second period, when the crew woke up and put the clock and period number on the scoreboard, they were on the money with the time but had "1st period" up for the first five minutes of the second. Way to go guys!! (Editor: Here are the lines from the game, courtesy GWB) Whitney-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Zetterberg-Holmstrom Maltby-Draper-Yzerman Thomas-Mowers-McCarty Thomas-Datsyuk-McCarty Thomas-Zetterberg-Shanahan Zetterberg-Yzerman-McCarty Shanahan-Zetterberg-McCarty Fischer-Chelios Rivers-Dandenault Lidstrom-Schneider Schneider-Dandenault Lidstrom-Chelios Fischer-Rivers Lidstrom-Dandenault Schneider-Chelios PP- Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom Holmstrom-Datsyuk-Hull Whitney-Lidstrom Draper-Schneider Lidstrom-Schneider PK- Maltby-Draper Shanahan-Yzerman Lidstrom-Chelios Fischer-Schneider OT- Shanahan-Zetterberg Datsyuk-Hull Maltby-Draper Whitney-Yzerman Lidstrom-Chelios Fischer-Dandenault Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Chelios Net- Mark Lamothe

GameDay: vs. Edmonton (25-26-9-1 , 60) 9:00 EST

Tonight is the fourth and final matchup between the Wings and Oilers this season. The series is 2-0-1-0 in favor of Detroit. Most recently, the Wings beat Edmonton 2-1 last Monday with Legace in net. The Wings are riding a three game win streak into this short trip out West, where they will face Edmonton, Vancouver, and Calgary. This is an important trip for the Wings. Not only is it 3 games in 4 nights, but the Wings will be facing up against Vancouver defenseman Bryan Allen. This is the thug who broke Henrik Zetterberg's leg on a dirty slash and got into a minor collision with Derian Hatcher that left him with a torn ACL. I look for some payback in the Tuesday night matchup against the Canucks. The Oilers are coming off two big wins. Last Wednesday, they beat the Avs 5-1 in Denver. It was an emotional victory by the Oilers, and left the Avs bitter and frustrated.

"That was our worst game of the season. The bounces weren't going our way, and we weren't doing anything to create any bounces." (Colorado coach Tony Granato)
"It ranks right up there with the game in New Jersey last year and the game in Vancouver this year. Both times we were playing the hottest team in hockey, we were really struggling and came away with wins." (Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish)
"That's probably the worst game since we've been here -- we were flat. We were just terrible. No excuse for it; it was just embarrassing." (Avalanche captain Joe Sakic)
Then on Saturday, the Oilers beat the Canucks 4-3 in overtime. The Canucks were without leading scorer Markus Nasland, and this was their second loss in a row. But it was still a exciting win for Edmonton, who are currently out of the playoff picture by 7 points to eighth seed St Louis. For the Wings, divisional standings are pretty much a lock with the recent win over St Louis and a current 13 point margin in the Central. The Wings are now looking toward a Western Conference title, as well as a league title. The Wings are tied for first in the West at 80 points with Colorado, and only Ottawa has more points in the league with 81. With Colorado struggling as of late, going 4-3-1-2 in their last ten, this is our chance for the Wings to jump ahead. After five straight starts by backup Manny Legace, with Cujo injured, Marc Lamothe will get the start tonight. It will be his third NHL start, and first with the Wings. The other two came in 1999 with the Blackhawks. Notables: Ray Whitney is excited for tonight's game. He grew up in Edmonton, his father was a practice goalie for the Oilers, and Ray was a stick boy for the Oilers during their championship seasons of 1987 and 1988. So there's going to be a Ray Whitney cheering section tonight in the Rexall Place. Defenseman Jason Woolley will not play tonight, still sore with his back injury. He enjoyed the Wings' Saturday off: "For my back, it was good. I just iced it and laid around and did pretty much nothing, and that's what I needed."

Sunday, February 22, 2004

2/22 Notes

According to the Free Press, the Wings were one of the teams actively going after former Chicago center Alexei Zhamnov before he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Hawks immediately asked for Jiri Fischer, a player the Wings are obviously not willing to give up and so, after discussing other options, they took the Flyers' offer. It seems to me that the Wings' new organizational depth is causing some problems for them in situations like that. The rest of the NHL knows the Wings have a need but they also know who the Wings have and they seem to be taking advantage of it by making it tough for Ken Holland to make a deal which would actually help the Wings. There seems to be a concerted effort to avoid making a trade with the Wings and it is especially noticeable to me when I look at the trades that do go through around the league. The Flyers got Zhamnov for very little and the same goes for the Sens with Peter Bondra. I think the desire for top young prospects outweighs the need to drop large contracts, at least when the opportunity arises to make a trade with the Wings. I thank Holland for standing fast and refraining from trading away the talent the organization was smart enough to find. The other teams are obviously trying to make up for the mistakes of passing over guys like Datsyuk and Zetterberg in their respective drafts. I personally doubt the Wings will be able to acquire a big name by the March 9th deadline because of their stance on their talent. I am confident, however, that Holland will find someone who fits the Wings' need, just as he has so many times in the past. Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News believes Dominik Hasek should go back to the Czech Republic and leave the Wings alone. I completely agree. The fact that Dominik is still hanging around the team after abandoning them sickens me. The last thing the Wings need is for him to continue being a distraction. Ken Holland had better do something about it soon so when the team returns from their three-game, four-day Western Canada trip, they no longer have to see Hasek's face around while they carry on with their daily affairs. Dominik is done in Detroit and there is no reason for him to be allowed to stick around. If he absolutely has to continue attending the team's games, that's fine. He should not be allowed to be around the team otherwise, however, and the Wings need to end it or they could have a serious problem down the road. Get Dom to give the team the money he hasn't earned and then get him the heck out of here. Ken Holland has provided a little clarification on the rule he wants implemented. Instead of outlawing goalies playing the puck completely, he wants to see them restricted for playing the puck forward. That means they would be able to stop the puck from going around the boards but they would not be able to advance it past the goalline. I like the clarification more than the initial proposal but I am still against it. I'd rather have goalies be fair game so they can choose whether to risk going out or not. They currently have no reason to fear leaving the net and that is the reason they have been able to have such an impact on the flow of the game. If they had a reason to think twice about going out, they wouldn't do it so much but would still be able to play it if they have to.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Wings 5, Blues 1

The Red Wings manhandled the Central Division rival St Louis Blues before a sold-out crowd at Joe Louis Arena, stacking up 5 goals on Blues goaltender Reinhard Divis for a 5-1 win. Manny Legace got the start. While it has become fairly commonplace for the Wings to beat the Blues, this game was different. The Blues are usually a stellar defensive team, but they looked ragged and sloppy tonight. This is primarily due to injuries. Barret Jackman is out for the season, Alexander Khavanov and Jeff Finley are both on the IR, and Captain Al MacInnis has been out indefinitely since suffering an eye injury in October. I would hate to see Al go out this way, but it's likely that MacInnis will never play NHL hockey again. The Blues have been unable to adjust to their rash of injuries. Ex-Wing goaltender Chris Osgood has become the whipping boy of the organization, but it is partially deserved with his 5-12-4-0 record in his last 21 starts. After the Blues' 4-3 win over the Lightning Thursday, coach Joel Quenneville had this to say on Ozzie's play: "Ozzy wasn't very good tonight. He's got to be better." But the Blues' offense isn't taking the pressure off of Ozzie, with only 137 goals after 58 games. The Blues looked more like the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight, showing a few offensive bursts, but never really taking it to the Wings. It was an easy win tonight. In the first period, Kirk Maltby opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal at 11:38, assisted by Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom. The play featured Maltby passing the puck to the net, and following in to pick up his own pass. He faked to his backhand, causing Divis to sprawl onto the ice, and backhanded the puck into a wide open net. It was Maltby's 10th goal of the season. The Wings lead the league in shorthanded goals, this being the team's 15th. 1-0 Wings. Reed Low roughed up Mark Mowers along the boards with a crushing check. A scrum resulted, and Darren McCarty confronted Low and dropped the gloves expecting hard-nose Low to follow in turn. Low turned down Mac's offer to the fans' chagrin. The first period was penalty-filled, with the Blues and Wings each taking three penalties. Shots in the period were 13-9 Wings. In the second period, Henrik Zetterberg scored a power play goal at 0:38, assisted by Brett Hull and Ray Whitney. The goal resulted off a shot on net by Hull, followed up by a Zetterberg rebound shot as he waited on the back door. It was Zetterberg's 10th goal of the season. 2-0 Wings. After pretty ordinary back-and-forth action, the Blues snuck in on the scoring on a quick bang-bang play from Chris Pronger to Keith Tkachuk to Doug Weight at 5:22, who buried the biscuit to make it 2-1 Wings. The Wings came back in on the scoring on a power play goal from Henrik Zetterberg, assisted by Ray Whitney and Mathieu Schneider. Like his first goal of the game, Henrik was deep in on the Blues net, and stuffed it in at 16:31. 3-1 Wings. Shots in the period were 14-7 Wings. In the third period, Darren McCarty scored at 6:26, assisted by Steve Thomas and Henrik Zetterberg. In the play, Henrik Zetterberg basically cycled the puck by himself along the boards in the Blues' zone. It was a great individual effort by Henrik, as he grinded along the boards to retain possession of the puck. He gave a quick no-look pass to Thomas, and Mac took a pass from Thomas and got off a wicked wrist shot. 4-1 Wings. While Zetterberg didn't score this goal, and only got the second assist, he was the catalyst of the offensive pressure and this effort was by far his best of the game. A quiet Ray Whitney got his second goal in 15 games at 16:08, assisted by Brett Hull and Pavel Datsyuk. 5-1 Wings. It was nice to see that Ray remembers how to shoot the puck, because he's been more of a replacement for Igor Larionov Assist-King than the Wings had likely expected. His ten goals this season certainly are a disappointment when compared to last season, when he had 24 goals, 52 assists, and 76 points through 81 games with the Blue Jackets. Shots were 11-10 Wings, 38-26 Wings for the game. The Blues really looked emotionless in the third, not mounting a very stellar rally to come back from a two goal deficit. They looked lifeless and confused out there, as the Wings controlled the flow of the third. Manny Legace had a strong game for the Wings, making a few impressive glove saves and stoning the Blues on their few great scoring chances. Notables: Steve Yzerman continues to reach milestones, playing in his 1,432nd game tonight. This ties him with Mike Gartner for 14th All Time. Detroit leads the league with 15 short-handed goals. Penalty-killing specialists Maltby and Draper have four and five, respectively. Multi-point efforts tonight: Hull (2 assists), Whitney (1 goal, 2 assists), Zetterberg (2 goal, 1 assist). The player of the game was definitely Henrik Zetterberg. Chris Osgood, who was listed as "Expected to start Fri. vs Det. 2/20" on the ESPN IR, was shaken up in the Lightning game Thursday night, so Divis started for the Blues. Fox Sports Net continued its reputation of terrible Red Wings' broadcasts with a pixelation problem during the end of the third. They were roughly ten minutes from a perfect broadcast, which they have yet to achieve this season. (Editor: Here are the lines from the game, courtesy of GWB) Thomas-Mowers-McCarty Whitney-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Zetterberg-Holmstrom Maltby-Draper-Yzerman Thomas-Zetterberg-McCarty Fischer-Chelios Lidstrom-Schneider Rivers-Dandenault 4 on 4- Maltby-Draper Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Zetterberg Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Chelios PP- Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom Shanahan-Datsyuk-Zetterberg Holmstrom-Yzerman-Hull Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Zetterberg-Holmstrom Maltby-Draper-Yzerman Schneider-Draper Whitney-Lidstrom Lidstrom-Schneider Lidstrom-Draper Fischer-chelios Schneider-Chelios Fischer-Dandenault 5 on 3PP- Holmstrom-Yzerman-Hull Lidstrom-Schneider PK- Maltby-Draper Shanahan-Yzerman Whitney-Zetterberg Lidstrom-Chelios Fischer-Schneider Net- Manny Legace

Zhamnov no longer an option

The Philadelphia Flyers have added former-Chicago Blackhawk captain Alexei Zhamnov to their roster in exchange for Jim Vandermeer, Colin Fraser and a fourth-round pick in the 2004 draft. The Flyers were in need of a center after losing star Jeremy Roenick to a concussion/broken jaw and Keith Primeau to a concussion of his own. They traded away Mike Comrie, another veteran center who they acquired this season from the Oilers, to the Phoenix Coyotes for goalie Sean Burke just before the Roenick and Primeau injuries occurred. The Wings were rumored to be interested in Zhamnov and will now have to look elsewhere for a center, if they are actually looking for one. Washingon's Robert Lang is an option but the Caps have already traded away Jaromir Jagr and Peter Bondra this season and may not be as open to such a deal as before. Other options for big, skilled forwards include Alexei Kovalev or (this is a big, big maybe, just throwing it out there) Sergei Fedorov. The not-so-skilled option is Georges Laraque. I'm disappointed the Wings couldn't get Zhamnov, though they say they weren't interested in the first place. It is a good thing, though, that he has gone to the East and not to another Western Conference team where he would be a factor in the playoffs.

GameDay: vs. St Louis (29-22-7-1 , 66) 7:30 EST

Tonight is the fifth of six games between these two teams this season. The season series is now 2-1-1-0, the Wings with the advantage. The Wings lost 6-5 in the October 29 bout, the ninth game of the season. Since then, the Wings have won 2-1 on November 29, tied 4-4 on December 4, and recently won 2-1 on December 22 versus the underachieving Blues. The Blues are 4-6-0-0 in their last ten, but, most-recently, have won three straight. On Monday, they had a convincing 5-2 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes. In the wake of the Burke deal, the Coyotes are slumping, with Boucher going 3-7-3-1 in his last 14 starts since the historic 5-game shutout streak. Last night, the Blues had a 4-3 overtime win against the Lightning, with Doug Weight scoring the game-winning goal. This win was big for the Blues, who currently trail the Wings by 12 points in the Central Division. And it came against the red-hot Lightning, who, coming into St Louis, had gone 10-1-1-0 in their last 12 before taking the overtime loss. This emotional victory by the Blues gives them some confidence coming into Joe Louis Arena for the second night of a back-to-back. The Blues are floundering in the playoff mix, currently holding the sixth seed, but just one point away from losing a playoff berth. This is the cost of not winning their division, and they will likely have to battle to the very last day of the regular season to even secure a playoff spot. Looking at the overall playoff picture, the Wings are tied for the league lead with Colorado and Philly at 78 points. With a comfortable lead in the Central Division, the Wings need to start pushing for the Western Conference crown in their remaining 22 games. Home ice advantage in a Wings/Colorado series would be a great luxury. Despite the Avs having the best road record in the NHL, Joe Louis Arena is where the Wings love to play in the heat of the playoffs. Manny Legace will get the start again and will be backed up by the Griffins' Marc Lamothe. Dave Lewis said Lamothe may get the nod in the Wings' back-to-back against Edmonton and Vancouver next Monday and Tuesday, but that is looking increasingly unlikely with the Wings' tight race with Colorado for the Western Conference title. Notables: Thursday practice was 45 minutes and very eventful. While running drills, Boyd Devereaux collided with Chelios, and was knocked to the ice. While he had to be helped off to the bench, he returned to complete practice. I'm sure it was a scary moment with Boyd's history of serious concussions. Jason Woolley had an "an executive workout." Sore from a strained back that he suffered Monday night versus the Oilers, he relaxed and got a massage. He likely will not play until next week. And Hasek's bizarre behavior continues. After shocking the Wings with news that his season is over, he has unexpectedly stuck like a leach to the team. Since the announcement, Hasek has watched Wings games in the locker-room lounge or from his suite. He attended a wine-tasting charity event, and has dropped by the locker-room on several occasions. I find this very odd. The Wings, who have watched Steve Yzerman battle through complex knee surgery to return to the ice, likely find Hasek's giving-up as a weak effort to return. He took shots in practice the day of the announcement, and should have at least tried to play in a game before hanging the skates up. And it doesn't help that Hasek is not even on speaking terms with Cujo, the guy the Wings are trying to rally around. Associate coach Barry Smith: "He's not playing, so he still wants to be part of the team. He's not going on the road trip." Good. Hasek is old news, and, as far as I'm concerned, not part of this organization any more. He will never play for the Wings again, and his comeback only threw the team into disarray. So I don't know why the Wings are allowing him to hang out with a team he is not a member of. Word is that GM Ken Holland has said that, if Dom�s presence becomes a distraction, he will address it.

Wings thoughts on TV & vacation

Red Wings & Movies/TV Shows Which reality show would you like to be on? Chelios: I don�t watch reality shows, to be honest. (Chelios asks out loud: �Hey, what�s a good reality show?� A few Wings shout back, �Survivor.�) I�ve never seen that show. Favorite cartoon? Chelios: The Flintstones Are you a Sesame Street fan? Mowers: All the way. Favorite character? Mowers: Oscar the Grouch. He is the best. Have you ever gotten hooked on a soap? Mowers: I will not say I was hooked, but I was borderline hooked on "Days of Our Lives." I'm not a full-time watcher. But you can watch the show and know what's going on? Mowers: Yeah, I know all the characters. Does that make me hooked? Favorite TV shows? Al Sobotka (Zamboni driver): I like anything with hockey, or other sports, too. I'm a big sports fan. I like comedies too, like Friends and Seinfeld re-runs. Best Harrison Ford movie? Rivers: The Fugitive. That�s a great movie. I�ve watched that one more than a few times. Red Wings & Vacation Favorite place to go on vacation? Chelios: Malibu. That doesn�t count. You live there. Chelios: OK, then, fine. I�ll go with Greece. Best vacation? Holmstrom: I went to Greece with my wife, brother and his girlfriend. It was so relaxing. We spent 10 days on the beach, riding around on Vespas (mopeds) and eating well. I was so relaxed just doing nothing. When I go home to Sweden for vacation, I'm always busier. You have to see people, go to the post office, things like that. When we were in Greece, we literally did nothing but relax. I loved it. Favorite vacation spot in Michigan? Al Sobotka: Elk Rapids or Traverse City. They're both beautiful there. Great places to relax. Warmest place you�ve ever traveled to? Rivers: The Bahamas. All interview questions & answers from Detroit News

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Wings 5, Coyotes 2

After losing to the Coyotes 5-2 January 24 in Phoenix, the Wings turned the tables on them at the Joe, winning 5-2 to put them at first in the NHL with 78 points, tied with Philly and the Avs. The Coyotes came out with a defensive strategy, sitting back much of the first period with no players up on the forecheck, in hopes of creating a theoretical bogged down neutral ice. But the Wings have too much experience in dealing with this effort to keep the game tight, so they were able to get passes down the wings and beat the Coyotes at their own system. Legace got the start, with Marc Lamothe as backup. In the first period, the play was pretty tight. Shots on goal were 11-10 Wings, and the Coyotes had a few good chances on Legace, but the league's best backup was able to come up with a couple stand-on-his-head saves. Mathieu Dandenault opened the scoring at 13:45, unassisted. The goal came on a shot from the point, and was initially credited to Henrik Zetterberg, but further review showed it went off of a Coyote skate rather than Hank's. 1-0 Wings. In the second period, Detroit Red Wings television source Fox Sports Net had a lot of technical difficulties, at times not having audio or visual of the game. Instead, they just showed a frame of empty seats and a blank scoreboard from the pregame show. At times, static-filled audio of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond came through on the frozen frame. It was like they were playing the game on Mars or something. Or broadcasting it over satellite phone from Baghdad. It's pretty ridiculous. I wouldn't come out so hard on FSN if it weren't for the fact that technical difficulties have been commonplace there. I can't remember a game on FSN in the past couple years where they haven't lost video for a few seconds, a frame doesn't freeze, or some graphic doesn't gets messed up. I'm not a stickler, but if you're a professional broadcast, this type of stuff should not happen. I almost miss the broadcasts on UPN50, where Wings hockey was broadcast years ago. Even though UPN50 had maybe 2 different graphics, they never had so many technical difficulties in one season as FSN has in a single game. So, through the choppy audio and few minutes of the game I actually saw, the Wings played a pretty good period. At 16:05, Brett Hull had a great power play goal, assisted by Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. 2-0 Wings. Shots in the period were 12-8 Wings. In the third period, Chris Gratton beat Legace at 6:22 with a power play goal, assisted by Paul Mara and Mike Comrie, the new Coyote acquired in the Burke deal. It was a neat goal by Gratton, who banked it off an out-of-position Legace from the side of the net, parallel the goal line. 2-1 Wings. The Wings stormed back with an insurance goal at 8:27, from Mathieu Schneider on the power play, assisted by Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk, his second assist of the game to give him 58 points this season. It was a good shot by Schneider. With traffic in front, he picked the puck in between the circles and wristed it in to beat Boucher. 3-1 Wings. But the Coyotes wouldn't let that be all she wrote. Fredrik Sjostrom scored at 9:36, assisted by Todd Reirden. 3-2 Wings. With the game tight going into the final two minutes of action, Kris Draper gave the Wings the final insurance goal they'd need, with a hard shot from the top of the left circle beating Boucher, and just trickling past the goal line. Steve Yzerman had the assist on the play. 4-2 Wings. The Coyotes pulled Boucher to get the extra man, but Kris Draper scored on the empty net unassisted for his 23rd goal of the season. 5-2 Wings. Shots in the period were 9-8 Detroit. Final Shots 32-26, also in Detroit's favor. It was a good effort by the Wings tonight. In what could've been a tough game to play against a sit-back system, the Wings came out with poise and stifled the Coyotes' efforts. While it wasn't the most exciting game for fans, especially with FSN standards of broadcasting their games, it was nice to see the Wings comfortably handle the struggling Coyotes. Notables: Boucher has struggled since going on his record shutout streak: he is 3-10 in net since beating the scoreless record dating back to 1943. The Wings have only lost 3 of their last 11 decisions in the Joe. Hull tied Dave Andreychuk for all-time NHL lead in power play goals with his goal tonight. 263 power play goals, and Hull did it in 300 some less games (1,573 for Dave, 1,241 for Brett). In a post-game interview, Draper said that Hull has helped him put some more whip in his sticks. Jamie Rivers is the goat of the game, taking two bad penalties. On the second, he pushed a Coyotes player into Legace, giving the opposition the power play and potentially hurting Manny. Fortunately, Manny was able to shake it off. With the resulting power play, Gratton scored for the Coyotes to bring them within one. After making such a bonehead play, Jamie Rivers was lucky that Schneider followed it with a goal a couple minutes later, so Jamie should take Schneider out to dinner tonight., an Internet bookmaker, has the chances that Hasek plays a full game for the Wings again before Jan. 1, 2005 at 15-1. Pavel Datsyuk and Jason Woolley didn't practice Tuesday. Apparently, Pavel felt under-the-weather and Woolley is a "little sore." (Editor: Here are the lines from the game, courtesy GWB) Whitney-Datsyuk-Hull Maltby-Draper-Yzerman Thomas-Mowers-McCarty Shanahan-Zetterberg-Holmstrom Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Chelios Rivers-Dandenault PP- Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom Whitney-Lidstrom Lidstrom-Schneider PK- Maltby-Draper Zetterberg-Datsyuk Shanahan-Yzerman Lidstrom-Chelios Fischer-Schneider Net- Manny Legace

GameDay: vs. Phoenix (19-22-14-3, 55) 7:00 EST

Tonight is the third of four games between these two teams this season. They skated to a 3-3 tie on January 6th in Detroit and the Coyotes won 5-2 on January 24th in Phoenix. The Wings are 5-1-2 in their last eight games and are coming off a 2-1 win over the Oilers on Monday night. They have a league-best 21-5-3-0 record at home and are 2-1 so far in a five-game homestand. The other two games were a 5-2 loss to the Avs and a 4-2 win over the Sharks. The Wings' leading scorer is Pavel Datsyuk, who has gone cold lately, with 56 points. The Coyotes are 1-7-1-1 since beating the Wings on the 24th, ten games ago and they have earned only ten points over their previous 17 games. They are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Blues on Monday but beat the Stars 3-2 on Saturday. They are exactly .500 on the road (10-10-10-1) and that loss to the Blues made them 0-1-0 on a short two-game road trip. The Coyotes' leading scorer is Shane Doan, who has 59 points. Dave Lewis said Legace will get the start tonight. He said earlier that Marc Lamothe might get a start sometime this week so it looks like Friday's game against St. Louis would be the day. Pavel Datsyuk and Jason Woolley did not practice yesterday. Pavel stayed home because he felt sick and Woolley was sore. Both of them are expected to play tonight. Remember, the game starts at 7:00 EST tonight because of a national broadcast. This should be a good chance for the Wings to continue what they started on Monday night. The Oilers game was an improvement on Saturday's debacle but they'll need to play even better tonight to beat the Coyotes, who have a very good goalie in Brian Boucher. As long as they play with a high level of energy and pursue the puck, they should be fine. They will have to look for breaks because Boucher is sure to make scoring tough. Freep News ESPN

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

"Derian Hatcher - catalyst to the Cup"?

Jerry Green of the Detroit News believes Derian Hatcher could be the catalyst the Wings need for their run for the Cup this year. Given the level of toughness and physical play Hatcher will bring to the team, I'm inclined to agree that he will at least be a catalyst if not the catalyst. It will be the same as adding a star defenseman at the trade deadline and really should only have a positive effect. The only negative effect it could have would be to disrupt the fairly strong chemistry that has developed so far this season between the Wings' members of the blueline crew. Sure, his timing will be off at first but a player of his caliber should be able to overcome that in a relatively short period of time. The Wings as a whole have done pretty well without him all season but they will definitely need his services in the playoffs. He has been participating in full practices with the team and apparently could have returned for Saturday's game against Colorado but the Wings are not going to rush him back. The plan is for him to return for the game against Tampa Bay on March 8th. He would have 15 games to prepare for the playoffs were he to in fact return that night. I'm a little concerned that those 15 games will not be enough for him to get acclimated with his teammates but he has had a lot of practice time with them lately. I think he can pull it off. The Wings will be very well off with Derian Hatcher back in the lineup and would, in my opinion, only need one more forward to make themselves as strong as they could be on paper going in to the big dance.

Wings 2, Oilers 1

The Wings played a much better game last night than they played Saturday. After a fairly weak first period where they gave up 17 shots, they dominated the Oilers for the rest of the game, especially in the second period where they allowed no shots, something they haven't done since '96. In the first period, the younger Oilers team came out with a little more jump than the Wings did and they proceeded to out-shoot and out-chance their opponents. They scored a goal that was disallowed because of an apparently inconclusive replay. According to the rule, the puck has to be seen crossing the line. In this case, it entered Manny Legace's glove just as it was crossing the line so you couldn't actually see it cross even though it was obvious it did. So they could not allow the goal. Personally, I think that's a rule that needs to be clarified. Mickey Redmond made a good point last night during the broadcast when he said changing that rule would "open a new can of worms." He's right, it would, because teams would then be justified in crashing the net even harder which would lead to more goalie injuries. However, I do believe the rule should be changed so that if a goalie crosses the line as a result of his own actions and not because someone knocked him down, the goal should be allowed. I'd hate to be a Wings fan and have such a clear and obvious goal be disallowed because of a lame technicality like that. I'm glad it was last night, though! Soon afterwards, the Wings scored a shorthanded goal as a result of a hustle play by Kirk Maltby. He was on the forecheck and pressuring the Oilers' defense behind the net and got a lucky bounce (or an un-forced error as Mr. Redmond kept saying). He skated out of the corner and sent the puck to a wide open Draper who one-timed it past Tommy Salo. You know, a lot of people say Nick Lidstrom is the most indispensable player the Wings have. I guess that's true but I cannot imagine where the Wings would be without Maltby and Draper. They have got to be the most underrated players in the league and the two most important players on the team. The things they do every night are invaluable. Everyone knows what they can do to a team and yet they are still able to keep on doing it. It's amazing to me. The second period was the Wings' period because they completely dominated the Oilers. A good example of this there were at least two full consecutive shifts near the start of the period which were spent completely in the Oilers' zone. The Wings kept some solid pressure on the Oilers for a full 20 minutes and though they only got one goal for it, it was still fun to watch. Mathieu Schneider scored that goal after making a move to get around an Oilers player from close in. Salo was trying to draw a goalie interference penalty but he wasn't touched and should have been more concerned with allowing a goal like that. The third period was more of the Oilers coming on. They outshot the Wings again but only got one goal, from Jarret Stoll. They waited too long to pull Salo and didn't come very close to tying the game up near the end. The refs really swallowed their whistles last night, at least in terms of calling things on the Oilers. The Wings only had two power plays and the 2nd started with 13 seconds left in the game. It wasn't the most mugging-happy game but there were a lot more penalties committed than were called, that's for sure. Manny Legace was very sharp and I was sure he'd get a shutout. ESPN made him the #1 star of the game and I would agree with that. He made some very good saves and kept the Wings in it when they were being outshot. Tommy Salo was very solid too and looked more like he did before the Olympics and that awful goal he allowed. He gave the Oilers a chance to win the game or at least get a point but they couldn't pull it out. I thought Dandenault looked pretty good at center. His line (Thomas and McCarty) played well and generated some good chances throughout the night. Georges Laraque played a lot last night (16:59). He is the subject of a lot of trade rumors and I wonder if the Oilers were trying to sell him to the Wings, in a way. The Wings need size badly and he would give them that for sure. It will be interesting to see what happens at the trade deadline. The Chicago Blackhawks traded center Steve Sullivan to the Nashville Predators. An intra-division trade like that is unusual, especially considering how the Hawks and Preds will likely be competing for a playoff spot in the coming years. The Predators got him for some 2004 and 2005 second round draft picks. Pretty small price to pay in a trade which will effect the balance of power in the Central Division at least enough to concern the Wings a little. Nashville is a rising team and now they have some more skill, which will only help them. Combined with the rumors surrounding Alexei Zhamnov, it looks like the Hawks may be giving up. The Wings are now 2-1 in their five-game homestand which continues Wednesday against the Coyotes and ends Friday against the Blues. They are trailing the Avs by two points for first place in the Division with 72. Freep | New | ESPN | Box Score Lines- (courtesy GWB) Maltby-Draper-Yzerman Whitney-Datysuk-Hull Shanahan-Zetterberg-Holmstrom Thomas-Dandenault-McCarty Shanahan-Zetterberg-McCarty Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Chelios Rivers-Woolley 4 on 4- Zetterberg-Datsyuk Maltby-Draper Lidstrom-Schneider PP- Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Maltby-Draper-Yzerman Whitney-Lidstrom Lidstrom-Schneider PK- Draper-Maltby Zetterberg-Datsyuk Shanahan-Yzerman Lidstrom-Chelios Fischer-Schneider Net- Manny Legace

Monday, February 16, 2004

Behind the Jersey: No. 24

Defenseman Chris Chelios turned 42 this past January on the 25th and shows no signs of slowing down. �I feel good physically. I always said it [retirement] would be a physical thing. I�ll never get tired of the game,� Chelios said. Between playing hockey, owning a restaurant, running a charity foundation, and spending time with his family, it is surprising that age hasn�t played a factor into Cheli�s amount of responsibilities. �You guys keep trying to retire me. I really didn�t think it was my last time at the United Center. If it was going to be my last time, I would have wanted to salute and thank the crowd, acknowledge them. But hopefully, it wasn�t (his last game in Chicago)," Chelios said. Chelios grew up attending Blackhawks� games and bought his first pair of skates for $5 at a local Ace Hardware in Chicago. His father, Gus, valued hard work and appreciated the game of hockey both of which were passed on down to his children. As a kid, Cheli played hockey for Mt. Carmel High during his freshman and sophomore years and also became quite the pitcher and shortstop. However, he had to make a decision between the two sports in hopes to play at higher levels. �I wanted him to play hockey because he liked it � not because I liked it. I told him, �Whatever sport you pick, I�ll give you my support 100%. I�ll be behind you, but tough all the way,�� Gus said. Even as a youngster, Cheli�s hard work defined his play of the game. He would spend most of his time at the rink and when he couldn�t, he ran hills to develop stamina. Once his family moved to Poway, Chris made the 10-mile trip to the rink with his equipment in order to practice and then rode his bike the 10-miles back. �He's always been like that. As a kid, he'd walk for miles. He'd work out and do things the other kids didn't do away from the ice. We never had to tell him to do that,� Susan Chelios said. During the summer of 1981, the Montreal Canadiens drafted Cheli late into the second round of the NHL draft. All of a sudden, colleges battled with one another to get him onto their school�s team. Chelios went on to play under Bob Johnson and Jeff Sauer in college at Wisconsin, which he chose over North Dakota. In 1983, Cheli won a national championship while playing for the Badgers. In his first full season in the NHL, Chelios was named to the league�s All-Rookie team. In only his second year with the Canadiens, Chris won his first Stanley Cup. He later became the first American to captain the Montreal team and with this organization he picked up a Norris Trophy win. �He�s a coaches dream because he sets such a good example. He was an integral part of our team,� fellow Montreal teammate Steve Martinson said. Cheli headed back to his hometown of Chicago to play for the Blackhawks where he played almost nine full seasons. In these nine years, Chelios obtained two more Norris Trophy awards, was named the team captain, and broke numerous team records such as the most career penalty minutes (1,495), became the first defenseman to lead the team in scoring in team history, and set a new club record with the most playoff points by a defenseman (21 points in 18 games). Chris became the guy for Red Wing fans to hate after he nailed Sergei Federov across the face with his stick, but following his signing with the Wings in the 98/99 season Cheli is loved by fans, not hated. In his first full season with the Wings the following year, Chelios had a career high plus/minus rating of +48, which was the 2nd best in the NHL that year. During the 2001-2002 season, Cheli helped bring the Stanley Cup back to Hockeytown marking his second Cup win. Through his numerous knee surgeries and a broken thumb, Chelios has shown that his determination and work ethic proves stronger over age and injuries. �With Cheli, you've got a guy with three Norris trophies and two Stanley Cups and he's 40-something and still going strong. He's got every reason to relax and he's out here working harder than everybody else. Other guys see that, or see the success that it brings, and want to see what he is up to and try to emulate some of those things,� personal trainer T.R. Goodman said. For these reasons, Cheli makes a great mentor to 23-year old Jiri Fischer. When Fischer tore his left ACL in November of the previous season, Chelios helped Jiri through the difficulties of rehabilitation and tricks of the trade for defenseman. �If you ask me, he is the American hockey player,� fellow USA teammate Jeremy Roenick said. Chris has played an important role in the USA hockey team both as a leader and a player. USA coach Herb Brooks named Chelios captain for the 2002 Olympic games and he also captained the team back in �98. Once Cheli decides to retire, he would like the opportunity to remain involved with the USA team. �"I don't know if it's coaching, or management, but I'd like to help out. If it's coaching in the tournaments (World Cup, World Championships, Olympics), or whatever, I'd be more than happy to do it. You have to get players to participate, someone maybe they can respect with an NHL background,� Chelios said. In 2001, Cheli�s sister Gigi lost her fight with cancer and in memory of her- Chelios contributes to the Make-A-Wish foundation and other cancer foundations. He also hosts an annual Charity Golf Classic that usually raises around $400,000 to benefit the Cheli�s Children Foundation, which helps abused children in the Chicago area. In addition to his charity work, Chelios opened his own restaurant, Cheli�s Chili Bar, in Dearborn. �I just wanted to put back something into the community. It�s something to do after I finish playing hockey,� Chris said. Between his hockey playing, restaurant running, and volunteering, Chelios is here to stay in Hockeytown, USA.

GameDay: vs. Edmonton (23-25-9-1, 56) 7:30 EST

Tonight is the third of four games between these two teams this season. The first game ended in a 4-4 tie on November 1 and the Wings blew the Oilers out 7-1 on November 26 in the second game. The Wings haven't lost two games in a row since they dropped two to Boston on Jan. 7th and 10th and will look to avoid doing so tonight. They are coming off a decisive 5-2 loss to Colorado on Saturday and are 1-1 so far in a five-game homestand. The Avs outplayed the Wings for much of the game and scored the last four goals of the game. The Wings were 4-0-2 leading up to the loss. They are now four games behind Colorado for first place in the Conference. The Oilers are 3-1-1 in their last five games and are coming off a 2-2 tie with Nashville on Sunday. Their last three wins came at home and they are 0-1-1 so far on a four-game road trip. Manny Legace will get the start again and will be backed up by the Griffins' Marc Lamothe. Dave Lewis said Lamothe may get a start sometime later this week. Chris Chelios did not practice yesterday but will play tonight, according to Lewis. He took a shot off his foot during the loss Saturday but finished the game. There's a good chance (50-50) that Mathieu Dandenault will play center tonight, between Darren McCarty and Steve Thomas. Lewis had planned on having Mark Mowers or Jason Williams center that line while putting Dandenault back on defense. When Dandenault informed him that he used to play center (before junior), Lewis decided to give it a try. Dandy has will have played every position other than goalie if Lewis does in fact use him at center tonight. This is an important week for the Wings, who have home games against Edmonton tonight, Phoenix on Wednesday and St. Louis on Friday. After that they will be on a three-game trip to Western Canada. The Oilers, Coyotes and Blues are all fighting to make the playoffs and will give the Wings a tough time. Tonight they will have to contend with the speed and youth of the Oilers. If they play their "A" game, the Wings shouldn't have much trouble. They'll have to show more effort than they did on Saturday, though, because the Oilers aren't going to roll over and die. ESPN Freep News Also: Here is the link to the audio file of Saturday's Hockey Insider. I come on at around 20 minutes into the show, though you should listen to everything leading up to it. When listening, remember that I am not a radio personality and that was only my second time being on the air. I apologize in advance for how bad I sound. Many thanks to Rick Morris for giving me the opportunity to be on his show and for being such a faithful (and vocal) viewer of this site. Thanks for the numerous and extremely generous plugs as well. I really appreciate it, Rick. Rick and Joe run a very good show and I'd recommend it to anyone.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Scouting with Assistant General Manager Jim Nill

Christy: What do you find as the most rewarding aspect of your job? The most challenging? Jim Nill: The most rewarding aspect of my job is having the opportunity to see the next stars that will someday play in the NHL. With my job I am able to see these players when they are 16-17 years of age and I know that someday they will be playing somewhere in the NHL. It's a great challenge to scout and recruit the next players for the Detroit Red Wings organization. Due to our success as a franchise we are always selecting low in the draft where it is harder to find players, but it is a great challenge to find the next "diamond in the rough". How much of a change was it to go from a job being a professional player to scouting for future prospects? During my 12 years of professional hockey I played for the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Winnipeg Jets, and Vancouver Canucks. It was a huge change to go from playing to scouting. As a player you were always looking at players who were 20 to 35 years of age. In the scouting business you are looking at young men who are 16-17 years of age. Some have developed physically and mentally, others have not, so you must try to project what they will develop into when they are 20-30 years of age. You are dealing with human beings and it is not always easy to figure people out. All different factors can affect their development, ie.. money, school, friends, family, outside influences, their commitment and drive, etc... It is not an exact science to figure out people. Who was it that 'found' Datsyuk? Did you have any role in his discovery? Hakan Andersson, our European scout was the first person to see Pavel. I was the person who drafted him and then I worked on his development after we drafted Pavel. What made you think Pavel was so special when other teams passed him up? Pavel had very good skills, but was very small and weak. When we drafted him he was 5'8" and about 145 pounds soaking wet. We liked his skills, but did not know if he would every grow enough and/or get strong enough to play in the NHL. As we can all see now he did develop. Has Pavel met or exceeded the team's expectations? Pavel has exceeded our expectations, When we brought him over to play 2 years ago we knew he could play in the NHL, but we did not expect him to reach this level of stardom so quickly. After deciding that you would like to see a certain player (like Datsyuk) play for the Wings, what process or steps do you follow to get him on the team? Once we have drafted the player we monitor his development wherever he is playing. We analyze whether he is in a good environment to develop and monitor his progress. We watch the level of competition he is playing at, watch his strength development, and talk with the player to see if it is better for him to remain in his home environment or should he be somewhere else. There are all different factors to take into consideration. Once we feel that he is mature enough physically and mentally we must determine if he is able to play at either the AHL level (Grand Rapids) or do we feel he can step right into playing for Detroit Red Wings. The final piece of the puzzle is to get him signed to a contract. If you had to define your job and role in the Wings organization in a few sentences, what would they be? My job description is being in charge of all drafting and developing of players for the Detroit Red Wings. To continue the success of our franchise we must have a steady influx of young players developing in our system at all times. How often do you go on scouting trips in lets say a months time? How do you balance work and family? I am at a hockey game 5 nights out of 7 during every week from October to May. I travel to Europe 5-6 times a year for a week to 10 days at a time. I am fortunate that I make my own schedule so I am always around for any family function. Also I live in a great hockey location, there is every level of hockey around the Michigan area which allows me to be home every night. I am also very fortunate that I have a great family who can tolerate my travels and they are very indepedent.

Avs 5, Wings 2

In what was billed as a high-intensity match between two superpowers turned out to be a lackadaisical effort by the Wings, being outplayed for the second straight game against the Avs, losing 5-2. Manny got the start. The Wings, despite winning 3-2 in Overtime, were outplayed and outhustled in the February 5th game in Denver. The entire third period was the Avs attacking and the Wings back on their heels, dumping the puck. It took two high stick calls on the Avs for the Wings to win the game. And they wouldn't have won without them. The win in Denver was not very representative of play, because the Avs deserved to win that game after the Wings gave up a 2-0 lead and the Avs cooked us the second half of the game. I hate to say it, but that was a very lucky situation to have in Overtime, taking a 5-on-3 for 4 minutes against the Avs, even though Yzerman's chicklets had to meet Adam Foote's stick to make it possible. In the Saturday afternoon game in the Joe, it seemed like the fans were more than ready to go, but the Wings just looked mediocre compared to the Avs. In the first period, Steve Yzerman got a power play goal at 18:44, assisted by Brendan Shanahan and Nicklas Lidstrom. This was probably the best offensive play of the game for the Wings. Lidstrom fed Shanny, who was straddling the blue line to stay onside. He then had the patience to wait for his teammates to get in position, faked a shot on David Aebischer, and made a shot-pass to Yzerman, who was left wide open on the far side of the net. Yzerman took the puck and stuffed it in the wide-open net to make it 1-0 Wings. The powerplay came off of a bad obstruction penalty by Worrell, also known as the boxer on skates. Looking at the box score, one could conclude that Detroit had a great first period, having a 1-0 lead and 14-9 shot advantage. But such was not the case. The Avs really peppered Manny with shots. The Wings defense looked really bad, leaving guys like Milan Hejduk and Alex Tanguay with wide-open ice. It really took a solid period of goaltending from Manny Legace to keep the Wings in it. At 18:30, McCarty was hit in the head by a point shot from Lidstrom. It was a scary moment, as Mac fell to the ice and looked pretty dazed. But instant replay showed the puck bouncing off the brow of his helmet, just inches above skin. After seeing what happened to JR in Philly, this was definitely a close call for the Wings. Another scary play was Cheli getting hit in the side of his ankle by the puck. He limped off the ice, but returned later on. Hopefully he didn't suffer a hairline fracture like Rob Blake did, because he played on it for a couple games before noticing it. In the second period, Teemu Selanne got a power play goal assisted by Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg at 12:54. The play came off a Joe Sakic wrist shot, and Schneider desperately tried to keep the puck out of the net as he swiped at it with his stick, but it was too late. 1-1 tie. Then Jiri Fischer got a goal, assisted by Ray Whitney and Pavel Datsyuk at 17:04. It was a bang-bang play, with Datsyuk bringing the puck into the zone, leaving it along the boards for a trailing Whitney, who found Fischer in between the circles. Jiri got off a screened wrist shot, and beat Aebischer to make it 2-1 Wings. And the downfall of the Wings began. With less than 30 seconds left in the period, the Wings fell asleep and allowed a late goal by Karlis Skrastins, assisted by Steve Konowalchuk, at 19:32. This really left a bad taste in the Wings mouth as they walked into the dressing room. With such little time left in a period, you just clear the puck and get out. The Wings definitely lost their heads on that play. 2-2 tie. Shots in the period were 7-7. In the third period, the Avalanche arrived. Three unanswered Colorado goals put a stamp on this game and sealed it. At 2:42, Alex Tanguay scored, assisted by John-Michael Liles and Peter Forsberg. 3-2 Avs. At 10:04, Joe Sakic got a power play goal, assisted by Paul Kariya and Steve Konowalchuk. 4-2 Avs. At 19:23, Peter Forsberg got an empty netter, assisted by Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk. 5-2 Avs. As you can tell, I wasn't very into the game at this point. After two periods of watching the Wings play without emotion and chasing the dominating Avs around, I was pretty fed up. I took to my computer and turned my head for the few Wings scoring chances. One came with Brett Hull shooting the puck at a wide-open net. It was around the 8 minute mark, and I thought the Wings still had a chance. But then I saw David Aebischer, the "weakness" of the Avs, leap across the crease and knock the puck out of the air with his stick. It was pretty reminiscent of Hullie's slump, seeing him with gimmee goals and somehow coming away with the red light untriggered. I gave up after seeing Schneider get called at 16:11 for slashing, because it meant that the Wings would only have 1 minute 49 seconds to score two goals, and things were definitely not on the upswing for the men in the Winged-Wheel. Shots in the period were 14-9 Avs. Notables: The Wings hadn't lost since Jan. 24 at Phoenix. David Aebischer was previously 0-3 versus the Wings. Thomas returned to the ice after a 4 game absence with his rib injury. It was Jiri Fischer's first goal since opening night versus the LA Kings, in which Dominik Hasek had the start and the Wings won 3-2 with Steve Yzerman scoring at 19:58!!! It sure took Jiri long enough to get number two, 56 games later. It was the 300th consecutive sellout at the Joe. Joe Louis Arena fans booed Foote periodically during the game when he touched the puck, but the Wings didn't exact any retribution. There were no fights in the game.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

GameDay: vs. Colorado (31-11-10-4 , 76) 3:00 EST

This afternoon is the much-awaited rematch versus the Colorado Avalanche after the February 5th Overtime win by the Wings, in which we won 3-2 after falling behind 2-0 early. The game featured a wide open, uncalled third period that culminated in two late Colorado high sticks, one by Foote on Yzerman, the other by Konowalchuk on Draper, that led to a critical 5-on-3 in Overtime for 4 minutes. As boos rained down in the Pepsi Center, Brett Hull blasted in a goal, and the boos were joined with beer bottles and garbage littering the ice. This all sets the stage for the second of four games against the Avs this season, this being the first at the Joe for the Wings. The Avs are coming off a 4-0 shellacking of the underachieving St Louis Blues Thursday. Current conference standings have the Avs leading with 76 points (with the Canucks 4 points behind in the Northwest, followed by the Wings with 74 (with the Blues 12 points behind in the Central). So, although the Wings have very little pressure behind their back in the Central, it's time to start eyeing an all-important home ice advantage against the Avs. This pretty much means number one in the West. Looking to the East, the ailing Flyers have 76 points, and the Leafs are trailing with 74. The East is sticking right with the West this season, so being number one in the West doesn't guarantee the President's Trophy like it has in previous seasons. Manny Legace will get the start this afternoon, with Marc Lamothe called up from Grand Rapids and ready for his first NHL start. And with Cujo out till next week, possibly returning Wednesday versus the Coyotes or Friday versus the Blues, Lamonthe could very well get a nod or at least play a closing period. Winger Steve Thomas, who has been out with a rib injury, has been cleared to return and is expected to lace 'em up today. D. Mac skipped Thursday's practice to be with his wife for the birth of their fourth child, Gracyn Rose. He's ready to go as well. This will be an emotional game for the Wings. Clearly because of the way the last game ended, but also because it's in the Joe, and the Avs do have the best road record in the NHL at 15-3-7-3. The Avs are going to be ready after losing their 2-0 lead last game and watching their fans' emotional spectacle at the end. The Wings need to support Manny, and make sure that they aren't too aggressive and take silly penalties. You can't wear you're heart on your sleeve for a game like this. You have to remember that there are certain times for a brawl and crushing checks, and other times for control and patience. Hopefully Lewis has gotten this through to the guys. On this Valentines Day, maybe we'll see a bit of red out there, hopefully on the Avs jerseys, especially the one with the "52" on back (read Foote).

Friday, February 13, 2004

2/13 Notes

In what was their first game after trading for Sean Burke and sending Mike Comrie off to Phoenix, the Flyers certainly had a rough night Thursday in their game versus the Rangers. Gritty center Jeremy Roenick was struck in the mouth by a rising puck off of a faceoff, something that is rare for JR, who has a keen presence of mind on the ice. But the results of the play were brutal. JR slumped to the ice in a pool of blood, and was unconscious for several minutes. As he was helped to his feet, his mouth was full of blood and his jaw appeared limp:

"When I came to I was spitting up blood. I just made sure I didn't choke on my blood."
The Madison Square Garden crowd gave Roenick a cheer and as he left the ice, and was later helped onto a stretcher. It was pretty clear what the damage was going to be. JR is in bad shape. He has a broken and lacerated jaw:
"Jeremy got hit point blank with a puck on the left jaw, sustained a very bad fracture of the left jaw ... he was out pretty much for three or four minutes. The jaw is a problem and I'm sure he's going to need surgery on that." (Dr. Andrew Feldman, Rangers' physician)
As a Wings fan, I remember when JR rejected an offer from the Wings during the summer of Hull and Luc, and how he then accepted an equal offer from the Flyers. It was the summer of 2001, and Roenick was in a Detroit metro area Birmingham hotel room when he made the decision. He says he was "probably two minutes" from signing with the Wings. After having dinner with Ken Holland and his wife, Tracey, June 28th, Holland dropped them off at their hotel at 8:30 PM. It seemed like it was a done deal for the Wings at this point. But the Flyers called Roenick's cell phone and gave him 30 minutes to accept an offer of 5 years, $37.5 million. Factors that Roenick weighed-in included friend and Flyer Rick Tocchet's advise to go to Philly, Roenick was "a little wary of the goaltending situation" in Detroit, and the Roenicks wanted to live near horse farms. It'd be pretty bad if stinkin' horse farms were the reason JR isn't wearing the Winged-Wheel, but I guess he had a better feeling about Philly. Money wasn't the issue with JR, as the offers from Detroit and Philly were identical. It's pretty ironic that he was worried about the Wings' goaltending decision, because the summer of Hull and Luc was also the summer of Dom. I find it really ironic that the Flyers have had an awful goaltending situation thusfar. Sean Burke was definitely a much-needed band-aid for the Flyers' goaltending woes. So, my point is that I have had some feeling of resentment that JR chose Philly over Detroit, but the fact remains that Roenick is a great ambassador to the game and plays with intensity and fire, and I love what he brings to the ice every game. In last year's All Star Game, I remember the first two periods were pretty same-old-All-Star-Game-glide-around-and-play-no-defense action, but then JR started to check guys and the third period was a battle. Roenick is an antagonizer, and opposing teams hate him. What Jeremy Roenick does on the ice is pure passion, and I hope that he isn't out too long with this terrible injury. In the same game, the center Keith Primeau had a nasty collision with Ranger Bobby Holik, in what amounted to a head-to-hip check:
"He got his bell rung. He's feeling a little better now. We'll give you a better update (Friday) at practice." (Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock)
The Flyers have had really bad luck this season when it comes to injuries, but it looks like Primeau is fine. I'm really excited about the Valentines Day (Massacre?) Wings-Avs game, above and beyond the fact that it will be a great game between two highly-skilled teams. I guess I have a feeling that the Foote incident, while likely "unintentional" (however that can be defined), might spark a fire in the rivalry, at least a one-game flame. The Wings definitely are mad that Colin Campbell decided not to suspend Foote, and there's a question of why a less-than-two-second faceoff drop led to blood. And it was the Captain on the receiving end. I don't want to exaggerate what happened, but here's some Wings-Avs video clips to hold you over until a possible Saturday afternoon brawl: McCarty v Lemieux Vernon v Roy Osgood v Roy

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Wings 4, Sharks 2

The Wings played a fairly steady game last night, beating San Jose 4-2 at the Joe. The game easily could have been even more lopsided but Vesa Toskala was able to keep the Wings from creating a blowout, though he gave up some bad goals nonetheless. Curtis Jospeh made the start for the Wings but had to sit out the second and third period after being knocked down by the Sharks' Jonathan Cheechoo midway through the first when playing the puck behind the net. Of course this happens right after I say goalies should be fair game behind the goalline. I still think they should be but hopefully if they ever do, they'll have some more sense when they do leave the net. It wasn't Cheechoo's fault, he just lost an edge when bearing down on CuJo and slid right in on him from behind. Curtis played the rest of the period on a badly sprained ankle. I'm just glad it wasn't his knee because the Wings would really be screwed then. Just typical that this had to happen barely 24 hours after Dominik made his surprise announcement. Curtis will definitely miss the game Saturday and was scheduled to have an MRI today. He was apparently limping badly enough after the game to lead Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News to believe he could miss a couple weeks. The Wings brought up Marc Lamothe from Grand Rapids to backup Manny Legace during Saturday's game with the Avs. Hopefully this injury will only be a short term one and won't turn out to be much more serious. It's better that it happened now, though, because he'll have plenty of time to be back before the playoffs. The Captain scored two goals last night and came relatively close to having his first regular season hat trick since '93. He looked good out there and fairly unaffected by the half-face mask he is wearing to protect his teeth. Tomas Holmstrom continued his great play of late with yet another goal and Kirk Maltby scored a shorthander on a hustle play with Kris Draper. The Sharks banged up other Wings besides Joseph. Manny Legace was hit by Alyn McCauley in the third period and was laying on the ice for a few minutes before getting up again and finishing the game. Pavel Datsyuk took a high stick which thankfully did no serious damage. The last thing the Wings need is more injuries and teams know it. I expect more physical play from the Wings' opponents from now on. It was an important win for the Wings who will need the momentum going in to Saturday's game against Colorado. The Wings are now tied for first place in the League with Colorado and Philadelphia with 74 points. I will be on an internet radio show called Hockey Insider at on Saturday at about 12:30 if anyone wants to listen in. Next up: vs. Colorado, Saturday, 3:00 EST Freep | News | ESPN | Box Score | Highlights (56k, WinMed, register) Lines (courtesy GWB)- Dandenault-Mowers-McCarty Whitney-Datsyuk-Hull Maltby-Draper-Yzerman Shanahan-Zetterberg-Holmstrom Shanahan-Whitney-McCarty Fischer-Chelios Lidstrom-Schneider Rivers-Woolley 4 on 4- Shanahan-Zetterberg Whitney-Yzerman Maltby-Draper Mowers-Hull Fischer-Chelios Lidstrom-Schneider PP- Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom Lidstrom-Schneider PK- Draper-Maltby Shanahan-Yzerman Lidstrom-Chelios Net- Curtis Joseph-1st period Manny Legace-2nd and 3rd

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Tom Benjamin of Canucks Corner's NHL Weblog believes yesterday's announcement by Hasek is just a scam by the Wings to cash in on their insurance policy on the goalie, that he isn't really hurt. Because Hasek's injury lasted 30 games, the Wings can apparently save a little more than $5 million of the $6 million left on Hasek's contract by having the league's insurance fund cover it at around a $1 million cost to the team. I personally don't buy in to that as the reason Hasek made the announcement. Maybe that's why it was made when it was made but I really do believe Hasek is actually hurt. How badly he's hurt is a different question but he does really have a groin injury which he obviously believes would keep him from playing at a top level. His doctors have advised him that the best way to have his groin heal is to rest more so even if he were to re-gain his health before the season's end, he would never be able to get back into shape in time for the playoffs. It was pointless for him to stick around and continue to hang over the organization. If the money issue factors into it, so be it. Why should the Wings have to pay $6 million for 14 games anyway? I'm not even fully sure the Wings have such an insurance policy on Dominik. According to WDFN 1130AM, they never did. Can anyone confirm that for me?

Holland's Rule

According to Ken Holland, goalies should be limited in their ability to play the puck. Apparently, the league's 30 General Managers agreed with him. Yesterday, they voted to stop goalies from being able to play the puck behind the net. Holland's argument is

``The goaltenders are so good at handling the puck,'' said Holland, a former minor-league netminder. "A lot of teams don't go in to forecheck out of respect for their abilities. So how do we limit what they can do so teams are more encouraged to forecheck? "With forecheck comes pressure, with pressure comes scoring chances and also odd-man rushes.''
A major example of this is New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, who is one of the best goalies at puck control and is an integral part of the Devils' stifling defense because of his ability to keep opposing forwards from the puck. I don't agree with Holland that goalies should be limited in their ability to play the puck by taking away their ability to play behind the net. I'd rather see goalies become fair game behind the net so they can decide for themselves whether or not to go back there. To keep them from playing the puck behind the net completely is too much, in my opinion. The vote does not make it law but shows just how many people are for it. Personally, I think there are better ways to bring more scoring to the game and making goalies fair game behind the net is one of them. Why should they be protected? If they're going to play like a third defenseman, they should be treated like one.

GameDay: vs. San Jose (26-14-11-5, 68) 7:30 EST

Tonight is the third of four games between the Wings and the Sharks this season. The teams split the first two meetings with the Wings winning the first 3-2 and the Sharks winning the second 2-1. Before the break, the Wings came back to beat Colorado 3-2 in overtime after going down 2-0 in the first two minutes of the game. They are 3-0-2 in their last five games and 8-3-4-1 in their last 16. The Wings trail Colorado by two points for the Western Conference lead and have a solid eight point lead in the Central Division over the Nashville Predators. The Sharks are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Sabres on Tuesday and will be looking to avoid consecutive losses in regulation, something they haven't done since late October. The game in Buffalo was the beginning of a six-game road trip for the Sharks who lead Dallas by five points for the Pacific Division lead. Evigni Nabokov has played very well lately, posting two consecutive shutouts before his 33-save effort on Tuesday night. Curtis Joseph will get the start tonight and will play his first game as the official #1 goalie for the Wings, who are done with Hasek forever now. The Captain will play tonight, as expected. He will wear a partial mask in an effort to protect his teeth, which now have braces on them. He has no hard feelings towards Foote, however, and that will likely diffuse the situation on Saturday. This shouldn't be too tough a game for the Wings to win. The Sharks have been playing well lately but the Wings are the better team. They just need to play their game and not come out thinking San Jose will just roll over and give up. They are 21-2-1 all time against the Sharks at the Joe and if they take the game seriously, they should be able to improve that record. This is where they need to start playing for Curtis Joseph and it's time for them to get serious going down the stretch to the playoffs. Every one of these games are important and they'll want the momentum going in to Saturday's game. ESPN

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

2/10 Notes

Ted Kulfan says in today's Detroit News that the keys to the Wings' playoff hopes are goaltending and health. It is widely thought that if they can resolve those problems, they stand a good chance of at least making the Finals. Well, they now have the goalie situation resolved, with Dominik Hasek done for the year (and, almost definitely, forever). The health aspect is another thing entirely. As of right now, the Wings are short Steve Thomas, Niklas Kronwall and Derian Hatcher. Thomas has a rib injury and is seven to ten days away from returning and Hatcher is slated to return sometime next month from a torn ACL. Kronwall has a broken leg and won't be back until April late April. The Wings have coped with injuries pretty well all season mostly because of their excellent minor league players who have really stepped it up. It will be different in the playoffs, however, and having guys as experienced as Thomas and Hatcher will help the Wings greatly. Kulfan also mentions a need for the team's stars to be consistent and I agree completely. The upcoming playoffs, and the stretch leading up to them, are going to be extremely difficult but now that the Wings have a definite #1 goalie and are getting healthy, they should be able to go much further than last year. Terry Green, also of the Detroit News, has a good piece about the Wings/Avs rivalry and it's revival in the last game after having a quiet couple years. He makes a good point to those of us who were upset at having to wait so long for a game versus Colorado:

Bleeding with tiny television ratings, the NHL now has the benefit of the remaining three meetings likely weighing heavily in the conference standings. Two of the games are scheduled for the Saturday afternoon network TV slots, the first this weekend. That’s when the NHL hopes to attract new bloodthirsty viewers with its brand of mayhem.
It's no coincidence that these games were scheduled after the NFL season ended. They'd have boosted the NHL's ratings even without having a crucial role in deciding the final standings. The Wings were understandably surprised, like just about everyone else, that Adam Foote was not suspended for high sticking Steve Yzerman in the face at the end of regulation during Thursday's game in Colorado. Associate coach Barry Smith said "I’m really amazed after watching the incident and on replay. There was no justification for it. You have to control your stick." Mathieu Schneider, the man who was suspended for two games after accidentally high sticking Boston's Glen Murrary, had this to say:
I don’t think anybody feels like he (Foote) meant it, but at the same time, it’s very similar to my situation. It was a careless use of the stick. They (the league) say they’re going to clamp down on it and they don’t. It’s the way it’s been for a long time in the league. It’s very frustrating."
Unfortunately, Schneider shot down any hopes we might have seeing some kind of retaliation on Saturday by saying "The best retribution is winning." That may be true but I will still be very disappointed if Foote skates away free this weekend. Very disappointed. I've heard some people say Foote wasn't suspended because the League knows there'll be a bloodbath or something on Saturday and they want the ratings such a thing would create. If that's really their reason, there is more wrong with the League than we thought. He should have been suspended no matter what and there is no acceptable excuse as to why he wasn't. Still, the NHL's hopes, if that's what they were, may be unfounded because the Wings may do nothing after all. We'll see By the way, the Captain was expected to skate today after missing yesterday's practice because he was at the dentist getting his teeth fixed. He will play in the game tomorrow night. Some great news for Wings fans (and Canucks fans.....for everyone in the Western Conference for that matter): Colorado defenseman Rob Blake is out indefinitely with a broken leg (probably after blocking a shot but he's not sure when exactly it happened because he kept playing on it). This is terrible news for the Avs, considering the season Blake has been having. He is probably the leading contender for the Norris Trophy and ranks second among defensemen with 40 points. He is a big part of the Avs' offensive rush and will be missed greatly. This gives the Wings a slight edge in the race down the stretch for the #1 spot in the West, that's for sure. John Niyo of the News has a good question-and-answer session with himself about the CBA and the possible lockout. has a great breakdown of the situation as well in their Faceoff 2004 feature.

More on Dom

I've been calling for this to happen for a while now and it finally has. To me, it's not a nightmare because Dominik has shown nothing this year that would indicate he is still capable of playing at the NHL level. Sure, a healthy Dom is more desirable than a healthy CuJo but it is obvious now that it was an impossible dream. The Wings now have to stick with Curtis Joseph, something they should have done two months ago when Dom re-injured his groin. They should have asked him to re-tire then instead of allow this soap opera to continue for so long. If Dom had been able to pull off a successful comeback it would have been amazing but it is obvious that it was not meant to be. Whatever his motives in returning to the league, I thank him for his attempt but I'm glad it's over now so we can move on. I hope Joseph can steady himself now and live up to the standards we as Wings fans have. I think he can and maybe this year he'll show us all why he's being paid $8 million a year. He's been a model citizen throughout all of this and I think he deserves the chance he's getting, to prove himself. Now he just has to get out of this minor slump of his. The game in Colorado on Thursday was a good start and tomorrow's game versus the Sharks would be a good time to continue along that line. Now the Wings have a definite #1 goalie to play for and that should have a positive effect on their play. You should have stayed for another year after the Cup, Dom. It would have worked then, perhaps. Also, we're moving up in the world. From now on, anything Brian and I post here will also be published on the (far and away) most popular Wings fansite around,, in our own blog hosted there which will be known, surprisingly enough, as "On the Wings." Christy will likely have her own separate blog there as well for her "Behind the Jersey" pieces. Many thanks to Matt Schwartz for asking us to do this. It's a huge deal, to me anyway. Everything will continue on here as usual and there will be no changes, except the material might get better. No promises about that though!

Dominik Done

After weeks and weeks of setbacks and readjustments of return dates, Dominik Hasek is throwing in the towel on this season. It was announced during lunch time that, after so many weeks of rehabilitation, the condition of Hasek's groin has shown no improvement and is still very much inflammed. After practice today, Hasek announced to the guys that he would not be able to play this season. I repeat, Dominik Hasek is out the remainder of the season with a groin injury. Cujo is the man now. According to a statement to the Boston Globe, Ray Bourque doesn't "rule it out" when speaking of a return to the game. He wouldn't elaborate as to whether this means coaching a pee-wee team or making a full return to the NHL. If it's the latter, Ray, don't do it, we've seen enough failed comebacks. Jordan. Hasek. Lemieux, in many ways. We saw each player go out as a winner, and their comebacks ruined the luster of them raising the Cup or making the winning shot in the NBA finals. Bourque, you went out on top winning a Cup with the Avs, so keep it that way. The Philadelphia Flyers landed a major swap in acquiring 3-time-All Star and veteran goaltender Sean Burke in exchange for University of Michigan alum Mike Comrie. Comrie is a young center who has been highly sought after in his years in the NHL. He became a Flyer this season after holding out with the Oilers, the team that drafted him. And now he is a Coyote. The deal comes after the amazing shutout streak of Brian Boucher, who has held his own this season and now has a chance to be the #1 goaltender. Comrie on the deal:

"The West is a little more exciting. More chances are developed on the rush, whereas in the Eastern Conference the key is to stop the puck and work from behind the net. It's a bit of a different game, but you're on the ice, you're playing hockey, and it's not as big of a difference as everybody says."
The Flyers were in great need of a solid goaltender, with Jeff Hackett retiring Monday because of vertigo and Robert Esche is sidelined with a sprained knee. Before making the deal, the Flyers had Neil Little and Antero Niittymaki up helping out.

Monday, February 09, 2004

On Bettman

Gary Bettman spent the second intermission of yesterday's All Star Game (a disappointing, to me anyway, 6-4 win by the East) discussing the CBA and everything surrounding it. He did his usual spouting off on a whole list of numbers and affirming his unwavering faith in their accuracy. That is my biggest problem with Bettman, he just throws around numbers without actually giving a viable solution. The NHLPA's Bob Goodenow spews crap too, but, to me, his crap isn't so bad as Bettman's, who is on what he must think is a noble quest to save the poor owners and the incompetent small-market team from the evil, greedy NHL player and big-market team. Bettman's right, the League is losing a lot of money but that is because of his mistakes and those of the owners. If, in the past, all the owners had agreed not to pay players as much as they have, salaries would never have gotten so inflated. Competition for the players' services drove the prices up until no one would pay any more. Simple law of supply and demand, there was a small supply and a large demand. It is management's fault, the players aren't responsible for it. For example, look at Karmanos' offer to Sergei Fedorov in 1998. At six years, $38 million with enormous bonuses ($12 million by the Conference Finals) it is one of the contracts primarily responsible for the league's price inflation. It was the result of a holdout but Sergei never would have gotten that money had Karmanos not offered it to him (out of spite for Mike Illitch, by the way). Alexei Yashin's eight year, $80 million deal with the Islanders is another example. Same with Billy Guerin and Bobby Holik's five year, $40 million contracts. Yashin's was the result of a hold-out but Holik and Guerin's were the results of free agency talks and were proposed by the teams. There are those who believe that the players' agents have duped owners and GM's into those types of contracts. There is something to that but while GM's may be ex-players and not trained in business, owners generally are and should know better. Now they want to go back on their word and it is to be expected that the players would be upset. It's like a parent allowing their kid to do something for years and then suddenly starting to crack down on it. The kid is going to be mad and isn't going to give up what he's been doing without a fight. Same thing with the NHL's players today. The reason so many small market teams are struggling is because many of them never should have existed in the first place. It is because of NHL expansion that so many teams are having trouble. The NHL is far too big today. It should be contracted and maybe down the road expanded again when there is legitimately enough interest generated to warrant an NHL team in those cities. Bettman jumped the gun, in my opinion. Hockey isn't ready to be so big and it may never be. His strategy of going into a city with a new franchise and trying to generate an interest out of nothing while burning away money and muddying the talent pool hasn't worked enough to make it all worth it. Generate an interest first and then move in. Make a city want an NHL team. The NFL wouldn't have been able to run as many teams as it does today 30 years ago and I think the NHL is in the same position. I don't just dislike Bettman out of spite. I really think he is wrong and has ruined NHL hockey. He has no idea what he's talking about and is too interested in equality. He's trying to introduce a system that has no historical basis in hockey and he expects there to be no problem. The NHL is a great-team driven league. There is no historical precedent for, and there no room for, universal parity in the NHL. Maybe if the talent pool was deep enough but it isn't right now and everything is too spread out. If he wants his parity, he has to be willing to contract the league and push the mediocre players out of the League, which will make more teams more talented. He'll never do that, though, and instead will kill the NHL we've known. What he's done is dumbed down the game to an enormous degree. There simply is not enough talent to go around and too many teams have to resort to the trap the clutch-and-grab strategies that come with it. He focuses too much on teams like this when he should be working to preserve the top teams in the league. They are the reasons people watch hockey. All his false parity has done is make hockey less popular and less watched. Way to go, Gary.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

2/8 Notes

The NHL's executive vice-president, Colin Campbell, said yesterday that Colorado defenseman Adam Foote will not be suspended for high sticking Steve Yzerman in the face on Thursday as time expired in the Wings/Avs game:

"I don't think Adam Foote hit Steve Yzerman in the face on purpose. Even if it was accidental, I don't think it was reckless use of the stick. It was careless. "Maybe sometimes you have to lok at things and read things into it, but if you asked Steve, I don't think Steve would say Adam Foote would do that (deliberately)."
Well, deliberate or not, Adam Foote deserves a suspension or at the very least some kind of fine. I personally believe it was unintentional but the players are responsible (theoretically) for keeping control of their sticks at all times. That high stick was no more intentional than what Mathieu Schneider did to Glen Murray a few weeks back and yet he got a two game suspension. Foote's "careless" use of the stick was far more destructive than Schneider's and the league is entirely hypocritical for doing nothing. I'm disgusted. I expect someone on the team to go after Foote's head this Saturday. I will be extremely disappointed if nothing happens. Sorry, Adam, intentional or not, you did it and should have to pay the price. Last night's SuperSkills competition was disappointing (I wasn't able to catch any of the YoungStars game but the West won 7-3). Pavel Datsyuk didn't dazzle as I was hoping, most noticeably on the breakaway competition. He looked good on the puck control relay but stumbled out of the blocks on the fastest skater competition and had the slowest time. Nick Lidstrom wasn't even in the hardest shot competition. For me, the highlight of the night was Jeremy Roenick going four-for-four in the shot accuracy competition. That was really the only thing that got me excited. Hopefully the All Star Game today will be better. Last year's was the best I remember seeing and it would be hard to top it but with Pavel Datsyuk playing, it's possible. It starts at 3:00 EST and is on ABC and CBC. Bob Wojnowski has a gloomy piece about the NHL and its TV contracts in today's Detroit News. Personally, I couldn't care much less if the games weren't shown on ESPN or ABC any more because I can't stand to watch games on those channels. Gary Thorne and Co. annoy me to death. As a Wings fan, I'm not worried about missing games since the vast majority of them are broadcast locally. The only ones that aren't on Fox Sports Net or Fox 2 are on ESPN and ABC. I'd much rather have those few games on FSN or Fox, personally. I guess ESPN/ABC is good for the NHL because they get the sport out there but Wings games will always be on TV as long as I'm living in the Detroit area (or Michigan overall) so it doesn't matter much to me.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

YoungStars and SuperSkills

Tonight is the NHL's YoungStars game and the Super Skills competition. For me, at least, the highlight of the latter event is going to be Pavel Datsyuk. He will be able to dazzle us all with his amazing stickhandling abilities without having to worry about being mauled by an opposing defenseman. The actual All Star Game is tomorrow and I can't wait for that either. I think Pavel has a legitimate shot at being the MVP, if he performs to his potential. He'll be going up against Ilya Kovalchuck and Robert Lang but he'll be the main reason I'll be watching the game. Pavel should participate in the puck control relay, shooting accuracy competition, the new in-the-zone competition and the breakaway relay. He could even be in the fastest skater competition since he has another gear which he doesn't use very often and really turns on the jets when he does. The Wings have no players in the YoungStars game this year. Niklas Kronwall probably would have been named to the roster but he broke his leg in LA a couple weeks ago so he can't make it. I'll check the game out anyway, just to see what the NHL's future looks like. Nick Lidstrom is the other player representing the Wings and will be playing in his eighth All Star Game and sixth straight start. He should be in the hardest shot competition and has a good chance of winning it, in my opinion. Should be an exciting night overall and I'm really looking forward to it. It all starts at 8:00 EST on ESPN and CBC. If you just want to catch the SuperSkills competition, tune in at 9:00 EST. NHL Skill Competition Overview YoungStars Roster

Friday, February 06, 2004

Wings 3, Avs 2 (OT)

The Wings stole one last night, beating the Avs 3-2 in overtime off a power-play goal from Brett Hull and pulling within one point of Colorado for the league lead. They didn't come out as strong as they should have and gave up two goals in the first two minutes before coming back to tie it up going into the third period. Curtis Joseph made the start for the Wings and started solidly, at least on the first shot. On the next two, however, he wasn't so hot. He gave up a weak backhander on Teemu Selanne from the top of the circles and 18 seconds later, lost his gamble with Alex Tanguay when the Avs' #18 streaked down the left side, faked Curtis out of the net and shot the puck into the far corner. After that, Joseph played solidly, though a disturbing number of pucks got by him only to hit the post. The Avs, in all honesty, could have put the game away many times but the goalie's best friends kept bailing CuJo out. When he did stop the puck, it was many times in spectacular fashion since the Avs had many offensive chances throughout the whole night. The Wings' side of the game was marked by turnovers and empty passes. They were not in sync much of the night and most of the stars were ineffective on offense. The Avs always seemed to be on the brink of scoring while the Wings always seemed far away from even getting a solid scoring chance. I missed Ray Whitney's goal (his 200th career goal) but Mathieu Dandenault's was a rare successful personal effort that paid off. Probably a goal that Aebischer should have stopped but I'm not complaining. Brett Hull's game winner was a perfectly shot laser that went straight into the top corner. Textbook Hull, one-timer and everything (except the down on one knee part, I guess). The Wings' defense spent a lot of time scrabbling around the ice, trying to keep up with the bigger, faster, stronger Avs. Chris Chelios had an amazing game and looked at least 10 years younger. It reminded me of his play two years ago during the Wings' Cup-run year. It's too bad he can't keep that up every night anymore because it was good to see. Jiri Fischer looks to be getting over being the cluck-head klutz he's been for most of this season and had a very solid game last night, in my opinion. He played a physical game and showed some emotion too a couple times when he almost broke out in a fight. Keep it up, Jiri. Be the player you were two years ago. Speaking of defense, I wish the Wings' D-men could be more like Colorado's. They have more offensive defensemen than most but the Avs' defensemen really impressed me with the way they jump up in the play, especially Rob Blake. I think their idea of having Blake in front of the net on a power play is great and it would give the Wings an alternative to Tomas Holmstrom for that situation. I'd like to see Lewis get away from what seems to be more of a conventional strategy with the defensemen and adopt much more of what Granato has done with his defense. What the Wings do now is better than nothing, I guess, but it could be a lot better. Overall, I'd say the Avs outplayed the Wings fairly handily. They had the Wings on their heels for much of the game and probably had the game stolen from them by the refs. As a Wings fan, I'm not complaining but as a fan of the Game, I am. The officials called the game pretty well for the first two periods, though there were some of the usual questionable calls (most notably those on Tomas Holmstrom). However, the third period was a completely different story. Both teams got away with murder the entire 20 minutes until the last couple seconds. For example, Derek Morris wasn't called for roughing when he decked Kirk Maltby near the net well after the whistle had gone. Near the very end of the game, Brendan Shanahan (who didn't have a bad game, by the way) was not called for holding/interference when he tackled Joe Sakic along the boards and held him there. Almost immediately after this, the Avs' Steve Konowalchuck was called for high-sticking Kris Draper. He got a four minute double minor for this even though the replays showed nothing so serious. Draper seemed to be fine and I couldn't see any blood anyway on him. Since there was still about 1.5 seconds left on the clock, there was another faceoff. Steve Yzerman came in off the bench and arrived in his spot just before the puck was dropped. As soon as it was, Adam Foote brought his stick up full-force and hit The Captain in the mouth. He immediately tried to cradle Yzerman to the ice. I personally don't believe Foote did it on purpose but that he was trying to tie up Yzerman's stick and just missed completely. He's a rough player but not the type to do something that vicious. Still, a penalty was well-warranted and I thought for a minute that the refs wouldn't give him one. They did, however, and the Wings began overtime with a 5-on-3 overtime (not a 4-on-2 as you might expect because that just isn't done). Brett Hull scored his goal less than a minute later and the Wings got their first win of what will hopefully be at least four/eight (depending on whether the Wings face Colorado in the playoffs or not) for this year. It's just too bad the Wings had to win like that because they honestly probably did not deserve it. The refs really handed it to them, not because of the Foote penalty but because of the non-call on Shanahan which led to the Konowalchuck penalty which lead to the last high stick. The Wings should have had to kill off a two-minute penalty in overtime but the refs blew. As a Wings fan, I'm grateful but the hockey fan in me is a little disgusted. Officiating is by far one of the biggest obstacles the League has to credibility in the US. I really think the refs should be available to the media after games, as they were before Bettman came around. Then, maybe, they'd have some kind of accountability. The Captain, by the way, lost one tooth on the spot and has three more loose. Trainer Piet Van Zant needed eight (I've also heard it was ten) stitches to patch him up. The League will probably review the Foote incident and, while I don't think it was intentional, if there is any justice in this league, he will be suspended at least a couple games and be fined as well. That said, I personally hope it's no more than two games because if it is, he won't be able to play in next Saturday's game in Detroit. I'm very disappointed in the Wings "enforcers" for doing nothing about the high sticking of their captain. I understand them doing nothing while the game was on the line but you'd think they could have at least had a slight altercation after the game. If Adam Foote gets through the game next Saturday without being confronted, I'll be ashamed to call myself a Wings fan. For at least a couple minutes. The Wings will have to play a much better game next week if they want to win again because the Avs will be firing on all cylinders, for sure. The Wings now trail Colorado by just one point with 72. They lead Nashville by 12 for the lead in the Central Division and are tied with Vancouver for second place in the Conference. I think it's safe to say the Conference playoff race will go right down to the wire, for all teams concerned. Next up: San Jose, Wednesday, 7:30 EST Freep | News | ESPN | Box Score | Photos | Highlight Reel (56k, WinMedia) Lines- Maltby-Draper-Yzerman-Maltby-Yzerman-Draper Whitney-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Zetterberg-Holmstrom Dandenault-Mowers-McCarty Maltby-Draper-McCarty Fischer-Chelios Lidstrom-Schneider Rivers-Woolley PP- Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom Maltby-Draper-McCarty Whitney-Lidstrom Woolley-Schneider PK- Draper-Maltby Shanahan-Yzerman Whitney-Datsyuk Zetterberg-Datsyuk Lidstrom-Chelios Fischer-Schneider Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Chelios OT- 5 on 3PP- Whitney-Datsyuk-Shanahan Hull-Lidstrom Net- Curtis Joseph

Thursday, February 05, 2004

GameDay: @ Colorado (30-11-9-3, 72) 8:00 EST

Tonight is the first of four games this season between these two bitter rivals. They split last year's series 2-2. The Wings are 2-0-2 in their last four games and are coming off a solid 4-1 win over the Predators on Tuesday. They are 11-11-5-2 away from home this year and will look to go over .500 on the road for the first in a while with a win tonight. Contrary to everyone's expectations, the Wings have had the slightly better offense this year with an average of 3.22 goals-a-game compared to the Avs' 3.12. They also have a higher goals-against average (2.37) than the Avs (2.29), who were supposed to be weak on defense this year. The Wings haven't had the services of their prize acquisition Derian Hatcher all but three games just as the Avs haven't had Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg for much of the year. That, perhaps, explains the differences in the expected categories. The Wings have had the amazing play of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg along with a career year from Kris Draper, though, which is something not everyone saw coming. The Avs are leading the league with 72 points, just two more than the Wings, and are 13-1-2-2 since December 31. They are coming off a 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, a game in which they had no shots on goal during the third. With the retirement of Patrick Roy, most people thought the Avs would have to rely on their offense to win this year, that David Aebischer would not be a real replacement for #33. However, Aebischer has a 23-10-7 record, a 2.06 GAA average and a .928 save percentage and has surprised everyone with his steady play. There are no longer any credible rumors coming out of Denver that have the Avs trading for an established goalie. Rob Blake is probably the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy and his play has gone a long way in bolstering an Avs defense many thought would be too weak to stand up to a whole season and the playoffs. I haven't been able to find out what Lewis decided yet but he was supposed to announce which of the Wings' two goalies would start tonight after the morning skate. Manny Legace played a good game on Tuesday and Curtis Joseph hasn't finished two of his last three starts but played well in the win over New Jersey. It could be either guy. I hope the Wings are up to this game tonight because it is important. They've been in sort of a slump lately but played a good game Tuesday night and should be able to carry that into tonight. This is their first test against the Avs this year and they need to make a statement. I expect a good game from both teams because I know the Avs will play hard and because the Wings usually get up for games like this. They will need to shut down the Avs' offense, which hasn't been as hot as it could have been this year and be creative on offense if they really want to win. They should have no illusions about rolling over the Avs tonight and had better not come out complacent. I've been looking forward to this game for a long time and I don't want them to blow it. Freep News ESPN

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Wings 4, Preds 1

The Wings handled the Preds easily last night, beating them 4-1. After losing three straight to Nashville, the Wings have beaten them twice, scoring 10 goals and allowing just one in the process. The other win was a 6-0 blowout in early January. Manny Legace got the start as predicted and was very steady, allowing one goal on 23 shots. The goal he allowed was much more of a poor play by his teammates than a bad goal on his part. He was very sharp and made it easy for the Wings to keep ahead. After a relatively boring first period, the Wings scored three goals in a little more than six minutes, all on nothing plays. Brett Hull scored his 19th at 1:01 off a pass from Ray Whitney and Brendan Shanahan scored his 8th a minute and 21 seconds later, when he received a brilliant pass from Henrik Zetterberg who faked Tomas Vokoun into thinking he was trying a wrap around shot. Then, at 6:17, Kirk Maltby scored his 8th of the season on a rush with Kris Draper. He beat Vokoun cleanly and then Chris Mason went in net for the Preds. At 16:38, Wyatt Smith scored a shorthanded goal despite the two Wings defensemen's attempts to stop him, committing penalties in the process. Pavel Datsyuk scored the final goal for the Wings, an empty netter from center ice, his 25th of the season. The Wings now have a ten-point lead on the Predators, who lead the St. Louis Blues by two points for second place in the Central Division. The Wings trail Colorado by two points with 70 and the two teams will meet tomorrow night in Denver. That's all I've got and I know it's not much. Not the most memorable game of the season, by far. Freep | News | ESPN | Box Score Lines- Maltby-Draper-Yzerman Whitney-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Zetterberg-Holmstrom Dandenault-Mowers-McCarty Whitney-Draper-Maltby Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Chelios Rivers-Woolley Lidstrom-Chelios PP- Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan- Yzerman-Holmstrom Maltby-Draper-Dandenault Lidstrom-Schneider Whitney-Woolley Woolley-Chelios PK- Shanahan-Yzerman Draper-Maltby Datsyuk-Whitney Lidstrom-Chelios Fischer-Schneider Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Chelios Net- Manny Legace

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

GameDay: @ Nashville (26-18-6-2,60) 8:00 EST

Tonight is the fifth of six games between these two Central Division teams this season. The Predators won the first three with scores of 5-3, 4-3 and 1-0 but the Wings came back in game four with a 6-0 blowout at the Joe on January 5th. The Wings are 2-2-3 in their last seven games and 1-0-2 in their past three. Their most recent win came last week, a 5-2 decision with the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. On Saturday night, they scored three goals in the third period on the way to a 4-4 tie with the lowly Carolina Hurricanes. They are going through their usual mid-season slump, something that usually doesn't go much further than the All Star Break, which is this weekend. The Predators will look to set a franchise-record unbeaten streak at the Gaylord Entertainment Center tonight. They are 9-0-2 in their previous eleven games at home since losing 2-1 in overtime to the Canucks on December 16. They are now tied with a previous franchise-record of 11 games unbeaten at home which was set between November 3 and December 23 of the 2001-2002 season. They are coming off a 3-2 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky scored with 16 seconds left to win it for his team. Based on what Dave Lewis said on Sunday, I expect Manny Legace to start tonight. By the way, Ken Holland denies the TSN report which said he'd told Joseph the #1 spot was his to lose. Derian Hatcher participated in practice yesterday and did many of the drills. He made the trip with the team. The Predators have shocked the Wings before and they'll need to be sure it doesn't happen again. If they play anything like the game they played on Saturday, they'll have a tough time coming back because Tomas Vokoun is a better goalie than Kevin Weekes and the Preds a better team than the 'Canes. If they play like they did when they shut out Nashville on Jan. 5th, they should have very little problem winning. But they have to come out playing hard to begin with and not wait until the end to do so. This is an important game because it determines the roll they will be on going into Denver on Thursday. They will have to take advantage of the Predators' tendency towards penalties and play well on the power play. Hopefully guys like Nick Lidstrom will shoot more when given the chance instead of always looking for a perfect pass. That, apparently, is Nick's plan, anyway. News Freep ESPN

More from McCabe

Here's the second email I sent McCabe:

I realize that this is between the owners and players, but if you "sit out for the rest of your lives" or even for a full season, do you really expect to keep the fans? Just look at what the MLB strike did to baseball, and baseball has a much bigger U.S. following. I see a NHL strike really hurting the already-limited NHL fanbase in the U.S. I'm all for NHL players making a living, but would it really hurt if your salary went from $3.85 million to, say, $2 million per season?
And his curt, dance-around-the-question, response:
if someone limit your abilities to earn money would you try to prevent it? Is it any different aside from the amount if a boss tells you that you'll make $8/hr rather than $9.5/hr?
The thing that McCabe has to understand is that there is a major difference between making $9.50/hr and $8/hr because that affects ones ability to make a decent living. At an NHL hockey player's level of salary, any decrease means from living in the lap of luxury to living there with one less Ferrari.

Monday, February 02, 2004

2/2 Notes

Injured Wings defenseman Derian Hatcher will accompany the team on their short two-game road trip to Nashville and Denver this week. He has been participating in practice drills which put no stress on his knee. His return to playing in still slated for some time in March Head coach Dave Lewis said yesterday that he plans on starting Manny Legace tomorrow night in Nashville instead of the (slightly) slumping Curtis Joseph. He will decide who he'll go with in the Colorado game based on what happens against the Preds. The Wings did not practice yesterday but skated this morning and will leave tonight for Nashville. The Wings have been looking at Chicago forward and captain Alexei Zhamnov as a possible trade-deadline addition to the roster. However, the Canadian media reported Sunday that Vancouver and San Jose are also interested in making some kind of deal. The Canucks are apparently offering some prospects and Sergei's brother Fedor Fedorov, a player who is not known for his amazing abilities. Freep | News

Sunday, February 01, 2004


The Wings came out of the gate last night with zero respect for the Hurricanes. That much was evident throughout the first two periods and most of the third. They seemed to think the win would come easily and, ignoring the 'Canes recent record against top teams, assumed they would just roll over. The Wings are lucky they got a point out of that game because they did not start to play for it until the end of the game. They got no lucky breaks for a while but they did not bring their "A" game to begin with so that was to be expected. However, things may have gone differently earlier on had the referee called a penalty shot on the Pavel Datsyuk near-breakaway. That would have been just the thing to wake the Wings up and I can't think of a player I'd rather see on a penalty shot than Pavel Datsyuk. It's just too bad that idiot fool of a ref called hooking instead, even though the play was a textbook example for a penalty shot. One of the worst BS calls I have ever seen, if not the worst. I was absolutely livid and the last time I was that incensed at a ref was when the puck hit Don Van Massenhoven, who obviously wasn't paying enough attention to get out of the way, in the skate and bounced right to Markus Naslund during last season. The rule, Number 91(b), states clearly:

When a player, in control of the puck on the opponent's side of the center red line and having no other opponent to pass than the goalkeeper, is tripped or otherwise fouled from behind, thus preventing a reasonable scoring opportunity, a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending side. Nevertheless, the Referee shall not stop play until the attacking side has lost possession of the puck to the defending side.
The only argument the offending ref (I was too angry to notice if it was Van Massenhoven or Greg Kimmerly) might have had was that Pavel did not have control of the puck. He was certainly past the red line.
"Control of the puck" means the act of propelling the puck with the stick. If while it is being propelled, the puck is touched by another player or his equipment, or hits the goal or goes free, the player shall no longer be considered to be "in control of the puck."
I think it is safe to say that Pavel had control of the puck, according to that definition. The referee missed a chance to bring excitement to the game and to "restore a reasonable scoring opportunity" which had been lost as a result of the 'Canes player Staal. I wish I had a video of the play so I could be sure I am not just rambling so if anyone knows where to get one and could let me know, I'd appreciate it. It wasn't just that one play, the refs were terrible overall last night, missing clear calls on both sides and letting each team mug the other. It seemed like it happened more to the Wings, though that's probably just because I'm a Wings fan. Still, those two refs were awful and my dislike for Don Van Massenhoven has only deepened. He must have some kind of history with the Wings because he seems to be out to get them every time he officiates one of their games. Ken Holland has apparently told Curtis Joseph that the #1 spot is his to lose, even when Dominik Hasek returns. He has not guaranteed that CuJo would be the #1 goalie but has told him that pro sorts are "... about opportunity. You've got the ball, now run with it." The Wings want Hasek to practice before the All Star break but he isn't likely to return before March. That gives Curtis plenty of time to make a statement or continue his less-than stellar play of late. I'm perfectly comfortable with that idea because Dominik has done nothing to prove he is still capable of playing at this level so far this year and my faith in him is almost completely gone. There's a new face among a growing group of hockey bloggers (I think we should all get together and form something like The Hockey Alliance, but that's just me). His name is Joe Tasca and his blog is "Tasca's Take - Daily NHL Commentary." He describes his site, which he started just yesterday, as being "an inside look at the NHL and professional hockey as a whole from the slightly-skewed perspective of a concerned Rhode Islander." He seems to know what he's talking about and looks to be a good read. So, go check out what he has to say.