Archive for the ‘Detroit Red Wings’ Category

Tuesday’s Tour Around the Central

November 2, 2009

You know it’s a slow news week when you do a Google News search for the Blue Jackets and every single thing that pops up has to do with Ovechkin and his wonky shoulder. And, as an afterthought, how they came from behind to win their game Sunday.

Anywho, let’s see what’s out there in America’s Heartland – and Nashville.

Our friends (and by friends I mean fellow smartasses who also write a gameday newspaper – they’re like Game Time’s cousins or something) over at Second City Hockey have a recap of what you can tell about the Blackhawks after one month in. Kudos to them for not doing what a lot of other Hawks sites are doing – “Wooooo! We’re in FIRST!” is not an in-depth analysis. Because, um, there are like 65 or so games left. Gimmie substance, please.

Hockey’s Future has the top 10 organizational rankings out, and the Blue Jackets are 4th (Blues are 1st and the Preds are 2nd, so the Central should be tough for some time to come). Nikita Filatov is their number one prospect and apparently will be a contender for the Calder this year. Someone might want to mention that to Ken Hitchcock.

Mirtle wrote an excellent six part series on the viability of the Nashville Predators as a hockey market. Excellently researched – as a fan of the Thrashers, I appreciate someone taking the time to visit Nashville to see what’s going on there first hand. I’m fairly tired of people writing stuff that usually sounds like:

“(Insert non-traditional market team here) doesn’t have the fan base to succeed. Their attendance is awful. They need to win in the playoffs or else (insert big name star) is going to leave in free agency. Since they’re located in the south, the team will automatically finish in the bottom of their Conference. Oh, and LOL @ rednecks!”

MLive.com is hoping that the Red Wings have turned a corner. That’s odd – so do I. Into a wall.

And finally, continuing the injury bug that has been harassing the Blues for the past few seasons, Andy McDonald does his best impression of me in high heels and takes a header into the boards:

Thank God he appears to be ok so far, though he probably won’t play Thursday as a precaution. No word yet on Sunday at Atlanta.

Advertisements

Joe from Sacrifice the Body talks Red Wings draft

June 25, 2009

Joe (aka IAMJoe) is one of the best friends of CLS. He provided clutch posts during the playoffs, including posts in the Red Wings-Ducks mini-blog and during the (glorious) Stanley Cup Finals.

After a while, Joe was fed up with the hack job blog we’re running here so he decided to start his own NHL blog Sacrifice the Body. StB is brand new, so make sure that you give Joe your support (and hugs?). It should be a great source of NHL-related opinions, with an emphasis on stat analysis.

(Note: I’m not sure if Joe meant for this first paragraph to be in here, but it’s pretty funny so why not right?)

I don’t do much on the draft. So I don’t know any players. And I’m not going to bullshit you and go get a bunch of prospects’ names off a mock draft somewhere and tell you how Billy O’Prospect is going to make everything wonderful. I talk out of my ass from time to time, but I’ll at least be honest about it. So this is my thoughts on the draft, sans players. Which, when you’re talking about the draft, pretty much means I’m just rambling. Frankly, I don’t think anyone cares about who is drafting who after you get outside of the top 10 or 15 anyways.

What direction do you expect Detroit to go in this year’s draft? What’s your preference?

First of all, I expect the lucky draft pick will have a weird name, and probably be European. On top of that, he’ll also have to be patient, because it usually takes a very long time for a youngster to get into the Wings’ lineup. I’ve never checked the numbers, but I’d imagine the Wings probably end up with a lot of guys making debuts at about 2-3 years later than they would on most other teams. However, I think the Wings are on the brink of a major (at least for them) youth movement, with the no-longer increasing cap forcing them to let go of some older guys and replace them with (cheap!) quality depth from Grand Rapids that we’ve heard so much about for years.

One of the things that I thought was most shocking about the Cup Final this year (aside from the fact that the Wings lost) was how bad their defense looked. It was an ongoing problem throughout the regular season, and it seemed to right itself for a while in the playoffs, but it really came undone against the Penguins. I’ll give Lidstrom a free pass, even though he was skating worse than me, because he had a busted testicle, and frankly, its the first time I’ve seen him NOT have a good series. That said, seeing Lidstrom so completely nullified out there was frankly pretty scary. I don’t have much faith in Lilja/Lebda, and one good playoff run for Brad Stuart doesn’t make me feel safe. Lidstrom’s injury reminded everyone that he won’t be around forever, and he won’t always be the best defenseman in the NHL even while he’s still around. I want a new defenseman who in about 2 years or so can step in to the roster spot left by Lidstrom’s retirement, and replace Lebda/Lilja initially.

That said, I think the Wing’s forward depth is going to get donkey punched this offseason. Basically, one of Hossa/Hudler will stay, and then a handful of forwards (like you, Samuelsson!) will get let go. On top of that, depending exactly where the cap finally sets at, a buyout or two might be necessary. I think in response to this, Ken Holland is going to grab a forward to help restock that part of the shelf. I won’t argue with the master, but it won’t make me feel as secure as replacing a couple of idiot defensemen would.

I don’t think Detroit will be interested in a goaltender. Jimmy Howard, the “goalie of the future” for the last 5+ years, needs to either make the big club, or jump off a cliff. I’ve already given up hope on Jimmy Howard, but I’m very much interested in Daniel Larsson (gee, a Swede!). Frankly, I wouldn’t be opposed to buying Ozzie out, and going with Howard/Larsson to fight it out for the spot between the pipes for the next 10 years.

Favorite Draft Day Memories?

Well, I’m not much for the NHL draft. I’m not much for prospects either. But as for draft steals? I won’t go back too farI’d have to say getting the best defenseman in NHL history at #53 overall is a real good deal. Of course, getting a couple of the most complete players in the game right now at #171 (Datsyuk) and #210 (Zetterberg) is cool too. Part of that is certainly drafting the right players, but a lot of that also is the right developmental system. How many failures on other teams have flourished under the Detroit developmental systems?

Draft Day Busts?

It’s hard to have busts when you’re consistently picking in the lower parts of the 1st round, or trading those picks for “win now” pieces. But Jimmy Howard is one season away from getting on there in my book. We’ve been told he’s the goalie of the future for a long time now, and yet the 64th overall pick in the 2003 Entry Draft has only 9 NHL appearances. At some point, especially with the carousel in the Detroit crease since Hasek’s (first) retirement, shouldn’t he have gotten a chance to sink or swim? Not many Red Wings prospects get significant hype on the way to the big club, but Howard has been one of the few, and that definitely sets him in my sights.

Soapbox time!

Could we please stop trying to tailor our sport to get a bunch of people who dislike hockey to like it? I mean, seriously. The game as it is right now is pretty good. Most of the game’s problems are not necessarily problems with the game itself, but problems with the league, which are detracting from the product on the ice. Just because our game isn’t getting constant coverage on ESPN like Terrell friggin Owens doesn’t mean our game sucks. Just because some idiot columnists keep talking about how hockey isn’t a real sport doesn’t mean our game sucks. Just because our game is different doesn’t mean our game sucks. And just because our game isn’t as popular doesn’t mean our game sucks.

Everyone is so worried about the casual sports fan. You wanna know a secret? The “casual sports fan” who cannot follow anything that Sportscenter doesn’t shove down his throat is a dumbass, and we shouldn’t give a damn about changing a game that we love in order to get him to tune in or to take it seriously. We’re part of a secret club, and we all know a great secret, that the rest of the world is too stupid to pay attention to. I don’t know if anything irritates me as much as people that think the game needs changed or the league needs to suck on the ESPN teat in order to somehow be important in the national sports scene.

Hockey is a grassroots thing, and the best thing the league can do to grow its revenues is to give those roots more time to grow and spread in a post lockout scene, and in the 90’s expansion markets, where kids who were first introduced to the game are now getting old enough to have kids and introduce them to the game. We don’t need to convince the casual fan. We just need to grow it ourselves. Support your local rink, or get one built in your city park. Donate your old equipment to charities. Play in a beer league, or even start one if you want. Make some babies and give ’em hockey sticks. Maybe its not flashy, but its true.

So I guess I can die without regrets?

June 14, 2009

No doubt about it: I’m a lucky bastard when it comes to sports.

But I’ve also managed to follow two sports teams that have some of the most hated/polarizing athletes in their given leagues (the Penguins with Sidney Crosby and the New York Giants with Eli Manning). Hating Manning always made a little more sense to me: his Elmer Fudd accent, refusal to play in San Diego and the tides of nepotism all made him an easy target.

The hatred of Crosby is an interesting little dichotomy. On one hand, he’s the ultimate Pepsi Challenge; I’m completely convinced that if he was some guy who wore a blank jersey, his high-effort and unselfish playing style would make hockey snobs swoon. Yet much like our nation’s preference of Coca-Cola, the key really is in packaging. Hockey fans live with an inferiority complex: our game is fast, exciting and violent … all the elements of what football should be … but most of America could give a shit. So when one guy gets as much attention as Crosby receives, it’s natural that many fans react to Crosby like he’s pushing them into a locker while wearing a letter jacket. Or calling them “Darrrsh!”

I get it. Seriously, I really do. I’d probably hate him if I wasn’t a Penguins fan. I think.

But as a fan of both the Giants and Penguins for as long as I’ve followed either sport, I am “stuck” with Eli and “Cindy.” Even if those two teams saw a marathon of 0-22 drubbings to the Carolina Panthers and seasons with Dick Tarnstrom as their scoring leader, I would have been there through it all.

There are plenty of places to read gloating/ecstatic Penguins fans. So I’ll try to spare you as much as possible.

The only other thing I’ll offer is this: the fact that the Penguins beat the Red Wings makes it much sweeter. And not because of the tired Hossa storyline (although that did make me laugh). No, it was sweeter because the Red Wings are the greatest sports franchise on the face of the earth. Up and down their roster and all throughout their organization, there is nothing but competence. As I pointed out to a friend, it’s one thing to win a championship by beating the Seattle Seahawks or some Cinderella team. But being a true juggernaut? That’s special.

OK, that’s my paragraph of annoyance. (One question, though: how am I supposed to feel about Marc Andre Fleury and Jordan Staal now? Not sure I can be objective about those two ever again.)

***

More on this later, but expect CLS to be pretty damn lively for most of the summer. I can see a lot of the team blogs shutting down without Game Day posts and the like … as a NHL blog, though, there should still be a reason to check out our site on a regular basis. Will there be a “vacation” at some point? Maybe, to some extent.


We should have big events for: the NHL draft, Free Agency, the release of NHL ’10/NHL 2K10, Fantasy Hockey drafts and the opening of the 09-10 season. So keep us in your minds, hearts and Google Reader subscription lists.

Please.

Game 7 from a Pens fan perspective

June 12, 2009

Since the Penguins’ two Cup wins were before my time (I think I was more focused on professional wrestling and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” than hockey in those days), this is probably the biggest hockey game of my existence. It might even be safe to say that this is the biggest game in franchise history, as it is the first SCF Game 7 the Penguins have ever seen.

An irritating-to-painful sickness has dulled some of the nerves of the last week of this series, but tonight could be quite different.

That actually is the question, though: will tonight be different?

As Mirtle (and others) point out, this series has been a “homer” series if there’s ever been one. Beyond undeniably relevant intangibles like “home cooking” and the rush of playing in front of your own crowd there are big pros to being at the Joe: faceoff advantages for an expert team in the circle, the last change for a series defined by matchups and those crazy pinball boards that have given MAF fits.

If Game 5 repeats itself, the NHL will face the disappointment of a marquee matchup with a flat ending. No doubt about it; the league must hope that tonight’s game will be very different even if the winner is the same.

There are a lot of reasons to be negative. Sidney Crosby has been largely nullified, even at times at home. Chris Osgood is making a strong case for a Conn Smythe trophy and although his HoF credentials are a debate for another day, his sub-$2 million contract is probably a HoF bargain. Fleury is schizophrenic in net … going from bad to spectacular to atrocious to adequate seemingly every other game. Worst yet, Evgeni Malkin has been relatively quiet the last couple games.

But the positive thing is: they only need to be different for one game.

In the event that Crosby and Malkin find a way to transcend their seemingly hopeless matchups – or their linemates decide to finally bury the occasional golden opportunities set up by the dynamic duo – then whatever struggles (perceived or legitimate) will wash away in the boozy suds of the Stanley Cup. There’s that fear that maybe the two will assume that, after getting here two years in a row at such a young age, that they’ll make it to this stage again someday. All they need to do is ask Jaromir Jagr if that’s a safe assumption.

It might not matter if the Penguins play “with desperation.” The Red Wings are an incredible collection of talent and are nearly unbeatable at home. Few could doubt Crosby’s hustle, Malkin’s two-way genius and creativity. Those factors still haven’t added up to much for the Penguins in Hockeytown.

But one night can change everything. Or nothing.

What’s it going to be, eh?

Assessing Game 6 through a haze of cold medicine

June 10, 2009

When I had an internship, I developed a cough/flu/cold so hardcore and persistent that – instead of trying to find a way to cure it – I might as well have spent that time finding the perfect slasher movie comparison. While it did get gradually weaker as time went on, it didn’t have a weird fixation with impaling people (exit Michael Myers), sleep made it slightly weaker (sorry, Freddie) and had nothing to do with summer camp (so long Jason).

Eventually, I’ve settled on calling it a “Terminator” cough.

Regardless, ever since that happened, my immune system has been kind of like Pierre Turgeon after Dale Hunter‘s brutal, douche-bag late hit. At times it can be effective, but you know it will never be the same.

ANYWAY, being sick really reduced my stress level during a finish that normally would have sent me into cardiac arrest. Ultimately, the Penguins deserved to win this game, even if the ending was truly terrifying.

Now, let’s delve into the customary stream of puck consciousness.

Does anyone get the vague feeling that Detroit thinks they can just flick on a light switch in this series?

It’s obvious that there are a lot of things that come easier to the Red Wings – particularly transitioning from their zone through the neutral zone – but their elbow grease level seems somewhat inconsistent. At least on the road, that is.

It’s too bad that “Cycle like Staal-Kennedy-Cooke” doesn’t really roll off the tongue, because I’ve grown quite fond of that line.

Even when they don’t score, their rough and gritty cycle game can build momentum, wear down Detroit’s D and draw penalties. It seems like that line really made Nicklas Lidstrom‘s life miserable tonight.

One of the big stories of the series is Detroit’s matchup against Sidney Crosby. It’s a shame that Dan Bylsma has to react to what the Red Wings are doing even when the Pens have the last change, but when it’s clear that Detroit can shut down the Penguins’ top line it’s just a painful fact of life. The bottom line is that the Penguins need Crosby to produce if they have any prayer in Game 7.

Evgeni Malkin needs a finisher. Ruslan Fedetenko played that role nicely, but he’s missed a few golden opportunities in the SCF and it might be time to see if Petr Sykora can rekindle the chemistry he had with Geno in the talented Russian’s first two years in the league.

It’s crazy how far the Penguins have come with questionable talent on the wings.

It’s always nice to have a guy who “you hate to play against, but love to have on your team.” Matt Cooke is the number one guy, but Chris Kunitz and Brooks Orpik also deliver some real bone crunching hits. This is the most physically tenacious Penguins team I’ve been able to watch.

Chris Osgood was incredible in Game 6.

Even though Henrik Zetterberg has displayed an amazing all-around game and Johan Franzen has been a stunning goal-scoring machine, Ozzie is the only Red Wing I can accept winning the Smythe over Malkin/Crosby. Even if he’s a smarmy, Smurfy looking douche.

There have been quite a few moments in this series – for both teams – that made me think “clutch and grab.”I know that’s “playoff hockey” but maybe there’s still some cause for concern.

The officiating hasn’t been great, but I guess I’ll take “letting the players decide it” over NBA-style zebra intervention. Still, the league needs to stand its ground on holding and interference. Let the stars be stars.

I understand the Ducks-Devils parallels, although the are some pretty enormous differences.

NJ/Anaheim featured teams with star … goaltenders. In markets that aren’t necessarily the most hockey crazed. On the other hand, Detroit is the marquee franchise for American hockey and the Penguins have two of the biggest stars in the league.

Hopefully, the biggest difference will be that the home ice advantage will be broken.

Test your might

June 6, 2009

(Note: make sure to check out Joe’s take from earlier today)

There is a lot of back-patting going on among Pittsburgh fans and I understand that. Thursday night’s win was, almost certainly, the greatest Penguins win since Mario‘s gravy days.

Still, the challenge ahead reminds me of “Mortal Kombat.” You feel really good about yourself as you climb the ranks, upper-cutting your opponents onto spikes and ripping their hearts out. The wise digi-warriors know, though, that the worst is yet to come. Consider winning a third game beating Goro and winning the Cup taking down Shao Khan. Any MK veteran will tell you that beating Goro (or Motaro or whatever weird beast that serves as the second-to-last battle) is way, WAY more difficult than beating Johnny Cage and the game’s other cupcakes.

So put on your crazy Raiden hats, it’s time to harpoon some random thoughts going into Game 5.

  • Hopefully I’m not alone in this, but the probable return of Pavel Datsyuk makes me extremely nervous. Even at 70 percent (or whatever arbitrary percentage you attach to his relative health), he’s horrifying. Let’s hope he doesn’t create a Willis Reed moment.
  • My friend and I were watching what should have been the last game of Michael Jordan‘s career (you may remember it as the Chicago Bulls’ Game 6 NBA Finals winner against the Utah Jazz, a game in which Jordan got away with a push-off and subsequently broke thousands, if not millions, of Mormon hearts in the process) on ESPN Classic the other day. Bob Costas was talking about how Jordan was coming back to the pack. Costas didn’t mean that Jordan wasn’t the best – just that he was no longer stupidly better than everyone else.

Watching Nicklas Lidstrom makes me think of this description. Lidstrom is still – clearly – the best defenseman in the NHL. He’s still very scary. That being said, his dominance is now even more subtle than before.

(Then again, he could just be saving his best for last.)

  • One of the stories the MSM flogged to death after Game 4 was Henrik Zetterberg‘s fatigue in trying to shadow Sidney Crosby.

It got me thinking: should the Red Wings consider giving Geno Malkin the suffocation treatment instead of Crosby? Malkin already has seven points in four games and just seems to get stronger and stronger. Granted, Malkin’s size might make matchups pointless for opponents, but it is odd that we hear all that about stopping Crosby but receive very little information about who’s lining up against the Pens’ Hart trophy candidate.

  • One thing’s for sure: it’s pretty much impossible for Penguins fans to detach themselves at this point. Pittsburgh proved they belong in the first four games and so now we reach a point of no return. If they lose, it will hurt. Bad.

Conn Smythe Winners, for $500, Alex.

June 6, 2009

Who was the only non-goalie to win a Conn Smythe trophy in a losing effort?

So its pretty much a given that if PIT wins this series, the Conn Smythe goes to Crosby/Malkin, with Malkin leading right now. No matter what happens in the next three games, short of Crosby and Malkin both being abducted by aliens, no one else on the Penguins can possibly win the Conn Smythe. The interesting discussion is what happens to the Conn Smythe if the Wings win it.

The Conn Smythe has been awarded 33 times, if I just counted correctly. 5 times it has gone to a player on the losing end of the Cup Final series. Four of those recipients have been goaltenders (Giguere 2003, Hextall 1987, Hall 1968, Crozier 1966). Only one player has ever won the Conn Smythe as the playoffs MVP in a losing effort, and not been a goaltender. That player is Philadelphia Flyer Reggie Leach, in 1976.

Leach actually won it as his Flyers were swept in the Cup Final by the Montreal Canadiens. Leach finished that postseason with 19 goals scored, a record that has since been tied by Jari Kurri. Leach had 19 goals, but of those 19 goals, 5 of them came in one game against the Boston Bruins earlier in the playoffs, and he only had 24 points total. He had 4 goals in the final, of Philadelphia’s total 9. 19 goals in a playoff is a hell of a number, but when you take out that 5 goal game, you’re looking at 14-5-19 in 15 games. Still a solid year, but hardly worthy of a losing-team Conn Smythe trophy, I don’t think. I also don’t know how many assists might have come in that 5-goal game, so his points total sans that game might be less.

Could Malkin or Crosby win the Conn Smythe this year in a losing effort? As Mirtle says, they’ve certainly had some pretty historic years. The question then arises, should they? I’m not so sure on that. They’re certainly more deserving than some past winners in losing efforts. But I have a hard time seeing handing out the trophy to one of those guys when the other has just as good of a case for it, and they’re on the same team, especially if the two of them come up short. Combined with the advantageous matchups that I believe the Penguins played (no way do they put up those numbers against some of the better defensive teams in the league), I find it harder to justify awarding the MVP to either of those guys.
On the Wings, I can see only a couple of players who could potentially earn the Conn Smythe: Johan Franzen (22 pts), Henrik Zetterberg (22 pts), Chris Osgood (2.29 GGA 0.924 SV%), and Nicklas Lidstrom (13 points, +9, general workhorse). Of course, I think it should be given to Darren Helm, but I’m not really grounded in reality. Of those, I’m thinking Henrik or Franzen is the front runner based on their point totals and sizable contributions all around. Lidstrom is probably in the mix, but I think the Wings’ defense as a whole dings him down a little bit here. To me, the most interesting choice here is Osgood.
Chris Osgood is already in the top 10 in all-time goaltender wins. If he continues to play another couple years in the league, he could definitely get into the top 8, and could very possibly end his career at #5-7. His 2.47 career GAA is good, but not great. His .906 SV% is fairly average. He currently sits in #8 in terms of all-time playoff wins at 73. A cup win gets him to 75, and he certainly could make it to the top 5 all-time, if he were to hit 88 in his career. He has a 2.11 GAA, one of the best in the modern era, and a .916 SV%. One of my favorite bloggers, the Contrarian Goaltender, will point out how Chris Osgood is a product of a team philosophy, and while I pretty much agree with him, I think there is certainly some amount of recognition due for the guy for what he is.
He has been a pretty consistent guy, though he’s certainly had his moments (and this past regular season was one of them). He’s been pretty durable, lasting in this league for 15 years. He’s redeveloped his style to stay in the game when it was clear he was on the way out. Hell, he even scored a goal. He’s received very little in the way of individual accolades and recognition. In a year where everyone pissed on him, where everyone (including myself) thought he was going to be the reason the Wings came up short in their quest to repeat, he stood up and had perhaps his best individual playoff yet, should he finally get some of that recognition? In the absence of any clear-cut 100% favorites amongst the Wings, should they win this series, could the Conn Smythe be awarded as more of a lifetime achievement award to Chris Osgood?

Thoughts on the big win for the Penguins (and the NHL)

June 5, 2009

It just seemed … fitting.

The Red Wings were up 2-1 with a second consecutive powerplay. For a while, the game seemed like it would be Geno Malkin vs. the Detroit Red Wings. As superhuman as Malkin was playing, it was obvious someone else would have to step up.

All of a sudden, Jordan Staal muscled the smaller Brian Rafalski and scored a spectacular shorthanded goal. Easily the biggest of his career. After fighting through Red Wing checks and cycling hard enough to make Lance Armstrong proud through the playoffs, Staal received a rare reward for his rugged, determined play.

Then the floodgates opened. Despite a nice pass block, Malkin second chanced it to Sidney Crosby who got that SCF “Outbreak” monkey off his back with what would ultimately be the game winning goal.

With an uncharacteristically flustered Red Wings team on their heels, the Penguins did their NBA Finals impression with a display of passing that would make Dean Smith ejaculate into his Dockers. The tic-tac-toe play resulted in a gorgeous Tyler Kennedy goal and the game was effectively over at 4-2.

This was, almost certainly, the greatest single period in the short history of the Crosby-Malkin connection. If the Penguins beat the odds and raise the Stanley Cup, pundits will point to that three goal explosion as the turning point of the series. If not, it will be a nice bookend to Marc Andre Fleury‘s miraculous Game 5 performance last year.

Some scattershot musings from the game:

  • For my money, Johan Franzen is currently the most dangerous Red Wing. Watching him amble toward the net feels like rooting for a woman trying to escape Michael Myers (even though he walks faster than she runs). Please, Fleury, DO NOT go up the stairs/inspect that loud noise outside your house.

  • I expected a lot more from the Red Wings in that third period. Naturally, there were some tense moments but it was actually a lot more serene than expected. Do the Red Wings simply feel that they can win every game at home? Could it be a matter of arrogance?
  • Fleury really bounced back admirably at home. He played fantastically in Game 4 and also saved Game 3 in the second period. Detroit is going to be pissed in Game 5, though, so this is just the beginning for Flower. It might be getting close to the right time to start sanding down those goat horns, though.
  • Now, I’m no Red Wings expert. But I have to admit that I found the scratching of Abdelkader (or AfroGator) quite perplexing. One Red Wing who actually seems to age like a human is Kris Draper (although he’ll be a bigger factor in Joe Louis Arena, where his world class faceoff abilities could make a difference).

  • With the notably low amount of powerplay opportunities, Tomas Holmstrom‘s impact has been quite minimal. Still, he’s probably the best at what he does and could make a difference as these games become more contentious.
  • Henrik Zetterberg seems like he’s really picked his game up in Pittsburgh. Marian Hossa might not be putting up points, but he really scares the shit out of me. (He’s not worth ruining the Red Wings’ cap space, though, IMO.)
  • Speaking of Hossa, Pens fans need to decide if they are going to boo him once and for all. They sound wishy-washy and it comes off as pathetic. Then again, even if it has nothing to do with his struggles, Hossa has been pretty quiet so maybe they should keep doing what they’re doing.

  • I discussed this on Twitter, but the “OS-GOOD” chant started a bit early. I’ve always felt that goalie mockery should come in blow outs, not games that are still to be decided. You don’t want to give a goalie more motivation, you want to kick him when he’s down. Right?
  • The Red Wings must lead the league in defensemen who can keep the puck in the zone under duress. That shit’s really going to stress me out going forward.
  • Special teams has been ENORMOUS in this series so far.

Just look at the Game-by-Game breakdown:

Pittsburgh: 1 for 3 (Game 4); 2 for 3 (Game 3); 1 for 1 (Game 2); 0 for 2 (Game 1)
1 SHG (Game 4)

Detroit: 0 for 4 (Game 4); 1 of 2 (Game 3); 0 for 2 (Game 2); 0 for 1 (Game 1)

With such a tiny sample, you can really have fun with stats that probably won’t even hold up by the next game. For instance:

The Penguins penalty kill has tied the Red Wings Powerplay.
The Penguins powerplay has scored in all but one SCF game; the Red Wings Powerplay has only scored in one SCF game.

The bottom line, though, is that the Pens went 4 for 9 and the Red Wings went 1 for 9 with a SHG allowed. Going into this series, I figured the Pens would have a slight special teams advantage. So far, though, it’s been a gigantic advantage.

  • This might be from the Department of the Painfully Obvious, but the Penguins’ best chance to win one on the road is probably in Game 5. I don’t buy into the Red Wings being “worn down” when they are a deeper team. Pavel Datsyuk might enter the building by Game 5 or 6 (or 7 or never), which would be a big boost.

Now, I’m an excessively negative fellow. But this is honestly the first time in this series that I think the Penguins could actually pull this one out. The Red Wings might be the better team, but the Penguins might want it more.

Chances are, though, that we’ll find out a lot about both teams in the next 2-3 games.

I’ll guarantee one winner after tonight:

The NHL, silly.

Almost time to panic, but not quite

June 2, 2009

I’ll be honest, my only real exposure to “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was half-watching the movie in a drunken stupor. (It seemed OK … Mos Def is amusing and it has pre-Jim/protoJim/Tim from the British Office in it.) Let’s face it, though, it’s the first thing that came up in a Google Image search.

ANNNNYWAY, with the SCF under way (and Jesus lord let’s hope it’s not halfway done) and the NBA Finals about to start, it dawned on me that I’m pretty fucked in about two weeks. Baseball is not my sport, unless I’m drunk in the shade with an avalanche of peanut shells at my feet. The shade at home doesn’t count.

(Shit, maybe I might need to panic, not the Penguins.)

Just to illustrate the depth of badness, I watched “About Last Night” because there was nothing better on my X-Box Netflix queue. Even though my hatred for Jim Belushi rages beyond Chris Osgoodian proportions.

Good God I can’t believe I watched this movie.

(To be fair, there was a shocking amount of pre-ruined by Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher-Demi Moore boobs in that movie. Remember kids: small boobs need love too.)

So, the Penguins are in a lot of trouble right now. Being down 0-2 to Detroit is a problem. I’d compare the difference between overcoming the Red Wings versus the Capitals as the jump from hopping a suburban fence to scaling the Great Wall of China.

(Sorry, 80’s movies breed hyperbole. Re-read that sentence as “the Red Wings are tougher than the Capitals”, please.)

This post really isn’t going anywhere, so I’ll leave you with two goats and two semi-heroes.

(For the Penguins, that is.)

From far away that foot behind that goat looks like something … else. Don’t judge me.

Goat #1: Marc Andre Fleury

Sorry, he’s been awful.

Goat #2: Bill Guerin

For some reason, I constantly overreact to Guerin’s struggles. Maybe it’s his “Just for Men” beard. Either way, he had two wide open chances you have to bury and he came up dry. Dammit, Bill.

Semi-Hero #1: Jordan Staal

In true Jordan Staal fashion, he’s been awesome without putting up any points. Joe and I have discussed the fact that the Penguins might be better off spending $4 million on a winger, but I must admit the last two and a half rounds have made me feel better. Staal might not have his elder brother’s finishing touch, but he’s shown some serious balls. He might just be a gamer going forward.

(Besides, he won’t “fail to earn” his contract until next year. Right now, he’s a genuine bargain.)

Semi-Hero #2: Rob Scuderi

It’s going to be hard to stomach watching Brooks Orpik cough up pucks at $3.7 million next year if it means that the Penguins cannot retain Scuderi. While playing against Detroit hasn’t made him look qute so impressive, he’s still the kind of defensive defenseman the Penguins need to be competitive.

Let’s hope they can sign him to a reasonable deal.

Instant (and brief) analysis

May 31, 2009
  • Naturally, this might stem from my Penguins fanboy status … but I think the Penguins generally outplayed the Red Wings tonight. Especially in the second period.

Obviously, Pittsburgh was pulverized in the faceoff circle (not surprising since the Penguins are below average in that area while Detroit is THE faceoff team), but overall it seemed to me they carried the play during long stretches of the game.

  • During the first half of the game, I braced myself for penalty whining. The Penguins did, indeed, get away with some penalties (particularly on Evgeni Malkin‘s failed breakaway).

Still, the no-call on Henrik Zetterberg (who, when looking through black-and-gold colored glasses, clearly closed his hand on the puck) should more than make up for whatever other discrepancies.

  • Chris Kunitz was a force on the forecheck. Darren Helm is a star in the making. If Niklas Kronwall was an NFL team, he’d be the San Diego Chargers. (Seriously, do officials need to wait until he injures Malkin while leaving his feet before they finally call a charge on him? Pens fans were [rightly] complaining about this last year.)
  • Marc Andre Fleury wasn’t awful but he still needs to be better for the Penguins to win this series. In broken play situations, he seems to go flat to the ice surface far too easily, giving up a ton of net in the process. That, and his penchant for playing the puck poorly, are two potentially fatal flaws in his game.
  • The Penguins will probably find themselves in the same 0-2 hole as last year, but what’s more frustrating is that for at least one game, the Pens seemed like they belonged this year. As a fan, though, that almost makes this loss tougher to swallow.

No, it definitely makes it harder to deal with.

Fuck.