Nabokov signs with Red Wings

Go Go Gadget Glove Save!

***NOTE***
Please check our Nabokov Pledge Page to place your H2H2 bets whether he’ll pass waivers or not. 

Pardon the scramble, but a tsunami just hit Twitter with news that the Detroit Red Wings are close to finalizing a deal for veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Per Bob McKenzie:

It looks like @Gordie78 may be a prophet. He said 4 hours ago Nabokov to DET and negotiatons are on and may be done soon.

And, once again, from TSN cohort Darren Dreger:

Red Wings in discussions with veteran goaltender, Evgeni Nabokov. Deal today? Will have to clear waivers if it gets done.

As Dreger points out, Nabokov will be subjected to waivers since he began the season in a European pro league. All 29 other teams would have a chance to claim him at the deal that Detroit is allegedly signing him to, much like how the Sharks claimed Kyle Wellwood and the Predators claimed Marek Svatos (both originally signed by the Blues).

You may remember Nabokov as the goaltender that was run out of San Jose after ten seasons and nearly 300 regular season wins. He signed with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL this past summer after finding no suitors in the NHL. The $24M contract was mutually terminated, citing “family circumstances” and Nabokov has been rumored to be returning to the NHL for a few weeks now.

Makes you wonder how banged up Jimmy Howard really is. He’s set to return to the crease this evening, and Joey MacDonald has been surprisingly efficient as Osgood’s replacement. Chris Osgood, of course, isn’t set to return until March following hernia surgery.

We’ll keep updating this post as news becomes available.

*UPDATE: 12:37pm*
Per RDS, the deal has been signed, although there’s no confirmation from either the Red Wings or Nabokov’s agent.

Frankly, I don’t have a problem with this deal for a few reasons: he may get claimed off of waivers, and nothing has been lost. Further, if he’s signed as a stop-gap until both Jimmy Howard and Chris Osgood are both healthy, there’s nothing stopping the team from RE-waiving him (attempting to send him down to Grand Rapids, or something).

There are currently four guys officially on long-term IR, thus removing their numbers from the cap. Holland can retroactively add two more guys, if they’re going to miss more than ten games. There’s more than enough cash in the bank for something like this, depending on the number. The team doesn’t have to worry about being cap-compliant until all the pieces are coming back from injury, which might be a few weeks. At which time, like mentioned above, he can be re-waived and continue his career elsewhere.

Also, who’s to say that he doesn’t upgrade the existing tandem even if they were both healthy? Loyalty aside, of course.

*UPDATE: 1:16pm*
TSN’s Bob McKenzie taps the brakes a bit:

Nabokov update: Close to a deal in DET in one sense but still some issues to be sorted out. So please be clear: no agreement in place yet

Looks like something will get done — too many sources saying that it’s imminent to be ignored.

*UPDATE: 4:36pm*
Per various sources, the deal is a one-year deal worth $570,000 pro-rated, meaning the Wings would actually pay him about $250,000. Hard to imagine he wouldn’t get claimed with such a low number.

Who knows what’s going on at this point…

*UPDATE: 10:33pm*
Following the Wings game, it was made official. The club has signed Evgeni Nabokov to a one-year deal, worth a pro-rated $570,000. He will go on waivers at noon Friday. 

Nabokov Pledge Drive

Anyone out there convinced that Evgeni Nabokov will get plucked off of waivers, once the signing is official? Confident that he’ll be a Red Wing by the weekend?

Put your money where your mouth is.

From now until the waiver period ends, we’re taking pledges. In fact, I’ve gotten us started. I’m pretty sure he’ll clear waivers and make his way onto the Detroit roster, and I’ve got $2 on it. If he’s claimed, I’ll add two bucks to the till.

Who’s next?

***UPDATES!***
That didn’t take long…

IF HE’S CLAIMED
@mpetrella pledges $2 if he’s claimed.
@wkfink pleges $5 if he’s claimed.
@crperreau pledges $2 if he’s claimed.
@marlonbrando_ pledges $10 if he’s claimed.
@bradonweb pledges $2 if he’s claimed.
@SPintheD pledges $2 if he’s claimed.
@JennHo pledges $5 if he’s claimed.
@bvschmidt pledges $5 if he’s claimed.
@Detroit4lyfeRob pledges $10 if he’s claimed.
@TheN0rm41 pledges $2 if he’s claimed.
@asshatduck pledges $5 if he’s claimed.
@Whoabot pledges $5 if he’s claimed.
@ang_19 pledges $2 if he’s claimed.
@Amerinadian19 pledges $5 if he’s claimed.
@saraneuie pledges $5 if he’s claimed.
@FightNightatJoe pledges $4 if he’s claimed.
@OhMySwed3 pledges $10 if he’s claimed.
@keithdotson pledges $5 if he’s claimed.

IF HE’S NOT
@512Disch pledges $2 if he’s not.
@chollis pledges $5 if he’s not.
@mserven pledges $4 if he’s not.
@marlonbrando_ pledges $10 if he’s not.
@JennHo pledges $10 if he’s not.
@thetinnishflash pledges $2 if he’s not.
@stevieroxelle pledges $2 if he’s not.
@EtchedInCold pledges HIS JERSEY NUMBER if he’s not.
@lolabythebay pledges $2 if he’s not.
@TheTripleDeke pledges $10 if he’s not.
@WingsFever pledges $5 if he’s not.
@Whoabot pledges $10 if he’s not.
@Lexa1523 pledges $10 if he’s not.
@jennyquarx pledges $2 if he’s not.
@saraneuie pledges $10 if he’s not.
@distaff pledges $5 if he’s not.
@NurseNitz pledges $10 if he’s not.
@keithdotson pledges $10 if he’s not.

IF HE’S CLAIMED BY SAN JOSE
@chollis pledges $10
@mpetrella pledges $10
@mariia19 pledges $20
@Lexa1523 pledges $10
@marlonbrando_ pledges an additional $10
@TheN0rm41 pledges $10
@vikbash pledges $10
@Baroque97 pledges $10
Krononymous pledges $10
@FightNightatJoe pledges an additional $2
@NurseNitz pledges $20

UP THE ANTE
@bradonweb pledges $20 if he’s on the roster at the beginning of the pledge period. $20 more if he’s on it March 11th.
@sigsegfalt pledges $2 for every goal he allows in a Red Wing uniform during the 12-game pledge period.
@detroithockey96 pledges $10 if he’s claimed by Carolina.
@Detroit4lyfeRob pledges $10 if he starts for Detroit on March 11.
@FightNightatJoe pledges $3 for each start against the Red Wings, $1 for each goal scored against him, and $3 for each win against him.
@OhMySwed3 pledges an additional $5 if he’s claimed by the Islanders.
@Baroque97 pledges $10 if he’s on the roster on Valentine’s Day
@99Bananas007 pledges $5 if he’s claimed by Washington
@keithdotson pledges an additional $2.50 if he’s claimed by Devils, Islanders, Wild, or Leafs.
@mserven pledges $20 if he’s claimed by the Kings.

Jan. 20 :: Between the Sheets

Despite being from Cincinnati, the Isley Brothers always make me think of home

IN OTHER NEWS…
Make sure you continue to follow along with our Nabokov post as we post the latest news as it becomes available…

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
Wings and Blues. 8pm Thursday. St. Louis, I’ll be deep in the cold, cold ground ‘fore I recognize Missoura.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
Jimmy Howard returns to the net tonight after missing some time thanks to taking a puck off of the patella. Which is not to be confused with the Petrella. Which is never swollen.

NOW WHERE WERE WE?
The last time the Wings and Blues played was a few days before Christmas, when on December 23rd the Blues beat Osgood (SHOCKER) and the Wings 4-3.

OH, HI AGAIN / MEMBA ME?! / BEST NAME NOMINEE
We’ve done this several times, so a recap: Conklin and Osgood have been in each others’ shoes, and Nikita Nikitin is as dope a hockey name as you’ll find.

THEIR LAST GAMES
:: Detroit lost an uninspired game to the Penguins 4-1 on Tuesday.
:: St. Louis beat LA 2-1 on Tuesday.

EXPECTED LINEUP
By special request, the TPL Glossary is ready to jailsex your eyes.
Mulo — Zetterberg — Eaves
Scuttles — Filppula — Thunderchief
Draper — Helm — Miller
Tatar — Abdelkader — Mursak

Lidstrom — Kronwall
Rafalski — Ericsson
Cirque — Kindl

Tiberius
McGillicutty

Injuries
Mike “Behind a Painted Smile” EModano [wrist]
Dan “Take Me to the Next Phase” Cleary [ankle]
Pavel “It’s Your Thing, Do Whatchu Wanna Do” Datsyuk [hand]
Brad “Pop That Thang” Stuart [jaw]
Chris “Love the One You’re With'” Osgood [groin]
Tomas “Put Yourself in My Place” Holmstrom [hand]

Honorable Mentions
Todd “Twist and Shout” Bertuzzi
Todd “Fight the Power (Part 1)” Bertuzzi
Jiri “Whoooo’s That Lady” Hudler
Jiri “Don’t Say Goodnight, It’s Time for Love” Hudler
Chris “This Old Heart of Mine” Chelios
*If there are any that you think I missed, throw them in the comments — the best one will be shared for all to enjoy on the TPL Facebook Page*

THE FIVE THREE HOLE [Quick Version]
1. Jimmah Returns: MacDonald played well, but not great. Jimmy hadn’t been playing great, either. Maybe the breather did him good. We need someone to show they care.
2. Defense vs. St. Louis: In the last two games against the Blues, the Wings have scored 8 goals. 5 were by defensemen, and 4 were Nick Lidstrom (Kronwall had the other). TAKE SHOTS FROM THE BLUELINE.
3. Nabokov in Net?: Even if the reports are correct and Evgeni Nabokov will be joining the Red Wings, there’s no guarantee he’d make it to Detroit. He’ll need to be subjected to waivers, allowing the other 29 teams to put in a claim. If any of those teams need a goaltender (and like the deal he agreed to with Ken Holland), he could be property of Team X before he even sets foot in Michigan. If, however, he clears waivers and makes his way to Detroit… the Wings will have acquired a very competent goaltender to back up Jimmy Howard. Whether it’s just as long as Chris Osgood is incapable of playing or for the rest of the season — essentially usurping Ozzie’s spot on the team — remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

WHAT WE LEARNED AGAINST THE PENGUINS
Henrik Zetterberg can’t do it alone. Like, I mean… totally alone.

I’m Official Now

Really, the ONLY thing one can say...

Hi. I’m Stevie, but you can call me Steven. You might know me from such bits of artistic genius known as HorseCop and the Rocky Horror Picture Show Pregame. With those gems on my resume, I’ve been asked by the fine chaps of TPL to be the “in-house” artist. Never did I imagine, when I first doodled a scary little caricature of our favorite little commissioner nearly 3 months ago, that my talent for drawing silly things would get me this far. I can’t promise great regularity, but when I can squeeze in time between observing ducks doin’ it, and verbally eviscerating college students, I’ll keep jailsexing your eyeballs with Shetuzzi doodles.

Before I stop typing and get back to drawing, I’d like to thank Discher, Hollis and Petrella for giving me the opportunity to play with the big boys. I’ll try not to girl it up around here.

Film Review: HorseCop


The Latinas love it.

Once in a lifetime — if we’re lucky — a film comes along that changes the way we look at ourselves, not to mention the way we view cinema forever.

Our parents had The Godfather. Their parents had Gone with the Wind. Their parents had… well, I dunno… some weird Edison newsreel, I suppose.

We, friends, have HorseCop. And Jurassic Park. But mostly HorseCop.

In his insanely brilliant follow-up to Machete, director Robert Rodriguez gave us chills, thrills, and quite a few spills from the new most famous horse in the world (suck on that, Seabiscuit). It’s a dark romantic mocku-dramedy rife with car chases, gun fights, naked women, broken bones, mace (the badass medieval weapon, not the pansy spray), and features a suave leading man as he sexes his way to all the bad guys, bringing an end to dog-fighting, illegal trafficking, and global warming in one fell swoop.

Just another Thursday for Officer Cop. Officer Horse Cop.

If you can saunter into HorseCop and come out the same man or woman two hours later, you’re clearly some sort of demon person and you aren’t welcome here anymore. Put Xanadu back on and crawl into your lonely, dark, lonely darkroom. Alone.

If you think you’re man (or woman) enough for HorseCop, buckle your seat belt, grab your sack (or ovaries) and hit the next showtime.

Bring lube. You’re going to need it.

GENERAL SYNOPSIS

The year is 2024. Oh, I didn’t mention it’s the future? Well it is.

An impossibly handsome and independently wealthy young man decides that his sexual prowess could be used for good, instead of just gooooood and quickly rises through the ranks within the Fuckyeah America Police Department. His once-partner has gone rogue — now a kingpin himself — and Officer Cop must learn to work with a new partner.

While Officer Cop is no stranger to sowing his oats, he’s going to have to contend with a new type of oats… the kind his teeth-kicking, fire-breathing, death-bringing mildly-retarded thoroughbred partner has tucked in his cheek.

Can they work together? Will each be jealous of the other’s manhood? Will Office Horse ever learn to love again after losing his filly (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) to a 33-story drop off of Frost Bank Tower (the tallest non-residential building in Austin and first sky-scraper to be begun following September 11th)?

Much of the tension between the partners stems from Officer Horse’s loss, since Officer Cop pulls no punches letting his equine counterpart know exactly how he felt about her looks (“She looked like a fucking horse, bro.”)

BRILLIANT PERFORMANCES: FROM LEADING MAN TO LEADING MANE

Surefire Future Hollywood Walk of Famer Robert Discher is two parts Lorenzo Lamas, three parts Chuck Norris, and one part Daryl Hall — but that’s the part that counts most…ladies. Officer HorseCop is a man’s man — a flying bear in a world of sharp-toothed birds, big enough for Willa and two Duffs. When he’s not personally ending world hunger or building roofs over the homeless with nothing but his two hands and a couple nails, he’s precariously juggling the women who love him: a number so high that mere mortals can’t fathom. It even has its own symbol. It kind of looks like Prince’s old name. But sexier.

The squeeze we see most often on-screen is ably played by Vanessa Hudgens, who has been quoted as saying that she “can’t even look Zac anymore” after sharing only a few testosterone-fueled moments in Discher’s trailer rehearsing lines. Which is odd considering she has a grand total of zero lines, aside from moans and sounds of painful desperation.

Fresh off of his breakthrough role on television, Equine McYzerman is nothing short of Oscar fodder. If he’s overlooked during awards season, it’d be a crime akin to every woman on the planet losing to Erin Brockovich’s cans in 2001. Don’t make the same mistake twice, Academy. If ever an animal has deserved attention for one’s performance, it’s this. McYzerman has recently checked into rehab, amid reports of “dehydration,” but has said he’d be honored to reprieve the role, should anyone be alive long enough to make an awesome enough sequel: “That’ll show that little bitch Toto who’s the boss…”

In a stellar turn as the good cop gone bad, is the legendary Bruce Campbell, whose notably lines all include the word “Boomstick” — only with a thick, poorly-done Scottish accent that no one seems to understand, even on-screen for some reason. Brilliant cameos from “Smooth” Billy Dee Williams, Jimmy Smits, Christopher Lambert, Jeff Daniels, and Verne Troyer — NO I KNOW! I thought he was dead, too — only increase the starpower of an unruly cast of misfits, sexpots, and once-demi-gods.

CLAIMS FROM THE MASSES

All of the Latinas streaming out of the theatre said that they were no longer wearing their panties — but they weren’t sure how that happened. As they stumbled into the lobby, many of them smoking cigarettes lit with the smoldering embers of what remains of their undergarments, they seemed to have a sort of euphoric confusion about them. A handful even stopped by the local convenience store to buy a pregnancy test, convinced that they were now carrying an immaculately conceived lovechild, which is now beginning an eight-month process (yeah, the baby’s that awesome) of perfecting its bicep curls while slowing building its awesome and quickly growing sideburns.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this movie saved our marriage,” said John and Jane Q. Lonelysheets, a long-married couple from parts unknown. “All I know is we were stuck in a rut, banging our head against the metaphorical brick wall until we saw HorseCop and now we have to rush home to create several thousand babies.”

A ten minute sandwich-making montage really hit home with Madison native Zachary MacRostie. “I’d lost all faith in humanity’s ability to make a good sandwich,” MacRostie would later say, “and then I saw HorseCop and I knew all would be well in the morning. I mean to think… Officer Horse Cop uses the same kind of mustard I do? I cried for an hour.”

THE FILMMAKERS WOULD LIKE TO THANK…

Big thanks to @stevieroxelle for the art design, which is simply breathtaking in its beauty. Another big thanks to @bradonweb for helping with character development.

See it now. NOW!

Loss Candy: Wings get Portman’d in Pittsburgh

FINAL SCORE (Hi Dad!)
Penguins 3-1

BEFORE THE CANDY
:: First, and clearly the most important: the H2H2 Website is up and running so make sure you stop by and check it out. It’s absolutely beautiful. Ellen did a wonderful job, with help from Casey. Make sure you check it out, drop a few bucks, and enjoy the photos/stories.

:: During a game-time e-mail thread with Disch, I likened Joey MacDonald to the gum you jam into a dam that’s sprung a leak. Will the gum prevent some water from coming out? Sure. But you better head to the Depot (or, Builder’s Square if you prefer) and find some caulk. He makes saves that you’d think a minor leaguer has no business making (like saving Niklas Kronwall after his latest in a series of herp derp plays), and you question whether or not he truly belongs in the NHL after all. Then he makes a dumbshit stickhandling play behind the net allowing a very easy first goal against a great Penguins team. Nothing he could do on the penalty shot, or the third Penguins goal. All in all, a fairly strong game from Mac, with a few uh-oh’s peppered in.

:: Something I’ve got to get off my chest: I’ve been very lucky this season, almost always getting the Red Wings feed on Center Ice, but tonight I had the Pittsburgh feed, featuring the play-by-play of Paul Steigerwald and color by Bob Errey. They were awesome. Great calling, great insight, extraordinarily complimentary of the Red Wings, even-handed (even going so far as to acknowledge the high stick that caught Patrick Eaves in the chompers, and saying that Drew Miller’s trip should have been a penalty shot — stuff that hometown announcers rarely do). They could not have been more respectful of the Wings and their history and their injury issues and their constant Stanley Cup threat. Also, hearing them mock “Norris Trophy candidate” (see above for herp derp link) Kris Letang for his premature celebration was beautiful. “Maybe he learned something.” I know fanbases don’t care for one another, but these guys literally could not have been more respectful of the Red Wings. I’m very impressed.

: Franzen’s goal was beautiful. Monster play by Henrik Zetterberg (who had a strong night) along the boards, and a nifty, smart pass from Eaves to feed Mulo. Tick tack toe.

WITHOUT FURTHER ADO
There was talk earlier in the day about which incarnation of Natalie Portman is the hottest: long hair, short hair, or clean shaven. Two thirds of those people are known as “wrong,” but I’ll let you decide. Don’t get me wrong… they’re all pretty hot, which is saying something considering she’s rockin’ the Sinead in the last one:

Oh hello there...
Going (my favorite)
Gooooinnnnggg....
GONE
Portman's baby daddy (photo credit: Out Magazine)

Jan. 18 :: Time For Go To Bed

Sorry, "Guy from The Brick," even Lizzie's pulling for the Wings.

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
The Red Wings and Penguins face off for the first of two regular season meetings on the schedule this year. The first one is in Pittsburgh, Wings Wings Tuesday at 7pm.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
Having faced off 18 times in the last three seasons, it’s fair to call this one a rivalry. Cross-conference rivalries are rare (thanks NHL!), but no one on either team, in either organization, or within either fanbase pretends to like the other (Except we love @seangentille). This game won’t have all the star-power it should, and that’s sad. The Pens are without Sidney Crosby and Mike “Two Duffs” Comrie; while the Wings are without Jimmy Howard, Pavel Datsyuk, Dan Cleary, Brad Stuart, Mike Modano, and Tomas Holmstrom.

NOW WHERE WERE WE?
The last match-up of these two squads came on March 22nd — just before H2H. It was a 3-1 win for the good guys, with goals from Zetterberg (who had two) and Filppula. Just like last year, we were without Cleary. We were also without Patrick Eaves — who was nursing a head injury following a check from Aaron Johnson in the Edmonton game a few days prior. Not only will Eaves be playing tonight, he’s on the top line.

OH, HI AGAIN
No former Red Wings in Pittsburgh. Chris Conner and Brent Johnson are from Michigan, however.

MEMBA ME?!
Both Jamie Johnson and Chris Minard of the Griffins came to us from the Penguins. Only Minard got into any NHL games with the organization, however.

BEST NAME NOMINEE
It’s too bad he’s such a cock, because Brooks Orpik has a pretty sweet name. It has to compete with Zbynek Michalek for the honors in this category, though.

THEIR LAST GAMES
:: Detroit defeated the Blue Jackets, 6-5 in overtime, on Saturday night.
:: Pittsburgh beat the Bruins, 3-2, on Saturday.

EXPECTED LINEUP
By special request, the TPL Glossary is ready to jailsex your eyes.
Mulo — Zetterberg — Eaves
Scuttles — Filppula — Thunderchief
Draper — Helm — Miller
Tatar — Abdelkader — Mursak

Lidstrom — Kronwall
Rafalski — Ericsson
Cirque — Kindl

MacDonald
McCollum

Injuries
Mike “Cool. I Mean, For Regular People” EModano [wrist]
Dan “I Don’t Eat Carbs” Cleary [ankle]
Pavel “You Use Scented Soap, Huh?” Datsyuk [hand]
Brad “I May Be an Outfit Repeater” Stuart [jaw]
Chris “Yes Your Blue Robe Looks Cooler Than All the Other Girls'” Osgood [groin]
Tomas “I’m Like…Physical Incapable of Sneaking” Holmstrom [hand]
Jimmy “We Serve At-a Five, The Cookies” Howard [knee]

Honorable Mentions
Todd “Wow. Evil and Smart” Bertuzzi
Jiri “What is He, 5-1… 5-2 Max?” Hudler
Jonathan “Make Up for My Lack of a Slow Curve” Ericsson
Brett “Scuze Me. Gotta Clean Up Some Vomit” Lebda
Bobby “I Shall Win the Academy Award” Ryan
Aaron “You Want a Little Mano a Mano” Downey
*If there are any that you think I missed, throw them in the comments — the best one will be shared for all to enjoy on the TPL Facebook Page*

THE FIVE HOLE
1. Disappointing Matchup: The Penguins are missing some key pieces, but no one is hurting like the Red Wings are hurting. Frankly, the Wings are lucky that Crosby isn’t in the lineup, but I was hoping both teams would be at full-strength so that this came could be like all of the others: two of the best teams in recent hockey who want nothing but to win 82 times and then another 16.
2. Joey Jo Jo Shabadoo Jr.: Jimmy Howard was leading the NHL when he took a puck of the patella, and though his play has been up and down, losing him for a few games is a serious blow particularly with Chris Osgood already shelved until March. In comes Joey MacDonald — career journeyman minor leaguer, for the most part — and he absolutely stands on his head in relief, and his lone start. The Blue Jackets are no Penguins, but if he can carry that confidence into tonight’s game… I like our chances.
3. Balanced Scoring Still Balanced: Despite missing no less than 44% of the team’s top nine forwards, the Wings are still getting scoring from up and down the lineup. On Saturday, the leading goal scorer (Franzen) got one, the  so-called secondary scoring threat (Filppula) got one, a true flex player (Miller) got one, a fourth line grinding legend (Draper) got one, a leading defensive threat (Rafalski) got one…and so did a Shitbox.
4. Tots and Sak: I like these kids. I hate that our boys keep getting hurt, but if we’ve got to have two kids from the farm — who better than these two? I’m very impressed with their composure, and — call me an asshole — but I think they’re better than Leino / Helm were when they were doing the Kansas City Shuffle.
5. Just Sayin’: Last year’s big money pledge game was the Penguins game. Sadly, the Wings won’t play the Pens during the twelve-game pledge period, but if you’re so inclined… drop a comment or two with some game-specific pledges and I’ll make sure it makes it onto the spreadsheet for the kids.

WHAT WE LEARNED AGAINST THE BLUE JACKETS
Joseph McGillicutty MacDonald.

By the Numbers: Jimmah vs. The “Slump”

Let’s take a journey back a few months to the beginning of the Red Wings season. The Red Wings – coming off a season that featured more injuries than fingers on a pair of hands – looked to be well rested and primed for success. The Wings finally had a healthy lineup ready to take the ice, complete with some of the most proficient players in the game and a blue line that featured an almost sure-fire, top-five Norris contender. All the pieces for a successful season were in place, yet there was one nagging question on everyone’s mind leading up to the puck dropping on the brand new campaign…

“Will there be a sophomore slump for Jimmah?”

Honestly, I’m not one to make much of the idea of a slump or struggles based solely on the fact that a player is entering his second full season in a professional sport, especially when it comes to hockey. So much of a goaltender’s success hinges on the play of the guys in front of him, where an airtight defense can make even the most mediocre goalie look like a world-beater. So why, then, would there be any concern about whether or not Howard would continue to play at the level that took the Wings on a scorched-earth run up to the playoffs? The defense was still there. The players were healthy. There shouldn’t be an issue, right?

Fast-forward back to present day, where you are currently sitting at your computer/mobile device/etc. and hanging on every word that I am typing (or just reading this waiting for me to get to the point.) The Wings – despite a rash of injuries –  find themselves seven points ahead of the Predators in the Central Division and only three points back of the Canucks for most points in both the West and the entire NHL as the All Star Break closes in. Yet something doesn’t seem right, despite the success in the standings.

Perhaps it’s just me and maybe I’m a little too hard on the guy (as Matt Saler pointed out following the most recent TP:60) but something just isn’t adding up with Jimmy Howard. I watch Jimmah play between the pipes and I know that he’s a capable goaltender (tied for most wins in the league) yet the question about a slump is still tickling some part of my brain and won’t go away. Of course, that means a solution must be unearthed, but how do you realistically go about determining whether or not a player is actually suffering the effects of an uncontrollable phenomenon that may or may not live in the minds of fans and pundits across the league?

(Yes, you know what’s coming.)

Stats. Specifically, a chart of stats.

A quick disclaimer before we move ahead: I’m fully aware that circumstances such as playing style, opponents, ice conditions, experience, etc. can not be fully accounted for with a series of numbers and percentages. I could spend a lifetime staring at every second of Howard’s game to try and pinpoint whether or not his game is different from a year ago, but I just don’t have the time, patience or sanity to do that. Instead, the numbers you see below offer up a poor-man’s look into how Howard stacks up to his inner-counterpart from a year ago at this point in the schedule (33 games played, FWIW.)

[table id=13 /]

As you can see, the numbers offer up some surprising insight. I suppose the case can be made that the only number that counts in the end are the 22 wins Howard has posted this year, but it’s hard to deny the fact that the rest of this year’s statistics are a far cry from where Howard was at this time last year. It’s easy to get fixated on the lower save percentage and higher GAA, but what really stands out to me is this: 16 fewer shots faced. 16 fewer minutes played. 18 more goals against.

That’s a pretty big blip on the radar.

Theoretically, one would expect Howard’s numbers to be a little bit sharper given that he’s faced fewer shots than he did last year up to this point, but again, it’s hard to really quantify the importance of that. How many of those shots were on the power play? How many were point-blank shots as opposed to blasts from the point? That said, 18 more goals on 16 fewer shots is definitely something worth keeping an eye on as the Wings move forward. Of course, the other side of the argument is that he has four more wins, three fewer losses,one less OT/SO loss, and one more shutout, but it’s hard to pay attention to those numbers when the save percentage and GAA numbers are so drastically different.

So the big question becomes “Is this proof that he’s slumping?” If you put a gun to my head I would say yes, but with an asterisk. It’s a statistical slump. As I said before, the most important piece here is the wins, and Howard’s atop the league right now. It is somewhat concerning though that he’s giving up more goals despite seeing fewer shots, suggesting that his defense is doing it’s job in limiting the shots he’s seeing, yet Jimmah  just isn’t stopping as many.

Of course, many will point out that there’s still half a season to play, and I’m not one to disagree. If you ask most Wings fans when Howard was at his best last year, they will tell you it was in the second half of the season when the Wings went on their tear to the playoffs. And while that might be true, Howard’s first half numbers were equally as impressive, something that tends to be overlooked in favor of more recent results. Of course, Howard’s early season success last year could be attributed to any given number of factors – including the competition he faced up to this point in both seasons – and his second half numbers this year may see a boost based on that very same metric. However, one thing that is for certain is that Howard won’t be the beneficiary of extra time off to work on his game, as was the case during the Winter Olympics last year. Instead of a full two weeks of rest and 1-on-1 time with Jim Bedard, it’s only seven days this time around. Only time will tell how much impact that has on Howard, but it’s definitely something worth keeping in mind as April and May roll around.

Despite what the numbers tell us, Howard is still an excellent goaltender and a guy the Wings feel incredibly comfortable with in net. He’ll have plenty of opportunity to improve his stats with Osgood on the sidelines, and I believe his numbers will show signs of improvement as the season marches along. However, there is real value in comparing the numbers, and there’s something to be said for the dip in statistical performance year-over-year. Are we at Steve Mason levels of decline? Absolutely not, and I wouldn’t anticipate getting anywhere close to that. But for those folks who believe in the “slump,” the numbers sure seem to be in their favor.

Photo courtesy of mLive

Jan. 14 :: I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey…

Courtesy of our good friend @stevieroxelle, I've nicknamed this The Rocky Horror PictOMG Kill It With Fire

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
The Wings and Jackets play a home-and-home with Columbus, beginning Friday night at 7pm Eastern.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
Despite having just finished a long road trip, there’s been a few days off in between games and the team should be rested. That’s great news for the guys we know are banged up and hopefully they come screaming out of the gate and take all four points available against the BlowJax this weekend.

NOW WHERE WERE WE?
These two have already played a home-and-home this season, though with a day in between. The last matchup was on November 28th, and the Wings were 4-2 winners.

OH, HI AGAIN / MEMBA ME?! / BEST NAME NOMINEE
No one on either team spent time with the other, Rusty Klesla is a pretty dope hockey name.

THEIR LAST GAMES
:: Detroit lost 5-4 to Colorado on Monday.
:: Columbus lost 4-3 to Phoenix on Tuesday.

Another gem from @stevieroxelle

EXPECTED LINEUP
By special request, the TPL Glossary is ready to jailsex your eyes.
Mulo — Zetterberg — Homer
Scuttles — Filppula — Thunderchief
Draper — Helm — Eaves
Miller — Abdelkader — Mursak

Lidstrom — Kronwall
Rafalski — Ericsson
Cirque — Kindl

Tiberius
MacDonald

Injuries [all credit to @stevieroxelle and @bradonweb for the DOPE nickname collection]
Mike “Through the Tears in My Eyes” EModano [wrist]
Dan “A Certain Naive Charm, But No Muscle” Cleary [ankle]
Pavel “Some People Would Give Their Right Arm for the Privilege” Datsyuk [hand]
Brad “I’m Mad For You Too” Stuart [jaw]
Chris “A Hot Groin and a Tricep” Osgood [groin]

Honorable Mentions
Todd “It Was a Mercy Killing!” Bertuzzi
Todd “Society Must be Protected” Bertuzzi
Todd “Clean and Jerk” Bertuzzi
Todd “I See You’ve Met My Faithful Handyman” Bertuzzi
Todd “He Had a Pick-Up Truck and the Devil’s Eyes” Bertuzzi
Todd “I’ve Tasted Blood and I Want MORE” Bertuzzi
Jiri “Touch-a Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me, I Wanna Be Dirty” Hudler
Jiri “I’m Not Much By Light of Day, But By Night I’m One Hell of a Lover” Hudler
Jiri “The Master is Not Yet Married, Nor Do I Think He Will Ever Be” Hudler
Jiri “Do the Snatch” Hudler
Jiri “Somebody Should be Told My Libido Cannot Be Controlled” Hudler
Darren “Oh Slowly Slowly! It’s Too Nice a Job to Rush” Helm
Darren “My Veels! My God, I Can’t Move My Veels!” Helm
Nicklas “Such a Perfect Specimen of Manhood” Lidstrom
Niklas “Say Goodbye to All This and Say Hello to Oblivion” Kronwall
Tomas “He Was a Little Brought Down Because When You Knocked, He Thought You Were the Candyman” Holmstrom
Valtteri “You’re Such an Exceptional Beauty, I’m Prepared to Forgive You” Filppula
Jonathan “I’ll Tell You Once, I Won’t Tell You Twice, You Better Wise Up” Ericsson
Jakub “Suddenly… You Get a Break!” Kindl
Tomas “Don’t Dream It, Be It” Tatar
Doug “DAMMIT” Janik
Ville “They Didn’t Like Me. They NEVER Liked Me” Leino
Jason “Was the Invisible Man” Williams
Henrik & Daniel “Do You Think I Made a Mistake Splitting His Brain Between the Two of Them” Sedin
Tom “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO BRAD!?” Kostopoulos
Chris “He Holds the Atlas Seal of Approval” Chelios
Gary “It’s Probably Some Kind of  Hunting Lodge for Rich Weirdos” Bettman
Larry “Frank-N-Furter, It’s All Over” Murphy
Larry “Whatever Happened to Saturday Night” Murphy
Larry “Don’t Get All Hot and Flustered, Use a Bit of Mustard” Murphy
*If there are any that you think I missed, throw them in the comments — the best one will be shared for all to enjoy on the TPL Facebook Page*

More great work from @stevieroxelle

THE FIVE HOLE
1. More Jimmah: With Chris Osgood on the shelf for the next two months and fan confidence in Jimmy Howard slipping (inexplicably, considering he leads the league in wins) — these kinds of games are the ones that you’d like to see a solid effort out of your netminder. Two clashes with a division foe that has, historically, been an easier game than others. Will he be able to maintain his focus for two straight nights?
2. Kindl Emergence: Likewise, it’s a great opportunity for Kindl to take advantage of his increased playing time. If ever he’s going to slam his fist on the table and say “I’m here to stay,” this weekend against the Blue Jackets would be an excellent time.
3. ‘Sak Attak: After scoring his first career NHL goal, presumably while riding the “Tatar was sent down instead of me” high, Jan Mursak might look like he was shot out of a cannon. And not the kind on the ridiculous third jerseys of the Jackets.
4. Zetterback: He’s made no secret that his back is bothering him (again), but Henrik Zetterberg is one of the stronger Red Wing forwards in the last month — pacing a tad more than a point per game. Fatigue is going to be an issue over the next two days, but here’s hoping the few days rest does that body good.
5. Brendan Smith, All-Star: Congratulations to Grand Rapids Griffin defenseman Brendan Smith, who was named to the AHL All-Star Team. Here’s hoping he can continue that receiving kind of announcement into his NHL career…

WHAT WE LEARNED AGAINST THE AVALANCHE
Joey MacDonald — like Chris Osgood — looks “spectacular” stopping fewer than 90% of the shots he faces.

WUT?

TP:60 – Episode #12

Don’t forget, you can keep up-to-date on all of the latest TP:60 happenings – including previews for upcoming shows – at the TP:60 Home Page. Miss an episode? Just want more TP:60 awesomeness? The TP:60 Archive has you covered.

It’s been awhile, but the gang is all back together on this week’s episode of TP:60. Hollis is back from Vegas, Petrella is kicking it NYC and Disch enjoys his hummus down in Austin as the boys host TP:60’s first recognized “Ladies Night” with Ellen from Big Red Machine and Jess from Bingo Bango. The squad tackles the spotty play of Jimmy Howard, how comfortable Joey MacDonald makes Wings fans feel as Jimmah’s backup and whether or not Henrik Zetterberg was actually “snubbed” from the All Star Game. The group also casts themselves as members of the “Ocean’s 11” franchise, while also talking about everyone’s best “shootout” moves. One word: HorseCop.

As always, send your questions, comments and feedback to contact@theproductionline.us. Looking to subscribe to the show? iTunes has you covered.