Feb. 4 :: The Mongooses. That’s a cool team name.

GET A JOB!

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
Our Red Wings play the first of back-to-back nights. I will be at both. Yes, even the one in Nashville. More on that later. This half, against the Jackets, begins at 7:30pm on Friday night.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
It’s the weekend. We were supposed to get Datsyuk and/or Holmstrom back. Neither are back for tonight’s game. The lineup is the same.

NOW WHERE WERE WE?
This is the fifth of six matchups with the Norris Division rivals. The Red Wings have gone 3-0-1 against the Blue Jackets so far this season, outscoring the Mighty Ohioans 14-11 in the process. The last game was January 15th, a 6-5 overtime victory at the Joe.

OH, HI AGAIN / MEMBA ME?! / BEST NAME NOMINEE
This is familiar: no one on either team spent time on the other; Rusty Klesla with a killer name.

THEIR LAST GAMES
:: Detroit beat the Ottawa 49ers, a touchdown to a field goal and a safety, on Wednesday.
:: Columbus lost to Chicago on Tuesday by a similar score, 7-4.

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

Lidstrom — Kronwall
Rafalski — Ericsson
Cirque — Kindl

Tiberius
McGillicutty

Injuries
Mike “I Got Beat Up At a Neil Diamond Concert By a Guy Named Scrunchy” EModano [wrist/March]
Pavel “You People and Your Slight Differences Disgust Me” Datsyuk [hand/this weekend]
Brad “You Shut Up, Sir!” Stuart [jaw/March]
Chris “We Still Have One Preposterously Slim Hope” Osgood [groin/March]
Tomas “Sweet Honey Bee of Infinity” Holmstrom [hand/this weekend]

Honorable Mentions
Todd “I Have Sweaty Booty Rash” Bertuzzi
Todd “I Am Not Evil, My Loan Officer Said So” Bertuzzi
Todd “Perfectly Symmetrical Violence Never Solved Anything” Bertuzzi
Todd “Your Granny Can Go To Hell” Bertuzzi
Jiri “Whatever’s In There, It’s the Only Thing I’ve Ever Wanted” Hudler
Jonathan “Ow! It’s Hot. The Butter in My Pocket Is Melting” Ericsson
Jason “GET A JOB!” Williams
*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. Nine in Nine: Obviously Johan Franzen’s five goal onslaught on the Senators will skew the numbers a bit, but here’s a guy that’s scored nine goals in the last nine games.
2. Howard’s Back In: After a less-than-stellar showing, Jimmy Howard will have the chance to redeem himself. And with back-to-backs this weekend, does Joey Mac get the call tomorrow?
3. Struggling BJs: Columbus is sitting in 14th place, 7 points back of the last playoff spot in the West. Reading the Dreger Report, it would seem that the Jackets are one of a few teams ready to start unloading in preparation of the trade deadline. He cites Steve Mason, Jakub Voracek, and Rostislav Klesla as players that are drawing interest. Perhaps they’ll be on full display tonight, showcasing them for an extra draft pick or something.
4. Modano Ahead of Schedule: With his demeanor certainly changing from the EModano days of yore, Mike Modano seems extremely optimistic that he’ll be back with the team earlier than the initial reports suggested. He’s on Week 9 of a 12-week rehab program, but has been skating.
5. In the Ditch: The Everett Silvertips bus went into a ditch following their win against the Kamloops Blazers. Detroit Red Wings prospect Landon Ferraro is the captain of the Silvertips, though he is likely out for the rest of the season following hernia surgery. No one was injured.

WHAT WE LEARNED AGAINST THE SENATORS
The Johan is strong. The Johan is noble. The Johan knows all. Except defense.

H2H2 Pledge Drive Reminder (with brilliant video help)

We’re lucky to have friends like Tyler from The Triple Deke. He’s always lookin’ out for us and — more importantly — the children. It’s thanks to him that the world has this new public service announcement, urging readers like you to avoid the path to MilburyLand, and gently urging the pledges to continue.

Let this new Bat Signal of videos remind you that the H2H2 Pledge Drive starts a week from tomorrow: February 11th. We’ve already received quite a few donation propositions, but we’d love to have some more.

Remember, your pledges can be good for single games or for all 12 leading up to the big event — whatever you’re comfortable with.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some naked Jenga to get to.

The Mule Kicks Some Ass (plus some hotness)

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld

FINAL SCORE (Hi Dad!)
7-5 Red Wings

THE BIG STORY
Gather ’round, friends, and I’ll tell you a tale that began way back in 2010. When we launched Operation: Curly Fries, we knew we were doing God’s work. No one can accuse TPL of being anything besides patriotic, and the junior beef would not stand in the way of our curly fries.

In the 234 games prior to Operation: Curly Fries, the Red Wings had three hat tricks. They’ve matched that number in only 23 games since OCF. For the math disinclined, that’s A HAT TRICK TEN TIMES AS OFTEN thanks — solely, by the way — to Operation: Curly Fries and our friends at Arby’s and Fox Sports.

Johan Franzen didn’t just net three tonight. He went fivesies. His five goals tonight were the most a Red Wing has scored since 1996, when Sergei Fedorov single-handedly waxed the Capitals with a 14-year-old Petrella in the crowd. ‘Twas a good night. Tonight… not so much.

ANALYSIS
:: I’ll be damned if I’m breaking down 12 goals, but there were some instances that can’t go without mention: notably, a late start once again. There was an early penalty, followed by an early goal, and stop me if you’ve heard this tired story before. For most of the first (and third) period, it seemed like every Red Wings opportunity — and goal — was countered by the Senators…and QUICKLY. The All-Star Game may have been on Sunday, but both teams were scoring at will on Wednesday. It was embarrassing to watch as a fan of defensive hockey.

:: For as awesome a great Franzen had offensively, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about his defense. The Chris Campoli goal, which made it 3-3, was a wicked shot from a skill standpoint, but he had no business being left that wide open on that spot of ice (aka Stamkos Square). For the first time in recent memory, I actually rewound the DVR because I wanted to know immediately — and couldn’t wait until the replay — to see who aborted their coverage. It was Mr. Mulo.

:: The talk of Canada will be of the intent to blow that (finally) didn’t shaft the Red Wings. This time, the Senators were on the short end of the stupid goddamn rule, as a puck clearly crossed the line before a whistle was heard. The goal would have (and probably should have) made it 6-6, but instead was blown dead after the ref lost sight of the puck under Howard. There’s no doubt the puck was under Tiberius’ arm, but it wasn’t there long and it was jarred loose without much of a struggle. The Wings have been burned by the intent to blow rule before, and it was their turn to cash in on one, I guess.

:: From the Statistical Anamoly Department, Dan Cleary and Jiri Hudler each went -2, while birthday boy Todd Bertuzzi and Ruslan Salei went +2. Franzen was the Wings’ lead man in that category, obviously, at +3, but Chris Campoli was the game’s leader at +4. Sergei Gonchar was a +3, and Filip Kuba didn’t increase his trade value going -3.

:: Henrik Zetterberg failed to get two shots on goal for the first time in WHO GIVES A SHIT. Frankly, I’m just thrilled that streak is over and I never have to hear about it again. I’m going to make good on my pledge and drop $40 into the H2H2 till. Johan Franzen had 10 — TEN! — shots on goal, far and away the game’s leader: the next closest were three Senators with 4 each. Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader were the only two Red Wings without a shot on goal.

: Because I promised Herm, win or lose, I present to him Ms. Paola Oliveria

And since we can’t do this anymore without offending the lady types, here’s a hunk of Brazilian man meat:

His name is Mateus Verdelho. Happy Googling

By the Numbers: First Half Production

The All Star Game is behind us and a return to meaningful hockey is only hours away, which means it’s time for a post that’s chock full of my favorite things: numbers. Sure, Disch has already given you a post about how to stay warm on cold days (The answer is “Grow A Pair, Austin”) and Petrella brought the thunder with his traditional pre-game post, which leaves me the only thing that I can easily manipulate in a post: stats!

As part of our commitment to (mostly) excellence here at TPL, we’ve been tracking line production for the entire first half of the season without really providing a ton of analysis around why it’s important or what exactly it tells us. No more! Analysis, Ahoy!

Let’s start with the forwards:

[table id=3 /]

Yes, that’s right: only half of the top 10 producing lines in Detroit are in double digits in terms of points this year. What’s more, Mike Modano hasn’t played in months, and one of  his lines is still a TOP 5 scoring line, with the other coming in at #6. Disconcerting? Not really, considering the Wings are performing so well without him, which in turn highlights the fact that the Wings have been forced to reply on different combinations and matchups to score their points this year. However, that scoring balance comes (potentially) at the expense of line chemistry, so it will be interesting to see how Babcock spreads the lines during the second half of the season, especially with top point getters Dan Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk needing to be worked back into the lineup. Yes, it’s great to see names like Tatar and Emmerton in this chart (albeit at the bottom), but with the playoffs around the corner, methinks the priority now needs to shift towards chemistry building and comfortable pairings as opposed to throwing things into the blender in hopes that something seems to work. If this chart is any indicator, we know which lines will be the most successful and Babcock should use that as his core framework in building four solid lines for the rest of the season.

Some other thoughts:

  • 42 of the 63 lines have registered a point, which means only 21 lines are on there for coughing up points while on the ice.
  • Unfortunately for the aforementioned Mike Modano, one of his other lines comes in at a team worst -6.
  • Only two lines are anything worse than a -2.

OK, over to the defense:

[table id=4 /]

Raise your hand if you thought it would be Rafalski and the Shitbox at the top of the pairings. I’ll wait. You’ll also notice that my hand is not up, because I’ve personally thought that while Ericsson has showed improvement over last season, Rafalski has looked like he’s taken a step back and not been quite as sharp. Perhaps that’s a direct result of his pairing with the Shitbox – and the accompanying job of minimizing his mistakes – but Rafalski’s lack of goals hasn’t translated over to a slip in production and solid defensive play. Would we all like to see more goals? Sure. But last year’s complaints are this year’s fix in terms of the Rigbox looking more like an NHL defenseman, and Rafalski’s somewhat boring play this year seems to be one of the keys to that turnaround for #52.

We’ll skip over power play production since there’s not much out of the ordinary there, but let’s make a pit stop at the PK numbers:

[table id=6 /]

If you’re looking for a silver lining to the Brad Stuart injury, then take solace in the fact that he can’t be out on the ice with Helm, Eaves and Lidstrom on the penalty kill. Seriously, 2 times as many goals against allowed by that line as compared to any other kill unit. I’m no Mike Babcock, but even I can see that it might be worth changing up the kill a bit when Stuart comes back. Either that, or I’m going to go into cardiac arrest if I see those 4 on the PK together once the playoffs start.

Finally, 4 on 4 scoring:

[table id=9 /]

Pretty straightforward. You want a win in OT? Hank, Mule, Lindstrom and Kronwall is the best bet (although, they have been on the ice for a goal against in OT this season.)

So that’s how it shakes out. Like I said, it will be interesting to see how these lines finish up down the stretch when consistency and chemistry become a priority, but there’s plenty of time for that to happen between now and the postseason.

Feb. 2 :: And don’tforgetyourbootiescuzits COLD out there today…

...then put your little hand in mine...

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
The Wings get back on the horse and begin their post-All Star break with a tussle against an Eastern Conference foe. Wings and Senators, Wednesday, 7pm Eastern

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
There’s been a little R&R, presumably, so some of the boys are gearing up for a return. Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom both skated with the team yesterday, but neither will return until the weekend. Dan Cleary, who has missed 14 games with a fractured ankle, will play his first game since the day after Christmas.

NOW WHERE WERE WE?
It’s been almost a full year since the Wings and Senators played against one another. Last February 13th, the Wings were 4-1 victors on the strength of goals from Pavel Datsyuk (who we won’t see tonight), Dan Cleary (who makes his return), Johan Franzen, and Kirk Maltby (tear). It was the last game Kirk Maltby would ever play in the NHL.

OH, HI AGAIN
No one on the Senators has ties to the Red Wings — but they do have Jason Spezza, who finished his junior career with the Windsor Spitfires.

MEMBA ME?!
Patrick Eaves will almost certainly be looking for a little bit of a “I told you so” against the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2003 Draft. He played two and a half years in Ottawa, before being traded to Carolina with Joe Corvo for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore.

BEST NAME NOMINEE
Despite being a massive cock, Jarkko Ruutu has a cooler name than all of the Guardian Project clowns put together.

THEIR LAST GAMES
:: Detroit beat New Jersey by a score of 3-1 a full week ago.
:: Ottawa also played New Jersey for their last game, a 2-1 loss last night.

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

Lidstrom — Kronwall
Rafalski — Ericsson
Cirque — Kindl

Tiberius
McGillicutty

As is tradition around here, please enjoy Groundhog Day references on February 2nd.
Injuries
Mike “Winter, Slumbering in the Open Air, Wears on its Smiling Face a Dream” EModano [wrist/March]
Pavel “I’d Love to Stay Here and Talk With You, But I’m Not Going To” Datsyuk [hand/this weekend]
Brad “I’m Bettin’ He’s Gonna Swerve First” Stuart [jaw/March]
Chris “‘So Did You End Up Going Pro with that Belly Button Thing?” Osgood [groin/March]
Tomas “People Just Don’t Understand What Is Involved In This. This is an Artform!” Holmstrom [hand/this weekend]

Honorable Mentions
Todd “What If There Is No Tomorrow?” Bertuzzi
Todd “It’s Gonna Be Cold, It’s Gonna Be Gray, and It’s Gonna Last You for the Rest of Your Life” Bertuzzi
Jiri “You Wanna Throw Up Here Or You Wanna Throw Up in the Car?” Hudler
Jiri “He’s the Fastest Jack in Jefferson County!” Hudler
Jiri “At Sunset, We Made Love Like Sea Otters” Hudler
Niklas “Don’t Drive on the Railroad Track” Kronwall
Kyle “Too Early for Flapjacks?” Wellwood
Larry “No Thanks, I’ve Seen Larry Eat” Murphy
Greg “Now Don’t Tell Me You Don’t Remember Me Because I Sure as Heckfire Remember You” Stefan
*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. Refreshed? Good: Despite having one of the league’s better records, no one is thrilled with how the Red Wings have gotten there. They’ve allowed three or more goals in 17 of their last 19 games, going 10-6-3 in that span. Not at all a bad record, but it hasn’t felt like Red Wing hockey.
2. Recovering Injuries: As we entered the All-Star break, we had six regulars on the shelf, and at least two others (Howard and Zetterberg) that were playing hurt. Hopefully that week off has pushed some of the guys closer to 100%, and we should all be excited to have Cleary back in the lineup. If he can pick up where he left off, we’ll be in good shape. He had 15 goals in the 25 games before his ankle was facocta by Brad Stuart’s shot from the point.
3.  Sak Attak: The Wings curiously recalled Jan Mursak on Tuesday, prompting the “who isn’t playing then” chatter, and it was revealed to be Pavel Datsyuk. Dangles was taken off of IR before the break, but isn’t ready for game play yet, apparently, and will be on the shelf for at least one more game. Mursak has played in 14 games for the Red Wings this season — netting himself a goal.
4. Team Lidstrom: Homeboy went +7 in an All-Star Game. A game in which he was on the ice for 10 of his team’s 11 goals. That’d be incredible for an anomaly, but considering its Nick Lidstrom and we’ve grown accustomed to dominating performances like that — including ones that fly under the radar — we should all rise and give a slow clap today.
5. Ugly Jerseys: Don’t forget — you’ve got a few more days to present your ugly third jersey photoshops to us and to Etched in Cold to be considered for totally awesome prizes.

WHAT WE LEARNED AGAINST THE DEVILS
They are just horrible.

Ugly Jersey Contest :: Last Week for Entries!

As I’m sure you remember, our friend Rob at Etched in Cold has begun an ugly Wings third jersey contest, and we’re happy to help spread the word and accept your submissions. In the last week, we’ve received upwards of two dozen examples — each of them horrific and hilarious in their own ways.

Let this post serve as a reminder — submissions are due February 10th, at which time Rob will punch the designs into the matrix and it will spit out the most awful abominations in Paint/Photoshop history, and the prizes will be given out — presumably through sunglasses to protect Mr. Masters’ eyes from the ugly.

Check out EIC for a few more examples, but I’d like to share with you a handful of options you’ll have to view when all is said and done…

@thetinnishflash's falcon nom nom noming an old English D
@thetripledeke's brilliant bear with wings (I see what you did there)

@spacecityhockey’s Guardian Project Abomination
@captnorris5's MuleFucker

Remember, this is just a taste. Check EIC for more.

And keep ’em coming, Hockeytown!