Wings lose their third in four games

“Oh sorry, I was counting radishes. One…two…three. Three radishes. Three great big radishes.”



For the fourth time in a row, the Red Wings ran into a hot goaltender. First it was Auld, then it was Clemmensen, followed by Price, and now Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. Chris Osgood did what he could – playing admirably for the second time since returning from illness, but – for the second time since Friday – came away with a loss, this time in regulation.

Detroit’s lone goal scorer, Drew Miller, had his best game as a Red Wing, seemingly rewarding Coach Babcock for leaving him in the lineup, as Kirk Maltby was scratched instead. Considering the Kronwall injury, the Wings carried the best lineup possible into Nashville, but they came up a tad short. It was 2-1 Predators with three minutes left in regulation, and Detroit put the burners on. They seemed destined to tie it up and head to overtime for the third game in a row, but Martin Erat sealed it with his second of the night.

TPL’S TAKE:
1. Jonathan Ericsson had an end-to-end rush that was a thing of beauty in the first period. The Versus commentators said he looked like a “young Bobby Orr,” and while I’m not ready to make that comparison, I will take back some of the bad things I’ve been saying about him. Not all of them, just a couple.
2. Speaking of the Versus commentators, every time they referred to Francis Bouillon, I could have sworn they said Francis BOOYAH! Also, there is no Brad Lebda on the Red Wings.
3. The Wings took an inordinate amount of dumbass penalties in this one, and paid the price twice. Todd Bertuzzi and Tomas Holmstrom each received four minutes worth of penalties in this one: Bertuzzi was called twice deep in the offensive zone, and Homer – obviously tired of only being called for goaltender interference – got the first “closing his hand on the puck” penalty of the year.
4. 109-year-old Jason Arnott scored during the first Bertuzzi penalty, and Martin Erat scored on the first Holmstrom penalty.
5. Some jackass threw a hat on the ice after Martin Erat’s second goal (the Predator’s third). That’s not how it works, son, but I guess they’ve still got their training wheels on south of the Mason/Dixon. Let’s not get too crazy, they’ve only had 11 years to learn basic hockey terms.
6. Derek Meech didn’t look too bad at all. I noticed him a handful of times, including pinching on offense. I forgot he liked to do that.
7. Ville Leino was bumped off of the second line, in favor of Drew Miller, who I mentioned had his best game as a Red Wing. For much of the third period, it was Bertuzzi/Datsyuk/Homer and Miller/Z/Cleary. Leino actually generated quite a few chances playing with Justin Abdelkader and Brad May – but that line was playing quite well all night. I’m surprised at how effective they are, not only as agitators, but scoring chance creators.
8. I promised myself I’d stop tearing Todd Bertuzzi apart every single day – even though he flat-out deserves it tonight. Instead, I’ll refer you to The Triple Deke, who does a more-than-admirable job telling you all you need to know about #44. Read it RIGHT NOW, and THEN come back to read the final two points.
9. Chris Osgood made more circus saves than usual. In fact, he made more than I can remember him EVER making in an entire season. Like I said above, he played well, making more than enough saves to keep his team in the game (and, if you’re familiar with TPL, that’s all I’ll ever ask of goaltenders), but it was the guys in front of him that let the fans down tonight.
10. Finally, Darren McCarty did quite well in his television debut. He was gesturing with his hands a lot, repeating himself and tried to keep it simple, but rambled on occasion. I work in television, with talent, so that’s just first-time jitters, and he’ll be over them soon. He had great things to add, and fit in just fine. If he continues to keep that post, and we all hope he does, he’ll be the best one on the panel in about a week.

What’s next?
The Red Wings head back home to play the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey, AP

Motown heads to Music City.

One in a series of retarded alternate logos used in Tennessee.


NOW, WHERE WERE WE?
The last time these two teams met was the third to last game oft the 2008-09 season. Detroit lost that game in a shootout, 4-3, with Osgood in net. Franzen (34), Lidstrom (16), and Kronwall (6) were the goal-scorers in regulation, and Scuttles scored the lone shootout goal for the Red Wings. Marian Hossa left the game in the second period with a “sore groin,” but returned to action for the playoffs. Not that you would have noticed him. 

WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE THEN?
The Predators were the lone Central Division team to NOT make the playoffs, finishing four points out of eighth place. They lost Vernon Fiddler, Greg Zanon, Scott Nichol, Jed Ortmeyer, Radek Bonk, and Ville Koistenen — and replaced them with, well, Francis Bouillon and some two-way guys.  

OH, HI AGAIN
The closest thing the Predators have to a former Red Wing is David Legwand, who’s a native Detroiter.

MEMBA ME?!
The only former Predator in the Red Wings system is Andy Delmore.

DID YOU KNOW…
…that the following players were selected by the Predators in their expansion draft: Mike Richter (who was an impending free agent), Al Iafrate (who retired, rather than head to BBQ Land), Uwe Krupp (who signed with the Red Wings instead), and Doug Brown (who Detroit lost in the draft, but traded to get back the next day)? 

THEIR LAST GAMES
–Detroit won in a shootout — Huzzah! — against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. 
–Nashville also won in a shootout on Saturday, against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

RECORDS
Detroit Red Wings :: 11-6-4 (3rd in Central, 8th in West) :: 4-4-2 on the road.
Nashville Sabrecat Things :: 12-8-1 (4th in Central, 10th in West) :: 7-3-0 at home.

EXPECTED LINEUP
I haven’t heard anything about starting goaltender for this one, but I have to assume Babcock is going to go back to Chris Osgood to try to get him back into a groove after missing four games while ill – and losing his one start since. And check out the new defense pairings…

Bertuzzi — Datsyuk — Holmstrom
Cleary — Zetterberg — Leino
Draper — Helm — Eaves
May — Abdelkader — Miller

Lidstrom — Ericsson
Lebda — Rafalski
Stuart — Meech

Osgood
Howard

Scratch:
Kirk “Four-Time Healthy Scratch” Maltby
Injured:
Andreas “Year-to-Year” Lilja
Johan “Mouthguard Connoisseur” Franzen
Valtteri “Santa Hat” Filppula
Jason “The Ginger Dandy” Williams
Niklas “Son of a BITCH!” Kronwall

QUICK THOUGHTS
1. The Nik Kronwall injury hurts – big time. He was our leading scorer on the blueline and his presence on the power play will obviously be missed. A lot of folks are dreading a Lebda/Meech pairing, and who can blame them? Hopefully, Derek Meech has been learning by watching (he’s been a healthy scratch for the last 8 games, and 16 of this season’s 21 games). In a related story, if you haven’t read this article at the Scrappy Octopus, you should turn in your Red Wings fan card right away.
2. One has to wonder if Mike Babcock is going to do what he can to keep Brad May in the lineup as a result of another injury. Not that I’m ready to concede that May’s presence is an effective preventative, but Babcock seems to think so. Would Laraque have stuck his knee out if May was in the lineup to do something about it? Yeah, probably, but he’s an ass. But the fact is – that’s why May’s on the team and he isn’t effective in that respect from the press box. 
3. Darren McCarty is making his talking-head debut tonight on Versus. I’ve never been more sure of anything than I am he’ll do a fantastic job.
4. Mike Babcock is putting Derek Meech on the power play instead of Jonathan Ericsson. Allow me to repeat: Detroit Red Wings head coach Michael Babcock has selected reserve defenseman Derek Meech to play the point on the second power play unit instead of 100-miles-per-hour shooter Jonathan Ericsson.
5. The Olympic year schedule is rearing its ugly head once again, with four games between now and Saturday. We’ll probably see a bit of Jimmy Howard, as after tonight the Red Wings have the Thrashers Wednesday, the Flames Friday, and Blues Saturday. 

WHAT WE LEARNED vs. the Canadiens
We learned that we can, in fact, get the second point after the 60th minute. We shouldn’t lose all hope in Jimmy Howard. The power play could have used Nik Kronwall in that first period – methinks the score wouldn’t have been 2-0 after one. 

PREDATOR WE COVET
I love Joel Ward. I was secretly hoping we’d pursue him this summer before he re-signed in Nashville.

Wings escape Montreal with shootout win

Oh, hockey gods, why do you hate me so? Back to back overtime games? With my Red Wings notoriously bad in the extra frame and/or shootouts? Thankfully, the Red Wings win this one in a shootout, on the shoulders of skill competition goals from Datsyuk and Zetterberg – and regulation goals from Stuart and Datsyuk. All in all, it was a great game to watch – lots of fun, but plenty of blown opportunities for the Red Wings to blow this game wide open.

The talk of this game will be Georges Laraque’s knee-on-knee with Niklas Kronwall, which was brutal and very intentional. It’s a little strange that it only earned him two (additional) minutes in the penalty box – but he was assessed a total of six minutes in penalties on that shift (after high-sticking Darren Helm a moment earlier). Whatever. Thanks for the two goals, Georges.

They’d be the only Detroit goals in regulation. Mike Cammalleri had both of Montreal’s tallies, and the teams headed to overtime tied at 2. After a fairly eventful overtime, I was admittedly a little nervous to see the shootout with Jimmy Howard in net, but he made a beautiful save on the first shooter (the very same Mike Cammelleri that buried two during the game) and the second shooter put one off the post. There wasn’t a need third shooters, and the Wings earned their eleventh win of the season.

TPL’S TAKE:
1. Okay, seriously. How many damn jerseys do these people have? It’s starting to look like very minor league hockey with a different gimmick jersey every night.
2. I know Montreal Canadiens fans are notoriously douchy, but I loved hearing that crowd. The oohs, ahhs, boos, and cheers in unison was awesome. It was a sign that everyone in the building was (wait for it…) watching, caring and understanding what was going on. Pay attention, Colorado.
3. I enjoyed the HNIC commentators, too. How old-timey is that one guy who says DETROY-IT? I felt like I could have been watching an Original Six game from 1930. Except I was watching it on television. And in color. And there was a black guy in the game.
4. Either the Montreal penalty kill is exceptional, or Detroit’s power play sucks donkey nards. Yes, the PP had two goals, but with various 5-on-3s and playing the entire first period on the man advantage, it should have been 5-0 heading for the first intermission. They were relatively useless in the first three minutes of the PP and I question Justin Abdelkader on the man advantage at this point in his career. I love the kid, but he looked a tad out place and couldn’t really get a handle on the system. But if you’re on the fifth of a six minute power play, you’re probably running out of bodies to put on the ice. That said, Datsyuk’s goal was a thing of beauty. Absolutely wonderful re-direct. Brad Stuart’s goal was odd because it seemed like it SHOULD have hit all kindsa stuff on the way in, but instead it went straight in. It was a great shot from a guy that was shot-crazy (with 8 in the first period).
5. Was that Brian Rafalski that passed the puck directly to Mike Cammalleri in the defensive zone in the first period? What the hell was that, his Todd Bertuzzi impression? While we’re on him, Bertuzzi truly is useless. Losing the puck during a 5-on-3 because he refuses to pass to anyone – to a guy a foot and a half smaller than him, no less – is absolutely unacceptable. He’s supposed to be the big, dumb, strong kind. Instead he’s just big and dumb. In related news, he’s on pace for 12 goals. Here he comes, Maurice Richard Trophy!
6. I had planned on watching the Satellite Hotstove, but as I was fast-forwarding through it, I didn’t see Pierre LeBrun shoving his fat head into a retarded helmet prototype, so I kept going.
7. Jimmy Howard should have had the first Cammalleri goal a few seconds into the third. A shot from that far away shouldn’t get past you unless it redirects a handful of times. He had no chance, however, on that second goal. Yeah, Nick Lidstrom made an ill-advised pass, but he could do that once a game and I wouldn’t be mad at him because he plays the rest of the game like a robot.
8. Patrick Eaves played a hell of a game. As a matter of fact, everyone on the third and fourth lines played really well. I especially liked Drew Miller jacking up Laraque’s face and then pretending he didn’t know he did it. Attaboy! Eye for an eye. Or in this case, eye for a knee.
9. I’m starting to feel bad for Ville Leino. Homeboy couldn’t buy a goal tonight. And he really did have a few chances – from fairly close in, too. He’s doing a lot of things right, getting to the right spots, and going to the front of the net. He just can’t seem to pot one. But they’ll come, I still have faith that he can find his finishing touch.
10. Really physical game, eh? I feel like Detroit held their own – even without the services of Niklas Kronwall.  Everyone seemed to embrace the physicality of tonight’s game and it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch (minus the Kronwall injury, obviously).

What’s next?
Headin’ to the hotbed of hockey: Tennessee. Nashville Predators on Monday. Yeehaw.

Photo Credit: Graham Hughes, AP/The Canadian Press

SACRE BLEU! Red Wings va Francais!


NOW, WHERE WERE WE?
The Wings and Canadiens last met on November 26, 2008. The Habs came out on top of that one, 3-1, but the Wings were without the services of Danny Cleary (eye) and Tomas Holmstrom (back). Johan Franzen was the lone goal scorer for the Red Wings and Ty Conklin took the loss.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE THEN?
Montreal just squeaked into the post-season, needing various tie-breakers with the Panthers to qualify for the tourney, where they lasted exactly four games. They had more turnover than any other team this summer, and are (SHOCKINGLY) struggling to find their chemistry as a unit in this, their second 100th Anniversary year. Somehow. IN are Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri, Hal Gill, Brian Gionta, Jaroslav Spacek, Paul Mara, and Marc-Andre Bergeron. OUT are Chris Higgins, Ryan McDonagh, Doug Janik (hey!), Mike Komisarek, Alexei Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Tom Kostopoulos, Mathieu Schneider, Alex Tanguay, Bobby Lang, Patrice Bergeron, and Francis Bouillon.

OH, HI AGAIN

Add to the list of departed Habs Mathieu Dandenault, who – had he been resigned – would have been the lone former Red Wing this season since Schneider and Lang left town.

MEMBA ME?!
Having Doug Janik is like having our very own Mike Sillinger. Again.
DID YOU KNOW…
Henrik Zetterberg is on a 5-game point streak, during which he has 11 points.

THEIR LAST GAMES
–Detroit played last night, losing to the Panthers 2-1 in overtime.
–Montreal also played last night, defeating the Capitals 3-2 in DC.

RECORDS
Detroit Red Wings :: 10-6-4 (3rd in Central, 8th in West) :: 3-4-2 on the road
Quebec State University :: 11-11-0 (4th in Northeast, 12th in East) :: 6-5-0 at home
EXPECTED LINEUP
Jimmy Howard is expected to get the call tonight, the second of back-to-back nights. I haven’t heard about any other lineup changes, so it looks exactly like last night’s game, except the goaltending change.

Bertuzzi — Datsyuk — Holmstrom
Cleary — Zetterberg — Leino
Draper — Helm — Eaves
Miller — Abdelkader — Maltby
Lidstrom — Rafalski
Kronwall — Stuart
Ericsson — Lebda
Howard
Osgood
Scratches:
Derek “TweetSuite” Meech
Brad “LaRue” May
Injured:
Andreas “Three Train” Lilja
Johan “Team MVP” Franzen
Valtteri “Santa Hat” Filppula
Jason “Loves Columbus” Williams
QUICK THOUGHTS
1. Both teams played last night, but the Canadiens won – so they’ll probably be coming in feeling better than the Red Wings.
2. Jimmy Howard might want to come out and show he’s deserving of starting a regular game. Don’t be surprised to see him try to take advantage of his opportunities a little bit more now that Chris Osgood is back.
3. The third line was moving last night, and here’s hoping they still have some juice left in those legs. And they can convert on their various offensive chances.
4. Both teams are ravaged with injuries, so no excuses.
WHAT WE LEARNED vs. the Panthers
67 shots directed toward the net isn’t enough, apparently.
CANADIEN WE COVET
I like Mike Cammalleri, and at the risk of enraging the “grit groupies” who won’t like that I picked a 5-9er, I’d like to remind them that he scored 82 points in 81 games last season.

Panthers use OT to knock off Wings

Detroit won’t like this one. They absolutely, wholeheartedly deserved the two points tonight, badly outplaying the Florida Panthers throughout much of the game. They only allowed two shots in the first period, eventually winning the shot war 40-20.
Pavel Datsyuk got off his schneid and Henrik Zetterberg continued his point streak, but the best player on the ice for the Wings was Darren Helm. He used his speed to create quite a bit of offense, including two breakaways (neither of which he could convert, however). He was blazing all night, and I was sure he was going to net one at some point. That’s just bad news for Montreal…
Scott Clemmensen won that game for the Panthers. He stopped 39 of 40 shots, playing in his first game since criticizing the defense. Take that, karma.

TPL’S TAKE:
1. Chris Osgood played admirably in his return from flu-like symptoms. The numbers don’t look so great, though, allowing the two goals on just twenty shots (.900 save percentage), but this one can’t be hung on him.
2. On the bright side, Jonathan Ericsson didn’t score for the Panthers.
3. Darren Helm is my hero. That kid has wheels.
4. So does Kris Draper. Rob mentioned during the game that someone should remind him of his age, because he looked two decades younger tonight.
5. Come to think of it, the entire third line was good. Patrick Eaves had a buzz about him, nearly netting himself a goal on a nifty feed from Draper.
6. The fourth line was solid, as well. Great effort along the boards from Justin Abdelkader. Drew Miller was putting himself in the right places. Kirk Maltby was making things happen at both ends. That’s a good line.
7. The Panthers played quote-unquote effective defense. They allowed a ton of scoring changes in the first, and a ton of shots the whole game, but there weren’t a ton of “oh man, how is that not in the net” moments. Eaves’ one-timer probably should have hit net, but that was a hell of save. Todd Bertuzzi (surprise!) whiffed badly on an attempted one-timer. If Darren Helm could have gotten a stronger shot of on either of his breaks, it would have been a different game, but he lost the handle the first time and was being mugged on the second.
What’s next?
Montreal tomorrow.
Photo Credit: Jerry S. Mendoza, AP

Red Wings / Panthers :: November 20

Roar. Sigh.

NOW, WHERE WERE WE?
The Wings and Panthers will meet almost exactly a year after their last run-in. On November 14, 2008, our Red Wings defeated Florida’s Second Favorite Hockey Team 3-2 with Ty Conklin in net, and on the strength of two Hossa goals and a third from Franzen. The win gave Detroit a record of 11-2-3. They’ll be looking for their eleventh win of the season once again against the Panthers.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE THEN?
The Panthers BARELY missed the playoffs, finishing with the same amount of points and wins as the 8th place Montreal Canadiens, which is heartbreaking for a team that – like Drew says – hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since the Clinton Administration.
OH, HI AGAIN
Shawn Matthias, the prospect included in the deal that brought Todd Bertuzzi to Hockeytown originally, is Panther property, but he’s currently in Rochester of the AHL. Would have been awesome to see him line up directly across from Todd Bertuzzi and not fall for Bertuzzi’s retarded Savard impression.
MEMBA ME?!
Todd Bertuzzi only played seven games for Florida before THEY realized he wasn’t all he was cracked up to be. Andreas Lilja is also a former Panther, but he’ll be in Vancouver visiting that chiropractor again.
DID YOU KNOW…
The Panthers all-time record against the Red Wings is 3 wins, 9 losses, 3 overtime losses, and 5 ties. The Red Wings have outscored the Panthers  71-47 in their 20 games. Why, yes. Yes I did go through each Panthers season manually and do the math.

THEIR LAST GAMES
–Detroit lost to Dennis LaRue and the rest of the Dallas Stars on Wednesday. The final score was 3-1
–Florida smoked Buffalo 6-2, with goals from six different scorers.
RECORDS
Detroit Red Wings :: 10-6-3 (3rd in Central, 9th in West) :: 7-1-1 at home
Miami-Dade Orange Jerseys :: 8-9-2 (4th in Southeast, 13th in East) :: 5-4-1 on the road
EXPECTED LINEUP
Chris Osgood will start for the first time since getting blown out in Toronto during Hall of Fame weekend. Brad May, despite his fight and obvious goal on Wednesday, comes out and a healthy Kirk Maltby goes in.
Bertuzzi — Datsyuk — Holmstrom
Cleary — Zetterberg — Leino
Draper — Helm — Eaves
Miller — Abdelkader — Maltby
Lidstrom — Rafalski
Kronwall — Stuart
Ericsson — Lebda
Osgood
Howard
Scratches:
Derek “Press Pass” Meech
Brad “That’s a Goal, Boys” May
Injured:
Andreas “Pretty Much Retired” Lilja
Johan “This. Is. Sparta.” Franzen
Valtteri “Red Cast” Filppula
Jason “Not the Basketball Player” Williams
QUICK THOUGHTS
1. It’ll be really interesting to see how the Red Wings rebound from getting hosed on Wednesday. There’s no guarantee the outcome would have been any different in terms of wins and losses, but it definitely deflated the sails a little bit. I expect them to bounce back like the professionals they are, and now that Uncle Mike has said his peace, its water under the bridge.
2. Florida is coming off a great effort in Buffalo, beating a hell of a hockey team. They should be flexing their muscles and feeling good about themselves as they come into the Joe, so they shouldn’t be underestimated despite the fact that they haven’t been on the playoff radar the last few ice ages.
3. I would love if Henrik Zetterberg continued his hot streak. In the last four games, he has five goals and five assists, he’s shooting 31% and is +6. Also, he’s Arbified a desperately hungry nation of Wings fans.
4. Draper, Helm, Eaves, and Miller are coming off of rather quiet games, and I’d expect a little more jump from them.
5. I’m sure we’re all excited to see how Chris Osgood plays in his first game back from an extended break. He’s due for a good performance, but he’s also rather cold.
WHAT WE LEARNED vs. the Stars
Tin foil makes for great hats.
PANTHER WE COVET
Shawn Matthias. Because that means the Todd Bertuzzi trade didn’t happen. Of course, he still may have signed as a free agent in July…but still. I’d only be embarrassed for the Wings once instead of twice.

Dallas Stars 3 – Detroit Red Wings 1 – Toronto Incompetent Officials 1

Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, seen here demonstrating a new style of netminding: turny-backy.
Well, the story here is going to be the egregious blown call on what would have been the Red Wings second goal. Brad May (WORD!) took a shot, and the puck which became wedged between Stars goalie Alex Auld’s leg pad and the side of the net. It was a good four or five inches past the goal-line, in plain view of anyone with eyeballs that it was as good a goal as ever’s been scored.
A few seconds later, the whistle blew. The referees (Stephane Auger and Dennis LaRue) decided it was no goal, for some reason, and play was resumed after a phone call from Toronto, which I assume went a little something like this:
LARUE: ‘Allo, this is LaRue.
TORONTO : Dude, totally a goal.
LARUE : Neaux. Neaux es goal. C’est le Rouge Wings. You sayed Rouge Wings must loses.
TORONTO : Yeah, but I mean… supposed to be less obvious. I mean, I can’t believe we got away with that six players on the ice thing during the Finals…
LARUE : Oh yes, this was good.
TORONTO : Mike Babcock really scares us, I really don’t want to fine him after he understandably tears us apart in the post-game.
LARUE : Que sera sera.
I have now exhausted all the French I know. See the shitstorm for yourself.
TPL’S TAKE:

1. If we’re going to get royally jobbed by the officials, I suppose I’d prefer it to be in the 19th game of the regular season, as opposed to playing against six skaters for 45 seconds in the Final. Or any number of waved off goals in the playoffs. Needless to say, we’re owed. Big time.
2. Brad May’s fight was actually pretty funny. He and Barch seem to genuinely like one another, and were having a good laugh together during the warm-up and from separate penalty boxes. It was great to see the mutual respect. The fight was pretty good until May punked out, eventually falling to the ice and bringing Barch with him, although it had lasted quite a while.
3. Todd Bertuzzi is the worst player in the NHL. I know I’m a little extra hard on him, but his blind spin-o-rama passes to nowhere are getting OLD. Not only that, there was a time in the third when his linemates did a hell of a job to keep the puck deep and, alone in front of the net, he passed the puck — with fervor — to the Stars defenseman. He’s absolutely horrendous with the puck on his stick.
4. That game was the first one the Red Wings lost in regulation at the Joe this year. Their previous “home” loss was in Sweden.
5. Henrik Zetterberg continued his hot streak, scoring another beauty in the second period. It was the only time that any of the Red Wings seemed interested in playing tonight.
6. Jonathan Ericsson. Boy, oh boy. First he deflects the first Stars goal past Jimmy Howard, then he takes a(nother) dumbass penalty, leading to the third and most deflating Stars goal. I won’t go so far as to say that he doesn’t belong in the lineup, but he’s certainly running out of good will. Good will, it would seem, he earned by being 6 foot 5.
7. Justin Abdelkader played a hell of a game. He was all over the place, making things happen. Great defensive plays, awesome forechecking. He’s a heck of a player. Brad May had his best game so far in a Red Wings uniform. Their linemate, Drew Miller, wasn’t a factor – this was probably his weakest goal since arriving from the waiver wire. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was out and Maltby was back in on Friday.
8. Ville Leino, invisible manager of the Leino Lounge. I’m starting to wonder if he’d be playing if all were healthy.
9. Jimmy Howard played as well as we could have hoped. I’m not sure he had a chance on any of the three that got by him. Howard played in his fourth in a row, allowing an average of 2.25 goals. If you had told me that the Wings would go 3-1 with Jimmy Howard over these four, I would have taken that deal.
10. Moral of the story: The Stars had 32 shots. The Red Wings had 32 shots. Alex Auld stopped 30 of them. Jimmy Howard did not. Said James Tiberius Howard: “that’s the type of game game I needed to come up with another save for the guys.” FINAAAALLLLLLYYYYYYYYYY…..a Red Wings goaltender says what is Commandment Number 1 for Netminding. Jimmy Howard did not lose this game. As a matter of fact, he did more to keep the Wings in the game than they usually get from their goaltender. But, when looking at the byline, and seeing that ALEX FREAKING AULD made 30 (or 31) saves, and your goaltender didn’t, it’s clear that another save might have been the difference. Or a few more, better shots going the other way. Yeah, probably the last one.

What’s next?
Panthers. Friday. Joe Louis. 7:30pm. Supposedly Chris Osgood’s triumphant return to the crease.

Photo Credit: Carlos Osorio, AP

Red Wings and Stars Renew Acquaintances

God DAMN that’s an ugly uterus-like logo.

NOW, WHERE WERE WE?
It’s actually been quite some time since the Wings met the Stars. On January 29th, 2009, Dallas chased Chris Osgood on its way to a 4-2 victory at the Joe. The Stars scored three goals in the first period, Ty Conklin came in for the second and immediately allowed a fourth goal. The Wings got goals from Marian Hossa and Andreas Lilja.

WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE THEN?
A week after the Wings game, Dallas dumped Sean Avery. They didn’t qualify for the playoffs, which was a bit of a shocker. Both Co-GM’s were “re-assigned” in favor of Joe Nieuwendyk. Brendan Morrison, Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor departed Texas and were replaced by Karlis Skrastins, Warren Peters, and Jeff Woywitka. Yeah, that oughta do it.

OH, HI AGAIN
Garrett Stafford, former Griffin, plays with the AHL’s uniquely named Texas Stars. So, barring a barrage of call-ups, we won’t meet any former Red Wings property.

MEMBA ME?!
Likewise, the only former Star in the Red Wings system is Doug Janik.

DID YOU KNOW…
It has been 15 games since Nicklas Lidstrom put one in the net. That’s obviously not his main objective, but if he can get going – with Z, Datsyuk and Kronwall keeping up their paces – things will start to feel like they’re back to normal.

THEIR LAST GAMES
–Detroit went 3-0-0 last week, outscoring opponents 19-6 along the way. The most recent game, Saturday vs. Anaheim, was a 7-4 winner, featuring a hat trick from Henrik Zetterberg. Mmm…Arby’s…
–Dallas has been off since Saturday, as well. They lost to the Coyotes, in Phoenix, by a score of 3-2. Expect them to be fully rested. The only sighting of Alex Auld will be when a puck sails into the Stars bench, prompting a pan of not-really-that-frightened faces.

RECORDS
Detroit Red Wings :: 10-5-3 (3rd in Central, 7th in West) :: 7-1-1 at home
The Artists Formerly Known as the Minnesota North Stars :: 8-5-6 (3rd in Pacific, 8th in West) :: 5-3-3 on the road

EXPECTED LINEUP
Chris Osgood is out again, and Daniel Larsson has been recalled for the third time in five days. Jimmy Howard will get his fourth start in a row, and the former Swedish netminder of the year will learn the craft by counting faceoffs. Or something.

Bertuzzi — Datsyuk — Holmstrom
Cleary — Zetterberg — Leino
Draper — Helm — Eaves
Miller — Abdelkader — May

Lidstrom — Rafalski
Kronwall — Stuart
Ericsson — Lebda

Howard
Larsson

Scratches: Derek “Scratch” Meech, Kirk “Recovered” Maltby, Chris “Quote-Unquote Flu” Osgood
Injured: Andreas “Chirotastic” Lilja, Johan “Disabled Mule” Franzen, Valtteri “Blonde Beauty” Filppula, Jason “Fantastic Fibula” Williams

QUICK THOUGHTS
1. Brad Richards is good. Very good. He leads the Stars with 20 points. Relative unknown, but also very good, James Neal leads the team in goals, with 10.
2. I’m Anxious to see which Jimmy Howard shows up: the one that allowed only one goal in back-to-back games, or the other one. Ya know…the one that sucks.
3. I think we should keep letting Niklas Kronwall shoot at will. He’s got a hot hand, USE IT.
4. Is it me, or is the power play INFINITELY better without Jason Williams (or Mikael Samuelsson) on the point?
5. Check out this back-and-forth I did with ESPN Dallas regarding tonight’s tilt.

WHAT WE LEARNED vs. the Ducks
For the second time in three games, we learned that offense should not be used as an excuse for this team’s troubles. We also learned that Jimmy Howard, not unlike his team, is a bit of an enigma. If the right one shows up, the team should be okay against the Stars, who have a great roster but have been underachievers for the last year or so…

Last but not least, we learned that Arby’s curly fries taste better when they’re earned. They may not be free (and ZERO of you sent me or Rob any of yours…) in New York, but it was still yummy.

STAR WE COVET
I love Brendan Morrow. That is all.

Rubber ducky, you’re the one…

Just like usual…no sign of Bert
To quote fictional Cleveland Indians manager Lou Brown, “you guys won yesterday. If we win today, that’s two in a row. Win again tomorrow, and that’s called a WINNING STREAK.”
Well,  boys and girls, that’s a winning streak for our boys in red. And, all three wins came with James Tiberius Howard in net. This one wasn’t easy. Don’t let the final score fool you – it was tied with four and a half minutes to go in the third. But, future captain Henrik Zetterberg decided that 107 games without a hatty was long enough, and gave us all free curly fries*. I was informed after the game that my good buddy Clay donated a hat to the cause.
Seven goals – and a total of 19 in the three games this week. I don’t want to hear about the 88 goals that departed this off-season (hey, by the way, it’s actually 90, but no one seems to care about Downey and McCarty’s offensive output). Long story short, it doesn’t seem that offense is the problem: the Wings had 68 goals through 18 games last season. That’s only six more than they have through the first 18 games this season. They’re on pace for 282 goals compared to 289 last year. BFD.
How many times were the Ducks offsides? Jesus, guys… welcome to Pee Wee hockey.
*Note: I live in New York and Rob lives in Texas, so neither of us qualify for free curly fries. Feel free to send us one of yours. 
TPL’S TAKE:
1. First, a bit of housekeeping. Yesterday, I said that Darren Helm had the series winner against the Ducks in the playoffs last season. Kyle from Babcock’s Death Stare pointed out in the comments that it was actually Danny Cleary who had the winner. He’s absolutely right – my bad. Thanks for the correction!
2. Speaking of Cleary, it’s awesome that he’s got a hot hand right now. Also, for the second time in three games, he comes away with the quote of the day: “if they want to spend all night in the box, I like our chances.” It’s like having our very own (better behaved) Roenick.
3. Henrik Zetterberg was a man on fire from the opening faceoff. I had the game DVRed, so I was unaware of what was about to transpire, but from his very first shift – I was thinking he was going to net one or two. By my count, he had six quality chances in the first period alone. The absolute best player on the ice.
4. Jimmy Howard looked great in the first period, and much of the second. Like…legitimate NHL starting goaltender good. But, he fell back to earth with some mediocre efforts in the second half of the contest, especially the second Ducks goal, which is 100% on him.
5. Niklas Kronwall has some hot hands, eh?! Keep putting them on/in net, Junior.
6. When Dominik Hasek was a member of the Red Wings, I often said that he should have been fined 20 grand every time he touched the puck. I want a similar policy enacted for every time Todd Bertuzzi spins and throws the puck to no one.
7. I would have loved to watch Johnny Ericsson kick the shit out of Corey Perry again – although, I almost guarantee that Perry wouldn’t have removed his helmet/visor: that’s kind of his M.O. Speaking of M.O.’s, Ericsson’s is quickly becoming dumbass turnovers directly resulting in a goal for the other guys. “Learning his trade” or not, that play was flat out retarded, which – sadly – is not all that surprising from him this season.
8. Ville Leino played with a bit more confidence tonight. It was good to see from a guy whose head is clearly his worst enemy at this point in the season.
9. Drew Miller had a hell of a game. I’m very impressed with him so far. Not enough to knock any of the Top 12 into the press box, but a great waiver acquisition.
10. Brian Rafalski confuses me. Here’s my thought process:
  A) He’s a good defenseman. We all know that. I was thrilled to pick him up eleven seconds after Schneider signed with Anaheim.
  B) He’s signed for 6M. Yowza.
  C) He’s having a rough season, but that’s okay. He’ll get back on track.
  D) He flubs the puck behind in the net, in true Ericsson fashion. He may as well have put it behind Howard himself.
  E) He scores on the Power Play! All is forgiven!
  F) He gets beat like a rented mule at the blueline a few minutes later…
  G) Put he comes with a choice of free topping.
  H) The toppings contain potassium benzoate.
Brian Rafalski is a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a vest. That’s right, two Simpsons references in a matter of seconds.
What’s next?
Dallas on Wednesday at the Joe.

Wings Face Fowl

HELP, CHARLIE CONWAY! A TIE-DYE DUCK IS TELLING ME TO START FIRES.

NOW, WHERE WERE WE?
The last time these two squads met was May 14th: the seventh game of the second round series. The Red Wings were 4-3 winners, with Darren Helm netting the game winner (and series winner, as it were). Game 7 marked the return of Kris Draper – who played his first game of the ’09 post-season.

WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE THEN?
Well, the Wings had an easier time in the Conference Finals than anyone in Chicago saw coming and found themselves in a Stanley Cup Final rematch. We all know how that ended. There was a mess exodus of forwards in July, and a makeshift rebuild of the questionable variety. After an atrocious start in Sweden (0-2), the Wings are starting to find their way (9-3-3 since).

OH, HI AGAIN
Kyle “We Dumped Jason Williams the First Time for You” Calder has signed with the Ducks, but he finds himself in Bakersfield of the ECHL (because the Ducks don’t have an AHL affiliate, not because he sucks like those Ferraro twins).

MEMBA ME?!
Todd Bertuzzi and Brad May were teammates in Anaheim, but – as far as we know – didn’t conspire together to commit attempted murder. New waiver acquisition Drew Miller was a back-and-forth Duck, winning a Cup in ’07, as did May.

DID YOU KNOW…
The Red Wings are 4-0-1 in games when Henrik Zetterberg scores (5-0-1 if you count shootout goals).

THEIR LAST GAMES
–Detroit played the second of back-to-back games on Thursday, defeating Vancouver 3-1. They’ve outscored their opponents 12-2 this week. Jimmy Howard is 2-0. Hell is reporting record low temperatures.
–Anaheim played last night, losing 3-2 in a shootout to the Blue Jackets. Sorta disgruntled, yet fully French-sounding Jean-Sebastien Giguere got the nod, meaning it’s probably Hiller Time in Motown (see what I did there?).

RECORDS
Detroit Red Wings :: 9-5-3 (3rd in Central, 8th in West) :: 6-1-1 at home
Disney’s Los Angeles Mighty Duck Angels of Anaheim :: 6-8-3 (last in Pacific and Conference) :: 2-2-3 on the road

EXPECTED LINEUP
At the time of this writing, there was no word on how Kirk Maltby is feeling, so I’ll plug Miller in for now. All we know about the goaltending situation is that Daniel Larsson was sent back down to Grand Rapids. He may be called up again in time for the game if Ozzie’s still under the weather, but smart money would be on riding the hot hand and giving Jimmy Howard his third straight start.

Bertuzzi — Datsyuk — Holmstrom
Leino — Zetterberg — Cleary
Draper — Helm — Eaves
May — Abdelkader — Miller

Lidstrom — Rafalski
Kronwall — Stuart
Ericsson — Lebda

Howard ?
Osgood ?

QUICK THOUGHTS
1. I just hate the Ducks so much. Even with Pronger, there are plenty of guys worth hating, with Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan leading the pack.
2. Brad May is having a rough couple of weeks. Perhaps he should avoid dropping mitts with George Parros.
3. After an inspired game against Columbus, Ville re-entered the Leino Lounge with a rather invisible outing on Thursday.
4. If we’re ready to jump off cliffs thanks to Detroit’s slow start, how do you think Anaheim “fans” are feeling right now? Dead last in the conference, losing to a team the Wings just bushwhacked 9-1.
5. So has Brian Rafalski officially became the new whipping boy? Just want to be on the same page as all of you…

WHAT WE LEARNED vs. the Canucks
All of a sudden, Jimmy Howard is a reliable goaltender. With Chris Osgood struggling again (not to mention, suffering from the flu), it’s nice to have a Plan B. If you told me in October that Howard would play back-to-back games in November allowing a total of two goals against, I would have kicked you in the groin for being a damn, dirty liar.

Drew Miller stepped in rather immediately and fairly impressively. He got some penalty kill time, and in true Babcockian fashion, had his strong game rewarded by playing in the final minutes. He didn’t stick out the way you’d expect a guy who hadn’t even practiced with his teammates yet, and he was a valuable cog. Once again, Ken Holland shoves a pacifier in the mouth of all who doubt him, and finds a perfect 13th forward-type player. For free. In a trash heap.

If Henrik Zetterberg keeps playing games like he did against Vancouver, we have nothing to worry about for the remaining 65 games. Pavel Datsyuk is the best player in the world when the puck is on his stick, and he’s pretty damn good without it. If those two continue to click, the Wings are headed for greener pastures.

DUCK WE COVET
Rob said it better than I could: Ryan Getzlaf.