Mac and Claude on OTR

I know it’ll pain some Red Wings fans to see Claude Lemieux and Darren McCarty shake hands during this interview, but these videos are a must-watch for any hockey fan. Canadians sports talk show Off the Record landed both guys — their first ever meeting off the ice — and didn’t hold back, asking questions about turtling, sticking up for teammates, and even admiration for one kicking the everloving shit out of the other.

It’s in three parts, big time thanks to Daywalk3r and HockeyWebCast for getting the entire segment online for all of us south of the border to enjoy.

They’re both refreshingly blunt and open. Claude Lemieux fully admits to taking cheap shots against the Wings (particularly against Kozlov, which probably started the whole thing for real). Darren McCarty says he absolutely hated Lemieux, but would have stood up for him if they were teammates, too. Mac makes it clear that it was more than hockey — it was personal, since he and Draper are best friends and he was the one carrying Draper’s pliers around to loosen his jaw wires when he’d eat. Incredible insight into the whole thing.

The conversation transcends the rivalry, as they get into respect among hockey players today, and retribution in the form of illegal hits. A valuable conversation with two guys that defined old-time hockey in a transitional period into the present that seems to have lost that on-ice respect and protection which is nearly gone.

They seem to play nice, but I’ve seen McCarty on Versus. He is still a little uneasy around Claude Lemieux, and — while totally honest — seems to be biting his tongue just a little bit.

Visit HockeyWebCast’s YouTube page by clicking here.

I, Michael, take thee, Todd…

 

Imagine yourself a little less than six months in the future. August 7, 2010, to be exact. You’re standing on a pristine waterfall, a more perfect location can’t possibly exist. Standing next to you is an impossibly beautiful woman. Looking at her convinces you that the only thing you’ve been placed on this Earth for was to love her until you take your last breath. You’re surrounded by the most important people in your life — and hers. A life together, with this young lady, is more than you’ve ever deserved. There is absolutely nothing that can ruin this moment.

Oh wait, yes there is.

Just as the officiant is getting to the “we’re gathered here today” jazz, your pocket nearly catches fire. Your device of choice, a BlackBerry, is literally burning a hole in your jacket. Everyone you’ve ever met (that isn’t in attendance, of course) — and some fine folks you haven’t had the pleasure yet — are simultaneously e-mailing, texting, calling, and tweeting you. It distracts from this better-than-perfect scene.

A peek can’t hurt, right? After all, it has to be important. Everyone knows this is your wedding day. Perhaps someone got lost on the way…or your roommate from college, who moved halfway across the planet, has landed in Pennsylvania and can’t wait to meet your bride…or there’s a medical emergency with a family member that couldn’t make it. “Do you, Michael, take this woman….”

“OH YOU GOTTA BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!”

Not at all an appropriate response to a question you’ve been waiting to be asked for five years. The only words you’ve thought of since your first date on New Years Day 2006 were “I do.” They were not, in fact, “oh you gotta be fucking kidding me.”

Any of the above scenarios (except for, perhaps, the family emergency) would have been better than what your pocket told you. A phone call from Disch, a text message from Hollis, a BlackBerry message from Casey, an e-mail from Natalie, a Gmail chat message from Ellen, a Swedegian comment from Andy, something jailsexy from JJ, an official press release from Christy, a comment from Mauvais, a super quick blog post from Drew, analysis from Saler, a tweet from Kris, comments from TPL regulars Osrt, Baroque, Krononymous, btok, beanie, and WingedUP, a Skype request from Kiernicki, a hilarious one-word comment from Herm, a DM from Maria, an e-mail of allegiance from Tyler, a tweet from Gander, an e-mail from Jen MacRostie and her brilliant hubby, a Simpsons-fueled tweet from Marlon, identical simultaneous comments from Nurse Nitz and Sara, an e-mail from Kyle, tweets from Kalyn, Vicky, Will, Sara, Christine, Rob, Jeff, JessieAdrienne, Captain Norris, Serven and a trio of awesome Jenns.

Forty-three messages. All at the same time. They say it differently, but it could mean only one thing: the Detroit Red Wings have signed Todd Bertuzzi to a contract extension. Two years, no less.

For a man with such awful timing — be it picking the moment to be penalized for something completely unnecessary in the offensive zone, falling down while crossing the blueline, or delivering a no-look spin pass — Tuzz sure knows the right moments to kick you in the nuts. The most important day of your life, inches from the woman of your dreams, surrounded by those who love you most. He knows everyone’s eyes will be on the two of you, and you’ve never been very good at masking your hate.

Will you even be able to enjoy the rest of your day? Will the slip-and-slide at the reception still be fun? Will the photobooth capture only looks of dispair? Can you even enjoy the mini-kegs of birch beer and Faygo you’ve had shipped into the mountains? Something tells me you won’t. Not with a lumbering oaf infiltrating your mind and figuratively climbing onto your back – a latter of which severely cuts down on your ability to boogie to the Michael Jackson medley you’ve carefully mixed. Oh, Todd… he’s made it so that you can no longer enjoy P.Y.T. And that’s not okay. That’s not okay at all.

But mark my words: that’s how it’s going to go down. You can no longer convince yourself that Mantuzzi hasn’t found his way to your little corner of the internet, and read every single word you’ve said about him — be it bad or very bad. He’s carefully coordinated the announcement of this extension. In fact, chances are good that he put pen to paper way back in June or July. But why waste a perfectly good opportunity to absolutely burn you — on the one day you vowed that nothing could ruin?

A message comes to your inbox, attributed only to TB44. Six words long, but with as much weight as any that were spoken today — including “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” various toasts given by fathers and grandfathers, and family members warmly welcoming your gorgeous bride to the family in their native Italian. Six words that will live with you forever.

“Consider this my wedding present, asshole.”

Well…I didn’t see that coming

Photo Credit: LIFE. Obviously.

I don’t even know why we’re surprised anymore when Ken Holland reveals something borderline-shrewd and otherwise unforeseen.

Earlier today, when the Wings failed to clear the necessary cap space to activate Andreas Lilja, we were all convinced there were two possible options:

  • Option 1 :: Lilja isn’t medically cleared by team doctors, which seemed incredibly unlikely given that he’s played four AHL games (something he wouldn’t be allowed to do if he wasn’t physically fit to play).
  • Option 2 :: A player (one who earns more than $700,000) was waived to make room under the cap. The trade freeze became effective at 3pm Eastern, but teams are still open to waiver movement and IR transactions. This could have been Lilja himself being waived (perhaps thinking no team would take him because of his recent history), with the intention of keeping him in Grand Rapids until further moves could be made. In other words, he’d be full-on jailsexed for another few weeks, while frolicking in Western Michigan. 

We were wrong. We were clued in this morning, by TSN’s Bob MacKenzie, who told us that Ken Holland was going to waive Brad May (which he did) and put someone on Long-Term IR. There were two players – that we knew of – that were battling injuries: Niklas Kronwall, who told NHL Live that he’s healthy enough to play tomorrow, and hopefully for the Olympics; and Patrick Eaves, who doesn’t make enough to create enough space for Lilja. To make matters more interesting, Holland would reveal that Lilja has been called to Detroit — to be checked out by doctors, and the GM didn’t rule him out for tomorrow’s game against the Senators. Hm…

Turns out long-time winger Kirk Maltby has been struggling with a lingering shoulder injury — one that will require surgery at some point, but may have been able to wait until season’s end. If Maltby opts for surgery sooner rather than later, his $883,333 cap hit come off the books for the entire time he’d be on IR – which, from the sound of it, was the rest of the regular season. The salary cap is not in effect during the playoffs.

All of a sudden, the lack of movement before the 3:00 deadline doesn’t seem so fishy. It does seem convenient that today is the day, of all days, that we hear about Kirk Maltby’s shoulder injury. If Maltby does not opt for surgery, however, a player will have to be waived. Jason Williams seems to be the most likely candidate, due to his salary and other factors, but something tells me Maltby will opt for that procedure – perhaps with a wink and a nudge from the organization.

There’s been a lot of talk that this may be Maltby’s last season with the Wings — if not the NHL. He is going to be an unrestricted free agent, and the emergence of players like Justin Abdelkader may have made Kirk Maltby expendable to the organization. If he decides to hang them up, it’s a decision I’d respect because I love Kirk Maltby, and always have, but I sincerely hope we haven’t seen him play his final game as a Red Wing — or that his career ends with an injury.

This is a life and death Red Wing we’re talking about, and if this is the end of the road for him in red and white, everyone should send a stick tap Malts’ way. He’s a legendary penalty killer, grade-A agitator, fifty-goal scorer in major-junior, original Grind Liner, and four-time Stanley Cup champion.

In other words, he’s a Detroit Red Wing. To the bone.

Don’t think that quote isn’t for you, Chris

“It’s great, isn’t it? It’s called goaltending.”

-Mike Babcock, following the Red Wings/Penguins game, in which Jimmy Howard stopped 46 shots for the second game in a row. Over the weekend, the team earned three points and Howard stopped 96.8% shots he faced.

Mike Babcock isn’t squeaky clean in this ordeal. No one liked when Chris Osgood opened his mouth, and I think the difference is Babcock’s claims are backed up… by a third party. If Jimmy Howard wasn’t playing as well as he is, Uncle Mike would look incredibly petty and vindictive. Instead, he looks right. Them’s the breaks.

OTHER NEWS AND NOTES
Babcock’s shootout order for the Penguins game was Jason Williams, Pavel Datsyuk, and Valtteri Filppula, theoretically saving Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi for extra innings. Interesting, I suppose, but as noted by our intelligent (and handsome/beautiful) readers, Zetterberg kinda sucks in the shootout (to the tune of 22%). I can’t say I agree with his selected trio, and Babbles has made some questionable shootout calls lately, but obviously he knows his shooters better than I do.

Tomas Holmstrom is back tomorrow, finally banishing Brad May to the press box. Did anyone else die a little when May skated across Pittsburgh’s blue line, stopped, and promptly fell down losing possession? Oy.

Johan Franzen returns next Tuesday, the 9th, in St. Louis — three games before the Olympic break.

CAPOLOGY
When Homer and Mulo come back, the Red Wings will be about $745,000 over the cap (although, I’m not exactly clear on the exact rules regarding LTIR relief as it applies to the cap when those players return). They will also be one player over the 23-man limit (and will have fifteen forwards). Obviously, something will have to give. When Lilja returns, two bodies will have to move, as will nearly $2 million.

The Wings have long felt they can carry 22 guys instead of the maximum 23, and that’s something they’ll have to do when all the bodies return to sneak under the cap.

  • The obvious first guy to go is Brad May. But he only removes $500,000 from the cap. Waive him and send him down. I will piss my pants if anyone picks him up. 
  • I think Brett Lebda is moved before Derek Meech because A) he’s more expensive (though, not by much), B) Meech is a forward in a pinch, and C) Meech doesn’t seem to care that he’s in the press box more than he’s on the ice. I made a promise last week, that if we could get a second round draft pick for Brett Lebda, I’d do a backflip and videotape it for you folks. Hint: I can’t do a backflip. There will be injuries.
After these two moves, the Wings are at the 23-body limit, but still find themselves around 850k over. The following guys don’t make that much, thereby not alleviating the pressure:
  • Ville Leino (800k)
  • Darren Helm (599k – thank the Christ)
  • Drew Miller (525k)
  • Patrick Eaves (500k)
Kirk Maltby makes 883k, making him an actual option to be moved. I don’t like it, because I love him, but he’s in the final year of his contract and it’s extraordinarily unlikely that he’ll get re-signed in July. He’s a life and death Red Wing, so he’s the kind of guy that I can see working within the organization after he decides to hang ’em up, but maybe he’s not there yet. He’s 37, still has legs and a jaw (his two best qualities over two decades), and is a near-legendary penalty killer. You can’t tell me there aren’t teams out there that would benefit from having Kirk Maltby. I have to wonder if he’d be open to a move, considering he’ll very likely find himself in healthy scratch territory here in a little bit. 
I chart the healthy scratches during the season (nerd alert!). Maltby has been scratched five times this season: the first two were in October, when Johan Franzen first became injured, proving that he’s near (or at) the bottom of the depth chart. 

Wings Maim Sharks, Size of Boat Unquestioned

Well, that was sixty full minutes of hockey, buoys and gulls (boom – aquatic humor). The team looked poised, ready, and confident — a trio of qualities almost foreign to this year’s version of the Red Wings, but we all knew that the tides would turn (yup, another one) at some point in the season, and here’s hoping last night was the line in sand (okay, I’ll stop).

TPL’S TAKE
On the lone Sharks goal, scored by Patrick Marleau (his TWENTY NINTH, by the way), Jimmy Howard was left out to dry. Tiberius made two really strong saves, and the defensemen were just kinda standing around watching. For the record, it was Nick and Brian Rafalski. I’m inclined to blame Rafalski more than Lidstrom because A) he isn’t Nicklas Lidstrom, B) it’s happened a few times this season, and C) Nick’s body language almost caused closed captioning to appear on my television and say “homeboy, that’s your man… WTF you doin’?”

Later in the first period, Dan Cleary had a breakaway. Darren Helm he is not, and it appeared that Cleary was skating in mud. I thought perhaps it was the end of a long shift, or the ice in California sucks, or both — but he stayed on the ice and backchecked pretty hard. Moral of the story, that breakaway was ugly. But, we all know the Red Wings aren’t friends with the breakaway, and Cleary made up for it anyway.

Everyone was hoping for more out of Pavel, and boy oh boy did he deliver. His goal, the Red Wings’ first, was Classyuk Datsyuk. He somehow stole the puck (from Clowe, I believe), transitioning into a nifty two on one, looked off the pass, and sniped shelf. He didn’t even celebrate, he just kinda had a “yeah, I can do that, remember?” look about him.

The second Wings goal went to review (of course it did), but for once, Toronto didn’t stick it in the Wings chute, and the goal stood. Doug Janik had a shot from the blue line, which Patrick Eaves re-directed. If you ask me, his stick did look pretty high, but none of the angles I saw were very clear showing where the puck made contact, so it wasn’t obviously not a goal. Maybe Detroit’s feed had some better angles, but frankly I was shocked it stood up, for more than one reason.

With 1:09 left in the second period (a period which was 350% Detroit), Dan Cleary found some redemption for his failed breakaway as he scored on a 3-on-1. He had a sick little toe-drag, and whipped a wrist top corner. It was very similar to Datsyuk’s shot, which is a hell of a statement for a guy that isn’t Pavel Datsyuk and isn’t expected to be.

At one point in the third, Darren Helm lost his stick and I was thinking “oh boy, you gotta get to the bench, kid,” but he stuck around in the defensive zone. It’s not like he couldn’t get to the bench in 2 seconds flat with those wheels, but obviously he knows better than me and stuck with his assignment. He got his feet against the boards, trying to kick the puck loose, and ultimately — when the rest of the team failed to clear the zone on the Sharks makeshift man advantage — he slid along the ice and got the puck into the neutral zone with his chest. Darren Helm is the closest I’ve ever been to in love with a man.

Later, Mr. Helm had the puck on his stick, went toward the net, did a little dipsy doodle, deked out everyone in the state of California, and buried it to make it 4-1. Uh oh, National Hockey League, Darren found some hands. That was his fifth goal in five games.

With the game out of reach, and some of the Sharks looking frustrated, Dan Cleary and Devin Setoguchi fought. Kinda. I’d prefer Buckets didn’t do such things, what – with his injured shoulder and all, but he held on, never looked overly angry or nervous, let Setoguchi get some licks in, and then put him on the ice. Dan Cleary: The Shit.

INTERESTING NON-GAME RELATED NOTES
Seems Jiri Hudler called Tick Tock to wish him a Happy New Year. Good will action? Will Munchkin be back in the Wings lineup next year because the Big League in Russia, ya know, sucks donkey nards?

Former Red Wing Curtis Joseph will hang the pads up on Tuesday. Always seemed like a nice guy, but never quite fit in on the Wings. A wonderful (regular season) career, sure to see him considered for the Hall of Fame and TPL wishes him the best in his future endeavors.

REVISITING THE PRE-GAME QUICK THOUGHTS
1. Woo, baby, Jimmy Howard is turning out to be the real deal. In his eight straight starts, he’s gone 5-2-1 and has a goals against average of 1.74. His save percentage is now third in the entire league, and he’s climbing the chart in a bunch of other categories. Anyone that thinks Chris Osgood is still the starter is living in Dream Land.
2. Nick Lidstrom still didn’t pot one in the Sharks game, though he sorta had that feel about him. I thought for sure he was going shelf on a play in the first period, but he — like he does — dished the puck to someone with a better angle. He’s looking, folks, he just doesn’t care that its not him scoring.
3. Zetterberg didn’t go lights out, but he looks pretty good. His return is certainly being overshadowed by Cleary’s (who has a goal in each of their games back), but Z is valuable in so many situations, not the least of which is calming us all down.
4. About to hop on and record the Obstructed View, and I’m happy to say that Todd Bertuzzi gave me a break this time. No two goal performance, no random spin-o-rama goal, no penalties even. Twelve hours later, I don’t have a whole lot to say about Tuzz from last night’s game, which is actually fantastic news for you in the Protuzzi Camp, because it means he didn’t do anything that makes me want to vomit with rage.

What’s next?
New York Islanders on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

Jimmy Howard Drinks Your Milkshake*

Man, oh man, wish he could be square to the shooter.

*The title of this post was, originally, That. Just. Happened. But after publishing, I saw Chris’ post at Nightmare on Helm Street with the same title, so I had to come back and change it. He beat me to it. Also, go read it. It’s epic.

First of all, condolences to my partner in crime, Rob, whose alma mater lost in the BCS Championship. I didn’t watch much of the game, but I understand Colt McCoy was out with an injury early, but Texas made a game of it, anyway. Sorry bud, that’s a tough one to swallow, I’m sure.

TPL’S TAKE
Are you effing kidding me, Jimmy Howard?!
What a performance. The best game by a Red Wings goaltender that I can remember. He absolutely stood on his head and stole that game for the Wings. There was a lot of nonsense being spouted on Twitter and elsewhere about how he looked doing it, even using “over-confident” as he kept the first FIFTY Kings shots out of the net. That’s flat out ridiculous. I don’t care how he looks doing it, as long as Howard keeps pucks on the happy side of the red line. No way Detroit deserved to win that game, and they absolutely do not without Jimmy Howard’s gutsy performance. He ended up saving 51 out of 52 shots against him.

Furthermore, do you think that Jimmy Howard came into this game with something to prove to himself and to Jonathan Quick? You may recall that Quick was selected as Team USA’s third goalie for the Olympics, a post that Howard’s numbers suggest he may have been a better selection. I know almost all of Red Wings Nation prefers Howard didn’t go to Vancouver for the Games, but I bet he has a tiny chip on his shoulder and he went into Quick’s barn and kicked over the lantern tonight. Sorry, Brian Burke, you screwed the pooch on that decision.

Danny Cleary had a great first game back. He was everywhere all night, not afraid to get a little dirty, and then he slams a Filppula rebound past Quick with — get this — 0.2 seconds left in the first period. His eighth of the season, and it was a big one. It almost stood up, too. More on that later.
At one point, Brian Rafalski totally bailed Howard out and prevented a sure-fire Ryan Smyth goal. It’ll be mentioned a lot, so I’ll say it here, too: the defense played extremely poorly all night, but also made a handful of necessary saves to keep it as close as it was. I’m not ready to give credit for that win to anyone but James Tiberius Howard, though.
Speaking of great defensive play, let’s talk about how Doug Janik had the opposite. It was his tenth game in the lineup and he looked positively brutal. There was a half-assed pass behind the net (to no one, by the way) that ended up on a King stick, followed by weak wristed passes, one after another. I don’t want to tempt the gods, but any of the defensemen coming back soon would be swell.
Ville Leino got a reprieve today, as Homer was sent back to Michigan with a fractured foot. Did he make the most of his opportunity? No, not really. I honestly can’t remember seeing him on the ice once. NHL.com tells me he played over nine minutes, but I think it’s lying to me.

There was an absolutely crazy flurry at the end of the second period, and Howard stood on his neck, head, hands, knees, wrists, and knuckles. The play ended with a Todd Bertuzzi penalty in the neutral zone (of course it did). At the end of the second period, the Kings already had 35 shots.

Speaking of Retuzzi, anyone care to guess where he was when the game-tying goal was scored by the Kings? If you guessed “in the box because he had another dumbass penalty away from the play and 200 feet from the Wings net,” collect your winnings.

But fear not. For every Todd Bertuzzi, there is a Darren Helm (one each…see what I did there?). On a clear, Jonathan Quick went to play the puck, but it hadn’t made it to the trapezoid yet before Darren Helm threw on the afterburners, and forced Quick to retreat without making a play. Helm then continued his strong play along the boards, eventually coming up with the puck, and burying it with 18 seconds left in the game. Game Winner. All by himself. I love him.

This is one of those games I was talking about when I suggested it’d be great if there was consistency from game to game regarding the officiating. In the first period, especially, there were some non-calls (for the Wings, and against them) that in almost any other game this season would have been penalized. It was insane, the things that the Wings and Kings were getting away with.

REVISITING THE PRE-GAME QUICK THOUGHTS
1. Well I think my thoughts on Jimmy Howard are clear. He rebounded from his worst performance in awhile to give us his best. Unlike last game, where he rarely knew where the puck was, he almost never seemed to lose sight of it tonight. No, it didn’t look pretty, but I never felt like he was struggling, fighting the puck, or unaware of the puck (except on that Smyth wrap-around that almost snuck in). I can’t wait to see who Babcock goes with in net for the Sharks game. It would be insane to go with Osgood after this performance, unless it was his plan all along. Howard could use a rest, I suppose, after seeing more rubber than I assure you he ever did with the ladies.
2. Chief thought it would be Nick’s night for a goal. Not yet.
3. I thought it would be Z’s night for a goal. Not quite.
4. We needed a win in regulation, and – thanks to Darren Helm – we got it. I was 18 seconds away from resigning to the fact that we should have been pleased with one point, but my boy Helm knocked some sense into me, and some rubber into Quick’s net.

Photo Credit: Gus Ruelas

Homer to miss 3-4 weeks

Feeling good about Z and Buckets coming back tonight? Good. Because here’s this:

Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom will be out for 3-4 weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his foot, general manager Ken Holland said today. The injury happened after Wednesday’s practice at the Honda Center in Anaheim, when Holmstrom was working on deflecting pucks, like he does after virtually every practice. 

Why not? It has become (nearly) comical.

Obviously, either Ville Leino or Brad May will be re-inserted into the lineup for tonight’s game against the Kings. It will say quite a bit about Ville Leino if Brad May is in for the second game in a row, and Leino’s in the Lounge.

Photo Credit: Lori Shepler

The Season That Wasn’t: Andreas Lilja

When Andreas Lilja missed the New Years Eve game against the Colorado Avalanche, he missed his 82nd straight game.

Sure, some of them were playoff games, and they were spread out over two seasons, but the de-facto fifth defenseman has missed the equivalent of a full season of hockey, thanks to a punch to the chin from Nashville’s Shea Weber:

The fight occurred during the second period of a Red Wings / Predators game last February. Lilja didn’t look injured immediately, skating by himself to the penalty box, and not down the hallway. But clearly, something was wrong. He hasn’t gone more than three days in a row without headaches, and – despite a trip to a chiropractor in Vancouver earlier this season which briefly helped alleviate his symptoms – there’s no time-table for his return.

The uppercut from Weber clearly rung him. He dropped to his knees rather immediately, but found his way back up to his feet and hung in there. Looking back, it’s clear to everyone — especially Andreas Lilja — that maybe that fight was ill-advised. Even though he’s a physical defenseman, fighting isn’t his forte.

Detroit could certainly use Lilja’s presence on the blue line this season. After spending a season or two as the Wings whipping boy, he had definitely come into his own and was a valuable piece. His injury hurts. Particularly this season, a season in which everyone’s been injured.

His contract expires in July, and it remains to be seen if his career will — or can — continue. It was doubtful that the Red Wings would have considered re-signing after this season anyway, due to Kindl’s waiver eligibility next season, and the rest of the defense still signed. But I hope that his career didn’t come to an end with a fist to the chin.

Red Wings say goodbye to 2009 with a win

That’s how it’s done. A full sixty minute effort, and a win for the good guys. The calendar will switch over to 2010, and the Red Wings have 20 wins on the season, thanks to a 4-2 victory over the once-hated Colorado Avalanche.


We all know the league is ass backwards, but I think the biggest problem I have is the inconsistency of penalty calls, and I don’t just mean for or against the Red Wings. I learned early in my playing days that it is a fact that, as it’s always been, there’s a offense worthy of a penalty on every single play if you look hard enough for it. Early in the games, refs choose to call those (as they did in the game against the Avs), and later in the game, they let them go (except on that redonkulous Filppula tripping call). It’d be great if a penalty was a penalty and a suspension was a suspension. But we don’t live in that world. Sadly.

Filppula is back. His shift in the final couple minutes of the first period was beautiful. A little bit of dangle, a little bit of footwork, a little bit of drive to the net. He’s just a good hockey player. There’s not a whole lot more to say about Flip, really. He’s just good. I’m pretty sure he’ll never be a Datsyuk/Zetterberg calibre of player (meaning, All-Planet), but he doesn’t need to be and he isn’t terribly far off, anyway.

Ken Daniels dropped this nugget on us during the second period: since November 27th, the Red Wings have the best PK in the league – over 95%. That’s a sick-nasty number, and as an outspoken “It’s all your fault, Brad McCrimmon” guy, it’s only fair that I offer him a beer. Next time I see Brad McCrimmon, I’ll totally buy him a beer.* They did allow two PP goals to the Avs, but they also scored two short-handed goals (more on that in a minute). I’ll take that trade every single night.

What a shot from Pavel – coming across the blueline, he snapped one off real quick and it ended up top shelf cookie jar. Craig Anderson did his best Chris Osgood “What the–!?” impression as it sailed by him and back out.

OH THE HELMANITY! I love Darren Helm. I always have. I knew that eventually he’ll find some hands, and GOOD LORD was that shot perfect. Not quite sure where Anderson was headed with his side along the ice, but Helm ROOFED that puck. Shorthanded, no less. By my count, that’s the third shorty of the season. Later, he iced the game with his second short-handed goal of the night, an empty netter, DOUBLING the amount of SH goals the Red Wings have scored in all of 2008-09. And with that, the final Red Wings goal of the 00’s was scored by Darren Helm. He’s a restricted free agent in July, but he’s eligible for re-signing after January 1st, and I – for one – would love to see him wrapped up in a nice ten year deal. Keep him in Detroit forever.

Jimmy Howard misplayed the puck badly on the first Avalanche goal. Should have gotten out to play the puck a bit quicker (and more efficiently) – it ended up behind him with bodies everywhere: five players total. One of them swats the puck into the empty net. Next season, I’m going to keep track of Budd Lynch “Last Minute of Play in This Period” goals allowed by Red Wings goaltenders. It has to be a ton. Howard made up for that weak goal against with an unbelievable save halfway through the third. The one-timer was destined for the back of the net, but Jimmy got over quickly and threw a leg at it.

Needing a goal more than anyone else on the planet, a helmetless Ville Leino, lookin’ like Mickey Redmond out there, tipped that puck (after it had already been tipped once) past Craig Anderson. Derek Meech let it go, Justin Abdelkader got a piece, and Ville Leino got another piece. Craig Anderson looked like he was high on peyote, and couldn’t find his own feet. Leino wasn’t as visible as Mattias Ritola was all night (which doesn’t bode well for the Finn), but he did do something Ritola didn’t: get on the scoresheet. Perhaps it’ll increase Uncle Mike’s confidence in him and he’ll be a regular in the lineup again. I have a gut feeling Ritola will be sent back down before the next Wings game…

*Offer only valid if he prints a copy of this TPL article and presents it to me to sign. 

REVISITING THE PRE-GAME QUICK THOUGHTS
1. I said the Wings needed to finish on a high note – and that they did. A regulation victory felt really good, and I’m sure the boys in red couldn’t be happier with the way their calendar year ended. Hopefully the dark days are behind them and it’s all uphill from here.
2. Here’s my official scouting report on Mattias Ritola: this was the first time I got to really watch him — during his few game call-up two seasons ago, I was in Mexico on business and watched the games using Rob’s GameCenter Live subscription to dial in. In the first period, he looked exactly like an AHL player playing as a call-up in the NHL. No offense to him, because that’s exactly what he is – but he definitely looked a step slower than everyone else, didn’t make decisions quick enough for this level of hockey, and had no business whatsoever on the power play (though, the Wings are trying anyone that is warm and has a beating heart on the second power play unit). But, as the game went on, he got more comfortable, and looked 100% better. He was a hit machine in the second period, and he was one of the players that really stood out to me in the third: great puck control, great poise, smart play-making. I think he’s going to be a really good hockey player in the NHL, but maybe has some jitters as a call-up. It takes a special Filppula-like player not to display those kinds of nerves, so I’m not worried about him at all. I look forward to seeing him more regularly (and not in a jersey number too closely resembling Helm’s 43).
3. Jimmy Howard straight up beat Craig Anderson in a battle of Olympic bubble goalies. It’ll be interesting to see who the USA picks as their third netminder, especially now.
4. I thought that this was one of the last chances Pavel would get to take over and be savior. He scored a beautiful goal, and his line (with Bertuzzi and Holmstrom) was the most noticeable on the ice all night (thanks, in part, to 476 penalty minutes from Homer). He didn’t exactly own the game, but he didn’t have an invisible game, either. Good on Pavel to break the Bertuzzi-only schneid, and hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.
5. The game was chippy, but there were no Brad May fights (or any other fights, for that matter). He did, however, try to pull an old school Mayday play, attempting to dipsy doodle around some Av defenders, before losing the handle completely, skating back to the bench, and snickering about it.

Photo Credit: Carlos Osorio, AP

It’s Official: Todd reads TPL

Here I am, thoroughly convinced this smartass photo wouldn’t come back to totally bite me on the ass two hours later. 

What are you, kidding me?

I’m on the road, heading back east Sunday morning, but the Twitterverse would never let me hear the end of it if I didn’t mention Todd Bertuzzi’s two-goal performance, obviously trying to impress me. I was behind Howard for the first and third, so that first Red Wings goal, I got the feeling that Todd was actually looking for me in the crowd. He did a little “FUCK YOU PETRELLA!” dance directly AT the crowd, though he missed by a few sections.

No less than 39 tweets were directed my way after the first Bertuzzi goal, and through the second one.

Andy from Fight Night at the Joe and I have a little wager going. I was willing to bet anyone who would have it that Todd Bertuzzi wouldn’t score 20 goals this season. He agreed to record an acoustic version of The Todd Bertuzzi song if he didn’t hit 20, and I hadn’t come up with any good terms if he didn’t, although the picture above might be a good banner for the rest of the season… as suggested by @jennyquarx. If Andy agrees to the terms, perhaps that’s my wager. He offered to lift the goals to 25, but I’ll stick by my original statement. I’m still taking bets, by the way, if anyone has anything — though it might not be for the twenty goals that originally seemed so out of reach, it may as well have been in Antarctica.

Some of my favorite tweets, received in Section 102 / Row 8:
@mserven :: Did Todd just skate into the corner and wave at @mpetrella after burying that goal?
@inhyung :: Ohhh nice goal by Bert. @mpetrella
@SnipeDangle :: That was for you, @mpetrella. Love, Todd. PS. Call me.
@FightNightatJoe :: @mpetrella Dude hahahahhahaa
@jennyquarx :: I was seriously just going to tweet this. RT @SnipeDangle That was for you, @mpetrella. Love, Todd. PS. Call me.
@BingoBangodrw :: todd scored that 4 u he knew u were in attendance
@jennbikegirl :: @mpetrella Hey look, #44 took a penalty (Don’t just want you getting harassed all night.)
@mserven :: Bertuzzi is going for the @mpetrella Hatrick. A goal, a penalty & a wink.
@GordieHoweHT :: Someone buy @mpetrella season tickets ASAP, Bertuzzi will pull a Heatley and score 70.
@mserven :: If Bert scores a 3rd, I think @mpetrella and Todd should go to Arby’s together through the drive-thru in a rickshaw.

REVISITING THE PRE-GAME QUICK THOUGHTS
1. Well, they didn’t kick ass, but they got the win, so that’s what counts.
2. I thought Flip looked awesome. Correct me if I’m wrong, because sometimes seeing things from a different angle helps, but he didn’t seem rusty at all.
3. Nick Lidstrom looked to be forcing shots and trying extra hard to put pucks on net. He still didn’t get one, but he’s getting close.
4. Todd Bertuzzi didn’t score nine times, but he definitely did whatever he could to make me look like an asshole. Color me assholed.
5. The Wings didn’t score until the second period, so much for my prediction of an opening minutes goal.

What’s next?
Re-match with the BJs, this time in beautiful, sunny Ohio. On Monday.