Detroit Red Wings
OK, everyone. Listen up.
I know you’re just waiting to get home so you can crack that first beer, put on your lucky sweater or whatever other things you do to make you feel comfortable and help you settle in to watch a playoff hockey game. Angst is so high that you’re developing a rash that makes it look like you’ve spent the night in a St. Louis hotel room that looked like a Warhol painting when you projected a black light on it. You’re nervous. That’s normal, and I get it. You’re supposed to be. The team you root for is down in a series to its longest known rival and you’re facing what is a must-win 4th game on the opponent’s home ice. Who wouldn’t be nervous about that?
It’s a good thing you root for the hockey team that has shown over a large enough sample size that it is better than the one dressing in the home red sweaters tonight.
Here’s what we know. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Presidents’ Trophy. That means they collected more points, and even furthermore, won more games than any other team over the truncated 48 game season this year. That same team easily dispatched the Minnesota Wild in five games to advance to where they are now. What I think we’re all losing a touch of perspective on is exactly where that is. Let’s see how we got to here.
So it turns out the reports of Detroit’s demise in this series were grossly exaggerated. Many Blackhawks fans were understandably eager to bury Detroit after Game One, unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way in the playoffs. The advanced stats pretty much confirmed the eye test – the Hawks were terrible while the Red Wings were fantastic.
You, the fan, have every right to be annoyed with the Blackhawks lack of urgency this afternoon, but give the Red Wings the (significant) credit they deserve, too. They silenced the United Center (quiet as I’ve ever heard it) by slowing down the Hawks in the neutral zone using THE LOCK and seemed to get in the way of just about every shot the Hawks attempted. Unlike Game One, nobody in a red sweater had room to maneuver and Jimmy Howard never had to bail out the guys in front of him. The Wings played the perfect road game and will go back to Detroit with home ice advantage and the belief that they can play with the Blackhawks.
Mike Babcock said it best after the game: “Series On.” It sure is.
Let’s get to the nitty gritty
* Andrew Shaw was atrocious. I counted three plays where he had possession but failed to get the puck into the Detroit zone. One Shaw giveaway led to a shorthanded breakaway for the Wings.
* Jonathan Toews complained about the officiating after the game. He had reason to be pissed off about the non-call on Henrik Zetterberg for mauling him while he was down, but somehow I don’t think anyone is buying the ‘poor officiating cost us’ angle tonight. Plus, everybody knows the Blackhawks power play is horrendous anyway.
Sorry for the delayed recap. Sometimes it’s just your mom’s birthday. Let’s get to it because it’s late and I’m pining to watch ‘The Walking Dead’ tonight. Somthing actually has to happen this evening after the snoozer last week, right? *Update: Solid episode.
What. A. Game. The Blackhawks were awarded two points for their efforts. The Red Wings got one. But the real winners today were anyone who watched this game and the game of hockey in general. Holy shit. While the game was largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things for the Blackhawks, every single point these days matters for Detroit. I’m glad the ‘Hawks were able to rob them of at least one. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t depressed we’re not going to be able to witness these games six times each season anymore. Re-alignment blows. To the fun stuff.
(Over the next few days CtA will take at look at the offseason moves and potential young impact players of each team around the league. We’ll being going division by division, starting today with the teams we all know and hate in the Central. We’re damn glad to be back with you folks.)
#2 St. Louis (109) – #4 Nashville (104) – #5 Detroit (102)- #6 Chicago (101) – Columbus (65)
Detroit Red Wings:
New Guys to hate: Damien Brunner, Mikael Samuelsson (again), Jordin Tootoo (you already hated him) and Carlo Colaiacovo (ahahaha).
Elsewhere: Niklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom (HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE), Juri Hudler and Brad Stuart.
Young players to keep an eye on: Brunner, Brandon Smith (Ben Smith will have his revenge) and Gustav Nyquist. Brunner is a wild-card, but he played with Z overseas and seemingly all the reports from Europe had he and Zetterberg developing a thing. Lets hope not. Nyquist, a guy I think is going to be pretty damn good, had 35 points in 34 games at Grand Rapids. We’ve all heard about Smith by this point. It’s a ‘show me’ season for him. It’s also possible we’ll see a little bit of Jakub Kindle this season.
Outlook: Yes, they look vulnerable in their own end, but they have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. They’ll find a way into the post-season. Once they get there, those cracks in the D are likely to be fatal and we’ll start the ‘Shea Weber to Detroit’ watch. Man, that’s going to be horrible.
St. Louis Blues:
New Guys to hate: Vladimir Tarasenko (please go away), Jaden Schwartz and Jeff Woywitka.
Elsewhere: Carlo Colaiacovo and John Davidson.
Young players to keep an eye on: Tarasenko, Schwartz and Ian Cole (fuck Ian Cole). The thought of seeing Tarasenko 6 times each year for the next several years makes me want to run into a dark room and cry. He and Schwartz have the potential to be Toews/Kane lite. It’s hard to judge how effective young players are going to be, but there isn’t a team on the league that wouldn’t want this tandem. What I’m trying to convey here is that I’m really freaked out about that and you should be too. Ian Cole is a douche on Twitter and probably on the ice as well.
Outlook: Their style is boring as all hell, sure, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a very good hockey club. If they get the same goaltending they got last year then there’s no reason they can’t have that same kind of success. Much like the defending champion LA Kings, the Blues have almost everyone coming back from last season, so getting into rhythm shouldn’t be much of a problem, and that’s a good thing in a short season. Barrett Jackman still plays a meaningful role on this team and you’d have to think that comes back to bite them eventually. Hopefully.
New Guys to hate: Scott Hannan and Ryan Ellis.
Elsewhere: Ryan Suter, Andrei Kostitsyn, Alexander Radulov and Andres Lindback.
Young players to keep an eye on: Ellis and (hopefully) Austin Watson. I honestly have no idea if Watson will play for Nashville or not this year, but Ellis will, and they need someone (and probably more than just one) to help fill the void left by Ryan Suter. Roman Josi is another young defenseman who Nashville will ask to contribute.
Outlook: They still have one of the best goaltenders in the game and Barry Trotz is a coach who always gets the most out of the roster afforded him, but the loss of Suter was absolutely devastating to this teams on ice product. Will they continue to be a thorn in everyone’s side or do they begin to fade away? I’m betting on the latter.
Columbus Blue Jackets:
New Guys to pity: Brandon Dubinksy, Artem Anisimov, Sergei Bobrovsky, Nick Foligno, Tim Erixon and Adrian Aucoin (resist the urge to kill).
Mercifully Elsewhere: Rick Nash and Mark Methot. Methot is now hilariously being talked about as Erik Karlsson’s partner in Ottawa this year. Poor Erik Karlsson.
Young players to keep and eye on: Truth be told, Columbus has a lot of good young talent – most of it on the blue line. John Moore, David Savard and Tim Erixon are all solid prospects and could (will) all see time in Columbus this season. Unfortunately, their best defensive prospect, Ryan Murray, is out for the next 6 months, so you won’t be seeing him this season. It appears Boone Jenner will be given a shot to make the big club, although that jump just feels unlikely. Will this be a breakout year for Ryan Johansen? How the hell should I know?
Outlook: I don’t think this Columbus team sucks as bad as everyone is making them out to suck. However, that doesn’t mean they still don’t suck really bad. Rick Nash is obviously not going to be replaced by anyone, James Wisniewski is counted on to play a significant role and their goaltending is, uh, well……..
Hopefully those who celebrate are having a nice Easter Sunday, and you’re about to find out what day the Second Season begins in the Second City. You’ll be seeing a lot of posts around these parts in the coming week with a wide variety of things being covered as the playoffs begin.
For the Blackhawks, the quest for the Stanley Cup begins in Phoenix after Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over Detroit.
Yes, Patrick Kane made a filthy move in the shootout. It had me taken aback, and his smiling face skating back to the Blackhawks’ bench gave me a nice giggle.
But did that meaningless shot simply mask the disappointment we should be feeling after the ‘Hawks blew a late lead for the second consecutive game? If Kane doesn’t make that move and the Blackhawks lose that shootout, aren’t we going around asking questions about how the ‘Hawks are going to survive in the playoffs, especially if Jonathan Toews isn’t quite ready?
Instead, we’re all “excited” to be playing the Pacific Division champion Phoenix Coyotes, who ended the season with 97 points, four fewer than the ‘Hawks. Avoiding Nashville sounds fun and all, but there’s still the fact the Blackhawks let a chance at home-ice advantage in the first round slip away over the past week.
Now the ‘Hawks get to face Mike Smith, who is pretty much the hottest goaltender in the world right now. Forget that he doesn’t have playoff experience. Some guy named Niemi didn’t have any either. The ‘Hawks were less than a minute away from avoiding him and a Phoenix team that has won five straight games barely breaking a sweat.
No Jonathan Toews. No Pavel Datsyuk. Still, the same ol’ gritty rivalry.
The Blackhawks and Red Wings gave us another entertaining battle on both ends of the ice, and Corey Crawford beat Jimmy Howard in a fantastic goaltending dual as the ‘Hawks held on for a 2-1 victory Tuesday night at the United Center.
Jimmy Hayes was rewarded with a goal after working in front of the net, then assisted on Marcus Kruger’s tally with some nice board work and a charge to the back of the net, as Kruger tipped in an Andrew Brunette shot that bounced off Howard.
You know the basics, so let’s get to some other stuff…
♦ It obviously wasn’t ideal to have Toews out of the lineup with the always-vague upper-body injury, though there weren’t many points in the contest I was screaming for Toews to be there. The final minute sticks out, when The Captain would’ve been on the ice for in-zone draws as the Wings had the extra skater, and Dave Bolland lost two to give Detroit a couple more shots at Crawford as the clock ticked away. Other than that, the ‘Hawks keep the Red Wings at bay and Henrik Zetterberg damn near invisible.
♦ Patrick Kane was solid tonight, and it was only for a spectacular Howard save on Patrick Sharp that Kaner didn’t register a point. Kane took the puck on the far side and circled toward the center of the ice while the ‘Hawks were on the power play. He skated the puck to the near side and went right at Justin Abdelkader, who had lost his stick. Kane was able to move in and create a passing lane to get the puck to Sharp camping in front of the net. Howard went post-to-post and stuck out his left pad, snuffing out the chance. Nonetheless, a smart, heads-up play by Kaner. He was all over the place and seemed to step up his game with Toews out.
♦ Speaking of the power play: 0 for 30 over the last 11 games, with the last PP goal coming when Bolland beat Pekka Rinne in a 3-1 home loss to Nashville on Jan. 24 – the last game before the All-Star break.
♦ Crawford’s play wasn’t stellar, but his saves were not exactly routine. I saw far less rebounds than in the previous games during his current stretch of four straight games with one GA. Him staying in the blue paint more often than not has seemed to pay off, and his run has quelled the talk of trading for a goaltender – for now.
♦ When a goaltender is on like Howard was tonight, garbage goals are necessary to grind out a win like this. The ‘Hawks got them with the help of some aggressive play in front of Howard, taking advantage of a couple loose pucks and pounding them home. This seems to have been lacking recently.
♦ Going 28 for 54 at the dot without Toews is definitely a victory on that end. With that being said, here’s to hoping Toews doesn’t have to sit out Thursday against Dallas.
Yes, Detroit (*spitting noise*) has won 23 straight at home; and yes, that is an all-time NHL record — which will continue to grow until they lose. But they have a problem.
They’re in OUR house today, and the Blackhawks are on a winning streak of their own. So if they think they’re going to have an easy time of it this evening, they came to the wrong place. December 30th ring a bell, bitches?
One day, the Blackhawks are sitting atop the Central Division standings, at times boasting the most points in the NHL. The next, they wouldn’t even have home-ice advantage in the first round if the playoffs began at that moment.
It’s a difficult time to keep up with the constant shifts in the standings, but such is life in the competitive Central – which is currently on pace to make a bit of history while providing us fans with some entertaining hockey down the stretch.
This is the 13th season since the NHL went to six divisions and the current playoff format in 1998-99 (the 2004-05 season marked the lockout). In the 12 completed seasons, at least one division has sent four teams to the playoffs 10 times.
In a game Blackhawks fans likely won’t forget soon, Minnesota beat Dallas on the final day of the 2010-11 regular season to prevent the Pacific from becoming the first division to send all five teams to the postseason.
Essentially, the playoff format has three division winners and five “wild-card” teams. The only seasons one division didn’t claim three “wild-cards” were 2000-01 and 2005-06.
The 2008-09 season marked the one time two divisions accomplished the feat. The Atlantic and the Central, when Detroit (No. 1 seed), the ‘Hawks (4), St. Louis (6) and Columbus (8) qualified four of their five teams – the only time since current realignment the Central has done it.
Overall, a single division qualifying a quartet is quite common. The rarity lies in what the Central currently is on pace to accomplish – place all four teams within the top six seeds.
Wow. What a roller-coaster ride that was. One can’t help but wonder what the outcome would have been if the Blackhawks had decided to play in the 1st period.
About that abortion of a 1st period – it may have been one of the worst of the season (excluding the Edmonton game, of course). Detroit was able to glide right into the Hawks zone and set up while the Hawks couldn’t even execute a dump and chase. Detroit led in shots on goal by an astounding 21-4 (9-0 through the first 7 minutes) margin and out-hit the Blackhawks 12-9. As you probably guessed by looking at the shots on goal, the Wings dominated every aspect of the game in the opening frame. The only reason this game wasn’t 5-0 at the end of the period was Corey Crawford, who was outstanding.
The biggest challenge about this game isn’t the Red Wings’ roster, or its goaltender, or Coach Cranky Pants, or the brain-dead knuckle-draggers throwing seafood on the ice.
Detroit (*spitting noise*) is nearly unbeatable on home ice.
But notice I said “nearly.”