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I Spy: Pavel Datsyuk

You heard them right. The crowd was chanting “Let’s Go Red Wings!” at the Staples Center this evening as your Detroit Red Wings took down the LA Kings 4-1. My favorite tweet of the game: “kings fans have been telling me the wings suck the whole game & i’m like ‘talk to me when your jerseys aren’t sparkling.'” (thx for the entertainment @hushlittleladyy) — And I agree…the only time I like my men sparkly is in Twilight.

1st Period Highlights:

  • Mike Richards scored a shorthanded goal (6:37) after Hudler made a Hudler mistake
  • Oh there you are, Pavel Datsyuk!!! Datsyuk scored his first goal since OCTOBER 21ST 37 seconds later (7:14, assisted by Holmstrom and Lidstrom) to tie it up at 1

2nd Period Highlights:

  • Niklas Kronwall took advantage of the slashing penalty against Rob Scuderi and put the Red Wings ahead by 1 (7:08, assists to Franzen and Holmstrom)
  • Brad Stuart’s (not so smart) defensive play led to a penalty shot (11:06) for all-star Anze Kopitar. Howard’s save made me feel like a proud mother…I shed a tear or two. The save and Jimmy’s reaction kind of reminded me of one of the scenes in my favorite movie: Robin Hood Men in Tights. See below.
  • Brendan Smith rushed out of the box after a hooking penalty and sped down the ice to assist Justin Abdelkader, earning his first NHL point and giving the Wings a 2-goal lead (15:38) Congratulations, cutie!
3rd Period Highlights:
  • Datsyuk stayed hungry (for curly fries) and scored his second goal of the game and 4th of the season (15:06, assisted by Johan Franzen)
“It’s not fair…look how quick his hands are” -Craig Button, NHL On The Fly

Overall Highlights:

  • Jimmy Howard was 23-24 (.958 sv%) and was on top of his game
  • Holmer got 2 assists in the 9:07 he was on the ice
  • Datsyuk is back. He wanted it…he got it. And then he got it again. Oh, how we’ve missed you.

The Wings wrap up their West Coast roady with a 8:00 pm game against the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow. Do it to it.

Why, Hello Sharks…We Meet Again.

Your Detroit Red Wings (9-6-1) take on the San Jose Sharks (9-5-1) tonight at 10:30 pm for some late night fun. It’s the first of three stops in the Golden State. This is the 2nd time the teams will be facing off this season—their last meeting was on October 28th and resulted in a 4-2 loss for the Wings. This rivalry has developed and grown exponentially over the past couple seasons, being that the Sharks eliminated the Red Wings in the 2010 and 2011 Western Conference Semifinals.

Tonight:

  • Brendan Smith will be making his official NHL debut tonight and will be paired with Niklas Kronwall
  • Jonathan Ericsson will again be paired with Nick Lidstrom
  • Ex-Shark Ian White is still out with a broken cheekbone
  • Fabian Brunnstrom will be taking Patrick Eaves’ spot in the lineup
  • The Red Wings have been struggling on the power play (déjà vu?) to say the least — they only had 6 shots on goal during the 15 power play minutes against St Louis. The Sharks rank 4th in the league on the PP.
  • Datsyuk has gone 11 games without a goal. Yes…I said Datsyuk.  It’s shocking. What does Pavel think?

“I need to be more productive,” Datsyuk said after practice Wednesday. “I need to shoot more, need to be more dangerous.” (Mlive)

I hate playing the Sharks, even though game 6 last season was one of the most exhilarating games I’ve ever been to (I cried).  Joe Thornton rubs me the wrong way. There are players you fight and there are players you don’t. Nick Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk are at the top of the “don’t” list. Clearly, Thornton thinks these rules don’t apply to him and has tried to start shit with two of the NHL’s classiest players. Way to set a positive example for your team, “Captain.” Fast forward to the minute mark to see the ultra-douche in action.
Let’s get back on that winning streak, eh? Tune in tonight on Fox Sports Detroit.

Brendan Smith Punished 8 Games For Headshot

Brendan’s Smith’s campaign to make the roster out of training camp has likely ended Friday morning with his eight game suspension (3 preseason games, 5 regular season). While we have not yet seen the video explanation from VP of Player Safety, Brendan Shanahan, we can assume this lengthy suspension is due to the fact that Smith caught defenseless Blackhawks forward Ben Smith with a blow to the head.

The league has made no secret about wanting to rid the game of this type of hit. Under Rule 48:

Illegal Check to the Head – A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted.

I’ll be very interested to see Shanahan’s explanation of the ruling. I do believe that the Blackhawks forward put himself in a bad position, and Smith did not intend to deliver the blow to the head. There was, however, an injury as a result of the hit and the head was the “principal point of contact,” which may have factored into the ruling. We’ll wait for the tape for further comment, but you can believe the Hockeytown will be second guessing a former hero for his latest decision.

Smith’s hit makes HEADlines

OMG… did you hear about the Smith on Smith hit to the head?? People are struggling trying to decide if the hit was intentional or unintentional, but frankly, I’m not sure if that matters. Obviously the story deserves to be a HEADline (muahaha), but enough already… it’s in Shanny’s hands now.

Brunnstrom was on fire tonight, scoring a goal in the 1st and one in the 2nd, making it very clear that he is determined to wear a winged wheel this season. Rookies Emmerton and Smith each had two assists. I thought Drew Miller looked great on the ice and was really glad he got one in. I would have definitely liked to have seen a little more action from Eaves and Abs… it’s hard to believe they had 16-17 minutes of ice time each. Ericsson played like typical Ericsson–sometimes I wonder if he has body dysmorphic disorder. I think someone needs to remind him that he is 6’4/220 lbs, not 5’6/130 lbs — he needs to use his body and not allow himself to fall into the boards from a light push. And even though Conklin was 20-24, I think he played very well and had some awesome saves. It’s not his fault that the Blackhawks had all of their star players in their lineup tonight and the Wings had… well… none. Even so, we did more than hold our own. The game-winner was scored by Marian Hossa during a two man advantage in the 3rd period.

All in all, this game really annoyed me and Pierre McGuire didn’t help. I can’t wait until Friday when we’re back at the Joe.

Wings 4, Hawks 3 SO

A little bit of drama went down during tonight’s exhibition game.  To get it out of the way, the major downer was that Jan Mursak fractured his ankle in the 2nd period after being shoved into the boards by Dylan Olsen (and will probably be on injured reserve for a while). He has really been shining throughout the preseason and this injury is a real bummer. One of the other youngins, Brendan Smith, made some good plays once again but definitely made a few of those “rookie mistakes” tonight. I think he has a lot of potential and his mistakes will surely minimize with the help of the almighty captain. On that note — damn it felt good to see #5 on the ice. Lidstrom is a boss and it’s always such a pleasure seeing him out there.

“Meh.”:

  • Conklin made some good saves but had a .875 save percentage, which clearly wouldn’t cut it in the regular season… but I think he’s just warming up
  • Jonathan Ericsson — in general
  • As much as I hate to say it, Brandon Pirri was on fire tonight and scored two goals for the Blackhawks during regulation as well as their shootout goal

Some highlights:

  • Valtteri Filppula had 3 points in tonight’s game, with a power play goal in the first and was credited with assists for Zetterberg’s and Lidstrom’s goals in the 2nd period. This WILL be his season.
  • Lidstrom and Zetterberg each had a goal and an assist
  • Ian White stuck out to me and I think he’s going to do big things for us this year. He had the most ice time out of any player on the Wings or Blackhawks tonight and got an assist for Lidstrom’s goal in the 2nd period
  • Bertuzzi’s shootout goal was out of this world. I had to do a double take to make sure it was a 44 and not a 24(13) on the back of his jersey. So slick, so sick.
  • Mickey Redmond.
  • The Wings ended up getting the win with goals by Bertuzzi and Zetterberg in the shootout

This was a wonderful way to top off a great Sunday in Detroit. The Tigers, Lions and Red Wings all came out on top. We have the Red and White game coming up in Grand Rapids on Tuesday and another exhibition game in Chicago on Wednesday. So much hockey, so much love.

The Boys Are Back in Town

Well, kind of.  The Red Wings “Red Team” took on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first preseason game for both teams, which resulted in a disappointing 3-2 loss.  Chris Kunitz got the Pens on the board first, scoring halfway into the first period.  Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall evened the score only two minutes later after being set up by a beautiful pass from the great Pavel Datsyuk.  He makes it all look so easy.  Evgeni Malkin and Matt Niskanen put the bad guys up 3-1 during the 2nd, with Niskanen scoring on the power play.  To me it seemed as if Malkin was on the ice for the entire game, and I haven’t decided whether that was due to his irritatingly skillful play or because the announcers were slurping him all night (get a room, gentlemen).  Things started looking up for the Wings when Jiri Hudler tipped one in at the beginning of the 3rd period, but sadly, tonight’s story had no happy ending.  Although it wasn’t Howard’s best game, I don’t think this is at all an indication of what the season holds for our boy, Jimmy.  Even though that first goal made me shake my head (tsk-tsk), my faith remains.  MacDonald played well during his one period of play and allowed no goals during the third.  Also, I found it hard to judge the newbies just from tonight’s game, but Mursak and Smith were the only ones who really stood out to me. It will be interesting to see how they compare to those on the “White Team.”

Pavel Datsyuk wearing #24

Tonight’s exhibition game was only a taste (and a tease) of Red Wing hockey, but it gave us an opportunity to see who is fighting for a spot on the roster and to fall in love with Datsyuk all over again.  Wearing #24 in memory of his good pal and former Wing, Ruslan Salei, simply reminds us of why he is a four-time recipient of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (given to the player who has exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability).  Tomorrow the Wings take on the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:00 EST in London, Ontario, and on Friday the Wings will take on the Flyers at home at the Joe Louis Arena.

Fresh Faces: Mike Commodore

Today’s edition will focus on another free agent defensemen who signed this summer, Mike Commodore. The 31 year old Alberta native is looking to resurrect his NHL career by joining one of the deepest and most talented defensive units in the league. While much remains to be settled in the preseason, Commodore is projected to compete with the young and talented Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith for the sixth and final spot in the defensive rotation. His signing, a one year, $1 million contract, provides the team with some added depth and playoff experience on the back end, while still leaving salary cap cushion for a late season move if necessary.

After being drafted by the New Jersey Devils (42nd overall, 1999), Commodore spent time between the American and National Hockey Leagues with a few organizations. Despite playing effectively in 20 playoff games for Calgary in their 2004 playoff run, Commodore was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes before the 2005-06 season.  Commodore had arguably his best season, playing in 72 games with a +12 and leading the team in penalty minutes.  Commodore was again steady in a long playoff run, and became a fan favorite on the way to the Carolina’s first Stanley Cup.

Mike Commodore is an easy player to spot

In 2008, Commodore was traded again, this time to the Ottawa Senators in a deal that involved future Red Wings forward Patrick Eaves.  Following that season, he signed with Columbus, and was a big part in helping the team reach their first playoff series (a 4 game sweep at the hands of the Red Wings).

Following two years of injuries and setbacks, Commodore was optioned back to the AHL last season. He’s hoping to again assume an everyday role with a NHL club. Given the injuries that have plagued the Red Wings defensemen over the past two seasons, the deal makes a lot of sense.

One interesting storyline associated with this signing was Commodore’s bad history with Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. When Commodore was a young prospect in Anaheim, Coach Babcock had issues with his conditioning. Commodore was never given a shot to play for the Mighty Ducks, and spoke very candidly about his displeasure for his former coach in an interview two years ago. While both parties have dismissed the incident, it will be interesting to see how the outspoken defensemen will react if he does not find himself consistently in the lineup.

Commodore, who boasts 645 career penalty minutes in 454 NHL games, should add a physical element to the Wings defense.  He is not afraid to drop the gloves, standing at 6’4″ and 230lbs and seems to fit Ken Holland’s vision of creating a physical defensive unit for opposing forwards.  Despite weeks of internet speculation on the possibility of Commodore wearing the number 64, a reference that makes video game fanatics nation wide type “lolz”, the defensemen will skate with the #22 jersey this season.

We’ll be back soon with another edition of Fresh Faces! Check out our past article on newcomer Ian White.

Wings Defense Evolving Into A Physical Unit

The change has been evident over the past half decade or so in Hockeytown. A franchise that once favored speed at the blue line has evolved into a physical unit.

In my opinion, the transition began in 2007-08. The Wings opened the season with a formidable blue line including aging Chris Chelios (a young 45 years of age that season), Nick Lidstrom, Brett Lebda, Andreas Lilja, Nicklas Kronwall and Brian Rafalski. While possibly the best passing and puck possessing defensive unit in the league, opposing forwards did not have much to worry about when entering the attacking zone. Outside of the young Kronwall – who was playing in just his 2nd full NHL season – this group was more likely to use their stick than their body to thwart oncoming attackers.

Ken Holland then made the move that I believe resulted in the Wings next Stanley Cup. Giving up only two draft picks (neither of whom would ever play for the Kings) the Red Wings acquired hard hitting Brad Stuart from Los Angeles in late Feburary.  He made sure opponents knew from Day 1 that things had changed in Motown.

Paired with Kronwall, the two formed a physical presence that manhandled opposing forwards throughout the playoffs.  Stuart took Pens forward Sidney Crosby off the ice with a devastating blow in the decisive Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Today’s group of defenseman features more than just a pair of hard hitters. Recently acquired Ian White & Mike Commodore have replaced the likes of Rafalski and Ruslan Salei (who tragically passed in a plane crash in Russia last week). Both should compliment the physical style of Stuart and Kronwall.

Add captain Lidstrom, fellow Swede Jonathan Ericsson, and young talent Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith, and the Wings have a diverse, deep, and well rounded unit heading into this season.