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What Lies Ahead: Part 2

The Wings clinched a playoff spot last night with a 7-2 blowout against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the next 6 games will be just as important. The Wings will face the Nashville Predators at the Joe on Friday, which may be the determinant of who gets home ice in the first round of the playoffs.  The Red Wings are just one point ahead of the Predators and are battling for the #4 spot in the Western Conference.  Unless the Blues have a major collapse or Chicago really steps their game up, it’s likely that the Preds will be the first round matchup for the Wings.  The Red Wings have won 3 of their 5 meetings with the Predators this season, 2 of those at home, 1 in Nashville. Here’s a look at the first 5 games:

11/26 Nashville 1 @ Detroit 4

The Red Wings took down the Preds for the 9th game of the 23 game home win streak.  Valtteri Filppula had two goals and an assist, Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and an assist, Danny Cleary scored a goal, Jiri Hudler had two assists, and Todd Bertuzzi, Jakub Kindl and Darren Helm each had one assist. Jimmy Howard had a .947sv% and stopped 18 of the 19 shots on goal.

12/15 Detroit 3 @ Nashville 4

This loss really pissed me off. Shea Weber’s two goals in the last 5 minutes (the GWG with just 1:36 left in the 3rd) gave Nashville the 2 points over Detroit.

12/26 Detroit 4 @ Nashville 1

Valtteri Filppula scored 2 goals, and Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary each scored one to give the Red Wings the win over the Preds in their 3rd meeting of the season.  Howard stopped 31 of 32 shots, but his opportunity for a shutout was ruined with just 2:12 remaining in the 3rd.

2/17 Nashville 1 @ Detroit 2

This was one of my favorite wins of the season — the one and only Pavel Datsyuk gave the Red Wings their 22nd consecutive home win with just 5 seconds left in the game.  Captain Nick Lidstrom hit Zetterberg with a no look pass off the boards, who sent it up to the magician, who then blew past Ryan Suter…and the rest is history.  I can only imagine what Pekka Rinne was thinking. Most likely it was “Oh (insert 4 letter word here).” Datsyuk also had an amazing assist…while he was lying down on the ice.

3/10 Detroit 2 @ Nashville 3

This was the first of the Red Wings 6 game losing streak this month.  Although it was a loss, Datsyuk found a way to make Detroit fans proud.  After Shea Weber blocked and knocked Datsyuk a few times as he attempted to make his way to the net, Datsyuk got back at him…twice as good. The video makes me giggle every time I watch it.

 

The next couple weeks are going to be tough, but if anyone can push hard and prove their excellence, it’s the Detroit Red Wings. It’s time to smash Smashville.

(stats from detroitredwings.com)

What Lies Ahead

The Red Wings only have 18 games (10 at home, 8 on the road) left to play in the regular season and the race for a playoff spot in the West is tight.  The Wings will be without Pavel Datsyuk for a few more weeks, without Jonathan Ericsson for about a month, Nick Lidstrom and Kyle Quincey are both day-to-day, and of course, there is no word on the return of Patrick Eaves.  The last 18 games are going to be crucial — let’s break them down:

Western Conference Matchups

Minnesota Wild
3/2/12 @ Detroit
(1-1-1)
The Wild got the W when they visited Detroit in November.  I remember how pissed off I was when Devin Setoguchi scored that ridiculous goal in overtime after the refs failed to make a call for a dirty hit on Kronwall.

Chicago Blackhawks
3/4/12 @ Detroit
4/7/12 @ Detroit
(2-2-0)
Detroit has only hosted the Blackhawks once this season and won 3-2 in overtime

LA Kings
3/9/12 @ Detroit
3/13/12 @ LA
(2-0-0)
The Wings have beat the Kings both at home (8-2) and in Los Angeles (4-1) this season

Nashville Predators
3/10/12 @ Nashville
3/30/12 @ Detroit
(3-1-0)
The Red Wings have won both of their games against the Preds at home and also one in Nashville. The 4-3 loss in Nashville was a brutal one, and you can thank Shea Weber for that. He scored 2 goals in the last 5 minutes of the 3rd period.

Anaheim Ducks
3/14/12 @ Anaheim
(3-0-0)
The matchup in Detroit last month was a real nail biter. Todd Bertuzzi won it in the shootout with a shot that had everyone on the edge of their seats.

San Jose Sharks
3/17/12 @ San Jose
(1-2-0)
Last time the Wings visited San Jose they lost 5-2, even though they outshot the Sharks 42-28 (BARF)

Columbus Blue Jackets
3/26/12 @ Detroit
3/28/12 @ Columbus
(3-1-0)
The Wings and Jackets will play each other in back to back games, one per city. The Red Wings have won both of their games against the Blue Jackets at home and one of the two games played in Columbus. The Wings suffered a 4-1 loss to Columbus back in October right after they got crushed by the Caps—nothing like being kicked when you’re down. The Red Wings won their most recent meeting with the Blue Jackets by a score of 5-2

St. Louis Blues
4/4/12 @ St. Louis
(3-2-0)
The Red Wings have won all 3 games vs. the Blues at home this season, but have lost both games they have played in St. Louis. This is gonna be a big one.

Eastern Conference Matchups

Washington Capitals
3/19/12 @ Detroit
(0-1-0)
No technique I have learned as a therapist has helped me forget the 7-1 loss the Wings suffered in Washington back in October, after opening the season with a 5-game winning streak.  Mike Green had a 4 point game (2G, 2A) and Mathieu Perreault scored 2 goals in his team-low 10:20 of ice time. This will be Detroit’s first game home after a 4-game road trip but I have faith that the Wings will show them who’s boss — and payback’s a bitch.

New York Rangers
3/21/12 @ New York
This will be the first and only meeting between the Red Wings and the Rangers this year. The Red Wings took the win (3-2) when the two teams matched up last season in Detroit.

Carolina Hurricanes
3/24/12 @ Detroit
This will be the first and only meeting of the two teams this season.  The Canes shut out the Wings 3-0 during their only meeting last year.

Florida Panthers
4/1/12 @ Detroit
This will be the first and only meeting between Detroit and Florida during the 2011-2012 regular season.  Last year the Red Wings beat the Panthers 4-3

New Jersey Devils
4/5/12 @ Detroit
This will be the first and only time the Red Wings play New Jersey this season. The two teams met twice last season—once in Detroit, once in New Jersey—with Detroit earning both wins.

Philadelphia Flyers
3/6/12 @ Philadelphia
(1-0-0)
The Flyers lost 4-3 when they visited Detroit February 12th, giving the Red Wings their record-tying 20th straight victory at home.

LET’S GO WINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TGIF: A week in review and a very Happy Hudler

TGIF Red Wings fans! It’s been a roller coaster of a week but overall mostly good stuff.

Up: The sweet, sweet, taste of revenge in Chicago on Sunday. After losing to the Blackhawks 3-2 on December 30th, the Wings came back from a 2-goal deficit to win it in overtime with a magical move by Pavel Datsyuk. Ty Conklin got a W and a boost of confidence–just what he needed.

Down: Why can’t we beat the Islanders? It’s all psychological (says the therapist…) My opinion: It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy– what you believe, you shall receive. The boys gotta get some help with that. The Wings lost 5-1 in New York Tuesday night (which makes me cringe). I can hear those Long Islander’s and their annoying f’in accents talking about the game and EW.

Up: Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard were selected for the NHL All-Star Game. Howard wasn’t even on the fan ballot. This is his first time as an NHL All-Star and it is definitely well deserved. It was a great day for Jimmy, according to an article on DetroitRedWings.com:

“It doesn’t get any better than that. What a great day. It’s been awesome,” Howard said. “I think the highlight of my day was probably when I woke up from my nap and my little guy had a T-shirt on that said, `My Daddy rocks.”‘

I was absolutely APPALLED when I didn’t see Nick Lidstrom’s name on the roster, but I was relieved when I heard it was due to a request. Even Superman needs a weekend to rest.

Up: The Wings then returned to the Joe Thursday night to earn their 13th straight win at home and Jimmy Howard’s 100th career win. Fil and Jimmy continued to be hot and Detroit beat the Phoenix Coyotes in a shootout that caused fans to squeal/scream (cmon, it couldn’t have been just me). It started off with Datsyuk who of course made it look so easy–It finished off with Henrik Zetterberg’s “Peter Forsberg” move that left Mike Smith in tears and fans on their feet (and me in tears as well).

Up: After Ed Snider, the founder of the Philadelphia Flyers, EMBARRASSINGLY claimed that Philadelphia should be called “Hockeytown” and not Detroit, their fans ruined their brief moment in the spotlight by assaulting off-duty police officer and Iraq war veteran, Neal Auricchio, who sported a New York Rangers jersey to the Winter Classic. Thank goodness the cops arrested Philadelphia resident Dennis Veteri today. STAY CLASSY PHILADELPHIA.

Up: Tomorrow the Wings and Blackhawks face off at the Joe at 12:30. The Wings will be looking to earn their 14th straight win at home. The game will be shown on NBC.

Up: Cheers to the fricken weekend. I drink to that, yeah yeah.

(ps I did not take this photo, nor do I have the rights to it. I only love it. Google images, yo).

Sunday Funday

This video speaks for itself…

Arguable Power Rankings & Some Datsyukian Humor

Winging It In Motown pointed out this morning that after suffering only their first loss of the season on Saturday night, the Detroit Red Wings (5-1-0) are now apparently worse than both the Pittsburgh Penguins (6-2-2) and the Chicago Blackhawks (4-1-2) according to the TSN.CA NHL Power Rankings. However, the ESPN NHL Power Rankings still have the Wings in the #2 spot this week.  ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun added: “Even Caps coach Bruce Boudreau pointed out that Saturday’s loss wasn’t really your typical 7-1 score; Detroit is playing better than that score indicated. Just a blip on the radar and with backup Ty Conklin in goal, to boot.”

If additional proof is needed that the Wings aren’t leaving the top of the rankings anytime soon, listen to Tomas Vokoun, the goalie for the Washington Capitals. Vokoun was named one of the NHL’s 3 stars of the week this week–a well deserved honor.  He has allowed only 6 goals in his last 5 games and has a .944 sv% this season.  David Amber from NHL on the Fly held a phone interview with Vokoun on Monday. Here are the “rapid fire” questions and answers:

Amber: The one guy you don’t want to face in a shoot out?
Vokoun: Pavel Datsyuk

Amber: The most difficult player to have parked in your crease?
Vokoun: Holmstrom

Amber: Starting an NHL team today, who is the one guy you need to have?
Vokoun: I would say Pavel Datsyuk

(Keep in mind these questions weren’t intended to be only about the Red Wings, but the entire NHL…so TSN can suck it)

In other news, Dmitry Chesnokov from Puck Daddy and Dmitry Malinovski, Sovetsky Sport’s correspondent in Detroit, held an interview with the always entertaining Pavel Datsyuk. Here are some highlights/quotes:

*Regarding Lidstrom’s 1500th game:
It is a very big milestone. All I can do is remove my hockey helmet for him. He is such a great player and a great person. You can always rely on him and take him with you on spying missions.”

*Do the Red Wings feel the competition for fans now that the Lions are doing pretty well in the NFL?
“There is no competition. The situation in Detroit is very difficult due to the economic crisis. And I think all of the Detroit teams playing — the Red Wings, the Lions, the Tigers — we are all trying to cheer Detroit fans up, make them a little bit happier in these tough times. And sincere thanks to all the fans who come to our games, who find the time for us.”

*Regarding NHL realignment:
“On one hand, of course it would be great because we would reduce the number of miles we fly considerably. It would be interesting to try ourselves in a different conference. But until the chickens are hatched we can’t really count them. So, people can discuss whatever they want. But nothing is certain at this point. I just hope we won’t be realigned to the KHL.”

*Alex Ovechkin was presented with his own wax figure on Monday at Madame Tussaud’s in Washington DC. Where would it be possible to see a statue of Pavel Datsyuk?
“I don’t think you will see it anywhere. And if you do, it will probably be made of paper. Cardboard paper. I am a cardboard player.”

I’m pretty sure that anyone who has ever seen Pavel Datsyuk with the puck would not describe him as a “cardboard player.” A wax figure wouldn’t do him justice — he definitely deserves a statue… possibly a pyramid.

Fresh Faces: Fabian Brunnstrom

This edition of Fresh Faces will focus on Fabian Brunnstrom, a 26-year-old Swede (yes, another one) who signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Red Wings on October 3rd.  The Wings signed Brunnstrom to a pro tryout contract in mid-August, giving him an opportunity to prove his worth.  The determination and impressive skill set he demonstrated during the preseason earned him a well-deserved spot on the Wings’ roster.

Brunnstrom celebrating his goal on Chicago's Corey Crawford with teammate Gustav Nyquist

Brunnstrom began playing professionally in 2005 with Jonstorps IF in Sweden’s third-highest level hockey league. He scored 44 points in the 38 games he played in during the 2005-2006 season. The following season (2006-07), Brunnstrom played for Boras HC and helped promote the team to the second-tier Swedish league, Allsvenskan. That season Brunnstrom lead the league with an astonishing 73 points in just 41 games. In 2007-08, Brunnstrom played in Sweden’s first-tier league, Elitserien, with Farjestads BK.

Although his elite performance in Sweden attracted interest from the NHL, he went undrafted in 2008 and became an unrestricted free agent. In May 2008, Fabian Brunnstrom signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars. After being a healthy scratch for his first two games as a Star, Brunnstrom became the third player in history to score a hat trick during his first game in the NHL.

In October 2010, Brunnstrom was placed on waivers. He was assigned to the Texas Stars, the Dallas Stars’ AHL affiliate team, after he cleared waivers a few days later. In January 2011, Brunnstrom was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs and played for their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.

Many believe that Brunnstrom is a so-called “late bloomer” and that his performance level may actually be higher now in his return to the NHL, having two years of experience in the AHL.  After scoring two goals in the exhibition game against Chicago, Brunnstrom has led us to believe that this may in fact be true.  I trust Ken Holland with all of my being and agree that between his size and goal scoring ability, signing Fabian Brunnstrom will be quite advantageous for the Wings.

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.