Friday, April 30, 2010

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Yes, it has been confirmed by our own Khan(!) that Jiri "Happy" Hudler will be back wearing the Winged Wheel next season. I have mixed feelings about this. Yes, it will be good to have his skill and scoring back on the roster, but I happen to be a champion grudge holder, especially irrational grudges, and a part of me will never be able to fully forgive Hudler for deserting us to go to the KHL in search of the filthy lucre. Maybe it's because I know I'll never make that kind of money, but when you've been offered almost $3 mil to stay with the greatest hockey franchise in the history of the game, why would $2 mil more tempt you to go play in a league only die hard hockey fans (and maybe a few Russians) even know exist? I mean, $3mil would be plenty for me, but then I'm not the greedy sort. Also, there's the significant concern over what Hudler's cap hit will mean for a team with a lot of budget juggling already on the boards. I want Hudler back, but I don't want to lose Eaves. Or Miller. Or really most anyone else. Wait, maybe I am greedy...

Anyway, Huds will be back next season, but in the meantime, we have the rest of the playoffs on our plate to keep our minds and the Wings' bodies occupied. It's only Round 2, after all, and in spite of last night's 4-3 loss to San Jose, I remain bafflingly optimistic regarding our ability to prevail and make it through to Round 3. Indeed, there seems to be an odd mood of optimism around the blogosphere this morning. No one is taking the loss too hard, perhaps because so many of us realize that the 3-goal shitstravaganza that put the Sharks over the top is one that will not be repeated. We all know how James Howard reacts to that kind of performance, and it's not by going soft in the next meeting. Plus, for the majority of the game, the Wings looked pretty good out there. We competed, we skated, we played fairly responsibly, and the Mule even started to look like the Mule again. With those factors on our side, optimism should be the least of what we're feeling.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

From Sand to Sharks

So here's the thing: the Sharks don't scare me, and that scares me a little.

I was firmly against facing Phoenix in Round 1. I thought they were too lean and hungry, too young, and had "Cinderella Story" written too large all over their damned faces. No, I wanted San Jose back then. Let's take the Sushi, I thought to myself, so we can ease into the playoffs while they complete their inevitable end of season choke-fest. Perfect.

Only, we got the Dogs and they proved just as hungry as I expected. Not only that, but they had Bryzgalov, who despite all of my I'm-a-mediocre-hockey-blogger-aren't-I-cool-and-clever arrogance, intimidated me. No matter what Anaheim thought, the man's got some game. He can bring it, and he brought it all too often against the Wings. And to top all that off, the Wings brought very little for a couple of those games. The third in particular gave me such bad flashbacks to November that I started craving cranberry sauce like a goddamned speedball. It took game 7 to bring out the kind of playoff Red Wings play that we're all used to seeing. But bring it they did and when I looked at the team that stomped the Coyotes on Tuesday night, I looked on the shadow of the Sharks and I laughed. Like this:  Muahahahahhahahhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Our regular season record against SJ speaks for itself. They're a good team, but we know them and we know how to beat them, so what is there to worry about? Not worrying.

I know I'm not alone in making the observation that the Wings seem to be at their most vulnerable when they're up against teams that don't worry them. For fuck's sake, just look at our record against Edmonton (Edmonton, for the sake of little baby monkeys!) this season for evidence. Now maybe the Wings take the Sharks more seriously than I do, and if so, all to the good. I mean, they do have a strong coach in Todd McClellan, and they avoided the doom of the President's Trophy this season, so they have that going for them. Plus, I've heard rumors that there are a couple of pretty decent hockey players on their roster. So, there might be hope yet. I suppose it all depends on which Red Wings show up: the team with R1 G7 Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Lidstrom, or the one populated entirely by the pod-people stand-ins dressed in the uniforms of Franzen, Cleary, Helm, and Kronwall.

Thought now that I think about it, I'd take an under-performing version of any of those 4 over a lot of other bodies in the NHL. Even without spectacular efforts from those guys, we've still managed to pull out more than one pretty fantastic hockey game. Imagine what can happen if they all show up tonight...

Monday, April 26, 2010

What? I Walked Into A Door, Okay?

I'm fine. No, really. It doesn't hurt at all.

What? Don't be silly. I already told you, I walked into a door. My team would never hurt me. They love me just as much as I love them.

Now you're just being a jerk. I told you I broke my arm when I tripped over that soccer ball in the parking lot. It was my own fault for being clumsy. Besides, that was back in November, and it healed up just fine.

I wish you wouldn't talk about the Red Wings like that. They did not give me these two black eyes. It was the DOOR.

What? The bloody lip? That, yeah. That- that was the dog. I scared him when he was sitting on my lap while I watched the game and he jumped up and hit me in the mouth with his head. It was an accident. The Red Wings had nothing to do with it. I already told you, they would never hurt me.

Oh, stop harping on yesterday. You weren't there. You don't know how I got these cuts and bruises. They happened just like I told you. You know what your problem is? You're jealous. You've never liked the Wings because you can't stand that they chose me to be their fan instead of you. You got stuck with those stupid Coyotes and you're bitter, so you're trying to make trouble between me and the Wings.

Well, it won't work. I love them, and they love me. Sure, sometimes we disagree and sometimes someone might accidentally get hurt, but they don't mean it. They just have a lot of stress to deal with sometimes. But most of the time they're the best hockey team a girl could ever want. I mean, look at all the sweet, thoughtful, loving things they've done for me. Haven't they brought me 11 Stanley Cups? Haven't they reached the playoffs for me 19 times in a row? Haven't they brought home countless Norris and Lady Byng and Selke trophies? Haven't they created a dynasty for me that is one of the most enduring and celebrated in all of hockey? Doesn't that prove how much they love me? I certainly think it does.

So we had a little argument on Sunday, so what? It was probably my fault. I pushed them too hard. I asked too much. I knew Phoenix would be a challenge, but I had to go and mouth off about how they just had to finish off the series at home and how I didn't want to have to deal with a game 7 back in the desert. I was being selfish. I was only thinking of what I wanted, not about their needs. I deserved whatever I got. They had every right to teach me a lesson.

I mean, you know, if that's what had happened. But it didn't. The Red Wings would never deliberately hurt me. I told you; I walked into a door.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Who Cares? ME, DAMMIT!

If I were the insecure, obsessive, neurotic type of hockey blogger, I might wonder why I bother to keep up this charade. After all, there are like 176 quadrillion Red Wings blogs out there that make mine look like the mold that grows on dog crap out here in the Pacific Northwest. I  might question my purpose, my calling, my avocation, if you will. (Hold me.)

But then we're treated to 1 of 2 things: either a super-phenomenal top-notch ass stomping hosted by the greatest hockey club ever to lace up the skates, or a game like we got last night, and suddenly everything becomes clear. I have to blog, because if I didn't, I would be mainlining heroin (or possibly guacamole, thanks TDD, or possibly even guacamole-flavored heroin. How metal would that be?), kicking puppies, beating small children, sexually assaulting livestock, and setting forest fires. So really, when you think about it, the world owes me a big ol' "thank you, ma'am" for the fact that I vent my rage, frustration, bitterness, elation, exuberance, and fuckyeah this way.

There was not much fuckyeah last night. I can't deny that I had a bad feeling going in. After all, as The Triple Deke pointed out (because clearly they actually wrote this post, only their version was funnier. Obviously.), afternoon games have not gone well this season for the Wings. Beyond that, however, traveling back from Phoenix after a 10 PM start, having one day, and then playing a 3 PM game is a sure way to spell reaming in Hockeytown. My tin foil hat allows me to understand that this is just the NHL scheduling office's way of getting their shits and giggles at our expense. Today, though, we get an actual day of rest before tomorrow's rematch.

The only question left is whether the Wings will use this day to muster up the energy to care whether or not they win. I do. I know at least 19 other non-professional athletes who care as well. Maybe we can send some of that to Detroit? I'll gladly pay the postage.

Of course, I'm not sure the team would bother to open the package. Right now, it looks as if that might be too much trouble.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

You've Got to Want It

And when I say that, I'm not talking about wanting it the way Bertuz-hnikov wants to be a prima ballerina, or the way Pens#87 wants a Playskool Little People Animal Sounds Farm set for his birthday...

 ...or the way Herm wants to go to Helm's house when he dies, or even the way the Scrappy Octopus wants to be Homer's BFF.

I'm talking want. Deep, grinding, obsessive, teeth-clenching, gut-wrenching need. And once you have that, it's still not enough, because you also have to work for it. You have to work every second of every shift of every game. You have to demonstrate that you're willing to skate like your life depends on it and shoot like the buzzer's about to ring and hit like the refs aren't looking. And you have to do it not just after the losses but for every game for every series until you get to rip Lord Stanley's Cup out of the hands of the Midget Unbeliever Over(-weening) Lord (High Idiot) of the NHL.

So it would be great if the Red Wings would remember that and start looking like they understand it. Thanks.

Still, I predicted (in my head, where I also foresaw the inevitable rise of intelligent, programmable breast implants. Just wait for it) the Wings would take the series in 6 games. Tonight we gave Phoenix their second. Time to start wrapping thigs up.

Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Death By Red Wings: DET 7 - PHX 4

Dude. I can't... I just... I mean, I can't even... And the thing... And the other thing... And when that...

Shit. Suffice it to say that game damned near killed me and every other Red Wing fan I know. If the news media report a surge in the sale of personal defibrilators tomorrow, I'm going to know where that came from. Cause DAMN.

I;m not going to do a recap, mostly because I can't, due to having watched most of the second and half of the third from between my fingers and having flipped back and forth between the game and something on the real-life possibility of comic book superhero powers in an attempt to regulate my heart's tachycardic rhythms. All I will say is that I'm glad that the real Red Wings showed up, even if it took nearly 30 minutes for that to happen. I hope we remember on Sunday that when we play hard we win, and when we get stuck in our heads and try to think instead of just skating, we get into trouble.

Let this be a lesson to us.

Now I just need to call my doctor and see if I can get a prescription for nitroglycerin tablets.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Well, Wasn't That Special?

And by "special" I mean "a gigantic shit storm of shit and assholery." The Wings managed to blow two leads and let the Desert Dogs stomp all over them like a bunch of stiletto-wearing dominatrixes (dominatrixi?) at an Asian massage conference and bondage party. I don't know about you, but it made me throw up a little. Shane Doan made me throw up a lot.

Maybe this is what I get for not giving a rat's ass about a hockey team forced to play in the middle of the fucking desert, but until last night I had no idea that the Phoenix Coyotes were the illegitimate demon-child spawned when the Anaheim Ducks assraped the Philadelphia Flyers in the shadows of the Ben Franklin Bridge. To say the little fucks played dirty uses one of my favorite words in an entirely unfortunate manner. But even worse than the dirty play of the Dogs was the absolute incompetence of the reffing staff. The blind dog down the block from my house saw a Phoenix stick open up Nick Lidstrom's lip, but the official who was being paid to watch the play around the puck at the Perfect Human's feet apparently missed it. Right. Whatever. Wings fans are paranoid conspiracy theorists who should know better than to expect a fair call at a hockey game, especially one graced with the presence of our noble commissioner, Ms. Gary.ass Bettman. We ought to realize that in order to win in the playoffs, we don't need to just beat our opponent, we need to beat the officials as well. So be it. We've done it before, and we can do it again.

What we can't do again is let ourselves be intimidated by a team that refuses to play the clean game we were obviously dumb enough to expect. The Wings had a perfectly good 1st Period, not outstanding mind you, but perfectly adequate to come away with a win. Unfortunately, the longer the game went on and the harder and more physical the Dogs played, the more cautious and less energetic we became until by the third period, it was like watching a team of my dead grandmothers dumping and chasing the puck in the offensive zone, when they could even manage to make it that far down the ice. I refuse to accept that from a team with the talent of the Detroit Red Wings. We can do better; we MUST do better.

There's no secret to what it will take to wrest this series away from Phoenix. We need to play like the Red Wings. We need to be fast, tenacious, strong, and skilled. We need to play with heart and commitment and stop being afraid that we'll get hurt badly enough to hold us back in the later rounds, because unless we stop backing off and letting the other team control us, we're not going to make it to the later rounds. Worry about tomorrow tomorrow. When you're on the ice, you worry about that shift and nothing else and you make sure you've left everything you have out there when you hit the bench. Understand?

Fine, enough said.

The Free Press reports that Jason Williams is out for Friday and Justin Abdelkader is in. Good. I'm a fan of this decision. Williams may have a better point shot than Abdelkader, but I saw way too many times last night when JWill stood back on the ice instead of pushing forward. Or backward, or sideways, or any fricking way at all. I'm rather have a young, hungry, physical player out there than a skilled player who doesn't look bothered to give his all on every shift.

And this here is my last request: I would greatly appreciate it if the special teams could start looking more like "special" refers to their specific and highly developed skills sets and less like it refers to the fact that they ride the short bus to practice every day. I wasn't all that surprised to see a lack of capitalization on the power play, since that's been a problem that plagued us all season, but the playoffs are NOT the appropriate time for the penalty kill to fall apart like a house of cards in a tornado zone. Pick it up, gentlemen. I expect better from you.

We all do.

So please, take 60 minutes on Friday evening and make me eat each and every word in this post. I'll make sure I have plenty of booze available to wash them down.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Game On, Boyfriend!*

*Advisory: The author of this blog post makes no guarantees, either stated or implied, that this post will be free of shameless and obsessive references to the television series entitled The West Wing in general, and the episode "Game On" in particular. Reader discretion is advised.

This is it, mes amis. The playoffs are here, like the sweet scent of springtime after a long, hard winter of enclosed spaces filled with dirty sweat socks and the sick stink of fan fears. The Red Wings managed to hibernate their way into the mix in the Western Conference in spite of October through, um....well, about the Olympic break. And the Wings haven't just made the playoffs, they've made the 5 spot and earned themselves the honor of facing li'l Gary's second son in the first round.

Game 1 vs. Phoenix begins tonight at 10 PM (7 Pacific). If the playoff Red Wings show up, the Red Wings we know and love, all will be well. Remember those Wings? I do, because yesterday, the NHL Network replayed the Cup winning game of the 2007-2008 season and I saw the Red Wings play harder in the first two minutes of that game than I've seen them play in a long, long time. That's the team I want to see tonight and every night until Number 12 hits the air above the head of a certain Perfect Human a few short weeks from now.

I believe we can do it. More than that, I believe we have to do it, and I believe that the men wearing the wheel believe that, too. This is the 19th consecutive visit to the playoffs, and I've heard whispers somewhere along the line that 19 might be a number with some kind of significance in the world of the Red Wings. A number no one wants to disgrace. This is also the chance to correct a little mistake that happened just short of 10 months ago, a mistake that has haunted more than one Wings fan and fed a seething, simmering, bitter, acidic pool of rage just waiting to erupt like Ol' fucking Faithful and spew across the unwary. And I'm not just saying that because I really love being able to use the word "spew" in a post. I'm saying it because it's true. We have a mistake to correct, some excruciating mental images to erase, and some sloppy, dirty, smelly prints to wipe off of the Cup that rightfully belongs to us. The first step to making that happen will be taken tonight.

I'm counting on a very special group of men to make certain that the right thing happens tonight, and every night right up to the sweet, sweet end. I'm counting on the fact that there is no organization in professional sports with the kind of skill, heart, experience, and commitment that exists in the locker room at the Joe Louis Arena. I'm counting on the fact that each and every man who suits up in front of those lockers tonight knows that they serve at the pleasure of the Detroit Red Wings and that it's an honor and a privilege they'll want to remember to the end of their days. Each man in that room was asked to serve, to commit to giving their all to the organization, the city, the fans. The dynasty.

Break's over, Red Wings.

Game on.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Pentultimate BJ: CBJ 3 - DET 4

I actually missed the 1st Period today due to my ridiculous horse's ridiculous health problems, so you can thank him for sparing you from at least one paragraph of useless nonsense. I'll have to start this recap from period #2. You lucky bugger(er)s.

From what I could see, the Wings who played in the 2nd Period, at least, looked like they'd all listened to this week's TOV podcast. I say that because the cast this week seemed to agree that these last three games were not all that important given that our playoff spot had already been clinched. I can understand that feeling. As for our play, it seems like I've said this a lot this season, but it wasn't that we looked BAD so much as that we looked...human. Personally, I hate that. Just because we're locked into the playoffs doesn't mean we should stop playing like it matters, because it matters to the fans, if to no one else. Thankfully, at least Lilja decided to make a super play by diving across the net behind Howard to clear a goal that had bounced past the wunderkid. Not to be outdone, though, Jimmy followed up with a couple of fantastic saves to hold us in it for at least a little while longer. We ended the period the way we started it, down 2-1.

As Mike said during the period break, "we haven't been very good tonight." Ah, a Master of Understatement is Babs. And I didn't even know McGill offered it as a major. Unfortunately, the Wings didn't seem to have watched that interview because they didn't really get any better during the 3rd Period. We had a few stretches of good play here and there, but there were some bad stretches, too. There was one sequence where I shouted "how did that not go in" like 4 times in 2 minutes, but still. And then, at 8 minutes in, the tides turned. With a vengeance. The Wings scored 3 goals in 1:16, beginning with powerplay goals by Holmstrom/Zetterberg and Lidstrom, followed by an awesome shot by Cleary to bring us up to 4-2. Unfortunately, Mike Blunden scored quickly after that on a very good play that crashed the net and managed to slide past Howard. Score: 4-3. But the boys managed to hold out til the end. So, good on that.

Would I have liked a bit of a cleaner win? Sure. A more solid 60 minutes? Yup. But hey, the wins are what count, baby. And I'll take this one.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Fighting Dirty: DET 3 - PHL 4

Wow. Philly came out FLYING in the 1st Period. Pun acknowledged, but not intended. They really did come out fast and hard. So fast and so hard that the Wings look shocked and a little rattled, especially when a stone-cold Ozzie let in a goal 17 seconds into the game. Admittedly, it was a baaaaaad turnover that led to the shot, but bad turnovers seem to be a story with us these days. This does not please me. Thankfully, after the initial surprise at a battling Leastern team wore off, the boys woke up and started playing, in spite of some of the worst non-calls ever in the history of NHL reffing. Finally, Cleary did some awesome work staying in front of the net and whacked one past Boucher at 14:08. A little over two minutes later, Buckets did some more good work and fed one to Helm who scored despite the broken nose he took early from Laperriere. Finished up the period with a scrum between the Mule and Hartnell, who apparently needed help from Pronger. 4 minutes of penalties on each side, and the period ended on a breath of relief.

Okay, you know what? Fuck the recap of the 2nd Period action. The only think worth talking about was the ridiculously atrocious reffing perpetrated by Paul Devorski and his Merry Men. Throughout the entire game, they managed to make weak calls on the Wings for (non)slashing, (non)holding, and (non)roughing, yet were unable to call Philly for charging, boarding, intent to injure, tripping, hooking, crosschecking, and ripping Pavel Datsyuk's helmet off his head TWICE.

At the end of two periods, Philly was up 2 points. Datsyuk managed to bring us within 1, but in the end we couldn't manage to tie it up.

I can't say the Wings were robbed in this game. They made a lot of sloppy plays and Ozzie looked rusty at the start. he warmed up as the game went on, but by then it was too late. So maybe we didn't deserve to win, but neither did Philly. No team deserves to win when they play so dirty it would take a nuclear decontamination chamber to clean them up.

In the end, the Flyers didn't win this game; Paul Devorski and the worst reffing in the NHL won this game.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Magic Ass: NSH 4 - DET 3 (OT)

I won't say we came out soft in the 1st Period, but Nashville came out a wee bit harder.  Thankfully, we were willing to battle, so the first 5 minutes went pretty darn fast. Of course, Bert provided quite a bit of (non)comic relief with his regularly scheduled program of turnovers, but we still managed to scuttle the chances of repeating the last game (scoreless into a shoot out) by scoring on the PP at 18:15. The play was especially sweet because Datsyuk make a pass from his ass (literal AND poetic) to Homer, who whipped it across the front of the net to Franzen to Rafalski, who smacked it in. It was awesome. Pasha's ass, as Wings fans have always known, is magic.

The 2nd Period started with just over a minute on the PK. We managed to kill that off, but 2 Wings caught pucks on the defense without managing to clear the puck so Weber scored while we were aching for a change. Sucked. This seemed to set the tone for a dominant Nashville period. Erat brought the Preds ahead 2-1. Nick briefly tied it up with about 4 minutes to go, but Dumont ended the period with a goal bringing the score to 3-2 with 20 minutes left to play.

Only one word seems appropriate to describe the 3rd Period. Well, okay, only one word that rises above the level of profanity. Suckitude. Nashville is just way too good in the neutral zone. Way too good. Didn't seem to matter if we were up a man, down a man or even ons. It blew.  Especially when Bert took a roughing penalty with a little over 5 minutes left. It was a battle right down to the last 2 minutes, one that stirred my ulcer, killed my appetite, put grey in my hair, and made me weep like Pens#87. I confess I was about to give up hope when Franzen brought the puck behind the Nashville net and passed it to Homer, who sent it sailing to a perfectly positioned Datsyuk. Pasha then sent a gorgeous one-timer up under the crossbar to tie it with 47 seconds left in regulation.

The Overtime period lasted all of sixteen seconds before Suter ended it with a shot past Jimmy. So that was disappointing, but you can't discount that we're still in 6th, we still have 2 games in hand on Nashville, and we don't really want to play Phoenix in the first round anyway, do we? So tomorrow is another day and the playoffs are still in sight. And I'm good with that.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Yeah Baby: CBJ 2 - DET 3

The Red Wings seemed to start well enough for the 1st Period. I say only "well enough" because there wasn't a huge level of speed or intensity from either team. The first scoring came from Holmstrom at 2:21 off a shot from Datsyuk. Classic Wings play at the side of the net to get us off to a good start. Unfortunately, the lack of jump seemed to make us a little too casual because there were way too many turnover, which seems to be a recurrent theme this year. I thought we'd gotten it under control over the last few games, but another one in our own zone led to the BJs tying it up at just under 13 minutes in. Casual hockey is not the way to head into the playoffs.

Started the 2nd Period without obvious slacking, so points for that. The highlight of the period (aside from Bertuzzi's volleyball spike into the net, which, surprisingly was ruled a no goal) was Datsyuk's powerplay goal at 8:08 when he followed a beautiful takeaway and dangle-fest with an awesome snipe at the top of the net behind Steve Mason. So pretty I had to watch it three times before I was willing to catch up to the live game action.

In the 3rd period, Bert managed to make one count after a Zetterberg snipe bounced in off his skate. The goal was waved off by the official on the ice, but went for review. Oddly enough, the officials actually watched the replays and saw that rather than kicking the puck into the net, all Bert did was put his foot down on the ice and accidentally send the puck behind Mason. Really, I think they should just assume that was what happened. I mean, it's much more likely that Bert would score by accident these days than that he do so on purpose. That goal left us up 3-1, but on a powerplay with less than 2 minutes left, Columbus used a 2 man advantage (PP plus an empty net) to allow Umberger to sink one past Howard. Our boys held on, though, and battled right down to the horn to skate away with a 3-2 win.

That makes for 7 in a row and a Very Happy Christine. Only 5 left, and personally, I'm looking forward to keeping the skate to the throat of the Western conference and sailing into the playoffs on a thin film of the blood of our conquered enemies.