Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm Glad Thats Over


I've said everywhere I've gone today that last night's game 7 was one of the best games I've seen in a looooooong time.  That series as a whole was easily the best of this year, and of the last couple years, and I don't care what you say about an anticlimactic WSH/PIT series.  That was some phenomenal hockey, and the Ducks have nothing to be ashamed of.  Oftentimes such close games (and series) are decided on fluky goals.  This year, we happened to get the fluky (though legit) goal, and we won the series.  If the Ducks had won last night, I would've been disappointed, but I wouldn't really have even been mad, because the Ducks just played so well.  

Massive props to the Ducks on a helluva series.  I hate those guys so much, mostly because I honestly fear them in the playoffs, and this is why.  But at the same time, there is a huge amount of respect there, because as a team, they're one of the best.

Thanks to Art and Dan of Anaheim Calling, for their work on this blog with me.  It's been a fun ride, and we've had some good hockey discussion along the way.  I've definitely added you guys to my bookmarks.  

And thanks to those of you that stopped by to follow our coverage on the series.  Hopefully you enjoyed it.  I'll be seeing you in whatever round 3 action we do here at CLS, and you can now catch me at my own blog that I've just started, over at Sacrifice the Body.  I'll be doing most of the Wings-centric stuff here.  My general plan for StB is mostly NHL-in-general type stuff, and I've got a few big posts over there that I'm already working on.  Hopefully even you non-Wings fans will like it.  

Great job, everyone.

Also, I have a huge mancrush on Darren Helm.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Handshake Line - WCSF 2009: Detroit

**This is our Handshake Line post for this series. We'd like to thank James for asking us to take part in this mini-blog. Thanks, James. Go Pens, right?**

If you missed Ducks/Wings Game 7, you missed a good one. I'd recount my memories of it, but there isn't enough scotch in the world to make typing that out bearable. What is bearable (for me, at least) is The Handshake Line.

Anaheim Calling is as much about why Daniel and I are different as it is about us both being Ducks fans. One key difference going into The Handshake Line is this: Daniel freely admits that his self-worth is tied up in the Ducks' winning and losing. Mine will never be. Perhaps that makes me a bad fan, not as fully invested as the rest of the Ducks' fan base. I just can't bring myself to think of hockey as the Ducks taking the ice to validate me as an individual.

My view of The Handshake Line is that it represents two sides accepting the outcome of the game. The most important disagreement is happening on the ice. The name-calling, gloating, etc. are exterior to that, and exterior to the game of hockey as a whole. You shake to acknowledge each other's efforts. And I would like to do that here.

So, Daniel, what, beyond "Good Luck," are the things you'd like to say to the players and personnel of the Red Wings franchise, as well as their fans?

As Arthur has attested to, I had a lot of reservations about writing this edition of The Handshake Line. Not just because I hate the Red Wings, but because I've had to listen to 7 games of commentary that have generally been disrespectful towards my team. As a sports fan from the West Coast, I'm used to being forgotten about, but this series has pretty much been an exercise in how the Red Wings "can't do anything wrong," and the Ducks "can't do anything right." I'm not saying the Red Wings didn't beat us. You make your own breaks, and the Wings worked for that goal. They deserve to go on. I'm just saying I'd like it if people would remember that Anaheim battled, and they deserve the respect of people who appreciate good hockey. I didn't write that to be a bitter hockey fan, rather I did it to admit my own character flaws and admit that, at times, even I take the game too personally, or as Arthur put it, I almost became Chris Chelios and that is unacceptable for anyone who is a hockey fan. If you don't get that reference, then you should research Chelios' handshake habits. Having said all that, I now start my handshake list:

[To Babcock]
As anyone who pays attention to any sport can tell you, talent is not enough. You stayed one step ahead, and mixed your lines so effectively that there was almost no keeping up. It wasn't just Anaheim mistakes, it was your ability to switch up lines and have those guys mesh well enough to force those turnovers. You have a mastery of your team and you know how to use your talent. Bowman might have some competition for his ring count.

[To Darren Helm]
Props to a kid who has more career playoff games than regular season games. You scored a big goal in a big Game 7, and you're a testament to your organization's ability to produce a never ending stream of quality talent.

[To Nicklas Lidstrom]
Is there a better guy in the league at holding the blue line than you? I don't think you make a lot of amazing plays, and that is what makes you so amazing. You have this way of being exactly where you need to be. Personally, I think you are the hockey equivalent of Nightcrawler. There's really nothing else to say about a guy, who does nothing but make sure his team has an opportunity to win. You are the closest thing in the NHL to a security blanket.

[To Pavel Datsyuk]
In my humble opinion, the Hart trophy is all yours. For Ovechkin or Malkin to be effective, they have to score. You, on the other hand, supply enough pressure and play enough great defense that it doesn't matter if you score because the rest of the team follows your lead. Despite the fact that we kept you off the score sheet, you still wore down the defense and your play led to opportunities for your teammates. That's what a Hart winner does.

[To Johan Franzen]
You really do look like a mule, but hockey players aren't supposed to be pretty. More importantly, I'm pretty sure you have more career playoff goals than regular season goals. All you do is charge fearlessly to the net and make sure the puck goes in. That's old school hockey. I think you are just like Chris Pronger, the only people who like you are your teammates and your fans, because everyone else in the league hates playing you.

[To Marian Hossa]
Way to keep pressing on. The Detroit media was ready to skewer you after the Ducks went up 2-1 and all you did was have a monster Game 4 that gave your team enough momentum to put itself in a position to keep winning. If you don't break out in Game 4, your team might not be going to the Western Conference Finals.

[To Chris Osgood]
Everyone said you were the Achilles Heel, but you came up with some big saves. Maybe you weren't spectacular, but you did enough to win, and at this time of year, the only thing that counts is winning. You stood tall when your team needed you the most, and as you've shown before, you are more than capable of backstopping this team to another Cup.

[To the fans]
Good luck.

[To IAmJoe]
It was good working with you. Good luck blogging the next round. I hope you get your own blog up and running soon. You post good stuff.

[To Chris Chelios]
Anyone seen Chris Chelios?

[To Mike Babcock]
I never doubted you after the Edmonoton series three years ago. I couldn't doubt you now. You acquiesced, and made one change after the opening shift of Game 4. Good call.

[To Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary]
I was never afraid of Hossa or Datsyuk, not for a second. I was always afraid of the two of you. You proved me right.

[To Nicklas Lidstrom]
I remember being sad to hear rumors that you were talking about retiring in 1999, snubbed yet again for the Norris Trophy. Way to spend a decade making us all regret overlooking you. You set the tone in this series, and that's really all a captain needs to do with a good team.

[To Niklas Kronwall]
Good luck and good hits. Oh, and try to stay on your skates in the next series. Those guys are fast. You might come out on the wrong end of one of those Randy Savage Flying Elbows.

[To Jonathan Ericsson]
Even the best of the best have to fight for a roster spot on the Red Wings. So, I hope you know how much of a compliment it is when I tell you that you're the future of this team's defensive core.

[To Darren Helm]
You were barely old enough to drink the champagne out of the Cup (in the US) when you lifted it, but I can tell you have the requisite heart to savor this success. Don't lose that, and don't let anyone take it from you.

[To Kris Draper]
A decade removed from The Grind Line, and it's still headline news that you're sidelined in a series. That's gotta warm a 37 year-old man's heart.

[To Chris Osgood]
Consistency is a young man's game. It's all about timing. Keep proving that.

What a Long Strange Trip Its Been

Well, here we are.  We knew this series would not be quick.  Neither team could allow themselves to easily be ushered off to the golf courses.  Now a series that has been an absolute tug-of-war is going to 7 games.  Figures, doesn't it? 

There isn't much to say at this point.  The Wings haven't played up to their potential in some of these games.  The Ducks haven't played to their potential in some of these games.  If either one comes out and plays a stinker of a game, they're going to regret it, because the winner of this series will walk away with a Stanley Cup, I think.  Hopefully, for both their sakes, each team shows up, and the most talented team wins.  And by most talented team, I mean the Wings.  Now if only gametime would come a little bit sooner.  

If you haven't yet, go read Anaheim Calling's discussion on what the Red Wings as a franchise mean to the Ducks.  Good stuff. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Another One For The Ages

[Pavel's still mad about that hit in 2007]

We have spent a lot of time talking about different aspects of this series, from Hiller's struggles to the contributing factors of Detroit's success and we even hated on Versus' coverage, or lack thereof, of this series. What a lot of people are forgetting is that since 2003, these are the two most successful post-season teams. We've each won a Cup, and the Ducks actually have more Cup appearances, 2 to the Wings' 1. Anyone who has followed this rivalry since the early days in 1997 knows that there is a lot of hate between these two teams. I'm sure some Detroit fans blame us for costing them a Cup in 2007, and possibly 2003. Thus, it's no surprise that there were so many fireworks at the end of last night's game. So Arthur, what makes the Anaheim-Detroit rivalry one of the most compelling in hockey?

Let me point out that 2002 was a Cup year for Detroit, so the Ducks don't really have an appreciable lead in Cup appearances when measuring from 2003.

In my opinion, there has never been a Ducks/Wings series without a quality storyline. Detroit has faced Anaheim following each of its last three championships, answering the bell of the Stanley Cup hangover against the same team for the last decade. When these teams first locked horns in '97, Detroit went on to win its first Cup in 42 years, and ten years later, Anaheim beat the Red Wings to advance to the Finals that brought them their only Stanley Cup. It's never a meaningless series when it's Detroit/Anaheim, but here are my three reasons that this is one of the best rivalries in hockey:

1) Fun to watch. Hradek over at the Entertainment Sports Programming Network said it best after Game 3 when he asked if we could watch these teams play a Best of 15 series instead of 7. Anaheim and Detroit declare war every time they face each other. The sweeps aren't sweeps when it's Ducks/Wings. The teams played a combined 10 overtime periods in their 1997 and 2003 sweeps of one another, and the '99 series was filled with goals knocked in above the crossbar, Kariya hitting three posts (but no net) and the general shenanigans we've come to love. In fact, if you add up the all-time Playoff OT minutes between these teams, you probably have enough for another series. And every minute of that time is filled with contentious hockey: they draw blood, they question each other's heart and grit and they steal games from their opponent more often than they best them.

2) Respect. For the longest time, the Ducks were the NHL's answer to Rodney Dangerfield. They routinely dropped the gloves, and had the most potent offensive talents in the NHL. For that, other teams regularly took runs at their skill players, and the talking heads classified them as a purely offensive team, not built for serious playoff contention. No respect, I tell ya. Detroit, by contrast, could win an entire playoff series with nothing but the respect the other team gave them. How many times did we hear a coach in the 90s say of Detroit, "We can't respect these guys too much." It was a legitimate key to the series in a best-of-7 against the Wings. There was always the danger you'd get caught watching Fedorov skate around you, or not put a solid enough check on Shanahan.

Yet, when the Ducks tangled with Detroit, they brought the most dangerous weapon possible with them: the belief they could win. At first, you could chalk it up to a young franchise being too stupid to realize it couldn't beat the Red Wings, but a lights out goaltender and a one-man forecheck in 2003 proved it possible. Since then, the Ducks have morphed into the Big Bad Ducks, but it's the same story. Like the Big Bad Bruins of old, the Ducks don't respect anyone that comes into their building, least of all the Red Wings. And that lack of respect has got to stick in the craw of a Detroit franchise with that much history, that much consistent success and that many skill players. But it's also got to stick in the Ducks' craw that no matter what they do, the Red Wings will have the reputation of being classy and skilled, while the Ducks are Public Enemy #1 for every officiating crew in the NHL.

3) Litmus test in the West. Since 2002, only ONE Western Conference Finals was played without one of these two teams. They are the lineal champions in the West. You can't EARN a trip to the Finals if you didn't go through Detroit or Anaheim. When they face each other, people are prone to speculate (as they have this year) that the Ducks and Wings are deciding the Stanley Cup champion in THEIR series, not the one played weeks later.

As I've said before, I am a long time Ducks fan, and as a result, I have a massive chip on my shoulder. That also means that I hate the Red Wings. As you already stated Arthur, the Ducks were always seen as a flashy offensive team, the Kariya and Selanne show, that never had what it took to be a serious NHL team in the playoffs or otherwise. Then, when we ground out a 7-game win over a gritty Phoenix team, back when Roenick and Tkachuk occupied their top line, it was a step in the right direction. After that, we ran into a wall against Detroit. I believe 3 of the 4 games in that sweep went into overtime. Two years later, we were swept again, and that is when I began to hate Detroit. More importantly, it's also when the Ducks decided to fight for respect as an organization.

As you've mentioned, there is a new litmus test in the West, i.e. the Cup representative has to go through us or them, but the Red Wings have always been a litmus test for Anaheim. Detroit is an Original 6 franchise, and even though they had that 42-year hiatus from Cup glory, when we were starting to develop as a franchise and create an identity, Detroit was a league powerhouse. They were a model franchise, and in a way, I've always seen them as Anaheim's older brother, at least in terms of the franchise wars. After defeats in '97 and '99, what Anaheim fans wanted more than anything was that match up in 2003. In a way, Detroit has been a gatekeeper for Anaheim's respect as a franchise, and I think that is what makes this series so amazing. It may not seem tough to people who refuse to pay attention to a west coast team, but this rivalry belongs in the mythic category. It runs deeper than teams hating each other for ending playoff runs. We fight for the respect of an Original 6 franchise that always seems to be on our path to success, as a constant reminder of what we are trying to become. Red Wings fans seem to see us as a threat, an upstart mickey-mouse hockey club that has no right to even be in the NHL, let alone deserve the honor of hoisting a Cup. In some ways. I think Anaheim/Detroit demonstrates the battle between hockey purists and those who see the economic advantages of a modern league. While we do play a more old skool style of play in Anaheim, I think some people will never forget that we only exist because Disney rode the marketing wave a little too long. Detroit, on the other hand, is an Original 6 in a renaissance that has yielded more Cups in the past 12 years than any other franchise.

As a result of this sort of clash of hockey ideology, I see the players doing more to win than in other series. The reason why the Anaheim/Detroit playoff matchups are always such great hockey is that you have two teams who refuse to lose. It's usually a long stretch of mistake free, hard-hitting, grind-it-out hockey, where a superstar can, at any moment, change the momentum of the game. I know my answer is a little abstract, but that's what makes sports so great. It is so symbolic, yet so material. All I'm saying is that this rivalry has budded into the type of thing that no one from either camp will ever forget. It has offered the promise of hard fought hockey that every fan can appreciate, and most importantly, the games matter. The Cup winner might not come from this series, simply because of the damage these two teams have done to each other, but the winner of this series will definitely have the edge and confidence to hoist the Cup should the opportunity arise.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Step On The Neck and Don't Let Up

That's how you win.  You knock someone down.  You put your foot on their neck, and apply pressure.  You don't stop applying pressure until they're done thrashing.  You don't go "hey, look, I'm on top, cool!" and take off the pressure.  You keep the pressure on, cause if you don't, a good opponent will trip you up, and suddenly their foot is on your neck, and now they're pissed off.  

This is what the Wings have to do in game 6.  They have their collective foot firmly planted on the Ducks' collective neck.  It helps that Ducks have nice long necks.  If they let up, they could quickly find themselves pinned down and eliminated in 7 games by a pissed off opponent.  If they keep the pressure on, they should spend Wednesday morning planning for a Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.  

A few days ago at the BoC, I said the most frustrating part of this series was not as much that the Wings were being really outplayed, but that they were often allowing themselves to be beaten.  I gotta think that given the last two games, Ducks fans have got to feel the same now.  The last two games have featured improved performances by the Wings, particularly the Hossa/Filppula/Franzen line, but at the same time, the Ducks have also taken a step back, I think.  There've been some bad goals.  Mental mistakes.  A general malaise.  Beginning in game 4, as Hiller began to give up a few, the Ducks just seemed to give up.  Suddenly their brick wall for the last 20 games developed a couple holes, and instead of trying plug them or cover for his bad night, they just quit.  And then quit the next game too.  

Despite what Earl Sleek has been saying about playing with house money, I think everyone has to realize that this Ducks team, if it can beat the Wings, has a very good chance to win the Stanley Cup.  I'd pick them over Chicago.  I'd take them over any Eastern team.  When you're that close to getting over the wall, you've been playing this well, and you can see the light, I don't think I believe that whole playing with house money thing.  If the Ducks can win two straight, they're (mostly) home free to a Stanley Cup.  If they finish rolling over, its a big time opportunity wasted for the Ducks.  As much as I'd like to feel sorry for the Ducks, given that its either them or the Wings, I can't.  Frankly, its almost the same situation for the Wings, being a team that should win the Cup if they make it through this series.  

Hopefully this is our last gameday post of the series.  If not though, I won't be surprised in the slightest.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pumpkin Time?

The West's Cinderella 8th seed is now on the brink of elimination. The Ducks were competitive in Game 5, but the Red Wings attack came in waves, and a lapse in concentration to open the 2nd left Anaheim in a 2-goal hole that proved too much to overcome.

I'm going to flip the script a little bit here. Since the Red Wings are playing like the Red Wings and the Ducks are down 3-2, it's clear that Anaheim has to play flawless hockey from here on out. But Daniel, the Red Wings have a chance to swat away a pesky 8th seed that had them on the ropes in this series. What do the Red Wings have to do to make sure they're not back at the Joe next week?

I'm going to do my best to answer this question with as little bias as possible. I will, of course, fail, but at least it gives me a chance to focus on everything the Ducks did wrong. My first task for the Wings is to continue to get to Hiller. I'm not saying Cleary interfered with Hiller on the third goal, I'm just saying he made it impossible for Hiller to move and reach for the puck. Detroit needs to get away with-- I mean --do more of that. If Detroit can continue to win the battles in front of the crease like it did on the second and third goal, they will be victorious in Game 6.

The next thing Detroit needs to do is not let up. It's easy to thoroughly dominate a team in two games, as Detroit has with Anaheim, and forget that the team isn't going to roll over and play dead. Franzen and Holmstrom need to continue giving it to Scotty and Pronger. Anaheim's defenseman are great at using each other to move the puck out of the zone, so Detroit needs to keep the pressure on. More importantly, that pressure needs to continue into the neutral zone. Anaheim has had no transition offense for the last two games, and as a result has lost. No easy access to the attacking zone, no cross ice passes after entry and no cycling means no offense for the Ducks. It all starts by pressuring the D and not letting Anaheim access the neutral zone. Thus, it is necessary to keep the pressure up.

Finally, the Wings need to keep taking it for the team. It is quickly becoming apparent that the Red Wings aren't just outshooting Anaheim because they are getting more offensive chances, it's because they are getting more pucks through. The Ducks are getting a lot of shots stopped at the point and Detroit is turning up ice quickly, and as a result are getting a lot of odd man breaks when the Ducks have 3 wingers trying to crash the net for rebounds. Detroit is stopping everything. They have some of the busiest, and borderline, stick work in the league; they need to keep using it to their advantage and protect Osgood from having to face too many shots.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hold The Line

**We've got another series-related post over at our blog if you just aren't getting enough Ducks/Wings talk in your life**

I'm going to ask the question that's really on the mind of every Ducks fan after last night: how do we stop the Franzen, Filppula, Hossa line? They seemed to just have their way with us. I can't really figure out why. No matter who Carlyle threw out there, there was no answer. What do the Ducks do to counter this new Detroit line, and get their own scoring back on track?

A lot of the Ducks' issues in Game 4 stemmed from problems on the blueline: Festerling gets caught changing, Brookbank gets called back to the bench halfway through a shift after a horrendous turnover, Beauchemin can't handle Detroit's forecheck, etc. As someone who's been very critical of Wisniewski, I tell you I'm missing him now. He could make quick transition passes that our non-Norris defensemen just don't know how to do. We rely on the boards too much, and that's not safe when the other team's bringing more energy than you are. We can't put ourselves in situations where we're wasting a shift trying to figure out how to leave our zone.

We need to get some consistency on those first passes and breakout passes from our blueline. They're making too many mistakes, and they are succumbing to pressure. Some of it will be fixed in practice with the two days off. Some of it will remain, regardless of what we do. BUT we can't let Detroit pressure giveaways from our defense. That takes our forwards out of the equation and leads to bad penalties, not to mention quality scoring chances.

To a degree, that will help us counter Franzen and Hossa. I doubt there's a sure-fire way to cool them off, just as I doubt there's a sure fire way to heat Bobby Ryan up. Franzen was called out by Carlyle and Hossa by Babcock. They both came into Game 4 with something to prove. Whether or not they can continue to prove it, we'll see on Sunday. But the only effective method to shut them down is to make sure they're playing with the puck as little as possible. Effective passing from the rearguards will go a long way toward that.

There was a sequence last night where Beauchemin and Niedermayer just played catch at our blue line for an entire shift, forcing the Hossa line to change. When a line is cycling pressure like this, they are weary of getting caught out there. Their energy is front-loaded in the shift, and if they don't get the puck, they have to change. We've got to keep that line playing defense. That means breaking out of our zone quickly, being responsible with the puck and upping pressure in their zone.

As far as getting our scoring going, I think it's up to the players. Carlyle's tried different combinations, including ones that worked during the regular season like Ryan/Ebbett/Selanne. Personally, I would like to see what I call the Crazy Eights line: Miller/Ebbett/Selanne because I feel they've done well in stretches together, and Miller plays defense well enough for Selanne to take the risks he can't help but take. But at the end of the day, whether Bobby Ryan figures out his game is really up to him. He's running out of time to do it, but the kid has the ability to dominate-- We've seen-t-it. Carlyle's called him out. I'm sure Carlyle's calling out a lot of guys in practice. Now, he's waiting for them to answer. We all are.

Thank you!


Now, do it again.  Twice more, actually.  You play up and down, up and down, and then come out and show what you can do, you can't let up.  Its pedal to the metal.  Keep it up and everything will be fine.  This series is by no means over, but the Wings certainly stepped up and showed what they're capable of.

Thank you.  Now, let's just try making that happen two more times, allright?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Keys to Game 4

Keys for the Wings to win G4 in Anaheim and bring a 2-2 series back to the Joe:






Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Game In The Life

**If you haven't checked out Joe's post today on whether or not the Red Wings were losing this series WITHOUT the referees' help, scroll down past our drivel and do so now.**

magumbo - \mə'gəm-bō\ 1 n the good and bad juju that play against each other to determine the will of the hockey gods. -ORIGIN Swahili. See likely correct spelling "mogambo" and the 1953 Clark Gable film.

The following recounts a game in the life of two rabid Ducks fans: one at the Honda Center, the other trapped in Illinois and watching the game on VERSUS.


4:30pm PST - Choosing a jersey. After the Gm 3 loss to the Sharks, I switched to the Kariya home jersey with the '03 Cup patch-- figured it had the "upset the No. 1 and No. 2 seed" magumbo. It gets the start tonight, along with the purple duck caller from that year and the lucky orange shirt. I'm now wearing orange peeking through eggplant, green and grey with purple/yellow plastic hanging from my neck. Color schemes in the 90s were outrageous.

5:00pm PST - Meeting Daniel's sister for drinks at the Benihana. We run into a fan, who says he grew up in Chicago then moved to California in '92. He's been a Ducks' season ticket holder since '93, and never missed a game. He pauses, looks at me seriously, and says "Murray never should have let Kariya get away." I whisper to myself, "Arthur. Don't hug him. DON'T hug him. Resist. Resist!" I sip my beer and nod.

6:30pm PST - The rest of our carpool arrives. We drive in from the Benihana on Ball Rd. We have a season parking pass and a handicapped placard. Best carpool ever. The fuzz is at the Honda Center. We see two cops on horseback, and two squad cars in the parking lot as we park.

8:52pm CST - Just stopped playing Pokémon so I can start cooking dinner and get good magumbo going for the game. Contemplating the possibility that the Chi/Van game won’t be over in time for puck drop. Fucking VERSUS!!!!!

7:00pm PST - The Oggi's Pizza is out of Pyramid Heffeweizen. Their taps have been suspect ever since they took over this stall, and now they're out of beer. The domestic works fine, but so do my taste buds. I go across the way to get some Blue Moon. I walk to my seat. The Detroit fans have gathered around the glass. Sadly, it looks like the same number that show up to the regular season games. Why so many Wings fans in Anaheim?

9:10pm CST - Stepped out of the kitchen in time to hear the VERSUS guy say, “As soon as we’re done in Chicago…” Never wanted the Hawks to lose so bad in my life. Rocking the old school jersey tonight. It’s full of that 2003, 2007 magumbo. Might have to get a fowl towel out of the trunk in my room.

7:27pm PST - I observe the good magumbo tradition of finishing my beer between the final intro video and the National Anthem. The refs come out, and for the first time since February, they aren't booed (audibly).

9:29pm CST - Canucks are getting it done. Got my orange soda. I’ve had orange soda or beer, and cooked for every Ducks win this postseason. Contemplating the epic fail in magumbo by actually writing that down.

9:34pm CST - Chili dogs are ready. Canucks beat the Blackhawks; I will not miss puck drop!!!! I may or may not have scared my roommate the last time I didn’t get to watch the game on versus. I have recently resolved to not capitalize versus. Mostly because I don’t respect their coverage. Engblom just said we are in the driver’s seat. I wonder if it’s dangerous, jumping from bandwagon to bandwagon.


1:28 - Just sat down with food, and we’re already a man down. Good news: versus hasn’t fucked anything up yet.

3:37 - Lidstrom to the box for Slashing. I had to write it down to believe it. Although, the versus crew never showed it to me ☹. Apparently, they don’t cover Lidstrom penalties, eclipses, tornadoes or other freak acts of nature.

3:37 - No jumbotron replay on the Lidstrom penalty. I really need to see it to believe that Lidstrom committed a penalty, and even then I'm interested in additional angles.

5:21 - I need a bigger TV. The wide shots are killing me I can’t even read numbers sometimes. Osgood looks sharp. I want to score quickly. Arthur is staring at Hiller, admiring every flash of the glove. I’m definitely jealous.

9:03 - The fans stand and wave their towels because of an incredible series of Hiller saves that ended with him hugging the side of the goal AND a penalty call on Franzen.

9:11 - I have no idea why Franzen is in the box. I try hard to be a knowledgeable fan. I like to know what’s happening, and what might or might not be a penalty. Thanks versus. I can get Hockey 101 on your website, but I can’t get the name of the penalty called during the game. I quit. No more mentioning a lack of reporting penalties from here on out. Let’s assume they don’t.

12:30 - It occurs to me that watching hockey is better with friends. I don’t know who to complain to about our inability to get quality chances on Osgood. I also realize how little I do when I watch hockey. I look up to see Selanne on the break. Finnish Flash brought a tear to my eye. That was vintage Selanne!!!

12:40 - Selanne calling for the pass. Carter hesitates, but finally throws out the homerun feed. Selanne straight down the middle. I'm screaming, "Don't let him pull that move on you. Don't let him pull that move on you!" Selanne pulls it backhand. "That's the move! THAT'S the move!!!" The Honda Center erupts. I climb the rail in front of me, wave the towel, blow the caller. At one point I'm doing the Ultimate Warrior 'draw power from the gods' move. Before I sit, I take the caller and make a 'D' over my head, lips and heart. For any Catholilcs that find that blasphemous: I've traded churches. Sorry.

13:36 - versus guys just announced that the team to score first has lost each of the first two games. These guys are such a buzz kill. I’m pretty sure I stopped listening 12 minutes ago.

15:30 - The versus guy just said there was traffic in front of the net; there was nobody. Makes me wonder if they even watch the game.

17:33 - Just saw Hossa shake off Niedermayer, reminded me of what a huge dive he took in the 3rd period of Game 2; he went down like he was fighting Manny Pacquiao. That shit was ridiculous

17:55 - Wings Fan walks to the bottom of the stairs, gets yelled at for blocking the view and turns and flips everyone off. Classy. For some reason there's a "Ref, you suck" chant to my right. I must've missed whatever they're complaining about. Oop, Penalty on Pronger. As fans watch the replay on the jumbotron of Prongs tripping the guy up with his skate, there's a collective, "Well, yeah."

20:00 - Period over. It was a great period of hockey!! I haven’t moved from one spot on my couch, and yes, it was the edge. Also just saw my first Outdoorsy commercial. Thought it would happen sooner. I can’t wait to hear Engblom and Jones say something ludicrous.


8:20pm PST - Talking to Daniel's sister during intermission. She claims she reads our blog. I apologize for the "that kind of website" comment, implying she was promiscuous. She hadn't read it. Or Daniel's reference to dating her as "taming the shrew." Woops.

10:26pm CST - I’m glad Detroit is so "full of veterans" and has "so much veteran leadership" so they can coolly act like veterans. Talk about beating a dead horse. Look, I think Detroit’s a great team, amazing, but at some point it sounds like you’re making excuses. Just be real with me versus in-between-period-guy whose name seems irrelevant.

10:33pm CST - Do any of the versus hockey commercials feature Ducks players? Just curious. Then the versus guy informs me Anaheim has never relinquished a lead at home in this year's playoffs. Are they trying to jinx us? Do they need a magumbo manual? Someone shut these bastards up when there’s still 40 minutes of hockey left.

10:40 pm CST - My sister debates me via text about whether or not she is a 'shrew.' I blame Arthur; I know he told her. Whatever. She’d like those Chicago boys, not so much Ovechkin though.


3:40 - Nothing going on but exciting hockey, great checks, lots of up and down skating. WOW!!!

4:57 - Apparently versus has a no-replay policy. They refuse to show anything again unless it’s a goal, furthering the entire problem facing the NHL: there isn’t enough scoring, and the casual fan thinks that’s all the game should be. Thanks versus.

7:27 - Dear Todd Marchant, I’m sorry for ever doubting you or thinking you don’t belong in a Ducks sweater. There I said it, and I feel better.

8:16 - Cheering. Not sure what happened. Sasquatchewan (Getzlaf) took a shot, there was confusion, somehow it's in off of Niedermayer. Jumbotron replay. Nope, still have no idea how that happened.

9:28 - I start chanting “os-gooood” with the rest of the crowd at Ponda Center. Nothing beats live hockey, certainly not versus.

11:00 - Hiller lost his stick on the previous sequence. The puck's on the other side of the ice, but Hiller's not leaving his net to get his stick. "Hillsy, GET YOUR STICK!!" Coming up on 30 seconds without his stick. He finally gets his stick, jittery as a crackhead the whole time.

12:45 - Ebbett plays like he’s 6 feet tall. I love that little bastard. I like being able to observe those things on television. If I was there, I might not have noticed Ebbett’s effort. I might have been too wound up.

13:49 - Wisniewski goes down, and the Wings play on. That’s class.

13:49 - They show the replay of Holmstrom's elbow on Wisniewski. Seems like a lot of blood for an elbow, but Holmstrom does wear a lot of extra equipment. The ref in the Red Wings offensive zone (not sure if that's Tim Peel or Brad Watson) is talking to Niedermayer while he's in the box. Pretty long conversation. Niedermayer's pointing back to where Wisniewski was hurt. Looks like the ref may have seen the elbow, and regrets not calling it. I look forward to the make-up call. Wiz is carted out on a stretcher.

14:20 - What a huge shift in momentum. I’m sitting back now. Wisniewski getting hurt sucked the wind out of me. We need a great shift right now.

17:00 - The praise of the immortal Red Wings begins. The versus guys are talking like the score is already tied. It occurs to me that I haven’t left my couch once. Not even to go to the bathroom.

17:05 - Mike Brown charging into the zone. Looks like he elbowed Kronwall in the face, hard. He at least swatted him down to the ice. Ref doesn't call it. Same ref who was talking to Niederamyer in the box. Brown continues to jaw at Kronwall when he gets up. Brown knocks the stick out of his hand and keeps talking to him. The puck comes back their way. Interference on Kronwall. There's the make-up call.

17:45 - Damn! Turnover on the power play. Selanne can't pass to anyone not named Kariya.

19:40 - What happened to crashing the net?!!! I wish I could throw my computer at the TV.


11:21pm - CST: How many commercials will versus show me that feature dudes getting hit in the nuts? There’s one almost every break. They just started interviewing Niedermayer. I can’t help but notice that the interview with Hossa was about how everything was going right despite the fact that he wasn’t scoring, and the interview with Scotty is all about everything the Ducks are doing wrong despite the fact that Scotty just scored. At least Jones is saying good things about Selanne, and Engblom is talking about Detroit’s turnover problems.

9:31pm PST - Daniel's sister is really mad about this whole 'shrew' thing. And she's flying out to Illinois tomorrow to go see him. HA!

11:36pm CST - Hooray Puck Drop!!! I was getting a little stir crazy. This period is going to be wild. I can't wait to see how versus decides to switch to an awkward camera angle during a goal. Just heard Wisniewski is going to be okay. That makes me feel better going into the 3rd.


3:53 - One word: Hectic!!!

6:00 - Perry can't put the goal in on the rush. He cocks his head back. I take it for him celebrating. I scream "yeah!!!!" Play continues. I look like an idiot.

5:11: Can’t help but wonder what the building feels like right now. I miss my Ponda Center.

7:00 - I’m glued to my TV, waiting for the next amazing thing to happen. Want to be in Anaheim. Side note: I know who won the Cup last year. Does the NHL have no other game film they can lend you to make a NEW commercial, versus? The same old Penguins clip only reminds me that you are hyping a moment that turned out to be awful for Pittsburgh when Detroit hoisted the cup on their ice. versus sucks.

9:00 - Cheers from the 200 level. Security is escorting a fan in a Datsyuk jersey out of the building. Ironic.

10:15 - Is there such a thing as a good in-game graphic during a hockey game? This one takes up the whole lower third of the screen, and makes me lose the puck along the boards. Another penalty in a clutch situation. Fucking Ducks need to stay OUT of the box!!!! Of course, I still don’t know what the call is. Fucking versus.

10:20 - Chelios gets sticked to the helmet. Ref isn't calling it. Chelios grabs at his hat. There's the call.

12:00 - 25 seconds left in the power play. A "Make Some Noise" graphic comes onto the jumbotron. The crowd actually makes noise, though they declined to for at least three separate Noise/Get Loud graphics during this game, and seemed to dodge the whole 'cheering when asked' thing all season. In their defense, I cheer every "Make Some Noise" graphic by myself, and feel like an idiot the whole time. I look like the kid in the helmet, who gets happy for no reason.

12:30 - Great kill!! Needed that.

14:27 - Can’t believe Chelios went down like that!! He should be ashamed of himself. Miller touched his shoulder to speed past him and he went down like his knee gave out.

14:27 - They called Holding on Miller. I didn't see it. And no jumbotron replay. I'm going to pretend it's legit, and not indulge the conspiracy theory that the refs are giving the Red Wings a chance to tie this up late.

15:27 - Side note: versus hasn’t announced who received the penalty and what the call was.

16:27 - The place goes wild at the end of the kill.

16:38 - Detroit took so many two-handers across Ducks' sticks during that penalty I’m surprised none of them broke.

17:15 - Brookbank is getting dominated in the crease. Get him off the ice!

18:32 - How does Drew Miller make that play AGAIN? They called you for Icing in the 1st because you're not gaining the Red when you dump. So now you try it on the other side of the ice? What? Because you're farther from the linesman this time? They're not giving you the neighborhood play! It's a one goal game! You're killing me!

18:32 - What are the odds that Drew Miller isn’t on the roster next game? His offensive sense is poor, and he just made a huge mental mistake icing the puck with less than 2 minutes left. Side note: Ducks have been getting better and better in the faceoff circle.

18:56 - Not sure how the puck got into the net. Jonas is sitting against the post. "Make-up call" ref, my new favorite ref, is waving his arms - NO GOAL. Detroit fans are still cheering. Some are even waving Ducks towels, refusing to believe him.

18:56 - Gaisensei says that luck is a part of skill.

19:15 - Detroit is going to keep diving until the refs call it. I can’t believe this. It just makes me angry. I’m sitting here stewing about it. Can’t they stay on their skates?

20:00 - Cheering. I take a few pictures of the end-of-game fracas, and then bee-line out. My carpool hates to be stuck in the parking lot traffic. Up 2-1!!!!

20:00 - Ducks win. Detroit snaps. Gloves go everywhere. Hiller is a maniac. That’s all I’m gonna say. All I can think about is being in the Ponda Center during the cup finals in 2007. Wish I was there.

Shit happens

Yup, you heard me.  

Shit.   Happens.

Its the way of the world.  Happens to everyone.  Bad calls, bad bounces... even bad whistles with a minute to go as you're scoring the tying goal.  Shit happens.  It sucks.  It really sucks.  But it happens.  

But you know what shouldn't happen?  A parade of breakaways (Drew Miller had two in G2, Selanne actually scored on his in G3).  Odd man rushes.  Sloppy play.  Bad penalties.  Coming out flat for a series that I think will crown the Stanley Cup winner.  

Sure, getting shafted on a game-tying goal sucks.  But you know what?  It shouldn't have mattered anyways.  Refs out there do make mistakes.  It happens, and in this case, the ref did make a mistake, and it had a big outcome in the game.  But some of the idiots out there all worked out about some sort of screwjob on the level of Brett Hart at Survivor Series need to sit down and shut the hell up.  

I have always maintained, and will maintain until my death, that while a referee may make mistakes, the really good teams put themselves into positions where they don't allow the referee to change the game against them.  Especially in a 7 game series, this ought to be true.  Maybe you got screwed out of a game.  Hey, ok, there's 6 other games you can win.  

A really good team intentionally keeps their sticks down, skates hard, and does everything they can to avoid giving a referee and opportunity to call a penalty on them.

A really good team doesn't give up a breakaway, because they're responsible and smart about covering defensively when they turn the puck over.  

A really good team doesn't wait till the last minute to score a tying goal, giving the referee a chance to make a bad call.  They simply don't allow that lead to happen.

A really good team doesn't forget to show up for half a game.  

A really good team sees the mistakes they're making and problems they're having, and addresses and fixes those problems, whether that be through personnel changes (buh-bye, Cheli), or holding people accountable for their mistakes (like turnovers!).

A really good team doesn't bobble every single shot that comes up high into your glove or blocker and allow it to bounce wildly away, creating extra chances or more work for your defense.

A really good team doesn't allow themselves to go down in a series, because doing so allows any sort of mistakes (either by the team or the refs) to hurt you even worse.

The Red Wings should never have been in a position to allow that referee to make that call and lose that tying goal.  If they showed up for a whole 60 minutes, they probably wouldn't have been losing, and might've even had a lead.  If they didn't make stupid mistakes, like giving up that breakaway to Selanne (or a series of odd-man rushes afterwards), they would've been ok.  If they would fix their problems, like some of these stupid penalties, giveaways, or putting out defensemen who simply do not play smart, they probably would've been ok.  

Through three games so far, the Red Wings have proven themselves to be the better team...  when they're awake.  For several periods, the Wings have just completely carried the play.  In game 2, it was period 3 + the OT's.  In game 3, it was everything after the 2nd Anaheim goal.  When they're on, they are really, really good.  The problem is that they're not turning it on often enough, and I don't know that the problem there is necessarily even something the Ducks are actively doing to keep the Wings down, but that the Wings are allowing themselves to be kept down.  

Now the Wings are down 2-1 in the series.  That puts you into a vulnerable position, where your own mistakes or the mistakes of the referees can bury you.  If Detroit goes home down 3-1, this series is over, because Anaheim is too good to give up 3 straight without snagging one themselves.  If the Wings had won Game 3, and then lost Game 4 on some sort of bad call, bad mistake, whatever, it would've been ok.  It would've sucked, but it would've been ok.  But now that they've lost Game 3, if they lose Game 4, whether the circumstances be fishy or not, they're up Shit Creek, and they don't have a paddle.  

A really good team also overcomes adversity.  They overcome a series deficit.  They win the game, even if the ref makes bad calls, and then they win the next one.  They come out firing on all cylinders.  They overcome what limitations they have, and do what needs to be done.  They don't worry about what has happened, or cry about it, because its already happened and it can't be changed.  They know that the only way to fix it, to make things right, is to go out there and take control, to get in the driver' seat and take this series where they want it to go.  

Now its time to find out if these Red Wings are a great team, or just a good one.  I really hope its the first one, and not the second.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

NBC Reschedules The Rolex Equestrian Championships

Anaheim calling to the hockey world...

Overtime. In four series, the Red Wings and Ducks had played past regulation SEVEN times. They'd played into a 3rd overtime session twice: Game 2 in Detroit's 1997 sweep of the Ducks and Game 1 of Anaheim's 2003 sweep of the Wings. They also played a double overtime game in the 1997 series-- that's 12 extra periods of playoff hockey in the last 12 years. Make it 15.

Those looking for parallels to the 2007 series-- where the hard work of Nicklas Lidstrom won Game 1 but the Ducks managed to edge Game 2 in overtime at the Joe --were not disappointed. One-minute into the third OT, Marchant intercepted a pass and nudged it back to Wisniewski, who quickly returned the feed to his center, already skating up ice. Criss-crossing into the zone with Rob Niedermayer, Marchant sent a snap shot high glove (where the Ducks had gone all game) and picked the top corner perfectly. As was the case in 2007, the Wings were sent to the airplane, 1-1 in the series, having lost a very winnable overtime game.

Now there were plenty of storylines in the roughly 101 minutes of hockey. NBC declined to talk about the Mike Brown hit today, instead focusing on the Randy Savage Flying Elbow that Kronwall laid into Ryan Carter in Game 1, fracturing the Ducks center's nose. They even lingered on a replay of a Game 2 aerial shoulder-to-shoulder check on Selanne. While the Red Wings not named Kronwall also played a physical game, they appeared to be dealing with some lingering rink rust. Hossa's line disappeared for the entire 2nd period, well-controlled by the Ducks' fourth line, but returned to form for the 3rd and overtime. Jonas Hiller made some mid-game adjustments of his own after guessing high early on (as he did so often in the San Jose series), and he cheated laterally instead, making for some spectacular glove saves.

Daniel, what was your favorite storyline of Game 2, and how do you think it will affect the rest of the series?

I think something that is being missed is maybe how good of a coach Carlyle is. He made some pretty big switches before the game, sitting Christensan and playing a relatively new Josh Green, who played fairly well. He also didn't hesitate to call out some of his stars -ahem- Selanne -ahem- for failing to produce and not watching their defensive assignments. And when he knew he had to squeeze some extra offense and keep things from getting too dull, he started moving Bobby Ryan back and forth between the first and second lines. I know that didn't result in the winning goal, but it did result in some really great shifts, shifts that kept us alive and the puck in Detroit's zone at a time when they were really buzzing the net. Anaheim did a great job adjusting, and that was the difference in the game. As you pointed out, Hiller started making adjustments and was untouchable through overtime. In the end those adjustments were what won us the game. Right now, I think Babcock is being outcoached, and if it stays that way, it'll be good for us.

Also, Randy Carlyle might not say anything, but if Scott Niedermayer can get called for tripping in overtime, why not Marian Hossa? He drove his stick into Beauchemin's skate when they were chasing the puck into the corner. Look, I'm not trying to say Niedermayer didn't commit that penalty. It was the right call, because it prevented the Wings from putting together a potential scoring chance. However, if a penalty is committed in the offensive zone, and it leads to quality chance, like Hossa's trip in the second overtime, then it needs to be called, too. This doesn't include a potential break where Ryan was held up at the defensive blue line so that a winger could get back on D. I'm not opposed to refs swallowing whistles, but keep it real. After they gave Detroit a chance to win, they didn't call another penalty. Throughout this game, they were calling very ticky-tack penalties, but letting some other fairly rough stuff go. I was just unhappy with the inconsistent penalty calling. Hopefully, that is one thing that will not carry over to game 3.

I think my favorite happening of game 2, though, was Andrew Ebbett. He took a knee-to-knee in the early goings of the 3rd and he played his ass off on that bum wheel. That kid is not the most talented, in fact he'll probably never be worth more than 50-60 points a year, but he came through big in this game. If he comes out of the game, then Carlyle undoubtedly double shifts Getzlaf like he did in game one, and we all saw how well that turned out. Getzlaf was gassed in that 3rd period. Ebbett showed all the heart that the playoffs are supposed to pull out of you. No one is going to really talk about it, but it was obvious he was playing hurt and still making some good things happen. So, just so you know Ebbett, we noticed, and we're proud of your effort. Thanks kid.

That's all I've really got. It was a great game, on both sides. I think Detroit out-hitting us had more to do with home scoring than with Detroit actually dictating the game, physically. We did a better job staying out of the box, but it still got us a little in the end. Overall, I liked our performance and I'm trying to think of something good to cook Tuesday night to keep the magumbo going.

For me, the story of this game was the Bottom Sixers. There was so much talk about how Detroit was impossibly deep, and Anaheim would be forced to lean on its top line. No doubt Detroit is deep, and getting a tying goal from your third line at the end of the 1st period is big-- almost as big as getting a game-winning goal from your third line in the third overtime.

When Murray moved Pahlsson and Moen, Carlyle tried a pastiche of players on the third line. And you've heard me knock them for various reasons. Most ostensibly when I told you that Marchant was too small to shut down the Iginlas of the world. But here's the thing I've overlooked. Since Rob Niedermayer came to the Ducks, I've always marveled at how such a naturally gifted scorer could play the role of a defensive winger. He's not a two-way forward so much as he's a cagey vet. Marchant's the same way. He scored when we asked him to score last year, just as Niedermayer scored when asked at the opening of this year. When your checking line has two cagey vets, you're guaranteed a line that will create chances while being responsible with the puck.

And that's what the third line did in Game 2. Smart pressure, smart shots and sound defensive play. They plugged away, and they were able to create a transition chance in overtime. And unlike Miller, who has no hands and no ability to finish at top speed, if you give Marchant or Niedermayer the puck on the rush, they still remember how this whole pick-the-top-corner thing works.

I was also very impressed by the Ducks' fourth line (Green, Nokelainen, Brown). Green won't be credited with a shot for that clank off the post, but he certainly seemed to earn his ice time for the afternoon with that one. The line also drew some key penalties in a game that was mostly whistle free. What they did best, though, was shut down the Holmstrom, Datsyuk, Hossa line for entire shifts early in the game. Babcock was forced to start using his fourth line to counter, and that just punished the top line further, as it kept them on the bench.

The Ducks certainly have issues at Top Six: defensive problems on both lines, chemistry problems on the second line. But their Bottom Six is firing on all cylinders, and they don't seem too far from being able to roll four dangerous lines in this series. If Carlyle can tweak the lineups-- and I think he was pretty close to what he wanted in overtime --I think he'll be able to use the home ice matchups to take the advantage in this series.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

ANA/DET Game 2 Preview

So, that was quite a start, hmm?  I won't get too much into the hit on Hudler, as I've made my feelings pretty clear on that in the last post by Art + Dan, as well as in the comments at the BoC.  Suffice it to say, its gas on the fire, when we were already standing in a forest full of dry, dead wood.  It will be interesting to see how the series grows from that point, physically.  That said, let's jump into the Game 2 preview, which is basically code for examining what the Wings did right in Game 1, and maybe more important, what they did wrong.  

1)  Be physical
The Wings did a pretty good job of coming out and playing physical, especially in the first period.  They may not have been laying people out or whatever, but neither were they allowing themselves to be forced into skating around people.  If the quickest way to that puck involves skating through a Duck, then that's what you gotta do, and that's what they did.  You can't back down from the Duck's physicality, because if you do, you're going to allow them to control the game by controlling you.  Play up to their level of physicality, and don't allow yourself to be intimidated.  Keep it up!

2) Traffic In Front of Hiller
The Wings did a pretty decent job too of getting traffic to the net, and particularly getting ahold of rebounds, especially as the game went on.  This is absolutely a key to the series, and the Wings must keep doing it.  The first Lidstrom goal came off a screen (thanks Whitney for shoving Homer into your goalie!), and those kinds of goals will continue to come if the traffic keeps up.  Not only that, but rebounds will also create goals.  In a series where goals figure to be hard to come by, ugly ones count just as much, and often make the difference.  Keep it up!

3) Don't Be Sloppy In Front of Ozzie
There were a few sloppy plays in the defensive zone in Game 1, and that can't continue.  Several times, there were series of passes in the defensive zone or odd carry-outs that almost went bad, or did in fact turn into turnovers.  Getting Rafi back would definitely help with that, but unfortunately he's going to be out for Game 2 as well.  Again, in a tight series, little bounces and mistakes will decide games, and decided games will decide a series.  Knock it off!

4) Play Disciplined Hockey
The Wings do have a better PP than the Ducks, but you're kidding yourself if you think that means the Ducks PP is worthless.  That 4 on 3 that allowed Selanne's goal did not need to happen.  Neither did the elbow that Hudler took near the start of the game.  Play physical, but play smart too.  By playing physical and refusing to be goaded into penalties, you will piss off the Ducks, and get them to do stupid things, resulting in more power plays for you.  For the most part, the Wings were good at this, but Hudler's unnecessary elbow and the calls that resulted in that 4 on 3 really stuck out at undisciplined penalties.  Keep it up, kind of!

Go Wings!  

Pac Said, "Keep Ya Head Up"

[Updated Video: features both angles and a brief replay of the Hudler elbow]

Alright, Arthur. You saw it, I saw it and we can both hear the incessant griping out of Detroit, "the dirty Ducks are at it again, blah, blah, blah." I would like to point out that the first penalty called in the game was on one Jiri Hudler for a dirty elbow on Francois Beauchemin. There were a lot of things that went into Brown's hit on Hudler. I don't think it was dangerous, and I'm sure I'll get my chance to explain, but why don't you lay it down for everyone and give a level perception of what happened when Brown knocked some sense-- sorry --knocked down Hudler?

Something tells me Joe will have a few comments for this post.

So, here's what happened. Believe it or not, the Red Wings broke discipline first in this game. At 8:00 of the 1st, Jiri Hudler elbowed Francois Beauchemin. I'd love to tell you more about the play, but I didn't see it. It happened along the nearside (to the camera) boards, and Versus went to a commercial when the whistle blew. Then when they came back, they didn't show a replay or describe the play at all. The only thing that would lead me to believe that it was a particularly hard elbow is the fact that they showed Beauchemin complaining to the refs, his helmet still half-off of his head as he got up. (UPDATE: The new YouTube clip briefly shows the elbow by Hudler. It's a blatant elbow to the head. Not injurious, but probably retaliation worthy).

Fast forward 3:30, and Jiri Hudler is handling the puck just outside of his zone. He tries to make a quick play, backhanding it off the boards and turning low. Mike Brown is in Detroit's zone, and puts Hudler in the train tracks right before he touches the puck. Hudler releases the puck along the boards, and we hear the appropriate number of beats that would require a player to at least let up if he's still going to execute the check. Brown charges full steam ahead, and finishes the hit with his shoulder. He catches Hudler flush, and the hit is made even more dangerous by the fact that Hudler was turning his body to skate toward Brown as contact was made. Hudler was twisting one way, and then violently twisted back onto the ice like one of those "Hit Stick" checks in NHL 09. Hudler was cut either by the ice or his visor when his head hit the ground, leaving a pool of blood. He got up gingerly, opening and closing his hands (I don't know what that's medically relevant of, but it caused me to say, "DAYUMN!").

Now, if you ask me for my unbiased hockey analysis? I think that it's a retaliation play made worse by the fact that the offensive player had his head down. If Corey Perry got blindsided with a late shoulder check to the head after he elbowed Claude Giroux, I wouldn't call it a dirty play, any more than any retaliation or the initial cheapshots and elbows that breed them are dirty plays.

Is it illegal or suspension worthy? See, this part I love. The Hockey Central crew on Versus both agreed that the play is a terrible and suspension-worthy offense. But then I read the crew over at Hockey Night in Canada agreed it was a clean hit, and decided to move on with the broadcast without discussing it. Apparently, the only broadcast to express some disagreement was TSN, where Bob McKenzie reiterated a point he explored in an article he wrote this week, where he points out that a shoulder blindside to the head is NOT an illegal hit in the books. Dirty hit? Yes. Should be excised from the sport? Yes. But does the NHL say you can never put your shoulder into a guy's head? No.

But here's the thing. It's been legal for so long that I don't think of it as dirty. When Scott Stevens took Paul Kariya out in the Stanley Cup Finals in '03, it was a blindside shoulder check to the head that was a beat or two late. He even leaned into it with his elbow. I didn't get up and scream that it was dirty, even though I was pretty sure Paul was dead (I mean, it was like his 6th concussion, 2nd major one). So, maybe I'm insensitive, but I don't care how BADLY you were hurt, if the reason that you were hurt so badly and were unable to protect yourself is that you made a play with your head down.

I couldn't agree more.

Actually, I'm furious for a different reason. Keith Jones is over in the Versus booth, crying like it was his kid who got it. He was mad like someone took his lunch money, or tried to date his daughter without bringing a condom. There's nothing more frustrating in Hockey than when good hits get called dirty because someone gets hurt. Look, the hit on Paul in 2003 pissed me off, but just like Barry said, he kept his shoulder in and then followed through. This hit wouldn't have been a problem if it wasn't for Hudler deciding to pirouette at center ice after getting rid of the puck. Someone on his team should have told him.

Look, Brown was barely on the tracks. He had stopped striding well before he went after Hudler. He is a big dude, who can generate some speed very quickly, but he kept his arms in and he only hits Hudler with the follow through. While I hear Detroit fans crying already about "if it was Getzlaf you'd want a suspension." All I can say is my guys know that if you go around the neutral zone with your head down, somebody is going to drop you.

Moreover, Hudler coming back like he did leads me to believe that the only thing that was really wrong with him was that he got cut. Since when is a hockey player getting cut such a tragedy? If all that happened was that he got cut, and he's not hurt then the hit is clean. There should be no suspension. We lost our second-best PK forward for the first game of the series, and Detroit scored 2 goals as a result. I don't know what else to say, really. Yes, the hit looks bad, but only if you don't know what you're doing. There's less than a second and a half from when Hudler gets rid of the puck and when Brown hits him, is that time enough to pull up? Sure. But if Brown is zeroed in, he's not moving. He kept his shoulders in, didn't lead with the elbow and followed through.

More than anything, I'm angry about how one bad thing seems to snowball on us. Pronger loses his head a few times, and all of the sudden the entire Ducks organization is dirty. Detroit was doing the same things we were, but for some odd reason, being from California means we don't know how to play real hockey. Wake up!!! We won the cup. We have the most postseason series victories since 2003, and we didn't accidentally upset San Jose. The refs did a great job of calling this game down the middle. I don't really disagree with the Interference call although I think a double minor would have been much more appropriate, unfortunately, there's no such call, but that's another topic. But if Brown gets suspended for this, it's just another example of how the league doesn't care about hockey in California, and is more focused on protecting its cold weather franchises.

Okay, but you agree that it was a 5-minute Major for Interference? Rulebook (56.4 and 56.5) reads that any interference with a degree of violence that results in an injury should result in a Major for Interference and a Game Misconduct. Clearly, Brown knew he was getting there a beat late, and could be called for Interference. If the guy gets injured, regardless of whether Brown meant to injure him or not, he knew he could get called. So, it's gotta be a 5-minute Major for Interference, right?

I don't think this is a 5-minute Major, and that's a problem with the rule. I know we want to stop hits to the head, but the referees need the power of discretion. I do think you can call the penalty. It's definitely an Interference call, and he did draw blood. But it should be a double Minor, not a Major. Just like with high sticking: if blood is drawn, the penalty is 4 minutes instead of 2. I'm not saying there should be an automatic 4 minutes every time someone draws blood, just that when it comes to hits to the head, a more effective tiered system is needed. With high sticking the refs don't make the decision; here they should.

But, let's take a closer look at what happened. The hit was a second late. This isn't Donald Brashear peeling off from a change to crack some guy who hasn't touched the puck for 4 seconds. This is a guy who had the puck carrier in his sights and tried to separate the carrier from the puck. Even during coverage, no one observed it was a bad hit until there was blood. That, to me, means it's not a dirty play. If it's not dirty, and there's no intent to injure, which is not the same as playing physical, then the 5-minute Major and Game Misconduct shouldn't come into play. There was no Boarding. No bad stick work. Nothing. Majors should be reserved for penalties that are malicious and seek to injure. This was neither.

I'm okay with calling this a penalty, and given the rules, I guess the refs had no choice but to call the Major. However, this rule needs to be reevaluated. I'm just not in favor of something like Interference being an all or nothing penalty. There needs to be a way for the refs to consider the degree of injury and whether or not it was directly caused by the hit. I'm in favor of rules that protect players, but I'm more in favor of players protecting players and refs being able to call the game that is in front of them.

Friday, May 1, 2009

5 Keys for the Wings to Win

1. Get in Pronger's face
Darren Helm, I'm thinking, is the ideal guy for this.  He's fast enough that he might force Pronger into a couple of lazy hooking or tripping penalties.  He's a pest that the Wings have not had since Sean Avery (and by the way, unlike everyone who's had him since, we actually used him correctly), and if he can get Chris Pronger to take some undisciplined penalties, that could be the difference in a very tight series.  Hand in hand with this, has to be Babcock using the media a bit to draw attention to Pronger and his tendencies to be a little bit too aggressive out there.  Babcock needs to make sure the referees are watching Pronger closely.  Then Helm (and probably Homer too) need to go out there and make him do something stupid when the ref is watching.  Obviously, Pronger is a smart guy, and this strategy will not be wildly successful, but I do believe it can at least be somewhat successful.  If this series is as tight as I anticipate it will be, every little edge will be significant.  

2. Please, please, PLEASE protect Ozzie.  
Face it: Ozzie ain't that good.  He's had his moments for years, but he's generally been a league average goalie.  He's getting older, and thus slower.  He had an absolutely atrocious regular season.  The defense protected him for most of the Columbus series, but the Ozzie we saw in Game 4 looked more like the Ozzie we've seen this season.  The Ducks will be attacking down low, trying to occupy the front of the Detroit net, screen Ozzie, and grab rebounds.  The Red Wing defense has historically not been very physical.  Kronwall needs a series here like he had all last playoffs.  Stuart needs to do the same, and in addition, live up to the contract he got this summer.  Ericsson needs to show that he knows how to use his giant frame.  The Red Wings cannot be pushed around in front of their own net, because the Ducks will rip Osgood apart if they can occupy the spaces around him.  Shot block everything.  Play the body (and the stick) in front of your own net, not the puck.  Absolutely do not allow someone to skate to the front of the net without getting knocked down for their trouble.  These are the things the Ducks are going to do in front of a hot goalie.  The Wings are going to have to do these same things in front of a very much inferior goalie, if they are to stay alive.  

3. Linejumble!
The Ducks will be trying to keep one of their top two pairings out at all times against the Red Wings.  Niedermayer and Pronger are both capable of carrying the play when they're on the ice, and making life extremely hard for the forwards they're opposing.  This will be partially countered by the Red Wings' forward depth.  Hossa, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Hudler, Cleary and Filippula are all guys capable of creating offense all by themselves, and they're going to have helpers like Samuelsson and Holmstrom out there too.  However, in the playoffs, you need timely depth scoring to supplement your stars.  In order to get those stars going, you're going to have to try to get them out there without a Norris brother on their back.  Jumble the lines, especially in the away games.  Nothing is going to work well, but some things will have to work well enough.

4. Smart shots!
One thing I noticed the Sharks doing a lot of, especially in Game 6, was taking stupid shots.  This was especially evident in the Sharks continuing to take shots from the point, with a defender coming up on them, where they would just drill it into the opponent's shinpads.  This easily can turn into a rush the other way, and more than that, you've just given up the puck and possession in the offensive zone for no reason.  With the Ducks style of defense (read: mass shotblocking and not allowing possession of the middle or passes through the slot), you're going to have to fight for everything you get in that end of the ice.  You can't just drill it into shinpads, you can't just give it up along the boards.  The goal that in round 1 that was indicative to me of how to beat the Ducks was Boyle's goal, where the Sharks finally established a presence down low, they put one guy in the slot, and ended up with one coming out from the corner to one side of the net, and Dan Boyle pinching down on the other side of the net on the backside.  A cross-crease pass later, and Boyle scores a goal.  That's the kind of thing the Wings will have to do.  Lots of back-side attack when you're in the offensive zone, and make passes down low across the top of the crease.  Defensemen are reluctant to always get those passes because its risky to poke a pass near the net, and are often busy tying up their man in the slot or attacking the puck carrier himself.  Some pinches down, and bang, you got one.  Especially as the Ducks take penalties (and they will), this becomes easier.  

5. Pay the Price
This series is going to suck for the winner.  Theres no way anyone gets out of this series unscathed.  It's like if you made two boxers fight each other, and then the winner gets to go have another match next week.  But that's the playoffs, and both teams are well aware of what it takes to get back to the Cup.  You can't look ahead to the WCF against CHI or VAN.  There is no WCF if you can't beat the guy in front of you, the one with the elbows, the one with the beard, the one squeezing you into the boards when your feet don't want to move anymore.  For the Wings, the Ducks are going to make their forwards pay for every inch they gain in the offensive zone.  But no matter how many times you get hammered into the boards, no matter how many times someone falls on you, no matter how many times you get hooked and poked and slashed and tripped up, you have to keep it coming relentlessly.  Every time you go to the front, someone's going to hit you.  But you have to keep doing it.  If the Wings' forwards stop paying the price, and allow the Anaheim defense to dictate how the puck will be handled and played in their end, this series will be over.  

The Lightning had a slogan for their Cup run: Safe is Death.  I liked that, but I think Still is Death is probably a little more accurate, because I think it exemplifies what hockey is.  If you're standing still, you've already been beaten.  If you're slowing down, you're already behind.  The game is so fast and so hard, that if you start to let up, you've already given up.  If the Wings' forwards grow reluctant to go head on against someone bigger and meaner, then the Wings will lose.  This series will be won and lost in the Anaheim offensive zone, and I think its accurate to say that the same thing happened in the ANA/SJ series.  Detroit has to be smart, they have to be relentless, and they have to keep moving, so that the big angry bear doesn't get a chance to lay his claws (or elbows) into them.  

Honestly, my head tells me the Ducks win this series in 7, because their defense and goaltending is too much, and the Wings goaltending will bite them in the ass at some point.  My heart says the Wings take it in 7.  I'm going with my heart.  What is a hockey player anyways, if he doesn't lead with his heart?  

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Versus, Don't Miss A Second-- Miss Entire Periods!

I thought I'd post this here, too, as there is a general CLS hatred of Versus and Joe may miss a game this series because of them.

So, checking the Anaheim Calling inbox this morning, I found a message from a Versus rep, inquiring into whether or not Daniel and I would like to be pimped-

--ahem --

That is, whether or not we'd like to participate in an NHL on Versus promotion. Rather than give them a straightforward 'yes' or 'no,' Daniel and I thought we'd do an honest write up, and then take it from there.

So, Daniel, as someone trying to watch the Ducks games from an Illinois grad school-- who ended up missing the 1st period of Game 6 on Monday --what's your beef with Versus?

Well, first let me start by saying that I had prepped a meal for puck drop and everything. So, here I am with taquitos and guacamole that I made from scratch-- God that sounds so stereotypical --rocking my Ducks sweater, only to have the Blackhawks on Versus AND the local channel. Now, I can understand feeding the Blackhawks game to Illinois if there is no local coverage, but if there IS local coverage, why am I watching the Hawks game on two channels when there's a deciding game in another series? I could have been on Hockey overload. My cable guide said I should have been watching the Ducks game. I'm just wondering how Versus is going to let me know, as a fan, which game I will be watching.

Yeah, there's a lot of that sort of mismanagement. I also don't see how their advertising campaign was "Don't Miss A Second," and then on the night playoffs start, we missed the 1st period of the last two games. They missed 2,400 seconds on the first night of play!

Though, in their defense, they're a startup cable network with ONE channel trying to manage the rights to air three hockey games in one night. But let me just say this, and you know what I'm going to say: hockey fans were spoiled by the TV deals in the '90s.

Oh, here we go. Are you going to be preaching for long? Should I get a drink and come back?

When they signed with FOX in '94, the NHL hadn't been on network TV from 1981 to 1989, and they hadn't signed a long-term deal since they left CBS in 1972. That's 22 years out of the spotlight.

Now, I grew up in the Bay Area in the 80s. We had no team, and I had no cable. No USA network. No ESPN network. Certainly no Sportschannel America. And so, no NHL. And there was a time when that was the story: if you moved away from Canada/the Canadian border or a major hockey market, then you lived in a hockey-less world. Even if you had cable, you got a handful of games and the channel that carried the NHL kept changing.

So, you can't convince me that no coverage is better than coverage. The NHL went a long time without any kind of TV deal, at all. And since Bettman scorned FOX and refused to give ABC a discount, he's stuck with NBC and Versus. He may end up putting every non-Finals game on Center Ice or NHLTV, and out-of-market fans will have to pay just to watch the playoffs.

Okay, I'll admit that hockey fans have come to expect a little more from hockey TV coverage after the 90s, but is that really an excuse for Versus not to get their act together?

I grew up on ESPN double headers and NHL2Night. I think Versus can do a lot more in terms of coverage. Even a nightly show a la NHL2Night would go a long way in keeping more viewers interested in the few games they can actually watch. I'm saying that Versus may have limited resources, but there's certainly more they can give us to make sure fans see a little more hockey related content on a regular basis. Plus, it'll increase general traffic for their channel and possibly raise viewership for the more obscure sports the station airs.

Well, I definitely agree that it does wonders for the NHL and its stars to show Ovechkin's and Malkin's highlights every night, and break them down for the casual fans. I don't know how much it would cost to produce an NHL2Night. Maybe not more than that Sports Soup show that Versus has, and maybe it's a wise investment with how much they're paying for their TV contract with the league. But that's all assuming Versus WANTS to invest in its NHL coverage.

Let me break you off with a little trivia, here. First of the major sports broadcast on ESPN? NHL games. They negotiated TV contracts with the Whalers and Capitals. Versus is probably using the NHL the same way that ESPN did back then. They're just trying to show the other major sports that they can handle a broadcast. I'm sure they don't want Bettman any more than he wants them.

That's a fair observation; I certainly don't think Versus treats hockey like a flagship sport. Not the way a TNT treats the NBA. I know TNT doesn't have a nightly NBA show, but they have programs other than sports. Versus advertises itself as a sports channel. They don't have to go ad nauseum like ESPN, but give me something.

TNT at least has a great personality that mixes things up for the rest of the group, one Sir Charles Barkley. That's the main difference between what happens with other sports and what happens with the Versus coverage. The Versus crew doesn't have a lot of personality. Sometimes I feel like I'm watching a bunch of guys who know nothing about hockey. Not because the info isn't good. Engblom, Clement, and Jones know their stuff. They just never seem comfortable in front of the camera. They laugh awkwardly and just aren't engaging. I teach public speaking, and I'm not convinced these guys took it in high school or college. They stare at the camera and they seem to get excited about all the wrong things. I don't know. I'm just never excited when I watch the games, and I don't feel like I get the insight into the game that I do when I listen to Hayzie (Brian Hayward for those of you unfortunate enough to not know who he is). I know a lot of fans don't like Hayzie, and think he's a homer, but you haven't heard these midwest commentators. These motherf***ers are something else.

I agree that the Versus crew needs a Barry Melrose-type, but here's the thing, how easy was it for ESPN to replace Barry Melrose this year? Suddenly, Scott Burnside *shivers* is a hockey expert? Maybe there aren't a lot of old NHL coaches/players that have personality.

At the end of the day, Versus is not avoiding those basic scheduling mistakes that plague an upstart cable network and they need to invest in more NHL programming and better color guys. BUT I'm glad someone's carrying hockey, and really, it's not their fault that a fledgling network has to carry the majority of the NHL programming. It's Bettman's.

That is the truth, and we, as Hockey fans, just have to deal with Bettman's mistakes...all the time. I hate that guy.

Okay. Keep this in mind, folks, Arthur and I will be doing a split experience for Game 3 at the Ponda Center (eat it Honda that stadium will forever be the Pond and y'all just piss me off) for CLS. That is, I will be talking about what it's like watching the game on Versus, and Arthur will be providing you with his analysis as a live fan. It's gonna be different-- we hope --and hopefully you all will enjoy it. This was Anaheim Calling to the Hockey world. Enjoy your playoffs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chris Pronger: Wing-killer extraordinaire?

Chris Pronger is quite probably the most hated player in the NHL.  He's certainly at the top of the list for Detroit fans among active players, at least.  I'm not counting Claude Lemieux as active here,  as playing half a season in limited action hardly qualifies.  As Earl Sleek likes to remind us over at the Battle of California, Pronger has been very heavily involved in both playoff eliminations of the Red Wings since the lockout.  Given that Pronger will probably be the single biggest obstacle to the Red Wings this series, except for the man in the Anaheim net, I thought it would be interesting to see exactly what Pronger's total career performance has been against the Wings.  First, lets look at every single playoff series that Chris Pronger has been involved in against the Red Wings.


1995-96 2nd round (1) Detroit vs (5) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 7  

1996-97 1st round (3) Detroit vs (6) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 6 

1997-98 2nd round (3) Detroit vs (4) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 6 

2001-02 2nd round (1) Detroit vs (4) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 5 

2005-06 1st round (1) Detroit vs (8) Edmonton, Edmonton wins in 6

2006-07 3rd round (1) Detroit vs (2) Anaheim, Anaheim wins in 6 


So this obviously gives Chris Pronger a 2-4 record against the Big Red Machine, losing all 4 series as a part of the St. Louis Blues, and then winning his last two as part of the Edmonton Oilers and the Anaheim Ducks.  Let's break this down and get his individual stats for each series.  


1995-96 2nd round (1) Detroit vs (5) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 7  

G1: 0G 1A -1 4 shot 0 PIM

G2: 0G 1A -3 2 shot 4 PIM

G3: 0G 1A even 0 shot 2 PIM

G4: 0G 0A even 1 shot 0 PIM

G5: 0G 0A +1 1 shot 0 PIM

G6: 0G 0A even 3 shot 0 PIM

G7: 0G 0A even 0 shot 0 PIM

TOTAL: 0G 3A -3 11 shots 6 PIM


1996-97 1st round (3) Detroit vs (6) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 6 

Unfortunately, it seems that box scores from the 1997 playoffs are not available.  However, because the Blues lost to the Wings in the first round, we can get Pronger's total numbers for the series from his playoff numbers.  

TOTAL: 1G 1A even 19 shots 22 PIM


1997-98 2nd round (3) Detroit vs (4) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 6 

G1: 0G 1A +1 1 shot 2 PIM

G2: 0G 1A -1 1 shot 4 PIM

G3: 0G 1A -1 2 shot 2 PIM

G4: 0G 0A +1 3 shots 2 PIM

G5: 0G 0A even 1 shot 6 PIM

G6: 0G 1A -2 4 shot 0 PIM

TOTAL: 0G 4A -2 12 shots 16 PIM


2001-02 2nd round (1) Detroit vs (4) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 5 

G1: 0G 0A even 3 shots 16 PIM (misconduct)

G2: 0G 1A +1 4 shot 0 PIM

G3: 0G 3A +2 1 shot 0 PIM

G4: 0G 1A even 1 shot 2 PIM (Torn ACL for trying to kill a one-legged Yzerman)


TOTAL: 0G 5A +3 9 shots 18 PIM (Plus a torn ACL)


2005-06 1st round (1) Detroit vs (8) Edmonton, Edmonton wins in 6 

G1: 1G 0A -2 2 shot 0 PIM

G2: 1G 1A +4 6 shot 0 PIM

G3: 0G 1A +1 1 shot 0 PIM

G4: 0G 0A even 4 shot 0 PIM

G5: 0G 3A even 0 shot 0 PIM

G6: 0G 0A +1 0 shot 4 PIM

TOTAL: 2G 5A +4 13 shots 4 PIM


2006-07 3rd round (1) Detroit vs (2) Anaheim, Anaheim wins in 6 

G1: 0G 0A even 5 shot 0 PIM

G2: 0G 1A +1 5 shots 4 PIM

G3: 0G 0A even 3 shot 4 PIM (Niedermayer blamed for another 15 PIM)

G4: DID NOT PLAY (Suspended)

G5: 0G 1A even 3 shot 4 PIM

G6: 0G 1A +1 2 shot 0 PIM

TOTAL: 0G 3A +2 18 shots 12 PIM (Plus a suspension and should've had another 15 PIM)



34GP 3G-21A-24P +4 82 SOG 78PIM (+15PIM, a suspension, and a torn ACL)


Just a quick look at the stats on a per-series basis makes it pretty clear that Pronger has had much more success both individually and from a team perspective beginning after the STL years, or maybe including that 01-02 STL/DET series.  This also coincides with his beginning to be nominated (and winning) the Norris and Hart trophies. So I'm going to try making two splits of stats here.  One for his totals pre-STL and one for post STL.  I will also try one for pre-2001-02 and one for 01-02 and later.  Presumably, since Pronger had risen to being an elite defenseman in the NHL in 2000, with two major trophy wins, his performance in 01-02 against the Wings should be comparable to what he has done in more recent years.  Unfortunately, I don't have access to TOI data for most of these series, so I'll be figuring things on a per-game basis


Stuck with STL: 23 GP / 1G 13A 14P (0.61 P/game) / -2 / 62 PIM (2.70 PIM/game)

Free from STL: 11 GP / 2G 8 A 10P (0.91 P/game) / +6 / 16 PIM (1.45 PIM/game)


Right there we can see a pretty amazing difference in terms of his per-game performance and his plus/minus.  His points per game went up by nearly 50%, while his official PIMs went down by nearly half.  If you factor in the 15 minutes that were incorrectly given to Niedermayer though, plus the resulting suspension, his PIMs stayed right on target.  Obviously, this split is somewhat stunted as most of his STL series against the Wings came before Pronger had really risen to that elite group of defensemen, and before STL's peak years, which ran from roughly 1999-2002.  Let's try specifically splitting this by timeline instead of team:


1995-98: 19 GP / 1G 8A 9P (0.47 P/game) / -5 / 44 PIM (2.32 PIM/game)

2001-07: 15 GP / 2G 13A 15P (1.0 P/game) / +9 / 34 PIM (2.27 PIM/game)


Whoa.  The difference between those splits is more than twice as many P/game, +14 on the +/-, and PIMs stay roughly the same, but if you apply the extra +15 PIM, you get 49 PIM (3.27 PIM/game).  That's a pretty big step up in Pronger's game, all around.  Unfortunately, I'm not the best at statistical analysis, and am also lacking in some of the info needed to properly figure out some more defensive-oriented stats, particularly for the earlier matchups.  Based on personal anecdotal experience however, I feel pretty confident in saying that just as much as Pronger's easy counting numbers have gotten better, so has his un-counted defensive contributions.  This is probably most evident in 2006-07 when he was not on the ice for a single PP or ES goal against (though he was out for a SH goal), even though the Wings did outscore the Ducks throughout that series.  


The one weakness that becomes visible in this overview is Pronger's tendency to play undisciplined hockey.  He tore his ACL in 2002 by trying to make a very late and very high hit on Steve Yzerman, who at the time was playing on a knee that would require reconstructive surgery in the offseason.  Yzerman ducked the hit, sending Pronger over him, causing the knee injury.  That 2002 Wings team was obscenely good, and odds are the Blues wouldn't have been able to stop them anyways, but Pronger's injury certainly didn't help.  In 2007, Pronger earned his first of two suspensions that playoff year for elbowing, when he and Scott Niedermayer combined on a hit on Tomas Holmstrom along the boards, where Pronger made sure he drove his elbow through Holmstrom's head.  Even looking through all the individual box scores for these series, I kept seeing a lot of "Pronger (slashing)" calls, along with several trips and roughing calls.  


The Red Wings main avenue for beating Pronger will simply have be to annoy him into taking stupid penalties.  Darren Helm might see a lot of Pronger in this series, as his speed will likely allow him to draw a penalty or two against Pronger, as well as his attitude.  It would also behoove Babcock to be vocal in the media about the refs keeping an eye on Pronger too.  Pronger will do stupid things away from the play, and if Babcock can get the refs to keep an extra eye on him, it might result in an extra PP or two over the course of the series, that the Wings would not have otherwise gotten.  In this series, one or two power play opportunities either way might be the difference between a Western Conference Final and a tee time.  


My intention in writing this post was to examine Chris Pronger's reputation as a "Wing-killer" as its been promoted over on the Battle of California.  Having followed every one of these series as a Wings fan, I've felt that Pronger was certainly a very good defenseman, but wasn't sure I believed that Pronger necessarily led the charge as much as he was a part of it on the back end.  Looking at these numbers though, it certainly looks like Pronger's performance against the Wings in the playoffs rose sensibly as his performance in general in the NHL also rose, taking him to one of the top 3 spots on the CLS all-decade team.  Asshole he may be, Pronger is certainly a mountain of an obstacle to a Wings team looking to repeat as Cup champions.  



Big thanks to the Hockey Summary Project.  Their box scores made this post possible, and I think I may do similar posts in the future.  Adam Deadmarsh comes to mind as another Wing-killer who I'd like to examine.  

The information used herein was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by The Hockey Summary Project. For more information about the Hockey Summary Project please visit: or