Abel to Yzerman
by IwoCPO on 11/15/06 at 07:12 AM ET
Last night? Average. Literally. Going in, and over the course of the eight-game streak, the Wings had averaged exactly 3goals/game. They’d been giving up just under 2/game. Final score, 3-2. They’d averaged giving up 20.5 shots/game. They gave up 20. They’d been shooting at a 35-shot/game clip. Last night? 33. And Detroit had averaged less than one PP goal per game. Oh yes, we met that lofty goal too. Another goose egg. More on that, shocking I know, in a few.
I wouldn’t have blamed you if you’d picked this game as the night the streak would end. I can’t imagine our four lines last night caused any significant loss of bodily function control on the part of Canuck coach Alain Vigneault. Holmstrom, Williams, Kronwall: out. Lilja, Langfeld, Kopecky: in. In fact, the Wing lineup looked so punchless on paper I had to wonder whether Mike Babcock would be tempted to just send Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Lang out there once every four shifts and roll the dice.
No need. Babcock’s lineup was built…and you’re getting the feeling this whole team has been built…to prevent scoring chances, to make the opposition work so hard for every shot that by the end the effort just doesn’t seem worth it to them.
Considering the patched-together lineup, a slow erratic start wasn’t a surprise. The best chance of the first ten minutes belonged to Josh Langfeld right off the hop, in tight on Roberto Luongo. No scoring in the first, and little flow offensively for either team.
But, we did see three consecutive Vancouver power plays, including 25 seconds of 5-on-3. Fortunately, Vancouver’s power play is almost as inept as ours, so no damage done. But don’t join me in giving all the credit to a punchless PP. Detroit’s kill is looking better every night, and I’m very much liking the Draper/Zetterberg combination. Draper causes so many turnovers, and Hank is more than able to benefit. One of the Detroit penalties was goalie interference call on Samuelsson.
Luckily, Hasek watched that episode and stored it away—not unlike the aforementioned chipmunk. Seconds after the Canuck power play Hasek hit the ice, obviously affected by the tremors of a Vancouver skate blade 13 feet away from him. Should have been a diving call. I guess over the years I’ve come to a fairly reasonable state of mind where Hasek is concerned. He’s a freakshow, and I don’t have to like him, or some of his antics (like that); but that’s cool. I respect his ability to stop the puck and, especially this year, the effect he has on the entire team.
But he dove, and it looked stupid.
Starting the second and you knew Detroit was on the verge of a power play, because that’s just how things work out in Gary’s NHL. Yep, 1:18 later I felt joy similar to that which Augustus Gloop must have felt when he first laid his eyes on that big chocolate river, gurgling and churning, just waiting for his plump butt to fall in. That’s the thrill I got when I knew we were about to witness another Wing power play.
I’ll spare you the gore. They went 0-5, again, last night. Oh, it showed glimpses—brief glimpses—of effectiveness. Datsyuk had a couple chances on one-timers. Samuelsson had three instances alone with Luongo, but couldn’t capitalize. But something’s obviously missing. Schneider and Lidstrom are holding on awfully long at the point and nothing’s open down low. Nothing back door, nothing in the slot. But, Babcock seems to think it’s getting there.
Ted Kulfan/Detroit News
“The guys were intelligent in how they played,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We had some real good chances on the power play.”
Ummm, ok. I don’t buy that, but this horrific power play (which would be a frigging panic train if the Wings were 4-4 over their last 8) is just a nuisance. Because Detroit’s finding a way to win without it and that is the biggest indicator of Babcock’s influence. Can’t score on the power play? Whatever. We’ll get our three. Can you?
Draper flying down the Wing, racing to negate icing and gains possession. Cleary joins him and Filpulla hangs back, waits for it…and there it is. Cleary finds him for a hard wrister off his back foot that hits at least one Canuck (and maybe Cleary) before beating Luongo.
One disjointed Wing power play later and the Canucks are back with the man advantage. One of those twins finds the other who finds Naslund who fires a puck at Hasek, who allows a juicy rebound, upon which one of those twins pounces, flipping it in to tie the game at 1.
And down the drain went one streak.
The goal snapped Hasek’s shutout streak at 181:17, the longest of his career (his previous-best was 178:33 in 2000-01 with Buffalo).
“In the middle of the second period I (thought) it was a long time since I gave up a goal and all of the sudden they scored on the power play,” Hasek, who had posted consecutive shutouts, said. “It was a disappointing goal. I know I could make this save. But it’s about a win, not about shutouts.”
A bad goal, but not the worst of the evening. The pace picked up a bit midway through the second. Hasek made a couple of ill-advised journeys outside the crease. A few hits here and there. Luongo with some nice stops, particularly on Cleary in tight and another on deflected Chelios slap shot.
1:28 into the third and Lidstrom keeps an errant puck in the zone, holds it and finds Zetterberg off to the side of Luongo. Alone, Zetterberg baited Luongo into going down then backhanded it by him for the lead and his 6th of the year.
“Just chipping away,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “On the road you’re trying to find a way to win, just keep shooting the puck at the net. I read about how (the Canucks) out-chance everybody; that’s not what I saw tonight. I saw Luongo standing on his head.”
Vancouver tied it 30 seconds later when Kevin Bieksa beat Hasek stick side after a feed from Linden (his 700th point as a Canuck).
And here we have the 1:55 that decided the evening. Markov went off for holding the stick and the suddenly rejuvenated Vancouver power play was on fire. They controlled the puck down low, peppered Hasek with shots and created several quality chances. Until Dan Cleary found The Mule at center ice. Franzen lumbered up the right wing, paused, and sent a weak wrister on net.
And through the legs of the goalie every Wing fan wanted, Detroit’s 4th shorthanded goal of the year.
“Maybe he didn’t see it right away,” Franzen said. “I tried to shoot it between the legs of the defenseman so he wouldn’t see it.”
“I’m surprised,” goalie Dominik Hasek said. “Luongo played a great game, but it was definitely a weak goal. It’s a nice surprise.”
Vancouver appeared to tie it three minutes later on a scramble in front of the net, but it was disallowed due to goalie interference, which Hasek may have embellished a bit.
Two pathetic Wing power plays later Detroit wrapped it up, a quality road win and a significant impression on Vigneault.
“That is the best team in the NHL that I have seen this year and there is a reason why they haven’t lost in eight games (now nine),” Vigneault said. “Their execution and their team speed was by far the best I have seen since the beginning of the year and the best I have seen in a long time.
A few observations:
* Lidstrom was absolutely outstanding. He played 30 minutes, five more than any other Wing; and he was dominant.
* Langfeld looked good, from his quality shot in the first to the hip check he laid on Kessler to start the second.
* As bad as the PP is, it does look a little better. There was slightly more movement, but it’s still obvious the Wings are missing a pure (Shanahan-like) scorer out there to either draw defenders or put the puck in the net.
* And as bad as the PP is, the penalty kill continues to improve. Yes, the Canuck goal in the second was with the advantage but Hasek allowed a big rebound.
Before I get to the recap links, box scores, etc…a kudos to Helene St. James, Free Press Deep Digger. Her blog has been constantly updated and the material is good. For instance, from last night’s entry.
Babcock finished up with a good anecdote: While the team was coming down the tunnel to the bench, a fan asked Chris Chelios, 44, how many more years he’s going to play.
“I had to stop and ask the fan myself, ‘What did he say?’ just because I didn’t know if it was four or five,” Babcock said, smiling, “but I knew it was long.”
Chelios, whom Canucks fans love to needle, said he didn’t give the guy a definite answer. “I didn’t really come up with a number,” he said. “I just told him I had no intention of quitting right now.”
You see Ted Kulfan? You see Khan(!)? That’s the kind of stuff that keeps people reading. It didn’t really have a place in her game story, so she put it in her blog. Revolutionary.
NHL.com Super Scoresheet
Detroit News: Detroit Win Streak Reaches Nine
Detroit Free Press: 9th Win In a Row Equals Wing Record
MLive: ‘Weak Goal’ Gives Wings 9th Consecutive Victory
CP: Hot Wings Burn Canucks
Vancouver Sun: Luongo Not Good Enough To Make Up For Goal Drought
Vancouver Province: Canucks Pushed Aside At Home
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Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977. No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y. Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation. There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature. Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org