Kukla's Korner

Abel to Yzerman

Game 1 To Wings

I know. This is Bubba's year. It's his division. This is finally the season he waddles to the top of it and stays there for decades, establishing the dynasty in America's Mid South that we knew was coming down the pike. It's got to be frustrating for Barry Trotz, the Nashville faithful and the 6 Pred fans outside the Nashville area. Just when the geniuses were certain the Wings were ready to fade into mediocrity, they do the unlikely. I'm not talking about winning one game, or even 8. What we may be seeing is a philosophical transformation. First, the game...more deep ruminations (sorry Bubba..."thoughts") later. Andres Lilja and Brad Norton scratched. Lilja may never see the ice again in Detroit. I'm serious. Well, not completely serious. But considering the type of defense the Wings are playing, I can't imagine Mike Babcock is too willing to make even the slightest blue line change unless he has to (which he might...see below).

Mathieu Schneider came out looking like Erik Hipple, wearing a protective lower-third mask over his jaw. Why?  Sarah at On The Wings pegged it following the Edmonton game.

Mathieu Schneider did not play for the last nine minutes of the game. Where did he go? According to the play-by-play, this is around the same time that he was hit in the face by the stick of Raffi Torres (which seemed like it ought to have been a penalty despite the stick not necessarily being high…).

Naturally, the deep diggers had nothing to say about any injury to Schneider prior to last night, but he played the first period with the jaw guard, which was gone to start the second.

Three minutes in and Kirk Maltby’s mauled by Jordan Tootoo.  A friendly conversation turned sadly sour in front of Tomas Vokoun. Maltby, doing nothing other than extending an olive branch of friendship, perhaps a word of fellowship, suddenly—shockingly—found Tootoo’s arm wrapped around his neck. It’s truly disturbing that Kirk is continually assaulted for simply trying to bring people together in this season of bi-partisan politics.

Wings on the PP and I can feel the rumblings in my tummy.  The ineptitude of the Detroit power play has finally caused me to feel physically sick when they have the man advantage.  Thankfully, after another 65 second reminder that the one thing the Wings lack is a pure sniper, Nick Lidstrom is called for tripping punk-ass Steve Sullivan, who had broken free for a short-handed attempt.  The call was horrendous, of course.  But, it abbreviated another lifeless man-advantage, thankfully.

Bubba’s with a man-up for :55 and Hasek makes two good saves in tight.  One actually hit the post, but only because Hasek allowed it to.  Is he playing spectacularly? No. Does he have to? Absolutely not.  Is he staying healthy and finding his rhythm? Oh yes.  Have you seen “The Departed”, yet?  Great flick.

11:14 left and The Enigma’s on the prowl.  The flowing hair, smiling to the crowd, controlling play in the Nashville end. Striking.  Almost behind Vokoun, R. Lang wrists a puck off a Pred skate, finds it back on his stick and backhands it in for his team-leading 5th of the year.

Detroit News/Kulfan

“It seems in the past I’ve had weird luck against him (Vokoun),” said Lang, whose goal was No. 199 of his career. “It was kind of a fluke shot. I tried to pass it high and instead it went in.”

Two more power plays for the Wings. Two more violent bouts with body-wracking nausea for me.  Wings outshoot Bubba 20-8.  Great first period from Jiri Hudler, who was robbed by Vokoun all alone in front following a brilliant pass from Zetterberg. Hudler also looked amazingly strong with the puck.

Bubba found his legs over the intermission. Oh, and naturally, their five-day layoff was the cause of the vaunted Nashville offense to fall asleep during the first.  That, according to our friends Pete Weber and Terry Crisp.  Is it too soon?  It’s only Game 1 of the 8-game series…so you tell me, is it too early for me to tell you just how terrible those two clowns are?  No? Excellent.  Let me put it this way.  Nashville hockey is a novelty.  Despite what the national media and Gary’s PR machine would like you to believe, this team is invisible to every resident of Tennessee except the 20K who hit the Gay and a few other Nashville residents.  Why is that relevant when we discuss Crisp and Weber? Because they call games like they’re describing a square dance out back.  I have to think they’re allowed to maintain employment only because of that very approach.  It’s “folksy” and “homey”. 

A couple more science experiments in the second period as the Wings go 0-3, then 0-4 on the power play.  Weber tells Crisp that Lidstrom looks “slow.”  Crisp agrees and begins to expound but stops to finish the BBQ sandwich he should have eaten during intermission.

Detroit’s team defense is stifling.  Nashville can’t get any flow whatsoever. They’re not being permitted to cycle, gain the zone with any frequency or set up anything close to an offensive attack. 

MLive/Danny Knobler

“We don’t give a lot of hope or opportunities to the other team,” Babcock said.

The third begins exactly where the Wings don’t want it to, on the power play.  But Datsyuk has the puck on the Wing and birds begin to chirp happily. Puppies are frolicking and the firetrucks are shooting wonderful archs of water over happy children in the street on a summer day. A cross-ice pass to Lidstrom, a one-timer, a rebound and Nick shovels it past Vokoun for a 2-goal lead that everyone in the Joe and the 17 Pred fans watching on tv know is insurmountable against this Wing defense.  I guess Lidstrom wasn’t too “tired” to join the rush, eh Terry?

MLive

Lidstrom’s goal was his third of the year, but it was also a little unusual because it came from so close in front of the net.

“That doesn’t happen too often,” Lidstrom said. “I had to try to beat (forward Tomas Holmstrom) to the puck. He asked me what I was doing down there. I told him, it’s pretty easy down there.”

Dan Cleary added an empty netter with 2:18 remaining and Game 1 is in the books.
Daily Tennessean/John Glennon

“There was no question they were the better team,’’ Preds Coach Barry Trotz said. “They just beat us in all the harder areas. They schooled us.”

A few observations

* I mentioned earlier a philosophical shift taking place with this Wing team.  Obviously, it’s way too early to say Mike Babcock’s hopes for a grinding, abrasive approach have sunk in completely.  But, it would appear that—at least for now—the Wings are leaning in that direction.  They’re winning practically every battle for every puck.  No shot is uncontested.  They’re crashing the net and owning the corners.  They’re playing postseason hockey in the Fall.  Re-phrase: they’re playing the type of hockey that wins playoff games.  Not Detroit postseason hockey, because that doesn’t win squat. 

Daily Tennessean

“That’s as good defensively as we’ve ever played,’’ Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock said. “(There was) not a big gap between the forwards and the defensemen.’‘

“They just played great defense,’’ Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun said.”`They didn’t give up any rebounds, nothing. We had maybe three or four chances all game.’‘

* Nick Kronwall didn’t play the third period due to a groin strain he apparently suffered in the Edmonton game.

* Hasek is the real benefactor of this transformation.  Anyone looking at scores and boxes from the last two nights probably think he’s in mid-season form. Not yet, and we know it. Yes, his stats are getting padded (his 1.75 GAA leads the league). But it also gives him time to offset the slow starts he’s traditionally been plagued with.  As this “philosophy” becomes more entrenched, Hasek is permitted to come along slowly.  If, IF, health isn’t a factor, there’s a strong chance that, by January, he’s going to be playing as well as we could expect.

* Zetterberg looked fantastic last night. Nearly 20 minutes of ice time (19:54) and he was buzzing all night.  Great defensively and lots of excellent chances.

* Inside this 8 game streak:  Wings’ opponents are scoreless the last 153:28.  Tell me the last quality scoring chance an opponent’s had.  Stifling.

Links I found for you, because you’re my friends:

On The Wings Game Recap

Detroit Free Press: Wings Win 8th Straight

Detroit News: Wings Shut Out Predators

MLive: Wings Smother Predators For 8th Straight Win

Macomb Daily: Wings Take Round 1 From Predators

Daily Tennessean: Wings Discover New Winning Strategy

Daily Tennessean: Hot Wings Fire Shutout

NHL.com Scoresheet

Filed in: | Abel to Yzerman | Permalink
  Tags: central, hasek, hudler, lang, lidstrom, maltby, schneider, zetterberg

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About Abel to Yzerman

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: wphoulihan@gmail.com