Abel to Yzerman
by George Malik on 04/06/11 at 07:34 PM ET
The Detroit Red Wings face off against a Carolina Hurricanes team tonight (7 PM EDT start/FSD+/FS Carolinas/WXYT) that is, as Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika suggests, still nothing less than convinced that it can win the Stanley Cup…assuming that it can get into the playoffs. Their cause would be aided greatly by a win against the Wings, who are sitting Jiri Hudler.
The Red Wings don’t plan on extinguishing the Carolina Hurricanes’ playoff hopes for any reason, however, other than simply rounding into playoff form while they try to secure the second spot in the Western Conference.
Live blog away, and here’s some pre-game reading/listening for your entertainment as FSD+ isn’t doing a pre-game show:
• The Free Press’s Jamie Samuelssen states the obvious about the fact that the Red Wings don’t have any “easy” or “vulnerable” first-round playoff opponents anymore, and as such, he suggests the following:
f we’ve learned anything about the Wings this season, especially in the bizarre month of March, any success will have less to do with their opponents and more to do with them. How else do you explain losing to the Blues, 10-3, at home and falling behind Nashville on the road three days later, only to respond with four unanswered goals and a 4-3 win? It was the same scenario in February, when the Wings snoozed through a 4-1 home loss to the Predators. Babcock ripped the team after the game. Nicklas Lidstrom called the effort embarrassing. Then the alarm bells led to a five-game winning streak that included back-to-back wins over Boston and a win over Tampa Bay. The Red Wings don’t seem to raise or lower their game based on the level of the opponent. Instead, they seem to raise or lower their game based on their level of interest. And with every game counting just a little bit more next week, focus shouldn’t be a problem.
The problems lie in some of the disturbing trends we’ve seen all season. The two biggies are impossible to ignore:
1.) Home ice: The Joe just isn’t what it used to be. Blame it on the fans if you want, although the crowd noise has been louder in the recent string of sellouts. (The Blackhawks game on March 28 was the closest regular-season game to looking like or sounding like playoff game in years). But for whatever reason, the Wings just haven’t played well at home this season. They have 48 points with just one home game remaining. That’s the third-lowest total of any of the eight teams currently in position for for the playoffs in the West. You play all season for home ice, and home ice just isn’t the advantage for this team that it used to be.
2.) Defense: Jimmy Howard will be in the crosshairs from the opening face-off of Game 1. That’s just how it goes in Detroit—and in hockey, in general. But the Wings and the Ducks have allowed the most goals of any of the playoff teams in the West. That’s an alarming stat that doesn’t rest solely on Howard’s shoulders. Yes, he needs to be much more consistent, but so do the guys in front of him. The defensive corps has dealt with injuries all season (and some of the top defensive forwards have missed significant time as well). They’re all healthy now. That’s good. But they need to be better.
Babcock would never say who he’d hope to face in the first round, other than to say he’d love to stay close to home. The only team that fits that description is the defending Stanley Cup champion ‘Hawks. I’d prefer to pass on that matchup. The most favorable, ironically, is the team that’s farthest away: the Ducks. It may be a three-time-zone trip, but it probably gives the Wings the best chance to advance. Nothing is set in stone yet. Nothing is guaranteed. But in this sport, in these playoffs, in this conference, nothing ever is.
• SI’s Michael Farber penned a list of twenty “things to like about the NHL,” and among them...
10. I like assistant coaches, the conduits of information and insight. Ten minutes with Detroit’s Brad McCrimmon or Buffalo’s Jim Corsi or Nashville’s Brent Peterson are like masters classes in which presuppositions will be challenged or softheaded theories exposed. Because I resolve to stay positive, I won’t even mention how shortsighted it is for teams such as New Jersey, Chicago and others to make their assistants off limits to the media.
14. I like watching the Kings’ Ryan Smyth, the Wings’ Tomas Holmstrom and Ryan Kesler of the Canucks set up in front of the crease. The last person to work so effectively in tight quarters was Smokin’ Joe Frazier. They all seem to have had a GPS chip installed in their brains that makes them able to discern the blue paint without looking down. They obscure vision, blot out the sun for unfortunate goalies. They can score a goal even if they are trapped in a virtual broom closet.
18. I like watching Detroit’s Nick Lidstrom, who, although he is not as sturdy a one-on-one defender as he was a few years ago, is still a marvel of constancy into his 40s. He remains the right defenseman for the right era, as superb as he is understated.
19. I like GMs Brian Burke, Ken Holland and Ray Shero, who have convictions and are unafraid to speak out—even if they might be wrong.
• WDFN’s Sean Baligian spoke to two hockey personalities this afternoon, starting with USA Today’s Kevin Allen…
And continuing with Chris Osgood, who talks about playoff moments past, mentoring Jimmy Howard, and he says that he’s hoping to be ready to return to action this weekend:
• Finally, Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch will receive honorary doctorates in humanities at Michigan State University’s spring commencement, where Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak will speak. Something tells me that free pizza’s more likely than an iPad giveaway on May 6th (and I’m one of the rare people that isn’t fascinated by the iPad).
Update: from my email inbox:
DETROIT AND CHICAGO SET TO SQUARE OFF ON ‘FAN APPRECIATION NIGHT’ AT JOE LOUIS ARENA
… Entertaining Evening in Store for Hockeytown Faithful on Friday; Red Wings Set to Welcome 800,000th Fan of 2010-11 to The Joe …
Detroit, MI… The NHL Central Division Champion Detroit Red Wings will be looking to wrap up their 2010-11 home schedule in winning fashion on Friday, April 8, when they welcome the Chicago Blackhawks to the MotorCity for a 7:30 p.m. showdown at Joe Louis Arena (FS Detroit & 97.1 The Ticket). This contest will serve as the opening match of a regular season-ending home-and-home series between the regional adversaries.
Designated ‘Fan Appreciation Night’, several exciting giveaway items will be distributed to arena patrons throughout Friday’s game. Free squishy pucks compliments of Antonio’s Cucina Italiana will be given to the first 10,000 fans in attendance, as will Upper Deck ‘Original Six Rivalry’ trading card sets profiling past and present members of the Red Wings and Blackhawks. Cards featuring Detroit’s Mike Modano, Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Yzerman in addition to Chicago’s Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane and Stan Mikita will all be included in Friday’s set.
Meanwhile, every fan attending Friday’s game will receive:
- A free Red Wings poster compliments of Meijer and Coca-Cola
- A coupon redeemable for a free hair cut compliments of Great Clips
- A voucher for a complimentary game of bowling courtesy of SEMBCA
- A coupon for $5-off selected menu items courtesy of TGI Friday’s Restaurants
Furthermore, multiple lucky seat and row giveaways will be announced throughout the night on Friday, with fans of fortune set to win prizes courtesy of Fathead, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, AT&T, the University of Toledo, Carhartt, Andiamo’s Restaurants, Olympia Entertainment, Detroit Red Wings Authentics and the Detroit Tigers. The latest Carhartt Hardest Working Player of the Month will also be revealed prior to puck drop on Friday, while Red Wings players and management will acknowledge the NHL’s best fans during a series of pre-taped video segments.
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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