Friday, April 11, 2008

Sports Blogging: Red Wings Post-Mortem

The Joe was sold out last night. Packed to the rafters. That's remarkable only because it hasn't been the case - for the first time in a long time - for most of this year. But, I think, it's not exactly news, either. If the rest of the fans were anything like me, they were just waiting for the playoffs, the real season, to begin to show their interest.

Last night's Red Wings game ended with a win. Of course, I'd rather they went out and won 10-0 every night but I'll take a closer than it looked 3-1 win to start out with. Nashville doesn't have much of a chance in this series but they're not scared of the Wings and it shows. Plus, now that the playoffs are underway and the games will be held regularly, the players can start to relax and not play so tight so they should have much better games ahead of them.

And it's not like they played a bad game, either. The right players - Zeterberg and Datsyuk - did the scoring. It's always nice to keep your stars from being snakebitten. And Kronwall was looking like a beast back on the blueline - his being out with injuries has hurt the Red Wings in more than a few postseasons. And, best of all, Hasek's knees didn't suddenly turn to calcified stumps and shatter like so much chalky dust (He's, you know, old. Not John McSame old but still old.).

And I know the Preds goaltender stopped a lot of shots, dredging up spectres of hot goaltending past which has bounced a supposedly superior Detroit team. But the thing is it's not really surprising for the goalie Detroit faces to have an excellent save percentage. The Wings put a lot of shots on goal - more than anyone else in the league by a wide margin. At the same time they among the lead leaders in fewest shots allowed themselves. That's because the Wings have long played a puck-possession style of game where they deny the opponent the chance to score by keeping the puck off their sticks - it's something like what a solid running game does for you in football. And they have good scorers who aren't afraid to pepper the goalie and the grinders who'll crash the net for rebounds. The important stat to look at with the goalies who go up against them is the GAA. Which, at the moment for Ellis is 2 (Actually, a bit more since he was pulled in the last few moments meaning he didn't play a complete game and so let in those two goals in less than a full sixty minutes but, whatever.). And the win column is still a 0.

Elsewhere around the league, the Sharks managed to pull even. That's good, the longer they battle it out with Calgary the better for their eventual opponents. And both the Avalanche and the Stars won their first games, putting them on the path towards the upsets I've called. In the East, I'm already starting to regret my Ottawa prediction but, otherwise, things are playing out just as I expected with the Rangers and Canadiens looking solid taking their 1-0 leads. It's early yet and a lot can happen but at least the games have been good so far.

Not so good was my Wolverines losing in the semi-finals to hated Notre Dame while the Wings were winning away. They almost made the same kind of amazing comeback that they pulled against the Irish early in the regular season coming from three goals behind to push the game into overtime but, alas, it was not to be. Porter never so much as got a shot and Sauer, the goalie who's been rock-solid this year got chased in the first after giving up that three goal lead. Rough way for a wonderful season to end. But that's just college hockey for you. Those one-game elimination playoffs can bounce funny sometimes. ND goes on to face also hated Boston College for the championship.

Also losing - again - were the Tigers who got shelled by the Red Sox. Still early but all the old problems were back and now that the Tigs are headed to Chicago for another series with the White Sox, I'm not sure they can turn it around any time soon.

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