Onward and Upward

It was a hard-fought, high scoring game, and the Vancouver Canucks certainly were not going to let the Red Wings win it easily. Yet win it they did, with star performances from Chris Chelios, Igor Larionov, and Brett Hull, taking a 6-4 victory to win the Western Conference Quarterfinal series four games to two.

Dan Cloutier has not been the same since he let in Nick Lidstrom‘s shot from center ice in Game Three. The Canucks started him in net for Game Six anyway, and the Red Wings got off to an early lead. Tomas Holmstrom scored the first goal just over a minute into the game. Igor Larionov put the puck towards the net, and Holmstrom was able to get the rebound and lift it in past Cloutier.

Larionov scored a few minutes later. Cloutier came out of the net to clear the puck away, but Luc Robitaille beat him to it and sent it out front to Larionov, who made an easy shot into the empty net. Vancouver pulled Cloutier and replaced him with Peter Skudra after that, and that shook up the Canucks enough to let them take advantage of their first power play of the game.

Jiri Fischer took a roughing penalty for retaliating against Matt Cooke who was knocking Sergei Fedorov around, and the Red Wings ran into penalty trouble. A minute into the penalty, Ed Jovanovski fired the puck from the blue line, and it bounced off the leg of Chris Chelios and down into the net between Dominik Hasek‘s legs.

Buoyed by their momentum, the Canucks scored again thirty-four seconds later. Two Canucks got going on a two-on-one towards Hasek’s net. Steve Duchesne was able to hold position and take the passing lane away, but Henrik Sedin held onto the puck, then fired it over Hasek’s shoulder and into the net.

The Red Wings played a calmer game in the start of the second period, keeping control of the puck and letting the momentum slip away from Vancouver. It paid off for them when the Canucks ran into penalty problems. The problem? The penalty went to Detroit.

Steve Duchesne went to the box for cross-checking, and Vancouver was trying to set up their scoring play, but Kris Draper got the puck away and into the Canucks’ zone. He squeezed between the boards and Jovanovski, managing to put the puck towards Skudra, as Jovanovski knocked him down into the goal crease. The puck rebounded towards center, and Nick Lidstrom skated in and put it into the net.

Just thirty seconds later, during the same penalty, the Red Wings scored yet another shorthanded goal. This time, Steve Yzerman and Chris Chelios got the puck out of the defensive zone, and up to Brett Hull, who got in all alone against Skudra. He went up the right wing side, almost to the goal line, before taking a tight angle shot that rang off the far goalpost and into the net over the sprawling Skudra.

Hull scored again before the end of the period. This one was a Detroit power play goal, while Murray Baron sat in the penalty box on a holding call. Larionov carried the puck into the zone and tapped it to his left at the blue line. Hull got the pass, took a few strides towards the goal, and unleashed a powerful wrist shot which went into the net high over Skudra’s shoulder.

Vancouver scored again in the third, just at the very end of a holding the stick penalty to Jason Williams. Jovanovski fired from the blue line. The puck hit Mathieu Dandenault, and Hasek dropped to stop it. The puck stayed free, however, and Henrik Sedin scraped it into the net.

Hull answered with another power play goal with just over five minutes left to play. Chelios sent the puck from the right point up to Larionov behind the net, and Larionov centered out front to Hull. In classic Brett Hull style, he one-timed a laser-quick wrist shot, down on one knee. The puck bounced off Jovanovski and in for the hat trick.

The Canucks weren’t quite ready to give up yet. They pulled their goalie when they gained an offensive zone faceoff with 3:30 remaining, and they were able to score. The Red Wings had a tough time clearing the puck, and Trevor Linden’s shot caused Hasek to drop down low to block. The rebound came free, and Cooke was able to get it and put it into the mostly empty net.

Darren McCarty was sent to the box for holding with 2:34 left. Skudra had to come back in for the faceoff, but edged off again once Vancouver had puck control, giving the Canucks a six-on-four advantage. Hasek made the necessary big saves, the penalty was killed off, and the series was won.

The Red Wings will begin their Western Conference Semi-Final series next week, probably on Thursday. Their opponent will be either the St. Louis Blues or the Los Angeles Kings, depending on whether or not the Kings can gain a victory over the Colorado Avalanche in Game Seven of their series.

Detroit’s pair of shorthanded goals were the fourth fastest pair of shorthanded goals ever scored in the playoffs?. This was Brett Hull’s first ever playoff hat trick. It was also his twenty-second career playoff game-winning goal, second place all time. The only person ahead of him is Wayne Gretzky, with a total of twenty-four?. This is only the second time one of Scotty Bowman‘s teams has been down 0-2 in a playoff series and then come back to win. The other one was the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992, and they went on to win the Stanley Cup. A good omen for the Red Wings? We’ll know for sure in about a month and a half.

Home Is Where The Octopi Are

Home ice advantage became at last an advantage, and in a big way. The Red Wings returned to Joe Louis Arena, and left the crowd making noises which suit them much better than Friday night’s boos: cheers– loud, raucous, hopeful playoff cheers. The Red Wings took a 3-2 series lead by shutting out the Canucks, 4-0.

The goal scoring all came in the first period. The first goal came on a power play set off by a roughing call to Todd Warriner. Brendan Shanahan shot the puck from the left side. The rebound bounced off Dan Cloutier and right up the center, through several pairs of legs. Sergei Fedorov got to it and one-timed a wrist shot through the Vancouver players and into the net four minutes into the game, just thirty-four seconds after the start of the power play.

The Red Wings then were faced with killing off three penalties in a row. They succeeded, controlling the puck and keeping the Canucks from setting up any of their planned plays. Dominik Hasek was huge in the net, stretching and reaching to keep the red goal light off.

Detroit scored their second goal shorthanded, towards the end of the string of penalties. Fedorov intercepted the puck at Detroit’s blue line, and took off down the ice with Mathieu Dandenault. Fedorov passed the puck, and Dandenault shot it between Cloutier’s legs and into the net.

Brett Hull and Boyd Devereaux scored to put the Wings up by three. Nick Lidstrom passed the puck up the ice to Hull, barely onside. Hull’s shot bounced off Cloutier, and straight to Devereaux, who had sneaked to the net behind all of the Vancouver players. Devereaux easily put the puck into the wide open net.

Vancouver coach Marc Crawford changed things around after that. He pulled Cloutier out of the game and replaced him with backup goalie Peter Skudra. The Wings tested Skudra thoroughly in the remainder of the first period, giving him no chance to get comfortable in the net. Fedorov scored again with 1:29 remaining. Devereaux detained Todd Bertuzzi, allowing Jiri Fischer to clear the puck from Detroit’s zone. Fedorov and Brett Hull stole the puck from the Canucks attempting to hold it in at the line, and they were away. Hull carried the puck up the left side and threw it towards Skudra. Fedorov went to the net, put out his stick with one hand, and neatly deflected Hull’s shot into the goal.

Detroit played an intelligent game for the remaining two periods, taking few chances that would allow the Canucks to score. Hasek continued to be vital to the team, stopping every shot the tight Detroit defense allowed. Fischer kept big Bertuzzi from becoming a threat to either the score or the players. The Red Wings controlled the puck for most of the game, defending their goal by keeping the puck in Vancouver’s zone or at center. “Hey, we’re old and we’re smart,” said defenseman Steve Duchesne.

Shots on net were thirty to twenty-five in favor of the Red Wings. The teams will return to Vancouver tonight to play Game Six on Saturday evening.

This was Dominik Hasek’s seventh career playoff shutout?. Jason Williams returned to the lineup tonight; Pavel Datsyuk was given a rest?. Vancouver general manager Brian Burke complained bitterly about the officiating after Game Four, claiming that the referees were giving the Red Wings an unfair advantage. But after his team had four straight power plays and did not manage to score, what is he going to find to complain about in his next press conference? ?. Can the Red Wings wrap up the series on Saturday night? “We’ll see when we get there,” said Sergei Fedorov.

Tying It Up Neatly

Chris Chelios kept big Todd Bertuzzi neutralized. Steve Yzerman refused to be neutralized. Dominik Hasek kept the red light off. Sergei Fedorov?. well, the list could go on through the full roster. The Heroes of Hockeytown did what they do best- they won the game 4-2, tying their series with the Vancouver Canucks at two games apiece and bringing the series back to Detroit.

The first period scoring belonged to the Red Wings, even though the Canucks managed to outshoot them nine to four. Jiri Fischer put the Wings on the board with the very first shot against Dan Cloutier. Fischer shot the puck from the left point with Steve Yzerman skating towards the net, but Yzerman did not need to deflect the shot; the puck bounced off the stick of Brent Sopel and into the net.

Chris Chelios scored on a power play midway through the first period to give the Wings a two-goal lead. He fired from the right point, with Yzerman and Tomas Holmstrom both screening Cloutier, and the puck redirected off of Trevor Linden and into Cloutier’s net.

Hockey wisdom holds that a two-goal lead is the hardest lead to keep, and this case was no exception. Vancouver answered with two goals of their own in the second period. The first came midway through the period. Trevor Letowski took the puck behind the net, and Mattias Ohlund sneaked past Pavel Datsyuk to get to the front of the net. Letowski centered the puck, and Ohlund slapped it into the net past Dominik Hasek.

The Red Wings controlled the puck for most of the rest of the second period, but had to kill off a hooking penalty to Chelios with 2:32 remaining. With just one second left on the Vancouver power play, Sopel shot the puck from the blue line, and Matt Cooke redirected it in mid-air to tie the game at two.

Detroit regained the lead quickly once the third period started. Sergei Fedorov shot the puck on net, and Cloutier left the tiniest of rebounds. Yzerman pounced on the loose puck before Cloutier could regain control, and he dragged it past the goaltender’s prone body and tapped it into the net.

The Red Wings kept control of the puck through most of the rest of the period, in spite of two Vancouver power plays. The Canucks played more desperately towards the end and generated some good quality scoring chances, but Hasek was exactly where he needed to be at all times to keep the lead for his team. Vancouver gained an offensive zone faceoff with just over a minute to play, so they pulled Cloutier in exchange for a sixth skater, thinking to force an overtime. It did them no good, as Darren McCarty cleared the puck from the zone to Kris Draper flying up center ice. Draper put the puck into the empty net to put the game away, and then slid in after it because he was skating too quickly to stop in time.

Shots on net were twenty-four to fourteen in favor of the Canucks, giving Hasek a 91.6% save percentage and Cloutier a save percentage of 78.5%. Game Five of the series will be Thursday evening at Joe Louis Arena.

Jiri Fischer’s goal was the first playoff goal of his career?. Steve Yzerman’s assist and goal give him a career total of 159 playoff points, moving him one point past Gordie Howe‘s record for all-time Red Wings playoff scoring.

Finally Dominating

Dominik Hasek was not doing his job.

After two home playoff games against the Vancouver Canucks, “The Dominator” had allowed eight goals and the Red Wings were down two games to none in their first round playoff series.

He admitted that he didn’t know what he was doing wrong.

“I think to myself, ‘What I do wrong?'” he said after a 5-2 loss in Game Two.

He doesn’t have to worry about that anymore.

In Game Three, Hasek stopped twenty-two of twenty-three shots from the Canucks, including a third period penalty shot from Todd Bertuzzi and a flurry of nine shots in the final five minutes.

On the other hand, Canucks netminder Dan Cloutier, who had played like Patrick Roy in the games in Detroit, allowed a goal from center ice and three goals total.

As the roles switched back to where they belonged, Hasek finally began to dominate again. He’ll have to if the Red Wings are going to survive the first round.

Right Back In It

A frustrated Vancouver fan threw a broom onto the ice at the end of the game– no sweep for them. For the first time in the playoff series, all aspects of the Red Wings’ game came together, gaining them a 3-1 victory and cutting their series deficit to only one game.

Scotty Bowman adjusted the lines slightly, as is to be expected, scratching Jason Williams and Uwe Krupp in favor of Boyd Devereaux and Freddy Olausson. Yet all the line changes and coaching strategies in the world would do no good if the Red Wings didn’t play with the intensity they are capable of, and they knew it. The offense and defense were both strong through the first period, taking thirteen shots against Dan Cloutier and holding the Canucks to only four shots against Dominik Hasek. Cloutier was solid in net once again, but the Red Wings put one past him on a power play midway through the first.

Brenden Morrison had gone into the box for holding. The Canucks cleared the puck from the zone on the first try, but Tomas Holmstrom and Steve Yzerman carried the puck back into the zone for the second attack. Yzerman took the puck behind the net and banked it off Cloutier’s right leg pad on a wraparound shot.

The Canucks answered with a powerplay goal of their own early in the second period, on a hooking call to Darren McCarty. Yzerman wasn’t able to win the faceoff cleanly, and Andrew Cassels flipped the puck over to Todd Bertuzzi, who put the puck high past Hasek before the Wings could even spread out into their penalty killing box formation.

The Red Wings spent most of the second period killing off penalties- a great deal of time was spent five-on-three. Sergei Fedorov was sent to the box for hooking, and forty-seven seconds remained in that penalty when Hasek was called for deliberate delay of game for knocking the net off its moorings. Brett Hull went into the box to serve the penalty, and Hasek, Yzerman, Chris Chelios, and Nick Lidstrom neatly and simply handled the Vancouver power play.

Just three seconds before Hull was to step out of the box, Brendan Shanahan was given a penalty for high sticking, and Vancouver was gifted with another two full minutes of power play time. Detroit’s penalty killers continued to live up to their promise, and the game remained tied at one.

Just twenty-five seconds before the end of the period, Nicklas Lidstrom took a perfectly aimed shot on the Canucks’ net from the Red Wings’ side of the center ice line. To everyone’s surprise, Cloutier missed the puck, and the 102 foot slapshot hit the back of the net.

Brendan Shanahan gave the Wings their first two goal lead of the series early in the third period. The puck squirted free from a tangle of players and sticks along the right side boards, right to Shanahan’s stick. He positioned himself, waited, and took a hard wrist shot which just barely redirected off the stick of Ed Jovanovski and right between Cloutier’s legs.

Vancouver came back hard during the third period, but Hasek was right where he needed to be, playing once again like that goaltender who backstopped the Red Wings to the President’s Trophy, not the frustrated netminder he has been of late. Bertuzzi was awarded a penalty shot with three minutes left to go. It could have been huge for Vancouver, but Hasek got in his way and the puck stayed out of the net.

The Red Wings closed out the game easily enough when Bertuzzi was sent to the penalty box for roughing with only 1:52 to play.

Cloutier stopped twenty-three of the twenty-six shots the Red Wings sent against him during the game, while Hasek made twenty-two splendid saves on twenty-three shots. The Red Wings will attempt to even up the series Tuesday night when Vancouver hosts Game Four.

drwcentral.net Completes Redesign

drwcentral.net completed their newest redesign on Sunday, a week later than expected.

The new layout replaces the “Next Game” and “Last Game” features with a Fan Poll and allows for more featurs on the main page.

The main page now feautres part of a recap of the latest game, the latest news about the site or an editorial, information about what’s going on in the drwcentral.net Message Board Center, and a calendar showing the games being played that week.

The redesign applies to all drwcentral.net sites, including the drwcentral.net Fantasy Hockey league and the Message Board Center. The dFHL site will continue to carry a damaged version of the old site layout until the new layout can be applied to it.

Also part of the new layout is the drwcentral.net Keyword feature, which will allow users to jump from any part of drwcentral.net to another by entering a keyword.

The new layout, expected to have been launched in time for the start of the playoffs, was delayed due to time constraints.

The Red Wings did not win a playoff series while the old layout was in effect.

Be Patient a Little Longer, Fans

In terms of skating, passing, scoring chances, and intensity, it was the best game the Red Wings had played in quite some time. In terms of goaltending, it was?. not. Detroit lost 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks, dropping to 0-2 in their quarterfinal series.

The Red Wings came out to start the first period with intensity. Scotty Bowman carefully matched up his top defensemen against Vancouver’s top forwards. They had two power play chances in the first ten minutes.

But the Canucks got the first goal. Brendan Morrison carried the puck into Detroit’s zone and shot it on net from the right wing side. Dominik Hasek bobbled the save, and Todd Bertuzzi was able to get to the net and tap it in, just past the midway point in the first period.

Vancouver padded their lead just over seven minutes into the second period. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski fired the puck from the blue line, and Andrew Cassels deflected it down past Hasek.

The crowd at Joe Louis Arena took matters into their own hands at that, chanting “Shoot the puck!” The Red Wings took that advice and ran with it. Pavel Datsyuk and Steve Yzerman carried the puck into the zone, and Brett Hull pressed to the net. Three Canucks cut off Yzerman’ passing lane to Hull, so without even looking, he passed it behind him to where he knew Nick Lidstrom would be coming up trailing the play. Lidstrom’s hard shot rattled into the net past Dan Cloutier.

The momentum shifted in the Red Wings’ favor on that hard-earned goal, but Vancouver took it back just moments later. Scott Lachance shot the puck in the general direction of the net from the blue line. The puck took an odd bounce off of Brett Hull’s leg and fluttered past Hasek.

The Red Wings continued their offensive pressure, keeping the Canucks on their heels through most of the third period. Yzerman brought Detroit back within one halfway through the third during a tripping penalty to Jovanovski. On a two on one rush deep in Vancouver’s zone, Yzerman carried the puck close to the net, waited for Cloutier to drop to block the expected low shot, then banked it in off of the goaltender’s hip.

The tides seemed to turn in Detroit’s favor at that point, but the Canucks got a lucky break with just under two minutes to play. Morrison, Bertuzzi, and Markus Naslund got away on a two-on-one rush, and Morrison left the drop pass for Naslund. Naslund’s shot cleanly beat Hasek high on the glove side.

The Red Wings didn’t give up– they gained an offensive zone faceoff, and Scotty Bowman pulled Hasek for the sixth skater. The attempt was useless, however, and Matt Cooke was able to send the puck down the ice into the empty net.

Detroit outplayed Vancouver throughout the entire game, outshooting the Canucks 36-20. Goaltending made the difference to give the Canucks the win.

The best-of-seven playoff series will move to Vancouver and resume on Sunday night.

This is the first time Vancouver has won back-to-back playoff games since May of 1994?. Some reminders for Wings fans: Be patient– two games does not make a series. Last year Detroit won the first two games of the quarterfinals, then gave up four straight to the Kings. They lost the first game of the quarterfinals in both 1997 and 1998, and we all know what happened in those years. We know that they have been up by three games and then lost the series, and been down by three games and come back to win. This is Hockeytown, and anything might happen.

Better, But Still Not Quite Enough…

It all came down to a defensive lapse and a strange bounce of the puck. The Red Wings played much better than they had done to close out the regular season, but the Vancouver Canucks continued the unbeaten streak that got them into the playoffs in the first place. The Red Wings lost, 4-3 in overtime.

The Red Wings were in good form in the first period, shaking off the problems which have plagued them in their past several games. Their first power play was good for five shots against goaltender Dan Cloutier, and their first penalty kill had more scoring chances than the Canucks’ power play. Luc Robitaille gave the Wings their first playoff goal late in the period. Steve Yzerman got the puck across the blue line, and it bounced over the Vancouver defenseman’s stick and up to Robitaille coming in onside. Robitaille faked a backhand shot then quickly switched to his forehand and flipped the puck past Cloutier.

Vancouver came back to tie early in the second. Matt Cooke passed the puck from behind the net to Todd Warriner, who shot from a tight angle to put the puck into the tiny space between Dominik Hasek and the left goalpost.

The Red Wings regained their lead on a power play goal resulting from Scott Lachance’s delay of game penalty. Robitaille passed along the blue line to Sergei Fedorov at the right point, where he unleashed a powerful one-timer shot which soared past Cloutier.

The Canucks got a break from the referees when they got to go to a five-on-three power play because of overlapping penalties to Darren McCarty and Fedorov. The faceoff was in Detroit’s zone, and Steve Yzerman was able to win it cleanly back to Chris Chelios, but Chelios was not able to handle the puck cleanly and Andrew Cassels got hold of it. Cassels took a tight angle shot, and Chelios tried to block it, but instead the puck popped up and into the net over Hasek’s arm.

Detroit scored again early in the third period. McCarty shot the puck towards the net, and Murray Baron tried to clear it away, but instead it bounced off of Igor Larionov, who was being shoved to the ice, and rattled into the net.

A defensive lapse allowed the Canucks to tie the game once more midway through the third period. Mathieu Dandenault tried to clear the puck away up the middle instead of along the boards, and while everyone was scrambling for it, Trevor Linden hit it just enough to pop it up in the air and into Hasek’s net, sending the game to overtime.

An odd bounce gave the Canucks the victory with just over six minutes left in the first overtime. Henrik Sedin carried the puck into Detroit’s zone, waited, then shot, and the puck deflected off of Larionov’s arm and into the net before Hasek could adjust to the deflection angle.

Shots on net were thirty-five to twenty-six in Detroit’s favor. Game Two of Round One will be Friday evening at Joe Louis Arena.

By playing this game, Steve Yzerman became the team’s all-time leader in the total number of playoff games played, with 155 to his credit. Gordie Howe played in 154.

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