Comparing Bounces

As easy as it is to compare this series win to Detroit’s 2002 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, I think there’s one important thing that makes it different.

It could be me looking back with rose-colored glasses but in 2002, the Canucks absolutely collapsed after Nicklas Lidstrom‘s goal from center ice. Collapsed to the point that Dan Cloutier was never the same again.

While it’s true that Lidstrom got another long goal today, the Predators still didn’t give up. Ellis recovered. Which is more than you can say about the guy who even wore the same number for Vancouver.

This takes nothing away from what Detroit did. Both times they took the opportunity they got. It just might show how luck isn’t enough anymore. In the “new NHL” teams keep fighting back and you have to take those opportunities when you get them.

Red Wings Advance: Shutout, Fluke Goal Lead Detroit over Nashville

The Detroit Red Wings rode a shutout by goalie Chris Osgood and a fluke goal by captain Nicklas Lidstrom to victory Sunday afternoon, claiming a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators to close out their Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup its sixth game.

Osgood stopped all twenty shots he faced in his second start of the playoff season. He replaced Dominik Hasek in the Detroit crease midway through Game Four and allowed only one goal in 157 minutes played for the rest of the series.

Lidstrom’s goal on a bouncing long shot came with 6:16 left in the second period.

Just seven seconds into a Nashville power play, Lidstrom lobbed a shot in on Predators goaltender Dan Ellis from the Detroit side of center ice. The puck landed several feet in front of Ellis, bouncing over his shoulder and into the net for the game’s first goal.

The Red Wings kept the momentum from the goal to kill Nashville’s five-on-three that followed shortly after.

Jiri Hudler scored his second goal of the playoffs 3:52 into the third period, putting Detroit up by a pair. Rookie Darren Helm led the Red Wings into the Nashville zone and sent a pass across to Hudler for a one-timer into the back of the net.

Brian Rafalski added an empty-net goal in the game’s closing seconds to finish off the scoring.

Ellis stopped 40 of 42 shots he faced just two days after making 52 saves on 54 shots.

The Red Wings will have to wait to find out who their second round opponent will be. The San Jose Sharks and the Calgary Flames will meet in Game Seven of their series on Tuesday. Should the Flames complete the upset, they will move on to face Detroit. If San Jose wins, the Red Wings will move on to meet the Colorado Avalanche.

No More Octopi Twirling

This one’s been covered in a few places but I figured I’d add my thoughts on it, too.

The NHL has annouced that removal of foreign objects (such as octopi) from the ice surface will now be done solely by the linesmen. This means that Red Wings’ zamboni driver Al Sobotka’s trademark twirl is effectively banned.

The rumor is that Nashville GM David Poile complained that the twirling left debris on the ice, which was dangerous. If that’s true, Ken Holland should return the favor and say that those annoying-ass whistles Predators fans use are dangerous because they could be confused for the real whistle. The two ideas have just as much merit, in my mind.

Red Wings – Predators Game Five Notes

I want to write a recap of Game Five but I’m still so psyched about the win that I don’t feel like I can put it together.

After Radek Bonk scored to tie the game, I was thinking it was going to be one of those nights. I knew the Red Wings could win – that they had the talent and all that – I just expected it to be a night where Nashville got that one extra bounce.

Instead, Detroit’s strong team defence forced the bounce, a turnover in the neutral zone that Niklas Kronwall used to spring Johan Franzen in all alone on Dan Ellis.

And Franzen, as has been said so many times this season in the forums here, is a beast.

Compare this season to the Red Wings’ 1998 campaign (so much easier to do now with Chris Osgood in goal) and Franzen is playing Tomas Holmstrom‘s role. We’re watching his breakout and he’s just got insane amounts of confidence right now.

Speaking of Osgood… Twenty saves on twenty-one shots is about everything anyone could have asked of him. He was steady, not spectacular, and the team played more confidently in front of him than they do in front of Hasek.

Obviously, the Predators were without David Legwand and Jason Arnott, which makes a big difference. I fully expect them to be back for Game Six though I do wonder what was actually bothering Arnott, since I don’t think the flu would have been enough to keep him from playing in such an important game.

If the Red Wings play Game Six like they did Game Five, the Predators will not return to Detroit when the Wings do.

Helm in for Hartigan in Game Five

Darren Helm will replace Mark Hartigan on the Red Wings’ fourth line in Game Five tonight.

“Really excited and nervous at the same time,” Helm said. “There’s a lot of young guys up, being one of the first guys to jump in definitely means a lot to me, gives me some confidence that they believe in me.”

Mike Babcock had previously said he had no worries about playing Helm or Justin Abdelkader in playoff games, as they’ve been in high-pressure situations before (Helm in the World Junior Championships and Memorial Cup, Abdelkader in the Frozen Four).

I would have gone with Abdelkader but Helm’s not a bad move either.

Placing Blame

I’ve been having a hard time putting together Game Four thoughts, focusing instead on Game Five. Instead of my own thoughts, I’ll go with those of George Malik.

Here’s my “bottom line” point: Hasek hasn’t been good enough, and it’s Osgood’s time to start, but hockey is a team game, and if you’re going to go blaming Hasek instead of pointing fingers at the 18 skaters in front of him for also not being “good enough,” you’re letting the rest of the team off the hook for some terrible performances. I’m not diminishing Hasek’s disappointing play, but I think it’s a short-sighted conclusion for fans to hang #39 by his toenails when his struggles are simply not the “one and only” reason that the Wings lost the last two games.