Red Wings’ Howard Blanks Canucks

Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped all 25 shots he faced Thursday night, leading the Red Wings to a 2-0 win over the visiting Vancouver Canucks.

The Red Wings have now kept their opponents scoreless in eight of the nine periods they’ve played. Howard allowed three goals in the third period on opening night against the Ottawa Senators, Ty Conklin blanked the Colorado Avalanche then next night, then Howard added his shutout of the Canucks.

Detroit’s offense came in a dominant second period that saw them outshoot Vancouver 24-8. There was not a single faceoff in the Red Wings’ zone that period, a sign of their control of the puck.

Justin Abdelkader opened the game’s scoring at 8:37 of the middle frame. Abdelkader took a cross-ice feed from Todd Bertuzzi on a rush as Pavel Datsyuk drove to the net, drawing the defense to him. Left open in the left faceoff circle, Abdelkader snapped a shot past Cory Schneider.

Valtteri Filppula made it 2-0 just 2:18 later, dishing the puck off to Johan Franzen and then getting it right back in the right circle to put a fluttering shot past Schneider’s glove.

Cody Hodgson appeared to get the Canucks on the board in the closing seconds of the middle frame. Hodgson fired a shot that Howard got only a piece of as it fluttered into the net. Replay showed that time had expired before the puck crossed the goal line, however.

Though the Red Wings picked up the win, they remained scoreless on the season on the power play. They had seven chances with the extra attacker while Vancouver had four.

Schneider finished the night with 35 saves on 37 shots.

Detroit will be back in action on Saturday when they visit the Minnesota Wild.

Abdelkader briefly fought Maxim Lapierre in the first period… Abdelkader had previously scored on Schneider in the 2007 Frozen Four, when his goal in the final minute gave Michigan State the NCAA Championship over Schneider’s Boston College… The Red Wings have scored ten goals on the season, each by a different player.

Thoughts on NHL Realignment

Updated: 10/13, 7:30 PM (and 7:55 PM): Hi Puck Daddy readers. Since this was originally published I’ve fixed the fact that I left St. Louis off the Central list (they’re on the attached map) and I’ve bolded one line of it to emphasize the fact that I don’t entirely agree with my own proposal here. I do think I’m close to something that could be used, I don’t think it’s perfect.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted Tuesday night that the most likely NHL realignment plan sees the Red Wings headed to the Southeast Division.

The Winnipeg Jets – playing in the Southeast Division this year as the league did not realign following the Atlanta Thrashers’ move north – would switch into Detroit’s spot in the Central.

As a proponent of moving the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference, even I have to say this is a bad idea in more ways than one.

The obvious is that there are two current Western Conference teams that fit into the Southeast Division better than Detroit – Columbus and Nashville. Nashville is the better of the two geographically but is in the Central Time Zone.

Similarly, Winnipeg in the Central Division while Minnesota is in the Northwest Division is an awkward fit. Minnesota to the Central while Winnipeg goes to the Northwest would fit geographically but McKenzie says that the league wants to avoid putting one US-based team (Colorado) with four Canadian teams (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg).

The problem with any realignment based on the Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg is that the Western Conference team switching over has to go into the Southeast Division. The Atlantic Division is too tightly-packed to break one team out of it to shift south.

The NY area teams (Rangers, Islanders, Devils) won’t be broken up. The Pennsylvania teams (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh) won’t be broken up. That leaves no one to move to the Southeast if Columbus (for example) were to move into the Atlantic or Detroit (for example, again) were to move into the Northeast and push the Bruins into the Atlantic.

To me, the solution is to blow the whole thing up. Unlike the four-division and three-conference plans we’ve heard before, my idea is five divisions and two conferences.

Yes, that’s an odd number of divisions with an even number of conferences. The reason is that divisions are not tied to conferences, teams are, and they’re only used for the playoffs.

Let’s start with the divisions.

West: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver
Central: Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Phoenix, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Northeast: Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto
Atlantic: Boston, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
Southeast: Carolina, Columbus, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay, Washington

The division names are negotiable as I realize Chicago is hardly the Northeast and the Civil War inspired Blue Jackets in the Southeast is borderline criminal.

Each team plays divisional rivals six times (thirty games) and non-divisional opponents twice for a total of 78 games. If the owners are concerned about losing home dates, add in one more game against each team from one of the other divisions (rotating annually) for a total of 84 games.

Every team plays each of the other teams at least twice and most rivalries are left intact (though Boston and Montreal fans would probably hate it).

How do you align five divisions into a playoff? You don’t.

When it comes time for the playoffs, the conferences kick in. Each team belongs to a division and a conference, the divisions don’t belong to conferences. This means that while Detroit and Toronto might share a division in the regular season, they could still meet in the Stanley Cup Finals.

For the sake of argument, lets move Winnipeg into the Western Conference and Columbus into the Eastern Conference.

Playoff brackets then happen the same as the current setup except for divisonal winners not automatically getting the highest seeds. I’d be fine going single-table in the playoffs but North American sports has long had the idea of conference-based playoffs.

I think you can get away with ignoring divisions for the playoffs because we already have an unbalanced schedule. In the current NHL, Detroit plays Columbus more than San Jose does yet Detroit and San Jose are compared as if they had played identical schedules when playoff seeding is determined. Really, this is no different.

The hybrid alignment gives us the benefits of blowing up the current divisions while not forcing a need to change the playoff system.

Conklin Stops 29 as Red Wings Blank Avalanche

Red Wings backup goaltender Ty Conklin stopped all 29 shots he faced Saturday night, helping Detroit hold off an early push by the Colorado Avalanche en route to a 3-0 win.

The Avalanche outshot the Red Wings 11-10 in the first period and carried the play early on but Conklin kept them off the scoresheet, giving his team time to find their game.

Johan Franzen finally got Detroit on the board with 2:19 left in the second period. As the Red Wings gained the Colorado zone, Jiri Hudler dropped a pass to Franzen at the top of the left circle. Franzen snapped a shot over Semyon Varlamov‘s shoulder and into the top corner of the net to make it 1-0.

Henrik Zetterberg made it 2-0 with 8:02 remaining in the third period on a give and go with Pavel Datsyuk. Zetterberg gained the Colorado zone and passed it off to Datsyuk in the high slot. Datsyuk gave it right back and Zetterberg one-timed a shot into the same corner as Franzen had scored in earlier.

Datsyuk added an empty net goal in the game’s closing minutes to wrap up the scoring.

Varlamov stopped 36 of 38 shots Detroit sent at him.

Neither team scored a power play goal on the night. Detroit had four chances with the extra attacker and Colorado had three.

The Red Wings are now off until Thursday when they host the Vancouver Canucks.

Before the game, the Avalanche raised Peter Forsberg‘s #21 to the rafters.

Patrick Eaves was back in the Red Wings’ lineup, with Tomas Holmstrom replacing him as a healthy scratch.

Postgame Thoughts: Red Wings at Avalanche

Make no mistake, the story of the night for the Wings was Ty Conklin.

The Eurotwins being reunited so quickly and all that is interesting but that doesn’t even happen if Conklin hadn’t kept Detroit in the game early. No matter that Johan Franzen was picked as it, Conklin was the first star of the game.

That said, it was nice to see the Wings pick up steam as the game went on. They shouldn’t have had to, but they did do a great job of turning things around after the slow start.

Not a great second game of the season but there is good to take away from it. And a win is always a win.

Emmerton’s Two Points Help Red Wings Past Senators in Opener

Rookie Cory Emmerton made his case for staying in the Detroit lineup Friday night, notching a goal and an assist as the Red Wings rolled to a 5-3 win over the visiting Ottawa Senators.

Drew Miller also scored two points with a pair of assists as the fourth liners led Detroit in scoring.

Todd Bertuzzi opened the game’s scoring with 3:59 remaining in the first period. On a botched Ottawa line change, Bertuzzi got in behind the defense at the Senators blue line. Jakub Kindl drew attackers to him inside the Detroit zone and then sent the puck to Darren Helm. Helm fired a perfectly-placed outlet pass to Bertuzzi, who broken in all alone on goalie Craig Anderson, snapping a shot over his glove.

Bertuzzi helped make it 2-0 just 1:39 into the second when he forced a turnover by putting pressure on Chris Phillips behind the Senators’ goal. Phillips’ attempted pass was picked off by Lidstrom near the top of the left faceoff circle and he drove to the net, flipping a shot through Anderson.

Emmerton’s goal was the Red Wings; third of the night. Miller sent the puck from behind the net out to Emmerton just above the top of the crease, where he knocked it home at 9:40 of the middle period.

Jiri Hudler made it 4-0 just 58 seconds later. Pavel Datsyuk stole the puck at the Ottawa blue line and moved it on to Hudler, who broke in on Anderson and put a shot over his glove.

Ian White scored his first goal as a Red Wing to round out Detroit’s scoring. At 3:12 of the third period, White’s slapper from the point found its way through traffic and past Anderson to make it 5-0.

The Senators got on the board 2:37 later, when a Jason Spezza shot bounced off the skate of Milan Michalek and flipped over Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, dropping into the net.

On a power play at 8:22 of the third, Michalek and Spezza caught the Detroit defense flat-footed to make it 5-2. Racing into the zone, the pair forced a two-on-one and Spezza got the puck across to Michalek, who was all alone in front of the goal and backhanded a shot past Howard.

Filip Kuba added another power play goal with 1:31 remaining, firing a shot from the point that snuck through traffic to beat Howard.

The Senators finished the night two-for-three on the power play while the Red Wings were scoreless on five chances with the extra attacker.

Howard made 29 stops on 32 shots. Anderson stopped 34 of 39 Detroit chances.

The Red Wings will make their first road appearance of the season Saturday night in Denver when they visit the Colorado Avalanche.

Patrick Eaves and Fabian Brunnstrom were healthy scratches for the Red Wings. Defenseman Mike Commodore did not play with a bruised knee.

Before the game, the Red Wings honored Brad McCrimmon, former defenseman and assistant coach, who was killed along with the rest of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv KHL team in a plane crash on September 7.

Postgame Thoughts: Red Wings vs. Senators

I’m going to break my postgame thoughts into a couple sections here…

The season opener always has some extra stuff attached to it that I usually find fun. The player introductions seemed more rushed than usual, though, and there’s no forgiving some of Budd Lynch’s mispronunciations. Danny Cleary‘s name was mangled so badly that he didn’t even skate onto the ice, thinking someone else was called.

The ceremony honoring Brad McCrimmon was heartbreaking. I almost wish the team had done something different, that it would have been better not to drag his family out there. A framed jersey can’t mean much to them right now. That said, Beast’s son pulling on his dad’s jersey, that’s a bit of an iconic moment.

As I tweeted before the game, from an aesthetic standpoint I really don’t like the patch the Wings wore in honor of McCrimmon, Salei and Liv. It was lazy to just do the initials with no other imagery and the placement above the left sleeve numbers was awkward. If they had to go with that patch, it should have been above the tip of the wing on the chest, where the captains’ letters should go (which is a whole other design argument). A better option would have been a bigger patch on the shoulder of the jersey.

Early Game
The Wings took awhile to get rolling but once they got on the board, they were buzzing for the next 30 minutes. All four lines were clicking, too, which is something the Wings will need all season.

Todd Bertuzzi‘s goal was a series of great plays. The shot was fantastic itself but that doesn’t happen without a perfect pass from Helm and a nice little play by Kindl to draw the attackers to him.

Cory Emmerton got his second goal in three career games. He’s not going to keep that pace up but it’s great to see hard work paying off.

Up until Ian White‘s goal it was a very solid game for Detroit, you couldn’t poke many holes in it.

Late Game
And then it all fell apart.

The Red Wings kind of deflated after Milan Michalek scored to end Jimmy Howard‘s shutout bid. It was a really fluky goal, kicked up and over Howard, dropping in behind him. Sometimes a team needs that, though, and the Sens took advantage.

Michalek added another on a Sens power play just a couple minutes later and Kuba notched a PPG to make the game look close.

It was too little, too late for Ottawa but if the Red Wings had that kind of let up in a game where they hadn’t scored as many goals, it’d be a different story.

Not a bad opening night. Good to get a win out of the way early and shake some rust off. Of course, the fact that it was a win makes it easier to say that.

Commodore on IR, Smith Called Up to Serve Suspension

Red Wings defenseman Mike Commodore has been placed on short-term injured reserve as he recovers from a bruised knee.

With Commodore off Detroit’s 23-man lineup, suspended defenseman Brendan Smith has been called up.

Smith will be inelegible to play but for every game the Wings play while he’s on the roster, one of his five suspension games will be burned off.

This was the strategy I’d suggested that the Red Wings would use in handling Smith’s suspension so the call up doesn’t surprise me. That said, Commodore going on IR so early in the season does, as we’d previously been told that the Wings play too few games to start the year to make it worth it. Maybe he’s more hurt than originally believed?

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