Saying Goodbye to the Joe

I don’t know if last night is what I expected from the last game at Joe Louis Arena.  I don’t know what I should have expected, either.

It was always going to be hard.  You want to hold on to every last thing.  You want to hold on to every last thing.

I was taking photos of every third-period faceoff, in case it was the arena’s last faceoff.  Some people I was with made sure to buy beer at the last “last call” at the Joe.  There was the last “Livin’ on a Prayer” and the last “Don’t Stop Believing” and the last goal (Riley Sheahan, because of course) and the last penalty and the last zamboni ride and there were probably lasts that I didn’t even register.  I touched on that a bit on my way out last night.

It’s the lasts that will stick with me.

The atmosphere was fun.  I’ve seen people compare it to a playoff game and I can see why, ’cause the crowd was lively, but it really wasn’t a playoff atmosphere at all.  There was no anxiety.  We knew the game didn’t matter.

I think the post-game ceremony was oddly appropriate.

It was awkward.  There was a 45-minute gap between the game and the ceremony, leaving the crowd wondering what was going on.  Microphones didn’t work.  The whole thing took place on seemingly-dingy red carpets.

The alumni present were an eclectic mix.  Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan and Pavel Datsyuk were absent; the Grind Line and Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom were there; and then there were Andreas Lilja and Fredrik Olausson and Boyd Devereaux.

Then everyone raised their sticks to the air and there were fireworks and it just kind of ended.  If fireworks can ever be anti-climatic, that was it.

As I said, oddly appropriate.

Then it was time to leave for the last time.  The last of the lasts.  And that was the hardest.

Circling the concourse, we took one last look in from several sections.  Stared up at the banners.  Thought about where we were sitting for different games we’d been to.

Then it was time to go.

Wings Fall to Wild in Preseason Opener

A shorthanded Detroit Red Wings team dropped their first exhibition game of the season Tuesday night, picking up a 3-2 loss against the Minnesota Wild.

The Red Wings skated without most of their expected regular season roster, leaving them behind in Traverse City and taking a lineup of prospects and try-outs to St. Paul.

The Wild opened the scoring with two quick goals on netminder Joey MacDonald.

Just 32 seconds in, Marion Gaborik ripped a shot from the left circle between MacDonald’s pads. Only 57 seconds later, Minnesota newcomer Pavol Demitra put in the rebound of a Brian Rolston shot to add to the lead.

The Red Wings bounced back with 3:16 remaining in the first, when Johan Franzen put a shot past goalie Manny Fernandez after a Minnesota defensive mix-up.

Eight minutes into the second period, try-out Boyd Devereaux banged in the rebound of a Krys Kolanos shot to even the game.

To start the third period, Stefan Liv replaced MacDonald in the Detroit crease. He allowed his only goal of the game 5:28 later, when Gaborik put the puck on net on a five-on-three, bouncing it in off of a body in front.

The Red Wings will play more of their regulars on Thursday when they host the Colorado Avalanche in their first home game of the exhibition season. Chris Osgood is expected to start in goal.

Red Wings Fall to Coyotes in Return Home

In their first game at Joe Louis Arena since February 12, the Detroit Red Wings were defeated by the Phoenix Coyotes, 5-2.

The loss comes on the second half of a home-and-home series that saw the Detroit win the opening game in Phoenix. That night, it was Coyotes goalie Curtis Joseph that was plagued by inconsistant play; Tuesday, Red Wings netminder Manny Legace stumbled, making only 19 saves on 24 shots.

University of Michigan product Mike Comrie opened the game’s scoring at 6:50 of the first period, banging in the rebound of a Dave Scatchard redirection while crashing the net.

Just after a penalty to Detroit expired at 9:54 of the period, former Red Wing Boyd Devereaux was left all alone at the side of the crease to take a pass from Steven Reinprecht and lift a shot into the net, putting the Coyotes up by two.

Scatchard gave Phoenix a three-goal lead with 5:58 remaining in the opening period, scoring on an odd-man rush that saw him skate right up the middle untouched to take a pass and put a quick shot past Legace.

Detroit got on the board just 1:30 later, when Pavel Datsyuk banked a bad-angle shot off of Joseph and into the net while the Red Wings skated five-on-three.

The Red Wings pulled to within one at 2:53 of the second period when Kris Draper went behind the net and sent a pass out to Brendan Shanahan alone in front of the goal. Shanahan took two wacks at the puck and put it past Joseph.

At 9:05 of the final period, Comrie scored his second of the game with the Coyotes on the power play, tipping a shot from the blue line by Zbynek Michalek past Legace.

After Joseph appeared to get away with throwing his stick while making a save, the Red Wings were given a penalty shot when Mike Comrie shot a teammate’s dropped stick into the path of a pass to Nicklas Lidstrom with 5:03 remaining. Mark Mowers couldn’t convert on the chance and Detroit remained down by two.

Shane Doan put the game away with a power play goal with 4:09 remaining. Doan got the puck on the right side of the slot and lifted a shot over the sprawling Legace.

Joseph finished the game with 35 saves on 37 shots.

Detroit scored only once on six power play chances, while Phoenix scored two power play goals on seven tries.

The Red Wings return to the ice on Thurday when they host the Los Angeles Kings.


Nicklas Lidstrom picked up career assist number 600 on Datsyuk’s goal.

Wings Defeat Kings as Yzerman, Woolley Return

Steve Yzerman and Jason Woolley each played their first game of the season Thursday night as the visiting Detroit Red Wings picked up a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Both players were held without a point on the night.

Johan Franzen‘s first career NHL goal ended up being the game-winner for the Red Wings. With 4:52 remaining in regulation and just 53 seconds after the Kings had tied the game, Franzen took a pass from Mikael Samuelsson that was tipped by Dan Cleary and wristed a shot past the left side of Los Angeles goalie Mathieu Garon, making the score 3-2.

The goal deflated the Kings, who had been buzzing after Jeremy Roenick tied the game at two with 5:45 remaining. Dustin Brown drove the net with the puck and was stopped by Red Wings goaltender Manny Legace. The puck bounced out to Roenick at the top of the crease and deflected off his skate and into the net.

The Red Wings had opened the scoring late in the first period. With 2:15 remaining, Jason Williams broken into the LA zone with Brendan Shanahan and Robert Lang. Williams fired a pass past Lang to Shanahan on the far side of the ice. Shanahan deflected the puck into the top of the net for his first even strength goal of the season.

The Kings tied the game 3:04 into the second, when Tim Gleason sent a long pass to Derek Armstrong at the Detroit blueline. Armstrong gained the zone and passed cross-ice to former Red Wing Sean Avery, who stepped into the slot alone and rifled a shot past Legace.

The Red Wings regained the lead momentarily in the third on a shorthanded goal by Kirk Maltby 5:29 in. Kris Draper chased Joe Corvo from behind the Kings’ net and forced him to make a bad outlet pass at his own blueline. Maltby jumped up from center ice and picked it off, skating in alone on Garon and beating him for his first of the season.

After the Red Wings killed off a late penalty, Henrik Zetterberg added an empty net goal to increase the Detroit lead. Avery started some pushing and shoving that ended with a Los Angeles power play, so the Kings pulled Garon again but Jiri Fischer closed the game’s scoring with a second empty net goal for Detroit.

Legace finished the game with 26 saves on 28 shots, while Garon stopped 16 of the 19 shots he faced. Neither team scored on the power play, Detroit having three chances and Los Angeles having seven.

The Red Wings are back in action on Saturday night from Phoenix, where they will meet former Wings Brett Hull and Boyd Devereaux, longtime Detroit associate coach Barry Smith will be behind the bench, and former Detroit goalie Curtis Joseph could be between the pipes.

Week 2: October 9-15

Sure, the Red Wings can beat a St. Louis team which added a new goalie and lost two all-star defensemen, but what does that mean?

Detroit had a light first week this season with only two back-to-back games, the same way they started out the 2003-2004 season. That year, they quickly beat the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators for a 2-0-0-0 start. They have won the season opener for six straight seasons, and have finished the regular season in the top five of the Western Conference for a long time. There isn’t much you can take from the first two games, but here are a few notes:

The new guys are contributing already. Mikael Samuelsson and Brett Lebda have more points than Kris Draper and Nicklas Lidstrom. Jason Williams isn’t new, but he’ll get more ice time this year and had three assists on Thursday.

There should not be a goalie controversy. Manny Legace has proven himself as a great goalie no matter how often he plays, and you can bet on Chris Osgood to win 30 games every year if healthy. Jim Howard might get in a game or two this month, but he looked good in preseason and is well liked so far by the other goalies.

Draper and Kirk Maltby will have to go above and beyond what they’ve normally done as defensive forwards. The Wings were shorthanded 11 times in Thursday’s game at St. Louis, and these two are the best penalty killers on the team.

With the signing of Jason Woolley, the Wings can make the decision to either rest the veterans Chris Chelios and Lidstrom a bit or take time away from youngsters Lebda and Jiri Fischer. These players are all going to have to adjust with the penalties being called, and a deep defensive core will help.

This Week’s Matchups:

October 9 vs. Calgary – Steve Yzerman may not play, but you can be sure Darren McCarty will. He won’t take it easy on his former team, but claims his heart is still wearing red. Many are picking Calgary to once again win the Western Conference, so this should be a good game. (Update: Detroit wins 6-3)

October 10 vs. Vancouver – Finally knocking Colorado off the top of the Northwest Division, Vancouver remains dangerous. Like Detroit, they’ve had good regular seasons and that doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy. They usually give the Wings a hard-fought game; the teams split four games last season.

October 13 at Los Angeles – The Kings may have lost the biggest offensive output of any team in the off-season, parting ways with Zigmund Palffy, Jozef Stumpel, Jason Allison and Martin Straka. To counter, they did sign Pavol Demitra and Jeremy Roenick. If the Kings want any chance of making the playoffs, goalies Mathieu Garon and Jason Labarbera have to immediately make an impact. Lababera won his first game, stopping 27 of 29 shots against Phoenix.

October 15 at Phoenix – Call it the sequel to the Wings’ Red vs. White game in training camp. Lots of familiar faces are in Phoenix now: Brett Hull, Curtis Joseph, Boyd Devereaux and assistant coach Barry Smith. Speaking of coaches, Wayne Gretzky is still in the spotlight – not for what he has done, but what he can do. There have been reports of the players being intimidated by the presense of The Great One, which may explain their 0-2 start. The Coyotes are re-tooling quickly, acquiring Geoff Sanderson from the Blue Jackets in a five-player deal.

Hasek to Sign with Ottawa, Devereaux Heads to Phoenix

The Detroit Red Wings lost two players to free agency on Monday as the Ottawa Senators announced that they would sign and name Dominik Hasek as their starting goaltender on Tuesday and the Phoenix Coyotes came to terms with forward Boyd Devereaux.

The terms of Hasek’s deal with the Senators are unknown. He was set to make $6 million last season before he voluntarily stopped collecting his salary in February after a season-ending groin injury.

Devereaux’s deal with the Coyotes is reportedly a one-year deal with a base salary of $650,000. The contract includes an option for a second year and performance-based bonuses that could raise Devereaux’s salary to $1.6 million over two years.

The Red Wings did not attempt to resign Hasek and had given him permission to speak with other teams at the end of the season. Hasek helped Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 2002 before retiring that summer. The Red Wings signed Curtis Joseph to replace him but Hasek returned to the team in the summer of 2003, creating a logjam in the crease. Joseph will be the starter in Detroit next season.

Detroit did not tender Devereaux a qualifying offer by the July 1 deadline, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Red Wings could have kept him off the market if they had offered him a deal based on the $1.6 million he made last season. They had hoped to bring him back at a reduced price but Devereaux was hoping to find a team where he could get more quality playing time.

Remaining free agent Red Wings include Chris Chelios, Brendan Shanahan and Mathieu Schneider. Brett Hull and Steve Thomas have been told they will not be brought back next year. Restricted free agents include Matheiu Dandenault, Pavel Datsyuk, Jiri Fischer and Jason Williams. Kris Draper already signed a 4-year deal with the Red Wings.

Wings Sign Draper to Four-Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings have signed unrestricted free agent Kris Draper to a four-year deal, the team announced on Thursday. As per team policy, the terms of the contract were not disclosed.

The Red Wings were rumored to have resigned the center on Wednesday, one day before he would have become a free agent, but the rumor was false and Draper was one of the many players across the league who became a free agent at midnight of July 1.

Draper will reportedly earn $11.25 million over the four years of the contract.

Draper had a breakout season last year, scoring 24 goals and 40 points and claiming the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward.

The Red Wings will now focus on bringing back forwards Brendan Shanahan and Boyd Devereaux and defensemen Mathieu Schneider and Chris Chelios, as well as signing their restricted free agents.

Several Wings Become Unrestricted Free Agents

Despite reports to the contrary, the Detroit Red Wings did not sign forward Kris Draper to a new contract late Wednesday night. Draper, who had a career year last season, has become an unrestricted free agent along with Brendan Shanahan, Chris Chelios, Mathieu Schneider and Boyd Devereaux.

Brett Hull, Steve Thomas and Dominik Hasek also became unrestricted free agents but the Red Wings had already notified them that the team would not attempt to resign them. Hasek is reportedly close to a deal with the Ottawa Senators.

NHL free agency began at midnight on Thursday. Unrestricted free agents across the league include Ottawa’s Peter Bondra, Colorado’s Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne, Los Angeles’ Jason Allison and New York’s Eric Lindros.

Detroit captain Steve Yzerman is also an unrestricted free agent but he is expected to sign with the Red Wings as soon as he recovers from his season-ending facial injury.

Draper is reportedly close to a deal and some rumors say he had even signed a new contract but nothing is done yet between him and the club.

Shanahan and Chelios both intend to stay in Detroit and are close to deals. Schneider and the Red Wings are far apart and Schneider is expected to garner interest from Los Angeles and the New York Rangers, teams he had previously played on.

The Red Wings are interested at brining back Devereaux at significantly less than the $1.6 million he made last season.

Restricted free agents on the Detroit roster include Mathieu Dandenault and Jiri Fischer and forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Jason Williams.

Tied Again: Wings Even Series with 4-2 Win

The Detroit Red Wings evened their first round playoff series with a 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames Thursday night. The teams have now won two games each as they come back to Detroit for Game Five on Saturday afternoon.

The talk of the game was officiating, as the Red Wings had only one power play in the game, the only call on the Flames that couldn’t be ignored.

With the Red Wings leading, 4-2, and just four seconds remaining in the game, Calgary agitator Ville Nieminen skated in without the puck at Red Wings goalie Curtis Joseph and threw an elbow to his head. Officials ushered the smiling Nieminen off the ice before Detroit enforcer Darren McCarty could settle the score.

Twenty seconds earlier, the Red Wings sealed their victory with an empty-net goal by Henrik Zetterberg.

Detroit had opened the scoring with the first first-period goal of the series for either team. Only 26 seconds into the game, Kris Draper carried the puck behind the Calgary goal and sent a pass out from the right side of Flames’ goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. Kirk Maltby came into the slot to get the pass and one-timed a shot into the net to give the Red Wings the early lead.

Detroit expanded their lead three minutes into the second period on a goal by Boyd Devereaux. Devereaux, inserted into the lineup for only the second time this postseason, twice held the puck in the Flames zone before getting the puck to Kris Draper as he skated through the right faceoff circle. Draper gave the puck to Ray Whitney, who took it to the bottom of the circle before sending it back up top to Devereaux, who one-timed a long shot past Kiprusoff to put the Red Wings up by two.

The Flames struck twice in 18 seconds to tie the game. At 5:45 of the second, Martin Gelinas got a loose puck at the side of the net and poked it by Joseph, who was attempting a poke-check. At 6:03, Nieminen was left all alone in front of Joseph and outwaited him before lifting the puck over his glove.

The Red Wings regained the lead just past the midway point of the third period. With 9:58 remaining in the game, Tomas Holmstrom put the puck between Kiprusoff’s pads. Defenseman Mathieu Dandenault pinched in and reached behind Kiprusoff to knock the puck over the goal line, scoring the eventual game-winner.

Detrit outshot Calgary, 29-27. Joseph and Kiprusoff each made 25 saves. The Red Wings did not score on their three-second “power play” at the end of the game and the Flames were held scoreless in their two tries with the man-advantage.

The NHL will likely review Nieminen’s actions at the end of the game. A suspension could be handed down from the league offices but the chances of that happening were unknown as the game came to a close.


Curtis Joseph celebrated his 37th birthday with the win Thursday night, just one day after Nicklas Lidstrom turned 34.

Wings Defeat Blues, Claim President’s Trophy

The Detroit Red Wings’ Ray Whitney scored late in the second period Thursday night to give Detroit a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues, clinching the President’s Trophy for the Red Wings with one game remaining in the season. It is the second time in three years and fourth time since 1995 that Detroit has won the President’s Trophy, awarded to the team with the NHL’s best regular season record.

Whitney scored with 2:02 remaining in the second period and fourth-string goaltender Marc Lamothe allowed only two goals on 28 shots against as the Red Wings held off a St. Louis team fighting to make the playoffs.

With the game tied a two, the Red Wings had the Blues reeling in their own zone. Whitney faked a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle and skated in to the faceoof dot, firing a quick wrister over St. Louis goaltender Chris Osgood‘s shoulder and into the top of the net.

Detroit had opened the scoring 6:32 into the game on a goal by Boyd Devereaux. With Osgood sprawling across the goal crease, Devereaux got the puck from defenseman Chris Chelios at the left side of the net. He roofed a shot over Osgood and put the Wings up by one early.

Steve Thomas added to the Red Wings’ lead with 7:14 remaining in the opening frame. As Brett Hull skated into the St. Louis zone with Pavel Datsyuk, Thomas trailed the play. Coming down the right side of the ice, Hull dropped a pass to Thomas, who fired a shot past Osgood, giving Detroit a two-goal lead.

St. Louis tied the game with two goals just 1:13 apart early in the second period. Former Red Wing Mike Sillinger scored 1:52 into the period to put the Blues on the board and Brain Savage knocked in a loose puck at 3:05 to tie the game.

Lamothe stopped 13 shots in the third period to preserve the Red Wings’ lead. Osgood stopped nine of the 12 shots he faced in the game.

The Red Wings were perfect on the penalty kill, not allowing a goal on either of the two St. Louis power play chances. Detroit did not have any power play attempts of their own, as St. Louis was not penalized in the game. The Red Wings have had only one attempt with the man-advantage in the last two games.

The Red Wings will wrap up their season Saturday night when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets.