Do Or Die

For the first time in the playoffs, the Red Wings must face the possibility of elimination. In spite of a surge of momentum in the third period and the start of overtime, defensive mistakes allowed the Colorado Avalanche to take a 2-1 overtime victory and a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

Detroit did not show dominance in the beginning of the game, as they so often have in this series. Instead, they allowed the Avalanche to keep control of much of the game. Dominik Hasek also looked a little shaky, but they kept the Avalanche out of the net through a penalty and until only 2:49 was left in the first period. Peter Forsberg spun around to elude Freddy Olausson, then got the puck across to Steven Reinprecht going to the front of the net. Reinprecht tried to stuff the puck in the left side, then got it back, carried it behind, and stuffed it into the empty right side before Hasek could get over or before Nick Lidstrom could get back with his stick down.

The Red Wings started to perk up offensively in the second period, but the story was one of missed chances. A centering pass bounced up and over Darren McCarty‘s stick. Brett Hull stood waiting and wide open, but the pass hit his skate instead of his stick, and was taken away before he could gather it back. Brendan Shanahan had Patrick Roy cleanly beaten, but the puck rang off the goalpost instead of into the net.

Detroit finally got a break with twenty-eight seconds remaining in the period. Joe Sakic was sent to the penalty box for interference, and most of the power play carried over into the third period. Once play resumed after the intermission, Detroit took control. Hull got the puck to Steve Yzerman at the left side of Roy’s net. Yzerman took the shot from that bad angle, and it banked off of Roy’s back and into the net. Roy tried to cover it up, but the players and officials had seen it?the game was tied at one.

With the momentum from their captain’s goal, the Red Wings were able to apply more pressure. Hasek shook off whatever had been bothering him and came up huge for his team, especially in the last minute of the period when he had to stop a Forsberg shot and rebound from point-blank range. The puck stayed out and the game went to overtime.

Overtime was a frantic scramble by both teams. Again, Yzerman, Shanahan, and Sergei Fedorov all had scoring chances, but Roy held up to the pressure, and the Red Wings finally made the game-ending mistake. Brian Willsie, Chris Drury, and Forsberg got away on a three-on-two rush, and the two Red Wings back both went into the right corner after Willsie with the puck. Willsie got the pass away to Forsberg, who faked out Hasek, then put the puck high as Hasek was dropping to block a low shot.

Shots on net were nearly even, but the Avalanche had a slight edge of twenty-nine over Detroit’s twenty-seven. Game Six of the series will be Wednesday evening back in Denver.

Steve Yzerman’s goal ties him with Gordie Howe‘s franchise record for most playoff goals scored.

Starting Off Right

The St. Louis Blues are a very different team from the Vancouver Canucks?they concentrate more on defense than on offense, and they have more talent and depth. It was a hard fought game, but a much better way to start a series, as the Red Wings came out on top with a score of 2-0.

The game started cautiously and quietly, each team feeling the other out, concentrating on defense and waiting for the offensive opportunities to present themselves. Detroit took advantage of an opportunity 7:40 into the game. Pavel Datsyuk, back in the lineup after sitting out the last two games of Round One, dumped the puck into the Blues’ zone. Brett Hull went into the corner after it, tangling with a St. Louis defenseman. The puck squirted free and back out to Datsyuk in front of the net. Datsyuk was well covered by a St. Louis player?he was on one leg, being knocked over as he let the shot go, but it still fluttered into the net high and to the left of goaltender Brent Johnson.

The second period continued in the defensive style, although the Blues began to regain their momentum from Round One and press the net harder. Dominik Hasek made several key saves to keep the Blues off the board, and any rebounds were scooped away by the Red Wings’ defense. Detroit had to kill off some penalties at the end of the period, but it turned out to be more to their benefit than to that of the Blues.

Sergei Fedorov was sent to the penalty box for slashing with just under two minutes left to play, and the Blues tried to set up a play to tie the game. Doug Weight tried to shoot the puck from the blue line, but Steve Yzerman blocked it, it bounced free to Hull, and they were away on a two-on-one rush. Weight, a forward unaccustomed to playing defense, did manage to take away Hull’s passing lane to Yzerman. Hull’s first shot bounced off Johnson and right back, so Hull worked the rebound around Johnson and put it into the net from behind the goalie.

The third period continued in much the same fashion as the second. The Blues had some great chances, but were unable to capitalize on them. With just over a minute left in the game, Johnson left the net so that the Blues could send out the extra attacker. The Blues sent the puck deep into Detroit’s zone, and Hasek came out of the net to clear it away?trying, perhaps, for an elusive empty net goal. Instead, big Keith Tkachuk came barrelling down on him, trying to lay on a hard hit. Hasek managed to get most of his body out of Tkachuk’s path. Chris Chelios took exception to rough treatment of his goaltender, and came in against Tkachuk, and everyone on the ice got into the action.

The resulting calls by the officials sent Tkachuk out of the game, but sent Chelios to the penalty box, leaving only four Red Wings to defend against six St. Louis skaters. But with help from their goaltender, they managed it, getting the puck down to the other end of the ice in time for the final buzzer.

The total number of shots on net were fairly low, twenty-three to twenty in favor of St. Louis. Round Two playoff action will continue on Saturday afternoon at the Joe.

St. Louis goaltender Brent Johnson is a native of Farmington Hills, and the grandson of Red Wings star Sid Abel, a member of the famed “Production Line” with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay?. Pavel Datsyuk’s goal was his first ever playoff goal?. Steve Yzerman’s assist on Brett Hull’s goal puts him into the current league lead for playoff scoring.

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.

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.

4 January, 2001

Tonight’s game is an important one, Detroit’s done well against the good teams in the league but continues to struggle at home, even after the last second win on New Years Eve. Dallas is on a role but is reeling from injuries to key players like Jamie Langenbrunner and Brett Hull. Seems to me like a good chance to let Chris Osgood prove he’s ready to be number one again, but Bowman never agrees with me. Brendan Shanahan said of tonight’s game, “It’ll be good. Dallas always brings out the best in us.” And lucky me, I’ll be there. Tonight’s the first game I’ll be able to go to this season. If I find a way to get from K-Zoo to the Joe in time to catch the warm-ups, I’ll add more pictures to the site tomorrow. We’ll see how my cross-state dash works out.

The grades don’t look all that good for the Wings at mid-season. I disagree with most of them but they’re done by the Free Press and they’re considered more of a hockey authority than I am. The second half of the season should be better for Detroit, even Bowman thinks so.

Some cool stuffs been going on around the NHL… Jose Theodore of the Canadiens became only the eighth NHL goalie to be credited with a goal in a shutout win over the Isles. He actually scored the goal, like six of the other goalies, including Ron Hextall, Martin Brodeur, and our very own Chris Osgood. Mario Lemieux has nine points in his first three games back. Probably makes Gordie Howe think he can do better himself. That’s all for now, more tomorrow.

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