Thoughts on the Red Wings – Avalanche Alumni Game

If you were following DetroitHockey.Net on Twitter during the Red Wings – Avalanche alumni game at Coors Field (before my phone battery died on me), you could probably see the narrative I found most interesting about the event. It’s something I commented on when the ticket sale for this game was announced and when the rumor that the Red Wings might be visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs for an outdoor game last year broke.

When Detroit hosted their outdoor game, half the stadium was reserved for Toronto fans. The scoreboard videos pandered to each fanbase. Merchandise stands had items representing both teams. Even in Detroit at the Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park, the rivalry was celebrated rather than the individual teams. It was treated much as a neutral-site game.

But come out to Colorado and it is very much an Avalanche home game. The video about the rivalry consisted mostly of Colorado goals and Patrick Roy saves. There was no clip of Claude Lemieux turtling, Roy left bloodied at the hands of Mike Vernon, or his Statue of Liberty save.

So it’s frustrating to have been to Detroit’s “home” game and seen extra effort made to make the visitors feel welcome, only to not have it happen when the tables are turned. Maybe the next time the Red Wings host one of these, they’ll get to keep it as a home game.

As for the game itself, I was shocked to see the final shot totals. Both Patrick Roy and Craig Billington made some really solid saves for the Avalanche but overall it felt like the Red Wings never got anything going. By shot totals, it seems like the goalies stole the show. I never got the feeling that Detroit was pressuring that much, though.

I did get the feeling that the Avalanche simply cared more. There were quite a few times a Colorado defender laid out to block a shot or a pass and it doesn’t seem like that happened as much in the Detroit end. The feeling I couldn’t shake throughout the game was that the Red Wings were just having fun and the Avalanche were trying to win.

I took a bunch of photos, mostly during warm-ups, and will aim to have those on the site next week.

Babcock Named Jack Adams Award Finalist

Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock was named a 2014 finalist for the Jack Adams Award on Tuesday.

The award, presented to the coach who “contributed the most to his team’s success,” is voted on by members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association.

Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche were the other finalists.

Babcock led the Red Wings to their 23rd consecutive playoff appearance and a 39-28-15 record despite the long-term losses of forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The team faced a franchise-record 421 man-games lost due to injury and was forced to use 38 different players in the regular season. Nine Red Wings players made their NHL debut in filling in on the depleted lineup.

It is the second time Babcock has been named a finalist for the award after placing third in voting in 2008.

Cooper’s Lightning finished second in the Atlantic Division with a 46-27-9 record in his first full season behind the bench. Their youth-heavy roster featured eight rookies who played in forty games or more and spent much of the year without star forward and eventual captain Steven Stamkos.

Former Detroit nemisis Roy helped the Avalanche to a 52-22-8 record in his first year behind the bench. Colorado became the first team since the NHL absorbed four WHA teams in 1979 to go from a finish in the bottom three to the top three in the league in a single season.

The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards show on Tuesday, June 24.

Three Red Wings’ coaches have won the Jack Adams Award: Scotty Bowman (1996), Jacques Demers (1987, 1988), and Bobby Kromm (1978).

Franzen, Datsyuk Score Twice as Red Wings Hand Avs First Loss

Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk each scored a pair of goals on Thursday night, leading the Detroit Red Wings to a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

The loss was the first of the season for the Avalanche and the first of Colorado head coach Patrick Roy‘s NHL career.

The game started with the Red Wings losing top defenseman Niklas Kronwall. Just 2:13 in, Kronwall crouched to play the puck in the corner of his own end and Colorado forward Cody McLeod came at him from behind, driving his head into the glass.

Kronwall was carried off the ice on a stretcher. The Red Wings later announced that he had a mild concussion. McLeod would receive a five-minute major and be ejected for the hit.

On the ensuing power play Franzen opened the scoring. At 6:08 of the period, Henrik Zetterberg sent a pass from the right wing to Franzen at the edge of the crease. Franzen quickly turned with the puck and flicked it over Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov to put Detroit up, 1-0.

With five minutes left in the first Datsyuk got on the board. Danny DeKeyser threw a shot from the point on net and Datsyuk was there to fling the rebound past Varlamov to extend Detroit’s lead.

Eric Johnson cut that lead to 2-1 at 2:36 of the second with a power play goal. Johnson carried the puck through the neutral zone and into the Detroit end, reaching the top of the left faceoff circle before wristing a heavy, unscreened shot past Red Wings’ netminder Jonas Gustavsson.

With 5:18 left in the middle frame, Gabriel Landeskog tied things up on another power play goal. Off a faceoff win in the neutral zone by Paul Stastny, Landeskog carried the puck into the Detroit end and snapped a shot from the high slot past Gustavsson to make it 2-2.

Franzen restored the Detroit lead with his second power play goal of the night at 7:10 of the third. On a transition play, Justin Abdelkader got the puck in the right faceoff circle and fed Franzen at the opposite faceoff dot for a wrister past a moving Varlamov.

Datsyuk would wrap up the scoring with 6:25 left. Jumping up from the top of the right circle, Datsyuk took a feed from Daniel Alfredsson and backhanded a shot on Varlamov from the slot, then followed it up and knocked his own rebound into the back of the net.

Varlamov finished the night with 24 saves on 28 shots against. Gustavsson – in his third consecutive start as Jimmy Howard recovers from a bruised hand – stopped 38 of 40.

Each team scored twice on five power play attempts.

The Red Wings now travel to Arizona for a Saturday visit to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Brendan Smith, Mikael Samuelsson and Tomas Tatar were the healthy scratches for the Red Wings.

And From There, Pandemonium

It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since the infamous “Brawl in Hockeytown” that inspired the Red Wings to make their 1997 Stanley Cup run and really kick-started what was briefly the NHL’s fiercest rivalry.

It’s kind of funny that the game is so celebrated, as removed from the emotion of it all, it really was a dirty affair. Darren McCarty jumping Claude Lemieux, Brendan Shanahan and Mike Vernon teaming up on Patrick Roy and Adam Foote. In today’s NHL, I have to think we would have seen suspensions galore.

But at the time, it was a kind of catharsis. Until then, the league knew that the Wings were a soft team that wouldn’t stand up for themselves. The league’s two-game suspension to Claude Lemieux for breaking Kris Draper‘s face in the 1996 playoffs was light and there was almost an unspoken mandate that if the Red Wings didn’t like it, they’d have to do something about it themselves.

That they did, with McCarty playing the hero with his fists and his stick.

Fifteen years removed, I won’t say it was good hockey but it was what the Red Wings needed and it’s still fun to go back and re-watch.

Great Calls in (Recent) Red Wings History

Jamie Samuelsen has a piece in the Freep today about the lack of great sports calls in Detroit history, relative to the great announcers.

Nowadays, and Samuelsen touches on this, the availability of video highlights kind of negates the effect of the related call. As he puts it, “We still listen to the games, but when the big moments come up, we make sure that we’re sitting at the game or sitting in front of the TV.”

Nothing against Ken Kal and Paul Woods but when I think of the Red Wings announcers, I think of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond. That’s just how it is. I watch the games on TV, I don’t listen on the radio unless I have to.

That said, just because the TV guys have the benefit of video to accompany them doesn’t mean their words are any less powerful. There are still plays that I saw on TV, I know the video of, but just the sound is enough to bring back memories.

As a counter to Samuelsen suggesting that Detroit sports doesn’t have any great calls, I’m posting my top three for the Wings. Unfortunately, none of them come from Detroit’s own broadcasters, all coming from ESPN/ABC’s Gary Thorne. In no particular order…

“Here’s Holmstrom. Dropped it, Larionov in, Larionov for the game-winner, Larionov shot, score! Igor Larionov! The Detroit Red Wings, three; the Hurricanes, two.

Larionov’s triple-overtime game-winner to put the Red Wings up 2-1 on the Hurricanes in the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals. The way it all runs together, puncuated by Larionov’s name and the final score… Just fun to listen to.

“And a great save… The goal counts! The goal counts! The goal counts!

The “Statue of Liberty” goal by Brendan Shanahan in Game Six of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. This call sums up the confusion of the time. Patrick Roy had just made a tremendous save (two, in fact), and suddenly, somehow, the puck was in the back of the net.

“Gretzky had it, lost it, Yzerman picks it up. Yzerman moving, blueline chance, SCORE! STEVE YZERMAN! DETROIT WINS!”

Okay, I’ve said time and time again that this is my all-time favorite goal. Of course it’s on this list. I actually think Thorne’s call is better than the radio version from Kal. The eruption is just so sudden, it fits with the crowd and the scene on the ice. And Bill Clement’s later addition of “That is everything Steve Yzerman had in the bag” is about as good of a description as you can get.

Joseph Goes Unpicked in Waiver Draft

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Curtis Joseph was not claimed by any of the NHL’s other twenty-nine teams in the league’s annual waiver draft Friday afternoon. As a result, the Red Wings will start the 2003-04 season with three goaltenders on their roster.

Detroit has been trying to trade Joseph, who was signed in July of 2002 to replace retiring netminder Dominik Hasek, since Hasek announced his return to the NHL this summer.

Efforts to deal Joseph to Boston were thwarted when he underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his ankle. The Bruins later signed Felix Potvin to fill their net.

Joseph wasn’t expected to be claimed in the Waiver Draft as his $8 million per season contract is too expensive for most teams to handle right now. Only the Colorado Avalanche have a glaring need for a starting goaltender at this time and they’re determined to give David Aebischer a shot as the starter, replacing the retired Patrick Roy.

Joseph and Hasek will share the net with Manny Legace, regarded by many as the league’s best backup goalie.

In all, twenty players changed teams as a result of the Waiver Draft. The New York Rangers were the most active team, losing Ronald Petrovicky (Atlanta), Jeff Heerema (St. Louis) and Shawn Heins (Atlanta) but picking up Joel Bouchard (Buffalo), Sheldon Keefe (Tampa Bay) and Mike Siklenka (Philadelphia).

Toronto forward Travis Green was selected by Columbus, only to be traded to Boston later in the day. The same happened to Florida goalie Jani Hurme, who was claimed by Carolina and then traded to Atlanta.

Carolina made one other goaltending move Friday, signing former Los Angeles King Jamie Storr as a free agent.

Wings Shouldn’t Bring Hasek Back

A year ago, Dominik Hasek had just won the Stanley Cup, capping his first year with the Detroit Red Wings after nine with the Buffalo Sabres (and a few forgettable ones in Chicago) in grand style. Having accomplished the one thing he came to Detroit to do, Hasek retired, returning home to the Czech Republic to raise his children.

And now he wants to come back.

Hasek’s retirement last summer left the Wings scrambling to pick up a free agent netminder to replace him. They set their sights on Toronto’s Curtis Joseph and signed him to a three-year, $24 million deal. Two years of that deal still remain.

And now Hasek wants to come back. After taking a year off. To the Red Wings. Who already have a top-level goalie.

This causes more trouble than good for the Red Wings. Should Hasek return, the Wings can excercise their $8 million option on him for next season and attempt to trade Joseph. Or they can let Hasek become a free agent and sign anywhere, including with the arch-rival Colorado Avalanche, who are looking to replace retired legend Patrick Roy.

Either way, the Red Wings will be forced to give up an expensive, world-class goaltender. And it looks like Joseph will be the odd man out.

Detroit’s WXYT-AM reported Wednesday that the Wings had agreed to bring Hasek back, assuming they can trade Joseph. The same report said that Detroit was in talks with the Philadelphia Flyers about sending Cujo to them.

This is all wrong.

Hasek hasn’t played goal in the NHL in over a year. He’s thirty-eight years old. Who knows how rusty he might be?

He’s already claimed the Stanley Cup, the only goal he had left when he came to Detroit in the summer of 2001. What’s to say he’ll play with the same passion he had that year?

Joseph was blamed by many for the Red Wings’ 2003 playoff meltdown, a four-game sweep by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the first round. Joseph complied a 2.08 GAA in those games. He let in some soft goals but he stopped more. Still, he became the scapegoat, nevermind the Wings’ offence that couldn’t score three goals in a single game.

Now it comes down to picking between Hasek and Joseph. And it looks like the Red Wings want to make the wrong choice.

There is nothing that says Hasek is more likely to lead the Wings to a Cup next year than Joseph. Hasek’s contract would last only one year while Joseph’s is for two. It is too much of a risk to bring Dominik Hasek back to Detroit.

I’ll say that again, more strongly: The Wings should not bring Dominik Hasek back.

Scotty Bowman told Canada’s TSN that Hasek would come back only if Detroit would bring him back. That fixes everything, now there’s no need to worry about Hasek jumping ship to the Avalanche.

The Red Wings need to tell Hasek, “Sorry, Dom, you had your chance to stick with us and you didn’t want it.” There is no reason they should bring him back.

It’s Official: Roy Retires

Patrick Roy, arguably the greatest goaltender of all time, called it quits Wednesday afternoon during a press conference at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

“I feel great about my decision,” Roy said Wednesday after announcing his retirement. “I really feel like I emptied the tank and I’m ready to move on. I step aside with no regrets.”

At 37 years old, Roy is still considered one of the league’s top netminders. He posted the a career-best regular-season just two years ago. However, he preferred to go out while he still was on top of his game.

“It’s always been important for me to play with consistency, but also leave on my own terms,” said Roy. “I think I’ve accomplished everything I wanted and I think I’ve done basically what I think I should.”

Roy said he made the decision to retire before the start of this NHL season. He made the announcement of his retirement a press conference attended by his wife and three children, as well as Avalanche coach Tony Granato and teammates Mike Keane, Joe Sakic and Brad Larsen.

Roy is a four-time Stanley Cup champion, twice with Montreal and twice with Colorado. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP three times and holds NHL records for wins and games played by a netminder.

I’ve had a blast. It’s been unbelievable. I’ve been so fortunate to have lived a dream and have fun for more than 18 years earning a living by playing a game I love,” said Roy, who alternated between speaking in English and French as he answered questions from both Denver and Montreal.

Roy spent the first ten years of his career with the Canadiens before he was traded to Colorado in the middle of his eleventh season. After eighteen years in the NHL, Roy has no immediate plans to take a management role for an NHL team but says he’s open to the idea. For now he plans on moving his family back to Quebec.

Pierre Lacroix, Avalanche general manager, announced that Roy’s No. 33 jersey will be retired by the Avalanche next season. It will be the second number retired by the Avs since their move to Denver from Quebec. Colorado retired Ray Bourque’s No. 77 during the 2001-2002 season.

Roy Reportedly Set to Retire

Patrick Roy, the NHL’s all-time winningest goalie and a four-time Stanley Cup Champion, has apparently decided to hang up his skates.

The Boulder Daily Camera and K-USA TV in Denver report that the 37-year-old Colorado Avalanche netminder will make an official announcement on Wednesday. Other sources say Roy’s retirement could be revealed as early as Tuesday.

Roy has 551 career victories and has won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs three times. He also won the Vezina Trophy for most outstanding goaltender three times. Roy spent the first ten years of his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens before being traded to the Colorado Avalanche in the middle of his eleventh season. He remained in Colorado for the final seven years of his career.

Colorado was upset in the first round of the playoffs this year by the Minnesota Wild, who went on a surprising run to the Western Conference Finals before being swept by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Roy had previously stated that he would announce his plans for the future at the conclusion of the postseason. Last week the Associated Press reported that he was 90% sure about his decision.

“I think it’s important when you’ve played for 18 years, you have to take your time, you have to be patient and you have to make sure it’s the right decision,” Roy said.

A Wild Game Seven

The Colorado Avalanche joined the Detroit Red Wings in exiting the playoffs early, falling in overtime of Game Seven to the Minnesota Wild.

The Wild became just the eighth team in NHL history to bounce back from a 3-1 series deficit with two wins on the road. They defeated the Avalanche, 3-2, in Games Five, Six and Seven.

After winning Game Six in overtime just over one day earlier, the Wild stuck with the Avalanche to force the overtime period, where Andrew Brunette deked out Colorado netminder Patrick Roy and won the series.

Brunette skated down the left side of the Colorado zone after picking up the puck from Sergei Zholtok. He switched to his backhand as he skated around a sprawling Patrick Roy and slid the puck into the net.

“I was going to shoot from out, but I didn’t think I would have a great shot,” said Brunette. “I didn’t think I could beat him, so I tried to go to old faithful.”

Colorado had their chances to put the Wild away. They scored the first goal of the game 6:16 into the second period when Peter Forsberg knocked in the rebound from a Joe Sakic shot. After the Wild tied it, the Avs reclaimed the lead when Sakic one-timed a pass from Alex Tanguay past Minnesota goaltender Manny Fernandez while on a 4-on-3 power play with only 6:45 left in the third.

The Wild never quit. They tied the game at one when Pascal Dupuis sliped a backhander past Roy while on the power play. Marian Gaborik‘s power-play rebound goal tied the game at two with 4:28 remaining in regulation.

“We are a resilient group,” Brunette said.

The Avalanche became the second Western Conference team to be upset in the first round following the Red Wings’ four-game loss to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. It was Colorado’s second-straight Game Seven loss after bowing out to the Red Wings in the seventh game of the Western Conference Finals last season.

The Wild will advance to play the Vancouver Canucks, who defeated the St. Louis Blues in Game Seven of their series. The West’s other matchup will feature the Mighty Ducks and the Dallas Stars.

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