Forwards Fight for Position

The Red Wings have five forwards battling for three, possibly even only two, open roster spots in Detroit. Sean Avery, Doug Brown, Stacy Roest, Jason Williams and Henrik Zetterberg are trying to make a roster that doesn’t have room for all of them.

Zetterberg, playing the North American game for the first time, has two goals and six assists in the first three scrimmages of training camp. He seems to have a lock on one of the open roster spots. As the only non-NHL player on the Swedish Olympic team last winter, Mats Sundin compared him to national hero Peter Forsberg.

“I don’t think so,” Zetterberg responded. “He’s (Forsberg) one of the best players in the world. I don’t think I’m much up to him.”

Williams is also making a strong push to join the Red Wings’ roster full-time. Playing on a line with Zetterberg, Williams had a hat trick in the first day of scrimmages. After playing in nine playoff games last spring, including an impressive Game Three in the Western Conference Finals against Colorado, Williams is ready to play a larger role in the Red Wings organization.

“Being out there definitely sort of opened my eyes, saying, ‘I could be a potential player, star player in this league, playing on a line like that,’ ” Williams said of that Game Three, when he played alongside Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan.

Avery is the Wings’ best agitator, but he won’t put up the numbers to get noticed in camp. Fighting is banned from Detroit’s preseason scrimmages but Avery has taken part in some shoving-matches, showing that the fire is still there.

“Everyone knows what I’m going to bring to the game,” Avery said. I don’t think they’re counting on me scoring 20 goals. I’m an energy guy who will try to wear down the other team’s defense for seven or eight minutes and add that as much as I can.”

Brown is attempting a comeback with the Red Wings after spending last season as a part-time color commentator with UPN 50 and Fox Sports Detroit. Wearing number 71 on his jersey after his familiar number 17 was taken by Brett Hull, Brown has been one of the most-watched players at camp. He said Monday he is close to where he wants to be physically.

Roest is starting his second tour of duty with the Red Wings organization. He’s coming off of two unimpressive seasons in Minnesota after being taken from the Red Wings by the Wild in the Expansion Draft. Roest has surprised the Red Wings before, making the Detroit roster in 1998-99 after an outstanding exhibition season.

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.

An Even Match

The Red Wings dominated the better part of Game Four, just as they had done in Game Three. Unfortunately, this time Patrick Roy was the goalie of the hour, and Dominik Hasek was not. Detroit lost 3-2 to the Colorado Avalanche, leaving the Western Conference Final tied at two games apiece.

The Wings placed great offensive pressure on Colorado early, but as in each of the games this series, the Avalanche opened the scoring 7:50 into the game. Rob Blake got the puck past Sergei Fedorov, whose stick had been broken. Blake, fanned on the shot, but Steve Reinprecht eluded the Red Wing defenders and flipped it high into Hasek’s net.

The Red Wings have become accustomed to playing from behind in this series, and they didn’t let the goal throw them. They instead calmed the play down and took control, waiting for Colorado’s goal momentum to dwindle away. Then they took their chance to score, which, ironically, was in a shorthanded situation.

Kirk Maltby was sitting in the penalty box waiting off a call for holding the stick. The Wings played a strong penalty kill, and repeatedly sent the puck down the ice for the Avalanche to chase. Peter Forsberg attempted to send it into the Red Wings’ zone, but instead it bounced off of Fedorov and out past the blue line, and Fedorov was away with all his great speed, going in all alone against Roy. He deked and sent off a quick shot from point-blank range, and the puck slid right between Roy’s legs.

Unfortunately for the Wings, the Avalanche regained the lead early in the third period. Detroit had cleared the puck from their zone, but not by much, and Greg DeVries flipped it back in onside. It went straight to Joe Sakic, streaking up center, and his hard wrist shot beat Hasek cleanly and gave the Avalanche back their game momentum.

The Avalanche went on to take their first two-goal lead of the series late in the third. Forsberg, Reinprecht, and Chris Drury got away on a three-on-two rush. Forsberg made a centering pass through the air, and Drury got enough of his stick on it to redirect it into Hasek’s net.

The Red Wings did not sit back and wait for the game to be over, even though it was late and they were trailing by two; they pulled their goalie and sent six skaters out to harass Roy. Brett Hull turned a quick wrist shot into a goal on a nice feed from Tomas Holmstrom behind the net, but there were only three seconds remaining, the faceoff came back to center ice, and the game ended 3-2.

The Red Wings outshot the Avalanche thirty-three to twenty-two. Ten of Colorado’s shots came in the third period. Neither team scored a power play goal.

Game Five of the series will be back in Detroit on Monday evening.

Igor Larionov made his return to the lineup today, after sitting out with a sprained knee. Rookie Jason Williams was left out of the game to make room for Larionov…. Sergei Fedorov led the Red Wings with a game-high eight shots on net….. Maybe Brett Hull’s late goal will give Patrick Roy something to think about on the plane ride back to Hockeytown?

The Staring Contest

The two previous games of the Western Conference were remarkably high-scoring, considering that each team has a highly touted world-class goaltender. Game Three was the goaltending showdown that the media and fans have been looking for. The game was tied at one goal apiece as the overtime started. Patrick Roy finally blinked, and the Red Wings took a 2-1 victory to gain a 2-1 lead in the series.

The low scoring should not be completely attributed to goaltending. The Red Wings tightened down and kept better control of the game. Scotty Bowman shook up the lines a little by moving Jason Williams up to center a line with Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan, and putting Sergei Fedorov in between Luc Robitaille and Tomas Holmstrom. He also changed the defense slightly by making sure that Jiri Fischer and Chris Chelios would square off against Joe Sakic’s line instead of Peter Forsberg‘s line.

The “Grind Line” of Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper, and Darren McCarty played superbly, keeping Colorado’s first line penned in their own end for much of their ice time in the first period. The Red Wings also played a more disciplined game?this time they did not take an early penalty. The Avalanche took the first penalty, an interference call on Rob Blake, but they played a frantic penalty kill which kept the Red Wings from setting up a quality scoring play.

Draper took an interference call for the Wings a few minutes later, and the Avalanche put their power play to good use. Sakic shot the puck from the blue line, and Rob Blake tipped the puck in front of the net. It deflected up and over Dominik Hasek‘s shoulder to give the Avalanche the lead.

The second period was played more tightly by both teams. The Red Wings shook off Blake’s goal and continued to control. The defense took a more active role in trying to score, and Hasek made the big saves when he was called upon.

Detroit’s patience finally paid off 5:50 into the third period. Sergei Fedorov shot the puck from the left wing side. The rebound got away from Roy and bounced off of Greg DeVries, then off the toe of Luc Robitaille’s skate, and into the empty side of the net.

Play continued tightly until the overtime period. Then the teams unleashed their offense, and the goalies showed why they have both been considered the “greatest goalie in the world”. Hasek was especially careful to stop a breakaway shot by Chris Drury, the overtime goal scorer from Game Two. Finally, during four-on-four play resulting from offsetting minor penalties to McCarty and Adam Foote, the Red Wings put the puck past Roy.

Hasek cleared the puck up to Yzerman, who passed across to Freddy Olausson flying up center ice. Olausson fired the puck just as he gained the blue line. Roy was partially screened by one of his defensemen Marty Skoula, and could not even see the puck until it was in his net.

Detroit dominated the game in terms of shots on net; they led forty-two to twenty-one. Game Four of the Western Conference Final will be Saturday afternoon in Denver.

This is the first time this year that the Avalanche have allowed more than forty shots on net in a post-season game…. Freddy Olausson’s goal was his first playoff goal in over ten years.

Stirring It Up

Three times, the Colorado Avalanche took a one-goal lead. Three times more, the Red Wings answered to tie. But in overtime, the Wings were not able to break the pattern and score first, and the Avalanche won 4-3 to tie the series at one game apiece.

As in Game One, the Avalanche opened the scoring on an early power play. Steve Duchesne was sitting in the box on an interference call. The Avalanche won the faceoff in Detroit’s zone, and Alex Tanguay got it away to Peter Forsberg open on the right wing side. Forsberg threw the puck towards the net, and Tanguay was on hand to redirect it past Dominik Hasek.

Detroit’s first goal came midway through the first period. Brett Hull passed from the left side out to Boyd Devereaux in the high slot. Devereaux wrestled the puck away from Adam Foote, spun around and fired it. The puck whistled by Foote and over Patrick Roy‘s right shoulder, right into the net.

The Red Wings came on strong in the second period. Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, and Steve Yzerman, with Mathieu Dandenault and Steve Duchesne backing them up on defense, had some especially good chances and pressure in the Colorado zone. Even so, the Avalanche again got the first goal of the period. Martin Skoula took a shot from the blue line which bounced like a pinball off of several players before finally angling off the skate of Forsberg and into Hasek’s net.

Detroit answered shorthanded. Jiri Fischer had been sent off for roughing. The Wings cleared the puck down to Colorado’s end, and Roy came out of his net to clear it away. Kirk Maltby intercepted the clear and came in all alone. Roy backed up, but couldn’t really get set, and Maltby deked the puck behind Roy and in for the tying goal.

Greg DeVries regained the lead for the Avalanche just over five minutes into the third period. The puck went down behind Hasek’s net, and everyone went in after it?except for DeVries, trailing the play. Stephen Reinprecht got to the puck first and centered it for DeVries, who was able to wrist a shot past Hasek.

Reinprecht then cost his team a goal by taking an interference penalty near the end of an Avalanche power play. The resulting power play for the Red Wings was not a full two minutes, but it didn’t need to be. Nick Lidstrom deliberately shot the puck just wide of the net, and it bounced back in front of the goal line, where Roy hit it with the bottom of his skate and put it into his own net.

The Wings took control of the game for the rest of the third period, trying to gain their first lead of the game, but Roy made some key saves and the game went to overtime. Just over two minutes in, Chris Drury broke a scoring drought to give the Avalanche the win. Forsberg intercepted a bad clearing pass, leaving only Fischer back to defend Hasek. Forsberg’s shot rebounded to Reinprecht, who passed across the crease to Drury. Drury put the shot high into the top corner to end the game.

The Red Wings outshot the Avalanche, thirty-three to twenty-six. Both teams were one for five on power plays. Game Three of this intensifying Western Conference Final will be Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Jason Williams played again in place of Igor Larionov, still listed as day to day with a knee injury?. Steve Yzerman’s assist on Nick Lidstrom’s goal was his 100th career playoff assist.

Grind Line on the Move!

The war to win the Western Conference is on. The Red Wings won the first battle. The fans contributed octopus missiles. And Darren McCarty was the star of the game, scoring his first hat trick ever to give the Red Wings a 5-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche and a 1-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals.

The game, their first since defeating the St. Louis Blues a week ago, got off to a slow start for the Red Wings. The Avalanche still had momentum from their Wednesday night victory over the San Jose Sharks, and they were able to score the first goal of the game. Brendan Shanahan was called on a questionable interference penalty, and the Avalanche got to work. Joe Sakic got the puck from Adam Foote and managed to squeeze in between both Chris Chelios and Nick Lidstrom and beat Dominik Hasek with a quick wrist shot.

The Red Wings answered with a power play goal of their own late in the period. Mike Keane had been sent to the box for goaltender interference. Tomas Holmstrom went to the front of the net to screen Patrick Roy. Shanahan took a shot on net from the left point, and Holmstrom attempted to deflect it. He was knocked down, but the rebound came back to him, and he put it into the net while sitting on the ice, with 1:12 left in the period.

The second period was tighter for both teams. Hasek held off an assault by the Avalanche in the middle of the period, but kept them out of the net until only 6:24 was left in the period. Sakic, Alex Tanguay, and Milan Hejduk got away on a three-on-two rush. The rebound from Sakic’s shot came free to Tanguay, and he passed across the goal crease to the wide-open Hejduk, who put it in the net.

Detroit tied the game back up just a few minutes later. Pavel Datsyuk and Boyd Devereaux carried the puck in on a two-on-one rush. Datsyuk got the rebound from his own shot and fired again. The puck bounced off the goalie again, but Brett Hull came in all alone trailing the play and put the rebound high past Roy.

The third period was all Detroit. Darren McCarty gave the Red Wings their first lead of the game less than two minutes in. Chelios got the puck out from a scrum along the boards and sent it ahead to McCarty. McCarty waited for Foote to drop in an attempt to block the shot, then blasted the puck past Foote, off of Roy, and into the net.

The Red Wings had to kill off a boarding penalty to Luc Robitaille, which they did neatly. The Avalanche never got a chance to set anything up on that one. Time began to dwindle down for Colorado, and they got caught in Detroit’s zone, allowing McCarty, Kirk Maltby, and Jiri Fischer to get away on a three-on-one rush. Fischer stepped back to keep Peter Forsberg from getting back to defend, and McCarty looked llike he might pass across to Maltby but instead fired hard from the right wing side. The puck went in just over Roy’s shoulder.

Roy got caught behind the net trying to settle a shot in by Sergei Fedorov, and thus was out of position to stop McCarty’s third goal. The puck came free to Maltby, who threw it on net. Roy threw himself in front to block the shot, but McCarty was right there to get the rebound and flip it over the sprawled goaltender.

Tanguay did score once more for the Avalanche during a cross-checking penalty to Fischer, and Colorado did pull Roy from the net to send in the extra attacker, but by then it was too late. The Red Wings had shaken off the cobwebs from their week off, and the game was over.

The final shots on net were thirty to twenty-seven in Detroit’s favor. Game 2 of the Conference Final will be Monday night at the Joe.

Patrick Roy has an alarming 9-0 record in playoffs for the game immediately following one in which he has given up five or more goals. But if anyone can snap that streak, it would be the Red Wings?. Jason Williams was in for Igor Larionov once again. Scotty Bowman stated that Larionov was getting ready to return soon, after recovering from a sprained knee?. Steve Yzerman told reporters he was glad to see Darren McCarty score his hat trick. “Believe it or not, Mac has pretty good hands…and we may never see that again!” he laughed after the game.

Avalanche Advance

After facing a 3-2 series deficit to the San Jose Sharks, the Colorado Avalanche won the final two games of the series to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Colorado’s Peter Forsberg was the hero of both games, scoring the overtime game-winner in the earthquake-marred Game Six and also tallying the lone goal of Game Seven.

Avalanche netminder Patrick Roy completed his twenty-second career playoff shutout, stopping all twenty-seven of San Jose’s shots in Game Seven after allowing only one goal on twenty-two shots in Game Six.

Colorado advances to play the well-rested Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals. Detroit finished off their second round opponent, the St. Louis Blues, in five games and haven’t played since last Saturday.

This will be the fifth time that the two teams have met in the post season since the Avalanche moved from Quebec in 1995. In 1996 Colorado took a six-game victory en route to a Stanley Cup Championship. In 1997 the Red Wings ousted the defending champs in six games before claiming their first Cup in forty-two years. The Avalanche downed Detroit in six games in 1999 and only took five games in 2000.

Game One between the Avs and Wings will be Saturday at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit’s playoff record against Colorado is their third worst playoff record against individual teams. The Red Wings have fared worse only against the Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins.