TGTW Week Four: Wings Almost Sweep Western Canadian Trip

The Games That Weren’t is one of many projects simulating the games lost by the NHL lockout. In the absence of actual games to write about, I’ll be checking in periodically on the fictional Red Wings’ season.

The Detroit Red Wings opened up their first four-game Western Canadian road trip with a win in Winnipeg last week and continued their streak into Vancouver and Calgary before dropping the final game of the swing in Edmonton.

Former Canuck Mikael Samuelsson was the hero in his return to Vancouver on Tuesday, scoring a hat trick that included the game-winning goal in the game’s final minute.  Vancouver’s Mason Raymond had opened the game’s scoring at 8:33 of the first before Samuelsson responded at 11:40.  Niklas Kronwall made it 2-1 for the Wings at 9:15 of the second.  Keith Ballard tied things back up 39 seconds into the third, then Samuelsson put the Wings ahead again at 4:47.  David Booth knotted it at three at 9:50.  Samuelsson potted the game-winner on a power play with 46 seconds left in regulation.

Jimmy Howard made 20 saves on 23 shots to get the win while Canucks’ starter Cory Schneider made 25 saves on 29 shots.

Samuelsson notched another game-winner on Thursday in Calgary, when his second-period goal put the Wings ahead in an eventual 4-2 win.  Roman Horak opened the game’s scoring for the Flames at 2:50 of the first period and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk responded just 53 seconds later.  Henrik Zetterberg put the Wings out front 1:09 later before Mike Cammalleri tied it back up at 5:19.  Samuelsson scored at 4:04 of the second to put Detroit back out in front and Danny Cleary added an insurance marker on the power play at 3:27 of the third.

Again, Howard faced 23 shots, stopping 21.  Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff made 30 saves on 34 shots.

On Saturday in Edmonton, the Oilers got out to a strong start and the Red Wings couldn’t recover.  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins opened the game’s scoring at 7:00 of the first and Ryan Whitney added another goal at 10:07.  Ben Eager made it 3-0 in Edmonton’s favor just 53 seconds into the second period, with Samuelsson finally getting Detroit on the board with 1:25 left in the middle frame.  Zetterberg pulled the Wings to within a goal with 9:04 left in the third but they’d be unable to pull even.  Howard stopped 27 of 30 shots on the night and Edmonton’s Devan Dubnyk made 24 saves on 26 chances.

After four weeks, the Red Wings sit atop the Central Division and team-leading scorer Valtteri Filppula (seventeen points) is atop the league in assists with twelve.  Howard has a 1.92 goals against average and a .914 save percentage, having made every start (though he was pulled in favor of Jonas Gustavsson at the end of the first game of the season).

The fifth week of the schedule will see rematches with the Oilers and Flames and a visit from the Minnesota Wild.

Red Wings Rally but Fall to Oilers in Shootout

The Detroit Red Wings spent almost the entire game Friday night rallying to pull even with the Edmonton Oilers but ended up dropping a 3-2 shootout decision.

Edmonton had a 2-0 lead before five minutes had been played and the Red Wings used every second of the remaining 55 minutes to tie things back up. Brian Rafalski forced overtime with 0.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

Andrew Cogliano opened the game’s scoring just 57 seconds into the game, scoring into the open side of the net on a cross-crease feed from Gilbert Brule.

4:01 later, Ryan Whitney scored his first goal as an Oiler, cutting from the top of the left circle in low to snap a shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.

Patrick Eaves put the Red Wings on the board with 8:09 left in the second period. Kris Draper raced in behind the Edmonton goal on the forecheck and won the puck, sending it out to Eaves in the right circle for a one-timer past Edmonton netminder Devan Dubnyk.

Rafalski tied the game when Henrik Zetterberg dug the puck out from under Edmonton Theo Peckham in the corner. With nearly everyone on the ice having moved to the left corner, Pavel Datsyuk sent it across for Brian Rafalski to bang into the net from the far side of the crease.

Ryan Potulny and Gilbert Brule scored on Edmonton’s first two shootout attempts before Howard stopped Robert Nilsson. Pavel Datsyuk rang a backhand chance off the post and Jason Williams scored before Valtteri Filppula was stopped to ensure the Oilers’ win.

Howard made 22 saves on 24 shots on the night. Edmonton took 13 of those shots in the first ten minutes of play. Dubnyk made 31 saves on 33 Detroit chances in earning his first career victory.

Eaves left the game with an upper-body injury after the second period… Combined with Calgary’s win in San Jose Friday night, the Red Wings are now tied with the Flames for eighth place in the Western Conference. Detroit has one game in hand.

Red Wings Down Ducks to take 3-2 Series Lead

Four different players scored for the Detroit Red Wings Sunday, carrying the team to a 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks and giving the Red Wings a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference Semifinal series.

Chris Osgood stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced in net for Detroit, helping the team capitalize on the low number of shots allowed.

The Red Wings outshot the Ducks 14 to three in the first period but neither team got on the board until Johan Franzen scored at 3:23 of the second.

Justin Abdelkader, making in his first postseason appearance in place of the injured Tomas Kopecky, moved the puck on a rush to Franzen at the Anaheim blue line. Franzen stepped up and snapped a shot off of the crossbar and in behind Anaheim netminder Jonas Hiller.

Just 39 seconds later, Jiri Hudler made it 2-0.

Henrik Zetterberg drove a shot on net that Hiller stopped but the rebound popped into the air. Hudler followed it up, whacking the puck in behind Hiller just after it dropped below crossbar height.

Ryan Whitney scored Anaheim’s only goal with 4:23 left in the period and the Ducks on a power play, snapping a shot past Osgood after a scramble left Detroit’s defense spun around and Osgood screened.

Darren Helm scored his first goal of the playoffs to restore the two-goal lead with 3:08 left in regulation, banging home a rebound after a goalmouth scramble with Dan Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg.

Zetterberg added an empty net goal for the second consecutive game, finishing off the scoring.

Each team had three power play chances. Anaheim made good on one of theirs while the Red Wings were held without a power play goal.

Hiller made 34 saves on 37 shots in the Ducks’ net.

Detroit played again without Brian Rafalski and Kris Draper, while adding Kopecky to the list of injured Wings… Derek Meech joined Abdelkader making his playoff debut, subbing in for Chris Chelios.

Red Wings to Face Ducks in Second Round

The Detroit Red Wings found out their second-round opponent Monday night. The Anaheim Ducks completed a six-game upset of the San Jose Sharks, advancing to face the Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Had the Sharks managed to come back to beat the Ducks, the Red Wings would have faced the Vancouver Canucks.

The Red Wings were 3-1 against the Ducks this season but both teams made significant changes after their last meeting. Detroit “flipped a switch” at the start of the playoffs, changing their style of play with stronger defense and better goaltending. Anaheim acquired defenseman Ryan Whitney for Chris Kunitz and James Wisniewski for Samuel Pahlsson, got Francois Beauchemin back from injury, and has been getting stellar goaltending from Jonas Hiller.

Thoughts on the NHL Draft Lottery

Over at SportsLogos.Net there’s a debate about whether or not the 2005 NHL Entry Draft was rigged to make sure that the Pittsburgh Penguins got Sidney Crosby.

The debate is in the Winter Classic thread (registration required) so rather than clutter that up with off-topic chatter, I figured I’d bring it here.

User capsfan1000 points out the following, from which I’ll work…

# 2002: Ryan Whitney (5th overall)
# 2003: Marc-Andre Fleury (1st overall) (originally pitsburgh had the 3rd pick)
# 2004: Evgeni Malkin (2nd overall)

Those are some low draft poistions. The Penguins should have been in the same position as the Caps (and the Panthers for that matter) and both should have been in the same boat with one draft ball each. But the NHL fixed it so that the Penguins would have three thereby giving Pitssburgh a better chance of drafting Crosby. In that way the NHL did fix the draft.

That’s where my complaint lies, as well, but it’s not that Pittsburgh got Crosby rather the flaw in the draft system.

The league is set up so that continued dominance is supposed to be difficult. Bad teams are rewarded with the opportunity to draft better players while good teams pick later on. The idea being that the better players will make the bad teams better. Meanwhile, the good teams get worse by losing the ability to pick higher. The Rodent calls it the lava lamp. It doesn’t always work that way but that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Now lets look at the Penguins. Three pre-Crosby top-five picks in a row. It’s not any other team’s fault that the Penguins failed to use those picks to get anyone who could immediately help their team. Why should Pittsburgh have gotten yet another shot at a top pick because they chose people who wouldn’t have an immediate impact?

I pick on the Penguins because it’s the example that actually happened. In theory it could be much worse.

Lets say Winnipeg (just to use a team that doesn’t currently exist, so as to not piss off a current fanbase) realizes that they need a massive rebuilding effort and are willing to sacrifice several seasons to do it. They know their fans will pack the arena every night no matter how bad they are, so they bomb a season and get a lottery pick. They pick someone who could have an immediate impact but decide not to sign him. Next season, they do the same thing. The year after that, another bombed season (after all, the draft hasn’t helped them yet since they haven’t signed those players).

After three lottery picks in a row, they finally sign all three of those guys, and they’ve got an entire line of future stars coming in. That first player selected should have helped the Jets, maybe even taking them out of the lottery for the next couple years, but the front office deliberately held out for more lottery picks.

Is that extreme? Absolutely, but I think the idea shows the flaw in the system. I think that after a certain number of lottery picks in a row, a team needs to be told “No, you’ve had your turn, you’re doing something wrong, go to the end of the line and try again.” Whether it’s from front office shenanigans or poor drafting, there has to be a point where enough is enough.

Coming back to Pittsburgh, it means that Whitney and Fleury and Malkin should have been enough. It’s the team’s own fault that they drafted people who either weren’t ready for the NHL or couldn’t be signed. No more do-overs.

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