Thursday, April 12, 2007

Playoffs Round 1 - Detroit Red Wings


Into the great wide open...

I think we all know the story of Icarus and his wings...

I've posted the schedule below and a bunch of Red Wings blog links to the right...

Thu, April 12 7:00 p.m. at Detroit (VERSUS, CBC)
Sun, April 15 1:00 p.m. at Detroit (NBC, CBC)
Tue, April 17 10:00 p.m. at Calgary (CBC, VERSUS)
Thu, April 19 10:00 p.m. at Calgary (CBC, VERSUS)
Sat, April 21 3:00 p.m. at Detroit (NBC, CBC)
Sun, April 22 9:00 p.m. at Calgary (CBC, VERSUS)
*Tue, April 24 TBD at Detroit (CBC, VERSUS)


Much like everyone else, I'm going to break down the series by position and intangibles from my own perspective. Unfortunately I didn't get to see as many Detroit games as I would have liked to this season (due to never being home), but I'll do what I can...

Goaltenders

I basically analyze this as a battle between a goalie who barely faces any shots, to one whose defencemen have been having trouble stopping shooters this season. Hasek is not the goalie he was 5 years ago when he won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings, not even close. And he's even further removed from his trip to the finals with Buffalo. He's obviously older and a little slower, although he's still better than most starters in the league. I just don't know about his durability. Everyone knows about his injury history as of late, but I'm thinking more in terms of his endurance. Playoff series games are closer together than the regular season and I'm not convinced that Hasek's 42 year old body is capable of lasting for a long series, especially one that may include an overtime game or two. His save percentage this past season was the lowest it has ever been for a season in which he started at least 30 games. I honestly don't know if he'll even last through this series, especially when the two teams have to play games across two time zones on back-to-back days...

Miikka Kiprusoff may be the defending Vezina trophy winner, but it was a little hard to tell this season. His defence, which looks like it should be on an all-star roster on paper, seemed to have a propensity to let guys get around them on the outside this past season and get shots off from the outside. The previous two seasons this wouldn't have concerned me as much, but every now and then Kipper seemed to have a little trouble with some of these. I know that he is always shaky to start the season, but usually after that he develops some consistency. We didn't see that this season. Instead he seemed to go on streaks where he would shut downthe opponents for several games, and then he'd have a few games where he'd be letting in five to seven goals. Lately he started to come around a little though, so I'm a little less concerned than I was a few weeks ago. I think the major concern in regards to goaltending for the Flames is who is sitting on the players' bench. I'm sure that Detroit fans are a lot more comfortable with Chris Osgood riding their pine, than us Calgary fans are with Jamie McLennan. No disrespect to Noodles intended, but I just don't think we can win this series without Kipper in net...

Defence

When it comes to the blueline, neither of these teams are really lacking in talent. The Red Wings' blueline includes what could easily be considered the most complete defenceman in the last 10 years (if not longer), in Nicklas Lidstrom. Sharing the back end with him are Mathieu Schneider, Chris Chelios, Danny Markov, Brett Lebda, Andreas Lilja, and the injured Niklas Kronwall (probably being replaced by rookie Kyle Quincey). Much like in between the twine, a big concern here could be age. Lidstrom is 36, Schneider is 37, and Chelios is a staggering 45 years old. I have no doubt of Lidstrom's abilities to keep up with the game, but with Kronwall out the Red Wings are likely going to have to get a little more playing time out of Schneider at least. The Red Wings have no real depth at this position, so for every guy that goes down from their big minute guys, they take a huge hit in terms of effectiveness. When your replacement for your top young defenceman has only played 6 NHL games (4 of which were in the final 4 games of the season), you could be in for some serious trouble. A position I normally see as a strength for the Red Wings could easily turn into a weakness...

When you look at the roster sheet for the Calgary D-men, something that becomes readily identifiable is that 6 of their top 8 defencemen were first round draft picks, and another was an early second round pick (Warrener at 27th overall). The only guy that wasn't picked in the top 30 of his draft year was Mark Giordano, who wasn't even drafted (so essentially, no Flames defenceman was drafted later than 27th overall). In fact, there are even 1st, 2nd, and 3rd overall picks on the roster. Which would make you think that the boys should be damn near dominant in games. But for some reason they aren't. The oldest blueliner on the roster is only 33 (Roman Hamrlik), so you know that age isn't the issue. They just can't seem to get the job done when it comes to clearing the zone or keeping shots to the outside. I realize that just because a player is drafted high doesn't mean he will be an all-star, but he should be pretty well versed in the position. I'm not sure how these guys will perform on the big stage, but you would have to think that they have stepped up their game before when it mattered, so they should be able to do it when it really counts, right? RIGHT? The one thing we do have over the Red Wings in this department is our depth (a lesson learned from our last cup run and vital since Regehr is currently out), so I think we have the advantage in this department, Lidstrom or not...

Forwards

This is one area where I do have to admit a fairly big gap in knowledge about the opponent. Beyond the top line of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Holmstrom, I haven't heard very much about these guys all year. I know Lang is still there, but he is obviously not the player he was when he first got to Motown (especially at the age of 36). Bertuzzi is expected to miss the first game, but I'm not convinced he isn't still the shell of the player that dominated in Vancouver. And to that note, I don't think he would be effective outside the top line anyway (and I don't know that they would move Holmstrom to the second line). Once you get past these players, I haven't heard a whole lot about the rest of the Red Wing forwards this season. I remember Daniel Cleary and Kyle Calder from junior, as well as Jiri Hudler and Johan Franzen, but they have not been the force they were expected to be in the NHL. Calder was on a short tear when he got to Detroit from Philly, but what has he done since then? I know this may be a foolish notion, but I think that if our defencemen can contain the top line and keep Bertuzzi out of the crease, we should be alright...

When it comes to the Flames forwards, I think it all comes down to Jimmy Playfair developing some consistency in his lines. I think we have a pretty solid top 5 forwards in Iginla, Langkow, Tanguay, Huselius, and Conroy. I would put these guys in lines, but you know that Playfair is just going to move them around throughout the game anyway. I'm starting to think the guy overmanages some aspects of the game, while neglecting others. But I'll save the Playfair talk for later. Filling out the top two lines would ideally be David Moss, who has appeared to come from nowhere this season to play an integral part for the Flames (beyond scoring goals, he also occasionally keeps Amonte off the top two lines). With Friesen out (I have completely reversed on my earlier opinion of him), it looks like the grind line will probably be Yelle, Nilson, and possibly Amonte, with Ritchie, Primeau, and Lombardi forming the other line. When McCarty returns he will probably bump Ritchie up to the press box, but we'll cross this bridge when we come to it. Overall, I'm fairly confident this group can do well. We have speed on every line to keep the Red Wings defencemen on their toes and to potentially expose any weaknesses from their lack of depth. The Friesen loss hurts a little, as he is one of our better forecheckers, but I think we have enough depth on the bench to provide a stopgap while he's gone...

Coaching

This is one area that I certainly think that Calgary is at a disadvantage. I know very little about Mike Babcock, beyond him taking the Mighty Ducks to the finals in his first season. He missed the playoffs in his second season before going over to Detroit following the lockout. I have read that he is a bit of a talker, but beyond that and his rollercoaster coaching record (which, in fairness, mostly took place in the roller coaster world of junior hockey), I don't know much about him. But I haven't really heard any bad things...

Jim Playfair on the other hand, hasn't really won over any fans since he took over the reigns from Darryl Sutter. In addition to his bad suits (although I have seen a couple that were kinda decent), he seems to lack confidence. He sets lines at the beginning of games that seem to be doing alright, but then he'll start changing them up as the game goes on (which could probably go a ways to explain those blown third period leads). He is constantly biting his nails and making other nervous gestures that I'm sure don't inspire the troops on his bench. He rarely makes real in-game adjustments to his strategies, beyond the afore-mentioned line blending. He's not much of a talker when it comes to the media either. And, worst of all, I think Amonte intimidates him with his hair, because somehow GrandpAmonte is always on the ice in the dying minutes of every period. If the Flames go to overtime at any point in this series, I have a feeling Tony will keel over after having played twenty straight minutes of hockey. I know the guy USED TO be a goal scorer, but come on, there is a lot more talent on the roster. He's not exactly Mr. Clutch (I miss Gelinas). Playfair passed on the head coaching job the first time it was offered to him because he said he wasn't ready. I think that is still the case. The only real saving grace here is that I think Darryl Sutter will be keeping a close eye on what's going on, and will step in to provide some assistance if/ when he has to. I think if Playfair can find a nice tailor before tonight's game, and get a suit that fits nice and can instill a little self-confidence, he might have a chance of giving his boys a bit of a moral boost. Come on Jimmy, SUIT UP!

Intangibles

How's this for an intangible? I was just informed through Dave over at Open Ice Hits that Mick McGeough has been named as a ref for the opening game tonight. Seriously? What did the Flames fans do to deserve this? Or fans in general actually? I had planned on discussing things like how the teams are pretty even against each other this year, with both teams sweeping at home. Or discussing their respective performance at even strength and on the power play and penalty kill, but this one just took over. This is no longer a Calgary vs Detroit series, but is now the Mick McGeough show. I'm going to have to buy more beer before the opening faceoff tonight...

Additionally, as I don't think I've pointed out yet, the Red Wings are old (Average age 31.2 years). I'm not sure how they would last in a long series, especially if the games start going into overtime. The oldest team to win the cup was a Leaf team (can't recall the year off-hand) at 31 years (and you can obviously guess that that was a long time ago)...

Oh yeah, and apparently a number of guys from the Flames have died their hair black (notably Kiprusoff, Huselius and McCarty), with Darren's spiked into a mohawk. I can just imagine if he still has his chin hair and he slicks it. The guy ALREADY looked like the devil. Intimidation?

4 comments:

MetroGnome said...

Moss' value is indeed addition by subtraction. Moss in line-up = no Amonte in the top 6.

Good catch.

Steal Thunder said...

Glad I come in handy for something every once in a while... ; )

walkinvisible said...

has anyone got pix of this kipper/mccarty black hair business ???

Steal Thunder said...

I take it you are posting this question on everyone's blog? ;)

I did some searches, but so far have come up with nothing on the whole black hair question...