Tag Archives: San Jose

The State of Hockeytown

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Hey, hey Hockeytown! (Pun intended) How goes it?

Confused? Worried? Incessantly smacking that big red button on the side of this page?

I hear you. Right now, things are a bit…confusing. One night it’s a 5-0 win. The next, we’re getting snowmen pasted on the scoreboards by our divisional opponents. Not quite as consistent as you hoped? Me neither.

And then there’s the media. Sports radio in Detroit is leading the campaign of fire, brimstone and kneejerk panic spreading. The papers question GM Ken Holland’s decisions about goaltending at the trade deadline. Don Cherry puts on his ugliest suit and slings insults at the way the Wings play hockey.

It is indeed a grim time to be a Wings fan.

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PUHHHHHLEASE!!!!

Wings fans, get with it. You have exactly ONE thing to be sad about when it comes to this organization, and that is the loss of a great hockey ambassador in Colleen Howe. (God Bless You, Mrs. Hockey).

But when it comes to the guys wearing the Winged Wheel, it’s time to wake up, splash some water on your face and take a good long look at what is really going on.

Immediately, most of you reading this are dismissing me as a homer/idiot/ignorant fan/wishful thinker. Fine. You go on worrying about what MIGHT happen next month because of some inconsistent play this month. While you’re at it, please go ahead and worry about what color shirt you will wear next week too. As for me, I already know what color I’ll be wearing: Red. For the Red Wings. Because I’m not worried.

“Again, you’re just a homer/idiot/ignorant fan/wishful thinker.”

Fair enough. But here’s why I’m right. Take it or leave it.

Media Panic

This might be the most ridiculous reason for worry, EVER. Why, you ask?

Imagine, if you will, that you are a sports writer. If you’re a Wings writer, you write the same thing pretty much every year as the squad plods along methodically to the playoffs. The regular season quickly gets taken for granted and you find yourself grasping for a unique and different story angle (“Babcock wears TAN SUIT!”)

babssuit

On the other side of the coin, those NHL writers who aren’t dedicated to Hockeytown greatness have had to listen to how great this team is for the entirety of the season, trying to find something to harp on.

Then, “8” happened. Twice.

Now all of a sudden, you as a local writer have your ammunition to panic (Wings look like s*#t!!!) and the out-of-market writers have spotted the “chink” in the armor. Commence Operation: Impending Doom and Gloom.

The fact is that every writer writes so people will read. In an 82 game regular season, there will be points where sometimes the only thing worth writing about will stir the masses and create doubt. However, all writers will tell you that they  are objective folk just doing their job and writing what they perceive to be the truth. Fair enough. But don’t believe everything you see or hear as all writers (including myself) make mistakes and report a “truth” that doesn’t always come to fruition.

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“That’s great, but it’s not the media’s fault.”

OK, so the media didn’t give up those eight goals. Twice. But two games does not make a season. Let’s dabble in a few facts and even more theories.

FACT: The Wings aren’t immune to lazy play.

  • Hey, my barista does his/her job very well most every day of every week. Some days, though, I have a little extra room in my Americano. Eh, it happens. And sometimes they might get distracted and even make me the wrong drink. Ugly. But while my faith might temporarily waver, I know that on any given morning, my Americano will be hot, overly caffeinated and made the way I want it. The point is that over an 82 game season, it shouldn’t be surprising that lapses will happen. I worry when the Wings lose a string of close games, not when they spew turnovers and give away goals late in the season. Hey, how many times have you been working on a long project and done everything perfectly and without a stupid mistake, especially near the end? That’s what I thought.

FACT: We are right where we need to be.

  • A few weeks ago, I boldly/foolishly predicted the Wings would lose the West by 2.5 games. At last check, we are tied in points with San Jose at 96, with them having two games in hand on us. We are two games back. We aren’t five or seven or nine games back. We are two back. That is not a cause for panic. We also have a 7.5 game lead in our division. This is a good thing. Pretty much every team in the West is battling for a playoff spot, meaning we are going to get everyone’s best shot every single night we hit the ice. It’s difficult to get excited to play every one of those games, especially when we have such a sizable lead with a month to go. Just ask San Jose.

FACT: Inconsistent lineups lead to inconsistent play.

  • Much hulabaloo was made of Chris Osgood’s “10 day mental rest.” I’m not really sure why. I get tired at my job. Sometimes I just need a break to refocus. You know what I do? Take a vacation. Clear my head. That’s all that Osgood did. Yes, I’m aware he isn’t in top shape, but you can’t leverage all of the blame at him when the defense decides to take a couple of nights off.
  • Here’s another thought: long seasons lead to wear and tear. It’s easy to forget that in the midst of a couple of bad games, but Wings leadership has to find places to meet certain obligations to developing players, and we happened to get caught in an unfortunate period of injuries and minor league call-ups. It happens. But here’s the thing: the Wings are still 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and were able to do that without having guys like Hossa, Holmstrom, Hudler and Leino in the lineup on any given night. This is an organization planning for the future, which includes both the playoffs and years to come. Anytime that these guys can get the minor league guys some playing time, they will. I PROMISE that you much prefer it this way, as *knock on wood* we will have a healthy and rested lineup come playoff time.*
  • *This prediction does not cover Andres “Glass Joe” Lilja. He should never fight again.glasslilja

FACT: We aren’t alone.

  • No, I don’t speak of aliens. I seak of the fact that most of the top teams in the league are finding issues with their play too. San Jose is 5-4-1 over their last 10. Boston is a putrid 3-6-1. Heck, even our “hated rival” Nashville has found a way to lose three in a row. Save Pittsburgh’s seven game win streak and Carolina’s four game streak, nobody is playing ‘terrific’ hockey. These are the ups and downs of the season. We should be used to them by now.
  • If you’re worried about goal differential being a major indicator of concern, think again. While Boston is +69 on the season, our Western counterpart San Jose currently sits at +52 while Detroit is +48. Chicago is +45. Columbus is -1. Nashville is -14. Calgary, who currently leads the Northwest division and is everyone trendy ‘dark horse’ all of a sudden, is +16. What does this mean? Nothing. If anything, it means that, despite having mental lapses and giving up some big goal numbers, Detroit consistently scores more than they give up. That usually leads to wins.

OK, I’ve made the best argument I can.Whether or not you want to listen to me is up to you. But I’m kindly asking you to think twice before you beat your panic button into submission. One way or another, we will find our way to the playoffs. Whether that is riding high or limping in remains to be seen. But until then, I would suggest taking a deep breath and letting this run its course. You’ll thank me later (hopefully).

And in case you want one more thought to ease your mind:

Columbus and Nashville hung 8 on us.

8+8 = 16.

16 = Number of playoff wins for the Stanley Cup.

16 = Number of arms on two octopi.

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See? It’s all in the numbers.

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Filed under State of the State

Detroit 4, San Jose 1

jawsdead

Since there are plenty of great recaps already out there, here’s just a few thoughts on last night’s whoopin’ of the Sharks.

  • Even though the season series tied at 2, Detroit outscored San Jose 17-11 this season. Last season? Nearly identical, with a 17-9 mark in favor of the Wings.
  • Detroit continued it’s domination in the faceoff circle. 3 of 4 games this season had Detroit winning more than 50% of the faceoffs.
  • Ty Conklin was FILTHY good in net last night, making crucial saves on a late Sharks powerplay. Tip of the hat to Conks, who won his 12th straight at the Joe.
  • Yes, the officiating was questionable. Yes, the puck did hit the netting before Hank’s shorthander. No, I don’t care. A similar incident happened last season in this matchup, and the Sharks wound up with a goal because of it. These things happen and usually work themselves out in the end.
  • The Detroit backcheck was incredibly solid. How many times did the Sharks just flip the puck into the neutral zone, only to watch the Detroit defense scoop it up and go the other way?
  • I saw multiple mentions of how the Sharks were continuosly chasing the Red Wings last night on Twitter.
  • Ville Leino’s single to right field crazy goal out of mid-air was awesome. (Dave Dombrowski, were you watching?)
  • Hank’s spin-o-rama with Ehrhoff draped all over him was better.
  • Is the Turtle’s comeback over?

Major kudos go out to Yahoo! sports for live streaming the game last night. The feed was awesome, even though we got stuck with the San Jose broadcast.

Does this win change my thinking on who wins the West now? No*

*If the Sharks somehow fall to the Sens tonight and Detroit beats L.A. tomorrow, San Jose will be in trouble. They cannot afford an 8 point swing in Detroit’s favor over two games. That said, I hope the Sens blow the roof off their joint tonight. GO SENS!

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Filed under Hooray!

The “Race” for the West’s Top Spot

With just about seven and one-half weeks to go in the NHL regular season, Wings fans can sit back and be comfortable in the knowledge that we have the best record in the West, are coasting into the Western Conference playoffs with the top seed in hand and might even lock up our seventh President’s Trophy. Everything is as it should be.

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What’s that you say? “Look at the standings?” Why bother? We’re on top of the West and everyone knows it.

OK, OK, if you INSIST on wasting my time, I ‘ll humor you with a quick look at NHL.com.

See right here, ‘Western Conference Standings.’ Number one team? The Detroi…

Um, whoops.

That’s right Wings fans, in case you haven’t been paying attention (which i’m sure you ALL have), our beloved Hockeytown Heroes sit in lowly SECOND PLACE in the Western Conference, behind…

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SAN JOSE? WTF DUDE?

Ok ok, no need to panic. We are only 1 point behind the Sharks with 24 games to play. We can make that up…can’t we?

Great question and glad you asked. Here’s the deal: while we are only 1 point behind the Sharks RIGHT NOW, the key thing to remember is that they have three games in hand on us, since we have played 58 games to their 55. If you count those three as wins for SJ, that puts them 7 points ahead of us at the end of the season. The point: Realistically, we sit 3.5 games back of the Sharks with 24 games to go. Insurmountable: not quite. A challenge: you betcha.

Before we go any further, let’s get some background information out there that will prove vital in this discussion.

Records as of 2/19/09 (W/L/OTL)

  • San Jose: 38-8-9, 85 points
  • Detroit: 38-12-8, 84 points

Home/Road Records this season(Win Percentage)

  • San Jose (Home): 24-2-3 (82.75%)
  • San Jose (Road): 14-6-6 (53.85%)
  • Detroit (Home): 21-4-3 (75.00%)
  • Detroit (Road): 17-8-5 (56.67%)

Games remaining before end of season

  • San Jose: 27 (12 at home)
  • Detroit: 24 (13 at home)

Games remaining before March 31st

  • San Jose: 21 (9 at home)
  • Detroit: 18 (9 at home)

What does it all mean? Basically, we will know EXACTLY what needs to be done when we hit March 31st and both teams have exactly six games remaining. For the sake of the argument, and the sake of saving everyone from reading 50+ game predictions, here is how we will move forward:

  • San Jose wins 83% (7 wins) of their remaining home games and 54% (6 wins) of their remaining road games before March 31st.
    • Projected point total: 111 points
  • Detroit wins 75% (6 wins) of their remaining home games and 57% (5 wins) of their remaining road games before March 31st.
    • Projected point total: 106 points

Um, ok? EXACTLY! Basically what this futile math exercise has told us is that the Wings (statistically) should make up minimal ground on the Sharks, and (statistically) should be 2.5 games back heading into the final six games of the season.  

OK, so now what? Now, I am going to attempt to break down the last six games of the season for each team and determine what the result of those games may be, thus determining a Western Conference champion.

San Jose

Against

Season Results

Projected Result

4/2 @ Edmonton

2-0-1

Win

4/4 vs. Anaheim

2-1-0

Win

4/5 @ Anaheim

2-1-0

Loss

4/7 vs. Colorado

2-0-0

Win

4/9 vs. Phoenix

2-1-0

Win

4/11 @ Los Angeles

3-0-0

Win

Detroit

Against

Season Results

Projected Result

4/2 vs. St. Louis

3-0-0

Win

4/5 vs. Minnesota

2-0-0

Win

4/6 @ Buffalo

1-0-0

Win

4/9 vs. Nashville

3-1-0

Win

4/11 vs. Chicago

4-0-0

Win

4/12 @ Chicago

4-0-0

Loss

Which gives us?

  1. San Jose – 121 points
  2. Detroit – 116 points

ARGH! Do you believe this is true?

*Sigh* Unfortunately, yes. While the breakdown I have provided is chock full of speculation, all signs point to it being tough to catch the Sharks. They are a VERY good club who are itching to win their first Western Conference regular season crown. They know that this is their best chance to date, so look for them to keep the pressure on to win.

THAT SAID, Todd McLellan is not a fool and has to realize his team is running away with their division. They are practically guaranteed a top three seed in the playoffs, and he can afford to rest his players before the playoffs if they keep performing the way they have. Meanwhile, Detroit has a good grip on the Central (but not a stranglehold) but could face some late pressure from Chicago. This could keep the Wings aggressive, while San Jose takes it easy, potentially giving Detroit a shot at claiming a late regular season championship. This is HIGHLY doubtful in my mind, but it is a possibility.

The short of it is this: If the above numbers hold true, Detroit needs to go 6-0 and has to have SJ do no better than 3-3 in the last six games. This could potentially give Detroit 118 points to SJ’s 117, with the consideration that SJ loses all of their games in regulation. If they somehow end up tying in points, it becomes a matter of who won more games and who won the head-to-head matchups, which then makes the Feb. 25th game a must win for Detroit to salvage a 2-2 record against the Sharks. If they SOMEHOW wind up tied in wins and head-to-head, it goes to goal differential, which San Jose currently leads, though only by four goals.

Say it ain’t so?!

Keep in mind, this is all speculation. There is ALOT of hockey yet to be played and this could change drastically. All I am trying to do for you is break down what the landscape would look like come April if both teams played at a pace consistent with how they have played this season. It’s entirely possible that either team could go on a crazy win streak while the other slogs along, which would throw my entire equation to the birds. However, I think that it is more likely that these two teams will continue to play well, and will ultimately give us a rather interesting run to the playoffs.

I also think that the head-to-head matchup on the 25th could dictate how the rest of the season plays out. A win for Detroit and they are breathing right down the necks of the Sharks and making them second guess if they can stave off a proven, championship caliber team. A win for the Sharks, and their confidence is sky high from taking the season series and could create doubt in the mind of the Wings as to whether or not they can hang with a team like San Jose down the stretch.

In Conclusion…

Accordingly to my ridiculous calculations and numerical lunacy, San Jose wins the West regular season crown. They have a statistical edge, and the odds are in their favor that they win enough games to keep the Wings at bay. But in the other corner, the Wings have all of the intangibles. They are a proven winner. They have been here before. And they know that the Cup isn’t won in April. But they also know how important home ice is come playoff time, and would love to limit their potential trips to the west coast by locking up the top spot.

My numbers say San Jose wins this. Common sense tells me that San Jose will also win this, as they are just THAT good this year (Jennifer Leggio is grinning ear to ear right now, I guarantee it). But don’t ever count out Hockeytown and the magic of the Red Wings. Let’s hope it’s a good run to the finish line.

GO WINGS!

Some extra tidbits: Of the Stanley Cups that the Wings have won since 1997, they have been the top seed three times. The 1998 championship team was the 3 seed in the west. The last time the Wings were a 2 seed, they were swept by the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, the eventual Western Conference champion.

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Filed under I (Kinda) See the Future (Maybe)