Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Lockout...

You know, I've been pretty zen about this whole lockout thing all summer.  I figured that there's not anything I can do to prevent it from happening, so I didn't bother wasting my time worrying about it.  Sure, I've followed along with the news, but I've been more or less pulling back from hockey in general since the major free agency deals went down.  I looked at this as sort of an inevitability that was looming in the distance that I was just going to have to cope with.  I didn't have any anxiety leading up to today, but I also didn't have any hope.  I just kind of ignored everything.

But then midnight came.  The thing that hit me as I watched the clock was that sense of inevitability that had accompanied this lockout from the beginning.  I knew it was going to happen.  Everyone did.  Not once at any point during the negotiations this past month did I feel like there was a chance of an agreement.  There was never any hope for a reasonable settlement.  And I got angry.  More angry than I ever was in '04-'05, which is surprising because I've mellowed out a lot in the last few years.   During that lockout, I coped by watching an array of hockey movies and my Wings DVDs as I anxiously anticipated the return of the game I loved.  I eagerly read every article about the negotiations hoping against hope that there would be good news.  I was devastated when the season was officially cancelled, even though I knew it was going to happen.  I still slept in my giant Wings t-shirt and wore my various shirts and hats around campus.  But not this time.

This time, I stormed out to my garage and found the first empty giant tub that I could get my hands on.  (This is quite impressive because it required scaling a mountain of boxes and a couple of bags of hockey equipment.)  I went up to my room and cleared out every piece of Red Wings apparel that I could find.  Every Wings t-shirt, pair of PJ pants, sweatshirt, hat, scarf, jacket, and even (to my mom's great offense) the purse she bought me last year.  The only thing left in my room is my autographed Yzerman jersey because Steve Yzerman is still special and it got a special dispensation.  My Wings/Tigers t-shirt blanket also remains, but that will only be displayed Tigers-side up from now on.

I've suddenly got a lot more room in my drawers.
  My clothes-packing fit was briefly interrupted by my mom calling me crazy and (correctly) pointing out that I was going to need another tub.  It would seem that no matter how much I sat on the lid, one 18-gallon tub just wasn't going to cut it.  At that point it also occurred to me that I might have some issues with being a Wings merchandise hoarder, but that's a problem to tackle on a different day.  Once I made another perilous trip to the top of the pile of tubs to retrieve a second tub, I packed the excess into that.  Then went back upstairs and made a second sweep of my room.  I found a few stray shirts that had escaped the first pass and then, since I had plenty of space, I grabbed some of the other memorabilia.  My autographed pucks, several car flags (How on earth did I end up with 5 of them?), calendars, and anything else that wasn't particularly breakable got tossed in the tub too.

Banished to the basement.
My mom thinks I'm a raving lunatic because of this, but I think it's a perfectly reasonable response.  If the NHL is going to have another lockout, that's its business.  But I will not be wearing any of its merchandise or spending any time thinking about it in the meantime.  If/when hockey comes back, I'll watch.  The tubs will be pulled out of the basement and clothes put back into circulation.  I know I won't be able to stay away, and any threat otherwise is hollow.  But until then, you won't see me wearing anything hockey-related.  I won't be writing about it.  I won't be reading about it.  I've got plenty of other interests that can take up my time.  I've got the Tigers, the Wolverines, a dozen lifetime's worth of books, and a whole boatload of British tv to pass the time.  I think I'm going to be just fine.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Goodbye, Nick...

The gloomy skies over metro-Detroit today were pretty fitting for the mood that anyone who loves hockey was in today. We all knew that it was going to happen eventually, but nobody was ready for it to be so soon. I'm young enough that I don't remember a time when Lidstrom wasn't a Wing. I was just starting kindergarten when he first donned the Winged Wheel. He and Homer were the last two players remaining from what I refer to as the “glory days” – those great late '90s and early '00s years when the Wings were truly a dynasty – and I have a strong suspicion that Homer's on his way out too. I think this is what it feels like to be old.

As depressing as Lidstrom's retirement is, mostly I'm filled with a sense of gratitude. It's hard to put into words how lucky we were to get to watch him play night in and night out for all of these years. The odds of the league seeing another defenseman who is as far above everyone else as Lidstrom was are slim to none in our lifetimes. And we got to watch him play almost every single game. (Seriously, his lack of injuries is incredible in and of itself.) I was lucky that I got to be in the stands at the Joe when he scored his first career hat trick a couple of years ago. I was even luckier that I got to be there this April when he played his last ever game on home ice. When I headed to the rink with my friend that night, my biggest fear (for the first time ever) wasn't that the Wings would lose the game. It was that that would be the last time I ever got to see Lidstrom play at the Joe. Both fears came true in the end, but at least we got a chance to say goodbye.

 His last moments on the ice at the Joe.

Lidstrom was a hockey fan's kind of player. New fans who have just been introduced to the game tend not to appreciate his talent. Casual fans are drawn to the flashy offensive plays or big hits or dramatic saves at first glance. It takes a certain hockey savvy to really get how good Nick Lidstrom was. A couple of years ago, someone recommended that the next time I went to the Joe, I should spend one shift not watching the puck, but watching just him in order to fully appreciate how he played the game.

There's a huge, gaping hole in the Wings' lineup now, and no matter who Ken Holland signs, it won't fill it. You don't replace Nick Lidstrom; you just try to compensate as well as you can. On the bright side, it should be an interesting summer since the Wings have more cap space to play around with than they've ever had. All the free agents in the world won't make losing Lidstrom any easier, though. Here's to #5, the best we'll ever see.  Thanks for being perfect.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Red Wings 1, Predators 2: Post Game Snipes...

  • I've seen the Wings lose a lot of playoff series over the years.  I've seen them lose because they ran into a hot goalie, because they were devastated by injuries, and because they just didn't seem to try hard enough.  I really don't ever recall seeing them lose because they were straight-up outmatched.  Nashville was honestly the better team --in goaltending, defense, and offense.  The Wings just had no answer for any of it, and it showed.
  • The Predators seemed to make the Wings pay dearly for every mistake they made.  The Wings didn't return the favor.  That was one of the biggest factors in the series.
  • Too many key guys disappeared when it mattered most, and not enough unsung heroes stepped up to provide that little extra spark.
  • The more you watched, the more apparent it became that Nashville's defense was just too good.  And the few times when the Wings got a quality scoring chance, they still had to beat Pekka Rinne.
  • I really loved Zetterberg's effort on that one PK early in the game.  It was reminiscent of 2008 just for a minute.
  • Sure, the bounces didn't go the Wings' way (Except for that bizarre time when Intent to Blow actually worked in their favor -- which I'm still not convinced actually happened, despite seeing it with my own eyes.  I'm still leaning toward it being an anomaly in the space-time continuum or a trick of the wibbly-wobbly nature of time.), but they didn't do all of the little things that you need to do to earn the puck luck.
  • Lidstrom: I don't pretend to know what he's going to decide to do.  I just hope that everyone out there tonight took a minute to really watch him closely and appreciate how much better he is than everyone else.  Just in case.
  • Don't forget Homer either, for sure.
  • One of my favorite parts of the third period was when Homer got booed by the Preds' fans for being blatantly interfered with by there goalie.  You can give a fanbase a good hockey team, but you can't give them a good understanding of hockey.
  • I also really enjoyed the start of the first period when two penalties were called in the first 31 seconds, but that's neither here nor there.
  • For those of you out there on Twitter saying that this loss was as devastating as 2009...really?  This was really as bad as you-know-what-happened?  This was just as agonizing?  Get a grip.
  • Firing Babcock is not the answer either, sunshines.  Let's all take a step back from the ledge, ok?
  • All I'm saying is that prior to the start of the playoffs, Nashville topped my list of teams that I didn't want the Wings to face.  Pekka Rinne was the #1 reason for that.  I wasn't wrong.
  • I hoarded enough playoff cupcakes to last seven games if necessary.  Who wants to join me in eating our feelings as we feast on the leftovers?
  • This should be an interesting off-season.  Not summer of '01 fun, mind you, but interesting nonetheless.
  • I still, and always will, love this team.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Red Wings vs. Predators Game Five GP...

1 Red Wings vs. Predators 3

A scary-looking octopus:

What we learned from Game Four:
  • The amount of shots you take really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.
  • Mistakes kill.
  • So much for home ice advantage...
Exciting things about Game Five:
  • The Wings sometimes play pretty well with their backs against the wall.
  • That's it.  There is nothing else exciting about tonight.
Terrifying things about Game Five:
  • The potential for elimination.
  • The possibility that it'll be Nick Lidstrom's last game ever.
  • If you're not already in the fetal position, you're doing something wrong.
Who will have a good game tonight:

Nick Lidstrom.  Because he's the Perfect Human.

Something to lighten the mood:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Red Wings 1, Predators 3: Post Game Snipes...

  • Hey, it didn't end with a 3-2 final score.  I feel like there are some people out there who would be happy about that.  If nothing else, it means that we can stop talking about how the first three games all ended with the same score, right?
  • The pregame show was absolutely amazing.  It really was incredible.  It gave me chills.
  • I'm not sure I've ever heard the Joe as loud as it was between the pregame show and the National Anthem.  The place was absolutely rocking.
  • I don't even know what to say about this game.  So many things went right, but then there were little momentary lapses and it seemed like every single one of them led to a Nashville goal.  This one was a heart-breaker.
  • The Wings looked like the Big Red Machine for most of the game.   Nashville barely touched the puck.  It was loads of fun to watch.  Except for the part where there was nothing to celebrate.
  • You know what happened on the one Wings goal that did go in?  They got traffic in front of the net.  There were way too many easy shots from the wing.  You really aren't going to beat Pekka Rinne with those.
  • Rinne was the number one reason that I dreaded the Wings facing Nashville.  He's lived up to all of my nightmares so far this series, and he outplayed Jimmy by a mile tonight.
  • One depressing thought hung over me all day:  What if this is the last time I get to see Lidstrom and Homer play live at the Joe?  Please, Hockey Gods, don't let it be so.
  • Nobody really said at the Joe, but that Nashville no-goal that got waved off was because of Intent to Blow, right?  That was my take on the play.  I never expected to be quite so happy about that rule as I was just then.
  • Of course, Nashville came right back and scored a real goal anyway, so it didn't matter all that much in the end.
  • That no-goal and the Preds' third goal went in pretty much the exact same way, at least from my vantage point in the upper bowl.  What was Jimmy doing tonight?  Seriously.
  • So much for Franzen going out and scoring a couple of goals.
  • Do the Wings lead the league in getting tossed out of the faceoff circle?
  • Between the revenge fight with Weber and the Ping Pong Incident that Wasn't Really, I think Wings fans' love for Todd Bertuzzi might be at an all-time high.
  • There was a man sitting behind me chewing tobacco, and my hair might've touched his spit cup.  He actually deserves congratulations for making me more upset than the Wings losing a playoff game.  That's really quite an accomplishment.  I'm off to go shave my head now.
  • To those fans who left early in a close playoff game that the Wings very easily could've tied up: shame on you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Red Wings vs. Predators Game Four GP...

1 Red Wings vs. Predators 2

A scary-looking octopus:

What we learned from Game Three:
  • Only showing up to play the third period isn't going to cut it.  Oh, wait, what's that you say?  We already knew that?  Well, then.
  • If you don't suffer at least 77 heart attacks during your team's playoff game, you're doing something wrong.
  • Every fraction of a second counts.
Exciting things about Game Four:
  • It'll give us something other than ping pong tables to talk about.
  • The Wings had all of the momentum at the end of Game Three.
  • I'm going to be at the Joe!
Terrifying things about Game Four:
  • Going back to Nashville 2-2 is miles (or kilometers) different from heading back down 3-1.  The whole season kind of hangs in the balance tonight.
  • The prospect of another parade to the penalty box.
  • Johan Franzen.
Who will have a good game tonight:

I'm not even going to bother with this one.  I picked Mule last game.  If I weren't in charge around these parts, I'd have to fire myself.

Something to lighten the mood:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Red Wings 2, Predators 3: Post Game Snipes...

  • This was a typical Wings game in so many ways.  They sleep-walked through the first half of the game before deciding that it might be worth their while to actually try.  In the end, it was too little, too late.  Sure, they almost got away with it, but this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs and playing half games isn't going to cut it.  Especially not against a goalie like Pekka Rinne.
  • [Generic comment about how awful the officiating continues to be.]  Seriously though, these guys were ostensibly chosen to ref the playoffs because they're the cream of the crop.  It makes you wonder how bad the guys who didn't get the call for the playoffs are.
  • Johan Franzen.  I wanted to see Angry Beast Mule, not Angry, Stupid Mule today.  I usually love it when he plays angry, but there's a difference between channeling that anger into energy and motivation and letting it get the better of you.
  • How do those of you not in CBC broadcast areas cope?  NBC was up to its usual level of greatness today.  I delayed the switch to CBC for a long time because we don't get it in HD, but eventually I chose a high quality broadcast over a high definition one.  During the commercial break after the Mule spear, it was pretty apparent from people on Twitter that those watching the NBC feed had no idea what was going on.  We, however, had seen replays and were well into the yelling at Franzen stage by the time CBC cut to commercial.
  • Pavel's goal was awesome.  What was Rinne thinking about in that moment?  Was he trying to remember if he set his DVR to record a show?  Wondering where to eat dinner?  We should make a list of the possibilities.
  • The goal-that-almost-was at the end of the second was brutal.  It was very apparent from the replays that it went in just a fraction of a second too late, but it's hard not to imagine all the tenths of seconds that were lost from the clock earlier in the period.  The same thing happened to Team USA in the gold medal game in Vancouver.
  • It was nice of Zetterberg to score so that the game was just close enough to give us hope for the last minute.

Red Wings vs. Predators Game Three GP...

1 Red Wings vs. Predators 1

A scary-looking octopus:

What we learned from Game Two:
  • Hey, look, rest of the world: the Wings actually can stand up for themselves.
  • That Pekka Rinne guy sometimes actually looks a little bit fallible.
  •  The Wings' rookies can be kind of fun.
Exciting things about Game Three:
  • Back in Hockeytown!  It'll be nice to see the Joe rocking for the playoffs...again.
  • Pavel. Datsyuk.  This is a given.  It's also how you can tell that I'm running out of things to write, so I'm resorting to stating the obvious.
  • You can watch it while eating brunch.  (Or breakfast if you live out west.)  I mean, who doesn't love a good brunch while watching a playoff game?  Oh, you too?  I thought it was just me.
Terrifying things about Game Three:
  • It's an early game on NBC.
  • I have a feeling that the ice quality is going to leave something to be desired.  That usually doesn't work out in the Wings' favor.
  • It's Game Three of a tied playoff series.  Let's face it: everything about it is terrifying.
Who will have a good game tonight:

I'm picking the Mule for this one.  He's clearly riled up about the last game, and it sure would be nice for him to enter his playoff beast mode sooner rather than later.

Something to lighten the mood:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Red Wings 3, Predators 2: Post Game Snipes...

  • Is it just me, or did it seem like the Wings were breaking sticks on every single shift tonight?  And when they were broken, it wasn't a quick change; the player was stuck in the defensive zone for excruciatingly long stretches of time before they were able to get off the ice or replace the stick.  Do they keep stats for things like that?  I'm going to start.  We'll call it the Mickey Redmond Memorial Statistic.  Well, not "memorial" maybe.  That makes it sound like he's dead.  I suppose it's possible that all of the broken sticks tonight might've killed him.  I'll look into that.
  • Bert coming out and fighting Weber early on was perfect in every way.  Someone needed to step up and it really seemed to spark the team.
  • If the Wings hadn't gotten the PK sorted out of late, these two games would've had pretty ugly scores.  The fact that they've managed to completely shut down Nashville's powerplay this series without Lidstrom ever setting foot on the ice shorthanded is quite remarkable.
  • Weber's goal was not received well at the bar I watched the game at.  There's something about a guy who should've been sitting out the game scoring a key goal that really seems to rile up Detroit fans.  Wonder why.
  • I love it when lucky bounces like the one that led to Franzen's goal go the Wings' way.  It's a lot more fun than the alternative.  It's always nice to feel like the Hockey Gods are smiling upon the boys.
  • Jimmy is back to top form.  That can only mean good things for the Wings.

Red Wings vs. Predators Game Two GP...

0 Red Wings vs. Predators 1

A scary looking octopus:

What we learned from Game One:
  • EVERYTHING is a penalty.
  • Puck luck is key.
  • Jimmy Howard is back in top form.
Exciting things about Game Two:
  • Nyquist is making his playoff debut.
  • The Wings are angry about the cheap shot at the end of Game One.  They tend to play well when they're riled up about something.
  • After it's over, the series moves back to Hockeytown.
Terrifying things about Game Two:
  • If the Wings don't win, this series is all but over.
  • We have to wonder if the special teams can be as effective as they were in Game One.
  • Life without Helm.
  • Pekka Rinne.
Who will have a good game tonight:

Henrik Zetterberg.  I know...choosing him is kind of a cop out because, well, he's Henrik Zetterberg, but I think he's going to have a good night tonight.  I keep harping on it, but he tends to be at his most dominating when he's feeling feisty.  And he should be, after Weber's cheap shot that went unpunished for all intents and purposes ($2,500 from a multi-millionaire is like telling me that a speeding ticket is going to cost me $1.)

Something to lighten the mood:

Dance party!