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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Zoned Out

Note to Joe in San Francisco and others who dislike me writing about sports: I really do like sports. Sorry. I'll get back to writing about more important subjects like pooping and peeing soon.

Last night I went to bed feeling the sting of defeat and the humiliation of having to stay up till 12:40AM for the pleasure. For the first time since the height of the rivalry with the Colorado Avalanche, the Red Wings are facing a team in the playoffs that is at least evenly matched with them.

Johnathan Cheechoo scored a power play goal for the Sharks late in the third period to put them up two to one. It was an extremely tight game and after this go-ahead goal, the game was all but over. The Wings came close in the final minutes but could not put anything by Nabokov who again was extremely sharp when Detroit was able to get the puck through the stout San Jose defense.

Detroit played hard and generated thirty shots on goal, about half of which were legitimate chances. For the first period and most of the first half of the second, the Red Wings were the team skating harder, making crisper passes, and playing with more discipline. At some point in the second period the Sharks found whatever intensity they were missing and matched the Red Wings in every aspect they were bested for most of the first half, which made for some of the most exciting hockey I have seen in years. All but a few players were playing out of their minds. Unfortunately for the Red Wings, two of their players showed the weakness in their games that everyone knew they had.

Dominick Hasek has never played with a style that a goaltending instructor would suggest mimicking, but his superhuman instinct is normally enough to make up for him being badly out of position. His two biggest problem areas are handling the puck and getting caught on his back, flopping around in front of the net like a beached sea mammal during flurries of shots by the opposition. Thankfully someone seems to have gotten it into his forty-two year old head to not mess around trying to stick handle, at least for most of the playoffs. His other problem is not as easily corrected, unfortunately. The winning Sharks goal was scored when Hasek was on his back in the crease and appeared to be trying to defend the net by doing snow angels. Granted, Cheechoo put a sweet move on him and there was not much he could do, but he still over-committed to his left on the play and was forced to scramble. It was a position that Hasek found himself at other times earlier in the game and finally he lost his luck.

While Hasek may just be too old to recover from his wild moves with quickness, age has nothing to do with Todd Bertuzzi's main flaw, his brain. Late in the second period when the game was as tight as it was all night, Bertuzzi committed an elbowing penalty out of frustration. The Wings killed the penalty, but it was ridiculous that they had to do it at all. Hey Todd, everybody out there is frustrated. Deal with it, you moron. Every penalty in the game other than Bertuzzi's resulted from preventing a dangerous shot or scoring chance. Bertuzzi is an immensely talented player with unbelievable size, but is obviously not tough enough between the ears to keep focused on what is best for the team. I played with a few guys like this back in my high school days, and no matter how talented they are, their mental breakdowns always seemed to cost us in close games. So what do you do with him? If you bench him, you miss his size and threat to score. What is really needed here is a strong team captain to get him to understand that that kind of play isn't going to fly on the Detroit Red Wings. Lidstrom may be the best player in Red Wings history, but in this situation it's tough to not miss the leadership of Steve Yzerman.

In reality, the Sharks probably are a better team than these Red Wings. If the Red Wings are to end up winning this series, they are going to have to do everything that all of the underdogs have done in beating them over the past fifteen or so years. It will be fun to watch this series play out.

It's just too bad all of the road games these playoffs during the work portion of the weeks have been 9:30 PM or later starts. The map above shows why this seems to happen so often for the Wings. The Red Wings are in the same time zone as every team in the Eastern Conference, but are grouped with teams that are mostly fifteen hundred or more miles and two or more time zones away. With ratings in the toilet anyway and seats going unsold in 'Hockeytown', it is unfortunate that the geographic imbalance 'zones' fans out of watching unless they are complete idiots like myself. This is a problem that Gary Bettman has not been able to solve. Why does the NHL want a team in Phoenix so much? If they leave, the line shifts further east, pushing Toronto or Atlanta, you read that right, into the Western Conference. It really hurts when the Blackhawks and Blues suck as hard as they do, making it a lock that the Red Wings or their opponent near the Pacific get zoned out with the games starting outside of the "I'm home from work and able to sit around watching sports before going to bed" window for one of the sides. It's no wonder why this league is struggling. It's the greatness of the game Versus apathy and natural disadvantages at this point. Maybe Erin Esurance is the only one who can save the NHL.

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  • At 9:23 AM, Blogger Big Al said…

    My ass is dragging this morning. I looked at the clock the moment Schneider's goal went in. It was 1:17 am. Goddamn NHL and keeping the Wings in the West is unfair to both the team and it's fans. Screw Bettman.


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