Herm 2 Hockeytown Pledges and Update

Posted in General Hockey with tags , , , , , on 03/12/2010 by Ben Gilbert

So even if I’m not actively blogging, what Petrella and Rob have going on over at TPL is too good to not get involved with.  With all the great work surrounding H2H, the guys decided to set up a pledge campaign for the games up until Herm joins on the 26th of March for the game against the Wild.   Check out the original post to get the idea.  Anyways, I’ve decided to join in on the fun, so for the final 6 games before the 26th I’ve committed to the following pledges:

  1. $1.30 for every Datsyuk point
  2. $4.30 for every Helm goal
  3. $5 for every Ozzie start
  4. $10 for a shutout by either goalie
  5. $3 per win ($5 for a win over the Pens on the 22nd)

Here is hoping that I have to dish out a decent amount of cash for the kids.  LGRW!

Canada vs. Switzerland & Olympic Recap

Posted in Olympic Hockey with tags , , , on 02/19/2010 by Ben Gilbert

Canada vs. Switzerland

I was able to catch parts of two more Olympic games last night.  The first was Canada’s second warm-up game for the United States.  After beating Norway 8-0 in their first match, everyone figured Canada would look to put a beating on Switzerland.  They had had more practice time before last night’s game, and they had the lingering memory of getting beat by the Swiss 2-0 in Torino, with the impenetrable Martin Gerber in net.  Things played out a bit differently however:

CANADA NEEDS SHOOTOUT TO DEFEAT SWITZERLAND

Bet you didn’t see that one coming, eh?  With all the all-stars team Canada has, they really have no business failing to trounce the Swiss by at least 4 goals.  Yet, the Swiss do deserve recognition for playing, in my opinion, far and away the best system hockey of the tournament.  Think about this:

The Swiss are the hardest hitting team through the first two games.

Yes, you read that right.  With Brian “Im’a punch you in the mouf” Burke as general manager of team USA, and for all of Canada’s proclaimed “physicality”, it is the neutral Swiss who are making everyone else in the tournament look a little bit too finesse, a little too cute.

The Swiss were able to ride the perfect underdog script all the way up until losing in the shootout last night.  They played a tight-checking game, constantly trapping and clogging up the middle and defensive zones.  Contrast this with a quick break-out goal, and a little luck to have another goal go in off Patrick Marleau’s skate, and you’ve got yourself a 2-2 tie after regulation.  The Swiss out-hit, out-defended, out-goaltended and frankly out-hearted team Canada.  The skill of Canada was eventually too much to overcome, and luckily for the Great White North, Sid the Savior came riding in on his white steed and scored the winning SO goal. (After missing his first attempt FWIW)

Overall, this was the best game of the tournament so far.  You could sense the desperation in the building as Canada gave up its 2-0 lead and then proceeded to miss the first 3 shoot-out opportunities.  The panic was manifesting throughout the entire arena.  “Not again.”  “Not like 2006.”  Fret not Canada,  this may just end up being the wake up call your team needed.

Team USA is in the driver’s seat in their Group now (Group A).  If Team USA beats Canada on Sunday they will clinch the top seed in the group and an automatic bye to the quarterfinals.  If they lose, it is likely that they will have to play a qualification game.  Sunday, 7:30pmET, CNBC…The showdown awaits.

Other News

The Russians lost to the Slovakians late last night in a shootout that lasted 7 rounds.  Somehow Slovakia held the Russians to 1 goal.  Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Semin, Ilya Kovalchuk et. al. and they managed 1 goal.  That is great team defense and solid goaltending.  Stealing a win in the shoot-out when Pavol Demitra sent a beautifully patient flip-shot off the left post and ricocheting into the net was something special.  The first upset.  It felt good to see Mother Russia taken down early.  They are beatable, and it is possible to defend them.  Thank you to the Slovakian team for giving everyone else confidence that they can beat the Russians throughout the rest of the tournament.

The Olympics are shaping up well.  Enjoy the games while you can my friends.


Olympic Hockey Round-up

Posted in Olympic Hockey with tags , , , , , , , , , on 02/18/2010 by Ben Gilbert

Hey Everyone, I don’t have a ton of time, but what little I have has been devoted to watching the Olympic Hockey tournament that started this past Tuesday.  I figured I have enough time to write up a bit of my observations over the past few games and hopefully I’ll be able to continue to add some thoughts regarding the upcoming matchups.

General Thoughts:

  1. Thanks to NBC for relegating the first two games involving team USA to the USA network (funny, eh?), while Canada, Russia, Sweden, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Belarus, Norway, Finalnd et. al have all been on CNBC.  The coverage design is terrible.  It’s as if NBC is actively wanting us to stop being patriotic and hoping that team USA gets eliminated early.
  2. Every time I watch a game with Mike Emrick announcing, it somehow seems like the cup finals all over again.  This is exciting, because it makes even these preliminary games seem MASSIVELY important.
  3. Ice Conditions have got to improve.  It’s terrible watching the best players in the world playing the most important tournament for the next 4 years on choppy and soft ice.

Team USA Observations:

  1. Watching David Backes and Ryan Callahan on the “4th” line has been wonderful.  Backes’ goal against Switzerland on tuesday, going east-coast/west-coast, was simply stunning.  He (Backes) has also been a hit machine, consistently dolling out punishment against whatever line he is matched up against.  That type of physical play is going to be huge on Sunday against Canada as well as future big games against medal contenders.  Callahan is in the same boat.  A consistent presence when on the ice.
  2. Bobby Ryan has impressed me with his ability to get open for shots when there seems to be traffic all over the ice.  He had a beautiful goal against the Swiss and I hope he can keep up the pace he has set.
  3. The Defense has been the main issue so far.  In my opinion, Rafalski has looked slow in his own zone multiple times.  He did have two goals today against Norway, but his play HAS to pick up if the US hopes to have a chance against Canada/Russia/Sweden etc.  Jack Johnson and Ryan Suter have been good in the offensive zone, and if they can correctly manage their game, and pinch when appropriate, then they will be a boost to the team overall.  Brooks Orpik has been OK, but he seems possibly a step slower than some of the other players out there.  Erik Johnson and Ryan Whitney have been scary at times in their ability to make the Swiss or Norwegian forwards look like Dany Heatley and/or Ilya Kovalchuk.  Their defensive zone play needs to increase, and outlet passes need to be better or turnovers will cause the losses to pile up to the better teams.  Tim Gleason was average, no real complaints for him.  This group has the potential to pull of a big upset or two, but they have to play consistent system hockey and not be the cause of too many turnovers.  It remains to be seen if they can actually commit to sound defensive system hockey.
  4. The Kane/Stastny/Parise line needs to become significant.  Honestly, for being the “top” line, this group needs to produce much more.  They have put a few points on the board, but for being as skilled as they are, and the competition faced so far, they should be playing much stronger.  This group seems weak on the puck at times and I wonder if it wouldn’t be worth moving Kane or Parise down a line to give another player a shot at some chemistry there.  Maybe even giving Bobby Ryan a shot on the top line?
  5. Malone/Pavelski/Kessel.  Leave as is.  This is working wonderfully.  I hope to see much more out of this line moving forward.
  6. Ryan Miller.  He is your starter for a reason.  With a few great saves already this tournament, he is showing that he was called on for a reason and that he is more than capable of backstopping this team to a medal.  He has turned in two solid performances, and he’ll need to be that good or better moving forward for team USA to hang in against the big dogs.

Other Team Observations:

  1. Russia: My goodness.  The first 10 minutes of their game against Belarus was stunning.  Ovechkin/Datsyuk/Semin is scary.  This team means serious business and they HAVE to be the favorite to meet Canada in the gold medal game.  They showed their offensive skill certainly.  The only question marks remain on defense.  Can some of the Russian KHL defensemen hold up against competition like Canada/Sweden or even team USA.  It remains to be seen.
  2. Sweden: From what little I saw they looked OK.  Definitely getting their legs under them still.  This team just seems a tad bit slow/old.  It will be very tough for them to keep up with the pure offensive skill of Russia, the Speed of team USA or the general physical and well-rounded play of Canada.  I’m going out on a limb and claiming it is likely that Team Sweden does not win a medal this year.  They just don’t seem to have the right balance of defense and good offensive speed to make it happen.
  3. Switzerland/Norway: Eh, good teams.  Switzerland is certainly the better of the two, and even strong enough to be capable of an upset.  It remains to be seen if the Swiss can make an impact like they did in 2006 beating Canada in Torino.  Norway, it’s been fun, thanks for playing, but there is just not enough talent on your team to compete at a high level.
  4. Canada: I’ll let you know after catching some of the game this evening against Switzerland.
  5. Czech Republic/Slovakia/Finland: I need to see more games before saying much about these teams.

It’s been a great start to the tournament and I really look forward to the games on Sunday.  Great day for hockey with Sweden/Finland, Czech/Russia and USA/Canada.  Look at your TV listings and find a way to watch some of this amazing hockey.

Hiatus

Posted in General Hockey with tags , , , on 01/14/2010 by Ben Gilbert

Starting two weeks ago I entered what has quickly become one of the most hectic periods of my life up to date.  I figure I owe you, the fine readership of BTC, an update of why my attempt over Christmas break to return to posting flopped.  Frankly, I have one of the toughest classloads I’ve had, work, and all my weekends are full with events through the next 5 weeks.

Consider this my unfortunate notice of Hiatus.  I will still be a loyal follower of many of my favorite blogs (hint: they are listed at the right), but I will be unable to keep up consistent posting until likely after the olympic break.

In good news, I will be attending the game between our own Wings and the Penguins on January 31st down in Pittsburgh.  That is currently the highlight of the gauntlet I am running.  I can’t wait.

See you fools in March for the stretch run…and of course eventually the playoffs!  Let’s Go Red Wings!

Christmas Wish List Revisited

Posted in General Hockey, General Thoughts with tags on 12/24/2009 by Ben Gilbert

Below is the Christmas list I wrote up at Thanksgiving.  Now that the wonderful holiday is upon us, I’m going to check the list and see if I’ve gotten what I wanted…

All I want for Christmas:

  1. I want Ville Leino to purchase a nice cottage in northern michigan and retire there.  He obviously does not want to put out the effort Detroit fans expect form their players, and this way he’d be able to tell all the people up-north about his glory days playing for our beloved hockey team.  Maybe in 20-25 years an age group will come along that will marvel at the fact that he once wore the winged-wheel, failing to realize that he was a complete disappointment the entire time he did.  Little would they know, he only played for us because of gary’s salary cap and the obnoxious amount of injuries we’ve sustained.  I’m done with Ville…yes, I’m writing him off.  I hear Charlevoix is nice this time of year…
      E-ville has been a bit better of late, but when guys start coming back from injury I would still prefer the likes of Eaves, Miller, Abdelkader et. al. to Leino being in the lineup.  He’s just too slow and isn’t quite “bringing it” every game.
  2. I want Todd Bertuzzi to join Ville.  Reference everything I wrote above and apply it to Bert.
      So, yeah, um.  He kinda showed up a bit.  I’m still not gonna start a love fest, but Bert can stay for now.  He can sleep on the couch while we work this out.
  3. I want Johan Franzen to stop thinking that he’s going to make it back for the olympic games.  This scares the thanksgiving stuffing out of me.  So he wants to skate in a month, then play in a couple games with the Wings, followed by a grueling 2-week single-elimination tournament.  Coming off ACL surgery, somehow this doesn’t seem like a spectacular idea to me.  The last thing the Wings need is Franzen to re-injure anything or even be hurting heading into March.  This is all considering that we may, unfortunately, be battling in the playoff race come that time of year.  We need the Mule back strong and healthy.
      It appears that Franzen will not be back for the Olympics, and we’ll know very shortly if he is even named to the roster.  Please Mr. Naslund, I’m begging you, do not put the Mule out there in February.  We need him healthy for the amazing March and April we’ll need to have.
  4. I want better Special Teams.  Namely I want better Penalty-Killing.  We’re the Red Wings, and we have “great” defensive depth and a good core of penalty-killers.  Yet somehow we can’t actually stop other teams from scoring…it baffles me.
      Well, the penalty kill is certainly better. To the tune of 14th in the league better, when we were near the bottom.  At one point we were 36 of 37.  Those numbers were unheard of last year.  Malik has a great write-up from a week ago on it.
  5. I want Ken Holland to go back in time and sign Vinny Prospal to play wing rather than Bert or Williams.  Oh hindsight…
      Still kinda wishing, although Vinny has cooled off a bit.  I still think he would fit better alongside Datsyuk than Bert, and he is the same price.
  6. I want Georges Laraque to never play another NHL game.  It’s painful to watch this man play hockey, and no fan should ever have to pay to see it.  End this.  Immediately.  (I’m looking at you Bob Gainey.)
      Still a wish, dangit.  As I watched the completely inept power-play the past few games against the Blackhawks, I kept wishing we had Nik Jr. back there quarterbacking the 2nd unit.  Merry Christmas Georges Laraque, you still have a job.
  7. I want Ryan Getzlaf.  What!? I’m allowed to dream alright.  It’s Christmastime, maybe a surprise is awaiting me…
      Nope. No trades either. I did get a Drew Miller Bobby Orr style goal though!
  8. I want the Red Wings to sign Darren Helm for life so that I can feel confident purchasing a #43 jersey soon.
      I’m still waiting.  The more and more I watch this kid though, you gotta think he’s the kinda player that could develop into a #2 pivot one day for the Wings if he could get his shot/finishing skills up to par.  He’s so fast that he makes more plays and chances out of nothing than any other player on the ice.  Detroit loves him.  The fans can’t get enough of watching a player like Darren.  I have an inkling he’ll be around for quite a while.
  9. I want the Red Wings to have a 4-game winning streak at any point this season.
      Check. They did in fact win 4 straight from the 11th to the 17th of this month.  They beat the Ducks, Preds, Coyotes and Lightning respectively.  Not the highest caliber of opposition, but considering our lineup, quite an accomplishment.  Bert scored OT winners in the first two against the Ducks and Preds as well.  I’m still wondering if I’m in a bad hockey Twilight Zone episode.
  10. Finally, I want to wake up and have this nightmare be over.  I’m ready for April and for us to be a top-4 seed.  I don’t enjoy watching games like the last two.  I’m sick of hearing about different players “trying” and “working hard.”  This is the Red Wings.  To quote our favorite muppet Yoda: “Do or do not, there is no try.”  That is a mantra the Wings need to pick up and run with.  The Red Wings win.  Period.  If they aren’t then things need to get changed.  I’m tired, and I’m not enjoying the fact that we’re not even in the top 8 in the conference right now.  I’m not completely freaking out, but this is taxing as a Wings fan and I’d simply like to be reminded at Christmastime that my hockey team is still one of the premiere franchises in the league.  Let’s start with tonight.
      Well, we’re still not in the top 8.  My views have lessened a bit though.  We’re still a top team when healthy.  We’ve just gotta find a way to make a great stretch run, and then anything can happen.  Hopefully we’ll get Chicago in the 1st round and wreck their hopes of a Cup right away.  That is my new “wish”.

So there it is.  I got some of the things I wanted.  It’s Christmastime, so I feel ok about everything right now.  We even get the Blue Jackets to help our ills.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and a Merry Christmas.

BONUS: Check out all the hockey players in the following.  The song is by Igor Larionov’s daughters, and they got quite a few Red Wings and other players to help out…


Uncle Mike’s Christmas Present (Review: Chicago Blackhawks)

Posted in General Hockey, General Thoughts with tags , , , on 12/24/2009 by Ben Gilbert

An early Christmas Present to you all via Uncle Mike:

I’m not even going to review last nights game.  I was there.  It wasn’t fun…but it’s almost Christmas.

What do I want for Christmas?  An NHL power-play that is functional.  Please Santa.  I’ve been extra good.

Preview: Chicago Blackhawks

Posted in General Hockey with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 12/23/2009 by Ben Gilbert

Detroit Red Wings vs. Chicago Blackhawks

December 23rd 7:30pm, Joe Louis Arena

I’ll be in attendance at tonight’s game since I bought tickets for my mom for her birthday a month ago.  It is perhaps the greatest single blessing that I have as a hockey fan to have a mother who cares about the team probably more than I do.  Let’s pray for an early Christmas miracle that the Wings win…

Game Notes:

  1. As has already been reported by Khan and Malik over at Mlive, Mattias Ritola is in the lineup tonight and Kris Newbury has been sent back west to Grand Rapids.  Ritola is apparently supposed to provide tempo.  Hopefully he takes this chance and runs with it since his season in GR has been very up and down.
  2. Also of note, Jakub Kindl has been recalled as well to take the place of Brian Rafalski, who is out of the game with the flu.  If it’s not those darn back spasms it’s the influenza…and you thought H1N1 took the Christmas season off…
  3. The lineup tonight looks pretty ragged and I’m beginning to think I should write it down on a post-it, put it in my wallet, and every time I think of how bad things are for the wings, pull the post-it out and laugh.  All we can do is laugh at this point.  The amazing thing is the team is still competitive.  I still honestly believe we have a shot tonight….because….
  4. Jimmah Howard is your starter in net.  As odd as this is to say, I believe less crappy goals will go in the net tonight than did on Sunday.  Here’s to Jimmy playing out of his mind and possibly stealing a point or two for the Wings tonight.
  5. The Blackhawks played last night at home against San Jose and lost 3-2.  Hopefully the back-to-back catches up to them as it did to the Wings on Sunday.
  6. Those in attendance get a FREE MOUSE PAD!!  The Joe is 30 years old!  This might be the worst marketing ploy gift I’ve received yet…but I keep going back.  The question is whether the Red Wings believe a gift like a mouse pad is bringing fans into the building or simply making those already paying to see hockey think “oh, that’s nice.”  I’m thinking the vast majority of responses will be the latter.

Bold and Stupid Predictions:

  1. Matias Ritola gets himself on the score sheet with an assist to Drew Miller as the lines will likely be jumbled all night.
  2. Toews to Hossa strikes and Hossa nets one.  The collective teenage breakup angst at the Joe will be palpable.  Let him go folks.  Let him go.  We’re better off without his salary restrictions in the long run as is.
  3. There are at least 3 people dressed as Santa Claus at the game tonight.  I’m banking on this one.
  4. Jimmy makes a couple clutch saves as an early Christmas present to Detroit and somehow limits the Blackhawks to 2 goals.
  5. Merry Christmas, the Red Wings pull off a minor miracle with the lineup they have.
  6. Final Score: Red Wings win 3-2.

Once again, please consider donating to the Bring Herm To Hockeytown movement.  Check out Tyler from TTD’s video appeal.  If that doesn’t convince you, nothing will.  Donate. Do it.  It just feels right.

Finally, It’s good to be back blogging again.  Feel free to let me know your Christmas wish for the Red Wings in the comments below.  Whoever has been the best boy or girl this year will get their wish…it’s guaranteed…isn’t that how this thing works?