Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Yes, I'll start with the shark-fin soup. Does that come with 12 Cups?"

I don't care how many points San Jose has; I don't care how high they are in team rankings; and I really don't care that they have a washed-up Claude Lemieux playing six worthless minutes a night for them. Because right now, the Red Wings are simply a better hockey team.

After tonight's 4-1 victory, there can be no debate. The Detroit Red Wings are the absolute best team in the NHL. Forget the Sharks, forget the Bruins, forget the Capitals and Devils and Flames and Blackhawks; it's the Wings.

While I am often overconfident and jubilant when Detroit wins, I am rarely stunned. But that is exactly what I'm feeling now. The team I saw tonight was hungry. The team I saw tonight was physical. The team I saw tonight had a goaltender. And I know, I've been trying to start this bandwagon for weeks now. But after tonight, there can be no deliberation. I don't care how much Ozzie improves in the next two months. Ty Conklin must be the Red Wings starting goalie for the playoffs.

Coach Babs rolled every line, one through four, and every line rolled over San Jose. Datsyuk and Zetterberg were in exquisite form tonight, dishing out hits and taking the puck away on a constant basis. Cleary and Helm were animals; they were everywhere on the ice. Leino's baseball bat goal and Zetterberg's spin-o-rama brought me out of my seat. The game was a massacre.

These Sharks weren't Great Whites. They weren't even Tiger sharks. These Sharks sucked the ice like a bottom-feeder and flopped on land while the Red Wings circled high above, biting off bits and pieces until there was nothing left. There was a point in the opening half of the game where the Sharks popped in some dentures, but they fell out as quickly as those cheap, plastic vampire teeth you had on Halloween as a 10-year-old.

Prior to the game, I was amped. I was hyped up. And I was scared. Hell, I'm not afraid to admit it. The Sharks are good, and they had won two of the three games they'd played against the Wings. They have grit and they've always had talent, but now they have an ex-Wings coach who knows how to use it. There was no reason for me to believe that the difference between the Red Wings and Sharks was anything more than negligible before the puck dropped at the Joe tonight.

Not. Anymore.

The Red Wings showed with 60 minutes of stellar, all-around hockey that they are, in fact, much better than the Sharks. And this isn't just about playing at home. This is about how the Red Wings stepped up and showed the league once and for all that they're the best. And I'm not saying they can't be beaten, because I've seen some crazy things in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the best team doesn't always win a championship. But there's one thing I am damn sure of after tonight's game: it will require a lot of talent, a bit of luck, and a huge amount of effort and hard work to clip these Wings.

These Wings want to bring Stanley back. And right now, I've got no reason to believe they won't.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

From Russia with...glove side!

To keep up my hopes that I'll reach 100 posts by my birthday, I figured I'd throw this video up because a) I like it, b) I just found it, and c) I wish they had a Red Wings figurine.

The limited time offer includes little figures of Jarome Iginla, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, and...Vesa Toskala? How the hell does he fit in with that group? Oh right, he's that awful goalie who happens to start for the Maple Leafs. Booooo to those Canadian-biased McDonalds. Thumbs up for the commercial though.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Most Anticipated Comeback since...

Never. There's never been a return this sought after, this media-crazed. When Tiger Woods told the world that he'd be back for the WGC-Accenture Match Play tournament last week, I can't deny my heart skipped a beat: finally. He's back.
It's been eight months since we saw that image on the 18th green at Torrey Pines, and it was quite possibly the most incredible championship performance in sports history. Tiger won the U.S. Open on one leg and then, seemingly out of nowhere, called it quits for the season. His first half of the 2008 season was almost good enough to earn him Player of the Year honors over Padraig Harrington, who won two majors. But, when Eldrick traded the clubs for crutches, much of the golf fanbase sat open-mouthed with their shoulders and arms raised in the classic "what the hell" face. It was like opening pint of your favorite ice cream, taking a bite, savoring its deliciousness, then having every other molecule destroyed immediately, without the slightest notice. You wanted more; you needed more. But there was no more. Not for eight stinkin' months.

The wait is almost over. There are only three more days until Tiger tees it up again. And he'll do it in a tournament he won last year in astonishing fashion and two times previously. The guy loves match play. I can't think of a better tournament to return for. The March Madness of Golf. Why not slather some puréed awesome-sauce all over that ice cream you discovered hiding in the back of the freezer?

I will say though, that what gets me the most is that after 254 days off, Tiger still gets the number one overall seed. That's pure insanity. Just ridiculous. His strangehold on golf's top spot is stronger than the grip a new bride has on her groom's unmentionables. I bet that Tiger could even go on sabbatical for a decade and return as Numero Uno, with a mound of points the size of Lefty's manboobs to spare. But I'm getting ridiculous; Mickelson slimmed down a while ago...he's been Tiger's bitch for his entire more need be said. There's just nothing in sports that compares to the gap between Tiger and everyone else. Let's move on.

A crop of players has jumped into the spotlight while Tiger has lurked in the shadows, biding his time: Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas, Paddy Harrington, and heck, even Mickelson showed he's still a force to be reckoned with after a convincing win this weekend.

What it means: nothing. Tiger will reign supreme once again.

I wanted to touch on this comeback and amazing adrenaline-booster to sports in the dry period that is late-February because I can guarantee I won't find the time between now and Thursday, when I leave for a four-day vacation to a national conference of student journalists and newspapers in San Diego. Yep, it will be as awesome as it sounds and nope, I won't be 21 yet. Unfortunate? Yes, but I shall live through the day.

Have a good week everyone, I'll be back with the details of my trip next Sunday. And in the meantime, cherish the comeback. We won't see anything like it again for a long, long time.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Long Overdue

Well, it's been 11 days since I last posted. There are simply too few hours in the day to get done everything I want to do in a single day and unfortunately, this blog has been left by the wayside over the past week and a half. Here's a few things that I missed that I want to address:
  • How did the Red Wings lose to the Avs again?! Seriously, that pissed me off. They were in LAST PLACE at the time. Ugh. Oh right, Osgood was in net...that's why they lost 6-5. Double ugh. (Oh, and currently, two straight games with Conklin in net, two straight victories with less than three goals allowed. Just sayin').
  • Hossa got in a fight?! Jesus, they better bring this guy back for another year in the Winged Wheel. If he wasn't a fan favorite already, he is now. I love how he defended his teammate by showin' Ryan Suter some real brawn.
  • The Red Wings sent Osgood a real message this week, giving him a 10-day vacation to clear his head, work with goalie coach Jim Bedard, and straighten things out. Meanwhile, Jimmy Howard is slated to start tonight against the Wild. My response: Amen. Finally the team gives Ozzie an ultimatum. I'm intrigued to see how well Jimmy Howard will play, but in reality, it doesn't matter. He's the third-stringer at best and that won't change this year.
  • A real quick question to all of you dissenters of Ty Conklin: why the hell isn't he the guy for the playoffs? Why can't you see it? Yeah, he's a backup. So was Osgood last year. Yeah, he's never been a big-name goalie or a consistent guy for his career. Neither was Cam Ward two years ago when the Hurricanes won it all. But Ward played well enough for his team to win and that's exactly what Conklin has been doing all year. I'm confident in Conk, you should be too.
  • Nate Robinson didn't deserve to win the NBA Slam Dunk Competition. Dwight Howard's first dunk in the final should have won the competition regardless of what happened afterward. Just look at Howard's wingspan to throw that down...that shouldn't be possible.
  • The Michigan Wolverines have moved up to third overall in the national polls for college hockey. I'm psyched. They look almost as good as last year and should be able to make another run at a NCAA title.
  • Tiger Woods is coming back to compete in the match-play tournament next week. I'm double psyched. And I'll probably write a column about it for TNH if I get a chance for Tuesday's paper. He's baaaaaack.
There are a few good things to look through in there, but right now I'm at a bit of a standstill with things to write about. I will try to be back with something good tomorrow though; I just need to find something motivating.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The best thing SNL has done in a long time.

I had to post this because I rarely find something I can laugh at even after multiple viewings. Oh, and the fact that every single point that Seth Myers makes is 100% true and I completely agree with him (except for the fact that Michael Phelps has won 14 total gold medals, not 12). But that's a minor detail, so, without further ado, this is why everyone should stop caring about whether or not Michael Phelps smoked pot last week:

Hilarious. I'm glad somebody had the gall and the writing skills to come out and say it.

Hossa's No Sellout: Wings Dominate Weekend Matchups

It was a masterpiece; a shot that echoed throughout Pittsburgh and resonated in every Wings fan's heart: Marian Hossa is here to stay.

What? You didn't get the memo? There's no mentioning of Hossa signing with the Wings on any of the popular websites, let alone any reports of any kind, so how can I make this preposterous assumption? I'll tell ya how.

That goal right there might be the best of the year. It certainly is my favorite Hossa goal of the season, and that includes his dipsy-doo-dunkaroo against Atlanta. It wasn't flashy; it wasn't lucky; it was simply extraordinary. How many times in the NHL do you see a guy power around the defense and then flick a backhand shot past an unscreened goalie from the top of the circle? To do that, you need precision, accuracy, strength, and a desire to shut up every fan in Mellon Arena. Hossa did just that. And that's why he is going to sign a long-term deal with the Detroit Red Wings.

My last post talked about their losing streak and how they were playing listlessly, without heart. I was peeved; mostly because every time I watch the Red Wings, I want them to win, regardless of opponent. But they don't, and I understand and forgive them for that on a regular basis.

But this weekend was Detroit's wake-up call to the rest of the league. They might not keep it up for the rest of the regular season because well, let's face it, who wants to get all super-psyched to play the Predators and the Blues every week? But on Saturday they embarrassed the Oilers with five goals in the first period en route to an 8-3 victory at home and then on Sunday, when they could have lied down against the Penguins and their cute, baby blue uniforms, when they could have used the old excuse of being tired from their game the day before, they dominated. It was a game they wanted to win badly and it showed. They came to play. They played Red Wing hockey. They blocked shots, they killed penalties, they scored timely goals. And that speaks volumes about their dedication to winning.

Which leads me to what I said a few weeks ago and why I'm saying it again now: I want Ty Conklin to be the Red Wings' starting goalie come playoff time. He won both games this weekend and added another shutout to his resume. That means Conklin has six shutouts. Six. That's second in the league and only one behind league leader Steve Mason's seven. Ozzie has zero. None. The "backup" has conk-blocked the Oilers, Sharks, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Kings, and Penguins. All of those teams could be playoff teams by season's end; those are meaningful games in the Western Conference playoff race (OK fine, except for the Kings). So even if you throw out all the bad stats that Osgood has put up and just use the argument that he still wins most of his games, you can't ignore the blaring shutout statistic. Six games stolen by Conk, none by Osgood.

I should move on though, since these are happy times for the Wings. They are undefeated in February and the young players are getting a chance to prove themselves with Homer out of the lineup for more than a month. Cue Darren Helm, Ville Leino, and Justin Abdelkader. The young trio has filled in for a few games so far and they are all impressing me. Helm doesn't need to, because of his work in the playoffs last year. He's already on the playoff roster in my mind because that kid simply never takes a shift off. He flies around the ice all the time; I love watching Helm. Leino should be a playoff-roster-guy too, with his goal-scoring ability and puck possession style fitting perfectly into the Wings' mold. And while I haven't seen enough of Abdelkader yet, I think he'll be up there in the future. These guys remind me of how I felt when I watched young, third-and-fourth-line versions of Datsyuk and Zetterberg six or seven years ago. Great things are happening in Detroit hockey, and they're here to stay.

And as one final note before I get back to real work and attempt to get something done today, I'm going to owe a little finder's fee to A2Y and report this bit of news here, because it simply amazed me and bears repeating:

"As he worked his way through the packaging, Marcel Pronovost couldn't remember being this curious about a gift since he was a child. When he reached the bottom and opened another tiny box, he felt like a kid again too. Staring back at him was a glittering version of the 2008 Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup ring with his name on one side with four extra diamonds symbolizing the quartet of cups he won with Detroit in the 1950s. Pronovost was one of 20 to 30 retired Red Wings to receive a gift last week. The team sent rings to every living Wings' players that won a cup in Detroit prior to their 1997 championship.

"It was Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch's idea," Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "They're special owners. They wanted to remember our great past. Players from the past didn't receive rings. They wanted to honour them."
Considering that each ring the current players received looked like this, I'm pretty sure that they probably cost at least a million bucks apiece so, to shell out 20 to 30 more just to be nice and appreciate your old, retired players is beyond charitable. The Ilitches really are the best owners in sports.

Finally, I'm going to try and make it to 100 total posts by my 21st birthday (March 17th) and this is post number 87 so expect more updates in the near future, even if they're short and sweet.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wallowing Wings continue their winter woes

I'm sleep-deprived and in need of a nap but I haven't written here in a week and that's too large a gap for me. I blame it on the Wings' play right now, since they had lost five straight games before last night's shootout "win" against St. Louis (you can hardly call it a win when you need more than 65 minutes to beat the Blues and were outshot 33-21). But that's no excuse for not mentioning Henrik Zetterberg's brand new 12-year contract and his now-cemented spot as a lifetime Red Wing.

What Ken Holland and the Red Wings management pulled off is nothing short of amazing. I wanted to use miracle in place of amazing, but I'll save that one for when Kenny signs both Hossa and Franzen for multiple years (and I still think he will, one way or another). But that's in the future. Now back to Z.

Zetterberg is one of the premier players in the NHL. Offensively, defensively, off-the-ice, everything. There's a reason why Holland said the team sees him as a future captain. To get him signed for the rest of his career (he'll be 40 when the deal is up) and to do it for an average of only $6 million per year is remarkable, considering the amount of money that teams are willing to pay the big stars nowadays. He's not the most flashy player but he's incredibly consistent at a high level and comes through at the most important times of a game. And that's all without mentioning his playoff beard, which is legendary in itself and could warm an entire nudist colony in the depths of winter.

Unfortunately though, since signing his life away to the Wings, Hank has yet to play. He's missed three straight games with back spasms since he got hurt (back when the Wings played Columbus on Jan. 27). I'm honestly not worried though, since his back always seems to flare up at certain points in the season but doesn't keep him from dominating the league's best players in the playoffs. Take your time Z, we'll call you when we need you.

Seriously though, the team needs to get it together soon. They can pull out a win against the Blues while they're half asleep but with February games coming up against the Penguins, Avalanche, Ducks, and Sharks, they need to wake the hell up! Not to say the Pens or Avs are really all that great this season but the Wings' embarrassing losses to them earlier this season means that I want retribution. Now.

They finish the last couple months with games mostly against divisional opponents like the Blues and Predators, and those kinds of games will only hurt their playoff preparations. So, I want things to shape up immediately. So lose a few more, get it out of your system, and then show the league who's boss. Ready? Break.