Tag Archives: Detroit

Hometown, Hockeytown

It’s taken a few days for it all to sink in. The town I grew up in will be the host of the Winter Classic 2013 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The high school I attended sat kitty-corner from Michigan Stadium. Every Friday afternoon, tailgaters would descend upon Pioneer High School’s  parking lot to set up for the Saturday Michigan games. I remember my uncle Rich sneaking us in at the start of the 4th quarter at his gate where he volunteered for 35 years. He also volunteered with Michigan hockey, and gave me a set of Michigan hockey cards I still have. That was the year Kevin Porter won the Hobey Baker.

Ann Arbor is a hockey town. The University of Michigan Wolverines have been a cornerstone in Big Ten hockey and NCAA hockey for decades. Michigan boasts coach Red Berenson who has produced some of the best talent int he NHL today:  Carl Hagelin, Brendan Morrison, Mike Cammalleri, Mike Komisarek, Mike Knuble, Jack Johnson  and Kevin Porter to name a few.  The Wolverines have nine NCAA men’s ice hockey titles.

Hockey tradition represents Ann Arbor, but also training as the home of the USA Hockey Team Development Program.  NHL participants have included Ryan Kesler, Patrick Kane, Erik Johnson and Cam Fowler.

Not too far down the road is Hockeytown, home to the Detroit Red Wings and the bright spot for the Detroit sports scene. Just across the Detroit River is Windsor, Ontario, home of the two-time Calder Cup champions Windsor Spitfires and MVP Taylor Hall.  The matchup between the Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs is fitting not only because of the close proximity, but both are each country’s respective hockey epicenters.  The line coming in and out of Detroit and Windsor after Wings games displays the regions affinity for hockey.

The perfect platform, the picturesque scenery of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus, plus the craziness of hockey fans in A2 will create an atmosphere that could cost the Winter Classic in topping it the following year.   I read somewhere that this Classic could break attendance records….it will! Michigan Stadium holds up to 113,000. The Big Chill at the Big House broke an outdoor hockey game record, and so shall the Winter Classic 2013.

 

Advertisements

Who’s Got the Luck?

Week 7 of the NHL brings both talent and luck to the top of the Conference standings.   Shots on goal, staking claim on the blue line and goaltending has contributed to the unpredictable rankings as we move past the first quarter of the season.

Eastern Conference:

1.

The Washington Capitals top the Eastern Conference despite having lost Alex Ovechkin for a brief stint.  Enter Mike Green, Brooks Laich and Brendan Morrison, among the few who had an opportunity to keep their team afloat.

Goaltending has been a round robin with Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov netting the top jobs, but thirdster Michal Neuvirth stepped into a game this week against Montreal. Neuvirth’s opportunity fell short with a loss of  2-3.

My prediction preseason comments:

Washington Capitals- Alexander Ovechkin rocks, we all know that, but I’ll be watching to see if the young goalie, Semyon Varlamov can hold it together.  Critics doubt the strength of this goaltender for the full-season impact, but what I saw last year in the unraveling of the New York Rangers was impressive.   And, Don Cherry loves to rip on Ovechkin for his grandstanding.  How ironic.

2.

When you talk about the New Jersey Devils, Martin Brodeur gets the high five, but the Devils have a strong base and have climbed up in the Eastern Conference because of good play.   The depth of players such as David Clarkson has proven a wise investment with 7 goals, 8 assists and 33 PIMs.  Zajac and Parise have held a stake in the play, but new faces have emerged as pickups in the fantasy world due to productivity.  Right-winger Niclas Bergfors has 5 goals and 9 assists. Defenseman Andy Greene nabbed 3 goals, 6 assists, not the highest stats, but a name that is popping up more frequently in commentary during the game.

Goaltending by Martin Brodeur has been consistent and spot on with a 12-5-1 record.   With a 98% ownership in Yahoo leagues, he’s expected to be great and it’s showing.

Preseason scoop:

New Jersey Devils– So I’m more of a fan of those New York teams, but I have to give it up for the Devils.  Despite Brodeur, I like most of the players.  Travis Zajac, Zach Parise and David Clarkson have all caught my attention like no other New Jersey team in the past.  I’ll be watching and drafting from this team.

3.

The Buffalo Sabres should have won the Stanley Cup in 1999, and I still have issues with that, therefore I am elated to see the Sabres sopping it up in the Eastern conference sitting in third.  Players like Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville have provided a base, with Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford being picked up in fantasy leagues more frequently.

Ex-Michigan State Spartan Ryan Miller has been stellar for the Sabres.  His play has put the team where they are. His record stands at 12-3-2 with a GAA of 1.97 and two shutouts.

Didn’t see the Sabres as contenders but were interested in the team on my own accord.  My recommendations for Buffalo revolved around the D in Craig Rivet and Steve Mantador who have proven to keep the lanes clear for scoring.   Talent hidden in the depths of Buffalo

4.

Pittsburgh Penguins sits in 4th carrying a ton of injuries.  Sidney Crosby has done his best, but one man cannot carry it all. There are some lucky charms being utilized. Actually it’s amazing that they are holding on, but expect the Penguins to rise as soon as everyone is healthy.  Fleury could step it up a bit as his stats state 11-7-0 and a shaky GAA of 2.67.

My New York teams sit in 9th and 10th.  The NY Rangers were expected to perform better, but their talent is not delivering. One exception for the Garden is Michael Del Zotto with an impressive debut showing 4 goals, 11 assists, and14 PIMs.  The NY Islanders put a great deal of hope in rookie John Tavares and that has proven to keep the team as swimmers, not bottom feeders so far.

Western Conference:

1.

In the Western Conference many fans out west would like to see the San Jose Sharks break their bad playoff karma once and for all.  This year may be it by the hardcore play and dedication towards the playoff run.  That is said every year, but acquiring winger Dany Heatley was a gamble that has paid with 17 goals, 9 assists and 18 PIMs.  Center Patrick Marleau has 14 goals and 12 assists, then you have veteran Joe Thornton with 30 points. This type of scoring creates star power.  Plus, add great depth players in Manny Malhotra, Joe Pavelski, and a strong blue line headed by Dan Boyle co-starring Jason Demers and M-E Vlasic wins games.

Evgeni Nabokov gets respect because he can complete the task in net.  So far he’s achieved 13-3-4 but needs to gain ground in his 2.2 GAA.  Not bad, but could do better.

This was my scope for the Sharks preaseason:

The San Jose Sharks-Because who won’t be watching? Now that Dany Heatley is in, and ineffectual Jonathan Cheechoo is out, the team may have a chance.  Players like M-C Vlasic, Ryan Clowe, and of course, Joe Thornton will try to gain back the fierceness in the Shark Tank.  All hope is on Heatley.  But that may not be enough.  I’m watching from afar.  I’ll be keeping track of Dan Boyle‘s stats.

2.

Now that everyone is using the title of young guns for the Colorado Avalanche, seems the team is losing some ammo power slipping to second place. Much hype has revolved around the new overhaul and future accomplishments of the new and improved Avalanche.   Panic attack or another victim of injuries?  J-M Liles was on rotating IR for a few weeks, T.J. Galiardi was out, Adam Foote was out, and so on.  The Avs reportedly have the one of the lowest SOG and GAA stats.  Good defense and goaltending has helped keep the Avs in place.  And they’ve gotten some lucky shots due to Matt Duchene’s accuracy.  Fantasy owners were warned about picking up Wojtek Wolski , but lucky owners have benefited with 9 goals and 11 assists.

Peter Budaj was out with the flu, but did that really matter?  The star of the Avs is Craig Anderson who hit a 12-6-3 record, but a 2.52 GAA, which has slipped.

No one can dispute the Colorado Avalanche are performing well, but so many would like to see them fall down.  Is it that unbelievable that a better mix of players and management can make that much difference?  If you can get the right chemistry, there’s no telling what you can do.

3.

Chicago is a great town and an awesome sports town, so it’s a plus to see one of the Original Six teams doing well. In 3rd for the race, the past is the past and the Chicago Blackhawks are here in the now.  Though Marian Hossa is out, the Hawks have the train rolling.  Great players and I’m a fan.

My thoughts on the team preseason:

Chicago Blackhawks– Take no prisoners.  Out for blood.  Now that the Hawks have Marian Hossa the team should be amazing.  Right?  Let’s hope so after all the hoopla surrounding the team or Toews, Kane and Keith and some other good players that don’t get noticed as much: Dave Bolland, Andrew Ladd, and Brent Seabrook.  Deep dish pizzazz or digging deeper into a cheesy situation.

4.

Fourth place goes to the Los Angeles Kings who I enjoy seeing kicking the sand in everyone’s face.  A beach team has caught my eye with players like Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll, veteran Ryan Smyth and numerous guys I had never seen but introduced to by their notable play: Michal Handzus, Jack Johnson and Wayne Simmonds. Goalie Jon Quick is holding up with a 12-7-2 record, but will need to turn up the heat on his 2.62 GAA.

The St. Louis Blues got lost on their way to practice and sit in 13thplace.  David Backes has been a late bloomer and goaltending problems have been a shock to everyone.

Surprises?  The Detroit Red Wings rank 8th, while the Phoenix Coyotes are ahead in 7th.

Luck can be an amazing helper for teams with mounting injuries and sloppy shooters, but all teams have lucky games.  True skill and talent lie within all teams but don’t produce if the alignment is off or non-existent.  One top scorer can carry a team, but it’s the teams with depth taking it to the playoff run.

Red Wings Redux

They’re the Yankees of hockey, the Cowboys of the NHL and fodder for the media hype of a downed dynasty.  Red Wings fans are not worried. Panic just makes things worse, and in this case worse is not an option.  The team will be back, stronger than ever.  Bandwagon bummers can get off at the next stop.

 

Cautious hockey blogs are stating the obvious:  the Wings don’t look like the team that almost won the Stanley Cup.  They’re not!  The team lost three major players that had a direct impact on scoring:  Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samueslson, and Marian Hossa.  Evidently the trio made an impact, and while the Wings added players with strengths not all have NHL experience.

 

Transitioning perhaps, however, scouting and management decisions have brought some great talent throughout the years and this season is no different.  Sure, the younger guys are still squeaky, but by no means are Pavel Datsyk and Henrik Zetterberg past their prime.  The younger players such as Villa Leino and Jonathan Ericsson were hot during the Stanley Cup playoffs last season; one hopeful, Valterri Filppula will miss 4-8 weeks with a broken wrist.  They’ll get it back.  Detroit is always cautious about any game and expects the best.

 

Pleasure may be derived by some based on the Red Wings slow start, but with a 25-week season I’m not worried about the situation.  Even during down times in Detroit’s hockey history, the fans stood tall and behind their team.  I’m no exception.

 

This week was the tour of Canada, and the Red Wings sparked the team with their first road win in Vancouver coming from a 2-0 deficit to win 5-4.  The Edmonton Oilers know what it’s like to be down and were also discouraged by last season’s performance. With a new attitude the Oilers came out strong, stumping the Wings to a 4-0 deficit.  Wing goalie Jimmy Howard was in deep water, but the Wings rallied to tie the game 4-4 to gain a point.  In the end, a shootout won the Oilers the game.

 

This hard work and talent can move the puck creating the team that everyone loves to hate, yet respects because they play the game well and make a good opponent.   No one is debating the ability of the team, but with a Halloween game in Calgary, and Steve Yzerman being inducted into the Hockey Hall of fame on the same day, Red Wings fans are hoping for a treat, not a trick.