Saturday, May 05, 2007

Great Win, But Not So Great News

It was the classic good news, bad news tale for the Red Wings Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.
The good news is they played a terrific hockey game, downing the San Jose Sharks 4-1 and taking a three games to two lead in a Western Conference semifinal series. The bad news is, defenseman Mathieu Schneider broke his wrist and is out for the duration of the postseason.
High to low. Up and down. The Stanley Cup playoffs are maddening by nature, aren’t they?
The Red Wings have answered any concerns there had been about their competitive character. It does seem likely they will advance past the Sharks and face Anaheim in the Western Conference finals.
The moment it became clear was Saturday, with the score tied 1-1, and San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov tried to clear the puck. He hit Pavel Datsyuk’s stick - and the Red Wings center calmly tucked it behind him for what turned out to be the winning goal. It was a brilliant play Datsyuk, who faked the goalie out.
It was the Dan Cloutier moment. Remember the long goal by Nicklas Lidstrom allowed by the then-Vancouver goalie during the Red Wings title run in 2002?
However, the Red Wings chances of winning the Stanley Cup were greatly reduced by Schneider’s injury. They were already down two defensemen, Niklas Kronwall and Bret Lebda. And Schneider is vastly underrated. He is a true world-class defenseman. He is solid in his own end, an outstanding skater and a tremendous force along the blue line offensively, particularly on the power play because he has an exceptional shot.
Unless Lebda comes back, the Red Wings will have to go to the minor leagues for defensemen - either Derek Meech and Jonathon Ericsson - who don’t really belong at the NHL level, especially so deep into the playoffs.
The one thing that could be on the Red Wings’ side is their grit. Yeah, grit. What had been their biggest weakness in recent postseasons, has become their greatest strength in these playoffs. And it is not just physical toughness, but the way they have handled mental strain. Albeit dangerous business, the Red Wings have made it the norm to rally after falling behind during the first period. They have also shown they can grind it out on the road vs. strong opponents.
But there comes a point when it just becomes too much. Lidstrom was already being overextended. Now it’s going to become ridiculous. What? Does he play 40 minutes per game? And Chris Chelios handled the extra duties just fine Saturday, but extending his role at this stage is far from ideal.
Schneider’s injury has only made an already difficult task even tougher. At least, the Red Wings have one very key factor going for them: The propensity not to give in.
It’s no longer a case of whether this is a team that understands what it takes, but rather if they are still capable given such a potentially costly injury.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

amen, oh crown prince of impatiality! schneids is a huge loss. and can we get 2 more dan clearys? z,pavel,homer have been unbelievable last couple of games

8:56 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Probably the most underrated player on this team is Holmstrom. It is no coincidence they struggled when he was out. It is no coincidence they have gotten better since he returned. Also, the monkey is off Datsyuk's back. He has definitely shown up for these playoffs.

11:26 AM 
Anonymous Joe E. said...

Not much to say that you didn't already say Pat. Schneider's injury is a blow. Lidstrom can't be ou there all the time. The Wings are going to end up putting out some interesting defensive pairings.
It is basically a snowball effect (Schneider's injury). The forwards drop down a little to help the D, the Sharks will get more pucks through from the points, this leads to more deflections/traffic in front of Hasek, which leads to a few more goals going in.
If the Wings win this series they have basically overachieved for this year. They are showing more fight than they have in previous years. I think the fans will be disappointed if the Wings lose in the conference finals but they will feel the Wings gave it a good shot and the taste will not be so bitter.

12:21 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Joe e,
I think they are going to be counted out by many because of the loss of Schneider and because Anaheim has looked so powerful. But this team has shown a lot of character. They could give them a chance. And if they do get to the Western Conference finals, that would be a darn good season.

7:38 PM 
Anonymous Chief said...

Darth Book,

My thinking on the Zumaya injury is that you bring up a starter like Virgil Vasquez to bolster the rotation. You put Durbin in the bullpen even though the numbers say he's been a little better than Maroth(have you seen his hit/IP/BB numbers?, terrible). They can't replace a guy like Zumaya internally or from outside the org.

10:01 AM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

I tell you what Book. If he hasn't earned the most valuable player on this team this year I don't know who does. Speaking of Holmstrom. For what he does he is so key and I think it is obvious the difference he has made in this series since being back in there. I will also admit i was wrong now I still have hope of being right but hey I called the sharks in 6. I just thought they were better. I didn't think they would brain fart so much in the final period.

Real quick though book. Did I call that Warriors matchup or what. People at work and in the bowling league were saying I was smoking crack to think the warriors will handle the Mavs. But hey sometimes there is just a team that even the great teams can't beat for what ever reason. that was the case.

I will tell you about the Pistons. I was there saturday and it wasn't a shock what they did. I think the Bulls are overly hyped. I think they are good, but not great and ready for a playoff run YET. Lets face it the Heat squad that one last year was on it's last leg. People say well the bulls handled the Pistons in the Regular season. Well the Pistons weren't healthy. the one time the Pistons did beat they they were only 85 percent if that. Now the Pistons are fully healthy and well we saw what happened. The Pistons are focused. It has nothing to do with Flip Saunders. These guys know what thye wnat. Webber and McDyess know the time is running out. Guys like Maxiell has somtehing to prove. I still think this will probably go 6,but who knows.

10:28 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Yeah, you called it about the Warriors. I thought the Mavs would come back. Can you imagine a Pistons-Spurs matchup again? Remember unskilled Holmstrom was when the Red Wings got him. He has really worked hard and come a long way.

12:28 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

They'll stick with Durbin in the rotation for awhile. Here's a name to remember if the Zumaya thing goes on for much longer. Dallas Trahern. He is 5-0 at Erie and has a chance to be a pretty good major league pitcher. He is bonafide prospect.

12:31 PM 

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