Sunday, January 29, 2012

Are We There Yet?: Objectively Comparing the 2011/12 Red Wings to the 2007/08 Cup Champs

One huge caveat that should be addressed first; the sample sizes used in this analysis are not the same. I couldn't find a way to get full stats on the 07/08 Wings at the All Star break, so we're comparing a full regular season's worth of data from 07/08 to 50 games worth of regular season data from 2011/12. That being said, I still think that enough games have been played to start comparing the two teams, especially when looking at averages. At the end of the day, this is just supposed to be a fun analysis that gives us some sort of measuring stick to compare this year's squad to. Oh, and if you're wondering why I chose the 07/08 team to compare this year's team against, it's really just because they won that shiny silver thing at the end of the rainbow. Nothing more scientific than that.

This post wouldn't be possible without the incomparable and If you're at all interested in hockey stats, check out It's definitely the best and most in depth hockey stats site I've come across.

The first thing I broke down was even strength play. If you've read the blog before you know that it's really all about the screen caps, so this post wouldn't be complete without some sort of visual aid. In the graphs below, the 07/08 team is always on the left and the 11/12 team is always on the right.

Much more after the jump...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

GBGA Regular Season Game 50: Qui a été terrible

An inverse representation of the actual game
photo via Yahoo
1st Period

Montreal 1 Detroit 0; 5:08- Bourque from Gomez & Diaz

Montreal 2 Detroit 0; 10:56- Emelin from Kostitsyn

Montreal 3 Detroit 0; 17:58- Desharnais from Cole

Montreal 4 Detroit 0; 19:33- Plekanec from Bourque & Kaberle

2nd Period

Montreal 5 Detroit 0; 1:52- Pacioretty from Desharnais & Cole

Montreal 6 Detroit 0; 4:18- Desharnais from Pacioretty & Kaberle

3rd Period

Montreal 6 Detroit 1; 00:21- Hudler (14) from Helm (9)

Montreal 6 Detroit 2; 6:07- Hudler (15) from Commodore (2) & Kronwall (12)

Montreal 7 Detroit 2; 18:37- Cole from Eller

Le Fin

GBGA Regular Season Game 49:Rivalry Redux

Sixty minutes of play summed up in a single image

1st Period

Detroit 0 St Louis 1; 9:12- Nichol from Crombeen & Porter
As the puck is moved into the neutral zone, some tired Wings make their way to the bench for a line change. The Blues gain control of the puck at the edge of their defensive zone and quickly advance it. Three Blues enter the Detroit zone with only one Detroit defender back.
Obviously outmanned, it takes only one pass to turn this into a scoring play. Kronwall plays the puckcarrier straight up, but so does Howard. This means that once the cross ice pass to Nichol occurs there's no chance Howard can get across in time.

2nd Period

Detroit 1 St Louis 1; 00:51- Datsyuk (14) from Lidstrom (17) & Zetterberg (26)
Make the box move. That's how you score on the powerplay, and that's what the Wings force St. Louis to do here. They move the puck from the boards to the corner, then up to the point, and then once again to the boards. The puck ends up with Pavel Datsyuk, who carries into the faceoff circle.
Datsyuk sees that one defender has stepped towards Zetterberg, opening up some ice in the high slot. At the same time Alex Pietrangelo bites on a deke from Datsyuk and drops to a knee. He ends up sliding towards the corner, which opens up the slot area completely. 
All Datsyuk needed was some space (and a nice screen in front from Holmstrom). Halak likely didn't see much of this backhander before it was behind him. 

Detroit 2 St Louis 1; 8:52- Franzen (19) from Ericsson (8) & Bertuzzi (15)
Good puck movement is displayed by the Wings after wining the offensive zone faceoff. Eventually the puck ends up in the corner, where Bertuzzi sees Ericsson pinching at the right time (!).
Ericsson quickly snaps the puck on net. Franzen has set up shop near the crease, and the rebound comes out in front for him. The Mule spins and backhands it past an outstretched Halak. 

3rd Period

Detroit 3 St Louis 1; 16:57- Kronwall (11) from Lidstrom (18) & Datsyuk (39)
There's only so much you can get a penalty kill unit to move when it's a 4-on-3 PP. St. Louis is stationary at this point, with the Wings moving the puck back and forth between defensemen. Lidstrom fakes a slapshot and gets his defender to hit the ice, then dishes to Kronwall. Kronner takes a big slapshot that gets through to the front, where Homer is doing his job perfectly. Again, Halak can't see and the Wings get the insurance marker they needed. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

GBGA Regular Season Game 48: Sweet 16

Dancing in goalie equipment. Not as easy as it looks.
image via Detroit News
1st Period

Detroit 0 Columbus 1; 8:51- Russell from Dorsett & Johnson
Franzen has the puck at center and sense pressure from the in front and behind him. He attempts to hit Datsyuk near the boards, but the Pavel skates past the puck. The puck hits the boards and bounces towards the Columbus zone.
Johnson picks up the loose puck and passes past Datsyuk to Dorsett.
Dorsett gets a shot off through Kronwall and Jimmy allows a rebound to his left. Commodore is in the vicinity and should be able to clear the puck.
Russell gets to the puck first and hacks at it. It gets past Howard and puts Columbus on the board early. Commodore tries to clear the puck but Russell gets to it first. I don't blame Commodore for this. He reacted quickly and appropriately, but Russell just flat out won the race to the loose puck.

Detroit 1 Columbus 1; 11:34- Kronwall (10) from Filppula (24) & Hudler (17)
Kronwall tries to hold the puck in at the blue line but can't. It slides past him into the neutral zone and Kronner has to circle back to pick it up.
Kronwall moves the puck up to Hudler, who passes it to Filppula in the middle lane at center ice. Kronwall sees that the Jackets are in the midst of a change and jumps up to join the rush. Filppula passes it to him as the Wings enter the offensive zone.
Kronwall gets pushed near the top of the zone but maintains puck possession. He rifles a shot from the high slot as the defense starts to collapse on him. Sanford simply can't stop the shot and the Wings tie the game.

2nd Period

Detroit 1 Columbus 2; 8:43- Nikitin (2) from Vermette (13)
Vermette wins the draw and shovels the puck back to the point for Nikitin.
Nikitin shoots and, according to the FSD broadcast, the puck may have hit Pavel's skate. The shot changes direction and Howard understandably can't stop it. The Blue Jackets have puck luck on their side here, and the worst team in the league is threatening the Wings' record home winning streak.

Detroit 2 Columbus 2; 11:03- Lidstrom (10) from Kronwall (11)
The Jackets are on the penalty kill and have a chance to clear. They try lobbing the puck out from the slot, but TPH is at the blueline to stop it. He knocks the puck down and passes to Kronwall at the opposite point.
Kronwall decides to pass back to Lidstrom. 3/4 of Columbus' defenders have collapsed on the net, and the one high defender has moved to Kronwall's side of the ice. This leaves TPH with plenty of time and space to pull the trigger.
Lidstrom's shot finds the back of the net in large part thanks to the tireless screening efforts of Tomas Holmstrom. The Wings anemic powerplay finally delivers, as they should against a weak Columbus team.

3rd Period





Pavel DatsyukDETSave
Rick NashCBJMiss
Jiri HudlerDETSave
Derek DorsettCBJSave
Todd BertuzziDETMiss
Derick BrassardCBJSave
Valtteri FilppulaDETGoal
Ryan JohansenCBJSave

GBGA Regular Season Game 47: Shootout in the Wild West

1st Period

Phoenix 1 Detroit 0; 2:23- Torres from Chipchura & Summers
Ericsson and Emmerton are getting manhandled behind the net. They both lose body position and, in Ericsson's case, their man. Torres picks up the loose puck and attempts a wraparound.
Howards is slow to get his blocker down and lets in a soft one. Despite the mistakes made by the defense behind him, Howard really should have hit the ice quicker.

2nd Period

Phoenix 1 Detroit 1; 1:36- White (6) from Franzen (21) & Datsyuk (37)
Lidstrom gets in front of a Phoenix clearing attempt. He gains possession and quickly passes it to Datsyuk. With the entirety of the Phoenix defense in the corner, Datsyuk carries up towards the blue line.
Datsyuk moves the puck to Franzen at the point, and Franzen quickly passes to Ian White at the opposite point. Phoenix is still trying to reestablish their defensive positioning. At this point they're still bunched together on one side of the ice.
White has plenty of time to make a decision. He takes a few steps towards the net before letting a slapshot go. Mike Smith can't track the shot because Bertuzzi is in front screening. Bert does a good job of getting netfront positioning just in time for White's shot to get on net. If he's a half second slower then Smith is likely able to see the shot and stop it.

Phoenix 1 Detroit 2; 11:13-  Bertuzzi (10) from Franzen (22) & Datsyuk (38)
Pavel gets bumped off the puck in the corner. The puck skitters behind the net, where Franzen circles around and picks it up.
The Mule sees Bertuzzi streaking down the wing and hits him with a pass. Bertuzzi shoots it hard from low in the faceoff circle and beats Smith. It looks like Smith is playing far back in his own net; there's no attempt to cut down the angle here.

Phoenix 2 Detroit 2; 14:08- Brule from Chipchura
Lidstrom plays the puck back to center for Holmstrom. Homer gets beat to the puck by Brule, who moves the puck up to Chipchura at the blue line. Chipchura stops the puck and leaves it at the blueline for Brule to carry in.
Brule picks the puck up and has a semi-breakaway opportunity. Lidstrom is behind the play and attempts to catch up but can't. White can't come across to cover because he has to stay with Doan in case Brule passes.
White makes a last second attempt to interrupt the shot with his stick, but it's too little too late. Brule slides the puck under Howard to tie the game.

3rd Period





Shane DoanPHXSave
Pavel DatsyukDETSave
Radim VrbataPHXSave
Jiri HudlerDETSave
Gilbert BrulePHXMiss
Todd BertuzziDETGoal

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hypothetical Wings Alumni Game Roster

I refuse to contemplate adding him to this roster

With the news this week that a Winter Classic is essentially confirmed for Ann Arbor on New Year's Day, it's time to turn our attention to the festive frivolities associated with the event.

In all likelihood there will be a Wings-Leafs alumni game at Comerica Park sometime before the Classic, as this year's tilt between Philadelphia and New York alums sold out Citizens Bank Park. The next step is to determine who will suit up for each team. I'll let Toronto bloggers take care of their team, while I have some suggestions for the Wings roster below.

The roster was created using the current Wings alumni team as a base, then adding players that I thought still had a reasonable chance of being able to skate. I'd love to see Mr. Hockey and Terrible Ted suit up for just one shift, but is that truly reasonable? Probably not, but a guy can hope.











My only real concern in creating the roster was adding Hasek. If he plays a solid period he'll be chasing down Kenny Holland after the game to let him know of plans for his triumphant return to the NHL in the 2013-14 season. 

Love it? Hate it? I'd love to hear what other people are thinking. Let me know on Twitter (@TOGBlog1) on in the comments section below. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter Classic '13: Ann Arbor vs. Detroit

The internet's been abuzz over the last few weeks as rumors of a Detroit-Toronto Winter Classic in 2013 have been all but confirmed. According to TSN's Mark Masters and the Toronto Sun Leafs GM Brian Burke has said "certainly there is a lot of smoke, and where there is a lot of smoke, there is usually fire." 

At this point it doesn't make sense to argue about who the Wings should play. While there are some who'd rather see San Jose, it seems Toronto is going to draw an invite from the league. That leaves only one thing to debate; location.

The two candidates here are Comerica Park in downtown Detroit and Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Atmospheres will differ at each site, that much is undeniable. 

The Big House is surrounded by houses brimming with students, houses where kids barbeque on the lawn, hang out on the porch, and climb out of their windows to drink on the roof. There is nothing like a football Saturday in Ann Arbor. Over 100,000 people coming together to enjoy the history and tradition that one of the greatest football programs in the county brings with it. The Winter Classic would provide a similar backdrop. Over 100,000 people in one place to celebrate the history of the game, watching two of the most storied franchises in the sport take the ice and play the game the way it originated. This is pond hockey on the biggest of stages.

Holding the game in downtown Detroit doesn't eliminate tailgating, nor is that all that the Classic should revolve around. While the opportunity is still available, the tailgating would have to take place in parking garages or on surface lots. The number of people in attendance will necessarily be less if the game is in Detroit, and the people traveling to the game will be less of a spectacle in and of themselves than they would be if the game was at the Big House.

Essentially, you're looking at either holding the game in the traditional downtown of a big city or in a gigantic small town. This is skyscrapers versus houses and concrete versus front lawns. Personally, I think the small town feel fits the Winter Classic better. If we're supposed to be honoring the origins of hockey, there's no better way to do so than with the ultimate pond game.

That's not to say that holding the game at the Big House will be easy. Per The Malik Report, U of M Athletic Director Dave Brandon recently spoke with the Free Press and outlined some of the challenges, including students being gone over winter break and fans having loyalties split if Michigan plays a bowl game on New Year's Day.

First things first. Michigan played in a BCS bowl game this past season. Expectations are high in Ann Arbor once again. Unless it's the Rose Bowl, the goal should be to play in a game after New Year's Day. Go undefeated or lose one game and boom, problem solved.

If I was Dave Brandon I'd be bending over backwards to get the NHL to ink a contract with U of M. The Athletic Department sustains itself primarily off of football revenues. Football plays six home games each season. That means that there is a stadium built to seat over 110,000 people that sits dormant a vast majority of the year. Opening it for one extra day, regardless of what percent of the gate receipt revenue goes to U of M, would practically be free money in the bank account of the Athletic Department. 

I don't think selling tickets will be a challenge regardless of whether students are involved. There should be enough interest from Wings fans and Toronto followers to sell out Michigan Stadium, though pairing tickets for the Winter Classic with a ticket to the Great Lakes Invitational could help bring students back before break is over and re-create the football Saturday feel. 

This brings us to the alternative plan, and one which I'm definitely in favor of. Two outdoor rinks, one at Comerica Park in Detroit and the other at the Big House in Ann Arbor. The Detroit rink could host the Great Lakes Invitational (for the uninitiated/uninterested, it's an annual college hockey tournament) and the Detroit-Toronto alumni game while the Ann Arbor rink would host the Winter Classic itself.

This brings people to restaurants and business in downtown Detroit while doing the same for Ann Arbor. Commuting to the game shouldn't be much of an issue because it's likely that the majority of attendees will be  from the metro Detroit suburbs, meaning they'll have to hop on a freeway and drive to get to either Detroit or Ann Arbor.

One final issue; sightlines. I've heard that watching hockey in a baseball stadium can be downright terrible. While I haven't experienced this personally, I can see how many lower bowl seats in Comerica Park would be situated such that you'd probably be looking at the boards, not over the boards. Holding a game like the alumni game that's not critical but is still entertaining seems like an acceptable alternative. Besides, if Steve Yzerman dons the winged wheel again it just seems appropriate for it to be in Detroit in a stadium that has the Detroit skyline rising high behind it. Sightlines won't be much of an issue at the Big House thanks to the gently sloping bowl shape of the stands. Further proof is below; that's a picture from my seats at last year's Big Chill at the Big House.
 I'll make no bones about it, I do prefer Ann Arbor as the site for the Winter Classic. I've been to an outdoor hockey game there and it was fantastic, a truly remarkable experience for a hockey fan. The atmosphere was great and the surrounding area is made to handle 100,000+ fans six times a year, and a seventh wouldn't be an issue. At the end of the day, however, all that matters is that we get a Winter Classic in the state of Michigan and that the Wings are in it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

GBGA Regular Season Game 45: City of Brotherly Love

Possibly the only point in the game where the Sabre's defense got between the Wings and Miller
via Getty Images

1st Period

Detroit 1 Buffalo 0; 5:20- Zetterberg (9) from Hudler (16)
Detroit dumps the puck in and Ryan Miller slows it down behind the net. Jordan Leopold takes it carries along the boards. Hudler is in on the forecheck and Leopold sees him coming. He attempts a saucer pass into the middle of the faceoff circle, but Hudler intercepts it. Zetterberg was behind the play but turns with Hudler as he gains possession.
Hudler taps the puck to a turning Zetterberg and Z then carries across the slot. Miller drops his right pad first, indicating which direction he's moving. This means that Z will have the farside if his aim is perfect. Z rips a shot under the outstretched stick of the defenseman and over the glove of Miller.

Detroit 2 Buffalo 0; 18:11- Franzen (11) from Datsyuk (34) & Bertuzzi (13)
Bertuzzi sees Datsyuk turn backwards to prepare for a pass and tries to hit him near the blue line. The pass is slightly off target and Pavel has to reach out and stop it with his skate. In one fell swoop he then lasers the puck off his backhand to a streaking Franzen on the right wing.
Franzen has a step on his defender the whole way. He makes a smart choice to shoot when he does, because if he skates in any more the d-man from the opposite side would be able to cover. Miller lets in something of a softie on a shot from the top of the faceoff circle.

Detroit 3 Buffalo 0; 19:43- Lidstrom (9) from Bertuzzi (14) & Datsyuk (35)
The Wings win a battle along the boards and maintain possession of the puck. Bertuzzi spins off a pick inadvertently set by the ref and is open for a pass from Datsyuk.
Buffalo's defense breaks down in trying to prepare for Bertuzzi's shot. The defender that should be covering Miller's right has to lock up Franzen in front of the net. The left defenseman charges Bertuzzi, as does the center. This leaves a lot of open real estate on Miller's right. Bertuzzi's shot is stopped and the rebound goes towards the right... a wide open Nick Lidstrom. TPH doesn't waste opportunities like this, and he easily snaps one past a diving Miller. Yet another great read by Lidstrom, showing he knows when to pinch and when to stay back. No surprise there.

2nd Period

Detroit 4 Buffalo 0; 4:19- Bertuzzi (9) from Datsyuk (36)
Mike Weber picks the puck up in front of Ryan Miller and carries behind the net. Datsyuk is forechecking hard, and somehow Weber is unaware of the pressure. He tries to play the puck around the boards but Datsyuk is there to steal. Can we start the Selke chants now?
Datsyuk sees Bertuzzi move towards the middle of the net and hits him with a pass. Bertuzzi doesn't shoot right away, instead opting to hold the puck and he moves laterally across the crease. Miller has no choice but to drop to the ice as soon as Bert gets the puck, leaving him out of position by the time Bert reaches the right side of the crease. This positioning would be an issue if Miller wasn't so good with his stick. He poke checks the puck away from Bert.
Miller's great poke check is all for naught as Bert spins, regains possession, and backhands a shot over Miller. Truly a highlight reel goal from a guy who seems to be gaining a ton of momentum. #TuzziSwag indeed.

Detroit 5 Buffalo 0; 4:32- Helm (5) from Miller (8) & Cleary (11)
Cleary passes into the middle for Drew Miller, but Tyler Myers is able to get a stick on the puck. Miller eventually comes up with the puck as Myers skates into the zone in order to defend.
Miller is able to move around Myers to the outside because Myers loses him for a second while turning to backskate. Helm is well covered but moving into the zone with a ton of speed.
Miller places an absolute perfect pass on the stick of Darren Helm. The puck goes through Myer's legs and Helm taps it into the net.

3rd Period