We put the “play” in “playoffs,” and there’s no one better to kick of the second season than Jeff, a player himself. His Wings square off in Nashville Wednesday evening. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @hockeyguynyc.
It’s been a rough few weeks for Detroit Red Wings fans as the regular season wound down. Even after the team clinched a playoff spot they bounced back and forth between having a home ice advantage and not.
Unfortunately with this past Saturday’s shoot out loss to Chicago, home ice advantage evaporated for the team’s 21st consecutive trip to the post season.
That doesn’t mean getting through the first round against the Nashville Predators is going to be easy, but they aren’t going to have to travel two or three time zones to play the games.
The team, plagued with injuries of some of its star players, has looked weary since its home ice victory streak was stopped at 23 back in February by Vancouver, who has gone on to become the #1 seed in the Western Conference
The key injured player to watch is Darren Helm. Coach Mike Babcock has said Helm will play in the first round, what’s not known as I write this early Wednesday morning is if he’ll actually play in game one.
The Red Wings / Predators Matchup:
These two are right on top of each other in the standings. Both ended the regular 48 wins. What separates them are the losses, with Detroit having two more than Nashville and Nashville picking up two additional points in OT losses. Looking at the last set of games for the season Nashville is certainly on the upswing here. Since February 20, the Red Wings are 7-11-4 compared to the Predators 14-7-2. That’s a huge difference.
Nashville has lost the two previous times they’ve met up with Detroit during playoff season—in 2004 and 2008. Both times those series went six games. This one is all going to rest on the goaltenders. Jimmy Howard was having an outstanding season until the injuries hit. He needs to be fully on his game to go against Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, who leads the NHL with 43 wins. Suffice to say, with the year Nashville, this isn’t the same Predators that we’ve seen in previous playoffs.
This series will go down to the wire—seven games and it’ll be a nail biter to the end. The Red Wings haven’t been past round two the past two years now so I really want to see them go far this year. This first batch of contests, though, will put them through their paces.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak a moment about Glee. The show has been on break since February 21, which saw a very uneven episode (one that I’m still not sure how I feel about what they did to some of the characters) playout at the same time there was a very close game where Detroit lost to Chicago 2-1. Next Tuesday, Nashville will be at Detroit for game four while Glee takes on disco. The episode’s preview looks good, so we’ll see what happens there.
Now, looking across the rest of the 1st round matchups, here are some quick picks (whether or not these are more wishes than true predications is not really clear): I’m looking for Vancouver to destroy the Kings. St. Louis will run over the Sharks (although I’d like the Sharks to win more than I’d like to see St. Louis advance). Chicago will triumph over Phoenix. I would love to see Ottawa pound the Rangers, but I don’t think that will happen. I’m hoping Washington can dismiss Boston, but, again, that seems unlikely. I want the Devils to dispatch Florida. Lastly, as my other favorite team, the Penguins need victory over Philly (of all the series outside of Detroit, this is the one I’m really looking forward to watch for all the on-ice drama that will surly happen).
Red Wings Live & In Person:
Let’s take a ride in the way back machine for a moment to March 21 when the Wings came to Madison Square Garden. I was psyched to see the boys here in NYC, especially since I only get to see them in NYC every two years right now due to the way the NHL builds its schedules. I got a good center ice seat, though it was in the upper deck and, even though my usual Red Wings-game-watcher couldn’t be with me I did introduce a coworker to their first in-person hockey game.
I knew going into this game, it was going to be a difficult night. The Wings were on a losing streak, having already lost five. My confidence wasn’t increased when I saw Ty Conklin taking warmups. I hadn’t seen the latest that Joey MacDonald had gone onto the injured list.
The Wings put on a great show though. They scored first, which prompted someone to throw an octopus onto the MSG ice, something I’d never seen happen there before. They also got the game into OT. Unfortunately, Conklin, who had looked like he was trying to make a case to get back on the roster permanently, blew it about half way through the OT and the Rangers walked away the winners.
Still, it was a great time and I saw some well-played hockey. It was sad the Red Wings couldn’t bring in the W. in fact, there was a lot about the final regular season loss against Chicago that reminded me a lot of the Rangers game. There was a lot of good stuff from Detroit, but not quite enough to get the two points.
High School Hockey Player Bends Time:
Well, okay, not really… I have to take a moment to hype a book I recently read that the sci-fi fans should get a kick out off. Michael Offutt’s debut novel Slipstream just published last week and it’s a fun ride into a parallel universe where a high school senior, who happens to play hockey and is a whiz at Physics, has to save the world.
I don’t want to give too much away because the plot turns are too much fun to spoil. I will say there is a lot of world building and a good dose of math and physics (although I found my Big Bang Theory level of physics understanding got me through just fine). I’ll also tell you that the scenes where Jordan bends time while he plays pro hockey in the parallel world are very cool (and I wish they taught this time bending skill at hockey camp).
Oh, and if all that weren’t enough to whet your appetite for the book, Jordan’s gay too. You can read more about and pick up Slipstream as an ebook at Amazon, or wait for the paperback coming in May.
Cycling for a Cause:
This has no relation to hockey whatsoever, but please indulge me for a moment.
This fall, for the third year, I’ll be riding my bicycle 280+ miles from Boston to New York to support the HIV/AIDS Services provided by the Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual and Bisexual Center in New York City. A flurry of posts can be expected to cover the event on www.STDAWARE.com. Every year I try one of the best mountain bikes reviewed through a sponsor, as a way to help with the trip’s cost.
These services are crucial for not only prevention education but also supporting those living with the disease. I’ve got a $4,000 fund raising goal and I could use the help of the Puck Buddys readers to make that goal. Please give what you can by going to the online donation form. Thanks!
Happy Playoffs everyone. May your team do great… unless they’re playing against Detroit or Pittsburgh. If that’s the case, I hope they go down in flames.