Thursday, February 21, 2013

Time To Unleash the Monster.

    Jimmy Howard is a workhorse. He has a insatiable desire to play every single game, and that passion drives him to work harder and play better. Howard played 8.66 of the first 9 games (Monster played the third period of game 1) and 13.33 of the first 16 games (Mrazek played two games and Gustavsson relieved Howard in the first period of game 16). When Babcock sat Jimmy against St Louis and put Mrazek in, Jimmy was pissed. I'm glad he was pissed because he wanted to play because that drive and passion are necessary for a good goalie. That being said, we can't keep riding Jimmy so hard, even if he wants us to. Jimmy's workload has increased because of  the condensed season, lack of training camp, our Lidstromless defense, injuries, rookies, and the team's absolute lack of confidence; he's also seeing an increased number of shots. Last year he saw an average of 28 shots per game and so far this year he's seen an average of 31 shots per game. That may not sound like a lot, but it's early in the season and more shots on goal plus a weaker defense mean the goalie has to be not just good, but great most nights. Remember how rested and refreshed Jimmy was having the game off against St. Louis? Now that Monster is back, we need to take some of the pressure off Jimmy, give him more rest and start Gustavsson.

*It's just been announced on Twitter that Jimmy Howard will start tonight*

     Monster has only played three periods and some change in a Red Wings uniform, and after the OT goal by Nashville, some people were ready to condemn him and I'm pretty sure a couple wanted to run him out of town. We haven't seen enough of him to make a judgement one way or the other, but I've been excited about signing him since it happened.

     Toronto is the place where good goalies go in and they come out a shell of their former selves.This may sound extreme, but is sure seems to be the case. There are some serious issues with the goalie coaching staff and their techniques on the Leafs, but this summer I was thankful for that. Fran├žois Allair, the Leafs' goalie coach for the last few years "quit" over the summer. He's most noted for helping to develop Patrick (Statue of Liberty) Roy, but has become somewhat controversial and I call him the goalie killer, because he has one mold that he tries to cram all goalies into. Gustavsson likes to play a more stand up style, but when he got to Toronto they tried to re-write his programming and force him to play butterfly style. Then they wondered why he struggled (aside from playing in front of the Toronto Maple Leafs). Wait, so you took a goalie who was good enough that you signed him to your team, then tried to change what made him good, then scratched your head when his play suffered? God damn geniuses! So when we signed Monster I was excited because I knew Ozzie and Bedard would work with Monster to get him back to his game and natural style (which is what made him so good to begin with). It may take some adjustment and time, but I'm optimistic about Monster.

He also has a kick ass mask.

We need our goaltending tandem to be sharp, rested and on the top of their game and in the fustercluck of a season, that means now, more than ever, that Jimmy Howard needs some rest. Come on Babcock, put Monster in and let's see what he can do.

Let's Go Red Wings!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dollar Hotdog Power Hour Podcast Episode 7.

We're back with more Hockey and Red Wings talk. The season has been a wild ride so far with ups, downs, side to sides and a few times it looked like we were going to crash so hard future generations wold feel it. There's a lot to be excited about though, and positive things to focus on. We address some of those things as well as a few things that we're not to excited about. Give it a listen and I hope you enjoy it.

Note- Please don't blast me for not talking about Mrazek more, I did in fact talk more about him but Mike cut some of it out because he's *turrible

*or possibly because my mic was cutting in and out and the quality would have done Mrazek an injustice

As always, you can check out Kevin and Mike's blogs for some great Hockey reading.

Hope you enjoy the podcast, and as always, feeback is appreciated.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Petr Mrazek AHL All Star Game Highlights

     It's all about Petr Mrazek today. In addition to being called up by the Red Wings yesterday, today he was named the AHL player of the week. 

     The AHL All Star game was last week and Gustav Nyquist, Chad Billins and Petr Mrazek got to participate. Mrazek was impressive and stopped all 6 shooters in the breakaway challenge, denied 9 out of 10 rapid fire shots, including all 5 from Derek Meech, and stopped 2 out of 3 shots in the pass and score event. Below are some video highlights

Mrazek stopped all 6 shooters in the Breakaway Challenge. I particularly love the save on Miller because Mrazek wasn't fooled for a second.

Mrazek stopped 9/10 shots in the Rapid Fire Competition. The announcers said (and it looked like) 2 went in, but the official results from the AHL said only 1 went in.

Mrazek stopped 2/3 in the Pass and Score Event

Petr Mrazek- Fast track to the NHL?

My excitement over Red Wings goalie prospect and current Grand Rapids Griffins Petr Mrazek is no secret.When we heard Sunday night that Mrazek (and Tatar) had been called up I got tweets and text messages from people expressing excitement for me and feeling sure that I was freaking out with excitement. I'm proud that when people think Mrazek, they think of me. I'm really excited for Mrazek, but I also feel sorry for McCollum.

     The best I can see for McCollum is for him to be a mediocre backup for a team that's not the Wings. I hate to say that because I like the kid and his only NHL experience was such a dumpster fire, fuster cluck that I won't even bring it up in detail. McCollum has ok skills but he's not great by any stretch of the imagination, but his weakest point is his mental game. For a first round pick I'm a bit disappointed, and I doubtful that his career will be with the Red Wings organization much longer. I don't think the Wings sending him back down is the last straw for him, although it's clear the organization has lost some faith in him and isn't comfortable starting him.  Bringing Mrazek up is a great opportunity to the Wings to play him in a game and sort of gauge what they have. Mrazek played 3 years in the OHL for the Ottawa 67's and started this season off in Toledo for Walleye (ECHL) he played a grand total of 3 games there (2-1) before being called up to Grand Rapids because both McCollum and Pearce left much to be desired. Mrazek has played 25 of the Griffins 44 games and has a 2.24 GAA, .916 SV% and 1 shutout (That I was in attendance for on Saturday!) .

Mrazek warming up right in front of me. I call this "Mrazeking". He also looks darn good in the Wings Red and White.
     I think the Red Wings are taking a serious look at what they have in Mrazek, not only because of how good he is, but because Jimmy is the only healthy NHL goaltender we currently have, and also because we only signed Gustavsson to a two year contract and Jimmy is a UFA at the end of this season and there are going to have to be some serious decision made in the goaltending department. I never thought I'd see Mrazek even get a sniff at the NHL for at least a couple years, so his being called up caught me completely by surprise. That surprise quickly turned to excitement, glee and an indescribable urge to run around the room screaming and fist pumping.  Of course there's no guarantee that Mrazek will get to play, but it sounds like Gustavsson is more than a few games removed from being ready to play, and Jimmy needs a rest. If Gustavsson isn't ready to play by this weekend, we will see Mrazek start a game, probably Sunday against the Kings.

     Should I be concerned about throwing Mrazek into an NHL game so soon? What if he gets the McCollum treatment for his first game and yet another goalie is ruined? Just hold on to your panic panties I say. Mrazek's mental game is rock solid, that's a big part of what makes him the complete package. Even if Mrazek has been in McCollum's skates and gotten hung out to dry and absolutely shellacked , he wouldn't have let it get to him like McCollum did. I'm not worried about treating Mrazek like he's fragile, because he most certainly isn't. He's incredibly talented, skilled, and works his butt off, he's also rock solid mentally and that's essential for a goalie. Mrazek has been on the fast track to the NHL and he deserves to be. OHL -->ECHL-->AHL-->NHL in only a few months? That would be an accelerated pace for any goalie or team, but it must be unheard of in the Red Wings organization. I know he hasn't started a game yet, and if Gustavsson heals and is ready to play by this weekend, I may cry bitter bitter tears of disappointment.

If you want a little Mrazek porn to get you in the mood, may I refer you to some Goalie Porn I posted earlier.  

Friday, February 1, 2013

Why is Jordin Tootoo fighting important to this Red Wings team?

     As I mentioned in my last post, I was nervous going into the game against Dallas. I had a crappy day, too much work and stress and not enough sleep combined to put me in a less than happy mood, and by the time I got home from work (just missing the first Tootoo fight). I was full of piss and vinegar (figuratively speaking of course) and maybe the Wings were as well.

     We beat Dallas 4-1, scored a Powerplay goal (even if it was on a 5-3), we had shots on goal, and didn't lose any more players to injury (Todd Bertuzzi almost lost his eye but he seems to be ok). I put this game in the success column for sure.

     In only 6 games in a Wings jersey, Jordin Tootoo has become a fan favorite, I don't think there's any denying it. I'm surprised how quickly he went from being hated by many Red Wings fans to being cheered on the ice, spoken of with admiration and respect, and endearing himself to his teammates and the fans. I'm probably in the majority with my "we just did WHAT!?" reaction when I first heard we signed Tootoo. I thought we'd have to reluctantly cheer for him because he's on our team now, but I wasn't sure I'd ever really "like" him. Weeellll... here we are seven months later and I'm probably still in the majority when I say I really like Tootoo and what he brings to this team. Against my will, he's won me over and there are some very important reasons why. First, I wasn't very familiar with Tootoo's off ice life before the Wings signed him, but I did some research after July 1st, and the more complete image of Tootoo I understood, the more I respected him. In 2002 Jordin's older brother committed suicide after a drunk driving arrest and in 2010 Jordin voluntarily entered the NHLPA's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, completed it and returned to the NHL to finish the season. What's commendable about Tootoo is what he's done as a result of his issues, struggles and mistakes. Team Tootoo Fund supports and donates to nonprofits addressing suicide awareness and prevention, as well as nonprofits supporting children and teens in need. Jordin also doesn't pretend his past didn't happen, he's worked hard to make himself better because of it his attitude and outlook makes me proud. So even before the lockout started, Tootoo started to win me over.

     That's all well and good Michelle, but what about Tootoo's benefit to the Wings? Oh, I'm so glad you asked because I'm really excited about this part. We've all heard the reasons why the Wings signed Tootoo, with catchy words like "sandpaper" and "grit", and we've clearly seen that Tootoo willing to, and even enjoys, dropping the gloves. I love fighting in Hockey, I love the excitement, the entertainment and I love to see how it energizes the team, but there area bout a quintillion articles out there right now about those things, so I won't write another one. I'm a "why" kind of person. I don't just want to know how to do something or what needs to be done, I need to know why. I ask a lot of questions, and the question I found myself asking the last few days is "Why does Jordin Tootoo fighting make this team better?"

     During the game against the Stars, there was a moment where one of the Stars players got into a little shoving match with Jonathan Ericsson, and Jordin Tootoo came to the festivities and was clearly willing to stick up for Ericsson. My friend Nick commented that of all the people Tootoo may need to stick up for or defend, Ericsson isn’t one, and I agree; Ericsson is a big boy and he can take care of himself. Despite the slightly comical nature of a 5'9" 199lb Tootoo coming to stick up for a 6'4" 221lb Ericsson, I still love that Tootoo has the willingness (maybe even desire) to stick up for any teammate, even if they don’t necessarily need it. I love fighting in Hockey, but the results of Jordin Tootoo fighting and sticking up for teammates goes way beyond just the fight itself, there’s so much more that results than just a scrap on the ice and penalties or even the momentum and energy gained by the team immediately on the ice. Jordin Tootoo's attitude is a crucial part of team chemistry and bonding, and something that has been missing from the Red Wings the last few years. When you know someone will stick up for you and take on someone twice their size to defend you or your honor, it does something.. It forms bonds, acts as a cohesive and brings the team together… It helps unify the players into a team and that’s essential. It seems like in last couple years, watching the Red Wings has been watching a lot of really talented Hockey players play Hockey, but it's just felt like something has been missing. I'm not saying the players didn't get along, or weren't working together as a team, but it just felt like there was still something missing.

     There's something unifying about knowing that a teammate has your back, not just in words, but in action. The attitude of "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us" acts like glue and holds the team together in an essential way that nothing else can. Need I remind anyone of Darren McCarty getting retribution against Claude Lemieux for his assault on Kris Draper? Do you remember the feelings you get inside when you watch the video again and everything about it just feels right and just?

How many of us were livid that no one went after Shea Weber right after he punched Henrik Zetterberg and then proceeded to smash his head into the glass during game one of the playoffs last year?

How many of us jumped up and cheered when Bertuzzi fought Weber in game 2?

It wasn't a great fight because of the action, Bert didn't obliterate Weber in the manner McCarty did Lemeiux, but Bertuzzi fought Weber for Zetterberg's honor. We only won one game in that series, and I'll be damned if the game we won wasn't game two. Coincidence? Not on your life. Babcock's comments after the game told me that he knows the psychology of what makes a team. Babcock is a very smart man.

“I think it is an important part of hockey,” he said. “We are built different from lots of teams. I just thought that the incident the other night wasn’t part of hockey. I hadn’t seen it since junior hockey. I thought it was unacceptable. I think sometimes when things don’t get looked after, you have to look after it yourself. And I didn’t things were looked after at all.

“He had to do the right thing and he did. I thought it was important for our team that that happened. I kind of expected that’s what was going to happen and it did, so good for him.”
Stats, numbers, skill and talent are important, but the psychological aspect of the game is easy to overlook. Each of the players are still human, and the intangibles sometimes have a bigger impact that we think. Mark my words, this team is going to develop great chemistry and is going to start firing on all cylinders soon. I’m really excited.

Let's Go Red Wings!!!