Monday, April 16, 2007

Wings Beat Flames in Game Two; Tigers Lose

The Detroit Red Wings can't score the playoffs? Pavel Datsuyk is overpaid and is not a playoff performer? These questions were answered in Detroit's Game One victory and they were answered again Sunday afternoon as the Detroit Red Wings took a 2-0 series lead over the Calgary Flames with a 3-1 victory.

The Wings got off to a very fast start, thanks to Datsuyk, and thanks to Calgary seemingly spending the first 10 minutes with a man in the penalty box (and most of the time -- two). Datsuyk scored just over a minute into the game, his second goal in as many games, as his critics went further into hiding. Does two goals in two games makeup for his past playoff performances? Maybe not, but they do show that Datsuyk's earlier struggles were as a result of youth and health, and now that Datsuyk is fully healthy, and more mature as a player, it's going to be a very bright future ahead for him and the Red Wings.

And, looking at the box score, no, it wasn't a repeat from Sunday. Yes, Nick Lidstrom and Valtteri Filppula scored, again as they both did in Game One. And Dominik Hasek again stepped up and made some big saves when he was called upon. which wasn't a lot, even when the Flames awoke in the second and third period.

But, even down 2-0, the Flames deserve a lot of credit. When Lidstrom scored the Wings second goal of the game, less than four minutes has expired in the first period and it was already 2-0 Red Wings. The Flames could have very easily folded, given how Game One turned out, but they didn't. Nor did they let the early penalties take them out of their game. They fought back, brought the game within one goal, played a very very competitive second period (and most of the third) but ultimately fell short. And Kiprusoff, despite giving up three goals today, was awesome, and has been great all series. The Red Wings had almost 50 shots on goal, while the Flames had only 14. If Kiprusoff weren't as good, the Wings easily would have scored at least three more goals. He made some amazing saves during Sunday's game, and played really well in Thursday night's Game One. In past seasons, his play would have doomed the Red Wings. But we may be learning this is a different Detroit Red Wings team.

Even up 2 games to 0, the series is far from over. Anything can happen on the road, and playing in Calgary is not going to be easy. But the Red Wings should have Todd Bertuzzi back, which will only make the team more dangerous, and if they are able to just win one, this series will be over in five games.

In other news, the Detroit Tigers ended their roadtrip today with a 2-1 loss at Toronto. The bats were quiet again, but Blue Jays starter Josh Towers deserves a lot of credit, he kept the Tigers off-balance all day. Tigers starter Nate Robertson was great again, his third consecutive solid start, and his improvement this year has been great to see. Robertson has improved each and every season he has pitched for the Tigers, and he was much better than his 13-13 record indicated last season. He may have taken the loss in today's game, but he continues to show he is a very important part of the Tigers team.

And while the Tigers still have some kinks to work out (Gary Sheffield continues to struggle, despite getting on base a fair amount), they just completed a long 10 game roadtrip 6-4, which is pretty impressive considering they really have not played their best baseball and the offense has yet to get going. One man who deserves a lot of credit in the first two weeks of the season is closer Todd Jones. Jones may not always be pretty on the mound, but he's been rock solid this season, and has converted every save opportunity he's had in front of him. With Fernando Rodney and Jose Mesa struggling a bit, Jones' success has been key for the Tigers.

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