A hockey game worth your attention

Last night, I stayed up to watch my Red Wings take on the Canucks on the West coast. These are two of the hottest teams in hockey, led by veterans who rely on passing, puck handling, and precision (the Sedins for the Canucks, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Lidstrom for the Red Wings). I figured I was in for a clean game with lots of exciting plays.

You can check out some highlights on TSN. This game had it all: 3 breakaways resulting in goals for the Canucks, a huge hit from the Red Wings’ Niklas Kronwall (his calling card), a controversial goal when Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard got run over, and even a header on the puck from a Sedin. The Canucks prevailed 4-2; puck movement was great, but the game also got surprisingly physical.

I would direct you to ESPN normally. However, I have lost all faith in American hockey broadcasts. I had the Red Wings feed (Fox Sports Detroit) with former star player Larry Murphy doing color, which seemed fine until I saw the goals replays with the Canadian TSN announcers between periods of another game. Let’s play “how many differences can you find between these two pictures”:

  • On the Canucks first goal, Kronwall (a defenseman) got waaaay up ice, and the Canucks slipped a long outlet pass to a wide open forward — breakaway, save, goal on the rebound. The Red Wings announcers noted that Kronwall was up ice but did not mention that three Red Wings started to change at the same time, which opened up the lane for the pass. TSN caught that right away.
  • On the Canucks second goal, the Wings gave the puck away on the boards in the neutral zone. A quick cross ice pass found Cody Hodgson wide open, who banged a short range slapshot off the post and in. The Wings announcers blamed a center (I think it was Valtteri Filppula) for starting up ice with possession still uncertain. However, the TSN guys made the smarter observation that all of the other Wings drifted toward the puck as it was turned over, including Nick Lidstrom, the far side defenseman. Lidstrom doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, but this goal was on him. Filppula might have been open for a goal himself if the Red Wings had retained the puck.
  • On the Red Wings first goal, Todd Bertuzzi was working the front of the crease and dumped a defenseman right on top of goaltender Roberto Luongo, taking both Canucks players out of the play. Bertuzzi corralled a slap shot and banged it home. Neither Red Wings announcer realized how Bertuzzi bought himself so much time on the doorstep; TSN was all over it.
  • On the Red Wings second goal, their third line was rewarded for an awesome shift when Darren Helm hit a one timer that found the net. Drew Miller was screening and made a perfect deflection. The Red Wings announcers couldn’t believe the goal credit changed from Helm to Miller (until they showed the replay again), while the TSN announcers noticed immediately.

It makes me wonder what else I missed on my broadcast.

I was pretty surprised to see that Kronwall was not fined or suspended today for his hit on Canucks star Ryan Kesler. It looked exactly like a receiver getting smashed across the middle in the NFL. Kronwall left his feet and went right into Kesler’s head. Kesler’s lucky he’s not sitting out like Sidney Crosby right now. Hits like that have no place in sports, but now Kronwall will be looking to level another one and knock someone into retirement. Perhaps former Red Wing Brendan Shanahan had a conflict of interest in his new role as NHL disciplinarian?

Also relevant to player safety, Buffalo Sabres (and USA national team) goalie Ryan Miller feels like Jimmy Howard isn’t the only goaltender getting pancaked on breakaways. Jannik Hansen was (slightly) pushed into him by Henrik Zetterberg last night, but I agree with Miller — Hansen didn’t have a plan. Going after Lidstrom after the goal (for no apparent reason) didn’t help Hansen’s case either. The refs didn’t call goaltender interference, and Hansen won’t think twice before crashing the net again.

Still, the game was great to watch (despite the Red Wings loss). The Pistons will have to work for my attention this year.

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