... Megan and I got there in time to see warmups, though I spent most of them waiting in line for two $5 slices of pizza. $5 Hot-N-Ready apparently does not apply in the center of Illitch-dom.
... The Joe is old and small. The concourse is crampt and badly lit. I wouldn't trade it for anything. Certainly not one of the newer-style impersonal flashy arenas. There's nothing like literally rubbing shoulders with fellow Wings fans while surrounded by Red Wings memorabilia everywhere.
... There was a fairly large crowd already in their seats just after 7:00. Presumably, the big draw was Darren McCarty, who was going through warmups with the rest of his team.
... Semi-scary moment: when leaving the ice, Henrik Zetterberg got up a big head of steam as he headed toward the bench door and made a smooth transition from skating to running as he went through it. Why the heck he didn't just stop before the door, I don't know. Sure he's a professional athlete, but for a split second there, I was envisioning him wiping out horribly.
... When McCarty left the ice, he threw pucks in the crowd and dished out high-fives.
... When they announced the starting lineup, the cheers reached the expected level for all players not named Darren McCarty. At Mac's name, we gave him a standing ovation.
His first shift was disappointingly uneventful. He finished with 5:03 in TOI and wasn't very noticeable overall. He did have one glorious scoring chance, though. Had that gone in, the Joe would have exploded into the kind of joyous celebration normally reserved for championships.
... During the first period, I commented to Megan, "This has to qualify as a sellout." I'd say about 95% of the seats were full and I'm willing to bet the remainder were in the concourse. Of course, the numbers dwindled throughout the game, but for a little while, the Joe looked about as full as it did in the past.
... The Joe doesn't have one of those crowds that's incessantly cheering. Brief "Let's Go Red Wings" chants came up regularly, but generally, the crowd was pretty intent on watching the game. It was certainly demonstrative on any scoring chance, hit, exceptional move, and obvious penalty that happened to take place.
... The Blues surprised me. They weren't nearly as violent as I was sure they'd be, though they were pretty testy on occasion.
... The Wings' passing was out of sync all night. The puck was constantly going just out of reach, or bouncing off a stick like the receiver had cement hands.
... After the second, Christy Hammond came by to see us. She handed me the massive packet of stats the teams provide to the media, as well as a packet of press clippings. She was working the game and could be seen in the press box in the second.
... There were a couple of those failed scoring chances that cause physical pain for fans. The most memorable was Johan Franzen's missed slam dunk. The second I saw Henrik Zetterberg calmly drop the puck off to Franzen, I thought, "Goal." So did everyone else in the arena. Most of us actually got up and started cheering before the awful truth set in: despite having a half-empty net, he somehow failed to put it in.
Fortunately, he made up for it later with two goals, including one with a similarly empty net. But that missed one still pains me, even today.
Franzen's second pains me for a different reason: I yelled myself hoarse on that one.
... By the way, on the play leading to Johan's first, I would have sworn the puck was cleared. Kudos to Brian Rafalski for the effort and many thanks to the linesman for calling it in.
... That was about the only favor the officials did for the Wings last night. They were otherwise flat out awful. Two major blown calls really stood out.
The first was the mugging of Kirk Maltby from behind as he went to clear the puck while on the penalty kill. Both refs were looking right at it and neither thought anything of it. The crowd was pissed.
The second was a nasty slash to the stick of Pavel Datsyuk, just below his high hand. It broke the stick right out of Pavel's hands. He pointed at it with both hands and called to the official, but no call was made. After the play stopped later, Henrik Zetterberg picked up a piece of the stick and talked to the ref about it.
Earlier in the game, Pavel was called for, ironically enough, slashing on a play that, if it was anything (it wasn't) should have been called a trip.
... Megan and I both agree: Mark Hartigan had no business being on the ice last night. He was directly responsible for the Blues' first goal and indirectly so for their second.
On the first, he was trying to make a big hit at center and was caught out of position as the Blues carried in. Then, he floated back into the zone and watched as his man, the Blues' leading goal-scorer, Brad Boyes, skated into the slot and one-timed a Paul Kariya centering pass through a helpless Chris Osgood. You can see in the replay. Hartigan is completely useless.
On the second, he took a stupid penalty and made the Wings needlessly shorthanded. Zetterberg lost the face-off and the Blues promptly scored, four seconds after the penalty. As Hartigan left the box, I was yelling, "Bench him, Babcock!" Of course, he didn't. I don't know what the Wings see in the guy. He brought the Griffins down this season and now he's bringing the Wings down.
... I thought Tomas Kopecky had a bad game. He looked bewildered with the puck and the Blues took advantage of him a number of times. Maybe a game off would do him some good.
... When I saw Paul Kariya wheeling in the Wings' zone in overtime, I had an ominous feeling that quickly turned into a sick on as Boyes found the back of the net again.
... Anyone who's been to the Joe knows how the doors at the main entrance work: everyone who wants to take the crosswalk to the parking garage leaves through the right-side doors and everyone who wants to go down the stairs leaves through the left side doors. A massive traffic jam is thus created as we try to cross over to our side in the 10-15 feet between the doors and the staircase. Fun times.
... All in all, it was a fun experience, though of course we would have liked to have seen a win. It was well-worth the drive from Grand Rapids. Thanks again, Christy!