Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
It's good, but flawed. I never really understood asking the question "Is this the year?" knowing that everything asked wasn't going to happen this year.
That said, here's a funny parody of it ...
For Red Wings fans, note the "Is this the year that Chelios retires?" line.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Kronwall out a week or more
"We'll know more tomorrow," said Babcock. "Nothing you can do. I'll get a chance to look at someone else now. We've got some kids in the minors in (Jonathan) Ericsson and (Kyle) Quincey that I wanted to look at anyways. We'll find out what kind of depth we have."
Lebda not playing
Lebda has played in all 51 games this season. The Illinois native said that he might be available for Friday's home game. He had an MRI on the wrist, Tuesday, and his status for the weekend will be discussed with the training staff tomorrow.
Derek Meech will dress, getting into his 11th game of the season.
Up front, Aaron Downey and Matt Ellis will be healthy scratches tonight and Chris Osgood will start in net.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
-- Brunnstrom cannot play for any NHL team this season. That includes the playoffs. He is eligible to play in the NHL at the start of the 2008-09 season.
-- No team can negotiate with Brunnstrom before his Swedish season is complete. That includes any time at the World Championships if he's chosen to compete there. That means that April or May is the earliest that Brunnstrom can sign a contract with an NHL team.
Brunnstrom has been a big success in his rookie season in the Swedish Elite League. That has drawn attention from a number of NHL teams, including the Red Wings.
McCarty gets Grand Rapids offer
One important point here. Framing this as McCarty moving one step closer to being a Red Wing is wrong. This is the start of McCarty's audition for Detroit and the rest of the NHL. Flint was his training camp.
McCarty will accept the offer to play for the Griffins as soon as the NHL office gives its approval. McCarty's goal is to return to the NHL and he wants to make sure that he doesn't hurt his chances to do so with any move. He secured the NHL's blessing before playing in Flint.
"Everything he needed to go through to play in Flint, he has to go through now," said Detroit general manager Ken Holland.
McCarty played for the Calgary Flames last season, but was unsigned this year. He approached the Red Wings a month ago about making a comeback.
"He'd love the opportunity to get into the American League to win us over, to get to the NHL," said Holland. "He admitted that a month ago, he was in no shape to go to the American League. He was looking at Flint as a training camp. Given my relationship and the organization's relationship with Darren, we said, You get yourself in better shape, we'll give you an opportunity.' He knows he's now being evaluated (in Grand Rapids) for an (NHL) contract."
Zetterberg to play Wednesday
"It feels pretty good," said Zetterberg. "I skated good yesterday. I skated even better today. I think it's a green light for tomorrow. ... I'm ready to go."
The full squad was back on the ice after all-stars Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom were given Monday off as a day of rest.
Using today's practice as a guide, here's a look at the possible lineup for Wednesday's home game against Phoenix ...
Downey (healthy scratch)
Ellis (healthy scratch)
Meech (healthy scratch)
Monday, January 28, 2008
If Brunnstrom signs -- and he can't sign until after the Swedish season is done -- he won't be available to play in the NHL until next season.
Z back on the ice
-- Henrik Zetterberg was back on the ice after resting his back over the all-star break. Zetterberg worked on back strengthening drills, but didn't step on the ice over the break.
"It felt real good today," said Zetterberg. "If it keeps going the way it's going, I'm really positive I can play on Wednesday. So we just have to make a decision either (Tuesday) or the next day."
-- Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom had the day off after the the all-star game, but will be back for tomorrow's practice. Chris Osgood practiced today. Osgood will start Wednesday's game.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Power play breakdown
So I tracked by time, how long the puck was held in the offensive zone and how long it took to regain the zone once the puck was cleared.
Unfortunately, the game was an odd one. The Red Wings spent more time with a 5-on-3 or 4-on-3 advantage than they did with the traditional 5-on-4 advantage. So, I'll have to track a few more games.
That said, there was a transition in effectiveness on the Red Wings' first power play in San Jose and it came when the second PP unit got on the ice (Filppula, Hudler, Cleary, Kronwall, Samuelsson). The first PP unit could neither keep the puck in the offensive zone or regain the zone effectively.
The Sharks cleared the zone four times on the first unit. The first unit held the puck in the zone for 5, 9, 6 and 6 seconds before a Sharks clear. Then it took 12, 14 and 11 seconds to regain the zone.
When the second unit got on the ice, they held the puck in for 16 and 15 seconds while using just 9 seconds to regain the zone.
The Wings didn't score on that power play, but next came a series of two-man advantages that kept the Red Wings on track.
Including the first PP time by the second PP unit, the Red Wings time in the offensive zone looked like this ... 16 seconds, 15, 8, 7, 18, 31, 57, 40, 18, 29, 7. Two of the sub-10 second possessions were ended by a goal and time expiring. During that same span, the Wings' time used to regain the zone looked like this ... 9 seconds, 8, 8, 6, 6, 7, 6 ... much better than the 11-14 seconds that it took opening the first PP.
The overall game stats looked like this ...
Average time in offensive zone
Detroit 18.1 seconds, San Jose 11.4 seconds
Average time to regain zone
Detroit 9.1 seconds, San Jose 12.1 seconds
Number of zone clears by PK
Detroit 17, San Jose 9
The Sharks did score three PP goals, but did so without long possessions, scoring after just 12, 6 and 9 seconds in the Detroit zone.
And for those of you who prefer individual stats, here's who cleared the zone on the PK for the Red Wings ...
Cleary, Chelios, Kronwall, Draper, Hasek, Maltby 1 apiece
So there you have it, another stat for Lidstrom and Datsyuk to dominate.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
Even Strength Goals By Ice Time
Forwards GF per 60 minutes
RED WINGS 2.9
Forwards GA per 60 minutes
RED WINGS 1.7
Defensemen GF per 60 minutes
RED WINGS 2.9
Defensemen GA per 60 minutes
RED WINGS 1.6
-- Usually you take a look at the stats and try to factor in opposition, linemates, etc. But all that goes out the window with Nicklas Lidstrom. He is the one player who is matched up against the opposition's best -- Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley, Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton. But his stats aren't fazed by that. Lidstrom is so far ahead of the rest of the blue-liners in offense created that he ruins the curve. Only Niklas Kronwall is above the team average that's buoyed by Lidstrom's numbers.
-- As good as Henrik Zetterberg has been, these numbers appreciate a player like Pavel Datsyuk and how he controls play on both ends of the ice. Zetterberg is the MVP candidate, but the Red Wings have outscored opponents 51-20 with Datsyuk on the ice and 42-21 with Zetterberg on the ice. I'm not sure that Datsyuk hasn't had the better season.
-- The shut-down forward has become Johan Franzen. Opponents average less than 1 goal per 60 minutes of even-strength time with Franzenstein on the ice. (The Red Wings have outscored opponents 15-7 with Franzen out there.) It's not surprising. In Franzen's first season in Detroit, he was clearly the most effective penalty killer among forwards.
-- In the underrated category would have to be Dan Cleary's offense, Mikael Samuelsson's defense, Jiri Hudler's defense and Andreas Lilja's offense. Lilja shows well in offense in this stat every season and poor on even-strength defense. Neither should be very surprising. Lilja can head-man the puck well and he soaks up so much defensive responsibility that the Wings can usually go with a four-man attack.
-- The lack of offense from Kris Draper, Tomas Kopecky and Kirk Maltby is acceptable because they at least keep their offense to the break-even point with their defense. Dallas Drake, however, has similar defense stats, but his offense is so low that it's a drain. The Red Wings have been outscored 11-6 with Drake on the ice. With Maltby (10-10), Draper (16-15) and Kopecky (13-11), the Wings are at least break-even.
-- A few stats to impress your friends with ... Of the Red Wings' 108 even-strength goals, Lidstrom has been on the ice for 58, Datsyuk for 51.
There are seven Red Wings who have been on the ice for about double the number of goals for as against ... Lidstrom (58-20), Datsyuk (51-20), Franzen (15-7), Zetterberg (42-21), Valtteri Filppula (32-16), Jiri Hudler (28-14) and Cleary (39-20). Those are seven very good two-way players (although Hudler doesn't get credit for being such.) Note that even though the Red Wings don't score much with Franzen on the ice, the team still has a huge advantage over the opposition.
Matt Ellis has been effective (7-5) in limited time.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Meech back at JLA
No Dallas Drake (swollen knee), as expected, so tonight's lines should be ...
Ellis (healthy scratch)
Meech (healthy scratch)
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Red Wings alter practice M.O.
Instead of the normal 50 minutes on the ice, the team spent just 25 minutes. Instead of conditioning and high-tempo drills, the players spent the majority of their time standing and listening to coach Mike Babcock.
When you no team has had more points than you in any of the past three seasons, losing three games in a row (even if one was a shootout loss) is a slump that draws attention.
"There's two ways I could have went," said Babcock. "I could have come in here, skated and ground them into the ground. Or we could have come in here and talked about what's real important, having a good focus, being fresh and getting prepared and executing. In this league, if you win today, everything goes away and takes care of itself."
"Today" comes for the Red Wings at 7:30 p.m. against the Vancouver Canucks at Joe Louis Arena (FSN). The Canucks are tied with the Minnesota Wild for first place in the Northwest Division, but haven't won a game in regulation time in their past five tries, going 2-3-0 over that span with a pair of shootout victories.
The Red Wings' focus in yesterday's practice preparation for the Canucks was the penalty-kill. After going nine games without allowing one power-play goal, the Red Wings have allowed five in the past two games, both losses.
So Babcock used nine skaters as pawns, yesterday, having them stand in position as the power-play or penalty-kill unit. Babcock moved the puck or one skater and had the others react and freeze. They were questioned about passing lanes and shooting lanes. There were far more words -- most of which could be heard throughout the upper bowl of Joe Louis Arena -- than skaters' strides.
After that lengthy chalk-talk session, the Red Wings got a class in transition defense by the penalty-kill.
"A lot of these drills and things that we're doing are things that we've done all year," said Detroit's Kirk Maltby. "It's just a matter of executing and doing them properly. The practice isn't a game, but at the same time, you play how you practice. If you're not doing the little things in practice, you kind of carry it over. I think that's what we've been guilty of a little bit."
For the Red Wings, a three-game losing streak is unusual. They've had only one other this season and just 14 losses in 47 outings.
In Babcock's three seasons with the Red Wings, the team has had just eight losing streaks of at least three games. In addition to the two this season, the Red Wings had five in 2006-07 and one in 2005-06.
"We've just got to go through this little rough stretch and we're going to come out of it (Thursday)," said Detroit's Brett Lebda. "Whenever you're in a slump, you just go back to the basics. It's the same for every sport. In baseball you see guys going to the cages and redefining their swing. It's the same thing here. Stick to the basics, play good defense and your opportunities will come."
Drake not on the ice
-- The Red Wings started practice by getting a loud refresher about the penalty-kill, both in defensive-zone coverage and how to defend in transition at the defensive blue line. Players stood and listened as coach Mike Babcock went over assignments. The coach used nine players as pawns, going over one scenario, then moving the puck or a player to another location for another freeze-frame lesson.
-- Lines at practice are ...
Ellis worked in on the fourth line.
Thoughts on Game 47 (5-1 loss to Atlanta)
-- I like how Babcock went with three lines in the second and third periods.
-- I understand putting Hasek in. I don't agree with it. Even if you rally from 3-0 (that's when Babcock wanted to put Hasek in, but the goalie wasn't ready), and win 6-3 or 6-4 ... it's still not worth risking an injury to the 42-year-old netminder. You don't want to leave a goalie like Osgood in too long during a shelling, but with this team, you have to. I'm sure Osgood wouldn't pull a Patrick Roy if you told him in advance.
-- Somehow Nicklas Lidstrom wound up a plus-1 in that mess. He's going to be tough to top in the plus-minus dept. this season.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Mule kicks Draper to wing
"We already know Drapes can play in the middle," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "There's no concern with that. Franzen's a great big guy. I feel that this is a good opportunity to see … He played real well at center when we had injuries. And then after seeing that, I thought maybe he could be a good matchup center for us with his size. Tonight, he'll have the opportunity to go against a huge guy (Bobby Holik).
"It gives us something right there that we can test to see how we match up in that area. When you go through the west, they've got some big, big centermen that can wear on your smaller guys. Holik gives us that opportunity to test that theory."
It looks like Aaron Downey will be in the lineup after being a healthy scratch that past three games.
Here's the morning skate lines ...
Ellis (healthy scratch)
Monday, January 14, 2008
Pavel's punch line
"World Cup. Olympics. Baltika Cup. You put that in for me. Baltika (maker of a Russian beer). Free promotion for Russian business. Maybe they send me send bucks."
Little bit of Europe in MoTown
The 34-year-old who signed as a free agent with the Red Wings, July 1, made a name for himself as a professional in Europe. One season in Sweden and three in Finland proved that Rafalski could successfully play the European game. More offense. More creativity.
And that has served Rafalski well with the Red Wings, with a 23-man roster that includes 12 Europeans. Of Detroit's top 10 scorers, only Rafalski, a native of Allen Park, and Dan Cleary, a Canadian, aren't European.
"In Europe, the coaches would always say, 'Skate. Skate. Skate all the way up the ice'," said Rafalski. "You'd always get the 'Go, go go.' The style of play is different. It's not that North Americans don't play that way. It's just that more Europeans do. Playing there helped my transition to this team where it's more than 50 percent European."
In between Europe and Detroit, however, Rafalski spent seven seasons in the Siberia of hockey offense, New Jersey.
With the Devils, Rafalski found himself in a defense-first environment -- one that the team rode to two Stanley Cups and three finals appearances in Rafalski's first four seasons there.
Often paired with Scott Niedermayer, Rafalski drew the opposition's top offensive line. The pair has sterling offensive skills. Last season, Niedermayer was the NHL's top scorer among defensemen while playing for Anaheim. Rafalski, still in New Jersey, was 12th.
Back in 2002-03 with the pair in their late 20s, Rafalski and Niedermayer ranked just 19th and 20th, respectively, among defensemen in scoring.
"They wanted me to play my game but in their system," said Rafalski of New Jersey. "I was playing with Scotty so we were always against their top line. It was defense first. … Our team was built around defense, not giving up odd-man rushes. Keep the plays to the outside, let Marty (goalie Martin Brodeur) make the saves, get the rebounds."
Since coming to Detroit, however, Rafalski finds himself back in a system that encourages defensemen to think offense. For the first time in the NHL, Rafalski is being asked to play as he did in Europe.
The result is that Rafalski is second among NHL defensemen in scoring with 37 points in 45 games. That's more points than he had in two of his seven seasons with New Jersey and just 18 shy of his career high. Rafalski's seven goals is a total that he topped in New Jersey just twice -- nine in 2000-01 and eight last season.
"Here, there's obviously there's a lot more encouragement for defensemen to join the play here," said Rafalski. "It was an adjustment at first. They'd tell me on the bench that there were opportunities. Now, I know what they're looking for."
Although Rafalski is freer offensively, it's the defensive play that he developed in New Jersey that is the first thing that coach Mike Babcock mentions when asked about Rafalski.
"I like him a lot as a player because he's good defensively," said Babcock. "You don't have to hide him and he gets the puck going. He knows how to play. When you talk about the game to Raffi, he knows how the game's supposed to be played. And he's about winning. All that makes a real good fit here obviously."
Monday practice update
With Drake unavailable, the practice lines were ...
Aaron Downey was hurt during practice, going down during a drill with Kirk Maltby falling on his knee, hyperextending it. Downey was helped off the ice, but returned to finish the practice. He said that at first he thought it was significant, but the injury turned out to be slight. Downey will be available for Tuesday's game.
The Red Wings spent significant time working on their power play, Monday, a special-teams unit that has been floundering of late.
It's not that the Red Wings aren't a legitimate Stanley Cup contender or that the Detroiters haven't been the most impressive team thus far in the regular season. The mask that came off in Ottawa two nights ago was one that covered an ugly Detroit power play.
Since Christmas, the Red Wings have gone from having the NHL's best power play to having a poor power play. The team's defense, however, has been strong enough to mask that recent deficiency.
The Ottawa Senators, however, are the only team with a more potent offense than the Red Wings. And against a team that can score like that, Detroit needed to be able to attack more efficiently than it did during its 3-2 loss.
"We had a lot of opportunities, a lot of power plays, but we didn't capitalize on them," said Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski.
The Red Wings had six power plays against Ottawa, finally scoring on their final opportunity in the third period. That was the first goal in the Red Wings' climb back from a two-goal deficit.
But another goal on an earlier power play would have changed the complexion and perhaps outcome of the game.
The special-teams shortcoming has been a trend since Dec. 27. In their past nine games, the Red Wings are just 3-for-28 with the man-advantage (10.7 percent). In their 37 prior games, the Red Wings were operating at 43-for-177 (24.3 percent) efficiency.
At one point this season, the Red Wings scored at least one power-play goal in 11 straight games and at least one in 15 of 16.
What that means in terms of individual game scores is this: The Red Wings are scoring 0.7 fewer goals per game in their past nine games than earlier in the season. Even-strength scoring is actually up slightly, but the power-play is averaging 0.9 goals fewer per game than in the first 37 games of the campaign.
The Red Wings, however, have managed to go 6-2-1 during this power-play drought largely because of stellar defense and penalty killing.
In the first eight games of this drought, the Red Wings didn't allow an opposition power-play goal in 24 opportunities. In other words, despite scoring just two power-play goals in eight games, Detroit outscored its opponents, 2-0, in that category.
In each of the first seven games of this drought, the Red Wings held opponents to two or fewer goals. And that's one good way to win when you're offense is in a slump.
As for what's wrong with the power play, the Red Wings don't yet have a solution. There is no personnel missing.
Coach Mike Babcock went with obvious responses when asked after Saturday's loss in Ottawa what is wrong with the power play.
"It's not scoring," said Babcock.
And why isn't it scoring?
"'Cause we're not putting it in the net."
The one specific that the Red Wings have tabbed as needing repair is their inability to gain and maintain possession in the offensive zone during the power play.
"We had poor entries," said Babcock. "We never got in the zone. They (the Senators) did a real good job of holding the line. I have to look at tonight's game. … But they won the specialty teams battle."
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Zetterberg has the flu
"It's my understanding he's playing tonight," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "If not ... we've played without him before. What are you going to do?"
Without Z, here's how the Red Wings practiced ...
Ellis (healthy scratch)
Ellis might play on the fourth line with Downey scratched. That's yet to be determined. Both will be scratched if Zetterberg plays.
Here's how the Senators skated this morning ...
There has, however, been plenty of verbal jockeying between the two coaches about lines. Neither wants to show their hand before the game. Whether Ottawa's big three skate together will be seen. Whether it's Lidstrom and Rafalski or Lidstrom and Kronwall will be seen.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Friday's practice in Ottawa
-- The Red Wings' forward lines were altered slightly at today's practice. With not knowing if Ottawa will keep Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson on the same line and what matchups that the Sens will try to force on the Wings, Detroit's lines and defense combinations could be adjusted early in Saturday's game.
These are Friday's combinations. Mikael Samuelsson was moved up to the third line and Johan Franzen was moved off center on the fourth line to wing on the third. That puts Tomas Kopecky back in the middle on the fourth line ...
Ellis (healthy scratch)
Downey (healthy scratch)
Thursday, January 10, 2008
A well-deserved honor for Osgreat (the name has to change until he stops leading the league in everything) especially since starter Roberto Luongo backed out of the game because of the impending birth of his child. Tough to come up with four goalies in the Western Conference and not include Osgreat.
In addition, Grand Rapids goalie Jimmy Howard and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson were named to the PlanetUSA team roster for the AHL all-star game. Howard, who injured his hand in his last game and might be shelved for a while, and Ericsson are the Red Wings' top two prospects.
Talking to goalie coach Jim Bedard yesterday and complimenting him on how well Osgreat and Dominik Hasek have played, he said that he's most proud of the improvement made by Howard this season. Bodes well for the Red Wings next fall because this was a make-or-break year for Howard.
If Ericsson can make the jump to the NHL next season, the Wings will have a big piece of the bridge to the future in place.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Maltby passes test
"I'm a little tired, but no soreness and that was the key thing," said Maltby. "It wasn't much of a physical game, but there was still bumping and grinding and taking some hits. I definitely feel fine. Hopefully it's just the first step in moving forward."
Ozzie wanted to stay in Detroit
But free agency wasn't Osgood's plan. Being a Red Wing was.
So on Wednesday, the Red Wings announced that Osgood signed a three-year contract extension worth about $1.5 million per season, making it a good possibility that Osgood will be a Red Wing through the 2010-11 season.
"I didn't talk to my agent once about going anywhere else," said Osgood, 35. "I always knew that I was going to be here. I started here and I want to finish here. That was more or less the game plan going into it.
"I don't know how much I'm going to be playing next year or the year after. I could be playing with Dom (Hasek) next year. I could be playing with Jimmy Howard. I could be playing with somebody else. I could be apprenticing Jimmy Howard until I'm done. To me, it doesn't matter. I just want to finish here. I'll do whatever they ask me to do. I'll play 30 games. I'll play 60 games. I'll give it my all right to the very end of the contract. If that's to help Jimmy Howard along like Mike Vernon and guys have done for me in the past, that's fine. I just want to be here."
That sentiment holds true for a lot of players.
Nicklas Lidstrom signed a two-year extension during this season. Kris Draper signed a three-year extension this season.
In fact, Detroit's past will be part of its future for many seasons. Of the 10 players who are signed through the 2009-10 season, five were with the franchise for the 1997 Stanley Cup -- Osgood, Draper, Lidstrom, Kirk Maltby and Tomas Holmstrom.
"That's one of the reasons that we've had so much success," said Lidstrom. "We've had a lot of a core group of players who have been around for a long time. Management believes that as well. That's why they keep signing players midseason instead of waiting until end of the year. You never know what could happen when July 1 rolls around. That's why they locked up players early."
What's now going to happen around July 1 is that a decision will be made on goaltending for the Red Wings next season. The signing of Osgood clears up one half of the picture. The other half will remain murky until the summer.
"I have no indication what Dom wants to do," said Lidstrom. "I don't think he knows either. We're happy where we're at right now, but we're all going to have to wait until summer to see what Dom wants to do."
Hasek, who turns 43 on Jan. 29, said that he won't determine his plans until this season is over.
"It depends how I feel emotionally," said Hasek. "If I feel the fire's in me, I want to play, I will come back and talk about it. If I don't feel I have fire enough to play one more season, there's no reason to play."
The other part of the equation is Jimmy Howard. The 23-year-old has taken another step forward this season, playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League. He was named the AHL's goalie of the month for December and has a good chance to play in that circuit's all-star game.
Neither Howard nor Hasek are signed for next season. Howard will be a restricted free agent. Hasek will be unrestricted.
As far as the entire Detroit roster, Osgood's signing means that 16 of the 23 players who have been on the roster all season are locked up for at least next winter. In addition to Hasek, the unrestricted free agents will be defensemen Andreas Lilja and Chris Chelios and forwards Dan Cleary, Dallas Drake and Aaron Downey. The lone restricted free agent will be forward Valtteri Filppula.
-- The Red Wings are practicing with the same lines that they used in Tuesday's win over Colorado. Aaron Downey and Matt Ellis are working in where possible on these lines ...
-- Osgood will start Thursday's game against Minnesota at Joe Louis Arena.
Osgood signs three-year extension
Osgood has had a stellar season for the Red Wings. He leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.68), is second in save percentage (.932) and is fifth in wins (19). He's currently alternating starts with Dominik Hasek.
Osgood's last win moved him into a tie with Rogie Vachon for 15th on the NHL's all-time list.
"Chris has a tremendous career record as an NHL goaltender and his performance this season places him as one of the top goalies in the game today," said Detroit general manager Ken Holland. "He’s been a big part of our success in every season he has been with the Wings and we’re very happy to have him signed for an additional three seasons."
Wings to make personnel announcement
RED WINGS TO MAKE PLAYER PERSONNEL ANNOUNCEMENT
The Detroit Red Wings will make a player personnel announcement today (Jan. 9) at 11:45 am via www.DetroitRedWings.com
The Red Wings practice today at Joe Louis Arena beginning at Noon. Interview availability will follow practice in the Detroit dressing room.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Downey (healthy scratch)
Ellis (healthy scratch)
Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom led all Western Conference vote-getters and will be partnered with Dion Phaneuf of Calgary. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were the top two vote-getters at forward in the Western Conference and will start on a line with Calgary's Jarome Iginla.
Vancouver's Roberto Luongo will start in net for the Western Conference.
This will be the second all-star game for both Zetterberg and Datsyuk (although Zetterberg had to miss last year's with an injury) and the first start for both. Lidstrom will be in his 10th all-star game and making his eighth start.
Mike Babcock will coach the Western Conference squad.
The Eastern Conference starters are Martin Brodeur of New Jersey, Andrei Markov of Monteal, Zdeno Chara of Boston, Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh, Vincent Lecavalier of Tampa Bay and Daniel Alfredsson of Ottawa.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
New guys on the block
Babcock also said that he plans on using Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Kris Draper and Johan Franzen as his four centers.
Back and forth
Roberts is an odd character to be on the list. A goalie, Roberts played in just eight NHL games. The first seven of those games came by the time that Roberts was 27. After his career with the New York Americans was done, Roberts played 272 more games in the minor leagues and then left the game for five full years.
On Nov. 25, 1951, Chicago's Harry Lumley was injured during a game against Detroit. The call went out to Roberts, who was the Blackhawks' assistant trainer. Roberts played the final 20 minutes of the game and didn't allow a goal. Among Roberts' saves was a close-in shot by Gordie Howe, who three decades later would break the age record set by Roberts that day.
My favorite line about Chelios playing this long was by Dominik Hasek (himself over 40). Hasek once said, "I like it. Whenever a reporter asks me a question about being old, I point over there and say, 'Go talk to Cheli.'"
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Homer and Maltby both to return Tuesday
Both Babcock and Holmstrom said that the Swede could play tomorrow, but will be held out as a precaution.
"He (Holmstrom) could go," said Babcock. "We're just a little cautious. Give him and Malts two more days to skate."
"I'm ready to go, but they pulled the chute on me again," said Holmstrom. "We'll go Tuesday now."
NHL forecast sunny, if there's more snow
Joe knows more about the NBA than anyone I've ever spoken with. Joe loves the NFL. He's also pretty good about college football, golf and the television series "Entourage." But Joe couldn't tell you who's the leading scorer in the NHL or who won the last three Stanley Cups. In fact, he hasn't watched a hockey game on TV in more than a decade.
So don't ask me why I tossed this out over lunch: "Did you watch the NHL's outdoor game in Buffalo, Tuesday?"
It was one part smart-aleck, one part curiosity that became all parts surprise when Joe answered, "Yah, it was great."
I follow the NHL for a living. Even if it wasn't a job, I'd watch a lot of hockey.
But on New Year's Day, I managed to get in about 20 minutes of time in front of my TV with the Buffalo-Pittsburgh game on. Michigan was doing well in its bowl game. Relatives were coming over for one last holiday get-together. My 5- and 4-year-old were behaving like children.
"You watched that game? Some of it or most of it?"
"Just about the whole thing," said Joe.
"You didn't watch Michigan or search around for bowl highlights or previews?"
"Nah," said Joe. "There weren't any good bowl games on."
"Not that interested."
Being a self-proclaimed hockey expert -- a fact that still awaits verification from anyone -- I thought that I had this outdoor game analyzed perfectly. The NHL made a mistake by picking New Year's Day to play a special game on national television. What next, go up against the Super Bowl? Why the NHL picked New Year's Day is a mystery that no one will solve. Let's just call it another in a series of bad business decisions.
"So why did you watch a hockey game on New Year's Day?" I asked, knowing this was the first game that Joe watched all season.
"It was snowing. Very cool. I turned it on early, saw the snow and kept watching. The snow made it. I was hoping it would have come down harder. A blizzard would have been better."
"But don't you think it was stupid of the NHL to play on New Year's Day?" I asked. "Wouldn't it have been better on Monday or Wednesday?"
"It wasn't about that. NBC lost the Gator Bowl. They wanted this for New Year's Day and New Year's Day only. They weren't going to show this game any other day. It was NBC, not the NHL."
Joe had just made sense of an NHL decision because he was focused on college football instead of the NHL. He was right.
So was NBC. That outdoor game got the highest television rating in this country for any hockey game in the past decade.
"Well don't you think that if you've got a special game like this, it was a waste to have Sidney Crosby play in it?" I asked. "Crosby can sell a nothing Tuesday-night game in Atlanta. If you're playing outdoors, you don't need Sid."
"Nah," said Joe. "Crosby wasn't selling the game. The game was selling Crosby. This was a way for the league to make him into a bigger star. He needed this game more than the game needed him. He hasn't reached that level yet. … But you might know this. Did they rig that game so that he scored the winner in the shootout? If they did, that's smart. They have to set him up as the best player in the game."
Because Joe hasn't been reading story after story, watching highlight after highlight about Crosby, he had better insight than me. If you follow hockey, you're almost sick of the attention given Crosby. But if you don't follow hockey … Crosby isn't that big of a deal.
Joe was right again and I was growing tired of having someone explain my profession to me. But at least Joe was on his way to becoming a hockey fan.
"So are you going to watch the Wings' game tonight?" I asked.
"Not unless it's outside in a snowstorm."
The NHL still has its work cut out for it.
Friday, January 4, 2008
-- Dominik Hasek will start in net Saturday in Dallas. Chris Osgood will start Sunday in Chicago.
-- Tomas Holmstrom won't play Saturday and is doubtful for Sunday.
-- Kirk Maltby said that he hopes to be back in the lineup Tuesday.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Red Wings' second-quarter grades
The Detroit Red Wings have had the most points in league in both of the last two seasons (sharing top spot with Buffalo last winter). This season, the Red Wings continued their success, trailing only Ottawa in the early NHL standings.
Over the past 22 games, however, the Red Wings have gotten better. Going 16-3-2, the Red Wings have brought their season record to a point that rivals the great regular seasons of 1995 and 1995-96.
In the second quarter, the Red Wings were dominant on special teams -- 24.7 percent on their power play while limiting opponents to 12.1 percent on their power play -- and dominant at even strength -- outscoring opponents 50-26. Overall, Detroit outscored it opponents 78-40 over the past 22 games.
All of this was done despite the team's top two goal-scorers -- Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom -- and two of the top defensive forwards -- Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby -- missing significant time with injuries.
What happened over the past quarter-season was this: Pavel Datsyuk played at an MVP level; Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler produced like top-six forwards; Johan Franzen bounced back from an injury-plagued first quarter; Dominik Hasek, Niklas Kronwall and Andreas Lilja regained their form while Chris Osgood maintained his; and Nicklas Lidstrom took more strides towards a sixth Norris Trophy.
At the halfway point in the season, Red Wings fans' biggest worry is their team peaking early.
Here are individual grades for performances over the second quarter of the season. The focus of the grade is overall contribution. Thus if someone plays in just five games -- either because of injury or being scratched -- his grade will be low. Overall, the grades are high this quarter, but team success dictates as much.
Dominik Hasek: The Dominator is back. Not the MVP-level Dominator, but the good-enough-to-beat-any-team Dominator we've seen in Detroit before. After a weak first quarter, Hasek went 7-2-1 with a 1.77 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. Perhaps backing up Osgood for a week and a half did the trick. A- (C- first quarter)
Chris Osgood: It would be easier to wrap your mind around Ozzie being the backup in the post-season if he wasn't leading the league in goals-against average and save percentage. In the second quarter, Osgood went 9-1-1 with a 1.63 GAA and a .935 save percentage. The team is looking to sign him to a multi-year contract. A+ (A first quarter)
Chris Chelios: Not much difference between Chelios' first and second quarters and that's a good thing. The lone noticeable difference is that he's had more success on the penalty-kill, being on the ice for just five goals against after being on the ice for 12 goals against in the first quarter. He's not making many mistakes. He's among the best third-pairing defensemen in the NHL. B (B first quarter)
Niklas Kronwall: Nick Jr. made the biggest strides forward among the blue-liners. Kronwall went from a five-point, plus-1 first quarter to being in Lidstrom/Rafalski territory with 14 points and a plus-10 in the second quarter. You know he hits big, but did you know that of the six regular defensemen, Kronwall has the fewest giveaways … by far? For the season, Kronwall has 11 turnovers. The next best total is 21. A- (C first quarter)
Brett Lebda: Lebda had a team-worst 20 giveaways in the second quarter. (Andreas Lilja was second with 13.) You'd love to see more of his dashes with the puck, but they're not necessary, just fun. Lebda coordinates well with Chelios, covering nicely when the veteran pinches. B- (B- first quarter)
Nicklas Lidstrom: Best in the business again. Lidstrom was third on the team with 19 points and led all Wings with a plus-17 in 21 games. He was on the ice for 27 of Detroit's 50 even-strength goals (opposed to just 10 against) and 17 of the team's 24 power-play goals. Here's a goofy stat … Lidstrom wasn't credited with a single hit in the second quarter. A+ (A+ first quarter)
Andreas Lilja: Lilja showed significant improvement in the second quarter, following a minus-4 with a plus-10 (second among defensemen to Lidstrom). For the second straight quarter, Lilja led the team in hits and blocked shots. Detroit outscored opponents 18-8 at even-strength with Lilja on the ice in the second quarter after being outscored 14-9 in the first quarter. He's even the blue-line version of a switch hitter, being able to move to the left side when partnered with Brian Rafalski or the right side with Kronwall. A- (C- first quarter)
Derek Meech: He's being used strictly as a spare part, getting in only when Chelios is given a rest. That meant that Meech got into only three games in the second quarter and was a minus-1. Not a bad seventh defenseman, but not much to grade someone on. D+ (C- first quarter)
Brian Rafalski: Rafalski had very similar first and second quarters, with 19 points in each and being a plus-7 in the first and a plus-6 in the second. Like Lidstrom, Rafalski doesn't hit. Coach Mike Babcock has taken to splitting up that pairing at times to put a hitter (Lilja or Kronwall) with a non-hitter (Lidstrom or Rafalski). Mathieu Schneider was always looked at as a power-play specialist, but he wasn't. Schneider had more even-strength goals than Lidstrom. Rafalski, however, is a power-play force with five of his six goals and 21 of his 34 points coming with the man-advantage. A- (B+ first quarter)
Dan Cleary: Cleary's niche among the forwards is his versatility and his consistency. Tomas Holmstrom's hurt? Put Cleary net-front on the top unit. Need another faceoff man on the ice? Cleary. Penalty-kill? Cleary. Man-advantage? Cleary. (He was on the ice for 13 of Detroit's 24 second-quarter power-play goals.) Need a goal? Cleary's one of eight on this team who scores regularly. He had seven goals, 15 points and was a plus-8 in the second quarter. This is the type of forward that makes a great team a championship team. A- (B+ first quarter)
Pavel Datsyuk: If you're not watching this guy, you're missing something. Datsyuk has enough flash to catch a casual fan's eye. Dats led the Wings with 12 goals this quarter and the team's forwards with a plus-12. But he also does a ton of little things. Datsyuk led all Detroit forwards in blocked shots in both the first and second quarters. He leads the league in takeaways again (led the NHL in 2006-07) and has more takeaways than any other three Red Wings combined. He also led Detroit in shots on goal this quarter (81). Datsyuk has to be a serious Hart and Selke candidate. A+ (A+ first quarter)
Aaron Downey: Because of injuries, Downey got into 18 second-quarter games after playing just nine in the first quarter. Despite getting five or six minutes of ice time per game, Downey still managed to lead all Detroit forwards in hits (32) in the second quarter. Downey had one game this quarter where he played one shift and had three hits. His one point this season -- breakaway pass to Johan Franzen -- was sweet. And his police work is impeccable. B- (C+ first quarter)
Dallas Drake: After being a minus-6 in the first quarter, Drake was a plus-2 in the second. In addition, Drake played 20 games, putting his first-quarter injuries behind him. He kills penalties very well and has taken on the role as secondary policeman. With Drake and Downey, the Red Wings are on pace to have their most fighting majors since 1997-98. B- (D first quarter)
Kris Draper: Injuries kept Draper out of nine second-quarter games, which hurt his grade. His scoring tailed off (two goals and five points in 12 games this quarter), but Draper still contributed. Most impressively, Draper was on the ice for just one opposition power-play goal in his past 12 games despite being on the first wave of penalty killers. He was a plus-3 in the second quarter. B- (B first quarter)
Matt Ellis: Ellis has been bounced between center and wing of late, but has looked more effective in the middle. His offense dropped off this quarter (one assist in 17 games) and he was a minus-1. C- (B- first quarter)
Valtteri Filppula: After an eight-point, plus-2 first quarter, Filppula put up 10 goals, 14 points and was a plus-12 in the second quarter. No forward had a better plus-minus this quarter. Filppula meshes well with Datsyuk or he can center the second line if Datsyuk is reunited with Zetterberg. Two penalty-shot goals in three games was a highlight. A- (B- first quarter)
Johan Franzen: The Mule is another Wing who put injuries behind him. Franzen had no points and was a minus-2 in the first quarter. This quarter, Franzen had seven goals and was a plus-11. He's now the team's top agitator other than Downey. Franzen's starting to look like a Cy Young candidate again with a 7-2 line on his scoring stats. A- (C- first quarter)
Mark Hartigan: Four call-ups led to eight games played for Hartigan and he fared well. He showed speed and offensive touch. He's obviously the 15th forward in this franchise, however. C (no grade first quarter)
Tomas Holmstrom: A bad knee kept Holmstrom out of eight games in the second quarter. Homer still managed six goals and 11 points in his 13 games. He also cut his penalty minutes down from 28 in the first quarter to 12 in the second quarter. The Red Wings only outscored their opponents 10-9 at even strength with homer on the ice this quarter, which isn't a good stat on this squad. B (A first quarter)
Jiri Hudler: Hudler was third among forwards behind Datsyuk and Zetterberg with 17 points this quarter. (Fourth on the team with Lidstrom added in.) Hudler has been good defensively throughout his term in Detroit, although he often gets knocked for his work on that end of the ice. In the second quarter, Hudler was on the ice for just four goals allowed compared to 13 even-strength goals for. A- (B+ first quarter)
Tomas Kopecky: The tall Slovak has settled into his role as a modern-day grind-liner with good touch in deep. Kopecky was second among to Downey in the second quarter with 31 hits. He also scored three goals. B (B- first quarter)
Kirk Maltby: In an odd twist, the Red Wings' resident iron man missed 17 games this quarter with a back strain. In his four games, he had one assist and was an even plus-minus. D (B- first quarter)
Mikael Samuelsson: The man can shoot the puck. Only Datsyuk and Zetterberg have more shots on goal than Samuelsson. Still, Samuelsson is just ninth on the team in goals scored (six), raking last among forwards who get top-three line minutes. Samuelsson is another underrated defensive player. Opponents scored just four even-strength goals with him on the ice in the second quarter with Detroit scoring 11 goals. B+ (B first quarter)
Henrik Zetterberg: It's tempting to give Zetterberg an A+ despite missing five games with back spasms. He still managed 11 goals, 22 points and a plus-6 in his 16 games. But there's got to be some differentiation between a healthy Zetterberg and a hobbled Zetterberg. His back seemed fine, Wednesday, in his return from the injury, allowing him to notch two points. That brings his season total to 52 points in 36 games … which extrapolates to 118 points over a full season. A (A+ first quarter)
Notes from Thursday's practice
-- Tomas Holmstrom says he hopes to return to the lineup on Sunday in Chicago.
-- Dominik Hasek believes he's starting Saturday and Chris Osgood is going Sunday.
Thoughts on Game 41 (4-1 win over Dallas)
-- Chris Osgood's performance can't be overstated. I'd like to see a stat for goalies like quality starts in hockey. In fact, let's start one ... two goals or less in regulation time and at least 50 minutes of ice time. In other words, a quality goalie start gives your team a good chance to win.
This season, Osgood has 21 starts and Dominik Hasek has 21 starts. Osgood has 17 quality starts (with 20 starts of three or fewer goals). Hasek has 14 quality starts (with 17 of three or fewer).
All but one start, Osgood has allowed three or fewer goals. The other start? Four goals allowed and the Wings won that one. That's about as much as you can expect from a goalie.
-- I like the way the Wings are answering the call. Dallas Drake fighting Steve Ott after the Star leveled Nicklas Lidstrom was perfect. With Drake and Aaron Downey, the Wings have a different element than in a long time. Detroit has 15 fights at the halfway point in the season. That puts the Wings on pace for their most fighting majors since 1997-98.
-- Henrik Zetterberg looked like he didn't miss any time. Players who return to the lineup after an absence often start strong and backslide. Hopefully, that's not the case for Hank this time.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Wednesday's morning skate
POST-PRACTICE UPDATE: Zetterberg will play tonight and center a line with Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson. Pavel Datsyuk will have his own line with likely Dan Cleary and Valtteri Filppula on his wings. Chris Osgood will start in net.