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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.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Wings' fourth-quarter grades

DETROIT -- There are many ways to grade the Detroit Red Wings in the fourth quarter of the regular season. But by which measure to gauge a prize-fighting team that was playing for little more than trinkets is the problem.
The Red Wings had their worst quarter of the season record-wise in the fourth quarter (13-9-2), but coasted in with a Central Division title and the Presidents' Trophy. In the 28 games of the fourth quarter, the Red Wings had their lowest scoring quarter of the season (2.71 goals per game), but they still finished third in the NHL in that category.
The Red Wings had their second worst defensive quarter of the season, allowing 2.42 goals per game (only the first quarter was worse), but still posted the lowest goals allowed total for the season, winning the Jennings Trophy for the first time in 12 years.
The penalty-kill and power play performances in the fourth quarter were identical to that of their season-long numbers.
In hindsight, the most important facet of the fourth quarter turned out to be injuries. The Red Wings enter the playoffs this week with several players hoping to return to the lineup: Brad Stuart (broken finger); Kris Draper (groin); Kirk Maltby (hamstring); and Mikael Samuelsson (groin). That doesn't include minor ailments to Chris Chelios (groin) and Brian Rafalski (neck), nor the severe knee injury that will keep Tomas Kopecky out of the post-season.
So in grading individual Wings for the fourth quarter, the starting point was won-lost record then tempered with the fact that the team accomplished all that it set out to do in the quarter.
Here are individual grades for the fourth quarter (the final 24 games). The grade is for performance in the quarter only and games missed lower grades.
Goalies
Dominik Hasek B: Hasek missed time with various ailments, including the flu and a hip flexor, but still managed to get in 11 of the 24 games. Most importantly, he looked quite good in his last couple of games leading into the playoffs. Hasek benefited from good goal support. His save percentage was the same as Osgood's (.894) and the two goalies' goals-against averages were almost identical (2.38 for Hasek and 2.35 for Osgood). But Hasek went 8-3-0 and Osgood went 5-4-2 in the fourth quarter.
Chris Osgood B: Hasek was the Red Wings' playoff goalie the entire season. In other words, the job was never open for Osgood to win. He did match Hasek's performance this season, but didn't put up superior numbers. How's this for twins? Both goalies gave up 84 goals this season. Osgood played 59 more minutes than Hasek, meaning if Hasek posted a shutout in one additional start, the two goalies would truly have had twin seasons. Osgood did face more shots per game than Hasek.
Defensemen
Chris Chelios B:
The veteran missed eight games this period, but still produced two of his three goals and four of his 12 points during the fourth quarter. On the downside, Chelios started going to the penalty box too much. After getting 20 PIMs in his first 53 games, he had 20 in his last 16 games. Played better than his competition for the fifth/sixth blue-line spot, Brett Lebda and Andreas Lilja.
Niklas Kronwall A+: Kronwall's emergence this season was lost in the shuffle. This guy could turn out to be one of the major components to a championship run. In 17 games this quarter, Kronwall was second among Detroit defensemen with 10 points and was first at a plus-9. Detroit scored 16 even-strength goals in 17 games with Kronwall on the ice this quarter. Detroit scored just 10 even-strength goals in 16 games with Nicklas Lidstrom on the ice. Kronwall had just one giveaway this quarter.
Brett Lebda C-: Lebda didn't help his cause should Brad Stuart return to the lineup as scheduled and might be a healthy scratch. The Red Wings were outscored 14-4 at even strength this quarter with Lebda on the ice. He's fallen behind Derek Meech on the power-play depth chart.
Nicklas Lidstrom B+: The main thing is that Lidstrom is back from the knee injury that sidelined him at the beginning of the fourth quarter. His performance of late, however, hasn't been up to not only Lidstrom standards, but all-star standards. He did have three goals and 15 points in his 18 games this quarter, but two of those goals came in Game 82. The remarkable stat for Lidstrom this quarter is that he was a minus-3 with Detroit being outscored 13-10 at even strength with him on the ice.
Andreas Lilja C-: Lilja's performance dropped off in the second half of the season. After being a plus-6 at the midway point, he was a minus-8 in the second half. Most of that occurred in the fourth quarter during which he was a minus-6 in 22 games with just one point. Of late, he has seemed unconfident and prone to defensive-zone mistakes. One odd thing for a defensive defenseman, Lilja is on the ice for a lot of goals for and against. Only Lidstrom, Rafalski and Kronwall were on the ice for more Red Wings even-strength goals scored this season.
Derek Meech C: Meech has proven himself to be versatile. He has played fourth-line wing and first-unit power-play defense in the same game. That helped him get into 15 games in the fourth quarter, tallying three assists and being a minus-4.
Brian Rafalski B+: Rafalski played in just 15 of the 24 games this quarter, but managed three goals, nine points and was a plus-5. He has been the single biggest reason for the Red Wings' power-play improvement this season.
Brad Stuart B+: Stuart got into nine games with the Red Wings before breaking his finger. Had he played the entire fourth quarter, there's no doubt he would have deserved an A grade. Stuart was a plus-6 and led Detroit in hits in his nine games, while taking just two minutes in penalties.
Forwards
Dan Cleary C -:
"Bear" as he's known to his teammates got into six games after returning from a broken jaw. He had two assists this quarter and was a minus-2. Cleary has yet to return to his pre-injury level of play.
Pavel Datsyuk A+: Here's a remarkable stat … Datsyuk was on the ice for 83 Red Wings even-strength goals this season in 82 games. In the fourth quarter, he had 12 goals and 30 points in 24 games and was a plus-6. He was third on the team in shots on goal (71) this quarter and had a remarkable 45 takeaways, averaging nearly two per game.
Aaron Downey C+: The franchise brought Darren McCarty in to contend for Downey's job, but Downey didn't falter. In fact, he hasn't done anything to lose his spot. In 19 games this quarter, Downey was an even plus-minus, had two assists and was fourth among forwards in hits. That hit total is remarkable considering Downey averages just 4:35 of ice time per game.
Dallas Drake C-: Drake adds hits (led the team with 38 hits this quarter) and grit and makes smart plays. He'll drop the gloves as well. But the components aren't adding up to success. Drake skated in 21 games this quarter. The Red Wings were outscored 10-3 at even strength with him on the ice.
Kris Draper C: Draper came back from a groin injury and was shelved again by the same problem before the quarter was finished. In 16 games, he had one assist and was a minus-2.
Valtteri Filppula B+: A groin injury slowed Filppula during the fourth quarter, but he still got into 20 of the 24 games. His 10 points and his four goals were both fourth among forwards behind only Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Zetterberg. Another versatile piece. Filppula is the key to the team having the flexibility to switch Zetterberg and Datsyuk on and off the same line.
Johan Franzen A+: Wow. Franzen had a 15-goals-in-15-games stretch. In 24 games this quarter, Franzen had 16 goals, 22 points and was a plus-2. Although Tomas Holmstrom replaced Franzen on the top power-play unit in Game 82, perhaps the Mule should not be bumped by Homer. Franzen was on the ice for 20 of Detroit's 28 power-play goals in the fourth quarter.
Tomas Holmstrom C-: A lower-abdominal strain kept Holmstrom sidelined for one full month. In his 11 games this quarter, Holmstrom had four points (all assists) and was a minus-4. He'll likely be playing at less than 100 percent in the post-season.
Jiri Hudler B-: Hudler suffered through a horrific goal-scoring with just two goals in the final half of the season. Still, this guy's the opposite of Drake in that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. You would figure that being a goal-scorer who isn't scoring, Hudler would have left his team in bad shape. But in the fourth quarter, Detroit was only outscored 8-6 at even strength with Hudler on the ice. And minus-2 is above average on a team that had just four forwards in the positive this quarter (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson).
Tomas Kopecky B: Absolutely one of the saddest moments of the Red Wings' season was when Kopecky went down in Game 81 with a shredded knee, finding out he won't be back for 4-6 months. Kopecky was hurt midway through last season with a nasty broken collarbone, but battle back and was on the ice during the Western Conference final. He had a lineup spot won heading into the playoffs.
Kirk Maltby C+: Maltby stayed healthy until a strained hamstring shelved him in the final weekend of the season. In his 22 games this quarter, Maltby scored half of his season total of six goals, but still was a minus-6.
Mikael Samuelsson A-: Samuelsson has become the Robert Lang in some ways of this season in that he's taking a lot of heat. If you judge him just by goals, then he's a failure. But the Red Wings are a lot better with him in the lineup than out. Hopefully, he'll return from a groin strain soon. Defensively underrated, Samuelsson helped the Red Wings outscore opponents 12-4 at even strength with him on the ice. He was at the point for 10 power-play goals in one 12-game stretch.
Henrik Zetterberg A: Nothing special by Zetterberg standards, but wonderful by everyone else's. Z tallied 10 goals and 22 points in 24 games this quarter and was a plus-1. Most significantly, he's heading into the playoffs as healthy as he's been in a while. Zetterberg led the team with 101 shots this quarter -- more than four per game. He's also the best in the league and carrying the puck behind the net and having a wraparound option or carrying the puck out to the faceoff circle.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruce, how'd Hudler get a B- and Downey only a C+? Downey played great for his role, while Hudler had 2 goals the whole quarter.. gotta explain that one to me

April 7, 2008 at 7:56 PM 
Blogger Bruce MacLeod said...

Everybody has their own way of grading. I don't grade based on roles. I grade based on contributions. If I graded on roles, then I might give Downey the same grade as Lidstrom this quarter and that's not going to happen. I'm a huge Downey fan. I just think that averaging less than 5 minutes per game, he's not going to get a B from that. But he definitely has filled his role as well as can be expected.

April 7, 2008 at 9:14 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruce,

Your insight is greatly appreciated here and over at RWC. What would you rate the front office based on the last quarter (trades, recalls, etc.)?

Thank you.

April 7, 2008 at 9:49 PM 

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