Blogs > Red Wings Corner

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.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Homer a no-go

Tomas Holmstrom (hamstring) is not on the ice right now during the pregame skate, so he'll be out of the lineup. Dan Cleary will likely play on his spot on the top line. Kirk Maltby will bump up to the third line and Darren McCarty will likely be inserted onto the fourth line.

Holmstrom was hurt late in Game 3 when he was dumped to the ice by Hal Gill. He wasn't able to practice Friday. Holmstrom skated this morning and said he felt fine, but became a game-time decision not to dress tonight.

Homer a game-time decision

From coach Mike Babcock: "Basically what we're going to do is he felt quite good (at the morning skate), we're going to come back at the game tonight, see how he feels. If he's ready to go, he's playing. If not, obviously he'll be scratched."

Holmstrom just left the trainers' room and confirmed that he's a game-time decision.

"It felt pretty good," said Holmstrom. "We're going to wrap it a little different. It looks good. It's a game-time decision."

Red Wings' Saturday morning skate

The Red Wings are warming up for their morning skate and Tomas Holmstrom is on the ice. I'll update.

UPDATE: Good news for Wings fans ... The Wings are practicing as though Holmstrom will be playing tonight. He's skating on the top line with Dan Cleary on the third line and Kirk Maltby on the fourth. A good sign that he's ready to go tonight.

Here are the lines they're working with ...

Datsyuk-Hartigan (subbing for Zetterberg)-Holmstrom

Both Lidstrom and Rafalski aren't on the ice.

Penguins' Saturday morning skate

The Penguins are on the ice at Mellon Arena and no one's absent. The Pens are working with the same line combinations they used in Game 3 and at yesterday's practice ...


No Laraque and it looks like Sydor is still on the blue line.

I'll update if anything new comes out of the locker room after practice.

Double trouble

With the Pistons being eliminated last night, this streak has been kept alive ... no city has been home to both the NBA and NHL champions in the same year. You'd have figured that at some point, somehow, it would have happened just by randomness. I know that the Knicks went to Game 7 in 1994 when the Rangers won the Cup, but that's as close as anyone got.

TV ratings tricks

The NHL has been trumpeting its Game 3 ratings for the Stanley Cup finals, noting that they were the highest TV ratings for a Game 3 since 2002 and that the Red Wings drew a bigger TV audience in Detroit on the same night than did the Pistons.

Now I'm hoping for mega-TV ratings as much as anyone, but I don't think either thing is impressive if you look closer.

The best Game 3 ratings since 2002? Well there's only been five Game 3s since then, so that's not a huge deal. And that also tells me that Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin/Marian Hossa and the Red Wings had lower Game 3 ratings than Carolina and the Red Wings. That's not good news.

And as far as the Detroit market matchup against the Pistons, these ratings need to be put in context. Game 3 for the Red Wings was on broadcast TV (NBC). The Pistons were on cable. I don't care what the cable outlet, cable can't match broadcast for ratings. For Game 2 of the SCF, when it was on cable, the Pistons topped the Red Wings.

The ratings in general have been healthier than normal for the NHL. But I wouldn't go around shouting that the Wings have better ratings than the Pistons just yet. Put them both on broadcast TV, put them both in their league's championship series and then compare the ratings.

The NHL ratings are good, but not as good as they should be for having Crosby and the Wings in the Stanley Cup final. I feel like Andy Travis when the first ratings book for WKRP came in.

Pittsburgh's forgotten scorer

PITTSBURGH -- Questions about Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin abound at every press conference during the Stanley Cup final. Blogs and online message boards open boundless discussions about Crosby and Malkin.
Crosby was the NHL's MVP last season. Malkin is one of three finalists for MVP this season.
Marian Hossa, 29, is a player who doesn't draw much notice, standing near Crosby and Malkin, but the Penguins' mid-season addition has played a significant role in Pittsburgh's run through the playoffs.
"He's been huge for us," said Pittsburgh third-line center Jordan Staal. "It's great to have another guy who's obviously great offensively, but also another guy who's a great defensive player as well. He helps in both zones. And he works so hard too. He's just been an unbelievable addition to our team."
Quick quiz … Who leads the Penguins in playoff plus-minus? Hossa.
Who leads the Penguins in playoff goals? Hossa and Malkin with nine apiece.
Who leads the Penguins in playoff shots on goal? Hossa.
Add in that Hossa is second on the team in takeaways, fifth among Penguin forwards in hits and has logged more ice time than Crosby and you've got the profile of an effective player.
"He's a great player," said Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski. "He's a player that can beat people 1-on-1. He's got great speed. Very strong in the corners. Obviously great release on his shot. He's somebody you have to watch out for, for sure. He gives that line (Hossa, Crosby and Pascal Dupuis) a different look. Crosby didn't have someone like that the past couple of years."
Red Wing defenseman Andreas Lilja was a teammate of Hossa's for two months in Sweden during the lockout season of 2004-05. Lilja went back to play for his old club team, Mora. Hossa headed north to play with Mora after his season with Trencin of the Slovak elite league was done.
On a team that already had Dan Cleary, Shawn Horcoff, Ladislav Nagy and Marian's brother, Marcel Hossa, Marian Hossa was a standout, scoring 18 goals and 32 points in just 24 games. Horcoff led Mora in both categories with 19 goals and 46 points, but needed 50 games to reach those totals.
"He's one of the fastest skaters I ever saw," said Lilja. "He was unreal. He's an unbelievable player. He's really hard to read because he never moves his hands on his stick. He has a high grip. He shoots and he dribbles from the same spot."
After his time with Mora, Hossa was traded from Ottawa to Atlanta when the NHL started back up. On Feb. 27, in the midst of his third season with the Thrashers, Hossa became the biggest name to be traded on the NHL's trade deadline day, going to Pittsburgh with Dupuis for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a first-round draft pick this summer.
"There's always an adjustment period for a new guy coming to a new team obviously," said Hossa. "It takes a little bit to get comfortable on the ice. The guys welcomed me very nice. But still on the ice is a little different. You've got a new style of hockey, new coaches, so everything's a little different. It takes a little while to adjust."
It was a risky move for the Penguins because Hossa could become an unrestricted free agent this summer. But it's one that has been paying off for them with playoff success.
Hossa has nine goals and 21 points in 17 playoff games, entering tonight's Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final (8 p.m., NBC).
Hossa has been a star since being drafted by Ottawa in 1997 12th overall -- one pick ahead of Cleary going to the Chicago Blackhawks. Hossa has two 40-goal seasons to his credit and has 299 goals in 701 career regular-season games.
"He's so fast, explosive," said Cleary. "His straight-away speed is amazing. He's a natural goal-scorer. That's what I saw him as … He's a guy you've got to be keying on."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Stuck in Pittsburgh

Coach Mike Babcock said at his Friday press conference that the Red Wings wanted to take advantage of two off days between Games 3 and 4 by flying back to Detroit as soon as Game 3 was finished. That, however, was nixed by the league.

"They never asked me about the schedule," said Babcock. "Obviously they felt it was the best way for TV, and so that's what we do. We tried to fly home. We wanted to go home after the game. But this is our opportunity to sell the game and the NHL. I think we're all in it together that way, you people in the media, the players, the management, the better job we can do and the more people we draw attention to our game, the better it is for us. So this is one of the things we had to do. We just found a way to do something else while we were doing it."

Kopie's with the team

Tomas Kopecky, who blew out his knee (torn ACL) Apr. 3, is with the Red Wings in Pittsburgh. The forward was given clearance to ride the stationary bicycle two weeks ago. He said that he's heading back to Trencin, Slovakia, as he does every off-season (late June this year). He'll be allowed to resume skating in late August. Kopecky's injury occurred in the penultimate game of the regular season.

Red Wings prepare for no Homer, Cleary in his spot

UPDATE: Holmstrom (hamstring) spoke after the practice and said that he would try the morning skate tomorrow and that he would be a game-time decision. At today's practice, the Red Wings prepared for not having Holmstrom tomorrow, putting Dan Cleary on the top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. That's a statement because if the Wings were expecting Holmstrom to play, they would have subbed in someone like Mark Hartigan or Mattias Ritola. Instead, they prepared Cleary for the top line. Hartigan subbed in for Valtteri Filppula -- who will play in Game 4 -- on the second line.

Dan Cleary said this about his role with Datsyuk and Zetterberg: "Whatever line I'm on, I just try to go to the net, be good in the corner. With Pav and Z, you have to go to the net because (the puck) will be there and on your tape. Just be patient. Don't rush over these guys. These guys are so good with the puck, just stay away from them. A little bit of (puck) support and they'll get it to you. It took a little while to realize that, but it's so easy playing with them because they have the puck all the time. Any loose pucks, just get it right back to them and you'll be fine."

Coach Mike Babcock on Holmstrom: "The back of his leg, the hamstring, he's got a little problem there. We think he'll be fine. Tough guy. ... I'm not going to decide, he's going to decide. He's a tough guy and I expect him to play."

Trainer Piet Van Zant told Babcock this morning that Holmstrom is "way ahead" of where he thought he would be.


The Red Wings are on the warming up for their practice which is due to start soon. Tomas Holmstrom is not out there, which isn't a big surprise. After being hurt in the third period of Wednesday's Game 3, Holmstrom was limping after the game. His status for Saturday's Game 4 will be determined either after tomorrow's morning skate or the pregame skate.

UPDATE: The Red Wings are preparing for Game 4 as though Holmstrom will not be available, having Dan Cleary skate in Homer's spot alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

When a player is likely to return, the Wings will practice with a place-holder (like Mark Hartigan) and keep everyone in their same spots. Today, Hartigan is centering the second line with Filppula -- who has been banged up all post-season -- not taking the ice. Filppula will, however, be in the lineup tomorrow. Moving Cleary tips the Wings' hand that they're preparing for the game that way.

Here are the lines the Wings are working with today ...

Franzen-Hartigan (subbing for Filppula)-Samuelsson

The ripple effect created by Holmstrom's absence is this: Kirk Maltby moves up from the fourth line to the third to replace Cleary. Darren McCarty goes back in the lineup on the fourth line.

Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien on the possibility of Holmstrom not playing: "They still have a lot of quality players. And it's not going to change anything for us. It might change something for them, but for us, our focus will remain the same."

Penguins' Friday practice

UPDATE: Coach Michel Therrien confirmed at his press conference that the Penguins will use the same lineup they did in Game 3.


All appears well with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Everyone is on the ice right now for an off-day practice at Mellon Arena. All the line combinations they're working out of are the same ones used in the Game 3 win over Detroit.



A quick opinion: The Gill-Scuderi pairing reminds me a lot of Toby Petersen of Dallas in the last round. Petersen was a standout in Game 4 of the Western Conference final playing against Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. But there's no way that was going to last. There's a reason Toby Petersen is fighting for a roster spot and Datsyuk and Zetterberg are superstars.

Same with Gill and Scuderi. They're matching up against Datsyuk and Zetterberg and fared well in Game 3. But over time, talent prevails. Hal Gill vs. Pavel Datsyuk? I'll take Datsyuk.

Andersson reels in Red Wings' big fish

PITTSBURGH -- The fish are there if you know where to look.
Find a spot where there's potential. Big fish. Small fish. Lots of fish means better chance for a good catch.
Then watch and wait. Work the pool you're in. Pretty soon, you'll be reeling them in and then dining with friends, talking about the ones you got, not the ones that got away.
At least it sounds that simple when you talk to Hakan Andersson.
Andersson is known today as the director of European scouting for the Detroit Red Wings. His fingerprints on the success of this franchise are unmistakable. Of the 31 players on the Red Wings' playoff roster, 14 are Europeans. Of those 14, only Nicklas Lidstrom wasn't scouted by Andersson, having come to the Red Wings just before Andersson was hired. Of the 20 Red Wings who dressed for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, 11 were Europeans, 10 scouted by Andersson.
He might be good at finding hockey players, but ask Andersson and that's not his true talent.
"I was a better fishing guide than scout," said Andersson, smiling at the one (career) that got away.
Before he came into the Red Wings organization in 1989 as a scout, Hakan Andersson was an international fishing guide, working for a Pittsburgh-based company, Frontiers.
Andersson started in Sweden, then started working as a guide for Frontiers in Norway. When the company expanded to Argentina, Andersson soon found himself in Rio Grande, on the southern tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego, guiding rich travelers through week-long fly fishing excursions.
"As a guide, you would take two clients out," said Andersson. "You would have different pools. I would teach them fly fishing, fishing tactics … use this fly, change to another fly, take the fish now. They had a farm house. The guides would live there, the guests. You'd have dinner together. It was a lot of fun."
Prices for such excursions today run up to $10,000 per week, according to Frontiers' web site. That meant that Andersson found himself as fishing guides to some prominent families of money, including the Rockerfellers. In an odd crossing of hockey paths, Andersson was guide to the late Seymour Knox, founder of the Buffalo Sabres.
Occasionally, Andersson will still fish with some of his former clients, but nowadays his fishing is just for fun and relaxation, not a career.
His hockey career slowly overtook his fishing life in the early 1990s.
The Red Wings hired Andersson in 1989 as a Swedish scout to replace Christer Rockstrom, who left for the New York Rangers, but recommended Andersson before he did.
Andersson was hired by the Red Wings over the phone, sight unseen. No interview. No handshake.
The first front-office person that Andersson met was current general manager Ken Holland in January, 1990, when Holland made a trip to Sweden as Detroit's director of amateur scouting.
Andersson calls Holland "the best scout I've ever met," saying that Holland "knows things about a player just seeing him once that it takes me three or four times to see."
It's a mutual admiration. Holland says this of the scout that brought Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen to the Red Wings: "Hakan certainly is one of the best in the business. You've just got to look at his track record. … Obviously Hakan has been an MVP behind the scenes for us."
After the Red Wings hired him, Andersson gave up guiding fishing excursions in Argentina. The February-March fishing season was a conflict with hockey.
But Andersson still did tours outside of Stockholm in the spring and in Norway from June-August while working for the Red Wings.
His two careers co-existed until the mid-90s when hockey began to take over. Hockey seasons in Europe run to the springtime. Then there's draft preparation and then the draft itself every June. There's no more time for Norwegian summer fishing.
In June of 1994, the Red Wings gave Hakan Andersson a draft pick, meaning they selected a player in the amateur draft that no one other than Andersson had scouted. That was a big step for a scout, not insisting that other more experienced eyes look at a player before investing in him.
It was only a 10th-round pick -- 257th overall -- but Andersson brought Tomas Holmstrom to the Red Wings with it. And that was the start of Andersson becoming the head of a scouting network in Europe that has reeled in such big fish as Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Niklas Kronwall.
Zetterberg was found when Andersson went to a remote tournament in Finland to scout Swede Mattias Weinhandl. Datsyuk was found when Andersson was sent to look at Russian Dmitri Kalinin. Franzen was found in the lower levels of Swedish hockey by Andersson before even Swedish elite league teams had found him.
There are big catches in hockey talent pools. The Red Wings have the perfect guide in Andersson.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Homer hurting?

Tomas Holmstrom missed a power-play shift late in the game last night after being dumped on his back hard by Hal Gill. Here's coach Mike Babcock on Holmstrom this morning ...

"I didn't see him this morning. After the game he didn't feel that good. The good thing about that is we've got today to look at it, then we've got tomorrow and we'll move ahead from there."

Thoughts on Game 3 SCF (3-2 loss in Pittsburgh)

-- Very bad game by Brad Stuart. First the defensive-zone giveaway that led to Sidney Crosby's first goal. He also got his feet tied up on the second goal, allowing Crosby to go unchecked at the side of the goal. He had a couple of other mistakes in a performance that balances out the great game he played two night earlier.
-- The defensive-zone turnovers by Detroit were the Red Wings' biggest problem. Stuart had one and Andreas Lilja. So did Kirk Maltby. Stuart's and Lilja's went off teammates' skates (Stuart of Henrik Zetterberg and Lilja off Darren Helm). I've got to add that there is blame on the intended receiver as well much like in football. If you can't accept the pass, it becomes a faceoff situation where you have to tie up the opponent if possible. Zetterberg, Helm and Mikael Samuelsson all looked dazed on plays where passes were intercepted going to them.
-- Coach Mike Babcock started with Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski mated with the Zetterberg line. With the Jordan Staal line often on the ice against Zetterberg, Babcock put Lilja and Brett Lebda out with Zetterberg. I wonder if the lack of a puck-moving defenseman hurt the Zetterberg line.
-- Babcock criticized Datsyuk and Zetterberg for taking long shifts. Instead of 40-second shifts, they took 50-second or more shifts. He's right. They didn't have as much jump as usual.
-- Forgotten is how well this game started fot the Red Wings -- a 9-1 shot advantage through 15 minutes.
-- A wonderful game by Johan Franzen. His goal wasn't just impressive, it was something that he hasn't done much of even in his 27-goals-in-27-games streak. In other words, he's showing more than he did even when he was at his previous best.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Red Wings Wednesday morning skate

It looks like the same lineup again for the Red Wings in Game 3. Chris Chelios and Darren McCarty stayed on the ice after the regulars left and had an extra session with the Grand Rapids kids.

Same matchups?

I'm sure that coach Michel Therrien is more making a statement -- a vote of confidence -- than saying that he wants to match the Crosby line against the Zetterberg line, but here's what he just said at his morning press conference about not putting Sid the Kid on the ice against Hank and Pavel ...

"I don't mind that matchup against Zetterberg and Datsyuk," said Therrien. "Crosby's one of the best players if not the best player in the league. So you think I mind? And he likes challenges. So we don't mind that. And he's used to playing against the top players. That's always been our philosophy."

Still not impressed with Ozzie

Sidney Crosby was asked a couple of minutes ago about the play of Chris Osgood in this series. Crosby doesn't sound impressed.

"I don't think we've made it that difficult on him to be honest with you," said Crosby. "He's made some good saves, but their defense is doing a pretty good job of clearing pucks. We have to do a better job of capitalizing on our chances. ... I think we've hit three or four posts in two games. There's no doubt he's sturdy when he needs to be, but I don't think we've tested him as much as we could have."


Sydor in Pens' lineup for Game 3

UPDATE: Kris Letang will be a healthy scratch tonight for Sydor. I'd call this somewhat surprising. Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi were on the ice for Detroit's first three even-strength goals in this series. My guess would have been Gill would be out, but it's Letang.


Defenseman Darryl Sydor will be on the ice for the Penguins tonight. It will be his first game of the playoffs. Sydor is the leader among Penguins in career playoff games with 151. Gary Roberts is second at 126.

I'm not sure at this point who's out on the blue line. I'll update after coach Michel Therrien's press conference.

"Yah, I've got butterflies and I'll have them tonight," said Sydor, 36, who has won two Stanley Cups. "That's when you know your time is done when you're not nervous any more. It's a good nervousness. I'm excited to be back and helping out."

"He's a leader for our team," said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby. "He'll definitely bring a sense of calm in our room and out on the ice. He's a guy who's going to really make the simple plays and manage the puck well out there."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thoughts on Game 2 SCF (3-0 win over Pittsburgh)

-- When the Red Wings get scoring from players other than Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Holmstrom, they're about as good a hockey team as I've seen.
-- Sorry to be cliche, but the defense by Detroit is a total team effort. Obviously Chris Osgood is playing excellent. And the blue-liners have been great. But watch how the defensemen will step up at the offensive-zone blue line to take out an opponent ... and when that happens, watch how quickly a Red Wing forward is back taking the spot of a defenseman. It's flawless. The perfect example last night came in the first period when Andreas Lilja stepped up and took his man out at the offensive blue line. The puck was dumped into the neutral zone where Mikael Samuelsson was waiting for it like a defenseman. Beautiful teamwork.
-- Osgood's performance in Game 1 of this series (and continued in Game 2) won me over as much as his fight against Patrick Roy did. I hear over and over still that Osgood a good goalie with a great team. You're watching a great goalie out there. The Red Wings have had the better goalie in each round of the playoffs. Chris Osgood is not Trent Dilfer.
-- What a ridiculous goon cheap-shot by Gary Roberts skating up from behind -- from behind -- and clocking Johan Franzen. No honor whatsoever. Of course seeing Roberts' face after Pavel Datsyuk threw punches at him was priceless. Actually, better than Roberts' face was Brett Lebda's smile when he saw Datsyuk taking on Roberts. And a beautiful job by Datsyuk of answering Ryan Malone's late hit on Henrik Zetterberg in the third period.
-- The Penguins accused Osgood of flopping when Petr Sykora bumped him. He might have gone down easily. But the main point is that Sykora did run into the goalie and did so intentionally. Watch Sykora's left shoulder. He leans into Osgood. How quickly Osgood went down is meaningless.
-- I'm still not sure why Datsyuk and Zetterberg didn't get more MVP attention this season. I'm not just saying this because they're outplaying Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Marian Hossa in this series. At the end of the regular season I asked why Datsyuk wasn't an MVP finalist after finishing fourth in the league in scoring and being a finalist for best defensive forward. Three forwards were named as finalists (including Malkin). There aren't three forwards more valuable than Datsyuk or Zetterberg. And if you're curious, I gave Datsyuk my first vote for the Selke and voted for Datsyuk as a Hart finalist behind Alexander Ovechkin.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Post-Game 2 quotes

Some interesting stuff coming out after the game.

Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien on Chris Osgood drawing two penalties: "He's a good actor. He goes to players and he's diving. Took away our power play. Got to get focused. I know our players are frustrated right now. It's tough to play the game. But Osgood did the same thing against Dallas under Ribeiro.
"Our team never goes to (the) goalie. We never did it. And we don't target the goalie. But this is ... want to talk about experience ... he goes to players and he knows what to do, I guess."

Johan Franzen on being hit in the head: "I got to expect that almost. I've got to be ready. I've got to put my hands up and protect myself."
Franzen on the scrums: "We like to play hockey. We have more fun when we do that and just moving the puck. We try to stay away as much as we can from scrums. What happens, happens."

Sidney Crosby on Osgood being hit by Sykora: "And I don't think he's a guy who purposely stays out of the way from that kind of stuff. We have seen them against Dallas. He's not afraid to get in there and stir things up. I thought on that play, and maybe a couple, he didn't necessarily try his best to avoid the situation. So that's playoff hockey, though.
"You gotta expect those kind of things. And sometimes the calls are going to go your way. Sometimes they're not."

Penguins' Monday morning skate

It looks like the Penguins will be going with the forward lines they've used the past two days, changing up from Game 1. Sidney Crosby said that he expects it to be that way tonight ...


A side note ... The Penguins' hotel had a fire alarm at 1:30 a.m. last night. Home-ice advantage to the max.

Franzen to play in Game 2 tonight

Forward Johan Franzen has been cleared to play tonight and will be in the Detroit lineup. Coach Mike Babcock said otherwise at his morning press conference, but found out shortly after that the Mule will be available to him. The Red Wings just sent out a press release (12:17 p.m.) confirming that Franzen will play tonight.

Franzen has been out of the Detroit lineup since Game 1 of the Western Conference final experiencing concussion-like symptoms (headaches).

With Franzen back in the lineup, it's likely that Darren McCarty will be a healthy scratch tonight as he was in Game 1 of the Western Conference final. If not McCarty, Kirk Maltby might be next lowest on the depth chart. Maltby did, however, bump McCarty out of the lineup against Dallas. And with Georges Laraque not playing tonight, McCarty's an even better bet to be scratched.

Red Wings' Monday morning skate

No Johan Franzen for the Red Wings in tonight's Game 2. The forward hasn't received medical clearance yet to return from concussion-like symptoms (headaches). He hasn't played since Game 1 of the Western Conference final against Dallas.

Franzen did practice this morning. General manager Ken Holland said that Franzen will return this week, meaning that he will be in the lineup for either Wednesday's Game 3 or Saturday's Game 4.

Of lesser note, the NHL has its top draft prospects in town to meet with the media later today. Steven Stamkos and the boys toured the Wings locker room this morning.

Osgood shows his tough side

DETROIT -- Chris Osgood looks young walking around Joe Louis Arena, much closer to college age than mid-life.
But when Osgood puts his goalie mask over that Opie Taylor face, he takes on the appearance of a grizzled veteran.
"He's not a kid any more," said long-time teammate Kris Draper. "He's 35. He's one of the oldest goalies in the league. When he left (in 2001 through waivers), obviously, it was a tough situation for him. When he got back here … he just loves being around Detroit, loves being part of the Red Wings organization. It's no secret, he's a huge reason why we were on top of the NHL (during the regular season) again."
Chris Osgood is also a big reason why the Detroit Red Wings are back in the Stanley Cup final for the fifth time in the past 13 seasons.
Although he played the entire regular season as the second goalie to Dominik Hasek's top banana, Osgood played well enough this season to start for the Western Conference at the all-star game and lead the Red Wings in wins.
So when Hasek stumbled through four playoff games, coach Mike Babcock was able to use a quick hook and name Osgood his starter midway through the first round of the post-season.
The Red Wings won the first nine playoff games that Osgood started. Detroit is 11-2 with Osgood in net -- the last win pushing him ahead of Terry Sawchuk as the Red Wings' all-time playoff wins leader.
"For goalies, you just hit your prime when you’re my age," said Osgood. "You’ve seen everything. You know that things happen at a quick pace. You don’t panic as much. You’re more relaxed and things seem to happen easier for you."
Not panicking has been a trademark of Osgood.
During the Stanley Cup run of 1998, Osgood had a couple of bad moments that could have broken his focus. He let in a long goal in St. Louis by Al MacInnis that forced overtime. Worse than that was the goal Osgood allowed in Dallas to Jamie Langenbrunner from outside of the Detroit blue line.
Langenbrunner's goal kept the Stars alive in the Western Conference final that spring. In the next game, however, Osgood shut the Stars out to reverse their fortunes.
"Ozzie is real mentally strong," said Nicklas Lidstrom, who is in his 11th season as Osgood's teammate. "If he lets in a bad goal, it doesn't seem to bother him much. Langenbrunner scored from near the red line. Osgood came back with a shutout the next game. He's very mentally strong. We see it now and we saw it back then too. It can be tough on a goalie, especially in the playoffs. He responded well. I think the team rallied around him."
"The one thing about Ozzie is the composure that he showed, the resilience he showed during the '98 Cup run," said Draper. "He'd be the first one to tell you that he gave up a couple of bad goals. What does he do the next game? He plays his best hockey. And that's something that you can't teach. It's in you. It's the makeup of Chris Osgood."
All of which has led to this moment in time.
As the Red Wings enter the Stanley Cup final against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Osgood leads the NHL in post-season goals-against average and ranks third in save percentage. More importantly, he's given his team a chance to win every game that he's started.
Osgood ranks 15th on the NHL's all-time wins list and is within striking distance of topping Sawchuk's franchise record in that category.
Osgood has refined his butterfly style somewhat although he has always been a butterfly goaltender. He has sought more coaching and he has figured out how to succeed without being the No. 1 netminder.
But the most important asset that Osgood carries into the Stanley Cup final is one that he's shown throughout his career. Resilience.
"Some players can’t do it; Other guys can," said Osgood. "That’s how you see whether guys are mentally tough, when it’s bad. When it’s easy, it’s easy to play. You just roll along, everything’s great, everybody’s smiling. But when it’s tough, that’s when you see who are the players and who aren’t. I think I’ve always been tough mentally."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Puck possession

There's been a lot of talk that this Stanley Cup final is a battle between two puck possession teams. Unfortunately, the NHL doesn't keep puck possession statistics. (Odd because hockey, like soccer, is a sport that's based on possession time.)

If you're curious how Game 1 shook out in terms of puck possession, I offer these statistics that I kept. At the beginning of this season I floated out a trial balloon of puck possession statistics that were shot down because I used a theory with no neutral time -- either one team or the other had possession. This time, I added neutral puck possession time. In other words, these statistics work with the definition of puck possession as carrying the puck or completing a pass. Scrums are neutral time. So is a slap at the puck that sends it in the other direction.

Det ES 29.81%
Pit ES 30.01%

Det PP 69.66%
Pit SH 2.03%

Det SH 3.46%
Pit PP 60.29%

The even-strength time needs to be broken down to be better understood. Here it is by period ...

Det 1st P 31.93%
Det 2nd P 39.29%
Det 3rd P 18.81%

Pit 1st P 23.88%
Pit 2nd P 23.50%
Pit 3rd P 41.55%

Although Pittsburgh did well in the first period, the Pens were buoyed by four power plays. At even strength, the first and second periods looked quite similar in that the Red Wings controlled the puck significantly more than the Pens. With a two-goal lead, the Red Wings dumped the puck a lot more than they did in the first two periods.

Penguins' Sunday practice

It looks like the Pens might shake up their forward lines after losing Game 1. Gary Roberts appears to be in the lineup with Georges Laraque out. Georges wasn't able to get Darren McCarty to dance and perhaps that was Georges' final dance of this series.

Here's how they skated today ...

The Penguins' defensive pairings were the same as used in Game 1.

"We believe Ryan Malone could be a good fit to play against their top line," said Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien. "With Talbot, I like his grit."

"It's matchups," said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby. "(Before) it would be one of our lines against one match-up (defense) pairing. Then it's kind of tailed off after that. It's kind of different against this team (Detroit)."

When asked about if he'd change anything the next time he faces Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, Crosby answered: "I wouldn't change anything to be honest. We had our chances and didn't put the puck in."

Franzen to play by Game 4

General manager Ken Holland just told me that Johan Franzen will practice full out today and at Monday morning's skate. His status will be determined after that, but the good news is Holland saying, "He will be in the lineup sometime this week."

Game 2 is Monday. Game 3 is Wednesday and Game 4 is Saturday. Hopefully, Franzen will be on the ice for at least one of those games.

The interesting thing, to me, about players returning from injury is that they often start with a bang and then hit a rut. So Franzen might be effective despite having so much time off.

UPDATE: Franzen spoke after practice on how he feels: "OK. Could be better."

He listed himself as a "maybe" for Game 2.

I think that falls in line with what Holland said. Franzen will be back in the lineup this week, more likely in Pittsburgh than in Game 2.

Red Wings' Sunday practice

They're on the ice now for an optional practice. Johan Franzen is skating and I'll find out later what his status is for Game 2. Among those who opted for off-ice workouts only are Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Chris Osgood. That means that the Grand Rapids kids are skating with the main group instead of on their own afterwards.

Thoughts on Game 1 SCF (4-0 win over Pittsburgh)

-- I went back and forth on the goaltender interference call on Tomas Holmstrom at first, but there's no way that should be whistled. I don't see how the referee could have seen for sure that Holmstrom's stick impeded Marc-Andre Fleury, which it did not. From his angle, it could have looked that way, but that's what made it a bad call. He called what he thought happened, not what actually happened. And obviously, Holmstrom is a marked man, to the point of being singled out, to the point of changing the game for the worse.
-- Mikael Samuelsson is a better player when he's got confidence. I'm hoping for a few excellent games from him after that Game 1 showing, which he was remarkable.
-- Brian Rafalski played an active, heady game and was especially noticeable early on.
-- The Valtteri Filppula line did a good job when on the ice against the Evgeni Malkin line. The Red Wings have to be the deepest defensive team in the NHL. It's tough to find a bad defensive forward.
-- Andreas Lilja is looking like a good replacement for Chris Chelios.
-- Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have an interesting pride battle with Marian Hossa, Malkin and Sidney Crosby. All of those guys are really going at each other. Although they're not as good defensively, the Penguin forwards are good enough skaters and strong enough to bother Datsyuk and Zetterberg physically. But Datsyuk and Zetterberg obviously won those battles in Game 1.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Wings and Pens at different ends of draft spectrum

High and low

High and low draft picks for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings:

High Picks (overall selection)
Sidney Crosby, Pit, 1st, 2005
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit, 1st 2003
Jordan Staal, Pit, 2nd, 2006
Evgeni Malkin, Pit, 2nd, 2004
Brad Stuart, Det, 3rd, 1998 (by San Jose)
Ryan Whitney, Pit, 5th, 2002
Marian Hossa, Pit, 12th, 1997 (by Ottawa)
Dan Cleary, Det, 13th, 1997 (by Chicago)

Low Picks or Undrafted
Pascal Dupuis, Pit, undrafted
Ty Conklin, Pit, undrafted
Brett Lebda, Det, undrafted
Brian Rafalski, Det, undrafted
Tomas Holmstrom, Det, 257th, 1994
Maxime Talbot, Pit, 234th, 2002
Henrik Zetterberg, Det, 210st, 1999
Hal Gill, Pit, 207th, 1993 (by Boston)
Dominik Hasek, Det, 199th, 1983 (by Chicago)
Pavel Datsyuk, Det, 171st, 1998

DETROIT -- Both the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins are fast. Both teams are gifted offensively and defensively. Both are conference champions. Both have young superstars.
But these two franchises couldn't have taken more dissimilar paths to get to tonight's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final (8 p.m., Versus).
The Penguins stocked their roster with high draft picks after finishing out of the playoffs four straight seasons before their first-round exit last spring. For four consecutive years, the Penguins had either the first or second overall selection in the NHL draft, hauling in four pillars that got the franchise to this series against Detroit -- Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.
The Red Wings also stocked their roster through the draft, but Detroit's lineup contains a tremendous amount of low selections that turned out to be hidden gems. The Red Wings have not missed the playoffs since 1990. In an eight-year stretch (1997-2004), the Red Wings had just two first-round draft picks -- Jiri Fischer (25th overall in 1998) and Niklas Kronwall (29th overall in 2000).
Of the 20 players who dressed for Pittsburgh in the deciding game of the Eastern Conference final, nine were top-18 picks in the NHL draft and just five were either undrafted or selected 100th or higher. For Detroit, those numbers are reversed with three first-round picks (only two in the top 18 of their draft) while nine were either undrafted or selected 100th.
Of the Red Wings' lineup tonight and two of those -- Brad Stuart (San Jose) and Dan Cleary (Chicago) -- were selected by other franchises. Niklas Kronwall was picked 29th overall by the Red Wings in 2000.
"Let's be honest, (the Penguins) drafting for as high as they have for as long as they have, that's why they have the skill level they have," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. :The reason we have the skill level we have is (assistant general manager) Jimmy Nill and (chief European scout) Hakan Andersson and these guys and the work that they do. I think it's a philosophy thing."
The end result is that this series will be highlighted by those different paths taken by these franchises.
Detroit will match up its top forward line of Pavel Datsyuk (drafted 171st overall in 1998), Henrik Zetterberg (210th in 1999) and Tomas Holmstrom (257th in 1994) against the Penguins' top forward line. Whether Babcock determines that to be Crosby's line (Crosby was first overall in 2005) or Malkin's line (Malkin was second overall in 2004) will be discovered tonight.
Either way, it will be pedigree against draft-day mutt.
"They're the model franchise; You ask people in the league and they're very impressed with the job Kenny (Detroit general manager Ken Holland) has done," said Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero. "The Datsyuks and Zetterbergs are great stories in the draft. But some of those other players, some of the undrafted players are great stories. … Overall a great organization that most franchises are modeling themselves after."
Another Detroit draft find, Johan Franzen (97th overall in 2004 after being passed over in six drafts), was labeled doubtful for tonight's game by Holland because of headaches that have sidelined Franzen since the first game of the Western Conference final. Franzen practiced with the Red Wings Friday -- a first time since the start of the last round.
"We expect him to play in this series," said Holland. "He's close."
The return of Franzen -- who leads the NHL with 12 goals in the playoffs -- will go a long way to giving the Red Wings two lines that are both offensive threats.
Pittsburgh has had the ability to put out two scoring lines since taking Crosby and Malkin in back-to-back drafts. Crosby was league MVP last year, leading the NHL in scoring. This winter, Malkin finished second in scoring and is one of three finalists for the MVP.
"They're special, special players," said Babcock. "You can finish last in the league a number of times and never get players like that. If you're fortunate enough to finish last or pick the years that they're available, you're lucky a lucky franchise because they're going to be running your franchise for a long period of time."
All of which adds up to the chance for a high scoring Stanley Cup final.
"There's a possibility a goal can be scored every shift," said Holland. "I think there's going to be some great goals, some great plays."

Two prospects signed

The Red Wings announced the signings of Dick Axelsson and Logan Pyett today -- the final two prospects they were looking to ink before losing their rights, June 1. Pyett said last week that he had agreed to terms. The Axelsson news is fresh.

From the Red Wings' PR department...

Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland announced today that the club has signed forward Dick Axelsson and defenseman Logan Pyett to three-year entry level contracts. In keeping with team policy, additional terms of each contract were not disclosed.

Axelsson (6’2” 176 lbs.) was drafted by the Red Wings in the second round (62nd overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He played for Djurgardens Stockholm of the Swedish Elite League in 2007-08. Axelsson finished the season with 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points in 47 games played.

Pyett (5’11” 198 lbs.) was a seventh round selection (212th overall) of the Red Wings in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He captained the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League in 2007-08 and finished the season with 20 goals and 34 assists for 54 points in 62 games.

Penguins' Saturday morning skate

Possible lines for tonight's Game 1 ...

Gary Roberts said yesterday that he's definitely out of the lineup for tonight. This will be the fourth straight game that Roberts has sat out. Adam Hall replaced Roberts in the lineup for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final. Hall, Roberts and Maxime Talbot have been juggled to fill two forward spots throughout the post-season.

Draper's smile

Kris Draper, who turned 37 today, had three teeth displaced when he was hit in the mouth with a Dallas Drake pass in the first period of Game 6 of the Western Conference final. The good news is that Draper scored the game's first goal when the puck bounced down from his face and into the net. The bad news is that the impact displaced three of his teeth.

So far, Draper has been able to keep the teeth. The team dentist braced the teeth when Draper left the ice at American Airlines Arena in Dallas. Draper has had x-rays since he's been back in Detroit, but so far it looks as though he won't lose the teeth.

Red Wings Saturday morning skate

No Johan Franzen (headaches) on the ice right now (he's undergoing more tests today), so the Mule will not be in the lineup tonight. No surprise there. Hopefully the tests will result in clearance to play in Game 2.

Chris Chelios is on the ice, but skating with Derek Meech so Cheli's out of the lineup and Andreas Lilja is in. Valtteri Filppula is on the ice practicing, which he hasn't done in more than a week, so that's a good sign.

Darren McCarty led the team through its stretching and had the whole lot smiling and slapping their sticks on the ice. I wasn't sold on his addition to the roster when it happened, but McCarty is a wonderful veteran presence in the locker room and on the ice.

Here are the Red Wings' lines they're working with on the ice right now ...




Lidstrom still blazing European trail

1969 -- First European player drafted, Finn Tommi Salmelainen, 66th overall, by the St. Louis Blues.
1989 -- First European drafted first overall, Swede Mats Sundin, Quebec Nordiques.
1993 -- First European captain, Russian Alexander Mogilny, Buffalo Sabres.
1994 -- First European MVP, Russian Sergei Fedorov, Detroit Red Wings.
1995 -- First European to lead NHL in scoring, Czech Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins.
2001 -- First European Norris Trophy winner, Swede Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings.
2002 -- First European playoff MVP, Swede Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings.
2007 -- First European captain in Stanley Cup final, Swede Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators.

DETROIT -- Nicklas Lidstrom and Borje Salming were teammates for a few weeks in September of 1991 when the pair played for Team Sweden in the Canada Cup.
The two defensemen were opposites in career terms.
At that time, Lidstrom was a 21-year-old just about to start his first NHL season, ready to join the Detroit Red Wings. Salming was a 40-year-old who one year earlier had ended a 17-season NHL career by playing his final campaign with the Red Wings.
Lidstrom was the future of European hockey players in the NHL. Salming was the past.
Lidstrom today starts a Stanley Cup final series against the Pittsburgh Penguins that could make him the first European to ever captain an NHL champion. Seventeen years ago, Lidstrom was a kid playing alongside his boyhood idol, Borje Salming, if only for one tournament.
Salming told Lidstrom what it was like to break into the NHL in 1973, back when Europeans were just a handful in number scattered throughout North America. Salming was the first great NHL player from Europe.
"I think he paved the way for a lot of Europeans the way he played," said Lidstrom of Salming. "He faced a lot of tough games. He was a target when he first came over here and he played through it. I think he proved to a lot of people over here that Europeans can play this style, this type of hockey over here too. He did a lot not only for the Swedes, but for all Europeans."
When Salming started in North America, there had been one European taken in the history of the NHL draft. (Finnish-born left winger Tommi Salmelainen was selected 66th overall by the St. Louis Blues in 1969. Salming was signed as a free agent by Toronto.)
By 1980, there had been a total of 48 NHL picks spent on Europeans in the history of the draft. It was an NHL landscape that changed dramatically in the 1990s. In the draft of 2000 alone, there were 123 Europeans selected.
Back when Salming broke into the NHL in the 1970s, however, Europeans were oddities that were viewed with skepticism. It was common for a youth hockey player in Canada back then to hear phrases like "hits (softly) like a Swede" and "chicken Swede", cultural biases that were born out of stylistic differences in play.
Europeans back then did play more of a skill-oriented game with less hitting involved than did North Americans. And North Americans played more of a straight-forward, high body contact game than did Europeans.
In today's NHL, however, the two styles have blended because of the high number of Europeans in the league.
"I think we play more of a mix of European and North American hockey where you have speed and a lot of physical play and hitting, but you have more skill too," said Lidstrom. "The Europeans bring that. I think that was a big difference from what it was like when Salming joined the league."
Detroit goalie Dominik Hasek broke into the NHL in 1990 -- one year before Lidstrom -- as a 25-year-old. Training techniques were different. Hasek was used to much longer practices in Europe that went at a much slower pace.
But the biggest difference he experienced -- even as recently as the early 90s -- was the attitude towards European players.
"When I came in, there were maybe 10, 15 Europeans," said Hasek, who in 1997 became the second European MVP of the NHL, following Detroit's Sergei Fedorov. "Especially goalies. Nobody believed in European goalies. I think they only thought the Russian players were good. They didn't think much of Czechs or Finns or Swedes. Now, I think people now see European players completely different from 1990 when I broke into the league. It's a blended league."
And in this blended NHL, the Red Wings have become a poster child of sorts.
Ten of the 20 players who dressed for Detroit in the victory that clinched the Western Conference playoff title were Europeans. Only five of 20 Penguins in the final game of the Eastern Conference final were Europeans.
Having been named playoff MVP in 2002, Lidstrom is still the only European to ever win the Conn Smythe Trophy and one of only two non-Canadians to do so. (American Brian Leetch won the award in 1994.) Lidstrom is also the only European to ever win the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman.
Last season, Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson, a Swede, became the first European to captain a team to the Stanley Cup final. Sterling Heights native Derian Hatcher won the Stanley Cup in 1999 with Dallas and is still the only non-Canadian to captain a hockey champion.
Russian Alexander Mogilny became the first European captain in the NHL in 1993 with the Buffalo Sabres.
Nicklas Lidstrom could soon become the first European captain to win the Stanley Cup.
Lidstrom has become in his own time what Salming was in his. A trail blazer.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Franzen says he won't play Game 1

Johan Franzen said today that he won't be in the lineup for tomorrow's Game 1.

"I'm not playing tomorrow," said Franzen. "I'm just waiting for the doctor to clear me."

The forward said today that he played for three games with headaches that didn't go away throughout the day. Franzen practiced today for the first time since Game 1 of the Western Conference final. He worked in on the second line, but the Red Wings skated with the same combinations they used in the final game against Dallas (see earlier posting).

"I'm just happy I'll be back in this series for sure," said Franzen. "I'm not sure what game."

Franzen doubtful for Game 1

General manager Ken Holland said at the NHL's media day that Johan Franzen (headaches) is doubtful for tomorrow's Game 1. Holland said that Franzen will see a doctor tomorrow for an evaluation.

"We expect him to play in this series," said Holland. "He's close."

Coach Mike Babcock noted that Franzen looked good today in his first practice in weeks.

"Looks to me like he's ready, but that's why I don't make those decisions," said Babcock. "This morning was a big morning (for Franzen)."

Cheli not hurt, out for Game 1

I didn't think that Chris Chelios was too hurt to play. He said at media day today that he's out of the lineup for Game 1. Andreas Lilja will be on the third defense pairing with Brett Lebda.

Chelios said that the lineup will be the same as in Game 6 of the Western Conference final because the team is playing well.

"I'm ready to jump in, ready to go if need be," said Chelios.

Franzen on the ice at practice

UPDATE: Franzen took a few shifts on a five-on-five battle drill with the second line (subbing for Hudler or Cleary alternately). He didn't make contact with anyone, but participating in that drill is a good sign. Battle drills are the final hurdle before players are green-lighted for game action.

To be clear, Franzen just worked in on the second line. But I'd say that his participation in these drills makes him a true game-time decision for tomorrow.


Johan Franzen is on the ice with the Red Wings as they warm up for their practice. Has this story taken on an unreal life or what.

It looks like they're not planning on Franzen playing in Game 1. He's skating with the spare forwards. Of course, that could change tomorrow, but for now, he's not in the plans.

Also of note is that Chris Chelios looks to be out of the lineup for Game 1 as he was for Game 6 of the Western Conference final. That means that Andreas Lilja will play his second straight game.

Practice lines ...
Franzen-Hartigan-Downey (spare parts)

Meech-Chelios (spare parts)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Franzen cleared to practice tomorrow

Johan Franzen will practice with the Red Wings tomorrow. The forward, who has been sidelined by headaches, hasn't played since Game 1 of the Western Conference final. Franzen did not speak with the media today.

He likely will not play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final.

"He's going to be available, I don't know at what point," said coach Mike Babcock. "We're real optimistic. Doctors make those decisions. I don't think he's going to play in Game 1. But anytime after that (he might play)."

"He's ready," said Babcock. "There's no coaching perspective in this. It's all doctors. He's tipping pucks in the back of the net. He's flying around at 100 miles an hour. ... He's ready to go. He's just got to get the OK."

Newest Draper

Kris Draper missed practice today to be at the birth of his third child, Kamryn Rose. She was born this morning. Draper will be back on the ice for tomorrow's practice.

Franzen on the ice

Johan Franzen (headaches) is on the ice right now, skating with the Grand Rapids kids after the Red Wings finished their practice. Franzen is unlikely to play in Game 1. I'll update if he speaks to the media after he leaves the ice.

Red Wings' Thursday practice

The Red Wings have just taken the ice at Joe Louis Arena. The only players not on the ice are Valtteri Filppula and Kris Draper. Filppula hasn't practiced in a week but hasn't missed any game action.

Lines they're working with ...
Hudler-Hartigan (for Filppula)-Cleary
Drake-Abdelkader (for Draper)-Samuelsson


Note that Lilja is on the third defense pairing. Abdelkader and Hartigan are acting as place-holders.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Finals tickets go on sale Tuesday

From the Red Wings' PR staff ...

… Great Savings Still Available With Deposit On Next Season …
Detroit… Single-game final-round tickets for the 2008 Stanley Cup Final go on sale tomorrow (5/20) at 12 noon to the general public at the Joe Louis Arena box office, all ticketmaster outlets including The Hockeytown Café and Hockeytown Authentics in Troy, or charge by phone at (248) 645-6666. Fans can also purchase tickets by logging on to
The Red Wings also continue to accept season-ticket deposits for the 2008-09 season which allows fans to lock in next year’s season tickets at this year’s prices and qualifies them to purchase all remaining 2008 playoff games at preferred prices.

Stanley Cup final schedule

Date Time Match-up Television
Saturday, May 24 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at Detroit VERSUS, CBC
Monday, May 26 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at Detroit VERSUS, CBC
Wednesday, May 28 8 p.m. Detroit at Pittsburgh NBC, CBC
Saturday, May 31 8 p.m. Detroit at Pittsburgh NBC, CBC
Monday, June 2 * 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at Detroit NBC, CBC
Wednesday, June 4 * 8 p.m. Detroit at Pittsburgh NBC, CBC
Saturday, June 7 * 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at Detroit NBC, CBC

* -- if necessary

Forward lines shuffled

Jiri Hudler will be on the second line tonight where he played most of Game 5. Mikael Samuelsson is on the third line with Kirk Maltby down on the fourth.

"I thought Draper and Dallas Drake did a good job on the forecheck, turning pucks over," said coach Mike Babcock. "With Maltby on that line, he's not as dangerous as Sammy. So that's why I've done that. And that gives my other group (fourth line) two good skaters (Helm and Maltby). On the road, matchups aren't as easy to get ... I want to have four groups at 40 seconds apiece, not six groups at 60 seconds apiece."

Lilja possibly in for Chelios

Coach Mike Babcock said that Chris Chelios' leg is bothering him and he's a game-time decision. Chelios did skate this morning with Derek Meech as his partner.

Andreas Lilja practiced with Brett Lebda this morning. Lilja said after the morning skate that he's probably going to be in the lineup tonight for Game 6.

I'm not certain why the pairings were switched at practice. If Chelios could skate this morning, why didn't he skate with Lebda and then make a decision at game time? Why change partners for practice if Chelios could possibly play tonight? It gives the appearance that Lilja is going to be in the lineup.

Red Wings' Monday morning skate

Here are the lines that the Red Wings are practicing with this morning. Note that Valtteri Filppula is not on the ice, but will be in the game. Filppula hasn't practiced in the past week and Mark Hartigan subs in for him at practice.

Hudler-Hartigan (for Filppula)-Cleary


At this point, I honestly don't know whether Meech-Chelios or Lebda-Lilja are the third defense pairing. We'll find out at Coach Babcock's press conference.

UPDATE: It's Lebda-Lilja tonight with a possible Chelios injured leg.

33 years

In NHL history, there have been 155 playoff series that started with one team winning the first three games. The Red Wings and Stars are already in rare territory by going to six games. Here's how the other 155 series have ended ...

100 times in four games
43 times in five games
7 times in six games
3 times in seven games with 3-0 team winning
2 times in seven games with 0-3 team winning

The two times that the team down 3-0 rallied to win the series were in 1942 (Toronto over Detroit in the Stanley Cup final) and 1975 (Islanders over Pittsburgh in the second round). Thirty-three years between those two events and 33 years since the last time it happened.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Franzen not ready for Game 6

Johan Franzen (headaches) still hasn't skated and isn't expected to play in Monday's Game 6 in Dallas. Franzen can ride the stationary bicycle and can work on conditioning.

"We have to leave it up to the experts, the doctors," said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom. "You don't want to start exercising and get headaches again. That's dangerous. You don't want to push it too early. That's where the doctors' expertise comes in."

"He's getting better," said coach Mike Babcock of Franzen. "He hasn't been cleared to play. ... Does he have to skate for a month as soon as he's cleared? No, he'll play the day he's cleared."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Red Wings' Friday practice

The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness is down at Joe Louis Arena for the Red Wings' practice today. He said that neither Johan Franzen nor Valtteri Filppula were on the ice. Franzen is out with headaches. Filppula is banged up from late-season injuries. He didn't take part in the Wednesday morning skate, but did play in Game 4 that night.

All is not well in Hockeytown

It isn't a problem that the Detroit Red Wings have all of their offensive eggs in one basket. The problem is that there are so few eggs right now.
While one loss in the past 10 playoff games is not problematic, the development of the Red Wings' scoring is.
The team's loss in Dallas in Game 4 of the Western Conference final highlighted that the Red Wings are at this moment a one-line team. If not for Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom, there wouldn't be enough offense to sustain hockey's most talented team.
Zetterberg's goal was Detroit's lone tally in Game 4. Datsyuk had another that was waved off when it was ruled that Holmstrom's rear end was over the crease. (I couldn't make that up if I tried.)
Of the Red Wings' 12 goals in the Western Conference final, eight have been scored with their top forward line on the ice.
More importantly, of Detroit's past seven goals, six have been scored by Zetterberg or Datsyuk. And it's during that span -- three games -- that the Red Wings have been playing without Johan Franzen, who has been shelved with headaches.
Franzen had developed into a one-man secondary scoring band late in the regular season and throughout the playoffs. He scored 27 goals in a 27-game stretch. In the Red Wings' second-round elimination of Colorado, Franzen netted nine goals in four games.
With Franzen in the lineup, the Red Wings were a diversified attack, one that had two lines with which opponents needed to deal. Detroit was more than the equal of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are rolling through these playoffs with a Sidney Crosby line and a Evgeni Malkin line.
Without Franzen on the ice, however, the Red Wings are a top-heavy unit.
Dan Cleary has moved up to Franzen's spot on the second line, but he nor Valtteri Filppula nor Mikael Samuelson have scored since they've been put together three games ago.
The third line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Dallas Drake does not produce offense. The trio has two goals between them in 14 playoff games.
The fourth line of Darren Helm, Darren McCarty and Jiri Hudler nets an occasional goal, averaging about one every three games (five goals combined in 14 games).
Add it all up and the Red Wings without Franzen are a team that has 21 playoff goals from its top line and 13 goals from its other three lines combined.
During the regular season, coach Mike Babcock tried to make the Red Wings into a more diversified team, often splitting Datsyuk and Zetterberg to center their own lines. The theory was sound, but it wasn't practical. Datsyuk and Zetterberg were great apart, but not as great as they were together. The Red Wings scored more with the pair together than apart.
In other words, the problem isn't Datsyuk and Zetterberg. They're unstoppable together The Wings' top line has scored at least one goal in 12 of their 14 playoff games, including the past seven in a row.
And having two Selke Trophy finalists who are also great scorers together on the same line creates line-matchup nightmares for opponents.
The problem that the Red Wings have right now is that no other line produces goals consistently. It's a problem that's been masked lately by two things: the brilliance of the top line; and the effectiveness of a team defense that has allowed two or fewer goals in nine of 14 games.
But if Franzen isn't able to return soon (he was cleared to resume conditioning Wednesday) and if other forwards like Cleary, Samuelsson and Filppula don't start scoring … then the Red Wings' playoff run could shatter like a cracked egg.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Franzen cleared to work out

General manager Ken Holland said this morning that Johan Franzen has been cleared by doctors to work on his conditioning. Franzen missed Games 2 and 3 with headaches -- something that he had been playing with for at least a week.

Franzen is now allowed to work on the bicycle. Holland said that Franzen won't be skating on his own until Friday at the earliest.

Red Wings sign Larsson

The Red Wings have signed goaltending prospect Daniel Larsson to a two-year entry-level contract. Detroit had until June 1 to sign their fourth choice in the 2006 draft or else lose his rights.

"He's really matured the last two or three years," said Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill. "He's ready to come over. It's coming over and getting adapted to the smaller ice. The shots are coming at you a little quicker."

Nill said that Larsson will likely play in Grand Rapids next season. Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard are both under contract with the Red Wings for next season. Dominik Hasek will become an unrestricted free agent in the summer.

Larsson was named the Swedish elite league's top goalie this season, his second in the top division.

Larsson was another gem found by the Red Wings' scouts. The netminder has passed through two NHL drafts without being selected before being taken as a 20-year-old by Detroit.

With the signing of Larsson, the Red Wings now have four prospects whose rights they'll lose if still unsigned on June 1 -- Sergei Kolosov, Anton Axelsson, Dick Axelsson, and Logan Pyett.

Pyett and Dick Axelsson have been listed by Detroit general manager Ken Holland as players that the team would like to sign.

Red Wings' Wednesday morning skate

They're on the ice right now and it's no surprise that the Red Wings are working with the same line combinations that they used in Game 3.

The only player not on the ice is Valtteri Filppula. Mark Hartigan is working as the second-line center between Dan Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson, meaning that Filppula will be in the lineup tonight. If Filppula was going to miss the game, the lines would be shuffled with Hartigan on the fourth line.

Modano and Morrow to play

Coach Dave Tippett said after the Stars' morning skate that both Brenden Morrow and Mike Modano will be in the lineup for tonight's Game 4. Both players were hurt by big hits in the third period of Game 3.

Modano did skate at this morning's practice. Morrow did not. Neither skated on Tuesday.

Hudler steps up

DALLAS -- Brett Lebda had been warned.
Lebda's roommate on the road for the past three seasons, Jiri Hudler, sat in their room before Game 3 of the Western Conference final and told Lebda what would happen. As he does on rare occasion with Lebda, Hudler said that he would score a goal that night.
Not for bet's sake. Not to be a braggart. And not to be humorous.
It was a feeling mentioned to one teammate with nothing but the upcoming battle on their minds.
Hudler did score in Game 3, potting the goal that put the Detroit Red Wings ahead for good on their way to a 5-2 victory, giving them a 3-0 series lead heading into tonight's Game 4 in Dallas.
"He doesn't tell me that a lot," said Lebda. "Usually when he tells me that, he gets one. It's weird. When he scored he came to the bench and just looked at me. I was just shaking my head."
Predictions are impressive, leading to the thought that a player can be in sync with the very nature of the game.
But production trumps prediction every time in sport. And Jiri Hudler is producing for the Red Wings in this post-season.
Despite playing on the fourth forward line and averaging just 11:06 of ice time per game -- of the 12 forwards in the Detroit lineup for Game 3, that ranks ninth -- Hudler is fourth on the Red Wings in playoff scoring with 12 points in 13 games.
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg receive much of the attention for the Red Wings' offensive production. Johan Franzen and his league-high 12 playoff goals has been an international story.
But contributions from Hudler -- only Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Franzen have more points or goals -- help keep the Red Wings from being a one-line team.
Linemate Darren McCarty, who assisted on Hudler's winning goal, Monday, smiles thinking about Hudler's post-season success. McCarty calls Hudler Detroit's "secret weapon."
"When your fourth line left winger has (12 points), he can play," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "Everything about Hudler, he's a little guy, but he's competitive. He's strong. He holds onto pucks. Like the goal he scored (Monday) night, he's as good as anybody on our team in finding the space."
The goal Hudler scored happened because he waited and waited, then snuck behind the Dallas defensemen, slowly skating backwards. When Niklas Kronwall zipped a pass to Hudler, he turned and dashed to the net, scoring on the breakaway.
No better analogy for the early part of a career could be made.
Hudler got a taste of the NHL at the young age of 19, getting in 12 games with the Red Wings. After three seasons with Grand Rapids of the AHL, Hudler had his first full NHL campaign last winter. Once he got that opportunity -- that breakaway pass -- he made it count.
"I was lucky I got a sniff of the NHL my first year, playing in the NHL is a dream of every hockey player," said Hudler. "Fortunately I was drafted here. There's a lot of different teams in the league. I feel I got lucky. I just had to have patience. In the beginning, you kind of think about this is a good team, am I going to get a chance. This is how it works with the Detroit Red Wings. They put the young guys in position to get confidence. When you're ready, you're going to play."
Sometimes we lose track of Hudler's progress as easily as defensemen do. Because Hudler got a taste of the NHL at such a young age, he's often thought of as being more of a veteran than he is.
Hudler is two years younger than Lebda, but was in the NHL two years before his roommate. Hudler is three years younger than Kronwall, but debuted two months before him. Hudler is two years younger than Tomas Kopecky and the same age (24) as Derek Meech and Valtteri Filppula.
Hudler has been integrated more and more in the Red Wings' lineup as his career has aged. After that brief call-up, Hudler tallied 25 points last season and 42 points this season. After being a healthy scratch for most of last year's playoffs, he's averaging nearly a point per game this spring and hasn't sat out once.
Roles on NHL teams aren't the same as calling your shots to a roommate before a game. You can't predict who's going to fit where or how much success they'll have.
But right now, Hudler is looking a lot like Detroit's fourth-line forwards from past great teams.
"That's what the Red Wings were about for years and years, before the cap world, was that the fourth line could score," said Babcock. "Everyone else checked, but theirs scored. And I think obviously if you have (Igor) Larionov and (Luc) Robitaille on it, that's going to happen. But when you have Hudler and (Darren) Helm, they've given us goals."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stars' health

Looks like Jere Lehtinen will be out for Game 4 with a knee injury. Here's what Dallas coach Dave Tippett said today: "Lehtinen doesn’t look like he’ll be a player tomorrow. Barnes is still out. Morrow and Modano weren’t on the ice today. They should be fine for tomorrow. And Fistric is sick, so that’s why he wasn’t out there yesterday."

Babcock contract

Mike Babcock's contract is done after this post-season. He and general manager Ken Holland talked about a new deal as the regular season wore down. Both sides believe a deal will be done after the playoffs are over.

Babcock on his contract: "I'm staying in Detroit. We'll get all that worked out. I'm optimistic ... no, I know we'll get that worked out. It's all just details."

Franzen out Game 4

Johan Franzen won't play in Game 4 of the Western Conference final. When he returns to the ice is still unknown.

THe NHL's leading goal-scorer in the playoffs had tests, Monday, because of concussion-like symptoms ... headaches. General manager Ken Holland said that the tests found nothing that needed treatment.

"Basically, he continues to have headaches and he's day-to-day, nothing significant," said Holland. "We're hoping he's going to be back here at some point in time. For now, he's not going to go in Game 4."

But Franzen's headaches persist, so he'll have to rest until they subside. He's not able to work on conditioning (bike, etc) right now.

"The doctor that did see him said he's day-to-day," said Holland. "We're hoping that he'll feel better in a few days. ... When the headaches go away they'll look at him again. For right now, we're kind of in a holding pattern."

Thoughts on Game 3 WCF (5-2 win in Dallas)

-- Brenden Morrow was shaken by Kris Draper's third-period hit, but coach Dave Tippett said that Morrow will be fine for Game 4.

-- Chris Osgood is playing like a championship goalie.

-- The Stars lost this game with bad defense and lack of hustle. Letting Jiri Hudler get behind them was a killer. Then on the next goal -- Zetterberg's shortie -- both Stephane Robidas and Mike Ribeiro stopped skating even though Hank was bearing down 1-on-1 on Brad Richards. Unforgivable. Had either Star backchecked, Zetterberg wouldn't have had the middle of the ice as an option.

-- Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg vs. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Forgive me. I just like the sound of that. I'm not talking about the Stanley Cup final, of course. I'd never jinx the Wings like that.

-- The Wings do miss Johan Franzen a lot. Tonight, Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk carried the offensive load. In Game 2, the Wings squeaked by with a two-goal outing. Scoring from the line of Filppula-Samuelsson-Cleary is imperative. They have to start clicking. Cleary was bumped up to keep that line going, but it's not. The Draper-Maltby-Drake line isn't going to score. And the Helm-Hudler-McCarty line has only a slightly better chance of scoring. In order to keep this from being a one-line team, the Filppula line has to start scoring with or without Franzen.

-- Niklas Kronwall is a remarkable passing defenseman.

Monday, May 12, 2008

No Lehtinen

Dallas forward Jere Lehtinen is not on the ice for the pregame skate, meaning he'll likely be out of the lineup for tonight's game 3. A leg injury sent Lehtinen off the ice after his first shift in the second period of Game 2. The Stars skated this morning with Steve Ott up on the top line in Lehtinen's place. We'll see what line combinations they'll use tonight.

Ribeiro/Osgood incident

NHL senior vice president Colin Campbell spoke on Toronto radio station the FAN 590 today about not giving out any suspensions to Mike Ribeiro (two-handed slash) or Chris Osgood (butt end) in an incident at the end of Game 2. Both players were fined by the league.

"There's a slash and there's a slash," said Campbell. "I can't even tell there's an injury on this play if there was. I'm sure there wasn't. If you look at the slash, the use of his stick, there was no follow through. It stopped and he just kind of raked it across his chest. With all due respect to Chris, I guess that's what you have to do today. … Teams are competitive and they try to do what they have to do to draw penalties, to draw suspensions, to get any kind of edge because the prize is pretty valuable."

With all due respect to Colin, it was a two-handed baseball swing slash to the midsection over top of the net. It obviously didn't hurt Osgood. He could have gotten a two-minute minor for diving on the play. But not suspending Ribeiro does hurt the NHL's reputation. It was a two-handed baseball swing over the net.

Here's where I draw the line ... what Osgood did was part of a normal hockey play. What Ribeiro did was shocking. Ribeiro didn't hurt anyone. But that doesn't mean that he shouldn't have been suspended.

Two Finns

Valtteri Filppula is the only Finn to ever play for the Detroit Red Wings. With the signing of free agent Ville Leino over the weekend to a one-year entry-level contract, there's the possibility of another Finn in the Detroit locker room next season.

Filppula talked with Leino when he was in Detroit last Friday, answering questions. Filppula, 24, is five months younger than Leino. The two were opponents in the Finnish elite league for two seasons and played against each other at the junior level before that.

Filppula offered a theory as to why Leino was not drafted and remained an unrestricted free agent up until inking a deal with Detroit at the age of 24. Filppula said that Leino played on third and fourth lines in Finland for years before being used on a scoring line for Jokerit this winter.

"He's really not that type of player (checker)," said Filppula. "Now the last year, he's been top lines and he's been able to do a lot of good things. Obviously he's been playing really well. … He has really good hands, good skill. That's what I always remember from him. He protects the puck really well."

Filppula laughed and went along with the joke when asked if it would be nice to add another Finn in a locker room with so many Swedes.

Red Wings' Monday morning skate

The Red Wings are on the ice right now at the American Airlines Center. There are no lineup changes from Game 2 and everyone is on the ice.




Stars' Monday morning skate

Jere Lehtinen is questionable for tonight's game -- a game-time decision. Steve Ott skated on the top line along with Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow at the morning skate.

Brad Richards wasn't on the ice this morning. I'll update after coach Dave Tippett's press conference.

UPDATE: Richards will play.

Ribeiro said that he wasn't surprised that there were no suspensions from the stick-swinging incident at the end of Game 2. The Stars' top scorer said that Chris Osgood's butt-end was worse than his action. Ribeiro said that if he was suspended for one game, he would have expected Osgood to be suspended for two games.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hot team, hot weather

The forecast for Dallas tomorrow calls for 83-degree weather. That means that the ice in the American Airlines Center could be choppy.

"That facility is going to be real hot," said Babcock. "The ice, in my experience, in Dallas at playoff time gets to the point that it's hard to make plays."

Red Wings' Sunday practice

It's an optional today at Joe Louis Arena with most of the big names not on the ice. All of the Grand Rapids prospects are out there to fill out the numbers.

Tomas Holmstrom, who missed Saturday's morning skate, is on the ice.

Dallas flew home last night and the Stars will skate today in Dallas.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Red Wings sign Finnish free agent

The Red Wings have signed Ville Leino, a 24-year-old unrestricted free agent. Leino was in Detroit, Friday, hearing a pitch from the Red Wings before signing an entry-level deal.

Leino was in the same position that Swedish free agent Fabian Brunnstrom was before signing with Dallas this week in that he could sign with any NHL team with no compensation going to his Finnish club.

Leino was second in the Finnish elite league in scoring this season with 77 points in 59 games. His 28 goals were third in the league and his 49 assists topped the circuit.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland said tonight that the Red Wings are interested in Leino and that the Finn would likely spend his first couple of weeks next season in Grand Rapids to get acclimated to the North American game.

"He's a good hockey player," said Holland. "He wants to come over to North America. He's good down low. He led the Finnish league in scoring (second), so he's got a scoring touch. His goal is to play in the NHL."

Leino spent five seasons in the lower levels in Finnish hockey. He hadn't scored more than 12 goals or 43 points in a season before coming to Jokerit of the elite league this winter.

Before this season, the Red Wings added a Finnish scout, Ari Vouri, to their European staff.

Franzen out of the lineup

UPDATE FROM KEN HOLLAND: "He got hit in the Colorado series and he's been having headaches. Nothing significant, but he's been having headaches. And finally after Game 1 (Friday) morning, he mentioned to the trainers that he's having headaches."

Johan Franzen has concussion-like symptoms according to the Red Wings and won't be in the lineup tonight. The team press release said that Franzen has experienced recurring headaches since early in the Colorado series. He won't play until further testing is complete.

Franzen will also miss Game 3 in Dallas to remain in Detroit for that testing.

I thought it was odd this morning when Dan Cleary skated with the second line instead of just subbing in Mark Hartigan or another player for the half-hour practice. The team obviously knew then that Franzen wouldn't go tonight.

Stars' Saturday morning skate

An optional for Dallas players. While there are 18 skaters on the Joe Louis Arena ice right now, that number is buoyed by the healthy scratches. Players like Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov aren't on the ice this morning. So no read on line combinations for tonight's game.

Red Wings' Saturday morning skate

POST-PRACTICE UPDATE: Coach Mike Babcock said after practice that "at this time of year, nobody's totally healthy. We plan on going with what we had in Game 1." In other words, some players may be banged up, but they'll all be in the lineup tonight ... probably.

The Wings are on the ice right now, but Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen are not. They're the only two lineup regulars who are not on the ice. I'll update after practice.
With the two Swedes not on the ice, Dan Cleary skated on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Mikael Samuelsson. Kirk Maltby was up on the third line with Kris Draper and Dallas Drake and Darren McCarty worked on the fourth line with Jiri Hudler and Darren Helm. Mark Hartigan worked with the top line (Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg), which is a good sign that Holmstrom and/or Franzen will be in the lineup tonight.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Chelios a Masterton finalist

Chris Chelios joins Toronto's Jason Blake and Edmonton's Fernando Pisani as finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, as announced by the NHL, today.

The award is a tough one to get a handle on. It's presented annually to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perserverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." Perserverance is translated by hockey writers (like myself) to mean medical condition. It's a tough award to vote on because how do you measure dedication and perserverance?

The award works like this ... it's the only one with nominees. Each chapter (city) of professional hockey writers gets together an nominates one player from the team they cover. Then the entire PHWA membership votes on the 30 nominees.

Chelios certainly seems to fit the bill for dedication to hockey. How writers in other cities compare that to the medical ailments of Pisani and Blake, however, is unknown. (Or will be until the winner is announced June 12.

I think that Chelios becoming the second oldest player ever in the NHL gives writers something to hang their vote on , rather than just that Chelios is really old. I wouldn't be surprised to see him win this, especially with Blake having a reputation of being prickly.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Brunnstrom a Star

TSN reports that Swedish free agent Fabian Brunnstrom has decided to sign with the Dallas Stars. Brunnstrom had narrowed his decision down between the Stars, Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens.
Now if the Stars shake up their front office, then maybe the Red Wings ...

Fil in the lineup tonight

Coach Mike Babcock said today that Valtteri Filppula will be in the lineup tonight for Game 1 against Dallas. That means that Kirk Maltby will be a healthy scratch and Dan Cleary will skate on the third line with Dallas Drake and Kris Draper.

Short-handed effectiveness

How the Red Wings and Stars have done during the post-season while short-handed. Players are listed with goals for which they've been on the ice and ranked by GA per 60 minutes.

Player, GF-GA, GF/60-GA/60

0-0, 0-0
0-1, 0-3.6
0-2, 0-5.9
3-6, 3.0-6.1

0-3, 0-7.6
3-3, 9.4-9.4
3-2, 10.9-7.3

Player, GF-GA, GF/60-GA/60

0-1, 0-2.8
0-1, 0-2.8
1-2, 2.7-5.4
3-6, 3.0-6.1

1-1, 7.0-7.0
3-4, 5.6-7.5
1-2, 4.5-9.1

Player, GF-GA, GF/60-GA/60

0-1, 0-2.0
0-1, 0-2.1
0-1, 0-2.6
0-2, 0-3.9
0-7, 0-5.2
0-2, 0-8.9
0-1, 0-9.6
0-5, 0-17.6

Player, GF-GA, GF/60-GA/60
0-0, 0-0
0-1, 0-3.1
0-2, 0-4.0
0-2, 0-4.4
0-2, 0-4.5
0-7, 0-5.2

0-3, 0-7.0
0-3, 0-34.4

Worth note is how offensively effective the Red Wings have been while down a man. With Henrik Zetterberg on teh ice, the Red Wings have outscored opponents 3-2. Remarkable.

Power-play effectiveness

How the Red Wings and Stars have done during the post-season on the power play. Players are listed with goals for which they've been on the ice and ranked by GF per 60 minutes.

Player, GF-GA, GF/60-GA/60

5-0, 11.3-0
5-0, 10.9-0
5-0, 9.7-0
10-0, 7.9-0

5-0, 7.3-0
5-0, 7.1-0
5-0, 7.0-0

Player, GF-GA, GF/60-GA/60

5-0, 10.7-0
4-0, 8.1-0
10-0, 7.9-0

6-0, 7.8-0
5-0, 6.9-0

Player, GF-GA, GF/60-GA/60

12-2, 13.3-2.2
11-2, 12.7-2.3
12-2, 12.6-2.1
15-2, 10.0-1.3

2-0, 7.4-0
3-0, 5.0-0
1-0, 4.7-0
1-0, 2.2-0

Player, GF-GA, GF/60-GA/60
13-2, 17.5-2.7
3-2, 11.2-7.5
10-0, 9.7-0
15-2, 10.0-1.3
1-0, 7.,0-0
2-0, 5.7-0
2-0, 5.2-0

The huge obvious here is the balance between Detroit's two power-play units and the lack of balance in Dallas. If the Stars' top unit isn't scoring, the Stars aren't scoring.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Even-strength effectiveness

Here's a comparison of Detroit and Dallas individual players in this post-season, looking at the number of goals for which they're on the ice per 60 minutes of ice time ...

Forwards (ranked by GF/60)
Player, GF-GA, GF/60-GA/60
11-4, 4.5-1.6
9-4, 4.3-1.9
10-3, 4.0-1.2
9-3, 3.8-1.3
8-2, 3.6-0.9
7-4, 3.4-2.0
5-7, 3.4-4.7
25-15, 3.2-1.9
1-1, 2.9-2.9
5-8, 2.5-4.0
5-3, 2.4-1.5
2-2, 1.9-1.9
2-3, 1.3-2.0
1-2, 1.3-2.5

Defensemen (ranked by GA/60)
Player, GF-GA, GF/60-GA/60
10-4, 3.3-1.3
6-4, 2.3-1.5
9-5, 3.1-1.7
9-5, 3.1-1.7
25-15, 3.2-1.9
5-3, 3.5-2.1
6-5, 4.0-3.4
5-4, 4.8-3.8

Forwards (ranked by GF/60)
Player, GF-GA, GF/60-GA/60
9-6, 2.6-1.7
8-7, 2.4-2.1
8-3, 2.3-0.9
7-3, 2.3-1.0
5-3, 2.2-1.4
7-3, 2.0-0.9
20-15, 1.9-1.4
4-4, 1.5-1.5
3-2, 1.5-1.0
3-5, 1.5-2.5
2-3, 1.5-2.2
3-6, 1.0-2.1
0-2, 0.0-2.1

Defensemen (ranked by GA/60)
Player, GF-GA, GF/60-GA/60
5-2, 1.5-0.6
6-3, 1.6-0.8
2-2, 1.2-1.2
1-1, 1.3-1.3
20-15, 1.9-1.4
10-6, 2.7-1.6
3-3, 1.6-1.6
7-6, 2.2-1.9
6-7, 2.4-2.7

Of note ... Mikael Samuelsson draws a lot of criticism, but good things happen when he's on the ice. His defensive game is underrated.
Mike Modano has become a power-play specialist. His even-strength numbers haven't been good in the playoffs.
Brad Richards is the opposite of Modano -- effective at even-strength but not on the power play.
Detroit's top line of Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom is remarkable.
Brad Stuart's numbers support that the Red Wings solidified their top-four blue-liners with his addition.
Dallas' top line of Ribeiro-Morrow-Lehtinen is less scary at even strength than on the power play.
Norstrom and Niskanen have been the Stars' top offensive defensemen (Zubov should rater there soon as well), but their defensive numbers have been below par.

Turco the defenseman

DETROIT -- When the Detroit Red Wings dump the puck into the Dallas zone, they see the Stars in 3-D … as in a hockey team with three defensemen on the ice.
In playing the Dallas Stars in the upcoming Western Conference final (series begins 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Versus), the Red Wings will have to deal with one of the most skilled goaltenders with the puck in Marty Turco. He's also one of the most aggressive in leaving his net to play a loose puck.
"It's going to be a big part of this series," said Detroit forward Darren McCarty. "He's touches the puck more than any goalie."
While the NHL doesn't track touches by goaltenders, Turco's pattern of activity can be seen in his assist totals and penalty minutes.
Turco is one of three goalies with an assist in these playoffs. During the regular season, Turco was fifth among NHL goalies with three assists and second with 16 penalty minutes. Last winter, he was first in helpers with four and sixth in PIMs with 18. Two years ago, Turco led NHL netminders with 28 penalty minutes.
Ask the Red Wings and they'll tell you that Turco, Rick DiPietro and Martin Brodeur are the three best puck-handling goaltenders in the NHL.
Detroit forward Dan Cleary watched Dallas' series clinching win over San Jose, Sunday night, and thought that Turco's aggressiveness playing the puck in four overtime periods was noteable.
"He gets to the puck really quick," said Cleary. "Even in the overtime, the four overtimes, he was out touching everything. It's risky. He's high-risk, high-reward."
So what can the Red Wings do to negate the advantage that Turco's puck-handling skills give the Stars?
Detroit's forwards say that the player who dumps the puck into the zone has to keep it away from Turco, so that if he plays it, he's far from home. Then, the second and third forwards have to play like safeties in football.
Turco likes to pass the puck up the middle and he likes to go against the flow of traffic with a pass behind his back.
"The biggest thing is the guy has to put the puck in where he can't get it, whether it's soft so it doesn't get there or it's a hard diagonal," said Cleary. "That's a big factor on the forecheck. If he does get it -- and he will -- you've got to pressure him, force him to make a play that he doesn't want."
The benefit for Dallas when Turco plays the puck is more than just another breakout pass. When Turco goes for the puck, the Stars' align differently than most teams.
When a goalie plays the puck on most teams, one defenseman will head for the net to start the breakout while the other blue-liner will run some interference and go wide to provide an outlet target.
When Turco plays the puck, both Stars defensemen will go wide as pass-targets, expecting their netminder to quarterback the breakout.
"It's a big thing for them," said Maltby. "He's like a third defenseman. He can get the puck up the ice as good as a defenseman. I see him throw a goalline-to-almost-blue-line breakout pass. He's definitely a threat back there if you're being a little lazy changing (lines)."

Fil on the ice

POST-PRACTICE UPDATE: Filppula was off the ice before special-teams drills as a precaution. Coach Mike Babcock said: "We're going to find out tomorrow. That was the first time he's skated in a while. We didn't want to push it."

Update from the Red Wings' Wednesday practice ... Valtteri Filppula is on the ice and skating on the second line with Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson.
The lines at practice (Note also the split of Lidstrom and Rafalski on the top two defense pairings) ...




Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Drake's last chance?

DETROIT -- Dallas Drake's full circle is becoming a fuller experience every day.
The man who played in his first playoff game in 1993 as a Detroit Red Wing, is back helping that same franchise try to make it to the Stanley Cup this spring. The Red Wings' Western Conference final series against the Dallas Stars opens Thursday (7:30 p.m., Versus) at Joe Louis Arena.
Drake's final playoff game in his first stint with the Red Wings was a Game 7 first-round loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, watching Nikolai Borschevsky score at 2:35 of overtime to eliminate Detroit.
"Early on, you really don't know what it takes to get there," said Drake. "You think for some reason or another, you're going to have the chance to do it every year. Then you realize that it's hard enough just to make the playoffs, let along get to the Stanley Cup final."
Drake learned the hard way. Traded to the Winnipeg Jets in 1994, Drake started his career with eight seasons of either not making the playoffs (twice) or losing in the first round (six times).
(The 39-year-old Drake is old enough that he was a member of the Jets' final squad -- one that lost to the Red Wings in the first round of the 1996 playoffs. That same spring, a 12-year-old Winnipeg boy, Derek Meech, cried when he couldn't get playoff tickets for the Jets. Meech's father eventually got the tickets. Meech and Drake are now teammates.)
At the age of 32, Drake finally found playoff success in his first season with the St. Louis Blues. In the spring of 2001, St. Louis advanced to the Western Conference final before losing in five games to the eventual champions, the Colorado Avalanche.
That, however, has been Drake's only taste of the third round in a 15-year NHL career … until now.
After missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons with the St. Louis Blues, Drake had a 3-10 series record in the post-season through last summer. After signing with the Red Wings as an unrestricted free agent, he's now part of a unit that has won six consecutive games and is 8-2 through two rounds.
But is Drake's full-circle stop in Detroit possibly the final chance at a championship for the 39-year-old?
"I'm not going to lie; It's in the back of my mind," said Drake. "You come to the rink every day and try to enjoy it. I have throughout my career. Especially as you get older, you relish being around the guys a little bit more. I try to take a step back and have as much fun as I possibly can."
What Detroit coach Mike Babcock has had fun with this spring is watching Drake play.
After getting in 65 of the 82 regular-season games, Drake has been a fixture on the third and fourth lines in the Wings' 10 playoff contests. He's averaging 11 minutes of ice time per game and is second among the team's forwards with 20 hits.
"Dallas Drake likes running (defensemen) early in the game," said Babcock. "And I like watching him run 'D' early in the game."
After more than 1,000 regular-season games and 78 playoff contests, Drake is four wins away from his first trip to the Stanley Cup final.
"If it's not the hardest trophy to win in sports, I don't know what one beats it," said Drake. "Football is obviously very tough because so few teams make the playoffs. But in hockey, you've got to win 16 games. Sometimes you have to play 28, 30 games. Just to have the opportunity to play for it is so difficult."

Red Wings' Tuesday practice

Valtteri Filppula (knee) was not on the ice again today. The Red Wings practiced with the same lines they used yesterday. Although both Filppula and coach Mike Babcock said that the young forward should be ready for Thursday's Game 1, the team is not just plugging in a player to Filppula's spot, instead practicing as though he won't be available.
Kirk Maltby is skating on the third line with Dan Cleary being moved up from the third to the second line.

POST-PRACTICE UPDATE: Coach Mike Babcock said that he expects Filppula to play in Game 1, but that if he doesn't skate at tomorrow's practice that the Wings' plan will change.