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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Lilja signs, Stuart talks to go on until noon

General manager Ken Holland said that defenseman Andreas Lilja was signed to a two-year contract, avoiding losing the three-year Red Wing to free agency. TSN reports that Lilja will receive more than the $1 million per season that his previous contract was worth.

Lilja's signing gives Detroit six blue-liners who played significant time last season under contract -- Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall, Brett Lebda and Derek Meech are the others.

Lilja was on the third defense pairing for Detroit most of the regular season, but was a healthy scratch midway through the playoffs as he battled with Chris Chelios and Lebda for ice time. Lilja replaced Chelios in the lineup for the final game of the Western Conference final and remained in the lineup until the Cup clinching game.

Both Chelios and the Red Wings have said that the veteran will return to Detroit this fall, but they'll wait to see how the numbers fall after the free-agent signing period gets underway at noon tomorrow before fitting Chelios in under the cap.

Holland said that he'll remain in talks with Brad Stuart until noon and then will act as though Stuart is going elsewhere.

"History says when noon comes July 1, they're going somewhere else," said Holland.

Salary is what is creating the gap between the sides in the Stuart talks, not contract length.

Stuart came to the Red Wings from Los Angeles at the trade deadline and became a regular on the second defense pairing alongside Kronwall.

If Stuart isn't signed by noon tomorrow, the Red Wings' two options are to sign a free-agent defenseman or go with a youth movement on the blue line. Prospects Jonathan Ericsson and Kyle Quincey have been labeled as "NHL defensemen" by Holland and Jakub Kindl isn't far away.

"If we lose him (Stuart), we'll look at the market," said Holland. "We might just go with some of our kids. At some point, they've got to play."

Holland also said that he's not concerned about restricted free agent Valtteri Filppula getting a contract offer from another club and that a Filppula deal possibly won't be done until near the end of summer.

"For me, another offer isn't a concern," said Holland. "That's done to teams that don't have cap space. We've got cap space."

Including Lilja, the Red Wings have 18 roster-possible players signed for a total cap hit of $41.3 million next season. The NHL's salary cap is $56.7 million and the roster limit is 23 players not on injured reserve. Still unsigned are potential restricted free agents Filppula, Quincey, Ericsson and goalie Jimmy Howard and potential unrestricted free agents Stuart, Chelios, Aaron Downey, Darren McCarty and Dallas Drake.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Salary cap rises

The NHL announced its salary cap for the 2008-09 season -- $56.7 million maximum and a minimum of $40.7 million.

That's pretty much in line with what the predictions were. Obviously a lot of teams are falling off the maximum pace, but the minimum isn't unreasonable for small-market teams. The new NHL is creeping towards the old NHL as far as team salary differential, but I think that's a good thing. I'm not a big believer in rotating champions. With unlimited spending, you still had to be great managers to win. Spending a lot of money didn't guarantee winning. But spending little on salary guaranteed losing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Prospect Kolosov signed

The Red Wings signed defenseman Sergei Kolosov to a two-year entry-level contract today. Kolosov (6-4, 187) was the Red Wings' fifth-round pick (151 overall) in 2004. The 22-year-old played in the USHL with Cedar Rapids before returning home to play in Belarus last winter.

Detroit would have lost his rights June 1, but there was no international transfer agreement in place, keeping Kolosov in the Red Wings' fold. The big blue-liner will be working to earn a spot in Grand Rapids this fall.

Meech named Wings rookie of the year

Defenseman Derek Meech was named the Red Wings' top rookie for 2007-08 in a voting of the sports broadcasters. I guess once Matt Ellis left town this was pretty much a done deal. The press release doesn't say whether the voting was done at the end of the regular season or playoffs. You could argue Darren Helm if the playoffs are included ... making this a Winnipeg vs. Winnipeg competition.

Here are the previous winners (not a bad list for Meech to join) ...

2006-07 - Jiri Hudler
2005-06 - Johan Franzen
2004-05 - None awarded
2003-04 - Niklas Kronwall
2002-03 - Henrik Zetterberg
2001-02 - Pavel Datsyuk
2000-01 - None awarded
1999-00 - Jiri Fischer

1982-99 - None awarded
1980-81 - John Barrett

1979-80 - Mike Foligno
1978-79 - Willie Huber
1977-78 - Dale McCourt
1976-77 - Jim Nahrgang
1975-76 - Michel Bergeron
1974-75 - Bill Lochead
1973-74 - Bill Hogaboam
1972-73 - Henry Boucha
1971-72 - Marcel Dionne
1970-71 - Tom Webster

1969-70 - Al Karlander
1968-69 - Paul Popiel
1967-68 - Gary Jarrett/Roy Edwards
1966-67 - None awarded
1965-66 - Bert Marshall
1964-65 - Roger Crozier
1963-64 - Pit Martin
1962-63 - Doug Barkley
1961-62 - Bruce MacGregor
1960-61 - Hank Bassen

1959-60 - Murray Oliver
1958-59 - Len Lunde
1957-58 - Don Poile
1956-57 - Billy Dea
1955-56 - Glenn Hall
1954-55 - None awarded
1953-54 - Bill Dineen
1952-53 - Marcel Bonin
1951-52 - Glen Skov
1950-51 - Terry Sawchuk

1949-50 - Steve Black
1948-49 - Max McNab

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The big 3-0

It wouldn't be surprising if the Red Wings traded their first-round pick in the NHL draft (starts at 7 p.m. Friday on Versus) to get a couple of lower-round picks, especially Detroit having traded away its second-round pick to get Brad Stuart. Should the Red Wings keep the 30th overall selection -- and it's not very likely that they'd have enough ammunition or desire to trade up for a player -- the draft deck will likely be heavy with forwards at that point.

That said, here are a few of the players who could possibly be available when the 30th pick rolls around. Remember, I said possibly.

-- Jordan Eberle, 5-10, center, Regina (WHL).
Ranked by ISS as the third best scorer in the draft behind only Steven Stamkos and Nikita Filatov. Eberle scored 107 goals in the past three WHL seasons, including 42 this winter in 70 games. The major knock on Eberle might be his size, but size doesn't matter (sorry) for the Red Wings. Eberle isn't a good defensive player and that might place him low on the Red Wings' board. He started the season ranked as a potential mid-first rounder, then slipped down. Now, Eberle's stock is rising and he might be gone 5-10 picks before the Red Wings.

-- David Toews, 5-10, left wing, Shattuck St. Mary's (Minnesota high school).
The younger frother of Chicago's Jonathan Toews. There, that's out of the way. Toews hasn't gone in the first round of a lot of mock drafts, but he is ranked No. 27 among skaters by ISS. Toews is similar to Eberle in that he's offensively strong and needs work on defense. He's a better leader than Eberle, but not as good of a goal scorer.

-- Anton Gustafsson, 6-2, center, Frolunda (Swedish juniors).
Gustafsson could well be around in the second round because he hasn't had much exposure. A back injury kept him out for a good portion of this season, including the world under-18s. The son of Swedish national team coach and former NHLer Bengt, Gustaffson projects as a two-way power forward with good size.

-- Greg Nemisz, 6-3, center, Windsor (OHL).
Nemisz has great size, but is a poor skater. He netted 34 goals for the Spitfires and could be a good power forward some day. He doesn't look like the Red Wings' sort of player, however, because of his poor skating and average (at best) defense. There's a good chance that Nemisz will be off the board when the Red Wings pick.

-- Zac Dalpe, 6-0, center, Penticton (BCHL).
Dalpe's stock has risen this season and he might have gone out of range for the Red Wings. Dalpe is coming from a second-tier junior league, accounting for his rise through the rankings as he became better known. Dalpe, who committed to Ohio State, has excellent skills with the puck and a frame that could fill out.

-- Cody Goloubef, 6-0, defenseman, Wisconsin (WCHA).
A teammate of the Wings' top pick last year, Brendan Smith. Goloubef has performed and performed well on college before his draft year, which makes it easier on scouts. Goloubef's strengths sound Red Wings-like: "He sees the ice well and understands the game in terms of reads that he gives you and is able to play with and without the puck very well," is the ISS report on him.

-- Jake Gardiner, 6-2, defenseman, Minnetonka (Minnesota high school).
Gardiner really doesn't look like the Red Wings' type, but you never know. He's a slick skating blue-liner, who takes big chances, focusing on offense. Gardiner is heading to Wisconsin this fall. The Hockey News draft preview lists one NHL scout as calling Gardiner a "riverboat gambler."

-- Vyacheslav Voinov, 6-0, defenseman, Chelyabinsk (Russia).
Voinov has dropped in his rankings this season (he was rated 17th among skaters by ISS in November) and could be available at 30. Rated by ISS as the fifth best offensive defenseman in this draft, Voinov had already played in the Russian Super League. Not as good of a skater as Gardiner, but a better offensive threat.

Again, these are just some names of players that could be around at the end of the first round, not players who the Red Wings are likely to pick. I'd be surprised if the Red Wings moved up in the draft. But moving down to get perhaps a second- and third-round pick for the 30th is a good possibility. Detroit did that in 2006 and got Cory Emmerton and Shawn Matthias, which worked out very well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stothers out as Griffins coach

Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill on giving the Griffins back control of hiring their coaching staff: "It's their team and they want to have some control. They want to go back in that direction. ... We talked about it internally quite a bit. We have to have a working relationship."


The AHL governors meeting starts in a few days. There's already a change for the Grand Rapids Griffins, howeve,r who have reacquired the right to hire and fire coaches. The Red Wings, specifically Jim Nill, were responsible for the coaching staff last season. Not sure why the change, but perhaps it came down to a difference in opinion on Mike Stothers, who coached the Griffins this past season. Stothers was with the Red Wings, as was assistant Jim Paek, throughout the playoff run.

Here's the Griffins' press release ...

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday announced that they have reacquired the responsibility for their coaching staff from the Detroit Red Wings for the remainder of the teams’ current affiliation agreement, which runs through the 2011-12 season. As part of this change, head coach Mike Stothers will not return for the 2008-09 season.

“After having the opportunity to sit down with the Red Wings and discuss where we are and where we are headed, both sides agreed to return to the previous formula that had worked so well for both franchises,” said Bob McNamara, Griffins general manager. The Griffins hired their own coaching staffs in all seasons prior to 2007-08, when a renewal of their affiliation with the Red Wings shifted that responsibility to Detroit.

The Griffins have begun the process of identifying candidates to fill their head coaching vacancy. Assistant coach Jim Paek, who joined Grand Rapids’ staff in 2005, will remain in his current role and begin his fourth season behind the team’s bench this fall.

The new head coach will join one of the American Hockey League’s premier franchises. Over the last nine seasons, the Griffins have the most wins (402, tied), regular season championships (two) and division titles (five) of any Triple-A hockey team.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thoughts on NHL awards

-- Unlike baseball, you have to search to find a full list of the vote totals for the NHL awards. The NHL should really push those into every morning newspaper, especially the Hart voting.
-- Nicklas Lidstrom finished fourth in the Hart voting. That was Lidstrom's highest ever finish in the MVP race. His previous best finish was sixth in 2007. He was seventh in 2006 and eighth in 2003. It's funny to hear players like Chris Chelios say that Lidstrom should be a Hart finalist. He's right because somewhere along the line Lidstrom should have won a Hart let alone just finish in the top three of the voting. But the players never back him for the Pearson either.
-- Pavel Datsyuk was ninth in Hart voting and Henrik Zetterberg was 10th. (After Lidstrom came Martin Brodeur, Joe Thornton, Evgeni Nabokov, Alexei Kovalev, then Datsyuk and Zetterberg.)
-- This was Lidstrom's biggest runaway with the Norris voting. He got 127 of 134 first-place votes. His point total (1,313) was more than double that of runner-up Dion Phaneuf (561). Brian Rafalski finished ninth in the Norris voting between Chris Pronger and Scott Neidermayer. Ninth is a fair finish for Rafalski.
-- Mike Babcock was a distant third in the Adams voting, just ahead of fourth-place Barry Trotz. I love Trotz, but coaches with a talented team like Babcock rarely get coach-of-the-year respect. I've seen it covering high school sports. I've seen it covering colleges. And it happens in the pros too. I know it's being a homer, but I thought Babcock should have won the Adams.
-- Datsyuk's third straight Lady Byng win was a runaway as well. He had 984 points and 75 first-place votes. Martin St. Louis was second in vote total with 261. But guess who was second in first-place votes? Lidstrom with nine. Lidstrom finished fourth in the vote total behind Jason Pominville. Zetterberg finished fifth and got six first-place votes.
-- The Selke voters (and I'm one) finally caught up with the new look of Detroit's forwards. Two years ago, Kris Draper finished sixth in Selke voting and Zetterberg ninth. Last year, Zetterberg was seventh in Selke voting, but Draper was a close eighth. Datsyuk was way down in 20th place. A lot of people nationally still looked at Draper and Kirk Maltby as Detroit's shut-down forwards. I even heard that said this year in Montreal when the Red Wings played there. I thought Datsyuk was Selke worthy last season. This season, he got a league-best 43 first-place votes in winning the award. Zetterberg was second in first-place votes with 22, but finished third in voting behind John Madden. Dan Cleary finished 15th in Selke voting and Draper was 32nd. Now that's a pretty clear picture of Detroit's forward play.
Selke voting is diverse, so a ton of forwards get votes. Valtteri Filppula finished 40th with a second-place vote and one fifth-place vote. Johan Franzen was 42nd with a second-place vote. Maltby, Mikael Samuelsson and Jiri Hudler (I love him, but no, I didn't vote for him) each got one fifth-place vote to finish tied with many others for 66th.
-- Datsyuk winning the Selke and Lady Byng in the same season is notable. Only Ron Francis (Pittsburgh, 1995) had done that before.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Babcock signs for three more years

No surprises today. Mike Babcock agreed to terms on a three-year contract worth a reported $1.5 million per season with additional bonuses. Both Babcock and general manager Ken Holland said today that they were close to a deal before the playoffs. One of the first things Babcock might need to do is replace assistant coach Todd McLellan, who has been interviewing for head coaching positions.

Wings go Hollywood

Chris Osgood will be on today's "Jim Rome Is Burning." Tonight, Osgood and the Stanley Cup will go to the movie premiere of "The Love Guru", Mike Myers' latest vehicle. Osgood and Nicklas Lidstrom will be on "Last Call With Carson Daly" late-night Thursday after the Conan O'Brien show.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wings call Wednesday press conference

The Detroit Red Wings are expected to announce the signing of coach Mike Babcock to a three-year contract at a press conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday morning. The Associated Press cites an anonymous NHL source as confirming the signing.
Babcock, who guided the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in his third year with the organization, saw his first deal with the franchise expire at the end of the post-season. Babcock and general manager Ken Holland both said that the two sides were close to having a deal before the playoffs, but shelved their talks until after the post-season run.
Babcock has been an NHL head coach for five seasons, leading the Anaheim Ducks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in his first season (2002-03).
If Babcock's tenure lasts through this three-year contract, it will place him fifth on the franchise's list of longest uninterrupted coaching tenures behind Jack Adams (20 seasons), Sid Abel (11 seasons), Scotty Bowman (nine seasons) and Tommy Ivan (seven seasons).

Monday, June 9, 2008

With Dom gone, now what?

Right after Dominik Hasek's retirement press conference, general manager Ken Holland discussed the Red Wings' goaltending situation for next season. His praise of Jimmy Howard stopped short of saying that he's definitely going to be in Detroit next season ... "very close, if not there, to playing in the NHL." It sounds like it's an issue that will be debated by the Detroit front office between now and the draft.

Holland: "I've got my thoughts. Jimmy Howard's very close, if not there, to playing in the NHL. If I look at Ozzie ... it's a guess ... Ozzie can play 50ish games. Maybe he can play more. Certainly the 20-30 games Chris doesn't play, in a parity league, those are key points."

"We're trying to continue to be a Cup contender and how do you move young people into your team at a key position? Do we go out and pursue a veteran guy if there is one? Do we pursue a trade? Do we just decide that we're comfortable with Ozzie and Jimmy Howard? I'll talk to Mike Babcock. I want to talk to Jim Bedard. I want to talk to obviously Jimmy Nill and Steve Yzerman. I've got my thoughts. I want to get their thoughts. Ultimately, I'll formulate a plan. We obviously have to have the plan in place before July 1st if we're going to pursue free agency. If we're going to pursue a trade, we have to have our plan in place before (the draft in) Ottawa (June 20)."

My guess is Howard will be in Detroit this season. He certainly played well this season both in Grand Rapids and for a short stint with the Red Wings. Plus there are not a lot of options out there right now. But playing part of the upcoming season will be an audition for Howard, who will be replaced in 2009-10 if he doesn't perform.

"I think if you have to start the year with Jimmy Howard and Ozzie, I'm comfortable," said Holland. "You've just won the Stanley Cup with Ozzie."

Wings might finish Babcock deal this week

General manager Ken Holland on signing coach Mike Babcock, whose contract is expiring: "Prior to the start of the playoffs, we were real close the day before the Nashville series. We said we were going to put it away until the playoffs were over and we'd pick up where we left off. Hopefully, it won't take too many days."

Wings heavy on blue line

General manager Ken Holland said this morning that the Red Wings will carry eight defensemen again next season. Holland said that if unrestricted free agents Brad Stuart and Andreas Lilja both sign with Detroit, the Red Wings will have "10 NHL defensemen." That figure includes the eight that Detroit had on its roster through this season -- Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall, Stuart, Lilja, Brett Lebda, Chris Chelios and Derek Meech. Holland also labeled prospects Kyle Quincey and Jonathan Ericsson as NHL defensemen, then said that prospect Jakub Kindl will be an NHLer, but is "young."

On signing top-four defenseman Stuart, Holland said that he'll make the blue-liner an offer between now and the draft in Ottawa, June 20.

"Ultimately, a determining factor has to be money," said Holland. "In most times when I announce a contract, I say that the player could have gotten more on the open market. People take less because they want to be here. ... People who like playing with good players are prepared to sacrifice financially, they're prepared to sacrifice ice time. Certainly my indications are that Stuey is prepared to make some sacrifices to come here."

"I've got to get his thoughts, he's got to get my thoughts. Are we in the same ballpark? My feeling is the minute I go out and step out of the team philosophy, we no longer have a team philosophy. We've got to come up with a new philosophy. We'd like to keep him, but he's got to buy into the Red Wing philosophy."

That, to me, sounds like something has to change before Brad Stuart signs with the Red Wings. And on the same day that Ken Holland says that he has 10 NHL defensemen and another in the wings (so to speak), I'm thinking that Stuart won't be back. Just a guess.

Hasek retires

Goalie Dominik Hasek just announced his retirement.

He's at the podium with Ken Holland and Mike Ilitch. In the audience at the press conference are a dozen or more of his teammates and front-office personnel like Steve Yzerman.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wings win Stanley Cup

PITTSBURGH -- There is no future. There is no past.
No games to be played tomorrow. No reason to rehash what happened last week.
What there is in Hockeytown is the present, only today. For today, the Detroit Red Wings are champions of the NHL, owners of the Stanley Cup after a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Wednesday, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final.
It wasn't over, however, until a last-second shot by Pittsburgh sniper Marian Hossa danced along the goal line behind goalie Chris Osgood and out of harm's way as the buzzer sounded.
"I don't know how many seconds were left, but when I saw the puck behind the net and I looked up and it was 0:00 on the game clock, I was a pretty happy man," said Henrik Zetterberg, who was named the playoff MVP.
For the Red Wings franchise, it was the 11th Stanley Cup, the fourth in the past 11 seasons.
For 16-year NHL veteran Dallas Drake, this was a first. The same for the entire province of Newfoundland -- one of 10 in Canada -- whose native son Dan Cleary became the first Newfoundlander to win a Stanley Cup. And it was a first for Europe, which has never seen a native like Nicklas Lidstrom captain a Cup winner before. And it was a first for Darren Helm, who had all of seven regular-season games to his credit before becoming a playoff regular.
For other Red Wings, this was the fourth taste from the Cup -- Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty. For Osgood, Brian Rafalski and Chris Chelios, this was a third championship. For McCarty, who was out of hockey in October and in bankruptcy court last summer, this was redemption.
"Just like everyone says … when you're a little boy, you play on the driveway and you play for the Stanley Cup," said Brett Lebda. "I did it when I was young. To be able to lift it now and have it as a real experience is unbelievable."
All the Red Wings are champions right now. The Penguins, flightless birds, lost this battle with the Wings.
Detroit took a 2-0 lead just before this game was half over. Rafalski scored on the power play 5:03 into the contest. Valtteri Filppula doubled the Red Wings' advantage 8:07 into the second period when he reached around defenseman Brooks Orpik to tuck a rebound through goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's legs.
The Red Wings wound up needing both of those goals and another to secure the championship.
"It's such a long haul, you don't realize how hard it is to get here, let alone lift (the Stanley Cup) over your head," said Drake.
Evgeni Malkin started the Penguins' rally with a power-play goal seven minutes after Filppula's tally.
Zetterberg put the Red Wings ahead, 3-1, with 12:24 left in the third period. His shot went through Fleury's legs and sat behind the netminder. Before anyone noticed it, Fleury reached back and pushed the puck over the goal line.
With 1:27 on the clock, the Penguins drew to within a goal when Hossa redirected a power-play shot past goalie Osgood.
"It's tough," said Osgood. "It's never easy. Toughest trophy in sports to win. It lives for that name every year, that nickname. It was difficult again. Pittsburgh is a great young team, gave us all we could handle. Probably one of the most difficult series I've played in a while."
After Hossa's goal came a late flurry of Pittsburgh chances that only ended when the buzzer sounded.
"I just couldn't believe it was over and I was a Stanley Cup champion," said Cleary. "I was so focused. I turned around and Ozzie (Osgood) was jumping and I knew it was over."
That led to Lidstrom lifting the Stanley Cup. As captain, he handed it first to Drake, the veteran who had never been to a Cup final before.
"I started thinking about it actually in the first round," said Lidstrom. "I didn't tell anyone about it. But I started thinking about if we went the whole way, who should be the guy I gave it to first. And looking at all the players on our team, Dallas is one of the first ones I played with. … He had a long, good career."
Thus, Detroit avoided hosting the first Stanley Cup final Game 7 since 1955. That, however, is about the past and the future. In the present, the Red Wings are champions.

Cheli definitely wants to return

I was able to talk with three of the older players on the ice after last night's game about whether they plan to return next season. Chris Chelios answered with an emphatic yes. Both Dominik Hasek and Dallas Drake said that decision is one they'll make this summer.


RED WINGS WIN THE STANLEY CUP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Red Wings' Wednesday morning skate

The Wings are working out of lines that say they'll keep Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk together tonight. The Heavenly Twins were split apart to center their own lines in the three overtimes of Game 5. Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula did not skate this morning.

McCarty (place holder for Datsyuk)-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Franzen-Hartigan (place holder for Filppula)-Samuelsson


In other words, no changes in the lineup for tonight's Game 6.

Penguins' Wednesday morning skate

UPDATE: Coach Michel Therrien said that Sergei Gonchar, who was injured in Game 5 and only skated one shift in the overtimes, "should be all right to play tonight."


The Penguins are on the ice at Mellon Arena with no absences. They're working out of the same lines they've been using ...


Take note, however, that coach Michel Therrien really juggled those combinations in Detroit for Game 5. He often put Staal on the right side with Hall in the middle and he continued to work Roberts in and out of the top three lines.

The Pens' lines won't likely be as juggled as in the last game because of home-ice advantage. But I think Therrien was also doing that to get players like Staal more opportunity, so we could still see some juggling tonight.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Thoughts on Game 5 SCF (4-3 3OT loss to Pittsburgh)

-- Just an absolutely great game (with a bad outcome). If a national audience didn't enjoy that game, then there's no hope for hockey. Sergei Gonchar returning from injury was a classic moment.
-- Chris Osgood looked very shakey. Marc-Andre Fleury looked better than he ever has in this series. I'm not sure what was going on with Osgood. Hopefully it was a one-game blip. He had trouble catching the puck, keeping his position and left out way too many rebounds. And getting caught cheating off the post on the tying goal was bad. If Ozzie's on his post, the Wings would have the Cup today.
-- I'm disappointed in Johan Franzen's last shift in regulation. He didn't get the puck out of the defensive zone, leading directly to Maxime Talbot's goal. Franzen had an excellent opportunity to clear the zone, but he looked like he was tranquilized. He didn't clear the zone against Anaheim last spring in a key moment.
-- The Red Wings acquitted themselves well except for Talbot's tying goal. They're clearly the better team in this series. But I don't believe that the best team always wins in a best-of-seven format. For those of you who like baseball history, this reminds me a little of the 1960 World Series where the clearly outmanned Pittsburgh Pirates beat the NY Yankees in seven games, getting blown out in Yankee wins but managing enough one-run victories of their own to be champions ... well except that I think the Wings will win this series. Big difference there.
-- Jiri Hudler played a strong game and it's a shame that he was in the penalty box on the winning goal. His stick wouldn't have been high if he wasn't so tired. No excuse though.
-- Darren Helm is awesome. That kid played a magnificent game.
-- I like how Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg centered their own lines in overtime. I'm curious to see if coach Mike Babcock will do that in Game 6.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Good math

Here's a few good numbers from the NHL PR staff heading into tonight's game ...

Of the 29 clubs who have led 3-1 in the Stanley Cup final since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1939, 28 have won the Stanley Cup. The only club to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the final was the 1942 Maple Leafs, defeating the Detroit Red Wings. The Maple Leafs had trailed 3-0 in the series.

Teams with a chance to win the Stanley Cup on home ice are 40-16 (.714) since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1939. The past six Stanley Cups have been won on home ice (Colorado in 2001, Detroit in 2002, New Jersey in 2003, Tampa Bay in 2004, Carolina in 2006 and Anaheim in 2007), although New Jersey (2001), Calgary (2004) and Carolina (2006) each lost a home game with a chance to wrap up the series.

Red Wings' Monday morning skate

Here we go again. Tomas Holmstrom (hamstring) was on the ice this morning for the team skate. He said yesterday that he'll play tonight.

Coach Mike Babcock confirmed at his press conference that Holmstrom will be back in the lineup after a one-game absence. That means it's likely that Darren McCarty will be a healthy scratch. Dan Cleary will bump down to the third line and Kirk Maltby will go from the third to the fourth.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Homer says he'll play

From coach Mike Babcock's press conference today ...

"He told me he's playing," said Babcock of Tomas Holmstrom, who missed Game 4 with a hamstring strain. "I don't usually ask the player. But we'll see what happens. Obviously, we thought he was playing last night. And so we'll see how he is tomorrow. He's got a hamstring injury. Sometimes they don't come as quick as you'd like. He'd really obviously like to play."

Thoughts on Game 3 SCF (2-1 win in Pittsburgh)

-- What a game by Jiri Hudler. Even without the winning goal, he had a fantastic goal. With 4:28 left in the second period, Darren Helm missed the Pittsburgh net wide with a shot on the rush. Missing short-side is ok, but missing wide ... the puck shot down the ice towards Detroit's end. Trouble was, the Wings' defensemen were changing. Hudler raced back and saved Helm with a perfect backcheck, stripping the Penguin of the puck and heading back the other way. Beautiful heady play.
-- The defense pairing of Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart have been phenomenal during this series. Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski are playing like a shut-down pairing. So are Kronwall and Stuart. And did you see Stuart keep a bouncing puck in the Pittsburgh end leading to Hudler's goal?
-- On the winning goal ... Helm's pick on Brooks Orpik was beautiful. And Hudler, showing his smarts again, shooting back-hand rather to catch Fleury off guard was brilliant.
-- Too many superlatives by me. Have to tone it down.
-- The 5-on-3 shift by Henrik Zetterberg was amazing. (Darn, another superlative.) Total heart.
-- Being at the press conferences every day, I'm surprised at how Sidney Crosby refuses to dish out any praise to opponents. In the locker room, he's a nice guy, very polite, very respectful. But when asked about Zetterberg's 5-on-3 play last night, Crosby said, "I don't think he did anything out of the ordinary that any guy wouldn't do on a 5-on-3." Yah, he did. Darren McCarty called Zetterberg's performance "sick". I like that analysis better.