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.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
-- A sports talk radio station had Scotty Bowman on this afternoon. But they called him Scotty Campbell. When he apologized, the host said that Scotty Campbell is one of the crew on the show. Well that explains that.
-- A local TV sportscaster was showing the video of Peter Forsberg high sticking Mikael Samuelsson in Game 3 (complaining that it wasn't penalty worth). But he called the Red Wing Ulf Samuelsson. He never corrected that mistake.
Sorry, just had to vent.
Colorado's Wednesday practice
Coach Joel Quenneville said after Wednesday's practice that Paul Stastny is "probably unlikely for this series", Ryan Smyth is "doubtful for tomorrow" and Peter Forsberg is "being checked out (medically) as well".
Forsberg did not practice today. He did on Monday.
Jose Theodore will start in net again for the Avs in Thursday's Game 4.
Power plays created
During the regular season, Lidstrom created just four Detroit power plays (opponents taking a penalty on him). He already has three PPC in this post-season.
The Red Wings' post-season stats through Game 3 of the Colorado series ...
Player, Power Plays Created, Power Plays Given, +/-
Datsyuk, 6, 0, +6
Samuelsson, 4, 0, +4
Drake, 5, 2, +3
Franzen, 3, 1, +2
Hudler, 3, 1, +2
Lidstrom, 3, 1, +2
Cleary, 2, 0, +2
Zetterberg, 6, 5, +1
Filppula, 1, 0, +1
Osgood, 1, 0, +1
Holmstrom, 3, 3, 0
Lebda, 2, 2, 0
McCarty, 1, 1, 0
Hasek, 0, 1, -1
Kronwall, 2, 3, -1
Rafalski, 0, 1, -1
Chelios, 0, 2, -2
Hartigan, 0, 2, -2
Lilja, 0, 2, -2
Draper, 0, 3, -3
Stuart, 0, 3, -3
Team, 4, 2, +2
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Setup for Game 3
For Detroit, there are no lineup changes.
Red Wings' Tuesday morning skate
-- Kirk Maltby isn't skating on a regular line, meaning he's not likely to play tonight.
-- Here are the lines for practice (no changes from the first two games) ...
Datsyuk-Hartigan-Holmstrom (Hartigan subbing for Hank)
Quincey-Rafalski (Quincey subbing for Lidstrom)
Calgary Flames right wing Jarome Iginla, Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin and Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin are the three finalists.
Lidstrom had strong national support before his knee injury in Colorado after an Ian Laperriere hit. Datsyuk is a finalist for the Selke and Lady Byng.
Personally, I like the three forwards who are finalists. I picked Ovechkin as my Hart winning in my vote. But it's tough to think that Datsyuk could be the No. 4 scorer in the NHL and a finalist for the best defensive forward and not be one of the top three forwards in the league. I had him ranked above Malkin and Iginla.
Colorado's Tuesday morning skate
POST-PRACTICE UPDATE: Ryan Smyth is out for tonight's Game 3. He injured his foot blocking a shot in Game 2. Smyth had two goals and five points in eight post-season games.
"Smytty's had a real good playoffs for us," said Colorado coach Joel Quenneville.
Forsberg (groin) and Hannan (foot) are both probable for tonight, according to Quenneville. Forsberg has missed two of the Avs' eight playoff games. Hannan missed Game 2.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Colorado's Friday practice
Peter Forsberg and Wojtek Wolski are not on the ice. Goalie Jose Theodore is practicing.
The injuries to Forsberg (groin) and Wolski (upper body) could be devastating for the Avalanche.
According to coach Joel Quennville, Forsberg is questionable for tomorrow. Forsberg says he's day-to-day.
Wolski out indefinitely. Quenneville said he's unlikely to return in series.
Theodore will start Game 2.
Datsyuk and Zetterberg Selke finalists
Both Datsyuk and Zetterberg have been prime-time defensive forwards for the past two seasons (at least). This is the first time as a finalist for both.
Madden won the award in 2001 and was a runner-up twice (2003 and 2004).
If you're curious, my vote had Datsyuk at one, Madden at two and Zetterberg at three when I voted at season's end as a member of the hockey writers' association. I also had Datsyuk and Zetterberg among my five Selke votes last season.
Detroit's Friday practice
Defenseman Brad Stuart was back to work and will be in the lineup, Saturday, for Game 2. After being home in California for the birth of his second child, Stuart should bump Andreas Lilja out of the Detroit lineup tomorrow.
Today's practice was optional. Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom weren't on the ice. Datsyuk was reported as being ill.
To me, it's pretty clear that Datsyuk is banged up. But it hasn't shown in his performance. Hopefully, off-day rest will keep him at peak performance through the post-season.
Thoughts on Game 1 vs. Colorado
-- I just heard a television commentator say that Theodore gets a big break (in criticism) because he was so ill. I don't think so. If he's that sick that his performance is going to be that bad, then Theodore didn't do his team any favors by trying to play last night. The Avs would have been better off starting Peter Budaj.
-- After Wolski left the game, the Red Wings' matchups changed. Detroit was putting its top defensive players ... Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom and Lidstrom-Rafalski ... out against the Sakic-Wolski-Brunette line. After Wolski left the game and David Jones replaced him, the Red Wings put their top defenders against the Stastny-Smyth-Hejduk line for the rest of the game.
-- Andreas Lilja looked pumped up early in the game with a big hit on Hejduk four minutes in. After that, he looked tentative. With Brad Stuart coming back for Game 2, Lilja didn't do anything to show that he should be back in the lineup.
-- Darren Helm's speed showed itself again. He's playing well enough that you wonder if he's won a roster spot for next fall. Then again, Kyle Quincey fared well last post-season and he's practicing with the Grand Rapids call-ups this spring. On a side note, Helm threw his body around a lot last night. He bounced off Adam Foote when he tried to check the veteran though.
-- Johan Franzen is exactly the style of player for whom this franchise has searched for years.
-- Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk look driven to carry this team. They came of age as leaders last spring. I was listening to a podcast of Hockey Central out of Toronto this week when Doug MacLean was asked about how the Avs shut down Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra in the first round. MacLean responded that Datsyuk and Zetterberg are much tougher. Nice to see the Wings' Heavenly Twins getting national respect.
-- The Wings' forward lines are nicely balanced right now. With Dan Cleary on the third line, there's a possibility for a goal coming from three unit. The Filppula-Franzen-Samuelsson line is a solid second unit.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Stuart not in lineup tonight
Stuart will be in Detroit later today and he will practice with the Red Wings tomorrow. He will be back in the lineup for Game 2.
Andreas Lilja will partner with Niklas Kronwall tonight on the second defense pairing. Lija has been a healthy scratch the past three games.
Red Wings Thursday morning skate
The Wings are working out of the same lines they used in Game 6 of the Nashville series.
Hartigan (healthy scratch)
Downey (healthy scratch)
Maltby (healthy scratch)
Meech (healthy scratch)
Ericsson (healthy scratch)
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Stuart still out west
"He's got to be with his wife," said coach Mike Babcock. "That's his first priority. We're the second priority."
If Stuart isn't back for Game 1, Andreas Lilja has been practicing in his spot on the second defense pairing alongside Niklas Kronwall.
Pavel Datsyuk is on the ice right now for the Red Wings' practice at Joe Louis Arena. He missed yesterday's session with the flu.
Defenseman Brad Stuart is not with the team right now. He flew home to California to be at the birth of his second child.
Wearing the grey sweaters -- players likely to be scratched -- are Mark Hartigan, Kirk Maltby and Aaron Downey.
Jonathan Ericsson is practicing with the Red Wings instead of with the Grand Rapids call-ups for the second straight day.
Here are the lines they're working out of ...
Kronwall-Lilja (subbing for Stuart)
It's the Avs
Game 1, Thursday, 7:30 p.m., at Detroit, Versus, TSN
Game 2, Saturday, 3 p.m., at Detroit, NBC, TSN
Game 3, Tuesday Apr. 29, 10 p.m., at Colorado, FSN, Versus, TSN
Game 4, Thursday May 1, 10 p.m., at Colorado, Versus, TSN
Game 5, Saturday May 3, 1 p.m., at Detroit, NBC, TSN
Game 6, Monday May 5, 10 p.m., at Colorado, FSN, Versus, TSN
Game 7, Wednesday May 7, TBD, at Detroit, FSN, TSN
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
He's smarter than everyone. It's real easy to sum it up that way. If you look at the way he plays night-in night-out every season, he's rarely hurt and he's always the best player on the ice. And why is that? I think it's because he's a lot smarter than everyone.
He reads the game so well that a lot of times he doesn't have to do anything dramatic. He does things that are so simple.
He's kind of like a computer some times. He doesn't make mistakes. He's always in the right spot. He's making the game look very easy.
Nick Lidstrom in my mind, you can't have a better player in your organization. They talk about a lot of players. Here they talk about Stevie (Yzerman) and guys that went before him. I don't know how you can be a better Red Wing than this guy (Lidstrom). He does everything right. That's on the ice, off the ice, that's preparation. … To me, there is no question who the Norris Trophy winner. I'm not trying to take anything away from Dion (Phaneuf), who's a great young player, or (Zdeno) Chara, who's a huge man and great player. But the best player on the back end in the game today bar none is Nick Lidstrom.
His ability to be in the right place at the right time. His timing and his calm. That's what stands out to me. You can talk about 50 things with him, but as for what's different than other players, I'd start with that. He's always in the right position.
Everything he's achieved is unbelievable. I think they'll start to understand Nick better once he's done.
Kopecky has surgery
Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland today announced that forward Tomas Kopecky underwent successful surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. Kopecky suffered the injury on April 3rd vs. Columbus.
The surgery was performed by Dr. William Clancy in Birmingham, AL with Red Wings team physician Dr. Douglas Plagens of The DMC in attendance. Kopecky’s recovery time is expected to be four to six months.
Kopecky appeared in 77 of 82 games this season, scoring five goals and seven assists for 12 points while averaging 9:36 of ice time per game—all career highs.
Post practice update
Stuart's reason sounds like he'll be back and ready for Game 1, which will likely be on Thursday. Datsyuk's is more worrisome. He's a good bet to not miss any game action, but he's probably feeling the effects of being banged up.
"He's not one bit hurt," said Babcock of Datsyuk. "He came in today and Piet said, 'Go home.' ... He'll be ready to go."
Kirk Maltby still needs medical clearance. He said after the practice that he'd "like to say that he'll be ready for Game 1" but he doesn't "know if it will be Game 1 or Game 4."
Coach Mike Babcock said that he doesn't know if Maltby would be in the lineup for Game 1 even if he was healthy. Babcock said that he doesn't like to change the lineup when things are going well.
Chris Osgood is starting Game 1. No surprise there.
Lidstrom a Norris finalist
Lidstrom has won five Norris Trophies, including the past two seasons. This is his ninth time as a finalist for the award in the past 10 years.
The other finalists are Zdeno Chara of Boston and Dion Phaneuf of Calgary. Neither has won the award before. This is Phaneuf's first time as a finalist. Chara finished second to Scott Niedermayer of New Jersey in 2004 -- the only season in the past six that Lidstrom did not win the award.
The NHL is releasing the names of finalists for one award per day this week. Yesterday, the league revealed the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy -- Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks. The rest of the week's schedule is ...
Wednesday, Calder Trophy (outstanding rookie)
Thursday, Lady Byng (sportsmanship)
Friday, Selke Trophy (outstanding defensive forward)
On the ice is Kirk Maltby, who missed the first round with a strained hamstring. Last week he thought that he might be ready for the second round.
Also on the ice is Jonathan Ericsson. Since calling up seven players from Grand Rapids once the Griffins' season ended, the youngsters have been practicing on their own. So Ericsson is practicing with the varsity does mean something even if it's just to keep him ready just in case. Ericsson's presence gives the Red Wings eight defensemen at this practice.
The Wings are practicing in the same lines that they used in Game 6. Aaron Downey is working in on the fourth line of Helm-Drake-McCarty. With Datsyuk missing, Mark Hartigan and Kirk Maltby are working in with the top line of Zetterberg-Holmstrom.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The last time that Detroit won three games in a series and didn't win the series was in 1994 when the San Jose Shark bounced the Red Wings in the first round.
Since 1994, the Red Wings have had three wins in 22 series and won each of those. The Since 1994, Red Wings are 22-6 in games following their third win in a series.
More impressively, the Red Wings are 10-0 in games following their third win in a series since the 1998 Stanley Cup final. The last game that the Red Wings lost when they had three wins in a series was Game 5 in Dallas in the 1998 Western Conference final -- a 3-2 overtime loss in which Jamie Langenbrunner scored from long range at 0:46 of overtime. Chris Osgood shut out the Stars, 2-0, in the next game to eliminate the Stars.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Ozzie back in net
He left the ice after Thursday's practice at Joe Louis Arena long before Dominik Hasek, which means one thing -- Osgood is the Detroit Red Wings' starting goalie. In hockey, the backup goalie always stays on the ice to give players who have extended practice a target in net.
Despite that, Osgood looked at the swarm of reporters and cameras that surrounded his locker and lied. Lied like a good soldier.
"I have no idea," said Osgood as to who would start in net for Friday night's Game 5 (7:30 p.m., FSN) against the Nashville Predators. "I don't know if we'll know later this afternoon or tomorrow or when."
Osgood proceeded to insert "if I play" into all his answers about tonight's game to emphasize that he officially didn't know that he was starting. All the while, Hasek's locker stall was vacant as he worked on the ice with the backups.
Osgood had known for a while that he was about to get his first start of the post-season after Hasek was in net for back-to-back losses in Nashville this week that left the opening-round series tied, 2-2.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock laughed when told that Osgood was dodging questions.
"He didn't talk to me yet about talking to you (the media), so he's a good man," said Babcock. "He knew what was going on. We just hadn't worked it all out."
Now, the Red Wings hope that Osgood will be a good playoff goalie in addition to being a good soldier.
Hasek was Detroit's No. 1 goalie throughout the season. Injuries, however, limited his work load. Hasek and Osgood both started 40 games with Jimmy Howard getting two starts.
Hasek and Osgood finished the regular season with remarkably similar statistics. Osgood played just 59 more minutes than Hasek and the two allowed the exact same number of goals. Both netminders had 27 wins. Both netminders had 13 losses. Both goalies were lifted from three of their 40 starts.
Osgood, however, was the backup and his season was considered a success. He was also the starter for the Western Conference at the all-star game after starting the season well. Although his numbers were just about the same as Osgood's, Hasek's season was considered a disappointment.
"Through the whole season, Ozzie's record and my record are winning records; It worked very well," said Hasek. "Tomorrow is an important game and Ozzie's going to be in. I don't want to look too far ahead. Now is Ozzie's time. We'll see how we play and what's going to happen."
What happened to Hasek in Wednesday's Game 4 was that he allowed three goals on 14 shots and was pulled in favor of Osgood less than halfway into the game. Hasek's playoff numbers are weak -- an .888 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average.
"The puck didn't hit him in Nashville," said Babcock. "The bottom line is we've done this all year long. Ozzie's been very good for us. I thought Ozzie played well. So that's what we're doing. I just told Dom to get on the ice, get some work done, get your game back. We plan on having a long run here, so be ready."
That's the same attitude with which Osgood entered the post-season as the backup.
"There's a lot of games if you go all the way," said Osgood. "There's two months of playing. I always thought somewhere along the line I'd be used if there were back-to-back games or if we play a team where there's a lot of travel. I always wanted to give him (Babcock) the option to use me if he needed."
Security isn't part of the job of NHL netminders. The next goal allowed could be the one that puts you back on the bench, watching the action.
"The greatest thing about this game is that the truth today isn't the truth tomorrow … The bottom line is Ozzie has an opportunity," said Babcock. "Just win baby."
The Red Wings will likely go back to pairing Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom on the blue line and Niklas Kronwall with Brad Stuart after juggling those pairings in Game 4. Babcock said that he split Rafalski and Lidstrom on the road. He wanted a puck-moving defenseman -- Rafalski -- to play when Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were on the ice and a stopper -- Lidstrom -- on the ice whenever Nashville's top line of Jason Arnott, Martin Erat and Alexander Radulov were on the ice.
The Cheli-Suter connection
The 23-year-old Nashville defenseman is the latest generation of what is perhaps American hockey's first family. Ryan's father, Bob, was a member of the 1980 Miracle On Ice Olympic team that won a gold medal. Ryan's father and two uncles, Gary and John, all played hockey at the University of Wisconsin as Ryan did when he was a teen-ager. Gary played for 17 seasons in the NHL and was part of the American team that won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.
Ryan Suter, who grew up in the college town of Madison, Wisconsin, is a hockey legacy. But he is going to have to wait until Chris Chelios retires before he gets his father's shoulder pads handed down to him.
The 46-year-old Detroit Red Wing defenseman smiled at the thought of the shoulder pads. They're noticeably smaller than the equipment that other NHL players use. They're tattered and beaten.
"If he ever wants them when I'm done, I'll give them to him," said Chelios. "They're not worth anything now though."
Chris Chelios came to Madison in 1981 by way of Chicago, southern California and Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, eventually earning a college scholarship to Wisconsin. It was there that Chelios met Gary Suter, younger brother of Bob.
Chelios and Gary Suter became friends and eventual business partners, playing the blue line together for the Chicago Blackhawks for five seasons and the United States national team.
Chelios -- the long-time captain of Team USA -- has been a friend of the Suter family ever since his days back in Madison.
"I'm really close with the family, know his dad and Gary," said Chelios, who is godfather to one of Gary's sons, Jared. "I've known Ryan since he was little. I got to know him better after he got back to Madison to play in college (after playing for the national development team in Ann Arbor)."
Ryan Suter smiles when asked about playing against the man who wears his father's shoulder pads, the man who is his uncle's good friend.
"Known him since I was a little guy," said Suter. "We're family friends through way back. Through my family, I've got to know him pretty well."
But how do you handle a man on the ice who is like an uncle off the ice?
"You just have to go out and play, do what it takes to win," said Suter. "If it means slashing him or whatever, that's what I've got to do. The same for him. I'm sure he'd do that to me. Off the ice is off the ice. On the ice, you just work as hard as you can."
Gary Suter has been retired from the NHL for six years. Two years younger than Chelios, Gary has told his nephew, Ryan, how surprised he is that Chelios is still playing.
"He'll just say stuff like, 'Unbelievable,' stuff like that," said Ryan Suter. "I think it's amazing. Some days I wake up and my body's sore. I'm 23. I don't know how he does it.
"Growing up, I used to watch him and Gary out there. Kind of an idol for me him and Gary. I like the way he plays. He's 46 years old, still playing like he's 20-something. You've got to respect that."
It's one thing to respect your elders. It's another thing to try to get a pair of shoulder pads back from a 46-year-old who plays liked he's a 20-something.
Ozzie gets the start
Asked whether Osgood will be the Red Wings' netminder for the remainder of the playoffs, coach Mike Babcock laughed and said, "Just win baby."
More Babcock: "The puck didn't hit him (Hasek) in Nashville. The bottom line is we've done this all year long. Ozzie's been very good for us. I thought Ozzie played well. So that's what we're doing. I just told Dom to get on the ice, get some work done, get your game back. We plan on having a long run here, so be ready."
"Plan B is Chris Osgood and he won 29 games and had the best goals-against average in the NHL, didn't he."
Dominik Hasek: "Tomorrow is an important game and Ozzie's going to be in. I don't want to look too far ahead. Now is Ozzie's time. We'll see how we play and what's going to happen.
"Through the whole season, Ozzie's record and my record are winning records. It worked very well."
Osgood: "There's a lot of games if you go all the way. There's two months of playing. I always thought somewhere along the line I'd be used if there were back-to-back games or if we play a team where there's a lot of travel. I always wanted to give him (Babcock) the option to use me if he needed."
Babcock said there might be changes made to the lineup, including the forwards.
"There might be," said Babcock. "I'm going to sleep on that one more night."
He's not telling
"That's something Mike will decide," said Detroit veteran Kris Draper. "We've played hard in front of those guys all year. They've done a tremendous job for us. This isn't Dom's fault. He battled and just kind of gave up a point shot. Nobody's pointing fingers. We're sticking together. We've been through this before. Same thing last year."
"I didn't think we were rattled," said Babcock. "I thought the puck went in the net. When Osgood came in though, he made some saves. I thought we got better after that point."
"I think it helped that he (Osgood) made some saves right away," said captain Nicklas Lidstrom. "I think it helped him right away to get a feel of the puck. I think we were taking it to them more in the second half than we did in the first half. That's the way we're going to have to play to win this series."
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Red Wings Wednesday morning skate
"It's been a tough couple of games here just watching," said Lebda. "All you can do is just be a cheerleader for the guys. It's hard. But it's a role that I had to accept. I'm going to get my chance tonight to play."
Lebda said that last year's playoff run had him eager for more this spring: "I got a taste of a long run last year. I was anxious to get back in there and get another taste of it. When I sit and look back, that was what was the most disappointing thing. But those first two games, we played really well and got the wins. We should have had the win last game."
Here's the line combinations that the Red Wings are using at practice this morning ...
I'll update after practice and hopefully coach Mike Babcock will let us know if Brett Lebda is in and Andreas Lilja is out.
The fact that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are together in the morning skate means that they'll play on the same line for considerably longer than the two seconds they did at the start of Game 3. But splitting Datsyuk and Zetterberg onto separate lines could happen at any point in tonight's game.
And the odds say ...
In other words, higher seeds that were up 3-1 have had a 90.2% record in series (194-21) while higher seeds that were tied 2-2 have had a 62.0$ record (119-73).
Nashville Wednesday morning skate
Jason Arnott is on the ice. After being dazed in a celebration scrum after scoring the winning goal, Monday, Arnott said that he will be ready for tonight's game.
Legwand on not practicing: "Just keeping it calmed down as much as possible. We'll see what goes on tonight in warmups, see how it feels and go from there."
Legwand on the chance that he'll play tonight: "Probably, most likely be in. We obviously need a win tonight."
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Tardif signs entry-level deal
Tardif was sixth on the Griffins this season with 34 points and third in penalty minutes with 90.
The deal is standard entry-level stuff. Tardif is bound to be a Grand Rapids player over the next two seasons -- a depth player who flirts with NHL time.
Unlike the first hit, the Predators had no objections to Kronwall's hit on Bonk.
"When I first saw it live, I thought definitely it was a penalty," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz. "I thought he came up. On review, Bonk sort of bent down and tried to duck under it. I didn't think Kronwall left his feet. It was just a good, clean hockey hit."
No practice for Wings
As for whether there will be lineup changes for the Red Wings tomorrow night ...
"There might be, all based on how guys are feeling," said coach Mike Babcock.
So is anyone banged up?
"Everyone's pretty good," answered Babcock.
Nashville's Tuesday practice
POST-PRACTICE UPDATE: Arnott said that he's fine for Game 4. When asked why he didn't return to yesterday's game after being belted by Alexander Radulov in celebration, Arnott answered that he remained on the Nashville bench to "collect my thoughts". Then he smiled.
"He got rattled," said coach Barry Trotz about Arnott. "He got more of a whiplash than anything because he bounced off the boards."
Trotz said that some of the Predators were calling Radulov Dino because he jumped on Arnott like Dino the dog jumped on Fred Flintstone.
Legwand is day-to-day despite playing in the last game. He's walking with his foot in a soft wrap instead of a shoe. He'll likely play tomorrow night unless he has a setback and it's difficult to have a setback in practice when you don't practice.
Thoughts on Game 3 in Nashville
-- I'm sure that Dominik Hasek will take a lot of heat for the two goals allowed late in the game. But don't forget the bad line change on Arnott's goal right after a faceoff. That's overcoaching on a team that prides itself on having defensive depth throughout. And don't forget the screen put up by Brad Stuart on Ryan Suter's tying goal. Hasek didn't see that shot.
-- David Legwand played very well, especially for someone who was rushed into service. Hats off to him.
-- Jiri Hudler is producing. Johan Franzen is not.
-- Detroit defensemen are getting caught stepping up on people way too often. Andreas Lilja and Stuart were guilty last night.
-- Cute little move by Mike Babcock off the opening faceoff, putting Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom together for the opening faceoff, then morphing right into a Datsyuk-Filppula-Holmstrom line. The giveaway was that he had Homer line up at left wing and Zetterberg on the right side -- opposite their usual spots -- because the right side was close to the bench to get Filppula over the boards without leaving half the ice open.
-- Detroit had Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski out with the fourth line a lot because Nashville was matching the Arnott-Dumont-Hlavac line against the Hartigan-McCarty-Drake unit.
-- Interesting that Nashville wanted the same matchup that Detroit would on second lines, putting the Bonk-Radulov-Erat unit against the Zetterberg-Samuelsson-Franzen line. The Predators switched line combinations in the third period in part because that matchup didn't go their way.
-- Niklas Kronwall's huge hit on Radek Bonk indirectly led to Detroit's second goal. It was in the flurry after the hit that Alexander Radulov slashed Henrik Zetterberg. Players were out of position for Nashville as they reacted to the hit. It was on that power play that Hudler scored.
Monday, April 14, 2008
And the odds say ...
If the Red Wings win tonight, the historic value of a 3-0 series lead for a team that started at home is this ... a 99.1 percent series winning percentage (115-1).
If the Red Wings lose tonight, the historic value of a 2-1 series lead for a team that started at home is this ... 77.6 percent (166-48).
In other words, tonight's game has a 21 percent swing in the Red Wings' chances of winning this series ... or from virtually locking it up to dropping to a 3-in-4 chance of advancing.
Wings prospect dropped from Swedish national team
The following report from the Swedish site thelocal.se questions whether Axelsson's behavior will keep the Red Wings from signing him. The Red Wings have until June 1 to sign Axelsson or lose his rights.
Axelsson was the Red Wings' third-round draft pick (62nd overall) in 2006. Axelsson was one prospect that Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill said the team wanted to sign. Axelsson had 12 goals, 25 points and 44 penalty minutes in 47 games in the Swedish Elite League this winter.
The Local's report on the incident ...
Swedish ice hockey star Dick Axelsson has been dropped from the national team after spending Saturday night in jail for drunk and disorderly behaviour, Aftonbladet reports.
The incident has also cast doubt over a planned summer move to the Detroit Red Wings.
The 20-year-old Djurgården player got into an argument with two police officers on arriving in the city centre with some friends on Saturday.
According to the police report, Axelsson told the officers that he "hated cops".
On returning home from a sleepless night in a cell, the talented forward called national team coach Bengt-Åke Gustafsson to inform him of what had happened.
Gustafsson made it clear to Axelsson the he would not be welcome to travel with the team to this week's Ceska Pojistovna Cup tournament in the Czech Republic.
A touted summer move to the Detroit Red Wings may now also be in jeopardy.
"It is definitely possible to say that this is not on the plus side of his account," the team's European manager Hakan Andersson told Dagens Nyheter.
Red Wings morning skate
-- Kirk Maltby skated for the fourth time. His hamstring is limiting him, but he's able to keep up his conditioning. Maltby said after the skate that he won't likely be ready for the first round, but probably will be back on the ice in the second round.
-- The Grand Rapids kids are up and had their first practice. With small locker rooms on the road, the kids are in a separate room than the Red Wing regulars.
Update on Legwand
"We have a Plan A and a Plan B," said Trotz.
How easy they forget
Wings not getting Brunnstrom
Nashville morning skate
Nashville lost center Scott Nichol to a broken finger in Game 1. Legwand missed the final 12 games of the regular season with a broken foot.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Red Wings do line dance
Because of the versatility of the Red Wings' forwards -- particularly Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg -- Detroit is one of the toughest teams to match up against for home teams. And that is something that the Predators will try to solve Monday night (7:30 p.m., FSN), in Game 3 of this Western Conference quarterfinal.
"It's the first time in my career that I've been on a team where the best players have been the best defensive players as well," said Dallas Drake, a veteran of 15 NHL seasons. "In most cases, teams' offensive guys are guys who (just) score goals. It's not the case with this team."
Datsyuk and Zetterberg played on the same line for Detroit victories in Games 1 and 2. Even then, however, there were times when Datsyuk played center and Zetterberg wing and times when Zetterberg was in the middle and Datsyuk along the boards.
But as often was the case during the regular season, Sunday's practice had Zetterberg centering one line -- with Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson on the wings -- and Datsyuk centering another -- between Valtteri Filppula and Tomas Holmstrom.
But coach Mike Babcock said that he'll likely start Zetterberg and Datsyuk together on a line with Holmstrom. But how long that lasts will be determined as the game unfolds.
Babcock has frequently either put Zetterberg and Datsyuk together or split them apart in mid-game.
"We've been consistent over the last two years, sometimes they're together and sometimes they're apart -- whatever allows us to get the best matchup and get success," said Babcock. "We'll just see how the game goes. They'll start together."
All of which is going to test the versatility and depth of the Predators' forwards -- a group that was hurt when Scott Nichol broke his thumb in the first game of the series. Nichol is the NHL's top faceoff man and a solid defensive center.
With him gone, the Predators didn't use a fourth line in Saturday's Game 2 in Detroit. Coach Barry Trotz opted to work in one or two of his fourth-liners -- Darcy Hordichuk, Jerred Smithson and Brandon Bochenski -- with his third line. With David Legwand's return from injury a game-time decision, the Predators are thin up front.
The last time these teams played in Nashville (March 20), Datsyuk and Zetterberg played together and Nashville put Jason Arnott, Alexander Radulov and J.P. Dumont against them. The Red Wings won that game, 6-3, with Datsyuk scoring two goals and Radulov matching that total.
The Red Wings opted to play Datsyuk and Zetterberg against Arnott and Dumont and Jan Hlavac in Games 1 and 2. Detroit's top line won that matchup.
"The luxury that Babs (Babcock) has is if he wants to play Pav and Hank (Zetterberg) together, we know how dominant the two of them can be," said Kris Draper. "It's something that he can move around. It doesn't matter during the game, he can switch up."
In their penultimate regular-season game in Nashville (Feb. 12), the Predators put Nichol, Vernon Fiddler and Martin Gelinas against Zetterberg and Datsyuk. The Predators won that game, 4-2. Nichol and Gelinas, however, are injured.
It's difficult to find one line to contain Zetterberg and Datsyuk. It's harder to find two lines.
"Most of the time their shut-down line has to choose," said Zetterberg of he and Datsyuk splitting apart. "We have two lines that are kind of offensive. The other guy has to match up."
The Red Wings had the NHL's third-best regular-season road record this year with 54 points. That's four points more than Nashville earned in home games.
As far as the Red Wings themselves not knowing what their line combinations will be … Draper smiled and said it used to be worse.
"I played for Scotty (Bowman)," said Draper. "You would practice with a line for a couple of days, you'd do warmup with them and chances are you weren’t going to see them during the game. You just go out and play."
"You expect it in the playoffs," said Hasek. "They will say my name. Maybe they will prepare some signs. It doesn't bother me.
"We talk about it in the locker room. It makes the game more fun. It's part of a good rivalry."
Coach Mike Babcock on the Chelios on the road ...
"I think he enjoys warmup there. I don't think he even gets warmed up besides his jaw. That comes with being an icon in sport. Anybody who has played as many playoff games as him deserves some attention. All the power to him."
"We've been consistent over the last two years, sometimes they're together and sometimes they're apart -- whatever allows us to get the best matchup and get success," said Babcock. "We'll just see how the game goes. They'll start together."
"They'll start together" -- not saying they'll play together -- and the fact that they practiced apart means to me that Babcock will shuffle the lines and have the Heavenly Twins both at center. It's a matter of whether they'll be split apart early or midway through the game.
In preparation for Games 1 and 2 -- when Datsyuk and Zetterberg played together the whole time -- they practiced together.
Plus, it just makes sense to see what the Predators will do with two lines to match up against and which center they choose to put their match-up units against.
Also, Aaron Downey, Justin Abdelkader, Derek Meech and Brett Lebda were worked hard after the others left the practice ice, indicating that they will all be healthy scratches for the third consecutive game.
Adbdelkader is working in on teh Datsyuk line. Downey is working in with the Hartigan line.
The obvious change is splitting Datsyuk and Zetterberg to create matchup problems for the home team.
None of the prospects called up from Grand Rapids are on the ice, but they will be with the team through the post-season.
Griffins season concludes,players called up
Joining the Red Wings are goaltender Jimmy Howard, defensemen Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey, and forwards Cory Emmerton, Darren Helm and Mattias Ritola. Grand Rapids head coach Mike Stothers, assistant coach Jim Paek and equipment manager Brad Thompson have also been summoned by and will provide their services to the parent club.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Nichol out for rest of series
"I'm hopeful," said Trotz. "But we'll see. He's had two skates where he's got to test it quite well. We'll see how it reacts later today and first thing tomorrow morning."
If Legwand can't go, the Predators might bring up someone from their Milwaukee farm club. Among the top candidates, according to Trotz is Josh Langfeld, who was with the Red Wings throughout the playoffs last spring.
SRO tickets go on sale
From the Red Wings' offices ...
Standing room tickets for Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals at Joe Louis Arena will go on sale at 10:00 am tomorrow morning. The only seats available for the 2:00 pm match between the Red Wings and Predators are scattered singles.
Fans will be limited to four standing room tickets per person. The standing room tickets for Game 2 and tickets for all remaining home games throughout the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs are available at the Joe Louis Arena Box Office, all TicketMaster locations including The Hockeytown Cafe, Hockeytown Authentics in Troy, or charge by phone at 248-645-6666. Fans also can purchase tickets by logging on to DetroitRedWings.com.
Helm sent back to GR
Here's the press release from the Griffins' top-notch PR staff ...
The Detroit Red Wings on Friday assigned center Darren Helm to the Grand Rapids Griffins.
The 21-year-old speedster has made three trips to Hockeytown within the past month, going scoreless while averaging exactly seven minutes of ice time in seven games with Detroit. He currently leads Griffins rookies with 13 goals and 28 points through 65 games.
Helm will return to the Griffins’ lineup tonight when they host the Manitoba Moose at 7 p.m. Tickets are still available for the team’s final dollar dogs/dollar beers promotion of the season, and the game will be televised live by Comcast on channel 20 in Grand Rapids and Lansing and channel 190 in Southeast Michigan.
Thoughts on Game 1, Round 1
-- I'm not a big fan of Darren McCarty playing ahead of Aaron Downey. But I did love seeing McCarty's face when Jordin Tootoo acted up.
-- Brad Stuart had three shots on goal but I'm not sure that his broken finger is allowing him to shoot the puck well at all.
-- Dominik Hasek turned the switch on for the playoffs. The Red Wings have the better goalie.
-- Brian Rafalski had a weak game and fortunately it didn't cost the Red Wings.
-- I fear Alexander Radulov above all other Predator forwards. But the Red Wings coaching staff doesn't, matching up against the Jason Arnott line instead. Worked well tonight.
-- Dallas Drake looked like a good lineup decision. He and Tomas Holmstrom had a team-high four hits.
-- Henrik Zetterberg was a one-man shooting gallery. He had eight shots on goal, six that missed the mark and one that was blocked.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Thursday morning skate update
Healthy scratches ...
Red Wings' trio has net-front success
So after missing weeks of games and being unable to eat difficult solids like steaks to this day, where did Cleary go in the first shift of his first game back? Right to the net-front. Within seconds, a shot was deflected up and whizzed by Cleary's head.
"All the pucks end up in front of the net, so you're always getting cross-checked in the back and any shot has a chance of hitting you," said Cleary. "But the results are rewarding."
The results are goals. Careers are made when players learn how to stand in front of the opposition goalie and face the shots in order to both screen the netminder and have a chance at deflecting the puck.
When the Nashville Predators begin their best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Red Wings tonight (7 p.m., FSN), they'll have to deal with a Detroit team that has three quality net-front forwards -- Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen.
"Sometimes I wonder why everybody doesn't play down there when they see the success that these guys have," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "It's obvious that's where you've got to go to score."
Each of the three became forces in the NHL by going to the danger zone right in front of the goalie.
Holmstrom has been doing it the longest, starting in the Swedish Elite League and then carrying that style across the Atlantic Ocean to the NHL. He is regarded by most opponents as the best forward in the world at screening goalies and deflecting shots. He
"Homer, he practices for 15 minutes every day at that," said goalie Dominik Hasek. "That's his bread and butter. Every season the goalies prepare for him and he still scores his 25, 30 goals."
Cleary and Franzen never played net-front before coming to the Red Wings.
Cleary got his foot in the door on the power play by going net-front. That was the beginning of his transition from role player two seasons ago to top-six forward.
"The way I look at it is it took me a while to figure out my game anyways," said Cleary who was a scoring star in junior hockey. "It was a role that allowed me to play the power play. I just accepted it. I enjoy it as does Tommy and Mule (Franzen). We like going to the front of the net. It's a fun spot to play."
Franzen was a defensive forward who excelled on the penalty-kill when he came to Detroit two seasons ago. He has been used at the net-front because he is one of the team's biggest bodies. When Holmstrom went down with an abdominal strain, Franzen's stock skyrocketed when he assumed Holmstrom's role on the top power-play unit. Franzen finished this season with 27 goals (third on the Red Wings) with 14 coming with the man-advantage.
"You've got to get there and try to stay when they try to push you away," said Franzen. "I don't know if you can copy anyone. You've just got to go there and stay there."
Franzen's net-front play in the first round of last spring's playoffs so frustrated the Calgary Flames that back-up goalie Jamie McLennan slashed the big Swede across the midsection with his goalie stick, getting suspended for the act.
"Maybe he thought I was Homer," said Franzen with a smile.
There is an unusual relationship between net-front forwards and goalies. The two work within inches of each other, but have opposite desires.
"Definitely they make a big impact; They are special players," said Hasek. "You know before the game that you are going to see them in your face all the time. … You have to prepare for them and know that there are going to be a few shots during the game that you won't see. You hope those shots are going to hit you or your defensemen will block it for you."
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
"Any time you're the daughter or son of a coach, the playoffs are important," said Mike Babcock. "If you win, you get to keep the same address."
Babcock on Sammy
"He just told me if it's up to him, he wants to play. I said, 'Well my kid wants to dress for us tomorrow night too, but are you healthy?' They're going to work that out."
"He's one of those guys who's going to skate again tomorrow and see how he reacted."
"His last game was the (March) 25th. For a groin that wasn't pulled, had no tear in it, he's got to be just about ready. So is that tomorrow or Game 2, I don't know. At this point. I had him on a line like he was playing."
Embracing the No. 1
One is not the loneliest number. One has plenty of friends and here's why.
One does quite well in the Stanley Cup playoffs and everybody loves a winner. One just needs a better PR agent and that darned Three Dog Night song to fade from classic rock stations forever.
It's true that being a No. 1 seed in the NHL isn't the fat prize that it is in the NBA. There is a better chance of having a sterling regular season in the NHL, sitting atop the conference rankings only to be gone within two weeks at the hands of an eighth seed than there is in the NBA.
And that thought leads to panic in Detroit this time of year … but that's another song altogether.
The trick of a bottom seed eliminating a top seed in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs doesn't happen as often as you'd think.
In the past four playoffs, No. 1 seeds are 7-1 against No. 8 seeds. The problem in these parts is that the Red Wings were the lone upset victim, falling to Edmonton in 2006.
In the past six playoffs, No. 1 seeds are 10-2 against No. 8s. Since the intra-division format was dropped in 1994 in favor of a conference format of eight seeds back in 1994, No. 1 seeds have gone 19-7 in the first round.
And while 19-7 isn't a fantastic winning percentage for a top seed, many people in Hockeytown would be surprised at the loftiness of that .731 winning percentage.
Here in Detroit, the Red Wings being a top seed is often talked about as though the team is starting the playoffs from scratch. The Red Wing players certainly are talking that way this week leading into tonight's playoff opener against the dreaded eighth-seed, Nashville.
But they're players. We're fans. They have to be publicly cautious or risk being labeled overconfident. We should be the opposite.
So let's try to solve this misconception about top seeds. After months of research and dozens of computers working hours on this problem … ok, the thought just struck me, but what the heck … here's why first-round visions are skewed in Detroit.
The Red Wings are frequently the No. 1 seed.
I know this isn't popular in Detroit, but that's a good thing.
In the 14 years of the current eight-seed playoff format, the Red Wings have been the top seed eight times, including the past four. In the other six playoffs, Detroit has been either a second, third or fourth seed. The Red Wings are on a 15-year streak of having first-round home-ice advantage.
Quick note to self: This is a magnificent franchise we're following in these parts.
Most franchises would be thrilled, bursting at their collective seams, to be a No. 1 seed because it would likely be the first time that's ever happened in the eight-seed format.
But here in Detroit, we've got a track record of seven playoffs that the Red Wings have been a No. 1 seed.
Remember that time that the San Jose Sharks stopped us in the first round? Dark days. Remember when the Edmonton Oilers bounced us in the first round and went all the way to the Stanley Cup final? Horrible images.
But those were the only two times in the past 13 playoffs that the Red Wings have been eliminated in the first round by an eighth seed.
In these parts, we tend not to bring up the five playoffs in which the Red Wings were a No. 1 seed and beat the No. 8.
A 5-2 track record as the No. 1 seed isn't the underachieving record that most local fans think of. In fact, the Red Wings have a .714 winning percentage as the No. 1 seed since 1994. The rest of the league has a .737 winning percentage (14-5).
Of course, those are numbers. And numbers don't sing dirges or play Sousaphones in victory parades.
Perhaps the Red Wings will lose to Nashville this round and the number will look like liars. Or perhaps the Red Wings will advance to the second round as they usually do and we'll all be singing a different song about being No. 1.
Wednesday practice update
Here's a look at possible lines for the Red Wings against Nashville ...
Healthy scratches ...
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Draper's youthful wings
What kind of workout do you do after practice? What kind of bike program do you have? Do you work out before or after practices? What are some tips for faceoffs?
Abdelkader, a leader at Michigan State just a couple of weeks ago, doesn't hesitate when asked about his role as a youngster in the Detroit Red Wings' locker room.
"This is an opportunity to be around these veterans," said Abdelkader. "The guys have been really supportive, really helpful."
When the Red Wings take the ice for Thursday's playoff-opener -- Game 1 against the Nashville Predators at Joe Louis Arena (7 p.m., FSN, Versus) -- Abdelkader will likely be on a forward line alongside Draper and second-year player Jiri Hudler. The trio practiced together Tuesday and unless someone like Mikael Samuelsson (groin) or Kirk Maltby (hamstring) returns, then the trio will likely remain together this week.
Abdelkader, a 21-year-old from Mona Shores, will be playing in his third NHL game. The 36-year-old Draper has three Stanley Cup rings.
The blending of youth and experience is part of the Red Wings' franchise success of the past decade.
"I know I'm playing with Abs and Huds, young kids," said Draper. "I just let them know if they need anything or are nervous, hey, just come to me. We can have fun with it, talk about it. Like I said, I've seen some of the greatest players handle unbelievable situations and we've come out on top. It was always a thrill to be alongside of those guys. Now with the situation that we're going into, leadership plays a big part. If I can do my part with that, then it's helping out with the hockey club."
Hudler has been in the Red Wings organization for nearly six years. Still, he's 24 years old and has just six playoff games of experience to his credit.
Although he hasn't often been Draper's linemate -- Hudler, Draper and Abdelkader have never played as a unit -- Hudler sits beside Draper in the Detroit locker room.
"We're fortunate we've got those kind of guys here and the history of this club," said Hudler. "I don't think other teams have guys like (Nicklas) Lidstrom or (Chris) Chelios or Draper or (Tomas) Holmstrom. It's always been a great hockey club and that's why. They just help us. Whatever you need, you can ask them. That's the kind of relationship you need."
Having more veterans and more playoff experience than the Nashville Predators is a part of this first-round series to which Detroit coach Mike Babcock is happy to point.
The Wings boss is, however, open enough to reveal that an edge in experience is a motivational tool.
"When I was a young coach and had none, I thought that experience was overrated," said Babcock. "Now after 20 years, I think experience is a great thing. I think the key is controlling what you believe in at the time that's right for you and being positive. … In this room, we like experience. In their room (Nashville), they're probably talking about youthful exuberance."
"When I was a young coach and had none, I thought that experience was overrated. Now after 20 years, I think experience is a great thing. I think the key is controlling what you believe in at the time that's right for you and being positive.
In this room, we like experience. In their (Nashville's) room, they're probably talking about youthful exuberance."
Post-practice update Tuesday
-- Brad Stuart said that he's on track for returning for Game 1. Coach Mike Babcock said that he's "hopeful" that Stuart will be back. The defenseman's shooting, however, might still be a problem.
-- Kris Draper (groin) is definitely in the lineup Thursday and will center Jiri Hudler and Justin Abdelkader.
-- Dallas Drake said that he's ready to play Thursday and thinks he's going to be in the lineup.
-- Kirk Maltby (hamstring) did not skate today.
Practice lines again ...
Regular-season ES effectiveness
FORWARDS (ranked by GF/60)
Name GF-GA GF/60-GA/60
DEFENSEMEN (ranked by GA/60)
Name GF-GA GF/60-GA/60
NOTES: Brad Stuart had a great nine games with the Wings. There's not much difference defensively between six of the seven Red Wings' defensemen with Lilja's performance lagging. Of course, Lidstrom and Rafalski's performance is coming against the top lines. Offensively, Kronwall, Lidstrom, Rafalski and Stuart are the Wings' top performers on the blue line.
Up front, it's amazing that Datsyuk led the team in being on the ice for 83 goals for. Topping defensemen like Lidstrom and Rafalski, who get more ice time, is remarkable. I'm sure a lot of you chuckled seeing McCarty at the top of the list. He was on the ice for just 23 even-strength minutes this season. Looking at these number's Cleary's return to form might be the key to a successful second scoring line. And for as many good feeling as there are about Franzen right now -- and I love the guy -- not many fans would guess that the team scored more at even strength with Samuelsson or Hudler on the ice than Franzen.
Regular-season PP effectiveness
Name GF-GA GF/60-GA/60
Name GF-GA GF/60-GA/60
NOTES: The power play didn't miss a thing when Franzen subbed in for Holmstrom on the top unit. Samuelsson's play on the second unit blue-line will be missed. Meech was much more effective than Lebda on the power play. Right now, there's a void on the second unit unless Stuart, with a broken finger, can produce alongside Kronwall because Samuelsson is injured and Meech won't be dressing.
Regular-season SH effectiveness
Name GF-GA GF/60-GA/60
Name GF-GA GF/60-GA/60
NOTES: Dallas Drake's main value with the Red Wings is his penalty killing. On the ice for just four goals against all season ... 124 minutes of ice time? That's remarkable. Brad Stuart was great at even strength, but had a tough go on the penalty-kill.
Jonathan Ericsson -- a call-up for the season-finale last Sunday -- is not on the ice. Here are the practice lines for today ...
Monday, April 7, 2008
Wings' fourth-quarter grades
The Red Wings had their worst quarter of the season record-wise in the fourth quarter (13-9-2), but coasted in with a Central Division title and the Presidents' Trophy. In the 28 games of the fourth quarter, the Red Wings had their lowest scoring quarter of the season (2.71 goals per game), but they still finished third in the NHL in that category.
The Red Wings had their second worst defensive quarter of the season, allowing 2.42 goals per game (only the first quarter was worse), but still posted the lowest goals allowed total for the season, winning the Jennings Trophy for the first time in 12 years.
The penalty-kill and power play performances in the fourth quarter were identical to that of their season-long numbers.
In hindsight, the most important facet of the fourth quarter turned out to be injuries. The Red Wings enter the playoffs this week with several players hoping to return to the lineup: Brad Stuart (broken finger); Kris Draper (groin); Kirk Maltby (hamstring); and Mikael Samuelsson (groin). That doesn't include minor ailments to Chris Chelios (groin) and Brian Rafalski (neck), nor the severe knee injury that will keep Tomas Kopecky out of the post-season.
So in grading individual Wings for the fourth quarter, the starting point was won-lost record then tempered with the fact that the team accomplished all that it set out to do in the quarter.
Here are individual grades for the fourth quarter (the final 24 games). The grade is for performance in the quarter only and games missed lower grades.
Dominik Hasek B: Hasek missed time with various ailments, including the flu and a hip flexor, but still managed to get in 11 of the 24 games. Most importantly, he looked quite good in his last couple of games leading into the playoffs. Hasek benefited from good goal support. His save percentage was the same as Osgood's (.894) and the two goalies' goals-against averages were almost identical (2.38 for Hasek and 2.35 for Osgood). But Hasek went 8-3-0 and Osgood went 5-4-2 in the fourth quarter.
Chris Osgood B: Hasek was the Red Wings' playoff goalie the entire season. In other words, the job was never open for Osgood to win. He did match Hasek's performance this season, but didn't put up superior numbers. How's this for twins? Both goalies gave up 84 goals this season. Osgood played 59 more minutes than Hasek, meaning if Hasek posted a shutout in one additional start, the two goalies would truly have had twin seasons. Osgood did face more shots per game than Hasek.
Chris Chelios B: The veteran missed eight games this period, but still produced two of his three goals and four of his 12 points during the fourth quarter. On the downside, Chelios started going to the penalty box too much. After getting 20 PIMs in his first 53 games, he had 20 in his last 16 games. Played better than his competition for the fifth/sixth blue-line spot, Brett Lebda and Andreas Lilja.
Niklas Kronwall A+: Kronwall's emergence this season was lost in the shuffle. This guy could turn out to be one of the major components to a championship run. In 17 games this quarter, Kronwall was second among Detroit defensemen with 10 points and was first at a plus-9. Detroit scored 16 even-strength goals in 17 games with Kronwall on the ice this quarter. Detroit scored just 10 even-strength goals in 16 games with Nicklas Lidstrom on the ice. Kronwall had just one giveaway this quarter.
Brett Lebda C-: Lebda didn't help his cause should Brad Stuart return to the lineup as scheduled and might be a healthy scratch. The Red Wings were outscored 14-4 at even strength this quarter with Lebda on the ice. He's fallen behind Derek Meech on the power-play depth chart.
Nicklas Lidstrom B+: The main thing is that Lidstrom is back from the knee injury that sidelined him at the beginning of the fourth quarter. His performance of late, however, hasn't been up to not only Lidstrom standards, but all-star standards. He did have three goals and 15 points in his 18 games this quarter, but two of those goals came in Game 82. The remarkable stat for Lidstrom this quarter is that he was a minus-3 with Detroit being outscored 13-10 at even strength with him on the ice.
Andreas Lilja C-: Lilja's performance dropped off in the second half of the season. After being a plus-6 at the midway point, he was a minus-8 in the second half. Most of that occurred in the fourth quarter during which he was a minus-6 in 22 games with just one point. Of late, he has seemed unconfident and prone to defensive-zone mistakes. One odd thing for a defensive defenseman, Lilja is on the ice for a lot of goals for and against. Only Lidstrom, Rafalski and Kronwall were on the ice for more Red Wings even-strength goals scored this season.
Derek Meech C: Meech has proven himself to be versatile. He has played fourth-line wing and first-unit power-play defense in the same game. That helped him get into 15 games in the fourth quarter, tallying three assists and being a minus-4.
Brian Rafalski B+: Rafalski played in just 15 of the 24 games this quarter, but managed three goals, nine points and was a plus-5. He has been the single biggest reason for the Red Wings' power-play improvement this season.
Brad Stuart B+: Stuart got into nine games with the Red Wings before breaking his finger. Had he played the entire fourth quarter, there's no doubt he would have deserved an A grade. Stuart was a plus-6 and led Detroit in hits in his nine games, while taking just two minutes in penalties.
Dan Cleary C -: "Bear" as he's known to his teammates got into six games after returning from a broken jaw. He had two assists this quarter and was a minus-2. Cleary has yet to return to his pre-injury level of play.
Pavel Datsyuk A+: Here's a remarkable stat … Datsyuk was on the ice for 83 Red Wings even-strength goals this season in 82 games. In the fourth quarter, he had 12 goals and 30 points in 24 games and was a plus-6. He was third on the team in shots on goal (71) this quarter and had a remarkable 45 takeaways, averaging nearly two per game.
Aaron Downey C+: The franchise brought Darren McCarty in to contend for Downey's job, but Downey didn't falter. In fact, he hasn't done anything to lose his spot. In 19 games this quarter, Downey was an even plus-minus, had two assists and was fourth among forwards in hits. That hit total is remarkable considering Downey averages just 4:35 of ice time per game.
Dallas Drake C-: Drake adds hits (led the team with 38 hits this quarter) and grit and makes smart plays. He'll drop the gloves as well. But the components aren't adding up to success. Drake skated in 21 games this quarter. The Red Wings were outscored 10-3 at even strength with him on the ice.
Kris Draper C: Draper came back from a groin injury and was shelved again by the same problem before the quarter was finished. In 16 games, he had one assist and was a minus-2.
Valtteri Filppula B+: A groin injury slowed Filppula during the fourth quarter, but he still got into 20 of the 24 games. His 10 points and his four goals were both fourth among forwards behind only Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Zetterberg. Another versatile piece. Filppula is the key to the team having the flexibility to switch Zetterberg and Datsyuk on and off the same line.
Johan Franzen A+: Wow. Franzen had a 15-goals-in-15-games stretch. In 24 games this quarter, Franzen had 16 goals, 22 points and was a plus-2. Although Tomas Holmstrom replaced Franzen on the top power-play unit in Game 82, perhaps the Mule should not be bumped by Homer. Franzen was on the ice for 20 of Detroit's 28 power-play goals in the fourth quarter.
Tomas Holmstrom C-: A lower-abdominal strain kept Holmstrom sidelined for one full month. In his 11 games this quarter, Holmstrom had four points (all assists) and was a minus-4. He'll likely be playing at less than 100 percent in the post-season.
Jiri Hudler B-: Hudler suffered through a horrific goal-scoring with just two goals in the final half of the season. Still, this guy's the opposite of Drake in that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. You would figure that being a goal-scorer who isn't scoring, Hudler would have left his team in bad shape. But in the fourth quarter, Detroit was only outscored 8-6 at even strength with Hudler on the ice. And minus-2 is above average on a team that had just four forwards in the positive this quarter (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson).
Tomas Kopecky B: Absolutely one of the saddest moments of the Red Wings' season was when Kopecky went down in Game 81 with a shredded knee, finding out he won't be back for 4-6 months. Kopecky was hurt midway through last season with a nasty broken collarbone, but battle back and was on the ice during the Western Conference final. He had a lineup spot won heading into the playoffs.
Kirk Maltby C+: Maltby stayed healthy until a strained hamstring shelved him in the final weekend of the season. In his 22 games this quarter, Maltby scored half of his season total of six goals, but still was a minus-6.
Mikael Samuelsson A-: Samuelsson has become the Robert Lang in some ways of this season in that he's taking a lot of heat. If you judge him just by goals, then he's a failure. But the Red Wings are a lot better with him in the lineup than out. Hopefully, he'll return from a groin strain soon. Defensively underrated, Samuelsson helped the Red Wings outscore opponents 12-4 at even strength with him on the ice. He was at the point for 10 power-play goals in one 12-game stretch.
Henrik Zetterberg A: Nothing special by Zetterberg standards, but wonderful by everyone else's. Z tallied 10 goals and 22 points in 24 games this quarter and was a plus-1. Most significantly, he's heading into the playoffs as healthy as he's been in a while. Zetterberg led the team with 101 shots this quarter -- more than four per game. He's also the best in the league and carrying the puck behind the net and having a wraparound option or carrying the puck out to the faceoff circle.
Game 1, Thursday, 7 p.m., at Detroit, FSN, Versus, TSN
Game 2, Saturday, 2 p.m., at Detroit, NBC, TSN
Game 3, Mon. Apr. 14, 7:30 p.m., at Nashville, FSN, Versus, TSN
Game 4, Wed. Apr. 16, 9 p.m., at Nashville, FSN, Versus, CBC
Game 5, Fri. Apr. 18, 7:30 p.m., at Detroit, FSN, Versus, CBC
Game 6, Sun. Apr. 20, 3 p.m., at Nashville, NBC, CBC
Game 7, Tues. Apr. 22, TBA, at Detroit, FSN
Friday, April 4, 2008
Kopecky out 4-6 months
Six months would put Kopecky back just in time for the start of next season, perhaps even missing the preseason.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
No word yet on Kopecky
"We're going to find out," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "It didn't look very good. He's going to go for tests and we'll see what happened. Obviously we lost (Kirk) Maltby (to a strained hamstring) and we're hoping we don't lose Kopey."
"It was awesome. It was everything I expected and more. The pace of the game is so much faster. It's just fun to play. Everything's happening so quick. There's no standing around."
"The first couple of shifts, I just wanted to go out, get on a body. Lot of adrenaline pumping through."
And coach Mike Babcock on Abdelkader ...
"He seemed to have good instincts. Who knows? He'll be a Red Wing one day."
Abdelkader in, Maltby injured
Abdelkader was the Red Wings' second-round draft pick in 2005 and by coming to Detroit on a one-game amateur tryout, he's foregoing his final year of eligibility at Michigan State.
Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill said that the Red Wings are "real close" to signing Abdelkader to a three-year entry-level contract. If the sides agree by Saturday, Abdelkader will stay with the team through the playoffs. He must sign by Saturday to be eligible to play for the Wings in the post-season.
Abdelkader said that he decided early this week that he wasn't going back to Michigan State next season.
Nill also said that the Red Wings are negotiating with junior defenseman Logan Pyett on an entry-level contract. Nill said the two sides aren't close on a deal.
Abdelkader could have remained Red Wings' property until Aug. 15, 2009, without signing a contract, so signing him this year is a sign that the organization is pleased with his progress.
The prospects who need to be signed by June 1 or the Wings will lose their rights are: Pyett, Sergei Kolosov, Anton Axelsson, Dick Axelsson and Daniel Larsson. Nill said that the Red Wings want to sign the two Axelssons (not related and Larsson, but have to wait until after the Swedish Elite League season is done to negotiate. (Or the World Championships if any of the three make the Swedish team for that tournament.) Nill didn't list Kolosov as someone that the team is working on signing.
Maltby has a strained hamstring, according to coach Mike Babcock, an injury that occurred without any contact from an opponent. When he'll return to the lineup is unknown.
Tomas Holmstrom (abdomen) said that he won't play tonight, but will definitely be back in the lineup Sunday, giving him a one-game tune-up for the playoffs.
Kris Draper (groin) said that he won't play in either of the last two regular-season games, but will be ready for the playoffs.
Brad Stuart (finger) said that he's on track for a possible Game 1 return.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Hasek to start Thursday night
"He hasn't played," said Babcock. "You've got to get him in the game."
Draper probably out until playoffs
Draper missed five games with a groin strain in mid-March, then was back for four games before his latest injury.
"He had tenderness low in his groin," said coach Mike Babcock after Wednesday's morning skate. "We're just in a position where we can't take any risks at this point as much as we want to win every night. I'm not sure if he'll play prior to the playoffs just for the fact that he came back, he had nothing, he skated for eight days before he played … here we go again. That's just got to get sorted out."
Meech (healthy scratch)
Homer not back, Z in ... lol
Tomas Holmstrom (abdomen) isn't going to play tonight and likely won't play tomorrow night in Detroit either. Coach Mike Babcock said that the team is still, however, counting on Homer being ready for the start of the playoffs.
Zetterberg is fine. He and Babcock were the only two to take the morning skate off, which was listed as optional.
Mikael Samuelsson (groin) skated early, but did not practice.
Brad Stuart (broken finger) practiced. Babcock said that Stuart will definitely be ready to play the first game of the post-season.
Homer back, Z out?
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Here's the teams press release ...
The Detroit Red Wings will hold a special ceremonial puck drop prior to their home game on Thursday, April 3rd as Detroit Tigers Manager Jim Leyland will do the honors and drop the puck just prior to face-off between the Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Leyland, currently in his third season as Manager of the Detroit Tigers, has guided the team to a 183-142 record during his tenure. He is the 36th Manager in Tigers history and a veteran of 43 years in professional baseball. Leyland was named Major League Manager of the year in 2006 by Baseball America, and American League Manager of the Year by both the BBWAA and The Sporting News after guiding the Tigers to their first playoff berth since 1987. Leyland won a World Series title in 1997 as the Manager of the Florida Marlins.
Draper on the shelf
Coach Mike Babcock said that Draper felt the tightness before and got on the ice today to check his status.
Draper missed five games with a strained groin from March 13-20. He also was sidelined for nine games with a knee injury, Nov. 27-Dec. 17.
Also from today's practice, Tomas Holmstrom probably won't play in Chicago tomorrow. The discussion is now whether he's going to be ready for Thursday's home game. Holmstrom has missed the past 11 games with an abdominal strain. He has been taking cortisone shots.
Samuelsson is still on the shelf with a groin injury and not skating.
Mikael Samuelsson is not on the ice, a bad sign. He's not near returning from his groin injury.
Kris Draper is also not on the ice, but his health hasn't been a problem of late. We'll see if he just has the day off or if there is a problem.
The line combinations being used are ...
Note that Datsyuk and Zetterberg are centering their own lines.