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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Let's get physical

DETROIT -- The battle of semantics has already begun. Just defining the word physical was an invitation to exchange verbal punches in the Red Wings’ locker room this week.

Now if the Western Conference semifinal playoff series between the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks — Game 1 is at 7 p.m. tonight on Versus — causes as much friction, it should be a good one.

“We don’t fight, so it depends what you call feisty,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “If you call playing hard and going to the net and boxing out and finishing checks and all that (feisty), I expect lots of that.”

The Red Wings certainly do not fight.

This season was the fifth straight that Detroit finished last in the 30-team NHL in fighting majors. Marian Hossa was tied for third on the team in fights with one and the team’s top two regular-season fighters — Darren McCarty (five) and Andreas Lilja (three) — haven’t played this postseason.

Anaheim, on the other hand, was first in the NHL with 82 fights this season. The Ducks finished second last season and first in 2006-07 — Anaheim’s Stanley Cup campaign. You’d have to add the Red Wings’ last six seasons total of fights to equal the number of fights that the Ducks had this season alone.

But fighting is not the only element of a physical hockey game.

“I wouldn’t say we’re not physical because we have played in a lot of physical series, last year and years past, where we throw our bodies around,” said Detroit goalie Chris Osgood. “I just think we don’t get involved in the ridiculous stuff like you see in some other series around the league where you see flying elbows after the whistle, some stuff that’s needless and doesn’t have much to do with the game. You’re not suddenly going to win a game because you throw an elbow after the game’s over or you take somebody out with a cheap shot. I think hockey’s meant to be played hard when the puck’s dropped in between the whistles. Then you get yourself ready to go again. That’s what our team is about. We had to learn that.”

In their series clinching victory over San Jose, the Ducks waited just until the puck was dropped for the opening faceoff to fight — Ryan Getzlaf against Shark Joe Thornton. Fighting has given the Ducks a physical reputation. As has moves like Duck Chris Pronger driving Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom’s face into the glass during the Western Conference final two springs ago — a hit that drew Pronger a one-game suspension.

The Red Wings, on the other hand, are looked at as a high-skill, low-aggression group.

“It seems that every year, how physical we are always gets brought up,” said long-time Red Wing Kirk Maltby. “The first Stanley Cup run (in 1997) we had against Philadelphia, no one thought we had a chance because they were so big and strong. It just seems to be something that gets brought up — whether it’s because we have a few more Europeans than most teams or we’re not an overly big team or we don’t have a legitimate heavyweight (fighter). It’s something that in this dressing room is something that we know that we can do. Our version of being physical varies from what a lot of other people think is being physical. We go out there and wear teams down. I think that’s what we did against Columbus. That’s what we’re going to try to do against Anaheim.”

Asked if the Red Wings were up against the most physical team left in the playoffs and Henrik Zetterberg didn’t bat an eyelash.

“I think we’re the most physical team out there,” countered Zetterberg. “ You have to play physical or else you won’t win. You have to play physical, but play in between the whistles. ... Of course, against Anaheim, it’s always physical games, fun games and high-paced with physical play. Special teams are huge. They have a good power play. Our power play has to be good too and we have to take care of PK.”

And that line between finishing checks and taking penalties, between moving players from the front of the net and interference could play a big role in this series.

The Red Wings’ power play was first in efficiency during the regular season. It was tops in the league in the first round of the playoffs.

Anaheim’s power play ranked fifth during the regular season.

When these teams met in the 2007 playoffs, there was an average of nearly 12 power plays combined per game during the six-game series. That came during a season in which Detroit’s power play was down to 21st best in the league.

This time, that many opportunities could lift the Wings.

“It would be good for us if they took penalties and we used our power play,” said Pavel Datsyuk. “That would be nice.”

On the plus side

Small statistical note ... This was the 17th consecutive season that the Red Wings have been on the plus side for both even-strength goal differential and special-teams goal differential.

This regular season, the Red Wings were a plus-28 at even strength and a plus-22 on special teams. That was managed despite giving up 2.01 even-strength goals per game - the highest average allowed by the Red Wings since 1993-94.

The 1990-91 season was the last time that the Red Wings were a minus at either even strength or on special teams, finishing minus-5 in the former and minus-20 in the latter.

The current streak began in an odd manner with the Red Wings giving up six more power-play goals than they scored in 1991-92. But add in the team's 18 short-handed goals and the Red Wings were a plus-5 on special teams.

The special teams streak survived a four-season run (2002-03 through 2006-07) during which the Red Wings had fewer power-play opportunities than their opponents. That included a low point in 2002-03 of having 58 fewer power plays. But excelling with both the man-advantage and short-handed that season, the Red Wings still scored 28 more special-teams goals than they allowed (in those 58 fewer opportunities).

Chelios a Masterton finalist

The league's press release ...

NEW YORK (April 30, 2009) – Detroit’s Chris Chelios, Nashville’s Steve Sullivan and Florida’s Richard Zednik are the three finalists for the 2008-09 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey,” the National Hockey League announced today. A $2,500 grant from the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minnesota, in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.

Each of the 30 local chapters of the PHWA submitted nominations for the Masterton Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be announced Thursday, June 18, during the 2009 NHL Awards that will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on VERSUS in the United States and on CBC in Canada.

Following are the finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, in alphabetical order:

Chris Chelios, Detroit Red Wings
Chris Chelios’ dedication to the game has extended his career to a length attained by few in hockey history. His 1,644 games played are the most among active players and rank fourth in League history – he, Gordie Howe and Mark Messier are the only men to have played in 25 NHL seasons. At 47, he’s the oldest player in the NHL. And his experience and will to win have enabled him to remain a vital contributor even as his ice time has diminished on a star-studded Detroit team.

Steve Sullivan, Nashville Predators
Steve Sullivan's perseverance was measured in months, not weeks or days. He missed almost two full years – 687 days, to be precise – following a back injury suffered in February of 2007. Sullivan underwent two back surgeries in attempts to repair a fragmented disc and tried myriad different cures. But it wasn’t until he began an intensive workout regimen with strength and conditioning coach Dave Good that Sullivan finally began to heal. When Sullivan returned to the Nashville lineup on Jan. 10, he became just the third player since World War II (Mario Lemieux, Jim Peplinski) to play 150 games with a team, then miss at least 600 consecutive days before returning to the same team.

Richard Zednik, Florida Panthers
Just over a year ago, the carotid artery in his neck having been sliced by a teammate’s skate blade, Richard Zednik left pools of his blood on the ice as he skated to the bench in one of the most dramatic moments of the 2007-08 season. Zednik lost five pints of blood and required life-saving emergency surgery at a Buffalo hospital. Though the injury left a rose-colored scar that remains as a constant reminder of the episode, Zednik refused to allow his hockey career to be a casualty. He came back to play 70 games and score 17 goals this season for a young Panthers team that counted upon his experience.

The trophy was presented by the NHL Writers’ Association in 1968 to commemorate the late Bill Masterton, a player with the Minnesota North Stars who exhibited to a high degree the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey and who died January 15, 1968.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Datsyuk a Hart finalist

Pavel Datsyuk was named as one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy, Wednesday, joining last year's winner, Alexander Ovechkin of Washington, and the NHL's leading scorer, Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh, as potential MVPs.

This is the first time since Sergei Fedorov won the Hart in 1994 that a Detroit player was a finalist. In the past 43 years, this is just the third time that a Red Wing has finished in the top three of voting with Steve Yzerman's third-place finish of 1989 being the other.

This is the first time Datsyuk has been voted a Hart Trophy finalist. He won two individual trophies last season (Selke and Lady Byng) and is a finalist for those two this season as well. No player has won the Hart, Selke and Byng Trophies in the same season. Datsyuk finished fourth in the league scoring race this season, matching his career-high with 97 points while scoring a personal-best 32 goals. He ranked second among NHL players in takeaways with 89, placed third in plus-minus with a plus-34 rating, and won 56 percent of the 1,135 faceoffs he took.

Malkin followed up his break-out 2007-08 season by leading the NHL in points (career-high 113) and assists (78). He also led the league with 94 takeaways.

Ovechkin is vying to become the first repeat winner of the Hart Trophy since Dominik Hasek of Buffalo won in 1997 and 1998. Ovechkin won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for the second straight season for again leading the League with 56 goals – the fourth time in his five NHL seasons that he’s eclipsed 50 goals. He finished three points shy of becoming the NHL’s first repeat scoring titlist since Jaromir Jagr in 2000 and 2001. Ovechkin’s 528 shots on goal were the second highest single-season total in NHL history behind Phil Esposito’s 550 in 1970-71. His 19 power-play goals ranked second in the League and his 10 game-winning goals ranked third.

Datsyuk finished ninth in Hart voting last season. Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom placed fourth and Henrik Zetterberg was 10th.

Lidstrom's fourth-place finish last spring was the best Hart showing for a Red Wing since Paul Coffey placed fourth in 1995.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hart Trophy finalists

How big would it be if Pavel Datsyuk (deservedly) is named as one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy, Wednesday?

Here is some perspective ... since Gordie Howe finished third in Hart voting in 1966, the Red Wings have had just two top-three finishers, Steve Yzerman (third in 1989) and Sergei Fedorov (first in 1994).

Fedorov just scored for Caps

Giving Washington a 2-1 lead in Game 7 over the Rangers.

Good for Sergei. Always liked his play. What a shot over Lundqvist's glove.

Datsyuk a Selke finalist

In what could be a lead-up to a bigger announcement (Hart Trophy finalist), Pavel Datsyuk was named one of three finalists for the Selke Trophy today. He joins Mike Richards of Philadelphia and Livonia-native Ryan Kesler of Vancouver.

My view ... I'd like to see Datsyuk win his second straight Selke. He's the best defensive forward I've seen in a few years, remarkable read of the game with a nice physical presence. I gave him my top vote with Kesler and Richards in my top three. I had Henrik Zetterberg as my No. 4 pick.

Not much is made of this, but being a three-time Lady Byng winner and a Selke winner seem to be different skill sets. Datsyuk, however, is showing that you don't have to be Bobby Clarke to be good on defense.

Here is the Selke voting history for the three finalists ...

2008 1st
2007 20th

2008 5th

2008 11th

Anaheim series to start Friday

It looks like the second round series against Anaheim will begin with Game 1 Friday night at Joe Louis Arena and Game 2 being Sunday in Detroit. No word yet on a time for Sunday's game.


Game 1, Friday, 7 p.m.
Game 2, Sunday, 2 p.m.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday practice

No one was absent from practice this morning. Dan Cleary, who didn't practice in the first round after getting banged up by a Niklas Kronwal practice his was there. So was Chris Osgood, who seemed slow in Game 4 in Columbus. Here are the lines they worked out of ...

Kopecky-Helm-Maltby/Draper working in



Coach Mike Babcock mentioned that Round 2 will likely start on Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. That would mean Game 2 will likely be played next Sunday. (Oakwood's Red Tie Ball is at the JLA next Saturday.)

The Red Wings were off Friday and will be off Sunday as well, giving them a three-day ramp up for Round 2.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Datsyuk a Lady Byng finalist

After taking a beating for saying that Nicklas Lidstrom didn't get my first-place Norris vote ... I did vote for him, just not as No. 1 ... I'm thrilled to say that the NHL announced its finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy today. Hopefully this will usher in a new era of sportsmanship in this blog ... nah.

The finalists are ... Pavel Datsyuk, Martin St. Louis and Zach Parise.

If this helps lessen the beatings any, I'll say that I voted for both Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom among my top five for the Lady Byng. Datsyuk has won the award the past three seasons and deserves another. I have no problem with St. Louis winning the award or Parise. Although Parise does fall into that Lady Byng profile that I don't like ... the trophy given to a forward with a strong offensive season who isn't going to win the Hart. Kind of a runner-up prize. I'd call Paul Kariya the poster child for this syndrome. That said, Parise did display a high level of sportsmanship. Although it is kinda funny that the son of the guy (J.P. Parise, who almost swung his stick across an official during Game 8 of the Summit Series could win a Lady Byng.)

The player I'd like to mention is Jarome Iginla. I think he should be the poster child for a new attitude about the Lady Byng. Let's not make it all about penalty minutes and let's focus on sportmanship and gentlemanly conduct. The thing I like about Datsyuk winning the Byng is that he's physical, hits people. I just think that outside of Detroit, people don't realize that and are voting just on low penalty minutes and high performance.

I think players that hit like Datsyuk and especially Iginla, but have a high level of integrity and sportsmanship. I'm pulling for Datsyuk to win. But in the future, I'd like to see guys like Iginla be named as finalists -- competitors with class.

On Monday, the Vezina Trophy finalists will be announced.

Also, recent Lady Byng finishes ...
09 1st, 2nd or 3rd
08 1st
07 1st
06 1st
04 21st

09 1st, 2nd or 3rd
08 2nd
07 2nd
04 3rd

09 1st, 2nd or 3rd
08 25th
07 57th

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lidstrom a Norris finalist

So the run continues. Get this stat ... for the 10th time in the past 11 seasons, Nicklas Lidstrom is a finalist for the Norris Trophy. Actually, in the previous nine seasons in which he was a finalist, Lidstrom finished either first or second in voting.

Here's his year-by-year Norris scorecard ...

2009 1st, 2nd or 3rd
2008 1st
2007 1st
2006 1st
2004 6th
2003 1st
2002 1st
2001 1st
2000 2nd
1999 2nd
1998 2nd
1997 6th
1996 6th
1995 received no votes
1994 7th

By the way, the other finalists were Zdeno Chara of Boston and Mike Green of Washington. (Side note: Green was drafted by the Caps with the pick given up by the Wings in the Robert Lang trade.)

In my opinion, Green should win the Norris Trophy and he got my first-place vote. The numbers are mind-boggling ... 31 goals, 73 points and a plus-24 in just 68 games. Those are just way to outrageous to not win this award. I know that Green isn't the two-way defenseman that Lidstrom is. (And I'm not anti-Lidstrom. I voted him first in each of the previous three seasons.) But I think that Green's defensive lapses are few and become hyperbole. He's not a bad defender. Just not at Lidstrom's level.

But that shouldn't exclude Green from Norris consideration. One-way players who are defense only are praised. Defensemen who are better on offense than defense are pitied. Well, at plus-24, Green's doing something right. Green was just so much better offensively than others at his position that he became a game-changer. Missing 14 games, Green still had 31 goals. Only two other blue-liners topped 20 and they both had 23. Green was fifth among defensemen in plus-minus, fourth in shots on goal and seven in ice time per game.

If Rod Langway got respect, so should Mike Green. Green's offense is as good as Langway's defense. Green's defense is better than Langway's offense.

Zdeno Chara is no stranger to the final-three and he'd be worthy of winning his first Norris this season. Here's how the big Slovak finished in Norris voting of late ...

2009 1st, 2nd or 3rd
2008 3rd
2007 20th
2006 4th
2004 2nd
2003 7th

I had Chara No. 2 on my ballot. I also voted for Lidstrom and thought that Shea Weber, Mark Streit and Duncan Keith deserved consideration.

I know Wings fans look at it as an insult if Lidstrom finishes third in the voting, but that's rubbish. Being called the third best defenseman in hockey this season is a high compliment.

Questions for Lils?

If you have a question for Andreas Lilja, drop in on his online Q&A session from 1-2 today ...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hockey should protect players better

Boxing is a sports where two athletes try to knock each other unconscious to win. But after Tuesday's Game 3 of the Red Wings/Blue Jackets series, I think that hockey is behind boxing in protecting its athletes.

Why was R.J. Umberger allowed back in the game after being knocked loopy (that's a medical term, honest) by a Brad Stuart hit? You could have counted Umberger out by boxing rules. There's no way he could have been on his feet and able to defend himself within a 10-count. I'm not a doctor, but it sure looked like the literal impact on his brain should have been cause enough to remove him from the game as a medical precaution.

In boxing, you can't continue if you're counted out. Heck, they won't let a boxer continue if the official judges him to be not ready to compete.

So why let Umberger back on the ice after he couldn't stand on his own right after the hit?

I know that hockey has a long tradition of gutting out injuries. I grew up hearing about the Bobby Baun broken ankle goal in the playoffs and how wonderful he was for playing through the pain. I still love that story even though it cost the Red Wings.

But in this day and age, we should be enlightened enough to realize that brain trauma isn't a broken bone or cut or displaced tooth. We should know that the effects of brain trauma compound quickly.

It's a wonderful story that Umberger came back and scored the Blue Jackets' goal one period later. And I was very glad to see that he regained his form so quickly. Reports today from Columbus say that Umberger is feeling fine.

It would have been a better story, however, if he wasn't exposed to another possible blow to the head the same night that he was knocked silly.

Awards rush begins

The NHL announced the three finalists for the Calder Trophy today, starting a two-week stretch of such news flashes.

Steve Mason of Columbus, Bobby Ryan of Anaheim and Kris Versteeg of Chicago are the potential Calder winners. My vote had them in this order -- Mason, Versteeg, Ryan -- with Drew Doughty and Blake Wheeler rounding out a top five. Versteeg and Ryan are a tossup for me and ranking a 30-goal scoring rookie third means it's a good crop of newcomers. But I'd call Mason clearly ahead of the pack of rookies.

The order for the upcoming award finalist announcements ...

Thursday, April 23, Norris
Friday, April 24, Lady Byng
Monday, April 27, Vezina
Tuesday, April 28, Selke
Wednesday, April 29, Hart
Thursday, April 30, Masterton
Friday, May 1, Adams

I'm guessing that Lidstrom doesn't win another Norris this season. It'll be interesting to see where he drops to after winning six in the past seven seasons.

If you're curious, here are Lidstrom's year-by-year finishes in the Norris voting ...

2008 1st
2007 1st
2006 1st
2004 6th
2003 1st
2002 1st
2001 1st
2000 2nd
1999 2nd
1998 2nd
1997 6th
1996 6th
1995 received no votes
1994 7th

Over a 15-year stretch, that's as good as it gets.

Thoughts on Game 3 first round

-- I don't understand Hitchcock's decision to let Nash skate against the same five players who shut him down in Games 1 and 2. The Jackets had last line change, but Hitchcock started the game with Nash against Lidstrom-Rafalski-Zetterberg-Franzen-Cleary and he kept Nash on the ice against those five when Babcock sent them over the boards.

In Games 1 and 2, Nash spent 72 percent of his ice time with Lidstrom on the ice. Zetterberg was at 70 percent and Franzen at 64 percent.

So after two poor game's by Nash's standards, what happens in Game 3? Lidstrom is on the ice for 78 percent of Nash's ice time, Zetterberg for 74 percent and Franzen for 70 percent. It got worse for Nash.

In Game 4, Hitchcock has to figure a way to get Nash in a better circumstance to succeed.

-- Brad Stuart played a remarkable game. Obviously the hit on Umberger was major, but little things like jumping behind Osgood late in the third period to remove a puck that was three inches for going over the line showed how alert Stuart was and how proactive he can be.

-- Speaking of the hit on Umberger, that was a wonderful clean check by Stuart. The funny thing was that Umberger did see Stuart coming, but he didn't avoid him. In fact, Umberger went low, causing his head to be part of the hip check. Good for Umberger to return to score the Jackets' goal.

-- Jan Hejda being hurt is a major blow to the Jackets. Commodore draws more attention, but Hejda is their best defensive defenseman.

-- I could watch any player go over the boards -- as Commodore did when he missed checking Cleary -- over and over. Cracks me up ever time. Cleary going into the bench in the Winter Classic was funny. Three years ago, Robin Big Snake missed a check at the Wings' prospects camp in Traverse City and went head-first into the bench. Very funny. Besides, I've always wanted to say Big Snake in one of these posts.

-- The Red Wings' Perfect Storm line -- Datsyuk, Hossa and Holmstrom -- have played very well, but they're going to dominate some post-season games soon.

-- Chris Osgood has played just as well, if not better, than he did last spring. If Ozzie wins his fourth Stanley Cup -- sorry for the jinx Ozzie -- hopefully the international perception that he was a good goalie on a great franchise will disappear. He's a great goalie at the tail end of a great career. It's wrong that he's held up as the Trent Dilfer of hockey.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hasek back in net ... not for us

So when I read this story about Dominik Hasek coming back to play in the Czech Republic, I think of two things ...

-- Good for him to play if he wants to play. I don't like the "tarnished image" talk when a legend plays at an advanced age. Hasek's greatness won't change. He's just not great any more.

-- I really wish I could have seen him play with this club when he was winning titles in the late 80s. I feel a bit shortchanged not seeing all of the career of the athlete who I consider to be the best goaltender ever.

Lilja online

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cleary absent

UPDATE: Cleary will be in the lineup for Game 3 in Columbus tomorrow night. Coach Mike Babcock said that Cleary didn't skate today because "We're making sure that he's ready to go."

Draper is out of the lineup for Game 3 because of an upper-body injury.


Dan Cleary isn't on the ice for today's practice. The Red Wing forward was injured during a practice last Tuesday when he was checked into the boards by teammate Niklas Kronwall. Cleary was able to play in Games 1 and 2 of the Columbus series.

I'll update with Cleary's status later.

With Cleary not on ice for practice, Kris Draper is wearing a top-six red jersey and skating in Cleary's place with Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thoughts on Game 2 first round

-- It's remarkable how well Rick Nash has been contained. Detroit is a bear to find a good matchup against because the Wings have so many good defensive individuals. I'm not sure what Columbus will try to do to free Nash up in Games 3 and 4. So you get him away from Lidstrom/Rafalski, you're still stuck with Kronwall/Stuart. As soon as Nash hops over the boards with Lebda/Ericsson on the ice, they'll be under orders to head to the bench. And going against Kronwall/Stuart isn't easy.

They'll certainly avoid the Zetterberg line with its three great defenders, but who will they be able to get up front? They'll avoid the Datsyuk line and try to get on the ice against the Filppula line. Even then, Filppula and Samuelsson are very good defenders and Hudler is adequate.

With the ice time they log, there won't be many times that Lidstrom, Datsyuk or Zetterberg aren't on the ice. So if the Jackets get too caught up in matchups, Nash's ice time will dwindle.

Did you notice the little adjustment they made with Nash in Game 2, lining him up on the left side instead of the right? That put Nash closer to Rafalski than Lidstrom and opposite a smaller forward in Cleary rather than Franzen. Didn't work, but it was creative.

-- The Red Wings power play was as dominant as it has been in the past four seasons. The plays were working so well that the Jacket players could have been counted in the JLA attendance because they were doing little more than watching.

-- The Vermette hit on Datsyuk with 8:39 was pretty high on the dirty scale. It also shows how frustrated that the Jackets are. After watching -- again that word watching -- Datsyuk go around two of his teammates for a good scoring chance, Vermette hit Datsyuk from behind, then climbed on top. The bad part of the hit was that Vermette slammed Datsyuk down head first. Datsyuk's neck was in a position to be hurt. So was Datsyuk's face as Vermette purposefully climbed over the back of his head. Very dirty. The toughness of the Wings always impresses me.

-- The Helm line really set the physical tone for the Red Wings.

-- I don't know why, but it makes me smile when Holmstrom starts moving forwards away from the Detroit net after Osgood covers up the puck. I wonder if he gets a kick out of the role reversal.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Game 2 warmup

Don't know if they're part of Hitchcock's promised lineup shakeup, but both Columbus' Derek Dorsett and Aaron Rome are on the ice for the pregame skate.

UPDATE: Former Whaler Jared Boll is out. Dorsett is in. Rome is a scratch.

Optional skate

Optional morning skate this morning for the Red Wings. Look for the Wings to use the same lines tonight that were so successful in Game 1.




Friday, April 17, 2009


So here's a total jinx ... but I'm watching the other Western Conference playoff games and I can't figure which second-round opponent would be the best matchup for the Wings. See, total jinx.

If the Wings win, they'll likely play either Anaheim or the winner of the Chicago/Calgary series. If the top three seeds win, Vancouver would be the Wings opponent.

Anaheim is obviously on a roll, but right now I think the Ducks would be my No. 1 choice. What impressed me most about Anaheim two years ago was that awesome line of Getzlaf's. That's broken up now and Getzlaf's role is that of a No. 1 center. I think the Wings can shut down Getzlaf and Ryan. And the Ducks don't have a sandpaper line like they did two years ago to slow down the Wings. I'd also rather face Hiller than Kiprusoff or Khabibulin.

Chicago plays Detroit tough. The 'Hawks and Flames are similar in that they have a handful of defensemen who are punishing. (I know that Pronger is in Anaheim, but Regehr is just as tough on the Wings and Keith and Seabrook are very tough.)

Luongo alone makes Vancouver tough. But the Canucks don't have enough offense to beat the Wings.

So I've totally laid on a jinx and I should be sorry. But it's tough not to think ahead as you watch the Flames and Blackhawks and Ducks and Canucks wondering whose victory would help out Detroit the most.

My list of teams I'd most like to see in the next round? 1 Anaheim, 2 Vancouver, 3 Calgary, 4 Chicago. Although this might be a case of be careful for what you wish.

Who would you most want to play of the four potential opponents?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thoughts on Game 1 first round

-- There will be changes in the Columbus lineup, coach Ken Hitchcock said after the game. Hitch said that the players who were below the bar tonight are the same ones who were below the bar at the end of the season.

-- Chris Osgood was remarkable. He did turn a switch on. He did better his performance from the regular season. He was the best player on the ice. Remarkable game following a bad regular season. During the regular season, Osgood had only 15 quality starts in 43 outings. (Quality start defined as allowing two or fewer goals.)

-- Hitchcock called Detroit's third line of Filppula, Hudler and Samuelsson the best line on the ice for either team. he was right.

-- Columbus defenseman Kris Russell is overmatched. I've seen him in the prospects camp in Traverse City a couple of years and Russell's skills were impressive there. But his size and his defensive shortcomings hurt the Jackets when he has to be on the ice against a Datsyuk or Zetterberg.

-- Second only to Osgood in the switch-on stat, Niklas Kronwall certainly elevated his game. He was Detroit's most physical player once again. (Datsyuk and Stuart were close behind). Of course, Kronwall's giveaway behind the net that led to the Jackets' goal wasn't pretty, but other than that he was solid.

-- What the hell was Manny Malhotra thinking when he took his hand off his stick to try to catch Jonathan Ericsson's shot? A very bad decision. I can't remember seeing a goal go in like that.

-- An inconsistently called game by the officials. Nudges were whistled as interference. Other times, players without the puck were dropped to their knees and no calls were made.

-- Nicklas Lidstrom gave a clinic on how to play against Rick Nash. The highlight was when he tied up Nash's stick as a rebound approached, totally taking the Jackets' leader out of the play.

-- The Red Wings hit and when the Red Wings hit, they win. The official stats for hits favored Detroit, 37-26. The leaders were Datsyuk with six, Samuelsson with five, Cleary and Helm with four apiece. Helm's presence was noticeable as usual. It's obvious that he's one of the 12 best forwards on this team.

-- Commodore was the most physical of the Jackets' defensemen. It was good to see him burned on Franzen's goal. Commodore left his station to go for a big hit on Zetterberg, double-teaming the Red Wing. Zetterberg made a beautiful one-hand pass behind the net. with Franzen and Cleary to cover, Hejda was a step slow in stopping Franzen.

Probable lines

For tonight's Game 1 ...







Cleary on the ice

They said he'd be ready to go tonight and Dan Cleary is on the ice right now working through the morning skate. Of note is that Ville Leino is out there are well, just in case the Wings are in need of a healthy forward tonight.

Cleary is wearing a red jersey, meaning he's on one of the top two lines. Mikael Samuelsson is in a white jersey (third and fourth lines). That likely means that a healthy Cleary will be on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. Samuelsson will be on the third line with Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy days

Call me a geek, but this press release made me happy. As a long-time subscriber to the Center Ice package, I've never understood why they only show games once. Here's the big problem ... they're all going on around the same time. So for the playoffs, Center Ice will repeat games four or five times. Hopefully, they'll do that during the regular season too ...

NEW YORK, April 15, 2009 –Tax Day has a bright side for hockey fans. Starting today, April 15, and through the second round of the playoffs, subscribers to the NHL Center Ice out-of-market package will receive replays of same day games. In this new enhancement which is free to customers, the NHL Center Ice package will re-air each current day’s game beginning approximately one hour after the live game ends so that fans can see games they might have missed. Each game will replay in its entirety and will repeat continuously overnight and the next day, on the same channel, until the following day’s live games begin.

The “Replay Game” feature means that there will be approximately 4-5 replays for single, scheduled games. Live games scheduled back-to-back will be replayed in that same order, so that there will be approximately 2-3 replays before game-time the following day. No games will be bumped from the package to accommodate replay games. Blackout and other restrictions apply.

Cleary will play in Game 1

Coach Mike Babcock just said that Cleary will be in the lineup for Thursday's Game 1.

That will likely mean that Cleary will be on the second line with Henrik Zetterberg in the middle and Johan Franzen on the other wing. That will bump Mikael Samuelsson back to the third line with Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler.

The first line will be Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Marian Hossa. The fourth line will be Darren Helm, Tomas Kopecky and Kirk Maltby.

Cleary didn't skate today. He suffered an injury during Tuesday's practice, likely when Niklas Kronwall checked him into the boards. Cleary said that he went for tests, yesterday.

"It showed there's something there, but it's not a big concern," said Cleary. "It's more precautionary than anything."

"I should be ready to go, shouldn't be a problem," said Cleary.

Everything this time of year is a piece of the puzzle. How badly is Cleary hurt? Don't know. But that he went for tests is a piece. That he can't skate right now is a piece. That they're sure he'll be in the lineup is another piece.

No Cleary

The Red Wings have just started their morning practice and Dan Cleary is not on the ice. Unless he improves, it looks like he won't be ready for Thursday's Game 1 against Columbus.

Ville Leino, just recalled from Grand Rapids, gives the Wings 12 healthy forwards.

Kris Draper, who has an undisclosed injury, is on the ice and working through drills. But Draper has already been ruled out of playing in Games 1 and 2 because of his injury.

Dick Axelsson, 21, Detroit's third draft pick in 2006, was brought in from Sweden by the Griffins on an amateur tryout.

It looks like Hudler's Finnish is about to improve. Leino is on the third line with Filppula and Hudler.

Today's practice lines ...




Lots of time spent on special teams, both PP and PK.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cleary could play Game 1

Dan Cleary, who left today's practice after a friendly-fire check by Niklas Kronwall, might be well enough to play in Thursday's Game 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, according to general manager Ken Holland.

Teams don't divulge injury information especially during the post-season. But Holland said that Cleary is "day-to-day". Cleary could skate in Wednesday's practice. His status for Game 1 will be determined after Thursday's morning skate.

"It's a minor, minor injury," said Holland. "There's a chance he could be in Thursday."

Datsyuk's home away from home

DETROIT -- Pavel Datsyuk didn't shy away from committing to Detroit because of this area's economic background. In fact, Detroit's industrial climate attracted Datsyuk because it reminds him of his hometown.

And having Pavel Datsyuk contractually bound to Detroit for the next five years is good news for hometown hockey fans. As the Red Wings enter their first-round playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets (Game 1 is 7 p.m., Thursday, on FSN), Datsyuk is coming off his fifth straight season leading the Red Wings in scoring.

That's a feat accomplished before only by Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman.

"Pavel is one of the top five forwards in the game today," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who considers Datsyuk a candidate for the Hart, Selke and Lady Byng trophies. "He plays offense, defense, kills penalties, on the power play … you can use him in any situation."

Two years ago when Datsyuk was deciding his hockey future, the connection between Detroit and his hometown of Ekaterinburg, Russia, led him to staying put. Datsyuk signed a seven-year contract and became part of the long-term foundation of the Red Wings. Subsequently, Detroit has signed Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Brian Rafalski, Valtteri Filppula, Brad Stuart and Dan Cleary to long-term deals.

"I didn't want to test the water anywhere else," said Datsyuk. "I'm comfortable here. I feel like this is my second home."

Datsyuk's first home, Ekaterinburg, is the third largest city in Russia with more than a million inhabitants. Southeast of Moscow, Ekaterinburg is a factory town noted for its military production, so much so that some areas of the city are inaccessible without identification cards.

Datsyuk was the son of a driver -- transporting people in a van -- and grew up like most in Ekaterinburg in an apartment in the city. Datsyuk said that houses were mostly outside the city limit and for second homes for well-to-do apartment dwellers.

Ekaterinburg's hockey teams are sponsored by auto makers and carry the name Avtomovilist. Datsyuk came up through the hockey program in Ekaterinburg, leaving at the age of 22 to play for a bigger club team, Ak Bars Kazan.

A year later, he was in the NHL.

As a youth player, Datsyuk was caught in Russian politics and was never selected to represent his nation in the World Junior Championships. Since coming to Detroit, however, Datsyuk has established himself as one of the best in the world.

In both of the past two seasons, Datsyuk finished fourth in the NHL in scoring. He did that last season while playing good enough defense to be names the league's top defensive forward. He led the NHL in plus-minus a year ago and finished third in that category this season. He is dominant in the new statistic of takeaways, finishing first or second in each of the past three seasons and holding the league record with 144 in 2007-08.

The hard work with attaining those successes is easily paralleled with Datsyuk's two home cities -- Detroit and Ekaterinburg.

"Both have nice people, hard-working people," said Datsyuk. "Detroit is like my city. Hard-working city, industrial."
With this notable exception: "Lots of people walk back home. Not so much here," said Datsyuk.

Draper out for Games 1 and 2

An undisclosed injury will keep Kris Draper sidelined for Games 1 and 2 of the Columbus series, at least. Draper was hurt during last Monday's game in Buffalo. He tested his injury at the start of today's practice, centering the fourth line, but near the end of the one-hour workout, Draper left the ice.

"This time of year, it's not easy to handle, but it's basically where we're at right now," said a glum Draper. "I just have to deal with this for Game 1 and Game 2 and we'll go from there."

With Draper gone, Darren Helm becomes the fourth-line center with Kirk Maltby and Tomas Kopecky on his wings.

The one problem with that scenario is that Dan Cleary left today's practice injured, apparently hurt by a Niklas Kronwall hit into the boards during an early drill. After Cleary left, Mikael Samuelsson moved up to the second line centered by Henrik Zetterberg and Kopecky moved up to the third line centered by Valtteri Filppula.

Without Cleary and Draper, the Red Wings have 11 healthy forwards.

"Cleary I don't have any idea on," said Babcock after practice.

Practice update

Dan Cleary left the ice. I'm not sure what's ailing him, but he was run into the boards pretty hard during a drill by Niklas Kronwall.

With Cleary out, here are the lines they're practicing with now ...


In other words, Samuelsson is moved up from the third to the second line, Kopecky is moved up from the fourth to the third and Draper is bumped over to wing with Helm in the middle of the fourth.

I think this tells us that Kopecky isn't going to be the first guy scratched if everyone's healthy. Also that Babcock wants to use Helm in the middle even if it puts Draper on a wing.

Prep for Game 1

The Red Wings are on the ice now, prepping for Thursday's Game 1 against Columbus. Here are the lines out of which they're working ...




A few points of interest ...

Right now, it looks like Derek Meech and Chris Chelios will be the scratches on the blue line.

-- No surprise, but obviously they have a lot of confidence in Jonathan Ericsson to put him in with such limited experience. It certainly worked with Darren Helm last spring, but he was brought in after being around the playoff environment for a while as a scratch.

-- The fourth line is still somewhat a mystery. The first rep goes to Tomas Kopecky-Kris Draper-Kirk Maltby, but coach Mike Babcock is going out of his way to make Helm an equal part of what is now a four-man unit. During one drill designed for three-man units, Babcock yelled at Helm for not skating and making it a four-man forward rush. "Stay with your line Helm. Stay with your line." I'd guess that either Helm will start on the fourth line or be brought into the lineup early in the playoffs.

-- Everyone other than Andreas Lilja (concussion) is on the ice, a good sign that the Wings are starting the post-season relatively healthy. Obviously, the loss of Lilja hurts, but if everyone else is good to go, then that's not bad attrition.