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.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

No suspension for Malkin

Colin Campbell, director of hockey operations for the NHL, just ruled that there will be no suspension for Evgeni Malkin because of the instigator penalty he received in the final minute of Game 2.

"Non of the criteria in this rule (for suspension) applied in this situation," said Campbell. "Suspensions are applied under this rule when a team attempts to send a message in the last five minutes by having a player instigate a fight. A suspension could also be applied when a player seeks retribution for a prior incident. Neither was the case here and therefore the one-game suspension is rescinded."

Live blogging for Game 2

No Datsyuk for Game 2

Coach Mike Babcock just said that there will be no lineup changes tonight. That means no Pavel Datsyuk (who didn't take the ice for practice this morning) and no Kris Draper (who skated).

Thoughts on SCF Game 1

-- The Penguins dressed seven defensemen again. That meant that their fourth line was based on Staal or Malkin rotating for a double shift between Satan and Adams. The Wings matched up strictly with the centers and didn't worry about the wingers. No matter who Malkin was out with, Filppula's line and Kronwall-Stuart were there. Zetterberg and Lidstrom-Rafalski were there with Crosby. And Helm's line matched up with Staal. That means that Detroit's fourth line was spotted in and ice time wasn't great.

That said, I'm curious to see how this plays out through the first four games. Can those horses -- both Pittsburgh's and Detroit's -- be ridden the same way on back-to-back nights? Can you do it three times in four nights? How about four in six?

-- Jordan Staal had a poor Game 1. He was obviously looking the wrong way on the Abdelkader goal, but he shouldn't even have been searching the rafters for the puck. He should have been tying up his man that close to the net. Other than that, Staal seemed disinterested.

-- I was very concerned early on about the turnovers. It took Lidstrom just 12 seconds to cough the puck up giving Pittsburgh a shot on goal. On the next shift, Kronwall did the same. Detroit had 10 turnovers in the first periods, but settled that down a little.

That trends seemed to follow Lidstrom's game. I thought Lidstrom had a subpar first period. Call it rust, but Lidstrom was back in form over the final two periods. He had a monster back-to-back PKs in the second, making several clears. I have no concerns about him the rest of the series as far as his injury altering his game.

-- Sign at JLA said "Let the crying begin" with tears drawn over a huge mug of Crosby. That was pretty clever. I can't get this out of my head ... if he's Sid the Kid, then to me, he's Sidney the Kidney. It makes no sense, but it makes me smile.

-- I don't know who's going to be the better goalie through the rest of this series, but Osgood clearly outplayed Fleury in Game 1. And in each of the first three rounds, I thought Detroit had the better goalie.

-- You could spend the entire game watching Zetterberg clamp down on Crosby. Wonderful battles. Z obviously takes this as a personal challenge.

When you watch them, it's obvious that Zetterberg looks to shut down Crosby first, then create any offense when a chance arises. Crosby looks at it the opposite.

-- I'm noticing more and more that the only passes that Ericsson seems to miss are his stretch passes, making mistakes that lead to icing more than turnovers. He's pretty automatic all other passes. I guess Ericsson is in that sense the opposite of Rafalski, who makes sensational stretch passes, but once every while will make a gaffe on a short one.

-- Maybe I've been spoiled by Helm, but how did he not pull away from Todd Gill on that partial breakaway? Helm made Scott Niedermayer look like he was carrying a piano. Hal Gill does carry a piano. Kudos to Gill on that play. Not a knock on Helm at all, who had another great performance. I also get the feeling that if Gill is on the ice with Helm as much tonight as he was last night, Helm is eventually going to pick his pocket.

-- Did anybody ever say what the rule is? Could Zetterberg put his hand over the puck when it was on Osgood's back? I'm not sure if that's officially in the crease. I don't think so.

-- Two shifts that were fun to watch in the third period ... Samuelsson, Helm and Maltby getting multiple chances with four minutes to play, pinning the Pens in deep ... the Wings keeping the puck in the Pens' zone with the empty net for 32 seconds. Yes, I clocked it.

Red Wings' Sunday morning skate

Optional skate this morning in the middle of three games in four days. Very optional.

The players who dressed last night who are on the ice now are ... Ville Leino, Brett Lebda, Justin Abdelkader, Kirk Maltby and Ty Conklin.

Kris Draper is on the is as are the GR guys.

If I get status updates on Datsyuk or Draper, I'll post them.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Game 1 live blog


In a Monty Python accent ... and now for something completely different ...

Pens' defense

Bylsma just said that it will be a game-time decision whether the Penguins go with six or seven defensemen tonight. They used seven against Carolina.

Detroit defense pairings

The Wings will go with these pairings tonight ...


The E-Leb pairing will matchup against Jordan Staal's line.

Datsyuk not playing

Official word from Coach Mike Babcock ... Datsyuk and Draper aren't playing in Game 1. Lidstrom and Ericsson will.

Not a great TV package

Funny note on both Jonathan Ericsson's team loyalty and the NHL's crappy TV package. Ericsson went into surgery (appendicitis) Wednesday before WCF Game 5 asking if he's be awake by game time. He was awake by 5:30 p.m., but DMC's TVs didn't get the game. So instead of an overnight at the hospital, Ericsson checked out, had his girlfriend drive him to JLA and watched the Wings eliminate Chicago from the rink. His girlfriend drove him home after that.

Ericsson and Datsyuk on the ice

Both Jonathan Ericsson, Pavel Datsyuk and Kris are out there for the morning skate. More to come on their status for tonight's Game 1.

It's an optional skate, so it's impossible to tell line combinations. The GR callups are out there as well. As usual for optionals, Mike Babcock isn't on the ice, nor are several of the regulars like Henrik Zetterberg or Brian Rafalski.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ozzie's playoffs

DETROIT -- Chris Osgood knows his place in hockey history. But does the rest of the world?

Osgood is 10th all-time in regular-season goalie wins. Entering the Stanley Cup final, he’s eighth all-time in playoff wins and fourth in playoff shutouts. Among active goalies, only Martin Brodeur can match Osgood’s three Stanley Cup rings.

“I love this time of year,” said Osgood. “I know how to win games.”

Osgood’s reputation is a victim of being linked to the best franchise in hockey over the last 15 years. The Red Wings are good enough to win the Stanley Cup with several current goaltenders is the common argument, meaning that Osgood is along for the ride.

But the Red Wings couldn’t win the Cup with Manny Legace. They couldn’t win the Cup with Dominik Hasek last spring. They couldn’t win with Curtis Joseph before that.

"Ozzie is real mentally strong," said Nicklas Lidstrom. “If he lets in a bad goal, it doesn't seem to bother him much. (Jamie) Langenbrunner scored (in 1998) from near the red line. Osgood came back with a shutout the next game. He's very mentally strong. We see it now and we saw it back then too. It can be tough on a goalie, especially in the playoffs. He responded well. I think the team rallied around him."

Osgood has also responded well to a poor regular season this year with a remarkable playoff run.

Last spring, Osgood was the darling who took over in net for Hasek after the Red Wings started the playoffs 2-2 and went 14-4 to win the Cup. But this winter, Osgood had his worst goals-against average and worst save percentage of his career.

Backup goalie Ty Conklin got into 40 of the 82 regular-season games.

“I live in this moment right now,” said Osgood. “The regular season is what it is. I’m still 10th all-time in wins.”

Osgood piled up 26 more regular-season wins, but did so while allowing goals at a faster rate than ever before.

“This year in the regular season he struggled,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “He was much like the rest of our team. In saying that, we have enough good players that we're able to win games, but it was ugly lots of nights. When you're the last line of defense, it's ugly, it looks ugly.

“It took him a while to get going. I think it snowballed on him in the wrong direction. But I thought he really battled. I thought his last 10 games gave us a better indication of what he was capable of. Then, like a lot of our players, they've been a lot better since the playoffs started.”

Osgood’s turnaround was striking.

He gave up just two total goals in the Red Wings’ first three playoff games. His goals-against average in the playoffs of 2.06 is second to Boston’s Tim Thomas.

For those teammates who were with Osgood when he battled through earlier Cup runs, sloughing off a poor regular season isn’t surprising.

"The one thing about Ozzie is the composure that he showed, the resilience he showed during the '98 Cup run," said Draper. "He'd be the first one to tell you that he gave up a couple of bad goals. What does he do the next game? He plays his best hockey. And that's something that you can't teach. It's in you. It's the makeup of Chris Osgood."

Osgood still eats pasta before games as he has for more than a decade. He still likes oatmeal the night before a game. He’s still the same goalie who had actress Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) agog as a high-schooler at Royal Oak Shrine. (“Brad Pitt be damned, he had nothing on Osgood,” she told

And he’s still the same Chris Osgood who is tough enough in the playoffs to be the goalie that his teammates want behind them.

“He knows what it takes,” said Johan Franzen. “He shows it every year. He’s always in the right position and doesn’t get rattled. We know what he can do. We have a lot of trust in him.”

Neverending success?

Here’s one thing I’ve never understood. How does this “The Neverending Story” book thing work?

There has to be a last page, doesn’t there? If there isn’t, then it would be the neverending book store purchase because you’d still be hauling it out to your minivan.

I know they made a movie based on the book. Are the initial audience still seated in that theater thinking two things … “When will this movie end” and “Boy, I sure got my money’s worth.”

But German fantasy novels aren’t the order of business today. Hockey is.

And the Detroit Red Wings are about to forward their version of the neverending story, beginning Saturday night (8 p.m., Ch. 4 and Ch. 9) when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final.

The Red Wings have become a neverending story of success, the extent of which even a German fantasy novelist could not imagine.

Here’s a quick tally of the franchise’s recent success, which seems to just add one to the plus side every year.

The Red Wings are gunning for their fifth Stanley Cup in the past 12 seasons. Forget that this is four years into a salary-cap era which has radically leveled the ice surface between franchises.

Remember how potent that those Red Wings of Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Terry Sawchuk were? The Red Wings of the 40s and 50s didn’t win five Stanley Cups in 12 years, it took them 13.

You have to go back 19 years – to the Edmonton Oilers of 1990 – to find a franchise celebrating its fifth Stanley Cup in 12 of fewer seasons. (The Oilers won five in seven.)

And while we’re at it, why don’t you ask Red Wings general manager Ken Holland if there is much different between the rules of today’s game and those of the 80s Oilers and listen to him laugh and then cry, longing for the days of uncapped salaries and rare free-agent movement.

Before the Oilers, the Montreal Canadiens won five Cups in fewer than 12 seasons, doing it with several permutations before running dry after 1993. But before that, you have to go back to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1951 to find a franchise that lifted the Stanley Cup for the fifth time in a dozen or fewer seasons.

Perhaps that’s why the NHL is starting this Cup final series with games on back-to-back days, conjuring up nostalgia by scheduling in a way that hasn’t been done since 1955. Perhaps the league and the television networks are hoping that weekend games bring higher ratings. Perhaps they’re all just plain stupid. Perhaps the league figures that the Red Wings need a handicap and these back-to-back games are like weight on their saddle.

For any of the above answer, the league should have announced why it slated games on back-to-back dates for the first time in 54 years. But it hasn’t.

That’s something to debate when this neverending story is finished.

For now, the story continues. The Red Wings have been in eight conference finals over the past 14 seasons, winning six of those eight.

The Red Wings have also won the Presidents’ Trophy six times in the past 14 seasons. Add to that tying Buffalo for the most points one season, but losing the Presidents’ tie-breaker and you’ve got a Red Wings franchise that has been at the top of the league standings half of the time over the past 14 seasons.

So even if the Red Wings don’t beat the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Cup … I didn’t just say that, did I? … it’s ok. (But for the record, I’ll pick the Red Wings in seven games.)

It’s ok because the Red Wings’ story doesn’t end. With so many key players already signed for the next few seasons, the Red Wings should continue to be the premier franchise in hockey and the dominant franchise in all of North American pro sports.

The Red Wings’ story will end some day, but not in the foreseeable future.

Which puts their story one up on this story.

Practice lines

Here's what the Wings are working out of today ...

Cleary-Filppula-Hossa (Datsyuk working in)
Leino-Abdelkader-Maltby (Draper working in)



Here's what jumps out ... Lidstrom is working out of a spot that says he's definitely playing in Game 1 of the SCF. Datsyuk is just subbing on a line. Babcock is prepping the team for a game without Pavel.

On the blue line, Lilja is partnered with Lebda. Two things might be going on. First, Lilja might be back in the lineup with Chelios out. Second, and I think this might be more reasonable, Lilja is a place-holder for Ericsson, who might return from appendicitis surgery.

UPDATE: Datsyuk isn't taking part in drills. He's out there working on skating and stickhandling.

Datsyuk, Lidstrom on the ice

Nick Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk just took the ice as the Red Wings prepare for their final tune-up practice leading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. Kris Draper is out there as well. So is Andreas Lilja.

The injured players' status for Game 1 won't come until later this afternoon if then.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Good Ozzie line

Asked after missing the third period of the Western Conference final's Game 4 whether we might find some evidence of an injury (instead of dehydration) by reviewing the game tapes, Chris Osgood responded ...

"No, just me wincing sometimes because I'm 36."

Twitter reminder

If you are Twitter inclined, I'll tweet, twit, whatever. Follow RedWingsBruce.

SC final tickets on sale

From the Red Wings ...

Detroit… Single-game tickets for the 2009 Stanley Cup Final at Joe Louis Arena go on sale this morning (5/28) at 10 am (ET). Fans can purchase tickets at the Joe Louis Arena Box Office, all TicketMaster locations including The Hockeytown Café, Hockeytown Authentics in Troy, or charge by phone at 800-745-3000. Fans also can purchase tickets by logging on to All four potential home games are available with a purchase limit of eight tickets per game.

The Red Wings also continue to accept season-ticket deposits for the 2009-10 season which allow fans to lock in the lowest available price on next year’s season tickets.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stanley Cup final sked

Date Match-up Time (ET) National TV

Saturday, May 30 Pittsburgh at Detroit 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS

Sunday, May 31 Pittsburgh at Detroit TBD evening NBC, CBC, RDS

Tuesday, June 2 Detroit at Pittsburgh 8 p.m. VERSUS, CBC, RDS

Thursday, June 4 Detroit at Pittsburgh 8 p.m. VERSUS, CBC, RDS

* Saturday, June 6 Pittsburgh at Detroit 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS

* Tuesday, June 9 Detroit at Pittsburgh 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS

* Friday, June 12 Pittsburgh at Detroit 8 p.m. NBC, CBC, RDS

* if necessary


If the Stanley Cup final has Games 1 and 2 in Detroit this Saturday and Sunday (that's the rumor if Detroit wins tonight), that will be the first time that there have been Cup final games on back-to-back days since 1955.

Why now? I don't get it. The original plan for an early start was Thursday if both conference finals were sweeps. If it was Thursday, they couldn't have gone Thurs/Sat/Sun. So why the big rush to play Sunday? I don't know.

And 1955? Believe it or not, the back-to-back dates were between Game 4 and 5. So Game 4 was in Montreal on April 9. Game 5 in Detroit on April 10.

Game 5 live blogging

No Khabi, no Havlat

Coach Joel Quenneville just announced that neither goalie Nikolai Khabibulin nor forward Martin Havlat will play in tonight's Game 5 against Detroit. Khabibulin skated today, but isn't ready to play. He left Game 3 after the second period and hasn't played since.

Cristobal Huet will be in net tonight. He was lifted for part of Game 4 after getting the start in that game.

Colin Fraser will enter the Blackhawks' lineup at center. This will be Fraser's second game of these playoffs.

Quenneville also said that players who didn't take part in the morning skate like Sammy Pahlsson and Andrew Ladd will play tonight.

Game 5 live blogging

Let's all say this together ... I hope this is the last live blog of the Western Conference final. Wait, don't get me wrong. The blogs are fun. Seeing the Blackhawks inch closer to a series win, not fun.

Twittering around

I can barely plug in a toaster, so forgive me if I mess this up somehow. But I signed onto Twitter and if anyone wants quick short Wings updates, follow me.


Much to my surprise, my name was already taken. So now I know there's some other poor schmuck out there who is always having his last name misspelled (is it pathetic if I misspelled "misspelled"?). Hopefully, he's got looks to go on. Wait, then I'll really not like him.

Khabi on the ice

The Blackhawks are on the ice for their morning skate and Nikolai Khabibulin is on the ice. We'll hopefully find out from Coach Joel Quenneville if he'll be in net tonight for Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

The Red Wings had an optional morning skate, so you couldn't read their lines.

Here are the forward lines that the Hawks are using this morning ...

Brouwer-Skille-no one

Obviously there were just 11 forwards out there. No Martin Havlat is a sign that he won't be in the lineup tonight, having left Game 4 after being nailed by Brad Stuart.

Having Kane and Toews together in Detroit alters the Chicago strategy from Game 2. Byfuglien remains on their wing as he has been in the past two games.

In addition to no Havlat, Andrew Ladd and Sammy Pahlsson are on the ice. I assume they'll both play tonight, but I'll post an update if that isn't so.

Lidstrom, Datsyuk out for Game 5

Coach Mike Babcock just said that neither Nicklas Lidstrom (lower body) or Pavel Datsyuk (foot) will be in the lineup for tonight's Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

"I think they're both getting closer," said Babcock. "I'd like to think they'll play the next time we play. I thought that today though."

That means the Wings will likely use the same lineup as in Game 4 with Chris Chelios and Justin Abdelkader dressed.

Helm's hit parade

Darren Helm hits. That's obvious. But just how often he's been throwing around the body in the post-season has been remarkable.

Here are some of the basics ...

- Helm leads the Red Wings in playoff hits with 66 entering tonight's Game 5 of the Western Conference final. Second on the team is Dan Cleary with 45. Helm has 47 percent more hits than Cleary in the same number of games and in 37 percent less ice time.

- Helm's 66 hits are fourth in the NHL for the post-season.

- Here's how much more frantic Helm's post-season pace has been: He has 66 hits in 15 playoff games. He had 37 hits in 15 regular-season games. And the ice time isn't the difference. He has 66 playoff hits in 161:35, 37 regular-season hits in 198:55.

- Last spring, Helm had 28 hits in 18 playoff games, 135:04 of ice time.

Helm's hits per 60 minutes of ice time ...

30.....09 playoffs
11.....08-09 regular season
12.....08 playoffs

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kane's mouth ... guard

This is why Youtube is a great thing. Did you miss Johan Franzen taking Patrick Kane's mouthguard out and tossing it with contempt during Game 4? Please take the time to view this classic on this link ...

"It was right there, couldn't resist," said Franzen.

Dan Cleary can be seen smiling in the Youtube vid.

"I've never seen that," said Cleary. "It was only the three of us, the ref, the linesman, that really had a good feel for it. It was just funny how the whole thing went down. He (Kane) was mad."

Babcock says Nick and Pav are maybes

Coach Mike Babcock just said that there's still a possibility that Nicklas Lidstrom (lower body) and Pavel Datsyuk (foot) could play in tomorrow's Game 5. Neither practiced today.

"They didn't practice," said Babcock. "Both guys are feeling better. We'll see what goes on in the (Wednesday) morning skate and go from there."

Would Babcock give those players a rest considering his team's 3-1 series advantage?

"If they're ready, they're playing," said Babcock.

Lidstrom is a six-time Norris Trophy winner, who is one of the final three for that award this spring. Datsyuk is a finalist for three awards -- MVP, Selke and Lady Byng. He won both the Selke and Lady Byng last season.

Still no Lidstrom, no Datsyuk

The Red Wings are on the ice for their Tuesday practice and the recently injured players are not out there. No Nick Lidstrom (lower body). No Pavel Datsyuk (foot). No Kris Draper (groin). (Although Draper was already listed as being out for Game 5, he's still not ready for practice.

The practice lines are the same as Game 4 ...




Also on the ice are some of the Wings GR callups -- Jimmy Howard, Darren McCarty, Jakub Kindl, Aaron Downey.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Draper out for Game 5

Kris Draper (groin) won't play Wednesday, but Pavel Datsyuk (foot) and Nicklas Lidstrom (lower body) might.

Coach Mike Babcock: "Draper won't be playing. Datsyuk and Lidstrom are day to day. And I don't have to worry about it today. We don't practice or play. So, you know, for a couple more days... I'm hopeful to see Pav and Nick very shortly here."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Uphappy coach

How mad was Joel Quenneville about the minor penalty given to Matt Walker at the end of the first period during a scrum? Here's what the Blackhawks coach said after the game ...

"Well, I think we witnessed probably the worst call in the history of sports today at the end of the (first) period there, a nothing play. You know, they scored, it's 3-0. They (officials) ruin a good hockey game. They absolutely destroyed what was going on on the ice. ... That call, I’ve never seen anything like it."

The Red Wings were up, 2-0, at the end of the first period. Valtteri Filppula scored 1:13 into Walker's penalty to give the Wings a three-goal advantage.

Detroit injuries

Coach Mike Babcock said after the game that Chris Osgood was lifted after two periods because he was dehydrated. Babcock said that the training staff pumped fluids into the netminder, but he wasn't ready for the third, thus Ty Conklin was inserted. Babcock emphasized that he would not make a move like that to rest a goalie.

The coach also said that Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk were day-to-day and that he "hoped" to see them both in Wednesday's Game 5.

Helm's Stanley Cup record

From a great site, Greatest Hockey Legends, here's a good story about Darren Helm having tied the record for most playoff goals scored before getting a single regular-season goal. Helm shares the record (four) with Montreal's Eddie Mazur.

From, here's a list of the leaders in that category ...

4, Darren Helm
4, Eddie Mazur
3, Bill Guerin
3, Marc Bureau
3, Perry Ganchar
3, George McPhee
3, Ray Cote
3, Bob Gould
3, Kevin Maxwell
3, Walt McKechnie
3, John Harms

Live blogging

Hopefully, the live blog wasn't the reason for the Game 3 loss. We'll try to redeem ourselves this afternoon.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Corey Crawford’s mad dash

CHICAGO – Corey Crawford never considered himself a quick change artist.

“I’m usually a laid-back guy who’s kind of slow,” said Crawford.

Crawford, however, is a team guy. And on Friday night, he set what he believes to be his personal record for disrobing and putting on full goalie equipment.

It was part of a very unusual situation in hockey. The Blackhawks’ starting goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin, was injured during Friday’s Game 3 of the Western Conference final. In between the second and third period, it was determined that Khabibulin couldn’t continue to play and that backup Cristobal Huet would go in net against the Detroit Red Wings in a game that was tied 3-3.

The NHL has a rule in the playoffs that if a netminder is hurt, the team’s third goalie can dress and take the bench as the new backup.

So Crawford, a 24-year-old Montreal native who hasn’t played in an NHL regular-season or playoff game in more than a year, was one small injury away from being in net during a conference final.

“I didn’t really think about that, actually,” said Crawford after today’s practice. “I was just so into the game. When we were up there (in the stands), I was just so glued to it. Then when I got down here (in the locker room), you times that by 10 when you’re on the bench watching a playoff game like that. That didn’t really go through my mind until after then I realized it was a possibility.”

One month ago, Corey Crawford was tending goal for the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Today, he’ll likely be the backup goalie for the Blackhawks, one small Huet injury away from national television.

Khabibulin didn’t practice, yesterday. His coach, Joel Quenneville, said that he’ll be a game-time decision for Sunday afternoon’s Game 4 of the conference final.

Huet, however, was talking after practice as though he was going to start Sunday’s contest.

“I wasn’t really tested the whole game (Friday),” said Huet. “Really my test is going to be tomorrow.”

Huet was brought in this season by the Blackhawks as a possible No. 1 goalie, earning $5.625 million per season. Khabibulin is earning $6.75 million, so two of the Blackhawks’ top four salaries are goalies.

“We've seen (Huet) for a number of seasons,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “He's a good goaltender. They brought him to Chicago to be the guy. Khabibulin beat him out.”

Khabibulin had played so well that Huet hadn’t seen game action in a month and a half.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in a real game,” said Huet, a native of France. “Being focused and reading the plays, details like that didn’t take long to get back. It’s not something I recommend. To get the win was nice.”

For Crawford, Khabibulin’s injury was a lesson in preparedness.

Crawford was watching Game 3 from a suite when goalie coach Stephane Waite rang his cell phone, urging him to rush down to the locker room and get suited up.

“It was more of a wakeup call than anything,” said Crawford. “Our goalie coach called me and said, ‘Get down here and get dressed.’ I was like, ‘What?’”

Crawford got dressed and got to the Chicago bench with just a minute or two gone from the third period.

For the past few weeks, Crawford has been one of the Blackhawks’ black aces, practicing with the minor-league call-ups, occasionally raking part in an off-day practice with the Blackhawks.

“He’s been a good kid,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “I thought he looked good in practice (Saturday) as well. You know, he’s played some NHL games. I think we have some depth there.”

“I feel pretty good in practice,” said Crawford. “The key is just to work as hard as I can, take as many shots as I can to be ready. You never know what can happen.”

The hit heard round the rink

CHICAGO – Timing is everything.

When Detroit Red Wing Niklas Kronwall stepped forward at the Chicago blue line 13 minutes into Game 3 of the Western Conference final, slamming into Blackhawks forward Martin Havlat, he was intended to deliver a crushing blow to help turn around a game in which the Red Wings trailed, 2-0.

But Kronwall delivered his hit before Havlat touched the puck, when it was right between the Blackhawk’s skates. That resulted in a five-minute major to Kronwall for interference and a game misconduct.

“I thought a game misconduct was a little harsh,” said Kronwall. “But the referee has not that much time to make the call. He’s not trying to make a bad call. … It happened. It’s history.”

Kronwall was back on the United Center ice with his Red Wings teammates, Saturday afternoon, preparing for Sunday’s Game 4 of the Western Conference final (3 p.m.) – a series that Detroit leads 2-1.

Havlat, however, wasn’t practicing with his Chicago teammates. The Czech forward was looking down for the puck when Kronwall arrived and took the Red Wing’s shoulder hit high. It appeared as though Havlat was out cold before he hit the ice. He stayed down for minutes before being led back to the bench.

Havlat’s availability for Sunday’s contest will be determined at game time.
The hit was talked about at length in both teams’ locker rooms after Saturday’s practice sessions.

“It’s a dangerous hit,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “You know, (Havlat) didn’t touch the puck. The guy left his feet.”

“We want to see head shots eliminated,” said Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell, “guys exploding upwards.”

The view from the Detroit locker room differed.

Kronwall’s hit was his trademark check. More than a half-dozen times during last spring’s playoffs, the Swede delivered crushing blows to opponents just inside their blue line along the boards. None of those, however, led to an opponent lying motionless on the ice.

“It’s unfortunate to see him get hurt,” said Kronwall. “It’s so scary to see him go down like that. From my perspective, the puck went off the wall. He went to pick it up. I stepped in. He never saw me coming, I guess. He never touched the puck, but I felt the puck was right there.”

Part of the problem was the way that Havlat played the puck, waiting for it to clear through him rather than receiving it immediately.

“The puck was coming around the wall, (Havlat) saw it coming,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “He turned, chose not to play it with his stick, was letting it come through his feet. Kronwall stepped up on it. That's hockey.”

“It was a clean hit,” said Kronwall’s defense partner, Brad Stuart. “The puck was there. There was no elbow. He didn’t leave his feet. You don’t like to see a guy laid out like that. But a lot of times, if you hit a guy too hard, they’re going to call a penalty. That’s kind of been what’s happening to us. It was a clean hit, but too hard. Those things happen.”

Havlat being injured on the play was also a possible factor in the penalty dished out to Kronwall.

“From the replays, I don’t know if any of the refs had their arms up when the hit happened,” said Kronwall. “Of course when you see a guy lying like that, it gives you more time to think. I think people that know me know that I never try to hurt anyone. I try to make a hit and it’s unfortunate that he got hurt.”

“It’s tough to watch,” said Chicago forward Patrick Sharp. “You never want to see a friend get hurt.”

Draper out; Pavel a maybe

Coach Mike Babcock just said that Kris Draper (groin) is definitely out for tomorrow's Game 4. Justin Abdelkader will dress in his place, centering the fourth line with Kirk Maltby and Ville Leino. Abdelkader played in the Anaheim series before being a healthy scratch in Game 3 in Chicago.

Babcock also said that Pavel Datsyuk's status will be decided tomorrow. Datsyuk injured his foot blocking a shot in Game 2 and missed Game 3. The Red Wings practiced today, however, as though they're not expecting Datsyuk to return. Valtteri Filppula centered Datsyuk's line.

Plus Babcock said that Abdelkader is in the lineup and will play his natural position, center. If he was planning on having Datsyuk, Abdelkader wouldn't be playing center tomorrow.

No Pavel or Drapes

The Red Wings are on the ice right now for their practice and neither Pavel Datsyuk (foot) nor Kris Draper (groin) are there. Here are the lines they're using ...




Note that Jiri Hudler is still on the Zetterberg line, having switched with Dan Cleary in the second period of Game 3.

Also, it looks like Abdelkader will be in for Draper. That means that the Wings could have four players in the lineup tomorrow -- Helm, Abdelkader, Leino, Ericsson -- who spent the vast majority of this season with Grand Rapids. Three of those finished the regular season in the AHL and two didn't come to the Red Wings until the Griffins were eliminated from the playoffs.

Khabi and Havlat day-to-day

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville just said that both goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body) and forward Martin Havlat might play in Game 4. Their status will be determined tomorrow.

"Khabi is doing better today," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. "We’ll see how he presents tomorrow. He’s made good progress. Marty as well."

If Havlat cannot play, Colin Fraser will dress for Chicago.

My guess? Neither Khabi nor Havlat will play. Huet is talking like he's expecting to play: "Really my test is going to be tomorrow."

Blackhawks' Saturday practice

Most important thing first ... no Nikolai Khabibulin on the ice right now. We'll find out in a bit when the players and coaches come off the ice what the prognosis is, but an early bet is "day-to-day" even if he's dead.

Here are the lines they're working with. Note that some of the players who haven't been practicing like Duncan Keith are on the ice ...




Neither Martin Havlat nor Sammy Pahlsson are on the ice. Thus Colin Fraser and Jacob Dowell. I'd be surprised if Havlat returned for Game 4 after being KOd by that Kronwall hit.

I also didn't see the third defense pairing of Barker and Walker out there. They could just be resting injuries ... or my old eyes could finally have failed me.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Draper injury

Coach Mike Babcock said that Kris Draper was lost to a groin pull.

Pavel Datsyuk (foot) is listed as day-to-day.

Chicago injuries

Coach Joel Quenneville just labeled Khabibulin and Havlat as day-to-day. It's not likely Havlat will be back Sunday, however. Quenneville smiled when he called Havlat "day-to-day" prefacing it with "let's call it."

Teacher's pet

CHICAGO – There wasn’t a whole lot that Chris Chelios could say. So he brought an apple.

Yesterday, Chelios’ former teammate, Jeremy Roenick, went on “The Monsters In The Morning" on Comcast Sportsnet Chicago and said that Detroit coach Mike Babcock “does not like Cheli at all.” Roenick went on to say that “I think (Babcock) has a grudge against American players.”

So this morning, one day after Roenick’s comments, Chelios found his coach at breakfast and offered him an apple as a sign of peace.

“Like any other coach, it’s all business,” said Chelios of Babcock. “Never had an issue or problem with him in four years that we’ve been here. I think the only problem I’ve had with a coach is Mike Keenan, but he likes confrontations.”

Both Chelios and Babcock tried to shift the media focus after Friday’s morning skate away from Roenick’s comments and onto the Western Conference final.

Still, saying that there is a rift among the Red Wings and that the coach of an NHL franchise is anti-American is something that will draw attention.

But Babcock, who was born and raised in Canada, has been employed as a hockey coach in the United States since 1994.

“The first thing I did is call my kids because I’ve got a couple of American kids and tried to give them a hug over the phone,” said Babcock. “You wouldn’t want to think your dad didn’t like you.”

Chelios, 47, is the second oldest player in NHL history, behind only Gordie Howe.

A three-time Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top defenseman, Chelios started this season on the shelf with a broken leg, came back and got into 28 regular-season games. The Chicago native played four games in the second-round series against Anaheim, but was a healthy scratch against the Blackhawks, Friday night, for the third straight game.

“I knew … My age, the team, the young guys coming up,” said Chelios. “It was my choice to stay and I’m glad I did. There are 26 other teams that wish they were in my position and guys my age … there’s no one my age.”

What Chelios and Babcock agreed upon yesterday was that they’d prefer that the focus was on the two conference final series in the NHL.

“Yah it bothered me because it’s a blatant lie,” said Babcock. “But the problem we have here is that we’re talking about something that’s not current in hockey. … The players playing in the series and the four teams should be getting the attention.”

“Unfortunately, I wish we were talking about me playing,” said Chelios.

Chelios said that Roenick called him after making his on-air statements, saying “I’m sorry.”

“J.R. is J.R … The NHL would be boring without J.R.,” said Chelios. “I’m very happy here in Detroit, always have been. J.R. says stuff. What are you going to do?”

Live bloggin for Game 3

If you've got a hankering (no, not Zetterberg) to chat during tonight's game ...

Stanley Cup final dates

Well, at least the start date is certain ... kinda.

Here's the league's press release ...

The National Hockey League announced today the possible start dates for the 2009 Stanley Cup Final.

If both Conference Final series have been decided by Tuesday, May 26, the Western Conference winner would host Game One of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final on Thursday, May 28. Otherwise, Game One will be played on Friday, June 5.

Dates, start times and broadcast information will be released when available.

Datsyuk's status

UPDATE: My guess is Datsyuk won't be in the lineup tonight. They might be waiting on something, but his equipment wasn't set out in the visitors locker room after the morning skate.


Coach Mike Babcock just said that Pavel Datsyuk will be a game-time decision. He hasn't been ruled out of the lineup yet.

If Datsyuk can't go, Ville Leino will be in the lineup.

"Nothing (Datsyuk) has done today would give us any indication," said Babcock. "Leino we think has a bright future hanging onto the puck, making plays in the offensive zone. Real good from the top of the circles in. He'd either play with Fil or he'd either play with Draper. I haven't decided what's going on there."

As announced Tuesday, Kirk Maltby will be back in the lineup and Justin Abdelkader will be a scratch.

Wings' morning skate

It was an optional skate for the Red Wings this morning, so no word yet on the status of Pavel Datsyuk (foot).

Some other players who are definitely skating tonight -- like Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart -- didn't take the ice either.

Blackhawks' morning skate

Light turnout as usual for the Blackhawks this morning with Keith, Pahlsson and Havlat not on the ice. The trio didn't skate during Chicago's practice Thursday either, but coach Joel Quenneville just said that they'd all be ready to go. No lineup changes for Chicago.

As for line combinations, Jonathan Toews was asked if he thinks he'll play more with Patrick Kane this game after being separated from him in Game 2.

"Probably a little bit," said Toews. "I don't know if it has anything to do with the matchups now that we're at home and it's a little bit more in our favor. I think we've played well when we've been together. Last game, I think we both created some offense more than we did in Game 1. Either way, it doesn't matter who we play with. We know our roles."

Said Quenneville: "We'll see (if Kane and Toews play together). It's an option. ... At some point, I'm sure they're going to be together. We'll find out."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Left is right and right is right

DETROIT – On the other hand …

Well, there aren’t that many other-handed hockey players. Left-handed shots dominate the game because just about everyone who is right-handed in life, shoots left and everyone who is left-handed shoots right.

The theory has changed over the past 30 years with the influx of European players being a leading cause. It used to be that your dominant hand would be lower on the stick for a more powerful shot. Now, the dominant hand is almost always at the top of the stick to give a player better stickhandling ability.

For defensemen, that means that right-handed shots are few and far between. When Brian Rafalski was signed as a free agent, one attractive point was that as a left-handed person, Rafalski was a right-handed shot. That’s a big reason why forward Mikael Samuelsson is used on the point on the power play … because he’s a right-handed shot.

But those right-handed shots are few and far between.

The Detroit Red Wings had a good balance on the blue line during the season with Rafalski and Chris Chelios (an old-school right-hander who shoots right) as right-handed sticks and Andreas Lilja being a left-handed shot who prefers to play the right side. In addition, Brad Stuart is a left-handed shot who has played primarily the right side since joining Detroit. That gave Detroit four options on the right side for three defense pairings.

As the Red Wings enter Friday’s Game 3 of the Western Conference final (8 p.m., Versus, Ch. 9), however, there is a shortage on the right side of the blue line.

Lilja has been on the shelf for weeks with a concussion. Chelios has been a healthy scratch. That leaves Rafalski and Stuart manning the right side on the top two defense pairings.

When Rafalski was injured in the second round, rookie Jonathan Ericsson flipped over to the right side paired with Nicklas Lidstrom.

Now that Rafalski is back, Ericsson forms the third defense pairing with Brett Lebda and Lebda is on the unfamiliar side of the ice.

Both Ericsson and Lebda, however, say that adjusting to a mirror image of that which they are familiar hasn’t been difficult.

“It just all comes down to what you’re used to and what you prefer,” said Lebda. “When I first started playing the right with E (Ericsson), I would drift to his side because you don’t think about it. Now, I’m fine.”

Here are some of the disadvantages to being a left-handed shot on the right side:

-- Playing a puck along the boards in the offensive zone, you have to use your stick backhanded to play the puck. If it’s a pinch, you can’t take a hand off your stick to play both the passing lane and boards.

-- Coming up ice, you take passes from your defense partner on your backhand.

-- On regroups, it’s difficult to look up ice for a left-hand shot on the right point as you circle to pick up the puck. On the left side, your off shoulder is pointed up ice and sneaking a peak on the transition is easier.

On the plus side, it’s easier for a left-handed shot to get off a shot on goal from the right point. In addition, the passing lanes from the offside are better. And it’s easier to work an opponent towards the boards backing into your zone and reach farther with one hand on the stick because you don’t have to reach across your body.

“Some guys really like it on one side and not the other,” said Ericsson. “For me now, when I play with Nik Kronwall on the penalty kill, it doesn’t matter what side. If we get caught on the other side, we just stay there. Same with Lebs (Lebda). He has been switching too, so we’re both used to it.”

When Ericsson was first paired with Lebda during the regular season, the veteran asked the rookie for his preference of sides. Ericsson opted for the left.

With Ericsson and Lebda were re-united in the Western Conference final, Ericsson is back playing the left side.

“I’ve always played the left,’ said Lebda. “Even when I started here, it was with Cheli (Chelios) and he always played the right. He’s kind of old-school, a big believer that you stay on your side. We got used to each other that way.

“When E first came up here, I asked him where he’s more comfortable because I wanted him to be as comfortable as he could be. I took the right side and I’ve kind of liked it. E played that whole Anaheim series on the right side with Nick (Lidstrom). So now that we’re back together, if you end up over there, we’re not in a rush to switch sides.”

Local idols

From the Red Wings' PR department ... Game 2 of the Western Conference final was the top rated show in Detroit according to the overnights. The 15.5 rating even bested American Idol's season finale by 26 percent.

Thoughts on Game 2 vs. Chicago

-- Absolutely terrible play by Brian Campbell in overtime. I'm sure that Chicago management was cursing after the game that he was trying for a special play rather than make sure he kept the puck in the Detroit zone.

That said, let's give equal praise to the play by Mikael Samuelsson. Jiri Hudler had dropped down low. Samuelsson's job was to guard the other point, but he left that station to pressure Campbell. That's a very unusual move, but a clever one. Samuelsson was counting on a defensive rotation picking up his point should Campbell get a pass through. What I liked about Samuelsson's safe gamble was that he forced Campbell into dumping the puck down low, where Hudler was and the Wings had better numbers. If Campbell opted to go where the Hawks had better numbers (the other point), it was a high-risk pass. Campbell took that option and lost.

And here's what I really like about that play. It highlights why I don't like golfing or bowling. I don't like sports that count every shot. Hockey, basketball, baseball, football ... you can make a mistake, then hit the winning shot and you're a hero. Samuelsson made a mistake early in the game (not clearing the zone) that led to a Chicago power play goal. But that was outweighed by his winning play.

Golf counts every stroke the same. I don't like a sport that doesn't forgive.

-- I pointed this out earlier, but Babcock said that Kirk Maltby will be in the lineup for Game 3. A good guess is that Justin Abdelkader will be scratched.

-- Babcock was obviously not happy with the defense played on Patrick Kane in Game 2. After the game, Babcock said that Kane was "having way too much fun out there." In the second period, Babcock switched his defensive assignments on Kane, putting the Zetterberg line, Lidstrom and Rafalski against him, taking them off the Toews line.

Zetterberg's line has been the shut-down forward line all season. But Datsyuk's line always was a 1b option. Now it seems like Babcock has much more confidence in the Zetterberg line defensively. One part of that is that Cleary and Franzen are outstanding defensive wingers. One part is that Datsyuk's left wing has been rotating and when it's Holmstrom, he's not great defensively. And perhaps the biggest part is Zetterberg himself. I'll have to remember this for next season's Selke voting.

-- Darren Helm is invaluable. He's also valuable. Odd how invaluable and valuable aren't opposites.

-- Chris Osgood has been remarkable. Again he's the better goalie in the series. He's just so confident this post-season. I just wish he wouldn't be so confident handling the puck and leave it for his teammates. He and Brett Lebda were still talking about one miscommunication in the lockerroom after the game. There you go. Miscommunication and communication are opposites.

-- I was wrong in my post saying that I was more afraid of Chicago than Anaheim. Either the Hawks' youth is a bigger factor than anyone thought or this is a good style matchup for the Wings, or both.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Maltby will play in Game 3

Coach Mike Babcock just said that he'll get Kirk Maltby back in the lineup for Game 3. He didn't say who was going to be scratched, but Justin Abdelkader is a good assumption.

On the road again

Cue the Willie Nelson music (you'll have to, I don't own any Willie CDs) ... I'll be traveling to road games again for the (hopefully) final two rounds of the playoffs.

Just giving a heads-up to anyone who checks this blog regularly that there will be game-day and off-day reports.

Game 2 live blog

Monday, May 18, 2009

No Keith

UPDATE: Everybody's healthy, according to Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, who just said that everyone who didn't skate today will be on the ice for Tuesday's Game 2. That includes Duncan Keith, Martin Havlat and Sammy Pahlsson.


Defenseman Duncan Keith is not skating at the Blackhawks' practice at Joe Louis Arena right now. No word on why, but I'll post it as soon as I get it.

Keith played the entire Game 1, partnered with Brent Seabrook on the blue line.

Seabrook practiced with Cam Barker.


the rest of the defensemen juggled spots.


The best moment from Mike Babcock's daily press conference today was the tangent he took when asked about the Blackhawks' young talent. Babcock complimented the Blackhawks by saying that he's looking forward to their players succeeding and pricing themselves out of staying together as a team under the salary cap.

Funny coming from the franchise that has managed the cap better than any other, keeping Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Franzen, Rafalski and the rest together. But Babcock's discourse showed the coach's sense of humor.

"I can’t wait," said Babcock. "They’ve got way too much skill. So the only way that we can eliminate their skill is by the salary cap getting involved here. So the more goals those young guys score. You may laugh, but that’s the truth. When you’re on the outside looking in, you’re just sitting there during the regular season hoping that No. 32 (Kris Versteeg) is going to snipe one more, get another one, get another one. Salaries just creep up and they can’t have all the players. The scary thing about this new world is you watch them walk out the door. They say, ‘Thanks for everything.’ And they go somewhere else for more money."

The picture of an opposing coach sitting in his living room rooting for young opponents to light up the scoreboard in the hopes that they'll price themselves out of the Central Division is priceless. Unfortunately, it goes over the humor cap and thus Babcock will have to be traded because he and Holmstrom and Datsyuk are too much funny for one NHL team.

Monday's practice

For you Leino fans out there (and I know the Tonight Show has a ton), here's a morsel of hope ... Ville practices with the main team, not the Griffin call-ups. He's on the ice now, wearing the top-six forward red jersey, working in on drills. He's not practicing as one of the 12 forwards who dress, but obviously separating Leino from Downey, McCarty, Kindl, Kolosov means something. Babcock wants Leino absolutely ready in case he decides to put him in the lineup and sees that as a greater possibility than calling in one of the other Griffins.

Here are the lines they're working out of ...




Lilja is practicing and taking part in all drills, but he still needs medical clearance before returning from his concussion.

Plenty of players were banged up in Game 1 - Hudler (Compbell hit), Stuart (Ladd shot) and Hossa (Ladd hit) were the most obvious - but none are absent.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Game 1 live blogging

They still haven't pulled the plug on me.

Click the link to add to the discussion.

More afraid of 'Hawks than Ducks

I didn't think that the Ducks would be able to beat the Red Wings. I was correct, but just by a three-minute sliver.

As Game 1 of the Western Conference final approaches, I believe that the Blackhawks will be a tougher out than the Ducks. I hope I'm not correct.

Anaheim, to me, boiled down to a one-line team with great forward depth and a young goalie who was hot. I liked the Wings' chances against that. Detroit will outplay any one forward line. Even though Getzlaf and Perry got theirs, the Ducks didn't have enough secondary scoring to top the Red Wings. The D was deep, but the Red Wings were as good on the back end. And that hot goalie cooled a bit and couldn't steal the series.

The 'Hawks have depth up front, a few lines that can do damage. They create matchup difficulties. Wen a guy like Marty Havlat isn't playing on the No. 1 scoring line, you have to pick your poison. Chicago has seven forwards with at least three post-season goals. Detroit has six. That's not to doctor a stat to trick you, Chicago can score much better than Anaheim or Columbus from different lines.

The 'Hawks don't have the blue-line depth that the Ducks do, but that top duo of Keith and Seabrook is very, very, very good. Better than Niedermayer and Pronger or Beauchemin. The Ducks were better 3-6 on D, but the Hawks can put a better top pair out.

In net, Khabibulin has been nobody's favorite goalie the past couple of years, but he's better right now with the playoffs on the line than Hiller. Khabibulin has the experience and that's invaluable.

But that point could be what tips this series to the Wings. Experience. The Hawks are good enough to win a Stanley Cup this year. (Don't get me wrong, I think the Wings are better.) But the 'Hawks aren't ready. Not yet, I hope. They're happy to be here. They're so young, they don't know what's going to happen next.

Chicago might get past Detroit. But my thought is that this series is a part of a learning curve for Chicago that makes them an even tougher out next spring. Chicago will be back and better. But teaching Detroit a lesson when you're so young is difficult.

Since I picked the Wings in 6 over the Ducks, I'll go Wings in 7 over Chicago.

Of course, if Osgood plays like the regular-season Ozzie and not the post-season Ozzie, I'm not liking the Wings' chances. But he won't do that. Right?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Conference final schedule

Game 1, Sun, May 17, at Detroit, 3 p.m., NBC

Game 2, Tuesday, May 19, at Detroit, 7:30 p.m., Versus

Game 3, Friday, May 22, at Chicago, 8 p.m., Versus, CBC

Game 4, Sunday, May 24, at Chicago, 3 p.m., NBC, CBC

Game 5, Wednesday, May 27, at Detroit, 7:30 p.m., Versus, CBC

Game 6, Saturday, May 30, at Chicago, 8 p.m., Versus, CBC

Game 7, Monday, June 1, at Detroit, 7:30 p.m., Versus, CBC

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Draper back in, Maltby out

Kris Draper to make his playoff debut tonight. Kirk Maltby is scratched. Justin Abdelkader is still in the lineup.

Game 1

Total jinx here I know. Total jinx. My apologies in advance.

But I've heard that if the Red Wings advance, Game 1 will be at Joe Louis Arena, 3 p.m. Sunday. Nothing confirmed, but it makes sense.

Game 7 live blog

Stop in tonight if you get the chance.

Story will be the main one on the home page.

Fight night

That flying elbow that mistook Pavel Datsyuk's head for a landing strip? Small in comparison. Those punches that welcomed Brian Rafalski back from injury? Nothing really. That crosscheck with 200 pounds of weight on top of it applied to a fallen Tomas Holmstrom? Neither here nor there.

All of the shenanigans that took place in Anaheim after Tuesday's Game 6 of the Red Wings' second-round playoff series, all of the thug actions, intimidations and child-like behaviors will be rendered meaningless tonight. As soon as a victor is determined in tonight's Game 7 of this Western Conference semifinal, the characterizations of the Red Wings and Ducks will go in opposite directions ... one side remembered as winners, the other as losers.

And that is just fine by Hockeytown.

Consider the beatings that the Red Wings took during and after Game 6 as the first part of proving the equation of toughness in these parts: You don't have to fight to be tough. The Red Wings do not fight.

The Ducks fight; in fact, they would probably try to change your mind about their preoccupation with fighting by fighting you.

This was the fifth straight regular season that the Red Wings finished dead last in the 30-team NHL in fights.

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 total fights in the Red Wings' last six seasons to equal the number of fights that the Ducks had this season alone.

But you don't have to fight to be tough is the motto in Joe Louis Arena. There, the belief is that you have to be tough to win, tough enough to take the punishment and keep focused on the goal of winning hockey.

That is something I admire.

It goes against hockey tradition which also says that no one gets hurt dropping the gloves and fighting, but sticks and elbow pads can break your bones. Thus, hockey is the only place on Earth where otherwise rational people argue that bare-knuckle fighting is harmless, placing hockey a century behind the sport of boxing. It's obviously not harmless as evidenced by Andreas Lilja's ongoing headaches and Tomas Kopecky's damaged facial bones.

If the brawling at the end of Game 6 distracts the Red Wings tonight, causes even a moment of hesitation, then the Ducks will win both the game and the argument.

Personally, I think the Red Wings will make the Ducks pay for their punches by sending them home as losers. Detroit's current roster of players has shown for years that violence does not cause them distraction.

And that brings us to the biggest fight that is going to take place tonight. This game will be about legacy, about glory.

The Ducks and Red Wings have been hockey's best playoff franchises over the past six seasons. They are the winners of the past two Stanley Cups.

For the Red Wings, a win tonight will be another brick in their building a reputation of the best franchise in not only hockey, but in all of North American sports.

If Detroit could manage to win the Stanley Cup this spring — and that's a very difficult if to accomplish — then the Red Wings will have won back-to-back championships in the first four years of a salary-cap era, something that the salary cap is designed to prohibit. And that will make five Stanley Cups in the past 12 seasons.

But that's the next fight.

For now, beating Anaheim would put the Red Wings in the conference final for the eighth time in the past 14 seasons.

And that's how you earn glory in sports. One championship becomes aberration when surrounded by common seasons. Two championships begin to give players and franchises the scent of glory. Three is better than two. Four is better than three, and so on.

If the Red Wings are able to knock the Ducks out of the playoffs tonight, Anaheim will be closer to being remembered as a one-title wonder while Detroit moves another step toward glory.

And that blow would hurt a heck of a lot more than one mean-spirited elbow.

Door open for Draper

Will Kris Draper play tonight? Coach Mike Babcock deferred when asked the question, saying that's the medical staff's decision, not his. Babcock said that Draper will be evaluated at game time.

At least that's telling us that he's no longer being ruled out early in the day. Makes you think that Draper is either ready to play or will be soon.

I don't think this is about making room for Draper in the lineup. He's been put on wing before and just the value of Draper's faceoffs will make him one of the 12 forwards to play when he's ready.

Two wishes

Two things I'd love to see in tonight's Game 7 ...

-- Marian Hossa skating with the puck directly at the opposition net. He's pulling up more, passing off more. No one on the Wings is better than Hossa at carrying the puck to the net and creating havoc. He's a mini-Rocket Richard in that way and I'd like to see more of that.

-- Pavel Datsyuk passing more, shooting more off the pass, going for 1-on-1 moves less. Don't get me wrong. Datsyuk has to go at opponents 1-on-1. It gives him space for passing and shooting. But the Wisniewskis of the world are playing the body well on him. Datsyuk is getting close, but not getting there. A little more passing from one of the game's best passers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Game 7 history

Thanks to stat guru Greg Innis, here are a few Detroit Game 7 facts ...

Eleven Red Wings have played in a Game 7, led by Chris Chelios and Nicklas Lidstrom with five games of experience each.
1. Chris Chelios (5) '85, '86 & '87 with Montreal, '95 with Chicago & '02 with Detroit.
1. Nicklas Lidstrom (5) '92, '93, '94, '96 & '02. All with Detroit.
3. Kris Draper (3) '94, '96 & '02. All with Detroit.
3. Marian Hossa (3) '02 '03 & '04. All with Ottawa.
3. Chris Osgood (3) '94 with Detroit, '02 with N.Y. Islanders & '03 with St. Louis.
3. Brian Rafalski (3) '00, '01 & '03. All with New Jersey.
7. Brad Stuart (2) '00 & '02. Both with San Jose.
8. Tomas Holmstrom (1) '02 with Detroit.
8. Andreas Lilja (1) '02 with Los Angeles.
8. Kirk Maltby (1) '02 with Detroit.
8. Pavel Datsyuk (1) '02 with Detroit.

Odds are that Lidstrom will pass Chelios in this department.

Other nifties from Greg ...

-- This will be the 19th time the Red Wings have been involved in a Game 7. Their record is 11-7. In Game 7s they are 10-4 at home and 1-3 on the road. This will be the sixth consecutive Game 7 the team has played at home. Their last road Game 7 was in 1991 when they lost to St. Louis 3-2.

-- Of their 18 Game 7s, five have gone to overtime. The Wings are 4-1 in those OT games. They are the only team to win a Stanley Cup in overtime of a Game 7. It happened twice: 1950 and 1954.

Thoughts on Game 6 vs. Anaheim

-- That was a cheap shot by Scott Niedermayer at the end, elbowing Pavel Datsyuk in the head. Niedermayer played chippy and/or dirty all game long.

-- The Ducks' shuffle on the blue line was effective. Anaheim put Niedermayer and Chris Pronger together against the Filppula line and James Wisniewski and Francois Beauchemin together against the Zetterberg line. A lot will be made in this game that the Zetterberg line didn't outplay the Todd Marchant line. I look at it that the physical play of Wisniewski and Beauchemin shut down the Zetterberg line.

-- Tomas Holmstrom was impossible to notice. The Wings need his net-front play in Game 7.

-- Detroit's first Game 7 since 2002 against Colorado.

-- Babcock shortened his bench in the third period. Kirk Maltby didn't get off it for even one shift.

-- Distinct lack of urgency in the Red Wings. I'm not sure why.

-- Teemu Selanne was flying.

-- Darren Helm drew two penalties. Datsyuk drew one and the Ducks had two too many men calls.

-- Ryan Getzlaf had a great game, but Jonas Hiller saved his butt in the final sequence with his save on Datsyuk. Big giveaway by Getzlaf.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rafi back?

Brian Rafalski will likely be back in the lineup tonight in Anaheim, according to ...

Game 6 blogging

Let's hope this is the last time we have to do this (against Anaheim), but I'll be live blogging during Game 6 tonight. The official start time is 9:30 EDT, but I know I won't be able to wait until then.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Red Wings rating romp

Sorry about the headline. I'm into alliteration this week.

Sunday's Game 5 set the FSN all-time mark for viewership. The press release ...

Detroit-Anaheim Game Achieves 17.1 Household Rating / 35 Share in Metro Detroit

FOX Sports Detroit attracted an all-time record audience for Sunday’s Game 5 of the NHL Western Conference Semifinal series between the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks.
Based on data received from Nielsen Media Research, the 5:00-7:45 PM telecast registered a 17.1 household rating / 35 share in the Detroit metro area, an average of nearly 330,000 homes (one rating point equals approximately 19,270 households). The telecast peaked at a 22.1 rating (nearly 426,000 homes) during the closing minutes of the Red Wings 4-1 victory, giving them a three games to two lead in the best-of-seven series.
Sunday’s viewership eclipsed the previous FOX Sports Detroit record rating of 14.1 on May 3, 2004 for Game 6 of the Red Wings second round playoff series against Calgary.
FOX Sports Detroit is averaging a 11.8 HH rating for six Red Wings games this postseason, 30% greater than the 9.1 rating for five playoff telecasts in 2008.
The Red Wings rating capped a weekend during which FOX Sports Detroit averaged a healthy 6.8 HH rating for the Detroit Tigers three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians, including an 8.1 mark on Saturday night.
FOX Sports Detroit is scheduled to carry the remaining games in the Red Wings-Ducks series, including Game 6 Tuesday at 10:00 PM Eastern. Game 7, if necessary, is Thursday (time TBD).

Rank Rating Date Game
1 17.1 05/10/09 NHL: Detroit Red Wings vs. Anaheim Ducks (Game 5, 2nd round playoffs)
2 14.1 05/03/04 NHL: Detroit Red Wings @ Calgary Flames (Game 6, 2nd round playoffs)
3 14.0 04/15/04 NHL: Detroit Red Wings vs. Nashville Predators (Game 5, 1st round playoffs)
4 13.8 04/27/04 NHL: Detroit Red Wings @ Calgary Flames (Game 3, 2nd round playoffs)
5 13.4 10/01/06 MLB: Detroit Tigers vs. Kansas City Royals
T-6 13.2 09/20/06 MLB: Detroit Tigers @ Chicago White Sox
T-6 13.2 04/13/04 NHL: Detroit Red Wings @ Nashville Predators (Game 4, 1st round playoffs)
T-8 13.1 08/27/07 MLB: Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees
T-8 13.1 04/07/04 NHL: Detroit Red Wings vs. Nashville Predators (Game 1, 1st round playoffs)
10 12.8 08/15/06 MLB: Detroit Tigers @ Boston Red Sox
11 12.6 09/17/07 MLB: Detroit Tigers @ Cleveland Indians
12 12.5 08/16/06 MLB: Detroit Tigers @ Boston Red Sox
13 12.4 08/28/07 MLB: Detroit Tigers @ Kansas City Royals
14 12.3 08/23/06 MLB: Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago White Sox
15 12.0 04/21/09 NHL: Detroit Red Wings @ Columbus Blue Jackets (Game 3, 1st round playoffs)
16 11.9 06/30/08 MLB: Detroit Tigers @ Minnesota Twins
T-17 11.8 04/26/05 NBA: Detroit Pistons vs. Philadelphia 76ers (Game 2, 1st round playoffs)
T-17 11.8 03/16/03 NHL: Detroit Red Wings vs. Ottawa Senators
19 11.6 08/16/07 MLB: Detroit Tigers @ New York Yankees
T-20 11.5 04/23/09 NHL: Detroit Red Wings @ Columbus Blue Jackets (Game 4, 1st round playoffs)
T-20 11.5 07/24/06 MLB: Detroit Tigers @ Cleveland Indians

Sunday, May 10, 2009

McCarty finally recalled

I'm not sure why there's been a delay, but Darren McCarty was recalled by the Red Wings today and will join the team on their trip to Anaheim for Game 6.

McCarty wasn't on the original list of players called up from Grand Rapids when the Griffins were eliminated from the AHL playoffs. That list included Ville Leino, Justin Abdelkader, Aaron Downey, Jakub Kindl, Sergei Kolosov and Jimmy Howard.

Cheli scratched for today's game

Chris Chelios is out. Derek Meech is in. I like the move. Chelios just isn't able.

Game 5 live bloggin

Right now.

How's that for advance notice?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Game 4 live blog

Back by popular demand ... well, my boss told me to do it ... I'll be live blogging during tonight's Game 4 over on The Macomb Daily web site.

It'll be set up as the main story on The Macomb Daily web site. Officially, it opens at 10 p.m. EDT. But last time, we were going by 6 p.m. I guess we're all a little Wing nuts.

Stop in if you have you time.

Five Griffins to join Wings

According to Michael Zuidema of the Grand Rapids Press, the Red Wings will have five new faces soon ... goalie Jimmy Howard, defenseman Jakub Kindl and forwards Ville Leino, Aaron Downey and Justin Abdelkader.

Interestingly, Darren McCarty was not named in the story. With the loyalty shown both ways and the fact that McCarty helped the Wings in the playoffs last season, I'm surprised that D-Mac -- who wore an 'A' for the Griffins in the playoffs -- won't be recalled.

Also, no word as to when the Griffins will join the Wings.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rafalski out for Game 4

From the OC Register, no comeback for defenseman Brian Rafalski tomorrow ...

Griffins eliminated

Just saw the score on ... Moose 3, Griffins 2. A second-round sweep has ended the Griffins' season.

So, do Ville Leino and Jakub Kindl and others get plane tickets tomorrow or will they meet the Red Wings in Detroit this weekend?

That darned whistle

I'd like to know the genesis of the NHL's play-stoppage, whistle-blowing rule is, but it really should change. If I understand it correctly, it doesn't matter that the referee blew the whistle after Hossa put the puck in the net last night or even if a whistle blew. The play is dead when the referee intends to blow the whistle or just loses sight of the puck.

I think I understand the logic, but I disagree with it. The play is what determines what happens, not the physical action of blowing a whistle.

But as every other sport in its right mind knows, if you make the play stoppage point in the referee's head, you take away any chance for review. Had the rule been the whistle determines play stoppage, the Hossa goal (non-goal) could have been reviewed, it could have been determined that the puck was never covered and it could have been heard that the whistle came after the goal.

I'm not saying that the Red Wings would have won last night's game had Hossa's goal been allowed. But last night's play certainly pointed out that the NHL's rule on play stoppage is a poor one.

Thoughts on Game 3 vs. Anaheim

-- The whistle. That darned whistle. Ref is out of position and he blows the whistle early, afraid that the puck could be under Hiller and being pushed over the goal line. HORRIBLE whistle. Everyone knows it. Stuff like this happens, however, and makes games like this memorable.

Here's my sanity-keeper on this one ... that goal would have tied the score. There's still just a 50-50 chance of winning (pick whatever number you want, but in playoff OT, it's not going to stray that far from 50-50). So even without that horrible whistle, this game could just have likely been a loss as a win for Detroit. That's just rationalization to keep my own sanity.

It also brings up this point ... the Red Wings shouldn't have been in a position to need that goal that late in a game. The first 59 minutes were just as much a part of this loss as the horrible whistle. Even more so.

-- The slow starts can't keep happening. Detroit outplayed Anaheim in the final two periods, but getting ahead, starting strong in both a game and a series is vital to winning in the post-season.

-- The Wings showed a better net-front in the second half of this game than they have in a while, especially by Tomas Holmstrom. I thought that Johan Franzen has been straying too much from the goal-mouth, especially on the power play.

-- Even though it was negated by that whistle -- that darned horrible call again -- I was thrilled to see Hossa score such a clutch goal.

-- Datsyuk played like he was angry and like he needed to shine. I thought he was the Wings' top forward.

-- Chelios and Lebda getting burned on the Selanne goal really hurt the Wings. They need that pair to get on and off the ice without much happening. Quiet minutes from that pair. Rafalski and Lilja are greatly missed.

-- The pieces are all in place. Osgood is playing well. The top line had jump. The Red Wings are positioned to win games. I'm optimistic, but having to win a game on the road as the Wings need to Thursday is a bad pickle.

-- If Wisniewski is out for Game 4, that would be a big help for the Red Wings. He has been as good as any Ducks D-man in this series.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Game 3 thread

We're trying something new at the paper. I'll be on our website starting a half-hour before the start of Tuesday's Game 3 and throughout the game, hosting a live thread. If you've got your computer handy, stop in and say hi ...

Live blogging. Q&A (I'll have as many Qs as you). Bring your own snacks.

Rafalski out for Game 3

According to Ansar Khan at MLive ...

No Rafalski, no Draper tomorrow night, so the lineup will remain the same.

Thoughts on Game 2 vs. Anaheim

-- The Red Wings cannot win this series if the Datsyuk line doesn't outplay the Marchant line or whatever line that Anaheim puts on the ice against them. And it looks as though the Ducks are satisfied with the line matchups that the Wings created in the first two games of this series. The couple of times that Babcock got Datsyuk on the ice against the Ducks' fourth line, Carlyle threw Marchant's line right over the boards.

Hossa said after the game that the Ducks were doing a good job of taking away their speed. Good analysis. Still, even with neutral-zone speed gone, the Datsyuk line should be able to outplay the Marchant line in the offensive zone. That end has to pick up significantly.

With the Zetterberg line drawing the assignment of containing the Getzlaf line, Datsyuk's line has to outplay its line.

-- Franzen is obviously a big playoff performer, but his clutch ability keeps amazing me. I thought his goal yesterday was going to turn the game to the Wings.

-- Playing with five defensemen wasn't a big deal for the Red Wings in a triple overtime game. They have much more depth than the Ducks and sacrificing a little by sitting Chelios still left Detroit deeper. Lidstrom didn't play as many minutes as Pronger did.

-- Who would have guessed that Jonathan Ericsson would be logging top-three defenseman ice time in the playoffs and shine.

-- The Red Wings have the better goalie in this series which bodes well.

-- I was very impressed with one early battle behind the Anaheim net early between Pronger and Helm. Pronger couldn't move Helm. I'm sure he bruised him, but Helm won the position battle. Add to that Helm's attack style in his limited minutes and he's made a wonderful transition from top-line minor-leaguer to fourth-line NHLer.

-- Kronwall still doesn't look right. He's adding a big hit or two, but he's doing things like letting the puck through his feet for a big scoring chance and not making the same quick puck movement that he did last playoffs. On the other hand, Stuart looks better than he ever has in a Red Wings jersey. He looks like a former first-round draft pick. He's filling in nicely on the PP.

-- Total hits for Detroit, 63. Cleary had 9, Helm 8, Ericsson 7.

-- The defensive play of the Detroit forwards has been remarkable. This is why I like a player like Samuelsson. He is well above an average defensive forward, dropping back to cover the point when the D rush, jumping on a Duck when he's in front of the net. Sammy, Franzen, Cleary, Hossa ... they are where they need to be without hesitation. They (along with the obvious ones, Datsyuk and Zetterberg) are why opponents don't get many odd-man rushes.

-- That said, Datsyuk looked bad on the winning goal. He waved at Marchant just inside the blue line. The Wings actually had a 4-on-3 man advantage inside their own blue line, but Datsyuk letting Marchant go forced Stuart to react and leave his assignment. That switch gave Marchant the top of the circle. A nice drive by Rob Niedermayer, who Stuart had to leave, created a goal. Had Datsyuk skated with Marchant and allowed Stuart to tie up Niedermayer, there likely wouldn't have been a goal.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Thoughts on Game 1 vs. Anaheim

-- It was surprising to see that Zetterberg's line was much more effective than Datsyuk's despite Zetterberg's line being given the assignment of checking the Getzlaf line.

-- Getzlaf had 27:55 of ice time. The Ducks depend way too much on him and his line. Getzlaf was 3-of-21 on faceoffs. They could shave some ice time by not throwing him over the boards for all those defensive-zone draws.

-- That was the first Jonathan Ericsson fight that I've ever seen and I'm a fan. He has a bad hand and shouldn't fight often. It was funny to hear both Ericsson and Babcock talk after the game about when the Big Rig is allowed to drop them.

Babcock: "We also said to him that we don't have enough D. We can't have you fighting. I don't mind him fighting those guys. If he wants to fight Getzy and Perry and Ryan, by all means. That's as long as the list gets."

-- Quite the juggling of the D pairing by the Wings. This much I could figure ...

Babcock's first choice against the Getzlaf line is Lidstrom-Ericsson with Lidstrom-Kronwall second. Against the Ebbett line, Babcock preferred to use Ericsson-Lebda. Against the Marchant line, the Wings wanted Kronwall-Stuart, but also used Lebda-Stuart and some Lebda-Chelios.

I'm sure there's a reason to all this that I'll never be able to guess. (I can guess that Lidstrom is Mr. Shut-Down. I mean beyong that.) It could be that the Wings like Ericsson's size against the Getzlaf line. Maybe they like Lebda's speed against Marchant's line.

-- Hiller certainly didn't look like the Heller on skates that he was in Round 1. Osgood was fighting the puck early, but looked like the better goalie.

-- Loved the games played by Stuart and Helm. The former is showing his versatility, stepping up like Kronwall did last post-season. The latter is a remarkable forechecker for someone who has been a top-line guy at his other stops.

-- There is a remarkable chemistry between Lidstrom and Holmstrom in the offensive zone. Can there possibly have been a better combination of screen and point shot in the history of the game? I really doubt it.

-- Loved seeing Lidstrom outwork both Ryan and Perry for the rebound in the final minute and be rewarded with the winning goal.

-- Ugly blow suffered by Hudler on the Brown hit. It seemed like the Ducks were one part trying for retribution on Hudler's elbow to Beauchemin and one part trying to establish physical play. But that five-minute power play was the most distinctive turning point in the game. The Wings were down 1-0 before that and trailing 7-3 in shots on goal. That hit got Detroit right back in the game the easy way.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Two reads from today's move to put Chris Chelios in the lineup with Brian Rafalski injured.

First, Derek Meech isn't getting into any more games as a Red Wing. Being put behind Chelios has to be depressing for Meech, who really hasn't shown a lot, but hasn't been given a lot of opportunity to prove himself as a defenseman. At least not as much opportunity as Jonathan Ericsson was given. And with Ericsson and Jakub Kindl on the horizon, Meech doesn't have much future in Detroit.

Second, when Coach Mike Babcock discussed after the morning skate his power play without Rafalski, he talked about five defensemen -- Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Mikael Samuelsson as the first wave, Ericsson and Brad Stuart as the fill-ins. The omission of Brett Lebda struck me. He's not going to get any PK time and if he's behind Stuart and Ericsson on the PP depth chart, that's not a vote of confidence.

Rafalski out

Defenseman Brian Rafalski will not play in tonight's Game 1 of the second-round playoff series against Anaheim. Rafalski's injury is listed as day-to-day. Chris Chelios will play.

So, the defense pairings tonight will be ...


On the power play, the Wings will use more of a three-man rotation on the blue line with Lidstrom, Kronwall and Samuelsson. Stuart and Ericsson will also be used to a limited extent.

Derek Meech will be a healthy scratch.

The forward lines will be ...


Andreas Lilja skated for a second straight day today. He cannot take part in contact drills and still needs for his headaches to go away before he's cleared to play. Lilja is practicing to work on conditioning.

Dan Cleary didn't skate this morning and obviously is feeling some lingering injury from the practice hit he took before Game 1 of Round 1. But Cleary will be in the lineup tonight and likely will be until Kris Draper is ready to play. Draper skated again today, but won't play during the first two games of this series.