On Red Wings

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Archive for February, 2010

Only the best

Posted in Red Wings with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2010 by Steve Klein

Wings Olympians: Daniel Alfredsson can play for the Wings anytime.

Wings Olympians: Daniel Alfredsson can play for the Wings anytime.

You gotta hand it to the Red Wings at the Olympic break. Show them a good team and the Wings are at their best: the San Jose shootout loss on Thursday (when the Wings outshot the Sharks, 52-26), and the 4-1 victory over Ottawa Saturday — only the Sens’ second loss in their last 15 games.

Go figure.

Game #61 (21 to go, 42 points): 68 points, and you can throw a blanket over 7th-place Nashville (pending their Sunday afternoon game in Pittsburgh) and Calgary at 69 points and 13th-place Minnesota at 62 points. The Wings and Stars are tied for 9th entering the break. That’s why every game is a big game.
UPDATE: The Usless (to the Wings) Penguins lost a shootout, 2-0, to Nashville at home Sunday, so the Preds now have 71 points. Thanks, Sidney.

Score: Wings 4, Senators 1.

What I liked about the game: Niklas Kronwall played nearly 21 minutes. Jonathan Ericsson played less than 11. And this Ken DanielISM: Datsyukian move.

What I didn’t like about the game: First time in a long time I can say I liked everything about the game. The Wings can still look like the Wings. I still think Ken Holland has to blow up this team before next season, but I hope he can do it without having to miss the playoffs this season or next.

Prediction come true: I didn’t exactly say Kirk Maltby would score a hat trick, but gamer that he is, Maltby did score the first goal of the game and his fourth of the season. Now go get that shoulder fixed, Kirk, so Andreas Lilja can play. The Wings are treating you with the respect you deserve.

Olympian quandary: Will Johan Franzen, who scored into the open net, replace the yet-again injured Tomas Holmstrom for Team Sweden? I’m watching my Twitter feeds.

Quote: “I don’t know, but it seems like they’re tough to come back against. They’re strong defensively.” — Ottawa D-man Brian Lee.
First time in a long time I can agree.

Quote II: “I’m thrilled to be here.” — Mike Babcock in Vancouver. With that roster, who wouldn’t be?

What is: Stop waiting for Ozzie. Jimmy Howard is the Wings’ No. 1 goalie. He gives the Wings a chance to win every night. Who wouldathunk we’d be saying that in February?

Mood meter: Placid at the break.

Back to the Malts shop?

Posted in Red Wings with tags , , , , , on February 13, 2010 by Steve Klein

Hey, go easy on that shoulder!

Kirk Maltby has played for the Detroit Red Wings since 1995. Along with Kris Draper and the retired Darren McCarty, they made up the Wings’ famed Grind Line for many years.

But now it sounds like Maltby is grinding down himself.

“Maltby has been playing with a chronic shoulder, really since last June, and it’s been progressively getting worse and worse and worse and worse and worse,” General Manager Ken Holland said.

That’s a lot of “worse.”

It’s pretty obvious that Holland would like to clear about $750,000 of cap space (Maltby’s salary) to clear the $750,000 the Wings need to activate defenseman Andreas Lilja.

All this won’t happen Saturday night against Ottawa, Detroit’s final game for the month. Lilja won’t play. But Maltby will, thanks to injuries to Valtteri  Filppula and Patrick Eaves. Will Malty ultimately bite the bullet for the Wings and go on injured reserve during the Olympic break? Looks like tonight’s game will tell. Maybe Malts will score a hat trick, eh?

A Shark tanking

Posted in Red Wings with tags , on February 12, 2010 by Steve Klein

If the Wings can put the goalie in the net, why can't they put the puck in, too?

If the Wings can put the goalie in the net, why can't they put the puck in, too?

If you can’t win a hockey game when you outshoot an opponent 52-26 that played (and lost to Columbus, 3-0) the night before, just what does it take? Another shootout, another loss.

Game #60 (22 to go, 44 points): 66 points, tied with the Stars (told you last post that the rearview mirror was crowded) for 9th, 1 point behind Calgary with a game in hand (Stars, too), 1 point ahead of 11th-place Ducks (I can hear ’em quacking).
Update: The Preds lost to the Devils, 5-2, Friday night, so the Wings trail 7th-place Nashville by 3 points; both teams have played 60 games. So, 7 points separate 13th-place Minnesota from 7th-place Nashville (69 to 62), with the Wings right in the middle with 66. Three teams are tied for 4-5-6 at 76 points, but that’s 10 points away for Detroit with just 44 points to go. It’s going to be easier to finish lower than any higher than 7th in the Western Conference for the Wings this season. And it has been 20 years since the Wings were this low in the standings this late in the season — and that was the last time Detroit missed the playoffs.
Got all that?

Score: Sharks 3, Red Wings 2 (SO).

What I liked about the game: Jason Williams scored. Wings played well.

What I didn’t like about the game: Wings can’t finish. Second-straight shootout loss in which the Wings had a 4-on-3 power play late in the overtime and didn’t score. What’s that all about?

Quote: “It looked like last year, not like the past two months here,” Johan Franzen, who scored a goal in his second game back from a season-long knee injury.

What is: Ottawa at home Saturday, then the Olympic break.

Mood meter: Depression working OT.

The Blues

Posted in Red Wings with tags , , , , on February 10, 2010 by Steve Klein

Yo-han Franzen returns.

Yo-han Franzen returns.

OK, so the Wings suck at shootouts. Well, not Jason Williams, who is good for something, it appears. But Pavel Datsyuk AND Henrik Zetterbeg have to miss all the time?

Game #59: 65 points, 9th, 2 points out of 7th, 2 points ahead of 11th. All it takes is a little whoopsy and Dallas, Anaheim, Minnesota and even St. Louis are going to shoot past the Wings.

Score: Blues 4, Wings 3 (SO).

What I liked about the game: Ask me later. Oh, I’ve already had a day to think about it? How about Brad Stuart? He was plus-1 and now is only minus-14 for the season. Brett Ledba was plus-2. Johan Franzen played more than 17 minutes without getting hurt.

What I didn’t like the game: Sitting through the shootout. I could have fallen asleep two minutes earlier.

Quote: “It felt like the last game I played. I thought it was going to be worse. Better than I thought it was going to be.” — Johan Franzen

What is: The Wings have lost three in a row.

Mood meter: Can’t we all just be happy with ties?


Posted in Red Wings with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2010 by Steve Klein

Going nowhere.

Going nowhere.

— noun
1. Not like the Wings … prone to blow 2-goal leads regularly and 3-goal leads on occasion … injury prone … aging … tends to get outworked along the boards … has trouble scoring goals but can hit goal posts like laser beams … misses the playoffs.

Game #58: 64 points, 9th place in the Western Conference and sinking fast 24 games (48 points) remaining.

Score: Kings, 4, Wings 3

What I liked about the game: The Kings. They outworked the Wings along the boards, never stopped working, and earned their ninth-straight victory. Credit where credit is due. Henrik Zetterberg scored twice in a 3-0 first period and hit a goalpost in the third. Nick Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski each were plus-three, but they couldn’t stay on the ice all the time (56 minutes between them), which meant Brad Stuart and Jonathan Ericsson were on the ice (see: What I didn’t like about the game).

What I didn’t like about the game: Long list. Wings keep getting injured. Nick Kronwall didn’t dress (again). Tomas Homstrom suffered a lower-body injury (again). Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller got hurt, too. Jimmy Howard had a terrible second period, but guess who was on the ice for all four goals against (yup, Stuart with a big minus-4, rivaled only by Ericsson‘s minus-3. At least Ville Leino didn’t have to watch from the pressbox (he was traded for next to nothing earlier in the day).

Quote: “I was very disappointed with the way I played.” — Jimmy Howard. Me, too.

In search of: The Olympic break in a week.

What is: The standings are beginning to look bleak — 2 points out of 8th with one more game played, 3 points out of 7th with a game in hand, 6 points out of 6th with one more game played; only 3 points up on 12th place. I hope the Wings’ scouts are working hard.

Mood meter: Ready for some Tigers baseball?

The Detroit Frayed Wings?

Posted in Red Wings with tags on February 5, 2010 by Steve Klein

Have the Wings finally been brought to their knees?

Have the Wings finally been brought to their knees?

These are the days of the Detroit Frayed Wings.

Sad to say, but the bumpy ride that has been this Red Wings season is a precursor of things to come, I’m afraid. This is a franchise on the decline, in need of rebuilding, living on the last fumes of a decade-plus of excellence.

It hurts to write it, believe me. Calling Dr. Holland?

What follows is my assessment of the state of the team as the Wings prepare to play the Kings on Saturday, a team on an 8-game winning streak and 9 points ahead of Detroit in 4th place in the Western Conference with 25 games (50 points to play). In other words, the math for 4th place is not good for the tied-for-8th Wings and makes this game a MUST MUST one instead of just the usual MUST.

(By the way, there was no assessment of the Ducks’ 3-1 victory over the Wings Wednesday because it was on too late for me to watch it. Message to Gary Bettman: Like the Wings, these West Coast games are getting old, too. And one comment: Jack Nicholson says the Wings CAN’T HANDLE the size of the Getzlaf-Smith-Perry line.)

Back to my assessment:

GREY WINGS: Start with the No. 1 D-pair, Nick Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Still better than most, but certainly not as sharp as they used to be. Big slip from two years ago. And there’s chatter that Lidstrom will not return and go home to Sweden if Ken Holland blows up the team. Kris Draper is 38, Kirk Matlby 37. Thanks for your service, guys. But sadly, it’s time to say goodbye. You are salary cap impediments now.

SPARE TIRES: Todd Bertuzzi, 35; Brad May, 38; and yes, Chris Osgood, 37. Last year’s Stanley Cup was likely his last hooray. [Editor’s note: Jason Williams is SO forgettable some games that I didn’t remember to include him for two days.]

INJURY PRONE: You certainly have to start with Andreas Lilja, who at his best is a 5-6 D-man. Add to that Niklas Kronwall , Johan Franzen and the honorably fraying Tomas Holmstrom, whose cap hit, despite his on-ice value and courage, has to be tempting to Holland. When the Wings let Raflaski, Holmstrom, Draper and Maltby go, consider this team in full dynamite (as opposed to DY-NO-MITE!!!) stage.

NOT AS GOOD AS ADVERTISED: Start with Ville Leino. You can add Jonathan Ericsson, who has taken a Dion Phaneuf-sized leap backwards this season, and Brett Ledba, who hasn’t been the same since Chris Chelios left the team. And I’m tempted on given nights to add Brad Stuart (that pretty much covers the rest of the defense without a lot of up side, doesn’t it?).

UNDERACHIEVERS: We’ve learned this year that Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are second-tier superstars with first-tier pricetags. I guess you’d consider that a backhanded compliment. They are great players. But neither are Crosby and certainly not Ovechkin (who may be one of the greats of all time). They can’t carry the Wings by themselves.

THEY ARE WHAT THEY ARE: Danny Cleary, at 31, is in his prime. What you see is what you get: Role players. Also, Patrick Eaves (a Cleary wannabe); Derek Meech, Drew Miller, Jason Williams. They are six of one and half a dozen of the other-type players. Every team has players like them. You need them. But with the possible exception of Cleary, the Wings could replace them with other decent spare parts.

THE FUTURE: Doesn’t leave a lot left, does it? Three players stand out for not making any lists so far: Valteri Filppula, Darren Helm and Jimmy Howard. So here’s my question: Would you want to build your future around those three players? Do teams like the Kings, Coyotes, Capitals and Avs easily exceed those three in future upside, just to mention a few? Do you see that much talent in the Wings’ farm system?

TOP-SIX FORWARDS: The Brian Burke model says you have a top-six and a bunch of role-playing forwards. The Wings’ top six would be: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen (that’s about one-third of the Wings’ salary cap), Filppula, Holmstrom and Betuzzi. Consider injuries and age, who really is an easy-to-pick 7th? OK, Cleary (who I should have included on the injury-prone list).

TOP-FOUR D: Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall and Stuart, already discussed. How much gas is left in this tank?

LAST LINE OF DEFENSE: Is Jimmy Howard for real? Is there a Cam Ward/Steve Mason/Carey Price stretch in his future? Does he belong in their company? Whither Ozzie? Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? And who’s No. 3?

ONE QUESTION ABOUT COACHING: We know that Mike Babcock can coach a winner. But does he have the patience to coach a rebuilder?

The Wings have been treading soft ice all season, hanging on as a playoff competitor by a thread, waiting for injured players to return, trying to recreate themselves as a team. To be honest, I think their effort this season has been remarkable. Babcock has squeezed just about every point out of this team that a coach can find. Without Howard, this team isn’t the Oilers, maybe the Blues. There is enough talent to be in the playoffs this year. But if I were Ken Holland, I wouldn’t count on the same bunch — not by a long shot — to make the playoffs in 2010-11.

The decade-plus of excellence has passed. It’s time for a change. Let’s hope it’s not too painful.

Red Wings 4, Sharks 2

Posted in Red Wings with tags , , , , , , on February 3, 2010 by Steve Klein

Back in the office: Tomas Holmstrom sticks his rear end in a goalie's face.

Back in the office: Tomas Holmstrom sticks his rear end in a goalie's face.

Sorry, but 10:30 p.m. is too late for me to stay up for a hockey game most nights. But, if I go to bed early enough, I tend to wake up late in the third period, which was the case early this morning. The score was 4-2 Red Wings with about five minutes to go. But I have seen that 2-goal scenario fade into disappointment before — and recently — and wouldn’t you know it, off goes Nick Lidstrom of all people for hooking (of course) at 17:32. San Jose came on like, well, like Sharks, but Joe Thornton, who had scored the Sharks two goals in the first 10 minutes of the game while I was still blissfully asleep took a penalty just 23 seconds after Lidstrom (you should have heard the San Jose colorman complain!), and the Wings weathered the storm (note to my Sports Writing & Reporting students: “weathered the storm” is a cliche; don’t use it).

So, I blissfully returned to sleep with pleasant thoughts, as opposed to dreams, of three-straight Wings victories over the Sharks.

Game #56: 64 points, tied for 7th with Nashville but with one more game played than the Predators. The 6th-place Rockies are 4 points away (and with a game in hand); 10th place is only 3 points in the rear mirror.

Score: Red Wings 4, Sharks 2
Make sure you check out the game photos by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images on Yahoo Sports. He had a great night!

Quote: “If you can do it against good teams why can’t you do it every night?” — Wings coach Mike Babcock

What I liked about the game: Besides waking up to a 4-2 Red Wings lead and missing the Sharks get off to a 2-0 lead, Detroit scored two power play goals. Did I mention that Tomas Holmstrom was back in the lineup and had two assists? And Jimmy Howard made 32 saves. Let’s not start to take him for granted, eh?

What I didn’t like about the game: Late games on West Coast swings. Why aren’t the Wings in the Eastern Conference?

In search of: Johan Franzen and Andreas Lilja: They’re the only two Red Wings still out of the lineup (although Niklas Kronwall tweaked his ankle and will likely miss Wednesday night’s game against Anaheim) after a total of 264-man games missed by Red Wings this season to date. The Sharks, in comparison, have missed 128.

What is: The Wings are getting healthier. But that doesn’t necessarily equate with playing better. The returning players need to get back in game shape. The team needs to recalibrate it’s chemistry. This remains a team that finds scoring challenging.

I gotta mention: The Caps have won 11-straight games! Good for them. … J.S. Giguere debuted for the Maple Leafs last night with a 3-0 shutout against the Devils; happy to see Giguere in the East. … Phoenix, Colorado and Los Angeles, all teams that were not supposed to be playoff contender but are ahead of the Wings in the West, all won.

Mood meter: I slept well.