Abel to Yzerman
by George Malik on 09/13/10 at 04:36 AM ET
If only receiving Mike Babcock’s patented Death Stare from one Chris Chelios was the highlight and low-light of my evening. On Sunday night, at the Red Wings’ prospect tournament, the Wings rallied from a 3-1 deficit thanks to an incredibly astute time-out and set of line changes from Grand Rapids Griffins coach Curt Fraser, tying the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-3 before finally succumbing 4-3 to the Bolts in a ridiculous mockery of a skills competition, a.k.a. sixteen round shoot-out.
I’m typing this hoping that my computer does not spontaneously combust, because I’ll need it to chronicle a Monday practice that half the Wings’ prospects didn’t think they’d have to begin with—which was part of the problem on a night where negative reinforcement inspired frustrating results.
People better-equipped than I was to relate the game’s narrative do just that, and will, so let’s start at the end and go back to it:
Depending on which prospect you believe, the Wings either believed that they were going to have Monday completely off, believed that if they won on Sunday, there would be no practice on Monday, or knew all along that they would practice no matter what. They have to practice on Monday because, while the Wings’ coaches may or may not have told the prospects, upon their arrival in Traverse City, that they would take a break on Monday, every team except for the night’s victor, the Tampa Bay Lightning, plans on holding practice later this morning.
As for myself, I only watched about 50 minutes of regulation time because my computer appeared to “die” (as it turned out, the battery died because I was sitting with the lid tilted so far back that “the tank” thought it was constantly coming out of hibernation), and I spent a few frantic minutes attempting to resuscitate it before returning to action with a notebook in hand, I had to return to the rink afterward because in resuscitating my computer, the one cable that allows me to charge the Lanborghini that is my HTC Evo and its quickly-drained battery by said compute wriggled its way out of my laptop bag, so upon returning to the hotel, I had a good-old-fashioned running-on-four-hours-of-sleep anxiety attack before going back to the rink in my pajamas to retrieve said item, the Wings’ players and management were in a media-unfriendly mood after the game and barely tolerated our presence, I’m realizing that there’s no way in hell that I can see everything or be anything more than one voice of many covering this tournament and in general, and I’m getting the feeling that I’m treading upon a line between “media” and “fan” that may or may not be something that can be crossed more than once, because Chris Chelios gave me the same glare he pointed at opposing players and officials when they’d ticked him of for simply standing thirty feet away from him with a sound recorder in my hand.
Good, because I don’t, either.
Regarding the game, the Tampa Tribune’s Erik Erlendsson provides one narrative which the box score and game sheet (or the Lighting’s Twitter account, which provides a blow-by-blow shootout tale and a nice Twitpic shot of the opening faceoff) do not tell:
Steve Yzerman’s first foray against his former team featured a fantastic finish.
After blowing a two-goal lead in the third period, Tampa Bay managed to pick up a 4-3 shootout victory against Detroit at the Traverse City prospect tournament in Michigan. The Lightning won the shootout in the 16th round.
Richard Panik, the team’s second round pick in 2009, had a goal regulation and converted twice in the shootout. James Wright had a goal and assist while the team’s top pick in 2010, Brett Connolly, added an assist to help improve Tampa Bay to 1-1. Dana Tyrell had the other Tampa Bay goal while Jaroslav Janus stopped 40 shots and 14-of-16 attempts in the shootout.
Three quick notes: one, I did not see Steve Yzerman, though I believe he was in a packed mezzanine whose occupants included Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, assistant coaches Brad McCrimmon and Paul MacLean, not Chris Chelios (who was in the “suite” with the Red Wings’ brass, including Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin and some of the Wings’ pro and amateur scouts), St. Louis Blues GM John Davidson and a gaggle of scouts from other organizations. Two, given the shootout’s unfavorable result and extended duration, I got the feeling that most fans felt like I did—like the game was decided by a skills competition that got old, quickly. Three, there weren’t many Tampa Bay Lightning fans in the crowd. They were generally drowned out by a rambunctious Sunday night group that withstood a particularly strange complication—a lack of curtains in the suites overlooking the rink yielded direct sunlight from a Northern Michigan sunset first firing into their eyes and then those of the players.
Back to the game, via the St. Petersburg Times’ Damian Cristodero’s version of events…
Granted it was only a game at a preseason prospects tournament, but Steve Yzerman’s first matchup against his former team was a victory for the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3 over the Red Wings. The game was decided by a 16-round shootout that Tampa Bay won 3-2.
It was the first time the two organizations met since Yzerman, who spent 27 years with Detroit as a player and executive, took the job as Lightning general manager.
Dana Tyrell, James Wright and Richard Panik scored for the Lightning as regulation play ended in a 3-3 tie. In the shootout, Panik scored twice and Matt Butcher got the winner. Lightning goalie Jaroslav Janus made 40 saves in regulation and overtime as the Red Wings had a 43-31 shot advantage, and stopped 14 more shots in the shootout.
And Sports Haze’s Kaelan Lupton provides the best account:
The Lightning struck first when Richard Panik tapped in a pass from James Wright on a two-on-one, 4:23 into the first period. The Wings quickly responded though when right wing Willie Coetzee slid a backhander under the pads of Lightning goaltender Jaroslav Janus about a minute and a half later. That would be the final marker of the period, leaving the score 1-1 and the shots favouring Detroit 11-8 going into the second.
The Lightning jumped straight into action once again in the second when Dana Tyrell knocked in a rebound 3:09 into the period. They struck again when Wright fired a wrist shot right over Detroit goalie Jordan Pearce‘s glove. After Wright’s marker, both teams did everything but score. The Lightning encountered some bad luck when they had a few shots ring off the posts, while Janus stood his ground didn’t allow a goal all period.
The Lightning were in an unfortunate position when they started the third, as they had a 1:51 five-on-three disadvantage to kill. They couldn’t make it out unscathed, as Detroit’s Tomas Tatar bashed in a rebound for a power play goal at 2:47 of the third period. Less than a minute later, Detroit potted another goal when Trevor Parkes capitalized on a two-on-one break to tie the score 3-3. Parkes’ goal would prove to be the last of regulation, with the game headed to a five minute overtime. After that solved nothing, the teams moved on to a shootout.
The shootout lasted longer than normal, continuing for a whole 16 rounds. Matt Butcher notched the game-winner, saving his team from venturing any further into trouble. The final shot total was 43-31 in favour of Detroit.
Note the fourth: we were originally told after overtime that there would be a shootout; two minutes later, the rink announcer stated that we’d see four minutes of four-on-three overtime; two minutes later, it was back to the shootout.
Note the fifth: the Wings were the first team to commit the sin of re-using a player who shot previously in Brendan Smith, and he told myself and Ted Kulfan that, after his unsuccessful attempt, the referees informed the Red Wings that, should he have scored, it would not have counted. The same referees then allowed both teams to employ whoever they wished in the shootout as long as the players didn’t shoot consecutively—very conveniently as Richard Panik scored twice and Matt Butcher delivered the fatal blow, with Smith scoring in the third round, only to be answered by Panik, and Landon Ferraro answering Panik’s second tally in the eleventh round—and the referees “let ‘em play” to the point that defensemen like Smith were ran long after the play had gone elsewhere sans consequences. The Bolts and Wings played as roughly as two teams could without literally coming to blows, and while I might be putting on my tinfoil hat for complaining, both teams could have complained enough about borderline plays that a U.S. Customs agent could have been employed to sort things out.
The Red Wings started incredibly slowly and paid for it. Fraser called a timeout halfway through the game, however, and after getting schooled while out-shooting the Bolts 12-8 in the first period and being out-shot 17-16 by the halfway point, the Wings ended up out-shooting Tampa 19-6 in the third, tied them 3-3 in overtime, and out-shot the Bolts 43-32 while re-establishing the kind of puck possession, high-tempo, quick-transition hockey that you’d expect the big club to play.
finished the game with a power-play goal, an assist, and a second consecutive dominant performance, the big, awkward goalie that is Jordan Pearce had a superb effort and was only narrowly out-dueled by Janus and Willie Coetzee finally reined that whirling dervish in and played like somebody the Wings signed to a free-agent contract for a reason.
Shall we employ Ted Kulfan’s quip from Curt Fraser for emphasis? You bet:
“Up until the middle of the second period we were spinning our wheels,” Wings coach Curt Fraser said. “But the second half of that game was all us. If we could have started out like that, it would have put us in better position.”
The first set of wheel-spinners, a.k.a. the lineup:
Forwards: Tomas Tatar-Joakim Andersson-Willie Coetzee
Brent Raedeke-Landon Ferraro-Andrej Nestrasil
Darren Archibald-Louis-Marc Aubry-Trevor Parkes
Antonin Honejsek-Brooks Macek-Mitchell Callahan
Defensemen: Gleason Fournier-Brian Lashoff
Marc Zanetti-Brendan Smith
Alex Cord-Sebastien Piche
Jordan Pearce (starter), Petr Mrazek (back-up)
Scratches: Thomas McCollum, Brenden Kitchton, Stephen Johnston
Forwards: Brent Raedeke-Joakim Andersson-Trevor Parkes
Andrej Nestrasil-Louis-Marc Aubry-Willie Coetzee
Tomas Tatar-Brooks Macek-Landon Ferraro
Darren Archibald-Antonin Honejsek-Mitchell Callahan
Defensemen: Gleason Fournier-Sebastien Piche
Brian Lashoff-Brendan Smith
Alex Cord-Marc Zanetti
Stuff I noticed: Over the course of two games the Red Wings have fired nearly a hundred shots on their opponents and have done so because Fraser firmly believes in the Babcockian, “Shoot as a forecheck and get rebounds because these goalies are so damn big” mentality, but I’m almost more impressed by the fact that the Wings’ prospects very rarely stray from a five-man unit on defense, with the wingers and center remaining in their lanes and helping defensemen who generally don’t get spun out by opposing players.
The team’s transition game did improve markedly thanks in part to the addition of Marc Zanetti, whose occasional hiccups were more than made up for his ability to bail out Smith and then Cord, who had a terrible game, and his superb outlet passing and deft skating.
Joakim Andersson remains an impressive, hulking man who looks ready for AHL duty. He dominates on faceoffs, mucks and grinds along the boards, plays wonderful defensive hockey and has a surprising offensive panache thanks to solid passing and a very hard shot. He’s come over from the Swedish Eliteserien fully ready to play in an equally challenging “men’s league.”
Brian Lashoff has only played in limited stints with the Griffins, and he had a rough year with the Kingston Frontenacs, but my goodness, is he a leader of men, and he’s just so unbelievably solid.
Brendan Smith still had his fillings knocked loose on very regular occasions, but he’s looking more comfortable, which is very important. For him it’s about the process more than the product, and if he’s his cocky and chipper self at the end of the main camp, then he’ll have had a fantastic two weeks in Traverse City.
Tomas Tatar is a fan favorite for a reason—he works his arse off—and he has the offensive chops to back ‘em up. I can only describe him as slightly faster and grittier version of Jiri Hudler, with an attitude that’s right out of a Slovakian steel mill. The fact that he out-played a dear friend in Richard Panik, who got the glory but didn’t work nearly as hard as Tatar did for his share of it, was pretty dang cool. Panik’s like watching an Audi, while Tatar’s most certainly a Porsche.
Brent Raedeke‘s dad and Louis-Marc Aubry‘s parents are among those in attendance, and their sons have done nothing other than play sound two-way hockey.
Andrej Nestrasil, again, finally looks like the power forward the Wings drafted.
Trevor Parkes and Darren Archibald are doing their damnedest to earn contracts, and out of the try-outs in attendance, they’ve got the best shots because they work hard and play harsher.
Brooks Macek does have the makings of a very solid center, and he’s established himself as a good offensive, playmaking pivot, but it’s going to be interesting to see how he reacts to the main camp, because he’s a medium-sized fish in a deep pond now, and he’s gonna be a minnow among sharks next week.
When Willie Coetzee gets his arms and legs moving in the same direction, he can dangle and dazzle, but he’s also equally infuriating when he spins out of control or makes the hard play instead of the simple one—and the entire team would be guilty of many goals against if their “hard plays” weren’t bailed out by self-sacrificing defensively-minded teammates breaking up 2-on-1’s on such a regular basis—and I don’t know whether the Wings really want to bring him up to the AHL yet. Like Macek, next week will probably tell the tale when he’s swimming with the big-tails.
Sebastien Piche had a rough, rough game, as did Gleason Fournier, but the two played together in Rimouski, and when they’re reunited, it’s Mutt and Jeff on ice, with Piche playing a more defensively-oriented role as Fournier makes long and sometimes dangerous rushes.
Antonin Honejsek has yet to make an impression upon me, positively or negatively.
When Alex Cord’s on, he’s Andreas Lilja. When he’s off, he’s Andreas Lilja.
Mitchell Callahan faded a bit but was still full of you-know-what and vinegar. He’s unbelievably enthusiastic and loves to stir things up, but he does so because his hockey chops can back him up instead of making him a liability. Think a mini Kirk Maltby in his prime.
Landon Ferraro is playing with confidence, poise and positivity and it’s the last part that he needed to reestablish himself as a slightly undersized two-way forward whose hockey IQ is off the scale and whose calmness in the offensive zone is at an NHL level. Not necessarily his consistency or execution, but he’s just so even-keeled. That’s the one part of his game where he really takes after his dad.
The shootout was laborious, and as awkward and gangly as he remains, Jordan Pearce got the job done. He’s a very classic “hybrid” goaltender who seems to have incongruities in his style that almost defy explanation, other than to say that he’s playing in brand new leg pads and a new catch glove and a very puck-dirtied, old blocker, and as big as he is, the problem with Pearce is that if he gets off his angle by the tiniest amount, there are holes in the four corners of the net. I guess that’s the best way to describe it—he’s a bit of a shooter tutor, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. He and Jaroslav Janus did exchange serious acrobatics during the shootout, however, and I can at least say that this old stand-up goalie with a bad back saw some classic kick saves employed.
After the crowd-deadening shootout, however, the entire team was in a foul mood (the management wasn’t too cheery, either, because this loss was as deadening as a double-OT thriller but, at the same time, as lively as popping a deflated balloon) as the players played like a team that was a third misinformed at times. It sounds like the coaches decided that the players were going to practice once they found out that the rest of the tournament’s field didn’t want to take Monday off, but the way things played out, everybody was tired, grumpy, felt like they’d had a day off stolen, perhaps via the balance of a loss sapping the coaching staff’s goodwill, and they had no intentions whatsoever of talking to the media. Thomas McCollum and Curt Fraser were fantastic sports on Sunday night, as was Brendan Smith, it must be noted…
But this is where my bad day comes in, and that line-crossing comes into play. As does guilt in this instance.
I don’t know where I fit in, in all honesty, as credentialed media who would pump his fist and cheer when Wings scored if he didn’t have a laptop to hold onto, because the players see me in my casual-dress shirts and slacks, Winnipeg Jets hat and sound recorder and see media that they might want to avoid when tired, hungry, a little PO’ed and unwilling to talk, but I do genuinely want to talk to them and not really impose on their time if I can help it.
I do know that on Sunday and early Monday morning, a combination of cheap food, wandering back and forth to the hotel and rink as practices and games ebb and flow and the utter loneliness of this job at times makes it, well, a job, and that today I was not at the top of my game, played into in no small part because I was hoping that Monday would be an off-day, too, and now I’m kind of scrambling from a preparation standpoint. Most of the time, this is very, very fun, all the time, it’s an incredibly privilege and honor, but sometimes it’s a job in the negative sense of the term, and sometimes getting a death stare from Chris Chelios because he doesn’t want to talk to the media to begin with and you’ve got a sound recorder in your hand feels like losing in the sixteenth round of a shootout after rallying from a 3-1 deficit, and finding out on top of it that you don’t get Monday to rest and recover—or finding out that at your own prospect tournament, you have to pray to the hockey gods that by the time you play the Blues on Tuesday, the unbeaten Wild have lost to the Rangers earlier that afternoon.
What I’m doing isn’t a contest to determine who’s the best or a race for information or anything near professional journalism, but sometimes it’s hard, and I feel very guilty for saying that in many ways, this day was a shootout loss for me, too. I’m doing my best and sometimes circumstances and bad luck mean that your best isn’t enough, but I am trying, I am learning, and I am hoping that there’s a way to do this which allows the people I root for to understand that just because I have a sound recorder doesn’t mean that I’m not cheering them on when the puck’s in play, and that, at the same time, cheering them on doesn’t make me any less of a “writer” that’s worth answering questions from when they’re tired and hungry and don’t want to talk to the fat bald guy with the funny goatee.
Maybe part of that involves learning to laugh, or maybe even feel a bit proud, as a fan first and foremost and a professional writer, not a journalist, second, when somebody gives you a death stare.
In that vein…I love the “Feathers and Chrome” or “Chrome and Feathers” concept aesthetically, but Hockeytown Todd’s right. It’s the Malik Report, and I need a banner because it’s time to move here permanently, and to do it this week.
“I really didn’t think about facing the Red Wings much,” Yzerman said. “I was hoping our kids would play better than last game (a 4-2 loss) and I was focusing on watching our players and trying to get a good feel for them because, by the end of this tournament, we have to decide where these kids are going and what we’re doing with them.”
“I was just sitting with our staff talking before the game and then the game got started so I was just sitting there watching and talking players,” Yzerman said. “I’m just trying to focus on watching the players. It’s a prospects tournament in early September. The Red Wings will play a meaningful game against the Tampa Bay Lightning later in the season (Feb. 17) and it’ll be meaningful for both of us for various reasons at that time, so I’ll look forward to that.”
Bolts goalie Jaroslav Janus, however, suggested that the Lightning wanted to win it for Yzerman:
“That was probably the longest shootout and longest game I’ve played in, so I’m very happy I could pull it out,” Janus said. “You just hope your team can trust that you can stop it, and then prepare mentally for it. I waited for the shooter to make the first move and then just stop the puck.”
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Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977. No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y. Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation. There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature. Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org