The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/07/12 at 07:54 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings took a midnight flight back to Detroit to engage in two much-needed days of rest and practicing, especially in terms of the Wings’ lengthy list of injured players (see: Todd Bertuzzi, Jonathan Ericsson, Pavel Datsyuk, Jimmy Howard, Jakub Kindl, Nicklas Lidstrom) after dropping their 5th of their past 7 games via a spirited but unsuccessful 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night.
On a night when Mark Howe’s jersey was retired by the Flyers, the Wings couldn’t quite deliver in terms of fulfilling Howe’s desire to see the Wings tie things up and win in overtime, and because of the Wings’ slide of late, they now sit two points behind the St. Louis Blues (who won on 5-2 decision over Chicago) and six points ahead of Saturday’s opponent in the Nashville Predators in terms of the Central Division standings.
I’m guessing that you’re curious as to what the Flyers’ players and coach had to say about Niklas Kronwall’s hit on Jakub Voracek, who received some stitches to his mouth but should be OK, so that’s where we’ll start this wrap-up of the game, via the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“I wanted to puke,” Flyers forward Danny Briere said. “When you see someone lay on the ice like that. I haven’t seen the replay of the hit, I don’t know if the hit was targeted or if it was a clean check. It’s still not fun to see when you’re on the ice and you see someone laying there shaking. It was a bad feeling in everybody’s stomach.”
Flyers forward Max Talbot said the team did use the hit as motivation.
“Well, we answered back. It is always frustrating and until you see the replay, you don’t know how dirty it was,” Talbot said. “Dirty or not, it is frustrating for guys in this dressing room to see a hit like this happen. You never want to see a guy go down. Obviously a lot of guys wanted to see (Niklas) Kronwall and he didn’t want to answer for his act. It is something that he thought was a clean hit so you can’t blame the guy. At the same time it is frustrating for us.”
Said Flyers forward Claude Giroux: “I didn’t see it, just the replay. It was a good hit and I didn’t really see it either if it was a head shot or not but Kornwall is pretty good at those hits. Obviously we hope Jake is gonna be okay.”
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said: “”It was a tough hit, he (Voracek) took it right in the head. It was frustrating because he’s having a terrific year, and he’s a terrific player for us and it’s substantial when you’re battling through a lot of injuries and you’re dealing with it and you take a hit like that. It’s tough and you hope he’s alright and you hope he bounces back quick. The game happens so fast out there. It’s a defensemen stepping up on a forward. It was hard to tell, when you go back and look at it, it was clearly the head which is tough. That’s the area that’s supposed to be safer this year and he got popped right on it.”
Kronwall, Wings coach Mike Babcock and forward Johan Franzen felt a little bit differently about the hit, as they told MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“I haven’t seen the replay, but the way I felt about it at the time was he was coming up along the boards and I took a stride forward,’’ Kronwall said.
Kronwall believes it was a legal hit, but added, “They’ll take a look at it if there’s any circumstances that need to be addressed.’‘
“Kronner is a competitive guy, he’s out there playing hard,’’ Babcock said. “I don’t think he did anything wrong. He doesn’t want anyone to get hurt, I don’t want anyone to get hurt. But last time we played them he got Briere, this time he got Voracek. Those are tough hits, but it’s part of hockey.’‘
Johan Franzen suggested to the Free Press’s Helene St. James that Kronwall’s reputation should precede him:
“Guys have got to start being ready for it,” Johan Franzen said. “They’ve got to know when he’s out there. He tries to keep it as clean as he can, but when a guy is skating with his head down and his head forward, it’s hard to miss. He steps up. He keeps it clean. He’s got his arm down. He’s trying to hit with his whole body.”
In terms of the game itself, the Flyers were proud of their effort as they’re pretty banged-up themselves, especially as they not only lost Voracek, but also Jaromir Jagr to a hip injury when he tried to run over Valtteri Filppula, and given that Claude Giroux isn’t taking faceoffs, either, Philly’s players were nearly gushy while speaking to the Flyers’ website about their win:
“I think for us to finish a game like this, protecting the lead in the last minute against a team like Detroit, is huge for confidence down the road,” said Max Talbot, who added his 18th goal of the year.
The Flyers held off a flurry of scoring chances in the third period, which saw the Red Wings fire a total of 21 shots on Ilya Bryzgalov; a pale comparision to the two shots they managed in the first period. Bryzgalov let one in, but that was it. He stopped multiple scoring chances in the final minute of play, while his defensemen threw themselves in front of shots and battled pucks in the corner to finish the Red Wings off.
With the victory, the Flyers have won ALL four games in which they have retired a number in a pre-game ceremony by now, a 21 to 9 margin. (The Flyers did not retire Barry Ashbee’s #4 prior to a game).
“We really liked the way played, it was a great hockey game. They’ve got a good team,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. “I’ve said this before, they’re experienced, and they move the puck and they’re dangerous and they’ve got high end players and they’ve had a lot of success for years playing together. You really have to be sharp. It was a big win for us to keep things moving in the right direction in the month of March.”
“I think the last two games the referees have been trying to let us play. I think tonight, like you said, was a playoff atmosphere a little bit, the crowd was loud.
- Max Talbot
“Anytime you get chances to put it in and you do, it’s gonna get you wins. Tonight we didn’t have a lot of shots like we usually do but we found a way to bury the ones we had.”
- Claude Giroux
The Flyers were equally impressed by the performance of Ilya Bryzgalov, as Giroux told the Phildelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi:
The Flyers were outshot by a 39-23 margin, and two of their wingers suffered second-period injuries and didn’t return on Tuesday night at the reverberating Wells Fargo Center. But the Flyers, to their credit, held on for a gritty 3-2 win over visiting Detroit and notched their first three-game winning streak in three months. They survived injuries to Jaromir Jagr (hip) and Jakub Voracek (mouth) because goalie Ilya Bryzgalov continued his strong play, making 37 saves, including 36 over the final two periods.
“The last month, you see how he works hard and wants to get better,” said center Claude Giroux, who had a goal and an assist despite playing with a sore hand. “His attitude is unbelievable. He wants to win. The guys are very excited and if we can get on a roll here before the playoffs and kind of keep going, it should be fun.”
Giroux’s two points gave him 77 for the season, a career high. He had 76 last season. In the NHL scoring race, Giroux is third, behind Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, each of whom have 81 points.
The Flyers, who host Florida on Thursday, had a 24-10 advantage in blocked shots. Giroux and Erik Gustafsson each blocked three shots, and eight Flyers blocked two.
But Bryzgalov deferred and demurred to his teammates’ efforts, as he told the Delaware County Times’ Rob Parent:
“Guys were blocking shots when the puck was in front of the net, and with two players down with injuries, guys stepped up and played more minutes,” Bryzgalov said. “They played very well.”
“Guys are very excited.” Giroux said. “If we can get on a roll here before the playoffs … it should be fun.”
“The last few games it’s been playoff hockey,” Briere said. “Everybody has been paying attention to the little details. Everybody’s been paying the price, everybody’s blocking shots and winning battles. Earlier in the season we had trouble closing games out with the lead … it’s good see us winning those types of games against good teams.”
PhillyBurbs.com’s Wayne Fish offers something of a game narrative…
Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring with a goal exactly four minutes into the first but the Flyers got that one back on a Voracek goal at 13:50. McDonald left the puck for a teammate behind the net but no one from the Wings showed up. Instead, Voracek pounced on the loose puck and executed a nifty wraparound play.
The Flyers proceeded to score the next three goals and Giroux figured prominently on the last two. First, he connected at 18:11 of the first period on a breakaway, deking his way past goalie Joey McDonald (filling in for injured starter Jimmy Howard), for a 2-1 Flyers lead.
Then, at 14:10, with the Flyers down a man, Giroux broke through a Brendan Smith check and got a good shot away on McDonald. The goalie made the save but the rebound came right to Talbot for an easy putback. That was the Flyers’ fifth shorthanded goal of the season.
In the third, Detroit got a goal from Johan Franzen but Bryzgalov kept the Red Wings at bay the rest of the way.
Bryzgalov had this to say about facing the Wings while speaking to Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia’s Tim Panaccio...
“Detroit is Detroit,” Bryzgalov said. “They never give up. They play a physical, tough game. They have lots of skill and you always have to be sharp when you play against Detroit.”
Who offered Flyers comments about their 1-1 goal…
The last time these two clubs met in Detroit, goalie Joey MacDonald flubbed a handoff behind his own net and the Flyers scored. A similar play happened at 13:50 when MacDonald got a dump-in, went behind his net to set it up for his defenseman but … no one came to claim the puck. No one but Voracek that is, who grabbed it, went for the wraparound, shooting it off defenseman Brendan Smith to tie the game. The goal was Voracek’s 12th of the season.
“Max Talbot dumped the puck and their goalie stopped it,” Voracek said after the period. “I think there might have been a miscommunication with the D. I just grabbed the puck and wrapped around and it went in.”
Giroux’s breakaway goal…
Giroux didn’t seem to have any issue scoring his 24th goal to break the tie at 18:11. He chased down Braydon Coburn’s chip up the right boards, then went forehand-backhand for his first goal in six games.
“I got a lucky bounce and I was able to get the puck behind the D,” Giroux said. “Anytime you get a chance like that, you obviously want to put it in the net and I was able
to do that.”
And Talbot’s shorthanded marker:
Anyway, Kronwall’s hit on Voracek led to a rather chippy finish to the second period with the Flyers stretching their lead to 3-1 at 14:10 on Talbot’s 18th goal. While skating shorthanded and still fuming about the lack of a call on Kronwall, Giroux generated a rush to the net. MacDonald made the save, but Talbot pocketed the rebound for his second shorthanded goal of the season, and 14th of his career.
“Obviously, every time you have the chance to play with [Claude Giroux], he is out there for a defensive reason on the penalty kill,” Talbot said. “When he blocks a shot like that and goes to the net, he brought the two defensemen with him. I was lucky enough to get a rebound.”
Giroux also told the Philadelphia Daily News’s Sam Carchidi that the Flyers were motivated to do well by Mark Howe’s jersey retirement:
“It’s obviously a motivation to do good,” Giroux said.
“I had goosebumps, to be honest with you,” said Voracek, who scored the Flyers’ second goal and was later knocked out of the game after absorbing a vicious hit from defenseman Niklas Kronwall. “To see Mark and Gordie Howe on the ice was something special.”
The Philadelphia Daily News’s Frank Seravalli offers what might be the Flyers’ bottom line (he also penned a notebook, and the Courier-Post offers a mostly quote-free recap as well)—revenge for the Kronwall hit was a dish best served in the form of two points:
“Everyone wanted to get back at him,” Briere said. “But we needed to win, we needed the points. We’re in the crunch time of the season.”
While the Flyers raved about both Bryzgalov and Giroux’s performances to NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman, Wings coach Mike Babcock told Kimelman that he was less than impressed with his team’s power play performance…
The Wings were 0-for-4 against the Flyers, and now are 3-for-34 in their last nine games.
“Our power play let us down big time,” said Babcock. “I thought our power play was disorganized and not good enough. So we have to fix that. I know we have some players not available, but our power play, with the skill we have, we have to do a better job than that. So we have to get more organized.”
And we’ll shift perspectives to the Red Wings’ side for good via Babcock’s quip about Bryzgalov to the Associated Press:
“We gave ourselves every opportunity and really pushed it,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We had a glorious opportunity right at the end and Bryz was up to the challenge tonight.”
The Wings expressed frustration regarding both their inability to score on their power play and their mistake-prone hockey of late while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“Everyone wants it to go well,” Franzen said of a power play that hasn’t scored in 13 consecutive attempts spanning three games. “You start thinking too much about it. You force stuff instead of letting things happen. We need to get a goal back and get the confidence going.”
“All of their goals we kind of handed to them,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “They did some good things. We were kind of slow off the start (the Red Wings were outshot 9-2 in the first period), but our power play has to be better than it was.”
“We started a little slow and they put pressure on us in the first period,” said MacDonald, who had 20 saves. “But after that we did a great job. We made three mistakes and they put it in the net all three times.”
And about that wraparound? Well, here’s what MacDonald had to say to the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
Babcock berated the power play, which went 0-for-4, though Franzen’s goal came seconds after the last one expired. There was as much of an issue defensively, as the Flyers needed just 23 shots to win thanks to some doozy giveaways.
Voracek tied the game after picking up the puck behind Detroit’s net; Joey MacDonald had left it there for Doug Janik, who pulled up short.
“I thought he was going to come pick it up,” MacDonald said, “but it happens when you don’t play with guys a lot.”
And the breakaways? Here’s what MacDonald had to say to St. James about Giroux and Talbot’s goals...
MacDonald, on the breakaway goals by Giroux and Talbot: “He made a good move on the first one. I thought he was going to shoot. ... Second, I was just trying to make the save.”
Perhaps equally importantly, while the Wings were short-staffed, in addition to firing 37 shots on Ilya Bryzgalov over the final two periods of the game, the Wings’ 39 shots were part of a remarkable 68 attempted shots, but Kronwall felt that quantity did not necessarily indicate quality given that the Wings had trouble getting to the net and to obstruct Bryzgalov’s sightlines:
Kronwall, on the Wings’ 39 shots on goal: “They did a good job of boxing us out, and we had some trouble every so often getting some bodies in there. We were taking a lot of shots from the outside, but at the same time, we had some quality scoring chances that we could have buried.”
Jakub Voracek tied it at 1-1 at 13:50, following some miscommunication between Doug Janik and MacDonald. MacDonald stopped the puck behind the net and Janik hesitated to take control of it. Voracek gabbed it and attempted to pass out front to Maxime Talbot. It deflected into the net off Brendan Smith’s stick.
“(Janik) started towards me and then he stopped,’’ MacDonald said. “I thought he was going to pick it up.’‘
But the Red Wings took responsibility for their mistakes, and suggested that they only had themselves to blame for digging a hole too deep for their thin lineup to dig out of:
“If you look back at all their goals … it’s unfortunate because those were gifts,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
The Flyers have won seven in a row at home against the Red Wings, whose last regular season win in Philadelphia came on Jan. 25, 1997 (4-1).
Bryzgalov made 37 saves as Detroit, which got goals from Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, fell to 2-4-1 in its past seven games.
“I thought we started slow, they had some pressure on us in the first period, but after that we did a great job,’’ MacDonald said. “We made three mistakes and they put it in our net all three times.’‘
Said Kronwall: “I thought basically all their goals we kind of handed to them. But at the same time, give them credit. They’re a heck of a hockey team.’‘
The Red Wings played catch-up most of the night, though Babcock said he had no complaints about how hard they played. They just made costly mistakes.
“It’s hard to win if you give away three goals,’’ Franzen said.
Highlights: If you wish, you may watch Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia’s 2:16 highlight clip;
And here’s the Red Wings website’s highlight clip, as narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia posted two separate clips of Mark Howe reflecting upon his career and #2 jersey’s retirement, Flyers announcers Jim Jackson and Bill Clement’s takes on the game, and post-game comments regarding the home-ice win, Ilya Bryzgalov’s play and the Kronwall hit, with all comments coming from Laviolette, Briere, Giroux and Bryzgalov, and there’s an interview with Bryzgalov as well;
And Fox Sports Detroit posted Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s takes on the game, as well as comments from Niklas Kronwall, coach Mike Babcock, Brad Stuart and Joey MacDonald:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 23-image gallery;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 5-image gallery;
Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia posted a 12-image gallery;
The Philadelphia Daily News posted a 10-image Flash gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 33-image gallery;
Yahoo doesn’t post Reuters pictures in its galleries, so Daylife.com’s Wings gallery provides 16 extra photos;
NHL.com posted a 39-image gallery;
The Flyers’ website posted a 40-image gallery;
And the Red Wings’ website posted a 40-image gallery.
Shots 39-23 Red Wings. The Wings were out-shot 9-2 in the 1st period, but out-shot Philadelphia 16-8 in the 2nd period and out-shot them 21-6 in the 3rd.
The Wings’ power play went 0-for-4 in 8:00 of PP time and gave up a shorthanded goal; the Flyers’ PP went 0-for-2 in 4:00 of PP time.
Joey MacDonald stopped 20 of the 23 shots he faced; Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 37 of the 39 shots he faced.
The 3 stars, per the Philadelphia Daily News’s Frank Seravalli, were Maxime Talbot, Claude Giroux and Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Wings’ goals: Zetterberg (16) from Filppula (33) and Hudler (20);
Franzen (25) from Smith (3) and Quincey (19).
Faceoffs 36-19 Detroit (Detroit won 65%);
Blocked shots 24-10 Philadelphia;
Missed shots 15-14 Detroit (total attempts 78-47 Detroit);
Hits 25-20 Philadelphia;
Giveaways 11-7 Philadelphia;
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 14-and-10 (58%); Helm went 10-and-4 (71%); Abdelkader went 6-and-3 (67%); Emmerton went 3-and-1 (75%); Filppula went 2-and-0 (100%); Franzen went 1-and-1 (50%).
Shots: Franzen led the Wings with 7 shots; Zetterberg had 4; Hudler, Emmerton and Kronwall had 3; Cleary, Miller, Quincey, Mursak, Conner, Helm, Filppula and Holmstrom had 2; Smith, Abdelkader and Stuart had 1.
Blocked attempts: The Flyers blocked 4 shot attempts by Ian White; Kronwall, Franzen and Quincey had 3 attempts blocked; Stuart and Zetterberg had 2 attempts blocked; Smith, Cleary, Hudler, Janik, Conner, Helm and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Abdelkader missed the net 4 times; Franzen missed the net 3 times; Quincey and Kronwall missed the net 2 times; Stuart, Janik, Zetterberg and Helm missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader and Stuart had 4 hits; Franzen had 3; Conner and Kronwall had 2; White, Stuart, Janik, Helm and Holmstrom had 1.
Giveaways: Helm had 2 giveaways; Smith, Stuart, Hudler, Kronwall and MacDonald had 1.
Takeaways: Franzen had 2 takeaways; Abdelkader, Miller and Helm had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Smith and Quincey blocked 2 shots; Cleary, White, Stuart, Janik, Emmerton and Kronwall blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Helm and Kronwall were tagged with minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -5. Abdelkader, Miller, Stuart, Janik, Mursak, Emmerton and Filppula were -1; Hudler and Franzen were +1; Quincey was +2.
Points: Franzen and Zetterberg scored goals; Hudler, Quincey and Filppula had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 24:43 played; White played 22:49; Quincey played 21:34;
Stuart played 20:56; Filppula played 20:32; Zetterberg played 19:50;
Franzen played 18:24; Hudler played 17:50; Smith played 16:18;
Cleary played 16:03; Miller played 15:31; Holmstrom played 15:15;
Helm played 14:51; Janik played 13:51; Abdelkader played 12:51;
Emmerton played 9:11; Mursak played 8:30; Conner played 8:23.
Part II: Regarding Mark Howe’s jersey retirement: I posted a separate entry regarding Mark Howe’s jersey retirement ceremony and his speech, and you can watch the video thereof in said entry.
MLive’s Ansar Khan reiterated the main points of Howe’s speech, as did NHL.com, and Howe told PhillyBurbs.com’s Wayne Fish that he was grateful for the practice which giving a speech at his Hockey Hall of Fame induction afforded him:
“I guess I had some practice in my Hall of Fame speech,’’ he said. “I just kind of focused and stayed in the moment. Obviously I didn’t want to get up there and break down. I only watched about 15 seconds of the video (highlights). It was important to me I got my speech across the way I wanted to thank the Flyers organization and the Philly fans and you can’t do that if you’re breaking down and crying.’‘
Still, Howe did pause once or twice as cheers rained down from the stands.
“I know how much this means to me,’’ he said. “Philly will always have a special place in my heart.’‘
The Flyers presented Howe with a week-long vacation in Mexico and Claude Giroux skated out to give Howe a gift watch from the players. Also, Detroit alternate captain Henrik Zetterberg presented Howe with a gift from the Red Wings. Howe said it was extra special because Detroit, the team he finished his playing career with (and with whom he’s won four Stanley Cup rings as director of scouting), was in town.
“To me (including scouting), it’s been more than half my life, between these two teams,’’ Howe said. “Both organizations are as good as any there are in sport. Quality owners, quality people running (the teams). They aspire to succeed and win. There is no second best.’‘
Fish also posted a YouTube clip of Howe speaking to the press after the ceremony, Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia’s John Gonzalez visits some of the same points Howe delivered to Fish, as did the Philadelphia Daily News’s Frank Seravalli, Howe told the Courier-Post’s Kevin Callahan that he was very happy with his father’s reception as well, and Howe also told the Delaware County Times that getting through his speech was probably the biggest relief he experienced during the ceremony:
“First thing I thought was, ‘Phew, I got through the speech.’ ... After that, I just looked at my dad and I looked at my granddaughter,” Howe said. “It fills you with emotions. It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve been here, but I know I poured my heart and soul into this team and when that banner goes up, it’s all that blood, sweat and tears and everything else you went through that come out. That’s an incredible feeling. It really is.”
I should also mention that the Wings did bring the McCrimmon family along to watch “the Beast’s” partner’s number be retired, but I thought that it was equally classy of the Wings and Flyers to allow the family to watch the ceremony in private…
And I can’t think of a better closer, however, than noting that the man who fits in seamlessly with Ken Holland’s front office machine is driven by the same desire as his de-facto teammates:
“I’ve spent half my life between these two teams,” Howe said. “Both organizations are as good as any, I believe, in sports. They have quality owners, quality people running them and they strive to succeed and win. And there’s nothing that’s second best. That’s what the game’s all about. Before I came to Philly, I had one team (the Hartford Whalers) where that wasn’t an important thing, and I hated it. I flat-out hated it. It’s not so much I love winning, but I hate to lose and when you play with these two teams you don’t lose very much.”
Part III: Red Wings notebooks: I’m not touching the Kronwall hit. I posted the video and Flyers’ reaction to the hit, and the Free Press’s Helene St. James dedicates her notebook to it, and the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan addresses it in his notebook, but I’ve learned over the years that even with multiple angles of video available, once a fan witnesses something, their mind is made up, and nothing will change those opinions.
Mine might not mesh with yours, either, so all I’ll say about the matter is that Kronwall offered nothing different in his assessment of the hit as “okay” while speaking to Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom.
Regarding the rest of Kulfan’s notebook, it involves Wings coach Mike Babcock’s refusal to suggest that he’s a shoo-in to coach Team Canada in the 2014 Olympics:
“There’s a couple years before those decisions are made,” Babcock said. “The players (and) the (NHL) have to figure out if they’re going and get an agreement (to allow NHL players to participate in 2014). Everything will happen in due time.”
Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest spoke to Grand Rapids Griffins coach Curt Fraser about Tomas Tatar’s maturation into a well-rounded player:
“He’s been terrific for us,” said Griffins head coach Curt Fraser. “He’s really taken a big role penalty-killing this year and he’s done an excellent job learning how to block shots, how to be better defensively, all these little things. He’s a really good offensive player, but he’s rounded out his game more.”
Tatar was drafted out of the Slovak ExtraLiga in the second round (60th overall) in 2009, drawing comparisons from the Red Wings to dynamic former NHLers Martin Straka and Zigmund Palffy. He turned pro immediately and had 32 points as an AHL rookie in 2009-10 and 57 as a sophomore last season. This season, he has 14 goals on a team-high 163 shots along with 25 assists and a plus-6 rating. The five-foot-10, 176-pound winger also has been working with power-skating coach Kim Muir in an effort to improve his skating stride and speed, something that — combined with his improved two-way awareness — could make a big difference in his bid for a roster spot at training camp next season.
“Tomas Tatar took this on himself,” Fraser said of working with Muir. “Hopefully by the end of the season, if he gets half a step quicker and stronger on his feet, then he’ll reap the rewards for next year.”
Tatar, part of the same draft class that produced Landon Ferraro, Mitchell Callahan, Nick Jensen and Adam Almqvist, still projects as a top-six forward. But playing a more complete game will help endear him to Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock and make it easier for him to gradually work his way up the lineup.
“Tommy Tatar is more of a top two-line player, so is Gus (Gustav Nyquist), but saying that, it’s important they develop their (defensive game) here so they can be used in (fourth-line) situations,” Fraser said. “But a couple of years from now? You could see Gus and Tatar up on those top two lines doing some good things offensively for the Wings.”
• I also found an article from the Notre Dame Observer’s Jack Heffron in which University of Notre Dame forward and Wings prospect Riley Sheahan talked about rounding out his game:
With a number of players that stand out to even the most seasoned hockey fan, Notre Dame is a team that definitely does not lack speed, size or excitement on the ice. Despite being one of the team’s most complete players and its only first-round NHL draft pick, junior center Riley Sheahan is not necessarily the one that garners the most attention.
Sheahan sits among the top four on the team in goals, assists, points and shots, but his most noticeable contributions may come on special teams. Irish coach Jeff Jackson relied heavily on the Ontario native this past weekend, double-shifting him whenever Notre Dame was shorthanded. Sheahan and his fellow penalty killers proved up to the challenge, allowing the Buckeyes just one goal on 10 powerplays. For Sheahan, it was the little things that made the difference shorthanded.
“One thing I like to take pride in is having a good stick,” he said. “Reading where the players are trying to pass the puck and getting my stick in that lane and deflecting it out of the zone, or deflecting it to one of my teammates so we can get a clear, and little things like knowing when to pressure and not to pressure are what I try to bring. I think we’ve got a good group of guys for penalty killing.”
In addition to playing a role in killing penalties, Sheahan is a key part of the Irish powerplay. His powerplay unit, featuring the physicality of sophomore left wing Jeff Costello and sophomore defenseman Stephen Johns, operates by shooting the puck and getting traffic in front of goal. As such, Sheahan leads the team in powerplay shots.
“Our unit, I think, has more of a grind it out and get pucks to the net and use our big bodies in front approach,” Sheahan said. “We’ve all got good shots out there.”
Sheahan does indeed have a solid shot, as he is among Notre Dame’s leaders in both powerplay and shorthanded goals. That scoring ability, combined with his defensive prowess and youth (at 20, Sheahan is younger than most of the team’s freshmen), inspired the Detroit Red Wings to take Sheahan with the 21st overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. But while professional scouts may see him as the total package, the young center said he still has places he needs to improve to break into the next level.
“I don’t see any NHL teams taking someone they think is going to be a one-sided player,” he said. “In today’s game, there’s so many skillful players around the league that you’ve got to have a strong two-way game. It’s something I take pride in, but I still have to work on my offensive game, and work on little things when it comes to scoring.”
Part V: Player ratings: Okay, now for the only part of this that makes me jittery, player grades. As usual, they’re based upon a simple grading system—Outstanding, Satisfactory or Needs Improvement—and they’re just the subjective observations of a fellow Red Wings fan. I’m gonna take a hard glance at the stat sheet and get to work:
#2 Brendan Smith: Satisfactory. You have to eat your words on a regular basis in this business, and I’m going to today by saying that Smith did get caught flat-footed more than once against the Flyers’ relentless forecheck. He played a very solid game overall, registering a shot, a giveaway and 2 blocked shots, as well as an assist, in 16:18 of ice time, but he was also on the ice for the Voracek wraparound, and I think this was a “plateau” game for a someone who’s still an NHL rookie. Good but not great.
#8 Justin Abdelkader: Satisfactory. Abdelkader had one shot, 5 total shot attempts, 4 hits, a takeaway and he went 6-and-3 in the faceoff circle. He wasn’t as physical as usual, but he actually went into traffic and mucked and ground out the puck—and his increasing offensive assertiveness while playing with Cleary and, on Monday night, Holmstrom, was good to see.
#11 Danny Cleary: Satisfactory. Cleary played a ton—16:03—and registered 2 shots and a blocked shot, but I think we all know that he more or less played because the Wings couldn’t recall anyone else. Did he display his usual work ethic, resolve and jam? Yup, but he also looked like somebody who’s been taking “maintenance days” lately. He was a little slower and a little less powerful than usual along the boards. It happens. Kudos to keeping on keeping on through pain.
#18 Ian White: Satisfactory. White had 4 shot attempts, a hit and a blocked shot, and played a massive 22:49. Again, his skating speed and positioning allow him to bail out his teammates, and he did a fine job looking like he’d been playing with Kyle Quincey forever, but he and Kronwall did get caught fumbling the puck on the shorthanded Giroux breakaway which Talbot deposited into the back of the Wings’ net.
#20 Drew Miller: Satisfactory. Miller finished at -1, had 2 shots, a hit and a takeaway in 15:31 of ice time, and again, he’s displaying remarkable offensive skills while playing alongside Helm and Franzen. Who knew Miller had the flash, dash and panache that he’s shown this season, or that he’d become a player who looks like he’s going to develop into a slightly bigger version of Danny Cleary? I love watching Miller work.
#23 Brad Stuart: Satisfactory. Stuart was a -2 while playing 20:56, he took 4 shot attempts, had a co-team-leading 4 hits, a giveaway, a blocked shot, and he worked his ass off. He and Kronwall were victimized by Carle’s seeing-eye pass to Giroux, but he was otherwise superbly solid coming off a difficult game on Sunday. I’ll take it.
#26 Jiri Hudler: Satisfactory. Hudler registered an assist, 3 shots and a giveaway while playing 17:40, and he didn’t get many “prime chances,” but he also went to the front of the net and he’s really the grease that allows Filppula and Zetterberg to deke and dangle by smartly finding positions where he can receive passes, retrieve rebounds and give the puck back to #51 and #40 as they loop and whirl.
#27 Kyle Quincey: Outstanding. First game that Quincey looked truly comfortable. He had an assist, finished at +2, had 2 shots, a total of 7 shot attempts, 2 blocked opponent shots and played 21:34, mostly alongside White, smartly knowing when to pinch, when to jump into the rush (see Zetterberg’s goal, where Quincey was the de-facto left winger) and he also knew when to back off and just play a simple defensive game. He knows how to get the puck out of trouble in his own zone, and while he wasn’t credited with any hits, he sure as hell made it hard on the Flyers’ forwards when he battled for the puck in scrums.
#37 Doug Janik: Satisfactory. Janik got caught big time on the Voracek wraparound, he finished at 1 in 13:51 and had 2 shot attempts, a hit and a blocked shot…And he fits in pretty well while playing alongside Smith, but he also reminds me of a player that the Wings faced and Johan Franzen chatted with in Andreas Lilja. When he gets the job done and is invisible, he’s a great asset. When he makes mistakes, he doesn’t have the offensive chops to make up for them.
#39 Jan Mursak: Satisfactory. Mursak only played 8:30 a, but he managed to fire 2 shots at Bryzgalov and he and Chris Conner gave Cory Emmerton tons of speed and jam to work with.
#40 Henrik Zetterberg: Outstanding. Zetterberg continues to lead the Wings with his play. He had a goal, 4 shots, 7 shot attempts, went 14-and-10 in the faceoff circle, played 19:50 and just roared up and down the ice while continuing to help Valtteri Filppula look like a superstar.
#41 Chris Conner: Satisfactory. I actually wasn’t too impressed with Conner despite his 2 shots and 2 hits in only 8:23 of play, but he did absolutely blitz the Flyers’ defense on the forecheck. He was getting his sea legs back, methinks.
#43 Darren Helm: Outstanding. Helm and Franzen are working together like peanut butter and jelly. He only played 14:54, but he registered 2 shots and 4 shot attempts, a hit, yes, two giveaways, but also a takeaway, and he went a remarkable 10-and-4 in the faceoff circle while essentially playing as the team’s second-line center and looking like he belongs in that role.
#48 Cory Emmerton: Satisfactory. Emmerton only played 9:11, but he had 3 shots, a blocked shots, went 3-and-1 in the faceoff circle and, again, despite the fact that he’s a step-and-a-half slower than his linemates, I really believe that he’s coming into his own as an excellent fourth line center worthy of a spot on the playoff roster.
#51 Valtteri Filppula: Outstanding. Filppula had an assist, 2 shots, 5 shot attempts in total, won 2 faceoffs, played 20:32 and skated miles and miles while avoiding injury in a nasty collision with Jaromir Jagr. When Filppula’s really flying, he reminds me of Sergei Fedorov because his legs are bent quite a bit when he plows up and down the ice, with his big thighs and lower-body strength allowing himself to rag the puck past and through opponents, usually with a defender leaning all over him. His drop pass to Zetterberg was nothing less than gorgeous.
#55 Niklas Kronwall: Outstanding. Yes, he finished at -2, but he took 3 shots, had a total of 8 shot attempts, 2 hits, a giveaway and a blocked shot while leading the team in ice time with 24:43 played, and he’s leading the team in a big way as Detroit’s #1 defenseman. He’s skating hard, hitting harder, making intelligent plays and just imbuing his teammates with all sorts of confidence whenever he hops over the boards.
#93 Johan Franzen: Outstanding. Franzen led the Wings with 7 shots, he had 10 attempts, 3 hits, 2 takeaways, a goal and played 18:24, finishing at a +1, and while he sleepwalked through the Wings’ first period, my goodness, did he shudder, shiver and wake from his slumber. He’s starting to get on a roll offensively and I loved watching him charge into traffic and stir the s*** by yapping at his opponents and pushing and shoving during scrums. More, please.
#96 Tomas Holmstrom: Satisfactory. Holmstrom had 2 shots and a hit in 15:15, and throughout the game, he and Hudler were the Wings’ most consistent net-front presences. Again, I’m impressed as all hell get out with his ability to skate up the ice and lug the puck through the neutral zone, or even come back to bail out his defensemen and get the puck out of trouble, on those 39-year-old knees. He works his ass off all the time.
#35 Joey MacDonald: Needs improvement. I hate to give him that assessment because he did keep the Wings in it when they were down by 2 goals, but he made a really awful mistake on the Voracek wraparound, he bit on the Giroux deke and he bumped out an ugly rebound on Talbot’s goal. He didn’t receive any help whatsoever on any of the three goals, but he didn’t bail out his teammates, either, and after displaying decent puckhandling on Sunday, he looked more like Rick Tabaracci, a back-up for Winnipeg and Washington in the mid 90’s who charged out to handle the puck with Marty Turco’s regularity, but coughed it up as often as Patrick Roy. Sometimes MacDonald needs to be tied to the net with a leash.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.