The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/17/12 at 08:07 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings took a very, very late flight to Dallas on Red Bird II after absolutely stomping on the Buffalo Sabres, defeating Buffalo 5-0 and establishing a record-setting 15-game home ice winning streak before jetting off to face the Stars tonight (:30 PM, FSD/FS Southwest/WXYT).
Usually, such an achievement would produce nothing less than elation from Red Wings fans, but there was almost a sense of…sympathy…for the struggling Sabres and goaltender Ryan Miller. Miller was left to his own devices by his defense a defense minus Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr), so there’s no reason to suggest that he did anything other than his absolute best despite giving up 5 goals in front of his friends, family and while playing against his brother Drew, but the Twitterverse exploded when the Sporting News’s Craig Custance posted a completely understandable utterance from Miller regarding his team’s future:
Ryan Miller on changes in Buffalo: “We’ve got to find it from in here. We can’t sit and wait for someone else to [expletive] do it.”
That talk kinda makes Wings fans feel all that more grateful about the fact that the Wings, who lead the Western Conference in wins but are a point behind the Central Division and conference-leading St. Louis Blues, insist that they’ve got more to give.
And I thought Miller was eloquent, but I’m also the son of a probation officer.
This is a Red Wings blog, not a Sabres blog, so we’re not going to pile on the Sabres or dissect their struggles too deeply, other than to note that NHL.com’s Brian Hedger reports that Sabres owner Terry Pegula took in the game, and that, per Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika, here’s what Miller had to say about potential trades and/or a coaching change:
“That’s not my decision. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in the locker room. If you guys really think there’s going to be any kind of trade made anywhere that’s going to affect this team any more than we can affect it in this locker room, you guys are just … I don’t know what to think, because there’s no such trade.
“There’s not ever going to be a trade in the history of the NHL that’s going to affect anything like that. There’s no chance anybody comes into this team and just shakes it up or we can even move multiple players and get any kind of return … If you want to just destroy a team and just go out and be reckless and do something, yeah.
“But then there’s going to be new guys in here, but other than that, this locker room’s going to be pretty much the same, if not completely the same, and we’ve got to find it from in here. [Points to chest] We can’t sit and wait for somebody else to f—king do it.”
In terms of the game itself, WGR 550’s Paul Hamilton pointed out that it wasn’t as if the Sabres didn’t have their chances on Jimmy Howard, who superbly pitched a 27-save shutout, but the Wings simply pounced on the Sabres’ mistakes and took them out of the game—fast:
You just can not turn the puck over against the Detroit Red Wings or you’re are going to leave the first period down 3-0.
Because of injury Jordan Leopold has to play and he’s -3 on the evening in the first 20 minutes. On the first goal, Leopold coughs up the puck on the LW wall to Jiri Hudler. He found Henrik Zetterberg in front who went high glove on Ryan Miller to score his first goal in 14 games.
Shots were 5-4 Detroit past the midway and then the Sabres put all sorts of pressure on Jimmy Howard.
On a power play Tyler Myers was stopped in the crease. Later, Derek Roy’s shot leads to a big rebound. Both Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville were both stopped. Drew Stafford took a shot from the LW wall that came in front to Ville Leino, but he couldn’t tee it up to tap it into the open net. Myers then put a perfect shot off the wall that went right in front to a wide open Stafford. He had most of the net and still hit Howard in the shoulder.
Then it was time to hand the Red Wings the game for good. Leopold makes a bad pinch, Pavel Datsyuk sends in Johan Franzen who’s behind Leopold and he has his 18th as Miller is unable to make a big save.
Just 1:32 later, Stafford collapses in front on Todd Bertuzzi leaving Nicklas Lidstrom to come in alone from the left point. He scoops up the rebound to put his 9th into an empty net.
That was the first period. After that, per Harrington:
Things did not get any better in the second as the Bertuzzi, Datsyuk, Franzen line continued to dominate. Bertuzzi recorded third point of the game when he scored at 4:19 to make it 4-0. Then just 13 seconds later, Ryan Miller’s brother Drew threw a nice backhand pass across the crease to Darren Helm who buried it to make the score 5-0. That would do it for Ryan Miller, who headed to the dressing room early and did not return to the bench.
Or, as the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell put it:
The Sabres might not be much good right now, but they were initially desperate enough to have the early territorial edge in play. But when things are going as badly as they have been for the Sabres, it seems every mistake ends up in your goal and Buffalo made too many of them. With Sabres goalie Ryan Miller unable to be the big eraser of defensive miscues he’s been in seasons past, that’s exactly what happened.
Just over five minutes into the game, Buffalo defenceman Jordan Leopold banged a clearance off Jiri Hudler’s shins and Henrik Zetterberg picked up the loose puck. Zetterberg curled into the slot before going high over Miller’s glove for his first goal since Dec. 17 (13 games).
With Buffalo mired in a long slump, Miller didn’t even spare his brother Drew Miller from his sour mood. He clipped the Wings’ forward with his blocker and stick as he skated across the front of the crease.
Miller’s mood couldn’t have improved much late in the period. After watching his teammates hem Detroit in for long periods only to have goalie Jimmy Howard shut the door, the Wings slammed two goals past Miller in opening frame’s final two minutes.
Pavel Datsyuk sent Johan Franzen away on a breakaway with a superb cross-ice backhand pass and the big winger blew it past Miller on the glove side at 18:11. Then, with 17 seconds left, Nick Lidstrom slipped down low to bang in Todd Bertuzzi’s rebound to make it 3-0.
Those goals seemed to break the will of the Sabres. They weren’t nearly as energetic to start the second and that was enough of an opening for the Wings to put the game beyond reach.
Did the Sabres talk about the game at all? Only a little bit, via the Buffalo News’s Mike Harrington...
Todd Bertuzzi and Pavel Datsyuk put together three-point games for the Red Wings and goaltender Jimmy Howard made 27 saves for his fourth shutout and league-leading 27th win of the season. Ryan Miller, meanwhile, gave up five goals on 14 shots and was yanked after Bertuzzi and Darren Helm scored 13 seconds apart early in the second period. That capped a rush of four Detroit goals in a 6:21 span covering the first two periods.
Not what Miller wanted in his home state while his family was in the stands watching him face his brother, Drew.
“It’s embarrassing,” Miller said. “I got family and friends here. Everybody came to watch Drew and I play. At least they got to watch Drew perform.”
The Sabres made their requisite number of turnovers and bad decisions, with defensemen Jordan Leopold and Mike Weber getting nailed with minus-4 ratings. Leopold overplayed a long Datsyuk pass, allowing Johan Franzen to score at 18:11 of the first period and give the Wings a 2-0 lead. Nicklas Lidstrom’s tap-in with 17 seconds left made it 3-0 in a period where each team had 11 shots on goal.
“It was a shot in the gut, the end of the first period,” said a terse Ruff, who had few explanations. “It’s not easy to stomach.”
And BuffaloSabres.com’s Kevin Snow, from Miller:
“We made a couple of mistakes, not a lot in the first. A couple, and they capitalized. That’s what happens. That’s how things can change … Details weren’t there. That’s what Detroit is better at than us right now. We have to strive to be at that level … It’s not good hockey. It’s not good from the top down. I need to be better. I just can’t seem to find a night where I can get into a groove. I just don’t know what the hell it is.”
Let’s also get Drew Miller’s comments about his brother’s performance out of the way now, as noted by the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy...
“I think a lot of people are looking at it that it’s his fault, that he’s the only one,” Drew said of his brother’s recent struggles. “But there’s a bigger picture there. There’s a lot of things that could be addressed (with the Sabres), but it’s not my team.”
Because as disappointed as Ruff was while speaking to NHL.com’s Hedger...
“It was a shot in the gut at the end of the first period,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “It’s not easy to stomach when you put that in. Those few minutes that we give up those opportunities … even the late one. Even if you come out (down) 2-0 you come out feeling better about yourself.”
The Red Wings accomplished something pretty amazing, and the man with NHL 36’s cameras on him refused to minimize his team’s accomplishment:
“It’s something special,” said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who scored a goal for the first time in nine games and finished with a plus-3 rating for the game. “The last time it was done was back in the mid-’60s, 1965, I believe. It’s a special record, especially with all the great teams that we’ve had here over the years, over the last two decades going back to the ‘90s when we had some great teams and the early 2000s, too. We had some solid teams. It’s a special moment to do this in the middle of the season.”
Evidently, they didn’t worry too much about the contrarian’s point of view.
“I think we’re being more aggressive (at home),” Lidstrom said. “I think we’re going after the puck a little bit more and going after other teams a little bit more, too. That’s been paying off for us. For whatever reason, we’ve been playing more relaxed here at home, too.”
Other than Lidstrom, however, the Wings tried to keep a pretty even keel, as noted by the Associated Press...
“We have to start thinking about Dallas,” Howard said after making 27 saves for his fifth shutout and NHL-high 27th victory. “We haven’t done as well as we want on the road.”
The Red Wings, who are 11-13 on the road, play at Dallas on Tuesday night and visit Phoenix before returning home to play Columbus on Saturday. Detroit, though, has been very tough to beat in Joe Louis Arena this season.
“We got booed sometimes last season here and that was pretty embarrassing,” Red Wings forward Drew Miller said. “We’ve really made playing at home better one of our goals this season and so far, so good.”
Zetterberg scored the first of Detroit’s three goals in the opening period, Todd Bertuzzi had a goal and two assists and Pavel Datsyuk set up three straight scores to give him 700 career points.
“It’s tough playing catch-up hockey in this league,” Howard said.
Babcock wasn’t even particularly impressed with his team’s performance, suggesting that the 5-0 shellacking had more to do with the Sabres playing sloppily than his team offering anything more than an opportunistic display of skill which perhaps covered up the Wings’ own mistakes and a night where Jimmy Howard had to work much harder than he should have for his shutout:
“It had to be deflating for them because we hadn’t done much,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Um, “Yay us?” Anybody? Not necessarily, as the Macomb Daily’s George Pohly noted:
“I like the points, because you need them,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said after Detroit, which is fifth in the Western Conference, raised its record to 29-15-1 and its point total to 59. “You always like to have records,” Babcock said. “But the bottom line is you’ve got to win games. You’ve got to find a way to get in the playoffs, because there are going to be eight very good teams get in the (Western Conference) playoffs. It’s nice to have the record,” Babcock continued, “but we’ve got to play (at) Dallas (Tuesday).”
The Wings were more than willing to talk up Pavel Datsyuk’s performance, however…
Datsyuk assisted on three consecutive goals, by Franzen, Lidstrom and Bertuzzi, as the Red Wings’ lead grew to 4-0 against the Sabres, who have won only three of their last 11 games, are in fourth place in the Northeast Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference. Datsyuk has 700 points in 706 career games. The Russian leads the Red Wings with 36 assists for the season.
“He’s an incredible, incredible player,” Babcock said. “He continues to be a dominant player on the offensive end.”
Lidstrom agreed while discussing Datsyuk’s no-look, only-hear pass to Johan Franzen, as Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji noted:
“Just his vision,” Lidstrom said, marveling. “He knows before he gets that pass that Mule is taking off far side. The way he got the pass and got it on his backhand and threw it right away, not many players can make that play that quick and get it off that accurate, too.”
Datsyuk claimed Franzen called for the puck.
“Looked like he stole something, I just throw to him,” Datsyuk said. “He handled it himself.”
Todd Bertuzzi, who also had a three-point night, got a pass from Datsyuk after he stole it behind the Sabres net. Bertuzzi made a nifty spin move and scored for the fourth goal of the game. Datsyuk also assisted on the third goal, scored by Lidstrom. The three assists gave Datsyuk 700 career points.
“I’m really happy for 700,” Datsyuk said. “I was never thinking about it before, making any milestone. It’s hard but I appreciate chance to play with good players.”
“Since I’ve been here Pav’s always been able to do that,” Babcock said. “His commitment to the other side of the game, he’s gotten better and better and better. To me, that’s put him into the upper echelon of players in the league. He’s the best two-way player in hockey, bar none.”
Cue the minimization of a remarkable accomplishment, “Magic Man”:
“It’s good how we play at home but we need to play the same way on the road, a little bit struggled,” Datsyuk said. “But every game is better and better. Now it’s test, two games on road.”
Really? Anything, guys? Okay, maybe a little bit of talking about the competitive advantage that is the aging rink that is the 33-year-old Joe Louis Arena, regardless of the fact that half the rink’s fans left before the Wings actually sealed the deal. Drew Miller suggested that the Joe remains a place that opposing teams don’t like to visit (great ice and middling visitor’s locker room included):
“I think it’s just the history of the arena,” Miller said. “Teams come in here and know the Red Wings are a good team. If they walk down the hallway, they see the names of the Stanley Cup winners in the hallways. It’s a pretty intimidating rink.”
That it is. The Wings have won 11 Stanley Cups, and they aren’t shy about letting visitors know it. Written on the cinder-block walls that trace the path to the locker rooms are the names of all the championship teams. In the rafters, there are enough Stanley Cup, conference and division banners to clog a Laundromat for weeks. And the team isn’t bad, either.
Even with all that staunch history scattered throughout the building, no Wings team over the previous 85 seasons had done what the Wings did Monday night. In fact, no NHL team in 36 years has done this, either. The 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers tied the 1929-30 Boston Bruins’ league record of 20 straight home wins in a season, and the Wings can equal that mark Feb. 12 against the Flyers.
“You want to play well in front of your home fans, and you want to get through a record as good as possible, and taking care of the home ice is very important,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Now we know going on the road we have to get some wins on the road as well, but it’s always important to play well in front of your home fans.”
The Wings made that much clear when they raced to a 3-0 lead with first-period goals from Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Lidstrom.
“We gave ourselves a cushion going into the first intermission,” Lidstrom said, “and after that I thought we just played more relaxed and got another couple of goals to kind of give us another cushion.”
Again, as Monarrez noted, the Wings almost seemed relieved that, this time around, nobody’s booing them at home anymore:
The streak is the NHL’s longest at home in a season since the 1975-76 Flyers tied the 1929-30 Bruins’ NHL record of 20 straight home wins.
“It’s pretty cool,” forward Drew Miller said. “We’ve been pretty good here, and it’s a little different than last season, when we were a little better on the road and not as good at home. It’s good for our fans. ... It’s fun to get the record here for them.”
Monarrez also points out that the Wings aren’t the winningest team at home this year, and there’s a reason for that—they haven’t played enough home games yet, and they’re going on the road to play Dallas tonight and Phoenix on Thursday (and the Wings are 2 games below .500 on the road).
And the Wings’ power play? It still, erm, stinks. I believe it’s gone something like 2-for-30 or something close to it over the last 10-or-so games…
EVEN STEVEN: The Wings entered with the NHL’s fifth-best power play at home. But, incredibly, they scored all their goals at even strength and went 0-for-4 on the power play.
The Wings’ modicum of appreciation for their accomplishment continued as they spoke to MLive’s Ansar Khan…
“It’s pretty cool,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “I didn’t know we were going to accomplish anything like that until the other day. It’s great to be a part of.”
Howard, who has been in net for all 15 wins and leads the league with 27 victories, made 27 saves for his fifth shutout of the season and 10th of his career. The Red Wings led 3-0 after the first period and 5-0 less than five minutes into the second.
Pavel Datsyuk had three assists, giving him 700 career points. He is the eighth Red Wings player to reach that plateau, doing it in 706 games. His linemates also flourished. Todd Bertuzzi had a goal and two assists and Johan Franzen scored a goal.
The Red Wings have regained the aura of invincibility at home, something they lacked in 2010-11, when they were better on the road (26-11-4) than at The Joe (21-14-6).
“I think we’re being more aggressive, we’re going after the puck a little bit more and going after other teams,” Lidstrom said. “For whatever reason, we’ve been playing more relaxed at home. We talk about trying to get a lot of shots and let the goalies work for it.”
The Wings tended to agree with their coach regarding their performance, suggesting that their three-goal first period and Nicklas Lidstrom’s goal with 18 seconds left in the first period in particular helped them overcome themselves to some extent:
Said Datsyuk: “It was a little bit easy for us.”
“You could see it on their bench,” Howard said. “It’s always tough giving up goals late in a period. The wind just came out of their sails.”
So you’ve gotta pounce on your opponent when you can, as Drew Miller told Michigan Hockey’s Michael Caples...
“That’s our plan every game against any team – we want to get on them quick and start playing our game,” Drew Miller said after the game when asked about his brother’s performance. “It’s unfortunate that he got pulled, and I don’t think it was all his fault, I think a couple of those goals you had no chance, and some of them, you know Franzen coming in on the Wing and putting it in a small hole, it’s a tough shot to stop. He’ll bounce back, and move forward from here.”
And then, as the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy noted, the Wings literally and figuratively moved on:
The only real excitement that appeared to emanate from the team’s locker room was the relentless loading of red bags on carts by head equipment manager Paul Boyer and his staff.
Nobody appeared eager to bask in the glory of the NHL’s first 15-game home winning streak since 1976. The streak also sets a franchise record. After all, the Red Wings do face the Stars tonight in Dallas.
“I like the points,” Mike Babcock said of the win. “You need ‘em, and if you don’t get ‘em you’re not going anywhere in the standings. You always like records and stuff like that, but the bottom line is we have another game.”
“We’re playing our system strong,” Miller said. “It’s up to us to move forward from here.”
And what did the Wings have to say in Swedish? Nicklas Lidstrom more or less reiterated his comments to Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom, taking the most pride in his +3 on the night, and Henrik Zetterberg told Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman that when one keeps shooting, goals do go in, but again, he wants the Wings to play better on the road, particularly defensively.
“It would be nice if we could [take this on the road], definitely. We’ve been too easy to score on away from home, and we have to fix it. But if we get it [fixed] we’ll be doing really well,” says Zetterberg.
However, as Nicklas Lidstrom told Waddell:
``It’s something special,’’ Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. ``The last time it was done was back in the mid-‘60s. It’s a special record, especially with all the great teams that we’ve had here over the years.’‘
Highlights: TSN posted a 1:05 highlight clip;
And the Red Wings’ website posted a clip narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Post-game: TSN’s post-game show talked about Ryan Miller, not the Wings;
WGR 550 posted audio clips from Brad Boyes…
Ryan Miller, f-bomb bleeped…
And Sabres coach Lindy Ruff:
Fox Sports Detroit posted Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s takes on the game…
As well as post-game comments from Jimmy Howard, Drew Miller and coach Mike Babcock:
The Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell posted a YouTube-formatted video of Drew Miller’s post-game comments…
The Macomb Daily’s George Pohly posted a clip of Nicklas Lidstrom discussing the Wings’ record…
As well as a clip of Wings coach Mike Babcock’s post-game comments…
And the Red Wings’ website posted a clip of Pavel Datsyuk, Jimmy Howard and Mike Babcock talking about the game:
Photos: The Detroit News posted an 18-image gallery;
The Free Press posted a 28-image gallery;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 6-image gallery;
The Windsor Star posted an 8-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 6-image gallery;
Shots 27-26 Buffalo overall. The Wings and Sabres tied each other 11-11 in shots in the 1st period, the Wings out-shot Buffalo 8-7 in the 2nd and were out-shot 9-7 in the 3rd period.
The Wings went 0 for 4 in 6:22 of PP time; the Sabres went 0 for 3 in 4:22 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 27 shots; Ryan Miller stopped 5 of 14 shots; Jhonas Enroth stopped 12 of 12 shots.
The 3 stars, per Michigan Talk Radio’s Rich Kincaide, were Jimmy Howard, Todd Bertuzzi and Pavel Datsyuk.
The Wings’ goals: Zetterberg (9) from Hudler (16);
Franzen (18) from Datsyuk (34) and Bertuzzi (13);
Lidstrom (9) from Bertuzzi (14) and Datsyuk (35);
Bertuzzi (9) from Datsyuk (36, Datsyuk’s 700th NHL point);
Helm (5) from Miller (8) and Cleary (11).
Faceoffs 34-27 Detroit (Detroit won 56%);
Blocked shots 13-6 Buffalo;
Missed shots 7-5 Detroit (total attempts 46-38 Detroit);
Hits 25-22 Buffalo;
Giveaways 9-7 Detroit;
Takeaways 7-2 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 12-and-5 (71%); Helm went 7-and-10 (41%); Zetterberg went 10-and-4 (71%); Abdelkader went 5-and-5 (50%); Cleary, Bertuzzi and Emmerton all lost the only faceoffs they took.
Shots: Bertuzzi and Franzen co-led the team with 4 shots apiece; Helm had 3; Kindl, Lidstrom, Cleary, White, Kronwall and Holmstrom had 2; Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Zetterberg had 1.
Blocked attempts: Kindl, Zetterberg and Franzen had 2 attempts blocked; Abdelkader, Stuart, Hudler, Helm, Emmerton, Ericsson and Kronwall had single attempts blocked.
Missed shots: Hudler missed the net 2 times; Datsyuk, Miller, Stuart, Zetterberg and Ericsson missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Ericsson led the Wings with 6 hits; Stuart and Kronwall had 3; White and Helm had 2; Kindl, Abdelkader, Cleary, Miller, Bertuzzi and Emmerton had 1.
Giveaways: Holmstrom had 2 giveaways; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Cleary, Hudler, Bertuzzi, Franzen and Howard had 1.
Takeaways: It’s okay for Homer because he led the team with 2 takeaways; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Miller, Filppula and Franzen had 1.
Blocked shots: Stuart and Kronwall blocked 2 shots; Kindl and Emmerton blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Cleary took a double minor; Kindl and Kronwall took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a remarkable collective +25. Lidstrom, Datsyuk, White, Bertuzzi and Franzen finished at +3; Kindl, Cleary, Miller, Stuart, Hudler, Zetterberg, Helm, Filppula, Ericsson and Kronwall finished at +1.
Points: Bertuzzi had a goal and 2 assists for 3 points; Datsyuk had 3 assists; Franzen, Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Helm and Franzen had goals; Cleary, Miller and Hudler had assists.
Ice time: Stuart led the team with 21:58 played; Kronwall played 20:27; White played 20:17;
Ericsson played 18:58; Lidstrom played 18:32; Kindl played 18:27;
Zetterberg played 17:40; Filppula played 17:27; Miller played 17:15;
Helm played 16:41; Hudler played 16:16; Cleary played 14:43;
Bertuzzi played 14:11; Franzen played 13:04; Datsyuk played 13:03;
Abdelkader played 12:23; Holmstrom played 12:13; Emmerton played 10:39.
Part II: Red Wings notebooks: Ryan Miller tossed off a lovely compliment regarding his brother’s evolution into an every-night player, as the Buffalo News’s Mike Harrington noted:
Drew Miller, in his third year as a regular with the Red Wings, is likely going to set career highs in every offensive category. He entered Monday with seven goals and 14 points. His best totals are 10 goals each of the last two years and 19 points in 2009-10.
“I’ve very proud of him,” said Ryan Miller. “I think this is a great situation for him, other than it’s close to him. The teams he was with before [Anaheim and Tampa Bay] had him in a limited role, but he’s got skills.”
“He’s earned his way in the lineup, earned his way as a regular, and he’s been good for us,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock. “He plays hard, he’s physical and when he’s strong on the puck he’s effective. He’s a good penalty killer, has a good hockey mind. We just keep after him to be as physical as he can be.”
• I still think that the NHL needs to give Tomas Holmstrom the “NHL 36” treatment, but in the interim, Nicklas Lidstrom’s got a camera crew following him until the Wings depart Dallas and head to Phoenix tomorrow night, and MLive’s Ansar Khan points out that this scenario isn’t exactly something that one would assume Lidstrom would enjoy.
In terms of his personality, the Red Wings’ captain isn’t exactly 5-gallon tub of generic brand vanilla ice cream, but he’s definitely vanilla bean, and we like him that way. Lidstrom did what someone who once wanted to be an engineer would be expected to do when the NHL comes calling—research:
“I had to think about it for a little bit, get the details of what to expect and what they were looking for and what they wanted,” Lidstrom said. “But the team encouraged me, the NHLPA encouraged me as well. I think it’s good for hockey, so I was willing to do it.”
The film crew was at Joe Louis Arena on Monday morning, getting footage of Lidstrom in a team meeting, working out and preparing for the game. It will follow him to Dallas tonight for more behind-the-scenes footage, at the rink and away from it. In all, the crew will film Lidstrom for 36 consecutive hours.
“It’s different having someone follow you the whole time no matter what you do, whether you’re in here, or like today when I rode a bike instead of going on the ice,” Lidstrom said. “I did some stretching and we had our meeting, so it’s just a matter of getting used to it.”
The episode will air 6:30 p.m. Jan. 25 on the NBC Sports Network, prior to its coverage of the Red Wings game at Montreal. It will be shown multiple times over the following 10 days.
And otherwise, Justin Abdelkader and Cory Emmerton either said something or they didn’t. I think that what the Free Press’s Mike Bruendell captured sounds suspiciously like a press release (who the hell calls him Nicklas?):
“I think it is exciting for the fans to follow a future Hall of Famer like Nicklas,” said Abdelkader, 24. “It will be cool for his fans and neat for everyone to look back on. It makes a lot of sense for them to pick someone like Nicklas Lidstrom for this.”
“I’ll be interested in watching ... for other people to see Nicklas—because not everyone gets to see him all the time—as a standup guy, a great human being,” said Emmerton, 23. “It will be a real nice setting for fans to see that. It will be a confirmation on video of what he is.”
Husband. Father to four sons, three of whom remain in the U.S. (Kevin’s still attending a hockey school in Vasteras). Hockey player. Tomas Holmstrom’s carpool partner. Captain of the Detroit Red Wings. One of the best defensemen ever. Tennis fan. Tends to stick to simple black as his wardrobe. Drives a Bentley Continental. Lives in a really, really nice house in Novi. Speaks Swedish at home. Very rarely appears shirtless in Swedish fitness magazines.
“They didn’t wake me up, but they were there right after we had some breakfast,” Lidstrom said with a smile. “You still have some privacy, but they get to see what I do on a regular day—on a game day, for example, like today, with the kids and taking them to school, doing my routine here, going home for a rest, before the kids come home from school and I say ‘hi’ and ‘good-bye’ before I leave for the arena. I think it is good for fans to get a chance to see that if they want. It’ll be a quick and fun couple days.”
• The Wings were willing to candidly and openly gush about Pavel Datsyuk’s play. As DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose noted, Datsyuk did indeed have a very slow and cold start to the season, but Datsyuk now leads the team with 49 points in 44 games, and he’s probably going to post 90 (if Henrik Zetterberg keeps posting points at his current pace, he’ll hit 65-70, which is fine for a guy who started even slower than Datsyuk and is still trying to find the right recipe for his Warrior sticks after using Easton for the vast majority of his NHL career). Surprised? No way:
“Sometimes you go through slumps and you work your way through them and he’s been doing that,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He’s always been one of the hardest workers on our team. You look at takeaways, he’s always one of the tops in the league and that’s just hard work. So he’s always working hard but it’s great to see him make a pass like today, for an example, when he passed that backhand across ice to Mule before he scored. He’s able to make those plays and he’s working real hard to earn them, too”
The three-point performance Monday gives Datsyuk 700 points in his illustrious NHL career, making him the eighth Wings’ player to reach the milestone, joining Gordie Howe (1,809), Steve Yzerman (1,755), Alex Delvecchio (1,281), Nicklas Lidstrom (1,132), Sergei Fedorov (954), Norm Ullman (758) and Ted Lindsay (728). It’s easy to take what Datsyuk has meant to the Wings’ organization for granted. But in nine-plus seasons, he now has 195 multi-point games, which covers 27.5 percent of his 706 career games. And since snapping his slow start slump, Datsyuk has 11 goals and 28 assists in the last 28 games for a 1.39 points per game average.
“I’m really happy for 700,” Datsyuk said. “I was never thinking about it before, making any milestone. It’s hard but I appreciate chance to play with good players.”
Datsyuk had assists on three consecutive goals that gave the Wings a 4-0 lead. Thirteen seconds after building the four-goal cushion, Darren Helm scored goal No. 5 that chased the Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller from the game at 4:32 of the second period.
Datsyuk’s first assist was reminiscent of his pretty set-up pass that he made to Todd Bertuzzi in the 3-2 overtime win against Chicago on Saturday. This time, Datsyuk spotted Johan Franzen who was streaking through the neutral zone. Datsyuk then delivered a beautiful backhanded tape-to-tape stretch pass that went cross-ice to Franzen, who cruised in alone before snapping shot that beat Miller high to the stick-side at 18:11.
“He heard me,” said Datsyuk, of his linemate. “Looked like he stole something, I just throw to him. He handled it himself.”
Quoth the Wings’ coach to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“He’s the best two-way player in hockey, bar none,” Babcock said. “That’s because of his commitment without the puck and his faceoffs and his strength and his battle level and all the intangible things he has beside his skill set and his vision. Those things are God-gifted, the other stuff he’s earned.”
“I’m really happy for 700,” Datsyuk said. “I was never thinking about it before, making any milestone. It’s hard, but I appreciate chance to play with good players.”
He credited his linemates, big wingers Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi.
“They help me a lot,” Datsyuk said. “They take care of me, play well and help me on defense and play great in offensive zone, just grind, grind.”
Datsyuk certainly has helped them. He made a great backhand pass to spring Franzen free for a breakaway goal on Monday.
“He knows before he gets that pass that Mule is taking off far side,” Lidstrom said. “The way he got the pass and got it on his backhand and threw it right away, not many players can make that play that quick and get it off that accurate, too. It never gets old, the moves he’s making or the passes he’s making. We’ve seen it for years now. It’s great to see it pay off for him because he is working hard for them.”
The Detroit News’s John Niyo wrote an awesome article about Datsyuk, and here’s part of it (you’ll have to read the rest of it on your own):
“I’m so used to it now,” Franzen said, talking about Datsyuk’s still-underrated brilliance on the ice. “That’s kind of a bad thing, actually, that you are. Because you should appreciate it more.”
We all should, frankly. A full decade after his NHL debut, Datsyuk, who with Monday’s three-assist night became just the eighth Detroit player to reach 700 points for his career, remains arguably the most overlooked star not just in his own league, but also in our own collection of local sports celebrities.
Monday morning, I asked Wings general manager Ken Holland if he thought Datsyuk would ever get his just due as a player, and he answered rather quickly, “Probably not.” The reasons are many, Holland agreed, and they range from the embarrassing — he’s a Russian-born player in a North American league — to the understandable. Datsyuk, who began his NHL career playing on a Stanley Cup-winning team loaded with future Hall of Famers, came in with about as little fanfare as one could imagine.
“He wasn’t a guy that just showed up on the scene at 19 or 20 with all this hype,” Holland said of the 171st overall selection in the 1998 NHL entry draft. “He became a star probably when he was 28 or 29 years old.”
He’s 33 now, though, and still not viewed for the star he is. Blame the four consecutive Lady Byng trophies he won, if you want. Or Datsyuk’s quietly-disarming — and hilariously charming — off-ice personality. (He actually quoted “Forrest Gump” after Monday’s game.) But the fact that Datsyuk, a three-time winner of the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward, has been a finalist for the Hart Trophy just once (in 2009) is a bit of an oversight.
And at the rate he’s going this season, it’d be more of the same — or the same, only worse — if he’s not a Hart finalist this season. Datsyuk has 11 goals and 28 assists in his last 28 games, dating back to mid-November when he’d described his own slow start to the season as “awful.” After Monday’s sublime performance, he’s just a few points behind Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin for the NHL scoring lead, not to mention a healthy plus-20 for the season. As Holland likes to say, he’s a 90-point player in the offensive zone, and a 100-point player in the defensive zone.
“I think that’s what separates him from a lot of players,” the GM said.
Franzen tells Niyo that Datsyuk could definitely post 40 goals and a hundred points if he wished to—there’s no doubt about that—and that Datsyuk hates it when his wingers yell for the puck because, well, Datsyuk knows where they are.
I’ll go a step further here: I think that if Datsyuk, who’s 33 now, can play until he’s 40, he might not captain the Wings one day (it’s not just that he and Tomas Holmstrom are in-progress language-learners; it’s that Datsyuk would probably prefer to toss off one-liners with that Canada Dry sense of humor as opposed to discussing the game in a serious manner), but regardless of whether Zetterberg or Kronwall eventually dons the “C,” I think that it’s entirely possible, if not probable, that Datsyuk will be the last player to wear #13 for Detroit.
Part III: Red Wings-Stars set-up: The Red Wings didn’t land in Dallas until 1:23 AM CST, so I’m guessing that they’re not going to hold a full-team morning skate, but the Stars’ PR department reports that Dallas won’t, either. The Stars headed home after dropping a 1-0 decision to the St. Louis Blues despite a 31-save performance from Kari Lehtonen (Richard Bachman will oppose Ty Conklin tonight).
The Stars have 49 points, ten less than the Wings, but they sit only two points out of eighth place, and since the Wings’ 5-4 win on January 2nd, the Stars have gone 3-and-3, and there’s a reason for that:
The Stars lost Mike Ribeiro (who’s fourth on the team in scoring with 31 points) on January 7th, and Jamie Benn (who has a team-leading 43 points, well, I’ll let the Dallas News’s Mike Heika let you know what’s going on with Benn:
Just talked to Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk in the pressbox here, and he said that Jamie Benn was released from the hospital today after a Sunday appendectomy, and that everything went as well as possible. Nieuwendyk said he was told the operation was very clean, so the Stars are hoping for the best.
When asked if there’s a chance Benn might play in the All-Star Game Jan. 29 in Ottawa, Nieuwendyk said: ``Yeah, I think that’s definitely a possibility. I talked to (Brendan Shanahan) and I think the NHL will allow us a little more time to see. But, yeah, I think today was definitely encouraging in that regard.’‘
Nieuwendyk said that after placing Mike Ribeiro (knee) on IR Monday, the Stars will look to see what options there are for Tuesday against Detroit in regards to calling up an extra forward. He said that Matt Fraser is battling flu with the Texas Stars, but that Tomas Vincour (who has missed 14 games with a knee injury) might be ready to go on Tuesday. Vincour has not practiced with the team, but could still jump in if the team needs him, Nieuwendyk said.
The Stars were actually quite happy with their play against St. Louis, as they told DallasStars.com’s Bob Matuszak...
Missing leading scorer Jamie Benn for the first time since he underwent an appendectomy over the weekend, and without Mike Ribeiro once again because of a lower-body injury, the Stars went toe-to-toe with surging St. Louis before T.J. Oshie solved Kari Lehtonen in minute 52 to give the Blues a 1-0 win on Monday night at Scottrade Center and before a national cable TV audience. The Stars may not have had four regulars, but they hung tough with a Blues team that tied the New York Rangers for the most points (60) in the NHL with their league-leading 19th win at home. Dallas (24-19-1) lost its second straight, and third in the last four games overall.
“We got into position to have some success,” coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We got it into a next goal wins game, but it just wasn’t us that got it. Otherwise, we battled hard.”
Lehtonen was magnificent throughout the gritty game that featured 42 combined hits (19 for Dallas). He finished with 31 saves, and gave the Stars every chance to secure a victory. The problem was on the other end of the ice, where St. Louis’ Jaroslav Halak was equally as tough to penetrate.
“We knew it was going to be a tight game against this team,” Lehtonen said. “Going to the third period we felt pretty good about our game. They just kind of took it to the next level and were able to get the one goal that was enough.”
With Benn out, Gulutzan was forced to juggle his lines. He moved leading goal scorer Michael Ryder next to Vernon Fiddler and Eric Nystrom, and put Steve Ott alongside Adam Burish and Radek Dvorak. The new triumvirates showed instant chemistry, as the Stars were able to combat St. Louis’ quick-strike home attack with a tenacious forecheck coupled with smart puck movement.
“I thought we were pretty good,” Burish said. “Going in, we talked about just playing a simple game, nobody trying to do too much and everybody just trying to pull their end. I think we did that. A 0-0 game is the type of game we wanted to play. We were one shot away. Those are the types of games going forward here with the types of injuries we have and what we’re going through, that’s how we have to play. Overall, I think we can be positive about it.”
As well as ESPN Dallas’s Richard Durrett...
“When you’re missing a couple of good players, you have to work hard, try to eliminate penalties and try to score a couple goals,” Lehtonen said. “Everything else was great except the outcome. We didn’t get the points.”
With Benn and Ribeiro out, Gulutzan had to rework his forward line combinations for the game. The Stars ended up with 22 shots on goal against the Blues, one of the top defensive teams in the league.
“I liked the work ethic,” Gulutzan said. “We didn’t create a whole ton, but we worked hard and, for the most part, we were fairly stingy.”
Who reports that the Stars iced the following lineup:
The Dallas News previews tonight’s game as follows...
Key matchup: Tom Wandell vs. Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg, pick your poison. With Mike Ribeiro and Jamie Benn out, the Stars will tackle the Wings’ legendary centers with Wandell, Adam Burish, Vernon Fiddler and Jake Dowell.
Key stat: 11-13-0 Detroit’s road record, quite a drop from its league-best 18-2-1 home mark. The Wings average 2.54 goals on the road and allow 2.79.
Dallas [injuries]: C Jamie Benn (appendectomy). C Mike Ribeiro (knee), D Philip Larsen (concussion-like symptoms) and RW Tomas Vincour (knee) are out.
Notable: Richard Bachman is scheduled to start in goal for Dallas. He is 6-2-0 with a 2.56 GAA and .917 save percentage. ... Jimmy Howard started for Detroit on Monday, so Ty Conklin could start against the Stars. He is 2-5-0 with a 3.28 GAA and .888 save percentage. ... Detroit RW Tomas Holmstrom has nine goals, all on the power play. ... The Wings have beaten the Stars twice this season—5-2 on Nov. 12 in Detroit and 5-4 on Jan. 3 in Dallas.
Here’s the Stars’ PR website’s preview...
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH:
1. The Dallas Stars meet for their third of four contests against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday holding a 0-2-0 record in the season series. After winning seven of eight games against Detroit, the Stars have lost three of their last four contests against them.
3. Tuesday’s game features three of the top-five highest goal scoring, Swedish-born hockey players since the start of the 2008-09 season. Eriksson is second with 108 goals, while Johan Franzen (DET) is third with 89 goals. Henrik Zetterberg (DET) is tied for fourth with 86 goals.
5. Dallas has not won a game this season on the second night of a back-to-back. The Stars have an overall record of 3-8-1 in back-to-back games with a 3-2-1 record on the first day and a 0-6-0 record on the second day. The Stars are looking for their first win on the second night of a back-to-back since April 8, 2011, when they defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in Denver.
WHO TO WATCH: LOUI ERIKSSON has recorded at least one point in eight consecutive games against the Detroit Red Wings (6-6-12) and in 12 of his last 13 games against them overall (9-7-16). His four penalty minutes this season are the fewest among the top-50 of NHL scorers.
TREVOR DALEY’s nine career assists against Detroit are the most he has against any NHL club.
NHL.com’s Brian Compton offers the following preview…
Red Wings [team scope]: [Jimmy] Howard—arguably the most underrated goaltender in the League—is on pace for a record season. He’s on pace to win 53 games, which would shatter the record set by New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, wh
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