The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/14/12 at 03:40 PM ET
As we wait for news from the Red Wings’ morning skate ahead of tonight’s game against the Ducks (10 PM EDT, FSD/FS West/97.1 FM), some off-day chatter merits noting:
• As previously mentioned, the Hockey News’s poll of 150 NHL’ers yielded 3 Wings players listed among the top 50 in the NHL: Henrik Zetterberg was named the 20th-best player, Nicklas Lidstrom was named the 7th-best player and best defenseman, and as the Hockey News reveals today, the players believe that Pavel Datsyuk is the second-best player in the NHL, behind Sidney Crosby:
2. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings: Born July 20, 1978 in Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg), Russia. Drafted in the sixth round (171st overall) by Detroit in 1998. Earned Olympic bronze with Russia in 2002. Finished with plus-41 rating in 2007-08 to lead the league. Awarded the Selke Trophy 2008, 2009 and 2010. Awarded the Lady Byng Trophy in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Scored six points in 21 post-season games en route to 2002 Stanley Cup championship and 23 points in 22 games en route to 2008 Stanley Cup championship with Detroit. Signed through 2013-14 with $6.7 million cap hit.
That’s fine and dandy, but here’s what the Hockey News’s article had to say about Datsyuk, who was featured in a story by Ken Campbell (ask me to transcribe that in a few days and I will):
#2 Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings, C: When you talk to Datsyuk, chances are that he’ll have you doubled over with laughter. He’ll surprise you that way, the same way a slight, 5-foot-11 guy can be the best two-way player in the NHL. With a sense of conviction that matches his sublime skill level, Datsyuk has made a career of pouncing on pucks and not giving them up, winning faceoffs and being a demon defensively.
And then there are the goals—the beautiful, highlight-reel, did-you-see-what-he-just-did goals. “He pulls something out every night that you’re not expecting,” said St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott, “and you didn’t expect to see it at all.”
30: Shootout goals for Datsyuk, tied for the all-time lead.
And here’s what THN said about Zetterberg and Lidstrom:
#20 Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings, C: Think of how great Henrik Zetterberg could be if he could shoot. That’s a bit harsh, but you get the idea. He’s no Shea Weber. Heck, when it comes to shooting, he might not be as accurate as Nashville’s play-by-play guy, Pete Weber.
But Zetterberg more than makes up for it by being an excellent playmaker with great hands and an ability to find open space. He can play center or wing and his hockey sense is among the best in the league. And he just might have the NHL’s best beard. “A lot of people would agree that Datsyuk is the best player in the league right now,” [St. Louis Blues goalie Brian] Elliott said. “And Zetterberg isn’t that far behind.”
100: Zetterberg’s career playoff point total if he gets one point this spring.
7. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings, D: When Lidstrom eventually retires, he’ll do so as a future Hall-of-Famer, (arguably) the second-greatest defenseman of all-time and 9arguably) the second greatest Red Wings of all time. Discuss among yourselves.
But no one will ever match Lidstrom’s sustained excellence. His superior intellect, skill and deadly accurate shooting and passing have been on display for 20 seasons and counting…We hope. He plays almost every game, plays a ton and does it all at a sublime level. As fellow Swedish D-man Erik Karlsson said: “Every game he seems to do the same things over and over again and it seems to be working over and over again.”
And Wings coach Mike Babcock speaking about the Wings’ loss, sometime after I went to bed at 7 AM:
—The power play continues to fail the Wings. It is sapping their momentum, costing them games and causing them to slip further in the Central Division race. Detroit couldn’t score on four power-play opportunities in Tuesday’s 5-2 to Los Angeles. The Wings have gone a season-high six games without a power-play goal, failing to convert on 25 consecutive chances dating back to Feb. 27. They’re not getting clean entries into the zone, which is reducing their shot total.
—Gustav Nyquist is the most highly skilled forward prospect the Wings have had in several years. He is a creative player who can hold onto the puck and make plays. Teammates are encouraging him to shoot more and develop into a scoring threat, rather than just a playmaker. Nyquist had an assist in each of the previous two games, since being recalled from Grand Rapids (AHL). He realizes the need to shoot more (he has six shots in eight games with Detroit).
QUOTE TO NOTE
“I didn’t think we played hard enough. I thought they had a simple plan, getting the puck in, getting on the forecheck and grinding. I didn’t think we had enough resistance. The other team can’t win all the battles and all the races.”—Wings coach Mike Babcock.
BURNSIDE: The Wings’ road woes continued, as they were beaten by the Kings. It wasn’t a good day for GM Ken Holland, who wasn’t pleased with the league’s decision to allow Alexander Radulov to return to the Nashville Predators without having to clear waivers. The Wings and Predators seem destined to meet in the first round, and the fight for home ice in that round looms large given how poorly the Wings play away from Joe Louis Arena. They need to get healthy, and that series would be dynamite, but it’s hard not to like the Predators, especially if they continue to struggle. They play in Anaheim on Wednesday night, and their lead over the Preds is a single point, with Nashville having a game in hand.
LEBRUN: Amazing, really, to see the Wings seven points back of St. Louis in the Central. That race is over. And now Detroit faces a likely first-round matchup with Nashville. Talk about a conference finals-level series right off the hop. One of those two teams will be incredibly disappointed to go home that early after the first round. But the high-end matchup is a result of the excellence of the Central Division this season. The Blues got hot, the Wings got injured, and the Preds hope to get Radulov. Quite the script.
• Speaking of currying favor with the media, MLive’s Brendan Savage cobbled together an article discussing the Wings’ demotions on various power rankings lists, and as I noted this morning, Adrian Dater made a predictably dickheaded comment in the process:
6 Detroit Red Wings Last Week: 3: For all the rhapsodizing over Mike Babcock’s savvy ways, he’s not much better than your average coach without his top players. The Wings stumbling down the stretch without Pavel Datsyuk and Nick Lidstrom ? and Babcock’s record in the playoffs after injuries have struck—is the proof. Detroit is 16-18-1 on the road, a real concern as the playoffs near, and home ice won’t mean much except in seventh games. These Wings look just like the team of the last two years that peaked too soon and got banged up in the end. Last week: 1-2-0
• In developmental hockey news, kidhood version: the Red Wings announced the details of Red Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard’s youth hockey camp’s stop at Joe Louis Arena from July 25th to 27th;
• And in developmental hockey news, “Get your butt to Compuware Arena!” version: Sportsnet’s Scott King noted that the Plymouth Whalers, who wrap up their regular season this week, want to end four years of playoff frustration when the OHL playoffs begin on either Friday, March 23rd or Saturday, March 24th:
What do the last four Ontario Hockey League champions have in common with the Plymouth Whalers? All four went through Plymouth on the road to the J. Ross Robertson Cup. Since being crowned league champions in 2007, the Whalers’ season consistently ended at the hands of the eventual champs. Last season, it was Owen Sound. The previous two years, the Windsor Spitfires reigned. And in 2008, the MasterCard Memorial Cup host Kitchener Rangers used the Whalers as a stepping stone to glory.
The Whalers weren’t always built to capture the trophy, but their four-year run (if we can call it that) is somewhat cruel, in a way. Watching a team win a championship after dashing your team’s aspirations can border somewhere between pride and frustration.
The architect of those teams chooses the former.
“If this was the NHL,” explains head coach and general manager Mike Vellucci, “I’d say it would be frustration, but this is junior hockey and there’s that cycle you go through.”
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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.