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Five Thirty-Eight examines the ‘crumbling’ of the Red Wings’ empire

Five Thirty-Eight's Neil Paine examines the "crumbling" of the "Red Wings' empire" from a statistical standpoint, and if there is anything the Red Wings truly screwed up along the way from a contender to a bubble team, it's pretty obvious: Detroit never meaningfully replaced Brian Rafalski or Nicklas Lidstrom:

On April Fools’ Day in 1990, the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers skated for the final game of the season at The Spectrum in south Philly. Captain Steve Yzerman banged home a goal late in the third period to earn the Wings a 3-3 tie, ending Detroit’s campaign with 70 points and a last-place finish in the Norris Division. Soon after, the 1989-90 Red Wings cleaned out their lockers and parted ways for the summer.

In the nearly 10,000 days since then, Detroit has played 2,035 regular-season games and employed 246 players. It’s gone through three captains, four general managers and six head coaches. But the one constant throughout the last 25 full seasons of Red Wings hockey has been extra action in the spring — and often deep into the summer. Detroit hasn’t missed the postseason since that April day in 1990, a mind-boggling run that beats any playoff streak outside of hockey1 and is tied for the third longest in NHL history. (That it has come partially during the NHL’s salary-cap era is especially impressive.)

But it could all come screeching to a halt this season. With a 22-21-10 record, Detroit currently occupies last place in the Atlantic Division, five points out of the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot with seven teams ahead of them. According to Hockey-Reference.com’s playoff simulator, the Red Wings have just a 7 percent probability of continuing their run for a 26th straight postseason. Every streak has to end eventually, but how did Detroit go wrong after so many years of success?

Paine continues...

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Krupa: Waiting on the knee doctor (orthopedist)

From the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa:

Jimmy Howard "tweaked" his knee during last night's Grand Rapids Griffins win over Manitoba.

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Red Wings-Capitals morning skate Tweets and articles: Mrazek starts vs. streaking Caps

Updated 2x at 12:08 PM:

The Detroit Red Wings face an incredibly stiff task in battling the Washington Capitals this evening (7 PM EST on FS/CSN Mid-Atlantic/97.1 FM). Washington's won 10 straight games at home, and as the Capitals' game notes point out, Washington's been nearly unbeatable at the Verizon Center:

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Grand Rapids Griffins recall Cal Heeter

It remains to be seen whether this means that Jimmy Howard's "tweak" is serious, but the Grand Rapids Griffins recalled some insurance this morning:


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins on Thursday recalled goaltender Cal Heeter from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye.

Heeter shows a 7-2-0 record in nine games with the Griffins this season. If he met the 900 minutes requirement, Heeter’s 2.11 goals against average would place third in the AHL and his 0.932 save percentage would lead the league. The 6-foot-4 netminder recorded his first shutout in a Griffins uniform when he turned aside 35 shots in a 5-0 victory against Cleveland on Jan. 21.

Rattling off eight consecutive victories to begin the 2016-17 campaign in Toledo, Heeter is 10-1-0 in 11 games with the Walleye, totaling a 3.03 GAA and a 0.898 save percentage.

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The overnight report: Red Wings-Capitals set-up—long odds

The Detroit Red Wings will play a team that is nothing less than "scary good" in the Washington Capitals this evening (7 PM EST on FSD/CSN Washington/97.1 FM). If their 37-11-and-6 record isn't intimidating enough, the Capitals are coming off a pair of 5-0 shutout wins (over Los Angeles and Carolina, respectively), they've won 8 of their past 10 games, and they ended 2016 on a 9-game winning streak.

According to Capitals website's Mike Vogel, the Capitals are rolling on an incredible home run as well:

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Duff speaks with Thomas Vanek regarding his uncertain future

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke with Red Wings forward Thomas Vanek regarding the possibility that the 33-year-old forward might be traded at the deadline:

“You try not to think about it, but I think anyone will,” Vanek admitted. “It would be a lie if they tell you they don’t think about it. Obviously, you think about it.

Experience has made it easier to deal with his name being bandied about but the added years also mean that more than Vanek’s life would be impacted were he to be traded.

“It’s not like it would have been 10 years ago if you had a wife or girlfriend and you just pack your stuff and move on,” Vanek said. “It gets hard as you get old. I’ve got three boys, they’re all in school. I like it here, it’s comfortable. It’s definitely a place I could see myself being here. But, again, at the end of the day it’s business.

“I signed a one-year deal, so even before the year I knew there would be a chance I could be traded. It’s something you can’t focus on too much, but it’s definitely in the back of your head.”

Duff continues, and Vanek suggests that even if he were to be traded, he'd consider returning to Detroit:

“For sure,” Vanek said. “But again, things have to be right. Like I said, I’ve enjoyed my time here and we all like it here. It’s a good culture to be around.

“We have a lot of young talent here. They’re getting some minutes and you can tell they’re getting better, they’re learning slowly how to win close games. I think the future is pretty good here. It doesn’t take much to turn around and be real good, so it’s definitely a place I would consider.”

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Prospect news: Howard’s ‘tweak’ dims Griffins’ 4-1 win over Manitoba

Of prospect-related note:

In the AHL, as Paul noted, Jimmy Howard suffered a "tweak" to his healing right knee during the Grand Rapids Griffins' 4-1 win over the Manitoba Moose. The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reported that Howard will check in with doctors in Detroit before following the Griffins to Des Moines, Iowa, where the team plays on Friday and Saturday:

Jimmy Howard left Wednesday's Grand Rapids Griffins game because he felt "a little tweak" to his right knee, said Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, who was encouraged it was not anything serious.

"He felt a little tweak so we're going to take him back home (to Detroit) and see our doctor and hopefully he gives him the green light to go back and join the team in Iowa," Holland said. "But we'll see what they say in the morning."

Howard, in his second game with the Griffins on a rehab assignment after missing more than a month with a sprain right knee, made a sprawling save against Manitoba that at one point had him on his back.


After tests, Nelson said, it will be decided if Howard will catch a separate flight and join the Griffins for games Friday and Saturday in Des Moines. The team will depart Thursday morning.

Wallner continues, and he includes a video of Griffins coach Todd Nelson addressing Howard's injury.

As for the rest of the Griffins, they received a 2-goal performance from Martin Frk and 2-assist nights from Ben Street and Matt Lorito en route to their 4-1 victory over Manitoba. The Griffins' website filed a recap:

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Jimmy Howard “Felt A Tweak”

via Peter J. Wallner of Mlive,

Jimmy Howard left the Grand Rapids Griffins game with just over 10 minutes to play Wednesday shortly after he made a sprawling stop.

The goalie signaled briefly to the bench as play continued then, after making a save, skated off hunched over and went straight to the locker room. He flexed his right leg at least once.


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A profile of Grand Rapids Griffins forward Matt Lorito

The Oakville (Ontario) Beaver's Herb Garbutt profiled Grand Rapids Griffins forward Matt Lorito:

When his contract [with Albany] expired this summer, he landed a two-way contract on the first day of free agency. That the deal was with the Detroit Red Wings, the team he grew up cheering for, was the icing on the cake.

“It wasn’t the deciding factor, more of a cool thing that it worked out that way,” he said. “My agent was in talks with a few teams and Detroit really wanted to get it done and came in with a nice contract.”

Lorito has rewarded the team’s faith in him. He was fourth in the AHL scoring race before being sidelined with a shoulder injury in early January. Despite missing three weeks, he still ranks second on the Grand Rapids Griffins with 35 points in 36 games and leads the team with 23 assists, many of which have contributed to a league-best powerplay.

While Lorito hasn’t got the call from the Wings yet, seeing the likes of former Wing and now team executive Kris Draper around the rink is enough to remind him how close he is.

Lorito knows there is still work to do to achieve his goal. Undersized at 5-foot-9 and 171 pounds, he has benefitted from a switch from centre to the wing.

“I have to keep working on getting stronger in one-on-one battles,” he said. “I’ve improved my defence from last year and I want to be one of those guys the coach can rely on whether we’re up a goal or down a goal.”


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Articles from practice: Wings discuss the tasks at hand ahead of a difficult schedule

The Red Wings practiced in Taylor ahead of Thursday's game against the Washington Capitals, and after practice, the team addressed the particularly challenging road trip ahead, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted:

[With] a three-game in four-day road trip against the top three teams in the NHL — Washington, Columbus, Minnesota — the Red Wings feel they’re capable of big things this weekend, and the rest of the schedule.

“We can go on a run here,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We know we can go on a run.”

What gives Blashill that kind of confidence for a team that has struggled to gain any sort of traction all season?

“We are learning, as a team, how for this team to be successful,” said Blashill, as the Red Wings have earned five of six points the last three games. “That is, we have to make sure we get the puck out of our end and get the puck into their end. We have to control both blue lines for this team to be successful.”

What makes this weekend, and the next week’s rugged stretch — against St. Louis, Washington and Pittsburgh — so important is, the days are getting close to the March 1 trade deadline.

Blashill insists that his job involves making Ken Holland's job difficult by playing the kind of hockey that will make the team's status as a "seller" much murkier:

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About The Malik Report

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.


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