The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/04/11 at 02:11 PM ET
First the good news, then the…weird news….Red Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl has made leaps and bounds of progress as he’s evolved into a reliable NHL defenseman over the course of his rookie season, and the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff took note of Wings coach Mike Babcock’s comments about a player who could very well fill the sixth defenseman’s spot in the playoffs:
“It’s just his competition level,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Kindl’s improvement. “He’s really playing hard, he’s got good size to him. He’s not easy to push off the puck like he once was. He had all the skill set before. You could see it – he could skate, he could move the puck. That wasn’t an issue for him, his competition level was.”
With Jonathan Ericsson and Ruslan Salei both delivering erratic efforts, Kindl’s development could prove essential to a long Detroit playoff run. “The better he gets, the better our team gets,” Babcock said. “You like to have puck movers on the back. He’s pretty error-free with the puck, he makes good decisions and gets it going.”
Another Detroit defence who figures to be a key come playoff time is veteran Brian Rafalski, another stellar puck mover who’s been hampered all season long with a variety of injuries. “Raffi’s missed a lot of hockey,” Babcock. “He’s basically been hurt the whole year. If we could get him back healthy, it makes a big difference to our team, just in the way he can get the puck going. He and (Detroit captain Nicklas) Lidstrom are among the best in the league at that.”
Rafalski’s very quietly posted a rather remarkable 43 assists and 47 points over the course of only 60 games, which would translate to a 64-point season if he was completely healthy, so there’s a reason the Wings put up with any lingering injuries.
On the other end of the spectrum, Art Regner’s returned to the Red Wings scene as a blogger for Fox Sports Detroit, and the former WDFN personality has generally offered a positive take on the Wings, but he’s become a bit of a panic-monger in his newest job, and he’s in borderline freak-out mode about Johan Franzen’s inability to explain the reasons why he’s been struggling to score goals:
Usually an affable individual, Franzen has always been generous with his time. This time he was a bit different. I found Franzen being interviewed by one of my colleagues, and I joined in on the conversation. This is part of the interview:
Reporter: “Going into the playoffs, are you ready to do your usual playoff magic?”
Franzen: “It’s been a while since I’ve done any playoff magic. We’ll see. We’ll see.”
Me: “What is your mindset going into the playoffs? Do you feel your game is coming around?”
Franzen: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s been good all year so…”
Me: “Are you looking forward to the playoffs?”
Me: “It does seem to be your time, in all honesty.”
Franzen: “Some people think that, some not (laughs).”
Me: “What do you think?”
Franzen: “Ah, I like the playoffs.”
Reporter: “So you’re as confident as ever, no big deal, you’re not worried about it (his lack of scoring)?”
Franzen: “I’ve got as little of confidence as usual (laughs).”
Me: “Just keep shooting the puck, right?”
Franzen: “Yeah, I guess.”
It was a strange exchange with Franzen because, at first, I thought he was somewhat miffed at having to answer questions about his scoring drought. But then it became clear that Franzen’s confidence is shot. He can’t explain what’s going on. If that’s the case, Red Wings fans better hope that the Mule can find the answer on the playoff trail.
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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.