The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/24/13 at 07:30 AM ET
There's no doubt in my mind that the Red Wings' "x-factor" through their playoff run has been the performance of their third line, and while the Gustav Nyquist-Joakim Andersson-Damien Brunner line didn't factor in the scoring in the Red Wings' 2-0 win over Chicago last night, Nyquist deked and dazzled his way past and through Blackhawks defenders, registering 2 shots and 2 takeaways in only 10:26 of ice time, Brunner took 2 shots, attempted 3 more and probably (frustratingly) passed up half a dozen more, and Andersson had 1 takeaway, had 2:23 of PK time and went 5-and-1 in the faceoff circle...
And while Nyquist and Brunner's dekes, dangles and speedy rushes are exciting to watch, this slightly geeky Nicklas Lidstrom fan enjoys the subtleties of the game, the kind of stuff that can't be statistically quantified, so I adore watching the way that Henrik Zetterberg pesters the hell out of Jonathan Toews by simply shadowing him like a damn on-ice stalker and pickpocket, I love watching Pavel Datsyuk make so many of his amazing moves simply because he uses the full length and breadth of his stick blade, and I tend to geek out when I watch Nyquist and Brunner turn back after making an offensive foray and seeing the supposedly slow-footed Andersson suddenly appear in frame as the cameras pan back toward the Red Wings' defense, with Andersson supporting his defenders as what Mike Babcock and the players refer to as strong "F3" (3rd forward) presence, and I love watching Andersson both pluck pucks off his opponents' sticks and stand in the slot to block those back-door-pass goals that have doomed the Wings in playoff runs past.
Long paragraph, I know, but Andersson's impact can be incredibly subtle despite his 6'3" frame and increasingly evident enjoyment of playing physical and checking the hell out of his opponents.
I tried to jam all the Wings' notebooks I could into the Wings-Hawks wrap-up, including some very good news about Danny DeKeyser's wrist from DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose, but I have no problem dedicating an entry one straggler story that I nearly forgot about, from the Free Press's Helene St. James.
Just as we Wings fans sometimes forget that Andersson can seemingly simultaneously key Nyquist and Brunner's breakouts and then hustle back to check, Andersson himself doesn't have a strong press presence, so he's a bit overlooked and undervalued in my opinion.
The Free Press's Helene St. James did her best to ensure that Wings fans pay more attention to a player who doesn't call attention to herself, and as such, this overnight report's dedicated to her profile of a player whose dedication to defense leaves his linemates slightly annoyed at times:
“He’s excellent defensively and can make plays as well, so he’s a big part of our line,” Nyquist said. “He makes sure not too much happens on the defensive side. We balance pretty good with Andy as a centerman, he’s real smart, and I think he’s learned to play with us, too, to be a little bit more offensive minded.”
Being what Henrik Zetterberg described as a “typical Swedish center” — a guy who learns to add offense only after having cemented a defensive base layer — Andersson is renowned among his wingers for preaching responsibility. Brunner described it like, “It’s always Andy and Coach versus me and Gus in the line meetings.
“We figured it out. Andy is good. But I think he’s not only safety belt. He’s generating offense, too, and on the other side, Gus and I are doing our job in the back end. We have each other’s backs.”
The former Frolunda Indians forward very quietly did his job in Grand Rapids, but #63 looked overwhelmed both during his "cup of coffee" during the 2011-2012 season and earlier this year. That's not the case anymore:
“I’m amazed at how far he’s come,” defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. “He’s great on face-offs, great in the D zone, real smart with the puck and without the puck. That third line has been key for us, and I think he’s the key to it, because he’s sort of our help as a defenseman back there. He’s a real shy guy off the ice, but on the ice, he finds himself in the right areas and he makes a lot of good plays.”
For Andersson, 24, the key is to be responsible and reap the benefits of his creative wingers. “I just have to try to balance the whole thing and be smart defensively and read off them what they are doing,” he said. “I mean, I want to play with the puck as well, but I’ve got to make sure we take care of the defensive part of the game as well.”
St. James offers more regarding DeKeyser's recovery, too--possibly the best news yet--but I can't quote her entire article.
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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.