The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/13/13 at 01:12 PM ET
Maybe this is just me, but after the Wings went 0-2-and-2 against the Chicago Blackhawks this season (including last night's disappointing 3-2 shootout loss), and given that Chicago's absolutely owned Joe Louis Arena over the past three seasons, I'd be quite happy if the Wings somehow managed to both make the playoffs and avoid a first-round match-up with Chicago.
The players feel a little differently about the possibility of Chicago and Detroit concluding their status as Central/Norris Division rivals via a playoff meeting, as noted both in the overnight report and by MLive's Brendan Savage:
The Red Wings have made the playoffs 21 straight seasons – that's the longest active streak in the NHL – while winning four Stanley Cups since 1997. Chicago center Dave Bolland think that's would make the Red Wings more dangerous in the playoffs than the typical seventh or eighth seed.
"For sure they would be," Bolland said. "They aren't just your eighth or ninth seed that is always sitting there trying to get in. They are a scary team. The team they have with (Henrik) Zetterberg, (Niklas) Kronwall, (Johan) Franzen, (Pavel) Datsyuk, you have to be aware of them.If it is them, we'll be ready for them. They're still a good team. They're a team that could change thing sup right away. They've got a lot of good players. We've got to be aware of them. That would be pretty cool if it did happen. That would be pretty fun actually. It's not too far. It's always nice in the playoffs when you have a team that's close and not too far."
"If it comes down to it, I think it would be great," said forward Darren Helm. "Obviously, we have some work to do to make the playoffs. If it does happen that we play them, it would be great for the league, the fans and both teams. Both teams really get up for these games. It would be pretty exciting."
"Everybody in the hockey world would love to see that," said Detroit rookie Brendan Smith. "It would be a lot of fun for the fans, for everybody. It would be a lot of fun."
Obviously, as Jimmy Howard and Hawks coach Joel Quenneville tell Savage, this is anything but a fait accompli, but the players and coaches think that it's a great idea...
Regarding Howard, Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner weighed in on the Red Wings' highly probable re-signing of their starting goaltender to a 6-year, $31. million contract extension...
This season, Howard has been Detroit’s best player, keeping his offensively challenged team in most games. He’s played in 34 games and posted a 16-12-5 record with two shutouts, a 2.39 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
For his career, the seven-year veteran -- four years as the Wings No. 1 goalie -- has played in 226 games and has a 126-66-24 record, 13 shutouts, a 2.41 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.
Signing Howard to such a long-term extension says a lot about where this team is headed. The Wings are about to go through a metamorphosis, a transmutation that they've fought for the last several years.
They lack proven, consistent goal scoring at the NHL level. And most of their forward prospects, with just a few exceptions, are rated as second- to third-line talent.
So Detroit’s fate rests with Jimmy Howard in net and a team that plays a scrappy brand of hockey.
If it works, the Wings will be competitive. If it doesn’t, the glory days of seemingly automatic playoff bids will disappear.
And I had a feeling that those of you who feel that this is another major misstep by Ken Holland would like the Free Press's Jamie Samuelssen's take on said probable signing (and as many of you have noted, the Wings may not be confirming the deal, but Capgeek's going with it and has edited the Wings' salary cap chart going forward as a result):
[How] is this a sign that the Red Wings are changing the way they operate? Can you tell me the last time the Red Wings invested this kind of money and this many years into a goaltender? If you said Curtis Joseph, you’d be right. Cujo signed a 3-year, $24 million contract after Dominik Hasek retired the first time in 2002. This of course was before the salary cap where the Red Wings were able to play by their own rules and buy any player they wanted. Joseph and Derian Hatcher were two of the last examples of this glorious era.
But since the season-long lockout in 2004-05, the Wings have treated the goaltending position more like a nuisance than a necessity. They relied on Manny Legace at first. Then they brought back Chris Osgood and Hasek to fill the gap. Hasek was rusty. Osgood was brilliant. And the Wings added another Stanley Cup to the mantle.
But the focus of the team and the payroll was always on the skaters. Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom got the big paydays. Goaltender was more of an afterthought once skaters filled up the rest of the salary cap. The good news was that the Red Wings had the goods. And the goaltending was good enough (or in Osgood’s case – outstanding) to keep the team a contender.
But that’s not the case anymore. Blame injuries. Blame an empty free agent summer of 2012. Blame poor drafting over the past six years by Holland (only Cory Emmerton has played more than 100 games with the Red Wings of all his draft picks since 2006). And blame the frustrating decline of Franzen who’s stellar play in 2008 and 2009 earned him an 11-year, $43 million contract. But the bottom line is that the Red Wings roster just isn’t good enough to compete for championships right now. I believe Holland realized that, which is why he didn’t make a bold move at the trade deadline. And I believe that’s why he signed Howard long-term and prevented him from testing the open market.
Question Howard’s numbers all you want. The fact is that his .917 save percentage is ninth in the history of the game. Is he one of the greats? No. But how many greats are out there right now? The Islanders thought Rick DiPietro was a great. The Canucks thought the same of Roberto Luongo. If you’re one of those eagerly anticipating the arrival of Petr Mrazek, it’s understandable. But if Mrazek is as good as advertised, then the Wings will have two goaltenders that other teams would covet. What a concept. And if Mrazek doesn’t have it, the Wings have a very good alternative in Howard.
The Howard contract may not light Red Wing nation on fire. But it’s a smart move by Holland. And it allows him to now go about building the team up in front of him. Part of that will come from Grand Rapids. Part of that will come through transactions. But the Wings can now do so knowing that their goaltending is in very good hands going forward.
No, I’m not making Howard out to be more than he is. But don’t make the mistake of making him out to be something less.
In the injury department, if you missed it, Todd Bertuzzi told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that he may yet return from his back and leg injuries before the regular season concludes...
There are seven games left in the regular season for the Red Wings. And Todd Bertuzzi is holding out hope he can return to play in at least one of those games.
"The way I felt today was probably the most positive sign I've had in a long time," Bertuzzi said after Friday's morning skate at United Center. "I'm trying my best to get back."
Bertuzzi has been limited to seven games after injuring his back Feb. 7. The back is pretty much healed, but the pain shooting down the back of his leg is still there.
"It's pretty much 80 percent the leg," Bertuzzi said.
Bertuzzi sought a second opinion last week and he's optimistic something was found which will be able to get him on the ice quickly. Surgery, though, doesn't appear necessary.
"At this point, no," Bertuzzi said.
And MLive's Savage noted that Mikael Samuelsson, who's battled a groin injury, a broken finger and now a sprained-or-torn (depending on who you read) pectoral muscle, believes that he'll return...Probably...Maybe...Okay, kinda sorta...
"I will get in there," Samuelsson said. "It's just a matter of when. I still don't know when. I don't even want to guess. No guesses from me. At least it feels better every day. From (Wednesday) to (Thursday) was the best day, so hopefully I got over the hump."
Samuelsson missed 12 games when he strained his groin during the second game of the season then missed another 19 when he fractured his finger after being hit with a shot in practice. Now, he's missed the last four because of a bruised pectoral muscle.
Well, that's the official diagnosis. Samuelsson isn't sure exactly what's wrong this time.
"It's a muscle tear," said Samuelsson, who took part in Friday's morning skate in Chicago. "Well, I don't know what you'd call it. It doesn't look like the other shoulder when you compare them. There's some tear in there, in the muscle. It takes some time. It's bruised, but the bruise is starting to go down. That goes hand in hand. When the bruise is going down, you start to feel better, more mobile and you can move it around more.
Samuelsson pointed to his arm pit when talking about the latest injury.
"I think it's the pec," he said. "It's like almost in the armpit. I've never seen any guy with that injury. I'll stick with it but it's been really frustrating."
While he's playing in the NHL at present, Danny DeKeyser received a Gustav Nyquist-like honor (Nyquist was named to the AHL's First All-Star Team for his 60 points in 58 AHL games played, and Nyquist's played in another 15 games for Detroit*), as noted by the Kalamazoo Gazette's David Drew:
For the second consecutive season current Detroit Red Wings and former Western Michigan University defenseman Danny DeKeyser has been named a Second Team American Hockey Coaches Association CCM All-American.
DeKeyser is the third Bronco in program history to repeat as an All-American after he was named a Second Team All-American last year. He joins Wayne Gagne (85-86, 86-87) and Dan Dorion (83-84, 85-86) as the only other two-time All-Americans at Western Michigan.
The blueliner appeared in 35 games on the season and helped WMU’s defense to a program best 78 goals allowed on the season.
The Clay Township, Mich., native finished with 15 points on the season, tallying two goals and 13 assists. He was named the CCHA’s Best Defensive Defenseman for the second-straight season and was also named First Team All-CCHA.
Wings prospect and Saint Cloud State University defenseman Nick Jensen was also named to the "Western Conference's" First All-American Team.
*The asterisk is there for a reason: we tend to forget that Gustav Nyquist has already played in a total of 71 NHL and AHL games this year, that Joakim Andersson had played in 36 AHL games before playing in 31 NHL games (that's a total of 67 games played), that Brendan Smith played in 32 AHL games before playing in 27 NHL games (59 games played), that Brian Lashoff has played in 37 AHL games--including his 1-game demotion--as well as playing in 31 for the Wings (that's a total of 68 games played), that Damien Brunner had already played in 45 Swiss NLA games before playing in 37 more for Detroit (that's a total of 82 games played already)...
That, of the "veterans," Pavel Datsyuk had played in 31 games for CSKA Moscow before playing in 40 games with the Wings (that's a total of 71 games), that Henrik Zetterberg played in 23 games with Brunner's EV Zug before playing in 39 with the Wings (that's a total of 62 games played), that Drew Miller played in 23 games in Scotland before playing in 41 for Detroit (that's 64 games played), that Jakub Kindl played 27 games in the Czech Extraliga before playing in 31 for Detroit (58 games played), or that Valtteri Filppula played in 16 games for Jokerit Helsinki as well as the 34 games he's played in for the Wings (that's 50 games total).
Those numbers don't excuse poor performances by any of the above-named players, but those numbers help explain the physical and mental fatigue we're seeing, especially from the rookies (Brunner included).
Update: ESPN offers some cringe-worthy stats from last night's game:
Blackhawks 3, Red Wings 2 (SO) (CHI wins shootout, 2-1)
* Jonathan Toews (CHI): game-tying goal (20) with 2:57 left in 3rd; has points in 4 straight home games (3 G, 3 A in that span)
* Blackhawks: 4-0-0 vs Red Wings this season; 1st season sweep of DET since 1976-77 season
* Blackhawks: won last 7 meetings vs Red Wings; have also earned at least 1 point in last 10 meetings vs DET (8-0-2)
* Red Wings: 0-1-2 in last 3 games; 2-4-2 in last 8 games
FROM ELIAS: Jonathan Toews reached the 20-goal mark for the sixth time in his six NHL seasons when he scored the tying goal for the Blackhawks with 2:57 remaining in the third period of their game against the Red Wings. His teammate, Patrick Kane, has also played six seasons in the NHL and scored at least 20 goals for the Blackhawks in each season. Toews and Kane are only the third pair of players to score 20 or more goals as teammates for one club in each of their first six or more NHL seasons. The other pairs to do that were the Oilers’ Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri, and the Nordiques’ Peter and Anton Stastny, each with eight-season streaks from 1980–81 through 1987–88.
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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.