The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/18/13 at 02:45 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings flew to Nashville to face a Predators team that will be on the back half of back-to-back games (the Predators play in Colorado on Monday afternoon) mired in their worst slump of the season and perhaps playing their worst hockey since the team stumbled out of the gate with a 1-and 2 record. The Wings have dropped consecutive losses to St. Louis, Anaheim and now the Minnesota Wild, who rallied from a 2-goal deficit and defeated the Wings 3-2 thanks to 3 goals scored over the course of 4 minutes and 10 seconds.
Despite the returns of Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk from injuries, and despite Kyle Quincey having shaken off what DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose reported were over 20 stitches thanks to a high stick from Devin Setoguchi, the Wings' inability to generate any offense whatsoever from players not named Zetterberg, Datsyuk or Brunner, their absolutely horrific power play and the team's seemingly tracing paper-thin level of self-confidence all but doomed the team to its third loss over the past six days as soon as Torrey Mitchell's game-winner hit the back of the net.
The Red Wings appear like a team that's either unwilling or unable to alter its trajectory due without their size, strength and moxie in their lineup, despite the best efforts of the team's superstars (and call-ups, as Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson and Brian Lashoff are all working their tails off), and that's incredibly frustrating to watch.
At the other end of the ice, the Minnesota Wild have been battling a team-wide flu bug, and they had to dress goaltender Darcy Kuemper because Niklas Backstrom took ill during warm-ups, so for Minnesota--another team looking for its identity--Sunday's game was a case of everything coming together and falling into place...eventually.
Kuemper told his tale to the Star-Tribune's Michael Russo...
"It was almost good finding out the last minute. There was no time to get nervous," Kuemper said after a 29-save performance.
The Red Wings, who haven't missed the playoffs since 1990, may not be what they used to be. But they're still the Red Wings, still have Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
"They're guys I've been watching on TV for a long time," said Kuemper, the 2011 Western Hockey League Goaltender and Player of the Year. "To be able to play against them and get a win, what a feeling."
The Wild got off to a good start, but once Damian Brunner scored, Minnesota spent the rest of the period watching the Red Wings buzz its end. After Datysuk scored so quickly into the second, the Wild got "ticked off," coach Mike Yeo said.
The game turned on a tremendous shift by the top line of Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Heatley. After Koivu nearly scored, he sent a puck between the circles, where Heatley blasted through traffic and ended a career-long, nine-game goal-scoring drought.
"That shift for me was unbelievable," Yeo said. "The work ethic of those guys, that was 30 seconds in the offensive zone of just winning battles and sheer determination."
"You always try to find little checkpoints in a season when you look back and say, 'That's when our season turned around,'" Mitchell said. "Maybe this is one of those moments."
Yeo continued, as Russo noted in his blog...
“We throw Kuemps into a pretty difficult situation and the way he responded was terrific,” Yeo said. “I thought he got better as the game went on. I thought he was huge in the fourth minute PK [on a Devin Setoguchi] high stick.”
Big win for the Wild to rally from 2-0 down. The Wild plays six of the next eight on the road starting in Edmonton on Thursday, so they needed a confidence boost, maybe a season-momentum turner.
“I’m not going to sit here and say that this makes our season,” Yeo said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but this is huge.”
He said we saw both the Wild’s games tonight. “The first part we weren’t quite sure of ourselves. And I can’t say that we necessarily have full confidence in ourselves. … The toughest part is fighting through that. But we’re not far away. I know that. … We’re very close to where our game needs to be, but we’re not there yet.”
And Yeo told the Pioneer Press's Kevin Hagstrom that his team reached a possible season-turning-point thanks to a simple motivator--anger:
"We just had way too much respect for them. We were pretty much watching them," said Wild coach Mike Yeo of his team's performance for the better part of the first period. "In the second period, we got a little ticked off and just said, 'Let's go.' When we did that, it was obviously a different story."
The comeback began with the team's top line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Dany Heatley. It concluded with the fourth line's Torrey Mitchell, whose first goal as a member of the Wild proved to be the game-winner.
In between, freshly called up Jason Zucker sniped a shot past Detroit's goaltender Petr Mrazek's stick-side in transition -- a scoring opportunity he composed with his straight-line speed.
"Speed is extremely difficult to defend and he (Zucker) finds a way to use it," Yeo said.
Zucker was leading the Houston Aeros, Minnesota's American Hockey League affiliate, in goals and scoring before being called up. His 19 goals and 41 points ranked second among AHL rookies. It was natural that in his first NHL game this season, the player with "Game Time" tattooed across his right pectoral would come through.
"He's got confidence in his shot. He knows that he's a shooter and that he's here to be a shooter," Yeo said.
Zucker added: "I'm not exactly a passer. I skate fast and I try to get the puck on net. That's what I was able to do."
Zucker's fellow call-up wasn't surprised to see him blow the doors off of two Wings players, as he told Fox Sports North's Brian Hall...
Jason Zucker bounced the puck off the boards past Detroit Red Wings forward Valtteri Filpulla and in the defensive zone, hauled in his own pass and then outraced longtime NHL veteran Mikael Samuelsson. In front of him, the Minnesota Wild's rookie forward was surprised to see nothing but open ice between him and the goaltender.
Few players are catching the speedy, 21-year-old Zucker in a race and no one on Detroit was doing so Sunday. After a couple strides, Zucker was at full speed and he finished off a 2-on-1 break by sniping a shot past Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek for his first NHL goal, a day after being called up from the American Hockey League.
"I've seen him do that so many times this year," said Minnesota rookie goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who has spent this season with Zucker on the Houston Aeros of the AHL. "He's got world-class speed. Not many guys can catch him."
For the Wild, their call-ups were just what the doctor ordered...
"I think that's what we were kind of lacking, we were lacking that energy," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "I don't know why, but seeing him go out there and skate from one end of the ice to the other and bury it for his first NHL goal, yeah, that's definitely contagious."
And both Kuemper and Zucker got to tell their enthusiastic stories to the Pioneer Press's Tom Powers...
This is what's been missing from hockey since, oh, 1986. It was a bona fide scoring burst that thrilled Minnesota fans. For those few minutes, anything seemed possible. There might have been a new intergalactic record established for odd-man rushes in a short span.
And odd men scored. Torrey Mitchell, for example, finally scored his first as a member of the Wild. Zucker scored his first-ever NHL goal. He burst in on a two-on-one with Devin Setoguchi. Now, normally a new kid passes to the veteran in this situation. Not Zucker, who ripped one past goaltender Petr Mrazek.
"Looking at Devin Setoguchi on that side, it was, 'I got to pass it, I got to pass it, I got to pass it ...' '' Zucker said. "And then their D-man played the two-on-one and he played the pass and that just opened up a shot. For me, I have a shoot-first mentality."
Yielding praise for everyone involved from their coach, as KMSP's Doug Erlien noted:
"That's a good win for us," said head coach Mike Yeo. "New guys or old guys, that's a good win for us."
"It's big," said Yeo about the win. "I'm not going to say this makes our season. We've still got a lot of work to do and we're focused on continuing to get better as a group, but this is huge for sure."
The Wild rallied from two goals down to beat Detroit for the first time since the teams’ first-ever meeting, Dec. 27, 2000, at Joe Louis Arena.
Minnesota improved to 4-1-5 in its last 10 games against Detroit at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild allowed a Pavel Datsyuk goal 20 seconds into the second period, the fastest goal ever to start a middle stanza by an opposing team at Xcel Energy Center. The old mark was 36 seconds, set by Edmonton’s Ryan Smyth, on April 6, 2006.
The Wild improved to 4-0-0 while wearing its green jerseys this season.
Tonight marked the fifth time in 46 all-time meetings the Wild has scored three times in a period against Detroit.
The Wild won after trailing by two goals for the first time since March 22, 2012, a 3-2 shootout win over Calgary.
As well as "FiveTakeaways" from Charlie Doyle, including the following...
As well as the youngster played, the veterans on the top line led the comeback charge. Midway through the second period, with the team down two goals, things looked bleak for the Wild. Then Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise put together a shift that got things going for the good guys.
“That shift for me was unbelievable,” Yeo said. “The work ethic of those guys was 30 seconds in the offensive zone of winning battles and just sheer determination. That, for me, was what got us started.”
Heatley started with the puck in the right corner, carrying it to the hash mark before cycling it down low to Parise. Parise spun away from a defender and got the puck to Koivu behind the net. The captain tried to jam the puck home, but couldn’t get it past goaltender Petr Mrazek. The rebound popped out to Heater, who didn’t get all of a slapper, but enough of it to put it through the netminder’s five-hole. A big time play from three guys who have been doing it for a long time.
But NHL.com's Dan Myers will give us the Wild's last words...
After being outshot 14-8 and outscored 1-0 by the Detroit Red Wings in the first period, Pavel Datsyuk's snipe from the left circle looked like the final straw for a team that's struggled this season to score more than one or two goals. But in the span of about four minutes that all changed. The Wild rallied with three second-period goals and rallied to defeat Detroit by a 3-2 score Sunday at Xcel Energy Center.
Instead of galvanizing the Wings, Datsyuk's goal turned out to be a game-changer for Minnesota. Wild coach Mike Yeo said it "ticked" his team off. The team won the next shift, and the one after that -- stringing together quality shifts for the first time all night. Finally, Dany Heatley scored at the 9:35 mark of the frame and the floodgates opened.
"It picked up our physicality," Yeo said of Datsyuk's goal. "That has to be there every night. We have to play the game with an edge. Taking straight lines, getting there in a bad mood; that's gotta be a part of who we are."
Heatley's goal came after hard work in front by linemate Mikko Koivu, who's rebound came free to Heatley in the slot. His off-speed shot seemed to catch Detroit goaltender Petr Mrazek off guard as the puck went 5-hole for Heatley's fifth of the season and first since Jan. 27 -- a span of 10 games.
Just under four minutes later, the Wild tied it on an electrifying play by rookie Jason Zucker, just called up from the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League.
Zucker won a pair of puck battles in his own zone, chipped it ahead to himself at the blue line and raced down the right side, leading a 2-on-1 break. He snapped a wrister, beating Mrazek blocker side for his first National Hockey League goal.
Minnesota grabbed the lead for good just 32 seconds after Zucker's goal, as Mikael Granlund won a faceoff to Mrazek's right and tied up his opponent so wing Torrey Mitchell could swoop in. He flipped a backhanded shot past Mrazek for his first of the season and with the Wild.
Because the Associated Press's recap will shift our perspectives from those of the Wild to those of a thoroughly flummoxed and frustrated Red Wings team, which now shares the Wild's 7-6-and-2 record:
Then the Wild woke up and scored three times on rookie goalie Petr Mrazek in a span of 4:10 to take a 3-2 lead.
"I don't know what happened in the locker room between periods, but we made some mistakes right from the start," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "We never generated much after that."
It wasn't just the Wild's offense that got rolling in the second period. Thanks to a diving save by Kuemper early and strong defense throughout, Minnesota killed a four-minute high-sticking penalty to close the second.
"We had a few chances. One of those has to go in," said Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg. "If it does, this would be a different game."
Besides the stretch in the second, Mrazek was solid, stopping 24 shots.
Zetterberg expressed his frustration to DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose, who noted that the Wings' "Euro Triplets" (Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Damien Brunner) had done their best to ensure a Wings win:
“It’s the same frustrations when we weren’t getting the good starts and now we have to find a way to get back,” said Zetterberg, who had two assists with a game-high six shots. “We just have to learn to play more of a 60-minute game. We won’t be perfect for 60-minutes, but we have to find a way to keep playing the way we want. Not get started thinking out there and second-guessing ourselves in situations.”
Brunner gave the Wings a 1-0 lead in the first period. His seventh goal of the season, off a mad scramble in front of Wild’s rookie goalie Darcy Kuemper, came after Zetterberg and Datsyuk both had shots blocked in the low slot. Finally, Datsyuk was able to slip a pass to the left side of the crease where Brunner redirected the puck behind Kuemper at 8:48 of the first period.
Datsyuk scored his seventh of the season – tying Brunner for the team lead in goals – when he roofed a shot over Kuemper’s left shoulder just 20-seconds into the second frame. Zetterberg and rookie defenseman Brian Lashoff were credited with assisting Datsyuk. Lashoff’s assist was his first point since collecting his first NHL goal on Jan. 21 at Columbus.
But the Wings’ lead was safe from the Wild, who made their push, scoring three unanswered goals, all in the second period, including a pretty one by winger Jason Zucker, who was making his NHL debut. The rookie cruised down the right wing, vertically untouched, and fired a shot that beat Wings rookie Petr Mrazek, who was making his second career start.
“They got their goal and we kind of got rattled,” Zetterberg said. “A lot of teams will have a good period in a game where they will be in your end and score goals. … Just have to restart and flush that out and keep on playing the way we want to.”
Roose also took note of the injury suffered by Kyle Quincey:
Kyle Quincey needed more than 20 stitches to close a cut to his chin after he was struck in the face by Devin Setoguchi. The Wild’s forward received a 4-minute minor for hi-sticking, though he could have easily been assessed a 5-minute major for intending to injury the Wings’ defenseman. “I don’t know if the ref saw it,” Quincey said. “Maybe if he did he would have given him five, but he’s not a dirty player. He doesn’t have a history of that. Things just happen, I guess.”
Babcock hasn't been thrilled with his team's play over the past three games, as he told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
"This is a game you have to have," Babcock said. "We were up 2-0 and playing real well and for whatever reason, mentally we weren't as sharp in the second period. We made some mistakes prior to the goals being scored that led to momentum, and in the end it cost us the game."
Dany Heatley (9:35, fifth goal), Jason Zucker (13:13, first NHL goal) and Torrey Mitchell (13:45) scored the Wild goals, completely changing the complexion of a game the Wings had been controlling. Zucker's goal — after eluding Valtteri Filppula, then speeding by Mikael Samuelsson and Jonathan Ericsson before roofing a shot past goalie Petr Mrazek — seemed to particularly ignite the Wild and a sell-out crowd that had been booing.
"Fil should have just finished the check on the wall and the guy skated right by him, and the bottom line is he skated right by a couple of us," Babcock said. "No reason for that to happen. We have to be better. The momentum that led to those things were us not taking care of the puck, guys caught out of position, and we have to be better than that."
There was a sense of urgency from Babcock concerning the Red Wings' three-game winless streak.
"You have to win to get points in this league or else you lose sight of everything in a hurry, and right now we're taking water," Babcock said. "That's three games, I think, I've said to you afterward we made huge mistakes to give them goals, and that can't happen. We know how to play better than that."
On the winning goal, Mitchell backhanded a shot past Mrazek off a faceoff scramble, just 32 seconds after Zucker's goal that Mrazek didn't get a look at.
"They got a couple of tough goals," said Mrazek, who stopped 21 shots. "Hockey can turn quick. I lost the puck for a bit (on Mitchell's goal) and I tried to find it."
Mrazek didn't have much of a chance on Mitchell's goal, but Kuemper's was about as good as any of the breakaway goals Jimmy Howard's given up--i.e. not particularly good--and I'm not even sure if he saw the Heatley one until it was too late, either.
Mostly, he was left out to dry by his defense in the second period, and the Wings didn't have the moxie or guts to respond despite Quincey earning them a 4-minute power play 91 seconds after Mitchell's go-ahead goal, and the Wings had a pretty damn good chance to tie things up when Nate Prosser went to the box with 6:13 left in the game.
Instead, the Wings got passy-passy and have become too "lose-y lose-y" because of it.
Babcock defended his goaltender while speaking to MLive's Ansar Khan...
Said Babcock: “Those kind of things don't bother me as much as the plays earlier, just (bad) sort-outs and D-zone coverage. But the momentum that led to those things were us not taking care of the puck, us caught out of position.''
Mikael Samuelsson returned after missing 12 games with a groin pull, but his line, with Filppula and Daniel Cleary, combined for just two shots on goal.
“I thought Fil played as hard as he has in a while tonight,'' Babcock said. “I thought Samuelsson did some good things, but they didn't get enough done, obviously.''
As for the struggling power play, Babcock said, “I thought Samuelsson was impressive on the power play, he really shot the puck, so we'll put him on that first unit and get them shooting and getting it back.''
When you're taking on water, you're going to need more than just Samuelsson on the top power-play unit to bail you out, however.
I can only offer you Khan's "highlights" as some consolation...
--Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and an assist, doing what he could to spark the team after missing one game with a bruised shoulder.
--Henrik Zetterberg had a pair of assists, giving him 15 assists in 15 games.
And this time, I'm leaving the last word to the Free Press's Helene St. James (St. James penned a "notes and quotes" article as well), who offers a sound and smart response to the "taking water" line:
The Wings got 6 minutes' worth of power plays through the remaining 25 minutes of hockey but failed to convert with the man advantage for the sixth time on the road this season. As Zetterberg put it, the damage was done. All the good cycling the Wings did in the first period didn't end up making a difference. "They got their goal and we kind of got rattled instead of just keep doing the things we were doing," he said.
The Wings are fewer than 10 games from the midpoint of their season. They have by far the more favorable schedule the first half, as the second half features 15 of 24 games on the road. Take on enough water the rest of this month, and the Wings might tilt too far to right themselves.
Highlights: The Red Wings' website's highlight clip is at least narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Fox Sports North posted a clip of Matt Cullen and Jason Zucker takling about the Wild's win;
Fox Sports Detroit posted clips of Petr Mrazek, Tomas Tatar and Wings coach Mike Babcock discussing the Wings' loss...
And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Petr Mrazek...
And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media:
And then there's this from the Wild's "Pondcast" Twitter feed--Red Wings GM Ken Holland speaking to the Wild's radio broadcast during the first intermission, talking about player development and the state of his team--again, during the first intermission, when the Wings were up 1-0:
Photos: The Detroit News posted a 16-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 24-image gallery;
The Windsor Star posted 8 images from the game;
Minneapolis's ESPN 1500 posted 10 images from the game;
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune posted a 12-image slideshow;
Fox Sports North posted a 9-image gallery;
ESPN posted a 43-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports actually posted 32 images from the game in its Wings gallery;
Shots 31-24 Detroit overall. Detroit out-shot Minnesota 14-8 in the 1st, were out-shot 11-10 in the 2nd and out-shot Minnesota 7-5 after all in the 3rd period.
The Wings went 0-for-3 in 6:00 of PP time; the Wild went 0-for-2 in 4:00 of PP time.
Petr Mrazek stopped 21 of 24 shots; Darcy Kuemper stopped 29 of 31.
The 3 stars, per "Minnesota Fans," were Torrey Mitchell, Darcy Kuemper and Jason Zucker.
The Wings' goals: Brunner (7) from Datsyuk (9) and Zetterberg (14);
Datsyuk (7) from Zetterberg (15) and Lashoff (1).
Faceoffs 29-20 Minnesota (Detroit won 41%);
Blocked shots 16-6 Minnesota;
Missed shots 16-11 Detroit (again, the Wings fired more shots wide or into Minnesota players than on the net. The Wild had 41 attempts; the Wings had 63 attempts, and 32 were wide or into Wild players);
Hits 26-17 Minnesota;
Giveaways 11-4 Minnesota;
Takeaways 7-4 Minnesota.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 8-and-11 (42%); Filppula went 5-and-6 (45%); Emmerton went 5-and-4 (56%); Andersson went 1-and-7 (13%); Datsyuk won his only faceoff; Abdelkader lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Zetterberg led the team with 6 shots; Tatar had 5; Miller and Brunner had 4; Datsyuk and Andersson had 3; Abdelkader, Cleary, Lashoff, Emmerton, Quincey and Samuelsson had 1.
Blocked attempts: White, Zetterberg and Kronwall had 3 shot attempts blocked; Brunner and Ericsson had 2 shot attempts blocked; Cleary, Lashoff and Samuelsson had 1 shot attempt blocked.
Missed shots: White, Quincey and Samuelsson missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Miller, Tatar, Lashoff, Brunner, Emmerton, Zetterberg, Filppula and Ericsson missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader and Miller co-led the team with 4 hits; Tootoo, Quincey and Filppula had 2; Huskins, Emmerton and Samuelsson had 1.
Giveaways: Cleary, Lashoff, Brunner and Zetterberg had giveaways;
Takeaways: Abdelkader, Tatar, Brunner and Zetterberg had takeaways;
Blocked shots: Huskins, White, Tootoo, Quincey, Samuelsson and Ericsson blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Lashoff and Andersson took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -5. Abdelkader, Cleary, Tatar, Lashoff, Samuelsson, Filppula, Ericsson and Andersson finished at -1; Datsyuk, Brunner and Zetterberg finished at +1.
Points: Datsyuk had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Zetterberg had 2 assists; Brunner had a goal; Lashoff had an assist.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 22:31 played; Zetterberg played 20:36; White played 20:09;
Datsyuk played 19:44; Lashoff played 19:33; Ericsson played 19:24;
Filppula played 18:31; Quincey played 17:51; Brunner played 17:46;
Cleary played 16:59; Samuelsson played 15:37; Huskins played 14:52;
Tatar played 13:45; Miller played 13:29; Anderson played 12:56;
Emmerton played 11:47; Tootoo played 10:49; Abdelkader played 10:32.
Red Wings notebooks: Darren Helm's pissed off, and his anger has nothing to do with the state of his team. Helm told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that he's incredibly frustrated with the slow progress he's making in recovering from a torn ligament in his back:
"I come in for treatment and then I go home to sleep," said Helm, who has played in one game (Jan. 25) this season with no timetable for a return.
Tests on Helm's back have shown no disk issues. Everything has come back negative, with specialists believing it's likely a ligament issue, either strained or maybe slightly torn.
This back issue follows a knee injury late last season, a lacerated tendon in his right forearm in Game 1 of last spring's playoffs, and a broken orbital bone sustained during the lockout. It's been one injury after another.
"Mentally, I've had a couple of bad days here and there," Helm said. "It's been a long time since I've played hockey or been healthy, and it's something I want to do and love to do, and when you don't have a chance to do that, it does get you down. But I'm surrounded by a lot of good people around the rink, I get a lot of support from family and friends, and the time will come when I'll be able to play and be healthy and I just have to look at that."
Doctors have told Helm the injury will heal.
"It's just a matter of time," he said. "They don't know when. If they say it's going to be good, I just have to stay happy and positive about that. I have been feeling better the last few days."
Kulfan also asked Pavel Datsyuk about the meteorite that crashed near Chelyabinsk, Russia, which is only a 122 miles southeast of Datsyuk's hometown, Yekaterinburg:
"I talked to them (friends, family)," said Datsyuk, noting everyone was safe and sound. "They saw it go past and saw a flash. They felt it. My town, there was no damage. Everything is perfect."
As you might imagine, a certain Red Wings coach misses Darren Helm, but he told the Free Press's Helene St. James that his team has to make due with what it's got:
The Wings count on Helm to center their third line and lead the penalty kill, and not having him available muddles the lineup. The Wings got all their offense from their top line Sunday, while the second line of Valtteri Filppula, Daniel Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson finished minus-1. Coach Mike Babcock said Filppula "played as hard as he's played in a while, I thought Samuelsson did some good things, but they didn't get enough done, obviously."
Babcock has called Helm the best third-line center in the NHL several times but said Sunday that Helm "looks vitally important because we got a ton of other guys (out). But we had 20 guys put the uniform on today, and lots good enough to get the job done, and we didn't get the job done."
This one's worth repeating. MLive's Ansar Khan spoke to several Wings about the fathers and mentors they've brought along on the annual "Fathers' Trip":
Kyle Quincey brought his father, Marty, who owns a sales agency in Kitchener, Ontario.
“He's pumped, he's looking forward to it,'' Quincey said. “He's a huge hockey fan. Just being with the boys is what he's looking forward to.''
Jimmy Howard brought his father-in-law after taking his father and grandfather on previous trips.
“I'm just trying to spread it around and give everyone a chance,'' Howard said. “He's just excited to be able to do something like this. He's a big sports fan and to be able to travel with us is real exciting. He was all over it.''
Jonathan Ericsson brought his younger brother, Jesper, who is in the U.S. for only the second time. The only other time Jesper saw his brother play in person since Jonathan joined the NHL was when the Red Wings started the 2009-10 season with a pair of games in Stockholm, Sweden.
Babcock believes these trips are beneficial for many reasons.
“I'll meet lots of people, you get to know these guys over time,'' Babcock said. “You understand their kids and where they come from. The other thing is the guys have a great time and we usually play hard.''
The Red Wings' website's Ayron Sequeira posted a wonderful collection of images and stories from Saturday's Hockey Day in Michigan and "Hockey Weekend Across America." It's not the sort of thing that one quotes, but what the hell:
Hockey Weekend Across America kicked off in Detroit for the Red Wings players and staff with a multitude of events taking place on what was dubbed Michigan Hockey Day. The day began with the opening of 97.1 The Ticket's annual SportsFest at Suburban Showplace in Novi. Red Wings alumni Tomas Holmstrom and Nick Lidstrom were on hand to sign autographs as each of the four Detroit sports teams had interactive showcases for sports fans to come check out. Always a fan favorite, the Red Wings Experience took it up a notch this year and unveiled an indoor synthetic ice skating surface, Xtraice.
Back at Joe Louis Arena, the Detroit Red Wings Kids Club presented by Michigan First Credit Union Money Kids, was holding a private practice for club members. The kids were seated in the stands behind the team benches and watched as Coach Babcock and the coaching staff took the Wings through a full practice. As the players left the ice, members of the Wings Staff held a raffle and awarded prizes ranging from a Justin Abdelkader autographed CCHA puck to a stick Cory Emmerton had broken in practice. The final prizes awarded were for 4 lucky attendees to join Kids Club Honorary President Niklas Kronwall on a private tour of the Wings locker room. Once inside the kids got to see the stick room, weight room, dressing room and even had the chance to meet Red Wings Captain, Henrik Zetterberg. At the conclusion of the tour Kronner returned to the stands and signed autographs for every kid in attendance.
Kids Club kids weren't the only father son duos in attendance at Wings practice. Yesterday marked the start of the annual Fathers Mentors trip in which the Wings players and coaching staff invite their fathers, father in-laws, brothers or mentors on the road with the team. This annual trip allows the family members of the Wings a chance to see what daily life in the NHL is like, and is also a chance for Wings players and coaches to say thank you for the support and mentor-ship that helped them achieve their NHL dream. New this year is "Dad Cam" as Dean Miller agreed to take along a GoPro camera for Red Wings TV and capture impromptu interviews, behind the scenes moments and whatever else may catch his eye. That footage will run as a feature next week on DetroitRedWings.com.
Out in Plymouth it was time for hockey novices to "Learn to Play" through a try hockey for free clinic supported by Michigan Amateur Hockey Association, (MAHA) and the Detroit Red Wings Foundation. The hour long clinic was open to children ages 4-9. All necessary equipment and instruction was provided. Try Hockey for Free Clinics continue throughout Michigan until March. To find a clinic in your area, or for more information visit http://www.DetroitRedWings.com/YouthHockey.
I do believe that the Wings are indeed holding a Toast of Hockeytown on March 18th as well, but that hasn't been announced to the public at large yet. I saw a partial season ticket-holder mention it on Twitter, so I'm crossing my fingers that the date's right (it would work: it's a Monday, and the Wings play on Saturday the 16th then not until Wednesday the 20th, so the timing seems accurate);
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose penned a look at the "Week Ahead in Hockeytown," which opens with an ironic quote from Babcock, regarding the call-ups and roster changes:
“It’s just because of injuries, but who cares?” Babcock said, on Sunday morning. “It’s interesting I was listening to some broadcaster talk about hockey and he was basically saying, ‘They don’t know who’s playing.’ When we put on our sweaters we have to find a way to win. It doesn’t matter who’s in, who’s out, who’s at home. It’s the NHL. Let’s play.”
TUESDAY – at NASHVILLE PREDATORS (7-3-5): After an auspicious start, the Predators have earned points in seven of their last eight games, including three straight. However, the Red Wings might be catching them at the right time – on the second night of back-to-back games. Nashville is 1-1-2 in back-to-backs this season. … Pekka Rinne is once again on top of his game, leading the league with three shutouts along with a 1.63 goals-against average (which is third best in the NHL) and a .936 save percentage (fifth in the league). The Predators need Renne to remain strong this season, especially since they’re the league’s lowest scoring team, potting under two goals a game. But the Preds give Renne a lot of help in front, blocking more than 16 shots per game behind defensemen Scott Hannan and Kevin Klein, who have registered 34 and 30 blocks, respectively.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Known more as a fringe player, center Colin Wilson is off to an outstanding season – by his standards. The Connecticut native has never produced more than 35 points in any of his previous three NHL seasons. But already this year, Wilson has four goals and 10 points to lead Nashville in both categories. Though he started slow (one point in seven games) the 23-year-old has collected points in six of the last eight games, including the lone tally in a 1-0 win over San Jose last Tuesday.
THURSDAY – vs. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (4-9-2): This is the third of five games between these Central Division rivals, but the first at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings are 1-1-0 this year against the Jackets. Detroit rebounded in a 4-3 shoot-out win on Jan. 21, but lost a 4-2 decision two weeks later at Nationwide Arena. Since beating the Wings on Feb. 2, the Blue Jackets have been on a tail-spin, going 1-4-1 in their last five games. Columbus is also 1-5-0 away from home, which is the worst in the league. Like the Wings, Columbus has also battled the injury bug. Currently, center Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) is out, while center Artem Anisimov (lower body) and right wing Cam Atkinson (lower body) are both questionable.
PLAYER TO WATCH: A solid all-around veteran defenseman, Fedor Tyutin leads the Blue Jackets in points with 10, including a team-high nine assists. In two games against the Red Wings this season, he has three assists, which is more than a quarter of his career points in nine NHL seasons against Detroit. The 6-foot-2 Russian eats up more than 23 minutes of ice-time per game, including 3:42 of penalty-kill time and 2:59 on the power play, which is less than he’s used to logging since the addition of Jack Johnson on the back-end, and the return of Detroit native James Wisniewski, who is healthy again, and back in the lineup after the birth of his daughter on Saturday.
SATURDAY – vs. NASHVILLE PREDATORS (7-3-5): The Predators’ goaltending tandem of Pekka Renne and Chris Mason leads the league with a combined 1.60 GAA. Granted, the majority of the games have been logged by Renne. But Mason, who is back in Nashville after spending the last four seasons between St. Louis, Atlanta and Winnipeg, has allowed just three goals in two games. … The Predators’ power play isn’t as strong on the road (2-for-28) as it is at home (5-for-20). … Grosse Pointe native David Legwand, the first-ever draft pick of the Predators, has three goals and six points, including a power-play goal. In 13 seasons, the 6-2 center has produced 40 points against the Wings – that’s his third-highest career total, behind Chicago (55) and Columbus (43).
PLAYER TO WATCH: Center Paul Guastad hasn’t been much of an offensive threat the past three seasons. But in Nashville, he’s more of a defensive contributor and is excellent on the draw. Entering the week, the North Dakota native had the third-most face-off wins in the Western Conference, winning more than 62 percent of his draws in the circle. He has also taken over the net-front roll for the injured Patric Honqvist. Gaustad admits he’s not all that great at tipping shots, but his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame makes him difficult for opposing goalies to see around.
SUNDAY vs. VANCOUVER CANUCKS (8-3-2): For the last three seasons, offense has led the way for the Canucks, who’ve finished among the top five teams each year. But this year, without top forwards Ryan Kesler and David Booth – who happen to be Detroit area natives – the Canucks have shifted gears and are getting on the winning track through defense. Behind veteran goalie Roberto Luongo, who seemingly has resurrected his career, Vancouver has allowed the second-fewest goals (27) in the league. … The Canucks are led by four players who have four or more goals – Zack Kassian (5), Alexandre Burrows (4), Mason Raymond (4) and Daniel Sedin (4) – this season. Meanwhile, center Henrik Sedin has a team-high 10 assists and a plus-9 rating.
PLAYER TO WATCH: For all of the talk that Luongo was on the fast track out of Vancouver, man, has the tide ever turned. Luongo and his command of the butterfly style don’t appear to be going anywhere soon. The 33-year-old Montreal native leads the NHL with a stingy 1.45 goals-against average and is second-best with a .943 save percentage. Luongo has won four straight games while allowing just four goals in those contests. It certainly seems like the Canucks have a goaltending controversy brewing, because interestingly enough, Cory Schneider has given up just four goals in his four wins this season. However, it’s the 13 goals that he’s allowed in losses to Dallas, San Jose and Anaheim that has given Luongo new life in Vancouver. At least for now.
Before the game, Babcock offered the following to Roose regarding his decision to sit Jakub Kindl for Kent Huskins' sake:
“I know what he’s going to do,” Babcock said, referring to Huskins. “Kuba moves the puck real good, and yet involved in too many plays going in the wrong direction. … Huskins doesn’t move the puck the same, but I know what he’s going to do. … So that’s the balance there.”
Last season, Detroit averaged a little more than seven giveaways per game. However, those numbers are slightly up this season, as the Red Wings have 107 giveaways in 14 games.
For Huskins, he said he has to keep it simple and be more responsible with the puck.
“Sometimes you try to make a play and it doesn't work out,” he said. “You can't play safe the whole game or you're not going to be scoring goals. It's more about finding a balance, making a quick play when it's there.”
The Red Wings supposedly committed only 4 giveaways on Sunday, though it's worth noting that statisticians rarely rack up tons of giveaways for the road team. Huskins played 14:52, had a hit and a blocked shot...
And the telling stat? For the third game in a row, the Red Wings fired more shots wide of the net or into opposing players than they did on the opposing team's goalie. On Sunday, the Wings fired 31 shots at Kuemper, sent 16 shots into Wild players, and fired 16 wide, for a total of 32 shot attempts that didn't hit or go past the goaltender.
Last Sunday, the Wings at least fired 31 shots at Jonathan Quick and only had another 13 attempts go wide or into Kings players, and last Saturday, they fired 30 shots at Nikolai Khabibulin...And 31 wide or into Edmonton players.
I know it's just my pet stat, but when the Wings struggle, they almost invariably fire more pucks wide of the net or into opposing teams' shot-blockers than they fire pucks on the net itself, and it's a sign of the team's inefficient play and attempts to get too "cute" and make pretty passing plays instead of shooting and forechecking and hunting down rebounds to generate secondary and tertiary scoring chances.
In something of a bummer, Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji spoke to Nicklas Lidstrom at 97.1 the Ticket's SportsFest, and Lidstrom confirmed that he's very happily retired, though things are...different...not playing hockey for the first time since 1991. Lidstrom says that the Wings' growing pains are somewhat understandable...
"It's a learning experience for the kids, and it's a great way to get a chance to play with so many guys out [with injuries]," Lidstrom said. "It's a shortened season, points are important, it's more of a sprint than you're used to with an 82-game season."
Scouting is just as difficult as Lidstrom assumed that it woudl be...
"It's fun watching the kids," Lidstrom said. "I've watched 17-year-olds, 18, 19-year-olds that are playing for the national teams and junior hockey, and there's some tremendous skill out there. It's fun to watch the speed and the skill that they have. But if it's for me in the future? That's why I'm kind of trying it out to see if it's something that I'd like to do in the future, too."
"It's not easy at all," Lidstrom said. "You can see a player that looks very good, then all of a sudden, it's in a tougher environment and they respond differently. I think it just takes time to kind of read that out and see — they're all talented but in different ways — kind of see who you think can make it. I think it takes a lot of work to get to know how to find talent, too."
And at home, he's happy to be with his kids, and
"Just the everyday of being home with the family, helping out with kids' practices and taking them to school in the morning, picking them up in the afternoon," Lidstrom said. "Just the everyday things you weren't around for in the past, being able to travel with the family."
And reunite his family. Lidstrom's oldest son, Kevin, who turns 19 this year, has been living in Sweden the last two years without them.
"Kevin is very happy to have us back," Lidstrom said. "He lived with my sister for two years, and now he moved back with us, with the family. I think he just enjoys being around his brothers, too, joking with his brothers and seeing them and feeling more part of our family again. I think he missed that a little bit when we were still here."
But this is the part I admittely don't understand. Lidstrom did the noble thing, the Swedish thing, by returning to his hometown, to a house he'd had built there during his last years with the Wings, to live a quieter life away from hockey, closer to his family and in-laws. But he'd lived in Novi for 20 years, and he and his wife had made many friends in Metro Detroit, including the Holmstrom family (which will probably remain here in Metro Detroit), and the family's decision to uproot itself for the sake of the kids, and for the sake of retaining their Swedishness, has been most difficult for Nicklas and Annika Lidstrom:
"I think it's been easier for my boys, the kids, than for me and my wife," he admitted. "They find friends, they go to school and they adapt quicker than we have. So it's been some adjustment time, but it's a new phase of life, too, when you're not going to the rink every day, you're not doing the grind of playing. And sometimes I miss that, I do."
So Lidstrom chose to move over 4,100 miles away from a team that would have very happily accommodated his desire to be a private citizen while doing some scouting, ambassadorial duties and sponsor-palm-greasings, 4,100 miles away from his best friend, 4,100 miles away from the people who've known him for half his life?
The Swedish thing to do is not easy. I hope it works out for the best, but I still don't understand why he did it.
Also of Red Wings-related note: Every Sunday for the last month or so, Crain's Detroit Business's Bill Shea has penned stories about the circumstances surrounding the possible building of a new rink for the Red Wings, and this weekend's article is...Different.
Almost nothing is known yet about how a proposed new arena for the Detroit Red Wings will be financed, but the public debt on Comerica Park was quietly refinanced last summer to save nearly $6 million.
The savings provides a bit of insight into the complex universe of sports venue financing. To take advantage of lower interest rates, the Detroit-Wayne County Stadium Authority, which owns the home of the Detroit Tigers, in August refinanced the approximately $66 million in remaining debt on the $85.8 million in 30-year tax-exempt bonds issued in 1997 to pay for a portion of Comerica Park.
The refinancing shaved $5.86 million off what now will be $165.3 million paid in principal and interest on the bonds by their maturity in 2027 -- a total that's in nominal dollars and doesn't account for any future refinancing.
On the original bonds, $20.9 million was paid on the principal and $63.9 million was paid in interest, according to figures provided by the county.
After the refinancing, remaining are $58.2 million in principal and $22.4 million in interest. The bonds refinanced are annual series that run from 2013 to 2027.
Instead of general fund tax dollars, the stadium bonds are paid off by a 2 percent rental car tax and 1 percent hotel room tax approved by Wayne County voters for the stadium in 1996.
With the $145 million the Tigers' owners contributed to build the stadium, Comerica Park's price tag will total $310.3 million. That doesn't reflect $80 million in other public funds spent on work on the infrastructure at the site, which also is home to Ford Field.
"We were very pleased with how (the refi) turned out," said William Wolfson, chairman of the authority and former interim corporation council for the county.
In the prospect department, in the AHL, Jonas Gustavsson held up pretty well in his first game played since a dozen or so minutes of relief work in Wings' season-opener vs. the Blues back on January 21st. Gustavsson stopped 26 of 27 shots and backstopped the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 2-1 win over the Charlotte Checkers. The Grand Rapids Griffins' website posted a recap...
Making his Griffins debut on a conditioning loan from the Detroit Red Wings, Jonas Gustavsson stopped 26 shots to backstop Grand Rapids to a 2-1 win over the Charlotte Checkers on Sunday in a battle of Western Conference powers at Van Andel Arena.
Gustavsson showed no signs of the groin injury that had sidelined him since Detroit’s season opener on Jan. 19, coming within 2:13 of a shutout and stifling a Checkers team that had won three straight and owned a five-point lead over Grand Rapids entering the day. He is expected to rejoin the Red Wings early this week.
The first-place Griffins (29-16-2-2), who tied a season high with their fourth straight home win, now possess a seven-point lead over Chicago in the Midwest Division race. They’ll pay an 8:05 p.m. EST visit on Friday to Rockford, the site of their infamous bench-clearing brawl with the IceHogs on Jan. 19.
Triston Grant’s fourth goal of the campaign put the Griffins ahead just 2:39 into the game. After tracking down a loose puck in the right corner, he turned and flung a sharp-angle shot on goal that deflected off a Checkers defender and past Justin Peters.
Luke Glendening was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down at the Charlotte blue line 7:51 into the second period, but his backhand attempt on Peters went wide left of the net. The Griffins would still take a 2-0 lead about six minutes later, though, when Andrej Nestrasil intercepted a pass at center ice, skated to the top of the left circle and fired a shot that was redirected past Peters’ glove at the 14-minute mark for his first of the season.
Charlotte (30-17-2-3) awoke from its slumber in the third to out-shoot Grand Rapids 11-6, but Gustavsson kept the door shut until a fluky goal at the 17:47 mark, when Jeremy Welsh’s try from the left corner immediately deflected off Gleason Fournier's stick and sailed over the 6-3 netminder.
Peters finished with 24 saves for Charlotte, which suffered only its seventh regulation defeat on the road this season (17-7-2-2).
And the Griffins' website posted both a Flickr photo gallery and highlights and interviews from the game...
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