The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/31/11 at 03:47 PM ET
Updated 8x with Winter Classic stuff and Mrazek talk (the Czechs lost 4-0 to Finland on Saturday; Mrazek stopped 24 shots and Teemu Pulkkinen had a goal and an assist for Finland) at 6:18 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the St. Louis Blues tonight (7 PM EST, FSD/FS Midwest/WXYT) and attempt to rebound from their 3-2 loss to Chicago on Friday night, MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the Wings will go with what works most of the time, their starting goaltender included:
Babcock said no lineup changes for wings tonight vs. st. louis.
NHL.com’s “At the Rink” blog (and I think this is NHL.com’s Brian Hedger’s article) provides a more in-depth preview as both the Wings’ and Blues’ media corps are in transit, and it’s not easy to get a late-night flight out of Chicago or Nashville as one might think on New Year’s Eve Eve:
Following a 3-2 loss on the road in Chicago on Friday night, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock quickly ran through some of the positives.
The penalty kill was great, stonewalling the Chicago Blackhawks on all five of their power plays. The bottom two lines played well in his estimation, including third-line center Justin Abdelkader—who scored the game’s first goal while filling in for injured Darren Helm (groin). The Wings’ “baby” line of all rookies—Gustav Nyquist, Cory Emmerton and Joakim Andersson—was also one of the few Detroit bright spots, skating with the speedy Hawks.
Still, it’s what went left unsaid—but was strongly implied—that mattered most to the Wings heading into another Central Division showdown Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena against the gritty St. Louis Blues. Babcock didn’t praise the work of his top two lines and basically said they have to be better than they were at the United Center.
“The bottom line is we weren’t good enough,” Babcock said. “We got out-played, any way you look at it. That’s not good enough. The whole game was fine, but to me we just didn’t have enough play in their zone. I thought the kids that we gave an opportunity to (were good). We just needed more.”
Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen didn’t record a point between them on the top line, while the second line of Valtteri Filppula, Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler each went without a point and finished with a minus-2 rating.
As you’re probably familiar with the Wings’ lineup by now (Franzen-Datsyuk-Bertuzzi, Filppula-Zetterberg-Hudler, Miller-Abdelkader-Cleary and now Andersson-Emmerton-Nyquist up front, with Lidstrom-White, Kronwall-Stuart and Ericsson-Commodore on defense), here’s the Blues’ likely lineup:
David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Sobotka-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
Evgeny Grachev-Jason Arnott-Matt D’Agostini
Jamie Langenbrunner-Scott Nichol-B.J. Crombeen
Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Ian Cole-Kevin Shattenkirk
Now Twitter is hiccuping like nobody’s business today, so you may not be able to actually see these “Tweets,” but Fox Sports Detroit’s Shannon Hogan, via RedWingsFeed, posted wants Wings fans to know that FSD will be roaming the crowd looking for your best “Wings memories”...
Anyone going to the #Wings game tonight? I want to hear your best Wings story.If it’s good I might interview you on @FOXSportsDet #RedWings
And AyronattheWings offered this:
Time to get ready to go back to the rink…Blues and Wings at 7pm. Chelios ceremonial puck drop, 25Mth fan recognition; big night!!
In the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins recalled Thomas McCollum from the Toledo Walleye as Jordan Pearce has a sprained ankle;
• And the AHL’s website re-posted a story from GrandRapidsGriffins.com’s Mark Newman which is worth a second look:
Ray Ferraro knew his second son might someday have a chance to play hockey at the game’s highest level and, if he was going to have anything to say about it, Landon Ferraro was going to excel.
“Landon was a real athletic kid,” said the elder Ferraro, whose first-born, Matt, also liked sports. “Whatever Matt was into, Landon wanted to do it as well. He was a terrific baseball player and a very good soccer player, but he gravitated to hockey pretty early. We didn’t push him one way or another. We knew he would figure it out on his own accord.”
Landon decided to pursue the sport that had earned his father a very good living. From 1984 to 2002, Ray Ferraro played 18 seasons in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Atlanta Thrashers and St. Louis Blues. It was a decision that complicated their father-son relationship.
“If he had wanted to be a piano player, it wouldn’t have mattered. I could have given him advice, but he would never need to listen to whatever I said because I didn’t play the piano. Unfortunately, what he chose to play was something that I understood very well.”
A father only wants what is best for his son. Just ask Pierre Aubry, who coached his son Louis-Marc Aubry for several years when his boy was growing up. Like Ray Ferraro, Aubry was a former NHL player, having been a member of the Quebec Nordiques and Detroit Red Wings during the 1980s. But while Ferraro transitioned into the world of broadcasting, Aubry was immersed in coaching, a small detail that might have given him a not-so-little advantage when it came time to teach.
“I don’t know if I was more knowledgeable than other coaches, but Louis-Marc seemed to appreciate my advice,” the elder Aubry said. “I never had any problems with him.”
That’s it for now. More to come, most likely, albeit at a middling rate as Twitter is just doing a terrible job of dealing with New Year’s, so it’s back to, “Refresh tab” for me…
Update: The Edmonton Journal’s Farhan Devji spoke to Wings director of amateur scouring Joe McDonnell about Petr Mrazek’s fantastic 52-save performance at the World Junior Championships on Friday:
“When you have guys playing in the tournament, you hope that they show well and [Mrazek] was outstanding today,” McDonnell said just minutes after the game. “Actually, he was great every game he’s played in so far. With him last year and the political situation they had in the Czech Republic, not letting him play in the tournament, for them to change their minds this year and for him to come out and do that is great for the country.”
McDonnell said Mrazek will turn pro next year, when he’ll “battle it out” with goaltender Thomas McCollum in Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League. When that happens, McDonnell said he doesn’t think Mrazek should tone down his emotion on the ice — nor should he have to.
“Sometimes, to be a really good player no matter what position you play, you have to show your emotion and if he doesn’t do that, he probably won’t be into the game as much,” McDonnell said. “I don’t think the first-pumping will happen all the time, but he’ll show his emotion in different ways.”
What you see on the ice from Mrazek is no facade; that’s just who he is, McDonnell said.
“Actually, I got a text from a guy that works with us, and he said: ‘I wish he’d show a little more emotion in his game.’ It was fun. He’s a real bubbly kid. That’s his personality. It was awesome.”
Update #2: Good luck, Homer, per the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:
Quick update from the Wings’ morning skate, which had all of four skaters take part in. Tomas Holmstrom did not skate, but was in the locker room receiving treatment for his groin tear. Holmstrom, who suffered the injury in Nashville, was placed on short-term injured reserve Thursday. He has yet to start skating, but hopes to do so Monday
“It’s going better,” Holmstrom said. “It’s still sore but way better than yesterday and a couple days ago. They didn’t want me to skate today so I’ll probably skate Monday, for sure.”
He also hopes to play Tuesday in Dallas.
“That would be good,” Holmstrom said. “I’ve gotta skate first but most, the range and everything, I feel pretty strong. It’s just some stretching areas, it’s still sore and pain.”
Holmstrom said groin injuries have never been an issue for him.
“It’s just bad luck,” he said. “I hope (it won’t keep out a long time). The big test is when you’re skating and push away with the groin. I will be real disappointed if I couldn’t skate Monday and play Tuesday. I would like to get back at it now.”
Update #3: Take this for what you will, from Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika on Twitter:
NHL COO John Collins: League has talked about WC with Red Wings. Downtown Detroit important to the Ilitches.
Update #4: Again, more from Cotsonika, via RedWingsFeed:
NHL COO John Collins said Red Wings understand how they could use WC “to do what they want to do in terms of getting the new arena built.”
Collins: “If we were to do something in the future in Detroit, I think what the plan is for downtown Detroit would be a big factor.”
Given that the City of Detroit is going bankrupt and that Wayne County is under federal investigation for widespread corruption, it could take 5-7 years for a new rink to be built, easily.
Update #5: Here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s game-day update:
The Detroit Red Wings will make no lineup changes tonight against the St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena, as they seek their 12th consecutive victory at home and look to rebound from Friday’s 3-2 loss at Chicago.
“We’re going to win, that’s the only change,’’ coach Mike Babcock said.
Babcock liked how his all-rookie fourth line of Gustav Nyquist, Cory Emmerton and Joakim Andersson (LW-C-RW) acquitted itself against the Blackhawks. The trio had some good shifts cycling and grinding the puck in the offensive zone, providing some energy.
“I thought they were great,’’ Babcock said. “They didn’t play a ton but I thought they were great Are they going to get eight or 10 (minutes) tonight? I couldn’t tell you that. But I thought they did a good job and they were positive for us. In the end, (Chicago’s) big guys were better than our big guys. That had nothing to do with our fourth or third line. I actually thought (Justin) Abdelkader’s line, played against (Patrick) Kane all night long, I thought they were great.”
The Red Wings are 33-22-8-1 in their traditional New Year’s Eve game. They are 7-1-1 in their last nine, including a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders last season.
The Red Wings and Blues are tied with 47 points, five behind the Blackhawks in the Central Division. St. Louis is 2-1 vs. Detroit this season.
The Blues have the second-worst power play in the NHL (12.7 percent) but have converted on 5-of-16 chances (31.3 percent) against the Red Wings.
• The Edmonton Journal’s Aaron Taylor’s hopped on the Mrazek bandwagon, and. via RedWingsFeed, Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is defending Mrazek in a conversation with the Winnipeg Sun’s Ted Wyman:
“It’s a big win for them,” Pavelec said Saturday after the Jets gameday skate. “They were really excited, he was really excited. Probably only the U.S. guys are mad right now because they are going home.”
Pavelec motioned toward a few of his teammates, like Blake Wheeler, Tim Stapleton and Jim Slater, who are all American, as he uttered those last words. Not surprisingly, those players didn’t share Pavelec’s positive opinion of Mrazek’s behaviour.
“I thought it was a little over the top,” Stapleton said. “Give the kid credit … they won. I don’t know if I’m all for the celebrations, though. Now the kid’s a star and everyone knows who he is, so good for him.”
The Czechs eliminated the U.S. from medal contention with the win, which was a bitter pill to swallow for current members of the American team and alumni like Wheeler.
“It’s fine to be excited and happy,” said Wheeler, who played for the U.S. at the 2006 world juniors in Vancouver. “At a certain point it was way overboard. He gets burnt on a (penalty shot). The kid fried him and he missed the net, and he fist pumps and he’s in the corner chest bumping the fans. There’s a time to draw the line. If I was on the U.S. team — I don’t know, maybe not — but I would’ve liked to put one right at his head at the end of the game. I’m sure they all did, too.”
Pavelec believes Mrazek, a Detroit Red Wings draft pick, will soon learn that his behaviour is not always going to be acceptable.
“He’s still a kid, he was excited. He will figure it out later,” said Pavelec, who was more thrilled for his country than interested in talking about the junior team’s goalie. Nobody believed in them. Nobody thought they were going to beat anybody so that’s why they were so excited. I watched the game and cheered for them, but it’s only one game.”
The “topique-du-jour” on my Twitter feed after Canada beat the Czechs 5-0 Wednesday at the World Juniors was the fist-pump made by goaltender Petr Mrazek after stopping Canadian player Ryan Stone on a penalty shot. This was an outrage that lasted less than 48 hours, until Mrazek, in one of the most animated performances I’ve ever seen from a goaltender, not only stopped 52 pucks, but celebrated like a little kid on the street pretending he’s playing Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Followers of the OHL will tell you just how good Mrazek is, and I don’t necessarily want to focus on his performance. It was outstanding,
A treasured image in hockey history. Also, something only Europeans who don’t respect the game do, according to one columnist.
but his hilarious motions in the game’s latter stages of the Czech Republic’s 5-2 victory to effectively eliminate the Americans from the tournament. Not only were fans no longer booing his quirky outbursts, but they were chanting his name at the conclusion of the game. The goalie banged into the glass after his team scored, fist pumped more virogously than he had Wednesday after stopping Josh Archibald on a penalty shot, and made fingerguns motions into the crowd after the anthem had been sung.
But on Wednesday, you couldn’t fist-pump, not without hearing the boos of some fans who were naturally displeased that their team failed to take a lead. “Hockey’s future stars are quickly learning that wacky celebrations don’t win over the crowd,” suggested the Edmonton Journal’s Aaron Hutchins.
Canadian fans feel like hockey players to keep the post-goal stuff simple: stick up the air, tap on the head for line-mates, and high-fives along the whole bench.
Act like you’ve been there before—that’s the Canadian mantra.
I presume that this writer hasn’t seen a game in this tournament for the last ten years, since every Canadian goal is accompanied by a celebratory fist-pump or customary run into the glass. Yes, even the Canadian players react wildly when things happen and it isn’t just a situation reserved for Europe, so quit your mock indignation. They’re kids, and this is just a game, and though you may not be thrilled, there’s no reason to need to attribute traits to players by nation. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to play hockey, just like there’s no ‘Canadian’ ‘Swedish’ or ‘South Sudanese’ way of playing hockey. Hockey is hockey, celebrations are celebrations, regardless of whether or not the player riding on his stick is a veteran Canadian player against his old team or a young Swedish man against Switzerland.
If you aren’t cheering for your own country at this tournament, you’re probably cheering for the underdogs, who happened to be the Czechs on Friday against the Americans. On the other side, it’s nice that half of the country, un-exposed to the fun-loving wacky Mrazek, get an afternoon to cheer him on. All credit in the world to Mrazek for making the most of the opportunity because it may be a while before he’s in an arena with 16,000 fans cheering his name (after all, he was drafted by Detroit).
In all seriousness, it’s hard to pick a goal that isn’t in a blowout that involves anything less than a ridiculous amount of over-celebration by teenage kids that act like they’ve scored Stanley Cup-winners at the WJC. Mrazek’s celebrations are just par for the course.
Update #7: More Winter Classic stuff from the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein:
One of the chief topics of conversation at any N.H.L. Winter Classic is where the next Winter Classic will be held. The New York area is a candidate for the 2013 outdoor game, according to John Collins, the N.H.L.’s chief operating officer and the architect behind the league’s wildly successful outdoor game. The N.H.L. has looked at Citi Field, MetLife Stadium, the Yale Bowl and West Point as possible sites, Collins said before the Flyers-Rangers alumni game at Citizens Bank Park Saturday afternoon.
“There are a lot of really great venues in the New York area,” Collins said. “Yankee Stadium is obviously a special place, but we can’t get in there for the next couple of years” because of college bowl game commitments. The Yankees have held the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 30 the past two years. The Winter Classic is usually played on Jan. 1, although this time it will be played a day later to avoid television contract conflicts with the N.F.L.
Collins suggested that a game on the West Coast was unlikely. “We have a window at 1 o’clock on New Year’s Day, so that limits your ability to go west,” he said. “We like that window, and we like the family environment at these games. I think part of that is playing at 1 o’clock.”
But Collins said that a game in Minnesota, with a noon Eastern faceoff, is a possibility.
Collins also said that any game involving the Detroit Red Wings would probably be staged at the Tigers home, Comerica Park, in downtown Detroit rather than at the college football stadiums in Ann Arbor or East Lansing. That the Ilitch family, the owners of the Red Wings, have kept the Red Wings in the downtown and have helped to develop the area went a long way into making that decision, Collins said.
He added that the league continually received bids to host the game, and that this week Miami — a considerable long shot given its climate — put in a bid for the outdoor game.
“But we haven’t gone to straight-out bids because we’re pretty precise about the market, the matchup.”
The Winter Classic, which grew out of the outdoor Heritage Classic in Edmonton in 2003, has so far only been held in the United States, although Collins said a Winter Classic in Canada is no longer out of the question. So long as the right matchup could be figured out.
“There were strong feelings about driving the ratings in the beginning, but the event is beginning to grow now,” said Collins, who added that NBC is “buying into something we’re building together, which is a celebration of hockey.”
And here’s what the Wings had to say about playing another Winter Classic to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:
“It would be awesome to do it one more time, for sure,” said Holmstrom, who played in the 6-4 win over Chicago at Wrigley Field in the 2009 Winter Classic. “It was a great experience in Chicago. To celebrate New Year’s and the family was there in Chicago. It was the perfect day for it, too. It was fun the day before, the families were there. We skated outside. It was really good. And we came up with a win, too. But it was a great experience, something you’ll remember the rest of your life.”
A source told The Macomb Daily that the annual game could be coming to Detroit in the next season or two.
“It’s a short list and we’re on it,” the person said. “We’ll have the game in the not too distant future.”
Possible venues to host would be Comerica Park or Michigan Stadium, which hosted the “Big Chill at the Big House” in 2010 that had an announced crowd of nearly 114,000.
“It would be really cool (Big House), for sure, get the home crowd, too,” Holmstrom said.
The New York Rangers are also on the short list to host a Winter Classic. However, the Rangers play in this year’s event today against the Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Holmstrom is one of 11 current Red Wings that took part in 2009 game at Wrigley Stadium.
“I know I’m looking forward to watching the one (today),” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Anytime you get a chance to play outdoors, I think it’s a great thing. If we could do it in Michigan, it would be great for our fans and great for our franchise, great for our trademark, so a real good thing.”
Update #8: Here’s more Winter Classic stuff from NHL.com’s Dan Rosen’s conversation with NHL COO John Collins:
Beyond Philadelphia, Collins touched on two markets that could one day get a Winter Classic game—New York and Detroit. Collins said the NHL has looked into venues in and around the New York area, including Yankee Stadium. However, the Yankees home ballpark won’t be available to the NHL until at least 2014 due to a prior commitment to host the Pinstripe Bowl that expires after the 2013 game.
“We looked at Citi Field,” Collins said. “We’ve looked out at Met Life (Stadium). We’ve looked at the Yale Bowl. We’ve talked about West Point. There are a lot of really great venues in the New York area. Yankee Stadium obviously is a special place and we really can’t get in there for the next couple of years.”
As for Detroit, Collins said the League has talked in general terms with the Red Wings and owners Mike and Marian Ilitch about hosting a Winter Classic, but the talks have not reached the formal stages.
“Obviously they’ve played in Chicago as the visiting team so they have an experience with the event and understand how they can use it in Detroit to do what they want to do in terms of getting a new arena built,” Collins said.
Asked if playing a game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor is a possibility, Collins said it’s likely the League and the Red Wings would investigate possibilities for hosting a game in downtown Detroit first. The Ilitch family also owns the Detroit Tigers and Comerica Park in downtown Detroit.
“I think for the Red Wings, downtown Detroit in general has been a big investment for the Ilitches,” Collins said.
ESPN’s Scott Burnside just blathered about the possibility of a Detroit-area Winter Classic…
If the 2013 Winter Classic does end up a Motor City Classic, the question of which team will provide the opposition highlights another of the dilemmas facing the league moving forward. It would be natural, for instance, to have a rematch of the ‘09 game with longtime rival Chicago making the trip to Detroit, although a source told ESPN.com Saturday no discussions have taken place with the Hawks about participating.
But what about the Toronto Maple Leafs? The Leafs will celebrate their centennial 2017 and are hoping to recognize that historic mark with a number of big NHL events, such as the draft and All-Star Game. They would also like to host an outdoor game. Could a visit to Detroit next Jan. 1 be a precursor to that taking place to mark the centennial with an outdoor game?
The first five Winter Classics have all featured all-American tilts, and Canadian teams have played in two Heritage Classics, the first of which was organized by from the team’s end before the lockout, the second of which pitted Montreal at Calgary last year.
The prevailing thinking has been that NBC wouldn’t be interested in having a Canadian team on the docket because it would dilute the ratings potential, but Collins said they aren’t ruling anything out moving forward.
“From Day One we always talked about this being a celebration of hockey,” Collins said. “I think we’re getting there to the point where people are less concerned about whether or not their favorite teams are in the game and more just buying into the idea that it’s a great day for hockey. There’s a lot of juice around this event. I think the trick now is how do we keep building this thing into the kind of, I was going to say national but I guess I mean North American event that we think it really could be. I think there’s still a lot of room there. I think people in Canada still think, ‘It’s a U.S.-U.S. game and the Heritage is our game.’ And I think in the U.S., a hockey fan looks at the Heritage and says, well that’s the Canadian market game,” he said.
While the game is important for the host city, the NHL also has to balance the national—or international appeal given that the Winter Classic is also covered extensively and broadcast in Canada—appeal. In short, that means small-market teams that haven’t achieved on-ice success that raises their profile around the league will continue to be excluded from the process.
And two more Wings wondered aloud about logistical challenges while speaking to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness about said possibility:
“They do a fantastic job,” Commodore said. “They’ve got great programming left and right. That adds to the event.
“The only thing I don’t like is being miced up during games,” Commodore added. “I did that once in the playoffs in Carolina and I think I was minus-3 in the first period and I tore the thing off at intermission. Whenever I’m miced up during the game I can’t stop thinking about it. You worry about what you say and I don’t talk a whole lot.”
If the Wings are chosen to participate and HBO does a series on the game coach Mike Babcock wants all the attention paid to the players.
“I think it’s great for the game, I think it’s great for the players,” Babcock said. “Myself, I’d rather not be involved in it but if that’s part of what you’ve got to do to have the Winter Classic, you gotta be involved. The game’s about the players. And I think as a coach, the more you’re in it, the more you understand that it’s about the players. I like the attention to be on the players.”
• Shifting focus back to tonight’s game, here’s Ken Kal’s game-day preview…
Per the Wings’ Twitter account:
Loretta Leinberger is the 25 millionth fan to attend a game at JLA since the Ilitch family purchased the team.
She is officially being honored by the Red Wings tonight. The 25 million mark was passed on 12/17.
• And I’ll conclude the pre-game talk with an eye-roller from IIHF.com’s Martin Merk, who noted that WJC star Petr Mrazek’s team still stands behind “blacklisting” Mrazek from last year’s Czech World Junior Championship team:
“The Czechs don’t come to the World Juniors to play in the relegation round, but we expected them to do that. We didn’t expect much,” said Pavel Barta, a former spokesman of the Czech Ice Hockey Association who writes for a Czech sports daily in Edmonton.
“It was a surprise. This team was underrated. And we know we had better goaltending,” Barta added.
What he means is Mrazek, who is in his last year of U20 eligibility, and the controversy about him back home as he was banned from representing the team in the past. Mrazek transferred from his native club Vitkovice Ostrava to the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s in 2009. It was a transfer that was approved because no contract was binding him with Vitkovice, where he played on the junior teams.
However, Vitkovice didn’t accept the decision that Mrazek could leave the club without receiving any sort of compensation.
“Clubs in the Czech Republic have the right to veto nominations to national teams in the case of transfer disputes,” Barta said. That’s why Mrazek has never played a single game in IIHF competition.
Luckily for the U20 national team, the Czech Ice Hockey Association resolved the dispute and convinced Vitkovice to abstain from vetoing Mrazek’s participation again.
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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.