Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Blues wrap-up and bad news about Calle Jarnkrok: the third-period hiccup returns

The Detroit Red Wings either experienced a little hiccup in the third period of their 5-3 victory or St. Louis, or, depending on your particular Wings fan’s disposition, they exhibited a characteristic inability to focus over 60 minutes which is particularly worrisome given the playoffs’ proximity.

I’m going to go with the former for the present moment as Wings coach Mike Babcock took a timeout after the Blues rallied from a 3-1 deficit, responding with two goals over the course of 1 minute and 20 seconds, and because, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford notes, the Wings managed to kill off four Blues power plays—including three consecutive PK’s in the second period (in no small part due to sterling goaltending from Jimmy Howard, who stopped 27 shots in another superb effort).  Kevin Shattenkirk told Rutherford that the Wings’ rally offered a learning experience of the painful variety:

“They’re an experienced team, obviously, and they called that timeout (after the Blues tied the score 3-3) and kind of righted the ship,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “I think it’s something that we have to definitely learn from.”

David Backes and Matt D’Agostini rallied the Blues from a 3-1 deficit with two goals in a span of three shots, knotting the score with 13:41 left in regulation. Backes scored his 25th goal of the season after a tremendous individual effort. He brought the puck out from behind the Detroit net and, from one knee, put a shot on net. Andy McDonald tried to work with the rebound, but the puck came back out to Backes, and he whistled a shot past goalie Jimmy Howard. Assisted by McDonald and D’Agostini, Backes cut the Blues’ deficit to 3-2 with 16:12 left in regulation.

The Blues nearly tied the score 30 seconds later, but T.J. Oshie grazed the side of the net with a shot. On their next shot, the offense picked up the equalizer, as D’Agostini redirected a shot by Shattenkirk past Howard for his 15th goal of the season.

“We felt the third period was going to be about effort,” Blues coach Davis Payne said. “I thought for the most part we worked consistently through that game. Games are going to go back and forth, especially against a good team like that.”

And then Pavel Datsyuk took over, slithering between two Blues defenders, dekeing the puck around Roman Polak and flicking a shot through Jaroslav Halak:

It did go back and forth, as seven minutes after D’Agostini tied the score the Blues witnessed some more greatness from Datsyuk. He came off the wall and split the Blues’ Ian Cole and Oshie before deking Roman Polak and putting a shot past Jaroslav Halak.

“It was kind of a tough play for me,” Halak said. “There were two guys in front of me, so I was just trying to take the space. He made a good play. Usually when you give up turnovers to players like that, usually they end up in our net. Tonight, it seemed like every time we made a turnover, they scored a goal.”

The Post-Dispatch’s Dan O’Neill offered the following game narrative...

The Blues lose a game in which they probably deserved a better fate - which has happened too often this season.

They fought hard to come back from a 3-1 deficit and tie it in the third. But the Wings score two goals in 80 seconds - they had two in 16 seconds in the first period - and that’s the difference.

Pavel Datsyuk made a great individual play to give the Wings a 4-3 lead, but the Blues allowed him to walk right in and beat Jarsolav Halak. The Blues’ netminder was unable to come up with any big saves as the Wings scored five goals on 27 shots.

The Blues got goals from Adam Cracknell, his first NHL goal, Matt D’Agostini (15) and David Backes (25).

And after the Blues gave the Wings credit in speaking to the Associated Press...

“I thought their penalty kill outefforted, outworked our power play,” Blues coach Davis Payne said. “We didn’t make very clean decisions, and in contact situations they won most of them, either physically or with the stick.”

Halak could only shrug at Datsyuk’s ability to steal the puck from two Blues and do what he did…

“Turnovers to players like that, it usually ends up in our net,” Halak said. “It was a learning game for us. Let’s not get distracted or anything, just get ready for the next one.”

And the Wings argued that their third period hiccup was nothing more than that—a little deviation from their game plan that got “sorted out” via Babcock’s timeout:

“We didn’t get frustrated, we just settled down,” said Howard, who earned his NHL-leading 17th road win. “I thought we played another great game minus the first five minutes of the third period.”
...
“We got on our heels a little bit. I look up and they scored two goals,” Babcock said. “You just need someone to hang onto the puck and make a play.”

Datsyuk did just that, as Justin Abdelkader, who salted the game away and played nothing less than a fantastic game on the Wings’ most dominant line—with Kris Draper and Darren Helm—shook his head about Datsyuk’s play as well. For the Wings, their head-shaking involved amazement at the fact that Datsyuk makes the extraordinary look routine:

“Pavs made a great play,” said Justin Abelkader, who added an insurance goal late in the third. “He’s one of the best players in the league and he’s been playing so well of late.”

The Wings reiterated their points of emphasis to The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...

“We didn’t get frazzled,” goalie Jimmy Howard (26 saves) said. “Babs did a great job using that timeout and settling everything down. They were getting on top of us there. The timeout allowed guys to regroup and we started getting pucks deep again.”

Another key for the Wings was killing four Blues power plays, three in the second period when the Wings were nursing a 2-1 lead.

“Absolutely superb, our penalty kill was outstanding,” Babcock said.

And both Niklas Kronwall (who led the Wings in ice time—he played 26:11—and points, with a goal and two assists), and Babcock suggested that the Wings’ back-to-back wins against the Oilers and now the Blues give them a solid foundation upon which to build a late-season push for the Western Conference title while holding off the San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks’ attempts to unseat the Wings from their second-place status:

“It’s something we want to build on, for sure,” said Niklas Kronwall, who had a goal and two assists in the victory. “For some reason, we’ve been able to come out and just win games and find ways to win games. We obviously want to play better at home. But on the road we feel pretty good.”
...
“You have to win your games and this was a good weekend for us that way,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We could have won that game against Los Angeles (Wednesday). It was three games in the right direction. We had a tough schedule there for a while, but we’ll get freshened up, really skate on Monday and we should be quicker.”

As for Datsyuk, he told the Free Press’s Helene St. James what he suggested to Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating after the game—that the Wings have about fifteen games to get back to playing like the, “Red and white machine”—and Saturday’s win was a good step in that direction, hiccups included:

“This year it’s happened lots with us, we’re up and down,” Datsyuk said. “It’s good that we come back, good that we play back-to-back and we win both games. We have good second period, lots of guys do the penalty kill and we score on the power play, but everything can change in the third. We’re supposed to fix this.”

Given the Wings’ power play struggles of late, the fact that Kronwall’s goal gave the Wings a 2-1 lead after giving up yet another early goal registers on the “minor miracle” scale!

The Wings returned home from Phoenix and lost their next game, too, to Los Angeles, but felt they did more good than bad against the Kings. The Wings went on to grind out a victory Friday against Edmonton, and then improved to 7-4-1 on the second of back-to-backs after twice pulling out two-goal leads on the Blues. Ruslan Salei and Darren Helm scored in the first period, and Niklas Kronwall in the second.

“I thought we played a real good road game,” coach Mike Babcock said. “They scored a goal and were a little better than us for a period of time, but we were able to really take over the game for much of it there. The start of the third, I thought we got on our heels a little bit. I look up and they’ve had three shots and scored two goals, and then after our time out, we got going again.”

And while Datsyuk shrugged his own shoulders regarding his goal…

“I’m alone in front of the net, and I shoot,” Datsyuk said. “It’s not too much to talk about.”

Babcock raved about the play of the Draper-Helm-Abdelkader line, which has stepped up so much that the Wings’ revamped line of Jiri Hudler, Mike Modano and Valtteri Filppula essentially earned fourth-line minutes (Modano and Hudler barely cracked ten minutes of ice time on Saturday night):

“They were outstanding,” Babcock said. “We started them tonight, we knew they’d be good. I thought that line was excellent for us. Our penalty kill was absolutely superb. It’s hard to look at our team and not find good players tonight – I thought we had a lot of good players.”

Again, Datsyuk’s teammates did the raving for him, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted…

“The stuff he can do with the puck is pretty amazing,” teammate Niklas Kronwall said. “When you’re out there with him or on the bench, you just kind of shake your head every know and then.”

Said Datsyuk: “Tommy gave me a good pass and just reaction to get away from big hit and I’m alone in front of the net and I shoot. Not too much to talk about.”
...
Datsyuk’s goal came after his team had gone eight minutes without a shot, as the Blues were building momentum. Justin Abdelkader scored 1:20 later, pulling up in the slot while one-on-one with Roman Polak and snapping a shot past Halak to give Detroit some breathing room.

“For a while there they were controlling the play and putting pressure on us. I thought it kind of broke their back a little bit,” Abdelkader said. “Pav made a great play. He always seems to impress every night. He’s one of the best, if not the best player in the league. He’s fun to watch out there.”

And the Wings very justifiably patted themselves on the back regarding their new-found prowess on the penalty-kill…

“We had real good pressure all over the ice,” Kronwall said. “Our forwards did a good job in the neutral zone, we tried to stay four together and whenever they came up with chances Howie (goalie Jimmy Howard) came up big.”

Howard (who’s moving smoothly around the crease after a herky-jerky stretch of struggles over the Wings’ losing streak) agreed, as he told the Detroit News’s Kulfan:

Said Howard: “Guys were doing a great job of being in the lanes and blocking shots and not giving them anything, keeping them to the outside.”

Kronwall also reflected upon his own play, which has surged since Babcock reunited him with long-time defensive partner Brad Stuart…

“No question you want to be out there in all situations,” Kronwall said. “I feel like I’m getting that confidence from them (the coaching staff) and hopefully they’re happy and we build from this.”
...
“He and Stuart were great,” Babcock said. “They really competed and played hard minutes. They were excellent.”

And, as the Free Press’s St. James notes, Babcock’s decision to separate Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg (more on that later) didn’t exactly backfire, either:

Coach Mike Babcock split up Zetterberg and Datsyuk, putting Zetterberg between Bertuzzi and Cleary and Datsyuk with Johan Franzen and Holmstrom. Mike Modano played with Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler, while Helm was with Abdelkader and Kris Draper. Drew Miller was a healthy scratch.

With Ruslan Salei, per St. James, heading to California to be with his wife, who’s overdue to deliver the couple’s second child, Brian Rafalski on tap to return on Wednesday and a slate of back-to-backs against the Capitals and Blue Jackets kicking off a three-games-in-four-nights stretch late next week, with a game against Nashville in Nashville (where the Wings have been nothing less than terrible) in the offing, this weekend’s performances have given the Wings a foundation based on timely scoring, solid special teams play and key players stepping up at the right times, from Howard on out, to build upon, but as Datsyuk’s suggested, the Wings are far from playoff-ready.

Hopefully the good times will continue to roll as the Wings slowly but surely reassemble all the components of the “big red and white machine” that rolled over opponents in October and November. There’s no time like the present to start kicking arses and taking names on a regular basis again.

Multimedia:

Highlights: The Red Wings’ website posted a 5-minute highlight clip narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:

Post-game: The Blues’ website posted a clip of Adam Cracknell, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jaroslav Halak discussing the Blues’ loss…

 

As well as an audio clip of coach Davis Payne’s post-game presser;

Fox Sports Midwest posted clips of Carlo Coliacovo’s take on the game, Payne’s presser and John Kelly and Darren Pang’s game wrap-up;

And Fox Sports Detroit posted Mike Babcock’s post-game interview with John Keating and quips from Jimmy Howard and Justin Abdelkader, as well as Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s wrap-up. Call the latter video an, ahem, benchmark of sorts…

Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 6-image AP gallery;

The Detroit News posted an 11-image gallery,

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted a 4-image gallery in its game recap;

NHL.com posted a 38-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted a 23-image gallery;

The Blues’ website posted a 28-image gallery in its recap;

And the Red Wings’ website posted a 27-image gallery and embedded an image in its website’s recap.

Statistics:

Shots 29-27 Blues overall, breaking down as 13-12 Detroit in the 1st period, 7-6 Blues in the 2nd period and 10-8 Blues in the 3rd period.

The Blues went 0-for-4 in 8:00 of PP time; the Wings went 1-for-2 in 2:09 of PP time.

Howard stopped 26 of 29 shots; Halak stopped 22 of 27.

Our goals:

Salei (2) from Cleary (17);

Helm (11) from Abdelkader (11) and Draper (5);

Kronwall (11) from Datsyuk (34) and Franzen (23), PP;

Datsyuk (22) from Holmstrom (16) and Kronwall (22);

Abdelkader (5) from Kronwall (23) and Stuart (13).

The 3 stars, per the Blues’ media corps, were Helm, Datsyuk and Kronwall.

Faceoffs 30-27 Detroit (53% won by Detroit);

Blocked shots 10-10;

Missed shots 18-13 Blues (total attempted shots 57-50 Blues);

Hits 20-12 Blues;

Giveaways 7-3 Blues;

Takeaways 9-7 Wings.

Individual Stats:

Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 5-and-9 (36%); Datsyuk went 8-and-7 (53%); Draper went 8-and-1 (89%); Helm went 4-and-3 (57%); Modano went 3-and-3 (50%); Filppula went 0-and-4; both Abdelkader and Franzen won their only faceoffs.

Shots taken: Helm led the team with 4 shots; Abdelkader and Filppula had 3; Cleary, Stuart, Zetterberg, Kronwall, Franzen and Holmstrom had 2; Datsyuk, Salei, Hudler, Draper and Bertuzzi had 1.

Blocked attempts: Bertuzzi hit Blues players 3 times; Filppula had 2 shot attempts blocked; Datsyuk, Stuart, Salei, Hudler Kronwall had single shot attempts blocked.

Missed shots: Franzen missed the net 3 times; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; Cleary and Helm missed the net once.

Hits: Ericsson led the team with 3 hits; Cleary had 2; Kindl, Hudler, Draper, Helm, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Franzen had 1.

Giveaways: Kindl, Ericsson and Holmstrom had giveaways.

Takeaways: Helm had 3 takeaways; Bertuzzi had 2; Cleary, Zetterberg, Filppula and Kronwall had 1.

Blocked shots: Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Stuart and Salei blocked 2 shots; Draper and Franzen blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Stuart, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Franzen were tagged for minor penalties.

Plus-minus: Cleary, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Ericsson finished at -1; Kindl, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Stuart, Salei, Draper, Helm, Franzen and Holmstrom finished at +1.

Points: Kronwall had a goal and 2 assists for 3 points; both Datsyuk and Abdelkader and a goal and an assist for 2 points; Salei and Helm had goals; Stuart, Draper, Franzen and Holmstrom had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 26:11 played; Stuart played 23:05; Lidstrom played 20:03;

Ericsson played 18:17; Datsyuk played 18:16; Salei played 17:04;

Cleary played 16:46; Zetterberg played 16:32; Franzen played 16:31;

Filppula played 15:38; Draper played 14:40; Bertuzzi played 14:38;

Helm played 14:18; Kindl played 14:07; Holmstrom played 13:55;

Abdelkader played 11:30; Hudler played 10:30; Modano played 10:06.


2. Of crappy Red Wings-related note: Red Wings prospect and Brynas IF forward Calle Jarnkrok suffered a severely dislocated left shoulder thanks to a hit from Farjestads BK’s Marius Holtet. According to Expressen’s Henrik Sjoberg, Jarnkrok had to be taken to a hospital in Karlstad because trainers couldn’t manage to pop his shoulder back into its socket, and he may have also suffered an injury to his left leg. The refs chose not to penalize Holtet, who told Aftonbladet’s Anna Lindback that—surprise—it was Jarnkrok’s fault that he was injured.

Jarnkrok had posted 3 goals in 3 playoff games and registered 11 goals, 16 assists and 27 points over the course of 49 regular season games played, and he was probably in the mix for a World Championship spot, but his immediate future’s likely going to involve some serious rehab over the next couple of months.

Brynas trails their playoff sereis against Farjestad 2-1 thanks to FBK’s 4-3 overtime win on Saturday, which included a goal from Hat Trick Dick Axelsson, who’s scored two goals thus far, adding to a 15-goal, 15-assist, 30-point regular season performance over the course of 47 games played;

3. Red Wings notes: As noted in the recappy-narrative-type-thing, Babcock made an executive decision to split up Datsyuk and Zetterberg, but he’s only doing so for road games, as he told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:

“I’m going to try and have one set I use at home and one set on the road,” Babcock said. “I’m trying to get it so that everybody is comfortable playing with whoever. You just go out and play. The other thing is, a player doesn’t want to come to the rink every day and play with a different linemate. That’s why I’d like to have two (different lineups). It’s important to be able to go back and forth with matchups for playoff time.”

Both Zetterberg and Datsyuk endorsed the plan.

“If you want to go like that, and in the playoffs, it’ll be good to get used to doing that in the last 14 (regular-season) games here,” Zetterberg said. “Get a feel for how it’ll be in the playoffs.”

Datsyuk, for one, seemed to thrive with either lineup. He scored the game-winner in overtime Friday against Edmonton, and scored the eventual winner Saturday in the 5-3 win over St. Louis.

“He’s (Babcock) trying to find what’s good for everybody,” Datsyuk said. “We have time (until the playoffs), and when it’s playoff time, we won’t have any mistakes.”

I’d argue that Babcock’s trying to spurn Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary to start scoring and/or going to the net on a regular basis as much as anything else, and given Mike Modano’s recent wall-hitting in terms of truly getting back up to speed and Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler’s slides back into the land of lurking on the perimeter, Babcock’s trying to spread Datsyuk, Zetterberg and the resurgent Tomas Holmstrom around while trying to figure out why that trio and the Helm line have been the Wings’ most consistent and dominant over the past…Erm, month and a half.

Hell, you could argue that Helm’s been the Wings’ best forward not named Zetterberg or Datsyuk since Datsyuk got hurt in January, if not earlier than that. He’s never going to be a regular 20-goal, 40-point scorer, but he’s clearly succeeded Kris Draper as the player the Wings throw over the boards when the ship is listing heavily, and between his defensive prowess, improving ability to win faceoffs, superb work on the PK (it’ll get even better when Patrick Eaves returns) and sneaky offense, he and Justin Abdelkader are becoming very viable third-liners.

As my friend Terry suggested on Saturday night, it gives you pause and makes you wonder, especially with Modano returning—and I should note here that I really hate rumor-starting, but Terry had a point—whether the Wings might revisit the bang for the buck they’re getting from Filppula and Hudler going forward. I supposed Jakub Kindl’s slow but steady evolution into a superbly capable top-six defenseman might make you suggest the same about Jonathan Ericsson, but both suggestions are different stories for a different day.

• Heading back to Zetterberg, the Free Press’s St. James notes that Z’s in the middle of a hell of a goal-scoring slump, though he has company in that department:

Henrik Zetterberg has just two goals over his last 26 games; Johan Franzen has one in his past 18. Valtteri Filppula has two goals in his last 15 games, and Todd Bertuzzi had gone 11 straight without scoring (officials denied him the goal he scored Friday).

“You want to score goals,” Zetterberg said. “You’re having assists and such, it would be nice to get a goal or two soon. I think I get enough shots, it’s more of when I get a chance, take care of it. Once you get a chance, just put it away.”

Mike Babcock had Zetterberg with Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary Saturday, and said afterwards “I thought Zetterberg’s line was dominant, and yet they happened to be out on the ice for the two goals. That’s just the way it goes.”

Babcock wants his goal-scorers in absentia focus on generating second and tertiary scoring opportunities instead of playing perimeter hockey…

“We used to deal with this right at the start of playoffs every year,” he said. “These outside chances, they’re not even chances. ... But yet that dribbler that comes off his pads where someone is there to bang in the rebound—that’s a chance at playoff time.”

And it’s pretty hard to argue that Zetterberg hasn’t worked his tail off despite his scoring struggles, as Babcock suggested to both St. James…

“I thought Hank carried our team and then I thought it kind of went dry for him a little bit. But to me, he looks like he’s on his way out,” Babcock said.

And MLive’s Ansar Khan, while discussing his line tweaks of late:

“I’m trying to get it so that everybody is comfortable playing with whoever,” Babcock said. “The other thing is a player doesn’t want to come to the rink every day and play with a different linemate. That’s why I’d like to have two scenarios. It’s important to be able to go back and forth with match-ups at playoff time.”

Zetterberg’s dry spell isn’t from a lack of shooting. He ranks sixth in the league with 268 shots. But his shooting percentage (6.8 percent) was tied for the lowest among the NHL’s top 69 point-producers.

“I think I get enough shots. It’s more of when I get chance I got to take care of it,” Zetterberg said. “I think you’re maybe squeezing the stick a little bit too much. You think about it, you want to score instead of just go with the flow and once you get a chance you put it away.”

Zetterberg’s definitely squeezed the stick a bit much, and despite the fact that I’m a big backer of Warrior and Easton sticks, since Zetterberg’s switched to Warrior, they haven’t quite gotten the recipe of his sticks right. Those new Widows are breaking like twigs on an all-too-regular basis. That’s just the way it goes when you switch brands and the factory has to tweak the right mix of graphite, epoxy and resins to find the best combination of performance and durability, and that’s especially important for Zetterberg as he’s the type of player who will keep using sticks until they break, usually over the course of half a dozen games or more…

And while Easton’s countering Warrior’s push to snag Wings players by tossing EQ 50 repaints on everybody who’ll take ‘em (I believe that Todd Bertuzzi’s the only Wing who uses a real S19, with Danny Cleary, Brad Stuart, Jiri Hudler and Johan Franzen using SE 16’s), Franzen’s been using Warrior sticks on the occasional shift now and then, and given the way the puck seems to bounce off his blade like a tennis ball, I think he might shake things up soon.

Finally, and speaking of a player who changed sticks (from Bauer to CCM) and received a bit of an uptick in the confidence department, while I don’t think that Niklas Kronwall’s ever going to become the 60-point-scoring #1 defenseman and/or successor to Nicklas Lidstrom and/or the next Vladimir Konstantinov, the Wings’ stud defenseman on the second pairing is playing like the 50-point-producer and minute-muncher that he was before Georges Laraque threw a knee into the proceedings, and Babcock told Khan that he’s taken notice, resulting in the uptick in his ice time:

“(Kronwall) should play lots of minutes,” Babcock said. “The better we play up front and the less we turn the puck over the more active he’s going to be and the more offense he’s going to generate. If you turn the puck over as forwards all the time the (defensemen) aren’t going to be involved. He’s a young guy on the back end with high-end skill.”

Babcock continues to be impressed by rookie defenseman Jakub Kindl’s progress.

“I thought Kindl was great, too,” Babcock said. “To me, he gets better every game.”

He does, and that’s very important going forward.


4. Also of Red Wings-related note: One more Red Wings prospect’s season is over, and if the Wings sign him, which they probably will, so is his college career. Gustav Nyquist’s University of Maine Black Bears were eliminated from the Hockey East playoffs thanks to a 6-2 loss to Merrimack on Saturday night, and, as the Bangor Daily News’s Larry Mahoney suggests, the Black Bears are unlikely to receive an invite from the NCAA to play in their Division I playoffs later this month.

Nyquist registered an assist and finished his regular and playoff season with an incredibly impressive 18 goals, 36 assists and 50 points over the course of 36 games, despite a serious early-season slump, and he addressed his hockey future in speaking to the Portland Press-Herald’s Rachel Lenzi...sort of…

Now you wonder who’s staying and who’s going, or who you might not see in class on Monday when school resumes after spring break. Asked after the loss about his future at Maine, Gustav Nyquist deferred to give a straightforward answer.

“I haven’t even thought about that,” said Nyquist, the right wing whose rights are held by the Detroit Red Wings. “My thought right now is that we just lost a playoff game, one of the biggest games of my life. That’s the last thing I’m thinking about right now.”

The Wings’ modus operandi is to sign college hockey-playing prospects if they’re dominant players by their junior year, leaving them to matriculate if they need a little more confidence, but the Wings also have enough depth up front, especially with Tatar in the AHL and Emmerton and Mursak set to graduate to the big club next season, that they could leave Nyquist at Maine and let him absolutely dominate at the NCAA level for another season, should they choose to do so.

• Also in the prospect department, the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Oklahoma City Barons 5-2 on the strength of goals by Mursak (who also had two assists, and I know, I’m all ellipses today) and Emmerton and a 30-save performance by Jordan Pearce.

The Griffins’ website, Barons’ website, Grand Rapids Press and Oklahoman provide recaps;

• In the ECHL, Thomas McCollum continues to work his butt off, facing 35+ shots on a regular basis, but the Toledo Walleye keep losing. McCollum stopped 42 of a staggering 47 shots as the floundering Walleye, no pun intended, dropped a 5-2 decision to the Reading Royals. The Walleye’s website and Toledo Blade provide recaps;

• Not so good news: the Everett Herald’s Nick Patterson reports that Landon Ferraro’s out again for the Everett Silvertips after suffering a groin injury. The Silvertips expect to have Ferraro back for their final regular-season games, but their playoff hopes are hanging by 2 points as they’re in 8th place in the WHL’s Western Conference thanks to a 2-1 loss to the Portland Winterhawks. Ferraro earned an award for his work in the Everett, WA community presented at the Silvertips’ home finale;

• While Ferraro will play for the Grand Rapids Griffins next season, the Wings have a harder decision to make regarding power-forward-in-the-making—in the perpetual “he’s got a way to go” sense of the term—Nick Oslund, whose rights will expire after the St. Cloud State University Huskies were eliminated from the WCHA playoffs on Saturday;

• I want to be very, very, very clear on this one: despite my gabba about Filppula, Hudler and Ericsson (Emmerton and Mursak’s graduations to the big club do fare into that equation, as do the futures of Salei, Modano, Draper and Osgood), I’m not a trade rumor-monger, and I think that the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson’s let a little post-deadline rumormongering go to his head:

Would the Edmonton Oilers make an offer-sheet raid on Predators defenceman Shea Weber if Nashville can’t sign him? Why not? They’ve done it twice with Thomas Vanek and Dustin Penner, have tons of salary-cap room and the requisite two firstround draft picks, a second and a third rounder, to give up. Now, would Weber sign it to play on a rebuilding team? Iffy.

Here’s another scenario: he could sign a one-year contract in Nashville and bolt as an unrestricted free agent in 2012. The Detroit Red Wings, who might not have Nicklas Lidstrom’s salary on the books if the second-greatest defenceman of all time retires, could go all in to get Weber.

Don’t forget, Red Wings GM Ken Holland worked on Canada’s Olympic management team and Weber played on their blue-line in Vancouver. Plus, the Wings have played the Predators several times in the playoffs

If a team signs Weber and gives him up to $6,183,925 a season, they surrender a first-, secondand third-round draft pick. If it’s between $6,183,925 and $7,729,907, it’s first-round picks in two successive years, plus a second-and third-rounder in one draft.

No, no and no. Holland doesn’t believe in surrendering first-rounders anymore, and Lidstrom’s got at least another season in his legs;

Also from Matheson:

Maybe this is coming from left field, but how about Anaheim Ducks defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky as one of three Norris Trophy candidates? He’s in the top 30 in scoring -defence and forwards -with 55 points, which ties him with Detroit Red Wings’ Nick Lidstrom and Phoenix Coyotes’ Keith Yandle for the league high for defencemen. Eleven of his 14 goals are even-strength, seven of Yandle’s 10 goals and six of Lidstrom’s 13. Visnovsky is also plus-10. Lidstrom is minus-1 and Yandle is plus-1. Visnovsky also has three gamewinners. Lidstrom has one, Yandle none.

It’s not left field to me. Without Visnovsky, the Ducks wouldn’t have a defensive corps. He’s been a superb acquisition—arguably out-stripping Ryan Whitney, the player the Ducks surrendered to get Visnovsky—by a gigantic margin, and he’s going to be the mainstay of the revamped Ducks’ defense, along with Cam Fowler, for a long time yet. He’s not going to wrest the Norris from Nick’s hands, but anybody who thinks that the Ducks are going to be a pushover should they make the playoffs needs to look past their somewhat thin forward lineup and look at Visnovsky, Fowler, Toni Lydman and Francois Beauchemin before you write ‘em off, Jonas Hiller’s absence included.

I’m no Ducks fan by any stretch of the imagination, and I still think that Corey Perry (to call him Katy is an insult to Katy Perry) and Ryan Getzlaf play like big, spoiled, whiny bullies, but they’ve got a really underrated defensive corps.

• Per Yahoo Sports’ Sean Leahy, in the for the record department:

Did you know? “Red Wings C Mike Modano played in his 1,487th game, tying Wayne Gretzky for 15th on the NHL career list.” (AP)

• Also, for the record, the Oilers are still ticked off about the penalties called against them in Friday’s loss, as Ryan Jones told the Edmonton Sun’s Derek Van Diest:

Nicklas Lidstrom scored the tying goal with 25 seconds left in the third period, banking a point-shot off Andrew Cogliano’s skate. Pavel Datsyuk then went on to score the winner in overtime.

“That was a kick in the gut,” Jones said. “It seemed like we were in the (penalty) box the whole game. It was like we couldn’t do anything right out there. We battled the whole way, it comes down to the end and goes off one of our guys and into the net. That’s the way it goes sometimes I guess.”

Sure, fine, whatever, guy who beat the snot out of Tomas Holmstrom and got away with it, scoring a goal off the resulting turnover.

• In the “old coaches” department, part 1: the Glens Falls Post-Star’s Tim McManus reports that former Adirondack Red Wings coach Barry Melrose was inducted into the Adirondack Hockey Hall of Fame on Saturday night;

• And, per the Edmonton Journal, Wings coach Mike Babcock gets the last word in hoping that a coaching mentor will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame:

The NHL’s best coach Mike Babcock fervently hopes University of Alberta Golden Bears legend Clare Drake gets enough support with the Hall of Fame selection committee to get in this year as a builder.

“His greatest gift was to all of us coaches, what he gave back. But because he worked in the old CIAU, now the CIS, there was no notoriety for Clare,” said the Detroit and Olympic team coach Babcock, who coached the University of Lethbridge once upon a time.

“I sure hope Clare makes it because he’s had a major, major impact in our game. The coaches who’ve gone on -Dave King, Perry Pearn, Wayne Fleming, George Kingston, Billy Moores, Ken Hitchcock, myself -Clare laid the foundation for us all. A fantastic man. Just to be talking about Clare, I mean, he’s so special,” said Babcock.

Drake is in his 80s now, but if he was in his 60s would Drake be working in the NHL?

“Absolutely,” said Babcock.

Update 8:33 AM: Oh Dear Gord, I’m grateful for a comment made by frickin’ Steve Simmons of all people:

There is less than a month left of the NHL regular season and rarely has the Hart Trophy race been so uncharted. Through the first 20 games, it was Steven Stamkos’ Hart to lose. Then Sidney Crosby took over and looked like a lock through 41 games. And when his season came to an abrupt end there was no single candidate to rally around.

But in the second half, Jonathan Toews, the Olympic all-star, the Conn Smythe winner, has become a candidate of merit. He is playing at a level beyond his playoff performance with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The question is: Is half a season enough to capture a Hart?

He will be challenged by Stamkos, the Vancouver trio of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler, and less so by Nicklas Lidstrom in Detroit and Tim Thomas in Boston. The race, however, is on.

Hell, I’ll take Lidstrom having Hart consideration…

• And, per the Port Huron Times-Herald, of future charitable note:

GENERAL Skating for a Cause event March 26

The SC4 [Saint Clair County Community College] Foundation and Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association are presenting Skating for a Cause, a fundraising hockey game at 4 p.m. March 26 at McMorran Arena. The event will feature a team of former Red Wings versus the SC4 Foundation. Doors open at 3 p.m. Admission is $5. Proceeds benefit the SC4 Foundation. Fans that attend the game and show their ticket stub can enter the Port Huron Fighting Falcons game following for $3. During intermission, participants can get autographs from Red Wings legends for $5. For tickets, contact the McMorran Box Office at (810) 985-6166 or the SC4 Foundation at (810) 989-5760.

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Comments

Guilherme's avatar

I’d argue that the Helm line have been the Wings’ most consistent and dominant over the past…Erm, month and a half.

I’d say “the past year and a half”, but that’s ok.

I still think that Corey Perry (to call him Katy is an insult to Katy Perry)

Hehe.

And time changed in the US (as noted in the Twilight Zone LB from last nite), so now I’m just one-hour ahead of you. No more midnight games, yes!

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 03/13/11 at 10:49 AM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

Draper-Helm-Abdelkader

Best, most consistent line on the ice last night.  Absolutely dominant.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 03/13/11 at 01:38 PM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

DET   69   41   20   8   90  
SJS   69   39   22   8   86    
DAL   68   37   23   8   82  
CHI   68   37   24   7   81

Barring a failure of epic proportions, DET should earn a record 11th consecutive 100 point season.  DET would only need to earn 10 of 26 available points, just over 38%.

Also, DET should be a lock for no worse than 3rd in the W.C.  They could be overtaken by SJS; but it is most improbable for CHI to catch them for the Central.

CHI have 14 games left.  If DET manage only 100 pts,, CHI would need to earn a minimum of 19 pts to reach that mark, or 68%. CHI, on the year are a .596 team.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 03/13/11 at 02:02 PM ET

PDXWing's avatar

I’ve watched the 19’s attitude toward Ericsson slowly become more and more antagonistic, and I have to say that I just don’t understand it.  He is a 2nd year player who can be paired with Lidstrom and is a mainstay on the penalty kill.  I understand that he’s been prone to give-aways lately, but that’s the process for defensemen - hell, Kronner still does it.  If memory serves correctly, one Jiri Fischer was just as maddening at times, but no one doubts his potential now.  He’s a young guy learning the difficult task of being an NHL defensemen.  I think it’s a sign of just how good he is that we have such high expectations so soon; if he was a 4th year player still making those mistakes, I would understand the doubt, but he’s not, even if he is older than most 2nd year players. When this guy puts it all together (which won’t be long now), he’s a first pair defensemen.

Posted by PDXWing on 03/13/11 at 02:21 PM ET

Trish's avatar

Hopefully you are correct PDX, have always liked Big E . . . .

Posted by Trish from PalmBeachCntyFL on 03/13/11 at 02:26 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Considering moving on from Hudler is one thing, but I’m not sure about Filppula.

Filppula is still a guy that even when he’s offensively cold, he contributes a massive amount in all other facets of the game. Let’s not forget the defensive role he played in the Cup final in ‘08. He has shown you can count on him to go up against a big, talented center and limit their effectiveness.

Standard disclaimer—I’m not starting a rumor, just making conversation here…

Now, if you’re telling me the Wings could get a young D like Bogosian, and Filppula was the cornerstone roster player in that deal, then as much as I like Flip, I’d buy his bus ticket to Atlanta.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 03/13/11 at 02:31 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

I’ve watched the 19’s attitude toward Ericsson slowly become more and more antagonistic, and I have to say that I just don’t understand it.  He is a 2nd year player who can be paired with Lidstrom and is a mainstay on the penalty kill.  I understand that he’s been prone to give-aways lately, but that’s the process for defensemen - hell, Kronner still does it.  If memory serves correctly, one Jiri Fischer was just as maddening at times, but no one doubts his potential now.  He’s a young guy learning the difficult task of being an NHL defensemen.  I think it’s a sign of just how good he is that we have such high expectations so soon; if he was a 4th year player still making those mistakes, I would understand the doubt, but he’s not, even if he is older than most 2nd year players. When this guy puts it all together (which won’t be long now), he’s a first pair defensemen.

Posted by PDXWing from Dallas, TX on 03/13/11 at 12:21 PM ET

I agree completely. Ericsson has made some MADDENING mistakes this season. But if you step back and look at his numbers and performance as a whole, he’s made a massive step forward from the rough first full season he had last year. Certainly sounds a lot like a guy you’ve astutely brought up…

What I will say is, it’s more about the way Kindl has played and the way Brendan Smith is projecting. Kindl will never be as physical as Ericsson can be, but has shown in his short time with the Wings that he’s definitely got the top-end talent and passing ability that could put him in the top four for the next ten years. Meanwhile, Smith has been excellent in his first pro season, and by all reports is finally showing the progress in his defense that was the only real question mark about him (on the ice).

So… that all being said, while I like Ericsson and think he gets a bad rap, it may just be an issue of he’s been passed by two younger prospects that are showing close to top-flight potential.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 03/13/11 at 02:40 PM ET

Bradley97's avatar

Geoge, I don’t know how you do it. My head almost exploded taking in all those game stats, but they provide a better picture of what happened on the ice and are much easier to take in the way you present them as opposed to glancing at a grid. Thank you!

As per our correspondence, my concern remains right hand shooters, particularly on defense. It seems we have some good ones in development, but I think most fans will agree Rafalski is not enough- the Wings need two, preferable both with power play abilities. The only way around the PP point issue is a free agent signing or trade (perhaps in the short term a veteran might work well). To that effect, if by some miracle Hudler and Filppula could be used with Ericsson to bring in that one top six right shooting power forward over the summer in the same way the Wings got Shanahan, I’m all for it.

The thing is, trades like that are probably as big a pipe dream as stealing Weber from Nashville, or any other division rival trade for a young player. With that in mind, others have pointed out how good Filppula is defensively even when he’s not producing offensively, as well as how much Ericsson has progressed in his second full season. I’d like to add to the Filppula notes that even if he’s at best a solid defensive center with inconsistent offensive production, he’s got chemistry to on the left wing with either of Datsyuk or Zetterberg, and his presence on the roster is what allows Babcock to play the Eurotwins together at even strength. Unlike Hudler, Filppula’s versatility and sound defensive play may justify his salary even with average offensive numbers. That’s the type of role player he is (if he was a righty he’d be even more valuable).

As for Hudler, I’m not sure the Wings could get much for him due to size and inconsistency, so I’m not expecting miracles if the brain trust deems him expendable.

I am very happy to see Kindl get rewarded for his continued improvement, and in comparison to Ericsson, I believe Kindl is the one with top four (maybe top two) potential, while Ericsson may only develop into a number four at best, or even the anchor to the third pair. Either way, both need more time before we as fans start demanding doing anything other than playing these two, though I think Kindl might pass Ericsson as the 6th defenseman in the playoffs if both continue to play like they are. Kindl is simply improving faster.

Wrapping up my first post here (long, I know), it was nice to see Kronwall and Stuart back together, and I hope that means we’ll be seeing Lidstrom back with Rafalski as Lidstrom tends to play better opposite a right hand shooter (so I imagine he’s still got another level to go this season and playoffs). I remember other teams dreading those defense pairings in the playoffs because the older pair simply out smarted opponents to wear them down mentally while the younger pair’s combination of open ice (Kronwall) and board (Stuart) hits did the job physically. That Kronwall and Stuart can play 25 strong means Lidstrom and Rafalski can stay around 20 and the third pair around 15. Who wants to face that defense core in the playoffs?

Posted by Bradley97 on 03/13/11 at 03:42 PM ET

calquake's avatar

Posted by Bradley97 on 03/13/11 at 01:42 PM ET

Welcome to the asylum.  Put on a jacket (straight) and join in the merriment.  As far as the Wings go… defense is what wins championships, and that starts in the opposing team’s zone.  Having an effective forecheck would go a long way towards fixing what ails the defense.  I agree with you that having the old defensive pairings would be a boost also.

Posted by calquake on 03/13/11 at 06:25 PM ET

Chet's avatar

kindl may hit the wall at some point just as ericsson did, but he does look very good. it is fair to point out how new to NHL defense 52 still is, though. i’ve prob. been unfairly hard on him.

other than that, i think there’s no reason helm can’t be a 23-27-50 point scorer with more experience and a bigger role. he’s also relatively new to the league. draper’s best season looks to be 24-16-40, if you’re looking to continue that comparison…

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 03/13/11 at 08:07 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Keep on bringing those news on the prospects, George…esp. in light of the injuries to Jarnkrok and Ferraro.  They are a real treat to read about the ongoing development of the Wings talents in the farm.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 03/13/11 at 10:40 PM ET

CC Moor's avatar

George,

I concur with Bradley 97’s thanks and admiration for your prodigious writing and reporting skills as well as commitment to excellence.

Question:  I think you did a post recently on a Canucks/Wings comparison but I now cannot retrieve it or find it, and unfortunately missed it.  I am wondering if you would give us your thoughts on how you see the big 4 in the West shaking out here in the run up to the play-offs.  Vancouver will ostensibly be healthy in a month, and they are still scary now, with a couple of big guns out.  Obviously Chicago and San Jose have really amped it up in last several weeks.

What is it going to take?  My other question is, what in your opinion are the best line combinations?  I agree with Bradly 97 above on the Defense, but what about the lines?  Hudler really came out of his slump with Datsyuk; I like those two with Cleary.  Then I like Z with Franzen and Holmstrom; Modano with Bert and Fil; and then Helm/Abby/Eaves/Miller/Draper.  (that is another question, who sits when Eaves gets back…. certainly not Helm.).

These latter three cominations have not been seen; Bert is always top 2.  I will spare the reader why I like this lines; bottom line, is this wrong in your view—the pre-eminent question being, should Z and Pav play together? 

Thanks for the great work George.

Posted by CC Moor from Washington DC on 03/13/11 at 10:56 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Who wants to face that defense core in the playoffs?

Posted by Bradley97 on 03/13/11 at 01:42 PM ET

On paper, nobody. But in real life, right now, everyone. If I were Joe Thornton, Brad Richards, Jarome Iginla, Ryan Getzlaf, Johnathan Toews, etc. I would love going up against them. Other than Lidstrom and Stuart they’ve all been suspect this year.

Rafalski has been lost defensively and is regularly blown right over without Lidstrom to bail him out. Kronwall turns the puck over at both blue lines way too often. The rest of the pack—Salei/Ericsson/Kindl—have actually been solid enough, but the problem is that with the extended injuries to Rafalski and Stuart, they’ve had to play in the top four where they do not belong and look severely out of place.

I would agree that if Rafalski gets healthy and the intended top six stay healthy, they have a pretty good D, in theory. But in practice they have been nothing better than mediocre.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 03/14/11 at 10:39 AM ET

Bradley97's avatar

I guess I’ll go counterpoint by point, Nathan.

Rafalski has been lost defensively and is regularly blown right over without Lidstrom to bail him out.

When healthy in the first quarter of the season Rafalski was one of the most sound defensemen positionally. I think he’s been messed up by his back acting up too often and needing to play through it when he probably should have sat more and pairing with Ericsson a lot. While he has shown improvement, Big E too often has blown his defensive zone positioning, and Rafalski has looked bad because of that. For example, when Big E joins his partner on the other side of the net or along the boards instead of covering the slot. That has killed this team far too often, and that’s the reason I like Kindl over Big E right now more than any other. Kindl may hit a wall soon, but I think if he does it will be the “sophomore slump.”

Kronwall turns the puck over at both blue lines way too often.

I think everyone but Lidstrom has been far too guilty of doing this, and I think that has to do with the defense pressing too much at times this season. Other than the blue line turnover, Kronwall has stepped up to the plate significantly this season and looks to on the road to regular first pair duty. He played well with Rafalski, but both are more effective and efficient when playing with their usual partners. With Stuart showing he can be a primary shutdown defenseman and Kronwall showing he can be more dominant (50 point defenseman) offensively this former second pair seems to be ready to officially eat more minutes than the first pair. I’m confident that we will see this happen if Babcock goes back to and sticks with the usual top two pairings.

[...] the problem is that with the extended injuries to Rafalski and Stuart, they’ve had to play in the top four where they do not belong and look severely out of place.

That’s probably been the reason why so many mistakes have happened at the blue line and deep in the zone. Though young, Big E and Kindl at times have simply been worn out by extremely fast forwards, not that the two kids are slow by any means. And Salei clearly is past his minute eating days, but in his proper role (15 minutes including PK when not in the box) he’s far more effective than Lilja. If only the Wings had not been beat in drafting Lilja way back. Had they gotten him like they wanted he’d easily be part of the top four because he would have developed within the Wings’ system instead of the standard trapping and dumping. Also, Lilja might have become a better skater. As it stands, the slightly older and more banged up Salei moves both himself and the puck significantly faster than Lilja.

I would agree that if Rafalski gets healthy and the intended top six stay healthy, they have a pretty good D, in theory.

Like your first comment, on paper this core is solid. There is enough time to iron out the kinks at all ends and all positions, so that makes my biggest concern letting in the first goal and the not pressing to keep control of momentum and possibly add to a lead no matter how good the goalie is. The Wings have given up leads of 1-2 goals far too often after creating them 20-30 minutes earlier in the game.

Posted by Bradley97 on 03/14/11 at 12:55 PM ET

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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.