The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/21/11 at 09:56 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings face off against a Vancouver Canucks team (10 PM EST, FSD/TSN/WXYT) which is, in theory, anyway, a sort of “mirror image” of the team the Canucks trail by one point in the Western Conference standings. Both teams are on a roll—the Wings’ middling 3-2 win over Edmonton on Monday was their second straight, as was Vancouver’s 4-0 win over Minnesota—having won seven of their last ten game; both teams have won seven of their past ten games. Moreover, if you believe what you read, the teams preach the same kind of high-flying, up-tempo puck possession hockey that should make tonight’s game a match of near mirror-image skill versus skill, as the Vancouver Sun’s Elliott Pap suggests...
Detroit has 21 wins, 43 points and 107 goals scored. Vancouver has 20 wins, 42 points and 110 goals scored. Both teams’ top offensive players are European. Both teams’ top offensive defencemen are Swedish. Since Nov. 19, the Red Wings are 12-3-0. Since Nov. 20, the Canucks are 11-2-1. So there isn’t much to choose between them, which makes Wednesday’s game a rather appealing one.
“You’ve got two teams that, in our mind, play the right way,” Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault said Tuesday. “Detroit plays a high-paced game and they like to play fast. There are a lot of components to our game that are probably similar to theirs.”
Although neither team employs a so-called ‘goon’, Vigneault noted that toughness comes in a variety of forms.
“Toughness is sometimes going to those tough area and be willing to take the hit, or winning the 1-on-1 battle in the corner to protect the puck,” he explained. “It’s not always about finishing your check or winning a fight. There is a lot more to it and I think Detroit is a great example of that. Their players just play and they play through whatever is thrown at them. That’s a great quality for a team to have.”
“Both teams have been engineered the same way, I would think,” said Canuck winger Alex Burrows. “It’s a strong defence, solid goaltending and skill up front. Both teams would like to play whistle-to-whistle. Both teams don’t want to get involved after whistles, and get involved in scrums. That’s why we think we can be successful. They’re one of the best teams in the last decade and they showed that a bunch of times. So it’s going to be a fun matchup again.”
Roberto Luongo is 9-10-5 lifetime against the Wings but was wearing a ballcap in the Oct. 13 game as Cory Schneider took the loss. Bobby Lou is rolling now and is 7-1-1 in his last nine decisions. On the season, he is 13-6-2 with a 2.48 goals against average and .910 save percentage. He’ll face Red Wing ‘keeper Jimmy Howard, who leads the league in wins with 20.
“Detroit’s been at the top of the conference for many years,” noted Luongo. “They have elite, world-class players and their goaltender has been playing unbelievable so far this year. They have guys who play the system well and play the right way and they’ve had a lot of success with that. They’ve won Cups and we’re trying to do the same. It’s exciting for us to play one of the top teams. That’s what gets you going. When you’re facing one of the best, you get up for games like that. They are the ones you look forward to.”
The Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma, however, argues that the Canucks are playing a team whose success they’ve eclipsed:
As much as the defending Presidents’ Trophy winners resemble the resilient Red Wings and have been purposely constructed to mirror a franchise that has advanced to the post-season for 20 straight seasons, the Canucks are somewhat divided in whether they’re a better team than last season. It will take a Stanley Cup championship, but the potential to take that one last step has been strengthened by experience, greater depth and more versatility.
You see it in the value of Chris Higgins, the resurgence of Mason Raymond, the improvement in Jannik Hansen and the potential of Cody Hodgson. You can see how a healthy David Booth would solidify a second wave of attack and how a third line of Higgins-Hodgson-Hansen would trump the combination of Raffi Torres-Maxim Lapierre-Hansen in the Cup final last spring because of a better ability to contribute offensively. A number of current fourth-line combinations seem better suited for the rigours of post-season play than Tanner Glass and Victor Oreskovich. If the top four stay healthy on the back end and Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider maintain consistency, you can make the argument that this is a better team.
The Canucks are first on the power play and seventh on the penalty kill, fourth in offence and sixth in defence. By comparison, the Wings are fifth on the power play, 21st on the penalty kill, third in offence and fifth in defence. With Henrik and Daniel Sedin again challenging for the NHL scoring lead, the challenge on Wednesday at Rogers Arena will be for the Canucks to match the Red Wings in the puck-possession game and patience. The Wings seldom panic and scored twice in a three-minute span of the second period on Oct. 13 at Joe Louis Arena to secure a 2-0 victory over the Canucks in the clubs’ only previous meeting this season. But that was when the Canucks struggled to find their way. They’re 15-6-1 since a 5-5-1 October and their 20-11-2 record rightfully mirrors the Wings who are 21-10-1.
“We’ve all been through a lot and I think that’s going to help us along the way,” said Luongo, who gets the start against Detroit. “We’re better equipped to handle certain situations. We’re very similar (to Detroit) with guys who play the system well. Even our fourth line is generating a lot and playing the body well and a lot of time they spend the whole shift in the other zone. Those are little intangibles that make a big difference in the end. For me, it’s just exciting to play one of the top teems and that’s what gets you going.”
“That’s tough to say [whether we’re better],” said centre Ryan Kesler. “I like to think every year you get better. We know what it takes, we’ve just got to prove it. I don’t want to say we mirror the Red Wings. We have our own style and we’re pretty good at it. But it’s always fun playing the best in the game and they’re right up there.”
The Canucks’ website posted clips of Kesler and Vigneault assessing their match-up with the Wings on Tuesday afternoon:
The Vancouver Province sets up tonight’s game as follows:
THE CANUCKS: The Sedins and goaltender Roberto Luongo were the story in a 4-0 win over Minnesota on Monday and they may well have to be against a jet-fuelled Red Wings team on Wednesday. The Canucks are on an 11-2-1 run over their last 14 games, which is about the same as Detroit - 12-3-0 in its last 15.
THE RED WINGS: This one shapes up as a track meet. Detroit is coming off a 3-2 win in Edmonton on Monday, have won five of it’s last six games and has scored 30 goals in that span. The Red Wings have the slight edge in even-strength play, while the Canucks are better on special teams. It should be fun to watch.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
1 Nicklas Lidstrom and Ian White vs. the Sedins. You know Red Wings coach Mike Babcock will want to get his future Hall of Fame D-man Lidstrom out against the Sedins, especially after their collective six-point game against Minnesota. Another fascinating matchup.
2 Red Wings superstars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The two all-world forwards have been on fire the last 15 games and there’s no surprise the team is 12-3-0 in that span. In the last six games, Zetterberg has 3-5-8, while Datsyuk has 2-7-9.
3 Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. Louie is on a huge roll since watching Cory Schneider’s seven straight starts. In seven subsequent starts, he’s 6-0-1 and has allowed just nine goals.
And NHL.com’s Brian Hedger offers a more thorough preview:
Red Wings [team scope]: Progress in road games this season is measured in baby steps for Detroit, which has been mostly sub-par away from Joe Louis Arena. That’s why Monday’s 3-2 win against the Oilers at Rexall Place was a big lift for the Wings, who evened their road record to 8-8-0 thanks to Miller’s game-winning goal late in the third. Jiri Hudler and Danny Cleary also got on the score sheet with goals for the Wings, who are locked in a tight battle for second in the Central Division with the St. Louis Blues and only a few points behind the division-leading Chicago Blackhawks.
Howard became the first goalie in the NHL to reach the 20-win mark and Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom had an assist on Miller’s game-winner. Lidstrom is having another great season with 22 points (7 goals) and an impressive plus-17 rating, but he was happy to see the third line of Miller, Darren Helm and Cleary having success recently—including scoring two of the three goals against the Oilers.
Canucks [team scope]: Vancouver has definitely righted the ship and is back to its old ways of dominating puck possession and making life stressful for opposing goalies. The Wild faced the Canucks on Monday night without four injured top-six forwards, but the scary thing is that it might not have mattered in the Canucks’ dominating 4-0 victory.
Not only did Luongo pitch a shutout, but the Sedin twins showed that Daniel doesn’t have to do the scoring and Henrik doesn’t just dish out assists. Daniel set up three of the Vancouver goals, including one to Henrik—who added a couple of assists of his own. Ryan Kesler, Alexandre Burrows and Jannik Hansen also scored for the red-hot Canucks, who have won two in a row, 11 of their last 14 and are 6-1-1 in their last eight games to move within the top eight in the Western Conference. They also trail Minnesota by just a few points in the Northwest Division, which is what they care about most.
Who’s hot: Howard has a 1.80 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in his last 15 games, Ian White leads the NHL with a plus-23 rating and Henrik Zetterberg has scored points in 12 of the last 15 games, including a current six-game streak for Detroit. … Burrows has scored goals in three straight games, Kesler has points in seven of his last 10 games and Henrik Sedin has piled up 15 points (1 goal, 14 assists) in the last 10 contests for the Canucks.
Injury report: Forward Jan Mursak (broken ankle), forward Patrick Eaves (broken jaw) and Chris Conner (fractured hand) are all on IR for the Wings; Defensemen Aaron Rome (broken thumb) and Keith Ballard (back spasms) missed Monday’s game against the Wild, while forwards David Booth (knee) and Aaron Volpatti (shoulder) are also out for the Canucks.
Stat pack: Detroit is one of the League’s least-penalized teams with just 282 minutes spent in the penalty box, which is almost half as much as Vancouver’s 465 penalty minutes—ranking the Canucks near the bottom of the NHL in that category. The Wings will probably need to stay out of the box against Vancouver, because the Canucks have the League’s top-ranked power play, which is clicking at a 26.1 percent success rate.
The Wings had no problems indulging in cranking up the hype machine while speaking about the match-up to the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
The Wings take their turn at them tonight at Rogers Arena, in a game that captain Nicklas Lidstrom, goaltender Jimmy Howard and forward Pavel Datsyuk all referred to in some variation as a litmus test. Lidstrom said the Canucks are “a team that we want to measure ourselves up against;” Howard said “you want to compare yourself to them, to see how you measure up,” and Datsyuk explained that “it’s tough to play against skill but it’s tougher to play against (a) competitive team. They’re similar, like, to our team.”
The Wings won, 2-0, on Oct. 13, but at that time the Canucks were still dealing with the lingering effects of having played all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals (which they lost to Boston). Since then, the Canucks have gotten on track, as have the Sedins: Henrik has 39 points, Daniel, 38—both more than any Wings.
“It’s hard to defend against them,” said Lidstrom, who has a great deal of experience doing so. “They’re so good at finding each other, throwing passes behind their backs and just having a knack for finding the back of the net, too. You’ve got to try to keep them on the outside, but they’re very smart hockey players.”
Ryan Kesler of Livonia is third on the team with 24 points, part of a lineup that matches nearly evenly with the Wings: Detroit averages 3.31 goals per game to Vancouver’s 3.30; Detroit allows an average of 2.22 goals to Vancouver’s 2.36.
“It should be another intense game between us,” Howard said. “They like to have puck possession, they like to create, get pucks down low, cycle. They get their D involved with their D dropping down. It is very similar to playing against us. It’s going to be a tough test.”
And coach Babcock sounded equally effusive while confirming that the Wings will make no lineup changes, starting goaltender included, to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“It’ll be fun. They’re a good team, they’re playing well. We look forward to playing them,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said after practice today at Rogers Arena. “We weren’t very good in Edmonton last night (3-2 win). We ground out a win, started to skate as the game went on.’‘
He said of the Canucks: “They play with good organization, structure, good goaltending. We’ve had lots of good games with them over the years. I expect it to be the same tomorrow.’‘
Todd Bertuzzi even “pumped the tires” of the Sedins while speaking to the Canadian Press...
Detroit winger Todd Bertuzzi, in town for a game Wednesday, said the bond that his former Vancouver teammates have is quite special and rare. The twins have come a long way since they entered the NHL as 18-year-olds and struggled to establish themselves as regulars.
“They’re men now,” said Bertuzzi. “They obviously came in young and had some high expectations. Playing under the pressure of what they were supposed to do early was a lot for them to handle, but they stuck with it and the organization stuck with them. They’re getting paid back in ten folds right now.”
Bertuzzi attributes much of the Sedins’ consistency to their opportunity to be linemates throughout their careers. Twin telepathy aside, the chance to play alongside each other since their rookie season in 2001-02 has paid dividends.
“If you’re paired with a guy, you get that instant chemistry,” said Bertuzzi. “To be able to do it for 10 years now, or whatever it is, you’re going to have that kind of chemistry. You don’t see a lot of line combinations sticking around that long. They seem to have done a pretty good job together.”
And, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan suggests, the Wings also know that they’re in for something of a team-wide handful this evening in what Kulfan deems a “must-see” game:
The Red Wings are on a roll, 7-3 in their last 10 and coming off a road victory over the Oilers. They defeated the Canucks, 2-0, the first week of the season.
But, the Canucks are a different team than they were then. The Canucks are healthier than in October — they didn’t have Livonia native Ryan Kesler (defending Selke Trophy winner) and several other key players — for the first meeting. Plus, they’re on a 7-2-1 roll.
“Getting up for games in October when you’re coming off a Game 7 loss (in the Stanley Cup Finals) is something you never want to go through,” said Red Wings forward Danny Cleary. “They’re back in a groove, and they have the hunger so they just want to get back there and finish the job.”
I’ve tended to find that games between pairs of offensively talented teams end up yielding both playoff intensity and playoff-level checking, so my gut tells me that this might end up as another 2-1 or 3-2 game, but what do I know?
Pavel Datsyuk may have framed the match-up best while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“It’s a good test, but it’s not about head-to-head, it’s about whole team against team,” Datsyuk said. “They had lots of talent (for several years) but now they have depth. It’s tough to play against skill, but it’s tougher to play against a complete team.”
Babcock doesn’t have the last change on the road, but will try to get his top defensive pairing of Nicklas Lidstrom and Ian White on the ice against the Sedins.
“It’s not a secret what they’re trying to do, it’s just hard to defend against it,” Lidstrom said. “They’re so good at finding each other, throwing passes behind their backs, and have a knack of finding the back of the net. You got to try to contain them to the outside.”
The Canucks’ surge also has coincided with Ryan Kesler finding his comfort level after missing the preseason and the first five games after offseason hip surgery. The Livonia native scored 41 goals and won the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward last season, ending Datsyuk’s three-year run.
“He 100 percent deserved it,” Datsyuk said. “Good player, good on faceoffs, good on defense, he’s always tough around net, tough for defensemen. Every year he gets better and better, more experience, stronger and stronger. Tougher to play against him, and his team, too.”
“(Vancouver) is a team we want to measure ourselves against,” Lidstrom said. “We played them early in the season, but now we’re playing them on their home ice and it’s going to be a different game.”
According to the NHL’s media website, Marc Joanette and Tom Kowal will referee tonight’s game, with Brian Mach and Mark Wheeler working the lines.
Part II: Red Wings notebooks: As Bill noted, the Vancouver Sun’s Cam Cole wrote an article about Tomas Holmstrom which is probably worth framing as Holmstrom went into great detail about what he does for a living:
“Well, there’s lots of wear and tear. You’re going to get cross-checked, you’re going to get slashed,” he said Tuesday, having spent some quality post-practice time on the trainer’s table in preparation for tonight’s tilt against the Vancouver Canucks.“But it’s not like the old NHL—then you had three cross-checks to the neck before you even got to the net. Now, you just stay there and when the puck’s coming, that’s when everything’s starting. Now it’s more like positioning.”
“Oh, I’ve had some concussions. Four or five, maybe,” admitted Holmstrom, recalling one in the 2007 Western final when he was planted into the glass by Anaheim’s Chris Pronger. “Yeah, I was gone when I was falling to the ice. But, I was in the dressing room and back out. It would be different now. You need some luck, and you really have to work on building up your back in the summer, come in really good shape. If you’re not, your body’s going to break down. And you’ve got to be aware, too, of when stuff is coming to you. You have to protect yourself.”
“You’ve got to give the guy tons of credit, because there’s lots of guys who won’t go near that net, as you know,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “What I always see with those guys is, when the puck’s coming at the net, the guys that don’t want to be there, they can never find the puck, because they’re looking for who’s going to cross-check ’em. The guys that don’t care, they find the puck and they score, or they go get it back. That’s what he’s done better than anybody. Tommy’s an unbelievable teammate, he’s a warrior, he’s all about winning, and he found something he does better than anybody else, and it’s allowed him to play a lot, it’s allowed him to be on the first power play every single night. That’s what the good ones do. There’s a chunk of pie, and if you don’t grab your piece, someone else is taking it.”
“Nobody wants to go there, I’ll go there. It’s a good spot to be,” he said, smiling. “Maybe it is [stubbornness]. I’m coming back, you know. If it means I take a beating, I take a beating.”
[Wings defenseman Mike] Commodore said the thing that stands out about Holmstrom is how hard he works at his craft. Holmstrom has never kept track of the numbers, but figures he practices tipping “50 to 100 pucks every practice. You’ve got to do it. You want to keep getting better. But it starts with a good screen, and you try to tip it, and then the rebound comes ... but you never lose sight of the puck, you always know where it is.”
“For sure, the body’s banged up here and there,” said the affable Swede. “But it doesn’t really matter what you do. If you’re a painter, you’re going to have a bad neck. If you work at a computer, you have a bad wrist and your eyes go. You’re going to have some kind of baggage when you’re done.”
‘Long-term?” said Babcock. “Well, Tommy’s got bad knees anyway, so obviously there’s a price to be paid. But I think he’s more than willing to pay it.”
I’ll let the Chief share what Mike Commodore had to say about “hating” Holmstrom as I can’t quote the whole darn article.
• In the “Almost as Good” category, the Province’s Ben Kuzma raved about Valtteri Filppula’s blossoming into an offensive force after having moved to Henrik Zetterberg’s wing, suggesting—very accurately—that Filppula always had the offensive prowess lurking somewhere within him, but Filppula was perhaps too preoccupied with his defensive responsibilities as the Wings’ third-line center to tap into them:
[C]oach Mike Babcock knew Filppula had more to give and he’s been trying to mine that out of him for quite a while, using the usual mantra for great skaters who don’t have to venture into the really difficult areas of the ice to earn a living. But if they can force themselves to go inside on a rush or through traffic in front of the net, considerable rewards can be reaped. Whether Filppula is able to do this all year or not remains to be seen, but he’s certainly on pace to have his best NHL season, and Todd Bertuzzi is convinced it’s because of his position change.
“He’s a winger,” says Bertuzzi. “It’s that simple. In our system there is so much defensive responsibility for the centre and when you’ve been the third-line guy behind those two you have to be thinking defensively first and that’s been his mindset. Now he’s on the wing, he’s got fewer defensive responsibilities… in our zone just having to watch the one D and he’s developed great chemistry with Zetterberg. He’s got the speed and skill, he can shoot and playing in his old role definitely took away from his offence. What we’re seeing here is just the tip of the iceberg if you ask me. I think he’s gonna take off.”
“Playing with Hank is easy because he’s easy to find on the ice and moves the puck so well you just give it to him and he’ll find you,” says the 27-year-old Finn who looks to be a shoo-in to crack the 20-goal mark, which is something he’s had on his mind. “I still think a little bit like a centre in my mind but here you play where they want you and when you’re playing with Hank and Huds (Jiri Hudler) it’s pretty good.”
Babcock has been on Filppula to get to the net more, in part because he knows his great stars are going to show up in the playoffs but it’s the performance of others in the top six that is going to put them over the top. You can’t win unless you have most guys firing at or somewhere near their best, something the Canucks discovered last spring.
“I’ve always been on him to go to the inside,” says Babcock whenever he’s asked, and Filppula seems to be listening. “It’s something I’ve really tried to be conscious of and work on, particularly playing with Hank and Huds, because both of them shoot a lot and there’s a lot of second-chance opportunities from rebounds. Getting some goals like that is nice and I definitely like to score.”
Filppula also admits that he’s perhaps culturally trained to pass first, and that he’s had to combat that tendency:
“I think there’s definitely something there but I like to score and 20 has always been something I’ve wanted to reach and now that I’m older, more experienced and had a chance to get stronger training over a few summers, that’s definitely something I’d like to [have] passed.”
• The Vancouver Province’s Jim Jamieson also discussed the Wings’ defensive turnaround with Babcock and Jimmy Howard, noting that the Wings were pretty darn leaky in the goals-against department last season:
What accounts for the about-face? Head coach Mike Babcock focused on cutting the goals-against right from training camp, but certainly the more consistent play of No. 1 goaltender Jimmy Howard, the growing maturity of young D-men Jonanthan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl and the replacement of the retiring Brian Rafalski with a more defence-focused Ian White have combined to make it happen.
“You’ve got to be up there with the top teams in many areas if you want to be successful,” said White, who landed on his feet when the Wings signed him as a free agent in the summer and then paired him with perennial Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom from the first day of training camp. He’s a team-leading plus-23. “We knew 23rd wasn’t good enough and we took the responsibility,” added White. “Jimmy Howard has been fabulous and the defencemen and forwards have been really committed as well.”
The 27-year-old Howard, in his third full NHL season, has been good and is enjoying career-best numbers so far. The stretch last season where he was dealing with con-tract negotiations are now well in the rear-view mirror.
“It’s just confidence, just being in situations and learning from them in my first two years,” said Howard, who’ll get the start today against the Canucks. “Heading into this year, I felt I couldn’t contribute a lot more.”
And getting buy-in from the guys playing in front of you doesn’t hurt, either.
“We are doing a lot better job on defence this year,” Howard said. “Last year it was a bit more run and gun and it was a lot of fun. But right from day one in training camp we stressed defence and the guys are doing a great job.”
We keep hearing that the Detroit Red Wings are getting on in years. Then we take a glance at their record, and their stats: Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg. No one’s getting on.
• The Detroit Free Press offers a slightly different assessment of tonight’s game:
Is it still a school night or has Christmas vacation started yet? Because the Red Wings have one of those West Coast face-offs in Vancouver. The Canucks got off to a slow start, but now they’re one of the league’s hottest teams, on an 11-2-1 streak, and most balanced, with a 30-goal differential. 10 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit.
• As mentioned yesterday, the Wings’ Swedes have insisted that Peter Forsberg’s claim that the 2006 Swedish Olympic hockey team threw their last round robin game to avoid a quarterfinal match-up with Canada or Russia, and they reiterated their comments to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg were surprised to hear about Peter Forsberg ‘s comments suggesting Sweden threw its final round-robin game against Slovakia to set up more favorable matchups in the 2006 Turin Olympics. Sweden bypassed Canada and Russia in the quarterfinals, and won the gold medal.
“I don’t know how he said that and what he meant,” said Zetterberg, a teammate of Forsberg’s along with Lidstrom. “My point of view is we were already in the quarterfinals, and they (Slovakia) had to win and that was the difference.”
Said Lidstrom: “Every game you play you want to win. We didn’t throw the game or try to lose. You still have the instinct of trying to win. I don’t know in what context it happened and how it all came out, but I can only look at it in the way I viewed it and that’s the way I viewed it.”
The Free Press’s Helene St. James...
“In my view,” [Lidstrom] said, “that game didn’t really mean anything to us and it meant everything for the Slovaks. I know we didn’t throw the game, or didn’t try to lose.”
Lidstrom also pointed out the topic was beat into the ground at the time. Zetterberg suggested something got lost in translation, hinted maybe, just maybe, it’s about publicity, and otherwise echoed Lidstrom in saying, “they had to win. I think that was the difference.”
And MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“The game didn’t mean anything to us and meant everything for the Slovaks. They had to win to make it,” Lidstrom said. “Just the way you approach some games are different than games that really matter. I know we didn’t throw the game, we didn’t try to lose. We still had that instinct of trying to go out there and win.”
Part III: Also of Red Wings-related note: The Canucks’ press posted the above-mentioned Wings notebooks on late Tuesday evening Detroit time, so most of them were mentioned in last night’s off-day round-up. I don’t want to re-post everything, so you can read about Chris Conner’s take on living with the HBO 24/7 crew from DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose, Mike Babcock’s reminiscing about winning the 1997 World Junior Championships with Bob Duff or Tuesday’s power rankings spiel in the off-day report, but this note from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun is worth re-posting:
This season’s Winter Classic hasn’t even been played yet in Philadelphia and some fans have asked me where I think the game will be played in January 2013. The event generates so much interest that you can’t blame them for asking. Everyone wants a piece of this thing. I would certainly put the Detroit Red Wings in the mix as a possibility.
“Ever since we played in the one at Wrigley Field (Jan. 1, 2009), it was such a positive experience; we’d love to host one,” Red Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com on Monday. “We think it would be a wonderful thing for our city, our franchise and our fans. We’ve expressed that to the league and they know we’re interested.”
Given Detroit’s stature in the league as an Original Six franchise and as the model organization it has been the past two decades, the league owes it to the Red Wings to give them one in my opinion, and I think it’ll happen whether that’s next season or within the next few years.
You can also add the Minnesota Wild and their passionate hockey fans as people wanting to host a Winter Classic, and that organization has also made that clear to the NHL.
“We’d take a game any year,” Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told ESPN.com via email Monday.
And don’t forget the Washington Capitals. In announcing the Caps-Penguins Winter Classic for Jan. 1, 2011, during a news conference at the June 2010 Stanley Cup finals, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman promised a game in D.C. “within the next two to three years.” Caps owner Ted Leonsis confirmed to ESPN.com via email Monday that his organization still wants to host a Winter Classic, but has not had any talks on the matter yet with the league.
I think that the league will make sure to not tick off Minnesotans too much before tapping the Wings on the shoulder, but that’s just me.
• For the record, the Calgary Flames will be waiting to play the Wings on Thursday, and they defeated the Minnesota Wild at home, via a 2-1 score, on Tuesday night, snapping a four-game losing streak. They won’t have Rene Bourque in their lineup on Thursday as he’ll be serving the back half of a 2-game suspension;
• The Calgary Herald’s profile of the Slovak World Junior Championship team, which will start play at the WJC in Calgary and Edmonton on December 26th, includes a suggestion that two Wings prospects will play large roles in their team’s success:
Who to watch: Kosice’s Tomas Jurco of the QMJHL Saint John Sea Dogs and Marek Tvrdon of the Vancouver Giants are expected to be among their most dangerous players. Jurco, a right-winger, is 12th in league scoring with 45 points, while the left-winger Tvrdon sits in 20th in WHL stats with 14 goals and 23 assists.
Keys to success: Guys like Jurco and Tvrdon are going to have to find the net, and often, if the Slovaks have any hope of advancing to the medal round.
(If you missed it, the NHL Network will carry most of the TSN-aired games in the U.S., and don’t forget that Petr Mrazek will tend goal for the Czechs, Teemu Pulkkinen will play for the Finns and Mattias Backman will man the blueline for the Swedes)
• If you missed it, part 2: Wings prospect and defenseman Nick Jensen was named the WCHA’s Defensive Player of the Week for scoring a hat trick for Saint Cloud State University;
• If you missed it, part 3: the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples did a great job of discussing the Wings’ double screen tactic;
• If you missed it, part 4: Regrettably, it doesn’t look like Jimmy Howard will finish in anything higher than his current fifth place standing in terms of All-Star votes;
• And finally, I hate to end on these kinds of notes, but I will have to scoot from the office to head over to the doctor’s around 2 or 3, which means that I might be out when the Wings and Canucks conclude their morning skates. Sorry!
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About The Malik Report
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.