The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/27/11 at 08:29 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs
4-2 (this is what happens when you write a recap at 6 AM and you’re on antibiotics, folks) on Saturday night to at least keep pace with the San Jose Sharks for second place in the Western Conference, but they did so while incurring what Wings fans are hoping is just a big scare in exchange for all but dashing the Leafs’ playoff hopes.
Jimmy Howard left the game 6:44 into the third period, after Joffrey Lupul fell on Howard—and then scored what the refs deemed to be a legal goal—with what appears to be a shoulder sprain/strain that will leave Howard sidelined for Monday’s game against Chicago, but probably (or hopefully) not much longer than that.
In theory, anyway, the Wings’ win not only broke a 3-game winless streak and gave them their first win at home in three tries, but also all but dashed the Leafs’ playoff hopes as they sit seven points behind the 8th-place Buffalo Sabres, with the teams’ Tuesday night showdown all but determining the Leafs’ playoff fate once and for all, but the Leafs weren’t quite willing to give up hope, as the Toronto Sun’s Terry Kohsan noted…
“Close is not good enough, and it’s a big loss in the standings, but we have to respond now,” captain Dion Phaneuf said. “We have to take care of business and we didn’t do that. It’s a tough race, and a very disappointing loss.”
The Leafs looked to be shaping up for another dramatic victory when Joffrey Lupul scored at 6:11 of the third to tie the game 2-2. He fell on goalie Jimmy Howard as he scored (forcing Howard to leave with a shoulder injury), and after brief meeting involving the on-ice officials, the goal stood.
But the Wings aren’t one of the best teams in the National Hockey League by way of luck and accidents. The Leafs spoke before the game of not making dumb decisions since they knew the Wings could capitalize. That’s what happened less than a minute after Lupul scored. Nikolai Kulemin made an errant pass in the neutral zone, and it was picked off by Henrik Zetterberg, who passed to Hudler. A shot that James Reimer said “dipped” wound up being the winner at 6:49.
Nazem Kadri had the other Toronto goal.
It wasn’t just a bad Kulemin pass that got the Leafs in trouble. Joey Crabb and Lupul both were assessed needless hooking penalties, and the Wings scored on both opportunities, going 2-for-2 with a man advantage. The Leafs were 0-for-4 on power plays.
“That’s indicative of the kind of team they are,” Lupul said. “We make an errant pass and they hit a guy with speed, and he comes in and makes a great shot. The best capitalize on those.”
The Leafs’ press, however, let its, “It’s over!” laments out in earnest, that was true of both the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran...
The atmosphere was akin to a playoff game, with Detroit fans chanting “Let’s go Red Wings” and a formidable contingent of Leafs fans chanting “Go Leafs go” during the intermittent clapping that’s part of the Wings’ chant.
The Wings were without Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, but it hardly mattered. The Wings’ average age was 30.8 years, a testament to the experience they’ve built up through much of the last decade. The Leafs averaged 26.1 years of age, second youngest in the league. And they looked, at times, as though they were buckling under the pressure of another must-win game, in a town where hockey matters and the crowd was electric. The Leafs over-skated the puck, and couldn’t deliver or accept passes — signs, perhaps, of nerves.
Through two periods, the Wings had a 2-1 lead as their red-hot power play — fourth in the league at 22.1 per cent efficiency — took advantage of Toronto’s 28th-ranked penalty kill on the road (74.0 per cent efficiency). The Wings scored first, with Henrik Zetterberg scoring a power play goal on Reimer’s doorstep. The puck appeared to be deflected, but the Wings had a 1-0 lead at 5:05. The Wings came into the game with a formidable record when scoring first (28-4-6), so the Leafs faced an uphill battle.
Kadri made sure the first period ended tied 1-1. His seeing-eye wrist shot through traffic was a beauty, as he recorded his second goal in the NHL. In the second — a period interrupted by broken glass and peppered with fights between fans — the Wings got the only goal. Again, it came on the power play with Lupul off for holding in the neutral zone. Tomas Holmstrom — doing what he does best in front of the opposing goalie — deflected Niklas Kronwall’s point shot for the 2-1 lead at 9:17.
Who noted the first instance in which a Leaf player very intentionally tried to hurt a Wing…
Darryl Boyce laid a solid check on Brian Rafalski, who limped from the ice. Boyce then had to fight Justin Abdelkader, who was standing up for his teammate.
And while TorontoMapleLeafs.com’s Mike Ulmer reflected upon the loss with a nearly wistful tone...
The Leafs fell to the Detroit Red Wings Saturday 4-2. The loss left Toronto seven points behind the streaking Buffalo Sabres, the number eight team in the East, with six games to play. The Leafs had won three in a row to stay around. They play Buffalo, Tuesday. The Sabres have garnered nine of their last 10 points. In the judicial system Tuesday’s game would be listed under a faint hope clause.
Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul scored for the Maple Leafs who rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits. The Detroit goalscorers were Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Jiri Hudler and Todd Bertuzzi into the empty net.
The Wings’ victory was a lesson in guile, a study in the little things and some of the big as well. The Leafs are 24th in the NHL on the power play. They whiffed on the four opportunities they enjoyed. Worse yet, the Leafs’ power play ground the game to a stop, sapping any impetus Toronto might have generated with an active attack. The Red Wings meanwhile got their first two goals on the man advantage.
Both of these special teams begin, literally, in the face-off circle and it was here that the young Leafs were found lacking. The Red Wings won any face-off they wanted to win.
The trouble with youth, and the Leafs are the league’s third youngest team, is that you can’t wish it away. There is no element of hockey more dependent on experience than the face-off and few are more important. This is not news. The Leafs hunger for a number one centre who can work with Phil Kessel and win his share of face-offs. There is no free-agent who fits that description save for Brad Richards. They need more size up front. Perhaps that will soon be provided by the Marlies’ Joe Colborne. They need a wheeling defenceman. They are grooming one in Jake Gardiner. Not quite enough present but oh, so much future.
It seems like the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox takes solace in the fact that the Leafs could have erased the Wings’ playoff chances...
The Leafs, meanwhile, accomplished nothing in Motown after coming up with road wins in St. Paul and Denver earlier in the week against the lousy Wild and Avalanche. Detroit, even without Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, is another proposition altogether, and they gave the Leafs a clinic on all the little bits and pieces that are required to win important hockey games in the spring. There was that Tomas Holmstrom net presence that created the first two goals, both of which were created by lazy Leaf hooking penalties, the kind the Wings didn’t take all night.
That both goals were power-play scores helped bring the total futility of the Leafs’ efforts with the man advantage into even sharper relief. Disorganized, passionless and weak were the words that sprung to mind described the Leaf power play on a night when even one goal might have made a tremendous difference.
Nobody looked more confused than Clarke MacArthur, once Toronto’s leading scorer, who has scored once in his last 14 games, essentially going cold ever since the club decided not to move him at the trade deadline.
The biggest dent the Leafs were able to make in the Red Wings came in the third when Joffrey Lupul fell on Detroit starter Jimmy Howard, who entered the game second to Roberto Luongo in wins by an NHL goalie this season. Howard’s shoulder appeared to buckle under Lupul’s weight, a moment made worse by Lupul’s terrific effort to then sweep the puck into the Detroit net and tie the game 2-2.
The Wings, meanwhile, may have a terrible problem if Howard’s injury is significant. It’s why they tried to bring Evgeny Nabokov into the fold earlier this season but were foiled by Islanders GM Garth Snow. The loss of Howard could kill Detroit’s Stanley Cup chances. Still, they showed the Leafs all the vital tricks of the trade on Saturday night, all the things a young team not yet ready to win needs to learn.
As did the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger, both noted that there was a fight in the stands, that the game had a playoff-like atmosphere in other regards, and actually agreed that Lupul’s goal shouldn’t have counted, all while praising Lupul and the Leafs for trying to literally take a piece out of Detroit:
If this was another nail in the coffin of the Maple Leafs playoff hopes, at least this feisty team continues to go down fighting. And, in the process, the Leafs inflicted their share of pain on the mighty Red Wings, with defenceman Brian Rafalski and goalie Jimmy Howard each getting banged up in Detroit’s 4-2 victory on Saturday.
Both injuries occurred because the Leafs played with a ferocity this franchise, frankly, hasn’t seen in quite some time. And, in each case, there was controversy involved. When Darryl Boyce crushed Rafalski against the boards while finishing his check late in the second period, some press box observers suggested Boyce may have left his feet. Rafalski left favouring the same right knee that recently kept him out of the lineup but, fortunately, was able to return in the third.
To his credit, Boyce is not afraid to go into the dirty areas. When Nazem Kadri scored the Leafs’ first goal in the opening period, it was Boyce who had the perfect screen on Howard.
Toronto’s penchant for going in front of the Wings net continued in the third when Joffrey Lupul, standing right in Howard’s face, scooped in Toronto’s second goal off a rebound. Lupul was dumped on top of Howard by Kris Draper on the play, causing Detroit’s No. 1 goalie to leave the contest with an apparent shoulder ailment.
Whether the Leafs make the post-season or not, this is the type of “truculence” and competitiveness Brian Burke wanted to see when he took over as general manager.
But even MapleLeafs.com’s Matt Iaboni offered stats and quick observations…
Player of the game: The Red Wings were without Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen but they didn’t miss a beat thanks to Henrik Zetterberg who has to be one of the most underrated players in the league. He not only opened the scoring, he also helped set up the winning goal.
The Swedish centre was excellent on faceoffs Saturday winning 56 per cent. He is one of the most talented players in the league and he has feasted on the Eastern Conference recording 24 points in 17 games.
Underrated Maple Leaf: Dion Phaneuf was one of the better Maple Leafs Saturday. He picked up an assist on Lupul’s goal and he was very physical against the talented Red Wings forwards. He finished the game with seven hits.
Phaneuf played a season-high 30:23, was a plus two with three shots and three blocked shots. He has now recorded three points in his last two games and six points in his last six contests. In the second his attempted shoot-in broke a pane of glass forcing an early intermission.
Stat Attack: The faceoff circle was not kind to the Leafs Saturday. Toronto won just 39 per cent. All game long the Wings easily won draws that started breakouts and got their offence moving quickly.
The best Leaf on the night was Mikhail Grabovski at 44 per cent. The area where it really hampered the Leafs was on the power play. Detroit would send out veteran Kris Draper who more often than not won the draw and allow the Wings to clear. Draper won eight of 11 draws.
Leaving the AP’s Larry Lage to speak to an incredulous Lupul, who insisted that he did not in fact initiate contact with Howard, but was pushed:
“The puck actually hit me in the stomach. I was able to see it as I was going to the ice and put it in,” Lupul said. “I had my eyes on the puck ... I didn’t think I was in the crease. Phil (Kessel) was shooting, so he (Howard) was coming out.”
[Red Wings GM Ken] Holland thought the goal should have been waved off.
“I thought it should have been no goal, no foul, no penalty.” Holland said.
Thankfully, as previously reported, Holland told the media that Howard would be OK…
“It doesn’t appear to be anything significant,” Detroit general manger Ken Holland said about Howard. “He’s day-to-day, probably sprain or a strain.”
He added Howard would have a precautionary MRI and would only say it was an “upper-body” injury.
“It’s tough coming in, especially when your No. 1 gets hurt like that,” MacDonald said. “The whole 13 minutes out there I was wondering what was wrong with him.
“We’ve got to take the positives out of it,” MacDonald added. “I’ve just got to keep coming in and doing what I’m doing, giving the team an opportunity to win every single night.”
Howard, who made 15 saves before departing, did not say anything to MacDonald when the two passed during the change.
“For me I’m going to keep on focusing and get ready,” MacDonald said. “You never know what’s going to happen here in the next couple of days.”
And instead of folding when they saw their starting goaltender go down, the Red Wings promptly re-took the lead, as the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky noted:
It took the Wings all of 38 seconds to respond. Jiri Hudler, taking a slick, cross-ice pass from Henrik Zetterberg, blasted a shot from the top of the circle, past the glove of goalie James Reimer.
“It was a turnover and Z had it on his stick, saw me right away,” said Hudler, who notched his 10th goal. “I wasn’t thinking because I knew right away what I’m going to do. And thank God it went in.”
The Wings didn’t really give a damn about the Leafs’ playoff math. For a team that had lost three straight and has only seven games remaining, taking care of your own destiny by winning is what counts—as Mike Babcock has said repeatedly—and Nicklas Lidstrom felt that the Wings took in the playoff atmosphere and made the most of it:
“I thought we played really well,” Lidstrom said. “We played with desperation tonight against a very desperate team. This was a good win.”
The game was played before a raucous sellout crowd — the 19th straight at Joe Louis Arena — and had a playoff feel. To the heartbreak of the large throng of Leafs fans in attendance, though, it might be as close as they get to the actual playoffs.
As for Boyce’s decision to run Rafalski—it looked like a knee to this partisan Wings fan—and Abdelkader’s ensuing bout?
“I saw (Boyce) run Raffi,” Abdelkader said. “It’s one of those plays. It was the second time somebody has done that to him and I felt like we needed to stand up for him.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock liked what he saw from his team on most fronts, as he told the Free Press’s George Sipple:
Joey MacDonald, who replaced Howard, made seven saves and did not allow a goal in the final 13:49. MacDonald hasn’t allowed a goal in a four-game span totaling 109 minutes, 45 seconds.
“I thought Mac did a real good job,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock. “(Toronto) had a couple real good chances at the end. He made a real good poke check coming around the net as well when one of our guys fell. It is what it is. Guys get injured and you just gotta keep playing.”
He was not, however, happy with Bill McCreary and Marcus Vinnerborg’s decision to let the Lupul goal stand—nor has he been happy with any of the calls made against Tomas Holmstrom for looking at opposing goaltenders funny over the past few weeks:
Asked what he saw on the play that resulted in Lupul’s goal and Howard’s injury, Babcock said: “Lupul went in the crease and bumped into our guy and then (Kris) Draper pushed him and after fell on him. It’s easy for us because we all saw the replay. The referees are out there trying to make the right call. The part I don’t like is when (Tomas) Holmstrom’s near the net, the whistle goes and the goals are waved off and they’re allowed to fall on the goalie.”
Let’s take a pause for a moment to take note of a few other tidbits from Sipple...
Say what? Dion Phaneuf’s blast from center ice during a Toronto power play cracked a pane of glass with 2:01 left in the second period. The teams went to their respective dressing rooms and the second intermission began early while the glass was repaired. The remaining 2:01 was then completed before the start of the third period.
On the other side: Former Wings defenseman Brett Lebda had folks all atwitter in the first period, after turning the puck over during a power play. Lebda has struggled in Toronto and entered the game minus-14.
(8:57 played, one shot, one giveaway, nothing new for Lebda)
Before diving back in via Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji, who points out the very obvious—while Joey MacDonald did a great job, Jimmy Howard had one crappy 27th birthday...
Howard, who turned 27 Saturday, was helped off the ice and did not return, but early indications seemed to be fairly positive about what’s being called an “upper-body injury.”
“What I’m told is it’s day to day, it’s nothing significant, he’s going for an MRI to be sure,” general manager Ken Holland said. “He did all the range of motions, it’s day to day. Now we’re going to send him for tests to be sure. Unless the tests come back anything different, doctors don’t think so but we’re going to do a precautionary MRI.”
The Wings’ captain was quick to praise the man who will probably start on Monday…
“It’s not easy coming in halfway through the third period and they’re pressing to score goals and throwing pucks at the net,” captain Nick Lidstrom said. “I thought he played real well coming in there the last 10 minutes.”
And MacDonald reflected upon his yo-yo existence as a Red Wing, Griffin and then Wing again over the past month:
“It’s been a little different the last couple weeks,” MacDonald said with a laugh. “A couple-hour drive down to Grand Rapids for 24 hours and then turn around and come back. It’s part of the game. This is what I did when I signed here. I’ve been fortunate enough to be up most of the year. This is where I want to be, this is a great time of year. Everybody’s in a playoff push and we want to finish near the top as much as possible.”
“It’s a strange world,” MacDonald said. “When I signed here, you never know. You see goalies sit down in the minors the whole year and goalies not get hurt. You never want to see, especially your No. 1 with seven games left, hopefully nothing’s major and it’s just a few bumps and bruises and he can get back here in the next week or so. I just gotta keep focusing on tomorrow, focus on Monday. We’ve got some big games coming up. We gotta put a push on, too, because we want to be a winning team going into the playoffs.”
Overall, the Wings were happy with their team effort, MacDonald included, especially in the attention to detail department, as he told MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“We didn’t give them a whole lot in the third. I had one good save off a faceoff that kind of got me into the game. It’s tough, but we played pretty well tonight. We got some bodies in front of Reimer. That’s what you got to do with a goalie on a hot streak.”
And the coach and captain agreed, as Khan, who points out that the Wings’ power play’s scored at least one goal in each of the Wings’ last seven games (the Wings went 2-for-2 in only 1:13 of PP time and killed 4 Leaf power plays) noted:
“We got a couple of good tips there and our penalty killing was real good,” Babcock said. “Drapes was real strong on the faceoff circle and we pressured the entries, they couldn’t get set up.”
All in all, Lidstrom liked his team’s defensive effort.
“I thought we battled hard and took care of our own zone and played well defensively.”
The atmosphere didn’t hurt, either:
“The fans from both teams were here, singing the Canadian national anthem, they were psyched up and ready top go,” Babcock said. “I thought it was great.”
I grew up in that little narrow window in the early-to-mid-90’s when the Wings and Leafs were actually bigger rivals than the Wings and the Hawks or their other Norris Division rivals at the time, so I’d normally be jumping up and down after watching the Wings rally past both their opposition and their biggest opponent of late—themselves—to defeat the Leafs on a Saturday night game aired on Hockey Night in Canada, but seeing Howard go down put a stop to any celebrations.
As far as I know, barring anything weird happening during the MRI Howard underwent—and it sounded, at least from what I understood, like we’re really dealing with a slight sprain thanks to the fact that Lupul and Howard landed on a very strong Vaughn chest protector—Jordan Pearce will probably come up for Monday’s game, and MacDonald will start, but after that, we should assume that Howard will be back either in time for Wednesday’s game against St. Louis or Saturday’s game in Nashville (probably the latter).
Cross your fingers.
Highlights: TSN posted a 2:26 highlight clip which includes comments from Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf and Ron Wilson;
The CBC posted its 1:44 highlight clip within its website’s recap;
Sportsnet posted a 2:38 highlight clip which includes commentary from the aforementioned trio of Leafs:
If you don’t mind nails on chalkboard, you can watch six minutes of the CBC’s highlights of the game, with a Leaf-oriented edit via leafs TV:
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 3:57 combined highlight clip and slate of analysis of the game by Larry Murphy;
And the Red Wings’ website posted a highlight clip narrated by Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Post-game: TSN posted a 1:56 clip of comments from Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, James Reimer and Ron Wilson;
The Leafs’ website posted coach Ron Wilson’s post-game presser…
The Leafs’ website did post the Abdelkader-Boyce fight as well:
If you want to watch the Leafs’ website’s interviews with James Reimer, Luke Schenn, Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf, you can do so on your own, and the same can be said for Howard Berger’s take on the game;
The CBC posted a quick profile of the Dillon family, which won a raffle to attend the game via Danny Cleary, and thanks to Paul and Alanah, why watch Elliotte Friedman’s profile of Pavel Datsyuk somewhere else when you can watch it here?
Fox Sports Detroit’s post-game clips include Ryan Field’s interview with Jiri Hudler, Joey MacDonald’s media scrum and Mike Babcock’s post-game presser;
And the Red Wings’ website’s post-game clip includes comments from Nicklas Lidstrom, Joey MacDonald, Jiri Hudler and coach Mike Babcock:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 13-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 16-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 7-image gallery;
For some reason, NHL.com didn’t post a gallery, but there are tons of Reuters images from the tilt in Daylife.com’s Wings gallery;
The Leafs’ website’s recap posted a 9-image gallery, embedded an image and posted and some tertiary images in its AP recap, and the “tertiary images” tag’s true for its alternate recap and Mike Ulmer’s take on the game as well;
Statistics: Shots: 29-24 Detroit overall, breaking down as 15-9 Detroit in the 1st period, 5-4 Toronto in the 2nd and 10-10 in the 3rd period.
The Wings went 2-for-2 in 1:13 of PP time, and the Leafs went 0-for-4 in 8:00 of PP time.
Howard stopped 15 of 17 shots; MacDonald stopped 7; Reimer stopped 25 of 28.
The 3 stars, per Nick Cotsonika, were Phaneuf, Zetterberg and Hudler.
Our goals: Zetterberg (22) from Lidstrom (45) and Hudler (25), PPG;
Holmstrom (15) from Kronwall (25) and Rafalski (37), PP;
Hudler (10) from Zetterberg (53);
Bertuzzi (15) from Kronwall (26), empty net.
Faceoffs 38-24 Detroit (61% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 20-8 Toronto;
Missed shots 11-11 (total attempted shots 60-43 Detroit);
Hits 39-25 Toronto;
Giveaways 11-10 Toronto;
Takeaways 11-5 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 10-and-8 (56%); Filppula went 10-and-6 (63%); Draper went 8-and-3 (73%); Helm went 5-and-5 (50%); Abdelkader went 3-and-2 (60%); both Eaves and Modano won their only faceoffs.
Shots: Helm led the team with 5 shots; Bertuzzi had 4; Modano had 3; Cleary, Eaves, Stuart, Hudler, Filppula and Holmstrom had 2; Kindl, Abdelkader, Rafalski, Zetterberg and Kronwall had 1.
Blocked attempts: Holmstrom had 4 shot attempts blocked by Leaf players; Eaves and Ericsson had 3 blocked; Stuart and Zetterberg had 2 attempts blocked; Kindl, Abdelkader, Cleary, Miller, Draper and Kronwall had single shot attempts blocked by Toronto.
Missed shots: Zetterberg and Filppula missed the net 2 times; Lidstrom, Cleary, Eaves, Helm, Ericsson, Kronwall and
Modano missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader led the team with 6 hits; Cleary and Bertuzzi had 4; Helm had 3; Miller and Holmstrom had 2; Stuart, Draper, Filppula and Kronwall had 1.
Giveaways: Stuart had a bad game. He had 4 giveaways and earned ‘em; Zetterberg and Ericsson had 2 giveaways; Hudler and Helm had single giveaways.
Takeaways: Nice night for takeaways. Hudler, Kronwall and Modano had 2 takeaways; Kindl, Eaves, Stuart, Helm and Holmstrom had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 3 shots; Stuart blocked 2; Bertuzzi, Modano and Holmstrom blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Abdelkader took a a major penalty for fighting; Kindl, Stuart, Hudler and Helm took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: Kindl, Rafalski, Draper, Zetterberg and Holmstrom were -1; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Stuart, Hudler and Filppula were +1. The team was even.
Points: Hudler had a goal and an assist for 2 points, and Zetterberg repeated Hudler’s 1G-1A-2 point feat; Kronwall had 2 assists; Bertuzzi and Holmstrom had goals; Lidstrom and Rafalski had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 25:10 played; Ericsson played 23:20; Stuart played 20:48;
Lidstrom played 19:10; Zetterberg played 18:12; Cleary played 17:44;
Filppula played 16:38; Rafalski played 16:31; Bertuzzi played 16:28;
Helm played 15:16; Kindl played 15:09; Eaves played 13:48;
Miller played 13:45; Modano played 12:58; Abdelkader played 12:17;
Holmstrom played 12:08; Draper played 11:41; Hudler played 10:42.
Wings notebooks: The Detroit Free Press duly notes that the Wings-Hawks game on Monday airs on Versus, and Steve Schrader points out that, on Friday, Fox Sports Detroit will reveal the winner of its April in the D song contest. Let’s stick with Schrader’s levity for a moment via his “news quiz”:
What’s up with Bertuzzi, Datsyuk, Franzen and Osgood being out?
A) It’s either upper-body, lower-body or midlevel major injuries.
B) Don’t know, did Kuester bench them, too?
C) It’s almost April on the DL time of the year.
D) Their roster was down 25% to agree with the census.
• Todd Bertuzzi did return, and registered an assist, 4 shots, 4 hits and a blocked shot in a healthy 16:28 of ice time. He spoke to the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky about his decision to return to the lineup—I’m pretty sure that Ruslan Salei got the game off to recover conditioning-wise, and Jan Mursak may have been sent back to Grand Rapids on paper, but he probably remained in Detroit as he didn’t play with the Griffins on Saturday…
“It feels a lot better than before,” he said, after the team’s optional morning skate. “I will have another treatment here in a bit, and I plan on playing.”
Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (flu) also was in the lineup. Bertuzzi, who scored an empty-netter in the victory, was glad to see the Maple Leafs in town, and not necessarily because it meant an Original Six matchup.
“Just playing against an Eastern Conference team,” Bertuzzi said. “Playing in the Western Conference, we see the same teams over and over. It gets kind of redundant. This will enhance the enthusiasm in this room.”
Still out were Wings forwards Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) and Johan Franzen (groin); both skated this morning. Franzen could return Monday against Chicago, but Datsyuk said he didn’t think he’d be ready by then. He said he was hoping to play at least the last four or five regular-season games. If he holds to that, he would return in time to face Nashville on April 2.
• As noted on Saturday, Chris Osgood spoke to the Free Press’s George Sipple about both his recovery from sports hernia surgery and becoming a dad for the third time on Thursday, and he reiterated his comments to the Detroit News’s McCosky.
Obviously, the big news and the best news is that Osgood’s wife, Jenna, and his new son, Max, are all healthy. But from a fan’s point of view, it’s almost…a relief…to hear Osgood bluntly admit that his surgery was much, much, much more complicated than first reported—it was more like a surgery where you wake up an hour later than you should have and the doctor says, “You won’t believe what we did!” (I’ve had it happen, and it’s not fun)—and that has both Osgood and the Wings trying to take his setbacks in stride:
“My goal is to just get healthy and feel real good and take it from there,” he said. “I can’t go out there when I am not at full capacity and expect to play like I have to play. I can’t be 80 percent or whatever, that wouldn’t be fair to the guys. I have to make sure I’m totally healthy and ready — if not for a game or the playoffs, then for next year.”
Osgood is 38 and hasn’t played since Jan. 4. He and general manager Ken Holland have had several talks recently about when or if Osgood would be back this season.
“I wasn’t even sure I was going to play because of the standings and because I haven’t played in a while,” Osgood said. “When I went in (to surgery) the doctor said it would be eight to 12 weeks, that’s how long I was going to be out. I was obviously hoping it would earlier, that I’d recover faster, but it hasn’t ended up being like that.”
It’s been 10 weeks since the surgery and Osgood said he planned get back on the ice Tuesday or Wednesday. He said the goal was to be able to string together seven or eight good practices and perhaps play in one of the final two regular-season games.
“I was thinking like before, but now I’m just trying to have one good day at a time,” he said. “I am hoping to be available for the playoffs. That would be the best-case scenario.”
The reality of the situation is that Osgood had a sports hernia, several tears in his groin, and either some ligaments and/or a muscle that had sheared itself right off his pubic bone reattached, and he finally stated as much to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:
“(The doctor) said it was a radical surgery for a goalie to have,” Osgood said. “My goal is just to get healthy and we’ll take it from there.”
“I can’t go out there not at full capacity and expect to play like I need or have to play in this league,” Osgood said. “I can’t go out there 80-percent after not playing for two and a half months. I could fake it for a game or two, but that wouldn’t be fair to the guys.”
Osgood admits that he’s worried about his future, too:
“It’s all hypothetical because I don’t know,” Osgood said. “If anything I was guilty of thinking too much. ‘Am I done? Can I come back from this?’ I’ve just got to get healthy and take it from there.”
• Changing gears, Pleiness also spoke to Jan Mursak, who Pleiness says did indeed stay with the Wings despite his reassignment because he would have had to catch a flight to Austin, Texas to meet up with the Griffins:
“Every time I come here I’m really happy,” Mursak said. “I try and bring energy and forecheck. I feel more comfortable from game-to-game.”
“Every game gets easier,” Mursak said. “I’m making better plays and protecting the puck better.”
• These comments play into Mike Zeisberger’s conversation with Dave “The Tiger” Schultz and his plea to NHL fans to “lay off” Colin Campbell, so you need to know that before reading these Wings comments about the instigator rule, as interpreted by the Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan:
Nicklas Lidstrom and Kris Draper have seen plenty during their respective careers in the National Hockey League. But neither of the Detroit Red Wings’ long-serving veterans are pleased with what they are witnessing on the ice, if not in their own games, than when they head home and flip on the highlights.
“The game has changed,” said Lidstrom, the Wings’ 40-year-old captain. “We were policing ourselves a little bit differently (when he broke into the NHL in 1991-92). We had a few more tough guys on each team, and when things happened, you had to pay for it one way or another. We took care of it ourselves.”
One offshoot of the latest Matt Cooke transgression, and others in which players have deliberately tried to hurt opponents, is the debate over whether respect has slipped from the game. Draper had his face rearranged by Claude Lemieux of the Colorado Avalanche during the 1996 playoffs, but still thinks the game is different than when he became a fairly regular contributor with the Wings in 1993-94. And the 39-year-old finds that distressing.
“This is an unbelievable game and we’re living out a childhood dream,” Draper said. “We should remember that. If you realize where you are, you sit in an NHL locker room, and the other guy sitting there worked just as hard to get there. It would be a shame for something that is unnecessary to end someone’s career prematurely. When guys do things, I don’t necessarily think the accountability is there.”
Dropping the instigator rule might help. At this point, the NHL does not appear willing to do that.
That depends on whether you believe that, should a player like Cooke get a five-minute major and a game misconduct, you should conduct line brawls (see: the New York Islanders), or whether you should convert on the power play and demand the strongest discipline possible.
• I also posted this as a separate entry, but it’s worth revisiting, I suppose in quid pro quo fashion. Zeisberger’s also making a point here in comparing the Maple Leafs’ corporate hierarchy to the Red Wings’ ownership structure, but he’s got a point here:
“My board of directors are Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch,” Holland said on Saturday. “I pick up the phone and call them.”
Simple. Yet effective. And there’s the rub. It is no coincidence that the Red Wings have enjoyed so much success in the past three decades. The continuity of ownership, combined with the fact that there is just one man at the top who rubber-stamps moves, as opposed to an entire board or group, has proved to be a lucrative formula. Consider this: Since Ilitch, the founder and owner of Little Caesar’s Pizza, purchased the team, the Red Wings have won four Stanley Cups. Over that same period, the Leafs have exactly zero. You connect the dots.
“I’ve been general manager since 1997,” Holland said. “Whenever I’ve called, if I think there is a move needed that is on the ice or off the ice, (the Ilitches) have never nixed it. If anything, Mr. Ilitch would like to see us grow the hockey staff. I tell him it’s all good, we’re happy the way it is. I remember when I said I wanted to sign Brett Hull. I called Mr. Ilitch, I walked him through it and it was done. Then I went through the agent. For Detroit and the Red Wings, ownership is a big part of the reason we’ve had the success that we’ve had.”
There is another big difference between the Toronto and Detroit franchises, this one having to do with the culture. MLSE is portrayed more as a corporate atmosphere, whereas the Wings, according to Holland, are “like a family.”
A family that Holland and Jim Nill, his right-hand man, have shown unwavering loyalty to. In the past, prior to the hiring of Burke, both Tanenbaum and MLSE president Richard Peddie kicked tires on the possibility of luring Holland and/or Nill to run the Leafs. Both stayed put.
“Without a doubt, it’s a family atmosphere here,” Holland explained. “A lot of people (in this organization) are well-paid (but) I don’t know that a lot of people here are the highest paid in the industry. But it’s about stability. The owners make you feel appreciated. Our owners want to win. I think when your working as a player or coach or in the front office and you know your owners will give you the resources to win; when there’s good stability; there’s good security; and you enjoy the people you work with, why would you want to leave for the potential of a few extra dollars?”
Also of Red Wings-related note: In Sweden, Dick Axelsson registered a goal and an assist as Farjestads BK defeated AIK 4-2, taking a 3-0 series lead.
Expressen’s Mattias Ek tried to put a scare into Swedish fans by confirming that the Red Wings plan on re-signing Axelsson, but as has been reported here via reports from Expressen, Aftonbladet and NWT.se, while Axelsson’s willing to play the, “Will I or won’t I go to Detroit?” games with the press, the Wings will probably retain Axelsson’s rights, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to come over to North America.
He can stay home in Sweden and earn more money and a larger role playing for Farjestads BK than he can playing for Grand Rapids, and thus far, he’s shown no appetite to play in the AHL, so he’s probably still a few years out;
• In Finland, Teemu Pulkkinen and Jokerit Helsinki will have to play HIFK in a seventh game as HIFK defeated Jokerit 2-1 on Saturday night. Pulkkinen went scoreless, but he is at least playing, which is pretty darn good for someone who spent four days in a hospital with a kidney infection;
• Back over on this side of the pond, the Grand Rapids Griffins dropped a 5-1 decision to the Texas Stars, losing both their games in Austin. Gustav Nyquist scored his first professional goal in the Griffins’ win, but otherwise, it marked a lost weekend for the Griffins, as its website’s recap notes:
The Griffins (34-29-2-8) now find themselves on the outside looking in at the North Division playoff picture. With Toronto and Hamilton each picking up points in shootout losses, the Griffins currently sit fifth in the ever-tightening North Division race, just one point out of the final guaranteed playoff spot. After a busy stretch that saw them play ten games in 16 days, the Griffins will now have five days off before the first of must-win back-to-back games in Abbotsford on Friday at 10 p.m.
The Griffins played a man down for most of the game after losing Logan Pyett to an injury early in the first period. Pyett was hit awkwardly into the boards by Stars’ forward Travis Morin and laid motionless for several minutes before being helped into the locker room. No penalty was called on the play
On the verge of playing for first place before the two games against the Stars, the Griffins (35-29-2-8) now face virtually having to run the table in their last six games to make the playoffs.
Grand Rapids has 80 points and likely needs at least 91 points to make the playoffs from a still-jumbled North Division that includes the first five teams separated by just eight points going into the final two weeks of the regular season.
But Grand Rapids now finds itself in deep trouble after losing the pair of games while first-place Lake Erie has ran off eight straight wins. The Griffins had gone 12-3-1-2 in their last 18 games before stumbling in Texas.
• Things went better for Thomas McCollum and the Toledo Walleye, who shut out the Cincinnati Cyclones 7-0. McCollum stopped 18 shots and Willie Coetzee scored a goal for Toledo, and the Walleye’s website and Toledo Blade break down the significance of the Walleye’s win:
A third-period goal to beat Cincinnati Friday night must have opened the floodgates Saturday night as the Toledo Walleye poured it on in a 7-0 whitewash of the Cyclones to move to within two points of the final ECHL playoff spot with four games to go.
A four-goal explosion helped Toledo (32-30-6) to the win.
Cincinnati travels to the Huntington Center for a 4 p.m. contest Sunday against the Walleye.
• In college hockey, Red Wings prospect Riley Sheahan registered a strangely un-credited assist as Notre Dame defeated Merrimack 4-3 in overtime. They’ll face New Hampshire in the Northeast Regional Final, and if they win on Sunday, they’ll advance to the Frozen Four;
• In major junior hockey, in the OHL, Petr Mrazek had a rough outing in the Ottawa 67’s 8-7 loss to the Sudbury Wolves, giving up 7 goals on 28 shots against. The 67’s and Wolves are tied at 1-1;
• In the QMJHL, Andrej Nestrasil had a goal and an assist as the PEI Rocket defeated Shawinigan 4-2, tying their first-round series at one game apiece;
• Rimouski Oceanic defenseman Gleason Fournier scored a goal, but the Oceanic lost a 3-2 overtime decision to the Gatineau Olympiques, which lead their series 2-0;
• Mitchell Callahan posted an assist as his Kelowna Rockets defeated the Prince George Cougars 7-4, taking a 2-0 series lead;
• And in the local hockey department, the Plymouth Whalers defeated the Kitchener Rangers 3-2 in overtime to take a 2-0 series lead.
• As the Hartford Courant’s Dom Amore notes, the AHL’s Connecticut Whale unveiled banners honoring Mark, Marty and Gordie Howe, but the Howe boys, if you will, chose to speak on their father’s behalf. The Whale’s website posted a notebook about the event and a three-part story recounting the Howe family’s time in Hartford.
As Gordie’s 83rd birthday is on Thursday, and Howard Baldwin remains, first and foremost, a self-promoter, I was asked to give this story a bit of a wide berth, and I’m doing so because people who know better than I do offered raised eyebrows at the timing of the ceremony and the fact that it milked Colleen Howe’s legacy.
• In cheerier charity news, the Port Huron Times-Herald notes that the Detroit Red Wings’ Alumni Association will face off against a charity team representing the Saint Clair County Community College fund this afternoon:
4 p.m. Skating for a Cause Charity Hockey Game. Featuring a team of past Red Wings legends vs. a team representing the SC4 Foundation. McMorran Arena, 701 McMorran Blvd., Port Huron. (810) 985-6166. $5; $5 for autographs.
• Shifting focus back to politics for a moment, the Free Press’s George Sipple spoke to the CBC’s Rob Simpson, a Michigan State University Alum, about the university’s hiring of former CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos as their new coach. I happen to think that Anastos saw the writing on the wall with the imminent establishment of a Big 10 Hockey Conference and got into that enterprise while the gettin’s good, but what do I know?
• In no less political news, especially given the scuttlebutt around the Red Wings’ new rink and its possible locale, Crain’s Detroit Business’s Bill Shea reports that the Detroit City Council will probably approve the sale of $125 million in bonds to help fund the M1 Rail project on Woodward Avenue, which is backed by Wings owner Mike Ilitch, Plymouth Whalers owner Peter Karmanos, Roger Penske and Quicken Loans’ Dan Gilbert;
• Less political: Red Wings co-owner Marian Ilitch and her daughter, Denise, will be honored by the Michigan Women’s Foundation on Tuesday for their contributions to the community, as noted by the Free Press’s Carol Cain;
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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.