The Malik Report
Red Wings-Stars wrap-up and overnight report: A little too ‘interesting’ (and Pulkkinen at WJC news)
by George Malik on 01/04/12 at 07:54 AM ET
The Red Wings took a late-night flight back to Detroit after their rather sloppy 5-4 win over the Dallas Stars, and they’re going to take a day off before preparing for the “Fathers’ Trip” weekend slate of back-to-back games against Toronto and Chicago. By the looks of the Wings’ fit and finish during Tuesday’s game, from Jimmy Howard on out, the Wings need a day or two to recharge their mental and physical batteries.
In a game which, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted, featured no Wings power plays for the second time over the course of the past three games and one power play for Dallas, the line of Valtteri Filppula, Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler in particular were nothing less than spectacular, but despite Hudler’s 2-goal performance, Filppula’s goal and 2 assists and Zetterberg’s 3 assists, the line finished at a collective +1 because they were also on the ice for three of the Stars’ four goals, and that may tell the tale for the Wings of late:
Despite their high-flying offense, they’ve been giving up forty to fifty shot attempts per game, they’ve happily traded odd-man rushes with their opponents after every shot attempt of their own, have gotten caught “cheating” toward offense on an all-too-regular basis and are giving up the kinds of goals like Marian Hossa’s in Chicago on Friday, where the Wings allow players to loop around, deke, dangle and slither through defensemen and forwards who are either chasing the puck carrier or, much more regularly, standing around with mouths agape while their opponents bury grade-A scoring chances behind a Jimmy Howard who’s finally starting to whiff on shots and give up ‘softies” on a semi-regular basis.
Put a little more bluntly, the Wings had a 2-0 lead, a 3-1 lead a 4-2 lead and a 5-3 lead at different points of Tuesday night’s game, but each and every time they pushed two goals ahead of their opponent, their collective lack of focus, inattentiveness to detail, inability or unwillingness to sustain their offensive chances, bear down on clearing attempts or stand up in the neutral zone have bitten them in the rear end, to the tune of a 6-and-4 record over their past ten games and a neck and neck battle with the Blackhawks and Blues for Central Division supremacy despite the fact that the Wings are only a point behind the Western Conference-leading Hawks.
That’s a very roundabout way of saying that just as the Wings made Tuesday night’s game way too hard on themselves, they’ve also made gaining ground in the Central Division and Western Conference incredibly difficult on themselves, and especially given that the Stars were playing with half a blueline, the Wings’ opponents told DallasStars.com’s John Tranchina that their own defensive mistakes separated the Stars from another giant-killing victory in front of a mostly full American Airlines Center’s audience:
Coming one game after a stellar complete-game effort helped the Stars shut down the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins 4-2 on New Year’s Eve but also missing three of their top six defensemen, Dallas suffered some unfortunate defensive breakdowns in allowing five goals (or more) for the 10th time this season - two of them against Detroit. The loss drops the Stars to 2-4-0 in their last six contests, and now with a 21-16-1 record on the season, Dallas sits in 10th place in the ultra-competitive Western Conference standings, two points back of eighth-place Colorado.
“I think it’s not just one game. You can’t just beat the Bruins and be happy with it, we got to put a full 60 minutes in against the top teams and string a few wins together,” said [Jamie] Benn, whose third three-point night of the season leaves him with a team-leading 37 points on the season. “A bit of a tough game there. When you have breakdowns in the D zone and they capitalize, it’s never good, but I thought we had some parts of our game that were good, and some that were not good.”
“I just thought we made a couple of lazy mistakes and we made a couple structural mistakes that we shouldn’t make,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “They’re the team that can make you pay pretty quickly as you see. I thought our compete level was up but you can’t make mistakes like that against this club.”
As Tranchina suggests, Kari Lehtonen may have been leakier than a bucket full of holes on several of the goals he surrendered, but he also shut the Wings down in a third period where it was the Wings’ concentration that lapsed all too regularly:
“His performance I thought was fine,” Gulutzan said of Lehtonen. “Even that one that went from the side of the net went off our defenseman’s skate. What do you do? He made some huge saves in the first. He’s still trying to reach for his stick on one. Second goal, good shot. We just made too many mistakes. Our D were backing off the line too much and we had some lazy mistakes. If you’re going to be lazy, it’s going to cost you.”
The Stars were frustrated by the fact that the Wings surrendered two-goal leads but regained them particularly quickly…
“Those are so big,” captain Brenden Morrow said of the Red Wings’ quick-answer goals. “They did it to us two or three times tonight. You feel like you’ve got momentum and you tilt the ice in your favor and then they come back quick and get one. Those ones are always a little deflating.”
The Stars’ website’s Twitter account adds a few more quotes to the mix…
Coach: “We did things uncharacteristically and against the structure of our team and it hurt us. They [DET] will make you pay on turnovers.”
Morrow: “Thought coverage and discipline were great tonight. No penalties is impressive, but we were careless w/ the puck and it cost us.”
But, for lack of a better term, the Stars’ media corps didn’t get particularly quote-y about the game, at least in a format that you or I can read. The Stars’ media website added a few more statistical storylines which might interest you if you’re a Stars fan and both the Dallas News’s Mike Heika and ESPN Dallas’s Richard Durrett took note of the fact that Jordan and Jamie Benn played together at the NHL level for the first time, but Durrett offered a “Rapid Reaction”...
* Kari Lehtonen didn’t have a great night, especially in the second period. He allowed some goals he normally wouldn’t and the Stars had to try to make up a two-goal deficit in the final 20 minutes.
* Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn had nice games. They were good with the puck and created some chances. Eriksson had a nice individual effort on the Stars’ first goal, grabbing the puck behind the net and coming out in front where he rifled a shot that got past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. Benn added a goal in the second. Jamie Benn played a lot down the stretch as they doubleshifted him late in the third.
* Detroit’s Jiri Hudler knew right where the net was on Tuesday. He had two goals—both in the first. Henrik Zetterberg had three assists.
* Defensive coverage was an issue again, though credit the Red Wings’ speed for a lot of that too. Adam Pardy had a rough first two periods, but played better in the third.
* Jordie Benn looked pretty steady in his first NHL game, making smart plays and avoiding any major mistakes. Interestingly, he played with Pardy for much of the third period. Jordie Benn was also on the ice when the Stars pulled the goalie for the extra skater. I do wonder: If Stephane Robidas is ready for Thursday’s game with Nashville (and he might be, but we don’t know for sure), do the Stars consider making Pardy the healthy scratch?
* Michael Ryder scored two goals, including one with 5:56 left in the third period to get the crowd fully in the game for the final stretch. It was Ryder’s 16th and 17th goals of the season. That’s one goal short of his total for all of last season.
And the Dallas News’s Mike Heika offered a “Replay”...
First: The Stars did a lot of good things, but they found a way to give up about 10 good scoring chances and were down 3-1 after 20 minutes. Valtteri Filppula scored at the 8:02 mark for the Red Wings, and then Jiri Hudler made it 2-0 at the 17:06 mark when a shot deflected in off of his skate. Loui Eriksson scored his 14th for the Stars to make it 2-1 at 17:56 of the period. However, the Stars had a defensive breakdown and Hudler finished off a nice tic-tac-toe play at the 19:00 mark. Detroit 3, Stars 1
Second: The Stars immediately cut the deficit to 3-2 at the 1:04 mark on a nice goal by Jamie Benn, his 10th of the season. However, Kari Lehtonen then gave up one of his worst goals of the season at the 3:51 mark to restore the two-goal lead. Cory Emmerton shot from almost on the goal line underneath the left circle, and the puck somehow slipped through Lehtonen. Jamie Benn then set up Michael Ryder for his 16th goal of the season to cut the lead to 4-3, but Detroit again got an insurance goal when Pavel Datsyuk picked Jamie Benn’s pocket and set up Johan Franzen for his 16th goal of the season. Detroit 5, Stars 3
Third: The Stars made a spirited run and got several great scoring chances. Ryder scored his 17th of the season with 5:53 remaining, but then the Red Wings and Jimmy Howard held the fort. Detroit 5, Stars 4
And a few quotes in a notebook...
Stars coach Glenn Gulutzan: ``I just thought we made a couple of lazy mistakes and we made a couple structural mistakes that we shouldn’t make. They’re the team that can make you pay pretty quickly as you see. I thought our compete level was up but you can’t make mistakes like that against this club.”
On Kari Lehtonen’s performance: “Yeah, his performance I thought was fine. Even that one that went from the side of the net went off our defenseman’s skate. What do you do? He made some huge saves in the first. He’s still trying to reach for his stick on one. Second goal, good shot. We just made too many mistakes. Our D were backing off the line too much and we had some lazy mistakes. If you’re going to be lazy, it’s going to cost you.”
Stars captain Brenden Morrow: ``Leaving guys open in the slot, they got one off a skate, they got a couple of bounces…but they were in good scoring positions and our coverage wasn’t great. We had one good line, the Benn line was directing a lot of pucks at the net and they were going in, and we just didn’t get the secondary scoring that they did.’‘
``We did some good in some areas, but our discipline with the puck wasn’t very good because we were turning a lot of pucks over, but our discipline with our sticks was good. I think we skated and worked hard and didn’t have to chase and pull guys down.’‘
``We were right in it to the end, pull the goalie, Goose knocking pucks out of the air and I think our fight and resolve was pretty good. We battled right to the final buzzer.’‘
But Heika’s main recap is a “subscriber-only” spiel, and aside from noting that the refs may have been a little less likely to call penalties as linesman Steve Miller left the game in the first period with a concussion, it’s a quip from Heika’s publicly accessible, quote-less recap which really irks the Wings fan that I am:
Dallas is short-handed on defense, missing regulars Sheldon Souray (ankle), Stephane Robidas (foot) and Philip Larsen (concussion-like symptoms), and it showed against the speedy, skilled Wings.
Injuries forced the callup of rookies Jordie Benn, older brother of Jamie Benn, and Brenden Dillon from the Texas Stars of the AHL.
Jordie Benn made his NHL debut, collecting his first assist in the opening period, while Dillon was a healthy scratch.
The Stars played with a severely shorthanded defense, but even Nicklas Lidstrom and Ian White had “off” nights (I thought that Jonathan Ericsson and Mike Commodore were the Wings’ steadiest defensemen, and, defensively speaking, the Andersson-Emmerton-Nyquist line—and Nyquist got his first NHL point in assisting on Emmerton’s 4-2 goal—may have been the Wings’ most responsible in its own zone), and as the younger Benn told the Associated Press, the Stars felt that they could have and should have completed their comeback:
“You never want to get down, especially against those guys,” Jamie Benn said. “They’re a good team, they play a solid game and we almost came back there but it just wasn’t enough. I think we kept battling back. It shows our character, and I think we just ran out of time.”
The Wings had no problem accentuating the positives of the Filppula-Zetterberg-Hudler line’s 8-point performance…
“I don’t know what’s the second line,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They dominated the game offensively and defensively. They were by far the best line today.”
The trio combined for eight points in the first period, getting their team off to a flying start.
“The puck kind of followed us for a few shifts,” Zetterberg said. “Everything we tried worked. It was good for the confidence. (Filppula and Hudler) are having career years. The only one not having a career year is me, but two out of three isn’t bad.”
Johan Franzen and Cory Emmerton also connected for the Red Wings, an NHL-best 15-2-1 at home but only 10-11-0 on the road. The Wings liked how they opened a four-game trip.
“We’ve done well at home, but haven’t been able to play as well on the road,” Filppula said. “It’s a good question. We try to prepare the same as at home but it hasn’t been working out. It’s not easy to win anywhere. Home teams come hard, so maybe that affects us as well.”
But as both coaches told NHL.com’s Steve Hunt, the teams played games marred by mistakes and self-inflicted wounds…
“I didn’t think it was a high-level game,” Detroit head coach Mike Babcock said. “Guys get going and it’s contagious. It took him [Hudler] a month and a half, two months to really get going, but he’s confident.”
Detroit (25-13-1, 51 points) began a four-game road trip with a win, and the Red Wings also drew within a point of Chicago—which was idle Wednesday night—for the top spot in the Central Division. Detroit is now tied with Vancouver for second overall in the Western Conference standings.
Michael Ryder had a pair of goals for the Stars (21-16-1, 43 points) in a losing effort.
“Yeah, I just thought we made a couple of lazy mistakes and we made a couple structural mistakes that we shouldn’t make,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “They’re the team that can make you pay pretty quickly. I thought our compete level was up but you can’t make mistakes like that against this club.”
And the Wings emphasized a win representing survival and capitalizing on more “bounces” as opposed to thriving play while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“It doesn’t always go like that; we’ve been trying to work hard and sometimes you get these types of games,” said Filppula, who otherwise is trending toward a career season in goals (13) and points (19). “Sometimes it’s more of a struggle and you have to fight for those chances. We were getting to a lot of pucks and you need a little luck and pucks were bouncing for us.”
Until Tuesday, the three had been lukewarm. Zetterberg had four points (all assists) in his last seven games. Hudler had two points (both goals) in his last six games. Filppula had five points (two goals and three assists) over his last 10 games. But they were outstanding in the opening 20 minutes against the Stars.
“Z’s line was very, very good and they dominated the game,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Offensively, defensively, they were by far the best line. You like to get everyone going and feel good. It’s contagious. Scoring is important to these guys and that’s what they feel they can contribute.”
“It wasn’t a high-level game by either team,” Babcock said. “You know how good Howie (Howard) has been this season, he hasn’t had a game like that at all. But those things happen. We were too loose defensively, but we did a lot of good things offensively.”
Howard stopped 25 shots but didn’t feel good about his performance.
“A win is a win, that’s all that matters,” Howard said. “We came here to get two points. It wasn’t pretty by any means on my part, but the guys did a great job in front of me.”
Howard was, er…I’ll let Babcock say it, via the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“Howie’s been outstanding,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He hasn’t had a night like that this year. Those things happen. We were too loose defensively, and yet we did lots of good things offensively. Z’s line was very, very good and they dominated the game, offensively, defensively. By far our best line.”
Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen began his night with a terrific save on Hudler, denying the diminutive winger on a wrist shot from just outside the crease around the five-minute mark. That was about the last save made on the line. Filppula made it 1-0 at 8:02 when he drove to the net and fired a short wrist shot. Hudler bookended goals around Loui Eriksson in the last three minutes. On the first goal, Zetterberg ripped a shot that went in off Hudler’s skate; officials didn’t need long to determine there was no distinct kicking motion. Eriksson disrupted the momentum a bit when he wheeled out from behind the net and slipped a shot through traffic at 50 seconds after that goal, but Zetterberg’s line restored the two-goal lead with a minute to go, after Zetterberg carried the puck into Dallas’ zone and fed Filppula, who found Hudler.
“We wanted to have a good start to the new year,” Zetterberg said. “The puck kind of followed us for a few shifts, and everything we tried worked. It was nice to get some goals, nice to see Fil and Huds keep scoring. It’s good for the confidence.”
Emmerton showed why it’s always a good idea to put the puck on net when his shot straight down the goal line went in off Lehtonen 3:51 into the second period, shortly after Jamie Benn had made it 3-2. Ryder beat Howard cleanly at 7:25, but a little puck maneuvering by Pavel Datsyuk led to Franzen scoring his 16th goal of the season. Ryder scored again at 14:07 of the third period.
Howard in particular didn’t like the second and third goals, saying they “were garbage. It wasn’t pretty by any means on my part, but the guys did a great job in front of me.”
Howard continued while speaking to the Flint Journal’s Brendan Savage...
“The second and third goals were garbage,” said Howard, who was not happy with his performance. “It’s a long season. It’s gonna happen. I’m not too concerned about it. We’ll get back on the ice tomorrow or whenever we practice again and we’ll get back to work. It’s just one of those games. We haven’t played our best on the road and to get another win on the road is good to see. Before tonight, we had four (in a row) on the road and now we’re down to three. We’ll move on to Toronto.”
The Red Wings have struggled away from Joe Louis Arena. The victory gave Detroit an 10-11 road record entering games Saturday at Toronto and Sunday at Chicago. They finish the four-game road stretch Tuesday at the New York Islanders.
“We wanted to get our road record better,” said Henrik Zetterberg, whose line scored the Red Wings’ first three goals. “It’s a good start. We got the two points. That’s what matters. I don’t know if we’re happy with the way we played. But sometimes that happens.”
“Certain lines are stepping up at certain times,” Howard said. “It’s a great thing to see the way Z’s line started for us and for Emmerton to chip in. The one good thing about having leadership in this room is you can follow their lead and they never get rattled. There’s definitely a couple I’d like to have back for the guys but over the course of a season, that’s going to happen. The thing is, we found a way to get the two points.”
Style points excluded, I suppose that’s the point, for one night anyway—two points, as Babcock told St. James:
Mike Babcock on how the game went: “I didn’t think it was a real high-level game by either team. But it was a good win by our team. We’re playing a ton of road games, and it’s been going on forever, and we’ve got three more.”
Three more, then a three-game home stand, then two more road games, then a two-game home stand, then a road trip which technically kicks off before the All-Star break in Montreal, resumes in Calgary and extends all the way into February, when the Wings will finally have a six-game stretch of home games, playing 18 of their last 28 games at home.
In other words, until February, the Wings will have lots of practice at playing both well enough to earn points on the road and well enough to not have to scratch and claw against both opponents and themselves to earn points on the road.
Highlights: ESPN Dallas posted a 38-second highlight clip:
Vers…I mean the NBC Sports Network posted a 2:16 highlight clip...
And the Red Wings’ website’s highlight clip is narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Post-game: Vers…I mean the NBC Sports Network posted a 41-second recap:
Fox Sports Detroit posted a clip of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s takes on the game…
As well as post-game comments from Valtteri Filppula, Henrik Zetterberg and coach Mike Babcock:
Photos: The Dallas News posted a 14-image gallery;
Fox Sports Southwest posted a 10-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 20-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 14-image gallery;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 5-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 30-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 33-image gallery;
Shots 31-29 Detroit. The Wings out-shot Dallas 15-14 in the 1st period, out-shot Dallas 8-7 in the 2nd period and tied the Stars 8-8 in the 3rd.
The Stars went 0 for 1 in 2:00 of PP time; the Wings did not have a power play.
Howard stopped 25 of 29; Lehtonen stopped 25 of 31.
The 3 stars, per KTCK’s Dan McDowell, were Valtteri Filppula, Michael Ryder and Jiri Hudler.
The Wings’ goals: Filppula (13) from Zetterberg (19) and White (15);
Hudler (10) from Zetterberg (20) and Filppula (19);
Hudler (11) from Filppula (20) and Zetterberg (21);
Emmerton (4) from Nyquist (1) and Stuart (4);
Franzen (16) from Datsyuk (28).
Faceoffs 34-23 Dallas (Detroit won 40%);
Blocked shots 19-12 Dallas;
Missed shots 10-7 Dallas (total attempts 58-51 Detroit, and it is very rare that the Wings give up more than 40 attempts);
Hits 29-19 Dallas;
Giveaways 6-3 Dallas;
Takeaways 8-7 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 8-and-13 (38%); Datsyuk went 10-and-11 (48%); Abdelkader went 4-and-9 (31%); Emmerton went 1-and-1.
Shots: Franzen, who has awakened, led the Wings with 5 shots; Hudler had 4; White and Zetterberg had 3; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Miller, Bertuzzi, Emmerton and Filppula had 2; Datsyuk, Commodore, Stuart and Andersson had 1.
Blocked attempts: Zetterberg hit Stars players 6 frickin’ times; Stuart hit Stars players 3 times; Commodore had 2 attempts blocked; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Cleary, White, Emmerton, Ericsson and Franzen had single attempts blocked.
Missed shots: Cleary and Stuart missed the net 2 times; Lidstrom, Abdelkader and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Commodore led the team with 4 hits; Ericsson had 3 Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, Stuart and Zetterberg had 2; Lidstrom and Emmerton had 1.
Giveaways: Abdelkader, Cleary and Franzen were tagged with giveaways, but the Wings had way more. The Stars were credited with takeaways galore instead.
Takeaways: Datsyuk had 3 takeaways; Cleary, Stuart, Bertuzzi, Ericsson and Franzen had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Commodore blocked 4 shots; Stuart blocked 3; Lidstrom blocked 2; Miller, Ericsson and Franzen blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Bertuzzi took the game’s only penalty.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished the game at a collective +5. Nyquist, Commodore, Hudler, Emmerton, Kronwall, Andersson and Franzen were +1; Abdelkader and Miller were -1; everyone else was even.
Given that the Wings scored 5 even-strength goals, that tells you that the Wings’ scorers were on for as many goals as they scored.
Points: Zetterberg had 3 assists; Filppula had a goal and 2 assists for 3 points; Hudler had 2 goals; Emmerton and Franzen had goals; Datsyuk, Nyquist, White and Stuart had assists.
Ice time: Stuart led the team with 23:33 played; White played 23:26; Lidstrom played 23:00;
Kronwall played 22:02; Zetterberg played 19:59; Filppula played 19:24;
Hudler played 18:14; Zetterberg played 18:11; Bertuzzi played 16:41;
Franzen palyed 15:58; Ericsson played 15:25; Cleary played 13:58;
Miller played 13:34; Abdelkader played 12:57; Commodore played 12:34;
Andersson played 10:07 Nyquist played 9:38; Emmerton played 9:19.
Part II: At the World Junior Championships: Red Wings prospect Teemu Pulkkinen and the high-scoring Finns played like Petr Mrazek’s Czechs, and their goaltender, Sami Aittokallio, couldn’t bail them out after the Finns surrendered a 2-0 lead and a stunning 58 shots (Finland took only 24, and Pulkkinen was held scoreless but took 4 of those shots; Mattias Backman was held off the scoresheet as well but took 3 shots) to Mattias Backman and Team Sweden, which rallied from the 2-goal deficit to tie the Finns and win 3-2 in a shootout.
As IIHF.com’s Lukas Aykroyd notes, Finland may have staked out a 2-0 lead, but they decided to play the trap, I mean “a defensive game” after staking out their 2-0 lead, and Pulkkinen ended up checking Swedish super-scorer Max Friberg—who scored the game-tying goal when Pulkkinen’s line wasn’t on the ice—into submission (the Calgary Sun’s Scott Fisher confirms as much, but you can’t exactly check Friberg during a shootout, and he scored the winner for sweden:
Finland singled out Friberg for special physical attention, with Teemu Pulkkinen tagging him repeatedly with stiff bodychecks. Pulkkinen also laid out Brodin in the Swedish end. Markus Granlund took the game’s first penalty at 7:30 of the second period in the Swedish end. The Swedes came close when Mika Zibanejad rang the puck off the post. The Finns were meticulous about clearing pucks away.
A juicy rebound nearly betrayed Aittokallio with less than eight minutes remaining in the middle frame, but he lunged across, extending his left pad to prevent Zibanejad from banging in the loose puck.
The opportunistic Finns struck again at 15:30 to make it 2-0. Armia stripped Swedish assistant captain Joakim Nordstrom in front of the Swedish net, and before Nordstrom or D-man Oscar Klefbom could recover, Armia beat Gustafsson high over the glove. In the third period, the Swedes got their second man advantage when Simo-Pekka Riikola pulled down Filip Forsberg behind the Finnish net. Sweden caught a break at last at 3:11, when William Karlsson went hard to the net after Johann Larsson’s hard blast and the rebound went in off his skate through Aittokallio’s legs to make it 2-1.
Tre Kronor continued to pressure the Finnish net till the bitter end. They called a timeout to plot strategy with 2:38 left. At last they found a chink in their opponents’ armour when Aittokallio’s pass behind the net was picked off by Sundstrom and centered to Friberg, who fired into the gaping Finnish net. Overtime settled nothing, although the Swedes continued to dominate 4-on-4, and it was off to the shootout.
“We were a little bit tired as the overtime went on, since we played yesterday,” said Pulkkinen. “So at first we tried to score, but after a while, we were happy to go to the shootout.”
Finland last won gold at this tournament in 1998, defeating Russia on home ice in Helsinki. Its only other World Junior gold came in 1987, when both Canada and the Soviets were disqualified for brawling.
“When we came to this tournament, we wanted to win every game,” said Pulkkinen. “So today is a disappointing day.”
Pulkkinen reiterated his comments to the Calgary Herald’s Allen Cameron...
“Very disappointing,” murmured Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen; he avoided making eye contact with his inquisitors to keep his emotions in check. “All of the guys battled hard today. Every guy played so good. Every guy gave everything they had today. But this is hockey. Always. One team has to lose.”
And the Finns were particularly ticked off about one and only one thing aside from their individual and collective performances, as Pulkkinen told the Canadian Press:
“It’s amazing that they didn’t get any penalties,” said Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen. “I can’t understand that.”
In the multimedia department, NHL.com and TSN posted highlight clips; TSN posted a clip of post-game commentary; the Calgary Sun posted a 10-image gallery and the Calgary Herald posted a 23-image gallery.
On Wednesday, the Czech Republic and Slovakia will play in the 5th place game at 9 PM EST, but neither the NHL Network U.S. nor TSN will air Petr Mrazek’s showdown with Slovak snipers Marek Tvrdon and Toms Jurco;
On Thursday, Pulkkinen’s Finns and Canada will face off in the Bronze medal game at 3:30 PM EST, and Backman and Sweden will tangle with Russia in the Gold medal game at 8 PM EST. Both games will air on the NHL Network U.S. and TSN in Canada.
And, for the record, Pulkkinen’s still the tournament’s fourth-leading scorer with 6 goals, 4 assists and 10 points; Tomas Jurco’s close behind with a goal and 7 assists for 8 points. Mrazek’s the tournament’s third-best goaltender in terms of his .9266 save percentage, and he has a 2.56 goals-against average in what’s turned out to be a ridiculously high-scoring tournament: the Russians beat Canada 6-5 in the other semifinal, and that kind of score has been more common 2-1 or 3-2 affairs.
• The Hockey News’s Ryan Kennedy happened to spotlight Mrazek as one of the tournament’s best players...
>Petr Mrazek, G – Ottawa 67s (OHL): How can I not mention Mrazek? He nearly beat the Russians with a spectacular 43-save performance and was clearly the Czechs’ emotional leader all tourney long. Big glove saves, getting up and down quickly and never giving up on a play were all part of the 67s netminder’s arsenal and the buzz around the past OHL playoff hero was deafening. Drafted 141st overall by Detroit in 2010.
• Wings GM Ken Holland spoke to the Free Press’s Helene St. James about Mrazek and the Wings’ WJC participants…
Mrazek has been tremendous,” Holland said. “I watched him against Canada. They lost 5-0, but I thought he was outstanding. Three of the goals he had no chance on—they were backdoor tap-ins. He played really well against USA and was tremendous against Russia.”
The Wings drafted Mrazek, 19, 141st overall in 2010. He’s midway through his third season with the Ottawa 67s of the Ontario Hockey League and will be in Grand Rapids next season.
“He’s quick, he’s a tremendous competitor, and he’s got real good skills,” Holland said. “This has got to do a lot for his confidence. He’s been one of the players that have really made a name for himself in this tournament, and it’s a real tough tournament to separate yourself in just because of the caliber of every player.”
The Wings won’t know for three years or more if Mrazek is an NHL-caliber goaltender, but “at this level and this stage, to play the way he did was exciting for our organization,” Holland said.
The Wings also have been pleased by the play of forward Teemu Pulkkinen, the 111th selection from 2010 who had six goals and four assists after five games for Finland. Forward Tomas Jurco, a second-round pick in June, had six points in five games for Slovakia. Mattias Backman, a 6-foot-2 defenseman for Sweden who has worked his way into the top four, is another pick from June, as is Slovakian forward Marek Tvrdon. “All are NHL prospects,” Holland said. “They’ve all played very well.”
• And RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest took note of the Wings’ WJC’ers in his latest prospect report:
“Petr obviously stood on his head,” said Czech Republic assistant coach Jiri Fischer — also the Red Wings’ director of player development — to Sportsnet.ca. “He’s (an) extremely passionate guy, I think a lot of people noticed over the last few games. It trickles down all the way through the team, so it’s nice to have that energy on the ice. He’s got a lot of passion so I don’t have a problem with him doing whatever he does when he’s stopping pucks.”
Heading into Wednesday’s fifth-place game against Slovakia, Mrazek has a 2-3-1 record with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.
Finland’s Teemu Pulkkinen, a fourth-round pick in 2010, is one of the tournament’s top scorers with six goals and four assists in five games. He scored four consecutive third-period goals in a 10-1 round-robin rout of Denmark and his lethal shot made him a dangerous offensive threat on a line with Minnesota Wild first-rounder Mikael Granlund.
Despite Pulkkinen’s strong play, it was Sweden — with the steady play of Red Wings defense prospect Mattias Backman — that beat Finland 3-2 in a shootout in the semifinals to earn a spot in Thursday’s gold-medal game. The 6-foot-2 Backman, drafted 146th overall in last June’s draft, has put himself on the map with his silky-smooth play, recording three assists and a plus-5 in five games while being relied upon in last-minute situations.
Finally, although not in the spotlight, Tomas Jurco and Marek Tvrdon quietly had good tournaments for Slovakia. Jurco had a team-high eight points on a goal and seven assists in five games while Tvrdon led the team with three goals and an assist.
Part III: Red Wings notebooks: If you missed it because it was posted right before the game, part 1: the Flint Journal’s Brendan Savage noted that Mike Commodore’s gain in terms of regular ice time (Commodore led the Wings with 4 hits and 4 blocked shots on Tuesday night) has come at the expense of Jakub Kindl’s ice time. The Free Press’s Helene St. James also spoke to Commodore about finding his stride…
Defenseman Mike Commodore played in his sixth consecutive game, a nice change from sitting most of the first three months.
“I’m starting to actually feel like a hockey player,” he said. “It’s been awhile. I’d like to keep this going. It’s gone fairly well so far, but I know I can play better. I’m never going to be stick-handling through people, but in the past been I’ve fairly efficient at moving the puck, so that’s something I’d like to get better at and have that back. But most important, the legs have felt good.”
And Savage noted that Wings coach Mike Babcock does plan on making the situation competitive again:
Coach Mike Babcock likes the “toughness” the 6-foot-4, 227-pound Commodore gives the Red Wings.
“He’s not a skill guy but he gives us some grit. He’s just stable,” Babcock said before adding, “I’m getting Kindl back in there pretty quick. He’s been out long enough and has played well enough.”
Kindl, Detroit’s first-round pick (19th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, is trying to be patient.
“I just have to stay ready and when my chance comes prove I can play,” he said. “I just have to keep working hard and whenever my chance comes be ready.”
• If you missed it, part 2: There’s no way that Jimmy Howard or Nicklas Lidstrom will be named starters for the All-Star Game given that fan voting has become something of a joke—it’s hard to believe that the NHL isn’t just the wee bit complicit with what will be a Maple Leaf and Senator-heavy starting roster in Ottawa via a little electronic ballot-stuffing, and despite the NHL’s security measures, it’s pretty clear that whoever has a fan base that dedicates itself to finding a way to robo-vote will win the war—Savage noted that Babcock’s heavily lobbying for Howard and Lidstrom to go to the ASG (Howard will go, definitely, as a choice of the league’s hockey operations department), and if Daniel Alfredsson’s named one of the teams’ captains, Babcock would like to see Lidstrom reprise the role he played in Carolina last season:
“Nick Lidstrom should be captain of one team,” Babcock said. “That’s automatic. It’s a rite of passage.”
Lidstrom, who won his seventh Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman last season, also captained the Western Conference All-Star team a year ago. Lidstrom was the highest-ranking Red Wing in the fan voting Tuesday. He was third among defensemen with almost 400,000 votes but trailed Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf by more than 110,000 votes for second place.
Wings Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg ranked ninth and 14th respectively among forwards while Jimmy Howard was fifth among goaltenders. Howard led all write-in candidates with almost 170,000 votes.
Babcock says Datsyuk and Howard are both deserving of All-Star nods, especially the latter. Babcock thinks an All-Star berth would be a good thing for Howard, who has come under fire from Red Wings fans in the past but leads the NHL in victories this season.
“It’s affirmation,” Babcock said. “No question about it, (with) his numbers and wins he’s been an All-Star thus far.”
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan pointed out that a weekend off might help players like Howard, Lidstrom and Datsyuk a little more than a weekend in Ottawa for what is a very skilled game of shinny and a meeting of sponsors (that’s why the All-Star Game, much to the chagrin of the media members who get to attend the shindig for free, will never “die”—the NHL fetes its sponsors and business partners during the event; don’t forget that it’s the sponsorship part of the event that’s why Lidstrom and Datsyuk were suspended by the league for skipping the game for the sake of a torn elbow tendon and a bad hip flexor injury, respectively, in 2009), it’s highly likely that two out of the three will attend the game:
Wings fans are already nervous about players such as Nicklas Lidstrom, Jimmy Howard or Pavel Datsyuk being snubbed.
Coach Mike Babcock had an interesting take on Lidstrom this morning. In Babcock’s view, Lidstrom should be a lock.
“Captain of one team,” Babcock said. “That’s automatic.”
Lidstrom was a captain last season but it’s doubtful the league would have him in that role two consecutive seasons.
Howard will be an interesting case to watch. He’s been as good as any goalie out there but was only 5th in the last voting. Babcock said Tuesday after the morning skate Howard deserves the nod.
“It’s an affirmation,” said Babcock of an All-Star selection.
Babcock reiterated that last comment to the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“I think when you’re an All-Star, you know, whether you’re named or not,” coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s affirmation if you are, but no question about his numbers. He’s been an All-Star this far.”
Now this is just me thinking aloud, but given the whole Toronto-Ottawa-starter fandangle, the league might find it quite amusing to pick Alfredsson and, say, Phil Kessel as their All-Star captains, though NBC might lobby for an American team to be represented, like, say the Bruins and maybe Tim Thomas…
• Shifting focus back to the present tense, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan spoke to Kindl about his lack of playing time before noting that this weekend represents the Wings’ fathers’ trip...
After an early-morning return, the Red Wings will take today off before practicing Thursday for weekend games at Toronto and Chicago. What makes this trip special, however, is the players will have company: their fathers.
“We’re excited about it, it brings some energy” said Babcock, adding the annual father-son trip breaks the monotony of a long season.
The Red Wings are planning to tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Commodore said his father, Wayne , was looking forward to the trip.
“It’s cool, obviously, for the fathers, a new experience, a chance to see behind the scenes,” Commodore said. “It’s nice to have family around.”
And Kulfan spoke to Gustav Nyquist about the fact that his parents got to watch him play in Chicago last Friday and take in his home game against St. Louis on Saturday…
“It was great they were able to see those games,” Nyquist said. “It was exciting.”
Before offering an update on the status of Patrick Eaves, who probably won’t return until sometime around the Wings’ six-game home stand—at the earliest:
Babcock said there’s no word on when Patrick Eaves (fractured jaw) will return.
“He’s not feeling as good and he’s trying to get healthy,” Babcock said. “We’re all pulling for him to get healthy.”
• And in the spirit of the Jamie Benn-Jordan Benn NHL debut/reunion, DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose took a look at the Wings’ brothers-on-ice combinations:
While it’s not all that common for brothers to play together on the same NHL team, betcha didn’t know that the Red Wings have had eight different sets of brothers – at one time or another – play together, including the Maholviches and Wilsons? In all, 15 sibling sets have worn the Wings’ uniform dating back to the second season of the franchise’s existence when forwards Frank and Johnny Sheppard played four games together with the Detroit Cougars during the 1927-28 campaign.
Since then, there have been more than 500 Wings’ games that have featured brothers in the lineup together. But none since March 30, 1969 – that’s when Frank and Pete Maholvich are believed to have payed together for the last time in a Wings’ lineup during a 9-5 season-finale loss at Chicago Stadium.
The last tandem formed to join the Wings’ brotherhood was when enforcer Chris McRae joined the organization two years after his older brother Basil was traded to Quebec in 1987.
The Wings’ other sibling teammates were Des and Earl Roche (1934-35); Hec, Ken and Wally Kilrea (1934-40); Ed and Mud Bruneteau (1940-46); Nikina and Winky Smith (1943-44); Don and Rod Morrison (1947-48); and Larry and Johnny Wilson (1949-50).
The brothers to play for the Wings, but not together include Cully and Thain Simon; Bud and Don Polie; Charlie and Roy Conacher; Barry and Ray Cullen; Fred and Howie Glover; and Bryan and Dennis Hextall.
Scott and Rob Niedermayer (2003 Anaheim) and Brent and Duane Sutter (1983 NY Islanders) are probably the most famous hockey brothers to win the Stanley Cup together, but the Wings have had two sets of brothers also win the Cup as teammates: the Bruneteau brothers, from St. Boniface, Manitoba, helped the Wings to the 1943 championship, while the Wilson brothers paced Detroit to a title run in 1950.
Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: It’s not hard to figure out that the comments made by NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins and commissioner Gary Bettman during the Winter Classic in Philadelphia suggest that TV exposure, high ratings and making money, money and more money are its motives behind choosing a Winter Classic host (the NHL “buys out” the revenues earned by the host team in a regular home game, and it claims the money from those $200 and $300 tickets for itself), thus its high likelihood of remaining in the Eastern Time Zone and including a repeat participant or two over the next five or so seasons.
That being said, even with the Wings very quietly in the mix and as a media favorite for the 2013 Winter Classic, big-market teams’ owners and management have all but assailed the press all but insisting that they “deserve” a Winter Classic, and the Ottawa Sun’s Chris Stevenson suggests that it’s the Toronto Maple Leafs, not the Wings, who “deserve” to host a Winter Classic—or that they should at least be the opponent of whoever hosts the Winter Classic next:
Whether it’s as part of an all-Canadian matchup—how about the Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Centre, now that Rogers is a part-owner of the Leafs?—or a cross-border clash that might add some heat to the Winter Classic format, it’s time for the Leafs and their millions of fans to be in the mix for the annual game.
“We would love to host a game and the league knows it,” Leafs general manager and president Brian Burke told QMI Agency Tuesday.
The Classic may have reached the point where it’s possible to have an American-Canadian matchup. The thinking before this year’s game, Jan., 2, was it had to feature two U.S. teams to get the maximum out of the potential television ratings for NBC. But now, with a 10-year deal in the bag, maybe some of the pressure has been taken off in that regard amid interest in growing the Winter Classic on a bigger scale. It also would be good for the league’s Canadian broadcast partners.
The idea of a Leafs-Detroit Red Wings game has been discussed. Wings owner Mike Ilitch also owns the Detroit Tigers and Comerica Park, so there probably would be pressure to have the game there. The hype around the event downtown might help Ilitch’s campaign for a new rink to replace the aging Joe Louis Arena.
But the prospect of a game at the University of Michigan’s stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., which would have a shot at setting the attendance mark for the Winter Classic, is really intriguing. There’s no question its proximity to southern Ontario and millions of Leafs fans would guarantee the event’s success.
“There are rumours about us in a game with Detroit, but we have not been formally invited,” Burke said. “If asked, we would always accommodate a league request. We would be honoured to participate.”
• Regarding outdoor hockey games that are guaranteed to happen, the St. Ignace News reports that tickets are available for an indoor game involving the Red Wings’ Alumni Association that’s being used to promote outdoor games in St. Ignace:
The Detroit Red Wings alumni will play an exhibition game Friday, February 17, at 7 p.m. at Little Bear East Arena in St. Ignace as part of the U.P. Pond Hockey Tournament weekend. Tickets cost $10 and are available now from the St. Ignace Visitors Bureau or St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce.
• Speaking of lobbying, ESPN’s John Buccigross tossed the defense of a “bold prediction” made in October which he insists…might…happen…
Preseason Bold Prediction: Either Shea Weber or Zach Parise will be a Wing this time next season.
Now: Red Wings GM Ken Holland has $23 million worth of cap space this summer and no expensive restricted free agents to sign. The Wings will be positioned to land a big-time free agent such as Parise, Ryan Suter or maybe even an Alexander Semin if they think Pavel Datsyuk and the Red Wing Way can inspire him to fulfill his lethal physical potential. Weber is a restricted free agent and would be a difficult land. I would think plenty of teams could offer more in assets than Detroit, but you never can count out the Wings. They have no interest in taking a step back. They will hope their brand name is strong enough to attract new, elite talent at a slight discount.
Preseason Bold Prediction Prognosis Percentage: 50%
Given that the Wings aren’t good at keeping, “We want to sign player X” secrets, it’s pretty clear that if Parise, Weber or Suter hit the market, the Wings will go after them, but that’s a very, very big IF. And Semin? Hell no!
• While we’re at, ahem, “bold” predictions, “Jimmy D Fantasy Sports” from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, who is apparently not Jimmy Devellano, had this to say about Petr Mrazek while assessing whether World Junior Championship-playing prospects are “near” or “far” from NHL action—he says Mrazek is “far” off, but…
Petr Mrazek (Czech Republic) Detroit Red Wings: Jimmy Howard isn’t quaking in his skate boots yet but Mrazek’s showing at the WJC is great news for Detroit fans, which are a Howard injury away from relying on Ty Conklin. A 5th rounder last year, Mrazek, who plays for the Ottawa 67s, is hot and cold but hottest when it matters most. Detroit has very little organizational goalie depth, unless you like former first-rounder Thomas McCollum more than Jimmy does.
I’m not counting Thomas McCollum out any more than I’d be willing to suggest that the Wings would dare waive Tomas Tatar next season simply because they’ve got Gustav Nyquist in the pipeline.
• Also regarding the World Junior Championship, this story from the Calgary Herald’s George Johnson didn’t show up in my inbox until this morning, but let’s just say that Tomas Jurco was more than willing to talk about a penalty the Slovaks equated with what Stars fans might have felt about Todd Bertuzzi’s, “If you want to throw a flying charge at Pavel Datsyuk, Mr. Steve Ott, take a seat in our bench yourself” shove, all in the Slovaks’ 8-5 loss to Finland on Monday:
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