The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/23/12 at 12:02 AM ET
Continuing today’s off-day news while looking toward tomorrow’s match-up with Vancouver: it should come as no surprise that the Vancouver Canucks’ players and coach told the Vancouver Province’s Gordon McIntyre that they’d love to do nothing less than be known as the team that ended Detroit’s winning streak at Joe Louis Arena:
“That’s an amazing, amazing feat,” Alain Vigneault said. “I mean, to win 23 games in a row at home in such a competitive league is remarkable. We’re going to go in there, we’re going to have an opportunity to put our best game on the ice and see what happens.”
And you know what? Canucks players have been cheering for the Wings for a couple of weeks now, hoping they’d keep playing bad host right up to the moment the visitors from Vancouver ring the doorbell.
“We were hoping they’d still be undefeated by the time we got there, so it’s going to be fun,” Roberto Luongo said. “I was talking to the guys two or three weeks ago, hoping Detroit would hold on till we got there. That’s what’s fun about playing the game, challenges like this. As a group, we’re excited about it and we’re going to step up to the plate.”
The funny thing is, the Wings are sub-.500 on the road. Mike Babcock, in Vancouver recently, said it’s a head-scratcher because last season they were great on the road and so-so at home.
“It’s a confidence thing,” Henrik Sedin said. “They feel like they can’t lose at home, but on the road they’re more of a fragile team. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be a good road team, but they can’t find ways to win.”
Meanwhile, the Canucks have the most road wins in the NHL this season, so it’s a classic showdown.
“We wanted to go in there and challenge them for it,” Kevin Bieksa said. “It’s pretty impressive what they’ve done and it would be nice to put an end to it.”
And the Canucks also pointed out to NHL.com’s John Manasso that they’ll have something of a cheering section in attendance:
Two-thirds of one of Vancouver’s top forward lines are natives of the Detroit region—Ryan Kesler (Livonia, Mich.) and David Booth (Detroit).
“They’re in front of us by a couple points and obviously it’s a game for a No. 1 spot and we want to play well, play our game and not worry about anything else other than executing our game and we’ll be fine,” said Kesler, who expects to have about 40 family members and friends present.
Booth, a Michigan State product, said his family has had season tickets to Red Wings games for about 25 years. They sit right behind the glass.
“My family is my biggest fans and they’ve been able to support me through all those years,” Booth said. “Just to be able to play in the hometown … they’ve traveled to Vancouver, they’ve traveled to Florida. They’ve made the long road trips to Montreal to see me play. But just to go there and see where we grew up will make it special.”
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the teams, with Detroit having won two of the first three games, including a 4-3 shootout win at Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 2 in which Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo made 40 saves. Luongo, coming off a 25-save performance in a 3-1 loss at Nashville on Tuesday, will get the start. He is 1-0-1 against the Wings this season, including a 38-save effort in a 4-2 win Dec. 21. Entering the season, he had a 2.66 goals-against average against Detroit along with a .926 save percentage—but just a 9-10-5 record.
Often the back-up goalie will receive the start in the second night of a back-to-back situation on the road—hockey analyst Darren Eliot, a former NHL back-up goalie and Red Wing, calls it the “back-up goalie blues.” Not so with the Canucks.
“Yeah, I think you tend to see more of the strenuous travel on the road,” said Cory Schneider, who has played 14 of his 22 games this season on the road. “Three (games) in four (days), back-to-backs, things like that. It’s worked out really well. I’m pretty comfortable on the road. I’ve gotten accustomed to it because I don’t get as many home starts just because Lou’s so good at home. I think it helps that if we can go and we can be a little fresh, maybe the team will be a little fatigued, but if he and I are a little fresh maybe we can keep the team in the game until they get their legs, and usually, if we do that, we have a good chance to win.”
There’s a sidebar story about Booth if you’re interested, but if not, we’ll move on. The Vancouver Sun’s Iain MacIntyre reports that the Canucks will probably have both Byron Bitz and Chris Higgins in the lineup though Gordon McIntyre notes that Bitz is troubled by a sore hip flexor (if you want to read Jason Botchford’s defense of Mason Raymond’s lack of point production, you can do that on your own, too), and in the multimedia department, the Canucks’ website posted clips of Henrik Sedin….
And coach Alaign Vigneault discussing their team and Thursday night’s match-up…
On the Red Wings’ side of things, the Wings’ website posted Ken Holland’s radio interview with NHL Live in video form. Holland spoke to EJ Hradek while en route to Grand Rapids to take in tonight’s Griffins game, and he talked about the Quincey trade, Todd Bertuzzi’s contract extension—Holland confirms that he wants to “put it to bed within the next couple of days”—and Pavel Datsyuk’s knee surgery as Datsyuk’s knee was locking up on Sunday, and there was apparently a “fray” in a knee ligament which needed to be “cleaned up,” and the Wings believe that he’s 10 days from skating and perhaps a few days after that:
We already knew, within a few hundred thousand dollars here or there, that the Red Wings are going to sign Bertuzzi to a two-year extension sooner than later, possibly as early as Thursday’s Bertuzzi bobblehead night (the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff believes that we’re tlaking about just under $2 million per season), and while the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness notes that Bertuzzi’s second go-round has been a happy remarriage with Detroit…
“We’re still working out the details, but I expect something to be done this week, but I can’t say exactly when,” [Bertuzzi’s agent, Pat] Morris said. “I can tell you one thing, Todd doesn’t want to go anywhere else.”
The deal, which could be announced as early as Thursday, is expected to have a salary-cap hit of just over $2 million a season. Bertuzzi, who just turned 37, has played on the Wings’ top line after missing six games earlier this season with a back injury. When Wings coach Mike Babcock put him along with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen that unit really caught fire. He has 12 goals and 17 assists in 54 games this season and is a plus-21, which is the second best plus-minus rating amongst the forwards. Franzen leads the forwards at a plus-26.
“He’s fit in well there,” Morris said. “He’s changed his game and met those expectations of playing defensive minded. (Detroit) has a strong coaching staff and the real strong locker room. He’s got size and skill,” Morris added. “He’s healthy and doing very well now. And his family enjoys it here.”
And as Holland happened to say, “He’s not a rental” about fifty times when asked about acquiring Kyle Quincey, who Pleiness suggests will replace Jakub Kindl and/or Mike Commodore as the team’s #6 defenseman, Pleiness looks at Bertuzzi’s re-signing as it applies to the shape of the Red Wings to come:
On Tuesday, the team traded for defenseman Kyle Quincey. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the season and Holland has already said they would make him an offer to remain with the team.
The Wings have a long list of unrestricted free agents to sign or let go this offseason. Defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart and Mike Commodore, along with forwards Jiri Hudler and Tomas Holmstrom are all in the final year of deals as is goalie Ty Conklin, who was assigned to Grand Rapids after clearing waivers on Tuesday. Forwards Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader are also restricted free agents at the end of the season and both are expected to re-sign.
The Wings let Bertuzzi go to begin with because they were willing to give him a one-year contract offer after the 2007 season that would be loaded with incentives, but max out around $3.5 million, and Bertuzzi chose to leave for Anaheim after the Ducks offered him a 2-year, $8 million deal…
“One (reason he left) was the length of contract and money Detroit was offering,” Morris said. “He decided to pursue free agency. He had a couple of teams looking at him and one of them was Anaheim.” He really liked it here,” Morris added. “He had a few teams interested in him after (two seasons in Anaheim) but he wanted to come back to Detroit.”
But Bertuzzi had injury issues in both Anaheim and Calgary, and with his knees and back healthy, he’s fit in very well in Detroit, as Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner suggests:
The Detroit Red Wings and power forward Todd Bertuzzi are on the verge of agreeing to a contract extension, several sources have confirmed to FoxSportsDetroit.com.
The deal is believed to be more than $2 million per season for two years. The Wings were seeking a one-year extension, but Bertuzzi’s asking price was not cap friendly, according to sources.
The Wings added the extra year as a compromise that will keep Bertuzzi, 37, with the Wings through the 2013-14 season.
During the past few weeks, Wings general manager Ken Holland has told reporters that he wanted to keep Bertuzzi. Without a new deal, Bertuzzi could become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Bertuzzi joins a long list of veteran players who have revitalized their careers in Detroit. Once a defensive liability, he’s become a responsible two-way player who remains a force down low and a shootout artist.
After a slow start to the season, Bertuzzi has picked up the pace and has 12 goals and 17 assists in 54 games. He’s an impressive plus-21, which at one time during his career would have been unthinkable.
And therein lies the rub that we’re going to hear a lot about over the next year—with the Steve Moore civil suit going to trial, the Wings might have been better advised to not finalize the deal for a few more days, because while I have yet to find a person who doesn’t believe that Bertuzzi will and should pay a significant chunk of his career earnings to Steve Moore…
His lawyer, Steve Danson, is sort of the Geoffrey Fieger of Canada, and it would not surprise me one bit if somebody came down from Toronto to drop some sort of legal news on Bertuzzi’s lap simply because tomorrow night’s game will air on Sportsnet West and the NHL Network, and because the Globe and Mail and maybe even the Toronto Star will send correspondents down to check on the Canucks. The Vancouver Sun’s Tony Gallagher posited a column which is being re-posted and re-listed across the Canada.com network, titled, “Bertuzzi Will Never Out-Skate Moore Controversy,” and this is the closest he gets to acknowledging that someone who’s grown up over the past eight years and will have to spend the rest of his life living with the fact that human beings can do terrible things, might be allowed to the kind of peace and modicum of personal success that we all wish that Moore found long long ago:
The Red Wings don’t make too many mistakes. Those who want to play for Mike Babcock have to play the 200-foot game, and Bertuzzi, in making a commitment to be more responsible defensively — not perfect, but better than he ever was before — has turned himself into an entirely justified Detroit reclamation project.
He is sort of a 15-goal, 40-point guy at this stage of his career, but still physical, skilled and, surprisingly, a plus-21 this season: a valuable component on a good, multi-faceted hockey club that has a specific need for the tools he brings to the rink.
In fact, when you think about it, Bertuzzi is exactly what his old team, the Canucks, keep looking for and may still be seeking at the trade deadline: a big, strong, mean, skilled winger who could play with the Sedin twins — as he plays sometimes with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in Detroit — or move down the lineup as necessary.
He’s what the Canucks hope Byron Bitz, if he’s physically able, or Dale Weise might evolve into, with a lot of luck and coaching.
But Todd Bertuzzi’s evolution, 16 seasons and a wasted year’s worth, has already taken place.
If it hadn’t, the Wings wouldn’t have extended a guy who’s going to be 39 when the contract expires, and who’s going to court in September, with a very large bill likely hanging over his head when he comes back.
He will never stop paying for Steve Moore, one way and another. The stigma will always be attached to his name.
But come next winter, chances are he’s going to need the proceeds of this second career, and a little more, besides.
Given that Danson is suing Bertuzzi, Marc Crawford, the Vancouver Canucks and is attempting to put the NHL’s “code” on trial, Bertuzzi won’t be put out of house and home. There’s going to be a lot of blame to go around, and that bothers me…
Mostly because I will readily admit that I like Todd Bertuzzi, the big sasquatchy grouch that he is, and I wish that Moore’s lawyer had given his client the ability to collect the money that is owed to him and move on with his life much earlier than what will probably be nine or ten years from his injury, given the way civil trials will drag on…
Precisely because a man who is very cognizant of what he did is simply trying to make a living for himself and his family while doing a pretty good job of being just “Bert” in Detroit, and because he has a right to live his life, too.
1. DETROIT RED WINGS (41-18-2): They paid a steep price to acquire defenceman Kyle Quincey this week, but the Red Wings improved the depth on their blue-line. (Last Week: 2)
• Things that do not surprise me: the Free Press’s James Jahnke reports that
a poll of Michigan votes found that the Red Wings are the state’s third-most-popular pro team, behind the Tigers and Lions;
• If it matters, Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Jeremy Lynn says that the Wings would be playing the Kings if the playoffs started today;
• This one earns the what the fack are you talking about? award of the day: CBS Detroit’s Eric Thomas says that the home-ice winning streak must end so that the Wings feel more motivated to win, and that Wings fans should stop insisting that Joey MacDonald should be starting over Jimmy Howard.
• Speaking of the streak, via the gents at Red Wings Brasil, NHL.com cobbled together a list of the Wings’ home-ice wins this morning;
• And don’t even want to touch the Free Press’s Anthony Fenech’s list of random trade rumors form Wednesday, including suggestions that Steve Ott, Mikhail Grabovski, Rick Nash or half of the Maple Leafs’ defense could be headed to Detroit.
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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.