The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/12/11 at 08:07 AM ET
Updated at 7:39 with Griffins talk: The Detroit Red Wings head back to work today knowing that the Phoenix Coyotes are both out for revenge and that their first-round opponent simply aren’t intimidated by Detroit after pushing the Wings to seven games when the teams last met, and the Coyotes’ players certainly confirmed that line of thinking on Monday, as PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Anthony Perez found when he spoke to defenseman Keith Yandle about the Wings’ nonexistent home-ice advantage:
“When you play in Detroit you get a little more psyched up than an ordinary game because of who they are, (and) what players they have,” Yandle said. “You want to prove that you can play with those guys.”
“Hopefully everyone still has a little bit of the bitter taste in their mouth of losing to them in Game 7,” Yandle said. “Maybe playing Detroit, a team that we’re familiar with in the playoffs and we play them a bunch during the season, maybe it might be a thing where we’re able to pump ourselves up a little bit more, use a little bit from last year for this year.”
The Coyotes also suggested something a little strange from a Wings fan’s perspective, arguing that they’ve undergone a roster makeover with two veteran additions who should help negate the Wings veterans’ advantage in the experience department…
“This is a whole new team,” [Coyotes coahc Dave] Tippett said. “We battled for 82 games, we earned the right to be a playoff team, we know our opponent well, our mind-set should be ‘let’s get going.’”
Veteran forwards Ray Whitney and Eric Belanger weren’t around last season when Detroit beat Phoenix four games to three. The pair has combined to play in a total of 120 NHL playoff games, and Captain Shane Doan thinks their experience will be key for Phoenix.
“They’ve played in big games, they’ve had success in big games, and they’re both gritty guys that compete hard,” Doan said. “That’s what the playoffs are all about; it comes down to competing.”
And Coyotes coach Dave Tippett believes that the returns of Ed Jovanovski and Martin Hanzal to the lineup give the team two additional x-factors:
“I think getting some players back healthy has really helped our game,” Tippett said. “You get players like Jovanovski and Hanzal back it just makes us a deeper team.”
The Arizona Republic’s Paola Boivin argues that the Coyotes don’t deserve series underdog status because those who are “slobbering” over Detroit have forgotten that the Coyotes have a better goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov, a deeper defense than last year’s team thanks to the additions of Michal Rozsival Rostislav Klesla and the return of Derek Morris, and most importantly, a captain who is determined to take the Coyotes on a long run in Shane Doan:
“When you’re younger you think (playoff success) is going to happen again and again,” Doan, 34, said Monday. “You see your friends do things in the playoffs, and you think, ‘It’s going to come to my turn eventually.’ As you start to get closer to the end of your career, you start to recognize, ‘Oh man, you’ve got to make that happen soon.’ “
There was a hint of urgency in Doan’s voice. One need only look at the Doan photo from last season that became an Internet sensation, the one of jubilation, arms raised after scoring a goal in Game 2 last season, to know how much this matters. He wants another shot.
The vibe around this team Monday was one of respect for the Red Wings but not one of intimidation. That’s significant. Detroit has advanced to the playoffs for 20 consecutive seasons. Twenty. Three years ago it won the Stanley Cup. That’s an organization that reloads as well as anyone. Success breeds success. It permeates the front office, circles the locker room.
“They built the mystique because they’ve been a very good franchise for a long time,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “The other side of that is the challenge of beating someone who has been on top for a very long time. We’re an organization trying to find an identity (like that).”
Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan admits that he’s rooting for Doan, and, perhaps not surprisingly, Versus/NBC analyst Eddie Olczyk, a former Winnipeg Jet, admits that he’s got a soft spot in his heart for Doan as well as both journalists wish that Doan could boast having experienced more than a first round’s worth of playoff success in his career.
Doan agrees with that assessment, nearly growling about having never experienced the following…
“Getting eliminated in the second round of the playoffs,” he quipped.
And Doan certainly seems like someone who’s more than driven to lead his team past the Wings this time around. In my opinion, he sounds like a very angry man, someone who’s downright bitter about the fact that, in his attempts to hit every Red Wing in sight during last year’s first round series, he suffered a severe shoulder sprain—incurred by attempting to not interfere with Jimmy Howard, ironically enough—which kept him from crashing and banging for the rest of the series:
“To wait so long for that chance and to have it taken away just like that—it’s one of the moments in my career I will never forget,” he said.
“He’s our leader vocally and physically. He’s our top goal scorer. There’s a lot of factors that he brings to the table,” coach Dave Tippett added. “When he went out last year, that was a big blow to us.”
Doan wanted to come back for Game 7, but Tippett wouldn’t allow it, creating the only bone of contention between the two over the past two seasons.
“I would have loved to play in that game,” Doan said. “I would have given anything.”
“He’s champing at the bit,” Tippett said. “He wants to avenge that loss last year.”
And “avenge” is the key word here. As Paul posted on Monday night, Doan spoke to NHL.com’s Jerry Brown about the Red Wings in a way that, if I may speak as a subjective Wings fan, seemed to suggest that his “respect” for the Wings might be hollow at best…
Because Doan and the Coyotes don’t seem to believe that the Red Wings defeated them last season. The Coyotes seem to believe that it’s Phoenix that didn’t take advantage of its opportunities to beat the Wings, and that bad breaks and Doan’s injuries were all that separated Phoenix from its destiny:
“They are a great team with an incredible history and they have accomplished so much over the last 20 years,” Doan said. “At the same time, we feel like we’re a good match with them. We should have beat them last year, and we let that opportunity slip away. But we have another chance and we have to find a way.”
Doan was a runaway train in the first two games of the series, registering 18 hits and sparking the home crowd with each one making an impact on every shift as Phoenix and Detroit split the first two games. The game plan hasn’t changed much this time around, so look for Doan to be throwing his 230-pound pound body around downtown Motown when the series begins Wednesday night.
“I think Detroit has so much skill, you have to be physical against them,” he said. “You can give them time with the puck or they have players that will make you pay. It’s not like it’s a big secret how you want to play against them. And I think we have the personnel and the system that can be successful.”
When asked if he could keep up that kind of physical pace for seven games, he smiled and said, “You mean 28 games? I can do it. I will do it.”
28 games, of course, is the maximum amount of games one can play in winning the Stanley Cup by way of four seven-game series.
This time around, Keith Yandle suggests that Doan will leave a trail of injured Wings in his wake…
“If he could have played one minute or 20 minutes, he wanted to be out there to help us out. That pain was a lot worse than anything he felt in his shoulder,” Yandle said. “You can’t run around the way he did in those two games of that series for a whole season, you’ll never be able to get out of bed in the morning. But for the playoffs, you find that extra gear and extra level and Doaner has that ability. And when you hear him coming and you feel the breath coming out of that crooked nose, I know he will have people’s attention.”
And Doan certainly agrees that he’s more than prepared to check the Wings right out of the playoffs:
“I feel great. I’m ready to go and I can’t wait for Wednesday,” Doan said. “Getting a second chance is more than I could have asked for. It’s an incredible opportunity.”
The Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio also notes that Doan and the Coyotes believe that their goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, will serve as the team’s other difference-maker:
Bryzgalov, a Vezina Trophy finalist last year, put together a solid season, winning 36 games with a .921 save percentage, as he faced an average of 31.3 shots per game, second-most in the league. Howard, meanwhile, had 37 wins but with a save percentage of .908, rescued time and again by a high-powered offense. Coyotes captain Shane Doan, forced out of last season’s series because of a shoulder injury in Game 3, said the team would “count on him (Bryzgalov) huge, just as they (Red Wings) do on Howard.”
“Bryz is probably the best player in the series,” Doan said. “I think he’s unbelievable, I think he’s the most-talented goalie in the league, and when he’s on, he’s as good as anybody. . . . Obviously they’ve got some pretty talented forwards, and we might count on Bryz a little more.”
These are goaltenders who know each other well. Both teams had 2-0-2 marks this season, faring the same both home and away. Bryzgalov played in all four games, winning 5-4 in a shootout and 4-2, and losing 3-2 and 2-1 overtime decisions; Howard did not play in Detroit’s 4-2 loss. The Red Wings will be without leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg (lower-body injury) in the early part of the series, but that does not make Bryzgalov’s job much easier. Detroit has other strong options.
“I never pay attention to what people say,” Bryzgalov said. “We have a job to do, and I’m not looking at the roster and say, ‘Oh, my God, we play Detroit Wings, they have (Pavel) Datsyuk, Zetterberg, how are we supposed to play? Oh, my God, let’s quit, guys.’ You’re not going to do this, you just play and take our chances and play, try to limit their chances and maybe make some big save and some blocked shots and, you know, we play against them last year, and we looked good. We had some chances to win the series, and unfortunately we don’t. We try this year again.”
Fox Sports Arizona posted a four-minute practice report as well.
NHL.com’s Dave Lozo noted several Wings-vs-Coyotes-related points in, “Sixteen Things You Need to Know Before the Playoffs Start” (with one general point thrown in for good measure):
10. Win early, win often—There have been 40 first-round series since 2006. Teams that have won Game 1 are 27-13 (.675) in those series. Teams that won Game 1 went 3-5 last season, but overall, getting the early edge has proven to be very beneficial.
As good as taking the first game is, however, winning Game 2 is even better. Teams that come away victorious in Game 2 are 28-12 (.700) in those series no matter what happened in the opener.
11. Goals and objectives—They say defense wins championships. That will have to be the case if the Coyotes want to win the Stanley Cup. Shane Doan’s 20 goals led the team. Three other players had 19, one had 18 and another had 17. That’s tremendous balance, to be sure, but Anaheim’s Corey Perry scored 20 goals in his final 22 games. Doan is tied for 97th in the League with his 20 goals.
12. Rematches—There are two first-round matchups between teams that met in the playoffs last year. The Blackhawks are facing the Canucks after vanquishing them in the second round last season, while the Coyotes will be looking for revenge against the Red Wings after a seven-game loss in the first round last season.
In Detroit, as rink workers at Joe Louis Arena painted playoff logos (via the Red Wings’ website) on the rink’s steps and on the ice (with Niklas Kronwall skating on his own, via the Detroit News’s David Guralnick), Red Wings GM Ken Holland readily admitted that he’s a little concerned about the Wings’ inability to play dominant hockey on home ice—going 8-12-and-1 in 2011—while speaking to the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell:
“We came out of the All-Star Break and I don’t think we played nearly as consistent as we did earlier in the year,” Wings GM Ken Holland said. “As we have got our bodies back, I’m not sure why that’s the case. It’s been a bit of a different season and we have been really good, really consistent on the road. We have been really inconsistent at home.”
Some of that might have to do with the Wings’ level of interest in defeating certain opponents, which several Wings readily suggested was a problem for Detroit in February, March and April, but as Waddell notes, Nicklas Lidstrom believes that the Wings’ win in Chicago on Sunday helped right the ship…
“I think it’s hard to just kind of sit and wait for the playoffs and then all of a sudden you’re supposed to turn on and play your best,” Lidstrom said. “I think you can carry that momentum into the playoffs and that’s something we have talked about as a team, to play well and really pay attention to details in our game.”
And even Lidstrom’s got jitters about getting underway on Wednesday:
“I still get excited to hit the second season,” Lidstrom said. “I still get a little bit nervous. I still get the jitters and look forward to the playoffs and people in this town really get excited about the playoffs, too.”
Lidstrom is not, however, concerned about Jimmy Howard’s rather mediocre regular-season stats, however, suggesting that Howard’s ups and downs in the playoffs helped #35 learn how to play at another level…
“I think he (Howard) gained a lot of experience being part of the playoffs last year,” Lidstrom said. “Knowing what it takes and that it is different than the regular season and the pressure is there and you have to show up every night. It’s a lot tougher than the regular season.”
And Holland remains confident in his belief that the Wings’ status as the oldest team in the playoffs is a positive, not a negative:
“I think that’s one of the reasons why you like to have veterans around,” Holland said. “They don’t get too high and too low. When playoffs start in, my mind, throw the regular season statistics out. It’s a fresh series against a new opponent. I think that our team and our veteran players understand that. It’s a new season with new statistics that start Wednesday.”
That being said, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James suggests, the Wings understand that they have ensure that home ice is indeed an advantage, because the grind of heading to and from Phoenix in a seven-game series where the Coyotes were the higher-finishing team caught up with the Wings in the second round:
“Looking at last year, we could have closed them out at home and instead we had to go back there and then next thing you know, we’re flying to San Jose,” Danny Cleary said. “It’s the little things that sometimes matter. It’s good to get home and get some rest. Starting at home is important. Some people would like us to be starting on the road, considering our record, but I think home ice can be a good advantage for us.”
The Wings did win just over half of their home games, going 21-14-6 at Joe Louis Arena, 8-10-2 since Jan. 1. That’s sparked quite a bit of criticism, but ultimately, if the Wings know how to win on the road (where they went 26-11-4, second only to Vancouver), they know how to win at home. It’s hard to think it won’t benefit them more to get Nicklas Lidstrom out against the likes of Shane Doan than having to put their skaters out first.
“Last month, month and a half, we’ve been pretty average or below average even at home, so that’s something we’ve got to make sure we address,” Brad Stuart said. “But there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be just as good at home, if not better, than we are on the road.”
That’s not the Wings’ only concern, however…
Since the NHL/WHA merger before the 1979-80 season, only two teams have won the Stanley Cup without having a 30-goal scorer in a full regular season: the 2002-03 Devils and your 1997-98 Red Wings. Patrik Elias and Brendan Shanahan led those teams, respectively, with 28 goals.
Why bring this up? Because the 2010-11 Red Wings need some hope. Johan Franzen topped the team with 28 markers this season.
As such, St. James believes that the Wings’ resident playoff performer must step up, big time, as the Wings search for offense without Henrik Zetterberg in the lineup:
In 27 games since he picked apart the Senators, Franzen has two goals. He did set up 12 goals during that same span, but his lack of scoring can’t be overlooked.
It’s not that Franzen doesn’t shoot the puck—his 248 shots on net ranks second on the team, behind Zetterberg’s 306. The next highest behind Franzen is Cleary, at 192. The issue with Franzen is that the Wings want him to play around the net more. Earlier this season, coach Mike Babcock said he challenged Franzen on a regular basis to be more physical with the puck down low and to be more involved that way.
Franzen did force a point-blank save from Corey Crawford during the first period of Sunday’s 4-3 victory at Chicago, but later in the game, Franzen got the puck from Pavel Datsyuk and instead of taking the puck to the net, he headed for the boards.
In talking to Franzen numerous times over the past two months about his production, he has held the line that all that matters is the Wings win, a selfless sentiment and certainly the crux of the bigger picture. It’s a circular argument, too, though, because the Wings’ chances of winning would be better if Franzen scored. And let’s not forget as entertaining as hockey is, it’s also a business, and the Wings pay Franzen $4 million a season for a reason.
At 6-feet-3 and 222 pounds, Franzen, 31, is one of the Wings’ biggest forwards. He has got the skill and size to be a top-10 power forward in the NHL. He has shown that in previous playoffs, and for the Wings to go far this spring, they will need Franzen at his fiercest.
St. James believes that the Wings have six points of emphasis to focus upon going into Wednesday’s game…
1. Take the intensity of Sunday’s game into Wednesday’s opener.
2. Have Johan Franzen switch into playoff mode.
3. Help out Jimmy Howard in front of the net.
4. Remind Ilya Bryzgalov that the Wings scored 11 goals on him in the regular season.
4. Remember that there’s no chance to respond to a poor Game 7.
6. This could be Nicklas Lidstrom’s last playoff run. Helping him win a fifth Stanley Cup would further cement his greatness.
And the Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo ends his Wings-Coyotes preview with a blunt assessment of the series to come:
There is a point where this series can be analyzed in a manner that would lead one to believe the Red Wings are in perilous danger. In truth, they shouldn’t be. Phoenix, like most of the teams in the Western Conference playoff field (Chicago and Anaheim are exceptions), don’t have a track record of success in the postseason.
The Red Wings are the teams that enters the playoffs with the most “been there, done that” aura. That was never more evident when they blew the Coyotes out of the water in Game 7 of the opening round on the road last season.
No team has more depth to counteract the inevitable postseason injuries. No team has a quarterback on the blue line the caliber of Nicklas Lidstrom. Is there a more proven coach currently in the NHL than Babcock?
In truth, the Red Wings should beat the Coyotes, and handily, in the opening round. If they don’t, it would not only be an upset, but a major disappointment. Something that is not impossible, but not as probable as many alarmists tend to think.
Lidstrom is the other focus of the Wings’ press corps today. While the Free Press’s Kirkland Crawford pointed out that SI’s Michael Farber went with the crowd in voting Lidstrom as worthy of the Lady Byng Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player, but not the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman…
Minus two. I just can’t get past it. In a career that began in 1991-92, Nicklas Lidstrom never has been a minus player. Only twice had he been a mere single-digit plus player. He is plus-429 for his career. Yet in a superb offensive season—39 of his 62 points came on the power play—the Red Wings’ captain was a minus, down from plus-22 a year ago. The plus-minus rankings, of course, are only a mildly helpful metric. The numbers don’t exist in a vacuum, and surely some steadier Detroit goaltending and fewer giveaways by this puck possession team would have cleaned up the blemish to a certain extent. But awarding Lidstrom a seventh Norris Trophy in a minus year? That doesn’t compute.
So who demonstrated the greatest “all-around ability” at the position, as per the Norris description? In a season in which the wave of young defensemen mostly disappointed, the best all-around blueliner was Nashville’s Shea Weber.
The Free Press out that USA Today’s panel of experts picked Lidstrom as their Norris-winner…
Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom finished a regular season with a minus rating for the first time in his career, but there’s no doubt in Free Press sports writer Helene St. James’ mind that he was the NHL’s best defenseman yet again.
It’s a small sample—a dozen voters, including St. James—but Lidstrom finished as the top defenseman in the season-ending USA Today power rankings. Of the six panel members who will be casting ballots for the NHL awards this week, Lidstrom had four first-place votes, a second and a third.
Lidstrom, 40, a six-time Norris Trophy winner, led all colleagues with five first-place votes. His top competitor was Anaheim’s Lubomir Visnovsky, who got two.
Winner: Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
Lidstrom is going to have to build another shelf to house all of his Norris Trophies. He won three in a row from 2001-03, then three more from 2007-09. A seventh Norris puts him in ultra-elite company—he would tie Hall of Famer Doug Harvey’s total and move within one of Bobby Orr’s record.
At 40, he sees a little bit less ice time than he used to (about 23 1/2 minutes per game), but if his play has deteriorated, you’d have to look pretty hard to notice. His 16 goals are tied for fourth among defenseman, and his 62 points are second. But numbers tell only part of the story. There’s the stick in the right place, breaking up an opponent’s rush; the seeing-eye slapper that sets up rebounds for teammates; the quick breakout pass that starts a rush—and a host of little things that don’t always show up in the stats column.
Lidstrom is the greatest defenseman of his generation—and he’s still the best.
And after the Macomb Daily’s George Pohly raves about Lidstrom’s singular status while worrying that it might be Nick’s last season…
Lidstrom’s career, which began in 1991, when Chuck Daly, Sparky Anderson and Wayne Fontes were still leading the Pistons, Tigers and Lions, could be in its final act, beginning Wednesday when the Red Wings and Coyotes start a playoff series.
Whatever the Red Wings do in the playoffs, whether they lose in the first round, win a fifth Stanley Cup since 1997 or finish somewhere in between, we might be watching No. 5 skate for the final time.
No Lidstrom playing for the Red Wings? That would be like no RenCen in the Detroit skyline.
But we have to brace ourselves. Lidstrom turns 41 on April 28, and the clock ticks more ominously than ever.
When I think of Lidstrom, I think of an athlete who’s like other greats who played for Detroit teams. He reminds me of Kaline and Trammell, who like Lidstrom played 20-plus seasons only for Detroit. He’s like Dumars, who was a quiet defensive force. He has Barry Sanders’ knack for avoiding big hits in an otherwise fast and violent game. He picked up where Yzerman left off as a classy yet forceful team captain.
Lidstrom, however, is not another Kaline or Trammell, Dumars or Sanders, or Yzerman. He’s Nicklas Lidstrom.
The Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski spoke to Lidstrom about his present and future—in an interview that you should read at least ten times because it’s that fantastic:
Q . You signed a one-year deal, so I imagine you’ll debate retirement again?
A . Yeah, it’ll be some of the same factors—the motivation, the health, the family. It’s something I’ll think about and worry about once the season is over.
Q . Your oldest son, Kevin, is playing hockey and going to school in Sweden. That transition was part of your debate last summer. Is that no longer a concern?
A . He’s really enjoyed himself over there. It’s working out well, but it’s still something we’ll discuss.
Q . Holland thinks you can play five more years.
A . (Laughs.) I don’t know about that. Some nights it’s hard, especially the morning after a game, you can feel it. Once I’m on the ice and start skating, I feel good again.
Q . As long as the team has a chance to win, you’re interested?
A . Yeah, and I think the team will be competitive if I’m here or not. I like the mix we have of some older guys, guys in their prime, and the young guys have really responded.
Q . Have you given any thought to what you’ll do when your playing days are over? Be a coach, a GM, stay with the Wings in some capacity?
A . I have kids in hockey, so youth hockey is something I’d like to be part of. Besides that, I haven’t really decided what to do. If the Wings asked me, I’d have to think about it for sure and see what capacity they’d consider.
Otherwise, I’d strongly suggest that you take a gander at Chuck Pleiness’s Wings grades in the Macomb Daily, but as Don Cherry, Keith Jones and Pierre McGuire are, well, themselves, Dave Dye’s noting of the trio’s Wings-related quips during a conference call on Monday fits into the “optional reading” category.
In the multimedia department, the Wings’ website posted a stirring playoff montage summarizing this year’s “Don’t Miss a Moment” theme…
Play-by-play man Ken Kal spoke to WBBL’s Huge Show on Monday afternoon…
And Red Wings GM Ken Holland spoke to WDFN’s Sean, Terp and Killer as well:
He stated that Zetterberg won’t be ready to start the series, but should return at “some point” during the series, and Kronwall has a “nagging injury,” but the Wings believe he’ll be good to go in Game 1 or 2, depending on how he feels during today’s practice—and yes, today is the day when the Wings return to practice.
Also of Red Wings-related note: As St. James pointed out, Nicklas Lidstrom finished as the Norris-winner among USA Today’s panel of experts, who gave the Wings the sixth-place slot in their final slate of regular-season power rankings, but of their twelve experts, only St. James is picking the Wings to win the Cup;
• A few more playoff previews rolled in on Monday afternoon, with Pro Hockey Talk’s three writers picking the Wings over the Coyotes in six, Versus Chuck Gormley picking the Wings in seven, the New York Times’ Christopher Botta picking the Wings in seven and TSN’s Scott Cullen picking the Wings in seven;
• I posted this on Monday, but it’s worth noting again that The Hockey News’s Ken Campbell spoke to Jimmy Howard (and Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard) about gearing up for his second playoff run, and today, the Sporting News’s Craig Custance suggests that Jimmy Howard faces serious pressure to perform:
Jimmy Howard, Red Wings. He said he expects to be more comfortable during his second season in the playoffs after making his debut last spring. He wasn’t bad last year, but Howard can’t be outplayed by Ilya Bryzgalov if the Red Wings want to make a run.
• I’m somewhat surprised to state this, but Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski suggests that Kris Draper’s one of five very worthy as a candidate for the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey:
Kris Draper, Detroit Red Wings
As we said earlier, the Masterton isn’t necessarily the “thanks for the memories, old timer” award, although there does seem to be that kind of winner once every decade. Draper, 40 in May, is that old timer, playing for nearly two decades, winning four Stanley Cups and becoming a beloved player in Red Wings history. Which isn’t too shabby for a dude that was sold to Detroit by Winnipeg for $1.
• While it’s not Wings-related per se, Bob Duff’s article about the pain and sacrifice involved in winning the Stanley Cup, which includes some short quips from Nicklas Lidstrom and Mike Babcock, is worth your time;
• And I don’t have good news to report in terms of The Malik Report’s adopted OHL team, the Plymouth Whalers. The Whalers now trail the Owen Sound Attack 3-0 thanks to a 4-1 loss on Monday.
Update: I hate reporting this, but the The State News reports that Michigan State University defenseman Jake Chelios received a Minor in Possession ticket;
• For the record, the Free Press’s David Ashenfelter reports that former Wing Sergei Fedorov has yet to receive a red cent from Joseph Zada, who mis-spent $43 million that Fedorov invested in Zada’s ventures;
• According to MLive’s Chris Iott, Wednesday’s Pistons game has been moved to FSD+ so that the Wings-Coyotes game can be shown on Fox Sports Detroit;
• Somehow it’s less than surprising that the AP’s John Marshall had to mention the Coyotes’ ownership situation as a point of adversity which the Coyotes have overcome in their playoff push;
• And it’s a bit of a relief to hear Grand Rapids Griffins coach Curt Fraser and Griffins GM Bob McNamara admitting that the Griffins may have assumed that their star power could lead them to playoff success, and that the team’s got to do more with less next season, while speaking to the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema:
“This isn’t going to happen again,” Fraser said. “We went through a real tough year with callups and injuries and all kinds of things, but we’ve got to find a way to be much more stable through the year, if possible, and put us in a better spot. Five more wins, we’re not only in the playoffs, we’d be in first place. It sounds small, but I guess it’s a mountain to climb to make up that many games.”
Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton—not only two of the team’s point producers, but top-notch defensive forwards—likely will be in Detroit, and there’s a chance Tomas Tatar or even Brendan Smith or Doug Janik could be as well. Veteran defenseman Derek Meech should be with another NHL team, and several other veteran free agents may be on the move. Their presences will have to made up for by a group of talented-but-unproven rookies that includes Gustav Nyquist, Landon Ferraro and Mitchell Callahan.
Fraser is an outstanding coach—any calls that he should be replaced are ridiculous—but he will have his work cut out for him incorporating those baby faces into the lineup.
“I think we’ve got to pay more attention to details now—a lot. The players that we add here, the schedule, everything,” Fraser said. “We need to find a way for this group to make up these five games so next year we’re in first, second place and rolling into the playoffs.”
For that to even be a possibility, improved goaltending is a necessity. Jordan Pearce did an admirable job in the final two months of the season, but over the course of the full year the Griffins allowed 254 goals, fifth-most in the league. Of course, Joey MacDonald could have been a big help. When the veteran goalie was signed last summer, the Griffins assumed they would have him for 80 percent of the season. Instead, because of a variety of injury issues in Detroit, MacDonald spent 80 percent of the season with the Red Wings. Flip that and the Griffins probably are in the playoffs. Even if MacDonald comes back to Grand Rapids next season (doubtful), Peace and Thomas McCollum have to make a significant advancement in their development (perfectly doable).
“Had Jordan Pearce not stepped up, we would have been in a big hole, and we need Tommy McCollum to be better and he’s got to develop quicker,” general manager Bob McNamara said. “As a goaltender, you have be patient because they take some time, and Tommy has had a tough time, but there’s still potential there. He’s an extremely talented goaltender and he needs to have a big year.”
• Also, from Paul:
“Jimmy Howard is struggling badly.” Eric Francis on Fan590 about two minutes ago. Francis feels of the top seeds in the West, Detroit has the great chance of losing.
Update 7:46 AM: One more thing, per RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau:
When the Red Wings announced the 15 player Black Ace squad on Monday it was no surprise that Sergei Kolosov’s name was no where to be found. The 6-foot-4, 217 pound defensemen signed a one year deal last summer. In 55 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins this season he has picked up a single assist along with 46 penalty minutes.
The former 151st overall selection in the 2004 NHL Entry draft is a steady defensive presence on the blue line, but he hasn’t developed the mean streak and physicality that Detroit was hoping for. Despite that, Kolosov has been solid in the AHL, but his NHL upside is limited due in large part to a lack of offensive potential. With his development stalled and barring a push from the Griffins management, the Red Wings will likely opt to not re-sign the 24 year-old defensemen putting the focus on other more promising defense prospects.
Other players not included among the Black Aces were Willie Coetzee and Sebastien Piche. Coetzee, who is in the first year of his three-year entry level deal, split time between Toledo (ECHL) and Grand Rapids (AHL) this season. Piche has also had a hard time earning an AHL roster spot, spending all but 11 games with Toledo. Both players will need the extended off season to improve their skills heading into Detroit’s 2011 training camp.
I think that Kolosov’s going to head back to Europe as he can earn more money there.
Make it two: The “playoff moment” on the Wings’ “Twenty Straight” website involves Robert Lang’s most famous goal.
Try three updates: Zuidema offered an end-of-the-season assessment of the Griffins’ “highs and lows”:
MVP: Ilari Filppula led the team with 64 points (20 goals, 44 assists) and goaltender Jordan Pearce sparked a late postseason push, but the most-consistent contributor from Game 1 to Game 80 was captain Jamie Tardif. Whatever the team needed, he provided it. Leadership? Check. Goals? Tops on the team with a career-high 27. Penalty killing? Not a problem. Fights? He had five. Tardif is an unrestricted free agent this summer. He has earned a new deal.
Most improved: The easy pick is Tomas Tatar, who increased his production from 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) last season to 57 (24 goals, 33 assists), so I’ll go a little outside the box and nominate defenseman Travis Ehrhardt. He only had 15 points (four goals, 11 assists), but he looked much steadier and confident on defense and even filled in at forward when the Griffins were hit with injuries and recalls. His role may be even bigger next year.
Most impressive streak: Pearce appeared in goal in each of the Griffins’ final 26 games — including 24 starts — and 33 of their last 34. He finished 20-15-5 with a 2.89 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. Not bad for someone who started this season in the ECHL.
Top rookie: Defenseman Brendan Smith was selected for January’s AHL All-Star Classic and was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team at the end of the season. He finished with 12 goals, 20 assists and a plus-7 rating. Imagine if he hadn’t been forced to miss 17 games with shoulder and knee injuries.
Ready for a breakout: Gustav Nyquist had four points (one goal, three assists) in eight games at the end of the season. A two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist at the University of Maine, the playmaking forward is poised to rack up points as a rookie next year.
And all I can say about this Finnish interview with Valtteri Filppula is “good luck.”
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