The Malik Report
Red Wings overnight report: Holland proffers Lidstrom, Zetterberg as award-worthy, and prospect news
by George Malik on 04/05/11 at 06:19 AM ET
If things go particularly well for the Red Wings, they may have enjoyed their last scheduled “off day” for a significant period of time on Monday (knock on my empty head, of course).
As such, much of Monday’s Wings-in-the-media focus involved GM Ken Holland and captain Nicklas Lidstrom’s conference call, Norris Trophy talk and stories about Johan Franzen and personnel moves made by the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Holland also offered some rare award-endorsement suggestions to the Free Press’s George Sipple, proffering Nicklas Lidstrom’s Norris Trophy cause and suggesting that Henrik Zetterberg should get at least a few Hart Trophy votes:
[Lidstrom] ranks third in assists [among defensemen] (46)—three more than teammate Brian Rafalski—and second in points (62). Lidstrom had a career-high 11-game point streak from Oct. 16 to Nov. 13, then scored his first career hat trick Dec. 15 against the Blues. He became the oldest defenseman in NHL history with 60 points in a season.
“We’re in the top five in the league in points, so he’s an important guy on a good team,” Holland said. “Plays against the other teams’ best players in all situations. I guess the one area that could be critiqued is plus-minus.”
Lidstrom, who has been plus-40 three times in the past seven seasons, is minus-one with three games remaining. Lidstrom has never finished with a minus rating in his career. He has finished under double-digits on the plus side twice in his career, with his lowest finish a plus-seven in 1992-93.
While Daniel Sedin of the Canucks, Martin St. Louis of the Lightning and Corey Perry of the Ducks will get more attention for the Hart Trophy—awarded to the player who is deemed most valuable to his team—Holland said Zetterberg also deserves consideration. Zetterberg ranks fourth in the NHL with a career-high 56 assists and eighth in league scoring with 80 points.
“Henrik showed his value to our team when (Pavel) Datsyuk went down,” Holland said. “That’s really when (Zetterberg) vaulted—from the middle of December until early February. He put our team on his back for six to eight weeks.”
While the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan re-posted conference call quips from his Monday evening article in his Tuesday “Red Wings Insider” column, he also took note of what Lidstrom had to say about his status as at least in the mix for the Norris Trophy…
Reporters who cover the NHL on a regular basis received their ballots last week for individual awards. And judging from early feedback, it looks as if Nicklas Lidstrom could be on his way to winning a seventh Norris Trophy (best defenseman).
“It gets harder, as you get older, to win,” said Lidstrom, 40. “You appreciate it more.”
And Kulfan took due note of the fact that Justin Abdelkader’s performance against the Predators on Saturday drew significant praise:
Several analysts believe Abdelkader could be a breakout star for the Red Wings during the playoffs. At 6-foot-1 and 212 pounds, Abdelkader is a big player that can cause havoc around the net and wear down defenses. And when he’s physical — as he was against the Predators — Abdelkader becomes a huge factor.
“Best game I’ve ever seen him play,” Cleary said of Abdelkader’s two-goal, multiple-hit day.
Said Nashville coach Barry Trotz : “He’s a gritty player, one of those guys who tries to get under your skin. He was around the net for two of their goals. They weren’t dangerous plays but chaotic plays that wind up in your net.”
And as we’re going to be inundated over the next week with playoff talk, and probably some serious-arse gloom and doom given the Wings’ struggles in February and March, the Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo offers a take on the Wings’ back-to-back wins over this past weekend that’s downright refreshing:
[W]hy the Red Wings are so formidable isn’t necessarily measured by sheer statistics. It’s more because of games like Saturday afternoon in Nashville. The Red Wings had lost their previous game to the St. Louis Blues, at home, by a whopping 10-3 margin. The last time they had played in Nashville, only two weeks before, they were pounded relentlessly in a loss that raised questions about their collective hunger.
Then the Red Wings, less than two weeks before the Stanley Cup playoffs are scheduled to begin, fell behind 3-0 to Nashville. Panic? I don’t know if that would be the right word. Disappointment might be more apropos.
The Red Wings always respond to adversity. They weren’t doing so. Making matters more relevant was the idea the Red Wings might open the playoffs against the very same Nashville team that had owned them this season. Nashville won four of the first five meetings between the teams this season, including the previous four. Then on the way to being written off, the Red Wings rallied in a fashion that sent a message to their fans, the Predators and the rest of the NHL that reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. They came back to win the game 4-3 in overtime.
The following day, at Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings had been playing less than .500 hockey over an extended span, they beat the Minnesota Wild.
In a time frame of just a little more than 24 hours, the Red Wings displayed to the Predators they still have the upper hand should the two teams meet in the opening round of the playoffs — and they proved they can win handily on their home ice. It was classic Red Wings, who are starting to get all their players back from injury in time for the playoffs. Pavel Datsyuk, who had been out with an injury, was back for Sunday’s game against the Wild.
Also of Red Wings-related note:
1. Red Wings in the Power Rankings: The Detroit Red Wings’ back-to-back wins over this past weekend yielded promotions in every set of power rankings going into the last full week of the regular season, starting with those of ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun...
5 ([last week] 7) Red Wings [record] 46-23-10: Coach Mike Babcock’s timeout, which sparked Detroit’s rally from a 3-0 deficit in a 4-3 win over Nashville on Saturday, is a turning point.
As well as those of Sportsnet’s Mike Brophy...
4 [last week] 6 Detroit Red Wings (46-23-10): The Red Wings clinch their ninth Central Division championship in the past 10 years with a 4-2 win over Minnesota. Pavel Datsyuk returned to the lineup for the first time since March 17 with one assist.
The Hockey News’s Adam Proteau...
4 Detroit Red Wings [last week] 6 [record] 46-23-10 [last ten] 5-3-2: Wings have blocked just 887 shots this season; only Devils (839) have blocked fewer
And the CBC’s Scott Morrison, who issues a gloomy playoff prediction (of sorts):
4. DETROIT RED WINGS
Record: 46-23-10 (102 pts)
Last 10 games: 5-3-2
Have been showing signs of weakness, but experience may overcome it. May have saved their season against Nashville.
As Paul posted, TSN’s Scott Cullen took a different tack in comparing his final rankings with each team’s pre-season ranking:
DETROIT RED WINGS
Pre-Season Rank: 4
Current Rank: 3
Average Rank: 2.88
What’s the Difference?: Not a lot of difference; they were expected to be good and they’ve been good. G Jimmy Howard hasn’t performed as well as expected, but he’s been better over the last couple of months.
2. Prospect news and scheduling: This doesn’t come as a surprise, but Iltahleti is reporting that Grand Rapids Griffins forward Ilari Filppula plans on returning to Europe, and, very specifically, he’s got his sights set on joining Lugano in the Swiss league, though he’s supposedly going to entertain offers from the KHL and Swedish Eliteserien (an aside: I find it baffling that European players’ agents are so willing to very publicly tell news agencies where their players plan to play next year while their current employers’ regular seasons, or worse, playoff runs are underway).
The 29-year-old has posted 62 points over the course of 72 games thus far, good for sixteenth in scoring in the AHL, and, put simply, while Filppula may harbor dreams of playing for an NHL team, and perhaps alongside his brother, as someone with zero NHL experience, he’d have to take a contract that would be worth much less than he can earn in Europe;
• Also in the foreign language news vein, the Swedish Eliteserien’s championship series will get underway tonight as Dick Axelsson and Farjestads BK face off against Skelleftea, and Aftonbladet’s Anna Lindback suggests that, um...Axelsson’s new-found maturity comes in no small part thanks to the fact that FBK coach Tommy Samuelsson very literally placed every player, Axelsson included, on a “hot seat” in the middle of the locker room, with half of his teammates offering positive reinforcement and the other half offering criticism.
Axelsson told Lindback that he learned a little bit about himself through the “hot seat” session…
It was good that you got to hear what others thought. It was interesting, even if most of the stuff you heard you knew about. I already knew that I needed to focus on my game, and not what’s going on around me,” said Axelsson.
Axelsson’s coach offered significant praise for the mercurial forward:
“He’s matured enormously and has had a fantastic season. He’s taken a quantum leap in terms of his focus and accountability, [Samuelsson] says, adding quickly: “Dick is one of the best players in the Eliteserien. His highest level of play is ridiculously high. He really has another dimension to his game, more than any other player.”
As Aftonbladet’s .ab article suffixes prevent it from being translated by conventional online translators, I can only offer you a very rough translation from Systran if you’re interested in reading the article, and as Hakan Andersson told RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest last week, the Wings don’t believe that Axelsson’s achieved a professional level of consistency yet.
• According to the Everett Herald’s Nick Patterson, Wings prospect Landon Ferraro could technically return to the Everett Silvertips as an overage forward, but as far as I’ve understood it, the Wings chose to sign Ferraro to bring him into the Grand Rapids Griffins’ fold next season. I think their decision won’t be an easy one as Ferraro has yet to really play a dominant season in the WHL, but at the same time, his development might best be served by a new start in a more competitive league after battling injuries and a blacklisting by Red Deer Rebels coach Jesse Wallin;
• Two Wings prospects who’ve taken very concrete steps forward in terms of both development and maturity in Tomas Tatar and Brendan Smith made the cut in Hockey’s Future’s 21-to-30th-best prospect installment of their Top 50 prospects list (with Teemu Pulkkinen having already checked in at the #34th-best spot):
Detroit Red Wings prospect Tomas Tatar has moved up the rankings 10 positions since the Fall edition, to #26. The stocky left winger has shown great improvement in his second AHL season as he will nearly double his point total of last season. Tatar received his first call-up to the Red Wings this season, a stint that included his first NHL goal in his first NHL game. The Ilava, Slovakia native will continue developing his game with the Grand Rapids Griffins, but he appears to be another savvy European selection for the Red Wings.
Defensemen hold the final two positions in this group, with Detroit Red Wings prospect Brendan Smith ranked #22. Smith moved to the pro game after three seasons at the University of Wisconsin, where he is currently developing his game with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. The Mimico, Ontario native capped a strong rookie campaign with his selection to the AHL All-Rookie team. Smith has generated offense from the blueline for the Griffins this season while also providing a bit of grit, two qualities that the Red Wings hope their top defensive prospect displays with the big club next season.
The Wings don’t necessarily plan on bringing Smith up on a full-time basis next season, but if he manages to avoid the injury bug (Smith missed significant time with a sprained knee this year), he’ll definitely be called up for a few cups of coffee;
• In the scheduling department, as previously noted, Riley Sheahan and the University of Notre Dame will take part in the Frozen Four semifinal, facing off against the University of Minnesota-Duluth, on Thursday, and the game both starts at 5 PM EDT and will air on ESPN2 and will be streamed online at ESPN3.com. The University of Michigan and spry coach Red Berenson (he was profiled by the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy today) will tangle with the University of North Dakota at 8 PM EDT, and that game will also air on ESPN2;
• On Thursday, Mitchell Callahan and the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets will begin their second round playoff series against the Portland Winterhawks;
• Trevor Parkes, Louis-Marc Aubry and the QMJHL’s Montreal Juniors will open their second-round series against Lewiston on Friday;
• And the Malik Report’s official adopted OHL team, the Plymouth Whalers, defeated Kitchener 4-2 in the seventh game of the teams’ first-round series on Monday night, and will advance to play against the Owen Sound Attack on Saturday;
• This isn’t necessarily prospect-related, but if you’re keeping score at home, Sergei Fedorov and Metallurg Magnitogorsk will play their seventh game against Salavat Yulaev in the KHL semifinals today at 5 PM Moscow time. That’s 9 AM EDT, and ESPN3 will stream the game;
3. Other stuff: The Wings head to Raleigh, NC to play the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday, and thanks to the New York Rangers’ comeback win against Boston on Monday night, the Hurricanes sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, so the Raleigh News & Observer’s Chip Alexander reports that the Hurricanes essentially have to defeat the Red Wings to make the playoffs:
The New York Rangers, once trailing the Boston Bruins 3-0, rallied to win 5-3 Monday night. The Rangers moved past the Buffalo Sabres into seventh place in the NHL’s Eastern Conference with 91 points.
The Hurricanes are ninth in the East with 87 points, three behind the eighth-place Sabres - and out of playoff position - with three games remaining in the regular season. Buffalo hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight.
The Hurricanes have a game in hand on the Rangers. But if the Rangers split their final two games, both at Madison Square Garden, the Canes would have to win out to reach the playoffs.
Under the NHL’s new tie-breaking rule this season, shootout wins are deducted from a team’s victory total if teams are tied in the final standings. The Rangers have nine shootout wins this season, and the Hurricanes and the Sabres have five each. The Canes close the regular season with games against the Detroit Red Wings (Wednesday), Atlanta Thrashers (Friday) and Tampa Bay Lightning (Saturday). The Rangers play Thursday against the Thrashers and Saturday against the New Jersey Devils.
• The Wings could also play the spoiler’s role in eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks from playoff contention if the Wings win on Friday and Sunday and the Hawks don’t receive help from their nearest pursuers.
The Hawks occupy eighth place in the Western Conference standings. As the Chicago Sun-Times’ Adam L. Jahns notes, the Hawks go into tonight’s game against Montreal with tiebreakers on their side—in the case of the 9th-place Calgary Flames, but not the 10th-place Dallas Stars:
[T]he Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars and the threats they pose to the Hawks’ chances of making the postseason aren’t as close as they may appear. The Hawks (92 points) own the first tiebreaker — games won not including shootout victories — over both teams and own every tiebreaker over Calgary (91 points). They also have two games in hand on the Flames.
It’s a little different when it comes to Dallas (89 points). The Hawks have more non-shootout wins (36) than the Stars (34). But Dallas could run the table in its final four games to close the gap. If that should happen, Dallas owns the second tiebreaker — head-to-head points.
That’s where things could get dicey for the Hawks, who have the same number of games left as the Stars but are at Montreal (91 points) tonight. They close the season with a home-and-home against the Red Wings (102 points). They also host the Blues on Wednesday.
• In less “high stakes” but no less “spiffy” news, the Red Wings issued a press release discussing the special multimedia-accessing feature printed onto their playoff tickets, and the Wings’ Facebook page posted a photo of the cell phone-scan-using “quick response” codes which can be used to access highlights from the Wings’ “Twenty Straight” playoff runs;
• And these quips from the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman are filed under “kinda-sorta Wings related, maybe”:
5. Last week, a few of the Red Wings were suggesting that Henrik Sedin became a much better player after Daniel was injured last season. He agreed: “Now I have the confidence I can produce points without him ... I’ve said this before, but when I struggled, I would always look for him. Now I know I don’t need to do that.”
6. Ask if he was surprised the Wings noticed, Henrik said, “Of course not. They’re Swedes ... Well, most of them are.”
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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.