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Who are the Red Wings’ ‘x factors?’ The ‘kids’ and Abdelkader

If I was to give the Red Wings an x-factor edge in terms of managing to surprise and perhaps damage the Blackhawks (if we are to believe the Chicago Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom, the Wings have no idea how good the "new" Patrick Kane is) when the second-round series begins tonight (8 PM, NBCSN/CBC/97.1 FM), I'd suggest that the Hawks can only partially account for the strength of the Wings' youth movement, and a very specific line in particular, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted:

The Wings’ kids weren’t rattled in the first round series. In fact, they were quite the opposite. The young guys were efficient throughout the series, especially third-line forwards [Damien] Brunner and Gustav Nyquist, who each scored big overtime goals to beat the Ducks. Another big contributor was third-line center Joakim Andersson, who won more than 59 percent of his face-offs in the defensive zone, including 10-of-11 in the first two games of the series.

The hands-on nature of what the Wings’ youth movement is currently experiencing, and will continue to experience in the upcoming Chicago series are all valuable lessons in becoming NHL players.

“You learn by being a part of it,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “You have to go through those situations to learn. That's what they did. The Andersson line was huge for us, played a lot of minutes in that (Anaheim) series. The experience will make them better.”

Seven different Wings made their Stanley Cup playoff debuts in the last series. Yet this next round will bring with it a whole new set of circumstances for the young guys, from the history of the Original Six rivalry to the disdain that fans from both cities share for one another.

“It’s a tough thing about emotion,” rookie defenseman Brendan Smith said. “My first game in Anaheim I had the butterflies going, but once you get going you get rid of those and your momentum kicks in. What coach told us was to put your emotions behind you and go out there and play with passion and do what’s gotten you to this stage of your life.”

What got the Red Wings to the second round was their attention to small details, their willingness to battle in the corners and fight for space in front of the opposition’s crease. It’s something the young guys hope to continue to do against the Blackhawks.

“The biggest thing I learned from the last playoff series was the competition level and how competitive each person is,” Smith said. “If you don’t play a full 60 minutes you’re going to be a minus player, you’ll be scored against and you’re not going to be the best player out there.”

As the Windsor Star's Bob Duff notes, at one point, the Wings were dressing seven rookies and/or inexperienced young players, but that number's dropped to five generally potently positive performers:

Five of them – Smith, defenceman Jakub Kindl and forwards Joakim Andersson, Damien Brunner and Gustav Nyquist – figure to again play prominent roles as this set gets underway Wednesday at the United Center. An all first-year forward unit of Andersson between Brunner and Nyquist produced overtime-winning goals from Nyquist (Game 2) and Brunner (Game 4).

“I guess you get a little confidence boost when you’re contributing in that way,” Nyquist said.

During their seven-game roller-coaster ride of a series with the Ducks, which saw the Wings stave off elimination with a Henrik Zetterberg OT winner in Game 6 and a Game 7 road triumph, these kids learned while emotion is alright, it’s not something you want to emphasize during a playoff run.

“Stay focused,” Brunner listed as the long-term key to post-season success. “Stick with the plan. Whether you win or lose, just stick with the program. Keep it simple.” 

The dressing room during a Stanley Cup series does not resemble the classroom. Veterans like captain Zetterberg do not stand up and offer tutorials to the newcomers. It’s more about learning via osmosis.

“When I was younger in my first series, you don’t ask that much, you look and observe and see what they do and try to do the same,” Zetterberg said, admitting he’s learned much about the Wings’ kids, and not all of it is his cup of tea.


“It’s a good mix, I think,’ Zetterberg, 32, said of the divide between rookie and veteran on the Detroit roster. “With all their speed, it makes you feel a little younger.”

And then there is the "new" Justin Abdelkader, who's succeeded Tomas Holmstrom in no small part because Pavel Datsyuk decided that he needed a Holmstrom-style linemate, as the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa noted:

Sergei Fedorov used to fret when Scotty Bowman moved Doug Brown off his line. In the same vein, when Tomas Holmstrom retired at the start of this season, he said some of the best advice he ever got came from Igor Larionov.

"Holmer, if you lose the puck," Holmstrom said, "you have to go get it. I'm not going to get it for you."

Brown and Holmstrom thrived with outstanding offensive players. Abdelkader scored 10 goals in 48 games this season. At that pace, in an 82-game season, he would score 17. He did not move to the top line until after 23 games. Viewed that way, he was on a 33-goal pace from March 4 until the end of the season.

"I don't think there's really time to evaluate anything, now," he said, after the media scrum moved on. "I think it's more for after the season. But as a hockey player, I just want to grow each season and to get better. I work on my skills and my skating and my conditioning and my endurance and everything a lot in the offseason. Even after practices I'm out there late trying to work on things and get better. But I think hockey's a game of confidence and when you're playing with confidence, it's a good thing. I'm going to just keep doing things the right way."


As for accepting direction from his wizard of a linemate, Datsyuk, Abdelkader smiled.

"No, you know, he's a great player," he said. "And, for me, playing with him, I want to get him the puck as much as I can — be at the net for him, too. But if he tells me he wants me to go somewhere else or do something else, I'll do it.

"It's a pretty simple job and I just want to skate and forecheck for those guys. And, Pavs? You know, he's one of the best players in the world, especially with the puck on his stick. As much as I can I want to make sure he has the time to make those plays."

So far, so good.

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babymachine's avatar

That shortie Abby scored in Game 7 was a beauty.

Posted by babymachine from Portland, Oregon by way of Macomb, Michigan on 05/15/13 at 11:00 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Kane arguably stands as the most gasp-inducing passer in the league…

Well, the most “gasp-inducing” passer in the league will be playing in this series. But it won’t be Kane.

This new round, however, brings a new belief that Kane will become that goal-scoring fiend we saw when the season began.

Yeah, Corry Ferry thought he was going to score a bunch of goals too. Have the Cabbie Beater give him a call and ask him how that turned out.

This is the series that the Hawk with the party reputation turns into DJ Cheslea Dagger.

What does that even mean?

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 05/15/13 at 11:36 AM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

I think it means a blogger/writer is trying to sound relevant to a younger generation.  and failing.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 05/15/13 at 11:55 AM ET

ClintonVerley's avatar

Already so, so sick of hearing about the Hawks and Kane especially. Jeez, I hate him.

Posted by ClintonVerley from Auburn Hills, MI on 05/15/13 at 11:59 AM ET

SYF's avatar

$0.20 can choke a bitch…drunken Vegas whore-style *coughKeithcough*.

I will admit this will be a whole ‘nother level of competition the Wings rookies will face.  The Cawks are an older veteran team, but they’re fast as hell, too.  Forechecking is their first defense and it is mean.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 05/15/13 at 12:08 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Just visited nhl.com. The lead story is how the Hawks developed a snarl while waiting for their second round opponent. Any other team (besides Pitt) and they would be questioning the rust factor, etc.

Get ready, 19, the Hawk-fellating by the national media and the NHL will be legendary for the next two weeks.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 05/15/13 at 12:11 PM ET

Primis's avatar

This is the season DET finally has the tables turned on them, in a way.

If CHI wins, it’ll be all CHI, CHI, CHI, how great CHI is.
If DET wins, it’ll be all “What’s wrong with CHI?  What happened to CHI?  How did DET exploit CHI and what should CHI have done instead?”.

We’ve been on the other end of that enough times, that I’m good with it.  Like I said in the previous thread, CHI is now the ones under huge pressure.  And I’m not necessarily convinced they have the right horses to weather it.  If DET can do some things to them, I’ll be curious what happens to them.

Posted by Primis on 05/15/13 at 12:14 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

I think if the lines stay as is, Stahlberg is going to be a test for the kids.  He has some blazing speed, and his shot isn’t too bad either.  I think they eventually figured out Cogliano and got him settled down, so maybe they are ready for Vic.

Posted by Hootinani from the parade following Babs out of town on 05/15/13 at 12:21 PM ET

Figaro's avatar

  Kane arguably stands as the most gasp-inducing passer in the league…

Well, the most “gasp-inducing” passer in the league will be playing in this series. But it won’t be Kane.

It’s true. I heard that he passed on a game of Beer Pong once and everyone at the party gasped. smile

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 05/15/13 at 12:49 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

Name one person on the Wild who is even half the forechecker Zetterberg is…. yeah the cakewalk is over Patty.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 05/15/13 at 01:02 PM ET


Nothing will beat the time the he passed on giving a tip to a taxi driver and then passed on not-assaulting that very same taxi driver.

Posted by Garth on 05/15/13 at 01:08 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Nothing will beat the time the he passed on giving a tip to a taxi driver and then passed on not-assaulting that very same taxi driver.

Posted by Garth on 05/15/13 at 02:08 PM ET

Or his adventures on the University of Wisconsin campus:

What a douche…

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 05/15/13 at 01:13 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.


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