Month: April 2014

Red Wings’ History vs. Eastern Conference

Igor Larionov

Photo Courtesy of Dave Sandford/Getty Images

It’s officially time for Detroit Red Wings playoff hockey. For the 23rd straight year, the Red Wings will attempt to bring home Lord Stanley’s Cup. This year, however, there will be a new twist to the Red Wings’ pursuit: they are in the Eastern Conference now.

Detroit does have some recent experience against Eastern Conference teams though. They have played seven other current Eastern Conference teams since the streak began, though Columbus and Toronto were in the Western Conference when Detroit last played them in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at Detroit’s playoff experience against the Eastern Conference now that they are in the East and will have new postseason opponents.

  1. Pittsburgh- Detroit last played the Penguins in the 2009 Finals. We won’t talk about the results, but the Red Wings did beat the Penguins in the 2008 Finals. Those are the only two playoff matchups between the Red Wings and Penguins, with each team winning a series and a Cup in the process.
  2. Columbus- The Red Wings and Blue Jackets only met in the playoffs once. The 2009 sweep of the Blue Jackets was Columbus’ only playoff appearance until now.
  3. Carolina- Back in 2002, Carolina met Detroit in the Stanley Cup finals only to see Steve Yzerman lifting the Cup and Nicklas Lidstrom taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy. This was Carolina’s only playoff matchup against Detroit as either the Hurricanes or the Whalers.
  4. Washington- Team Ovechkin met the Red Wings in the 1998 Finals only to be swept in four straight. This Cup matchup against Detroit was the high point of the Pre-Ovie era and the only DC-Detroit playoff series.
  5. Philadelphia- Eric Lindros and the Legion of Doom took on the Red Wings in the 1997 Finals and got swept. Detroit took home the Stanley Cup for the first time in 42 years that season. This matchup was the only time Detroit and Philadelphia have met in the playoffs.
  6. New Jersey- We just were not ready yet. New Jersey swept Detroit in the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals even though Detroit was heavily favored. This was the only time in each franchise’s history that they met each other.
  7. Toronto- Detroit and Toronto met in the first round of the 1993 playoffs. Detroit took a three-games-to-one lead in the series, but Toronto roared back to take the series. This was the 23rd time Detroit and Toronto met in the playoffs, with Toronto breaking an 11-to-11 tie in series wins that year.
  8. Montreal- In 1977, Montreal defeated Detroit in the Quarterfinals in five games. That was the 12th time the two teams met in the playoffs with the Red Wings owning a 7-5 series wins lead. The two teams could potentially meet in the second round this year.
  9. Boston- My dad was not even alive when the Red Wings and Bruins last met in the playoffs. The two met in the 1957 Semifinals, with Boston taking the Series in five. Boston has fours series wins against Detroit, with the Red Wings only winning three series against the Bruins. The Red Wings have an opportunity to tie the all-time series score with a win against the Bruins in the first round this year.
  10. New York Rangers- In the 1950 Stanley Cup Finals, the Red Wings defeated the Rangers in seven games. Detroit has won four series, while the Rangers have only won once in their history.

Detroit has never played Buffalo, Florida, New York Islanders, Ottawa, or Tampa Bay in the playoffs. They could play the Lightning in the second round this year though.

Even though only the playoff series against Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Carolina are the only recent matchups with players still active, Detroit has had good luck against Eastern Conference foes. Their extensive playoff experience since the lockout will provide the essential “big game” mentality needed to make a playoff run, even if the Red Wings are the eighth seed. Additionally, the Griffins run to the Calder Cup last season with guys like Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, and Danny DeKeyser is crucial. Playoff and championship experience at any level will help with the nerves and put them in the right mindset come Friday.

Friday Fun: Red Wings’ Streak Continues

I’m still pumped the streak will continue for the Red Wings. At times during this season, thoughts of making the playoffs were more of a wish than a guarantee. Nonetheless, Detroit will make the playoffs for the 23rd straight year. Today’s Friday Fun is a video tribute to the playoff streak and the 23 overtime goals scored in that time. Coincidence??? Thanks to YouTube’s awood40 for yet another awesome Red Wings video. It was great to see players like Bob Probert, Bob Errey, Shawn Burr, Igor Larionov, Yves Racine, and young Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman in action. Enjoy 23 years of success:

 

Top 9: Red Wings Power Play Goals

Detroit has not scored a power play goal in the last two games, going 0-7 in that time. In an attempt to breathe some life into their power play units, today’s list is the Red Wings’ all-time leaders for power play goals. Since Scotty Bowman took over in 1993, the Red Wings’ power play has always been near the top in terms of league leaders in power play percentage. Great special teams play can dictate games and even playoff series. Let’s hope Detroit’s PP and PK are on top of their games heading into their first round matchup.

Here are the Top 9 power play goal scorers in Red Wings’ history:

9. Gordie Howe– 76 PPGs

Gordie Howe

Photo courtesy of Walter Iooss Jr./SI

8. John Ogrodnick– 77 PPGs

John Ogrodnick

Photo courtesy of AP

7. Pavel Datsyuk– 81 PPGs

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo courtesy of Mark Mauno

6. Henrik Zetterberg– 91 PPGs

Henrik Zetterberg

Photo courtesy of USATSI

5. Brendan Shanahan– 115 PPGs

Brendan Shanahan

Photo courtesy of David E. Klutho/SI

4. Sergei Fedorov– 117 PPGs

Sergei Fedorov

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

3. Tomas Holmstrom– 122 PPGs

Tomas Holmstrom

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

2. Nicklas Lidstrom– 132 PPGs

Nicklas Lidstrom

Photo courtesy of David E. Klutho/SI

1. Steve Yzerman– 202 PPGs

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of David E. Klutho/SI

 

Stats provided by hockey-reference.com (http://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/DET/leaders_career.html).

The Trade That Almost Was

First off, congratulations to the Red Wings for clinching the playoffs for the 23rd straight year. I can’t wait for the playoffs to start and for the Wings to make some noise in the East.

Wayne Gretzky

Photo courtesy of Rick Stewart/Getty Images

On August 9, 1988, the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles in a trade that created shockwaves throughout the hockey world. “The Great One” left the only team he knew only a couple months after leading the Oilers to their fourth Stanley Cup in five years. Gretzky was traded along with Marty McSorley and future Red Wing Mike Krushelnyski for another future Red Wing in Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, $15 million, and first round draft picks in 1989, 1991, and 1993.

Some people do not know that Gretzky was allowed to pick his destination after Oilers owner, Peter Pocklington, told him that they had to move him. Pocklington knew Gretzky was going to be a free agent after the 1988-89 season and wanted to receive something in return rather than lose Gretzky outright in free agency. Gretzky begrudgingly picked Los Angeles over another team because his wife, Janet Jones Gretzky, was an actress in Hollywood. That other team was the Detroit Red Wings.

We almost acquired Wayne Gretzky in 1988. We had just lost to the Oilers in the Western Conference finals the previous spring and lost to Gretzky’s team. Imagine the possibilities for the 1988-89 season and beyond if we had acquired Gretzky. But what would it have taken to acquire Wayne?

Los Angeles gave up two great, young players in Carson and Gelinas. Carson had just come off of a 55 goal season in LA and Gelinas was one of their top prospects in juniors. Who would have been the Red Wings equivalent of those two players? I believe three players would have matched Carson and Gelinas. Adam Oates, Petr Klima, and Joe Murphy could have gone to Detroit for Wayne Gretzky. Oates and Klima were just coming off of a great playoff against Edmonton. Joe Murphy was a former first overall pick that still had a lot of upside at the time. Klima and Murphy (and Adam Graves)would later go to Edmonton for Jimmy Carson and Kevin McClelland in 1989. Add in the cash and draft picks and there may have been a deal.

Now the trade between Detroit and Edmonton stands at Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski, and Marty McSorley for Adam Oates, Petr Klima, Joe Murphy, $15 million, and first round draft picks in 1989, 1991, and 1993. Sounds like a good deal, but let’s look at who Detroit drafted in those years. In 1989, the Red Wings drafted Mike Sillinger in the first round. He had a great career, but was traded in 1995 and never made much of an impact in Detroit. In 1991, the Red Wings took Martin Lapointe in the first round. Lapointe played a crucial role in the 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cup runs. In 1993, Detroit drafted Anders Eriksson in the first round. Eriksson was a top defensive prospect for Detroit in the mid- to late-90’s and played in the back-to-back finals runs in 1997 and 1998. Eriksson was also traded for Chris Chelios in 1999. Chelios played a role in the 2002 and 2008 Cups as well.

Now the trade stands at Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski, and Marty McSorley for Adam Oates, Petr Klima, Joe Murphy, $15 million, Mike Sillinger, Martin Lapointe, and Anders Eriksson. There’s no telling if Edmonton would have drafted those players, but let’s assume so for the sake of this argument. Is this a trade we would want over 25 years later knowing the outcome? No, but we could not have predicted the future back then. Here is a quick look at what the 1988-89 Red Wings could have looked like:Projected 1988-89 Lines with Gretzky

The 1988-89 Red Wings finished 11th in the league that year, while Los Angeles finished 7th. Because Detroit finished 11th that year, they were able to draft a few good players in the draft. Those players were Sillinger, Bob Boughner, Nick Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Dallas Drake, and Vladimir Konstantinov. Those players may not have been available when and if Detroit finished with a better record with Gretzky on the team. The same can be said about players drafted in later drafts like Keith Primeau, Slava Kozlov, Lapointe, Jamie Pushor, Chris Osgood, Mike Knuble, Darren McCarty, Dan McGillis, Eriksson, Mathieu Dandenault, and Tomas Holmstrom.

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Another argument against the Gretzky trade is what if Steve Yzerman could not develop the way he did with Gretzky as the star of the team? He could have asked for a trade elsewhere where he could have been the star. Gretzky and company producing a better record could have kept Jacques Demers as the coach in Detroit for a longer amount of time as well. That would mean that Scotty Bowman may never have come to Detroit.

It’s cool to think that Wayne Gretzky could have been a Red Wing, but the repercussions of the trade would not have been worth it knowing what we know now. I’m thankful Wayne went to LA and won zero Cups while Yzerman and company stayed in Detroit and eventually won four Cups since.

Red Wings Gameday vs. Pittsburgh

Johan Franzen scores for the Red Wings

Photo courtesy of Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Tonight the Red Wings take on the Penguins in a playoff preview. Detroit and Pittsburgh will most likely be seeded seventh and second, respectively, in the playoffs in two weeks. There is still some hatred left over from the 2008 and 2009 finals and the two teams will try to set the tone for the matchup tonight.

Both Detroit and Pittsburgh have be riddled by injuries this season, but have had players returning the lineup recently. Pittsburgh is expected to have Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Olli Maatta, and Kris Letang back in the lineup tonight after missing time. It will be nice to see Letang back on the ice after suffering a stroke in January. It’s speaks to a hockey player’s toughness to overcome something like that, even if they do play for the Penguins. The Red Wings will look to find more chemistry in the lineup tonight heading into the playoffs.

Here are the expected lineups for tonight per DailyFaceoff:

DetroitDetroit Lines April 9, 2014

PittsburghPittsburgh Lines April 9, 2014

What to watch for tonight:

-Will Luke Glendening continue to get under the skin of Sidney Crosby and James Neal. Him shutting down Pittsburgh’s top forwards is crucial to winning tonight and the first round of the playoffs.

-Can Detroit’s penalty kill keep Pittsburgh’s power play off of the scoresheet. Minimizing penalties is one way to shut them down, but if the Red Wings take penalties, can their PK stop Crosby, Neal, Letang, Kunitz, and company?

-Can the Red Wings’ power play capitalize? 0-for against Buffalo isn’t very good and will need to be better against Pittsburgh. Power plays can win a playoff series.

-Can Mike Babcock keep ideal matchups against tonight? Pittsburgh will have home ice advantage and last change tonight and in the playoffs. Can the Red Wings match up well to shut down Pittsburgh’s offense, while providing offense of their own?

-Will Gustav Nyquist score? IT’S BEEN TOO LONG WITHOUT A GOOSE GOAL.

Check back tomorrow for a #tbt throwback to a huge trade that almost was.

 

Top 9 Assists Leaders

The Red Wings have had their fair share of playmakers throughout their history. This list only includes assists while in a Red Wings jersey, so guys like Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Modano, and Brett Hull will not qualify for this Top 9. Should’ve spent more time in Detroit, guys. Maybe someone should create a list of top players to make cameo appearances in Detroit…

Here are Detroit’s Top 9 for career assists:

9. Ted Lindsay– 393 Assists

Ted Lindsay

Photo courtesy of the Windsor Star

8. Henrik Zetterberg– 409 Assists

Henrik Zetterberg

Photo courtesy of AP

7. Norm Ullman– 434 Assists

Norm Ullman

Photo courtesy of redwings.nhl.com

6. Pavel Datsyuk– 512 Assists

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo courtesy of AP

5. Sergei Fedorov– 554 Assists

Sergei Fedorov

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

4. Alex Delvecchio– 825 Assists

Alex Delvecchio

Photo courtesy of Denis Brodeur/NHLI/Getty Images

3. Nicklas Lidstrom– 878 Assists

Nicklas Lidstrom

Photo courtesy of Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

2. Gordie Howe– 1023 Assists

Gordie Howe

Photo courtesy of Water Iooss Jr./SI

1. Steve Yzerman– 1063 Assists

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

 

Playing a Two-Way Game

Alex Ovechkin

Photo courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Alex Ovechkin is a polarizing figure around the NHL. No, he is not a Red Wing, but does have a place in this blog. Here’s why: Steve Yzerman was once in a similar situation as Ovechkin.

Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, our beloved captain lit up the scoreboard, but the Red Wings never were legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup. They reached the Campbell Conference (Western Conference) Finals in 1987 and 1988 only to be eliminated quickly by the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers won the Cup both years because Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier could do anything they wanted on the ice. Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey (only in 1987), Craig Simpson, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, and Grant Fuhr also “contributed.” Detroit did not return to the conference finals until 1995.

In 1993, Yzerman was approached by newly-appointed coach Scotty Bowman. He wanted Yzerman to focus more on his defensive game in order to help develop the team. Bowman said the points would come, but not as often as they usually did. However, his contributions playing well in the defensive zone would more than compensate for the loss in production. Yzerman could have easily said no and continued to score at will. He reached 100 points in each of his previous six seasons.

Instead, Steve decided to focus more on the defensive side.

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of AP

Now, the leader of the team and leading scorer was playing a more defensive style of hockey and it began to rub off on the rest of the team. Detroit continued to score as well. Sergei Fedorov and Ray Sheppard each had 50 goal seasons. Fedorov bought in as well and won the Selke Trophy that year. He would win it again in 1996.

Scotty Bowman taught superstar players that how to play defense and continue scoring, even if it was at a slower pace than they are used to. That has rubbed off on Red Wings players since then. Guys like Yzerman, Fedorov, Kris Draper, Darren McCarty, Keith Primeau, Dallas Drake, Slava Kozlov, and Martin Lapointe were on that 1993-94 Red Wings team that Scotty Bowman influenced. The next four years produced incredible results stemming from a defensive system. Detroit reached the finals in 1995, set a record for regular season wins in 1996, and won the Stanley Cup in 1997 and 1998.

All of those players are now retired. However, the way they played the game rubbed off on younger players. Last I heard, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were two of the best two-way players in the NHL. Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary also got a chance to play with Steve Yzerman and learn the ropes of defensive hockey. Now, guys like Gustav Nyquist, Darren Helm, Luke Glendening, and Tomas Tatar are all playing strong defensively (some more than others though).

Getting back to Ovechkin – he needs to change his style. As of this morning, he is -35 on the season with 74 points. He only has 38 points at even strength. That means that 73 goals have been scored while he has been on the ice. That number is absolutely absurd. He is a right wing, so his contributions to the defensive end may not be as crucial, but the problem is not the Caps defense, centers, and goalies. If someone is not covered in the defensive zone, everyone overcompensates to cover, often leaving their man. This scramble usually results in a goal against.

Will adopting a more defensive style work? Dale Hunter tried that a few seasons ago, but him and Ovechkin were often feuding and they did not advance far in the playoffs. Perhaps a change of players and management in DC will produce better results, even if Ovechkin’s numbers decline. Ask Steve Yzerman what meant more, three Stanley Cups or putting up 100 points every season? In a crazy hypothetical situation, I’m sure Yzerman would have had no problem refraining from scoring if it meant Stanley Cups in Detroit.

Thank you Scotty Bowman for changing the Detroit Red Wings culture to a more accountable one that continues today. Thank you Steve Yzerman for the selflessness that led Detroit to three Stanley Cups.

Red Wings’ Prospect Update

With NCAA and junior teams in their playoffs now, let’s take a look at how Red Wings’ prospects fared during the regular season. By now, we all know that Anthony Mantha, the Red Wings’ first round pick from last year, tore up the QMJHL this past season. How well did everyone else play though?

Red Wings Prospects

Stats provided by Hockeydb.com

 

Quick Intelligence:

-Anthony Mantha was named the MVP of the QMJHL. His 120 points topped the league this season.

Zach Nastasiuk, Marc McNulty, and Jake Paterson were all called up to Grand Rapids once their junior seasons ended. Nastasiuk was also named the second best shot blocker in the OHL.

Colin Campbell signed with Detroit once his season at Lake Superior ended. He was assigned to Grand Rapids, where he likely play next year.

Hampus Melen was shut down for the season after just 11 games. He developed a fatigue ailment that would not allow him to compete.

Marek Tvrdon started the season playing for Grand Rapids and Toledo before being returned to Kelowna of the WHL to finish the season. He will get another chance next season to prove himself at the professional level.

Tyler Bertuzzi season was shortened due to a neck injury. However, he returned to Guelph’s lineup for their playoff run.

Rasmus Bodin’s season was hampered by chronic hip and back injuries. It appears that Detroit is unlikely to sign him with doubts about his ability to play in higher levels.

 

Red Wings’ MASH Unit

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo courtesy of Carlos Osorio/AP.

It is expected that Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson will return to the Red Wings’ lineup today after missing time. Alfredsson only missed one game and Datsyuk has been out since the Winter Classic for the most part. It’s great that the team is getting healthy in time for the playoffs, but one thing I wonder is what if the team was completely healthy this season?

Generally speaking, teams like Anaheim, Boston, and Colorado have all had decent luck when it came to injuries this season, though no team can make it through the season completely unaffected by injuries. What if Detroit had that same luck? What if Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericsson, Stephen Weiss, and Darren Helm had been healthy and played around 70 games up to this point?

Could today’s lineup look like this instead?

Lineup

 

What are the consequences of having a healthy team?

  1. Tired players- Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Alfredsson, and Todd Bertuzzi are getting up there and need rest to be at the top of their games. If they had played an entire season, would they be fresh for the playoffs?
  2. Nyquist’s development- Gustav Nyquist would not have been thrust into the spotlight without the injuries to key players. He may not have even been called up as soon as he was. Would he be on the same current hot streak?
  3. The Kid Line’s chemistry and progress- The line of Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Jurco would have never gelled and become the offensive force it is now. Maybe “offensive force” is too strong, but the line produces. Tatar would have played third line with minimal power play ice time, while Sheahan and Jurco would still be in Grand Rapids.
  4. Early ice time for young players- Would Sheahan, Jurco, Luke Glendening, Mitch Callahan, Adam Almquist, Landon Ferraro, Teemu Pulkkinen, Xavier Ouellet, or Alexey Marchenko crack the Red Wings’ lineup this year? Their playing time this season was incredibly valuable to their development.
  5. No Legwand- This is a toss up. David Legwand has certainly helped the Red Wings spark their offensive and has found some chemistry at times with Franzen and Nyquist. I highly doubt Detroit would have acquired him if Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Weiss, and Helm weren’t all injured at the Trade Deadline. Unfortunately for Detroit, Calle Jarnkrok has been playing well for Nashville and is showing signs that he will develop into the top-six talent Red Wings’ scouts pegged him as. Patrick Eaves was a great penalty-killer in Detroit, but did not have much of an impact otherwise (besides a few shootout goals).

At this point, are these injuries hurting the team or a blessing in disguise?

The All-Time Red Wings Team

All-time team

Photo courtesy of Carlos Osorio/AP

I have often thought of who would be selected for an all-time greatest Red Wings team. This would be a team that would combine the greatest players from today, my childhood, my dad’s childhood, and even when his dad was growing up. Imagine Steve Yzerman skating the puck into the offensive zone, walking around a defenseman, and dishing the puck off to Gordie Howe, who one-times it into the back of the net. What if Bob Probert was called for a roughing penalty and Kris Draper and Ted Lindsay were sent out as the forwards of the penalty kill with Nicklas Lidstrom and Marcel Pronovost on defense?

I have always known who I would select for my all-time greatest team. In Fall of 2012, Eklund, over at Hockeybuzz, put together a content strategy that had his blog readers vote on the members of each teams’ all-time greatest team. They would compete in simulated games on NHL 2013 after each player would uploaded with the appropriate ratings to create a buzz during the lockout. Detroit’s roster had all of the obvious choices – guys like Yzerman, Howe, Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, and Terry Sawchuk, plus a few questionable choices.

Take a look at my team, the Hockeybuzz team, and a team composed of the top scorers by position and decide who you think best exemplifies the Red Wings’ all-time best.

Red Wings Intelligence Team:RWI Team

Hockeybuzz Team:Hockeybuzz Team

Top Scorers Team:
Top Scoring Team