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Offense With and Without Henrik Zetterberg

Henrik Zetterberg

Photo courtesy of AP

Two goals in two games is not where the Detroit offense would like to be heading back to Detroit for Games 3 and 4. Although the Red Wings managed to win with only one goal in Game 1, they cannot win the series by winning three more games by that 1-0 score. Most every player has at least one thing to work on for Game 3, one simple solution fans are calling for is for Henrik Zetterberg to return to the lineup.

Zetterberg has been out since the Olympic Break following back surgery and has been skating with the team recently. Ken Holland previously said that Z (and Jonathan Ericsson) would be out for the first round and may be back for the second round. Fans are still hoping that they will make an appearance against Boston. I am one of those fans, but have reservation about Zetterberg returning possibly too soon.

Players play hurt in the NHL playoffs all the time. I’m positive that Zetterberg wants none other than to be out there with the guys and beat the Bruins. Team Doctors monitoring their patient and owners monitoring their investment may say otherwise. Zetterberg will return as soon as he can, but when exactly will that be? And when he does, what will happen?

Bad News (Bruins)-

  1. Too soon? Back surgery recovery is nothing to mess with. Zetterberg could not even get out of his bed after Sweden’s first game in Sochi. He was in a lot of pain before and needs to fully recover so nothing lingers.
  2. Bruins’ Defense. Boston features big, strong defense. Torey Krug may not fit that mold, but the rest do. Henrik likes to be a little physical while playing to get to the net. He will take a beating from Boston’s D that might aggrevate his back. Would it be worth it for Z to return for a few games, but hurt his back again?
  3. Someone comes out of the lineup. Who gets scratched if Zetterberg returns? Legwand? Miller? Jurco? If it was my guess, I would think David Legwand would be scratched first. Tomas Jurco had a great Game 2 and is playing a physical game against the big Bruins. He hasn’t done much offensively or on the power play, but neither have Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, or Daniel Alfredsson. Drew Miller may not be the most skilled player, but he has played well on the penalty kill. No matter who comes out, each has a reason to stay in and Mike Babcock will have a tough decision. The decision to play a healed Henrik Zetterberg is an easy one though.

Good News-

  1. More offense. Zetterberg’s return to the lineup obviously brings more offense. He won the Conn Smythe trophy in 2008 and almost led the team in scoring this season, despite missing nearly half of the games. His point-per-game scoring rate will help our sputtering offense immediately.
  2. Leadership. When a team sees their captain come back from injury and give his all, they will be inspired. The 2002 Red Wings did it for Steve Yzerman. It holds true for any level of hockey. When a captain returns to the lineup and shows more grit than anyone on the ice, the team will follow suit and play their hearts out for him. Z has that sort of respect in the locker room.
  3. Wake up others. Zetterberg’s return will create a competition to not be the one who is scratched. There are plenty of options at this point, so the boys will be on their game for Game 3. In addition, Zetterberg’s offensive skills will create room for others on the ice. It’s apparent when Pavel Datsyuk is on the ice that the Bruins leave others alone to neutralize him. In Game 2 when Datsyuk threw the nasty backhand sauce to a trailing Brendan Smith, the replay showed four Bruins within three feet of Datsyuk with two guys trailing wide open. Datsyuk can create offense and so can Zetterberg.

 

In the meantime, Detroit needs to learn to score and create offense against Boston without him. They have been doing it for most of the year anyway. If the Red Wings can dictate the pace, they can win and let Zetterberg rest up. Game 3 needs to be played like Game 1 for Detroit to go anywhere. Let’s see it, Red Wings.

Detroit Red Wings Playoff Hockey: More Than Just a Game

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo courtesy of Marc DesRosiers/USA Today Sports

It’s gameday.

Today is the return of Red Wings playoff hockey. For the 23rd year in a row, Detroit’s beloved hockey team will begin its quest for the Stanley Cup.

Legends of the game have donned the Winged Wheel in pursuit of the most glorious trophy in sports. Some have succeeded, while others have failed. However, every year there is an optimistic feeling entering the playoffs, no matter what the circumstances are. Biased? Maybe.

As a Red Wings fans, I’ve seen it all. We have been the number one seed and captured the Cup. We have also been the number one seed and have been eliminated in the first round. Anything is possible.

We have seen the highs. “McCarty draws. McCarty in. McCarty…SCORES! A magnificent goal! Darren McCarty!” We’ve seen Igor Larionov, the oldest player on the ice, shelf a backhand over a sprawling Arturs Irbe in triple overtime. We’ve seen Steve Yzerman (three times) and Nicklas Lidstrom hoist the Stanley Cup while the Red Wings faithful erupt in a euphoria unlike any other.

We have seen the lows too. Both Yzerman and Lidstrom had their careers come to a close after a disappointed first round upset. We’ve seen the New Jersey Devils sweep the Red Wings in the finals after Detroit had steamrolled everyone in their path. We’ve seen Claude Lemieux smash Kris Draper’s face in. On top of that, the Avalanche eliminating the Red Wings after a record-setting 62 wins during the regular season to advance to the finals was a tough pill to swallow.

Vladimir Konstantinov

Photo courtesy of Al Bello/Getty Images

Emotion does not quite capture the feeling of Red Wings fans during playoff season. Though we are away from the players in the stands or through the TV at home, we are there with the players feeling what they feel. Hockeytown’s reaction to the 1997 Stanley Cup championship was equivalent to Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, and the rest of the team celebrating on the ice after overcoming so many obstacles during the season.

Nothing can compare to the way hockey players feel after winning a championship. Hockeytown knows that feeling though, even if we are not on the ice with them. The feeling after losing a crucial game and having your season end is one of the worst, most gut-wrenching emotions every hockey player will endure. Detroit knows that feeling as well. But every year, we hope and pray for that championship elation at the end of the playoffs. Addiction? Possibly.

As the 2014 playoffs begin, we ready ourselves for a familiar setting, even if some things are different. Sure, Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson are out of the lineup, but can that stop Detroit? No. We are the eighth seed playing the President’s Trophy-winning Bruins. Is that a problem? No, Edmonton eliminated us in a similar circumstance in 2006. We might as well have the top seed with all the confidence the Red Wings and fans have entering the first round.

Best of luck, Detroit. We are all behind you and cannot wait to see the Red Wings on top at the end of the pursuit.

Let’s go Red Wings.

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?

Looking into the Future: 2018 Lineup

After really thinking about how prospects like Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, and Petr Mrazek are getting a chance to prove themselves earlier than expected, I began to wonder what the lineup would look like when those players were in their prime. Five years from now, the current batch of prospects would be in their mid- to late-20s and hopefully will be mainstays in the Red Wings’ lineup.

Below is a depth chart of how I think the Red Wings lineup will look in five years. All of the players are in the organization, as I cannot predict who will get traded or let go in another way. Note: Pavel Datsyuk will not be playing in the 2018-19 season, unless he decides to follow in the footsteps of Igor Larionov and play until he is 44.

2018 Lineup

2018-19 Projected Lineup

It was tough to predict the future.

Only Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, and Jimmy Howard are under contract for that season currently. Everyone else will be on a new contract than the one they are currently signed under.

I surely hope Anthony Mantha is dominating the NHL by then. He has the makings of a goal-scoring power forward and would fit well with an aged playmaker in Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist in his prime.

Defense is a huge question mark in my opinion. I can see Brendan Smith or Brian Lashoff not being on the team in 2018, though I hope they are unless they are traded for even better players. Luckily, Detroit has a great batch of prospects on defense are could afford to lose Smith and/or Lashoff. Even some of the prospects could be dealt. Guys like Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, Ryan Sproul, Mattias Backman, and Adam Almquist should all be NHL-ready by 2018, it’s just a matter of who is with the Red Wings, in the minors, or elsewhere in the NHL.

Players I am hoping will be in the lineup: Zetterberg, Mantha, Marchenko, Mrazek, Pulkkinen.

Players who could be traded by 2018: Franzen, Howard, Smith, Jurco, any defenseman prospect.