A Real Hockey Game this Weekend: Grand Rapids vs. Quad City

I made it out to my first Grand Rapids Griffins game last night, making sure that the only hockey game I watch this weekend will be one with some meaning. I won’t pretend to know what’s happening with the Griffins this season but here are a few thoughts on the game against the Quad City Flames…

Grand Rapids played a lot like Detroit has this season. Seemingly little effort through the first 40 minutes only to turn it on for the third period and get the late win (this one in a shootout).

The game was very sloppy even compared to a bad Wings game. Former Wing Garret Stafford (now with the Dallas organization but assigned to Grand Rapids for a second year) had a horrible time holding the puck in at the point.

I have to wonder how much the ice conditions were affected by the extra intermission activities that you see in lower-tier leagues. The 17-minute intermission and two zambonis are supposed to be used to get the ice set for as long as possible before the start of the next period but when you use that time for other things you’re going to get bad ice.

The Griffins played a solid game defensively, they allowed a lot of shots but most of them were low-quality chances. Even the one goal against barely snuck through Daniel Larsson.

Larsson proved why he’s an AHL All-Star, stopping 34 shots and all three chances he faced in the shooutout.

Mattias Ritola has been labeled as “lazy” in the past and there were a few shifts last night where it showed. In the third period there was a chance for him to go to the front of the net but he stayed back in the corner, meaning he was out of position. He scored in the shootout, though, for a little bit of redemption. He also had an apparent goal in the second period that turned out to have gone off the post.

Ville Leino was the best skater on the ice. It looks like he might be having trouble in traffic but he was moving the puck well and getting to where he needed to be. He scored the Griffins’ only regulation goal by being in the right spot to put home a rebound chance on a power play. His shootout goal was beautiful.

Aaron Downey looked out of place for most of the game but it seemed like he was ready to drop the gloves with Kris Chucko. Chucko was running people and getting his elbows up all night. A third period elbow by Chucko that went ignored combined with a bad missed interference call on Quad City goalie Matt Keetley convinced me that AHL refs can be just as bad as NHL ones.

Malik also has some notes on the game.

My photos from the game have been posted to the multimedia section.

Final? Thoughts on All-Star Game Nonsense

I don’t want to continue talking about an exhibition game I’m not going to watch but I feel the need to point out a couple more things about the whole Nicklas Lidstrom / Pavel Datsyuk skipping the All-Star Game.

One of my early complaints was that no Red Wings were selected to replace Lidstrom and Datsyuk. Sports Illustrated reports that the NHL did ask for Wings replacements. Specifically, Brian Rafalski and Marian Hossa were asked and declined, citing plans made after they found out they weren’t on the team.

Now, I still contend that the NHL could have gone down the list and also asked Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson, showing that they were trying as hard to make sure Detroit was represented as they did to represent Colorado and St. Louis. I don’t blame them too much, though so I retract my original complaint.

The more important note was pointed out in the comments at A2Y by AndrewFromAnnArbor before I had a chance to post it myself so I have to give him some credit.

The clause in the NHL standard player contract that relates to All-Star Game participation reads as follows:

2. The player agrees to give his services and to play hockey in all NHL Games, All-Star Games, International Hockey Games, and Exhibition games to the best of his ability under the direction and control of the club in accordance with the provisions hereof.

Key line there? “[U]nder the direction and control of the club.” The player’s contract is with the team, not with the league, and it is the team that decides whether or not the player will play in the All-Star Game. The Red Wings have decided that Lidstrom and Datsyuk will not play, to me the league has no place to say anything about it.

Of course, you can argue that the league isn’t penalizing the players, they’re penalizing the team. In an incredibly odd move, Lidstrom and Datsyuk won’t actually be suspended, they just won’t be allowed to play. This means that the Wings will get no cap relief from their missed game and won’t be able to call anyone up to replace them. If Brad Stuart and Johan Franzen are still injured come Tuesday, the Red Wings will have to play two men down because they don’t have the ability to call anyone up.

My opinion? If the week off means Datsyuk and Lidstrom are healed by Tuesday, the Wings should play them and force the NHL’s hand. Either suspend the players or don’t, none of this “We’re not suspending them, we’re just not allowing them to play” idiocy.

More on the All-Star Mess

The buzz all day has been that Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk will be suspended one game for missing the All-Star Game this weekend.

Honestly, I have no words for this. Malik has a couple posts about it. For those in a more embittered mood, Bill at A2Y has words as well.

I heard NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly on NHL Home Ice on my way home, only caught a few minutes before turning it off lest I run someone off the road. His line was (and I’m paraphrasing) that for whatever reason, if a player needs to rest over the All-Star break then they need to rest for a regular season game, too.

Great, now we’ve got the NHL telling us how injured our players are. Fantastic.

Third Jerseys and History Lessons

Malik pointed out this morning that there’s a post over at icethetics announcing that the Blackhawks will use their Winter Classic jerseys as alternates next season.

At the end of the icethetics post the following is asked:

My question to you is this: Should the Detroit Red Wings follow suit and add their Winter Classic sweater as a third jersey to be worn at, say, 5 or 6 games a year?

I’m a bit of a traditionalist so I have no burning desire for the Red Wings to have an alternate jersey. I also don’t hate the idea and the Winter Classic jersey is beautiful. It looks sharp, it acknowledges a part of the team’s history that’s usually ignored, I added one to my collection as soon as I could. There’s just one problem.

It’s wrong.

I’ve started on rants about this before and stopped because I realize it’s a big history lesson for something relatively minor. I almost wrote this when the Winter Classic jerseys were announced but I let it slide as a one-game thing. If anyone is remotely thinking about these jerseys being worn on a more regular basis, though, I have to point things out.

The Old English D that the Red Wings have trademarked and was worn on the front of their Winter Classic jerseys is not the one that the Detroit Cougars wore at Border Cities Arena during the 1926-27 season.

Take a look at the following photos from the Cougars’ inaugural media guide (and if anyone happens to know where they came from, drop me a line so I can give proper credit):

Of the eight players shown there, only one is wearing the streamlined D used in the Red Wings’ “vintage” merchandise. The rest are wearing a different D (not-coincidentally, one similar to the one you see in DetroitHockey.Net’s logos).

Before the market for authentic team apparel took off, plenty of teams across a variety of leagues and sports would wear uniforms that were only vaguely uniform, so it’s not a surprise to see players on the same team with slightly different sweaters. Without the technology to make everything identical, that’s something that has to be expected, so it’s not my complaint.

My complaint is that the version of the D that seems to have been the Cougars’ intended crest was ignored in favor of a version that was worn much less. To me, that constitutes rewriting history and it just rubs me the wrong way, especially coming from an organization that continues to ignore the contributions of the Cougars’ best player.

So if there’s going to be an alternate jersey for the Red Wings, the Winter Classic one is a good choice. I just wish they’d get the crest right.

Some-Stars Game

As has been reported several places today, Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk will be missing the All-Star Game in Montreal this weekend due to injury.

From Khan…

Datsyuk sustained a hip flexor during the third period of Tuesday’s 6-3 loss in Phoenix. Lidstrom, who scored two goals, finished the game, but apparently is still bothered by the ankle injury that caused him to miss two games Dec. 27-30, after he blocked a shot in Nashville.

I find it extremely interesting that the NHL made such a big deal about getting representatives from all 30 teams onto the rosters, only to replace the two Detroit representatives with a Star and a Shark in Stephane Robidas and Patrick Marleau.

Maybe Henrik Zetterberg and Marian Hossa declined the opportunity, like Brian Rafalski did last year (and I assume did again this year). Do you really mean to tell me, though, that Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson turned down the chance to go? Before you say they don’t deserve it, know that they both have similar or better stats than Colorado All-Star representative Milan Hejduk.

While I hate the NHL’s hypocrisy on the issue, it’s actually a relief for me. Snubbing the Wings means that I won’t be watching the game, which gives me three hours that I didn’t expect to have this weekend.

Good Thing for the All-Star Break

The NHL All-Star break is coming at a good time. The Red Wings’ weak effort tonight makes them look like they could use the rest and the injuries to Johan Franzen, Brad Stuart, and Pavel Datsyuk only compound the need for time off.

That’s all I’ve got for tonight. Maybe I’ll do some big midseason wrap-up over the break. Or maybe I’ll take a vacation of my own. We’ll see.

Red Wings – Kings Pregame Notes

A little early to kick things off for a 10:30 start but I already mentioned being sick and I’m afraid that if I don’t do it now I might forget to do it at all.

The Red Wings have a series of lineup changes coming up for tonight’s matchup with the Kings, as Ty Conklin, Chris Chelios and Kirk Maltby all get into the game.

Conklin backed up Chris Osgood in Anaheim last night but Maltby and Chelios were both healthy scratches. Chelios replaces Brett Lebda on the blue line and Maltby retakes his spot on the fourth forward unit after Meech had it last night.

Lebda did not play for the final 27:42 in Anaheim, replaced by Meech after the latter returned from an injury. It would appear that he is either injured or in coach Mike Babcock‘s dog house.

Conklin Blanks Kings for Wings’ Second-Straight Win

Detroit goaltender Ty Conklin stopped all 23 shots he faced Thursday night, leading the Red Wings to a 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

The Wings’ fourth liners contributed half of their team’s scoring as Kirk Maltby scored the game’s first goal and Kris Draper added the game’s final tally.

“We were able to do some good things, cycle the puck,” Draper said. “It’s nice to be able to chip in. Not every night it’s going to happen, but we have to be a little more consistent. Now, hopefully we have something to build off.”

Maltby, who had sat out the previous game as a healthy scratch, scored at 7:40 of the first period, banging in the rebound from Draper’s wraparound attempt on LA goalie Jonathan Quick.

Draper’s goal also came from the front of the net as she slammed home a pass from Tomas Kopecky with 6:01 left in the second period.

In between those goals, Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson scored for Detroit.

Franzen scored with 3:16 left in the first on a tap-in to the open side of the net on a pass from Henrik Zetterberg with the Red Wings on a power play.

Samuelsson beat Quick on a one-timer from the side of the net at 9:43 of the second period.

With the win, the Red Wings remain unbeaten in regulation through the first three games of their five-game western road trip.