Wings Defenseman Rafalski Retires

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski announced his retirement on Wednesday, ending an eleven-year NHL career.

“This was probably the most challenging season of my career, physically, mentally, emotionally,” Rafalski said during a Joe Louis Arena press conference.

Rafalski missed time during the 2010-11 campaign with back and knee injuries, limiting him to only 63 games played, the fewest in his career.

He said he made the decision with his wife two months ago.

In 833 regular season games played, Rafalski totalled 79 goals and 436 assists for 515 points.

Rafalski never missed the playoffs in his career, making the postseason in each of his seven years with the New Jersey Devils and then four more times with Detroit. He won three Stanley Cups in that time, two with the Devils and one with the Red Wings.

His route to the NHL was a unique one. After playing four seasons at the University of Wisconsin, Rafalski went undrafted. He headed to Europe, proving himself over four seasons in Sweden and Finland before New Jersey signed him as a free agent in 1999.

A Dearborn native, Rafalski came to the hometown Red Wings in 2007 via free agency.

Outside of his NHL career, Rafalski made two Olympic appearances for the United States, helping the team to silver medals in 2002 and 2010.

Rafalski to Retire?

Twitter is abuzz with the news that Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski is set to retire.

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos broke the news via Twitter Monday afternoon, with TSN’s Darren Dreger and Craig Custance of the Sporting News confirming shortly thereafter.

The Detroit Free Press declares Rafalski as undecided, with Ken Holland quoted as saying the following:

I do know he’s doing a lot of thinking. I did meet with him at the end of the year. I’ve had conversations with him. For lack of better words, I do know he’s doing a lot of thinking about next year. HeĆ¢’s got to make some decisions. I haven’t talked to him in a week. He hasn’t told me he’s retiring.

There are rumors of a Wednesday press conference to announce the retirement.

Rafalski has one year remaining on the five-year contract he signed with Detroit in 2007. As he signed the deal before he turned 35, the $6 million he is due to make would not be applied to the team’s salary cap for next season.

McCrimmon Won’t Return to Red Wings’ Bench

TSN of Canada reports that Brad McCrimmon won’t return to the Detroit Red Wings’ bench next season.

McCrimmon has been an assistant coach with the team for the past three seasons, running the defensemen and the team’s penalty kill.

Detroit’s penalty kill finished the playoffs with a 76.1% success rate, in the bottom quarter of the league. For the 2010-11 regular season, the PK was ranked 17th of 30 NHL teams at 82.3%.

In his eighteen year NHL playing career, the defenseman spent three seasons with the Red Wings.

History Averted as Sharks Hold Off Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings failed to become the fourth-ever NHL team to rally to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games, dropping Game Seven of their Western Conference Semifinal matchup with the San Jose Sharks, 3-2.

The Sharks now advance to face the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Finals.

San Jose got out to a strong start, scoring twice in the first period to take an early lead.

Devin Setoguchi got the Sharks on the board with a power play goal with 7:40 remaining in the period. Joe Thornton got the puck in the right corner and sent a pass to a wide open Setoguchi jumping in from the left point for a slapper past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.

With 59 seconds left in the period, Logan Couture capitalized on a rare Henrik Zetterberg turnover at the side of the Detroit net to snap a shot past Howard, making it 2-0 at the end of the first.

The Red Wings woke up in the second period, taking control of the game and getting on the board.

Valtteri Filppula carried the puck down the right wing on a rush with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk went to the net while Filppula sent the puck across to Zetterberg, who cut into the slot and flung a backhander past Antti Niemi to make it 2-1 with 6:50 left in the middle frame.

Patrick Marleau restored San Jose’s two-goal lead in the third period. Dan Boyle worked the puck into the slot for a Setoguchi chance that Howard turned aside but as Setoguchi drove to the net, Marleau knocked in the rebound with 7:47 remaining.

Datsyuk made a game of it once more 1:46 later, skating down the right wing and backhanding a shot into the top corner of the net.

The Red Wings would be unable to tie things up with their season on the line, however, as the Sharks held on for the win.

Detroit did not score on four power play tries. San Jose went one-for-three with the man-advantage.

Howard stopped 27 of the 30 shots he faced in the Wings’ net while Niemi made 38 stops on 40 shots.

Johan Franzen did not play for Detroit. He was replaced in the lineup by Kris DraperTodd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary both left the game early and did not return due to injury.

Postgame Thoughts: Red Wings @ Sharks – Game Seven

Between Game Three and Game Four I said I didn’t think that the Red Wings would be able to come back to win their series with the Sharks. Unfortunately, I was right, but I couldn’t have predicted how close they would end up coming.

The Wings fought for their playoff lives for four games and came up a goal (two goals, technically) short. They won’t win the Stanley Cup this year but doing something that only seven teams had done before them – forcing a Game Seven after dropping the first three games of the series – is something to be proud of.

Detroit did not go quietly tonight, either. Their slow start doomed them – as playing less than sixty minutes has done all season – but they fought right down to the end. Without Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary, at that. There are positives to take away from this and they shouldn’t be forgotten.

In the end, though, it was a loss and there are negatives that come with that.

As I’ve already said, losing on Patrick Marleau‘s goal makes it particularly bitter. Not because it’s Marleau but because it was scored with Devin Setoguchi in the crease, in contact with Jimmy Howard. I don’t know if I really think it warranted a goalie interference call but I flash back to a night in Nashville two months ago when Detroit had a goal called back for so much less and it just bothers me.

That said, the play never should have happened. Niklas Kronwall never should have gotten caught out of position. Jiri Hudler should have blocked the pass. Cascading failures that ended a season.

I’ve never been big on post-mortem write-ups but maybe I’ll put something together this year. At the very least, there will be more news and updates about the site coming up through the summer as DetroitHockey.Net’s 15th season continues until our birthday in September.

Pregame Notes: Red Wings @ Sharks – Game Seven

What do you want me to say at this point?

Either the Red Wings make history tonight or the Sharks recover and advance themselves. The previous six games don’t matter, we’re down to one now.

On the Detroit side, you say you have the advantage, riding the win streak. On the San Jose side, home ice is your advantage.

As per usual, keys for both teams are the same. Score early. Score often. Don’t get down if the other team scores first. Don’t take stupid penalties.

Game time is 9:00. Television is FSD in Detroit, Versus everywhere else in the US.

Red Wings Complete Comeback, Force Game Seven with 3-1 Win over Sharks

The Detroit Red Wings became just the eighth team in NHL history to rally from down 3-0 in a series and force Game Seven, defeating the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in Game Six Tuesday night.

The teams will meet in the deciding game of their Western Conference Semifinal matchup on Thursday night.

With their season on the line for the third consecutive game, the Red Wings dominated early but were unable to beat Sharks goalie Antti Niemi. Detroit outshot San Jose 32-13 through the first two period but the game was still scoreless heading into the third.

Logan Couture beat Jimmy Howard to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 3:54 of the closing period. After the Red Wings failed to clear their zone, Dany Heatley put a shot on net that Howard knocked aside. Couture swatted the rebound between Howard’s pads and it just barely crossed the goal line.

Henrik Zetterberg tied things up with 9:22 left in the period, tipping a Niklas Kronwall shot high over Niemi and into the top of the net.

Just 1:54 later, Valtteri Filppula took a feed from from Pavel Datsyuk at the top of the crease and tipped the puck past Niemi to put the Red Wings in front with 7:28 to play.

After Detroit killed a late penalty, Darren Helm added an empty net goal to finish off the game’s scoring and ensure that the series would return to San Jose.

Niemi finished the night with 42 saves on 44 shots. Howard made 24 saves on 25 chances.

Neither team scored a power play goal. Detroit had six chances with the extra attacker to San Jose’s four.

The Red Wings were without Johan Franzen for the game, out with a sore ankle that was aggravated in Game Five after a hit by Joe Thornton. Mike Modano replaced him in the lineup. Jiri Hudler was also swapped in for Kris Draper, while Jakub Kindl remained a healthy scratch on defense… The Sharks were without Ryane Clowe, who did not make the trip to Detroit. Ben Eager played in his place.

Postgame Notes: Sharks @ Red Wings – Game Six

Well, where do you wanna start?

I said back before Game Four, I didn’t think the Red Wings would be here right now. Not the way they were playing, not the way the Sharks were playing.

Detroit turned it around, though, and Game Six was an incredible example of that. Even when they couldn’t beat Niemi in the first two periods, even when Logan Couture beat Jimmy Howard early in the third, they never gave up. The Red Wings controlled play for virtually the entire game. This was their most dominant performance of the playoffs and it came when it was needed most.

The Detroit team that played in the first three games of the series wouldn’t have made this comeback. Tonight we saw the team we knew they could be, the potential they weren’t living up to.

And we saw some of the team the Sharks could be, too. Not the efficient, deep, team whose defense shut you down and offense ground you out. Tonight they were emotional and played scared. Their antics in the closing seconds show where their minds were.

Both of those could change by the time the puck drops on Game Seven. Neither team is going to go down without a fight. Whatever happens, though, I’m glad to have been wrong and to have gotten the chance to see this team show up.

Pregame Notes: Sharks @ Red Wings – Game Six

Big lineup changes for both teams as the Red Wings and Sharks meet for Game Six tonight.

Johan Franzen will be out for Detroit, having tweaked his already-sore ankle on a hit by Joe Thornton in Game Five. Franzen did not play in the third period on Sunday so this isn’t much of a surprise. He’ll be replaced by Mike Modano, who also took over for Franzen in Game Four of the opening round.

San Jose, meanwhile, will be without Ryane Clowe. Clowe didn’t make the trip to Detroit with the rest of the team. No word on exactly what’s wrong with him, there are some reports that he’s got the flu but there’s also a rumor that he was hurt when Niklas Kronwall hit him last game.

Keys to the game are similar for each team, as they have been all series. Early goals, strong goaltending, try to stay out of the penalty box.

In all likelihood, this is gonna be another close one. No reason to expect otherwise after five one-goal games.

Game time is 8:00. TV is FSD locally and Versus nationally.

Red Wings Rally to Force Game Six Against Sharks

Tomas Holmstrom capped a Red Wings’ comeback with 6:08 remaining in the third period Sunday night, deflecting a Nicklas Lidstrom shot to give Detroit a 4-3 lead over the San Jose Sharks.

The Sharks had led the game, 3-1, just a minute into the third period before the Red Wings scored three consecutive goals to rally for the win. Detroit has now won two games in a row while facing elimination.

Devin Setoguchi started the game’s scoring with 2:42 remaining in the first period, deflecting a Dan Boyle shot from the blue line past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard after a faceoff win by Joe Thornton in the Red Wings’ zone.

Joe Pavelski made it 2-0 with 4:28 left in the second tipping the puck past Howard from the top of the crease on a two-on-one with Ryane Clowe.

Just 53 seconds later, Niklas Kronwall responded for Detroit, snapping a shot from the right faceoff circle over Niemi off a feed from Pavel Datsyuk, getting the Red Wings on the board.

Logan Couture restored San Jose’s two-goal lead 54 seconds into the third period, skating in alone and backhanding a shot under Howard.

Detroit’s rally began with an unlikely source at 3:43 of the third. Just after the expiration of a power play, Jonathan Ericsson jumped into the slot and snapped a loose puck past Niemi to make it 3-2.

Danny Cleary jammed a puck home from the side of the net at 5:29 to tie things up.

Datsyuk started the play on the game-winner, spinning in the left circle to protect the puck before getting it out to Lidstrom up high. Lidstrom’s blast was tipped past Niemi by Holmstrom from right in front of the net, giving the Red Wings their first lead of the game.

Howard stopped 39 of the 42 shots he faced in keeping the Red Wings in it early and holding the lead late. Niemi made 18 saves on 22 shots for the Sharks.

Neither team scored a power play goal. Detroit had two tries with the extra attacker and San Jose had four.

Game Six will be at 8:00 PM on Tuesday from Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit’s healthy scratches were Mike Modano, Jiri Hudler and Jakub Kindl… Bothered by a sore ankle, Johan Franzen played only 9:19 and did not see the ice after the midway point of the game.

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