Third Period Collapse Dooms Red Wings in 5-2 loss to Ducks

A pair of goals in the first two minutes of the third period put the Detroit Red Wings in a hole Friday night and they were unable to recover, dropping a 5-2 decision to the visiting Anaheim Ducks.

Andrew Cogliano scored at 1:02 of the final period to give the Ducks a 3-2 lead. Cogliano picked off a Niklas Kronwall pass in the neutral zone and gave the puck to Saku Koivu on the right wing. Koivu passed it back through Kronwall to Cogliano in the slot for a tip past Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard for what would be the game-winning goal.

Just 38 seconds later, Bobby Ryan banged home the rebound of his own chance on an odd-man rush to put the Ducks up by a pair.

Cogliano closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal in the closing minutes, capitalizing when the Red Wings were unable to get through the neutral zone with the extra attacker.

After a scoreless first period, the Red Wings opened the scoring at 3:01 of the second. Defenseman Jakub Kindl got the puck in the high slot and fed rookie Joakim Andersson in the right circle to lift a shot over Anaheim goalie Viktor Fasth for his first career goal.

The Ducks countered 26 seconds later. Off a faceoff, Ryan Getzlaf gathered up the puck on the left wing boards and passed to Matt Beleskey all alone in the slot for a shot past Howard.

Rookie Tomas Tatar‘s second of the season put the Wings back in front at 6:32 of the period on a power play. Tatar picked up the rebound of a Damien Brunner chance from up high and skated it across the top of the crease, putting a shot into the open side of the net.

Again, the Ducks responded quickly, evening things up at 7:37. Wings defenseman Ian White held the puck behind the Detroit net as the team made a change but when he attempted to make an outlet pass, his stick snapped and the puck went straight to Beleskey. Beleskey sent it to Corey Perry, who got a couple chances from in close before knocking it past Howard.

Howard finished the night with 32 saves on 36 shots against. Fasth made 26 saves on 28 shots.

Detroit’s power play went one-for-four on the night with the penalty kill stopping all three Anaheim tries.

The Red Wings are back in action on Sunday when they visit the Minnesota Wild.

The Red Wings were without Pavel Datsyuk for the game, the latest injury to hit the team. With Datsyuk out, Gustav Nyquist was called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins.

On Andersson’s Call-Up and Playing the Kids

Last summer I wrote a bit about the myth of “playing the kids” as it pertains to the Red Wings lineup. I said at the time that defense, where Detroit’s prospect pool is shallow, is where the most opportunity for a young player to step in. Without injuries to the forward corp, there simply wouldn’t be room for players like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson or Riley Sheahan.

Well, injuries have happened. With Tatar already up (and Nyquist having been given a shot in the third game of the season), Andersson has gotten the call after it was revealed that Todd Bertuzzi would miss (at least) this weekend’s games with a bad back. The kids, it would seem, are getting their shot.

So why does this sit wrong with me?

Lets start by jumping back to Nyquist’s call-up on January 22. With Mikael Samuellson out of the lineup, a top-six forward spot opened up. The Red Wings had previously said that was exactly the type of opportunity that would be given to Nyquist and Tatar, as they’re skill players who are better served on Grand Rapids’ top line than Detroit’s bottom two lines. Nyquist got the call in this case, practiced on the second line with Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen, and began the game there. After two periods of what would be a 2-1 loss, though, head coach Mike Babcock juggled the lines and dropped Nyquist to the third line with Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller, Daniel Cleary having been bumped up to the second line. The next day, Nyquist was back in Grand Rapids, his shot in the Detroit top six having lasted forty minutes.

Bertuzzi, who had been expected to start the season on the third line, returned from the flu to take over the open spot in the top six in the Wings’ next game, with Cleary back down with Abdelkader and the also-returning Darren Helm. He held onto it until Tatar was called up for the February 5 game against Calgary. Like Nyquist before him, Tatar practiced on the second line (now consisting of Filppula and Pavel Datsyuk) and started the game there. Unlike Nyquist, Tatar lasted only 20 minutes in the top six before he and Bertuzzi swapped places. Also unlike Nyquist, Tatar got to stick around for a second game (and soon, a third), which he played entirely on the third line.

My problem is the disconnect between what we’ve been told about the team’s strategy and what we’ve actually seen. Mike Babcock and Ken Holland tell us that Nyquist and Tatar are ready for the NHL but that their games are suited for top-line play, so they’ll stay in the AHL until the opportunity arises. When said opportunity presents itself, they’re given less than a game to take advantage of it.

Some will say that they just need to take advantage of whatever opportunity they’re given. To a certain extent, that’s true. If these guys are scorers, however, you’re limiting their potential by having them play a bottom-six role. Nyquist or Tatar while centered by Datsyuk will be a vastly different player than while centered by Abdelkader, much as Datsyuk himself would be more limited on a line with Abdelkader and Miller rather than one with Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.

Now Bertuzzi is out of the lineup and Andersson gets the call. It’s early so we don’t know how Andersson fits into the Wings’ plans for tomorrow against Edmonton. If Tatar is back on the second line and Andersson slots in on the third line, I’ll actually have no problem with the move. My issue, though, is that Cleary practiced on the second line today, seemingly indicating that he’ll be bumped up and Tatar will remain on the third line.

For eight games there has been a hole on the second line, an opportunity that is seemingly made for Nyquist or Tatar. Combined, the pair has had one game to take advantage of that opportunity. That rubs me the wrong way.

For the record, I don’t believe that roster space is the reason not to have had Nyquist or Tatar up the entire time, as the team had no problem making Patrick Eaves a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Blues.

Talking to one of my co-workers the other day, he brought up an interesting point. Why do we talk in terms of a top six and a bottom six? If Nyquist and Tatar and Andersson are all so good and so ready, bring them up as a unit and think of it as a top nine and bottom three.

Yeah, it’s difficult because the Wings are absolutely overloaded at forward, especially “bottom six” forwards, so it’s not going to happen. It is interesting to think about, though, because it shows how much our thinking about the forward units has changed in the last ten years. Some of that is the salary cap but when did it become that both the third and fourth lines had to be checking lines?

Looking ahead to next season, this logjam at forward won’t get any better. Lets say next year will be the year that Nyquist and Tatar finally jump to the top six in Detroit. Barring a trade or a buyout and assuming everyone is healthy, the only way there’s even the roster space for that to happen is if Filppula and Damien Brunner don’t return next year.

Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen and Samuelsson are all under contract for next year. Filppula and Brunner are unrestricted free agents.

If you want to enable the top nine / bottom three idea next year, that’s not much easier. Of the current bottom six, only Cleary, Miller, and the currently-injured Jan Mursak are free agents.

Counting only from the 15 forwards who started the season with the Red Wings (in other words, excluding Nyquist, Tatar and Andersson), ten are already under contract for next year. There will only be room for opportunity if the team opts to let people walk.

Red Wings Assign 22 to Griffins

In advance of the NHL lockout expected to begin this weekend, the Detroit Red Wings assigned 22 players to the Grand Rapids Griffins, their afflilate in the American Hockey League.

The complete list of players assigned is as follows:

Adam Almqvist
Joakim Andersson
Louis-Marc Aubry
Damien Brunner
Mitch Callahan
Willie Coetzee
Landon Ferraro
Gleason Fournier
Tomas Jurco
Brian Lashoff
Thomas McCollum
Petr Mrazek
Andrej Nestrasil
Max Nicastro
Gustav Nyquist
Francis Pare
Trevor Parkes
Jordan Pearce
Brent Raedeke
Riley Sheahan
Brendan Smith
Tomas Tatar

Of those, only Pearce and Pare had needed to clear waivers, having done so earlier in the week.

On the Misguided Idea of Playing the Kids

In the aftermath of free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise having spurned an offer from the Red Wings to sign with the Minnesota Wild (and shortly thereafter, supposed Wings’ Plan B Matt Carle signing with Steve Yzerman‘s Tampa Bay Lightning), we’re hearing a lot about how Detroit should rebuild from within rather than signing free agents to replace their summer losses.

Red Wings’ GM Ken Holland himself has pushed that line of thinking.  I’ve already touched on his line of “There’s also got to be an opportunity for some of our kids and the guys we’ve just signed to play.”

That’s an idea that’s been espoused for some time by many fans.  With the constant idea that the Wings are too old and slow, there’s always a call to “just play the kids” and we’re seeing that again now.

There’s a problem with that idea this time around, though.

I’m not against playing the kids.  I want to see what Gustav Nyquist could do in a top-six role and I want to know whether or not Tomas Tatar is ready.  With Detroit’s current lineup, though, Nyquist and Tatar are going to start the season in Grand Rapids.

There are simply too many forwards on the Wings’ roster right now.  Up front is not where the kids will be given a chance.

Unless injuries happen, we’re not going to see Riley Sheahan ir Joakim Andersson.

It’s Detroit’s blueline that has holes.  Decimated by the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, the Wings’ defense is where there’s room for someone to step up and take a bigger role.  The problem?  The Wings have no defensive prospects to do that.

Brendan Smith will make the full-time jump to the big club next year but that was virtually a given at the end of last season.  Aside from him, there are no NHL-ready defensemen in the Red Wings’ system.

Gleason Fournier?  Spent most of last year (his first in the pros) in the ECHL.  Ryan Sproul?  Has yet to play a pro game.  Same for Xavier Ouellet.  Adam Almqvist has played all of three AHL games.  Max Nicastro will make his pro debut this season.  Travis Ehrhardt is an unrestricted free agent on his way out of the organization, as is Logan Pyett.  Brian Lashoff is entering his third pro season but I’ve heard exactly no one say he’s ready.

So there are no kids for the Wings to rely on here.  It’s a bigger role for Smith or Kyle Quincey or Jonathan Ericsson or Jakub Kindl.  Or all of them.  As of right now, two of those four will be in the Red Wings’ top four.

A trade could always happen that shakes things up.  As things are right now, however, “just play the kids” is not a solution to the Wings’ problems.

Hockeytown Shifts Gears To Watch Worlds: Americans Discover Yearly Hockey Tournament

Five games into the post season (one game short of my playoff tickets) and the Detroit Red Wings have done the unthinkable.

Started their golf season early – just not as early as the Leafs, Blue Jackets, etc.

The Detroit Red Wings have become the first team to be eliminated from the playoffs; which means no more hockey for Detroit fans to enjoy (well other than if the Flyers beat the Penguins).

All of the Detroit stars and done, gone, no more hockey until the fall right. Well maybe, but adds are that is not true either.

You see there is this “little” known hockey tournaments every year (well not on Winter Olympic years) called the IIHF World Championship; and guess what. NHL players are allowed to play.


Now that the Red Wings have been eliminated early there is a chance that some of them will be asked to join their native country in the tournament that is taking place split between Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland.

Currently none of the Red Wings have agreed to join their teams; however, other than for injury reasons I am sure a few may. Especially the Swedes and the Finn.

Team Sweden has gained Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Fabian Brunnstrom and Tomas Holmstrom to their potential player pool. I know Nicklas Lidstrom is a Swede, he was captain for Tre Kronor in the Vancouver Olympics; but The Perfect Human is still injured and I do not see him joining the team.

Event co-host Finland now has Valtteri Filppula available. Last year Finland won gold without Filppula; however with Mikko Koivu‘s injury during the NHL regular season and the loss of goaltender Niklas Backstrom to surgery Filppula is probably already receiving calls.

Russia has been lackluster in the international tournaments as of late and could use the help of Pavel Datsyuk; however, injury may keep the Magician off the ice.

Justin Abdelkader, Chris Conner, Doug Janik, Drew Miller, Jimmy Howard and Ty Conklin have become available for Team USA. With the horrible finish in last years tournament the USA needs a strong push this time around and hopefully Miller, Howard and Abdelkader can have a better ending to their season by helping out the national team.

Hockey Canada… Detroit gives to you Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary, Riley Sheahan, Garnet Exelby, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith, Corey Emmerton, Brad Stuart, and Ian White… if you shall choose.

To the Czech Republic Jiri Hudler and Jakub Kindl would be good additions to your team.

Tomas Tatar has seen two season end thus far but could still be a big part for Slovakia.

And Slovenia The Red Wings have given you Jan Mursak.

Now Detroit fans and National Team fans sit and wait to see who will be joining as the Red Wings clear out their lockers and scatter for what is the longest off-season they have had since before winning the cup in 2008.

Red Wings Transaction Recap

I haven’t touched on any of the Wings’ roster moves this week so here’s a quick recap, since a bunch more happened today…

Tuesday: With Tomas Holmstrom suffering a groin injury on Monday night in Nashville, Joakim Andersson was called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Wednesday: Jan Mursak was activated from the injured reserve and assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins for a conditioning stint.

Thursday: Tomas Holmstrom was placed on short-term injured reserve to make room on the roster for Gustav Nyquist. Nyquist was called up from Grand Rapids because Darren Helm is expected to miss the next two games with a groin injury.

So Andersson and Nyquist called up, Holmstrom and Helm injured, Mursak off IR but sent to GR.

Red Wings Rally for Win over Blues

The Detroit Red Wings scored three unanswered goals Tuesday night, rallying from down 2-0 for a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues.

Nicklas Lidstrom started Detroit’s comeback with a second-period power play goal. With 1:03 left in the period, Lidstrom’s shot from the left point found its way through traffic and past St. Louis goalie Brian Elliot to get the Red Wings on the board.

Pavel Datsyuk tied things up with 8:41 left in the third period, tipping an Ian White shot past Elliot while driving to the net.

Just 56 seconds later, Niklas Kronwall beat Elliot with a shot through traffic from the blue line for Detroit’s first lead.

The Blues had opened the game’s scoring at 6:51 of the first, when Matt D’Agostini tipped a Kevin Shattenkirk shot from the blue line past Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard while St. Louis was on a power play.

A second power play goal gave the Blues a 2-0 lead with 6:52 remaining in the second period. Jason Arnott‘s shot from the left point just slipped through Howard’s pads, but no one could see the puck free behind him. When play wasn’t blown dead, Alexander Steen jumped in and dug the puck out, knocking it into the net.

Each team had four power plays on the night. St. Louis scored twice with the extra skater while Detroit scored once.

Both of the goalies made 29 saves, with Elliot facing 32 shots and Howard facing 31.

The two teams will meet again on Sunday in the Detroit’s annual New Years’ Eve game. The Wings will next be in action the night before when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks.

Detroit was without forward Tomas Holmstrom, expected to miss a week with a groin injury. Joakim Andersson was called up from Grand Rapids to make his NHL debut in Holmstrom’s place.

Postgame: Blues @ Red Wings – 12/27

This game started out like the other two the Red Wings and Blues have played this season. St. Louis controlling the boards, Detroit unable to gain the zone, no offensive flow for the Wings.

The Red Wings ground it out as the game went on, though. They kept pushing into the Blues’ zone and started winning some battles, which led to getting some pucks on net. Nicklas Lidstrom got the Wings on the board with one such chance and from them on it was pretty much all Detroit.

Overall, it was a pretty entertaining game. As a Wings fan I’d like to have seen them do a lot of things better but some of that isn’t a sign of what Detroit wasn’t doing but a sign of what the Blues were doing. Brian Elliot had a very good game in the St. Louis net and the team is committed to controlling the puck in a way they haven’t been before.

On the Detroit side of things, Jimmy Howard kept his team in it. He made several key stops, including a Hasek-like flopping save off the side of his mask. Then Pavel Datsyuk put the team on his back.

The Red Wings needed that win and they might have needed to win it like that. It’s one thing to blow a team out, 8-2. It’s another to grind out a comeback win. Detroit hasn’t done the latter much this season and doing so tonight shows that they can.

I should mention Joakim Andersson, making his first-ever NHL appearance. I think I remember hearing his name twice. That means he didn’t screw anything up, which is good, but it also means he didn’t do much.

Rosters Released for Red & White Game in Grand Rapids

The Red Wings announced the rosters for their Red & White game in Grand Rapids on Tuesday.

The White Team, featuring Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk clearly has the star power but the Red Team seems to have more depth, not that it matters much in an intra-squad scrimmage.

White Team
Henrik Zetterberg
Pavel Datsyuk
Tomas Holmstrom
Tomas Tatar
Justin Abdelkader
Gustav Nyquist
Andrej Nestrasil
Jamie Johnson
Willie Coetzee
Mitch Callahan
Brent Raedeke
Nick Oslund

Nicklas Lidstrom
Ian White
Garnet Exelby
Logan Pyett
Sebastien Piche
Gleason Fournier

Jimmy Howard
Thomas McCollum

Red Team
Johan Franzen
Valtteri Filppula
Danny Cleary
Jiri Hudler
Joakim Andersson
Todd Bertuzzi
Chris Conner
Louis-Marc Aubry
Francis Pare
Adam Estoclet
Landon Ferraro
Trevor Parkes

Niklas Kronwall
Brad Stuart
Travis Ehrhardt
Bryan Rufenach
Greg Amadio
Brian Lashoff

Ty Conklin
Jordan Pearce

Ansar Khan points out that a number of players are sitting out the match, which has me disappointed. Khan’s list is as follows: Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Fabian Brunnstrom, Ryan Johnson, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Commodore, Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, Doug Janik, Joey MacDonald.

For a game that has been billed as a chance for West Michigan fans to see the Red Wings close to home, it’s odd to me that so many of those Wings are sitting in place of players the fans in GR will see all season.

Red Wings Announce Lineups for Opening Preseason Games

Per Ansar Khan, the Red Wings have revealed their rosters for the first two games of the 2011 exhibition season.

The Red Wings will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night with the following lines:

Jiri HudlerPavel DatsyukDanny Cleary
Fabian BrunnstromCory EmmertonPatrick Eaves
Drew MillerRyan JohnsonJan Mursak
Tomas TatarChris ConnerTomas Holmstrom

Niklas KronwallBrad Stuart
Brendan SmithMike Commodore
Garnet ExelbyLogan Pyett

Jimmy Howard
Joey MacDonald

On Thursday Detroit will be in London, Ontario, to play the Philadelphia Flyers. Their lineup for that game will be as follows:

Valtteri FilppulaHenrik ZetterbergJohan Franzen
Justin AbdelkaderDarren HelmTodd Bertuzzi
Gustav NyquistJoakim AnderssonWillie Coetzee
Tomas JurcoBrent RaedekeFrancis Pare

Nicklas LidstromIan White
Jonathan EricssonJakub Kindl
Brian LashoffDoug Janik

Ty Conklin
Jordan Pearce

No lineup has been announced for the Wings’ preseason home opener on Friday, where Detroit will host the Flyers.