TPL Pregame: October 9 – Loving You Makes Life Worth Living

Editor’s Note: I miss The Production Line. You should, too. Back for one night only (unless you guys convince them otherwise), it’s the TPL Pregame.


WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?

The Detroit Red Wings begin their 90th season in the National Hockey League, and will face off against their former coach Mike Babcock and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Puck drops at 7:30pm at Joe Louis Arena.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?

The big story will be the changing of the coaching guard. Out with the old (Babcock), and in with the new (Jeff Blashill). The excitement level among the community is higher than it’s been in several years — thanks in part to the new voice behind the bench…as well as the opportunity given to a teenager in Dylan Larkin. If you think a player like Larkin had a chance in hell at making this team with Mike Babcock running the show, you need a CAT scan.

NOW, WHERE WERE WE?

The Wings and Maple Leafs played five times in 2014-15, with the teams splitting the season series 2-2-1. The fifth and final meeting was on December 13th, wherein Detroit lost 4-1 and the Leafs won their fourth in a row. Niklas Kronwall had the first goal of the game — but the 1-0 lead lasted exactly one minute before James van Riemsdyk began the onslaught. The defense took the night off, with Petr Mrazek facing 40 shots (who lost his first contest of the season), and Dan Cleary played in the 600th contest of his career. He would go on to play nine more (and was a healthy scratch for 42 more…but was re-signed anyway).

OH, HI AGAIN

The obvious returnee to the Joe is former head coach Mike Babcock, but he also took former assistant coaches Jim Hiller and Andrew Brewer with him to Toronto, where he joined a front office led by former alternate captain Brendan Shanahan. Forward Shawn Matthias was a second round draft pick of the Red Wings in 2006, but he was traded a year later in exchange for — wait for it — 8 games of Todd Bertuzzi (obviously, Bert would sign with Detroit again a few seasons later). It never came to pass, but if Twitter was to be believed on Trade Deadline Day, Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf was AS GOOD AS a Red Wing for a few hours.

MEMBA ME

There are no former Maple Leafs on the Red Wings, because good teams don’t take leftovers from shitty ones. But if you want to get technical, the Griffins assistant coach Ben Simon once played for (and coached) the Marlies. That’s as close as we’re willing to get. –PETRELLA

BEST NAME NOMINEE

I’m going with Stephane Robidas. I’ve always been a Johnny Cash/Boy Named Sue fan, and I can’t help but see some odd connection between a guy sporting a ladies name and who spent a good chunk of his career in Texas. I feel like there’s a “Call me Caitlyn” moment coming here where, during his retirement speech, he reveals that he’s been tucking and wearing silk t-back lady thongs for the past decade. When that happens, people will call me a genius, and I’ll just sit back in my brass buttoned leather wingback, knowing I’d spotted it long ago. –DISCH

THEIR LAST GAMES

While the Red Wings were bounced by the Lightning in the first round last season (losing Game 7 by a score of 2-0), at least they had a date to the dance. The Maple Leafs’ season ended somewhere around January, but — believe it or not — they played until April 11th. They opened their 2015-16 season on Wednesday and — wait for it! — lost to the Montreal Candiens 3-1. Turns out you CAN’T polish a turd, Babs!

EXPECTED LINEUP

Gator :: Hank :: DYLAN LARKIN (!!!)
Tatar :: Richards :: Nyquist
Franzen :: TinkyWinky :: Pulkkinen
Miller :: Glendening :: Ferraro

Kronwall :: Shitbox
Quincey :: Mike Green
Smith :: Kindl

Howard
Mrazek

Injured
Pavel Datsyuk (ankle, expected back mid-November)
Danny DeKeyser (foot, early November)
Darren Helm (concussion, next weekend)

Scratches
Joakim Andersson
Dan Cleary
Tomas Jurco
Alexey Marchenko

NICKNAMES

Mike “Remember When We Held on in the Rain?” Babcock
Niklas “The Nights We Almost Lost It” Kronwall
Jiri “Once Again We Can Take the Night Into Tomorrow” Hudler
Tomas “Living on Feelings” Tatar
Gustav “Touching You, I Feel It All Again” Nyquist
Johan “Didn’t We Almost Have it All” Franzen
Luke “When Love Was All We Had Worth Giving” Glendening
Marian “The Ride With You Was Worth the Fall, My Friend” Hossa
Pavel “Loving You Makes Life Worth Living” Datsyuk
Steve “The Nights We Held On ‘Til the Morning” Yzerman
Nicklas “You Know You’ll Never Love That Way Again” Lidstrom
Jimmy “The Way You Used to Touch Me Felt So Fine” Howard
Darren “We Kept Our Hearts Together Down the Line” Helm
Henrik “A Moment in the Soul Can Last Forever” Zetterberg
Jonathan “Comfort and Keep Us” Ericsson
Jeff “Help Me Bring the Feeling Back Again” Blashill
Sergei “Didn’t We Have the Best of Times” Fedorov
Petr “When Love Was Young and New” Mrazek
Tomas “Couldn’t We Reach Inside and Find” Jurco
Todd “That World of Me and You? We’ll Never Lose it Again” Bertuzzi
Dan “Cuz Once You Know What Love Is… YOU NEVER LET IT END” Cleary
— PETRELLA

THE FIVE HOLE

  1. GOALIES! Both goaltenders — Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek — played very well in the pre-season in what what Coach Blashill called an open competition for the role of starter. Jimmy Howard always had the inside track because he slid out of Mrs. Howard before Pete cartwheeled out of Mrs. Mrazek, but I’d be shocked if three weeks go by before the entire planet realizes that Petr Mrazek is the better goalie.
  2. NEW BODIES! The Red Wings finally got their right handed defenseman in Mike Green. He’s able to contribute some points, and is able to move the puck out of the zone efficiently, which is a prerequisite for the style of play in Detroit. Brad Richards, who either follows success, or whom success follows, adds another option up the middle, and will allow Zetterberg and Datsyuk to be paired together, if the time comes.
  3. TEENAGER! Waterford native Dylan Larkin forced the organization to buck their trends and has made the opening night roster, and it looks like he’ll get a chance to man the first line. That’s very exciting for all involved, included the fans, who get a young local to cheer for, and who has every bit of talent needed to inject some youthful exuberance onto an aging core. And Dan Cleary was waived on Wednesday. Jasper succinctly sums up our feelings on the matter.
  4. HEALTH! Hey, whattaya know, the Red Wing start the season with a bunch of regulars on injured reserve. Pavel Datsyuk will be out until mid-November, Danny DeKeyser is supposed to be out until early November, Darren Helm might be set to return next week, assuming his concussion and shoulder calm down. What, you didn’t think we’d be able to get rid of a drill sergeant coach, a once-useful knee-less veteran, AND Piet Van Zant all at once, did you?
  5. YOUTH! We say it all the time, but the young players really opened some eyes in the pre-season. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that wouldn’t agree that Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou, and even Anthony Mantha did quite a bit to make some other guys expendable in the coming months and years. Obviously Zetterberg and Datsyuk aren’t going anywhere, but there will have to be some decisions made with some of the other guys, thanks to the guys below Larkin on the depth chart.

Pregame: Maple Leafs @ Red Wings – 10/9

After a long summer with some major moves, the Red Wings are back in action tonight, hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2015-16 home opener.

A familiar face will be behind the Toronto bench, as Mike Babcock jumped ship from Detroit to move on to the Maple Leafs during the offseason. Former Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill now leads the Red Wings.

Blashill isn’t the only new addition to the Wings. Free agent signings Brad Richards and Mike Green will be making their Detroit debuts, as will rookie Dylan Larkin, who impressed enough during the preseason to not just make the opening night lineup but earn a spot on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

Detroit will be without Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm, and Danny DeKeyser due to injury. Helm could be back next week while neither Datsyuk nor DeKeyser is expected to return until November.

With Datsyuk out, Richards will center the second line with Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. Kyle Quincey will replace DeKeyser as Green’s defense partner.

Joakim Andersson, Tomas Jurco, and Alexey Marchenko will be healthy scratches for the Red Wings. Xavier Ouellet and Daniel Cleary had been with the team but were assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins yesterday.

Jimmy Howard will get the start in goal for Detroit, with Petr Mrazek scheduled to start tomorrow against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Stupid stat of the day: In the last two decades, the Red Wings have lost only once on October 9. The opponent in that loss? The Toronto Maple Leafs.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD and Fox 2 Detroit.

Forward Richards Signs with Detroit

Just hours after making a splash with their signing of free agent defenseman Mike Green, the Red Wings landed another new player in forward Brad Richards.

Richards, coming off a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, signed another one year contract to come to Detroit. The deal is reportedly worth $3 million, with playoff bonuses that could push it to $4 million.

A veteran of 14 NHL seasons, Richards, 35, has played 1058 career games, scoring 288 goals and 616 assists for 904 total points.

Originally drafted in the third round, 64th overall, by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Richards has gone on to play for the Dallas Stars and New York Rangers before last season’s championship run in Chicago. It was his second Stanley Cup, having claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP during Tampa Bay’s 2004 run.

Red Wings Sign Green to Three Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings signed free agent defenseman Mike Green to a three year deal on Wednesday. The deal is reportedly worth $6 million per season.

The 29-year-old – who has spent his entire career with the Washington Capitals – is a right-handed shot. The Red Wings will look for him to fill the offensive-defenseman role they’ve been missing since the retirement of Brian Rafalski.

A veteran of 575 NHL games, Green has scored 113 goals and 247 assists for 360 career points. A power play specialist, nearly half of his goals have come with the man-advantage.

Green has been a Norris Trophy runner-up twice and has played in one All-Star Game.

Red Wings Fall to Capitals, 2-1

With their playoff lives in the balance, the Detroit Red Wings dropped a 2-1 decision to the Washington Capitals on Sunday evening at Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit entered the day in a three-way tie with the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins – all with 95 points in the standings – but holding a game in hand.

The Capitals’ Evgeny Kuznetsov opened the game’s scoring just 3:38 in on a power play. Kuznetsov’s shot from the right wing deflected off of Drew Miller and went over goalie Petr Mrazek‘s shoulder.

Mike Green made it 2-0 at 4:42 of the second period with another shot from the right side that deflected and went off Mrazek’s glove before hitting the back of the net.

Darren Helm got Detroit back in it with 7:01 left in the middle frame, tipping a pass from Pavel Datsyuk past Braden Holtby while on the power play.

Even with a furious finish, the Red Wings were unable to pull even.

Holtby finished the night with 35 saves on 36 shots. Mrazek stopped 26 of the 28 chances he faced.

The Red Wings close out their home schedule on Tuesday when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.


Detroit was without forwards Justin Abdelkader, Tomas Jurco, and Erik Cole, all injured… Jakub Kindl was a healthy scratch on defense.

Red Wings Lose Howard in Loss to Capitals

The Detroit Red Wings lost the game and their starting goalie on Saturday night.

Jimmy Howard, just an hour removed from being named to play in the NHL’s All-Star Game, injured his groin on Washington’s first goal, just 1:53 into the game.

With the Capitals on a power play, Mike Green dumped the puck into the Detroit end. Howard came out to play it behind the net and left it there, while defenseman Danny DeKeyser seemed to think he was going to pass it out. With DeKeyser slowed up, Troy Brouwer raced in and grabbed it for a wraparound attempt. Howard couldn’t get back fast enough and was seemingly injured doing an awkward split in a failed attempt to stop Brouwer’s chance.

Petr Mrazek would replace Howard in net and make it almost twenty minutes before allowing his first goal against.

At 1:35 of the second period, the Caps gained the Red Wings’ zone on a three-on-three break. Andre Burakovsky dropped the puck off to late-man John Carlson for a blast from the high slot past Mrazek to make it 2-0.

Joel Ward made it 3-0 with 8:21 left in the middle frame. His initial chance from the right faceoff circle was blocked by DeKeyser but Ward stuck with it and swatted a shot from the slot past Mrazek for what would be Washington’s last goal of the game.

Detroit broke Braden Holtby‘s shutout with twelve seconds left in the period but would be unable to get more. Jonathan Ericsson‘s shot from the blue line deflected through traffic and past Holtby for the game’s final goal.

Holtby finished the night with 26 saves on 27 shots. Howard made two saves on three shots before his injury, after which Mrazek stopped 12 of 14.

Each team had two power play chances on the night, with Washington scoring once and Detroit held scoreless.

The Red Wings will play the fifth game of their six-game road trip on Tuesday in Buffalo.


Teemu Pulkkinen made his season debut for the Red Wings, called up to replace the injured Johan FranzenTomas Jurco missed the game with a back injury… Daniel Cleary and Brian Lashoff were healthy scratches… Howard will be re-evaluated in Detroit on Sunday.

Stanley Cup Finals Thoughts, Game One Pregame

It’s been quiet around here since the Red Wings finished off the Blackhawks and for good reason. Like the Wings themselves, I’ve needed some time off. Much like my hiatus at the end of the regular season it hasn’t been for any bad things, just very busy right now.

Detroit finished off Chicago in five games an as a reward got all of two days rest. Their injuries at the end of the Western Conference Finals have partially healed but they’re still hurting. Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson are scheduled to return to the lineup tonight but it’s looking like the Red Wings will begin the Stanley Cup Finals without Pavel Datsyuk or Kris Draper.

It looks like this puts Chris Chelios and Derek Meech back in the press box while Justin Abdelkader and Ville Leino make their first-ever Finals appearances.

A lot has been made of what the Pittsburgh Penguins learned during last year’s Finals loss to the Red Wings and that Pittsburgh is a better team than last season. While I won’t deny they’re playing extremely well, I have a hard time taking them seriously.

Their team has gotten better but last year they had Marian Hossa and this year they don’t. That’s a huge loss, one that the addition of Bill Guerin doesn’t make up for. While the Penguins individual players have gotten better I don’t see them as being as talented of a team as a whole without Hossa.

It’s not like the Red Wings haven’t gotten better, too. Assuming Datsyuk and Draper will make an appearance in this series, the only players they’ve lost from last year’s team are Dallas Drake and Andreas Lilja. Lilja has been more than capably replaced by Jonathan Ericsson. Drake’s spot in the lineup has been taken by the aforementioned Hossa, who defected to the Red Wings over the summer.

Hossa is the key to this series, to me. The Penguins couldn’t beat the Red Wings last year when they had Hossa but now they’re expected to when not only do they not have him but Detroit does? On paper, the Penguins are toast.

Of course, the games aren’t played on paper. Cliche but true.

Detroit’s defense will be the other key. Ericsson plays on the Wings’ third defense pairing and could fight for a spot on the top pair of any of the teams the Penguins have eliminated thus far. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have torn it up against Kimmo Timonen and Mike Green and Tim Gleason but will that continue against Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski and Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall?

The Wings and Penguins split the regular season series this season, one game a defensive collapse by Detroit leading to a 7-6 Pittsburgh win, the other being a dominating defensive performance by the Red Wings in a 3-1 win.

That stresses to me the importance of defense in this series. If the Wings shut things down like they’ve done all but one game of these playoffs, they have the series. If it becomes a run-and-gun game then they lose their advantage and the Penguins have a chance.

Trade Deadline Updates: Today’s News from Around the NHL

Bertuzzi Suspended Indefinitely: (updated 6:06 EST) Forward Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks has been suspended indefinitely without pay following a match penalty assessed for deliberately injuring Steve Moore during Vancouver’s 9-2 loss to Colorado Monday night. Bertuzzi punched Moore in the head from behind, and Moore collapsed to the ice as his blood pooled around him.

Moore, who had hit Vancouver captain Markus Naslund hard enough to cause a concussion back on February 16, was taken off the ice on a stretcher and transported to the hospital. Moore will miss the rest of the season with a concussion and neck fracture.

A hearing will take place Wednesday at the NHL’s offices in Toronto to determine the length of Bertuzzi’s suspension. British Columbia Provincial Police are also investigating the incident.

Canucks Stack Up for Playoffs: (5:58 EST) The Vancouver Canucks put through a flurry of deals just before the deadline, hoping to provide the missing pieces of the playoff puzzle. Their biggest deal was to acquire left wing Martin Rucinsky from the New York Rangers in exchange for defenseman Martin Grenier and the rights to unsigned draft pick RJ Umberger. They also acquired left wing Geoff Sanderson from the Columbus Blue Jackets in return for a third round draft pick in 2004, and gained left wing Sylvain Blouin from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Rene Vydareny. On defense, the Canucks picked up Marc Bergevin in exchange for a 2004 seventh round draft pick. (So many left wings…. could they be expecting to not have Todd Bertuzzi for the playoffs?)

Preds Fine-Tune Roster at Deadline: (5:49 EST) The Nashville Predators continued to adjust their roster in hopes of their first ever playoff run by acquiring defenseman Shane Hnidy from the Ottawa Senators for a third round pick in the 2004 draft and sending Stan Neckar to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a 2004 sixth round pick. Neckar knows the Lightning well- he played for them for parts of the previous three seasons.

Kings, Thrashers Swap Wingers: (4:23 EST) The Los Angeles Kings made a minor deal Tuesday at the NHL trade deadline, acquiring Jeff Cowan from the Atlanta Thrashers for Kip Brennan in a swap of left wings. Cowan, 27, has played 58 games this season, recording career highs with nine goals and 15 assists. “Jeff is a big, physical winger who forechecks well and is strong around the net,” Kings general manager Dave Taylor said. “We like his work ethic and feel he will be a real good fit for our team.”

Sharks, Bruins, Sabres Complete 3-Team Deal: (updated 4:19 EST) The San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres have completed a three-way swap of two centers and a defenseman. Defenseman Jeff Jillson, originally a Shark, was traded from Boston to Buffalo. Buffalo sent center Curtis Brown to the Sharks, who sent defenseman Brad Boyes to the Bruins.

The deal was followed by another three-way trade with the same teams. Buffalo sent defenseman Andy Delmore to San Jose for a ninth-round pick in 2005, and the Sharks sent Delmore to Boston for future considerations.

Sabres Obtain Grier: (4:16 EST) The Washington Capitals continued to trim the payroll before the deadline by giving up veteran right wing Mike Grier to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for 19-year-old Czech prospect Jakub Klepis. “Mike Grier is one of the finest individuals we have ever had in Washington. It was difficult to trade Mike, but as we look to the future, we couldn’t pass on the opportunity to acquire Klepis,” Capitals general manager George McPhee said. Klepis has 4 goals and 9 assists in 44 games this season with team HC Slavia Praha in the Czech Republic.

Isles Pick Up Karpovtsev: (3:30 EST) The New York Islanders acquired defenseman Alexander Karpovtsev from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a fourth round draft pick in 2005. Karpovtsev is expected to add depth at the blue line and help fill the hole left when defenseman Radek Martinek sustained a broken left ankle which will keep him out for the rest of the regular season.

Jackets, Pens Make Deal: (3:27 EST) The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired center Brian Holzinger from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for left wing Lasse Pirjeta in a trade deadline deal between teams that will miss the playoffs. Each player, however, should help his new team to improve for next season.

Rangers Restock Depleted Team: (3:06 EST) The New York Rangers have been trading away most of their higher-level players for prospects and draft picks in a desperate effort to dump salary. They filled two holes in the lineup by picking up forward Sandy McCarthy (formerly of the Boston Bruins) and center Mike Green (formerly of the Florida Panthers) from waivers Tuesday afternoon.

Blues Acquire Savage: (3:01 EST) The St. Louis Blues picked up left wing Brian Savage from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for future considerations. In a separate deal, the Coyotes gained defenseman Tom Koivisto from the Blues in return for other future considerations.

Stars Sign Sekeras: (2:24 EST) The Dallas Stars signed free agent defenseman Lubomir Sekeras of the Swedish Elite League through the end of this season. Sekeras, formerly of the Minnesota Wild, will join his new team as soon as his immigration paperwork is completed. “This signing gives us eight capable defensemen as we head into the playoffs,” said Dallas general manager Doug Armstrong.

Sekeras will join trade acquisitions Chris Therien and Valeri Bure as the newest members of the Stars.

Francis Waives No-Trade Clause: (1:25 EST) Veteran center Ron Francis waived his no-trade clause and was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In return, the Carolina Hurricanes recieved a fourth-round draft pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Francis, the now-former Hurricanes’ captain, had refused to accept a trade until today. The Vancouver Canucks were also interested in acquiring him, but Francis did not want to play in the travel-intensive Western Conference. He will provide veteran leadership to the Maple Leafs in their playoff run.

The Leafs also acquired left wing Chad Kilger off waivers from the Montreal Canadiens.

Rangers Continue to Sell: (1:00 EST) The New York Rangers continued their fire sale, sending defenseman Greg DeVries to the Ottawa Senators for Karel Rachunek and Alexandre Giroux. DeVries was signed by the Rangers before the start of this season and was one of their more consistant defensemen. Rachunek was one of the Senators’ top defensemen and will be one of the pillars of the rebuilt Rangers’ defensive corps. Giroux, a center, has not played in the NHL this season.

Avs on the Move: (12:00 EST) The Colorado Avalanche made two deals in the hours leading up to Tuesday’s 3:00 EST trade deadline. Most notably, Colorado acquired goaltender Tommy Salo from the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday in exchange for the rights to defenseman Tom Gilbert. The Avalanche also acquired Edmonton’s sixth round pick in the 2005 draft as part of the deal. The 33-year-old Salo has never won a playoff series, but has lost four times to the Dallas Stars in the first round.

Colorado also sent defensemen Derek Morris and Keith Ballard to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for center Chris Gratton, defenseman Ossi Vaananen, and the Coyotes’ second round pick in the 2005 draft.

Leafs Sign Johansson: (12:00 EST) Defenseman Calle Johansson came out of retirement to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the remainder of this season. Johansson retired from the Washington Capitals in August of 2003. He holds the Capitals’ all-time records for points (983), assists (474), and power play goals (51) by a defenseman. Financial terms of the deal with Toronto were not disclosed.

DetroitHockey.Net writer Clark Rasmussen contributed