Postgame Notes: Red Wings @ Lightning – 10/13

Well, this was pretty much the game that I feared, but it didn’t start that way.

The Red Wings came out strong in the first period, which was really good to see.  Thomas Vanek looked fantastic around the net, with two goals to show for it.  The power play moved the puck well, leading to Vanek’s first.  Petr Mrazek was sharp in net.

Then, like too many games last season, all those good things disappeared.

Early in the second period, the Lightning took over.  The Wings were on their heels, taking too many penalties.  Tampa was the faster team.  Yeah, Frans Nielsen got his first goal in a Detroit uniform, but it was on a broken play that you can’t really credit the systems for or anything.  But the Wings still had a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.

Things only got worse in the third period.  More penalties.  Four goals against.  Only one fluke goal for.

There were good things to take away from this but they were mostly early.  Vanek looked great early on.  Nielsen looked good.  Darren Helm looked fast, as did Dylan Larkin (who seemed to be having trouble controlling the puck).  Mrazek made some amazing stops.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of bad.  Mrazek allowed a couple awful goals.  The penalty kill was 3-for-6 (despite the Wings rolling a fourth line assembled specifically for their PK ability).  Two (TWO!) too many men on the ice penalties.

There was fun with reffing, of course.  Steve Ott squared off with Jonathan Drouin, only for Brayden Coburn to jump in.  But because Drouin hadn’t actually dropped his gloves yet, Coburn wasn’t the third man in.  Later, Steven Stamkos appeared to reach in and grab Jonathan Ericsson while Ericsson fought Ondrej Palat.  No call in either case.

Ott going after Drouin in the first place was pretty stupid, as you had to know the Lightning weren’t going to let a young scorer get into a fight with a grinder.  That’s why fighting doesn’t work as a deterrent, it’s always two fighters going at it because that’s their job.  Likewise, Ericsson going after Palat was ill-advised, cancelling out a pending Detroit power play (that said, as I said via Twitter, it’s rare to see the instigator called in that case, but in retrospect I think it was the right call).

That fourth line that is supposed to make the Wings so much harder to play against and kill all the penalties?  I’ll close with their fancystats courtesy of WIIM’s Prashanth Iyer:

An Alternate Red Wings Roster

After publishing my post explaining why I’m not excited about the start of this season, I went outside and mowed my lawn, which gave me more time to think.  A dangerous thing.

I started mentally re-working the Red Wings’ roster, imagining a lineup featuring none of Detroit’s summer free agent signings or re-signings.  This is what I came up with:

Justin AbdelkaderDylan LarkinRiley Sheahan
Tomas TatarHenrik ZetterbergAnthony Mantha
Gustav NyquistAndreas AthanasiouTeemu Pulkkinen
Tomas NosekLuke GlendeningTyler Bertuzzi
Martin Frk

Those lines are based on the ones the team practiced with today, so they can be shuffled however you want.  The important thing is the 13 forwards.

Yeah, not having Frans Nielsen and needing to move Zetterberg back to center hurts, but look at the opportunity on that lineup.  That’s Mantha, Athanasiou, and Pulkkinen getting top-nine (none of this top-six, bottom-six nonsense) minutes.  That’s Glendening still centering a line of grinders, just as he is now.

Is it as likely to make the playoffs?  Well, I don’t think the current roster is going to make it, so zero percent chance is equal to zero percent chance.  That said, no, I can’t say I think this roster has as good of a chance.  I’m okay with that.

This roster also includes an effort to fix the Red Wings’ defense.  While the same blueliners make the team as did in reality (which is why I didn’t specifically note them), there is an additional defensive prospect in the system.

This roster has a low enough salary to absorb Pavel Datsyuk‘s cap hit, which means he’s never traded and the Red Wings draft Jakob Chychrun.

Chychrun made Arizona’s opening night roster but I have no expectation that he’d do the same in Detroit, given the Wings’ logjam.  That said, two years down the road you can expect there’d be room for him, the kind of player Detroit has been unable to sign as a free agent or trade for.

I know that I’m looking at it with 20/20 hindsight.  At the time Datsyuk’s contract was traded, no one could have known whether or not Steven Stamkos would hit the open market and the Red Wings felt that they had to be prepared for that.

That said, it’s hard not to look at what might have been and wonder.

Thoughts on Jacob Trouba’s Trade Demand

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba has demanded a trade.

Given that the Red Wings have been looking to upgrade their defense and that Trouba is from Rochester, it seems like this would make a lot of sense for Detroit, but a lot of teams are going to be interested in him and the Wings might not be able to offer enough.

This one’s hard for me to hear.  For years Wings fans have been told that there was nothing Ken Holland can do, the player they were targeting just didn’t want to come to Detroit.  Zach Parise and Ryan Suter wanted to go home.  Steven Stamkos wanted to stay in Tampa.

Now there’s a player who they could use, who wants to go somewhere that he’ll be used, who hails from the area and played college hockey at Michigan.  From what we’ve been told, this is exactly the kind of player the Red Wings should have no problem bringing in.

But this isn’t an unrestricted free agent.  It’s not a matter of finding a contract that works for both sides, it’s a matter of doing that and finding something of value to send back to the Jets, too.

As Holland has told us, trades are hard.

I don’t think Trouba is coming to Detroit.  I think the Wings have too many defensemen, too little cap space, and not enough to offer the Jets in return.

But there is this:

2016 Free Agency Day One Recap / Notes

Oh man, midway through the afternoon today, I was thinking that when I got around to writing this post, I’d start at the beginning.  Given how the day ended, though, how do you not skip straight to Steve Ott?

After a series of signings that were, if not smart, at least acceptable, the Red Wings went out and chased the mythical fourth-line grit that will supposedly put their team over the top and signed Steve Ott away from the St. Louis Blues.

I hate chasing veteran grit when Tyler Bertuzzi is waiting in the wings and I don’t like Ott as a player.  I’ll let Winging it in Motown’s J.J. from Kansas say it.

Ott’s value is entirely contained within intangibles in which I don’t necessarily believe.

The good news is that he signed for $800,000 on a one-year deal, which can be buried in Grand Rapids if needed.


The day had started with the Wings bringing back Darren Helm.  Five years is too long but $3.85 million is a hometown discount.  Especially with the other signings, I don’t think Helm needed to come back.  I don’t love this deal.


Restricted free agent Alexey Marchenko signed a bridge deal for two years at $1.45 million per year.  It a great deal.  A significant raise from the $666,666 AAV he had in his previous contract but not the ridiculous money previous RFA defensemen have gotten in Detroit.


Frans Neilsen‘s signing was the Plan B the Wings had to resort to when Steven Stamkos opted not to test free agency.  Six years for a 32-year-old is pretty brutal.  $5.25 million is probably high, too, but not as bad.  I’d rather have had three years at $6 million each than this deal.  But, as I said last night, someone was going to give him that term.


I like the signing of Thomas Vanek to a one-year, $2.6 million deal.  The Wings have the cap space, so worst-case scenario they pay him too much this year and then just walk away from him.  It’s an overpayment if he only does what he did last year but this Wings team could use what he did last year, let alone any improvement.


At 11:59 AM, I wasn’t happy.  By 4:15 PM, I was pretty content with what the Wings had done.  By 4:45 PM I was outright pissed off.

There’s still a lot to fall out here.  I think the Vanek signing means that one of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar is gone in trade for a defenseman.  This team has far too many forwards and not enough blueliners, so we know the lineup as it is now just can’t be the opening night lineup.  I’m willing to hold off on judging too much until we see how it all falls out.

Except for the Ott signing.  That’s a joke.


Lost in all the signings for the big club were three two-way deals for guys headed to the Griffins.  Forwards Matt Lorito and Ben Street and goalie Edward Pasquale.

There’s a lot of change coming to Grand Rapids this year.  Andy Miele signed in Philadelphia and captain Jeff Hoggan won’t return.  Some guys with AHL experience will help fill the holes.

Just Don’t Screw It Up

Ever since Steven Stamkos decided to stay in Tampa Bay without even giving Detroit general manager Ken Holland the chance to make a pitch to him, I can only think one thing.

“Just don’t screw it up.”

The lone superstar is off the board and I can’t shake the feeling that the Red Wings are going to do something stupid when free agency opens on Friday at noon.

Unable to get a first line center, they’ll throw money at a fourth-line winger.  Having lost the ability to sign a player in his mid-twenties to a long-term deal, they’ll give six years to someone on the wrong side of thirty.

At this point, the longest contract Ken Holland should be offering is three years.  Much like he did when signing Mike Green last summer, he’ll probably have to overpay, but a short term mitigates that.

I think we’ll see some long-term deals for guys like Kyle Okposo and Franz Nielsen, though.  There’s too shallow of a pool of talent available and too many teams wading through it.

If that’s the case, the Wings should just stay out.  No one available is going to put them over the top.  This team needs too much work to tie up future resources on any of the players they could get tomorrow.

That includes signing their own guys.  Don’t overpay to bring back Darren Helm just because you couldn’t find anyone else.  Don’t throw money at Kyle Quincey because – once again – there was no other move to make on defense.

I don’t expect this, though.  I expect Holland to sign bottom-six guys who he’ll say can play up into the top six, except on this team they’ll be required to.  I hope I’m wrong.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Lightning – Game 1

Though they may not deserve it, the Red Wings open their 25th consecutive trip to the playoffs in Tampa tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

These two teams met in the opening round last year, with Tampa Bay rallying from down 3-2 in the series to win in seven games, but there are some differences this year.

For the Red Wings, Jimmy Howard has reclaimed the starting role in goal. Forward Brad Richards – who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs with the Lightning during their Stanley Cup run in 2004 – joined Detroit in the offseason. Mike Green is in on the blueline with Marek Zidlicky having moved on to the New York Islanders. Landon Ferraro is now in Boston. Rookies Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou will be making their playoff debuts.

For the Lightning, a powerhouse team has been crippled by injuries. Forward Steven Stamkos is likely to miss the entirety of the playoffs with blood clots. Anton Stralman is out on the blue line. Tyler Johnson – who the Red Wings couldn’t contain last year – is questionable for Game One. Victor Hedman is returning from injury.

Stupid stat of the day: The Red Wings are a perfect split 17-17 all-time in Game One of the playoffs coming off a loss in their last game of the regular season.

As previously mentioned, Jimmy Howard gets the start for the Red Wings opposite Ben Bishop of the Lightning. Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Brendan Smith will be healthy scratches for Detroit.

Game time is 7:00 on FSD and NBCSN.

Postgame: Red Wings @ Rangers – 4/9

“Red Wings Back Into Playoffs.”

That was the headline I thought about running instead of just doing my usual postgame thoughts formula. Double-meaning, eh? For the 25th consecutive year, they’re back into the playoffs. And they certainly backed into them.

Needing a win to control their own destiny, following a woeful loss against the Bruins on Thursday in a game in which they could have clinched, the Red Wings came out relatively flat against the Rangers. Sure, they kind of scored first, with call-up Joakim Andersson banging a loose puck in behind Antti Raanta on a play that was deemed to be offsides upon review, but they weren’t pressuring the Blueshirts at all for the first twenty minutes and ended the period down a goal.

They got better as the game continued, so that’s a positive. In the end, Jeff Blashill pulled Jimmy Howard for the extra skater at a ridiculous time, they gave up and empty-net goal, scored with an empty net to pull back within one, then completely blew twenty seconds of a six-on-three opportunity to lose the game.

And a few minutes later, the Ottawa Senators finished blowing out the Boston Bruins, giving the Red Wings the third seed in the Atlantic Division and a second-consecutive first-round matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

I’ve said repeatedly that this team does not deserve to make the playoffs. I still think that’s true. Thankfully, though, enough other teams didn’t deserve to make them that the Wings got in anyway.

The Lightning will be without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman and possibly Tyler Johnson. Aside from a blowout in their last meeting, the Wings played them close all season. It could be a good matchup. I don’t think it will be, given the Red Wings’ play in the last six weeks, but we’ll see.

Red Wings Win Second Consecutive Game with 2-1 Victory over Lightning

With 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night, the Detroit Red Wings have consecutive victories for the first time since winning three games in a row to start the season.

Detroit rookie Dylan Larkin‘s early third period marker stood up as the game-winner, the second of his career. Breaking down the right wing, Larkin dropped the puck to Justin Abdelkader as he gained the Tampa Bay zone and immediately got it back, then drove towards the net and fired a shot that deflected off the stick of defenseman Braydon Coburn and under goalie Ben Bishop‘s elbow.

After a scoreless first period, Riley Sheahan had opened the game’s scoring for the Red Wings at 2:02 of the second. Gaining the Lightning zone with speed, Sheahan split the defense and snapped a shot from the high slot past Bishop for the 1-0 lead.

Tampa Bay would tie things up while skating on a five-on-three with 4:02 left in the middle period. Steven Stamkos‘ initial shot rang off the post and Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard slid into position to block Tyler Johnson‘s rebound chance, but the puck went right to Nikita Kucherov to bang into the open side of the net to make it 1-1.

The Lightning finished the night one-for-four on the power play while the Red Wings went scoreless on three tries with the extra man.

Howard made 29 saves on 30 shots. Bishop stopped 27 of the 29 chances he faced.

The Red Wings will look to make it three in a row on Friday when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Red Wings Fall to Lightning in Shootout

The Detroit Red Wings dropped to 0-3 on the year in the shootout on Sunday night, falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 4-3 score.

Tampa Bay’s Ryan Callahan scored in the first round of the shootout, the only goal of the tiebreaker and good enough to give the Lightning the win. Callahan drew Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard to the right and reached around to tuck the puck past Howard’s left side and into the net.

Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Darren Helm all failed to score for Detroit while Matthew Carle couldn’t score for Tampa Bay.

Johan Franzen opened the game’s scoring for the Red Wings at 6:14 of the first period. On the faceoff to start a Detroit power play, Henrik Zetterberg won the puck back and Gustav Nyquist jumped in to control it, sending it on to Niklas Kronwall who quickly moved it across the ice to Franzen for a one-timer past Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.

Steven Stamkos replied for Tampa Bay with 7:07 left in the period, rifling a shot from the high slot past Howard on a power play.

Stamkos did it again just 2:19 into the second period, taking a long pass from Ryan Callahan at the Detroit blue line, then letting Brendan Smith skate past him before snapping a shot past Howard. The goal was initially waved off as the puck bounced out of the net so quickly but video review confirmed that it should count.

Tyler Johnson made it 3-1 in favor of the Lightning at 6:02 of the middle frame, moving all alone into the left faceoff circle to take a feed from Ondrej Palat and fire a shot past Howard.

With 8:23 left in the period, Helm pulled Detroit to back within a goal, blasting a shot from the left wing past Bishop on a power play.

Nyquist scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season to even things up at 8:49 of the third period. Gaining the Tampa Bay zone on the right wing, Nyquist skated around two Lightning defenders as he cut to the top of the opposite faceoff circle and snapped a shot past Bishop to make it 3-3.

Bishop finished the night with 17 saves on 20 Detroit shots. Howard stopped 27 of the 30 chances he faced.

Detroit went two-for-four on the power play while the Lightning went one-for-five.

The Red Wings are now off until they host the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.


Detroit remained without forward Pavel Datsyuk, nursing a groin injury… Kyle Quincey returned to the lineup, having recovered from an ankle injury. Brian Lashoff was a healthy scratch to make room for him… Tomas Jurco was the lone healthy scratch at forward.

Babcock Named Jack Adams Award Finalist

Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock was named a 2014 finalist for the Jack Adams Award on Tuesday.

The award, presented to the coach who “contributed the most to his team’s success,” is voted on by members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association.

Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche were the other finalists.

Babcock led the Red Wings to their 23rd consecutive playoff appearance and a 39-28-15 record despite the long-term losses of forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The team faced a franchise-record 421 man-games lost due to injury and was forced to use 38 different players in the regular season. Nine Red Wings players made their NHL debut in filling in on the depleted lineup.

It is the second time Babcock has been named a finalist for the award after placing third in voting in 2008.

Cooper’s Lightning finished second in the Atlantic Division with a 46-27-9 record in his first full season behind the bench. Their youth-heavy roster featured eight rookies who played in forty games or more and spent much of the year without star forward and eventual captain Steven Stamkos.

Former Detroit nemisis Roy helped the Avalanche to a 52-22-8 record in his first year behind the bench. Colorado became the first team since the NHL absorbed four WHA teams in 1979 to go from a finish in the bottom three to the top three in the league in a single season.

The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards show on Tuesday, June 24.

Three Red Wings’ coaches have won the Jack Adams Award: Scotty Bowman (1996), Jacques Demers (1987, 1988), and Bobby Kromm (1978).