The Red Wings are in a state of emergency. One calamity after another has hit this team, starting with the Nicklas Lidstrom retirement.
In their latest fiasco, they took a quick 2-0 lead over the out-manned Blue Jackets and then staggered to a 3-2 loss Thursday night. As you would expect, coach Mike Babcock was none too pleased afterward.
“I thought we started good. I didn't like our second period in particular. I didn't even mind our third period, but the bottom line is we gave up two goals in the third period and we lost.
“We had to win here. It's just one of those games. You just gotta win. You gotta find a way to win home games, and now we've got two points out of a possible 10, and any way you look at it, that's a slippery slope. We can make all the excuses we want for ourselves. The bottom line is we had to find a way to win tonight.”
Let’s look at some of the particulars in Motown:
Detroit’s defense has taken one injury hit after another. Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) remains sidelined. Kyle Quincey was just the latest casualty, suffering an ankle sprain that will sideline him on a game-to-game basis. Brendan Smith (shoulder) could return next week, which will help immensely.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard returned from his dizzy spell, but he wasn’t nearly good enough – again. His 3.08 goals-against average and .896 save percentage are well off his career norm. Against Central Division teams this season he is 2-3-2 with miserable ratios (3.71, .869).
Goals from the offensive supporting cast have been scarce. The Red Wings need more from veterans Daniel Cleary (three points in 17 games) and Valtteri Filppula (nine points in 17 games). Long-term injuries to Mikael Samuelsson (finger) and Darren Helm (back) depleted the attack.
But considering all that they have been through – losing more than 100 man-games to injury, most in the NHL – it could be worse for the Red Wings.
“At the one-third pole, we're probably a couple of wins short of where we'd like to be, but there's some good stories going on,” general manager Ken Holland told Mlive.com. “I think we'll be a deeper team than we were a month ago.”
Fill-ins Brian Lashoff, Tomas Tatar, Joakim Anderson and Petr Mrazek came up from Grand Rapids to provide notable support. Holland may have more assets than he believes he had six weeks ago.
Life without Nicklas Lidstrom might be quite an adventure for the Detroit Red Wings.
They lost their first game without him 6-0 at St. Louis. The Blues outshot them 17-2 in the first period and kept skating circles around them all night.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard allowed five goals (on 28 shots) before taking an early exit. “We really had nothing going, except for Howie in the net, he played unbelievable for us,” defenseman Nicklas Kronwall told the Detroit Free-Press. “Other than that, not a lot of good things to take from this.
“Hopefully we can learn and play a lot better on Monday.”
Here were some of particulars of this defeat:
The Red Wings went 0 for 4 on the power play and allowed the Blues to score a shorthanded goal.
Top Detroit forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg should not have been rusty. Both played in Europe and played well. But neither of this first-liners got a whiff against the Blues. (Swiss import Damien Brunner did generate a couple of scoring chances on their wing.)
Second-line stalwarts Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson were similarly ineffective.
Detroit allowed four power-play goals in five St. Louis opportunities.
Defenseman Kyle Quincey got burned twice, badly, by rookie Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko for goals. On this night, anyway, he did not look up to his Top Four assignment.
Forward Jan Mursak suffered upper-body injury in first period and didn’t return. He joins veteran power forward Todd Bertuzzi (mononucleosis) on the injured list.
On the plus side, coach Mike Babcock believed top prospect Brendan Smith looked the part of a Top Four defenseman. So the Red Wings have that going for them.
Kyle Quincey came via a trade last season. Carlo Colaiacovo arrived a free agent just before the NHL lockout hit, signing for two years and $5 million.
Brendan Smith showed the potential to graduate into a full-time role during his promotion from the AHL last season. Jakub Kindl has shown some potential as well.
Along with top returning defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Ian White, these four will try to fill the offensive hole left by the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom.
Colaiacovo scored 29, 32 and 26 points during a three-year span for the St. Louis Blues. Last season he slipped to 19 points as his offensive role diminished.
“He's played in the NHL. Smith is a rookie. Kindl has been around a bit but hasn't really had the opportunity to establish himself,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told the Detroit Free Press. “Carlo gives us another veteran defenseman for our team. He can play on the power play. He's got the ability to get the puck in the hands of our forwards.”
Colaiacovo has enough skill to earn a role with the second power play if he can stay healthy. Coach Mike Babcock told the Free Press that he sees Carlo as a "second- or third-pair guy who has found a way to play in the league. You get better as you get older, and he's one of those guys.”
Ryan Suter is a really happy man today. Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement in Detroit puts the Red Wings on the market for a No. 1 defenseman.
That perennial contender can pay top dollar for such a commodity, given all the money coming off its books. Their spending budget will exceed $20 million.
The already high market for Suter, a pending unrestricted free agent for Nashville, just got much higher. Nashville wants to keep him, but how?
“We've got cap space,” general manager Ken Holland reminded reporters a few months back. “We're obviously going to be involved more actively in the unrestricted free agent market than we have been the last couple years.”
Detroit has a decent returning defensive corps with Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl. Prospect Brendan Smith could be ready to graduate to the NHL and the Wings acquired Kyle Quincey last season. Quincey is a restricted free agent and the Wings want to keep him.
But Suter would the perfect addition for the Red Wings. While he isn't quite Lidstrom, he plays a very similar style. He could move the puck at even strength and help run the power play. He tops a potential free agent class that includes Dennis Wideman, Filip Kuba and Matt Carle
Another possible Detroit target is potential free agent Justin Schultz, a University of Wisconsin defenseman drafted by the Ducks. If Anaheim doesn’t buck up for him, the bidding will be intense.
Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman got rolling well in advance of the NHL trade line, off-loading salary and collecting draft picks to facilitate his overhaul.
A quick summary:
The Lightning sent rugged winger Steve Downie to Colorado for defenseman Kyle Quincey, then sent Quincey to Detroit for a first-round draft pick minor-league defenceman Sebastien Piche. Earlier deals sent Pavel Kubina to Philly and Dominic Moore to San Jose.
So Yzerman has two first-round choices and three second rounders in 2012. He will also get Florida’s 2012 or 2013 second round pick as part of the Kubina trade; Stevie Y. gets to pick the year.
Here is how the Twitterverse reacted:
Pierre LeBrun: “Lots of picks for Tampa to try for a goalie come the off-season, keep that in mind . . .”
Andy Strickland: “Kyle Quincey is an underrated D-man... proved to be a good partner for Erik Johnson who has been playing his best hockey the last 25 games.”
Craig Custance: “By trading for RFA defenseman rather than rental, Red Wings in better shape if Brad Stuart leaves on July 1 to head back west.”
Bob McKenzie: “DET likes/knows Quincey, former Wing. Good insurance if Brad Stuart goes to UFA or Lidstrom retires, tho many in DET think Nick comes back.”
James Mirtle: “Guess I shouldn't have bought that Lightning jersey with Quincey on the back . . .”
Kevin Paul Dupont: “At rate Yzerman is making deals, must make Shanny-like video to explain details, reveal plot lines, hint at next move(s). Appt TV.”
James Mirtle: “Holland on Quincey: ‘We know him very well as we drafted him in 2003, helped him mature into an NHL player and watched his career develop.’”
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