Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wake Up.

In lieu of writing some very interesting pieces on my road to an NHL game, I've made a pit stop to address the current state of the Red Wings. Rather than flood my Twitter any further with madness, I'm going to take the time to speak my mind here.

The 2013-14 Detroit Red Wings have been more frustrating than Chris Brown fans on Twitter. As of today, Christmas Eve, The Red Wings are 17-13-9, which is a really soft way of saying they have won 17 games and lost 22, and we're very nearly halfway through the season. The team has not performed this poorly in the first half of the season in recent memory, and are clinging to one of the Wild Card playoff spots over the Toronto Maple Leafs (18-16-5) in the final spot and the New York Rangers (18-18-2), who continue to bumble their way up the standings.

To put it nicely, this is nowhere near where the team should be at this point in the season. The teams above (Boston, Tampa Bay, Montreal) are starting to pick up the pace, making it more difficult to rise up the standings later in the season. After a mediocre November that saw the Wings lose FIVE times in a row after regulation, and a current 3-5-2 backslide, the situation is not getting better. The terrible teams in the Metropolitan Division are slowly improving on their terribleness. Mediocrity and laziness are settling in. Everybody's injured. Mike Babcock is probably always angry. Cats and dogs have begun living together.

In all seriousness, the team has not been very good. It would be easy to lean on the reasoning that the injuries make it difficult to win games, especially when the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Ericsson, Darren Helm, Stephen Weiss, and Daniel DeKeyser have all been out of the lineup at some point due to injuries. Unfortunately, I don't accept this as a valid enough argument for defending the team's awful play. I also don't think it's fair to praise the bevy of talent in Grand Rapids for existing but not delivering wins when they are called up to fill in the roster gaps. Yes, players like Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, and Gustav Nyquist have been very good, but not good enough to turn the (mis)fortunes of the team around. Statistics and potential don't matter at this moment. Wins do, and we need more of them to separate us from the dogfight that is going to take place in March.

So, where is the problem?

Based on the numbers available here, you could make a fantastic case that the Red Wings, as a team, are the definition of average at every possible category with the exception of a few. They rank in the middle at goals per game (18th), goals against per game (13th), 5 on 5 goals for/against efficiency (15th), power play (16th), shots per game (14th), shots against per game (11th), win percentage when trailing first (13th), and winning when outshooting opponents (15th). It gets worse.

The positives from team statistics are surprising. They rank in the top 10 in penalty kill (8th) and faceoff winning percentage (9th). The negatives tell the true tale of the season. They bomb in win percentage when being outshot (23rd),  win percentage when scoring 1st (26th!), win percentage when leading after 1 period (25th!), and win percentage when leading after 2 periods (29th!!!).

As a team, the definition of the Red Wings becomes more lucid looking at these numbers. They are in virtually every way a middle of the pack team that is good at killing penalties and winning faceoffs, but are among the league's worst when it comes to holding a lead and maintaining any lead the later the game goes. I recognize that one stats page doesn't tell a story, but is is what the team has been doing so far and hockey is a team sport. I'm not going to dump the team's poor performance on Kyle Quincey, Ken Holland, Dan Cleary's Reanimated Corpse, Jimmy Howard, or the porcelain company responsible for crafting Detroit Red Wing players. As a team, they are not playing well. They can't hold leads. They aren't scoring enough. The Christmas break will help some players get their shit together. Others will be waived. Returning players from injuries have to step up. The veterans on this team need to right the ship. The rookies need to keep playing with intensity and not let up any steam their pro careers have.

I have gone MAD trying to find the right words to describe what the team needs to do moving forward. 2013 wasn't good for Red Wings hockey. Last year's playoffs notwithstanding, I think as a team (and a fanbase) everyone has learned that winning won't come easy anymore and nobody is going to be walking into the playoffs this season. 2014 is a chance to turn around the mediocrity and start driving towards the playoffs instead of sliding sideways with OT losses and shootout losses. There's still plenty of time left on the calendar, let's hope the team uses it and doesn't piss away the reputation the team has fought to withhold the last 22 seasons.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Wiz's History Lesson: Puck Poetry

Jacques Plante's mask, currently enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

On November 1st 1959, Jacques Plante of the Montreal Canadiens wore a goaltending mask for the first time in NHL regular season history. The game he wore the mask as well a little bit of historical background can be found right here on Plante's Wikipedia page. The mask has become an iconic piece of equipment in hockey, with many masks becoming infamous pieces of art in 20th century sports history. Today I would like to present a historical poem describing the game, the mask, Plante, and the historical moment.


Headache tonight
Won't go away.
Something is needed
To keep it at bay.

Bathgate's shot
There goes his nose.
The play is stopped
As the blood overflows.

Bleu blanc et rouge
More rouge tonight.
Toe needs something
To stay in this fight.

Toe had no choice
It was all Jacques' call.
With no one at backup
It was nothing, or all.

Keeper got his way
Now he's back on the ice.
Can he see down?
It's a roll of the dice.

Plante with the save!
The crowd roars with the play.
With blood on his sweater,
Look's like Jacques is okay.

"He'll get rid of it soon,"
Toe said with some snark.
"He won't use that thing,
this is just for a lark."

Sixty-three years
Have gone by since that night.
When Jacques Plante wore the mask,
Keepers had won their own right.

The mask's down the Hall,
Locked out in its case.
The shield of the keeper,
Protecting the face.

--PG Marsh

I recognize that to many, this poem may be cheesy, or corny, or both. I had a lot of fun writing it, and since we're all locked out of writing about the NHL (for now), I thought I would take advantage of the current date and write about one of the greatest goaltenders of all time and his innovation to the game.

Your bonus from me: the Canadian Heritage Moment describing Plante and the Mask.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Assessing the Detroit Red Wings 2013 Season

Not a relevent photo for this post, but I was reflecting on what it means to have your number retired. Photo courtesy of "Schmackity" on Wikipedia.

With the season over thanks to an agonizing game seven overtime defeat at the hands of media favorites, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings have cleaned out their lockers and reflected on coming so far but just missing out on the Western Conference Finals. The series winning goal should have been the goal scored by Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, but NHL referee Steve Walkom botched the call and kept the game going. Unfortunately for the Red Wings they were unable to capitalize on this "second chance".

A lot of fans and blogs have already weighed in on the controversy about the blown goal call, the missed boarding call that should have been drawn by Gustav Nyquist, and the painful nature of the series ending goal. Rather than focus on how the season ended, I am going to push forward and celebrate the success of the 2013 Detroit Red Wings for being as successful as they were in a shortened, transitional season. The format for this review will involve short comments on the positive and negatives for each player on the roster. This is not meant to be a deeply analytic piece, just basic observations.


Pavel Datsyuk
The Good: Datsyuk scored an impressive 15 goals and 34 assists, while remaining a +21 and finishing tied for first in takeaways (56). His faceoff percentage (55%) was impressive and was a human highlight reel all season. He's still the most complete player in the world and has the best attitude when it comes to playing the game.
The Bad: Datsyuk had a much quieter postseason than was expected, with just 3 goals and 9 points in Detroit's 14 playoff games. There isn't much to criticize when it comes to Datsyuk's game, but his playoff performance was less than expected.

Henrik Zetterberg
The Good: When the chips were down and the Red Wings had their backs against the wall, Zetterberg was the hero. In the final four games of the season, Zetterberg scored 2 goals and 8 assists to lead the Red Wings into the playoffs. His season stats (11 goals, 37 assists, 48 points) were a reason why the Red Wings survived a difficult season. Zetterberg has already proven he is an excellent leader on the ice and the perfect captain for a long, long time.
The Bad: Similarly to Datsyuk, Zetterberg was quieter in the playoffs than expected, especially against Chicago. He had two long streaks with no goals (nine and ten games) which contributed to a lesser season that what could have been.

Johan Franzen
The Good: Franzen finished third on the Red Wings with 14 goals and 17 assists, and was a real pest for teams trying to play defense.
The Bad: To be blunt, if Johan Franzen ever has a biography written, it should be titled "Streaky". His tendency to go ice cold during the regular season is infuriating and Mike Babcock himself commented on it a while back. For all the talk about Franzen in the playoffs, where's he been the last three seasons?

Damien Brunner
The Good: Brunner's first season in the NHL was positive; the Swiss scored 12 goals and 14 assists in 44 games. Brunner meshed very well with any line he was on, with or without fellow Swiss league teammate Henrik Zetterberg. Was electric on the ice with fellow youngsters Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson during the playoffs with 5 goals and 9 points.
The Bad: Brunner's scoring virtually disappeared in the second half of the season, scoring just twice in the regular season after a 2 goal, 2 assist performance against Vancouver that saw Roberto Luongo give up eight goals. Brunner took some time in the regular season to adapt to new linemates.

Valtteri Filppula
The Good: Defensively speaking, Filppula is everything you could ask for in a second line center. He contributed 17 points in a shortened season that saw him play just 41 games. Filppula was supposed to be THE next guy to elevate his game after a 60 point season, and still has that capacity...
The Bad: ...except he never stepped up on offence all season. Filppula was -4, barely shot the puck at all this season, and was injured at the beginning of Game Seven against Chicago. He was the lightning rod of criticism among fans and bloggers, leaving a lot of doubt whether he is worth the five million per season he has reportedly demanded. This was a season to forget for Filppula, and provided he dramatically drops his asking price in Detroit, I'd like to see him have the chance to redeem himself.

Daniel Cleary
The Good: Wow, the playoffs can make heros out of anyone if the effort is there. After racking up a respectable 9 goals and 15 points in the regular season, Cleary had 4 goals and 10 points during the playoff run. Cleary took a lot of hits and drew a lot of ire away from the superstars season long, which went unnoticed by myself for most of the season.
The Bad: To be blunt, Dan Cleary is a player who has seen better days and his inconsistently could lead to either retirement or a trade. He has a role on this team but he didn't quite fulfil it. His shot could use a little work but at his age, he's past his learning curve. And his peak. Maybe even past his decline, I'm not sure what to think after the playoffs.

Justin Abdelkader
The Good: "Abby" is the guy who mucks around in the corners and draws the fire away from Pavel Datsyuk. This year he scored 10 goals and 13 points, the former being a career high. At times he looked sufficient on the top line. Had 3 points in the playoffs.
The Bad: As much as Abdelkader is a popular guy for his work ethic, he lacks the skill needed to perform on the top line. Abby's rightful place is on the third or fourth line providing energy and effort. I want to argue he was misused this season, but Babcock is rarely wrong about anything and I'm rarely right about anything. The question is whether Abby goes back to a bottom six role where Cory Emmerton is already helming the fourth line and Darren Helm won't be injured forever.

Jordan Tootoo
The Good: Tootoo does exactly what he was signed to do: fight, hit, and sometimes score. He picked up 8 points in this role during the regular season, and provided some zest in the bottom six when the top six were struggling to score.
The Bad: I disagreed with his signing when it happened, and I still don't see his place on this team in the long term. He's obviously an NHL calibre player who plays the game with little ambiguity about his role, but does this team need someone to carry the team balls? I'm not convinced.

Patrick Eaves
The Good: Eaves picked up 8 points in 34 games and also provides zest in the bottom six. Except with 5% of the penalties! Plus, and I only speak for myself, he is a big fan favorite on the team. His recovery from a very scary concussion is inspiring.
The Bad: Eaves is one of several players who will be competing next year for limited bottom six positions. I don't think there is anything that distinguishes him from Tootoo, Nyquist, Cleary, Bertuzzi, Samuelsson, Miller, Emmerton, Tatar, Abdelkader, Helm, and whoever from Grand Rapids contends for a spot.

Drew Miller
The Good: Miller scored 8 points in 44 games, and provides Detroit with depth. Sound familiar?
The Bad: I could copy/paste the same information for Eaves, so the extra thing I will add for Miller is that he will be a UFA some July 1st.

Cory Emmerton
The Good: Emmerton registered 5 goals and 8 points, etc. He's actually a decent center. Don't look up his faceoff winning %, though.
The Bad: He may be a victim of circumstance where the Brunner-Andersson-Nyquist might be the third line moving forward and Darren Helm returning. I didn't think Emmerton would be here this year, but Helm's absence made him necessary.

Joakim Andersson
The Good: Andersson was quite impressive during the end of the regular season and playoffs, scoring five points in the postseason and providing a heaping pile of talent and energy to the bottom six forwards. He's only going to get better, unlike much of his competition for a roster spot.
The Bad: The hodgepodge of forwards Detroit has to resign, move, or reassign makes it hard to determine who stands out. The youth injected into Detroit had some growing pains, but they could just as easily be replaced by Cleary-Samuelsson-Bertuzzi if management is not confident they can repeat this season's improvements.

Tomas Tatar
The Good: Tatar scored 7 points in 18 games this season, and has kicked a lot of butt in Grand Rapids. He will find his way into a lineup in a season or two, but will he be patient for it? He has a lot of speed, as well.
The Bad: Tatar is in the same boat as the other young forwards, except he's lower on the depth chart and he may be asked to repeat his success in Grand Rapids, or he might get traded knowing there's more resources coming up behind him (Jurco, Frk).

Gustav Nyquist
The Good: Nyquist reminds me a LOT of a certain pair of Russian and Swedish players who have game breaking skillsets. Great hands and his 6 points in 22 games is going to increase next season. In the playoffs, Nyquist was dynamic with Andersson and Brunner, scoring 5 points.
The Bad: As electric as Nyquist is, he didn't impress me as having enough finish on plays where he generated chances. I may be wrong, but his inexperience led to his inability to finish fancy looking plays. He may have to fight a little bit harder to keep his spot, and negotiating with an unhappy Nyquist about his place on the team may lead to an inflated salary.

Todd Bertuzzi
The Good: Bert didn't have much of a season, playing in only 7 games and scoring 3 points. Bertuzzi was scoreless in 6 playoff games...there's really nothing to say except he didn't play worse than he has in previous seasons.
The Bad:The injury begs the question of whether he will be kept. Bert has a lot of upside compared to an unproven rookie...but now those rookies have shown they are the future. Will Bert be bought out?

Mikael Samuelsson
The Good: Samuelsson is a proven talent that can score goals when paired with the best players on the team. He had an assist in one of his 4 regular season games, that's more points than I scored this season.
The Bad: He was injured 200 times this season and might just be the worst signing of the 2012 NHL offseason. Jeff over at Winging it in Motown was right all along about him. He is the top choice for a buyout. It makes more sense to play any other forward than him.

Darren Helm
The Good: Helm played one game this season. He's possibly the best third line center in the league, when healthy.
The Bad: He's not healthy, and he's not done being unhealthy. This could spell trouble for his career as well as his tenure in Detroit.

Jan Mursak
The Good: Mursak made the best of his time in Detroit, and found a job elsewhere. I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours.
The Bad: There just wasn't a place for him in Detroit.

Riley Sheahan
The Good: Sheahan played one game this season without much fanfare. He looked good in Grand Rapids, I guess.
The Bad: Sheahan's previous criminal transgressions frustrate me. I know young men do stupid things but the Sheahan saga really soured me on him, even if he finds the means to move up the depth chart and into the Red Wings' lineup in the next three seasons. He has a lot to prove before then.


Niklas Kronwall
The Good: This was Kronwall's first season as Detroit's top defenseman, and he registered a
respectful 5 goals and 29 points in the regular season. Kronwall is a physical defenseman who
isn't afraid to land game-changing hits, and he did so all season right until the very last goal
was conceded.
The Bad: Much was expected of Kronwall this season, and while following Nick Lidstrom was going to be a tall task, there were times where Kronwall didn't deliver the offence he has the
potential for. Two assists in 14 games during the postseason isn't acceptable from our top

Jonathan Ericsson
The Good: Many who watch the Red Wings could make the argument that Ericsson was the best defenseman on the team during this transitional season, and I buy in to that argument. While his offence was respectable (3 goals, 10 assists), Ericsson played a significantly more mature game than was expected, and that's what I take away from his season. I like the new nickname "Riggy".
The Bad: "Riggy" still takes untimely penalties, but was only slightly more visible on the
scoresheet than Kronwall with just 3 assists in 14 playoff games. I'm aware Ericsson isn't on
the team to score, but more was expected.

Jakub Kindl
The Good: Kindl served the team well while other defensemen were injured, scoring 4 goals and 9 assists in the regular season along with a goal and 4 assists in the playoffs. This season saw him resurrect his status from "expendable" to "reliable 5-6 defenseman". Scored a goal in the playoffs that sticks in my head as impressive.
The Bad: Kindl is still a bit of a whipping boy for criticism, with many gaffes occurring in the
playoffs. He's 26 and can't be sheltered as a "rookie" or "prospect" any longer. He's definitely
low on the depth chart and might still be expendable.

Brendan Smith
The Good: Smith had 8 assists in 34 games in the regular season, and 2 goals and 3 assists in
the playoffs. I'm very interested in seeing how he elevates his game in a full NHL season, as I
believe he will produce more offence than he already has.
The Bad: Smith is definitely the whipping boy of the defensive corps. He looked extremely
vulnerable during the playoffs and while he showed some offensive flair, he was responsible for
more goals.

Brian Lashoff
The Good: I really don't know where Lashoff came from but he was quite impressive during the
regular season as a 22 year old who was certainly not weened into his position like Smith was.
He has done great things in Grand Rapids and the future looks bright for him.
The Bad: Lashoff might wind up spending more time in Grand Rapids as there are more experienced
defenders who the Red Wings might consider putting in the lineup for the sake of "winning now".
I'm not sure he's paid enough dues to find a regular spot in the lineup yet.

Ian White
The Good: Ian White was supposed to be one of the top defenders on Detroit in a post-Lidstrom era, having gleaned some experience and good numbers from playing on a deep Detroit blueline. Had 4 points in 25 games despite limited playing time.
The Bad: White is not long for Detroit as he has a tendency to say stupid things to the media
and really has not been playing better than any of the other defensemen on this list. The former
isn't a good reason to get rid of him, but it makes more sense to play a younger defenseman
still capable of improving. He is a UFA so that doesn't work in his favor.

Kyle Quincey
The Good: Quincey had a goal and 3 points in an injury shortened lockout season. He was a solid defender in the bottom pairings and is a great story about having a second chance.
The Bad: He was acquired for a 1st round draft pick and is being paid 3.375 million dollars to
do what any number of our younger players would be capable of doing. Still has a year left, but
after that, if he doesn't improve, he's likely gone.

Carlo Colaiacovo
The Good: Cola looked good in the 15 games he played all season. I really can't remember
anything he did so this section is a wash.
The Bad: "Splodey Bones" is made of glass and while the 2.5 million cap hit is decent there are younger players who could use the playing experience. Might not like being a 6-7 option on this team.

Danny DeKeyser
The Good: The best available college free agent signed with the hometown team and impressed everyone by being an excellent first-pass defenseman who played with the maturity of a veteran during his limited playing time. He is the player I am most excited to watch play next season.
The Bad: The bad for DeKeyser so far is the fact that his limited playing time doesn't provide
enough data to know what he is capable of. His request of being in the lineup immediately
rustled my concern he could wind up demanding more money after the initial contract is done, but there's just not enough data to say much about him except we're all excited he's here.

Kent Huskins
The Good: Huskins stepped in when the team needed someone to be signed and fill the void. He did it well and found employment elsewhere.
The Bad: Nothing bad to say about a player in his situation. I hope he finds NHL employment


Jimmy Howard
The Good: Jimmy was Detroit's MVP all season and put up All-Star stats in the regular season and playoffs. He was the reason Detroit went the distance against Chicago and nearly defeated them.
The Bad: As elite as Howard was this season, even more will be expected next season in the new division against newer competition. I am unsure if he can repeat the same MVP-like season next year, but I wouldn't bet against him. I would like to see more rebound control, if I had to lodge a legitimate complaint.

Jonas Gustavsson
The Good: He didn't lose every game he played.
The Bad: His stats were poor, he was unreliable as a backup, and is due for a buyout.

Petr Mrazek
The Good: Mrazek has performed brilliantly for Grand Rapids all season, and he was quite
impressive in his two NHL games, especially his first career start, a 5-1 victory against the
St. Louis Blues.
The Bad: With only two games of NHL experience, it's hard to say whether Mrazek is ready to
shoulder a full season load of games as Detroit's backup. He's obviously the future of the team
in goal, but there's a lot of time before that becomes a reality, if it does.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stanley Cup Playoff Preview: (2) Anaheim Ducks vs (7) Detroit Red Wings

We did it.

I use the term "we" because I am that guy. I am a fan who treats the Red Wings like they are a part of who I am and how I live my life. There are fan circles who detract others for using the royal "we" in reference to the team they support. My blog isn't affiliated with the Detroit Red Wings organization in any way. I've never met a player who plays for them. But I belong to a very large community online and offline that identifies with what the team represents and how they play the game. I've met a lot of great people who feel the same way about the Red Wings. This season, more than others, has brought our community together as the Red Wings struggled harder than they ever have to continue their playoff streak.

And they did it.

Twenty-two consecutive playoffs. It's an impressive feat, although nowhere near the record. For those curious, the longest postseason streak belongs to the Boston Bruins, who made it 29 seasons in a row before missing. Former Central Division rivals Chicago Blackhawks (28) and Saint Louis Blues (25) also have longer streaks, but during those streaks, neither team was capable of capturing the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings have been able to score six Stanley Cup finals appearances, four of which turned into championships.

The relief of continuing the streak has provided time for insight on the regular season and how to grade this team. I will be posting the second of the promised "The Good, Bad, and the Ugly" upon completion, but in the meantime, let's get to brass tacks and talk about the playoff series that begins on Tuesday evening.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The 2013 Detroit Red Wings Regular Season Finale

Worst. Shop. Ever.

In 1966, Italian director Sergio Leone directed the Spaghetti western classic "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", or if you're feeling snobbish, "Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo". The iconic film, starring Clint Eastwood, is about three gunfighters battling for a secret fortune amidst the United States Civil War. It is the third and final entry into the iconic "Dollars Trilogy" that stars Eastwood. If you have never seen it, you should check it out. I'm sure it's on Netflix, OnDemand, or cable somewhere.

I mention "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" because I can think of no better term, phrase, or movie title to compare to the 2013 Detroit Red Wings season. Thursday night's 5-2 triumph over the Nashville Predators was the feel-good moment of the regular season. They looked like the Red Wings of old; the ones who could find themselves playoff bound for a 22nd consecutive year. Sadly, the entire season has not been this joyous. There's been injuries, overtime losses, and did I mention injuries? I don't even remember what Darren Helm looks like. Tomorrow, I will be running a full post on my review of the regular season. Meanwhile, we have a game to discuss.

We have reached the final game of the regular season, and the team's fate in its own hands. The showdown Saturday night in Dallas is (surprise) the most important of the season. A win means the playoffs; a loss means having to rely on Minnesota and/or Columbus losing in order to squeeze into the playoffs. The team will finish in 7th or 8th place, meaning Detroit will either face longtime rivals Chicago or the despised Anaheim Ducks. I remember the last time the 2nd seeded Red Wings were toppled by the 7th seed Ducks. The shoe would appear to be on the other foot this time around...and it happens to be ten years since the shocking series sweep.

The Red Wings find themselves crawling into the playoffs. A question I have asked myself several times the past month is whether continuing the streak is worth limping into the playoffs just to get bounced by Chicago or Anaheim. The painful, obvious, irrefutable truth for me is HELL YES. The *only* thing that matters is that your team makes it into the playoffs. The 2011-2012 Los Angeles Kings shattered the illusion that the 8th seed can't get the job done. They went 16-4 and absolutely dominated the playoffs in a way that I can't recall anyone else doing. Can the 2013 Detroit Red Wings do the same?

Tonight is going to be a big game. If Johan Franzen keeps playing like his playoff alter-ego, Jimmy Howard remains a rock in goal, and special teams capitalizes on mistakes, winning is going to be a hell of a lot easier. There's no time to be nervous, no time to hesitate. Win and we're in. Lose, and Columbus and Minnesota almost deserve to go over. I would rather cut my eyeballs out than watch another Minnesota/Anaheim series.

Tomorrow I will continue the "Good, Bad, Ugly" theme with a second piece about what parts of the 2013 regular season Detroit Red Wings I thought were good, bad, and ugly. Until then, GO WINGS GO.

Don't Stop Believing'.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Frkwatch Update: Playoff Overtime Winner Edition!

It's been a roller-coaster month for Detroit Red Wings fans. Better men/women/blogger robots have already dissected the struggle to reach the playoffs. If you want a gander at those posts, go over to Winging it in Motown or The Malik Report. For now, I defer to the major leagues while yours truly spends his time establishing himself as the authority on a single Red Wing (prospect) player. Someday, we'll all look back on this blog together fondly of how we watched a true legend rise from a little metropolis known as Halifax.

So while the big boys keep sucking, the Red Wings prospects across the CHL and even the AHL continue to make the future bright for Hockeytown. Xavier Ouellet and Marty Frk are still kicking around in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's playoff semifinals, and the news is pretty good, mostly. Ouellet drew an assist in the Blainville-Broisbiand Armada's 2-1 loss to the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in Game Two. Before I continue, can you believe these names? I kid you not, these are REAL teams in the QMJHL. They both have significant meaning for the areas they represent, but to an outsider these are about as bizarre and confusing as any European team name. I'm still not sure what a Chicoutimi Saguenéen is even after Googling it.

Anyway, the Armada are down 2-0 to the Drakkar after two 2-1 losses. Unfortunate for Ouellet, but while one Red Wings prospect falls, another rises. Marty Frk continues to tear it up in the playoffs, scoring the overtime winner in a 5-4 Game Two matchup between the Halifax Mooseheads and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Here's a clip of the overtime winner, care of the Mooseheads' YouTube page:

Here's another angle of the winner:

That's 10,000 Haligonians cheering on the victory. As you can see, Frk pots the biggest goal of his life thus far. The Mooseheads are up 2-0 against the Huskies in the best-of-seven series and could very well have a stranglehold on the series by week's end. Let's have a quick peak at the top scorers in the QMJHL playoffs so far:

Nice copy/paste job from the Q League page, eh?

As you can see, Frk has twenty points in ten games. He's fourth on his team in scoring, but unlike his linemates who precede him on the top scoring list, Frk also has 20 PIMs. This should come as no surprise to those of you who have been following Frkwatch since the season's beginning. Frk likes to get his hands dirty. I like that.

Not much else is to be said of Frk and the Moose aside from the likeliness that they will compete for the President's Cup very soon. All due respect for Rouyn-Noranda, the Moose are built to win championships. Next season will see most of the top players move on, but in the moment this team looks poised to become the Q's best team and a Memorial Cup lock. Catch you all next time.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Trade Deadline Thoughts

Well, the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline has passed, and the Detroit Red Wings made no trades at the last minute to bolster the forwards, defense, or goaltending of their team. That sound you year is half the hockey world slamming down the panic button for the soon-to-be-Dead-Things.

Hold on a minute, geniuses.

If you'd like a rather complete explanation as to why the Detroit Red Wings did little to improve the team, here's The Malik Report with a litany of quotes, tweets, and some comments from a host of people who cover the Red Wings on a daily basis. This should satisfy your need to know why nothing was done, or at least give you a modicum of sanity while you tear your hair out over Detroit missing out on overpaying for Jay Bouwmeester.

Most Red Wings fans (I hope) have accepted the reality that the Detroit Red Wings are rebuilding. Management are doing everything they can to keep the team competitive enough to continue making the playoffs and keep the Western Conference annoyed that a playoff slot is going to be taken up by those bastards in the red and white. At this point, it's all anyone can do not to despise the Red Wings and their success. Let's face it, the Red Wings are that guy in the office you can't stand to be around because he has the nice car, the nice apartment, the better cell phone, and that poisonous smile that you just want to sucker punch at lunch time while he eats from his expensive Tupperware containers. If you're not a fan, you're tired of hearing about them and their success and their banners and their late round draft picks who keep taking the damn puck away from you. You're tired of it all, and you want this team buried in the standings.

But they just won't die. They aren't dead yet, and it kills you to know they are rebuilding on the fly and won't go down without snagging one more chance at the Stanley Cup. For those of us grounded in reality in Motown (the figurative one that the global fan community belongs to), we get it. We knew a season like this was coming. We knew a trade deadline would loom and there would be a market the Red Wings couldn't get anything done in because it was time to stop trading away youngsters and draft picks. 2013 was the year Ken Holland said "ain't nobody got time for that". (Note: he didn't say that. But we were all thinking it.)

Deadline Day 2013 was a perplexing array of trades that, on paper, would be wholeheartedly rejected by fan communities. If you want a(n in)comprehensive look at what it means to play "Dumbass Trade Roulette", check out Twitter or HFBoards' trade section, where nothing matters but your top five prospects and first round draft picks. Seriously, don't go there because you will hurt yourself tripping over the lopsided proposals. If you must, go with the understanding that it's all trolling and jokingly bad trade proposals. Otherwise your head will be spinning and you'll be vomiting up pea soup faster than you can say "Filppula for a 2nd round pick and a prospect".

Detroit didn't really participate in the deadline, unless you count missing out on JayBouw and sending Kent Huskins to a place that needed him far more than Detroit. I honestly wish him well and hope he finds a place in Philly. Last time we sent a player their it worked out well. Right, Ville Leino? I do love what you've done in Buffalo. Snark aside for a moment, Ken Holland didn't indulge the bizarre trade market this year in order to spare the prospects from doom elsewhere and preserve the draft picks the team desperately needs to refresh its roster. How many times can we re-sign Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson to contract and deny our gems like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist a chance to shine? I guess we'll find out in July.

A quick glance at Detroit's injured players, we see it includes the third-line center and penalty killing machine Darren Helm, the above mentioned Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson (more than one injury this season), Kyle Quincey, and now Henrik Zetterberg, although thankfully the captain is not going to miss a lot of time.

Well, that list includes, in a pessimistic analysis, two thirds of the third line, a second line RW, and our theoretical second pairing defenseman. We did just get Carlo Colaiacovo back, so when Quincey returns there's the second pairing finally back in one piece. Within a couple of weeks, Detroit will have its depth scoring back from its veteran wingers and hopefully special teams will see a boost from the speedy Helm.

So, did Detroit need to do anything at the deadline?

Nope. So we didn't panic and throw away our future for the sake of acquiring players that would cost a fortune in salary. I guess you should give Ken Holland an "F" for that effort.

If you thought the Red Wings would do something like throw a pupu platter of picks and prospects for Pominville or let a team grab a gob of our greenhorns for Gaborik, you can't see the forest for the trees here in Detroit. I'd lend you my glasses, but they're both dirty and unsuitable for people who lack depth perception. Pun entirely intended.

Now, I won't go far as to suggest a certain Patriarch of the Puck is barking up the wrong tree, because I adore him, but to consider an idle Detroit who are supposedly a "win-now team" the only true failure among a class of 30 teams is folly. To punish a team desperate for a rebuild who chose not to buy up pieces in a patchwork job is folly. Detroit can no longer afford to give their young stars the boot to other teams looking to sell assets because they've done it for too long. The magical spring of Datsyuks and Zetterbergs has run dry. There's plenty of great prospects in the system, despite the tired trope of Red Wings fans over-hyping their future players, and there's no reason to toss aside a plan for a rebuild just to continue a playoff streak that is neither the longest in NHL history nor relevant in the modern age of hockey. 21 seasons is playoffs is impressive. Four Stanley Cups is impressive. Remaining competitive is impressive. You know what's more impressive? Bouncing back from a bad season immediately to rise back up the standings. I'm looking at you, Montreal.

Detroit's recovery begins now that they have secured their own 2013 first round draft pick. Here's hoping it can be used to draft someone with offensive firepower, or perhaps that top pairing defenseman we pine for. Really, one could argue the recovery began symbolically by landing college free agent Danny DeKeyser. It's still exciting that the kid chose the Red Wings when 29 other teams were competing.

As a final thought to Deadline Day, I'd like to adress the most frustrating element of the last two weeks: the status of Valtteri Filppula. Many fans, myself included, have questioned whether Filppula will return to the Red Wings next season. You can sniff around the internet to see that there's been all sorts of quotes about how that's not the focus of Filppula or management right now, but reality is he is looking for a two million dollar per season pay increase. As I pondered this week on Twitter, what has Filppula done since his last contract to warrant a pay hike like that? He had a fantastic 2011-2012, scoring over sixty points for the first time. Jubilation all around Motown. This season, Filppula has looked well defensively, but his offense is paltry, netting six goals and thirteen points in 29 games. As a reference point, six Red Wings have more goals than the Finnish playmaker, including now-top line superstar Justin Abdelkader (maybe a little sarcasm there). It hasn't been a good year for Filppula to show he's worth the 5 million a year, long term deal he's looking for. What should Ken Holland do?

Some suggested we trade Filppula today to get maximum value for him before he walks for nothing. In theory, that's an excellent idea. Today proved to be a bizarre deadline where great players were sent to strange places for curiously diluted packages. All due respect for the players traded for the Gaboriks and Pominvilles, I'm still scratching my scalp. In the end, Holland didn't pull the trigger and that can give us some insight into the Filppula situation. Perhaps he wasn't moved because he's never going anywhere. There could be a plan to keep him. Or it's a gesture of hope that he will resign for a more reasonable amount of money. Or Ken Holland just couldn't get value for him. We'll never know because it makes no sense for Holland to let on that he shopped a guy we kind of want to re-sign.

As another deadline day passes and all the major sports networks pack up their big sets and the poor bastards who had to spend 14 hours covering this dull affair get some rest from their mobile phones, take solace in the fact that the Detroit Red Wings are no worse than they were yesterday. In fact, if you think about it, they're better than they were a week ago. And in two weeks when all of our players aren't beaten up with injures, they'll be better than they are now.

I can live with that.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Frkwatch: Playoff Update and Regular Season Thoughts

My seats for Game Two vs. Saint John. Not pictured: Frk scoring half a dozen goals, the chunky kid who ruined 75% of the photos I tried to take.

It's been a while since I updated the blog or made an attempt to post. While traffic soared during January and February thanks in large to a lot of good posts, I was incredibly busy with life in February and March, and got quite ill the last few weeks with some kind of bizarre chest cold that sapped the life out of me. I'm on the mend but between work and life it's been hard to maintain some kind of consistency in terms of writing. Kudos to the fellas at Winging it in Motown for keeping things interesting the past few weeks. If you don't already participate in the game threads like I do from time to time, you should join in on the shenanigans. All your favorite WIIM guys are there acting silly. Sometimes JJ gets stern but someone has to, otherwise we all go insane.

Special shoutout to Graham Hathway for a rather controversial post about the now-signed Daniel DeKeyser. While some disagreed that missing the boat on signing DeKeyser would be a miserable failure, Graham had some excellent points in the article he wrote and the comment section about his value to the Red Wings. What was more interesting about the article Graham wrote was the bizarre assault "GallopingGreg" attempted on Graham and his analysis. It was a real treat to see the Red Wings community throttle Graham's would-be nemesis. He didn't have a leg to stand on at any point and it's a beautiful thing to see the community come together to dispatch a troll. Anyway, please send your love to Graham over at Winging it in Motown or Twitter. He's Canadian, which instantly makes him more likable than all other Red Wings fans. Just kidding. Sorry.

Time to get down to business. The QMJHL regular season ended recently and it was a very interesting final 20 games or so for the Moosehead, as Nathan MacKinnon got injured near the end of the season and while he's back now, there was concern the team would struggle without him. Enter Marty Frk. In the month of February, Frk played in 11 games, scoring 11 goals and 20 points with a plus/minus of 10 and 14 PIM. In March, Frk played in 9 games, scoring 4 and registering 11 points with a plus/minus of just +1 and 8 PIM. Frk finished the regular season with 56 games played, 35 goals, 49 assists, 84 points, a plus/minus of +31, 84 PIM, which was all good for 13th in QMJHL scoring. Frk was quite impressive in the final three months of the season, matching the creativity of his linemates and future first round draft picks Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.

I was able to attend a couple of games in the final months of the regular season and I had a few follow up thoughts to Frk's impressive scoring run at the end of the season. The biggest lesson learned from Frkwatch is that Frk possess that rare game-breaking ability that generational forwards like his idols Jaromir Jagr and Sergei Fedorov have. Marty Frk is the kind of player who can take over a game and use his offensive prowess to frustrate and stifle defenses and goaltenders with a blistering shot and his uncanny ability to find open ice. He has a real nose for the net and finding the right place to be when it comes to scoring. Junior hockey is one thing but Frk always looked out of place with the Moose, if only because he already knows how to play the offensive weapon role he is most suited for. Obviously his development required him to "grow up" in junior, but he possesses an offensive maturity that fueled both his game and MacKinnon and Drouin's throughout the season. That line was lethal whenever it was on the ice.

Unfortunately, Frk's strength is also his biggest weakness: his ability to make the game all about him caused some trouble when it came to penalties. Early in the season, Frk struggled to get into form due in large part to the leg injury he sustained late in the summer. Frk's "double tap" skating method (which I covered earlier in the season), caused him to very slowly leave the offensive zone and lag behind very slowly on backcheck. This backchecking improved drastically as the season went on, but Frk's tendency to take stupid penalties, namely retaliatory ones, never faded. A lot of this is mental maturity: it's hard to be critical of a nineteen year old kid bound for the NHL, but rather than pretend this player has no flaws, I'll lay it out there as I see it. Frk may be able to take over a game, but his tendency to pester defenses and retaliate when they use their physical frames to push him around is a glaring weakness in his game.

The 84 PIMs are an early warning sign of a particular attitude on the ice. No, Frk isn't a whiner or a diver or the kind of player who won't own up to his mistakes. Frk is intense. He wants the puck and wants to lead the forecheck and he wants all passes directed to him. I would argue this nature is precisely the kind of aggression Fedorov and Jagr expressed during the early years of their career, before defense became a top concern. Frk has that special nature and while it comes with a propensity to draw dumb penalties, that immaturity will wain in time as Frk learns to play a two way game in Detroit. At the very least, the lack of defensive responsibility will be hammered out of him in Grand Rapids, where he will no doubt spend the next two seasons.


The "Frk Yeah" saying will no doubt be abused by Red Wings fans for years to come (provided he isn't traded for an overpaid defensemen) and has already become a regularly occurring rally cry on Winging it in Motown's game threads. Halifax Moosehead fans have been saying "Frk Yeah" for a few years and were going crazy at the Metro Centre on Friday March 22nd when the playoffs began for the QMJHL. Frk kicked off the playoffs with a show of his skills, scoring a Moosehead record five goals and three assists for eight points with a plus/minus of 4 in an 11-1 thumping of the Saint John Sea Dogs. Frk finished the four game sweep with six goals and four assists, good for fourth among playoff scorers in the Q League playoff scorers. He's tied with teammate Johnathan Drouin, for what it's worth. Here are the highlights of the game:

The eight point night is the perfect example of what Frk is capable of when he takes over a game. I was there for the second game where the Moose eaked out a one goal victory. Frk was all over the ice trying to make the offense run. Unfortunately Frk had a blank score sheet but had 5 shots on goal. Here are a couple of pictures and a video I took at the game:

Frk during a faceoff, probably thinking about how soon he can replace Mikael Samuelsson. Photo courtesy of PG Marsh

On the forecheck. He's always the last man to leave the zone. You can tell he loves to backcheck. Photo courtesy of PG Marsh.

As the Moose wait to commence their second round matchup against whatever ragamuffin team ekes out a win to face them, there's time to reflect on the strength of their opening round win. Kudos to Saint John goaltender Sebastien Auger for trying to keep his team in Game Two, but holy crap did that kid ever get hammered in goal. The second round is going to be slightly more difficult for the Moose, so expect more 4-1 or 5-2 scores. Can Frk keep up the production and lead the Moose to the Memorial Cup? Stay tuned to Frkwatch.

In the meantime, if you want to talk more about the Mooseheads (Meesehead?) please drop a line in the comment section, or shoot me a tweet at my Twitter, @wizofozblog.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Discussing Petr Mrazek (Redux)

This is a rehash of a post from last year where I spoke of Detroit Red Wings prospect Petr Mrazek. In light of him being named Detroit's starting goaltender in tonight's contest with the St. Louis Blues, here is a look back at some things I said about Mrazek, with a little bit added in about his 2012-13 season in Grand Rapids. Czech it out! (Sorry, it was a lame joke used in the first article and I felt the need to ring that bell a second time.)

Petr Mrázek

Petr Mrázek is a 20 year old goaltender who previously belonged to the OHL's Ottawa 67s. During his tenure in Ottawa, Mrázek put up strong numbers, including two consecutive 30 win seasons that also included save percentages above .917. That's pretty good for a league filled with crazy talented kids putting up point per game or better seasons. As the highlight reel suggests, Mrázek THRIVES on competition, emotion, and excitement. If you want an excellent glimpse into Mrázek's personality, The Goalie Guild is all over this one. The Guild gives a pretty outstanding endorsement and please do not hesitate to click on their link and check out the interviews. One thing I found interesting about Justin Goldman's article is the lack of references to a previously dominant Czech goalie who was both explosive and unorthodox in his style.What was his name? Dominik Hašek?

Far be it for me to suggest Mrázek is the next 389 win, six time Vezina and two time Hart winning double Stanley Cup and Olympic gold champion. Reality is that there will never be another Hašek . The comparison is not your average over-the-top-Wings-fandom cheerleading so much as an outlandish attempt at comparing the styles of the goalies. One could argue that the art of tending goal is so varied that it's like comparing Picasso's Guernica to Peter Bruegel's The Triumph of Death. There is a grain of truth in the comparisons, but ultimately it if futile to say one shares much in common with the other. In the case of the paintings, both are pieces of art. Both deal with the tragedy of death in some manner. Both are European painters. I'm sure there's a more postmodern comparison to be dug up but I digress. Mrázek and Hašek can be compared much in the same manner. They're both goalies. They both come from Europe and the same country. They both play a unique style that bucks the trend of their generation.

Most of all, it's that intangible, explosive personality that makes them both entertaining that draws my interest. During Hašek 's years in Detroit, he was still playing at an elite level (for the most part), but his best years were behind him. Despite Father Time beginning his slow but steady shin-whacking of the Dominator,   Hašek  was ever the peppy netminder who bamboozled the NHL's best even on off nights.

For those without sound, that's a 40 goal machine, the Slovakian Marián Gáborík getting dumped on his face. Not much else to say there.

Mrázek's big welcome to the spotlight came at the 2012 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, where he won the honour of Best Goaltender of the tournament despite the Czechs finishing 5th and getting dumped in the quarter finals by Russia. When all was said and done, the kid nearly finished off the best team in the tournament in the first round of knockouts by himself. The whole world started asking "who is this guy and why is he dominating" and "how do you say his name" all over the internet. Red Wings fans, atop their ivory towers, snickered at the thought of getting another Hašek from the eleventy-billionth round of a thin draft. Okay, that's the over-the-top-Wing cheerleader in me. I'll dial it back. He's not exactly a reserved kind of guy like Chris Osgood. He might even be the anti-Osgood. Cue the Ryan Lambert material here, if you please. No, Mrázek is not subtle:

Now that I would pay to see every night for 15 years. Eccentric goalies are often very up-and-down in terms of quality (see Bryzgalov, Ilya) and can often put forth some stinky performances (Dominator anyone?) but Mrázek sports something we haven't seen in Detroit in a few seasons. Mrázek plays with a passion for the game on his sleeve and lets that passion erupt in the form of crazy celebrations on the ice. I'm not only cool with that, I cannot wait to see this kid play (and win) in Detroit.

On the eve of Mrazek's NHL debut, it seems appropriate to bring everyone up to speed on his efforts down in Grand Rapids. So far with the Griffins, Mrazek has been AHL All-Star caliber. He boasts a 16-7-3-1 record with a 2.26 GAA and a sparkling .916 save percentage.  He's outperformed fellow Griffin Tom McCollum and given the injuries to Gustavsson and Joey MacDonald, he is the logical choice for backup to Jimmy Howard...for now. As we approach his NHL debut there's still a lot of questions as to how the kid will perform under the big spotlight...

Cannot wait to see him in action tonight.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

High Praise for Zetterberg, Czech out Mrazek!

The weekend didn't go the way most Red Wings fans hoped. After picking up a satisfying (if not controversial) 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on Friday, Detroit lost a rather humdrum affair to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday by a score of 4-2. That brings the Red Wings record to 4-3-1, good for a four way tie for 6th in the Western Conference. The log jam in the standings continues with two teams tied with eight points and two more teams tied with seven points. All of this means Detroit sits two points up on 13th place Columbus and two points back of 5th place Anaheim. If you want a good read on how the weekend went game-by-game, check out Winging it in Motown and JJ's analysis of the 5-3 win and the 4-2 not-win. They've got a nifty explanation of how CSSI analysis works. Here's a hint: CSSI stands for Common Sense Scoring Index.

Moving on as fast as possible from the weekend's cruddy results, one of the biggest surprises for Red Wings fans over the weekend was the high praise solicited from hockey's greatest scorer, Wayne Gretzky. In a piece I stumbled upon over at r/DetroitRedWings, The Great One offers up his opinion on Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg and his place in the game today. In essence, Gretzky declared that not only was Zetterberg his favorite player to watch, he believes Hank is the best Swede ever to play in the National Hockey League. Not hard to fathom when Zetterberg is out there scoring like he did Friday against the Blues:

The third goal was kind of a goof by the Blues, kudos to Oshie for fighting hard to prevent the hat trick. Getting back to Gretzky's point about Zetterberg being the best Swede...I'm inclined to agree, but is he suggesting Lidstrom was inferior or that he transcends any comparisons? I love Hank as much as any Red Wing fan out there, but I'm not sure Lidstrom doesn't deserve the honour. What about Daniel Alfredsson over in Ottawa? Gretzky makes a terrific point, though. Zetterberg often doesn't get enough credit for his two-way play and his offensive output. Understandable when your line mate is often all-world superstar Pavel Datsyuk, but give Hank a full season as captain and I think people will be surprised at how successful this team can be, even after losing all the defensemen that made the team formidable in the late 2000s.


The injuries are mounting pretty fast in Detroit. Currently out with some form of injury are the following:

Jan Mursak (collar bone? shoulder?)
Carlo Colaiacovo (left shoulder)
Ian White (left leg laceration)
Mikael Samuelsson (groin)
Darren Helm (back)
Jonas Gustavsson (groin)

Unfortunately for the Red Wings, there's another injury we have to talk about.

Brendan Smith is down.

According to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, everyone's favorite defenseman prodigy is now nursing an injured shoulder and will be out 10 to 14 days minimum. If things didn't look bad with White and Colaiacovo out, the Wings are down another regular defenseman. At this point, the Red Wings defense kind of looks like this:

A combination of Lashoff-Huskins-Kindl

The blank spot might/should be filled by Ian White come Tuesday against the Calgary Flames, and Kent Huskins isn't injured from the "head shot" perpetrated by David Backes. For what it's worth, Lashoff has earned his place in the starting lineup from the few games he has played thus far, and Jakub Kindl definitely has not. I come down hard on Kindl pretty hard for not proving his value, but this is a point where until the rest of the regulars return, Kindl HAS TO PLAY WELL. That means no more lapses. Kindl's time may be up in Detroit before the end of the season, and it appears with Lashoff playing well, he may be expendable come the trade deadline. Then again, there are so many injuries to the blueline, only Lashoff, Nick Kronwall and the venerable Kyle Quincey have escaped some kind of injury. Thank god for small mercies, eh?


On the upside, it looks like those aching to see Tomas Tatar and Petr Mrazek in the Red Wings lineup may get their chance. According to MLive (Khan!), both were recalled from Grand Rapids. It's about damn time someone noticed ECHL calibre netminder Thomas McCollum was sitting on the Red Wings bench, potentially entering games. Mrazek on the bench gives me a sense of relief while Gustavsson ices his crotch. I had done my fair share of whining over McCollum in a couple of the Winging it in Motown game threads, so clearly management read what I said and looked at some game tape or something. I think this is the best thing for young Petr Mrazek, especially given how strong his play in the AHL for Grand Rapids has been.

As for Tatar, I'm not high on him but his play in Grand Rapids thus far has been exceptional. He has 39 points in 44 games with the Griffins. I'm not sure where Tatar will fit into the lineup, but the idea of Detroit actually bringing up their prospects to play is pleasing. I understand this season isn't anywhere close to being a wash, but the time has come to accept that signing 35 year old forwards to be invisible/injured is no longer going to be acceptable. It's time to shake up the lineup and give Tatar, Nyquist and company the chance to show that they are as good as what the Red Wings community hopes they are. Here's Tatar netting a hat trick Friday night:

Any thoughts on Zetterberg, Tatar, Mrazek, or the Wings in general? Leave a comment!