POSTED ON Wednesday, 01.25.2012 / 2:38 PM
|For the second straight year, Jimmy Howard is the first NHL goalie to 30 wins, doing so Jan. 23. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
Now, Jimmy Howard (30-10-1) is on a pace to become the first-ever to win 50 games, which would top the current NHL mark set by New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur (48) in 2006-07.
However, wins between now and early April will be far more critical for the Wings in this new world Western Conference than in seasons past.
“I’m just calm and patient out there and when you have a good team in front of you that makes my job a lot easier,” said Howard, who boasts a 1.96 goals-against average with five shutouts this season. “We’re paying attention to details in our own zone. Guys are sacrificing their bodies, blocking shots. … As a goalie, when you see that it fires you up that much more.”
Regardless of the outcome tonight in Montreal, the Wings will enter All-Star weekend with the league’s best record, which currently stands at 33-15-1 for 67 points. But the Wings are also in the league’s toughest division with St. Louis, Chicago and Nashville all within three-points of catching Detroit in the Central standings.
With the Western race likely to go to the wire, the Wings need Howard to continue to shine, especially against his divisional goaltending contemporaries, like, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and the two-headed monsters in St. Louis (Brian Elliott/Jaroslav Halak) and Chicago (Corey Crawford/Ray Emery).
Sixty percent of the season is in the rearview mirror, but with 33 games remaining on the schedule, the Wings still have 10 divisional contests left to play, including three each against Nashville, Chicago and Columbus.
The Wings are 9-5-0 against their Central rivals with eight games decided by one goal, so it’s conceivable that goaltending will be a crucial element down the stretch.
But Howard’s teammates have plenty of confidence in the third-year starter, who along with center Pavel Datsyuk, will represent the Wings at the All-Star game this weekend in Ottawa.
“He’s so comfortable in net and calm. It helps us to play better,” center Henrik Zetterberg said. “We know he will be there for us. He will win games for us even if we're not playing at our top level we know we have a chance at winning.”
Howard has kept the Wings in games all season, but lately, with three of the last five home games going to overtime or shoot-outs, he’s been a big influence. And during the club’s 17-game home winning streak, he’s been miraculous while posting a 1.41 GAA with a .945 save percentage and four shutouts.
“Over a period of time it is because he's more consistent,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “But he played good right out the get-go, too. He's always had the ability; the ability to do it every night is a different thing. Now he's very confident, soft, when the puck hits him it sticks to him. He makes saves you don't even think are saves anymore. You don't think about it as much. He's become a good goaltender in the league. Now he's got to do it for 15 years, it's the measure.”
Howard knows that he must also do it on the road, where he is 10-8-2 with a 2.42 GAA this season.
“We have to find a way to play on the road like we do at home,” said Howard, who is 20-2-1 with a 1.59 GAA at home. “At The Joe, nothing seems to rattle us. We keep our composure. Even when we get a little bit lost out there we come right back to the game plan and find ways to win.”
If Howard stays consistent at home, and ups his game on the road, he’ll definitely be a Vezina Trophy finalist while joining Terry Sawchuk, Roger Crozier and Dominik Hasek as the only Wings’ goalies to post 40-plus win seasons.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill
POSTED ON Monday, 01.23.2012 / 1:58 PM
|Henrik Zetterberg is led off the ice by linesman Brian Mach (78) after the Wings' center received a game-misconduct for an accidental play resulted in an injury to a Columbus player. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
“Never been called, that was my first,” said Zetterberg, of the phone call from Brendan Shanahan, the league’s headmaster of discipline. “I’m glad that it was Shanny.”
The call from his former Wings' teammate was more of a fact-finding mission to get Zetterberg’s side of Saturday’s story when he earned the first game-misconduct of his career, stemming from a incident when Columbus defenseman Nikita Nikitin fall awkwardly into the end board in the third period.
According to the Blue Jackets’ Twitter account, Nikitin is expected to miss at least two games with a knee injury.
As both players raced for the puck in the corner, Zetterberg had his left hand on Nikitin's back, but replay clearly shows that the fall was accidental.
“I didn’t think that I touched him that hard and I guess he went down mainly on his own,” Zetterberg said. “It looked bad, but I’m glad that I didn’t end up with any suspension.”
After the initial call, Zetterberg had to wait for the league’s decision and Shanahan’s fallow-up call.
“He asked my side of the story and I guess he called Nikita, too,” Zetterberg said. “He needed to hear my side of the story and then I guess they sit down and discuss it and make a decision.”
POSTED ON Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 7:32 PM
|Brett Lebda (23) played five seasons with the Red Wings, including the 2008 Stanley Cup run. He's now in Columbus trying to re-establish his NHL career with the Blue Jackets. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
“This is where I learned everything, just playing alongside Nick and Cheli all those years,” said Lebda, now a defenseman with the Columbus Bleu Jackets. “It was just an opportunity that I will cherish forever. … It was an unbelievable time here.”
Saturday morning, Lebda was back at Joe Louis Arena for just the second time since he left the Wings’ organization for a lucrative contract with Toronto following the 2009-10 season.
Now with the Blue Jackets – his fourth NHL franchise in seven years – Lebda was signed from Springfield on Thursday, and still hasn’t made his season debut. He did not play Saturday against his former teammates.
“The goal from the beginning of the year was to get back in the league,” Lebda said. “I went down and played in the American League for awhile, I got a good opportunity there so I’m excited to be back now.
“They seem to have a great group of guys here and I’m looking forward to getting to know them over the next few days. We go on the road here for a bit. I’ll get to know everyone and get my feet wet.”
In 26 games in Springfield, Lebda has made the most of his first minor-league experience in five years, collecting a goal and nine assists for the Falcons.
“It was tough. At the same time that’s what was presented to me at the time,” said Lebda, who is trying to re-establish his NHL career. “It was tough to take, but you’ve got to swallow your pride and work as hard as you can to try and get back here.
“I got a good opportunity (in the minors), played a ton of minutes and I think that’s going to help me coming back here.”
Ironically, Lebda last skated in an NHL game with the Leafs in a 4-2 loss at Detroit last March. In 376 career games, he has 19 goals, 53 assists and a plus-17 rating.
“If you ask anyone in the league if they like to watch another team the answer would be Detroit,” said, Lebda, who still maintains a home in metro Detroit. “They play the game the right way and they play it hard. Even when they lose guys like Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby they find guys like Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader to kind of take over that role.”
POSTED ON Monday, 01.16.2012 / 12:47 PM
|Nicklas Lidstrom will be the subject of an upcoming episode of 'NHL 36', which will first air on Wednesday, Jan. 25. (Photo by Getty Images)|
No, the bevy of cameras and boom microphones descended on Hockeytown to follow captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who is slated to be the subject of any upcoming episode of the NHL’s all-access series called ‘NHL 36’.
For the next two days, the production crew has exclusive access to Lidstrom, driving to and from Joe Louis Arena with the seven-time Norris Trophy winner and spending time with him and his family at their Northville home. The crew will even be onboard Red Bird III later this evening when the team travels to Dallas its Tuesday night game against the Stars.
Filming began early Monday as Lidstrom prepared to drive down I-96 to the morning skate at JLA. While the skate was optional, the crew got plenty of footage of Lidstrom as he opted to ride a stationary bike instead.
Asked if the cameraman joined him for a bike ride, Lidstrom laughed, saying, “No, he wouldn’t. There were a lot of bikes free, a lot available, but he wouldn’t jump on.”
The crew did jump in team meetings and will give viewers an unprecedented view of the team as they discuss strategy and prepare for an opponent.
“They were in a lot of our meetings, they were in our penalty killing meeting just to see what that’s like,” Lidstrom said. “It just started this morning so we haven’t done a whole lot, but it’s different. It’s different having someone follow you the whole time no matter what you do, whether you’re in here, or like today I rode a bike instead of going on the ice. I did some stretching and we had our meeting, so it’s just a matter of getting used to it.”
Lidstrom is the third player to have the peering eyes of NHL Original Productions flowing his every move. The production crew has already filmed Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Boston’s Patrice Bergeron.
The Lidstrom episode will air on the NBC Sports Network on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m. EST. It will re-air multiple times, including Jan. 26 (5:30 p.m.), Jan. 27 (9 a.m.) and Jan. 29 (7:30 p.m.).
POSTED ON Friday, 01.13.2012 / 10:47 AM
|Jimmy Howard makes one of his 23 saves while earning his 100th career win in Thursday's 3-2 shoot-out win over Phoenix. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
First, the Red Wings’ goalie learned that he had indeed been selected to play in his first NHL All-Star Game, which takes place later this month in Ottawa. Then he celebrated that news by collecting career win No. 100 a few hours later at Joe Louis Arena.
“It doesn't get any better than that. What a great day. It's been awesome,” said Howard, who stopped 23 shots in a 3-2 shoot-out win over Phoenix. “I think the highlight of my day was probably when I woke-up from my nap and my little guy had a T-shirt on that said, 'My Daddy Rocks.’ ”
Howard has been a solid rock of confidence for the Wings all season. Despite leading the league with 25 wins, Howard has stepped up in crucial moments to make outstanding saves all season.
“A goalie's only as good as the team in front of him,” he said. “I'm very lucky to be able to play behind these guys, play behind a great team, I think that's why I've been able to progress at my own rate and coming into this season I felt like I could take more on my plate and be more of a game-changer for the guys.”
Howard is the fourth fastest Wings’ goalie to reach 100 NHL wins, doing so in 171 career games, behind Chris Osgood (158), Manny Legace (163) and hall-of-famer Terry Sawchuk (165).
In all, nine goalies have compiled at least 100 wins in a Wings’ uniform, including Harry Lumley (317), Roger Crozier (163), Tim Cheveldae (128), Greg Stefan (115), and Dominik Hasek (114).
Not to be outdone, but Thursday’s outcome also produced milestones for coach Mike Babcock and forward Danny Cleary, who collected his 200th career assist on Johan Franzen’s third-period goal.
Babcock became the third fastest coach – and 27th overall – in league history to 400 career wins. And Saturday, Babcock will become the 37th league coach to reach 700 career games coached.
“It's no different than Howie for wins or Cleary with assists,” said Babcock of his milestone night. “They're marks you think about later in life and you look at and can be proud of. It's hard to even coach long enough in this league to get 400 wins and to be in that company of those with you.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill
POSTED ON Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 1:02 PM
Last August, the Red Wings’ forward emerged victorious in Operation: Bobblehead – an online voting initiative set-up by the team’s marketing department to determine which six players would have their likeness emblazoned on a 6 ½-inch polyresin figurine this season.
“I think my daughter is pretty happy, and she’s getting to the game early to snag one,” said Cleary, who garnered 90 percent of the vote submitted via DetroitRedWings.com and Facebook.
While it wasn’t as contentious as a Mitt Romney-Newt Gingrich Republican debate, Cleary and teammate Todd Bertuzzi (who won a later vote and will have his own bobblehead night Feb. 23) had a spirited rivalry in the offseason, trading calls and messages as both men tried to leapfrog the other in the Internet polls. Watch Cleary’s campaign vote to the right.
“We had a lot of fun with it, it’s pretty neat,” Cleary said. “I’ve already seen it, so it’s a good keepsake to have.”
Asked if he’s now reached a new standard in celebrity with tonight’s bobblehead debut, Cleary chuckled, and said, “I don’t know, maybe. I think it’s a fun little idea. I think it’s something that we’ll look back on and it will be pretty cool. I think the biggest thing would be for kids, they love that stuff.”
The first 7,500 fans at tonight's Red Wings game will receive the Cleary bobblehead, courtesy of RAM truck.
Follw Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill
POSTED ON Monday, 01.09.2012 / 3:57 PM
It took nearly half of the season for the Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks to finally meet head-to-head for the first time on the 2011-12 calendar.
But as the second half of the season gets underway Tuesday in New York, it’s easy for the Wings to overlook the Islanders – Tuesday’s opponent – and look ahead to the remaining four Central Division clashes with the Blackhawks, who pay a visit to Joe Louis Arena this Saturday afternoon.
It was only a few months ago that some pundits heaped piles of dirt on the grave when the Wings muddled through a 0-5-1 dead stretch. Yet with their stunning overtime comeback win Sunday at United Center, the Wings shook the dirt off and jumped into virtual three-way first-place tie with Chicago and St. Louis for the division lead.
Since losing a sixth straight on Nov. 3, Detroit has had an incredible resurgence, posting a 21-9-0 mark and ascending to the second-best record in the Western Conference, just two-points behind front-running Vancouver.
For the sixth time in the Mike Babcock era, the Wings have compiled 53-points, or more, in the first half of a season. The only time the Wings didn’t meet that first-half points standard was 2009-10 – the only time they finished out of first-place in the division in 11 seasons.
The Wings have rallied around a retooled top forward line with center Pavel Daystuk surrounded by wingers Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi, and they’ve benefited from the sharp contributions of Jimmy Howard, who is having a career year and leads all NHL goalies with 24 wins.
Certainly, the Wings have had some hiccups with ugly losses at Washington and Columbus, as well as a pre-Christmas collapse at Nashville. But when backup Ty Conklin does what he did Sunday – stopping 29 shots, including a penalty shot by Blackhawks rookie Jimmy Hayes – confidence can begin to swell in the locker room, particularly down the home stretch of the season.
With a look toward the final months of the regular-season, the last 13 weeks provide a friendly path for the Wings, who have 18 road games remaining, and just half of those in time zones that are two or three hours behind Detroit. That means 32 games will be played in the Eastern or Central Time Zones, making travel simpler for the players and start times more agreeable to weary-eyed fans.
The Wings also get 13 games left against some teams that have struggled in the first-half of the season and are currently either at .500 or below it in the standings, including games against Montreal, Edmonton, Anaheim, and four more with Columbus, who dismissed its coach Monday.
League general managers like to use 95-points as the barometer for teams making the playoffs. The Wings, Blackhawks and Blues need 42 points to reach the magic number. While the Central Division trio, along with Vancouver and San Jose seem distant for the playoffs, that leaves seven teams – Nashville, Minnesota, Colorado, Calgary, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix – to battle for the final three berths.
And against these foes seeking a playoff berth, the Wings are 10-5-1 this season while out-scoring them, 55-34.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill
POSTED ON Friday, 01.06.2012 / 8:30 AM
Forget, for just a second, that Nicklas Lidstrom is a highly-touted pro hockey player, and that he’s won four Stanley Cup titles and seven Norris Trophies.
He’s also one of the most-decorated and loved athletes in Detroit sports history with a résumé that’s second to none outside of Joe Louis Arena.
And while he has had his recognition, locally – appearing once as grand marshal at America’s Thanksgiving Parade and driving a pace car at Michigan International Speedway – when it comes to being the face of the NHL, Lidstrom has taken a back seat.
If you haven’t seen it, Lidstrom, Anaheim forward Corey Perry and one deceased cephalopod appear together in a new TV commercial for Honda about passionate fans.
Filming for the commercial was shot in mid-November – during the Red Wings’ three-game road trip to California – outside of the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
“It took a whole night, it was a lot of shooting,” Lidstrom said. “You think it will be quicker, but everything from lighting to being in the right spots to saying the right things and walking the right steps, everything. It took a lot longer than I anticipated.”
Lidstrom was approached about the car commercial during training camp by his agent.
“I didn’t know the extent of it, but, sure, it sounded like a fun thing to do,” he said. “And when they explained briefly what it was that we would be doing, I thought it was a fun thing to try out.”
While the filming took all night, Lidstrom assured us that only one octopus was used on the windshield of the Honda Pilot.
“That in itself took probably an hour just to make sure it got to the right spot and was sliding down slowly,” Lidstrom said. “I believe they only used the one, but I think they were toying around with it to make it slide down and stick on the windshield.”
POSTED ON Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 4:54 PM
|Czech goalie, and Red Wings prospect, Petr Mrazek, celebrated a 5-2 upset win over Team USA. Mrazek was drafted by the Wings in the fifth-round in 2010. (Photo by Getty Images)|
However, after the 19-year-old turned aside 52 shots in a 5-2 upset win over the Americans, it’s probably safe to say that Mrazek’s name won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
One Canadian scribe even wrote that Mrazek’s outing against Team USA, “will go down as one of the greatest goalie performances ever witnessed in this tournament. … Mrazek’s spectacular saves and colorful celebrations have won over a lot of fans here in Edmonton over the last week.”
With the 141st pick in the 2010 NHL draft, the Wings selected the 6-foot-1 goalie, now in his third and final Ontario Hockey League season with the Ottawa 67’s. He turn pro next fall with the Wings’ minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids next season.
But for now, whether or not Mrazek is the Wings’ heir apparent between the pipes, time will only tell. Yet for him to perform as miraculously as he did – and on such a big international stage – is quite impressive.
Prior to Thursday night’s consolation game against Slovakia, Mrazek had posted a 2-3 record with a 2.59 goals-against average, a .926 save percentage and a shutout victory over Denmark.
Mrazek has been so good that even in defeat the Czech goalie has earned Best Player of the Game recognition in losses to Canada (5-0) and Russia (2-1).
Besides Mrazek, the Wings have four other drafted prospects playing in the tournament, including Finland’s Teemu Pulkkinen and Slovakia’s Tomas Jurco. Both forwards are at the top of the tournament scoring list with Pulkkinen compiling six goals and four assists and Jurco collecting a goal and seven assists.
Jurco’s Slovakian teammate, Marek Tvrdon, has three goals and an assist in the tourney, while Swedish defenseman Mattias Backman has three assists and is a plus-5. Jurco, Tvrdon and Backman were all drafted by the Wings last summer in St. Paul, Minn.
After Mrazek’s performance last Friday, Joe McDonnell, the Wings’ director of amateur scouting, was elated, telling the Edmonton Journal, “When you have guys playing in the tournament, you hope that they show well and (Mrazek) was outstanding today. Actually, he was great every game he’s played in so far.”
Through 29 games with Ottawa, Mrazek is 16-7-4 with a 3.01 GAA and .909 save percentage.
POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 12:15 PM
|Pete Mahovlich (above) and his brother Frank, played together with the Red Wings during the 1968-69 season.|
“Yeah, it’s an exciting time for me and for him,” Jamie Benn told the Stars’ website. “You always dream of playing in the NHL since you were little and to get to play your first one with your brother is pretty cool. I think I’m more excited than him.”
While it’s not all that common for brothers to play together on the same NHL team, betcha didn’t know that the Red Wings have had eight different sets of brothers – at one time or another – play together, including the Maholviches and Wilsons?
In all, 15 sibling sets have worn the Wings’ uniform dating back to the second season of the franchise’s existence when forwards Frank and Johnny Sheppard played four games together with the Detroit Cougars during the 1927-28 campaign.
Since then, there have been more than 500 Wings’ games that have featured brothers in the lineup together. But none since March 30, 1969 – that’s when Frank and Pete Maholvich played together for the last time in a Wings' lineup during a 9-5 season-finale loss at Chicago Stadium.
The last tandem formed to join the Wings’ brotherhood was when enforcer Chris McRae joined the organization two years after his older brother Basil was traded to Quebec in 1987.
The Wings’ other sibling teammates were Des and Earl Roche (1934-35); Hec, Ken and Wally Kilrea (1934-40); Ed and Mud Bruneteau (1940-46); Nikina and Winky Smith (1943-44); Don and Rod Morrison (1947-48); and Larry and Johnny Wilson (1949-50).
The brothers to play for the Wings, but not together include Cully and Thain Simon; Bud and Don Polie; Charlie and Roy Conacher; Barry and Ray Cullen; Fred and Howie Glover; and Bryan and Dennis Hextall.
Scott and Rob Niedermayer (2003 Anaheim) and Brent and Duane Sutter (1983 NY Islanders) are probably the most famous hockey brothers to win the Stanley Cup together, but the Wings have had two sets of brothers also win the Cup as teammates: the Bruneteau brothers, from St. Boniface, Manitoba, helped the Wings to the 1943 championship, while the Wilson brothers paced Detroit to a title run in 1950.