VANCOUVER – To Jonathan Ericsson, defensemen are defensemen for a reason.
“I’m not a goal-scorer that’s why I’m a defenseman,” the veteran defenseman said, following Saturday’s morning skate at Rogers Arena where the Red Wings were preparing for a game against the Canucks.
The same can be said for nearly every defensemen – except maybe Bobby Orr – who has played in the NHL.
Defensemen defend. Forwards score.
Ericsson was speaking of Jakub Kindl’s chance to tie the score late Wednesday in Calgary. With 16.6 seconds left in regulation, and Detroit on a 6-on-4 advantage, Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff came out to challenge Kindl alone in the slot. The Wings’ defenseman uncorked a quick rising missile, but Kiprusoff made a remarkable save with his left catching glove for the most spectacular of his 36 stops.
“When I got the puck I was basically wide-open, so there wasn’t much time left,” Kindl said. “When I got it I put everything on it and tried to score. It either goes in or it doesn’t go in.”
Kindl can hardly be blamed for missing the tying goal by a nanometer, yet the moment has replayed over and over in his head. It’s disappointing because of what is at stake for the Red Wings, who are desperately in need of wins as they try to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 22nd consecutive time.
“I won’t say that it bothered me, but I had the opportunity to tie the game,” Kindl said. “As a defenseman you don’t get an opportunity to shoot from the high slot and nobody in the way. The goalie, basically, didn’t have any traffic in the area so he saw the whole shot. It either goes in or he makes the save.”
Ericsson, who had a rare breakaway against Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov on April 1, can empathize with Kindl.
“I think you have to practice those types of situations to become more confident in those situations,” said Ericsson, who missed low on Varlamov’s stick side. “Forwards are more used to it, but for us we don’t really get to shoot them in practice. We’re working more in getting the passes to the forwards so they can shoot the pucks. It’s a matter of practicing and getting used to those situations.”
Gustav Nyquist, who has had his share of breakaways this season, is less sympathetic to a defenseman’s cause.
“It’s different for defensemen when they come down,” he said. “It’s usually only in warm-ups when they get to come down and take a shot like that with just the goalie standing in front of them. … I’m sure it’s a weird feeling for them when they come down on a breakaway.”
Still, the Red Wings’ rookie forward complimented Kindl for his last-second effort.
“Kuba is obviously one of those defensemen with great offensive instincts,” Nyquist said. “He plays on the power play and makes the right, smart plays and he can shoot the puck well, as we’ve seen.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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