Mixed Emotions, Where Do Wings Go From Here?
It's only been done 3 times in NHL history. Detroit had the chance to make it four but the San Jose Sharks prevailed 3-2 in Game 7 to advance to the Western Conference Finals against Vancouver.
The game itself started terribly for Detroit. They were brutal in pretty much every department. San Jose took an early 2-0 lead, one on a horrendous giveaway by Henrik Zetterberg. He would eventually redeem himself with a goal in the second to make it 2-1. Detroit dominated the second outshooting San Jose 16-7. Patrick Marleau finally got a point when he shoveled a loose puck behind Jimmy Howard for a 3-1 lead in the third, but Pavel Datsyuk scored a sick backhander to make it a one goal game. The Wings had a few pushes but couldn't sustain any pressure.
I had a few problems with this game:
1. Win a faceoff. Detroit was horrible in the circles today.
2. Set up a powerplay. The entry wasn't good, and neither was the movement. It seemed like everyone was stagnant.
3. Giveaways/Odd man rushes. Just too many and a team like the Sharks will capitalize.
I have to give the Wings credit, they battled back from a 3-0 series deficit to tie the series. I guess they ran out of gas, plus Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary went down with injuries. At the same time, I am rattled that they couldn't score more goals on Anti Niemi. To me, all the shots were right at him with not a lot of traffic. Jimmy Howard really impressed me this playoffs and I can't say anything bad about him.
Detroit's Playoff Three Stars:
1. Pavel Datsyuk: self explanatory
2. Jimmy Howard: proved he can make big saves and keep his team in the game
3. Darren Helm: he was the kick in the butt that the team needed sometimes
Where do the Wings go from here? It all depends on Nick Lidstrom. I hope to the heavens he stays another year, because the Wings are going to be in desperate need for a number one defenceman if he retires. Here are some guys I would get rid of if I was Ken Holland (some not likely, but it would benefit the team):
1. Kris Draper: If he doesn't retire, don't resign him. He was useless the whole year and there are some good kids waiting to play.
2. Jonathan Ericsson: For the love of God don't resign him. He's the worst defenceman in the league. His brain fart to good decision ratio is like 200:1. Doesn't hit, shoots like a six year old and can't skate. Get rid of him.
3. Brad Stuart: Same boat as Ericsson, except it's just his idiocy in his own end. I think he's the most overrated player on the team.
4. Dan Cleary: He just can't keep up anymore. He had his time, now it's time to move on.
5. Jiri Hudler: 2.9 million for this guy? Give me a break...
6. Mike Modano: The time has come to hang them up.
7. Chris Osgood: Same as Modano
So who do we replace them with? Guys that should be in there anyways:
1. Brendan Smith: They picked him in the first round, said he was the next number one defenceman. Give him some playing time.
2. Jan Mursak: Every time I saw him play he was a wrecking ball and has some good hands.
3. Tomas Tatar: This guy is going to be sick. Dirty mitts and some great skating. Needs to bulk up but that takes time. It happened with Datsyuk too.
4. Jakub Kindl: I know he was scratched the whole playoffs, but the guy is definitely better than Ericsson.
5. Gustav Nyquist: You don't usually get that many Hobey Baker finalists as prospects, so let him play.
6. Joey MacDonald: played great when called upon.
In essence, the Wings need more speed in the line-up and some new blood to add more hunger. Here's the lines with my changes:
Zetterberg - Datsyuk - Holmstrom
Franzen - Filppula - Helm
Abdelkader - Eaves - Miller
Tatar - Mursak - Nyquist
Lidstrom - Rafalski
Kronwall - Smith
Salei - Kindl
To sum things up, here is my report card grade for the players and the team:
Offence - B, needs more goals to win in the playoffs. With depth like Detroit there's no excuse
Defence - B, giveaways killed the defenceman, plus bad breakouts
Goaltending - A-, Howard played like a true number one in the postseason
Overall - B+
Zetterberg: B, seemed really slow this year
Datsyuk: A+, no complaints here
Holmstrom: B-, net presence wasn't felt that much this year
Filppula: B-, very inconsistent, but when on he was great
Bertuzzi: B+: played awesome when he got pissed
Hudler: D-, for 2.9 million, he didn't have a season like I expected
Franzen: B, played well but turned streaky as the season wore on
Cleary: C, skating declined rapidly this year, wasn't a scoring threat
Modano: D, didn't play a lot and only scored 4 goals
Helm: A, breakout season for him, will score a lot more next year
Abdelkader: B+, played with top lines at some points, needs to stop the dumb penalties
Miller: B, didn't understand why he didn't play that much, he scored some big goals
Eaves: B+, true scorer turned grinder, has redefined his game in Detroit
Draper: F, didn't impact games at all
Lidstrom: A, plus minus wasn't good, but still has it at 41
Rafalski: B, needs to put the puck in the net more
Kronwall: B+, got better this year, shot more and hits are still enormous
Stuart: D, overrated, giveaway machine, don't want him on the penalty kill anymore, can't clear a puck
Salei: B+, did what he was meant to do, was effective and played with a mean streak
Ericsson: F--, yeah, an F minus minus. Overall terrible player in my opinion
Kindl: C, kid is still learning so it isn't the end of the world
Howard: A, if not for playoffs it would have been a C, but proved he can play in big games
Osgood: D-, didn't play due to injuries
MacDonald: A-, for what he did, he played out of his mind
The season was better than 2010, but I fear that the Wings might not be dominant for years to come. With Lidstrom close to retirement, Detroit needs to look for some fast, nasty skaters and defenceman in the free agent market to help fill the enormous void Lidstrom would leave.
In articles to come I will breakdown the guys the Wings should target come July 1st.