Valtteri Filppula to miss 6-8 weeks

You may take my wrists, but my beauty remains.

During the second period of the Red Wings/Oilers game, defacto second-line center and Production Line hero Valtteri Filppula was hit awkwardly into the end boards by Gilbert Brule. He labored a little bit, but eventually made his way to the locker room under his own power with athletic trainer Piet Van Zant. Mike Babcock revealed after the game that Filppula suffered a broken wrist and he’s expected out of the lineup for six to eight weeks.

It comes as a real blow to a team already struggling with injuries to Andreas Lilja and Johan Franzen. Pavel Datsyuk also missed a pair of games earlier this month with an undisclosed upper body injury. All of a sudden, a team famous for its depth will be struggling to fill some holes in the top six.

Ken Holland was quick to say that he doesn’t intend to call up any players from Grand Rapids, citing “we have more than enough forwards” as a reason. Forwards left on the active roster are as follows:

Bertuzzi :: Datsyuk :: Holmstrom
Leino :: Zetterberg :: Cleary
Draper :: Helm :: Williams
Maltby :: Abdelkader :: Eaves / May

Make no mistake, I’m not saying that these are the lines they’ll be going with for the foreseeable future, although other combinations don’t look a lot better.

Filppula has been one of the strongest Red Wings forwards since the season began. Aside from the obvious chemistry he’s shown with Jason Williams and countryman Ville Leino, he’s been able to play in all situations, and play admirably. He’s been one of the strongest faceoff men, and one of the most reliable minute-eaters (currently third among Red Wings forwards). Through eleven games, he had two goals (including one on the power play) and four assists.

Here’s an(other) opportunity for the youngsters to step up and show they belong. Darren Helm, who scored the first regular season goal of his career Thursday night, will be expected to step up offensively and play bigger, more important minutes. Same goes for Justin Abdelkader and Patrick Eaves – each of whom will be healthy scratches less often than they have been the last few weeks.

And it seems like now is a really, REALLY! good time for Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to light a fire…

Photo Credit: Jussi Puikkonen

This Just In: EVERYTHING is wrong.

I’ve kept my distance from this blog for a little while, because I was afraid that if my fingers met the keyboard, some sort of text-based diarrhea would result. All of our Red Wings blogging colleagues have posted a diatribe here and there – and rightfully so – so I figured I’d take a step back and allow their words to seep in.

But enough’s enough. I’m going to get a few things off my chest because tonight is Game 10 and only having three wins is flat out ridiculous for us spoiled folk.

So, without further ado, here’s my official stance on EVERYTHING.

1. Goaltending
It’s terrible. Anyone that knows me or reads TPL knows how I feel about Chris Osgood (read: not a fan). He got us to the Stanley Cup Final last year – it seemed like he flipped a switch in April, carried the team to June and promised not to return to his vehemently sub-par regular season performance. Well guess what. He sucks again. If you can’t stop 90% of shots heading your way, you don’t belong in the NHL. Period.

In theory, the league should be overrun with quality goaltenders. There are 700 players in the NHL – and only 60 of them are goalies. Why aren’t they the ones that are each team’s MVP? The fact is, there are only a half dozen of SUPERSTAR goaltenders in the NHL. And the Red Wings don’t need one. They simply need a goaltender that will keep the team in the game. They don’t have one of those, either.

Jimmy Howard is not an NHL goalie. Sorry. He isn’t. He was average (at best) goalie in the AHL, was there for four years and did NOTHING to force the Wings to do anything – except search year after year for a quality backup goaltender. So this year, he’s out of minor league options and it was time to see how the investment paid off. Jimmy Howard is Enron.

2. Defense
I’ve defended Nicklas Lidstrom amidst the “he’s on the decline” calls from around the league. And while I still believe he’s the best defenseman on the planet, he’s not the kind of guy that cracks a game wide open anymore. What he does – and he does it well – is keep the other teams’ scoring chances down. It’s unfair to ask him to be leading the offensive charge, as well.

Brian Rafalski has vanished. He gets my vote for “which Red Wing doesn’t deserve his contract more than the others?”

Nik Kronwall is good at laying guys out, but his defense is God awful.

Brad Stuart. Ditto.

Jonathan Ericsson is the most overrated player on the Red Wings. Even during the playoffs, I never understood everyone’s love to him – he has always made bonehead plays and isn’t as responsible as a Red Wings defenseman needs to be. Sure, it’s exciting that he’s a new face and he’s huge, but until he stops letting guys fly by him, what good is that size?

Brett Lebda has declined quite a bit since his rookie year. Maybe his issues are just more glaring. Whatever it is, he’s clearly the weak link on the blueline (which is – in itself – a weak link).

3. Offense
Can’t seem to put the puck in the net. Who would have thought that losing 90 goals this off-season would lead to diminished goal scoring? Yeah, things might be different if Johan Franzen wasn’t hurt, but the fact is only one player has more than 2 goals this season, and it’s Homer.

Another fact: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg NEED to be catalysts. Without Hossa, Hudler, Samuelsson, Kopecky, and Franzen, someone has to lead the scoring brigade. And it ain’t going Todd Bertuzzi, Jason Williams, and Brad May. I’ve long questioned those moves because it seemed fairly obvious that offense was going to be an issue heading into this season, but I will never doubt Ken Holland. Reeeeally hoping to see a reason for Bertuzzi and May one of these days…

Valtteri Filppula has impressed me this season. He’s always been one of my favorites, and he’s not disappointing. In my humble opinion, he’s the best Red Wing forward all season.

Ville Leino is getting stronger, and that’s encouraging. But he’s not a Calder candidate, like many thought he’d be. But that’s okay, all he’s gotta be is a contributor.

4. Injuries
Franzen’s hurts. A lot. With the way the defense is playing, Lilja’s hurts, too.

What’s set this team apart from the other 29 the last few years is the unparalleled depth of NHL calibre hockey players. With the exodus this summer, we no longer have that luxury. So the players that are absolute NHLers need to step up their game, and they seem content shrugging and pointing to the salary cap as a reason they’re not performing.

It was encouraging to read that Holland turned down offers for trades when Franzen was lost because he wanted the young guys to have a trial by fire. That’s awesome. Prove you belong, kids.

5. Special Teams
Terrible. The penalty kill has been WHACK since Todd McLellan left and I’m going to go ahead and blame Brad McCrimmon for the troubles. If you’re going to get scored on 15 times a game during the kill, the least you can do is convert on your power play opportunities.

6. Coaching
I believe that Babcock was outcoached in the Final last year, which was surprising because he’s the best in the business. Maybe he’s being outcoached this year, as well, but what do I know? Is he having trouble staying focused due to the split duty with the Olympic responsibilities? I certainly hope not because replacing him is not an option. He’s my favorite personality associated with the Wings and, frankly, you can’t do better.

Tonight, Darren Helm is a healthy scratch. Can’t say I really agree with that move…

That was better…

Brett Lebda looks thrilled for you, Nick.

Well, the Red Wings looked a little more like the Red Wings last night, as they put together enough of an effort (TWO periods instead of just ONE!) to earn a 5-2 victory over the surprisingly good LA Kings.

I’m hard on Ozzie when he blows, so — to be fair — I’ll admit that he played well in the winning effort, particularly in the first half of the game when he was seeing more rubber than usual. The first LA goal (from Dustin Brown on a rebound) left a little to be desired, but it seemed as if Osgood never even saw the puck as it hit him in the chest and arm before plopping back down to the ice right at the top of the crease. All in all, I’ll take 2 goals against on 26 shots. The fact of the matter is Chris Osgood did what a goaltender is supposed to do: put his team in a position to win – something that hasn’t been automatic this year or last.

Brett Lebda returned to the lineup, and I was expecting fireworks. He’s a fast kid with fairly good offensive instincts and I have to imagine that he was pissed he was in the press box for a spell – but he didn’t do anything overly outstanding, but did finish +1, which – I’m sure – lifted some weight from his shoulders.

Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby also returned after both were healthy scratches on Tuesday (which, by the way, was the first time that had ever happened). Maltby continued to show his scoring touch as he blasted a slapper past Jonathan Quick from about six feet away. Draper went 2-for-8 in the faceoff circle, which was a little odd to see. I think Uncle Mike was onto something when he called out the faceoff specialists, especially since the Dustin Brown goal was a direct result of a clean faceoff loss.

But the night belonged to Nick Lidstrom. Coming into the game with 998 career regular season points, he seemed, right from the beginning, like he wanted to get the milestone out of the way and get back to concentrating on winning hockey games. Two assists and a 90-second ovation later, Nicklas Lidstrom became only the second Swedish player in NHL history to net 1,000 career points – joining Mats Sundin in the uber-exclusive club.

Quick thoughts:

  • What happened to Niklas Kronwall? I never thought he was in the elite stratosphere or anything, but he really doesn’t look good at all this season.
  • How long should I give Todd Bertuzzi before mocking him for falling down often and launching pucks 75 feet above the net on a clean shot?
  • Valtteri Filppula is the best forward on the team. You heard it here first.
  • Homer is on pace for 55 goals. Just sayin…
Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, Associated Press

Wings Asplode Against Sabres

Well. That didn’t go well at all. I blame everyone except Darren Helm and Val Filppula.

I don’t understand why everyone’s calling Chris Osgood’s performance “gutsy” and “fantastic.” I’m wondering if they were watching the same game I was. He was BRUTAL. He literally had to put effort into allowing the second Sabres goal, and he looked like those NHL videos from the 60’s on the rest. Ya know, the kind that make you go “Wait, where’s the goalie going? Why is he dropping to the ice and kicking his legs out when the shot is nowhere near him?” I know I’ve admitted to being a little harder on Osgood than he sometimes deserves. But he deserves this. Five goals against in 33 minutes is unacceptable against anyone, let alone a non-playoff team. So much for his promise that he wouldn’t return to 2008-09 Regular Season form.

Derek Meech sucks. Sorry, Derek. It’s true. Meanwhile, Kyle Quincey is a potential All-Star. Just sayin’…

Anytime now would be good for the first goal from either Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

Boy oh boy, Todd Bertuzzi, Jason Williams, and Brad May really are difference makers, aren’t they? And the fact that Kris Draper is benched so Brad May can play six minutes and turn the puck over time and time again should make all of us vomit with rage, but I still have to listen to “grit tuffness!” nonsense. Check the scoreboard and see where your precious toughness got you, fanboys.

I noticed Patrick Eaves MAYBE twice. That’s not to say he was bad, but…certainly didn’t stand out. Granted, it’s hard to stand out playing fourth line minutes. But Brad May stood out. In the “where is that pass going” kind of way.

Huge hit from Nik Kronwall. Which, apparently in his mind, means he can take the rest of the night off from quality defense.

On the plus side, Darren Helm played hockey. That is all.

Well okay, no it isn’t… Ville Leino seems much stronger on his skates than he did all of last season, which is certainly a positive. Valtteri Filppula seemed to be the only player on the team that cared.

10/8 Lineup Update

Brad May has been cleared by Immigration, paving the way for him to make his Red Wings debut. Patrick Eaves will once again be a healthy scratch, this time joined by Brett Lebda, who will still finish the game -2 somehow.

Babcock is thrilled as he’s got his “keep the flies off” guy in the lineup against a team that has tons of flies.

Anyone want a part of the Over/Under for first Red Wings fight of the season? Current line is 4:30 of the first period…

Hossa-Less Hawks Come to the Joe

For those of us eager to forget opening weekend in Sweden, tonight is opening night (but not really) for our Red Wings. Marian Hossa is sidelined after making one of his patented timely decisions to have shoulder surgery eleven minutes after signing a massive contract that contributed to his then-GM getting fired (oh, I’m sorry… “promoted”).

BUT! All is not lost. We’ll get to re-acquaint ourselves with the immobile uselessness that is Tomas Kopecky, who has been running his mouth, which is a nice thing for a guy made out of glass to do.

It’ll be fun, and more fun when we beat them

Big words for a guy who didn’t play in the last two playoff rounds because he had his face broken by a Frenchman. Perhaps you goon-loving types will have been onto something if Brad May suits up tonight and destroys Kopecky in his first shift — something that Red Wings fans are somewhat familiar with.

Anyway, it’s well-documented that Brett Lebda is coming out of the lineup, with Derek Meech taking his place. Justin Abdelkader has been sent down to Grand Rapids, but it remains to be seen if Patrick Eaves makes his regular season Red Wings debut — or if Brad May does the same. Something tells me it’ll be May. This is a good game to dress a face-puncher.

Franzen — Datsyuk — Holmstrom
Bertuzzi — Zetterberg — Cleary
Leino — Filppula — Williams
Maltby — Draper — May/Eaves

Lidstrom — Rafalski
Kronwall — Stuart
Ericsson — Meech

Osgood / Howard

Scratched For Sure: Brett “Turnover” Lebda
Injured Reserve: Andreas “Also Has Broken Face” Lilja, Darren “Please Hurry Back” Helm

Red Wings sign Brad May (UPDATED)

Oh, son of a bitch, you’re going to use THIS photo forever, aren’t you?”

The Red Wings have signed enforcer Brad May to a one-year deal worth $500,000, this according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

May joined the Red Wings on a tryout during training camp, before being “cut” and accepting a professional tryout with the Griffins. Ken Holland was clear that he wouldn’t make a decision regarding signing May until after the Wings returned from Sweden. Clearly impressed with what he saw from his boys on the ice in Scandanavia, Holland promptly signed Brad May, before Red Bird 1 came to a complete stop at the gate.

CapGeek has the two-way contract valued at 500k in the NHL, and 105k in the AHL.

Besides kissing this fine looking fellow above, Brad May is notable for having placed the bounty on Steve Moore’s head – a bounty that Todd Bertuzzi was happy to collect. This is a fiiiiiine bunch of character guys we’ve got ’round here these days…

UPDATE Kyle at Babcock’s Death Stare likes the move, and suggested it’s a Grand Rapids move. This morning, Justin Abdlekader was sent down to make room on the NHL roster for May, which sounds the internal alarm. I’m curious about what will happen when Helm is healthy. May is on a two-way, so chances are good he’s the new Downey who goes up and down all year. But if he’s on the team and Helm is sent down (because Helm doesn’t have to clear waivers), I despise this signing. More than I did last night.

This Just In: Jimmy Howard Blows

Okay, so the Red Wings dropped both “home” games in Sweden, and start the season 0-2 for the first time since 1989. Ouch.

First of all, the one positive I can think of: what a great play by Kris Draper on the Jonathan Ericsson goal, the first Red Wings goal of the season. Draper clearly still has the speed, and using the zebra to set a pick on the defender was beautiful. All in all, the “aged grinders” looked really good – Draper and Maltby pulled their weight, and Justin Abdelkader looks like he belongs in the NHL. I was surprised that Eaves didn’t come into the game for Saturday’s contest, but really – who could have come out? You don’t take Maltby out after scoring a lovely shorthanded goal; and Justin Abdelkader isn’t on the team to watch from the press box. Frankly, I’ll be shocked if Eaves isn’t in the lineup on Thursday. Maltby was a bit more invisible in Game #2, so I be he’s a scratch. I’m also pretty surprised that Derek Meech didn’t come in for Lebda. Mike Babcock really must not think Meech is an NHLer, because Lebda played like poopoo and still held his slot over Meech.

Special teams look whack again. Allowing three power play goals on Saturday is ridiculous. Leino’s power play goal was nifty (thank God), but I’ve long felt that an NHL team can’t convert an extended 5 on 3, they deserve to be demoted to the AHL, and that’s precisely what the Wings did on Friday afternoon.

Speaking of Friday afternoon, was it me or did Todd Bertuzzi spend an awful lot of time on his ass — just like I thought he would — and like he did the first time around? Why is he a poorer skater than I was when I was 7? In addition, I’m going to start a new stat column: PTN [passes to nowhere], a category I have no doubt Bertuzzi will lead.

Dan Cleary was ROBBED by Chris Mason on Friday. So was Johan Franzen. Franzen took a great pass from Datsyuk, who REALLY should have pulled the trigger.

While we’re on the subject of goaltending… it’s nice to see Chris Osgood is back in 2008-09 form. Getting beaten from 70 feet is criminal. I don’t care that three people were in between the shooter and the crease, compared to most shots an NHL goaltender faces, one from there takes about 8 hours to get to them. And what the hell is Jimmy Howard doing in the NHL? He had a very nice first period – making some saves that kind of surprised me, but he absolutely 100% fell apart and it’s quite obvious he’s not the guy he needs to be to keep critics off his back. Two goals in 13 seconds is epic.

I dunno… I had a bad feeling heading into these games, and the boys didn’t do anything to assuage those fears. Ugly.