Coach for a Day

The Red Wings have some real obvious problems on defense– but a lesser mentioned problem seems to be that the Wings have scored just 4 goals in three games.

 

The Top line is doing most of the damage; Pavel Datsyuk has three points in as many games, and Brunner and Zetterberg have combined for 28 shots thus far.

After that it really starts to tail off in productivity (Franzen and Cleary combine for 22 PIMS for whatever that’s worth).

 

Not that the lines have been fluid in these first few games anyway, but I think there is a real obvious way to make your first two lines truly potent.

 

Everybody’s heard about the magic Brunner and Zetterberg created over in Europe during the lockout, but if you can harken back to last spring there was another budding bromance on this team:

Datsyuk and Gustav Nyquist.

 

The two should be sewn together at the hip for the remainder of Datsyuk’s career here in Detroit. 

 

Remember Nyquist’s first NHL goal?

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MuNm0wQTFQ

 

Nyquist started the season out in Grand Rapids, and as I’ve mentioned before, excelled in the “Super AHL.” He has speed that many potential line mates of Datsyuk sorely lack and an apparent “click” with Pavel to boot. The Red Wings of old would let him get over ripe, but this team lacks speed so much it hurts. Adding a guy like him brings a skill set consistent with the NHL in 2013, and not what the game was in 2008. Keep him up in the NHL and these could be your top two lines:

 

 Franzen,Datsyuk, Nyquist

 

This line would be a tough combo to go into corners with and come out with the puck. When confidence is up, Franzen would have plenty of open ice to take over a game. Not the strongest as a whole defensively, but Datsyuk’s faceoff ability and general puck magnitism should keep them out of trouble.

 

Zetterberg,Filppula, Brunner

 

Filppula and Zetterberg are obviously two very gifted two way forwards. I don’t know a ton a bout Brunner’s defensive prowess, but I have seen him shoot the puck (and skate to the penalty box). This combo screams versatility.   depending on how opponents are matching up this line could be counted on as a shut down line or be leaned on for goal scoring.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zXkgNU2LE8

 

As for the bottom six forwards, they’ve all pretty much been a lump of useless aside from Tootoo. Whether you liked the addition or not, he has played his energy role effectively and most importantly hasn’t turned his zealous into any major PK time.

 

I’ve been picking on Dan/Danny/Daniel Cleary for his constant name changes and lack of production for a while now, but one thing is clear early on this season: Cleary is a step slow and it is causing him to take penalties. I am not a doctor, so I can’t really say if he’s still feeling the effects from his offseaon surgery, just rusty because of the lock out, or bottoming out from the slide he’s been on since his 26 goal season. I’m not sure how the line-up shakes out when everybody is healthy, but if I had to pick one person to sit for sure (granted, three games in) it would be Daniel Cleary.

 

Nobody asked me, but here is how I’d go with the bottom-six based on three games (That seems fair, right?)

 

Eaves/Samuelsson, Helm, Bertuzzi

 

If you’ve ever played “Ice Hockey” on the NES, this is the classic “Medium, Skinny, Fat” combo. Eaves has looked OK in his return, and of the Drew Miller clones has shown the best hands of the bunch. This skews more toward a checking line, but still has an explosive play element to it.  Rotate in Samuelsson for Eaves and you have a pretty formidable third tier scoring line, but you’ve suddenly lost a lot on defense. I am not convinced Samuelsson will be healthy enough to stay put here.

 

 Eaves/ Cleary/Miller/,Abdelkader, Tootoo

 

Abdelkader and Tootoo hit things and provide energy. The other emphasis here should be defensive liability and for that I prefer Drew Miller here. Miller isn’t a dazzler, but is typically pretty safe with the puck. If Dan Cleary gets his legs he could be pretty effective on this line as well. Just make a couple hits, ramp up the energy and get off the ice.

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Thru Two

Heading back to Detroit tied 1-1,  things are looking up for the Wings.

No, I’m not ready to rescind my prediction of Preds in six, but we did see a lot out of the Red Wings that we haven’t seen since the end of the home winning streak.

For starters, heading into the series Nashville looked like the team that would be getting a boost from its bottom six forwards, but through two games the Wings have actually gotten the output from  guys like Tomas Holmstrom (who skated better last night than I have ever seen him skate…) and Corey Emmerton.

Pavel Datsyuk had a very good night in the faceoff circle last night, something they’ll need moving forward because Paul Gaustad has been stellar for the Predators.

Jimmy Howard wasn’t just good last night, he was outstanding.  In actuality he didn’t face a ton of shots  but it seemed like just about all of the Predators’s 25 shots were legitimate scoring threats.

Perhaps the MOST important factor is that the Wings had the swagger and determination that has been so lacking for the last month and a half, and it had nothing to do with the Bertuzzi fight and everything to do with the smart plays Drew Miller was making in tight spaces, the crisp tape-to-tape passes, and Brad Stuart bearing down and performing like his mind got back from California, where it has been the last 15 games of the season.

The Predators are still playing good hockey, if Jimmy Howard wasn’t on the ball, last night  could have been a much different story. Most noticeable to me is the play of Alexander Radulov, who looked to suffer no ill effects from playing in the KHL during his 10 game regular season stint with the Preds, but suddenly has a case of the Hudlers and looks soft in the corners and with the added tightness of playoff hockey has mostly been a non-factor.   If the Preds want to continue deeper into the playoffs Radulov needs to find time and space.

Noon!?

Nothing makes less sense to me than a noon start hockey game.  Hockey players are finely tuned athletes and starting a game at noon after an entire season of prime time starts is just bizarre.  Not to mention when the game starts in Nashville it will only be 11am in Tennessee. Both teams have to deal with it, but I find it usually waters down the first few minutes of a hockey game.