The Wings clinched a playoff spot last night with a 7-2 blowout against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the next 6 games will be just as important. The Wings will face the Nashville Predators at the Joe on Friday, which may be the determinant of who gets home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The Red Wings are just one point ahead of the Predators and are battling for the #4 spot in the Western Conference. Unless the Blues have a major collapse or Chicago really steps their game up, it’s likely that the Preds will be the first round matchup for the Wings. The Red Wings have won 3 of their 5 meetings with the Predators this season, 2 of those at home, 1 in Nashville. Here’s a look at the first 5 games:
11/26 Nashville 1 @ Detroit 4
The Red Wings took down the Preds for the 9th game of the 23 game home win streak. Valtteri Filppula had two goals and an assist, Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and an assist, Danny Cleary scored a goal, Jiri Hudler had two assists, and Todd Bertuzzi, Jakub Kindl and Darren Helm each had one assist. Jimmy Howard had a .947sv% and stopped 18 of the 19 shots on goal.
12/15 Detroit 3 @ Nashville 4
This loss really pissed me off. Shea Weber’s two goals in the last 5 minutes (the GWG with just 1:36 left in the 3rd) gave Nashville the 2 points over Detroit.
12/26 Detroit 4 @ Nashville 1
Valtteri Filppula scored 2 goals, and Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary each scored one to give the Red Wings the win over the Preds in their 3rd meeting of the season. Howard stopped 31 of 32 shots, but his opportunity for a shutout was ruined with just 2:12 remaining in the 3rd.
2/17 Nashville 1 @ Detroit 2
This was one of my favorite wins of the season — the one and only Pavel Datsyuk gave the Red Wings their 22nd consecutive home win with just 5 seconds left in the game. Captain Nick Lidstrom hit Zetterberg with a no look pass off the boards, who sent it up to the magician, who then blew past Ryan Suter…and the rest is history. I can only imagine what Pekka Rinne was thinking. Most likely it was “Oh (insert 4 letter word here).” Datsyuk also had an amazing assist…while he was lying down on the ice.
3/10 Detroit 2 @ Nashville 3
This was the first of the Red Wings 6 game losing streak this month. Although it was a loss, Datsyuk found a way to make Detroit fans proud. After Shea Weber blocked and knocked Datsyuk a few times as he attempted to make his way to the net, Datsyuk got back at him…twice as good. The video makes me giggle every time I watch it.
The next couple weeks are going to be tough, but if anyone can push hard and prove their excellence, it’s the Detroit Red Wings. It’s time to smash Smashville.
(stats from detroitredwings.com)
You know the drill by now….
- Jimmy Howard is home for a few days to be with family after the birth of his baby boy. Joey MacDonald has been recalled for tomorrow’s game.
- Ansar Khan writes about the Red Wings upcoming game with the desperate and winless Blue Jackets.
- Bob Duff writes about Nick Lidstrom’s idol growing up in Sweden.
- GM Ken Holland may not assemble the scrappiest team, but he insists the NHL GMs have no desire to end fighting, from Eric Francis.
This edition of Fresh Faces will look at free agent signee Ty Conklin, who is back for his second stint with the Red Wings. The 35 year old veteran will battle Joey MacDonald for the job of backing up starting goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Conklin was born in Arizona but raised in Alaska. He is the only goaltender from Alaska to ever play in the NHL. Upon completion of his career at the University of New Hampshire, Conklin was signed as an undrafted rookie by the Edmonton Oilers. He spent four years in between the NHL and various minor league teams, recording his then best season with Edmonton in 2003-04 with 17 wins.
Conklin was thrust into duty during the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals following an injury to starter Dwayne Roloson. The Oilers went on to blow a three goal lead, and Conklin committed a critical error on the game winning goal with just 30 seconds left. He would sit the remainder of the series, which the Oilers lost in seven games.
Following another unproductive season between two different organizations, many began to wonder if Conklin would ever recover from the 2006 disaster. The Pittsburgh Penguins signed him to a minor league deal in July of 2007. Following an injury to starter Marc-Andre Fleury, Conklin was recalled to the NHL.
It was here when Conklin resurrected his NHL career, winning nine straight starts including the Winter Classic that season. He would finish with a 18-8-5 record and a franchise record .923 save percentage that season. Upon Fleury’s return from injury, Conklin was commended for his leadership in the locker room, and considered a big factor in the Penguins deep playoff run that season. They would eventually lose to his next team, the Detroit Red Wings, in a six game Stanley Cup Final.
Conklin would split time with starter Chris Osgood in the 2008-09 season, recording a career high 25 wins. He was again credited for being a great teammate in the locker room. Conklin is often regarded around the league as a normal guy, which is rare for men of his position.
After serving two years in a backup role in St. Louis, Conklin is excited to be back in Detroit. Considering the injuries to the goaltenders of Motown last season, the team is happy to have depth at the position.
One interesting thing about Ty is the number of premiere games he has appeared in, especially given his history as a backup or minor league goaltender. Conklin has started in more outdoor games than any player: The 2003 Heritage Class (Edmonton) and the 2008 & 2009 Winter Classics (Pittsburgh and Detroit). He also played in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals and 2009 NHL Premiere in Stockholm Sweden (St. Louis).
Well, kind of. The Red Wings “Red Team” took on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first preseason game for both teams, which resulted in a disappointing 3-2 loss. Chris Kunitz got the Pens on the board first, scoring halfway into the first period. Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall evened the score only two minutes later after being set up by a beautiful pass from the great Pavel Datsyuk. He makes it all look so easy. Evgeni Malkin and Matt Niskanen put the bad guys up 3-1 during the 2nd, with Niskanen scoring on the power play. To me it seemed as if Malkin was on the ice for the entire game, and I haven’t decided whether that was due to his irritatingly skillful play or because the announcers were slurping him all night (get a room, gentlemen). Things started looking up for the Wings when Jiri Hudler tipped one in at the beginning of the 3rd period, but sadly, tonight’s story had no happy ending. Although it wasn’t Howard’s best game, I don’t think this is at all an indication of what the season holds for our boy, Jimmy. Even though that first goal made me shake my head (tsk-tsk), my faith remains. MacDonald played well during his one period of play and allowed no goals during the third. Also, I found it hard to judge the newbies just from tonight’s game, but Mursak and Smith were the only ones who really stood out to me. It will be interesting to see how they compare to those on the “White Team.”
Tonight’s exhibition game was only a taste (and a tease) of Red Wing hockey, but it gave us an opportunity to see who is fighting for a spot on the roster and to fall in love with Datsyuk all over again. Wearing #24 in memory of his good pal and former Wing, Ruslan Salei, simply reminds us of why he is a four-time recipient of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (given to the player who has exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability). Tomorrow the Wings take on the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:00 EST in London, Ontario, and on Friday the Wings will take on the Flyers at home at the Joe Louis Arena.