Posts tagged “Robert Lang”

Thoughts on the first televised exhibition game

… How typical of Robert Lang was it that he took an offensive-zone penalty for the Habs right off the bat? 

The same goes for his somehow-not-called slashes on a Ville Leino rush in OT. Typical Langsian “hockey.” Good luck with that, Montreal.

… I was impressed with Leino’s offensive skills. He wasn’t so noticeable the other way, but looks like he’s strong in the opposition’s end. He demonstrated some real nice hands on his goal and showed a solid snap shot in the shootout. 

It’s clear he not quite ready for the NHL, though. Case in point: he took a hit from behind in the first (I believe) that he absolutely could/should have avoided. He’s still adjusting to both the North American game and the North American rink, and the best place for him to do that is in Grand Rapids, not Detroit. He’ll be one to watch with the Griffins this season as long as he stands by his word and actually goes to the AHL.

… Darren Helm really looked good. He’s picked up right where he left off in the Finals. He’s making a strong case for himself, but he may be better off in GR with actual playing time. 

… The way Marian Hossa’s jersey is tucked in his hockey pants had me momentarily seeing #91 just about every time I noticed him. He didn’t stick out in a big way, but it’s still the pre-season and he’s still adjusting to his teammates, so he obviously gets a break. It still would have been nice to see him score in the shootout, though.

The Montreal crowd is something else, to put it politely. Booing Marian Hossa for choosing Detroit over the Habs? Give me a break. 

… I didn’t think Kyle Quincey looked too good. Full disclosure, I’m biased against the guy, having picked him as the odd man out a long time ago. For what it’s worth, he’s conspiciously absent from the Wings’ roster as listed on the official site. 

… Jimmy Howard was strong in regular play, but was victimized in the shootout. 

… Aaron Downey is wearing #44, apparently in an effort at getting some better “energy” over #20. I do not approve. The last two Red Wings to wear #44? Two OtW Unfavorites, Mark Hartigan and Todd Bertuzzi. It does not bode well for you, Aaron, that 44 is your number of choice. 

… Chris Chelios blocked a shot in the third and had to leave the game due to what the AP is calling an ankle injury. He wasn’t putting any weight on his right leg as he was helped across the ice to the dressing room tunnel. Here’s hoping he’s okay. If Quincey isn’t already on the way out, a Chelios injury may at least partially answer the question of space on the blueline. 

… Nik Kronwall looks poised to have a great season as long as his new-found healthiness holds up. 

… No game-breaking gaffes on the part of Andreas Lilja. That’s in spite of Montreal’s speed and the fact that big #3 is not in mid-season shape. That’s encouraging, especially given that the Wings don’t seem to eager to drop the guy.

… The Habs gave the Wings plenty of power play opportunities, but they couldn’t capitalize. Granted, the units were somewhat hodgepodge with the roster split as it is, but I’m hoping for some more power play success this season and the sooner it starts, the better. 

… All in all, not a bad game from an entertainment standpoint. In some ways, it was obviously still exhibition hockey, but in others it was a well-played game between two highly-skilled opponents. It will be interesting to contrast this game with Friday’s televised matchup with our old friend Ron Wilson’s Maple Leafs.

… On a different note, I’m trying to figure out what OtW is going to look like this season. Previously, it pretty much just had school to compete with, but now I’ve got a full-time job, and in a week and a half, another layer of competition gets added when I get married. So we’ll see how it goes from here on out.

5/26 Notes

… Bruce MacLeod has graded the Wings individual performances for the playoffs and posted the results on his blog. MacLeod is an astute observer of the game and his grades reflect that. Not much to disagree with there.

… MacLeod also was the first (that I saw) to post Chris Chelios’ comments on why he skipped the post-series handshake. Basically, he was overcome with emotion and couldn’t think straight for the final 20 or so seconds of the game, as he knew the team was going to be eliminated on the brink of going to the Finals for what could have been his last time. I totally understand Cheli’s excuse and I think Teemu Selanne’s comments (where he derisively said it just showed Chelios’ true character) were way out of line. George Malik has more from Chelios.

… Ansar Khan writes on Dominik Hasek, saying he’s a “good bet to return,” noting that he’s wanted back by the organization from the front office to the players and that he wants to be back himself. Mike Babcock, apparently, will look to convince him to stay.

Personally, I don’t have any problem with Hasek coming back, except for those nagging concerns over his health in the back of my mind. Of course, they handled him so well this season that it was just about a non-issue. Still, that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be as fortunate on another go-around. If Dom is capable of repeating his performance, it’d be great: bring him back. It wouldn’t be any different (except that he’ll be older) than this past season and it worked out fine. It’s just that it’s another roll of the dice.

That said, I wouldn’t be opposed to the team trying the open market or just going with Chris Osgood, with Jimmy Howard doing “enhanced backup” (I made that up) duties. Maybe Jimmy’s not ready for that, though.

All things considered, since Dom’s about the most economic option and provides the best bang for the buck when healthy, I’d be fine with them going with him again if they decide pursuing someone like JS Giguere isn’t worth it.

… Khan goes on to say that Todd Bertuzzi wants to stick around (see his comments here at Red Wings Corner). I’d probably like him to. I think a full season would do wonders for the guy. We definitely never saw what he can really do. I seriously doubt he’ll ever be back to his peak, but I know he can be more effective than he was and giving him a real role on the team would be a great way to get him going again.

… Khan also thinks Mathieu Schneider will resign re-sign. I hope so! Losing him was probably the single biggest reason the Wings won’t be playing hockey Monday night. He’s huge for this team and I hope they can find a way to work out a deal. Last time his contract was up, things didn’t go so smoothly, but I’m pretty confident they will this time around.

… Khan finishes with the unsurprising comment that and that Robert Lang is definitely gone. What is surprising, to me, anyway, is his assertion that Kyle Calder won’t be back either. I guess it’s not such a big surprise given his awful performance in the playoffs, but unless it was due to something other than an injury, I thought his regular season performance was enough to earn him a spot. I guess we’ll hear more about that soon.

Thank You Ansar!

Thank you for validating everything I’ve been thinking for this entire series. Khan has a great little piece on his blog today (of which I am not the only fan) highlighting the Wings’ struggles against the Flames and providing a number of helpful suggestions. Let’s just hope he sent Mike Babcock a copy.

Suggestion #1:

He should insert Jiri Hudler back in the lineup. Hudler played with a lot of energy in the first two games.

Jiri played so well in the first two games, only to be dropped with the return of Todd Bertuzzi. Now Bert has earned his keep, but there’s no reason Hudler shouldn’t be out there in place of one of our underachievers. I’ve been hoping Huds would get the call over Samuelsson.

Suggestion#2:

Or he might take out Samuelsson, who has just one assist in 10 playoff games the last two years. If he leaves Samuelsson in, he should at least stop playing him on the point on the power play. It isn’t working. Brett Lebda would be a better option.

Every time I bring up the idea of scratching Samuelsson, somebody says “Oh, but he’s playing the point on the power play.” Here we go again. Babcock is a great coach, but what is his obsession with putting forwards on the PP point?! Now, Samuelsson is no Jason Williams – he’s not a total liability there. But he’s not producing either. It just is not working. Oh, and if I had a dollar for every time I’ve told somebody that Lebs would be a better choice than Sammy for the PP point in the last two weeks, I’d be watching the next game from The Joe instead of my living room. Brett is a great skater and he’s got tons of offensive ability. He’s practically a forward anyway with the way he’s always wheeling around in the offensive zone. Babs should be all over this.

Another thing that I’ve had a hard time understanding is the fact that, despite being one of our hardest working players, Filppula can not manage to get decent ice time – instead it continues to go to guys who are simply wasting it. The thing that really gets me is that Babs admits that he should be playing him more.

“He probably wonders why the coach doesn’t get him on the ice more and the coach wonders that himself,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “My son told me after Game 1 that I didn’t play Fil enough.” (via USA Today)

Even his kids know it! Is Babcock aware of the fact that he’s the coach and he’s actually allowed to make these changes himself? If he thinks he deserves more time, why doesn’t he give it to him?

Suggestion #3:

Valtteri Filppula needs to play more. I’d also try to find a way to work him in on the struggling power play.

Power play time? Now there’s an idea. That would give Fil more playing time AND change up our miserable power play. No, I think that would make too much sense…

Despite Babcock’s stubbornness regarding lines, he has done more this year than last and for that I am most greatful.

Coach Mike Babcock’s reluctance to change his lineup or even his line combinations proved costly in last year’s first-round loss to Edmonton. He made a good move by replacing Kyle Calder and Mikael Samuelsson on the second line with Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen.

Darn right, Ansar. I just want to know what took him so long. I think everybody and their brother knew that Todd needed to be on that second line with Lang the day he returned to the ice. Sometimes I think Babcock is just a little too reluctant to make changes. It scares me. When you’re afraid to make changes, then sometimes you don’t do it until it’s too late. Hopefully that won’t be the case in this series.

Oh, and for anyone who didn’t think Babcock was completely insane for putting Lang out for the last faceoff of game 3 (I’m sure there is no such person, but you never know):

Robert Lang has won only 17 of 54 face-offs.

For those of you without calculators, that’s about a 31% win percentage. That means he loses them 69% of the time! I bet every time the opposing center sees that he’s facing off against Lang, he throws a little party in his head. “Freebie faceoff win! Coach will think I’m good at those! Yay!”

Suggestion #4:

Maybe Franzen should start taking the draws for that line. It couldn’t be much worse.

Sure it could, Lang has actually made an improvement from his game 1 faceoff win percentage – a whopping 20%.

Basically, I think Babs has made some unfortunate decisions up to this point. Maybe he’s overcomplicating things. To put it simply, the players who are playing the best should be playing the most. Makes sense to me. If someone’s not cutting it, they should be replaced, whether it be on the PP, in the faceoff circle, or on the lineup completely.

Ansar Khan’s injury update

Ansar Khan has an injury update posted on his blog. Summary:

  • Chris Osgood will start instead of Dominik Hasek tomorrow night. Hasek was supposed to start both games, but his thigh injury changed that plan. He will play Wednesday night instead and will do the back-to-back games on March 29th in Nashville and March 30th at home against Dallas.
  • Danny Markov (upper body) is slated to be back Saturday against the Canucks.
  • Johan Franzen (upper body) and Dan Cleary (knee sprain) could return on the 20th in Calgary. If so, they’ll miss the March 17th game in Vancouver.
  • Mike Babcock officially said that Henrik Zetterberg (back inflammation) and Todd Bertuzzi (back) will not play until after the Vancouver/Calgary trip. So, a March 22nd debut for Bertuzzi and return for Zetterberg, at the earliest.
  • Pavel Datsyuk, Kris Draper, Robert Lang, Chris Chelios and Mathieu Schneider did not take part in the optional practice today, but all will play tomorrow night, according to Mike Babcock.

The injury problems the Wings have been going through should put losses like yesterday’s in perspective. Sure, it was bad, but they’re missing some key players and other guys are either playing hurt or just recovering from injuries. And yet, they’ve been winning more often than not. Once everyone’s healthy, they should play better and more complete games.