Detroit Red Wings: First-Quarter Grades for the Team

PJ SapienzaContributor IIINovember 27, 2011

Detroit Red Wings: First-Quarter Grades for the Team

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    The Red Wings have had a bit of a roller coaster first quarter to their season.  After starting the season with five wins, they went into a tail spin by losing the next six.  A rebound saw them put four wins together. 

    A recent five game win streak has helped them rise to second in the Central division and second in the Western Conference.  They are top 10 in goals for and top five in defense.  The offensive numbers are a bit of a surprise, as the scoring is not all coming from the usual players.  Several Wings have put together solid first quarters that have them on pace to shatter their career best.

    With the first quarter of the season in the record books, it is time to look back and grade each player on how they have done.  There is great news for those who didn’t score a high enough grade, there is plenty of time to make up for it.

The A's

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    The A Team:

    Johan Franzen-  As Franzen goes, so goes the team. His 10 goals lead the team and he is among the league leaders as well.  Any time he has not recorded a goal or an assist the team has lost.  He also has scored at least one point in all but two of the team’s wins.  While Datsyuk and Zetterberg get more national attention, the Mule is truly the driving force behind this team.

    Valtteri Filppula-  Filppula is off to a career year.  He is on pace to blow away his career best numbers of 19 goals and 28 assist.  He already has seven goals and 12 assist.  Beyond his point total, he is playing the entire ice.  His is a surprising plus eight on the season and his playing his best hockey of his career.  

    Jimmy Howard-  Howard has been a beast this year.  He has spent most of the season in the top five for goals against.  His current 1.86 gaa has him tied for second.  He is also tied for league lead in shutouts and wins.  The slump that the Wings went through was not his fault, as he missed two of those games.  In three of the games he did play in the team gave him no support, as the only had two goals over a three game span.

    Nick Lidstrom-  At 41, he is on pace for best goal season ever.  He already has six goals, tied for second among defensemen in the league.  His play is far beyond saying it is only great for a 40+ years old, instead he is just playing great.  He came out of October with a negative plus/minus rating but has only had one negative game since.   

    Niklas Kronwall-  After last season’s late surge many hoped the Kronwall was ready to step up as a top defender and hopefully be ready to fill the void of Lidstrom once he retires.  So far this season he has played better than one could hope.  He will likely blow by his career high in goals by the end of December.  He is developing into a power play force as he already has three such goals.  Beyond points, he is playing tough defense hitting people and blocking shots.  He is among the league leaders in blocking shots and out paces second place on the Wings by more than 20.

    Justin Abdelkader-  Another player on pace for career numbers, Abdelkader is doing all of the little things coaches love to see.  He hustles, bumps, grinds and covers the entire ice.  He leads the team in hits and is earning more and more ice time.

The B's

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    The B Team:

    Brad Stuart- Stuart is on the ice to play tough defense and he has done just that.  He leads the team in hits and is second in blocks.  He is not looked upon for goal scoring, but has chipped in three already.  Considering he has average less than six goals a season throughout his career, having three this soon is good.

    Ian White- Until the injury White was showing that he was a good pickup in the offseason.  Like Stuart, he is not looked to for offense but he is far ahead of his career average pace.  He leads the team in plus/minus and has fit nicely into the team’s system.  He missed four games with a broken cheekbone, then scored and had two assist in his first game back.

    Drew Miller- Mr. Everything.  He hustles, hits, blocks and skates hard.  Coaches love to have a player like him on their team.  He is not the super star but every team is better with a player like Miller on it.

    Pavel Datsyuk- In a Detroit News interview, Datsyuk was not too happy with his start this season.

    'Awful' I need to do more," Datsyuk said. "I need to be more productive. Shoot more, be more dangerous. Go to the net; go to the net and shoot.”

    While Datsyuk is being a bit hard on himself, there is no denying that he had not played up to his usually high standards.  He was still doing all the little things on the ice just not showing up in the score sheet.  A recent five game points streak has helped lift him out of funk he was in.  Over that stretch he had four goals and five assist which is more like the Datsyuk Detroit fans have come to expect.  

    Jonathan Ericsson- Many questioned the contract he signed in the offseason, as the team paying much too high of a price.  While they jury is still out, he has played very well to start the season.  A big complaint against him in the past has been his lack of ability or willingness to use his body.  This year, he seems to be focusing more on that and isn’t afraid to hit somebody.  He is near the top for the team in hits and blocks.  Perhaps the Red Wing front office does know what they are doing.

C's

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    The C Team:

    Henrik Zetterberg- Similar to Datsyuk, by his own standards he is off this year.  Now like Datsyuk, Zetterberg does more than just score and is always in the middle of the action.  He only has five goals and eight assist so far this season, which is shockingly low for him. The numbers were even worse prior to his current four game stretch, where has two goals and four assist.  It is not a matter of not taking shots, as he has been among the league leaders in shots all season; he just needs to finish them now.

    Darren Helm- The dynamic speedster was expected to really explode this season, so far it hasn’t happened.  He is still hustling, hitting and stealing the puck as he always has, but he has not made the impact on the score sheet as was hoped.

    Todd Bertuzzi- Bertuzzi has only played in 16 games so far this season, but seems off from his usual play.  While it is too early to wonder if age is catching up, his numbers are way off.  He only has one goal and four assist so far.  He usually is among the team leaders in hits, but is sliding down the charts in that area too.  Since returning from an illness that kept him out six games he has been playing a bit more like his old self, which gave him a late bump in his grade.

     Jakub Kindl- Kindl is just there.  He does not do anything to make you scream at him, nor does he do anything to make you cheer.  He is solid and is still learning the game.

    Cory Emmerton- After a quick start he has cooled off and seems to disappear at times.  Part of that is youth and learning the game on the big stage.  However with the players in the minors, as well as those that are often scratches, he really needs to pick it up in order to keep his spot.

The D's

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    The D’s:

    Dan Cleary- After last season’s effort more was expected from Cleary this year, like Zetterberg he is taking the shots just not finishing enough of them.  He didn’t even score a goal until November and only has four on the season.

    Tomas Holmstrom- He only has three goals and six assist so far.  He has only scored a point in three of 13 games this month.  He just has not played Homer style hockey.

    Jiri Hudler- A fast start had people hoping to finally see the Hudler that some people think he can be.  He had a point in each of the team’s first four games to start season.  He then disappeared and was held off the score sheet for seven games.  A three game assist streak gave way to a three scoreless streak.  At best he is streaky; however he does not hit does not block shots and does not light up the scorecard. 

    The team has too much talent waiting in the wings to continue to failing Hudler experiment.  A recent change in lines has netted him some assist, but that seems to be more a product of others pulling him along then him actually contributing

Incompletes-

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    These Players Have Not Seen Enough Action Yet This Year:

    Gustav Nyquist

    Ty Conklin      

    Brendan Smith

    Fabian Brunnstrom

    Mike Commodore

    Patrick Eaves- The newly formed Helm, Eaves, Cleary line was looking to have a lot of potential, but a broken jaw on Eaves will have the team waiting six to eight weeks to try it again.