Red Beats White 5-3, Questions Linger Before Preseason

TRAVERSE CITY, MI - SEPTEMBER 11: Brendan Smith  of the Detroit Red Wings turns up ice with the puck during NHL Prospects Tournament on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

The Red Wings put the final touches on training camp today, holding their annual Red/White scrimmage up in Traverse City. With a packed house and full radio/streaming video broadcast, the Wings battled amongst themselves to decide who gets bragging rights in the locker room and who gets to pick up the first road trip dinner bill. The game was split into two 25 minute periods, and yours truly took in the action thanks to the great live feed from FOX Detroit. Here’s a few (HA!) thoughts from the scrimmage to tide you over until the Wings do battle with the Penguins tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.

First Period Thoughts

  • Brendan Smith was all over the place and was definitely out there trying to earn himself some games with the big club at some point this season. He scored the opening goal on Jimmah, and had two more excellent scoring chances, including one where he pinched in on a two-on-one and forced Howard to make an tough save. He blazed all over the ice and showed some physicality as well. The best part? He was defensively responsible for the most part. Very impressive and easily the most impressive player in the first period.
  • Cory Emmerton also looked strong, generating a pair of scoring chances that he wasn’t able to convert on. From the sounds of things, Emmerton has really stepped up his play during this training camp and could finally be ready to emerge as a legitimate AHL scoring threat.
  • Not a bad period from Jimmah, but not a great one either. Looked like he was having some trouble dealing with the screens out front, which was a problem we heard about throughout most of camp. Smith’s goal was through some legs, which causes a little discomfort in terms of Jimmah’s ability to play through the screens, but I’m sure Bedard and Co. will be quick to correct during film review. In terms of lateral movement, Howard looked solid, keeping movements to a relative minimum and corralling most of the rebounds he gave up.
  • If I had to pick the better looking goaltender in the first period, it would have to be Chris Osgood, who looked sharp for most of the opening 25 minutes, despite giving up a soft goal to Jan Mursak. Granted, the puck was a fluky redirection over the shoulder of Ozzie, but it’s still one of those goals that probably gets added to the “wish he could have it back” list.
  • If he can stay healthy, Ruslan Salei looks like he has the potential to be one of the most underrated signings of the Wings offseason. He’s exactly what Jonathan Ericsson needs in terms of a defensive partner: responsible, cool, calm, collected and physical. Very solid first period for Salei. Ericsson’s performance, however, was best summed up by this Ken Kal comment during the broadcast: “Ericsson looked like he tripped over the blue line there.” Confidence: We haz it.
  • Nick Lidstrom looked like his usual composed self in the opening frame, although he did get traffic-coned on a good rush bb Valtteri Filppula. I know there was concern about his positioning in one-on-one situations late last season and his effort against Filppula wasn’t very inspiring. That said, it is ONLY camp so let’s hope that gets worked out during the exhibition season and the first few weeks of regular season play. Otherwise, always good to see TPH playing his smooth, confident game in the Winged Wheel.
  • Lots of Dan Cleary mentions in the first period as he seemed to be healthy and all over the ice with a ton of energy. Not alot of mentions for linemates Mike Modano and Jiri Hudler however.

Second Period Thoughts

  • I thought about covering off on all of the positives of the second period before getting to the ugly, but let’s just swallow the pill and get this over with. The story of the second period has to be the absolutely ATROCIOUS play of Ericsson. I can’t think of any instances where he did a single thing right in the period. He and Stuart stood around pretty lackadaisically and watched Jordan Owens out-hustle them en route to an unassisted goal to kick things off, only to serve up and incredibly futile encore of turnovers and poor decisions. Ericsson capped off his gawd-awful second period by attempting a Bertuzzi-esque spinning pass directly in front of his own goaltender, which was easily stolen by Darren Helm for the game-icing goal one second later. All Rig could do was throw up his hands in his trademarked “exasperated” reaction and stare at the ceiling.  Rig also struggled with his decision making around the blue line, especially when he got some time on the power play with Stuart and essentially forced his own teammate to cough up the puck because he chose to play the puck along the blue line (in the face of strong pressure) instead of alleviating and dumping down low. On a scale of 1 to 10, this period was a -589 for Ericsson. (I’m not done with Ericsson just yet…but let’s take a break.)
  • Cleary’s first-period effort continued on into the second frame, where he scored a very nice goal against Thomas McCollum after putting a sweet move on Lidstrom (gulp). If you really think about it, having a healthy Dan Cleary is essentially like adding another free agent to a team that sorely missed his 100% presence last year.
  • Good to see Jakub Kindl get himself on the scoresheet, especially since his tally came on the power play. It came from a great setup pass off the stick of Salei (!) except somehow the Traverse City crew opted to give assists to Mursak and Maltby again. Sara Schropp (@thetinnishflash) confirms via twitter that the goal announcements in TC might not have been the most accurate.
  • For those of you that were worried that none of the “stars” were scoring goals, Henrik Zetterberg picked up what you were putting down when he tallied the game-winner for the red team. Assists? TPL HERO Doug Janik and (who else) Pavel Datsyuk.
  • Pray to God we don’t see McCollum or Joey MacDonald on the big club at any point this year. Six goals allowed between them.

Final Thoughts/Rig Bashing:Part Deux

Yes, it’s only a scrimmage and yes, we’ll start to learn much more about this team as they kick off preseason play tomorrow in Pittsburgh, but there was definitely enough good and bad in today’s game to start the discussion firestorm around the Wings. Personally, I thought both sides played with alot of jump, and it was good to see the defenses for both teams play more aggressively and take some chances at the offensive zones. Even Brian Rafalski was pinching in and looking for rebounds, which is fine as long as someone is back deep to save the bacon. The fast tempo and quick plays may just be a symptom of having so much youth on the ice, but it was sure fun to watch.

The viable goaltending options both looked pretty darn good in the first period, despite some shaky moments from Jimmah and the fluky goal over Osgood’s shoulder. They made some excellent saves and both looked comfortable in the crease and making saves. I thought Osgood outplayed Howard a bit, although it wasn’t by much. At any rate, having a pair of competent and confident guys between the pipes is never a bad thing. We’ll know more as the preseason progresses, but felt good about what these guys put out there today.

But as I said, there was enough bad to go with the good and the majority of that lies on the Wings blue line. If you put a gun to my head and asked who looked the best out there on defense for the Wings today, I would have to go with Brendan Smith, even though he still needs to be more responsible on the back-end. Didn’t hear much of Brian Rafalski or Niklas Kronwall’s names being mentioned out there today, so not much to go on there. We’ve already discussed the potential issues with Lidstrom’s game, but he’s getting the hall pass for a few weeks to ramp things up and he will fine. Probably the most solid in terms of responsible defensive play was Salei, although he still had a few mistakes that will need to be ironed out. Stuart was underwhelming, at best, and looked absolutely stupid on the Owens goal. Kindl actually played a smart game and minimized his mistakes pretty well, but he’s slotted to be the #7 defenseman on the roster. Which brings us back to The Rig.

Disclaimer: As I said, it is VERY EARLY in the preseason and alot can happen, so take all of this with a grain of salt. Cool? Good. Continue…

Petrella’s told me time and again that he just doesn’t get what folks see in Jonathan Ericsson and it took me awhile to start to come around on what he was saying. Maybe I too has drank the Ericsson kool-aid after that playoff performance in ’09, but I really thought the kid might emerge into a viable NHL defenseman. No more. Like I said, it’s early, but it’s very clear to anyone who watched today’s scrimmage that Ericsson not only failed to make progress in his game this offseason, he very likely REGRESSED in terms of his play. His lack of awareness on the ice was glaring today, well before he watched Owens beat him to a goal or before he handed Helm a freebie on one of the worst turnovers I have ever seen. Offensive upside you say? The only way Ericsson is worth the defensive cost he assumes out there is if he turns into a 20-30 goal scorer from the blue line, and THAT AIN’T HAPPENING.

Yes, I hear all of you saying “give him a chance to break out of it” and I agree with that sentiment. But there is absolutely no way Ericsson gets an entire season to show the improvement we’ve been waiting on for almost two years now. If he’s still struggling to play basic, fundamental defensive hockey by the All Star break, he will lose his job. What he has in NHL game experience, he lacks in talent and finesse and I fully expect Jakub Kindl to take Ericsson to the brink this season and eventually unseat him for his #6 spot in the Wings starting lineup. Raise your hand if this would break your heart (Sorry TPL Mom.) My hand is not raised.

We’ll know more once the preseason gets going, so for now, here’s how the stats and scoring broke down. As mentioned earlier, take the scoring report with a grain of salt.

Shots

  • Red: 33 (15-18)
  • White: 18 (11-7)

Red Goals

  • Brendan Smith (1) from Mattais Ritola (1)
  • Jordan Owens (1) unassisted
  • Jamie Tardif (1) from Joakim Andersson (1)
  • Henrik Zetterberg (1) from Doug Janik (1) and Pavel Datsyuk (1)
  • Darren Helm (1) unassisted

White Goals

  • Jan Mursak (1) from Brad Stuart (1) and Kirk Maltby (1)
  • Dan Cleary (1) from Trevor Parkes (1) and Logan Pyatt (1)
  • Jakub Kindl (PP) (1)  from (apparently) Jan Mursak (1) and Kirk Maltby (2)
    • SALEI FOR AN ASSIST! START THE MOVEM…right. It’s only a scrimmage.

6 thoughts on “Red Beats White 5-3, Questions Linger Before Preseason”

  1. Ericsson has the physical ability to be a solid defenseman in the NHL. His problems lie entirely between the ears, and only he can sort that out. Given the veteran leadership and coaching that he is surrounded by, if Ericsson can’t get the mental part of the game figured out, then put him in the press box and let’s see what Kindl can do. At least if Kindl falters, he’s got the “I’m a rookie” excuse to fall back on.

    For a scrimmage in pre-season, I was impressed. The Bertuzzi/Franzen/Filppula line looked good, but the stars were not what I was watching for. Like you, I liked what I saw from Emmerton, and Owens’ goal was a nice use of his speed and hands. Overall, it was a good performance.

    I get the impression we’re going to be pretty deep into the season before we have any stability at that last D-man position. Hopefully the rest of the preseason will bring us a sign that someone (anyone) is willing to step up and claim the job with some authority.

  2. I’d like to continue to trumpet my Derek Meech love from earlier. I thought he was even better than Smith and overall one of the best defensemen on the ice. I know Ericsson played against tougher opposition, but there was a huge poise gap there. Meech was calm, cool. collected, and best of all, he was quick to make very good decisions in both zones. If, based solely on this game, I had to pick my seven defensemen to go into the season, Ericsson is on the trading block and #14 is sitting pretty behind Jakub Kindl and Ruslan Salei.

    I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Ericsson brings to Pittsburgh tomorrow night. I feel he’s still having the problem “translating” his game from a forward’s mindset to that of a defenseman, so he sees the ice backwards and it takes him the extra half-second between seeing the ice as a forward and translating that into what he should be doing as a defenseman. It’s like trying to learn a whole new language, except every time he conjugates a verb wrong, everybody screams at him for costing us another goal. Still though, he had his last chance with me last season. He HAS to play better this year because I’m not willing to wait through any more of his dumbass mistakes.

    [edited for typos]

  3. “Good to see Jakub Kindl get himself on the scoresheet, especially since his tally came on the power play. It came from a great setup pass off the stick of Salei (!) except somehow the Traverse City crew opted to give assists to Mursak and Maltby again.”

    I thought it was a wrist shot, although no replay to confirm.

    1. Definitely a slapper. I remember specifically thinking that Kindl took too long to wind up and that it was going to get blocked and then immediately thinking that I should shut my mouth after the goal got by.

  4. Yea, basically what ya’ll said.

    Kindl’s goal was definitely a slapper. After he scored I wondered why he could get a slap shot off but never Big E, who consistently shoots wrist shots only. I know he’s trying to get the shot through but for fucks sake, put yourself in a position to get a windup. This matters only because it would help highlight his potential offensive upside, or at least the threat of it like Sammy’s off target shots. I’m rooting for him, and the coaching staff certainly is, but he will not have earned the spot this year…if his play stays this way.

    If Mule went to the net like Cleary, he’d be the most effective player on the team. I was annoyed with his pussy-footing around. Tuzzi pulled some jackassery, but he did hit some people, lined up Dats and backed off. I want some toothless snarl from that bigfuck. Fil and Eaves need to work on quicker releases. They drag the puck before snapping the stick and it costs them.

    Predicting a co-won Jennings. (Shutting mouth now)

  5. Thanks for the blog post. From reading the Freep coverage you would think the NHL has decided not to play the 10-11 season and elected to hand the Wings the cup. I mean no mention at all of Ericsson’s struggles which is the one thing many of us are wondering about.

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