Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had a few things to get off his chest after his team’s 5-2 defeat last night in San Jose. It was Detroit’s fifth straight loss on the road.
“We’ve got to have a discussion as a group,” Babcock told reporters. “Do we want to be a good team or not? Like, life just doesn’t go on good for you. You make a decision it’s going to go good for you. You decide for yourself that you’re going to be successful; you decide for yourself that you’re going to make a difference; you decide for yourself that you’re going to have a good career.”
It’s not often you hear a coach talk about a veteran team like the Red Wings in that fashion.
Then again, it’s not often a team starts the season in such bizarre fashion. Detroit won its first five games, lost its next six, won its next four, and now it’s lost two in a row.
Bigger picture, this is an important season for the Red Wings. Chances are it’s Nicklas Lidstrom’s last before he retires as one of the greatest defensemen of all time. Without Lidstrom, Detroit is a decidedly weaker side.
Other Wings that are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer include Tomas Holmstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, Brad Stuart, and Jiri Hudler.
Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall will still be around, but what about the next generation? Brendan Smith’s a nice prospect, but he’s got a ways to go. Same goes for Tomas Tatar.
I suppose it’s dangerous to doubt Ken Holland’s ability as a general manager — especially with a healthy dose of cap space at his disposal — but the Wings haven’t been past the second round since making the finals in 2008-09. He’ll need to make some significant moves to keep them among the NHL’s elite.
Detroit plays Saturday in Los Angeles and Sunday in Anaheim.
Talk about perfect timing.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday, doing so in overtime to lift the San Jose Sharks past the goaltending of John Gibson in a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
Facing off against their California rivals for the first time this season, the Sharks dominated puck possession and on the shot clock. Had it not been for the play of Gibson, this one could’ve been a lopsided win for San Jose.
Gibson replaced Jonathan Bernier to begin the second period. Bernier left the game with an upper-body injury.
In relief, Gibson made 24 saves on 25 shots. Vlasic was the only San Jose player to get the puck past him, but not before the Ducks managed to steal a single point.
The Ducks recorded the single point, but did so faced with a short-handed lineup as the game continued. Not only did Bernier leave the game, but so, too, did Ryan Getzlaf, who didn’t play a shift in the third period.
He left with an upper-body injury, as per the Ducks, who at the time listed his return as questionable.
So, it seems Jake Allen was onto something.
The St. Louis Blues goalie noted a few days ago that Calgary Flames fans shouldn’t be worried about Brian Elliott despite his early-season struggles.
Well, Elliott has since put together strong performances in back-to-back games against Central Division opponents from Chicago and then St. Louis.
After earning a shootout win over the Blackhawks on Monday, Elliott was put back in the Calgary net to finish off the back-to-back road set.
Facing his former team, Elliott made 23 saves on 24 shots and the Flames recorded a 4-1 victory. It was a special return to St. Louis for Elliott, who spent five seasons with the Blues.
“I saw that on the schedule from a while ago in the summer,” Elliott told NHL.com. “You want to come back here. I had so much fun playing in front of these fans in this building and wanted to do it again even though it was another team. The guys did a heck of a job in front of me to get that win for me.”
Not a bad trip for the Flames, with a maximum four points against two teams considered to be contenders in the Western Conference.
“I thought we were good in front of him, too,” Flames coach Glen Gulutzan told the Calgary Herald. “I thought we kept a lot of the stuff to the outside, but he made some big saves, especially at the end, when we knew their push was coming.
“I thought that was when he was his best. And that’s what you need — we put ourselves in position to win and then he carried us through.”
Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson began Tuesday’s game on the bench, but was forced into action to begin the second period against the San Jose Sharks.
Jonathan Bernier, who got the start, left the game with an upper-body injury and was doubtful to return, the Ducks stated on Twitter.
Bernier has played in only one other game for Anaheim so far, making 42 saves on 45 shots in a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 15.
Frederik Andersen‘s difficult start to the season continues.
After an interesting exchange when questioned about his goaltender prior to Tuesday’s game against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning and some guy named Steven Stamkos, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock was once again forced to answer inquiries about the play of Andersen, who allowed seven goals on just 24 shots.
Andersen stayed in the crease for the entire game, as the Leafs lost 7-3. He certainly didn’t get much help in the defensive end from his teammates in front of him.
Stamkos started the scoring for Tampa Bay, and continued it with a rocket one-timer past Andersen, before finishing with a four-point night.
But in Toronto, the conversation about the amazing play of rookies like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner seems to have shifted to the play of their goalie, acquired in a blockbuster deal with Anaheim, in which Toronto parted ways with a first- and second-round pick to make it happen. The Leafs then signed him to a five-year, $25 million deal.
Playing on a new team in a hockey-crazed market has likely been an adjustment. His season also started with an injury in Olympic qualifying.
Following the loss Tuesday, Babcock explained his reasoning for leaving Andersen in net for all seven Tampa Bay goals, two of which came late in the third period.
“I want him to play. He’s my guy. I want him to play,” said Babcock, as per Jonas Siegel of The Canadian Press. “So I could pull him and then say, ‘Okay I showed you!’ But what did I show him? To me, dig in there with the rest of the guys, make the next save and give us a chance to come back and win the game. You can’t do that sitting on the bench.”
The Maple Leafs face the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Florida’s goalie Roberto Luongo knows all-too-well about the pressures that come with playing the position in a Canadian market.
It is early in Andersen’s Toronto tenure.
But Babcock will likely be facing a similar line of questioning until his goalie turns it around.