Tag: Brian Rafalski

Tim Thomas

Looking back at the last Boston-Detroit game on NBC


The last time the Boston Bruins faced Detroit on NBC, the Red Wings swept the second game of a home-and-home series by a score of 4-2. A lot has changed since Sunday, February 13, but let’s take a look at some interesting tidbits from that contest.

  • Joe wrote that the loss “may force Boston to make a move to improve their ability to move the puck from the blue line.” Of course, the Bruins did just that by trading for Tomas Kaberle, even if the results weren’t as sterling as they hoped.
  • Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand raced the Bruins off to a 2-1 lead. Did that provide some foreshadowing for the playoffs and the 2011-12 season in particular?
  • In the “notable players who aren’t there anymore” department: Blake Wheeler and Brian Rafalski recorded assists for their respective teams.
  • Todd Bertuzzi scored two goals against the Bruins in that match, yet the hulking winger only has one tally in 14 games so far this season.

Both teams were contenders at that point last season, but tomorrow’s game provides a juicier storyline: the Red Wings have a chance to end the Bruins’ scalding-hot run at 10 wins in a row. If that’s not enough to wrap up your frenzied Black Friday shopping, then you’re a difficult hockey fan to please.

Ian White is making Brian Rafalski’s retirement easy to handle in Detroit

Cory Emmerton, Ian White

“Who’s Brian Rafalski?”

That’s the question fans in Detroit might be asking thanks to the play of offseason free agent pickup Ian White. In Detroit’s undefeated start through four games, White has picked up two goals and an assist and helped make sure that Red Wings faithful aren’t missing their former stud defenseman in Rafalski.

White has bounced around over the past two years playing on four different teams (Calgary, Toronto, Carolina, and San Jose) but now that he’s landed in Detroit, he’s giving them the offensive steadiness that Rafalski always used to. He can move the puck, he can play responsible enough defense, and he’s making sure younger guys like Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl aren’t forced into playing too many minutes of their own when they’re not ready.

Instead, White’s veteran savvy mixes well with the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, and Niklas Kronwall and gives Detroit’s top four on defense. White’s play even has Kronwall saying that he plays like Rafalski but with more of an edge to his game. It’s not like Rafalski was ever the toughest guy on the block. Having a bit more sandpaper to your game goes a long way in the NHL, especially out West.

Detroit always used to be the team making the big move in the offseason, now they’re just making the smartest ones.

Why the Red Wings need Jonathan Ericsson to make “the leap” this year

Jonathan Ericsson
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When Jonathan Ericsson arrived on the scene in Detroit during their run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2009, he showed up as a 6’4″ 220 pound revelation. He jumped into the starting lineup scoring four goals and four assists in the playoffs from the blue line and nearly helping lead the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup against Pittsburgh.

Since then, Ericsson’s last two seasons have seen him kind of find his way through action and not using his size nor his skills to their optimum levels. Two seasons ago, Ericsson dealt with injuries and played in 62 games and put up a stunningly low plus/minus for a Red Wings player at -15. Last season in particular was a rough one for Ericsson as his play had him permanently fixed on the third pairing and sometimes getting swapped out of the lineup as a healthy scratch.

Heading into this season with Brian Rafalski suddenly retiring, Ericsson has the chance to seize the day and become the blue line force many thought he would be. After signing a big free agent deal this summer to stay in Detroit (three years, $9.75 million), the pressure is on for Ericsson and Chuck Pleiness of the Macomb Daily Newspaper finds that Ericsson knows it’s time to show that he’s worth the faith the Wings have put into him.

“It’s up to myself now,” Ericsson said. “They’re going to have higher expectations of me. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a little more pressure but that’s always good. That always helps players, most of the players, anyway. You always want to put more pressure on yourself. It’s going to be fun, too.”

While the Wings’ top three defensemen are easy to pick out in Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, and Brad Stuart landing the job as the #4 guy is between Ericsson, Ian White, Mike Commodore. For Ericsson, the opportunity to capitalize on the situation is right there for the taking. While Ericsson had his struggles at times the last two years, perhaps that shot of faith (and big bucks) is what he needed to get faith in his own game.  The Wings are banking on it happening or else.

With Lidstrom eventually hanging it up sooner than later, the Wings will need someone to step up and become that big game kind of player on defense. Replacing a guy like Lidstrom is impossible, but if Ericsson and Kronwall can reach the heights they’ve shown they’re capable of with their play, replacing that production by committee would be a bonus for Detroit. There are high hopes for youngsters Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith to also someday join that defensive corps, but they haven’t had much opportunity in the NHL to show what they can do. Smith is just two years removed from the University of Wisconsin and has yet to play in the NHL.

For Ericsson, there’s no time like the present to make his presence felt. The Wings have ponied up the cash to keep him in town, now he has to show that he’s worth the dedication and hype, otherwise they’ll be paying $3.25 million a year to a third-pair defenseman for the next three years. Those kinds of mistakes in the salary cap world can’t happen, but as Ericsson says, it’s up to him to make it work now.