Henrik Zetterberg

Getty Images

Rangers roll past stumbling Red Wings: 3 takeaways

1 Comment

The New York Rangers recorded two power-play goals and one shorthanded tally in a 5-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday Night Hockey.

Tony DeAngelo, Chris Kreider and Ryan Strome each scored in a three-goal second period as the Rangers picked up their fourth win in the previous six outings. Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves, including 16 in the final frame in his first start since October 27.

Valtteri Filppula scored Detroit’s lone goal, and Jimmy Howard stopped 26 shots but the Red Wings fell to 1-11-1 in their last 13 games after suffering a fourth consecutive loss.

Rangers spread the wealth

The Rangers benefited from a complete team effort against the Red Wings as five different skaters found the back of the net and 11 members of the Blueshirts recorded at least one point.

Three different goal-scorers lit the lamp in an explosive second period, before Greg McKegg and Artemi Panarin sealed the deal in the final frame.

The Rangers appear to be on the right track since an embarrassing loss against the Boston Bruins. The club has picked up impressive victories against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators before a slip up against the Ottawa Senators earlier this week.

Howard falters against the Rangers

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard has performed at his best against the Rangers throughout his career. He entered the game with a 10-3-3 record against New York coupled with a 1.77 GAA and 0.948 save percentage. Prior to the matchup on Wednesday, the two teams have played one-goal games in 14 of the previous 15 matchups

But on Wednesday, Howard allowed five goals on 31 shots, as the Red Wings’ four-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden was snapped.

The 35-year-old goaltender was born in Syracuse, NY, and grew up a Rangers fan.

Swedish influence lessened in Detroit

When the Red Wings took the ice Wednesday, it was odd to see only two Swedish-born players in the lineup, Christoffer Ehn and Patrik Nemeth. Whether it was Nicklas Lidstrom, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall or others, Detroit always had a strong Swedish influence during an incredible streak of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs 25 straight seasons.

Earlier this week, the final Swedish connection to the 2008 Stanley Cup champion team, Jonathan Ericsson, cleared waivers and will remain within the organization. Darren Helm is the only player on the active roster that was a part of the organization when they hoisted the cup that season.

As Steve Yzerman attempts to help the Red Wings become an elite organization once again, he would be wise to follow the blueprint that was successful the previous few decades.

Note: Following the game on Wednesday, Detroit shipped Jacob De La Rose to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Robby Fabbri.

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

My Favorite Goal: McCarty shows off goal-scoring hands during 1997 Cup Final

ESPN
2 Comments

Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers and personalities remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.

Today, Sean Leahy remembers Darren McCarty’s highlight-reel goal in Game 4 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Final.

Gary Thorne’s voice was clueing us all in that we were in the middle of witnessing something special.

“McCarty draws … McCarty in … McCarty SCORRRRRESSSS! … A magnificent goal … Darren McCarty!”

It was a Detroit Red Wings goal you would expect to see out of someone like Steve Yzerman or Sergei Fedorov. But Darren McCarty? He could score you a goal, sure, but his hands were typically reserved for pummeling the faces of opponents, not dangling rookie defensemen.

The rookie defensmen in question? Janne Niinimaa of the Philadelphia Flyers — the poor soul who is forever on the wrong side of McCarty’s highlight-reel goal during Game 4 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Final.

McCarty act of magic put the Red Wings up 2-0 late in the second period, giving them a cushion in what would be the final game of the series. It ended up as the knockout punch as the Detroit would complete a sweep and win its eighth Cup in franchise history and first since 1955.

I watched that goal completely in awe of what McCarty had pulled off. It’s was unexpected and unforgettable. This Red Wings team had Yzerman and Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan and Slava Kozlov and Igor Larionov. Great, smart hockey players with endless skill. McCarty, a future member of the famed “Grind Line,” had his role. But like previous tough guys the franchise had employed — Bob Probert, Joe Kocur — he could put the puck in the back of the net as well as he could use his fists.

That’s why it’s my favorite hockey goal. An unlikely source delivers an unbelievable memory on the biggest stage.

This is the first edition of “My Favorite Goal,” a season-long series where NBC Sports writers and NHL players tell the stories of the goals that mean the most to them. They’re not necessarily the best goals ever seen, but ones that have left a lasting impression.

Today, we start with McCarty and the story behind the move that still resonates 22 years later.

So how did a 25-year-old bottom-six forward pull off that move? You have to travel to Sweden to find the origins of it becoming part of McCarty’s hockey legacy.

***

The Red Wings saw their playoff runs in 1995 and 1996 end in bitter fashion. They were swept in the 1995 Cup Final by the New Jersey Devils and lost to the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Final a year later in an emotional series that featured the infamous Claude Lemieux hit on Kris Draper, which started a rivalry.

McCarty wanted to improve his game in the summer of 1996, so he flew to Sweden to train with stick-handling coach Thomas Storm. His teachings have had an effect on highly-skilled players over the year, with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk among his many pupils. How would it work with a player like McCarty?

“That goal, even though I beat one guy one-on-one in my whole career, that didn’t start that year or in practice or come out of nowhere,” McCarty told NBC Sports. “Because it’s what are you willing to do to get better?”

When McCarty hit the ice with Storm, he wasn’t taking part in training sessions with other professional players. Instead, here was a veteran NHLer working on stick-handling with 11- and 12-year-olds — one of whom was a future teammate of McCarty’s in Kristian Huselius, who was dubbed “Magic” back then by the Red Wings forward.

Each day the players would warm up by doing a 10-minute stick-handling drill with the goal to get their brains and hands working in alignment.

Toe drag, into your feet, pull out. Toe drag, into your feet, pull out. Toe drag, into your feet, pull out.

Over and over again the players would practice it until the movement became second nature. Storm’s goal was repetition, for the motion to become muscle memory. He taught his students to stick-handle north-south, not laterally.

Little did McCarty know this simple exercise would be the reason we’re still talking about a goal from a Cup Final 22 years later.

***

McCarty’s best offensive year came the following season after working with Storm. He hit career highs in goals (19) and points (49). And nearly three months before he scored the goal, he was a key player in kicking off in what’s known as “Fight Night at the Joe” when Detroit and Colorado brawled in late March. Later that game he would net the overtime winner to end an emotional night.

The Red Wings soared through the Western Conference during the 1997 playoffs and put themselves on the verge of sweeping the Flyers heading into Game 4 of the Cup Final. 

Up 1-0 late in the second period of what would be the final game… well, let’s allow McCarty to walk us through it.

“[Vladimir] Konstantinov takes a hit in the corner, gets mucked around. [Tomas] Sandstrom hits me [with the puck] being a responsible ‘Grind Line’ right-winger through the middle. 

“We were at the end of the shift. My idea was to get it to the red line and dump it in. Tried to dump it in, fanned on it. All of a sudden muscle memory comes into play and I remember going, ‘Oh my God, I got [Niinimaa] beat’ and I saw just a flash of orange because [Ron] Hextall was coming out at me and I was able to pull it around him. 

“I was more nervous about missing the net from that close than I ever was on a three-foot putt or anything like that.”

McCarty’s overwhelming thought as he was in the middle of pulling off the move was “don’t lose the puck.” It could have happened during the toe drag or as he shifted from his backhand to forehead while finding space between Niinimaa’s stick and Hextall, who was playing it as you’d expect — aggressively.

The goal was stunning, but also a meaningful one for the Red Wings, who were all in disbelief. 

“What the f—- was that?,” McCarty recalls Yzerman, his boyhood hero, asking him during the celebration. “I don’t know, but who gives a f—-!,” he replied laughing.

“It’s almost like in football: if you don’t know if it’s a catch you better hurry up and get the play off before they take it back because you’re not supposed to do that,” McCarty joked.

McCarty loves to say that the first person on his Christmas card list every year is Eric Lindros. The Flyers’ captain’s goal with 15 seconds left in the third period cut the Red Wings’ lead to 2-1. That ended up as the final score and McCarty can forever say he scored a Stanley Cup game-winning goal.

The move, which doesn’t have a name, wasn’t tried much, if at all, during the rest of McCarty’s career. He was the type of player in the type of role that didn’t afford many one-on-one opportunities like he had against Niinimaa. He would try it in practice, but when you attempt it against a Hall of Famer like Nicklas Lidstrom every day, you’re going to fail just about every time.

But for one night, and one moment, all McCarty needed was one chance, and he capitalized.

“If you’re going to use that moment then you might as well make it a good one.”

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Q&A: Dylan Larkin on captaincy, getting Red Wings back to playoffs

Getty Images
2 Comments

The retirement of Niklas Kronwall saw another veteran leave the Detroit Red Wings dressing room. One year ago it was Henrik Zetterberg, and while the graybeards (30 years and older) still are in the double digits on the roster, there’s a young core that’s ready to lead the way, highlighted by 23-year-old Dylan Larkin.

Larkin, who has 213 points in four seasons, took away plenty being around Kronwall and Zetterberg, who retired with a combined 2,035 games of NHL experience and a Stanley Cup each to their names.

“They brought it every day,” Larkin told NBC Sports during the NHL Player Media Tour last week in Chicago. “They were professionals every day, that’s probably the biggest thing. They competed. They showed up and work and did all the right things every day.”

Larkin is part of the next group of Red Wings that is hoping to start another long playoff streak. Now that Steve Yzerman is back in Hockeytown replacing Ken Holland as general manager, there’s an expectation in Detroit that good times are on their way back.

We spoke with Larkin about the Red Wings’ encouraging finish to last season, getting back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the team’s vacant captaincy and more. 

Enjoy.

Q. What was it about the 8-3 finish that gives you encouragement heading into this season?

LARKIN: “When we finished the season the young players that were producing at the level that they were, obviously, it’s a small sample size and some people will call them meaningless games, but when you have the guys that we have that could be the young core of our team playing like that, it’s just excitement for myself, for our fanbase, for our staff, for us in the locker room. I’m excited to see how we start and as we get into camp how guys are looking. It seems like everyone’s ready, everyone’s excited, everyone’s refreshed after the summer. We’re just going to carry on from where we left off last season.”

Q. From a production standpoint you’ve been the best Red Wing the last few seasons. When you know you have that responsibility every night, how do you manage that pressure?

LARKIN: “I don’t think anyone puts more pressure on me than myself. I enjoy that. I enjoy being in high-pressure situations. I like playing hockey, that’s what it really comes down to. I love the game, I love being at the rink, I love working on my craft. For me, it’s really easy to be at the rink and spend hours trying to get better and I enjoy the pressure and day-to-day grind of playing in the NHL.”

Q. When you see the numbers you put up last season(32-41–73), do you have a specific goal in mind for 2019-20?

LARKIN: “I don’t. I always try to shoot for 30 goals. Last year was pretty special to be able to accomplish that. I don’t set a number, I just try and play hard every night. As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to take more pride in playing a two-way game. Sometimes when you play that game it doesn’t lead to the big offensive production nights and you have to grind it out. That’s good and I think it helps our team more.”

Q. What areas of your game are you still trying to improve?

LARKIN: “I think I try and improve on every area of my game. If you don’t in the NHL it will slowly catch up to you and it will pass you by. It’s constantly thinking of different ways to play the game and to get better. Everyone has different trainers and different things that they do. I believe in what I’m doing and what I’ve done this offseason to make myself a better hockey player.”

[MORE: Rebuilding Red Wings counting on Larkin, Mantha, Bertuzzi]

Q. What’s it going to take to get the Red Wings back to the playoffs?

LARKIN: “Our young core taking the next step and taking over the team, I guess. We have the guys to do it, we all believe in each other, and as we all want to produce and build our careers, it’s going to help our team. There’s four guys: myself, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou, if we can take that next step, become dominant players every night, it’s going to really help our team. I think it’s going to fast-track us to where we want to be.”

Q. How excited are you to be working with Steve Yzerman now that he’s general manager?

LARKIN: “The fan base is excited, the people in Detroit are excited to have him back. To look at what he did in Tampa Bay with the team they had, obviously there’s no guarantees, but he’s been through it, he’s had success at the position he’s at. We all have trust and faith in him. We understand that we have to produce on the ice right now and maybe there’s a little more pressure with having him back. I think it’s good for our team to push guys. For myself, I hope that we build a relationship where we can have conversations and relate to what’s going on in my life and he can help guide me through some things that occur to a young guy playing in the NHL.”

Q. Are you ready to assume a bigger leadership role on the team if Jeff [Blashill] and Steve come to you?

LARKIN: “Yes, but ultimately it’s their decision. Wearing a letter, mentally, I’ve already taken on a bigger role as a leader on the team [as an alternate captain]. I think guys look up to me and I look up to other guys in the locker room, so we have a great core of guys that are leaders and we all rely on each other. It makes it easy for myself when everyone’s doing the right thing and everyone’s leading by example.”

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Yzerman’s game plan and other questions facing the Red Wings

Getty Images

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Detroit Red Wings.

Let’s ponder three questions facing the Red Wings in 2019-20…

1. What is Yzerman’s game plan this year? 

He’s made only a couple of depth moves and shocked the hockey world at the 2019 NHL Draft when he selected Moritz Seider sixth overall.

Yzerman seems content to let another year of the team’s rebuild run its course. There are low expectations in terms of the team’s success this year, and having a full season at the helm to assess where that rebuild is at will allow him to go into next summer armed with better knowledge (and more cash to work with.)

The Red Wings will have $13 million likely coming off the books after this year on defense alone, including Mike Green, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley — all aging players who likely won’t fit into the team’s long-term plans.

Jimmy Howard, 35, is also set to become a UFA. With Filip Larsson signing a three-year entry-level deal earlier this year, he will get a lot of action in Grand Rapids. If that pans out, perhaps he’s ready to make the jump in 2020-21.

Yzerman’s biggest challenge is finding what young up-and-comers are ready to make the jump to the Show this season.

Names like Filip Zadina, Taro Hirose and Michael Rasmussen are all waiting for their turn as regulars. There’s a fine line between a guy being ready and a guy being rushed. The Red Wings have no reason to rush anyone at this point, however.

[MORE: 2018-19 season review | Blashill under pressure? | X-factor]

2. Even if he wants to come back, should the Red Wings re-sign Niklas Kronwall

Yes, he’s a heart-and-soul guy who’s been with the club for ages. And even at 38, he still managed to come close to a 30-point season and missed just three games.

And there’s always that leadership component of a guy who knows what it takes to win.

But given his advanced age (in hockey years, of course) and the fact that the Red Wings already have a collection of older defensemen that can mentor some of the young guys like Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski and Madison Bowey, is it worth having Kronwall taking minutes from those guys?

The Red Wings aren’t going to be competing for a Stanley Cup this season.

They already added Patrik Nemeth, a just-in-case if Kronwall isn’t to return, so perhaps it’s time to move on.

3. Who is the team’s next captain? 

The good money is on Dylan Larkin and for good reason.

Despite being 22 (and age doesn’t matter much here), Larkin has shown he has what it takes between the ears to be the guy that leads this team forward.

The Red Wings rolled last season without one after the retirement of Henrik Zetterberg. Larkin filled in wearing an ‘A’ and handled those duties well.

Larkin also has a new GM who was once given the captaincy of the same team at age 21.

Larkin is doing the right things on and off the ice, which is exactly what a young captain on a rebuilding team should be doing. It seems like a no-brainer.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blackhawks vs. Bruins: 2019 Winter Classic by the numbers

NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the 2019 Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET from Notre Dame Stadium. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

0 – Total hat tricks in NHL outdoor game history. 

2 – Number of outdoor games that Brad Marchand has missed playing in due to various circumstances. He was in the AHL during the Bruins’ 2010 game at Fenway Park and he was suspended for the 2016 game at Gillette Stadium.

3 – The Bruins will take part in their third Winter Classic on Jan. 1. They previously participated in the event in 2010 (Fenway Park vs. Flyers) and 2016 (Gillette Stadium vs. Montreal Canadiens).

4 – Number of Winter Classics that have gone past regulation. Two of which (2008 – BUF-PIT and 2014 – TOR/DET) needed the shootout to determine a winner.

5Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith are the only current Blackhawks who have played in all five of the franchise’s outdoor games. If they all hit the ice at Notre Dame Stadium they will be the only NHL players to play in six outdoor games.

6 – The Blackhawks are outdoor game veterans. They have played in six total outdoor games and the meeting with the Bruins will be their fourth Winter Classic. They are 0-3-0 in Winter Classics (2009 vs. Detroit Red Wings, 2015 vs. Washington Capitals, 2017 vs. St. Louis Blues) and 1-1-0 in Stadium Series games (2014 win vs. Penguins, 2016 loss to Minnesota Wild).

6 – All-time outdoor game points by Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, second to Henrik Zetterberg’s seven.

6 – The NHL returns to Indiana for its sixth regular-season game in the state and first since 1992. The Blackhawks have played in all five previous matchups, including a 3-2 loss to the Bruins on Jan. 21, 1954 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum in Indianapolis.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 1 P.M. ET – NBC]

10 – Record for goals scored in a Winter Classic, set by the Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings in 2009 (6-4 Detroit win). The Red Wings’ six goals is the most by one team in a Winter Classic.

11 – This will be the 11th NHL Winter Classic and the second to be held in a college football stadium (2014 – Toronto vs. Detroit at Michigan Stadium). Six others have been held in baseball stadiums and three in NFL stadiums.

13 – Degrees in Fahrenheit of the coldest recorded temperature at puck drop for a Winter Classic (2014, Ann Arbor, MI).

19 Average low temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, for South Bend, Ind. on Jan. 1, according to accuweather.com.

26 – This will be the 26th NHL outdoor game. The first outdoor game was the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton between the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens. Chicago vs. Boston is the first of two outdoor games this season. The Pittsburgh Penguins will play the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 23 (8 p.m. ET, NBC) from Lincoln Financial Field.

32 – Average high temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, for South Bend, Ind. on Jan. 1, according to accuweather.com.

36 – Total number of games in Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy’s NHL career, all of which were played with the Blackhawks, who drafted him in the first-round in 1983.

50 – Degrees in Fahrenheit of the warmest recorded temperature at puck drop for a Winter Classic (Pittsburgh, 2011).

84 – Number of Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey players drafted to the NHL, including four Stanley Cup Champions; Bill Nyrop (1976, 1977, 1978 with Montreal), Don Jackson (1984, 1985 with Edmonton), Ian Cole (2016, 2017 with Pittsburgh) and Bryan Rust (2016, 2017 with Pittsburgh) according to University of Notre Dame Hockey.

350 – Gallons of paint used to make the ice at Notre Dame Stadium white.

708 – Number of players and coaches who have participated in the NHL’s 25 regular-season outdoor games to date.

1995 – Year in which Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman graduated from Notre Dame University.

Mike Tirico will host the network’s Winter Classic pre-game coverage alongside the NHL Live studio team of host Kathryn Tappen, and analysts Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick. Six-time Emmy Award-winner and La Fontaine, Ind., native Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from Notre Dame Stadium.