Player Expectations for the Playoffs
Just a little blurb for each player, giving what I hope and expect from them as we head into the Nashville series. I’ve got the guys listed more or less in line order. I didn’t include the new callups Riley Sheahan and Chris Conner, as I don’t quite know enough about them to write much, and I also didn’t include any of the other callups we’ll likely have when the Griffins’ season ends, like Brendan Smith and Tomas Tatar. If they get called up and make it into some games, I’ll write about them then.
(As I’m sure you can guess, I wrote the most about the goalies.)
93 Johan Franzen: Oh, Playoff Mule, it’s time to wake up! It’s your time of year! We saw a glimpse of you in the game against St. Louis last week, when David Backes got you angry and you promptly scored two goals to win the game. But then you went back to sleep against New Jersey and Chicago. Wake back up, Playoff Mule. Mules don’t hibernate in April.
13 Pavel Datsyuk: Our magician, our wonder. What I expect of you, now that you seem to have shaken off any lingering injuries, is that you simply be yourself. Dazzle us and make Pekka Rinne cry.
44 Todd Bertuzzi: You know that thing you do where you’re an aging power forward who’s still a scoring threat with a bit of a healthy mean streak if someone messes with one of your boys? Do that.
51 Valtteri Filppula: You’ve had an amazing season, Val. You’ve really kicked up your scoring touch since finding great chemistry with Hank and Huds. The three of you have been the most consistent line all season. Now can you carry that into the second season? I think you can.
40 Henrik Zetterberg: You’ve been the backbone of this line all season. You’ve given Val and Huds the confidence they need to get out there and be effective producers. And you don’t need anyone to tell you how to keep doing that; that Conn Smythe Trophy you were carrying on your head in the 2008 parade shows you understand quite well how the playoffs work!
26 Jiri Hudler: You’ve redeemed yourself after a rather sub-par post-KHL season. Your work ethic has turned around drastically and you’ve developed a surprising knack for annoying goalies while Hank and Fil move the puck into scoring position. Keep doing this. Just… try not to give any of your teammates a concussion this year? Please?
20 Drew Miller: You’ve been one of the unsung heroes this season. You’ve been a scoring threat at unexpected times and your penalty killing and defensive play have been top notch, particularly with Darren Helm sidelined. If there’s any aspect of your play I’d like to see you change, it would be to add a little bit of grittiness. You’re a big guy, you can probably hit pretty hard. (But cleanly, of course- we don’t want one of our best penalty killers in the box!)
8 Justin Abdelkader: You’ve been kind of quiet this season, Abby. It’s like you’re not quite sure what your role is on the team or how you’re supposed to fill it– except that you’ve increased your penalty killing minutes, which is excellent. But we need you to play a mean and gritty game even more than we need Miller to do it. I love that you’re willing to drop the gloves and go up against the toughest bastards your opponents have to offer. The hardest part of going into a fight is deciding to do it. But you need some refinement of your technique. Ask around. If Darren McCarty or Joey Kocur aren’t willing to help you out I’d be shocked.
11 Danny Cleary: After Monday’s practice you told reporters that your knees were so torn up that you were playing at about 50% of your capability. Hockeytown let out a collective shout. Why is Mike Babcock letting this happen? You’ve got bone grinding on bone but you’re out there checking, killing penalties, and mucking guys up in the corners. How are you doing this? And are you ruining your knees for life in the process? We, the concerned fans, we know why you’re pushing yourself. It’s what you do and what you’ve done since you came to Detroit. Even though I have my doubts, can I just say how much I love you for being willing to get out there when you’re this torn up? Every team needs a heart like our big Newfie Warrior.
14 Gustav Nyquist: Our baby ninja, learning from Pavel, Hank, and Fil at every opportunity. I do hope we get to see you play with Pavel at least some of the series. You’ve begun to develop quite a bit of chemistry and the seeds of a nice scoring touch. But even if Coach keeps you on the third or fourth line, I’m sure you’ll keep working and pushing and waiting to make your chances. I’m kind of thinking you’ll be like Helm was in the 2008 run, unexpectedly clutch.
48 Cory Emmerton: I’m not sure quite what to make of you, honestly. I can’t fault you for not trying and working hard, but I’m not sure exactly where your talents belong. So you’re our fourth line center. I do like how you and Mursak work together, but I wouldn’t guarantee that your line won’t be shaken up before the playoffs are over.
96 Tomas Holmstrom: You know exactly what to do. You go stand in front of Rinne and drive him to distraction. You INVENTED this. You are THE goalie screener of all goalie screeners, and no one does it better than you. Also, eat some beans before you go stick your shorts in front of his face.
43 Darren Helm: First, come back from that knee injury, but don’t push yourself to come back too fast. A knee injury is not to be trifled with, especially for someone like you who lives by speed. But when you’re ready, come back and use that wonderful speed to wreak havoc on the Preds attempts at offense. Kill off those penalties and free up Pavel and Val for some extra power play time. And when you do get a breakaway (not if), remember what Bert has been trying to teach you about patient hands.
39 Jan Mursak: You’re another one like Cory Emmerton, kind of a mystery to me. You have some amazing speed, though. Stay patient, stay responsible, and keep one eye on your assigned coverage and the other eye on everyone else.
5 Nick Lidstrom: I hardly even dare write one of these to you. Be our team’s rock of stability, as you have been for so long.
52 Jonathan Ericsson: I’m surprised to say it, but your play has improved drastically since you came back from your injury. Some people have said it’s just because you’re paired with Captain Nick now, but it seems like more than that. You seem much calmer in your defensive decision making and you seem to have made leaps and bounds in figuring out when you should play the man and when you should play the puck, plus you’ve actually been using your size to hit people and box them out. I’m tentatively impressed, Big Rig. Keep it up.
55 Nik Kronwall: HIT SOMEONE. Oh, and continue to impress us with your responsible defensive play. We like it, we like it a lot.
23 Brad Stuart: See note for Kronners. Also, PLEASE DON’T LEAVE US TO GO BACK TO CALIFORNIA.
27 Kyle Quincey: I’m kind of still reserving judgement on you. I haven’t been all that impressed since you were picked up at the deadline, to be honest. I’ve seen you make a lot of costly mistakes. But I do realize you’re trying to fit back in to a system you left quite some time ago, and you did seem to be pulling it together the last few games. I’ll be cautiously optimistic about you.
18 Ian White: Your play has dropped off a bit from what it was at the beginning of the year. I’m hoping the start of the playoffs will be a nice new beginning for you to pick things back up.
4 Jakub Kindl: Unfortunately, you seem to have gotten yourself into Coach’s doghouse. I kind of doubt we’ll see you in this run unless someone gets injured. Just stay ready, work hard in practice, and learn everything you can from the more experienced players. Patience is the key for you at this point.
35 Jimmy Howard: Here you are again, finally healed up from your nagging groin injury and ready to go. Do you have the fire you need, are you ready to steal some games when needed, are you ready to shake off any bad goals and forget them as soon as they happen? Are you ready to be simultaneously the calmest and the fiercest man on the ice? You’ve been an All-Star, you’ve been key to setting the home win record. But you must know that none of that matters until you take your playoff game to the next level. I think you’re ready.
29 Ty Conklin: I know full well we won’t see you outside of warmups and practices. You know it too. But you know? The team needs you for that. Jimmy needs your stability and your humor to balance his intensity. The young players need you to teach them how to find weaknesses in other goalies. You’ve heard of locker room cancers? By all accounts you’re the exact opposite of that (locker room t-cells, maybe?) and the importance of a guy like you to team morale over what we’re hoping will be a long playoff run can not be discounted.
31 Joey MacDonald: First things first– get that back feeling better. Then when you do come back, your role will be the same as Ty’s. Work yourself so hard in practice, keep yourself ready, and wait.
And then maybe at the end of this we’ll have a rare situation of having three goalies to get their names on the Cup? You’ve all worked for it so hard in your very different ways.
And now it is time for your humble blogger to head off to sleep– assuming I can! There are playoffs! TOMORROW! It’s ALMOST HERE! It’s the best time of year, absolutely and for real.