This year’s Detroit Red Wings team has already exceeded expectations. After the roster suffered multiple big loses in the summer, and with the multitude of injuries during the season, they still managed to knock off the #2 seed of the better conference. It feels good to say that the Red Wings transition year is going quite well, and the future looks very promising for this team, regardless of the results of the next series against Chicago.
Pavel Datsyuk 2-5-7: A. Datsyuk brought his whole bag of tricks and excellent two-way play to the series. He showed off his freakish mastery of the puck, and was huge in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill. Both he and Zetterberg appear to only be getting started in this playoff run.
Henrik Zetterberg 3-5-8: A. The captain did not begin producing until late in the series, but played an excellent defensive game the entire time and ended the 7 games as the series’ leading scorer. He was indisputably the team’s best player in the final two games of the series, and again showed he’s worthy of the C on his chest.
Niklas Kronwall 0-1-1: B+. Both Kronwall and Ericsson did very well against the oppositions top forward lines, and Kronwall provided leadership to a weaker than normal defensive squad. He did fairly well in his first series as the team’s #1 defenseman, despite his lack of offensive production.
Jimmy Howard .911 SV%, 2.74 GAA: B+. After a bit of a tough start in the series Howard turned his play around to become one of the team’s best players. He’s shown he’s a fighter, and if he continues playing this way the Red Wings will have nothing to worry about in the net department.
Johan Franzen 3-0-3: B+. The mule didn’t perform like the playoff-machine he once was, but did play quite well. He worked hard, scored three important power-play goals, and played tough in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill. More time with Datsyuk and Zetterberg in the coming Chicago series could ignite his playoff prowess.
Justin Abdelkader 2-1-3: B+. He’s proved, beyond a doubt, his value to the Red Wings. Playing on the top line with Zetterberg and Datsyuk he did exactly what was expected of him. Despite his two-game suspension he led the team in hits with 18, did the necessary dirty work in the corners, screened the goaltender, and scored some timely goals. He also proved he can keep up with top-line opposition in the playoffs.
Abdelkader has had a particularly easy time against the Ducks this season. He netted his first career hat-trick against them earlier this season.
Jonathan Ericsson 0-1-1: B+. Poise and steadiness defined Ericsson’s game, and he has emerged as the team’s prize shutdown defenseman. He was far from exceptional in the offensive zone, but played very well in his own end. He and Kronwall form a very able first pairing for the Red Wings, despite their lack of production.
Gustav Nyquist 1-1-2: B+. Despite modest production, Nyquist played an excellent series and was the best player on the rookie line. He was everywhere all the time, and showed that he can play an effective game against any opposition. If he keeps playing this way the points will come.
Daniel Cleary 2-3-5: B. Cleary has struggled much of this season, but like a typical Red Wing he stepped up his game in the playoffs. Like a warrior he put everything he had into every shift and did solid work in the corners and in front of the net.
Jakub Kindl 0-2-2: B. Kindl wasn’t spectacular, but he filled his role well. He didn’t make any huge or costly mistakes and was generally steady on the blue-line. There’s no doubt that he’s an NHL-caliber defenseman, he’s just very slowly emerging as one.
Joakim Andersson 0-2-2: B-. So far he’s been playing like a clutch third line center alongside fellow rookies. His skating still needs work, but he’s shown he’s a big body that can take faceoffs and handle the puck well down low. He looks to be emerging as a solid defensive forward.
Damien Brunner 2-3-5: B-. Brunner scored a huge OT goal and was one-third of the surprisingly effective rookie line. Despite being invisible for stretches of time, he showed off his quickness and his shot. He needs to work on his strength on the puck, but overall the rookie had a very good first playoff series.
Patrick Eaves 0-1-1: B-. Eaves did what was expected of him and played his usual high-energy game. He was hard on the opponent and played excellent on the penalty kill. He also had many good looks, but just couldn’t convert. Overall he did his job and was missed in the one game he was scratched from.
Kyle Quincey 0-2-2: B-. He had two assists but also made a few to many mistakes with and without the puck. His series was adequate.
Valtteri Filppula 1-3-4: B-. He doesn’t appear to be living up to his potential. Filppula scored some timely points, but that was it. He provided very little to the team for most of the series. His level of play this season – and this series – simply hasn’t been good enough for what’s expected of him.
Todd Bertuzzi 0-0-0: C. We haven’t seen the real Todd Bertuzzi yet in these playoffs. Big Bert showed up despite his injuries and did what he was able to. He wasn’t able to make much of an impact, but that’s understandable given the circumstances and being on the 4th line.
Carlo Colaiacovo 0-0-0: C. Like Bertuzzi, Carlo didn’t play much this series. In the two games he did play he made no notable goofs, but also did not execute any notable plays.
Brendan Smith 1-1-2: C. Unlike his fellow rookies – not considering Lashoff – he played a very inexperienced looking game. It’s clear that he has loads of potential, but it looked as if the playoff hype got to him. He needs to learn to relax and settle his game down in the coming series.
Danny DeKeyser 0-0-0: C. Danny D was knocked out of the series early with a thumb injury. However, the future looks very bright for the rookie blue-liner. He was highly praised by coach Mike Babcock going into the series and his presence on the back-end was definitely missed.
Cory Emmerton 0-0-0: C-. Emmerton did some decent work on the penalty kill, but played small, soft, and far from mistake free hockey. His presence was not missed in game seven, and the team seemed to play better with only three centers in the lineup than it did with him centering the 4th line.
Mikael Samuelsson 1-1-2: C-. Samuelsson did not play much this series and for good reason. He was generally invisible the entire time he was on the ice, and the one goal he scored came off a lucky rebound. His play was not terrible, but he takes up a roster spot that could more effectively be filled by someone like Jordin Tootoo.
Brian Lashoff 0-0-0: D+. Like Bertuzzi and Colaiacovo, Lashoff did not play much in the series. Unlike those two, his performance looked poor. He made numerous mistakes, some of them costly, and contributed almost nothing else to the team.
Jonas Gustavsson: N/A. Monster did exactly what he was supposed to and held down the bench. It’s always a good thing when a teams backup doesn’t have to hit the ice at all during the playoffs.
Jordin Tootoo 0-0-0: N/A. He only had 6:24 of ice time the entire series. It will be interesting to see if his gritty services are more utilized in the coming rival Chicago series.
Detroit Red Wings writer for The Hockey Writers and Michigan State hockey writer for spartanavenue.com