When Teemu Pulkkinen was first called up, the hype machine started churning. The AHL-leading goal scorer was anointed the second-coming of Brett Hull, the right-handed savior for the Red Wings, and briefly was considered a deity. The aptly named “Pulk-cannon” has not disappointed this season, scoring three goals in his last nine games. However, Pulkkinen is averaging just 9.3 minutes per game at 5v5, 2nd lowest among all Red Wings forwards. It’s time for Detroit to fully unleash…”the PULK-CANNON”.
Pulkkinen’s Shot Attempts
Last night against the Edmonton Oilers, Teemu Pulkkinen was 3rd among all skaters in individual shot attempts for, despite playing just over 11 minutes. This wasn’t a one-game aberration. In the 14 games Pulkkinen has played for the Detroit Red Wings this season, he has taken at least three shot attempts and recorded at least one shot on goal in all but one game.
|Date||Opponent||Shot Attempts||Shots on Goal||Time On Ice|
Some of you out there might be saying that he’s not taking good shots, or that too many of his shots are getting blocked and to a certain degree you are right. Pulkkinen has had 53.8% of his shots miss the net or get blocked in front of the net. Comparatively, a wily veteran like Pavel Datsyuk has only had 43.3% of his shots be blocked or miss the net.
However, Pulkkinen is improving as the season has gone on. In his first seven games of the season, Pulkkinen had 35.5% of his shot attempts blocked. In his past seven games, that number has dropped to 26.5%, a marked improvement. He’s working harder to get more shots past the initial defender, even if that means missing the net.
Why does all of this matter? Well, after last night’s game against Edmonton, the Red Wings currently sit 22nd in 5v5 shot attempts for, 19th in 5v5 shots on goal, 18th in 5v5 scoring chances for, and 23rd in 5v5 goals for. How does Pulkkinen help this? Well check out this table I put together using data from HockeyAnalysis.
Top 10 Players In Individual Shot Attempts For Per 60 Minutes
As you can see, Pulkkinen ranks 2nd in the NHL in individual shot attempts for per 60 minutes. Not exactly bad company to be in with the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Rick Nash, and Vladimir Tarasenko. So if you’re a team that’s struggling to generate shot attempts at 5v5, why wouldn’t you utilize the guy who ranks 2nd in the NHL in 5v5 shot attempts more than just 9.3 minutes a night? You might be asking, well where does he fit in?
Moving Pulkkinen To The Top Line
My colleague, Tom Mitsos, couldn’t have put it more bluntly than he did in his most recent piece asking why Luke Glendening is on the top line. I myself have addressed this topic many times and am entirely befuddled by the decision. I understand Babcock’s general concept of having a guy who will work hard for Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar, but Glendening has been a possession black hole this season. My idea is to move Teemu Pulkkinen to the top line and give him more minutes with Datsyuk and Tatar.
The general concept is that Tatar and Datsyuk are both more than capable of creating space for themselves and their linemates. What they need to really make that line strong is a guy who can find the open areas and finish the play. Glendening is not that guy. Jurco really wasn’t that guy either. You could argue that Datsyuk’s best season was his 2008-2009 campaign where he scored 32 goals and 97 points. That season he played a significant amount of his minutes with Marian Hossa, who ended up finishing with 40 goals that season.
Pulkkinen has 40 goal potential in his future, but he needs to be playing with guys who create space for him. At this point in his career, Pulkkinen is not adept enough at creating his own space to get off his shot. Instead, he relies on his teammates to create space for him and who better to do that then Tatar and Datsyuk? If Babcock is unwilling, then it may be time for the Wings to get Pulkkinen more ice time on the powerplay.
Using Pulkkinen’s Cannon On The Powerplay
The Red Wings have been so reliant on their league-leading powerplay, but that is likely due for a drop-off based on data analyzed by Lyle Kossis at Pensburgh. The Wings sit just 14 in shot attempts for per 60 minutes on the powerplay, indicating that they may drop off in the future. Enter Teemu Pulkkinen. As of the past few games, the Wings have been utilizing Pulkkinen on the 2nd powerplay unit and he’s been seeing just under two minutes a game of powerplay time. It might be worthwhile to put Pulkkinen on the top powerplay unit and then get him to switch points with Niklas Kronwall to get their sticks to the middle of the ice
The sticks to the middle of the ice was a tactic used so well by former Red Wing greats Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. There was no one better in the game at walking the blue line than Nick Lidstrom. I think Kronwall has the capability to walk the blue line from his left defenseman spot and allow Pulkkinen to switch with him and drift to the left faceoff dot. Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin have made a living scoring powerplay goals from the left faceoff dot and I believe that Pulkkinen has a similar caliber shot. Giving Pulkkinen more powerplay time would allow the Wings to generate more shot attempts on their powerplay, hopefully preventing a potential slide in production.
Overall, Pulkkinen has been impressive this season in his short stint. There are still a number of things for him to work on, mainly his in-zone coverage in the defensive zone, his backchecking, and his offensive awareness. However, the kid is just 23 years old and has a whopping 17 games of NHL experience. He’s going to get better and we’re already seeing how dangerous he makes the Red Wings’ offense. In his 14 games this season, the Red Wings are 10-3-1, averaging 3.5 goals per game, and 55.5 5v5 shot attempts per 60 minutes. It’s time to fully unleash the Pulk-Cannon.
All data from War-On-Ice and Hockey Analysis
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Prashanth is a fourth-year doctor of pharmacy student at the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy in Chapel Hill, NC. He has covered the Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers since April 2014. He is always willing to hear any and all debates pertaining to his articles, so feel free to email him at email@example.com