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Breaking down the Red Wings’ eighth segment: The dividends from getting healthy are starting to come

(Photo: Dinur)

(Photo: Dinur)

There’s a reason the Red Wings had their highest goal-scoring output of the season in their final 11 games and a reason ESPN’s preview of their first-round series with the Bruins includes the line, “They were the one wild-card team contenders didn’t want to face.”

They’re getting healthy again.

The Red Wings had 13 points the past 11 games (6-4-1 record), tied for their highest point total in a segment this season. The extra game helped, but one part of their game had a bigger impact.

Seg 1 Seg 2 Seg 3 Seg 4 Seg 5 Seg 6 Seg 7 Seg 8
GF 25 29 31 21 22 30 26 33
GA 29 27 22 33 21 29 31 29
5-on-5 GF 16 20 21 17 19 19 17 24
5-on-5 GA 19 21 12 25 12 18 19 21
PPG 7 7 7 4 3 8 7 6
OPP PPG 8 3 7 5 7 6 5 6

(*The splits don’t add up to the total because I didn’t include empty-net goals, short-handed goals, 6-on-5 goals, etc. on the chart.)

The Red Wings scored 33 goals this segment, the highest of the season and seven more than in Segment 7. They also had seven more 5-on-5 goals this segment.

Here are the top 5 players in terms of total GRM:

1. Gustav Nyquist, +2.5 (+3, -0.5)

2. Riley Sheahan, +2.48 (+2.81, -0.33)

3. Tomas Tatar, +2.42 (+2.42, 0)

4. Tomas Jurco, +2.18 (+2.18, 0)

5. Darren Helm, +1.51 (+2.92, -1.41)

The 5-on-5 GRMs had nearly the same order, but it all changed when you looked at the biggest gains in 5-on-5 GRM from Segment 7 to Segment 8. Two of those to making the highest jump: Darren Helm (from -0.2 to 1.09), Pavel Datsyuk (0 to 1.09).

Helm played in just two games of the last segment. He played in all 10 in this one. Datsyuk hadn’t played since the beginning of February, but suited up for the final six of games of the season.

If you look solely at the seven more 5-on-5 goals as the difference (it wasn’t, there were a number of factors but 5-on-5 play was the biggest) then Helm and Datsyuk’s return to form accounted for 2.38 of the seven goals. Another 1.34 came from Justin Abdelkader, who suffered a leg injury in the middle of the last segment but returned to play in seven games in Segment 8, oftentimes on a line with Datsyuk.

The rest of the scoring was picked up by the youngsters. Luke Glendening, a defensive forward/penalty kill specialist, found some offensive pop, scoring his first career goal and jumping his 5-on-5 GRM 1.24 goals. After a disastrous Segment 7, Tomas Jurco jumped his 5-on-5 GRM 1.58 goals

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Exactly how much impact did the ‘prospects’ have on the Red Wings’ season?

Capture

The shot was a good one. Low, hard, on target. It just happened to hit a body. Somehow it popped up, arced over the Marc-Andre Fleury’s head, went off the cross bar and one-hopped into the net.

Riley Sheahan was the shooter. Tomas Jurco was the man in front. Tomas Tatar sat on the back door, swiping at the puck not once but twice after it had crossed the line, pushing it into the back padding of the goal. When it’s the goal that guarantees you the playoffs, you make sure it’s in.

Everything about that goal was an apt description of the Red Wings’ season, from the time of the goal to who was involved to how it happened. The ugly marker capped a plodding run at the playoffs, and it was set up by two guys who started the season in the AHL.

Not long after it went in, the jokes started. There were a lot of them and they varied slightly, but the premise was the same on each.

“Congratulations to the Detroit Red Wings for becoming the first AHL team to make the NHL playoffs.”

Yes, there was a period of time when you were guaranteed to pass as least one player making the transition from Grand Rapids Griffin to Detroit Red Wing or vice versa if you drove on I-96 for more than 32 minutes. (That’s a fact. Look it up.) But quantifying exactly how the prospects contributed to this injury-filled season is a little harder.

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How the Red Wings are making up for the loss of Jonathan Ericsson; It might not be how you think

(Photo: Bridget Samuels)

(Photo: Bridget Samuels)

It’s been 11 games since Jonathan Ericsson broke his finger, rendering him not fit to finish the regular season. Jakub Kindl, Brian Lashoff and Brendan Smith went from being in a game of healthy-scratch merry-go-round to playing regularly. They’ve played in each of the past 11 games. The Red Wings’ goals against hasn’t changed significantly. Their contribution hasn’t been as big as it appears, though.

In theory, each of the remaining defenseman would pick up a part of the 21:14 per game that Ericsson was playing. That hasn’t been the reality. While Kindl might be the biggest beneficiary from Ericsson’s injury simply because he gets to play more often, his ice time hasn’t gone up. Only three defensemen have seen an increase in ice time per game since Ericsson went out with an injury: Danny DeKeyser, Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith.

DeKeyser has been the biggest beneficiary, earning 2:26 more in ice time per game with Ericsson out. Smith is about a half minute behind with 1:54 more in ice time per game, while Quincey comes in at 1:52 more per game.

What this shows most is the Red Wings’ lack of depth on defense. Only 54 players in the NHL (1.8 per team) average more than 22:00 of ice time per game this season. In the past 11 games, Niklas Kronwall, DeKeyser and Quincey have all averaged more than 22:00 per game.

At the bottom end, Smith appears to be gaining Detroit coach Mike Babcock’s trust. His ice time has increased about two minutes per game. As for the other two — Lashoff and Kindl — they’re going the other way.

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Why earning the No. 7 seed instead of the No. 8 seed will almost double the Red Wings’ chances of advancing in the playoffs

Red Wings Stanley Cup Parade

Thanks to an epic collapse by Toronto, New Jersey and Washington not making a push, and one more game against Buffalo remaining for the Red Wings, Detroit’s the playoff streak will alive for another year. While that’s an accomplishment in itself, especially this season, everybody wants more. If you’re going to make the playoffs you might as well win a few rounds, right?

The Red Wings’ ability to do that will have a lot to do with what seed they end up with. With 88 points in 78 games, Detroit sits in the top wildcard spot, five points behind Tampa Bay for the final auto-bid in the Atlantic Division and one point ahead of fellow wildcard team Columbus.

Making up five points in four games is possible, but not probable. The Red Wings are almost guaranteed to finish in one of the two wildcard spots. Since the two wildcard teams can be matched up against teams in either division in the first round, they function essentially the same as the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds in the old playoff format.

If NHL history is any indication, Detroit better make sure it’s the No. 7 seed.

The league changed from its strictly within-the-division playoff format to the 1-through-8-in-each-conference format in 1994.

In the 19 seasons since then a No. 8 seed beat a No. 1 seed just 26.3 percent of the time, the lowest of any pairing, while the No. 7 seed beat the No. 2 seed 47.4 percent of the time, the highest of any pairing.

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JMMA winner preview week: Chris Bootcheck hasn’t quite emerged from his slumber

Chris BootcheckA long winter combined with a minor league contract without an invite to major league spring training  left a long period of silence between us and Chris Bootcheck. I expected that all to change on this week, as the Lehigh Valley IronPigs set their roster and prepped for their first games.

Then I looked at their roster and saw Bootcheck was on the seven-day disabled list. According to IronPigs beat writer Tom Housenick of the Morning Call, he’s got trouble with the middle finger on his pitching hand. Bootcheck himself refused to comment when reached by Twitter. Word on the street is that his middle finger is fatigued from being utilized so much in day-to-day life.

The setback has left some of the most basic facts about Bootcheck’s season in question. He’s listed on the Lehigh Valley IronPigs’ roster, but doesn’t have a number. We know he’s a pitcher, but nothing’s been revealed about how he’ll be used.

All we know, really, is that he’s on the IronPigs, which is no small feat in itself.

Lehigh Valley is a stretch of Pennsylvania towns near the New Jersey border, according to Wikipedia. The actual team is based in Allentown. The IronPigs name is a reference to the region’s proclivity to produce pig iron, which is used in manufacturing steel. But the best part of the team’s name is that it allows them occasionally wear this bacon hat:

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JMMA winner preview week: Jose Alvarez, the other Jose Alvarez and both of their quests for redemption

Throw back

Throw back

At the start of the most recent James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (sponsor pending) competition, I told the story of the other Jose Alvarez. He was a police chief in Caseyville, a small village outside of St. Louis, and had bogged down the Google News Alerts that were set up to capture any news about the true Jose Alvarez. Right around the time we started looking for the real Jose Alvarez’s replacement, Police Chief Alvarez was fired. It seemed fitting.

A month and a half later, the two continue to live parallel lives.

Each has been a victim of a little bad luck, each has put them in precarious positions due to their performance, and each went into late March with a chance at a renaissance.

Police Chief Alvarez got fired, reinstated, fired again, reinstated again and then had a meeting with the Board of Trustees to determine if he’d be fired again. Before I continue, I should mention that this story has nothing to do with Jose Alvarez the baseball player and has zero relation to sports in general. It’s just an odd story and I felt like you would enjoy knowing about it.

According to the St. Louis Post-DispatchAlvarez got fired by the Mayor of Caseyville, Leonard Black, and claimed he was dismissed because he wanted to fire probationary police officer Steve Romanik. Why Alvarez desired this is unclear, but Romanik is the son of a radio host, Bob Romanik, who is a friend of the mayor and has criticized Alvarez heavily.

To recap: Alvarez claimed he was unjustly fired for personal reasons, with the tipping point being that Alvarez himself wanted to fire somebody unjustly for personal reasons.

The Board of Trustees reinstated Alvarez unanimously. Not long after, Alvarez turned into a psycho at a public meeting (you can watch the video here, it gets pretty good right around the 0:45 mark). He screamed at people, pointed his finger in the mayor’s face and went chest-to-chest with a couple dudes while a number of scared suburbanites nervously scurried out the building.

After that episode, the mayor fired him again. A judge then reinstated him temporarily, citing that Alvarez didn’t have due process, and said a Board of Trustees meeting needed to decide his fate. Articles like “Secret letters, lies, video: Caseyville bubbles before police chief vote” in the interim. When the meeting finally did come, on March 20, Alvarez was unanimously reinstated again.

Two days later, Jose Alvarez, the baseball player, was traded to the Angels.

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JMMA winner preview week: Blaine Hardy’s season might be really good or really crazy

(Photo: Tom Hagerty)

Blaine Hardy in a hallway with a cell phone and an empty water jug. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. (Photo: Tom Hagerty)

It’s officially opening day in Major League Baseball, opening week in the minors and preview week for JMMA winners at The Detroit Hustle. All week we’ll look at what to expect this season from our current winner of the James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (sponsor pending), Blaine Hardy, and our two previous baseball winners, Jose Alvarez and Chris Bootcheck.

Today it’s Hardy, who was just crowned on Wednesday.

Hardy’s seven-runs-in-2.1-innings blowup at the end of the spring training might’ve cost him a spot on the opening day roster. He was one of the last two players cut. (In a cruel twist, the other was Jhan Marinez, the man he beat out in the JMMA finals.) The demotion prevented Hardy from history. Had he made the squad, he would’ve been the first JMMA winner to make an opening day roster. Instead, the only barrier Hardy broke down is that he’s the first JMMA winner to have the same birth date as me (March 14 in the house! Woo woo!”. He’s the third straight pitcher to win the award, the third straight be sent to Triple-A Toledo and the third straight to not be on the 40-man roster at the beginning of the season.

Fortunately, that last point isn’t all that important. As we saw last year with Jose Alvarez, the Tigers won’t waste time making a roster move to get somebody up to Comerica Park to nearly pitch a no-hitter.

Still, it’s going to be an uphill battle. Hardy’s role Triple-A hasn’t been defined. All we know is that he’s going to the bullpen. That single piece of clarity is important, though. Hardy now has an impediment to the majors. He can’t prove he’s worthy of being called up when the Tigers need a spot starter if he’s not starting and he can’t prove he’s ready for the most wildly available bullpen spot, the long reliever, if he doesn’t pitch more than one or two innings at time.

If his role doesn’t change, there are only two ways Hardy gets the call to The Show:

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