OK, it’s that time of year. Hockey’s so close that you can almost taste it. By my count, there are 4 days remaining before the Wings kick off their season in Sweden (which is still entirely too many, but at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel). In order to pass the time, I’ll be posting a player profile every day until then (in alphabetical order, because I’m one of those people). I want to make it very clear that these are not predictions, because I do not, under any circumstance, make predictions. They’re simply my thoughts on each player’s performances last season, and my hopes and expectations for them this time around. Today’s subject:
2008-2009 Regular Season: 78 GP, 10-49-59, +/- 17, 20 PIM
2009 Playoffs: 18 GP, 3-9-12, +/- 11, 11 PIM
Season Highlight: I'll go with this goal from the Winter Classic.
Season Lowlight: His injuries that caused him to sit out five games during the second round of the playoffs.
He was, once again, his usual solid self last season. Of course, being partnered with Nick Lidstrom would probably be enough to make anyone look good, but Rafalski doesn’t need a whole lot of help. He’s been nothing short of fantastic since signing with the Wings. He had another career year offensively and he continues to play exactly the kind of hockey that the Wings thrive on. His absence was notable for the five games that he missed during the Anaheim series, and I think it’s safe to say that we all breathed a little easier when he returned to the lineup. You could tell that he wasn’t quite the same toward the end of the playoffs, a point which Mickey Redmond and Ken Daniels were sure to point out when they spent what seemed like half an hour talking about Jordan Staal’s shorthanded goal from the Finals during the game broadcast last night.
Speaking of that game, Rafalski must’ve known that I would be writing about him afterward, as he had a very good four point night against the Penguins. Along with Lidstrom, he needs to lead the way as the Wings work to improve their team defense. They need him to (and I see no reason why he won’t) put up comparable numbers to last season, and once again lock things down defensively, especially on the troublesome penalty kill. There still isn’t a single top defensive pairing in the world that I would trade for the Lidstrom-Rafalski tandem, and the Wings will need them to show the world why that is this season.
What he needs to do to make me happy: Just keep doing what he's been doing. It's worked so far.