OK, it’s that time of year. Hockey’s so close that you can almost taste it. By my count, there IS ONLY 1 DAY 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: 77 GP, 31-42-73, +/- 13, 36 PIM
2009 Playoffs: 23 GP, 11-13-24, +/- 13, 13 PIM
Season Highlight: Owning Crosby in the Finals. Again.
Season Lowlight: Probably his “fight” with Malkin.
Who better to conclude this series with than Zetterberg? His regular season numbers were down a little from the year before, but critics overlooked the fact that Marian Hossa took a lot of ice time on the top line. There were rumblings about him having a below average season for much of the regular season, largely due to the fact that his performance was being compared to his Conn Smythe winning playoff run the year before. Whether or not you feel that he lived up to his lofty standards during the regular season, there’s no doubt that he turned things up a notch in the playoffs. He was nothing short of spectacular in the Finals, as he once again managed to shut Sidney Crosby down, this time without the aid of Pavel Datsyuk for much of the series. There were times when I felt like he was one of the few Wings who actually looked like they had any desire to win the Cup.
So far this pre-season, he’s been hampered by a groin injury that held him out of the lineup until yesterday. I’d be lying if I said that this didn’t worry me on some level. Those are the kinds of injuries that nag and nag and just won’t go away. It’s only October 1st and the fact that I’m already finding myself stressing over Z’s groin has me nervous. The Wings need Zetterberg to be healthy and in top form this season. At present, he’s slated to center his own line with Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see a EuroTwin reunion when the Wings need a spark from time to time. We haven’t seen much of the line in action thus far, thanks to the injury bug (it’s about 5 man-games lost away from being officially upgraded to curse), but the concept definitely intrigues me. Hank looked pretty good in his pre-season debut on Wednesday, and I feel a little bit better now. With any luck, it won't take long for that line to gel now that everyone's in the lineup.
Really though, I don’t know what to say about what to expect from him. Basically, he’ll continue to be Henrik Zetterberg, which is another way of saying that night in and night out, he’s going to be one of the two best all-around players in the world (any guesses as to who the other is?). He does it all, and in one game he’ll be working magic in the offensive zone and the next he’ll devote himself to shutting down the other team’s top line. He’s already been anointed as future Captain by many Wings fans, and this season, he just needs to continue doing what he does best: leading by example with his performance on the ice. Also, trying to bring old-man cardigans back into style.
What he needs to do to make me happy: Find more excuses to wear eye black. Just saying.