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Is It Time For Red Wings To Block Their Shot-Blocking Obsession?

While the Red Wings have improved their shot-blocking numbers, they’ve also lost four players to injury due to shot blocks

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Filip Zadina, Detroit Red Wings
Filip Zadina is one of four Red Wings to suffer injury already this season from blocking a shot.

The Detroit Red Wings currently rank ninth in the NHL with 250 blocked shots. In terms of blocked shots per 60 minutes, they are seventh overall in the league (16.46).

Looking to turn around a team that ranked 31st in the NHL in goals against last season, one of the main demands from new head coach Derek Lalonde is a team that is showing more dedication to making the commitment to and sacrifices required in order to play competent team defense.

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In today’s NHL, that translates into blocking shots as though their lives depend upon it. Ever since the John Tortorella-coached New York Rangers reached the 2015 Stanley Cup final by going on a shot-blocking rampage, players putting their bodies in front of sizzling pucks has become a mandatory part of the game.

But is the reward for taking that risk worth the price that players are paying for playing this brand of defensive game? Already this season, four Red Wings players have missed time due to injuries suffered while blocking a shot.

Bertuzzi First Red Wings Player To Fall

The carnage began in the second game of the season at New Jersey. Tyler Bertuzzi got in front of a shot and it hit him in the hand, which was fractured.

At the time, Lalonde sung the praises of his 30-goal scorer making such a sacrifice for the betterment of the team.

“He puts his body on the line and that sets the tone,” Lalonde said of Bertuzzi. “That kind of changed the game in Jersey.”

Lalonde was willing to accept the tradeoff of losing a key player to injury in exchange for the tone it set within the team structure.

“It’s part of the game,” Lalonde said. “It’s unfortunate, but when you see one of your top players do that, you want to go out there and block shots and do the little things to win.”

Does it, though? If Bertuzzi hadn’t chosen to block that shot and was instead around to shoot a few pucks into opposing nets, might the Red Wings find themselves in a better position in the NHL standings today? As colleague Kevin Allen was recently outlining, scoring goals has become a serious issue for this Detroit squad.

It’s a fair question to pose and one which certainly does not have a definitive right or wrong answer. Bertuzzi can’t be criticized for making such a commitment to his team. At the same time, is this wise usage of the team’s second-leading goal scorer from last season?

More Carnage Ensues

Following Bertuzzi, forwards Filip Zadina, Matt Luff and Elmer Soderblom have lost time to injury following a shot block. Zadina will be out of action for 6-8 weeks. That’s nearly 20% of the team’s roster in sick bay because they blocked a shot.

“Our guys’ commitment for their teammates, blocking shots and just that will has got us through this stretch,” Lalonde said of his team’s battle to stay relevant with so many regulars out.

In fact, if it weren’t for blocking shots, many of those regulars wouldn’t be out.

It used to be that hockey’s shot blockers were artisans, and most were defensemen like Al Arbour, Bob Goldham and Craig Ludwig. Today, the message it clear – blocking shots is everyone’s job.

Certainly, the cause is noble. However, considering the cost, does the risk warrant the reward?

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MICHAEL C ZACK

Your analysis is spot on. Too many injuries and not enough scoring, shot blocking is the grab and hold of the 90s .Make it a penalty to leave your feet to block a shot. Add more skill to the game.

Kevin F Volz

Well as is the style of far too many “journalists” these days, they will write just about anything to try to make themselves relevant. They even exaggerate things to make their articles more dramatic such as including Matt Luff’s puck to the face despite the fact that his injury was the result of a puck hitting his stick then hitting him in the face. Also it wasn’t the puck to the face that is taking Luff out of the game for weeks, it was the reckless hit from behind near the boards but no mention of that. Of course what do you expect from a guy who sits on his ass in front of a computer screen to make his living thinking he’s superior while real men take risks of injury to make a living and for recreation. While the writer may be an ok person, give they guy who sometimes takes risks to hang out with as they are usually more fun to be around. The person who takes risks stories are much more exciting that I got a paper cut while putting paper in my printer.
I suppose this writer thinks the players should just get out of the way where we end up with both teams have scores in double digits every night. Hell this guy probably thinks hockey players should just be ballerinas skating around shooting pucks at the goal with penalties for even bumping into another player because just accidentally bumping into someone is too scary.
If this guy really wanted to reduce injuries from pucks he would be advocating for banning modern hockey sticks with their whip action that greatly increases puck speeds. Going back to the basic wooden hockey stick would greatly reduce injuries from pucks and from cross checking as the wooden stick break easier than modern sticks. Of course an article about banning modern hockey sticks probably wouldn’t get published as that would probably lose ad revenue from stick companies and we just can’t have that!

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