Young Red Wings have evened series with Blackhawks

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 19, 2013 at 4:32 pm •  Published: May 19, 2013
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The Red Wings would also benefit if their inexperienced players figure out a way to avoid fading into the background.

Before Smith's go-ahead goal on Saturday, first-year player Damien Brunner and rookie Gustav Nyquist also scored winning goals this postseason — in overtime against Anaheim. Teammate Joakim Andersson ranks among rookie scoring leaders.

The 27-year-old Brunner, too old to be a candidate for the Calder Trophy given to the rookie of the year, has followed up a 26-point regular season with four goals in the playoffs to match Johan Franzen for the team lead. He also has three assists.

Calder finalist Brandon Saad has only one assist in seven postseason games for the Blackhawks. The 20-year-old forward had 27 points during the regular season.

Brunner has insisted it doesn't bother him to be out of the running for the Calder, and sounded even more thankful on Sunday that he waited to make the jump from the Swiss League.

The 5-foot-11, 184-pound forward was banged around on the ice quite a bit and had growing pains off it, dealing with a lot of travel after his longest trip last year was a 2½-hour bus ride.

"You kind of think it's not that big of a deal when you come over, but after a couple trips and the hours you lose, especially when you come back home, it's tough," Brunner said. "It's really tough."

While Babcock's job behind the bench was tougher this year than it had been the past seven seasons with veteran-filled rosters, he relished the opportunity to lead the young Red Wings.

"It's the most fun I've had coaching in a couple years, by far, just because we have a real enthusiastic group," Babcock said. "At the start of the year, we weren't a good team. We all understood that, but we buckled down and we got better. It's been fun for us. If you would have asked me before the playoffs, I would've told you the same thing. Then suddenly you have a little success in the playoffs — and it's more fun."

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