Speedy Red Wings forward Darren Helm did it in a run to the Stanley Cup in 2008. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson followed a year later, when the defending champs lost in Game 7 of the finals a year later. Why not Landon Ferraro this year?
The Red Wings have a recent tradition of young players seemingly coming out of nowhere, showing up in the playoffs and performing well enough to earn a spot in the everyday lineup.
Ferraro, a lanky 23-year-old center-turned-winger in this series, is the latest. His line, with center Luke Glendening and left wing Drew Miller, was, according to coach Mike Babcock, by far Detroit’s most consistent of Detroit four forward lines through three games of their best-of-seven opening round series against Tampa Bay. That’s high praise, especially considering their unenviable task of trying to check one of two very potent Lightning scoring lines centered by Tyler Johnson.
“He’s physical, he plays real fast,” Babcock said of Ferraro. “Because they’re such a quick team, we need speed and he gives us speed. When you play with Glennie there’s a sense of comfort, too, because he does the right thing all the time.”
Ferraro was a late-season call-up from Grand Rapids, Detroit’s top farm club in the American Hockey League, and scored his first NHL goal in the final game at Carolina. Then the intensity got ratcheted up in the playoffs, and he’s looked anything but out of place.
Getting thrown into the fire doesn’t have to be the worst thing in the world, said Ericsson, who speaks from experience.
“It could be a good thing, too,” he said. “You don’t know what to expect. You just know everything’s going to be faster, quicker. You know you have to be on your toes be at your best to contribute out there.”
Ferraro was one of the Griffins’ leading goal-scorers this season. He was pointless after three games in this series, but that’s not his role. He had four hits and three shots on goal, and he played steady, defensive hockey averaging 12:33 in ice time per game.
The most important thing, he said, is keeping up and being aware as much as possible in what is easily the fastest of the eight playoff series in the postseason’s first round.
“Knowing what you’re going to do when you get the puck is the biggest thing,” Ferraro said. “The playoffs are a lot tighter. Everywhere you go, there’s someone right on top of you, so you have to make a decision quick and get the puck moving.”
That Ferraro, the son of former NHL All-Star Ray Ferraro, is playing so well shouldn’t be a huge surprise for those who follow the Wings’ organization closely since they made him their second pick (32nd overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
“Lando’s played four years of pro hockey, so it’s not like he hasn’t been around,” Babcock said. “He’s been around a long time. He’s had his ups and downs, but he had 27 goals in the American (Hockey) League this year, and none on the power play, so obviously he can shoot the puck.
“Now he’s one of the ones that looks like he could be part of the lineup for awhile.”
Ferraro certainly hopes so.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” he said between Games 3-4 in Detroit, “and I’m going to do the best I can.”