THIS WEEK @RWW - 4/22/04
SUN SHINES, FLOWERS BLOOM AND GRIND LINE IN FULL SWING IN ANNUAL RITES OF SPRING
By Linley Wartenberg
When April comes, its time for two things: taxes and the resurgence of the Grind Line.
Although the trio of Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Darren McCarty havent played together as much this season, the fan-favorite checking line came together quickly in time for the post season.
Drapers goal 37 seconds into the period of Game 1 in Round 1 against the Predators sparked a three-goal outburst that lifted the Red Wings to a 3-1 win for the 1-0 series lead. Maltby collected two assists.
A tradition now for the Red Wings, Scotty Bowman formed the Grind Line during the Wings 1996-97 Stanley Cup run, with Draper centering Maltby and Joe Kocur.
Back then it was Joey playing the majority with us on the right side, but if it wasnt Joey, it was Mac, Draper said of the birth of the line. I think thats kind of how the whole thing happened. Its just a line back then that Scotty just kind of had a lot of confidence in and used us in some pretty big situations.
The Grind Line started Game 1 of the Finals in Philadelphia in 97.
I remember being nervous going out there and were starting the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals, Draper recalled. Little things like that that you get excited about.
The tried-and-true trio has been a reliable way to keep opponents top lines in check and to kick in goals when needed.
We have an opportunity to play on other teams top lines and its something that we take a lot of pride in, Draper said.
After Kocur retired, McCarty stepped in on the wing and resumed the role.
Since the Red Wings were decimated with injuries including Draper and McCarty for extended periods of time, Dave Lewis was forced to juggle his lines, and the Grind Line had its share of guest stars.
Who wouldve ever thought Steve Yzerman would be a member of the Grind Line and proud of it, Draper laughed. I think were going to start printing some T-shirts with him on it.
Draper and Maltby have played with one another consistently for years, and know how the other will react in situations.
Malts knows that if goes some for something, he knows that Im going to back him up and vice-versa., he said. We never hesitate theres always somebody going. Thats just from playing with one another for 7-8 years. Its just having the confidence in each other that the guy is going to back him up or the other guy is going to just kind of be there.
Maltby thinks he and Draper mesh well because they have many similarities as players.
Were both pretty good skaters and work hard, he explained. We havent been known as offensive players, but weve been known to play good defensively, draw penalties, kill penalties, play a good defensive role in the system that we have here.
Theyre in a traditional checking role, but Draper scored a career-high 24 goals this season and Maltby matched his career best 14 goals
It just seems that weve been able to play, when we played together for as long as we have, we just kind of gelled from the get go, Maltby said. We just read off each other fairly well. For the most part, hes the guy that I played with a lot of over the seven years Ive been here.
Throughout the regular season, the main Grind Line players only appeared together in a handful of games, but Draper isnt concerned about the groups ability to pick it up in the post season.
We played together maybe half a dozen games, said Draper, who centers the line. But its just like riding a bike for us.