Lost amid the carnage of the Montreal Canadiens’ 7-2 beatdown of the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday at the Bell Centre was the solid play of one of the Wings’ most understated players.
While some of his all-star teammates may grab the headlines, 27-year-old Valtteri Fippula is quietly putting together a career year.
The Finnish forward is third in team scoring, with 15 goals and 24 assists — placing him above the likes of Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Lidstrom. He’s now just one point shy of his career high after 49 games and is on pace to hit the 60-point plateau.
It does seem as if this year is no fluke, however. Filppula has been given more freedom by coach Mike Babcock, and is now playing wing alongside Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler, which undoubtedly has been a natural fit.
He has always been a consistent contributor — having posted more than 30 points in each of his last four seasons.
Each of the past several seasons was expected to be a breakout year for the former third-round pick. The reason for his lower than expected totals was likely due to him being buried on the third and fourth lines, where he was given more defensive responsibilities and less ice time.
Filppula has always had the ability to put up big numbers. He has the speed, awareness and puck skills.
Now, he has a more aggressive streak. He’s shooting the puck more and finding more open space, while the move from center to wing has certainly been a natural fit.
Couple that with the fact Filppula has not seen his form slump, contributing consistently month to month, means he has a chance to overtake Johan Franzen as the Red Wings’ No. 2 scorer, leaving only Pavel Datsyuk ahead.
While often overshadowed by the likes of Datsyuk, Jimmy Howard, Zetterberg and Lidstrom, Filppula is finally living up to his potential, it’s just taken a little longer than expected. And he won’t be dropping off anytime soon.