ShareThis Page

Detroit's Cleary is at his pest best against Chicago

| Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 8:06 p.m.
The Red Wings' Daniel Cleary (right) and the Blackhawks' Michal Rozsival battle as they wait for the puck during the first period Wednesday, May 15, 2013, in Chicago.
The Red Wings' Daniel Cleary (right) and the Blackhawks' Michal Rozsival battle as they wait for the puck during the first period Wednesday, May 15, 2013, in Chicago.

DETROIT — Daniel Cleary drives people crazy. He gets under their skin and he rattles them and he won't just go away.

And this is just how his own teammates feel about him.

To their delight, and the satisfaction of the Detroit Red Wings' front office, Cleary is showing himself in full pest mode against the Chicago Blackhawks, whom the Wings take on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena holding a 2-1 series lead. Cleary is making new friends against the Blackhawks, regularly caught up in scuffles with Bryan Bickell, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, adding to a playoff performance that also shows six points in 10 games dating back through the Anaheim series.

“He's not quite as heavy as he used to be, but in this playoff he's gotten back to Danny Cleary of old, really skating,” coach Mike Babcock said Wednesday. “He's doing a real good job right now. He's playing in our top two lines, plays on the power play. He's been real effective, and he's a real good person.”

The last time Cleary was this effective in the playoffs, the Wings went all the way to the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. He's 34 now and has been through numerous knee surgeries and some back pain, but he's aggravating and he's productive and he's having a blast.

“Certainly, a hatred is brewing between our two clubs,” Cleary said, smiling. “It's only going to get more intense as we get going. I'm sure there are some guys who aren't happy out there. You're fighting for every inch. Sometimes it boils over.”

It boils over in his own dressing room, too. Jimmy Howard described Cleary as, “loud, opinionated and confident.” Also: Effective. “He's hardworking, goes out there and skates, he's huge for us.”

There's a running joke among teammates that Cleary is the smartest guy in the room.

“I think he thinks he's the smartest one, anyway,” Niklas Kronwall said, laughing. “I wouldn't put him up there at the top.”

Cleary is a talker, and it's hard for him to hide that he's well-read and watches a lot of TV and knows just a little about everything. He's also a talker, before games, and during, and again this is where his effectiveness shows.

“He's got elite hockey sense and he's a great competitor,” Babcock said. “He's in our leadership group here. He's demanding of our guys, on the ice, on the bench, in the room, and doesn't mind telling people. I think he's a huge part of our hockey club that way.”

Brendan Smith remembers the first time he encountered Cleary, when it was all silent treatment.

“He didn't say anything,” Smith said. “You've got to earn your stripes with him.”

Once you do, there's nothing Cleary wouldn't do to help.

“He's a good leader in this dressing room,” Damien Brunner said. “He shows the younger guys where to go. I learn a lot from him.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.