The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/29/12 at 07:54 AM ET
The Detroit Red wings broke a 3-game losing streak, leapfrogged the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division standings (with the teams now tied in regulation or OT wins) and nuzzled the tungsten carbide-studded treads of their Winged Wheel to within a point of the Western Conference-leading Vancouver Canucks by accomplishing one simple task:
The Wings, who were playing without Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Jonathan Ericsson (broken wrist) and Kyle Quincey (groin) essentially out-spoiled a team that currently exists to shatter other teams’ playoff dreams, or at least make their roads in April and May a little bit harder, by lurking in the weeds and actually surrendering a 2-1 third-period lead to the Columbus Blue Jackets before rallying for an ugly but satisfying 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.
The Wings may have been subjectively out-hit and probably out-hustled and out-worked for long stretches of time, but they were opportunistic and persistent when it mattered most, and as such, the Wings flew back home for a two-day break before playing against Minnesota knowing that perhaps their streakiest and most finnicky of scorers in Johan Franzen (1 goal, 1 assist), Valtteri Filppula (1 goal, 1 assists), Niklas Kronwall (1 goal, 2 assists) had shaken themselves from mid-February slumbers while the Wings’ more consistent players continued to do their thing (see: Henrik Zetterberg registering a goal and an assist and Todd Bertuzzi registering an assist).
And I might as well get this over with now, because it’s kind of silly: when I watched this video of a B-2 refueling either with a leaky seal on its fuel receptacle or the guy operating the KC-135 tanker’s refueling boom not knowing he hadn’t sealed the boom to the aircraft at the proper angle (though he seems to suggest that the last guy who refueled the airplane broke it). Imagine the fuel as effort, and the B-2 as a leaky Wings ship that needed to “tank up” in the mental and physical energy department, and, well…
Long story short, especially given that the Wings are flying on the long-haul mission that is an 82-game regular season, sometimes you’ve gotta waste some gas to tank up when you’re a little banged-up, mentally, physically or otherwise.
I know, extended metaphor way over-extended. I blame overworking on deadline day, and I’m sticking to that excuse (and yes, that’s what I do in the middle of the night and my brain needs to stop thinking about hockey for five minutes. I watch military aviation videos and old Sifl n Olly clips).
Given that, after the Wings gave up that short-handed goal to Derek MacKenzie all of 2:13 into the third period and given that the Wings then responded with four goals in a little over ten minutes and two goals only 49 seconds apart, starting with this game-winner…
The Blue Jackets were a little bit flummoxed as to how a short-staffed Wings team could lurk in the weeds and out-fox the fox, as the Columbus Dispatch’s Shawn Mitchell suggested:
The Wings trailed, found their legs and range, and took over in the third period. They scored four unanswered goals — three in the final 11:34 — to beat the Blue Jackets 5-2.
“When they smell blood that’s when they seem to kick it up,” Blue Jackets interim coach Todd Richards said.
Speedster center Derek MacKenzie gave the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead at 2:13 of the third period when he pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone and beat MacDonald from a tough angle for a short-handed goal.
But Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall quickly tied it at 2 with a backhanded power-play goal that slipped through the left armpit of goaltender Curtis Sanford at 3:43 of the third. Later, Henrik Zetterberg beat Sanford with a snipe from a nearly 90-degree angle that squirted between post and pad. Jan Mursak and Valtteri Filppula added even-strength goals to cap a late blitz that put the Red Wings back atop the Central Division, two points in front of idle St. Louis.
Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash opened the scoring in the first period with his 21st goal. Home fans cheered his goal and his pregame introduction, despite the knowledge that Nash requested a trade in January.
“You can say what you want about distraction, but I’ve been in and out of this league for 11 years and Nasher is the best captain I’ve played for,” MacKenzie said. “As far as I’m concerned it was another day of business for him and for the rest of the team.”
If you find it somewhat ironic that the fan-friendly Blue Jackets had a security guard toss a fan who was parading a “Fire Howson” sign around the concourse and in front of the press box, you can read that part of Michael Arace’s take on “Game 63, but it’s the meat on the civil disobedience-noting blog entry that I’m concerned with, because it turns out that the smattering of boos for Nash were exceptions to the rule:
“I thought it was an entertaining game,” Jackets interim coach Todd Richards said.
Nash further stoked the crowd when he swooped in and scored on a double-ram-job. The goal, his 22nd of the season, tied the game 1-all at 6:55 of the first period.
The Jackets actually had the better of things in the second period, during which they outshot the Wings 12-6. However, as was the case in Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon, the Jackets faltered badly in the third. Derek MacKenzie gave the Jackets a short-lived, 2-1 lead when he scored, shorthanded, at 2:13 of the third. Just 80 seconds later, Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall answered with a power-play goal. Kronwall danced through the Jackets’ killers and put a backhand under the armpit of Curtis Sanford.
“You can only talk about it so much, and at some point, you’ve just got to decide that when we’re up in a game, we’re going to win,” MacKenzie said. “. . . To that point in the game, we were doing a lot of right things. On the bench you start to get that feeling that, you know what, we can win this thing. Yet again, it just turned on us, for the second time in two (games).”
Henrik Zetterberg and someone by the name of Jan Mursak scored within 49 seconds of one another later in the period. It was Mursak’s first goal of the season. And the rout was on.
“It was a disappointing finish to what I thought was a good game,” Richards said.
Arace also offers a little preview of what’s to come via what I’ll describe as a “blurb”:
The Wings snapped a three-game winless streak that included a 2-1 loss in Chicago, a 4-3 OT loss to the Vancouver Canucks and a 4-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. “We let this go one game longer, for sure, than we should,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We got ourselves behind the 8-ball last game and couldn’t dig ourselves out, and it was good to start the way we did tonight. . . . What I like is we’ve got good depth in the organization. (D Doug) Janik was really solid and Smitty (D Brendan Smith) is a really good player.’’
It’s now that we’re gonna take a theoretical leap due to said trade deadline work making this slightly wonky blogger’s brain hurt: the Columbus Dispatch will likely post another notebook or two, and maybe even a Red Wings feature…Which will have a print date of around 5:30-6:30 AM, and may not hit the internet until the Columbus Dispatch’s website actually posts the day’s stories between 7 and 8 AM EST.
Now I don’t like making assumptions about my readership, other than to assume that you’re generally passionate hockey fans, and hopefully mostly fellow wings fans, who are knowledgeable about the game and the Wings and are plain old intelligent people who should be talked with, not to or at, so maybe I should take a straw poll or something next time as the Wings will play Columbus two more times between now and the end of the regular season…But if it’s okay with you, I’m going to make an educated guess and suggest that the Dispatch posted just about everything that’s pertinent to the game from a Red Wings fan’s perspective by the time I hit the pillow a few hours before sunrise. The Wings will practice today, and I wouldn’t have a single problem sleeping through it if it wasn’t my job to keep you appraised of the events when I am able…So I’m gonna go with what we’ve got from the Blue Jackets’ lone MSM outlet and move on.
As such, we’re going to allow BlueJackets.com’s Rob Mixer to provide us with a game narrative...
The Red Wings were down a few men and did not play their best game tonight, but a pair of quick strikes in the third period gave them all the breathing room needed.
Henrik Zetterberg and Jan Mursak scored goals just 49 seconds apart midway through the final frame, lifting Detroit to a 5-2 win over the Blue Jackets in front of 14,333 at Nationwide Arena. The win for the Red Wings snapped a three-game losing streak and helped make up for lost ground in the Western Conference standings.
It was a game full of ebbs and flows, but the Red Wings set the tone in the first five minutes by getting a Johan Franzen goal at 4:08 of the first period. Jakub Kindl’s wrist shot from the center point got through to Curtis Sanford, and Franzen scored on his second chance in front of the net for his 24th goal of the year.
The Blue Jackets answered on the power play with Detroit’s Todd Bertuzzi in the box for high-sticking. Derick Brassard fed Rick Nash at the goal line, and the captain rumbled to the net for his team-leading 22nd tally of the season – tying the game 1-1 at 6:55 of the first. Nash scored the goal with Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart draped all over him and eventually landed on top of goaltender Joey MacDonald.
After a scoreless second period, the offense came fast and furious in the final 20 minutes. Derek MacKenzie gave Columbus the lead with a beautiful shorthanded goal at 2:15, splitting the Red Wings defense after stealing the puck at the blue line and beating MacDonald with a heavy wrister.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as Niklas Kronwall evened the score exactly 90 seconds later on the power play. He made a slick move to get into the high slot and elevated a backhander over Sanford’s shoulder at 3:43.
Pivotal moment: The building was rocking after MacKenzie’s go-ahead goal and momentum appeared to be on the Blue Jackets’ side. They set a physical tone in the second period, carried it over to the third and even responded well after Kronwall’s tying goal. The game changed for good when Zetterberg’s wrister from the goal line snuck in behind Sanford, a goal that eventually stood as the game-winner.
And we’ll transition from the Blue Jackets’ to Red Wings’ perspectives on the game via the Associated Press’s recap, in which Todd Richards, ironically enough, kinda sorta makes a comment that works right into my, “You tank the damn thing up till it’s tanked up because the Wings are the Wings, even when they’re leaking” theory:
“They’re a dangerous team. They know how to play the game. They play the right way,” interim Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “Their core guys have been together a long time. They have an identity the way they play. When they smell blood, they seem to kick it up.”
The Wings, rather obviously, weren’t as concerned with semantics (or were they?):
“We really needed a win,” Zetterberg said. “We had a few bodies out. The guys that came out did a really good job.”
Backup goalie Joey MacDonald had 28 saves, keeping the Red Wings in it until their explosive offense got rolling.
“We battled back and tied the game, and then after that we kind of took over,” said MacDonald, 7-1-1 this season behind No. 1 goalie Jimmy Howard. “We got that third goal (from Zetterberg), a bad-angle one, and that’s kind of how it goes.”
The Blue Jackets’ Derek MacKenzie took advantage of a Detroit mix-up in the neutral zone and sped by a defender to make it 2-1 at 2:13 of the third period. But 90 seconds later, Niklas Kronwall scored on what appeared to be an innocent shot. With the Red Wings on the power play, Kronwall skated through the left circle, and his backhander through traffic beat goalie Curtis Sanford.
“That was huge, obviously,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Kronner responded right away for us, which is really important. We answered back.”
Or, as coach Mike Babcock suggested to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“It’s always important to stop the bleeding as fast as you can,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We let this thing go one game longer than we should have by getting behind the eight ball last game (a 4-3 loss to Colorado). It was good to get started the way we did tonight.”
But it wasn’t easy. Columbus forward Derek Mackenzie gave the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead with a short-handed goal at 2:13 of the third period. The Blue Jackets’ (18-38-7, 43 points) momentum quickly disappeared. Kronwall (power play, his 13th goal) tied it at 3:43, then Zetterberg (14th, at 8:26) and Jan Mursak (1st, 9:15) scored 49 seconds apart, putting the Wings up 4-2. Zetterberg’s goal was a heartbreaker for the Blue Jackets. Zetterberg’s shot was parallel with the goal line but somehow slipped past goalie Curtis Sanford.
“I couldn’t find a passing lane, but there was a spot open there about halfway up and I was lucky for it to go in,” Zetterberg said. “We knew it would be a tight game. We just had to have patience. When they scored that shorty it was nice to get that goal back right away and we just kept it going.”
Valtteri Filppula added his 19th goal at 13:52 to add the Blue Jackets misery. Goalie Joey MacDonald stopped 28 shots to raise his record to 7-1-1.
“Over the last three or four road games we just didn’t have that edge,” MacDonald said. “We lost 2-1 in Phoenix, 2-1 in Chicago and we played well but just not well enough to win. Tonight in the third period, we beared down and found our way. It’s someone different every night and our defense played real good.”
Zetterberg described his goal in slightly more detail while speaking to the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
Zetterberg, on his goal: “We came in ... I think we had a three-on-two or four-on-two rush, and they had our guys. I couldn’t really find a passing lane. Usually there’s a spot open there halfway up. I was a little lucky it went in. It went just where his knee is. He was leaning a little bit against the post, and usually there’s a little spot open there.”
The Wings were also more than willing to admit that they didn’t exactly play elegant hockey…
MacDonald, on how the game went: “I thought it was a pretty tight game the first two periods. I thought we outplayed them in the first period, and then they came pretty hard in the second. They got that shorthanded one, but after that, I thought we took over.”
And this goal?
Brad Stuart wasn’t too keen on a goal he actually poked past his own goaltender as Rick Nash bowled MacDonald over—just maybe with the help of Niklas Kronwall—but MacDonald told St. James that it wasn’t a big deal:
“You know what, he’s a big body,” MacDonald said. “That’s part of his game. He drives to the net. As a goalie, you’ve just got to try to hold your ground and hope for a whistle. Unfortunately the whistle wasn’t there, but that’s his game.”
The Wings spent nearly 5 minutes of the second period shorthanded, disrupting their lines and giving Sanford little work while MacDonald made a dozen saves. Derek MacKenzie beat him on a breakaway just past 2 minutes into the third period, but after that, the Wings took control.
“We knew it was going to be a tight game,” Zetterberg said. “We knew we had to play good defense. You’ve just got to have patience, and even when they scored the shorty there and made it 2-1, I think it was nice to get that goal right away, and then we just kept going in the third.”
The Wings were very happy that their offense slowly but surely flickered before exploding into flame:
Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula each had a goal and an assist, and Jan Mursak scored his first of the season. Niklas Kronwall had a goal and two assists, scoring 1:30 after the Wings had allowed a shorthanded goal early in the third period.
“Kronner responded for us right away, which is really important,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we had real good energy in the first. I thought we had real good energy in the third. We wouldn’t shoot the puck in the second, got ourselves in trouble a little bit, but as long as we’re willing to shoot the puck, good things will happen.”
The Wings were, if you believe the statisticians, out-shot 30 to 25 and out-hit a baffling 33 to 2, again, if you believe the statisticians at Nationwide Arena, and while St. James says a team which displayed a gritty effort didn’t complain too much, they’re not going to let that little fib go:
The Wings might address the ridiculous discrepancy in hits with NHL headquarters; they also questioned some of the playing minutes credited to a couple of players. The final score, though, made them happy.
All I can tell you in that department is that the stats crew registered Ian White as the Wings’ leader in ice time (25:05) by over a minute on Niklas Kronwall (23:21), who played a wee bit more regularly than White did as Kronwall played as the interim #1 defenseman alongside Brad Stuart and White played with the surprisingly nuanced Doug Janik. Brendan Smith (who was also solid) played a relatively regular shift with Jakub Kindl on the third pairing as well, and that is reflected on the scoresheet.
The Detroit News’s Kulfan took note of Smith and Janik’s respective performances...
Nicklas Lidstrom (sore ankle) and Kyle Quincey (groin) did not play Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jackets. Babcock said both players are day-to-day and could be available to play Friday against the Wild. Despite their absence, Babcock felt it was a good experience for his team.
“It gives us a good opportunity to find out what kind of depth we have,” Babcock said.
Doug Janik was recalled from Grand Rapids to fill out the defensive unit and was plus-2.
“(Smith) was excellent and Janik was real steady,” Babcock said. “They did a real good job.”
As well as Johan Franzen’s response to being placed alongside Drew Miller and Darren Helm (shh, don’t let the fact that Franzen scored his goal while playing alongside Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi and registered his assist while on the ice with Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula get in the way of a good story):
Franzen, who was pointless in the team’s previous four games, and had three points (two goals) his last eight, responded with a goal and an assist Tuesday.
“We had nothing going on, and usually that’s what happens,” Franzen said of the changes.
Said Babcock: “Mule was good and that line was good.
But Babcock did tell MLive’s Ansar Khan (who also penned a quote-less recap) that he was both impressed with his interim defensemen and with Franzen’s performances playing alongside the various linemates Babcock placed him with:
“I thought Smitty was excellent, Janik was real steady,’’ Babcock said. “We got a good night out of our fourth line (Mursak, Cory Emmerton, Tomas Holmstrom). The Mule (Franzen) played real well and Z’s line (with Filppula and Jiri Hudler) was good. Good effort.’‘
Said Zetterberg: “Everyone chipped in, we need to do that this time of year.’‘
“We wouldn’t shoot the puck in the second, got ourselves in trouble a little bit,’’ Babcock said. “But as long as we’re willing to shoot the puck, good things happen.’‘
MacDonald made several key stops in the second period, when his team was outshot 12-6, to keep it even.
“He probably would like the second goal back,’’ Babcock said. “In saying that, he didn’t let it bother him again. If something goes wrong, keep playing, be mentally tough. He got us a big win.’‘
That was MacDonald’s theory:
“Whenever I get the opportunity I just got to show that they made the right decision to (keep me) here,’’ MacDonald said. “Give the team a chance to win. In the second period they had some good chances. Just kind of hold the fort and go from there.’‘
“Over last 3-4 road games we just didn’t have that edge,’’ MacDonald said. “We played well, but just not well enough to win. Tonight, in the third period, we beared down and found a way.’‘
Now the Wings get two days to work on their power play, stopping giving up short-handed goals against included, to work on the details of sustaining a better and, yes, harder-hitting, harder-charging effort over 60 minutes of play, and three mornings to hopefully allow Nicklas Lidstrom’s sore left ankle to heal, Kyle Quincey’s groin to mend and maybe even get Pavel Datsyuk on the ice for a skate or two. He may be a week to two weeks out, but the Wings very obviously miss him, and the more time they receive off between games, the better.
Bonus Swedish: Niklas Kronwall told Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman that the Wings miss Lidstrom badly, but believe he’ll be back on Friday, and Kronwall felt that the Wings played a “decent” game, and he told Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom that the Wings tried to keep things simple against the hard-charging Blue Jackets.
Highlights: Here’s the Red Wings website’s highlight clip, narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Post-game: Fox Sports Ohio posted a clip of Darryl Boyce, Jack Johnson and coach Todd Richards discussing the game;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a clip of Henrik Zetterberg, Joey MacDonald and Wings coach Mike Babcock speaking about the game…
As well as Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s wrap-up...
But the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff did something very, very cool via his Twitter account, and he deserves big praise for doing so: some teams’ PR departments are starting to post audio clips of player interviews online, and while these websites are secure (and I don’t have access to any of ‘em yet), their audio URLs are accessible by anybody. If you want to listen to Jack Johnson and Derek MacKenzie‘s comments, or coach Todd Richards and Rick Nashs’s comments in MP3 form, enjoy, but as a Wings fan, I’m much more interested in what Duff reveals Henrik Zetterberg had to say…
What Joey MacDonald had to say to the media…
And the details of coach Mike Babcock’s post-game media scrum than I am in anything the Blue Jackets had to say:
So many thanks to Duff for the links!
Photos: The Columbus Dispatch posted a 20-image Flash gallery;
The Detroit News posted an 11-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 27-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 41-image gallery;
The Blue Jackets’ website posted a 41-image gallery;
Statistics: Shots 30-25 Columbus overall. Detroit out-shot Columbus 10-5 in the 1st, but were out-shot 12-6 in the 2nd and 13-9 in the 3rd.
The Blue Jackets went 1-for-5 in 5:39 of PP time; The Wings went 1-for-6 in 8:52 of PP time.
Joey MacDonald stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced; Curtis Sanford stopped 20 of the 25 he faced.
The 3 stars, per a “media panel,” were Derek MacKenzie, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.
The Wings’ goals: Franzen (24) from Kindl (11) and Cleary 917);
Kronwall (13) from Zetterberg (37) and Bertuzzi (18), PP;
Zetterberg (14) from Filppula (31) and Kronwall (13);
Mursak (1) from Emmerton (4) and Holmstrom (11);
Filppula (19) from Franzen (25) and Kronwall (14).
Faceoffs 32-29 Columbus (Detroit won 48%);
Blocked shots 15-11 Detroit;
Missed shots 14-7 Detroit (total attempts 52-50 Columbus);
Hits a LAUGHABLE 33-2 Columbus
Takeaways 10-4 Columbus.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 13-and-7 (65%); Helm went 10-and-9 (53%); Abdelkader went 3-and-9 (33%); Emmerton went 3-and-3 (50%); Franzen lost 3 faceoffs; Filppula lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Zetterberg led the team with 4 shots; Mursak and Filppula had 3; Cleary, White, Miller, Kronwall and Franzen had 2; Smith, Kindl, Stuart, Hudler and Janik had 1.
Blocked attempts: Janik and Franzen had 2 attempts blocked by Blue Jackets players; Smith, Abdelkader, Cleary, Stuart, Zetterberg, Helm and Kronwall had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Kindl missed the net 3 times, as did Filppula; Cleary and Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; White, Janik, Kronwall and Holmstrom missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Only Brendan Smith and Darren Helm were credited with single hits.
Giveaways: Abdelkader, Mursak, Zetterberg and Helm had giveaways.
Takeaways: Filppula had 2 takeaways; Stuart and Franzen had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 4 shots; Cleary blocked 3; Janik blocked 2; Smith, Stuart, Helm, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Franzen blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Both Bertuzzi and Hudler took 2 minor penalties; White took 1.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +15. Janik and Franzen finished at +2; Smith, Kindl, Cleary, white, Stuart, Mursak, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Emmerton, Filppula and Kronwall finished at +1.
Those numbers would have been higher had the Wings not given up a short-handed goal.
Points: Kronwall had a goal and 2 assists for 3 points; Franzen had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Filppula had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Zetterberg had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Mursak had a goal; Kindl, Cleary, Bertuzzi, Emmerton and Holmstrom had assists.
Ice time: White led the team with 25:05 played; Kronwall played 23:21; Zetterberg played 21:09;
Stuart played 19:26; Filppula played 18:24; Janik played 18:14;
Kindl played 17:26; Franzen played 16:51; Hudler played 16:27;
Bertuzzi played 16:21; Helm played 15:30; Cleary played 14:13;
Holmstrom played 13:47; Miller played 13:43; Smith played 13:15;
Abdelkader played 11;21; Mursak played 8:33; Emmerton played 8:28.
Part II: Red Wings notebooks: Brendan Smith told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that he’s done his best to bide his time in Grand Rapids while playing as the team’s #1 defenseman, alongside one Doug Janik, despite the fact that he’d probably rather his opportunity to crack the Wings’ lineup have been given to him a little earlier this season:
“I just tried to keep playing my best and work myself up here,” Smith said. “(My dad) told me if I kept playing well I’d get my chance.”
That chance is here. The Red Wings recalled Smith from Grand Rapids on Monday. In Tuesday’s win, Smith played 13:15, had a shot and finished plus-1.
“It caught me by surprise,” Smith said. “It was kind of cool to get the callup, and I just have to play my best.”
Smith had 10 goals and 22 assists in 47 games (plus-7) with the Griffins. He had two assists in three games with the Red Wings in November.
“He showed on the West Coast trip that he could play for us,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “What I like about him is skill and how competitive he is. He wants to dig in like a real player. When you’re confident it oozes out of you, and he’s one of those guys.”
The Free Press’s Helene St. James noted that Smith got an “excellent” rating from Babcock, and while the Wings’ blueline should be getting healthier sooner than later...
Lidstrom has a swollen ankle after getting hit by a puck Saturday, but he felt better Tuesday, and general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press: “I’m optimistic he’ll be ready this weekend.” Quincey is day-to-day with a sore groin.
Smith, who played in front of his brother Reilly (he attends the University of Miami of Ohio), felt satisfied with his effort:
“I felt pretty good,” Smith said. “I think I played, like, 13 minutes, so I’m pretty happy about that. Got a lot of touches and stuff.”
“What I like about him is skill, and I like how competitive he is,” Babcock said. “The things that stand out in my mind is, we’re in Chicago with hardly any lineup in exhibition and he’s yapping on the bench, he wants to dig in. Or in San Jose, on the West Coast trip, and he’s digging in. To me, those things, when you’re confident, it oozes out of you, and he’s one of those guys.”
Smith got into the three games on the west coast because Ian White was injured. When White returned, NHL-ready as Smith looked, he got shipped back to the minors. That’s when the same advice from Babcock, from Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser, and from Smith’s dad, rang in Smith’s ears.
“They all told me, when you get sent down, sometimes your game will kind of diminish, or you’re not going to play at your best,” Smith said. “But I think hearing it all the time, I think it changed my mind and I kept playing well. I never really fell into a funk, which is good. I actually felt that I kept playing better, and my AHL game was kind of at its best.”
Goaltender Joey MacDonald, who played most of the season in Grand Rapids with Smith saw the mental toughness manifest itself.
“I think he’s learning to slow the pace down a little bit and not be quite run-and-gun, and that’s why he’s here now,” MacDonald said. “He’s a good skater, he’s got a great shot, and he’s got good poise back there on the power play.”
Babcock may have offered the greatest insight into the slow but steady mental and physical maturation of a defenseman who’s still something of a gambler—because he was a forward until he was 15—while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan...
“Smitty wouldn’t tell you this, but in his own mind he probably was very frustrated last time he went down because he’s sick and tired of going down when he thought he’s a full-time NHL player,’’ coach Mike Babcock said. “Usually what happens is their game falls off down there for a while. Then they kind of get over it and get playing again. But that’s all a part of being a young player and becoming mentally tough enough to be an everyday NHLer that contributes.’‘
That’s the theory:
“What I like about him is skill, and how competitive he is,’’ Babcock said. “We were in Chicago in exhibition with hardly any lineup and he’s yapping on the bench that he wants to dig in. We’re in San Jose (Nov. 17, his NHL debut), and he’s digging in and playing like a real player. When you’re confident it oozes out of you and he’s one of those guys.’‘
Smith was surprised to be recalled this soon, considering the club had eight defensemen one week ago. But seldom-used Mike Commodore was traded and Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle) and Kyle Quincey (groin) are out with day-to-day injuries.
“I know they’re going for the Cup,’’ Smith said. “I was surprised, but at the same time I always want to get the call-up, too. It can be a little frustrating, but I’m just paying my dues to try to get up here.’‘
Said Babcock: “I thought on our West Coast trip he showed he’s an NHL player, could easily play for us. Kenny (general manager Holland) decided the best way to do it was keep all hands on deck. We’ve had real good development out of (Jakub) Kindl. If you bring Smitty up, then one of them plays every second game it probably doesn’t help.’‘
The plan was to pair Smith with Niklas Kronwall, his partner during that previous three-game stint. But he ended up playing mostly with Kindl.
“They wanted to match (Brad Stuart) and Kronner up against (Rick) Nash’s line, which obviously worked out, so me and Kindl played together and I thought we were pretty good,’’ Smith said.
They were, and when Lidstrom and Quincey return, Smith and Kindl will start battling for the same spot on the Wings’ blueline.
Part III: Also of Red Wings-related note: The Toledo Walleye will be skating on pink ice to raise money for breast cancer research during their home games against Wheeling on Friday, March 2nd and against Cincinnati on Sunday, March 4th. The Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe provides some additional details about the events scheduled to take place during both games;
• In much less charitable and much more confusing news, the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts reports that the whole Todd Bertuzzi’s lawyer-Marc Crawford’s lawyer-the Canucks’ laywers secret accord thingy was made public by the judge in charge of Steve Moore’s civil suit…except then the judge said that such an agreement was somehow both improper and yet not unprofessional (???);
• If you want to read warm fuzzies from the St. Louis Blues about keeping pace with the Wings, the Edmonton Sun’s Derek Van Diest provides all the, “Ain’t we swell!” talk you need;
• And finally, here’s a roundup of the power rankings lists which trickled in over the past 36 hours, starting with one penned by the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau on Monday...
3. Detroit Red Wings [last week] 1: Wings’ current three-game losing streak was bound to happen, but don’t worry, they’ll be back looking like a juggernaut in no time
As well as a list from Fox Sports’ Craig Morgan on Monday evening…
3 . Red Wings [down] 1 [highest/lowest] 2/2: It’s not like Detroit to get complacent, but it has dropped all three games since goaltender Jimmy Howard returned to the lineup. The Red Wings appeared a little short on energy on Saturday. They play Tuesday in Columbus, and the Blue Jackets should expect the Wings’ best effort.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun penned his list on Monday night as well...
2. Detroit Last Week: 1: It was disappointing they didn’t add bottom-six size and grit in either Sami Pahlsson or Paul Gaustad, but the Wings really don’t have any notable holes. They could win the Cup despite only adding Kyle Quincey.
And Tuesday’s rankings come from TSN’s Scott Cullen (whose comments bolster the view that list-makers don’t even check on teams’ statuses before penning proclamations)...
This Week 6 Last Week 4 Detroit Red Wings: Losers of three straight, including a pair at home (gasp!!), the Wings round life more difficult without Pavel Datsyuk and open this week with Nicklas Lidstrom also out of the lineup. Good thing they brought in Kyle Quincey (and called up Brendan Smith) to eat up some minutes on the blueline.
Sportsnet’s Luke Fox…
5 [Detroit Red Wings] [decline] 1: The Canucks ended their record streak at the Joe, Pavel Datsyuk is out rehabbing from arthroscopic knee surgery, and the Wings lost all three games they played last week by a single goal.
And the same can be said for Sportsline’s Adam Gretz’s rankings:
5. Red Wings [last week] 1: The home winning streak came to a close and started what has been a three-game losing streak. Obviously, having Pavel Datsyuk back in the lineup will be a welcome addition.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.