The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/28/11 at 01:27 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings dug a 2-0 deficit for themselves for the 3rd time over the past 4 games, and after Stephane Auger yielded what had seemed to be yet another case of an unearned break by finding a way to not give a goaltender a quick whistle in a game where the Blues had hacked, whacked, hooked, held, cross-checked, grabbed and groped their way to a no less unearned and seemingly unassailable lead (in a game which they eventually won 3-2)...
Mickey Redmond tends to say that games with the kind of playoff flavor that the Wings have aren’t places for nervous people. As I am biochemically inclined to be nervous, I popped half an anti-anxiety medication and prepared for what the game appeared to be as they were out-shot, out-worked, out-hustled, out-checked and quite possibly out-talented over the first 33 minutes and 8 seconds thereof: yet another case of a Wings team that’s more talented than just about any other simply not working hard enough or playing efficiently enough to earn the kinds of breaks the Wings did against the Predators.
In fact, I was thinking of this very recap at that time, wondering how the Wings had, “Lost their mojo” since wiping the floor with the Los Angeles Kings a week ago, and wondering how the Wings could possibly climb out of yet another 2-0 hole when it was Detroit that was getting penalized and Detroit that was getting out-shot by a silly margin against a team that looked to be stating its case for earned dominance over the Wings like a cowboy roping a calf instead of an agitated bull.
But the Wings woke up. And they started playing like themselves, slowly but surely clawing back ground against the Blues by refusing to quit when they were punched and pounded into the boards, finally taking control of the puck, firing shots on Brian Elliott instead of near him or into Blues players, they cranked up their speed game from Nashville levels to Ken Hitchcock-coached team speed, and after what seemed like an inordinate number of power plays against…
The Wings found life thanks to a Datsyuk dump-in which Lidstrom retrieved, sent to Ian White, and somehow, the puck found its way back to Lidstrom, who ripped the shot through Elliott with all of 1:52 left in the 2nd period, giving Detroit life and pride to play for going into the third period despite the fact that, without Jimmy Howard’s goaltending, the Wings would have been down way more than 2 goals, especially given that the Blues out-shot Detroit 28-19 over the game’s first two periods.
Howard’s “ear save” while pulling a stand-up goalie’s windmill was a great example of how hard Howard had to work to bail out his teammates over the first two periods:
As the third period started, the Wings came out flying, and while they continued to skate into players instead of through them, continued to try to over-pass and set each other up for pretty goals instead of simply shooting the puck on Elliott and grabbing the rebound, and continued to surrender the puck and then cede territory all too easily to a Blues team that was very content to grind the Wings down in their own zone…
The Wings rallied in a big way, finally started pushing and shoving right back, and when the Blues did eventually start making mistakes to a team that had to not only out-talent the Blues, but also out-hustle, out-work, out-grind and out-heart them…Pavel Datsyuk scored a gorgeous tip-in goal after Todd Bertuzzi (who was the “biggest” Wing not named Datsyuk on the ice, and I’m looking with a nasty glare at you, Jonathan Ericsson, for playing soft) gained and kept territory at the Blues’ blueline, and just 56 seconds later, Niklas Kronwall ripped a heavy, hard shot through the traffic that seemed so glaringly absent without Tomas Holmstrom, in the form of one Jiri Hudler.
The Wings somehow, inexplicably, had overcome themselves, the Blues, the referees, the bouncing puck, you name the adversity they both faced and forced upon themselves, and suddenly the Detroit Red Wings that were no longer content to paddle in the middle of the pack and trail teams in the Central Division standings had appeared.
The Wings had to hold on to some extent, especially after Datsyuk bumped Barret Jackman (who threw a temper tantrum) and the Blues managed to kill off a power play which the Wings could have used to salt the game away, St. Louis roared to life over the game’s final three minutes, but the Wings blocked shots, blocked passes, did the kinds of things that the Blues had done all game long to force the Wings to the outside in the literal and figurative side-of-the-puck-battle sense, and the Wings held on.
Held onto a win that may or may not have been well-deserved, but was deservedly earned.
Wings coach Mike Babcock described his team’s win as “taking a step” tonight, and that’s exactly what it was. A step and a statement that this team in transition can and will step up, if only reluctantly, in a game of playoff-caliber intensity, playoff-caliber physicality and playoff-caliber refereeing against a bigger, stronger and nastier team, and if the Wings choose to continue showing up like they did over the second half of the game, their heart, grit, courage and concentration serve as a platform upon which the Wings’ talent can and should prevail.
The Wings didn’t play an elite game tonight, but by eking out a 1-point lead over the Blues and now a 3-point deficit on the Central Division-leading Blackhawks, all during a game which was televised across the U.S. and Canada, the Wings made a statement to the rest of the NHL, saying: “We may be a team in transition, but we are still elite when we feel like playing, and don’t you forget it. We’re coming on now, so watch out.”
Here come the Red Wings. And it’s about time that the Wings figured themselves out, realized that they’re a fantastically talented team from the net on out, and that if they choose to add some hard work to the mix, there are few teams, if any, that can stop the Wings—that aren’t named the Detroit Red Wings, anyway.
This was a very fitting 64th birthday present for Mickey Redmond, a 32nd birthday present for Joe Louis Arena and a very necessary late Christmas present from the Wings to us “nervous people.” The Klonopin’s on me tonight.
Shots 32-31 Detroit. The Wings were out-shot 10-7 in the 1st period and 18-12 in the 2nd period, but out-shot the Blues 13-3 in the 3rd period.
The Blues went 2 for 4 in 6:09 of PP time, including 15 seconds of a 4-on-3 power play; the Wings went 1 for 4 in 7:00 of PP time, mostly earned via 3 Blues penalties in the 3rd period.
Jimmy Howard stopped 29 of 31 shots; Brian Elliott stopped 29 of 32.
The 3 stars, per FSD’s Dana Wakiji, were Nicklas Lidstrom, Kevin Shattenkirk and Pavel Datsyuk.
The Wings’ goals: Lidstrom (8) from Datsyuk (26) and White (13), power play;
Datsyuk (12) from White (14) and Bertuzzi (12);
Kronwall (8) from Filppula (17).
Faceoffs 33-28 St. Louis (the Wings won 46%);
Blocked shots 18-15 Detroit;
Missed shots 15-8 Detroit (total attempts 62-56 Detroit);
Hits 34-23 Detroit (and that’s a hometown stat);
Giveaways 10-4 Detroit, with Howard committing 4 of those 10 turnovers;
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 12-and-9 (57%); Zetterberg went 8-and-8 (50%); Helm went 5-and-8 (38%); Filppula went 0-and-3; Abdelkader went 3-and-3 (50%); Emmerton and Franzen lost the only faceoffs they took.
Shots: Helm and Kronwall led the team with 4 shots apiece; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, White, Zetterberg and Franzen had 3; Cleary and Hudler had 2; Abdelkader, Miller, Stuart, Emmerton and Ericsson had 1.
Blocked attempts: Lidstrom, Filppula, Ericsson and Franzen had 2 attempts blocked by Blues players; Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, White, Miller, Stuart and Helm had single attempts blocked.
Missed shots: Lidstrom, Cleary, White, Commodore and Franzen missed the net 2 times; Datsyuk, Hudler, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Ericsson missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Bertuzzi led the Wings with 6 hits; Cleary had 5; Miller, Commodore, Stuart, Helm and Franzen had 3; Abdelkader and Datsyuk had 2; Lidstrom, Hudler, Zetterberg and Andersson had 1.
Giveaways: Howard had 4 giveaways; Lidstrom and Zetterberg had 2; Cleary and Ericsson had 1.
Takeaways: Datsyuk, Emmerton, Filppula and Kronwall had takeaways.
Blocked shots: White blocked 5 Blues shots; Abdelkader blocked 3; Commodore and Kronwall blocked 2; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Miller, Stuart, Hudler and Filppula blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Zetterberg took 2 minor penalties; Lidstrom, Cleary, Helm and Franzen took single minors.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +10. Lidstrom, Datsyuk, White, Stuart, Hudler, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Filppula, Kronwall and Franzen finished at +1.
Points: Datsyuk had a goal and an assist for 2 points; White had 2 assists; Lidstrom and Kronwall had goals; Bertuzzi and Filppula had assists.
Ice time: White led the team with 25:48 played; Lidstrom played 25:41; Kronwall played 22:21;
Zetterberg played 21:24; Filppula played 20:43; Stuart played 20:16;
Datsyuk played 19:41; Hudler played 17:24; Cleary played 17:08;
Franzen played 16:38; Bertuzzi played 15:18; Ericsson played 13:06;
Miller played 12:45; Helm played 11:54; Commodore played 11:23;
Abdelkader played 10:13; Emmerton played 5:13; Andersson played 5:10.
In his debut, Joakim Andersson played 5:10 over the course of 8 shifts. He was credited with one hit.
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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.