The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/14/12 at 12:51 AM ET
One of the more savvy commenters suggested that the Detroit Red Wings’ 3-2 loss to Nashville on Wednesday was, in fact, perhaps the best game the Wings had played since the middle of March, and tonight…
I’m honestly confused here. The Red Wings were porous as all hell get out defensively, they were out-penalized—legitimately so in most cases—7-3 and had to kill off 6 Predators power plays [edit: did I mention that the Wings’ PK has been perfect thus far? No?], they were out-shot 10-5 in the 2nd period, 11-4 in the 3rd period and 26-17 overall, and they all but earned “gimme” assists on the Predators’ goals, but Detroit somehow emerged with a 3-2 victory and head home knowing that even playing relatively poor defensive hockey can be successful when they are in fact opportunistic offensively and get the kind of goaltending that Jimmy Howard can provide.
The fact that Todd Bertuzzi gave a crowd which ended the game booing Henrik Zetterberg something to chew on in terms of clean retribution by doing this to Shea Weber didn’t hurt:
Retaliating to a controversial hit by challenging a player to drop ‘em to his face and then not proceeding to simply beat the hell out of him, but instead, to engage in a fair fight? Methinks that’s the way to go, folks…
And the Wings went off from there, out-scoring Nashville and out-chancing them early, stuffing goals home for later and then sitting on the lead perhaps too much as the Predators went to work on their own cycle before mucking and grinding their way to an earned victory—weird as it was, again, knowing that they can play way, way, way better in their own zone, way, way, way better in terms of time of puck possession and way, way, way better in terms of not baiting inconsistent refereeing (who knows what the standard will be on Sunday) while somewhat easily driving the Predators, and especially David Legwand, to distraction via trash talk and some superbly-timed pushes and shoves.
I dunno what else to say. Maybe this is a “quick take” reaction, maybe I’ve been listening to Mickey Redmond lament the Wings’ inability to do much more than stand around and watch the Predators work the boards in the third period, and maybe I’m a perfectionist (duh) and professional self-critic (duh), but…
This one was weird. It was as if the Wings’ decision to not go after anyone physically save perhaps Rinne for the sake of “revenge,” their decision to finally match the Predators’ grit, grind, spit piss and vinegar, and perhaps their ability to take what the Predators gave them, both on the PK and at even strength, without bending, never mind breaking, left even the amazing tactician that is Barry Trotz flummoxed, because that Babcockian resolve, that Lidstrom-like calmness and perhaps those few flourishes of swagger and skill gave the Predators reason to flinch, just as their crowd rose to their feet when Henrik Zetterberg popped Weber in a battle for the puck toward the end of the second period…and then skated away, because the puck went elsewhere and it was battling for the puck and not pride that he was interested in.
But the Wings really, honestly played, from a technical perspective, pretty mediocrely. Their defense was moribund, they allowed the Predators to register all sorts of prime scoring chances on second and third and fourth attempts because the Wings couldn’t or wouldn’t clear the puck out of their zone, they couldn’t or wouldn’t get the puck to the red line, they couldn’t or wouldn’t stop turning it over at the Predators’ blueline while surrendering odd-man rushes in the process…
And yet Jimmy Howard had no chance on either of the goals that he gave up, he got a little help from his goalposts, and he got help from teammates who wore goat horns in game 1, like Brad Stuart and Valtteri Filppula, and instead of the Red Wings’ power play setting up and setting up and setting up instead of shooting, it was the Predators that gave themselves little to no chance to score, and when they did manage to not “cuetsy” it toward the net, the Wings out-worked, out-hustled, out-ground and out-determined the Predators by a country mile.
So Detroit comes home with a series tied 1-1 and much more to give and much more to improve upon, and Detroit comes home having given themselves enough of a scare in that late Weber goal to remind themselves that the margin for error here makes razor blades look wide enough to land Red Bird II upon.
In terms of the game’s narrative…
Long after Todd Bertuzzi fought Weber, and long after the Wings managed to have to kill a penalty because Johan Franzen dared to be angry for getting punched in the face, to the tune of a black eye and bloody nose, the Wings got the scoring party started rather elegantly.
Off a scoring chance for the Predators, Kyle Quincey shoveled the puck up to Drew Miller coming out of the Wings’ zone, he avoided Brandon Yip through center ice and tapped the puck toward Tomas Holmstrom, Miller received the puck in return from Holmstrom and #20’s shot was blocked, but Holmstrom retrieved the rebound, got it to Ian White, and he walked in from the right blueline and flittered a slick, sneaky wrister through traffic and over Pekka Rinne’s blocker. 8:25 in, the Wings were up 1-0.
Seven minutes later, the Wings scored off an even prettier play. Again, off an extended stretch of Predators possession in the Wings’ zone, Cory Emmerton kick-blocked Kevin Klein’s shot, skated past him and caught Klein flat-footed, exposing Roman Josi as the last man back on a 2 on 1 with Gustav Nyquist alongside, and though Josi closed the lane off and Klein came back to try and block Emmerton’s shot, he chose to shoot and fired another high, hard shot over Rinne’s blocker. With 4:27 left in the 1st, it was 2-0 Detroit.
The Wings started the 2nd with perhaps the only questionable call hampering them—Jiri Hudler was called for interfering with Pekka Rinne, who may or may not have initiated contact on the play—and later, Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall’s penalties intertwined to the tune of 30 seconds of 5-on-3 time for Nashville, but the Wings ended up killing five-plus minutes of penalties and came out unscathed thanks to smart play and superb goaltending.
Stupid play resulted in the 2-1 goal. Just over 11 minutes into the 2nd period, the Wings were unable to clear their zone despite attempts from Kyle Quincey, Justin Abdelkader and Danny Cleary, and when Quincey flubbed in his attempt to block an Alex Radulov pass from the side boards to Andrei Kostitsyn around the left faceoff dot, Quincey chose to drop to block a low shot instead of simply extending his stick to pluck the puck off Kostitsyn’s blade, and Kostitsyn used Quincey as one screen and David Legwand as the other as he planted a seeing-eye shot into the top shelf over Howard, who never saw it. 9:03 left in the 2nd, 2-1.
But the Wings responded and replied with perhaps some earned luck. On the bump-up shift, Pavel Datsyuk lugged the puck up the gut on a 3 on 3, gave it to Franzen, and as he skated toward the net, he lost the puck but kept going toward Rinne. Brad Stuart jumped into the play and fired a low, hard shot at Rinne’s feet, and it just happened that both Datsyuk and Franzen found themselves crowding Rinne, and the puck glanced in off Franzen’s skate. At 9:57, all of 56 seconds after the Wings were scored upon, Detroit led 3-1.
The Wings killed one more 2nd period penalty and a sixth in the 3rd period, but they couldn’t emerge unscathed during a stretch in which they were out-shot 11-4. In flux off a line change that nearly cost them a too many men call, the Predators dumped the puck in, Todd Bertuzzi couldn’t clear it, tried to hand it off to Kyle Quincey, and when Quincey’s pass to Franzen went awry, Shea Weber skated in from the point, closed on Quincey and reversed flow toward Paul Gaustad. Gaustad was parked behind the net, and before Quincey could react or White could cover Gaustad, the big lug dished a slick pass toward Weber, who plowed his way into the slot and made it 3-2 with 4:44 left in the 3rd, roofing a shot over a stunned Howard.
The Wings hung on from there and made it home with 2 games to come on what is hopefully better ice in front of a more discerning crowd, and if they manage to combine their ability to score gritty goals with a better defensive effort and better discipline…
The Predators can match Detroit’s skill in terms of their depth up front and their top defensive pair’s worth of offensive punch, but the Red Wings have so much more to give that you have to like their chances to take their first lead in what’s going to remain a tightly-contested series. For whatever reason, the Wings managed to exploit the Predators’ deficiencies and reveal some glaring flaws that we hadn’t seen in some time, and they managed to unnerve the Predators and then some by matching some somewhat nasty grit with equal amounts of resolve, and when you start getting what Reggie Dunlop called the “mind f***” going, that edge is rarely returned to its sender.
Here’s a slate of game highlights:
The CBC’s Kelly Hrudey, Bruce Boudreau, Glenn Healy and Ron MacLean gabbed about the Wings during the 1st intermission as well…
And here’s the CBC’s highlight clip. You need a North American IP to watch CBC stuff:
Shots 26-17 Nashville. The Wings out-shot Nashville 8-5 in the 1st period, but were out-shot 10-5 in the 2nd and 11-4 in the 3rd.
Detroit went 0 for 2 in 4:00 of PP time; the Predators went 0-for-6 in 11:30 of PP time, including 30 seconds of 5 on 3 time.
Pekka Rinne stopped
14 of 17 shots; Jimmy Howard stopped 24 of 26.
The Nashville Media’s 3 stars were Cory Emmerton, Johan Franzen and Jimmy Howard.
The Wings’ goals: White (1) from Holmstrom (1) and Miller (1);
Emmerton (1), unassisted;
Franzen (1) from Stuart (1) and Datsyuk (1).
Faceoffs 28-27 Detroit (Detroit won 51%);
Blocked shots 16-10 Detroit;
Missed shots 14-9 Nashville (total attempts 56-36 Nashville);
Hits 19-13 Nashville;
Takeaways 8-6 Nashville.
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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.