The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/11/12 at 03:14 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings seemed to be far too content to try to use the same lurking-in-the-weeds game plan against the Nashville Predators which they successfully employed against the Kings on Friday, and in a four-point game against a team far superior to the floundering Kings, the Wings made a huge tactical error, and thanks to some terrible special teams play on Detroit’s part—giving up 2 power play goals against and going 0-for-4 on their own power play—Detroit dropped a 3-2 decision to a Predators team that is only 4 instead of a potential 8 points behind Detroit in the Central Division standings—and the Wings’ loss means that the Blues are now 4 points ahead of Detroit, too (Update: scary thought—if the Wings don’t re-take the division lead, they’re all but guaranteed to play the Predators in the 1st round!).
Put bluntly and simply, given the Wings’ progress shown as a team that can win despite a depleted lineup in their 4-3 win over LA, and given the Predators’ “we know they’re coming and we’re gonna get some revenge” (for their 2-1 loss last time the teams met) talk going into the game, this loss, from a Red Wings fan’s perspective, both sucks and blows.
From a professional perspective, given that the Predators are healthy, have won oodles of games at home, have a silly 70-plus winning percentage of late, and have received reinforcements in Andrei Kostitsyn, Hal Gill and Paul Gaustad, and given that they were furious that the Wings turned a 1-0 win into a 2-1 loss back on February 17th—never mind that the Wings remain without Todd Bertuzzi, Jonathan Ericsson, Jimmy Howard, Jakub Kindl and Nicklas Lidstrom, which yields a serious-ass disadvantage in the battle of elite puck-moving bluelines—I am not surprised at all that the Predators exacted their revenge, and will now lurk behind Detroit in the standings until the Wings get healthy and start winning regularly again.
From a subjective, Red Wings fan’s standpoint, while the usual late-game comeback was admirable, my Gord, why the hell were the Wings so unbelievably convinced that they could play at the same levels of intensity, attention to detail and effort against a playoff bubble team and believe that they could come out with a win against the Preds? How the f*** can the Wings excuse standing around like pylons in the defensive zone as the Preds deked, dangled and passed around them, turning the puck over like it was a baked good between those danger zones 10 feet inside the defensive blueline and 10 feet into the offensive zone?
And why the hell, regardless of whether it was on the power play or even strength, did the Wings continually wait for the perfect shot, losing pucks in scrums because the team was trying to loop around, loop around, pass back and find that artistically preferable shot, passing up so very many chances to get point-blank shots on Rinne, and why, despite the Wings’ remarkable 18-6 shot advantage in the 3rd period, did the Wings so seldomly attempt to even partially obstruct Pekka Rinne’s field of vision, or attempt to retrieve rebounds to generate secondary or tertiary scoring opportunities?
Sure, the Wings poured it on over the last 10 minutes of the 3rd, and sure,t he last 5:25 were dramatic as all hell get out thanks to Abdelkader’s goal, but why did the Wings think that they could wait until the third period to play the way they needed to play from the first drop of the puck?
This is a baffling, innervating, incredibly frustrating loss to witness and an incredibly inexcusable one, marred by silly mistakes and an inability or unwillingness to do the simple things that a team has to do better in terms of intensity, attention to detail, effort and plain old aggressiveness to ratchet their level of play up to that of an opponent superior to their previous one.
Collectively and individually, the Wings’ mascot of the night was definitely Gustav Nyquist, who was pushed around, pushed off the puck, dumped and downright stunned because he’s so green in terms of his professional experience that he was unprepared for the ratcheting-up he needed to display in terms of his performance against a team that was going to make life much, much harder in terms of taking away his time, space, and plain old taking advantage of his still-borderline-NHL-ready strength and understanding of how unbelievably quickly and deliberately one must make plays at the NHL level to not find oneself coughing up pucks and being ran over by hard-checking opponents.
In terms of the game’s narrative…
The Red Wings just plain old made a succession of errors that wound up in the back of their net on the first goal. 7:30 into the 1st, Gustav Nyquist couldn’t hold the puck in at the Predators’ blueline, he was stripped of the puck by David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist in a squeeze play, and as the pair roared up ice on a 2-on-1 against Doug Janik, Janik bit on taking away the shooter instead of taking away the passer, and as soon as he turned toward Legwand, Legwand fired a cross-slot pass to Hornqvist, who easily beat MacDonald.
Thirteen seconds later, at 7;43, the Wings seemed to suggest to the Predators that they were at least going to face a handful in a gritty and determined opponent. Justin Abdelkader won the draw to Brad Stuart, he dumped the puck in and went off for a change, and Drew Miller charged down the right wing to get that puck, pulled his way out front while leaning heavily on Ryan Ellis, and he jammed a slithery shot through Rinne, all by himself.
Regrettably, the Wings’ second penalty of the night bit ‘em in the butt. Janik got called for high sticking at 10:22, and a minute and a half later, at 11:59, the aforementioned Ellis and Roman Josi played give-and-go at the Wings’ blueline, Ellis shoveled the puck to David Legwand at the left half boards, and as Andrei Kostitsyn pulled off the wing and went to the slot, Ian White left his position to chase Andrei, Legwand passed the puck down low to Sergei Kostitsyn, and from about fifteen feet to the left of Joey MacDonald, Sergei found Andrei parked at the top of the crease, and Andrei spun and put the puck into the back of the net, all because while White chased Andrei and then let his check go, Kyle Quincey stood like a pylon, watching Legwand make the pass to Sergei and doing nothing while Sergei set up Andrea.
12 minutes into the 1st, the Wings were down by 1, and they really didn’t do much after that. Detroit out-shot Nashville 9-8 in the 1st period, but their second period effort was incredibly flat, despite penalties to Shea Weber just under 15 minutes in and a Bouillon penalty 16:38 in which would yield 12 seconds of 5-on-3 time and almost four full minutes of power play time. Perhaps that’s where the game was lost: instead of working the puck on the side boards, pumping it back to the point and sticking butts in front of Rinne to obstruct his view while looking for tips, screens and rebounds, the Wings happily and merrily worked the puck around the perimeter, sometimes literally skating themselves into Predators players who easily had the winger support to win those 1-on-1 battles for the puck and 50/50 scrums and kick-fests, easily clearing puck after puck while the Wings over-passed, over-passed and over-passed some more, and worse…
When the Wings tried to keep the puck in or lug it up ice, their lack of speed or urgency in terms of charging up the ice and trying to generate the same sorts of odd-man rushes or odd-man situations that the Predators were imposing upon the Wings all night long, there were litanies of turnovers, especially between the bluelines or around the Predators’ blueline, and when the Wings did manage to successfully complete their self-and-Predator-induced obstacle course to the net, they either passed up point-blank scoring chances to try to set up a teammate for a prettier opportunity, or they fired pucks into Rinne absent screens or tips or any attempts to jam home rebounds via any teammates going to the net, because, aside from Tomas Holmstrom, nobody was willing or able to do so.
As such, it came as little surprise when the Predators more or less put the game away in the waning moments of their last power play—after a 5-on-3 opportunity against Detroit expired.
4:34 into the 3rd period, the Predators won a draw in their own zone, Roman Josi dumped the puck in, and as Danny Cleary was unable to block or clear the dump-in, Shea Weber retrieved it, tossed it to Legwand, and once again, the Predators worked that half-boards-to-down low play, this time with Janik standing like a pylon as Legwand fired the puck down to Sergei and Ian White unable to close the gap between his leg and a three-foot-gap to where Joey MacDonald’s left knee pad lay as he was trying to cover the left post, and Andrei was, again, easily able to tap a back-door pass behind MacDonald.
Did the Wings work their asses off from there on out? Hell yes.
And was Justin Abdelkader’s goal at 14:35—after the Wings had blown yet another 2-minute power play—inspiring? You bet.
Abdelkader dumped the puck into the Predators’ zone himself after a sustained stretch of play, and he chased it around the back of the Predators’ net. Darren Helm tried to help him and Gustav Nyquist stole the puck from Weber of all people, chucked it out front on Rinne’s glove side, and Abdelkader leaned hard into the shot and Ryan Suter, got a shot off immediately and, as Rinne went down early, roofed the rebound.
The Wings’ shots came fast and furious from there on out, but when you give yourself all of 5:25 to try and rally from a 1-goal deficit, and your intensity and effort are not matched by the high level of Hockey IQ necessary to channel energy into the kind of deliberate, aggressive, poised and detail-oriented play that fearlessly backs off your opponents the kinds of skill plays that were all but absent save a shot or two from Valtteri Filppula and Henrik Zetterberg, and you’re gonna fall short.
The Wings’ special teams were special ed, going 2-for-4 on the PK and 0-for-4 on the PP, the support players who are supposed to not be liabilities were just that, and the Wings’ effort was unfocused and somewhat casual at times. When you try to lurk in the weeds and trick your opponent, and your opponent’s way better than the one you defeated the previous evening, you’re not going to win very often, and the Wings ran into two walls—the one the Predators created in front of Rinne and the one the Wings tried to climb over after erecting and skating into repeatedly.
You can’t just bang your head on the wall over and over again and expect to make a second hole before your head starts bleeding, and to some extent, that’s really the visceral impact of how this loss “feels” to me. It was a head-banger, and it pisses me off that the Wings now face off against a revenge-minded Kings squad on Tuesday, the spoilers galore in the Ducks on Wednesday and an incredibly difficult San Jose team (next Saturday) that might end up as a first-round opponent—if the Wings are lucky and fend off the Predators and close ground on the Blues and Canucks.
Yes, the Wings will be in better shape personnel-wise with Howard starting on Tuesday, Bertuzzi probably back from his groin injury and Datsyuk and Lidstrom back sometime this upcoming week, but no amount of personnel additions will shake the Wings out of the semi-stupor that their injuries have left them in, nor will those personnel cleanse the team of the bad mental habits it’s picked up over the past three weeks.
The Wings have gone 4-5-and-1 since they set their home-ice winning record on February 19th, and are 2-and-3 this month, and that isn’t good enough. I don’t have to dumb it down for them, or you, to understand that.
Shots 37-20 Detroit overall; Detroit out-shot Nashville 9-8 in the 3rd period, 10-6 in the 2nd period and 18-6 in the 3rd period.
The Wings went 0 for 4 in 6:00 of PP time, including 10 seconds of 5 on 3 time; the Predators went 2 for 4 in 7:05 of PP time, including 0-for-1 in 12 seconds of 5 on 3 time.
Joey MacDonald stopped 17 of the 20 shots he faced: Pekka Rinne stopped 35 of 37.
The 3 stars, per the “Nashville Media,” were Sergei Kostitsyn, David Legwand and Andrei Kostitsyn.
The Wings’ goals: Miller (13) from Cleary (9) and Stuart (12);
Abdelkader (8) from Nyquist (3) and Helm (17).
Faceoffs 34-32 Nashville thanks to dominating the 3rd period (Detroit won 48%);
Blocked shots 16-11 Nashville;
Missed shots 10-7 Detroit (total attempts 63-38 Detroit, with the Wings firing 26 wide or into Predators players);
Hits 18-15 Nashville;
Giveaways 12-3 Nashville;
Takeaways 13-5 Nashville.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 8-and-17 (32%); Helm went 12-and-4 (75%); Abdeklader went 3-and-10 (23%); Emmerton went 6-and-3 (67%); Cleary won 2 faceoffs; Franzen won 1 faceoff.
Shots: Abdelkader and Quincey led the team with 5 shots; Zetterberg and Franzen had 4; Filppula and Kronwall had 3; White, Miller, Stuart, Hudler and Helm had 2; Janik, Emmerton and Holmstrom had 1.
Blocked attempts: White had 3 attempts blocked by Predators players; Mursak, Helm and Filppula had 2 attempts blocked; Miller, Stuart,Hudler, Janik, Emmerton, Franzen and Holmstrom had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Smith, Cleary, Nyquist, White, Miller, Janik, Zetterberg, Filppula, Kronwall and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: White and Franzen led the team with 3 hits; Quincey, Janik and Kronwall had 2; Stuart, Mursak and Helm had 1.
Giveaways: Nyquist, White and MacDonald had giveaways.
Takeaways: Smith, White, Hudler, Janik and Franzen had takeaways.
Blocked shots: Kronwall blocked 3 shots; Stuart and Mursak blocked 2 shots; Miller, Helm and Filppula blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Stuart, Quincey, Janik and Holmstrom took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +5 due to the PPG’s they gave up. White, Quincey and Franzen finished at -1; Smith, Cleary, Miller and Stuart finished at +1; Abdelkader and Janik finished at +2.
Points: Abdelkader and Miller had goals; Cleary, Nyquist, Stuart and Helm had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 26:22 played; Stuart played 22:36; White played 20:32;
Zetterberg played 20:29; Filppula played 20:10; Quincey played 19:43;
Hudler played 18:22; Franzen played 17:41; Cleary played 16:55;
Helm palyed 16:53; Smith lpayed 16:17; Janik played 13:34;
Holmstrom played 12:42; Miller played 11:46; Abdelkader played 10:43;
Nyquist played 9:48; Mursak played 9:47; Emmerton played 9:23.
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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.