The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/18/12 at 12:15 AM ET
At this point, it appears that the Detroit Red Wings may very well play the last game of the 2010-2011 season Friday night in Nashville. The Red Wings out-shot Nashville 41-17 and had every opportunity to score on this year’s version of Dwayne Roloson, circa 2006, in one Pekka Rinne…
And instead of bearing down on their chances in the Predators’ zone, three catastrophic defensive mistakes doomed Detroit, which dropped a 3-1 decision to the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night.
Is there a lack of leadership in the Wings’ room or behind the bench? Nope. Does this team still miss Kris Draper, Chris Osgood and Brian Rafalski? Yep. But why, George, you may ask, why has this team consistently self-destructed by allowing opposing teams’ defensemen to sneak into the slot and score series and season-killing goals for three straight seasons?
I don’t know. But I think that the London Free Press’s Morris DallaCosta had the right idea in writing an article prior to the game which suggested that even if Nicklas Lidstrom returns, the Red Wings need to consider making some significant changes to a transition year lineup that was supposed to sink or swim—and, from mid-February on, has sank like the Titanic, forgetting how to score while forgetting how to play defense.
I don’t know what to say. I genuinely love this team and care for its members, on the ice and off, as if they were an extended family. I went to a funeral today, a funeral of someone who was my physician for ten years, and on May 6th, it will mark 20 years since my dad died, suddenly and without warning, when I was 14…and whenever the Red Wings’ season ends, I go into a genuine grieving process. This is my team, this is my sport and my passion, and because of my health issues, to some extent, it’s ironic that following them is the one thing that I can actually do on a semi-consistent basis…
And I will continue to do so no matter what happens on Friday. I care too deeply for this team to abandon them, and, very frankly, I care too deeply about them to give up believing that they can rally in this series despite Pekka Rinne’s would-be dominance and despite the fact that the Wings’ confidence remains as paper-thin and pliable as it was during the team’s six-game losing streak in November and during February and March.
I think this team lost its identity somewhere along the way, lost its jam, its poise, confidence and swagger, and I think this team has ran into an organization that was hellbent upon building itself to defeat their self-made archrival this spring…
But at the same time, I think that while the Red Wings have worked very hard during a year in which the absences of Paul MacLean, Brad McCrimmon, the aforementioned Draper, Osgood and Rafalski, and, quite frankly, the leadership of Mike Modano and Ruslan Salei, all in an attempt to force-feed its youngsters starring roles…and it’s clear that that particular experiment has failed.
I suppose it goes without saying that it’s also painfully obvious that Johan Franzen (back), Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), Pavel Datsyuk (knee) and Danny Cleary (knee) aren’t at 100%, and given his ice time, it looked like Tomas Holmstrom’s hurt, too…
And do a Red Wings team that can’t seem to establish a forecheck direly and desperately miss the presences of Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves?
Hockey Jeebus, yes, but those injuries are partial explanations for the Wings’ struggles and not blanket excuses which absolve the team from responsibility for their actions—or inaction.
It’s hard to believe that the Wings will come back from a 3-1 deficit and pull a miraculous seven game-forcing comeback again this spring because I think they don’t have the horses and I think they don’t have the swagger necessary to defeat a team that’s getting both earned and unearned breaks—if you think that the goal that Howard gave up that was waved off was scary, so was David Legwand putting his hand on the puck in the crease during the second period, so that evened out…
And this team, for whatever reason, needs a jolt in the personnel department, in my opinion, as well as some ridiculously remedial lessons in shutting down their slot from passes to unaccompanied players sneaking in from the point or otherwise. They could start by watching game tape from tonight’s affair, where far too many of the Red Wings’ 41 shots on the net and 33 attempts fired wide of the net or into Predators players were single, unobstructed shots, perimeter shots or shots where Predators players “boxed out” Detroit’s players so very well that they couldn’t—or wouldn’t—find position on the inside to snag rebounds and generate secondary or tertiary scoring opportunities.
Should we believe in the highly improbable?
Sure, why not.
Should we continue to have faith in the Wings’ ability to rally, especially given tonight’s effort, puck luck and self-inflicted wounds aside?
Sure, why not.
But it certainly feels like we are not going to witness any more games at Joe Louis Arena until September, and that we’ll be witnessing the last hockey game of the season on Friday, and there is no reason to hide our doubts while remaining faithful to a team that hasn’t necessarily earned the benefits thereof.
In terms of the game’s narrative...
The Red Wings dominated faceoffs and played puck possession hockey to a tee in the first period, out-shooting Nashville 11-7 in the 1st while winning the faceoff battle 15-12.
In the second period, the Wings were even more dominant, possessing a total of a 31-21 faceoff advantage and out-shooting Nashville by a remarkable 17-3 margin.
But the Red Wings did not manage to dent Rinne, in no small part due to the fact that their four power plays over the game’s first 40 minutes were over-reliant on either point shots or attempts to force passes through seams in the Predators’ defense that weren’t there.
Instead, David Legwand’s grab and hold of the puck that went undetected in the 2nd period included, the Wings went into the 3rd period tied 0-0, and the Predators were nothing less than furious after this goal didn’t count:
And on the bump-up shift, it all went to sh*t. David Legwand won a faceoff against Todd Bertuzzi (Justin Abdelkader had been waved out) in the Wings’ zone, at the left dot, the Predators worked the cycle as Gabriel Bourque wrapped it around the back boards and Legwand headed back to the center point as the Predators activated their defenders to grind down Abdelkader, Bertuzzi and Drew Miller, Abdelkader was tied up by 2 Predators players along the side boards and as the Predators swept the puck around from the left goal line to right goal line, Alex Radulov took the puck and started skating toward the Wings’ net from the right-hand side, for some baffling reason, Abdelkader, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart all skated toward Radulov, and when Todd Bertuzzi tried to block Radulov’s centering pass to an open Bourque, the puck trickled right onto Bourque’s stick and he blasted a high hard shot over Jimmy Howard, who had no chance on the play.
1:55 into the 3rd period, the Wings were down 1-0.
The Red Wings soon received a power play thanks to a too-many men call against Nashville, and they gave their fans hope in short order.
Henrik Zetterberg won a faceoff at the Predators’ right faceoff dot, although he was tied up and the Predators attempted to clear the puck, Niklas Kronwall held it in, Kronwall and Kyle Quincey played catch, Jiri Hudler then gave and went with Quincey from the left wing half boards back and back, Quincey and Zetterberg made a similar exchange and Quincey and Kronwall played catch twice—while Hudler hustled to the front of the net—and Kronwall blasted a slap shot which Hudler tipped past Rinne.
3:14 into the 3rd period, the game was tied. The goal was reviewed because it went in and out off the back bar, but it counted.
Then the bottom fell out. Jimmy Howard played a dump-in to Jonathan Ericsson, he fired it into the Predators’ zone, Pekka Rinne played it out to center, and as the Nyquist-Emmerton-Holmstrom line changed, Kyle Quincey gave the puck to Nicklas Lidstrom, his dump-in was taken by Francis Bouillon and sent to Brandon Yip, but Lidstrom stole the puck and head-manned it to Henrik Zetterberg, who got in deep and tried to cycle with Valtteri Filppula, who put the puck off the side of the net, and after Jiri Hudler’s backhand shot went wide, Filppula retrieved it, battled Mike Fisher, tossed it to Zetterberg down low, and Jiri Hudler’s backhander went off the post…
Zetterberg was all but tackled by Mike Fisher, and as Martin Erat flew up the middle of the ice, for some reason, Nicklas Lidstrom, Ian White and I believe Valtteri Filppula all chased Erat as he stopped at the left wing half boards and pivoted toward the net, and wouldn’t you know it…Kevin Klein slid into the slot, Jimmy Howard stumbled while seeing Erat deke and Kevin Klein had an empty net to dump the puck into.
6:25 into the 3rd, with 11:35 left, the Wings were down 2-1.
The Red Wings then blew a power play given to them when Andrei Kostitsyn attempted to seek revenge upon Niklas Kronwall for a hard but clean hit on Sergei Kostitsyn taken at 7:15, the Wings blew another power play when Matt Halischuk was called for interference at 13:41—that’s with 11:45 left and 6:19 left, respectively—and as the clock ran down and the Wings’ rushes became more desperate, the Predators had an easier and easier time stifling the Wings’ transition game, establishing their forecheck to hem the Wings in their own zone and block passes throughout the offensive zone, and after the Wings unsuccessfully called a timeout and pulled their goalie with a minute and a half left, wouldn’t you know it?
Henrik Zetterberg accidentally high-sticked Shea Weber at 19:04, or with 56 seconds left. Off the ensuing faceoff, which Valtteri Filppula won to Brad Stuart, Stuart couldn’t clear it, Erat and the Predators started to cycle in the Wings’ zone to the left of the net, and when Kyle Quincey pulled it out of the pile and gave it to Danny Cleary, Cleary tried to carry the puck up the ice just to the left of Jimmy Howard, almost bumping Howard as he skated up along the border of the crease, and David Legwand rather elegantly poked the puck off Cleary’s stick and allowed it to hit the back of the net as Howard could not get out to block a shot he didn’t see coming.
At 19:21, with 49 seconds left, the game was over.
So the Red Wings played a fantastic hockey game but couldn’t or wouldn’t beat Rinne because of the kind of detail plays that a team with more confidence would bury, as well as poor puck luck, and then it self-destructed.
I hope and will pray to the hockey gods that this team can find itself again, but I have to admit that my faith in them is marred by my belief that the team lost its identity when they encountered a spate of injuries to their leaders in Datsyuk and Lidstrom in late February, and I believe that a team that had to telegraph its trade deadline 1st rounder to bring in Brad Stuart’s successor simply can’t or won’t stack up against a team that added a Kostitsyn and Gaustad legally and Radulov by dubious but rule-abiding means.
The Wings can’t seem to match the Predators’ depth, speed, and especially their scoring, never mind their defensive play. I do not believe, however, that Pekka Rinne is nearly as invincible as the Predators’ defense and the Red Wings have made him out to be, and while he is an elite, elite netminder, he can be beaten.
It’s too bad that, for whatever reason, the Wings can’t. Or won’t. Because I don’t want to have to start my Nicklas Lidstrom/Tomas Holmstrom retirement watch on Saturday, hear the Wings’ comments about the off-season and read inevitable trickle-off of Wings articles over the course of next week, and then hope for Lidstrom’s return and a Lady Byng at the Awards, an Entry Draft haul and of course an attempt to attend the Wings’ development camp in July before knowing that I might not see this team skate again to, health abiding, September in Traverse City.
Please, Wings, give us a reason to believe, and give us some bonus hockey, because Red Wings nation still believes in you. We’re just kinda confused as to why you don’t seem to believe in yourselves…
And as Darren Eliot’s suggesting on FSD right now, man, the Brian Rafalski-less Wings can’t seem to get through the neutral zone with speed, and I’m starting to wonder, as I am a recovering pessimist, whether the Wings’ Cup hopes for the 2010-2011 season ended when #28 retired early and Ehrhoff and Wisniewski went elsewhere.
If the Wings do lose, by goodness, do they need another elite puck-mover, Lidstrom returning included, and do they ever need another goal-scorer. But for now they need faith in themselves and the self-belief to execute on Friday…And we need to have some faith in ‘em, too.
Shots 41-17 Detroit. Detroit out-shot Nashville 11-7 in the 1st period, 17-3 in the 2nd period and 13-7 in the 3rd period.
The Wings’ power play went 1 for 7 in 9:52 of PP time; the Predators’ power play went 1 for 3 in 1:39 of PP time (the PP times were low because of several 4-on-4’s due to intermeshing penalties).
Pekka Rinne stopped 40 of 41 shots; Jimmy Howard stopped 14 of 17.
The 3 stars, per the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, were Kyle Quincey, Kevin Klein and Pekka Rinne.
The Wings’ goal: Jiri Hudler (1) from Niklas Kronwall (2) and Kyle Quincey (2), PPG.
Faceoffs 45-33 Detroit (Detroit won 58%);
Blocked shots 16-8 Nashville;
Missed shots 17-4 Detroit (that’s a total of 74 shot attempts for Detroit and 29 for Nashville);
Hits 28-20 Detroit;
Giveaways 10-6 Detroit;
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 20-and-8 (71%); Zetterberg went 11-and-8 (58%); Abdelkader went 7-and-6 (54%); Filppula went 6-and-4 (60%); Emmerton went 0-and-5 (0%); Bertuzzi won his only faceoff; Cleary and Miller lost their only faceoffs.
Shots: Lidstrom led the team with 6 shots; Zetterberg had 5; Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Quincey had 4; Cleary, Bertuzzi and Filppula had 3; Franzen and Holmstrom had 2; Miller, Stuart, Hudler, Emmerton and Kronwall had 1.
Blocked attempts: Lidstrom and Kronwall fired 4 shots into Predators players; White and Bertuzzi had 2 attempts blocked; Miller, Hudler, Quincey and Filppula had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Quincey and Zetterberg missed the net 3 times; White, Hudler, Kronwall, Franzen and Holmstrom missed the net 2 times; Datsyuk missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Cleary led the team with 6 hits; Abdelkader had 3; White, Quincey, Ericsson, Kronwall, Franzen and Holmstrom had 2; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Nyquist, Stuart, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Emmerton had 1.
Giveaways: Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Ericsson had 2 giveaways; Lidstrom, White, Hudler and Filppula had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Zetterberg had 2 takeaways; Lidstrom, Cleary, White, Hudler and Filppula had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 3 shots; Lidstrom, Nyquist, White, Miller and Quincey blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Bertuzzi took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Red Wings finished at a collective -10. Lidstrom, Abdelkader, White, Miller, Stuart, Hudler, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Kronwall finished at -1.
Points: Hudler had a goal; Quincey and Kronwall had assists.
Ice time: Lidstrom led the team with 25:47 played; Zetterberg played 23:42; Datsyuk played 21:47;
White played 21:35; Filppula played 20:19; Hudler played 20:10;
Quincey played 19:53; Kronwall played 19:42; Franzen played 18:33;
Ericsson played 17:14; Stuart played 15:49; Cleary played 15:05;
Bertuzzi played 12:11; Abdelkader played 11:58; Miller played 11:04;
Holmstrom played 10:40; Nyquist played 6:06; Emmerton played 4:50.
Update: The highlights are narrated by NBC Sports’ Dave Strader…
Here’s Mike Babcock’s post-game presser as well:
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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.