The Malik Report
Incidentally, no Wings practice today. They’re getting some unexpected days off because of this tough stretch of road games (14 of 19).
This is where the Wings’ status as a self-regulating team will, at least in theory, earn them some much-needed rest as they attempt to play 9 games over the rest of December (17 days; if you take out the Christmas break from December 23-25 the Wings play 9 over the course of 14 nights) and basically play on an every-other-night basis until the All-Star break.
The Wings definitely earned a day off via their 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Tuesday, and we turn back to Khan for a profile of a player who’s got Wings fans thinking, “Geez, what the hell does the team do when Jan Mursak and Patrick Eaves get healthy?” in mighty mite Chris Conner.
The difference between, “Yeah, but…” and, “Yes, because…” The Detroit Red Wings’ 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins involved perhaps the first appearance of road-worthy grit from the Red Wings as well as a few fortunate bounces—in the form of two goalposts hit by Evgeni Malkin, a diving save by Jimmy Howard anda gloved-down keep-in by Pavel Datsyuk which swiftly found its way into the back of the Penguins’ net—which one might argue either allowed the Wings to come away with an incredibly lucky or well-earned win.
Most certainly, one cannot deny that the Penguins were banged-up, missing Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang Richard Park and Zbynek Michalek, but given that the injury bug was the Wings’ steady dance partner for the better part of the last two seasons, and given that Evgeni Malkin (who had nine shots in addition to his goalpost) and Jordan Staal’s game-time decisions involved playing, Wings fans might find themselves absent of sympathy for the Penguins not playing at full strength.
The Detroit Red Wings may as well have been playing the Pittsburgh Penguins in April given the sandpapery grit and grind, vicious intensity, immense attention paid to detail by both teams and nothing less than a grudge match’s worth of effort as lines neutralized their opponents and, for a while, anyway, it looked like the game would only showcase Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk’s talents.
The Wings emerged with a 4-1 victory because Datsyuk played that much better with his linemates than Malkin, taking a lovely pass from Todd Bertuzzi to score his own goal and then handing Johan Franzen a goal of his own, because Jimmy Howard battled like nobody’s business to assuage for leaning too far to the left on Malkin’s almost-last-second goal in the first, and because the Wings finally played what was at times an ugly, mean and nasty road game with a leopard’s worth of spots of high-energy, high-speed puck possession hockey decorating a base coat of red and white work ethic.
The Wings selflessly blocked shots and passes with their bodies, absorbed bodychecks for the sake of getting the puck out of trouble, they flailed and dove to help out their goaltender, and of course, Howard made some fantastic saves, including this amazing seeing-eye glove save…
Okay dokey, so the Red Wings-Penguins game-day update post
fell off the front page, SI’s Darren Eliot added his two cents to the whole, “Why exactly is Jimmy Howard not on the All-Star Ballot?” issue and we’ve found out that the Wings and Penguins might dislike each other, but they sure as hell respect each other. As such (and because a certain blogger succumbed to the lure of a pre-game nap), here are a few close to puck drop links, starting with more Wings praise for the Penguins via PittsburghPenguins.com’s Michelle Crechiolo...
Niklas Kronwall On the Pens still being a tough challenge through all the injuries: Absolutely. I think they showed it pretty good last year, that even though they had their two big guys out they went on to have a hell of a season. They kind of ran out of gas there at the end, but it’s pretty impressive what they did last year. This year again, even without Crosby, Malkin’s been carrying some of the load but at the same time, all the other guys have stepped up and taken more of a leadership role. Guys like (Kris) Letang, (Tyler) Kennedy, (Jordan) Staal and those guys, they just keep getting better and better.
Updated with a take on the issue from SI’s Darren Eliot at 5:56 PM: Attention Red Wings fans: If you wish to vote your favorite Wings into the starting lineup of the NHL’s All-Star game, there’s good news: the NHL’s latest updates in their fan balloting place Nickals Lidstrom in fourth place among defensemen’s votes (about 115,000 short of Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson) and Jimmy Howard in eighth place among goaltenders, way up from where he was prior to WRIF’s Meltdown’s campaign [edit: following those started by Winging it in Motown and Nightmare on Helm Street /end edit] to rock the Howard vote. Keep the votes coming!
Update: SI’s Darren Eliot talked about Howard’s status as a ballot snub this afternoon:
Still, while far be it for me to say that any of the goaltending brethren don’t belong on the ballot, Jimmy Howard’s exclusion raises the debate. I mean, Howard leads the NHL in wins, ranks second in goalsagainst and has been the most consistent of all starters thus far. And unlike Brian Elliott and his otherworldly season to date, this is Howard’s third consecutive season posting big numbers for Detroit. In St. Louis, the thought was that Elliott, hopefully, could back up Jaroslav Halak who, by the way, is on the All-Star ballot. Which is kind of the point. Nothing against Halak, but he isn’t even the top performer on his team. His last two seasons as a starter didn’t yield 30 wins, or playoff appearances. Meanwhile, Howard has two-straight 37-win campaigns on which he is building.
Updated 9x with tons of Wings game-day commentary and some Griffins injury updates at 2:23 PM: The Detroit Red Wings face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight (7:00 PM EST—not 7:30, sorry—FSD/WXYT/ROOT), the WIngs find themselves in a slightly strange position, having hoped to get back to .500 on the road by tangling with a Penguins team at full strength, and that’s what they discussed with MLive’s Ansar Khan yesterday afternoon, but they also readily admitted that the injury-plagued Penguins (no Zbynek Michalek, no Kris Letang, no Crosby, no Ben Lovejoy, no no Richard Park, etc.) provide an opportunity to kick a bitter rival while they’re down:
“Obviously, we’d like Sid to be playing. As a league, you want him to be playing,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “When you’re playing another team, you want their best goalie, you want their best players. You want to find out if you’re any good or not. In saying that, you also want points.”
With or without Crosby, the Wings know that Dan Bylsma always has his Penguins in a row…
“They have great structure,” Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “The coach (Grand Haven native Dan Bylsma) has done a great job making sure everyone is on the same page. They don’t live or die with one guy. Last year when you look at what they did, it’s pretty remarkable, being able to play that well without (Crosby and Malkin for much of the season). Guys like (Jordan) Staal (who’s questionable with a lower-body injury), (Chris) Kunitz and (Tyler) Kennedy really stepped it up, reached another level.”
The Detroit Red Wings begin a stretch of six games—and five on the road—over the course of ten nights tonight in Pittsburgh (7:30 PM EST, FSD/WXYT/Root) knowing that they won’t face one Sidney Crosby. The Red Wings repeatedly stated on Monday that they would much rather face a Penguins team with Crosby in the lineup, but as the Wings also pointed out, given their 6-and-7 road record and the fact that the 2011 portion of their schedule will conclude with a total of eight road games and three home games, the team plans on righting itself away from Joe Louis Arena while attempting to earn a win over a still-hated rival this evening.
If you feel like reading the Penguins’ website’s Crosby news, a pair of columns from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, one from the Post-Gazette or two columns which paint Crosby’s lingering concussion problems as a sort of international hockey tragedy and/or tragic passion play involving the game’s savior, rock on with your bad self. All I’ll say about Crosby is this: as someone who’s suffered from a concussion and half a year’s worth of post-concussion syndrome myself, I actually hope that he recovers and I really do hope that I dislike the guy for being a very good player instead of somebody still sidelined by something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, #87 included.
Red Wings player mentor and USA Hockey legend Chris Chelios joined the ranks of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame (at a ceremony held in Chicago) on Monday night, and he did so in classic Chelios fashion—with equal amounts of genuine and incredible humility and an almost gleeful willingness to admit that his unbridled passion for the game included a viciously competitive nature which led him to almost asphyxiate one of his fellow inductees. Here’s the gist of his induction speech, via the Associated Press...
“I’ve been surrounded by great players my whole career,” Chelios said during the induction ceremony Monday night. “But the most enjoyment I ever had was seeing the enjoyment of my friends and family when I played. I hope I entertained you,” Chelios said. “I couldn’t skate any more. I had to hang ‘em up.”
Chelios was one of five American hockey notables inducted Monday. He was joined by fellow defenseman Gary Suter, with whom he played at the University of Wisconsin and with the Chicago Blackhawks, forward Keith Tkachuk, Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider and broadcaster Mike Emrick. Chelios, a three-time Norris Trophy winner who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Evergreen Park, said his greatest moment in the game, aside from winning the Stanley Cup for the first of three times, was taking the ice to play for the gold medal in the 1992 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“You wanted to win the gold medal, but there was no disappointment (when Canada won),” Chelios said. “It was the best hockey I’ve ever been involved in.”
When Tkachuk once tangled with Chelios as an enemy of the Chicago Blackhawks, however, well…Here’s what Tkachuk told NHL.com’s Brian Hedger:
You know how, every once in a while, someone makes an incredibly astute observation and then chooses to continue speaking, sticking his or her foot in their mouth in the process? Edmonton Oilers defenseman Andy Sutton, who just happens to find himself suspended for eight games, told the Edmonton Sun’s Derek Van Diest that he feels players must be allowed to appeal their suspensions, lest NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan turns into the same sort of wheel-of-justice-spinning totalitarian as his predecessor, Colin Campbell…
“There absolutely should be (an appeal process),” Sutton said. “My only course of action is that I can appeal to Gary Bettman. That’s not going to change anything. Going forward in the new CBA we have to make strides in that regard. We should have an impartial arbitration committee that’s going to take a look at this have my people on my side, have the NHL on their side and have an independent party that’s going to make these decisions. It’s not just one guy making all these decisions.”
Sutton was allowed to state his case on both occasions with Shanahan. The first time he travelled to New York to meet in person. In regards to the Ponikarovsky hit, Sutton spoke his piece over the phone. Had Sutton believed he could have swayed Shanahan’s opinion, the six-foot-six, 245-pound defenceman would have probably made the trip. However, he’s in a growing group of people around the game that is frustrated with the process.
“It’s a big hot-button issue for the NHLPA going into the next negotiation, it has to be,” Sutton said. “You can’t have it set up when it’s just Shanahan’s decision and then your only course of action is to go to his boss [Gary Bettman—George’s note], who has never played a game of hockey in his life. How is that a good setup? It’s not. It’s a flawed process, and it needs to be changed. You can’t just go around taking people’s money.”
That being said, Sutton doesn’t seem to be all that remorseful about the hits which led to his suspensions, and instead, he’s tossing out the, “It’s the player I hit who’s at fault if he doesn’t keep his head up” theory:
Updated 4x at 7:10 PM: The Detroit Red Wings boarded Red Bird III to fly to Pittsburgh and begin a brutal stretch of six games over the course of ten nights by playing the hated Pittsburgh Penguins knowing that they would not face off against the NHL’s most famous player dealing with concussion issues, and, as Jimmy Howard told MLive’s Ansar Khan, the Wings would much rather defeat the Penguins with Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal in their lineup:
“You want him playing,’’ Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “He’s one of the best in the game. He’s great for our sport. It hurts us when he’s not playing. With that being said, they’re still dangerous. (James) Neal is playing real well as is (Evgeni) Malkin.’‘
The Penguins beat the Red Wings twice last season without Crosby, 4-1 in Pittsburgh on Jan. 18 and 5-4 in a shootout in Detroit on March 21. The last time the Red Wings beat Pittsburgh also was the last time they faced Crosby, in a 3-1 win at Joe Louis Arena on March 22, 2010. That’s the game that ended in a scuffle behind the Detroit net. Crosby started slashing Henrik Zetterberg as time expired. Howard too exception and roughed it up with him, giving Crosby quite the face wash.
“That was so two years ago,’’ Howard said, laughing.
Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and coach Mike Babcock seconded Howard’s remarks while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
About The Malik Report
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.