The Malik Report
Red Wings-Maple Leafs pre-season set-up and overnight report: can the Wings defeat the hype machine?
The Red Wings' 2-and-4 preseason record may not "matter," despite the worries certain members of the media and certain bloggers have voiced about the team's 0-and-3 record at home and status as being out-scored 11-4 over those three games. The Wings insist that they'll get themselves sorted out by the Wednesday's home opener.
During a normal 82-game season, their annual end-of-exhibition home-and-home series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, which take place tonight and tomorrow (tonight's game is only on Leafs TV and it starts at 7:30 PM EDT, and Henrik Zetterberg's smoke detector collection continues this evening; tomorrow's game airs on Hockey Night in Canada and the NHL Network U.S. at 7 PM EDT, on the same night as the Hockeytown BrewHaHa and the Grand Rapids Griffins' exhibition game in Plymouth), serve as icing on the preseason cake, a reminder of a rivalry lost when the Leafs moved East.
As you and I know, this isn't a "normal" season.
The Red Wings' performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins and their 0-and-3 record at home (as well as the fact that they've been out-scored 11-4 during those three games) have me worried, and the Free Press's Helene St. James noted that the Wings' preseason has been pretty bloody mediocre overall.
The Wings and their coach spent Thursday's practice suggesting that the team would "sort things out," and with a pair of new recalls in tow (Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening), MLive's Ansar Khan noted that the Wings fully believe that they'll play much, much better in this weekend's home-and-home series against Toronto, with the team's offense kicking into gear once the players stop worrying so much about their positioning...
As Ruslan Salei of all people told me, hockey players understand that dealing with the media is part of their job, and as professional athletes, the have to accept a certain level of scrutiny in terms of both what they do on the ice and what they say when cameras and digital sound recorders are pointed at them...
But the presence o HBO's 24/7 cameras at Thursday's practice had me wondering how the Wings and their occasionally prickly coach will adapt to spending all of December followed around by an "embedded" crew, and especially given how much access Fox Sports Detroit's crew was given during the prospect tournament, with bench, on-ice and locker room access, I've been wondering how the Wings' players will adjust to a more invasive environment in which they'll be followed home by filmmakers hoping to "reveal unseen" aspects of their personalities.
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted that coach Babcock, who is loath to share his coaching secrets, isn't exactly delighted by the concept of accommodating the crews, but he'll do his best to accept the price of Winter Classic admission...
Updated 6x at 4:17 PM:The Wings recalled Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening and demoted Riley Sheahan and Teemu Pulkkinen: The Red Wings received some good news at practice, as previously noted...
And they entertained visitors as well...
I'm not thrilled with the Red Wings' collective or individual performances during their exhibition season, and while I can only scratch my head about the fact that the Wings continue to accumulate injuries (see: Jakub Kindl, Daniel Alfredsson, Jordin Tootoo, Jonas Gustavsson, Patrick Eaves, Jonathan Ericsson,etc.) at a worrisome pace, I'm glad to see the Free Press's Helene St. James suggest that the team's performances thus far are indeed worrisome:
The most jarring stat that has emerged so far is how problematic it has been for the Wings to score. They have 16 goals — the same amount they've allowed. But eight of those goals came in one game, that night in Boston when Detroit brought Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Howard, and the Bruins iced much less caliber. Eight goals divided by five games equals a scoring average that's not going to make hay later this fall.
from Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,
The Penguins and Red Wings never have had a rivalry — they just happened to have great teams that produced two consecutive classic series in 2008 and 2009 — but, because of realignment, one finally might develop. They will meet three times every regular season, including twice at Joe Louis Arena this season.
Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard didn't dress during those Stanley Cup Final meetings but was the Red Wings' third goalie. He is convinced one of the great rivalries in hockey is about to be born.
“It's going to be special,” he said. “When I look at our schedule, the first thing I do is look for the Original Six matchups. And the very next thing I do is look for Pittsburgh. And I circle them. It just always feels so heated when we play each other. You can feel the tension that still is there because of those series.”
No players embody that more than Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. In those consecutive meetings in the Stanley Cup Final, Crosby and Zetterberg almost exclusively shared shifts. Zetterberg held Crosby in check, sacrificing his offense because of the exhaustion he felt from chasing Crosby.
The Detroit Red Wings' 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins marked the Wings' third consecutive home loss--the team's been out-scored 11-4 over the course of losses to Boston, Chicago and now Pittsburgh, all in front of fans paying regular-season prices to witness incredibly uninspired and unfocused efforts--and while the Wings' immediate concern involves Justin Abdelkader's injured left index finger, which required stitches after a scrap with Robert Bortuzzo...
Detroit has two more exhibition games left, in the form of a home-and-home series with Toronto on Friday (in Detroit, no local TV) and Saturday (in Toronto, on Hockey Night in Canada, and the Griffins are holding an exhibition game in Plymouth the same evening), and the fact that the Red Wings have looked so very, very lost when Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl of all people haven't played, well, it doesn't speak well to the concept that the team's improved its depth to the point that it will need something more than a top-heavy effort to succeed in the stacked Atlantic Division.
The Red Wings' "C Team" put forth a worrisome effort in a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night, and DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose notes that a needless fight between Justin Abdelkader and Robert Bortuzzo may have left some lasting damage:
Justin Abdelkader was injured during a fight with Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo late in the game. According to the team, the Wings' forward needed stitches to close a laceration to his left hand. More should be known Thursday about Abdelkader's prognosis.
“I haven’t been back to the medical room to see how many casualties we have,” Babcock said. “It seems like every game we’re losing someone so we’ve got to get healthy.”
Updated 7x at 10:56 PM: The Red Wings' 5-1 loss to the Pittsbugh Penguins was, to some extent, a case of personnel--the Penguins iced an NHL roster and the Wings were playing minus Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Kronwall, Ericsson, Alfredsson, Kindl, Howard, etc.--and, to some extent, a case of a very green lineup proving what Johan Franzen told Ken Daniels, Mickey Redmond and Chris Osgood during the second intermission: when you don't touch the puck, you're not going to play very well.
The Wings have played in 3 home exhibition games in front of half-full crowds, on average, and they've played decidedly below-average in front of people paying regular-season prices to watch three very poor efforts against Boston, Chicago and now Pittsburgh.
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.