The Malik Report
Updated 4x at 6;34 PM: The Detroit Red Wings may not have earned their day off after dropping a 5-1 decision to the New York Islanders, but the Wings’ physical and mental fatigue was incredibly apparent in their plain old doofy play as they wrapped up a slate of 14 of 19 games on the road, three games in four nights and continued to play a slate of 11 January games over 19 pre-All-Star break nights.
Updated 5x at 7:13 PM: While the Wings were in New York, the Sporting News’s Jesse Spector both spoke to Jimmy Howard about his evolution into an elite netminder and pondered the team’s status as an effective team despite playing the antithesis of Big Bad Bruins hockey:
In 42 games, the Red Wings have been assessed 42 minor penalties and six majors—all for fighting, the lowest total of scraps in the league. Detroit has not had a single misconduct penalty, as opposed to the NHL-high 10 each called against the two teams that are trying to make back-to-back Finals appearances.
“I wish we were the biggest, toughest, ugliest team in organized hockey. That’s not how we’re built, so you coach what you got. How’s that? No pride in that!” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said on Tuesday, drawing a laugh. “No, I take pride in the fact that we’re real disciplined. … We’re just built a different way, and you’ve got to win in your own way. Team toughness for us, toughness is how hard we are on the puck, and how we pursue it, how we keep coming. It’s got nothing to do with fighting and stoppages.”
The Detroit Red Wings skated into what was a potentially dangerous game against the New York Islanders saying all the right things about continuing to right their road record, get “started on time” and not surrender multiple-goal leads before showing up to play, but instead of following through on their plan, the Pavel Datsyuk-less Wings headed back to Detroit with a serious case of the “January Blahs,” to the point that their coach canceled practice for the following day, hoping that his charges won’t drag their asses as badly on Thursday as they did while surrendering a 4-0 lead and eventually dropping a 5-1 decision to the New York Islanders.
Amidst a stretch of time in which the Wings are playing 11 games over the course of 19 nights, and came into tonight’s game playing three over their past four, only the Islanders seemed to understand that the Wings’ levels of mental and physical fatigue could be exploited, as John Tavares told NewYorkIslanders.com’s Cory Wright:
“We know we have to raise our game and play at our best to compete with them,” John Tavares said. “We played them hard, we knew they were playing their third in four nights and tried to jump on them and hopefully wear them out.”
The Detroit Red Wings had the excuses lined up before tonight’s 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders, whose pedigree is apparently greater than that of the playoff-bound Maple Leafs and Blackhawks because they can withstand Detroit’s attempts to rally from multiple-goal deficits without blinking an eyelash.
The Fathers’ Trip was over. The Wings were coming off the emotional high of beating the Hawks 3-2 in overtime on Sunday. It was the last game of a very disjointed road trip, after no practice on Monday. Pavel Datsyuk was absent due to a groin injury and Mike Commodore was, according to Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels, “Too sore” to so much as go over the boards once. And as I suggested on Tuesday morning, the Wings very regularly tend to play down to the level which they perceive their opponents to play at, and when Detroit’s facing the third-worst team in the NHL…
The Wings sure as hell played like the league’s third-worst team—and they had to suffer the indignity of having a timeout called against them with 22 seconds left in a 5-1 game, too.
Updated 10 frickin’ times at 5:48 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the New York Islanders tonight (7 PM EST, FSD+/MSG Plus/WXYT), the Islanders’ website’s Twitter account reports that a player who was a Red Wing for a very, very short period of time will face his “former teammates” tonight…
[Evgeni] Nabokov gets his ninth-straight start in goal tonight for the #isles.
No lineup changes for the #isles forwards and D. [Kevin] Poulin will backup Nabokov
And MLive’s Ansar Khan offers some worrisome news from the Wings’ morning skate:
Datsyuk not skating in long island at morning skate
If you happen to believe that the Detroit Red Wings tend to raise and lower their level of play to their perceptions of their opponent (see: the Wings’ first two games against St. Louis as an example), tonight’s game against the New York Islanders (7 PM EST, FSD+/MSG Plus/WXYT) is the kind of game that might incite a wee bit of worry, especially given the potential emotional letdown the Wings may display after concluding their Fathers’ Trip with a 3-2 overtime win over Chicago on Sunday.
The Islanders remain the Islanders: they sit in last place in the Eastern Conference and are only ahead of the Blue Jackets and Ducks in terms of points; while they’ve split their last ten games, they’re coming off consecutive losses to the aforementioned Ducks and Coyotes in those cities; and instead of utilizing Wing for-a-day Evgeni Nabokov against the Wings, the Islanders recalled 21-year-old goalie Kevin Poulin, who has all of 11 NHL games under his belt, and will start him tonight.
The Detroit Red Wings flew to Long Island on Monday afternoon to wrap up their (technically speaking) four-game road trip against the Islanders, who, via the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff and Newsday’s Arthur Staple, will probably start Kevin Poulin, not Evgeni Nabokov, against Detroit on Tuesday. Tomorrow’s game marks the Wings’ 42nd, and as DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose notes, the Wings begin the second half of their regular season schedule miles removed from the team that lost six straight games in November:
Since losing a sixth straight on Nov. 3, Detroit has had an incredible resurgence, posting a 21-9-0 mark and ascending to the second-best record in the Western Conference, just two-points behind front-running Vancouver. For the sixth time in the Mike Babcock era, the Wings have compiled 53-points, or more, in the first half of a season. The only time the Wings didn’t meet that first-half points standard was 2009-10 – the only time they finished out of first-place in the division in 11 seasons.
We’ve talked quite a bit about the realignment issue as discussed by the Red Wings’ players and management in measured, reasoned tones, with both sides offering rational arguments as to why the NHL’s plan should or should not have been adopted by a “drop dead” date of January 6th without all the players’ concerns about increased travel and unbalanced conferences yielding playoff disparities addressed.
The CBC’s Elliotte Friedman revealed that Niklas Kronwall and the Red Wings’ PA members actually voted to go ahead with the plan, and, again, both sides offered very understandable and general BS-free comments about the contentious issue.
Today, however, the gentlemen who posted one press release which sounded like somebody made Geoffrey Fieger very angry, and another which dispassionately but thoroughly explained why the people taking the blame for this issue chose the “nuclear option,” with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, respectively, speaking to The Fan 590 about realignment.
Updated 6x with a must-read article about Igor Larionov and a question about Larry Murphy’s daughter at 3:03 PM: The Detroit Red Wings received Monday off to say goodbye to their fathers after their 3-2 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, but one Red Wing, Chris Conner, is instead saying goodbye to his parents in Westland and heading down to Grand Rapids for more playing time (as Jan Mursak’s about to come off the injured reserve list). Here’s the Griffins’ press release confirming Conner’s demotion:
The Detroit Red Wings on Monday assigned right wing Chris Conner to the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Conner, 28, was the Griffins’ leading scorer when he was originally recalled to Detroit on Dec. 1, with 23 points (7-16—23) in 20 games. He was assigned to Grand Rapids on Jan. 2 but was recalled last Wednesday before seeing any game action. The Livonia, Mich., native has skated in seven games with the Red Wings this season, registering one goal, two assists and a plus-two rating.
As MLive’s Ansar Khan suggests, The Wings’ roster crunch means Conner’s best served by earning regular playing time in the AHL:
The Detroit Red Wings earned a measure of redemption for two nights’ worth of self-inflicted wounds, to the tune of a pair of 2-0 deficits and two penalty shots called against the Wings in their loss to Toronto and Sunday night’s Fathers’ Trip finale, but the Wings team that shook off its poor start in Chicago was more willing to get its hands dirty in out-grinding and out-hustling their opponent, allowing them to earn a gritty 3-2 overtime win which had NBC Sports’ broadcasters steaming, or at least one Chicago Blackhawks employee named Eddie Olczyk…
And you know how there are occasions when Mickey Redmond’s bombast perfectly predicts the temperature and/or level of sarcastic snark we Wings fans are going to hear from coach Mike Babcock and his charges? Let’s just say that Mr. Olczyk’s temperament was equally indicative of a Blackhawks team which believed that the Red Wings very literally won dirtily, accusing the Wings of both intentionally injuring Patrick Sharp(the unspoken insinuation is that Pavel Datsyuk slashed Sharp above his left wrist before he scored the 2-0 goal) and receiving unearned favor from the referees on the plays which resulted in all three Wings goals, the Holmstrom-inflicted penalty shot, and more.
Dear Gord, that was bizarre. The Detroit Red Wings’ 3-2 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks, if we are to believe the NBC Sports network, was the result of nothing more than multiple un-called penalties to Tomas Holmstrom on the 2-1 goal, a penalty shot that may or may not have been a puck in the net by Chicago as Holmstrom was, bafflingly, the the last man back among Jonathan Ericsson and Mike Commodore, a hack by Valtteri Filppula on a Blackhawks defenseman on the game-tying goal, and, clearly a too-many men call during overtime which did not result in a clear penalty.
Sure, it’s gonna be interesting to hear the Hawks suggest that they were robbed, but I’m absolutely stunned that the Wings, who surrendered their third penalty shot opportunity over their last four games, did not earn a power play after the first period, fired almost as many shots wide or into Hawks players (26) as they took on Corey Crawford (27) and, once again, were turnover machines who made Ty Conklin…More or less extinguish any questions as to whether he’s good enough to back up Jimmy Howard, a very weak pair of early goals against included.
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.