The Malik Report
The Detroit Red Wings’ 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday night offers something of a sports paradox: while the Red Wings played smart hockey, controling the puck and the pace of play for extended periods of time, and while the Wings spent most of the night in the Predators’ zone, firing 40 shots at Pekka Rinne, they didn’t play efficient hockey.
A team embarking upon a stretch of five games over the course of eight nights indulged in the bad habits which began to surface during their 4-1 win over Pittsburgh, happily trading line rushes with a Predators team which wound the Wings’ defenders around their puck carriers like a rope before pouncing upon the Wings’ tendency to chase said players, firing passes to terribly open players who found themselves staring down Jimmy Howard all alone, registering scoring chances and rebound goals (which Howard received no help on) as a result, or finding ways to clog Howard’s vision but elude Wings’ defenders bodies and sticks while firing long bombs from the point.
The Detroit Red Wings let ‘em up off the mat, plain and simple. Absolutely dominating in terms of shots, puck possession, intensity and effort, the Red Wings were all too willing, all game long, to indulge the Nashville Predators’ cycle, and it bit Detroit to the expense of two points, losing 4-3 to Nashville in what was just a weird game.
Shea Weber’s screened shot on the Wings’ only penalty tied the game thanks to a screen and a half and his gamer…Just bounced badly against a Jimmy Howard who barely faced pucks but had to work his ass off to stop the ones he did (and the Legwand shot he didn’t), mostly because the players in front of him were getting away with shooting but not scoring on their opponent, and felt it necessary to chase around the Predators’ rambunctious forwards.
MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the Red Wings visited with one Brendan Shanahan, former teammate of about a third of the Wings, to talk about something that doesn’t involve reminiscing old times:
The Detroit Red Wings are probably the last team Brendan Shanahan has to concern himself with when it comes to disciplinary matters, since they usually have the fewest fighting majors and are among the league’s least-penalized teams every year.
But Shanahan, the NHL’s first-year vice president of player safety, spoke with the Red Wings Wednesday night at their hotel in Nashville. He is making the rounds to all 30 teams, discussing in detail what separates a legal hit from an illegal one. He is showing video and answering questions.
Updated 5x at 7:16 PM with major praise for Jimmy: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Nashville Predators tonight (8 PMEST, FSD/FS Tennesee/WXYT), MLive’s Ansar Khan wondered on Twitter whether Jiri Hudler might be the reason that the Wings recalled Tomas Tatar from the Griffins, but Wings coach Mike Babcock told Khan that it appears that Chris Conner (broken hand) is the only Wing who can’t play tonight:
“I think everybody’s on deck. we’ll see at game time but we got Tatar here in case we don’t have everyone on deck,’’ Babcock said.
Jiri Hudler spent extra time stretching before the skate and was talking to Babcock and the trainers as he was leaving the ice. He did practice, however, on his regular line:
Updated 2x at 12:13 PM: Minus at least the services of Chris Conner and possibly another player, the Detroit Red Wings flew to Nashville on Wednesday afternoon to prepare for tonight’s game against the Predators (8 PM EST, FSD/WXYT/FS Tennessee) with a “four-point game” in the offing.
The Predators sit five points behind the Wings in the Western Conference standings, but have won five of the eight games they’ve played since the teams last tangled the Saturday after Thanksgiving (the Wings won that game 4-1), and the Predators come into tonight’s game having won 3 straight games, including a 2-1 victory over Calgary.
The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper reports that Nashville’s players spent Wednesday meeting with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, but as they’ve been battling the injury bug that’s making its presence known in Detroit, Cooper says that the biggest development heading into tonight’s game is a simple one:
Updated 3x at 11:52 AM: Oh, swell. According to MLive’s Ansar Khan (Update: and DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose), the Red Wings’ most promising performer of late has suffered a broken hand, and he’s not the only banged-up Wing going into tonight’s game against Nashville (8 PM EST, FSD/FST/WXYT):
Detroit Red Wings forward Chris Conner is expected to be out for two weeks with a hand injury, general manager Ken Holland said today. Holland said Conner has a slight fracture, sustained in Tuesday’s 4-1 win at Pittsburgh. He will be placed on short-term injured reserve.
The Red Wings recalled forward Tomas Tatar from the Grand Rapids Griffins for precautionary reasons. Holland said another player, whom he would not identify, has a minor injury and might not be able to play tonight at Nashville (8 p.m., Fox Sports Net Detroit).
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.
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.