The Malik Report
The Detroit Red Wings face a stiff task in attempting to derail the 12-4-and-2 Montreal Canadiens' 5-game winning streak this evening (7 PM EST on FSD/City TV/RDS/97.1 FM), and I guess there's nothing like a morning skate for an 8-3-and-5 team like having a slight heart attack, per the Detroit News's Chris McCosky:
Kronwall not on the ice for Wings morning skate
Kronwall has arrived on the ice. Better late than not at all
The Habs' press is definitely in town, too: the Montreal Gazette's Dave Stubbs confirmed tonight's starter...
Those asking: look for Dustin Tokarski in goal for #Habs vs #redwings tonight #HabsIO
And MLive's Ansar Khan confirmed the Wings' lines in English...
The Red Wings chose to take Saturday off and engage in a full morning skate ahead of tonight's game against the Montreal Canadiens (7 PM on FSD/City TV//RDS/97.1 FM; Dustin Tokarski will face Jimmy Howard in the nets=), and the "off-day" made sense for two reasons:
First and foremost, the Wings' 13-games-in-24-nights stretch takes them to Columbus on Tuesday, Winnipeg on Thursday and then Toronto next Saturday, and Thanksgiving week = home games against Ottawa on the 24th and Philly on the 26th, a road game against the Devils on Friday the 28th and a home tilt against Vancouver on Sunday the 30th, so the Wings need to maximize their rest and especially recovery time;
Second, the Wings were very sloppy in last Sunday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Lightning--a game in which the team chose to skip their morning skate--and as strongly as the Wings played in Friday's win over Chicago, Detroit might have to play an even better game to defeat the Canadiens this evening.
Montreal comes into the game on a 5-game winning streak, they've got a 13-4-and-1 record, and on Saturday night, the Habs scored 3 power play goals en route to a 6-3 win over Philadelphia.
MontrealCanadiens.com's Steven Nechay noted that Sergei Gonchar helped the Canadiens shake a significant power play slump:
I don't expect Anthony Mantha to have a dominant season with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
He's just getting up to speed after missing over two months due to a broken leg that was closer to a fracture of his knee more than anything else, so getting his "wind" back is hard enough; just as importantly, after scoring a goal a game in a high-scoring league of 16-to-20-year-olds, even a 6'5," 214-pound plyaer's going to find that you can't take 90-second shifts, you don't have nearly as much time and space in the AHL, and that there are players 10 years older, 15 pounds heavier and a whole lot more experienced who can check the Manthas of the world into dust.
But Mantha is also a power sniper who really does have 25-to-35-goal potential at the NHL level, and as such, this didn't surprise me at all (even if it was nearly an empty-netter):
via Mike Johnston of Sportsnet,
Babcock is in the final year of his contract and would be a coveted asset should he become available. The 51-year-old, who won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008 and two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada (2010, 2014), says he isn’t concerned about his contract status.
“It doesn’t make one difference to [Red Wings GM] Ken Holland or myself,” Babcock told Sportsnet 590 The Fan Saturday. “The reality is I’m going to do what’s best for me…Ken is going to do what’s best for the Red Wings.”...
“In the end I think we’re going to find a way to work things out,” added Babcock, who reiterated he’s more focused on winning than his contract. “If you look after the present you’ll be fine.”
The Wings chose not to to practice the day after their 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. That's a little strange going into the team's 13-games-in-24-nights stretch, especially given the Wings' 4-day break this past week, but the Wings' schedule after Sunday (when the Wings host the Montreal Canadiens at 7 PM EST) is weird--they play in Columbus on Tuesday, head west to Winnipeg on Thursday and then head back East to play Toronto on Saturday--so the players and coach have to balance "teaching time" and "rest time."
The Canadiens possesses a 12-4-and-1 record, and as the CBC's Amy Cleveland notes, the Canadiens are on quite the streak heading into tonight's home game against Philadelphia:
from Kevin Allen of USA TODAY,
Sometimes the best acquisitions are those you don’t make. The Detroit Red Wings went after the top free agent defensemen last summer and struck out.
Detroit general manager Ken Holland took a verbal beating in fan chat rooms because he didn’t change up the blueline mix. In response, he said he believed the Red Wings defense would be competitive.
He was clearly right.
With roughly 20% of the NHL season completed, the Red Wings (8-3-5) rank seventh in the league on the strength of a goals-against average of 2.19 goals per game. Last season, the Red Wings ranked 16th with a 2.70 goals-against.
They are now on a pace to give up 51 fewer goals than they gave up last season.
from Joe Lapointe of Mlive,
It took only 2 hours and 15 minutes to finish the whole thing. At times, Chicago players seemed to join the fans in silent awe, watching the Wings throw passes, tape-to-tape, the sound of "click-click-click" echoing in the air as well-aimed pucks found waiting stick blades of skaters already in motion.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock refused to accept one of the great clichés of the sport when someone tried to describe his team's style.
"I don't think we play 'fire-wagon,'" he said. "But I like us to play fast. I like us to be in attack mode. I'm not a big believer in that you defend leads. I think you play like it's tied all the time. You put on the gas and go get the opposition."
Babcock said his team didn't look this speedy in recent games and that four days off left the Wings with fresh legs. That was an understatement. In the final minute, the Wings were storming the Chicago crease. They looked as if they could play another game right away against another team. They were very impressive and entertaining.
I don't know if you remember this, but the best thing I can say about Dominik Hasek's strange three stints with Detroit--two Stanley Cups aside--is that the last chapter could've been worse.
After Manny Legace struggled so mightily during the 2006 playoffs against Edmonton, the talk was that the Wings were considering trading for Andrew Raycroft (yes, seriously), going after Jean-Sebastien Giguere, possibly trading for Evgeni Nabokov or bringing in Eddie Belfour.
Eventually, the Wings actually brought Belfour to Joe Louis Arena for a physical, and Belfour (who may or may not still live near Saginaw as his Carmen Racing/Carman Customs businesses used to be based there), talked about burying multiple hatchets with the Wings from his time in Chicago and Dallas.
The Detroit Red Wings kicked off a set of 13 games played over the course of 24 November and December nights--played every other day or greater between November 14th and December 7th--against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night. Despite a 4-day break, the Red Wings arguably played a game on Friday that should serve as a blueprint for Sunday's game against Montreal, the Wings' three-game road trip through Columbus (on Tuesday), Winnipeg (on Thursday) and Toronto (a week from today; after Friday's game, the Wings recalled Petr Mrazek and sent Tom McCollum to Grand Rapids to start Saturday's game), as well as the rest of the whole damn season.
Detroit was fleet-footed, aggressive as hell through the neutral zone to the point of being downright predatory, offensively explosive, defensively sound and physically and mentally engaged from minutes 1 to 60 of the Wings' 4-1 victory over Chicago, earning their first home win in three years against the Blackhawks while displaying the kind of elite puck-moving, layered backchecking, speedy transition, strong forechecking and relentless offense that the Wings used to employ when Nicklas Lidstrom was the team's quarterback.
Anthony Mantha made his Grand Rapids Griffins debut on Friday, registering a shot, a -1 (as he was on the ice for a shorthanded goal against), a penalty and a stern clank off the goalpost in his first professional game, but he wasn't "the story."
Instead, Mantha's' teammates rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, with Mitch Callahan scoring the game-tying goal with 1:14 left and Teemu Pulkkinen's "holy slapper" delivering a 3-2 overtime win over the Texas Stars--the team that eliminated the Griffins from the Calder Cup playoffs last spring--with all of 0.8 seconds left in the AHL's 7-minute OT, earning Grand Rapids its second home win of the season.
After the game, the Wings swapped out Tom McCollum, who will start Saturday's Griffins game, for Petr Mrazek, who will back up Jimmy Howard on Sunday and head on the Wings' 3-game road swing with the NHL team.
The Grand Rapids Griffins' website posted a game recap:
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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.