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The Malik Report

Evening news: Mid-season Wings; on Larkin, Frk, Howard, grades and multimedia

Of disparate Red Wings-related note this evening:

1. The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan issued his Red Wings mid-season grades, and Kulfan prefaced said grades with a discussion of the Wings' stead terms of the NHL standings...

Heading into Tuesday’s games the Red Wings were 11 points out of the third and final automatic playoff spot (owned by Toronto) in the Atlantic Division. And looking at the wild card, the Red Wings trailed Pittsburgh by six points. They also trailed Carolina, Philadelphia and the New York Islanders by five points. Additionally, the Red Wings only lead Florida and Montreal by a single point in the standings.

A rash of early-season losses hurt the Red Wings. They lost six in a row in October and seven more consecutively from Nov. 19-Dec. 2.

“Every game is tight and we haven’t won enough of the close games,” Blashill said. “Lately we have. For us to be where we want to be at the end of the year, we have to win these close games.”

The Free Press's Helene St. James discussed the same topic...

“You look at the overall picture, we’ve had a really good stretch,” Justin Abdelkader said after the [Lightning] game. “This will leave a little bitter taste in your mouth for sure, but look at the big picture: We have a nice break coming up, everyone is going to get refreshed. We come back and really have to go at it until the All-Star break. We’re getting ourselves back into the thick of things — we still have some work to do, but we have to continue to play the way we have for most of this home stand.”

Dylan Larkin, who has been one of the team’s top performers the first half, said it’ll be good for players to get away and then “come back and dial it in and make a push so we can hopefully play these guys again in a playoff series.”

That’d take quite a push. The Wings divide the season into 10-game segments (12 for the last one) with the goal of accruing at least 12 points per segment. The thinking is that 96 points will yield a playoff spot. They came up short the first segment (nine points) and third one (six) and came out ahead in the second (14) and fourth (13). Overall, they have 41 points after 41 games.

That’s one point ahead of where they were at last season after 41 games, when they ended up finishing with 79 points, seventh in the Atlantic Division. At the Wings’ 41-game mark last season, the teams that occupied the top spots in the division (Montreal, Boston, Ottawa) finished in the top 3 after 82 games, and Toronto, which was fourth, earned a wildcard spot.

The Wings are six points behind Pittsburgh for the second wild-card seed in the Eastern Conference, but there are three teams ahead of Detroit, and two teams lingering behind Detroit by a point.

The frustrating aspect for the Wings is they’re playing better than their record indicates.

“We are optimistic in here,” Gustav Nyquist said (he has scored 14 goals, 10 more than he had after 41 games last season). “We all think we are a better team this point than we were last year although the lineup looks very similar. We’ve made strides as a team. If we keep playing the way we’ve been doing here lately, I think we’ll have a good chance.”

St. James continues; Hockeybuzz's Bob Duff continues the narrative...

When his team gets back to work later this week, Detroit coach Jeff Blashill doesn’t want them looking back, and he most certainly has no desire for them to look ahead. Focus on what’s immediately in front of you is his gameplan for the Wings.

“To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time looking big picture or looking back,” Blashill said. “We were focused on trying to win a hockey game (Sunday) and then we’re going to focus on trying to win a hockey game in Pittsburgh (on Saturday).

“The one thing I’d say is I think in large part we’re doing a lot of things it takes to be successful. I think that, and I’m told that by people around the league. We’ve just got to stay on it and understand we’re going to be in lots of games and we’ve got to find a way to win them.

“We need points for sure, we need lots of wins, but we’ve got to keep doing it right. We’re not going to be perfect, I’ve yet to see a perfect team, but we’ve got to play as complete as we can and find a way to win when we come out of this break.”

2. Michigan Radio's John U. Bacon discussed the Wings' status on Michigan Radio's Stateside program:

On the Red Wings' record: “They are 17-17-7. They are perfectly mediocre as we had about predicted. It is almost exactly where you don't want to be, because they're not competing for any kind of Stanley Cup chance, any of that stuff, but they also [had] five or six great guys come out of the draft this year, and you're not anywhere near that either. Mediocrity will perpetuate mediocrity.”

On the Red Wings escaping “mediocrity”: “Sounds crazy, but you've got to go one way or the other. You've either got to double down and try to get something out of the season, or you've got to say it's time for a fire sale and let's rebuild.”

3. WXYZ's Brad Galli filed a report about Dylan Larkin, the Wings' likely All-Star representative:

Dylan Larkin has already topped his point total from last season in the first half of this season.

His growth at center and as a leader with the Red Wings has been evident since October. In 41 games this year, Larkin has six goals and 28 assists, leading the team with 34 points. He had 17 goals and 15 assists, totaling 32 points all of 2016-17.

Larkin will likely find out this week he's heading to his second NHL All-Star Game. He made the roster as a rookie, and after a tough second year in the league, he's pacing the Red Wings younger generation with a command at center.

In the team's final game before the bye week, Larkin fought Brayden Point. It was part of an edge he's also added to his game, collecting 39 penalty minutes through 41 games. He had 37 and 34 PIM in his first two seasons.

Here's Galli's video report on Larkin:

4. In the fisticuffs department, WXYZ's Max White notes that the Wings are surprisingly active when it comes to fighting:

After two fights in the first period of Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Detroit Red Wings have jumped up to seventh in team fights in the NHL.

According to hockeyfights.com, which tracks fights across the league, the Red Wings now have 11 fights this season, which ties them with the Arizona Coyotes, Washington Capitals and Los Angeles Kings.

Of the 11 players, three have fought more than once. Those are Justin Abdelkader with two, Tomas Tatar with two and Luke Witkowski with 3.

HockeyFights also picks a winner, and according to the fight log as of Jan. 8, the Red Wings are 5-5-1 in their fights.]

White continues with video clips of the Wings' fights this season.

4. Shifting gears, MLive's Ansar Khan wrote an article about Martin Frk's shot hitting Dan Girardi last night, expressing concern that Frk may get psyched out by the incident:

Frk and the rest of the players on the ice showed immediate concern for Girardi. Blashill said he planned to speak with the young forward to make sure he isn't too rattled by the incident.

"I saw it with (former Red Wings defense prospect) Ryan Sproul in the minors; Ryan hit Mitch (Callahan) in the face and I thought it affected Ryan for a while," Blashill said. "He stopped shooting the puck and unfortunately, there's just inherent risk in being a professional hockey player, just like a lot of other professions.

"But he's a big-time shooter, he's got to be a shooter. So we'll talk to him."

Frk's accuracy issues makes his shot even more dangerous.

"I think over the years Frkie's worked hard to try to hit the four by six more and keep it in that net area more," Blashill said. "He's done a good job of that. In terms of shots getting blocked, that happens. Everybody kind of knows when it goes out to the middle and over, that's going to happen lots. Same thing for us. You just keep shooting it and make them block it. Over time guys get sick of blocking that shot, I can tell you that."

As Paul noted, the Lightning have issued a report stating that Girardi is "day-to-day" after x-rays and concussion tests came back negative; The Athletic's Craig Custance spoke with Brad Richards about the incident as well (paywall article):

“I think it’s definitely going to weigh in his mind,” Richards said. “I can’t speak for him but it’s got to be a little — you have to be shaken a little bit when you take a shot and someone is laying on the ice.”

That’s a conversation Blashill said he plans on having with Frk. Because the reality is that if either player hesitates to do what he did in this moment moving forward, it takes away what got each player to the NHL in the first place.

Frk’s shot is his biggest weapon and No. 2 isn’t even close.

It was a scary moment. A reminder of how dangerous this game is. How lucky everybody was that it wasn’t worse.

It was a reminder of all that is on the line in every moment.

“You can’t blame either party,” Richards said. “Dan’s sliding over into a shot he knows can go anywhere. You’ve got a guy who has not played in the NHL much who wants to score. He’s going to rip it. Not everybody is going to be perfect (with their shot). If he doesn’t take that shot, he might not be on the power play long. That’s life in the NHL.”

5. Also from The Athletic, Topher Scott discussed the challenges that the Red Wings will face during the second half of their NHL campaign:

Detroit’s effort and structure were good during the home stand. Its players (both old and young) showed up on the scoresheet. The Red Wings' goaltender made timely saves. And, most importantly, they found a way to win a few close games, which will serve them well when the games get tighter at the end of the year.

This little break will give the coaches and players time to reflect upon the first half of the season and to think about what they need to do to be successful through the stretch drive. And after breaking down the film from last week’s games, I want to share my few keys for Detroit’s success in the second half.

Scott continues, discussing the play of Jimmy Howard, the Wings' surprisingly sound defensive play, the Larkin-Athanasiou line and the team's power play (paywall);

6. In another category entirely, CBS Detroit's Will Burtchfield suggests that fans have every right to be concerned about Jimmy Howard's durability despite the day-to-day status of his lower-body injury:

Blashill said on Sunday night, heading into Detroit’s bye week, that he expects Howard to be available when the team resumes play on Saturday in Pittsburgh. But he also suggested a level of unknown in terms of the severity of Howard’s injury.

“We don’t anticipate it being a long-term thing at all. Sometimes on some minor or mild injuries there’s some stiffness and things like that, which we think will be fine in five days, but I’ll find out,” said Blashill.

Howard was injured in the second period of the win over the Panthers, but felt strong enough to finish the game. It wasn’t until the following day at the team’s morning skate that the team ruled him out of Sunday’s tilt versus Tampa Bay.

“He tried to skate this morning and couldn’t do everything he wanted to do to be comfortable to play,” Blashill said.

Dating back to the 2013-14 season, when his health issues began, Howard has now been sidelined eight separate times with some variation of a lower-body injury, typically to his groin or MCL. Sometimes his absences have been as short as a few days; more often they’ve cost him at least a couple weeks.

When the Wings return to the ice on Saturday in Pittsburgh, followed by a Sunday matinee in Chicago, it will be telling whether or not Howard joins them. If he does, the team can at least entertain the notion of a playoff push. If he doesn’t, that dream can be forgotten.

7. In the "on vacation" category, NHL.com reports that Jonathan Ericsson is taking his family to Disney World during the Bye Week, but Gustav Nyquist is vacationing in a different place...

Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings: "I'm not going anywhere. My wife has to work, so I'm stuck up here in frozen Detroit."

It's actually going to be melt-y, gucky, slushy Detroit as our temperatures rise into the 40's for a couple of days.

8. For the record/FYI:

a) USA Today's Kevin Allen issued mid-season grades for all NHL teams:

Detroit Red Wings — C+

The Red Wings are pretty much what we thought they’d be — a team that could hang around but need a few breakouts to be in playoff position. The growth of some younger players has earned them a few extra points.

b) ESPN's Sean Allen suggests that Henrik Zetterberg may be a solid "rest of the season" fantasy hockey pick-up:

Henrik Zetterberg, F, Detroit Red Wings: Hank had a rough start to the campaign with only 12 points in 21 games. There was little consistency with the lines, and it was looking like Father Time may have caught up with the 37-year-old veteran. But Zetterberg has found his traditional gear since Nov. 22, notching 17 points in 20 games. While the other winger sometimes alternates between different players, Zetterberg is skating regularly with Gustav Nyquist and is still leading the charge on the Red Wings' power play.

9. In the multimedia department:

a) The Red Wings revealed that their January 16th game against the Dallas Stars (i.e. next Tuesday night's home game) will be Anthony Mantha bobblehead night by giving Mantha a copy of his likeness:

b) The Red Wings posted a "Week in Review" video...

c) AWood40 posted an hour-long "Best of Joe Louis Arena" video, chronicling the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons:

d) The Griffins are playing the Manitoba Moose presently, but here's their Game-Day Preview video...

And the Griffins posted their weekly press release as well.

 

Update: The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa also weighed in on the Wings' continued mediocrity:

After Niklas Lidstrom retired, GM Ken Holland and others in management hoped to acquire some players who would help Zetterberg and Datsyuk play for another Stanley Cup.

It never happened.

Ratcheting up the reconstruction of the roster has been halting. Expect more trades for draft choices in about six weeks, at the trade deadline.

Until then, and over the last 41 games, it is all about the development.

It is the purpose of the entire season, despite official protestations from certain quarters.

To the extent making the playoffs is important, it is because it would give Athanasiou, Bertuzzi, Frk, Larkin and Mantha that experience, and signal to them and prospects to come that the Red Wings remain relevant.

That would help. Because, right now, the Wings are not getting much better.

Krupa continues...

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Comments

PierreC's avatar

i stopped reading Kulfan after he gave Helm a B minus rating… What he said about Helm doesn’t make any sense.

To me Helm is a D so far…

Posted by PierreC from Montreal, Canada on 01/09/18 at 02:41 AM ET

Avatar

Weird how Ted didn’t rank anyone below a C-. For a team that is clearly failing everyone gets a passing grade…..

Posted by MZ2215 on 01/09/18 at 08:17 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Helm a B- hahahahahaha…. classic Detroit homer.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 01/09/18 at 08:58 AM ET

ilovehomers's avatar

classic Detroit homer.

smile

Posted by ilovehomers on 01/09/18 at 10:27 AM ET

Avatar

Dang! What a terrible grading curve considering he handed out more then generous grades to each player. Most glaring were the Cs given to AA and Petie. Bother deserve FS. I’m also dubious of Larkin’s A. He’s only on pace for 12 goals. I could also point out that Gus’s grade should probably be higher since he is on pace for a career high in goals. Sheesh!

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 01/09/18 at 11:35 AM ET

TreKronor's avatar

Speaking of Gus, now is the time to trade him.  His trade value hasn’t been this high in what, 4 years?

Posted by TreKronor on 01/09/18 at 12:09 PM ET

Colin's avatar

You’ve either got to double down and try to get something out of the season…

Dylan Larkin has already topped his point total from last season in the first half of this season.

I would say a combination of this and continued progress from Mantha and Athanasiou plus a good pick in one of the deeper drafts in a long time (at least get Bode Wilde) would be a far more preferable result than yet another embarrassing 1st round ouster.

Posted by Colin from Ken Holland's new yacht, "Incompetence" on 01/09/18 at 12:17 PM ET

Colin's avatar

I’m also dubious of Larkin’s A. He’s only on pace for 12 goals.

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 01/09/18 at 10:35 AM ET

He’s also on pace for 68 points, which would put him in the upper echelon of forwards in the NHL…

Posted by Colin from Ken Holland's new yacht, "Incompetence" on 01/09/18 at 12:20 PM ET

ilovehomers's avatar

Posted by Colin from Ken Holland’s new yacht, “Incompetence” on 01/09/18 at 11:17 AM ET

The success of this season is indeed what progress is made towards the future - developing young players now and positioning ourselves to shed salary and make good picks in the draft.

Posted by ilovehomers on 01/09/18 at 12:20 PM ET

Avatar

Cs given to AA and Petie. Bother deserve FS.

AA is on pace for more goals and assists than last year, yet somehow he deserves an F?

Sure.

I’m also dubious of Larkin’s A. He’s only on pace for 12 goals.

How about the fact that he’s got more points in 41 games this year than he had in 80 last year?

Goals aren’t the only thing that matter, and if you really think he shouldn’t get an A then you might want to start watching the games.

If there’s a single player on the team that deserves an A it’s Larkin.

Posted by CharDeeMacDennis on 01/09/18 at 12:35 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Posted by TreKronor on 01/09/18 at 11:09 AM ET

YES!!! This X 100!

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 01/09/18 at 12:40 PM ET

Avatar

He’s also on pace for 68 points, which would put him in the upper echelon of forwards in the NHL…
Posted by Colin from Ken Holland’s new yacht, “Incompetence” on 01/09/18 at 11:20 AM ET

I’m curious, what “upper echelon” means to you?

To me it’s top 20, not top 50.

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 01/09/18 at 02:05 PM ET

Avatar

if you really think he shouldn’t get an A then you might want to start watching the games.

If there’s a single player on the team that deserves an A it’s Larkin.

Posted by CharDeeMacDennis on 01/09/18 at 11:35 AM ET

gee wiz. I just said dubious…...you all might want to look that word up…...It just means doubtful, that’s all.

If Helm doesn’t deserve a B grade then how in the world would Larkin deserve an A on this team of losers, right?

AA is on pace for more goals and assists than last year, yet somehow he deserves an F?

Sure.

wow. what an argument. I am convinced! I guess Abbey deserves an A too then based on that position. Do I ever see you making that argument? nope.

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 01/09/18 at 02:10 PM ET

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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.