The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/21/13 at 04:58 PM ET
This is incredibly late, but I worked very hard to get it done and was stopped by a 12-hour power outage, so here's a very, very late Wings-Blues wrap-up: Jan Mursak had to bow out of the Detroit Red Wings' first game of the 2013 season early. He was hard by Blues captain David Backes at the Wings' bench, and the tip of his right shoulder ended up taking the brunt of his impact into the dasher boards. Mursak exited the affair the first period, and MLive's Ansar Khan reports that #39 will have a CT scan on his shoulder today.
Mursak may have been the lucky one. As many of you already know, the Red Wings dropped an ugly 6-0 decision to the St. Louis Blues. How bad was the first game of the post-Nicklas Lidstrom era? Well...
Via RedWingsFeed, here's a little more historical perspective regarding what I hope was the Red Wings' one pre-season game:
How bad was it off the ice? Well all I can tell you about the post-game activities is that they first involved the Wings' flight to Columbus being delayed by an hour, and according to 97.1 the Ticket's Ken Kal--in a mysterious Tweet that has been deleted--was bad enough that Wings coach Mike Babcock has chosen to hold practice today (at 1:30 PM), despite the fact that the Wings are going to be playing two more games over the next three days, yielding a team that will have skated every day for a week by the time they get their next theoretical "day off" on Wednesday...
Which isn't exactly a recipe for avoiding adding to the injury list (see: Darren Helm's back, Jakub Kindl's groin, Mursak, and Todd Bertuzzi's three or four-week absence to come thanks to mononucleosis).
From the Blues' perspective, the game was a near-perfect performance and just desserts for the fans who packed the Scottrade Center, and I hate to agree with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford, but the Blues definitely proved that they were "more ready" for the 2013 season than the Wings were:
Asked prior to Saturday’s season opener for his impression of the Blues, Detroit coach Mike Babcock replied: “I just read that they’re going to win the Cup ... They're good and we better be ready for them.”
Detroit wasn’t ready, but a case could be made that neither was the soldout crowd at Scottrade Center for what the Blues uncorked on the Red Wings in the first game action since last May.
Spirited by Vladimir Tarasenko’s two goals in his NHL debut, and two from the reinvigorated Chris Stewart, the Blues charged out of the gates in the first game of a their lockout-shortened, 48-game schedule with a 6-0 victory over the Red Wings.
On a night when the Blues played their first game under new ownership, and Detroit played its first without future Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, a changing of the guard in the Central Division picked up where it left off as the defending champs blanked the Red Wings on just 14 saves by goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
It marked the Blues’ first shutout in a season opener in franchise history.
The only development that may have caught Halak offguard was how crisp his own club played in front of him.
The Blues had 10 players compete in Europe during the lockout, while others practiced in North America, leading head coach Ken Hitchcock to wonder how long it would take to get the club on the same page.
The answer: the opening minute. With only two scrimmages under their belt in training, the Blues came out hitting, with captain David Backes laying two licks within 42 seconds of the puck being dropped. Within seven minutes, they had their first goal of the new season, compliment of their newest player.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored the Blues' only even-strength goal of the night to open the scoring, with four power play goals and one shorthanded goal to follow as the Blues out-shot Detroit 17-2 in the first period, 10-5 in the 2nd and, as noted above, 36-14 overall. Jimmy Howard played valiantly given that he had no defense in front of him, but by the time he'd been pulled after the Blues' fifth goal, all of 1:15 into the 3rd period, he'd given up 5 goals on 28 shots.
The Red Wings didn't look like themselves at all. The Blues did, as coach Ken Hitchcock told Rutherford...
“We worked, and I think when we work and we initiate, we’re a good team, and that’s what we did tonight,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Tarasenko certainly looked like more than a raw rookie...
Tarasenko, who spent the first four years of his professional career playing in the Kontinental Hockey League, quickly took a liking to the smaller rink-size in North America. He received a heads-up pass from defenseman Ian Cole, found himself with an open lane to the net and buried the souvenir puck past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.
“He’s extremely impressive,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “The way he handles the puck, his shot. He took it to a different level tonight.”
And the game may have ended, for all intents and purposes, at the 16:09 mark of the second period:
Following two power-play goals, the team opened a 4-0 lead in the second period on a shorthanded goal by T.J. Oshie. Oshie took a length-of-the-ice pass from Pietrangelo and netted his first of the season.
“That was the definition of a National (Hockey) League pass,” Oshie said.
Then again, according to the Belleville News-Democrat's Norm Sanders, the Blues were off to the races when Tarasenko raced in on Howard:
Tarasenko skated in on goal patiently before ripping a quick wrist shot high to the stick side of Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard 6 minutes, 36 seconds into his first NHL game.
"That's a great way to start the season," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "It got the fans going, got us going, then he comes back with another beauty. It's going to be fun to see how many he puts up this year."
Oshie said the Blues fed off the electricity emanating from their highly touted rookie.
"I felt like it was my first goal," Oshie said. "That first one was amazing, that second one was maybe even better. He's a great player."
Emanating is a word that Wings fans might use to describe their team's play, but they'd use it to describe a word that has nothing to do with electricity, and while Tarasenko told KMOV's Scott Bierman that he "felt like he was dreaming" while scoring two goals in his NHL debut, it was the Red Wings who were asleep at the wheel.
As far as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz is concerned, Wings fans need to welcome themselves to a new reality...
I wasn’t surprised to see the Blues rout the Red Wings. Among other things, the retired defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom doesn’t live in Detroit anymore and his former teammates are scrambling to cover the huge crater that surfaced in his wake.
The 48-game schedule should confirm this, but it appears that the Blues have more talent than the Red Wings. They were surely younger, fresher and hungrier in outshooting the visitors 36-14.
“We hunted the puck,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.
And stalked the Red Wings. The Blues’ opening lineup included eight players that they’d drafted in the first round — living proof of the organization’s successful draft-development strategy.
Here was the stunner: the Blues’ cohesion, crispness and overall game readiness. After the lockout, the Blues had a few days to get their players into town from various global positions. Then Hitchcock hurried the gang through five practices and two scrimmages.
After a six-day camp, the Blues came out and played as if they’d been doing this, uninterrupted, for the last six months. But after the game, Hitchcock did something the Red Wings failed to do: attempt to restore order by slowing things down.
“I just think you throw out the first 10 games,” Hitchcock said, mentioning the travel, scheduling and fatigue issues that will challenge and frustrate every team. “We looked good tonight, but who knows what happens.”
I have no idea if The Note will win the Stanley Cup, and one night of hockey bliss proves nothing. But I don’t think this was a mirage; there’s exciting talent on this roster. And the Cup is up for grabs, having been won by nine different teams over the last nine seasons. So why not the Blues? After last season’s 109-point breakout, the Blues take elevated expectations into the new campaign. That creates more pressure on them. And they welcome that.
“Absolutely,” said defenseman Barret Jackman, who played in his 599th regular-season game for the Blues on Saturday. “That’s why you play, so your team and your franchise is known as one of the best. It is on the up-and-up, and we’re expecting to be there with some of the favorites now.”
Hitchcock offered some, let's say interesting comments to NHL.com's Louie Korac on his blog...
"I thought we worked, and I think when we work and we initiate, we're a good team," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "And that's what we did tonight. We worked. We hunted the puck, we stayed on the puck, we were hungry. When you play like that, you can roll four lines and you can keep people energized. I thought the biggest thing we did was we worked."
The Blues, coming off a Central Division title, wasted little time ridding themselves of the foul taste left by a playoff sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings last spring. Familiarity is something this team feels like it has going for it. It was obvious.
"I don't think we're going to have to go through those growing pains," said Stewart, who added two power play goals. "We did that last year and there's a lot of the same faces in the room and that's definitely been a bonus."
"We worked right to the end," Hitchcock said. "We battled hard on the boards and that allowed us to control the tempo of the game. I just think you throw out the first 10 games. We looked good tonight ... who knows what happens. You try to find out who can and who can't play. After 10 games, you're going to know what you've got."
"We looked like a really good team today, but who knows when we've got to go play tired or we've got to play road games," Hitchcock said. "... We looked like a strong, determined team today, but then we're going to play against teams who have the same conditioning position that we are. Then we'll see what we've got."
But T.J. Oshie issued a comment to the Associated Press that Wings fans might want to hold onto:
"I think we just got the early jump," said Oshie, who had a goal on a short-handed breakaway and two assists. "That's definitely not going to be the case the next time we play them."
The AP deems the Red Wings to be a "rebuilding" franchise, but Babcock might simply deem his players to be overly charitable--and it's here that we transition from the Blues' perspectives to those of the Wings and their media corps:
"They were better than us from start to finish," coach Mike Babcock said. "They were quicker, more competitive around the puck. We gave them goals. I can think of four goals that were just gifts."
[Tarasenko] made it 3-0 in the second period with a power-play goal, becoming the 14th player in franchise history to get a pair of goals in his first game.
"He had a couple of good moves," Howard said. "He's going to be a good player for them and for years to come."
Halak had to stop just 14 shots by the anemic Red Wings for the shutout. Halak and Elliott combined for a league-leading 15 shutouts last season, sharing the Jennings Trophy. Howard was pulled after Stewart's power-play goal at 1:15 of the third.
"I felt pretty good out there except on the breakaways," Howard said. "I gave the guys way too much room."
Howard was definitely hunched down in a crouch far too early, and while he was valliant, he did give up three goals to his blocker side because he followed the puck and not the momentum of the puck carriers, backing into his crease far too early.
That being said, he obviously had a lot of company, and, per Korac's NHL.com recap, as such, we are talking about Mike Babcock choosing to schedule instead of cancel a practice as a result:
"They were just better than us," Wings coach Mike Babcock said of the Blues. "If I had the answer, I would have fixed it before it happened, but obviously we'll look at this and get ready for tomorrow and have a good practice and get back at it. But to be successful, all good teams have to be competitive and we weren't.
Added new captain Henrik Zetterberg: "There was a lot of stuff that went wrong tonight, and we've just got to be ready for tomorrow and look at what we did wrong and what we did right and move on."
Babcock offered nothing less than a growl to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
"They were better from start to finish," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "They were quicker and more competitive on the puck. I can think of four goals that were just gifts, not just earned. They were all over us. Their defense had an easy night. They were on top of us and we weren't very good We have to be way better than this."
While Howard was plain old puzzled:
"Not a good way to start the season," Howard said. "There wasn't much of a push. Usually if we have an off period we come back and play well but tonight it wasn't there. We knew there would be some rust but I don't think anybody expected that."
Howard did come to grips with what happened while speaking to DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose, who also spoke to a captain sporting blood-shot eyes and a faraway stare (regrettably, Fox Sports Detroit did not post its interviews with Zetterberg, a visibly angry Niklas Kronwall or the usually enthusiastic and surprisingly morose Brendan Smith online) as well...
“That's not a good way to start off the year,” said Howard, who was pulled early in the third period. “They're a good team. They're big, they're fast and they're physical. And they kept it simple. They kept the pucks in front of them, they skated really hard and got it in on the forecheck and made it tough on us.”
The Blues held a 17-2 advantage in shots on goal and took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission on an even-strength goal by Tarasenko and a power-play tally by Stewart. The Blues out-shot the Wings in the game, 36-14, and hold Detroit’s two star forwards, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg without a shot between them.
“Obviously, it was not the start we wanted,” Zetterberg said. “They were better than us in every field. Starting from faceoffs to five-on-five, PK, power play, so it wasn't a good game.”
Zetterberg couldn’t pinpoint one thing that was the overwhelming reason for the Wings’ poor performance, only saying afterwards, “Just got to regroup tomorrow, practice and look at what we did wrong, and what we did right and move on.”
The Wings’ new-look power play – with Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Johan Franzen up front with Niklas Kronwall and Damien Brunner at the point – was also off Saturday, going 0-for-5 and five shots on goal with the man-advantage.
“If we get one there (in first period) it would be a different game,” Zetterberg said. “But we didn't. They got two and one shorty, I think. That wasn't good either.”
Cue a shudder-worthy pair of stats:
Saturday’s loss was the Wings’ worst defeat since a 7-1 drubbing at Washington early last season. It was the first time Detroit was shutout on opening night since the 1958-59 season when they dropped a 2-0 decision at Montreal.
The Free Press's Helene St. James found Howard offering the understatement of the night:
"We knew there was probably going to be a little bit of rust coming out there," Howard said, "but I don't think anybody expected it to be that bad."
--It was rust, all rust, and that left Niklas Kronwall understandably perturbed:
"We weren't even second on the puck sometimes," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "It's hard to play the game when you're a step behind all the time. They won all the battles, and that's why they won the game.
We were basically giving them goals," Kronwall said. "But at the same time, I guess we shouldn't take too much from them, they played a really good game. But the mistakes that we made, I haven't seen this team do that many mistakes, and give them that many chances, for free."
By the end of the 20 minutes, the Wings had been outworked in every area except goaltending, where Howard had made 15 saves to Halak's 2. None of the lines - not Brunner's with Datsyuk and Zetterberg, not Valtteri Filppula's with Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson were remotely dangerous.
"We didn't win enough battles," Kronwall said. "I think that's where it started. If you don't win enough battles, it doesn't really matter what you do structurally."
Intermission didn't help. Half a minute into the second period, Tarasenko undressed Quincey to make it 3-0. The Wings responded by sitting so far back on their heels they barely crossed their own goal line. A timeout at the five-minute didn't do much except maybe let it sink in just how badly things were going.
"The timeout was just because we'd ice the puck and we had tired people," Babcock said. "I actually thought we started all right in the second, then boom, we're digging it out of our next, and that was it."
--The Wings are crossing their fingers regarding not having begun a new and utterly crappy chapter of team history thanks to one game...
"I don't think we can take anything from this game," Kronwall said. "Obviously the way we respond on Monday is going to show what kind of character we have in this locker room."
But Babcock insisted to MLive's Ansar Khan that the team doesn't have to fear about deviating from its system of play, because its system of play is a barometer of the team's work ethic:
“When you compete hard and you work hard, you end up with the puck,'' Babcock said after his team's 6-0 loss in the season opener at Scottrade Center. “Puck possession to me is a fancy way of saying they're working and jumping harder than you are. Everyone's talked about our puck possession for years. You work and you compete, you have the puck all the time. That's what they did to us.''
Both Kronwall and Howard put things bluntly:
“No doubt about that,'' defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We weren't there. We weren't even second on the puck sometimes. It's hard to play the game when you're a step behind the whole time. We all have to look ourselves in the mirror and say this is not good enough.''
Said Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard: “They're big, they're fast, they're physical. And they kept it simple. They kept the pucks in front of them, they skated really hard and got it in on the forecheck and made it tough on us. That's not a good way to start off the year.''
If you need some help in the freaking out department, the Free Press's Evil Drew Sharp is happy to lend a helping hand:
It's only the first game, but it's not too early for concern that defenseman Kyle Quincey, whom Holland acquired last season for a first-round draft pick, might not be able to handle the heavy responsibilities required of a top-four defenseman. St. Louis rookie Vladimir Tarasenko twice made Quincey look silly on two goals in his first NHL game.
It's only the first game, but it's not too early for delivering messages. Coach Mike Babcock smartly pulled Jimmy Howard after the Blues scored their fifth goal barely a minutes into the final period. Why let Howard take the brunt for the poor effort of those in front of him? The disastrous night wasn't his fault. If not for some excellent saves, the Blues could've easily had a seven-goal lead by the time Howard departed for his new backup, Jonas Gustavsson.
Perhaps it was Babcock's desire that an even uglier game without Howard might provide the necessary wake-up call.
There's a much smaller margin for error with just 48 games in 99 days. The Wings know they're not as good of a team without the simple brilliance of Nicklas Lidstrom, but there's absolutely no reason for them to look as bad as they did against the Blues.
It's only the first game, but it's not too early for more than a little concern.
I'm not sure how to respond to Sharp's slight dose of panic, nor an article that will pop up eventually, in which MLive's Ansar Khan is likely to suggest something similar.
All I can tell you is that Mike Babcock is making his team practice today, that Henrik Zetterberg looked like a man who yelled himself hoarse, and until they prove otherwise, these are still the Detroit Red Wings that have made the playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons.
Highlights: If you can watch NHL.com's highlights (or Fox Sports Detroit's) without wanting to curl up in a ball, I'd like to hire you as a guidance counselor for our comments section as we need some clinical help after Wings losses:
Post-game: If you really want to listen to Ken Hitchcock's post-game presser via the Blues' Flash audio player, or you want to watch Vladimir Tarasenko, Anthony Stewart and Alex Pietrangelo talk about their team's big win, again, from the Blues' website, get down with your bad self;
This might be equally painful to watch: Fox Sports Detroit's post-game coverage included interviews with Henrik Zetterberg (with bloodshot eyes, looking past the microphones), Niklas Kronwall (composed but angry) and Brendan Smith (not enthusiastic, possibly for the first time ever), but instead, you get to see a disturbingly calm Mike Babcock speak to Trevor Thompson, as well as someone who is truly "happy to be here" in Damien Brunner. It might not be gloomy enough to cut the mustard:
Photos: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted a 24-image gallery;
KDSK posted a 24-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 25-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports' Red Wings gallery has 24 images from the game;
NHL.com embedded a 53-image gallery in its website's recap;
And hey, at least you can get a nifty Datsyuk wallpaper from CBS Detroit.
Shots 36-14 overall.
St. Louis went 4-for-5 in 5:50 of PP time; the Wings went 0-for-4 in 8:00 of PP time.
Howard stopped 23 of 28 shots; Gustavsson stopped 7 of 8.
Halak stopped 14 shots.
The three stars, per the "St. Louis media," were Jaroslav Halak (3), Chris Stewart (2) and Vladimir Tarasenko (1).
Faceoffs 30-26 Detroit (Detroit won 54%);
Blocked shots 13-12 Detroit;
Missed shots 16-13 St. Louis;
Total shot attempts 65-39 St. Louis;
Hits 25-12 St. Louis;
Giveaways 7-0 St. Louis;
Takeaways 5-2 St. Louis.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 10-and-2 in the faceoff circle (83%); Abdelkader went 9-and-4 (69%); Filppula went 7-and-10 (41%); Zetterbeg went 1-and-6 (14%); Emmerton went 3-and-4 (43%);
Shots: Brunner and Filppula co-led the team with 3 shots apiece; Cleary had 2; Abdelkader, Miller, Emmerton, Colaiacovo, Samuelsson and Franzen had 1.
Blocked attempts: Datsyuk, White, Zetterberg and Kronwall had 2 shot attempts blocked by Blues players; Smith, Quincey, Colaiacovo and Samuelsson had 1.
Missed shots: Datsyuk and White missed the net 3 times; Colaiacovo missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Tootoo, Samuelsson, Zetterberg and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Cleary and Franzen co-led the team with 3 hits; Abdelkader had 2; Tootoo, Emmerton, Quincey and Ericsson had 1;
Giveaways: No giveaways. Supposedly.
Takeaways: Zetterberg and Filppula had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: Quincey blocked 3 shots; Smith, Datsyuk and Colaiacovo blocked 2; Abdelkader, Cleary, Miller and Kronwall blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Tootoo and Franzen took 10-minute misconducts; Cleary and Kronwall were tagged for 2 minors apiece; Mursak took 1 minor penalty.
Points: No one scored.
Plus-minus: The team finished at a collective -10. Samuelsson and Filppula finished at -2; Smith, Cleary, White, Quincey, Colaiacovo and Franzen finished at -1.
Ice time: Quincey led the team with 21:23 played; Datsyuk played 20:31; White played 20:21;
Kronwall played 20:07; Zetterbeg played 19:41; Ericsson played 18:53;
Brunner played 18:50; Franzen played 18:35; Colaiacovo played 18:32;
Filppula played 18:15; Miller played 16:52; Smith played 15:52;
Cleary played 15:48; Samuelsson played 14:17; Abdelkader played 13:34;
Emmerton played 10:04; Tootoo played 10:01; Mursak played 2:34.
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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.