The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/01/13 at 04:10 PM ET
Updated 2x at 6:36 PM with Gustavsson talk: Oof, well that was an adventure. On Monday, I took my laptop in to have a screw replaced...On Tuesday, I was informed that my computer was a write-off due to heat damage, and that my hard drive could probably be saved. Wednesday, the computer repair shop took a snow day (seriously), and I had neither a computer nor the budget to replace mine...
But the story has a happy ending due to several people who shall remain nameless per their request, and after a day's worth of setting up a TV tray-sized laptop, I'm back at work. I've been out of the loop for the better part of the week due to freakage outage (person w/ anxiety/depression + losing their "voice" = bad) and trying to figure out what the hell to do, but I'll catch up as much as I am able on my own, and for the next day or three, I'll try to get my sea legs as missing four-and-a-half days of a 99-day season is quite a chunk of time.
Anyway, the Red Wings didn't practice after playing back-to-back games in California--they didn't even get back to Metro Airport until 6:55 AM this morning--and they'll get back to practicing tomorrow before welcoming the as-yet-unbeaten Chicago Blackhawks (who play in Columbus this evening) to town on Sunday for an NBC matinee game.
Amongst this afternoon's crop of Red Wings-related stories:
In addition to MLive's Ansar Khan's noting of the fact that Wings coach Mike Babcock is quite happy with the team's defense as-is--minus a healthy Ian White and Kent Huskins, and perhaps minus Carlo Colaiacovo--the Free Press's Helene St. James spends this afternoon spotlighting the player whose shootout moves delivered a victory over San Jose last night (that game either qualified as "tight-checking hockey at its finest" or "sleep-inducing," depending on your point of view) and a 1-and-1 record for the Wings on their West Coast swing. St. James reports that Wings coach Mike Babcock wasn't thrilled with Damien Brunner's backchecking late in the game..
"With 40 seconds left, when he turned it over at their blue line," Babcock said, "it's a good thing my hands couldn't reach his neck."
Brunner's eventual handiwork was huge for the Wings, as it stabilized them heading into Sunday's marquee home game against the NHL-best Chicago Blackhawks (here's hoping Chicago beats Columbus tonight, giving the Wings a shot at history this weekend). It's the second time Brunner's handiwork has ensured shoot-out success; he showed everyone what he could do in the second game of the season, when he dragged a forehand into Columbus' net. Does Brunner decide in advance what he's going to do? Not necessarily.
"Sometimes I know it when I jump off the ice," he said, smiling. "Sometimes I know when I'm on the red line. Sometimes I know when I'm on the blue line, and sometimes I don't know till I'm there."
Brunner honed his deftness in Switzerland. It all came together with an epiphany. "All of a sudden, you realize: You know, I think goalie has advantage in hockey shoot-outs," Brunner said. "And good players are going to miss. Why should I put myself under pressure going out there? I mean, I know I can score when I have confidence. It's about being loose a little bit out there and have some fun. It makes no sense to put yourself under pressure."
As Paul noted, the Wings absolutely adore Brunner's poise, moxie, grit, work ethic and sometimes his borderline arrogance in the healthiest sense of the term, and Babcock's willing to admit that Brunner's pluses far outweigh his "in progress/adjusting to the NHL" minuses. Brunner's teammates agree with their coach's assessment:
"He gives us huge offense," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "He's been great for us."
Forward Daniel Cleary, whose locker is near Brunner's in the Wings' dressing room, sees great potential, "He's, obviously, done very well for us, giving us some offense. He's got a nice shot. He's a good skater. I think he's only going to get better as he gets more acclimated with the NHL and with us, with going in tight areas."
"He's a pretty funny kid," Cleary said. "He's got smile on his face every day. He doesn't have a clue. He just comes around, his hair is always in a mess, and he's smiling every day. I like it."
In terms of the quality of hockey played last night, the suddenly offensively-challenged San Jose Sharks looked to be playing for overtime or a shootout, and 97.1 the Ticket's Jeff Riger was not amused by that game plan. In fact, he hates the shootout (me, too!), but I can't say that I'm thrilled with his plan to "replace" it as it's not exactly fair or equitable:
As I was watching the Wings lose to the Kings on Wednesday night I stumbled upon my new favorite, entertaining part of the game. The 5 on 3! In case you missed it, Detroit was forced to kill off back to back L.A. 2 man advantages in the 2nd period and it was really entertaining to watch. The Kings would later score their games tying goal in the 3rd period on another 5 on 3 chances and that too was fun to watch. In fact, this entire season because of new officiating there has been a tremendous amount of 2 man advantages and every time it was amused me.
So why no end a tie game like that? I do admit that this is just a temporary fix. Eventually we will get bored of the 5 on 3 too and be forced to look at another way to decide things. Remember the days when the penalty shot was so exciting? Yeah, no so much anymore because we now get to see it all the time. The same will happen to the 2 man advantage but in the beginning it will be fun.
Here is how I envision it working out; we’ll just call it “the Riger rules.”
After a tie game in the NHL at the end of regulation the normal 5 minutes of even strength overtime will be played. If the league wanted to make that extra 5 minutes 3 on 3 play, I would be all for it. But for now, let’s just imagine that play would remain 4 on 4 action.
-If a game is still tied after the 5 minutes then each team would get a 2 minute, 5 on 3 chance. Whichever teams scores the most goals in that 2 minute time frame would win the game.
Uh, how do you decide who goes first?
-If the shorthanded team is whistled for a penalty then the team that has the 5 skaters will get to add another player making it 6 on 3 for the remainder of the time. For every penalty committed from the shorthanded team, another skater will be added for the full strength team. If a player for the full strength team commits a penalty then they would lose a skater and then it becomes 4 on 3 action.
-If the shorthanded team scores shorthanded then as a punishment the full strength team will lose the remainder of time on their 5 on 3. The shorthanded team would then start their 2 minutes of 5 on 3. If the team that scores shorthanded already has the lead, they would automatically win.
If the shorthanded team scores, shouldn't the game be over?
-If both teams still have the same score after the initial 2 minutes of 5 on 3 chances, then another 2 minutes would be granted to each team until a winner is determined.
I certainly appreciate Riger's originality, but I'm with Scotty Bowman here: 4 on 4 for five minutes, then 4 minutes of 3 on 3, and go to a shootout if and only if no winner's been decided.
In news regarding a very different kind of salvage operation, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reports that Red Wings prospect Gustav Nyquist is asking for help, because the puck from his first goal was lost during a misunderstanding with a storage unit...
“It’s something you always remember,” Nyquist said. “It’s just unfortunate I don’t have it.”
The current member of the Grand Rapids Griffins, who is second in the AHL’s scoring lead, no longer has the puck or a game sheet - both framed - from his Red Wings debut on Nov. 1, 2011 against Minnesota. His first goal came March 26, 2012 against Columbus. Nyquist, 23 and considered one of the organization’s top prospects, played in 18 games and four playoff games last season with Detroit, finishing with that lone goal along with six assists.
After the season, the Halmstad, Sweden, resident put many of his valuables from his Grand Rapids apartment into an area storage unit with teammates Landon Ferraro and Travis Ehrhardt. That included the puck, game sheet, clothes and some furniture. When he returned in September, he learned the storage unit had been auctioned off in August through a misunderstanding over payment. Nyquist declined to go into details, but he said the buyer is unknown and he hopes for a settlement from the Alpine-based location. Of course, that won’t help him get back the mementos.
“It’s something special to have, for sure,” Nyquist said. “Hopefully, one day I’ll see it again. It’s just a fun thing to have on your wall.”
Meanwhile, Nyquist has enjoyed another productive season. After setting a Griffins’ rookie scoring record (58 points in 56 games), he is currently second in the AHL in scoring (19 goals, 33 assists for 52 points in 51 games), following consecutive three-point games during a three-game weekend. The Griffins again play three games this weekend (at Milwaukee tonight and Sunday and at Peoria on Saturday).
The Griffins have never had a player lead the league in scoring. Michel Picard (32-52-84) was third in 2002-03. Nyquist also has been called up twice this season by Detroit for one game each - on Jan. 22 and Feb. 15 – without a point.
As for the puck and game sheet, he hopes someone will come forward.
“If someone knows anything, that’d be great,” he said.
In Swedish player news, alumni department version: Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji talked to the second Red Wings alum this week who plans on "moving home"...eventually. Maybe. Unlike Brad Stuart, who never planned on leaving San Jose, Tomas Holmstrom wants to "give Sweden a chance," but he and his family have also established deep roots in Southeastern Michigan, so he wants to leave the option of moving back to Novi open if his kids aren't thrilled with living somewhere that the McDonald's drive-thru serves snowmobilers:
"I'm going to stay for like, year and a half, two years," Holmstrom said. "Then we're going to probably move home. Then if it doesn't work, we keep the house and then move back here."
That's right, Holmstrom is planning to keep his options open. His children were all born in the United States and his family is used to living here, so heading back to Sweden might end up being too big of a change. Holmstrom, who just turned 40 in January, is from Pitea, a city so far in the north of Sweden that his teammates often said he was from the North Pole. Sometimes the other Swedes joked that he was actually from Finland.
Returning there would be very different from going back to a big city like Stockholm, where Niklas Kronwall is from.
"I think we're going to adjust pretty good," Holmstrom said. "My wife (Annelie) will probably have a hard time. She's probably going to internet shop a lot. It's not the same, I guess. UPS can come all over now."
Holmstrom said the lifestyle in his hometown is very different from the one he has in Novi -- much more outdoorsy.
"A lot of snowmobiling," Holmstrom said. "More skiing, fishing in the summertime. Really, I'm more active outdoors. Instead of driving four, five, six hours north, (in Pitea) I can just have the snowmobile outside my door and just go out. The kids really enjoy it, too. The kids are more active outside, and I really enjoy that kind of lifestyle."
Holmstrom told Wakiji that he's also very happily retired and is enjoying being a stay-at-home dad to his growing-up "freakshow":
"Sometimes you're up there in the suite watching down and you're like, wow," Holmstrom said. "I don't miss it, though. But it's nice that nobody's beating me up and I don't have any aches and pains. I can play tennis, I can snowmobile and I can ski. I haven't skied in 20 years. I went (on a recent) weekend. It was fun, but it wasn't pretty."
"I really enjoy it," Holmstrom said. "It's so much fun. It's almost like now you know how much you missed. Sometimes I couldn't see the kids for a month because we were gone for 10 days, and they had something when I had something. So it's lots of fun to be around the kids. I like it. They can drive you nuts; I guess that's normal."
He was no "Homer," but Wings fans adored poor Manny Legace, a goalie doomed by his own self-doubt, and Michigan Hockey's Shaved Ice column points us toward a very lengthy article by Bryan Fongers. Fongers lets us know that Legace's now working with the USHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks:
Every young man growing up in life needs a mentor to rely upon when things get into dire straits; someone who can pick them up when they’re down but also provide a little bit of “tough love” when the occasion arises. Like Mr. Miyagi was to Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid movie series, the relationship between Lumberjacks goaltending coach Manny Legace and his goaltending duo of Kevin Lindskoug and Jordan Uhelski has featured a father-son type of bond that stresses one important factor – keeping everyone’s best interests in mind.
Legace was hired into the Muskegon Lumberjacks organization just before Thanksgiving and had the opportunity to meet both goaltenders personally along with critiquing their technical aspects. As Legace explains, the relationship between him and his two “students” grew immensely as they were willing to take in as much information from him as possible.
“I was fortunate to come into a situation where both guys are very coachable and willing to listen to anything that I needed to talk to them about,” Legace said. “Both guys have no attitude problems and express a will to get better (in practice) every day of the week, and that’s the best possible coaching situation to be in.”
Kevin Lindskoug, a native of Trelleborg, Sweden, came over to the Lumberjacks this season after playing four years in the Rögle BK organization that included playing the last three seasons in the Swedish SuperElit league, the top junior league in Sweden. Lindskoug says that the addition of Legace to the coaching staff made him excited in the sense that he has someone who can relate to him in terms of being a smaller-sized netminder.
“It was an awesome feeling when I heard that Manny (Legace) was going to be our new goaltending coach because he could relate to playing the position at my size,” said Lindskoug. “Coach Legace is an inspiration to me because he played big for his size and had a great career in the NHL that included winning the Stanley Cup. That’s where I want to be someday down the road.”
Lumberjacks head coach Jim McKenzie has also been very impressed with how Legace has been able to keep both goaltenders on a level plain and has let him help in the decision-making of when Lindskoug and Uhelski should play on given nights.
“The addition of Manny (Legace) to the coaching staff has been absolutely enormous in the sense of how he has been able to keep both guys mentally focused on a day-in, day-out basis has really been a key aspect to Kevin and Jordan having solid seasons so far,” said McKenzie. “I have been very open in the communication with Manny and letting him help me with the decision of who gets to play on a certain night.”
And in much more weighty alumni news, the WHL's Vancouver Giants are celebrating former part-owner Gordie Howe's 85th birthday this evening. I know that Paul already posted the Vancouver Sun's Cam Cole's article about Howe, and Cole posted a second article about Howe on Thursday...
The Vancouver Province posted an editorial wishing Howe happy birthday, Steve Ewen published a pair of articles talking about Howe's influence on Pat Quinn and a collection of Howe aphorisms/quotes, and the Province posted a pair of Howe photo galleries as well...
But the Canadian Press's Monte Stewart offers a more general/background article explaining what's going on tonight, as well as who's attending the event, and those facts are of overriding importance:
The Golden Jet was among former NHL stars who came out to fete Howe at a Thursday news conference in advance of his 85th birthday celebration at Friday night’s WHL game between the Vancouver Giants and the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Howe missed the session because his flight was delayed, but his absence did not stop Hull, his brother Dennis, Marcel Dionne and Pat Quinn from reminiscing about the hockey great.
The Hulls, Dionne, Quinn and former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Johnny Bower will be on hand for the birthday bash at the Pacific Coliseum.
Bobby Hull, 74, recalled seeing Howe for the first time as a 10-year-old when his mother and father took him from their rural Ontario home to see Howe’s Detroit Red Wings take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. At his father’s urging, the young Hull raced into Maple Leaf Gardens to grab rush seats.
“I was the first one up those steps into the Gardens, and the ice was so pristine,” recalled Hull, who would go on to play with the Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets and Hartford Whalers. “The blue-lines were so blue, and the red-lines were so red, and I stood there with my arms stretched out to save a spot for my mother and father. We were right at the blue-line that the Toronto Maple Leafs defended twice, and Al Rollins was in goal. I remember, in the first period, Howe came down and just stepped over the blue-line, and snapped those big wrists of his, and Al Rollins pulled the puck out from behind him. And, my dad looked down at me and said, ‘Robert, when you can shovel-shoot the puck like that, you can play in this league. It was only 10 shorts years later that I’m playing (for Chicago) with a teammate of his, Ted Lindsay, who had come from Detroit and was playing against Howe and Detroit — and they were the greatest times of my life.”
The Giants will honour Howe, a minority owner of the club, who does not turn 85 until March 31, prior to the game against Lethbridge. The former NHLers are looking forward to the event like starry-eyed youngsters.
“Why would anyone that’s a hockey player not want to come to Gordie Howe’s 85th birthday? … I’m honoured to be here,” said Dennis Hull, who played for Chicago and Detroit.
Dionne remembered first meeting Howe as a rookie with Detroit. Howe, who attended the news conference to announce Dionne’s signing with the Red Wings, joked with Dionne over an apparent lack of size that did not deter him from becoming a standout. Dionne said Mr. Hockey has inspired aging former NHLers with the way he has dealt with his wife Colleen’s death from Pick’s disease, an incurable mental illness, and his own issues with cognitive impairment.
“This is a special day (Friday) night — there’s no doubt about that — with people that are gonna come out at the game,” said Dionne. “I’m crazy about these things — and to remember where you were at a certain time.”
Update: In the "shout out" department...My pal NHLGossip on Twitter offers trade rumors galore via both his Twitter account and his new website, NHL Rumor Mill, but he is an anti-Eklund. He only offers posted news, Tweets and press releases, and tries to figure out what's going on instead of leaning on intrigue.
Update #2: This doesn't necessarily merit own-entry status, but I don't think that there's any doubt that Jonas Gustavsson may have saved his job by performing well in yesterday's 2-1 shootout win against San Jose. The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness took note of "Gus's" superb outing against San Jose, as well as its implications:
[L]ast Sunday Gustavsson, who signed a two-year deal worth $1.5 million a season, suffered a minor setback with his groin and couldn’t backup Howard in a win against the Vancouver Canucks.
“Of course that’s probably not the best situation but that’s the way it is,” Gustavsson said when asked if it’s tough to join a new team and begin things injured. “Through your career you’re going to have different challenges. You’ve just got to find a way to handle them and stay positive. For me that (injury) is in the past and I’m just trying to look forward to the game tonight.”
Howard has started all but two games this season.
“Obviously it wouldn’t hurt to see him play and I think it’s important that you’re starting goalie doesn’t have to play every night,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “The other thing about it is it’s a real good opportunity for him. We need a win on the road and he’s capable of doing that so get in there and play like you can.”
Prior to Thursday, Gustavsson had played just over 68 minutes this season.
“He hasn’t played,” Babcock said. “When you’ve been here this much time and you’re injured all the time it’s probably hard on you mentally as well. What I liked about him is he earned himself more time in net. The other thing is it never hurts to have competition and people pushing each other. The season’s a grind.
“Howie needs a breather every once in a while,” Babcock added. “Howie will go against Chicago and Gus will be ready to go right away.”
Sometimes Gustavsson's big rebounds are scary, but he's also a BIG goalie who blocks tons of net thanks to his aggressive positioning and plain old good size, and his glove and blocker hands are very good. I was impressed with his "controlled chaos" style of play.
ALSO: Men and women who live in caves, FSD is holding a "Man Cave Upgrade" contest.
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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.