The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/28/13 at 04:07 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings somewhat appropriately flew back to treacherous, icy weather in Southeastern Michigan on Sunday night, hoping to avoid accidents on the road after lapses in confidence, execution and self-confidence played large parts in the team's slip-and-slide 2-1 overtime loss to Chicago--minus an MRI-bound Darren Helm (back)--hoping to tweak the team's woeful power play (it went 0-for-6 in 11:17 of PP time) and avoid injuries during Monday's practice before wrapping up a slate of three games in five nights against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.
The Wings now possess a 2-2-and-1 record, with only one of their wins coming in regulation time, and their 2-for-26 power play, inability to score goals in the first period and their understandable but still inexcusable lack of confidence as the team attempts to forge a post-Nicklas Lidstrom identity--though it should be noted that the power play stank on ice for the final two seasons of Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom's tensures with the team--all add up to a team that's going to be under a considerable amount of pressure to right itself and start winning with its present personnel, injuries or no injuries, by playing the kind of determined, speedy and even gritty kind of Red Wings puck possession hockey that the team displayed during long stretches of its win against Minnesota last Friday.
If the present contingent of Red Wings players doesn't steady themselves by the time Jiri Hudler and the Calgary Flames have left town next Tuesday, then we're talking about a team that's played nine games (over a sixth of a 48-game season), and even given Ian White and Carlo Colaiacovo's absences from the blueline, the front office must seriously consider adding some NHL-savvy fresh blood to the personnel equation.
For the next week or so, however, these Wings will have to do try and sort things out themselves, and on Sunday, anyway, they played, "Stand around and watch" for the first period, found their footing in the second and plain old preyed upon a tired Blackhawks team playing its 6th game over the course of 9 nights in the third period...
But a Red Wings playing its fifth game in nine nights still ended up as the answer to the trivia question that is, "Who did the Chicago Blackhawks defeat to get off to their best start in team history?" and the Wings did so because their lack of collective and individual self-confidence yielded a classically frustrating performance, and a classically broken play in overtime--Justin Abdelkader hauled ass to the bench after Henrik Zetterberg won a faceoff in his own zone, as Zetterberg chugged up the ice himself, and Damien Brunner rushed onto the ice, Zetterberg lost the puck to Jonathan Toews, Toews pushed it ahead to Viktor Stalberg, who skated into the Wings' zone and drew both Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson to the left side of the ice (why Mike Babcock chose to take Brian Lashoff off the Kronwall pairing late in the game is unknown), and as Brunner made a beeline to try and cover pinching Hawks defenseman Nick Leddy, Leddy took a pass from Stalberg, leaned into a slapper, and his shot happened to top off Brunner's stick blade and just elude Jimmy Howard's glove.
With that, the Hawks took their two points and franchise record, as well as their dominance over the Red Wings of late, and ran with them, as they told the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc:
"That was a solid game, a tight-checking game against these guys," said [Corey] Crawford, who made 29 saves to improve to 5-0-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. "They're a team that just doesn't quit — they play the same way all game."
Johan Franzen scored for the Wings (2-3-0) while Jimmy Howard was the tough-luck loser despite making 25 saves.
The Hawks' penalty killing continued its stellar play, holding the Wings scoreless in six consecutive opportunities, including 43 seconds of five-on-three play during a second period when the Hawks were short-handed for much of the time. Leading the way were Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger, who helped limit the Wings to five shots on goal in 11 minutes, 17 seconds of having a man advantage.
"In the second period, almost the whole period we played on the PK," Frolik said. "It was big, especially the five-on-three. That was great play by guys and Crawford making big saves."
In 23 times short-handed this season, the Hawks have yielded one goal.
"Whether it was the forwards, the 'D' blocking shots or the key saves by Crawford, it was a group effort — spectacular kills," coach Joel Quenneville said. "To me it was the key to the game."
The Hawks patted their penalty-killing unit on the back while speaking to the Chicago Daily Herald's Tim Sassone...
The penalty killing in front of goalie Corey Crawford was outstanding with forwards Michal Frolik and Marcus Kruger leading the way along with the defense. Frolik was seemingly everywhere in the second period when the Hawks killed 4 power plays, including 43 seconds of a 5-on-3.
"I had him as having a special game," Quenneville said. "He's had some nice games but that might have been his best."
Keith opened the scoring on a power play at 2:24 of the first period with a rocket over Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard.
The Hawks rode that goal though the second period when Detroit dominated. Neither Quenneville nor Keith wanted to blame the fact the Red Wings couldn't score with the extra man — or men — on the absence of Lidstrom and Holmstrom.
"They still got guys who throw it around. They had some dangerous looks," Quenneville said. "Their play recognition is still high end."
"Obviously those two guys were a big part of their power play, but I don't want to discredit what our penalty killers have done," Keith said. "I thought they had some chances and Crawford made some big saves."
And the Hawks readily admitted to the Chicago Sun-Times' Mike Lazerus that they'd gotten away with playing rope-a-dope hockey coming off a 3-2 win over Columbus on Saturday night...
“It’s been a lot of games,” Marcus Kruger said. “Obviously, some guys are going to feel that.”
But once Nick Leddy’s blast from the left circle ticked off Damien Brunner’s stick and Jimmy Howard’s glove to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings, there was more than enough adrenaline and good vibes to send the giddy Hawks teeming over the boards and rushing into Leddy’s arms.
The first overtime goal of Leddy’s career — at any level, he said — gave the Hawks a 6-0 start, the best in franchise history. At the one-eighth pole of the 48-game sprint season, Chicago is perfect.
“You really can’t describe it,” Leddy said of the postgame dog pile. “It’s an unbelievable feeling and one I’ll never forget.”
But the Hawks' press felt it necessary to remind everyone that the Red Wings' power play is missing numbers 5 and 96...
Of course, this isn’t the same Red Wings power play that Hawks fans have come to know, hate, and maybe fear over the last several seasons. Detroit is 2-of-26 with the man advantage, as Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement left a gaping hole at the point.
“Definitely,” Crawford said. “For them, missing a guy like that [hurts], he’s probably one of the best ones of all time on the blue line. It’s kind of nice for us not to see him this year. But you know what, at the same time, they have some other guys that are really good, too. The penalty kill definitely was looking sharp.”
And Hawks coach Joel Quenneville agreed while speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times' Lazerus...
“He’s one guy around the league — you can talk about him every time we have our meetings about being aware of Nick out there,” Quenneville said. “You can say this and that about him, but he just continues to do what he did so well for so many years that you appreciate him as a player. He’s a special player through many years — he’s just so effortless, effective, consistent and reliable and dependable.”
Eight-year veteran Niklas Kronwoll stepped into Lidstrom’s role on the Red Wings’ top defensive pairing. But while Kronwell is taking Lidstrom’s spot, he’s not replacing the future Hall of Famer. Nobody can, really.
“You don’t replace a guy like him,” Quenneville said. “But you certainly appreciate him from even an opponent’s side. He was real special.”
Lidstrom played 20 seasons, racking up 1,142 points in 1,564 games and playing lockdown defense, helping the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup four times. He won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman seven times, one shy of Bobby Orr’s record. And his 88 points in 119 meetings with the Blackhawks were the most he posted against any team.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock called Lidstrom a “great, great player.” But the Wings, as always, are a veteran-laden team, so while Lidstrom is missed all around, his absence on the ice is felt more than his absence in the dressing room.
“Our leadership’s been real strong,” Babcock said. “We’re trying to be a work in progress and get better each game, and help our ‘D’ be better. We’re going to miss Nick. He’s a generational type of player. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I think he was the greatest D-man since I’ve been in the league, for sure. You don’t replace those people.”
The Chicago Tribune's Kuc...
"He was a special player through many years," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He was just so effortless and effective and consistent and reliable and dependable that you don't replace a guy like him. You certainly appreciated him even from the opponent's side."
In 119 career games against the Hawks, Lidstrom had 30 goals and 58 assists. The 88 points is the most the four-time Stanley Cup champion had against any team during his NHL tenure that spanned from 1991-2012.
The Wings have been searching for a defenseman that can semi-adequately fill Lidstrom's skates, but thus far haven't come up with a solution.
"We're going to miss Nick," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "To me, he's a generational-type of player — a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I think he's the greatest D-man since I've been in the league for sure, so you don't replace those people."
And the Chicago Daily Herald's Sassone...
"He's one guy around the league we talked about every time we had our meetings," Quenneville said. "He did what he did so well for so many years, you appreciated him as a player. He was a special player for many years. He was just so effortless and effective and consistent and reliable and dependable. You don't replace a guy like him, but you appreciated him even from the other bench."
Hawks goalie Corey Crawford wasn't complaining that Lidstrom wasn't patrolling the blue line on Sunday night.
"It's kind of nice for us not to see him this year," Crawford said.
But the Hawks insisted to Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers that it was their 22-for-23 penalty-killing unit that allowed them to hang in there...
“It was huge. It was a great second period of kills,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “From our forwards, to our D blocking shots to key saves by Crow, it was a group effort. Even that 5 on 3 was special. From the willingness to get in the way of shots and the awareness to what they’re capable of doing; that’s a dangerous power play and we dodged a bullet. To me, that was the key of the game.”
“We didn’t have much time to practice (it in training camp), but we’ve tried to stick with the plan: Clear the puck 200 feet and make big (PK unit) changes,” [Michael Frolik] said. “You want to play a high-energy PK and put the pressure on them. So far it’s working.”
Crawford continued his strong play in the early going, notching his fifth victory in as many starts. Crawford said the penalty kill was pivotal.
“We’re able to force teams to the outside,” he said. “Whenever a team tries something in the middle we’re able to cut it off or get a stick on it and our guys came up with some big blocks.”
And after Johan Franzen scored an earned goal--he's been playing a lot harder and a lot better than just about anybody's willing to give him credit for doing as he also happens to be Wings' fans' resident whipping boy on the forward lines--early in the third period, the Hawks stuck around, stuck around, and stuck around some more, and in OT...
Then it was Leddy’s opportunity. Viktor Stalberg came down the right side and passed it to Leddy, whose shot went under Jimmy Howard’s glove and in.
“You really can't describe it,” Leddy said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling and one that I'll never forget.”
Stalberg said he just took what the Wings defensemen gave him.
“The D-men are backing off me when I come down that right side. I’ve had shots a couple times too, even if I didn’t connect on them,” he said. “If they’re going to give me that, either pull up and have that shot like a couple of games ago or find that trailing guy.”
So the Hawks relished their victory, as the Associated Press's recap notes...
"We could have been on our heels a little bit," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Detroit was pressing (being) down a goal. You know everything's coming. They were pinching. We could have been better, but at the same time, six (games) in nine (days) could have been a factor."
Quenneville couldn't really fault his club, one of two undefeated NHL teams along with San Jose.
"I think everybody deserves credit," Quenneville said. "Everybody's contributing. Everybody was where we wanted them to be. Everybody had good conditioning to start with. Special teams, Crow (Crawford) in net, the team game. I'm pleased."
Crawford, who made his fifth start in six games, was sharp again. Last season, the Blackhawks' 28-year-old No. 1 goalie was criticized for allowing soft and untimely goals. That hasn't happened so far this season.
"Focus has been a huge part of it so far," Crawford said. "I thought I was focused last year, but I wasn't quite there. This year, I've paid a little bit more attention to that, especially throughout the game. Every play around the net, I'm ready and getting low for little things around the net so I don't give up those little goals."
Crawford had to be sharp to preserve the lead in second. Early in the period, he made close-in saves on Todd Bertuzzi and Henrik Zetterberg. And the Blackhawks needed Crawford as they ran into penalty trouble in the second. Detroit was unable to convert any of four straight power plays beginning midway through the second, including a 43-second 5-on-3 advantage.
"The D were blocking the shots," Quenneville said. "Key saves by Crow (Crawford). It was a group effort, with spectacular kills. We dodged a bullet. It was the key to the game."
And you can cue more glee from the Northwest Herald's Tom Musick...
“It’s fun,” Stalberg said. “The most encouraging part is we’re playing good hockey. We’re not just winning fluke games. I think we’re playing good all three zones, and we’re getting rewarded for it.”
By the time the Blackhawks return to the United Center for their next home game Feb. 12, Cubs and White Sox pitchers and catchers will have reported to spring training.
Derrick Rose could be on the court for the Bulls.
Who knows? Maybe the Hawks will have a loss by the time they return.
The Wings did not resemble the perennial powerhouse that has compiled a 21-season playoff streak to go along with 11 Stanley Cup titles. Instead, they looked as if someone had kidnapped the Anaheim Ducks and re-dressed them in Detroit’s red and white sweaters.
Block party: Crawford wasn’t kidding about his teammates blocking shots. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Seabrook blocked four shots apiece against the Wings to tie for the team lead.
Dirty work is nothing new for the Hawks’ defensemen. Seabrook leads all NHL players with 19 blocked shots this season, while Hjalmarsson is third in the league with 16.
ESPN Chicago wants to remind us what this game "means" for the Hawks...
What it means: The Blackhawks set a franchise record Sunday by winning their sixth consecutive game to start the 2013 season. With a 6-0-0 record, the Blackhawks are four games short of tying the NHL record of consecutive wins to start a season. The record is held by the 1993-1994 Toronto Maple Leafs and 2006-2007 Buffalo Sabres.
And we'll pivot from the Hawks' perspectives to those of the Red Wings via NHL.com's Brian Hedger's recap, which offers a set of stats that I can only call...questionable...while recounting the Hawks' first goal...
Keith's goal put the Blackhawks up quickly, after a holding call on Kent Huskins led to a power play. During the advantage, Detroit's Patrick Eaves lost his stick in a corner battle and Marian Hossa gained control of the puck. He slid it out to Seabrook at the point, who found Keith in the left circle.
That turned out to be Chicago's lone man-advantage of the first, but the Blackhawks' puck-possession game was so dominant that it felt like they had several more in the period. Detroit turned the momentum in the second by drawing four penalties and putting the pressure on Chicago's penalty kill units, but the Blackhawks were up to the challenge.
Chicago also blocked 20 shots in this game, including four each by defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson, Seabrook and Johnny Oduya. Seabrook now leads the NHL with 19 blocked shots, while Hjalmarsson's 16 ranks third.
Niklas Kronwall offered the following regarding an equally frustrating stat from this Red Wings fan's perspective:
Johan Franzen scored Detroit's lone goal at 4:30 of the third to tie it 1-1 for the Detroit (2-2-1) – which couldn't convert any of its six man-advantages into goals – including four in the second period, when the Red Wings also frittered away 43 seconds of a 5-on-3 opportunity.
Detroit has now scored just two goals in 26 power plays for a paltry 7.7 percent conversion rate. That might be the biggest area where the Red Wings miss retired star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom – who smoothly quarterbacked their power play for years.
"I think we're looking for the perfect shot," said Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who put two shots on goal but had two others blocked. "Sometimes a [wrist shot] in there creates some momentum and creates some chances or chaos in front of their net. We have to get back to the basics a little bit instead of passing the puck around too much. We had a few pretty good looks. We just couldn't get the job done."
The Wings did something very important both on the power play and at even strength on Friday: they shot as a means of forechecking, and out-hustled, out-worked and out-ground their opponents to rebounds and loose pucks.
On Sunday, they passed, passed, passed and passed some more--and worse, they repeatedly surrendered grade-a opportunities to shoot pucks on the net for the sake of finding a prettier, more aesthetically pleasing shooting solution, as Pavel Datsyuk told Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Nina Falcone:
"We had [a] few chances, we did not score, so [that made things a] little difficult on the game," Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk said. "We tried to make [the power play] better, position better, angle the shot but we [weren't] aggressive. We didn't have a chance in the second half to rebound, too."
The Blackhawks' special teams performance has played a significant role in the team's early success. Despite the number of times the Hawks were sent to the box, the Red Wings only recorded a total of six shots on goal with the man advantage.
"We had our chances, the puck just didn't go in for us on the power play," Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "It's a frustrating loss, I thought we deserved to win tonight. But it's funny the way this game works, sometimes it just doesn't happen. They got an opportunity there in overtime and they scored."
Although the Red Wings lost out on a second point, Howard believes tonight's outcome wasn't a total loss for his team.
"[Chicago] is a tough place to play. Whenever you can come in here and at least get a point, it's a good thing. Two points were there and we just failed to get it."
The Wings have absolutely stank on ice in Chicago and against Chicago over the past two years--if you recall Saturday's overnight report, the AP's Alan Ferguson tossed off this stomach-churning number...
They're 2-0-1 in their last three home games against Detroit and 8-1-2 in the last 11 meetings overall, including three straight victories to close last season's series.
Now we have to make that 9-1-and-2 in their last 12 meetings, including 4 straight victories.
And I must say this: in my opinion, anyway, the lack of an effective and consistent power play was one of the main reasons the Wings lost the Cup to the Penguins in 2009, so when we talk about the kinds of things that Mike Babcock told DetroitRedWings.com after Sunday night's loss, we have to remember that this team has really had about three-and-a-half years' worth of either mediocre or plain old bad power play performances, so even under Paul MacLean, Brad McCrimmon and video coach Keith McKittrick, the power play has been a problem, and even with "The One Who Was Probably Never Anything More Than A One-Year Wing" in Marian Hossa in the lineup, the Wings have struggled to put pucks in the net with the man advantage...
Babcock expanded upon his remarks while speaking to the Free Press's Helene St. James...
Mike Babcock on going 0-for-6 on power plays: "When your power play isn't zipping, it is draining. The other thing is, you're using your best players and you're wearing them out. We have to look at it and fix it, because it is an issue for us and it should be better with the skill level that we have, and it's not."
And he's got a point if you look at the stat sheet: Niklas Kronwall played a staggering 27:52, Jonathan Ericsson ended up playing 21:57, Brendan Smith saw some time on the second PP unit when Babcock took Damien Brunner off the point, and as a result, he played 21:45, Pavel Datsyuk played 21:11, Henrik Zetterberg played 20:31, Valtteri Filppula played 20:09, even Kyle Quincey played 20:02, Franzen was at 19:12 and Brunner at 18:59, and at the other end of the spectrum, two players who could have provided speed and physicality in Patrick Eaves and Jordin Tootoo ended up playing 7:59 and 10:26, respectively, so to say that ice time was "out of balance" is an understatement.
Henrik Zetterberg put things bluntly regarding the Wings' continued status as a one-and-done team on the power play while speaking to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
The Red Wings didn't score in six man-advantage chances and are now 2-for-26 for the season (7.7 percent).
"We weren't there for the second (shots)," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "They were better getting to the puck."
Getting shots to the net, said defenseman Niklas Kronwall , is also a factor.
"We have to get the puck to the net," Kronwall said. "We have to find a way to get there because it's not good enough the way it is right now."
And the Wings issued similar remarks to the Free Press's St. James, with Johan Franzen thankfully stating the obvious:
"It's probably a confidence thing," Johan Franzen said. "We got one last game, or two, so we should have the confidence back. I don't know. Maybe it feels like they kind of know what we're going to do. They probably scout us pretty well. We've got to threaten them from more positions."
The Wings' power play looks quite different this season, having lost both Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom. Niklas Kronwall and Damien Brunner now man the points on the first power play, with Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg down low.
"Right now, we know it's either Kronner or Brunner who's going to shoot the puck, pretty much," Franzen said. "I think we've got to see Pav and Hank shoot the puck a little bit more, maybe, and get them thinking a little bit. I think it's just a matter of getting shots, and getting traffic."
Franzen absolutely whiffed on a glorious opportunity in the slot because he thought that Pavel Datsyuk could score more easily from the right wing half boards, but Kronwall, Brunner, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Filppula, Bertuzzi, Smith, Ericsson, Quincey, Cleary and everyone else who played on the power play was guilty of giving up at least two or three shots in order to make an extra pass.
Kronwall said he didn't think the Wings are getting the puck to the net enough. "Even if they have guys in the lane, we have to find ways to get it there. It's not good enough the way it is right now. We have to find a way to get the job done."
The Wings have had trouble as soon as they get the man advantage, unable to get any good chances as they can't even get set up. And when they did manage a shot against the Blackhawks, "they've got four guys going to it quicker than our guys are going to it, and we end up one-and-done all the time," Mike Babcock said. "We've got to be more competitive in those situations."
Being "more competitive" transcends whatever systems the coaches are preaching, and it transcends personnel, too.
Was there any good news?
Definitely, and it came in the form of the much-maligned Franzen scoring his first goal (you might see pucks bouncing off his stick and rolling elsewhere much less frequently this season as he's switched from an Easton stick to a Warrior model, which is a little more forgiving), as MLive's Ansar Khan noted:
Red Wings forward Johan Franzen scored his first goal of the season, firing in the rebound of a shot by Damien Brunner at 4:30 of the third period. It enabled his club to salvage a point.
Franzen avoided injury when he was inadvertently speared in the sternum by Dave Bolland during a five-on-three Detroit power play in the second period. Franzen crumbled to the ice in pain, resulting in a stoppage in play when his team was pressing for the tying goal. He went to the bench to gather himself and returned for his next shift.
“I lost my breath. It floored me right away, I couldn't move,'' Franzen said. “It only takes a couple of minutes and then you're back to normal again.''
The Red Wings need Franzen, who's been inconsistent the past couple of seasons, to be a top-notch power forward and contribute around 30 goals.
“It was good to see him come back after that,'' Henrik Zetterberg said. “It's always good to get the first one out of the way.''
“I thought Mule played good, but I thought we had lots of good players,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “(Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson) coming back really helped us out. I thought (Brendan) Smith was excellent. (Justin Abdelkader's) line (with Jordin Tootoo and Drew Miller) was real good. When you lose Helmer you're thinking how's this going to go. I thought (Abdelkader's) line might have been one of our best lines because it was physical.''
Anything else? Well, as noted in the whole ice time thing, Jonathan Ericsson did indeed look pretty solid (sorry, folks, he played well) in 21:57 of ice time, and as Khan notes, Brendan Smith "took a step," too:
Rookie defenseman Brendan Smith logged a career-high 21:45 and posted a plus-1 rating, playing with Ericsson instead of Kyle Quincey, who was paired with Kent Huskins.
“He's just a good skater, he's got to continue to be patient and not overplay stuff,'' Babcock said of Smith. “Sometimes, he gets out there drifting and running around and trying to do too much. As he becomes a good pro, he'll learn to be patient.''
In his quote-less recap, Khan also notes that Jimmy Howard continued to impress, and there's no doubt that he's been the team's most important player over the first five games, ensuring the team a chance to compete for two points even when it chooses to not show up for 20 or 40 minutes. However...
--The power play went 0-for-6, registering only five shots. It is 2-for-26 in five games.
--Any time Darren Helm does not play, the Red Wings are missing a significant spark plug. His speed and physical play makes the third line hard to play against and his energy is contagious throughout the lineup. He will have an MRI on his back Monday.
--The Red Wings have been outscored 4-0 in the first period through five games. They've had two decent opening periods, two awful opening periods and one so-so opening period.
Issue of the day: Early returns:
We asked who should sit when defenseman Jonathan Ericsson returns to the lineup. Not surprisingly, it was Jakub Kindl, who still has much to prove and has a long way to go before earning a regular spot in the lineup.
Even though Brian Lashoff was more or less relegated to the third pairing with Kent Huskins by the time the game went to OT--Huskins played 12:40 and Lashoff only 14:43 after playing 20+ minutes alongside Kronwall over the past two games--it really is time to start asking whether the Wings are going to cut ties with Kindl sooner than later.
Lashoff can be sent down to Grand Rapids without clearing waivers, which means that he's probably going to be Grand Rapids bound when Colaiacovo and White return, but Kindl? For a former first-round pick who the Wings have invested an enormous amount of time, energy and effort attempting to essentially turn into the same kind of strong-skating, big and not physical but still physically effective puck-moving defenseman he was in junior hockey with the Kitchener Rangers.
That hasn't happened, and when you've got Kent Huskins, a guy who was patrolling the Norfolk Admirals' blueline a week ago, skating instead of Kindl, that speaks volumes.
Heading back to the narrative of the Wings' loss, they expressed significant frustration regarding the result of their effort against Chicago to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
"It's a frustrating loss," said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who stopped 25 shots. "I thought we deserved to win tonight, but it's funny the way this game is, sometimes it doesn't happen. They got an opportunity in overtime and scored."
Viktor Stalberg backed up the Red Wings defense and found Leddy in the left circle. Leddy's shot got a piece of Howard and flew into the net.
"They just came in and threw it across and he shot it across my body," Howard said. "You have to remember this is a tough place to play and whenever you can come in and get at least a point, it's a good thing. But two points were there and we just failed to get it."
For the season, the Wings are a mind-boggling dismal 2-for-26 (7.7 percent). The Wings enjoyed a 43-second, two-man advantage in the second period, they had four power plays in the period all told, but failed to generate any momentum.
"It's an issue for us, it should be better with the skill level we have," said coach Mike Babcock of the power play. "We're slow to the puck right now. when we shoot the puck they have four guys going to it quicker than we do. In our last couple penalty kills, we did exactly that to them."
Both teams had 11 shots on goal in the period. But the Blackhawks' top two lines controlled play and Chicago, overall, gave the Red Wings little time to set up and killed two Detroit power plays.
"They were better than us early, we were cautious at the start and on our heels and they skated us," Babcock said. "(But) we carried the play the last 30 minutes. We dug in and played and had every opportunity to win the game."
The problem wasn't that the Wings didn't have opportunities to win the game. The problem is that they either couldn't or wouldn't take advantage of them.
Instead, Kronwall and Datsyuk could only shake their heads when speaking to the Free Press's St. James about opportunities very purposefully and intentionally avoided:
"I think maybe we're looking for the perfect shot," Niklas Kronwall said. "Sometimes, a wrister in there creates some momentum, creates some chances or some chaos in front of their net, makes them turn their heads to look for the puck. We have to get back to the basics instead of passing the puck around too much."
The inability to convert on any of the chances burned deeper because the Wings outshout the Blackhawks 18-14 over the last 40 minutes.
"They played us better than us in the first," Kronwall said, "but I thought from the second period and forward, it felt like we had a lot of momentum going and created some chances."
Franzen's line with Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner was the Wings' most lethal one, combining for 13 of the team's 30 shots. Pavel Datsyuk's group, with wingers Valtteri Filppula and Todd Bertuzzi, pressed hard especially in the waning minutes, but Corey Crawford wasn't giving an inch.
"We have few chances, we not score," Datsyuk. "Little bit make it difficult in a game now. We not aggressive on power play. We don't have chance to rebound."
A lot bit difficult, with most of that level of difficulty being self-inflicted.
Now the Wings will cross their fingers regarding Helm, because they have to play the Stars again on Tuesday, the Blues again on Friday, and the Blue Jackets again on Saturday before the Flames come to town on February 5th (it's a special day for someone who has to work on that day...a special day for someone who makes a big deal out of his birthdays...), the Wings play the blues for the third frickin' time on February 7th, and the team plays back-to-back matinee games against the Oilers and Kings on the 9th and 10th before, well...playing the Blues for the fourth time on February 13th.
Let's just say that the NHL's schedule-maker did not think much about originality, and given the way the Blues are playing thus far, the Wings' home-heavy January and February portions of their schedule are more or less negated by teh severe degree of difficulty all of those games against St. Louis, Dallas, Nashville (twice in February), Los Angeles (twice in February) and the ever-pesky Blue Jackets (twice in February) constitute.
Other than the Ducks and Flames, the Wings will also play the Canucks once and the Sharks once in February, but it's all Blues, Predators, Kings and Blue Jackets from Friday until March.
In that sense, anyway, the Wings will be able to measure and then re-measure themselves against increasingly familiar opponents, and, depending on how the Wings do in terms of securing 2 points on a nightly basis, that's either very good or very bad.
Highlights: Even the Red Wings website's highlights are provided by and narrated by Comcast Sportsnet Chicago:
If you want to watch CSN Chicago's actual highlight clip, you may most certainly do so.
Comcast Sportsnet Chicago posted Quenneville's presser.
And while I do not know why all the Fox Sports outlets are no longer posting their color commentators' takes on game proceedings--which yields no Mickey Redmond time for fans outside the FSD broadcast area--Fox Sports Detroit did post a 1:21 clip of Jimmy Howard, Pavel Datsyuk and Mike Babcock speaking to the media after the game:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 28-image gallery;
I will guess that there are over 20 images in the Chicago Sun-Times' gallery;
Ditto for the number of "Blackhawks in Action" photos from Sunday night's game in the Chicago Tribune's Hawks gallery;
The Windsor Star posted four photos from the game;
Yahoo Sports posted 15 AP images from the game;
ESPN posted a 38-image gallery;
Shots 30-27 Detroit overall.
The Wings and Hawks tied in shots in the 1st, going 11-and-11; the Wings out-shot Chicago 9-6 in the 2nd; the Wings out-shot Chicago 9-8 in the 3rd; and they were out-shot in OT 2-1.
The Wings went a hideous 0-for-6 in 11:17 of PP time, including 0-for-1 in 43 seconds of 5 on 3 time; the Hawks went 1-for-3 in 4:39 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 25 of 27 shots; Corey Crawford stopped 29 of 30.
The three stars, per the "Chicago Media," were Marcus Kruger (3), Pavel Datsyuk (2) and Corey Crawford (1).
The Wings' goal: Franzen (1) from Brunner (1) and Zetterberg (4).
Faceoffs 33-31 Detroit (Detroit won 52%);
Blocked shots 20-14 Chicago;
Missed shots 8-7 Detroit (total attempts 58-48 Detroit);
Hits 19-14 Detroit;
Giveaways supposedly 12-3 Chicago;
Takeaways supposedly 13-5 Chicago.
Red Wings notebooks:
In a notebook penned before puck drop, MLive's Ansar Khan duly noted that the Red Wings are a wee bit frustrated with a non-power play-related issue in the NHL's "new" standards of rule enforcement, which seem to go along these lines: "We've decided to call obstruction again, and we're all about hands this season: put your hand on a puck in the faceoff circle, you're taking a penalty. Close your hand on a puck, even if you're just attempting to drop it to the ice, and you're taking a penalty. And if you slash someone on the hands, you're going to take a penalty. Because we like hands."
Could this have something to do with the fact that the New York Rangers' equipment manager got so tired of his players suffering broken hands that he's forced every player to add a Kevlar slash guard to the backhand rolls of their gloves, which might also be slightly annoying to equipment manufacturers? Sure. Could the truth of the matter involve the fact that those guards were added because John Tortorella wants his players to drop down and block shots, even with their hands? Yeah, that too, but still:
“A lot of penalties, you're looking at the tape and trying to find the penalty and it's the one hand on the glove, and they call it a hooking or a slash,'' defenseman Kyle Quincey said. “Nothing on the hands, that's a big sticking point for them.''
Quincey said it has been a quick learning process, since they had a day's notice to adjust.
“A few times (Friday) we stopped moving our feet and we had to take a holding call,'' Quincey said. “Growing up, they teach you to get on the hands so they can't make plays, and now it's the furthest thing from what you want to do. When you're going stick on puck, a lot of times they're stepping on your stick and it's a tripping penalty now. You got to be very careful what you do. It's almost like they want to get five, six, seven power plays a game, so they're looking for stuff. Hopefully, it dies down in the next couple of weeks, but for now we got to be very careful.''
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said consistency from game-to-game has been lacking so far.
“If you look at our last game (2-1 loss to Dallas Tuesday) and this one (Friday), it's tough to know, (sometimes) you touched a glove and get two minutes and sometimes you don't,'' Zetterberg said. “But, at least they were consistent (Friday). It was tough playing all your career one way and all the sudden you can't touch the other player's glove or you get two minutes.''
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said players must adjust early in games to the standard set that night.
“You got to respect what's being called and keep your stick on the puck and not on hands,'' Babcock said. “They made it very clear to us, they sent us video of how the game was going to be called. When you put your stick on another guy's hand you're going to the box.''
Zetterberg got nailed for the "free hand on an opponent = penalty" rule on Sunday, too.
The Free Press's Helene St. James reports that the half inch of snow, half inch of raining ice (seriously, it was raining ice on Sunday evening) and then sleet and rain soon to fall this morning in Metro Detroit (we may get two inches of sleet in my backyard) meant that Ken Holland wasn't able to attend Sunday night's game, but he did confirm to the press that the team's going to make Darren Helm undergo a precautionary MRI on his back after whatever pain he's experiencing resurfaced.
Helm first hurt his back working out. An original MRI was negative, but given the persistence of the problem, general manager Ken Holland said Helm will have another MRI Monday.
Patrick Eaves entered the lineup, making his second appearance of the season. Losing Helm forced the Wings to move Justin Abdelkader back to centering the third line, the spot ideally occupied by Helm. Babcock hasn't hid how important Helm is to the team's success, calling him "the best third-line center in the NHL" numerous times. Helm, the team's fastest skater, is also crucial to the penalty kill.
"Abby's line was real good," Babcock said. "When you lose Helmer, you're thinking, how is this going to go? I thought his line might have been one of our best lines, because it was the most physical."
And she also offers the following regarding the Wings' second-newest defenseman...
Jonathan Ericsson returned after missing three games because of a sore shoulder, bumping Jakub Kindl from the lineup. It speaks to how steadily Brian Lashoff has played since arriving from Grand Rapids last Monday that he's become a regular already, leaping ahead of Kindl.
Asked what he likes about Lashoff, Babcock said, "he's smart. And he's 6-foot-3 every shift." The Wings' defense, of course, lost two key players in the off-season in Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, especially so Lidstrom, a seven-time Norris Trophy winner.
Babcock defended his blue line corp before Sunday's game, saying: "I don't think you can evaluate - I mean, there's a whole bunch of people not playing. So you're playing people you never dreamed of playing. ... I think our leadership's been real strong. We're trying to be a work in progress and get better each game and help our D be better."
And St. James' note about Lashoff dovetails nicely with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's noting of Lashoff's successful attempt to secure a spot on the team's blueline, maybe even a permanent position:
With the Red Wings having already used nine defensemen in the early going of this season, Lashoff's development has been a pleasant — and needed — surprise.
What does Babcock like best about Lashoff?
"Smart," Babcock said. "And he's 6-foot-3 every shift."
Impressive with the minor league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins through the lockout Lashoff, 22, was part of the Red Wings' short training camp leading into the regular season. When injuries to Red Wings defensemen piled high, he was the first one recalled.
"Obviously with some guys going down with injuries, you don't really know what to expect," Lashoff said.
Lashoff arrived the day of the game Jan. 21 in Columbus and scored a goal in his first NHL game.
"I didn't really have a chance to think about things, just go out and play," he said. "Maybe that was the best situation for me, to start like that, and knowing I'll be playing with ( Niklas ) Kronwall , he has helped me out a lot. It gives me an opportunity to go out there and make simple plays."
Otherwise, I will merely post one Tweet from NHL.com's loquacious Brian Hedger's Twitter account, and direct you to his account as, if you're a Wings fan, anyway, some of what he's offering may feel like having sand kicked in your eye:
In the prospect department, in the AHL, Petr Mrazek, Gustav Nyquist and Chad Billins will take part in the AHL's All-Star Game tonight (on http://ahllive.com and other outlets, but not on Fox Sports Detroit, at 7 PM this evening), and they also took part in the AHL's All-Star Skills Competition on Sunday evening.
The Western Conference AHL All-Stars staged a furious comeback and pulled out a thrilling 12-11 victory over their Eastern Conference counterparts in the 2013 Pepsi AHL All-Star Skills Competition at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Sunday evening.
The West’s goaltending trio of Barry Brust, Petr Mrazek and Justin Peters combined to stop the last 14 East attempts in the H&R Block Breakaway Relay, allowing the Western Conference to complete the rally from what was a 7-2 deficit through four of seven events.
Peters, of the Charlotte Checkers, earned the CCM Top Goaltender award for the night by stopping 17 of 19 shots on the night. Peters was perfect in both the breakaway relay and the Pepsi Pass and Score event (three saves).
Brayden McNabb of the Rochester Americans became the fifth player in the Skills Competition’s 18-year history to crack triple digits in the CCM Hardest Shot contest, winning the event with a blast of 101.8 miles per hour. Matt Fraser of the Texas Stars took the crown in the Pepsi Accuracy Shooting event, breaking four targets in five tries.
The East had stormed out to its early lead on the strength of Portland Pirates defenseman Chris Summers’ record performance in the CCM Fastest Skater event. After the Houston Aeros’ Jason Zucker set a new event record with a lap of 13.550 seconds, Summers bettered that mark with a time of 13.324 seconds.
The East also earned points in the Sher-Wood Puck Control Relay as the Syracuse Crunch’s Mark Barberio and the Providence Bruins’ Trent Whitfield won their individual heats, and in the EA SPORTS NHL 13 Rapid Fire event as the East’s three netminders combined for 23 saves on 30 West shots.
Before the trio left for Providence, Rhode Island (home of the Providence Bruins), the trio spoke to the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner about being named All-Stars...
“It’s an honor to go down there and I think it’s great to see three guys from our team make it,” Nyquist said. “I think that says a lot about our team, and I think there was a lot of other players who could have been selected, too.
“It’s a fun event for the players and for the fans,” he said.
Last year Nyquist had an assist as the Western Conference won 8-7.
It is the first appearance for Billins and Mrazek, both rookies.
“It’s a big honor and I feel pretty lucky to participate in it,” said Billins, a Ferris State product who has two goals and 19 assists to lead all Griffins defensemen.
“Yeah, I was surprised because it’s my first year here and I didn’t really expect it,” said Mrazek, who set a team record by winning his first six starts.
Mrazek is 16th in the league with a 2.42 goals against average.
The Griffins are off until Thursday. They play at Hamilton on Friday and host Abbotsford on Saturday.
And We All Bleed Red on YouTube posted some clips of, well, they're kind of self-explanatory:
In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye defeated the Evansville IceMen 4-1 on Sunday. Willie Coetzee registered 2 goals, a +3 and 7 shots, Andrej Nestrasil had an assist and Jordan Pearce stopped 30 of 31 shots. The Walleye's website and the Toledo Blade provide recaps.
Elsewhere, via DRW Prospects on Twitter:
Alexei Marchenko and CSKA Moscow dropped a 2-0 decision to Atlant, and Rasmus Bodin is playing for HV71 Jonkoping's Under-20 team.
Mike McKee had an assist and a fight in the Lincoln Stars' 5-0 victory over Des Moines.
And finally, in foreign-language news, I'm actually going with, "Just no" regarding attempting to translate Damien Brunner's 11-minute interview with SRF.ch (Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen, or "Swiss radio and TV," in Swiss German!), as sent to me by ChrisWings19 on Twitter, but if it makes you feel any better, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson suggested that the Red Wings' injuries were the reason the Blackhawks may have been able to out-skill the Wings on Sunday night while speaking to Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman.
He has a couple of points--named Mikael Samuelsson (groin), Ian White (knee) and Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder), who would all have been playing on the power play and helping the Wings more efficiently power their puck possession game, but regardless of who's in or out of the lineup, these Wings need to produce results, and they need to stabilize their ship in a hurry.
Otherwise, even though I know that Ken Holland and the Wings' management don't want to have to make any moves until closer to the trade deadline on April 3rd, the Wings' management will have to import a player or three via trade.
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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.