Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Blackhawks wrap-up: Detroit’s offense is stuck in neutral

As a Red Wings fan, Detroit's 2-1 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon did not frustrate me because the Wings were unable to end the Hawks' now 24-game "unbeaten" streak. I'm one of those old farts who thinks that ties are better than shootouts, so that would've made the Wings' 23-game home winning streak something similar.

I'm not pissed off at the coach, even though I'm baffled as to why the Wings keep stacking their top power play unit with four forwards who skate deep into the opposing team's zone, but refuse to allow anyone other than Niklas Kronwall to take shots. I think that Jimmy Howard's been excellent, even though he did bite like nobody's business on Patrick Kane's shootout winner when Kane was leaning toward the blocker side throughout his dekes and fakes. I've got no complaints with the team's very young defensive corps, and no beefs with the forwards, especially after Johan Franzen woke from his hip flexor-pain-induced slumber on Sunday and ended up leading the team in shots, launching 6 of the 33 pucks the Wings hurled at Corey Crawford (though the fact that the Wings flung another 20 shot attempts wide into Hawks players does make me twitch a little bit).

I can't complain about the team's effort, intensity, level of engagement or, by and large, their attention to detail.

But the 10-8-and-4 Wings, who sit in 8th place in the Western Conference, have gone 3-5-and-2 over their past 10 games--since Jimmy Howard's 46-save performance against Los Angeles--and during that period of time, they've blown 3 two-goal leads and at least two or three 1-goal leads, while barely denting the opposing team's goaltender, as MLive's Ansar Khan notes, and this has me angry:

The Red Wings have scored only one goal in each of their past three games, after exploding for eight against Vancouver on Feb. 24.

They're getting chances. They have registered 100 shots on goal during this stretch, but the three goaltenders they've faced – Los Angeles' Jonathan Bernier, San Jose's Antti Niemi and Chicago's Corey Crawford – have combined for a .970 save percentage.

Nobody is struggling more than Justin Abdelkader, who has no goals and one assist this season, despite playing for several games on a line with Pavel Datsyuk. Their linemate, Daniel Cleary, has no points in the past three games, after scoring four goals in his previous four games. Johan Franzen has no points in three games after returning from a seven-game absence due to a sore hip flexor. Overall, Franzen has no points in his past six games, dating back to Feb. 5, when he scored a goal against Calgary.

Meanwhile, rookies Tomas Tatar (four goals, seven points in 14 games) and Joakim Andersson (three goals, six points in 12 games) are contributing on the third line.

Coach Mike Babcock said after Sunday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks that he hasn't considered using Tatar on Datsyuk's line.

“I didn't think we had enough depth up front tonight, whether they didn't play well enough or matchups were too hard,'' Babcock said. “So that's something we have to address and keep working on. We played hard as a group. In the end, we didn't execute enough as a group to get it done.''

The forward depth won't improve anytime soon. General manager Ken Holland said he doesn't expect Valtteri Filppula (left shoulder) to play Tuesday or Thursday, but listed him as a day-to-day. Filppula has missed three games and hasn't skated since last Sunday's game. Darren Helm (back), Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Mikael Samuelsson (broken finger) aren't due back anytime soon.

To me, if there is anything that's unacceptable regarding the Wings' individual and collective performances thus far, and if there is anything to truly worry about as the Wings began a stretch of 8 games played over the course of 14 nights on Sunday, it's this team's inability or unwillingness to continue attacking their opponent, and their willingness to "cutesy" things up and try to force artistic plays and back-door goals instead of simply shooting the puck and retrieving and/or pouncing upon rebounds.

The number of shots this team's passed up over the past nine games has to at least equal those 100 shots, and I'm absolutely certain that they've fired another 100 wide or into opposing players while hanging onto the puck for a half second too long, looking for the perfect pass or looping back when they should be skating forward and simply firing instead.

It's almost as if this team's confidence in itself and its emerging post-Lidstrom identity is so paper-thin that it's afraid to score on a regular basis, and that's scary.

Worst of all?

The Wings dropped their fifth straight game and their tenth of the last 14 to the stinkin' Blackhawks. And on a national stage and with an international spotlight shining upon them, the Wings flubbed up thanks to a pair of boneheaded plays by their best defensemen--and yes, folks, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson have been otherwise spectacular, cursed defensive mistakes included--as noted by the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:

Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson thought he was making the safe play late in the third period, but instead he got a two-minute penalty for delay of game.

“I was caught against the boards and just trying to not get it stopped by the wall by their guy,” Ericsson said. “I don’t think I’d be about to make that, even if I tried, out of 10 times, because the angles are not really there to get it over the boards but I don’t know, just what happens.”

Chicago scored the equalizer with him in the box.

“I thought (it would) hit something,” Ericsson added. “I don’t think I could make that (over the glass) even if I tried.”

Niklas Kronwall was sent off just 1:02 later for the same infraction.

“You could always take the extra-tenth of a second or whatever to make sure the puck is flat,” Kronwall said of his delay of game penalty.

The Wings' confidence evaporated after taking the pair of penalties, which stretched into overtime, and when Datsyuk, Brunner and Zetterberg all went for dekes and dangles instead of shooting the puck (curse you, irony!), all Patrick Kane had to do was do his shake-and-wiggle while pointing his stick at Howard's otherwise-impeccable blocker the whole damn time.

I believe in this team. I believe in its players, and I believe in its coaching staff. But I worry that it doesn't believe in itself, or that it can in fact defeat its opponents by more than razor-thin margins. That is what I'm concerned about some 22 games into the season.

As for the media's take on this game, I'm irked that they're essentially crowning the Blackhawks Miss America tonight, but their allegiance is to "the story," not to teams or cities or fans, and the Hawks' "story" is an easy one to write (the media types would call it "sexy," which I think is silly).

USA Today's Kevin Allen marveled about the Hawks' resiliency--to use Patrick Kane's term...

Thanks primarily to the sharp goaltending of Detroit's Jimmy Howard, the Blackhawks' streak looked in jeopardy. Chicago got the break it needed with 2:25 remaining in regulation when Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson shot the puck over the glass from his own zone, resulting in a delay of game penalty.

"Made a mistake," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "It's a game of mistakes and those things happen. ''

The Red Wings blocked a shot from the point, but defenseman Detroit Kyle Quincey was disrupted by Chicago forward Viktor Stalberg just as he attempted to clear the puck. Stalberg moved it to Kane. It was on Kane's stick and past Howard in an instant.

"The whole bench had maybe a little louder cheer than normal when that one went in," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks had a chance to win it in regulation when Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall was called for the same infraction with 1:23 left. However, the Red Wings were able to kill that penalty, which carried into overtime.

...

Forward Tomas Tatar had given Detroit a 1-0 lead 2:43 into the third period, set up by a centering feed by Joakim Andersson, who was stationed behind the net when he spotted Tatar at the goalmouth. Before then, the game had been a duel of flawless netminding.
"A big part of the win today was the goalie," said Quenneville.

Chicago's Corey Crawford made 32 saves, and then stopped Pavel Datsyuk, Damien Brunner and Henrik Zetterberg in the shootout. Right after Tatar scored, Crawford made a spectacular glove save against Datstyuk. Howard made 32 stops, but couldn't stop Kane when it mattered. On his shootout, Kane crept toward the net at a torturously slow pace.

"I knew I was going to slow down and see what he's going to give me," Kane said. "I think I planned to slow down a little bit earlier on that one, just to see if I had any different look. I thought he backed up pretty far, so I just tried to fire it low blocker and it ended up working out."

 

As did the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc...

"Maybe you might think about it, but I think a lot of us want to be the guy to either tie it up or go and win it," Kane said.

The winger was that guy on both counts. The Hawks' record-setting run to start the season without a regulation loss stands at 22 games after they rallied to defeat the Red Wings 2-1 in a shootout Sunday at Joe Louis Arena. Kane scored the tying goal with 2 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the third period and then put on a dazzling display of stick-handling moves in the shootout to beat Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard and give the Hawks their ninth consecutive win and make them 19-0-3 on the season.

"It's just pretty amazing," said Kane, who took a pass from Viktor Stalberg and scored with the Hawks on the power play to help them extend their streak of games with at least one point to 28 dating to last season — tied for second-longest in NHL history. "We've talked about the resiliency with this team the past month. It seems like we just keep finding ways to either keep ourselves in the game or find a way to win it at the end. (It was) just another fun afternoon here."

Kane's heroics were one thing, but the play of Hawks goalie Corey Crawford eclipsed them as he turned aside wave after wave of Red Wings chances to outduel Howard. After Crawford allowed a goal to Tomas Tatar early in the third, the goalie took his game to another level, including a highlight-reel glove save on Pavel Datsyuk a short time later that would have effectively ended things.

"We played solid again," said Crawford, who finished with 32 saves in regulation and three in the shootout. "We didn't give them much the first half of the game and we were able to get that fortunate bounce where they throw one over the glass (a penalty by Jonathan Ericsson). We were hungry, we were ready and Kane had a nice goal there. Games against (the Red Wings) are always good games. It's two skilled teams that can create some chances. It's nice to pull this one off."

As did the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus...

The come-from-behind, 2-1 shootout victory over the Red Wings — which had a playoff-like atmosphere and a national-TV audience — pushed the Hawks’ NHL-record season-opening points streak to a mind-boggling 22 games. At 19-0-3, the Hawks are two games away from the halfway point of the lockout-shortened season, and they’ve yet to lose during actual hockey action. All three of their “losses” have come in shootouts. After pulling out one of the more improbable victories of the streak Sunday, it seems the Hawks finally are catching up to the rest of the hockey world. After weeks of downplaying the streak, the wow factor seems to have permeated the Hawks’ dressing room.

...

The emotions of the game and the significance of the streak were evident in the celebration after Kane’s power-play goal. It was set up by Viktor Stalberg’s extra effort to sweep a backhand pass from the low slot to Kane in the corner, just as Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey was trying to clear it. Nobody wanted the streak to end, not after the superhuman effort Crawford had in goal, not in Marian Hossa’s 1,000th game, not in Detroit, of all places.

“The whole bench had a little louder cheer than normal when that one went in,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

Even Quenneville gushed about the streak — at least by his standards.

“I don’t think we’re satisfied about what we’ve accomplished so far, but we’re definitely excited about where we’re at,” he said.

The Hawks are 12-0-3 in one-goal games, and they’ve won nine in a row overall, seven coming by one goal.

This might have been the most adversity the Hawks have overcome. They dominated play for the first half of the game and held an 18-5 edge in shots midway through the second period. But by the time Tomas Tatar finally beat Crawford 2:43 into the third, the Wings had taken control and had taken the lead in shots with a steady barrage of golden scoring chances. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (32 saves) was matching Crawford (32 saves) spectacular save for spectacular save. It was the first time the Hawks spent a significant amount of time trailing in the third period. Once again, they responded, aided by a fortunate break. Jonathan Ericsson fired the puck into the stands, setting up what proved to be the game-tying — and streak-extending — power play.

“What a hockey game,” Quenneville said. “Give the guys a lot of credit for the resiliency and perseverance. It was an amazing game.”

As did the Chicago Daily Herald's Tim Sassone, who focused on Corey Crawford's performance...

Crawford, who made 32 saves, stopped Pavel Datsyuk, Damien Brunner and Henrik Zetterberg in the shootout in what might have been his best performance of the season. Crawford, now 10-0-3, showed no signs of the mysterious upper body injury that forced him out of Thursday's game at St. Louis after the first period. His 1.41 goals-against average is first in the NHL while his .945 save percentage is second.

"He had several big saves, particularly right after they scored to go up one," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He kept us in there to make it 1-goal game and gave us a chance."

The Hawks have at least a point in 28 straight games, dating to a March 25, 2012 loss in regulation to Nashville, to tie the second-longest streak in league history. They've matched Montreal's multi-season points run from the 1977-78 season and trail only Philadelphia's streak of 35 straight games with at least a point during the 1979-80 season.

"It's impressive," Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "They're finding different ways to do it every single night."

...

Kane stole the show in the shootout, slowly skating toward Howard and lifting his right skate off the ice twice before flipping a wrist shot past him.

"He's got great skill," Howard said.

"I knew I was just going to slow down and see what he was going to give me," Kane said. "I was going to slow down earlier just to see if I had a different look. I thought he backed up pretty far so I just tried to fire it low blocker and it worked out. A lot of guys want to be the guy to tie it up or win it. It seems to be a different guy every night. It's been a blast."

On Detroit's third attempt in the shootout, Zetterberg couldn't extend the game.

"I don't think we were close to perfect and we almost beat them anyway," Zetterberg said.

And the Chicago Sun-Times' Lazerus focused on Crawford's performance, too:

Among Crawford’s victims on Sunday were Daniel Cleary (on a one-timer in the slot), Johan Franzen (on the doorstep after some pretty passing), Drew Miller (on a two-on-one), Pavel Datsyuk (from the right circle), Henrik Zetterberg (from point-blank range) and Franzen again (in overtime). The save on Datsyuk saw Crawford somehow leap to his left from a crouching position and snare the puck out of mid-air with his glove hand.

“He made three or four highlight-reel saves; he was unbelievable,” Hossa said.

Without Crawford, Kane’s goal with 2:02 left might have simply cut Detroit’s lead to 3-1 or 4-1, rather than tie it up.

“He had several big saves, particularly right after they scored to go up one [early in the third],” Quenneville said. “He was outstanding.”

In the "spirit of the thing" category, the Northwest Herald's Jeff Arnold plain old gloated...

Admit it. You thought it was over. Finished. Kaput. The end of a glorious 21-game stretch during which the Blackhawks have slapped away opponents like Corey Crawford pushed away shots during what turned out to be a heart-pounding Sunday in the city formerly known as Hockeytown.

You were ready to acknowledge that The Streak, like everything in life, has to eventually come to a close. You were ready to close the NHL record books and move on with your life, prepared to call it good, cursing Detroit, and perhaps the entire state of Michigan, every step of the way.

But then, just when you had given up hope, knowing full well that at some point this season, the Hawks will, Gulp!, lose in regulation, Patrick Kane came to your rescue in a 2-1 shootout win over the Red Wings, saving you from doing who knows what had the Hawks' unbelievable season-long streak come to an end Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.

Disaster was averted and everything was again right in your hockey-loving world.

But here's the thing. After scoring not only the game-tying goal with 2:02 remaining in regulation but then adding the game-winner in the shootout, Kane stood in front of his locker and had the audacity – the unmitigated gall – say that he and his teammates haven't become infatuated with the fact that no one seems to be able to find a way to beat the Hawks.

"It's been a fun ride," said Kane, who at first sounded like someone ready to concede the Hawks' current run of success. "And it's not over yet. We want to continue to win."

And Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers gave the Hawks a pat on the back for adapting on the fly (if you want to read a game-by-game narrative of the Hawks' streak, or check out some of the stats involved, CSN Chicago's got you covered):

It was another game where the Blackhawks did what was necessary. They dressed seven defensemen to start the game, with Sheldon Brookbank playing some right wing on the fourth line. Coach Joel Quenneville said “called an audible after warm-up there, made an adjustment.” Asked if there was an injury in pregame, Quenneville didn’t really specify, saying, “We made an adjustment, whether it was injury or whatever.”

Kane, meanwhile, double-shifted some in the first period and ended up playing 23 ½ minutes, the most of any forward.

“You always like the ice time and the chance to play,” said Kane, who added Quenneville always asked him if he was OK, and he always said yes. “Sometimes you’re a little tired. But once you get off you catch your breath quick. It’s not something I worry about.”

Apparently not, because Kane was there for the power-play goal, off a quick pass from Viktor Stalberg, to force overtime. Stalberg said the Blackhawks, on that advantage, felt opportunity was there for the taking.

“When you’re on a streak there are going to be small margins hat keep you alive. When we got that power play, we had a feeling we were going to be able to do something,” said Stalberg, whose Blackhawks got that advantage when Jonathan Ericsson threw the puck over the glass. “We got a fortunate bounce, but we played a great game overall. It could’ve been 3-3 or 4-4 but the goalies were unbelievable. You deserve your bounces sometimes, and we got one there.”

Hell, while we're at it, let's line up the Marian Hossa being booed during his 1,000th game angle, per the Chicago Sun-Times' Lazerus (I don't get it, personally)...

Marian Hossa was booed by most of the fans whenever he touched the puck, and when it was announced that it was his 1,000th career game. Hossa spent one season in Detroit, but wasn’t re-signed before the 2009-10 season.

“It doesn’t bug me at all,” Hossa said. “It’s not loud or anything. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

Hossa was particularly happy about the win.

“Definitely, it is nice we didn’t end the streak on my 1,000th game,” he said with a smile.

And let's mention a topic that drew the ire of both the Chicago Sun-Times' Barry Rozner and CBS Sports' Brian Stubits--realignment--via the Chicago Tribne's Kuc:

If the proposed NHL realignment comes to fruition, the Hawks and Wings would play only twice per season with Detroit headed to the Eastern Conference.

"Ever since I got here we've been in the West and we've been used to going to Chicago a lot and (have a) rivalry," Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg told reporters. "If we make that change it will be only positive for us. Playing a lot of games in our own time zone kind of makes sense. If it happens, we'll look forward to it."

Got it? Good. Let's get back to the narrative regarding the game now. ESPN's Scott Powers praised Crawford's goaltending, offered a "rapid reaction" and raved about Kane's game-tying goal...

When the restlessness among Blackhawks fans in attendance seemed to be reaching a boiling point at Joe Louis Arena Sunday, Kane gave them a reason to exhale and then brought smiles to their faces.

The right winger scored the tying goal on a Chicago power play with 2:02 remaining in regulation to extend the Blackhawks’ NHL record points streak to start a season to 22 games andn then scored in the shootout to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 win over the rival Detroit Red Wings. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Kane is the latest player to shine on a team that already seems to be playing in the clouds.

“I think he knew the importance of it to get it to overtime,” Quenneville said. “He has the puck a lot and he’s dangerous. He makes things happen. Great play by Viktor (Stalberg) to get it to him. I think we’ve had some games that we say it might have been the best game we’ve played, but I think we keep talking about trying to get better. Certain lines on a given night have really good nights but everybody on every given night has been contributing. It’s been another reason we’ve been successful. I don’t think we’re satisfied with what we’ve accomplished so far, but we’re definitely excited about where we’re at.”

NHL.com's Brian Hedger focused upon the play that led up to Kane's game-tying goal...

"It was a good faceoff, a good start to the power play," Kane said of his tying goal. "I know we were thinking about taking a timeout there and we ended up just going and thinking 'Maybe they'll take [a timeout] into the power play,' and we ended up scoring. So it worked out perfect."

The goal was Kane's 11th of the season, and it assured the Blackhawks (19-0-3) of at least a point, a string of 28 games in a row dating to last season.

"Normally in a game situation, you're just thinking about winning that game and continuing that game," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "It seems like the longer this thing goes, the more it's creeping in -- especially being down in the last [part of the third] like that. That goal was a little bit bigger than just any game-tying goal. It was a good feeling on the ice."

...

Kane's regulation goal was a perfect example of how Chicago has stayed unbeaten in regulation. The situation was created by Jonathan Ericsson's delay-of-game penalty, and 23 seconds later, the game was knotted 1-1 after Sharp's point blast was blocked by Detroit's Niklas Kronwall and Chicago's Viktor Stalberg beat Kyle Quincey to the puck by a fraction of a second.

Quincey had his stick cocked to clear it when Stalberg backhanded a short pass to Kane in the bottom of the right circle. The Blackhawks' leading scorer then ripped a shot that skipped off Howard's blocker into the short side of the net.

"I had a quicker stick than him this time," Stalberg said. "I think when you go on a streak like this, it's going to be small margins that keep you alive. We got a fortunate bounce, and sometimes you deserve those too. I thought we played a great game overall."

...

As for the Red Wings (10-8-4), it was the second one-goal loss to their Central Division rivals this season -- the first, on Jan 27 at United Center, ended 2-1 in overtime. This time, Detroit's Johan Franzen nearly won it in overtime, but a frustrating day for him continued when his backhand shot clanged off the left post.

"It's just the breaks, it's tough to swallow, but at the same time they're a good team," Howard said. "It's impressive. They're finding different ways to do it every single night. It's just two minutes there. Wish we could have gotten them."

And the Associated Press's Larry Lage shifts our focus from the Hawks' to Wings' perspectives while not sparing dramatics..

Kane scored from the bottom of the right circle and pivoted toward the crowd, shouting with joy as he pumped his gloves toward the banner-filled rafters.

"He knew the importance of it to get us to overtime," Quenneville said.

With a sold-out crowd on its feet for a shootout at the end of an entertaining afternoon of hockey, Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk was denied on a low attempt by Crawford's pads on the first attempt. Jonathan Toews then went high and couldn't get a shot past Howard's glove.

Red Wings rookie Damien Brunner made some nifty moves next, but couldn't keep the puck and for that, Crawford looked thankful as the two met face to face on the ice.

Kane then stole the show, slowly skating toward Howard and lifting his right skate off the ice twice before flipping a wrist shot past him to make the fans at Joe Louis Arena sigh.

"He's got great skill," Howard said.

On Detroit's third attempt in the heart-pounding shootout, Henrik Zetterberg couldn't extend the game.

"I don't think we were close to perfect and we almost beat them anyway," Zetterberg said.

What did the Wings think about the Hawks' record? They actually praised Chicago's moxie--and NHL.com's Brian Hedger's noting of said conversations may reveal more about the team that the Wings are trying to become than the team the Blackhawks already are:

"It's not easy what they're doing," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "They find a way to win. They get a point every game. I saw some stat where I think [15] games are one-goal games. It's impressive to find a way to get that tying goal or that go-ahead goal. We'll see how long it lasts."

People said similar things about the Red Wings last season, when it seemed like they just couldn't lose on home ice. Like that team, these Blackhawks are gaining momentum to keep their run going with every victory they pile on top of it.

"They have confidence and they believe in themselves, that's what you do," Zetterberg said. "They've been playing real well. Even when they're down one or two goals, they have that feeling among the group that they can turn it around. They've been doing it so far."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock also was impressed.

"It's amazing," he said. "In a competitive League, they're not making it competitive. In saying that, they're [12-0-3] in one-goal games. So they find a way to win. That's depth and that's skill."

...

It's impressive, even to the Red Wings, a franchise that's long been considered among the NHL's best. Detroit is undergoing a semi-rebuild with younger players getting opportunities, but there is enough talent to make the Blackhawks sweat out nearly every game the teams play. There also are enough holdovers from Detroit's recent glory days to appreciate what the Blackhawks have accomplished nearly halfway into a 48-game schedule.

"I think they play a little different [than we do]," Zetterberg said. "They try to stretch teams out a lot. I don't think we did that. They have the puck a lot, and that's what we're trying to do as well. They had their group together for a few years now and you can see that. They have a lot of good chemistry among the guys."

That might be the most important thing Zetterberg's said in a long time. The Wings are struggling to combine puck possession hockey with the best of Bowman and Babcock's north-south, attack-the-net and-shoot-shoot-shoot-with-butts-in-front-of-goalies'-faces grit and jam.

As Babcock told Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples, the Hawks are a team that's been built to succeed--and the Wings are, as Hedger suggests, rebuilding themselves:

"Yeah, it’s amazing,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said of the Blackhawks’ streak. “In a competitive league, they’re not making it competitive. In saying that, I think they’re 11, now that’s 12-0-2 or something in one-goal games, so they find a way to win – that’s depth and that’s skill. You’ve got to give Stan Bowman credit, he’s done a great job of retooling the roster and they’re no different than any other team that’s won the Cup. They had to get rid of players, and the players they have acquired have come of age. They did a real good job when they traded for Oduya…they also traded their starting goalie that they won the Cup with. They’ve done a lot of things there, give them credit.”

Tomas Tatar gave the Red Wings the first lead of the game at the 2:43 mark of the third period, firing in a pass from Joakim Andersson for his fourth goal of the season. The goal came after two periods of the Red Wings being out-shot 21-18 (9-3 in the first period), and it started to look as though Detroit would be able to hold on and pick up a regulation win.

Two delay-of-game calls in the closing moments changed the momentum, however; Jonathan Ericsson was whistled for shooting the puck out of play in his own end at 17:35 of the third period, and Kane scored on the resulting power play. Then, Niklas Kronwall was called for the same penalty at the 18:37 mark, putting the Red Wings on the penalty-kill for the rest of regulation.

Captain Henrik Zetterberg said it was a disappointing way for the game to end.

“Yeah, that was what we wanted to do today, get two points and it didn’t matter how it looked, just as long as we got a win,” Zetterberg said. “We were close, but not close enough.”

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff may have framed Zetterberg's comments perfectly in his recap...

“It’s not easy what they’re doing,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It’s impressive to keep finding a way to get that tying goal, or that go-ahead goal.”

In fact, the Blackhawks kind of remind the Wings of the team that they used to be.

“They have the puck a lot, and that’s what we’re trying to do as well,” Zetterberg said.

Trying yes. Succeeding at it consistently? Not yet.
“They’ve had their group together for a few years now and you can see that,” Zetterberg said. “They have a lot of good chemistry among the guys.”

In terms of chemistry lessons, the Wings learned another scientific fact on Sunday. There’s still a long way to go until the playoffs start – more than half a season, to be exact.

Still, the way Chicago is putting things together it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to enter the Stanley Cup playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

Did the Wings do good things on Sunday? Hell yes, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan points out that Jimmy Howard held the Wings in it when they were out-shot 9-3 in the 1st period and out-shot 21-18 over the course of the first two periods of Sunday's game:

"Howie played unbelievable," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "He kept us in the game the first half of the game. He was huge. He gave us every chance to still be in the game."

Howard and the Wings were clinging to a 1-0 lead when Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson had a delay of game penalty, shooting the puck over the glass, at 17:35 of the third period. The Blackhawks took advantage, with forward Patrick Kane — arguably an early favorite for the league's Most Valuable Player — scoring at 17:58 to tie the game.

"Just the breaks," said Howard of the delay of game penalty (Kronwall would follow with another at 18:37 but the Wings killed that one off). "It's tough to swallow but at the same time you have to pick your teammate up and we weren't able to do that."

...

"Our goaltending was very strong early on and their goaltender was unbelievable down the stretch," coach Mike Babcock said.

There's also something to be said for the theory that the coach may not want to break up the third line because Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson and Patrick Eaves have actually been the team's most consistent line of late, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted:

Hard work, discipline, and attention to detail has been the mantra for the new-look Red Wings this season. And it was epitomized by Patrick Eaves Sunday afternoon when he helped set-up Tomas Tatar’s third-period goal that gave Detroit a 1-0 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena.

Eaves, who missed an entire calendar year with post-concussion symptoms, raced down the right wing with inside position on Nick Leddy before beating the Blackhawks’ defenseman to the puck below the goal line. From there, rookie center Joakim Andersson got the puck behind the net and pushed it out front to Tatar who finished the play by beating Chicago goalie Corey Crawford to the short side.

“I hopped off the bench there and Kronner saw me. It was kind of a foot race,” said Eaves who’s picked up a goal and an assist in the last two games. “I got on the inside track and kind of squeezed him off and lifted his stick up and Andy got in there and threw it right out there to Tatar and he banged it in. That was a full line play for us.”

Without Eaves’ hustle on the play, the Red Wings likely don’t score.

“He makes good decisions out there, you always know what you're going to get,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, of Eaves. “It’s fun when you can contribute offense, too. He made some good plays and the play today was real nice.”

...
“Obviously, we needed these two points,” Eaves said. “Then with their streak going we would have liked to have knocked it off. But more importantly, we needed the two points.They knew what was on the line, and so did we. Towards the end the intensity really picked up.”

As Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji noted, Tatar and Andersson haven't needed to play top line minutes to produce near-top-shelf offense:

Tatar now has four goals and three assists in 14 games with the Wings while Andersson has three goals and three assists in 12 games.

"This is what we were trained for," Tatar said. "We didn’t want to come here just to be part of the team and stand here. We want to do something, too. So if we get a chance to play we want to show the best we can."

The problem is in this lockout-shortened season, there's not enough time to get healthy and catch up to the streaking Blackhawks. The Wings have 24 points in 22 games while the Blackhawks have 41 in 22.

You know the drill. No Valtteri Filppula (shoulder) for at least a week, no Todd Bertuzzi or Darren Helm (back issues) for at least a month to come and a cavalcade of injuries all season long = inconsistency galore.

But it's no excuse for the Wings' slow start or error-prone finish...

"Bottom line is they had (the puck), they were quicker and better in the first," Babcock said. "I thought we were real respectful of them instead of just getting on them and getting after them. Their D really skates, so if you're not being aggressive and on top of them they're going to spend a lot of time in your zone. They had the puck the whole time and we chased it."

The Wings could have avoided taking the two late third-period delay-of-game penalties, one of which resulted in Kane's tying goal. But instead of the puck hitting the boards and heading harmlessly out of the zone, both Jonathan Ericsson and Kronwall sent it over the wall.

"I was caught against the boards and just trying to not get it stopped by the wall by their guy, I don't think I'd be about to make that, even if I tried, out of 10 times, because the angles are not really there to get it over the boards but I don't know, just what happens," Ericsson said.

Regrettably, as Henrik Zetterberg told the Free Press's Helene St. James, the Wings had a case of "first game back from a Western swing heavy legs" in the first period...

Zetterberg characterized the Wings' start as "typical being on the west-coast, coming-home, first period. It's a lot of mental errors and the legs weren't really there, but we tried to keep it simple. We just wanted to survive the first period and I think we did and we got better as the game went. I think we made some really good stuff in the third, but unfortunately we couldn't get it done."

So it was an opportunity lost...

"We thought we had an opportunity, it got away on us," Mike Babcock said. "It would have been a game we'd have loved to (win)."

The Wings didn't help themselves with a first period that saw them take two penalties in the first 10 minutes. Much as the penalty killers did extremely well blocking shots and keeping Howard's workload down, it also meant there was zero offensive movement going on in Chicago's zone. After 20 minutes, Corey Crawford had seen all of three shots, that's how little the Wings saw of the puck.

"They had it, they were quicker and better in the first," Babcock said. "I thought we were real respectful of them instead of just getting out and after them. Their D really skates, so if you're not being aggressive, not on top of them, you're going to spend a lot of time in your zone. They had the puck the whole time, and we chased it, for sure."

The Wings began surging in the second period and continued into the third as the Wings played much more with the puck. Their downfall came in the last couple minutes, when they twice shot the puck over the glass to earn delay-of-game penalties. Kane made them pay on the first.

"It felt like we're in good shape," Howard said, "then we take two penalties with two-and-a-half minutes left. Came back to haunt us."

...

"It was a fun game, the sort you looking forward to playing," Zetterberg said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't come out on the winning side."

Though the Wings told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that they had every opportunity to win...

For seemingly the entire first half of the game, the Blackhawks controlled the play. They failed to score on two power play chances in the first period and then had a stint before the midway through the second where Howard stood on his head to keep the game scoreless.

The Wings finally begin to shift the ice in their favor when they were awarded their first power play of the game, mustering just two shots, but applying pressure on Chicago for the final minute of the man advantage.

Detroit’s first good scoring chance came on some pretty passing between the Wings’ top line. Zetterberg started things with a pass to Damien Brunner, who in turn fed a quick pass to Franzen. Crawford stayed with the precise passing in the Blackhawks’ zone to get his body in front of Franzen’s redirect.

“I really thought we had some opportunities and some looks,” Babcock said. “It’s not like we didn’t have chances. I didn’t mind us at all in the second and the third. Bottom line is right at the start they owned the puck and we couldn’t get it back.”

In a game of mistakes, if you're scoring one goal a game, you're not likely to out-score your mistakes:

Jonathan Ericsson got the Wings’ first delay of game and it led to Kane’s goal just 23 seconds later. Viktor Stalberg lifted Kyle Quincey’s stick on an attempted clear and go the puck to Kane for a one timer.

...

Johan Franzen then came down and nearly put Detroit back in front but his backhand hit off the post. Then, just 1:02 after Ericsson’s call, Niklas Kronwall was sent off for the same infraction. The Wings were able to kill that off.

“That happens sometimes, unfortunately it was two in a row,” Zetterberg said. “Guys don’t want to do that but it happens. We should be able to kill it off but we didn’t. We almost had the puck 200-feet, but it just hit the stick and went to Kane. That’s small things, maybe they deserved to win it first period but they didn’t get there and it usually evens out. I think even though they scored one, we had an opportunity to score more. We had a few good chances there.”

As the Wings told MLive's Ansar Khan (who also penned a quote-less recap), puck luck has a funny way of biting you in the ass:

“We've been playing a lot better, but we wanted to stop their streak,'' Ericsson said. “That's a little bit disappointing. We felt like we had them. Pucks are bouncing their way right now.''

...

On Kane's goal, Kyle Quincey blocked a shot from the point but was unable to clear the puck, as Viktor Stalberg lifted his stick and then passed to Kane, who one-timed it from close range. Brian Lashoff didn't get his stick in the lane to break up the pass.

“We missed a key interception on the penalty kill ... to me it can't happen,'' Babcock said. “We blocked a shot and it bounced to them. We thought we had an opportunity, it got away on us there.''

The Red Wings were fortunate not to lose in regulation, after Niklas Kronwall also flipped the puck over the glass and was called for delay of game with 1:23 to play.

“You could always take the extra-tenth of a second or whatever to make sure the puck is flat,'' Kronwall said.

Said Babcock: “It's a game of mistakes and those things happen.''

...

The Red Wings are 3-1-1 in their past five games, having allowed only seven goals. But, they lamented the points that got away.

“It’s just the breaks, it’s tough to swallow,'' Howard said.

By the early morning hours of Sunday, March 17th, the Wings will have played seven more times, and they've got 13 more games this month. What they do between now and the April Fool's Day reprise against Colorado, and if they keep plodding along at what is considered .500 these days (see: below .500 if we take shootout losses into account), then we really will have reason to worry about this team's fate.

It's up to them, not us. And that's very hard for fans like you and me to deal with.

 

Multimedia:

Highlights: NHL.com's highlight clip is narrated by the NBC crew:

ESPN also posted a 1:08 highlight clip, TSN posted a 2:59 highlight clip, and NBC Sports posted a 2:49 highlight clip;

Post-game: If you're interested in that sort of thing, TSN posted a clip of Blackhawks post-game chatter, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted Joel Quenneville's 2:45 post-game presser, the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc posted clips of Corey Crawford and Patrick Kane discussing the game, the Hawks' website posted clips of Marian Hossa, Kane, Crawford, Patrick Sharp and coach Quenneville talking about the game, and if you really want to watch the shootout again, go ahead...

Comcast Sportsnet Chicago posted a combined clip of Viktor Stalberg and Hossa discussing the game, as well as a combined clip of Crawford and Kane's comments and another Quenneville presser clip. You may also most certainly watch Brandon Saad speak to the NHL Network, or (via RedWingsFeed) the NHL Tonight's take on the game; NBC Sports posted a tribute to Hossa and a gushy McGuire post-game interview with Hossa, and I'm not sure who I agree with here: Mike Milbury and Keith Jones offer opposite takes on whether the delay of game penalty should be eliminated:

 

 


And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Henrik Zetterberg...

 

 

Jimmy Howard...

And coach Mike Babcock discussing the game:

MLive's Brendan Savage posted videos of Babcock discussing the game and Jimmy Howard's presser, but they're alternate angles of the Wings' videos. The effort is most certainly appreciated, though!

Photos: The Detroit News's David Guralnick posted a 25-image gallery;

The Detroit Free Press posted a 28-image gallery;

The Windsor Star posted 8 big images (click on 'em) from the game;

MLive posted 8 images from the game;

Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples posted a 20-image gallery;

The Macomb Daily embedded 5 images from the game in Chuck Pleiness's recap;

Need a vertically-oriented, wallpaper-sized photo of Jimmy Howard? CBS Detroit has one for you;

The Chicago Tribune posted 10 images from the game in its "Blackhawks in Action" gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted 20 images from the game in its AP Wings gallery;

ESPN posted 28 images from the game;

And Wings team photographer Dave Reginek's pictures fare prominently in NHL.com, the Blackhawks and Wings website's 21, 20 and 15-image galleries, respectivley (??).

Statistics:

Shots 33-33 overall. The Wings were out-shot 9-3 in the 1st, out-shot Chicago 15-12 in the 2nd and 13-9 in the 3rd, and were out-shot 3-2 in OT.

The Blackhawks went 1-for-5 in 6:23 of PP time, including 37 seconds of a 5 on 3; the Wings went 0-for-2 in 4:00 of PP time.

Jimmy Howard stopped 32 of 33 shots, as did Corey Crawford.

USA Today's Kevin Allen picked the 3 stars, and he went with Patrick Kane (3), Jimmy Howard (2) and Corey Crawford (1).

The Wings' goal: Tatar (4) from Andersson (3) and Eaves (4).

Faceoffs 28-27 Detroit (Detroit won 51%);

Blocked shots 16-12 Detroit;

Missed shots 16-8 Chicago (so Chicago had 65 shot attempts, and the Wings had 53, but 20 frickin' attempts went wide of the net or into Hawks players);

Hits a liberal 23-8 Detroit;

Giveaways 8-4 Detroit;

Takeaways 7-2 Detroit.

Individual stats, TMR style:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 12-and-12 (50%); Zetterberg went 7-and-11 (39%); Emmerton went 6-and-1 (86%); Eaves went 2-and-0 (100%); Andersson went 0-and-2; Abdelkader went 1-and-1 (50%).

Shots: Johan Franzen led the team with 6 shots; Abdelkader had 4; Kindl and Kronwall had 3; Cleary, Tatar, Lashoff and Zetterberg had 2; Smith, Miller, Tootoo, Brunner, Emmerton and Quincey had 1.

Blocked attempts: Kronwall fired 3 shots into Blackhawks players; Tootoo had 2 attempts blocked; Smith, Kindl, Datsyuk, Tatar, Brunner, Zetterberg and Ericsson had 1 shot blocked.

Missed shots: Franzen missed the net 2 times; Cleary, Datsyuk, Miller, Emmerton, Zetterberg and Ericsson missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Kindl led the team with 6 hits; Miller and Lashoff had 3; Eaves, Brunner and Franzen had 2; Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1.

Giveaways: Kindl had an ugly 3 giveaways; Quincey had 2; Smith, Andersson and Franzen had 1.

Takeaways: Datsyuk and Zetterberg had 2 takeaways; Cleary, Brunner and Ericsson had 1.

Blocked opponent shots: Lashoff blocked 5 Blackhawks shots; Quincey blocked 3; Smith, Datsyuk and Ericsson blocked 2; Brunner and Kronwall blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Smith, Abdelkader, Ericsson and Kronwall took minor penalties.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +5. Eaves, Tatar, Ericsson, Kronwall and Andersson finished at +1.

Points: Tatar had a goal; Eaves and Andersson had assists.

Ice time: Zetterberg led the team with 24:07 played; Quincey played 22:24; Kronwall played 22:05;

Ericsson played 21:55; Franzen played 21:13; Lashoff played 21:05;

Smith played 20:41; Kindl played 20:27; Datsyuk played 19:27;

Brunner played 19:26; Miller played 15:54; Cleary played 15:52;

Emmerton played 15:44; Abdelkader played 13:12; Tootoo played 11:37;

Eaves played 10:18; Andersson played 9:55; Tatar played 8:15.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

MOWingsfan19's avatar

I can and do hang the lack of offense around the coaches necks. As I mentioned yesterday in the live blog, even with this injury depleted roster we have options.
To continue to waste Pavels talents with Cleary and Abby on his wings is absolutely stupid. You might as well take someone from the local beer league to skate between those 2 and you would get the same offensive production. Cleary needs to be taken out back and put down like old Yeller and Abby should never play on anything but a 4th line.
Also, the insistence to put Franzen on the #1 line and having him float around on the PP is equally dumb.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 03/04/13 at 09:24 AM ET

Avatar

I was pissed they resigned Abdelkader, let alone to nearly $2M/year. I just don’t understand that reasoning. He isn’t a scorer and he isn’t an agitator and he does a moderate job of being a grinder. Maybe he does a better job of doing something in practice, but he doesn’t show it during the games as far as I can tell. It’s pretty rare I’m impressed by anything he does.

Posted by teldar on 03/04/13 at 11:53 AM ET

Avatar

I was pissed they resigned Abdelkader, let alone to nearly $2M/year.

Agreed.  Especially after signing Tootoo.  There’s no point in having both of them on the team and apparently Tootoo has more offensive upside, and he’s playing on the fourth line, not with the best player in the world.

Posted by Garth on 03/04/13 at 02:06 PM ET

Figaro's avatar

I love Abby but he is completely out of place on a scoring line. There is a difference between mucking and grinding and being “the guy that is supposed to get the puck off the boards for Datsyuk”.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 03/05/13 at 01:26 AM ET

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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.