The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/03/13 at 03:58 AM ET
Updated 2x at 6:56 AM. Why the Columbus Dispatch doesn't update its website until 6:30 AM is beyond me.
The Detroit Red Wings took a 27-minute flight back to Detroit from Columbus on Saturday night, perhaps feeling (as well as publicly looking) a world away from the team that happily shuffled off to Columbus after rallying to defeat the St. Louis Blues 5-3 on Friday.
The Wings laid an egg on Saturday night, plain and simple, dropping a hideous 4-2 decision to the Blue Jackets, and none of the 19 Wings whose skates hit the ice during Saturday's game had a decent night.
The Wings lost the game, the Wings lost whatever momentum and/or identity-building that the team achieved via defeating the Blues, and the Wings lost the services of Brendan Smith, who suffered a right shoulder injury that will be tested further when the Wings return to practice on Monday. It's assumed that Smith will miss at least two weeks of action, with Brian Lashoff rotating into the lineup--unless Ian White is going to return on Tuesday against Calgary (which dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to Chicago on early Sunday morning Detroit time).
General manager Ken Holland said Smith would likely be out at least 10-14 days. Holland said Smith will be further examined by team doctors Monday. Smith wound up playing only four shifts, a total of 2 minutes, 37 seconds.
"That's a loss," said Babcock of Smith's injury. "He's a competitive kid, he moves the puck and he competes awfully hard. We're already on fumes a little bit, and to lose him, we don't know for how long obviously, but it's a blow for us."
Smith's injury comes at a time when the Red Wings defense is already battered only nine games into the season.
Ian White (leg laceration) and Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) have played three, and two, games respectively this season.
White has been skating regularly late last week and could return Tuesday against Calgary if he gets through Monday's practice. Colaiacovo is likely another two weeks away from playing.
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose confirms the bad news:
Smith logged 3:13 of ice-time before he left the game and did not return. He was injured while moving the puck out of the Red Wings’ zone when he was slammed along the boards by Jackets center Derek MacKenzie.
“That was a loss for us,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Smitty’s a competitive kid. He moves the puck and he competes ultra-hard. We’re already on fumes a bit and now losing him, so we don’t know how long he’ll be out, but obviously it’s a blow to us.”
The Red Wings have had a slew of injuries to defensemen with Carlo Colaiacovo, Jonathan Ericsson, Ian White and Kindl all missing action already in the first month of a compressed 48-game season. Smith is the second defensemen injured at Columbus this season. Colaiacovo suffered a left shoulder injury against the Blue Jackets on Jan. 21.
White said on Friday that he hopes to be ready to return Tuesday when the Wings host the Calgary Flames. If not, rookie Brian Lashoff, who has performed admirably in four relief appearances, will be ready to go.
In all, the Red Wings’ defensemen have lost 18 man games to injuries through the first eight games of the season.
As for the game itself, the Wings started well and then seemed to exit the building mentally and physically after Johan Franzen tucked a rebound past Steve Mason 8:36 into the first period. After that, the Wings checked out and the Blue Jackets pounced on 'em.
BlueJackets.com's Rob Mixer was delighted to see Columbus rally from a 1-0 deficit and put on a command performance after having their butts handed to them by the St. Louis Blues this past Thursday...
We talked this morning about the Blue Jackets needing an "all hands on deck" kind of effort tonight against the Detroit Red Wings. Safe to say they got it.
Their only real stumble was a defensive breakdown on Johan Franzen's first-period goal, but other than that, they kept a tidy house and made sure the Red Wings didn't have much space to make plays. Their game plan was executed fairly well: get the puck in deep behind their defense, finish checks, and make the Red Wings come the length of the ice.
Steve Mason was the second star of the game in an official capacity, but he kept the ship afloat with some big stops in the second period. He made 32 on the night and deserved to earn his first victory of the season. And if there's one thing that has not ailed the Blue Jackets this year, it's play between the pipes.
Perhaps most encouraging for coach Todd Richards is the way his team kept pushing, even after opening a two-goal lead late in the second period. They got a handful of chances in the closing minutes of the middle stanza and nearly made it 4-1 before time ran out, but entered the third period with (yes, you're reading this correctly) a two-goal lead in front of a rocking crowd at Nationwide Arena.
They stayed on their game and didn't allow any quality chances, even as the Red Wings put on a hefty push in the third period. Rather than get back on their heels with a late-game Detroit power play, the Blue Jackets' rock-solid penalty kill unit picked up on a mistakes and made the Red Wings pay for it.
Let's wrap things up with my breakdown of tonight's game:
1. Defense steps up: The Blue Jackets had to play essentially the final two periods with five defensemen (as did the Red Wings), and a very young defense corps shouldered a big responsibility in shutting down Detroit's best players. Jack Johnson led the way with nearly 35 minutes of ice time -- breaking his own franchise record -- and spent the majority of it on the ice against Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner.
2. Special teams were special: Columbus was perfect on the penalty kill, scored shorthanded, and notched a power-play goal in tonight's victory. The Blue Jackets were 5-for-5 on the kill and that effort bumps them up to seventh-best in the NHL (85.7 percent), and it's always an added bonus when you can score a huge goal on the PK like they did tonight. Their first-period power play tally was key, as well, rebounding from a rough patch and coming back to tie the game.
Yep, again, the Wings didn't register a power play goal in 10 minutes of PP time, but Detroit gave up both a power play goal on 3 chances and surrendered a short-handed goal on their final power play of the game.
3. Forechecking to the fore: You could see it almost from the first shift -- the Blue Jackets played like a team that knew its opponent played a hard game the night before. Richards was able to roll with four lines and keep the legs fresh to play their physically demanding style, and he got quality minutes from all 12 forwards and six defensemen. When the Red Wings dropped to five defensemen, the Blue Jackets ramped up the pressure and forced Detroit into some overextended shifts. They played "on their toes," as Richards likes to say, and simply outworked their opponent tonight.
The Blue Jackets were equally satisfied with their effort, as they told the Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline...
"We needed everyone and we got everyone tonight," said Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, who has not shied away from criticizing his players in recent days. "There were contributions all over the ice, from the net out."
The Blue Jackets have fallen behind with great regularity this season. They have not always handled this well. But tonight was different. Woe-is-me was replaced by 'Let's Go,' and the Jackets play -- very solid to that point -- only got better. Wisniewski scored his second of the season at 18:17 to tie the score. Wisniewski stepped into a Fedor Tyutin feed at the blue line and ripped through traffic and clean past Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Late in the second -- with 2:32 to play -- Anisimov scored his first of the night for a 2-1 lead. It was a wicked shot, roofed from a tight angle that Howard clearly was not expecting. It tucked under the crossbar and sent Howard's water bottle sailing, which is one of the coolest sights in sports.
Anisimov's second goal was just as beautiful in its progression as its finish. Johnson sent the puck across the blue line to Skatin' Johnny Moore, who fired the puck from the right point to the left faceoff dot where Anisimov gathered it for a clean look at Howard. Anisimov pulled Howard forward with a deke, then tucked the puck innocently behind him. It was 3-1, and Nationwide was aglow.
“We haven’t been giving ourselves or our goaltenders any margin for error, and that’s a tough way to play the game,” Johnson said. “It’s asking a lot to try and get by on two goals or less per night. To finally have a game go like this, it’s a great feeling for everybody in the room. Now we have to build off this. We have to make this the norm.”
Mason had 32 saves for his first win of the season. It might have been his first deep breath of the season, too.
“For the guys to put the puck in the net, it takes some of the pressure off,” Mason said. “For the guys to step up after some frustrating games for us as a whole, it was nice to see the guys get rewarded.”
At 13:25 of the third, Letestu and Brandon Dubinsky took off on a 2-on-1 short-handed break. Letestu took a pass from Dubinsky and, with Henrik Zetterberg closing on him, skidded the puck between Howard's pads. It was 4-1.
Mason allowed Red Wings rookie Damien Brunner a goal with 26.4 seconds remaining to cap the scoring. Brunner unleashed a shot off the faceoff, won by Valtteri Filppula. He wasn't too pleased about that, but it didn't dampen the mood on this night. After the game, a "WWE" championship belt sat in Mason's dressing room stall, sparkling against the light.
And the Associated Press:
Artem Anisimov scored twice in the second period, and Steve Mason stopped 32 shots to lead the Blue Jackets past the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 on Saturday night.
"I'm still learning Artie and his game," coach Todd Richards said. "Maybe as he starts to figure out his teammates and they figure him out, there may be a lot more there."
Anisimov was acquired last July in the blockbuster deal that sent Nash to the New York Rangers. The Blue Jackets also dealt a minor league defenseman and a conditional third-round pick to the Rangers for Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick. Now Anisimov leads the offense-starved Blue Jackets with four goals.
"We established the forecheck early and we just kept going, kept going," the 24-year-old center said. "We kept the momentum and just kept going."
Mark Letestu added a short-handed goal, and James Wisniewski also scored for the Blue Jackets before leaving with a concussion after he struck the end boards with his back early in the second period. Fedor Tyutin had two assists. Mason, who earned his first win of the season, overcame an early goal by Johan Franzen. Damien Brunner added his fourth goal in the final seconds.
"The guys did a great job stepping up with the extra ice time," he said, referring to the loss of Wisniewski on the blue line. "You couldn't be more happy with the way the guys played. It was the first full 60-minute effort that we've been looking for, and it was nice to get it at home."
Richards may have summarized the game perfectly with the following observation:
"Our focus was better," Richards said. "I like how we responded. We regrouped after the first period, and for 40 minutes I really liked our game."
For the Red Wings, who were theoretically attempting to build momentum and continuing to establish their identity as a team capable of withstanding their opponents' best efforts the night after they rallied against St. Louis, it was anything but a happy 38th birthday for Todd Bertuzzi, anything but a happy 30th birthday for Jordin Tootoo, and, well...
The Wings looked much more like the team that stumbled against Chicago a week ago, and they weren't playing the Blackhawks.
The Wings could only tell the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan the truth as they saw it:
"We had no energy, no push," coach Mike Babcock said. "We lost races, all the battles. I'm not making excuses, the schedule is what it is. But we weren't good enough."
Jimmy Howard was the reason that the Wings gave up four goals instead of six, making spectacular saves as his teammates essentially stood around and watched the Blue Jackets deke and dangle their way toward the net, but Howard blamed himself for the loss:
"Awful with a capital A," Howard said of his performance. "I just didn't feel comfortable."
Howard didn't like the go-ahead goal, scored by Anisimov short-side, that put the Blue Jackets in front to stay.
"Absolute garbage," Howard said of the goal. "It was just a plain bad goal to give up.
Babcock said Howard would have been given the night off had one of his veteran backups, either Jonas Gustavsson (groin) or Joey MacDonald (back), been healthy. But with only inexperienced Tom McCollum available, and earning points necessary in the standings, Howard has had to play all eight Wings games.
"You're supposed to have more than one goalie and be able to hand the baton to someone else," Babcock said. "Gus and Mac are on the shelf. Where are you supposed to go? That shouldn't go on him (Howard), that should go on me."
"We looked flat," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said, "and there's no doubt a lot of guys are very disappointed about themselves right now. We have to be better as a team."
Babcock wasn't buying Howard's line, but he certainly agreed with Kronwall's assessment while speaking to the Detroit Free Press's George Sipple (who also penned a game summary), suggesting that everyone who got on Red Bird III on Friday night had to shoulder the blame for Saturday night's performance:
"They got better and better as the game went on, and I thought we got worse and worse," Babcock said. "You can go right through -- the coaching staff, the goaltending, the (defensemen), the forwards -- we didn't have anything. So, the bottom line is, this is over with. We got to regroup, and we got to be ready to perform in back to backs. We've got a bunch of 'em."
Herein lies a big, big problem: the Wings completed their second of 12 sets of back-to-back games--representing half of the team's 48-game schedule--on Saturday, and the Wings earned a shootout win over Columbus and lost against Dallas in their first set, and this is not the kind of pattern one wants to repeat, but the Wings have done just that:
"We took advantage of St. Louis on a back to back last night. We took advantage of Dallas the time before on a back to back, and (Columbus) got us tonight. Back to backs aren't a big deal and probably shouldn't be a big deal at all, but it looked tonight like we didn't have energy."
I am baffled as to why Babcock didn't choose to start Tom McCollum--or why he's suggesting that the Wings "didn't have a goalie" to lean on. Howard's played heroically in games 2-8, and he needed a break.
"You're supposed to have more than one goalie," Babcock said, "and you're supposed to hand the baton to someone else, and this should have been the day we did it. That's a bad decision by me. In saying that, Gustavsson's on the shelf and so is Mac. So, where are you supposed to go, would be my question. That shouldn't go on him. That should go on me."
Losing Smith definitely took seemed to leave the Wings' defense perplexed. Niklas Kronwall's lack of "Kronwalling" may have Wings fans pissed off, but he's been playing 22-25 minutes a night--he played 25:26, took 2 shots, had 5 more attempts blocked, missed the net and had a takeaway on Saturday--Jonathan Ericsson's played surprisingly well (he played 25:42 on Saturday, had 2 shots, made 2 more attempts and had 2 hits), and until Saturday, Kyle Quincey was at least coming along...
But after Smith left the game just under halfway through the first period, even Kronwall and Ericsson's sense seemed to leave them; Quincey revered into his error-prone self, Kent Huskins played like someone who's chest had taken the impact of a freight train named David Backes on Friday night, and Jakub Kindl went from assertive and savvy with the puck to shaky without it, even though he co-led the team with 4 shots (Franzen also took 4) and blocked 2 Blue Jackets shots.
"That was a loss for us. Smitty's a competitive kid," Babcock said. "He moves the puck and competes ultrahard. We're already on fumes a little bit, and then losing him. We don't know how long he'll be out, but obviously it's a blow to us. It's a shoulder, so I don't know if that's a week or 10 days."
Anisimov's second goal was definitely the back-breaker...
Anisimov's second goal came at 17:18 of the period. He deked to bring Howard out of the net, then tapped a backhand into the open net.
"The second goal was absolute garbage and just sort of took the wind out of our sails," Howard said.
Howard insisted to MLive's Ansar Khan that it was his job to bail out his teammates, not vice versa...
“Part of the job is going out there every single night and giving the guys a chance to win, and I didn't do that tonight,'' Howard said. “I'll just enjoy the day off tomorrow and get refocused. Tonight is just unacceptable.''
But his teammates weren't buying it:
Said captain Henrik Zetterberg: “The effort wasn't good tonight, too many mental errors.''
The Red Wings went 0-for-5 on the power play.
“I think everyone here is very disappointed with themselves,'' defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “I know I have to be better. We made some huge mistakes, way too many gifts. The last goal was a good example of that, when I go forward instead of backwards (leading to a two-on-one rush). It's stuff that cannot happen.''
Nope. Not if the Wings are to do more than take two steps forward and one-and-a-half steps back all season long.
I know that some of you are screaming for change this morning, but the team that rallied against the Blues was the same team that played so awful against Columbus, and aside from Lashoff and possibly White rotating into the lineup, I hope that Babcock leaves the lineup alone for a while.
This team's bottom six forwards and non-top-pair defensemen have been conspicuously absent from the scoresheet, and they're usually the difference between success and failure on back-to-back nights.
This team's power play and penalty-killing have to get better without the help of the Nyquists, Tatars, Anderssons and Sheahans of the world, very specifically because there is no point in bringing those players up unless they're placed in scoring roles. They will get their chances at some point, but now is the time to see what you've got and to challenge the players that are in the room at present to play the kind of detail-oriented puck possession hockey that this team has thrived upon for almost 20 years now.
This team can grind out wins thanks to the kind of hard work and "ultra-competitiveness" that Babcock talked about on Friday night, this team can succeed on its own merits.
Or it can stink. So the players were allowed to twist in the wind through the second and third periods as something of a lesson, and they're going to stew in their juices through Superbowl Sunday before preparing to play 4 games over the course of 6 second-week-of-February nights, starting with Happy Hudler's Flames on Tuesday.
Growing pains suck, but this team has to have them now, and it has to get through them and learn from them. Regrettably, this kind of hockey can be incredibly painful to watch as a Wings fan, and that's what I am this morning, just like you, pissed off as pissed off can be with an effort that was an inexcusable as it was unacceptable.
Highlights: If you rather desperately feel like watching highlights from the game, at least the Wings' website provides a slate narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Post-game: The Blue Jackets' website posted clips of Jack Johnson, Steve Mason, Mark Letestu and coach Todd Richards, speaking to the media, and Johnson spoke with the NHL Network as well. Richards' presser goes for 11:31. Bleh;
Mason, Letestu and Richards spoke to Fox Sports Ohio as well;
And Fox Sports Detroit did post a clip of Henrik Zetterberg, Jimmy Howard and Mike Babcock discussing the game:
Photos: The Detroit News posted a 13-image gallery;
The Windsor Star posted 5 images from the game;
ESPN posted a 35-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted 16 images in its Wings gallery;
Shots 34-28 Detroit. Detroit out-shot Columbus 14-12 in the 1st period, 11-9 in the 2nd and 9-7 in the 3rd.
Detroit went 0-for-5 in 10:00 of PP time and gave up a shorthanded goal. Columbus went 1-for-3 in 5:50 of PP time and scored a shorthanded goal.
Chris Mason stopped 32 of 34 shots; Howard stopped 24 of 28 but was not to blame for any save the 1st Anisimov goal.
The 3 stars, per the Blue Jackets' media, were Jack Johnson (3), Steve Mason (2) and Artem Anisimov (1).
The Wings' goals: Franzen (2) from Kronwall (7) and Ericsson (2);
Brunner (4) from Filppula (4).
Faceoffs 33-24 Detroit (58% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 16-5 Columbus;
Missed shots 10-9 Detroit (total attempts 60-42 Detroit);
Hits supposedly 29-11 Columbus, but I think that's horseshit;
Giveaways 3-2 Detroit;
Takeaways 10-4 Columbus.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 12-and-6 (67%); Datsyuk went 7-and-7 (50%); Abdelkader went 5-and-8 (38%); Filppula went 5-and-2 (71%) Emmerton went 4-and-1 (80%).
Shots: Franzen and Kindl led the team with 4 shots apiece; Filppula had 3; Cleary, Datsyuk, Miller, Tootoo, Brunner, Emmerton, Quincey, Ericsson and Kronwall had 2; Smith, Huskins, Zetterberg and Bertuzzi had 1.
Blocked attempts: Kronwall hit Blue Jackets players 5 times; Miller, Brunner and Miller had 2 shot attempts blocked; Kindl, Abdelkader, Emmerton, Quincey and Ericsson had 1 shot attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Abdelkader and Franzen missed the net 2 times; Datsyuk, Miller, Zetterberg, Filppula, Ericsson and Kronwall missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader led the team with 3 hits; Ericsson had 2; Huskins, Kindl, Cleary, Miller, Tootoo and Kronwall had 1.
Giveaways: Smith, Cleary and Bertuzzi had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Datsyuk had 3 takeaways; Kronwall had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Kindl blocked 2 shots; Eaves, Miller and Quincey blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Huskins, Bertuzzi and Kronwall took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -5. Zetterberg and Franzen finished at -2; Huskins, Datsyuk, Brunner and Kronwall finished at -1; Kindl, Bertuzzi and Filppula finished at +1.
Points: Franzen and Brunner had goals; Filppula, Ericsson and Kronwall had assists.
Ice time: Ericsson led the team with 25:42 played; Kronwall played 25:26; Quincey played 22;32;
Kindl played 21:29; Datsyuk played 18:43; Zetterberg played 17:33;
Franzen played 17:31; Filppula played 17:00; Huskins played 16:54;
Brunner played 16:41; Cleary played 16:11; Bertuzzi played 16:11;
Abdelkader played 13:24; Miller played 13:18; Eaves played 11:02;
Emmerton played 10:35; Tootoo played 10:02; Smith played 3:13.
Red Wings notebooks: Somewhat ironically, Joey MacDonald's getting healthy, and MLive's Ansar Khan reports that the often back injury-plagued goaltender expects to head down to Grand Rapids for a conditioning stint before being recalled to help Jimmy Howard out (and again, as MacDonald has a 1-way contract, his salary remains on the Wings' books no matter where he plays):
“I could see that happening, go down and get a few games under my belt and then come back. But who knows?'' MacDonald said. “You got (Jimmy Howard) playing every single night. He needs a break coming up. This month we got 15 games, somebody's got to come in and play a few games, and right now Monster (Jonas Gustavsson) is still nursing a groin, so he's going to maybe be (out) a little bit.''
MacDonald, whose 2011-12 season ended on March 14 due to a bulging disc, has skated every day this week, including Saturday morning with close to half the team at Nationwide Arena.
“Last year, the last month or so I was playing, every time I went down I could feel a little pain in my back,'' MacDonald said. “Good doing this so far, having no pain and moving well. Getting the timing and cardio back. Just keep it going.''
MacDonald is making progress. Gustavsson, apparently, is not. Gustavsson has stayed off the ice the past three days due to groin issues that flared up following the season opener in St. Louis on Jan. 19, when he relieved Howard 1:15 into the third period.
Tom McCollum was called up from the Griffins to back-up Howard the past six games, including Saturday in Columbus. But the Red Wings aren't likely to start the unproven former first-round pick in any games. MacDonald showed last season that he can be a reliable insurance policy in case of injury, beating out veteran Ty Conklin for the backup job.
“Jimmy's going to be playing a lot,'' MacDonald said. “But with games every second night and back-to-back games every week you got to have someone to come in and give him the rest he needs. That's my goal. It hasn't changed.''
MLive's Khan also offers some shudder-worthy stats in his quote-less game recap...
--The third and fourth lines aren't providing any offense. Their bottom six forwards have yet to score a goal.
--Detroit is 0-for-22 on the power play and just 10-for-18 on the penalty kill on the road (55.6 percent).
As does the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
The Red Wings were 0-for-5 on the power play and are now 5-for-45 this season.
"Our power play has to be better than that," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.
Who offers a transition to the irresistible sporting culture phenomenon that is the Sueprbowl:
Damien Brunner will be in front of the television just like almost everyone else watching the Super Bowl today. Brunner will be cheering for the Ravens, his only excuse for doing so being his brother is a Ravens fan and he wants to keep the support in the family.
The NFL, said Brunner, is gaining popularity in Switzerland.
"It's getting to be more and more," Brunner said. "Definitely more people every year are watching the Super Bowl."
Brunner said the influx of American and Canadian players into the Swiss pro hockey league has spurred him to take an interest in the NFL. Still, football has a long way to go to capture the hearts of Swiss sports fans.
"People love soccer the most," Brunner said.
The Free Press's Helene St. James also spoke to the Wings about their Superbowl picks and plans...
The Red Wings have today off after playing the past two nights, all the better to prepare for watching Super Bowl XLVII. For Jimmy Howard, it'll be a night of solo revelry: "My wife and son are out of town," he said, "so I'll watch the Super Bowl by myself on my sofa. It'll be nice."
He isn't even going to get upset over the result, because he's got so little allegiance to either the San Francisco 49ers or the Baltimore Ravens that as far as picking a winner, "I'm on the fence. I'm leaning towards Baltimore, but every day I'm back and forth."
Jordin Tootoo picked "the Ravens by 14," because of Lewis. "The guy seems like a warrior. Those kind of guys, you've got to work for every inch. I can kind of relate. Nothing comes easy. I'd just like to see him go out on a win."
For Justin Abdelkader, it's about wanting to see San Francisco lose because of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's spirited handshake with Schwartz in 2011.
"I'm not a big fan of the 49ers after the whole Lions incident," Abdelkader said. "You've got to support your local teams, so because of the Lions incident, I'd like to see the Ravens win."
Brendan Smith talked extensively on the subject, so extensively that Brunner, seated next to Smith, laughed and said, "Smitty the expert." So what is the expertise? "I like San Fran," Smith said. "I thought they played really well against the Packers, which are my favorite team. I think that Colin Kaepernick is unbelievable, but I don't like how he's so boastful as a quarterback. You see more modest quarterbacks, but I think he's got a lot of talent. I think he's going to put an end to Ray Lewis. And I like San Fran's defense a lot, so that's how I'm going."
And Ansar Khan talked to the Wings about the Superbowl, too, finding that Smith, who probably became a Packers fan while attending the University of Wisconsin, has made a trip to the "frozen tundra":
Toronto native whose father could not convince him to become a Bills fan, Smith became a Packers supporter while playing at Wisconsin. He has attended two games at Lambeau Field.
“It was freezing, but it was quite the experience,'' Smith said. “Packers fans are like Detroit fans. It’s a way of life, so it’s pretty cool with all of the Cheeseheads.''
He said of his desire to be part of the Lambeau Leap, “That would be a lot of fun.''
The Red Wings didn't do their annual Super Bowl pool this year, since the NHL season started after the NFL playoffs began. Opinions on who will win the game were divided.
“I like the 49ers,'' Cory Emmerton said. “I think Kaepernick is a pretty special QB. I just have a feeling the 49ers might win, based on their offensive weapons.''
Said Drew Miller: “I think I’m going with San Fran. I really don’t think one team has a big advantage over the other.”
Ian White didn't know who to pick.
“It'll be a real interesting game with Baltimore's defense and San Francisco's pistol offense,'' White said. “It'll be an interesting matchup with the two brothers coaching. Tough to predict who has the advantage. Both teams have ability to make the big play. I'm sure it'll be a fairly high-scoring game.''
In the prospect department, in the AHL, Petr Mrazek pitched a 32-save shutout and Adam Almquist scored the only goal the Grand Rapids Griffins would need in a 1-0 victory over Abbotsford. The Grand Rapids Griffins' website provides a recap, as well as highlights and a Flickr photo gallery...
A week that began with Petr Mrazek claiming the win in his maiden AHL All-Star Game appearance concluded with him earning his first professional shutout, as the rookie made 32 saves to backstop the Grand Rapids Griffins’ 1-0 victory over the Abbotsford Heat on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.
Adam Almquist scored the game’s only goal late in the opening period, then he sacrificed his body by sliding to block Brett Carson’s slap shot as time expired to put an exclamation point on the Midwest Division leaders’ triumph over the Heat, the top team in the North Division.
Abbotsford (23-15-3-4) boasts the AHL’s top two goalies, both of whom Mrazek has now beaten on his home ice. Second-ranked Danny Taylor stopped 22 shots in tonight’s goaltending duel, after relieving No. 1-ranked Barry Brust in Grand Rapids’ 5-2 win on Dec. 21.
Almquist’s goal came with 38 seconds remaining in the opening period, six seconds after his own tripping penalty expired. Upon exiting the penalty box, he collected a clearing pass from Chad Billins along the right boards, sped into the Heat’s zone on a 2-on-1 with Francis Pare and patiently waited until the bottom of the circle before ripping a short-side shot past Taylor.
The Griffins were outshot 26-10 over the final 40 minutes, by margins of 13-4 in the second period and 13-6 in the third, but Mrazek held strong to record the first shutout by a Griffins rookie since Jordan Pearce’s 36-save effort in a 3-0 win at Peoria on March 8, 2011.
Grand Rapids (26-14-2-2), which increased its division lead to nine points over Chicago, will take aim at its third straight win when Houston pays a 7 p.m. visit on Wednesday.
Notes: The Griffins were awarded their first penalty shot of the season at 9:48 of the opening period, but Billins’ try was stopped by Taylor…Former Griffins captain Jamie Tardif made his NHL debut tonight with Boston, registering 5:03 of ice time in the Bruins’ 1-0 win at Toronto. He became Grand Rapids’ 128th NHL alumnus...Tonight's crowd of 8,899, on the heels of the Griffins' first back-to-back sellouts (10,834) in four seasons last weekend, gave Grand Rapids a total attendance of 30,567 (94% of capacity) over its last three home games.
“It means lot to me,” Mrazek said. “It’s my first pro hockey shutout and I’m very happy it happened today. Without the guys in front me, this doesn’t happen and they helped me so much today blocking a lot of shots.”
The Midwest Division-leading Griffins won their second game in a row following the all-star break, and Mrazek’s outstanding play in the net was needed after Grand Rapids (26-14-2-2) managed only 23 shots, including four in the second period.
The Griffins’ lone goal came in the final minute of the first period when Adam Almquist slapped in his sixth goal of the season past Abbotsford’s Danny Taylor on an assist from Chad Billins.
The shutout was Grand Rapids’ second of the season. Tom McCollum didn’t allow a goal Dec. 7 in a 3-0 win at Chicago.
“It’s really special for Petr, and he had a great game,” Billins said. “He was really controlling the puck back there and we are happy for him. I felt, defensively, as a team, we played pretty solid. The forwards were back, and we had some key blocks at the end and were able to get the shutout for Petr.”
Mrazek did have a couple of close calls with two shots that careened off the post and one off the crossbar, but he was especially good in the final minute when the Heat pressured the goal seeking to force overtime.
“He didn’t give up any easy goals, obviously, but he didn’t give up any rebounds and I thought that was a key factor,” Griffins coach Jeff Blashill said. “I don’t think he’s played like a rookie all year, and I think we’ve gotten better as a team defensively over the course of the season.”
In Europe, via DRW Prospects on Twitter:
Mattias Backman didn't register a point in Linkopings HC's 1-0 loss to AIK Stockholm;
Calle Jarnkrok did not play in Brynas IF's 5-1 loss to Lulea;
Teemu Pulkkinen went scoreless in Jokerit Helsinki's 4-1 loss to Karpat;
And Danny Markov's acquisition has pushed Alexei Marchenko onto CSKA Moscow's bench. CSKA defeated Spartak 4-2 on Saturday.
In North America, in the QMJHL, Phillipe Hudon registered a goal and an assist in the Victoriaville Tigres' 4-3 victory over Sherbrooke, and he was named the game's second star;
Xavier Ouellet registered 2 assists in the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada's 3-2 victory over Quebec, and he was named the game's first star;
In the OHL, Alan Quine registered a goal and 2 assists for 3 points in the Belleville Bulls' 8-3 win over Sarnia;
In Saginaw, Jake Paterson stopped 42 of 46 shots but came out on the short end of a 5-4 shootout loss to fellow Wings prospect Ryan Sproul in the Soo Greyhounds. Sproul scored a goal and was named the game's third star;
In the WHL, Richard Nedomlel scored a goal in the Swift Current Broncos' 4-1 loss to Saskatoon;
In the USHL, Mike McKee registered an assist in the Lincoln Stars' 4-1 loss to Sioux Falls;
In the BCHL, James De Haas registered a goal and an assist in his Penticton Vees' 11-0 victory over Coquitlam;
And in the WCHA, Nick Jensen registered an assist in Saint Cloud State's 4-1 victory over Bemidji State.
Also of Red Wings-related note: Via Paul, Don Cherry mentioned Jordin Tootoo's favorable reception by Wings fans at the 4-minute mark of Coach's Corner:
And while this isn't directly Wings-related, I thought it was a fascinating read: the Globe and Mail's Sean Gordon and Eric Duhatschek spoke to Flamees forward Mike Cammalleri and Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges about the NHL and NHLPA's attempts to stop any abuse of prescription sleep aids in their tracks via tweaking some travel rules:
[T]eams are to be given no fewer than four days off – two at home, two on the road – for every full calendar month.
There is also a new rule forbidding teams from scheduling meetings or practices until nine hours after the players arrive at their hotel on road trips. And all players other than those on entry-level contracts, will now have their own rooms. It’s actually about a lot more than travel perks.
“What [NHLPA head Don Fehr] did in preparation for this negotiation was talk to a lot of players. We’ve had some real tragedies in our game because of lifestyle and abuse of different substances and pills. It’s my belief that the schedule, the lack of rest, and the pressure helps accentuate this,” said Calgary Flames forward Michael Cammalleri.
Think of the new provisions as an attempt to save players from themselves – no one wants to have their work ethic questioned – by restricting the time they spend at the rink, especially on the road.
That supposes they’re getting their rest rather than carousing, but this year’s shortened season has put a renewed emphasis on physical recovery. Teams will play more or less the same number of games as they would from January to April of a typical year, but more of them will be squeezed together in back-to-back contests and stretches of four games in five nights.
“When you look at the schedule and how condensed it is, rest is going to be a huge weapon for everyone. You need that time to recover ... you’re going to be playing every second night,” said Habs’ defenceman Josh Gorges, one of the team’s player representatives. “It’s basically a tool that says to guys: if you need rest, get it. Listen to your body, we’re not going to push guys into coming in early.”
Cammalleri described the grind in previous years thusly: “You fly into a city and you can’t fall asleep until 4 or 5 in the morning. So you’re sitting there, watching TV, reading a book ... Well, the coach might have called a meeting for 8 o’clock the next morning, because there’s something he really wants to work on.”
So you take a sleeping pill. But then, said Cammalleri, “next time the one sleeping pill doesn’t work. Then, the next time, the one stimulant doesn’t work so it becomes two. Then it becomes four. The old school, of being afraid that guys are going to sit in the bar until 6 a.m., it’s really not the case any more. Guys go for the odd beer, but trust me, it’s too competitive in terms of jobs. There’s too much at stake. You’d be out of the league in two or three years. Period,” he said.
For the record, with those four games in six nights coming up, a family health scare not involving me having occurred recently and plain old being run down, I'm going to take today as quietly as possible, and will probably move slowly on Monday, too. I don't get many "days off," but don't be surprised if I take one here or there this month. What I will be doing is working on my birthday and the morning after, but for today...
I've learned that when one is constantly exposed to something in life, they either become enthusiastic about the stimulus or try to avoid it. I grew up living under what was once Metro Airport's main takeoff path along Middlebelt Road in Garden City (Brown Ct. was not in fact a court, go figure), MI, and despite the seemingly endless roar of turbofan engines over my house, I've become fascinated by airplanes...But I also lived three quarters of a mile from Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor for six years, in an apartment on Hoover street, and instead of catching the college football bug, I grew to dread football Saturdays. Having 50,000 people walking by my door, the 40-something frat boys parking on the apartment lawn for $20 a head and behaving badly, and witnessing the campus rise and fall upon the fate of the football team while I occasionally felt like I was living in a Wing-fan-less wilderness while the team won 3 Cups in six years...
I'm simply not a football fan, and today is not a particularly special day for me, so I'll be catching up on sleep, making a pop run for the mom and trying to avoid both football and hockey for one day. I hope the blasphemy I'm uttering isn't offensive, but I've gotta tell ya what's going on in TMR land every once in a while.
Update: I'm not supposed to still be up, and I'm not one for fostering trade rumors, but the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch has an interesting one that does make some sense in terms of the Red Wings' need to acquire a top-pair offensive defenseman:
Once the New York Islanders are officially out of the playoff picture, expect D Mark Streit to get dealt. A lot of teams are looking for somebody who can move the puck and he's in the final year of his contract. Streit is well-respected around the league for his abilities and will likely get dealt for a second-round pick .
Streit's not overly big at 5'11" and 193 pounds or 6' and 197 pounds, depending on whose profile you're quoting, he's 35 and he missed the entire 2010-2011 season due to a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his left shoulder--his shooting arm as he shoots left--but he returned in 11-12 and registered 7 goals and 40 assists. The Wings have the room to accommodate his pro-rated $4.1 million cap hit, too, but assuming that anybody is out of the playoffs this season is a dangerous endeavor, and there would be a line-up for Streit's services as the calendar inches closer to April 3rd.
Update #2: I eventually relented and stayed up for the God-damned Columbus Dispatch to update at 6:30 AM. Here are some quotes from Aaron Portzline's main recap...
“This is what we’ve wanted to show all along, but it’s been a struggle for us to have it all come together,” defenseman Jack Johnson said. “The biggest thing is, we scored some goals. We haven’t been giving ourselves or our goaltenders any margin for error, and that’s a tough way to play the game. It’s asking a lot to try and get by on two goals or less per night. To finally have a game go like this, it’s a great feeling for everybody in the room. Now we have to build off this. We have to make this the norm.”
Anisimov had the third two-goal game of his career and had numerous chances to get his first career hat trick. James Wisniewski and Mark Letestu also scored for the Blue Jackets, who scored four straight goals after falling behind 1-0 midway through the first.
Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason had 32 saves and looked large and economical with his movement. The Blue Jackets took a 3-1 lead into the third period, the first time they’d led by two goals all season, as well as the first time they’d led after two periods.
“For the guys to put the puck in the net, it takes some of the pressure off,” Mason said. “Four goals is the most we’ve scored all season. For the guys to step up after some frustrating games for us as a whole, it was nice to see the guys get rewarded.”
Wisniewski suffered a scary injury early in the second period, spinning and losing his balance and slamming back-first into the end boards behind the Red Wings’ goal. He lay flat on his stomach for more than five minutes while medical personnel attended to him. Coach Todd Richards said Wisniewski suffered a concussion.
“It was awful,” Johnson said. “Just the way he’s lying there, it’s pretty scary. It’s a guy on our team, but even if it’s a guy on the other team … I mean, the Red Wings were just as concerned. “Once we saw him talking and moving, it made us feel good because we knew he’d be all right.”
Johnson more than picked up the load in Wisniewski’s absence. He drew 34:59 of ice time, breaking the franchise record he set last season. When told of his ice time, he shook his head, smiled and sighed: “One more second.”
Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu scored a short-handed goal to make it 4-1 at 13:25 of the third. It was the first short-handed goal scored by the Blue Jackets since Nash had one in a 5-2 win at Phoenix last March 3, a span of 24 games.
NOW I am going to bed and taking the day off, or nearly so.
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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.