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Red Wings-Blues wrap-up: Sproul, Mrazek impress as Wings go to the net, look toward playoffs

This isn't a usual recap for a reason, but I'd rather post most of the stories related to the Red Wings' 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues than wait until 2 AM because the Free Press, Detroit News and St. Louis Post-Dispatch won't post all of their post-game stories until that time.

With the Wings preparing to start their series against the Boston Bruins on Friday, something tells me that your mind might be moving toward that series instead of lingering upon the Wings' win, so I might as well haul a little rear and have this entry be relevant for five more minutes (though I will amend this wrap-up as necessary).

We may as well take a look at the Wild Card standings one last time. It's hard to believe that the Blue Jackets will end up with more wins and more regulation-or-OT wins than the Wings did, but at least the Wings can say that they ended up with the same number of points, and as such, lost via "tiebreakers." So "we" didn't finish lower than the Blue Jackets! Technically! Yay?

Pro Hockey Talk's Ryan Dadoun summarizes what transpired on Sunday afternoon succinctly:

The St. Louis Blues looked like a serious Stanley Cup contender after acquiring goaltender Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres, but the mood is far less optimistic following their 3-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in their season finale.

The Blues closed the campaign with six straight losses and scored just five goals over that span. They were shut out for the final 143:59 minutes of the regular season.

A big part of their collapse was the result of injuries. The list of injured Blues forwards includes Patrik Berglund, Brenden Morrow, Vladimir Sobotka, T.J. Oshie, David Backes, and Vladimir Tarasenko. Either way, the Blues losing streak means that they will have to face the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round and they are a tough adversary even under the best of circumstances.

Petr Mrazek picked up the shutout for Detroit by stopping 23 Blues shots. The 22-year-old netminder made his eighth career start so that Jimmy Howard could rest before the Red Wings playoff series against Boston. Ryan Miller turned aside 18 of 21 shots for St. Louis.

Justin Abdelkader scored two goals, including the game-winner.

Injuries or no injuries, the Blues weren't happy with backing into the playoffs via an 0-and-6 record, as coach Ken Hitchcock told the Belleville News-Democrat's Norm Sanders:

"I sat here three weeks ago and said momentum means everything," Hitchcock said. "I knew we had our foot off the gas a little bit, so momentum was important. Goals were out there, and we just saw what happens when we take the foot off the gas just a little bit."

Add in injuries to so many key players and the Blues' downward spiral took its toll --or as Hitchcock called it, a "vortex."

"Other teams can play at 75 or 70 percent and still win," he said. "We've got to be close to red-lining to win and we've been doing that all year. When we took our foot off the gas, this is what happened so my job is to find a way to get the foot back on the gas again."

...

"We're going to need to get our players back up and running that didn't play the last 10 days," Hitchcock said. "I can guarantee you now, everybody that's out, that was out today ... at some period of time, they're going to be in."

The most serious injuries are believed to be Morrow, Berglund and Tarasenko. Tarasenko, who has missed 15 games, has been skating while trying to return from surgery to repair a hand injury. As the injuries mounted, the Blues were shut out three times in their final six games.

"The offense goes when you get the people that coordinated us all year back in," Hitchcock said, referring to the lineup heavy with role players and recent call-ups. "It's pretty simple. This is a perfect example of try like crazy, try hard, battle away, but you need your best players in your lineup to be going. When you start dropping guys out, it's hard to create. For us it's just get the players back in, get the thing coordinated, get guys back playing with people they've played with all year and see where it goes from there. It's not rocket science."

Hitchcock continued while speaking with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford...

Hitchcock and the players were focusing less on the season-ending collapse and facing the Stanley Cup champions Sunday and more about their accomplishments during the 2013-14 regular season — setting a franchise record with 52 victories — and the much-needed time off.

"You look at the big picture ... the big picture is we set a record," Hitchcock said. "This break will do us really a lot of good. We can get re-energized, re-focused and come back and get ready to play. We might need more rest than work to get back focused again. Our work-based part of our practices will be minimal now, but we'll still have a lot different lineup than what played tonight."

....

The Blues played Sunday without many of their regulars, who were out injured: David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrick Berglund, Barret Jackman, Brenden Morrow, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Sobotka.

Everyone except Morrow, Tarasenko and Berglund are expected to be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs.

"Obviously the little streak at the end isn't the way we wanted it to (end)," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "But I think (the Blues need) just a couple of days — get away, forget about hockey for a little bit — and then come back refreshed. Regardless of the last couple of weeks, we still put ourselves in a pretty good position. We've got home-ice and I think that's the way we have to approach it."

And I'm not quite sure what Hitchcock meant when he, Bowumeester and Alex Steen spoke with Fox Sports Midwest's Nate Lasch, but I'm not familiar with the Blues' team lingo:

"From our standpoint, we red-lined most of the year," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We red-lined and we had a helluva year, but we ran out of gas. We ran out of gas. It's not the players' fault, it's the schedule, Olympics. We ran out of gas. This gives us a chance to retool ourselves, refocus and get some rest. That's the biggest change we're going to have to make here. We're going to have to really focus on the rest leading into this tournament so that we can get as fresh as we can early in the tournament. But I can guarantee you now, everybody that's out, that was out today, at some period of time, they're going to be in."

...

"The big picture is we set a record for (wins)," Hitchock said. "We had a brutal stretch here at the end. Every team went through a brutal stretch. The teams that had the Olympians, at some period of time, they hit the wall. Chicago's stretch was right after the break, ours happened now. This break will do us really a lot of good and we can get re-energized, refocused and come back and get ready to play."

Alexander Steen said there's no point in dwelling on the way the Blues finished the regular season.

"Nothing's going to change," said the forward, who led the Blues with 33 goals and 62 points in just 67 games. "You don't get better by feeling sorry for yourself. It's the way we finished the season. That's all. Now we have to regroup and get ready for the first round. There's 16 teams left. We don't have anything. We have to go and get it. We have to go grab it. We'll be looking to get ourselves, body and mind, prepared for Chicago. It's going to be fun."

..

But the fans of the home six, media members and hockey fans everywhere outside the Blues' locker room left scratching their heads at this skid can rest assured that they were not alone.

"To people inside (the locker room) it's a head scratcher as well," Bouwmeester said. "But call it what it is. It's things catching up for injuring or whatever. It really doesn't matter anymore. That has to be our focus: Just kind of regroup and move forward. I can't explain it. I don't know. Anyone can take their best guess. Obviously we haven't played as well as we need to and as we have all year, so it's just a matter of getting back to that. I think we'll be OK."

Blue goalie Ryan Miller was also hoping to press the reset button in a hurry, as he told the Belleville News-Democrat's Sanders...

"Just get hit with the puck, I guess," said Miller, 10-8-1 since joining the Blues while allowing 18 goals in his last five outings. "Obviously it's been a tough stretch as far as goals-against, but I don't feel like I'm in a really bad place. I feel like I'm in a pretty good place honestly. I know people probably will take that and just chop it up and laugh about it, but I feel pretty good. I can compete."

Competing is one thing, but Miller was brought in to provide an upgrade in goal over Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.

His recent struggles, coupled with the team's offensive and defensive lapses and injuries that created holes in the lineup, have combined to form a perfect storm of inconsistency. At least three times Sunday, Miller found himself staring down Red Wings on breakaways.

"What did he stop, three breakaways today?" Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think before we can even talk about how Ryan's playing, we need to clean it up in front (of him). When we get the right focus and right energy, we'll get that cleaned up hopefully."

(let's not tell Hitchcock that Tatar deked himself out and Helm and Nyquist basically skated into Miller)

And In the Slot's Louie Korac reports that the thrust of Hitchcock's message was, "Forward, troops!"

I said to the players tonight there's 300 players that would die for what we get to do starting Monday morning," Hitchcock said. "We get to prepare for the playoffs. There's 300 players that are out, 14 teams that are out. Prove this, prove that ... you've just got to compete and play. It's not rocket science. It's pretty simple. You've just got to keep going. There's going to be funky things happen. There's going to be funny stuff that happens. There's going to be some emotional stuff that happens. There's going to be some really emotional stuff that happens. You've just got to keep going.

"... We're going to have to really focus on the rest leading into this tournament so that we can get as fresh as we can early in the tournament. But I can guarantee you now, everybody that's out, that was out today, at some period of time, they're going to be in."

Korac also penned NHL.com's recap, and we'll use it to transition from the Blues' perspectives to those of the Red Wings' players and coach. The coach didn't necessarily believe that the game was a "throwaway" despite the fact that the team rested Daniel Alfredsson, Danny DeKeyser, Johan Franzen, Jimmy Howard and Niklas Kronwall:

"[The Blues] didn't have their team and we didn't have chunks of our team too, so I don't know if you can evaluate much about the game, but it's always nice to win it," Babcock said.

Detroit won three of four games against the Bruins.

"Well, we're not throwing it out the window, we're telling our guys that's what matters," Babcock said. "We dominated the series but obviously it starts all over. We feel real comfortable with our group. We're well organized and we know we're going to compete."

...

Sheahan gave the Red Wings a two-goal lead after Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo's shot from the point went awry and turned into a 2-on-2 going the other way. Sheahan used Colaiacovo as a screen and snapped a shot from the left circle over Miller's glove with 3:41 left in the second.

Abdelkader's second of the game came off a saucer feed from Pavel Datsyuk in the slot, and he redirected the shot over Miller's right shoulder with 7:17 remaining in the game. Datsyuk has 74 points in 64 career games against St. Louis after his two assists Sunday.

"It's always good to end the season on a good note heading into the playoffs, and I think we're doing a lot of good things of late and looking forward to the Boston series in the first round," Abdelkader said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."

Abdelkader seemed to suggest that this game was a wash, however, in speaking with the Associated Press:

Backup goalie Petr Mrazek earned his second career shutout for the Red Wings, who are locked into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and will play Boston. Justin Abdelkader scored twice, Riley Sheahan added a goal and Pavel Datsyuk had two assists.

"I think the regular season you sort of just have to go flush out, to tell you the truth," Abdelkader said. "I think everything is tossed to the side and it's a new season. It really is."

...

Mrazek is 2-4 this season with both wins by shutouts, and has three career victories, one of them in his NHL debut in St. Louis on Feb. 7, 2013.

"Sometimes the puck goes in and sometimes it doesn't," Mrazek said. "It didn't today, so I'm happy."

...

The Red Wings were outshot 7-4 in the first period, but took the lead on Abdelkader's deflection at 13:30. Near the midpoint of the period, an apparent goal by Tomas Tatar was waved off by a goaltender interference on Joakim Andersson, who slashed Miller's stick seconds earlier.

Sheahan scored for the third straight game on the counter-attack with his ninth overall making it 2-0 at 16:19 of the second and Abdelkader made it 3-0 with another deflection in the third.

The mixed narrative continued while Jimmy Howard spoke with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...

“It does,” said goalie Jimmy Howard about whether that gives the Red Wings some confidence. “But in the grand scheme of things, what’s done is done. When we head into Boston, they’ll be fired up and we have to weather the storm.”

And Kulfan noted that Ryan Sproul had a fine NHL debut...

Sproul had a team-high three shots, along with two hits and two blocked shots in 18:25. Ouellet had one blocked shot and one hit in 16:21. Sproul became the ninth player this season to make his NHL debut with the Red Wings.

“Before I stepped onto the ice there were more jitters,” Sproul said. “But the jitters kind of turned into excitement and energy, and that’s the way I tried to play.”

Sproul (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) is a 2011 third-round pick who plays with a lot of mobility.

“He’s 6-4, he skates, he’s smart and moves the puck,” Babcock said. “And Ouellett makes the right play each and every time. They’re good.”

Whle Petr Mrazek continues to earn rave reviews:

“Outstanding,” said Babcock of Mrazek’s performance. “But as good as he was stopping the puck, he was better with the puck. Our defense never got hit, or run (over).”

Mrazek looked confident in net, but that doesn’t surprise Babcock.

“That’s how he is,” Babcock said. “I said it earlier in the season -- when he comes up, he doesn’t think he’s battling for the backup spot, he thinks he should be starting.”

MLive's Ansar Khan spoke with Mrazek...

Mrazek wasn’t peppered with shots, but he made several big stops, none more impressive than his sprawling right pad save on Maxim Lapierre during a four-on-one break in the second period.

“I was thinking he’s going to pass it and he did,” Mrazek said. “I just went there and tried to put my pad high and he just shoot on the ice. That was a lucky save but it counts and then we scored the second (goal).”

And Sproul...

Sproul become the ninth player to make his NHL debut for the Red Wings this season. He logged 18:25, recording three shots, two blocked shots and two hits – including a big one on Derek Roy against the boards.

“It’s not really my style of game, but when I can do it, it definitely fires me up a little bit,” Sproul said.

Sproul, the big right-handed shooter, logged 3:25 on the power play.

“He’s 6-foot-4, he can skate, he shoots BBs and he’s smart and he moves the puck,” Babcock said. “Ouellet makes the right play each and every time. They’re good.”

And Khan confirmed that neither Sproul nor Ouellet will remain with Detroit as "Black Aces":

Both will head back to Grand Rapids for the Griffins’ final two regular season games next week and their playoff run.

“Even though it is the end of the year, it’s nice to get that (game) and I’m hoping the best for these guys in the playoffs,” Sproul said.

As the Free Press's Helene St. James noted, the Wings were happy with their win...

QUOTABLE: Mike Babcock said, "Your 82nd game, it's nice to win. They didn't have their team and we didn't have chunks of our team, too, so I don't know if I can evaluate much about the game, but it's always nice to win."

But the team was already talking about taking their lessons learned in Sunday's game and applying them to the playoff series at hand, as Abdelkader told St. James:

Justin Abdelkader scored twice Sunday at Scottrade Center in the Wings’ 3-0 victory over the Blues, either by being at or en route to the net. On his first goal, Abdelkader was in front of Ryan Miller to deflect Brian Lashoff’s shot. Abdelkader scored again when he redirected Pavel Datsyuk’s pass while gliding towards the crease.

“That’s what the playoffs are all about,” Abdelkader said. “It’s not about the fancy plays, the 3-on-1s, 3-on-2s. Especially playing Boston, they play so tight, they’re not going to give you any freebies. If you get a chance, you have to get around to the front of the net. That’s what it’s going to to take in the playoffs, especially against Tuukka Rask, one of the best goalies in the league.”

Riley Sheahan has been scoring from in front of the net, as has Tomas Jurco, giving the Wings net-front presences on three lines.

“It’s huge,” coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s something we bang on each and every day and we’ve just got to continue to get better at it if we’re going to have success, especially against a heavy team like Boston.”

Sheahan netted his eight goal of the season last Friday when he was by Carolina’s net. He also provides a net-front presence as part of a power play unit that usually includes Tomas Tatar and Jurco. Playing with skilled players — Gustav Nyquist is also a regular line mate — makes going to the net a natural move for Sheahan.

“When you’ve got guys on your line like Tats, Nyqui or Jurcs, and so many good defensemen that can get the puck through, it’s sort of fun to be there,” Sheahan said. “You can watch them make plays and you’re just there for rebounds and to try to get them the puck. It’s a lot of fun.”

Multimedia:

Highlights: As you might imagine, NBC's highlight clip is the only one available:

Post-game: If you desperately wish to watch nearly 12 minutes' worth of Ken Hitchcock speaking with the press, he holds extremely long press conferences...

The Free Press's Helene St. James asked Howard and Babcock about battling the Bruins...

And she asked Justin Abdelkader and Babcock about net-front goals as they might apply to beating Tuukka Rask:

And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Petr Mrazek...

Justin Abdelkader...

And coach Mike Babcock speaking with the media:

Photos: The Detroit News posted a 12-image gallery;

The Detroit Free Press posted a 19-image gallery;

ESPN posted a 39-image gallery;

And NHL.com, the Blues' website and the Red Wings' website posted 60-image galleries.

Statistics:

Shots: 23-21 St. Louis. St. Louis out-shot Detroit 7-4 in the 1st period; Detroit out-shot St. Louis 9-6 in the 2nd period; St. Louis out-shot Detroit 10-8 in the 3rd period.

Special teams: Detroit went 0-for-4 in 6:50 of PP time; St. Louis went 0-for-3 in 4:50 of PP time.

Goaltending: Petr Mrazek stopped 23 of 23 for Detroit; Ryan Miller stopped 18 of 21 for St. Louis.

The 3 stars were picked by the "St. Louis Media," and they picked Pavel Datsyuk, Petr Mrazek and Justin Abdelkader.

The Wings' goals: Abdelkader (9) from Lashoff (5) and Datsyuk (19);

Sheahan (9) from Tatar (20);

Abdelkader (10) from Datsyuk (20) and Kindl (17).

Faceoffs 31-24 St. Louis (Detroit won 44%);

Blocked shots 12-10 Detroit;

Missed shots 15-5 Detroit (attempts 46-40 Detroit; Detroit had 21 shots on net and 25 wide/blocked);

Hits 26-14 St. Louis;

Giveaways 4-3 Detroit;

Takeaways 8-5 Detroit.

Individual stats:

Faceoffs: Sheahan went a hideous 4-and-14 (22%); Datsyuk went 11-and-7 (61%); Helm went 4-and-8 (33%); Glendening went 2-and-2 (50%); Legwand went 2-and-0 (100%); Andersson went 1-and-0 (100%).

Shots: Sproul led the Wings with 3 shots; Abdelkader, Nyquist, Andersson, Miller and Tatar had 2 shots; Sheahan, Legwand, Jurco, Quincey, Glendening, Helm, Bertuzzi and Ouellet had 1 shot.

Blocked attempts: Sproul and Nyquist had 2 attempts blocked; Kindl, Datsyuk, Tatar, Jurco, Glendening and Helm had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Tatar fired 4 shots wide of the net; Sheahan took 2 wide shots; Smith, Abdelkader, Nyquist, Legwand, Andersson, Miller, Helm, Sproul and Ouellet took 1 wide shot.

Hits: Glendening led the Wings with 4 hits; Jurco, Quincey and Sproul had 2 hits; Legwand, Tatar, Lashoff and Ouellet had 1 hit.

Giveaways: Smith had 2 giveaways; Datsyuk and Helm had 1 giveaway.

Takeaways: Datsyuk and Andersson had 2 takeaways; Nyquist, Sheahan, Legwand and Helm had 1 takeaway.

Blocked opponent shots: Lashoff blocked 4 shots; Smith and Sproul blocked 2 shots; Kindl, Sheahan, Legwand and Glendening blocked 1 shot.

Penalties taken: Andersson, Glendening and Ouellet took minor penalties.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at +15. Kindl and Lashoff finished at +3; Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Nyquist finished at +2; Sheahan, Tatar and Bertuzzi finished at +1.

Points: Abdelkader had 2 goals; Datsyuk had 2 assists; Sheahan had a goal; Kindl, Tatar and Lashoff had assists.

Ice time: Quincey led the Wings with 21:43 played; Smith played 21:41; Kindl played 19:54;

Sproul played 18:25; Datsyuk played 18:05; Nyquist played 17:02;

Andersson played 16:58; Ouellet played 16:21; Lashoff played 15:41;

Bertuzzi played 15:21; Sheahan played 14:56; Tatar played 14:34;

Abdelkader played 14:29; Miller played 14:29; Helm played 14:21;

Glendening played 14:10; Jurco played 14:08; Legwand played 11:43.

 

Update: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford posted some "Bluenotes" and another recap, as well as a photo gallery;

And the Free Press's Helene St. James posited a capsule recap:

BIG HIT: Defenseman Ryan Sproul made his NHL debut, playing opposite fellow Griffins call-up Xavier Ouellet. Sproul had a big hit midway through the game, sending Derek Roy crashing into the boards. “I feed off that a lot,” Sproul said. “It’s not really my style of game, but when I can do it, it definitely fires me up a little bit.”

QUOTABLE: “Your 82nd game, it’s nice to win,” Mike Babcock said. “They didn’t have their team and we didn’t have chunks of our team, too, so I don’t know if I can evaluate much about the game, but it’s always nice to win.”

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Comments

DrewBehr's avatar

Always great to see your big “deadline acquisition” getting the least amount of minutes on the ice.

Posted by DrewBehr from The Mitten on 04/13/14 at 11:57 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Alfredsson’s been playing the least ice time or nearly the least of any Wing for the last 4 or 5 games, so I don’t know what to make of Legwand’s status.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/14/14 at 12:02 AM ET

Hockeytown Wax's avatar

If memory serves me correct, Legwand was a 3rd liner in Nashville the last 4 or 5 seasons, so being on the 4th line here makes sense.  He was never mr. clutch as far as scoring goes ... just responsible defencively and decent in the faceoff circle.

I’m sure they’re just trying to give Alfie as much rest as possible going into the playoffs.  Who knows how long his back will hold up.

“They didn’t have their team and we didn’t have chunks of our team, too, so I don’t know if I can evaluate much about the game…”

Here’s something you can evaluate from the game ... Ryan Sproul will be in a Red Wings uniform come the first week of October ... giving KH the ability to trade any of the other Dmen not named Kronwall or DeKeyser for something useful.  Yeah yeah I know Queazy is a UFA but after giving up a first rounder to get him back Holland will roll out the welcome mat for him to save face ... and THEN trade his ass ... baaaahahaha

Something else to consider ...
Rafalski, Stuart, Lidstrom gone ... Kronwall, DeKeyser, Ericsson didn’t play ... so we were, in theory, icing defencemen 7 thru 12 on the pecking order and we still shutout St. Louis.

Injuries or no injuries, St. Louis is in for a world of hurt against Chicago in round one.

Posted by Hockeytown Wax from West Bloomfield, Mi. on 04/14/14 at 03:14 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Don’t forget Almquist. Almquist isn’t waiver exempt next year, and while he’s small, he’s also on pace for a 50+ assist season. We’re going to see him before we’re going to see Sproul or Ouellet or Marchenko, though one could successfully argue that the Wings don’t need to do anything but make room for two or three of those four players going into next season.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/14/14 at 03:26 AM ET

alwaysaurie's avatar

If memory serves me correct, Legwand was a 3rd liner in Nashville the last 4 or 5 seasons. — - Hockeytown Wax from West Bloomfield

yeah… your memory isn’t your friend.

Posted by alwaysaurie on 04/14/14 at 03:43 AM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

Sproul looked confident with the puck, but utterly lost at times without it. Scary to think how very much more NHL ready DDK was defensively when he showed up. Let’s hope Sproul picks things up faster than Smith has.

Posted by MoreShoot on 04/14/14 at 07:49 AM ET

Avatar

Always great to see your big “deadline acquisition” getting the least amount of minutes on the ice.

Always great to see someone ignore the reason for that big “deadline acquisition” (Why is that in quotes?  Was Legwand NOT a deadline acquisition?) just so you can whine about something.

Posted by Garth on 04/14/14 at 04:07 PM 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.