The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/08/13 at 12:13 AM ET
The St. Louis Blues headed to Nashville to play the Predators after defeating the Red Wings 1-0 on Sunday, and by the time the Wings resume playing on Thursday (against the Sharks), there is no doubt whatsoever that the Wings will be on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture looking in as three full days off "burn" Detroit's 2 games in hand on most teams.
With nine games remaining in the regular season, the 19-15-and-5 Wings (who have 17 regulation or OT wins) have 42 points, and with 5 road games, 4 home games and two back-to-back slates remaiing, the Wings need to earn 13 of a possible 18 points to get to what most everyone agrees is a magical 55-point "you don't need help to make the playoffs" spot.
At this point, who the Wings play in the playoffs matters much less than whether the Wings make the playoffs, period, and while I know I blew up after Sunday's loss, my message was fueled by the frustration that so many of you have expressed this season--and while I know that I'm not a very popular blogger in my own blog this year (whether you are frustrated with the Wings or simply frustrated at me with the "steady as she goes" philosophy, I don't know, but I've tried my best to treat your dissent with the utmost respect, regardless of whether you believe that to be so, and I found it kind of amusing to get lectured after letting my emotions get the better of me), even I lose my top sometimes...
And I did so because the Red Wings' lack of effort, intensity, attention to detail and work ethic today have left them with an incredibly difficult road ahead in terms of making their playoff push without requiring "help" from their competitors losing in order to play what increasingly look like post-season match-ups with Chicago or Anaheim.
I'm sorry for being unprofessional, but I'm not going to apologize for venting my frustrations. We've all done it this season, and it is always your right to do so in this blog (I ask that you be polite to your fellow commenters), even when I'm preaching not freaking the *#$%@& out, but...We all do it. We're human beings and we're Red Wings fans who've endured perhaps the most frustrating season this team has given us since the early 90's, and when we invest so much time, energy, emotion and support into following a team and players who we care about but who also frustrate the hell out of us, it's hard to deal with sometimes.
In any case, the Red Wings lost today, and they've chosen the hard road here.
Just as frustratingly, the Blues seemed to copy the same kind of game blueprint that the Blue Jackets, Coyotes (on Thursday) and every other team that's handed Detroit home defeats has utilized--a passive-aggressive muck-and-grind game that forced the Wings to the outside and coerced the Wings into firing single, unobstructed shots at Brian Elliott from long distance instead of plowing through the traffic in the slot and in the corners to take the puck to the net, plant butts in front of the opposing goalie and tip pucks, screen shots and retrieve rebounds.
That, and the Blues clutched, grabbed, hooked, held, in the case of David Perron, wrestled Henrik Zeterberg's stick, and in the case of Alex Pietrangelo, laid on the puck for the last 13 seconds of the game to "burn time," and it was just...Incredibly frustrating to watch Dan O'Halloran referee his 1,000th game as if he had a party reservation to make at 3 PM in Brighton.
But the Blues played ugly hockey and won because of it, as they told NHL.com's Dan Rosen:
"It's not always pretty," said Blues left wing Chris Porter, who had the goal Sunday. "We would like to play better in certain situations, but that's the game of hockey. Four [wins] in a row is great, but we can't look too far ahead."
The Blues (21-14-2) also have found the goaltending necessary to win these gritty games. Brian Elliott earned his 19th career shutout with 28 saves, but once the Blues got Porter's goal, it was a lockdown game the rest of the way. That means limited scoring opportunities; efficient penalty killing, which has now denied 18 straight over seven games and 27 of 28 over 12 games; and a hard forechecking style of play in all three zones.
"It's that time of year. Find a way to get it done," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We played a great first period [Sunday], managed the game well in the third. This is the third game in three-and-a-half days. Both teams poured a lot into this. This was a playoff game with a playoff atmosphere. Both teams had hard matches going. I thought we really did a good job."
Porter's goal was typical of how the Blues have to win. Throw pucks at the net, get bodies in front, and play physical. Porter was able to corral a puck off Patrik Berglund's skate and lift it over Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.
"We're back to where we kind of played the games last year," Berglund said. "We've had some really close games, but we've really been able to stay with it. That's four in a row now, and three of them have been on the road. The team's getting stronger and stronger. We have the goaltending that helps us out now, but I think we are helping them out, too, to minimize the mistakes. We've played much more solid now. We don't give them the chances. We've just got to keep building, stay humble and keep going."
“The timing was on today, I guess,” said Elliott, who had nine shutouts last season. “Sometimes you feel it a little bit. It’s capturing that feeling and bottling it and trying to bring it every game.”
The Blues’ first shutout at Joe Louis Arena since 2009 allowed the club to match its season-high four-game winning streak, and meanwhile catapulted the team over Detroit into seventh place in the Western Conference standings.
While the Blues' players talked about mucking and grinding their way to a win...
After 36 minutes of scoreless action, Porter and Berglund went on a rush and after Porter gave up the puck, it ping-ponged in front of the net and lay near Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. Porter put on the brakes and poked in his second goal of the season for a 1-0 lead with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left in the period.
“We preached this morning,” Porter said, “getting traffic in front of Howard, stop in front of the net and get second and third chances, and try to outwork him.”
[T]he club’s ironclad penalty-killing unit made the lead hold up, posting its 18th consecutive kill, a streak that covers seven games. The unit has now erased 28 of 29 opponent power plays over the last 12 games.
“I think everybody is moving well, and we’re on our toes being aggressive,” Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. “Everybody is moving as one. That’s the key, making the power play uncomfortable and not giving the power play what they want.”Elliott was a bit uncomfortable in the closing minute Sunday, however, when the Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk got loose for a shot with 20 seconds remaining. But with traffic in front of him, Elliott dropped his glove and made the save.
“I don’t know if we stopped playing a little or we didn’t know how much time was left,” Elliott said. “It was a lapse in judgment there for a second. He made a good shot. I almost didn’t see it … almost predicted that it was going to get through somehow and it landed in my glove.”
So the Blues used the lack of Saturday practices by both teams to shuffle their lineups to their advantage, as Porter told In the Slot's Louie Korac...
"We didn't find out until this morning what was going to happen," Porter said. "They had to shuffle all the lines. Everybody did a good job of kind of meshing with their lines. We played a great 60 minutes. Howard's a great goalie. The less he sees, the better. We just had really good emphasis getting pucks toward him and getting some traffic in front of him. My goal there is exactly what happened."
Added Berglund: "It's all Ports pretty much. I don't know what I tried to do ... push it away somewhere else. When everybody went to the net there, it was chaos and he found a way to find the puck. It's what we talked about. Battle in front of the net, and it was that type of goal. It was huge."
The rest was up to Elliott, who earned his 19th career shutout, first this season and 10th as a Blue.He made a number of solid stops on the afternoon, including a glove- and point-saving stop on Pavel Datsyuk with 20 seconds remaining.
"I don't know if we stopped playing a little bit and didn't know how much time was left," Elliott quipped. "Kind of a lapse in judgment for a second there. (Datsyuk) made a good shot. I almost really didn't see it. I just kind of predicted it was going to get through somehow and it landed in my glove. Not all the time you're going to get those. I'll take it for sure."
And the Blues knew they'd done a good job of keeping the Wings away from the slot, as Elliot told Korac..
"They were firing from the outside," Elliott said of the Wings. "The guys did a good job of keeping it to the outside. Those are a lot easier to handle. Sometimes the puck's sticking to you. You want to bottle that and bring it every night. Just not put too much pressure on yourself and go play. That's the way I looked at it."
And Hitchcock told Korac:
"They didn't get any second and third shots, yeah. (But) it's not fun watching 40 (Henrik Zetterberg) and 13 (Datsyuk) come at you in the third period because we were gassed. ... The Chicago game was really emotional. And then the Columbus game was physical beyond belief. And then to come back and play like we did today, it's really impressive. These were hard, physical hockey games. Not just skating, but skating with all the body contact. I was happy with our guys."
The Wings' reaction to the game was just plain old weird by comparison, and the split was noted by NHL.com's Rosen, whose recap serves as our pivot point between the Blues' and Wings' perspectives...
"We're getting the goaltending now that you need to win games, and I think we're more consistent, way more now with how we play," Blues forward Patrik Berglund said. "Those small things we did last year, I think we're coming back to that. We've won four games against some of the best teams in the League, so we're on a good role now. We feel better and better."
But it's not as if the Red Wings are feeling terrible about the way they played Sunday. In fact, coach Mike Babcock said he enjoyed coaching the game and enjoyed watching his team compete because he felt the effort was there and the difference between the streaking Blues and the Red Wings was marginal at best.
"I liked our game," Babcock said. "If we just keep doing the things we did today and keep working hard, things will go our way."
Babcock, though, didn't necessarily like the Red Wings' power play. They were 0-for-3 with just two shots on goal. The Wings were 4-for-12 on the power play in the three previous games.
"Our power play could have been more dangerous, but their penalty kill was good," he said. "They kept us outside, blocked some shots. Our power play has been real good of late, but we didn't score."
"Obviously all the games are important, but to win a game like this here is huge for the team and everybody's confidence," Berglund said. "We showed like last year we can be in the game, a close game, and keep our poise and our composure. We did that [Sunday]."
And the AP's recap:
"We're going to need that (great goaltending)," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think every game the rest of the year is going to be like this."
Jimmy Howard stopped 24 shots for Detroit, which dropped from seventh to eighth in the West.
"It was really tight, felt a little bit like a playoff game almost, not a lot of room out there, didn't feel like there were a lot of chances either way," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "I thought we had some good opportunities there in the third, but their goalie came up with some good saves."
Elliott stopped Gustav Nyquist's breakaway attempt by using a shoulder save with 8 minutes left in the second period.
The Blues' Alexander Steen hit the goalpost behind Howard from the left circle 4:24 into the game. St. Louis outshot Detroit 11-7 in the first period.
As this was the last NBC game for the Wings until a Wednesday night "rivalry" game between Detroit and Los Angeles(?) on April 24th, Pro Hockey Talk's Ryan Dadoun offered points of discussion...
- This was the last regular season game that the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues will play as Central Division rivals. They won’t be in the same conference when the NHL realigns for the 2013-14 campaign.
- Elliott is one of the streakiest goaltenders in recent memory. He struggled earlier this year. With Jaroslav Halak sidelined, will Elliott stay hot down the stretch?
- Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester logged 21:33 minutes in this game. He’s played in 753 NHL games with three different teams, but has never appeared in the playoff contest. After being acquired by the St. Louis Blues, that might finally changed in 2013.
- The Detroit Red Wings got hurt late in the game by one of this season’s new rules. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall got assessed a two-minute minor at 17:52 of the third period for closing his hand on the puck. Consequently, Detroit spent most of the final two minutes playing five-on-five with the Blues despite the fact that they pulled goaltender Jimmy Howard.
- With this win, St. Louis has leapfrogged over Detroit to claim seventh place in the Western Conference
Some of the Wings' players were frustrated with their effort, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted...
“We all know what’s at stake here and we have to do a better job,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Tonight we didn’t do enough. The power play has to be better and be a factor each night and tonight it wasn’t.”
The Wings were 0-for-3 on the power play and now drop to 1-3-1 in their last five at home.
“Anytime you’re at home you want to try to take advantage of them,” Kronwall said. “Tonight we did a lot of good things but couldn’t find a way to beat (Brian) Elliott. It’s very disappointing.”
“It’s a no brainer, we know what’s going on, we see the (standings) board every single day,” said Wings goalie Jimmy
Howard, who made 24 saves. “It’s imperative we get points and that means we have to dig a little deeper. It’s frustrating,” Howard continued. “We know we need the points right now and when we’re not getting them it’s just frustrating.”
The Wings are now just 10-7-3 at home this season. Last year they won a record 23 consecutive games on home ice.
“That part is frustrating as well,” said Howard of the team’s lack of success at home. “We were so good at home last year. It’s just frustrating we’re not able to get the job done at home.”
But while Ken Hitchcock may have delivered the most "playoff-ready" statement to Pleiness...
“I think the teams that narrow their focus at this time of year are going to be successful,” Hitchcock said after the Blue’s 1-0 win over Detroit on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena. “Everybody’s talking about best of threes or whatever. For me it’s one day at a time, find a way to compete and get points any way you can.”
Riley Sheahan, who was playing in what's likely his only game with the Wings this season (the Wings exhausted their four post-deadline discretionary AHL recalls when they demoted Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff and Danny DeKeyser on paper, but they're allowed to call up players when they feel that there's a possibility that they won't be able to dress 12 forwards, 6 defensemen and 2 goalies, and Henrik Zetterberg's slightly sore groin and Damien Brunner's hip flexor injury yielded a "roster emergency"), didn't do much to impress a coach who perhaps regretted not dressing Jordin Tootoo instead--again, per Pleiness (and he penned a full recap, too):
“He was OK, but he’s going to get a trip to the minors (Monday),” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s going to be a player for us, but he’s got to get quicker and he’s got to have more pace to his game. When you’re ready and you come here, you show you’re ready. When you’re not quite, then you’re going to get caught.”
Sheahan had just under seven minutes of ice time playing on the fourth line.
Babcock also kept intact the six defensemen he employed in Friday’s win at Colorado.
“I don’t know 100 percent for sure why I did it, but we won the game (at Colorado) and I liked it,” Babcock said. “We had seven coming this morning, but when I got here and talked to the coaches again, we decided to go with the same six. I thought they played good and we didn’t give up very much. We’ve got a few days now. We’ll look at it and get retooled to go again.”
Babcock liked what he saw from Danny DeKeyser's home debut (note to Mike "Doc" Emrick: It's De Keyser, not DEL Keyser), as Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples noted:
DeKeyser (Grosse Pointe), the former Western Michigan player and two-time CCHA best defensive defenseman, left a positive impression on his head coach after his second-ever NHL game. After getting more than 15 minutes of ice time and 1:41 of shorthanded playing time, Babcock said he likes watching Dekeyser play.
“He made a few errant passes, but I think they’re more out of nerves than anything else,” he said. “He can spin it and go to the back end and pass it up the middle. I know … good players like De who can go get the puck and get it going versus play d-zone coverage.”
Overall, Babcock suggested that the Wings simply didn't earn their breaks in a game that could've gone either way, as he told DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose...
"I thought our guys played hard enough. We had a few chances, but they got one goal in,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You know what? The message in their goal was simply we had the puck. We went to shoot it in, it hit their guy in the leg and ended up changing direction and in a scrum in front of our net. That’s playoff hockey.”
The Wings definitely had chances, but were 0-for-3 on power-play chances, and Blues goalie Brian Elliott stopped a breakaway by Gustav Nyquist who tried to hit the top left corner.
“They played really tight 5-on-5 and on the PK,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “They really kept everything inside and were tight in front of their goalie and all of the rebounds they were there right a way. But it wasn’t a surprise for me. You’re used to the games that you play against them and this is how it is. It’s an ugly goal that wins it and they got one tonight.”
Elliott earned his first shutout of the season, stopping 28 shots. But the 27-year-old goalie also got plenty of help from the Blues’ defense, as they blocked 13 shots, including six shots from the point by Red Wings’ defensemen.
"It was really tight, felt a little bit like a playoff game almost, not a lot of room out there, didn't feel like there were a lot of chances either way,” said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who had three shot attempts blocked by the Blues. “I thought we had some good opportunities there in the third, but their goalie came up with some good saves.”
But Babcock and his team weren't on the same page regarding their frustration about losing the war, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted:
"Both goaltenders were good but I didn't think both goalies had to be great," Babcock said. "There wasn't hardly any (scoring) chances. It was a real good game, I enjoyed it. Our guys competed hard. They're (the Blues) a good team, well organized. Our guys played hard."
Another key for the Red Wings in the loss was the ineffectiveness of the power play. After going 25 percent (4-for-12) in the last three games, the Red Wings failed to score on three power-play chances Sunday.
"Our power play, I felt, could be more dangerous," Babcock said.
If the Red Wings do miss out on the playoffs, they could point to this recent stretch of games at Joe Louis Arena — few as they've been in between long road trips. The Red Wings have won only once in their last five games (1-3-1) at Joe Louis Arena. This late in the season, with the games as important as they are, it's simply not enough points earned.
"We were so good last year at home," said Howard, noting the Red Wings' record 23-game home win streak. "It's just frustrating we haven't been able to get the job done. It's frustrating. We know we need the points right now and we're not getting them."
The Red Wings are off until Thursday, when they host San Jose, before going on another two-game road trip to Chicago and Nashville. More than ever, it seems the like this playoff chase will go right down to the end of the season.
"No surprise," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "We all knew it would be like this. It's going to be tight all the way which makes the games so much fun to play. We look forward to the next one."
“Both teams played a real tight game, so there wasn’t a lot of ice, and not a lot of stuff happened on the rush,'' Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “You had to fight to get on the inside and I think we created enough chances to win the game, but when we got a chance we couldn’t put it away.”
Detroit's power play, which had converted 13 times in its past 13 games, went 0-for-3. It registered only two shots but the Blues did a good job of cutting off shooting lanes, blocking shots and keeping the Red Wings to the outside.
“They tried to be in lanes and it’s tough for the D to get any shots through,'' Zetterberg said. “Basically had to go through three of their guys, and we tried to get more shots from the flanks, but we couldn’t make it happen."
The moral victory Babcock described wasn't good enough for Howard.
“We know what’s going on, we see the (standings) board every single day,'' Howard said. “We know we need the points right now, and when we’re not getting them, it’s just frustrating.''
Babcock's done his best to change both his coaching style and his public comments to praise his players whenever possible, and regardless of whether you and I disagree with his coaching, I think his willingness to embrace change is pretty damn impressive...
But the Wings knew that losing today's game meant that they've chosen the hard road to get to the playoffs, and they know it, as they told the Free Press's Helene St. James:
"I think we all know what’s at stake here," Niklas Kronwall said. "Our power play has to be better and be a factor each night. Anytime you have home games, you want to take advantage of it. It was really tight, felt like a playoff game, almost. Didn’t feel like there were a lot of chances either way, but we have to bear down more."
With just nine games remaining in the regular season, the Wings are anxious to secure a spot, and to enter the playoffs on a good roll. At least one among their personnel got a playoff-like workout: When a sizable octopus plopped onto the ice during a second intermission break, and Al Sobotka showed playoff-form with a spirited overhead swing.
Al might get fined $10,000 for that. Bettman was in the house for the Winter Classic announcement, so I really do wonder if Al did that on purpose.
It was the second straight time the Wings were coming home from a road trip and faced with a matinee a day later. A week after a disastrous start against Chicago left the Wings embarrassed by a 7-1 loss, they held up much better against the Blues. Jimmy Howard was especially strong, making several good saves among 11 total in the first period to keep his teammates in the game. Jakub Kindl had the best chances of the stretch for the Wings.
Few Wings besides Kindl, in fact, were able to get many pucks at Brian Elliott, even during a power play late in the second period. The Wings skated better as the game wore on, but the Blues kept attacking and grabbed a 1-0 lead late in the second period after the puck slid into Howard’s crease during a rush. Before any Wing could clear the puck, Chris Porter had poked it into Detroit’s net.
"There wasn’t much room out there, and they were the ones that were able to get an ugly one," Howard said. "It was tight, right from the beginning. It’s tough when you don’t score any goals. It’s a no-brainer. We know what’s going on. We see the board every single day. It’s imperative that we get points, and that means digging a little bit deeper."
That's the bottom line.
Highlights: The Wings website's highlight clip is narrated by the NBC announcers:
ESPN posted a 36-second highlight clip;
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted a clip of Henrik Zetterberg speaking to the media...
We All Bleed Red posted Wings coach Mike Babcock's hilarious interview with Pierre McGuire:
Currich5 posted clips of Henrik Zetterberg...
And coach Mike Babcock:
MLive's Brendan Savage posted a clip of Sheahan...
And Babcock's post-game presser:
The Red Wings' website posted clips of Howard...
And Babcock discussing the game:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 17-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 31-image gallery;
The Windsor Star posted a 5-image gallery;
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch embedded six images in its website's recap;
ESPN posted a 13-image gallery;
Yahoo sports posted a dozen images from the game in its Wings gallery;
Shots 28-25 Detroit. Detroit was out-shot 11-7 in the 1st, out-shot St. Louis 13-8 in the 2nd and out-shot St. Louis 8-6 in the 3rd.
The Blues went 0-for-2 in 4 minutes of PP time; the Wings went 0-for-3 in 6:00 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 24 of 25 shots; Brian Elliott stopped 28 of 28.
Michigan Radio's Rich Kincaide picked the 3 stars, and he picked Chris Porter, Jimmy Howard and Brian Elliott.
Faceoffs 31-25 St. Louis (Detroit won 45%);
Blocked shots 13-7 St. Louis;
Missed shots 15-5 Detroit (total attempts 56-37 Detroit, with the Wings firing 28 shots ON the net and 28 wide or into Blues players);
Giveaways 7-6 St. Louis;
Takeaways 10-3 Detroit.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 13-and-10 (57%); Franzen went 7-and-8 (47%); Andersson went 1-and-6 (14%); Filppula went 3-and-3 (50%); Cleary went 1-and-1 (50%); Sheahan, Miller and Emmerton lost their only faceoffs.
Shots: Kindl and Datsyuk co-led the team with 5 shots apiece; Nyquist, Eaves, White, Zetterberg, Kronwall and DeKeyser had 2; Abdelkader, Cleary, Sheahan, Filppula, Andersson and Franzen had 1.
Blocked attempts: Kronwall fired 3 shots into Blues players; Datsyuk and Franzen had 2 attempts blocked; Kindl, Abdelkader, Miller, Ericsson and DeKeyser had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Zetterberg and Franzen fired 3 shots wide; Nyquist and Quincey missed the net 2 times; Cleary, Datsyuk, Eaves, White and Emmerton missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Miller led the team with 4 hits; Abdelkader and Cleary had 3; Emmerton, Ericsson and Kronwall had 2; Kindl, Eaves,White, Emmerton, Filppula, Andersson and Franzen had 1.
Giveaways: Quincey and Ericsson had 2 giveaways; Datsyuk and Filppula had 1.
Takeaways: Kindl had 2 takeaways; Nyquist, Sheahan, Miller, Zetterberg, Filppula, Kronwall, DeKeyser and Franzen had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: White blocked 2 Blues shots; Quincey, Filppula, Ericsson, Kronwall and DeKeyser blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Kindl, Zetterberg and Kronwall took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -5. Kindl, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Zetterberg and DeKeyser finished at -1.
Points: No Wing had a point.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 23:37 played; Datsyuk played 22:42; White played 21:16;
Zetterberg played 21:06; Quincey played 20:09; Kindl played 19:52;
Franzen played 19:44; Ericsson played 19:11; Filppula played 17:41;
Abdelkader played 17:11; Nyquist played 15:45; DeKeyser played 15:32;
Cleary played 14:14; Andersson played 12:41; Miller played 12:27;
Eaves played 7:35; Emmerton played 7:34; Sheahan played 6:47.
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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.