The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/24/14 at 11:44 PM ET
There's been a significant amount of chatter--well, let's be honest, there's been a significant amount of passionate and sometimes downright viciously vindictive debate--about what the Red Wings need to do roster-wise when Andersson, Datsyuk, Franzen and Howard return to the lineup.
Wings fans haven't been talking very much about the team's effort not just since the Winter Classic, but especially during and after the team's clutch and more than slightly lucky win over a very physical and very nasty Los Angeles Kings team this past weekend.
While the Wings most definitely laid an egg and a half against the Blues, and they needed an eight-round shootout to dispatch the Blackhawks, following all of that up with a gigantic 4-1 win kicking off four games of an Atlantic Division rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens seemed to hammer home a point: regardless of the names on the backs of the jerseys, this Red Wings team is starting to play like itself again.
What do I mean by that? Speedy puck movement out of trouble and through the neutral zone by the Wings' puck-lugging defensemen, firing the puck to forwards skating through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone with speed.
Pursuing the puck when both in possession thereof and pursuing it when opponents attempt to break out of their own zone, either sustaining possession and control of the puck or generating turnovers and predatory opportunities.
Skating up and down the ice as a 5-man unit with strong winger support and little "gap" between the forwards and defense.
Forwards not "cheating" toward offense but instead maintaining proper position to help out their defensemen when the Wings are forechecked and surrender the puck to the opposition.
Forwards and defensemen rotating to support each other like the arms of a starfish as they cover man-on-man in the defensive zone.
Extremely strong efforts to clear their own goaltender's sightlines and to obstruct the sightlines of their opponents, with strong, simple and efficient netminding in the Wings' zone.
And, as evidenced during tonight's game, some necessary aggression, physicality and even nastiness when engaged upon by the opponent, displaying the kind of intensity that must supplement work ethic and attention to detail when one's playoff life is being fought for with little room for error.
This Red Wings team--regardless of who's playing for it and who's sitting (and it was good to see Alfredsson come back and rip shots on net and slick passes to his opponents; here's hoping Todd Bertuzzi's good and angry after being sat healthy)--is starting to assemble all of the elements necessary to play successful Wings hockey on a regular and sustained basis, and when you stir the veteran moxie, youthful enthusiasm and a crapton of execution in terms of scoring chances...
The Wings have won 3 of their past 4 games, they are both creeping up into the Wild Card mix and into the immediate vicinity of the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, and they're playing like a team that's finally found itself--espeially at home--and that's fantastic.
The Wings' first goal was a power-play marker that you'd expect from Henrik Zetterberg, but given the Wings' struggles on the power play, I don't think anybody figured that Zetterberg would be able to blast a screened shot through Daniel Cleary's screen via an Alfredsson assist at 12:27 because the Wings were spending too much time forcing set plays on the PP. Until tonight:
The Wings held the 1-goal lead for almost another entire period, until Riley Sheahan just absolutely rocketed an unassisted marker past Carey Price...
And after Brendan Gallagher responded very quickly for the Candiens, getting into Gustavsson's grill and essentially allowing Gustavsson and the Wings to bumble the rolling puck into their own net a minute and 8 seconds later...
The Wings parlayed a strong even-strength shift into a fantastic goal from Niklas Kronwall, who was the recipient of superb cycling by Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg and a net-screening Justin Abdelkader, as well as a pass from his defensive partner, Jonathan Ericsson.
Kronwall's goal at 16:29 gave the Wings a 2-goal lead that they wouldn't surrender again...
And while the Wings gave up more shots than they took and some scary chances against a Canadiens team that was downright dirty and nasty all night long (see: Alexei Emelin being himself, Douglas Murrya getting away with delay of game on power plays, Travis Moen and Luke Glendening having quite the battle--and good on Glendening for embracing a pest's role), and scary in terms of the team's ability to sideline Henrik Zetterberg for the last of the 1st period and a scary intermission with a, "We don't know what happened but he came back" injury...
Gustavsson was strong--and scary, as usual--his defense was better, and Gustav Nyquist salted the game away with all of 1:19 left in the 3rd, with the Wings catching the Canadiens on a line change and converting on a 3-on-1:
What did the Wings do tonight? They bested Carey Price, they drove PK Subban to distraction and they took the physical and mental initiative and took control of the vast majority of the game after having to scratch and claw their way to their previous pair of home wins..
Now they're in a position where taking the Panthers out on Sunday (5 PM start) could both end the home stand on a high note and give a team with some "traction" some tungsten carbide spikes to line the Winged Wheel's tire tread as the team attempts to dig in and climb back into the, "More than scrambling for a playoff spot going into games 81 and 82" mix.
What do they do when the vets come back? We know the answer already, and none of us like it, but the answer is pretty simple: because trades are buck-for-buck at present and most everyone is capped out, Mikael Samuelsson may sit, but Daniel Cleary will continue to play, Todd Bertuzzi will get back into the lineup, Cory Emmerton will probably be waived (maybe Patrick Eaves, too, which would suck) and Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening will have to go back to Grand Rapids and hope their AHL swan songs involve leading their team to a second straight Calder Cup Championship.
We do know that those players will be back if the Griffins are knocked out of the playoffs or the injury bug continues to linger, and we know that some of the veterans who the coach and management want to keep around for a possible and hopefully probable playoff run won't be playing here next year because Sheahan, Jurco and Glendening have been far too good to be Griffins next October.
In the interim, this team is finding itself and finding its pre-HBO 24/7 form, and it desperately needs to keep up its efforts as it truly digs in and prepares to engage its opponents with all the healthy animosity, aggression, spit, piss and vinegar with which it met the Canadiens.
It's gonna be mean, nasty and hopefully a winning run from here on out because this team is finally building upon the puck possession-meets-Babcockian "Greasy" Hockey foundation that transcends personnel.
Update: The "kids" seem to get that showing some attitude ain't a bad thing...
Via RedWingsFeed, there's this probably playing in the AHL next season...
And sure, Hank, we believe you:
Faceoffs 43-25 Detroit (Detroit won 63%);
Blocked shots 10-9 Detroit;
Missed shots 13-10 Detroit (attempts 51-48 Montreal, with the Wings firing 26 shots on Price and 22 wide/blocked);
Giveaways 7-5 Detroit;
Takeaways 8-3 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg was a stunning 18-and-4 (82%); Glendening was 8-and-8 (50%); Sheahan was 7-and-8 (47%); Helm was 9-and-5 (64%); Eaves won his only faceoff.
Shots: Abdelkader, Alfredsson and Tatar co-led the Wings with 3 shots; Smith, Zetterberg, Helm and Ericsson had 2; Nyquist, Sheahan, Eaves, Miller, Lashoff, Jurco, Glendening, Helm and Cleary had 1.
Blocked attempts: Zetterberg had 2 attempts blocked by Canadiens players; Smith, Alfredsson, Sheahan, Eaves, Quincey, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Nyquist missed the net 4 times; Abdelkader and Eaves fired 2 attempts wide; Alfredsson, Sheahan, Lashoff, DeKeyser and Cleary fired 1 attempt wide.
Hits: Miller and Glendening co-led the Wings with 3 hits; Abdelkader, Lashoff, Jurco, Zetterberg and DeKeyser had 2; Smith, ,Nyquist, Eaves, Tatar, Quincey, Helm and Cleary had 1 hit.
Giveaways: DeKeyser had 2 giveaways; Smith, Alfredsson, Lashoff, Jurco and Ericsson had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Abdelkader, Alfredsson, Nyquist, Sheahan, Eaves, Miller, Zetterberg and Helm had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: DeKeyser blocked 4 shots; Smith blocked 2; Nyquist, Miller, Quincey and Helm blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Smith, Abdelkader, Quincey, Zetterberg and DeKeyser took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at +15 collectively. Abdelkader, Nyquist and Zetterberg were +2; Smith, Sheahan, Tatar, Lashoff, Jurco, Quincey, Ericsson, Kronwall and DeKeyser were +1.
Points: Nyquist, Zetterberg and Kronwall had a goal and an assist for 2 points apiece; Sheahan had a goal; Abdelkader, Alfredsson and Ericsson had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 23:09 played; DeKeyser played 21:35; Quincey played 20:05;
Zetterberg still managed to play 19:07; Nyquist played 18:41; Miller played 18:02;
Glendening played 17:47; Ericsson played 17:42; Smith played 16:54;
Alfredsson played 16:27; Eaves played 16:21; Cleary played 15:21;
Lashoff played 12:54; Sheahan played 12:47; Abdelkader played 12:05;
Tatar played 11:31; Helm played 11:13; Jurco played 10:03.
Update #3: Yep:
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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.