The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/25/13 at 02:43 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings' consecutive wins over Nashville and Vancouver this past weekend broke an 0-3-and-2 slump--with the Wings' 8-3 trouncing--and comeback win--over the Canucks serving as something of an exclamation point...
But Hockeytown's approval is fleeting these days, and there was a sense online, anyway, that as much fun as the Wings had watching the Wings rally from a 3-2 1st period deficit, the Wings' wins have essentially allowed them to claw back into the thick of things in the Western Conference, where they sit in 5th place, but 5 points out of 12th place, and the prevailing theory seems to be that if the Wings don't build upon their superb weekend, both Detroit and its jittery fans could be back in a whole lot of trouble very soon.
Thankfully, the Wings don't have to worry about that sort of thing--they're too busy playing, and won't skate today but will board Red Bird II to fly out to Los Angeles, where they'll play the Kings on Wednesday and then head to San Jose to play the Sharks on Thursday, all before heading home to play the unbeaten-in-regulation Blackhawks on Sunday, March 3rd.
Thankfully and perhaps doubly so, the Wings were the ones issuing the 8-3 drubbing instead of receiving it, and while the Canucks were indeed disappointed with their play, from their goaltender (who wasn't sure why he was left in to surrender 8 goals) on out, as they told the Globe and Mail's David Ebner...
“Getting scored on eight times is embarrassing,” said Luongo after the game in the locker room. “It’s one of those games where you want to forget about it and move on. … I could’ve prevented a few of those at least.”
As it fell apart for Luongo, he said he slipped into old bad habits such as lunging after pucks, a style he beat out of his game during thorough off-season training. The wild-looking, and erratic, Luongo re-emerged Sunday, for the first time this season.
Luongo, even as he is generally a pillar, does get lit up at times, like most goalies occasionally do. The last time his team, and Luongo, were so thoroughly ventilated by an opponent was Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final in 2011 when they were mauled by the Bruins in Boston. The time before was near the end of the 2009-10 regular season when the Kings smoked the Canucks in Los Angeles 8-3 on April Fool’s Day.
Some of the goals were ugly. The first two, however, were bad luck, both coming on deflections off his own teammates. The three in the second were all power-play markers. The first of the bunch that tied the game at three happened when Zack Kassian was in the box for goaltender interference, a call Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said was “a little mind-boggling” after the game since Kassian didn’t touch Detroit’s Jimmy Howard.
For the Red Wings, the win was the second in two nights – they beat Nashville 4-0 on Saturday night – after losing five in a row. The Ws are a boon to the injury-riddled team, which has the most man games lost to injury in the league this year – and Detroit bounced to fifth in the West from ninth at the start of Sunday night.
For the Canucks, the team ends a challenging four-games-in-six-nights road trip at 2-1-1 – and their record on the year is 10-4-4. Vancouver maintains a six-point lead atop the woeful Northwest Division. The Canucks flew home Sunday night, set to land around midnight. The coaches would assess the immolation in Detroit but did not plan to dwell.
“We’ll definitely watch the game on video but, you know, at the end of the day what we’re going to do is refocus,” said Vigneault. “We’ve got a long trip home. We’ve got a day to re-energize and get ready for Phoenix [on Tuesday].”
But the less politically correct version of events gets to the heart of the matter. Neither the Red Wings nor Canucks were thrilled with the pretty pathetic refereeing issued by Dennis LaRue and Dean Morton, but as the Canucks were penalized six times to two for the Wings, Vancouver felt that it was "jobbed."
The Vancouver Sun's Brad Ziemer reports that Windsor native Zack Kassian felt that he was at the top of the list, having received three game-changing minors:
The sad part is that Kassian probably didn’t deserve either of the two minors the Wings scored on. At 1:45 of the second period, Kassian was called for goaltender interference on Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard when he drove hard to the net. But it was actually Detroit defenceman Kent Huskins who made contact with Howard.
“I didn’t even touch the goalie, I thought,” Kassian said. “I didn’t see the replay but I didn’t think I even touched him. I thought it was their player. I was just making a play at the net.”
Dan Cleary scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game 3-3. Late in the second, Kassian was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after he was elbowed near the Vancouver bench by Henrik Zetterberg.
“That was kind of the whole bench going,” said Vancouver winger Dale Weise. “I wouldn’t pin that on him.”
Damien Brunner scored on that power play to make it 5-3.
“Those calls happen, you have to play through those and tonight we didn’t and they scored some big power-play goals,” Kassian said.
Kassian took another minor in-between those two when he went after Jordin Tootoo for a big hit on Vancouver defenceman Chris Tanev. But Tootoo, who received a charging minor, turtled and Kassian’s roughing call nullified what would have been a Vancouver power play.
“You never want to see a player on your team get hit like that,” Kassian said. “I thought it was a good time ... he obviously didn’t want to fight. He (Tootoo) hit the ground, I would have liked to have fought him but what can you do? I am not going to pound him when he’s on the ground with his helmet on. There’s nothing really to do there. I thought he’d fight. That’s why he is the agitator he is, he can suck you in.”
Kassian put things a little more politely while speaking to the Windsor Star's Bob Duff, but he was pissed off nonetheless, especially given that he felt he'd been screwed with over 50 familiy members cheering the former Windsor Spitfire on...
"A couple of bad bounces early on, a couple of bad penalties and they kind of ran away with it,” former Windsor Spitfire Kassian lamented afterward.
And while the Canucks' leaders tried to insist that the game was played on the ice, the Vancouver Province's Ziemer's recap offers serious stewing from the Canucks' players--and their coach:
Later, Vancouver winger Dale Weise was called for an illegal check to the head on Huskins at centre ice. He didn't touch Huskins' head.
"I would love to know the answer there," Wesie said. "I am coming through the middle just trying to finish my check and I even let up on it a little bit. He's kind of in a vulnerable position there and I let up and I made sure I just kind of made contact with his shoulder...That's an unbelievable call at that time."
"Zack's first penalty is a little bit mind-boggling to anybody that watched that," said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. "Their guy hit their goaltender and we got a penalty. That being said, it was 3-2 for us after the first period, and after that it went sideways."
That's putting it politely. The Canucks finished their trip with two wins and a pair of losses. They earned five of a possible eight points, but it could have been so much better had they handled the Wings. Detroit was the tired team, having played at home on Saturday night. But it was the Canucks who looked gassed after playing their fourth road game in six nights.
"We could have made a good one (trip) a great one, but now we let this one slip away and that can't happen," said Henrik Sedin. "We are a team that takes pride in being consistent and playing hard each and every night. We didn't do that tonight. It was a tough one, we got a great start and I though our team played really well the first 10 minutes. But they got a few power plays in the second and scored on those ones and took over the game."
"Can't say too much about the officiating, but you guys saw the game," said centre Ryan Kesler. "But we let it affect us too much. They have a good power-play and they capitalized on our mistakes."
Ziemer's recap is delicate compared to that of the Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford, who was plain old angry after the game:
What could have been a cracker of a hockey game turned into Arena League football, complete with replacement refs. The scoreboard lit up, the officials messed up and the Canucks just melted down, losing obnoxiously 8-3 in Detroit. And to think the Wings were the tired team. Just imagine if they hadn’t played the night before.
The refs had an off game. Did they ever. They looked so clueless waving their arms and blowing their whistles, you’d swear you were watching a Harlem Shake video.
There was, however, no explaining the officiating. It was, to borrow Luongo’s terminology, a crap show. Dale Weise was given a head-checking penalty when he hit a shoulder. Zack Kassian got a goalie interference penalty without hitting a goalie. A Patrick Eaves goal was disallowed because of a pointless whistle.
Those are just some the major items. Damien Brunner got one of the softest hooking calls you’ll ever see. Then, a few seconds later, Ryan Kesler was literally tackled and there was no call. Probably because it’s legal in Arena football.
"I can’t say too much about the officiating, but you guys saw the game," Kesler said. "Obviously, we let it affect us too much. It was a tough night for everyone. No one likes to lose like that and get embarrassed. We have to forget about this and move on."
Too bad, because the first period was crackling. It was thrilling, fast-paced stuff, which left you pining for a Canucks-Red Wings postseason series.
Amazing, these two teams haven’t stumbled into each other at some point in the playoffs in the past eight years. It will be a crime against sports if the Sedins never meet Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in a seven-game series when all of them are in their primes.
The Sedins looked comfortable early. They had a series of solid down-low shifts and scored two goals. The second was among the sickest goals you’ll see this season. On the rush, Henrik Sedin saw Daniel was covered and launched a 50-foot bank pass off the boards, which are real plywood in the Joe Louis Arena. The puck banked like it was directed by a pool shark, landing right on Daniel’s tape, catching him in stride as he flew in to beat Jimmy Howard.
It was a "wow" moment in a "WTF" game.
If you want to read an even more partisan take on the game, the Vancouver Sun's Harrison Mooney penned a lambast of the game in the Sun's Pass it to Bulis blog, but as this is a Red Wings blog, we're going to pivot from the Canucks' to the Red Wings' perspectives via the AP's Larry Lage's recap:
"This was a tough game. You're playing at 5:00 after playing a 7:00 the night before," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "It's one on your schedule you look at, you don't know if you'll have an opportunity to win. We feel real fortunate to have gotten back-to-back wins."
"Of course the team that didn't play the night before had more energy. It's natural, but you've just got to keep it simple and not get caught out there for a long time," Zetterberg, the Red Wings captain, said. "We did that today and we got some goals on the power play, and that helps."
Pavel Datsyuk and Jonathan Ericsson added two assists, and Jimmy Howard made 18 saves. Daniel Sedin had two goals, and Chris Higgins also had a goal for Vancouver. Henrik Sedin had two assists, and Roberto Luongo stopped 20 shots but lost in regulation for the first time this season.
"It's one of those games where it felt like the puck was finding its way in on almost every shot," Luongo said.
The Red Wings, who entered ranked 26th in the NHL on the power play, held the Canucks to only three shots in the second period.
"It was nice to get a few goals. I thought the power play worked pretty good," Kronwall said. "It hasn't really changed too much to be honest with you. We just stuck with our game plan."
For the Wings, scoring actual power play goals and seeing Jordin Tootoo drive opponents to distraction on back-to-back nights represented huge positives, as they told Michigan Hockey's Matt MacKinder....
“It was fun to see the puck go in (on the power play),” said Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg. “We’d been struggling a little bit, but all four lines have been doing a really good job and we’ve been getting some nice offense.”
Damien Brunner scored twice for the Red Wings (9-7-3) and now has 10 goals on the year, while Niklas Kronwall had a goal and two assists to now lead all NHL defensemen in scoring with 16 points. He’s also plus-6 in the past two games.
“We wanted to come out strong and we’re obviously happy we put eight in the net,” said Brunner. “(Luongo) is a great goaltender and you have to beat him by putting pucks to the net and driving the net hard. I’m happy they’re going in right now and I have two good linemates (Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula) who know how to get me the puck and that gives you confidence.”
Daniel Sedin started the scoring for Vancouver (10-4-4) with a goal at 5:45 of the first period, but Jordin Tootoo knotted the game at 11:08 with a wrist shot that went through traffic and past Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo.
“You always know when Tootoo is on the ice,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “He runs over people. You know when he’s on the ice, he’s coming hard and he always made me nervous when I was in Spokane in junior and he’d play against our team and drive us crazy and he did the same when he was in Nashville. We’re happy to have him.”
The Wings told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that their four power play goals scored over the span of two nights did more than allow the team to erase the Canucks' lead via three second-period goals...
"It's great to see the power play get rewarded," coach Mike Babcock said. "We talked about staying mentally tough and sticking to our plan. Our guys did a real good job. The puck bounced for us. Sometimes you need puck luck and the puck bounced to our sticks and off people and deflected off people."
Luongo, who came into the game with the league's best save percentage (.941), allowed eight goals on 28 shots.
"It doesn't matter who is in net, you have to play every goalie like any goalie," said forward Damien Brunner, who scored his second of the game in the third period, giving him 10 goals for the season. Brunner added two assists for his first four-point game. "If he gets in your head, you're not going to be able to score. Obviously we're happy our power play came up this time. It's something we can take out of this game and gives us confidence."
The Wings exploded for those those three power-play goals in the second, changing the complexion of the game. Zetterberg broke a 3-3 tie at 15:10. Zetterberg and Datsyuk executed a perfect give-and-go, Zetterberg one-timing a pass between the hash marks past Luongo.
"We did a lot of good things and got the momentum going," Kronwall said. "Our forwards did a good job just being all over them."
But the Detroit Free Press's George Sipple points out that just as the Wings were thrilled with their performance, it was an uphill battle...
"I thought the first period was real tight," Babcock said. "(Vancouver) basically had four chances and scored on three of them."
Daniel Sedin scored a pair of first-period goals, assisted each time by his brother, Henrik. Daniel Sedin opened the scoring at 5:45.
Tootoo and Kronwall scored goals 1:29 apart to give the Wings a 2-1 lead.
The Wings failed to score on back-to-back power plays in the first period. Less than a minute after Vancouver's second penalty ended, Tootoo scored unassisted at 11:08. Tootoo skated down the right boards and his shot deflected in off the leg of Vancouver defenseman Keith Ballard.
Kronwall was credited with a goal at 12:37, although replays appeared to show the puck deflecting off Justin Abdelkader's stick.
The Canucks answered with two goals in a span of 2:08. The Sedin brothers used Joe Louis Arena's lively boards to tie the game, 2-2, at 16:18. Henrik Sedin fired the puck from the neutral zone. Daniel Sedin collected the puck after it bounced back from the end boards and shot it past Jimmy Howard.
Chris Higgins scored on a wraparound at 18:26 to give the Canucks a 3-2 lead.
Babcock credited the leadership of Zetterberg, Kronwall and Datsyuk for playing a big part in the victory.
"It was good to see the puck go in," Zetterberg said. "We've been struggling a little bit and I think we've been doing good stuff in the end, but haven't really gotten the reward. We got it today."
Zetterberg continued in Sipple's "Notes and Quotes"...
"The puck definitely bounced our way today," said Zetterberg, the Wings' captain. "We talked about throwing pucks on the net for rebounds. ... It's fun to see. We had a tough stretch (for) five games. We thought we had a good week in here. Just going to enjoy that before we go to the West Coast."
And Babcock did indeed praise Zetterberg and Datsyuk, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted:
“I thought the first period was real tight for both teams,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They had basically four chances and scored three of them. We just talked about being mentally tough and sticking with the plan and in the end we would have a chance.
“I thought we had real good leadership out of Kronwall, Zetterberg and (Pavel) Datsyuk,” Babcock continued. “I thought they were fantastic.”
As for the refereeing, the Canucks could've been beaten 10-3...
Sandwiched between the goal were disallowed ones waved off by Patrick Eaves and Datsyuk.
And just as it's worth noting that Joakim Andersson's pair of goals weren't exactly throwaway markers...
“Of course I’m getting more comfortable and I try to do the same stuff that I’ve been doing in Grand Rapids,” said Andersson, who has three goals this season with the Wings. “That’s what they want me to do, play the same way.”
“He’s a smart guy,” Babcock said of Andersson. “He’s 215 pounds I think. I like smart and I like big guys.”
The Wings' power play got high marks, as the Wings told Pleiness...
“It was great to see the power play be rewarded,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We have been snake bitten on the power play; it hasn’t gone very well. We haven’t scored goals very good.”
The three power play goals in a game was a season high for the Wings, who three times had scored twice with the man advantage.
“It was fun to see the puck go in,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We had been struggling a little bit. I think we’ve been doing some good stuff in the end, but really haven’t gotten goals, but we got them today.”
Detroit’s power play goals came from Daniel Cleary, Zetterberg and Damien Brunner. The Wings scored all three power play goals in the second period on four chances.
“We’re always happy the power play came up this time,” Brunner said. “It’s something you have to take out of this game and hopefully it gives us confidence.”
The Wings’ penalty kill was also 2-for-2 on Sunday. It’s the second straight game that unit hasn’t given up a power play goal.
“The PK was good and the power play got going, so when special teams are good it is easier to win games and you see that today,” Zetteberg said.
Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, who's now the league's highest-scoring defensemen, each registered a goal and two assists, but Damien Brunner stole the show with his 2 goals and 2 assists, and Brunner was surprised to hear that he's two goals away from the league lead, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose found out...
“I am?” Brunner asked. “I have to be honest with you. Since I got here I feel like I have no time to study the stats, because I’m always sleeping and recovering and eating. I know that I have 10, but I have no idea, who is leading the league right now.”
Brunner was definitely wide-eyed Sunday evening, as he helped the Red Wings pour it on the Vancouver Canucks before a sold-out Joe Louis Arena. Brunner enjoyed his first multiple-point game of his NHL career, potting a pair of goals in the Wings’ 8-3 victory.
“I have high expectations for myself and I wanted to come over and prove that I can play in this league,” said Brunner, who also had two assists Sudnay. “When you play with guys like Zetterberg and Fil, and on the power play you have Datsyuk, Kronwall and Cleary, you get chances to score, when you get those chances you have to put them in. I'm happy they're going in right now.”
Having played with Brunner in Switzerland during the lockout, Henrik Zetterberg saw glimpses of what he thought would translate to the smaller ice surfaces of the NHL.
“He finds ways to score goals,” Zetterberg said. “He’s always in the right spot and when he gets a chance he’s got a good shot. He’s a hard-working guy and it’s his first year here and it’s fun to see him take advantage of it.”
Brunner now has 10 goals in 19 games, tying him with New Jersey’s David Clarkson for third among league goal-scorers. Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk is next with 11 goals. Five players entered Sunday’s action tied for the league-lead with 12 goals.
“It is amazing,” said Zetterberg, of Brunner’s hot start. “I played with him over in (Switzerland) and I saw that he has that special touch. … He has that kind of sense to be in the right spot in the right time, and he has a good shot. It is remarkable with this tough schedule. He’s not used to playing these many games in a short amount of time. So it’s good to see his consistency and hopefully he can keep it going.”
I'm not sure we can say he's been completely consistent. Both Brunner and Zetterberg have been suffering from acute cases of "passitoffitis," and adding Valtteri Filppula to the line made the trio even more invisible during the Wings' slide, but they caught fire at the right time.
Brunner tried to shrug off his performance to some extent while speaking with MLive's Ansar Khan...
He finds ways to score goals,'' Zetterberg said. “He’s always in the right spot and when he gets a chance he’s got a good shot. He’s a hard-working guy, and it’s fun to see him take advantage of it.”
Brunner has adjusted real well to the smaller rinks, the more physical style in the NHL and the compressed schedule.
“Since I got here the Red Wings gave me a lot of confidence, made sure that I feel good and I play with great players,'' Brunner said. “It's about finding your spots, working hard and putting pucks at the net.''
The Swiss Nationalliga-A is not the NHL by any means. But Brunner led the circuit in scoring last season and was doing the same this year during the NHL lockout while playing for EV Zug. That is why he was confident he could make the transition.
“When I came here, I knew it was going to be tougher to create scoring chances because the players were bigger and tougher,'' Brunner said. “But I tried to come in with the strategy to just play my game, be confident and when I got the puck, do the same things that I did in Switzerland. I have high expectations for myself and I wanted to come over and prove that I can play in this league.''
But Zetterberg suggested to Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji that people who don't know who Brunner is haven't seen him play:
"I think you can't forget that he's been playing pro over there in Swiss (League) for a long time," Zetterberg said. "He's been playing in all of those kind of situations ... When he gets his chance, he's good."
"Good shot, smart player, good hands," said Joakim Andersson, who also had two goals, one assisted by Brunner. "He got a nose for the net, for sure."
Unlike a lot of European players, who prefer to pass first, Brunner will shoot at almost any time. He is also in the top 15 in the league in shots on goal with 66, ahead of Zetterberg, who has 62. Washington's Alex Ovechkin entered Sunday in the league lead with 75 shots.
One of the concerns about Brunner was how he would adjust to the smaller ice surface, especially with all of the fast NHL players working to take away his time and space.That hasn't been much of a problem.
"When I came over here, I knew it was going to be tougher to create scoring chances because the players were bigger and tougher," Brunner said. "But I tried to come in with the strategy to just play my game, be confident, and when I got the puck, do the same things that I did in Switzerland. It’s paid off so far."
The toughest adjustment for Brunner has been the relentless schedule.
"I have to admit that’s the toughest part so far, playing in so many games and the traveling," Brunner said. "You have to be mentally focused every night and try to get the best out of yourself. You can’t have nights off because they will take advantage of you. But it’s an excellent challenge, and you have to learn to grow in this role."
As such, as Pleiness noted...
Damien Brunner when he was told he’s two off the pace for the league lead in goals scored.
“I am? I have to be honest with you, since I got here, I feel like I have no time to study the stats because I’m always sleeping, recovering and eating. I know I have 10, but I have no idea who is leading the league with 12.”
I'll let Khan's "highlights" from his quote-less recap almost take us out...
--The struggling power play broke out for a season-high three goals in the second period, enabling the Red Wings to take a 5-3 lead.
--Brunner's first career two-goal game gives him a team-leading 10 goals.
--Kronwall's three points (goal, two assists) gives him 16 for the season, most among NHL defensemen.
Because this is just plain cool:
NHL.com's highlights are narrated by the Wings' announcers:
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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.