Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Canucks wrap-up: Wings’ roller-coaster season on the upswing?

The Detroit Red Wings took an all-night flight to Detroit after going 2-for-3 on their Western Canadian road trip thanks to a 3-2 OT win over Edmonton on Thursday and a sometimes wild and wacky 5-2 win over Vancouver on Saturday night.

As such, the Wings will hit the tarmac at Metro Airport after 6 AM EDT finding themselves in fifth place in the Western Conference with 33 points, 1 behind the St. Louis Blues (unless Chicago implodes, the highest the Wings can finish this year is fourth) and a point ahead of the Canucks.

But the Wings don't play again until Wednesday (they get today off; tomorrow's the Toast of Hockeytown, they'll probably practice both tomorrow and Tuesday, and they welcome the Minnesota Wild to town before heading West for four games and eight frickin' days), and by then, they're likely to be out of the playoff mix given that the cut-off is 30 points, and given that the 14-10-and-5 Wings have one less win than Los Angeles, which sits in sixth place.

My point? In this 48-games-in-99-nights demolition derby, it's hard to say where the hell the Wings will be by Wednesday, never mind the time they welcome the Blackhawks to town two weeks from today (for their second and last home game of the month--five games after Wednesday's "NBC Rivalry Night" affair)...

And as Ken Holland and Mike Babcock suggested on Saturday evening, the "parity" in the league, perhaps as much due to a condensed schedule that's just what the doctor didn't order for a team attempting to forge a new identity as much as many teams "not being good," is going to keep the Wings' playoff status pretty much unknown until the last week or two of the regular season, especially if their inconsistencies continue.

To quote the Vancouver Province's Ed Willes:

"It's (the same) for everybody except two teams (Chicago and Anaheim)," Wings head coach Mike Babcock said before Saturday night's tilt."The rest of us, as (Wings GM Ken Holland) says, are in the mud puddle. We're a group who's been in survival mode since the start."

And will likely stay that way until the end of the regular season. While it's hard to think of the blue-blooded Wings as working stiffs, one look at the Western standings explains their punching the time clock and struggling to meet their mortgage payments along with everyone else. Once you get past the Hawks and the Ducks in the West, exactly six points separates third from 14th and the 15th-place team, Colorado, is eight points back.

That means every team can allow themselves to believe they're still in it. That means, you're never more than a three-game winning streak away from heaven or a three-game losing streak away from hell. It's not exactly a comfortable place to be, but look at the bright side: You never have to worry about complacency.

"Nobody is bad in our side," Holland said. "But, except for those two teams, no one is really good."

...

Babcock has been without Valterri Filppula and Johan Franzen for stretches of this season; Todd Bertuzzi for all but seven games; and Darren Helm for all but one. Helm could be back by next week, which means the Wings will be as complete as they've been since the start of the season. And that's when a more accurate read of their team will be available. "I think that changes our team overnight," Babcock said.

...

"I know it's a cliché, but anyone can win if they make the playoffs," Holland said. "You look at the Kings and Phoenix last year. They were seventh and eighth in the West and they were in the Conference finals. I think we all think that way."

While I know it's difficult for fans like you and me to think with a longer-term perspective in mind while watching the team stink on ice against Calgary ("Fire everyone! Waive everyone! Promote Grand Rapids," we all said!), or after the Wings gave up that doofy-ass goal with all of six seconds gone on Saturday night, maybe those of us who were suggesting that the team needed to change its entire roster on Thursday might want to stop and enjoy moments like the ones Jimmy Howard, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and parts of Justin Abdelkader not including his stick gave us on Saturday night, because the "ups" are so much more brief, and perhaps so much more building a foundation of belief upon, than the inconsistencies that we know our beloved bipolar Wings will deliver their beloved but equally bipolar fan base on a much more consistent basis.

Saturday night, if we're talking from a mental illness perspective, the Wings and Detroit's fans look like a bunch of Bipolar II folks (bipolar without mania) compared to the Canucks' manic fan-base, and their equally dramatic team was profoundly, profoundly disappointed about the fact that they now sit at the bottom of a 13-5 scoreboard in terms of the Wings-Canucks season series (see: that 8-3 win at the end of February).

The Canucks absolutely insisted that it was their own mistakes and not the Red Wings' play that turned a franchise record-setting goal by Alex Burrows into nothing more than a blip on their radar screen, as Henrik Sedin told 24 Hours Vancouver's Hosea Chung...

"It wasn't because they played great," captain Henrik Sedin said of the visiting Wings. "It was us having turnover after turnovers. It started with our line … that's where it turned around."

But the biggest fault for Vancouver continued to be their dismal power play, which has not scored on their past 34 opportunities — with the drought lasting 11 games now. They finished 0-for-six, including a five-on-three for 1:20 in the third period where they did not even register a shot.

"Obviously it's not working," coach Alain Vigneault said. "That would be an understatement. And those are our top players."

The Canucks got the game's last FIVE power plays and four that counted (Jordin Tootoo's high-sticking minor at 19:51 of the 3rd period yielded one more elegant save by Jimmy Howard to close the game, but that was about it), so Vigneault's got a pont there.

With that, the Canucks two-game win streak comes to an end as they suffer their seventh loss at home this year. The team also falls to seventh in the Western Conference after a win by division foes, the Minnesota Wild, earlier in the day. The Red Wings, who were playing back-to-back nights, showed no signs of road weary, scoring five times on 26 shots on Roberto Luongo.

The Canucks goalie made his post-game thoughts rather clear, using the word "disappointing" four times.

"We had a good first half of the game, we were taking it to them," he said. "Things kind of fell apart in the third period and I got to put myself in the forefront of that and make some big saves to keep it a one-goal game there."

Luongo told the Vancouver Sun's Elliott Pap that he was particularly peeved about giving up Henrik Zetterberg's 3-1 goal, all of 1:20 into the 3rd period:

"It was a bit of a back-breaker, a goal like that right off the hop," Luongo said. "I kind of fanned on it and it kind of knuckled away from me but I have to get a piece of that, for sure. Things kind of fell apart in the third period and I have to put myself in the forefront of that. I have to able to make some big saves to keep it a one-goal game."

The Canucks' power play was abysmal again and went 0-for-6 despite a two-man advantage in the third period for 1:21. The power play drought now stands at 34 straight.

...

Canuck winger Jannik Hansen had a chance to pull Vancouver even 2-2 at the 15:17 mark of the middle period when he was chopped down by Abdelkader while breaking in cold on Howard. Hansen was awarded a penalty shot, gave Howard his best shimmy and shake and then hit the post.

The Canucks also lost left winger David Booth late in the first period with what appears to be a serious left ankle injury. Booth crumpled to the ice in the last minute of the period in the offensive zone and could not put any weight on the ankle as he headed off the ice.

He was later seen in a walking boot following the game and, according to Vigneault, will have an MRI on Monday.

"I expect Booth is going to be out for a while so we're going to have to call somebody up," Vigneault said.

The Canucks did indeed take it to the Wings early, as Pap noted in his "Ice Chips"...

The Canucks outshot the Wings 35-26, including 16-6 in the first period.

While the Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford took the dramatic approach in chronicling the Canucks' loss on a night where they wore their Vancouver Millionaires commemorative threads:

Datsyuk did whatever he wanted. If there’s a player out there who can stop Datsyuk, it’s not Dan Hamhuis. At least it wasn’t Saturday. Datsyuk didn’t quite skate circles around Hamhuis, but it was close. Hamhuis probably would have been more effective if he stayed home and watched Datsyuk on Hockey Night in Canada.

Datsyuk first strutted by him 6:08 into the first period, creating space and time. With all that time to think, he wired a puck from a sharp angle off of Justin Abdelkader’s skate. For most players, you wouldn’t think it was on purpose. For Datsyuk, you were pretty sure it was.

With the game tied at one, the Canucks were actually dominating. They had eight scoring chances in the first period and outshot the Wings 16-6. The game was tied at one midway through the first when Henrik deftly set up Burrows with a backhander that sliced through the slot. On it, Jimmy Howard made one of the most dramatic saves you’ll see this season, using his arm like a windmill to glove Burrows’ one-timer.

The game began to turn in the second when Burrows took a high-sticking penalty while on the power play. When he came out of the penalty box he had breakaway chance, but the puck bobbled on his stick and he didn’t get shot off.

“It was rolling early and I figured I would surprise him with a quick shot, low blocker and it just kept rolling,” Burrows said. “If I score there, I think it’s a different game.”

Less than seven minutes later, Datsyuk danced by Hamhuis again, setting up Johan Franzen behind the net. His pass out front was nearly stolen by Burrows, but again he couldn’t get a handle on the puck and it drifted to Henrik Zetterberg who snapped one by Roberto Luongo.

The Canucks had one chance to get back into the game when Hansen got a penalty shot opportunity. Howard charged out at Hansen cutting off his angle and instead of using his speed to force Howard into a retreat, Hansen slowly trotted in on net and snapped his shot off the post.

From there, the Canucks evaporated, including Luongo, who gave up three consecutive goals, including one just 1:20 into the third.

Canucks.com's Derek Jory took a more balanced quote-less perspective--and he's paid to be a professional fan (which is awesome)...

The beginning was pretty, the ending not so much.

Alex Burrows set a franchise record scoring six seconds into the first period, but it was all downhill for the Vancouver Canucks from there in a 5-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night at Rogers Arena.

The Canucks, dressed in maroon and cream Vancouver Millionaires jerseys to celebrate a century of hockey in Vancouver, continued on the attack for much of the first period and yet it was Detroit evening the score at 1-1 after 20 minutes.

In the second, Henrik Zetterberg scored on the power play to take a 2-1 lead before Jannik Hansen hit the crossbar on a penalty shot. That was as close the Canucks got to tying the game; Zetterberg scored again 1:20 into the third to pace a three goal period. Vancouver got a goal back late with Burrows scoring his seventh of the season in his first multi-goal game of the year.

Roberto Luongo had 21 saves in his first home regulation loss of the season. He's now 4-1-2 at Rogers Arena.

And the Canucks did suggest that not all was loss to The Tyee's Ken Henry...

The end result was Vancouver's 10th loss in its past 15 games, and the Canucks dropping to seventh place in the Western Conference as the Minnesota Wild leapfrogged them for first place in the Northwest Division and third place in the conference. It's a big change for a team that has finished with the best record in the league the past two seasons.

"There's still plenty of games left," said defenceman Kevin Bieksa. "If I remember correctly last year according to media we were the worst team ever to win the President's trophy. We're just focused on the next game. We're not worried about President's trophies or anything like that. Obviously it wasn't our best effort."

The game started on the right note for Vancouver. Just six seconds in, Burrows took a feed from Daniel Sedin on a 2-on-1 and one-timed a slap shot off the post and in. It was the fourth fastest goal in NHL history and the fastest in Canucks history.

Burrows, who had his best offensive game of the season, could have had several more goals. He was robbed by a sprawling Jimmy Howard late in the first period, then fumbled the puck on a short-handed second period breakaway before adding his second goal of the game late in the third period.

Burrows improved to seven goals on the season, which would give him 21 over a full 82-game schedule. Over the past four seasons he hasn't had less than 26 goals per campaign.

"It wasn't my best night but I got on the scoreboard," said Burrows. "At the end of the day, if I keep shooting pucks and going to the net I'm going to get some bounces sooner or later, and tonight I got some offensively. I've got to bring that overall game and be better."

But the Vancouver Province's Tony Gallagher wondered why the Canucks let a 2-1 game against a road-weary Wings team slip away...

Playing another team which might figure to struggle, given the age of some of their veterans in the Detroit Red Wings, who were playing their fourth game in six nights and third in four nights, the Canucks were once again smoked like cigars in the final period despite the fact they should have had the energy advantage.

“I’ve only been part of two of them, but I wish I had an answer for you,” said Kevin Bieksa. “But I don’t.”

“It’s not always the third period, sometimes it’s the second, but what it comes down to is playing a 60-minute game,” said Max Lapierre, who probably felt like saying a lot more but managed to restrain himself.

And it’s been that way for a while now. They were dominated in the third period in Minnesota, in Columbus, and here against Nashville Thursday night they nearly gave up that 5-2 lead entirely before recovering to fill in the sinking Predators. And the Sedin twins look particularly bedraggled late in this one, Henrik playing 22:40 with the shortage of quality bodies at centre and the struggling Daniel 21:29.

Now there are other factors, specifically the whiff by Roberto Luongo on Henrik Zetterberg’s easy shot that made it 3-1 early in that third period which certainly has a deflating effect on most hockey players. And, of course, as everyone in this city knows, coach Alain Vigneault would rather poke his own eyes out with a sharp stick than pull Luongo no matter how he’s playing, specifically against Detroit — which has now fired 13 goals past the highly paid comedian in two games this season.

And there are other considerations for these third-period swoons as well, specifically the absence of Ryan Kesler and now David Booth, both leaving the lineup having already missed large stretches of the season with previous ailments. But this calypso-collapso act in the last period certainly has to be a massive concern to a team that now has to be at least a little worried about making the playoffs, Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg in particular making Vancouver players look like pylons late despite what had been something of a spirited affair earlier in the evening.

The story after two periods was yet another Vancouver-Detroit fun-filled affair, spiced by the bizarre and inconsistent officiating by Wes McCauley and Brian Pochmara which surely had players, coaches and fans alike wondering what would or wouldn’t be called next.

Jannik Hansen had been awarded a penalty shot, Detroit had an extended 5-on-3 and there were all manner of infractions missed by this pair of zebras who seem to have refined the penalty selection process to little more than a random draw. Then in the third period, penalties began to go decidedly against Detroit — don’t they always go in favour of the trailing team — but no amount of Wing penalties would have helped the Canucks. Their power play is in such a massive funk, it’s a wonder Newell Brown hasn’t run on a sword in the coaches’ room by now.

And where the Province's Botchford doled out "Provies" awards, and Ben Kuzma pondered what the Canucks would do to stop the bleeding when they face Minnesota on Monday...

BEST REALITY: David Booth is out with an ankle injury. He’s expected to be out for some time. How will the Canucks replace him? He doesn’t kill penalties. He doesn’t score. He doesn’t play on the power play.

BEST RUMOUR: Marian Gaborik to the Canucks. Hey, he’s an oft-injured, underachieving winger. He’d fit right in.

...

BEST PLAY: Alex Edler completed a two-zone drop pass. He didn’t do much else.

Harrison Mooney offered a fan-centric take on the Vancouver Sun's Pass it to Bulis blog that offered wiser observations than you might expect (this is a "fan blog" to some extent, too)...

  • Datsyuk got a lot of love in this game. Much of it was deserved, as he was very, very good, but the broadcast crew strained unnecessarily to praise him at times. On an Alex Burrows breakaway later in the game, Datsyuk just happened to be there when the puck jumped off of Burrows’s stick, and the crew practically lauded him for making the ice unsmooth. “Datsyuk is so good he gives the ice goosbumps,” Ball said. “Datsyuk gives ME goosebumps.” Hrudey said. “I’m gonna ask him to hockey prom.”
  • David Booth has been the recipient of some terrible, terrible luck this season. First he strained his groin on the first day of practice. Then his first goal eluded him just shy of forever despite strong possession play. Then, the game after he finally scored, he was fallen upon by Brendan Smith and twisted his left ankle. Why is this happening to him? We can only assume that, during one of his hunts during the lockout, he happened upon a cabin with an old book and read a Latin passage from it. That’s a surefire way to get a curse. Remember, kids: most Latin is curses. Never read it.

 

  • Pavel Datsyuk felt all the love tonight as the CBC crew played Simba to his Nala, but I felt Howard was an equally big difference in this one. The Canucks outplayed the Red Wings in this game, at least in terms of scoring chances and shots, butHoward kept Detroit in the game during the first half. Meanwhile, this game was still winnable for the Canucks in the third period, but some mediocre goaltending from Roberto Luongo saw the lead expand right out of reach.
  • The Vancouver powerplay is now 0 for its last 33, which is, as I understand it, pretty bad. The issues are numerous: for one thing, the puck never seems to go in. Actually, that’s pretty much it.
  • Finally, this was a game where the Canucks really missed Ryan Kesler — not just because he might have been able to help the Canucks’ abysmal powerplay with his shooty goodness, but because he might have been able to battle Datsyuk to a standstill somewhat. Datsyuk is an incredible player not just because he can score, but because he can score while shutting down the opponent’s top line, and as thin as the Canucks are at centre, Alain Vigneault really had no choice but to let the Sedin line go head to head with his. Datsyuk and his group will win that matchup most of the time. Busy Datsyuk with Kesler, however, and this is a completely different game.

NHL.com's Kevin Woodley brings our tale back into the locker room with this quip from the Canucks' captain...

"We had total control the first 20 minutes, should have been up, and after that they took over," Henrik said. "It wasn't because they played great, it was us having turnover after turnover and it started with our line. We thought it was going to be a game where we could make plays and create chances, but they came out strong in the second and took advantage of us. That starts with our top guys."

And a tale of Justin Abdelkader's foot injury--a skate-to-the-tongue-of-a-skate cut that sliced his left foot open...

"It was all the way down to the bone," said Abdelkader, blood still oozing through his sock. "It just missed a couple tendons. I got really lucky. Last night it felt pretty good after he numbed it up and it was frozen, but this morning was pretty sore."

It felt a lot better after the game, especially after Datsyuk banked a shot off it to tie the game six minutes in, and then angled another puck in off his chest in the third period. It was just the second and third goals of the season – and in 41 games dating back to last season – for Abdelkader, who credited Datsyuk.

"He's amazing," said Abdelkader. "I don't know if there is a better player."

The way Datsyuk is playing – he scored the overtime winner in Edmonton on a highlight reel solo rush before adding three assists against the Canucks – the only surprise was he didn't bank the first shot off Abdelkader's healthy foot.

"He was probably just making sure my foot was all right so he banked it off my bad one," Abdelkader said with a chuckle. "I'll take it."

Which brings us to our pivot point between the Canucks and Wings' perspectives in the Canadian Press's Monte Stewart's recap. Vigneault lamented some intentional line-matching...

"We wanted (Henrik Sedin's) line to play against Zetterberg, and they did a real good job in the first period and part way through the second," said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. "In the third period they had Datsyuk going out there and Hank had a tough time against that line. Their top players were obviously a little bit better than ours."

And Howard talked about weathering the storm...

"It was a tough start, especially in this building," said Howard. "You don't want to give them momentum like that, because it can get pretty loud really quick. So I thought we did a great job in responding and not letting it get us down."

After Abdelkader created a 1-1 tie at 6:08 of the first period, Jannik Hansen had a chance to draw the Canucks even on a penalty shot about three minutes later, after he was hauled down on a breakaway by Abdelkader. But the Canucks winger clanked his shot off the corner of the post and crossbar after beating Howard.

"I decided to go with the poke check," said Howard. "I don't know if that threw him off or what, but he hit the post."

But Henrik Zetterberg made a comment that can't go unmentioned. Henrik Zetterberg offered the following regarding breaking an 11-game goal-less streak:

"I didn't even think about (the slump)," said Zetterberg, who has still been producing several assists and averaging a point per game. I think you in Canada are more stat freaks than we are in the States, so it's nice to get it going here where you notice it."

Uh, no, Hank, but this I agree with:

"We've talked about (the team's lack of productivity) many times this year, and it's nice to get a few goals."

As MLive's Ansar Khan noted in his quote-less recap, Zetterberg picked the right time to get off his goal-scoring schneid...

Struggling Justin Abdelkader also scored twice. And a potentially disastrous Western Canada road trip ended up being a success, as Detroit earned four of a possible six points.

Zetterberg had gone nine games without a goal and had scored just once in his previous 21 games. He has three goals in 22 games, all against Roberto Luongo.

...

Daniel Cleary scored the other goal for Detroit (14-10-5). Datsyuk picked up three assists and Johan Franzen contributed two assists.

The Red Wings scored the lone goal of the second period to take a 2-1 lead as Zetterberg converted a pass from Datsyuk on the power play at 13:57. Detroit has scored a power-play goal in each of its past three road games, after starting the season 0-for-37 away from home on the power play.

And in his recap with quotes, Khan focused on Abdelkader's play and the assist given to team masseur Sergei Tchekmarev for putting a gel pad on the tongue of Abdelkader's skate, over a plastic insert to protect his foot:

“He could barely walk this morning,'' team captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “To come in and play like he did, it's nice to see him get rewarded for it.''

Abdelkader said Tchekmarev deserved all the credit.

“I wouldn't have been playing if we wouldn't have fixed it, because if you put any kind of pressure on it, it hurts,'' Abdelkader said.

Coach Mike Babcock had Gustav Nyquist dressed for the warmup and ready to go just in case. But, he's glad Abdelkader was able to play.Abdelkader was in the right place at the right time, as Pavel Datsyuk twice banked the puck in off of him. Abdelkader scored his team's first goal, when he went to the net and Datsyuk's shot deflected in off his left skate. He scored again at 14:44 of the third period to make it 5-1, when Datsyuk's cross-ice pass deflected in off his chest.

“I’m just a firing range for Pav,'' Abdelkader said. “I’ll take it. Sometimes you don’t get the breaks and bounces. But it’s nice when you finally do.”

It was big boost of confidence for Abdelkader, who's had a trying season, with just one goal (into an empty net on March 7) and one assist in 28 games before this night.

“Sometimes they’re not the prettiest, but they don’t ask how,'' Abdelkader said. “I haven’t had the best of breaks all year, so anytime you can get a couple of breaks like that you’ll take it. That was the first time in my career that I scored two goals and they didn’t touch my stick.''

It's worth noting that Abdelkader has a big supporter in his coach, as the Free Press's Helene St. James points out...

The goals were just Abdelkader's second and third of the season, despite having played with Datsyuk for the past 13 games. It's helped to recently gain Johan Franzen after he returned from injury, giving Datsyuk a regular top-six winger on the line. Abdelkader's role is to mirror that of former Wing Tomas Holmstrom: Retrieve the puck, and go to the net.

In one night, Abdelkader doubled his points from two to four.

"I think it's huge for him," coach Mike Babcock said. "He's playing better and better. Abby is one of those guys, he's a big man, and the lockout didn't help him. He's really gotten skating, and with two really good players, and he goes to the net every time. He goes and gets them the puck, and he goes to the net. He gives it to Pav, and goes to the net. Pretty simple plan for him, but he's working and he's playing well and he's physical for us and he's a huge factor out there."

...

It was Abdelkader's decision whether or not to play; Babcock had Gustav Nyquist ready to go if Abdelkader couldn't. But, "Chica did some good work on his skate, dug a big hole in it, and put a cover on it,' Babcock said. He's tough kid anyway. Like Tchika said, he's too young anyway, doesn't matter, just play him."

But it's also worth noting that coach Babcock told St. James that he wasn't leaning on Abdelkader to deliver on Saturday night--he was expecting Zetterberg and Datsyuk to lead the team, and lead, they did:

"We knew we had to be determined," coach Mike Babcock said. "We knew it was going to be a hard game for us, but it was going to be a great win for us, too, so we were going to have to pay a price to get that done, and I thought our guys dug in. It wasn't easy. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. Pav and Z obviously set the tone for us."

The Wings played resilient hockey, albeit by necessity...

"You always know in a back-to-back situation when the other team is fresh, you're going to be in a little bit of trouble at the start," Babcock said. "We were able to weather the storm and got some breaks at the start because of Howie being so good, and then I thought we got playing pretty good."

Howard denied Burrows on a fabulous chance just past the midway point of the first period, by which time Datsyuk already had made sure it was a tie game. Datsyuk sneaked up the right boards before cutting around Dan Hamhuis and using Abdelkader as target practice.

"I thought we calmed down and came back," Howard said. "We didn't let that early goal get us down. The way they play here, they come out hard and they get the crowd into it. We did a good job of responding to their goal with a great bounce and Abby just going to the net."

But it was Zetterberg and Datsyuk who led the way...

"They're some of our best players every single night," Howard said. "Sometimes I think we take them for granted, but it is really special to watch them play out there."

The victory came on the heels of a 3-2 overtime victory Friday at Edmonton, which soothed some of the shame of the 5-2 collapse in Calgary on Wednesday.

"The way we came back on this road trip," Zetterberg said, "we knew it was big for us. We lost the first game, and then we come back and play two good games. It's going to be a little easier to have that flight to Detroit now."

And as the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa notes, there's one player who really wants Abdelkader to play alongside Pavel Datsyuk to reprise Tomas Holmstrom's role. It's Pavel Datsyuk, he of the, "Some players play the piano, Abdelkader, he carry the piano" comment:

Vancouver, British Columbia — Pavel Datsyuk adamantly denied there was two of him on the ice Saturday night against the Canucks. The way he played, the NHL may have to investigate to make certain.

"It's more about partners," Datsyuk said, after the big 5-2 victory that helped make a swing through western Canada, that 24 hours earlier began teetering on the brink of disaster, a smashing success.

"They make it happen, easy to me. They yell at me, go here, go there, and what to do. It's easy," joked Datsyuk, who got three assists and did more backchecking than any other two forwards on either team.

...

[L]ike Datsyuk, Zetterberg once again was called upon to do all things: kill penalties, ignite a suddenly hot road power play, forecheck and backcheck. One half-expected them to be providing social services for the homeless somewhere around Vancouver after the game.

Zetterberg is also captain of a team that demonstrated enormous grit and fortitude in winning on consecutive nights, including against the Canucks, who had not played since Thursday, but who nonetheless were the less aggressive team over much of the final two periods, at least until the Wings grabbed a 4-1 lead.

"The way we came back on this road trip, we knew it was a big road trip for us," Zetterberg said. "We lost the first game, and then we come back and play really two good games here. And finish off back to back here.

And how did Howard get through it, given that he stopped 15 of 16 shots in the first period and 33 overall four days after being too sick to play, and then choosing to play in back-to-back games?

"I was able to get some fluids in me, a couple of IV bags, and I felt great out there tonight," Howard said.

As DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose notes, grit comes in many forms, including scoring a goal off the foot you've injured...

[T]he one thing that Abdelkader didn’t want to have happen though, happened. He took a puck off the wounded foot when Datsyuk’s first-period shot struck the left skate as the former Michigan State star parked in front of the Canucks’ crease.

“Yup, the foot that I hurt,” Abdelkader said with a laugh. “He wanted to make sure I was feeling good right away, so he figured he’s shoot it off my foot.”

The goal allowed the Wings to head to the first intermission feeling a little better about themselves after the Canucks scored six-seconds into the game.

“They obviously put us on our heels right away and we knew they were going to come out strong in the first 10-minutes and they did that,” Abdelkader said. “I think it was good to get our goal to kind of settle us down. In the first period we didn’t play too well, and they were on top of us. I think in some ways we were lucky to get out of there at 1-1.”

And sometimes grit is putting one in off your chest and then the opposing goalie's butt:

The Red Wings went on to score five straight goals, including two by captain Henrik Zetterberg and another by forward Daniel Cleary. Four different Red Wings had multi-point performances, including Datsyuk (three assists) and Johan Franzen (two assists). Abdelkader’s second goal – the one that first struck him in the crest – went to video replay before it was confirmed, giving the Wings a 5-1 lead late in the third period.

“I saw it go in because I was right there,” he said. “The ref didn’t make any signal. … Sometimes they interpret it in different ways, but you never know. I was pretty positive that it went in and obviously the replay showed that.”

This year's Red Wings team is admittedly one that's enduring a rebuilding-in-progress season, with the players and prospects left to their own devices--as Ken Holland stated during a Fox Sports Detroit intermission interview, the Wings are dressing seven "rookies' on most nights--and the team's decision to sign veteran players to smooth the transition to a post-Lidstrom franchise has been replaced with youth-by-necessity thanks to injuries to Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, Carlo Colaiacovo and Darren Helm has yielded...

Let's say a team whose performance is as up-and-down from period to period and shift to shift as its fans emotions vacillate from goal-to-goal and penalty to another frustrating, fruitless power play.

If this is the way it's "gonna be" until the trade deadline (assuming any moves get made by anyone--the 48-game schedule is the Wings' enemy in the trade department, too), if not the summer, we might as well enjoy the occasions when the team's stars and "grinders" come to the fore.

Hell, that's not even mentioning that while many of us stewed about Gustav Nyquist being scratched for Abdelkader's sake, it was Damien Brunner who found himself demoted to the Andersson-Cleary line (double demotion!) at times, but that's a different story for a different day.

In Swedish, Henrik Zetterberg told Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom the obvious:

1. For the second game in a row, the Sedins pulled a goal off against Detroit via a set play, drawing Brian Lashoff into a Sedin-to-Sedin pass that sprung Burrows on Howard instead;

2. And just as the Wings absolutely had to win on Saturday night (roughly translated from Swedish)...

"It was a good sweep, and important points for us after the loss in Calgary earlier this week, where I think we gave away two points," said Zata.

3. There's something to be said for living in the moment, as Pavel Datsyuk suggested after Friday night's game:

Nordstrom: "You have to watch out for Datsyuk in terms of your team's points race now, he's now at 30 points after the night's three goal-assisting passes?

Zetterberg: "I'll take it, Pavel is hot now and it's fun to see him shine."

Multimedia:

Highlights: The Red Wings' website posted highlights narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:

Along the way, Jimmy Howard stopped a Jannik Hansen penalty shot with a little help from his goalpost friend...

And the NHL's situation room confirmed that Roberto Luongo's butt did not save his butt from surrendering a goal to Justin Abdelkader:

Sportsnet posted a 2:02 highlight clip, the CBC posted a 2:52 highlight clip and TSN posted a 2:38 highlight clip.


Post-game: The CBC posted a "close-up" profile of Pavel Datsyuk:

Daniel Cleary gave a 9:53 interview to the CBC's After Hours program:

The NHL Tonight posted an analysis of the game....

The Canucks' website posted clips (with low volume) of Kevin Bieksa...

Alex Burrows...

Henrik Sedin...

Roberto Luongo...

And coach Alain Vigneault discussing the game (turn the volume back down for this one!):

TSN posted a 2:13 clip of post-game comments from Vigneault, Luongo, Burrows and Henrik Sedin's comments, as well as a 1:36 clip of comments from Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader,

Fox Sports Detroit posted Wings coach Mike Babcock's post-game interview with Trevor Thompson:

 

Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 26-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 12-image gallery;

The Vancouver Sun posted 11 images of the Canucks' uniforms and

The Windsor Star posted 4 images from the game;

Yahoo Sports posted about 20 images from the game in its Wings gallery;

ESPN posted a 58-image gallery;

NHL.com and the Red Wings' websites posted 36-image galleries, but the Canucks' website, using the same pool of images, posted a 40-image gallery.

 

Statistics:

Shots 35-26 Vancouver overall. Detroit was out-shot 16-6 in the 1st, out-shot Vancouver 11-9 in the 2nd and were out-shot 10-9 in the 3rd.

Detroit went 1-for-3 in 2:40 of PP time; Vancouver went 0-for-5 in 8:05 of PP time.

Jimmy Howard stopped 33 of 35 shots; Roberto Luongo stopped 21 of 26.

The 3 stars were picked by Hockey Night in Canada, and they were Alexandre Burrows(?), Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.

The Wings' goals: Abdelkader (2) from Datsyuk (19) and Franzen (8);

Zetterberg (7) from Datsyuk (20) and Franzen (9), PPG;

Zetterberg (8) from Filppula (7) and Kronwall (17);

Cleary (6) from Andersson (4) and Brunner (10);

Abdelkader (3) from Datsyuk (21) and Kindl (5).

Faceoffs 36-24 Detroit (Detroit won 60%);

Blocked shots 12-12;

Missed shots 11-8 (total attempts 58-46 Vancouver);

Hits 13-8 Vancouver;

Giveaways 7-2 Vancouver;

Takeaways 8-5 Vancouver.

Individual stats, TMR style:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 15-and-9 (63%); Zetterberg went 8-and-7 (53%); Andersson went 6-and-5 (55%); Emmerton went 3-and-2 (60%); Filppula went 3-and-1 (75%); Eaves won his only faceoff.

Shots: Zetterberg led the Wings with 5 shots; Datsyuk had 4; Abdelkader technically had 3; Kindl, Eaves and Filppula had 2; Smith, Cleary, Miller, Lashoff, Emmerton, Kronwall, Andersson and Franzen had 1.

Blocked attempts: Datsyuk, Filppula and Kronwall fired 2 pucks into Canucks players; Smith, Kindl, Eaves, White, Tootoo and Zetterberg had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Datsyuk and Ericsson missed the net 2 times; Miller, Lashoff, Filppula and Andersson missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Miller had 2 hits; Abdelkader, Eaves, White, Brunner, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1 hit.

Giveaways: Kindl had 2 giveaways.

Takeaways: Datsyuk had 2 takeaways (more, really); Smith, Eaves and Brunner had 1.

Blocked shots: Filppula and Ericsson blocked 2 shots; Kindl, Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, White, Kronwall, Andersson and Franzen blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Lashoff was tagged for 2 minors; Tootoo, Zetterberg, Ericsson and Kronwall took 1.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +10. Kronwall finished at -2; Miller, Lashoff and Filppula finished at -1; Cleary and Andersson finished at +1; Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Franzen finished at +2; White finished at +3; Kindl of all people finished at +4.

Points: Datsyuk had 3 assists; Abdelkader and Zetterberg had 2 goals; Franzen had 2 assists; Cleary had a goal; Kindl, Brunner, Filppula, Kronwall and Andersson had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 24:21 played; Ericsson played 23:42; Smith played 21:09;

Zetterberg played 18:26; Datsyuk played 18:11; Lashoff played 17:03;

Filppula played 16:21; Franzen played 15:34; Andersson played 15:18;

White played 15:13; Kindl played 15:11; Eaves played 15:08;

Miller played 14:54; Abdelkader played 14:45; Cleary played 14:25;

Brunner played 12:36; Emmerton played 10:12; Tootoo played 7:24.

Quickie update: Before Jordin Tootoo probably had his nose broken for the second time on the road trip via a high stick (uncalled) in the third period, he spoke to the CBC's Scott Oake about being a Wing, and We All Bleed Red on YouTube captured the interview:

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

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George, I think you’ve got the star order backwards. I think it wad Datsyuk first, burrows last. But I just scanned the ap recap.

Also, nice job by the coaching staff of mixing up the lines to give a different look. Miller looked comfortable with Zetterberg I thought.

Posted by teldar on 03/17/13 at 07:30 AM 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.