The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/19/13 at 05:28 AM ET
The Red Wings find themselves in a situation very different than the one they were in prior to dropping a 4-2 loss to Phoenix ten days ago.
Ahead of tonight's rematch (9 PM EDT, FSD/FS Arizona/97.1 FM, and this is Detroit's only regular season to Jobbing.com Arena), Detroit's won 4 straight games, and while the Wings are highly unlikely to have the services of Niklas Kronwall tonight as he may or may not have a "mild concussion"...
Even as a team that's been out-shot by a silly margin over Jonas Gustavsson's three straight wins, Jimmy Howard will step back into the Wings' crease tonight in front of a team that's a world away from the one that was coming off a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins and then a four-day break that resulted in an absolutely crappy performance against a Coyotes team desperate for its first win.
The Wings have played five times over the last 9 nights, their power play is rolling along, their goaltending under Gustavsson has been terrifying but effective, and aside from getting Stephen Weiss rolling offensively and Brendan Smith out of, "I'm not at fault for any goal ever scored while I was on the ice" denial, the team's on a roll.
The Coyotes find their roll interrupted. They won three more games after beating the Wings, and they've technically earned points in 5 straight games...But they dropped a 4-3 OT decision to Ottawa on Wednesday, and on Friday night, the Coyotes were in full growl mode after dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to Anaheim (in Anahiem).
The Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan reported that the Yotes were plain old furious at themselves for surrendering a 2-1 lead and a full two points in short order...
“You ever heard of the saying scared to lose?” goalie Mike Smith said. “Well, we were scared to win and that’s not how you finish off hockey games. Yeah, we were solid up to that point but we went out in the third period and we had six shots and we just let them come and come and come and when you give that team the chances we gave them, sooner or later it’s going to end up in the back of the net.”
The Coyotes (4-2-2) were clinging to a 2-1 lead when Ducks center Nick Bonino’s shot from the point slipped under the crossbar at 17:58 of the third period, capping off a comeback that seemed imminent. In the shootout, Bonino, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Jakob Silfverberg beat Smith with most exploiting his glove side.
“That was embarrassing for me,” Smith said. “You let in four goals in six shots, and that’s unacceptable.”
Radim Vrbata, Mike Ribeiro and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored for the Coyotes, all impressive goals. Ribeiro’s was especially smooth as he skated in and pivoted sideways before using his forehand to send the puck over Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller.
Despite attempting 12 shots in the first period, tripling their output from the first period against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday, the Coyotes fell behind 1-0.
Ducks center Mathieu Perreault forced a turnover in the Coyotes’ end and found Selanne, who managed to sneak behind defenseman Keith Yandle. Smith absorbed some of Selanne’s shot but not enough to stop it as the puck trickled in behind him to give the Ducks the lead at 6:38.
Smith finished with 37 saves while Hiller had 30.
“I got a good chunk of it, but he’s obviously a really good player and you give him that time and space in front of our net he’s tough to stop,” Smith said.
NHL.com's Curtis Zupke also took note of the Yotes' disappointment...
"That's a disappointing way to lose this game," Smith said. "I think we had control there after we scored that second goal and then we kind of just sat back. I felt like we were scared to win. I don't know why, but I hope we take something out of this game. It's happened before with this group where it's seems like we get the lead and then we tense up and we don't want to play anymore. We just dump it in and we don't forecheck. You do that against skilled teams and they can pick you apart pretty quick. It's not a game where you can just back up and hope to win."
A Ducks team that outscored opponents 13-3 in its first three home games and ranked second in the NHL in 5-on-5 scoring looked like it would produce one goal until Bonino's fluttering, end-over-end shot from the right point looped past Dustin Penner's screen and floated past Smith in the third to tie it at 2-2.
"I had an extra second and I knew Penner was stationed in front. I just tried to put it on net," Bonino said. "About halfway there, I noticed the line the puck was on was looking pretty good, and that Smith had no idea where it was. It went in, and I was happy."
Smith certainly wasn't
"I caught a glimpse of it, but I thought it was going over the net," he said. "I watched a replay of it there. It just dropped right in the top of it. Bar down."
As well as Shane Doan's attempts to steady his team's ship:
Doan didn't think his team was scared to win but he concurred about the third-period lapse.
"We recognize that we had opportunities and they get a fortunate goal," Doan said. "They take that shot a lot of times, that's not going to go in, but it went in tonight. Give them credit. They kept coming. At the same time, we were [back] on our heels a bit. We're a better team when we play a little bit more aggressive. The second half of third period, once we got the lead, we weren't as aggressive as we usually are."
The AP's recap fills in some details while giving us the Ducks' take on the game...
Bonino scored the tying goal with 2:02 left in the third period, Jakob Silfverberg scored the deciding goal in the sixth round of the shootout and Jonas Hiller made 30 saves to lead the Ducks to a 3-2 victory over the Coyotes on Friday night.
The defending Pacific Division champions are off to their best start in franchise history, winning six straight following a 6-1 loss at Colorado on opening night. It's also the first time the club has started 4-0 at home.
"Last year we found ways to win no matter how we played, so it's familiar to us," Bonino said. "I think everyone in here will agree that the last two games haven't our best games or our sharpest games, but winning teams find ways to win no matter how ugly it is."
Rostislav Klesla got his first goal of the season, Antoine Vermette also scored and Mike Smith made 37 saves for the Coyotes.
Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle received a double-minor for cutting Daniel Winnik with a high stick 30 seconds before the first intermission with Anaheim leading 1-0 on Teemu Selanne's goal, but Smith stopped all seven shots he faced during the ensuing four-minute power play. The Ducks finished 0 for 4 with the man advantage, and are a league-worst 1 for 27.
"That's not where we want to be on the power play, but we've survived," Silfverberg said. "Today maybe wasn't our best game again, but we played really good defensively and we didn't give up too many chances."
Klesla gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead 7:54 into the third period with a screened 50-foot slap shot from the left point against Hiller, who thwarted all six Phoenix power plays.
If you really want to watch the highlights of the game, here they are...
And let's just say that the Coyotes website's clips of Smith, Doan and coach Dave Tippett's comments are solid indicators of how pissed off the Coyotes will be heading into tonight's game against both the Red Wings and their numerous Phoenix-based fans.
For the record, the Wings didn't practice on Friday, probably soaking up the Arizona sun, and PhoenixCoyotes.com's Dave Vest reports that the Yotes won't practice on Saturday (i.e. their morning skate will be a very "optional" one, though Tippett's comments suggest that Mike Smith will be on the ice with Coyotes goalie coach Sean Burke to work out some kinks).
NHL.com's Sean McCullen sets up tonight's game as follows...
Big story: Detroit enters the game as one of the stingiest teams in the NHL, allowing just 2.25 goals per game, good for fifth in the League. The Coyotes have allowed 2.88 goals per game, which ranks 23rd in the League.
The former Western Conference foes now play each other only twice each season, with Detroit moving to the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference this season under the NHL's realignment.
Red Wings [team scope]: Detroit has won four in a row, including its past three with backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson in for the injured Jimmy Howard, since losing to Phoenix on Oct. 10.
Gustavsson has been outstanding, posting a 1.67 goals-against average and .953 save percentage in his three starts. He had 38 saves in Detroit's 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.
Coyotes [team scope]: Phoenix will play its second game in as many nights, the second of 12 back-to-back sets for the team this season. The Coyotes lost to the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in a six-round shootout at Honda Center Friday night.
Who's hot: Pavel Datsyuk scored twice Thursday for Detroit against the Avalanche. He now has four goals and 10 points in eight games. … Mike Ribeiro, signed as a free agent by Phoenix last summer, has points in five straight games (one goal, four assists) after picking up the secondary assist on the Coyotes' first goal Friday night. Rob Klinkhammer has three goals in the Coyotes' past three games.
I'm going to switch things up by noting that the Arizona Republic's Zach Buchanan reported that the Coyotes have no injuries at present save their pride, and that the Arizona Republic's McLellan had the Yotes' lines arranged as follows...
And given that the Coyotes went 43-and-27 in the faceoff circle on Friday (that's winning 61% of faceoffs), and given that the Wings have had faceoff issues of late, this note from McLellan is very important:
Before Friday’s game, the Coyotes were tied for fifth in the league — with the Ducks — with a 54.3 facoff percentage. That’s an impressive ranking considering the Coyotes lost faceoff specialist Boyd Gordon to free agency.
Credit center Antoine Vermette for helping ease Gordon’s loss. Entering Friday’s action, Vermette was first in the league with 105 faceoff wins.
“I’ve always been pretty good, always been up there,” Vermette said. “But knowing Gordo wasn’t going to be there, that falls on my responsibility a little more.”
Three of Vermette’s first four assists have come because he won a faceoff. But where he’s been particularly helpful is when the Coyotes are shorthanded. Vermette also leads the league with faceoff wins on the penalty kill (20 entering Friday’s game vs. the Ducks). On the road, he has 81 faceoff wins. The next-best player, Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza, has 65.
“If you can relieve that pressure from the draw, from the get-go, it’s a big plus,” Vermette said.
The AP's game preview adds stats to the mix...
Howard, however, might be able to get back between the pipes as the Red Wings (6-2-0) go for their fifth straight win, which would be their longest streak since a six-game run Feb. 8 - Feb. 19, 2012.
Howard, who hasn't played since making 32 saves in a 5-2 win over Philadelphia last Saturday, is 8-2-1 with a 2.24 GAA in 11 career starts in Phoenix - six of which have come in the playoffs.
The Coyotes (4-2-2) haven't fallen in regulation since a 6-1 loss at the New York Islanders on Oct. 8, but they allowed Anaheim to score the game-tying goal with 2:02 remaining Friday on the way to a 3-2 shootout loss.
Mike Ribeiro, who signed a five-year deal in the offseason to be Phoenix's No. 1 center, was able to extend his points streak to five games with an assist.
The Coyotes were the last team to beat Detroit on Oct. 10 when Michael Stone and Antoine Vermette scored in the third period of a 4-2 win at Joe Louis Arena.
Smith had 28 saves in that meeting and 37 stops Friday, though he could give way to backup Thomas Greiss in the second of back-to-back games. In his only start, Greiss finished with 36 saves in a 2-1 win at Philadelphia on Oct. 11.
Whoever gets the nod will have to contain a Detroit team that has totaled 14 goals while converting 6 of 16 power-play opportunities during its winning streak.
I would be remiss to omit this tidbit...
And NHL.com's John Kreiser adds a "bonus preview" of sorts via NHL.com's "Daily Primer":
Detroit Red Wings at Phoenix Coyotes -- The Red Wings ended Colorado's perfect season on Thursday with a 4-2 victory in Denver and bring a 6-2-0 record and a four-game winning streak to the desert. One catalyst for the streak has been newcomer Daniel Alfredsson, who has a goal and seven assists in the four games after managing a lone assist during Detroit's first four games. Phoenix couldn't hold a 2-1 lead in the final minutes of regulation on the road against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night and wound up with a 3-2 loss in a shootout.
Sans any practice news on Friday, all we learned is that Niklas Kronwall has a "mild concussion," that Cody McLeod will miss 2 games before he visits with Brendan Shanahan on Tuesday (so he's suspended until his hearing), and that Darren Helm was predictably rusty while taking part in his first game in over a year.
As the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted, Kronwall may play tonight, though it's doubtful (cue Brendan Smith returning to the lineup)...
“He’s not ruled out yet,” Holland said of tonight’s game in Phoenix.
And Kulfan did what he could to set up tonight's game:
The Red Wings have won four straight after an emotionless loss to the Coyotes.
“I find they’re a very composed group,” Alfredsson said of his new teammates. “Some have been together for a long time. Now there is a transition. Quite a few young guys coming up, me and (Stephen) Weiss are coming in, so there are some changes. In the beginning we didn’t really find our game. Lately, special teams have been real good for us. It’s been nice to see the development.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has noticed a difference lately in Johan Franzen, who scored his first two goals of the season Thursday.
“The Mule was great the last three games in a row,” Babcock said. “His size down low, his skating ... he’s been fantastic.”
The Free Press's Helene St. James also noted that the Wings are feeling good about their efforts of late...
“We think we’ve got a good team, and we’ve got good people, and we’ve got great leadership, as good as leadership as you can have,” coach Mike Babcock said. “They’re proud guys. We’re off to a good start. It’s positive.”
Alfredsson has eight points during the streak. Stephen Weiss has looked more at home every game. Johan Franzen got into the goal column in Colorado, scoring his first two.
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg — who spent Thursday’s third period with Alfredsson on their line — have been in fine form from the start of the season, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by those new to the team.
While discussing the turnaround from the last Phoenix game, Alfredsson noted what has stood out.
“I find they’re a very composed group,” he said. “You can see some guys have been together for a long time. Now there is a transition, quite a few young guys coming up, me and Weisser coming in. It seems like in the beginning, we didn’t really find our game, and lately special teams has been really good for us, and that takes pressure off five-on-five. It’s been nice to see the development. We’re going in the right direction, and we’ve just got to keep pushing. But there’s a lot of poise with the leadership here, and that rubs off on everybody.”
As did MLive's Ansar Khan, who focusedo n Alfredsson's status as playing on what Pavel Datsyuk's calling the "2 Kids and an Old Goat" line 2--if not the "3 Old Goats" given that Zetterberg's 33, Datsyuk's 35 and Alfredsson's 40:
“I think I have been getting a little bit better as we go on here,’’ Alfredsson said following a 4-2 win at Colorado Thursday. “It’s always a lot easier when good things happen and you’re on the ice. It felt like I had the puck quite a bit in the offensive zone. We were able to make things happen. Once we did get in their end our whole team was pretty good at moving and creating havoc.’’
The Red Wings will try for their fifth win in a row Saturday at Phoenix (9 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit), the last club that defeated them (4-2 in Detroit on Oct. 10).
Alfredsson’s eight assists were tied for second in the NHL heading into Friday’s games. He made a nice play to get Pavel Datsyuk the puck for an insurance goal with 6:25 to play on Thursday.
“He actually have good patience,’’ Datsyuk said. “He holds the puck, makes good plays, opens space for players. He’s also good shooter. He plays well on defense, also.’’
Are the "3 Old Goats" going to remain together?
“Just looking to change things up in the third, looking for a little bounce back because we chased the puck in the second,’’ Babcock said. “I don’t know if that gave us a spark or Pav and Z just decided we weren’t going to lose.’’
There's no doubt that there's some chemistry between the trio:
Some of Alfredsson’s offense also is coming on the power play with Datsyuk and Zetterberg. The third period on Thursday was the first time Alfredsson played with the pair at even strength for any length of time.
“They’re two of the best players in the world; you just got to try to find when to help them and when to get out of the way and get open,’’ Alfredsson said. “Both are extremely strong on the puck, they read the game really well. When I play with them, it’s more getting open and using my shot. Pavel scored (on Thursday), but I think we all can shoot and find openings.’’
That's it for the "game preview" as the last few articles are more "notebooks" than anything else.
Obviously, as previously stated, it'd be great to see the Franzen-Weiss-Abdelkader line get Weiss kick-started, and it seems like Joakim Andersson and Daniel Cleary will have a new old friend in Todd Bertuzzi joining them tonight. The Wings do need more from the Miller-Glendening-Tootoo line in terms of forechecking...
And on defense, I'd guess that Jonathan Ericsson will play with Jakub Kindl, we'll see a Quincey-Smith reunion and will watch Danny DeKeyser play alongside Brian Lashoff again.
I'm hoping that Jimmy Howard's catch glove hand is good enough to go--tkae note, friends, even in this day and age, goalies get hurt--I hope that the Wings win more faceoffs tonight, and I hope that the PK and PP get on the same page, because the Wings have taken some costly penalties of late.
Mostly, I hope that the Wings keep rolling while assuaging for what was an absolutely dreadful home performance against Phoenix ten days ago, and I hope they keep rolling, because the Wings will have to fly back to Detroit on Saturday night to prepare to entertain the Sharks on Monday, and Daniel Alfredsson's former employer is coming to town next Wednesday, and that should be...
I sincerely doubt that Niklas Kronwall will play tonight, but I do believe that we need to settle down and wait to see how things sort themselves out in terms of his concussion. The "ZOMG CROSBY ALSO HAD A MILD CONCUSSION" stuff on Friday was a bit much in terms of panic, folks. It's a brain injury and that's always severe, but brains make up their own minds as to how they react to and heal from concussive impacts. Our worrying will yield no control over Kronwall's recovery.
Otherwise, we'll have to wait for the morning skate to hear anything substantial regarding tonight's lineup.
As I posted prospect news in its own post, I'll skip ahead to the "Also of Red Wings-related note" department:
- The Grand Rapids Griffins posted their first issue of Griffiti, their in-rink magazine, on Issu.com, and it's 88 pages long;
- Michigan Hockey posted its biweekly magazine on Bluetoad.com;
- Hey, at least 97.1 the Ticket's Mike Stone noted that the Avs announcers' take on the McLeod-Kronwall hit defined, "You can apologize all you want, but what you say in the heat of the moment usually serves as long-lasting proof that you're an *#$%@&";
- TSN's Scott Cullen suggested that fantasy hockey poolies pick up Jakub Kindl in Kronwall's absence...
Jakub Kindl is the one other Detroit defenceman who has seen significant power play time this year. Maybe Brendan Smith could come out of the press box and offer something with the man advantage, but the Red Wings' other defenders -- Kyle Quincey, Jonathan Ericsson, Danny DeKeyser, Brian Lashoff -- aren't necessarily cut out for the power play QB role.
He noted that Jonas Gustavsson's redeemed himself in a big way...
Sticking in Detroit, Jonas Gustavsson has performed at a high level in relief of injured starter Jimmy Howard. It's only three games, compared to 114 games of subpar play prior to this season, but Gustavsson has stopped 102 of 107 shots for a .953 save percentage this season.
And you may take his suggestion as to whether Alfredsson will have staying power with Datsyuk and Zetterberg for what you will:
The Detroit Red Wings have already tried Justin Abdelkader and Todd Betuzzi on the right side with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, but Thursday night, they gave Daniel Alfredsson a spin in that spot and Alfredsson finished with three assists, giving him nine points in his first eight games with the Red Wings.
Judging by the first two guys tried on that wing, there may have been some thought that Datsyuk and Zetterberg needed a physical player to help carve out space, but Alfredsson has the sense to play with elite players and if he stays productive, it's conceivable he could hold this spot for a while.
- And finally, I can already hear the Ottawa media gearing up for their freak-out-slash-finger-wagging, angsty trip to Detroit to lament "DeToilet" and Daniel Alfredsson's poor choice of employers, so we should prepare ourselves for the onslaught. The Ottawa Sun's Don "DeToilet" Brennan noted that the 3-2-and-2 Senators, who will entertain the Oilers at 2 PM today and then not play until Wednesday (OHBOY FOUR DAYS OF BUILD-UP TO THE ALFREDSSON REUNION GAME KILL ME NOW), gave a "new guy" a "cursed" locker room spot:
Nobody in the Senators room believes in ghosts, Halloween month or any other time. But nobody wanted that damned dressing room stall Daniel Alfredsson sat in at the Kanata castle now known as Canadian Tire Centre, either.
"When they asked me, I said absolutely not," Bobby Ryan recalled Friday afternoon. "A guy that was here for however many seasons, and captain for however many seasons, I don't think anyone wants to go and fill that void in any kind of way. So when that came up, I said I'll go down to the other end (of the room's back bench). And Clarkie said he would rather be in Storage Room B."
"Clarkie" is Clarke MacArthur, the ex-Toronto Maple Leaf who, rightly or not, was held up in comparison to Alfredsson after the greatest player in Ottawa's history felt it necessary to end his reign here last summer.Alfredsson didn't really want to leave. He felt mistreated. He felt he had to move on.
"I'm looking to move," MacArthur joked, standing in front of The Stall. "I'm not feeling ghosts, but it's a tough spot to sit in, that's for sure."
In his eighth NHL season, he has never before waited so long to score his first goal.In 2011-12, he went six games from the start of the schedule before getting No. 1 - and then he followed up with five goals in his next four outings. On Thursday, in another evening of hard work that went unrewarded, he established a new personal worst of seven games.
Meanwhile, Alfredsson has a goal and seven assists in his last four games for Detroit - not that MacArthur has noticed, or cares.
"I'm not really feeling like it's killing me yet," MacArthur said of his drought. "It's not to that point. We're winning. But it's frustrating when you're getting three or four shots a game, and you want to try and find the back of the net. You've just got to go to the net harder, and be more aggressive around the net."
This is all I have to say:
Sorry, it's 5:22 AM, and I literally took a midnight nap because I knew I'd be up super late due to the Ducks-Yotes game. I've got no time for the bullshit that will flow southwest from the Canadian capital this week.
Between the fact that the Wings will be wrapping up a 2-week stretch in which they wil lhave played 8 games in 14 nights on Wednesday, the fact that I've still got bruises and a cut on my feet from the terribly-fitted shoes I wore to my pal's wedding last weekend, and the fact that things are about to get silly this week as the Sharks' press, the Sens' legion of self-flagellation and then the Rangers' massive contingent of scribes are all coming to Detroit ahead of the Wings' only Western Canadian swing of the season, starting on Devil's Night...
This anxiety disorder-battling blogger is already preparing for a long week, and this long week of four games played over the course of six nights ain't over just yet. I ain't got time for the drama that's headed our way.
Update: DC Sports posted a Facebook notice that Pavel Datsyuk will be signing at their Lakeside Mall location on November 17th, but their "upcoming signings" page also includes the following:
Hmm, stealth Lidstrom visit to Detroit?
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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.