Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Coyotes wrap-up and overnight report: Wings fail to roll with the mental bounces

The Detroit Red Wings' team plane took a little looping flight from Phoenix's main airport, Sky Harbor, to a facility a little closer to Glendale and the Coyotes' rink on Saturday night, preparing to pick the Red Wings up as the team stayed in its hotel beds on Saturday evening (to eliminate the "heavy road trip legs" excuse).

The Red Wings team's trajectory was similar, racing out to a 2-0 lead before giving up 5 straight goals, including a goal scored by Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, in a 5-2 loss to Phoenix on Saturday evening--in a scenario reminiscent of the Wings' dropped leads en route to a 4-2 loss to Phoenix 11 days ago.

In between the losses, Detroit won 4 games, but Phoenix seems to have Detroit's number, and it must be said that this penalty shot save by Jimmy Howard could have been the game's defining moment...

Instead, when Mike Smith went down like he was shot--exactly halfway through the game...

The Wings stopped shooting, the Wings stopped skating to the point that they were on the inside of puck battles, the Wings stopped playing tenaciously on the forecheck or smart defensively, the team began to skate tentatively and stopped shooting puck after puck at Smith...

And the Coyotes pounced upon the Wings and shot Jimmy Howard full of holes, despite the fact that he was at fault on none of the four goals that he surrendered.

The Wings will fly home on Sunday and will find themselves battling the 7-0-and-1 Sharks, who defeated the Calgary Flames 6-3 on Saturday, on Monday the 21st at the Joe.

After that, the Wings will entertain the 3-3-and-2 Senators, who a) lost 3-1 to Edmonton on Saturday and b) will not play until they head to Joe Louis Arena for the teams' Alfredsson Reunion Game on Wednesday the 23rd...

And they'll wrap up October's home slate of games when they entertain the 2-5-and-0 Rangers on Saturday the 26th--and the Rangers, who lost 4-0 to New Jersey on Saturday, only have a Thursday game against Philly on their dockett between now and their game at the Joe.

The Red Wings possess a 6-and-3 record at present, but games 10, 11 and 12 should reveal quite a bit about this team's character and ability to tangle with both a team on the roll and two teams that are struggling like hell and are struggling under the spotlight of their own media corps.

I say that last part because the Tigers' elimination on Saturday, the Lions-Bengals game on Sunday and the fact that the Pistons aren't very good, Detroit's best-kept sports secret over the last two weeks will find their locker room full of TV cameras and both local and out-of-town media types hungry for stories and intrigue.

In the cases of the Senators and Rangers, the soap opera's coming to town, so much so that heading into Vancouver on Devil's Night and Western Canada through election day might seem like a cakewalk by comparison.

Speaking of soap operas and dramatics, Mr. Smith, why exactly did you flop and flail, negating Brian Lashoff's goal and the Wings' initiative? As many Kukla's Korner readers and Twitter folks have noted, Smith happens to have a history of flopping and flailing when in in duress, with some comparing him to Dominik Hasek.

NHL.com received a one-sentence answer:

Ironically, Smith was injured after making a save during the second period, and he lay face down on the ice for several minutes. He eventually got up and stayed in the game.

"It wasn't anything concerning," Smith said. "I had kind of a stinger go up my neck and it kind of locked up."

As noted in the set-up entry, the Coyotes were very angry on Friday, having lost a 3-2 shootout decision to Anaheim. Smith told the Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan a little more about his injury...

“I just kind of had a stinger go up my neck and just kind of locked up for a second,” Smith said. “I just kind of moved quick and couldn’t move. I don’t know. It is what it is. Fortunately, it released after I lied there on the ice for a little bit. It’s nothing concerning.”

And Smith's goal aside, McLellan focused on the Coyotes' ability to rebound from a tough night with an energetic performance and comeback against Detroit:

Following Friday’s game in which the Coyotes (5-2-2) let a third-period lead dissolve, Smith was critical of the team’s play and said, “We were scared to win.” Against the Red Wings, they were much better coming-from-behind as they trailed for most of the game.

“I might have overreacted a little bit with (Friday) night’s comments, but that’s the way I felt and like I said, I might have been a little harsh but I thought we responded,” Smith said. “Not just from what I said, but we just played the way we need to play.”

The Coyotes fell behind 2-0 in the first period after goals from Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi but with a minute left in the second, center Antoine Vermette finished a two-on-one with captain Shane Doan top-shelf to put the comeback in motion.

“That was one you could tell our guys got enthused right away,” Tippett said. “That’s one of those games where I was waiting for us to be short on energy, and we weren’t short on energy at all. That was great.”

Center Mike Ribeiro tied it at 5:07 of the third when he pounced on a rebound from a Mikkel Boedker shot to tie it. Center Martin Hanzal made it 3-2 only 2:01 later when she scored stick-side on Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard on a breakaway. Ribeiro added his second at 13:14 to extend his point streak to six games. It was the first multi-goal game for Ribeiro since March 6, 2012.

McLellan also suggested that Smith had the opportunity to impress a possible Olympic employer in Wings coach Mike Babcock...

Tippett, who disagreed with Smith’s assessment that the Coyotes played scared against the Ducks, said Smith’s candidacy for Team Canada didn’t factor in his decision to choose Smith, but the face time could be valuable in Smith’s bid to make Canada’s Olympic roster. Smith, and the Coyotes, won the Oct. 10 meeting in Detroit 4-2.

“I’m not really thinking about it,” Smith said. “I’m more thinking about playing solid and giving the team the chance to win and making saves when the team needs me. If it is against the head coach, then all the better. But I’m just trying to do that every game, doesn’t matter who I’m playing against. It’s just an added bonus.”

And Fox Sports Arizona's Craig Morgan took note of the Coyotes' ability to summon the mental and physical energy to rally against the Wings:

"It's hard to be impressed sometimes, but I was impressed with the play of our players tonight," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, whose club swept the two-game season series from the Red Wings to improve to 5-2-2 on the year. "That's one of those games where I'm waiting for us to be short on energy, and we didn't look like we were short on energy at all."

Center Antoine Vermette was rewarded for a terrific all-around game when he scored with one minute remaining in the second period to pull Phoenix within 2-1. The goal opened the floodgates, and the Coyotes came at Detroit in waves the rest of the game.

Center Mike Ribeiro netted the first of his two goals on a rebound to tie it, making Tippett look like a prophet for noting Tuesday how Ribeiro has the ability to impact the game at big moments.

"I'm just trying to be closer to the net," said Ribeiro, who has points in six straight games and netted his first two-goal game since March 6, 2012. "I felt like, since the beginning of the season, I'm almost all turned around. I'm closer to the boards. In order to score goals, you have to be closer to the net."

Martin Hanzal got the game-winner off a feed from Lauri Korpikoski after Henrik Zetterberg's dump-in hit a linesman's skate and went the other way. A Red Wings killer, Hanzal has scored 11 of his 67 career goals against Detroit.

Ribeiro added his second of the night with 6:46 to play, and Smith capped the night with one of the rarest feats in professional sports -- one that almost didn't materialize since Smith suffered an injury in the second period and lay on the ice for several minutes before opting to stay in the game.

...

Nobody was happier about that than co-owner George Gosbee, who hosted tailgaters in the parking lot before the game in what will become a weekend tradition for the rest of the season.

"That's how you do it," Gosbee screamed as he headed to the postgame locker room to celebrate the win. "That's how you do it."

We do have to talk about Smith's goal, and Morgan happened to dedicate an article to Smith's achievement:

Coyotes goalie Mike Smith accomplished one of the rarest feats in professional sports when he scored into an empty net with 0.1 seconds left in Saturday night's 5-2 win over the Red Wings at Jobing.com Arena, becoming just the 11th goaltender in NHL history to score a goal.

With about 5 seconds on the clock, Smith gloved a shot from just inside the blue line by Detroit's Mikael Samuelsson. He quickly dropped it and launched it down the ice, and with Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard on the bench for an extra attacker, it slid across the goal line just before the final horn.

"Everything has to work right and the clock has to slow down at the right time in the game to let it trickle over the line," Smith said. "It was just a bonus to a great win."

It was the first career goal for Smith, known as one of the better puck-handling netminders in the league, and just the seventh to be shot into the net by a goaltender. The other goals were all own goals that were credited to the opposing goalie by virtue of being the last player to touch the puck.

Smith also scored in his first year of pros in the ECHL with Lexington in 2002-03.

"I've seen Smitty try it a couple of times," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, who was fine with the attempt due to the circumstances with the Coyotes up 4-2. "Two-goal lead is fine. One goal is a little sketchy; two you can live with."

It was the first score by a goalie since last season, when the Devils' Martin Brodeur scored on March 23 against the Hurricanes, and the first to be shot in by a netminder since Evgeni Nabokov did it for the Sharks against the Canucks in 2002.

Smith told NHL.com's Jerry Brown that his goal was scored almost sight unseen:

"The guys were in my face, so I didn't actually see it until I saw a replay," said the second goalie named Smith ever to score a goal - Billy Smith of the New York Islanders was the first to be officially credited with a goal on Nov. 28, 1979. "I do shoot the puck quite often in practice, but an awful lot of things have to go right for that to happen. I was able to score in the ECHL (for Lexington) my first year as a pro (2002-03) and it was the same thing. Everything has to work right and the clock has to slow down at the right time to let it trickle over the line. It was just a bonus to a great win."

Smith had already been named the No. 1 star of the game for shutting down the Red Wings after they scored twice in the first 8:02 to put the Coyotes in a hole.

Despite playing their second game in two nights, Phoenix kept coming and applying pressure. Antoine Vermette scored in the final minute of the second period and Mike Ribeiro tied the game 5:07 into the third before Red Wings killer Martin Hanzal scored the game-winner with 12:52 to play as the Coyotes beat Detroit for the second time in nine days.

"I was very impressed with the will our guys had, getting home at 2 a.m. [from Anaheim]," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Even when we were down 2-0, I loved the way we were playing. And then to come out in the third period and score four with Smitty getting a big one at the end … it's hard to be impressed sometimes but I was impressed with our players tonight."

Hanzal has scored 11 of his 67 NHL goals against the Red Wings, who had won four straight since losing 4-2 to Phoenix in Detroit nine days ago.

"I always like to play against them. I love their history and the great players they have had and it's definitely something extra." Hanzal said. "It's such a challenge; you just want to beat them. I've been working on going low blocker and it worked out."

Brown also helps us kick start the Red Wings player-or-coach-uttered narrative, with Smith's prospective employer offering the following:

"They played last night and we didn't [but] they worked harder than we did," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "We weren't good enough, we didn't play hard enough and we didn't have enough people going."

The Red Wings' goaltender had a rough return to the net in terms of results, but Jimmy Howard was both very solid and, again, not to blame for the goals he surrendered.

Howard told Reuters that he understood why the referee waved off Lashoff's goal...

"I didn't know what happened to him," said Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. "I think they made the right call."

And he offered a pretty good read as to why the Wings fell apart:

"We weren't getting pucks deep on them and they were able to get the momentum," Howard said.

...

The Coyotes (5-2-2), playing at home for just the third time this season, swept the two-game series against Detroit.

Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi scored for Red Wings (6-3-0), who had won four straight. Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg wasted little time giving the Red Wings the lead. Zetterberg found Datsuyk standing at the bottom of the right circle with a sharp pass and Datsyuk fired over a scrambling Smith at 4:47 of the first period.

Bertuzzi made it 2-0 just over three minutes later, taking advantage of a Zbynek Michalek in the Coyotes zone and skating in on Smith for an unassisted goal at 8:02.

Vermette cut the lead in half at 19:00 of the second period, beating Howard for his second goal in as many nights.

"We should have been able to regroup in here and get after them and we didn't do it," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. "This has been a long time coming."

Howard and Babcock continued while speaking to the Associated Press...

"They worked harder than we did, we turned over too many pucks," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We weren't good enough, we didn't play hard enough and we didn't have enough people going."

Howard stopped 16 shots in the first period, the most shots the Coyotes have had in an opening period this season. The Coyotes had a chance to cut the Red Wings' lead to one early in the second after Shane Doan was taken down on a clear scoring chance by defenseman Brendan Smith, but Howard extended his left leg and blocked Doan's attempted right-handed shot in front.

Howard made 28 saves in his return to the ice after missing three games because of a bruised left hand.

"We had the lead 2-1, and we have to find a way to grind out wins like that on the road," Howard said.

We'll stick with the Wings' perspective from here on out, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan gives us Henrik Zetterberg's take as to what transpired--as well as what led to the game-winning goal:

“We started the game real good,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “We couldn’t come out with a push in the third period and they scored.”

Ribeiro tied the score, 2-2, at 5:07 of the third period. He won the faceoff and got the puck to defenseman Derek Morris, who found Mikkel Boedker on the half wall. Boedker’s shot was stopped by Jimmy Howard, but Ribeiro pounced on the rebound and scored his second goal of the season.

Hanzal gave the Coyotes a 3-2 lead on a bad break for the Red Wings.

Zetterberg attempted to chip the puck ahead but it hit a linesman. Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski gathered the puck and fed Hanzal alone for a breakaway, beating Howard low at 7:08 for his second goal.

“He (linesman) tried to get out of the way and I hit him,” Zetterberg said. “Suddenly they had a breakaway. Sometimes you try to make the right play and it doesn’t work. But that’s the way it is. They play a tight game and they took advantage of the chances they got.”

Zetterberg offered this regarding another reactionary call...

“I don’t know how he went down, but it was strange,” Zetterberg said. “But at the same time, if Howard went down and they scored, we would have reacted the same way.”

[aside: For the record, the refs had an "interesting" night:

/end aside]

And while Howard had sympathy for his counterpart's conundrum, he offered none regarding the performance of the players in front of him:

“We turn the puck over and next thing you know they have the momentum going into the third period,” Howard said. “Still, there’s no excuse. We had the lead (2-1) and we have to find a way to grind out a win like that on the road.”

MLive's Ansar Khan took note of the goalie-goal-scoring and goalie-down narratives (he also offered a customary quote-free recap), with Howard praising Smith's effort...

"Smith got one, that’s pretty impressive what he did.’’

It was the 14th time in NHL history that a goalie scored. New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur has three goals and Philadelphia’s Ron Hextall scored twice. Chris Osgood is the only Red Wings goal to score, doing it against the Hartford Whalers on March 6, 1996. Osgood, ironically, was in the building, serving as an analyst for Fox Sports Detroit.

Earlier in the game, with 9:52 to play in the second period, the Red Wings had an apparent goal by Henrik Zetterberg waved off because Smith was down on the ice with an apparent injury.

After a shot by Pavel Datsyuk hit Smith’s stick, the goalie fell to the ice and stayed there, with his head down. Zetterberg fired the puck into the open net and the Red Wings thought they had a 3-0 lead. But the officials huddled to discuss the play and ruled it was no goal because the whistle should have been blown due to an injured player.
The Red Wings had no issues with the decision.

And Babcock not necessarily agreeing with his captain's take on the no-goal call:

“The referee said the goalie was down (and that) they should have blown it down earlier,’’ Zetterberg said. “I don’t know how he went down, if someone hit him or not, or if he just went down. A little strange. But the same way, if Howie (Jimmy Howard) would have went down and they scored, we probably would have reacted the same.’’

Said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock: “Evidently he felt something in his neck and fell down. As a referee, I don’t know what you do there. They didn’t blow the whistle, but I don’t know what you do, don’t know what the right call is.’’

Ahem:

“I’ve been down before and teams have scored and it counted,’’ Howard said. “I think it’s the ref’s discretion and I think they did make the right call. When a goalie’s down like that it should be blown.’’

Regarding the game, Babcock and Zetterberg told the Free Press's Helene St. James that the team's play was the reason it lost...

"We started the game really good," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "First period, we played really well. In the third, we couldn't really couldn't come out with a push."

Coach Mike Babcock faulted how the Wings played late in the game, saying, "you can't be stubborn. You've got to play the game north-south. We paid for it."

Zetterberg was frustrated with what happened on the third goal, which saw his chip shot hit a linesman and stay in Detroit's zone. Martin Hanzal turned that into a 3-2 lead when he put the puck behind Jimmy Howard.

"All of a sudden, they had a breakaway," Zetterberg said. "Sometimes you try to make the right play and it doesn't work. That's the way it is."

And she also asked Daniel Alfredsson to weigh in on the ups and goalie downs:

"I have no idea how he hurt himself," Daniel Alfredsson said. "It was unfortunate for us."

Such are the breaks. There was still 13 minutes left in a one-goal game. But then Mike Ribeiro scored his second of the night at 13:14, and the Wings were staring at a loss. Antoine Vermette had scored on an odd-man rush when he beat Howard glove-side in the last minute of the second period, jump-starting a productive third period for the Coyotes.

"We start the game so good, and play solid," Alfredsson said. "They get some momentum with that late goal, and they did a really good job coming through the neutral zone. Once they have the lead, they do a good job clogging up the neutral zone and making it hard to get in."

...

Howard saw 32 shots in his first start in four games. He had been dealing with a bruised left hand, but felt fine - and frustrated. "It seemed like in the second period, we got a little bit selfish and we weren't getting pucks deep on them. We were turning them over. We had the lead, 2-1, and you've got to find a way to grind out wins like that on the road."

We're not going to finish the narrative just yet. Because a certain Niklas Kronwall was unable to play due to a concussion, Brendan Smith played in his stead, and St. James had to amend what was supposed to be her notebook about Smith's return because Smith...

Returned.

Smith was a minus-3 after being on ice for four goals against and one for. He got caught up ice when Mike Ribeiro scored to make it 4-2. Coach Mike Babcock didn't want to evaluate Smith right after the game, saying, "I know he had some time off, came in trying to play hard."

Earlier in the day, Babcock explained his reasoning behind pulling Smith, who had a minus-4 rating when he disappeared from the lineup four games prior, a damning stat Smith said wasn't his fault as the goals he'd been on against weren't on him.

"The question I ask all the time," Babcock said, "is who has the puck when you're done with the puck. When it's the other team all the time, pretty soon you're not playing. So, erratic play with the puck. I was looking for something different."

Smith is only 24, and has played only 50-plus games in the NHL. Defense is a hard position to master, but Smith might do well to pay close attention to Danny DeKeyser, who is 23 and has played half as many games: DeKeyser rarely makes a mistake, playing a smart, simple game. That's what the Wings need to see from Smith if he wants to be a regular.

Henrik Zetterberg had the line of last season's playoffs when he noted Smith creates a lot of offense for both sides. On Saturday, Zetterberg said of Smith that, "He's got a lot of good talent in him. He just has to play solid, not do too much."

Smith seems determined to figure out how to make it work at this level after being a college standout at Wisconsin not that long ago.

"I think I just have to make steady plays, make sure that I'm reading the play well," he said. "Just make sure that when I get a chance to jump up in the rush, do it, but make sure that you're not taking too many chances or that you're not doing too much.

"I think that the game is pretty much 50-50, 80% of the game. So you have to be patient and wait for your chances. That's the biggest key for myself. Once I get back into that groove, it'll help."

Those are words to live by, for both Smith and the Red Wings. They need to be a little more patient with themselves, be a little more patient with the game and be a little more tenacious in those 50-50 battles. The Wings need to make the 80% 50-50 and the other 20% their game, not their opponent's.

I agree with Babcock's initial assessment: this was coming. The Wings had taken up worse and worse habits in terms of being out-shot and out-chanced, and Jonas Gustavsson was the reason the Wings were able to push their winning streak to 4 games.

I'd read that Detroit hadn't won 5 straight since the 2011-2012 season going into the game. After the morning skate, whose crop of news only focused on Kronwall and Smith, I really wanted to know what was going on in the heads of the players who probably knew that stat, as well as the players who didn't skate (the Coyotes).

The answer is probably both too much and not enough. But I believe that the Wings let the game turn on a bad call, and that's an issue that involves in managing the 50-50 calls that happen bewtween one's ears a bit better.

And Mike Smith's.

Multimedia:

Highlights: Even the Red Wings website's highlight clip has the Coyotes' announcers analysis:

Post-game: Enjoy the NHL Tonight's clip...

Because I'm guessing that you won't enjoy the Coyotes website's clips of Dave Tippett's 6:48 presser or the "Yotes quotes" from Mike Ribeiro, Antoine Vermette or Mike Smith...

Nor Smith's interviews with the Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan or Fox Sports Arizona's rink-side interview with Smith and post-game interview with Ribeiro.

The Red Wings' website posted Henrik Zetterberg's post-game comments...

And coach Mike Babcock's post-game comments:

Photos:

The Arizona Republic posted a 14-image gallery;

ESPN posted a 31-image gallery;

And NHL.com, the Coyotes' website and the Red Wings' website posted 24-image galleries.

Statistics:

Shots 33-33 overall. Detroit was out-shot 16-10 in the 1st, out-shot Phoenix 13-6 in the 2nd and was out-shot 11-10 in the 3rd.

Both Detroit and Phoenix went 0-for-2 in 4:00 of PP time.

Jimmy Howard stopped 28 of 32; Mike Smith stopped 31 of 33.

The 3 stars were picked by the Coyotes' broadcasters, and they picked Derek Morris, Mike Ribeiro and Mike Smith.

The Wings' goals: Datsyuk (5) from Zetterberg (5) and Ericsson 92);

Bertuzzi (2).

Faceoffs 32-27 Phoenix (Detroit won 46%);

Blocked shots 17-8 Detroit;

Missed shots 13-12 Phoenix (total attempts 63-53 Phoenix, with Detroit firing 33 on Smith and another 20 wide/blocked);

Hits 33-21 Phoenix;

Giveaways 3-2 Detroit;

Takeaways 8-5 Phoenix.

Individual statistics:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 7-and-11 (39%); Andersson went 7-and-8 (47%); Glendening went 8-and-5 (62%); Weiss went 4-and-7 (36%); Cleary won his only faceoff; Franzen lost his only faceoff.

Shots: Datsyuk led the Wings with 5 shots; Abdelkader, Quincey and Bertuzzi had 4; Ericsson had 3; Smith, Samuelsson, Zetterberg, Glendening and Franzen had 2; Kindl, DeKeyser and Cleary had 1.

Blocked attempts: Alfredsson and Zetterberg had 2 attempts blocked by Coyotes players; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Lashoff and Ericsson had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Bertuzzi missed the net 2 times; Smith, Abdelkader, Alfredsson, Datsyuk, Miller, Quincey, Samuelsson, Zetterberg, DeKeyser and Franzen missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Abdelkader led the Wings with 6 hits; Datsyuk and Ericsson had 3; Smith, Alfredsson, Miller, Lashoff, Samuelsson, Glendening, Bertuzzi, DeKeyser and Cleary had 1.

Giveaways: Quincey, Zetterberg and Ericsson had giveaways.

Takeaways: Datsyuk and Bertuzzi had 2 takeaways; Smith had 1.

Blocked opponent shots: Smith and Miller blocked 3 shots; Kindl blocked 2; Abdelkader, Lashoff, Quincey, Samuelsson, Zetterberg, Glendening, Bertuzzi,,DeKeyser and Franzen blocked 1 shot.

Penalties taken: Lashoff took 2 minor penalties; Quincey took 1 minor penalty.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at -16. Smith was -3; Quincey and Bertuzzi were -2; Kindl, Abdelkader, Alfredsson, Datsyuk, Andersson, Lashoff, Samuelsson, Zetterberg, Weiss and Franzen were -1; DeKeyser was +1.

Points: Datsyuk and Bertuzzi scored goals; Zetterberg and Ericsson had assists.

Ice time: Quincey led the team with 21:59 played; Datsyuk played 21:52; Ericsson played 21:38;

DeKeyser played 21:32; Zetterberg played 19:32; Kindl played 19:28;

Alfredsson played 19:28; Smith played 18:39; Franzen played 15:38;

Abdelkader played 15:27; Lashoff played 14:17; Bertuzzi played 13:48;

Andersson played 13:08; Miller played 12:31; Weiss played 12:26;

Cleary played 11:45; Glendening played 11:34; Samuelsson played 10:43.

 

 

Red Wings notebooks: We did the Niklas Kronwall thing in the afternoon on Saturday, and I get it, those of you who believe that Kronwall was at fault for what happened aren't going to change your minds, and those of you who feel that Cody McLeod's now-Monday-scheduled hearing with the NHL should span the entirety of his suspension in 2 games aren't going to change your mind.

But the biggest thing I was reminded of as I was writing the overnight report--by MC79Hockey--is that we used to live in an NHL where this was completely tolerable, and blamed on the player taking the hit...

And we don't live in that NHL anymore.

Kronwall's an old-school player who lines up players on a generally face-to-face basis, but tends to not praise himself for his work, nor lament the fact that he's got a target on his back as well (that seemed to be the Avalanche's announcers' message).

His comments to the Free Press's Helene St. James weren't surprising:

Kronwall, 32, said he hasn’t had a concussion since he was 20. “I’m just listening to doctors, taking it step by step,” he said. “I haven’t had any symptoms so far.”

McLeod was suspended pending an in-person hearing Monday with the NHL Department of Player Safety. Kronwall said the two men chatted briefly after the first period Thursday, as McLeod wanted to make sure Kronwall was OK. “I’ve got no hard feelings,” Kronwall said.

In fashion typical of Kronwall, the only player in the Wings’ organization a few years back to absolve Georges Laraque for a knee-on-knee hit, Kronwall was equally magnanimous toward McLeod.

“I put myself in a bad position,” Kronwall said. “He’s coming in with a lot of speed, sure, but I did turn at the last second. It’s so easy to go back and slow it down and be smart about things, but it goes really fast out there. Guys are going to make some bad decisions out there sometimes. In my case, I ended up on a stretcher, but I’m feeling pretty good and looking forward to getting back on track.”

Coach Mike Babcock discussed the incident over dinner Friday with a friend who is a brain surgeon: “He said lots of times, people who’ve got concussions, they’ve got no reactions, that’s a certain type of brain, and other guys, it’s not even a concussion, it’s a bump, and you react differently. So if Kronner is a fortunate one, we’re lucky.”

It appears that Kronwall is going to be a forunate one. When the Wings get back home, Kronwall told St. James and the Wings' press corps that he'll speak to Anthony Colucci, the team's physician, and he'll probably undergo a baseline neurological test. As long as he continues to have no symptoms as he ramps up from riding a bike to doing more intense workouts, he'll probably be clared to play as soon as Wednesday, if not earlier...

But Kronwall's own words to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan remind us what could have been:

“It just becomes more dramatic,” said Kronwall of the stretcher. “Looking back I know they did the right thing, but anytime you’re in that situation yourself you don’t want to worry people for no reason. Like I said, once I got back on track I felt fine. But they were just being precautionary and I’m happy for the job they were doing.”

McLeod reached out to Kronwall after the first period and apologized for the hit.

“He apologized and I told him I shouldn’t have put both of us in that spot, either,” Kronwall said. “I’m happy he reached out and I have no hard feelings.”

...

“I could have done a lot of things differently,” Kronwall said. “I shouldn’t have put myself in that spot in the first place. He’s coming in with a lot of speed, sure, but I did turn at the last second. It goes fast out there and it’s so easy to go back and slow it down, look at it in slow motion, and be very smart about things. But it’s hockey and everything is high pace and it goes fast out there. Guys will make some bad decisions out there sometimes.

“In my case, I ended up on a stretcher. But I’m feeling pretty good and looking to get back out there.”

In his case, he ended up on a stretcher with a mild concussion and no post-concussive symptoms. Other players aren't so lucky.

As for Howard, he felt good going into the game...

Goalie Jimmy Howard returns to the lineup Saturday after missing the last three games with a bruised left hand.

“No issues, I feel fine,” Howard said. “I’m excited to get back out there and make some saves for the guys.”

And it is worth noting that Fox Sports Detroit showed Howard wearing a fingerless, padded white glove on his catching hand during the pre-game show.

Jonas Gustavsson, who's nursing a very, very, very well-worn pair of catching and blocking gloves, and usually has one or both hands taped up when he's on the bench charting faceoffs, had two of the "new" gloves on.

Regarding Smith, MLive's Ansar Khan noted that the player who played as a forward until he was 16 readily admitted that he's having some difficulty reining in his high-risk instincts:

“You have to adjust and play the style that will help your team win, the style coaches want you to play,’’ Smith said. “We want to get the puck in the forwards’ hands. They got great skill. That’s the biggest key for us. They love my competitive nature, so I’m just going to keep competing hard and play hard with the puck.’’

It’s not unusual for a young defenseman to experience growing pains. In fact, it’s expected, in most cases. Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl went through it and they’re better for it.

“I haven’t played that many games, so it’s always a learning experience,’’ Smith said. “Once I start focusing a little more on playing safe it’ll help me.’’

Said Babcock: “The way I would look at it is the evaluation period is 82 games long, not (four). I’d just be patient and keep watching him play. He’s a good player.’’

Captain Henrik Zetterberg, who remarked during the playoffs that Smith creates offense for the Red Wings and their opponent, offered this advice: “You got to learn while you’re playing and I think he has a lot of talent. Just got to go out and play solid, not try to do too much.’’

 

 

 

Otherwise...The Free Press's Lydia Lohrer reports that Wings coach Mike Babcock will appear on TV shortly, hunting for non-Olympic trophies in Central Asia...

Look for Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on the Outdoor Channel, as he heads to central Asia for a two-part TV special.

Babcock and host of “Nosler’s Magnum TV” Rob Dunham travel by car, horse and foot in search of their goal: the Marco Polo sheep and Mid-Asian ibex in Kyrgyzstan. Tune-in to see if Coach Babcock learns an offensive tactic or two from Dunham on this exhilarating hunt. You can catch the hunt at 4 p.m. Oct. 27.

And I hate to sound like a fuddy duddy, but I'm with the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons regarding the concept that "fancystats" are the wave of the future:

An enlightened NHL general manager went to a presentation recently made by a group trying to sell an analytics and advanced statistics package to the team. The GM was impressed with what he saw, was ready to make a deal, when he asked the question:

“If I hire you to do our team and every other team in the league, how will I know the compilation of statistics won’t vary from market to market?”

The answer was that they couldn’t guarantee that. So no deal was made.

I thought of that yesterday reading statistics on nhl.com where the Maple Leafs lead the NHL in giveaways with 133 and the Columbus Blue Jackets have 37. Those numbers cannot be comparable, they are market sensitive. What’s a giveaway in Toronto isn’t a giveaway in Columbus or New York, for example. What’s a hit in one market isn’t a hit in another.

“We compile our own statistics with our own people,” the GM told me. “That way we can trust the data and the information.” There is far too much inaccuracy in the numbers — from giveaways to takeaways,to hits to shots on goal — all them gathered by NHL statisticians in individual markets.

The Red Wings have their back-up goalie determine who wins faceoffs to keep them busy, they have their own statisticians, and their coaching staffs scout opponents by both relying on their pro scouts and physically watching their opponent's previous two games. That's telling.

It's been an incredibly long ten days for me, so you'll have to excuse the narrative flourish. It happens when you're tired.

Update: Insomnia yields this from MLive's Ansar Khan's main recap, via RedWingsFeed:

It started late in the second period, when Jonathan Ericsson was caught pinching, leading to an Antoine Vermette’s goal on a two-on-one with one minute remaining.

It continued in the third. Mike Ribeiro scored the first of his two goals at 5:07, willing an offensive zone faceoff from Joakim Andersson and then going to the net to knock in a rebound.

Martin Hazel notched what would prove to be the game-winner on a breakaway at 7:08, after Henrik Zetterberg’s dump-in attempt hit a lineman and caromed to Hanzal.

“The linesman tied to get out of the way,’’ Zetterberg said. “It hit him and all the sudden they had a breakaway. Sometimes you try to make the right play and it doesn’t work. But that’s the way it is. They play a tight game. They really took advantage of the chances they got.’’

Said Babcock: “I thought we started good, had good control of the game. We pinched there to get them started; we paid the price for it and then they just kept coming. After a day of rest we should have been fresher and much better, but we weren’t.’’

Ribeiro scored again at 13:14.

“We turned over too many pucks,’’ Babcock said.” In the second it started. And then we pinched late in the second to give up a freebie, that kind of got them going.’’

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Comments

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I leave to tend to sick kids with a 2-0 lead. Wake up and it’s 5-2.  Nuts!

Posted by SlimChance on 10/20/13 at 09:18 AM ET

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I thought Brendan Smith was awful. I don’t think he will be here by season’s end. I think it is very likely that the Wings are seeking an elite, top-pair defenseman. They have been since Summer 2012 when they struck out on Suter. They mentioned it last year and it has been quietly discussed (or not discussed) by the media since then. But I believe the team is actively searching for a deal partner.

I also think the Wings don’t feel Tatar’s game fits here. If Samuelsson, Miller, and Cleary - who so far have done nothing this year - continue to rank above him on the depth chart, there is a problem. I know Cleary is Babcock’s boy but the third and fourth lines have done next to nothing so far (I think four goals total). That’s 9 games where two lines have combined for 4 goals - completely unacceptable for a team with so much supposed forward depth.

Anyways, I think the Wings would like to package Smith, Tatar and Samuelsson for a stud d-man. Going to have to find someone who is in the last year of a deal or someone with one year left on a lower-cost deal. It will be difficult to work it out with the cap but I am convinced they want a top-pair D-man and will make a strong pitch for one. I think Smith and Tatar are the centerpieces in that trade.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 10/20/13 at 10:57 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

Wings tries to play dump and chase, and they will always lose that game.  Add Quincey/Smith to the mix, and you get the disaster we saw last night.

Posted by Hootinani on 10/20/13 at 11:15 AM ET

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I know I’m going to take a lot of grief for this comment, but I don’t think Brendan Smith played a bad game.  Yes, he was a -3 but I can’t look at any of the goals and think they were directly because of something he did.  I saw him make several good outlet passes and decide to just clear the puck when things got dicey.  He also made a couple of really good reads in the neutral zone that led to good scoring opportunities for the Wings.  Smith seems stuck in Ericsson’s old position where it doesn’t matter how many good things you do, once you make that 1 bad play it’s “same old Smith, another horrible game for the worst defenseman ever”.

The funny thing about all the Smith bashing in the live blog especially, is that the worst give away I saw in the defensive zone last night was made by DeKeyser.  No one said a word, and since it didn’t end up in the net I’d be surprised if many people even remember it.  I like what DeKeyser’s doing, don’t get me wrong, but it’s odd that he’s looked at as being so much better than Smith yet he’s still making mistakes too.

I’ve said it several times (as have other people), but I feel it’s the Smith/Quincey pairing that’s the problem more than Smith himself.  Those two don’t mesh, period.  Babcock will switch around forward pairings at times if they’re not looking good for a couple shifts, yet for some reason he’s stuck with this bad defensive pairing all year.  I don’t get it.

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 10/20/13 at 12:52 PM ET

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Valek - you have to hold the penalty shot against Smith too - he’s the guy who let Doan get behind him.

The concern I have is that Smith has had some glaringly bad games. The hope with him is that he puts these behind him and doesn’t keep making mistakes. Dude is -7 on the year. Team won 4 in a row without him. Then lost the first game he is back. They are 2-3 with him in the lineup.

I agree maybe it’s time to break him from Quincey. But I think the problem is that for the most part, the other two pairings are playing pretty well (including the DeKeyser-Ericsson temporary pairing). Why disrupt multiple D pairings when 2 of 3 are working well. It’s on pairing 3 to step it up.

Your point about DeKeyser is legitimate - I saw the bad giveaway and I cursed at my TV about it. But he plays pretty steady. One mistake, even if it is bad, isn’t going to be a huge deal. But Smith seems to have a way of collecting these colossal errors and brutal stat lines. If that happens occasionally, fine. But it just seems like it happens too frequently.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 10/20/13 at 01:42 PM ET

Tracy from T-Town Hockey 's avatar

I agree on changing the defensive pairings.  I think Kindl with Smith might be better.  I also thought Smith had a decent game and showed improvement.  Ericsson had a couple of bad pinches that stood out more than Smith’s errors.  All of the D-men had mistakes durring the game.

Posted by Tracy from T-Town Hockey on 10/20/13 at 01:44 PM ET

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Smith needs to try and slow his game down and realize he can’t make the same plays in the NHL that he did in the AHL. Ericsson had that terrible pinch that led directly to a goal and Smith did let Doan get behind him, but I think the primary problem on D is Quincy. I can’t believe we gave up a #1 pick to get him back and if I’m trading a defenseman this year it’s him.

Posted by AZWinger on 10/20/13 at 03:18 PM ET

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I agree about Quincey. Holland had a bad 2012. The Quincey trade was bad, the Tootoo and Samuelsson signings were just awful. Now they have to ice a team that is not the best possible team they can assemble. That’s on Holland. It’s unacceptable that the 3rd and 4th lines have been pretty bad this year (even the 2nd line has been up and down) and yet Tatar and Nyquist are not playing. I have questions about Tatar - but I have a feeling if he and Nyquist were on the 3rd line with Andersson,

Anyways, we have a bunch of guys making a lot of money on the 3rd and 4th lines and in the press box. That’s on Holland.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 10/20/13 at 03:41 PM 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.