Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Flames wrap-up and overnight report: desperate times

The Detroit Red Wings are in trouble, and the only people that can help the Wings are the players who don red and white jerseys every night.

After dropping a 3-2 decision to the Calgary Flames--the Wings' third straight loss against Calgary--the 20-16-and-7 Wings (having played 43 games and possessing 18 Regulation-or-OT Wins) have 47 points and sit in 9th place in the Western Conference, 2 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets (21 wins, 16 ROWs, 44 games played, and Columbus defeated Anaheim 3-2 in OT on Wednesday evening), 2 points ahead of the Dallas Stars (21 wins, 19 ROWs, 42 games played, and Dallas hosts Vancouver on Thursday) and 4 points ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes (18 wins, 15 ROWs, 42 games played, and if the Coyotes lose to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, St. Louis would jump from 50 to 52 points, and would essentially be out of reach).

Again, long story short, especially if the Blues defeat the Coyotes this evening, there are 4 teams battling for 1 playoff spot, and the Wings do not own that playoff spot at present.

The Wings boarded Red Bird III to head to Vancouver and take a day off ahead of preparing for Saturday night's Hockey Night in Canada game against the Canucks, and with 5 games remaining--in Vancouver on Saturday, at home against Phoenix on Monday the 22nd, at home against Los Angeles on Wednesday the 24th, at home against Nashville on Thursday the 25th, and in Dallas against the Stars on Saturday, April 27th--the Wings can probably make the playoffs "without help" if they earn 8 points (and hit 53 on the season), but that means taking four of five.

As was the case in the Wings' 5-2 loss to Calgary on February 5th and especially their 5-2 loss to Calgary on March 13th, the Wings' wounds were largely self-inflicted, and as usual, the Wings either couldn't or wouldn't score enough or threaten Miikka Kiprusoff's sightlines regularly enough (the Wings fired 38 shots on Kiprusoff and sent another 32 attempts wide or into Flames players) to assuage for their defensive gaffes.

I know my opinion is unpopular in this regard, but I believe that the Wings are at a point where the coaching staff can only do so much. By the 75-game mark in an 82-game season, rotating a new coach every day wouldn't resonate, because the players are banged-up, mentally and emotionally tired and are like a bunch of schoolkids in early June, thinking about the summer vacation that is playoff hockey. Babcock, Tom Renney and Bill Peters are doing what they can in terms of tweaking personnel, changing lines and adjusting ice time, but down the stretch, it really is on the players...

And they haven't delivered. Perhaps because, as TSN's Jamie McLennan strangely noted, it's not Nicklas Lidstrom's outlet passes that the Wings can't seem to live without, but instead, it's Tomas Holmstrom's crease-crashing, goalie-screening, rebound-retrieving skill set that none of the Red Wings' remaining veterans or young players seem to possess.

As such, this team rarely recovers when it gives up the game's first goal, and it incredibly rarely scores more than 2 itself.

The fact that Miikka Kiprusoff played as he's always tended to play against Detroit didn't help, and while we're gonna skip the fluffernutter--you may read the Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank's story about the "Kipper Kid" returning to the Saddledome, or Mike Vernon's take on Kiprusoff's future via conversations with the Calgary Herald's George Johnson and the Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson on your own, and the same may as well be said for the Calgary Sun's Eric Francis' ode to Kipper...

The Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak ties Kiprusoff's fantastic performance (gah, I hate saying that out loud) into the game's narrative...

It took some wild and wacky third-period goals to drum up the victory for the hosts. With the score tied at one apiece through 40 minutes — Lee Stempniak scored for the hosts, and Gustav Nyquist replied for the visitors — Steve Begin played offensive hero by twice taking advantage of glaring puck-handling miscues by Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.

First, Begin was on the spot to whack at a loose puck in Howard’s feet when the netminder figured defenceman Jonathan Ericsson had taken it from him. Second, Begin simply stole the puck from Howard while he was behind the net and netted a shorthanded tally.

“Guys think I cut a deal with the goalie on the other side, but just lucky bounces. It’s weird,” Begin said. “Usually, you’re not supposed to go behind the net, but I thought I had a chance to create something, and I ended up with the puck on my stick, and it ended up pretty good.”

Then, whether Howard’s antics were contagious or it was a tribute to old friend Vesa Toskala, Kiprusoff had a miscue of his own to help the Wings pull within one late in the affair.

Kiprusoff completely misplayed Johan Franzen’s dump-in from the neutral zone and watched it bounce in front of him and into the cage.

“I was matching that with my second goal, hoping he’d feel a little better after that,” Kiprusoff said. “As a goalie, we didn’t shoot in the second period, so it’s not the easiest game. For me, they were shooting more and more because we had the lead.”

Kiprusoff continued while speaking to the Calgary Herald's George Johnson:

The glove shot up, in the blink of an eye, like Superman catching a silver bullet between his fingers or Brooks Robinson moving effortlessly to snare a liner down the third-base line. Just in the nick of time. Just like old times.

“Yeah, it felt good,” admitted Miikka Kiprusoff. “Especially after I made it . . . a little more interesting at the end there.”

That spectacular save off Detroit defenceman Jakob Kindl, with 16.6 seconds remaining, the Red Wings’ net empty and Curtis Glencross taking up space in the penalty box, saved the day in a 3-2 Calgary victory that leaves Detroit’s precarious playoff hopes still hanging in the balance. On a night the Flames were officially eliminated from post-season contention — as if there was any doubt — Kiprusoff was in vintage form, in what may very well be his second-last appearance as a Calgary Flame at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

...

“It was an unbelievable feeling,” said Kiprusoff. “I think the crowd has been great for me since I came here and again tonight was a pretty nice feeling in front of them. It means a lot.”

...

Outside of that crazy Johan Franzen backhander from just across centre that skipped behind him at 12:53 of the third period (that “interesting” moment Kiprusoff mentioned earlier), the silent Finn was exemplary to sensational. He has, of course, become accustomed to battening down the hatches when confronted by the relentless tempest the Red Wings can conjure up. He withstood another storm Wednesday, 36 saves in all.

“They’re always a pretty smart road team. And there’s always traffic. It’s always tough against them.”’

With his future as a Calgary Flame very much the topic of conversation, the 36-year-old franchise puck-stopper made Wednesday a night to remember. Friday he starts again, against the Anaheim Ducks.

“I’m aware of that (the speculation). I’m not gonna lie. With everything that’s going on. I haven’t played in a few games, and I haven’t win lately, so I was (motivated) by that, too.”

So the Flames played the spoiler's role to a tee, as the Canadian Press's recap suggests...

"We always say when you work hard, things somehow (are) going to turn for you," Begin said. "I guess it happened tonight not once, but twice."

Begin took advantage of a pair of blunders by Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard to score his third and fourth goals of the season.

"The guys think I cut a deal with the goalie on the other side," Begin said. "Two goals, two similar ones. I can't really tell you what happened. I was just chasing the puck and it ended up on my stick. It's always good to get those goals."

Lee Stempniak also scored for the Flames (17-22-4), who won all three games they played against the Red Wings this season. Despite the win, the Flames were officially eliminated from playoff contention when the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday.

Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen scored for the Red Wings (20-16-7), who had gone 2-1-2 in their previous five games. Detroit fell to ninth spot in the NHL's Western Conference by virtue of the Blue Jackets' win.

Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 36-of-38 shots he faced in the Calgary net to record his first win since he making 36 saves in a 3-2 win at home to St. Louis on March 24. Joey MacDonald had started the previous three games in net for the Flames. After being named the game's first star, Kiprusoff was given a loud ovation by the appreciative fans in attendance at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"Tonight it was a pretty nice feeling to play in front of them," Kiprusoff said. "As a player, you really appreciate that. It makes your job so much easier when the crowd is behind you."

And the Flames' website's Torrie Peterson added significant figures to the mix...

9: Hits thrown by the Flames in the first period. Matt Stajan and Curtis Glencross led the way with two each. The Red Wings had just three hits credited to them.

...

2: Tallies off of Steve Begin's stick. The gritty veteran now has nine goals this year.

...
36: Saves by Miikka Kiprusoff.

While Aaron Vickers offered some rather obvious "Inside the Game" statements:

GOAL OF THE GAME: After taking a drop pass from Stempniak, Baertschi spun and quickly sailed a pass slightly behind Sarich. Forced to spin to receive the pass, Sarich fired a shot on net kicked out by Howard onto the stick of Stempniak, who buried the rebound at 13:28 of the first period.

SAVE OF THE GAME: With just 16.6 seconds remaining in the game and with Detroit on a 6-on-4 advantage, Kiprusoff came out to challenge Kindl alone in the slot, who uncorked a howitzer that the Flames goaltender flashed the leather on -- the most spectacular of his 36 stops.

TURNING POINT: Begin's second gift at 12:53 gave the Flames a two-goal lead and served as the eventual winner over the Red Wings.

Vickers also penned NHL.com's recap, and it's here that we'll shift from the Flames' perspectives to those of the Red Wings' coach and players:

"You guys follow hockey and watch hockey for years and you never see two of those plays in one game – never mind one year," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. It's not like we don't work on it all the time, your goalie-D exchange, it just happens to end up in your net. You can't outscore the mistakes like that."

The loss -- coupled with an overtime victory by the Columbus Blue Jackets -- drops Detroit out of a playoff spot and into ninth in the West. The Red Wings have a game at hand over the Blue Jackets.

"You've got to win your way in," Babcock said. "You can't watch your way in. You've got to win your way in. We take a lot of pride in being a real competitive team. I think we've been competitive this year. We're not at the level we've been in the past for sure, but we've competed hard. I thought we competed hard tonight, but we didn't start on time and we made a couple mistakes."

No shit, Sherlock.

With the puck tangled in Howard's feet behind the net after a miscommunication with defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, Begin bounced the puck off the Detroit goaltender and into the back of the net just 2:28 into the third period for a 2-1 lead.

"It's just an unfortunate break. It's no one's fault," Howard said. "[Ericsson] said it handcuffed him a little bit. The third one, it's a total mistake by me."

After Kiprusoff robbed Pavel Datsyuk on a one-timer and Henrik Zetterberg's rebound attempt at 8:16, Begin extended Calgary's lead on his second gift from Howard. Retrieving a dump in with the Detroit on the power play, Howard went and fetched the puck behind the net. With Begin pressuring him and no defensemen to outlet a pass to, Howard fanned on his attempt to ring it around the boards. The Flames forward scooped up the puck and calmly wrapped the puck around into the net.

"I made a mistake on the third one, simple as that," Howard said. "Last time I checked I'm human. It was a tough one tonight because it was the game winner."

If I may air some frustration: you're paid to be superhuman, Jimmy. You didn't get any help, but you're paid to be superhuman on nights like Wednesday.

In any case, as MLive's Ansar Khan noted (quote-less recap penned as well, as usual), the Red Wings tried to not linger too long upon their near-ridiculous streak of bad luck, be it earned or unearned...

“They didn't even score the goals,'' Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It was almost like we scored for them.''

...

“Obviously, the exchange between E and Howie is a tough one for us,'' Babcock said. “And the last one, I assume, (Brunner) thought it was going to get rimmed to Howie and (Quincey) thought the same thing. Howie thought he was in a bad spot with it dribbling towards him. It’s a big mistake.''

Johan Franzen cut the deficit to 3-2 with 2:42 to play on a backhand dump-in from the neutral zone that took a weird bounce and eluded Kiprusoff.

The Red Wings, who got a second-period goal from Gustav Nyquist (12:31), had some quality chances in the third, but fell short. Going 0-for-5 on the power play didn't help.

“I think we shot ourselves a little bit in the foot,'' Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We came out really flat. They were winning all the 50-50 battles. It takes a period before we wake up, and after that we played well, but once again can't capitalize when we have our chances.''

Said Howard: “It's a tough thing to swallow, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I got to forget about this and get ready for Saturday in Vancouver.''

And while Babcock offered a "that's the facts"-style statement about the "win your way in" method to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...

"I deal in realism and facts and the facts speak pretty clearly," coach Mike Babcock said. "It's urgent for us. You have to win your games, you can't watch your way in, you have to win your way."

The Wings' captain got down to brass tacks...

"If you take away the first period tonight, we have been playing pretty good lately," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "But we have to get points. We can't just play good and not get points. We have to get two-pointers."

As did his alternate captain...

"Our start was unacceptable," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.

And so did Babcock, at least when he was talking about the team's power play...

"When you're 0-for-5 on the power play and give up a shorthanded goal, that's a tough night for you on the PP," Babcock said. "We had some real good looks at the end, but the goalie was playing well at that point."

And, as the Free Press's Helene St. James noted, the Wings' crappy starts over the past...Month?

"I thought we'd have better jump tonight right from the get-go," Babcock said. "I didn't think we skated at all, besides Andersson's line. That was our best line early and we didn't have a whole bunch of other guys going."

The Wings are just too content to be steered to the side boards by their opponent and too content to skate up ice only to endlessly loop back, back and back some more, surrendering superb scoring chances for the sake of looking for a passing play or a point shot so very regularly that I wonder whether the overworked Kronwall, Jakub Kindl or Jonathan Ericsson (he of the ever-dangerous, "Hmm, this is a risky situation, pinch or stay back and cover the outlet pass...Pinch!" play that leads to so many odd-man rushes) might be better-served to throw up their hands in disgust and say, "We can't do the shooting for you 100% of the time!"

But there's so much more going on that makes me believe that this team is beyond coaches' help, whether it's the fact that the forwards are both so back-pass happy that it's silly or the equally bizarre fact that the forwards tend to cheat so severely toward offense that we're seeing Wings defensemen, trying to start play from behind their net, being chased out of the "pocket" below the goal line like never before, or forced to throw the puck away because there are no wingers available to pass to (have we ever heard the Wings' defensemen or goalies yell, "Wheel, wheel, wheel!" before this season?)...

Or the fact that the defensemen are playing so simply dead-level in terms of their orientation and five feet too wide apart laterally to stagger back or squeeze together to prevent so many of those short-handed and even-strength breakaways heading toward Howard...

Or the fact that the power play drop pass at center ice seems to be the only way the forwards believe they should skate through the neutral zone at even-strength--with everyone standing still save the one puck-carrier launching himself into 4 or 5 opposing players stacked up at the blueline...

Or the fact that forwards shoot at the net and turn away from it, turn toward the boards to regroup instead of charging after pucks to chase down rebounds, or the fact that Valtteri Filppula no longer gives up 10 or 15 feet of space inside the blueline to peel back and make that inevitable pass, but instead, that he's giving up eighty or ninety feet of ice before skating back into his own zone to send the puck toward a stunned defenseman or even goaltender...

Or the fact that even Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are pulling the Todd Bertuzzi-esque, "Well, if I skate around the outside of the defenseman with one hand on my stick, I'll surely get to the inside somehow" lazy net-drive that leads to nowhere, or that even they are passing up fantastic opportunities to shoot to make the perfect pass on such a regular basis that Johan Franzen and the now-exhausted Damien Brunner look like players with only one target in the opposing netminder's crease by comparison?

Late in the season, most hockey teams have built up so much momentum in terms of their trajectory and in terms of their good and bad habits that it's almost impossible to stop the runaway train from drifting to the left, to the right, or off the rails, and in so many ways, neither the coaching staff nor its best players seem to have the pull necessary to pry the Wings away from that rail bridge that has no middle, right at the intersection of Playoff Canyon and the Golf Course Gultch below.

So what are the Red Wings this season? A team that has yet to establish its post-Lidstrom and perhaps more importantly post-Holmstrom identity, a team whose young players, as exciting as they might be and as promising as they might appear to you and me, may not have been ready for prime time, a team that, from the outset, was doomed by both injuries...

And the simple inability to have seven months and 82 games' worth of regular season to find its form, its content, its composition and its flair, panache, poise, swagger, and, most importantly, the health that was designed to bring veterans and established players into the mix that were supposed to ease the transition to the post-Lidstrom, post-Holmstrom, post-Stuart team.

In the end, perhaps this team really has missed Darren Helm, Todd Bertuzzi, and even a healthy Mikael Samuelsson, Carlo Colaiacovo and Jonas Gustavsson more than we know, and perhaps its only remedy is something neither the team, its coaches, its management or you or I have in another full season to determine which personnel voids it can fill from within and which pressing issues (another goal-scoring forward with a nose for the net, a top-pair defenseman to spare Niklas Kronwall from playing 25-27 minutes a night and a reliable back-up goaltender) it needs to fill from the free agency, cap compliance buy-out and trade markets.

There are many people who will tell you today that the Wings will be better-served by the massive personnel changes that would theoretically follow a playoff-less spring.

Don't tell that to the players, or the coach, or fans like me, who've been around long enough to know that this team's management has never made wholesale changes for the sake of making changes.

As such, per St. James:

"We're shooting ourselves a little bit in the foot," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "We're coming out really flat tonight. They were winning all the 50-50 battles. They basically dominated the first period. It takes a period for us to wake up, and after that, we play well, but once again, we can't really capitalize when we have the chances."

With Columbus winning at Anaheim, the Wings dropped into ninth place, but they have a game in hand and have two more regulation or overtime victories than the Blue Jackets.

"The facts speak clear, in that this is an urgent moment for us," coach Mike Babcock said. "You've got to win your way in. You can't watch your way in. You've got to win your way in. I thought we competed hard tonight, but we didn't start on time, and we made a couple mistakes."

The Wings can't afford any more mistakes, which is scary, because hockey is a game of mistakes, and it's a game in which those who prey upon others' mistakes are rewarded.

And this year's team is nothing if not mistake-prone as opposed to mistake-predatory.

As Zetterberg told DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose, Miikka Kiprusoff may have played "heroically," but the Wings greatly aided "Kipper's" cause during his swan song and fond farewell:

“He was good, played real well, made some key saves,” said Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, of Kiprusoff, who made 36 saves to earn his first win in his last seven starts.

“But still we had our chances,” Zetterberg said. “We should be able to get more than two past him.”

Multimedia:

Highlights: TSN, which aired the game in Canada, posted a 2:13 highlight clip;

Sportsnet posted a 1:04 highlight clip;

And the Red Wings website's highlight clip is at least narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:

Post-game: The Flames' website posted clips of Steve Begin, Lee Stempniak, Miikka Kiprusoff and Flames coach Bob Hartley speaking to the media after the game, as well as a clip of "sights and sounds" from the affair;

Via RedWingsFeed, Fox Sports posted Trevor Thompson's interview with a shell-shocked Gustav Nyquist after the game...

TSN posted a 4:51 clip of post-game reaction from both sides, including Jimmy Howard, Henrik Zetterberg and Mike Babcock from the Wings, Bob Hartley and Miikka Kiprusoff;

TSN's "That's Hockey 2 Night" Steve Kouleas and Jamie McLennan duly noted that the Wings desperately miss Tomas Holmstrom's net-front grit;

The Calgary Sun embedded a clip from Hartley's presser in its recap;

And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Jimmy Howard...

Henrik Zetterberg...

And coach Mike Babcock speaking with the media after the game:

As such, Babcock's game-day presser, the Wings' game-day preview (starring Jimmy Howard) and E.J. Hradek's praise for Ken Holland all seem bitterly ironic.

Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 27-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 15-image gallery;

The Calgary Herald posted a 13-image gallery;

The Windsor Star posted 6 images from the game;

MLive posted 6 images from the game;

ESPN posted a 37-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted 26 images from the game in its Wings gallery;

And NHL.com, the Flames' website and the Wings' website posted 26-image galleries.

Statistics:

Shots 38-17 Detroit overall.
Detroit was out-shot 10-8 in the 1st period but out-shot Calgary 11-2 in the 2nd and 19-5 in the 3rd.

The Wings went 0-for-5 in 7:29 of PP time and gave up a shorthanded goal; the Flames went 0-for-1 in 59 seconds of PP time but scored a shorthanded goal.

Jimmy Howard stopped 14 of 17 shots; Mikka Kiprusoff stopped 36 of 38.

The 3 stars were picked by The Fan 960, and they were Gustav Nyquist, Steve Begin and Miikka Kiprusoff.

The Wings' goals: Nyquist (3) from Andersson (5) and Cleary (5);

Franzen (10) from Quincey (2) and Smith (7).

Faceoffs 27-27;

Blocked shots 14-8 Calgary;

Missed shots 18-8 Detroit (total attempts 70-33 Detroit, with Detroit firing 38 shots on Kiprusoff and another 32 wide or into Flames players);

Hits 18-7 Calgary;

Giveaways 15-9 Calgary;

Takeaways 7-6 Calgary.

Individual stats,TMR style:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 9-and-8 (53%); Zetterberg went 6-and-8 (43%); Andersson went 7-and-7 (50%); Emmerton went 3-and-2 (60%); Abdelkader and Nyquist won their only faceoffs; Brunner and Franzen lost their only faceoffs.

Shots: Zetterberg led the team with 8 shots; Brunner had 7; Datsyuk had 4; Nyquist and Filppula had 3; Kindl, DeKeyser and Franzen had 2; Abdelkader, Cleary, Miller and Quincey had 1.

Blocked attempts: Kronwall hit Flames players 3 times; Quincey, Ericsson and Andersson had 2 shot attempts blocked; Smith, Cleary, Nyquist, Eaves and Filppula had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Nyquist and Franzen missed the net 3 times; Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Filppula missed the net  2 times; Kindl, Abdelkader, Eaves, Zetterberg, Andersson and DeKeyser missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Abdelkader had 3 hits; Cleary had 2; Kronwall and Franzen had 1.

Giveaways: Kindl, Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, Filppula, Ericsson, Kronwall, Andersson and obviously Howard had giveaways.

Takeaways: Zetterberg had 2 takeaways; Abdelkader, Nyquist, Emmerton and Filppula had 1 takeaway.

Blocked opponent shots: Quincey blocked 3 Flames shots; Kronwall blocked 2; Emmerton, Ericsson and DeKeyser blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Danny Cleary was tagged with the Wings' only minor penalty.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -5. Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Kronwall finished at -2; Kindl, Abdelkader, Eaves, Miller and Emmerton finished at -1; Smith, Nyquist, Brunner, Andersson and Franzen finished at +1.

Points: Nyquist and Franzen scored goals; Smith, Cleary, Quincey and Andersson had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 26:06 played; Zetterberg played 24:29; Kindl played 22:25;

Datsyuk played 20:51; Ericsson played 19:18; Filppula played 18:42;

Quincey played 17:54; DeKeyser played 16:57; Franzen played 16:16;

Brunner played 16:09; Cleary played 15:44; Nyquist played 15:26;

Smith played 15:22; Abdelkader played 14:56; Andersson played 13:30;

Miller played 9:02; Emmerton played 8:15; Eaves played 7:44.

In the prospect department, if you missed it, the Grand Rapids Griffins posted their weekly release (they host the Peoria Rivermen on Friday and then play in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters on Saturday and in Chicago against the Wolves on Sunday, concluding their regular season) and a photo gallery of Teemu Pulkkinen practicing with the team;

Ditto, from RedWingsProspects on Twitter:

Sproul spoke to the Sault Star's Peter Ruicci about the news:

“I'm very excited. It would be amazing to win it,” said Sproul, who joined the American Hockey League's Grand Rapids Griffins when the Hounds playoff run ended with a 4-2, opening-round series loss to the Owen Sound Attack.

The Griffins are the top farm team of the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, who selected Sproul in the second round (55th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

“To be a finalist is an incredible honour,” said Sproul, who led all OHL defencemen in scoring this season with 20 goals and 46 assists, good for 66 points in just 50 games.

He also added two goals and three assists in six playoff tilts.

“To be recognized along with the other top defencemen in the league is great,” Sproul added.

The list of finalists also includes: Ryan O'Connor (Barrie Colts), Scott Harrington (London Knights), Dylan DeMelo (Mississauga Steelheads), Matt Petgrave (Oshawa Generals) and Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia Sting).

RedWingsCentral's Matthew Wuest also penned a prospect report discussing the Wings' remaining playoff-playing prospects in Major Junior Hockey, and according to Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager, the Alan Quine's Belleville Bulls will begin the OHL's Eastern Conference Final at home against Andreas Athanasiou's Barrie Colts--on a 200'x100' rink instead of a 200'x85' one;

In the USHL, on Tuesday, Mike McKee registered an assist as his Lincoln Stars lost 3-2 to Sioux Falls in their playoff opener, but McKee also registered an assist in Lincoln's playoff-tying 4-0 win over Sioux Falls on Wednesday;

And James De Haas and the Penticton Vees will attempt to tie their BCHL final against the Surrey Eagles tonight in Game 4;

And that's it. Other than perhaps hearing about Jordan Pearce's fate, until the World Championships begin with Calle Jarnkrok playing for Sweden, it's the Griffins, the Quine-Athanasiou OHL semifinal, Xavier Ouellet's Blainville-Boisbriand Armada battling Baie-Comeau in one QMJHL semifinal on Friday and Martin Frk's Halifax Mooseheads tangling with Rouyn-Noranda in the other QMJHL final, McKee, De Haas, the end.

 

Red Wings and Flames notebooks: I genuinely despise the Alanis Morissette definition of irony. The, "Oh, ha ha, isn't it amusing that difficulty has befallen you!" bullshit.

And while I think that the Calgary Herald's George Johnson is one of the better writers and reporters in the hockey universe, the fact that he talked to Danny Cleary about the Wings' playoff streak being in jeopardy is incredibly "ironic" in the Alanis sense of the term:

“We don’t want to let that streak end,” Dan Cleary, eight years a Red Wing, is saying the morning of Game 43 of this uncharacteristically-anxiety-filled, lockout-shortened Motor City campaign. “We don’t want to let it end on our watch. On Hank (Henrik Zetterberg)’s watch, him being the captain. It’s another driving force. There’s a lot of pride in this room, for sure.”

To put Detroit’s longevity feat in perspective: Sid the Kid was Sid the Tyke in the spring of 1990, all of two and a half years old. Stevie Y was captain of the Wings then and Rick Zombo played the most games on defence. Coach Jacques Demers used four goaltenders — Tim Cheveldae, Glen Hanlon, Sam St. Laurent and Greg Stefan — and still the Winged Wheel wound up ninth in the Clarence Campbell Conference, five points shy of the L.A. Kings.

That summer, they DRAFTED Nick Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov. So yes, we’re scrolling back a ways. Since then, the Wings been the gold standard for every NHL organization.

We’ve simply come to accept them being involved in the playoffs, putting an authentic Stanley Cup contender on the ice, as a matter of course; a given. Yet readying for the bottom-feeding Calgary Flames on Wednesday morning they found themselves tied with the who-in-blazes-do-they-think-they-are Columbus Blue Jackets for eighth spot in the Western Conference. The Jagr-less, Morrow-less Dallas Stars hovered an uneasy two points adrift.

Usually we’re not discussing not ‘if’ but ‘who’ in terms of post-season for the Red Wings. So this is indisputably an unfamiliar, precarious position for GM Ken Holland and Co. to find themselves in.

“There hasn’t been any panic, that’s for sure,” emphasized goaltender Jimmy Howard. “But there is a sense of urgency. We’ve been playing with that the last several games and it’s going to be no different tonight. The guys who played here before us set the bar real high. That’s a good thing. In Detroit every single year, it’s the Stanley Cup playoffs, and make a run towards the Cup. Those standards, even though they’re high, they’re something for us a team to have a common goal.”

If this current fight to actually slide into the playoffs has done anything, it’s reinforced how ridiculously well the Wings have been run for over two decades. Through changing times, financial landscapes, personnel turnovers and trends, they’ve been the constant.

The Globe and Mail's Alan Maki spoke to the Wings' personnel about their precarious position, too:

"When you get 125 points and you drop the puck in the first round [of the playoffs], there’s pressure,” head coach Mike Babcock said prior to Wednesday’s game against the Calgary Flames. “Now, the pressure on us is to maximize our potential and be as good as we’re capable of being. I think we’re where we should be, to be honest with you. I think we’re battling hard. I’ve heard all year we’re not consistent. We are consistent. You go through each month we’re one game or two games over [.500] each month. This is what we are.”

The Red Wings’ metamorphosis is especially evident in goal. Although the team has had good goalies in the past, it chose not to go long term or overpay for the position, instead using its money for pivotal players up front and on defence. On Tuesday, Detroit announced it had signed goaltender Jimmy Howard to a six-year contract extension worth $31.8-million (U.S.). Again, Babcock says, the signing was predicated by what the Red Wings have become as they fight for the playoffs.

“[Howard has] worked hard every day in practice, been a team leader for us on the ice, that’s made a huge difference. The other thing is, our team is not like it once was,” Babcock explained. “We could get by with very few stops, now we need stops. Our goaltender has to be better for us to be successful.”

Howard has kept Detroit in the hunt with three shutouts and a goals-against average of 2.31. Knowing the No. 1 job is undeniably his, and knowing what the Red Wings have accomplished since 1990, including four Stanley Cup wins, Howard believes there is enough motivation for the team to extend its record playoff streak to 22 seasons.

“There hasn’t been any panic, that’s for sure. But there is a sense of urgency,” he said. “The guys who have played before us have set the bar real high. It’s a good thing. In Detroit, every single year it’s [been]: make the Stanley Cup playoffs and make a run for the Cup. So those standards, even though they’re high, it’s something for us as a team to go after.”

...

“The way we’re approaching it? We’re in the first round [of the playoffs] right now,” defenceman Kyle Quincey said.

The Wings' press corps descended upon Joey MacDonald, and given that Jonas Gustavsson's struggled so mightily while MacDonald's found a home in Calgary is also Alanis ironic. As the Free Press's Helene St. James noted:

MacDonald sat on the bench as backup to Miikka Kiprusoff in the Flames' 3-2 victory over the Wings Wednesday, but MacDonald has outplayed Kiprusoff at times this season, going 7-7-1 with a 2.91 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. He's possibly earned himself an extension with the Flames, especially with Kiprusoff expected to retire, and at the very least has made a case for another NHL team to give him a chance.

MacDonald, 33, would've liked that team to be Detroit. He said it was "disappointing" to leave.

"I know I belong there," he said. "Things went kind of downhill when they signed Jonas there in July. But, I look back now, I've played 18 games. If I was there, I wouldn't have played that many games. I'm in a contract year. It worked out to the best."

It didn't work out so well for the Wings. After spending the first month nursing a pulled groin, Gustavsson has struggled to the point he's gone 2-2-1 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .879 save percentage. He hasn't played since entering the March 31 game against Chicago in relief of Jimmy Howard.

MLive's Ansar Khan also spoke to MacDonald...

“It's disappointing. I spent a lot of time there. I know I belong there,'' MacDonald said. “Things went kind of downhill when they signed Jonas. But, it's the way it is. I look back now, I played 18 games already. If I was there, I wouldn't have played that many games. It's a contract year. It worked out in the best. Great bunch of guys here and I like it a lot. I think there's a bright future here. Hopefully I'll be a part of it.''

MacDonald dressed as Mikka Kiprusoff's backup Wednesday against the Red Wings.

Kiprusoff is expected to retire after the season, and the Flames don't have any goalies besides MacDonald who appear NHL-ready. MacDonald's chances of getting an offer from Calgary appear to be good.

“I didn't play in 11 months; coming in I didn't know how my back was, that was always on my mind,'' MacDonald said. “Now I'm getting a chance to play. Things are going good. My game's probably the best it's been in a long time. I would love to stay here. Hopefully, it'll work out but if not hopefully I'll get an opportunity somewhere else.''

And here's Alanis irony in triplicate: Kyle Quincey ended up even on the night because he was on the ice for Franzen's one-hopper, but he certainly didn't do that much to assuage for his and Damien Brunner's part in the second Begin goal. As the Free Press's Helene St. James noted before the game, however, Babcock believes that Quincey's played the best out of the group of players battling for the 5th and 6th spots on the Wings' defense in Quincey, Brendan Smith, Ian White, Brian Lashoff and Carlo Colaiacovo:

"Things haven't gone as good this last little bit, and he found himself out of the lineup for a couple of games," Babcock said. "We think he's capable of playing every day and being important for us. That's why he went back in here."

Quincey originally wasn't going to be in the lineup, but that changed after he stood out during Tuesday's practice. "Our guys that were supposed to be scratched worked real hard and competed real hard, and he was the hardest worker of that group," Babcock said. "That tells me something right there."

Babcock has nine defensemen available and has rotated a handful. He doesn't want that to continue. "I want the guys to know they're playing every day," he said. "I want them to earn their chunk of cheese and hang onto it."

Several names are set: Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl. Newcomer Danny DeKeyser has impressed with his mobility and willingness to go get the puck. Brendan Smith has had some rough outings recently, but he's a good puckhandler. The other options are Quincey, Colaiacovo, Ian White and Brian Lashoff.

Quincey is determined to secure a spot, saying, "I have to focus on -- don't try to do too much. I think that's what got me in a little bit of trouble in Chicago. Just be solid, simple and not try to do too much."

Alanis irony times 4? The Windsor Star's Jim Parker posted a few more quips from Ken Holland regarding Jimmy Howard's contract extension:

"This deal, for us and I think for Jimmy, gives him security, it gives us security (and) stability. In the next year, we're going to wake up and it's going to be a good cap number, a fair cap number in relation to what the other people in the league are making."

Detroit's second-round pick in 2003 out of the University of Maine, the six-foot, 220-pound Howard spent the majority of his first four pro seasons with the club's American Hockey League team in Grand Rapids before taking over the No. 1 job in Detroit in 2009-10.

"Being a former goaltender myself, I believe 28 to 32-33 are your prime years," Holland said. "When you factor in the experience and knowledge that you need to be at your peek, prime years, he's just coming into them."

The good story of the morning? Justin Abdelkader is playing well, and he's earned his praise from coach Babcock, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted...

"Abdelkader, for me, has gone from being a fourth line center to playing with Pavel every night and tied with (Henrik) Zetterberg, (Johan) Franzen and (Daniel) Cleary for goals,” said coach Mike Babcock when asked who the Red Wings’ most improved player has been this season.

Following a very slow start to the season, Abdelkader has found his niche with Datsyuk. The former Michigan State standout has scored a career-high nine goals while maintain his physicality on the forecheck. He leads the team with 104 hits, which ranks 10th among Western Conference forwards.

“In a regular season that’s a 20-goal season,” Babcock said, following the Wings’ morning skate at ScotiaBank Saddledome on Wednesday. “That’s a home run for him. He’s an every-dayer, he plays every night. So when you add that altogether I think he’s been the guy.”

...

“The reason that he gets to play with Pav, is Pav likes him,” Babcock said. “He gets him the puck back. He’s at the net and gets out of the way. He’s not confused with what his role is. Lots of people think you should have another real skilled guy playing with (Datsyuk), well that’s Zetterberg or that’s Franzen. But it’s not three guys who want the puck. There’s no puck. Pav wants it, and he wants somebody to give it to him. That’s what Abbie does.”

As did the Free Press's St. James...

Abdelkader is succeeding in the role last held by Tomas Holmstrom: Going into corners, digging out the puck, getting it to Datsyuk, or maybe Henrik Zetterberg, sometimes even Johan Franzen, and then going to the net.

"It's been a lot of fun," Abdelkader said. "I thought I was going to be playing more center this year but kind of got bumped to the wing and I've gotten accustomed to playing there. I enjoy it. It allows me to be in on the forecheck and be down low more. And obviously playing with Pav, or Mule or Z, whoever it is, they're all tremendous players."

Babcock long has preferred to have Abdelkader play wing, because Abdelkader's strengths are his physicality and his skating, not so much his vision.

"Some guys see it all," Babcock said. "Some guys don't. So in this league, to be a center, if you want to be a point-producer, you've got to be able to see things. You've got to be able to make the people around you better."

...

It was on the Wings' first trip to Western Canada, last month, that the offense started coming: Two goals in a game at Vancouver, earned by being in front of the net. One went off a foot, the other, Abdelkader's chest. Both times, the puck was shot by Datsyuk. As much as Abdelkader knows he's not counted on for offense, it's nice to have those numbers next to his name.

"It was tough coming from the lockout and not playing, it definitely hindered me," he said. "But once I got my legs going, even though I wasn't scoring, I felt I was doing a lot of good things. I thought eventually the pucks would start bouncing my way. Just get one off my foot, one off my shoulder, sometimes that's all you need, to see a puck go in the net once in a while. When I first started, I just wanted to keep my game simple, and play the way I play, which is physical and being in on the forecheck, skating, and being in front of the net It's been nice to be rewarded with some goals. Hopefully I can be a complement to Pav and how he plays."

The Detroit News's Kulfan noted Babcock's praise for Abdelkader as well, as did MLive's Ansar Khan, who added the following quip:

Babcock seems to think [{Jakub] Kindl, the young defenseman with four goals, 13 points and a plus-13 rating, is a close second.

“Kindl’s got a real good skill-set,'' Babcock said. “For him to be what he’s capable of being, he’s got to be every day. Media like you if you’re good offensively and coaches like you if you’re good defensively. So let’s see if we can’t get both groups liking him.”

He's right. Kindl's been very good, as has Abdelkader. Maybe if the Wings had two Abdelkaders and

Otherwise, St. James noted that Todd Bertuzzi may or may not return at some point this year...

Todd Bertuzzi strode into the visitors' room and let out a colorful expression, emphasizing just how hard he's pushing himself. He'd been on the ice 90 minutes at Saddledome, where tonight, his Detroit Red Wings take on the Calgary Flames -- without Bertuzzi. The forward hasn't played since Feb. 7, but it's looking better and better that he might yet squeeze into another game.

"We'll see," coach Mike Babcock said. "Any time you miss the whole year, it's hard. The other thing about it is, we need to win games. So do you play a guy who hasn't played all year? Those are good questions. We'll answer them when he's ready."

Forward Mikael Samuelsson (chest muscle) didn't join the optional morning skate until most of the regulars were coming off. Darren Helm isn't even on the trip, because the last time he flew back and forth to western Canada, sitting on the plane for so long tightened up his back. General manager Ken Holland said Helm is skating in Detroit, but after numerous instances of hoping Helm might be back soon, only to see him have a setback, there's little optimism that Helm will play again this season.

Among the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's notes:

Best line: The best line during Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Calgary for the Red Wings? Joakim Andersson centering Gustav Nyquist and either Damien Brunner or Daniel Cleary during the evening.

Andersson set up Nyquist for a tying goal, and the line consistently pressured the Flames, on an evening not many Red Wings forwards could do so.

"That was our best line," Babcock said. "We didn't have a whole bunch of guys going."

This much irony, from the Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson, I like:

When Flames GM Jay Feaster jetted to Toronto the day after trading Iginla to make a pitch to D Danny DeKeyser, some wondered if he just wanted to get out of town. Not the case. In fact, Feaster had long been courting the undrafted defenceman, who, instead, signed with his hometown Red Wings after three seasons at Western Michigan. “They were watching me for a couple of years, and I met with Jay about a year-and-a-half or two years ago,” DeKeyser said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “They showed a lot of interest, and I really appreciated that. They were nothing but class the whole way. Even after I made my decision, I called them, and they were all class.”

If it makes you feel any better, the Vancouver Province's Tony Gallagher believes that the Canucks must avoid playing the Red Wings for three reasons...

Detroit of course is another team in the same boat to a large degree. While they certainly don’t present the overall physical threat to the Canucks’ well being that the Blues might, they are even further away when it comes to travel and they present two of the worst menaces in the game of hockey in Jordin Tootoo and Niklas Kronwall.

Again, Vancouver could easily win a series against Detroit despite the fact their record hasn’t been good against them, but having traveled all those miles and having lost at least one and more likely two players to these respective thugs, who needs that matchup? You’d be better off against Chicago the first round, although obviously that’s not likely to happen. You may not win that series and certainly wouldn’t be the favourite, but you’re supposed to have an edge in goal and at least the Hawks aren’t likely to cut a swath through your thin roster.

One more time, if you have the lawn space to accommodate a $7,000 Nicklas Lidstrom or Kris Draper bobblehead, CBS Detroit's radio stations are holding a contest which would allow you to win one of 'em...

And finally, I'm not sure how much of me you'll see or hear today. As I'm writing this, it's 4:22 AM, and I'm scheduled to get up in three-and-a-half hours, drive the mom a hundred miles round up to a trusted family physician who's worth the trip, and then to get back around...Noon EDT. Given that the Wings won't practice today, given the hubbub surrounding Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada game in media-saturated Vancouver, and given that I started writing this when the Wings-Flames game ended just before midnight EDT...

Something tells me that this sleep-deprived blogger's gonna lay low and let my dear readers vent away at the frustration toward their beloved team...It's a frustration that I can assure you I share. Writing this, regardless of all the other awful shit that's going on in the world, was still incredibly painful, and while I've been a Wings fan for over 20 years now, I can tell you truthfully that this season's been as hard to take as those early-90's days before the team established the identity Scotty Bowman and a bunch of Hall-of-Famers stamped upon them.

That legacy lives on, but this team's personnel--and its personnel to come--seems likely to need more than 48 games' worth of hockey to reestablish its fundamentals and to create some new ones, and while sports is just watching a kid's game, and this job is covering a kid's game for 60-plus hours per week, it's really hard to be a Wings fan right now.

I guess we've got to keep the faith, even if it is riddled with very valid doubts, and even if it is difficult to not simply despair the 50-50-or-60-40 proposition that is the Wings cleaning out their lockers on Monday, April 29th and scattering to the World Championships and their offseason homes minus a playoff run.

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George Malik's avatar

As an FYI: This missed the, “I’ve run out of space” cut, but the Saint Cloud State Huskies celebrated their Frozen Four berth and WCHA title on Wednesday, and KARE 11’s Dave Schwartz posted a report from the event.

With captain Drew LeBlanc having signed with Chicago and Ben Hanowski playing for Calgary after the Jarome Iginla trade, Wings prospect and SCSU alternate captain Nick Jensen was introduced carrying the trophy, and he’s the one who did the talking and, as the Huskies’ website’s re-posting of a video from KMSP illustrated, Jensen sat front and center in the team’s photos.

Maybe the Wings will let Jensen finish his senior year at SCSU both because the puck-lugging defenseman could use more seasoning and because he may be the team’s captain next season.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/18/13 at 03:38 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

For clarification’s sake: the Wings already have Adam Almqvist playing in GR, they may or may not sign Brennan Evans, Max Nicastro’s played for GR and Toledo, and the team appears to be set to bring Richard Nedomlel, Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet and Alexei Marchenko into the mix.

With those players in place, there’s no room for Jensen (or Ben Marshall, who will be a junior at the University of Minnesota next season).

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/18/13 at 03:46 AM ET

Chet's avatar

reposting:

couple thoughts:

- it’s pathetic that this team is scratching and clawing to make the playoffs almost solely as a result of rampant losing heads up against columbus and calgary. that’s just…inexcusable. is that more coaching than the players? who knows;

- nyquist looked great along with anderson. they were the most dangerous line for most of the final two periods;

- howard…this was a stinker for him, no doubt. what the hell was he doing on that 3rd goal, he looked like a whiny kid on a playground;

- dekeyser also looked pretty good to me.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 04/18/13 at 05:00 AM ET

w2j2's avatar

George:
Great post!  Your best.

I am not getting quite as “worked up” over this as a lot of fans.  The reason is, this is not a very good team.  This team is not as good as Columbus or St. Louis.  Little Gary ‘s CAP has finally caught up to the Wings…

This is what Babcock is telling us:

I think we’re where we should be, to be honest with you. I think we’re battling hard. I’ve heard all year we’re not consistent. We are consistent. You go through each month we’re one game or two games over [.500] each month. This is what we are.”

The other thing is, our team is not like it once was,” Babcock explained. “We could get by with very few stops, now we need stops. Our goaltender has to be better for us to be successful.”

I DO see potential for improvement next year and beyond…
 
Abby must learn how to mimmick Homer’s butt. 
Nyquist, Tatar & Brunner will help with scoring.
The Wings have lots of 3rd & 4th line guys who can skate hard.

Kindl & Dekeyser & Lashoff will become pretty good D-men.
I am not seeing much improvement in Smith, maybe he doesn’t work hard enough, but he has lots of potential. 

So there is hope going forward.

Holland needs to work real hard on drafting & trading.  He cannot afford the McCollum 1st round mistake.  He cannot make the mistake of spending a 1st for Quincey. 
Letting Joey Mac go for Gustavson was a boner.

cool hmm

Posted by w2j2 on 04/18/13 at 05:58 AM ET

gowings's avatar

oh look at the teams playing tonight…..seeing our luck….and since Murphy’s laws have been in effect since the last 2 weeks….I guess Dallas and Columbus will win…..

Posted by gowings from MTL on 04/18/13 at 06:55 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Little Gary ‘s CAP has finally caught up to the Wings…

That makes no sense. How much room do we have this season? And last year?

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/18/13 at 07:08 AM ET

Slumpy's avatar

The timing of the Howie resigning was bad. It made him complacent already. Didn’t see his “mental toughness” when we needed it the most against a horrible Flames team.
In all sports I much see teams resign their players and coaches in the off-season. Make them sweat, feeling they got to stay sharp.
Kindl shut eye horrible coverage on the Stempniak goal. The Mick pointed it out and as usual this 2005 19th overall draft pick has proven to be a huge liabilty on defense. Might as well convert this turnover machine marshmallow to a forward.
For kicks here’s a list of current of NHLer’s that were passed on by Kenny in that 2005 draft:
Rask, Oshie, James Neal, Vlasic, Stastny, Raymond, LETANG, Quick, YANDLE, Hornqvist.

Babcock has nine defensemen available and has rotated a handful. He doesn’t want that to continue. “I want the guys to know they’re playing every day,” he said. “I want them to earn their chunk of cheese and hang onto it.”

Several names are set: Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl.

Can’t wait for next season to watch this established D-Man to suck.

 

Posted by Slumpy from Detroit on 04/18/13 at 07:22 AM ET

Avatar

Homer wasn’t “Homer” during his last two seasons.  He didn’t score or retrieve pucks.  He was mostly useless.  Try another excuse.  Oh right, you did: They’re tired.  They’re banged up.  They’re looking forward to summer vacation like a bunch of 10-year-olds.  Your best, alright.

Posted by jkm2011 on 04/18/13 at 07:23 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

When you’ve got something better than belittling the author, you let me know, jkm. Not your best, either, but definitely the usual.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/18/13 at 07:31 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

The timing of the Howie resigning was bad. It made him complacent already. Didn’t see his “mental toughness” when we needed it the most against a horrible Flames team.

It has nothing to do with his contract. He’s fed up with his defense, as we all are.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/18/13 at 07:36 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Next year it’ll be alright when Holland signs Horton and Streit….. BWAHAHAHAHAHA…...

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 04/18/13 at 07:45 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

It has nothing to do with his contract. He’s fed up with his defense, as we all are.
Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/18/13 at 08:36 AM ET

preach on

 

Posted by Hootinani on 04/18/13 at 07:55 AM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

It has nothing to do with his contract. He’s fed up with his defense, as we all are.

Yeah, well the place to make that sentiment known is the locker room, or after the play.  I want to defend Howard, but that play—I just watched it again—was awful.  And it IS on Howard.  He has always played the puck poorly.  He did again.

Posted by MoreShoot on 04/18/13 at 07:58 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Yeah, well the place to make that sentiment known is the locker room, or after the play.  I want to defend Howard, but that play—I just watched it again—was awful.  And it IS on Howard.  He has always played the puck poorly.  He did again.

I’m not excusing him, it was an awful play and I cursed him a lot in the LB yesterday.

All I’m saying is, it has nothing to do with money. It doesn’t “prove” he’s overpaid, and it wasn’t caused by his contract.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/18/13 at 08:03 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

The question of who “bears responsibility” for the Wings’ actions depends on how one defines “responsibility.”

Who is responsible (i.e. who is accountable for their actions and the fulfillment of their duties) for the goals scored and goals surrendered, special teams play and execution? Players and coaches.

Who bears culpability (i.e condemnation or blame) over the course of multiple games when personnel changes are available to the coaching staff as requested, and acquisitions can be made via trades, free agency or waivers? Management.

There’s plenty of blame to go around here, but the question as to who bears responsibility depends on the scope of your concerns. On a game-by-game basis, players and coaches determine the course of games. Over the course of a season, management can better avail the coaching staff and players of personnel who can aid the cause.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/18/13 at 08:10 AM ET

detroitredwings's avatar

The timing of the Howie resigning was bad.

+19

Posted by detroitredwings on 04/18/13 at 08:14 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

Hey, on the bright side Cammalleri didn’t get a point against us, so…you know…Kudos there.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 04/18/13 at 08:19 AM ET

Mandingo's avatar

Yeah, well the place to make that sentiment known is the locker room, or after the play.  I want to defend Howard, but that play—I just watched it again—was awful.

Posted by MoreShoot on 04/18/13 at 08:58 AM ET

Said it last night and I’ll say it again: It’s the kind of play that sticks to a player for his entire career, rightly or wrongly.

Whatever his ultimate intention was, it looked absolutely horrible. I thought I’d wake up this morning and be willing to cut him some slack after more considertation, but every time I look at that replay, it reflects more and more poorly on him.

Either he was being a petulant child and gave up on the play, or he had a complete and total mental breakdown in the biggest game of the season. Those are the two options, and neither one of them is good, especially for a guy you just gave a long term contract to (which I defended…but Howard’s going to have to prove himself to me all over again, because last night was absolutely unacceptable for a professional athlete).

 

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 04/18/13 at 08:20 AM ET

OnlyWings's avatar

The other thing is, our team is not like it once was,” Babcock explained. “We could get by with very few stops, now we need stops. Our goaltender has to be better for us to be successful.”

The first part is true but expecting any goalie to be Super Human with this roster , every game, is simply impossible.  Our Goaltender has to be better is a slap in the face for Jimmy.  Why not state the obvious. The D is below average at best and the Top 6 is really a Top 2 with a 3rd being unmovable in the Long Term.

Maybe sign a REAL NHL backup?  Babs may want to look at how many games Jimmy has stood on his head to keep the Goals against at or below 2 with an anemic offence and a PP with no D Men with the Smarts, Skill or Shot to worry an AHL goalie.  And really no Forward on the point that has a shot that can break a pane of glass.

Great save on Kindl my Butt, clear view of the shot from far out is going to be stopped 9 times out of 10.  NONE of the Wings D have a shot that will over power any goalie let alone even get there, yes I am looking at you Kronner!

Babs may want to Rag on Fil, Cleary, ShitBox, Kindl, Quincey, et al and his band of misfit rotating D (White, Carlo) which are more dangerous to Jimmy than most opposing forwards.

All this wisdom coming from a coach who didn’t know the rules regarding sending Lash down to GR!

Yes, only the players can turn this around is very true! Playing an apparently injured Z for over 24 hard mins is reckless, playing your best players Nyquist/Andersson on this night for less minutes than useless Fil and out of gas Cleary is showing Babs inability to make tough decisions with cutting ice time or sitting Vets.

This team is NOT good enough but at least reward the players that are earning Ice Time and those that are working hard instead of kissing Vets butts.  If Babs wants more Vets he should talk to KH and see where that lands him.

8 minutes for Emmerton who has improved greatly and works his A$$ off is BS. Playing Eaves instead of Tootoo against a bigger physical team like the Flames was stupid, play Eaves against a softer team like the Nucks.

Babs has crossed the line with these comments and decisions and my support of him is getting very very tough to justify.

And to finish my rant, the line changes on one of the goals and many others this year are the coaches problem.  Maybe fix it before Saturday, not Rocket Science.

Coming out flat in the 1st period on a regular basis is something the coaches have to fix!

I am waiting for Babs to say he coached a bad team farther than he expected, he seems to be heading in that direction. Most consistent team he has coached, IDIOTIC statement, again.

You have really pissed me off Coach.  Maybe Babs should for once take responsibility for some mistakes, he is only human right??

Wow, I was going to come on here this morning and try to emphasize the positives (Nyquist/Andersson, Emmerton, DeKeyser). So much for that, Thanks Babcock.

 

Posted by OnlyWings on 04/18/13 at 08:24 AM ET

Mandingo's avatar

Don’t tell that to the players, or the coach, or fans like me, who’ve been around long enough to know that this team’s management has never made wholesale changes for the sake of making changes.

George, they don’t need to make wholesale changes for the sake of making wholesale changes, they need to make wholesale changes because there is a serious, serious talent and drive deficiency on this team.

I realize that concept is almost incomprehensible to fans of our age who have grown up with this team, but we’re in uncharted territory here.

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 04/18/13 at 08:25 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

  The timing of the Howie resigning was bad.

Dear lord that makes no sense.

While signed on Tuesday, the reports of his new contract came on the 11th, a week ago. Since then?

28/30 vs SJ, 26/28 vs CHI, 22/22 vs NSH, 14/17 vs CGY. That’s 90-for-97, for a .927sv%, with a shutout and 1,75 GA/G.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/18/13 at 08:26 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

I’m just not sure you fight complacency with not changing anything.

You say maybe the kids weren’t ready for prime-time??????

Then go on to say how overworked Kronwall is he’s making all these mistakes? Filpulla.. You even pulled Pav and Z onto the carpet.

Kids were the best line.

You know who needs a period to get going?  Veterans.  You know who’s brought consistent energy and actually start on time, a good habit we’d like to keep?  The “kids”

And Howie has no excuse for not battling.  Keep that shit to yourself until the locker-room and just do what the fuch it takes to GET IT DONE whlie you’re on the ice.  Not shoulder shrugging, showing everyone you’re pissed, then try to make a rushed play on a play you had to wait for, which MAKES NO SENSE, WHIFF and JUST LET HIM WALK AROUND THE NET???

INEXCUSABLE.

You can see the mental fatigue on this team.  This isn’t a year in the making, it’s 22 years in the making.  All these guys have played A LOT of hockey over their careers and I think overall, they’re just gased.  Our vets are gassed and we wont play the kids any significant minutes.  The streak will end, the “core” of the team is too tired to keep on.  That’s just the facts.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 04/18/13 at 08:30 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

Playing Eaves instead of Tootoo against a bigger physical team like the Flames was stupid, play Eaves against a softer team like the Nucks.

If he rotates them, like we expect him to, he’ll be putting Tootoo (a player the refs watch with a judgmental eye) on the ice in Vancouver (against a team that has a reputation of…um…drawing a lot of penalties) might make the game become more special-team heavy than we’d like it to be.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 04/18/13 at 08:34 AM ET

Mandingo's avatar

It’s also worth considering the possibility that there is something fundamentally cancerous with a team that needs to be led by rookies at crunch time like this. I thought Nyquist and Andersson were, by far, the best, most engaged forwards on the ice last night, and DeKeyser was the best D man.

What does that say about the veterans on this team and their compete level?

Maybe I’m just overreacting, but forget about the outcome or the bad goals, last night just looked really, really bad to the eye. They looked like a team that has problems that go beyond the ice. They looked like they have character problems or locker room problems..

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 04/18/13 at 08:34 AM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

what the hell was he doing on that 3rd goal

waiting for the puck to get to him since he can’t play it in the corner, and trying to get his team’s attention - you know, the other 5 guys who completely abandoned him and paid no attention to the fact that Howard was left alone to outstickhandle an opposing offensive player.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/18/13 at 08:40 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Sometimes you add by subtraction as well.  There’s a couple teams really benefitting from clearing out their roster a bit.  Rotating 9 D is pathetic and sure as hell isn’t going to help find any chemistry between D partners or between D and F’s.

They’re CLEARLY not orginized, there’s multiple agendas on the ice.  How come only the “kids” will drive the net, and actually drive like they’re trying to score, not skate to the middle and try to “jet-li” with the puck for 30 seconds before actually taking a shot, ENSURING you wont get a quality chance.

Why waste those first 20 minutes?

No one is debating the skill level of this team.  We really have plenty to get it done.  It’s the mental weakness of this team.  Holy shit.  Grown ass men, too.  Must be too stressed figuring out how to spend those millions of dollars.  Anyone making under 1.2 still works their ASS off and seem to be trucking along.  You just mentioned Gus and Andersson are at like 150 games by now this season.  They looked rock and roll last night.

.......................

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 04/18/13 at 08:40 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

and DeKeyser was the best D man.

You know what I liked about that DeKeyser kid yesterday?  I remember him pinching in twice.  Both were confident decisions, he was able to put the puck back deep into the zone and once he made solid contact with the puck, he returned to his post at the Blue Line. 

In almost every game over the last month, we’ve seen Quincey pinch in, either miss the puck or just put it into the skates of the approaching opponent.  Then he’s either off balance or on his butt when the opposition regains control of the puck and starts going the other way, creating an out-numbered opportunity or requiring a forward to skate hard to get back to cover his butt.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 04/18/13 at 08:44 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Howard was left alone to whiff while under pressure from an opposing offensive player.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/18/13 at 09:40 AM ET

Fixed.

and also, if he wasn’t wasting time shrugging his shoulders at his bench, he may have been focused on making sure he made the safe, right, play.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 04/18/13 at 08:44 AM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

This isn’t a year in the making, it’s 22 years in the making.  All these guys have played A LOT of hockey over their careers and I think overall, they’re just gased.

huh?  damn near half the team is rookies - or close-to-rookies.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/18/13 at 08:44 AM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

if he wasn’t wasting time shrugging his shoulders at his bench, he may have been focused on making sure he made the safe, right, play.

you don’t suppose maybe he was YELLING, too…but hey you’re not on the ice and didn’t hear it, so it didn’t happen.  trying to communicate and get his teammates to pay attention to the play.  silly him.

funny how as much as everyone LOVES to bash Quincey - everyone is completely ignoring that he could have been back there to help if he wasn’t, you know, loafing back down the ice watching like he had bought a ticket and was waiting for his hot dog and beer.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/18/13 at 08:46 AM ET

Tony Perkis's avatar

I agree with HTO and Mandingo. I always liked Howie as well, but that is just plain inexcusable. If you had a problem with Quincey and the D shitting the bed(as usual) and your team making a terrible change, then bring it up in the locker room AFTER the game.

Posted by Tony Perkis from Drinking at Robert's Lounge with Billy Batts on 04/18/13 at 08:49 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/18/13 at 09:44 AM ET

YOu decided not to read the part where I mentioned the “core” of the team is too tired?  The ones Babs plays over 23 mins a night?

And you mean the rookies playing 10 minutes right?

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 04/18/13 at 08:53 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

you don’t suppose maybe he was YELLING, too…but hey you’re not on the ice and didn’t hear it, so it didn’t happen.  trying to communicate and get his teammates to pay attention to the play.  silly him.

That’s so weird, because my shoulders don’t make noise.  Howie must be a fuching X-man.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 04/18/13 at 08:54 AM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

This lack of compete, heart and drive has been around for a couple of years now. It’s nothing new, this is simply the first year it’s going to keep us off the ice after the regular season.
How many times have we all heard the same canned post game pressers about “not competing hard enough, not being prepared, not starting on time…. blah blah blah ad nauseum”. Pretty much 1/3 of more of each season since ‘09 and we’ve heard this same $hit for about 1/2 the games in this short season. 
Changes need to be made this off season, or next year will be the same thing. Performing the same actions and expecting different results = insanity.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 04/18/13 at 09:27 AM ET

redxblack's avatar

How dare Howard be bound to the laws of physics! He should have pretended he had a chance to make that save, even though the result would absolutely have been the same.

Wings fans are crazy sometimes.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 04/18/13 at 09:42 AM ET

Avatar

Well a loss to the Calgary Flames at this point in the season should signal that the playoff streak is done.

Personally, I think I am ok with them missing it.  They don’t even deserve to be there.  If they do get in and draw Chicago? That’s an ugly ass sweep wating to happen.  If they can somehow get to 7th they may have a chance to go 2 rounds but an 8th finish will be uglier than missing the playoffs.

So my eyes now will turn to KH for the remainder of the off-season.  What moves will he make or more importantly NOT make this summer?  Those will be the great questions who’s answers will determine how this team will make it’s first impression to the Easter Conference.

Living in Montreal myself, how this team will fare against the Canadians, Leafs and Bruins will say a lot as to whether or not this organization still deserves to be known as one of the best in all of sports.  Next year will be a massive test for Hockeytown.  Not to mention regular date with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.  All this to say, this team needs to get it’s shit together in a HURRY this summer.

1st order of business. Trade Franzen.  Bye son.  I defended Mule for many season ever since he was favored over Hossa (oops).

2nd order: Let Fil walk…he’s done here.

Other’s who are done: Clearly, White, and Coliacovo should be done in the NHL if you ask me.

Bertuzzi and Sammy? Not sure what to do with these two.  This team needs size and Bert fits that bill, but he’s old and now fragile…same goes for Sammy…

Tootoo, I beleive he has been more or less ineffective this season.  He has not justified his salary.

Next year we need permanent spots for Nyquist, Tatar, Anderson and Helm back.  He also need MAJOR additions via trade or free agency.

Can Holland pull it off this summer? I’m doubtful because he’s failed this team over the past 2 years at doing anything incredible save for grabbed the low hanging fruit that was DeKyser.

Kenny needs to put up or shutup and resign next year if he can’t fix this team.  How long is Stevie’s contract in Tampa Bay?

Posted by cochy on 04/18/13 at 09:42 AM ET

RedMenace's avatar

Piss-poor effort against a mediocre team.

Posted by RedMenace from the Church of Jesus Lashoff on 04/18/13 at 09:49 AM ET

bezukov's avatar

It has nothing to do with his contract. He’s fed up with his defense, as we all are.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/18/13 at 08:36 AM ET

Thank you.  I can’t condone Jimmy’s meltdown, but damn the man is human.  His team left him to the wolves as they ran for the bench. 

These are growing pains for a young team.  I get it.  But this team has had complacency issues for four years now.  Not to mention, every team knows our play book.  Tomas Holmstrom was a great player, don’t get me wrong, but he did more damage to this team than good as the years went on.  When he was here the team suffered from momentum killing waived goals and constant phantom penalties.  Now that he is gone we see a team that knows no other style of offense than point shot deflections.  These forwards have lost all sense of how to grind, forecheck, shoot, and crash the net.  They stay along the perimeter because that’s all they had to do in the past…. gain the zone, let Homer get set up, pass to the point.  And now that Homer isn’t around to screen matters are worse.  Defenses don’t have to spend as much time keeping Homer out of their crease, and they can spend more time separating our under sized forwards from the puck.

As I said in the other thread,  I have four words for the Wings at this point: Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres.  Sometimes a coaching change is worth it for its own sake, especially when you have several teams that know exactly how to attack this team… *cough Todd McLelland* *cough San Jose Sharks* *cough cough.* 

I can deal with rookie mistakes, that’s part of life.  I can blame the horses for being complacent, sure, they’re professionals and there is no excuse for sandbagging it.  But it’s the bad habits this team has developed that kills me.  That’s on coaching and a GM that hasn’t broken up a group of forwards who’ve been enabling each other’s bad habits for years. 

 

 

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 04/18/13 at 10:00 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Trade Franzen

For what? His production is proportional to his salary/cap hit, I get that he’s lazy but would be better? What makes you think Holland would give up something?

Also, ideally, building a better team is not trading your 75 cents for a dollar. Is trading your quarters for a dollar, so you can have 1.75.

Which is better, having Rick Nash on the 1st line, Eaves on the 2nd and Franzén in Columbus, or Nash in the 1st and Franzén in the 2nd, Eaves be damned?

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/18/13 at 10:01 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

How dare Howard be bound to the laws of physics! He should have pretended he had a chance to make that save, even though the result would absolutely have been the same.

Wings fans are crazy sometimes.

We’re not asking him to defy science, but to make an effort in a pivotal game.  Will he make that save, probably not, but a) such saves have been made in the past and b) we’d like to see him at least skate towards the goal instead of throwing his hands in the air before he puck has crossed the goal-line.

Look, we know it wasn’t entirely his fault. Brunner went to the bench as opposed to finishing the play (another knock against having him on he point in those situations) and maybe Quincey (or was it Erickson?) should have noticed the lack of support sooner and hustled back, but we’re used to Jimmy being our rock. To see him give up on a play so blatantly was really disheartening to the Wings Community.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 04/18/13 at 10:03 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.