The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/06/13 at 03:08 AM ET
At this point, the Detroit Red Wings have a better record at "breaking" goalies than they do in breaking through them. Attempting to rebound from an ugly 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Red Wings worked incredibly hard to accomplish very little over the course of a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night, but the Wings sent Miikka Kiprusoff packing after two periods due to the same kind of "lower body injury" which felled Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
That's a bit of a problem because the Wings will end up playing Brian Elliott's Blues as they themselves attempt to recover from a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of the Nashville Predators when the Wings and Blues meet for the second of three times this month on Thursday, in St. Louis...
And while it's uncertain whether an overworked Jimmy Howard will be spelled by Petr Mrazek, while it's highly likely that the overworked Niklas Kronwall (averaging 23-25 minutes per game) will receive any relief, and while it's hard to say what the Wings' lines will look like, barring any of the injury surprises that have become almost predictable, the 4-4-and-1 Wings have begun to develop an Achilles heel that none of us thought would be plaguing them:
Players not named Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Damien Brunner, Pavel Datsyuk, Valtteri Filppula, Todd Bertuzzi, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson can't or won't score.
My little subjective metric of "are the Wings doing well" boils down to one stat which tends to indicate that the team either is or isn't literally firing on all cylinders, throwing pucks at the net as a means of forechecking and retrieving said pucks to generate secondary and tertiary scoring opportunities. The Wings tend to average over 40 attempted shots per game, but haven't really cracked that number until Tuesday night, when the team fired 61 shots toward the Flames net.
The problem? 26 of them were actually aimed at Miikka Kiprusoff or Leland Irving. The Wings plain old missed the net 15 times, and the Flames blocked at least--at the very least--20 shots, and probably three times as many passes. Playing Bob Hartley's Colorado Avalanche trap, circa 2001, the Flames got a lead, dumped and didn't chase the puck into the Wings' end, and spent the rest of the game picking off the Wings' passes through the neutral zone, their dump-ins, their shoot-ins, their three-too-many passes and couple dozen deferred attempts to plain old shoot the puck and register prime scoring chances on Kiprusoff and especially Irving, who faced all of 6 third period shots, and the Flames out-muscled, out-ground and plain old out-competed Wings players to pucks all over the ice.
Playing the team with the worst record in the NHL, the Wings worked their asses off, which was a welcome change from the Columbus game, but by the time Dennis Wideman scored a back-breaking late 2nd period goal, every Wings fan in attendance at the Joe (most left early) and everybody watching on TV knew that the game's result was not in doubt, regardless of whether Kiprusoff or Jiri Hudler was tending the Flames' net.
The Wings have no secondary scoring and their primary scorers are starting to make all-too-predictable plays or plain old--again--pass up scoring chances because of frustration and a lack of confidence as things aren't going their way, and when they start shooting and passing into opposing players, the top two lines (Tomas Tatar played alongside Filppula and Datsyuk for a while, but finished the game with Danny Cleary and Justin Abdelkader), well, the opponent doesn't have to do anything other than watch the Wings' best players skate themselves into pretzels, and watch the team's supposedly integral secondary scorers relegate themselves to the perimeters of the offensive and neutral zones.
All the opponent has to do is prey upon a couple mistakes and take advantage of the Wings' middling penalty-kill (the Wings gave up 2 power play goals again), and then they can stand around and watch, and while I won't argue that the Flames outworked the Wings, by the middle of the third period, the Flames merely needed to stand in passing or shooting lanes and watch the Wings fire pucks into them.
As far as the Flames were concerned, not only skating into Joe Louis Arena and shutting the Wings down, but also keeping the Wings off the board with their backbone having suffered a "lower-body injury," was nothing less than a monumental win worth celebrating, as they told the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak...
"You take for granted how good he is, how durable he is and how consistent he is," [Jarome] Iginla said. "He's pretty much in net most of the time. We want him back as quick as he can."
The Flames said Kiprusoff will be re-evaluated Wednesday after they arrive in Columbus to face the Blue Jackets, stop two on their road trip. Kiprusoff didn't need any help -- brace, cast or crutch -- when he left the dressing room.
There was no obvious incident where it appeared the workhorse netminder was hurt, but he was sent to the ice after Johan Franzen made contact with him after being bumped by Mark Giordano, and Kiprusoff appeared uncomfortable getting to his feet.
At least the Flames have some confidence in Irving after he came through when called upon for the first time this season. The 2006 first-round draft choice stopped all six shots he faced in the third period to put the finishing touches on Calgary's second victory of the season before an announced sellout crowd of 20,066 at the Joe Louis Arena.
"Late in the second period, I could see Kip wasn't feeling great," Irving said. "He was kinda favouring his lower body. Coach told me to start stretching, that I might be going in, and that allowed me to prepare to go in for the third. There's always going to be nerves, and I think, especially in this case, that was a good thing. It helps get the adrenaline going, and I was able to play, not over-think things. Sometimes, that's a better way to go."
The Flames -- who received goals from Iginla, his first of the season, Curtis Glencross, Dennis Wideman and Giordano -- were doing everything to not let losing their most valuable player damper the night.
"Some pressure to come in on your first game of the year, but he did great. He looked confident in there," Iginla said. "A very good win for our team. We carried it over from our last game and did a lot of the same things. They had some momentum at different times, but they're gonna do that. I thought we did a great job of limiting that damage."
And the Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank, who jokingly suggested that Kiprusoff's exit "answered the prayers" of Wings fans watching the game:
After a couple of uneventful minutes, Jordin Tootoo corralled a puck in Flames territory and darted a backhander towards the far side. Irving, calmly, blockered it aside. That, it goes without saying, helped.
"I know Tootoo from skating with him (in Kelowna) in the summer," said Irving, smiling. "He skated by later and asked if I should have let him have that one. But it's good to get a shot early on. It was one of those saves where you had to be patient."
Kiprusoff allowed one goal on 20 shots — a power-play conversion by Franzen. And No. 34's health is now the story, overshadowing plenty of other Calgary plot lines, including:
Iginla's first goal: He opened the scoring at 3:24, steering a loose puck (off an Alex Tanguay shot) through the pads of Jimmy Howard.
"It was nice to see it go in," said Iginla. "Howard save the first one and it was just sitting there. Then I dug at it. Fortunately, it went in."
Iginla also earned a penalty shot, but Howard snuffed it out.
The power-play roll: Curtis Glencross scored the 2-0 goal (on a fantastic feed from Michael Cammalleri) in the first period and Mark Giordano authored the 4-1 goal (on a screaming slapper) late in the third. The Flames have already registered eight man-advantage goals.
"If you're not scoring, you want to try to create some momentum and create chances," said Wideman, who, in the second period, drained an even-strength marker. "I think as long as we continue to work hard and move the puck, we'll at least . . . get going in the right direction."
Iginla spoke to the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak about breaking his scoreless schneid...
“The first of the year is always nice to get over with,” Iginla said. “You never want to go six without it, and at the beginning of the season, it’s always magnified. Every single year, you want to get that first one, the monkey off your back, so that was nice. I thought, as a line, we had some good chances, so we’ll keep trying to get those chances and hopefully more will go in.”
Going back to last season, Iginla had just one goal in 17 games. The Flames all-time leader in goals and points notched the 517th tally of his career by shoving a rebound past Jimmy Howard to open the scoring.
“Nice to see it go in,” said Iginla, who has four assists this season. “Howard saved the first one and it was sitting there. I dug at it and fortunately it went in.”
Iginla had another golden chance in the second period when he had a penalty shot. But his deke attempt was denied.
“Work on the next one — what can you do?” he said, knowing full well his history in penalty shots and shootouts is surprisingly low for a 500-goal scorer. "It’s great to get the win.”
And Sportak made sure to point out that the reception for Jiri Hudler in his return to Detroit was...muted...
So, is it really Hockeytown when the fans don’t even acknowledge Jiri Hudler? You’d think they would at least boo the former Red Wings sniper who signed with the Flames as a free agent, but it was like he didn’t exist. Guaranteed, the Sea of Red would have jeered him if the tables were turned ... Oh look, a staged fight off the drop of the puck between Steve Begin and Jordin Tootoo. At least Don Cherry will be happy ... Wings centre Pavel Datsyuk is the only player I’d be afraid to defend, even if he was on a one-on-five rush ... Wow, the Flames are supposed to be a top-heavy team. Detroit’s forwards have combined for 49 points this season. All but one are from the players on their top two lines. The exception is a Patrick Eaves assist, and he didn’t play.
We'll get to the rest of that stuff later. For now, we'll let the Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank tell his "game story"...
WHY THE FLAMES WON
* Because, unlike Saturday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, they show off their ability to finish, to make the most of their opportunities. Three goals in the opening 40 minutes in a tough barn. That helps. So does a superb power play, which counts twice.
* Because, with G Miikka Kiprusoff sidelined by a lower-body injury, G Leland Irving rides to the rescue. Showing a snappy glove, he plays well.
THE BIG SAVE: In a dicey situation — making the first appearance of his season . . . in Detroit . . . in the third period — Calgary G Leland Irving faces his first test three minutes in. RW Jordin Tootoo’s backhander appears to be labelled, but Irving repels it with his blocker. Nerves settled.
THE BIG HIT: Calgary LW Steve Begin, out against the opposition’s best players, gets a chance to put a shoulder into C Henrik Zetterberg — and he does at the defensive blue line. The solid second-period jolt draws a loud groan from the fans.
THE BIG FIGHT: In a bit of a pre-puck-drop arrangement, Calgary LW Steve Begin and Detroit RW Jordin Tootoo tangle off just 168 seconds into the game. The scrap finishes with Begin beaming and Tootoo bleeding. Just 36 seconds later, the travelers open the scoring. By the way, the last time Begin fought in the NHL? March 21, 2010, versus Brandon Prust.
This was definitely my first, "What the hell are you doing, you idiot?" Tootoo moment:
CalgaryFlames.com's Aaron Vickers also provided a game narrative...
Finding the back of the net just 3:24 into the game, captain Jarome Iginla put the Flames up 1-0 early. Driving to the net, Iginla took a pass from center Alex Tanguay and jammed in his own rebound for the first of the season. With his assist, Tanguay now has points in six straight contests.
Curtis Glencross, with his team-leading fourth of the season, put the Flames up 2-0 at 10:35. On the power play, Glencross redirected a pass off the stick of Cammelleri behind Red Wings starter Jimmy Howard.
Johan Franzen cut the lead 2-1 midway through the second but Wideman restored the two-goal advantage with just 24 seconds left in the frame, sneaking a seeing-eye wrister from the point behind a screened Howard.
Leland Irving started the third period for Calgary in relief of starter Miikka Kiprusoff, stopping six shots in his first nine minutes of action this season.
Mark Giordano, with his first of the season, rounded out the scoring for Calgary with a power play marker with 4:02 remaining in the game.
And CalgaryFlames.com's Torie Peterson offers two numbers that have me shaking my head in his "numerology" piece...
2: Assists for Mike Cammalleri in the opening stanza. The forward has now recorded 20 points in 20 career games against the Red Wings.
6: Saves by Leland Irving in the third frame.
You may read the Calgary Sun's Eric Francis's pondering of where the Flames go from here if Miikka Kiprusoff is seriously injured, because we're going to shift perspectives from those of the Flames to those of the Wings' players and coach via the Associated Press's recap, which allows the Flames to do their own rubbing-in...
"We kind of carried over from our last game (a 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago on Saturday) and did some of the same things," Iginla said. "Our power play was good tonight and our penalty kill was good."
[Coach Bob] Hartley was happy with the effort.
"We talked about how we've done so many good things and we didn't have anything to show for it," he said. "We said if that was the way our team was going to play, we were going to get rewarded."
Before offering us an invitation into the frustration emanating from the Wings' locker room:
"I thought we did some good things tonight, but we made some mistakes and they shot in our net without any question about it, so we're chasing the game," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
As Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples notes, the fact that the Wings surrendered the 3-1 goal so very soon after the expiration of one of their many futile power plays really took the wind out of the team's sails...
“Well I think this game was disappointing,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “I think we went through and forgot about that game in Columbus, I think we had a chance to play a little bit better. We had played a little better in the second, then of course when they got the third one late there in the second, it was a tough one for us. I think we…we couldn’t score goals today. We had some chances, and we couldn’t get them in.”
Coach Mike Babcock said that the two-goal lead the Red Wings fell into early – Iginla and Glencross’ goals gave the Flames a 2-0 lead just nine minutes in – was a hole his club needs to avoid.
“Well you obviously want to get off to a better start,” Babcock said. “I thought we did lots of good things tonight, but we made some mistakes, and they shot it in our net without any question about it, so we’re chasing the game. We had opportunities, but didn’t capitalize on them. I didn’t think we were terrible, but…catch-up hockey is losing hockey. You can’t start from behind, you’ve got to start from ahead, that’s what you want to do, and you want to be playing right from the get-go. We’ve got to continue to improve, that’s all there is to it.”
Jimmy Howard stopped 19 of the 23 shots he faced in the contest, as he watched his record fall to 4-4-1 on the season (he’s started every game). Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 19 of 20 through 40 minutes, before being replaced by Leland Irving to start the third period. Irving was called upon due to a reported lower-body injury for Kiprusoff, and he stopped all six shots he faced.
“I still thought we had lots of play around their net, we just didn’t have a lot of play at their net, if that makes any sense,” Babcock said of the third period. “We had lots of time in the [offensive] zone, and lots of play that way, but we didn’t score…I would have liked to see that intensity in the first period, and then you have a better chance to win a game, because you’re not chasing.”
And the Wings were very, very, very intent upon insisting to DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose that their goaltender was not to blame for the loss, telling Roose that the goaltender who deemed his performance in Columbus to be "terrible" simply didn't receive any run support:
“Howie’s been solid for us every game. He gives us a chance to win every night and that’s all you can ask,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It’s tough for him when we spot them goals, goals that he can’t do anything about, really. He’s doing everything and more for us, to give us a chance.”
Aside from maybe the Flames’ first goal, Howard didn’t stand much of a chance Tuesday, especially on Calgary’s last three scores.
“I don’t think any of the games have been on him whatsoever,” added Kronwall. “He’s been giving us a chance to win each and every night. We have to find a way to play a lot better.”
After Jarome Iginla put the visitors up 1-0, a pair of Red Wings’ defensemen ended up in the penalty box just 14-seconds apart. And the Flames wasted little time in capitalizing on the 5-on-3 opportunity when Curtis Glencross scored the first of his team’s three power-play goals.
“He did his part,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, of Howard’s role Tuesday night. “Of course, the PK was tough today, I don’t know, they scored two or three on their power play, so the 5-on-3 one they’re two more guys than we are, so they made a good play. Not much Howie can do with that one.”
With the Wings trailing 2-1 in the second, Howard came up big when he stoned Iginla on a penalty shot. The play certainly seemed to breathe some life into the Wings, who out-shot the Flames in each period and had a 26-23 advantage in the final shot totals.
“I think it did give us some momentum,” Zetterberg said. “We came out with some push after that, but we couldn’t get the goal. If we had gotten one more goal there I think it would have been a different situation.”
"First and foremost, we have to have a better start and not spot them any goals," said defenseman Niklas Kronwall. "It's a lot more fun to have the puck and be in control instead of the other way around."
The Wings did bounce back in the second period. Johan Franzen scored a power-play goal at 12:37 of the second period to pull within one. Franzen took a pass from Henrik Zetterberg and scored 31 seconds into a power play.
Jimmy Howard, who tried to shoulder the blame for Saturday's loss, came up big by stopping a penalty shot by Iginla in the second period to keep the Wings within a goal. Ericsson had hooked Iginla on a breakaway. But in the final minute of the period, defenseman Dennis Wideman scored to put the Flames ahead, 3-1.
"A seeing-eye puck, (Todd Bertuzzi) missed the lane, and it went right through," Babcock said of Wideman's goal. "Howie obviously didn't see it and it went under his arm. ... I think it went under his arm. That was a big blow to us, obviously. We'd carried the play big time. There was lots of hockey left; you just have to do good things. In the end, we didn't score."
Babcock may have summarized the Wings' offensive problems succinctly...
"I still thought we had lots of play around their net, we just didn't have a lot of play at their net, if that made any sense," Babcock said. "We had lots of time in the (offensive) zone and lots of plays that way. We didn't score."
And while the Wings gave the Flames credit while speaking to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness, they had to admit that the team played into the Flames' hands, too:
“They came in and got two goals, they were pretty fast in the first,” Zetterberg said. “We dug ourselves a hole and tried to dig out. We got one there from the Mule. When they got the third one late in the second it kind of killed any momentum. We really couldn’t find a way to get it back in the third.”
Franzen scored just 31 seconds into the Wings’ second power play of the game, backhanding a backhand pass from Henrik Zetterberg and lifting it top shelf.
“A lot of teams are doing a good job nowadays staying inside and shutting the other team down,” Kronwall said. “They just keep the puck in front of you. They don’t really have to do anything. First and foremost we have to have a better start, not spot them any goals. It’s more fun to have the puck and be in control instead of the other way around.”.
No puck control. It doesn't matter which players are wearing Red Wings jerseys anymore, folks. This team and its prospects have been trained to play puck possession hockey from their first games with the Grand Rapids Griffins or Toledo Walleye to each and every minute of their time in Detroit under Scotty Bowman, Dave Lewis and now Mike Babcock. It works for a smallish and not-too-speedy team because puck possession pushes the puck away from one's own goal and allows teams to play defense in the offensive zone.
The Wings didn't do a very good job of playing puck possession hockey on Tuesday night. They skated in diagonal lines up the ice, looping back at center and trying to thread the needle as they sent solitary skaters into four Flames players, and they then proceeded to skate in straight lines toward the net through those four trapping defenders. It's supposed to go the other way around...
Calgary did a nice job of keeping the Wings to the outside in the final 20 minutes to protect its backup goalie.
“We couldn’t get inside pressure on them at all and when we took the shot they always had a guy in the lane or a second guy in the lane, so we had a tough time getting pucks to the net,” Kronwall said. “We have to find a way to get the job done.”
“We got a lot of first chances, but we just have to find a way to get those second bounces,” Zetterberg said. “The puck was bouncing there a few times, but their sticks were there before ours first.”
Babcock's line about having a better "compete level" than one's opponent is true, too. Usually, the Red Wings' sticks and skates are in passing and shooting lanes, blocking and disrupting passes, plays and shots, and on Tuesday, the Wings' ineffectual play yielded an enormous amount of turnovers and plain old "surrendered pucks" in both 1-on-1 battles, cycling plays and attempts to generate offense.
The fact that the Wings' secondary scoring is completely lacking compounded the problem, as the Windsor Star's Bob Duff suggests, noting that Patrick Eaves is the only one of the Wings' "bottom six" forwards who has a point--an assist--and Eaves didn't even play, leaving Jordin Tootoo, Cory Emmerton, Drew Miller, Danny Cleary, Justin Abdelkader and new recruit Tomas Tatar completely off the scoresheet over the course of 9 games:
“We’re not generating much from our bottom six forwards,” Babcock said, pointing out just the opposite with the supposedly woeful Flames. “You look at their third group with (Curtis) Glencross, (Lee) Stempniak and (Mikael) Backlund, that line’s got more goals than the top two lines.”
Glencross added his fourth of the season Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Wings are little more than a one-line team. If Datsyuk and Zetterberg aren’t going, the Wings are going nowhere. Not so long ago, to utter such words about Detroit would have been unfathomable. Today, you can’t argue with the facts. Zetterberg (five), Damien Brunner (four), Datsyuk (three) and Johan Franzen (three), who scored Tuesday, have accounted for 68 per cent of Detroit’s goals. One of either Datsyuk or Zetterberg has figured in 15 of the club’s last 16 goals.
Babcock sought to shake things up, recalling 19-goal right-winger Tomas Tatar from AHL Grand Rapids and inserting him alongside Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula on Detroit’s second forward unit.
“Yeah, obviously they’re trying some changes,” Tatar said. “And they need a little more goals, so we’re going to see what happens.”
What happened? Not much, to be frank. Babcock felt by dropping two-goal scorer Todd Bertuzzi into the third unit with Cleary and Abdelkader, he might spark something that would lead to secondary scoring. Instead, the gameplan fizzled.
“We’re looking to get going,” Cleary said.
They’re still looking. Cleary is as game as ever, but so far has looked as if he’s passed his best-before date. Tootoo has done little but fight, and Emmerton’s done even less than that. As much as Datsyuk and Zetterberg are the heart of this team, a heart alone can’t keep a body going. If the other parts don’t start contributing, it’s going to get ugly in Hockeytown.
All of that adds up to a scoring problem, period, as Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji suggests...
The Wings have already been shut out once and have scored just one goal in three games — and they've only played nine. As a means of comparison, in those nine games the Wings have scored 22 goals. Through nine games, the Tampa Bay Lightning have 40 goals, the St. Louis Blues 31 and the Pittsburgh Penguins 29.
And the worst part is the...Well, the worst part.
Despite Franzen's power-play goal, the Wings are 25th in the league with the man advantage, converting just 12.2 percent of their chances.
"We're not generating enough chances," Kronwall said. "We have bits and pieces but overall we need to do a better job of just getting the puck to the net and generate chances that way."
The penalty kill is also one of the worst in the league, currently ranked 28th after allowing Calgary two power-play goals. The Wings have only killed off 69.8 percent of their opponents' chances. Generally, the Wings expect to be in the top 10 in both special teams categories.
"PK, we need to be more organized," Kronwall said. "Sometimes I think we're thinking too much out there instead of just going out there and staying on our toes, being aggressive. Sometimes we're a step behind."
The Wings insisted to Wakiji that they'll get themselves "sorted out"...
"I think that will happen during the course of a game," Zetterberg said. "You can't be perfect all the time. But we just gotta keep at it. The puck will go in eventually."
And they issued similar statements to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
After two victories in which the Red Wings appeared to be rounding into form, they've suffered two consecutive defeats against the two worst teams in the Western Conference while scoring three goals total.
In a shortened 48-game regular season, teams can't afford any sort of losing streaks. And those losses could accumulate for the Wings if they continue to play from behind.
"We have to continue to improve," coach Mike Babcock said. "We had opportunities but didn't capitalize. I didn't think we were terrible. But catch up hockey is losing hockey and you can't start from behind."
"We couldn't get out of the hole," Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "They got that third one (goal) and killed our momentum we had and we couldn't find a way to get it back."
And MLive's Ansar Khan:
“This game was disappointing,'' Zetterberg said, without having to say it. “We forgot about that game in Columbus. We had a chance today to play a little better.''
“I thought in the third we gave everything, we tried, we just couldn't get it done,'' defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “They kept us on the outside. We couldn't get inside pressure on them at all. And when we took the shot they always had a guy in the lane or a second guy in the lane, so we had a tough time getting pucks to the net.''
Babcock said his team had a lot of play around the Flames' net, but not at their net.
“We had a lot of time in the o-zone and lots of play that way,'' he said. “I would have liked to have seen that type of intensity in the first period, and then you have a better chance to win the game because you’re not chasing.”
The Red Wings are 4-4-1. They say they're giving up too many “gift goals.'' That can't happen to a team that lacks the firepower it once had and is getting no production from its bottom six forwards (no goals).
“You can’t have a long stretch of that,'' Zetterberg said. “But, we just got to keep at it. The puck will go in eventually."
Khan's offered some "highlights and lowlights" regarding the game that hit the nail on the head in a way that Babcock wasn't willing to do:
The Red Wings have been outscored 9-3 in the first period this season.
--Johan Franzen is off to a decent start, averaging a point a game (three goals, six assists in nine games), after being inconsistent the past two seasons.
--Jimmy Howard stopped Jarome Iginla on a penalty shot at 13:12 of the second period.
--The Red Wings continue to be plagued by penalties. It cost them in the first period, when Kyle Quincey was called for tripping while his club was already shorthanded. It led to Curtis Glencross' goal during a five-on-three.
--Pavel Datsyuk, the team's best faceoff man, lost a key draw in the final minute of the second period, leading to Dennis Wideman's goal that put Calgary ahead 3-1.
--The Red Wings have scored a goal in the first period in only two of their nine games. They've been outscored 9-3 in the opening 20 minutes this season.
Sigh, and thus the "downshift" title. The Wings have been trying too hard to be too cute since the season began, and they very simply need to get back to the basics of hard work, attention to detail and playing smart, Red Wings-like puck possession hockey to reinforce the fundamentals that have carried them through stretches when half the team's been made up of Grand Rapids Griffins players.
The Wings seem to have forgotten that this team's identity has always transcended its personnel, regardless of whether its personnel consisted of muckers and grinders or Hall of Famers. From the moment Scotty Bowman took over in the 1993-1994 season, this team's system has been its blueprint for success, and it remains the blueprint today.
Highlights: The Red Wings' website's clip is at least narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
If you live in Canada, I'm sure that Sportsnet's highlights and post-game video from the game are spiffy, but I don't live in Canada, so I don't know. TSN also posted a slate of higlights that Americans can watch.
The Red Wings' website posted clips of Niklas Kronwall...
And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media...
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff also posted a clip of Kronwall's comments...
Photos: The Detroit News posted a 17-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 14-image gallery;
ESPN posted a 35-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a selection of photos from the game in its Wings gallery;
The Windsor Star posted 5 images from the game;
If you want a wallpaper-sized photo of Valtteri Filppula, CBS Detroit provides you with one. Ditto for a picture of Jimmy Howard stopping (I think?) Jarome Iginla during Wings-Flames game from lsat season;
And I've been waiting for NHL.com, the Flames' website and the Wings' website update their photo galleries with pictures from tonight's game, but none of 'em have over the past four-plus hours. The links send you to said galleries, and they post the same number of photos now, so if you go to one spot, you'll get all the pictures you need.
Shots 26-23 Detroit overall. The Wings out-shot Calgary 10-9 in the 1st and 2nd periods, and out-shot Calgary 6-5 in the 3rd.
The Flames went 2-for-5 in 6:24 of PP time, including 1-for-1 in 19 seconds of 5 on 3 time; the Wings went 1-for-4 in 6:31 of PP time. And the standard of officiating varied widely from shift to shift.
Jimmy Howard deserved a better fate but stopped 19 of 23 shots; Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 19 of 20; Leland Iriving stopped 6 of 6.
The 3 stars, per Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples, were Mike Cammalleri, Johan Franzen and Jarome Iginla.
The Wings' goal: Franzen (3) from Zetterberg (8) and Kronwall (8), PPG.
Faceoffs 37-33 Detroit (Wings won 53%);
Blocked shots 20-14 Calgary;
Missed shots 15-7 Detroit (total attempts 61-44 Detroit);
Hits 22-19 Calgary;
Giveaways 10-9 Calgary;
Takeaways 4-3 Calgary.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 13-and-10 (57%); Zetterberg went 8-and-11 (42%); Abdelkader went 9-and-5 (64%); Emmerton went 4-and-4 (50%); Filppula went 3-and-2 (60%); Cleary lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Kronwall and Abdelkader co-led the team with 4 shots apiece; Tatar, Brunner and Zetterberg had 3; Cleary, Lashoff and Quincey had 2; Tootoo, Emmerton and Franzen had 1.
Blocked attempts: Quincey and Zetterberg had 3 shot attempts blocked by Flames players; Cleary, White, Brunner and Filppula had 2 attempts blocked; Tatar, Tootoo, Lashoff, Emmerton, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Kronwall missed the net 4 times; Datsyuk and White missed the net 2 times; Huskins, Tootoo, Lashoff, Brunner, Quincey, Zetterberg and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Miller, Ericsson and Franzen co-led the team with 3 hits apiece; Abdelkader and Bertuzzi had 2 hits; Cleary, Datsyuk, White, Tatar, Tootoo and Lashoff had 1.
Giveaways: Zetterberg had 3 giveaways; Bertuzzi had 2; Huskins, White, Miller and Tootoo had 1.
Takeaways: Datsyuk, Tatar and Filppula had takeaways.
Blocked opponent shots: Cleary, Miller, Tatar, Quincey and Ericsson blocked 2 Flames shots apiece; Huskins, Lashoff, Filppula and Ericsson blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Tootoo took a major penalty for fighting; Cleary took 2 minors; Tatar, Quincey and Ericsson took 1 minor penalty.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -10. Datsyuk and Kronwall finished at -2; Cleary, Tatar, Lashoff, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Ericsson finished at -1.
Points: Franzen had a goal; Zetterberg and Kronwall had an assist.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 23:40 played; Zetterberg played 20:55;
Quincey played 20:22; Ericsson played 20:18; Franzen played 18:58;
Datsyuk played 18:50; White played 18:49; Filppula played 18:29;
Brunner played 17:39; Lashoff played 17:38; Bertuzzi played 15:46;
Cleary played 15:39; Huskins played 14:48; Tatar played 12:42;
Abdelkader played 12:19; Miller played 10:11; Tootoo played 6:51.
Red Wings notebooks: The media more than gave Jiri Hudler a fair shake during the course of game-day storylines, so I'll encourage you to read the Free Press's George Sipple's take on Hudler's return on your own, and I'll focus on the part of the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's notebook that involves Ian White and Brian Lashoff instead:
Red Wings defenseman Ian White (leg laceration) returned after missing five games. Babcock also inserted defenseman Brian Lashoff into the lineup, making Jakub Kindl a healthy scratch.
"It's just about trying to figure out what's the best option to give us the best chance," Babcock said. "Lash did a real good for us on the penalty kill. Specialty teams are huge for us."
Lashoff appeared to be returning to Grand Rapids, but Brendan Smith 's injury (separation of the right shoulder) changed things.
"It was unfortunate (for Smith), but at the same time I have to be ready for my opportunities," Lashoff said.
White played 18:49 and was credited with one hit. Lashoff played 17:38 and was minus-1, with one hit and one block.
White didn't look so super. He looked like somebody whose quadriceps muscles had been stitched back onto his knee a little over a week ago.
The Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak added a few notes that involve both the Wings and Flames...
For Flames defenceman T.J. Brodie, a trip to Detroit is a homecoming. Brodie’s hometown, Chatham, Ont., is 80 km east of Windsor, so an hour, plus the time it takes to cross the border. He said some 50 friends and family made the trip for his second game at Joe Louis Arena. Because of the proximity, Brodie was a Red Wings fan as a kid, and Steve Yzerman was his favourite player. “He was the captain. I like the way he played, the way he handled himself on and off the ice.”
Life without Nicklas Lidstrom is a learning experience for the Red Wings. “It’s different. There was a lot of times we relied on him, but everyone is doing the best to fill that spot,” said Johan Franzen. “One guy can’t do it, but a lot of guys can try to do it together.” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard admitted he instinctively looked for Lidstrom in the first couple of games
Detroit’s injury woes aren’t just among the blueliners. Currently, the Wings have two goalies unable to play in Joey MacDonald (back) and Jonas Gustavsson (groin). However, those two are practising, along with Howard and backup Petr Mrazek. “It’s still like training camp around here,” said Howard, who has to ensure he faces enough shots in practice. “I had to tell myself to make sure I got my work, so I’m feeling good about my game.”
And as the Wings and Flames would have had a Swiss player-vs-Swiss player battle if Sven Baertschi wasn't sidelined with a hip flexor issue, Sportak spoke to Damien Brunner about his relationship with Baertschi in an article about the increasing incidence of Swiss players in the NHL:
"I texted him yesterday and wanted to go for dinner," Brunner said after Tuesday's morning skate. "It's too bad he's still injured and couldn't make the trip. It's big for Switzerland we had young guys drafted that high -- not only him, there's also (Nino) Niederreiter (in the New York Islanders system). I hope he gets his chance this year and plays some good hockey."...
"We hope we've got a good one that's just going to continue to get better," Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. "He's dynamic. He likes to score. He's brave. He goes in the hard areas. He scored a goal the other night in Columbus, there's no way it should go in, but he's one of those guys that it goes in.Good for him."
Suffice to say, it's been an easy adjustment for Brunner, the 26-year-old standout from his nation's league who signed as a free agent with the Wings last summer.
"It's about the smaller ice," he said of the adjustment. "You play a little bit different in the corners, and defencemen are bigger, so you have to work a little harder to get your scoring chances."
It doesn't hurt Brunner clicked with Henrik Zetterberg, who joined him with the EV Zug team during the lockout and built some chemistry prior to Brunner's NHL debut.
"I realized very quick he has nothing more to prove over there," Zetterberg said of his linemate. "He did everything right over there, scored a lot of goals, a lot of points in key situations, so this was his next step. I'm happy he made that step with us. I had a lot of fun over there playing with him. He took care of me there and it's my turn to take care of him over here."
To his credit, Brunner knows he has to keep contributing.
"It was fun, and we got to see there was chemistry, but at the end of the day, I have to play well over here," he said. "I have to prove I belong here. He's the captain, and he doesn't have to show anything. It helped to come in the dressing room, not too nervous, and if there's a problem on the ice, he's going to help out."
And amongst the Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank's notes, Kyle Quincey pointed out that the Red Wings did not choose to retire Nicklas Lidstrom's locker, which is currently being occupied by Niklas Kronwall...
“We didn’t retire a spot like Joe Sakic,” said Kyle Quincey, who, before the Red Wings, skated for the Colorado Avalanche. “But with all the defencemen we have now, I guess we need the spots, right?”
Sakic’s stall in the Avs dressing room, if you’re wondering, is actually encased in Plexi-glass. Seriously. But Lidstrom, career-wise, takes a back seat to no one, even Sakic. In his 20 seasons with the Wings, the Swedish defender won four Stanley Cups and seven Norris Trophies. So putting his absence into perspective is actually quite simple.
“His nicknames were The Perfect Human and Norris,” said Quincey. “Those nicknames speak for themselves.”
As for replacing No. 5 . . . .
“Well, we brought in Huskie to fill that void,” Quincey cracked as, within earshot, Huskins peeled off his gear. “So we’re leaning on him to take over 35 minutes a game. He does it all.”
Cruickshank asked Jordin Tootoo whether he's heard any whistles in Detroit...
“Not that I can hear,” said Tootoo, grinning. “But my foundation is being a physical presence out there, creating energy, creating emotion. When you come to a new team, you want to keep it simple. I’m not trying to be the saviour.”
Unfazed, too, is the 30-year-old about joining the archrivals in the Central Division. The high-profile Wings had always been the enemy in Music City.
“It was a spontaneous thing that happened . . . and when the opportunity came up it was a no-brainer,” said Tootoo, who signed a three-year pact worth $5.7 million in the summer. “I was at the point in my career when change was needed. I want to give myself every opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. This is where I think that opportunity is to be had. Obviously, being on one team for nine years . . . I have lifetime friends in Nashville. It’s a city that matured me as a professional, both on and off the ice.”
And he spoke to Damien Brunner, too:
"It’s a big opportunity,” said Brunner. “A challenge to get better every day, learn shift by shift, get adjusted, and also have some fun out there.”
Also of Red Wings-related note: From DRW Prospects on Twitter:
Two more slates of power rankings popped up on Tuesday, with Sportsnet's Luke Fox stating the obvious...
15. Detroit Red Wings [last week] 16: Not sure what to make of these Wings yet – beat the Blues and Stars, then lose to the Blue Jackets – but the return of Ian White on the blue line can only be a positive.
And Sports Illustrated's Adrian Dater completely ignores the fact that the Wings have 18 players on the roster--not including Tomas Tatar or Petr Mrazek--who are 30 years of age or younger, and 16 under 30.
18 Detroit Red Wings Last Week: 15
Injuries continue to beset this team, which probably isn't a surprise given that it's one of the older clubs in the league. But Mike Babcock, tremendous coach that he is, has somehow wrung a decent record out of it thus far. As long as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg stay off the injured list, there will always be hope. But let's face it -- these aren't the same Red Wings anymore. You only had to watch their indifferent loss in Columbus on Saturday night to see that
Tootoo and Carlo Colaiacovo are 30, and Joey MacDonald, Niklas Kronwall, Kent Huskins, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Mikael Samuelsson, Johan Franzen, Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi are all over 30, but everybody else is 28 or younger. The Wings aren't as old as people think anymore. Of the Wings who dressed in Tuesday night's loss, 8 were 30 or older.
It isn't the same team. It's a lot younger. One might very well argue that part of the problem is that the Wings don't have the same kind of veteran presence on the blueline that they might need, or a veteran fourth-liner to crash bodies and cheer from the bench.
Speaking of youth, the Grand Rapids Griffins issued their weekly press release, and while posting all of it might break the blog, here are the highlights:
This Week’s Games: Wed., Feb. 6 - Houston Aeros at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Fri., Feb. 8 - GRIFFINS at Oklahoma City Barons - 8 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., Feb. 9 - GRIFFINS at Oklahoma City Barons - 8 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results: Fri., Feb. 1 GRIFFINS 5 at Hamilton Bulldogs 1 25-14-2-2, 54 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Sat., Feb. 2 Abbotsford Heat 0 at GRIFFINS 1 26-14-2-2, 56 pts. (1st)
Week in Review: The Griffins resumed their regular season schedule following the AHL All-Star break with back-to-back games last weekend. Friday saw the team make its first visit of the season to Hamilton, where it defeated the Bulldogs 5-1. Gustav Nyquist opened the scoring just 1:22 into the contest, and Tomas Tatar doubled the lead with 11 seconds left in the first. Frederic St-Denis scored for Hamilton in the second period, but Tatar completed his hat trick, and Luke Glendening provided additional insurance to seal the win. Petr Mrazek, who made 21 saves against the Bulldogs, stole the show the following night versus Abbotsford, recording his first professional shutout behind 32 saves. Adam Almquist scored the game’s only goal and laid out for a critical shot block in the game’s dying seconds to preserve a 1-0 win for Grand Rapids over the North Division-leading Heat.
On Tap: Grand Rapids will finish a stretch of five games in nine days to open the month of February with three games in four nights this week. The Griffins will host Houston for the third time in 13 days (Jan. 25-Feb. 6) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. before making its first and only trip of the season to Oklahoma City to battle the Barons on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. EST. After finishing up the busy stretch, the Griffins will play just two games over the next 12 days (Feb. 10-21) when they host Lake Erie on Feb. 15 and Charlotte on Feb. 17.
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