The Malik Report
by George Malik on 11/29/13 at 07:50 PM ET
I can only describe the Red Wings' play over the past two games as..."Something completely different" from what the Wings have delivered their fans for the vast majority of the 2013-2014 season.
The Wings have won their last two games by a combined score of 11-1, defeating Boston 6-1 on Wednesday and roaring into Long Island and taking their first game in...Ten years? Yep, ten years, defeating the Islanders 5-0, thanks to a pair of goals from Daniel Alfredsson, a pair of goals from Darren Helm, and yes, a 29-save shutout from Jimmy Howard, who kept the Wings in it when they were dramatically out-shot early in the 1st period.
So the Wings will descend into the media maelstrom in Ottawa tomorrow, hoping to avenge 6-1 and 4-2 losses against the Sens, and they will do so having played DRAMATICALLY different hockey over the past week than they've displayed over, well, really since the middle of October.
The Red Wings are playing a smart, speedy, and efficient game, and its disparate elements appear to finally be coming together and working as a real team.
One could very well argue that Darren Helm's return and Gustav Nyquist's recall have keyed the Wings' success--and there's no doubt that, as Brian's Neck noted on Twitter, adding Helm and Nyquist's speed while also witnessing Tomas Tatar literally hit his stride has provided the Wings with vastly more team speed through the neutral zone, which is nothing less than essential given that the Wings' defensemen can't move the puck through the neutral zone the way that Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski used to, robbing the team of "puck speed" that had to be replaced with skating speed...
But that ignores the fact that everyone from Brendan Smith, Kyle "I'm only -9 now!" Quincey, the disturbingly competent if unspectacular 4th-liner that is Mikael Samuelsson (that being said, once Bertuzzi and Datsyuk return, Samuelsson and Daniel "I'm struggling like nobody's business" Cleary are hitting the bench) and the waiting-to-break-out Stephen Weiss to players like Kronwall, Zetterberg, a Johan Franzen displaying the kind of hard work and every-shift effort we haven't seen since the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs and "The Best
3rd, I Mean Second Line Center in the League" have all finally gotten on the same page, and the Wings' team is playing puck possession hockey from the goal out, blocking passes and shots and issuing multiple bodies in the way of every player trying to go to the net, their goaltenders are booting out the proper rebounds and hanging onto the shots they need to hold (this was a wonderful statement game for Jimmy Howard), the team's transition game is remarkable and is no longer rife with turnovers, and when the Wings roar through the neutral zone and get into the offensive zone, they grind the puck out down low, take hits and "eat the puck" to sustain possession and control, they retrieve rebounds after they shoot as forechecking and they're placing butts in front of the opposing goalie--or simply skating and passing so very well that the goaltenders they're facing have no chance to stop open-net goals.
The Wings appear to have awakened from their November slumber, collectively and individually, and the team just dismantled the Isles today.
7:09 into the 1st, Darren Helm opened the scoring thanks to lovely passes from Daniel Alfredsson and Brendan Smith...
And the Wings did a fine job of protecting that 1-goal lead until they broke out in the 2nd and 3rd periods.
Howard was superb and the penalty-killers were just getting warmed up when Darren Helm scored an absolutely amazing shorthanded goal, charging up ice, dekeing Andrew MacDonald and then putting his puck and stick past goalie Kevin Poulin, whose poke check turned into a kneeing attempt:
All of 12 seconds into the 3rd period, Daniel Alfredsson took a "home run" pass from Brendan Smith and gave the Wings a 3-goal lead via a breakaway goal...
Exactly six minutes later, Gustav Nyquist scored a glorious goal thanks to a bushelful of hard work by the Mule...
And despite this amazing save by Poulin on Nyquist, and a little of sitting on their hands thereafter...
Howard earned his shutout...
And the Wings kept the pedal down, and Alfredsson scored his second goal with 3:42 left in the 3rd.
Babcock's on FSD as I'm typing this, and he duly notes that the Wings have "suddenly" won 4 of 5 because the team's stuck together, because it's continued to do the right things, and because Jimmy Howard put in some hard work with goaltender Jim Bedard, and now the team can start Gustavsson on Sunday and go back to Howard feeling that good things are coming to a team that's both confident and is getting rewarded for good defense, special teams and goaltending via some unexpected but pleasant offense.
And now this happens:
Faceoffs 32-26 Detroit (Detroit won 55%);
Blocked shots 17-10 Detroit;
Missed shots 13-10 Islanders (total attempts 59-50 Islanders, with the Wings firing 30 shots on Poulin and another 20 wide/blocked);
Hits 34-12 Islanders (I do not believe this stat: Matt Martin did not have 7 hits, Cal Clutterbuck may have had 5 and Brock Nelson did not have 4);
Giveaways 11-10 Islanders;
Takeaways 11-3 Islanders.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 9-and-10 (47%); Helm went 9-and-7 (56%); Andersson went 5-and-5 (50%); Weiss went 7-and-3 (70%); Franzen went 2-and-0 (100%); Abdelkader went 0-and-1 (0%).
Shots: Nyquist, Zetterberg and Franzen co-led the team with 4 shots apiece; Alfredsson and Tatar had 3; Smith, Kindl, Quincey and Helm had 2; Andersson, Miller, Kronwall and Weiss had 1.
Blocked attempts: Tatar and Ericsson had 2 attempts blocked; Abdelkader, Alfredsson, Nyquist, Lashoff, Quincey and Weiss had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Miller missed the net 3 times; Smith, Kindl, Abdelkader, Alfredsson, Quincey, Helm and Ericsson missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader led the Wings with 5; Lashoff had 2; Smith, Miller,, Ericsson, Kronwall and Franzen had 1.
Giveaways: Smith had 3 giveaways; Alfredsson, Andersson, Lashoff, Samuelsson, Zetterberg, Weiss and Howard had 1.
Takeaways: Andersson, Weiss and Franzen had takeaways.
Blocked opponent shots: Smith blocked 4 shots; Kindl, Lashoff, Quincey and Franzen blocked 2 shots; Alfredsson, Miller, Helm, Ericsson and Kronwall blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Abdelkader took a minor penalty.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at +24. Helm finished at +4; Abdelkader, Alfredsson, Ericsson and Kronwall finished at +3; Smith and Quincey finished at +2; Nyquist, Zetterberg, Cleary and Franzen finished at +1.
Points: Helm had 2 goals and an assist for 3 points; Alfredsson had 2 goals and an assist for 3 points; both Smith and Kronwall had 2 assists; Nyquist had a goal; Ericsson, Cleary and Franzen had 1 assist.
Ice time: Quincey led the Wings with 21:06 played; Smith played 20:56; Kindl played 20:19;
Zetterberg played 19:58; Kronwall played 19:45; Franzen played 18:28;
Helm played 17:34; Nyquist played 17:31; Ericsson played 17:04;
Abdelkader played 17:00; Lashoff played 16:52; Alfredsson played 15:37;
Miller played 14:08; Tatar played 13:46; Andersson played 12:56;
Samuelsson played 12:38; Cleary played 11:27; Weiss played 10:55.
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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.