The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/12/14 at 01:27 AM ET
The Red Wings have fallen into some predictably poor habits with Jimmy Howard entrenched as the team's starter over the past couple of games--the team's bafflingly both allowing itself to be out-shot by a significant margin and it's subterfuging its puck possession game by losing faceoff battles as well.
With Daniel Alfredsson (back spasms) joining Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body?), Johan Franzen (concussion) and Darren Helm (groin) on the "not going to play this weekend" list, and with the Wings playing a team that looks more and more like the 2004 Calgary Flames as the supposed crackdown on obstruction and interference (in Saturday night's game, goaltender interference in particular) continues to erode, you had to know that the Wings and Los Angeles Kings would battle to win or loss of the one-goal, 1-0 or 2-1 variety.
On Saturday night, Howard assuaged his sub-par performance against the Sharks with a fine x-save performance, and the Red Wings received rather desperately-needed goals from their support players in the form of Riley Sheahan's first NHL goal and a clutch game-winner that Tomas Tatar very publicly dedicated to his recently-passed father en route to a slightly surprising result--a 3-1 Red Wings win over the Kings.
Between the Wings' status as significantly undermanned and the Kings' desire to hit everything that moved and some things that did not while clutching, grabbing, hooking, holding, smashing and mashing their way toward another low-scoring win (Jeff Carter's recent scoring exploits included), the game had less than a pleasing level of aesthetic value, and the Kings' first goal was either the result of a "gritty effort" by Dustin Brown or a plain old dive that allowed Drew Doughty to blast the puck into a partially-vacated Red Wings net 14:10 into the 1st period:
The Wings responded relatively quickly, however, with Riley Sheahan jamming the rebound of Tomas Tatar's drive to the net past Jonathan Quick with 1:49 left in the 1st:
The second period had the Kings out-shooting the Wings 15-9 and the Wings out-blowing 3 power plays to Los Angeles's 2 man advantages, but it was mostly an exercise in mucking, grinding, checking and post-whistle scrums full of pushing, shoving and water bottle police-style exchanges, but the Red Wings stood firm against the Kings' attack, and Howard continued to battle his way through traffic and players who just happened to be skating a county or two removed from the industry that shoots the kind of footage involving what the Kings' forwards were trying to do to Jimmy Howard's goal pads.
With the Kings checking the snot out of Henrik Zetterberg's line and Danny DeKeyser and Niklas Kronwall gobbling up ice time on defense, coach Mike Babcock seemed to be more than willing to toss the Bertuzzi-Sheahan-Tatar, Cleary-Glendening-Eaves (or Samuelsson) and Miller-Andersson-Samuelsson (or Abdelkader) lines over the boards,
On the decisive goal, the Wings were actually able to mount an end-to-end rush in Los Angeles, and Todd Bertuzzi and Riley Sheahan plowed up ice, engaged in a give-and-go, and as Sheahan shot and Bertuzzi crashed the net, Tatar skated toward the most likely spot Jonathan Quick would rebound the puck toward, he collected the puck and blasted it into the yawning cage before pointing skyward and collecting the puck for his dad with 7:54 left in the 3rd:
Five minutes and twenty seconds later, at 17:26, the Wings managed to muck the puck up ice on one more end-to-end rush, and Luke Glendening smartly swiped the puck from Jake Muzzin (who was dumped possibily illegally by Patrick Eaves), and Glendening found Daniel Cleary all alone in the slot, fed Cleary the puck, and Cleary gave the Wings all the breathing room they'd need...
Because Jimmy Howard was fantastic over the game's final 2:34, stopping at least a third of what ended up being 20 3rd period shots against and racking up a 44-saves-on-45-shots performance en route to a huge, huge two points for the Wings.
It must be noted that Howard's performance helped the Wings weather a 3rd period penalty to Todd Bertuzzi that ended less than 2 minutes before Tatar's game-winner.
Tomorrow night, there's no doubt that the Wings won't have any reinforcements in the lineup on Sunday night, when the Wings will battle an unbeaten-at-home Anaheim Ducks team that won for the 16th time over the course of 17 games via a 5-3 decision over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday evening (Sunday's Wings-Ducks game will take place at 8 PM EST and air on FSD), and with the Wings simply trying to earn a "wild card" spot at present, the Wings face one hell of an uphill battle on Sunday, but Saturday night's effort and last weekend's win over Dallas proved that Howard and the undermanned Wings can get the job done if they stick with it for 60 minutes.
If the Wings don't continue to grind it out against a team that's as mean as the Kings and as skilled as the Sharks in those damned Ducks, they're going to have a long Sunday night, but if they display the grit and heart the Howards, Tatars, Sheahans, Zetterbergs (despite being checked like nobody's business, Zetterberg played fantastic hockey, attempting 7 shots and helping Gustav Nyquist take a team-lead-tying 4 [who knew, Jakub Kindl, who was shaky in his own zone at times, had 4 shots as well] and give the Kings all sorts of trouble) displayed while receiving superb support from the Clearys, Bertuzzis, Quinceys (yes, Quincey was pretty decent) and Lashoffs, the Wings have every opportunity to hand the Ducks their first regulation loss at home.
And yes, as Fox Sports Detroit's Ken Daniels stated, Hokejportal and Novy Cas confirm that Tomas Tatar's father, Jan, passed away on Friday. Tatar apparently confirmed the news on his Facebook page, and Daniels stated that Tatar will fly home to Dubinca, Slovakia to attend his dad's funeral after Sunday night's game, missing the Wings-Rangers game on Thursday as a result (and I think he had heart trouble).
Shots 45-26 Los Angeles overall. Detroit was out-shot 10-9 in the 1st period, 15-9 in the 2nd period and 20-8 in the 3rd period.
Special teams: Detroit went 0-for-4 in 8:00 of PP time; the Kings went 1-for-4 in 6:37 of PP time.
Goaltending: Jimmy Howard stopped 44 of 45 shots against for Detroit; Jonathan Quick stopped 23 of 26 shots for Los Angeles.
The 3 stars were picked by "media" (read: Kings broadcasters), and they picked Tomas Tatar, Mike Richards and Jimmy Howard.
The Wings' goals: Sheahan (1) from Tatar (9) and Smith (9);
Tatar (10) from Sheahan (3) and Bertuzzi (5);
Cleary (4) from Glendening (3).
Faceoffs 45-20 Los Angeles (Detroit won 31%);
Blocked shots 17-7 Detroit;
Missed shots 21-11 Los Angeles (total attempts a stunning 83-44 Los Angeles);
Hits 36-19 Los Angeles;
Giveaways 14-10 Los Angeles;
Takeaways 2-0 Los Angeles.
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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.