The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/16/13 at 05:18 AM ET
The Hockeytown Winter Festival officially begins today at Comerica Park, with teams of disabled American and Canadian veterans set to break in the rink at 8:30 AM, open skates scheduled for Tuesday the 17th, Friday the 20th and Tuesday the 24th, an incredibly rare open practice scheduled for 12 PM on Wednesday the 18th at CoPa, and the Red Wings' acting owner, coach and several players set to spend their "off day" revealing a significant charitable donation to Detroit's Clark Park rink...
But Red Wings fans are feeling much less than "festive," even after having seen Petr Mrazek's Winter Classic pads (via Puck Daddy and Kathryn Jean, a.k.a. Ms. Conduct):
The Wings dropped their home record to a yucky 5-8-and-6 and their December record to 2-4-and-2--with the team's last win coming 11 days ago--via a hideous 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and a Red Wings team that will be without Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm and Danny DeKeyser until at least December 28th, and Jimmy Howard for possibly a longer period of time as he's slated to miss 2-4 weeks with his knee issue, and Stephen Weiss for an extended period of time due to a groin injury...
Lost Justin Abdelkader for "at least a couple of games" thanks to an illegal hit delivered during Detroit's 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh, and the team believes that it will be without both Abdelkader and Johan Franzen for the next game or three because Franzen--who's becomea point-per-game player of late--is "undergoing concussion protocol" like Abdelkader after taking a Radko Gudas glove/elbow to his jaw during Sunday's game.
The 15-11-and-9 Red Wings now sit in 4th place in the Atlantic Division, 6th place in the Eastern Conference and are in 15th place league-wide. They've scored 5 goals over the course of their last 5 home games and are 0-3-and-2 during that stretch, and now that Franzen's out, the team's expected to call Riley Sheahan given that the Wings are missing three centers.
Oh yeah, by the way, the Wings play four more times before Christmas (and the Wings play 4 games over the course of 7 nights), hosting the Ducks on Tuesday (Anaheim defeated Edmonton 3-2 on Sunday), they host the Flames on Thursday, they head to Toronto for a hype-filled pre-Winter-Classic warm-up on Saturday, December 21st and they host the Islanders on Monday the 23rd
I'm going to do something very, very difficult at this point: I'm going to try to accentuate the positive and look on the bright side here (and I'm not just doing this because the professional negative-all-the-time types are having a field day right now; I'm doing it because I'm a *#$%@& Wings fan). There is some good news here--just not very much of it.
1. Over the course of the season thus far, the Wings, who've played 35 games, have tended to pull their heads out of their hockey pants when it counted. They rallied from a mid-October slide with a 3-game winning streak, they won 4 straight and 5 of 7 at the end of November and beginning of December, and the team has at least been able to earn "results" (i.e. single points) on a decent-enough basis;
2. Jonas Gustavsson's playing well and Petr Mrazek got a start, and with the whole 4-games-in-7-nights thing, Mrazek's bound to get another start at least;
3. Which plays into the whole, "Hey, the kids are here and playing!" theme. If Tomas Tatar's lovely 24/7 quip didn't remind you that Niklas Kronwall is now an "old man" by Red Wings standards, and as Daniel Alfredsson shoots and shoots and shoots but is snakebit, and Todd Bertuzzi and Pavel Datsyuk have hit the conditioning walls expected after their absences...
It's Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson, Drew Miller (a little older, sure, but on an earned basis), Patrick Eaves (ditto) and a cast of call-ups who included Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening on Sunday who are digging into significant roles and ice time, and, surprisingly enough, Daniel Cleary digging his game out of the gutter;
4. On the blueline, Jakub Kindl's picked up his game in a big way, Brian Lashoff's become the master of the it's-not-a-hack-because-I'm-punching-the-opposing-player-in-the-upper-back-with-my-hands nasty check, Brendan Smith has not sucked while displaying some actually intelligent uses of his offensive abilities instead of endlessly passing back and forth with Kyle Quincey, and Kyle Quincey is digging his game out of the gutter;
5. Tomas Jurco started playing alongside Datsyuk and Alfredsson and he ended the game on the Wings' "Hot Mess" second power play unit with Tomas Tatar, Daniel Cleary, and Kindl and...Gustav Nyquist?...on the point, finishing the game with 16:45 in ice time, 1 shot, 4 more attempts, 2 hits, a takeaway and 1:27 of PP time;
6. Tuesday''s forward lineup will probably look something like this...
Which means that the Wings are essentially using the significant LTIR cap space carved out by placing Henrik Zetterberg there to sit Mikael Samuelsson and give the "kids" a chance.
7. And let's not deny that while Bertuzzi and Datsyuk are trying to regain their pre-injury form, Daniel Alfredsson's firing pucks on the net left and right and is making the Wings' power play look a little less like it's trying to pass the puck into the net despite the fact that he's 42, and while Niklas Kronwall's -3 was earned on Sunday, he's playing 25-27 minutes a night and his 22 points in 33 games played has him on a 54-or-so-point pace (and he's a +9 even after Sunday's mess).
8. Best of all, here's what Kronwall had to say to Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji after the game...
#RedWings Kronwall: Give them credit, they're making some nice plays, but we have to find a way to be better than that.
#RedWings Kronwall: I have to find a way to be a lot better than that. Their first goal, I'm there but I'm not. It's too easy.
#RedWings Kronwall: Mrazek came in and played great for us in net, made some huge saves for us, kept us in the game.
#RedWings Kronwall: On the PP we have to find a way to get the puck in the net.We had some opps but we're not taking advantage of it rt now.
#RedWings Kronwall: We have to bear down, we know we're a better team than this. We gotta stick with it.
#RedWings Kronwall: Even though you're not playing great, if you have a clicking power play, you're going to win games anyway.
#RedWings Kronwall: We can't feel sorry for ourselves. Every team goes through this. Just gotta stay positive and stick together as a team.
With these quotes sticking out:
#RedWings Kronwall: Enough talking. We have to find a way to get the job done out there.
#RedWings Kronwall: We can't just come in here and say the same things over and over again. It just makes you look silly.
#RedWings Kronwall: So we have to find a way to show it on the ice.
Angry Kronner? You bet:
Injuries or no injuries--and the Wings are missing someone who was challenging Crosby in the scoring race when he went down in Zetterberg, a Darren Helm who'd become a fantastic second line center, the team's most productive defenseman not named Kronwall and the lynchpin "#3 guy" in Danny DeKeyser, as well as a goalie who will eventually get his shit together in Howard--the Red Wings' leadership group understands that its current record is unacceptable, especially at home, and most importantly, the team understands that talk is cheap right now.
For the sake of the game's narrative, I have to switch to the Bolts' perspectives now, and let's lead off with an appetizer from the Tampa Bay Times' Joe Smith before digging into the game itself:
D Matt Taormina grew up in the Detroit suburbs a big Red Wings fan and still roots for the Lions and Tigers. So that made Sunday special for Taormina, who played at Joe Louis Arena for the first time as a pro in front of about 100 friends and family. "It's definitely exciting," he said. "It's the first time I've been able to come back and actually be able to play here. I had chances a couple years ago, but I got hurt or sent down. It's exciting to have … kind of like a hometown crowd."
The Lightning were coming off of a 3-0 loss to New Jersey on Saturday and were 0-5-and-2 on the road going into Sunday's game, so they were all too happy to win what really was a "first goal wins" affair, as they told the Tampa Bay Times' Smith...
They had reason to be weary, having arrived at their downtown hotel at 4 a.m. — 13 hours before faceoff — due to a lengthy delay at a New Jersey airport after Saturday night's loss to the Devils.
Tampa Bay hadn't won a road game since Nov. 21 in Montreal, hadn't scored in more than 100 minutes. But at the second intermission of a scoreless game Sunday, it challenged itself to make a change. "Win a period, win a game," wing J.T. Brown said.
The Lightning did just that, racking up three third-period goals to beat Detroit 3-0 at Joe Louis Arena, snapping its seven-game road winless streak and continuing its reversal of fortune against the Red Wings. Tampa Bay (19-11-3) entered the season with just five wins against Detroit, including one at Joe Louis. But it has won all three meetings this season, two in the past four days.
"I don't think you can look at old stats. They're pretty worthless," said goalie Ben Bishop, who had 28 saves for his second shutout of the season. "We've got a new team, new coach, bunch of new guys. So throw those (records) out the window. We've played fairly well against (Detroit)."
Bishop was a big reason why Sunday, continuing his impressive play as the No. 1 goalie (16-5-2 record) with several big saves. "He's getting an opportunity here to have the ball," captain Marty. St. Louis said. "And he's running with it."
And yes, the Lightning got some help along the way...
The Lightning appeared to catch a break two minutes into the game. Detroit wing Gustav Nyquist, in the crease, knocked his own rebound into the goal. But it was waved off, officials saying the whistle was blown first.
"I think I had (the puck) covered," Bishop said. "(Nyquist) poked it loose after (the referee) blew the whistle."
(Not so fast there, Dickus Biggus)
But they made some of their own breaks, too, as the Tampa Tribune's Erik Erlendsson noted...
RW Dana Tyrell came up with what turned out to be a big shot block early in the third period when he stepped in front of a Brian Lashoff shot at 5:18 with the net partially empty behind him. With Tampa Bay up 1-0 at the time, it preserved the lead, and four minutes later the Lightning took a 2-0 lead.
“The puck kind of went out to their D man, he had a lot of time and he made a good shot, so I just had to lay down and block that one,’’ Tyrell said.
When he returned to the bench, Tyrell received plenty of praise for the play.
“We score a couple of goals and guys come back to some pats on the back, but when Dana made that block, everybody got up off the bench and came to give him a pat on the back,’’ [coach Jon] Cooper said. “So that tells you a little bit about our team when a play like that happens.’’
And as such, they won the "battle of familiarity"...
Sunday’s game featured 15 combined players who squared off in last season’s Calder Cup finals between Syracuse (Tampa Bay’s affiliate) and Grand Rapids. The series was won in six games by Grand Rapids, denying back-to-back championships for the Lightning’s top farm system.
There were eight Lightning players — defensemen Radko Gudas, Mark Barberio, Andrej Sustr and Mark Barberio along with forwards Tyler Johnson, J.T. Brown, Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik — and seven Detroit players — goaltender Petr Mrazek, forwards Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening plus defenseman Brian Lashoff.
“Going to the Calder final, we knew a bunch of those players were going to be up in Detroit, and a lot of them were up during the year, they are great players,’’ Johnson said. “It’s kind of a cool thing to having been able to play against them before knowing what they can do and have a little bit of confidence that way.”
Thanking the low-scoring nature of the game all the way, as Bolts coach Jon Cooper told Erlendsson:
With Tampa Bay held off the scoreboard through two periods, it marked six consecutive periods the Lightning had gone without a goal.
“It was one of those games where we went into the room, it's 0-0 and there are two points on the table,'' Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We said to just turn it into a 20-minute game, with a day off on (Monday), so there is no reason we can't leave this on the table. You didn't have be a brain surgeon to say that whoever gets the first goal here is going to have a really good chance to win this game.''
Tampa Bay was able to come up with that first goal when Johnson scored at 3:13 of the period, after he forced Tomas Tatar to turn the puck over high in the zone. Ondrej Palat collected the puck, swung around the left circle, where he tried to feed Marty St. Louis in the slot. St. Louis fanned on his shot attempt, and the puck carried over to Johnson, who pushed it into the open net for his eighth goal of the season. That ended the Lightning goal-less drought at 123 minutes, 57 seconds.
Tampa Bay took a two-goal lead at 9:16 when Nate Thompson collected a puck along the boards and sent a cross-crease pass right onto the stick of Brown, who charging the net at 9:16. The goal was the second of the season for Brown, who snapped a 12-game goal scoring drought.
“That felt good to know that some of the hard work is paying off,'' Brown said. “But that's what you have to do, get yourself into the right positions to get the puck.''
Take it, run with it, rah rah rah? That's the theory, as TampaBayLightning.com's Missy Zielinski noted:
The Lightning earned their first win on the road since November 12 versus the Montreal Canadiens.
“We were on a little skid on the road and if you want to put yourself in a position to make the playoffs you have to win on the road,” Cooper said. “We are a little below .500 on the road, but that was a big step and hopefully we can re-gain our legs and have a good one against New York on the island.”
Despite 20 minutes of scoreless hockey Detroit found the back of the net twice in the first period, but a whistle had been blown just seconds before the puck crossed the goal line. The Lightning’s best opportunity also came when Teddy Purcell hit the cross bar of Petr Mrazek’s net with 12:49 left in the first.
Finally 43 minutes into the contest, Tyler Johnson opened up scoring at 3:13 of the third period. Ondrej Palat looked to feed a pass to Martin St. Louis, but the puck landed on Tyler Johnson’s stick instead for a 1-0 score.
Nearly six minutes later the Bolts increased their lead to 2-0. Nate Thompson sent a pass to J.T. Brown, who was setup in front of Mrazek’s crease, to beat the Red Wings’ netminder to the back of the net for a two-goal lead at 9:16.
A delayed penalty was called on the Red Wings, but the Bolts’ Alex Killorn, who was being hooked, was rewarded with a empty net insurance goal for a 3-0 final to snap the bolts seven-game road losing streak.
We'll use the AP's recap as our pivot point between the Lightning and Red Wings' perspectives, and the Wings and Lightning could not have played more differently than the respective teams did when comparing the second to third periods:
The Wings may have killed three penalties in the second period, but they also out-shot Tampa Bay 13-3 and were holding a 19-13 shot advantage going into the 3rd.
During the third period? The Wings were the team with the only power play, but they were out-shot 13-9.
As such, the Lightning were as happy about the ending as the Wings were pissed off about it...
"We didn't have a good period in the second and we talked about being better between the second and third," Brown said. "And we came out and played better."
Petr Mrazek stopped 24 shots for Detroit, which lost its fifth in a row.
"Again, we're making too many mistakes, too many easy mistakes," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "I thought after two periods we didn't play great but we had a few shifts there at the end of the second, I thought we were coming, we were playing some good hockey. We got the puck deep, had some really good cycles and chances off the cycles. The third period, we were giving them way too easy goals."
Johnson opened the scoring 3:13 into the third period, tipping in a loose puck from the front of the net for his eighth goal.
Brown scored at 9:16, beating Mrazek on a tip off Nate Thompson's pass from the corner.
Killorn added an empty-net goal.
Brown said Bishop was particularly good in the second period, in which the Red Wings outshot the Lightning 13-3.
"He made the saves and kept us in the game," Brown said. "In the second period, they could have broken it open but he made the saves."
The Wings' coach was not completely upset but wasn't delighted with the Wings' continuing scoring struggles, as he told the Detroit Free Press's George Sipple (who also posited a "why the Wings lost" capsule recap)...
“I thought the game was tight,” [Wings coach Mike] Babcock said. “I didn’t think either team had a ton of chances. I thought we had some good looks tonight. We didn’t score. For whatever reason, we’re not scoring.”
The Wings’ best chances came early in the game. Gustav Nyquist appeared to score 2:02 into the game, but referee Paul Devorski immediately waved off the goal because the whistle had blown. Pavel Datsyuk hit a post with 6 minutes left in the first period.
“Obviously, we’re more challenged offensively with our lineup,” Babcock said. “But there’s no sense whining and feeling sorry for ourselves. We’ve gotta find a way to win a game.”
The Wings were already missing forwards Justin Abdelkader (concussion protocol), Darren Helm (shoulder), Stephen Weiss (groin) and Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disk).
A turnover by Wings forward Tomas Tatar led to Tyler Johnson’s goal at 3:13 of the third period.
J.T. Brown scored at 9:16 to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead.
“The goals they scored were backside tap-ins,” Babcock said. “We had the puck on both goals. I’m talking (defensemen) on breakouts that should be executed. We didn’t execute on those two breakouts, and they end up in the net. We’re not scoring, so everything is more costly. We needed to get a power-play goal here tonight. We didn’t get one.”
As DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose suggests, the Wings are truly in a bind in terms of missing primary scorers, but the team's not using it as an excuse:
The loss of Franzen further cripples the Red Wings’ offense that has been shutout on the scoreboard three times this season. They were held scoreless four times in a 48-game lockout-shortened 2013 season. The Wings are now an unfathomable 5-8-6 in their own building.
With the loss, the Red Wings are now on a 1-4-2 roll since Dec. 4 with just two home win in the last eight weeks.
Zetterberg, Franzen and Helm have accounted for 30.3 percent of the Red Wings’ goals this season, so a big void needs to be filled in their absence.
“I thought he had some good looks tonight but we didn’t score,” Babcock said. “For whatever reason, we’re not scoring. Pav rung one off the post, we had the one goal there (disallowed). We had some good looks, but we didn’t score, so we’ve got to stick with it that way. Obviously, we’re more challenged offensively with our lineup, but there’s no sense whining or feeling sorry for yourself. We’ve got to find a way to win a game.”
Although Mrazek was superb at times, as Michigan Hockey's Stefan Kubus noted...
Despite allowing a pair of goals, Mrazek provided a sound, stable presence in goal for an offensively-challenged Red Wings squad of late. In the second period, most notably, the 21-year-old Czech goaltender shuffled from right to left to make a brilliant save on a 2-on-1 passing play by the Bolts.
“I saw the guy a little bit on my left side,” Mrazek said. “The guy in the center, he got the puck and I don’t think he could shoot because three of our players were there, so I was waiting for that pass.”
The Wings spent their time talking about too much time spent not executing when the few chances they had to score presented themselves...
“I don’t think there was a lot of energy on either side tonight,” Kronwall said. “But at the end of the second there, we had some really good shifts down low and started getting some opportunities that way, had some real good looks below the slot.”
Despite not allowing a power-play goal, the Red Wings failed to convert with the man-advantage themselves, going 0-for-8 on the two-game weekend.
“On the power-play, we’ve got to find a way to get the puck in the net,” Kronwall said. “We had some opportunities, but we’re not taking advantage of them right now. We have to bear down. We know we’re a better team than that. We’ve got to stick with it here.”
Alas, Babcock said he thought the team played much better than it did against Pittsburgh on Saturday, but with the offense struggling “for whatever reason,” the club has to play especially stingy defense going forward.
“We’re not scoring, obviously, as a group right now at all, so we’ve got to continue to check real well and not give up much. i thought it was a tight game both ways. We’ve got to find a way to win a game.”
And even Mrazek knew that it was a first-goal-wins game, as he told Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji:
"I think the second period I played really well, and we just couldn’t score a goal," Mrazek said. "They scored first and that was the most important (thing) in the game."
Tomas Jurco's debut was overshadowed by the fact that the team lost Franzen, as Wakiji noted, with Babcock lamenting the necessity of a "concussion protocol" resulting in the expectation of multiple missed games for both Franzen and Justin Abdelkader:
"It’s all those guys who get bumped in the head. It’s like in the league now they’re gone forever, it seems like," Babcock said. "I don’t know what that means. I don’t know protocol-wise what will happen."
The Wings called up Tomas Jurco to replace Abdelkader and he played with Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson, recording one shot on goal.
"When I first find out I’m coming here I have no idea that I’m going to start with Pav and Alfie," Jurco said. "I just found out before the game and it was a great feeling. I think we played pretty well. We didn’t score but we had some chances. It’s an unbelievable experience for me."
Now they'll need to recall a center as they're down to Datsyuk and Joakim Andersson as their only centers.
"It's another opportunity for someone to grab more ice time and do well and really take advantage of it," Niklas Kronwall said. "We can't feel sorry for ourselves. Every team goes through this. Just gotta stay positive and stick together as a team. In the long run, I think you're just going to benefit from it."
Babcock also issued a telling statement regarding potential suspensions to the Windsor Star's Bob Duff...
“When the suspension is handed out, guess what I don’t get back? I don’t get the player back,” Babcock said. “I just know that I had a good player and now I don’t have a good player.”
Tomas Jurco made his NHL debut Sunday for Detroit, skating on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson.
“All those injuries helped me to get called up,” Jurco said. “I was just trying to do my best in the AHL and luckily for me, those injuries gave me a chance to play.”
To accentuate the positive: Jurco got talked up before the game, and then he backed it up, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted...
Jurco played 16 minutes, 45 seconds on 21 shifts with one shot on net.
“Jurco was good,” Babcock said. “He’s big, fast and has some skill. I’d like him to the net but he did a lot of good things, got Alfie (Daniel Alfredsson) and Pav (Pavel Datsyuk) the puck. He’s a fairly high-end player.”
Jurco, 20, was leading the Griffins with 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 26 games. The 2011 second-round pick (35th overall) has been considered one of the Red Wings’ best prospects in recent years.
“He has good speed, good hands, and he’s a top-10 scorer in the American League,” general manager Ken Holland said. “Obviously we’re not scoring enough goals. There’s a lot of guys down right now. It’s an opportunity to see what he can do.”
Babcock liked what he saw of Jurco in training camp, but admitted his scouting report is limited.
“Personally, I don’t know him,” said Babcock, who nevertheless played him with Datsyuk and Alfredsson. Blash (Griffins coach Jeff Blashill) tells me he has a chance to be a very good player. But you can do anything you want down there. You have to come up here and have confidence in what you do.”
Babcock continued on that particular tack prior to the game, as DetroitRedWings.com's Roose noted...
“Well, really it was between him and Riley Sheahan,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We already had up Glendening and he’s that kind of guy, so we looked for a different kind of guy.”
With injuries having decimated the forward lines, with Henrik Zetterberg (back), Stephen Weiss (groin), Darren Helm (shoulder) and Abdelkader (concussion) all sidelined, Jurco is expected to play on the Wings’ top line with center Pavel Datsyuk and winger Daniel Alfredsson.
Babcock admits he doesn’t know much about Jurco, however, Griffins coach Jeff Blashill has given his stamp of approval to the Red Wings.
“Personally, I don’t know him that good,” Babcock said. “Blash tells me he’s a very good player. Blash tells me he has a chance to be a good player. But you can do anything you want down there but you have to come up here and have confidence to do what you do.
“Lots of guys come here and you don’t see them. He’s playing a game here tonight against (Richard) Panik and (Ondrej) Palat, (Tyler) Johnson – that’s the (Syracuse) team you played against last year when they won the (Calder Cup) championship. Just play the game.”
And Ken Holland offered the following to the Free Press's George Sipple:
“Obviously, we’re not scoring any goals, or enough goals,” Holland said. “Jurco is in the top 10 in the American (Hockey) League in scoring, a productive junior. There’s a lot of guys down, and this is an opportunity to see what he can do.”
After the game, Jurco was--predictably--both delighted about his experience and unfazed by his surroundings, as he told the Macomb Daily's Fred Costello:
“It was an unbelievable experience for me,” Jurco said. “I’ve been watching those guys since I was a little kid, and now I had a chance to play with them. When I first found out I was coming here, I had no idea I was playing with Pav and Alfie. I just found out before the game, and it was a great feeling.”
Jurco did have a ton of scoring chances, but he did get a vote of confidence from coach Mike Babcock both during the game and after it. Jurco was out on the ice during a Detroit power play late in the third period.
The six foot two, 200-pounder did enough to capture some attention.
“I thought Jurco was good,” Babcock said.” He’s big, he’s fast and he’s got some skill set. I’d like him to be more dangerous, taking the puck to the net and things like that. But, I still thought he did a lot of good things. He looks like a fairly high end player.”
From Jurco’s perspective, playing games in the NHL is a lot different than the AHL - from a cerebral standpoint.
“Actually I don’t think it’s faster,” Jurco explained. “I really shouldn’t talk about it because I’ve only played one game. AHL hockey is really fast with a lot of guys running around. This is more about thinking and position. I like that more than the AHL.”
Jurco duly noted that he was rather familiar with his opponent while speaking with DetroitRedWings.com's Roose...
"Yeah, when I got called up, Riley Sheahan was making fun of me that I was going to play against Syracuse,” Jurco said. “So I knew it was going to be against a lot of guys from last year, but it’s a different level. It’s the NHL here and way different than last year’s playoff.”
The rosters for the Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning featured 15 players who played in last spring’s AHL Calder Cup championship series between the Red Wings and Lightning farm teams – the Grand Rapids Griffins and Syracuse Crunch. The Griffins won the Cup in a six-game series.
With the Red Wings roster looking more and more like a hospital ward lately, seven current or former Griffins were in the NHL lineup, including goalie Petr Mrazek, forwards Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Luke Glendening, Joakim Andersson and defenseman Brian Lashoff. Meanwhile, the Lightning’ young roster consisted of eight former Crunch stars: Radko Gudas, Andrej Sustr, Matt Taormina, Mark Barberio, Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat and J.T. Brown.
Despite the 3-0 loss, the 20-year-old Jurco said he gained invaluable experience while skating with Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson on the Red Wings’ top forward line.
“When I first find out I’m coming here I have no idea that I’m going to start with Pav and Alfie,” said Jurco, who logged 16:45 of ice-time. “I just found out before the game and it was a great feeling. I think we played pretty well. We didn’t score but we had some chances. It’s an unbelievable experience for me. It’s experience that you take. I know what to expect from other games and I know where I should get better and where I’m at right now. Just to be here gives me a lot, just to know where I’m at right now.”
And going forward, Jurco wasn't ready to suggest that he "belongs" in the NHL yet, but he was more than willing to tell Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji that he plans on making the most of the opportunity presented to him:
"It’s hard to say if I belong here. It’s up to coach," Jurco said. "He decides if I belong here or not. I know where I am right now and what I need to improve to be here at this level."
Jurco was leading the Griffins with 11 goals and 16 assists in 27 games.
"It’s a little different hockey," Jurco said. "It’s more about position and a little smarter than the AHL where guys just chase each other."
While the Wings deal with their multitude of injuries, Jurco will have a chance to show if he's smart enough to play in the NHL at 20.
"All those injuries helped me to get called up," Jurco said. "I was just trying to do my best in the AHL and luckily for me, those injuries gave me a chance to play. It’s experience that you take. I know what to expect from other games and I know where I should get better and where I’m at right now. Just to be here gives me a lot, just to know where I’m at right now.”
On a collective basis, however--again--the Wings had to admit that they're goal-starved, from Mrazek on out, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted...
Bishop (17-5-2) stopped 28 shots and earned his third shutout, while outdueling Petr Mrazek (23 saves), who was making his second start this season. But these days, it seems like a Red Wings goaltender almost has to pitch a shutout to get a victory.
“I don’t think we feel pressure,” Mrazek said of the Red Wings goaltenders. “We have to go game to game and try to score some goals. We just couldn’t score a goal (Sunday).”
And while Kronwall suggested that the Wings have to embrace their status as giving new faces "opportunities" instead of lamenting their injury-induced absences...
“You can’t really think about it or do too much about it,” Kronwall said. “It’s an opportunity for somebody else to get ice time, do well, and take advantage of it. Other teams are going through it. You just stay positive and in the long run, you can benefit from it.”
The bottom line is the bottom line, as they told MLive's Ansar Khan:
“Both goals, we have the puck. Both goals, I think we are in position but we’re not,” Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We’re there but we’re not. It’s too easy (for the opposition). It’s not good enough. I know I have to be a lot better and as a team we can be a lot better than we are right now.”
Turnovers are magnified when you’re not scoring, Babcock said.
“You can outscore some of your mistakes some times,” Babcock said. “We had it going pretty good and then we lost some guys and we haven’t generated that kind of offense. We’ve been diligent, I think we’ve worked, but we haven’t scored.”
No penalty was called when Gudas hit Franzen with his glove in the corner as the Detroit forward tried to drive to the net. An enraged Franzen slammed his stick against the boards as he left the ice and then yelled at officials from the bench. He received a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Franzen had 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 16 games, before Sunday, since returning from a four-game absence due to an upper-body injury.
The Red Wings lost forward Justin Abdelkader to a possible concussion Saturday night on a hit from Pittsburgh’s Deryk Engelland. Detroit also is missing injured players Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disc), Darren Helm (shoulder), Stephen Weiss (groin), Danny DeKeyser (shoulder) and Jimmy Howard (sprained MCL).
The Red Wings have been shut out three times this season. They have scored two or fewer goals in 19-of -35 games.
“We got to find a way to win a game,” forward Daniel Cleary said. “Going into the third tied a lot lately, got to find a way to get the win. We have to grind out a 1-0, 2-1 win.”
Highlights: It takes some digging these days, but I did find NHL.com's highlights with Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond narrating them:
Post-game: The Lightning posted a Soundcloud clip of Bolts coach Jon Cooper's post-game comments;
Fox Sports Detroit and the Windsor Star's Bob Duff offered "alternate angle" takes on Kronwall's comments:
Duff and the Free Press's George Sipple also posted comments from Tomas Jurco, which are a little more easily seen as covered by the Wings, with Jurco beginning by answering whether he was nervous prior to the game:
And the Wings posted Mike Babcock's post-game presser:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 22-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 25-image gallery;
The Windsor Star posted 5 big images from the game;
ESPN posted a 20-image gallery;
Shots 28-27 Tampa Bay overall. Tampa Bay out-shot Detroit 10-6 in the 1st, was out-shot 13-3 in the 2nd and out-shot Detroit 14-9 in the 3rd period.
Special teams: the Red Wings went 0-for-3 in 4:38 of PP time; the Lightning went 0-for-3 in 4:16 of PP time, including 22 seconds of 5 on 3 time.
Goaltending: Petr Mrazek stopped 24 of 26 shots, and the Lightning scored into an empty net; Ben Bishop stopped 28 of 28.
Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji picked the 3 stars, and she picked Petr Mrazek, Tyler Johnson and Ben Bishop.
Faceoffs 28-28 (Detroit won 50%);
Blocked shots 15-11 Tampa Bay;
Missed shots 12-12 (total attempts 55-50 Detroit);
Hits 23-18 Detroit;
Giveaways 8-6 Tampa Bay;
Takeaways 11-4 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Andersson went 10-and-11 (48%); Datsyuk went 11-and-9 (55%); Glendening went 3-and-5 (38%); Tatar went 2-and-1 (67%); Franzen went 1-and-1 (50%); Bertuzzi lost his only faceoff; Eaves won his only faceoff.
Shots: Alfredsson led the Wings with 4 shots; Nyquist had 3; Kindl, Datsyuk, Andersson, Miller, Quincey, Kronwall and Franzen had 2 shots; Smith, Eaves, Tatar, Lashoff, Jurco, Glendening and Cleary had 1 shot.
Blocked attempts: Alfredsson fired 4 more shots into Lightning players; Kindl, Datsyuk, Lashoff and Kronwall had 2 attempts blocked; Nyquist, Eaves and Jurco had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Jurco and Kronwall missed the net 3 times; Smith and Datsyuk missed the net 2 times; Kindl and Bertuzzi missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Eaves and Bertuzzi co-led the team with 3 hits; Kindl, Alfredsson, Miller, Jurco and Quincey had 2 hits; Nyquist, Andersson, Tatar, Glendening, Ericsson, Kronwall and Cleary had 1 hit.
Giveaways: Ericsson had 2 giveaways; Nyquist, Tatar, Kronwall and Mrazek had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Eaves, Miller and Quincey had 2 takeaways; Datsyuk, Nyquist, Andersson, Jurco and Bertuzzi had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: Nyquist, Miller, Ericsson and Kronwall blocked 2 shots; Smith, Glendening and Franzen blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Quincey and Franzen took minors and the Wings took a bench minor for too many men on the ice.
Plus-minus: The Wings were -16 overall. Kronwall finished at -3; Kindl and Tatar finished at -2; Datsyuk, Nyquist, Eaves, Miller, Bertuzzi, Ericsson and Cleary finished at -1.
Points: Nobody scored.
Ice time: Datsyuk led the team with 23:31 played; Kronwall played 23:05; Kindl played 21:09;
Alfredsson played 19:59; Ericsson played 19:29; Quincey played 17:54;
Smith played 17:37; Jurco played 16:45; Tatar played 16:32;
Lashoff played 16:24; Andersson played 16:06; Bertuzzi played 15:17;
Nyquist played 14:13; Cleary played 13:23; Miller played 13:23;
Glendening played 12:49; Eaves played 10:40; Franzen played 6:50.
- Your mileage may vary, but to me, the Red Wings scenes in general were dull. Detroit’s a fascinating team in a lot of really subtle ways when you walk into that arena and dressing room, but it may be difficult for HBO to depict that in such a short series. With Babcock, in particular, what you see is what you get – his afternoon job gets attention here, for example – and I doubt there’ll be any surprises. Maybe they can draw Ken Holland into the mix? His passion for the organization is pretty compelling.
Babcock, for his part, comes across as articulate, smart and scowlingly intense. The cameras follow him on brooding jogging laps around the Joe Louis concourse—complete with slouchy dad sweat socks—as he plots how to return his team to greatness.
"We haven’t won a Cup here since ’08, so to me, what have you done for us lately?" he confesses in one of the cozy talking-head close-ups. "As a coach, getting on top is one thing; staying on top is another thing—no different for our franchise."
So far, the Red Wings dressing room seems to be stocked with more engaging personalities than Toronto’s, but the one who looms largest is the guy who never speaks to the camera: Pavel Datsyuk.
Lovingly shot slow-mo footage of Datsyuk charging up the ice in practice, his sweater rippling in the wind of his own speed, is mesmerizing. But the best bits surrounding Datsyuk reveal how the men who share a dressing room with him are in no less awe than the fans who line up for autographs outside the arena.
On a dinner out in Florida before facing the Panthers, a half-dozen Red Wings gush about how their opponents have eyes only for Datsyuk when he’s on the ice, and the best decision in any situation is passing to number 13.
"No, but seriously, is Pavel playing tomorrow?" Brendan Smith asks of the injured centre.
Kyle Quincey practically drools. "He’s so special," he marvels. "I personally think he’s top two, one in the world."
But Daniel Cleary, one of Episode 1's principal characters, had this to say to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
There wasn’t much reaction from players to the first installment of HBO’s “24/7: Road to the Winter Classic.”
With Saturday’s game going late, and the show beginning at 10 p.m., many players will catch it on their DVR.
Daniel Cleary was one of the few to see it.
“We have a lot more to offer,” Cleary said. “We have a lot more personality in this room. It’ll come out here as we get going. It’ll get better as we get winning. Anytime you’re not winning, there’s a bit of a cloud around. We have a lot of guys with unique personalities that will shine through.”
In a scattershot notebook, the Macomb Daily's Fred Costello noted that Mike Babcock remains a Petr Mrazek fan...
“(Mrazek’s) got that confidence, he’s got swagger,” Babcock said. “He’s been good everywhere he’s been. You have to be good here. He’s not coming up here trying out for the backup job. He thinks he should be the starter. That’s his attitude. Nothing fazes him. I like that.”
And with Stephen Weiss out for a while to come, as Costello and Babcock noted...
The return of Weiss also remains up in the air. After seeing one doctor regarding his groin injury, follow up is required.
“We don’t know yet,” Babcock said. “They’re still doing the tests. They’re sending him for another opinion. I just know he’s not playing.”
Weiss has endured a frustrating season, his first of a five-year, $24.5 million deal signed this summer. In 26 games played, Weiss has two goals and two assists. He is also a minus four.
I thought this take on his struggles, delivered by one of the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson's sources, was particularly intriguing:
Weiss has been a total non-factor with the Wings, who outbid four or five teams to sign him for $24.5 million over five years. Twice he’s been on the shelf with groin problems (he may see a specialist) and every time ex-Wings centre Val Filppula scores in Tampa Bay, people ask why they didn’t just resign him? “Sometimes, you get comfortable on a team that doesn’t win much, and it’s hard to go to another one where winning is expected,” said one Eastern-based pro scout.
Paul will be taking more of the duties than I will today. Back-to-backs and moving cars in the snow = I've worked for at least 24 of the last 48 hours and have gotten very little sleep. I need to catch up today and it's time for the Pre Christmas Grocery Shopping Trip of Doom, so I'll be in and out.
Update: DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's Week Ahead in Hockeytown hit around 4 AM. Here's the "story" part of his preview of this week's games:
How fortunate do the Red Wings feel to be in the Atlantic Division hunt despite having 13 regulars out of the lineup at one time or another with injuries ranging from sore groins to concussions? One only has to look to backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who hasn’t been immune to the injury bug, but is still enjoying the best season of his NHL career.
“He looks extremely good this year, obviously,” Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson said. “It’s one of those things where obviously being a little bit healthy for a stretch again at the right time and starting off good, with some confidence. But he’s playing poised, he’s aggressive when he needs to be and it looks like he’s comfortable.”
Gustavsson has been comfortable enough to own an 8-2-2 record with a 2.09 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
The Wings signed the former Maple Leafs’ netminder prior to the lockout-shortened season last year. The plan all along was for Gustavsson to backup the Wings’ No. 1 Jimmy Howard. But last year, Gustavsson began the season with a sore groin, which lingered for most of the campaign. He only appeared in seven games in 2013.
Forwards Darren Helm, Stephen Weiss, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Jonathan Ericsson have all missed at least seven games this season. Between a groin and neck injuries, Gustavsson has missed six games, but with Jimmy Howard out for 2-4 weeks with an MCL sprain, the 29-year-old Swede needs to maintain his remarkable level.
“He has been a big story for us,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He gives us a chance to win every night. In this day and age you need to have two goalies going. The days of one guy playing 70 games are over.”
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