The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/21/13 at 11:03 PM ET
Updated 3x, and pretty substantially so, at 12:57 AM: In attending my first Wings game since Nicklas Lidstrom retired (yes, it's been that long), I witnessed an unfocused and disjointed effort from a "discomboobled" Red Wings team that dropped a 2-0 decision to a much more star-studded Boston Bruins lineup (the game summary and event summary are available but don't necessarily tell much of the game's "story" save the 8-2 disparity and takeaways and the fact that the Wings fired 18 shots on Chad Johnson and 20 wide or into Bruins players)...
And then I got from the Cobo Roof to I-96 and Wixom Road in 25 minutes, and spent the balance of my journey to the vicinity of the South Lyon High School at Pontiac Trail and 11 Mile Road...Sitting in traffic for 45 minutes due to unscheduled construction at 10:45 PM, and then a police incident yielded a road closure on Pontiac Trail required going the "long way"...Yielding another hour to make the 10-or-so minute trip "home."
So I'm in a bad mood.
The worst part of the loss involved Jonas Gustavsson pulling his groin as he moved laterally in the last minute of the 2nd period--after what was honestly a heroic performance in front of a young and downright ditzy Wings lineup--and MLive's Ansar Khan is reporting that Gustavsson's dinged up pretty badly, though Babcock may or may not have overstated the nature of his injury:
Gustavsson suffered a pulled groin during Saturday's 2-0 preseason loss to the Boston Bruins at Joe Louis Arena and could miss the start of the season.
“A minimal of two weeks and then what do we say, day-to-day and then seven-to-10 days before you start talking about playing him,'' coach Mike Babcock said.
Gustavsson hurt himself while stretching to make a save on Carl Soderberg's goal with 1:04 to play in the second period. Gustavsson was scheduled to play the entire game but watched the third period from the bench as Petr Mrazek took over.
Gustavsson injured his groin during a 19-minute stint in relief of Jimmy Howard during the 2013 season-opening 6-0 loss at St. Louis and missed the next 14 games. Gustavsson ended up starting only four games all season, appearing in seven total.
Honestly, it's very hard to say whether Gustavsson will be out for a day or a week or a month. Babcock was grumbly after the game (I at least heard the presser on AM 1270), falling into the, "I'm watching" or, "They're gonna play in Grand Rapids" cliches when asked about the youngsters in the lineups and insisting that he was "going to watch" to determine who would earn call-ups. There was no honest update on Gustavsson's status, and of course when the coach pulls the groin lines, everybody pushes the panic button.
It wasn't pretty overall, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness notes, because the Wings had a fatal case of pass-itis on a night where north-south hockey and actually winning battles on the boards could have spared Gustavsson the effort that yielded yet another groin tweak:
Detroit has been shutout in two of its first four preseason games and scored a combined 12 goals in the other two.
“We just have to find a way to bang a few in,” Stephen Weiss said. “If you don’t score any goals it’s tough to win in this league and usually if you give up two it should still give you a solid chance to win. We just have to find a way to at least get it to overtime or a shootout.”
Just two nights ago Detroit beat Boston 8-2.
“We have to score some goals,” Weiss said. “We just weren’t able to get anything in the back of the net. We need to find ways to get dirty ones. We needed to find a way to get a few on our side tonight to at least make it a hockey game,” Weiss added.
Carl Soderberg scored both goals for the Bruins and goalie Chad Johnson stopped all 18 shots he faced. Johnson came in with a .625 goals-against average in the preseason with a .625 save percentage.
Boston opened the scoring with just over a minute left to play in the second period. Chris Kelly fired a shot hard off the end boards to the right to Gustavsson and hit shot perfectly out front to Soderberg, who buried the rebound into the open net before the Wings netminder could get across to make the stop.
Then just 41 seconds into the third, Soderberg added his second of the game and second of the preseason. The shot from point by Dennis Seidenberg was deflected in front of Mrazek and Soderberg pounced on the loose puck that lay in front of Bruins forward Brad Marchand to beat Petr Mrazek cleanly.
It was the first shot Mrazek, who made seven saves, faced coming on in relief of Gustavsson.
The "A Team"--as in a lineup including Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson--will be playing on Sunday, but aside from some gritty shifts from Bertuzzi and Weiss, Johan Franzen was kind of indifferent, Daniel Cleary was up-and-down and looked like he'd missed part of camp, the Bruins' first goal happened because the otherwise excellent Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet were introduced to the, "Hard dump-in off the end boards yields an immediate scoring chance" boards the hard way, and of Calle Jarnkrok (using a CCM RBZ stick for the second half of the game), Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, and Landon Ferraro, who mostly played alongside Cory Emmerton and Drew Miller...
Nobody really shot the dang puck save Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson, and even they were passing like nobody's business.
The endless I've-got-it-you-take-it drop passes from Kyle Quincey to Brendan Smith and back when easy outlet passes to forwards exiting the zone were availiable yielded significant consternation on my part, and Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff had no chemistry whatsoever.
Eventually, Weiss and Andersson's lines were shaken up, with Nyquist, Bertuzzi, Franzen, Cleary and even Jarnkrok and Ferraro being swapped out as wingers, but nothing really happened.
Jurco was jittery, Sheahan was focused on his defensive responsibilities, Ferraro had some decent chances and Jarnkrok was responsible all over the dang place, and played on the point during one power play, but everybody was passing, passing, passing and passing some more, and when the Wings play pass-and-defer, nothing much happens.
For the record, the roster sheet lists #23 as Triston Grant, and Grant didn't play--Brian Lashoff did and wore #23.
In the end, aside from Todd Bertuzzi's scrap with Mike Moore...
The Wings pumped single, unobstructed and uncontested shots into Chad Johnson, they didn't really sustain any offensive pressure, and the Bergerons, Erikssons, Campbells, Kellys, Hamiltons, Frasers, Boychuks, Krugs, Seidenbergs and Marchands out-worked, out-ground and especially out-executed a team whose attention to detail was almost entirely absent.
Again, I'm not one to contest the coach's suggestions, but to suggest that Gustavsson's going to be out two weeks after the man sat on the bench in the 3rd period instead of getting treatment strikes me as premature at best and coach-speak in all likelihood.
We'll find out more after the Red Wings practice on Sunday morning.
In any case, the "Wiffins" will have one last chance to impress on Sunday against Chicago--the game airs on FSD at 5 PM--and on Sunday night or Monday morning, the Wings will announce another round of cuts as the Griffins head to Grand Rapids to open their own camp and the Red Wings prepare to dress more NHL-heavy lineups next Wednesday when the host Pittsburgh, next Friday when they host Toronto and next Saturday when they head to Hogtown for a Hockey Night in Canada-televised game.
Update: Michigan Hockey's Stefan Kubus captured more of Babcock's statements--and Gustav Nyquist's (he did try to lead, as did Weiss, I'll give them that)...
“Most of this lineup, in two nights, we haven’t scored a goal,” Babcock said. “We don’t move the puck very good from the back so it’s kind of a grind-fest out there. I thought they did lots of good things… I didn’t think we were good enough.”
After thumping the B’s at the TD Garden 8-2 just two nights ago in Beantown, Gustav Nyquist and the Red Wings knew Boston would be back with a vengeance this time around.
“I don’t think we got on them as hard as we should’ve tonight at home,” Nyquist said. “We knew they were going to come out hard. They didn’t like [the 8-2 loss Thursday night] obviously, but we’ve got to be more ready and I think we’ve got to spend more time in their zone to grind them down. That’s our game and I don’t think we did that enough today.”
The Bruins controlled the play early on, but things settled down for Detroit not too long after, with each club recording six shots on net. To spice things up a bit, Todd Bertuzzi dropped the mitts with Boston’s Mike Moore in a spirited scrap to send the Joe Louis Arena faithful into a frenzy. Nyquist said having Bertuzzi on his line notably opened up more space for him.
“Todd’s a great player, he’s so strong on the puck,” Nyquist said. “I feel he moves the opposing players around where he wants to, stays on the puck and makes a lot of space for me, too.”
And boy, does Kubus tell a different groin story:
It appeared there would be no scoring after another period of play, but the Bruins’ Soderberg changed that late, banging home a Chris Kelly rebound past Gustavsson to make 1-0. Stretching over to try and make the save on Soderberg, Gustavsson appeared to have tweaked his groin, something Babcock later confirmed to be true.
“I thought he played well until he hurt his groin,” Babcock said, declining to comment further on the situation.
Update #3: The Free Press's Helene St. James also penned a recap...
The big negative for the Wings was that after four exhibition games, the only line scoring is Pavel Datsyuk’s. Stephen Weiss played between Johan Franzen and Daniel Cleary on Saturday. An earlier injury to Franzen and a current sore groin for Daniel Alfredsson have thrown a wrench in assembling a second line with any chemistry.
“We’ve got to find a way to bang a few in,” Weiss said. “If you don’t score any goals, it’s tough to win in this league.”
The Bruins, smarting after losing, 8-2, at home, brought along Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson and Brad Marchand. Carl Soderberg scored late in the second period when he took advantage of a fluke bounce and again on a power play early in the third period. Detroit’s best line was Joakim Andersson with wingers Gustav Nyquist and Todd Bertuzzi, a group that showed spark and spunk but, even so, wasn’t able to convert.
“It’s frustrating because that’s two games in a row for our unit that we haven’t scored,” Bertuzzi said. “I thought we had multiple chances to put the puck in the net.”
Bertuzzi called it fun to play with Nyquist and Andersson, saying “they’re two kids that are high-energy. They’re not afraid to hold onto the puck and make plays. I think Nyquist’s speed is underrated — he’s a fast kid, he can break loose.”
Bertuzzi got some love from Wings fans Saturday after schooling defenseman Mike Moore in a fight, part of a night full of scrums and skirmishes that bodes well for a rivalry refreshed by relocating both teams to the same division.
“They’ve been to the finals past in the last three years,” Bertuzzi said. “They’re a heck of a hockey team. When they come to play, they play hard, so we’ve got to be more prepared every time we play them.”
She went with the coach's theory regarding Gustavsson....
“He hurt his groin,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought he played well until he hurt his groin.”
Groins never take less than two weeks, and that’s usually for a skater. A goaltender, who needs immediate short-range mobility, easily takes much longer.
“We say day-to-day, and then in seven to 10 days, we start talking about him playing in two weeks,” Babcock said.
It is an incredibly frustrating situation for Gustavsson and the Wings. After the morning skate, at which point Babcock planned to play Gustavsson all three periods, Babcock said Gustavsson needs to show that “you can give your team a chance to win. That’s what he gets paid for, that’s what he’s got to do. He’s got to build himself some confidence.
“The idea is, you know you can put him in, and he can win the game. Not that you’re shying away from him. So back-to-backs, you can go to him.”
The Wings have their first back-to-back in two weeks, in the opening week of the regular season. If Gustavsson isn’t ready — which seems the likely scenario — the Wings’ option is to put Gustavsson on long-term injured reserve, because they need the salary-cap room to open a spot for Petr Mrazek.
The Free Press posted an AP/USA Today gallery from the game...
And Krupa noted that Bertuzzi's plucky...
Todd Bertuzzi appears to have returned to form — skating well, strong on the puck as always and even winning a fight, hands-down, against the Bruins. But after the game, he was determinedly unsatisfied.
“I don’t know, I think it’s frustrating when you don’t get any goals,” he said. “That’s two games for our unit that we haven’t scored. I thought we had multiple chances to put the puck in the net.”
Bertuzzi is skating with Gustav Nyqvist and Joakim Andersson on what is intended to be the Red Wings’ third line until Darren Helm returns.
“It’s fun playing with them,” he said. “They’re two kids who are high energy. They’re not afraid to hold on to the puck and make plays. I thought we did a few things good offensively. But they’re opportunistic kids. They can jump into holes. I think Nyqvist’s speed is under-rated.”
Drew Miller isn't taking his roster spot for granted for a second, viewing the exhibition season as a proving ground...
“The biggest thing for me is every game you want to get a little better and feel a little better on the ice, and get back into that game mode,” forward Drew Miller said. “When you take some time off from it, you’ve got to get back into it — mentally and physically. You’re working hard to try to get back into it. But, at the same time, you’ve got to be going right away. And you’ve got to prove yourself. Every year you’ve got to come in and work hard and show that you want to be here and show that you belong.”
And Stephen Weiss admitted something to Krupa that most of us forget--he missed a good chunk of time (as in the vast majority of the 2013 season) with a wrist injury last season:
“I think you’re just trying to sharpen up for the regular season and make sure that you’re doing the little things and the details, and just making sure you’re sharp for when the first game rolls around,” Weiss said. “I missed a lot of hockey last year. So trying to get my timing back on top of adjusting to new players and new systems is a little bit of a challenge. Sometimes, you’re just thinking a little bit too much out there, where to be and what I have to do in terms of the system, instead of just playing. But that’s to be expected, coming to a new team with new players and getting new linemates, as well.”
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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.