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Red Wings-Maple Leafs pre-season quick take: vets got too cute for the youngsters to step up

People say that I make far too big a deal of preseason games, and I won't deny that fact while admitting that I'm disappointed in the Red Wings' effort in a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

Both teams' rosters were miles away from the players who skated in Friday night's 5-2 Wings win, but the players who played the most indecisively and were most guilty of mailing it in weren't Jarnkrok, Pulkkinen, the goal-scorer Callahan or Sproul, Ouellet, Sheahan, Jurco, or even Hoggan or Paetsch, who all gave their all, just like Mrazek (who was near-heroic) and Coreau (who had no chance on the goal that beat him).

Mikael Samuelsson, Cory Emmerton and, surprisingly, Drew Miller, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff mailed it in, just trying to "get through" the season, and sans NHL leadership, the "kids" looked indecisive while STILL out-working, out-hustling, out-detailing, out-competing and out-"hearting" the people whose jobs they're after.

Petr Mrazek faced 18 shots over the first two periods and really and honestly had no chance on either goal against. Josh Leivo received assists from both the referees--given that Nathan Paetsch won the "race" to the faceoff circle and touched the puck on an icing call waved off at the last moment--and a poor line change as the Leafs worked the puck around to the point with Emmerton and Samuelsson caught on the ice for a long shift as Tomas Jurco hopped over the boards, and Leivo tipped a point shot past Mrazek as a result, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead with 5:41 left in the 2nd:

A little under three minutes later, Xavier Ouellet got called for holding on a night when most of the grabs and gropes were let go, and right off the faceoff, John-Michael Liles sent a screened shot through everybody--and Emmerton lost the draw...

And after Mrazek was relieved by Jared Coreau, halfway through the third period, the Wings' coverage went kerplunk, Mikael Samuelsson and Cory Emmerton both dove--the opposite ways--to block shots, Brendan Smith stood in Coreau's way, and the game was placed out of reach by Leivo with 10:12 left in the affair:

The Wings' kids did make a push in the third period. Ouellet was solid all game long, Ryan Sproul found his legs, and while each and every turning-North American-pro Griffin over-passed and over-wound-up before shooting, Teemu Pulkkinen was excellent, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco were still a little gassed from training camp but were solid, Calle Jarnkrok found his superb defensive and fleet-footed form as the game went on, Mitchell Callahan had a "Doug Brown" game on a night that he needed to play effective defensive hockey, Jeff Hoggan was excellent up front and Nathan Paetsch, despite being on the ice for 2 goals against, was solid and no-frills-no-worries strong, and the two players who played like their jobs were in danger were Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, who was the Wings' best player by a large margin.

With 4 minutes remaining, after Leivo fired the puck wide on a doofy breakaway caused by Lashoff and Kindl over-passing, Mitchell Callahan stole the puck from John-Michael Liles and made a slick, gorgeous deke-and-dangle goal...

And while the Wings pulled their goalie late, they were unable to shrink the deficit.

The younger players really did slowly but surely find their legs, and while Pulkkinen got hit pretty regularly, he bounced off the hits like the Honey Badger he is, Ouellet was generally smooth as could be, Sproul found his slapper, Jarnkrok had a really strong third, and lest I forget him, while Luke Glendening had a quiet game offensively, he also looked like someone who is very, very close to stealing someone's job.

That wasn't the case for Emmerton, Samuelsson, Smith, Kindl, Lashoff and, again, surprisingly, Miller, and as a result, the youngsters didn't have anybody to model for them save Hoggan, Paetsch and their goalies.

If the veterans had done so, the Wiffins sure played the Babcock-Blashill defensive system to a tee save their catastrophic breakdowns, and I think that the youngsters would've been able to at least make it close.

So the preseason ends with a pair of AHL-heavy teams grinding it out, with the refs letting oodles of interference go and with the Wings splitting their series with Toronto mostly because the guys who were supposed to carry the mail didn't and the kids who were supposed to step up didn't shake off the, "HOLY SHIT WE'RE PLAYING TORONTO IN TORONTO" jitters until the game was out of reach.

The preseason ended up ending weirdly. The Wings smacked the hell out of the Bruins in their first game, they split their series against Pittsburgh and they hammered Toronto on Friday, but they lost 3 of 4 at home and finished the preseason with an ugly 3-and-5 record.

The Wings will likely place 3 players on the LTIR on Sunday, they'll take the day off, and starting on Monday, they'll prepare for the home opener against Buffalo next Wednesday as the start of 3 games in 4 nights, heading to Carolina on Friday the 4th and Boston on Saturday the 5th.

Time to get your shit in gear, Wings.

Update: Here's NHL.com's slate of highlights:

Statistics:

Shots 27-25 Toronto. The Wings out-shot Toronto 10-8 in the 1st, the teams tied 10-10 in the 2nd and Detroit was out-shot 9-5 in the 3rd.

The Wings went 0-for-1 in 2:00 of PP time; the Leafs went 1-for-2 in 2:04 of PP time.

Petr Mrazek stopped 16 of 18; Jared Coreau stopped 8 of 9; James Reimer stopped 24 of 25.

The 3 stars were picked by the media in attendance, and they picked Andrew MacWilliam, James Reimer and Josh Leivo.

The Wings' goal: Callahan (1) from Jurco (1) and Kindl (1).

Faceoffs 34-26 Toronto (Detroit won 43%);

Blocked shots 16-15 Detroit;

Missed shots 16-14 Detroit (total attempts 57-56 Toronto, with the Wings firing 25 shots ON Reimer and 31 blocked or wide);

Hits 36-33 Toronto;

Giveaways a baffling 24-18 Toronto;

Takeaways 10-9 Detroit.

Individual stats, TMR style:

Faceoffs: Glendening went 9-and-9 (50%); both Emmerton and Jarnkrok went 6-and-8 (43%); Sheahan went 5-and-7 (42%); Miller and Tatar lost their only faceoffs.

Shots: Pulkkinen led the Wings with 4 shots; nyquist, Emmerton and Glendening had 3; Jurco, Sproul and Callahan had 2; Kindl, Miller, Tatar, Paetsch, Ouellet and Jarnkrok had 1.

Blocked attempts: Sproul fired 4 shot attempts into Leaf players; lashoff and Pulkkinen had 2 attempts blocked; Sheahan, Tatar, Emmerton, Callahan, Ouellet, Jarnkrok and Hoggan had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Nyquist missed the net 3 times; Kindl and Sproul missed the net 2 times; Smith, Sheahan, Lashoff, Paetsch, Glendening, Pulkkinen, Ouellet, Jarnkrok and Hoggan missed the net 1 time.

HIts: Callahan led the Wings with 5 hits; Lashoff had 4; Smith, Jurco and Samuelsson had 3; Kindl, Miller, Paetsch, Emmerton and Glendening had 2; Pulkkinen and Hoggan had 1.

Giveaways: Nyquist had 3 giveaways; Smith, Kindl, Lashoff, Sproul, Pulkkinen and Mrazek had 2 giveaways; Sheahan, Emmerton and Ouellet had 1 giveaway.

Takeaways: Smith, Paetsch and Callahan had 2 takeaways; Nyquist, Tatar, Samuelsson and Glendening had 1 takeaway.

Blocked opponent shots: Smith, Kindl, Paetsch and Pulkkinen blocked 2 shots; Nyquist, Sheahan, Lashoff, Paetsch, Samuelsson and Jarnkrok blocked 1 shot.

Penalty minutes: Kindl and Ouellet took minor penalties.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -5. Emmerton and Samuelsson finished at -2; Smith, Miller, Jurco and Ouellet finished at -1; Sheahan and Callahan finished at +1.

Points: Callahan scored a goal and Jurco and Kindl had assists.

Ice time: Ouellet led the team with 23:08 played; Smith played 22:42; Kindl played 20:27;

Sproul played 20:26; Tatar played 18:37; Nyquist played 18:18;

Glendening played 17:01; Paetsch played 16:44; Emmerton played 16:41;

Sheahan played 16:17; Lashoff played 16:07; Samuelsson played 15:41;

Miller played 14:27; Pulkkinen played 13:51; Jurco played 13:49;

Jarnkrok played 12:37; Hoggan played 12:08; Callahan played 10:25.

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Comments

PDXWing's avatar

George,

You make far too big a deal about the preseason.

Watching the game, the line that stood out to me was the Glendening line, with Jurco and Pulkkinen. Pulk looked great, though did get thrown around a bit. I agree that Glendening is close to stealing someone’s job. I thought Emmerton looked pretty decent and Sammy and Miller were pretty much invisible. Smith is still finding his range and doesn’t always make the right decision about when to do something extra and when to make the simple play. It’s just going to take some time. I will say that his memory is admirably short and he doesn’t let past mistakes prevent him from taking a risk. Kindl looked like he was babysitting, which he was. Ouellet is going to be great, but he needs some more time. I thought that Sproul got more confident as the game went on and was lugging the puck a bunch by the 3rd. Jurco looked big and strong, same with Sheahan. Tatar and Gus are NHLers.

Posted by PDXWing on 09/28/13 at 11:04 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Mikael Samuelsson, Cory Emmerton and, surprisingly, Drew Miller, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff mailed it in.

Through the first two periods (which is all I that watched), I’d add Tatar to the list of disappointments. I thought those two periods were the worst he’s ever played as a Red Wing. He didn’t “mail it in” – he did the opposite. He seemed to be trying to do everything himself. Maybe he missed Andy. But he sure wasn’t the player we saw on Wednesday.

As for Sammy? He is, by far, the worst player that (right now) will be on the Wings 23-man roster. He was horrible on the 4th line on Friday, so it’s no surprise he was a disaster on the “1st line” on Saturday. The only one who rivals him for “biggest waste of roster space” status is Smith.

At this point, I’d keep Ouelette, Sproul or Almquist over Smith. And here’s why…

Smith is still finding his range and doesn’t always make the right decision about when to do something extra and when to make the simple play. It’s just going to take some time. I will say that his memory is admirably short and he doesn’t let past mistakes prevent him from taking a risk.

Posted by PDXWing

Honestly, there’s nothing “admirable” about a guy who keeps making the same mistake over and over and over and over and over again – even after the coaches tell him not to. He seems to think he’s still at Wisconsin and his only job is to play like a forward.

If the Wings could get a viable prospect for a package of Sammy, Emmerton and Smith, I’d say trade ‘em now before the other GM comes to his senses. I actually like Emmerton, but Glendenning has shown he’ll take his spot next year, and could take it this year if necessary. That kid knows how to compete each and every shift.

Mrazek has shown that as well. It almost makes me wish the Wings could have signed Howard for four years instead of six, especially with Coreau also waiting in the “wings.”

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 09/29/13 at 12:50 AM ET

PDXWing's avatar

I think the business about risk-taking is a matter of perspective. For him to be the type of player he’s capable of, he needs to be able to take risks and not be bogged down by self-criticism. However, he also needs to learn from his mistakes. I think his gambling ways were amplified tonight with the high number of Griffins, but it still is disconcerting to see him give the puck away. That said, Sproul and Ouelette are not as good as him. Not yet, anyway. It remains to be seen if he is able to adapt to the pro game and be an effective offensive defenseman. He just came into the league, so writing him off now is premature. Given all that, I could see him packaged in a trade to a team like Edmonton and I wouldn’t be too mad about it if we got a good prospect in return. With players like him, though, if he comes into his own, he’s going to be a hell of a player. I guess it comes down to whether or not you think he is going to continue to get better, or never learn from his mistakes. I tend to be an optimist since he’s a Red Wing, has a history of dominating at every level, and is just coming out of his (shortened) rookie year. My guess is that his history of past success will eventually translate at the NHL level.

Posted by PDXWing on 09/29/13 at 01:12 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

I think (Smith’s) gambling ways were amplified tonight with the high number of Griffins, but it still is disconcerting to see him give the puck away. That said, Sproul and Ouelette are not as good as him. Not yet, anyway.

I’m not so sure about that. At the beginning of the preseason, Ouelette seemed like a bit of a gambler, but he appears to have toned that down. At one point tonight he was about to pinch in when he saw that it would be risky, so he backed off just enough to cover his defensive area. it looked like a really mature kind of play to me.

Smith, on the other hand, simply refuses to back off – even when the risk excedes the possible reward. If he was actually effective offensively, it would help. But he’s not. He’s just a defensive liability.

Maybe he can change over time, but so far it doesn’t look like he wants to change. So, if he’s going to continue down the path he’s on, he’ll definitely need a Brad Stuart kind of stay-at-home partner.

Anyway, I guess we’ll find out in the next few months what kind of player Smith really is. So far, I’m not impressed. I’d still take Ouelette’s or Sproul’s defensive ability over Smith. And I’d take Almquist’s offensive ability over Smith’s.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 09/29/13 at 02:18 AM ET

calquake's avatar

If the Wings could get a viable prospect for a package of Sammy, Emmerton and Smith, I’d say trade ‘em now before the other GM comes to his senses.

Sure if you want someone like Hal Gill in return.  All teams are having roster problems it appears.  Trades happen because two teams have a mutual interest.  Would you part with a viable prospect for Sammy, Emmerton and Smith?

Posted by calquake on 09/29/13 at 11:14 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Would you part with a viable prospect for Sammy, Emmerton and Smith?

Hell no, Cal. I’m trying to get rid of them.

But if there is a team that needs a point shot on their power play, a penalty killer and an offensive-minded defenseman with “potential,” and they have an excess of one kind of prospect (forward, defenseman, whatever) in their system, they might do it. But as I said, you have to make the trade before the other guy came to his senses. smile

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 09/29/13 at 06:25 PM ET

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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.