The Malik Report
Red Wings mid-day news: Wings taking a day off, but they’ll get back to work emphasizing ‘structure’
by George Malik on 10/08/13 at 12:54 PM ET
Updated 2x at 2:24 PM: The Red Wings are apparently enjoying their CBA-mandated off-day, which is good given that they'll embark upon a 4-games-in-6-nights stretch on Thursday...
It's highly probable that more than a few Red Wings players will be in attendance for today's Tigers-A's game, and the team will resume practicing tomorrow, with the team hoping to kick-start its power play and find a way to give its third line a kick in the offensive pants (it would be nice if the team could stem the significant amount of gaffes committed by its second and third defensive pairs, too).
The Free Press's Helene St. James reports that the Wings spent Monday night hobknobbing with season ticket-holders, but their overriding on-ice concern involved and will involve reestablishing the fundamentals of Wings hockey regardless of the number of skaters on the ice:
The Wings stand at 2-1 after packing three games into four nights, with six goals scored, seven allowed, and more good work from the penalty kill than the power play. Having the opportunity to refresh and really practice translates to working on details.
"I think there's some structural things that, I mean, you could tell against Boston, when you don't do it right, it doesn't look very good," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "There are going to be nights when you don't have your energy on top, but if you can fall back on your structure, it's a lot easier to play. That's something that we're going to have to keep working on here as we move forward. If we just do what we do do, we're going to be fine."
Moving pucks out of danger in a hurry and encouraging puck-moving defensemen to one-touch passes to skaters hustling through the neutral zone, with a small "gap" between forwards and defensemen Forechecking via shooting on the net and chasing down/retrieving rebounds. Generating traffic in front of the net and getting pucks through shot-blockers. Sustaining offensive pressure by winning one-on-one battles and providing strong positional support for puck-carriers.
Regrouping and ensuring that 3 players are back in the neutral and defensive zone to aggressively "front" and provide "backside pressure" against attacking players. Funneling attacking opponents to the outside via strong positional, man-on-man defense while keeping sticks and legs in passing and shooting lanes. Ensuring that the entire defense as one or two players attempt to steal pucks to provide positional support. Clearing rebounds in front of the net and chipping pucks out of the zone with urgency instead of simply side-passing and drop-passing into turnovers and giveaways.
Doubling down on positional play during penalty-killing, and working much, much harder to move the puck laterally on the power play to frustrate shot-blockers, especially on the blueline, with a forward perching on the perimeter of the crease and other forwards ready to pounce upon rebounds and prepared to use the boards and area behind the net to cycle the puck down low and tempt opposing PK'ers to overcommit to one side of the ice.
In general, working individual and team butts off to out-compete, out-skate and outsmart opponents via playing speedy, intense and focused puck possession hockey, knowing that "getting on the inside" of puck battles, bursting through trapping defenses in the neutral and defensive zone via speed and winger support and keeping the puck as far away from the Wings' net for as long as possible is often the best defense.
The Wings already know how to play "Red Wings hockey." They simply have to implement the lessons they've learned over the years, and they need to ensure that their secondary scorers, secondary defensemen and fourth liners are on the same page as the Zetterbergs, Datsyuks and Kronwalls...And they need to ensure that Jimmy Howard doesn't need to make any Hasekian stabs at the puck to move the puck out of trouble, because everything starts with strong team defense.
Players are generally optimistic about that old bugaboo the power play, even though its started scoreless through eight attempts. Kronwall said that, "I thought we did a lot of good things the first two games."
Coach Mike Babcock also emphasized the value of structure, as well as being mentally tough, which extends to the need for players to trust one another. "We feel we're off to a pretty good start," he said. "We didn't like the fact we didn't stick to our structure in Boston.
"These next few days are about getting people rested, but really competing and working hard in practice."
As for the subpar offensive output so far, Johan Franzen didn't want to hear it. "We've played three games," he said. "Ask again in 40 games, maybe."
Hmm, given that Brendan Shanahan exonerated one Justin Abdelkader last Saturday night...
In the "for the record" department, the Toledo Walleye did release its training camp roster (via PDF file) ahead of its pair of preseason games on Wednesday and Friday against the Kalamazoo K-Wings, and it does include Kevin Lynch, Trevor Parkes and Max Nicastro:
We haven't heard much of anything about the Grand Rapids Griffins since this past weekend's pair of season-opening games, but the team does continue its regular-season schedule with a road game in Hamilton this saturday, and the Griffins are promoting their AHL championship-banner-raising home opener against Milwaukee on October 18th:
In the charitable news department, via the Griffins, the team will be taking part in the MacKenzie's Animal Sanctuary "Pups and Pucks" walk on Monday:
And if it matters, the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus reports that the Blackhawks are very, very reluctantly embracing the St. Louis Blues as their new "biggest rival."
Update: Spiffy, via Fox Sports Detroit:
“We didn’t like the fact that we didn’t stick to believing in our structure and doing what we do in Boston,’’ Babcock said. “You have to give them a ton a credit, they played way better than we did. We really felt we gave away goals with turnovers.’’...
Kronwall said offense will come from structure. The Red Wings have scored six goals in three games, well below their average of 2.54 per game last season, which was their lowest output since 1976-77. Part of the problem is a power play that has gone 0-for-8, registering only 11shots in 16 minutes.
“We’ve done some good things, but we haven’t put the puck in the net,’’ Daniel Alfredsson said. “It’s not big changes we need, it’s small adjustments. It’s one of those things where I believe it’s a new look (with himself and Stephen Weiss on each unit) and all we need is a couple to go in and we’ll feel great. Last game we didn’t do a good job of getting zone time and then it’s tough to score. But overall we’ve done a good job in zone and it’s just a matter of getting it to the net a little bit more.’’
The structural breakdowns were particularly evident on the penalty kill, where the Red Wings started strong, going 7-for-7 in a 2-1 season-opening win over Buffalo, but went 4-of-7 in the next two games.
“Our first penalty kill goal (vs. the Bruins) we ran around, the second one we turned the puck over in our zone,’’ Babcock said. “To me, that kind of thing doesn’t make sense. You have to trust one another and trust your structure and keep playing hard and be mentally strong.’’
The Red Wings play three games in four nights again starting with Saturday’s home game vs. Philadelphia. Ideally, the schedule would be consistently spread out, but it’s not like haven’t dealt with it before.
“We weren’t energized enough to compete against a good team like (Boston),’’ defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “On the other hand we can do things better even though we’re tired, so it’s not an excuse.’’
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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.