The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/07/13 at 10:21 PM ET
Updated at 7:11 AM: The last time the Red Wings and Oilers met, they turned and burned through a glorious dogfight's worth of high-octane hockey en route to a 2-1 Wings win.
On Thursday evening, the Wings played an Oilers team that looked like it was trying to run on diesel fuel instead, and with the two top lines struggling to score--go figure--the Wings worked hard and ground out a 2-0 win, perhaps playing a brand of hockey that looked more like a dog fight (with a space between the two words) instead of a dogfight.
I'm guessing that pleased Wings coach Mike Babcock, who battled through laryngitis during the game!
The refereeing was almost nonexistent, so both teams had a somewhat mucky first period, but the Wings slowly but surely asserted themselves after displaying some heavy legs early, and 3:16 into the 2nd period, Jakub Kindl of all people scored a lovely goal off a great grinding shift by the Tatar-Eaves-Andersson line, with Kindl managing to plow his way through the slot, deke and dangle through three Oilers and flick a steady wobbler through Devan Dubnyk.
The Wings kept the attack up in the 2nd, out-shooting Edmonton 15-7, and things paid off later, again, off a great set of grinding shifts, first by the Abdelkader-Datsyuk-Cleary line (if Abdelkader had his stick in better positions to receive passes from both Datsyuk and Cleary, he could've scored a hat trick instead of an empty-netter), and then the Miller-Emmerton-Tootoo line, Datsyuk got the cycle going down low, shoveled the puck to Miller along the side boards, and he flicked a slick pass to Emmerton in the slot, and he rifled a pass past Dubnyk.
Otherwise, in all honesty, what impressed me about this game was the way that Brendan Smith upped his game trying to out-duel his friend and former Wisconsin teammate Justin Schultz--Smith flew up and down the ice--and Kyle Quincey and Kindl were more than willing to pinch (and received support from strong backchecking from the Wings' forwards) and help generate offense. The Wings also displayed superb "gap control" between the forwards and defense, not trapping as much as aggressively owning the neutral zone while all but neutralizing the Oilers' transition game by getting in their faces...
And when the Oilers did deke, dangle and cycle the puck in the Wings' zone, Detroit's forwards and defenders had sticks and skates in shooting and passing lanes, mostly disrupting the Oilers via smart positioning and attention to detail instead of physical overpowering (though the Wings did that, too). When the defenders weren't there, Jimmy Howard was absolutely superb, swallowing pucks up and snagging rebounds with ease.
While the Wings did flag a bit during the third period, and were out-shot 9-5, but their work ethic didn't leave them, and the Oilers' chances were generally one-and-done as opposed to efforts of sustained offensive pressure.
The Wings' power play still sucked--the "Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen and Brunner are all on the ice, but only Kronwall can shoot" unit blew through the Wings' one power play--and Brunner seemed to have a rough go, repeatedly icing the puck after the Oilers pulled Devan Dubnyk with 2:15 left, but eventually, he tapped the puck forward to Henrik Zetterberg off a faceoff win, and by golly, by gosh, Justin Abdelkader got to score a real goal thanks to an empty net facing him.
That was pretty much that, and while the Wings were out-shot 9-5 in the 3rd, they out-shot Edmonton 28-22 overall, owned the faceoff dot, going 36-and-25 (Zetterberg was 13-and-7 and Datsyuk went 18-and-7), and with the "bottom six" and defense playing so well...
All the Wings really need going into back-to-back games against a suddenly surging Columbus team is better production from its top six forwards, who've been mired in slumps of late.
Here's Jordin Tootoo's fight with Mike Brown:
For the record: Joakim Andersson told Fox Sports Detroit's John Keating that he's moving out of his hotel, so it's good to hear that he's been told to "get a place" (i.e that he's staying), but that may indicate that Todd Bertuzzi's back is healing so very slowly that the team's considering him out for the regular season.
Shots 28-22 Detroit overall. The Wings out-shot Edmonton 8-6 in the 1st, out-shot Edmonton 15-7 in the 2nd and were out-shot 9-5 in the 3rd.
The Wings went 0-for-1 on the game's only power play.
Jimmy Howard stopped 22 of 22 shots; Devan Dubnyk stopped 25 of 27, and Abdelkader's goal was an empty-netter.
The 3 stars were picked by ESPN's Craig Custance, and they were Brendan Smith, Jimmy Howard and Cory Emmerton.
The Wings' goals: Kindl (2) from Eaves (5) and Lashoff (3);
Emmerton (2) from Miller (3) and Datsyuk (16);
Abdelkader (1) from Zetterberg (20) and Brunner (8), empty net.
Faceoffs 36-25 Detroit (Detroit won 59%);
Blocked shots 21-14 Edmonton;
Missed shots 14-6 Detroit (the Wings had 61 shot attempts, with 35 going wide or into Edmonton players, and the Oilers had 42 shot attempts);
Hits 26-15 Edmonton;
Giveaways an ugly 9-3 Detroit;
Takeaways 10-6 Detroit.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 18-and-7 (72%); Zetterberg went 13-and-7 (65%); Emmerton went 2-and-7 (22%); Andersson went 1-and-3 (25%); Miller lost his only faceoff; Eaves and Franzen won their only faceoffs.
Shots: Abdelkader led the team with 5 shots; Emmerton had 4; Zetterberg had 3; Smith, Kindl, Cleary, Datsyuk, Eaves and Lashoff had 2; Brunner, Quincey, Andersson and Franzen had 1.
Blocked attempts: Kindl had 3 attempts blocked by Edmonton players; Datsyuk, Tatar, Brunner, Quincey, Zetterberg and Kronwall had 2 attempts blocked;
Missed shots: Brunner missed the net 3 times; Miller and Tatar missed the net 2 times; Smith, Eaves, Quincey, Zetterberg, Ericsson, Andersson and Franzen missed the net 1 time;
Hits: Ericsson led the team with 4 hits; Abdelkader, Cleary and Tootoo had 2; Tatar, Lashoff, Emmerton, Quincey and Kronwall had 1.
Giveaways: Franzen had 3 giveaways; Kindl had 2; Datsyuk, Tootoo, Ericsson and Andersson had 1.
Takeaways: Franzen also had 3 takeaways; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Tatar, Tootoo, Brunner, Zetterberg and Kronwall had 1.
Blocked shots: Datsyuk and Kronwall blocked 3 shots; Emmerton and Quincey blocked 2; Smith, Kindl, Abdelkader and Lashoff blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Tootoo took a major for fighting.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +15. Kindl finished at +2; Smith, Abdelkader, Cleary, Eaves, Miller, Tatar, Lashoff, Brunner, Emmerton, Quincey, Zetterberg, Kronwall and Andersson finished at +1.
Points: Kindl, Abdelkader and Emmerton had goals; Datsyuk, Eaves, Miller, Brunner and Zetterberg had assists.
Ice time: Quincey led the team with 22:43 played; Smith played 22:26; Kronwall played 22:17;
Datsyuk played 20:31; Ericsson played 20:13; Zetterberg played 19:58;
Abdelkader played 19:42; Franzen played 19:24; Brunner played 19:10;
Cleary played 17:49; Kindl played 16:37; Lashoff played 14:42;
Miller played 12:45; Emmerton played 11:42; Eaves played 11:19;
Tatar played 9:44; Andersson played 9:41; Tootoo played 9:07.
Update #2: Here's a slate of game highlights from the Wings' website:
Update #3: Here're the Wings' video clips of Jimmy Howard...
And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the press:
Update: MLive's Brendan Savage spoke to Abdelkader about his empty-netter:
"Don't miss it. Don't miss it," Abdelkader recalled thinking to himself after he took the pass from Zetterberg. "I've seen a lot of fluky things. Once I got it I just wanted to shoot it because I saw the defenseman closing in. I wanted to make sure to shoot it before he got his stick in the way there. It felt great. Long time coming. It feels like I haven't scored in about four years. Sometimes it's those kinds of goals, maybe off your body or whatever parts that will get you going. I felt good. I had some chances. Hopefully, I get a few more breaks here."
The goal accounted for just the second point of the season for Abdelkader and marked the first time he had scored since he bagged his eighth and final goal of last season March 10 in a 3-2 loss at Nashville.
Coach Mike Babcock gave Abdelkader a great opportunity to break the slump a couple of weeks ago when he put him on a line next to center Pavel Datsyuk.
"I feel like I'm skating good now, trying to make plays, trying to hang on to pucks," Abdelkader said. "It's just one of those things where you have to keep putting pucks on nets. I had some chances tonight and they didn't go in but as long as you get chances you feel good about your game. You just want to keep improving and taking pucks to the net and getting chances."
Savage posted a video clip of Abdelkader speaking to the media, too:
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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.