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Red Wings-Oilers quick take: ugly is sometimes beautiful

The Detroit Red Wings' 2-1 shootout win over the Edmonton Oilers was the LIVING EMBODIMENT of an ugly win, but in a month, it could be a beautiful, beautiful thing for a team that's now -20 in terms of goal differential in the 3rd period and managed to fire more pucks wide or into Oilers players (35) than it did on Viktor Fasth.

With nine players injured, the lines shaken up a bit (Nyquist with the "Kid Line" until Abdelkader replaced him in the 3rd period) and Teemu Pulkkinen playing in limited action during a superb NHL debut (2 shots, 3 more attempts, and a hit in 7:36 played), the Red Wings played...

Like a team without nine important players, surprisingly out-shot and out-worked in the 1st by an Oilers team coming off of a blowout loss to St. Louis on Thursday.

Thankfully, Jimmy Howard's adjusted to his new Vaughn pads and blocker, and he was superb for the Wings, giving the team the saves it needed to eventually witness Drew Miller and Tomas Tatar win a battle along the right half boards, Tatar emerge with the puck, stickhandle behind the net, and then drop it to Riley Sheahan, who roofed it past Viktor Fasth 13:53 into the 1st:

Regrettably, the Wings' power play was AWFUL, going 0-for-4 on the night, but the Wings made it through the second and seemed likely to squeeze a point out of the game...Until Brendan Smith passed to Ryan Smyth, and the picture-perfect giveaway was roofed past Howard with 11:17 left:

The Wings continued to blow power plays, turning Boyd Gordon's puck-over-glass penalty with 2:57 left and Martin Marcinin's puck-over-glass penalty 1:21 into OT look like mercy pulls for a team that wanted to pass the puck into the net...

And yes, a dangerous shootout loomed, with Todd Bertuzzi whiffing wide and Daniel Alfredsson firing a whiffleball into Fasth, but Howard was strong, stopping Eberle with his stick shaft, Perron with his pad and glove and letting Taylor Hall fire it wide...

While Tomas Tatar did this:

That was enough, and the win was indeed hideous, but with the Wild Card opponents continuing to earn points, the Wings desperately needed the two points, and they got 'em.

It must be said that the Wings now go into Chicago on Sunday, host the Maple Leafs on Tuesday and the Penguins on Thursday and wrap up the week by going into Minnesota Saturday and hosting them on Sunday, all before that hugely important Columbus game on the 25th--so they've got to play a lot better, starting with their Olympic Burnout Award-Winners in Tatar, Alfredsson, Kronwall and Ericsson, and they've got to start regaining chemistry and playing with more "Finnish" than what Pulkkinen alone can give them...

But you've gotta win a shift at a time, and sometimes you've gotta win any way you can, even if you're rope-a-doping the Oilers.

Here's the shootout:

Statistics:

Shots 23-22 Detroit overall. Detroit was out-shot 8-6 in the 1st period, the teams were tied 7-7 in shots in the 2nd, the Wings out-shot Edmonton 7-6 in the 3rd and out-shot Edmonton 3-1 in OT.

Special teams: The Wings went 0-for-4 in 8:00 of PP time, including 0-for-1 on a 4-on-3 in OT; the Oilers went 0-for-2 in 4:00 of PP time.

Goaltending: Jimmy Howard stopped 21 of 22 shots for Detroit; Viktor Fasth stopped 22 of 23 for Edmonton.

The 3 stars were picked by Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji, and she picked Riley Sheahan, Jimmy Howard and...Ryan Smyth?

The Red Wings' goal: Sheahan (5) from Tatar (13) and Miller (6).

Faceoffs 29-27 Detroit (Detroit won 52%);

Blocked shots 15-15;

Missed shots 20-5 Detroit (attempts 57-42 Detroit, with the Wings firing 35 attempts wide or into Oilers players);

Hits 23-13 Edmonton;

Giveaways 8-7 Detroit;

Takeaways 5-3 Edmonton.

Individual stats:

Faceoffs: Legwand went 9-and-8 (53%); Sheahan went 5-and-7 (42%); Glendening went 7-and-4 (64%); Emmerton went 3-and-2 (60%); Franzen went 2-and-3 (40%); Alfredsson won 2 faceoffs; Tatar went 1-and-1 (50%); Nyquist and Miller lost single faceoffs.

Shots: Alfredsson and Franzen co-led the team with 4 shots; Nyquist and Quincey had 3; Sheahan, Glendening and Pulkkinen had 2; Miller, Lashoff and DeKeyser had 1 shot.

Blocked attempts: Pulkkinen hit Oilers players 3 times; Nyquist, Lashoff and Kronwall had 2 attempts blocked; Alfredsson, Legwand, Tatar, Bertuzzi, DeKeyser and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Alfredsson and Franzen missed the net 3 times; Smith, Abdelkader, Tatar and Kronwall missed the net 2 times; Nyquist, Sheahan, Miller, Quincey, Glendening and Ericsson missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Legwand, Ericsson and Franzen had 2 hits; Alfredsson, Nyquist, Miller, Tatar, Glendening, Pulkkinen and DeKeyser had 1 hit.

Giveaways: Alfredsson and Kronwall had 2 giveaways; Smith, Sheahan, Ericsson and Howard had 1.

Takeaways: Nyquist, Sheahan and Tatar had takeaways.

Blocked opponent shots: Quincey blocked 4 shots; DeKeyser blocked 3; Kronwall blocked 2; Abdelkader, Nyquist, Legwand, Miller, Bertuzzi and Ericsson blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Abdelkader, Lashoff and DeKeyser took minor penalties.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished even. Miller, Quincey and DeKeyser were +1; Smith, Abdelkader and Lashoff were -1.

Points: Sheahan had a goal; Miller and Tatar had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 30:20 played; Ericsson played 23:21; Franzen played 23:10;

Nyquist played 22:25; DeKeyser played 21:07; Quincey played 20:11;

Legwand played 19:18; Alfredsson played 18:38; Glendening played 17:36;

Sheahan played 17:08; Tatar played 16:26; Abdelkader played 15:36;

Smith played 14:33; Miller played 14:02; Bertuzzi played 12:49;

Lashoff played 12:26; Pulkkinen played 7:36; Emmerton played 7:24.

Update: The Red Wings' website posted post-game interviews with Pulkkinen...

Tatar...

And coach Babcock:

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Comments

WingedRider's avatar

Very unimpressed with the Lost ROW and effort/play by the Vets.  Kids and Howie got the 2 points.  Howie out waited the SO Shooters, good to see.  Bert and Alfie going through the motions on their shots.

Next 5 games are scary!!  Will make or break playoff chances , IMO. Need a minimum 3 ROWs. Don’t see it but strange things do happen.

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 03/14/14 at 09:46 PM ET

Avatar

Anyone know how many more times Smith is going to try and clear a puck through the middle of the ice and then have it wind up in the back of the net before he gets a clue to not do that any more? I know he still is a kid but OMG…

Posted by AZWinger on 03/15/14 at 12:02 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

I think we can be pretty confident that we’ll never hear Ken or Mickey say “The coaches have asked Teemu to shoot more…”.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 03/15/14 at 12:10 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Babs said plainly that if Smith makes that pass to a Wing, it’s fine, but he didn’t. I keep on waiting for Young Brendan Smith to learn, but he’s not good at it raspberry

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/15/14 at 12:12 AM ET

RW19's avatar

Franzen and Alfredsson were terrible in this game. Both looked out of gas all game. I could not believe Babcock kept giving them a majority of the PP time, while his two best players tonight, Tatar and Sheahan, were nailed to the bench. Certainly it was a dubious decision to go back to the Swedish quartet for the OT powerplay as they had looked terrible on the PP at the end of the third.

Posted by RW19 on 03/15/14 at 12:16 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I think all the Swedes save Franzen have looked a little burnt out since the Olympics, and even Tatar’s been a bit fried till tonight.

I will say this for the Swedes who keep trying to pass the puck into the net on the power play—we forget that the biggest reason the Swedes lost wasn’t because of injuries or Nicklas Backstrom’s taking of Zyrtec D, it was because Par Marts rode 4 defensemen and 3 lines for the majority of the tournament. Kronwall and Ericsson were severely over-taxed, as was Alfredsson…

And they’ve got to find a way to battle through their burn-out as the Wings play another 5-games-in-8-nights stretch and play a game at least every other night until the end of the month.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/15/14 at 12:26 AM ET

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I don’t know if Howard’s pad change has anything to do with anything. What the problem is he has no damn idea on how to play the puck and FAR TOO FREQUENTLY gets caught outside the crease. He was lucky last night when he DID EXACTLY THE SAME THING AS SMITH but to a guy on the boards when he was just dawdling behind the net. He needs someone to work with him on realizing he needs to stay in the crease or if he is going to leave it to play the puck, he needs to pass the puck out of his zone and get back in his damn crease. Period. Exclamation. It’s ridiculous that he nearly lost the game last night after keeping them in it all game.
AARGH.

Also, his positioning was much better other than HAVING NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH A PUCK WHICH WAS NOT SHOT AT HIM. Not once did he go 20 feet out in front of the net to challenge the shooter on a 2 or 3 on 1. I don’t know if he’s just been trying to do too much since the team is a disaster, but he needs to play his game. Like he did last night, other than trying to play the puck. He’s awful at that and always has been. I would say he’s worse than Osgood was at it. And I remember a lot of screaming “GET BACK IN YOUR DAMN CREASE” when Osgood was playing.

Posted by teldar on 03/15/14 at 07:06 AM ET

w2j2's avatar

I have never seen Babcock more relaxed and accommodative in a post-game interview. 
Why?
I think he is resigned to the fate of his team.
He will continue to coach hard and support and teach his (young) players and fans through the rest of the season.

Posted by w2j2 on 03/15/14 at 07:30 AM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

Babs said plainly that if Smith makes that pass to a Wing, it’s fine, but he didn’t. I keep on waiting for Young Brendan Smith to learn, but he’s not good at it

I think he’s been learning ok. His pinch decisions seem to be improving. But that pass was dreadful.

Posted by MoreShoot on 03/15/14 at 07:46 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

we forget that the biggest reason the Swedes lost wasn’t because of injuries or Nicklas Backstrom’s taking of Zyrtec D, it was because Par Marts rode 4 defensemen and 3 lines for the majority of the tournament. Kronwall and Ericsson were severely over-taxed, as was Alfredsson…

Reasons for Sweden’s loss in the Gold Medal game ranked by size:

1. People being out of the lineup (injuries to guys like Zetterberg & Sedin, Backstrom’s drug test)
2. Canada was a better squad to begin with.
...
...
...
3. Par Marts overplayed some guys.
4. Those guys he overplayed were the wrong guys to begin with (OEL’s benching in favor of Johnny Oduya)

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/15/14 at 07:46 AM ET

Avatar

Very good points, J.J.

Posted by teldar on 03/15/14 at 08:14 AM ET

Primis's avatar

Anyone know how many more times Smith is going to try and clear a puck through the middle of the ice and then have it wind up in the back of the net before he gets a clue to not do that any more? I know he still is a kid but OMG…

Posted by AZWinger on 03/15/14 at 01:02 AM ET

We’re still waiting for Kronwall to stop.

Posted by Primis on 03/15/14 at 09:20 AM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

We’re still waiting for Kronwall to stop.

Yeah, this strikes me as a team predilection.

Posted by MoreShoot on 03/15/14 at 09:59 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

It’s a real Catch-Lebda consideration:

you want your D-men to help stretch the opposition out and defeat their forecheck with good outlet passing (a huge part of how much the Wings’ offense has struggled this year)?

Well, sometimes you have to take risks to make passes like that happen.

The pass to a guy in the middle from behind the icing line is part of what drove the 2007-08 Red Wings up ice for on-the-rush scoring opportunities which turned into defensive havoc which led to things like lucky rebound goals, extended zone times, and stifled transition (all things which lead to mistakes).

The last thing I want Brendan Smith thinking is “never try to make that pass.”  I want him to make it smarter, crisper, and faster.  I want him to know when not to make that pass at all because his defensive partner is well beyond the opposite-wing forechecker and the forward who would be primarily responsible for covering up a d-man pinch on the far side if that were to happen isn’t exactly a great skater out there against the Kid line (Smyth would be the guy who would have had to cover a d-man pinch and he would have been skating against either Tatar or Sheahan… guys he never would have caught).

Yeah, Smith should have tried to feather a saucer pass to the opposite corner hoping that Lashoff would be able to turn and find Tatar streaking. Sometimes that’s the right play. Sometimes that play is not available because the forecheckers are positioned in a way so as to open up the middle lane.

Smith should get it right more often. It seems like he gets it wrong more often than anybody (because he does), but that doesn’t mean he should never go up the middle.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/15/14 at 10:28 AM ET

Nate A's avatar

He was lucky last night when he DID EXACTLY THE SAME THING AS SMITH but to a guy on the boards when he was just dawdling behind the net

I cant blame Howard on that play. The FSD replay clearly heard the defenseman in the corner, DK in this case, calling for that puck. Jimmy was just following his teammates queues like he’s supposed to. That’s more on DK for not seeing the forechecker coming. 

I’d call last nite one of his more solid efforts all season. Didn’t do anything spectacular, but he never looked out of position or like he was struggling to find the puck.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 03/15/14 at 11:42 AM ET

Avatar

We got a win. With this roster, we cannot ask for more than that. The times we were able to beat this type of Edmonton team 6:2 are gone till at least next season. We can play good structured defense and win some ugly games, but we absolutely have to do something with our PP if we want to think playoffs. Even without Dats and Z, we have the personnel to have a good (or at least average PP), but this PP does not have more than one look.
As to Smith, I am all for allowing him to play through it and continue to learn, but it cannot be a double standard when some people are allowed to play through mistakes and some (Kindl) are benched for a lot less than that.

Posted by VPalmer on 03/15/14 at 11:59 AM ET

Avatar

You cannot put Alfy with Glen, Abby, etc and expect anything from him.
A guy like Alfy has to play with guys who can pass or score, not 2 grinders.
By the way, Glendening played 17 minutes yesterday. That’s scary.

Posted by VPalmer on 03/15/14 at 12:03 PM ET

SK77's avatar

He was lucky last night when he DID EXACTLY THE SAME THING AS SMITH but to a guy on the boards when he was just dawdling behind the net

I cant blame Howard on that play. The FSD replay clearly heard the defenseman in the corner, DK in this case, calling for that puck. Jimmy was just following his teammates queues like he’s supposed to. That’s more on DK for not seeing the forechecker coming. 

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 03/15/14 at 12:42 PM ET

Thanks, Nate, I was just about to post the same exact thing but you’ve already got it covered.

To recap, teldar .... Howard DIDN’T DO ANYTHING wrong because he was just making THE PASS BACK TO his defenseman as he’s SUPPOSED TO when they call for THE PUCK FROM the CORNER. CooL?

Posted by SK77 on 03/15/14 at 12:05 PM ET

Avatar

Thanks, Nate, I was just about to post the same exact thing but you’ve already got it covered.

To recap, teldar .... Howard DIDN’T DO ANYTHING wrong because he was just making THE PASS BACK TO his defenseman as he’s SUPPOSED TO when they call for THE PUCK FROM the CORNER. CooL?

Posted by SK77 on 03/15/14 at 01:05 PM ET

I’ll agree that it wasn’t Howard’s fault in the sense that he was passing the puck to the guy calling for it, however Howard is still holding on to the puck wwwaaaaaayyyy too long.  Guys that are open when they initially call for the puck have a fore-checker breathing down their neck by the time Jimmy get’s rid of it.  Howard regularly seems to hold on to the puck for 5 or 6 seconds behind the net, and with his puck handling skills that’s a recipe for disaster.  It’s no wonder how many times the puck doesn’t end up being cleared after Howard handles it behind the net.

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 03/15/14 at 12:23 PM ET

SYF's avatar

This game felt like slogging through a pile of cold molasses.  Knew Sauce had some hands, but man, that deke in the SO was Dangle-esque.

Two points.  We got them.  Get the next two points.

Posted by SYF from The Revenge of Johnny E on 03/15/14 at 03:57 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

I almost fell out of my seat at the game when Smith made that pass, but it’s done all the time by the defensive team when the opposing team is fore checking and cycling the puck along the boards. Unfortunately he passed it to the wrong man. Hopefully he learns, quickly.

Posted by bigfrog on 03/15/14 at 07:54 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.