The Malik Report
by George Malik on 11/03/13 at 06:23 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings packed their bags and took a late-night flight to Winnipeg--a city that I cannot deny only polar bears like me love at this time of year (hey, the Wings' off-day will be mostly above freezing, so no complaining! It's not -15 Fahrenheit!)--with momentum on their side and a very happy native of the Winnipeg suburb of Selkirk in tow.
The Wings have rattled off 3 straight wins since their 4-game losing streak, defeating Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, with Saturday's win coming via 5-0 tally. Saturday's game earned Petr Mrazek his first NHL shutout and this gentleman his first goal in what seemed like forever to both Darren Helm, the Red Wings and Wings fans:
As you might imagine, the Oilers and their press are kind of freaking out--justifiably so--after the team's 10th loss over the course of 15 games (and the Oilers only have 3 wins), despite having brought in AHL superstar coach Dallas Eakins to jump-start their very young team...
But how does one try to assess this game from a Red Wings perspective? It's clearly neither the gut-check 2-1 win over the star-studded Canucks, nor is it the ugly but plucky 4-3 win over the Flames in nothing less than a house of horrors in the Saddledome.
The opposition wasn't even remotely comparable with Flames, never mind the Canucks, and given the fact that the Wings are actually having more trouble winning against their new Eastern Conference opponents than their familiar Western foes (with the exception of Phoenix, of course), one could very well argue that the Wings' Monday tilt against an unknown in the Jets--representing the 3rd game in 4 nights and 4th over the course of 6 evenings--will be a better bell-weather barometer game for the 9-4-and-2 Wings.
The 5-8-and-2 Jets were routed by the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 on Saturday afternoon, and their rink's smaller confines and spirited fans are supposedly quite intimidating for teams not used to being serenaded with mocking chants for a full sixty minutes, offering a soccer game atmosphere in a 15,000-seat rink. They're going to be pissed off and their fans are going to be hungry to welcome back the team that bounced the original Jets from the NHL way back in the first round of the 1996 playoffs--and you're going to have to trust me when I say that Jets fans have long memories.
I still believe that it'd be a disservice to the Wings to blow off Saturday's tilt as fluffernutter because they blew out an opponent with zero self-confidence. The Wings held the Oilers to 14 shots (and blocked 13 Oilers attempts) while firing 31 shots and another 32 attempts at or near Oilers goaltenders, the Wings won 65% of their faceoffs, and on top of it all, Joakim Andersson and Jakub Kindl had a goal and an assist apiece, Daniel Alfredsson had two assists despite playing the fewest minutes of anyone not named Darren Helm (13:09 to 10:10), Tatar and Helm scored goals, Abdelkader, Miller and Cleary had assists, and while the power play only struck once, the Wings did finish at a collective +20, which ain't bad.
On a line-and-d-pair-by-pair basis, from the bottom on up...
On defense, even though Brendan Smith continues to take penalties at an alarming rate, he looked confident and moved the puck well; Kyle Quincey actually made some very savvy defensive plays; Kindl was excellent offensively, and Brian Lashoff bounced back from taking a shot square in the visor to continue to play a surprisingly nasty physical game; and DeKeyser had his ups and downs but continues to progress alongside the minute-munching ice time leader that is Niklas Kronwall.
Up front, the chemistry between Drew Miller and Darren Helm's unmistakable, and Helm's speed was sorely missed, and while you and I may not be his biggest fan, Samuelsson took 2 shots and had 5 attempts, at least seeming comfortable with his 4th-line status; Cleary was plucky and went to the front of the net, Weiss was sound on the PK and strong along the boards (though he continues to try to make things happen along the boards instead of using the middle of the ice), and Alfredsson was excellent; Abdelkader's finding his stride giving and going, cycling and grinding with the shot-happy Tomas Tatar, and Joakim Andersson's generating the kind of, "I'll pass the puck to you guys, get in spots to put pucks in the net, and cover up for you defensively, too" chances he created with Nyquist and Brunner last season; and Todd Bertuzzi's been a revalation and fine example of what happens when you light a fire under a power forward's ass, proving that he's not going to let any of the "kids" take his job while helping Zetterberg and Datsyuk make every other line their opposition throws at 'em look like mere mortals.
Then there's Mrazek, who had to stand and wait while his teammates roared up ice with a superb transition game, minimizing turnovers and grinding the puck out down low, keeping the game away from Mrazek's net until inevitable breakdowns gave the Oilers grade-A scoring opportunities, and while the Wings' defenders mostly kept Mrazek's sightlines clear and the secondary scoring chances to a minimum in front of their own net and a maximum at the other one, Mrazek had to make some stellar saves, and had to thank his goalposts twice because the Wings occasionally let the Oilers' forwards deke, dangle and dazzle.
The Oilers knew that they played very badly, and the Edmonton Journal's John MacKinnon reports that coach Eakins faced the music after the game:
A bedraggled Dallas Eakins, sans sport jacket, sans tie, slouched into the post-game interview room on Saturday night after a 5-0 loss to Detroit and invited the assembled media to “let ‘er fly.”
Following such a comprehensive drubbing, the club’s second straight shutout loss at home following a 4-0 defeat to the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was a bit unclear precisely where to begin.
So, the questions opened with a reference first to the Rexall Place crowd, which spent much of the night booing their supposed heroes. At game’s end the Oilers were booed right off the ice and right out of town, as they embark on a four-game road trip.
“If we’re going to play like that,” Eakins said, matter-of-factly, “then that’s what we’re going to get.”
He was blunt, as EdmontonOilers.com's Chris Westcott noted--as was Ladislav Smid, who I'd argue would make one hell of a pick-up by any team looking for a steady defenseman who's a natural leader:
Detroit dominated from the opening whistle, out-shooting Edmonton 31-14, as the Oilers suffered a 5-0 blowout loss at the hands of the visiting Red Wings.
"They outshot us by 20," said Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid. "That's unacceptable, especially at home. It's really hard, but nobody is going to do it for us. We have to wake up here."
The Red Wings hopped out to an early lead when Oilers defenceman Jeff Petry whiffed on a pass and the loose puck was picked up by Darren Helm who sniped a shot five-hole on goalie Richard Bachman. The breakaway goal at 5:09 of the opening period was assisted by Daniel Alfredsson.
"They're scared of losing," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "When you're on a bad roll like we are now, a lot of times you'll go into the game and you're ready to go but then you get back into waiting for that bad thing to happen."
"We all have to wake up in here," said Smid. "There's not one person who can be proud of what he did on the ice. Collectively we have to wake up as a team, start working hard and I think that's a big part of it and start working for each other."
The Oilers' captain, Andrew Ference, also did his best to rally the troops, as the Edmonton Journal's MacKinnon noted...
“I’m lost for words after that one,” Ference told reporters. “It was bad, a bad game offensively, defensively, not a good game at all. It was hard to pull any positives from it. Obviously we have a road trip coming up that, obviously, it’s the same story. We have to turn this around and start putting into practice some of the things that we’re learning and we’re supposed to do. It’s just unacceptable not to have that happening at this point of the season.”
Under Eakins, the Oilers have been adjusting to a new system of defensive-zone coverage, to a new approach to killing penalties, and a different plan on the power play, among other things.
But centre Sam Gagner, for one, rejected any notion that the Oilers are perplexed, fumbling to find the right spots on the ice because they haven’t mastered the new systems, 15 games into the NHL regular season.
“There shouldn’t be,” Gagner said. “We all know what we have to do. It’s crystal clear what our systems are and what’s expected of us. I don’t know if we’re scared to make mistakes or if we feel like things are piling up so we’ve got to sit on our heels. But that’s not how you play. We have to go after wins. We have a skilled team in here, there’s enough been said about that. But’s a matter of going after wins and competing for them. So far, we haven’t done that.”
The Oilers weren't using the fact that Richard Bachman legitimately yanked his groin after giving up 2 goals (and he was legitimately hurt) as an excuse, either.
The Oilers were self-reflective, as was their press corps--with the Edmonton Journal's Bruce McCurdy offering player grades, David Staples wondering whether the ownership will step up to support their coach, and the Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest offering what is a quote-free recap as of 5 AM EDT and 4 AM EST (I've spent my extra hour of "Fall Back" time writing and hoping that the Sun would update its website)--but this isn't an Oilers blog, so I'd prefer to allow the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson fold an actual game narrative into the mix before moving on to the team that I cover:
“Not one person can be proud of what he did on the ice,” said Smid. “It’s time to start working for each other. We talk about the right things and go out on the ice and it’s a different team. I’m in shock. This is unacceptable for us, especially at home, and you saw the reaction of the fans,” Smid said after they were booed off the ice. “I don’t blame them. We have to hold each other accountable and I guess it has to get uncomfortable in here,” he said.
Helm, who played only one game during the lockout season (Jan. 25 against the Wild) because of back problems, scored in his first game since then to give Detroit the lead. He raced in on a breakaway, showing the fastest feet in the NHL, and ripped a shot through Bachman’s legs. On the next shift, Tatar finished off a juicy rebound of an Andersson shot and buried it past the Oilers’ farmhand goalie.
Bachman stretched on a wide shot off the backboards and stumbled getting back in position in his crease, pulling his groin. He had to be helped off the ice and down the alleyway behind the bench, favouring his left leg after 14 minutes. LaBarbera, who might have been heading to Oklahoma City in the American Hockey League if Bachman had played well and not been injured because Devan Dubnyk (ankle) is almost ready to come back, made several big stops, but got no help at the other end of the ice.
Dubnyk changed out of a suit after the first period and put on the gear to sit on the bench in case he was needed after Bachman was hurt.
Kindl blew a 35-footer from the side boards past LaBarbera’s blocker in the second period to give Detroit a three-goal cushion in a period where the Oilers had only one shot on Mrazek in the first 12 minutes.
In the third period, Andersson beat Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the slot and banged it past LaBarbera, with Nugent-Hopkins slamming his stick on the top of the net in disgust.
Bertuzzi finished off the scoring on a power play.
We'll shift our focus to the Red Wings' perspectives via Reuters' recap, which notes that Petr Mrazek pitched his first shutout in the same rink where he backstopped the Czech Republic to the 2012 World Junior Championship title:
The Wings didn't even give Edmonton a sniff, outshooting them 30-14. For rookie goaltender Petr Mrazek, it might be the easiest shutout he'll ever get.
"It's a great moment for me right now," smiled Mrazek. "Sometimes seeing that few shots is harder than facing 30. I really had to be focused on every shot that I had."
The Oilers, already so far out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference that many believe their season is already over, were supposed to be fresh and desperate. They looked neither, as Detroit rolled over them from the opening faceoff.
"We played good defense today and very good on the penalty kill," said Mrazek. "The team played very well. We knew we had to play smart to beat these guys and we did."
And then there was Helm's goal, scored on his second shift since his back started acting up after all of one 2013 season game played, as the CP's recap noted:
"It was the icing on top of the cake, really," Helm said of his goal. "The relief came after the game, knowing that I could still play. The goal was just a nice addition to that. I was really excited. It was one of the nicest moments I have had in a while, since this injury bug started. I was pretty nervous. I was pretty anxious and eager to get out there."
Detroit head coach Mike Babcock was happy to see Helm on the bench again.
"Helmer gives a huge dimension of talent that we can take advantage of if he is healthy," he said. "He can be dominant. To see him do what he did tonight, I thought he played very well."
Tomas Tatar, Jakub Kindl, Joakim Andersson and Todd Bertuzzi also scored for the Red Wings (9-4-2), who have gone 3-1-2 in their last six games.
Petr Mrazek was called on to make just 14 saves to earn his first career shutout in his third NHL game.
Added Babcock: "That's good for him. He's a kid who, I told someone the other day, he thinks he is here to take (Jimmy) Howard's job, not (Jonas) Gustavsson's job. He's just got that kind of attitude. He has won everywhere he has been and there is obviously something to it."
Helm told NHL.com's Derek Van Diest that he did his best to keep up, despite his conditioning not quite being up to NHL speed (that only comes from playing games)...
"I was pretty nervous, I was pretty anxious and eager to get out there," Helm said. "I started getting tired towards the end. I had to play a little harder on the puck and bodies. There were shifts where I got a little tired, but I was able to recover pretty quick on the bench. They did a good job keeping my shifts short and using me when they needed to."
And Babcock's comment about Helm played into a bigger-picture assessment of the Wings' performance...
"[Helm] gives a huge dimension of talent that we can take advantage of if he is healthy," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "He can be dominant. To see him do what he did tonight, I thought he played very well. We controlled the game and played well. We wanted to play three periods, not two like we did last night [in a 4-3 win against the Calgary Flames]."
Which has one more sentence worth noting--and the Free Press's Helene St. James snagged it:
“We controlled the game and we played well,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We wanted to play three periods, we didn’t want to play two like we did last night. I thought we were professional.”
Darren Helm — a name not associated with a lineup for nine months — scored the winning goal five minutes into the game. That a guy known for not converting on breakaways in fact scored on a breakaway after being gone so long went over well.
“Nice lucky bounce I got there, I was able to use my speed and, lucky I wasn’t thinking, scored,” Helm said, smiling. “It was icing on top of the cake.”
Cue a wee bit more, per the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
"I wasn't thinking at all," said Helm of going in alone on Oilers goalie Richard Bachman. "I just knew I was alone and had some time and I was able to get a good shot away. I was really excited. That was one of the happiest moments I've had in a while since the injury bug started."
Helm played 19 shifts for a total of 10:10.
"Helmer is a huge dimension to our team," coach Mike Babcock said. "If he can get healthy, he can be dominant."
Mrazek, who played two NHL games last season, was making his first appearance this season while giving Jimmy Howard a rest.
"I feel great, we played real good," Mrazek said. "The guys played great, blocking a lot of shots and penalty killing (the Wings killed all three penalties against them), and played so well in the defensive zone."
Helm told Kulfan that he did his best to grind it out...
"Good win, good start, felt good out there, and the goal was nice too," said Helm, who played over 10 minutes and was plus-1, while winning 5 of 10 faceoffs.
Helm mentioned nerves were likely going to be an issue —and they were.
"I was pretty nervous, just waiting to get on the ice, hear my name on the bench, anxious and eager to get out there,” he said. "I just wanted to get going and play hockey."
And Helm also spoke with MLive's Ansar Khan, reporting no ill effects:
“I started getting tired near the end,’’ Helm said. “There was a few shifts where I played a little more (defensive) zone time, had to play a little harder on the puck, bodies. There was a few shifts I was pretty tired, but I was able to recover on the bench.’’
Helm experienced no issues and said he expects to play Monday in Winnipeg, his first game in his hometown.
“Everything’s good. I’m excited about that,’’ Helm said. “I got to continue to keep care of my body, stretch, massage. Couple days without that, I can feel it. I have to be smart about it.’’
Babcock will continue to limit Helm’s minutes over the next several games.
“Oh yeah, you got to be careful,’’ Babcock said. “I tried to go to him back to back on the penalty kill at the end of the game and he told Tom (assistant coach Renney) no way, someone else had to go. Helmer can normally skate all night.’’
At the other end of the ice, Brian Lashoff took quite the shot off his visor, but emerged unscathed...
Defenseman Brian Lashoff was shaken up when he took a hard shot off his visor in the second period. The puck glanced off his nose and he suffered no damage. He returned in the third period.
“If I didn’t have a visor on it would have been pretty bad,’’ Lashoff said. “It was a pretty hard shot. I think it got deflected but I’m lucky I had (the visor) on or else it would have been worse.’’
And then there was Mrazek. Khan added a quote to his usually quote-less recap that set the stage for Mrazek's performance:
Mrazek was back at the site of his 52-save performance for the Czech Republic in a 5-2 victory over the U.S. in the 2012 World Junior Championship.
“He won the Calder Cup as a rookie in the American League (with the Grand Rapids Griffins), so you must have some skill set,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said before the game. “His mindset is simple; he’s not up here trying to get Gus’ job, he’s up here getting Howie’s job. He just thinks nothing bothers him. He thinks he’s great. I like that.’’
After the game, Khan found Babcock repeating himself...
“He’s a kid who thinks he’s here to take (Jimmy) Howard’s job and not (Jonas) Gustavsson’s job,’’ coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s just got that kind of attitude. He’s won everywhere he’s been and there’s obviously something to it.’’
And Mrazek's teammates praising their friend:
Said teammate and close friend Tomas Tatar: “It’s really good. I know he can do it. He’s a really good goalie. I’m really happy for him. He was great for us.’’
Mrazek was starting because Gustavsson is on short-term injured reserve with a stiff neck and the club didn’t want to play Howard on back-to-back nights. Howard will start Monday at Winnipeg, when the Red Wings (9-4-2), winners of three in a row, look to sweep the four-game Western Canada trip.
Mrazek helped the Griffins win the AHL’s Calder Cup title last season, where Red Wings defenseman Brian Lashoff noted the young netminder’s calmness under pressure.
“He’s always been like that,’’ Lashoff said. “I remember last year before Game 6 of the (Calder Cup) finals and he was the calmest guy in the room. That’s nice to have from your goaltender. He’s learning a lot from Howie and Gus, too. It’s nice to have a guy like that come up and do well.’’
We'll skip ahead to Bonus Swedish time as Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom spoke to one of the pair of Swedes with two points on the night in Joakim Andersson (and this is roughly translated):
"We played a really good game for 60 minutes," says Joakim Andersson, who had a goal and an assist, to SportExpressen.se.
Daniel Alfredsson continues to produce points for his new club. Tonight, Alfie had 2 assists, and was named the game's best player. Alfie is up with the team's best forwards with 10 assists and 13 points. Only Pavel Datsyuk (15 points) and Henrik Zetterberg (14 points) are doing better up front.
Zata had an assist on one of the goals.
Joakim Andersson says of the 2 points last night: "When Tomas Tatar got the 2-0 goal, I shot for a rebound and he hit it. On the 4-0 goal, I picked up a loose puck in front of the goal and just had to put it into an empty net."
The goal was Jocke's second of the season, and his 4th assist.
Detroit's now won 3 straight away games in Vancouver (2-1), Calgary (4-3) and Edmonton (5-0). The last stop on the tour is Winnipeg, in the night on Tuesday, Swedish time.
Highlights: Even the Red Wings website's highlight clip is narrated by the CBC's announcers:
Post-game: Sportsnet posted a 1:34 clip of Oilers coach Dallas Eakins, captain Andrew Ference and defenseman Ladislav Smid lamenting their loss;
The Oilers' website posted clips of Eakins' presser, which is 8 minutes long, and comments from Ference, Sam Gagner, Marc Arcobello and Ladislav Smid, as well as a combined post-game report. The Oilers are very thorough, so they also posted a clip of a very happy Darren Helm and an equally happy Petr Mrazek speaking with the media, as well as a few comments from coach Babcock:
Fox Sports Detroit also posted Helm's post-game interview with Trevor Thompson:
The Free Press's Helene St. James was industrious after the game, posting interviews with Darren Helm...
And part of Babcock's post-game presser, some of Petr Mrazek's comments and some of Brian Lashoff's post-game comments.
If you wish to watch Brendan Smith's fight, you may most certainly do so:
At 5 AM EDT, RedWingsFeed spotted Petr Mrazek's post-game comments as posted on the Wings' website...
As well as Babcock's full post-game presser:
Update: The Wings posted Helm's post-game comments after I hit "submit," and yes, that's what I have to hit to publish an entry. I think that's kind of funny because once I'm done writing something, even if I don't feel it's finished, I "submit" the entry in the turn-it-in sense, and then I basically turn it over to you, so if you're going with Merriam-Webster's definition, I'm doing #'s 2 and 3 here:
1: to give (a document, proposal, piece of writing, etc.) to someone so that it can be considered or approved
2: to stop trying to fight or resist something : to agree to do or accept something that you have been resisting or opposing
3: to offer (something) as an opinion or suggestion
In the end, folks, my hard work is simply being offered to you as something to make your job of following the Wings easier, and it's being offered to you as a discussion-starter. I do not expect you to agree with what I say, I don't expect you to like what I say, and I don't expect you to respect what you may disagree with unless I earn your respect on a submission-by-submission basis.
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 21-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 6-image gallery;
The Edmonton Journal posted a 15-image gallery;
The Edmonton Sun embedded a 28-image gallery in its website's recap;
ESPN posted a 30-image gallery;
Shots 31-14 Detroit overall. The Wings out-shot Edmonton 12-6 in the 1st, 9-4 in the 2nd and 10-4 in the 3rd.
The Wings went 1-for-5 in 8:56 of PP time; the Oilers went 0-for-3 in 6:00.
Petr Mrazek stopped 14 of 14 shots; Richard Bachman stopped 7 of 9; Jason LaBarbera stopped 19 of 22.
The 3 stars were picked by the CBC, and they picked Petr Mrazek, Tomas Tatar and Daniel Alfredsson.
The Wings' goals: Helm (1) from Cleary (2) and Alfredsson (9);
Tatar (3) from Andersson (4);
Kindl (1) from Alfredsson (10) and Datsyuk (9);
Andersson (2) from Miller (1) and Abdelkader (3);
Bertuzzi (4) from Zetterberg (7) and Kindl (4), PPG.
Faceoffs a stunning 40-22 Detroit (Detroit won 65%);
Blocked shots 15-13 Edmonton;
Missed shots 17-10 Detroit (shot attempts 63-37 Detroit, with the Wings firing 31 shots ON net and 32 wide/blocked);
Hits 29-16 Edmonton;
Giveaways 13-9 Edmonton;
Takeaways 10-7 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 16-and-7 (70%); both Weiss and Andersson went 9-and-5 (64%); Helm went 5-and-5 (50%); Alfredsson won his only faceoff.
Shots: Kindl led the Wings with 4 shots; Tatar, Quincey, Zetterberg and Bertuzzi had 3; Abdelkader, Andersson, Miller, Lashoff and Samuelsson had 2 shots; Smith, Helm, DeKeyser, Cleary and Weiss had 1.
Blocked attempts: Zetterberg had 3 attempts blocked by Oilers players; Smith and Quincey hit Oilers 2 times; Kindl, Abdelkader, Alfredsson, Miller, Tatar, Samuelsson, Helm and DeKeyser had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Kindl and DeKeyser missed the net 3 times; Datsyuk, Samuelsson and Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; Alfredsson, Miller, Quincey, Bertuzzi and Kronwall missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Miller, Lashoff, Helm, DeKeyser and Cleary had 2 hits; smith, Abdelkader, Tatar, Quincey and Samuelsson had 1.
Giveaways: Kindl, Lashoff, Quincey, Zetterberg, Kronwall, DeKeyser, Cleary, Weiss and Mrazek had giveaways.
Takeaways: Andersson had 4 takeaways; Alfredsson, Datsyuk, Miller, Lashoff and Quincey had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: Kindl blocked 4 shots; Kronwall blocked 3; DeKeyser blocked 2; Smith, Andersson, Tatar and Lashoff blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Smith took 4 penalties, 3 minors and a major for fighting.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +20. Kindl, Abdelkader, Alfredsson, Andersson, Lashoff, Kronwall and Cleary finished at +2; Smith, Miller, Tatar, Helm, DeKeyser and Weiss finished at +1.
Points: Andersson had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Kindl had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Alfredsson had 2 assists; Tatar, Helm and Bertuzzi had goals; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Miller, Zetterberg and Cleary had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 22:47; Kindl played 20:07; Quincey played 19:41;
DeKeyser played 19:35; Datsyuk played 19:28; Zetterberg played 19:08;
Bertuzzi played 17:30; Tatar played 16:57; Weiss played 16:03;
Smith played 15:08; Andersson played 14:56; Cleary played 14:43;
Lashoff played 14:23; Abdelkader played 14:05; Samuelsson played 13:15;
Alfredsson played 13:09; Miller played 12:55; Helm played 10:10.
Red Wings notebooks: Amongst the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's notes comes a smirk-inducing comment from Babcock:
Johan Franzen (upper body injury) and Patrick Eaves weren't in the lineup, while Helm and Samuelsson moved into the lineup. Franzen couldn't finish Friday's game in Calgary.
"Mule wanted to play (in Calgary)," Babcock said. "We probably shouldn't (have let Franzen play). He's not healthy right now and we have to get him healthy."
Franzen said after Saturday's game he expects to be back on the ice Monday, but wasn't sure about playing.
He sure played like he had the flu in Calgary. I really liked his previous games at center, but he was floating like a boogery cloud on Friday.
Defenseman Brian Lashoff averted a bad facial injury when a puck deflected into his face in the second period. Lashoff had a minor scrape around his nose, but no broken bones or stitches thanks to his visor.
"It was pretty hard shot," Lashoff said. "The visor saved me pretty good there."
I thought it was suitably ironic that Don VanMassenhoven was refereeing a game where a player took a shot to the face. The visor-less VanMassenhoven had to have 8 hours of surgery, 35 screws placed in his face and the septum of his nose--which is cartilage--pulled back out from under his forehead.
A $90 visor makes quite the differene.
Tomas Tatar scored a goal for the third consecutive game, further solidifying his spot in the lineup.
"The team is winning and goals are easier when the team is playing well," Tatar said. "When we're winning, everybody produces and hopefully it will continue."
Again, a little irony: Mikael Samuelsson played decently enough, but he was on the fourth line. Tatar's on the #2B line, scoring goals and ensuring that nobody takes his job.
As for Mr. Helm, Paul already noted that Helm told the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson that he...Well, let's say that he struggled with his long slate on the IR...
“There were a couple of dark days that swamped my mood, where I’d second-guess things. I was a little concerned it would come to this day, whether I’d be playing again,” said Helm, who saw four doctors who couldn’t find any structural damage in the back.
“The back felt good going into this past camp, then I pulled my left groin then I got down to Grand Rapids and tweaked my right groin, maybe because I played back-to-back games” said Helm. who will will play on the fourth line Saturday with Drew Miller and Mikael Samuelsson.
“I’m sure he’ll be bagged 15 seconds into shifts,” said coach Mike Babcock, who will play it by ear to see how much ice-time he gets.
Will he be as lightning quick as he was before, when he’d blow by checkers?
“I guess we’ll find out tonight. I’ve been a pretty good practice player,” he said.
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff took note of Babcock's comments about Helm made prior to the game...
“Short shifts and nothing too fancy, just play smart, and make sure I don’t get caught on the ice,” Helm explained of Detroit coach Mike Babcock’s game plan for his return to the NHL. “(The rehab) games in Grand Rapids (of the AHL) I took a couple of long shifts and thought I was done for the game.”
Babcock acknowledged that was indeed the process he intended to implement with Helm.
“He’s going to be out of gas, I would assume, about 15 seconds into each shift,” Babcock said. “He’s got to simplify his game and be a forechecker and be under control emotionally, not run himself into the ground. We’ll just see how he goes and play him accordingly.”
Babcock was adamant that people not look for the Helm of old right away, but also recognizes what getting Helm back to that player would mean for the team’s immediate and long-term future.
“He’s just got to get his game back,” Babcock said. “Helmer’s a real good player. I think he’s the best third-line centre in the NHL. L.A. might argue that (Jarret) Stoll is. I think (Helm) is the best third-line centre in the NHL when he’s healthy, but we haven’t seen that in two years, so it’s a long way back. He wasn’t a good player in the American League when he went down, and then he came back and you hoped he was going to be on the ice and he got himself hurt.
“He probably should be in the American League and playing 10 games and getting going, but we don’t have that luxury with the rules and such, so we need him in our lineup. He can be a real factor for us. He’s flat-out got speed, he’s tenacious, he’s strong, he’s heavy and he’s a good player.”
And the Free Press's Helene St. James' notebook offers comments from Helm's teammates about his return:
“It’s been a long time coming for Helmer,” Miller said. “He’s had a lot of different setbacks. I know he’s been working hard, and they’ve been smart, they didn’t want to push it. He’s ready to play, and that’s big for our team. He’s excited, you can tell. Mentally for him, it’s going to be big to get back to playing and get back to the routine.”
Teammates echoed each other in sympathizing with what Helm went through, especially since January. Helm suffered an injured back working out a few days before the lockout-shortened 2013 season was to start, played Jan. 25 against Minnesota, then never saw another game despite repeated recovery attempts.
“I’ve missed him a lot,” Johan Franzen said. “I can’t imagine how frustrating that must have been, all this time. Getting better and then having a setback. And everyone talking about it — that’s probably the most frustrating part, having to explain every day what’s going on. It’s going to be good to have him back. Maybe it’s going to take some time before he’s comfortable with everything out there, but we like what he’s going to bring energy-wise and speed-wise.”
Jimmy Howard cautioned against expecting too much too soon, saying, “Everybody has to remember for how long he’s actually been out. Give him some time to adjust. But he can just use his speed, that’s going to be key for us, because he can get in on the forecheck, create a lot of havoc, turnovers, and he’ll add a boost to our penalty kill as well.”
Helm said things were happening for him too fast when he went to Grand Rapids for two conditioning games last month. So he’ll likely find himself gassed early in shifts for the first few games, and he might see limited time as a penalty killer.
“We’ll see how he goes and play him accordingly,” Babcock said. “He’s just got to get his game back. Helmer’s a real good player. I think he’s the best third-line center in the NHL when he’s healthy, but we haven’t seen that in two years now. We need him in our lineup. He can be a real factor for us.”
Also of Red Wings-related note: The Wings are offering a pink-logo Wings blanket for $25, with the proceeds going to the Karmanos Cancer Institute.
Among ESPN's Craig Custance's mailbag questions from Friday:
I don't care how they do it, but give me a trade scenario where Kyle Quincey is shipped out of Detroit, please. PLEASE?! I'd take a bag of pucks ... and they could be the ones that have chunks taken out of them. You know, the ones you take with you to the pond because you really don't care if they make it back home with you. Yeah those pucks.
Bob, Darnestown, Md.
Not a Quincey fan, eh? If it makes you feel any better, his contract is up after this season.
Along those lines, MLive's Brendan Savage asked Wings fans which prospect is their favorite in his game-day post:
• Anthony Mantha, the Red Wings' top pick in last summer's NHL draft, was named the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's No. 1 star for the month of October after bagging 11 goals and 14 assists in 10 games.
Mantha, the 20th overall pick in the 2013 draft, leads the QMJHL in scoring with 20 goals and 21 assists in 16 games for Val-d'Or Foreurs. He's nine points ahead of Cameron Darcy from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
Add two more assists on Saturday, and he's got 43 points over the course of 17 games played.
Mantha, who signed a three-year entry level contract with the Red Wings last month, was also the QMJHL's No. 1 star for September.
• The Red Wings' second-round pick in last year's draft, winger Zach Nastasiuk, inked a three-year entry level contract before Detroit's 4-2 victory in Calgary Friday night.
Nastasiuk is the Owen Sound Attack's second-leading scorer with eight goals and 10 assists in 17 games.
• Petr Mrazek, the club's No. 1 goaltending prospect, is with the Red Wings and will start tonight's game in Edmonton because Jonas Gustavsson is on the injured list with a stiff neck and Jimmy Howard needs a breather after playing Friday.
Mrazek was No. 2 on the Red Wings prospects rankings at the end of last season. He was in Grand Rapids of the AHL before being recalled to serve as Howard's backup in Calgary and will go back down when Gustavsson is healthy.
• Several other top prospects are in Grand Rapids. They include Calle Jarnkrok (No. 1), Tomas Jurco (4), Riley Sheahan (5), Ryan Sproul (6), Xavier Ouellet (8), Landon Ferraro (9) and Martin Frk (10).
After all this time, I'm still going with Calle Jarnkrok for his all-round game, Teemu Pulkkinen for that Holy Slapper, Tomas Jurco as an all-round offensive player, Sproul and Ouellet in the offensive category, Richard Nedomlel as a stay-at-home monster and Ferraro for his self-improvement.
In the Twitter department:
Finally, We All Bleed Red on YouTube noted that Chris Osgood's learning on the fly, but he's certainly doing a good job of Mickey Redmond-style translate-the-swear-word coach lip-reading...
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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.