The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/25/13 at 04:08 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings will resume practicing after an "off day" on Thursday, and a team that's dropped successive games to Phoenix, San Jose (albeit by a shootout decision) and then Ottawa on Wednesday needs to get its offensive and defensive acts together as soon as possible if the team hopes to improve upon a suddenly-middling 6-4-and-1 record.
The Wings' task in terms of salvaging 3 out of 6 points on their 3-game home stand will be difficult: the New York Rangers come to town on Saturday (7 PM, FSD/MSG/NHL Network U.S./97.1 FM, and Saturday is the Wings' Hockey Fights Cancer game) with a 2-and-6 record, and they'll have Cam Talbot in net instead of the mysteriously-injured Henrik Lundqvist, but the Rangers are angry after having dropped a 2-1 decision to the league-worst Flyers on Thurdsay, having been denied a game-tying goal in the third period, as the New York Daily News's Pat Leonard noted...
Cam Talbot kicked off his NHL career with poise Thursday night but lost when league officials said J.T. Miller kicked it in.
Talbot made 25 saves in his debut in place of the injured Henrik Lundqvist, but the low-scoring Rangers fell to the division-rival Flyers, 2-1, at Wells Fargo Center after officials in Toronto overturned a power-play goal by left wing Miller with 14:24 remaining in the third period.
The desperate Rangers (2-6-0) lost for the fifth time in six games before heading to Detroit to face the Red Wings Saturday night, unsure of Lundqvist’s status. The equally disappointing Flyers (2-7-0) won for the first time in five, even though the Blueshirts’ effort Thursday surpassed Saturday’s 4-0 loss in New Jersey.
“It would have been a big goal,” said Miller, who thought he’d tied the game when a Brian Boyle pass skipped past his stick, off his planted right skate and into the Flyer net. “I didn’t necessarily think I kicked it. I tried to shoot it. It caught me off guard. I didn’t even really know it went in until everybody was (celebrating).”
And the Rangers may not have Benoit Pouliot in thelr lineup due to this hit on Max Talbot:
This isn't a Rangers-Flyers wrap-up, but the New York Post's recap adds some necessary context...
The defeat dropped the Blueshirts to 2-6 with their ninth straight game on the road coming up Saturday night in Detroit. They have scored a total of 12 goals, including six at 5-on-5. Brad Richards, who got the team’s lone goal against the Flyers, has four of those six goals.
“We want to build on the effort level, but everybody’s frustrated,” said Richards, who scored on a sharp-angle shot late in the first to tie the match 1-1. “When you’re 2-6 it’s hard not to be frustrated. We’re not giving teams near as much as we were two weeks ago, but we have to find ways to score. When you get zero, two and one all the time, you’re not going to win games.”
The Rangers do have problems generating an attack, much less finishing, minus Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin. Injuries are part of it, but the Blueshirts simply don’t have many weapons absent their three top wingers.
The Rangers did get the effort against the previously 1-7 Flyers, but could not finish around the net, though their zone time was markedly better than it had been in any of the first seven matches.
“Guys did a lot of the right things,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We used our speed, we spent a lot of time in Philadelphia’s end, plus we got pucks and bodies to the front. We tried extremely hard. The execution was maybe a little bit off, but it was a better effort [than Saturday’s 4-0 defeat in New Jersey] in my estimation.”
The Bergen Record's Andrew Gross's recap (and blog entry, and game blog with the Rangers' lineup), the AP's recap and ESPN's Katie Strang's notebook all add context to the equation, as does this from the Hockey News's Matt Larkin:
For the Rangers, the road has been like the Cormac McCarthy novel: apocalyptically bleak. Fact: eight games into the season, the Rangers have not played a home game yet and they won’t until Game 10 because Madison Square Garden is undergoing renovations. Again, “we have played a ninth of the season on the road to start 2013-14” seems like a decent excuse.
It’s possible this season goes down as one to forget for both struggling franchises, but if you have to pick one turnaround team, that’s the Rangers.
The Wings head out West to play in Vancouver (on Wednesday, October 30th), Calgary (on Friday, November 1st), Edmonton (Saturday, November 2nd) and Winnipeg (on Monday, November 4th), and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan outlines the team's biggest issue:
In the last three games, the Red Wings have scored three goals. Of the three games, only one earned them a point (for a shootout loss). The slump has dropped the Red Wings to 23rd in the NHL with a 2.27 goals-against average. They were 19th last season at 2.54.
“We have what it takes to score more goals and create more offensively,” Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson said. “There’s no question. If you don’t score, you better make sure you don’t let in many goals.”
That part of their game hasn’t been great either, allowing five goals to the Coyotes, one to the Sharks and six to the Senators. And through 11 games, they’re being outscored 30-25.
Outside Henrik Zetterberg (six goals, six assists), Pavel Datsyuk (five goals, six assists), Alfredsson (one goal, eight assists) and Todd Bertuzzi (three goals), the production has been spotty.
■ Stephen Weiss — two goals, no assists;
■ Johan Franzen — two goals, three assists;
■ Daniel Cleary — one goal, one assist; and
■ Justin Abdelkader — one goal, two assists.
In the "shameless repeat department," the Free Press's Helene St. James also took note of the Wings' offensive issues...
What should be of bigger concern is the overall trend that has seen the Wings have a hard time scoring. Their 2.27 goals-per-game average ranks among the bottom third of the league. Of the 25 goals scored over 11 games, 11 of them have come from Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, and Bertuzzi has three. Johan Franzen needs to find some firepower — both of his goals came in one game. Daniel Cleary has been quiet, with one goal and one assist. Stephen Weiss has two goals, but he is adjusting to a new system, and he missed so much time last season because of injuries that it should be expected that he needs breathing room to rebound.
Tomas Tatar, at least, has used these two games to argue why he should be a regular in the lineup. He has been strong on the puck and had one of the better chances against Ottawa when he strode in from the right boards, maneuvering the puck with one hand on his stick while holding off a defender with the other. The organization wants to bring Gustav Nyquist up from the minors and get him into the mix as well, but something will have to give in order to make room on the roster and with the salary cap.
More immediately, forward Patrick Eaves said he has recovered from a sprained knee and is ready to come off long-term injured reserve in time for Saturday’s game. He'll need a couple of weeks to regain his timing. Forward Darren Helm, should he ever recover from back and groin pain, will need closer to a couple of months. At the moment, Helm's return is loosely attached to the trip to western Canada.
The Wings depart Monday night for their longest trek of the season, playing at Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. First up are the Rangers, who hover near bottom dwellers Philadelphia and Buffalo in the East.
The Wings need to bank some points after gaining just one in their last three games, but as bad as the Senators game looked, it's good to put it in perspective. It came a week after the Wings dismantled the Avalanche, still the only team to do so. It's the opening month, the Wings are near the top of the Eastern Conference, and come April, this week is going to be a blur.
As the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness, who spoke with a focal point of the team's offensive struggles in Stephen Weiss...
“You want to be the best player on the ice every night,” Weiss said. “And sometimes when it doesn’t happen you tighten up a little bit. Even though you’re not trying to, you’re telling yourself all the right things and try not to think too much, but when you get out there sometimes that’s all out the window. It’s tough battling yourself trying to get out of your own way,” Weiss added.
Weiss was the second-line center the Wings coveted in free agency when it became apparent that Valtteri Filppula had priced himself out of their plans. Weiss signed a five-year deal on the first day of free agency at $4.9 million.
“The first thing you have to do when you come to a new place is you have to breathe, and you have to give yourself a break, and you have to spend no time thinking and spend all your time playing,” Babcock said. “That’s easy for me to say, but when you come in and get off to a good start and three bounce in off your leg, you get rolling and you relax. And when you don’t you pressure up.”
To try and jump start Weiss’ game, Babcock took him off centering the second line and added him between Daniel Cleary and Tomas Tatar on the third line over the last two games.
“Just look after defense and once he settles down the rest will come,” Babcock said.
And if I have to make the most of a spartan off-day's worth of talk about the Wings' offensive issues via repeating stuff, we'll wrap things up with some superb context from MLive's Ansar Khan:
The problem is, the Red Wings aren’t getting much offense from anyone other than Datsyuk and Zetterberg. They have scored only three goals in their past three games and are averaging just 2.27 goals per game, 23rd in the NHL. That’s worse than last season, when they averaged 2.54 goals per game.
“I don't think you can evaluate our offense playing like we were,’’ Babcock said following Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to Ottawa. “Eventually we're going to have to start scoring some goals and it's got to come through something besides our power play and 13 and 40 (Datsyuk and Zetterberg).’’
Babcock has played Tomas Tatar the past two games after scratching him the previous six. Tatar has no points but has offensive upside.
It could be only a matter of time before Gustav Nyquist is recalled from Grand Rapids. However, he is out for this weekend with an injury.
You can listen to Ken Holland speak with Detroit Sports 105.1 FM's Matt Dery about Nyquist and more here...
“We have what it takes to score more goals and create more offensively, there’s no question,’’ [Daniel] Alfredsson said. “When you don’t score you better make sure you don’t let in a lot of goals.’’
That’s what Zetterberg said his team must focus on, after allowing six and five goals in two of the past three games.
“If you let in two, it's fine,’’ Zetterberg said. “But it all starts with the defense. We can't let in this many goals and think we're going to score seven to win a game.’’
So the remainder of today's news involves the Red Wings' prospects.
In the AHL, Grand Rapids Griffins will host the Charlotte Checkers tonight sans Nyquist...
In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye will hold their home opener against the Wheeling Nailers on Saturday (don't forget that they're hosting the Stanley Cup on November 2nd), and Trevor Parkes went scoreless and Jared Coreau stopped 27 of 30 shots at the Walleye dropped a 3-2 OT decision to the Cincinnati Cyclones on Thursday. The Walleye's website provided a recap:
Forward Kevin Lynch scored twice for the Walleye, but the Cyclones defeated Toledo 3-2 in overtime. Toledo has an overall record of 1-0-1-0 and is 1-0-1-0 on the road this season.
The Toledo Walleye would get the game’s first goal when Kevin Lynch collected a loose puck in the Cincinnati zone and wristed a shot past goaltender Rob Madore at 2:26 of the first period. Defenseman Russ Sinkewich would collect the lone assist on the first professional goal for Lynch.
“We started this game much better than we did Saturday in Fort Wayne and played well to earn a point,” said Head Coach Nick Vitucci. “This is a great rivalry and will continue to be so. Games like this one should be the norm all year.”
Toledo outshot the Cyclones 10-8 in the second period, but neither team would score. At 2:46 of the third period, Max Nicastro fired a shot from the blue line that was stopped but Kevin Lynch fired in the rebound for a 2-0 Walleye lead.
The Cyclones would score two goals in three minutes to tie the game at two. In overtime, Defenseman Antoine Corbin blasted a shot past Coreau at 1:36.
Walleye Notes: Goaltender Jared Coreau made 27 saves on 30 shots in net for Toledo. Toledo was 4-3-1 against the Cyclones last season. The two rivals play a total of eleven times this year.
The 2013-14 season home-opener is October 26 against the Wheeling Nailers. Don’t miss a minute of the action. Toledo Walleye single game tickets and game plans are on sale right now. Get yours by calling 419-725-WALL or online at http://www.toledowalleye.com. The Toledo Walleye play all of their home games at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo. You can catch every Walleye hockey game live on Fox Sports radio 1230 and all 36 home games live on BCSN.
In the OHL, Owen Sound Attack captain Zach Nastasiuk and his team are coming to Plymouth to play against the Whalers--who hold their "Pink Out!" game against Sarnia tomorrow--this evening, and Owen Sound will hope to rebound from a nasty 7-3 loss to Windsor on Thursday. Nastasiuk didn't register a point and he finished at -3
Elsewhere, Andreas Athanasiou was held off the scoresheet in the Barrie Colts' 4-3 win over Niagara;
In Sweden, Mattias Janmark played 19:33 in AIK Stockholm's 1-0 loss to Modo Ornskoldsvik;
And Mattias Backman registered the game-winning goal and an assist in Linkopings HC's 5-1 win over Leksands IF.
Corren.se and the Swedish news agency TT reports that the defenseman, who's registered 2 goals, 4 assists and 6 points over the course of 15 games, happened to register two points with Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer in the stands. What follows is roughly translated:
Defenseman Mattias Backman debuted for the Tre Kronor in the spring of 2012, and last year he was consistently Linkoping's best defenseman. But he's failed in his attempt to step further and take on more responsibility this fall.
He's just registered 4 points in the 14 games prior to this, and had some sloppy defensive play which led to goals against.
"I've not reached the level I know I can, I've played a little too hard sometimes. But I have to continue working and hope to get past it," says Mattias.
The game against Leksand was undoubtedly a big step forward. Backman not only scored the key 2-1 goal, but he also played very stable on the blueline--as an alternate captain in injured Magnus Johansson's absence.
The occasion couldn't have been better for Jiri Fischer, the Red Wings' director of player development, who watched Mattias from the stands. Backman was drafted by the NHL team a few years ago, and next season he may well play in the best league.
"Backman's very good on his skates, agile, and very fit. And he also has a good shot, and he used it just now," says Fischer.
Mattias knew about the visit before the game, but he didn't demonstrate any nervousness.
"No, it was surely nice to have him come here and to also watch our game on Saturday. But I didn't exactly float off. Detroit and the national team are bonuses for me at the moment. I have to perform for LHC and have something to accomplish here.. Though the goal is certainly to grab a spot in the NHL."
Somewhat strangely, I found the most intriguing article about a Wings prospect from a fan of another team in Flyers Faithful's Tom Zulewski, who seems to almost desperately hope that Val-d'Or Foreurs forward and recently-signed prospect Anthony Mantha is something other than untouchable:
When the Detroit Red Wings selected Anthony Mantha with the 20th overall pick in this past year’s draft they got the best pure goal scorer in the 2013 draft class according to numerous scouts.
He certainly has not disappointed so far this season with the Val-d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL. Mantha currently leads the QMJHL in scoring with 18 goals and 33 points in 12 games played. Right now, he’s too good to play in the QMJHL. How he fell to #20 is crazy and is something I will never understand. He should be in the AHL with Grand Rapids, but since he’s only 19-years old and plays in CHL he’s not eligible to play in the American League.( I hate that NHL-CHL agreement) Mantha would benefit from playing in the AHL because there he would learn to be a pro and would play against grown men. In the QMJHL, there is always the thought he could develop bad habits.
I would like my fellow Wings fans to take note of the above-listed fact: players who are 20 and under who've been signed by NHL teams can ONLY play for either their NHL rights-holder or whatever WHL, QMJHL, OHL, NAHL, USHL, Junior A, Junior B or European team that owns their rights. That's how it works.
I was talking to Jared Abbott the other day about Mantha and he brought up the point that Mantha could be subject to possible trades because the Foreurs just don’t have the talent around him. It’s an interesting point because every QMJHL contender would love to acquire a player of Mantha’s skillset. As it stands right now, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada are the top team in the Q. I don’t expect them to be there at the end of the year but how about a team like the Halifax Mooseheads?
They won the Memorial Cup last season and they got a gift from the hockey god’s with Jonathan Drouin being sent back from Tampa. Nathan MacKinnon is gone and playing a regular shift with the Avalanche and star forward Ryan Falkenham is lost for the season with a hip injury. Could you imagine a line with Mantha and Drouin together and throw in Euro import Nikolaj Ehlers? If I’m the Mooseheads, I would entertain the thought of trading for Mantha. I understand Val-d’Or will want a huge haul for Mantha but the QMJHL is wide open this year and any team could win the league and go onto the Memorial Cup. The acquisition of Mantha for any team would be huge. I think it’s something to keep an eye on this year.
Here is a scouting report of Mantha that Jared Abbott wrote back in May.
Mantha may not finish the season in Val-'dOr, but he's definitely going to remain with the Red Wings.
As you may have gathered by now, the Wings don't have many natural goal-scorers on their roster or in their system, so players like Martin Frk, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen and Frk are integral to the team's progress going forward.
That's all I've got this morning...It should be a busy day practice-wise, and given that Patrick Eaves may return shortly, the team may end up having to make some sort of roster move sooner than later to free up a roster spot (the Wings currently have an extra spot available sans Xavier Ouellet and with Ericsson on short-term IR)
Ironically and oddly enough, when Darren Helm's finally ready to come back, Eaves may be the next casualty in line as the Wings will have to move more two bodies and some cap space to ensure that #43 and the eventually-healthy Ericsson have roster spots.
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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.