The Malik Report
by George Malik on 11/18/13 at 06:23 AM ET
Updated by an insomnia-battling blogger at 6:44 AM: The Detroit Red Wings will get back to practice today ahead of a busy two weeks--the team hosts the Predators on Tuedsay the 19th, the Hurricanes on Thursday the 21st (many Wings players, coaches, front office and alums will take part in a fundraiser for paraplegic Catholic Central player Matt Sorisho [a former teammate of coach Mike Babcock's son] at Compuware Arena on Wednesday the 20th, so a few Canes players may chat with the Wings before they tangle the next day)--the Wings will attempt to assuage their 6-1 loss to Ottawa when they host Daniel Alfredsson's former employer on Saturday the 23rd, and they're going to head to Buffalo for a 5 PM-starting Sunday game on the 24th, all before hosting the Bruins on Thanksgiving Eve and playing a 4 PM matinee on Long Island on Black Friday...
The Free Press's Larry Fleischer reports that Brendan Smith is highly likely to return to the lineup on Tuesday as his injured shoulder's healed, but he doesn't believe that Daniel Alfredsson will return until Thursday or Saturday given the "Mike Babcock rule" regarding groin injuries. Smith could've played on Saturday, but the trainers held him out of the game:
“I think I’m pretty much ready here,” Smith said Saturday. “But I just think it’s a precaution. I was hoping for Friday. It didn’t work out. I was hoping for today, and it didn’t work out. I guess I’m doing the same thing for Tuesday. But I feel good. I’m not feeling any pain or anything, so that’s an upside.”
Smith has not played since suffering the injury in a third-period fight with Edmonton’s Will Acton on Nov. 2. The Wings have not won since despite leading at some point in five of those games.
“That’s even more frustrating than just sitting and not playing,” Smith said. “Obviously, we’re a playoff team. We’re a great team, and not being able to pull out these wins makes it even more frustrating for myself. ... Obviously, I want to be a part of the team and help it out.”
If he does return, Smith will be looking to improve on a rough season. He has a team-leading 19 penalty minutes, and his minus-seven rating is third worst on the team. Smith was a healthy scratch for four games in October and was minus-three against Phoenix on Oct. 19, but since then he has an even rating.
Alfredsson was also held out of Friday and Saturday's game by the team's training staff, with Saturday's absence forcing the team to call up Luke Glendening as a "roster emergency"--so the Wings had to send Glendening back down to Grand Rapids, at least on paper, on Sunday.
The Griffins host Milwaukee on Wednesday the 20th, and play road games in Des Moines and Chicago on Friday the 22nd and Saturday the 23rd, and while the Wings could've recalled anyone as a cap-exempt emergency, as I explained on Sunday, Glendening's has the lowest cap hit of any NHL-ready Wings prospect, so the Wings will probably keep calling him up as necessary so as to not piss off the league.
Alfredsson told Fleischer (and MLive's Brendan Savage) that he was OK, but you know Babcock's rule:
“I felt pretty good,” Alfredsson said. “Practice the other day was fine, and then warming up before the game I felt where I was, that if I go out and play, it will jeopardize it further.”
And considering the trickiness of groin injuries, the fear is he will miss at least a week. “I would be shocked,” coach Mike Babcock said. “This is what I’ve learned over my career is that groins are day to day for 10 days.”
No news as to the status of Stephen Weiss's groin. I'm assuming that we'll find out more this morning.
In terms of the Wings' utter incapability of earning "second points" in overtime and the shootout, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan spoke with the Wings' players and coach about what is an obvious crisis of confidence:
The Red Wings overall are winless in six games, a regulation 4-2 loss in Winnipeg Nov. 4 beginning this winless streach. This season, they are 0-for-4 in shootouts.But it’s those overtime or shootout losses that have left the Red Wings dumbfounded.
“It’s tough on the guys shooting,” forward Johan Franzen said about the shootout woes. “We’re depending on them and there’s a big mark on their back. When it’s going bad like that for a while, it’s tough to get the confidence you need to beat the goalie. It’s not easy to score on a breakaway like that. We just need to win one in regulation. We’re playing good enough to do it.”
The Wings have earned five points in those five overtime losses. And with 25 points, are tied with Boston and Toronto, three points behind Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. Yet they haven’t won a game since Nov. 2 in Edmonton. As they begin a three-game home stand at Joe Louis Arena, where they haven’t won in seven games (0-1-6), the Red Wings just want a victory.
“Believe me, we want to get that second one (point),” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “I don’t know if we (need to) starting to work on the shootouts a little more. It comes down to confidence. If we have a lot of confidence, you go in and score those goals. Obviously we’re going through what we’re going through and maybe it’s in the back of our mind.”
“It’s like anything in life, it gets in your head a little bit,” Babcock said. “To me, we got to be hard-headed. We got to be mentally tough and we just got to bring it to a table. For me, these extra points, the standings could be a lot different if we won all these games, especially shootouts. It’s just a skills competition at the end of the game.”
Kulfan--like MLive's Brendan Savage before him--also noted that the unlikely second line of Johan Franzen, Darren Helm and Tomas Tatar, who will presumably be helped by Weiss, Alfredsson and Cleary or Abdelkader when numbers 90 and 11 return to the lineup, have done a helluva job in terms of providing some secondary scoring:
The line of Darren Helm centering Johan Franzen and Tomas Tatar accounted for two goals and four points Saturday, after combining for two goals and five points Friday in the shootout loss to Washington. The Red Wings would rather use Helm as a third-line center, utilizing his speed and energy in that role. But Helm has provided just enough offense and playmaking, and complemented Franzen and Tatar’s talents into an effective line.
“We’ve been playing pretty well together. It seems like we have some chemistry,” Helm said. “I enjoy playing with those two guys. They bring different elements to our line and the team. Obviously when you’re playing well together and producing points, it’s fun.”
I'm surprised a all hell get out, albeit pleasantly, about the fact that Helm's playing around 18 minutes a night all of two weeks after returning from his back and groin issues, but here he is, rocking and rolling (he's been a beast in the faceoff circle, too), and it seems like Johan Franzen's spurned to keep up with Helm's speed.
Tatar's calmed right down, and his combination of Jiri Hudler-like aplomb in give-and-go situations and more Holmstrom-like willingness to bump, grind and go to the front of the net and plant his ass there allow Franzen to do what he likes to do--to wander and lurk like the sniper and playmaker he is instead of playing as the "power forward" that he simply is not--and Tatar's quite happy to do the dirty work.
It's pleasantly ironic (i.e. unexpected) that Babcock's favorite third-line center in the league's sparked the Wings' second line, but that ain't a bad thing.
Switching things up a bit, the Wings have played 21 of their 82 games--that's 25.6 percent of their schedule--and as such, the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness leads off a set of first-quarter assessments.
Pleiness offers a holistic assessments of the team's disparate parts, which is an intriguing way of switching things up:
Defensemen: B: Niklas Kronwall, Danny DeKeyser and Jonathan Ericsson have been rock solid, all plus players. DeKeyser has been the brightest spot on the blue line.
“He’s got great hockey sense, a great skater and a real good defender,” Babcock said. “Whoever he plays with they play better. Real good players do that to their partner and their linemates. That’s just something he’s come here and grabbed. It wasn’t long ago we didn’t even know to put him in the lineup, give him a gratis game before we shut him down for the year. Now he’s rolling along and in our top three.”
The rest of the regulars — Jakub Kindl, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith, and Brian Lashoff — are a combined minus-25.
(You'll love this)
Goalies: C+: Jimmy Howard’s numbers aren’t awful, but they’re not spectacular. His goals-against average (2.68) and save percentage (.910) are his worst numbers compared to the last two seasons. Howard is one of leading candidates to represent the United States.
Jonas Gustavsson and Petr Mrazek are a combined 4-0-1 as backups.
A healthy Gustavsson could play a huge role as the season progresses for Detroit. He had a stretch of three straight starts, subbing in for an injured Howard, and had road wins at Boston, Columbus and Colorado. Mrazek’s win was a shutout.
He continues, giving the forwards a B- whlie noting that Cleary's re-signing = Nyquist in Grand Rapids, and giving the coaching a B+ because Babcock a) says he's consulting with his players and b) has good special teams stats.
The Red Wings website's front page has a link to Bill Roose's "Week Ahead in Hockeytown," but the link isn't working as of 5 AM. It'll probably hit between 6 and 8 AM;
I will allow you to read Winging it in Motown's David Malinowski's article defending "Fancy Stats" on your own, but I'm baffled by the holy war about the subject. It's gotten to be athiests versus religious conservatives, with the fancy stats crowd sometimes insisting that they offer a value-added viewpoint of the game that simply watching it, paying attention to the obviously subjectively-kept hits, giveaways and takeaways or even going with one's "gut feeling" can ever attain, and those who don't believe in the "Moneyballization" of the game insist that Corsis, Fenwicks, Vukotas and the rest are nothing less than bullshit.
Let me put my take this way: I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school, and I believe in God, but my teachers at St. Raphael and Divine Child insisted that the big bang theory was reality, that evolution was fact and that there was simply no need to suggest that the bible's version of events and science couldn't live side by side.
I am a "gut" person, my "fanciest" stat involves tracking shot attempts, and between a high school calculus teacher who liked bullying his students and bombing out of engineering in college, there's a reason that I write instead of crunching numbers, but spend fifteen minutes posting those damn team stats after games and I fully believe that advanced stats are both useful and necessary.
All of the above are weapons in a hockey-assessing arsenal, and they allow us to use our subjectivity and senses of the intangibles to our advantage, to track the basics of the game and to use statistics to add depth, meaning and context to the stats that we can assess.
It is of course worth noting that those who insist that stats are the only answer sometimes conveniently ignore the fact that teams compile their own stats because they'll wisely tell you that even the supposedly objectively-snagged ones are subject to rink-by-rink bias.
But our "guts" are biased, too, and as you and I both know, no amount of video evidence will ever convince people who feel that a hit was "dirty" is anything less than unconscionable, and five different replay angles and slow-motion won't ever convince those who feel that the player getting hit was at fault was anything less than at fault.
It's all part of the picture. It's all valid. No one thing should supercede the other.
Former New Jersey Devils coach Tommy McVie had a young Brendan Shanahan in his lineup, long before Shanahan became a Hall of Famer. “He always wanted to fight. He fought Donald Brashear in front of their bench, just to prove a point,” said McVie. “I remember I had Kirk Muller and Johnny MacLean and Brendan on a line. I told Brendan he’d have to move over to left-wing. He never complained, and 656 goals later …”
And this is an intriguing way of looking at the Winter Classic/Stadium Series overload:
The six outdoor games this season is certainly overkill, but it’s basically a league I.O.U. to the players, who are apparently owed hundreds of millions as part of the collective bargaining agreement. So rather than have the owners dig into their pockets, we get all these games, which are a cash cow.
I don't necessarily agree with that theory. The league does split hockey-related revenues with the players on a 50-50 basis now, but the league reimburses teams for 1 home game's worth of in-stadium revenues, fills a rink with 40,000 or more people, sells the TV rights, gets HBO involved and sells the merchandise from the NHL level.
It's not looking after anyone but itself.
In a different sort of "viewpoint," the Hockey News's Mark Malinowski's profile of current Pittsburgh Penguins scout Don Waddell reveals strong Detroit ties:
First Hockey Memory: “I started skating when I was two. My first memory is when I was four or five I got to play with my three older brothers. And we all got to play in the backyard rink. So growing up with three older siblings, we played a lot of backyard hockey and those were great memories.”
Hockey Inspiration(s): “As far as people that have helped me in this business, there’s been several. Jimmy Devellano. Kenny Holland. They gave me my first chance in the NHL. It provided me an opportunity to get the job in Atlanta. So I’d say those two guys are definitely the top of the list.”
Favorite Uniforms: “I work for Pittsburgh now so certainly I have to admire their uniform. But I like a lot of the traditional Original Six. Being a Detroit guy, growing up in Detroit and then winning a Stanley Cup being the assistant manager, I really like the Red Wing.”
And I'll see you in a couple hours.
Update: MLive's Brendan Savage confirms Smith's status in a 6 AM notebook...
"That's even more frustrating than just sitting and not playing," said Smith, who has been out with a shoulder subluxation. "We're a playoff team. We're a great team. Not being able to pull out these wins makes it even more frustrating for myself, more frustrating for everybody. Obviously, I want to get in the lineup. Anybody that's not playing is a little frustrated when they want to play. But this puts a little bit more on my shoulders. Obviously, I want to be part of the team and help it out."
The good news for Smith, who missed his sixth straight game Saturday against the New York Islanders, is it looks like he won't be spending much more time on the injured list.
"I think he'll play next game," said coach Mike Babcock.
And adds the following:
[Saturday's] game marked Datsyuk's 800th in the NHL and the goal gave him 266 for his career to go with 523 assists. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only active players who had more points than Datsyuk's 789 after 800 games are Jaromir Jagr (1,064), Teemu Selanne (919) and Joe Thornton (812).
Datsyuk leads the Red Wings with 11 goals and is tied for 12th in the NHL with 22 points. He has six goals and four assists over his past eight games, including four multi-point efforts, and has registered at least one point in 14 of his 21 contests this season.
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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.