The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/23/13 at 12:08 PM ET
Updated 9x at 2:24 PM: The Detroit Red Wings begin a difficult slate of back-to-back games against the Nashville Predators tonight (7 Pm, FSD Plus/FS Tennessee/NHL Network/1270 AM), hoping to end their 5-game slide (0-3-and-2) against the team that swiped two points from the Wings on Tuesday, and MLive's Ansar Khan's offering no supririses from the morning skate...mostly...
Etc. etc., from the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
97.1 the Ticket's Ken Kal's dropping statistical knowledge upon us...
And the "enemy" is watching!
Teams don't wear names and numbers on the backs of their practice jerseys for several reasons:
1. It's easier for the equipment staff to just launder "defensemen" (black), "goalie" (black), "top six forward" (red), "bottom six forward" (white) and "no contact" (gray) jerseys than it is to figure out who's who;
2. In theory, anyway, it's easier for the coaching staff to "hide" players from the opposing press and opposing teams' scouts/coaches during practices/morning skates if they're unfamiliar with who's who, though those darn numbers on the fronts of helmets make things a little more easy to figure out (that, and you can obviously figure out who's who by watching their faces, their gear, and plain old counting the number of colored jerseys);
3. It makes coaches' jobs easier.
Almost an hour after Khan and Pleiness "live-Tweeted" the morning skate, here come our personnel updates:
It sounds like Mursak's about to clear waivers and go down to play in Grand Rapids. That's what he needs to do--play--which is why the Wings waived him.
This is really good news and/or bad news for Jakub "I still have a job because people are injured" Kindl, per the Free Press's Helene St. James:
Via RedWingsFeed, I think that the Free Press's ever-willing-to-induce-panic columnist, Jamie Samuelssen, has the equation wrong by dropping Wings coach Mike Babcock from 2nd to 6th in his, "coaches least likely to be fired" list...
6) Mike Babcock (Last Year’s Ranking – 2) Easily the biggest fall on the list. This is based on nothing more than a gut feeling, but I’m starting to wonder if Babcock’s style is starting to wear on the Red Wings players just a little bit. The team had tons of cap room during this past summer and ending up striking out on most of their targets. Was that because players liked the offers elsewhere? Perhaps. But there’s a nagging part of me that wonders if some players weren’t thrilled with the notion of playing for the hard-driving Babcock. That said, if Babcock were to leave, he’d have a new job instantaneously.
Babcock doesn't seem to have the horses this year. He's adjusted his style of coaching to admittedly become more positive and "solution-based,' and the fact that it hasn't worked speaks to the team's injuries and lack of collective confidence as they struggle to find a post-Lidstrom identity.
Their struggles don't speak to a lack of adaptation on behalf of the coaching staff, and given the comments made by so many of the Wings' opponents this season, the allure of playing for Detroit, playing for Babcock included, hasn't worn off yet. Babcock readily admits that Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider and Brendan Shanahan probably left because they didn't like playing for him, but other than that, Babcock hasn't chased anyone out of town, nor has he dissuaded anyone from playing in Detroit.
Suter and Parise wanted to play in Minnesota due to their relatively local ties and due to the up-front money being promised to them, not because they feared Babcock. It's not exactly like Barry Trotz or anyone who's ever coached the New Jersey Devils have been softies by comparison.
More topically speaking, via RedWingsFeed again, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke to Cory Emmerton about the team's inability to hold 2-0 leads:
And that's that, per Khan:
And Duff's offering Tweets from said presser:
As well as Ken Kal's "keys to the game":
Don't Take Your Foot Off the Gas - The Red Wings have held 2-0 leads in 3 of their last 5 games, and ultimately lost all three games. They need to compete hard for a full 60 minutes tonight and if they get a lead, build off of it and don't play too conservative.
Take Care of the Puck - Turnovers hurt the Wings last game, some of which resulted in Columbus' final two goals on Thursday. The Wings need to make good, smart passes, especially in their own zone and through the neutral zone.
Rebounds, Rebounds, Rebounds - Pekka Rinne likes to use his glove and he likes to cover the puck; he won't give the Wings multiple scoring chances often, so when they do get those second and third opportunities, they'll need to take advantage of them.
Update #4: Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's game-day article...
Nashville (8-5-5) is third in the league in goals-against average (1.88), due mainly to the outstanding play of goaltender Pekka Rinne (7-4-4, 1.63 GAA, .936 save percentage, three shutouts). The Predators defeated the Red Wings 4-3 in overtime Tuesday in Nashville, in the first of four meetings between the clubs.
“They’re playing pretty well. Pekka Rinne was outstanding against us,'' Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You want to talk about mistakes? That’s the eraser right there. You have to get more of your fair share against him because he’s playing that good. We’re going to need traffic and then their D moves the puck pretty good from the back, so we have to go get them.”
The Red Wings realize they must take advantage of a Nashville team that played Friday night (1-0 loss to Vancouver at Bridgestone Arena) and also capitalize on their home games. Detroit is just 5-4-1 at JLA.
“You’ve got to win almost all your home games, especially now with the shortened season,'' center Cory Emmerton said. “Home games are huge. Anytime you let two points slip away at home, it’s pretty bad. We’ve got to get back on track tonight and go from there.''
Here are the lines the Red Wings skated with this morning:
Valtteri Filppula-Henrik Zetterberg-Damien Brunner
Daniel Cleary-Pavel Datsyuk-Justin Abdelkader
Tomas Tatar-Joakim Andersson-Patrick Eaves
Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Jordin Tootoo
Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson
Brian Lashoff-Ian White
Kent Huskins-Jakub Kind
Jimmy Howard (starting)
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness filed articles about Jan Mursak clearing waivers...
Detroit now has 12 forwards on its active roster. Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, Darren Helm and Johan Franzen remain sidelined with injuries.
And fellow Macomb Daily scribe Fred Costello penned an entry in Pleiness's blog discussin Justn Abdelkader's point production issues:
It has been a very rough start to the season for forward Justin Abdelkader. A year removed from the 2011-12 season, in which he scored a career high eight goals, Abdelkader has been largely ineffective thus far. Through 17 games, he has just one assist to his credit, and is still on the hunt for his first goal of the year.
“It’s funny, when you watch highlights of games, just to see how a lot of goals go in,” Abdelkader began. “They’re a break here, a bounce here. So, I think it’s about creating opportunity for yourself.”
Struggles have not, however, led to a reduction in Babcock’s faith in the burly forward. On the contrary, the coach has Abdelkader playing an important role on the second power play, as the front-of-the-net pest. Yet, even with a coveted role, the coach believes that a player must still produce in order to be considered effective.
“(Abdelkader’s) getting to play with (Pavel) Datsyuk, and that’s like winning the lottery,” Babcock said. “Get him the puck, and go to the net, and good things will happen. He did it in the minors. The bottom line is if a guy adjusts to it real good, beside his name you’ve got these power play goals and points. He doesn’t. That’s the measure in the end.”
In addition to his stagnant offense, Abdelkader owns a minus six rating, and has accumulated only nine penalty minutes – a far cry from the 60-plus average over the last couple of years. Nevertheless, Abdelkader remains in prime position to break out of his slump. He’s averaging over 13 minutes of ice time per game, and is ahead of Jordin Tootoo by one for the team lead in hits.
“The bottom line is, we need to put it in the net,” Babcock said. “The net-front guy has to get pucks back for guys. Ideally, he tips them and ends up with a few goals.”
“Hockey’s a funny game,” Abdelkader said. “You’re either getting breaks, or trying to find them. Hopefully, eventually, they’ll start rolling my way.”
Update #4.5: The Macomb Daily's...Looks like Pleiness...Offered this quip about the power play:
The Wings’ second power play unit has essentially been a revolving door this year – not that it was ever part of Mike Babcock’s plan.
“I’d don’t know if I’d call it experimenting,” Babcock said. “The people who used to play on it are all injured. It’s (Valtteri Filppula’s) group. He’s got to take charge, and make it count.”
Abdelkader, Filppula and Tomas Tatar made up the current forward line on the team’s second unit, with defensemen Ian White and Jakub Kindl manning the blue line.
Update #5: It appears that the Predators didn't have a morning sakte, so the Tennessean's Josh Cooper penned a story about Jordin Tootoo's second game against his former employer instead:
Red Wings forward Jordin Tootoo’s first game against Nashville last Tuesday was admittedly emotional. Tootoo, who was drafted by the Predators in 2001 and spent eight seasons in Nashville played his first game in Bridgestone Arena after signing with Detroit over the summer.
The fans gave him a standing ovation during a first period video tribute. And then they went right back to booing Tootoo. So what did Tootoo, one of the most popular players in Nashville history, think about the boos?
“They cheer for their team and obviously any rival team comes in you’re going to hear a few boos,” Tootoo said. “It’s a part of it, but at the same time to have a standing ovation was pretty amazing. I would like to thank everyone once again for all their support.”
Tonight’s game between the Red Wings and Predators will be a little different for Tootoo. For one, it’s at Joe Louis Arena. Also, since Tootoo and Nashville got their first game out of the way, the nerves will probably be slightly less for Tootoo.
“Obviously there was a lot of hype going into the game in Nashville and obviously the reception I got was pretty amazing,” Tootoo said. “I know coming back here is just going to be another game for us. We’re division rivals and we have to get back on the winning ways and no better team to do it against.”
Also, the condensed schedule has lessened the anticipation level. The Predators lost last night to Vancouver, and Detroit has gone winless in five straight and just needs a victory.
“We’re like playing every second day here,” Tootoo said. “It’s going to the drawing board to see which team we’re playing and making sure we know their systems and what not. It has definitely been busy. Every night we need to get points or we get pushed out of a playoff spot.”
The Free Press's Helene St. James just updated her article with a video:
Update #6: I'm not paticularly impressed with this "Game Day" debate between MLive's Brendan Savage and Ansar Khan, who wonder whether the Wings need to "trade at op prospect for immediate help":
ANSAR KHAN: I certainly wouldn't trade [Brendan] Smith, [Gustav] Nyquist, [Petr] Mrazek or [Calle] Jarnkrok, and I'm sure they won't move any of then, unless they got an offer they can't refuse. But they have a good stable of prospects in their system. They can afford to deal a couple of those secondary prospects.
I wouldn't call Tomas Jurco or Teemu Pulkkinen "secondary prospects." Riley Sheahan and Landon Ferraro, sure.
And they will need to package a prospect and/or draft pick/roster player to get help before the April 3 trade deadline. I don't think they need to make a move right now, but if they continue to struggle over the next week or two, they'll have to act.
I still think a top-four puck-moving defenseman is their top priority. But, they might have to wait closer to the deadline before a player like that becomes available. And with no return on the horizon for forwards Todd Bertuzzi and Darren Helm, the club might need help up front as well.
BRENDAN SAVAGE: No. Absolutely not. Don't even consider it regardless of how bad things get this season. (Is that strong enough?)
Sooner or later, the Red Wings were bound to have a bad season. Their streak of 21 straight years with a playoff appearance was bound to end sometime and this could very well be the year.
But don't mortgage the future by selling the farm for a quick harvest that will be a temporary fix. That would be silly. Now, if the Red Wings had a shot at winning the Stanley Cup and parting with a prospect (or two) could be the difference in winning or losing a championship, I'd say they shouldn't hesitate to do it.
But if they do happen to make the playoffs this season, they're unlikely make any noise so just ride out the storm, try and improve the team during the offseason through free agency and start fresh with a full training camp in the fall.
971. the Ticket's Ken Kal's dropping more statistical tidbits...
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