The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/23/13 at 09:37 PM ET
The Detroit Red Wings almost always get into late-February slumps, but in a 48-game season, the Wings' 0-3-and-2 slump had the team more than simply "taking on water."
Here's hoping that tonight's game is the start of the customary late February/early March surge, because the Wings vaciliated from rope-a-dope-and-rely-on-Jimmy Howard hockey to playing absolutely dominant puck possession hockey (and back, regrettably) during a 4-0 win over the Nashville Predators.
Howard was wonderful at the start and at the end, and in the middle, the Red Wings, led by significant ice time from the Eaves-Andersson-Tatar line the Miller-Emmerton-Tootoo line and a superb new defensive pair in Lashoff-White, managed to fight themselves for a while (out-shot 12-9 in the 1st and 2nd periods) and eventually out-battle a Nashville Predators team slightly tired by tomorrow night's opponent, the Vancouver Canucks. [edit/update: and Wings coach Mike Babcock decided to reward Howard with a night off, with Jonas Gustavsson starting tomorrow vs. Vancouver]
It wasn't pretty all the time, and it wasn't easy, because there were times that Kent Huskins and Jakub Kindl looked like they were trying to convince Ken Holland to make a move before March--if not ask Larry Murphy to suit up for a shift or two--and the Predators skated circles around the Wings at times during a turnover-happy first period, but Drew Miller scored a scrappy goal 5:11 in, 2:58 into the 2nd, Tomas Tatar took a bouncing puck and chipped it over Pekka Rinne as Joakim Andersson and two Predators defensemen pushed Pekka Rinne out of the way, and the Wings were off to the races.
The Wings didn't play particularly consistently until the last half of the second and first half of the third, and that was all of a 20-out-of-60-minutes span, but Niklas Kronwall managed to chip a knuckleball in 15:33 into the 2nd and Danny Cleary's power play goal (after taking a shot off the noggin) with 8:42 left in the game sealed the deal.
Valtteri Filppula, Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner remain ill with a case of "passitoffitis," all passing instead of shooting, and sometimes Justin Abdelkader and Danny Cleary look like the top-six partners that Pavel Datsyuk needs, and sometimes they don't, but the Wings' 2nd and 3rd defensive pairs and 3rd and 4th lines helped the team push themselves past Nashville and hopefully set them up for a good effort against Vancouver...
And, quite frankly, as FSD's Darren Eliot suggested, the power of self-confidence could be absolutely key going into tomorrow afternoon's game. Mickey Redmond said that the Wings won't hold a morning skate due to the 5 PM start tomorrow (FSD/Sportsnet West), but the Canucks will, and they're a powerhouse and a half. Again, here's hoping that tonight's Howard-powered rebound will allow whoever starts tomorrow to backstop the Wings to the kind of weekend slate that could genuinely give the Wings some momentum going into the last week of what is always a perilous month.
Shots 33-27 Nasvhille overall. Nashville out-shot Detroit 12-9 in the 1st and 2nd periods, and the teams were tied with 9 shots apiece in the 3rd.
The Predators went 0-for-2 in 4:00 of PP time; the Wings went 1-for-2 in 2:37 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 33 shots; Pekka Rinne stopped 23 of 27.
The 3 stars were picked by Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji, and they were Drew Miller (3), Niklas Kronwall (2) and Jimmy Howard (1).
The Wings' goals: Miller (2) from Kronwall (10) and Eaves (3);
Tatar (3) from Andersson (2);
Kronwall (2) from Datsyuk (11) and Abdelkader (2);
Cleary (3) from Kronwall (11) and Datsyuk (12), PPG.
Blocked shots 12-8 Detroit;
Missed shots 12-7 Nashville (total attempts 57-42 Nashville);
Hits 17-15 Detroit;
Giveaways 7-6 Nashville;
Takeaways 6-4 Nashville.
Update #2: From the Wings, here's a nice clip of one of Howard's blocker saves:
Update #3: The NHL Network spoke to Danny Cleary after the game...
And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Jimmy Howard...
And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media:
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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.