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Red Wings-Predators wrap-up: slump busted?

The Detroit Red Wings' 4-0 victory over the Nashville Predators may or may not have been a command performance, but the Red Wings were able to rely on Jimmy Howard's superb netminding while finding their "legs," and while Drew Miller's 1-0 goal gave the Wings some tentative poise, Tomas Tatar's 2-0 goal 2:58 into the 2nd period seemed to put the Wings on track to break their 0-3-and-2 streak.

The Wings face an immediate challenge-and-a-half in the team that bested Nashville (1-0) on Friday, facing the Vancouver Canucks this afternoon (5 PM EST, FSD/Sportsnet Pacific/97.1 FM), but a very relieved Wings roster and back-up goaltender Jonas Gustavsson will at least face the powerhouse Canucks with something of a monkey off their backs.

On Saturday, the Wings accomplished the task with heavy doses of Brian Lashoff (24:14 played, leading the team) and Ian White (23:12) instead of Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, and the Wings accomplished the task while receiving something that's been elusive all season long in strong secondary scoring and plain old strong performances by the team's "bottom six" forwards.

Hell, the Wings even scored a power play goal, which never seems to happen anymore, they killed 2 penalties and they kept up with the Predators' physical game and Shea Weber's slew foots-via-stick checks during a game refereed as if Dan O'Halloran and Kyle Rehman had a flight to catch at 9:30 PM (the game started at 7).

The Predators weren't so sure that Howard's 33 saves were the only reason they'd completed a set of back-to-back games having scored only one goal, as they told the Tennessean's Josh Cooper...

Howard made 33 saves, and his performance added to the Predators’ scoring quandary. The Predators (8-6-5) have lost four of their past five games, including back-to-back shutouts. It was the fifth time this season the Predators, the NHL’s lowest-scoring team, were shut out.

“We have to find a way to score. Chances aren’t going to win us the game,” Predators defenseman Shea Weber said. “We can sit here and say we’re generating chances all you want, but we’re not scoring.”

Goaltender Pekka Rinne made 23 saves for the Predators after starting Friday’s 1-0 loss to the Canucks. That was another game in which Nashville thought it had enough offensive jam to win, but lost to red-hot goaltender Roberto Luongo.

“I’ve been coming into this building the last 14 years,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said, “and I can’t remember getting as many grade-A chances as we got tonight.”

Howard stopped Colin Wilson’s open rebound shot seven minutes into the game; Matt Halischuk had a breakaway in the first period; Sergei Kostitsyn’s powerful wrist shot from the slot three minutes into the third period was stopped. All seemed wired for the back of the net; all were Howard saves.

Meanwhile, Detroit seemed to score whenever it had a chance. Drew Miller put in a rebound 5:11 in to go up 1-0. Tomas Tatar scored 2:58 into the second period. And Niklas Kronwall’s fluttering shot with 4:27 left in the second made it 3-0.

“I thought we did a lot of good things offensively,” Predators forward Mike Fisher said. “We had a couple of plays where we could have been better defensively. Overall, I thought we created some things and just couldn’t bury our chances.”

The Predators gave Howard some credit for stopping them in Cooper's "Postgame quotes":

Forward Patric Hornqvist

On what made Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard so effective: “He was playing great. He has lots of confidence and had a couple really good saves in the start and really got him going, but we played really well offensively. We just have to bear down when we get the chances and find the back of the net.”

Forward Mike Fisher

On Nashville’s offensive performance: “I thought we came out pretty hard in the first, played a solid period and that’s the most chances we’ve had in a while, we had a lot of great chances. Howard obviously played real well and got a little lucky on some plays. We just have to keep at it. They got a couple of breaks. I don’t think we played badly.”

On the play of Howard: “He was kind of scrambling at times and any time you scramble … they collapse well in front of the net, they get guys back, so it’s hard to get second and third chances that are clean, but he was seeing the puck well and playing a solid game.”

Coach Barry Trotz

On his concerns: “The last two nights we generated lots of chances but we haven’t found the back of the net. They always ask ‘are you concerned?’ If we’re generating that many chances I’m not concerned.”

“The two things that concern me is, one, we’re getting outscored the last two nights … their fourth line has outscored our fourth line, and we’ve run into a couple of hot goaltenders and haven’t found the back of the net.”

As for the physical part of the game, Cooper mentioned that Rich Clune may or may not have tried to check Ian White, saw that he wasn't quite going to line White up for a beating into next month, and skated through his "down the train tracks" hit regardless of its consequences:

Predators forward Richard Clune was assessed a boarding minor 4:51 into the second period when he hit Red Wings defenseman Ian White in his own end. As Clune went to hit White, the defenseman quickly turned to his back and got crunched. Clune was fined earlier in the week for boarding Avalanche forward Aaron Palushaj.

White returned to the game shortly, on the power play he helped draw.

And there was most certainly a close chance for the one Predators alumnus on the Wings' roster:

Detroit forward Jordin Tootoo raised his arms in celebration midway through the second period. He thought he had scored on Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. Instead, the former Predator’s puck hit the crossbar.

Tootoo played 11:29 and had two shots on goal.

Tootoo played very well. The more he worries about playing hockey, the more he looks like the forechecking force of nature the Wings needed as opposed to an overenthusiastic gloves-off combatant, and the more the Wings have of the former, the better, because he's really good at being more than just a nuclear deterrent.

Trotz defended his decision to start Pekka Rinne on back-to-back nights while speaking to the AP's Larry Lage...

"I'm comfortable putting him in net every night," Trotz said before the game. "You always get an argument from Pekka, 'Shea Weber plays every night, and everybody else plays every night. Why shouldn't I play every night?' That's what the great ones do, they just want to play."

Miller scored off a rebound 5:11 into the game to perhaps relax the reeling Red Wings. Tatar lifted a loose puck high and into the net 2:58 into the second period.

Kronwall's one-timer fluttered past Rinne, who had an obstructed view of the shot as Cleary was tangled up with teammate Scott Hannan in front. That gave the Red Wings a 3-0 lead at 15:33 of the second.

Howard made nine saves in the third period to seal his 12th career shutout.

"He was really good early when the game was right on the line," Babcock said. "They were better than us early, and he was good. Really good for him but more importantly, good for us. We needed the win."

And the Lage added one note that's accurate...

Nashville D Hal Gill left the game in the second period because of a lower-body injury, and Trotz said he didn't have a timeframe for his possible return.

And one that makes my eyebrows rise:

Detroit hopes two of its banged-up players -- Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Brendan Smith (hip) -- will return in about a week.

We'll shift from the Predators' to Red Wings' perspectives via the Macomb Daily's Fred Costello, who duly notes that the Patrick Eaves-Joakim Andersson-Tomas Tatar and Drew Miller-Cory Emmerton-Jordin Tootoo lines may have been the Wings' best--which is a good thing in back-to-back situations--and that yielded a wee bit of revenge exacted for Tuesday's 4-3 OT loss:

Miller’s second goal of the season, which proved to be the game-winner, came as a result of a very well-executed sequence. Eaves busted down the left wing boards; he threw a pass back to Kronwall at the left point. Kronwall one-timed the puck, which bounced off Rinne’s right leg. Miller slapped in the rebound at 5:11, staking Detroit to a 1-0 lead.

...

Tatar and linemate Andersson combined for a beautiful goal at 2:58. The duo worked a give-and-go down in the right corner in the Nashville end. The puck ended up mere inches away from Rinne, forcing Tatar to lift the puck straight up and over the sizable netminder. It was Tatar’s third of the year, and it showed off the considerable skill the 22-year-old Slovakian possesses.

“It was a little scrum in front of the net,” Tatar explained. “I was just taking my time and put it high. I saw that (Rinne’s) pads were down, and that I had to go upstairs if I wanted to score.”

...

“We kind of had a bad game in Nashville, and we tried to get back at them in this one,” Tatar said. “It worked out really well. We had some chances, and could’ve had a couple more goals.”

Equally stellar was the play of Howard, who faced a barrage of Nashville chances en route to his first shutout of the year. He looked every bit like the player who made 45 saves in a win against Los Angeles on February 10. Howard deflected credit to his teammates.

“Shutouts get credited to the goalie, but it’s really a team aspect,” Howard said. “You need everyone pitching in. It’s a team stat.”

For a team that had blown three 2-0 leads during their 0-3-and-2 stretch, getting out to a good start was essential...

“We’ve been getting a lot of goals early in games,” Howard said. “It’s the process of not letting teams get back into the game.”

And Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples took note of the means by which the Wings got out to their solid start:

Miller gave the Wings the early lead when he buried a rebound from a Niklas Kronwall shot at the 5:11 mark of the first period. It was the second goal of the season for the Lansing native.

“Got the puck in deep, we tried to establish our cycle, [Patrick Eaves] got the puck back up to Kronner, he got the shot to the net, and I was just trying to be strong out front and get the rebound,” Miller said of his goal. “We wanted to come out in the first period and play well, and I think we established that. We played 60 minutes tonight; our big key was to play a complete game.”

Tatar increased the Wings’ lead to two just three minutes into the middle frame. The Grand Rapids call-up continues to impress, as he now has three goals in ten games.

“He’s got to learn to take care of the puck, and he’s got to learn how to play without it, but he has skills in those areas,” coach Mike Babcock said. “As he gets better without it, and as he gets heavier on the puck, as far as taking care of it, he’ll become an important player for us.”

...

The Wings held the Predators scoreless on two power-play opportunities; the Detroit four-man units prevented Nashville from generating a single shot on goal with the man-advantage.

“I think we’ve been working hard all season on the PK,” Miller said. “We started off a little rough in the first couple games, but I know all the guys on it take a lot of pride in it, and we’ve been working hard at it, we’re trying to get that back on track and get our percentage back up.”

As the Wings' players told the Free Press's Helene St. James, there was and is no doubt that Saturday's game was essentially a must-win affair:

"We didn't even have to say anything before the game, that's how much we understood the importance of it," Cleary said. "Where we were in the standings, where we were in terms of blowing 2-0 leads. I thought that Howie played great for us early, made some timely saves, and we didn't let up. Nashville played last night. They didn't have their full 'A' game, but we certainly played well, played good defensively, and got some timely scoring."

The usually impeccable Pekka Rinne looked human for a change. Howard, meanwhile, looked like he had something to prove. Four nights after leaving the game in Nashville midway through the first period because of blurry vision, Howard was stellar throughout the opening 20 minutes, especially on a breakaway by Matt Halischuk and a rebound attempt by Colin Wilson.

"I thought Howie was really good early when the game was right on the line and they were better than us," coach Mike Babcock said. "He was good. Really good for him, but more importantly, good for us. We needed the win."

... 

Unlike previous games, the Wings didn't let up after grabbing a 2-0 lead. "Playing 60 minutes was our big key to the game," Miller said. "Playing a complete game."

St. James noted that Howard tried to deflect credit for his shutout in her "Notes and Quotes"...

"I was just seeing it well out there," Howard said. "The guys were doing a great job out there in front of me clearing out guys and allowing me to see the puck. When the goalies see the puck in this league, they're going to stop it." ... Miller said: "I thought Howie was great for us. I thought everyone from him right on out played great, and that's what you need, a full team effort." ... "We had good net presence on our first three goals," coach Mike Babcock said.

But neither the players nor either team's coach would have it, as Fox  Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji found out:

"He made a great save there at the end to keep the shutout going," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought he was really good early when the game was right on the line. They were better than us early and he was good. Really good for him but more importantly, good for us. We needed the win."

....

The Predators were all over the Wings in the first period, yet it was the Wings that emerged with a 1-0 lead, courtesy of Drew Miller's rebound goal at the net.

"The first period was Howard. It was all Howard," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "He was outstanding in the first."

The Predators have now been shut out a league-high five times and remain the NHL's lowest-scoring team. Yet they were the ones with more quality scoring chances, including a breakaway by Matt Halischuk in the first period that could have tied it and changed the entire complexion of the game.

"I thought he played a great game," Miller said of Howard. "We count on him to play like that every night and he does. I think the save at the end, big toe save, was huge. He wanted the shutout and he earned it."

Howard was talking about flavors of shutouts instead...

"Each game is different," Howard said. "Against L.A., you’re out there and you get into a rhythm with making saves. And (Saturday night) we did a better job of controlling the puck and playing in their end quite a bit. They’re throwing a lot of pucks at the net. That’s what they do. All four lines funnel to the net and then they crash, and we did a great job of picking up sticks."

And he puffed up his chest while speaking to DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose...

“We put everything to rest there,” Howard said. “Things weren’t going our way. We weren’t really paying attention to detail, and tonight we got the performance from every single one of us.”

...

The Red Wings built a 2-0 lead Saturday, but 2-0 leads haven’t actually been all that kind to Detroit this season. The Wings are now 4-3-0 when taking a 2-0 lead.

“When you haven't won, it doesn't matter what the score is, the lead's never safe,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It's just a confidence thing. Confidence in pro sports comes and goes in a hurry, so this is a big win for us today.”

The Wings' stats aren't particularly gaudy collectively speaking...

Drew Miller, Tomas Tatar, Niklas Kronwall and Daniel Cleary all scored for the Wings, who improved their season record to 8-7-3.

“Shut outs are sort of … they get credited to the goalie, but they’re more of a team aspect,” Howard said. “I think it’s more of a team stat.”

But Howard definitely wanted that goose egg, which was almost spoiled late when Predators winger Patric Hornqvist moved in for a point blank shot. But Howard flashed a leg pad and kicked the puck to safety.

“To be honest, the thing that flashed in my mind was ‘There goes the shut out,’ ” Howard said, with a laugh. “It was just a last ditch effort, trying to get a piece of the equipment on the puck.”

As you've probably gathered by now, Babcock was happy about the win, period, as he told the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa...

"Really good for him," said Babcock, who lavished praise on Howard. "But, even more important, good for us. When you haven't won, it doesn't matter what the score is. A lead is never safe," he said, referring to the Wings yielding three 2-0 leads in the five games before Saturday.

The Red Wings also assumed a 2-0 lead against the Predators Saturday. But they held this one when Kronwall scored, providing them their first 3-0 lead of 2013.

You read that right. First 3-0 lead of the year. On February 23rd, over a month and 18 games into the season.

"It's just a confidence thing," Babcock said. "But confidence in pro sport comes and goes in a hurry. And so, that's a big win for us today."

Niklas Kronwall felt that the team had finally broken through after solid attempts to score at the other end of the ice went unrewarded in previous games...

"I think we've been working hard for a long time, and tonight we were able to capitalize on some of the chances," said Niklas Kronwall, who scored his second of the year and added two assists, giving him 13 points in 18 games.

"Howie, again, came up huge for us," he said. "He made some great saves to keep us in the game."

But the defenseman whose +2 on the night still leaves him at -7 knows that things will only get harder from here...

"I still think there's some areas we can definitely improve on," Kronwall said. "I definitely thought that we tried to stick with it for 60 minutes, this time. Guys were battling hard and winning battles — and Howie, again, came up huge for us."

And, as MLive's Ansar Khan pointed out (Khan also penned a quote-less recap), the Wings may have set something of a foundation for success given the way they scored their goals on Saturday night:

The Red Wings scored all of their goals with either a net-front presence (Cleary, on two goals), or right in front of the net (goals by Miller and Tatar).

“We've always been like that, each line has to have a guy at the net,'' Cleary said. “I've been going there since I've been here. As the season gets going, you get better at it, your timing and your deflections. If you keep going there, good things happen at the net.''

Miller opened the scoring at 5:11 of the first period by banging in a rebound. Tatar displayed his good set of hands by roofing a shot from in tight at 2:58 of the second period. It was his third goal in 10 games since being recalled from the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“Tatar's got an NHL skill package,'' Cleary said. “He's going to be a good player.''

Kronwall scored at 15:33 of the second to make it 3-0, as his shot fluttered past Pekka Rinne with Cleary in front. Cleary made it 4-0 at 11:48 of the third period, standing in front of the net to deflect in a shot by Kronwall.

The Red Wings turned in the 60-minute effort that had been missing during this stretch of losses.

“Things weren’t going our way,'' Howard said. “We weren’t really paying attention to detail, and tonight we got the performance from every single one of us. We stuck to the game plan and we continued to make their D turn and face the glass and go get pucks. That wears on you throughout the game.”

That's the game the Wings have been allowing themselves to get suckered into for the vast majority of February, and after Saturday night's first step, they have to take a second against a much more difficult and rested opponent this afternoon.

You either make the other team's defensemen turn, or you're slowly forechecked into sand. That's how this game has always worked, before, during and after the obstruction crackdown, and that's how it will probably always be.

Move the puck out of your own zone fast, skate through the neutral zone with speed and get in and play defense 200 feet from your net, or don't win. Sometimes how you start isn't how you finish, but if you find your way along the path after falling down, you can sustain it...

Or the Wings can spend Sunday evening talking about standing on the precipice of mediocrity all over again. We're 37-and-a-half percent of the way into this 48-games-in-99-nights demolition derby, and it's time for the Wings to wake from their annual February slumber and play like the players who've worn the logo on the front have regardless of the names and numbers on the back for the last twenty years. It's that simple, especially given how thinly strung the Wings' personnel are.

Multimedia:

Highlights: NHL.com's highlight clip is narrated by the Wings' announcers:


Post-game: The Tennessean's Josh Cooper posted clips of Predators forward Patric Hornqvist and coach Barry Trotz speaking about the game, and Cooper gave his own take as well;

The NHL Network offered a little game break-down...


And the NHL Network's Kathryn Tappen spoke to Danny Cleary after the game:

Fox Sports Detroit posted a clip of Jimmy Howard's immediately-after-the-game interview:

And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Jimmy Howard...

Drew Miller...

And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media:

Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted an 25-image gallery;

The Tennessean posted a 14-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 21-image gallery;

MLive posted 3 images from the game;

The Windsor Star posted 3 images from the game;

ESPN posted a 50-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted 14 AP images in their Wings gallery;

And NHL.com, the Predators' website and the Wings' website posted 40-image galleries.

Statistics:

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.

Faceoffs 24-24;

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.

Individual stats, TMR style:

Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 10-and-6 (63%); Datsyuk went 5-and-7 (42%); Emmerton went 6-and-4 (60%); Andersson went 2-and-7 (22%); Filppula won his only faceoff.

Shots: Cleary and Brunner co-led the team with 4 shots; Miller and Kronwall had 3 shots; Datsyuk, Tatar, Tootoo and Andersson had 2; Abdelkader, Eavves, Zetterberg, Filppula and Ericsson had 1;

Blocked attempts: White fired 3 attempts into Predators players; Datsyuk had 2 attempts blocked; Abdelkader, Brunner and Ericsson had 1 shot blocked.

Missed shots: Huskins, Abdelkader, Eaves, white, Brunner, Zetterberg and Filppula missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Huskins, Lashoff and Filppula co-led the team with 3 hits; Eaves and Zetterberg had 2; Abdelkader, Tootoo, Brunner and Ericsson had 1.

Giveaways: Zetterberg and Filppula had 2 giveaways; Datsyuk and Tootoo had 1.

Takeaways: Datsyuk and Eaves had 2 takeaways;

Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall and Ericsson blocked 3 shots; Tootoo blocked 2; Kindl, Lashoff, Emmerton and Filppula blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Ericsson and Kronwall took penalties;

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +15. Eaves, Ericsson, Kronwall and Andersson finished at +2; Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, White, Miller, Tatar and Lashoff finished at +1.

Points: Kronwall had a goal and an assist for 3 points; Datsyuk had 2 assists; Cleary, Miller and Tatar scored goals; Abdelkader, Eaves and Andersson had assists.

Ice time: Brian Lashoff led the team with 24:14 played; White played 23:12; Zetterberg played 19:36;

Kronwall played 19;24; Datsyuk played 18:53; Ericsson played 18:15;

Cleary played 18:10; Filppula played 18:07; Kindl played 17:31;

Huskins played 16:55; Abdelkader played 15:03; Brunner played 14:48;

Miller played 13:34; Eaves played 11:54; Emmerton played 11:53;

Tatar played 11:41; Tootoo played 11:29; Andersson played 11:21.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Bugsy's avatar

Same theme: sustain their play. I don’t expect Howard to carry the team every night, but he again showed he CAN carry the team at times. Datsyuk and Zetterberg I’m not worried about over the long haul, it’s the other skaters. I still think we’re (I’m) biting fingernails for the playoff spot towards the end of the season, but hopefully when healthy we’ll at least see a consistently playoff-level team (although I’d certainly feel a lot more confident with a win tonight). It’s also nice to be talkng Tootoo and offensive chances in the same sentence, and I hope to hear more. I didn’t see much of the game tonight, but they LOOKED more confident, forechecked more, even despite their imperfect play. Nothing original or terribly deep, but given the dearth of comments tonight on the game, I figured I’ll fill space.

By the way George, my fellow insomniac/tireless worker, what do you think the ceiling is for Jimmy Howard, and if you want, pluck a goalie from the past for comparison (I figure if anyone can answer a goalie question, it’s you). Thanks again, George, for your work, and hope you’re doing better.

Posted by Bugsy on 02/24/13 at 03:11 AM ET

Slumpy's avatar

Kronwall with a great night all around. Tatar icetime still to low imo, 11 odd minutes.
Andersson faceoff win percentage was rancid. I think he’ll stick around with the Wings but that part of his game has to improve.

The Cleary haters getting silenced lately. 3 pts in last three games.

Slump busted, Not unless they string together a few wins. They still give up to many quality scoring chances. When Trotz was shocked how many good chances to score his team had Saturday you know our team is not out of the woods yet.

Red Wing players need to seek out the heavy girls to properly bust this injury riddled so far season. Wear a back brace just in case boys

LOL

Posted by Slumpy from Detroit on 02/24/13 at 08:08 AM ET

w2j2's avatar

Nobody is talking about the quiet man.
Who would have dreamed that a young, rookie defenseman, who nobody ever heard of, would lead the team in ice time?
Kudos to Kenny and his scouts!

Posted by w2j2 on 02/24/13 at 08:44 AM ET

42jeff's avatar

Nobody is talking about the quiet man.
Who would have dreamed that a young, rookie defenseman, who nobody ever heard of, would lead the team in ice time?
Kudos to Kenny and his scouts!

Posted by w2j2 on 02/24/13 at 08:44 AM ET

Wait, who?

Posted by 42jeff from The greater Howard City, MI metroplex on 02/24/13 at 10:59 AM ET

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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.