The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/31/13 at 04:38 AM ET
As someone who's a little bleary-eyed starting a recap at 2:40 AM after having gotten up at 7 and having worked all day--part of it at Comerica Park (which was awesome even though the Griffins lost)--eschewing a media hobknob to watch the Wings drop an ugly 6-4 decision to the Nashville Predators, this is by far the best news that came out of Nashville on Monday that has anything to do with the Red Wings, at least in my opinion:
"Korben, sweetheart...What was that? IT WAS BAD! It had nothing, no fire, no energy, no nothing! You know I have a show to run here, hm, hm? And it must POP POP POP! So tomorrow, from five to seven, will you please act like you have more than a two-word vocabulary? It must be green, mmkay?"
I'm blaming the gratuitous Fifth Element quote on a long day, but still: I don't know if it was the schedule-maker trying to screw the Wings or the Wings simply giving up after goal #1 against, but the Red Wings skated into an arena that absolutely loves to hate the Red Wings and a team that is absolutely convinced that the Red Wings are their self-styled arch-rival, and the Wings played the entire game like their heads, hearts and attention spans were all already in Ann Arbor.
As a result, they flew back to Metro Detroit to greet their families, friends and whoever else is accompanying them to the Winter Classic for game #42 of the regular season--and as the Griffins reminded me on Monday night, these things are God-damned regular season games, and winning is what matters--as an 18-14-and-9 team tied four fourth place in the Atlantic Division with the 20-16-and-5 Maple Leafs with 45 points, but holding an ironic tiebreaker: the Wings happen to have 17 regulation or OT wins to the Leafs' 14 "ROWs."
41 games into the season, we're already talking about ROW separation, and we're doing so because this Red Wings team wins three of four games and then lays eggs, usually consecutively.
I understand that Johan Franzen's absent, that Alfredsson was out, that an incredibly young defense desperately misses Jonathan Ericsson, that Darren Helm was a little rusty and that Jimmy Howard was hell on skates.
I also understand that the Red Wings staged some pretty remarkable comebacks, making 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3 deficits into tightly-contested mini-affairs, but this game screamed, "It's a trap!" like Admiral Ackbar, and in the end, it wasn't Todd Bertuzzi that cost the Wings the game, it was the whole damn team refusing to focus for a long enough period of time to out-score the mistakes that were ending up in the back of their net.
As such, Predators coach Barry Trotz was all but gleeful while speaking to the Tennessean's Josh Cooper...
Trotz said it felt like the old days when Nashville and Detroit always seemed to have great games when they were both in the Central Division.
The Red Wings moved to the Eastern Conference during realignment.
“It’s always fun,” Trotz said of wins over Detroit. “There are a lot of Detroit transplants here. We’ve played them a gazillion times in the last number of years and it’s good to see old faces.
“And tonight was sort of a Detroit-Nashville contest — the changes of momentum, all of the things that can happen when us two play each other. It was a good atmosphere. The fans were fantastic. There was emotion, lots of goals.”
To the point of classic no-neck turtle coach arrogance (again, per Cooper):
“Is (New Year’s Eve) coming up?” Predators coach Barry Trotz said jokingly. “All we think about is the next game.”
It was the only home game of the season against Nashville’s old Central Division rival. Detroit moved to the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division during realignment.The Predators faced the Red Wings at least four times in each of the previous 14 seasons.
Nashville swept the two-game series with Detroit this year.
Center Colin Wilson shined for the Predators with two goals and one assist.
“It’s not very often we score six goals, so it was pretty fun to be a part of it,” Wilson said. “I think we were just trying to get pucks on the net from everywhere, and that’s how pucks start going in.”
The Predators won their second straight game, evening their record at 18-18-4.
It was a rare road loss for Detroit (18-14-9), which fell to 12-4-3 in away games.
Trotz and Gordie Howe Hat Trick-registering forward Mike Fisher (and the fight he engaged in to register the trick was stupid) continued while speaking with the Associated Press...
"There was emotion. There were lots of goals, sways in momentum, all the things that you have in sports," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "From that standpoint, I thought it was real good."
Justin Abdelkader, Pavel Datsyuk, Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves scored for the Red Wings, who have lost two of three.
The teams combined for six goals -- three each -- in a back-and-forth third period, but Nashville never relinquished the lead.
"We found a way to shut it down and get that next one when we needed it," Fisher said. "That's the sign of a good team, playing against a good team like that, we can win one in the third there."
Miller made it 4-3 at 11:30, but Wilson's second of the game was scored 37 seconds later off a nice feed from defenseman Seth Jones, who had two assists for the second consecutive game.
"It was a good play by (Jones), and I just had to get it up over," Wilson said. "We are definitely more confident out there and did well defensively."
And NHL.com's recap will wrap up the takes from the Predators' coach and players...
"We've got to start winning some games, getting some points," [Craig] Smith said. "We've got to start climbing back. This was a good team to do it against. We've just got to keep it going and keep moving in the right direction."
Fisher, who fought Abdelkader late in the second period, made it 4-2 at 5:50 when he swept home a feed from Wilson, who had started the play with a takeaway in the Detroit zone. It was Fisher's third goal in two games. He scored twice in the final 3:18 on Saturday to give Nashville a 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings.
"It was just a matter of time, especially with the guys I'm playing with," Fisher said of his offensive surge.
Miller shoved home a loose puck at 11:30 to cut the margin to 4-3, but Wilson restored Nashville's two-goal lead 37 seconds later when he took a pass from Seth Jones, cut around the defense and found himself alone in front before lifting a backhander over Howard. Fisher, who started the play, earned his second assist of the night.
That turned out to be the winner when Eaves scored his first of the season on a power-play one-timer with 5:08 remaining to make it 5-4. Josi hit the empty net with 18.6 seconds remaining.
It was the Red Wings' only trip to Nashville this season. The teams had played at least four times in every season since the Predators entered the NHL 15 years ago, but with the Red Wings now in the Eastern Conference, they face each other only twice. Nashville won both games; this one drew an above-capacity crowd of 17,212.
"It's always fun," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of playing the Red Wings. "There are a lot of Detroit transplants. We've played them a zillion times in the past number of years, and it's good to see a lot of old faces."
And Reuters' recap will serve as our entrance into the Wings' rather soberly-speaking locker room:
It was a rough night for Howard (6-9-7), who returned from nearly a month's absence only to see five of 25 shots get past him.
"It wasn't very pretty. It was a battle all night. To be honest with you, I felt like I was dying to play a lot and just really didn't get comfortable in there," Howard said.
Detroit (18-14-9) once again cut the lead to a goal when left winger Drew Miller tapped home a loose puck just inches in front of Nashville goalie Marek Mazanek at 11:30, but 37 seconds later, Wilson's back-hander got through to Howard's left.
Detroit responded with a power-play goal from Patrick Reaves, his first of the year, off a Kronwall assist at 14:52.
"I thought we really got going late in the second, and in the third, I thought we did some really good things," Kronwall said. "But it's too late. You've got to start on time."
Jimmy Howard readily admitted that he played poorly while speaking with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
“It wasn’t very pretty, it was a battle all night,” Howard said. “I felt behind on the play a lot. I really didn’t get comfortable in there. When I thought I was on the angles, I was off the angles.”
Howard clearly didn’t like those early goals, which put himself and the Red Wings in an early hole.
“Let’s be honest, when I’m out there and I’m feeling good and playing my game, those aren’t going to go in,” Howard said. “It’s one of those things where I have to find a way to go out there and practice hard and get ready for Wednesday.”
The coach wasn't thrilled with his goalie, either...
“He wasn’t good enough,” coach Mike Babcock said. “The bottom line is we have to find a way to win games and he has to find a way to be better.”
Babcock added Howard would get the start Wednesday in the Winter Classic.
“He’ll have a game under his belt, a good practice. He’s always bounced back before and there’s no reason not to (this time),” Babcock said.
But he didn't like his team's overall effort, period...
“We’ve done a lot of good things, but the bottom line is we have to find a way to be better,” Babcock said. “You can’t give up as many goals as we do. You can say we give up too many chances but we don’t give up too many chances. We have to cut down our goals against and continue to get better.”
Center Darren Helm returned after missing 11 games with a sprained shoulder. But Daniel Alfredsson was a late scratch due to back spasms, which Babcock believes will not prevent him from playing on Wednesday.
"Having Helm back really helped us,” Babcock said. “I thought some of our young guys played real light tonight, so they got to learn how to play in heavier games. But all in all I liked our energy, our stick-to-it-iveness. I liked a lot of things we did -- the puck just went in our net.”
Niklas Kronwall stated the obvious...
“At times we’re doing a lot of good things, we’re sticking to the game plan,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “For some reason we’re losing guys up ice, we’re not executing in our own zone. I thought we made it a little bit too easy for them at times.”
And so did Howard--at length--while insisting that his still-slightly-sore left knee wasn't the problem:
“It’s strong enough and it’s back to where nothing is open in the knee, everything is tightened back up,” Howard said. “There’s still times where it’s going to be sore out there; you just got to battle through it.”
His conditioning, not surprisingly, was lacking.
“Physically, the lungs and the legs, it was tough,” Howard said. “With a knee injury, it’s one of those things where you’re not able to skate (for a week to 10 days). When I’m out there and I’m feeling good and I’m playing my game, those aren’t going to go in. I got to find a way to go out there and practice hard tomorrow and get ready for Wednesday.”
“When you’re quick out there is when you’re reading plays, you’re seeing things develop before it even happens,” Howard said. “I felt like I was a half-step behind all night long. The guys did a tremendous job, they really battled hard and I really didn’t do my part out there.”
"I knew it was going to be tough out there. You just have to put yourself in a position to make saves. Let’s be honest, whenever you score four goals, you should win. The guys definitely deserved better.”
It was Howard’s first game back after a sprained left knee, and he said as late as Sunday he still felt a few twinges.
“Let’s be honest, it’s the first one in three weeks,” he said. “I’m just going to chalk this up to learning some things out there. Whenever a goalie makes a mistake, everyone in the building knows, because that red light goes on. It’s just, back to the drawing board. Everything will work out for the best.”
But Niklas Kronwall's bottom line is getting old, and he knows it:
“At times we were doing good things,” Niklas Kronwall said. “But I thought we made it a little too easy on them at times. They got their chances too easily. Enough’s enough. We’ve got to find a way to be better over the course of 60 minutes. We’re a little bit too much up and down.”
Kronwall said more or less the same thing in Swedish to Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom (and what follows is roughly translated):
"We can't let in five goals, plus a sixth into an empty net, away from home, and believe that we're going to take the points," says a disappointed Niklas Kronwall to SportExpressen.se.
"Of course we're disappointed, this feel like an unnecessary loss a bit," said Kronwall. "There were too many goals in the back of the net to recover."
What does it mean to have Zata back in the lineup?
"It's huge, of course. He's our leader in every category and is extremely important to our team. It's good to have him back."
I sure as *#$%@& hope that the Red Wings laid their flaws bare for 24/7 dramatic effect, because losing in the Winter Classic after flailing and flopping so mightily throughout December would really suck without a redemptive ending--or at least the promise of a better second half cemented into the ice-on-football-field at Michigan Stadium.
Highlights: At least NHL.com's highlights are narrated by Ken Daniels and Darren Eliot:
The Tennessean's Josh Cooper posted a 1:38 post-game clip which includes comments from Wilson, Trotz and Fisher;
The Free Press's Helene St. James posted a 1:31 clip of Jimmy Howard criticizing himself...
And Fox Sports Detroit posted Justin White's post-game interview with Mike Babcock:
Photos: The Detroit News posted a 9-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 21-image gallery of the preparations at Michigan Stadium instead. I can't blame them;
The Tennessean posted a 29-image gallery;
Shots 29-25 Nashville overall. Nashville out-shot Detroit 9-5 in the 1st period, the temas were tied 11-11 in shots in the 2nd and were tied in 9-9 in the 3rd period.
Special teams: the Red Wings went 1-for-2 in 2:23 of PP time; the Predators went 1-for-5 in 9:43 of PP time.
Goaltending: Jimmy Howard stopped 23 of 28 shots, and the Predators scored into an empty net; Marek Mazanec stopped 21 of 25 shots.
The three stars were picked by the "Nashville Media," and they picked Seth Jones, Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson.
The Wings' goals: Abdelkader (4) from Miller (5);
Datsyuk (15) from Kronwall 9(23);
Quincey (2) from Helm (4) and Zetterberg (20);
Eaves (1) from Zetterberg (21) and Kronwall (24), PPG.
Faceoffs 40-29 Nashville (Detroit won 42%);
Blocked shots 16-10 Nashville;
Missed shots 14-12 Detroit (total attempts 55-51 Detroit, with the Wings firing 25 shots ON the net and 30 wide or blocked);
Hits 19-17 Detroit;
Giveaways 9-7 Nashville;
Takeaways 13-8 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 13-and-11 (54%); Andersson went 6-and-12 (33%); Zetterberg went 2-and-9 (18%); Helm went 5-and-6 (45%); Nyquist went 0-and-2 (0%); Miller went 2-and-0 (100%); Abdelkader won his only faceoff.
Shots: Both Datsyuk and Eaves had 5 shots; Zetterberg had 3; Smith, Miller, Quincey and Zetterberg had 2; Abdelkader Tatar, Jurco and DeKeyser had 1.
Blocked attempts: Kindl, Datsyuk, Eaves, Helm and DeKeyser had 2 attempts blocked; Smith, Miller, Tatar, Lashoff, Quincey and Bertuzzi had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Miller missed the net 3 times; Kindl, Abdelkader and Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; Smith, Tatar, Bertuzzi, Kronwall and DeKeyser missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader led the Wings with 4 hits; Smith, Jurco, Helm, Kronwall and DeKeyser had 2; Kindl, Eaves, Lashoff, Zetterberg and Cleary had 1.
Giveaways: Kronwall had 2 giveaways; Kindl, Jurco, Quincey, Bertuzzi and DeKeyser had 1.
Takeaways: Tatar had 3 takeaways; Datsyuk, Eaves, Zetterberg and Bertuzzi had 2; Miller and Quincey had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Both Kindl and Lashoff blocked 3 shots; DeKeyser blocked 2; Smith and Zetterberg blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Abdelkader took a major for fighting; Miller took a double minor; Nyquist, Quincey and Bertuzzi took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at -10. Smith, Datsyuk, Nyquist, Tatar and Kronwall finished at -2; Abdelkader, Andersson, Bertuzzi and Cleary finished at -1; Miller and Zetterberg finished at +1; Helm finished at +2.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 23:46 played; DeKeyser played 23:38; Datsyuk played 21:28;
Quincey played 19:02; Smith played 18:43; Lashoff played 17:04;
Bertuzzi played 17:01; Abdelkader played 16:50; Zetterberg played 16:48;
Kindl played 16:33; Helm played 15:35; Eaves played 15:20;
Andersson played 15:16; Miller played 12:59; Tatar played 11:29;
Cleary played 10:45; Nyquist played 10:09; Jurco played 8:35.
Red Wings notebooks: Surprisingly, the Tennessean's Josh Cooper captured a candid comment from Babcock regarding Jordin Tootoo's status as a Grand Rapids Griffin...
“It’s been a tough situation,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Toots did a real good job for us. He just hasn’t found his way — (salary-) cap issues and then we’ve got some kids that are playing good.”
As well as some praise for the Predators...
“I always hear about how little they have — that’s not the team I’ve coached against for nine years,” Babcock said. “I think they’ve got lots of depth and a good talent base here. They have a back end that can really skate and really pass the puck. They make it hard for you to get in on them and then they work. I’ve always liked this team.”
The Predators’ Shea Weber, one of the NHL’s top defensemen, has earned the respect of Red Wings center Joakim Andersson.
“He’s a good defenseman — big and strong, and he moves the puck well,” Andersson said of the 6-foot-4, 233-pound blueliner. “Real good shot on the power play. It’s hard to get to the net when he’s out there. He’s a tough defenseman, and he’s real strong, so you’ve got to really battle to get into to the net and win the battles in the corners against him.”
Andersson, who spends a lot of time on the penalty-killing unit, said it’s important not to let Weber shoot one-timers.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan took note of the positive impacts made by Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader in his notebook:
Helm had one assist, was a plus-2, and had two hits and two shots on net in 15 minutes 35 seconds in the 6-4 loss to Nashville.
“Having Helm back really helped us here,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s a real good player.”
With Helm and forward Justin Abdelkader returning to the lineup, the Red Wings have two physical skaters who bolster a lineup that is short on speed and size.
“We’re not a team that skates easy. We like guys who can skate and it makes easier for us,” Babcock said.
The key for Helm returning was the ability in practice to play the physical game he needs to play.
“I feel good to go out and play my game,” Helm said. “I’m going to try and go out early and get physical and do what I usually do. That’s how I’m going to back into my game real quick.”
He also talks about Jimmy Howard's Olympic aspirations and Daniel Cleary's need for dental work, but you'll have to read those quips on your own.
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About The Malik Report
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.