The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/09/14 at 05:39 AM ET
The Red Wings didn't paint a work of art in winning a rather homely 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres last night, but the Wings' 3-2 win last Friday wasn't pretty, either, and given that a) those damn Blue Jackets both won in overtime vs. Phoenix, b) those damn Blue Jackets start tonight's Rich Peverley Make-Up Game with a 1-0 lead over Dallas, and c) given that the Red Wings have a big game against the Penguins tonight (8 PM EDT on NBCSN/TSN2/97.1 FM), sometimes you've got to bank away points any way possible, and the Wings have earned a necessary 4 of 4 points and 2 regulation wins over Buffalo.
The Eastern Conference Wild Card standings are still bunched-up at the top, but Detroit and Columbus have separated themselves from the rest of the pack:
The Sabres tossed off several slew-foots, Mike Weber boarded Gustav Nyquist, and the game was less than friendly, but WGR 550's Paul Hamilton felt that it was at least one Red Wing who played dirtily early on, with Darren Helm running goaltender Jeff Hackett too aggressively until #43 was called for goaltender interference:
Matt Hackett had to make some acrobatic saves to keep the Sabres in the game early against Detroit.
Johan Franzen hit the post on a power play and then was stymied by Hackett on a wraparound when the goaltender was on the far side and made a backhand glove save, looking like a shortstop fielding a ball in the hole.
"I got caught and they kind of pushed me outside my post there," Hackett said. "Luckily, guys picked up sticks and I just was lucky to get a hand on it and cover it for a few seconds."
Hackett got dumped on a real dirty play by Darren Helm. The winger came out from behind the net and hit Hackett’s right skate with his stick, tripping him backwards. Helm got a penalty, but just like in Philadelphia, nobody touched him the rest of the night.
The kid had to face over 35 Red Wing shots and I thought looked pretty poised doing it. It was one of the better games I've seen him play until the Legwand goal.
"[Hackett] has competed almost every game for us," said Ted Nolan. "He gave us a chance last time against Detroit, 3-2 up there. He kept us in that game also. He's playing well for us.""I think [my game] is coming along," Hackett said. "I just gotta find a way to make that extra save. I think I'm pretty close. I just gotta compete harder, or just find a way to bear down. It sucks losing all the time and I want to change that."
WGR 550's Dan Cave penned a narrative recap...
Zemgus Girgensons found the net twice, but it wasn't enough for the Sabres in a 4-2 loss to the Red Wings on Tuesday. Buffalo has now dropped four games in a row, with two of those losses coming courtesy of Detroit. Head inside for more.
After a scoreless opening period, Zemgus Girgensons staked Buffalo to the 1-0 lead early in the second. Camped in front of the crease, Girgensons redirected a Cody Hodgson pass into the Detroit net for his seventh goal of the season. Brendan Smith made it 1-1 later in the period, finishing off a rush and sending a quick shot past an out-of-position Matt Hackett.
Darren Helm's 12th at 3:33 of the final period put the Red Wings ahead 2-1. David Legwand made it a two-goal game later in the period, beating Hackett five-hole. Girgensons' second of the evening came just a little over two minutes later, a beautiful goal that cut the Detroit lead to 3-2. The Buffalo forward took the puck up ice, maneuvered around Niklas Kronwall with a highlight-reel move and lifted a shot over Jimmy Howard's blocker. The Wings squashed any chance of a Buffalo rally, however, with Pavel Datsyuk's empty net goal with four seconds left on the clock.
And the rest of the Sabres' press corps did what one does when the team's going to clean out its lockers next week--they tried to accentuate the positive.
The Buffalo News's Mike Harrington prasied Chris Stewart's play in his return...
“You could tell Stewart hasn’t played for a while, you could tell Marcus hasn’t played for a while,” Nolan said afterward. “There’s two big bodies that tried to play a finesse game. They can’t play that way. They have to play a physical game and bump some bodies. Between two of them, we got three hits.”
Detroit won the game and moved one point away from clinching a playoff spot with a three-goal third period. Darren Helm put home a rebound past Matt Hackett at 3:33 of the third to snap the 1-1 tie.
Zemgus Girgensons had both Buffalo goals, a neat tip-in of a Cody Hodgson pass at 1:31 of the second period and a breakaway at 17:49 of the third.
Nolan has openly talked about Stewart being a building block for next year on several occasions, and Stewart has been heartened to hear that kind of chatter.
“Any time the coach vocalizes that he believes in you, that’s obviously a big confidence boost,” Stewart said. “I’m excited.”
And Harrington discussed Zemgus Girgensons' goals in his notebook...
There just about two minutes left in the game when Zemgus Girgensons made a slick, and somewhat sick, move around Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall. Girgensons then shot the puck cleanly into the net, bringing the Buffalo Sabres within a goal of the Red Wings.
Detroit would add an empty-netter to seal its 4-2 win over the Sabres at First Niagara Center. But Girgensons’ goal was a highlight reel effort in the loss.
“I know I’m capable of doing stuff like that,” Girgensons said. “I did that in juniors. I’ve done it a couple times here and it just comes down to confidence. It’s one thing in this league that plays a big role is confidence.”
It wasn’t just nifty one-on-one moves for Girgensons. He scored the first goal of the game on a tip in front of the net for his first career two-goal night. More important than goals for head coach Ted Nolan is the way the centerman is playing the game.
As did Buffalo Hockey Beat's Bill Hoppe:
“One thing with Girgensons, he plays the game right,” Nolan said following the Sabres’ fourth straight loss. “If there’s one thing our team can learn, it’s just watch the way he plays all the time. Whether he scores two goals or not, he’s by far our best player on the ice. Why? Because he plays the game right. He plays both ends of the ice. He competes. He plays with some passion and all those things that good players do. He was great tonight.”
Still, the Sabres lost for the 15th time in 17 games (2-14-1).
Brendan Smith tied the game before the Sabres frittered away a long two-man advantage.
Goals from Darren Helm, David Legwand and Pavel Datsyuk (empty net) sealed Detroit’s fifth win in six tries.
Goalie Matt Hackett kept the Sabres in the game, making 33 saves in his sixth appearance. With no healthy, established goalies left in the organization, Hackett, who struggled in Rochester all season, will likely start the final three games.
“I just want to prove myself at this level,” the 24-year-old said after his 19th NHL appearance.
Nolan added: “He’s playing well for us.”
BuffaloSabres.com's Chris Rydak will close our survey of the Sabres' perspectives...
The Sabres have now lost eight-straight games against Detroit. Their last win against the Red Wings came in a 6-2 victory on Oct. 3, 2009.
“When you play a good team like Detroit, they know how to close deals,” Nolan said. “We have a 5-on-3, a chance to go ahead [2-1]. We don’t do it and that’s what happens.”
Hackett is now 1-4-1 in six games with Buffalo. He was 13-17-2 with a .898 save percentage and a 3.07 goals against average with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League this season.
“I think it’s coming along. I just have to find a way to make the extra save,” he said. “I think I’m pretty close. I just gotta, I don’t know, compete harder or find a way to bear down but it sucks losing all the time and I want to change that.”
He stopped 33 of 36 shots on Tuesday against Detroit.
“It sucks not winning. It feels like all year, I’ve been losing, losing, losing and it’s been a tough year,” he said. “But I know that I’m getting stronger by this and we’re going to find a way to turn it around.”
The Sabres travel to take on the New York Rangers on Thursday and then to Boston for an afternoon game against the Bruins on Saturday. They wrap up the season at home against the New York Islanders at 5 p.m. on Sunday.
And the Associated Press's recap will shift our focus to the Red Wings' takes on the game, noting that Wings coach Mike Babcock is now the team's "winningest" bench boss:
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock will enjoy the win more than the milestone for now.
As special as it was to pass Jack Adams' franchise win total, making the playoffs is the more immediate priority.
Darren Helm scored the go-ahead goal 3:33 into the third period to spark a three-goal outburst and inch Detroit to the cusp of clinching a playoff berth following a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
"The win tonight is way more important than that," Babcock said, when asked about the significance of earning his 414th career victory, one more than Adams. But what I would say to you is these are things you think about the summer. And I'm thrilled."
Babcock then shifted his attention to his team's next test. The Red Wings (38-27-14) travel to play Pittsburgh on Wednesday needing only one point to secure one of the Eastern Conference's two wild-card playoff spots, and extend the team's run of postseason berths to 23 straight seasons.
"I know we've got a game in Pittsburgh tomorrow. We're going to enjoy this tonight," Babcock said, noting the game at Pittsburgh could potentially be a first-round playoff preview. "The reality is, it's an important game tomorrow."
NHL.com's Joe Yerdon noted that the Wings were happy to have rebounded from a difficult loss to Montreal this past Saturday...
"It's one big step in the right direction," Howard said of beating the last-place Sabres. "Now we've just got to find a way to get a point or two points there tomorrow night. We've got to find a way to keep it rolling because you want to feel good going into the playoffs."
After a scoreless first period, Girgensons gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead 1:31 into the second. Girgensons was tied up in front of the net with Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser in front of the net when Cody Hodgson fired a pass that Girgensons deflected past Jimmy Howard.
The Sabres had a chance to put the Red Wings in 2-0 hole when they had 1:51 of 5-on-3 power play time after a holding call on DeKeyser and a delay of game penalty to Justin Abdelkader. The Red Wings killed off both penalties, partly thanks to a big save from Howard against Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.
"I thought it was huge," Howard said. "It was a great all-around effort by everyone and I was able to get a pad on the second shot there."
Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith made it 1-1 at 12:28 of the second period. Smith took a cross-ice pass from Franzen on a 3-on-2 break and beat Hackett for his fifth goal of the season.
"Coach, he said there's a fine line where you've got to get up [in the play] but at the same time, you've got to make sure if there's a turnover you can get back," Smith said. "It's an in-and-out kind of thing and you've got to choose your chances and obviously I was fortunate to choose the right chance there."
And the Wings were quite happy with both their penalty-killing and the superb performance of a new trio in Daniel Alfredsson, Darren Helm and Tomas Jurco, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted:
Helm dug out a big rebound by Sabres goalie Matt Hackett in the slot, patiently took a stride to his right, and fired into an open net, Hackett leaning the other way. Helm centering Tomas Jurco and Daniel Alfredsson was one of the better Red Wings lines during the game.
“Give Alie a couple of guys who can fly and he’s a better player,” Babcock said. “That was a good group for us.”
David Legwand made it 3-1, scoring his 14th, at 15:46, after Drew Miller made a good play sending Legwand on an odd-man rush.
Sabres forward Rasmus Girgensons cut the lead to 3-2 with just over two minutes left in the game. But Pavel Datsyuk’s empty-net goal with 4.2 seconds left clinched the victory.
“They did a good job early and we got better,” said Babcock, noting a 1:51 five-on-three penalty kill in the second period, with the game tied, was a huge lift for the Red Wings. “We could have been down two and that could have been a big hill to climb.”
Darren Helm readily admitted that the Wings didn't paint a masterpiece...
“A few times we didn’t play to our potential,” Helm said. “But we played hard when we needed to, scored when we needed to and found a way to win.”
But MLive's Ansar Khan noted that Helm's been working some magic of his own of late (he also won 10 of his 10 faceoffs):
Helm banged in a loose puck past goaltender Matt Hackett for his 12th goal of the season, in just 39 games. He has five goals in his past six games.
“(Kyle Quincey) had it back on the point and took a shot,” Helm said. “I was kind of up high and just watched the puck bounce through a couple guys’ feet right to my stick and I tried to get to an open spot and tried to go high because I knew the goalie was low on the ground.”
Smith had an excellent game, too...
Smith joined the rush, took a cross-ice pass from Johan Franzen, and fired a shot past Hackett at 12:28 while Daniel Alfredsson, who also drew an assist, was at the net front.
“You got to choose your chances and I was fortunate to choose the right one there and I got up and was able to put it in the back of the net,” Smith said. “It’s still a learning process. It’s tough for me, but I think I’ve been doing a good job of it lately and it turned out to be a big goal for us.”
But the Wings told Khan that their collective boobles involved putting the pedal to the metal when necessary:
The Red Wings remain in the top wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of Columbus (89 points), which owns the tie-breaker. Washington (85 points) and New Jersey (84 points) are on the brink of elimination. Toronto (84 points with two games remaining) has been eliminated.
“I think it’s huge,” Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith said. “You see the games we have left (after Pittsburgh, they host Carolina on Friday and visit St. Louis Sunday), they’re tough, so we had to win tonight.”
The Wings continued in preaching their "Keep At 'Er" team take while speaking with the Free Press's Helene St. James, who noted that a month's made all the playoff-making difference for Detroit (St. James posted a capsule recap, too)...
“We’ve just got to keep playing, keep doing things right and get ready for the playoffs,” Johan Franzen said. “We talk about that a lot — just be patient and keep grinding and doing all the small things right out there. It’s been giving us some good results.”
Contrast the Wings with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who sat in second place in the Atlantic Division a month ago and then crashed so hard they were eliminated Tuesday. The Wings have been without Datsyuk for long stretches and without Henrik Zetterberg for long stretches — and still they are standing.
“It’s one good step in the right direction,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “We just have to find a way to keep it rolling because we want to find a way to feel good going into the playoffs.”
The only Buffalo player to beat Howard was Zemgus Girgensons, who did it once from in front of the net and then again after stepping around Niklas Kronwall. The Sabres have lost 49 times this season and will finish with the NHL’s worst record, but they’ve given Detroit two good tests over the past week, forcing the Wings to show resolve.
“This time of year when you’re out, you play with house money and you can just roll,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We had a huge 5-on-3 kill where we could have been down two, that would have been a big hill to climb.”
The victory was Babcock’s 414th with the Wings, making him the all-time winningest Detroit coach. “I’m thrilled,” Babcock said. “In order to do it, you’ve got to be there a long time. For me to be in my ninth year, what it tells me is that my kids got to go to high school in the same town, and that doesn’t happen to an NHL coach very often, so I’m thankful.”
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose would normally get the last word, and he does note that the Wings plan on betting against the "house" in short order...
The win gives the Red Wings 90 points, keeping them a point ahead of Columbus for the first wild-card spot. The Blue Jackets beat Phoenix in overtime Tuesday to keep pace with Detroit. The Jackets’ win, coupled by Tampa Bay’s 3-0 home win over Toronto eliminated the Maple Leafs, who only a month ago had a 10-point lead over the Red Wings.
“It’s a good win because we needed points with everybody playing tonight and everybody climbing and still in the playoffs,” said Datsyuk, who scored his second goal since returning from a knee injury. “Hard to play Buffalo, they want to improve because some guys want to be signed for next year.”
Still, two teams – Washington and idle New Jersey – are chasing the Red Wings, though their chances are on life-support. The Capitals claimed a 4-1 win to stay four points behind Columbus and five points behind Detroit in the Eastern Conference wild-card race.
Both Washington and New Jersey can be bounced from the playoff picture on Wednesday if Detroit gets a point in Pittsburgh and the Blue Jackets pickup two points in their makeup game at Dallas. If this scenario occurs then the only other business in the East will be to determine who finishes as the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds between the Wings and Blue Jackets.
“We’ll try to get that tomorrow,” Johan Franzen said. “We got a few chances here but we just got to keep playing like we’re playing, can’t think too much about that. Keep doing things right and getting ready for the playoffs.”
But I'd prefer to have the Buffalo News's Bucky Gleason close things out, because he reminds you, me and every other Red Wings fan that we don't live in Sabres owner Terry Pegula's world--instead, we watch a team helmed by Mike Babcock, Ken Holland and Mike Ilitch--and sometimes we "need to be reminded," as Babcock says, how good we've got it:
The Red Wings, with their 4-2 win Tuesday over the Sabres, were on the verge of nailing down a playoff spot for the 23rd consecutive season. It’s the longest current streak in professional sports. They have changed coaches and general managers and superstars and goaltenders with barely a hiccup.
“I don’t think it happens by accident,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “I think they have a great plan. They’ve got a great structure, obviously a great method to their success. It’s almost like a cookie cutter for them, and how they do it is a secret. But they do a great job getting those players year after year after year.”
Ken Holland has a knack for finding great players, which is why many consider him the best general manager in the NHL. The Red Wings were perennial powers before the salary cap was implemented in 2005, and they reached the finals twice and won the Cup once within four years of the new system.
Detroit is handing down its success to the next generation of players, a practice that started when Steve Yzerman became captain. They reload every few years and continue to take their cracks at the Cup.
“I’m a firm believer that when you get young players, in four or five years, if he’s not a good pro, that’s on you. That’s on your watch. It’s your responsibility,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “If they don’t have enough personal drive to be a good one, make sure they’re in someone else’s organization. The ones that stay in yours have to be pros.”
Detroit isn’t the prettiest or warmest or wealthiest city. The Red Wings play in an outdated arena that doesn’t include a $10 million dressing room, but they attract good talent every year because players think they can win. Their own players often stick around for the same reason.
Daniel Alfredsson had numerous options when he bolted from Ottawa last summer before settling in Motown. Todd Bertuzzi was in a similar situation five years ago with his career approaching its final stage. He wanted to play with pros such as Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg, so he signed with Detroit.
I think Gleason meant Niklas Kronwall. I sure wish that Lidstrom guy was skating, but he isn't.
“It starts with Yzerman, goes to Lidstrom and now Zetterberg,” Bertuzzi said. “They all had the same recipe. They all ran a very good dressing room. I liked the personnel. They have very good players, good people, good human beings and a winning attitude. It’s a pretty good formula for success.”
Highlights: The Red Wings website's highlight clip is narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Fox Sports Detroit posted Trevor Thompson's post-game interview with David Legwand...
The Free Press's Helene St. James posted a 1:50 clip of coach Mike Babcock's presser;
And the Red Wings' website posted Babcock's full presser...
As well as comments from Pavel Datsyuk...
And Brendan Smith:
Photos: The Free Press posted a 26-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 7-image gallery;
The Buffalo News posted a 9-image gallery;
ESPN posted a 33-image gallery;
Shots: 37-27 Detroit. Detroit out-shot Buffalo 12-9 in the 1st, 13-9 in the 2nd and 12-9 in the 3rd.
Special teams: Detroit went 0-for-5 in 10:00 of PP time; Buffalo went 0-for-3 in 4:09 of PP time, including 1:51 of 5 on 3 time.
Goaltending: Jimmy Howard stopped 25 of 27 for Detroit; Matt Hackett stopped 33 of 36 and the Wings' last goal was scored into an empty net.
The person who picked the 3 stars went unnamed: whoever he or she was picked Darren Helm, Brendan Smith and Zemgus Girgensons.
The Red Wings' goals: Smith (5) from Franzen (25) and Alfredsson (30);
Helm (12) from Quincey (9);
Legwand (14) from Miller (8);
Datsyuk (17), unassisted, empty net.
Faceoffs 38-17 Detroit (Detroit won 69%);
Blocked shots 16-10 Buffalo;
Missed shots 14-5 Detroit (Detroit had 67 shot attempts to Buffalo's 42; Detroit fired 37 shots on Hackett or the Sabres' net and 30 wide/blocked);
Hits 18-7 Buffalo;
Giveaways 7-3 Buffalo;
Takeaways 3-1 Buffalo.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 14-and-6 (70%); Glendening went 7-and-7 (50%); Helm went 10-and-0 (100%); Sheahan went 5-and-4 (56%); Alfredsson and Tatar won their only faceoffs.
Shots: Datsyuk led the Wings with 5 shots; Legwand and Helm had 4 shots; Nyquist,Sheahan, Tatar and Jurco had 3 shots; Smith, Abdelkader, Quincey and Franzen had 2 shots; Kindl, Alfredsson, Miller and Kronwall had 1 shot.
Blocked attempts: Datsyuk, Quincey, Kronwall and Franzen had 2 attempts blocked; Smith, Kindl, Abdelkader, Nyquist, Legwand, Jurco, Helm and DeKeyser had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Franzen missed the net 5 times; Helm and Kronwall missed the net 2 times; Smith, Datsyuk, Nyquist, Miller and DeKeyser missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Glendening had 3 hits; Kronwall had 2 hits; Sheahan and Miller had 1 hit.
Giveaways: Jurco, Glendening and Franzen had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Glendening was credited with the team's only takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: Quincey blocked 3 shots; Abdelkader and Lashoff blocked 2 shots; Nyquist, Sheahan and DeKeyser missed 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Abdelkader, Helm and DeKeyser took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at +10. Jurco finished at -1; Alfredsson, Miller and Franzen finished at +1; Smith, Datsyuk, Glendening and Kronwall finished at +2.
Points: Smith, Datsyuk, Legwand and Helm had goals; Alfredsson, Miller, Quincey and Franzen had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 22:56 played; Quincey played 20:45; Datsyuk played 20:18;
Franzen played 19:29; DeKeyser played 19:12; Nyquist played 18:59;
Smith played 18:41; Legwand played 15:18; Abdelkader played 14:51;
Glendening played 14:26; Helm played 14:24; Kindl played 14:18;
Miller played 14:03; Sheahan played 13:39; Tatar played 13:30;
Lashoff played 13:30; Jurco played 12:57; Alfredsson played 12:49.
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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.