The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/24/13 at 03:27 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings have a league-mandated "off day" on Thursday, and while Mike Babcock questioned its use, given that the Red Wings have successively dropped games to Phoenix, San Jose (at home, via a shootout) and now a 6-1 decision to the Ottawa Senators, after all the hype and lead-up to Wednesday night's affair...
One could very successfully argue that the Wings rather desperately need to get away from the rink after wrapping up a slate of 8 games played over the course of 14 nights--with 6 played over the course of 10 evenings--and get refreshed given that the winless-in-three and now 6-4-and-1 Wings rather desperately need to take Saturday's game against the Rangers to salvage three out of six points on their home stand, and especially given that the team hits the road for a 4-game Western Canadian swing starting on October 30th.
The Wings got off to a great start against Buffalo and Carolina, they sagged against Boston and Phoenix, rebounded via 4 straight wins, and now the team seems to be back to square one, unable to screen any goalies save the ones they employ and unwilling to play as a team in any or all zones as the Wings have gone back to attempting to pass the puck into the net, from Pavel Datsyuk on down.
The Senators' win was inherently a political one given the way he departed from Canada's capital, so it's probably most appropriate to start our survey of the massive media contingent's takes on the game by taking note of Sportsnet's Chris Johnston's riff on the, "Hey, the Senators losing Alfredsson yielded the team adding Bobby Ryan from the Anaheim Ducks, so are they better off without 'Alfie?'" theory--and Johnston insists that "the baton was passed" from Alfredsson to Ryan in the Senators' win:
“I guess it pushed me a little bit,” said Bryan Murray. “I was offering a second-round pick and Bob kept demanding a first. At the end of the day, when I knew Alfie had gone, I felt that I needed another piece. That’s why I did it.”
The move has yielded some early returns for the Senators. Even though Ryan feels like he’s still adjusting to life in the Eastern Conference, he bumped his goal total to six through nine games by scoring twice against the Red Wings on Wednesday night.
The first-period marker was the work of a pure goal-scorer, with Ryan ripping a wrist shot home off the post to give his team a 3-0 lead and chase Jimmy Howard from the net. He later beat Jonas Gustavsson by knocking in a rebound off the rush.
Ryan bristles at any comparisons made between himself and the departed Sens captain. He turned down the chance to take Alfredsson’s old locker in the team’s dressing room and joked earlier this season that players would rather dress in “Storage Room B” than that particular spot.
As it turns out, Alfredsson was one of the first to learn that Ryan was likely to be joining Ottawa thanks to a conversation he had with Murray in late June. “I told him that I had that in the works,” said the GM. They could have been teammates but will instead be forever linked by the faithful afternoon of July 5, 2013 — a day that shook the foundation of the Senators organization. Comparisons will be unavoidable as a result.
As USA Today's Kevin Allen suggests, Jason Spezza IS Alfredsson's successor as team captain, and there's no doubt that Spezza tossed a pair of daggers in Detroit's attempt to rally:
"Taking on the captaincy, I'm trying to learn every day, learning to be a good captain in this league," Spezza said. "I tried to learn under Alfie when he was here. (The 'C') is something I've wanted and now that I have it, it's about learning in different situations and being consistent."
It's hard to be more consistent than Spezza has been lately: He has scored six goals in the past four games. Those six goals came on nine shots.
"I moved well, and when I move well, I play well," said Spezza, who was limited to five games last season because of injury.
"I understand the emotion of the fans and how it becomes personal," Spezza said. "But for us as players, you try to separate the personal. It was nice to see Alfie in the morning."
Bobby Ryan also had a pair of goals for Ottawa, and the timing was good because Don Waddell, a primary scout for the U.S. Olympic team, was in attendance. Ryan is among the leading candidates to make the team, but there is heavy competition on the wing. Ryan has a strong resume on his side, highlighted by four consecutive 30-goal seasons.
Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, pulled after giving up three goals, didn't have good timing because he's in a battle for one of the three U.S. goaltending spots. Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson, also in consideration for Team USA, had a good night with 31 saves. The win was important for the Senators (4-3-2) because it put them into a tie for third place in the Atlantic.
"To get this win sends us off in the right direction," Spezza said. "To beat the elite teams can give you confidence as a group. We feel Detroit is one of the best teams in our division, and hopefully we can use it as a springboard to play better hockey."
We might as well crank the "bluster meter" up in the beginning instead of leaving the bullshit to the end, and boy howdy, did the Hockey News's Adam Proteau crank up the, "The student needed one game to surpass the master" line...
The much-anticipated first game between the Senators and former captain Daniel Alfredsson was dominated by current captain Jason Spezza as the Sens routed the Red Wings 6-1. That’s not an indictment of Alfredsson’s new teammates – but it is an indication that, by season’s end, Ottawa could wind up being a better team than Detroit.
All the attention prior to the game was on the interplay between Alfredsson’s now-severed professional relationship with Spezza & Co.. However, the Swede was a virtual non-factor (two shots, two hits, 16:12 minutes of ice time, and a tripping penalty). By contrast, Spezza was a force, scoring twice and, like the rest of his teammates, looking like he wanted to send a direct message to the franchise’s ex-leader. You did just about everything right when you were in Ottawa, Alfie, but you might have made the biggest mistake of your life in leaving.
It had to be a little more special for the Sens that winger Bobby Ryan, who ostensibly replaced Alfredsson on Ottawa’s payroll, scored the third goal of the night that chased Wings goalie Jimmy Howard from the net at 14:14 of the first period. Ryan also added the game’s final goal to complete the beating and Craig Anderson stopped 31 of the 32 pucks fired at him. I’d normally call them shots on net, but that gives too much credit to a Wings squad that was listless to put it charitably, and zombiesque to put it non-charitably.
That said, although the Senators couldn’t have imagined a better way to exorcise an icon’s ghost, I wouldn’t put it past the Red Wings to flip the script when Alfredsson returns to Ottawa for the first time Dec. 1., nor would I be shocked to see the Wings go further in the playoffs. They have more salary cap flexibility than the Senators, who are bound by owner Eugene Melnyk’s internal budget. They’ve made the playoffs for 22 straight seasons. They employ many top talents who understand the Stanley Cup winner isn’t crowned in October.
It’s understandable why Alfredsson could see Detroit as the team to get him an NHL championship ring. It’s also true the Senators have struggled early in the season, posting only three wins in their first eight games prior to Wednesday. But for one night, the Senators showed they had the speed, skill and balance to rebut Alfredsson’s opinion. They looked younger, more engaged – forcing the Wings into 14 turnovers while committing only seven themselves – and far more confident.
They looked ready to make the Alfredsson debate a very interesting one indeed.
The CBC's Tim Wharnsby also argued that the Senators managed to, "Teach Daniel Alfredsson and new teammates a lesson"...
All the key players on the Ottawa side made sure the Senators were the team that felt good about the long-awaited first meeting against Alfredsson. His replacement as captain Jason Spezza scored twice. Bobby Ryan, the sniper the Senators traded for on the same day as Alfredsson's departure, also checked in with two goals.
Talented Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson, who had dinner with Alfredsson and his family the night before, was solid with two assists in 25 minutes, 55 seconds of ice time.
Alfredsson and his new Detroit teammates were outclassed in all areas of the rink. They didn't have much emotion in their game in clearly what was an emotional night for the Senators.
"It didn't feel too crazy," said Alfredsson, who was held pointless, had two shots on goal and two hits -- one on Cory Conacher, the other on Ryan -- in 16:12 of ice time. Warmup was what it was. Once the game got going, you're really into it."
There was Alfredsson sitting in the penalty box for a tripping penalty midway through the third period. He must have wondered if the next chapter on Nov. 23 back in Detroit will go better and what will be in store for him when he returns to Ottawa for a game on Dec. 1.
A lot of the emotion leaked out of the building early when the Senators jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the game was 15 minutes old. Ottawa was the better bunch, at least for one evening.
I still maintain that when the Senators acquired Ryan last summer they immediately upgraded their roster with Ryan in and Alfredsson out. It also doesn't hurt that the Senators have a healthy Spezza, Karlsson, Jared Cowen, Milan Michalek and goalie Craig Anderson. The Senators started slowly, but they certainly exhibited how well they can play in Detroit as they improved to 4-3-3.
The Red Wings, now 6-4-1, enjoyed the stronger start. Alfredsson, although he described his beginning with his new team as "so-so," piled up points, too, with a goal and eight assists in his first 10 games.
And I ought to toss this out there while we're knee-deep in bluster...
Let's try to get back to the actual game via what is currently a quoteless recap by the Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren...
Perhaps it took the appearance of Alfredsson for them to recognize what they has been missing in their opening eight games.
The Senators couldn’t have asked for a better start. Alfredsson couldn’t have asked for anything worse. The Senators were up 3-0 by the 14:14 mark on the strength of power play goals by Spezza and Ryan and an even-strength goal from [Eric] Gryba, taking advantage of shaky work by Red Wings starting goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Gryba opened the scoring, stepping in from the blueline and beating Howard high to the stick side, after some solid, physical work deep in the Red Wings zone from Zibanejad, playing his first game since being recalled from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.
The Senators then went to work after Kyle Turris drew a pair of penalties — the first one to Niklas Kronwall, the second to Kyle Quincey — to take a commanding lead.
And his post-game report:
SPEZZA VS. DATSYUK, NOT SPEZZA VS. ALFREDSSON: Jason Spezza understands the way the game was built up, a sort of new captain versus old captain scenario, but that’s not the way he looked at it. His challenge was a number one centre versus number one centre match-up — as in Spezza going head to head against Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk.
“We knew there was more into the game, that more people would probably be watching the game tonight, but you try to separate yourself from the personal. But I can understand where the fans come from. It’s important to them.”
Spezza’s focus was on the guy he lined up against in the faceoff circle most of the night.
“Keep an eye on Pavel Datsyuk,” he said, when asked about his approach. “I had to make sure I was hard on him. He’s one of the best, if not the best, player in the league. It’s a challenge for me. He’s elite. He’s a special player and it’s a lot of work to play against him and if you slip up once or twice, he’s going to get chances.”
RYAN FINALLY TASTES COMPLETE GAME: Bobby Ryan has been waiting, waiting and waiting some more to be part of an all-around display by the Senators and it finally arrived Wednesday. He did his part, scoring twice, while spoiling the party for Alfredsson and company.
“We finally played a full 60 minute game,” he said. “We had put parts of it together in the past and got away from it, but tonight we didn’t. Even when we got up a few, we kept the pedal down essentially and that’s important.”
Ryan doesn’t like the suggestions that he’s the de facto replacement for Alfredsson, but he knows he can’t do anything about the story lines people choose to take.
“At the end of the day, that’s for you guys (media) more than anybody else in the rink. He’s probably not thinking about it and I certainly try not to, but any time you can get a performance like that for us, as a line, as a team, to get two points against a divisional rival in their building, it’s huge.”
The Senators continued while speaking with the Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno...
"Bobby Ryan gets two and Jason gets two, and I thought Erik Karlsson was a force in the game, as well," coach Paul MacLean said. "We played the game tonight and we end up winning it, a big win for us on the road. It had little to do with Daniel."
Defenceman Chris Phillips called it "just another game," but there was no denying the added significance of facing the former face of the franchise. It's impossible to fill the Alfredsson void completely, but leave it up to Spezza and Ryan to try.
Spezza, who made it clear he understood fans paying closer attention to this game, was rolling offensively. He scored his first goal on the power play by shooting through a triple screen and the legs of Detroit defenceman Brian Lashoff, and later on banked the puck off the glass and corralled it to get his second.
And the Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan, who serves as a nexus of player-or-coach-built narrative and journalistic bullshi...I mean bluster:
Alfredsson said he thought the Red Wings had a better chance to win the Cup, eh? If the first meeting between the new division rivals was any indication, he would have been better off knowing the way to San Jose or a couple of dozen other locations in search of a ring.
Led by a two goal performance from Jason Spezza — Alfredsson’s successor as the wearer of the “C” in Ottawa – the Senators took advantage early of a sleepy Red Wings team and cruised to a rather startling 6-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena.
"We got off to a nice start and that set the table. I think we played a really disciplined game. We did a good job of taking away their speed, and Andy made the saves when he had to," Spezza said.
Chris Phillips denied that the Senators used Alfredsson's off-season comments as motivation, as such.
"I don't think for that reason...I think more so you look at the story as a whole," he said. "Playing against a guy we played with for that long. He wanted to beat us as bad as we wanted to beat him. There was no little extra things. It was just that's what it was, and we were happy to come out on top."
While we're at it, let's add Brennan's notebook to the mix...
STARTS AND STOPS
Erik Karlsson enjoyed a traditional Swedish meal of "potatoes, brown sauce and meatballs" served up by Bibbi Alfredsson Tuesday night. He did not "trash talk" his friend Daniel while in his house, however. "I was actually pretty nice for once," said Karlsson. "It's been awhile since I saw him so I don't want to upset him." "Karlsson has obviously missed the Alfredssons. All of them. "I went over as soon as we got here," he said. "All the kids were up. We had dinner together. Everybody didn't eat at the same time because there was a lot of running around. But it felt normal." "Had a visit from former Red Wing (and 67) Kris Draper in the pressbox. Draper, you may recall, was traded by the Winnipeg Jets to Detroit for $1. He wound up playing 17 seasons for the Wings and was a key part of their Cup winning teams. In other words, the Wings got their buck's worth. "I'd like to think so," grinned Draper.
THINGS I THINK I THUNK
Alfredsson played 4:56 of the first period and was credited with two hits, but nothing else. In other words, he was pretty much invisible "¦ He was, on the other hand, one touch away from getting an assist on the power play goal scored by Todd Bertuzzi "¦ In most rinks, the P.A. announcer learns how to pronounce names of visiting players. Apparently not in Detroit, where the Senators took a 1-0 first period lead on a goal by Eric "Greeba" "¦ I'm trying to start up a new nickname for Colin Greening, whose friends on the team call him "Greener." My suggestion " The Grass is Always" Said he: "I think you've got to come up with something a little shorter, more concise." He might be right.
And we'll toss in the Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno's article about the Senators' "Healing Process," too...
"As with a lot of things, only time can really fix stuff and that's what I think this situation needs as well," Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson said. "It's just going to take time, and it doesn't really matter what you do, what you say or how you feel. You're just going to have to wait it out for it to feel a little bit normal again."
"It's a long time in one spot as the captain of the team," said Spezza, who scored two goals Wednesday. "I imagine it's weird for him. It's weird for us to see him in a Wings jersey. I can imagine him seeing me wearing the 'C' is different for him, but it's the reality of the situation and I'm sure he's moved past it."
"You're playing the game and you're just worried about playing," Spezza said. "It's different seeing him, but it's nice to catch up with him in the morning and see him. Once the game starts, it doesn't really come into play because we're so focused on the game."
"We all kind of moved on from it the day it happened," said goaltender Craig Anderson, who made 31 saves, including two on Alfredsson. "We can't change it. You can sit there and sulk all you want and complain, but at the end of the day it wasn't up to us. It is what happened and you have to move on. If you sit there and dwell on the past you're not going to be very good in the future."
In that vein, Ottawa players tried to stay in the present. They emphasized playing a division rival on the road and stuck to that mantra after crushing the Red Wings.
"It was another game. That's all it was," Phillips said. "Obviously playing against a teammate, a former teammate that we played with for a long time, but after that, it was another game. We wanted to beat him, but at the same time we weren't going to allow ourselves to be distracted by what was going on."
Therein lies the rub, I suppose, and as such, we'll slowly but surely transition from the Senators' perspectives to those of the Red Wings, via the AP's Noah Trister's recap...
"It's disappointing for us to lose the way we did at home tonight," Alfredsson said. "I would have loved to win this one no question, but we played a good game against San Jose (on Monday) and now we took a step back."
Anderson made a sprawling stick save on Pavel Datsyuk at the start of the second period, and Spezza made it 4-1 with his second goal of the night. His initial shot missed the net but bounced right back to him from the end boards, and he was able to shoot past a startled Gustavsson.
"I know the boards are live -- I didn't try to do it on purpose," Spezza said. "I tried to put it in on the first shot, it missed the net and came right back to me. I do know the boards are live here. We were looking at it this morning. I wish all the boards were like this."
Cowen scored early in the third when his shot from near the left point slipped past Gustavsson. Ryan scored on a rebound to make it 6-1.
Alfredsson is Ottawa's career leader in games (1,178), goals (426), assists (682) and points (1,108), but he had a quiet game Wednesday, along with the rest of the Red Wings. Alfredsson had two shots and was called for a third-period tripping minor.
"Their team came prepared to play and skated us into the ground. We didn't play at all -- couldn't keep it out of our net, we didn't skate good and turned tons of pucks over," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I didn't see it coming. I was surprised to say the least. Disappointed for Alfie that we couldn't have done a better job here."
And NHL.com's Brian Hedger's recap:
"I understand the emotion of the fans and how it becomes personal," Spezza said. "For us, as players, you try to separate the personal. We knew there was more into the game, that more people would probably be watching tonight, but you try to separate yourself from the personal. I think that helps you stay focused."
The Senators were definitely focused, from start to finish, in their most complete game of the season. It was Ottawa's first victory in Detroit since Dec. 12, 2006, the Senators' first game against the Red Wings as Atlantic Division rivals and their first game at Joe Louis Arena since Oct. 7, 2011, when Paul MacLean's coaching debut was spoiled by a 5-3 defeat.
This time the Senators (4-3-2) flipped the script, building a big lead and extending Detroit's winless streak to three games. Eric Gryba and Jared Cowen scored the other goals for Ottawa, which got 31 saves by Craig Anderson.
Spezza has six goals and eight points in his past four games, upping his team-high goals total to seven and team-leading points total to 10. Ryan, who's scored three goals in as many games, has six goals and nine points.
"For a guy [who's] been a notorious slow starter it feels good," Ryan said. "I've prepared for it this year, made sure I hit the ice early and took more shots and did all that kind of stuff to put yourself in the kind of position to be successful. So, to come out of the gates like this, I don't know if I expected it ... but I certainly wanted it and it's been nice."
Wings coach Mike Babcock was most certainly unhappy about the result, to the point that he questioned whether the team's likely CBA-mandated day off today...
"We have an off day tomorrow so I'm just talking about whether we should have an off day or not. It's one of those things that I don't think you forget this very easily and you shouldn't forget it either. That's embarrassing to play like we did."
And ESPN's Craig Custance also took note of the disappointment felt by Alfredsson and his coach:
“I thought it was going to be a real good hockey game,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said afterwards. “Their team came prepared to play and skated us into the ground. We didn’t play at all.”
After the game, cameras circled around his stall where Alfredsson took off his Detroit Tigers cap, dropped it onto his seat and then turned to explain what it was like to, not only compete against, but get blown out by the team you left. The team you figured didn’t have as good a shot at a Stanley Cup as your new one.
Alfredsson finished without a point in 16:12 of icetime, registering two shots and two hits. A non-factor on a team full of them in the loss.
Before the game, Ryan expressed relief that he was able to get his return to Anaheim out of the way early in the season. It’s a box to check while turning the page with a new team.The first trip back to Ottawa will no doubt be the more emotional of the matchups between the Red Wings and Senators for Alfredsson. But at the very least, he can now put this initial meeting behind him, almost like a test run. He has a better idea of how that emotional night will play out on Dec. 1.
“The big thing for him, just like everybody -- there’s lot of things going on around with the media and fans,” Babcock said. “The measure of Alfie is none of this stuff. It’s the kind of person he is, the kind of man he is and the kind of family guy he is. To me, he made a decision. He moved on. That’s it.”
Babcock continued while speaking with the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
“We were no good here today,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s not like I saw it coming, it’s not like I think our play’s been falling off or anything. I didn’t see it coming. I was surprised to say the least. (I’m) disappointed for Alfie that we couldn’t have done a better job here.
“We have an off day tomorrow so I’m just talking about whether we should have an off day or not,” Babcock continued. “It’s one of those things that I don’t think you forget this very easily and you shouldn’t forget it either. That’s embarrassing to play like we did.”
And while Niklas Kronwall had an excuse for struggling to find the puck in his feet as he was wearing a jaw protector to start the game as he took a puck to the mouth during the morning skate, necessitating what Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond said were 15 stitches, a "pushed-back tooth" and a lost one, he gave himself no quarter:
“Tonight was too much watching the other team play, starting with myself,” said Niklas Kronwall, who returned after missing the last two games with a mild concussion. “I know I have to be better and I think a lot of guys in here feel the same way. I didn’t think that we didn’t work hard enough, we just didn’t work smart enough. You’re skating too much when you shouldn’t be skating, so to speak. You got to be a lot smarter and a lot harder to play against. We were a step behind tonight.”
The Red Wings were absolutely terrible in terms of attempting to plant butts in front of goaltenders, because they only screened and/or tipped pucks past Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson.
I really think that Kronwall's teammates had a deficiency between the ears as opposed to between their teeth, and I can't fault Howard or Gustavsson for what happened, but DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted that Howard a) astutely assessed the Wings' deficiencies--duly noting that the Wings' defense was a world away from its stifling best against San Jose--before b) hanging himself out to dry:
“Well, yeah, I mean the other night we really paid attention to details, but just seemed like tonight we were a step behind all night long,” Howard said. “The good thing about this is we have a day off tomorrow and gives us a chance to regroup and get ready for Saturday night.”
The Senators built a 3-0 lead and chased Howard from the Wings’ crease 14-minutes into the first period on goals by Eric Gryba, Spezza, and Bobby Ryan. It was the first time the Red Wings trailed after the first period since last year’s home finale against Nashville, and Howard shouldered the blame.
“I think I could have been in better position on all three of them,” he said. “Instead of putting us in the hole, 3-nothing, maybe we’re only down a goal heading into the second period and it could have been a totally different outcome. It’s not the first time I’ve been pulled, probably, definitely not the last, so you just move on as quickly as possible.”
Howard's replacement wasn't going to let himself off the hook for the dagger goal. The Wings were in decent shape, as Ken and Mickey suggested, going into the second period down 3-1, but Jason Spezza's 4-1 goal, scored off the back boards, killed any hopes of a comeback. Gustavsson felt that he should've been sharper...
The Red Wings trailed 3-1 at the first intermission when Todd Bertuzzi scored a power-play goal on a wraparound. But Spezza scored his second goal on a nifty shot that caromed off the end boards and landed in front of Gustavsson, where the Sens’ captain slapped the puck past the Wings’ goalie.
“He had a good shot and I was just trying to come out and challenge him and I was looking back at the net for the puck,” said Gustavsson, who made 17 saves against the Sens. “I really couldn’t find it. I guess it bounced up instead of down like it normally does, and I couldn’t really see where the puck was. I tried to look at Spezza at the same time I was trying to find the puck too and it ended up on his stick. It was a pretty weird bounce, but that happens sometimes.”
And Gustavsson suggested that coming off the bench "cold" was no excuse for his performance, either:
"That’s hockey. You’ve got to be ready all of the time and when you get the call you just have to go out there and think of it as if you started the game,” said Gustavsson, who allowed a season-high three goals. “You have to do whatever you can to help the team.”
Howard was pissed off about what happened:
“You get frustrated, you get mad,” Howard said. “You definitely want to be better for the guys out there. The guys deserve better than what I gave them tonight, but at the same time it’s hockey. It’s a game of bounces and tonight we didn’t get many of them.”
As Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples noted, Kronwall was a bit more philosophical...
“I thought tonight was too much watching the other team playing,” Kronwall said. “Starting with myself, I know I have to be better, and I think a lot of guys in here feel the same way. Each and every one, get a few percentages better, and that way we can help each other and be a better team.”
While the captain and his coach were at odds as to what the team needs to do with their team's next course of action:
“You just have to flush it out,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “There’s nothing else you can do. We’re going to come back here, have a good practice and regroup for Saturday.”
Yet Babcock wants his team to remember it for a while.
“We have an off-day tomorrow, so I was just talking about whether we should have an off-day tomorrow or not,” the Wings coach said. “It’s one of those things, I don’t think you forget this very easy. You shouldn’t forget it, either. That’s embarrassing to play the way we did.”
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan brings us back to the Alfredsson-Babcock nexus in his recap...
“They came out prepared and skated us into the ground,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t play at all. We couldn’t keep it out of our net and didn’t skate good, turned pucks over, and in the end we didn’t look like a very good team.”
Canadian media descended on this game, with all the hype of Alfredsson facing the team he captained for so many years. But Alfredsson had only two shots on net in 16 minutes, 12 seconds, credited with two hits and one giveaway, as his former team dominated.
Said forward Henrik Zetterberg: “Obviously we wanted to have a good game, win a game (for Alfredsson). It didn’t happen.”
While the Free Press's Helene St. James noted that the Wings really did believe that the game hinged upon that 4-1 goal:
A decent first few minutes from the Wings was undone on a power play when Eric Gryba scored after Danny DeKeyser over-skated the puck. Spezza made it 2-0 on a power play at the midpoint when he fired a shot between Brian Lashoff’s legs and through traffic.
It got worse, seconds after a second Ottawa power play began, Ryan beat Howard stick side, making it 3-0.
Bertuzzi pushed back two minutes later, on Detroit’s first power play. Niklas Kronwall shot the puck wide, sending it behind the net where Bertuzzi picked up the puck and stuffed a wrap-around for his second goal in three games. The Wings swarmed Ottawa’s zone the rest of the period, but were unable to build on their momentum.
“When it was 3-1, I thought we were getting some chances,” coach Mike Babcock said. “The bottom line is, they got regrouped and kept coming, and we didn’t.”
"We started the second period pretty good,” Alfredsson said, “and then Spezza scores, very opportunistic on his own dump-in. After that, we can’t generate the kind of pressure we’d like to get back into the game.”
Alfredsson duly noted that the Wings--perhaps due to Jonathan Ericsson's absence (turns out that he's super important to the team), and perhaps simply because the team was more scatterbrained than a collection of college students procrastinating before exams--didn't generate any sort of successful transition game in which the defensemen moved the puck with any urgency, and as such, they sent one forward into four or five Senators stacked between center ice and ten feet inside the bluelines, opening up ye olde Turnover Bakery:
“We didn’t get off to the start we would like,” Alfredsson said. “They made the most of two power plays and us turning the puck over. I think that’s what really dug us a big hole – our managing, or not managing, the puck in the neutral zone. We dug ourselves too big a hole.”
St. James added some quips and quotes in her "Why the Wings Lost" capsule recap, but they're a bit repetitive.
I prefer to give the coach the last word, but I'm not going to do so in this instance. MLive's Ansar Khan (who also penned his customary quote-less recap) did a great job of capturing Babcock's take, as well as that of the players...
“Obviously, we weren't expecting this,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we were going to have a good night. I thought it was going to be real good hockey. Their team came prepared to play and skated us into the ground. We didn't play at all. Couldn't keep it out of our net, didn't skate good and turned tons of pucks over, and in the end, didn't look like a very good team.’’
"Even when it was 3-1, I thought we were getting some chances, but the bottom line is they got regrouped, kept coming and we didn't,’’ Babcock said. “This had to be an easy game for them. You don't come into a game expecting that at all.’’
Said defenseman Niklas Kronwall: “I didn’t think that we didn’t work hard enough, we just didn’t work smart enough. You got to be a lot smarter and a lot harder to play against. We were a step behind tonight.’’
Offense continues to be an issue. The Red Wings have scored only three goals in their past three games and are averaging just 2.27 per game. That’s worse than last season, when they were tied for 19th in the NHL at 2.54 goals per game.
“We have to take charge, we have to want to do something with the puck,’’ Kronwall said. “Tonight was too much watching the other team play, starting with myself. I know I have to be better and I think a lot of guys in here feel the same way.’’
Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji captured the "spirit of the thing" most accurately...
After all of the hype surrounding Daniel Alfredsson's first game against his former team, his current team came out and laid a collective egg. The Red Wings looked like they were skating in quicksand while the Ottawa Senators were busy scoring goals.
Seemingly before the Wings got started, the Senators had taken a 3-0 lead on goals by Eric Gryba, Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan, the last two on the power play.
"It's not good enough, not even close to good enough," Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "We played good last game, just wanted to come out and build on that. Obviously we didn't do that. Ottawa was quicker, faster, stronger and we couldn't match it."
One might have thought that despite the absence of defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (shoulder), the Wings' defense might be better as top defenseman Niklas Kronwall returned from a mild concussion.
"We have to want to do something with the puck," Kronwall said. "(Wednesday) was too much watching the other team play. Starting with myself. I know I have to be better and I think a lot of guys in here feel the same way. Each and everyone get a few percentages better, that way we can help each other become a better team."
The Wings have scored just three goals in their last three games. But Zetterberg isn't worried about the offense.
"It all starts with the defense," Zetterberg said. "We can't let in this many goals and think we're going to score seven to win a game."
I'd prefer to wrap up this recap with some bigger-picture observations from the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa than anything else as he does a wonderful job of thoughtfully framing a hockey game in its larger context, and he notes that the Wings' best players were just as culpable for the team's fatal errors as their scapegoats:
“As much as we got off to a fairly good start, we’re a team, I think, in flux,” Mike Babcock said Tuesday morning, after the 1-0 shootout loss to San Jose. “We’re trying to find out who we are and how we’re going to play to be successful, and that’s still a work in progress.”
What did not progress Wednesday was the ability of their young defensemen to maintain their positioning, or “structure.” Occasionally out of place, often screening both Howard and Jonas Gustavsson — Howard, especially — and leaving sticks in the path of Senators’ shots, resulting in defected goals; it was not their best effort.
On the first Ottawa goal, 5:46 in, a hiccup behind his own net by Danny DeKeyser put the puck on Mika Zibanejad’s stick with room to maneuver. But good structure out front by his mates should have bailed out the 23-year-old defenseman. But, disproportionately arrayed, they never accounted for Eric Gryba and other attackers, and Gryba sauntered in from the point and beat Howard.
On the second goal, with their best penalty-killing defenseman Jonathan Ericsson injured and their second-best, Kronwall in the penalty box, Brian Lashoff and Brendan Smith failed to ward off attackers and, eventually, both stood in line in front of Howard, along with a Senators’ forward, blocking any view of the shot.
On the fourth, when Smith pressed the initiative deep in the Senators’ zone, Pavel Datsyuk dropped back to the blue line to cover for him. But when Jason Spezza rushed the puck up the ice, Smith’s first three strides back into position were not vigorous enough to carry him back into the play.
Datsyuk stayed with Spezza for his first shot. But when Spezza gathered the puck, Smith still had not caught up to him With his skating ability, Smith could and should have been there.
Along the way, the Wings offense sputtered, again. When Todd Bertuzzi went to the net with a Senators turnover behind their net in the first period, he was rewarded. Not much seemed purposeful from the Red Wings attackers after that.
I'm wrapping up a slate of six games in ten nights myself, and the last few days of Alfiefest and away-from-the-blog life have been pretty *#$%@& draining, so here are some of my own observations from the game:
- I will say this to the positive: Todd Bertuzzi continues to play focused and dynamic hockey, and Tomas Tatar finally let things happen thanks to his work ethic and tenacity instead of forcing offense. He looked like someone who was grabbing hold of a roster spot and not letting go when almost everybody else wasn't even "in" the game mentally;
- Poor Jordin Tootoo. He looks like he knows he's gone. He gives everything he can, but his skill level just isn't quite enough at times;
- Am I the only person who thinks that Joakim Andersson seems a little pissed off that he's back to centering the fourth line, even though he makes it a very effective one, and that he's got chemistry with Drew Miller;
- Again, no qualms with the goalies. The Wings will screen their own goalie with multiple-layer aplomb, but they can't screen the opposing goalie, and this team seems to struggle like nobody's business to corral and retain rebounds to generate secondary scoring chances;
- I'm not a fan of this, "Let Stephen Weiss play on the third line and not focus on offense" thing. I know that he just ditched the visor he was wearing due to the gash on his forehead, and he's probably been nursing a badly-broken left pinky given the massive plastic shield on his glove, but he needs to push the envelope here;
- Franzen's actually engaged while playing center. Keep him there;
- We forget that the "in flux" comment applies to Brendan Smith, who actually looked good offensively with Kronwall, but couldn't assuage for his defensive mistakes, Jakub Kindl, who's had some incredibly bright moments and some very poor ones of late, real rookie Danny DeKeyser, who's gotten walked around a significant amount of late, and Brian Lashoff, who's been a better screen than shot-blocker lately. The defense is very, very young;
- And I think that we forget that Alfredsson and Weiss aren't the only "newcomers" up front, with Andersson sometimes still showing his inexperience at the NHL level, Tatar having ups and downs, Miller still seemingly getting back into the swing of things after suffering a broken hand that put a fear of shots into him, and there are times that Justin Abdelkader reminds us all that he's still figuring out how to play consistently as a primary player as opposed to a complimentary one;
- For that matter, I think that the Wings who we witnessed push the Blackhawks to seven games aren't quite set into their post-Lidstrom-identity ways yet. This team still seems to lack a direction at times, and that's not the fault of the leadership--it's part of a transition that's going to continue to play out over the course of an 82-game season;
- Overall, I'd would've suggested that the quality of the schedule and the presence of 2 games against Phoenix would yield about a 6-4-and-1 record for a team that's consistently slow-starting in October if I was to make a preseason prediction, so I'm not surprised that the in-progress and in-process Wings are where they are.
- They've got to step things up against the Rangers, however, and the trip to Western Canada--Vancouver on the 30th, back-to-backs in Calgary and Edmonton on Friday the 1st of November and Saturday the 2nd, respectively, and a Monday game in Winnipeg--will serve as a better barometer of "Where the Wings are at" than this game did;
- And the team's got to play better in front of Howard to yield a positive reading.
For the record, bonus Swedish doesn't yield very much other than Erik Karlsson speaking with Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman and Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom, and Nordstrom duly noting that the Wings were embarrased. In any language, yes, yes they were.
Highlights: NHL.com's highlights are narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Sportsnet posted a 2:06 highlight clip, ESPN posted a 39-second highlight clip, the CBC posted a 1:05 highlight clip, TSN, which aired the game in Canada, posted a 2:40 highlight clip, and if you really want to watch the NHL Tonight's analysis of the game, enjoy.
Post-game: Being TSN, their panel of Bob McKenzie, Aaron Ward and Mike Johnson spent over 4 minutes suggesting that the Senators, Bobby Ryan and Jason Spezza, who's interviewed, "sent a message" on Wednesday, and That's Hockey 2Nite praised the Senators' ability to rush the Wings' defense, and "The Quiz" allowed the panel to debate Daniel Alfredsson's departure from the Senators;
And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Daniel Alfredsson...
And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media:
Photos: The Detroit News's David Guralnick posted a 20-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 16-image gallery;
The Windsor Star posted 5 big photos from the game;
The Ottawa Citizen posted a 40-image galllery;
The Ottawa Sun embedded a 27-image gallery in Don Brennan's recap;
ESPN posted a 54-image gallery;
NHL.com's Frozen Moment is a Dave Reginek from-the-rafters beauty;
Shots 32-28 Detroit overall. Detroit out-shot Ottawa 12-9 i the 1st, 13-12 in the 2nd and were tied 7-7 in the 3rd period.
The Senators went 2-for-3 in 3:33 of PP time; the Wings went 1-for-3 in 5:18 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 5 of 8 shots; Jonas Gustavsson stopped 17 of 20 shots; Craig Anderson stopped 31 of 31.
TSN's Chris Cuthbrt picked the 3 stars, and he picked Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris and Jason Spezza.
The Wings' goal: Bertuzzi (3) from Zetterberg (6) and Kronwall (6), PPG.
Faceoffs 37-28 Detroit (Detroit won 57%);
Blocked shots 11-11;
Missed shots 13-10 Ottawa (total attempts 53-52 Detroit, with Detroit firing 32 on the net and another 21 wide/blocked);
Hits 27-25 Detroit;
Giveaways 14-7 Detroit;
Takeaways 12-7 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 12-and-11 (52%); Weiss went 7-and-9 (44%); Andersson went 10-and-4 (71%); Franzen went 7-and-2 (78%); Zetterberg went 1-and-2 (33%);
Shots: Miller and Zetterberg co-led the Wings with 4 shots; Tatar had 3; Smith, Kindl, Abdelkader, Alfredsson, Quincey, Kronwall and Weiss had 2 shots; Datsyuk, Andersson, Tootoo, Lashoff, Bertuzzi, DeKeyser and Cleary had 1.
Blocked attempts: Zetterberg and Kronwall had 2 attempts blocked by Senators players; Kindl, Andersson, Miller, DeKeyser, Cleary, Weiss and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Franzen missed the net 3 times; Tatar, Tootoo and Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; Bertuzzi missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Tootoo led the Wings with 4 hits; Abdelkader, Tatar and Kronwall had 3; Alfredsson, Miller, Lashoff and Bertuzzi had 2; Smith, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, DeKeyser, Cleary and Weiss had 1 hit.
Giveaways: Smith, Abdelkader and Bertuzzi had 2 giveaways; Kindl, Alfredsson, Datsyuk, ANdersson, Tatar, Kronwall, Franzen and Gustavsson had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Zetterberg had 4 takeaways; Tatar had 2 takeaways; Smith, Datsyuk, Lashoff, Quincey, Kronwall and DeKeyser had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: DeKeyser blocked 4 Senators shots; Datsyuk blocked 2 shots; Kindl, Andersson, Miller, Kronwall and Weiss blocked 1 shot.
Penalties: Alfredsson, Quincey and Kronwall took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -20. Smith, Andersson, Miller, Tootoo and Quincey finished at -2; Kindl, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Lashoff, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Kronwall, DeKeyser, Cleary and Weiss finished at -1.
Points: Bertuzzi had a goal; Kronwall and Zetterberg had assists.
Ice time: DeKeyser led the team with 21:40 played; Kronwall played 21:36; Kindl played 20:15;
Quincey played 20:14; Smith played 18:56; Datsyuk played 17:54;
Zetterberg played 16:50; Alfredsson played 16:12; Franzen played 15:30;
Miller played 15:22; Andersson played 14:54; Cleary played 14:52;
Lashoff played 14:52; Bertuzzi played 14:41; Abdelkader played 14:10;
Tatar played 13:57; Weiss played 12:45; Tootoo played 11:49.
Red Wings notebooks: Amongst the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's notes:
Inside scoop: The crowd around Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson grew during Wednesday’s morning skate, resembling a playoff scrum. All to get the former Senator’s take on playing the team he left for the Red Wings. All the while, some reporters couldn’t help but joke with former Panthers forward Stephen Weiss, asking about how he’ll feel the first time he faces Florida.
“I don’t (expect the same type of media crush),” he said.
Weiss , who went scoreless in 12:45 with two shots on net, is more focused on getting on track offensively (two goals, no assists in 11 games).
“Play hockey, handle the puck, have fun, and relax, and everything else will come,” said Weiss.
Franzen. Center. Good. Per the Free Press's Helene St. James:
The Wings are loath to split up Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Stephen Weiss was brought in during the offseason to center the second line, but he’s had some struggles after not playing much last season because of injuries, and has been dropped to the third line, with Daniel Cleary on one wing and, for most of the past two games, Tatar on the other.
Franzen is a good fit in the middle — he won 7-of-9 faceoffs Wednesday — and feels at home as he played the position before coming to the NHL.
“It’s fun,” Franzen said. “It’s a little bit harder, depending on what kind of game it is, but you are definitely more involved and you get more choices when you get the puck than when you’re a winger and you’re kind of stuck on the boards.”
That's a great point by St. James. Weiss played in something like...*looks*...Seventeen games last season. I'd imagine that he's got more than a little rust, and that his left wrist is still recovering in terms of getting up to NHL strength. Huh, good one.
Unless you want to read the Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan's story about Bobby Ryan or the Ottawa Citizen's Wayne Scanlan's ramble about bulletin board material, there isn't much from the Sens' press save this from the Citizen's Ken Warren...
Erik Condra laughed when it was suggested his return to Detroit was the big story Wednesday. “That’s what the big story is today, I think, me coming home,” he said. It was, at least among those who grew up watching Condra play in Detroit, sometimes at the Joe Louis Arena.
Condra spent Tuesday night at his parents’ home 25 minutes from downtown Detroit and he figured there were “about 40 or 50″ family members and friends in the seats for the game. “This rink has so much atmosphere and character that it’s always fun to come back here and play.”
(Condra invited Alfredsson's family to move into his condo. Alfredsson clearly wanted to plant roots in the community, so he bought a house in Birmingham instead)
And the thing that frustrates the *#$%@& out of me about Don Brennan is that when he's not dishing those "DeToilet" comments, he really is a superb writer. He spoke to Jordin Tootoo about his status as Daniel Alfredsson's neighbor during what was a 14-minute media availabilty on Tuesday, a scrum in which Alfredsson was surrounded by enough people to make Tootoo's mission to peel off his sweaty gear impossible. Tootooo didn't mind for one day...
"He's a great guy to be sitting next to," said the 30-year old former Nashville Predator, who came to Detroit as a free agent in the summer of 2012. "He's got a lot of years in the league. Every word he's been saying I've been really listening to him, taking in any advice that I could. I'm a veteran player too myself, but at the end of the day he's well respected around the league. It's an honour sitting next to probably a future Hall of Famer."
Disappointed at the morning skate were those of us who were looking forward to watching Alfredsson play his traditional post-practice game of keepaway. In Ottawa, he dominated that thing. But then, Pavel Datsyuk was never a Senator.Alfredsson said he still plays keepaway after morning skates, but didn't this time because it was a "busy day." I asked him if Datsyuk is any good at it with a pretty good idea what the answer would be.
"He's better than pretty good," said Alfredsson.
Later, Tootoo offered confirmation.
"Pavel is probably the best in the world," he said. "You could probably have three against one and he still somehow has the puck on his tape."
In the prospect department: The Grand Rapids Griffins posted their weekly press release;
In the QMJHL, Anthony Mantha had a goal and an assist in the Val-d'Or Foreurs' 4-2 win over Shawinigan.
Also of Red Wings-related note: Might as well end at the beginning--with Alfredsson talking about leaving Ottawa, and Babcock weighing in--via the Windsor Star's Bob Duff, who notes that Alfredsson has yet to find a set of regular linemates, and that #11 is also still in transition:
“He was pretty comfortable with Pav (Datsyuk) and Z (Henrik Zetterberg), but we had everything on one line and I didn’t like that as much,” Babcock said. “Anytime you start a new year you’re trying to figure out a way for your group to be the best it can possibly be. We haven’t figured that out.”
The Senators are figuring out how to go on minus their longtime leader, but that doesn’t mean they don’t miss them. Four seasons ago when he broke into the NHL, Karlsson lived with Alfredsson and his family.
“For me personally, he’s one of the reasons I’m still playing,” said Alfredsson, 40. “When he came in he was a really good player from the beginning. I was able to be there for him and give him some guidance and help out, but he also brought a lot to the table with his energy, enthusiasm, and great personality and he was fun to be around. It made me feel younger.”
Alfredsson listed winning a Stanley Cup as the key attraction that drew him to Detroit. Some will view that as a slap in the face to Ottawa, and no doubt Senators supporters will grin over Thursday’s outcome.
“Alfie knows that the measure of him has nothing to do with this hockey game,” Babcock said.
By the same token, no one should make any long-term estimates about the future fates of these two franchises based on one night’s work.
It's the nature of the beast, but it is still "early."
For the next two days, anyway.
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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.