Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Senators wrap-up and overnight report: Red Wings finally earn a W on ‘Alfie closure night’

Updated with Wings post-game interviews at 3:04 AM: The Red Wings flew back to Detroit to get Chris Osgood home in time for the opening practice of what Osgood told Fox Sports Detroit's audience would be the opener of at least two practices in the Winter Classic Alumni Showdown's Kris Draper-run training camp knowing that the current players wouldn't have to join the alumni in skating after a very busy week's worth of wins.

The Wings have won 4 games for the first time this season, taking out Buffalo, Boston, the Islanders, and on Sunday--though it was via a less-than-aesthetically-pleasing effort--Daniel Alfredsson's former employer, snapping a 2-game losing streak against Ottawa and taking the "reunion game" 4-2 thanks to a rare two-goal game from Drew Miller, a 4-for-4 PK and a superb, 30-save performance from Jonas Gustavsson, 2 assists from Niklas Kronwall, another against-the-Sens goal for Johan Franzen, and a salt-the-game-away empty-netter from some guy wearing #11 in red and white.

Detroit now has two days off ahead of a very busy week (the Wings host Philadelphia on Wednesday, head to New Jersey on Friday the 6th and host the Panthers on Saturday the 7th) and an incredibly busy month (the Wings will play 11 more pre-Christmas games over the course of 20 nights).

While we'll have to wait until Tuesday to get a clearer picture as to whether Pavel Datsyuk's ready to return from his concussion (according to Ken Kal, Wednesday's game is Datsyuk bobblehead night), whether Todd Bertuzzi is ready to return from his shoulder issue, or what kind of timeline Danny DeKeyser faces in terms of rehabbing his sprained shoulder...

The now 14-7-and-7 Wings have officially won as many games as they've lost in regulation, OT or shootouts, they sit 3 points behind a team with four more wins (and a game in hand) in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins, and over the past four games, the Wings have shown us that even a team missing three key contributors can pounce upon a hapless foe, beat the snot out of the Beasts of the East, earn their starting goaltender a win over a plucky young team that's had Detroit's number, and on Sunday, persist through the muck, guck and emotional disarmament involved in battling a team that had defeated the Wings 6-1 and 4-2.

Not everything was wonderful: the Wings were out-penalized 4-1, and while I'd suggest that the referees did their jobs as if they had a "feature dancer's" show to watch in Gatineau, Quebec, across the river from Ottawa, the Wings did take some doofy penalties (cough Brendan Smith cough); the Wings were also out-shot 22-13 over the course of the second and 3rd periods, and if we are to believe the Senators' statisticians, they were out-shot-attempted by a surprising 57-39 margin, which is downright bizarre by Wings standards.

You could very successfully argue that the Wings were sleepy early and mistake-prone in a third period that shouldn't have been as close as it was, and while two plays by Brendan Smith led to goals for, one led directly to a goal against;

Kyle Quincey was at least more sound; Brian Lashoff was very solid, but he seems to be bailing Jakub Kindl out at times--though Kindl's pass to Johan Franzen was spectacular; Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson had their hands full all night long; and yes, I know that Jonas Gustavsson was booting out rebounds like they were going out of style, but save the MacArthur goal, which essentially rolled out from his glove and then slid through him before MacArthur jammed it into an empty net, Gustavsson got the job done.

Up front, I'm not sure what Babcock's going to do when Datsyuk and Bertuzzi get healthy, because it's hard to imagine that he'll want to break up lines 1-3. Franzen scored another goal against Ottawa and had another very strong game overall, giving and going with Gustav Nyquist and getting out of the way as Henrik Zetterberg roared up and down the ice; Darren Helm's speed, Justin Abdelkader's jam and Daniel Alfredsson's shooting and passing have yielded a line that can get 'er done all over the ice, and Helm had another shorthanded breakaway on Sunday; one of Drew Miller's two goals came from Tomas Tatar's speed and playmaking ability, and the other came from Smith, and both players are bolstering Joakim Andersson's confidence; and Stephen Weiss at least looks like he's ready to break out and Mikael Samuelsson has been steady enough, though Daniel Cleary continues to struggle and play the least of any Wings forward.

The Wings only got one power play and weren't very good during it, but they also killed four Ottawa power plays, and they persisted through some particularly nasty Senators play--at times, yet again, playing against the Anaheim Ducks East looked more like rugby on ice than hockey--as well as their own hiccups in terms of energy, effort, intensity, attention to detail and execution.

This one was less than a rose to say the very least, but the Wings rather desperately needed to beat the Senators by any means necessary, and after spending the first period seeming to not know exactly how impolite the Senators' guests were allowed to play, the Wings were out-shot but not out-hustled or out-worked en route to earning a win by any means necessary.

Prior to the game, the Senators posted quite the tribute to Alfredsson, who drove to the rink with former teammate and good friend Erik Karlsson...

And it was all but accompanied by a strange Eugene Melnyk interview on TSN (and a strange "funeral," though most Senators fans wished Alfredsson well)--with Melnyk speaking from his home in Barbados--as noted by the Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno:

“I don’t think there was ever any anger,” he told TSN via satellite from Barbados. “It was more just basically the shock value of what transpired, and that eventually fades away and you just move on. … It happens in professional sports, in every sport, and you just move on.”

Melnyk declined comment when asked if Alfredsson would be considered for a job with the Senators after his playing career was over, citing that he didn’t want to violate league tampering rules. He expressed some openness to the idea of retiring Alfredsson’s No. 11 someday.

“There’s no question he’s probably the most prominent person in the organization in modern-day Ottawa Senators (history),” Melnyk said. “It’s not a gimme, but I can tell you what, if I was a betting man, I would bet on it.”

That night would undoubtedly be a crowd-pleaser. Alfredsson wasn’t sure what to make of that possibility.

“I think any time you talk about what’s going to happen after your career, it’s hard to imagine,” he said. “How do you justify and deserve certain things for what you do? I’m extremely thankful for being able to do what I really enjoy for a living and that a lot of people are interested in it. It’s hard to say if I deserve it or not.”

You can watch the Melnyk interview on TSN's website if you wish, and if you want to read the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch's take on Melnyk's comments, Senators fans speaking with the Ottawa Sun's Doug Hempstead about Alfredsson's return, Sens fans speaking with the Ottawa Citizen's Rachel Aiello about Alfredsson's return, or if you want to read the Ottawa Citizen's James Gordon's survey of the Twitter response to Alfredsson's return, enjoy...

But in terms of the actual game, we'll go to the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch regarding a few comments from the Senators' players regarding Alfredsson's return...

“It was a special game,” said Karlsson, who walked into the rink with Alfredsson and gave him a hug before he went into the Detroit room. “It was fun to see the ovation he got and it was probably nice for him to get it over with as well. I think the fans handled it really well and gave him the applause he deserves and then during the game they cheered for the Senators.”

Karlsson said it wasn’t difficult for Ottawa players because all eyes were on Alfredsson.

“It was toughest on him. It was his homecoming. It had nothing really to do with us.” said Karlsson. “I don’t think we really had any problems getting ready for this one.”

Can everybody now put this depature behind them?

“That’s up to you guys to decide,” said alternate captain Chris Phillips. “We’ve moved on, we’re playing. That’s what is most important. This is a big one to get out of the way, but we’ll see how that transpires.”

And from there, we're going to talk about the game itself from the Senators' perspective. Ottawa was coming off of a 5-2 loss to Vancouver, and hadn't played since Thursday, so prevailing wisdom would've suggested that Ottawa could have and should have had the jump on Alfredsson and the Wings.

They didn't, and after the game, Senators coach Paul MacLean told the Ottawa Citizen's Allen Panzeri that an incredibly gritty team's sandpapery substance vanished during the game:

“We’re not doing it hard enough,” he said. “We need to be harder. That might be harsh to say. We can look at the stat sheet and say it flattered us a little bit with the shots on goal or this and that. But at the end of the day, we didn’t do enough to win.

“Is that playing harder? Is that work ethic? Is that being smarter? It’s all of the above, I would say. But if we were to categorize it under one term, we need to play harder.”

The Senators made things close in the third period, but the Ottawa Sun's Garrioch's main recap duly notes that it didn't matter in the end:

The Senators pulled to within a goal at 14:14 of the second when MacArthur had his eighth of the season to cut the Wings’ lead to 2-1. Detroit put it away when Miller had his second of the game at 1:58 of the third. From there, the Wings were just happy to make sure they got the two points and left town.

“They weren’t very active. I didn’t have a bunch of shots but when they got shots they were pretty good,” said Lehner, who allowed three goals on 22 shots. “A few mistakes cost us. A team with lots of skill is going to take care of 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s. We’ve got to try to eliminate these odd-man rushes. They’re killing us.”

So is the record at home. The Senators are 4-8-2 in Ottawa.

“We’ve got to fill the holes in this leaking boat at home,” said MacArthur. “It gets frustrating. We have a young team, we tighten up and on the road you make a mistake and you don’t feel the wrath of 18,000 people. There’s lots of momentum in this building. The fans have been good. We’ve got to find a way to strive off that.”

...

Zibanejad did score with Robin Lehner on the bench with 1:21 left, but Alfredsson salted it away into an empty net with 1:03 remaining. In the four-game skid, the Senators have been outscored by a massive 16-8 count. This game lost a lot of its lustre after the dust settled and the reality that the Senators are struggling emerged in their inconsistent play.

With U2’s Beautiful Day playing, the video paid tribute to Alfredsson’s highlights with the Senators on and off the ice — including his charitable work in the community and his goal in 2007 against Buffalo that sent Ottawa to the Stanley Cup final.

“It’s great to get the recognition and it’s really humbling,” said Alfredsson, who later called the night ‘surreal.’ “It’s hard to understand that from playing hockey you can affect people this way. At the same, time it’s pretty special as well. I didn’t feel I played particularly well. I thought I got more comfortable as the game went on.”

Eventually, the Senators' fans started booing Alfredsson, especially in the third period, but that didn't bother #11 at all, as the Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan noted:

“They should stick up for their team and that’s what they’re doing,” said Alfredsson. “The result makes it a lot sweeter,” he added later. “If we would have lost I think it would have still been a night I’ll always remember.”

As for the Senators, the way they stand, well, Alfredsson said he doesn’t think they’re different than the team he left.

“I see them as a very competitive team,” he said. “I thought they played extremely hard, If anything they’re just in a mode where they need a couple of wins to get some confidence. They’re doing a lot of good things and I expect them to do well.”

Amongst Brennan's notes:

Erik Karlsson and Alfredsson entered the building together well before the Red Wings team bus arrived. When they reached the Detroit dressing room, the two Swedes exchanged a hand shake and man hug, then parted ways. “We spent most of the day together, just talking about old stuff, old memories and stuff going on in our lives,” said Alfredsson. “It was great to see him."

...

Alfredsson even provided a “probably not” when talk afterwards turned to the possibility of him finishing his career as a Senator. As for Melnyk’s suggestion that his jersey will one day hang from the rafters at Canadian Tire Centre, No. 11 stated: “I think any time you talk about what’s going to happen, it’s hard to imagine ... how do you justify certain things for what you do? I’m extremely thankful to be able to do what I really enjoy for a living, that a lot of people are interested in. It’s hard to say whether I deserve it or not, it’s been a lot of great memories here in this city off and on the ice and that will always be with me.”

It's here that things get a little...Awkward. The Ottawa Citizen's Wayne Scanlan's column for the day involves a retelling of a less-than-publicized Alfredsson school visit, and the Citizen also posted some stats from the game, but the "out-of-towners" were bound to step in and issue summations of how Alfredsson's exit from Ottawa has played out thus far, and we may as well get what read like, "This is how things are and will always be!" assessments out of the way.

The Globe and Mail's official all-things-Canadian-related correspondent, Roy MacGregor, weighed in with a "spirit of the thing" article...

It was not until the 14:14 mark of the middle period that the Senators finally scored, Clarke MacArthur flicking the puck in behind Detroit goaltender Jonas Gustavsson off a rough scramble to the side of the net. Finally, it seemed, the focus was on the game at hand, not on the “homecoming” of a much-admired captain who was no longer wearing the uniform of the beloveds.

The next time Alfredsson touched the puck ... they booed. Not everyone, not even many – but more than enough to signal that, finally, the hockey fans of Ottawa should turn their attention away from what they lost toward what they have.

“That’s good,” said Alfredsson, ever the diplomat. “They should stick up for their team.”

And what these fans have is a team prone to giving up good scoring chances, Miller getting his second on a nice tic-tac-heel-toe play that saw him tap the puck into an open net back of Lehner. Ottawa finally returned to life with time running out and Lehner out of the net for an extra skater. With 1:21 left in the game, Mika Zibanejad found a rebound on his stick and fired it in past Gustavsson to make it 3-2.

But then, just as seemingly had to happen, with Ottawa again pressing and the net still empty, Alfredsson, No. 11 for the Red Wings, got a puck along the boards and fired a long puck that caught a corner of the net. This time, they booed heartily. Alfredsson was no more the player in the wrong No. 11 jersey. He was a Red Wing.

“It’s sport,” Spezza said. “That’s what makes it so interesting.”

And what makes it compelling is emotion. The cheers at the start. The chant at the 11-minute mark. The boos when he scored. And that special moment when, chosen third star of the game, Alfredsson made a point out of picking someone out of the crowd and throwing his stick to them.

The Toronto Star's Damien Cox focused on the Senators team Alfredsson left behind...

[W]hen he was presented as the third star, there was a large cheer. Decidedly mixed, then, was how those in attendance seemed to feel, an ambivalence towards a beloved former player and the circumstances under which he had departed.

“It does put a lot of questions away for both sides going forward, and that’s the way it should be,” said Alfredsson. “Now everybody moves on.”

It was another defeat in a disappointing fall for the Sens, who have made Alfredsson appear a greater leader in his absence because they seem to miss him so very much.

...

Mika Zibanejad scored with Robin Lehner pulled for an extra attacker and 81 seconds still left to make it interesting, but 18 seconds later Alfredsson found the unguarded Ottawa net from 98 feet, a diagonal shot he could probably have made with his eyes closed after so many years of playing and practising in the Kanata arena.

“It was nice to seal the game there because they were pushing,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Here come the pesky Sens again.’ But we were lucky to get a good bounce, I was able to get free and put the game away. The result makes it a lot sweeter, especially since they’ve handed it to us twice in our own building pretty good. You could tell our team was motivated today.”

In the hallway between the two dressing rooms after the game, Alfredsson huddled with Ottawa trainer Gerry Townend, probably revisiting all those injuries and all those workouts. Alfredsson’s wife hugged Lehner, bested in this Swede-vs.-Swede goalie battle by Jonas Gustavsson.

Alfredsson is now clearly a Red Wing, finding more success since being grafted on to a line with Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm. The team he left behind is suffering on the ice, at the gate and on the bottom line, and Alfredsson’s just too nice a guy to be happy about that.

But then, he left, didn’t he? He sensed something was right somewhere else that was no longer right in Ottawa. Those who cheered him for so many years have been left behind, very much hoping the former captain doesn’t become a lasting symbol of the good times that left when he did.

SI's Brian Cazenueve offered an assessment of both teams' respective steads...

Alfredsson actually recorded the game's first shot on goal, curling from the left side into the slot and flinging an off-balance shot off Robin Lehner, who knows Alfredsson's home better than anyone because, well, he purchased his house during the offseason. The official scorer gave Alfredsson a gift assist on Johan Franzen's goal that opened the scoring in the second period. He closed the scoring with an empty-netter from center ice with 1:03 to play, and received a stunning cheer from the fans, whose Senators have won only four home games in 14 tries this season. "It was extremely humbling," Alfredsson said later. "It's hard to understand just from playing hockey, you can effect people that way ... I don't think I played that well tonight. We gave up too many chances tonight. It got easier to play with the lead."

The Senators, meanwhile, seems to miss not only Alfredsson's leadership but also his production, as they sit in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and sixth in the Atlantic Division. Frustrated with his team's lackluster work during the first half of a the power play on Sunday, coach Paul MacLean sent out Colin Greening, Zack Smith and Chris Neil, a physical line that had combined for 15 points and 114 penalty minutes this season.

On the other hand, Detroit is strong as always, third-best in the East, behind Boston and Pittsburgh, with 35 points for the season. The Wings are managing Alfredsson's minutes. He has played more than 20 minutes just four times this year, with a season-high 20:53 against Winnipeg on Nov. 12. The Wings have been without Datsyuk, the star two-way center who took an elbow to the chin from Ottawa's Jared Cowen when the Senators beat the Red Wings 4-2 in Detroiton on Nov. 23. Alfredsson missed that game with an injury and went scoreless against his former team in another home game on Oct. 23. But this game, the 1,200th of Alfredsson's distinguished career, will live as a highlight. "It was pretty special," he said. "They gave me a night to remember."

And the CBC's Tim Wharnsby took the acerbic route:

[D]id anybody believe the Senators would be in this much trouble without Alfredsson? The beloved former Senators captain made a triumphant return to the Nation's Capital on Sunday -- where he played for 17 seasons and captained for the last 13 -- and Detroit looked like the team that had an 11-point advantage in the standings.

In the Wings' 4-2 victory, Alfredsson scored an empty-netter and had the secondary assist on Detroit's opening goal from Johan Franzen. It was the Red Wings' fifth win in six games. The Senators now have lost six of eight and a playoff spot will require a minimum 65 points in their remaining 55 games.

The Senators are a sloppy team these days. They're an adventure in their own end. They're loose defensively in the neutral zone, and they're not playing with speed. They're also not burying chances in the offensive end of the rink.

Ryan was supposed to be part of the mix with Alfredsson. When Alfredsson bolted he was replaced by Clarke MacArthur, who scored in the loss to the Red Wings. He's been solid with eight goals and 20 points in 26 games, which is one more goal and one fewer points than Alfredsson has in 23 outings.

ESPN's Pierre LeBrun took in the game, too, and he offered a very different take on "the reunion"...

Normally, the unspoken custom for players like Alfredsson on these types of nights is to put money on the board in the dressing room before the game, to further fuel teammates for a big performance. Not on this night. Alfredsson apparently decided against it this time, having put money on the board in their first game Oct. 23 in Detroit and going down 6-1 to the visiting Senators.

Hockey players being the superstitious lot they are, Alfredsson decided to switch it up.  Not that he needed to put money on the board. His Red Wings teammates were plenty motivated for him.

"He was pretty fired up, he was really fired up," Detroit winger Dan Cleary said. "As a team we all knew how important it was to win. Nothing needs to be said in times like that."

Besides, the Wings had lost 4-2 to Ottawa at Joe Louis Arena on Nov. 23 (with Alfredsson not playing due to a groin injury) so going down three games in a row to Alfredsson's former team wasn't an option on this night.

"It was important for our team. We had dropped the ball the first time we played against them we played poorly," said Wings head coach Mike Babcock. "The second time we lost our discipline. So it was important to respond here today, for Alfie and for the guys. The guys care about him, they wanted him to have a big night here. It was a great tribute to him at the start from the fans, and obviously he wanted to pay tribute to the organization who took care of him and his family for all those years. I thought it was important our team played well."

...

Telling as well was how his Wings teammates reacted after his goal, mobbing him, smiles up and down the bench. They wanted this one for him.

"He's fit in seamlessly on this team. Hall of Famer, all class,'' said Cleary. Echoed Kronwall: "He's just such a normal guy, even though he is who is he is and all the things he's accomplished in his hockey career and his life. He's still a low-key guy, a true professional, it's just fun to be around a guy like that."

We'll shift focus from the Sens' perspectives to those of the Wings' players and coach on a permanent basis via the Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno's recap...

Like so many times in their previous 27 games in the post-Alfredsson era, something was just missing for the Senators (10-13-4). Botched line changes hurt badly.

"They catch us on three line changes and they get the odd-man rush and they don't miss," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. "They're a team that if you give them those opportunities, they're going to take advantage of them. They took what we gave them and they made it the difference in the game."

The other difference was Ottawa's power-less power play, which went 0-for-4 and put up just four shots.

"We couldn't really establish anything off the entries, and that's why we couldn't really get set up," defenceman Erik Karlsson said. "We just had to chase the puck the whole time."

...

"It seems like we got a little block at home," MacArthur said. "I think one thing goes wrong and then another thing goes wrong, and then we start to tighten up. I don't know if it's shutting our brains off for periods during the game, but we made a couple mental errors and it's one of those nights where it's a good team and they capitalize."

With all the Senators' flaws, MacLean refused to pin any blame on goaltender Robin Lehner, who made 19 saves on 22 shots.

"We have no issue with Robin's game. None," MacLean said. "I don't have any issue with that. The line changes, the opportunities they got, oh yeah we'd like one more save and one more play, but to be honest with you they were pretty good opportunities for them."

And NHL.com's Sean Farrell's recap:

"I mean, obviously it was a special game and it was fun to see the ovation he got, and it was probably nice to get it over with as well for him," Karlsson said. "I think the fans handled it really well and gave him the applause he deserved, and then during the game they cheered for the Sens as normal."

Clarke MacArthur and Mika Zibanejad scored, and Robin Lehner stopped 19 shots for the Senators, who won their past two games against Detroit, including a 4-2 win at Joe Louis Arena on Nov. 23.

Alfredsson, who missed that game because of a groin injury, first faced his former teammates in a 6-1 loss to Ottawa on Oct. 23.

"The first time we played against them we played poorly, and the second time we lost our discipline, so it was important obviously to respond here (Sunday), for Alfie and for the guys," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "It's important, and the guys care about him and wanted him to have a big night here. It was a great tribute to him at the start from the fans, and obviously he wanted to pay tribute to the organization that looked after him and his family for all those years, and I thought it was important our team play well."

...

"I think for Alfie it was a huge game, and an emotional one, coming back, and for him to get that goal at the end, that's a huge goal for us," Miller said. "They were pressing there and he gets the open-net goal, so it's huge for our team."

For the Red Wings, there's no doubt that Miller played the leading role in the win, and he spoke with the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa about his performance:

Then Miller scored his third goal of the season at 11:13, with tic-tac-toe passing by Niklas Kronwall and Tomas Tatar setting him up on the right wing.

“Tatar had the puck on the left side and passed it over and (I) found the net, so it’s good for him finding me there,” Miller said. Miller fired a one-timer by Senators goalie Robin Lehner, who stood little chance.

Clarke MacArthur scored his eighth goal since Nov. 1, and eighth of the season, to draw the Senators within a goal, 3:03 after Miller’s goal.

The Red Wings got a big goal 1:58 into the third period. Brendan Smith added to the Wings’ strong offensive push from the defense when he rushed up left wing and fed a handy, cross-ice pass to Miller, who scored his second of the game.

“Smitty made a great play, freezing the goalie and the defenseman, and put it over to me and I had a wide-open net,” Miller said. “Those are the easy ones. Those are the ones you like to get.”

Darren Helm also assisted on the goal, using his great speed to get the puck up ice before feeding Smith.

“Helmer just wheeled up the ice,” Smith said. “He caught everybody with all his speed. I was able to find Millsie, back door — which was easy, because I think their D was thinking too much about Helmer’s speed.”

The Free Press's George Sipple (who also penned a capsule recap) noted that Miller has now scored goals in three straight games, and he points out that the Tatar-Andersson-Miller line is on quite the roll...

“They’ve been coming for us, obviously, they’ve been scoring of late,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Miller and his linemates. “Tatar is a real good hockey player and confident with the puck and (Joakim Andersson) makes good passes and Millsie can skate. They’ve been a good line for us. They had a tough matchup against (Jason) Spezza tonight. But Andy’s real good defensively and so they didn’t give up much.”

Miller gave credit to Tatar and Smith for helping to set him up for the goals.

Miller certainly didn’t mind seeing Daniel Alfredsson get the empty-net goal at the end of the game, which sealed the Wings’ 4-2 victory with 1:03 remaining.

“For him to get that goal at the end, that’s a huge goal for us,” Miller said. “They’re pressing there and he gets the open-net goal. It’s huge for our team and I think winning these games on the road has been a big thing for us. We’ve gotta figure out (playing) at home a little bit better.”

The Wings won their fourth consecutive game and improved to 9-3-1 on the road. They are 5-4-6 at Joe Louis Arena this season.

Asked about his scoring surge of late, Miller said: “Definitely everyone on the team and I think in hockey wants to score goals. Knew the secondary scoring was going to come. It wasn’t there for the first part of the year, but you gotta stick with it and keep working hard, and I think that’s what our third and fourth lines have been doing.”

And the Detroit News's Krupa noted that the Wings' back-up goaltender hasn't been half-bad, either...

Undefeated in regulation, he improved his record to 7-0-1. He entered the game against the Senators Sunday with a 2.17 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. He stopped 30 of 32 shots by Ottawa to help secure the 4-2 win.

“It was a tight game,” Gustavsson said. “They have a good team. But, in the end, I felt like we really had a good game. The guys helped me a lot, you know? Even when I maybe let an unnecessary rebound, here and there, they stood up and helped me. It was a good team effort.”

Asked to evaluate his performance this season, he said, “Yeah, it’s a good start. But it’s only the start.”

“It’s a long season, and the most important thing is that we are all getting better as a group and as individuals. That means that I have to push myself to try to be better every day. That’s how we become a great team, whenever you have everyone pushing each other.”

And MLive's Ansar Khan (who also penned his usual quote-free recap) noted that, in the end, the Red Wings left Ottawa with 4 straight wins under their belt, and the Red Wings left Ottawa very, very happy that Daniel Alfredsson's on Detroit's side now:

“I don’t know how he felt, but I think most of the guys felt a little emotional,’’ Niklas Kronwall said. “It’s pretty incredible what he’s done for this team and this city, not only on the ice but how involved he was in the community. A big leader for them for many years. Of course we’re very happy that he came to us.’’

Said Babcock: “Alfie’s one of those guys you want to play hard for him.’’

...

Alfredsson has seven points (four goals, three assists) in four games since returning from a pulled groin. He has 21 points in 23 games overall.

“He knows how to play with and without the puck – that and his leadership make him so valuable,’’ Babcock said.

Gustavsson appreciated getting the start in a game that drew so much attention, especially back home in Sweden.

“It was a special game, especially for Alfie, and as a fellow countryman it was nice to get the chance to play,’’ Gustavsson said. “Really good to get that win, not only for the team but for Alfie as well.’’

Alfredsson is relieved to get this night out of the way.

“I think it does put a lot of questions away for both sides going forward,’’ Alfredsson said. “It’s been a lot of great memories in this city, off and on the ice. That will always be with me.’’

In the "Bonus Swedish" category--and there's a lot of "Bonus Swedish" this morning--some stuff is new and some isn't. Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom notes that Alfredsson was glad to best the "pesky Senators," but he offers little in the way of new stuff; prior to the game, SVT's Marie Lehmann summarized Alfredsson's comments from Saturday, including the one in which he suggested that he isn't quite sure whether he wants to play for another year, but, to put things bluntly, it's "so far, so good," and I don't know how much you're going to get out of Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman's blog entry as so much of his Swedish is colloquial, nor are you going to get much out of his recap, other than finding out that Alfredsson stated that when the camera switched from a shot of him to a "crowd shot" of the Mrs., he didn't cry, he laughed...

And the quotes in SVT's Lehmann's recap are summarized much more succinctly in her blog:

Daniel Alfredsson: "It was very special. Touching. And very emotional to see the unveiling [of the tribute], but it was hard to take in everything. Had I seen it earlier it would've been easier, but then I had to play hockey 20 seconds later, and I really couldn't relax and enjy it. But it was absolutely incredible, that was it."

 "We played this game for him," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who continued with as high praise of Alfredsson's leadership skills as one can go: "He's Nick Lidstrom-ish."

"It's been fun to follow the 'Affe' circus," said Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg after the game. "It was nice to see them honor him, and cool that he scored the last goal. This was 'Affe's' game. And I knew we could win. They've won two in our home rink. This one we won for Affe."

Multimedia:

Highlights: NHL Network game = even the Red Wings website's highlight clip is narrated by TSN's announcers:

ESPN also posted a 50-second highlight clip; the CBC posted a 2:56 highlight clip; Sportsnet posted a 2:14 highlight clip; and TSN posted a 2:57 highlight clip;

Post-game: As previously noted, TSN posted the Melnyk interview, a clip of the Alfredsson tribute, TSN's Brent Wallace's post-game interview with Alfredsson and a "first impressions" feature from way back when;

Sportsnet posted a 33-second clip of Alfredsson's post-game scrum;

The Senators' website posted clips of Jason Spezza, Chris Phillips, Robin Lehner and coach Paul MacLean's post-game comments, and the Senators posted an "all access" interview with Erik Karlsson that's almost six minutes long;

The Ottawa Citizen's James Gordon posted a 9-minute clip of post-game comments from Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Senators coach Paul MacLean, and for simplicity's sake I uploaded it to SoundCloud.

NHL Network game = if you really want to watch the NHL Tonight's analysis of the game on your own, but they posted what would otherwise be an un-embeddable video of Daniel Alfredsson's post-game interview with TSN's Brent Wallace...

And the NHL Network spoke with Brendan Smith on the "Arena Cam" as well:

Fox Sports Detroit posted Drew Miller's post-game interview with Trevor Thompson:

Photos: The Ottawa Citizen posted a 24-image gallery;

The Ottawa Sun embedded a 20-image gallery in Bruce Garrioch's recap;

The Detroit Free Press posted a 23-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 13-image gallery;

The Windsor Star posted 8 big images from the game;

ESPN posted a 46-image gallery;

And NHL.com, the Senators' website and the Red Wings' website posted 40, 43 and 40-image photo galleries, respectively.

Statistics:

Shots 32-23 Ottawa overall. Detroit and Ottawa were tied 10-10 in shots in the 1st, were out-shot 14-10 in the 2nd and out-shot 8-3 in the 3rd. WOW.

Special teams: The Wings went 0-for-1 in 2:00 of PP time and killed 4 penalties and 8 minutes of Senators PP time.

Goaltenders: Jonas Gustavsson stopped 30 of 32 shots; Robin Lehner stopped 19 of 22 and the empty net gave up a goal on the only shot it faced.

Three stars: TSN 1200 picked the 3 stars, and they picked Daniel Alfredsson, Erik Karlsson and Drew Miller.

The Wings' goals: Franzen (7) from Kindl (9) and Alfredsson (14);

Miller (3) from Tatar (6) and Kronwall (17);

Miller (4) from Smith (4) and Helm (3);

Alfredsson (7) from Abdelkader (8) and Kronwall (18), empty-net goal.

Faceoffs 33-29 Detroit (Detroit won 53%);

Blocked shots 21-12 Detroit;

Missed shots 14-4 Ottawa (total attempts 57-39 Ottawa);

Giveaways 10-7 Detroit;

Takeaways 8-6 Detroit.

Individual stats:

Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 11-and-9 (55%); Andersson went 11-and-7 (61%); Helm went 6-and-10 (38%); Weiss went 4-and-2 (67%); Franzen went 1-and-1 (50%).

Shots: Franzen led the Wings with 4; Nyquist, Miller and Zetterberg had 3; Alfredsson, Quincey and Helm had 2; Abdelkader, Tatar, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1.

Blocked attempts: Tatar and Franzen had 2 attempts blocked; Abdelkader, Nyquist, Miller, Lashoff, Zetterberg, Helm, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Smith, Abdelkader, Lashoff and Cleary missed the net.

Hits: Ericsson led the Wings with 4 hits; Alfredsson and Franzen had 2; Smith, Kindl, Abdelkader, Andersson, Tatar, Quincey, Zetterberg, Kronwall and Cleary had 1.

Giveaways: Ericsson had 3 giveaways; Smith, Kindl and Gustavsson had 2; Andersson had 1.

Takeaways: Helm had 2 takeaways; Smith, Abdelkader, Alfredsson, Andersson, Zetterberg and Kronwall had 1.

Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 6 Senators shots; Abdelkader blocked 4; Lashoff and Franzen blocked 2; Smith, Kindl, Alfredsson, Nyquist, Andersson, Samuelsson and Zetterberg blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Smith took 2 minors; Samuelsson took a minor; the Wings took a "bench minor" for too many men on the ice.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +10. Nyquist, Zetterberg and Weiss finished at -1; Smith, Kindl, Abdelkader, Andersson, Miller, Lashoff and Kronwall finished at +1; Alfredsson, Tatar and Helm finished at +2.

Points: Miller had 2 goals; Kronwall had 2 assists; Alfredsson had a goal and an assist; Franzen had a goal; Smith, Kindl, Abdelkader, Tatar and Helm had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 24:01 played; Ericsson played 22:52; Quincey played 20:03;

Abdelkader played 19:54; Zetterberg played 19:34; Helm played 18:21;

Franzen played 18:20; Smith played 18:03; Lashoff played 17:15;

Alfredsson played 16:3; Kindl played 16:08; Nyquist played 15:27;

Miller played 15:28; Andersson played 14:08; Tatar played 10:17;

Samuelsson played 9:05; Weiss played 9:01; Cleary played 7:10.

 

 

 

Red Wings notebooks: The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa took note of the Wings' significant offensive contributions from their defensemen of late, with Kronwall leading the way:

Kronwall’s offense has been elevated for a few seasons, and the thought is that when the younger defensemen begin to provide it more consistently, the Wings become a much quicker, more successful team.

More than the developing defensemen’s defense, the offensive thrust that traditionally drives the Wings’ vaunted transition game is what has been missing since Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement.

“Yeah, I think there’s some confidence growing there,” said Kronwall, who now has 18 assists and 21 points for the season.

He is on pace for a 60-point season.

“There was a period there when we really didn’t play well,” he said. “It’s starting to get better and better, I think, the transition game. A few times today, we caught them where the puck goes from the D and up to the forwards in a hurry. That’s what we’d like to do even more. I thought Smitty had a real good game, making a lot of good plays and jumping into the rush. You know, he ended up with one assist, and I thought he could have two or three. He was all over the ice.”

DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose also set up this week's games via his weekly, "Look Ahead in Hockeytown," and he discusses Henrik Zetterberg's superb start ...

Zetterberg leads the Red Wings with 30 points in 27 games, which ranks second to his fast start in 2007-08 when he amassed 37 points in 27 games.

“It always makes it easier when you help the team in scoring,” Zetterberg said. “I think last year after the lockout I had a pretty good start, too. Definitely enjoy that more than those starts I had a couple years ago.”

And Zetterberg notes that the Wings are rolling along as a team:

“Everyone’s getting more and more confidence,” Zetterberg said. “The stretch we had there where we played OK but we somehow only got one point each game. It is tough for your confidence but last couple games here a lot of guys have been making the right decision. That’s what we want to keep doing. Play well in our structure but in the same way when we have a chance be creative.”

Roose also previews this week's trio of games.

 

 

 

Also of Red Wings-related note: Via RedWingsFeed, the Free Press has posted a pair of excerpts from Darren McCarty's memoir, My Last Fight: The True Story of a Hockey Rock Star, and McCarty appeared on WDIV's Sports Final Edition on Sunday night.

WDIV posted the interview...

And they listed the dates of his "book tour."

Tonight, Peter Karmanos, Ron Mason and Doug Weight will be inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame at the MotorCity Casino, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan conducted an interview with Karmanos:

The Compuware hockey program basically stemmed, Karmanos said, from one conversation with a hockey parent. The parent waved his hand at a group of players on the ice and said those players would never have an opportunity to play in the NHL, at best maybe getting a partial college hockey scholarship somewhere.

“I had an opposite opinion,” Karmanos said, also noting those players on the ice included Pat LaFontaine, Kevin and Derian Hatcher, and Al Iafrate, all local players who reached the NHL.

Karmanos wanted to put together a hockey program that would be able to travel to Canada and throughout the United States and compete against the best, exposing local players to the hockey world outside of Michigan.

“I had been watching hockey my entire life and the players were a tad better than that (limited to college hockey),” Karmanos said. “I thought I had a responsibility to put together a program that allowed those kids to go into different areas in Canada (and compete). It’s real important that people who have the opportunity to help develop the sport try to give kids the ability to show off their talents. I was born and raised in Detroit, so it was especially rewarding to do that in the Detroit area.”

I can't really say that the Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby's article about the HBO 24/7 cameras "descending" upon the 14-10-and-3 Maple Leafs is particularly revelatory, but he does note that the NHL's Christmas roster freeze will go into effect on December 19th;

And finally, Pavel Datsyuk spoke with Sovetsky Sport's Pavel Lysenkov, and he revealed that:

1. His collaboration with the Russian cell phone company Megafon will help his hockey school, which will now be combined with Ilya Bryzgalov's goalie camp;

2. He's reading four books right now;

3. He says he'd like to have lunch with Jesus and Sigmund Freud;

4. He prefers to read "real" books, though he does read some on his iPad. And he doesn't play games on his iPad--he watches movies and keeps up on Russian current events;

5. And he's asked if he'd accept carrying the Russian flag into the Sochi Olympics, and he says that's something that has to be earned--and that Russia has many other accomplished Olympic athletes.

The Wings won't practice today, so I'm going to take it slow. It's been an incredibly long week and weekend.

Update: VERY late, the Wings posted post-game comments from Daniel Alfredsson...

Jonas Gustavsson...

And coach Mike Babcock:

Update #2: Was sagt der silberer Fuchs?

Update: Techncially speaking, Alfredsson told the Swedish news agency TT that he laughed when the camera panned to his wife because they cheered her more than they cheered him; and Jonas Gustavsson said he's trying not to think too much about his impressive play. He was interviewed by TT because he's both a potential Olympic back-up and because he's also an alum of Alfredsson's Swedish alma mater, the Frolunda Indians.

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Comments

George Malik's avatar

In the comments, because I ran out of room, here’s a bit more from Reuters:

The best save of the opening frame belonged to Lehner, who stoned center Darren Helm on a clear breakaway in the 12th minute.

“I didn’t have a bunch of shots, but when they got shots, they were pretty good,” said Lehner. “A few mistakes cost us. A team with lots of skill is going to take care of 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s. We’ve got to try to eliminate these odd-man rushes. They’re killing us.”

Meanwhile, the Red Wings were just happy to pick up what they came for in Ottawa.

“It was a good win,” said Detroit winger Justin Abdelkader. “Obviously we haven’t played well against these guys the first couple of games, and I know it meant a lot for Alfie and his homecoming back here. We wanted to play hard, play good and it was a big divisional game too for us. So it was a big two points.”

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 12/02/13 at 06:22 AM ET

Avatar

So after watching Cleary last night, it is blatantly obvious—at least to me—that the guy just doesn’t have it anymore. He gets slower and slower each game and it looks so hard for him to just keep up with younger kids, even if those kids are only going half speed. Quite honestly, you have to think that he KNOWS the biased favoritism being played by Babs and Kenny directly effected the careers of 4 players (Tootoo, Emmerton, Eaves, Nyquist). Not to mention, he hasn’t produced squat through a quarter of the season and his ice time continues to slide. The writing is on the wall and I think Cleary knows. George, is there any other explanation for why Cleary just looks to be playing worse and worse? Once Pav and Bert come back, he is the logical choice for a scratch, as is Sammy. But once DD comes back? How do you get rid of someone else other than Cleary? He’s literally the only forward not contributing. What do you guys think?

Posted by ZandPasha11 on 12/02/13 at 11:11 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

Posted by ZandPasha11 on 12/02/13 at 10:11 AM ET

I was thinking last night, that during our Sans-Pavel games, the Wings are currently a 3-Line team.  Hank, Mule, and Gus control the puck well and create chances.  Abby, Helm, and Alfie are skating real well and are putting up points every game.  Joe, Tatar, and Miller are solid.  Then we’ve got The Cap Line…who…um…give the other 3 lines a breather.

I’m actually curious how a line of Pavel, Bert, and Weiss would do (because c’mon, that’s the only option.  Cleary and Sammy have to be sat when they come back.).

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 12/02/13 at 11:48 AM ET

Avatar

Agreed @Figaro, but I think the lines will shake out like this.

Z-Pav-Nyquist
Mule-Helm-Alfie
Abby-Andy-Tatar
Miller-Weiss-Bert

Sammy, call up Eaves once we can (he has 5 points in 5 AHL games), waive Cleary

Kronner-E
DD-Quincey
Smith-Kindl

Lashoff

Posted by ZandPasha11 on 12/02/13 at 12:02 PM ET

Avatar

Without just bashing Cleary (i wil try)...

He really does look like things have caught up with him. No speed. Not winning battles like we have seen him in the past (even last years playoffs). Losing the puck and falling down way to often. And of course not producing points.

I get he was not signed for goals. But his game is all about giving it his all and doing the ugly stuff you need on a team. But I have not seen that this year.

Its not like Babcock has not tried him on every line trying to get him going. Maybe there is an injury?

With Helm back and Nyquist and Tatar playing, there is better speed on this team all around and I think that is a big part of them winning and scoring lately. And for “small” euros N & T are showing they can fight for those pucks and really not back down from a physical game.


Now they also brought back Clearly for his attitude and presence in the locker room. Its hard for fans to know how much he is helping the team there. But the wings have players like Hank and Pavs and Kronwall, Bert and a guy named Alfredsson! Plus Helm and Abby and Howard and Ericsson are no longer kids and have a lot of great experience to share as well. Maybe Cleary does bring something none of those guys do not have, but I doubt it.

I can not see him being anything but the odd man out when people get healthy. Everyone has out played him. Sammy is looking decent on the 4th line. Weiss has had some issues but he is showing up, just not getting lucky with points. And you really can’t sit Tatar at this point, yes he makes a flub or two a game but he really is good for some nice scoring chances game from just hard work.

Posted by lancer on 12/02/13 at 12:18 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

While Cleary is terrible, Weiss is the most invisible 5mil player ive ever seen.  I hope he doesn’t turn into the Wing’s version of Scott Gomez.

Posted by Hootinani on 12/02/13 at 12:58 PM ET

Avatar

@lancer

I’m really impressed by both Nyquist and Tatar. Did I think Nyquist would lend a helping hand if called up? Yes. But I sure as he__ didn’t expect him to score 4 goals in 5 games. He is quick, has good hands, great vision, and if young enough that he can do this consistently for a full season. Tatar has been equally as impressive, albeit not able to accumulate as many points. Tatar is fast and can really stick handle. I think he’s trying to emulate Z’s game as best he can, and he’s getting better doing so. Sammy hasn’t been able to score, but he is skating hard and shooting the puck. We are doing much better, but we need the 4th line to get going. Our next 6 games are Philly, @NJ, Fla, @Fla, @Tampa, Pitt.  Hopefully we keep rolling and scoring.

Posted by ZandPasha11 on 12/02/13 at 01:28 PM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

Does Tatar play with a longer stick than Nyquist?  He seems to have more reach.  Perhaps it’s that he does a better job using body to protect the puck.  I actually think Tatar sees the game very well and is an able playmaker.  I"m sure I will be convinced as much of Nyquist soon.  It’s obvious that he, Hank and Mule are building chemistry and trust each other a bit.

Posted by MoreShoot on 12/02/13 at 01:46 PM ET

Primis's avatar

While Cleary is terrible, Weiss is the most invisible 5mil player ive ever seen.  I hope he doesn’t turn into the Wing’s version of Scott Gomez.

Posted by Hootinani on 12/02/13 at 11:58 AM ET

He won’t.

He’s a good player and he does very good things.  He’s just snakebitten, in combination with just having a series of things happen (he got hurt, he had to wear a visor for a while, etc).

I don’t want to say he’ll earn every bit of his $5m.  But he won’t be the $600k player Gomez was and I believe now actually *is*.

Posted by Primis on 12/02/13 at 01:50 PM ET

RW19's avatar

I was at the game last night and seeing Cleary live is interesting. First off, he barely plays and when he does well he is noticeably ‘less engaged’ than last year. His stride looks okay, but i wonder if his conditioning is an issue or maybe he is nursing something more serious?

Something else that I have pondered is whether he simply has lost his desire. He is soon to be 35 and he has won a Cup. Seems like he did not find any takers as a FA nor was he willing to take less to play elsewhere. Then somehow he’s back in Detroit for what appears to be too much money. Could it be the Wings lured him back but his heart was not into it? I say this because he looks like a guy that is out of shape ... not a guy who worked out hard in the off season.

Whatever the case when Pav and Bert return, #71 and #37 need to be the scratches. Weiss can play center with Pav at LW, filling the Z role for Datsyuk. If Pav can’t reboot Weiss, then they have a serious issue both on the ice and with the cap.

FYI - Weiss was okay last night. He battles but nothing much is generated. Mind you though he played 4th line minutes something he is really not used to.

Bottom line here though is that getting Weiss to play like a second line center or top six forward should be #1 on the to do list of this team. Cleary can easily be replaced and they should just move on if he can’t get it going.

Posted by RW19 on 12/02/13 at 02:52 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.