Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Wild wrap-up and overnight report: disallowed game

The Detroit Red Wings fell into an all-too-familiar trap in dropping their first (and in this case "only") game back from a Western Canadian road swing against a team that had made the same trip, dropping a 4-2 decision to the Minnesota Wild in a game that wasn't nearly as close on the ice as it was on the scoreboard.

While the Wings weren't particularly thrilled with the Jordin Tootoo goal that was waved off because Drew Miller may or may not have touched the puck with a high stick, and Niklas Kronwall's hit on Charlie Coyle, which was mis-identified as a high-sticking penalty having drawn blood, didn't help the Wings' cause, either, but the Wings still out-shot Minnesota by a wide margin (38-19) and had five power plays, so the now 7th-place Wings could have bettered their fortunes by not giving up a goal 2:04 in and by converting with the man advantage.

Instead, the Wild are heading back to Minnesota having won four straight games, and they puffed out their chests while speaking to the Pioneer Press's Brian Murphy...

"We expect to win now," [Ryan Suter] said. "Early on, we might not have expected it. We're having a lot of success. It's fun hockey. They weren't easy places to play in. Right now, we've got our identity filled out. We know what we're doing, and we're just kind of riding it."

Ten players registered points against the Red Wings. The Wild scored a pair of power-play goals and have 10 in their past 12 games. Despite being outshot 17-5 in the first period, they led 2-0 early in the second and never were really threatened by Detroit, which had not lost at home in regulation to Minnesota since Jan. 3, 2006.

This after the Wild downed the Canucks 3-1 Monday in Vancouver, where they ended an 11-game losing streak. So look out, Dallas. The Stars have won 16 straight home games over Minnesota since March 2003, but the Wild play their next two road games at American Airlines Arena next week.

"I think we're confident going into any building now," coach Mike Yeo said. "I think we're a different team, and a lot of that is the confidence coming into every game."

Backstrom, starting his eighth straight game and 13th in Minnesota's past 14, smothered the Red Wings during their first-period siege. He caught a break seven minutes into the first when referee Dave Jackson waved off Drew Miller's potential tying goal, ruling correctly that Miller high-sticked the puck before it deflected off Dany Heatley's glove and skittered past Backstrom.

The Wild also throttled Detroit's dynamic scoring duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, no easy task considering Minnesota was on the back end of a grueling Denver-Vancouver-Detroit trip that covered more than 3,700 miles across four time zones.

"The main thing is everyone's ready to go from the start of the game," said Setoguchi, who has six goals among eight points in his past five games. "When you've got everyone going, every line jumping, that just makes it easier to go out there and play for everybody else. It's everyone from Backie all the way up."

And the Star-Tribune's Michael Russo penned a "spirit of the thing" blog recap before moving on to the main event:

Tonight, Devin Setoguchi scored two goals. He now has goals in four of the last five games, a five-game point streak and 11 goals and 18 points in the past 19 games. He now shares the goal scoring lead with Zach Parise after going scoreless in his first 10 games.

Mikko Koivu scored the eventual winner, Kyle Brodziak scored and Pierre-Marc Bouchard had two assists for his third consecutive multi-point game. Huge turnaround for Bouchard to escape the doghouse. He now has a four-game point streak since being scratched in three straight. Matt Cullen also extended his point streak to six games.

Brodin was great again. Charlie Coyle brushed off a dirty Niklas Kronwall head shot by helping set up Koivu’s winner with a great wall play to trigger a Brodin-led 2-on-1 with Parise. Backstrom made a season-high 36 saves.

The Wild was outshot 38-19, but not indicative, Backstrom said. He went 17 for 17 in the first period and said the shots were to the outside.

A month ago, the Wild would have said its legs were predictably mush after flying across the continent on Tuesday. No more excuses, said Suter. It’s about accountability.

Cue the chest-puffing, again, per Russo:

“I give our guys a ton of credit. I felt tired today,” coach Mike Yeo said. “That was difficult travel [Tuesday], that was a long trip, and they put a lot into the game. It was very impressive.I think we’re confident going into any building now. I think we’re a different team right now.”

Wild players have such a strut in their step, perhaps they’ll even soon exorcise the demons that lurk in Dallas, where the Wild has lost 16 in a row since 2003. It has two cracks there next week. The Wild, 13-5-1 since Feb. 9, has won four in a row and nine of its past 12 and continues to march up the standings with the hope of ending a four-year playoff drought.

...

“It’s just nice to keep going, keep contributing,” Setoguchi said. “But it’s everyone.”

Backstrom, starting his ninth consecutive game, made a season-high 36 saves. He is 12-3-1 in his past 16 starts and is tied with Montreal’s Carey Price for second in the NHL with 15 wins.

“Maybe in the beginning, we looked at the scoreboard too much,” Backstrom said. “Now it doesn’t matter. We score, they score. We just keep playing our game, doing our thing, doing the details right, doing the small things right. When you do that, everything falls into place.”

....

It was all Minnesota in the second. Niklas Kronwall caught Charlie Coyle with his head down and was assessed four minutes for high-sticking on a play that looked more like a check to the head that may be subject to league discipline.

“Woke me right up,” Coyle said.

The Pioneer Press's Murphy assigned the following "meaning" to the Wild's win...

The Wild extended their winning streak to four games and improved to 17-10-2, reclaiming first place in the Northwest Division. It was their first regulation win at Detroit since Jan. 3, 2006, a stretch that included 10 losses.

The Star-Tribune's Russo issued a 3-star selection...

1. Niklas Backstrom, Wild: He made 17 of his season-high 36 saves in the first period, allowing the Wild to settle in. Won his 15th game (tied for second in the NHL).

2. Devin Setoguchi, Wild: 17th career two-goal game and has 11 goals in the past 19 games.

3. Jonas Brodin, Wild: Scoreless, but could have had two third assists if they were tracked. Superb in all three zones.

And you may take the fifth of MinnesotaWild.com's Mike Doyle's "Five Takeaways" as you wish to take it:

Five: In my Five Takeaways in Vancouver, I wrote about little plays adding up to big plays. Well, it happened again tonight on Mikko Koivu’s second period goal. After Detroit got on the board in the second period, cutting the lead back to one, the Wild needed to respond and it did. Rookie Charlie Coyle made a nice play at the defensive zone blue line, finding a streaking Jonas Brodin on the far side of the ice. The play catapulted Brodin and Zach Parise onto a 2-on-1.

Brodin came down the left side of the ice and took some steam off his shot, putting it into the pads of Howard instead of trying to rip one past the netminder. Why? Parise was streaking down the middle of the ice and going to the net. Rather than trying to pick a corner and ripping a shot wide, Brodin shot for a rebound. Howard did kick the puck out, but the rebound was just a little too far left for Parise to have an easy tap in. However, Parise hounded the puck, fed it out front and the rest, as they say, is history. Brodin didn’t get an assist on the play (the puck hit Coyle before Koivu was able to finish), but because he chose to shoot for a rebound rather than trying to pick a corner and missing, the play stayed alive and the Wild made it 3-1. Pucks off of pads is something every young hockey player should be taught, as shooting at the far pad often kicks out a juicy rebound to oncoming players.

Bonus Take: We had way too smooth of a road trip on the ice, so on our way to the Detroit airport the players’ bus broke down. With three wins and a sweep on the road, no one seemed to mind and the team was even closer because of the experience, literally. Luckily since it was a nationally televised game, our friends at FOX Sports North weren’t on the bus, so no one had to ride underneath in the luggage compartment.

The Wild were all smiles while discussing their road sweep with NHL.com's Brian Hedger...

"Anytime you can come out and get three wins like that, it's fun hockey," said Wild forward Devin Setoguchi, who scored his 10th and 11th goals to continue a run of torment against Detroit that dates to his days with the San Jose Sharks. The main thing is that everyone's ready to go from the start of the game, no matter who it is. When you've got everyone going and every line jumping, it just makes it that much easier to go out there and play for everybody else."

Setoguchi was the one who cashed in early this time, scoring the first of his goals 2:04 into the game. His second capped a power play with 2:45 left in the second period to give Minnesota a comfortable 4-1 lead.

Kyle Brodziak and Mikko Koivu also scored for the Wild, which got a strong performance in goal from Niklas Backstrom, who made 17 of his 36 saves in the first period.

"I think we're confident going into any building now," said Minnesota coach Mike Yeo, whose team also won at Colorado and Vancouver during this trip. "I didn't even realize, but I don't think we'd even had a regulation win [in Detroit] since 2006. I think we're a different team right now and a lot of that is just the confidence we have coming into every game."

...

"Koivu's line goes out there and [scores] almost immediately after [Nyquist] scored and that was a huge goal," Brodziak said. "It's kind of what we feel's been going on here for the last little while. We're staying resilient and we're getting rewarded for it. Winning's a lot more fun. We're finally starting to have a little bit of fun around here and it's nice."

But the Wings were baffled by their continued struggles on special teas...

Despite firing 38 shots, Detroit (14-11-5) scored on one of five power plays and couldn't turn momentum for any length of time. The Wild scored their four goals on 19 shots and went 2-for-3 on the power play.

"Their power play was more effective than ours and that was basically the difference," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "You're never happy when you lose, but you have to look at some of the good things. We created enough chances to win the game."

And we'll make our pivot from the Wild's to Red Wings' perspectives via the Associated Press's recap, which notes that the Wild didn't feel that the shot total reflected the workload Niklas Backstrom faced, and it was Backstrom who suggested as much:

"They're going to get their shots," Backstrom said. "We did a great job of keeping them to the outside and we did a good job of clearing rebounds."

...

"We spent a lot of the night chasing the game," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We knew what kind of game it was going to be before we started. We knew they were going to play tight."

Minnesota led 1-0 after the first period despite being outshot 17-5.

"We knew we were going to come out a little sluggish," Wild defenceman Ryan Suter said. "Backy kept us in it and we came out in the second period and played the way we should've."

Setoguchi opened the scoring 2:04 into the game when he swept in a shot from the bottom of the right circle for his 10th goal. Setoguchi's second goal of the game came on the power play with 2:45 left in the second period, putting in a rebound to give Minnesota a 4-1 lead.  Brodziak's power-play goal 3:51 into the second period made it 2-0 when he put in a one-timer shot from the edge of the crease, his fifth goal, off a pass from Jared Spurgeon.

Nyquist put Detroit on the scoreboard 9:09 into the middle period with his first goal. He capitalized on Spurgeon's turnover at the Red Wings' blue line for his first goal of the season, on a breakaway.

"It was a broken play at the blue line, I don't know what happened," Nyquist said. "I got it behind the D man and I came skating in all alone. I tried to make a move and fortunately, it went in."

Babcock told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that the team was well aware of the fact that the Wild still play a trap-and-strike game to some extent, and that it was the Wings' own mistakes that doomed them:

"We weren't good enough," coach Mike Babcock said. "We knew what kind of game it would be. They play a tight game and we'd have to get through it. Normally when we've made mistakes it's been with the puck. Tonight, we made them without the puck."

...

"We take full credit for what we earned here," Babcock said. "The bottom line is we have to be better than we were. Defensively we've been excellent but tonight we weren't. It was disappointing. We thought we'd be pretty fresh, we had some time off and had some practice time. We thought we'd be better than we were."

The Red Wings (14-11-5, 33 points) begin a four-game, seven-day trip Friday against the Ducks, with another game Sunday in Anaheim.

"We thought we were on a little bit of a roll after the last two (road games, both victories)," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "There's not many home games left and we wanted to make the best of this one. But we couldn't do it and there's a tough road trip coming up."

It was ugly at times, as Babcock told MLive's Ansar Khan (who also penned a quote-less recap)..

"Defensively, we've been excellent," said coach Mike Babcock. "Tonight, we weren't. Our penalty kill's been going great, and then tonight ... the first's one's a real gift. They're going to score power-play goals but you can't give them a gift. We spent a lot of the night chasing the game. We knew what kind of game it was going to be before we started. We knew they were going to play tight. We knew we had to get through it and get on top of them and it was going to be hard to get to their net. In the end, their specialty teams got two and I guess we got one in the end but we didn't do much with it early. Any way you want to look at it, we weren't good enough.''

...

"It's tough," Miller said. "When you look up at the shots, we had a lot of shots. But I think the biggest thing was a lot of them were perimeter without net front (presence) in front of the goalie's eyes. So it's tough to get second and third chances when that's going on. I thought we did a lot of good, positive things. I thought we had good chances. It's tough when you give up two PK goals like that. It's tough. That's the name of the game now. You score on the power play, your chances are going to go way up to win."

Babcock and the Wings would not complain about Miller's disallowed goal, however, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted:

“To me, that had nothing to do with the outcome of tonight’s game,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, of the waved off goal that would have tied the score at 1-1. “We take full credit for what happened here tonight and the bottom line is we have to be better than we were.”

Despite outshooting the Wild, 38-19, and creating several good scoring chances, the Red Wings struggled to get second chances in front of Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom, especially on their five power-play chances. Detroit had 11 shots on the power play, but only managed to beat Backstrom once with a man-advantage when Drew Miller scored with 24-seconds left in regulation.

“We’re not really happy with a lot of things that went on today,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We had some energy in the first period and did some good things after the first five minutes. We got back to playing hockey. We have to score on our power play. It’s as simple as that. They won the specialty teams battle today and that’s what cost us the game. The bounces come when you work hard and that’s something you have to earn. If we would have stuck with it … I don’t think we did that tonight.”

Trailing 1-0 late in the first period, Tootoo appeared to score from the right side of the net. But the controversial goal was immediately waved off by referee Dave Jackson, who signaled that Miller knocked the puck out of the air with a high-stick. However, a replay appeared to show the puck making contact with Dany Heatley’s left hand, not Miller’s stick.

Because Tootoo touched the puck after Miller’s apparent high-stick, Jackson whistled the play dead. The referees did not go to video review, as only scoring plays resulting from suspected high sticks are reviewable. According to the NHL’s official rulebook, Section 10, Rule 80.1, “When a puck is struck with a high stick and subsequently comes into the possession and control of a player from the offending team, either directly or deflected off any player or official, there shall be a whistle.”

The play started with Tootoo bursting into the offensive zone on the left wing, where he ripped the puck away from defenseman Jared Spurgeon along the half wall before lofting a back-hand pass to the front of the net. Miller and Heatley met the puck in front of Backstrom where the Wild’s veteran forward swatted the puck to the right of the net. While it was easy to understand how Jackson – who was positioned behind the Minnesota net – mistakenly thought Miller’s stick struck the puck, the quick whistle was disappointing. At the time, a goal by the Red Wings could have changed the complexity of the game, especially since they had out-shot the Wild, 17-5, through the first 20-minutes of Wednesday’s game.

“The guys said that it hit (Heatley’s) glove,” Miller said. “I was going through with two guys on each side of me, so I wasn’t sure if it was one of them that hit my stick or hit my body. So I wasn’t sure if I hit it or not. … The ref made the call on the ice, and that’s the way it stood. It’s a tough one.”

Babcock told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that the rule goes something like this in practice:

“They said Millsy high-sticked it,” Babcock said. “Even if Millsy high-sticks it and then hits Heatley’s glove it’s still no goal. So, I mean, I have no issue with that. To me that had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.”

And because the Wings couldn't or wouldn't re-set themselves and and get down to point-earning business, Henrik Zetterberg told Pleiness that he's well aware of the fact that his team's playoff push just got a whole lot tougher, especially with a four-game road trip and a pair of games against the surging Ducks staring them in the face:

“We were a little bit on a roll after those two in western Canada,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We don’t have that many home games left and we want to make the most of them and unfortunately we weren’t able to do it. We have a long road trip coming up and we just have to start with our first game and then move on to the next one.

“That’s how the schedule is,” Zetterberg continued. “We had some stretches where we were home a lot and we’re paying for that.”

After the loss the Wings are seventh in the Western Conference with 33 points.

“It’s tough not to look (at the standings) because there is so much movement there every day,” Zetterberg said. “If we don’t play a game in two days you’re probably moving down on that list. You have to take advantage of the games you’re playing and get your point, if you don’t the train is leaving.”

That's the truth, and with two straight games against Anaheim staring the Wings in the face, they'd better get back on the winning train before it's too late.

Multimedia:

Highlights: Even the Red Wings' website's highlight clip can't spare us from Emrick, Olczyk and McGuire:

TSN posted a 2:02 highlight clip, and NBC Sports posted a 1:42 highlight clip.

Post-game: Via RedWingsFeed, if you really want to watch the NHL Network's game analysis or their interview with Mikko Koivu, enjoy;

The Wild's website posted clips of Niklas Backstrom, Devin Setoguchi and coach Mike Yeo speaking to the media;

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted a video of Henrik Zetterberg's post-game comments:

As did MLive's Brendan Savage...

And Drew Miller talked to Savage and Ansar Khan about the waved-off goal:

 

The Red Wings' website posted clips of Zetterberg...

Gustav Nyquist...

And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media:


Photos:

The Pioneer Press posted a 14-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 30-image gallery;

MLive posted a 28-image gallery;

The Windsor Star posted six big images from the game;

Yahoo Sports posted 11 images in its Wings gallery;

ESPN posted a 38-image gallery;

NHL.com, the Wild's website and the Wings' website posted 23-image galleries.

Statistics:

 

Shots 38-19 Detroit overall. Detroit out-shot Minnesota 19-5 in the 1st, were out-shot 12-8 in the 2nd and out-shot Minnesota 12-2 in the 3rd.

The Wild went 2-for-3 in 5:00 of PP time; the Wings went 1-for-5 in 8:11 of PP time.

Jimmy Howard stopped 14 of 19 shots; Niklas Backstrom stopped 36 of 38.

The 3 stars were picked by Subtle Interference himself, and they were Niklas Backstrom, Gustav Nyquist and Devin Setoguchi.

The Wings' goals: Nyquist (1), unassisted;

Miller (3) from Tootoo (3) and Emmerton (2), PPG.

Faceoffs 33-28 Minnesota (Detroit won 46%);

Blocked shots 9-7 Minnesota;

Missed shots 12-3 Detroit (total attempts 59-29 Detroit);

Hits 18-15 Detroit;

Giveaways 7-6 Minnesota;

Takeaways 11-3 Detroit.

Individual stats, TMR style:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 14-and-13 (52%); Emmerton went 8-and-8 (50%); Zetterberg went 4-and-8 (33%); Andersson went 2-and-4 (33%).

Shots: Zetterberg led the team with 5 shots; Kindl and Nyquist had 4; Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Filppula had 3; Tootoo and Franzen had 2; Cleary, White, Miller, Lashoff, Emmerton, Kronwall and Andersson had 1.

Blocked attempts: Kindl hit Wild players 2 times; Smith, Datsyuk, Nyquist, Tootoo, Lashoff, Brunner and Filppula had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Kindl, Datsyuk, White and Filppula missed the net 2 times; Miller, Tootoo, Filppula and Franzen missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Kindl, Miller and Franzen co-led the team with 3 hits; Lashoff and Ericsson had 2; Smith, Abdelkader, Cleary, Tootoo and Filppula had 1.

Giveaways: Kronwall had 2 giveaways; Kindl, Nyquist, Miller and Zetterberg had 1.

Takeaways: Nyquist had 3 takeaways; Tootoo had 2; Smith, Datsyuk, White, Brunner, Zetterberg and Franzen had 1.

Blocked opponent shots: Smith, Kindl, Abdelkader, White, Lashoff and Kronwall blocked 1 shot.

Penalties taken: Kronwall took a double minor; Kindl and Abdelkader took minor penalties.

Plus-minus: The team finished at a collective -5. Smith, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Lashoff, Brunner, Zetterberg, Filppula and Franzen finished at -1; Cleary, Nyquist and Andersson finished at +1.

Points: Nyquist and Miller scored goals; Tootoo had an assist.

Ice time: Kindl led the team with 22:16 played; Kronwall played 20:18; Smith played 19:08;

Zetterberg played 19:07; Filppula played 18:28; Datsyuk played 18:03;

Lashoff played 17:52; Franzen played 17:07; Brunner played 16:03;

Cleary played 15:20; Miller played 13:35; Nyquist played 12:24;

Emmerton played 12:17; Andersson played 12:00; Tootoo played 11:52.

 

Red Wings notebooks: This is a notebook, but the Windsor Star's Bob Duff penned quite the critique of the Red Wings' play while noting that the Wings, like everyone else, keep watching the daily fluctuations in the NHL standings, with some urgency and some concern:

It’s tough not to look because there is so much movement there every day,” [Henrik] Zetterberg said. “If we don’t play a game in two days, you’re probably moving down on that list. You have to take advantage of the games you’re playing and get your point, if you don’t the train is leaving.”

Those teams that don’t make their points will be left directly behind the eight-ball. It’s this daily changing of the guard that leaves most players on their guard. When it comes to standings watching, they are opting to stand down, and a large majority of NHLers believe this to be an appropriate choice.

“I think so,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. “We know where we’re at basically and if we keep winning, we’ll be fine.I think there’s too many games left to be looking at it every single day. That’s the way it’s going to be the rest of the year. You just play, rest and get ready for the next one.”

Wednesday, the Wings opted to switch off their urge to play defensively, and the opportunistic Wild pounced all over Detroit miscues to fashion an insurmountable advantage of 4-1 by the end of the second period.Often players are conditioned to worry about what’s within their grasp and forget about the rest, and that appears to be the philosophy many are embracing in this unpredictable shortened campaign.

“Just take care of what you control, and that’s what’s inside this locker-room,” [Dre] Miller said.

It’s a theory both sides can embrace.

“That’s all you can do,” Koivu said.

Too often Wednesday the Wings were out of control, and that presented the Wild with the opportunity to take further control of their own situation, putting a little more distance between them and the playoff danger zone.

In theory, Carlo Colaiacovo may be close to returning from the shoulder injury that's been plaguging him since the Wings' second game of the season, as MLive's Ansar Khan notes:

“It's been real frustrating, both mentally and physically, through this whole time, but I got to credit the training staff and the doctors, they've been real good and real patient with me,'' Colaiacovo said. “Even management and coaches, they've understood the difficulty I've been going through, understand that I've been working my rear off on and off the ice. I'm really doing everything I can to get this thing to where I need to be. I'm at that point now where it's really close and I'm hoping that these next coming days I can give it a real shot.''

Colaiacovo said it helped getting a second opinion 10 days ago from a doctor in Toronto that he has known for some time.

“He saw some things there that were of some concern,'' Colaiacovo said. “I've treated them. I've been getting myself to the point where I'm close to 100 percent. It's been a long time, but at this point there's no sense rushing it back. I need to make sure it's 100 percent ready when I get back there. The last thing I want to do is force myself out there and put myself in a vulnerable position.''

Colaiacovo's return would give the club eight healthy defensemen, including Kent Huskins, a healthy scratch the past 11 games. Kyle Quincey is the team's lone injured defenseman (fractured cheek bone, out four-to-six weeks). Colaiacovo said conditioning won't be an issue. He's close to where he wants to be.

“Obviously, being in game shape is totally different, the timing of everything,'' he said. “The speed of guys in practice is nowhere near the speed of guys in the game. But I'm confident in my abilities, that when I get out there the rust will settle pretty quickly and I'll be back to where I need to be.''

Colaiacovo told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that his injury has been particularly frustrating as it's one he's never dealt with before:

“This is a fairly new injury to me,” Colaiacovo said. “I never really had a shoulder issue like this. It’s amazing, especially in hockey, how much your shoulder has an impact in what you do, striding, contact, shooting, passing and stick-handling. Everything you do with the puck involves you moving your shoulder and using it and just talking to different guys who’ve had similar injuries, they said it takes a long time. Obviously, finding out what I found out put a clear picture in my mind of why I was feeling the way I was feeling.”

In terms of a different kind of frustration, I know that many Wings fans don't understand why the team hasn't been playing Gustav Nyquist on a regular basis. As Pleiness found out, Wings coach Mike Babcock simply doesn't believe--before tonight's game, anyway--that he'd done enough to steal someone else's job:

“He’s got some skill,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s obviously a real good player. He’s led everywhere he’s ever played in scoring. The problem with the NHL is you have to come up and grab hold of something. You know, we called (Joakim Andersson) up for a game and he’s still playing because he grabbed hold of something. That’s what Gus has to do.”

Andersson was recalled from Grand Rapids on Feb. 8 and has not left the lineup. Heading into Wednesday’s game, Nyquist, 23, has one assist, a minus-1 rating and seven shots on goal in four games in Detroit.

“We sent him to Peoria to play the game (Tuesday) night, gave him a six-hour bus ride and let him sleep for a bit,” Babcock said. “We’ll see how mentally tough he is. That’s all part of the training to be a Red Wing.”

Nyquist is leading the American Hockey League with 60 points (23 goals and 37 assists).

“So you get another opportunity,” Babcock said. “So if you’re Gus and you get in there and you do great things, guess what happens? I think Cal Ripken played shortstop for 22 straight years, or something like that, didn’t he?”

And while Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff had particularly difficult games on Wednesday night, but Smith's earned high praise for simplifying his game recently. As the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa suggests, that's the plan...

[W]hen coach Mike Babcock says, as he has with some frequency this season, "I think Smitty's been great," it is clear Smith has it going on.

"I think the first-thing first is to show that I can play that style as a good defenseman with the defense first," he said. "I mean, everyone knows I have offensive ability, and the biggest question was can I play at this level defensively and against the top lines, and I've shown that. It's the biggest thing for me and that is what I have to take from this, and be happy about."

So the fact that you may not notice Smith jumping into the rush and presenting himself as a defensive liability is by design:

What he did not do against the Wild was run around offensively, and he has done none of that this season. It's a big part of the Red Wings young defense gelling, since the owners' lockout delayed the start of the season. What continues to impress is Smith's skating. During any game, he is always one of the strongest skaters out there.

"I think it's being young and doing all of that power skating," he said. "Something I've really worked on is my skating, and something that's so evident in our game now is that speed is huge. It's something that I always worked on growing up and it became one of my strong suits, and I just keep working on it. Obviously, it does help me on the ice and I guess if I do sometimes get caught I can catch them or get back or be in the right position because of it."

That Smith is working out so well on the back end, after being sent down last season, is one of the essential ingredients for keeping the Red Wings in playoff position through the first 30 games.

The loss to the Wild came mostly because of some weak moments defensively for the Wings. But it was only the seventh time that they yielded four or more goals. That is a lot better than things looked at the start of the season.

"There was absolutely no panic, with this group," Smith said. "That 6-0 game with St. Louis was really frustrating, and we did notice that some of the media and the fans did get on us, saying our `D' wasn't good enough. But I think we were still trying to find our identity, and we found it. We're a strong club back there, defensively."

 

 

In the prospect department, in Finland, Teemu Pulkkinen didn't register a point but played 12:09 and had 3 shots in Jokerit Helsinki's 3-0 series-opening win over Lukko;

And in the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye received a goal from Willie Coetzee and a goal and an assist from Trevor Parkes (Gleason Fournier finished at +1 and Jordan Pearce didn't tend the net in this one) in a 3-0 win over Evansville. The Walleye's website provides a recap, and the Toledo Blade's Mark Monroe says that the Walleye's win may have clinched a playoff spot down the line:

Toledo (34-24-9) strengthened its hold on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Walleye moved seven points ahead of Kalamazoo for the last qualifying position as the Wings lost in a shootout to Wheeling on Wednesday. The teams play on Friday in Kalamazoo.

“Every game from here is playoffs,” Coetzee said. “All the guys know that. That’s why all of us are playing so hard.”

The Walleye are holding a game-used equipment auction on Saturday, March 23rd;

The QMJHL, OHL and WHL will begin playoff play this evening, and Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager offered previews of the OHL's Western Conerence playof series, including two involving Red Wings prospects...

(3) Owen Sound Attack (19-6-0-2, .741) vs. (6) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (15-8-1-2, .635)

Season series: Owen Sound 2-0-0-0, but both games were before Sheldon Keefe became the 'Hounds coach. Odds favour: Owen Sound 74%. Prediction: Owen Sound in 6.

Why the Attack should win: Sorry for the chalk pick. Owen Sound has the 19-year-old goalie of the year in Binnington while the Soo's Matt Murray and Justin Nichols both bring promise but zero playoff experience. Owen Sound yielded an OHL-low 160 goals while playing a demanding Midwest Division schedule, while some of the shine of the Soo's makeover came off toward the end of the season.

The rivalry between former 'Hounds first overall pick Daniel Catenacci, who had a team-high 79 points in Owen Sound's defensive system, vs. the Soo's 100-point man Nick Cousins is probably the main plot. The two undersized centres had an intense playoff showdown in their final year of minor hockey before their two years together in Northern Ontario. Catenacci, already anticipating to get a rough ride in the city he asked to be traded from, will be going up against one of the OHL's most antagonistic players.

The Soo has a lot going for it, especially with a premier offensive defenceman in Ryan Sproul. (Owen Sound has that covered, too, with Ottawa Senators first-rounder Cody Ceci.) The 'Hounds do have a proclivity to take penalties, though, and Catenacci and fellow forwards Cameron Brace and Gemel Smith have the motors that make referees' arms shoot skyward. That, along with the experience factor from the goal out, might tip this toward the boys from the Bayshore.

...

(1) London Knights (15-8-1-1, .640) vs. (8) Saginaw Spirit (13-10-1-1, .560)

Season series: London 3-1-0-0. Odds favour: London 83%. Prediction: London in 5.

Why the Knights should win: When the Detroit Red Wings selected Spirit goalie Jake Paterson at the last NHL draft in Pittsburgh, the highlights played on the videoboard were of Knights backup Jake Patterson. As Barney Stinson would say, true story.

One-T Jake's evaluation process to start for Canada at the 2014 world junior championship might as well begin this weekend at Budweiser Gardens, where the Knights will come in waves. Saginaw coach Greg Gilbert deserves a huzzah and a half for producing a record above .500 since Trocheck was traded. The Knights, though, can probably sic checkers such as the Ruperts on 97-point scorer Eric Locke and his mates, Garret Ross and draft prospect Jimmy Lodge. London is also deeper up front and at the back, while Philadelphia Flyers second-rounder Anthony Stolarz seems to have settled in as their starting goalie.

And here's his preview of the OHL's Eastern Conerence's playoff series:

(2) Barrie Colts (18-8-2-1, .672) vs. (7) Kingston Frontenacs (7-18-1-3, .310)

Season series: Barrie 3-1-0-0, with one shootout win. Odds favour: Barrie 89%. Prediction: Barrie in 5.

Why Barrie should win: Scheifele, Boston Bruins signee Anthony Camara, trickster Andreas Athanasiou and puck mover extraordinaire Ryan O'Connor take the league's best power play into a series vs. a team with the most porous penalty kill. The Colts sometimes seem slow to get into games where they are the on-paper favourite, but the fact four offensive players come to mind before you even get to leading point-getter Zach Hall (81 points in 63 games, ahead of Scheifele's 79 in 45) tells you they are lethal. Goalie Mathias Niederberger (2.34 average, .933 save pct. in 56 games) is not going to give games away, at least not this early in the playoffs.

Only six Frontenacs have any OHL playoff experience, none while wearing a black K on their chests. Coach Todd Gill's young Fronts played Barrie tough in all but one of their matchups. Their cadre of youngsters and first-year imports such as Sam Bennett, hard-working Henri (Hank) Ikonen, Roland McKeown, Sam Povorozniouk and Ryan Kujawinski have a rise-to-it opportunity. That might enable the Fronts to finagle a win on home ice.

(1) Belleville Bulls (22-4-2-1, .810) vs. (8) Mississauga Steelheads (7-18-1-3, .310)

Season series: Tied 2-2-0-0, with Belleville winning past two by shutout. Odds favour: Belleville 89%. Prediction: Belleville in 4.

Why Belleville should win: It's a near role reversal from 2011, when the Bellevillians were a scoring-starved outfit that scraped into the playoffs behind a 17-year-old goalie and Mississsauga was eyeing a championship. The then-Majors allowed only one goal during a four-game sweep.

For Belleville and Subban, he of the 2.14 average, .934 save percentage, five-shutout campaign, this series is probably all about sowing an attitude. The Bulls might have the tightest ship defensively of the three very tall midgets Eastern Conference heavyweights. Sometimes they get away from that and let the likes of drafted forwards Joseph Cramarossa, Brendan Gaunce, Tyler Graovac, Alan Quine and Daniil Zharkov, along with draft prospect Jordan Subban, indulge their inner freewheelers.

In terms of WHL playoff series, Yahoo Sports' Kelly Friesen has Richard Nedomlel's Swift Current Broncos covered...

(3) Calgary Hitmen (46-21-1-4, 97 points) vs. (6) Swift Current Broncos (36-29-3-4, 79 points)

Season series: Swift Current 3-1-0-0 Odds favour: Calgary 74 percent. Prediction: Calgary in 6.

Why Calgary should win: The Hitmen got a taste of the playoffs last year, falling to the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games in the first round. The second time around Calgary is no longer the team that is just happy to be there; they are now ready to make some noise.

The Hitmen’s offense is undoubtedly a step ahead of the Broncos, scoring 60 more goals this year. Calgary's leading goal-scorer Cody Sylvester only scored two more points (41 goals, 90 points) than Swift Current’s top-scorer Adam Lowry (45 goals, 88 points). But their next two scorers – Brooks Macek (32 goals, 80 points) and Brady Brassart (35 goals, 78 points) – outscored the Broncos’ next pair in line by 48 points. Not to mention, the Hitmen also have 2013 draft prospect Greg Chase, first overall 2011 bantam pick Jake Virtanen, and Carolina Hurricanes second-rounder Victor Rask.

In between the pipes, Ottawa Senators prospect Chris Driedger he been consistent throughout his third major junior season, posting a 2.51 average and a .915 save percentage.After a sophomore slump year, Coda Gordon needs to step up for the Broncos.

How Swift Current could win: Look no further than Eetu Laurikainen for a reason why the Broncos could pull of an upset. The Finland native stood on his head in his rookie season in the Dub, maintaining a 2.39 average and a .922 save percentage. Swift Current only won six games without the 19-year-old in their blue paint.

On the back end, 6-foot-5, 231-pound Richard Nedomlel and 6-foot-4, 196-pound Dillion Heatherington are vital to containing the Hitmen’s top scorers. They have been outstanding in Southern Saskatchewan this year, racking up a combined 11 goals, 55 points, and 185 penalty minutes.

And we head back to Sager for QMJHL playoff previews:

(6) Moncton Wildcats (42-23-2-1, .640) vs. (11) Victoriaville Tigres (32-27-3-6, .537). Odds favour: Moncton 73%. Most likely outcome: Moncton in 6.

The 'Cats were running seventh overall when they anted up for world junior forward Phillip Danault from Victo at the trade deadline, which propelled them all the way up to sixth. Moncton is going to have some input into who hoists the President's Cup, but it's fair to say that the skill that Danault, 99-point scorer Dmitrij Jaskin and twins Alex and Allain Saulnier furnish hasn't always been buttressed by being rough-and-tumble when that's required.

Maritime teams can also wilt with a 2-3-2 format. If the Tigres and Chicago Blackhawks-drafted goalie Brandon Whitney squeeze out a split in northern New Brunswick, the series could get awfully intriguing.

...

(3) Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (41-19-2-6, .662) vs. (14) Acadie-Bathurst Titan (26-35-5-2, .434). Odds favour: Blainville-Boisbriand 89%. Most likely outcome: Blainville-Boisbriand in 5.

Being the third seed instead of the second is not so bad for B-B. Defencemen Xavier Ouellet and Samuel Carrier and Co. face a skating team in Bathurst rather than Sherbrooke, which would just have to be a nuisance hard-working team. Overage Zach O'Brien (47 goals, 92 points) and fellow centre Michaël Beaudry (34 and 81) are a nice tandem, but the Armada can trap a team until it's bored to tears.

 

Also of Red Wings-related note: As the GM's meetings apply to the Wings, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reports that hybrid icing, grandfathered-in mandatory visor usage and tweaks to goalie equipment were recommended by the GM's, but none of that is binding, and the CBC's Tim Wharnsby noted that both USA Hockey and Hockey Canada (whose braintrust includes Ken Holland) will be meeting in Toronto tonight;

The Hockey News's Rory Boylen penned a list of 10 great #4's in honor of Bobby Orr's 65th birthday, and his third-best #4 may have had his number raised to the rafters of Joe Louis Arena had he not experienced so much success with his other team:

3. Red Kelly: One of the most versatile players in NHL history, Kelly was the inaugural Norris Trophy winner in 1954. A four-time winner of the Lady Byng, Kelly was traded from the Red Wings to the Rangers in 1960 after 12-plus years with the team. However, he refused to report and instead announced his retirement. Toronto coach Punch Imlach swooped in to acquire Kelly’s rights and was able to convince him to join up with the Maple Leafs – as a center. In his first full season with the team his left winger, Frank Mahovlich, set a new franchise record for goals with 48. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969, Kelly won eight Stanley Cups, which stands as the most by any player who never played for the Montreal Canadiens.

And finally, the "Miller Lite Red Wing for a Day" contest has advanced to the finalist voting round. I happen to know Stephen Brooks, though I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to offer an official endorsement.

Update: Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples got this quip from Gustav Nyquist regarding his goal...

“It was kind of a broken play on the blue line, got it behind the d-man and kind of skated around him and I was in all alone,” Nyquist said of his goal. “I tried to make a move, and fortunately it went in. It’s a tough loss, that’s what matters. You want to win. But of course, it’s nice to get a goal. I haven’t had too many in this league so far, so it’s always nice to get my confidence up a little bit.”

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

gt500x's avatar

I’m done making excuses and the Wings should be as well.  Get ‘er done or enjoy a long summer.

Posted by gt500x on 03/21/13 at 06:09 AM ET

Soupsnake's avatar

seems to be cut off at the end

Posted by Soupsnake from Canton, Mi on 03/21/13 at 06:23 AM ET

Avatar

I was super pissed about that high stick penalty. If the douche bag calling the game had bothered to watch the relay, it was obvious kronwall didn’t get him with the stick. I thought.

Posted by teldar on 03/21/13 at 07:55 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Shots on goal mean nothing. Wings have been outshooting teams…. forever. Wings should be a fast team given we’re a smallish team. This is not the case. I really want to be optimistic about the near future but I am not.  I need a drink…

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 03/21/13 at 08:13 AM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

trouble ahead…...this is going to be rough fellas

Posted by Rdwings28 on 03/21/13 at 08:26 AM ET

w2j2's avatar

Smith & Lashoff both looked bad.  The thing is, when you are using young players, they are going to make mistakes.  They will learn,  but it would be nice if they were paired with veterans who could bail them out.

On the play where Brodin drove the net & his rebound was put in by a teamate, he essentially grabbed Ericsson and held him to the side of the net, out of the play.

cool cheese

Posted by w2j2 on 03/21/13 at 08:58 AM ET

calquake's avatar

On the play where Brodin drove the net & his rebound was put in by a teamate, he essentially grabbed Ericsson and held him to the side of the net, out of the play.

cool cheese

Posted by w2j2 on 03/21/13 at 09:58 AM ET

Glad I wasn’t the only one who saw that.

Posted by calquake on 03/21/13 at 09:52 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Sorry about the cut-off. I ended up waiting for the Free Press to update for like an hour after I’d written everything, so by the time I added the Michigan Hockey story to the mix, I was bleary-eyed.

Lashoff and Smith were absolutely awful last night. It does happen, and they had company, but they made a crapton of mistakes that led to goals.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/21/13 at 10:44 AM ET

OnlyWings's avatar

Seriously, I think the Wings should just relax today, go to the beach, whatever..Friday just a light skate.

Whatever they did during the 3 day break certainly didn’t help. Mentally fatigued maybe??

Aside from the 2 Nucks games this team continues to dribble along offensively at a 2 goals per game pace. Might not be enough to make the playoffs, IMO

No one seems to want to or can be a in the goalie’s face presence.  I know Bert is hurt but if the goalie sees it, it is usually 1 and done.

I wonder if there are stats in the NHL for attempted and missed shots for each team in the season.  Wings have to be at or near the top.

Wings will need their best games against the Ducks and that might not be enough.

Posted by OnlyWings on 03/21/13 at 11:31 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

  On the play where Brodin drove the net & his rebound was put in by a teamate, he essentially grabbed Ericsson and held him to the side of the net, out of the play.

  cool cheese

  Posted by w2j2 on 03/21/13 at 09:58 AM ET

Glad I wasn’t the only one who saw that.

According to Pierre McGuire, that goal was entirely Datsyuk’s fault for..um…skating hard, catching up to the odd-man rush and covering his man and not allowing him a decent rebound shot…and then..um..I guess not magically appearing in front of Koivu as he took that shot?  Oh well, if Pierre “I’ve named all my pets Eddie” McGuire says so, it must be true.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 03/21/13 at 12:58 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.