Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Wild wrap-up and overnight report: Wings slowly finding their footing?

Grumpliy updated 2x at 9:53 AM: If you only watched the Minnesota Wild out-shoot the Red Wings 11-6 in the first period of what turned out to be an ugly but livable-withable 5-3 Red Wings victory, or watched the Wings take two of their eight(!) penalties within the first ten minutes of said first period, you would have been forgiven for assuming that the Wings were on their way to yet another predictable 2013 season defeat--in which they were out-shot, out-chanced, out-penalized and plain old out-played.

That had indeed been the case over the course of the team's first three games, with a team that didn't look anything like itself registering exactly one shootout win while chasing the puck and chasing play. But somewhere during Friday night's game, a Wings team strengthened by the returns of Darren Helm (back) and Todd Bertuzzi (flu) seemed to straighten up and fly right when it remembered a Red Wings axiom: regardless of the personnel that the team may or may not have in its lineup, when the Detroit Red Wings possess the puck and skate up the ice with speed, they dictate the pace of play, and tend to out-score their opponents.

Nick Lidstrom or no Nick Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom or no Tomas Holmstrom, and Brad Stuart and Jiri Hudler or neither, the 2013 version of the Detroit Red Wings does possess excellent goaltending, a puck-moving defense (even with Brian Lashoff as the team's #2 guy) and forwards capable of working magic...

And perhaps the best news coming out of Friday night's game, aside from the whole "getting two points" and "possibly slowly but surely finding their identities" storylines, anyway, is that the Wings' unwillingness to break while they were penalized six times over the game's first 25 minutes pissed the Wild off to no end, as they told the Star-Tribune's Michael Russo:

"I don't want to overreact because there are a lot of positives I saw in the game," coach Mike Yeo said. "It's frustrating the fact we lost that game. But at the same time ... I bet you through 30 minutes in the game, there's not too many times you've seen the Minnesota Wild look like that [in Detroit]."

The Wild has won only three times in regulation in 23 all-time games at the Joe, but it wasted chances throughout the first period despite controlling play.

After that scoreless period, the second began with Damien Brunner and Bertuzzi scoring twice on two shots in the first 55 seconds.

The Wild responded with two goals in a 3:40 span by the 6:29 mark to tie it -- Parise scoring on a 5-on-3 off Ryan Suter's pass, then Gilbert whizzing his first goal of the season off a beautiful pass by Mikael Granlund. Jonas Brodin, looking solid in his NHL debut, also got his first career point on the tally.

The Wild clamped down defensively and actually held the Red Wings without a shot for nine minutes after Detroit's quick strikes. But again, it couldn't take advantage.

"I thought we were right there with them," Parise said. "By no means did they blow us out of the water there. We had our chances. We had our chances to take the lead and just couldn't follow through with it."

That was the Wild's operating theory, as they also told the Pioneer Press's Bruce Brothers:

"It's funny," said Yeo, who was not smiling. "You're in control of the game, and it can just slip away like that."

Credit the Wings. Todd Bertuzzi scored two goals, Zetterberg collected a goal and an assist and Datsyuk scored a goal and set up two for the Red Wings, much to the pleasure of an announced turnout of 20,066. The Red Wings are missing Niklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom, but this is a team that still remembers how to find the net.

"They're still the Red Wings," said Wild winger Zach Parise, who scored two goals. "They have some fantastic players, and they play the right way. They play a puck possession
game."

...

Defenseman Tom Gilbert, who scored Minnesota's other goal, said the Red Wings have an uncanny knack for moving the puck side to side rather than always directly down the ice, and they know how to make it work. Datsyuk, for example, ripped a cross-ice pass to Zetterberg 12:56 into the second period and Zetterberg banked in a shot off backchecking Mikael Granlund to put Detroit ahead 3-2. After Datsyuk's power-play goal, he set up Bertuzzi for a third-period back-door tap-in to make it 5-2.

"That's the way they play," Gilbert said. "They play a pretty creative game. It's tough to play against a team that moves the puck east-west."

...

"We did give ourselves a lot of opportunities on the power play," Gilbert said. "We moved the puck pretty well; that's what you're looking for -- some momentum. We threw lots of pucks at the net. It was definitely a positive thing."

As Brothers notes (and you can read his "quick take" here), Gilbert's goal did come just after a penalty expired, so the Wild technically went 3-for-8 on the power play, but the Wings went 2-for-5, and Detroit's power play delivered what might have been the decisive 4-2 goal, scored by Pavel Datsyuk.

The Pioneer Press's Russo--who despises the crappy wifi at the Joe, and, well, the Joe itself--suggested that the Wild felt that the 4-2 goal shouldn't have counted, either:

Speaking of too cute, the game unraveled with the game tied at 2. With the Wild on a power play, Devin Setoguchi lost the puck on a breakaway. The Wild got the puck back, worked it down low to Matt Cullen and Cullen tried an attempted behind the back pass across the goalmouth for Setoguchi that Brendan Smith picked off.

I asked Cullen about the play. He did take exception to me describing it as too fancy, saying, “It’s a set play on the power play. The D made a good read and backed off and caught the puck. I mean, it’s goalmouth. I don’t think that that’s overly fancy.”

After the turnover, Setoguchi got away with a penalty. After the refs failed to call basically their first penalty of the night in this penalty-infested game, Setoguchi seemed to just idle up the ice. He never picked up anybody on the backcheck, and suddenly, there were just breakdowns all over the ice, nobody picked up Henrik Zetterberg and he scored when Josh Harding lost his net and Mikael Granlund showed that goaltending is not his first position.

That made it 3-2. Still, the Wild had a chance again to tie it, but Cal Clutterbuck’s one-timer was blocked and then Kyle Brodziak couldn’t convert. A Koivu penalty later, Pavel Datsyuk scored when Ryan Suter didn’t move Johan Franzen out of the crease and Harding was screened.

Yeo was upset because he felt the goal shouldn’t have been allowed because Franzen was a foot in the crease.

Maybe he isn't doing such a terrible job of filling Tomas Holmstrom's skates after all, and as the AP's Larry Lage notes, Josh Harding didn't have a great night, but couldn't be blamed on the pucks that got past him...

Minnesota's Josh Harding gave up four goals on 17 shots in the first two periods and finished with 22 saves.

"You're looking at the goals, which one could you fault him on?" Wild coach Mike Yeo asked. "There are times the puck goes in the net and there's nothing you can do."

After the Wild tied things up...

Zetterberg's first goal of the season gave the Red Wings the lead back, and Datsyuk restored their two-goal advantage. The two stars will have to carry a rebuilding team this season that is trying to compete without seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom and net-front specialist Tomas Holmstrom, both of whom retired. Voids were also created when defenseman Brad Stuart was traded to San Jose, a team he would have likely signed with if he wasn't dealt. Forward Jiri Hudler left to sign with Calgary.

"That's still an elite team, especially when you give them space with the puck," Harding said. "They've got a lot of guys who can score when they get a chance."

And then there was what I suppose we must call a "supertext" as opposed to a subtext, and it's here that we'll pivot from the perspectives of the Wild to those of the Red Wings: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter--the latter of whom Russo noted played over 32 minutes--did indeed spurn the Wings last summer, they did indeed come to Joe Louis Arena, and they were indeed booed every time they touched the puck. Parise described the Wings as follows to Lage...

"They're just a great organization. I have a lot of respect for them," Parise said. "They do things the right way. They play the game the right way. That was a tough one, because it's a really good place to play."

But both the Windsor Star's Bob Duff (via Twitter only?) and Fox Sports' Dana Wakiji (via Twitter and in story form) noted that the $190 million men dented the scoresheet, but also received a hearty booing...

Suter had an assist and Parise had two goals, but it was the Wings who got the win, 5-3, to improve to 2-2-0. Players and coaches don't worry about that kind of thing because the nature of their business calls for them to live in the moment.

"I didn't start the rumors about coming here, so I can't do anything about that," Parise said. "Getting booed? I didn't really even notice. That happens in this league. Oh well."

Wings coach Mike Babcock noticed but professed not to care.

"I didn't pay any attention to that," Babcock said. "I just know when Toots (Jordin Tootoo) is out there running over people and Helmer (Darren Helm), they're cheering like crazy. I like hearing that."

Instead, Wings fans wer chanting the name of two goal-scorer "Todd Ber-too-zee," as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness notes:

“I felt good,” said Bertuzzi, who was diagnosed with mono in training camp before learning it was just a bad case of the flu that kept him sidelined. “The first couple of shifts were a whirlwind. Everyone was flying around me pretty quick. It took a little bit to get adjusted. In the end I felt a lot better.”

Damien Brunner, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk also scored, while Jimmy Howard made 23 saves for the win.

...

“It looks like we play on his line,” said Datsyuk, who also collected two assists while skating on a line with Bertuzzi and Valtteri Filppula. “He’s the oldest guy on our line and he controlled everything. He played well.”

Bertuzzi has five career hat tricks.

“I love playing with Pav, obviously,” Bertuzzi said. “I’m very lucky at this age to be playing with a world-class player like that. I enjoy it and I relish it, and I think I do help him a little bit with some room and kind of getting the puck to him as much as possible; and going to the net and all of that. But the pass that he made to Z was – I’ve seen it before last year – and only he could pull that off.”

Two of the Wings’ goals came on the power play, off of five chances. They didn’t score with the man advantage through the first three games of the season, going 0-for-15.

“We just tried to keep at it, keep it simple, get some pucks on the net,” Zetterberg said. “The first one, Brunner came flying on the wing, made a good shot. Pav made a good shot after that.”

Keeping it simple is a good theory for the Wings to operate upon, and Bertuzzi ran with it, as he told MLive's Brendan Savage:

"I was just trying to keep it simple and get the puck to Pav and Fil," said Bertuzzi, 37. "They both played very good tonight – PK, PP and even strength. We had some good looks and chances and all that. We were creating and that's all you can ask for as an offensive line. I love playing with Pav, obviously. I'm very lucky at this age to be playing with a world-class player like that. I enjoy it and I relish it, and I think I do help him a little bit with some room and kind of getting the puck to him as much as possible; and going to the net and all of that."

Bertuzzi gave Detroit a 2-0 lead in the first minute of the second period just 42 seconds after Damien Brunner had opened the scoring for the Red Wings. He redirected a shot in front of goaltender Josh Harding at the 55-second mark.

Bertuzzi struck again 4:18 into the third when he took a pretty pass from Datsyuk during a 2-on-1 and tapped the puck into the open side of the net.

"Fil started the play, a great play to Pav and Pav didn't have a lot of room," Bertuzzi said. "I saw what he was trying to do, and it was a tiny bit of room to get it over to me. It was a great play and nice to go in."

Datsyuk's goal was one of two the Red Wings scored on the power play after they failed to score the first 17 times they had a manpower advantage this season. Brunner bagged the other power-play goal. Seeing the power play finally click was a relief for the Red Wings.

"It would be very deflating if you go 0-for-4, 0-for-5 or 0-for-6 day after day after day," Bertuzzi said. "I thought that first unit really stepped up and took over the game with that. We got those much-needed power-play goals we knew we could get. I think our power play kind of got us going and it's a momentum-builder and it's also a drainer when it's not going, so I thought the first unit did a really nice job of getting it going."

The Wings were not particularly thrilled with the continued inconsistent standard of officiating at present, but they were very happy that Bertuzzi and Darren Helm played so very well, as the Free Press's Helene St. James notes (though she also points out that Niklas Kronwall and Valtteri Filppula registered 2 and 3 assists, respectively):

"They're two guys that play real big and they're heavy," Mike Babcock said. "Helm is always a factor, and then Bert was real solid tonight. You put Helmer in this lineup and you get him in game-shape here in two weeks, our forwards will be as deep as anybody's, and then we'll just have to continue to develop the back end."

The offense doubled the total accumulated through three games as the Wings improved to 2-2 and won for the first time at home.

"We had little bit tough start," Datsyuk said. "Now it looks like little bit better, but it's one game. We need to be consistent."

Fans greeted Ryan Suter and Zach Parise with loud booing at the start, clearly not over how both - especially Suter - withstood the Wings' wooing of the two biggest unrestricted free agents last summer. Once the Wings had a 3-goal lead, fans started cheering "Todd Ber-tuzzi," and finished with a standing ovation.

"Fans today more happy, more help us," Datsyuk said.

That wasn't the case early, not after the Wings had just two shots halfway through the first period and especially not after they squandered a 90-second two-man advantage.

"We got better as the game went on, and our penalty killing was outstanding in the first period, and Howie was a huge part of that," Babcock said. "We ended up getting a power play goal of our own, and especially after we were so bad on the 5-on-3, it was great. Broke the seal and hopefully we can get playing better and better from here."

Given that the Wings played without Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder), Jonathan Ericsson (shoulder) and got a so-so performance from Jakub Kindl (groin) in his return, essentially have Brian Lashoff playing as their #2 defenseman and have found remarkable stability in Kent "Laser Beam" Huskins' play (Real Genius fans should get the nickname), Howard's ability to find himself more stable in the net after a couple games' worth of fantastic performances marred by getting caught swimming in his crease, well...When your starting goalie plays like a franchise goalie, he gives the team the ability to rebound from messy starts.

Here's more from St. James...

Bertuzzi on his second goal: "Fil made a great play to Pav and then Pav didn't have a lot of room, I saw what he was trying to do and there was a tiny bit of room to get it over to me. It was a great play."

• Datsyuk on the power play: "Brunner score, that was key. Now we break open."

• Mike Babcock on the game: "Howie was good early and I thought we struggled with the puck early in the game to get going. Then we got better and better. Our penalty killing was outstanding."

And here are some observations from MLive's Ansar Khan...

--The Red Wings' power play finally came to life, converting twice in the second period after starting the season 0-for-17. All they needed to do was shoot the puck more.

--Brunner continues to make a smooth transition to the NHL. He has scored a goal in each of the past two games, after notching the shootout winner Monday in Columbus.

--Howard made several big stops in the first period to keep the game scoreless, particularly during three Minnesota power plays.

...

--We asked whether the Red Wings are better off playing Datsyuk and Zetterberg on separate lines at even strength. Clearly, that is the way to go because it strengthens the second line. Filppula is more comfortable on the wing and doesn't have to carry a line.

The previous quips serve as something of a bridge because a certain Damien Brunner hasn't slowed down a bit, and while my German is pretty decent, I am starting to believe that "Brunner" (Ken Daniels said that Brunner very quietly admitted that it's "BROOner" recently) is in fact Swiss-German for "Fearless." He scored an absolutely gorgeous goal 13 seconds into the second period, and that really did seem to break the power play dam, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose notes:

“He’s got Brett Hull-ish kind of release and quickness with his shot,” Bertuzzi said, referring to Damien Brunner, the Red Wings’ rookie forward. “Now it’s just getting adjusted to our game over here. The rinks are a little bit smaller and all of that, he’ll find his spots, but that was a very big goal.”

...

It was Brunner’s quickness that revved up the Wings’ anemic power play 13-seconds into the second period. With Henrik Zetterberg charging through the middle of the neutral zone, Brunner wheeled down the right wing, blasting past Wild center Kyle Brodziak and across the blue line where he took a perfect pass in stride from the Wings’ captain.

“That was perfect,” Brunner said, of the pass. “I finally got some speed going. I went underneath Kronner. He knows that I'm coming there and it was perfect. He beat the defenseman with the pass so it was perfect pass.”

Then, without skipping a beat, Brunner ripped a wrister to the opposite corner over the catching glove of Wild goalie Josh Harding that gave the Wings a 1-0 lead. It was Brunner’s second career goal.

“Today he got a huge goal and got us going,” said Zetterberg, who played with Brunner in Switzerland during the NHL lockout. “I think it’s good to have some chemistry, but that was a different league, a different ice surface. It will take a little time to adjust here, but hopefully we can keep playing like we did tonight.”

We'll conclude with some quips from Wings players via the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, who wisely points out that the Wings fully believe that they've accomplished very little other than securing their first regulation win...

"We just needed a win, we need wins," said Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi, who scored two goals in his season debut. "I don't think it was anything more than that. Our power play got us going, it was a momentum builder."

And while the Wings are almost as banged-up in front (see: Jan Mursak's shoulder and Mikael Samuelsson's groin) and in the net (Jonas Gustavsson's groin and Joey MacDonald's back) as they are on defense, there is apparently something to be said for spreading one's Datsyuk and Zetterberg around.

As such, Zetterberg wasn't complaining about being split from his Eurotwin pal to skate with Brunner and Franzen while Datsyuk allowed both Bertuzzi and Valtteri Filppula to roam on the wing:

"We got about 2-1/2 this year, it was a good run," Zetterberg said. "We enjoy playing with each other but the lines (Friday) worked well. Me, Mule and Brunner had good chemistry and so did (Datsyuk's line)."

So far, so good. Now things get a lot tougher, because the Blackhawks, Sunday night's opponent (also a FSD Plus game) are 4-and-0 going into their Saturday night affair against Columbus.

Multimedia:

Highlights: The Wings' website posted Fox Sports Detroit-narrated highlights:

 

Post-game: If you really want to listen to the Wild's "Pondcast" recap of the team's loss in Flash player format, by all means, go ahead and enjoy the 23-minute clip;

As noted in the quick take, Damien Brunner spoke to the NHL Network after the game...

The Wings' website also posted post-game clips of Pavel Datsyuk...

 

Brunner...

 

 

And Wings coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media:

 

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted a snippet of Mike Babcock's post-game presser and an interview with Josh Harding, and MLive's Brendan Savage posted a snippet of Babcock's presser and Todd Bertuzzi's post-game comments:

 

 

 

Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 24-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 21-image gallery;

MLive posted galleries from the first, second and third periods, and a 34-image assembled gallery;

The Star-Tribune posted an AP gallery;

Yahoo Sports' Wings gallery includes a selection of photos from the game;

ESPN posted a 55-image gallery;

The Windsor Star posted a quartet of images from the game, and Fox Sports North posted a quintet of images;

97.1 the Ticket's recap includes a wallpaper-sized photo of Pavel Datsyuk;

NHL.com posted a 45-image gallery (embedded in its website's recap), as did the Wild's website and the Wings' website, and you can view Dave Reginek's photos on the Wings' Facebook page as well.

Stats:

Shots 27-26 Detroit overall. The Wings were out-shot 11-6 in the 1st, out-shot Minnesota 11-10 in the 2nd and out-shot Minnesota 10-5 in the 3rd.

The Wings went 2-for-5 in 6:02 of PP time; the Wild went 1-for-8 n 14:04 of PP time, including 1-for-1 in 1:24 of 5 on 3 time.

Jimmy Howard stopped 23 of 26 shots; Josh Harding stopped 22 of 27.

The three stars, per the Windsor Star's Bob Duff, were Zach Parise (3), Todd Bertuzzi (2) and Pavel Datsyuk (1).

The Wings' goals: Brunner (2) from Zetterberg (3) and Kronwall (3), PPG;

Bertuzzi (1) from Filppula (1) and Smith (1);

Zetterberg (1) from Datsyuk (3) and Filppula (2);

Datsyuk (2) from Kronwall (4) and Franzen (2), PPG;

Bertuzzi (2) from Datsyuk (4) and Filppula (3).

Faceoffs 35-33 Detroit (Detroit won 51%);

Blocked shots 24-5 Detroit;

Missed shots 12-10 Detroit (total attempts 60-44 Minnesota);

Hits 21-5 Detroit;

Giveaways an ugly 12-6 Detroit;

Takeaways 6-6.

Individual stats, TMR style:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 14-and-9 (61%); Zetterberg went 9-and-6 (60%); Helm went 6-and-8 (43%); Emmerton went 1-and-5 (17%); Filppula went 1-and-3 (25%); Abdelkader went 1-and-2 (33%); C;eary, Brunner and Franzen won single faceoffs.

Blocked opponent shots: Huskins blocked 7 Wild shots; Quincey blocked 4; Smith and Kronwall blocked 3; Kindl and Lashoff blocked 2; Cleary, Datsyuk and Emmerton blocked 1.

Shots: Bertuzzi and Zetterberg led the team with 5 shots; Datsyuk took 4; Brunner and Franzen took 3; Smith and Cleary took 2; Lashoff, Helm and Filppula took 1.

Missed attempts: Franzen missed the net 4 times; Zetterberg and Helm missed the net 2 times; Tootoo, Quincey, Bertuzzi and Kronwall missed the net 1 time.

Blocked attempts: Cleary, Tootoo, Quincey, Helm and Bertuzzi had 1 shot attempt blocked.

Hits: Helm led the team with 4 hits; Tootoo and Lashoff had 3; Smith and Kindl had 2; Abdelkader, Cleary, Emmerton, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Kronwall and Franzen had 1.

Giveaways: Kindl had 4 giveaways; Smith and Datsyuk had 2; Miller, Quincey, Helm and Franzen had 1.

Takeaways: Filppula and Franzen had 2 takeaways; Quincey and Helm had 1.

Penalty minutes: Abdelkader took a major for fighting; Cleary and Kronwall took 2 minors; Kindl, Datsyuk, Lashoff and Helm took 1 minor penalty.

Plus-minus: Lashoff and Kronwall finished at -2; Abdelkader, Miller, Brunner and Franzen finished at -1; Quincey and Bertuzzi finished at +2; Smith, Datsyuk and Filppula finished at +3. The Wings finished at a collective +5.

Points: Filppula had 3 assists; Datsyuk had a goal and 2 assists for 3 points; Bertuzzi had 2 goals; Zetterberg had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Brunner had a goal; Smith and Franzen had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall played 24:28; Zetterberg played 20:49; Quincey played 20:44;

Huskins played 19:31; Franzen played 18:52; Lashoff played 18:36;

Datsyuk played 18:22; Smith played 18:08; Filppula played 16:27;

Kindl played 16:17; Cleary played 15:51; Bertuzzi played 15:07;

Brunner played 14:24; Helm played 12:27; Miller played 11:57;

Abdelkader played 10:46; Emmerton played 5:52; Tootoo played 5:51.

 

Part II: Red Wings notebooks:

First, it isn't about the Wings, but I'd highly suggest that you give the Windsor Star's Bob Duff's interview with Wild goalie Josh Harding, who has MS, a read;

Amongst the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's notes:

Forward Darren Helm , who suffered a strained back just before camp and missed the start to this season, finally got on the ice Friday against the Wild.

"I've been waiting for a long time to get the go-ahead," said Helm, who played 12 minutes 27 seconds in the 5-3 victory, supplying a team-high four hits.

"Helm's always a factor," coach Mike Babcock said.

Helm missed the last 10 games of last season because of a sprained knee before returning for the playoffs. But in Game 1 against the Predators, he lacerated tendons in his forearm. His bad luck continued during the lockout when he took a deflected puck off a stick during an informal workout and suffered a broken orbital bone.

"I've been playing a lot of hockey over the last 5-7 years and it's been real weird to have this kind of break," Helm said. "A couple of fluky plays that just happened, accidents in the game of hockey, you just get over it."

...

… Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (hip) took part in the morning skate and hopes to play Sunday in Chicago.

And from the Free Press's Helene St. James:

• Ian White estimates he can skate in one week and hopes to return in two weeks after needing surgery to reattach muscles when he was cut above his left knee cap Tuesday. "It's disappointing, so early in the season, just when you kind of start getting your legs under you and you have a setback," White said. "but it feels pretty good. I can see it being closer to two than three."

...

Bertuzzi and Helm pushed the Red Wings past Minnesota, 5-3, at Joe Louis Arena, returning after missing the first three games of the season.

"Both are big parts," Damien Brunner said. "Helm is such a great skater and the PK obviously got better right away when he jumped in, and Bert had two big goals. It was big for us."

Bertuzzi deflected a puck on his first goal and one-timed a pass from Pavel Datsyuk on the second, a stark contrast to where he found himself a week ago, when he was told he had mononucleosis. Two days later, the diagnosis was declared a miss, and Bertuzzi - who did have flu and a pulled groin - spent the rest of the week getting his legs back.

"| really missed playing, being with the guys, coming down to the rink, being in the room," Bertuzzi said. "I was actually a little bit nervous today. Seem like it'd been a while since I'd played. It was fun to get the first shift over and then get a big win."

Bertuzzi called his first goal straight out of Tomas Holmstrom's playbook, saying, "it was one of those that Homer would love. Just go to the net, turn, take it off the leg."

And I don't know if I agree with this assessment of the state of the Wings' defense, given by the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa:

Lidstrom was so deft, we hardly noticed; and other units of five skaters benefited because the second and third defensive pairings saw it done, continuously. The fact that Brian Rafalski, a fine offensive defenseman and terrific playmaker, retired the season before Lidstrom only makes the lack of offensive performance on the back end all the more apparent.

That is why Niklas Kronwall's best offensive season last year was so encouraging, and why the passing and scoring talents of White and Kyle Quincey are essential to success of the Red Wings.

As for [Brendan] Smith? His offensive abilities are vaunted. But not all 23-year-old defensemen play offensively like the 23-year-old Lidstrom, when he tallied 10 goals and 46 assists, in 1993-94.

In truth, the Red Wings have no one capable of approaching Lidstrom's offensive performance, season-after-season. And it is shows.

"It's more of a grind type of game," Babcock said, adding that it is something to which Red Wings fans are not accustomed, but something of which they are likely to see much more. "We'll just have to continue to develop the back end."

After the big win, Kronwall was not yet satisfied with the defense, offensively. He said they were better "on-and-off" than in previous games. But his snappy, precise outlet pass to Zetterberg, who advanced it to Damien Brunner got the Wings going Friday. And the Wild had a tough time stopping them.

In foreign-language news, Henrik Zetterberg was asked to praise Wild rookie Jonas Brodin by Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman, which he did, but he also suggested that while his line played well, it's their job to play a lot and to score--which is good to hear...

Blick.ch is just delighted that Damien Brunner scored again;

And this is a bit of a shocker: According to Aftonbladet's Nils-Peter Dufva, Wings scout Hakan Andersson, who's now a part of the Frolunda Indians' board of directors, suggested that Dick Axelsson has stank on ice and in the gym, which Axelsson didn't like hearing!

In the prospect department, for space's sake, I'm gonna have to truncate the time I'm going to give to the Griffins.

The AHL's All-Star Break begins today, with the skills competition taking place Sunday in Providence, Rhode Island--with Petr Mrazek, Gustav Nyquist (who will be immortalized in bobblehead form next Saturday) and Chad Billins to take part--and for the first time in ages, Fox Sports Detroit will neither air the skills competition or the AHL ASG itself, which takes place on Monday at 7 PM. The AHL's website will stream the game, however, and you can check out the AHL's Skills Comp and ASG TV providers list here...

But Friday was not good to the Griffins. They dropped a 1-0 decision to the Houston Aeros--as recapped by the Griffins' website (photo gallery and video highlights/interviews included)--opening a home-and-still-at-home slate against Houston with both a loss on the scoreboard and a loss in the injury department, as noted by the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner:

The Griffins, who lost Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff to the Red Wings, were without Max Nicastro on Friday for a second game with a leg injury, and earlier in the day signed Mark Mitera a former first-round pick of Anaheim in 2006. He played six games earlier this season with Reading of the ECHL.

All the shuffling didn’t bother the blue liners against Houston, but the offense didn’t reciprocate as the Aeros wiggled in a late second-period goal for a 1-0 win before a sellout crowd of 10,834 at Van Andel Arena.

...

“We lost some good players with Smitty and Lashoff up there now, but as a defense we’ve (got) to stay focused,” said Chad Billins, who with fellow defenseman Brennan Evans has played in all 41 games. “… It’s been a transition, but I think we’ve been able to handle it.”

With the growing number of injuries and player movement to NHL following the late start to the season, success in the AHL will come to those who can adjust quickly to changes, said Griffins coach Jeff Blashill.

“I think this is the way it’s going to be the rest of the way,” he said, “so we better not have too much of an adjustment period. We better be able to take the 20 guys that dress and go win a hockey game.”

For some reason, Louis-Marc Aubry was suspended for six games for leaving the bench in last weekend's Griffins-IceHogs brawl, with Triston Grant serving one game.

In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye dropped a 3-1 decision to the Kalamazoo K-Wings, though Trevor Parkes scored the Walleye's goal and Andrej Nestrasil registered an assist on said goal. The Walleye's website provides highlights, and the Toledo Blade's Rachel Lenzi provides a recap;

In the QMJHL, Martin Frk had a goal and an assist in the Halifax Mooseheads' 7-1 victory over Sherbrooke, and Phillipe Hudon had a goal and an assist in Victoriaville's 4-3 win over Shawinigan;

In the OHL, Ryan Sproul had an assist in the Soo Greyhounds' 3-2 shootout loss to Windsor;

In the WCHA, Ben Marshall was scoreless in Minnesota's 2-1 loss to Minnesota State, and Nick Jensen didn't register a point in Saint Cloud State's 3-1 win over North Dakota;

And in the USHL, Mike McKee got in a fight and took a minor penalty in the Lincoln Stars' 3-2 win over Sioux City.

And finally...Given what happened on Friday night, you might find Mike Babcock's short interview with WBBL's Bill "Huge" Simonson telling:

 
Update: I forgot that the Griffins are getting their latest issue of "Griffiti" together, and it includes video interviews with Jeff Blashill...
 

And Adam Almqvist:
 

 

One last thing as I may have to move two cars in the morning thanks to overenthusiastic snowplow crews prowling my condo complex's parking lot: wise words from Craig Custance, via his ESPN Insider blog:

Do you see Ken Holland making any significant moves for a top D man soon? PK Subban?
Scott Relox, The D

Yeah, it has been a rough go so far for the Red Wings. Just on defense, they've seen injuries to Ian White, Jakub Kindl, Carlo Colaiacovo and Jonathan Ericsson. Brian Lashoff and Kent Huskins are getting regular playing time, and we've seen the ice time jump for Brendan Smith. As if it wasn't bad enough to lose Nicklas Lidstrom and miss out on Ryan Suter, injuries are even more salt in the wound for Detroit. Holland will aggressively try to fix holes on his team, but like any good GM, he'll tell you that it doesn't make a lot of sense to make a trade out of desperation or during rough stretches like this. As Brian Burke used to say, these are the times when opposing general managers offer you anchors while your ship is sinking.

Toward the trade deadline, methinks. And no, P.K. Subban is not in the cards.

Update: The God-damned plows did indeed come. I had to move the cars to the end of the block so that the snowplow dude could push around 1.5 inches of slush.

Anyway, MLive's Ansar Khan's notebook didn't hit the wires until 6 AM, and RedWingsFeed snagged it, so while I am bleary-eyed and grumpy, here's Khan on the annual "Spllitting of the Eurotwins Up" ritual, which seems to be necessary given that the Wings are a team very heavy on bottom-six forwards, and possess a second-line center in Valtteri Filppula who I believe had been taught that a center's responsibilities involve playing well defensively, first, foremost and always, given his remarkable offensive prowess which he displays only when shifted to the wing...

Datsyuk had a goal and two assists. Todd Bertuzzi, making his season debut after recovering from a bad case of the flu, scored two goals. Valtteri Filppula had three assists.

Zetterberg, centering another line, scored a goal and set up Damien Brunner's power-play goal. Their linemate, Johan Franzen, chipped in with an assist.

“I think the lines today worked well,'' Zetterberg said. “Me, Mule and Brunner had some good chemistry, same thing with Fil, Pav and Bert. But we played better as a team, did a lot of things right, and special teams was a big key.''

The Red Wings scored twice on the power play during a four-goal second-period outburst. They had gone 0-for-17 on the man-advantage. Meanwhile, Detroit killed seven-of-eight Wild power plays, allowing only a five-on-three goal to Zach Parise, who also scored at even strength.

“We just tried to keep at it, keep it simple, get some pucks on the net,'' Zetterberg said of the power play. “Next time you go in, you have a little more confidence to make the right plays. We know we're going to get our chances on the power play. We just have to take advantage.''

Pavel Datsyuk felt that it was Damien Brunner's 1-0 goal that got the Wings rolling...

Said Datsyuk: “Brunner scored, that’s the key, that’s the break we needed. It was one game, we have to do that every game, be more consistent and see what happens.''

But Khan points out that the Wings wouldn't have earned their break had it not been for Jimmy Howard, who held the Wings in the game for the first 20 minutes, and continued to serve as a rock-steady presence on a roster that's still trying to find its post-Lidstrom identity.

When the Wings aren't playing Red Wings puck possession hockey--which involves winning faceoffs, taking shots as a means of forechecking and hunting down rebounds to secure secondary and tertiary scoring chances--they can get the job done regardless of who's on the ice and who's injured. When they don't play their system, they don't look like themselves:

“It was one of those games where the other team's on top of you, we're not getting any shots on net, we're not having any O-zone time, we're not winning a lot of faceoffs and yet, for the public watching, they probably thought we weren't working hard,'' Babcock said. “We were battling like crazy, we just weren't doing anything with the puck and for those people that watch the Red Wings for a long time, that's not what they're used to seeing."

Here's hoping that we don't have to get used to a "new normal."

Update #2: Now the Star-Tribune's Michael Russo's recap includes this sidebar:

STAR TRIBUNE'S THREE STARS

1. Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings: Star two-way center had a goal and two assists, won 14 of 23 faceoffs and was plus-3.

2. Zach Parise, Wild: Registered his first two-goal game as a Wild; six shots.

3. Todd Bertuzzi, Red Wings: Wild nemesis scored twice in his first game of the season.

BY THE NUMBERS

4 Point streak, in games, to open the season for Parise.

8 Goals against (out of 10) this season that Ryan Suter has been on the ice for.

8 Wild forwards who have yet to score a goal this season.

Given that Suter's been playing 30 minutes a night, he's going to be on the ice for a ton of goals against. That shouldn't surprise any Wild or Wings fans...

And it is worth noting that when Todd Bertuzzi is in the lineup, Johan Franzen plays much more like a power forward. Franzen's been up and down thus far, but the occasional whipping boy is going to the front of the net and is working harder on a game-by-game basis.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Bugsy's avatar

1. Good to see you back George, and offering your insight.
2. Since your comments sounded like what I’ve been posting the last few weeks (not that I’m original, and have far less insight than you), I’m going to take advantage for the rare time I’m on the same wavelength with you and re-summarize. Losing the big 3 this offseason, having a new special teams coach, and no preseason games to work out the kinks and get to know each other, that was my concern all along. Would the Wings have enough time to put it together in a shortened season?
3. My hope was that the present and rookie Wings focused on being good in their system and realize the system can cover some for their lost players, like I said before with the Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers or the Larry Brown Pistons. The Packers ran few plays, but ran them so well it didn’t matter that their opponents knew what was coming. The Larry Brown Detroit Pistons had a lot of good players but still are the basketball exception with no superstar/Hall of Fame players to lead them to a championship. They were a true team.
4. Thus, the present Wings should play to their strengths are and make them fit within a proven possession style system. There is no perfect system, but the players drafted by Ken Holland need to remember they were meant to play this system—21 years of playoffs can’t be wrong. The overripe players from Grand Rapids may indeed be what saves them from this injury megalist (even Pierre LeBrun commented on the Wings’ long list of injuries), as long as the individual players don’t try to do more that they are capable or asked to do (including Quincey-yes, I want him to be able to be a success story here, somehow). In other words, as George said above, “Keep it simple.”
5. If this is all hogwash to the rest of you who follow the Wings more than I, forget what I said above and I’ll just be happy the team took a step forward tonight.

Posted by Bugsy on 01/26/13 at 03:41 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I’m just as scared about the shortened season—ideally, the Wings struggle through October and part of November, and then power on for the remainder of the year (minus February, when they always stink), but now? Farg narg gerble flergh!

By my birthday on the 5th—a week from Tuesday—they need to know what they’ve got, and if they’re still struggling by the middle of February, it’s time to make serious moves.

If this is the start of at least a modest stabilization of the team, the Wings will indeed be able to “see what they’ve got” before attempting to make a gazillion call-ups or dangling some of those call-ups as trades.

I still don’t think that Ken Holland will make a move until much closer to the deadline, even if the Wings stink like last week’s mite team’s underwear, but you’d still like to have that luxury of time and having guys like White and Colaiacovo shuffling back into the lineup to replace whoever’s banged up three weeks from now, but the pressure to win or at least get a shootout loss in as many of these games as humanly possible is so intense when there are only 48…

And this team’s really going to take until the middle of February to find its identity, at least, so we have to hope that they can battle through both their opponents and themselves regularly enough to stay in the playoff mix until then.

As you suggest, I fully believe that doing so will involve truly “keeping it simple” and keeping their play Red Wings hockey play, which does indeed mean playing puck possession hockey regardless of who’s wearing those red and white jerseys. This team, the Griffins and even the Walleye to some extent all employ the same puck possession system (albeit with some tweaks here and there), and it is simply true in this league that no matter how you do it, if you control the puck more than your opponents do, you’re gonna win more times than not.

The Blues are actually a puck possession team, albeit in a Ken Hitchcockian crash, bang and trap way, and the Wings are neither as big nor as strong as the blues, so this still-smallish team (adding guys like Lashoff and Smith help the “size matrix,” but, aside from Joakim Andersson, the really big guys are still 3 to 5 years away) has to do its best to maximize its size via skating and playing defense as far away from its goal as possible. That means moving the puck up to forwards skating through the neutral zone with speed, or dumping it in and chasing it down so that the Wings can grind it out and cycle the puck in the opponent’s zone.

Kris Draper, Darren McCarty and Kirk Maltby knew how to do it, and so does Darren Helm, which is why he’s so damn important. The coaches are going to have to demand the same out of Jordin Tootoo, Kent Huskins and even Kyle “Big Hot Mess” Quincey.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/26/13 at 04:08 AM ET

Avatar

Yeo was upset because he felt the goal shouldn’t have been allowed because Franzen was a foot in the crease.

Someone should probably let Yeo know that just being in the crease doesn’t negate a goal anymore.  You’d think a NHL coach would have a better grasp of the rules.

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 01/26/13 at 06:03 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

Were my eyes deceiving me, or was Bertuzzi so happy to be on the ice receiving passes from Pav that he gave him a smooch after he banged in that gorgeous saucer pass?

I think this game is the blueprint for how the Wings make the playoffs this season. They’ve got to score on 20%+ of their PPs, get great goaltending from Howard, and just generally score 3 or 4 per win. Then cross their fingers, and hope that scoring and goalkeeping gives Smith time to translate his obvious skills to the big leagues, gives Kindl time to make good on his likely last chance in a Wings uniform, gives White and Coliacovo time to heal, and gives Quincey time to be the player he really has been and can be (less good but comparable version of Brad Stuart).

Otherwise, come deadline, it might be time to ship out a few guys for picks and/or prospects.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 01/26/13 at 09:18 AM ET

Avatar

Thanks, Valek. That rule has been gone for years. There was absolutely no interference by Franzen.

I thought Kindl looked better than I was expecting him to. I thought he was going to be a tire fire. Sure be mass some mistakes and took a stupid penalty, but he used his body and did some nice things.  He definitely has a great puck control. I’d like to see him get some playing time so he can maybe develop.

Posted by teldar on 01/26/13 at 09:21 AM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

nice report, George. It’s a   Great night when none gets hurt, and a win. yummy

Posted by Rdwings28 on 01/26/13 at 09:28 AM 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.