The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/09/12 at 01:45 AM ET
Dear Gord, that was bizarre. The Detroit Red Wings’ 3-2 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks, if we are to believe the NBC Sports network, was the result of nothing more than multiple un-called penalties to Tomas Holmstrom on the 2-1 goal, a penalty shot that may or may not have been a puck in the net by Chicago as Holmstrom was, bafflingly, the the last man back among Jonathan Ericsson and Mike Commodore, a hack by Valtteri Filppula on a Blackhawks defenseman on the game-tying goal, and, clearly a too-many men call during overtime which did not result in a clear penalty.
Sure, it’s gonna be interesting to hear the Hawks suggest that they were robbed, but I’m absolutely stunned that the Wings, who surrendered their third penalty shot opportunity over their last four games, did not earn a power play after the first period, fired almost as many shots wide or into Hawks players (26) as they took on Corey Crawford (27) and, once again, were turnover machines who made Ty Conklin…More or less extinguish any questions as to whether he’s good enough to back up Jimmy Howard, a very weak pair of early goals against included.
The Wings just played their 41st game, and thanks to their OT win, they’re the top team in the Central Division; the Wings were more than able to overcome from the kind of 2-0 deficit that has tended to doom them, especially on the road; the Wings also actually converted on the one dedicated power play opportunity they had, their penalty-kill was pretty damn good, they blocked a remarkable 23 Hawks shots (and were out-shot 31-27, too), and they received nothing less than—again, two very weak first-period goals included—a sterling performance by Ty Conklin, who bailed out his teammates’ the consistently mentally and physically fatigue-displaying mistakes.
This was a plain old ugly mess of a game, and another game in which the Wings had to mount a furious comeback against their opponents, an all too familiar face in Mike Hasenfratz (did he call last night’s penalty shot, too? Or did he see Brent Seabrook do the same hand-closes-on-puck move as Tomas Holmstrom in the Hawks’ crease in the first period?), and, most importantly, themselves…
But this time around, the Wings earned the ability to bring their fathers to games without Mike Babcock turning them away at the locker room door at the morning skate because the Wings earned their bounces this time around—and finally got their hands dirty enough to win, too.
Yes, the Wings started the game terribly. Bolland was able to take a few passes off a faceoff win and fire a puck through Conklin’s legs only 3:35 in, on a predictably early power play against, and yes, all of 44 seconds later, Patrick Sharp slinked away from Brad Stuart and Jiri Hudler and rifled a shot past a goalie full of holes.
But Conklin steadied himself while weathering the storm, and after the Wings killed a too-many men penalty (the Wings had consistent trouble changing lines, and while Babcock’s decision to swap out Jiri Hudler for Danny Cleary on the Filppula-Zetterberg line worked, his decisions to try to swap out Kronwall for White alongside Nicklas Lidstrom, or pair Ericsson and Stuart, yielded confusion and a lack of cohesion which almost allowed the Hawks to push the game into un-winnable territory several times, and resulted in some incredibly dangerous chances against in overtime), and Tomas Holmstrom drew one after tripping Brent Seabrook because Seabrook assumed that retaliating against Holmstrom would draw what it usually does—a blank stare from the ref—the Wings not only earned a power play but also scored on it.
Scored on it as NBC blinked in and out during the first period, perhaps shaking the ghosts of Versus’ broadcast quality as Lidstrom kept the puck in, Hudler played the puck to Zetterberg and he found Valtteri Filppula lurking at the far side of Corey Crawford’s crease.
It was enough for the Wings to continue to withstand the Hawks’ efforts in the first period and, especially thanks to some particularly strong play by Pavel Datsyuk and his lumberjack-sized linemates in Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen, as well as some really stellar work by Darren Helm and Tomas Holmstrom on an odd couple’s fourth line, push the Hawks back into their own zone.
The Wings remained inefficient in terms of putting pucks on net, they stood back far too regularly and let the Hawks roar over the blueline with speed, they let Conklin face far too many dangerous shots and couldn’t clear the puck to save their lives, but between Conklin staying strong, the Wings slowly but surely learning to block shots and then actually clear rebounds, and slowly but surely start to out-work the Hawks almost eight minutes into the third period, the Wings earned…
A penalty shot?
Yep. Tomas Homstrom was the last man back when Jonathan Ericsson and Mike Commodore should have been (and yet the Wings are still a better team when Commodore’s in the lineup, despite the fact that Kindl’s a better puck-mover and a more skilled defenseman overall), and the unlikely fourth-liner batted and grabbed the puck behind Conklin, forcing Hasenfratz to blow the whistle before the Hawks eventually put the puck in. After an incredibly long review to determine whether the puck was in the net when Homer grabbed it, Jimmy Hayes was awarded the penalty shot, an, unlike Jimmy Howard, Conklin stood up, refused to bite on any dekes and made his save look easy.
From there on, the Wings exhibited flashes and flickers of the trademark swagger we’ve only seen glimpses of all season long, and as the clock wound down and the Hawks got away with a trip on Abdelkader, the Wings roared up ice on the subsequent shift, and after Valtteri Filppula’s deke and dangle didn’t work, Danny Cleary shoveled the puck around to Henrik Zetterberg, who waited, wound up and ripped a shot through traffic, and with Cleary and Filppula lurking in front of Crawford—finally displaying a willingness to generate the kinds of layered screens that we haven’t seen since the last time Holmstrom played—Filppula gave the Hawks’ Nick Leddy a good whack before Leddy could sweep the puck away [edit/update: and, according to the scorer, Cleary ended up touching Zetterberg’s shot along the way].
There was still that foreboding, paper tiger’s worth of confidence feeling after the Hawks pushed the game to OT and nearly won it when Jonathan Toews was allowed to rip a high, hard shot off Conklin’s shoulder as regulation time expired, but the Wings both weathered early storms from the Hawks due to personnel gaffes and finally started to do what a team that allowed its opponents to steal pucks 19 times (the Wings were not hard on the puck for the vast majority of the game, yielding takeaways galore by the Hawks), choosing to play as hard on their sticks as they were on the Hawks’ bodies, and after Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi combined for a spectacular rush and Ericsson finally made a nice play in pinching toward the slot, Pavel Datsyuk shook off a hard hit, skated up ice, corralled Franzen’s rebound, walked below the goal line as Crawford couldn’t cover the puck and fired the puck off Leddy and into the top of the net.
It was ugly, it was messy and the Wings played a staggering, shaky and incredibly inconsistent game from minutes one to sixty-three, but they managed to earn two points perhaps despite themselves, and by doing so, they earned a measure of revenge on the Hawks, a measure of redemption for themselves and a little identity-defining via a team that we can at least say refuses to quit on itself, even if it’s done an incredibly thorough job of screwing itself over via doofy mistakes and/or slow starts.
Now the Wings need to find their footing with their dads left behind them, steady their play from start to finish and in between and get back to a cleaner, simpler and faster puck possession game instead of continuing to punch from the bottom of the dogpile. Now’s the time to go on a good run from here till the All-Star Break, especially with games against the Islanders and Coyotes coming up before next Saturday’s rematch with the Hawks, and as the Wings get healthier (knock on wood), they should start playing smarter as their depth begins to take some of the mental wear and tear off of front-line superstars (pick the top two lines’ worth of forwards and top two pairs’ worth of defensemen, and they’ve whiffed on as many pucks as Howard has of late) and starts to afford the Wings the opportunity to finally separate themselves from what is a pack that will fight as viciously as the Hawks did tonight.
Time to find yourselves, find your footing and get your asses in gear, Wings. You broke even on the Fathers’ Trip. Now you’ve got to find a way to get started on time, stop giving up penalty shots and get the damn job done without needing to furiously battle back against your opponents, the referees and yourselves night after night after night.
Time to get “better and better,” fast. As a partisan Wings fan who was delighted to see the “Demolition Man” return and piss his opponents and even the commentators off like nobody’s business while playing like a difference-maker at both ends of the ice, I’m all for fighting dirty, but there’s no reason that you should have to fight dirty to overcome yourself on a nightly basis.
Leave the intense psychological battles and grappling with self-doubt stuff to the civilian population.
Update: Via Paul, here’s Babcock speaking to Sportsnet’s Christine Simpson:
Shots 31-27 Chicago overall. Chicago and Detroit were tied 9-9 in shots during the 1st period; the Hawks out-shot Detroit 11-6 in the 2nd period; the teams were tied 9-9 in shots in the 3rd period; Detroit out-shot Chicago 3-2 in overtime.
Ty Conklin stopped 29 of 31 shots; Corey Crawford stopped 24 of 27.
The Hawks went 1 for 4 in 6:54 of PP time; the Wings went 1 for 2 in 2:03 of PP time, including 10 seconds of 5 on 3 time.
The 3 stars, per the “Chicago media,” were Danny Cleary, Marian Hossa and Valtteri Filppula.
The Wings’ goals: Filppula (14) from Zetterberg (23) and Hudler (15), power play;
Cleary (10) from Zetterberg (14) and Filppula (21);
Datsyuk (13) from Ericsson (7) and Franzen (20).
Faceoffs 32-20 Chicago (38% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 23-13 Detroit;
Missed shots 13-8 Detroit (total attempts 62-53 Chicago);
Hits 37-29 Detroit;
Giveaways 8-4 Chicago;
Takeaways 19-8 Chicago, and the Leafs had a similar number of takeaways, which concerns me big time.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 11-and-8 (58%); Zetterberg went a staggering 2-and-15 (12%); Helm went 3-and-5 (38%) in his return; Abdelkader went 1-and-3 (25%); Emmerton lost his only faceoff; Cleary, Filppula and Franzen won single faceoffs.
Shots: Filppula led the Wings with 5 shots; Datsyuk and White had 4; Zetterberg, Miller, Helm and Bertuzzi had 2 shots; Abdelkader, Cleary, Stuart, Ericsson, Franzen and Holmstrom had 1.
Blocked attempts: Lidstrom fired 3 shots into Blackhawks players; Datsyuk and Stuart had 2 attempts blocked; Abdelkader, Cleary, White, Helm, Emmerton and Ericsson had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: White missed the net 3 times; Miller and Stuart missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Stuart, Filppula, Kronwall and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Kronwall led the Wings with 6 hits; Helm had 5; Datsyuk and Hudler had 4; Bertuzzi and Ericsson had 3; Lidstrom, Abdelkader and Filppula had 2; Cleary, White, Commodore, Zetterberg, Franzen and Holmstrom had 1.
Giveaways: Datsyuk, Commodore, Stuart and Ericsson had giveaways.
Takeaways: Datsyuk had 5 frickin takeaways; Zetterberg, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Lidstrom blocked 4 shots; White, Commodore and Kronwall blocked 3; Abdelkader, Cleary, Miller and Zetterberg blocked 2; Emmerton and Ericsson blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Cleary, Ericsson and Kronwall were tagged for minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +4. Stuart, Hudler and Kronwall finished at -1; Cleary, Datsyuk, White, Ericsson and Franzen finished at +1; Lidstrom finished at +2.
Points: Filppula had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Zetterberg had 2 assists; Cleary and Datsyuk scored goals; Ericsson, Hudler and Franzen registered assists.
Ice time: White led the team with 25:14 played; Kronwall played 25:02; Stuart played 24:51;
Lidstrom played 23:51; Datsyuk played 21:25; Filppula played 19:10;
Zetterberg played 19:06; Cleary played 17:59; Franzen played 17:51;
Bertuzzi played 17:19; Ericsson played 16:06; Hudler played 15:48;
Abdelkader played 14:01; Miller played 12:29; Helm played 12:25;
Commodore played 10:26; Holmstrom played 7:27; Emmerton played 5:18.
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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.