The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/22/12 at 09:21 AM ET
Updated w/ Nikitin’s knee sprain at 10:46 AM: The Red Wings are making it hard for fans who might suggest that winning by any means necessary cuts the mustard during this 11-games-in-19-nights stretch to keep their promises. The Red Wings’ particularly ugly 3-2 shootout victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday allowed the Wings to extend their home-ice winning streak to 16 games, and the victory means that at least until Sunday afternoon, the Wings are the top team in the Central Division, Western Conference and the NHL standings, respectively, and if the Wings manage to take out the Blues on Monday, they’ll finally gain some separation from at least one of their closest pursuers…
But it’s hard to believe that the Wings can keep on keepin’ on against the Blues, never mind their All-Star break-interrupted road trip to Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Phoenix if they keep going to the overtime and shootout wells like they have of late. Of the Wings’ 8 January wins, six have come via play extending past regulation time, and the Wings have had to go to a skills competition to beat their last three opponents.
On Saturday, the Wings’ best play occurred while the team had to kill off three and-a-half minutes of Henrik Zetterberg’s major penalty and game misconduct for accidentally injuring Nikita Nikitin (we’ll get back to that later, and we’ll exclude the gratuitous mocking of the Wings announcers’ “homerism”); otherwise, the Wings’ defensemen and Tomas Holmstrom were its best skaters, and while the Wings out-shot Columbus 31-19, the caliber of Jimmy Howard’s saves exceeded Curtis Sanford’s by several orders of magnitude.
The Blue Jackets gave themselves full credit for pushing the Wings to their limit, as BlueJackets.com’s Rob Mixer noted:
“What I see is them paying a price,” [coach Todd] Richards said. “We did some good things for about half of the game when we held them below 10 shots. They started to have a flurry late in the second and early in the third, but I liked the way we played. We’re playing hard as a group and we’re playing for each other.”
[Curtis] Sanford said the team’s play at even strength allowed them to spend more time in the Red Wings’ zone. Detroit couldn’t establish shift-to-shift consistency and it was due in large part to the Blue Jackets back-checking and taking away time and space.
“We’re sticking together and sticking to the system,” Sanford said. “We hemmed a good team in their end quite a few times tonight and generated opportunities. They’re a great team in the league and it’s a tough place to play, and we can come out of here with our heads held high.”
John Moore was a major contributor tonight, and played a career-high 24:32 in the shootout loss. With the Blue Jackets down to five defensemen after Nikitin’s injury, Moore and partner Marc Methot drew heavy minutes against Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. He was involved blocking shots, joining the rush for a great scoring chance late in the third period and moving the puck quickly – all things Richards has worked to improve since taking over.
“They had the initial shots, I think we did a good job collapsing and not allowing anything,” Richards said. “They’re going to get some opportunities, but I thought we did a good job as a unit. We had some big blocks out there, too. Guys were putting their bodies in those shooting lanes and it’s helping us out.”
Mixer described the game’s narrative as follows...
Columbus was the better team out of the gate, the Red Wings evened things up in the second period and brought their “attack wave” in the third period—but the Blue Jackets were up to the task and had several chances of their own down the stretch. Valtteri Filppula’s shootout goal in the fourth round was the difference in the game, as the Red Wings got the extra point in a 3-2 victory in front of a vocal crowd of 20,066.
Despite the momentum on the Red Wings side prior to puck drop, it was the Blue Jackets’ third line that applied a stern forecheck and forced Detroit to make the first mistake. Derek Dorsett fired a wrist shot from the right circle that ate up Jimmy Howard, and Ryan Russell was right on the door step to jam the fumble across the line.
But just as the Blue Jackets were starting to set the tone, the Red Wings used their transition game to bring it back to all-square. Filppula hit Niklas Kronwall with a pass at the offensive blue line and the lumbering defenseman made no mistake with a wrist shot at 11:34.
The Blue Jackets steadied themselves after that goal and took the lead just before the midway point of the second period. At the tail end of a power play, Nikita Nikitin ripped a shot from the blue line that beat Howard top-shelf for a 2-1 lead, but Nikitin’s night would be ended prematurely by a major penalty assessed to Henrik Zetterberg. Both players were racing for the puck in the Columbus end, and Zetterberg pushed Nikitin into the boards just as he crossed the goal line.
The Blue Jackets were unable to make the Red Wings pay with three-plus minutes of power play time, and Detroit tied it up less than three minutes later on Nick Lidstrom’s power-play goal.
Curtis Sanford was huge for the Blue Jackets in regulation and the shootout, stopping Pavel Datsyuk, Jiri Hudler and getting help from the crossbar on Todd Bertuzzi’s attempt. He made 29 saves, and unfortunately, his team wasn’t able to get one on the board in the shootout.
The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline wasn’t exactly as effusive about the Blue Jackets’ effort in what really was a game with all of the aesthetic value of a commercial explaining what “probiotics” do…
A 3-2 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings before 20,066 in Joe Louis Arena wasn’t quite as thrilling as the score might indicate, but this is how the Blue Jackets have to play these days. The shootout took four rounds, and Detroit’s Valtteri Filppula was the only one to score.
Nikita Nikitin and Ryan Russell scored goals for the Blue Jackets, while goaltender Curtis Sanford had 29 saves. In the shootout, Rick Nash, Derek Dorsett, Derick Brassard and rookie Ryan Johansen came up empty in the shootout for Columbus.
“Players are just a little upset,” said Richards, who has a 2-3-1 record since taking over Scott Arniel on Jan. 9. “They’re paying a price and playing hard and we’re just not getting the desired win that we want.”
The Blue Jackets never trailed in this game, but the Red Wings answered each of their goals within 2:43. The game was tied for 59:57 of the 65 minutes. The Blue Jackets did well to hold the Red Wings in check, but Detroit seemed to pick up more steam as the game moved along. Detroit’s shots on goal by period: 5-10-15.
“They’re a great team, one of the best in the league,” Sanford said. “This is a tough place to play. And we could have easily come out of here with a win. That’s how close it was. Not a bad point, definitely, but we wanted the two, and I think – in a lot of ways – we deserved the two.”
As for this little ditty and the 5-minute major and 10-minute misconduct assessed to Henrik Zetterberg for a hit to Nikita Nikitin…
Coach Richards offered this assessment of the play to Portzline:
“It’s that danger area, where guys are going into the boards and at full speed when guys are moving. It’s dangerous. I watched the Boston (vs. NY Rangers) game today and they had a similar incident there, where a guy was going into the boards, and took a little push or shove to throw him off-balance … and that’s really where the danger comes. It’s not the physical hit. It’s throwing a guy off-balance. Looking at it … the hand on the back throws him off balance a little bit. The game is moving so fast now that, again, just a little bit here or there and you’re going into the boards at full speed.”
Obviously, Zetterberg has no reputation for dirty play. Any suggestion that the play was malicious on his part is absurd. He had 16 penalty minutes coming into the game, and picked up 15 on that play alone. Folks in Detroit are saying it’s the first major penalty of his career. Can’t imagine he’s picked up too many game misconducts, either.
He spoke with Detroit reporters after the game: “The puck went down to the corner and I chased down their defenseman. I had my hand on his back. I don’t think I pushed him hard. He went down. It looked bad, it looks really bad, so I can’t blame the referee for giving me five-minutes.” I really don’t know what to say, it looks bad.”
Zetterberg knows he’s going to hear from his former teammate, NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan. He said he hoped to reach out to Nikitin before the Blue Jackets left Joe Louis Arena, too.
“You know what – it’s up to Shanny, it’s up to Shanny,” Zetterberg said. Shanny and the league is going to review this and see what they feel. The rule is the rule, I made contact and he went down. Hopefully he’s OK, I didn’t mean to hurt him and we’ll have to wait and see.”
Richards offered no update regarding Nikitin’s status, and here’s how the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan saw things shake out…
Henrik Zetterberg received a five-minute boarding major and a game misconduct in the third period against the Blue Jackets on Saturday on a play that seems likely to be reviewed by the NHL.
Zetterberg and Blue Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin pursued the puck to the end boards behind the Blue Jacket’s net. Zetterberg placed his left hand on the small of Nikitin’s back and the defenseman slammed into the boards with his left ankle at an awkward angle. Zetterberg appeared to be less than aggressive on the play, and it might be that it was less of a push by the Wings star forward than the momentum of the two players that drove Nikitin into the boards. Nikitin had to be helped from the ice, and he put little or no pressure on the leg.
After the game, Zetterberg was seen talking to Blue Jackets’ officials and trying to enter their dressing room. He said he planned to try to talk to Nikitin.
“I had my hand on his back,” Zetterberg said. “I don’t think I pushed him hard.”
Coach Mike Babcock agreed that Zetterberg intended no malice. But that may not matter.
“No, there wasn’t, but that’s the way they’re calling it,” Babcock said. “They’re trying to protect the d-men. We’re trying to protect the players. I don’t think ‘Z’ had a hard time (with the call),” Babcock said. “I don’t think anyone did. It was just a matter of it was an unfortunate play. Hope the guy’s not hurt.”
Babcock told MLive’s Ansar Khan that he did inquire as to whether his interpretation had anything to do with the league’s emphasis on putting the onus on the players initiating contact along the end boards…
—Red Wings coach Mike Babcock: “There wasn’t (anything malicious), but still that’s the way they’re calling it. They’re trying to protect the D-men. I talked to (referee) Denny LaRue right away. I just said, ‘Denny, is that the way you’re calling it?’ and he said that’s the way. So why wouldn’t they (call it)? We’re trying to protect the players. It was an unfortunate play. I hope the guy’s not hurt.’‘
—Columbus captain Rick Nash: “It’s a dangerous play. But the whole league knows that (Zetterberg) is not that kind of a player. I thought he was going for the puck. I don’t think Zetterberg is that kind of player.”
Again, Zetterberg insisted that he meant no harm, nor foul, as he told NHL.com’s Brian Hedger:
“You know what? It’s up to Shanny ... it’s up to Shanny,” Zetterberg said of a potential suspension. “Shanny and the League (are) going to review this and see what they feel. The rule is the rule. I made contact and he went down. Hopefully he’s OK. I didn’t mean to hurt him, and we’ll have to wait and see.”
Again, the Blue Jackets had only one complaint about the game in not earning two points instead of one, as they told Hedger...
“He was great,” Columbus interim coach Todd Richards said. “I like the way our guys played in front of him. They had the initial shots. I think we did a good job collapsing. I thought we did a good job as a unit. The other thing is we had some big blocks out there, too. Guys are putting their bodies in those shooting lanes and it’s helping us out.”
Actually, both teams did a good job of sacrificing their bodies. Detroit blocked 18 attempts and the Jackets got in front of 17, which helped keep the shot totals pretty low for the first 40 minutes. Each team scored once in each of the first two periods, but the goals were all scored relatively close together. Columbus forward Ryan Russell and Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall exchanged goals in the first, while Nikita Nikitin and Nicklas Lidstrom each potted goals in the second to knot the game 2-2 heading into the third. Russell gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead by scoring off a rebound of Derek Dorsett’s shot at 8:51, but Kronwall tied it about two minutes later—wristing home his 10th goal of the season from the slot through traffic.
It was a particularly sloppy start for the Wings, who gave the puck away seven times in the first, got outshot 7-5 and were also outhit by a 12-9 count. The malaise continued into the second and eventually bit them after Tomas Holmstrom’s holding penalty 7:05 into the period—his second minor of the game.
Nikitin put Columbus back on top 2-1 with just 22 seconds left in the ensuing Blue Jackets power play by wristing a shot from above the right circle that beat the screened Howard high blocker side. Antoine Vermette, who won 65 percent of his draws, picked up the primary assist by winning a faceoff straight to Nikitin and then drifting to the low slot – taking a Wings defender with him to provide a screen.
“It was a great shot,” Vermette said. “I was just trying to get the puck to my partner and he made a really good play—very accurate, nice shot. It was a big goal for us.”
Once again, however, the Red Wings responded quickly. Grant Clitsome was called for hooking two minutes after Nikitin’s goal and Lidstrom capped the power play just 22 seconds into it by playing a little bank-shot pool with a point blast out top. He rifled a shot wide of the net and the puck kicked off the end boards hard—ricocheting back toward the goal, hitting the back of Sanford’s right pad and going into the net.
To that point, those end boards might’ve been the most lively thing about the home team—yet the Wings still found themselves even with the Jackets. Lidstrom’s goal, his 10th of the season, was also big because it broke a string of 13 straight goal-less power plays for the Red Wings – who’d been struggling mightily despite being ranked 14th in the League on the man advantage. The game went to the third all tied up, which favored Detroit.
And the Wings dominated early, but faded via the penalty-kill, and that resulted in what the Associated Press’s Larry Lage suggests has become an all-too familiar situation for the Wings:
The 16-game home winning streak tied Detroit with the 1975-76 Boston Bruins for the fourth-longest home winning streak in NHL history. Only the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers (20 each), and the 1970-71 Bruins (19) had longer home winning streaks.
The Red Wings, first overall in the NHL with 65 points, have won six straight overall - four in shootouts and another in overtime.
“We think we’re going to win, which is a real nice thing to have,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “But we can play better than we have, no question about it. So we don’t want to get into a rut playing like this, we want to play way better.”
Jimmy Howard agreed, as he told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...
“It’s been a lot of extra time to get these Ws, but we’ll take the extra points,” said Howard, who needed to make just 17 saves to for his league-leading 29th win. “It’s just perseverance. Different guys are coming through. It’s huge for us.”
Howard has allowed two goals or less in 29 of his 40 starts this season. Detroit, which moved back in front of Chicago for the overall lead in the Western Conference, is now 26-5-0-2 all time on home ice against Columbus.
“It’s nice to get a goal obviously in a shootout and get the win,” Filppula said. “I thought the goalie came out quite a bit so I didn’t find a lot of room to shoot. I had to do something else when I was going in. I had that in mind if I needed to deke, but if he stayed in I wanted to shoot.”
Filppula dragged the puck backhand-to-forehand before clanking his forehand just under the crossbar to beat Columbus’ Curtis Sanford.
“It was good to hear that sound,” Filppula said. “I’m glad I didn’t shoot it over the net. I felt like I had a lot of room there. I guess it was a little good luck to that it didn’t go over the net.”
As the Free Press’s George Sipple noted, thankfully for Wings fans, Filppula was the only shooter to score, but that lipstick didn’t deter Babcock’s belief that his team’s play’s gotten a little piggy of late, as he told Sipple:
Niklas Kronwall and Nick Lidstrom accounted for the Wings offense, each coming after Columbus had taken a lead. The Wings have won their last three games by a score of 3-2, including the past two in shootouts.
“I don’t think we’ve been pretty for three games to be honest with you,” Babcock said.
The Wings’ high points, performance-wise, involved the skating and performances by all six defensemen, who were, along with Tomas Holmstrom, the team’s best skaters in a game during which the Wins’ forwards seemed all too content to stand around, and as such, DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose notes that, statistically speaking, the Wings’ defensemen were the ones who ensured that their team had the offensive margin necessary to at least eke out an ugly win:
12-0-1 at home. Following Saturday’s 3-2 shoot-out victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, that’s the Wings’ record when at least one defenseman scores this season at Joe Louis Arena. They are 17-5-1 overall when at least one defenseman scores, and Saturday was the first time this season that defensemen accounted for all of the scoring in regulation. Kronwall and Nicklas Lidstrom each scored for Detroit Saturday, giving the defensive unit a league-leading 32 goals this season, ahead of Nashville (26) and Vancouver (25). It’s the seventh multiple goal game by the Wings’ defensive corps this season.
“It’s nice to have,” said center Henrik Zetterberg, of the defensive scoring. “We’ve always had that, we’ve always had defensemen who can really score goals and produce points. It helps us forwards to play better.”
Kronwall’s goal pulled the Wings even with the Blue Jackets when he snapped a shot from the slot that beat Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford at 11:34 of the first period. Kronwall’s balance made the play possible when he managed to stay upright, absorbing a check by Jackets forward Tomas Kubalik, taking a flip pass from Valtteri Filppula, and firing a shot between a pair of Jackets’ defensemen.
“It was more luck than anything,” Kronwall said. “Fil made a nice play in the neutral zone and I never really saw the guy coming from the bench. I don’t know if he let-up, but I was just able to squeeze by and the puck just bounced and slipped in. Just trying to hit the net and fortunately it went in.”
Lidstrom’s second-period power-play goal ended the Wings’ four-game drought with the man-advantage, which matched the team’s longest dry spell of the season. The Wings’ power play is now 4-for-35 in the last 13 games. The goal tied the score for the second time in the game when Lidstrom – as he often does – purposefully fired a shot wide for Tomas Holmstrom to play in front of the net. The puck missed the net and Holmstrom, but caromed off the back boards and in the net off of Sanford’s right skate.
“Nick’s shooting for the stick and sometimes when he doesn’t have a lane he’ll shoot it wide and he does that on purpose,” Kronwall said. “We also know that the boards in here are a little more lively than maybe other rinks. But that was a great shot and if it didn’t go in off the goalie, Homer was right there to hammer away.”
Otherwise, the players were more than willing to admit that they gutted out an ugly win, as they told Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji, who points out that the Wings have done pretty damn well during overtime and shootouts:
The victory was the Wings’ 16th straight at home, extending their franchise record. They also improved to 8-1 in overtime and 5-0 in shootouts this season. The Wings (32-15-1) have 65 points, most in the NHL, and lead the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues by one point in the Central Division.
“Obviously we would like to win in 60 minutes but definitely it gives us confidence that even though the games go to overtime and shootouts that we can win those games,” Filppula said. “Definitely when you check the standings, it’s really important points so I’m glad we’re able to get those.”
Howard, who leads the league with 29 wins, said he doesn’t mind the shootouts.
“It’s just about being patient as a goalie, let them run out of room and have to make a move and just push the puck,” Howard said. “It’s working on it in practice. It’s also having fun out there.”
Niklas Kronwall, who scored the Wings’ first goal and assisted on the other, scored by captain Nicklas Lidstrom, thinks all the overtime/shootout games are just a phase they are going through.
“That’s just the way things happen sometimes,” Kronwall said. “But if you look at our overall game, if we play a good game tonight and stick to our program and do what we do, I think we would have been winning it in 60 minutes.That’s how much we believe in ourselves. We made it hard on ourselves, we didn’t get through the neutral zone like we normally do with some speed. We were a little bit stubborn tonight. Fortunately Jimmy Howard, once again, came up huge for us.”
Babcock told the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa that he knew the immediate course of action which might remedy the Wings’ wobbly play...
“Obviously, I don’t think we’ve been pretty for three games, to be honest with you,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ll take the day off tomorrow; freshen up,” Babcock said. “We’re going to have to skate a lot better and make better decisions than we did today to be effective. Sometimes when you travel and you come back, that game is tough. It didn’t look like we had great legs or great energy. But we found a way to get a win.”
For a second consecutive game, the Red Wings’ effective penalty kill provided enough of an opening for the team to grab a victory. The Blue Jackets managed one power play goal in 7:07 of short-handed time, including a 3:38 stretch created by a boarding major and match misconduct issued Henrik Zetterberg at 10:09 of the third period. Columbus managed only three shots on the power play, throughout the game.
“I thought the penalty kill was fabulous,” Babcock said.
Babcock put things bluntly regarding the Wings’ latest overtime/shootout win given the circumstances while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“We think we’re going to win, which is a real nice thing,” Babcock said. “But we can play better than we have, no question about it. So we don’t want to get into a rut playing like this, we want to play way better. We can skate better, play at a higher tempo, get more out of guys and make better decisions. In saying all that, it’s a hard league to win in, all you got to do is look around. So we’re always thankful for any win. I never met a bad win.”
“Sometimes when you’re traveling and you come back, the first game’s always tough,” Babcock said. “We didn’t have great legs or energy but we found a way to get a win. Feel good about it and move on.”
And move on in a hurry, because some wins aren’t the kind you want to wake up next to in the morning. Here’s hoping the Wings sleep in and let this one go home on its own. They’ve got two more games over three nights and then they get a much, much-needed break before rolling through Western Canada and Arizona before finally coming home to play 18 of their last 28 at home.
Highlights: The Red Wings’ website posted a highlight clip of the shootout…
As well as a full clip of game highlights narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Post-game: Fox Sports Ohio posted a clip of coach Todd Richards’ post-game comments;
Fox Sports Detroit posted clips of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s takes on the game…
As well as post-game comments from Valtteri Filppula, Niklas Kronwall and coach Mike Babcock….
And the Red Wings’ website posted clips of an in-game thank you for 50 consecutive sell-outs, a great clip of pre-game “sights and sounds” with an awful soundtrack, a video about Erin Cummings’ Mittens for Detroit charitable campaign and post-game comments from Valtteri Filppula, Jimmy Howard and coach Mike Babcock:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 16-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 30-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 12-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 25-image gallery;
Shots 31-19 Detroit. The Wings were out-shot 7-5 in the 1st period, they out-shot Columbus 10-4 in the 2nd period, out-shot Columbus 15-6 in the 3rd period and were out-shot 2-1 in overtime.
The Wings went 1-for-4 in 4:51 of PP time; Columbus went 1-for-3 in 7:07 of Pp time.
Curtis Sanford stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced; Jimmy Howard worked harder to stop 17 of 19
The 3 stars, per Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji, were Curtis Sanford, Niklas Kronwall and Valtteri Filppula.
The Wings’ goals: Kronwall (10) from Filppula (24) and Hudler (17);
Lidstrom (10) from Kronwall (11), PPG.
Faceoffs 30-28 Columbus;
Blocked shots 18-17 Detroit;
Missed shots 12-9 Columbus (57-49 Detroit);
Hits 21-19 Columbus;
Giveaways 11-4 Detroit;
Takeaways 5-4 Columbus.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 11-and-10 (52%); Helm went 4-and-8 (33%); Zetterberg went 3-and-5 (38%); Filppula went 5-and-3 (63%); Emmerton went 4-and-1 (80%); Abdelkader lost two faceoffs; Franzen lost his only faceoff; Cleary won his only faceoff.
Shots: Cleary and Helm co-led the team with 5 shots apiece; White, Franzen and Holmstrom had 3; Lidstrom, Commodore, Bertuzzi and Kronwall had 2; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Filppula had 1.
Blocked attempts: The Blue Jackets blocked 5 attempts by Brad Stuart; Kronwall had 3 attempts blocked; Hudler and Helm had 2 attempts blocked; Lidstrom, Miller, Commodore, Zetterberg and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Holmstrom missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Cleary, Hudler, Bertuzzi, Emmerton, Kronwall and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Stuart and Bertuzzi had 3 hits apiece; Abdelkader, Commodore, Helm, Ericsson and Kronwall had 2; Lidstrom, Hudler and Emmerton had 1.
Giveaways: Datsyuk, White and Howard had 2 giveaways; Lidstrom, Helm, Kronwall, Franzen and Holmstrom had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Abdelkaer, Stuart, Zetterberg and Helm had takeaways.
Blocked opponent shots: White blocked 5 shots; Lidstrom, Emmerton, Filppula and Kronwall blocked 2 shots; Cleary, Miller, Commodore, Stuart and Ericsson blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Holmstrom took 2 minor penalties; Zetterberg took a major penalty.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective 0. Datsyuk, Commodore, Bertuzzi and Franzen finished at -1; Stuart, Hudler, Zetterberg and Filppula finished at +1; everyone else was even.
Points: Kronwall had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Lidstrom had a goal; Hudler and Filppula had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 25:14 played; Stuart played 23:56; White played 22:27;
Lidstrom played 22:55; Datsyuk played 21:00; Filppula played 19:32;
Ericsson also played 19:32; Cleary played 17:46; Franzen played 17:43;
Bertuzzi played 16:53; Hudler played 16:41; Zetterberg played 16;39;
Helm played 16:36; Miller played 15:44; Commodore played 13:37;
Holmstrom played 10:17; Abdelkader played 9:58; Emmerton played 6:03.
Part II: In the AHL and ECHL: The Grand Rapids Griffins had a rough go on Saturday night, surrendering a 3-1 lead and losing a 4-3 decision to the Rochester Americans. The Grand Rapids Press provides the details thereof. The Griffins’ website also posted a Flickr photo gallery and a slate of YouTube interviews, and the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema spoke to a very frustrated Griffins team after the game:
“They deserved the two points, we didn’t deserve it tonight,” MacDonald said. “It’s funny how last night (a 5-0 win against Lake Erie) you get a hockey team that doesn’t turn the puck over, we played in their end most of the game and got pucks to the net. What a difference a night makes.”
Tomas Tatar and Francis Pare each had a goal and an assist and Brian Lashoff also scored for the Griffins, who have only one win in their past six games (1-3-1-1).
“It was obviously a pretty tough game, and I’m not sure if we deserved to win because there was so many three-on-twos, four-on-threes,” Tatar said. “We led the game, so we should be the team who should be better on defense, but unfortunately we didn’t do that at all.”
”It’s amazing. We played so well last night. We were champs,” Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser said. “Then we come out tonight and get a little fat and get a little ahead of ourselves, and all of the sudden we start turning pucks over.”
Fraser said it was a valuable point in the standings, but the Griffins can’t afford to let victories slip away.
”We’ve got to figure out why we let those little bad habits sneak in after a very, very strong performance,” Fraser said. “We have to learn to be more consistent and play the same way every night. When we do that, we’ll get rewarded for it and start climbing in the standings. I guess three out of four points isn’t bad, but we need four out of four.”
• In the ECHL, Andrej Nestrasil registered 2 assists, Adam Estcolet had 3 assists, Nick Oslund had an assist and Bryan Rufenach scored a goal in the Walleye’s wild 5-4 win over the Reading Royals. The Walleye’s website, the Royals’ website and the Toledo Blade provide recaps, and as an FYI from the Walleye:
Ted Lindsay has played for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, won four Stanley Cups, and scored over 800 points in his hall of fame career. Impressed? Us, too. Meet Ted and get his autograph at the Sunday, February 12 Walleye game! Ted will be signing during intermissions.
Part III: Red Wings notebooks: As noted in the game-day update thread, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had nothing but good things to say about Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Brett Lebda, and the feeling was mutual despite Lebda’s insistence, at least during his early tenure with Toronto, that he’d joined a team playing in the “real Hockytown.” Lebda spoke to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose about his road back from a buyout by the Nashville Predators:
“The goal from the beginning of the year was to get back in the league,” Lebda said. “I went down and played in the American League for awhile, I got a good opportunity there so I’m excited to be back now. They seem to have a great group of guys here and I’m looking forward to getting to know them over the next few days. We go on the road here for a bit. I’ll get to know everyone and get my feet wet.”
In 26 games in Springfield, Lebda has made the most of his first minor-league experience in five years, collecting a goal and nine assists for the Falcons.
“It was tough. At the same time that’s what was presented to me at the time,” said Lebda, who is trying to re-establish his NHL career. “It was tough to take, but you’ve got to swallow your pride and work as hard as you can to try and get back here. I got a good opportunity (in the minors), played a ton of minutes and I think that’s going to help me coming back here.”
Ironically, Lebda last skated in an NHL game with the Leafs in a 4-2 loss at Detroit last March. In 376 career games, he has 19 goals, 53 assists and a plus-17 rating.
“If you ask anyone in the league if they like to watch another team the answer would be Detroit,” said, Lebda, who still maintains a home in metro Detroit. “They play the game the right way and they play it hard. Even when they lose guys like Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby they find guys like Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader to kind of take over that role.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Mike Commodore registered 2 shots, 2 hits and a blocked shot in 13:37 of play while still playing on a very sore right foot, and the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness spoke to Commodore about playing against the team that banished him to the AHL and then bought him out:
“Is this going to be different, sure, I was there for two and a half years,” Commodore said. “I had some good relationship with some of those guys on that team. It’s always a little different playing against guys you’ve just got done playing with. I would really like to win this game,” Commodore added. “I’d like to win every game, but I’d really like to win this one.”
What could have added a bit more meaning to the game would have been if Commodore had gotten to skate against his former coach in Columbus, Scott Arniel. However, the Jackets’ fired him on Jan. 9.
“With the changes they made the last couple of weeks it’s a little different, the sting isn’t quite there anymore,” Commodore said.
“I’ve got bigger things on my mind than worry about what the Columbus Blue Jackets are doing,” Commodore said. “I’ve got to take care of myself and what’s going on with my future. I don’t look at their stuff anymore than I do for stats on any other game. I don’t make a special trip to the computer to check.”
• Also from the Wings’ website, Zack Crawford spoke to actress Erin Cummings about the first of two “Mittens for Detroit” charity nights at the Joe:
As fans braced the 25 degree weather to get to Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night, volunteers from Mittens for Detroit collected gloves at each of the arena’s entrances to help in-need locals stay warm through the winter. At the helm of the charity is actress Erin Cummings, who started Mittens for Detroit while filming ABC’s “Detroit 1-8-7.”
“This is the first time we’re doing it,” Cummings said. “It’s our first dance with the Red Wings and I believe in long-term relationships and I see the value of creating a relationship between Mittens for Detroit and the Red Wings that could be mutually beneficial over the long-term.”
• The Detroit Free Press’s George Sipple received a particularly interesting take on the Wings’ slate of highlight reel-worthy shootout goals of late:
The Wings have had some spectacular shoot-out goals, including a spin-o-rama by Todd Bertuzzi and Jiri Hudler scoring with a move made famous by Peter Forsberg. Those highlight-reel shoot-out goals are tougher to take for a goalie.
“You know it’s going to be on the highlights,” said Wings goaltender Ty Conklin. “Somebody puts it through your five-hole, it might not make the highlights. A lot of time they work because the deception is there. Even sometimes when you see the guy do it—although a guy like Huds, I don’t think anyone’s ever seen him do that. Most of the time it comes as a surprise.”
On moves like the spin-o-rama, there’s a bit of a gray area on whether the skater is continuing to advance the puck, but Conklin is one goalie who doesn’t have a problem with them.
“They’re fun goals to watch,” he said. “As long as the guy keeps going, generally in a forward direction, it’s a good goal.”
• MLive’s Ansar Khan took note of the fact that Wings coach Mike Babcock believes that Darren Helm’s self-criticism for not producing significant offensive numbers is misguided:
“I don’t spend any time worrying about goals,” Babcock said. “To me, it’s how you play, how good he is defensively, how hard he forechecks, how much a pain in the backside he can be to the opposition. Helm’s a huge part of our team just with his energy and tenacity and work ethic and speed. You need those energy players to give you life and be real good on the penalty kill. But they really give you life on the forecheck, put hard miles on the (defense).”
While Helm’s primary job is to provide energy, he also would like to contribute more offensively. He had five goals and eight assists before Saturday’s game against Columbus. He had 12 goals and 32 points in 2010-11.
“I had a good 15-game stint and had nothing really to show for it,” Helm said. “I got away from my game a little bit, trying to do a little too much with the puck, then I just went completely downhill. Before I got hurt (he missed four games Dec. 30-Jan. 7 with a pulled groin), I was playing really well and had a few more points. I think (points) will come with more hard work and persistence and maybe get a little stronger around the net.”
It seems like Helm, who turned 25 on Saturday, has been around a long time, after his quick transition from the AHL to a key contributor on the Red Wings’ 2008 Stanley Cup playoff run. But this is only his third full NHL season. He continues to learn.
“When you’re a young guy and you come into the league you do what you got to do to survive and then you get to a point where you’re growing your game and you want to get to the next level,” Babcock said. “But you got to figure out what the next level for you is. What makes you effective? You learn to figure out what you’re good at and you expect the other guys on your line to do what they’re good at. That’s just the process he’s in right now.”
Wintertime Blues: MONDAY: When the season started—or at least before St. Louis hired Ken Hitchcock—who knew this was going to be a key Central Division matchup? The Red Wings and Blues have split their first four meetings, with the home team winning every time. And the past two, like this one, were at the Joe. 7:30 p.m., FS Plus.
Nick at night: TUESDAY: What secrets will be revealed by the “NHL 36” cameras, allowed 36 hours of behind-the-scenes access to Nicklas Lidstrom last week, at and away from the rink. Here’s guessing not much. But it should be interesting for Wings fans. 6:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network (the cable channel formerly known as Versus).
• And the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa provides a superb note about Ian White...
When the Red Wings search for a free agent defenseman in the off-season to replace the retiring Brian Rafalski, the challenge was clear. Rafalski was an offensively skilled defenseman, a pinpoint passer and a good defender.
Looking around the NHL, not many defensemen were available who matched that standard. Teams were showering the few available with what seemed utterly disproportionate salaries, while the Wings hoped to retain a gap under the cap to add to the roster later this season, or for 2012-13.
But there was some surprise when the Wings did not sign James Wisniewski of Canton. The Blue Jackets picked him up for five years at $27 million. When the Wings later signed Ian White, at $5.75 million for two years, the move seemed conservative, by any standard. But just over half-way through the season, Wisniewski is on the injured reserve list for the second time. In 29 games played, he has two goals, 15 assists and he is a minus-18. In 44 games, White has six goals, 24 assists and he is within two points of his career high. He also is plus-26.
And this little ditty steers us toward some trade talk in the final part of this wrap-up:
The Blue Jackets, given their nearly impossible shot at making the playoffs this season, draw lots of attention from other teams in the NHL, especially for some of their prized forwards, including Rick Nash and Vinnie Prospal. Scouts from the Predators, Canucks, Rangers, Hurricanes, Jets, Avalanche, Coyotes and Panthers all attended the game Saturday.
Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: In the trade department, part 1: the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis stated that Ken Holland is “concerned” about the state of Ales Hemsky’s shoulder when asked about the Wings’ interest in said player, all during a trade-heavy Satellite Hotstove on the CBC;
• The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports that the Wings also have some interest in 41-year-old Teemu Selanne, should he wish to leave the Ducks…
League sources say as many as four teams — the Rangers, Sharks, Bruins and Wings — have all made inquiries into Selanne’s availability with the trade deadline just over a month away on Feb. 27. All are watching to see if Murray decides to make a move with his club mired near the bottom of the Western Conference.
While the Wings have plenty of experience, the Rangers, Sharks and Bruins wouldn’t mind a veteran presence. Selanne can play, contribute scoring — 15 goals, 44 points in 45 games heading into Saturday’s action — and he’d be in a similar role to the one Mark Recchi filled in Boston’s championship run last spring.
But Garrioch also reports that there’s a simple reason that we haven’t seen a repeat of last year’s January trade rush:
Why haven’t there been many moves by teams out of the playoff race? “Because the asking prices are still really high right now,” said a league executive. “You’ll see more moves as the prices become more realistic.” An example: The Hurricanes want top prospects or two first-round picks in exchange for Ds Jaroslav Spacek and Bryan Allen, C Tuomo Ruutu and Gleason.
• Something tells me that the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons isn’t trying to be complimentary here...
From the department of how far Ovechkin has fallen, consider this. Ovechkin trails Detroit’s Val Filppula in league scoring by two points, which is significant because in each of the past five seasons, Ovechkin had more assists alone than the improving Filppula had points
• Ugh. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson adds this little quip to his main “Hockey World” column, which continues to suggest that we’re all living in Jonathan Toews’ world (Matheson believes that Toews should be the league’s Hart Trophy winner by a country mile over the Datsyuks, Lundqvists and Malkins of the world, suggesting that Toews might be estimable on a Sidney Crosby level):
Forget any talk of the Detroit Red Wings having an interest in Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, even if he went to Michigan State. Jimmy Howard is better. The Wings might not be totally sold on backup Ty Conklin, but Conklin has been sharper the last little while.
Why yes, yes he has.
• Utterly ridiculous: According to USCHO.com, after allowing Riley Sheahan to play against the University of Michigan on Friday night, the CCHA chose to deny Notre Dame’s appeal of Sheahan’s suepnsion, and sat him for Saturday night’s game. So in college hockey, if someone appeals your suspension, you just keep playing? Michigan beat Notre Dame 2-1, by the way…
• I don’t even want to get into what Slava Fetisov ended up having to say about the team he left when he resigned as CSKA Moscow’s GM and stepped down as the KHL’s chairman of the board of directors. It sounds like he quite literally got involved in a power struggle which includes KHL president and SKA St. Petersburg GM Alex Medvedev, CSKA coach Sergei Nemchinov, executive Viktor Tikhonov and…Vladimir Putin? Yahoo Sports’ Dmitry Chesnokov explains some of Fetisov’s puzzling comments, which came during the KHL’s “state of the league” address at its All-Star Game (between “Team Fedorov” and “Team Ozolinsh”)—after Fetisov starred in an alumni game between KHL and Soviet-era stars.
It’s very, very, very weird. Fetisov’s a member of the upper house of the Russian parliament on top of all of this, so for Fetisov to go spouting off about CSKA after Vladimir Putin, current prime minister and future president/dictator of Russia, bought in…Strikes me as a little less than prudent.
• And the Courier-Post’s Randy Miller takes the, “I can’t believe he really said that” award of the weekend for offering these quips about what the Philadelphia Flyers might need to do should they lose Matt Carle of all people:
If the Flyers lose Carle and don’t get [Ryan] Suter, then who’s replacing him? I wasn’t blown away looking over the list of upcoming unrestricted FAs.
Detroit Red Wings legend Nicklas Lidstrom isn’t coming here next year when he’s 42 and chances are Suter probably isn’t either.
The Flyers could go out and sign a Brad Stuart or Pavel Kubina for fewer dollars and years, and while each could be a solid replacement, neither would offer the jack-of-all-trades value that Carle does.
Um, are you aware about the whole Lidstrom not playing for any other team than Detroit concept? Never mind the fact that Stuart’s worried about his family in San Jose? Do you read any hockey news at all? Are you Evil Drew Sharp’s brother or something?
• To spare you of similar bombast, I’ll skip the New York Post’s Larry Brooks’ discussion of the escrow issue as it applies to the NHLPA with something that probably had more of a direct effect on the ways in which Nicklas Lidstrom interacted with the NHL 36 crew:
The explosion of NHL inside-look shows produced by the league and its television partners is welcomed by the Players’ Association, but at the same time the union is reminding players of their right to limit intrusions from cameras via a memo sent by Mike Ouellet, the union’s chief of business affairs, to the athletes and their agents that was obtained by Slap Shots.
“While these types of projects can be very positive from a marketing perspective, they can be very disruptive and time consuming and can potentially compromise your rights under the CBA and [standard contract],” Ouellet wrote in the memo dated Jan. 18, regarding ‘‘behind-the-scenes video projects” featuring access on off-days and typically off-limits areas. “We have been working with the League to establish a protocol that needs to be followed before players can be approached on these types of projects,” he wrote. “Ideally, these types of requests should come from the [NHLPA] offices—not your Club, not the League, and not any third-party production company.”
• We will also ignore the Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont’s utter, utter idiocy in suggesting that Donald Fehr might lead the players to strike to negate a salary cap that is never going away and simply inform you that he says the Winter Classic is going to happen at Michigan Stadium (shocking, I know);
• And finally, I’ll leave you with a snippet from the QMI News Agency’s NHL player poll
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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.