The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/29/12 at 12:14 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings’ 5-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets was anything but a thing of beauty for the vast majority of the game, and even the game-winning goal had “flukey” written all over it, but regardless of how it happened, the result is what matters, and the result is huge:
The Detroit Red Wings are now tied in regulation and overtime wins with the St. Louis Blues because they overcame 40 minutes of sleepy, doofy play against a team very content to grind it out and play the spoiler’s role, and, as Ken Daniels said when the game was ticking toward its conclusion, the Wings needed a scare to wake them up. Derek MacKenzie’s shorthanded goal, 2:13 into the 3rd period, was the stick poke at a sleeping bear’s nose that woke the Big Red Machine up from a late-February period of hibernation, and while the Wings are still terribly shorthanded, the Minnesota Wild will have their hands full and then some from a wide-awake and slightly grumpy Wings team come Friday night.
No Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), no Pavel Datsyuk (knee), no Kyle Quincey (groin) and no Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) meant that the Wings were playing with a patchwork lineup, including Justin Abdelkader centering the first line, Doug Janik playing alongside Ian White on the first defensive pairing and youngsters Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith rounding out the bottom pair, and on top of all of that, Wings coach Mike Babcock chose to start Joey MacDonald against the spoiler-minded Blue Jackets to change things up.
Sure, the Blue Jackets know that they’re going to be golfing in a month-and-a-half, and that half of the players in the locker room, from Rick Nash on down, won’t be there next October, but for the moment, the team has every opportunity to play the “spoiler’s” role, and they were more than ready to pounce on a dozing and shorthanded Wings team.
The Wings got off on the right foot: their most notorious sleepwalker, Johan Franzen, opened the scoring 4:08 into the game. Jakub Kindl managed to keep the puck in at the left blueline and chased it past Rick Nash, Johan Franzen took the dump-in behind the Wings’ net and he immediately reversed the flow by passing it back to Danny Cleary, who then put it back to Kindl. Kindl “walked the line” across the blueline, moving from the right to center point and he wound up and took a snapper that bounced down off a Franzen tip. Franzen dug the rebound out from Curtis Sanford and chipped it past Sanford as he was falling back to make a desperation save, and bang bang, it was 1-0 Detroit.
The lead didn’t last long, however. In a penalty-filled game—and a game in which the refs were calling high-sticking penalties “hooking” or “slashing,” and they let as many odd picks, punches and interference go on both sides as they did call a total of 11 penalties, Todd Bertuzzi got a justified high sticking call, and the Blue Jackets struck almost immediately.
With Rick Nash, Derick Brassard and R.J. Umberger working on Columbus’s 1st line/power play unit, Nash and Brassard gave and went along the left wing half boards, Nash retrieved Brassard’s pass down low, and as he walked out front, Joey MacDonald stopped his shot…
But as Nash fell onto MacDonald, perhaps “helped” by Niklas Kronwall’s cross-check, Brad Stuart accidentally poked the puck past and through his goaltender. Tie game 6:55 in.
Update: Here’s how the BJ’s announcers saw it, via Paul:
From there on out, the Wings and Blue Jackets traded power plays, with predictable results if you’re a Wings fan—the Blue Jackets got some grade-A scoring chances on the Wings’ power plays, and the Wings leaned really hard on their goaltender and defense to bail them out when Columbus actually chose to roar toward the net instead of lurking in the weeds.
On a night where statistics were spotty at best—the Blue Jackets supposedly out-hit Detroit 33 to 2—the Wings did indeed out-shoot Columbus 10-5 in the 1st period, but the Blue Jackets definitely out-shot Detroit 12-6 in the 2nd period, and 13-9 in the 3rd, so without MacDonald, the Wings would have been in a world of hurt.
All of that being said, the goal that woke the Wings up was a terrible one on MacDonald’s part. While on a power play thanks to a Brett Lebda penalty, Henrik Zetterberg won a deep Blue Jackets zone faceoff to Valtteri Filppula, who flubbed the puck up, and as it trickled toward the blueline, Jiri Hudler and Niklas Kronwall bumped into each other. As they collided, Derek MacKenzie and Mark Letestu charged up into the fray, swiped the puck from Hudler and roared up ice. Hudler managed to recover and steer MacKenzie away from the slot, but he fired a flutterball toward Joey MacDonald’s glove from the blocker side, and the puck skittered past MacDonald as he tried to turn his glove under the puck.
Suddenly, 2:13 into the 3rd period, the Wings had gone 0-for-5 on the power play, had given up a shorthanded goal, and were looking weak-kneed and thin as the three hairs on the top of my head against a team that was delightfully “spoiling” the night away.
That goal against woke the Wings up big time, and it woke them up quickly.
One minute and thirty seconds later, on the same power play, the Wings kept pouring lighter fuel onto the fire, and eventually it lit.
MacDonald was setting up the power play after yet another easy Blue Jackets clear when he handed the puck to Jiri Hudler. Hudler chugged up the gut, carried the puck in himself (as Todd Bertuzzi barely stayed onside) and passed the puck to Valtteri Filppula on the left wing. Filppula’s slot pass for Todd Bertuzzi went wide, but Bertuzzi retrieved it, passed it back to Henrik Zetterberg at the right point, and Zetterberg just did the smart thing: he sent the puck to Niklas Kronwall, who charged in from the center point, took the puck, deked, dangled and backhanded a sneaky, slippery puck through Sanford’s hands. 3:43 into the 3rd, 2-2.
The Wings kept pressing, despite some superb rushes and pressure by the Blue Jackets on an intermittent basis, and at the 8:26 mark, Valtteri Filppula took a Niklas Kronwall pass through the neutral zone, chugged up and into the slot, dropped the puck toward Zetterberg on the left wing side, and as Filppula went to the net and was tripped by Johnson, and Jiri Hudler went to the net and was literally punched by R.J. Umberger, Zetterberg figured he’d try a shot from along the goal line, at its intersection with the left boards, for s***s and giggles.
The result wasn’t funny to Curtis Sanford, who probably felt the “whoosh” of the puck as it snuck behind his blocker and knee and actually went into the back of the net on its own—on the very far glove side, right near the intersection of the crossbar and goalpost. And none of that would have happened had Hudler and Kronwall not regrouped while continuing to possess the puck in the neutral zone after the Blue Jackets stood Detroit up at their blueline.
Once the Wings’ afterburners caught fire, they kept pouring fuel in. 49 seconds later, Tomas Holmstrom, Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton were playing on the “bump-up shift,” and after the Wings gained the Blue Jackets’ zone, Holmstrom took the puck on the right side, worked it around the back of the net and found Emmerton in the high, high slot, and Emmerton immediately shipped Holmstrom’s seeing-eye pass back to Jan Mursak, who was standing with his back toward Sanford. Mursak deftly took Emmerton’s pass, twisted his body around to face the net, and has he did so, his stick beat Sanford to the glove side post—as did the puck. The Wings were suddenly up 4-2, and they’d scored 3 goals in 5:13.
Again, the Blue Jackets didn’t falter, and actually out-shot the Wings 13-9 in the 3rd period (there’s no doubt about that), but like a waking bear, the Wings were hungry for more, and they’d salt the game away with just over six minutes left.
Because White was playing alongside Janik—who was surprisingly solid and smart both offensively and defensively—Kronwall and Stuart were the Wings’ most comfortable defensive pairing, and as Kronwall carried the puck up ice and gave it to Henrik Zetterberg, Zetterberg tried to wrap it around the back of the net, then gave it to Filppula, and when Fil realized he had no options, he made a pressured play to pass it back to Kronwall at the right point. Kronwall took the pass on his backhand, transitioned to his forehand, and again, as Johan Franzen, in the right place at the right time, tipped the puck down and pushed it toward the net, the puck flopped, floundered and bounced onto the ice three feet from Filppula’s stick blade at the top of the crease.
Filppula simply leaned into it and chipped the bouncer past and through Sanford. 5-2, 13:52 in, and as Ken Daniels noted, the Wings scored a total of 4 goals in 10:09 of time. From there they rode out the last six minutes of the third, allowed MacDonald the opportunity to make a few more slick saves, and the Wings, not the Blue Jackets, wound up coming out of Columbus with the “spoiler” points.
It was anything but pretty for the vast majority of the game, but if you keep pouring enough lighter fluid on wet wood, even it will become flammable, and that was more or less what the Wings have been doing by trying to stick to their skill game ways on nights when maybe fans like you or I wonder why they don’t start dumping and chasing.
Tonight, they gave us a very good answer as to why they kept trying—because, if only eventually, it works, to the tune of a goal and an assist for Franzen, a goal and an assist for Zetterberg, a goal and an assist for Filppula and a goal and two assists from Kronwall, as well as a great goal from the fourth line and 28 saves for MacDonald.
Even if the Wings don’t have Lidstrom or Quincey on Friday, they’ll finally play the Wild with the confidence that seemed to have disappeared from their games over the past week and change, and with two practice days to go, I like the chances of having at least one of Lidstrom or Quincey back, too.
Welcome back, Wings. Your fans missed you.
Update: Here’s a slate of highlights:
Statistics: The stats were just silly subjective…You’ll see.
Shots 30-25 Columbus overall. Detroit out-shot Columbus 10-5 in the 1st, but were out-shot 12-6 in the 2nd and 13-9 in the 3rd.
The Blue Jackets went 1-for-5 in 5:39 of PP time; The Wings went 1-for-6 in 8:52 of PP time.
Joey MacDonald stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced; Curtis Sanford stopped 20 of the 25 he faced.
The 3 stars, per a “media panel,” were Derek MacKenzie, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.
The Wings’ goals: Franzen (24) from Kindl (11) and Cleary 917);
Kronwall (13) from Zetterberg (37) and Bertuzzi (18), PP;
Zetterberg (14) from Filppula (31) and Kronwall (13);
Mursak (1) from Emmerton (4) and Holmstrom (11);
Filppula (19) from Franzen (25) and Kronwall (14).
Faceoffs 32-29 Columbus (Detroit won 48%);
Blocked shots 15-11 Detroit;
Missed shots 14-7 Detroit (total attempts 52-50 Columbus);
Hits a LAUGHABLE 33-2 Columbus
Takeaways 10-4 Columbus.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 13-and-7 (65%); Helm went 10-and-9 (53%); Abdelkader went 3-and-9 (33%); Emmerton went 3-and-3 (50%); Franzen lost 3 faceoffs; Filppula lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Zetterberg led the team with 4 shots; Mursak and Filppula had 3; Cleary, White, Miller, Kronwall and Franzen had 2; Smith, Kindl, Stuart, Hudler and Janik had 1.
Blocked attempts: Janik and Franzen had 2 attempts blocked by Blue Jackets players; Smith, Abdelkader, Cleary, Stuart, Zetterberg, Helm and Kronwall had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Kindl missed the net 3 times, as did Filppula; Cleary and Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; White, Janik, Kronwall and Holmstrom missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Only Brendan Smith and Darren Helm were credited with single hits.
Giveaways: Abdelkader, Mursak, Zetterberg and Helm had giveaways.
Takeaways: Filppula had 2 takeaways; Stuart and Franzen had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 4 shots; Cleary blocked 3; Janik blocked 2; Smith, Stuart, Helm, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Franzen blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Both Bertuzzi and Hudler took 2 minor penalties; White took 1.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +15. Janik and Franzen finished at +2; Smith, Kindl, Cleary, white, Stuart, Mursak, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Emmerton, Filppula and Kronwall finished at +1.
Those numbers would have been higher had the Wings not given up a short-handed goal.
Points: Kronwall had a goal and 2 assists for 3 points; Franzen had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Filppula had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Zetterberg had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Mursak had a goal; Kindl, Cleary, Bertuzzi, Emmerton and Holmstrom had assists.
Ice time: White led the team with 25:05 played; Kronwall played 23:21; Zetterberg played 21:09;
Stuart played 19:26; Filppula played 18:24; Janik played 18:14;
Kindl played 17:26; Franzen played 16:51; Hudler played 16:27;
Bertuzzi played 16:21; Helm played 15:30; Cleary played 14:13;
Holmstrom played 13:47; Miller played 13:43; Smith played 13:15;
Abdelkader played 11;21; Mursak played 8:33; Emmerton played 8:28.
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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.