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The Malik Report

Red Wings-Blue Jacketts quick take: Escape from hibernation land

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

Giveaways 4-4;

Takeaways 10-4 Columbus.

Individual stats:

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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Comments

MsRedWinger's avatar

Great game summary, George.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 02/29/12 at 12:37 AM ET

Avatar

Janik > Ericsson. All day.

Posted by yep on 02/29/12 at 12:44 AM ET

Avatar

Hits 33 to 2????!???! Okay,....

I’ll repost this as the unofficial Red Wings video until they win the Cup this year (I’m being an optimist at this point, I changed my tune—much easier to live that way):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=potlDrRI01A

Posted by Bugsy on 02/29/12 at 12:55 AM ET

HockeyFanOhio's avatar

First two periods were very ugly.  Wings came on in the 3rd.  The game was closer than the score makes it look.

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 02/29/12 at 01:19 AM ET

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It’s interesting that, with 3 defensemen out, the Red Wings had to call up a guy with only 180 games of NHL experience and another one who could have probably been playing in the NHL full time last season. Smith looks like an NHLer (though he could stand to bulk up a little).

Posted by bleep bloop on 02/29/12 at 01:38 AM ET

calquake's avatar

Posted by Bugsy on 02/28/12 at 10:55 PM ET

Nice.

Posted by calquake on 02/29/12 at 02:07 AM ET

WestWing's avatar

Nice to come here after a win.

I think we all had our various viewpoints yesterday, and for my part, while I’ve never been shy about offering up my take on things, I try to operate under the assmption that we’re all (or mostly anyway) ultimately pulling for the same result.

Regardless of whatever point I’m trying to make, I’d like to think I do it in a way that’s at least somewhat well thought out and, more important still, respectful of others who might disagree with me.

Anyway, enough about all that.  It was a much-needed win for the Wings tonight, and under the circumstances, as ugly as it was at times, it was also a thing of beauty.  Would be a great time to start stringing some wins together, both at home and on the road, and finish the regular season off with a flourish.

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 02/29/12 at 02:08 AM ET

DocF's avatar

The best thing I can say about Brendan Smith’s play is that he was not noticeable most of the time.  When he was, he was doing positive things.  He is a good one right now and will be a great one very soon.

Doug Janik is better than a whole lot of regulars on other teams in the NHL.  He keeps his game simple.  He is pretty much a stand up defenseman and these guy are always good to have. 

Incidentally, for the benefit of the Ericsson haters here and elsewhere, most of the experts in the other cities salivate over him.  He is much better than 85-90% of the regular d-men on other rosters.

And remember, the Red Wings already lost to the worst team in the league 7-2.  Yes, Montreal has morphed into that lowly position.  Toronto is next.  Then is Columbus.  So our guys kicked the adzes of the third worst team tonight.

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 02/29/12 at 02:30 AM ET

calquake's avatar

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 02/29/12 at 12:08 AM ET

I guess I should apologize if I came on a little too strong for some.  But I’m getting a little tired of the sometimes bitter criticism of the Wings.  They are one of the top teams in all of hockey.  How many teams can say that?  For the last 20 years?  Even after installing a salary cap that was imposed to curtail how they operated?  We are blessed to witness a dynasty in Detroit in the modern sports era.  Someday they will look back on this and say “Detroit had a hellava run back then”

Posted by calquake on 02/29/12 at 02:31 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Yaaaaayyyy respect. Yaaaaayyy being a little relieved. How’s that?

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/29/12 at 03:38 AM ET

SYF's avatar

Always a treat reading your PGTs, George (Post-Game Threads).  Just a wonderful summary.

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.

Let’s just hope that kind of effort right off the first faceoff puts down the Pinkys on Friday night.  There is a huge opportunity to keep racking up points to stay atop the Central while the B’Lose are on their West Coast swing starting Wednesday night against the Slicks and ending against the chum of San Jose.

Two days of intense practice starts tomorrow and hopefully, the Wings will figured out how to stop with the short-handed chances steadily rising in count.

Posted by SYF from The Revenge of Johnny E on 02/29/12 at 03:47 AM ET

Alzy's avatar

So I just finished watching the game on PVR. Brendan Smith doesn’t look out of place at all IMO, and is only going to get better. There were a few times tonight where he seemed to make the safe play over the more aggressive one, which I can completely understand, but once he gets more confidence, I think he can be a game changer. Janik was also pretty steady, in that I barely noticed him on the ice, and when I did it was for blocking the passing lane perfectly, making the smart poke check, etc. Definitely not much offensive potential, but can get the job done.

I didn’t like the SHG for a number of reasons. Hudler caught flat-footed, Kronwall pretty much taking out Happy by diving at him, and I personally thought it was a bit weak by J-Mac. Sanford at the other end though, Jesus. Kronwall’s and Hank’s goals were Adrien Brody-level ugly.

Mule I thought for the most part looked like he received the message, as he was driving to the net a lot tonight. There were still a few times though where if he was knocked down, he seemed more concerned with getting in the referee’s ear than getting back defensively. I’d like to see him stay down on the third line for another game, just so the message really sinks in.

Emmerton’s lucky he didn’t break his leg/ankle on that tumble into the boards. yikes, it looked pretty bad.

What I liked most about the game though, was the Wings didn’t let the SHG break them. Push back and keep playing instead of thinking “oh shit it’s over”. I know it was the BJs, but still nice to see.

Gotta take the next two days and work on the PP though. I know they got a goal tonight, but all too often it looks disjointed, discombobulated, , whatever adjective you want to use, I think ugly sums it up best.

Definitely looking forward to Friday to see more of Smith. I don’t know if he can usurp anyone’s job, but damn I hope he just keeps the good play up. LGRW

Posted by Alzy from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada on 02/29/12 at 05:21 AM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.