The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/31/11 at 11:53 PM ET
A little under 24 hours after dropping a distressing 3-2 decision to Chicago, the Detroit Red Wings displayed something which the St. Louis Blues seemed to have exhausted their reserves of on Saturday night: restraint.
As a result, the Red Wings rode a sterling shutout performance from Jimmy Howard and the proper exertion of pressure upon one’s opponent at the proper time—in the form of three second-period goals when the Blues started to tire thanks to 85-plus minutes of hard-charging, balls-to-the-wall physical hockey—and the Wings simply, elegantly and efficiently continued to steamroll the Blues, defeating their Central Division opponents by a 3-0 tally.
The Wings’ start wasn’t exactly spectacular: Detroit’s players continued to exhibit a willingness to stand around, wait for someone else to make a smart play and simply stare at the puck while the Blues roared out of the chute crashing and banging and earning point-blank chances on Howard, who had to make some spectacular glove saves to keep things even.
Adding insult to injury, the Wings lost Justin Abdelkader to a very deliberate head shot by Blues defenseman Ian Cole.
The one thing the Wings did differently, Cole’s hit included, however, was to withstand the Blues’ physical assault and ability to take Detroit’s time and space away via stick checks by plain old standing their ground. To some extent, the Wings stood around, but to some extent, they also refused to be pushed onto their heels by the Blues’ hard-charging forecheck, and this time around, their forwards didn’t cheat as badly toward offense and their defensemen weren’t caught spaced too far apart as the Blues did indeed attempt to replicate the Blackhawks’ success with stretch passes launching Hawks forwards on 3-on-2’s, 2-on-1’s and breakaways against Howard.
Instead, the Wings hung back just a bit longer and were just a bit stronger both in terms of one-on-one battles for the puck and in terms of stifling rebound opportunities in front of an incredibly solid Howard.
The Wings more or less “killed off” the first period, and after shaking the slumber from their skates, they came out determined to do more than simply prevent another multiple-game losing streak from erupting in the second period.
The Wings stepped on the gas and stepped up on the Blues, masking their continued power play struggles (0-for-4 in 8 minutes of power play time, but hey, they killed off 3 Blues opportunities as well…Nice job of falling over and drawing penalties against Lidstrom and Zetterberg, David Perron, too) by peppering Brian Elliot with 17 second-period shots and pouncing on rebounds.
Johan Franzen’s deke-and-dangle-and-jam goal—and yes, Franzen has indeed awakened from his slumber—was the result of strong and fleet-footed skating and puck-moving through the neutral zone by Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk, but Justin Abdelkader’s roofer just over a minute after Franzen’s and Jiri Hudler’s rebound marker (Hudler could have had a hat trick had he not deferred to pass so very regularly) involved the Wings sending players to the lip of the crease and winning battles to send rebounds to said players camped out in the slot. The Wings pushed the puck into the Blues’ zone, kept it there, went to the “hard areas” and just mashed pucks into the back of the net.
As the second period expired, you kind of knew that even-ups were coming—there were two of them—and that Howard would be tested (by 11 Blues shots; the Wings only took 4 in the 3rd period), but what the Blues earned in terms of power plays and shots, they were unable to sustain. They looked like the Wings did on Friday, expending tremendous amounts of energy to generate one-and-done scoring opportunities mostly lost because they either fired pucks into a goaltender whose defensemen ensured he was neither crashed nor bothered and because they couldn’t overpower, out-check or out-battle Wings defenders to loose pucks which found their way out of trouble in a hurry.
The game was much like Mike Commodore’s fight with B.J. Crombeen for a flying elbow, except that after getting a few good pops in, the Wings did not underestimate the Blues’ reach, and instead withstood those final furious blows by a team that they were all too happy to encourage to tire itself out. While the Wings did falter a bit in the third, Howard was good and the Wings managed to exert just enough effort to frustrate and fluster a Blues team that was clearly unable to manage their mental and physical fatigue in the same manner that the Wings’ veterans and youngsters did.
On top of all of that wonderful, lovey-dovey team stuff, the Miller-Abelkader-Cleary line was fantastic, as was the Wings’ “Kid Line,” and this time around, Henrik Zetterberg’s wingers didn’t abandon him, with Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler showing jam and poise in the same manner that Bertuzzi and Franzen displayed while flanking the ever-elegant Pavel Datsyuk.
Defensively, aside from noting that the Blues hacked Niklas Kronwall’s stick out of his hands too regularly and that Jonathan Ericsson continued to make boobles during what’s been a rough couple of games for him, to the point that even Mike Commodore was forced to over-commit, the Wings had to feel very good about seeing Kronwall and Brad Stuart return to their impenetrable form, blocking shots and doling out one-touch passes to forwards skating with speed through the neutral zone, hard shots on Elliott and the kind of grit necessary to win puck battles along the boards to ensure that few odd-man rushes were given up.
Lidstrom was tagged for another penalty, and I’m starting to wonder if the refs had to fill a ticket quota or something similar given the fact that Lidstrom was tagged for another penalty despite the fact that David Perron all of leaned into Lidstrom and fell over, but he was solid (his shots have been going a little wide of late, but Lidstrom remains the Wings’ anchor pivot in all three zones) and White was solid as well while leading the Wings in ice time, with nearly 26 minutes played, for good measure.
All in all, it wasn’t perfect by any means, but Jimmy Howard and the 18 skaters in front of him played more efficiently and more intelligently than their opponents, managing their mental and physical fatigue while finding the perfect points at which they could pounce upon their opponent and deliver the maximum damage for their diligence.
That being said, I think this win was more than just worth a 2-point lead on the Blues-it allows Wings fans like you and me to take a deep breath after a sigh of relief going into 2012.
For the record, at the WJC: Petr Mrazek’s fun train stopped as he gave up 4 goals in 28 shots, including a goal to Teemu Pulkkinen (he also had an assist and 4 total shots) as the Finns hammered the undermanned Czechs 4-0 on Saturday.
Coming off their 5-2 win over the Americans, the Czechs headed into their preliminary round finale against Finland looking to snag second place in Group B and avoid a quarterfinal showdown with either Sweden or Russia. After a 52-save performance that stole the show Friday against Team USA, Czech goaltender Petr Mrazek was solid in goal against Finland, but wasn’t enough on this day to propel his team to victory.
“Last night was certainly very draining emotionally,” Czech assistant coach Jiri Fischer explained. “For most of the guys this is really the first time playing in front of 16,000 people on their side and winning the game against [the] U.S. and that basically clinched us to advance.” It wasn’t to easy to have the same head on the shoulders as it was yesterday for the game.”
Discipline problems for a third consecutive game coupled with the loss of a pair of key players helped set the table for the Finns, earning their third consecutive win of the tournament.
Both forward Jakub Culek and defenceman David Musil weren’t in the lineup Saturday afternoon for the Czech Republic due to injuries, with Musil’s absence the most glaring.
Musil logged major minutes for the Czechs and despite not missing significant time during the game and even staying afterwards to take questions from the media, was scratched Saturday after experiencing dizziness. The undisclosed injury, which Fischer avoided labeling a concussion, led to Musil’s absence and left a gaping hole in the Czech Republic defence corps, especially on the penalty kill.
“It happened at the end of the game. He wasn’t feeling good for the rest of the game, he obviously finished,” Fischer said. “For him particularly this is the first time he’s experienced anything like that, so it’s a learning process. It really improved over night, but it still wasn’t good to go.”
According to the IIHF’s website, the Czechs will play the Russia-Sweden game’s winner on Monday...
And the Slovaks will tangle with Finland after securing a 6-4 victory over Switzerland which included a Slovak rally from a 2-0 deficit. Tomas Jurco had four assists and took 3 shots, and Marek Tvrdon added an assist as well.
Update: Let’s go with the obvious from Mike Babcock regarding Cole’s hit, per MLive’s Ansar Khan:
Babcock on Cole hit on Abdelkader: I didnt like the hit. he should be suspended.
Shots 31-31 overall. The Wings and Blues took 10 shots apiece in the 1st period; the Wings out-shot St. Louis 17-10 in the 2nd period, and the Wings were out-shot 11-4 in the 3rd period.
The Wings went 0-for-4 in 8:00 of PP time; the Blues went 0-for-3 in 6:00 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped all 31 shots he faced; Brian Elliott stopped 28 of 31.
The 3 stars, per Hockey Weekly’s Paul Harris, were Jiri Hudler, Justin Abdelkader and Jimmy Howard.
The Wings’ goals: Franzen (15) from Datsyuk (27) and Kronwall (10);
Abdelkader (4) from Miller (7);
Hudler (9) from Filppula (18) and Zetterberg (18).
Faceoffs 28-21 Detroit (the Wings won 57%);
Blocked shots 14-13 Detroit;
Missed shots 17-15 Detroit (total attempts 61-60 Detroit);
Hits 23-18 St. Louis;
Giveaways 8-1 Detroit;
Takeaways 9-7 St. Louis.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 8-and-8 (50%); Datsyuk went 10-and-3 (77%); Emmerton went 3-and-5 (38%); Abdelkader went 4-and-1 (80%); Franzen went 3-and-1 (75%); Filppula lost 2 faceoffs; Cleary lost the only faceoff he took.
Shots: Hudler led the Wings with 4 shots; Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, White and Miller had 3; Lidstrom, Commodore, Stuart, Zetterberg and Franzen had 2; Filppula and Ericsson had 1.
Blocked attempts: Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Stuart and Hudler had 2 shot attempts blocked; Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Emmerton, Kronwall and Franzen had single attempts blocked.
Missed shots: White missed the net 3 times; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Hudler and Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Miller, Stuart, Filppula, Ericsson and Kronwall missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Ericsson led the Wings with 3 hits; Abdelkader, Commodore, Bertuzzi and Andersson had 2; Lidstrom, Nyquist, White, Zetterberg, Emmerton, Filppula and Kronwall had 1.
Giveaways: Zetterberg had 4 giveaways; White, Commodore, Hudler and Howard had 1.
Takeaways: Stuart had 2 takeaways; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Miller, Commodore and Zetterberg had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 4 shots; Miller blocked 3; Abdelkader blocked 2; Lidstrom, Stuart, Ericsson, Andersson and Franzen blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Commodore took a major penalty for fighting; Lidstrom, Nyquist and Zetterberg were tagged with minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +15. Stuart and Kronwall finished at +2; Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, Miller, Commodore, hudler, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Filppula, Ericsson and Franzen finished at +1.
Points: Abdelkader, Hudler and Franzen scored goals; Datsyuk, Miller, Zetterberg, Filppula and Kronwall had assists.
Ice time: White led the team with 25:59 played; Lidstrom played 23:38; Zetterberg played 20:51;
Filppula played 19:48; Datsyuk played 18:48; Cleary played 18:45;
Ericsson played 18:37; Franzen played 18:03; Kronwall played 17:47;
Stuart played 17:24; Hudler played 16:40; Miller played 16:14;
Bertuzzi played 15:49; Abdelkader played 14:41; Commodore played 13:22;
Emmerton played 6:52; Andersson played 5:24; Nyquist 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.