The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/07/11 at 12:29 AM ET
Updated 2x with videos of Stuart’s save and the Elliott and Howard collisions at 11:46 PM: The Detroit Red Wings dropped a 3-1 decision to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night because the Wings chose not to learn lessons from their 4-2 loss to Colorado on Sunday, at least until it was too late for anything other than a a final flourish: for the second game in a row, the Wings were out-worked, out-hustled and ground down by a team that paid just a little more attention to detail, worked just a little more efficiently and effectively as a team and, plainly speaking, quite happily indulged the remnants of the Wings’ inner diva long enough to keep its inner grinder indulgently taking a catnap.
The Blues happily traded rushes with the Wings while happily inviting Detroit to make dekes and dangles at the offensive blueline instead of getting the puck in deep, encouraged the Wings to look for that extra pass that wasn’t there in the slot, and the Blues gleefully baited the Wings into the kinds of retaliatory hacks and whacks (and maybe a dive in Brian Elliott’s case) that result in power plays against and points surrendered. The Blues didn’t just force the Wings to make mistakes—their Hitchcockian trap and subtle grind created an environment in which the Wings could make unforced errors as they allowed their opponent to dictate the pace of play, and a team that’s still lacking in some self-confidence was all too willing to oblige.
Perhaps that’s as big a concern as the way in which the Wings almost shrugged their shoulders and gave away the game like a bored teenager doodling in class when his teacher says, “Okay, here’s what’s going to be on the test,” playing spaced-out, lackadaisical and disinterested hockey precisely when the game pivoted on power plays, big saves (Howard gave up a softy on the 3-1 goal, but was sterling and perhaps more inspired in terms of his physical play than his teammates in defending himself against getting ran over instead of flailing and calling for the trainer) and plain old working harder, smarter and more consistently than the Wings could muster.
Yes, most definitely, the fact that Jimmy Howard engaged the Blues who ran him was very good to see, and Hudler’s late power play goal restored the kind of tenacity to the Wings’ play that was missing for the vast majority of the last 100+-minutes of Wings hockey, but the Blues dictated the pace of play for the vast majority of the game, rallied from a 1-0 deficit via two power play goals (when the Blues’ power play is supposed to stink like cheese, but it scored 2, and the Wings’ power play is supposed to be the great equalizer, but it came up full of turnovers when it mattered the most)—and two very quick third period goals which opened up the game and more or less decided its outcome…
Because, when the Wings’ confidence took the kind of body blows that you and I’d probably hoped the newfound leadership from players like Franzen (who scored a gorgeous, determined goal) and Howard had assuaged, it didn’t recover until the game’s final minutes, when Cleary’s goal at least salvaged some pride, but did little more.
The Wings are still a team in transition, still a team looking for leaders and players to step up and make the right, simple plays when necessary, and when the team starts playing sloppily and pays for it, it’s as if the mighty Red Machine starts to sputter and wail, affording its opponent a remarkable amount of confidence and poise against a team that can seemingly no longer get through the neutral zone with speed, break through at trapping defense, sustain any sort of offensive pressure or generate secondary scoring chances.
Once the Wings surrendered a 2-goal lead, they spent the vast majority of the third period giving away pucks, over-passing and all but literally skating into the five men stacked at the Blues’ blueline, essentially running themselves over when the Blues weren’t running ‘em down. And as the last desperate flourish showed, it’s not as if the Wings lack the talent necessary to rally from multi-goal deficits in the third period, or salvage games after making doofy mistakes—it’s as if they don’t seem to believe that their reserve of guts, gumption and leadership is there anymore now that they don’t have Kris Draper, Chris Osgood and Brian Rafalski on the bench, all but serving as de-facto assistant coaches.
The Wings lost their focus, their resolve and then their identity against the Blues, and it cost them two incredibly important points in the jam-packed Western Conference against a team which can now call itself the Wings’ equal—the Blues and Wings both have 33 points—despite the fact that the Wings remain, when they choose to be, anyway, Detroit.
For the moment, anyway, regaining consistency and eliminating losing streaks are the result of the Wings’ sustained identity crisis, but over the long haul, the Wings have already eliminated any advantage they had points-wise over their Western Conference foes, and down the line, we’ve got to wonder what wear and tear the Wings are going to have to endure to possibly scramble for a top-four playoff spot instead of putting the S.S. Red Wings on cruise control in March and April due to their inability to figure themselves—never mind their opponents—out.
Shots 29-26 Detroit overall: the Wings out-shot St. Louis 10-8 in the 1st period, were out-shot 13-9 in the 2nd period and out-shot St. Louis 10-5 in the 3rd period.
Jimmy Howard stopped 23 of 26 shots; Brian Elliott stopped 27 of 29.
The Red Wings’ power play went 2-for-7 in 8;39 of PP time; the Blues’ power play went 2-for-8 in 10:30 of PP time.
The Wings’ goals: Franzen (13) from Hudler (11) and Howard (1), power play;
Cleary (6) from Hudler (12) and Kronwall (5), power play.
Faceoffs 35-24 Detroit (the Wings won 59% of their draws);
Blocked shots 15-10 Detroit;
Missed shots 10-8 Detroit (so the Wings fired 49 shots at or near Elliott, and the Blues fired 49 attempts at or near Howard as well);
Hits 21-13 St. Louis;
Takeaways 5-2 St. Louis.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 16-and-8 (67%); Zetterberg went 8-and-8 (50%); Abdelkader went 5-and-4 (56%); Helm went 3-and-4 (43%); Cleary, Hudler and Emmerton won single faceoffs.
Shots: White led the Wings with 5 shots; Datsyuk and Franzen took 3; Kindl, Miller, Zetterberg, Helm, Bertuzzi and Holmstrom took 2; Datsyuk, Hudler, Zetterberg, Emmerton, Ericsson and Kronwall took 1.
Blocked attempts: Zetterberg and Kronwall had 3 shot attempts blocked; Cleary, Datsyuk, Stuart and Helm had single shot attempts blocked.
Missed shots: Datsyuk, Bertuzzi and Franzen missed the net 2 times; Lidstrom, Cleary, Ericsson and Kronwall missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Datsyuk led the Wings with 4 hits; Kindl, Cleary, Stuart and Helm had 2; Abdelkader had 1.
Giveaways: Stuart, Zetterberg and Emmerton had giveaways.
Takeaways: Conner and Bertuzzi were credited with takeaways.
Blocked shots: Kronwall blocked 5 Blues shots; Stuart, Helm and Bertuzzi blocked 2; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, White and Ericsson blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Kronwall and Franzen took 2 penalties apiece; Kindl, Abdelkader, Cleary and Ericsson took single penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -5, with Conner, Helm, Emmerton, Ericsson and Kronwall finishing at -1.
Points: Hudler had 2 assists; Cleary and Franzen scored goals; Cleary, Kronwall and Howard had single assists.
Ice time: Lidstrom led the team with 25:30 played; Kronwall played 23:19; Zetterberg played 21:57;
White played 21:55; Stuart played 19:58; Datsyuk played 19:52;
Cleary played 18:57; Hudler played 17:30; Bertuzzi played 16:34;
Ericsson played 15:54; Franzen played 15:43; Holmstrom played 12:45;
Helm played 12:42; Miller played 11:59; Kindl played 10:33;
Abdelkader played 9:06; Emmerton played 7:34; Conner played 6:39.
Update: Via Paul, here’s the game’s lone highlight, as far as I’m concerned, in Brad Stuart’s save:
Update #2: I’m gonna refrain from commenting on this one:
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