The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/01/12 at 08:14 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings’ 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues wasn’t exactly perfect given that the Wings relied very heavily on Jimmy Howard’s 31-save performance, but just as Justin Abdelkader shook off a shoulder to the chin and returned to score the Wings’ second goal, his teammates shook off a slightly shaky first period and rebounded nicely from Friday night’s loss to Chicago by managing their levels of mental and physical energy like the seasoned pros they are, withstanding the Blues’ physical push before pouncing on a more mentally and physically tired team that was playing the same second half of back-to-back games, delivering the denizens of the so-called Hockeytown a fine New Year’s Eve present.
Massive run-on sentence being said, the Wings really did play smarter and more efficient hockey than their opponent while at least displaying an understanding that the Blues were going to try to knock Detroit onto its heels and indecisive play in the same way that the Blackhawks did on Friday, and this time around, the Wings wouldn’t be “had.” As a bonus, Johan Franzen finally emerged from his mid-December slumber, so something to be said about appreciating learning on the fly and heading into an incredibly busy January schedule accentuating positives.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford found a particularly flustered coach Ken Hitchcock lamenting the fact that the Blues have earned more than their share of “looks” over their past few games, but simply haven’t been able to convert on them…
“The bigger issue is, we’re hoping to score rather than working to score,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “You can live on all your ‘scoring chances’ and everything, but the ability to bear down and really be determined around the net — it’s not there right now. We score one (Friday) night and we get shut out tonight. When you don’t outwork the other team’s goalie night in and night out, shame on you. Nothing is more frustrating than making the goalie the first star. But the biggest issue for me is the temperature went up in the game and we didn’t answer the bell.”
The Blues’ players felt that they did more than simply hang with the Wings, especially when they peppered Howard with 16 third period shots, but they couldn’t solve him…
“We had a couple of chances, especially me,” [Matt] D’Agostini said. “I had an open net and I didn’t capitalize. It came back to haunt us. It would have changed the complexion of the game to get the first one. I just thought I had him. I thought I was going to slide it in. But he made a good save and we didn’t rebound from our early chances.”
And instead, the Wings picked the Blues apart in short order:
Detroit opened a tight game with three even-strength goals in the second period, including lamp-lighters 77 seconds apart by Johan Franzen and Abdelkaeder. Jiri Hudler capped the period with a goal with 53 seconds remaining.
“We just had a couple of breakdowns,” Blues center Scott Nichol said. “That’s when we’ve got to grow as a team. We’ve got to learn how to battle back. The playoffs, you’re going to be down a goal or two — you’re going to have to rely on each other to come from behind. We’ve got to do that. We’ve got to grab the momentum, keep it and sustain it. It seemed like we’d have it one or two shifts and then lose it again. We just need to be a lot more consistent.”
“Mentally, we just didn’t respond to their goals,” Jackman said. “They get two quick ones both nights. It’s pretty hard to come back when you spot a team like that two goals.”
“We had our chances, they had theirs,” said [Brian] Elliott, who lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. “We kind of had a lapse in the second period and that’s what killed us. We just have to learn that at this time of the year, and going through the rest of the year, things are amped up and we have to respond.”
The Blues continued upon the same tack while speaking to NHL.com’s Brian Hedger...
Detroit (24-13-1) evened the season series with the Blues to two wins a piece with one game left in each team’s arena. Elliott (28 saves) took his second straight loss for St. Louis – both to the Wings and both here in the Motor City. The loss also gives the Blues their first three-game winless skid of the season and drops their record to 4-1-0 in games following two straight winless outings. After the game, they held a lengthy team meeting to discuss their response after falling down by two goals so quickly again.
“You need one of those (meetings) once in a while just to remember why we’re here,” Blues center Scott Nichol said. “We just had a couple of breakdowns after they scored a real good goal. When we do give up a goal, we’ve got to come back and have a real good shift. We’ve got to learn how to battle back. You’re going to be behind a goal or two.”
Howard, meanwhile, continued his great play at home all game. He made a number of memorable stops, but his most impressive might’ve come in the first against Matt D’Agostini – who didn’t lift the puck over Howard while on the doorstep and watched it settle into the catching glove for a remarkable save.
“I had an open net and didn’t capitalize on it,” D’Agostini said. “It came back to haunt us. I just thought I had him … that I was just going to slide it in. But he came across.”
Howard also came up with a pair of rapid-fire stops in the third to keep it 3-0, when he made a stop on a redirection of a shot by Jason Arnott and quickly got into position to stop a close-range whack at the rebound taken by Cole.
“It was just not giving up on the play and staying with it and sticking with it ... trying to get a body part on it,” Howard said of his save against D’Agostini, which kept the game scoreless. “It definitely gives you a boost of adrenaline and you just build off of it.”
And both Hedger and Rutherford noted that the teams differed considerably in their interpretation of what happened when Ian Cole saw Justin Abdelkader skating toward the Blues’ blueline with his head down:
Midway through the first period Saturday, Blues defenseman Ian Cole received a two-minute penalty for an illegal check to the head, sending the recipient, Justin Abdelkaeder, to the Red Wings locker room for the rest of the period.
“I just stepped up. … I think he saw me coming at the last second and tried to cut back inside real quick,” Cole said. “I had him lined up. I wasn’t going to go high, I wasn’t going to go for the head. I was just going right for his shoulder. He tried to cut back and avoid it, and he put his head right into my shoulder.”
Although Abdelkaeder returned for the second period and scored the Red Wings’ second goal, Detroit coach Mike Babcock was not pleased.
“I don’t like the hit. The hit should be a suspension, for sure,” he said. “But I thought ‘Abby’ did a real good job, and he played well the last two periods, more ice time. He played against good players and played well.”
Here’s the hit in question:
Abdelkader returned and scored, obviously, so, as the Associated Press’s recap suggests, the Wings displayed the kind of poise that the Blues lacked while bouncing back from their loss to Chicago in a big way…
“We’ve got to learn how to battle back,” Scott Nichol said. “You’re going to be behind a goal or two.”
Franzen opened the scoring 7:28 into the second period when he cut in from the left wing, skated across the slot and beat Elliott from just below the right circle. It was Franzen’s 15th goal. He had gone eight games without a goal Abdelkader made it 2-0 with his fourth goal, and second in two nights, just 1:17 later when he scored from the slot after a turnover by St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
Abdelkader had returned to the game at the beginning of the period after taking a shoulder to the face from St. Louis defenseman Ian Cole 9:11 into the game. Cole, who is from Ann Arbor, received a minor penalty for contact to the head.
“It’s good to comeback from a hit like that. I felt good right off the bat in the first period. It was good to come back and help the team out,” Abdelkader said. “I didn’t see the hit, but I definitely got hit in the head. At least it felt that way. I haven’t seen a replay yet.”
And while Mike Commodore’s fight with B.J. Crombeen was pretty darn solid, Crombeen take-down included, the Wings were happy to see Abdelkader score, the Filppula-Zetterberg-Hudler line return to form and Johan Franzen emerge from his slumber, there was no doubt as to which Wing carried the day:
“Howie (Howard) made a huge save in the first period, actually two of them, allows you to get going,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Obviously our team played pretty well in the second, took the game over.”
The Detroit News’s Eric Lacy suggests that the Red Wings’ workhorse goalie has something of a roll going...
Howard stopped 31 shots for his fourth shutout of the season. He’s now won 15 of his last 19 starts, and hasn’t lost two starts in a row since mid-November. Howard appeared to downplay his accomplishment, pointing more to Detroit’s talented roster as the reason why it’s on a roll, winning 12 straight at home.
“I just want to keep this going,” Howard said. “A new guy just keeps stepping up. This shows how deep of a team we are.”
Saturday marked the Red Wings’ third straight game without Tomas Holmstrom and the second straight game with out Darren Helm. Both are sidelined with groin injuries.
While they heal up, coach Mike Babcock said he’ll monitor Howard’s play closely to make sure he doesn’t experience any physical setbacks. But Babcock didn’t sound like he’ll make any drastic changes to Howard’s workload anytime soon. Howard has started 27 of the Red Wings 29 games since Nov. 1.
“We’ll figure it out,” Babcock said grinning.
Howard did indeed attempt to defer credit for his performance to the skaters in front of him, as the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness noted...
Behind a 31-save performance by Jimmy Howard and second period goals from Johan Franzen, Justin Abdelkader and Jiri Hudler, the Wings won their 12th straight at home Saturday night, 3-0, over the St. Louis Blues. Detroit is just two wins away from tying the mark for consecutive wins at home set in the 1964-65 season.
“We’re keeping it simple, not trying to overdo it at home,” said Howard, who has won all 12 of those games in that stretch, three of which have come by shutout. “We were able to open it up there a little bit in the second period and it generated some opportunities.”
Detroit began the season 3-2-1 at home.
“It’s been a good turnaround after we went through that little bit of a funk there where we weren’t generating any goals,” said Howard, who has four shutouts this season and nine for his career. “It’s been a battle all four games, back and forth (with St. Louis). We just continue to find a way to win one here.”
The win moves the Wings two points ahead of the Blues in second place in the Central Division and back to three points behind idle Chicago.
“We need the points,” said Howard, who leads the league with 23 wins. “We can’t sit back and rest on anything. We need to continue to get points.”
But Howard did puff out his chest on occasion, as noted by DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose...
Howard made several quality saves, particularly in the first when the game was still up for grabs. The Wings’ goalie made a pivotal diving stop on Blues forward Matt D’Agostini, who fired a shot near the right post. The stop certainly set an early tone for the Wings and their goalie.
“Just not giving up on the play and just staying with it and sticking with it, and trying to get a body part on it,” said Howard, of his stop on D’Agostini. “It definitely gives you a boost of adrenaline and you just build off of it.”
Howard also made premium stops on Kevin Shattenkirk’s point shot through traffic, and another close-range opportunity by Alex Pietrangelo.
“I thought Howie was good,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought our team was good. Howie made a huge save in the first period, actually two of them, and that allows you to get going. Obviously our team played pretty well in the second, took the game over. We gave Howie a little too much action for my liking in the third. I didn’t think we needed to do that but he was up to the task.”
“Every night you want to get up and play your best against the goalie at the other end,” Howard said. “I think it’s more a long the lines that we need the points. We can’t sit back and rest on anything. We need to continue to get points.”
But again, Howard was less concerned with his own statistical achievements, or the Wings’ lengthy home winning streak, than the fact that the Wings have yet to beat the Blues at home with a home game against St. Louis on January 23rd and a road tilt in the Gateway City on April 4th:
“It’s been a battle, all four games have been back and forth,” said Howard, of the Blues. “Now we have to figure out a way to win one at their building, so we’ve won both here and we have to take it on the road.”
In the Wings’ home streak, Howard has played in all 12 wins, while compiling a 1.34 goals-against average, a .946 save percentage and three shutouts dating back to Nov. 5.
As Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakji noted, Howard had a simple answer as to why the Wings have won so very regularly at the Joe...
“We’re keeping it simple, not trying to overdo it at home,” Howard said. “We were able to open it up there a little bit in the second period and it generated some opportunities.”
Brian Elliott made 28 saves for St. Louis, which came closest to scoring when Carlo Colaiacovo hit the post on a shot from the point during a power play early in the third period. The Blues are winless in three games (0-2-1) for the first time this season and Elliott has lost back-to-back games for the first time in 2011-12.
“We’ve got to learn how to battle back,” Scott Nichol said. “You’re going to be behind a goal or two.”
Franzen opened the scoring 7:28 into the second period when he cut in from the left wing, skated across the slot and beat Elliott from just below the right circle. It was Franzen’s 15th goal. He had gone eight games without a goal
Abdelkader made it 2-0 with his fourth goal, and second in two nights, just 1:17 later when he scored from the slot after a turnover by St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Abdelkader had returned to the game at the beginning of the period after taking a shoulder to the face from St. Louis defenseman Ian Cole 9:11 into the game. Cole, who is from Ann Arbor, received a minor penalty for contact to the head.
And Michigan Hockey’s Michael Caples noted Abdelkader’s reaction to his bounce-back (Abdelkader registered 2 shots, a total of 5 shot attempts, 2 hits, 2 blocked shots and a 4-and-1 faceoff record despite missing the latter half of the first period) as well as his take on the Wings’ play at home:
“Obviously it’s good to come back from a hit like that,” said Abdelkader, the former Michigan State Spartan. “I felt good right off the bat, in the second period, it was good to come back and help the team out.”
The Wings have now won 12 straight home games.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Abdelkader said. “We’re playing well at home, it’s a lot of fun, the fans have been great and have been into it, and hopefully we can keep it rolling. Howie’s been playing really well too. I think as a team, defensively, we’re committed to defense, and it’s great confidence for us.”
Consider this a, “Seconded!” per the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
“I think the way we’ve been scoring goals makes it a lot easier on everyone here at home,” Howard said. “The way to explain it, I think, is just we stick to the game plan at home. We don’t stray from it at all, and we’ve been having success because of it.”
There wasn’t much separation until the second period, when Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader beat Brian Elliott twice in less than two minutes. Jiri Hudler also had a second-period goal.
Howard’s 31 saves included robbing Matt D’Agostini with a glove save midway through the first period and windmilling a save on Kevin Shattenkirk in the waning minute en route to a fourth shutout of the season, ninth of Howard’s career.
“Howie made a huge save in the first period, actually two of them, and that allows you to get going,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Our team played pretty well in the second, took the game over.”
The Wings’ power play, potent earlier in December but problematic the past two weeks, sputtered through two tries in the first period, the second opportunity earned at the expense of a nasty hit on Abdelkader. Ian Cole rammed into Abdelkader at St. Louis’ blue line, catching him in the head and sending Abdelkader spinning. Abdelkader left the ice for the rest of the period. Cole left, too, but only to serve 2 minutes for a minor penalty for illegal check to the head. There’s little doubt he’ll be punished further by the NHL.
“I don’t like the hit,” Babcock said. “The hit should be a suspension for sure.”
Abdelkader said he was glad he could come back. “I just kind of lost balance and got off-center, that’s why I spun there and fell and had to take a second to regroup myself,” he said. “I just went in the room, did all the tests and passed all the tests.”
And St. James offered a few more quips from Babcock in her capsule recap:
Overheard, PART I: Mike Babcock, on how the Wings played: “I thought Howie was good. I thought our team was good. They played back-to-back; their plane landed at the same time as us. Everything was even here tonight, which is nice, especially when you’re playing at home. Good win for our team. You want to bounce back.”
OVERHEARD PART II: Babcock, on Franzen’s goal, “I just thought the Mule skated real good tonight. When he skates and plays like that, he’s going to score lots.”
MLive’s Ansar Khan very astutely described the Wings’ play as “resilient,” and he noted that Cole’s hit on Abdelkader was just part of the Blues’ physical assault...
The Blues, as usual, were physical. Ian Cole hit Abdelkader with a shoulder check to the head at 9:11 of the first period. A dazed Abdelkader stumbled a couple of times before heading off to the “quiet room” for concussion tests.
Abdelkader returned at the start of the second period, one which Detroit dominated. The Red Wings outscored St. Louis 3-0, getting goals from Johan Franzen, Abdelkader and Jiri Hudler.
“Maybe the hockey gods were looking down on me,” Abdelkader said. “It’s just one of those plays we want to take out of the game. I don’t know if he intentionally went after my head. It’s one of those bang-bang plays. Just glad I could come back and help the team out.”
But Abdelkader got a little lucky, the Wings ended up pouncing on the Blues when they tired themselves out by trying to run the Wings into 2012 early, and now the Wings have something of a pickle on their hands with 4 straight road games and a January schedule where the Wings play 8 on the road and 5 at home ahead of them:
Babcock said he doesn’t know why his team has been dominant at home and below .500 on the road (9-11-0).
“We seem to be comfortable here and we’re playing well here,” Babcock said. “That’s real good for us. You want to be good at home, we’d like to improve our road record here and we’re going to have ample opportunity to do that.”
Let’s give an earned last word to Howard, via the Wings’ Twitter account:
Howard: We’re playing with confidence at home. We’ve got to find a way to take it on the road with us.
That’s the plan.
Highlights: The Red Wings’ website posted a highlight clip narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Post-game: Fox Sports Midwest posted a 1:33 clip of Barret Jackman’s post-game comments;
Fox Sports Detroit posted Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s takes on the game…
As well as post-game comments from Jimmy Howard and coach Mike Babcock:
The Red Wings’ website posted clips of Justin Abdelkader, Jimmy Howard and Mike Babcock’s comments:
Photos: The Detroit News posted a 24-image gallery;
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch embedded 4 images in its website’s recap;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 7-image gallery;
Fox Sports Midwest posted a 5-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted an 18-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 23-image gallery;
The Blues’ website posted a 22-image gallery;
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.
Part II: Winter Classic Talk: So the rhetoric regarding the Wings potentially hosting the next Winter Classic reached something of a crescendo on Saturday afternoon, despite the fact that NHL COO John Collins suggested that places like New York City might be higher on the NHL’s list of priorities, and Wings coach Mike Babcock all but growled when asked by Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating whether he could deal with HBO’s 24/7 crew chasing him around in less than “controlled situations.”
I’ll delicately suggest that while the Wings’ players, coaches and front office are generally pretty accommodating, Babcock’s very much so a control freak when it comes to dealing with the press, choosing his words and availability very, very carefully, and there is something of a crossing the bridge of death feel to answering the questions and meeting the requirements of the gatekeepers to the Wings’ locker room, so I’m not sold on the concept of what Henrik Zetterberg described a “boring” team’s willingness to play nice with or appeal to the ratings phenomenon, a lack of secrets and/or controversial characters included.
Moreover, Collins told NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale and the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein that, should the Wings be interested in hosting a Winter Classic, it would be tied into their plans to build a new rink, and given that the City of Detroit is on its way to the largest civic bankruptcy in history and that Wayne County is under federal investigation for a ridiculous amount of rampant and legal taxpayer-money-gobbling corruption, it appears that the Ilitches would have to attempt to privately fund any construction of a new rink built in the City of Detroit over the next five years. That would involve tapping into their casino revenues, which is something the Ilitches seem very unwilling to do.
All of that being said, the Wings had no problem talking about the possibility with the Free Press’s Helene St. James (and MLive’s Ansar Khan, but he posted an article which won’t be available till 7 or 8 AM as MLive pulled it for the sake of morning web traffic [sorry about that], and I can’t stay up that late)...
“Everyone here would just love it, and people in Michigan would really enjoy it, too,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It would be a good show for everybody. Everybody would relish it and have a good time.”
The Wings told the league immediately after playing in the ‘09 game that they would like to stage one themselves. General manager Ken Holland told the Free Press the Wings remained in waiting mode, eagerly anticipating joining a lineup of hosts that also had included Buffalo (‘08, Ralph Wilson Stadium), Boston (‘10, Fenway Park), and Pittsburgh (‘11, Heinz Field). On Monday, the Flyers, who played at Boston two years ago, host the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park.
“We’re a good franchise,” [Wings coach Mike Babcock] said. “I think we’ve got a good market, we’ve got a good brand. I’d like us to have one, but I think there’s a whole bunch of teams lined up for that.”
The Wings certainly have the needed cachet—Original Six team, four Stanley Cups since 1997, dazzling star forward Pavel Datsyuk, fans spread across the U.S. And as Chicago forward Patrick Kane pointed out, other teams already had double-dipped, whereas the Wings and Blackhawks hadn’t been included since the ‘09 game.
“Growing up, you skate on the lakes and on the outdoor rinks, so to be able to play in an actual game, it’d be a lot of fun,” [Jimmy Howard] said.
It isn’t just rallying from two goals down to win, 6-4, that the Wings remember from Wrigley Field—it’s the overall experience.
“I’ll admit, I was a little skeptic,” Kronwall said. “I was afraid it was going to be freezing and that it wasn’t going to be that much fun. But as soon as you got out there, you had a blast. Even just skating around in practice was awesome. And we were so lucky with the weather, too. It was perfect. It was just awesome.”
And the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness tossed a bit of a rumor into the mix:
“It would be awesome to do it one more time, for sure,” said Holmstrom, who played in the 6-4 win over Chicago at Wrigley Field in the 2009 Winter Classic. “It was a great experience in Chicago. To celebrate New Year’s and the family was there in Chicago. It was the perfect day for it, too. It was fun the day before, the families were there. We skated outside. It was really good. And we came up with a win, too. But it was a great experience, something you’ll remember the rest of your life.”
A source told The Macomb Daily that the annual game could be coming to Detroit in the next season or two.
“It’s a short list and we’re on it,” the person said. “We’ll have the game in the not too distant future.”
Pleiness notes that the NHL’s preferred destination would be Michigan Stadium, but the Wings would prefer to hold the event at Comerica Park as part of their downtown-centered philosophy:
“It would be really cool (Big House), for sure, get the home crowd, too,” Holmstrom said.
“I know I’m looking forward to watching the one (today),” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Anytime you get a chance to play outdoors, I think it’s a great thing. If we could do it in Michigan, it would be great for our fans and great for our franchise, great for our trademark, so a real good thing.”
Rookie Joakim Andersson played in the first outdoor game in Sweden, the 2009 SEL Outdoor Classic. His team, Frolunda HC beat Farjestads BK, 4-1, in front of a crowd of 31,144, which at the time set an attendance record for a European game.
“It was the year before I came over, it was fun,” Andersson said. “It was a special feeling to play outside with a large crowd. It was pretty cool. It was an unbelievable game. I kind of had goose bumps at the start.”
It will happen sooner or later, but between reading the tea leaves and knowing that the NHL loves to toss “thought balloons” out to the press before changing course, I’d suggest that we’re two or three years away from a Detroit-hosted Winter Classic. The NHL seems to want to milk the East Coast for a little longer, and I’ll leave you with this quip from the Associated Press as evidence that NHL’s bound and determined to hold a Winter Classic in New York first, despite the fact that Yankee Stadium’s tied up with bowl games for the next few seasons:
The NHL has considered Citi Field, MetLife Stadium, the Yale Bowl, and even West Point as potential sites in New York/New Jersey. Detroit is in the mix as potential future site.
Cue the raised eyebrow, via USA Today’s Kevin Allen:
“We’ve talked generally with the Red Wings about Detroit and what would be … what a game there could look like,” Collins said. “Obviously they played in Chicago as the visiting team, so they have an experience with the event. I think they understand how they could use it in Detroit to do what they want to do in terms of getting the new arena built and everything else.”
[Mark] Howe, who scouts for the Red Wings, said he doesn’t know what venue it would be in at Detroit, but he knows it would be well-received.
“Maybe we can haul my dad (Gordie Howe) out for one shift,” he said. “But it’s about the game of hockey, not individuals, and it’s about the fans.”
For the league, however, it’s about money and ratings, and the East Coast teams rule in that regard.
Part III: Red Wings notebooks not involving the Winter Classic: Via Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji, at least he doesn’t get booed in Detroit:
.Red Wings’ adviser to hockey operations Chris Chelios was honored before the game for his recent induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. There was a video tribute on the scoreboard and Chelios dropped the puck for a ceremonial opening faceoff.
• I don’t want to touch the “Hockeytown versus Hockeytown” spiel with a ten-foot pole—I think that Ed Snider’s just being a jerk because he’s Ed Snider—so we’ll glance at the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy’s marginalia from last night’s game:
Defenseman Mike Commodore earned a five-minute major penalty along with the Blues’ B.J. Crombeen for fighting in the at 8:48 of the second period. Crombeen appeared to get the best of Commodore, with a few quick upper-body shots before officials broke up the scuffle.
The Blues were whistled for five penalties, totaling 13 minutes, compared to the Red Wings’ four for 11 minutes.
…The Red Wings announced late in the third period of Saturday’s game that less than 300 tickets were available for the next home game, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12 against the Coyotes.
• I also don’t want to quote all of Chuck Pleiness’s notebook, so we’ll skip Tomas Holmstrom’s suggestion that he could return from a small groin tear as early as Tuesday (not bloody likely) and take note of Mike Commodore’s comments about being “miked up”:
Mike Commodore is a big fan of HBO and what they’ve done with their ‘24/7’ series, which has featured the time leading up to the Winter Classic the last two seasons.
But they best not ask him to mic-up for a game.
“They do a fantastic job,” Commodore said. “They’ve got great programming left and right. That adds to the event. The only thing I don’t like is being miced up during games,” Commodore added. “I did that once in the playoffs in Carolina and I think I was minus-3 in the first period and I tore the thing off at intermission. Whenever I’m miced up during the game I can’t stop thinking about it. You worry about what you say and I don’t talk a whole lot.”
If the Wings are chosen to participate and HBO does a series on the game Babcock wants all the attention paid to the players.
“I think it’s great for the game, I think it’s great for the players,” Babcock said. “Myself, I’d rather not be involved in it but if that’s part of what you’ve got to do to have the Winter Classic, you gotta be involved. The game’s about the players. And I think as a coach, the more you’re in it, the more you understand that it’s about the players. I like the attention to be on the players.”
• Bonus Swedish: the only thing Johan Franzen had to say to Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman which merits mentioning (he’s as confused as to why the Wings lost so regularly at home last season but are now unbeatable, or nearly so, as anyone else) is the following about his deke, dangle and jam-in goal on Brian Elliott:
“Yeah, I can’t seem to shoot anymore, so I might as well skate the puck in instead,” he says joking, and continues, more seriously: “It’s been a while since I scored a goal, so it was nice. I needed it. I also have some relatives visiting from Sweden, and I thought they should see me score a goal before they go home, ha ha.”
• DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford reports that the Wings welcomed their 25 millionth fan on Saturday (well, their honorary one, anyway; the 25,000,000th fan actually entered the Joe on December 17th), which is pretty damn cool.
• And I hope you will be OK with the fact that I expressed mixed feelings about Nicklas Lidstrom co-starring in a TV commercial with Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry in which the two are selling a Honda. It’s a Michigan thing.
Part IV: In the AHL and ECHL: The Grand Rapids Griffins recalled Thomas McCollum from the Toledo Walleye after Jordan Pearce suffered an ankle injury on Friday, and McCollum delivered in a big way for the Griffins, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced as the Griffins defeated the Milwaukee Admirals 3-2.
• Things did not go so well for the Toledo Walleye, who dropped a 7-1 decision to the Kalamazoo K-Wings on Saturday night. No Wings prospect registered anything but a minus, and the Walleye’s website provides a recap, and the Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe changes things up by offering a profile of Andrej Nestrasil. His article is excellent and worth your time:
Despite being some 4,400 miles from his hometown of Prague, Nestrasil said he never had a second thought about moving halfway across the world to pursue his dreams.
“No. Once I decided I did not look back,” Nestrasil said. “I don’t regret stuff. Even if I had not been drafted I would have not regretted it. I look at all the things off the ice. I learned so many things.”
The rookie has seven points with one goal and six assists in 13 games for the Walleye this season. Hockey-wise Nestrasil said the rinks are much smaller in North America.
“In Europe it is more about skills. Here it is more physical,” Nestrasil said.
Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said Nestrasil is a skillful, typical European player.
“He is a good skater, has good vision, and has good hands,” Vitucci said. “He’s still going through the learning curve in North America. It’s tighter confines.”
“He cares about his career and about the success of the team,” Vitucci said. “It’s been nice having him.”
Part V: At the World Junior Championships: Petr Mrazek’s luck ran out fast. He gave up 4 goals on 28 shots, including one to Teemu Pulkkinen (who also registered an assist), as Finland defeated the shorthanded Czechs 4-0 (and Mrazek didn’t mind seeing a Finn fist-pump). NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale took note of Pulkkinen’s performance:
Teemu Pulkkinen, a 2010 fourth-round draft choice (No. 111) of the Detroit Red Wings, scored his team-leading fifth goal of the tournament 3:37 into the third to give the Finns a 4-0 advantage. Pulkkinen, a 5-foot-10, 198-pound wing, scored four consecutive third-period goals on Friday in a 10-1 victory against Denmark.
“Today was big win for us,” Pulkkinen said. “I think we will get easier team in the quarters, so it was a big win for us and we played pretty good. We made some mistakes, but the Czech couldn’t score and we did when we had a chance.”
Throughout the tournament, Pulkkinen has worked a line with Markus and Mikael Granlund, who was named Finland’s player of the game. The trio hasn’t disappointed [team Finland coach Raimo] Helminen.
“They have been together for a long time; Mikael and Teemu played before and the young Granlund (Markus) is the new guy on the line,” Helminen said. “They work well together.”
Jiri Fischer told the Edmonton Journal’s Evan Daum that his team’s letdown was somewhat predictable:
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.”
TSN did post a 51-second highlight clip from the game, too.
• The Slovaks advanced to the quarterfinals in wild fashion, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Switzerland 6-4. Tomas Jurco registered 3 assists and Marek Tvrdon added an assist in the Slovaks’ win, and Jurco spoke with both Hockey’s Future and NHL.com’s Aaron Vickers about the win:
“The last few years for Slovakia have not been very good,” Jurco said. “It’s a big thing for our hockey and our country. Our parents, our families were cheering for us and supporting us. For our small country it’s a really big thing. We’re really happy we could be here and we could do it.”
• What all of this stuff means: On Monday, the Finns and Slovaks will face off at 5 PM EST on Monday to battle for a semifinal spot (the winner will battle Sweden on Tuesday) and Mrazek’s Czechs will tangle with the Russians at 9 PM EST (the winner will play Canada on Tuesday). TSN will air and webcast both games, as will the NHL Network U.S.
Part VI: Also of Red Wings-related note: NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman reports that the Flyers honored the memory of Brad McCrimmon at Saturday’s Flyers-Rangers alumni game (and ESPN’s Craig Custance reports that McCrimmon’s family will fly from Michigan to Philadelphia to take in Monday’s Winter Classic, as do Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia’s Jay Greenberg, PhillyBurbs.com’s Wayne Fish and the Trentonian’s Mark Osborne)...
Brad McCrimmon made his mark on many players all over the NHL during his 18 seasons as a player as well as his coaching career. It was that coaching career that took him to the Lokomotiv team in Russia this year, and led to his tragic death in September’s plane crash.
McCrimmon spent five seasons with the Flyers, and in today’s Alumni Game, his presence was felt as each player had a No. 10 patch on their left shoulder.
“About a month ago I requested to do it and the entire organization thought it would be a great idea,” said Mark Howe, McCrimmon’s defense partner for three seasons during which the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup Final twice. “Brad was a very important part of the team in the ‘80s and a dear friend to a lot of people in the locker room and it was only fitting he be remembered as part of the team.”
• If you wish to watch the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association raise money for juvenile diabetes research on January 7th in Canton, the Wings’ website provides details of the Wings’ game versus the “Detroit Moose”;
• Also in the alumni department and worth noting but not quoting, Mathieu Schneider’s now working for the NHLPA, and he spoke to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks about the NHL and PA’s attempts to improve elbow and shoulder pads to make them less offensive weapons than protective surfaces (still have yet to find the FSD clip of Mickey Redmond explaining the theory). I won’t quote the article because Mark Messier’s M11 helmet gets a big plug, and quite frankly, it’s not necessarily proven to be any better or worse than any other helmet at preventing concussions, Messier’s assertions to the contrary included;
• Speaking of the PA and player safety, no, the Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont, limiting NHL rosters to 10 forwards and re-instituting the red line are not simple band-aid solutions to a problem regarding concussions which are now very regularly caused by the kinds of bumps, head-shudders and shaking that helmets and even new approaches to hitting cannot yet prevent. It’s a complicated issue, and the only “band-aid” that might not bring back a more aggressive trap involves eliminating the “trapezoid”;
• Speaking of the PA, very directly, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr spoke to the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger about a number of topics including concussions, but I think he’s unfortunately correct regarding the ways in which labor negotiations with the NHL will unfold:
On the talks timeline for the months ahead: While Fehr thinks discussions will kick off sometime after the Jan. 29 all-star game, don’t be surprised if the bargaining crunch-time occurs in the summer.
“In a lot of labour relations settings, the last few weeks before the exsisting agreement expires is when the key compromises are made if a deal is going to be done by the date of the expiration of the existing agreement,” Fehr said. “That’s usually the case in negotiations, whether it be key legislation or someone buying a house ... But I would expect that, leading up to it, we’ll do a lot of preliminary work.”
Fehr added he wants to “spend more time with the players this spring talking about what additional things we’ve learned.”
I hate last-minute crap, but that is how labor negotiations tend to work. We all have to hope that the PA and NHL come to terms without the NHL choosing to lock out the players as a matter of course;
• I’m slightly afraid that Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski is leading the “Howard for the Vezina charge;
• And we’ll end with this from the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons, for the hell of it:
There are those who want to disregard the world junior hockey championships as little more than Canadian chest thumping, and I appreciate that view, but all you needed to watch was a minute of Petr Mrazek in goal for the Czech Republic to be hooked on the emotion these kids bring to the annual event. When a player we don’t know about, playing for a country we don’t care about, can foster this kind of feeling, you come to understand the power of the event .
Happy New Year, everybody.
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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.