Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Blues wrap-up and overnight report: an earned result, more realignment talk, etc.

Updated at 7:28 AM with some CBA stuff: The Detroit Red Wings’ 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday evening merits a two-word description: earned result.

The Red Wings find themselves eye-to-eye with the Blues in the Western Conference standings and limped home (the Wings will at least enjoy their first practice-or-game-free day in ten on Wednesday) the owners of yet another multiple-game losing streak because the Avalanche did a fine job of encouraging a Wings team in still clearly struck in transition to indulge in some particularly bad habits, and the Blues did it better, lulling the Wings into something of a daze before out-hitting, out-working, out-trapping (this is a Ken Hitchcock-coached team we’re talking about) and out-hustling a team that didn’t regain its senses until it mounted a furious and futile comeback.

Given that he’s a teaching coach, just like Mike Babcock, Hitchcock told Fox Sports Midwest’s absolutely delighted that his not-so-new team’s now heeding his lessons:

Not long after his team earned another victory in his short St. Louis Blues tenure, coach Ken Hitchcock marked the growth under his leadership. He called the second period of a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday one of the best the Blues had played since he replaced Davis Payne on Nov. 6. To Hitchcock, his vision had started to mature.

Hitchcock spoke in a small room deep in the Scottrade Center and analyzed the triumph that improved the Blues’ record to 9-2-3 under his guidance. He called the performance “strong” against a team that came into the game alone in second place in the Central Division. He had seen promising moments in recent nights, he said, but this time his players executed to his liking.

“Continuity-wise, we’re starting to get it,” Hitchcock said. “We’re starting to do the things we need to do. We’re understanding where teams are vulnerable. We’ve been kind of on the edge of it for three games now. But tonight it’s nice to finish.”
...
“I think everyone has been paying a little closer attention to detail,” Blues goalie Brian Elliott said. “We talked about doing the little things right and coming back and helping your teammates. That’s his whole philosophy – don’t put your teammate in a bad position and pay it forward. I think everybody is trying to help each other out and play as a team. When you play as a team for 60 minutes, it doesn’t matter your skill level. You are going to give yourself a chance to win.”

The fact that the Blues’ dreadful power play scored finally struck—repeatedly—didn’t hurt the Blues’ chances, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dan O’Neill points out...

“It’s a huge difference,” T.J. Oshie said of the power-play contributions. “We talked before the game how five-on-five, depth-wise, we think we match pretty well with Detroit and it’s going to come down to special teams. Fortunately, we got the power play going and the chances we had tonight we buried.”

The Blues entered the game with the league’s most impaired power play. The Blues had converted only two of their previous 40 chances before they converted two in a row. A power-play goal by Alex Steen tied the score 1-1 in the second period and a power-play goal by David Backes gave the Blues a 2-1 lead early in the third. It is the first time this season the Blues have scored two in a game. Patrik Berglund’s goal in the third wound up being the difference.

And as O’Neill notes, the Blues seemed to find their stride after Steen’s goal, out-shooting the Wings 13-9 and setting up a third period which would douse the Wings’ hopes of rolling over the Blues in a hurry:

“I thought the second period set up the third for us,” Hitchcock said. “The second period was about as well as we’ve played in this building. We played with a real straight-line definition.”

The night essentially became a 20-minute test. Detroit (16-9-1) took a delay of game penalty seconds into the final period, and the Blues took only seconds more to cash in. Oshie fed Backes for a goal-mouth tap-in and the Blues had a 2-1 lead 45 seconds into the final period. The goal was the 10th for Backes, the first Blue to crack double figures. 

“They scored on that penalty kill, so I felt a little guilty and it was nice to get a little redemption on our own power play,” Backes said. And in the bigger picture: “For our power play, which has been a little anemic and kind of a crutch for us, to score two ... to get two points after a couple of tough games, it’s good to see the resiliency and character in here.”

Slightly less than two minutes after Backes’s goal, Berglund barreled down left wing and beat Howard with a blast from the faceoff dot, making it 3-1. “That was a bomb,” Howard said.

NHL.com’s Louie Korac suggests that it’s the Blues’ attention to detail which allowed them to rally from a 1-0 deficit by imposing their will upon the Wings…

Franzen broke the scoreless stalemate after turning the corner on Roman Polak and lifting a puck that caromed off Elliott’s back and into the top corner on the near side 7:42 into the second period for a 1-0 lead. The goal came on Detroit’s fourth power play of the game.

Steen answered quickly with a power-play goal at 9:20. After Jason Arnott won a faceoff, Steen skated to the top of the slot and ripped a shot through Howard. Arnott also won a faceoff to help set up Backes’ go-ahead goal.

“That’s key,” forward T.J. Oshie said. “We’ve had a tough time winning faceoffs on the power play lately. It’s always tough starting in their end, then losing the faceoff and having to go back and break out again. It takes a good 20 seconds off the clock. Those faceoff wins are huge. It starts with us in their zone and setting up where we want to be.”

Oshie had the best chance early in the second period to give the Blues the first goal of the game, going in on a 2-on-0 with Vladimir Sobotka, but Oshie kept the puck and snapped a shot trying to catch Howard cheating off the near post. Howard was able to get a pad on the shot sliding across 3:01 into the period. Hudler pulled the Wings within one with a power-play goal with 1:20 remaining, but the Blues’ ability to bounce back played a key role.

“I think the best part about tonight was it was a good team win,” Oshie said. “Rolling the lines over, playing hard, obviously getting the matchup on (Pavel) Datsyuk when we could. Everyone playing hard, playing great ... it’s amazing how fun the game is when everyone’s playing hard.”

And again, the Blues felt that they didn’t truly begin to dominate until the third period:

“The second and third periods were really good for us,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I thought the second period set up the third period for us. The second period was about as well as we’ve played in this building, and we’ve had some really good runs here lately. ... We played with a real straight-line definition. I thought we put a lot of pressure on their defensemen and I thought it set up the start of the third period for us.”

The Blues blitzed Detroit with two goals at the start of the final period, scoring 1:53 apart to take a 3-1 lead on goals by Backes and Berglund.

“We started off really slow in the first period, but we took a good step in the second,” Berglund said. “We lined that up for the third. It was a great job by the D-zone all the way down. It was a great shot, and luckily it went in.”

As the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan suggests, Hitchcock his players made a point to state that they out-competed the “vulnerable” Wings between the ears:

“When you play Detroit, you decide you’re either all-in … because if you’re just a little bit in, they push you right out,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “The thing that has impressed me is that for two games now, we’ve had an all-in mentality and we’ve been competitive against them and that’s a really good sign. They sniff out mental weakness and they just take advantage of it like crazy. I told our players, we just can’t show any cracks against these guys because they’ll push you right out. We didn’t and that’s what made me happy.”

Add Blues captain David Backes: ” Typically it’s us getting off our game, taking the extra penalty. We just started to play hard, stuck to our game plan a little bit longer than we typically do and it’s a sign of things going in the right direction.”

Backes put things a little differently, and perhaps a little more defiantly, while speaking to the Belleville News-Democrat’s Norm Sanders:

Blues captain David Backes said he rarely has seen the Wings as frustrated as they were Tuesday.

“No, which is good because typically it’s us that are getting off our game, taking the extra penalty and getting off course,” Backes said after a game that featured big hits on both sides, plenty of scrums. “We started to play hard, stuck to our game plan a little bit longer than we typically do—and it’s a sign of things going in the right direction.”

And then, as the AP’s recap notes, there was this little exchange...

Besides a strong game in net, Brian Elliott bounced back after getting plowed by Justin Abdelkader early in the third.

“I had the puck covered, I didn’t see anything coming, and just got my head taken off,” Elliott said. “I’ve got to watch the play to see the intent but whatever, we won the game.”

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard also got knocked down late in the game by David Perron, who had been pushed by a teammate. Detroit has lost two straight after winning seven in a row, and Howard’s seven-game winning streak ended.

“I’m not taking that, I don’t care who it is,” Howard said. “If you’re going to run into me that like or try to go through me like that, you’re going to pay the price.”

Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart thought maybe Howard overreacted a bit.

“It wasn’t a real harmful collision, I didn’t feel,” Stuart said. “I didn’t feel like he went in with a lot of force.”

If you’re looking for insult to injury, we’ll head back to Sanders for a moment, because Elliot did more than talk about his collision:

Elliott wasn’t ready to engage his fellow goaltender in a fight, but he did take issue with his actions.

“I got hit a couple times and almost got my mask taken off and I didn’t do anything,’ Elliott said. “I’m not going to skate down there, only if he skates at me.”

Ahem.

Howard was obviously frustrated, and while I’m doubting Hitchcock’s suggestion to NHL.com’s Korac that Brendan Shanahan might be giving the teams a call...

I’m supposed to pretend to be objective here and tell you that Abdelkader should have been penalized, and that Howard is supposed to keep his temper better, but I’m a subjective Red Wings fan, first and foremost, so I’m going to tell you what I really think: in my very biased opinion, yes, Elliott got dinged, but he flailed back like Dominik Hasek in his glory days, and while Howard didn’t get bumped that hard, I understand why he protected his territory given the spate of goalie-running, and when he does do so, I have no clue as to why he chooses to rough up his opponents by punching them with close-fisted backhand from his catch glove (which is padded) and the fingers of his blocker (which are padded) when the bottom end of one’s blocker is the pointy part of 15 inches of plastic, never mind the fact that as a goaltender, I firmly believe in the “Get Off My Lawn”-message-sending ability of a sharp goalie stick blade to one’s opponent’s crotch.

Okay, warm fuzzy story time with the instigator-turned-goalie time over (for the record, I was never a trash-talker; I tended to let my physical play do the talking). The truth of the matter is that Howard’s tiff was the tip of a frustrated spear—and a bunch of frustrated Wings, who allowed the Blues’ combination of a hard-charging physical forecheck and that Hitchcockian willingness to sit back and line five players up through center ice, folding over each other into what Nicklas Lidstrom accurately described to the Free Press’s Helene St. James as a sort of bloomin’ onion of puck possession death at their blueline, stripping pucks off any team that won’t skate through the neutral zone (and the Wings first couldn’t, and then wouldn’t stop their endless back-passing and attempts to send one forward into the five-man morass instead of roaring up ice as a five-man unit of their own, with either a puck-carrying forward lugging the puck deep into the opposition end and/or the Wings’ forwards essentially running passive picks for puck-moving defenders by backing the opposing defense away from said puck-lugger):

Nicklas Lidstrom on how tough the Blues are: “They just play well defensively. They play well in the neutral zone. And in their own zone they’re blocking a lot of shots, not giving you any shooting lanes. They kind of have layers. When you’re taking a shot you might get it by a forward, but they have D that are willing to step up and block shots. So they make it hard to get shots through.”

And instead of adjusting to those layers of defense by doing what the team does well in Franzen’s fearless rushes to the net from the side boards (Datsyuk tends to do the same thing from the half boards), getting the puck in deep, grinding it out and then sending it back to the Wings’ defensemen to shoot long bombs at the net through both Blues and Wings players, utilizing the opponent’s own defensive scheme to Detroit’s advantage, or using the new trick Jeff Blashill’s taught them in finding the gap between an opponent’s defensemen and forwards along the half boards, and then working the puck laterally to players who slide into the slot to lurk in Brett Hull-style “stealth mode” for sneaky sniping shots…

The Wings got frustrated, and as St. James notes, it bit the Wings in the butt:

The Wings went 2-for-7 with the man advantage, and had to spend more than 10 minutes killing penalties to hold the Blues 2-for-8.

“We took a few too many penalties, gave up a couple of goals on it,” Brad Stuart said. “That’s not good enough for us. We’d like to be able to stay out of the box, especially in a tight game like that.”

The Howard-Perron collision did result in a power play which allowed the Wings to make a last-second push to tie the game…

The Wings got a power play out of the situation and converted when Danny Cleary fired a shot that Jiri Hudler tipped.

“We got two on the power play, but we really needed one earlier,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “They got some timely goals that we didn’t respond well to.”

But the Wings had dug far too deep a hole for themselves by the time Cleary scored—the scoresheet gave it back to Cleary—with 1:40 left in the game—and the Wings simply couldn’t overcome their self-inflicted mistakes:

Wings coach Mike Babcock was especially unhappy with his penalty kill.

“We made big errors,” Babcock said. “We lost a face-off and then got picked inside on the first one, that’s a mental mistake, the guy is basically on a breakaway there. I thought on the second one, it was an easy read and we misread.”

Howard faulted his own effort, especially on the first goal.

Here’s what Howard said to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan about said goal:

With Jakub Kindl off for hooking, the Blues won the draw with the puck going to Steen between the circles. Steen took a stride to his left and unloaded a slap shot that beat Howard through the legs at 9:20 (four seconds after Kindl’s penalty).

“I didn’t like (Steen’s goal) at all,” Howard said. “That puck shouldn’t have gone through like that.”

So the Wings went 1-and-2 on their 3-game road trip….

“Not the way to want to end it, not at all,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “We got off to a good start in Buffalo and played well in the first period in Colorado and again tonight. But we have to find a way to give a bit more effort.”

And the usual Babcockian, “We played well” line came with a “but”:

“It was pretty good hockey game, both teams played hard,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We gave ourselves an opportunity but didn’t get it done. We made some mental mistakes.”

Special teams were a huge factor in the game. Both teams had plenty of opportunities to work on special teams because of an endless of parade to the penalty box by both teams.

The Wings were 2-for-7 on the power play, while the Blues went 2-for-8. But from the Wings perspective, they would have liked to cash in a bit more on the power play, and the penalty kill needed to be more tight than it was.

“We needed one (a power play goal) to get that second goal (but) we got it late in the game,” Lidstrom said.

Babcock put things slightly differently to MLive’s Ansar Khan while suggesting that the Wings were, at least, not pummeled into the ice as they were the last time they visited the Blues...

“Last time (2-1 loss on Nov. 15), they just played in our zone and rolled around the whole time,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I didn’t think that was the case at all today. It was a better effort by us, for sure. You like to be rewarded when you play better, but you won’t be if you make the mistakes we did mentally tonight.”

But just as both teams could explain what changed between the middle of November and Tuesday night’s game, the Wings couldn’t affect any change—again, neither on the ice nor between their ears:

“It wasn’t a good enough effort,” Howard said. “It wasn’t a good enough effort from me. They did a good job, you got to give credit to them. They did a good job of deflecting us to the outside and not letting us penetrate through the middle. A lot of (his team’s) shots from the outside tonight.”
...
“For the most part, I thought we played a pretty patient game instead of trying to force things,” Stuart said. “But special teams was great for them and ended up being the difference.”

Talking about mistakes is easy, and again, some repetition is necessary…

Said Babcock: “We lost a faceoff, and they net-picked inside on the first one. It’s a mental mistake, he’s basically on a breakaway. On the second one, it was an easy read and we misread ... and we’re standing there flat-footed. And even on their third goal, it was a two-on-two, we played it like a two-on-one. Those were some critical mistakes. In saying that, it was a pretty good hockey game. Both teams played hard. We gave ourselves an opportunity, but didn’t get it done.”

Because it’s in revisiting Lidstrom’s comment to St. James, via an extra sentence from Khan, reveals the bottom line:

“They just play well defensively, they play well in the neutral zone, in their own zone, in front of the net. They’re blocking shots, not giving any shooting lanes,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “You kind of have layers when you’re taking shots. You might get it by the forward, but they have (defensemen) that are willing to step up and block shots, so they make it hard to get shots through and create scoring chances that way.

“I thought we did battle hard tonight, but they scored some timely goals, and we didn’t respond too well to it.”

Exactly.


Multimedia:

Highlights: The Red Wings’ website’s highlights are narrated by Fox Sports Detroit’s Matt Sheppard and Larry Murphy:

And here’s Brad Stuart’s superb save…

 

As well as a montage of goalie collisions:

 

Post-game: The Blues’ website posted an audio clip of Ken Hitchcock’s 5:35 post-game presser and video interviews with Brian Elliott, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and David Backes;

Fox Sports Detroit posted Matt Sheppard and Larry Murphy’s takes on the game…

 

<a href='http://www.foxsportsdetroit.com/pages/video?UUID=d6c2de7c-c2e5-472d-bc1a-2c8e1594f4fa&amp;src=SLPl:embed::uuids' target='_new' title='Recap: Wings come up short against Blues'>Video: Recap: Wings come up short against Blues</a>

As well as comments from coach Mike Babcock and goalie Jimmy Howard:

 

<a href='http://www.foxsportsdetroit.com/pages/video?UUID=f9e91f4a-5fa3-4d18-9d89-fc09b59b3230&amp;src=SLPl:embed::uuids' target='_new' title='Red Wings can't come back, lose 3-2'>Video: Red Wings can&#8217;t come back, lose 3-2</a>

Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 15-image gallery;

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted an 18-image gallery;

Fox Sports Midwest posted a 5-image gallery;

Fox Sports Detroit posted a 7-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted a 28-image gallery;

NHL.com posted a 68-image gallery and chose a T.J. Oshie tumble as its “Frozen Moment of the Day”;

The Blues’ website posted a 68-image gallery;

And the Red Wings’ website posted a 63-image gallery and embedded an image in its website’s recap;


Statistics:

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;

Giveaways 3-3;

Takeaways 5-2 St. Louis.

Individual stats:

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


Part II: So we’re (still) talking about realignment: Let’s start with a columnist and then go to the players. Although we still don’t know how the 3rd and 4th rounds’ worth of playoff formats will shake out, we know the NHL’s going to realign into four “conferences” next season.

I did not, however, know that some fans believed the NHL would revitalize a literal Original Six division, but the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa seems to think that Red Wings fans expected nothing less. Krupa suggests that these die-hards need to calm down as the Wings “won” decently despite, well, hell, you read it:

Regardless of the callous reality of modern sport, there was talk that something like it had been promised to the Red Wings, who have done more than their share to help the NHL in markets where being a fan of the game is akin to joining a cult. ut just like Gordie Howe throwing an elbow no one saw and the baby fat on Steve Yzerman’s 18-year-old face, those days are gone.

I suspect what makes it worse, in the wake of the Board of Governors’ realignment plan, is the specter of what too often runs roughshod over our dreams: The nasty bite of reality and the harsh grip of money.

While the Red Wings emerged as the big winners in the planned realignment and observers unanimously agree Detroit largely prevailed, reactions from Red Wings fans range from disappointed to really ticked-off. But the anger is misplaced. While the disappointment is utterly understandable, it should not spoil anyone’s day, let alone this season and beyond.

Just as certainly as reality dictates Terry Sawchuk will not steal a playoff series in April and FDR will not be inaugurated again two Januaries from now, the Red Wings will not play in the same division as their ancient rivals.And while the dashing of dreams is not entirely about the money, a good chunk of it is.

Uh…Um….Yeah. You can continue reading the column on your own, because I knew more than a few fans who hoped that the Wings would move to the Northeast Division, and this column caters to them, but my estimation was that most fans understood that the Wings were not going “East” without a compromise or three, if they were going “East” at all.

As for the Wings’ players, let’s just say that this isn’t nearly as complicated. Here’s what they had to say to the Free Press’s Helene St. James...

First and foremost, teammates are hoping this will lead captain Nicklas Lidstrom to keep playing.

“We were just joking that Nick just signed a new two-year deal,” Danny Cleary said.

Lidstrom, 41, laughed when asked if he might be swayed by the new schedule, but there’s no question it’s appealing to know the Wings will spend the first two rounds of the playoffs within their conference.

“It’s going to be a lot less travel for the team,” Lidstrom said, “and that’s something that I like. It helps even more during the playoffs, where you can go out to the West Coast two or three times, and that takes its toll on the body.”

Last May, the Wings travelled three times to San Jose. “It makes the series even longer and tougher for you,” Valtteri Filppula said.

Coach Mike Babcock said, “The time change when you live in the East and you play in the West, that’s the hardest thing. Lots of teams think they go through the same thing; I disagree. Body-clock wise, it’s huge for you. So I think it’s a great thing for the Detroit Red Wings.”

Here’s what they had to say to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...

“It’s going to be great for us,” Red Wings forward Danny Cleary said. “For a lot of teams, they’ll be surprised how (difficult) the travel is. Especially teams in the East, used to being home at midnight (after a road game), it’ll be a little bit of a wake-up call.”

Each team in the four conferences is slated to play home-and-home series against all nonconference teams.

As for the postseason, the first two rounds will be intra-conference. The first-place team plays the fourth-place team and the second-place team takes on the third-place team. The winners then play for the conference championship. The remainder of the postseason setup is uncertain, although there is talk that teams could be reseeded.

“That makes it easier,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said of the proposed playoff system. “When you got to the West Coast two or three times it takes a toll on the body.”

Said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock: “It’s night and day better. I just got way younger. I also like this for Red Wings fans. You get to see the Original Six teams (every season) and every kid that gets drafted (high) in the league. You get to see everybody.”

And here’s what they had to say to MLive’s Ansar Khan:

“It’s going to be great for us. ... And for Detroit fans it will be great,” forward Danny Cleary said. “For our team, it’s going to be huge advantage, especially the first two rounds (of the playoffs). You never know how much toll it takes until it’s all said and done, but certainly this realignment, everybody’s pretty excited.”
...
“We don’t get to spend that much time with our families throughout the year, since we’re always on these trips,” goaltender and new father Jimmy Howard said. “To be able to spend a little more time at home will be nice.”

The Red Wings will play only eight regular-season games in the Mountain or Pacific Time Zones, as opposed to 16. That will translate into better TV ratings.

Teams will play every other team at least once home and away. In the current format, several Eastern Conference teams visit Detroit every other season and vice versa.

“I think it’s a great thing for the Detroit Red Wings, but maybe even better that our fans get to see the Original Six teams every year. And any new kid that’s drafted in the league that you haven’t seen, you get to see, because you play everybody,” Babcock said. “I would have been ecstatic if they told me we were going to the East, but I’m happy with this, too. It works out good for everybody.”

Added Howard: “You get to go everywhere, and everyone gets to come to you once. It’s great for the fans. Some years you don’t get to see (Washington’s Alex) Ovechkin and (Pittsburgh’s Sidney) Crosby at home. It’s going to be great for showcasing more talent.”

If you’r looking for further reading, via RedWingsFeed, USA Today’s Kevin Allen hopes that the NHL doesn’t use geographic names for the new “conferences,” and Fox Sports Detroit’s Darren Eliot, writing for Michigan Hockey, looks on the bright side of realignment, perhaps offering something of an antipode, if not an antidote to Krupa:

In Detroit, this change is good for players and fans alike.  First, road game starts are no farther away than the one-hour Central Time zone for the entire eight-team conference. That’s good for the players from a body-clock perspective.  That’s great for kids wanting to watch the Wings on TV on a regular basis.

Travel, too, will be arduous, lessening road stress and muscle fatigue, which obviously benefits the athletes, but also is good for the game overall from a competitive edge perspective. Home-and-home series are much more doable again and nothing promotes rivalries more than back-to-back games forming a weekend series – great for both player intensity and fan interest!

At least during the regular season. Come playoff time, the first two rounds are within the newly minted conference, opening up the realm of intense battles year after year for the teams and the possibility of road trips for the fans. Now that’s hockey – especially with Chicago sharing the same conference space. OK, maybe it’ll take some time to warm up to the Winnipeg Jets as a constant combatant, but the Blue Jackets, Predators and Blues of St Loo all come along with your Red Wings and the Blackhawks from the Central.

Being joined as well by one-time Norris nemesis from Minnesota (they were North Stars then, Wild now), old hostilities should be quick to fester. Rounding out the Red Wings’ bracket are the Dallas “thank our lucky” Stars. They join the central region from the Pacific Division, which, with new ownership, makes them the biggest winner of all in this NHL shuffle. They save on travel, time zone issues and get to compete in a well-balanced grouping. Mr. Ilitch should expect a heartfelt thank you from Mr. Tom Galardi.

We all should thank Mr. “I” …Once again, he came through for hockey in Detroit.


Part III: Red Wings notebooks: Wings coach Mike Babcock offered an assessment of Cory Emmerton’s play (overall, not just as Valtteri Filppula’s injury substitute) to the Free Press’s Helene St. James

“He’s played fairly well,” Mike Babcock said. “He’s good with the puck. He needs to be way better in the face-off circle. The other thing about the NHL is: You’ve got to grab your piece of the pie, and if you don’t grab your piece of the pie, somebody else eats it.”

Emmerton had a shot, a giveaway, and won a faceoff in only 7:34 of ice time as Babcock’s line changes in the 3rd period involved double-shifting Darren Helm between Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller, as well as swapping out Tomas Holmstrom and Danny Cleary on the Zetterberg line, at the expense of both Emmerton and Chris Conner.

• DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose filed a short article about Matt Sheppard’s job as FSD’s subsitute for Ken Daniels on Tuesday:

A different kind of pro will make his Red Wings’ debut this season when the team drops the puck tonight against the Blues at Scottrade Center.

Matt Shepard, the versatile radio and television broadcaster – not to mention the pride of North Farmington High School – will handle TV play-by-play tonight, filling in for Ken Daniels, who is home in Toronto for his father’s funeral.

For Shepard, a huge hockey fan, who has broadcast Detroit Lions football, University of Michigan basketball and several CCHA games over the years, broadcasting the Wings’ game, even if it’s in a pinch-hitting role, is a dream come true.

“I’m really excited for my first NHL game ever,” Shepard said. “It was interesting, I got a text from my sister today, they’re big hockey fans in my family, and my sister was like, ‘We’ll be watching.’ Usually, my family will watch stuff that I do, but they won’t be sending me stuff. They’re really excited about it because they love Red Wings’ hockey and the tradition.”

I thought he did well—much better than Dave Strader, honestly.


Part IV: Prospect news: Again, via RedWingsFeed, Chris Osgood, Aaron Downey and Chris Chelios spent Tuesday helping the Grand Rapids Griffins’ players learn professional tips and tricks, and Grand Rapids’ WOOD-TV posted three versions of videos covering the now-player-mentors’ appearances, but it might be a little easier for you to watch this YouTube video than to have to click through the various scripts and ads:

• Of the Grand Rapids Griffins’ prospects, it turns out that Brendan Smith, a revitalized Tom McCollum and Gustav Nyquist aren’t the head-turners: as RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest suggests, Joakim Andersson has finally begun to display flourishes of offensive ability in addition to rock-solid defensive prowess, and when a 6’2” center with a professional pedigree (Andersson played for the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Eliteserien prior to joining the Griffins last season) starts to display a well-rounded and perhaps NHL-caliber game, that’s exciting for any team, never mind the Wings:

The second-year American Hockey League forward has enjoyed a six-goal outburst over his past eight games with the Grand Rapids Griffins, just one goal shy of his 79-game rookie total. He also has an assist in that stretch and has 14 points through 22 games overall. It’s a big step toward Andersson becoming a complete player.

“You can’t say enough good things about what this kid does for this hockey team,” Griffins head coach Curt Fraser told the Grand Rapids Press last week. “He plays against all the other teams’ best lines every night, he produces offense, he’s our best defensive player, penalty killer … He’s just a real solid player for us and it’s nice to see him get rewarded for that hard work.”

The Red Wings selected Andersson in the third round (88th overall) in 2007 and have been patient with his development. He spent one season in the Swedish Allsvenskan and two seasons in the Swedish Elite League before signing a three-year contract and coming to North America, but this is by far the best offensive stretch he has enjoyed — at any level — since being drafted.

The 22-year-old former Swedish world junior captain has been compared to Samuel Pahlsson. The biggest knock against him, his skating, has improved to the point where Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said in September 2010 that Andersson would “play in the league” because “he’s big, he’s heavy, and he knows how to play with and without the puck.”

If Andersson continues his strong play, he could push for a call-up later in the season and could challenge for a full-time job in Detroit as early as next season. He could be a good fourth-liner right away with room to develop into a quality third-liner in the future.

That’s the theory.

Wuest also reports that Phillipe Hudon’s chosen to play for the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres, and that’s good news. Wuest revealed that Hudon had to drop out of Cornell because he was dealing with an obsessive-compulsive disorder and more or less had to choose between trying to continue playing hockey on a full-time basis or going to school on a full-time basis. I respect his decision and obviously we all wish him the best going forward.

• Also in the prospect department, the Vancouver Province’s Steve Ewen believes that Red Wings prospect and Vancouver Giants forward Marek Tvrdon will play for Slovakia at the World Junior Championships, joining fellow Wings prospects Petr Mrazek (Czech Republic), Mattias Backman (Sweden) and Teemu Pulkkinen (Finland).


Part V: Also of Red Wings-related note: For the record, SI’s Adrian Dater had listed the Wings third in his slate of power rankings prior to Tuesday’s game;

• DetroitRedWings.com’s Rick Bouwness wants us to remember that two promotions are going on Thursday (at the Joe) and Friday (in the community):

Third Bobblehead Thursday of 2011-12

First 7,500 fans in attendance will receive a free Johan Franzen Bobblehead courtesy of Amway; five guests set to win a meet-and-greet with the star forward
...
The Detroit Red Wings will be looking to extend their home ice winning streak to eight games on Thursday, December 8 (puck drop – 7:30 p.m.) when the Phoenix Coyotes pay a visit to Joe Louis Arena. As part of the season-long ‘Bobblehead Thursdays’ promotion, the first 7,500 fans in attendance for this contest will receive a free Johan Franzen bobblehead compliments of Amway, presenting sponsor of the Detroit Red Wings.

Fans 1-7,500 entering The Joe on Thursday will receive a voucher, which they can then redeem for a bobblehead at one of the designated giveaway tables situated throughout the arena concourse until the start of the second period. Five (5) of the bobbleheads given away at this game will be brandished with a distinct marking on the inside of the box lid. Fans who receive these specially-marked bobbleheads will win a post-game meet-and-greet with Franzen outside of the Red Wings’ locker room.

I don’t usually include these parts of the promotional advisories, but this is spiffy:

Special Coke Zero Family Packs – comprised of two tickets, two hot dogs and two Coke Zeroes for as low as $54 – are available for the Red Wings’ first home game of December.  Tickets to all upcoming Red Wings home games can be purchased at the Joe Louis Arena Box Office (313-396-7575), all Ticketmaster outlets (800-745-3000), and online at DetroitRedWings.com

.

And, and more importantly:

:Red Kettle Nights Return This Week!

The Detroit Red Wings and The Salvation Army are joining forces once again for the 6th annual ‘Red Wings for Red Kettles’ initiative to help the nonprofit organization meet a critical need and keep vital services operating. The first Red Kettle Night of the holiday is set to be held on Thursday when volunteers from The Salvation Army ring bells and collect donations from Joe Louis Arena patrons at each of the venue’s four main entrances when doors open at 6:00 p.m. Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland is serving as the Honorary Red Kettle Campaign Chairman for the sixth consecutive year.

You can read Christy Hammond’s presser regarding the players and locations here:

WHO:  Justin Abdelkader, Mike Babcock, Cory Emmerton, Darren Helm, Ken Holland, Jakub Kindl and Drew Miller

WHEN:  4-6 p.m. on Friday, December 9, 2011

WHERE:  Help fill the Red Wings’ kettles at the following locations:

Hiller’s Market – Mike Babcock and Ken Holland (3:30-5:30 p.m.)
425 N. Center St. Northville, MI 48167

Hockeytown Authentics – Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm
1845 E. Big Beaver Troy, MI 48083

Kroger (Birmingham) – Cory Emmerton and Jakub Kindl
685 E Maple Rd. Birmingham, MI 48009

Kroger (Plymouth) – Drew Miller & Player Still TBD
44525 Ann Arbor Rd. Plymouth, MI 48170

• Iffi’n you haven’t seen it yet, the Wings are also offering a pretty spiffy rink tour for $6 per person if you find yourself downtown on “off days”;

  • And I will simply suggest that the trading company “In the Game” could have picked a better day than Tuesday to reveal Bob Probert as its cover boy for faux-blood-spattered trading cards showcasing the NHL’s “Enforcers”..


Part VI: Because I’ve been asked to weigh in on the New York Times’ series of articles regarding Derek Boogard and the players’ and league’s reactions to the fact that Boogard did suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The Globe and Mail and USA Today covered the NHL and NHLPA’s respective comments regarding Boston University’s findings that Boogard, like Probert, suffered from this alzheimer’s-like ailment, and there are many questions as to how concussions and fighting played into Boogard’s battles with depression and substance abuse, which led to his untimely death.

I don’t really know what to say. I’ve “come out” as a person who’s dealing with chronic mental illnesses, and I can certainly tell you that when I suffered a severe concussion of my own—by slipping on a slicked-over puddle and landing on my head—I had a serious up-tick in my depression while I dealt with post-concussion syndrome, but I really don’t know how to even attempt to suggest that science is anywhere near to understanding how head injuries might affect people with underlying mental illnesses other than to say “they’re obviously very, very bad for everybody.”

I don’t want to preach and I don’t want to judge. The solution for the NHL that seems most obvious is one we all know is very unpopular at best and blasphemy at worst, but I hate to agree with Gary Bettman here in saying that we just don’t know what roles genetics, family histories of mental illnesses (which are chemical imbalances in the brain that are deterimental to health but not degenerative to brain tissue), alzheimer’s or dementia (which are diseases involving the very specific degeneration of brain tissue), suceptibility to concussions, or how substance use and/or abuse play into the equation. CTE isn’t something you can be tested for yet, and medical science surrounding concussions and traumatic head injuries is still truly in its infancy, despite what we’ve been told to the contrary (at least when it comes to mental illnesses, medical science is more “teenaged”).

We can only hope that the league and players work much harder to put player safety and the prevention, and perhaps moreover, treatment and management of head injuries which are inevitable in a fast, high-contact sport at the top of its safety priorities, and again, with the science and medicine surrounding concussions still in its infancy, much of this treatment and management involves the few tangibles, which include support for players as people and as people who might be dealing with mental as well as physical illnesses instead of merely athletes with broken parts.

The mental illness part of the equation, of the whole player safety issue, kind of went away when we started talking about fighting and concussions again, and while it is somewhat intertwined with getting hit in the head repeatedly, you don’t need to get bopped in the head to suffer from a mental illness.

So that’s all I’ve got to say about that for now.


Update: I read this stuff and sort of sat on it, all but literally, before deciding that this is where it belongs:

I do know something about the fact that you and I don’t want to witness a third owners’ lockout of over what would be the course of only sixteen years and fifteen seasons, and while we really have only sketchy ideas as to what the owners (likely armed with the, “Well, a lockout is business as usual when getting salaries down to around 50% of revenues, see how the NBA and NFL got away with it?” theory) and players (who obviously want to keep their 57-and-change percent of revenues, don’t want a rollback, hate escrow accounts and don’t want to get locked out to play during the 2012-2013 season) are thinking at present, it was good to hear a message very different from the, “The system is broken” line that came out of the Board of Governors’ meetings in 2002, 2003 and prior to the second lockout in 2004.

Whiel the Board of Governors tread lightly upon the subject, Edmonton Oilers GM offered a “quite the opposite” to the Canadian Press...

The NHL locked out the players at the start of the 1994-95 season, forcing a 48-game regular-season schedule. When labour problems lingered in 2004-05, commissioner Gary Bettman shut down the league for the entire season.

“The system was broken and needed to be fixed,” said Oilers president Kevin Lowe. “I don’t think the NHL is talking that way this time around but there needs to be some changes inevitably like there always is. We haven’t heard from the union yet.”

The owners were briefed on recent labour deals reached by the other three major North American professional sports leagues. Only the NBA missed regular season games because of labour issues, having the season reduced from 82 games to 66.

But both the NFL and NBA were able to win significant concessions from players, with owners keeping a larger share of the revenue. In the NFL’s 10-year deal, owners will get about 53 per cent of the revenue compared to the old CBA that provided for close to a 50-50 split. NBA players will have their share of basketball-related income fall from 57 per cent in the old deal to between 49 per cent and 51 per cent in the new agreement.

NHL players are currently receiving 57 per cent of league revenues.

I’m not necessarily thrilled with Gary Bettman’s lack of desire in terms of being proactive with Donald Fehr, as noted by USA Today’s Kevin Allen...

On whether he is waiting for the NHLPA to initiate collective bargaining: “It’s not that we are not waiting for it, but Don Fehr has repeatedly said he won’t be ready. He has to get up to speed … he has to get familiar with his constituents and what they want and he has suggested that it will take until the All-Star Game for him to be ready.”

And not all of Lowe’s comments were so rosy, as Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika noted:

The collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15, and talks aren’t expected to begin on a new CBA until after the All-Star Game. Bettman and most executives declined to say much about the situation.

The owners aren’t pushing for radical change like during the lockout of 2004-05, when they fought for a salary cap at the cost of a season, and Lowe said there “doesn’t appear to be any doom and gloom on the horizon.”

“From our perspective, we really knew where we stood the last time around as far as needing to fix things significantly,” Lowe said. “Although there appears to be a need for some change, it’s not as significant as last time around. So that’s the optimism.”

Still, there is uncertainty.

“It’s a better feeling than last time around, but until we know what the other side is asking or expecting, it’s kind of an odd feeling quite frankly,” Lowe said. “I guess we’ll know in a couple months where we stand.”


ESPN’s Scott Burnside at least explains the PA’s rationale while gauging the “official word”....

With the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement set to expire Sept. 15, 2012, deputy commissioner Bill Daly updated the governors on the preparations for the upcoming labor negotiations with the NHLPA.

The first opportunity for the two sides to begin meeting won’t be until late January, at the earliest. That’s in part because new NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr has been spending a great deal of time traveling to talk to players about which issues are priorities for them and to make sure the players understand his position on how to conduct negotiations.

“At the earliest, after the All-Star Game,” Bettman said. “Don has suggested it will take at least ‘til the All-Star Game when he’s ready.”

During the 2003-04 season, there was a feeling of gloom that the league’s insistence on introducing cost certainty (a salary cap of some form) would lead to a work stoppage, which of course it did. One of the big issues facing the two sides as negotiations continue this season will be the percentage of hockey revenues the players will receive. They currently get 57 percent, but it’s pretty much a given the league will be looking to bring that number down significantly. The NBA, for instance, recently ratified a new agreement that will see players earn between 49 and 51 percent of revenues.

Daly said you shouldn&

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Comments

Avatar

Sheppard better than Strader? Dave Strader is one of the best in the business.

GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS!

Posted by iwwj on 12/07/11 at 11:44 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

”...But we have to find a way to give a bit more effort.”

I thought this comment from Jimmah summed it up.  My impression was that the Wings just didn’t work hard enough.  As Babcock said after the Avs game, when you go back to relying on skill rather than effort, you’re not going to win.  All game long, the Blues were storming through the neutral zone and throwing pucks toward the net.  As you noted, George, the Wings did the usual having one guy try to go through the neutral zone only to be immediately surrounded by four Blues players.  It also looked to me like the Blues were faster to catch up to us when we were moving the puck up the ice than we were catching up to them.  I agree that we missed Fil-A-Pool-A, but I just didn’t see that extra effort and determination in these last two games.  I still think the Wings are having a bit of a hard time with the concept that, with parity, every game - every game - is going to be a tough battle.  No more cruising.

And I don’t think Howard overreacted at all to being run.  (I was sorry to see Stuart say that).  Running goalies seems to be a new trend and I think Jimmah wants to make a statement that it aint gonna happen to him.  Good for him. 

Haven’t had a chance to comment on realignment yet, so I’ll say, briefly, that I think it’s about the best scenario we could have hoped for.  I’m not unhappy at all. 

Thanks for all the great stuff, George!

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 12/07/11 at 11:48 AM ET

WestWing's avatar

“Not the way to want to end it, not at all,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “We got off to a good start in Buffalo and played well in the first period in Colorado and again tonight. But we have to find a way to give a bit more effort.”

Overall, I like coach Howard’s honest take on this better than I liked coach Babcock’s.  The run of fultility on the PK is now in year three.  I’m beginning to believe it just ain’t gonna get any better.

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 12/07/11 at 02:57 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I have a very large head, which makes life difficult, obviously! wink

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 12/07/11 at 03:56 PM ET

SYF's avatar

If there was another thing that Tick Tock wanted, fought for, and won, it would be the home-and-home series with every team.  He has wanted that for a long time as well.  And given the reaction from the fans themselves, it is a good thing.  Ovechkin on the West coast swing?  Kopitar visiting the Montreal?  Iginla sightseeing in Miami?  Staal sunning in Phoenix?

I like it.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 12/07/11 at 04:17 PM ET

Avatar

I still think we should be with the Maple Leafs.

I don’t care if the Leafs were moved to our “conference” or we were moved to theirs, but we should have been put together. The Toronto Maple Leafs are the Red Wings primary rival. Not the Chicago Blackhawks.

Everybody seemed to think it would have been crazy to split up Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but Detroit-Toronto has a longer history than that, plus Pittsburgh and Philly weren’t even in the same division anyway until 1998. Prior to that Philly was in the Atlantic and Pitt in the Northeast.

So if those two were appeased, Detroit fans should have gotten their main rival back. Again I couldn’t care less if that meant Toronto would be moved to our new Midwest based conference or if we went to their Northeast based conference.

I’m not thrilled with the new set up but I suppose it’s better than before, and we’ll have to live with it.

Posted by Mike from Ann Arbor, MI on 12/07/11 at 05:51 PM ET

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Thank you for your knowledge and good things. you gave me.

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Posted by Zachariah on 01/02/12 at 05:12 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Posted by Zachariah on 01/02/12 at 02:12 PM ET

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Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 01/02/12 at 05:18 PM ET

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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.