The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/21/11 at 07:09 PM ET
Updated 4x at 7:29 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks prepare to face off tonight (10 PM EST, FSD/TSN/WXYT), the teams’ coaches traded compliments instead of barbs, as noted by the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“You always get really psyched up for these games,” [Canucks coach Alain] Vigneault said. “We always like the type of games that these are: fast-paced, lot of tempo, lot of skill on the ice. It makes for great hockey games for the players and for the fans.”
In discussing the Wings, Vigneault said: “They play to their strengths. Their strengths are speed, skill, great puck control. When it’s time to carry the puck in, they carry it in, when it’s time to chip it behind and go get it on the forecheck, that’s playing the right way. That’s what Detroit does well; they read the game real well, both offensively and defensively.”
Roberto Luongo will be in goal against the Wings’ Jimmy Howard tonight.
“It’s an exciting game, should be fun,” Luongo said. “I think the boys are really looking forward to it.”
The Canucks are 9-4-1 at home, while Detroit only improved to 8-8 on the road after winning at Edmonton on Monday night. The Wings didn’t start that game very well and ended up needing their third line to provide most of the offense, but it shouldn’t be any problem getting excited about playing a team like the Canucks.
“In our last 14, we’re 11-3, and they’re 11-2-1,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They’ve been going good, we’ve been going good. They’ve got a real good team, they’re organized, I like the way they play. They’ve got good goaltending. It’s fun to be in this building. It should be a good game, but we’ve got to hold up our end of the bargain. We’ve got to play well.”
And the compliment-tossing extended to the teams’ goaltenders, as noted by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
You can’t play the way Howard has and not get noticed. Howard ranks among the league leaders in victories (first, 20), goals-against (fifth, 1.91) and save percentage (fourth, .928). Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo has been considered among the league’s elite for a long time. And Luongo likes what he’s seen of Howard this season — the way Howard has developed his game.
“He’s been having a real good year, one of the best in the league so far,” said Luongo, who has shaken off an average start himself, and now is playing some of his best hockey of the season.
Luongo said Howard’s size and confidence makes for a challenge for any team going up against him.
“He’s just a big guy who likes to challenge (shooters) a lot,” Luongo said. “To score, you’re going to have make some perfect plays, whether it’s a screen or a back door, we have to make sure we put a lot of traffic in front of him to beat him.”
MLive’s Ansar Khan took note of the fact that it wasn’t all lovey-dovey while confirming tonight’s lineups for both teams:
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said it’s a compliment when people tell him the Canucks model themselves after the Red Wings.
“I think they’re smart,’’ Babcock said, half-jokingly. “They got a nice team, players who can take care of the puck. I like (that style) because I think it’s the way to play.’‘
The Red Wings will go with the same lineup:
Here are Vancouver’s lines and defense pairings:
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins-Ryan Kesler-Mason Raymond
Manny Malhotra-Cody Hodgson-Jannik Hansen
Andrew Ebbett-Maxim Lapierre-Dale Weiss
Dan Hamhuis-Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler-Sami Salo
Andrew Alberts-Alexander Sulzer
Roberto Luongo (starting)
Khan also filed the following Twitter updates:
Howard is 6-4-0, 2.81 GAA, .912 save pct., 1 SO career vs. Canucks; Luongo is 9-10-5, 2.66 GAA, .926 save pct, 0 SO career vs. Wings.
Trivia: First Wings hat trick vs. VAN was by Mickey Redmond on 1-12-73. Third Wings hat trick vs. VAN was by Paul Woods on 2-12-78.
Michigan’s Andrew Ebbett returns tonight for VAN after missing 17 games with broken foot. He’ll play with Lapierre and Weise on 4th line.
Nicklas Lidstrom’s rankings among NHL defensemen: tied for 3rd in goals (7), tied for 6th in points (22), tied for 2nd in +/- (+17).
Babcock on Lidstrom: “He’s been great because he embraces doing the simple thing over and over again.’‘
Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating offers quite the teaser, too:
What did opposing crowds chant at Jimmy Howard that made him laugh once he realized it? Find out on RW Live at 9:30 on FSD. #RedWings -Van.
I’m really sorry for the uber-late update…I had to leave for a doctor’s appointment at 2:30 and between lots of waiting and a required shopping run, I just got home at 5.
Update the first: DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose spoke to several Wings about the similarities between their team and this evening’s opponent:
“You want to compare yourself to them to see how you measure up, so it should be another intense game,” Howard said. “Puck possession, they like to create and get pucks down low, cycle. They get their D involved – D dropping down. It is very similar playing against us. They’re not bad. You got to be aware of the Sedin brothers and (Alex) Burrows, seems like their line is playing really well right now and Jannik Hansen as well has been scoring for them. It’s going to be a tough test.”
Hansen has six goals in the last nine games, Burrows has three goals in three games, and Kesler has three goals and three assists in the last five contests. Meanwhile, the Wings have relied on balance with their third and fourth lines collecting 20 goals in Detroit’s 12-3-0 stretch in the last 15 games. The third line of Darren Helm, Danny Cleary and Drew Miller has been remarkable lately, and accounted for two goals, including the game-winner, in Monday’s 3-2 victory at Edmonton
“Helm’s line was our best line (Monday) night, won us the game,” Babcock said. “So it gives those guys an opportunity every night to help you, and the deeper team you have the better off you are.”
But as is the case in most games, the Wings will have to play a disciplined style against a Canucks that is playing better now, especially at home where they’ve allowed just one goal in the last three games at Rogers Arena. So obviously, the Wings will have to limit taking penalties, while getting plenty of shots on Luongo to create scoring chances off rebounds in close.
“It seems Vancouver’s found their groove,” Cleary said. “They got off to a little bit of a slow start but they certainly got a talented team. The key is probably going to be get some body on those guys, make sure you’re aware when they’re on the ice, stay out of the penalty box.”
• And lest I forget, the latest episode of Fake Henrik Zetterberg is up:
Update #2: From the Canucks’ press:
• Here’s Alain Vigneault’s game-day presser from the Canucks’ website…
• As well as a game-day preview…
• While I can’t embed it, TSN’s Farhan Lalji talked about the goaltending match-up, too;
• Several Canucks spoke to the Vancouver Sun’s Elliott Pap about tonight’s game…
“I think every game is an opportunity to play well and it doesn’t matter who you are playing against,” said Daniel, who is coming off a sublime three-assist performance Monday against the Minnesota Wild. “But Detroit is always a pretty good matchup. They’re considered to be a top team in this league and that’s the kind of team you want to compete against.”
The Canucks received some help on the out-of-town scoreboard Tuesday night when the Northwest Division-leading Wild were beaten 2-1 by the Calgary Flames. Vancouver is still three points behind Minny but now has two games in hand. Unlike the injured-ravaged Wild, the Red Wings come into tonight’s game with all their horses healthy, which means the Canucks will see plenty of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nick Lidstrom, among other prominent players on their roster.
“You look at their forwards and you look at their defence and they have a lot of guys who can generate a lot of offence,” said Canuck netminder Roberto Luongo. “There is a lot of things that create problems for us so we want to make sure we’re in the shooting lanes, we’re blocking shots and boxing out guys. And whenever there is a breakdown, I need to make saves.”
The Canucks will make one lineup change tonight as forward Andrew Ebbett, whose broken right foot is now healed, will slot in for Chicago Wolves’ callup Mark Mancari. Ebbett will start on the fourth line with Max Lapierre and Dale Weise.
“It’s going to be a fun test,” Ebbett said. “Both teams are playing really well so we’ll see what we can do against them tonight. I think there is going to be a lot of speed in this game and I think that kind of suits my style.”
Both teams are indeed hot. Detroit is 12-3-0 in its last 15 games while the Canucks are 11-2-1 in their last 14.
“For sure, we have to show up tonight to win this game,” said Red Wing forward Tomas Holmstrom. “They’re a really good hockey club and it’s a good test for us, too. It’s always fun to play here and the crowd gets into it.”
• And while the “Legion of Blog’s” Wyatt Arndt took a light-hearted glance at tonight’s game, the Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma wrote a rather remarkable game preview, starting with Todd Bertuzzi discussing what it means to be a member of the Red Wings:
“It’s an unbelievable group to be a part of,” said Bertuzzi, who has but three goals and 13 points, yet is a pleasing plus-11. “It’s the guys who have been here and won four Cups, it’s the way they carry themselves on and off the ice. Our atmosphere is very relaxed. We really don’t sweat over a lot of the issues and it seems to work for us. I’ve been on a couple of teams where they watch Detroit video and ask you questions about how the team is run. There’s no better-run organization. It stems from [general manager] Kenny Holland and his relationship with the players. He treats you like a man, which opens up to having this kind of success.”
The Red Wings scored two goals in a three-minute span of the second period on Oct. 13 at Joe Louis Arena en route to a 2-0 win in the clubs’ only previous meeting this season. However, that was not the same Canucks club. As much as the Wings endured an early six-game losing streak, the Canucks have gone 15-6-1 since a 5-5-1 October and their 20-11-2 record rightfully mirrors the Wings, who are 21-10-1.
“It’s a good measuring stick for us because they’ve been so good for so long,” said winger Alex Burrows, who is second in team goals with 12 and first in plus-minus at plus-15. “We have to make sure we’re smart with our decisions with the puck, because that team can make you pay because they have a lot of weapons.”
The Red Wings can say the same about the Canucks. Henrik Sedin is tied atop the NHL scoring race with 39 points (9-30) while Daniel Sedin is one point back (13-25). The Canucks also sport the top-ranked power play and have four defencemen among the top 35 scorers on the back end.
“It goes with our maturity level,” added Burrows. “We’ve been through highs and lows and it’s all about bringing the same attitude every day, whether you’re winning or losing.”
Roberto Luongo knows he’ll probably be paid a visit by crease-crowders Tomas Holmstrom or Johan Franzen tonight, but the Canucks starter knows that comes with the territory. He must stand his ground, not get distracted and continue to track the puck better.
“The last couple of years, I like to stay at the top of the paint and there hasn’t been as much contact,” said Luongo. “I find it’s easier to do my job and I know he [Holmstrom] is not afraid to get in there and it’s part of the job. It’s fun. I like battles like that, and it poses a challenge for me and I like to get up for those. They’ve got very creative players and there are a lot of things that cause problems for us. We want to make sure we’re in the shooting lanes and boxing out guys, and whenever there’s a breakdown, I need to make saves.”
• The Vancouver Canucks’ webiste’s Daniel Fung also tossed off a load of game notes, including the following factoids:
BY THE NUMBERS
1 – Win for the Canucks this season when appearing on TSN (1-2-0).
3 – Straight meetings without a regulation loss for the Canucks at Rogers Arena against the Red Wings (1-0-2) entering tonight’s game.
3 – Wins for the Canucks this season facing Original Six teams (3-3-0).
7 – Consecutive periods of hockey the Canucks have scored at least one goal in entering tonight’s game.
9 – Wins for the Canucks this season in games where they score a goal in all three regulation periods (9-2-1).
157th – All-time meeting between the Canucks and Red Wings. Vancouver trails the all-time series 57-76-23.
377 – Consecutive sellouts for Vancouver Canucks hockey at Rogers Arena entering tonight’s game. The sellout streak began on November 14, 2002 and includes 334 regular season games and 43 post-season games.
Did you know? Red Wings’ netminder Jimmy Howard has been off to a flying start this season coming into tonight’s contest with a league-leading 20 victories in 28 games played. If Howard manages to keep up his current pace for the entire season, it would be a record-setting campaign for the 27-year-old.
Howard is on pace right now to finish the season with 51 wins which would shatter the NHL record of 48 held by New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur. Brodeur set the mark back in the 2006.07 surpassing the previous record held by Bernie Parent. The Red Wings’ franchise record for most wins by a goaltender in a single season is held by Terry Sawchuk who notched 44 wins in the 1950.51 season as well as the 1951.52 campaign.
Update #3: Well I guess we aren’t done with the Nucks’ press yet. Here’s another game set-up from the Globe and Mail’s David Ebner...
The one hint Vancouver may have something of an advantage Wednesday night at Rogers Arena is the Canucks’ 9-4-1 record at home compared with the Wings’ 8-8 record on the road (three of the losses came during the six-game slump in late October).
“It’s the most important game for us today,” said coach Alain Vigneault on Wednesday morning, a wry start to an answer about whether the game was a marker for the season, the most important game of the week, or just another game. “But, without a doubt, [for] all our games against the Red Wings, it’s a team we have a tremendous amount of respect for, it’s a team that plays the right way, is a real solid opponent. We always get really psyched up for the these games. We always like the type of games these are, fast-paced, there’s a lot of tempo, and there’s a lot of skill on the ice. It makes for great hockey games, for the players that are playing, and for the fans.”
The game is big for both sides in the standings. The ledger has cleaved in the past week or so, with 10 teams at 42 points or more, the Dallas Stars leading their division with 39, and then 13 teams between 33 and 38 points. A Vancouver win would put it within a point of Northwest Division-leading Minnesota, with a game in hand on a team the Canucks beat on Monday (albeit a depleted-version of the Wild). A Detroit win could put it within a point of Central Division-leading Chicago, which also plays Wednesday night, hosting Montreal.
In Vancouver’s net, Luongo, whose 2011-12 fortunes have mirrored his team, an uncertain start, injury and a goaltender controversy when backup Cory Schneider was searing hot, and then a solid run. Luongo has Ws in six of his past seven starts. Detroit is, Luongo said, “a team that likes to shoot a lot, from everywhere in the zone, guys driving the net, trying to generate rebounds off the pads, stuff like that. Those are the type of games I like, when you’re busy and involved.”
Last year, Vancouver was 2-0-2 against Detroit, with Luongo in net for all four matches, the wins and two overtime losses. Detroit, with Howard in net each game, was 2-2. This season, on Oct. 13 in Detroit, Howard and the Wings blanked Schneider and the Canucks 2-0. Few players tend to be lured in by reporters’ theories, fishing for big declarations about particular games, especially given it’s only December. But Luongo acknowledged that tonight is a big one, and all men on all sides are primed.
“We consider ourselves one of the best, and I’m sure those guys do as well,” said Luongo. “They’re two teams, good teams, going at it. It’s a game we get up for. They’re a team that’s in direct competition for us for the ultimate goal.”
• The Vancouver Province’s Jim Jamieson also filed a game-day update from the Wings’ locker room which somehow got posted on Faceoff.com but not the Province’s website…
“When you’re playing another team that’s near the top of the league, for sure you get up for it a little bit more,” said Red Wings defenceman Brad Stuart of tonight’s clash with the Canucks. “You know there’s going to be a good atmosphere and two highly skilled teams going at it should be fun to watch. Those are always fun games to be part of.”
Stuart knows the Canucks’ Sedin brothers, Daniel and Henrik, are at the top of the must-stop list for Detroit. Heading into tonight’s games, Henrik is in a four-way tie for the NHL scoring lead (9-30-39), while Daniel is one point behind (13-25-38).
“They’re going to make plays, but you try to limit those and you know they’re always trying to look for each other so you just try to limit what they do,” said Stuart.
Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said there’s no guarantee of a great game, but all the ingredients are there.
“They’ve got a number of players who are considered high end,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good game. Maybe one team gets away on the other team. I don’t know the answer to that. I know they’ll be excited to play and so will they. Who’s going to execute better, who’s going to make the big save, who’s going to hit the post? I don’t know.”
• And in one more game preview, NHL.com’s Kevin Woodley confirms both teams’ lineups.
Changing gears in a big way, the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby posted a very late slate of power rankings which praise one Jimmy Howard…
6. DETROIT RED WINGS (21-10-1) Goalie Jimmy Howard has piled up the wins, but the best home team has a biggie against in Vancouver on Wednesday. (Last Week: 3)
And ESPN’s Scott Burnside believes that Howard is the odds-on favorite to win the Vezina Trophy this season:
1. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings: A couple of things stand out for us when it comes to the likable Detroit netminder. First, he leads the NHL in the one stat that trumps all others: wins. But beyond his 20 victories, Howard has been one of the busiest goalies in the league, ranking third in minutes played and 10th in shots against. In short, Howard has been a rock for the Wings, especially when they were struggling to find their offensive game, holding the fort with a 1.91 GAA fifth-best in the league.
“He’s been our best player for sure,” Detroit head coach Mike Babcock told ESPN.com during the Wings’ pre-Christmas western road trip.
The Wings, 12-3-0 in their past 15 games, are three points back of Chicago for the Central Division and Western Conference leads, and the rapidly maturing Howard is a big part of the team’s success.
“We’re playing him a lot. We’re riding him, but he’s young,” said Babcock, joking that Howard, 27, has plenty of time to rest later.
In the prospect department, part 1: The Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema spoke to Griffins defenseman Travis Ehrhardt, who had something…puzzling…to say about his injured shoulder:
ravis Ehrhardt said it was starting to get lonely in the training room at Van Andel Arena. Fortunately, the 22-year-old defenseman has started regularly skating with the Grand Rapids Griffins again, although he likely won’t return to the lineup until January.
Ehrhardt hasn’t played since injuring his shoulder in the Griffins’ third game of the season, a 7-2 loss at Rochester on Oct. 16. With 7:03 remaining in the third period, Ehrhardt was fighting the Americans’ Marcus Foligno when he fell to the ice and landed awkwardly on his shoulder. At the time, he didn’t think it would be a serious injury.
“The first thought right after the game went from it’s probably just the muscle and I can play the next day to why is it still sore?” Ehrhardt said after receiving treatment Tuesday afternoon. “After the MRI, it’s, like, OK. Supposedly after the surgery I was going to be fine, but once (the doctor) was in there he said it was more than they thought. It just kept progressively getting worse.”
That sidelined him indefinitely. While he has started practicing regularly with the Griffins, there is no official timetable for his return.
“He’s getting better every day,” Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser said. “But he’s probably still a ways, two or three weeks.”
Erm, does that mean he had shoulder surgery? I think so…
• According to Global Calgary’s David Boushy, Tomas Jurco, Marek Tvrdon and the Slovakian World Junior Championship team are going to spend Christmas in Three Hills, Alberta, prior to the WJC’s start-up in Calgary and Edmonton on December 26th;
• And RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest talked to Wings prospect Nick Jensen’s coach as the Saint Cloud State University defenseman scored a hat trick last week:
Jensen became the first St. Cloud State defenseman to record a hat trick since Bret Hedican more than two decades ago. Hedican went on to play 1,000 games in the NHL.
His coach, Bill Motzko, told reporters afterward that the three-goal performance atoned for a “mental mistake” Jensen had made in overtime the previous game.
“Great athletes — that drives them crazy,” Motzko said. “That was a kid determined to come back the next night. There was no question he was the best player on the ice tonight.”
Jensen, who the Red Wings selected in the fifth round (150th overall) in the 2009 draft, said it simply “goes to show if you get shots on net, good things will happen.”
The six-foot, 193-pound United States Hockey League product logs top-pairing minutes and leads all blueliners on his team in scoring with three goals and 11 assists for 14 points in 20 games. He is tied for third in Western Collegiate Hockey Association defense scoring.
The Red Wings rate Jensen’s skating ability among the best in their organization, and he has made big strides defensively in two seasons at St. Cloud State. He is good on both special-teams unit and has shown an aptitude for making big hits and playing physical.
In the “grab bag,” Todd Bertuzzi made Puck Daddy’s list of the top ten shootout goals of 2011, right in the middle at #5, for this goal...
• From Twitter, via RedWingsFeed:
RT @capgeek: The #Bruins ($2.3m) and #RedWings ($5.6m) are in surprisingly comfortable cap positions and near the top of the #NHL standings.
• From Twitter, via H2H hero Ellen Manuszak:
The Detroit Red Wings are hiring a marketing manager. http://hockeyjobs.nhl.com/teamwork/r.cfm?i=41002 #sportsjobs #redwings
And in the holiday spirit: WXYT’s Jeff Riger mentioned two Wings-related stories in counting up his Eight best Hanukkah-worthy sports stories of the year:
1. St. Nick Winning The Norris Again
It is not too often that a 41 year old wins an award for being the best at his position, but that is exactly what Nick Lidstrom was able to pull off after another stellar hockey season. Lidstrom finished 2010-11 with 16 goals and 62 points which led all defensemen in the NHL. The captain also finished the year a minus player which in my mind makes his 7th Norris trophy even more special. As usual Lidstrom was the model of consistency playing in all 82 games while averaging almost 24 minutes of ice time a contest. It has been said many times that #5 is “the perfect human being” and it’s hard to disagree. However, I think Nick is more like a robot; he’s doesn’t miss time, he continues to be one of the best in the game and there is no one in the league that you would rather have on your blue line in a must win game. Also don’t be surprised if Lidstrom is in the running for another Norris after this season if his number continue to grow. In case you were wondering, Lidstrom is a +17 this year so far and already has 7 goals and 22 points which is the 6th best in the league as far as D-men go. Oh and did I mention that he is 41 years old? He will be 42 in late April! Opening one of the greatest Red Wings and defensemen of all time on the first night of Hanukkah ain’t a bad gift at all!
4. Wings Forcing A Game 7
Who didn’t think that the Wings weren’t going to do the unthinkable and come back to beat the San Jose Sharks when they trailed 3 games to none in the Western Conference semi-finals? For a second straight year Detroit fell down to the Sharks by the almost insurmountable deficit but in 2010-11 they came so close to doing it. After winning game 4 and amazing game 5 in San Jose, it was a given that Detroit would win game 6. I remember how loud the Joe was and how confident I was that the Wings would win game 7. Of course they lost a heart breaker that ended the season and the careers of Kris Draper, Chris Osgood and Brian Rafalski. But man was it exciting! For that, I think on the 4th night of Hanukkah I will re-watch game 7 again!
Update #4: MLive’s Ansar khan got into the complimentary quote fest again:
Forward Alexandre Burrows on Lidstrom: “He plays so smart, he always has his head up, he always makes the smart, easy play. He’s one of the best players out there, even at (41) years old. The way he’s able to move the puck and keep his head up and have the puck on his blade all the time without having it bouncing or going over his blade is unbelievable.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo on Howard: “He’s been having a real good year, probably one of the best in the league so far. Just a big guy, likes to challenge a lot. To score, you’re going to have to make some perfect plays, whether that’s a screen or back door, so you got to make sure you get it over his pads. We got to make sure we put a lot of traffic in front of him.’‘
Luongo on Holmstrom: “It’s a good battle we have in front there. Nothing that’s malicious, he’s a good guy, he’s doing his job. I like battles like that. They’re fun. It forces a challenge for me and I like to get up for those things.’‘
Luongo on the Red Wings: “They’re a team that likes to shoot a lot from everywhere in the zone. Guys driving the net, trying to generate rebounds off your pad. Those are the type of games I like, when you’re busy and involved.’‘
Holmstrom on Luongo: “He’s a good goalie and he’s a big goalie, so you just have to move around a little more around the net so he look over your shoulder too much. For sure get pucks on him and get second chances.’‘
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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.