The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/24/11 at 07:14 AM ET
Minus 63 goals and 147 points in the absent Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi, the Red Wings haven’t fared well during their five-game home stand. They dropped a frustrating 5-4 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, and while Jimmy Howard rebounded from Monday’s outing with a superb 31-save effort and Jiri Hudler returned from a neck/back injury and scored a key goal, the Wings are now 0-and-2 on their home stand thanks to a Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
The Wings weren’t necessarily concerned with catching the Canucks, who are now 10 points ahead of Detroit in the Western Conference standings, but they were hoping to both “bank points” to hold off the San Jose Sharks (who are 1 point behind the Wings) and defend the Central Division against late pushes from the Blackhawks and Predators (both 7 points behind Detroit, and the Hawks have 3 games left against Detroit), all while slowly rounding into playoff form, and instead, the Wings have looked like a team that can neither score the game’s first goal nor exhibit the kind of clutch scoring that wins games minus a full line’s worth of scoring and the team’s only real “power” forwards.
Instead, as Hudler and Valtteri Filppula remain inconsistent, Mike Modano’s struggling to score at times and Tomas Holmstrom and Danny Cleary have gone relatively cold, the Wings look like a team whose offensive threats are limited to whoever’s playing with Henrik Zetterberg, whoever’s playing with Darren Helm and Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Brian Rafalski.
The Wings’ inability to sustain offensive pressure or generate secondary scoring opportunities on a consistent basis, a seven-shot performance by Justin Abdelkader included, made Roberto Luongo’s 40-save performance look even better than it was, and Luongo was understandably delighted with his performance after the game, as he told the Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma:
“Exactly what the doctor ordered for me,” he said of his 34th victory of the season which ties him for the league lead. “We knew it was going to be a playoff game and a good atmosphere to be a part of. These are the kind of games we’re going to be involved in during the playoffs.”
With 22 saves after two periods — including a shorthanded breakaway by Darren Helm in the opening period — it should quiet those whispers that Luongo is not ready to shoulder a huge playoff load. When a television graphic showed his career 17-17 postseason mark, it was almost as if Luongo saw the clip because he proved a point at Joe Louis Arena. In the third period, Luongo stopped a Henrik Zetterberg deflection, a Justin Abelkader slot shot and a Zetterberg deflection and also his late-game backhander with a strong stand-up style that seemed to exude supreme confidence. It wasn’t until Jiri Hudler pounced on a power-play rebound after a point shot struck Dan Cleary that Luongo was finally beaten after 35 shots. Not that the Wings didn’t try to beat him early and often. They dominated the first period and Drew Miller and Zetterberg even tried sharp-angle shots from near the goal line in hopes of banking shots home.
“Tough plays, not because they’re scoring chances, but because it creates chaos in front of the crease,” said Luongo, who will start again on Friday in Atlanta. “You want to make sure you’re square. They’ve tried it so much and I was ready for that tonight.”
Super pest Tomas Holmstrom even landed on top of Luongo in the second period to get him off his game. Didn’t matter. Didn’t work. It was if Luongo had that bring-it-on swagger because he didn’t flinch on the Helm breakaway and somehow swatted a Justin Abdelkader shot out of the air at the last second in the first period as he lost his balance and the puck rolled over the goalie’s shoulder.
“There were a couple,” chuckled Luongo of the heavy workload. “They’re fun games to play and the kind of games we want to be involved in. The first period, they had a few breakaways but we settled down after that and we did a good job that there were no second chances.”
That was the problem for Detroit. The Wings out-shot the Canucks 11-5 in the first period, but were out-shot by a staggering 20-12 margin in the second period, which, as Christian Ehrhoff suggested to the Vancouver Sun’s Brad Ziemer, propelled the Canucks over the Wings by kick-starting the Sedin twins’ offensive machine
“In the first we weren’t very crisp,” said Vancouver defenceman Christian Ehrhoff. “Our hands and our legs weren’t quite there yet. Then we got into the game, skated better and got in on the forecheck and that allowed us to play more in the offensive zone.”
“We knew we had been off for a few days and had a long travel day and it was going to take a little bit to get our legs going and it did,” added Henrik [Sedin]. “We knew that, we moved on and played a lot better in the second.”
Daniel [Sedin] finally opened scoring at 6:31 of the second when his attempted backdoor pass to brother Henrik bounced off the left skate of Detroit defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom and through the legs of Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.
Daniel added his 40th of the season on the power play at 9:29 of the third when he ripped a slap shot past Howard from the top of the right faceoff circle. The goal came just seconds after Howard had made a great save on another Daniel shot.
The Canucks were able to hold the Wings off in the third period, Jiri Hudler’s goal aside, and they felt that they both sent a smessage of sorts…
“Going into this game we knew it was going to be a playoff type game with the top two teams in the West battling,” Luongo said. “We knew it was going to be a fun game to play in and a good atmosphere to be a part of. These are the types of games we are going to be involved with in the playoffs and we found a way to win.”
And stifled the Wings’ chances of catching them in the President’s Trophy race, as Henrik suggested to the Province’s Tony Gallagher:
“We all know math a little,” said Henrik Sedin. “It’s going to be tough for these clubs to catch us but we want to keep playing well to get ready for the playoffs.
So the Sedins were able to talk about competing with each other for the scoring title…
“Sure it would be great if I could win the Ross and Hart too but it’s Hank that’s doing all the talking,” said Daniel Sedin, fresh off the birth of his third child. “He’s pushing me. He did it last year and wants me to do it too. But we’ve been concentrating on playing the game the right way.”
When asked if he’d like to be like the Manning brothers Peyton and Eli Daniel quipped: “Well yes, I’d like to win a Stanley Cup.”
And Henrik Zetterberg, who played what might have been a season-high 23 minutes, was left marveling about the brothers’ chemistry:
“I’ve been playing against them since I was 10 or 11,” said the Wings great centre. “We were just two hours apart back in Sweden but then they started to play with older players for a while so there were fewer battles for a bit. We’ve had many over the years though and they’re tough to play against. They’ve played together their whole life, they always know where each other is going to be without looking, they’re really skilled and they use everyone on the ice. It’s a challenge every time, but fun. And I guess they’ll be many more.”
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault chose to rest Mikael Samuelsson (“lower-body”), was able to joke about Daniel hitting the 40-goal mark despite missing a few days after celebrating the birth of his third child, as the Vancouver Sun’s Ziemer noted:
“Imagine if he had practised once during that time, eh,” marveled Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “He was off for four days and flew in last night, was able to get a morning skate in and that line had a real strong game tonight.”
Daniel simply picked up where he had left off. He ran his points streak to nine games, the longest current streak in the NHL, and now has 95 points. His brother Henrik, last year’s Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner who assisted on both of his goals Wednesday night, is second with 88.
“The first period was tough, not practising for three days, but after that I felt fine,” Daniel said.
His first goal came early in the second period when his cross-ice pass hit the skate of Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom and bounced through the pads of Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.
“I was looking for Hank back-door,” Daniel said. “Those things happen when you move the puck and move yourself out there. Hank was open back-door and if the puck goes through it hits his stick. It’s one of those things.”
The Canucks weren’t worried about giving up 40 shots to the Wings, either, as the Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma suggests:
the Canucks knew it was going to take more than the NHL’s best road record to solve the Red Wings, even though they were without injured forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi. The Canucks were missing Manny Malhotra to a season-ending eye injury and Mikael Samuelsson to a lower-body ailment, which threw three of their lines into disarray. And while they got a good push from the fourth alignment of Jeff Tambellini, Alex Bolduc and Victor Oreskovich, it was the constant presence of the top line which is going to have to make more of a difference down the stretch and into the postseason. Getting a 39-save performance from Roberto Luongo didn’t hurt, either.
Matched against the Henrik Zetterberg line that mustered 18 shots, the Sedins have learned to bend but not break against the league’s best puck-possession team. Justin Abdelkader had seven shots while Zetterberg had six and Dan Cleary five.
“We had been off for a few days and it was going to take a little to get our games going,” said Henrik. “We knew the way they were going to play and they were going to get 30-35 shots [actually 40]. It’s the way you play them after they get the shots.”
The Canucks were lethargic in the opening period in which they were outshot 11-5. Jan Murasek rang a shot off the crossbar after Aaron Rome was stripped of the puck at the Canuck blueline and the top line was held without a shot.
“We can’t just expect to dominate,” summed up Henrik. “Coming in this rink and being able to win is huge.”
I’m not allowed to comment on the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle’s interpretation of Wednesday night’s result:
With both teams missing a few key bodies, it was a game low on artistic merit – aside from the goalies – but a tight-checking, chess match of a battle that resembled playoff hockey nonetheless.
What remains to be seen is if the result is a sign the Canucks are prepared to win more games like this, under brighter lights and with bigger stakes, when the pressure ramps up.
The good news is that, with the win, Vancouver matched a franchise high 105 points, moving 10 points head of the second-place Red Wings to essentially guarantee they’ll be the Western Conference’s top seed when the playoffs begin April 13.
They’re the new favourites.
“I think we should be favourites,” Sedin said. “And that’s not a bad thing. It shows that if we play the right way and we play the way we are right now, it’s going to go a long way.”
Canucks.com’s Derek Jory certainly agrees with Mirtle’s assessment:
The Sedins, Daniel and Henrik that is, focused on the offensive side of things on this night with Daniel scoring the game’s opening goal 6:31 into the second period to extend his point-streak to nine games (8-8-16), and the game-winner, on the power play, midway through the third. Henrik had the first assist on both goals as the Sedins put on a show.
The Canucks also put on a show winning their sixth straight road game to tie a franchise record with their 23rd road victory of the season and improve the team’s overall record to 48-17-9, two wins shy of the club’s first 50-win campaign. Vancouver now has 105 points to tie a franchise mark set in 2006-07.
Excited? You should be, these are exhilarating times in Vancouver with three weeks until the start of the second season, which leaves plenty of time for the Sedins to truly do something special. Daniel inched closer to following in Henrik’s Art Ross winning footsteps by extending his lead in the NHL’s points race, he is now ahead of Henrik by seven and Steven Stamkos by nine.
Late in the third period Daniel had the hat trick goal on his stick when he cut in on the Detroit defence and let a low shot fly. The puck beat Jimmy Howard, but the right post was unbeatable.
Speaking of unbeatable, Roberto Luongo almost that making 39 saves, his most since beating the Chicago Blackhawks on February 4th. The win pulls Luongo into a tie with Carey Price and Jimmy Howard for most wins in the NHL with 34, he’s also third in save percentage at .926 and fourth in goals against average at 2.21.
So the Canucks may have indulged in a wee bit of gloating and looking a bit too far forward for this Wings fan’s tastes, as NHL.com’s Brian Hedger noted:
A comparison was made to Peyton Manning and Eli Manning both winning Super Bowl MVPs, but Daniel Sedin didn’t bite.
“I’d like to win the Stanley Cup first,” he said. “That’s the one thing that would be very special. We’ve got a long way to go, but I like this team and we’ve been really focused on winning and playing the right way and being accountable to each other. If we can keep doing that I think we can do something special.”
The Red Wings put on some late pressure but couldn’t solve Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo - who was just as impressive as the Sedins while stopping 39 of 40 shots. The win means both teams finished with two wins in the season series - which included two high-scoring games and two 2-1 finishes, with each team winning one of each kind.
“It’s rare that you see shootouts in playoff games,” Luongo said, referring to high-scoring contests rather than tiebreakers—which aren’t used in the postseason. “It’s always going to be checking affairs, and this game had that feeling tonight. We’re not always going to score five or six goals, and when we don’t we want to make sure we’re able to win games 2-1.”
“If you’re going to end up winning this conference and maybe the Presidents’ Trophy, too, I think we should be favorites,” Daniel said. “That’s not a bad thing. If we’re this good through 82 games, we should be fine in the playoffs too.”
“It looks like we’re going to be in a good spot,” [Henrik] said. “We’re one of the teams. We can’t see ourselves as the big favorites. I don’t think anyone can do that. We know we have a chance and we have the team to get there.”
Over in the Red Wings’ locker room, Detroit’s players and coach weren’t exactly waving white flags, nor were they heaping praise on the Canucks. Instead, Wings coach Mike Babcock very tersely gave Jimmy Howard’s 31-save performance a thumbs-up while speaking to the AP’s Larry Lage:
“Jimmy was fine,” Babcock said.
Sedin clearly doesn’t need luck to score, but he was fortunate on both of his goals. He pushed the puck across the front of the crease and it caromed off Lidstrom’s left skate and slid between Howard’s pads in the first period.
“That was lucky, but those types of goals happen,” Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg said.
Howard had no shot to stop Sedin’s second goal - a sharp shot from the top of the right circle - because the goalie lost his stick going from post to post after his teammates failed to clear the puck.
“We had the puck in the corner and we need to get the puck down the ice,” Babcock said.
“I thought we were better than them in the first and they were better than us in the second,” Babcock said. “In the third, we had every opportunity. It was a good hockey game.”
Babcock was spare and direct in his post-game commentary, as Fox Sports Detroit’s Dave Dye pointed out...
“We were a line short tonight,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re a better team if we have another line. We’re more dangerous instead of check, check, check, check.”
That’s why Babcock has one wish for these final three weeks before the playoffs.
“Get healthy,” he said. “Getting healthy would be a home run for us.”
But the Wings weren’t happy with their offense, or the lack thereof…
“He was good,” Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said of Luongo. “I think we made him good, too.”
Said Wings captain Nick Lidstrom: “I thought we were kind of on the outside on the rebounds, not getting into the second chances.”
And while Babcock and Zetterberg stuck to the party line while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“It was good game, we had every opportunity in the end,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Luongo played well for them. It was good hockey and there wasn’t much to pick between the teams. We competed well.”
“They’re No. 1 in the league and when you play a team like that they are a measuring stick,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We know we have a good team and we had a few guys injured.”
“Howie played real well, there were two great goaltenders in this game,” Lidstrom said. “Howie came up with some big saves, especially in the second and third periods.”
Luongo’s dominance and efficient offense from the Sedin twins (Daniel’s brother Henrik set up both goals) are a formula the Canucks have used to perfection this season.
“They’re very dangerous, they have four lines that can play,” Howard said. “The top line, with the twins and (Alex) Burrows, is one of the best in the Western Conference. They have a lot of weapons.”
And Babcock’s comment regarding the absences of Franzen, Datsyuk and Bertuzzi is worth repeating, via the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
Mike Babcock on the Wings missing injured forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi, “We were a line short tonight. We’d be a better team if we have another line. We’re more dangerous instead of check, check, check, check. And yet in saying that, I think we got 40 shots.”
Babcock was particularly peeved at a Kris Draper gaffe on the penalty-kill which led to the Canucks’ game-winner, as the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell noted...
Wings’ forward Kris Draper, who lost his balance slightly as he tried to clear the puck, flubbed his backhanded attempt and moments later it was in the back of the net.
“We got the puck back from Draper and it was pretty much an open net for me,” said Sedin, who hammered a slap shot past a scrambling Howard.
The Wings inability to kill the penalty clearly irritated Detroit coach Mike Babcock.
“The stuff we can control was we had the puck in the corner and we didn’t get it down the ice,” Babcock said. “The bottom line is its a play that we should’ve had the puck 200 feet down the ice.”
Jimmy Howard was plain ticked off about the second goal, suggesting to the Free Press’s Helene St. James that Ryan Kesler picked him off:
“I thought I was interfered with after the shot there,” Howard said. “I’m trying to cover it and Kesler winds up driving my head into the ice. Sometimes I feel like we breathe on a goalie and it’s no goal, but the men out there who make the call (thought) it wasn’t goalie interference. I was trying to reach for my stick and I missed it and then I was just in survival mode trying to do whatever I could to keep the puck out of the net.”
The Canucks (and Wings) got away with more than a few picks, hacks and whacks as Don VanMassenhoven and Eric Furlatt chose to let most everything go, a nasty charging play by Raffi Torres on Patrick Eaves (and Eaves’ borderline charging of several Canucks in retaliation) included, but the refs made sure to call Tomas Holmstrom for “holding” when Dan Hamhuis tied him up in front of Luongo toward the end of the first period, and given what Kesler did on the gamer, let’s just say that it was slightly frustrating to watch.
Lidstrom made no excuses….
“We came out with a good push and had some chances early on, and I thought we kind of took the play to them the first 10 minutes,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We kept that up for the first period.”
The Wings were without injured forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen, but the Canucks’ injured included Alex Edler, Mikael Samuelsson and Manny Malhotra. Neither side lacked for intensity.
“I think it’s two very close teams that faced each other,” Lidstrom said. “Just looking at the score, looking at how tight the game was, it was probably a fun game to watch for the fans.
Howard felt that he acquitted himself well after getting pulled against Pittsburgh…
“It was a good bounce-back game,” Howard said, “but you still want to win.”
But disagreements with several calls aside, the Wings stuck to the concept that they were simply outplayed, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted…
“Overall, we played the way we wanted to, except the second period, they were better than us,” Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “That will happen. You will play some good teams and you will lose some close games, too. This is a little bit of playoff-type hockey. Small things are going to decide it.”
Said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock: “Luongo played real well for them. I thought it was a good hockey game. There wasn’t a whole lot to pick between the teams, and I thought our guys competed hard.”
Jiri Hudler, back after sitting out three games with soreness in his neck and shoulders, scored a power-play goal at 11:38 of the third period to cut his club’s deficit to one. The Red Wings pressed for the tying goal, pulling Howard for the extra skater in the final minute, but fell short and are winless in three games (0-2-1).
“I thought we were better than them in the first, they were better than us in the second and I thought in the third we had every opportunity,” Babcock said. “In the end, we got a power-play goal, they got a power-play goal. They got one more. It was unfortunate. We had the puck on the penalty kill and should have had it down and it didn’t happen.”
Howard made sure to leave the locker room making sure that the next time a player bumps him, he’s either expecting a call going his way, or he’s going to take things into his own hands:
Asked why more goalie interference penalties aren’t called against Red Wings’ opponents, Howard said, “Maybe it’s because I’m aggressive and play at the top of my crease. I don’t take any crap out there. That’s my area and I felt like I was established there. But, no excuses, we had our chances and Luongo came up big.”
As I can’t really come up with a positive message from this game’s result, I’ll leave it to the Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski:
Going into Wednesday night, they were 19th in goals allowed, a statistic that never, ever translates well to the playoffs. And by “never, ever,” I mean, “not since 2009.” Coming off their 2008 Cup victory, the 2009 Wings finished 20th in goals-against and still reached Game 7 of the Finals. That’s not the easiest path, but they don’t really have a choice. They’re second in the league in scoring, and Howard and the defense have been improving.
“Our defense has been spotty,” Lidstrom said. “To win in the playoffs, you gotta be able to shut teams down. I think we can.”
So there is a switch, and it had better be connected to Howard. His save percentage has climbed a bit to .908, but he needs to be more consistent. Remember, he was fine in his first playoff run last spring, and wasn’t the reason the Wings lost in the second round.
Vancouver is the most-complete team, but any of the eight that make the playoffs could win the West. That’s not even hyperbole. The Wings have been alternately good and mystifying, but there’s no rising concern at the Joe. This was a good game that could be a precursor, or not.
The playoffs start in three weeks, and that’s when the Wings, who have won eight of 10 playoff series the past three years, must make one very important flip — from peculiarly unpredictable to purposefully predictable.
That’s the plan. At this point, the Wings need to be able to both put pucks into the opposing team’s net and keep ‘em out of their own during the same game, and they haven’t been able to do that consistently of late. The effort is there, the intensity is there and the Wings are certainly getting their chances, but they’re not executing, and if you don’t execute in April, you golf.
And for goodness’ sake, the Wings need to roll off some wins at home one of these months. I’d be lovely, absolutely lovely, to see the Wings get a little healthier by Saturday and kick the snot out of the one team that moves me to genuine anger simply by saying their name.
Highlights: Versus posted a 3:26 highlight clip…
Sportsnet posted a 1:45 highlight clip:
TSN posted a 2:40 highlight clip which includes some post-game comments from Daniel Sedin and Alain Vigneault;
And NHL.com posted a 5-minute highlight clip narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Post-game: Versus posted an extended interview with Daniel Sedin, but as it’s my blog (dammit!), I’m embedding their feature on Nicklas Lidstrom instead:
TSN posted a discussion of the Canucks’ goaltending, a 1:20 clip of Canucks comments (including those of Daniel Sedin, Alain Vigneault, Henrik Sedin, Roberto Luongo and Kevin Bieksa), Mike Johnson and Steve Kouleas gabbing about the significance of Luongo’s performance and the Sedin interview;
The Canucks’ website posted interviews with Roberto Luongo, Christian Ehrhoff, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin talking to the press, but the video of the Canucks walking into their locker room victorious is the must-watch clip, and if you’re a Wings fan (like me), it stings:
The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle posted an audio clip of Alain Vigneault’s post-game presser…
The Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell posted a clip of Luongo’s presser:
And the Red Wings’ website posted a clip of an enthusiastic, “Youth skater of the game” who didn’t want to get off the ice…
And post-game comments from Henrik Zetterberg and coach Mike Babcock, who’s giving the Wings Thursday off:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 17-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 20-image gallery;
The Vancouver Province posted an 18-image gallery;
The Vancouver Sun posted a 15-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 5-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 25-image gallery;
Statistics: Shots 40-33 Detroit, breaking down as 11-5 Detroit in the 1st period, 20-12 Vancouver in the 2nd period and 17-8 Detroit in the 3rd period.
The Canucks went 1-for-3 in 2:26 of PP time, and the Wings went 1-for-3 in 4:25 of PP time.
Howard stopped 31 of 33 shots; Luongo stopped 39 of 40.
The Wings’ goal: Hudler (9) from Lidstrom (44) and Rafalski (37), PPG.
The 3 stars, per “Michigan Talk Radio’s” Rich Kincaide: Howard, Luongo and Daniel Sedin.
Faceoffs: 28-22 Vancouver (44% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 9-4 Detroit;
Missed shots 16-8 Detroit (total attempted shots 60-50 Detroit);
Hits 29-28 Detroit;
Giveaways 11-6 Detroit;
Takeaways 7-5 Vancouver.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 9-and-10 (47%); Filppula went 6-and-7 (46%); Helm went 1-and-6 (14%); Abdelkader went 4-and-1 (80%); Draper went 2-and-2 (50%); Modano went 0-and-2 (0%).
Shots: Abdelkader led the team with 7 shots; Zetterberg had 6; Cleary had 5; Lidstrom and Modano had 3; Hudler, Draper, Ericsson and Kronwall had 2; Miller, Stuart, Hudler, Mursak, Helm, Filppula and Holmstrom had 1.
Blocked attempts: Salei, Draper, Mursak and Zetterberg had shot attempts blocked by Canucks players.
Missed shots: Lidstrom, Cleary, Eaves, Zetterberg and Modano missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Miller, Hudler, Rafalski, Mursak and Helm missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Helm led the team with 5 hits; Eaves and Draper had 4; Lidstrom had 3; Abdelkader, Cleary, Salei, Mursak and Filppula had 2; Stuart, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1.
Giveaways: Salei had 3 giveaways; Modano had 2; Abdelkader, Hudler, Rafalski, Draper, Ericsson and Howard had 1.
Takeaways: Cleary had 2 takeaways; Miller, Stuart and Filppula had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 4 Canucks shots; Ericsson blocked 2; Miller, Mursak and Filppula blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Both Holmstrom and Eaves took 2 minor penalties for a total of 8 PIMs.
Plus-minus: Lidstrom, Cleary, Miller, Stuart and Zetterberg were -1.
Points: Hudler had a goal; Rafalski and Lidstrom had assists.
Ice time: Lidstrom led the team with 24:01; Zetterberg played 23:00; Rafalski played 22:55;
Stuart played 20:42; Kronwall played 20:30; Cleary played 20:16;
Abdelkader played 17:07; Filppula played 16:59; Ericsson played 16:52;
Hudler plyaed 15:52; Salei played 15:00; Modano played 14:33;
Holmstrom played 14:25; Draper played 12:58; Helm played 12:51;
Eaves played 12:02; Miller played 10:27; Mursak played 8:22.
On Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard: Troy Passingham’s dream day stopping shots at the Red Wings’ morning skate ended without an opportunity to back up Jimmy Howard when the Wings decided to place Chris Osgood on the long-term injured reserve and recall Joey MacDonald from Grand Rapids.
Ken Holland spoke to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan about the team’s decision give Osgood at least another week to recuperate after his latest setback in returning from what turned out to be extensive surgery to repair a sports hernia and some torn muscles in his groin:
“He’s frustrated, we’re frustrated,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Maybe he felt pressure to return with the playoffs approaching. We’ll give him time here to get ready. We don’t know what Chris’ status is heading into the playoffs. We have to get him healthy. Right now, he’s not close.”
To replace Osgood and serve as Jimmy Howard’s backup, the Red Wings recalled Joey MacDonald from Grand Rapids. Osgood, who hasn’t played since Jan. 4, had surgery Jan. 11 and has been traveling with the team and actively rehabilitating for more than a month. The Red Wings took Osgood off the injured list in mid-March when it first appeared he was ready to resume playing. But Osgood experienced soreness, saying it was scar tissue he had play through, and hasn’t been able to overcome that lingering discomfort.
“Everyone signed off on it,” Holland said. “But he continues to experience soreness.”
Holland addressed Osgood’s setbacks while speaking to the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
“We thought he’d be ready to go against St. Louis back on March 12, then Columbus the next week, then today,” general manager Ken Holland said. “Instead we’ve had two to three setbacks in the past 10 days. Every time he practices hard for 40 minutes, he comes in the next day and is sore. At this point, we feel it’s best to shut him down for three or four days and then start all over again next week. But we’re 10 weeks out from when he had surgery, and we’re basically back to where we were a month ago. Chris is frustrated. I’m frustrated. Mike Babcock is frustrated. I think everyone is frustrated.”
If Osgood doesn’t recover, the Wings will have to enter the playoffs with MacDonald backing up Jimmy Howard. MacDonald, 31, never has played in the NHL playoffs. He’s a career minor leaguer who in 84 NHL regular-season appearances is 22-42-11 with a .903 save percentage and 3.14 goals-against average. He is 4-4-2 with a .926 save percentage and 2.10 GAA with the Wings this season.
“Our options are internal,” Holland said. “With Joey, you look at his numbers, he’s played in Pittsburgh, in San Jose, in Columbus, against Pittsburgh at home. Not many games, but we think he’s done a tremendous job. Some times guys wait their whole life for an opportunity—he sees this as his opportunity. Let’s play our way into the playoffs and see where Chris Osgood is in two weeks. But we’re comfortable with Jimmy and Joey the way Joey has played.”
And MLive’s Ansar Khan talked to Holland about Osgood as well:
“We’re back to square one with him,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We’ll give him a few days off, bring him along slowly, see where he goes.”
Osgood was placed on LTIR, which requires a player to sit out a minimum of 10 games and 24 days, retroactive to last week. He is eligible to return for the final two games of the season, April 8-10 against Chicago.
“Everybody’s frustrated,” Holland said. “When we took him off LTI 10 days ago, the player, doctor and trainer all signed off. The first day he had a full practice he felt sore, thought he was going to push through it. We shut him down for 2-3 days. I think he feels pressure to come back with the playoffs looming. ... It’s obvious he’s not anywhere close to playing.”
“It’s become apparent (Osgood) needs 7-to-10 days of full practices to convince himself he’s healthy and get his level of performance up to the point he feels he can be effective at the NHL level,” Holland said. “I know Chris is very frustrated, disappointed.”
Jimmy Howard told Khan that he’s comfortable with the set-up, though he’s going to miss his mentor’s presence, and as Khan suggests…Given that Osgood’s missed time in every season over his second tenure with the Wings with some sort of groin injury, it’s entirely possible that the Wings’ management will sit down with Osgood and ask him whether he’s willing to continue playing next season. It’s not a pleasant thought, but the Wings may need to find a more reliable “plan B,” though I’m sure that Osgood’s tenure with the team and willingness to mentor Howard will give him an edge.
• The goaltender who’s left standing, Jimmy Howard, told the Sporting News’s Craig Custance that he’s not worried about struggling this April, despite Osgood’s absence in the on-the-bench mentorship department:
“You’re going to feel more confident out there your second time around,” Howard told Sporting News. “Last year was a lot of learning on the go.”
The learning curve is gone. It has to be. Now, Howard has a chance to win over a city that seems reluctant to embrace him. Maybe they’re not used to their perennial contender heading into the postseason with a goalie without a track record, or maybe it’s just the scrutiny that comes with every starting goalie in Detroit. But there’s still was a vocal, if small, group of fans that wondered if the Red Wings were better off with Osgood in the playoffs. Now, that’s not an option. It’s up to Howard to win over the skeptics, and until then, he’s choosing to ignore them.
“You don’t read. You don’t listen. You don’t watch,” he said. “I’ve learned that very quick. You sort of live in your own bubble. I watch a lot of comedy shows and keep myself in a good mood.”
Howard was apparently asked by a Vancouver reporter whether he should emulate Roberto Luongo’s new back-in-the-crease style, especially given that Howard believes he’s bumped very often because he plays at the top of the crease, and he issued quite the retort:
“Why should I change?” Howard shot back. “That’s how I see it. Why should I change the style I play? No other goalie in this league has to. Why should I?”
As for Osgood…
“He always picks up [the phone],” Howard said. “No matter what time of the night it is, he’ll always pick up.”
NHL.com’s Brian Hedger also took note of Howard’s comments:
“You’re going to hit bumps in the road across the course of the season - especially a season like ours,” Howard said. “It’s a grind. I’m thankful that I have a coach and management that have the confidence to put me right back in there and let me show how mentally tough I am.”
He’ll have to be even tougher without veteran backup and sounding board Chris Osgood around for the next few weeks. Osgood (sports hernia surgery) was placed on long term injured reserve before the game and won’t be eligible to return until April 8 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“He’s a great friend to everyone in this room,” Howard said. “He’s missed in this dressing room. He’s always a phone call away. He always picks up no matter what time of the night it is - he’ll always pick up. I miss having him to my right (in the locker room).”
The Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp gave Howard the once-over as well, and, for once, he offered a positive view of Howard’s performance and approach to shutting out and shutting off distractions, all while talking about the usual playoff worry suspects:
[T]here’s nothing mysterious regarding the Wings’ vulnerabilities. It’s the back end. Are they deep enough defensively, especially if Brian Rafalski can’t remain healthy for an extended period of time? But as always is the case in Detroit, when the first sign of spring arrives, a young hockey fan’s heart turns to worrying about whether the goaltending can hold up through four long playoff series. Don’t sweat it. Howard will be fine. He was Roberto Luongo’s equal Wednesday.
“I’m just grateful that I’ve got an organization behind me that has confidence in me,” he said. “I’ve been able to prove that I have the mental toughness.”
There are no organizational doubts regarding Howard. You don’t give a guy a two-year, $4.5-million contract extension as the Wings did this season unless you’re certain he’s your guy. But the Wings wanted a veteran contingency, considering their inability to land Evgeni Nabokov prior to the trading deadline. They initially hoped that Ozzie would get a little playing time in the final eight games, gradually eliminating the rust after sports hernia surgery in January.
But the Wings shut him down Wednesday, placing him the long-term injured reserved. The decision means that the earliest Osgood could return would be April 8, with only two games remaining in the regular season. Howard leaned heavily last year on Osgood’s counsel during his first playoffs. It helped having him at his side in the dressing room. That might not be the case this time. Howard looks ready to step forward and answer any remaining critics—even if he chooses not to listen to them in the first place.
Wings notebooks: This wouldn’t usually qualify as a Wings “notebook,” but the Detroit News’s Brian J. O’Connor suggests that Tom Gores remains the front-runner in the derby to purchase the Detroit Pistons from Karen Davidson, and he profiled Gores’ business interests in an extremely thorough article.
• If you’re interested in reading Daniel Sedin talk to Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman or Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom, you can do so on your own, but before the game, Nicklas Lidstrom did tell Nordstrom that he’s not trying to win the defensive scoring title, but instead, is simply trying to help his team win games;
• Lidstrom did make an intriguing comment—in English—to the Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma about the Wings’ status as playoff contenders...
The Red Wings could have played Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi and Jiri Hudler — all nursing minor ailments — but only Hudler came back Wednesday from neck and shoulder discomfort. And as much as the Wings might be in cruise control with the Canucks now holding a 10-point lead over them atop the conference, they know how to play and how to handle heightened playoff expectations.
“Sometimes, we feel the pressure as well, but having the experience and guys who have been there before helps and knowing what you have to bring when it really matters,” said defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom. “You want to be playing your system well and just gear up for the playoffs.”
And Tomas Holmstrom had this to say about the Canucks:
“They’re a tough team and they have a good chance to go all the way and we have to go through them probably.”
— Wings agitator Tomas Holmstrom places Stanley Cup pressure on Canucks
• The Free Press’s Helene St. James identified the youth skater who lapped into the spotlight...
Wiley Monroe, the youth skater of the game, made the most of his turn to be on the ice with the Wings for the national anthem. Instead of skating straight off, as is routine, Monroe circled back, and, as cheers from the crowd drew louder, skated down the side and got high-fives from both benches, before skating off to a standing ovation.
And she noted this quip from Jan Mursak, who registered a shot, two hits and a blocked shot in 8:22 of ice time after being called up from Grand Rapids to give the Wings 12 forwards:
Jan Mursak made his 19th appearance of the season after being called up from the minors. “I just want to keep it simple and do what I do the best,” Mursak said. “Keep skating, keep forechecking, and try to make their D turn the puck over.”
• Consider this a double post: In his Osgood article, extensive playoff experience with their, ahem, graybeards:
“I definitely think it helps having been through it as often as we have,” says Lidstrom, who always says the same thing even if he’s just been run over by a truck when asked how he’s feeling physically, which is ‘I feel pretty good.’ “We have a lot of guys who know what it takes to win and can reach that little bit extra. We all know about paying attention to details and playing your system well at the right time and it’s going to help us. But we still have to get healthy and get all our guys back.”
[Mike] Modano is here in Detroit with the hope of reaching down into that bag of playoff misery one more time, to feel like hell and get the crap kicked out of himself one more time for the opportunity to lift another Cup, this time in his home town.
“You know exactly what you’re headed for,” he says with that big smile that’s made him one of the NHL’s great superstars over the past 20 years. “You know what you are facing and you’re ready for it,” he says of the post season which already gets poured on to the bumps and bruises in place. “You know you’re going to take a beating both mentally and physically and having the experience you know it’s coming and accept it and deal with it. You learn how to prepare for a series, little things you can do in the four or five days between series when you know you’re going to face a certain opponent. I think it helps deeper in the playoffs more than early. Sometimes being young and not being aware of the position you’re in, particularly with the lower seeds like what happened to us against Edmonton a couple of years, that can work. There the young guys just go out and play without any thought of where they are and they play very physical and sometimes they have some success. The teams that have good regular seasons tend to be more aware of where they are in the scheme of things.”
For a guy like [Kris] Draper, he’s come full circle. In ‘02 when he was in the dressing room preparing for the seventh game of the Western final against that great Avalanche team, Scotty Bowman motivated his troops with a story about an old junior teammate he had, and in the course of the speech, he mentioned ‘the guy had hands like Drapes’ which caused the rest of the room to laugh heartily breaking the tension. Now no longer the dupe of the stories as he was willingly then, he’ll now be making the speeches when the time is right.
Perhaps the Canucks can one day build such a tradition.
I’m hoping that the Wings keep on keepin’ on this spring.
Also of Red Wings-related note: My Finnish is nonexistent, but between Iltahleti and YLE, I can figure out that Red Wings prospect Teemu Pulkinen was released from hospital after a four-day stay for a kidney infection, and while he’s feeling better, he has no idea when, whether or if he can return to action.
• Pulkkinen might have his sights set on playing for Finland at the World Championships in April, but he might not be joined by Swedish Wings prospect Daniel Larsson. According to Aftonbladet’s Jorgen Kallstrom, Larsson’s opted out of Sweden’s pre-World Championships training camp, telling Jnytt.se’s Daniel Hultqvist that he’s Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
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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.