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Red Wings-Coyotes quick take: taking the hard road = less than special loss

The Detroit Red Wings tend to suffer a few injuries during February and subsequently go into an early-month slump (usually at the same time that the Nashville Predators, who the Wings play on Friday, make their customary division title push), but man, in their -3-1 loss to Phoenix…

Did the Wings’ special teams ever stink, and did the Wings ever engage in a game where trying too hard to protect your goaltender in fact makes the game tremendously harder on your defense and goalie than it should be, giving Phoenix a much-needed win as they push for a playoff berth and try to send a message to a potential playoff opponent.

The Wings did score a power play goal in their loss, but they gave up a short-handed marker, took too many penalties and overcompensated in a big way to try and block shots in front of MacDonald to the point that over half of the game was played from the Coyotes’ blueline on out—yielding a sore hand for Niklas Kronwall and sore spots for more than a few Wings as the turnover-happy forwards and defense ended up having to block 19 shots—and the Wings were perhaps predictably both pounced upon early and couldn’t muster offense late.

I’m not buying listening to the Coyotes’ announc…I mean NBC Sports’ Mike Milbury and Keith Jones suggesting that Mike Smith was the best player on the ice while stopping 30 of the 31 shots he faced, because the Wings didn’t get bodies in front or butts in front of Smith as often as they usually do, they over-passed to the extreme in the offensive zone and they fired far, far too many single, unobstructed shots that Smith could either field or chase into the corner and clear himself because the gap between forwards and defense was so great that the 3 forwards had little to no support in terms of attempting to generate or sustain any sort of forecheck.

Like I said, the Wings were pounced upon pretty early. Without Brad Stuart in the lineup, Ian White had more jitters than Jonathan Ericsson, and when he took a boneheaded hooking penalty, the Wings looked to be in trouble…Until Martin Hanzal got called for tripping at 5:36, all of 38 seconds after White’s penalty, and the Wings embarked upon a short power play after killing off White’s penalty.

In theory, the Wings would get a little bit of a boost via the short power play, but instead, their penchant for endless lateral passing between bluelines cost them as Henrik Zetterberg slid the puck to Niklas Kronwall and Ian White while gaining the Coyotes’ blueline. Kronwall and White collided, Boyd Gordon stole the puck and he roared in on a shorthanded breakaway, deking Joey MacDonald out of his jock before depositing the puck in the net on MacDonald’s glove side.

Too cute cost the Wings in a big way, and they spent the rest of the first period trying to battle the Coyotes’ aggressive trap/forecheck/grind by more or less taking care of MacDonald and not really worrying about doing much more than firing a shot or two on Smith here or there. The Wings blocked at least half of those 19 shots in the 1st period, and they generated all of 6 shots, and aside from a few scoring chances from their most consistent lines—the Miller-Helm-Cleary and Emmerton-Abdelkader-Holmstrom lines—they did very little other than be ground upon by allowing the Coyotes to play the vast majority of the game in Detroit’s end.

At the end of the first period, Lidstrom was called for another somewhat bogus horizontal stick foul as his tap on Martin Hanzal did not prevent the Coyotes forward from getting a shot in on MacDonald, but hey, all they call are penalties where the stick’s horizontal or players fall over anymore.

The Wings killed the penalty and seemed to regroup in the second, starting to fire pucks on Smith much more regularly, but they continued to take penalties, and White’s second of the game, one where he more or less lost his stick, but again, it was horizontal.

Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata worked the puck on the cycle on the right side, got it back to power play point man and 1,200-game player Ray Whitney in the right faceoff circle, and he fired a puck between Martin Hanzal’s goalie-screening legs and off the cuff of MacDonald’s glove—even though MacDonald didn’t see the shot, he got enough glove on it that, had he not turned it over to get under the puck, he could have at least deflected it—and we all know how the Wings play this season when they’re down 2-0.

Babcock finally decided to reunite the back-passing Henrik Zetterberg with players who are always peeling off at the offensive blueline in Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula, thus sliding Pavel Datsyuk and his forward-passing game back between two harder-charging wingers in Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi, and the Wings finally started getting the blueline assistance they needed in terms of smart pinches and a smaller gap between forwards and defense, sustaining something of a forecheck and out-shooting the Coyotes while pushing the game into their end.

After the Wings blew Michal Rozsival’s hooking penalty, Babcock offered an iteration of the Wings’ power play, this time with Datsyuk and Zetterberg playing alongside Johan Franzen, with Lidstrom and White on the point, and when Rostislav Klesla chipped the puck out of play all of 10 seconds after Rozsival’s penalty expired, the Wings did something simple, and it worked:

Henrik Zetterberg won an offensive zone faceoff (a rare feat for the Wings on the first power play faceoff, which is usually won by the opponent and dumped down the ice) via help from Datsyuk, who got the puck back to Lidstrom. Datsyuk and Lidstrom did a give-and-go before Datsyuk took the puck at the left wing half boards and slid it to Henrik Zetterberg down low, he wrapped himself around the net, and as Adrian Aucoin left Franzen alone in front, Franzen snuck into the crease and tipped Zetterberg’s pass through Smith as Oliver Ekman-Larsson stared at Franzen doing his work from a foot away.

The Wings had life with 3:46 left in the period, and they finished strongly, ending in a sort of physical flourish as Kyle Chipchura and Jonathan Ericsson traded jabs in an end-of-period 10-man scrum.

In the 3rd, however, the edge seemed to wear off the Wings’ game, and as they started to gain some time and space on some horrible ice, they also seemed to decide that dump-ins that Smith could play or single, unobstructed and un-retrieved shots would get the job done. They started turning pucks over through center ice again, and the Coyotes were out-shot but not out-chanced by any stretch.

When the Wings blew another power play—their fourth of the night—as Shane Doan got caught tripping Johan Franzen (who would have fallen over on his own, but again, if he falls, it’s a call), the Wings tried to get the puck to the point far too regularly, and as the clock ticked down from 5:57 to 3:57, the Coyotes cleared the puck early, often and regularly, with Babcock forced to do nothing but give Zetterberg, Franzen, Datsyuk and Lidstrom incredibly long shifts because the Yotes prevented his team from changing their players thanks to consistent pressure chasing those dump-downs.

The Wings ended up pulling MacDonald after the Yotes iced the puck, and somewhat predictably, after the Coyotes dumped the puck down ice, Zetterberg took the puck in the Wings’ zone, slid it back to Lidstrom, his diagonal pass was dumped in and not chased by Datsyuk, and after Rozsival got the puck past Franzen and Zetterberg, Aucoin out-muscled Hudler and Lidstrom couldn’t make a play thanks to a blocked Taylor Pyatt shot, the clock kept ticking down from over a minute left to just over 30 seconds left, and as Lidstrom of all people tried to give the puck to Franzen so he could regroup, Franzen’s clearing pass landed on the stick of Martin Hanzal—and it was a lovely pass—allowing Hanzal to walk around a bunched-up Lidstrom and put the puck into an empty net.

Unforced errors. Terrible special teams play in terms of not generating much offensively and giving up both power play and shorthanded goals against. Inconsistent, ineffectual and downright sloppy play through the neutral zone, no forechecking, lots of turnovers and a defensive posture that was far too happy to just block shots and let the Coyotes grind on them instead of grinding upon Phoenix. Add it all together, and include the shock of losing Stuart to the flu just before game time (Commodore played well…Kindl was, erm…shaky) and the no Jimmy Howard confidence factor, and the Wings just…

They made the game far too difficult on themselves, and they very thoroughly worked their asses off to hand the game to a more desperate and deliberate opponent, on a national stage (again). Too cute, too little, too late, too lose.

The February Injury Funk is on, Kronwall’s got a sore right hand after blocking a Doan shot, and what the Wings really need to do does not involve solving a goaltending problem: they need to play simpler and smarter, moving the puck out of their zone, getting their speed game going through the neutral zone, generating turnovers and “grind time” on the opposing team by a sustained forecheck, and they need to keep the puck in the other team’s end and go to the other team’s net to both take shots, block the opposing goalie’s point of view and, more importantly, retrieve those rebounds and hold the puck in to generate secondary and tertiary scoring opportunities instead of chasing pucks back down the ice.

It’s a matter of matching the urgency of one’s opponents avoiding attempts to make “cutesy” offensive plays to out-finesse players who are going to pick up delicate passes and pucks moved backward instead of forward at this time of year.

Now the Wings head home back at .500 on the road, and with 6 straight at home, starting against an Edmonton Oilers team that got its ass handed to it by Toronto tonight, the Wings can’t under-estimate Edmonton again, or by the time Nashville comes to town on Friday, the Wings might be battling for Central Division supremacy again instead of trying to hold onto the top spot in the Western Conference.


Statistics:

Shots 31-23 Detroit overall: the Wings and Coyotes tied 6-6 in terms of shots in the 1st; the Wings out-shot Phoenix 14-8 in the 2nd; the Wings also out-shot Phoenix 11-9 in the 3rd period.

The Wings went 1-for-4 in 4:48 of PP time and gave up a shorthanded goal; the Coyotes went 1-for-4 in 5:05 of PP time, including 12 seconds of 5 on 3 time, and scored a shorthanded goal.

Joey MacDonald stopped 20 of 22 shots; Mike Smith stopped 30 of 31.

The 3 stars, per the “Coyotes Broadcast Network,” were Martin Hanzal, Boyd Gordon and Mike Smith.

Faceoffs 28-21 Detroit (Wings won 57%);

Blocked shots 19-11 Detroit;

Missed shots 15-14 Phoenix (total attempts 57-56 Phoenix, and the Wings fired 25 shots into Coyotes players or wide of the net, which is just 6 short of the number they actually fired on Smith);

Hits 26-20 Phoenix;

Giveaways 4-3 Phoenix;

Takeaways 13-6 Detroit.

Individual stats:

Faceoffs: Helm went 10-and-5 (67%); Zetterberg went 6-and-8 (43%); Filppula went 7-and-5 (58%); Abdelkader went 4-and-0 (100%); Franzen went 0-and-2; Miller lost his only faceoff; Datsyuk won his only faceoff.

Shots: White actually led the team with 4 shots; Zetterberg, Ericsson and Franzen had 3; Kindl, Lidstrom, Miller, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Holmstrom had 2; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Commodore, Helm, Emmerton and Kronwall had 1;

Blocked attempts: White had 2 attempts blocked; Kindl, Lidstrom, Cleary, Hudler, Zetterberg, Helm, Ericsson, Kronwall and Holmstrom had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Zetterberg and Filppula missed the net 3 times; Franzen missed the net 2 times; Datsyuk, Miller, Commodore, Hudler, Bertuzzi and Emmerton missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Commodore led the Wings with 4 hits in a strong game; Ericsson and Franzen had 3 hits; Kindl and Holmstrom, who was also great, had 2; Lidstrom, Cleary, Datsyuk, Miller, Emmerton and Kronwall had 1.

Giveaways: Datsyuk, Filppula and Franzen had giveaways;

Takeaways: Both Lidstrom and Franzen had 2 takeaways; Kindl, Datsyuk, Commodore, Zetterberg, Helm, Emmerton, Filppula, Ericsson and Holmstrom had 1 takeaway.

Blocked opponent shots: Miller and Kronwall blocked 4 shots apiece; White blocked 3; Lidstrom and Abdelkader blocked 2; Cleary, Helm, Emmerton and Franzen blocked 1.

Penalties taken: White took 2 minors; Lidstrom and Datsyuk took one apiece.

Plus-minus: Via a short-handed goal and empty-netter, the Wings finished at a collective -11: Zetterberg finished at -2; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, White, Hudler, Bertuzzi, Filppula, Kronwall, Franzen and Holmstrom finished at -1.

Points: Franzen had a goal; Zetterberg and Datsyuk had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 23:57 played; Lidstrom played 23:31; Ericsson played 22:49;

White played 22:41; Zetterberg played 20:09; Datsyuk played 19:43;

Filppula played 19:05; Hudler played 19:02; Franzen played 18:02;

Bertuzzi played 15:21; Cleary played 13:28; Kindl played 13:11;

Helm played 13:04; Miller played 12:25; Holmstrom played 10:54;

Commodore played 10:20; Abdelkader played 8:59; Emmerton played 7:33.

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Comments

bezukov's avatar

George, as a member of the Wings fan base, I really need you to write a piece about how Shane Doan injured Kronwall in cold blood and needs to be the subject of a criminal investigation.  Will he ever be brought to justice?

On a serious note, the PP is causing me premature hair loss.  There were times that every Red Wing was on the perimeter of the play with nobody in the middle.  Point shot are all fine and good, but when nobody is there for the tip or the rebound, what the hell good are they?  I almost want to see Lidstrom taken off the power play so the forwards (I won’t throw Pav under the bus on this one) start thinking on their feet rather than deferring to the point every time.  Every game I watch I see the defending team forechecking up high on the point,  but why wouldn’t they went you don’t have to respect the Wings play around the net?  The Wings might as well have published their playbook at this point, because everybody knows how to defend them. 

I won’t even get into the lack of a Red Wing ever being in position for rebounds…

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 02/07/12 at 02:13 AM ET

WestWing's avatar

George, I think you could match the Wings’ effort level tonight (the hockey blogger equivalent of “phoning it in”) and save yourself a whole lot of work at the same time by trotting out what we’re rapidly coming to refer to on A2Y as simply “the quote”.  It’s generic.  It’s simple.  It’s elegant and timeless.  Best of all you can use as many as twenty to thirty times over the course of a regular season.  Think of the wear and tear this will save you.

Anyway, without further ado…drumroll please!...I give you “the quote”.

“I thought they had better jump than we did. I don’t think we came out with as much energy. It took us a couple of periods to get going.”

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 02/07/12 at 02:46 AM ET

Avatar

Every game I watch I see the defending team forechecking up high on the point,  but why wouldn’t they went you don’t have to respect the Wings play around the net?  The Wings might as well have published their playbook at this point, because everybody knows how to defend them.

I won’t even get into the lack of a Red Wing ever being in position for rebounds…

Posted by bezukov from South of Detroit on 02/07/12 at 12:13 AM ET

  Yeah Smith gave up some juicy rebounds tonight but the Wings were nowhere to be found. Looked like they were skating in sand the first two periods and they all had stone hands tonight. The Wings need a forward who wants to shoot the puck on the power play. Someone who is greedy for goals.

Posted by From The Hockey Wastelands from Cleveland on 02/07/12 at 02:56 AM ET

WestWing's avatar

The Wings need a forward who wants to shoot the puck on the power play. Someone who is greedy for goals.

Posted by From The Hockey Wastelands from Cleveland on 02/07/12 at 12:56 AM ET

This has been apparent for some time now.  I’ve been saying exactly this since about two weeks into the season.  It’s also the considered opinion of many of us that they desperately need to bring in someone who will change the chemistry and dial up the “give a shit” meter.

As I posted earlier today on A2Y, while a player who can put the puck in the net would help, the real issue with this team is not talent.  The real problem with this Red Wing team in my opinion is that they take shifts, periods and sometimes even whole games where they just ram it into cruise control and coast.  If you don’t believe me then refer to “the quote” above. 

It’s all becoming much too reminscent of last year when too many players thought there was a magical switch that the team can flip and turn it on when they feel they really need to.  I think we all remember how well that worked out. 

In my opinion what we’re witnessing in terms of a team who just can’t seem to get out of its own way by playing down to the level of their opposition on a frighteningly consistent basis (on the road at least) when they could instead be piling up the points and making the race so much easier on themselves, carries with it the distinct stench of complacency.  I think the fact that the team’s braintrust has stuck with the core group of players over the past few years is generally a good thing in that it gives them a measure of stability that few other teams in the league can match.  But like anything else in life, things can and do grow stale.  It wouldn’t be a bad time to shake things up a bit. 

I’m not suggesting any kind of major overhaul, but it’s really obvious to a lot of us that something just isn’t quite right and so perhaps bringing in a player or two who will shake things up and add some fire and intensity to the mix might very well be the thing that shakes this team out of the sleepwalk mode they seem to be in on far too many nights.

The heart transplant——errrr, I mean trade deadline is Feb. 27th.  We’ll see what happens.

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 02/07/12 at 03:29 AM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

This years power play has been so bad…for so long that one can only think that Detroit has the stubbornest coaching staff in the NHL.  It is time for Kenny to lock the coaches in a room for 48 hours and force them to watch power plays that work….over and over and over.  It is far beyond blaming the players.  They do what they are told.  If it looks like they don’t care it is because they know it only works in practice, but they have to follow instructions.

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 02/07/12 at 03:48 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

George, excellent recap as always.  I agree that the Wings were far too concerned about protecting JoeyMac and allowing most of the game to be played in the Wings’ defensive zone.  And when I heard that Stuart would not play, I had a bad feeling after what happened when Nick Lidstrom got the flu.  The Wings, I think, have got to let the goaltender do his job - I thought JoeyMac did a fine job - and like you said, play simpler and smarter.  I thought the Wings “started on time,” but after the Yotes got that short-handed goal, it seemed like the Wings got all discombobulated. 

Anyone else think Franzen - though not shooting or scoring nearly enough - is playing much better defensively?  In his last shift before the end of the 2nd period, I thought it was Brad Stuart out there - and it was Mule.  He was doing great work along the end boards.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 02/07/12 at 10:17 AM ET

redxblack's avatar

Milbury of all people dissected the Wings pp woes with simple video. He showed the lack of urgency led to an inability to stretch the other team’s D. This isn’t rocket science. The PP and the PK are both TERRIBLE!

Also terrible - how many J. Ericsson miscues have led to scoring opportunities so far this year? Big E might be a great guy, but he’s not a great defensemen. They should give him the Leino treatment if they can’t trade him and bring up B. Smith already.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 02/07/12 at 10:55 AM ET

Avatar

I didn’t think they started on time.
The first period was ugly. 6 shots. Players skating around, not after the puck and not covering players, just seeming to skate. Defensemen running into each other at the offensive zone allowing shorthanded breakaways…

Just ugly all night long.
Helm and MacDonald were just about the only two on the ice who looked decent last night. White was just painful to watch.

Posted by teldar on 02/07/12 at 11:00 AM ET

Avatar

And they need someone like McCarty or Maltby.
When is Callahan going to be ready to come up and be some sand paper? I don’t know that I care if he can play, he just needs to be a conscience in the locker room about showing up for games.

Posted by teldar on 02/07/12 at 11:02 AM ET

joedaiceman's avatar

God help us if the RWs ever fall to third or fourth best in the league. The agony we will have to endure will be unbearable.

Posted by joedaiceman on 02/07/12 at 05:16 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.