The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/07/12 at 02:07 AM ET
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.
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.
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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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.