The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/09/11 at 08:14 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings’ 5-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night most certainly represented the best first period and, maybe predictably, middling second and third periods the Wings played because, despite the Wings’ fantastic, five-goal first period, it essentially devolved into a forty-minute exercise in clock-killing for the Wings, to the point that Joe Louis Arena was maybe half full by the time the Coyotes gave the Wings a bit of a scare in the third period.
Hell, it’s entirely possible that, if you missed the news about Pavel Datsyuk being taken out of the game for precautionary reasons (Wings coach Mike Babcock insisted that Datsyuk was simply “sore” going into the game, and would be fine) and didn’t suffer from a serious case of Wings fan injury neurosis (where’s Jobu when you need him?), you turned the game off somewhere between the halfway mark and the ten-minute mark of the third period, too, and I can’t blame you for saying, “Okay, I’m not going to raise my arms and say, ‘Woohoo!’ every other minute for the next hour-and-a-half, so I’m done, and thanks, Wings’”...
But the die-hards who tend to watch every second of every Wings game, even if they’re down 5 by the end of the first period, and hockey nerds like me tend to watch the last 40 minutes relatively intently, and because only the Coyotes’ website and Fox Sports Arizona accompanied the team to Detroit, this is where I’m going to dole out compliments for the team in what will read like a Fox News of recaps (anything but “balanced,” never mind “fair” given that I’m a Red Wings fan)—the Coyotes showed oodles of character and determination by out-shooting the Wings in the second period and matching Detroit, shot for shot and firing more pucks at or near Jimmy Howard (the total shot attempts were 56-51 Phoenix) than the Wings fired at Mike Smith or Jason Labarbera.
Moreover, the Coyotes didn’t succumb to the temptation to goon it up, and instead, Dave Tippett’s squad patiently and persistently gave the Wings and especially a sterling Jimmy Howard a work-out, occasionally exploited an inevitable Wings let-down in terms of effort, intensity and attention to detail, and the third period nearly got “sporty” after Martin Hanzal pulled a Tomas Holmstrom and tipped the 5-2 goal past Howard on a power play. The Coyotes continue to display the plucky tenacity and discipline which made them a worthy playoff foe both last year and two seasons ago. Given how astonishingly flat they played in the first period, the Coyotes’ latter-period efforts merit tons of praise.
As a card-carrying Wings fan, however, Wings deserve full credit for exploiting the Coyotes’ defense with remarkable efficiency, tenacity and artistic aplomb: every goal seemed to involve the Wings plucking pucks away from Coyotes players and either cycling and circling the net until a teammate sped into the slot unattended or engaging in what I’d call the “Jeff Blashill tweak,” where the Wings have learned to back away from the net and find seams in their opponents’ coverage, firing lateral passes from one faceoff dot to a player ready to one-time the puck from the other faceoff dot. Put simply, the first period was nothing less than gorgeous to watch.
That being said, the second and third periods involved a willingness to trade rushes, allow the opponent to set up their own cycle via a hard-charging forecheck, turn over pucks in the neutral zone when their defenders and forwards traded blazing speed and one-touch passes for a plodding pace, backhand passes to forwards who attempted solitary skates into five defenders lined up at their blueline and tons of turnovers thanks to attempts to slide the puck back to a point man or “late man” forward after barely clearing that blueline. The Wings were bound to suffer some sort of emotional let-down after the adrenaline rush of the first period—sometimes scoring goals in bunches turns the rest of the game into an attempt to kill the clock and minimize the number of mistakes you’re going to commit, lest your opponent find life and you expend far too much energy to simply salvage a blowout turned into a race.
The Wings repeatedly steadied themselves and did do a solid job of ensuring that the shots they gave up didn’t result in rebounds surrendered into secondary or tertiary scoring chances, but their tests of character did reveal that the team remains something of a work in progress, and a team that remains prone to lapses in self-confidence that are a wee bit worrisome. Overall, the Wings earned a welcome day off of practice (according to Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating) and an ability to focus on winning their bell-ringing competition while raising funds for the Salvation Army instead of recovering from a fantastic start turned into an ugly result, but while the handsome prince didn’t exactly turn into a frog, some warts did appear, and while most of them were understandably the product of human nature, some of ‘em were just a little worrisome.
Of the limited Coyotes coverage of the game, PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest kicks things off with a game narrative...
The Red Wings scored on their first two shots of the game. Bertuzzi scored from the slot at 1:16 of the first period as his shot deflected off the skate of Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris. Filppula netted his ninth goal of the season at 2:09 when he put a shot past Smith from in front of the net.
Holmstrom converted a rebound for a power-play goal with 5:14 left in the opening period. Helm scored his fourth of the season just 43 seconds later, sending Smith to the bench in favor of LaBarbera.
Hudler added his fourth goal with 43 seconds left in the first.
Vrbata’s goal put Phoenix on the board with 4:45 left in the second period. Hanzal added his fourth goal, on a power play, with 8:28 left in the game. The goal was Phoenix’s first power-play goal since Nov. 23.
As well as a pair of comments from Coyotes coach Dave Tippett and captain Shane Doan…
Dave Tippett: “The puck dropped, and we made about four or five key mistakes early, and they jumped on us. We knew they were going to come hard. Our schedule’s been a tough schedule and we needed to hang around that game to give us a chance, and we were out of it early.”
Shane Doan: “There’s nothing really to take away from that (game) other than we have to be better to start the game.”
And NHL.com’s Brian Hedger offers a recap which provides a solid dose of the Coyotes’ perspective...
It was the third game in four nights for Phoenix (15-10-3) after tough back-to-back road wins at Chicago and Nashville earlier this week. It was also the first time back in this arena for the Coyotes since last spring, when the Wings swept them out of the first round of the playoffs with former star goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in net.
The Wings appeared to slow up a little in the last two periods, which wasn’t to Babcock’s liking, but at least they got back on the winning track. The Coyotes, meanwhile, were left to pick up the pieces.
Radim Vrbata got a goal back for Phoenix late in the second by launching a laser that beat Howard (30 saves) with 4:45 left in the period – his eighth goal and 13th point in the past 11 games. Martin Hanzal added a power-play goal with 8:28 left in regulation when a shot by Shane Doan deflected off him and past Howard for his first goal in 16 games.
Ray Whitney picked up his 600th career assist on that goal, but was in no mood to celebrate it.
“The game was over before it really started,” he said. “After that, it wasn’t really that we played better. They just kind of eased up on the gas a little bit. If you’re not ready at any given time, with the parity the League has, you can find yourself on the wrong end of a good whuppin.’ “
The best thing the Coyotes can do, Whitney said, is to forget about this one until the next time they face Detroit.
“They won the game in the first five or six minutes tonight and we didn’t have anything else for them,” he said. “What are you going to learn? I mean, you learn to take a (butt) kicking. That’s about it.”
With that, we’ll shift focus to the Wings, starting with Hedger’s note about a surprising statistical milestone from a player whose style is the diametrical opposite of the Wings alum whose power play goal-scoring mark he tied…
Holmstrom’s goal made it 3-0 with 5:14 left in the first and capped off a power play. It was the 117th extra-man goal in his career and tied him with former Red Wings star Sergei Fedorov for fourth place in team history in power-play tallies.
And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan notes that the Wings’ scoring exploits nearly set a team record:
The last time the Red Wings scored 5 goals in the 1st period?
It was Feb. 7, 2009, when the Wings scored that many against Edmonton. The Wings went on to win the game 8-3.
As we’re about to descend quite happily into a self-congratulatory Wings quote-fest, the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell’s quote-less recap provides one more reality check…
The intensity of the game dropped off significantly, at least from the Wings’ perspective, in the second period as Detroit played it more conservatively. That allowed the Coyotes, who were willing to take chances with nothing to lose, the opening to create a little momentum for themselves.
They were given a great opportunity to get something going at 7:30 when Dan Cleary went off for boarding with 49 seconds still left in a Detroit bench minor. However, the Wings did a good job forcing the Coyotes to settle for a couple Keith Yandle blasts from well out.
Still, Detroit was playing a little too loose at the back end, especially Jakub Kindl who was caught a couple of times out of position. The poor spacing finally caught up to the Wings as they let Radim Vrbata get loose on the right wing.
The Coyotes’ leading scorer let rip from the hash marks near the right boards and goalie Jimmy Howard could only waive at it going top shelf at 15:15.
Martin Hanzal completed the scoring with a third-period power-play goal.
And with that, we’ll let the hale and hearty victors discuss their win, starting with the Associated Press’s recap...
“Real good start for us. We got them on their heels right away. I thought the guys really had jump,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I would have liked to seen us sustain the game better than we did, but we got good goaltending out of Howie (Jimmy Howard) in the second and the third.”
Todd Bertuzzi, Tomas Holmstrom, Darren Helm also scored for Detroit, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg had two assists each, and Howard made 30 saves. The Red Wings scored on their first two shots of the game.
“I think we got a really good start, and then were able to keep the lead and win. That’s the main thing,” said Filppula, who returned after missing Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues because of a deep cut on his right shin.
Filppula played while wearing a kevlar sock on Thursday.
Datsyuk left in the second period because of an undisclosed lower body injury and didn’t return.
“We knew he was a bit sore going into the game, didn’t get sore or anything like that. He’ll be fine,” Babcock said of Datsyuk. “We’ll probably give him (Friday) off and go from there.”
Babcock remained insistent on Datsyuk’s status while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“We knew he was a bit sore going into the game,” Babcock said. “He didn’t get sore, he’ll be fine. We’ll give him tomorrow off and go from there. He got bumped the other day (but) he’s fine. It’s nothing like a tear or anything like that.”
The five goals the Wings scored in the first period matched the five they scored on Nov. 7, 2009 against the Oilers, the last time they did it. The Wings went on to win that game, 8-3.
The Wings drove Coyotes goalie Mike Smith out of the net after Helm scored at 15:29. The goal, coming just 43 seconds after Holmstrom scored on the power play, gave the Wings a 4-0 lead. Smith allowed four goals on 11 shots and was replaced by Jason LaBarbera.
“On any given night that could be you,” said Howard, who made several big saves in the last 40 minutes. “It’s one of those nights. (Smith’s) a good goalie, but it’s just one of those nights.”
Phoenix enjoyed a two-man advantage for 49 seconds early in the second period, but Howard and the Detroit penalty kill snuffed what could have been an opportunity for the Coyotes to get into the game.
“That was huge, it could have given them momentum,” Howard said. “We remained tough, killed it off, and it was a good momentum shift.”
It was indeed, and as DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose points out, the Wings’ scoring outburst was nothing less than remarkably balanced:
It was a first-period, goal-scoring bonanza for the Red Wings, who had 10 different skaters named on the score sheet in Thursday’s 5-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.
“I think that was one of better periods we played in a long time,” said Todd Bertuzzi, who got the scoring started with his second goal of the season. “I think we were on them, made some great plays and scored a lot of goals.”
It was the Wings’ first five-goal opening period outburst since they jumped on the Edmonton Oilers at Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 7, 2009. Detroit won that game, 8-3.
Besides Bertuzzi, the Wings got first-period goals by Valtteri Filppula, Tomas Holmstrom, Darren Helm and Jiri Hudler.
Getting Bertuzzi off his goal-less schneid (more on that in the “notebook” section) helped, as did Valtteri Filppula’s letter-perfect return to the lineup, as noted by the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell:
The Wings were also aided by the return of winger Valtteri Filppula, who missed the last game with a gash just above his ankle. Filppula looked like he hardly missed a beat as he converted Henrik Zetterberg’s pass at 2:09 and later picked up an assist on Jiri Hudler’s goal with 17 seconds remaining in the period.
“We were able to create some chances, but normally pucks don’t go in that much,” said Filppula, who has six goals and nine points in seven games. “Today, we had a little bit of luck.”
Filppula suggested that the Wings plain old met necessary expectations given their two-game losing streak going into the Coyotes game, as he told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...
“I think we played well in the beginning, we were able to skate a lot and get pucks in their end and create some chances,” said Filppula, who has six goals over his last eight games. “Maybe after the first, we didn’t keep our game as we wanted and they came harder, too, so it was tougher for us.”
Filppula missed the last game with a cut on his leg.
“It was a real good start for us,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought the guys really had jump. I would have liked to see us sustain the game better than we did but we got good goaltending out of Howie in the second and the third. I thought our penalty kill was real good tonight and then I hate to see us give up that goal on a missed assignment,” Babcock continued. “But it’s a good win for our team and a good bounce back. Anytime you lose two in a row you want to bounce back right away. I thought our big players were really skating.”
And, perhaps just as “letter perfectly,” Filppula told Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji that the stitches holding a bone-deep cut on his right shin shut held:
Filppula, playing with a Kevlar sock to protect a cut on his lower right shin, was happy to be back after missing one game because of the injury.
“I’m happy how it felt today so that’s a good thing,” Filppula said. “I think it got a little easier. It felt like the more I skated, the number it got, so I was happy about that. I don’t think I opened it again so that’s a big thing. Soon I won’t have to worry about it.”
Filppula also told Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson that the hockey socks he was wearing under his shin pad felt as normal as could be, which is good news, too. Here’s hoping more players choose to wear ‘em.
As Ray Whitney suggested to Wakiji, the Coyotes made a game of it…
“It was tough,” the Coyotes’ Ray Whitney said. “Two quick goals like that and when they smell blood they just keep coming. The game was over before it really started. After that, it wasn’t really that we played better. I think they just kind of eased up on the gas a little bit and just kind of got through it from there on. They won the game in the first five or six minutes and we didn’t have anything else for them.”
But it’s Todd Bertuzzi’s comment which really impresses me as the Wings chose not to get too high on themselves after the game, readily admitting that the second and third periods illustrated that the team is indeed a work in progress:
“That was one of better periods we played in a long time,” Bertuzzi said. “I think we were on them, made some great plays and scored a lot of goals. We kind of got lulled to sleep there. I think everyone did in the building. We can’t do that. Teams are too good to do that.”
The Wings quickly ended their two-game skid before it snowballed into something worse.
“We don’t want to have a slide or anything like that again,” Howard said. “It’s tough losing two in a row and you want to respond and we did a great job.”
Again, Howard, who was nearly technically perfect—Vrbata’s goal involved a slap shot which found loft and rose a good six inches, finding the top shelf on its own, and Hanzal stood an equal half foot’s distance from a completely screened Howard when he tipped a Doan shot from the slot—told Michigan Hockey’s Michael Caples that the Wings’ penalty-killing allowed the Wings to salvage some good feelings from their effort…
Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who made 30 saves to earn his 16th win of the season, said that the Wings’ penalty kill needs as much credit as the offensive units. The Wings were on the wrong end of a five-on-three situation for 49 seconds at the 7:30 mark of the second period, but managed to keep the Coyotes off the scoresheet.
“I thought the five-on-three kill in the second period was huge,” Howard said. “That could have given them momentum, it was early in the second period and that could have jump-started something for them. We remained tough out there, killed it off, and that was a good momentum shift.”
And Babcock gave Howard due praise after suggesting that the Wings’ received strong efforts from Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen, as he told MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“Real good start for us, we got them on their heels right away,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I would have liked to have seen us sustain the game better than we did, but we got good goaltending out of (Jimmy Howard) in the second and the third. It’s a good win for our team and a good bounce back. Anytime you lose two in a row you want to bounce back right away. I thought our big players were really skating.”
The Red Wings are 11-3-1 at home. Last season, they were better on the road (26-11-4) than at the Joe (21-14-6).
“Obviously, goals against are a priority for us,” Babcock said. “Jimmy Howard’s played real well to give us an opportunity. Guys have been committed that way. Most nights we don’t give up that many shots. Tonight, we gave up too many shots (each team had 32).”
“We were able to skate a lot and get some pucks in their end and create some chances,” Filppula said. “And maybe after the first we didn’t keep our game as we wanted and they came hard, so it was difficult.”
The Red Wings realize the importance of banking points at home during a grueling stretch that sees them play 14 out of 19 games on the road.
Therein may lie the rub regarding the Wings’ slight spate of sputtering, because the Wings were playing their third game in five nights and will go for four in seven before receiving a two-day break…Before embarking on another rough stretch of 10 games over 19 days to close out the month (and 7 of those 10 are away from Joe Louis Arena).
Todd Bertuzzi earns the second-to-last word on this game, via the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
“I think that was one of better periods that we’ve played in a long time,” Bertuzzi said. “I think we were on the puck, made some great plays. We moved the puck well at the start, we were on their ‘D,’ we forechecked hard.”
The Wings gave up 32 shots, which didn’t please their coach, but that had something to do with having such a commanding lead after one period.
“I think we got lulled into a little of a sleep there,” Bertuzzi said. “I think everyone in the building did. We can’t do that; teams are too good nowadays. We’ve got to be better than that.”
And Jimmy Howard trumps the usual Babcockian closer by stating the obvious:
“We’ve been scoring a lot of goals at home, and when you’re up like that, it’s tough to play catch-up hockey in the NHL,” Jimmy Howard said. “We did a good job in the first period.”
Highlights: If you wish to watch Fox Sports Arizona’s truncated highlight clip, you may most certainly do so, but I’d recommend watching and listening to the returning Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond call the game on the Wings’ website instead:
Fox Sports Detroit posted both Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s takes on the game…
And a slate of post-game interviews with Todd Bertuzzi, coach Mike Babcock and Darren Helm, who eventually mentioned Herm and even tried to pronounce Herm’s name correctly on TV:
And the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell posted a 3:04 clip of Valtteri Filppula’s post-game comments (turn your volume up for this one, then turn it back down, because this is the last post-game clip I have):
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 20-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 23-image gallery;
The Arizona Republic posted a 16-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 23-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 44image gallery;
Shots 32-32 overall: the Wings and Coyotes were tied with 12 shots apiece in the 1st; the Coyotes out-shot the Wings 9-8 in the 2nd, and the Wings out-shot the Yotes 12-11 in the 3rd.
Jimmy Howard stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced; Mike Smith gave up 4 goals on 11 shots; Jason Labarbera stopped 20 of 21.
The Red Wings went 1 for 5 in 8:53 of PP time; the Coyotes went 1 for 4 in 8:18 of PP time, including 50 seconds of a 5-on-3.
The 3 stars, per FSD’s Dana Wakiji, were Chris Conner, Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula.
The Wings’ goals:
Bertuzzi (2) from Datsyuk (17);
Filppula (9) from Zetterberg (11) and Hudler (12);
Holstrom (5) from White (8) and Datsyuk (18), power play;
Helm (4) from Conner (1) and Kindl (6);
Hudler (4) from Zetterberg (12) and Filppula (14).
Blocked shots 11-9 Detroit;
Missed shots 13-12 Phoenix (total shot attempts 56-51 Phoenix);
Giveaways 6-5 Phoenix;
Takeaways 6-4 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 10-and-8 (56%); Datsyuk went 7-and-7 (50%); Helm went 6-and-7 (46%); Filppula went 3-and-3; Abdelkader went 3-and-1 (75%); Franzen went 1-and-2 (33%); Miller lost the 2 faceoffs he took.
Shots: Lidstrom led the team with 5 shots; Franzen had 4; Kindl, Helm and Kronwall had 3; White, Stuart, Bertuzzi and Holmstrom had 2; Abdelkader, Cleary, Miller, Hudler, Zetterberg and Filppula had 1.
Blocked attempts: Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Zetterberg had 2 shot attempts blocked by Coyotes players; Cleary, Hudler and Holmstrom had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Kronwall missed the net 3 times; Holmstrom missed the net 2 times; Kindl, Abdelkader, Hudler, Zetterberg, Conner, Helm and Filppula missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Stuart led the team with 6 hits; Abdelkader had 3; Helm had 2; Kindl, Cleary, Miller, Bertuzzi, Ericsson and Franzen had 1.
Giveaways: Zetterberg and Howard had 2 giveaways; Franzen had 1.
Takeaways: Cleary, Miller, Hudler, Zetterberg, Helm and Filppula had 1 takeaway apiece.
Blocked shots: Ericsson blocked 3 shots; White and Stuart had 2; Kindl, Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Kronwall had 1.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished a collective +15, with Stuart finishing at +2 and Kindl, Lidstrom, Cleary, Datsyuk, Hudler, Zetterberg, Conner, Helm, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Franzen finished at +1.
Penalties taken: Cleary was tagged for 2 minor penalties; Kindl and Kronwall took 1, and the Wings were tagged with a bench minor for too many men on the ice.
Points: Datsyuk and Zetterberg had 2 assists apiece; Filppula had a goal and an assist; Helm, Bertuzzi and Holmstrom had goals; Kindl, White and Conner had assists.
Ice time: White led the team with 23:49 played; Lidstrom played 21:49; Kronwall played 20:52;
Franzen played 20:29; Stuart played 19:46; Filppula played 16:57;
Zetterberg played 16:53; Kindl played 16:43; Ericsson played 16:18;
Bertuzzi played 16:08; Holmstrom played 14:53; Helm played 14:20;
Hudler played 13:54; Datsyuk played 12:16; Cleary played 12:12;
Abdelkader played 11:58; Conner played 11:18; Miller played 10:17.
Part II: Don’t Forget the Kettle bell!: More than a few Wings fans have told me that they absolutely adore interacting with players and management for a good cause, and there’s no better cause at this time of year than an extremely proactive charity in the Southeastern Michigan chapter of the Salvation Army.
On Friday, several Wings players will compete against Ken Holland and Mike Babcock in attempts to raise the most money for the Salvation Army by manning kettles and bells at various Metro Detroit locations, and here’s the press release detailing the Wings’ participation, by Red Wings charity coordinator Christy Hammond:
The Detroit Red Wings will compete for bragging rights this Friday, December 9, to see which duo can raise the most money for The Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign, as four teams bell ring between 4-6 p.m. at different Metro Detroit retail locations.
Head coach Mike Babcock will join Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland, who is serving as Honorary Chairman of the 2011 Red Kettle Campaign for the sixth straight year, at Hiller’s Market in downtown Northville. Six players will pair up at three area stores: the Kroger in Plymouth (Valtteri Filppula & Drew Miller), Hockeytown Authentics in Troy (Justin Abdelkader & Darren Helm) and the Kroger in Birmingham (Cory Emmerton & Jakub Kindl).
Fans visiting Hockeytown Authentics between 4-6 p.m. on Friday can obtain an autograph from both forwards Abdelkader and Helm by making a $10 donation per player to The Salvation Army. Last year, Abdelkader and Helm became the first player tandem to beat Babcock and Holland in the annual bell ringing competition and hope to successfully defend their title.
This season marks the sixth consecutive year the Detroit Red Wings and The Salvation Army are teaming up through the “Red Wings for Red Kettles” initiative to help the nonprofit reach its $8.2 million Red Kettle Campaign goal.
“Both the players and staff have embraced The Salvation Army and have remained committed to helping people in need in our community,” Holland said. “We’re proud to support The Salvation Army again this year, and celebrate their 125th year of serving the people of Metro Detroit.”
In addition to the bell ringing competition, The Salvation Army will have its famous red kettles at Joe Louis Arena for the Wings’ first four home games this month (Dec. 8, 10, 17 and 27). A four-piece brass band from The Salvation Army will play holiday songs on the concourse inside the main Gordie Howe Entrance from 6:00 p.m. until the puck drops to start the game.
WHO: Justin Abdelkader, Mike Babcock, Cory Emmerton, Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm, Ken Holland, Jakub Kindl and Drew Miller
WHEN: 4-6 p.m. on Friday, December 9, 2011
WHERE: Help fill the Red Wings’ kettles at the following locations:
Hiller’s Market – Mike Babcock and Ken Holland (3:30-5:30 p.m.)
425 N. Center St. Northville, MI 48167
Hockeytown Authentics – Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm
1845 E. Big Beaver Troy, MI 48083
Kroger (Birmingham) – Cory Emmerton and Jakub Kindl
685 E Maple Rd. Birmingham, MI 48009
Kroger (Plymouth) – Valtteri Filppula & Drew Miller
44525 Ann Arbor Rd. Plymouth, MI 48170
This is one of those occasions where I can say that the Salvation Army has literally helped me and helped friends of mine who’ve encountered financial difficulties or have had a hard time putting food on their tables, so I think this is an incredibly important opportunity, especially given both the time of year and the fact that state funding for the subsidies that keep heat and lights on, food banks around Metro Detroit and the fact that the state bafflingly chose to end cash benefits for 30,000 people, including over 11,000 families and 25,000 kids as of December 1st.
Part III: Red Wings notebooks: The Free Press’s Helene St. James covers Todd Bertuzzi’s renaissance in detail in her Wings notebook. Bertuzzi got off to a pretty rough start, but after returning from a sinus infection, he’s looked like his old Todd Bertuzzi 2.0 self again, skating the puck up ice with authority, playing a quietly effective physical game and working hard in all three zones.
As St. James suggests, Babcock’s comment about the “big men” skating well involves the fact that Johan Franzen’s been even better, finally emerging as both a legitimate 40-goal-scorer in the making and, despite his social anxiety, a vocal leader:
The Wings have had few quiet nights from Datsyuk’s line since it gained Todd Bertuzzi starting Nov. 19 at Los Angeles. Datsyuk has 15 points in that span, Johan Franzen has 10, and Bertuzzi picked up his fifth point, and first goal, of the stretch when he scored a 1:16 into Thursday’s game.
“Bert’s got a lot of assists here lately,” Babcock said. “He’s been playing real well. I thought their first two shifts of the game were absolutely dominant, Pav, Mule and him.”
Bertuzzi’s main role is to be in front of the net and get pucks to his linemates, but also, “I’ve got to try to bury my chances when I get them,” Bertuzzi said.
Franzen said he has more room with Bertuzzi on the line, because opponents have to pay attention to Bertuzzi. “He’s got really good speed,” Franzen said, “and he forechecks hard and he’s winning a lot of pucks for us.”
That has led to a steady, productive stretch for Franzen, who has points in eight of the past 10 games and is on nearly a point-a-game pace for the season, with 26 points in 27 games. “He’s in those spots that goal scorers go to, and that’s his game,” Bertuzzi said. “He can pass well, but he’s more of a shooter in those spots. He always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. He’s got a very good cut-back move. He can go outside, then cut inside. For a big man, he’s probably one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s a pretty potent move, and he gets a lot of opportunities that way.”
Franzen’s steady production has helped him become the team’s leading goal scorer with 13. After going through the last 27 games of last season scoring just twice, his regular output has imbued him with confidence.
“It’s been going pretty good, I feel pretty good,” Franzen said. “The puck seems to be coming my way. I know if I can beat ‘D’ to the net and get the puck there, I can create a lot of chances, not only for me but for the other guys with rebounds.”
St. James also points out that the Wings may have a pleasant problem on their hands when Jan Mursak comes back as mini mite Chris Connor has played superbly…
Chris Conner, playing in his fourth game since being called up from the minors, set up Helm’s goal. “He’s a hardworking kid,” Babcock said of Conner. “He competes hard, skates. He’s done a good job for us.”
And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan profiled the Westland native who’s living out a childhood dream in his notebook:
Conner has played at Joe Louis Arena while with the Stars, and has 143 games of NHL experience counting Thursday’s game against Phoenix. But playing a regular-season game and wearing the Wings’ jersey, that’s a little different.
“Exciting,” Conner said.
Brought in to supply speed and tenaciousness on the penalty kill and checking line, Conner has done everything to keep himself in the lineup.
“I’m just trying to go out there and do whatever I can,” Conner said. “Bring my speed and be on the forecheck, be responsible in the zone, penalty killing. It’s what my job is and I’m trying to do my best.”
“He’s played hard for us,” Babcock said. “Our team wasn’t as good the last two games since we lost Fil (Valtteri Filppula) and those third and fourth line guys didn’t get to be as important as they should have been and get the minutes they deserve. He (Conner) just has to continue to be good, tenacious, hard on the penalty kill.”
Kulfan also noted that something very important will happen on Monday in Chicago:
Chris Chelios will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Monday in Chicago along with announcer Mike “Doc” Emrick (Marysville), players Keith Tkachuk and Gary Suter, and Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider .
Bonus Swedish: The other player nobody’s talking about? Henrik Zetterberg had a rough start, too, seemingly feeling the heavy weight of the “A” on his jersey as he and Pavel Datsyuk have attempted to fill the voids caused by the retirements of Brian Rafalski, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood, but Zetterberg’s back to his point-per-game-pace self, playing fantastic hockey alongside the breakout sensation that is Valtteri Filppula.
Zetterberg spoke to Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman after the game, and while this is roughly translated Swedish, it’s good to hear Zetterberg’s take on the Wings’ win no matter what language it comes in:
“It was good that we managed to break our losing streak after only two games. As soon as we lose, people think we might do it five times in a row,” said Henrik Zetterberg to Sportbladet after what eventually turned out to be a 5-2 victory.
Yes, Detroit exploded [offensively] at home in Joe Louis Arena last night. Only a minute into the game, Todd Bertuzzi scored a goal—and before the first period was over, it was 5-0 Detroit.
“Phoenix was a little tired and their goalkeeper was…Well, maybe it wasn’t his best day. So it [was a bit of a scoring explosion]. But we were really on the ball, we really wanted to come back with a win after the two losses which finished our road trip last week.
Yes, on the other hand, the Red Wings’ losing streaks, for unknown reasons, have tended to be long this season.
“Yeah, as soon as we lose a game everybody seems to believe that we’re going to lose five games in a row. We’re really pleased that we managed to end that talk immediately,” says “Zata.”
He helped himself with two assists during the [scoring] explosion in the first period.
“It went well for my line. Filppula was back and he slammed the puck into the net right away. It’s nice that I got the assist,” he says.
IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: WRIF’s Meltdown, who is spearheading a campaign to vote Jimmy Howard into a starter’s spot at the NHL All-Star Game via a bus tour of Metro Detroit, asked Mike Babcock and Nicklas Lidstrom to share their takes on Howard’s omission from the All-Star ballot…
• I’m scratching my head on this one. The Toronto Star’s Mark Zwolinski wrote and article about the incresing number of violent goalie-player collisions, but of course Tomas Holmstrom’s name came up despite the fact that he does not charge headlong into goaltenders (Johan Franzen is much better at it), but instead bumps them. I also have no frickin’ idea why Nicklas Lidstrom made it into the conversation, too:
Like [New Jersey Devils color commentator Chico] Resch, he believes players have always known where the goalposts and crease are. But players like Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom, whose ability to cause mayhem in the goal crease has in part defined his career, constantly think of bending the rules to give their teams an edge over a goalie.
“In the history of the game, it’s whatever edge you can have that is an advantage,” said [Darren] Pang, a colour commentator for the St. Louis Blues who appears on TSN’s hockey panels. “When a forward skates by Nik Lidstrom, if he has a chance to hit him and hit him hard, he’s going to take that hit every time. It’s the same thing here. And some goalies in the league are more aggressive than others. There’s no question that if you are in a seven-game playoff series, if you can get to a goalie like that, you have a distinct advantage.”
Pang and Resch noted that players and goalies normally “policed” incidents when a goalie’s crease was crashed or a goalie was run. Those methods have been marginalized since the 2004-05 lockout, both goalies say. So, where players like [Glenn] Anderson and Claude Lemieux based part of their careers at mastering crease crashing, and were brave and/or crazy enough to face the retribution, today’s players can easily deflect blame.
“There’s a boxing-out mentality today and a defenceman can’t cross-check a forward anymore without a penalty,” Pang said. “And if a D-man doesn’t block out, his first instinct is to knock the forward, and that does damage because a forward, if he feels the slightest touch, falls into a goalie. It goes hand in hand . . . with the fear of physical contact going to the net. (In former days), only brave people would (crash the net). Now anyone can go to the net, and that’s why there’s usually a 100-miles-per-hour collision when it happens.”
“Goalies are going to get bumped all the time,” [Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy] Ruff added. “I mean, bumping goalies, that happens. Detroit parked Holmstrom in the paint on one of the goals. Jhonas (backup goalie Enroth), being a young goalie, didn’t battle for his ice. That stuff happens. That’s done on purpose. That’s part of the game. But to blatantly run your goaltender is not part of the game.”
That’s what Holmstrom does. He sticks his big butt out at the top of the crease, he dances on the crease lines painted on the ice like nobody’s business and he screens goaltenders while tipping pucks because he’s basically a better positional goaltender than most of the NHL’s netminders.
• And so we finish on a completely different note, as I said during the recap, Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating suggested that the Wings won’t practice today. Given their schedule of late, I hope that’s official, because the boys could use another day off, and Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada match-up against the Jets will provide more than enough hype for the Wings to get up for with nothing more than a morning skate’s worth of practice time. The team seems to understand what it did “wrong” during their victory over Phoenix, and they’ve been very vocal about their shortcomings over the past few weeks—and they’re usually implementing the changes they hope to make—so I’d give ‘em a day off, too.
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