Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Coyotes wrap-up and overnight report: How I stopped worrying and learned to love the grind

As I count myself among the large group of jittery, picky and sometimes skittish group of people who deem themselves Red Wings fans, I can’t deny that I look at the standings this morning, see the Wings leading the league but owning the Central Division by all of one single point over the Blackhawks and Blues, and having to increasingly rely on overtime or shootouts to capture five of their past six wins thanks in no small part due to their horrific power play, which went 0-for-5 on Thursday (3-for-41 over the past 14 games), all but sentencing Detroit to a somewhat ugly 3-2 shootout victory over Phoenix, and I shake my head.

Too close, I think. Too sloppy. Lacking killer instinct or the ability to score when given golden opportunities to do so.

Then I remember that it’s January, that the Wings just played their 8th of 11 games played over the course of 19 nights, having concluded a 3-games-in-3-cities-in-4-nights stretch while all but playing games of playoff seeding-determining importance in [expletive deleted-ing] January, and I’m starting to believe that the Wings’ five-game winning streak is nothing to sneeze at, nor anything to “suck on.”

I mean, hell, I’m starting to feel bogged down from plain old covering the team for 14-16 hours a day, and yet this Wings fan can happily tell you that the Wings have won six of their past seven games, seven of their nine January games and that they’re gutting out wins against teams they may very well play in the playoffs if they do end up winning the Central, like Phoenix and Dallas, as well as the teams they’ll face if they lose out to Chicago and St. Louis—Chicago and St. Louis. The Wings may have taken until late on January 19th to hit the .500 mark on the road, but this team is in the middle of a terrible grind, and while they’re not exactly displaying the trademark swagger they have yet to find sans Rafalski, Draper and Osgood, they’re grinding along, they’re relatively healthy (knock on my empty head) and there are absolutely zero passengers on a team whose pro and amateur scouts, general manager, assistant GM, capologist and front office have wisely chosen to skip Saturday’s game against the Columbus Brett Lebda Jackets to spend the weekend in Las Vegas, trying to figure out whether they can add players to the mix who will make the team even better.

I will take complaining about the power play and the aesthetics of the Wings’ consistent, gritty wins (sometimes in spite of themselves), all while shaking my head instead at any pundits or fans who suggest that I do anything less than appreciate every second of the Wings’ ability to “spoil” me rotten for my twenty-year tenure as a Wings fan.

The Wings won frickin’ ugly on Thursday, defeating a determined opponent running on adrenaline and a burning desire to finally stick it to their playoff vanquishers after two unsuccessful meetings while kicking off their 6-game home stand (which ends with the Wings’ and Yotes’ final match-up on February 5th), and the Wings still gutted it out and stuck it to a team whose motivation far exceeded its own. On top of that, Johan Franzen took a shot off the right foot and didn’t suffer a broken foot, the Wings out-goalposted the Coyotes in terms of the qualities of their “could’ves” and did I mention that the Wings killed a full 2-minute, 4-on-3 power play in overtime (thanks to a stupid, stupid call), and, thanks to Todd Bertuzzi, the Wings are now are 4-and-0 in shootouts, which they lost on an incredibly regular basis last season?

So instead of suggesting that the Wings can accomplish their victorious ends in simpler, more efficient ways—which the Wings will end up telling you themselves in a few short paragraphs—I’ll suggest that the Wings won ugly on Thursday night, and it was a beautiful thing.

The Coyotes felt particularly steamed about taking three too-many men penalties, including one when Daymond Langkow (who left the game with an “upper-body injury” after taking a puck in the face) wobbled toward the bench, and Coyotes coach Dave Tippett growled about that particular penalty to the Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio:

The Coyotes played one of their better all-around games of the season – and had to kill five penalties in the process, including three for too many men on the ice.

Here is coach Dave Tippett’s reaction to the too many men on the ice calls, including one when Daymond Langkow was struck in the face with a puck.

Two of them I thought were mistakes on our part. The other one was Langkow gets hit in the face with the puck, and he’s right beside the door and can’t get in. (Martin) Hanzal jumps over, and the puck ends up being there. That’s when I think there should be some common sense by the referee that the player is incapacitated. It’s not as if you’ve got two guys playing here. The right thing would have been to blow the whistle as soon as he got hit in the face; then you have nothing.”

This was a game the Coyotes deserved to win, and they almost pulled it out even though they lost Langkow in the first few minutes of the game.

Mike Smith was superb in goal, making 33 saves, a nice way to bounce back after suffering the loss against the Ducks.

The Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan noted that Martin Hanzal returned from a month’s worth of games missed with an “upper-body injury” and played well while subbing for Langkow…

“It’s always tough when you lose a guy in the game, and we only had three centermen,” Hanzal said. “It was pretty hard, but I think we did pretty good, especially in back-to-back games.”

Langkow took a puck in the face early in the game and was ushered to the dressing room with a bloody cloth clutched to his head. He did not return, and that intensified Hanzal’s role. Coach Dave Tippett wanted to ease Hanzal back into the rhythm of the game by limiting him to 10 minutes, but that plan went awry with Langkow’s injury.

“Hanz went from 10 to 11 (minutes) to double in a hurry,” Tippett said. “Obviously our center position has been banged up here a little bit. You lose Langks…it takes a lot of push out of your team.”

Hanzal, who missed 12 games after he took a stick to the head, spent 18 minutes on the ice. He was physical, leveling five hits and even laying out Drew Miller early in the third period. He found open ice to fire three shots, including a snapshot from the slot that was gloved by Jimmy Howard midway through the first.

The Coyotes very, very obviously played for OT in the last 10 minutes of the 3rd period, and when they couldn’t convert on a full 2 minutes’ worth of 4-on-3 power play time in OT, they played for a shootout, so coming off a 6-3 loss to Anaheim, they told the Arizona Republic’s Gintonio that they took the point, if you will…

“We competed hard,” Smith said. “It was one of probably our better efforts as far as compete level from everyone in this locker room for the whole year, I think for having a back to back game with travel, against one of the best teams in the league, we came right from the drop of the puck and were resilient from the drop of the puck on. I think we’ve got to be happy with that. Obviously, we need to win some of these games and find ways to get that extra point, but it was a great effort by our team.”

The Coyotes were unable to win it in overtime when they had a 4-on-3 power play, and Smith made a huge save on a shot by Valtteri Filppula as time expired.

In the final few minutes of regulation, both teams had near-misses. The Coyotes’ Raffi Torres hit the crossbar, and in rapid fashion, the Red Wings’ Filppula and Henrik Zetterberg hit posts.

The Coyotes killed five power plays, three of those for too many men on the ice. The final one came in the third period after two minutes of 4-on-4 plays. Derek Morris played a key role in the that kill, twice clearing the ice. Penalties kill momentum, but the mental ones, like too many men on the ice, magnify that frustration.

“Obviously, we’ve got to clean that up,” center Gilbert Brule said. “But sometimes it’s just miscommunication. That happens, but obviously next game that’s not going to happen. We won’t have three of those, I’m sure, again.”

And Fox Sports Arizona’s Tyler Lockerman suggests that the Coyotes may have been a little more frustrated than they let on…

“It’s no secret we haven’t had a lot of success lately,” Coyotes center Kyle Chipchura said. “It’s games like this we’ve got to find a way to win.”

Especially given their inability to convert on their power play in overtime:

When Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk was called for tripping in overtime, the Coyotes had their chance. An opportunity to beat the league’s best team on a night full of disadvantages had presented itself in the form of an overtime power play. Phoenix had perhaps its best, most aggressive power play in quite a while, controlling the puck in the Detroit zone for nearly all two minutes, but ultimately couldn’t put the puck in the net, sending the game to a shootout.

“We had some looks,” Tippett said. “You can have some looks, but you’ve got to have some finish.”

Such has been the story of the Coyotes’ season: no finish. Losing a game at home to the Red Wings on such a night is perhaps the most blatant case yet of letting a winnable game slip away via missed opportunities. And with just three wins in their last 13 games, it’s even more painful a loss.

The game, however, was not a total loss. Forcing overtime did get the Coyotes a point, putting them at 50 and just two back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference a week before the All-Star break.

“You’re never pleased with only one point,” Tippett said. “You go into it looking for two points, but the circumstances our team was in, with Detroit sitting here waiting for us last night and us playing a hard game in Anaheim, I thought our group gave everything they had. They gave everything they had and more.”

Good and “good enough to win” tend to be separated by narrow margins, as NHL.com’s Jerry Brown noted…

“[Hanzal and Langkow] are key guys in your lineup, guys that touch so many different parts of the game,” said Phoenix coach Dave Tippett, who added Langkow “wasn’t very good” in the dressing room afterward. “We’re thin at that spot to being with and to lose one in a game like that; especially in a back-to-back … it’s tough on our group.”

For the second straight night, the Coyotes’ fourth line was their best. On Wednesday in Anaheim, Torres set up Kyle Chipchura for his first goal on 74 games; this time Chipchura’s hard work behind the net allowed Torres to collected the puck and put it between Howard’s pads with a wraparound at 2:23. It was Torres’ seventh goal of the season and the first of two assists for the light-scoring Chipchura, who has five points in the last five games (1-4-5).

“Chipchura’s doing everything he possibly can to help us win hockey games,” Tippett said.

But Phoenix didn’t keep the momentum for long. The Coyotes lost Langkow four minutes and were outshot and outhustled for the rest of the period. At 1:36 of the second, Johan Franzen set up White for a shot from the point, using Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris as a screen to beat Smith for his sixth goal to even the game.

Detroit took its first lead at 11:13 when Franzen served up a backhand pass from behind the net that Bertuzzi stepped into and blasted past Smith from deep in the right circle. It was Bertuzzi’s 10th goal of the season—making him the sixth Wing to reach double figures – and his fourth in four games.

“He snapped it in there and kind of caught me off-guard,” Smith said. “Give me a hundred pucks and I’m not sure hit could hit that spot again, but it was a world-class shot.”

Ixny on the alktytay about this one…

Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom played in his 1,541st NHL game Thursday, passing Hall of Famer Johnny Bucyk for sole possession of 11th place in NHL history. Lidstrom is eight games behind Hall of Famer and Red Wings great Alex Delvecchio and making the top 10 list in NHL history. The 41-year-old Lidstrom played in his 211th straight game, the longest active streak of any Red Wing.

Because we’re not quite finished talking about the Coyotes’ takes on the game.

PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest notes that Mike Smith stopped Pavel Datsyuk’s signature shootout move, thus provoking a, “Suck on that!” from Fox Sports Arizona’s Tyson Nash (methinks he might not like the Wings)...

Coyotes goalie Mike Smith made a dazzling glove save on a shot by Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk in the first round of the shootout. Detroit won the game moments later, but Smith’s save on Datsyuk was one that will likely be remembered for a long time.

However, as Vest notes, the Coyotes had to chalk up a shootout loss to their opponent as “one to grow on”...

Mike Smith: “We are happy with our effort. I think we competed very hard. Every player gave it all he had. I think we can learn a lot from that game about how we have to compete to be in hockey games.”

While the Red Wings offered measured takes on their win, from the man who stopped 31 of the 33 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, as well as 3 shootout shooters, on out:

Jimmy Howard: “Tonight was a great game. You’ve got to give them props; they played great on back-to-back nights. It was a lot of fun out there. It was a very intense game and there were a lot of great plays made and great saves on both ends.”
The Red Wings (31-15-1) had a big penalty kill of their own after Pavel Datsyuk was called for tripping 1:41 into overtime. Shane Doan had a good chance near the crease and Keith Yandle had a couple of rips from the point. But Howard, who has won seven straight games against the Coyotes, made 31 saves before stopping Doan, Radim Vrbata and Brule in the shootout.

“Doan had the chance there and we were fortunate it trickled wide, and then we got to the shootout and we were able to win the skills competition,” said Howard, now 28-10-1 on the season. “Some years you can’t win one, other years you can’t lose them. Right now we’re just finding ways and we’ve just got to continue on the same track.”

But a team that’s more likely to measure itself by its remaining pairs of games against St. Louis, trios of remaining games against Chicago and Nashville, its pairs of games against teams it has trouble beating in Vancouver and especially San Jose and its match-ups against Eastern Conference titans in Philadelphia (2 games) and New York (1 game) suggested that it could play better than it did on Thursday, as Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan noted, especially given that the Blues (who play Detroit on Monday) and Blackhawks are all of a point behind Detroit *and the Predators lurk in the weeds 5 points behind the Wings):

“We know that no matter what we do, they’re going to keep winning,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said of the Blackhawks, Blues and Predators. “We just have to find a way to get two points each night. It’s just as simple as that.”

Detroit’s recent road efforts haven’t earned points for style. The power play is struggling mightily — 3 for its last 41 — and the Wings have needed extra time in three of their last six road games, but they’ve won four of those six to climb back to the .500 mark away from Joe Louis Arena.

“When you look at the national league, there’s only about five good road teams and the rest of us are all the same,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “But we think we can be better. We think we’re an upper echelon team that should be better.”

So do the local and national media, who keep reminding the Wings of their uneven road play.

“It’s been brought to our attention a lot more lately than usual,” said forward Todd Bertuzzi, who scored the winning goal in the shootout on Thursday.

Maybe the nagging has helped. The Wings have looked more focused and structured defensively than they did earlier in the year when Babcock admitted they were allowing “too many goals.”

“I think it’s just doing the same things like we do at home,” Bertuzzi said. “Simple hockey, the way we know how to play. We’re getting rewarded with that right now.”

Bertuzzi earned the right to smirk about his shootout goal while speaking to the Associated Press...

Bertuzzi said he had been talking with teammate Danny Cleary before taking to the ice in the shootout. Cleary knew about the spin move.

“He told me it was probably time to break it out,” Bertuzzi said.

The finesse move finished a smashmouth game, the third time in Detroit’s winning streak that a contest has gone to a shootout. Two have been against Phoenix by identical scores.

“It was one of those gritty games where there was a lot of hitting,” Bertuzzi said. “Chicago keeps winning and so does St. Louis. In order to stay in the race, you’ve got to win.”

Ian White also scored for the NHL-leading Red Wings, and Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen each had a pair of assists.

Let’s just say that Nash was a little more subdued while watching Bertuzzi at work:

Wings coach Mike Babcock, however, absolutely growled and hissed about his team going 0-for-5 in 10 minutes of power play time, and welcoming itself to the 7% range in terms of an inability to generate goals:

“Nothing’s going on,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re not getting quality chances. We’re not wearing anybody out. Our power play wasn’t good enough tonight. It hasn’t been good enough in a long time and we’ve got to fix that.”

To use a technical term, these quotes represent a sort of dichotomy regarding the Wings’ comments about the game. Todd Bertuzzi? Delighted that his team’s gone 4-and-0 in shootouts, as he told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:

“We should win a majority of ours (shootout games),” said Bertuzzi, who continued his recent fine play. “We have (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Jiri) Hudler, (Henrik) Zetterberg, guys who can score.”

That includes Bertuzzi, who made a highlight-reel move for Thursday’s winner.

“I talked it over with (Danny) Cleary and he said it was time to break it out,” said Bertuzzi of his move. “I was bummed out not scoring in Dallas (Tuesday) on that one so it’s nice to get a little redemption.”

Overall the Wings have won five straight with three of those victories coming in shootouts (and one in overtime). The points earned in shootouts are coming in handy in a tight division and conference race.

“The one thing, obviously, is everyone in the league has an opportunity to get them ( points),” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

Bertuzzi’s equally happy to be playing alongside the man who’s tied for third place in league scoring…

“We’re just on the same page,” Bertuzzi said. “You play with somebody an amount of time, you learn their habits and where they go. Playing with Pavel is great. He can suck in two or three guys and he can put you in those positions (to score).”

And again, the Wings are quite happy with their ability to suddenly win shootouts, as Jimmy Howard told Kulfan...

“Some years, for some reason, you can’t win one and other years you can’t lose them,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said of shoot-outs. “Right now we’re finding ways to win. “Two years ago we weren’t very good in them. Last year we got better and this year even better. It’s just being patient out there and both Conks (Ty Conklin) and I have been patient and being big (in net) and sticking with it. They are very important points. You look at the standings and points are at a premium. We have to find a way to scratch and claw and get points. You want that home ice in April.”

Todd Bertuzzi scored the lone goal in the shootout for the Wings, a nifty spin-o-rama scoring on a backhand. Phoenix goalie Mike Smith gave Bertuzzi credit.

“For a big guy, he turned around pretty quick,” Smith said. “It was pretty impressive.”

The Free Press’s Helene St. James penned a superb game narrative for the “just the facts” crowd, noting that the Wings did indeed blow a 2-1 lead on the shift immediately after Gilbert Brule left the penalty box—by giving up a goal to Brule thanks to an awful line change and consecutive turnovers from Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom of all people—and she duly notes that the Wings deserve full marks for killing off that 4-on-3 penalty-kill in overtime…

Overtime: The Coyotes had the better chances as overtime got under way, with Shane Doan sending in a near-miss that inched by the left post. Datsyuk was called for tripping at 1:41, but the Wings were able to stave them off.

Shoot-out: Doan was denied on a backhand. Datsyuk angled right, but Smith gloved the shot. Radim Vrbata saw his forehand easily caught by Howard. Jiri Hudler had no luck with a short forehand. Brule lost control of the puck. Bertuzzi scored on a spin-around backhand.

But the Wings weren’t exactly thrilled with their performance, “environmental factors” included, as they told St. James:

The Wings used their fifth straight victory to improve to 13-13 on the road.

“It was a hard game,” Bertuzzi said. “The ice was horrible.”

That about summed up the Wings’ power play, too, as they squandered three power plays in the first period, another one in the second period, and their fifth early in the third period of a tied game; this against a team that ranked 26th in the NHL in penalty killing at home.

“Our power play wasn’t good enough,” coach Mike Babcock said. “It hasn’t been good enough for a long time. We’ve got to fix that. So whether we move personnel around or change the scheme, whatever; it’s not good enough.”

The penalty killers, on the other hand, were stellar, especially killing off a 4-on-3 Coyotes power play starting 1:41 into overtime and featuring Detroit’s top penalty killer face-off man, Datsyuk, in the penalty box.

“That was huge for momentum,” Howard said. “Then we got to the shoot-out and we were able to win the skills competition.”

As St. James notes, the Wings won’t be able to work on their power play as they chose to conserve energy for their final three-games-in-five-nights stretch by spending the night in Phoenix before boarding Red Bird II to fly home this afternoon. The Wings will have a morning skate before tangling with Columbus on Saturday, but they tend not to practice on Sunday, so they might end up tweaking the PP during their morning skate before Monday’s game against St. Louis, if not during a Tuesday practice in Montreal.

So the Wings chose to simply take the points and admit that they gutted things out, but played just as clunkily as they did in Dallas, as they told MLive’s Ansar Khan:

“I didn’t think we were clicking on all cylinders by any means, but we found a way to grind out a win and give up two goals, so that’s positive,” coach Mike Babcock said. “You got to find a way to win games, no matter how you do it.”

Bertuzzi, with his team’s third opportunity in the shootout, beat Mike Smith with a nifty spin move and backhand shot, after Jimmy Howard had stopped three Phoenix attempts.

“Big goaltender, takes up a lot of room,” Bertuzzi said. “I tried to get an angle on him so I can get him moving laterally; that’s the one way to shrink him down. Somewhat of a fake shot, spin-o-rama and tried to get it up over his big, long arm.”

Said Babcock: “Big Bert, when you see him shoot the puck like that you wonder why he doesn’t shoot it all the time, but he likes to pass it. I thought he was real effective, skated well, that was important for us.”
“Any way you look at it, it’s two points,” Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall said. “I don’t think we’re too happy about our game for 60 minutes, but there’s bits and pieces we played well. But we have to find a way to play a lot more solid in our zone, make it hard for them to create chances.”
“They’re very important points,” Howard said. “You look at the standings, not only the Central, but the whole conference, points are at a premium. We have to find a way to scratch and claw and get as many points as possible. Come April, you want that home ice.”

ESPN’s Craig Custance talked about Howard’s maturation while previewing a game deemed ESPN’s “Game of the Week,” and he serves as our “bonus Swedish” of the day via a conversation with Darren Helm, who continued the company line of shrugging off the game as doing nothing more than keeping pace with their opponents and finally righting their road record:

“We have to win those games,” Helm told ESPN.com after the game. “It’s crunch time… and it’s tough on the road. I think we’re trying to find a way to get wins and the last couple games we did a good job battling through.”

Detroit moves to the top of the Western Conference, but not by much. The Blues won again with a shutout win over the Oilers and sit just one point back of the Red Wings. The two play in Detroit on Monday. The Blackhawks are right there too, tied with the Blues with 62 points. Every point becomes crucial, and the Red Wings continue to pick up points in the shootout where they remain undefeated.

“It’s tough every night,” Helm said. “It doesn’t seem like too many teams lose hockey games in this division. Chicago is rolling. St. Louis is rolling. We’re doing a pretty good job. It’s going to be an 82-game season to make sure we get a good playoff spot.”

Helm also pointed out that the Wings fired too many passes into Coyotes players during their power plays…

It was a strong effort by the Coyotes, who played the night before in a 6-2 loss to the Ducks. Their best chance to win the game came in overtime when Datsyuk, missing a stick, was called for tripping, giving Phoenix a 4-on-3. They had scoring chances, including a couple good looks by Ray Whitney, but Jimmy Howard did enough to keep the game tied. The Phoenix penalty kill was perfect and it was tested thanks to three too-many-men penalties by the Coyotes. “Phoenix did a good job in the lane, blocking shots,” Helm said of the Coyotes’ penalty kill.

And Custance points out that the Wings dodged a bullet (we hope)...

Johan Franzen took a shot off the right ankle and appeared to be in serious pain as he wobbled off the ice. He left the bench for the dressing room but eventually returned to the game. It’s an injury to watch. As good as Datsyuk has been this season, Franzen has been their most consistent goal-scorer and keeping him healthy in the second half of the season is crucial. He’s typically at his best in the postseason and the Red Wings need him with two healthy legs when the playoffs arrive.

Before concluding by pointing out that the Wings’ power play needs some serious-ass work. Babcock attempted to kick-start it by reuniting Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom on the first unit and essentially going to four forwards with Niklas Kronwall as the only defender (Jiri Hudler roved up front with Bertuzzi, Franzen and Valtteri Filppula), but his personnel tweaks didn’t help, and after the game he suggested that the Wings need to make some tactical changes to give themselves better opportunities to win games:

Overshadowed in the Red Wings’ success has been a struggling power play. It went 0-for-5 in this game and has been particularly ineffective on the road. The Red Wings now sit at No. 14 in the league on the power play, converting at 18.1 percent. The power play is a weakness shared by division rival St. Louis, which is at just 13.3 percent. Mike Babcock’s patience is running thin with this group; expect him to make changes both in personnel and scheme if the struggles continue.

The Wings did enough to win, but they know, “Good enough for now” isn’t good enough for the long term, and that’s a relief to hear going forward. Ugly doesn’t stay pretty forever, but for one day, there’s just no point in doing anything but appreciating the fact that the Wings are winning in those long streaks which tend to build cohesion and confidence come playoff time, and there’s no time like the present to keep the good times rolling.

As I said in the “quick take,” this was more of a “dog fight” in the literal sense of the term as opposed to the usually elegant, speedy and high-tempo hockey we’re used to seeing from the Wings, but again, there’s no point in splitting hairs when your favorite team finds itself conquering a long, nasty January grind.


Highlights: ESPN posted a 49-second highlight clip of its “Game of the Week”;

If you wish to watch the shootout by itself, the Red Wings’ website will allow you to do so with Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy narrating the affair:

But the entire game’s highlights aren’t terrible, either:


Post-game: Fox Sports Arizona posted Tyson Nash and Jody Jackson’s takes on the game, as well as a clip of Coyotes coach Dave Tippett and goaltender Mike Smith’s comments;

The Coyotes’ website posted audio clips of Mike Smith, Gilbert Brule and coach Dave Tippett’s comments, as well as a video of Tippett’s presser and comments from Smith, Brule and Martin Hanzal;

And Fox Sports Detroit posted Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy’s takes on the game…


<a href='http://www.foxsportsdetroit.com/pages/video?videoid=ac5f42ed-5ddd-4905-8ef1-54f60b190538&amp;src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='Recap: Red Wings down Coyotes in shootout 3-2'>Video: Recap: Red Wings down Coyotes in shootout 3-2</a>

As well as comments from Todd Bertuzzi, Jimmy Howard and coach Mike Babcock:


<a href='http://www.foxsportsdetroit.com/pages/video?videoid=49bdd78e-b909-40d6-9515-b02abcd608b8&amp;src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='Bertuzzi gets 299th goal in win'>Video: Bertuzzi gets 299th goal in win</a>

Photos: The Arizona Republic posted a 22-image gallery;

The Detroit Free Press posted a 20-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 17-image gallery;

Fox Sports Arizona posted a 10-image gallery;

Fox Sports Detroit posted a 10-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted a 47-image gallery;

NHL.com posted a 55-image gallery;

The Coyotes’ website posted a 55-image Flash slideshow and embedded an image in its website’s recap;

And the Red Wings’ website posted a 55-image gallery and embedded an image in its website’s recap.


Shots 35-34 Detroit overall. Phoenix out-shot Detroit 13-12 in the 1st; Detroit out-shot Phoenix 14-10 in the 2nd; Detroit out-shot Phoenix 8-7 in the 3rd; Phoenix out-shot Detroit 3-0 in OT.

The Wings went 0-for-5 in 10 minutes of PP time; the Yotes went 0 for 2, with 1 power play in regulation and 1 in OT.

The Coyotes’ broadcasters named Gilbert Brule, Mike Smith and Jimmy Howard their 3rd, 2nd and 1st stars, respectively.

The Wings’ goals: White (6) from Franzen (21) and Datsyuk (37);

Bertuzzi (10) from Franzen (22) and Datsyuk (38).

Faceoffs 32-24 Detroit (Wings won 57%);

Blocked shots 18-18;

Missed shots 16-13 Phoenix (total attempts 67-66 Phoenix, with the Wings firing 31 wide or into Coyotes players);

Hits 35-20 Phoenix;

Giveaways 4-2 Detroit (bulls***)

Takeaways 10-3 Phoenix (equally BS by the Phoenix stats crew).

Just as bad as crediting Mark Fistric for 10 hits on Tuesday.

Individual Stats:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 11-and-9 (55%); Helm went 10-and-4 (71%); Zetterberg went 5-and-6 (45%); Filppula went 2-and-3 (40%); Abdeklader went 3-and-0; Franzen went 1-and-2 (33%).

Shots taken: White, Zetterberg and Franzen co-led the team with 6 shots apiece, or in sum total, half of the team’s 35 shots; Kindl and Holmstrom had 3 shots apiece; Filppula and Kronwall had 2; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, Miller, Helm and Bertuzzi had 1.

Blocked attempts: White also had 4 attempts blocked by Phoenix players; Lidstrom had 3 attempts blocked; Cleary, Datsyuk and Kronwall had 2 attempts blocked; Stuart, Hudler, Zetterberg, Helm and Franzen had single attempts blocked;

Missed shots: Zetterberg missed the net 3 times; Helm and Filppula missed the net 2 times; Kindl, Lidstrom, Datsyuk, White, Stuart and Hudler missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Kronwall led the team with 4 hits; Datsyuk and Ericsson had 3; Kindl, Helm and Bertuzzi had 2; Cleary, Stuart, Zetterberg and Filppula had 1.

Giveaways: Lidstrom, Cleary, Bertuzzi and Franzen were credited with giveaways, but Howard fired a puck right around to Doan, and I’m guessing Doan was awarded a takeaway for that one.

Takeaways: Stuart had 2 takeaways and White had 1. The end, say the Coyotes’ statisticians.

Blocked opponent shots: Datsyuk blocked 4 shots; Stuart blocked 3; Zetterberg, Kronwall and Franzen blocked 2; Lidstrom, White, Miller, Hudler and Filppula blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Stuart and Zetterberg took minor penalties.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective 0. Holmstrom bizarrely finished at -2; Kindl, Abdelkader, Miller, Emmerton and Ericsson finished at -1; Lidstrom, Datsyuk and White finished at +1; Bertuzzi and Franzen finished at +2.

Ice time: White led the team with 27:49 played; Lidstrom played 27:26; Kronwall played 22:45;

Datsyuk played 22:44; Stuart played 21:31; Zetterberg played 21:07;

Franzen played 20:54; Filppula played 17:48; Bertuzzi played 17:31;

Cleary played 17:21; Ericsson played 16:08; Helm played 15:18;

Miller played 14:02; Hudler played 13:44; Holmstrom played 12:20;

Kindl played 11:17; Abdelkader played 7:03; Emmerton played 5:12.

Part II: Take note of the Great Skate! After the Grand Rapids Griffins play the Rochester Americans on Saturday night, their players will skate in shifts with fans for a full 24 hours at Grand Rapids’ Rosa Parks Circle, all to raise funds for the Griffins’ Youth Foundation. If you live in Grand Rapids, it sounds like a great way to skate with some future Red Wings and welcome new Griffin Mike Thomas into the fold.

Part III: Red Wings notebooks: In addition to noting that Nicklas Lidstrom did his best to protect his family’s privacy while NHL 36’s cameras captured him at home, the Free Press’s Helene St. James discussed Danny Cleary’s renaissance as more of a grinding forward alongside Darren Helm and Drew Miller. Cleary has dropped out of the top six as Jiri Hudler’s returned to form, but that’s not making Cleary any less effective:

“I look for him to be a way better penalty killer,” coach Mike Babcock said Thursday. “Way better penalty killer, and to be physical. And the more physical he is, the better off we are. That Helm-Cleary-Miller line has to be a huge factor on this team. They can play against anybody in the league. They’ve got to be good defensively but physical with the puck in the offensive zone, putting lots of miles on the other team’s defense. He’s just got to keep working and plugging and doing good, honest things. When you play well, defensively, and you don’t cheat, the goals come.”

Cleary, 33, has reached at least 20 goals in three of the last five seasons, but with 10 goals after 47 games he might not hit that mark in 2011-12. He had a great chance blocked in the third period of Thursday’s 3-2 shoot-out victory over the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena. Cleary conceded he’d like to score “a little bit more, but right now, the key factor is just to be good defensively. My focus is on where I am, what line I’m on, make sure you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

On Jan. 8 at Chicago, Cleary finished the game on Henrik Zetterberg’s line, a nod to Cleary’s effectiveness.

“You can put him in the top six, and he’s going to be making plays for you,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “And when he is on the third line, where he might do a little more checking, he can do that, too. He’s very good adjusting to different lines he’s been on.”

• Given that we’re going to get somewhere between 4 and 6 inches of snow in Southeastern Michigan today, Wings fans might grumble about this note from the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...

There was no practice Wednesday, so the Wings had an opportunity to enjoy the moderate weather and sunshine in Scottsdale. Many players stayed around the resort and hung out by the pool.

“Just relaxed,” Bertuzzi said. “With the schedule we’ve had, it was much needed and nice to take a mental break.”

A few players found time for a quick round of golf, relishing the chance to get outside.

“It’s great just to be in the sun after being in Detroit all winter,” Johan Franzen said. “That helps to recharge the batteries for sure.”

And I’m nodding my head about this one:

A vote in a national publication earlier this month declared Pavel Datsyuk the most underrated player in the NHL. Franzen thinks that’s partly true.

“Not among the players in the league, but the general public he’s still underrated,” Franzen said.

Datsyuk might not find himself in the same conversation as Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Sedin, Steven Stamkos and Joffrey Lupul, who he’s keeping company with in the scoring department, but I think we should change his title instead of worrying about whether non-Wings fans consider Datsyuk to be the league’s best forward—Datsyuk is, by far, the league’s most complete forward. He cares less about scoring than he does about playing fantastic two-way hockey, and between Datsyuk, Lidstrom, new addition Ian White and Jimmy Howard, the Wings have four or five MVP candidates, though Datsyuk’s starting to steal Howard’s thunder in that department;

• I included MLive’s Ansar Khan’s note about Nicklas Lidstrom’s take on the NHL 36 cameras following him and carpool buddy Tomas Holmstrom around for nearly three days, but Khan’s comments from Lidstrom merit repeating:

It’s kind of a test having a camera crew follow you everywhere you go, in here (dressing room), in the training room – they didn’t go in the shower, that’s about it,” Lidstrom said, adding, with a chuckle, “Thank God.”

He called it “intense.”

“I think the fans will get a chance to see what we do every day, how we prepare for games,” Lidstrom said. “Not just me, but all the guys in the locker room, the meetings we have before games, everything that goes (into) preparing for the game.”

He is curious about what scenes will make the cut.

“I’m not sure how they’re going to (edit) it,” he said. “I know they got a lot of footage, and it’s only a half-hour show. But they got a chance to see what it’s like getting up with the kids, taking kids to school, preparing for the game. Me and Homer (Tomas Holmstrom) went out to lunch the day of the Buffalo game. They see how we travel, getting in late (to Dallas), getting up early the next morning.”

• Khan also took note of Todd Bertuzzi’s fantastic play alongside Datsyuk, pointing out that Bertuzzi’s scoring levels have hit a stratospheric level since he returned from a bad sinus infection just before Thanksgiving:

Bertuzzi had eight goals and 12 assists in his past 25 games, then scored Thursday night against Phoenix and also tallied the only goal in Detroit’s shootout win. He had just three points (goal, two assists) in his first 14 games.

“I think he’s been real strong on pucks and a real good net presence for those guys and good defensively and energized and playing well,” Babcock said. “It’s given us a real good line there.”
“I think when you play with guys for a certain amount of time and you practice with them, you start finding out their habits and where they go,” Bertuzzi said. Obviously, playing with Pav is a treat, makes it lot easier. He can suck in two or three guys and put you in those positions, and you end up getting a couple of breakaways out of it, too. He can make those passes, no-lookers.”

The 6-foot-3, 229-pound Bertuzzi creates space for his linemates.

“He’s been playing great with the puck. He’s heavy on the puck. He’s hard to knock off the puck,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He’s been working hard, and he always goes to the hard areas, in front of the net or in the corners, where he’s hanging onto the puck and making plays. So, he’s been playing terrific for us.”

Said Franzen: “He’s really caught fire. He’s a great skater, a big body, wins a lot of pucks, can hold onto it, creates a lot of room for Pavel and me.”

Every once in a while, someone will ask me what I think the Wings will do after Bertuzzi and Holmstrom retire this summer. My usual answer starts with, “It depends on how far the Wings go in the playoffs,” and after some multiple-clause sentences, I conclude with, “But I think they’re still playing very well, and they’re probably going to play for as long as they’re healthy.” For Bertuzzi, that involves his back holding up, and for Holmstrom, that involves his knees, but Holmstrom has skated miles and miles more than he usually does on the fourth line, and he seems to have few problems in that department, plodding up and down the ice with surprising speed given how absolutely horrible he skated earlier in his career (like his English, when Holmstrom came over, his skating was untranslatable!).

• The Free Press’s sports staff also took note of the potential of a Wings-Leafs alumni game’s star power, per the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran. In my opinion, there is a high likelihood that the Wings’ roster will include many representatives from its 2002 Stanley Cup-winning team, and between Igor Larionov, Chris Chelios, perhaps Brian Rafalski, Larry “He never lost a step because he never had one!” Murphy, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Chris Osgood, you’ve got at least a line’s worth of players who could still suit up if absolutely necessary.

Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: Okay, okay, this isn’t directly Red Wings-related, but the NBC Sports Network is now airing college games, and Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon notes that Michigan will tangle with Notre Dame and Wings prospect Riley Sheahan tonight. If your allegiances tend toward green and white instead of maize and blue, Ken Daniels and Darren Eliot will cover the Michigan State-Lake Superior State game on Fox Sports Detroit Plus;

• Ahem, per the Columbus Dispatch’s Shawn Mitchell: Radek Martinek concussion + Blue Jackets’ lack of depth = Brett Lebda in the NHL again.

Columbus lost 3-0 to Nashville on Thursday night. I’m not sure whether they’re going to practice in Columbus or head to Detroit before skating today, though I’d bet on the former;

Oh boy, trade talk! USA Today’s Kevin Allen penned a trade deadline-related column in which he noted that most of the “trade deadline’s” biggest trades take place far in advance of the deadline, which lies on February 27th this year. He tosses a few names around that have Wings-related consistency, including Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth and Tuomo Ruutu, and I suppose some of you will dare to dream:

Nashville Predators: GM David Poile has been looking for offensive help, primarly a forward to play in his top six. If he can’t re-sign defenseman Ryan Suter, he could look to trade him. Suter can be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and it would be difficult for the franchise to lose him without gaining future help in return.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun also talked about trades, noting that this year’s top-pair defenseman (i.e. the player teams covet the most) is a top-six forward, which may mean higher asking prices for said players, and the listed buyers include the Predators…and their rivals:

Other teams confirmed to be looking for a top-six forward include Chicago, Toronto, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Detroit, the New York Rangers and, as Poile said, Nashville. San Jose could be in the mix for either a top-six forward or a checking-line forward. Boston and Vancouver are looking for a depth forward.
What the trade market needs is more teams to declare themselves sellers and out of the playoff race. But it’s still too early for that. That’s what happens with so much parity in the standings.

Potential top-six forwards available? Again, it doesn’t mean all these players will move, but these are names we’ve heard that could be in play: Derek Roy, Brad Boyes and Drew Stafford in Buffalo; Vaclav Prospal, Antoine Vermette and Kristian Huselius in Columbus; Ales Hemsky in Edmonton; Tuomo Ruutu in Carolina; and the suddenly hot Jason Blake in Anaheim. I believe both Detroit and Nashville are among the teams who like Hemsky, who is a UFA on July 1.

I don’t see the Hemsky fit, but that rumor, initially planted by the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson and Hemsky’s agent, Rich Winter, doesn’t seem to go away.

As for dealing Suter, Predators GM David Poile offered this quip:

“If you’re asking what I’m going to do, my gut is that we’re going to be trying to add to our team and if we’re adding to our team, we certainly don’t want to be taking away from it by making a deal like that,” Poile said of trading Suter.

I tend to keep my expectations very low—see the Wings adding Cory Cross in 2006—and I don’t believe that Ken Holland will burn his cap space simply because it’s there, but he does indeed kick every tire and inquire about the asking price of every player on the market or potentially on the market, just in case, so the man does his due diligence and then some.

After the Wings’ scouts meet in the hockey hotbed of Las Vegas, Nevada, we’ll see which players the Wings eventually feel fit the bill in terms of improving the team without requiring the subtraction of any roster players or top prospects.

We all know that Holland’s standard operating procedure involves sending mid-round picks and sometimes middling prospects, and nothing more, to other teams, so I’d suggest that we’re not going to see a blockbuster; if we’re lucky, the Wings might land an underachiever who can fit in like Brad Stuart, but again, I’m thinking Cory Cross-style depth moves.

• Looking a little higher up on the managerial chain, TSN’s Dave Hodge asked readers to weigh in as to which NHL owner they feel does his job best, and then Hodge weighed in. Guess which owner he likes the most?

Number one by reputation is number one deserved in my opinion. Mike Ilitch and family in Detroit have won four Stanley Cups, and for that and other reasons, Hockeytown is a popular destination for players. There is stability in Detroit’s front office and behind the bench. The Wings have drafted well and have spent money wisely

  • Also in the rankings department, SI’s player poll named Niklas Kronwall the NHL’s 7th-hardest hitter.

• In the future events category, part 1: via Facebook, the Red Wings Alumni will be playing against the Oakland Junior Grizzlies Alumni and coaches on February 4th at the Troy Sports Center, and the event will benefit the Salvation Army’s Bed & Bread Club Radiothon;

• In the future events category, part 2: The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel’s Blake Sebring reports that the Wings’ Alums will head south in March:

The Komets are tentatively trying to schedule an legends game against the Detroit Red Wings Alumni for Saturday, March 10. There will not be a Komets Hall of Fame induction this year as part of the game.

The Red Wings Alumni beat the Komets Legends 4-1 in 2009 in the first official Komets Legends game since 1998.

• Also in the alumni department, albeit in a different vein, the Ottawa Senators defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-1 on Thursday, marking the first meeting between former Wings assistant coaches Paul MacLean and Todd McLellan. They spoke to the Mercury News’s David Pollak about their Detroit-based influences:

Both coaches agreed, however, that there were similarities in the style their teams played.

“That’s fair to say,”

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink



As good as Datsyuk has been this season, Franzen has been their most consistent goal-scorer

What the hell, is this crap true?
Not sure if that makes me happy or sad!

Posted by Zqto from Brazil on 01/20/12 at 10:34 AM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

And…..for January…...we are quite healthy…..thank you, thank you

Posted by Rdwings28 on 01/20/12 at 10:51 AM ET


That was an unreal save by Mike Smith! Looking at how well he’s doing and how poorly Bryzgalov is doing makes me realize just how great the system in Phoenix is…or how terrible the system in Philly is.

I can’t believe that the Wings are top of the league right now, I guess we should have seen it coming. Not bad for a team that was supposed to be over the hill a decade ago!

Posted by G from Guangzhou, China on 01/20/12 at 11:14 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

The right thing would have been to blow the whistle as soon as he got hit in the face; then you have nothing.

Guess they should have also blown the whistle when Franzen got stung by that puck. I feel sorry for Langkow, but letting play continue was the right call.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 01/20/12 at 11:17 AM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

I know I saw on the telecast last night that DET finish the seasons last 28 games, with 18 of those at home. 

Immediately in front of them is a two game home stand, then on the road for the next 5.

I agree with you George, for the moment I really do not care how the Wings wins come about.

But towards the end of the season, when they have a home heavy schedule, they need to work on both the PP and PK.  Only BOS is better than the Wings at even strength hockey.

If DET can improve their special teams, they could be in for a deep playoff run.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 01/20/12 at 11:47 AM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

I know I saw on the telecast last night that DET finish the seasons last 28 games, with 18 of those at home. 

Immediately in front of them is a two game home stand, then on the road for the next 5.

I agree with you George, for the moment I really do not care how the Wings wins come about.

And before you get too anxious about things, take a look at Chicago and St. Louis’ February schedule.  It should make you feel better.

Posted by MoreShoot on 01/20/12 at 12:30 PM ET

SolidTG7's avatar

The power play needs some serious work, I think they should try switching up the units a little bit, I noticed that Zetterberg was switched with Franzen last night.  I’m not sure that changed much, a bigger shake up is in order IMO.

Early in the year they set up a guy in between the circles and he could pass and shoot, and that was working well but teams have caught on, there has to be something else they can do.

Posted by SolidTG7 on 01/20/12 at 01:30 PM ET


I’m not sure that changed much, a bigger shake up is in order IMO.

I think that’s part of the problem of having a couple guys playing in the top six who aren’t natural, true top six forwards.

Posted by Garth on 01/20/12 at 01:43 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Two things I noticed about the power play last night

1) The point shots were coming in at waist-level. Those are easier to block than those which are top-of-the-skate level (for obvious reasons involving human anatomy).

2) The point shots were coming from all the way at the top of the zone.

The Wings like to run an umbrella formation where a defense and a high quarterbacking forward hang out near the half-boards while the shooter stays at the top in the middle. The side with the puck has a low forward off the side of the net and there’s always a net-front guy.

they like to make testing runs at the outside to see if they can draw the PKers out of the middle shooting lane so the guy at the to can fire a tippable shot. If they can, they’ll also use those lanes (which generally bisect each of the faceoff dots) to try and sneak in shots from the scoring box.

When the umbrella is working at its most efficient is when they can collapse the other team’s PK box below the tops of the circles and get those point shot guys about 15 feet closer to the net when they shoot.  That has to be done by better utilizing puck movement at the bottom of the zone. The net-side guy isn’t getting the puck often enough and, when he does, he’s not only not convincing the PKers that he’s enough of a threat, but the guys whose job it is to make sure that there’s always one guy trying to cover two different options aren’t moving around and making that difficult.  When the puck goes that low, they either need to lean on the bottom corner guy with a guy in the slot and a guy at the front of the net or they need to lean on the top corner guy with a guy in the slot and the point collapsing in.

You don’t have to make the entire PK unit fail; you just have to make one guy on the PK unit fail.

... and get your shots through.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 01/20/12 at 01:48 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Great stuff, George!  Thanks!

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 01/20/12 at 02:38 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: Okay, okay, this isn’t directly Red Wings-related, but the NBC Sports Network is now airing college games, and Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon notes that Michigan will tangle with Notre Dame and Wings prospect Riley Sheahan tonight. If your allegiances tend toward green and white instead of maize and blue, Ken Daniels and Darren Eliot will cover the Michigan State-Lake Superior State game on Fox Sports Detroit Plus;

Excited for this.  Will be watching.  Thank you to NBCSN for taking the chance to show collegiate hockey on a nationally televised level.  These kids have just as much passion and love for their game as treeball.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 01/20/12 at 05:23 PM ET

Norskirama's avatar

Wasn’t Riley Sheahan just suspended?

Posted by Norskirama from Lincoln, Nebraska on 01/20/12 at 06:36 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Indeed he is.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 01/20/12 at 06:55 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I have to say I love it that the Nothing But Crosby/Chicago Network is showing some college hockey - gives me at least one reason to like the station.


And George, I loved your post today (I was at school when I posted before and couldn’t write much).  And the reason I loved it was that I was thinking that these grind-it-out games - with the Wings winning - are great preparation for the playoffs.  As tight as things are this season, I don’t see any playoff series being a cakewalk.  The more the Wings have to grind out wins, and get those wins, the better I feel about their playoff chances.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 01/20/12 at 07:25 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.