The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/13/12 at 09:32 AM ET
It’s just me and Mickey Redmond, it seems. I didn’t think that the Detroit Red Wings played particularly well in their 3-2 shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes, though it’s hard to watch the entire shootout, or this goal in particular…
And feel the need to get particularly picky about a game in which the Wings shook off some heavy legs after a very shaky four-game road trip, found themselves firing shot after shot on a goalie and against a team that planned on denying Jimmy Howard his 100th win, Mike Babcock his 400th coaching win and the Red Wings two points amidst a January stretch in which the Wings are in the middle of playing 11 games in 19 nights, and need all the points they can get, no matter how sloppily they’re earned.
In my opinion, even though the Wings remain something of a revolving injury door as Pavel Datsyuk (groin) and Jan Mursak (ankle) returned to the lineup, but Todd Bertuzzi (“lower-body”) and Mike Commodore (foot) couldn’t play, and Jimmy Howard suffered but played through a Charley horse to boot, and even though the Wings could understandably be undergoing a bit of a returning-from-the-road funk after a difficult four-game stretch—and the Wings are in the middle of a January grind where they’re playing a stunning 11 times over 19 nights—the Wings seemed to expend far too much energy and effort firing single, un-screened, un-tipped and often un-retrieved shots in on Mike Smith, who stopped almost everything he saw, and while the Wings did stem their defensive miscues, they still had to rally from two one-goal deficits to salvage a tie and eventually earn a shootout win on the backs of Henrik Zetterberg, Jimmy Howard and Datsyuk as opposed to a team-wide win against a team the Wings should beat without much difficulty.
The Coyotes were content to lay in the weeds, pounce upon the Wings’ mistakes when they started cheating toward offense and then play for overtime or a shootout, and the Wings just seemed too willing to accommodate them for my liking. Given that the Chicago Blachawks are coming to the Joe on Saturday hoping to nix the Wings’ home-ice winning streak while improving upon their two-point lead on the Wings after a 5-3 win over Minnesota, and especially given that the Hawks are still angry over a supposed Jiri Hudler slash which cost Patrick Sharp an All-Star appearance, never mind smarting from last week’s OT loss, the Wings might find themselves with egg on their faces in front of an international (NBC and TSN2) audience if they don’t get their butts in gear and start playing like the efficient, energy-saving team they need to be as they embark upon an equally nasty stretch this weekend—7 games over the course of 12 nights…
So this game has me worried despite the result. As PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest notes, Mike Smith was indeed fantastic in the Coyotes’ goal…
Radim Vrbata scored his team-high 21st goal in regulation and beat Jimmy Howard in the shootout, and Taylor Pyatt added a regulation goal for Phoenix (20-17-7).
The loss was the Coyotes’ sixth straight to Detroit, and despite goalie Mike Smith’s 40 saves, Phoenix suffered its second straight shootout loss—the Coyotes were beaten 2-1 in New York on Tuesday.
“Smith was great, he gave us a chance to win,” said Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett, who became just the 39th person to be head coach for 700 NHL games. “We gave ourselves a chance to win the game. Unfortunately, the shootout got us again.”
And it’s worth noting that even Vest describes the game’s “key moment” as one which salvaged a point for Detroit, suggesting that the Coyotes were in fact in control going down the stretch in the 3rd period…
Detroit forced overtime with 9:57 to play in regulation when Pavel Datsyuk’s cross-ice pass snaked through to the back post, where Johan Franzen was waiting for the easy tip-in. The goal was Franzen’s 17th of the season.
“Not many (could make that pass), especially against a team like this that really clogs in front of the goalie,” Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg said. “He probably had to go through three or four guys to make that pass. I don’t think Mule even knew the pass was coming. He just had his stick there and it went in.”
And it certainly sounds like Taylor Pyatt was relatively satisfied with his team’s performance…
“I think everyone feels a little disappointed that we weren’t able to squeak out that second point in the shootout. But we’ve got to try and take some positives from our games at this point.”
Though Shane Doan lamented the Yotes’ inability to solve Howard a third time while speaking to the Associated Press:
“Nobody thought just one goal would do it. We knew we needed to get another one,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said of the tenuous one-goal lead. “We couldn’t find the second one.”
Vrbata gave Phoenix an early edge at 9:41 of the first with a sensational individual move. He collected the puck at his own blue line, skated up ice, paused on the edge of the left circle and ripped a shot high past Howard. The goal was Vrbata’s 21st of the season.
With 51 seconds to play until intermission, Filppula equalized when he stripped the puck in the right circle off a faceoff, wound up and fired a slap shot past Smith for his 15th.
After a scoreless second period, Pyatt gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead 3:02 into the third on his sixth of the season. Pyatt and Kyle Chipchura mounted a two-man rush, with Chipchura tearing down the right side and Pyatt trailing in the center. At the final second, Chipchura swung inside and pushed the puck to the top of the crease, where Pyatt prevailed in the scrum to push it past Howard.
I’ll let the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell summarize the game’s narrative via his quoteless recap...
With the Wings enjoying the run of the play, the Coyotes reminded them of some of the flaws that have surfaced of late in their defensive game. Radim Vrbata got the puck at his own blue-line and was allowed to move swiftly through the neutral zone. A stationary Henrik Zetterberg played a little matador defence waving at the Coyotes’ forward as he blew by and Ian White surrendered the line in the face of such speed. Vrbata took the invitation to shoot from just above the left circle and whipped shot over goalie Jimmy Howard’s right shoulder at 9: 41.
However, with the Wings producing the bulk of the quality chances and enjoying some good zone pressure, Detroit was rewarded in the period’s final minute. White did a good job keeping the puck in and it bounced to a curling Valtteri Filppula, who blasted a slap shot past Smith that ticked off defenceman Derek Morris’s stick at 19: 09.
The Coyotes were handed a chance to take their first lead in the game midway through the period. A pair of Detroit penalties gave Phoenix three minutes of nearly uninterrupted power-play time. Phoenix, the 29th ranked power-play unit in the NHL, was completely inept with the extra skater. The Coyotes rarely gained the Detroit zone and managed one shot during that stretch.
In the final 10 minutes of the middle frame, it was more of Smith’s solid work that kept the game tied through 40 minutes. He first robbed Niklas Kronwall on a redirect from close range and then did it again to Dan Cleary on a late Detroit power play.
Taylor Pyatt’s go-ahead goal for Phoenix came out of scrum in Howard’s crease. He shoveled the puck goalward and popped up off Jakub Kindl’s stick and past Howard at 3: 02.
With Smith in top form, it was going to take something special to beat him. It came in the form of a brilliant pass by Datsyuk He saucered his diagonal feed through four Coyote defenders for Franzen to tap in at 10: 03 to force overtime
And then, as the Detroit Free Press’s George Sipple noted:
Shoot-out: Datsyuk opened the shoot-out by scoring on a backhand to the glove side. After Gilbert Brule and Hudler missed, Vrbata tied it by beating Howard with a high backhand. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit’s fourth shooter, scored using the Peter Forsberg move—pulling Smith (40 saves) to the left post and then at the last second using his stick to nudge the goal into the open right side.
And from the Wings’ side of things, I’d like to take up the narrative via DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose, who spoke to Valtteri Filppula about his game-tying goal...
“I feel like a lot of times you don’t have the time to shoot a slapper,” Filppula said. “Mostly you have to shoot quick, at least for me I feel that I need too much time to get it off, and this time I had quite a bit of time there.”
Filppula’s 15th goal of the season pulled the Wings into a 1-1 tie with 51-seconds left in the opening period. His blast from the top of the slot caromed off a defender’s stick before making the distinctive ping of the puck crashing into the crossbar, then dropping into the back of the net behind Phoenix goalie Mike Smith.
Despite out-playing the Coyotes for much of the first period, it looked like Phoenix would take its 1-0 lead into the first intermission. But with 59.1 seconds left in the period, and a faceoff deep in the Coyotes’ zone, the Wings’ aggressiveness paid off. Coyotes center Boyd Gordon beat Henrik Zetterberg on the draw, and All-Star defenseman Keith Yandle eventually worked the puck around the back of the net and out to the right point. But Ian White kept the puck in the zone, poking it away from Ray Whitney along the half wall near the blue line. From there Filppula lifted Gordon’s stick, spun to his left and cruised to the top of the slot before uncorking a lightning quick – albeit rare – slap shot.
“We talked about it after the first. I asked him and he was pretty sure that that was his first one,” Zetterberg said. “I think that was his first slap shot goal in his NHL career. I’m being serious. It was a great shot. … He just doesn’t shoot that often. I think it’s the way he plays hockey; he’d rather pass to another guy than shoot himself. But still he has 15, 16 goals, so he’s doing something right.”
Filppula, who got help when his shot caromed off the blade of Derek Morris’ stick before beating Smith over the left shoulder, was iffy about the number of goals that he’s scored on slap shots.
“I don’t know exactly, but I know there haven’t been too many of those,” said Filppula, who led the Wings’ forwards with 21:52 of ice-time. “I need too much time to shoot a slapper, so normally I tend to shot a wrist shot or something. I doubt that it’s my first, but I think you can count my slap shot goals on one hand.”
And we’ll skip forward to Franzen’s goal via the Associated Press...
Franzen tipped in Datsyuk’s cross-ice pinpoint pass with 9:57 left in regulation to tie it at 2. It was Franzen’s 17th goal.
“Not many (could make that pass), especially against a team like this that really clogs in front of the goalie. He probably had to go through three or four guys to make that pass,” Zetterberg said. “I don’t think Mule (Franzen) even knew the pass was coming. He just had his stick there, and it went in.”
Before skipping forward one more time to Zetterberg’s gamer, via Fox Sports Detroit’s Reed Nelson:
With the shootout score even at one apiece following an early goal from All-Star Pavel Datsyuk and then two key saves from All-Star Jimmy Howard. Zetterberg carried the puck into the zone, sent it right, quickly pulling it left, then leaving it right again as Mike Smith fell over. The deceiving move allowed Zetterberg to literally tap it in to the wide-open net.
“That’s got to go down as one of the best for sure that I’ve ever seen,” Wings defenseman Ian White said of the move.
Zetterberg said after the game that when the opportunity arose during the shootout he wanted to do something special and has tried the move a few times with varying success.
“You look stupid when it doesn’t work, so it was good that it went in,” Zetterberg said. “I don’t get a chance that often anymore. When I get it might as well try something fun. It’s for the fans.”
“I thought that was retired I hadn’t seen it in so long, so it was good to see it back,” [Wings coach Mike] Babcock said.
Zetterberg explained his rationale for his deke and dangle to the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell in his quote-inclusive recap…
Zetterberg said he decided to use the move when he saw Smith follow Filppula’s deke so aggressively on Detroit’s previous attempt.
“You have to have the goalie with you,” Zetterberg said. “He has to really bite, leave his skates. As soon as he leaves his skates, it’s tough for him to stop.”
And at the other end of the ice, it was warm fuzzies and 100 wins:
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Howard said after helping Detroit extend its home winning streak to 13 games.
“What a great day. It’s been awesome. “I think the highlight of my day was probably when I woke up from my nap and my little guy had a T-shirt on that said, ‘My Daddy rocks.’”
Howard said he was particularly pleased to get win No. 100 in a fierce goaltending duel. Phoenix goalie Mike Smith was outstanding in stopping 40 of 42 shots, but he had no answer to the magic Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk conjured up.
Howard did explain his rationale regarding closing on Lauri Korpikoski to the Detroit Free Press’s George Sipple…
Asked about Zetterberg’s goal, Howard said: “That’s great. That’s just having fun out there, right? The shoot-out for the extra point, a lot of it is for the fans and Z put on a great show.”
The game wasn’t decided though until Howard stopped a shot by Lauri Korpikoski.
“He was coming in quick,” Howard said. “I liked it. The faster they come in, the less thinking you have to do.”
Before Sipple quickly shifted focus to the fact that Zetterberg tends not to join Datsyuk, Filppula, Bertuzzi and Hudler in the shootout rotation…
“I don’t get a chance that often anymore,” said Zetterberg, who hasn’t had a lot of success scoring in shoot-outs. “When I get it, might as well try something fun. It’s for the fans. If I missed that, I kind of look kind of stupid. It was a gamble, but it worked. Had a few options in my head, when I crossed the blue line I kind of made my decision and went with it. I might DVR (‘SportsCenter’).”
Jimmy Howard was just plain old pixelated about being picked for the All-Star Game and winning his 100th game in the same day…
“I would have loved to do it on last Saturday on the fathers’ trip in Toronto,” Howard said of the milestone. “But it’s another great way to do it. Without these guys, I’m nowhere near a hundred wins—without their skill level and without them working hard out there. That’s why it’s a team sport.”
And as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted, Howard wasn’t the only person to hit a milestone in the Wings’ win:
It was Howard’s 100th career victory — the ninth Wings goalie to reach the milestone — coming fittingly in a shootout battle with Smith, who stopped 40 Wings shots.
“I have a lot of fun out there (in the shootout) and Z’s goal was spectacular,” Howard said. “Mike played so well at the other end and gave his team a real good shot to win. We stuck to the game plan, got into overtime, and got a big extra point.”
Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen scored for the Wings, who gave coach Mike Babcock his 400th career victory.
Babcock earned his 400 wins in 699 games. By comparison, Scotty Bowman was the fastest coach to reach 400 wins in 690 games, while Glen Sather did so in 694. Toe Blake did it in 724.
“It’s just no different with Howard with the wins or (Danny) Cleary with the assists (Cleary earned his 200th career assist),” Babcock said. “Our guys did a lot of good things today. If we stayed the course we knew we’d have an opportunity to win.”
Both Babcock and Howard were in a reflective mood while speaking to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:...
“It’s no different than Howie for wins or Cleary with assists,” Babcock said when asked about his accomplishment. “They’re marks you think about later in life and you look at and can be proud of. It’s hard to even coach long enough in this league to get 400 wins and to be in that company of those with you.”
Babcock got win 400 in his 699th game, making him the third quickest coach to reach that mark. Scotty Bowman was the fastest coach to reach 400 wins doing so in 690 games. Toe Blake was third reaching 400 in 724 games.
Howard, who made 25 saves, reached 100 wins in his 171st game with Detroit.
“A goalie’s only as good as the team in front of him,” said Howard, who was named to the All-Star game earlier. “I’m very lucky to be able to play behind these guys. I think that’s why I’ve been able to progress at my own rate.
“Coming into this season, I felt like I could take more on in my play, and be more of a game changer,” Howard added. “It doesn’t get any better than that. What a great day. It’s been awesome. I think the highlight of the day was when I woke up from my nap, and my little guy had on a T-shirt that said, ‘My daddy rocks.’”
And while we’ll look forward while still in some awe of Zetterberg’s move via MLive’s Ansar Khan...
Babcock recorded his 400th win (331 have come with the Red Wings) as his club equaled the second-longest home winning streak in franchise history, most recently matched in 2006-07.
The Red Wings can tie the team record, set in 1964-65, on Saturday afternoon against the Chicago Blackhawks in a nationally televised matinee game on NBC.
Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen scored in regulation for Detroit. But it Zetterberg’s move that had his teammates buzzing.
“That’s got to go down as one of the best, for sure, that I’ve ever seen,” defenseman Ian White said.
Zetterberg said he mulled a couple of options as he crossed the blue line.
“I don’t get a chance (on shootouts) that often anymore,” said Zetterberg, who usually is the team’s fourth option. “When I get it, might as well try something fun. It’s for the fans. If I missed that, I look kind of stupid. It was a gamble, but it worked.”
Given the ugly slough and hard time the Wings have had of it of late, Babcock’s comment to the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff, via Twitter, rings particularly true going forward…
Babcock: “I don’t think we’d played good defensively our last four games. You’re not going to win outscoring your mistakes.”
As does what Henrik Zetterberg told Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman:
– Ja, det handlar om att ”grinda” sig igenom såna här matcher och så jämnt som det är i vår division känns det väldigt skönt att vi till slut kan vinna, säger Zetterberg.
In other words, and I did look this sentence’s difficult-to-translate points up:
“Yeah, it’s about ‘grinding’ your way through these kinds of games, but as even as it is in our division, we feel very comfortable that we can eventually win [it],” says Zetterberg.
The Wings are slowly shaking themselves from a defensive funk, but their power play remains inept (now something silly like 2-for-27 of late), they’re working far too hard to not quite finish their scoring chances, they’re making just enough defensive mistakes to make their goalies have to steal games for them, and as they battle with two teams who never seem to lose in the Blackhawks and Blues, the Wings need to keep grinding through this nasty January schedule while earning points while expending less energy and playing harder and smarter if they plan on winning the Central Division—so that they don’t have to play the Blackhawks or Blues in the first round of the playoffs—somewhere down the line.
Highlights: If you want to watch the shootout only, here it is…
But here are the full slate of highlights, narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Fox Sports Detroit posted clips of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s takes on the game…
As well as comments from Jimmy Howard, Henrik Zetterberg and Mike Babcock:
The Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell posted an extended clip of Jimmy Howard’s comments:
And the Wings’ website posted a clip of comments from Henrik Zetterberg, Jimmy Howard and coach Mike Babcock:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 21-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 27-image gallery;
The Arizona Republic posted an 18-image gallery;
Fox Sports Arizona posted a 5-image gallery;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 6-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 29-image gallery;
Shots 42-27 Detroit overall. The Wings out-shot Phoenix 13-9 in the 1st period, 11-6 in the 2nd period, 15-10 in the 3rd period and 3-2 in overtime.
The Wings went 0 for 2 in 3:00 of PP time; the Coyotes did the same.
Jimmy Howard stopped 25 of the 27 shots he faced; Mike Smith stopped 40 of 42.
The 3 stars, per the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, were Mike Smith, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
The Wings’ goals: Filppula (15) from White (16);
Franzen (17) from Datsyuk (31) and Cleary (10).
Faceoffs 27-20 Phoenix (Detroit won 43%);
Blocked shots 14-13 Detroit;
Missed shots 13-8 Detroit (total attempts 68-49 Detroit);
Hits 28-27 Detroit;
Giveaways 11-10 Detroit;
Takeaways 9-4 Phoenix.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 6-and-10 (38%); Zetterberg went 8-and-7 (53%); Helm went 2-and-5 (29%); Abdelkader went 1-and-2 (33%); Filppula went 2-and-1 (67%); Miller lost 2 faceoffs; Cleary won the only faceoff he took.
Shots: Cleary led the team with 6 shots; Lidstrom and Hudler had 5; Datsyuk and Franzen had 4; Mursak and Kronwall had 3; Kindl, White, Zetterberg, Helm and Filppula had 2; Miller and Ericsson had 1.
Blocked attempts: Lidstrom, White and Zetterberg had 2 shot attempts blocked; Kindl, Datsyuk, Miller, Mursak, Helm, Franzen and Holmstrom had single attempts blocked.
Missed shots: Lidstrom missed the net 3 times; White missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, Stuart, Mursak, Emmerton, Franzen and Holmstrom missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Cleary led the Wings with 7 hits; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Stuart, Ericsson, Kronwall and Holmstrom had 3; Hudler had 2; Miller had 1.
Giveaways: Datsyuk, Stuart and Filppula had 2 giveaways; Kindl, Lidstrom, Ericsson, Franzen and Holmstrom had 1.
Takeaways: Mursak had 2 takeaways; Datsyuk and Miller had 1.
Blocked shots: White blocked 4 shots; Lidstrom blocked 3; Helm blocked 2; Datsyuk, Stuart, Hudler, Mursak and Filppula blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Hudler and Holmstrom took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective zero. Kindl, Abdelkader, Emmerton, Ericsson, Kronwall and Holmstrom finished at -1; Cleary, Datsyuk, White and Franzen finished at +1; Lidstrom finished at +2.
Points: Filppula and Franzen had goals; Cleary, Datsyuk and White had assists.
Ice time: Lidstrom led the team with 24:40 played; White played 24:01; Kronwall played 23:09;
Stuart played 22:25; Filppula played 21:52; Zetterberg played 21:37;
Hudler played 21:11; Datsyuk played 20:20; Cleary played 19:45;
Franzen played 19:39; Ericsson played 19:15; Kindl played 14:52;
Helm played 13:47; Miller played 12:40; Holmstrom played 10:45;
Mursak played 10:34; Abdelkader played 8:59; Emmerton played 6:29.
Part II: Winter Classic talk: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan reported that the Wings have moved into no comment territory about hosting a Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, but if you believe in making a plea through the media, Fox Sports Detroit’s Dave Hogg offers reasons for the NHL to eschew a 110,000-seat stadium for a 45,000-seat one for the sake of both ambiance and, well, Detroit;
In Detroit, though, the Winter Classic would do what the event is supposed to do—celebrate the heritage of hockey in one of the cities that built the NHL. Comerica is still a young stadium, but how many places in this area do a better job of showing off Detroit’s past, present and future?
Sports history? How about Jimmy Howard making saves on the same spot where Jose Valverde got his, or robbing an opposing scorer at the place where Neifi Perez kept Justin Verlander’s first no-hitter alive, or where Austin Jackson has run down so many fly balls?
After a goal, and maybe a victory, the Red Wings would celebrate at the same place where the Tigers mobbed each other after beating New York and Oakland in 2006 and after so many important victories in 2011’s run to the ALCS.
It wouldn’t just be recent Tigers history, either. Nick Lidstrom would play under the statue of Ty Cobb—more than a century after The Georgia Peach started his Detroit career in 1905. And somewhere, Sparky Anderson would be explaining how to fix hockey to anyone that listened.
Besides all of the Tigers tie-ins—and don’t forget that the teams share an owner—and the proximity of Ford Field, Comerica Park represents the city itself. One of Henry Ford’s first homes was located in what is now center field, and the stadium is just a mile from the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects, where Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and so many other Motown stars grew up. Another block down are the ruins of the Brewster Recreation Center, the gym where Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson learned to fight.
And, of course, there’s the view. At Michigan Stadium, the NBC cameras would pick up all of the people in the stands, but at Comerica, there would be so much more to see. You’d have the Renaissance Center and the Detroit Athletic Club dominating the skyline over the center-field fountain, the giant scoreboard in left and the Broderick Tower whales in right.
There are millions of reasons to have the game at Michigan Stadium, but they all have dollar signs in front of them. Gary Bettman and the NHL need to do the right thing for hockey’s heritage and the city of Detroit. Bring the 2013 Winter Classic to Comerica Park.
The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa agrees, though he thinks that the NHL will more or less tell the Ilitches and the City of Detroit that a suburban Winter Classic and the attendance record and/or money that playing at the Big House could bring in—and keep in mind that the NHL only compensates its host team for one regular season game’s worth of revenues, which means that the NHL could charge $100 a head and up and keep all the profits (though they’d be paying a percentage of suite and concessions sales to the NCAA instead of the WIngs)—because the lure of a bigger draw is going to outweigh the benefits the city of Detroit and the Ilitches’ businesses may merit:
But, despite the experience with The Big Chill, staging an NHL game in Michigan Stadium comes with some obstacles. Parking around The Big House is often on dirt fields that might be excessively muddy or covered in deep snow, next January. And no beer is sold during Michigan football games. It’s difficult to conceive of Wings and Leafs fans piling into a stadium for a game with no beer available. League officials were not available for comment, late Thursday.
“We played in ‘09. We loved it,” said Ken Holland, general manager and executive vice-president of the Wings, “We’ve told the league we’d like to get back, starting then and ever since. We’d like to be involved either hosting it or playing in it. We’ve got our fingers crossed.”
Just 46,967 watched the Rangers and Flyers play in Philadelphia, this year. Television ratings showed that the Detroit market was not among the top 10 in the country, in viewership.
Players and coaches universally seem to enjoy the opportunity to get back to the sort of hockey everyone played when they were boys, out on frozen ponds or on small rinks moms and dads made in backyards.
“We had a real good time in the last one, so let’s do it, again,” Coach Mike Babcock said, recently.
“I can’t imagine a better setting, really,” said Ron Wilson, coach of the Maple Leafs, who was born in Windsor, and whose late uncle, Johnny, played for and coached the Wings. “I mean, two Original Six teams, like these, outdoors in the winter. Believe me, we would really look forward to something like that,” Wilson said. “I mean, you would have fans from Michigan, of course, and Ontario, in droves, going to that game. It would be tremendously exciting for everyone, I’m sure, and I count the players in that.”
And MLive’s Ansar Khan believes that the deal is done:
“The fact that they’re negotiating with Ann Arbor gives you a pretty good hint of where they’re going to do it,” a team source said. “It’s a league event, they dictate (the venue). I don’t think we’d say no.”
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon released a statement last week confirming the university is in discussions with the NHL about hosting the outdoor game, saying “there are a lot of complex circumstances that need to be ironed out before anything moves forward.”
Yahoo! Sports reported that Michigan and the NHL now are in “advanced discussions” and quoted a source as saying “over a matter of a couple of weeks something happened to make it go from looking like it could happen to (a point where) it probably will.”
The Red Wings said the deal is not finalized. They do not anticipate an announcement until the summer, which is when the NHL typically reveals the Winter Classic matchup, at a news conference at the site of the game. Even if the deal was completed soon, the league is unlikely to make this announcement at the All-Star break, taking away attention from that event.
It appears the Toronto Maple Leafs will be Detroit’s opponent. The league has not scheduled a Canadian team for any of the previous five Winter Classics—Canada has hosted two Heritage Classics—because NBC prefers two U.S. franchises, for better TV ratings. But the Maple Leafs aren’t your ordinary Canadian club. Toronto coach Ron Wilson even said last week that he and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock talked about playing an outdoor game next season.
“Toronto’s a little different. It’s a big, international city,” a Red Wings source said. “I don’t think it would bother NBC if the league wanted it in Ann Arbor. They have to sell 115,000 tickets. Can you imagine the amount of people that would flock from across the border?”
I should also mention that the Free Press’s Michael Rosenberg offers a consolation prize to Detroit:
How? Picture two outdoor rinks. One would be in Michigan Stadium, for the Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, whose fans happily would travel to Michigan for this game. And the other would be in Comerica Park, which would host the late-December Great Lakes Invitational college tournament. The GLI normally is at Joe Louis Arena.
Comerica Park also could host the NHL alumni game, which does not belong in a 110,000-seat stadium.
The NHL would get its preferred venue. The Wings would get a bigger stake in the event. Ilitch would get to say Detroit is a part of this. U-M would get a bonus of another outdoor game for its team. And everybody could say this isn’t just a game—it’s a weeklong celebration of hockey in the state of Michigan.
The NHL holds the power here, because the Winter Classic is rare in the modern sports world. Normally, players and franchises want to avoid marketing-driven, league-run events. In every sport, players duck out of All-Star Games. The best teams usually don’t want overseas trips nor special exhibitions. But the Winter Classic is alluring for everybody. The NHL could hold next year’s game in Minneapolis or Denver, and it would be a hit, just as it succeeded in Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Chicago.
Plus, even though this would be a Wings home game on the schedule, it really is a league event. The league essentially buys a home game from the host team. The NHL writes a check for the revenue from one home game (and rounds up, of course), then controls the event.
The Wings could tell the NHL: ”Detroit or nowhere.” But that would be an empty threat. The organization badly wants to participate in the Winter Classic again, and not just as a road team. Playing in Ann Arbor might not be the owner’s first choice, but it is better than no Classic at all.
This should all sort itself out soon. If the league is smart, it will make an announcement right before the Jan. 29 All-Star Game in Ottawa, to maximize media exposure and get the hype machine started. The Red Wings like to say Detroit is Hockeytown. Don’t be shocked if, next holiday season, Michigan becomes Hockeystate.
Part III: About the All-Star Game: As noted on Thursday, this time the league allowed Nicklas Lidstrom to spend a weekend with his family without penalizing him, meaning that Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard will be the Wings’ representatives in Ottawa. That’s fine and dandy by Ken Holland and Mike Babcock, who raved about Howard’s maturation into an elite netminder…
“I’m thrilled for Jimmy, he’s deserving,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He’s played as well as any goalie in the league, certainly the Western Conference. He’s been a workhorse, had a tremendous first half.”
“With the game being in Ottawa, close to his hometown, it’s even more gratifying,” Holland said. “It’ll be a great opportunity for his friends and family to see him.”
“I’m happy for our scouts,” Holland said. “We let him play three seasons of college hockey, let him spend four years in the AHL, when he probably could have been called up after three years, but we decided to give him one more year. Jimmy has been patient, continued to work on his craft, his conditioning,” Holland continued. “He’s been a great story. He’s really coming into the prime of his career.”
“Howie has become an upper-echelon player on our team, he’s been very consistent,” Babcock said. “Good players aren’t once in awhile they’re every night and that’s what we expect from him. We’ve grown accustomed to that’s what we’re going to get. It’s real positive for the Red Wings.”
Midway through last season the Wings rewarded him with a two-year deal.
“I like what he did, he wanted to stay here,” Babcock said. “When he signed his last contract he kind of made a commitment to us, we didn’t sign him for 100 years he said he wanted to earn his money. I like that. He’s taken himself in progressions here,” Babcock added. “He’s given us good value in net. He’s been a competitor, worked real hard off the ice and become mentally tough and an important part of our team.”
And Howard’s just tickled pink about going to the game, as he told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“It’s an honor,” Howard said of being named to the All-Star Game.
Howard, who had 25 saves in the Wings’ 3-2 shootout victory over the Coyotes Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena, grew up in Ogdensburg, N.Y., about two hours from Ottawa, and played in many youth tournaments in the area. Howard expects many family and friends to attend the event, and said he watched the All-Star Game religiously when he was a youngster.
“Most definitely I watched it as a kid,” Howard said. “When you’re a little guy, it’s a lot of fun to watch and see all the names in hockey. I definitely enjoyed it, watching the skills competition.”
Howard’s favorite player was former Rangers goalie Mike Richter. Howard isn’t bothered by the fact the game is more of a showcase for the skaters than the goaltenders.
“It’s all for fun,” Howard said. “You go out there and meet guys from other teams, catch up with guys you know.”
“With Pavel and Jimmy, we are well presented,” general manager Ken Holland said.
MLive’s Ansar Khan...
Said Howard: “I’m going to really cherish going to Ottawa and representing this organization.”
Goalies often are hung out to dry in the All-Star game because of a lack of defensive play, but Howard said he’s going to having fun and soak up the atmosphere.
“You go out there, get to meet guys from other teams, catch up with old friends,” Howard said. “Just basically have a good time and take it all in. I definitely enjoyed it when I was growing up, watching the skills competition and all that.”
Howard said his confidence has grown tremendously.
“I know I’m capable of going out there and making saves for the guys when I need to,” Howard said. “Just being out there every single day, continuing to work hard, continuing to win. I think that’s why I’ve been able to make strides this year.”
He credited his teammates.
“A goalie’s only as good as the team in front of him,” Howard said. “I’m very lucky to be able to play behind these guys, play behind a great team, I think that’s why I’ve been able to progress at my own rate.”
And, after last night’s game, both Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji:
“A goalie’s only as good as the team in front of him,” Howard said. “I’m very lucky to be able to play behind these guys, play behind a great team, I think that’s why I’ve been able to progress at my own rate and coming into this season I felt like I could take more on my plate and be more of a game-changer for the guys.”
Game-changer, indeed. Howard ranks first among goaltenders with 25 victories, sixth in goals-against average at 2.04 and ninth in save percentage at .924. While Howard is quick to credit his teammates, they are just as quick to give him the credit.
“It’s great. For Howard, it’s very well-deserved,” Zetterberg said of the All-Star honor. “He’s been playing unbelievable for us and a big factor that we are where we are in the standings because he’s really winning games for us.”
“It’s great for him,” Ian White said. “It’s nice to see people rewarded for their hard work. He’s definitely earned it. Played fantastic, been one of the best goalies from the start of the season so great for him.”
Howard was not even on the All-Star ballot but Red Wings fans did not let that stop them from writing him in.
“I gotta say thank you to all the fans,” Howard said. “Not only in Detroit, but everyone back home in Ogdensburg (NY) who rallied around me and did their voting. I really appreciate it.”
And the Detroit Free Press’s George Sipple:
“I gotta say thank you to all the fans,” Howard said. “Not only in Detroit but everyone back home in Ogdensburg (N.Y.) rallied around me and did their voting. I really appreciate it.”
Although goalies tend to give up a lot of goals in the All-Star Games, Howard said he’ll enjoy the experience.
“It’s all for fun, it’s basically what it is,” he said. “You get to go out there and meet guys from other teams and catch up with old friends that you know. Just basically have a good time and take it all in.”
Howard said he watched plenty of the games as a kid.
When you’re a little guy it’s a lot of fun to watch,” he said. “You get to see all the names in hockey. I definitely enjoyed it when I was growing up.”
Again, Nicklas Lidstrom got the weekend off because he wanted it off, as the Free Press’s George Sipple noted as of the morning skate:
“Let’s be honest, unless he wants the weekend off he’s not getting the weekend off,” Babcock said. “I think when you’ve won seven Norris trophies and been in the league as long as him, if you need the weekend off I think you probably get it.”
Wings general manager Ken Holland agreed.
“Obviously, Jimmy Howard has probably played as well as any goalie in the NHL and he’s deserving,” Holland said. “We’ve got a lot of other candidates and they ultimately chose Datsyuk. I talked to Lidstrom in the last month and Nick told me that although he would be honored to go, his preference would be to have a four-day breather with his family.”
Lidstrom, 41, ranks 14th among NHL defensemen in scoring with 23 points in 43 games. Last season, Lidstrom was an All-Star captain and led Team Lidstrom to an 11-10 win over Team Staal at Raleigh, N.C. It was Lidstrom’s 11th All-Star Game. Howard has been selected for the first time.
“We’ve watched him develop from a second-round pick and a good college goaltender into a premier goaltender in the National Hockey League,” Holland said. “He’s been a big part of our early-season success, to be competing with the teams near the top of the pack in the Western Conference, and for that matter the entire league.”
Part IV: Red Wings notebooks: Jan Mursak played just fine in his return from an ankle injury suffered in October, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted...
Jan Mursak was recalled from minor league affiliate Grand Rapids and played 10:34 against the Coyotes. Mursak fractured his left ankle during the exhibition season and was sent to Grand Rapids last month for a two-week stay.
Mursak played six games in Grand Rapids with one assist.
And Mursak told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness that his conditioning stint helped big time...
“I was playing a lot there, getting back in hockey shape,” Mursak said. “I was just a little bit out of timing, deciding on when to pass or when to shoot. I had a lot of chances, but just didn’t produce much. When the chances are there I know sooner or later they’ll start going in.”
Mursak said he played nearly 20 minutes a game with the Griffins.
“The ankle feels good, no pain,” Mursak said. “Right after games (the ankle) isn’t really sore, the only thing I still have problems with is when I go on the plane. When we have a long plane ride it really swells up so we have to tape it before so that doesn’t happen. Other than that the ankle is feeling good like it should.”
but Todd Bertuzzi’s “lower-body injury” included, Babcock told the Free Press’s George Sipple that Mursak’s going to have to earn his keep all over again:
“Any time you’re a kid and you’ve been out a long time it’s always tough,” Babcock said before the game against the Coyotes. “But in saying that, he was a very bright spot in training camp. We thought he was going to be a player for us, a very important player for us. It hasn’t gone the way he wanted. We hope to get him rolling.”
Does he have to earn Babcock’s trust again?
“Well, I don’t know if it’s earn your trust,” Babcock said. “He’s gotta earn his own trust. As long as they trust themselves I trust them.”
Part V: Also of Red Wings-related note: If you missed it, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun dished some Wings-related rumors on Thursday evening:
• The New York Rangers, we’re hearing, are looking for either a top-six forward who can put the puck in the net and/or a power-play defenseman with a good shot. Like most other contenders, including the likes of Philadelphia and Detroit, the Rangers are keeping a close eye on Nashville and what the Predators are going to do with either Suter (UFA July 1) or Shea Weber (RFA July 1). Needless to say, the Rangers would covet either one of those studs on defense.
• The Detroit Red Wings have more cap space than they’ve ever had since this system was put in place in 2005. They’ll be looking to add, but not at all costs.
“We got cap space, I’m going to work the phones like I always do over the next six to seven weeks,” Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com Thursday. “If there’s a fit, we’ll do something, but if there isn’t, I don’t feel the urge to do something for the sake of doing something. I like our team.”
As I reported earlier this season, I believe the Wings have some interest in Oilers winger Ales Hemsky, who is UFA July 1. I also believe an upgrade on backup goalie Ty Conklin would be a target.
• And finally, for now, anyway, I’m sorry about this being so late that it’s early. I’m having a typical Friday the 13th…a complete wrap-up got eaten by a browser crash. I had to rewrite the whole damn thing. Needless to say I might be a little late to rise given that I started at 2:00 and it’s now 6:30…
Update: Miscellany, no sleep and grumpy as hell version:
• Nice story by the Observer and Eccentric’s Eric Smith about the Red Wings Alumni versus Detroit Moose game;
• The Free Press’s tongue-in-cheek alternate sites for the Winter Classic list went over my head;
• In case you didn’t already know, the Vancouver Province’s Tony Gallagher wants you to know that Scotty Bowman is smart;
• The Sporting News’s Jesse Spector’s suggestion that the NHL tell its fans, “We would have loved to pick Selanne and Lidstrom but we respected their decision to get some rest?” Great idea.
• Bill Daly threatening to take the NHLPA to arbitration about realignment, via Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika? Scary.
• Insistence by the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk that those who labeled Dion Phaneuf overratd are jealous of being the Captain Of The Best Team In The Universe Ever?
Go [expletive] a goat.
• The Vancouver Sun’s Cam Cole mocking fans for daring to feel snubbed if their favorite player was left off the All-Star Game’s roster? Dude, pay to go to games and cheer for teams instead of “stories,” and know how lucky Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy were to be calling the Islanders cheap for charging the press $1 for a little tiny bottle of water compared to what the fans pay (though their gripes are understandable, Charles Wang), and then tell me how you’re gonna feel if you pay money to cheer for players and those players aren’t, in your opinion, properly recognized for their efforts.
I have no problem with fans’ complaints. It’s the part of passion you have to deal with when you’ve got a finite roster. Let it be, man, and I’m with Jimmy Howard—the people who bitch and moan about having to go cover the All-Star Game and be paid for it and then tell you that you’re not allowed to enjoy a highly-skilled exhibition game that’s played for the sake of fun and for the sake of what is a sponsor-fest that will never go away? Fine, pick some fans to send to Ottawa and run the media gauntlet instead. And pay them for it. And quit your whining;
• Peter Ruicci’s suggestion that the Soo Greyhounds have to hold on until Ryan Sproul returns tells you how much Ryan Sproul m
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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.