The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/01/12 at 03:09 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings’ 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday evening was anything but an aesthetically pleasing affair.
Between a little bit of rust on both sides thanks to the All-Star break, some particularly nasty hockey from Calgary and a still-lingering lack of road confidence, the Wings really had to grind it out and not get ground down during a second period in which the Flames out-shot Detroit 11-4, but Jimmy Howard stood just as tall as his teammates and the Wings scored three goals off the rush to take it to the feisty Flames and remain atop the Western Conference and just ahead of the Blues, Blackhawks and Predators.
Again, it was anything but pretty. In a game which involved both rust from the teams involved and a continued reluctance to call anything but, “If he falls, it’s a call” interference and horizontal stick fouls by the referees, the Flames seemed to have an early upper hand, mashing and bashing the Wings’ players off the hop, but the Wings’ bottom two lines carried the day.
The Wings did come out at least firing the puck very regularly at a superb Miikka Kiprusoff, and off a lovely diagonal pass from Nicklas Lidstrom, Jan Mursak chugged up the right side, slid the puck up to Justin Abdelkader at the Flames’ blueline, and while Kiprusoff stopped Abdeklader’s shot from the right hash mark, Cory Emmerton slithered into a “dead zone” and ripped the rebound past Kiprusoff and a sea of Flames defenders surrounding him.
Right after said goal, the Wings had to kill off a penalty—the first of two calls on Todd Bertuzzi which a Wings fan might suggest involved reputation as much as anything else—but the few times that Jimmy Howard was called upon, he was strong and steady, and his defense (and Justin Abdelkader) did a fine job of blocking shots and getting in shooting and passing lanes in front of him.
Just under 16 minutes into the 1st, Tim Jackman took umbrage with a hit Mike Commodore laid upon him and dropped the gloves with Commodore, winning an even bout by bloodying Commodore slightly, and the Flames pushed very hard from there on out…
And in the second period, when Bertuzzi took his second interference penalty, Calgary found the back of the net. With Brad Stuart and Jonathan Ericsson mismatched on the PK, Olli Jokinen fired the puck down behind the net, Stuart and Ericsson’s heads turned toward the puck, and before the Wings’ PK’ers knew what happened, Alex Tanguay licked the puck out front to Mike Cammalleri, who “gave and went” to the net and flittered a bouncing puck over Jimmy Howard’s left arm.
From there through perhaps the last five minutes of the second period, the Flames poured it on, pouncing on a Wings team that was just a little too lackadaisical in terms of clearing the puck out of their zone, getting it through the neutral zone cleanly or not peeling off at the blueline with Flames players attacking them, and instead, Calgary ended up firing 11 shots on Howard while holding the Wings to 4 shots and fewer quality scoring chances.
The Wings rallied late in the 2nd, but even after their power play 5-and-a-half minutes fizzled, they seemed already content to just kill off the period and regroup for the third, especially given that crappy ice and what became a pattern in sticks being hacked out of Wings players’ hands yielded lots of mucking, grinding and players steering each other into the side boards or end boards and kicking or knocking pucks out of danger.
Throughout the game, the Flames did exhibit a Blues-like tendency to be more than happy to dish out physical punishment, but were unwilling to take the same from Detroit, but the Wings weren’t able to capitalize on that, nor were the officials willing do anything less than let ‘em play.
In the third period, the Wings stirred, slowly but surely. They started skating more efficiently through the neutral zone, their defenders moved the puck with more urgency and the forwards headed toward the net, firing pucks on Kiprusoff on a regular basis while battling the Flames’ defenders for loose pucks and grinding and grating upon them as well.
Halfway through the period, the team’s transition game prevailed again as Jiri Hudler came back to help Nicklas Lidstrom and Ian White block a rush by Tanguay and Jarome Iginla, and after blocking a pass toward the Wings’ high slot, he fired the puck toward Valtteri Filppula, who roared up the right side blueline (again), tossed the puck to and got it back from Hudler and fired a slick pass off the side of the net and back out to the slot, where Hudler was lurking amidst 5 Flames players (and Henrik Zetterberg wasn’t far behind Hudler, either), and #26 chipped the puck over Kiprusoff as he stared back at Filppula.
The Wings kept at it, and after Justin Abdelkader got into a tiff with Tom Kostopoulos as either Kostopoulos or Iginla were bound and determined to fight Abdelkader for having the gall to avoid being kneed by Cory Sarich(?)—and Iginla was pissy all night long—the Wings could not convert on a 4-on-3 and then 5-on-4 power play when Mark Giordano tripped Danny Cleary, hacked the stick out of his hands, hacked the stick away from Cleary and then tripped over Cleary’s stick, but after the Wings’ power play units headed back to the bench and the Miller-Helm-Cleary line hopped over the boards, Cleary grabbed his stick after yet another Flames hack and headed up ice…
Where Niklas Kronwall fired a diagonal pass to Darren Helm, who nudged the puck up to Cleary at the Flames’ right blueline (again), and as Helm handed the puck back to Cleary, he charged toward the net, deked around Sarich and chipped the puck across the crease and through Miikka Kiprusoff’s stick to Drew Miller, who chipped the puck over Kiprusoff’s blocker and into a yawning cage with 4:02 left in the 3rd.
From then on out, the Wings and Jimmy Howard had to stand very, very tall as the Flames pulled out all the stops and peppered Howard with shots, but after withstanding Iginla, Tanguay and Cammalleri’s flourishes, the Wings shut things down while Kiprusoff was out of the net, bearing down and winning faceoffs and battles for the puck to all but turn the last 30 seconds of the game into, “Okay, Flames, you want the puck? Chase it out of your own end.”
Again, it was anything but pretty, and it would have been nice to see the Wings’ top two lines offer more consistent offensive pressure as the Emmerton-Abdelkader-Mursak and Miller-Helm-Cleary lines were the Wings’ best by far (though all six defensemen played strongly)...
But hey, it’s a win on the road for a team that’s only now at .500, and after practicing tomorrow in Calgary (Wings coach Mike Babcock told Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating that he’s keeping Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk off the ice, and will have Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard play opposite Ty Conklin during practice), the Wings will have their hands full playing against a team that’s schooled them in the Canucks.
You’ve gotta take what you get and throw aesthetics to the four winds sometimes when you’re playing a desperate team on the playoff bubble, but as the title suggests in German, it was a real grind.
Oh yeah, by the way, this was the only time a Wing stole a Flames player’s stick: Blair Jones let his hook of Jan Mursak go, so Mursak went for a skate with a stick stuck in the back of his jersey:
And if you missed it, here was the Flames’ video tribute to Brad McCrimmon:
Shots 29-25 Calgary overall. The Wings out-shot Calgary 11-7 in the 1st, but were out-shot 11-4 in the 2nd and 11-10 in the 3rd period.
The Wings went 0 for 3 in 6:00 of PP time, including 1:20 of 4 on 3 time, so they’re batting somewhere in the 4-for-50 range power play-wise; the Flames went 1 for 2 in 3:25 of PP time.
Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 22 of 25 shots; Jimmy Howard stopped 28 of 29.
The 3 stars, per Sportsnet West’s Charlie Simmer, were Valtteri Filppula, Mike Cammalleri and Pavel Datsyuk.
The Wings’ goals: Emmerton (5) from Abdelkader (8) and Mursak (2);
Hudler (16) from Filppula (25);
Miller (8) from Cleary (12) and Helm (10).
Faceoffs 27-21 Detroit (the Wings won 56%);
Blocked shots 18-16 Calgary;
Missed shots 14-7 Calgary (total attempts 59-50 Calgary);
Hits 19-8 Calgary;
Giveaways 15-10 Detroit;
Takeaways 10-8 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 11-and-8 (58%); Zetterberg went 9-and-4 (69%); Helm went 3-and-4 (43%); Abdelkader went 2-and-3 (40%); Filppula went 2-and-1 (67); Cleary lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Cleary, Hudler and Zetterberg co-led the team with 3 shots; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, commodore, Stuart and Bertuzzi had 2; Lidstrom, Mursak, Emmerton, Filppula, Kronwall and Franzen had 1.
Blocked attempts: Zetterberg had 4 shot attempts blocked by Flames players; Lidstrom had 3 attempts blocked; White, Helm and Kronwall had 2 attempts blocked; Miller, Hudler, Bertuzzi, Ericsson and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; Lidstrom, White, Stuart, Emmerton and Filppula missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Commodore and Helm were credited with 2 hits; Stuart,Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Ericsson were credited with 1 in a very, very physical game.
Giveaways: Datsyuk, Ericsson, Franzen and Howard had 2 giveaways; Cleary, White, Hudler, Zetterberg, Helm, Bertuzzi and Emmerton had 1.
Takeaways: Zetterberg had 3 takeaways; Datsyuk and Filppula had 2; White, Helm and Emmerton had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Commodore blocked 3 shots; Abdelkader, White, Mursak and Kronwall blocked 2; Lidstrom, Miller, Stuart, Hudler and Filppula blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Commodore took a major penalty for fighting; Bertuzzi took 2 minors; Stuart and Abdelkader took 1 minor penalty.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +15. Lidstrom and White finished at+2; Abdelkader, Cleary, Miller, Stuart, Hudler, Mursak, Zetterberg, Helm, Emmerton, Filppula and Ericsson finished at +1; everybody else was even.
Points: Miller, Hudler and Emmerton scored goals; Abdelkader, Cleary, Mursak, Helm and Filppula had assists.
Ice time: White led the team with 24:53 played; Lidstrom played 24:49; Franzen played 21:51;
Stuart played 21:22; Datsyuk played 20:39; Kronwall played 20:20;
Zetterberg played 18:48; Ericsson played 17:27; Bertuzzi played 17:13;
Cleary played 16:16; Filppula played 15:04; Miller played 14:11;
Helm played 13:31; Hudler played 13:11; Commodore played 9:56;
Abdelkader played 8:11; Emmerton played 7:35; Mursak played 7:32.
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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.