The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/01/12 at 08:08 AM ET
Before Nicklas Lidstrom learned how to jump into the rush from Paul Coffey and how to impeccably position himself between the puck and the goal from Larry Murphy, he broke into the league 21 years ago playing alongside Brad McCrimmon, and on a night when the Calgary Flames did a fantastic job of honoring the one-time Wings player and coach’s memory, the Wings defeated the Flames 3-1 by playing a game whose substance resembled McCrimmon’s supremely gritty, sometimes downright nasty and perhaps less than aesthetically-inclined style.
The Wings didn’t receive much time to dwell upon their win; they boarded Red Bird II for an hour-long flight to Vancouver, where the Western Conference leaders (the Wings are all of three points ahead of the Predators and four ahead of the Blues and Blackhawks in the Central Division standings, and are 3 points ahead of the Canucks), where they’ll practice sans Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk on Wednesday—Wings coach Mike Babcock told Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating that he’d have goalie coach Jim Bedard substitute for one of the two All-Stars who face a mandatory day off—before tangling with the Canucks, who defeated Chicago 3-2 in overtime, in a clash of titans on Thursday. This win involved finally hitting the .500 mark on the road while keeping pace with the Wings’ high-performing rivals, and little more.
For the Flames, however, blowing an opportunity to close their distance away from a playoff spot from three points to only one stung, and as far as they were concerned, a few mistakes separated a team that out-shot its opponent and headed into the 3rd period tied 1-1 from a much-needed victory.
Flames coach Brent Sutter lamented his team’s inability to keep up with the Wings in the scoring department while speaking to the Calgary Herald’s Vicki Hall…
“It has nothing to do with effort,” Sutter said. “Our effort was there. I thought we did a lot of good things here tonight after we got our legs going after the first five minutes of the game. We skated well. We forechecked hard. We created turnovers. Our penalty killing was good. Our power-play got a goal for us. We had a lot of good things going. There was a lot of momentum in our favour going into the third period. It was a tight third period and then we had a couple breakdowns.”
For those keeping score at home, the Flames have managed just one goal in their last two games. On this night, the Flames out-shot the Red Wings 29-25.
“Hey, we shot the puck tonight,” Sutter said. “We had some pretty darn good opportunities. Hey, we didn’t capitalize. It’s not like we’re not getting opportunities. We had three or four again quality scoring chances where we missed the net. You don’t even get a rebound out of it. The puck ends up going around the boards and back out of the zone when you have a quality scoring chance. You have to find a way to hit the net.”
The Flames’ players continued on the same tack while speaking to the Calgary Herald’s Scott Cruickshank...
“We’re not worried with the guys we have in here,” said Alex Tanguay after Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in National Hockey League action at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “We’re going to find ways to win games. At this point of the year, it’s not whether we win 7-6 or 1-0 — we’ll take whatever the outcome will be. It’s about scoring one more time than the opposition. (Tuesday), it certainly would have been nice to score another one.”
“It’s pretty fresh to think about it right now — we’ll probably address that (today),” said [Mike] Cammalleri, whose club did hold the shot edge, 29-25. “The obvious one you’d say is create more chances. But if you look at the game, when it’s 1-1 in the third, I know we’re outshooting them . . . you feel like you like (you have) chances to win. I don’t really care if we have to score half a goal to win, as long as we win the game.”
Not that the Flames were bad Tuesday. In fact, they defended rather well. But a team as wily as the Wings knows how to finish, even their third- and fourth-liners. So if they get, say, three great chances . . . .
• A first-period rebound stab by Cory Emmerton off Justin Abdelkader’s shot;
• A third-period pass-and-shot sequence, started by Valtteri Filppula, finished by Jiri Hudler;
• A late-game goalmouth bang-bang play, initiated by Daniel Cleary, with Drew Miller as his target . . . well, that would certainly be enough.
“They obviously got (three) chances and scored,” said Jay Bouwmeester. “You just can’t have those breakdowns . . . especially against a team like that. They’re going to capitalize.”
“It’s certainly frustrating,” said Tanguay. “I felt we played a very solid game. We had our chances. It was a very tight game. If you look at the chances at the end of the game, I don’t think they had more chances — or not very many more — than we did.”
And they reiterated their points of emphasis to the Calgary Sun’s Ian Busby, who notes that the Flames didn’t get as lucky as the Wings did when Justin Abdelkader was bowled over when blocking a shot with his right calf, but returned—the Flames lost Lee Stempniak to a “lower-body injury” early in the game. Busby teed up the game-winning goal scenario as follows…
Valtteri Filppula was speeding through the neutral zone when Flames defenceman Chris Butler stumbled and fell at the blueline. Filppula went wide and backhanded a shot that hit the side of the net and bounced out to the slot, where Jiri Hudler roofed it for a 2-1 Wings lead.
“It’s frustrating,” Flames forward Alex Tanguay said. “Sometimes, there are breakdowns and sometimes there are mental mistakes. “We were all in position and it bounced to him in front. We played a really solid game and we had some chances. We felt we should have been able to get a couple more powerplays. There were some interference calls there to be made.”
“A habit we’re going to have to break, playing a pretty solid game for the most part and not being able to finish the deal,” winger Michael Cammalleri said. “A couple of breakdowns late are really costing us.”
The Flames were looking for more scoring from their latest big-name acquisition and Cammalleri delivered in the second period. After a Tanguay point shot was knocked down by a blueliner at the top of the crease, Cammalleri pulled the puck down and managed to get a shot off that Jimmy Howard saved. However, Howard couldn’t get the trapper on the puck quick enough as Cammalleri batted home the rebound. The powerplay goal, which tied it 1-1, was Cammalleri’s second tally since coming back to the team Jan. 12 from the Canadiens.
But one goal doesn’t cut it and the home team didn’t have many quality scoring chances, at least not enough to contend with a team that plays keep-away as well as the Wings.
“If you look at the game, when it’s 1-1 in the third period, I know we were outshooting them, I don’t know if we were out-chancing them,” Cammalleri said. “If you’re still outshooting and out-chancing your opponent, you still like your chances to win. I don’t care if we score half a goal to win, as long as we win the game.”
You’ll have to excuse me for snickering a bit regarding at least one line of the Calgary Sun’s Randy Sportak’s notebook…
So, no Tomas Holmstrom because his creaky knees were swollen due to injections. That meant Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff didn’t have Holmstrom “accidentally” falling on him the usual five or six times ... Props to Wings forward Justin Abdelkader for eventually getting up after being nailed in the foot by an Iginla blast. Abdelkader later tried to block another Iginla shot .
How’s that for a change? Flames Tim Jackman gives blood like no one in memory, but it’s Detroit’s Mike Commodore leaking from the face after a first-period fight ... Another game, another Flames player injured. Lee Stempniak left in the first period due to a “lower-body” injury ... Not often you see a stick, broken at that, caught in a player’s sweater, let alone that player skate from one end of the ice and almost back without noticing as was the case for Wings forward Jan Mursak ... The Flames had best learn how to close out games against good teams when they’re tied in the third period.
Kiprusoff may or may not happen to hack the hell out of Holmstrom during their epic battles, and as a partisan Red Wings fan, I also find it utterly bizarre that the more “physical” a team’s defensive corps tends to be, the more regularly they tend to try to clear Holmstrom from the crease by shoving him into their goaltender, but I’m also a readily avowed admirer of Holmstrom’s difficult work. I know that 29 other teams’ fans hate him.
The Calgary Herald’s Vicki Hall breaks the game down as follows in her “Game Story”...
Three Stars: 1. Detroit G Jimmy Howard: Looks every bit the all-star in his first game back from the Ottawa extravaganza. Stops 28 Calgary shots. A huge part of Detroit’s quest for the Stanley Cup.
2. Detroit LW Justin Abedelkader: One of the best fourth-liners around. Assists on the first Red Wings goal. Noticeable every time he touches the ice.
3. Calgary G Miikka Kiprusoff: Goaltending coach Clint Malarchuk is right; we do overlook the fabulous Finn too often in Calgary. Commits outright robbery on Danny Cleary. Turns away 22 shots to give his team a chance.
Why the Flames Lost: Because one goal isn’t enough on most nights to secure two points. Offence is at a premium, and the Flames badly need to create some more if they want to make the playoffs.
Because they failed to play mistake-free hockey, which is what it is going to take if they can’t score.
Because Jimmy Howard played like the all-star he is.
And CalgaryFlames.com’s Torrie Peterson’s “Five Takeaways” include these observations:
COMING UP DRY IN THE FIRST: The Flames put eight shots on Jimmy Howard in the opening twenty minutes but the netminder stood tall and didn’t allow a goal in the first period. The Wings defence also played a very steady game in the first period. They disrupted cycles, cut off shooting lanes and generally made life painful for the Flames. Detroit scored on goal in the stanza. Cory Emmerton gobbled up a Justin Abdelkader rebound and threw it into the back of the net at 5:57.
STEMPNIAK GOES DOWN: Lee Stempniak suffered a lower body injury in the first period which may cause the Flames to summon a player from Abbotsford this week. He got tied up for former Flame Brad Stuart near the end of the stanza. He did not return, only playing 4:42 in total.
POWER PLAY PICKS UP AT HOME: The Flames power play at home was woeful in the early stages of the season but it has been drastically better throughout the month of January and they managed to notch the equalizer with the man advantage in the second period. Howard couldn’t corral Alex Tanguay’s shot from the slot and Mike Cammalleri battled away in the blue paint until he was able to backhand the puck into the net for his 11th goal of the campaign.
DETROIT FORGES AHEAD IN THE THIRD: The Flames were unable to hold off the surging Wings in the final frame as Detroit potted two goals to earn the 3-1 victory on Tuesday night. Jiri Hudler and Drew Miller beat Miikka Kiprusoff in the third period.
We’re going to skip ahead to the Wings’ press for a moment as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan filed a quote-less recap (he also filed a later one which includes quips which will be covered over the next umpteen paragraphs) which summarizes the game’s narrative...
Emmerton put the Wings ahead 1-0 at 5:57 of the first. Justin Abdelkader put a shot on net that Kiprusoff stopped, but laid the puck to the side where Emmerton rushed in and flipped into the net for his fifth goal.
The Wings were able to kill a Todd Bertuzzi tripping penalty shortly after Emmerton’s goal, but weren’t as successful with Bertuzzi’s interference call to begin the second period. On the power play Cammalleri — recently re-acquired by the Flames — put back a backhand rebound while trolling through Howard’s crease. It was the 11th goal for the former Wolverines standout, at 1:59 of the second period.
Hudler’s goal at 11:29 of the third period broke a 1-1 tie. Valtteri Filppula made the play, skating into the zone and putting a shot to the side of Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. The puck squirted out front, where Hudler pounced on the rebound for his 16th goal, putting the rebound into an open net, Kiprusoff unable to get squared.
Miller scored his eighth goal at 15:58 in similar fashion. Danny Cleary centered the puck on a rush to Miller driving to the net, and Miller put the puck past Kiprusoff, clinching the outcome.
The Wings (34-16-1, 69 points) opened a four-game trip with a victory, while Calgary (23-22-6, 52 points) lost an opportunity to secure points and get into playoff position.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard earned his league-leading 31st victory (31-11-1).
NHL.com’s Aaron Vickers offers our transition from one locker room’s perspective to the other’s via noting that the Wings “got started on time,” as coach Mike Babcock likes to say, because they want to carve out much better road record than their 14-and-14 status as of February 1st. For the Wings, the stretch drive is about both keeping the good times rolling at home and taking the show on the road:
“It’s not really acceptable for us,” Red Wings forward Cory Emmerton said, who had a goal in the contest. “We need to improve on that, especially showing going into the playoffs we can win on the road and not just at home. It’s going to be important. This road trip is going to be a big step.”
Leaving points on the table at this stage of the game hurting Calgary’s playoff chances, currently sit in a three-way tie for 10th place in the Western Conference with the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes.
The bounces aren’t exactly going the Flames’ way, either. Valtteri Filppula broke down his off wing with the puck and banked a pass off the outside of the net and onto the stick of Jiri Hudler. The pass turned around Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, allowing Hudler to poke it into the net with 8:31 remaining in the game.
“The puck just ended up on my stick, I got lucky again,” Hudler said. “I wasn’t sure at first when I got it in the net. I wasn’t sure if he got it, but then I saw it and I was happy.”
Detroit opened the scoring in the first period on just their second shot of the game. Kiprusoff kicked out Justin Abdelkader’s initial drive off the wing right onto the stick of Emmerton, who buried it into the net 5:57 into the first period.
“Abby shot it and it just happened to land on my stick so it was a nice little gift coming off the All-Star break,” Emmerton said.
Hudler continued to defer credit to his teammate while speaking to the Canadian Press:
“Fil was flying. Their guy fell down along the boards, and you’re not going to catch Fil with his speed,” Hudler said. “I went to the middle, and just like all my coaches always taught me, make sure you’ve got your stick on the ice. I did and it just hit me.”
Drew Miller made it a two-goal cushion four minutes later, converting a pretty goal mouth pass from Danny Cleary. Cory Emmerton also scored for Detroit (34-16-1).
Jimmy Howard made 28 saves for his NHL-leading 31st victory. It was a solid bounce-back outing for Howard, who was pulled after the first period in his last game before the All-Star break after surrendering four goals to Montreal on 12 shots.
“You saw him, just calm and strong in there,” Hudler said. “He was unbelievable. Good for him. He deserves all the respect he’s getting.”
As the CP’s recap notes, the Wings were out-shot 11-4 in the 2nd period and 11-10 in the 3rd period, which is rare, but Howard stood tall, and when the Flames tried to rally late in the 3rd period, he was particularly strong in the crease.
The Wings’ “bottom six” forwards did tend to carry the mail, Tomas Holmstrom’s absence included, but Emmerton suggested that he, Justin Abelkader and Jan Mursak (as well as the Miller-Helm-Cleary line) simply played…Well, simply:
“We did a really good job just skating, getting pucks in, getting pucks out,” Emmerton said. “That’s the biggest thing for us, as a fourth line, is play simple, contribute when you can, but just wear on the other team, play physical and skate them. We did a pretty good job.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock dug his team’s grinding effort, as he told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“I thought we started good and I thought we finished good,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I didn’t think we were very good in the second period, but we were physical early and had good opportunity. I thought we made some real good plays in the third period.”
Cory Emmerton scored in the first period off a setup by Justin Abdelkader and Jan Mursak, a line put together because Tomas Holmstrom missed the game with swollen knees. Jiri Hudler converted a nice play by Valtteri Filppula in the third period, and Drew Miller redirected a pretty pass from Danny Cleary to secure a good start to a four-game trip.
“Good for them and good for us,” Babcock said. “I thought Emmerton, Abdelkader and Mursak were a real good line for us, made a real nice play on the entry there, and so did Cleary, (Darren) Helm and Miller for two big goals from your third and fourth lines to win you a game. It’s a good road win for us. I just thought we stuck with it.”
Babcock was battling a cold, one he said set in as soon as he got to Montreal last week. Detroit’s players—minus captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who missed the Habs game because of flu—looked worse last Wednesday, coughing up an anemic effort to lose, 7-2. Afterwards much was said about hitting the reset button; a week later, the Wings showed they meant it.
“It was good to have the break and kind of just forget about that last game, because it wasn’t pretty,” Brad Stuart said. “We did a good job of just regrouping. That’s the kind of win you need to get going down the stretch. Those are important to win, those tight games. It was a good sign for us.”
Emmerton was quite worried when Abdelkader left after blocking a hard shot and trying to get in the way of at least two more…
“I was like, there goes my centerman,” Emmerton said. “We were playing well, so I was like, argh. I was happy to see him back. I thought we’ve played pretty well together so far, so I was a little uneasy there when he took that shot. Obviously he’s a tough guy, so I knew he’d be back.”
He did return, and the Wings took control of the game in the third period (which was fine by them):
“Tied game going into the third period, and we stayed patient,” Lidstrom said. “We were grinding it out, didn’t open ourselves up defensively, and just waited for our chances. This is the kind of win we want, especially on the road—grind it out, wait for opportunities.”
Again, prior to the game, the Wings talked about bearing down on the road, as they told MLive’s Ansar Khan....
“It’s something we’re going to have to fix,” forward Todd Bertuzzi said before the game. “In the playoffs, the only way you’re going to win is by making a dent on the road. I think sometimes we get away from what we did at home to be successful, that’s play outstanding defense, limit our shots. It seems when we come on the road, they get anywhere from 25 (shots) up. So, that’s one thing we got to eliminate.”
Said Howard: “We’re coming upon the homestretch, we got to find a way to fix our game on the road. We’ve been very dominant at home, but to go far in the playoffs we got to play a lot better on the road, keep it more tight-checking and not as loose as we have been.”
Afterward, Khan described the game as follows...
The Detroit Red Wings anticipated being a little rusty on Tuesday, following a few days of rest and relaxation during the All-Star break, coupled with a long flight to Western Canada. They knew they would need to be patient, not open themselves up defensively, and grind out a win.
They love it when a plan comes together.
An A-Team reference!
And the Wings?
“(The Flames) had some chances and Howie was good, but I thought both teams played well defensively, well-organized,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It was hard to get through there and get on the inside.”
The Red Wings led 1-0 after the first period on Emmerton’s fifth goal of the season at 5:57. He skated hard to the net and knocked in the rebound of a shot by Justin Abdelkader.
“All around kind of play,” Emmerton said. “Great breakout, Jan (Mursak) dished it out and drove the middle, which caused the whole thing. Abby shot it and it landed right on my stick. It was a nice, little gift coming off the All-Star break.” He said of his line: “I thought we did a real good job of just skating and getting pucks in, getting pucks out. The biggest thing for us is to play simple and contribute when we can, just wear on the other team, play physical and outskate them.”
On a night when their top players – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Franzen, Lidstrom – were held off the score sheet, the Red Wings needed their grinders to come through.
“Good for them and good for us,” Babcock said. “It’s important, obviously, anytime you got young guys playing. I thought Emmerton, Abdelkader and Mursak were a real good line, made a real nice play on the (goal), and so did Cleary, (Darren) Helm and Miller. Two big goals from your third and fourth line won you the game.”
The Wings also feel that they’ve got more to give going forward, as Mike Commodore told DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
“You just had four days off and a lot of guys haven’t touched their gear,” Wings defenseman Mike Commodore said. “So I think that’s totally natural that pucks are going to seem like they are bouncing a little bit and passes maybe are a little bit off, not receiving them as smoothly as they would have five days ago. But it comes back quick and I thought the game got better as it went on.”
I’d prefer to give the last word to the captain here:
“Just getting off to a good start in this game and on this trip, too, playing better defensively in that first period, I thought we came out with a good push,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We tried to keep the shifts short to try and get everybody into it after a long break, and I thought we had a good first period. This is the kind of win that we want to try and get, especially on the road, grinding it out, tied going into the third period and waiting on opportunities and capitalizing on them, too.”
It wasn’t pretty, but it was gritty, and it was effective. Very fitting.
Highlights: Sportsnet posted a 3:25 highlight clip which includes a lengthy post-game analysis from Sportsnet West’s Charlie Simmer and Rob Kerr,
TSN posted a 1:31 highlight clip;
And here’s the Wings’ website’s highlight clip, which is narrated by Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy:
Post-game: Oddly enough, Niklas Kronwall spoke to The Fan 960 about the Wings’ road issues and playing alongside Brad Stuart prior to the game, and this interview was posted just before game time;
The Calgary Sun posted a 1:10 clip of post-game commentary…
And Fox Sports Detroit posted a clip of Jiri Hudler, Jimmy Howard and coach Mike Babcock’s post-game comments:
Photos: The Calgary Sun embedded a 30-image gallery in its website’s recap;
The Detroit News posted a 16-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 19-image gallery;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 7-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 24-image gallery;
Daylife’s Wings gallery posted 11 Reuters images from the game, including this gem:
NHL.com posted a 37-image gallery;
The Flames’ website posted a 37-image gallery;
And the Red Wings’ website posted a 37-image gallery.
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.
Part II: About Brad McCrimmon: The Flames wore special warm-up jerseys with the #4 Brad McCrimmon wore during his Stanley Cup-winning tenure with the Calgary Flames, a special sticker on their helmets “4 Brad” during the game, and they honored McCrimmon with his family in attendance prior to puck drop, a special video tribute to McCrimmon included...
And the Flames’ website made sure to post a different version of the clip, which included McCrimmon’s family’s reactions:
This “sights and sounds” clip is McCrimmon-heavy as well:
Both the Red Wings and Flames shared their memories of McCrimmon with DetroitredWings.com’s Bill Roose...
“He loved to be around the guys,” Wings defenseman Brad Stuart said. “I heard a million stories from him, all made me laugh. He loved to hang out, you could tell he missed playing a lot, missed being around the boys.”
McCrimmon, 52, is survived by his wife, Maureen, daughter, Carlin and son, Liam, who live in suburban Detroit, and were at the Scotiabank Saddledome for Tuesday’s “Celebration of Life” tribute that ended with a standing ovation.
“He was fun to be around. He had a way of keeping it light,” Stuart said. “You never felt like he was coming down on you but you knew when you needed to pick it up. He was a guy you wanted to play for and give everything you had for a guy like that.’‘
McCrimmon was a Flames’ assistant when a young Jarome Iginla arrived in Calgary needing some direction.
“He was really good with the young guys,” Iginla said. “When he played he was a little bit ahead of his time as far as fitness and importance of being in shape. At least he was pushing us when we were younger, to take that side of it seriously, the work side. But he also had a great balance between having fun and making sure it was still fun coming to the rink.”
As a rookie in 1991, Wings’ Nicklas Lidstrom had the pleasure of working closely with McCrimmon, who were partners and roommates on the road back then.
“Behind the bench, whether it’s in the heat of the moment he’ll say something funny or he’ll keep the defensive corps loose all the time,” Lidstrom said. “He’s still on pace, knowing who’s up all the time, crack a joke here and there. It’s a great gesture from the Flames to honor him.’‘
As well as MLive’s Ansar Khan...
“Beast (McCrimmon) was a huge part of a Stanley Cup win here in Calgary,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He was a player well known out west (in Canada) and was a good coach who built relationships. He had a great relationship with his father, his brother, his son, and that’s how we think of him. We think of him as a man who unfortunately wasn’t around to see his kids grow up.”
McCrimmon’s son, Liam, was on the ice with the Red Wings today when they started their morning skate and at the end, practicing faceoffs. McCrimmon’s wife, daughter, brother and parents are scheduled to attend the ceremony as well.
“Anytime we see Rusty’s family or Beast’s family … you know how blessed you are, and things can happen,’’ Babcock said. “That’s why you live every day to the fullest and make sure you hug your kids every day and make sure you’re on good terms with people because you never know what can happen.”
Said Flames coach Brent Sutter: “It’s a great tribute we’re doing here tonight. He’s obviously missed a lot. Brad was a man that was always willing to help, always wanted to know how everyone was doing. He was a fun guy to be around. Good humor, exciting guy. Sad loss.’‘
And the Calgary Sun’s Randy Sportak...
“I heard a million stories from him, and all of them made me laugh,” said Wings defenceman Brad Stuart. “You could tell he missed playing because he loved to be around the boys. I think that drove him to coach.”
The Flames acquired McCrimmon prior to the 1987-88 season and he spent three seasons in Calgary, his final as team captain. After retiring in 1997, he became an assistant coach, first with the New York Islanders before joining the Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and finally Detroit. He left to be a head coach in the KHL. He may be gone, but McCrimmon left a legacy.
“He always loved to walk around with no shirt. He was a pretty hairy guy and he would just throw a skimpy towel on and walk from the shower (to the coaches offices),” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. “Guys would give it to him, but he loved it and would do it more. He was a character.”
Lidstrom, the six-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defenceman, had McCrimmon as a playing partner his first season — 1991-92 — and to this day relishes how McCrimmon and his wife, Maureen, took care of him and his now-wife, Annika.
“He and Maureen took care of us off the ice and he took care of me on the ice,” Lidstrom said.
But the Calgary Herald’s George Johnson took note of the fact that McCrimmon’s brother Kelly, who coaches the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, and McCrimmon’s parents were in attendance on Monday…
The McCrimmon family, united, gathered again before the Flames-Detroit Red Wings clash at the Scotiabank Saddledome to celebrate a life and a career capped by a Stanley Cup celebration here in 1989. Kelly. The boys’ parents. Brad’s wife Maureen and their two children.
“When I think of Brad,’’ said his brother, “I think of growing up on the farm together and spending as much time together as we did, no matter what the activity. Working or out on the ice. Always together. The chance to play together in Brandon, his last year of junior and my first, was very special. As I said in the eulogy in Detroit, I could always tell how much respect people in the hockey industry had for Brad by the way they treated me.’’
“I can’t say enough about how first-class the tribute was and how much it meant to our family,’’ said Kelly. “We’re very grateful. And yet you know heading in that there’s going to be some sadness, too. I find that’s how it is with a lot of memories you have. In these situations, you’re so proud, but there’s a reality, too. You can’t overlook what’s happened. The finality of it.’’
And perhaps because Johnson and the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis weren’t around the Mccrimmons at the time of the tragedy, and weren’t at Joe Louis Arena all of a month after McCrimmon was honored in a much quieter ceremony—which was very appropriate given the closeness of his passing and funeral—they were able to check in with the family a little under five months later (I think the Wings’ press corps gives the family a wider berth as they, well, you’ll find out in a minute)...
“I think Maureen has done a great job with the kids. I’m sure they have their rough patches, but I really admire how well they’ve been able to adjust. And my parents are very fortunate to be able to rely on a huge network of friends for support. That’s so important. When it all happened, I called them to tell them, and as you’re doing it you just never wish that a parent has to bury a child. I’ve talked to people who’ve lost loved ones well before their time . . . I guess it must get easier, to some extent. Because you’ve had more time. You’ve gone through all those first times without him — birthdays, Christmas . . .’’
The images up on the JumboTron on Tuesday night were of a highly influential defenceman (McCrimmon has never really received his due for the impact he had on that corps, on that team) and a man of quaintly old-fashioned values, in the very best sense of the term.
“Probably like a lot of younger brothers,’’ Kelly McCrimmon said softly, “I always thought my big brother was invincible. You ask yourself what Brad would want — well, he’d want us to move forward with our lives and be strong for each other. Which I think we’re doing. There are days, there are moments, though, when it’s all still pretty raw. I don’t know if that’ll ever change. But it’s one of those things in life you just have to find a way through.’’
And the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis wrote a literally frame-worthy column about 14-year-old Liam, who practiced with the Wings on Tuesday and has benefited greatly from the fact that the Wings’ organization is taking good care of the Northville-based McCrimmon family. That being said, it’s not easy to lose your dad suddenly and traumatically when you’re 14 (my dad died of a heart attack while away on a business trip when I was 14, so I can at least tell you that it’s a rough, rough go):
“Two weekends ago, I was on the ice and it just hit me that all that stuff went down,” said Liam. “I played really bad the rest of the game. When I’m alone, I struggle sort of. But I’m rarely alone because I’m usually at school with my team or after practice with my mom or sister.”
“When my dad used to work with (the Wings from 2008-11 as an assistant coach) and I didn’t have hockey or school, I’d go down to the rink with him at 6 a.m. and stay there until 3 p.m., skate and hang around and joke with the guys. It was a lot of fun. I’ve been skating with (the Wings) since sixth grade, so it’s just nice to get out there again.”
Taking faceoffs against Justin Abdelkader, passes from Lidstrom and a good ol’-fashioned ribbing from all those who made note of his Justin-Bieber-like ’do, he was in his glory.
“The players have been wonderful,” said Liam, whose father was universally loved as a coach and teammate. “(Todd) Bertuzzi and my sister (19-year-old Carlin) are really close. I’m really good pals with (video coach) Keith (McKittrick). The whole organization, the coaches, owners, GM, president. Everyone is great.”
On opening night, the Wings paid tribute to his father. Last night, the Flames wanted to do the same.
“When I went into Joe Louis, I wasn’t very emotional. I was proud to be out there,” said Liam, quick to point out his father’s mug on the Flames’ Stanley Cup photo featured a bloody nose. This time, I’m proud and happy for my dad and the Flames and the Wings. It’s nice of them to do because of the history my dad had here.”
Grandpa Byron thinks the biggest thing Liam learned from his father was how to treat people. Liam concurs, but adds two simple lessons from his Dad resonate daily:
“Try your hardest and have fun.”
The Flyers will honor McCrimmon when they retire Mark Howe’s #2 on March 6th, and if you’ll excuse me for saying so, I don’t want to hear another damn word about press chatter as to which ceremony is “better.” The Wings are doing their best to keep things low-key, and, quite frankly, we’re talking about one of 43 families that’s grieving a terrible tragedy, so I don’t give a rat’s ass about one-upsmanship.
Part III: Red Wings notebooks: As the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted, the Wings played without Tomas Holmstrom’s services for a very specific reason:
Tomas Holmstrom’s quest to play in 1,000 games hit a wall Tuesday. Holmstrom is at 995 after missing Tuesday’s game against the Flames with sore knees.
Holmstrom had an injection of Synvisc in both knees last week and had a bad reaction. He couldn’t skate Monday when the team arrived in Calgary, but was able to skate Tuesday morning and hoped he would play Thursday in Vancouver.
“It’s a big difference from yesterday,” Holmstrom said. “It blows up (after getting shots) but it settles down. (The pain) started to bother me before the break. This was the only window (in the schedule), we had four or five days off (during the break).”
Holmstrom, 39, has played in 43 games and has 18 points (eight goals). Seven of his eight goals have been on the power play.
I looked up Synvisc on both their official website and elsewhere, and it’s way more than a medication for people who have arthritis in their knees: it’s actually a form of synovial fluid, a goopy substance that lubricates joints and helps keep cartilage from grinding down on joints. It’s the stuff that you hear cracking when gas escapes from the fluid when you pop your your back, knees, shoulders, neck or fingers (I’ve been typing for a long time, so I’m a finger-cracker), and when you lose it, you get the kind of bone-on-bone grinding that wrecked Steve Yzerman and Brian Rafalski’s knees.
That being said, per talking with several Twitter followers who deal with knee issues, injections of Synvisc can’t alleviate pain if you’re missing ligaments like Yzerman (his PCL, the ligament which separates the femur and tibia, disintegrated, and as we all know, his ACL and MCL were messes) or Rafalski (he tore his ACL as a youngster), but if your knees are at least functional, it helps keep you going. Holmstrom has stated that he expects to have to undergo knee replacement surgery when his career is over, but these kinds of injectinos, which one can receive every 6 months, could very well extend his playing days by a few years as it’s his knees that are Holmstrom’s biggest problem areas, wearing braces on both included.
The Free Press’s Helene St. James reported that Holmstrom skated for a full hour on Tuesday, so the Wings’ medical staff held him out of the game for very understandably precautionary reasons.
• Shifting gears in a big way, Cory Emmerton offered an intriguing comment to Calgary Herald’s Vicki Hall regarding the team’s spotty road record…
“I don’t know what it is,” Emmerton said. “We prepare the same way. It’s one of those things that’s kind of hard to wrap your head around. We prepare the same way, but for some reason we come out and are kind of tentative on the road. You have all the confidence at home. You’re world-beaters. And then on the road, you’re just trying to muster one out here. It’s tough to explain. Obviously, if we knew what it was, we would fix it.”
The win in Calgary is a definite step in the right direction with a big game looming Thursday in Vancouver.
“It is nice to win a lot of your home games,” Commodore said. “It is nice to have a lot of confidence at home. But if we want to get where we want to be . . .”
Commodore celebrated his return to Calgary by dropping the gloves with Tim Jackman and grinning through the whole ordeal. The Detroit defenceman was bleeding profusely as he skated off the ice.
“Just a couple stitches,” he said. “Not bad. I’m not getting any better looking as the years go by. I was smiling because I could hardly breathe. I was just trying to catch him with one. It was all I had in me tonight.”
And as Hall noted, Commodore’s taking better care of himself physically these days…
An older, wiser Mike Commodore stayed home in Detroit last week to rest the body for what he hopes is a marathon playoff run with the league-leading Red Wings. No all-night parties in Las Vegas. No suntanning (or burning) his pale skin on the beaches of South Beach. No whirlwind getaways to Maui.
“I actually tried to take care of myself this all-star break,” said the 32-year-old carrot-topped defenceman. “But to be honest with you, I felt terrible. I don’t think it makes much of a difference. As the game went on, it got better and better.”
And as Commodore’s played more and more regularly, he’s begun to make a case for taking the 6th defenseman’s spot back from Jakub Kindl. Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Free Press’s Helene St. James that he liked Commodore’s moxie in fighting Jackman, and he’s hoping that either Commodore or Kindl to win their spot in the lineup for the balance of the season:
“Any time a guy steps up for his teammates, you really appreciate that, so that’s a positive thing,” Babcock said. “We’re just looking for someone to grab that job and hang on to it. You don’t want to be in or out on a nightly basis.”
Commodore and Kindl have different assets. Commodore was brought in last summer because Babcock wanted a big, crease-clearing type; Kindl is more in the puck-moving mold the Wings so love to have on their back end. Kindl looked as if he had a hold on the job the first half of the season, playing 38 games to Commodore’s 14 entering last week’s All-Star break, but now it’s audition time for the playoffs.
Commodore admitted that in the three games he had played by Dec. 21, “I was terrible,” because he was more focused on the big picture than the details. He has been much more of a regular since he focused on getting the puck out and on being reliable in his end.
“When I get an opportunity, I want to play as well as I can, and I want to make sure I’m ready to go,” he said. “Whether that’s every night, whether that’s every other night, once a week—I just want to make sure I’m ready and do well with the things I can control.”
Babcock reiterated his point to MLive’s Ansar Khan, who noted that Commodore definitely brings a different element to the lineup:
He had been scratched in 17 consecutive games prior to that, prompting him to remark, “I had my All-Star break in November and December, and it was six weeks long.” Commodore is far from flashy, quick or mobile. But he’s big (6-foot-4, 227) and abrasive and plays a safe, simple game.
“My job is to move the puck, get the puck out,” Commodore said. “My job isn’t to try to move up ice and put points up. My job is to play well defensively and give the other guys a breather.”
That long stretch as a healthy scratch didn’t damage his confidence.
“I know when I’m on I can play fairly well,” Commodore said. “I don’t need to be putting any extra pressure on myself, then you’re gripping the stick too tight, and that’s when bad things happen. I just need to go out there and play and what happens, happens.”
Here’s my opinion regarding the pair: Kindl is by far a better skater, puck-mover and is going to be playing in the league long after Commodore retires, and he’s made some serious strides forward after bulking up last summer, but when Commodore’s in the lineup, my dear readers, you’re usually not talking about Jonathan Ericsson’s mistakes nearly as much as you usually do.
I really do believe that, down the line, anyway, Kindl is going to develop into a non-physical but extremely effective top-four defenseman, but for the moment, Commodore really stabilizes the 3rd pairing and allows Babcock to roll three defensive pairs in the 3rd period and when the Wings are tied or down by a goal, so I’m guessing that Commodore’s going to win the sixth defenseman’s job for that reason.
Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: The Calgary Sun’s Randy Sportak noted that the Flames traded Dion Phaneuf to the Maple Leafs two years ago (as of Thursday), and in a weird way, we can thank the Leafs and Flames for sending Ian White on the three-team oddysey which brought him to Detroit last summer;
• If you’re looking for a little advanced scouting of the Canucks, here’s an FYI: the Cancuks started Cory Schneider against Chicago, and the Daniel Sedin scored the game-winning goal in the Canucks’ 3-2 win over the Hawks.
The Blackhawks will play Saturday’s opponent, the Edmonton Oilers, while the Wings tangle with the Canucks tomorrow…And the Hawks lost despite the return of Patrick Sharp, who the Hawks’ press insists suffered a broken wrist due to a Jiri Hudler slash a few weeks ago;
• In the promotional department, part 1: Half a dozen of my Facebook pals have posted this, so I apologize for not crediting one person: Detroit City Sports is hosting private autograph signings with Pavel Datsyuk (February 11th), Henrik Zetterberg (February 12th), Ted Lindsay (February 25th), Niklas Kronwall (February 26th), Bobby Hull (March 3rd) and Gordie Howe (March 10th);
• In the promotional department, part 2: As a reminder, Chris Osgood, Darren McCarty, Ted Lindsay and Dino Ciccarelli will appear at 97.1 The Ticket’s Sportsfest at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi on Saturday, February 18th, with other sports stars like Cecil Fielder attending as well, and while there’s a $5 parking charge and a $10 charity donation for autographs, there’s no admission fee.
Via RedWingsFeed, Ken Kal, Ken Daniels, Jeff Riger, Dennis Fithian and Darren Helm will engage in a roundtable discussion from 12:30 to 1:30 PM, and Dino Ciccarelli will chat with Terry Foster and Matt Dery between 4:30 and 5:30 PM.
• In the promotional department, charitable version: the Grand Rapids Griffins will be wearing purple jerseys on their February 18th game against Peoria to raise funds for the Van Andel Institute, and the Griffins will be hosting a Toast of Hockeytown-style wine-tasting event on February 20th to benefit Easter Seals Michigan;
• In the promotional department, charitable version, part 2: the Troy Patch’s Jen Anesi notes that the Wings’ Alumni will play against a slate of celebrities and Troy athletes at the Troy Sports Center to benefit the Salvation Army’s Bed & Bread Club Radiothon on February 24th;
• In the promotonal department, Swedish version: If you find yourself in Brunflo, Sweden on February 8th, Aftonbladet’s Emil Karlsson reports that the KLM Line of Igor Larionov, Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makarov (and Alexei Kasatonov, but not Slava Fetisov) will take part in a game against Swedish stars like Mats Naslund, Borje Salming, Tomas Sandstrom and Bengt-Ake Gustafsson…In a 1,600-seat rink;
• If you missed it, Kris Draper spoke to John Keating during the Wings-Flames broadcast, and while the, “Special assistant to GM Ken Holland” admitted that he misses playing, he insisted that he’s in better shape than most of his former teammates, and he said that he’s enjoying learning the managerial ropes. Draper will take in tonight’s CHL Top Prospects Game in Kelowna, British Columbia alongside Holland and Jim Nill, and then he’ll head back to Edmonton to watch the Hawks-Oilers game before catching up with the Wings on Friday;
• And I believe we’ll end with a repeat for the sake of both its hilarity and the fact that Jan Mursak skating up and down the ice with T.J. Brodie’s stick stuck in his jersey rather artfully underlined the fact that, save the, “If he falls, it’s a call” and horizontal stick foul penalties, the refs aren’t calling much of anything these days—and yes, that means that the Wings are getting away with as many penalties as anyone else as the obstruction crackdown has waned:
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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.