The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/11/12 at 12:28 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings had the excuses lined up before tonight’s 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders, whose pedigree is apparently greater than that of the playoff-bound Maple Leafs and Blackhawks because they can withstand Detroit’s attempts to rally from multiple-goal deficits without blinking an eyelash.
The Fathers’ Trip was over. The Wings were coming off the emotional high of beating the Hawks 3-2 in overtime on Sunday. It was the last game of a very disjointed road trip, after no practice on Monday. Pavel Datsyuk was absent due to a groin injury and Mike Commodore was, according to Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels, “Too sore” to so much as go over the boards once. And as I suggested on Tuesday morning, the Wings very regularly tend to play down to the level which they perceive their opponents to play at, and when Detroit’s facing the third-worst team in the NHL…
The Wings sure as hell played like the league’s third-worst team—and they had to suffer the indignity of having a timeout called against them with 22 seconds left in a 5-1 game, too.
I wish I could say that the Wings can do what they’re going to suggest in stating that they can throw the game tape away and forget about this one, especially as only one of the four goals Ty Conklin gave up (Tavares’ 2-0 goal, and he stopped a remarkable 16 of the 17 shots the Wings gave up in the 1st period, too) was the only one that he had any real chance to stop.
Given the fact that the Wings have given up 3-0, 2-0 and now 4-0 leads before so much as choosing to wake up from their self-induced slumber, given the fact that the Wings continue to pass up shots and pass back pucks to the point that they’re both squandering so many scoring chances that it’s silly (before tending to give up odd-man rushes to the opponent’s advantage going the other way), given the fact that the Wings fired 24 shots on Evgeni Nabokov and another 43 attempts wide or into Islanders players, given the fact that the Wings’ power play continues to stink, that they’re still allowing teams to forecheck them onto their heels and then play like they’re wearing high heels instead of skates in terms of their dexterity during hard battles for the puck, and given the fact that this game marks the fifth time in the Wings’ past eight road games that they’ve given up 2-or-more-goal leads before realizing that somebody put Nyquil in their coffee (can I add in a complaint about the fact that Mike Babcock’s decision to pair Jakub Kindl with Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart with Jonathan Ericsson has been nothing less than a disaster in here?)...
About the only positives we can take from this game involve Ty Conklin’s strong play, the grit and effort displayed by Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm as they continue to back up to speed, I suppose it’s good news to know that Todd Bertuzzi, Jiri Hudler, Danny Cleary, Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula are at least engaged and working hard, and then there’s the fact that tonight’s game marked the third time in three games that Niklas Kronwall has cleanly “Kronwalled” an opponent by butt-checking opposing forwards while more or less remaining on his feet…
But other than that? Sure, the Wings worked very hard to rally in the third period, and at least they don’t seem physically tired, but given their tremendous inefficiency, their lack of collective self-confidence and a litany of missed assignments, bad line changes and earned bounces yielding opponent goals over the past three games, the Wings look like Jimmy Howard did in Toronto—very mentally tired, and either unable or unwilling to focus on attention to detail, win one-on-one puck battles, go to the “hard areas” in the opposition zone, move the puck through the neutral zone with speed, cut down on turnovers at the offensive blueline, out-skate or out-hustle their opponents, or simply get down to the business of working harder than the team that wants to beat you…
This team looks like it’s in a helluva mental funk, and it’s a funk that’s stunk like a skunk.
So the Wings will probably slide down to second or third place in the Central Division if Chicago and St. Louis both win, they’ll come home back down to two games below .500 on the road with 17 road games remaining over their last 40, and mostly, the Wings will return to Detroit having established something of a blueprint for teams to beat them with.
Tonight’s game looked like the Wings’ games in Vancouver and Calgary prior to Christmas, and they’ve displayed similar form over the past three, so that’s a nickel’s worth of games where the Wings have made the same mistakes, really from stem to stern, and haven’t seemed to care to learn better than to not “get started on time” on a consistent basis.
This team still seems to believe that it’s living in the days when it could give up 2-0 leads like they were going out of style and out-score their opponent the rest of the way, and that’s simply not the case anymore, perhaps to the point that these games will give Ken Holland pause about his depth, grit and scoring ability going toward the trade deadline—if anything, this game may very well cement the fact that the one thing Ken Holland doesn’t have to worry about is his goaltending as the guy who gave up 5 may have been the best Wing on the ice—and this game will certainly yield to a commensurate amount of Concern Button-pushing by Wings fans like you and me.
The bottom line here is that there are loads of excuses for the Wings to use when they speak to the media in a few minutes, trying to explain away yet another horrific start and given-away road game to the media before flying home to recover and recharge before two big games against Phoenix and Chicago, and I’m sure that the Wings will indulge in some of them.
But the bottom line here is that at this point in the season, there are no excuses for getting your ass handed to you by the New York Islanders if you’re the Detroit Red Wings. End of story, and as such, the Wings’ current personnel has to know that the only answers they’re going to find as to finally overcoming their road woes and undoing this blueprint are going to come from within the locker room—unless they continue to give Holland reason to believe otherwise, and several of the Wings’ players lose their jobs in the process.
Shots 30-24 Islanders overall. The Wings were out-shot 17-8 in the 1st period, out-shot the Islanders 10-4 in the 2nd and were out-shot 9-6 in the 3rd period.
The Islanders’ power play went 1 for 3 in 3:50 of PP time; the Wings’ power play went 0 for 3 in 4:42 of PP time.
Conklin stopped 25 of 30 shots; Nabokov stopped 23 of 24.
The 3 stars, per the Isles’ media, were Matt Moulson, Evgeni Nabokov and…Tim Wallace?
The Wings’ goal: Abdelkader (5) from Kindl (8) and Holmstrom (10).
Faceoffs 31-19 Islanders (Wings won 38%);
Blocked shots 21-10 Islanders;
Missed shots 22-12 Detroit (total attempts 66-52 Detroit, and Detroit fired 43 shots into Isles or wide);
Hits 22-10 Islanders;
Giveaways 10-8 Islanders;
Takeaways 20-13 Islanders, and that’s the third or fourth time in a row that the Wings have given their opponent around 20 opportunities to take pucks off their sticks.
Faceoffs: Filppula went 7-and-5 (58%); Zetterberg went 2-and-9 (18%); Helm went 5-and-6 (45%); Abdelkader went 2-and-4 (33%); Franzen went 1-and-4 (20%); Emmerton went 2-and-2 (50%); Cleary lost the only faceoff he took.
Shots: Zetterberg led the Wings with 4 shots; Abdelkader, White, Filppula and Holmstrom had 3; Cleary had 2; Lidstrom, Helm, Bertuzzi, Emmerton, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1.
Blocked attempts: Helm had 4 shot attempts blocked by Islanders players; Cleary, White and Zetterberg had 3 attempts blocked; Lidstrom, Stuart and Franzen had 2 attempts blocked; Emmerton and Holmstrom had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Hudler, Filppula, Kronwall and Franzen missed the net 3 times; White and Emmerton missed the net 2 times; Kindl, Lidstrom, Cleary, Miller, Stuart and Holmstrom missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Holmstrom had 3 hits; Stuart had 2; Abdelkader, White, Helm, Kronwall and Franzen were credited for 1 hit by a very partisan Islanders scoring staff.
Giveaways: Cleary, White, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Filppula, Franzen, Holmstrom and Conklin had giveaways.
Takeaways: Kindl, Lidstrom, Cleary and Filppula had 2 takeaways; Abdelkader, White, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Kronwall had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: White blocked 2 shots; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Miller, Stuart, Bertuzzi, Filppula, Kronwall and Franzen blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Stuart took a 2-minute minor and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty; Kronwall took one penalty.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -15: Franzen finished at -3; White, Hudler, Zetterberg and Kronwall finished at -2; Lidstrom, Cleary, Stuart and Helm finished at -1; Abdelkader and Miller miraculously finished at +1.
Points: Abdelkader scored a goal; Kindl and Holmstrom had assists.
Ice time: White led the team with 22:57 played; Kronwall played 21:14; Ericsson played 19:48;
Zetterberg played 19:22; Filppula played 18:50; Lidstrom played 18:37;
Stuart played 18:05; Abdelkader played 17:32; Hudler played 17:23;
Miller played 17:22; Kindl played 17:15; Bertuzzi played 17:11;
Cleary played 16:34; Franzen played 15:38; Helm played 15:17;
Holmstrom played 13:39; Emmerton played 8:08; Commodore did not take a shift.
Biggy update: Wings coach Mike Babcock told Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson that the Wings played with so little energy that he’s going to give them Wednesday off. So we probably won’t know whether Pavel Datsyuk can recover from his groin injury in time to play on Thursday until, well, Thursday, and by then the Wings will have recalled Jan Mursak.
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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.