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Red Wings-Islanders quick take: no excuses for an ‘excuse game’

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.

Individual stats:

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.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


SYF's avatar

Typically, every year the Wings go through mid-season doldrums in either December or January but this year, they seem to have had three of them already.  This team, I’m shaken to say, needs a Ted Lindsay spear in the guts and Gordie Howe elbow in the face.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 01/11/12 at 12:46 AM ET

WestWing's avatar

I’ll keep my remarks brief and try to simply match the effort level we saw on the ice tonight….......



Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 01/11/12 at 12:51 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

i just got an email from the crickets. They said you were far too energetic and engaged given the Wings’ levels of effort and intensity.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/11/12 at 12:55 AM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

Championship teams rarely play down to the level of the competition as often as the Wings do.  DET got their asses handed to them tonight.

As you say George, they appeared mentally gassed.  But that performance was just shameful.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 01/11/12 at 12:55 AM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

Here’s my Red Wings/Islanders Quick Take:  Oh my fuching God!!!1111

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 01/11/12 at 12:56 AM ET


Now George, don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel. I couldn’t watch this and I’m glad I couldn’t watch this. I can’t imagine Datsyuk and Commodore being out meant that much, but it’s sad/scary when you can say that over the years, the ISLANDERS have the Wing’s number. 5-0-1 in their last 6?! Maybe Hudler should have broken some more wrists (kidding).

Posted by Bugsy on 01/11/12 at 12:59 AM ET


tl;dr version:

There are no excuses[.] End of story.

Babcock likes to say that it’s hard enough to win when you’re playing well. It’s certainly pretty easy to lose when you’re barely playing at all.

I watched the whole game and I still find it very hard to believe how many 2-on-1 and 4-on-2 chances the Red Wings gave up when they rarely had more than 1 or 2 players in the offensive zone at a time.

I think it’s safe to say that this is the coaches’ fault. Too many games in a row they have given up big leads, before slowly improving as the game goes on, and finally having to try to fight from behind. This game basically everything that can go wrong did go wrong—from giving up way too many shots in the first period to allowing goals on nearly every shot in the second period, and repeatedly shooting either wide, high, or directly at the goalie, when he was down and out—and, at this point, it seems like par for the course. Every chance the Red Wings have had to even their road record, they played like crap and then couldn’t figure out what they did wrong (hence statements like “I don’t know why we don’t win as much on the road”—maybe too many giveaways, low faceoff and power play percentages, getting outhit, blocking fewer shots, being weaker on the puck, and standing around watching the play far too often?).

In 4 games so far this year, they have allowed 3 power play goals in 9 times shorthanded, and only scored once in their 5 times on the power play (and I think they say your PP% + PK% should be at least 110). Also, for one of the better faceoff teams, they are 84-116 this year, while playing mostly against teams that have identical or worse faceoff percentages.

So plenty of things to fix and I am afraid they’ll try as hard as they can to forget this game rather than realize that they need to commit to getting better.

Posted by bleep bloop on 01/11/12 at 01:07 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I try to not write these up until very close to or after the game as I still talk to a very small circle of friends who I’ve been “watching” games with online for thirteen years now, and I’d prefer to be a fan until the end of the game and just write on the fly (that’s probably why my entries may come off as more conversational than anything else, because I really and honestly prefer to not prepare at all and just react, talk and let you take the discussion onto wherever it’s going to go), but the nature of this one gave me too much time to think and write. I’m sorry it’s more rambly than usual.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/11/12 at 01:11 AM ET

SYF's avatar

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.

Say what?  Did he…did he just offer an excuse?

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 01/11/12 at 01:17 AM ET


Did he…did he just offer an excuse?

Um, no…

Posted by Garth on 01/11/12 at 01:27 AM ET


1. George, you don’t have to apologize.
2. SYF: for what it’s worth, “Hockey Hall of Famer Gordie Howe was in attendance.” You don’t suppose,....
3. You wanna know why the Wings as is don’t inspire confidence in getting 16 wins? This is another brick in the wall. I’m still hoping they can pull it together, but a mentally tough and gritty forward might be what Ken Holland should trade for, and save the defensemen wish list for the summer.

Posted by Bugsy on 01/11/12 at 01:30 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I think what Babcock’s doing is all he can do. They can only watch so much tape and skate so many times after playing three games in four nights with games on Thursday, Saturday and next Monday and Tuesday to come—and the Wings don’t have more than one day off between games until the All-Star Break begins on the 26th, which is 15 days away from now.

At this point, you do what you do to manage energy levels.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/11/12 at 01:38 AM ET

Chet's avatar

the only good thing that happened in this game was murph and ken laughing at how cheap charles wang is for charging visiting media a dollar for a water.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 01/11/12 at 01:42 AM ET


and save the defensemen wish list for the summer.

Absolutely.  There is no need for any real defensive upgrades until Nick is gone.

Posted by Garth on 01/11/12 at 02:01 AM ET


All I want is for the Wings to hold on until February 7, then regroup, although the all-star break isn’t a moment too soon. Thanks again, George, good night!

Posted by Bugsy on 01/11/12 at 02:04 AM ET


Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/10/12 at 10:38 PM ET

Well said.

Posted by Garth on 01/11/12 at 02:15 AM ET

DocF's avatar

I left the game after two periods.  I much preferred being bored by the University of North Carolina basketball team blowing the door off Miami.  I can stand to watch a dog of a game when the right team wins.


Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 01/11/12 at 02:33 AM ET


Not making excuses for tonight’s effort, but the schedule the last month really seems to have gotten to the Wings.  Everyone knows they’ve played a lot of road games since the beginning of December, but what know one seems to talk about is that during most of that time they’ve also only been home for 1 game.  The Wing’s haven’t played at home two games in a row since Dec. 8th and 10th.  When they’ve been home, it’s usually been for 2 or 3 days tops then back on the road.

I’ll I kept hearing from the Canadian press at the end of December was the brutal road trips Edmonton and Calgary had to endure, and the Chicago press is already commenting on Chicago’s 9 game trip in February.  Yet these teams at least got/will get a few games in a row at home on either side for the most part (Chicago’s trip starts right after the All-Star break).  Tiny break finally now for the Wings, but after this 3 game home streak they’re on the road for 7 of 9.  However, if the Wings can manage to still be relatively close to Chicago and St. Louis after the western Canada/Phoenix trip that ends Feb 6th, they’ll be in great shape playing 18 of the last 28 at home and an even more friendly 6 of the last 8 of the year at home.

I had to keep trying to find reasons not to throw my laptop really hard against something pretty much the whole time while watching tonight’s game.  It was so frustrating.  Looking closer, I suppose I can kind of understand why several guys just may not have the energy level to give right now even though I still feel you have to try to find a way.  I’m going to try to refrain from pulling my hair out for the foreseeable future while watching the Wings play; at least until mid-February.  I think once the schedule evens out the last third of the season, as long as the Wings don’t bury themselves the next dozen games they still should be able to work themselves into position to take the division if not the conference.

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 01/11/12 at 02:40 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

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…

Really, George? Bertuzzi and Franzen are “engaged and working hard”? I know you don’t drink so I gues you must be watching different games than I’ve been watching. smile

Seriously, Franzen has been especially “un-engaged” of late. That shot he took at a half-open net tonight was one of the laziest shots I think i’ve ever seen in a situation like that. It makes me sick to my stomach every time I think about having to watch 10 more years of that kind of garbage from The Donkey.

To paraphrase Longfellow, when the Wings are good, they’re very, very good.
But when they’re bad, they’re horrid. And tonight’s game ranks at the top of their list of “horrid” games this year.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 01/11/12 at 02:55 AM ET


In case anyone’s lazy and doesn’t feel like looking up Detroit’s scheduling advantage to close out the season: Detroit plays 18 of their last 28 at home, while on the flip side both Chicago and St. Louis play only 12 of their last 32 at home.

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 01/11/12 at 02:56 AM ET


I’m sorry it’s more rambly than usual.

I hope that’s not because of my “tl;dr version”. I assume that people who come here are perfectly fine with and expecting your often lengthy but spot-on commentary, so don’t apologize.

I could/should have probably done a “qft” instead of “tl;dr version”.

Posted by bleep bloop on 01/11/12 at 03:07 AM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

hey appeared mentally gassed.

Things are not always as they appear.
I know you tried hard not to sugar coat tonight’s performance, George,
but allow me to look at the glass half empty before I turn in.

Put all the games into 2 columns (lists).
!. appeared mentally gassed
2 the wings are back in town
now take a good long look at those 2 columns…


Mediocrity has arrived
the occasionally brilliant games like the wins in Chicago or St Louis have become the exceptions.

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 01/11/12 at 04:33 AM ET

SYF's avatar

In case anyone’s lazy and doesn’t feel like looking up Detroit’s scheduling advantage to close out the season: Detroit plays 18 of their last 28 at home, while on the flip side both Chicago and St. Louis play only 12 of their last 32 at home.

Posted by Valek on 01/10/12 at 11:56 PM ET

It would probably matter more if the Wings were to win the Central Division and thus assured of home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.  We need to win the Central to make our home record work for us.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 01/11/12 at 04:57 AM ET


It would probably matter more if the Wings were to win the Central Division and thus assured of home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

Hopefully the fact that they are dominant at home and have many more home games than road games left will result in them winning the Central.

Posted by Garth on 01/11/12 at 01:27 PM ET

calquake's avatar

George, any theories on what is going on with Zetterberg in the face-off circle?  He just doesn’t seem to win many, as evidenced by last night’s 2 for 9 18%.

Posted by calquake from a.k.a. Uniquake, workin' on my manifesto on 01/11/12 at 04:07 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.