The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/11/12 at 07:40 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings skated into what was a potentially dangerous game against the New York Islanders saying all the right things about continuing to right their road record, get “started on time” and not surrender multiple-goal leads before showing up to play, but instead of following through on their plan, the Pavel Datsyuk-less Wings headed back to Detroit with a serious case of the “January Blahs,” to the point that their coach canceled practice for the following day, hoping that his charges won’t drag their asses as badly on Thursday as they did while surrendering a 4-0 lead and eventually dropping a 5-1 decision to the New York Islanders.
Amidst a stretch of time in which the Wings are playing 11 games over the course of 19 nights, and came into tonight’s game playing three over their past four, only the Islanders seemed to understand that the Wings’ levels of mental and physical fatigue could be exploited, as John Tavares told NewYorkIslanders.com’s Cory Wright:
“We know we have to raise our game and play at our best to compete with them,” John Tavares said. “We played them hard, we knew they were playing their third in four nights and tried to jump on them and hopefully wear them out.”
Matt Moulson opened the scoring with a power play goal at the end of the first period, banking a cross-crease pass off Drew Miller and past Ty Conklin. The Islanders dictated the play from the onset, outshooting the Red Wings 17-8 in the first period.
In the second period, the Isles did not need to rely on their hot power play, with even strength goals from Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner. The top line was exactly that on Tuesday as Moulson (2g/1a), Tavares (1g/2a), and Okposo (1g/1a) combined for eight points. Captain Mark Streit had his first multi-point game since Dec. 22, tallying three assists.
“Kyle’s a big, strong forward and Johnny’s been playing some great hockey, probably some of the best I’ve seen him play,” Moulson said of his line’s success. “Those two guys are going and I just pick up some of the garbage I guess.”
The Red Wings closed the Isles shots advantage in the second and third periods, but Evgeni Nabokov preserved the lead, turning in a solid performance. The score was lopsided, but the Red Wings had chances including breakaways and a two-on-one. Nabokov was equal to the task as he stopped 23 of 24 on the evening.
“It’s never easy to play Detroit, those guys are champions, they know how to win, they know how to prepare themselves,” Nabokov said. “Even if they are tired, they bring something to the table.”
“Johnny can be the best of anybody in the league, and you can see what he does for the guys he plays with,” veteran goalie Evgeni Nabokov said of Tavares. “What I like most about him, is he has real fire in him. That’s the way it should be. He gets (ticked) off, he brings it every night and I really think he has the chance to be as good as anyone out there.”
The Red Wings have been among the league’s elite for years, but the Isles inexplicably have had little trouble handling them in recent seasons. They remain 10 points removed from a playoff spot 40 games into another disappointing season, yet improved to 5-0-1 against Detroit since 2003.
“I’m not a big guy on stats . . . but we earned that win tonight,” said Jack Capuano, whose team is 15-1-7 in its last 23 home games against Western Conference foes. “They’re a top team, but we really elevated our battle level at both ends . . .and the guys were rewarded for it.”
The Isles (15-19-6) had dropped their previous two games, in Anaheim and Phoenix, to slip back into last place in the East. But they leapfrogged Carolina with Nabokov making his ninth straight start, as he sprinkled in several acrobatic stops among his 23 saves for his 299th NHL win. And Tavares’ line swarmed all three zones and netted all but one of the Isles’ goals, including two by Matt Moulson that gave him a team-best 20 on the season.
“I’m more concerned about making the playoffs,” Moulson said.
As Islanders captain Mark Streit suggested to NewYorkIslanders.com’s Dylan LeBourdais, the Islanders’ explosion of goals came from hard work, not simply fatigue on their opponent’s part:
“In the past, we’ve had a hard time scoring goals,” Streit said. “It seems like now we create more. But I think it starts from the neutral zone. We don’t have as many turnovers as we used to, we get pucks deep and we have so many offensively skilled players that we can circle the puck. Sooner or later, we break teams down and we create. That’s really important.”
The Isles were held to just four shots in the second period, but scored on three-of-four opportunities. John Tavares notched the Islanders second goal at 7:31 of the second and two assists. Kyle Okposo scored the Isles third goal at 11:10 of the second and had an assist. Michael Grabner propelled the Isles to a 4-0 lead at 18:32 of the second.
“It’s crazy,” Streit said. “Even in the past, other teams had only a few shots and they scored a lot of goals. I think in the future, we have to keep shooting. We need to get the pucks on net and sooner or later, pucks are going to go in. We need to have a shooting mentality. The second period we slowed down a little bit and (Detroit) played better, had a couple opportunities, but we played well defensively and Nabby (Nabokov) played unbelievable. It’s a big win for us.”
MSG Network’s Stan Fischler played up Nabokov’s performance (we’ll ignore the fact that Fischler thinks Jimmy Howard played in the second and third periods)...
With the second half of the season close to unfolding for the Nassaumen, coach Cappy continues to shake and bake in search of a healthy recipe for success. Nothing could be healthier than the spectacular goaltending of Nabokov, who produced a total of 23 saves, many of them of the tough variety.
“Nabby was great,” said Grabner. “He set the tone early and we thrived off his rock-solid performance.”
Nabokov was tested early in the first period when Cory Emmerton’s tip-in shot from the top of the crease hit the goal post, giving the home crowd a sense of relief.
“I got support from everybody on the roster,” chuckled Nabokov, “and now we have to repeat the process on Thursday against the Flyers.”
And if you’re feeling statistically-minded this morning, NewYorkIslanders.com’s Eric Hornick posted a near-endless slate of stats related to the Islanders’ performances, but their bottom line seems to be evidenced by the comments they made to Newsday’s Arthur Staple:
“You know before the game, you’re facing the Detroit Red Wings, so you have to be ready or it’s going to be a long night,” said Mark Streit, who had three assists. “We were ready right off the hop.”
“We’re doing a good job winning those battles and being strong on the puck,” said Tavares, whose goal and two assists gave him 12 points (3-9) in his last six games. “We definitely have enough skill on our line to make plays.”
Michael Grabner scored his first goal in nine games on a breakaway at 18:32 of the second, and Moulson capped the night with his 20th goal, a deflection of Streit’s shot with 6:03 left to play in the game.
The Islanders pulled themselves out of last in the East once again, and within a point of 13th. But for all their control of this once-a-season meet-up with the powerful Wings—the Islanders could be headed for a fifth straight top-five draft pick; the Wings haven’t had a top-10 pick in 20 years—this one will only be a small high note in an otherwise dismal season if the Islanders can’t play the same way Thursday, when the Flyers come calling.
“I don’t know what it is,” Okposo said about the dominance over the Wings. “I only know we need to carry this over to the next few games and play the same way no matter who’s on the other side.”
Islanders coach Jack Capuano (who stated to the press that he called his timeout with all of 22 seconds left in the game because “injuries happen” off of icing calls when players are caught out on the ice for long periods of time, and he felt that it was necessary to do so to spare Tavares, Okposo and Moulson from any injury risk) agreed, as NHL.com’s recap noted:
“We approach every game the same, and prepare every game, how we want to play,” he said. “I knew going in that we were 4-0-1 [against them], but I’m not a big guy on stats. We went to the net, we played positional hockey, we played sound defensive hockey. When you do the little things, you hope you get rewarded. They earned that win tonight.”
Michael Grabner also scored for the Islanders (15-19-6), who have won four in a row against Detroit and are the only team that has not lost to the Wings in regulation in the past seven seasons. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 23 shots to earn his 299th NHL victory.
“Nabby was there for us tonight when we needed him,” Capuano said. “He gave us a chance to win. I thought our [defense] did a good job keeping their big bodies to the outside and let Nabby see the puck.”
The Red Wings seemed to understand that their record against the Islanders had less to do with their opponent and more with the way that they played, as Nicklas Lidstrom told the AP’s Ira Podell...
The common theme among the Red Wings was how they were outworked by a team that improved to second-to-last in the East with the win. Detroit will get a day off from practice on Wednesday after a 2-2 road trip, and hope that will be enough to get them going again back at home. It wasn’t deserved, but appears to be necessary.
“It’s just our lack of working hard,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Our work ethic wasn’t there. For whatever reason, I don’t think we played as hard as you have to against a very talented team.”
There is no explanation for the Islanders’ success against the Red Wings, considering New York hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2007, and Detroit is a Stanley Cup contender every season. The Islanders improved to 45-44-8 versus the Wings, and haven’t lost to them in regulation since a 6-0 defeat on Nov. 28, 2003.
The Red Wings, who fell out of the Central Division lead, had a lineup with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, but again were surprisingly no match for the Islanders. Detroit coach Mike Babcock reminded his team about the Islanders’ success, but the message didn’t stick.
“Were we any good? No, we weren’t any good,” Babcock said. “Obviously, me talking about it wasn’t enough.”
That was very, very evident, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan suggested:
The win gives the Islanders a 5-0-1 record against the Red Wings since the lockout ended in 2005. Why are the Islanders so successful against the Red Wings?
“Because we don’t get prepared,” Babcock said earlier in the day. “The bottom line is you come in here, you look at the standings, you don’t give them enough respect, and they have real good players. They’re (the Islanders) NHL players and they want to win just as bad as everyone else. They’ll do the same today if we don’t get prepared.”
Fast forward about nine hours, and the basis of what Babcock said rang true. The Islanders outworked the Red Wings. They capitalized on sloppy Red Wings defense.
“They outbattled us, they outworked us, outhustled us,” Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart said. “We were kind of careless with the puck and it created opportunities for them.”
“From the start the energy level wasn’t very good,” Babcock said. “They were better than us.”
That being said, there’s no doubt that the Islanders’ statisticians were, let’s say a wee bit inclined to pad their employers’ numbers, as Babcock suggested when asked about the Islanders’ supposed 17-to-8 shot advantage in the 1st period (and the only stat category the Wings “won” was earned in 22 missed shots—in addition to 21 blocked by Islanders players, adding up to 43 shot attempts that didn’t hit or beat Evgeni Nabokov and only 24 that did) by the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
Wings coach Mike Babcock, on the Islanders’ getting 17 shots the first period: “I didn’t think they had that much, to tell you the truth. I went through all the scoring chances, and I thought we made some mistakes, but I thought we were in a fine spot.” ... Babcock, on the game overall: “We missed four wide-open nets, and Nabokov made good saves. Their first goal—they bank it off our skate. We have the same play on the power play with a wide-open net—we hit Nabokov. So that’s just the way things go. But were we any good? No, we weren’t very good.”
And the Wings told St. James that Pavel Datsyuk’s absence due to a groin injury (the Wings called it a lower-body injury but Fox Sports Detroit called a spade a spade, and Datsyuk’s de-facto replacement, Mike Commodore, spent the entire night affixed to the Wings’ bench) didn’t factor into the team’s performance, either.
“Pav is one heck of a player. We know what he brings to our team,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “But we have a lot of other very strong players and good players that could respond. As a team, I don’t think we played very well tonight.”
The Wings had 11 forwards, having sent Chris Conner back to the minors Monday, and there wasn’t enough time to bring anyone from Grand Rapids to fill in for Datsyuk.
Coach Mike Babcock said after the morning skate: “I thought he was playing. We don’t have any extra forwards. Did this catch us by surprise? Yeah. If we’d known for sure, we’d have another player.”
Regarding that particular issue, Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels stated before the game that the Wings did the travel math, and while it’s one thing to get a player from Grand Rapids, MI to Manhattan between 11 AM and 7 PM EST, getting Conner, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar or Joakim Andersson to Uniondale would, assuming no delays occurred, take have taken until sometime after 7 (probably more like 8 or 8:30).
As for Ty Conklin’s play, he could have and should have stopped John Tavares’ 2-0 goal, but other than that, I felt that the rest of the Islanders’ goals would have beaten Dominik Hasek, never mind Jimmy Howard. Babcock told St. James that he wasn’t necessarily pleased with Conklin’s performance, but…
“He was hung out to dry on the two-on-ones, for sure,” Babcock said. “But I mean the bottom line is, you put the goalie in, it doesn’t matter how the team plays, you expect him to get a win. That’s just the way it is. He was in there with us tonight.”
Conklin said: “The difference in the game ended up being in the second period, when they finished on their chances. I mean, that was the difference right there.”
Conklin spoke earlier in the day of how important it is he show he can spell Jimmy Howard. “You don’t want them to wonder what they’re going to get from the other guy,” Conklin said.
It might have been the same thing as Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson posted a Twitter update stating that Howard slept for 10 hours on Monday night and had a 2-hour nap after Tuesday’s morning skate, with his “body screaming for rest.”
Shifting focus back to the team’s collective performance against the Islanders, Niklas Kronwall made a somewhat surprising admission to St. James...
“Maybe we did take them lightly,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We tried not to, but so many times we turned the puck over, and here they come. It felt like we were shooting ourselves in the foot over and over and over.”
And the result was all too predictable…
“We just got outworked,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Kronwall called the performance “embarrassing.” Henrik Zetterberg said: “We didn’t do much right.”
The game finished a stretch in which the Wings played 11 of 14 games on the road and played four sets of back-to-backs since Dec. 13.
“We’ve had a long, long stretch with lots of road games,” Babcock said. “We’ve done a lot of good things and kept ourselves in the hunt this long stretch. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights.”
Even after Conklin helped the Wings survive the first period:
“Coming out of the second, I thought we’d have a bit more jump than we did,” Lidstrom said. “They were outskating us. They were coming with speed, and we were standing still or not coming back hard enough.”
“We’ve got to find a way in these types of games to be a little bit better,” Brad Stuart said. “Tonight we weren’t, and there’s really no excuse for it. They outbattled, outworked and outhustled us. We were careless with the puck. That was the difference.”
Kronwall may have offered an even more astute assessment of the Wings’ defensive performances of late—if you listen to/watch the clips below, the Wings’ press corps reminds the team that they’ve given up 4 goals apiece in their previous two losses, and if you add in the Wings’ win over Chicago, the Wings have still given up fifteen(!) goals over their past four games—to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“I don’t know how many times we turned the puck over at the half wall or around their blue line and here they come, three-on-two or two-on-one,” Kronwall said. “We’ve been making way too mistakes as of late and tonight it was even worse.”
Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom summed it up by saying, “I thought we just got outworked.”
The Islanders scored three goals on four shots—all on odd-man rushes—in the second period to take a 4-0 lead against backup goaltender Ty Conklin. The Red Wings trailed 3-0 and 2-0 in their previous two games, the latter of which they battled back to win 3-2 in overtime at Chicago on Sunday
Said Conklin: “We didn’t get off to the start we wanted, but what ended up being the difference was the second period, when they finished on their chances.”
“I thought from the start to the end the energy level wasn’t very good; they were better than us right from the get-go,” Babcock said. “You’re not going to win any games when you’re not hard to play against.”
Instead, the Wings played an easily exploitable game, and, as Khan notes, they concluded a nasty stretch of road games looking exhausted, and, if you’ll pardon the pun, old:
And while they didn’t want to use it as an excuse, a grueling stretch on the road (14 of 19 games) has taken its toll.
“It would have been nice to finish it up right,” Babcock said. “We’ve done a lot of good things, kept ourselves in the hunt in this long stretch. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights.”
No, it wasn’t, and thanks to a night when the Wings played as if they were suffering from “brain strains,” they head home to face a Coyotes team that always plays the Wings harder than they anticipate during regular-season match-ups and then a Blackhawks team that might go chopping Detroit’s players as it seems all too willing to blame a Jiri Hudler chop for Patrick Sharp’s broken wri..I mean, “upper-body injury.”
And a week from now? The Wings will be wrapping up yet another stretch of three games in four nights because they play on both Monday the 16th and Tuesday the 17th. It’s gonna be a long road to the All-Star break, and the Wings have to do their best to return to playing the kind of hockey that doesn’t require the excessive energy the Wings expended in their attempts to rally from multiple-goal deficits in Toronto and Chicago, because doing so left the Wings flatter than a Manitoba prairie on Tuesday night.
Highlights: ESPN posted a 27-second highlight clip;
And the Red Wings’ website’s highlight clip is at least narrated by Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy:
Post-game: MSG Network posted a clip of broadcasters Butch Goring and Howie Rose‘s breakdown of the game, as well as post-game comments from Evgeni Nabokov, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and coach Jack Capuano;
And clips of comments from Nicklas Lidstrom…
Niklas Kronwall (ignore the “Darren Helm” caption)...
And Wings coach Mike Babcock…
And Fox Sports Detroit posted a clip of coach Mike Babcock, Niklas Kronwall and Ty Conklin speaking to the media:
Photos: Newsday posted a 10-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 19-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 14-image gallery;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 33-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 44-image gallery;
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.
Part II: Red Wings notebooks: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan kept Pavel Datsyuk’s “KGB secret” secret while discussing Datsyuk’s late-breaking “lower-body injury” in his notebook, and he also noted Ty Conklin’s desire to play a little better than he did on Tuesday…
“Jimmy has played a lot and it’s nice to give him a break and get in there,” Conklin said. “It’s nice to be able to get back at it quickly. But you have to play well, regardless if it’s a two-day break, or 22 days.”
Conklin, however, didn’t get much help as the Islanders defeated the Red Wings, 5-1.
“We hung him out to dry,” Babcock said. “But the bottom- line is you put the goalie in, it doesn’t matter how the team plays, you expect him to get the win. He was in there with us.”
As well as a particularly ugly stat:
Tuesday wasn’t a good night for Johan Franzen . He was minus-3 in 15:38, with zero shots on net, and was credited with one hit.
• We got into something of a kerfuffle on Tuesday regarding a Twitter comment made without context via MLive’s Ansar Khan, and here’s the story behind it:
Babcock was asked if he takes pride in winning with a team that annually ranks at the bottom of the NHL in fighting majors (a league-low six this season).
“I wish we were the biggest, toughest, ugliest team in organized hockey,” Babcock said, half-jokingly. “That’s not how we’re built, so you coach what you got.”
Babcock would prefer to have an enforcer to “keep the flies off.” The team has had Brad May and Aaron Downey in recent years. But general manager Ken Holland doesn’t like to exhaust a roster spot with a tough guy who can’t play.
“I take pride in the fact we’re real disciplined, but I don’t mind (fighting) majors,” Babcock said. “I think fans like majors, too. I never seen anyone leave the building when there’s a scrap. We’re just built a different way and you got to win in your own way. Team toughness for us is how hard we are on the puck and how hard we pursue it and how we keep coming. It has nothing to do with fighting. We like to think our power play looks after business for us and we play the game between the whistles.”
Regarding said power play, Khan says that Henrik Zetterberg tends to post 30 of the 65-to-85 points he registers every season on the power play, but this year, he’s posted only 5 of his 32 points with the man advantage. That’s okay by Babcock (I can’t quote the whole article), and Zetterberg duly notes that he’s made up for an extremely slow start by posting points at a point-per-game clip of late:
“I think the past 25 games have been pretty good, if you just look at the points,” Zetterberg said. “I had a tough start, slow start point-wise, but I’m feeling pretty good now. Trying not to think about what you’ve done in the past, just focus on the game you have in front of you and make the best of that.”
• I know that the Red Wings looked very, very old on Tuesday night, but the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell spoke to Ken Holland about his team’s progress made after 42 games played, and Holland wants you to know that the Wings are engaging in something of a youth movement:
“We lost Brian Rafalski, Mike Modano, Chris Osgood, Kris Draper, a lot of veteran leadership, but with it there was opportunity on the ice and off the ice,” Holland said. “If we’re going to grow as an organization, we needed the 20-somethings to take another step. Our 20-somethings, Jimmy Howard, Ian White, (Jiri) Hudler, (Valtteri) Filppula, (Jakub) Kindl, (Jonathan) Ericsson, (Justin) Abdelkader, (Darren) Helm, (Drew) Miller, they’ve all taken a bit of a step forward. Both statistically, but also they’ve become more important to the success of our team. So as I look back on the first half, we’re in the hunt with the top teams, we’ve had a lot of our 20-somethings step up and the other thing is we’ve developed better depth. All in all after 41 games, if you’d told me this is where we’d be coming out of training camp, we’d be pretty happy.”
The Wings have maintained their place in the NHL’s pecking order by lowering their goals against while at the same time slicing 1.3 years off the team’s average age from a year ago to bring it under 30 for the first time in more than a decade.
“When we started in the summer, the area we wanted to improve were goals against,” Holland said. “That’s really been our goal, to be a top-five team in goals against. Coaches implemented a new defensive scheme and I think our players have been more committed than they were a year ago.”
Again, I’d love to quote the whole article as Waddell talks about Jimmy Howard’s progression, the resurgent play of Johan Franzen (yeah, he’s sleepwalked from time to time, but he’s also playing much more consistently overall, and he’s generally played very well) and Jiri Hudler, the Wings’ penalty-killing woes and their need to improve their road play, but something tells me that you’re going to be most interested in this part of Waddell’s article:
The Wings are also in the unusual position of having cap space should they choose to try and bolster their lineup by the Feb. 27 trade deadline. Detroit ranks 19th in the league in payroll and has US$5.79-million in available cap space, according to capgeek.com.
“This year we’re well under the cap,” said Holland, who can take on more salary than virtually all of his playoff rivals. “We got lots of options as we head toward the trade deadline and hopefully we continue to win and stay up there and we can look if there’s an opportunity to make a move to make us a little deeper.”
Also of Red Wings-related note: Regarding Howard, the Sporting News’s Jesse Spector spoke to #35 on Tuesday about possibly being named to the NHL’s All-Star roster on Thursday, during a conversation about Howard’s evolution into an elite goaltender:
“It would be a great honor,” Howard told Sporting News on Tuesday. “It would be great to represent this organization and the league to go to Ottawa and play. With it being only 40 minutes from my hometown in upstate New York, it would be a lot of fun to have lots of friends and family there.”
If there is a reason for Howard’s jump in form this season, family may be it. He became a father two months ago, and the newfound separation between life on and off the ice has helped Howard to sharpen his focus when he straps on the pads.
“After a game, instead of stewing over it and going over it in my mind, I’m home taking care of the little guy—feeding him the bottle, changing diapers,” Howard said. “My mind’s not on hockey as all the time as it was in the past. It’s good because I used to be one of those guys that would be constantly thinking and thinking, and eventually your mind gets in the way. It’s a good release to be able to go home and not even think about hockey.”
“I thought Jimmy had a good year last year, and obviously, he’s playing really well again this year,” said Darren Helm, who has been with the Red Wings since 2008 and was teammates with Howard for Grand Rapids in the AHL. “He’s got some more experience—playoff experience, regular season experience—he’s maturing as a person and as a goalie, and we feel really confident with him in net right now.”
Howard was not in net for the Red Wings on Tuesday night, as backup Ty Conklin got a surprise second straight start after his 29-save overtime win in Chicago on Sunday. For a less secure goaltender, that might cause some concerns about job security, but not now that Howard has established himself and risen to a place of prominence in the league.
“It’s good for Ty and good for our team,” Howard said before Detroit’s 5-1 loss to the Islanders. “He played unbelievable the other night in Chicago and he’s feeling great about himself. It gives me a chance to go out there and practice, and it’s a good thing. It’s been crazy for it seems like the last month and a half, so we take advantage of it. I get some rest and clear my mind and get ready for Thursday.”
“When you get to a certain level of proficiency in this league, you’re more relaxed,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “You spend so much less time and energy worrying about things, you’ve got more energy to play. That’s what good players do. They go home and enjoy their family, and come back to the rink. Players that are worried about their job, they go home and worry about hockey. How do you get to that point? You work hard and create a level of confidence for yourself by having success, and then you bring it back to the rink each and every day. He’s been excellent.”
• In the Wings-Isles quick take, Bugsy mentioned that Gordie Howe was attending the game per MSG+‘s broadcast, and I can tell you that he was definitely in the area (he now splits time between his children’s homes instead of living alone, spending time with—per the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox—Mark, who lives in New Jersey, Cathy, who lives in Texas, Murray, who’s a doctor in Toledo and Marty, who lives in Connecticut) as the Hartford Courant’s Matthew Conyers reports that Gordie’s son Marty brought him to a youth hockey team in Glastonbury, CT for a pep talk this past weekend;
• Long-time St. Louis Blues GM Ron Caron passed away on Monday, and if we’re talking about old warhorses who displayed their share of toughness, the St Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dan O’Neill reports that the man who fleeced Jimmy Devellano of Adam Oates for one Bernie Federko may have occasionally drawn the ire of his Norris Division rivals for offering a Brian Burke level of irritability:
The emotional Caron was legendary for his demonstrative tirades in press boxes and arena corridors when the thought the Blues had been wronged. During the 1991 playoffs, he was banned from the press box in Detroit for scuffling with Red Wings goaltender Glen Hanlon.
That occurred after Detroit enforcer Bob Probert was given a double-minor penalty for slashing Blues defenseman Garth Butcher and punching goalie Vincent Riendeau. Incensed, he left the private box to traverse the arena’s perimeter and protest Probert’s antics. In the press box as a healthy scratch, Hanlon took offense and the two wound up tussling.
• Let’s stick with telling stories with some color to ‘em for a minute. ESPN’s Craig Custance posted the following quip on his insider-only blog when noting that Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray declared his team open for trading business—and Custance decided to play the instigator’s role by tossing off a few unrealistic possibilities:
Of any NHL coach on an opposing team, Mike Babcock may be the most familiar with the skill set of the Anaheim Ducks. He used to coach in Anaheim, has had multiple grueling playoff series against the Ducks and got to know Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry well in Vancouver while winning a gold medal with them for Team Canada.
So like the rest of the NHL, his interest was piqued when word got back to Detroit that Ducks GM Bob Murray may be looking to make a major shake-up in Anaheim. I asked him if he’d put any requests in to his general manager.
“You know what? I haven’t run into Ken Holland, he was at the world juniors, but I’m sure on this flight [to Toronto] we’ll have time to talk,” Babcock said.
Over in the U.K., The Guardian’s NHL writer, Colin Horgan, interpreted Babcock’s quote accurately:
(Custance also asked former Ducks coach – and current Red Wings coach – Mike Babcock about whether he’d “put in any requests to his general manager” on potential players, and got not only a classic Babcock-esque answer, but just kind of the most amusing quote I’ve seen printed in while.
Babcock answered: “You know what? I haven’t run into Ken Holland, he was at the world juniors, but I’m sure on this flight [to Toronto] we’ll have time to talk.” Translation: F—- off.)
• Sticking with that particular theme, on Tuesday morning, NHL.com and Kukla’s Korner’s own Risto Pakarinen suggested that Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson might be the closest thing to the next Nicklas Lidstrom out there, and today, the Vancouver Province’s Tony Gallagher, who spent all of last season insisting that the 2010-2011 Vancouver Canucks were a bigger, better version of the 2007-2008 Detroit Red Wings, suggests that St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is in fact the next Lidstrom, but he has some ammunition with which to back up this suggestion:
In early June of 2008, a group of Detroit scouts were sitting in a bar over a couple of drinks in the Renaissance Marriott pondering what Red Wing scouts have often pondered over these past five years or more.
How are they going to replace Nicklas Lidstrom? And given they were in the process of winning another Stanley Cup that year and they had made their unsuccessful pitch to move up in the draft already, there was no way they were going to be able to get him. So the group was quite open about whom they thought could indeed replace the man if he was developed properly. That fellow, they all agreed, was the man with three first names, one Alex Pietrangelo.
Since he was taken No. 4 overall that year by their now divisional rival St. Louis Blues, Pietrangelo’s progress has been somewhat erratic, perhaps because the Blues tried to play him in the NHL his first two years while he was still a junior and not ready.
But to nobody’s surprise he got ready in a hurry and, after playing the full season last year and looking very promising, this season he has blossomed into the kind of player the Detroit scouts were seeing when they were talking so eloquently of him.
• In the Red Wings prospect department, RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest takes note of speedy center Alan Quine’s development with the Peterborough Petes…
Quine, who the Detroit Red Wings selected in the third round (85th overall) in last year’s NHL draft, is a top-line center for the Peteroborough Petes who leads the team in scoring with 15 goals and 25 assists for 40 points in 37 games. Already just two points away from matching his full-season total from 2010-11, the 18-year-old’s vast array of skill has been on full display as he’s climbed to 28th in OHL scoring.
“He’s got a great shot, but his best attribute is his quickness,” said Petes general manager Dave Reid, a former NHLer. “That separates him from the rest, that he’s so quick. He’s great with the puck in tight areas as well. He’s got an NHL shot, he’s got NHL speed, excellent vision, he’s got all those, but above everything, at the top, is his quickness.”
The 5-foot-11, 184-pound center plays in every situation other than the penalty kill, Reid said. That’s a job the Petes hope Quine will grow into next season as his all-around game evolves.
“Allan has done a fantastic job of learning the defensive center position with us, and he’s been outstanding at it,” Reid said. “One of the other things with Allan is not a hockey skill, it’s the fact he’s able to take in information and put it right into play.”
• It merits mentioning that fellow prospect and University of Notre Dame forward Riley Sheahan registered 2 goals and an assist in one game against Minnesota this past weekend, and the once offensively-challenged center now has 21 points posted over the course of 20 games, good for third in scoring on his team;
• Also in the prospect department, the Grand Rapids Griffins posted their weekly press release during the Wings game on Monday night, thus its delayed posting:
This week’s games:
Wed., Jan. 11 - Houston Aeros at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m.
Fri., Jan. 13 - Texas Stars at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 15 - GRIFFINS at Charlotte Checkers - 3 p.m
Double Down: After going 0-4 in their first two trips to Abbotsford, the Griffins were finally victorious at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre – twice. On Friday, the Griffins got out to a 2-0 lead against the Heat and held on for a 4-3 victory. The following night, Brian Lashoff’s goal with 1:01 left in overtime gave the Griffins their second straight victory over the Heat, and a season-best three-game winning streak. Friday’s victory ended the Heat’s eight-game winning streak over the Griffins, dating back to the 2009-10 season. Each team ended that season series with a 2-1-1-0 record, but the Heat hold the advantage in the all-time series, where the Griffins hold a 4-6-1-1 record.
On Tap: The Griffins will open up the home portion of their 2012 schedule this week with a pair of games against West Division teams. The Houston Aeros will visit Van Andel Arena on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and the Texas Stars will meet the Griffins for the first time this season on Friday at 7 p.m. The Griffins will then travel to Charlotte for the first time ever for first of two games against the Checkers on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Winning Ways: The Griffins enter this week earned points in six straight (3-0-3-0) contests. It marks the Griffins’ best point streak since they posted an eight-game run (7-0-1-0) from Feb. 27-March 16, 2011. The three-game winning streak also ties a season high set Nov. 29-Dec. 3. Additionally, the Griffins are carrying a season-best six-game home point streak (4-0-2-0) which began on Dec. 2. They did not lose at home in regulation during the month of December (5-2-3-2) in a stretch that has seen them earn points in 13 of their last 15 games (8-2-3-2).
High-Five: Griffins goaltender Tom McCollum achieved a new personal best last week, winning his fifth consecutive game. The 22-year-old netminder won three straight games with the Griffins from Nov. 29-Dec. 3 before being reassigned by the Red Wings to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. He was recalled on Dec. 31 and played versus Milwaukee that night, tying his career-best four-game winning streak (Oct. 24-Nov. 13, 2009). After winning on Saturday at Abbotsford, McCollum now sits with a 6-3 record and a team-best 2.78 goals against average and 0.909 save percentage.
Red Hot: Griffins forward Francis Pare has been red-hot of late, recording assists in each of the Griffins’ past six games (Dec. 21-Jan. 7). In addition to being a personal best, his six-game assist streak is the longest of any Griffin this season, while his six-game point streak (2-6—8) ties Jamie Johnson for the longest of the season (Nov. 25-Dec.9). Previously, Pare had an assist streak of four games (Dec. 19-Dec. 26, 2008) and a point streak of five games (most recently March 11-18, 2011).
The Gang’s All Here: The Griffins started 2012 without the services of three of their top six scorers in Joakim Andersson, Chris Conner and Gustav Nyquist. As the Red Wings had some players return from injuries, they were able to return all three to the Griffins: Andersson last Wednesday, Nyquist on Sunday and Conner on Monday. Andersson became the 123rd alumnus of the Griffins to play in an NHL game when he made his debut on Jan. 23 versus St. Louis. Andersson skated in four games with Detroit, recording a plus-one rating. Nyquist has missed the Griffins’ previous four contests after being recalled to Detroit last Thursday. He recorded his first NHL point when he assisted on a goal by former Griffin Cory Emmerton on Jan. 3 at Dallas. Conner returns to the Griffins after being recalled by the Red Wings on Nov. 30. Despite missing the team’s last 14 games, Conner still sits fourth on the Griffins with 23 points (7-16—23) in 20 games. He recorded one goal and two assists in seven games while in Detroit.
Thank You, Fans: After gathering crowds of 10,549, 8,165 and 10,091 in its past three games, Grand Rapids has moved into second place in the AHL in attendance, averaging 6,843 fans per game. The Griffins have brought in a total of 109,480 fans in their 16 home games so far, trailing only the Hershey Bears, who average 9,440 fans per contest
• The Griffins have already released the details of their annual Great Skate promotion on January 21st and 22nd, including the names of and times which players and coaches will skate with fans at Grand Rapids’ Rosa Parks Circle for a full 24 hours to raise money for the Griffins Youth Foundation;
• This is a bit of a downer: HV71 Jonkoping raised Stefan Liv’s #1 to the rafters on Tuesday night. If you’re not comfortable with loads of Swedish text, Aftonbladet and Expressen posted photo galleries from the event;
• And as we should end on a higher note, the Free Press noted something that I posted very close to the game time, so I’m going to re-post it: of all the “Halfway Point Awards” doled out on Monday and Tuesday, Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika said the nicest thing about any Wing said over the past two days while suggesting that Lidstrom is long overdue in terms of taking home the Pavel Datsyuk…I mean Lady Byng Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player:
LADY BYNG TROPHY (most gentlemanly player): Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again: The Lady Byng should not only go to Lidstrom, it should be renamed for him. The trophy is supposed to go to the player who exhibits “the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” No one personifies that more than Lidstrom. He has been the runner-up for the Lady Byng five times, including last season, yet has never won it.
Voters often look for the best combination of high points and low penalty minutes. But Lidstrom is a defenseman. He plays a position that lends itself to lower points and higher penalty minutes, which maybe makes him harder to identify but should make him easier to appreciate.
Lidstrom has played at such a high level that he has won the Norris seven times, tied for second-most in history, and he was the runner-up for it three times before that. He has done it without fighting or throwing dirty hits. He has done it while taking few penalties, virtually all of them strictly related to the play. He has taken only nine minors this season – five for hooking, two for tripping, one for holding, one for interference. None for roughing or boarding or slashing. Certainly none for unsportsmanlike conduct. He never seems out of position or out of sorts emotionally. He is graceful on the ice and gracious off it, the Perfect Human, if he is human at all.
The NHL might as well dump Lady Byng if Lidstrom doesn’t win it before he retires, whenever his batteries run out, in 2025 or something.
Here’s hoping that Lidstrom and his teammates spend today recharging their batteries. They need their day off very, very badly.
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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.