The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/10/12 at 01:45 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings’ long list of sidelined players—Todd Bertuzzi, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Ericsson, Jimmy Howard, Jakub Kindl and Nicklas Lidstrom—got a player longer in the form of the flu-addled Justin Abdelkader on Friday night, meaning that, if you count back-up Jordan Pearce, the traded-for Kyle Quincey and the then-injured Jakub Kindl, Detroit faced off against Los Angeles with eight players, or a third of their roster and 40% of their players, who hadn’t started the season in Detroit.
That list includes six call-ups from the Grand Rapids Griffins, and it’s entirely probable that each and every one of Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Doug Janik, Joakim Andersson and the interim starter and now full-time back-up in Joey MacDonald will continue with the team to Nashville for tomorrow night’s game against the Predators (8 PM EST, FSD/FS Tennessee/97.1 FM).
As such, the Detroit Red Wings’ depleted lineup displayed all the confidence you’d expect from a team that seemed to play the first period as if it was issuing a collective, on-ice statement lamenting, “We’ve gotta play through another injury? Are you f***ing kidding me?”
Well the Red Wings registered all of 15 shots on goal, surrendered 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 leads, and yet they won thanks to—of all things—a goal by Darren Helm with 1:13 left in the 3rrd and some fantastic saves by a goalie who gave up some squeakers in Joey MacDonald.
4-3 Detroit. Are you f***ing kidding me?
I don’t know if we can call this one a turning point yet, but a Detroit Red Wings team that had lost two straight games minus Datsyuk, Howard and Lidstrom, and has played with Danny Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg in various states of playing-through-nagging-injury status, stumbled out of the gate, fumbled and fluttered their few leads away…
And yet on a night when the Wings took 3 shots in the 1st period, 5 in the 2nd and 7 in the 3rd—which is nothing for a team that usually fires 35-plus shots on its opponent—and on a night when Joey MacDonald was equal amounts brilliant and the victim of “squeakers” that he should have had, undermanned Wings found a way to play undeterred hockey…
Including continuing to have a power play that does jack and s***, going 0-for-3 with maybe 2 shots in 6 minutes of PP time.
The Kings went into Detroit more or less copying the Blackhawks’ and Flyers’ styles, playing a hard-charging, hard-forechecking game that seems to give the Wings fits as it prohibits them from winding up their puck possession game and then looping off at the opposing team’s blueline or half boards to drop passes to lurking forwards or defensemen. Instead, the Wings have had little to no “time and space” with which to maneuver, and they very simply haven’t been able to do the two things that teams need to do to battle that kind of searing-hot pressure on the puck:
1. You’ve gotta out-skate your opponent;
2. And you’ve gotta be harder on the stick, especially in one-on-one and 50-50 battles and scrums for the puck, because in the NHL in March of 2012, unless you blatantly trip someone (which the Wings did three times), you blatantly grab someone with a free hand (which the Wings did once) or you get caught with your stick horizontal to the ice (which the Kings did once), anything goes, and while the Wings certainly get away with their share of penalties, man, does it ever benefit teams that want to bottle up skill and speed.
The Wings screwed up early: off an easy hooking call to give Darren Helm. Drew Doughty charged up and into the Wings zone himself, dumped the puck, chased it against Kyle Quincey and Ian White, and when White was unable to clear the puck Anze Kopitar stole it, skated in from the point, and with Dustin Penner and Jeff Carter standing in front of the net, Kopitar put the puck off the crossbar, and as Quincey and White scrambled back into position, Carter out-muscled Quincey to the net and chipped the puck through MacDonald, who couldn’t squeeze his legs together. The Kings’ goal 7:29 into the 1st was the only power play goal of the game.
Seven minutes later, despite being out-hustled and out-muscled, the one Wings’ line which displayed consistent poise struck back. Off a fantastic transition play, Jiri Hudler, Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula roared into the Kings’ zone, Zetterberg and Hudler dug the puck out of a pile of Kings defensemen, and Zetterberg gave the puck to Filppula, who was standing at the left faceoff dot, Zetterberg slid over to the right faceoff dot, and as Hudler took his spot in front of Jonathan Quick, Filppula gave it back to Zetterberg, who roofed the puck at the 14:40 mark.
Despite having 2 shots forever, it looked like the Wings might escape the first tied 1-1…But their goaltender let them down. Justin Williams hacked the puck past Niklas Kronwall on the left side of the ice, and as both players chased the puck down into the Wings’ end, Williams won the battle, got his stick free and slithered a snap shot at the net which Joey MacDonald allowed to squeeze in through his blocker and under his shoulder from an acute angle. It was an inexcusable goal, and with 2:19 left in the 1st, it was 2-1 Los Angeles.
It took the Red Wings almost a full period to recover. With the Wings lurking in the weeds like their opponents do and their grinders, like Cory Emmerton, Tomas Holmstrom, Drew Miller and Doug Janik out-starring the team’s best players in terms of work ethic, the Wings kept grinding and grinding and ceding and ceding territory…
But at 15:37 of the 2nd, Valtteri Filppula charged up ice, away from Williams, blazed from blueline to blueline and deked through Drew Doughty before skating toward the net. Jonathan Quick thought Filppula would send the puck to Jiri Hudler, who parked himself off the far goal post, but instead, Filppula tried to send the puck to the slot-charging Henrik Zetterberg, who took the high pass off his hip, settled it onto his stick, deked backhand and then tapped a lovely little forehand shot past Quick on the blocker side. 2-2.
The Wings more or less milked the tie going into the third period, and after they blew a power play 2:21 in, they killed a penalty of their own as Brendan Smith got tagged for tripping 8 minutes in. As time ticked by, however, the Wings started to gain poise and resolve, and the undermanned, depleted and under-confident team that started the game as a one-line team being ground into dust by a relentless pursuer started to lug the puck up ice with speed, through the neutral zone with speed, and grind it out in the opposition’s end with the same kind of resolve, jam, work ethic and plain old absence of fear that the Wings were only displaying in the defensive zone for the first 40 minutes of play.
Regardless of the injury scares when Henrik Zetterberg got tripped up, when Kyle Quincey got tripped up, when Franzen got stung, when Kronwall got stung, etc., and when the lines went into blenders thanks to the fact that Babcock bafflingly refused to simply use the Filppula-Zetterberg-Hudler line as his first power play unit, the Wings started to look like the Red Wings as opposed to the Grand Rapids Griffins East.
Then they screwed up.
With 4:33 left in the 3rd period, and the game looking like its next would certainly define it and spell its margin of defeat, Filppula won a faceoff to Niklas Kronwall, and as Zetterberg was tripped up in a collision in the slot and hobbled back to his feet, Kronwall’s pass to Stuart yielded a turnover to Drew Doughty at the offensive blueline, and he passed the puck to Jeff Carter along said blueline, Carter rifled a snapper toward the net, and his whiffleball shot was tapped over MacDonald’s blocker by the man who tripped Zetterberg in Dwight King.
Game over, I assumed. Thankfully, I was wrong.
A little under three minutes later, with 4:02 left, and Zetterberg having returned to the ice, Ian White started a breakout, gave the puck to Zetterberg, he slid it to Filppula, and then Zetterberg chased the puck deep and rimmed it back to Kyle Quincey. Quincey’s shot missed the net, but Filppula took the rebound, circled, delivered it to White at the blueline, and when White’s shot was dumped pats a pinching Quincey, Filppula skated out to support his teammate and held it in. White took the puck at the right side of the blueline and was hacked as the Kings put a sixth man on the ice a bit early, but White gave the puck to Jiri Hudler. Instead of going to the net, Hudler saw that the Red Wings had gotten a line change going, with Brendan Smith roaring off the bench.
So Hudler sent a drop pass to Zetterberg along the right wing boards instead, and as Smith,charged into the slot, and from the right half boards, Zetterberg fired the puck to Smith, Smith looked for options, and wouldn’t you know it, Valtteri Filppula had found his way toward Quick’s blocker side. Filppula received Smiths’ pass and roofed the puck over Quick. 3-3, the Wings had life…
And instead of taking the game to overtime, the Wings won in regulation for two reasons.
Reason the first: Joey MacDonald. MacDonald made a gigantic save on Drew doughty with 2:20 left, made an amazing save on Jarret Stoll by kicking himself from side to side with about a minute left and gloving a puck that was headed for an open net, and with the Kings attempting to tie things up in the game’s dying seconds, he made a fantastic stick shaft save on a Jeff Carter shot that looked like it was heading into the top shelf, setting up his teammates for a slate of faceoffs they won and ground down as the clock crawled to and finally struck zero.
Reason the second: Off that first MacDonald save, Johan Franzen, who had an, “I’m trying waaaaayyyy too hard so I’m screwing up all the time” evening, chugged up ice with Gustav Nyquist, gave the puck to Ian White, and when White dumped the puck in while missing Darren Helm, Helm tried to scrum the puck against Carter at the half boards on the left side, Franzen shoved himself off Carter to steal the puck, and while Carter managed to clear the puck after winning the battle, he would not win the war.
Carter’s clear was shallow, off Niklas Kronwall just outside the offensive blueline, and Kronwall gave the puck to Franzen as his line circled and prepared to pounce. Franzen slid the puck over to Nyquist, he blubbed the puck in a one-on-one battle, but again, Franzen supported his teammate, kicked the puck to his stick along the right half boards, dumped it deep for Darren Helm, and when Helm and Doughty started leaning into each other, Franzen took that loose puck deep and behind the goal line, circled and fired the puck back to Helm, who leaned hard on Drew Doughty, managed to get his stick blade free, and redirected Franzen’s pass for the game-winning goal, scored with all of 1:13 left in the 3rd.
The Wings held serve from there and MacDonald was huge, and now the Wings head into Nashville six points up on their opponents ahead of a “four-point game,” and this team finally looks confident enough to do more than just attempt to rally for a near-tie, as they did in Philly, or a tie going into OT, as they appeared to be willing to do tonight.
Instead, this depleted and slightly less skilled Red Wings team has figured out that if it out-works its opponents, it can indeed prevail, and after tonight’s win, I don’t want to make predictions against the stacked and healthy Predators as they sat watching tonight’s game from their La-z-boys, but hell…why not?
Oh yeah, by the way:
Update: From the Wings’ website, here’s Brendan Smith…
And Henrik Zetterberg talking about the game:
Shots 24-15 LA overall. Detroit was out-shot 9-3 in the 1st period, out-shot 7-5 in the 2nd period and out-shot 8-7 in the 3rd period.
The Kings went 1 for 4 in 6:09 of PP time; the Wings went 0 for 3 in 6:00 of PP time.
Joey MacDonald stopped 21 of 24 shots; Jonathan Quick stopped 11 of 15.
The 3 stars, per the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, were Darren Helm, Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula.
The Wings’ goals: Zetterberg (17) from Filppula (34) and Hudler (21);
Zetterberg (18) from Filppula (35) and Kronwall (18);
Filppula (22) from Smith (4) and Zetterberg (40);
Helm (9) from Franzen (27) and Nyquist (2).
Faceoffs 29-26 LA (Detroit won 46%);
Blocked shots 9-9;
Missed shots 13-8 Detroit (total attempts 41-37 LA);
Hits 27-21 LA;
Giveaways 6-3 Detroit;
Takeaways 7-5 LA.
Faceoffs: Emmerton of all people led the Wings, going 9-and-4 (69%); Zetterberg went 4-and-8 (33%); Helm went 4-and-8 (33%); Filppula went 5-and-6 (45%); Andersson went 4-and-1 (80%); Franzen went 0-and-2.
Shots: Zetterberg led the team with 5 shots; Cleary had 3; Helm and Millerh ad 2; Quincey, Janik and Filppula had 1.
Blocked attempts Franzen fired 3 shots into Kings players; Nyquist, White, Stuart, Hudler, Quincey and Janik had single attempts blocked.
Missed shots: Cleary, White and Holmstrom missed the net 2 times; Nyquist, Janik, Mursak, Zetterberg, Helm, Emmerton and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Quincey led the team with 4 hits; Smith, Stuart, Hudler, Emmerton, Kronwall and Andersson had 2; Cleary, Miller, Janik, Helm and Holmstrom had 1.
Giveaways: Cleary, Stuart, Kronwall, Franzen, Holmstrom and MacDonald had giveaways;
Takeaways: Smith, Miller, Zetterberg, Helm and Franzen had takeaways;
Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 5 Kings shots; White blocked 2; Stuart and Zetterberg blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Smith, Stuart, Zetterberg and Helm took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +10. Smith finished at +2; Nyquist, Hudler, Janik, Zetterberg, Helm, Filppula, Kronwall and Franzen finished at +1.
Points: Zetterberg had 2 goals and 1 assist for 3 points; Filppula scored 1 goal and added 2 assists for 2 points; Helm scored a goal; Smith, Nyquist, Hudler, Kronwall and Franzen had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 25:03 played; Stuart played 22:24; Quincey played 21:52;
White played 21:29; Filppula played 20:38; Zetterberg played 20:32;
Cleary played 18:47; Franzen played 17:34; Hudler played 17:33;
Smith played 16:01; Helm played 15:31; Miller played 14:10;
Janik played 13:29; Nyquist played 12:36; Emmerton played 12:18;
Holmstrom played 11:13; Mursak played 6:24; Andersson played 6:17.
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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.