The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/10/12 at 07:57 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings’ gritty 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings allowed the Wings to take a midnight flight to Nashville to battle the Predators this evening (8 PM EST, FSD/FS Tennessee/97.1 FM/Don’t forget we “spring forward” this weekend) at least having kept pace with the Blues (2 points ahead of Detroit) and Canucks (1 point ahead) in the Western Conference standings, and ensuring that, should the depleted Wings fall this evening, Nashville can only creep to within 4 points of Detroit in the Central Division race, not 2…
But in terms of preparing to go into tonight’s game and perhaps one or both of the Wings’ games in Los Angeles and Anaheim next Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, minus the vast majority of Justin Abdelkader (flu), Todd Bertuzzi (groin), Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Jonathan Ericsson (broken wrist), Jimmy Howard (groin), Nicklas Lidstrom (bone bruise in his ankle) and Jakub Kindl (“upper-body”), this Red Wings team whose roster includes seven actually-playing skaters/goalie and eight total warm bodies who didn’t start the season in Detroit, and six who started the year in Grand Rapids…
Friday night’s win was as crucial to the team “learning how to win as it is currently constructed” it was to breaking a two-game losing streak, if not more as the team slowly skates toward the playoffs now knowing that the Smiths, Janiks, Nyquists, Anderssons, Conners and MacDonalds of the world can get the job done—even if only in a fashion that is as aesthetically pleasing as nose hair until the Wings manage to, muck, grind, out-hustle, out-work and out-lurk-in-the-weeds their opponents to a positive result.
Put a little more bluntly, given the persistence of Nicklas Lidstrom’s bone bruise, Pavel Datsyuk’s slow progress back from knee surgery, the Wings’ cautiousness with Bertuzzi, Howard, Kindl, and given that Danny Cleary and even Henrik Zetterberg are playing at less than 100%, this Red Wings team might not be at full strength, or even nearly so, for a while, and in the interim, they desperately needed to start forging an identity as a team that knows how to win, sometimes in spite of itself, when its brightest stars are absent.
To avoid a fourth-place finish and a first-round match-up with someone like the Predators (that’s who the Wings would face if the season ended today), the Wings will obviously have to build upon their 3-4-and-1 record of late and keep ‘er going as their last long road trip of the year takes them through Nashville, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose over the next week, and that means getting back to winning or at least earning points in sixty or seventy percent of their games, and given the usual, “Gee, haven’t we watched our Wings go into Nashville on the second half of a back-to-back game and get their asses kicked elevendy twelve times before?” nature of tonight’s affair, any progress made during Friday night’s game will be graded on a probationary basis until we find out what happens by the time most of us set our clocks forward on Sunday morning, but for the Wings, two points it two points—and if the Wings keep winning like this, there’s nothing wrong with kissing 15-shots-for bulldogs, if you will.
For the Kings, however, the Anze Kopitar-Jan Mursak meeting of the Slovenian minds represented a monumentally blown chance to leapfrog the Sharks and land in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, and it was a missed opportunity to rebound from a 3-1 loss to Columbus on Thursday. As the Kings’ traveling press corps is a sparsely-populated group, so we’ll take a look at some of ESPN Los Angeles’s Dan Arritt’s eight keys to the game...
THE FACTS: Holding a one-goal lead with just over four minutes remaining against an injury-depleted team who was struggling just to gets shots on net, the Kings gave away the victory Friday night and a chance to move into the top eight in the Western Conference standings at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
THE STAT: The Kings lost in regulation for the first time in 87 games when leading after the second period.
TURNING POINT: The Kings had taken their third lead of the game, 3-2, on a goal by rookie forward Dwight King with 5:54 remaining in the game, but they gave that one away too, as Valterri Filppula scored just under two minutes later. The Red Wings then took their first lead with 1:13 left when Johan Franzen passed to Darren Helm in front of the net and he scored Detroit’s fourth goal of the game on just their 15th shot on goal.
GOOD MOVE: Kings forward Jeff Carter was one of the few Kings who showed up to play. He scored a power-play goal 7:29 into the game to give the Kings a 1-0 lead and some much-needed momentum after their effort against the Blue Jackets the night before. After the Kings blew two one-goal leads, Carter made a nice no-look shot on goal that appeared to surprise Detroit goalie Joey MacDonald, who left a sweet rebound for King to lift into the net.
BAD MOVE: What was Mike Richards thinking? The Kings were clinging to their final one-goal lead in the waning minutes, he had the puck on his stick in the defensive zone with room to clear and instead dumped it back to Scuderi, who gave it away to the Red Wings under pressure. Detroit then went into attack mode, as Brendan Smith passed to a Henrik Zetterberg charging toward the slot. Zetterberg immediately dumped it off to Filppula on the opposite post and he scored the tying goal. It’s bad enough that Richards has gone 23 straight games without scoring a goal, but passing the puck the wrong direction in that situation is just plain wrong.
And we’ll do my favorite thing in terms of recapping any sporting event—turn it over to the players and coach for their takes on the game that was—via LA Kings Insider’s Rich Hammond, who provides us with quips and quotes from Mike Richards...
(on not holding a third-period lead…)
RICHARDS: “We should have confidence playing with the lead, especially in the third period. I made a couple mistakes that I don’t usually make, and the pucks ended up in our net. It’s frustrating, to say the least. It’s something that we have to learn from and work through. We don’t have time to dwell on it now. We have to learn from it and correct it and move on and look forward to Sunday.’’
Rob Scuderi, who finished at -4…
(on what happened on Detroit’s tying goal…)
SCUDERI: “It was me and Rick [Mike Richards] in the corner. I just know that, based on our D-zone system, he dropped it off and I tried to get stick on puck. The pass went over my stick. I’m not 100-percent sure what was going on. I haven’t seen the replay. But if we’re going to finish out games, it’s something we have to handle.’’
And Kings coach Darryl Sutter:
(on the game…)
SUTTER: “When you hold a team like that down, and score three goals, you should win.’’
(on the breakdowns on the late goals…)
SUTTER: “Mike (Richards), instead of putting it back (in his zone) on the tying goal, should take it out of the zone. It’s simple. They’re at the end of their shifts, all three of them, him and Robbie (Scuderi) and Drew (Doughty). I think it was the same thing on the last one, too. It was the same three guys down low in coverage. Franzen makes a great play to Helm, and the Zetterberg line was pretty good all night.’’
(on the missed opportunity…)
SUTTER: “I thought we played pretty well here tonight. The way we played tonight, if we had played that way last night, we would have gotten points last night. That’s how I think we responded.’’
Los Angeles could have moved into the top eight in the West with a victory; instead, the Kings remained one point behind San Jose. They are 1-2-0 on a trip that ends Sunday in Chicago.
“You can’t take a step back,” Richards said. “You have to move forward. As tough as it is, we just have to show some character in this dressing room, in terms of what we can do and how we’re going to move forward and hopefully get better.”
Detroit, playing without a half-dozen injured regulars including All-Stars Datsyuk, Howard and defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, had lost five of their last seven. On Friday, they were also without forwards Bertuzzi and Justin Abdelkader along with defensemen Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl. Los Angeles took three one-goal leads but couldn’t keep the Wings from tying the game each time.
“When you keep shots down like that and you score three goals, you should win,” coach Darryl Sutter said.
And the Kings expressed similar frustrations to the Associated Press...
“What we’ve got to do is not get down and look ahead,” Justin Williams said. “We’ve got 14 games left.”
Jonathan Quick, though, stopped just 11 shots for the Kings.
“Every game has its own challenges,” Quick said. “Ones where you don’t see as many shots, it’s more mentally challenging.”
Los Angeles pulled Quick to have an extra skater and had a 6-on-4 advantage on a power play with 23.2 seconds left and a faceoff in the Detroit end. The Kings got the puck, but Joey MacDonald stopped Jeff Carter’s shot with 15.2 seconds left and they could not get another shot on net.
“Blew that game,” Dustin Brown said. “We played a good game and we let it get away.”
Which drops this statistical bomb:
It took the Red Wings about 10 minutes in each of the first periods to get a shot. They finished with just 15 shots for their lowest total since April 1, 2004, according to STATS, LLC, in a 3-2 win over St. Louis.
April 1/04 - #redwings get 12 shots, beat #blues 3-2. Marc Lamothe wins. Mar. 9/12 - #redwings 15 shots b. #kings 4-3. Joey MacDonald wins.
And it’s Duff’s recap that will take us into the Wings’ locker room. Duff delicately describes the Red Wings’ aplomb in terms of crispness as having “fumbled the puck as if it were a hand grenade,” noting that the Wings’ power play still went 0-for-3, and that the game was, again, as pretty as a bulldog’s face (no offense to bulldogs…I’m the human equivalent of one), and Wings coach Mike Babcock will at least kind-of-sort-of admit as much:
“There’s no question we’re not as skilled as we normally are,” Babcock admitted. “That’s the facts, so let’s find a way to win a different way. To me, you just keep doing good things, keep working real hard, understand we’ve got to get to the net and shoot the puck, because we’re not quite as skillful as we were.”
Those in sick bay can do little but keep their fingers crossed and hope for the best.
“It’s an important part of the year right now,” Bertuzzi said. “We’ve still got some work to take care. I still want to be a part of it, but I’m not going to go out there at 60 per cent of my speed and strength and do the team any good. My body is not 24 years old. It needs a little more time.”
Howard appears to be the closest to returning among the ailing, targeting Tuesday’s return date with the Kings in L.A.
“I feel a lot better,” Howard said. “It’s getting better every single day. Hopefully, (Saturday), I’ll share a net (during the game-day skate), then practice Monday in L.A.”
Lidstrom and Datsyuk also expect to be back during Detroit’s three-game West Coast swing next week, and therein lay the most significant development amongst this rash of injuries. The timing of the pain could be much worse.
“You don’t want this injury bug going around during the playoffs,” Howard said. “Hopefully, it’s come full circle here, and we can just move on and play.”
About that power play sans the aforementioned, in alphabetical order, Abdelkader, Bertuzzi, Datsyuk, Ericsson, Howard, Kindl and Lidstrom? Yeah, it’s bad. The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan asked Babcock about it, and received a simple answer:
The Wings continue to struggle on the power play, going 0-for-3 (they’re 3-for-37 over their last 10 games) and the overall offense is limited by injuries. But they limited the Kings to 24 shots on net — despite the depleted lineup — and kept themselves in the game.
“Our power play hasn’t been great (because) we don’t have the same skill level we normally have, so you’re not going to be as smooth as you normally are, you’re not going to get as much offense,” Babcock said. “We’re doing a good job of (limiting shots) and we have to because that’s the only way you’re going to survive.”
Survival. That’s what this is, and Babcock knows it:
“It was a grind,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Some nights are more challenging than others and this was one of them. We knew it was a desperate team and we had a lot of kids playing but we hung in there, relied on good goaltending, and in the end won a game.”
Or, as he told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
Mike Babcock, on the game, “It was a grind-out fest. Every time you put your uniform on you expect to win, and yet some nights are more challenging than others, and this was one of them. We knew we had a team that was real desperate, and we had a lot of kids in. We hung around and relied on good goaltending and in the end, won a game.”
Babcock was also readily aware of the fact that, aside from the line of Valtteri Filppula (1 goal, 2 assists), Henrik Zetterberg (2 goals, 1 assist) and Jiri Hudler (1 assist), his “best” line, offensively speaking, consists of Johan Franzen, Darren Helm and Drew Miller, and so he told St. James the obvious regarding the gents who provided offense in this “survival mode” win:
“Z’s line, they carried us here tonight,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’d like to have more support for those guys, but they carried us and did a real good job. Him and Fil were fantastic.”
Darren Helm delivered the game-winner with 1:13 remaining, going to the front of the net to bat home Johan Franzen’s feed from behind the net and end a two-game losing streak.
Joey MacDonald amended for giving up one bad goal by making a couple of spectacular saves, including one on Jeff Carter in the last few seconds with the Kings on a 6-on-4 power play. “Their second goal, he gassed,” Babcock said. “But what I’ve found about him is that doesn’t affect him at all, he just plays, which is really good.”
The Wings left immediately afterward for Nashville, where they play tonight. They’ll take on their Central Division rivals with nearly the same patchy lineup as they had Friday. The injured include captain Nicklas Lidstrom, leading scorer Datsyuk, forward Todd Bertuzzi, and defensemen Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl. Justin Abdelkader ended up being scratched because of flu. That made for a game where the Wings went long stretches without a shot on net.
“I looked up there, we had four shots, I think it was in the second period,” Zetterberg said. “It’s very unusual for us. But they played hard, they played really tight. I don’t think they had a ton of shots, either.”
Babcock emphasized the positive—and the correct observation—while speaking about MacDonald’s when the Wings were tied 3-3 going to what they thought was overtime and then held a lead for all of a minute and thirteen seconds of game time while speaking to the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell:
“He (MacDonald) gassed their second goal, but what I found about him is it doesn’t affect him at all, he just plays,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Everyone’s going to make a mistake. Just keep playing. He made a couple of big saves at the end.”
Unlike Ty Conklin, regrettably. Boy howdy, did he let those goals get in his head.
Anyway, was there artistry in the game, MacDonald’s glove and stick-shaft saves down the stretch excluded? You bet, and part of it involved Brendan Smith’s heady play all night long…
On Filppula’s game-tying tally at 15:58 [of the 3rd period], it was the Wings’ patience with the puck in the offensive zone that was the key. Rookie defenceman Brendan Smith jumped off the bench and raced into the play. Henrik Zetterberg slipped a pass to him in full flight and Smith sucked everybody over before feeding Filppula for the easy finish.
“I think they lost him,” Zetterberg said. “He made a good pass to Fil. He jumps up in the play at the right time and it’s no panic there. He made a nice backhand saucer to Fil.”
It was more of the same on Helm’s game winner with 1:13 to play. Rookie Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen played keep-away on the cycle while Helm muscled inside to the edge of the crease. Franzen slipped the puck through and Helm chipped it past Quick.
“I saw Mule take a look and we made eye contact and I knew that I just had to get to the net and he made a nice pass,” Helm said. “It was just a strong play on the stick and it went in.”
It was a beautiful, beautiful play by a man who struggled to do anything right all night long, and given that Franzen was equally dominant in the results department against the Flyers, despite his stumbles, there’s something to be said for the Mule finally stirring and working his ass off, even if it isn’t pretty (huh, did I just write that? No pun intended, actually!).
Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji also took note of the Wings’ third-period flourishes of offensive skill and plain old grit and “jam.” Filppula did his best to deke, dangle and dipsy-doodle his way out of taking credit for his artistry, as did Brendan Smith, as did Helm…
“We’ve been playing together for a while now and we’re getting to know each other better and better,” Filppula said. “We know how we want to play. Some nights things go the way we want.”
Filppula’s game-tying goal with 4:02 left in the third came on a beautiful pass from rookie Brendan Smith.
“I’ve kind of watched Kronner (Niklas Kronwall) do it all of the time,” Smith said. “I think the forward forgot there was a line change and he collapsed on (Jiri) Hudler a little bit and it gave me the middle of the ice so I just yelled and Z put it right on my tape. I was able to get enough wood on it to make a pass to Fil backdoor when I saw him out of the corner of my eye. Obviously you have to give him credit, because he had to bury that, too, and put it right under the bar, which was pretty impressive.”
Helm’s goal was also impressive because he scored from right in front of the crease with Kings defenseman Drew Doughty draped all over him.
“It started with the entire shift, we controlled the puck, kept it in the zone, move it around and were cycling it pretty well,” Helm said. “I saw Mule take a look and we made eye contact and I knew that I just had to get to the net and he made a nice pass. It was just a strong play on the stick and it went in.”
And as DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose noted, regardless of whether you want to call them the “Griffins East” or my preferred term, the “Wiffins,” Nyquist, Smith, MacDonald, Doug Janik (who had a whale of a game by defensive defenseman’s standards) and Andersson (superb in limited ice time) looked like they belonged…But the Wings’ lack of NHL experience also played a negative aesthetic role:
Whether or not the team’s low shot total can be pinned in the Wings’ youth movement, who knows, but their eight shots through the first 40-minutes of a game tied a 31-year-old low mark set in a 4-2 loss to Edmonton on March 28, 1981.
“We’d like to have more support for those guys but they carried us and did a real good job and I thought we got a big night out of (Cory) Emmerton and his group with (Drew) Miller and (Danny) Cleary,” Babcock said. “We didn’t get (Andersson’s) group out there as much as they’d like but that’s just the way the game went.”
Zetterberg accounted for a third of the Wings’ shot total and half of their goals, potting one each in the first and second periods. Valtteri Filppula scored the tying goal with 4:02 left in the third period.
“I mean, that top line kind of carried us with three of the goals,” Helm said. “The younger guys did play well, I thought they played really well, and when they can go out and create energy and play well defensively it gives guys like Hank and Fil and (Jiri Hudler) chances to go out there and do what they do.”
I’m kind of stunned to read this: MLive’s Ansar Khan, who also penned a quote-less recap, got a helluva quote from Babcock in his main recap given some dunderhead’s suggestion that the Wings won a game because they were “strong on the stick” in battles for the puck, scrums in the corner and one-on-one situations where the Blackhawks, Flyers and Kings have very consciously taken advantage of the Wings by taking their time and space with the puck (and thus speed and skating, too) away:
“I thought it was a real battle, puck strength-wise, all night long,’’ Babcock said. “They were real hard on the puck, and you had to be heavy and hard on your stick and Fil was great in that area and made an unbelievable play.’‘
After Dwight King knocked in a rebound to put the Kings ahead 3-2 at 14:06 of the third, Filppula scored his 22nd goal to tie it. He converted a pass from Brendan Smith, who hopped off the bench and jumped into the play, taking a feed from Zetterberg.
“(Assistant coach Bill Peters) called my name and I skated out there and (Jiri) Hudler had the puck at the point, kind of drew in the high forward who would be covering me,’’ Smith said. “They forgot about me. Hudler went down to Zetterberg and I just yelled for Z, and Z found me with a great pass in front and I saw Fil back door and I was lucky enough to get enough wood to get it back there.’‘
Said Filppula: “It was a nice pass. It was pretty much an empty-netter for me.’‘
Zetterberg has 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in his past 16 games. With 58 points, he is only one behind team leader Pavel Datsyuk, who has missed eight games following arthroscopic knee surgery.
“Puck kind of bounced our way tonight,’’ Zetterberg said. “We didn’t really match their desperation in the first, but then we found a way to score some goals.’‘
Bottom line, offensively and otherwise?
“(Zetterberg) and Fil were fantastic that way,’’ Babcock said. “You need that. Our power play hasn’t been great (it went 0-for-3 and is 0-for-16 in four games). We don’t have the skill level we normally have. So you’re not as smooth as you’d normally be and you’re not going to get as much offense. We’re doing a good job (limiting shots). We have to, that’s the only way you’re going to survive.’‘
Exactly. Now go and survive in Nashville tonight.
Highlights: The Red Wings’ website’s highlight clip is narrated by FSD’s Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond.
and Valtteri Filppula;
Photos: The Detroit News posted a 17-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 21-image gallery;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 5-image gallery;
If you’d like a Joey MacDonald wallpaper, CBS Detroit provides one;
Fox Sports California posted an 8-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted an 11-image AP gallery;
NHL.com posted a 22-image gallery;
The Kings’ website posted a 22-image gallery;
And the Red Wings’ website posted a 22-image gallery.
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.
Part II: Red Wings-Predators set-up: The Wings flew to Nashville around midnight and their press corps did, too, so we’re not gonna get much regarding tonight’s match-up from them.
But all indications suggest that if you thought the Kings were plucky and the Blackhawks possessing their normal swagger even without Jonathan Toews in the lineup, we ain’t seen nothing yet. The Predators, bolstered by Hal Gill, Paul Gaustad and Andrei Kostitsyn (and we learned why the Wings didn’t bid on the middle dude on Friday) possess a 6-2-and-1 record since they lost to the Wings way back on February 17th (which was a very bad day for me, thus no recap on the blog then), and while they do sit six points behind the Red Wings in the Central Division standings, and they have a game in hand.
Tonight’s game could thus yield a de-facto two-points-behind-if-we-win-the-game-in-hand scenario, and it should be noted that the Predators are also only 4 points ahead of the Blackhawks, too, so they’ve got their share of reasons to win tonight’s game. After Thursday night’s 4-2 victory over Colorado they weren’t necessarily happy with themselves, as Shea Weber told the Associated Press…
Sergei Kostitsyn scored at 19:28 of the second period, and the Nashville Predators held off the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 Thursday night. The Predators let Los Angeles, another team fighting for contention, jump on them in a 5-4 loss Tuesday night. That was their first home loss in regulation since Jan. 5. With Pekka Rinne stopping 15 shots and setting a franchise record with his NHL-best 37th win, they improved to 18-3-2 in their last 23 home games.
“We should have some desperation of our own,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “I think we’re still in striking distance to win our division, so we need to be desperate to do that and that’ll give us home ice in the playoffs.”
And on Friday, amidst a crapton of speculation about Alexander Radulov making a miraculous playoff-push return to Nashville that’s somehow legal by NHL rules, despite the fact that he played in the KHL this past season, though the Predators aren’t exactly buying in that the move is a fait accompli (i.e. all but guaranteed), the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper tossed off this observation after the Preds’ win over Colorado...
This game sets up the Predators well for Saturday’s contest against the Red Wings. They’ve rediscovered their defense, and picked up their confidence a bit. Their offense was in attack-mode most of the night. If Detroit loses Friday against Los Angeles, the Predators could conceivably pull within two points of the Red Wings. If Nashville plays Detroit in the postseason, home ice will be critical. Detroit has only four regulation losses at home all season. The Predators only have eight. Passing Detroit would also be symbolic for the Predators. The Red Wings have been their antagonist for so long in the division. Then again, we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves here …
The Predators were equally boisterous while speaking to Nashville Predators.com’s Doug Brumley on Friday afternoon…
“It was a huge game,” Predators left wing Gabriel Bourque said, seated in his locker room stall after practicing Friday. “You lose two points like that [on Tuesday], you have to bounce back and get the next two. We did a really good job. Everybody showed up for the game and I think it was a great win for the team.”
Right wing Brandon Yip, who scored a goal Thursday in his first game against his former team since the Avalanche waived him in January, expressed feeling some vindication. He was less focused on his own accomplishment, though, and more focused on the overall performance of the team, which he liked Thursday.
“[Colorado] came in a couple waves last night and I thought we did a good job of containing them. Obviously [goaltender Pekka Rinne] back there is always really solid. We got back to our game, working hard and sticking up for each other. It was a little bit of a hard-nosed game.”
After a short Friday practice designed to work briefly on breakout plays and keep players sharp, Predators head coach Barry Trotz echoed Yip’s assessment while framing it in a larger context.
“I like the fact that we discussed a few things, we discussed how we wanted to play and we went out and played that way,” Trotz said. “It means that the guys have a lot of pride and they’re listening, and have that ability to ramp up their game.”
The team’s goal now, of course, is to carry that level of intensity, focus and attachment into tomorrow night’s home game against the Detroit Red Wings.
“When we’re attached to the game emotionally and physically, as we were last night, you see the results.”
You can watch Trotz’s presser (Trotz is obsessed with Detroit as usual) or Pekka Rinne chatting with the media via the Predators’ website if you wish, read about Patric Hornqvist hitting the 20-goal mark via the Nashville City Paper’s David Boclair, or read warm fuzzies about Colin Wilson from the Tennessean’s Cooper if you wish, but it’s his chat with Pekka Rinne that might interest you a bit more…
The Predators have a winning record against every Central Division team this season except the Red Wings, who visit Bridgestone Arena today. Nashville is 1-3-0 against its main rival. The Red Wings played Friday, and will be without several of their top players, including Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk, today.
“We always get fired up playing Detroit,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “It’s a team that makes you try to play your best game possible. I don’t know what the reason is why we haven’t been that good against them, but it’s a chance to give them back a little bit. “
And here’s all you need to know, comparatively speaking, from Cooper’s preview:
Predators injuries: D Kevin Klein (upper body) is out.
NHL.com’s John Kreiser previews tonight’s game as follows…
Season Series: It’s the fifth of six meetings this season between the Central Division rivals. Detroit has won three of the first four, including a 4-1 victory at Bridgestone Arena on the day after Christmas in their last visit to Nashville.
Big Story: If there were ever a game set up for the Preds to beat their biggest rivals, this would be it. The injury-riddled Wings are missing several key players, including Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and goaltender Jimmy Howard, and are playing the second half of a back-to-back. But the Wings just keep finding ways to win—Friday’s 4-3 victory against Los Angeles moved them within two points of first-place St. Louis.
Who’s Hot: Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg has stepped up in the absence of Datsyuk—he had his first two-goal game in nearly a year on Friday and has nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points in his last 16 games. … Nashville’s Martin Erat now has goals in consecutive games; he also has 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in his last 29 games. …
Stat Pack: Each team boasts one of the most accurate shooters in the NHL. Detroit’s Jiri Hudler has 20 goals on only 93 shots, a 21.5 percent success rate. Nashville’s Sergei Kostitsyn had scored 17 times on just 76 shots (22.4 percent).
Puck Drop: The Predators matched a franchise record with their 19th sellout of the season on Thursday. The record is guaranteed to fall on Saturday—this game was sold out in advance. The Predators have given their fans plenty to cheer about—they are 11-1-2 in their last 14 home games and have allowed two goals or fewer 12 times during that span.
Oh, it gets worse from there, via the Predators’ website‘s game preview:
• Nashville has posted a 21-7-3 record in its last 31 games, outscoring the opposition 96-69 (plus 27), despite being outshot 950-859 (minus 91). Since the run started on Dec. 28, Nashville has averaged 3.09 goals per game, while allowing just 2.22 goals per game. The current streak includes outscoring foes 80-55 at even strength; they were outscored 72-54 at even strength in the first 36 games of 2011-12.
• For the season, Nashville’s power play ranks second in the League (20.8 percent). The Preds have potted 44 man-advantage goals in 67 games this season, after posting 41 in 82 games last season.
• The Predators have 10 players who have scored 10 goals or more for them this season, tied for a League high with Detroit and Philadelphia. That doesn’t include Andrei Kostitsyn’s 13 goals – he brought 12 markers with him from Montreal.
RINNE’S RECORDPekka Rinne set a franchise-record with his League-leading 37th victory of the season against Colorado on Thursday. Since Dec. 28, Rinne has posted a League-best 21-4-3 record with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage, improving to 37-14-7 on the season. He also leads the League in saves (1,672) and shots against (1,808), and ranks second in appearances (60).
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. DETROIT: Tonight, the Red Wings make their final trip of the 2011-12 regular season to Bridgestone Arena. Detroit leads the season series 3-1, but the teams have split games in Music City thus far. Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Nashville has picked up at least a point in nine of 11 home games against Detroit (6-2-3), while outscoring the Wings 33-24 in those 11 games.
In their last meeting on Feb. 17, the Red Wings jumped out to a 1-0 lead after the first period, but the Predators would tie the game with Nick Spaling’s goal at 14:58 of the middle frame. The game remained knotted at 1-1 until the 19:54 mark of the third, when Pavel Datsyuk beat Pekka Rinne to secure 2-1 win for the Wings.
Rinne has gone 9-5-3 in his career against the Wings with a 2.38 goals-against average and three shutouts … Jordin Tootoo leads all Preds with four points (1g-3a) against the Wings this season… Sergei Kostitsyn has eight points (5g-3a) in his last 10 games against the Red Wings… Ryan Suter has seven points (1g-6a) in his last eight games against Detroit.
So the Wings are going into Nashville for what can delicately be described as an uphill battle.
Part III: In the AHL and ECHL: The Grand Rapids Griffins play back-to-back games in Houston tonight and tomorrow, but the Wings’ ECHL affiliate did play on Friday. And they had a rough go. The Toledo Walleye dropped a 5-4 shootout decision to the Reading Royals despite building a 4-1 lead just under 3 minutes into the third period.
With Gleason Fournier, Bryan Rufenach and Thomas McCollum in Grand Rapids, there is some good news regarding Wings prospects, but it is slight: Nick Oslund finished at a +1, Andrej Nestrasil finished at a -1 (neither registered a point) and I’m pretty sure that neither of them received a 5-minute major and game misconduct for abuse of officials at the end of overtime. Neither the Royals website’s recap, the Walleye’s website’s recap nor the Toledo Blade’s recap explain how that went down.
Part IV: Red Wings notebooks: First and foremost, Fan Day at Joe Louis Arena is on Sunday, but the sucky part is that if you didn’t get a ticket at one of the Red Wings’ player signings at Meijer, you won’t be able to see the Hart Trophy, Selke Trophy, Norris Trophy or President’s Trophy.
• Yeah, so Danny Cleary’s knee is a work in progress. Mostly, as he told MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“It’s been sore,’’ Cleary said, prior to Friday’s game. “Is it getting better? I don’t know. We’ll see. “It’ll be fixed at the end of the year, let’s put it that way.’‘
Meaning he’ll have surgery after the season?
“I don’t know, we’ll see,’’ Cleary said. Cleary will have the knee drained again on Sunday. Rest might help, but the team is riddled with injuries and battling St. Louis for the top spot in the Central Division, so Cleary will keep playing. He will continue sitting out some practices, however.
“Trying to manage it the best I can here until we get to the playoffs and then do what I can,’’ Cleary said. “I had a few things done to it, hoping I’ll have a big relief in a few weeks.’‘
• Also in the injury department, from the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:
—Jimmy Howard (groin strain) skated for a second straight day and took some shots [on Friday].
“We just want to take all the precautions and make sure everything is healed up, with it being so close to playoffs,” said Howard, who added he could start Tuesday in Los Angeles. “Everything’s feeling back to normal. I think we nipped it in the bud pretty quickly there. We were able to great treatment right away. That’s probably saved us some time.”
• The Wings don’t know when Gustav Nyquist will graduate to the big club on a full-time basis, but they certainly believe that #14—who will wear #89 as a full-time Wing—will be a helluva player, as they told MLive’s Ansar Khan...
“He’s going to be a great player,” MacDonald said. “He’s got some great hands, good poise with the puck. He holds onto the puck, slows the play down. He’s a passer. Sometimes he should shoot, but he’ll learn once he gets playing (in Detroit).”
Having played five games in two stints with the Red Wings earlier this season calmed Nyquist’s nerves after he arrived from Austin, Texas, where the Griffins started a four-game trip on Wednesday.
Nyquist, with his tremendous hockey sense and skills, leads the Griffins with 54 points (19 goals, 35 assists).
“He’s been a dominant player as a rookie in the minors,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Most teams would have that guy on their team already. We’re going to go the other way. If he’s ready, he’ll show he’s ready with his confidence in his puck play. If he’s not ready, then that’s fine, too. We’ll give him all the time he needs.”
“He’s really good without the puck, which allows you to play him more,” Babcock said. “A lot of people that generate offense in our league, you’re scared to death of them without the puck, so a coach can’t get them on until they’re about 27 years of age. This kid seems to know how to play without the puck, so he gives you confidence.”
As the Free Press’s Helene St. James notes, Nyquist made quite the impression on Friday night:
The Red Wings consider Gustav Nyquist an NHL-caliber player, not least because of how he has dominated in the minors. Nyquist showed off some of that poise in assisting on the game-winning goal in Friday’s 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at Joe Louis Arena. The least surprised guy was Brendan Smith, who spent much of the season playing with Nyquist in the minors.
“He’s so fast, he’s so skilled,” Smith said. “His first three steps just burn so many guys. The biggest thing is, I want him to shoot a few more times, because he gets open so well. He looked fantastic out there.”
Nyquist, called up Thursday to offset injuries, travelled with the Wings to Nashville, where they play tonight.
Nyquist appeared in five games with Detroit in late December and early January, registering his first NHL point (an assist) during that stretch. He got his debut and the butterflies that come with it out of the way Nov. 1.
“I don’t feel close to as nervous as I was before,” Nyquist said of rejoining the lineup. “It’s just fun out there, you feel comfortable because you’ve met the guys before. Everything is faster, but at the same time, everyone is a better player, too, so that makes it more easy to play out there. You’re playing with the best players in the world, and that helps a lot, too.”
• And I’ll leave this one to you, because we’ve all got our stories to share, I’m sure: DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose penned a superb column about the Red Wings’ experiences with bullying and their affiliation with the “Defeat the Label” foundation.
Part V: Also of Red Wings-related note: If you missed Ken Holland’s interview with the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby and Gord Stellick in the game-day update thread, Wharnsby penned a column noting that Holland told the pair that he does not want the NHL’s general managers to suggest that they should bring back the red line as the marker of two-line passes when the GM’s meet in Boca Raton, Florida on Monday.
Holland says that he and his coach disagree on the subject:
“I’m not sure where we are going if we put the red-line back in,” Holland said. “I think we have a great game. There are scoring chances. There are lead changes. There is parity. There are races for the divisions. There are races for the conferences. There are races for the playoffs. Last year, seven of the 15 series in the playoffs went to a game seven. I don’t think the game has ever be better. I think the games are great. It’s important to continue to discuss and talk about ways to make the game better. Coaches always are going to make adjustments. We took the red-line out and everybody thought it was great. Coaches have had an opportunity to figure out the system. They’re always going to adjust. They’re the 30 best coaches in the world. We have a great game and lets continue going the way we’re going.”
The removal of the red-line and a new standard of officiating have sped up the NHL game. But a byproduct of all this speed has resulted more violent collisions, and more concussions. The absence of Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby for all but eight games in the past 14 months has only heightened the awareness that maybe the game has become too swift.
“I’m open to conversations of how we can slow the game down a bit, but I would like to know where we’re going,” Holland said. “I’m not a big fan of putting [the centre-line] back in. I think the game will become nothing but whistles. I like the idea of the stretch pass.”
To keep the red-line out or put it back in will be just one topic for discussion among the general managers in Florida. The removal of the trapezoid behind the goal, the area in which restricts goalies to where they can play the puck behind the goal-line, is another possibility. Holland would be open to a discussion on the removal of the trapezoid because he feels that only a handful of goalies would benefit from being allowed to play the puck more.
Holland also spoke about the issue with the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle:
Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland said this week that he and coach Mike Babcock have had the debate often, with the man behind the bench of one of the most successful teams in the league saying he feels the dreaded trap remains prevalent and has been helped, not hindered, by not calling two-line passes.
“He [Babcock] thinks that right now, because of the red line being out, everybody’s defensive scheme is really at your own blueline,” Holland said, “because you’re afraid to get people in behind you. For me personally, I like the game. But I am open to hearing other opinions. I mean, I’ve got Mike’s opinion, but he hasn’t sold me.”
• This really bugs me: be warned, because Sportsnet’s going to air an interview with Todd Bertuzzi on Saturday night, very specifically because Bertuzzi hit Steve Moore on March 8th, 2004, and Sportsnet’s Michael Grange penned a column talking about the “bounty” controversy in the NFL before using the Moore lawsuit as his centerpiece of how things might change, and expressing dissatisfaction with the fact that Bertuzzi will not discuss an incident for which he is being sued to the tune of $38 million.
We all have our opinions about what Bertuzzi did, but for goodness’ sake, don’t sound miffed because Bertuzzi, “Talked around the subject, but not about it,” while Moore has supposedly gained the moral high ground by not talking about the incident. Neither person can really speak about what happened due to the money involved, and further placing value judgments upon either party because one should talk about something that the other shouldn’t have to talk about…
• Bonus Swedish: Henrik Zetterberg told Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom that Gustav Nyquist’s play alongside Johan Franzen and Darren Helm illustrates that he’s an NHL-ready player, and while he was happy with the Wings’ win given their injuries, he deferred credit for his 2-goal, 1-assist performance to Filppula and Hudler.
What else did he tell Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman? The Wings know how to handle back-to-back games in terms of getting enough sleep and eating well, and he’s glad that the road trips are getting shorter now.
Part VI: Player assessments, abbreviated version: As it is quite late when I’m cobbling this together and I’ve got a morning skate’s worth of news to worry about, I’m gonna try to be brief (ha!). Again, these are just one subjective fan’s assessments of the Wings’ players, utilizing the stat sheet and some observations based on what my eyeballs saw as interpreted by my doofy brain, and the “grades” are Outstanding, Satisfactory or Needs Improvement.
#2 Brendan Smith: Outstanding. Smith had his roughest game of his call-up in Philly and he rebounded in a big way, finishing with an assist, a +2, 2 hits and a takeaway in 16:01 of ice time. He is indeed playing more cautious than he normally would sans Lidstrom, Ericsson and Kindl in the lineup—it’s hard to blame him—but it’s actually in his steadiness that I would argue he’s selling himself most strongly on being NHL-ready. The Wings already know he can skate like the wind, pass and shoot at an elite level, sees the ice like a top-pair defenseman and likes to hit. They need to know he’s ready to avoid getting hit while moving the puck out of trouble sans flash and dash, and he’s finally ready to do just that.
#11 Danny Cleary: Satisfactory. Gotta give him that grade based upon his injury and the way he’s sucking it up. Cleary still played 18:47 and had 3 shots, 2 more attempts, a hit and a giveaway, and he wasn’t very visible save his shots, but he’s really grinding it out and I thought he meshed surprisingly well with Cory Emmerton.
#14 Gustav Nyquist: Outstanding. Nyquist registered an assist, 2 shot attempts and played 12:36, and you know and I know that when the Wings have a roster spot available for him, he’s ready. He, like Smith, has learned to abandon that college-graduating player’s assumption that he has an extra second to move the puck or an extra second to stand and admire his pass or shot—which usually results in taking a nasty hit—and it took Nyquist about 50 games to learn what it’s taken Smith two seasons. He still needs to get stronger, and the Wings won’t bring him up here to sit on the bench or play on the fourth line, but he’s ready and he needs to steal someone’s job. That’s the one thing he hasn’t done.
#18 Ian White: Satisfactory. Again, quieter without Lidstrom, 3 shot attempts, 2 blocked shots, 21:29 played and he plays as seamlessly with Quincey as he does with anyone else. Despite the fact that he’s a very different player, he’s like the Kris Draper of the Wings’ defense: when the ship is listing, he’s the man Babcock sends over the boards to steady things.
#20 Drew Miller: Satisfactory. Miller played 14:10, and when he wasn’t playing with Helm and Franzen, he looked pretty damn good alongside Emmerton and Cleary, registering 2 of the Wings’ 15 shots, a hit and a takeaway. He’s become, if we are to invoke the Grind Line repeatedly, a sort of modern-day-pre-lockout Kirk Maltby. He’s utterly solid in all three zones, deceptively fast and as subtly surly as he is fearless.
#23 Brad Stuart: Outstanding. Stuart played 22:24 and had 2 hits, a giveaway and a blocked shot, but man, for a player who struggled so mightily against the Flyers and Blackhawks, did he rebound in a big way. Stuart was strong, rugged, he made life hell on the Kings’ forwards long before his teammates were willing to kick and shove and hand-pass the puck in 50/50 battles and scrums to get it out of trouble, and he let Kronwall do his thing without fear of having to bail #23 out. Great rebound game.
#26 Jiri Hudler: What’s become satisfactory. No shots, 2 hits, 17:33 of ice time, an assist, a +1, going to the net and serving as the forechecking and mucking and grinding pivot point to and from Zetterberg and Filppula can give the puck and then receive it as they deke, dangle and soar up and down the ice. I mean this as a compliment: these days he’s playing like Shawn Burr did on the Ysebaert-Fedorov-Burr line did in the 91-92 season. He’s the straw that stirs the drink.
#27 Kyle Quincey: Satisfactory. He wasn’t as dominant as he was in Philly, but he played 21:52, had 4 hits, a shot and another shot attempt, and again, he’s starting to blend in in a good way. He’s got the system back down and he’s just so underrated offensively that it’s silly. He’s not gonna register more than 35 points in a given season, even in Detroit, but he can keep up with the Whites of the world and bail them out because he doesn’t lose speed when he transitions to skating backwards or walks along the blueline laterally, and again, he sticks his butt out and tends to smear guys along the boards and leave ‘em sore, just like Stuart does, as naturally as can be.
#37 Doug Janik: Outstanding. Janik only played 13:29 and registered a shot, 2 more shot attempts and 1 hit, but he was invisible in all the right ways. He skated faster and sharper than he did in Philly, he knows exactly how to play the stay-at-home partner to Smith and he’s started to move the puck out of the zone and keep it in at the NHL level like he’s an NHL’er, not an AHL call-up. Friday he did his quiet best to assure Babcock that he can be an asset as opposed to something less than a liability.
#39 Jan Mursak: Satisfactory. He barely played! Mursak played 6:24, second-least on the team, and registered a missed shot, but he did what someone who ends up getting nailed to the bench should—he was visible in all the right ways in charging up and down the ice with the puck on his stick and getting his nose dirty on the forecheck while never compromising himself defensively.
#40 Henrik Zetterberg: Outstanding. I cringed when he got tripped up and came up hobbled, because he was amazing on Friday. 2 goals, an assist, a +1, 20:32 played, 5 shots, a takeaway, a blocked shot…The only thing he didn’t do fantastically was take faceoffs, because he went 4-and-8. Otherwise he was the player you and I were hoping he’d be in October, and methinks that he’s finally got those Warrior sticks dialed in in terms of trusting them when he shoots the puck. Sometimes it does take that long to get used to a different brand, and he’s finally accustomed to his “new” twigs after a career spent using Eastons.
#43 Darren Helm: Outstanding. He scored the gamer, registered 2 shots, a hit, a takeaway, and while he did go 4-and-8 in the faceoff circle, I never thought I
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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.