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Red Wings-Maple Leafs live blog redux: die-hards and revenge

The Red Wings hopped on Red Bird III and flew to Toronto for tonight’s marquee match-up against the Leafs (at 7 PM EDT on the CBC, CBC Sports online in Canada and the NHL Network in the U.S.); hopefully someone will toss up a link to a stream to those who need it) going with what we’ll politely call the “B Team” against a due to a combination of injuries—Pavel Datsyuk (back), Mike Commodore (knee) and Danny Cleary (upper-body something) and Jan Mursak (ankle, out till January-ish) are sidelined—and the fact that the Wings inexplicably cap off their pre-season slate with a three-games-in-three-nights grind.

I know that as the Tigers and Yankees play tonight and tomorrow, the turn-out for the live blog will be minimal, but that’s OK: this is the pre-season after all…

But between the fact that, according to TSN, Clarke MacArthur was suspended for dinging Justin Abdeklader in the head (and just like you, I’m confused as all hell get out as to how the Wings can swap the suspended Brendan Smith for Brent Raedeke, who was called up this afternoon despite the fact that Smith has to come up sometime to sit out 5 NHL games), the fact that the Leafs are going to ice what the Leafs’ website suggests is a mystery line-up that’s near regular-season quality, the fact that the Wings admitted to their press corps that they were pissed off at themselves for a characteristically slow start, mediocre goaltending and poor special teams play, the fact that it’s more or less the last chance for Fabian Brunnstrom, Ryan Johnson and Cory Emmerton to impress and the ever-persistent glare of the Toronto media, who are already stirring up bad blood between Ian White and Ron Wilson and basically will lord a Leafs sweep of the Wings, even in the pre-season, over the rest of the league as proof positive that the Leafs are Cup-bound—trust me, they’ve done it before…

And we end up with an extremely dense paragraph from a rusty blogger and a very intriguing match-up for those of you who are willing to either flip channels or dare not watch the Tigers game tonight. For the record, per the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, here’s tonight’s Wings lineup...

FORWARDS

Fabian Brunnstrom-Cory Emmerton-Jiri Hudler
Justin Abdelkader-Darren Helm-Drew Miller
Chris Conner-Ryan Johnson-Patrick Eaves
Tomas Tatar-Joakim Andersson-Landon Ferraro

DEFENSEMEN

Niklas Kronwall-Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson-Jakub Kindl
Garnet Exelby-Brian Lashoff

GOALIES

Ty Conklin
Joey MacDonald

And as I’ve been a strong proponent of “red is better than blue” since the, “Blue is for boys and pink is for girls” line during my kidhood, never mind witnessing the Leafs beat the Red Wings in the 1993 playoffs all of seven rows behind the Wings’ bench (I truly despise the Leafs), I’ll mention that while Leafs coach and general weirdo Ron Wilson grew up around the Wings’ locker room thanks to his uncle Johnny (who spoke to the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons about his career), little Ronnie grew up hating Gordie Howe and rooting for the Leafs. I can’t be Ian White, who preferred to say little to the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger about playing for Wilson instead of something rude because this match-up is a bitter one, at least in my slowly self-straightening head, so indulge me here, okay? wink

In any case, the Toronto Sun’s Bob Mitchell suggests that an NHL-ready Leafs lineup will play its “final exam” game in front of a raucous crowd and international media spotlight while the b-team tries to salvage some pride and players like Conner, Tatar (cue the “underwhelming pre-season” alarm), Exelby, Lashoff and the fantastic Andersson-Ferraro tandem attempt to establish a call-up pecking order, all while assistant coaches Bill Peters and Jeff Blashill continue to work on eliminating those naggingly persistent defensive coverage and special teams problems which have plagued the Wings for the past two years.

As I suggested last night, there are also larger-picture issues at play, and they don’t involve the fact that White’s finally wearing a matching pair of Easton gloves or Jimmy Howard’s decision to ditch those flat-faced Vaughn Vision pads for his classic “Iceberg” look:

1. At first glance, anyway, it looks like playing alongside Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm will give Todd Bertuzzi the every-game level of interest necessary to harness his physical panache, Valtteri Filppula certainly seems to have been freed from his self-imposed defensive shackles by switching to a winger for Henrik Zetterberg and another player with something to prove in terms of consistent offensive production in Johan Franzen, and regardless of whether Danny Cleary or Tomas Holmstrom plays alongside Pavel Datsyuk, they’re both going to put up points if they stay healthy, so at this point, either Jiri Hudler salvages his game from out of the Detroit River or Patrick Eaves takes his place instead and finally reclaims his status as a two-way performer…

But the Wings have always been at their best both offensively, defensively and on special teams when they can roll four lines, and with Tomas Holmstrom’s place in the lineup secure, Drew Miller, Cory Emmerton and Fabian Brunnstrom are clearly fighting for two spots, and especially as the forechecking dynamo and future Eaves-Helm hybrid (Helm’s held back during the pre-season and may have hurt his case for ice time in going at 80%, by the way) Jan Mursak is out until January, the Wings will need to figure out whether their forechecking game requires reinforcement via trade in the form of either a Dallas Drake-type player or the big body I’m still convinced they need to keep up with the Western Conference’s bigger, meaner teams, or whether a little more offensive balance via Babcock’s tweaks and high levels of grit and grind from the fourth-liners can do the job.

2. While Jimmy Howard very clearly needs to continue working on rebound control and consistency with his mentor in Chris Osgood and a netminding partner who looks rock solid thus far in Ty Conklin, sooner or later, the Wings’ goaltending is going to be just fine, so it’s very clear that once again, porous defensive play and the power play’s disturbingly habitual tendency to disappear when the Wings need it to score the most are the issues that will separate the team from the combination of strong defensive performances and superb special-teams play on the PK and PP especially that can lift the team into contention for the Western Conference crown as well as the Central Division title, and as of yet, Babcock’s new assistants have yet to display any sort of ability to break the Wings’ cycle—pun intended—of allowing teams to set up their own cycling game down low and thread passes to the slot, back door or blueline for easy goals—while losing the first faceoff and chasing one-and-done scoring chances back down into their own end during power play attempts.

It also bears mentioning that while Joey MacDonald fights for his right to play out next year’s one-way contract on the Wings’ roster, the team also has to figure out whether it’s going to tab Thomas McCollum or Jordan Pearce as their goaltender of the future while Petr Mrazek knocks on the door from the OHL, but that’s an ancillary issue as we’re talking about the fact that the team’s NHL netminders need a hand….

3. In that same prospect-centric vein, while Gustav Nyquist’s distinguished himself as a first-order sniper-in-the-making who might torture opponents on the Wings’ cycle, perhaps alongside the equally fearless Tomas Tatar down the line, Joakim Andersson’s been better defensively than Jonathan Ericsson (so is uber-grinder Brent Raedeke) and Landon Ferraro’s offered glimpses of both blinding speed and tenacity, while Chris Conner’s proven himself as the kind of call-up who can make a difference on the scoresheet, we can at least say that if Ryan Johnson’s willing to go down to Grand Rapids to reclaim his game, Brendan Smith’s clearly shown that in terms of both positioning and decision-making, he’s not quite ready for prime time, the physical Garnet Exelby and plain old steady Doug Janik are clearly limited to #6/7 roles at the NHL level and there’s a mass of prospects that has had barely any chance to distinguish itself via opportunities to play regularly in Travis Ehrhardt, Brian Lashoff, Willie Coetzee, Logan Pyett (perhaps the surprise of the bunch), McCollum and Pearce and players like Andrej Nestrasil, Trevor Parkes and Mitchell Callahan never got the chance to do so…

4. We still don’t have an answer as to whether the team plans on grooming a replacement for Tomas Holmstrom….

5. And, and most importantly, while Ian White’s going to fit in nicely as Nicklas Lidstrom’s partner and the Kronwall-Stuart reunion gives Kronwall license to roam and Stuart a request to stop pressing offensively and just play his game instead, the third pairing is a puzzle at best, with Ericsson continuing to commit defensive errors as a stronger Jakub Kindl finally shows flashes of his former status as a first-round pick and potential PP quarterback in the making, and Mike Commodore has at least proven that he can keep up and play a rock-steady game while keeping the flies off…

It’s one thing to worry about whether the Wings need a fourth-line forechecking grinder, whether the team can reverse its habitually poor defensive play and ineptitude on the power play and whether Howard can finally eliminate those bad-rebound and “squeaker” goals; the biggest question for the Wings going forward involves whether White, Kronwall and a third pairing of Ericsson and either Kindl or Commodore can collectively step up and fill Brian Rafalski’s skates in terms of both offensive production and puck-moving savvy. At least based upon pre-season observations, it looks like the Wings may have to go out and pay, if not overpay, for a top-four defenseman who can move the puck to truly regain its form as a team built upon a tungsten carbide-strong foundation of puck-moving defenseman, and that’s got to be Ken Holland’s biggest concern heading into the regular season. Everywhere else, we can see very concrete signs that things will eventually work out, but Rafalski’s decision to retire was one we knew the team couldn’t address via free agency, and the team’s current blueliners’ collective ability to fill his void may be even more pivotal to the team’s playoff future than the systemic issues which Peters and Blashill must address.

So with a rust-shaking shudder I’m turning the live blog over to you. Enjoy the game, fellow die-hards!

Edit/update: I don’t want to harangue you with personal details, but I’m doing my best to get back to abnormal here. I dunno whether I can reach my goal of being back on the job by the time the regular season starts, but I’m gonna do my best to catch up on a full month’s worth of stories to read and regain some physical endurance after a long fight because a) I miss you and am still floored by your support; b) I miss doing my job; and c) If I am to purchase the hot rod laptop I need to do my job properly for the next three years, I’ve gotta go back to work as this one’s gonna be “donated” to the aunt. Mostly, I miss doing my job and talking with all of you, but if I am to head to Toledo and Grand Rapids a few times, learn how to interview prospects via Skype and plain old pay the bills, going back to earning a living helps, too.

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Comments

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George Malik's avatar

Wings’ roster:

3   D   GARNET EXELBY
4   D   JAKUB KINDL
8   L   JUSTIN ABDELKADER
15   L   FABIAN BRUNNSTROM
17   R   PATRICK EAVES
20   L   DREW MILLER
21   C   TOMAS TATAR
23   D   BRAD STUART (A)
25   D   BRIAN LASHOFF
26   C   JIRI HUDLER
41   R   CHRIS CONNER
42   C   RYAN JOHNSON
43   C   DARREN HELM
48   C   CORY EMMERTON
52   D   JONATHAN ERICSSON (A)
55   D   NIKLAS KRONWALL (A)
57   C   LANDON FERRARO
63   C   JOAKIM ANDERSSON
29   G   TY CONKLIN
31   G   JOEY MACDONALD

Leafs’ roster:

3   D   DION PHANEUF (C)
8   D   MIKE KOMISAREK (A)
9   R   COLBY ARMSTRONG (A)
11   C   PHILIPPE DUPUIS
15   C   MATTHEW LOMBARDI
18   R   MIKE BROWN
19   R   JOFFREY LUPUL
24   D   JOHN-MICHAEL LILES
26   C   MICHAEL ZIGOMANIS
29   D   MATT LASHOFF
38   L   JAY ROSEHILL
39   R   MATT FRATTIN
41   L   NIKOLAI KULEMIN
46   R   JOEY CRABB
51   D   JAKE GARDINER
59   D   KEITH AULIE
81   C   PHIL KESSEL
84   C   MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI
34   G   JAMES REIMER
50   G   JONAS GUSTAVSSON

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:10 PM ET

Avatar

Can we trade Karen Newman for their anthem singer?!

Posted by Moocat on 10/01/11 at 08:15 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

George, thanks for the pre-game warm up. LGRW!!!!!

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 10/01/11 at 08:17 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

Good to “hear” from you George.

L.G.R.W.

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 08:18 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Here’s a live feed…watch out for pop-ups and adware…

http://www.sportsfeed.tv/2011/10/toronto-maple-leafs-vs-detroit-red_01.html

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:19 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

This one might work as well:

http://www.sportshunter.me/watch/83842/1/watch-toronto-maple-leafs-vs-detroit-red-wings.html

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:20 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

And I will say this: Conklin has been ROCK solid (and those new Warrior Ritual pads are gorgeous). At least early on, I’m not worried about him whatsoever. He’s clearly driven to reclaim his form and I get the feeling he may want to stop moving around, too, which would be just fine for the Wings.

JEEBUS the Leafs are taking advantage of the Wings….AND EXELBY AND BROWN ARE GOING AT IT!  Mostly a wrestling match.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:22 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I’m confused…the scoresheet says it was 5 and 5 but the Leafs are on the PP…

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:25 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Conner’s one of those players who wouldn’t be a farmhand if his hands were just a LITTLE bit better, no pun intended.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:26 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Moocat, I’m with you…I’m no fan of anything Leaf-related, but their anthem singer is…very very pretty smile

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:27 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

conk gonna get a workout tonight

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 08:27 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

i like the spot about huds workout during the off season - sounds like he’s much stronger.

i likey

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 08:31 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Ain’t that the truth.

This is always a strange game—the Wings have the Pens to play at home on Sunday, so for the try-outs, they have to marshal their energy for a rare three-in-three, and the Wings don’t want to get hurt against a Leaf team that’s always headhunting in their pre-season finale, but there is always pride on the line when the best rivalry the NHL choked off is revived for a brief moment, even in the pre-season.

I’m hoping that the Wings just survive this one and that the youngsters impress, as much as I love to hate the Ample Fleas…Gotta get through it and not get hurt.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:31 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

The Abdelkader-Helm line has been the Wings’ best by far and the Kindl-Ericsson pairing has…stank.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:32 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Ryan Johnson, who I really really like, has essentially played his way out of a job. For whatever reason, he doesn’t click here.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:33 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

CONK BLOCK!

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 08:34 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Tatar’s gotta step up, too. he’s been very mediocre in the games I’ve seen, and that means Conner and big Andersson might be pushing him for his top spot in the callup order.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:35 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

HELMER AND ABBY! GORGEOUS speed, 1-0 Wings, and as Craig Simpson says, Kronwall set it up by taking Conks’ tap, up to Miller, Miller lets Helm roar up the ice as he takes a check to make a play and Abby goes to the net after Helm gets a smart shot off.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:36 PM ET

Norskirama's avatar

Way to go Abby!

Posted by Norskirama from Lincoln, Nebraska on 10/01/11 at 08:36 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

Abby


YESSSSSSSSSS

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 08:36 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

FTR:

Game summary;

Event summary.

Faceoffs;

Wings’ time on ice;

Rosters.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:38 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

credit to helm for the hussle

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 08:39 PM ET

Norskirama's avatar

These homer announcers sure are better than Pat and Oily Eddie and whoever those yahoos are in Pittsburgh.

Posted by Norskirama from Lincoln, Nebraska on 10/01/11 at 08:40 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Brunnstrom does get hit quite often, but I tell you what, he’s been much more powerful carrying the puck…He looked like a pickup truck with a four-cylinder engine in him early on.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:40 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I thought that Olczyk and what’s-his-name could’a been worse…But the Pens’ guys were indeed awful. 

This is more or less Hockey Night in Canada’s warm-up, and Simpson and Hughson are their #1 pairing.

I’m not sure what the hell Colby Armstrong did to the pairing that’s been hemmed in all night long, but I’ll take it.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:43 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I think Brunnstrom could clear waivers, frankly.

Our PP still stinks, regardless of the personnel….good give and go but of course Hudler moves it back to the defense in traffic.

And I like the fact that Shanahan’s establishing a new standard.

Hey, GM Cam! KH on his blackberry…

Tatar Helm and Eaves on the 2nd unit, Abby Brunnstrom and Hudler on the 1st, Ericsson and Kronwall on the 1st pair defensively, Kindl and Stuart on the 2nd…

I AM interested in which player will be the team’s #4 defenseman on the PP. Thus far Babcock’s more or less double-shifted Nick…

AND LOVELY LOVELY HELM WRAPS IT AROUND sans a glove smile Good shot by Stuart, off the back boards as usual, with Tatar in front Helm retrieves and wraps it smile

2-0.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:47 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

helmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 08:47 PM ET

Forlorn in VA's avatar

Helm is god.

Posted by Forlorn in VA on 10/01/11 at 08:48 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I like exelby’s toughness, but he sure ain’t too bright. Komisarek just stands up Helm very legally and somewhere before that, Exelby made a doo-doo-head play.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:50 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

And DAMMIT, there you go, 2-1 with just over a minute left (too familiar) on the PK (too familiar off a faceoff (too familiar).

Helm loses it, Liles walks the line and it looks like Helm or Kulemin tipped it in. :(

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:51 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

... and exelby’s ‘ain’t too bright’ costs us a goal, 2-1

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 08:51 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Well, the Leafs out-shot Detroit 12-10 and Exelby was the source of both Leaf power plays (don’t quit your day job just yet, Doug Janik)...

Faceoffs 11-11;

Blocked shots 6-5 Detroit;

Missed shots 3-1 Toronto (total shot attempts 21-16 Toronto);

Hits 11-9 Toronto;

Giveaways 5-5;

Takeaways 6-1 Toronto.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:55 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Obvious statement of the night is obvious, via P.J. Stock: “Too bad Nicklas Lidstrom isn’t playing, we could show 200 clips of him…”

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 08:59 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

no touch icing ...

OK for college

not so for NHL

need to keep the touch-up, it adds a good element to the game.

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 09:05 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

What, the CBC’s going to have a pre-game pre-game show starting at 5 PM?

There goes my Saturday on non-Wings games, barring a Whalers tilt…CBC from 5-12, then Adult Swim (I dig Durarara very much, though it’s no Cowboy Bebop)...

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 09:09 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I think the issue with touch icing is that the league’s gotta enforce that whole, “If it’s a race for the puck and you stick your stick out to trip an opposing player, you should be penalized for interference, and if the guy gets hurt, it should be a major” mentality that it has yet to embrace.

Start of the 2nd, Grabovski sore and out.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 09:10 PM ET

Avatar

(and those new Warrior Ritual pads are gorgeous)

Quoted for truth. I’ve had Smith pads for years and it’s going to be interesting to see if Warrior gets any more traction in the NHL now that Pete Smith is working on their gear.

You mentioned Howard ditching the Vision’s yesterday and wondered flat face was an issue. I don’t think it the issue since he used to use RBK P1’s, and evidently he mentioned at the Red & White game they were too stiff, so he was going back to the Icebergs. I wonder if the Vision’s were only a single break since that would make a difference over his double break in the Icebergs.

Personally I think Howard has been set back by jerking around with his gear, and he looks to be breaking in a new chest unit too.

Posted by Moocat on 10/01/11 at 09:12 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I really thought that Ryan Johnson was going to impress…And he’s just kinda vanished into the woodwork, which isn’t good if you’re supposed to be a shot-blocking, hard-hitting grinder.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 09:13 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

PP again due to Colby Armstrong doofiness, and lookey here, Darren Helm’s saying, “Hey Babs, if you need a spark….”

NICE BACKHANDER BY EAVES off the Helm and Kronwall keep-ins smile Chip it on the net, Eaves is battling away and as Eaves sneaks away from Gardner he backhands the rebound in smile

3-1.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/01/11 at 09:15 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

eaves on the PP

nice

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 10/01/11 at 09:16 PM ET

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