The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/07/12 at 11:53 PM ET
We know that the Red Wings’ players displayed a little moxie before tonight’s game as the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Niklas Kronwall, the Wings’ NHLPA player rep, was one of two representatives to actually vote to approve the NHL’s realignment plan, players’ and owners’ very valid concerns about the plan included.
Somewhere between Thursday night’s conference call, the team’s father/mentor-son/friend tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame and puck drop on Saturday night, the Wings’ focus on the ice waned, however, and it bit them in the ass in a big way on an international stage—with Kronwall delivering the fatal, self-inflicted blow in a 4-3 loss to Toronto.
The Red Wings managed to nearly miraculously rally from a 3-0 deficit incurred by a strange penalty shot call (another weird “tap a guy with your stick, it’s a penalty shot” call on Ian White) which Phil Kessel easily converted as Jimmy Howard bought into one of Kessel’s dozen dekes; when the Wings inevitably took the game’s first penalty, the Wings lost the draw and Dion Phaneuf roofed the puck over Howard from the point because, put bluntly, Howard was late in getting out to the top of his crease, and a rather terrible giveaway and missed assignment by Henrik Zetterberg yielded an easy tap-in on a 3-on-2 by David Steckel all of 11:36 into the game.
After Mike Babcock called a timeout, the Wings slowly steadied themselves and at least survived the first period, in no small part due to a slick save by Howard, and in the second, the Wings turned on the afterburners. While out-shooting Toronto 14-2, Todd Bertuzzi scored a barely but legal tip-down goal off a nice shot by Datsyuk, a three-man keep-in at the point yielded a rush toward the net and a lovvely crashing goal by Kronwall, and early in the third period, with the Wings seemingly all but in command, Jiri Hudler was left unattended at the side of the net and tapped in the rebound of a Brad Stuart shot…
Then Kronwall coughed up the puck to Lupul off a lost faceoff after seven strong minutes of Red Wings play, and Lupul deposited the puck into the top of the net after Howard flailed.
The Wings worked their damnedest to rally one more time, but they simply couldn’t manufacture the same energy they had in the second against a Leafs team which refused to be caught flat-footed yet again, and the Wings plain old suffered too many self-inflicted wounds to rally.
A team badly missing Tomas Holmstrom’s grit and Darren Helm’s speed also received all of one power play—again, and do the Leafs ever get away with hooking, holding, picking and tripping with players who are near but do not yet have the puck—but that wasn’t the story to me. I tend not to believe that statistics tell the story in a game defined by effort, intensity, determination and the luck of a bouncing oblong puck, but the Wings were just awful in terms of their efficiency in manufacturing and sustaining offense—and that inefficient play sentenced the Wings to a game in which they could not overcome their self-inflicted mistakes, despite a playoff-worthy intense level of play in the second and third periods.
Yes, the Wings out-shot Toronto 40 to 18, including 20 second and third-period shots to 8 Leaf shots, but they also fired a stunning 25 shots wide of the net and another 20 into Maple Leaf players—for a total of 85 shot attempts in which 40, a little under half, tested Gustavsson.
So even while the Wings were awful early and were wonderful in the second and third period, it wasn’t just those extra passes while trying to make perfect plays without a Tomas Holmstrom in front or a Darren Helm banging bodies and generating turnovers, and especially given Howard’s performance in not allowing the game to get away, he’s more than allowed penance for his gaffes.
It wasn’t simply a case of not showing up in the first period, either.
It was a case of not being able or willing to simplify play to generate and sustain more scoring chances—the kinds that are harder for goalies to stop and harder for defenses to regain possession of and clear—that separated the Wings from at least a point, if not a victory, on Saturday night, and it’s that inability to score that extra hard goal that’s yielded missed opportunities to tie games when the team doesn’t show up early, salvaged points (the Wings have barely any overtime points this season), if not salvaged wins, and a continued and consistent tendency to stumble when the spotlights are on and teams circle games on their calendars as the “measuring sticks” they’ll come back to for the rest of the season and beyond.
Tonight, the Wings first chopped and hacked and then whittled down their own measuring stick by working far, far too hard for far, far too little against a goaltender who was literally stumbling around in the crease on occasion—and would have given up more goals had he truly been tested via rebound chances, secondary and tertiary scoring chances and the kinds of tips and traffic usually readily available in front of opposing goalies—and a team that may have been fairly healthy, but was also full of exploitable holes.
So we’re going to read and hear about the mastery of the Already-Crowned Stanley Cup Champion Toronto Maple Leafs Who Won the Most Important Game Ever to Prove That They Are the Best Team Ever Because of One Game for the next few…Well, until the Wings come back to Toronto, really, and in this case, the Wings not only dug their own hole, but kept digging another while trying to dig themselves out.
And that is the most baffling part of the glaring absence of a Red Wings-like swagger from this year’s team. They still don’t seem to have learned how to rally themselves from one deficit without contributing to another, expending so much time, energy and effort in the process that the Wings never allow themselves to earn the opportunity of an even chance to get out from behind the 8-ball.
At this point of the season, that’s not just “not enough for a team in progress” and/or a team that’s searching to find a new identity.
It’s not acceptable. Not acceptable going into a game against a Chicago Blackhawks team, on another national spotlight (the “NBC Sports Network” is the only game in town on Sunday) and in another rink where the Wings are hard-pressed to win when they keep kicking themselves in the shins, and their opponent’s already willing to do the job for ‘em.
Not good enough. Not acceptable. These rallies are fun and to watch and all, but they don’t count on the scoresheet, scoreboard or standings, and with so many road games to come and games to play on an every-other-night basis until the All-Star Break, it’s about f***ing time that the Wings started playing like they’ve got some God-damned swagger while delivering the appropriate results that the bang they’re trying to earn for their hard-working buck should be generating, on a very regular and consistent basis—at and away from the Joe—by early January.
The Wings could have and should have left the Leafs in their dust given their second and third period efforts, self-inflicted mistakes included, and once again, they either couldn’t or wouldn’t complete the job. It’s just not good enough anymore.
Shots 40-18 Detroit overall. The Wings and Leafs tied each other 10-10 in shots in the 1st period, and Detroit out-shot Toronto 14-2 in the 2nd period and 16-6 in the 3rd period.
The Wings went 0 for 1 in 2:00 of PP time; the Leafs went 1 for 1 in all of 7 seconds of power play time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 14 of 18 shots; Jonas Gustavsson stopped 37 of 40 shots.
The 3 stars, per the CBC, were Datsyuk, Kessel and Lupul.
The Wings’ goals: Bertuzzi (6) from Datsyuk (29) and Franzen (18);
Kronwall (9) from Franzen (19) and Datsyuk (30);
Hudler (12) from Stuart (5) and Zetterberg (22).
Faceoffs 22-19 Detroit (Detroit won 54%);
Blocked shots 20-11 Toronto;
Missed shots 25-10 Detroit (again, that’s 85 shot attempts for Detroit and all of 39 for Toronto);
Hits 34-19 Toronto;
Giveaways 17-6 Toronto;
Takeaways 10-7 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 13-and-2 (87%); Zetterberg went 4-and-7 (36%); Abdelkader went 5-and-6 (45%); Emmerton went 0-and-4.
Shots: Bertuzzi led the Wings with 6 shots; Zetterberg had 5; Cleary had 4; White, Miller and Kronwall had 3; Lidstrom—who seems to be playing through a groin injury—had 2, as did Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Nyquist, Filppula and Franzen; Hudler and Emmerton had 1 shot.
Blocked attempts: Abdelkader fired 4 shots into Leafs players; Kronwall had 3 attempts blocked; Lidstrom, White, Miller and Bertuzzi had 2 attempts blocked; Lidstrom, Hudler, Emmerton, Ericsson and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Zetterberg and Franzen missed the net 4 times apiece; Datsyuk and White missed the net 3 times; Listrom, Abdelkader, Conner and Ericsson missed the net 2 times; Cleary, Stuart and Hudler missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader and Kronwall had 4 hits apiece; Stuart had 3; Ericsson had 2; Kindl, Datsyuk, Hudler, Conner, Filppula and Franzen had 1.
Giveaways: Filppula had 2 giveaways; Cleary, Bertuzzi, Emmerton and Kronwall had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Stuart and Kronwall had 2 takeaways apiece; White, Miller, Hudler, Emmerton, Ericsson and Franzen had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Lidstrom blocked 5 Leaf shots; Emmerton blocked 2; White, Miller, Hudler and Zetterberg blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Zetterberg took the Wings’ only penalty. Again, the Leafs seemed to get away with quite a bit of hooking, holding, grabbing and groping of players who were near but did not yet have the puck.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +5. Lidstrom, White, Hudler, Zetterberg and Filppula finished at -1; Datsyuk, Stuart, Bertuzzi, Kronwall and Franzen finished at +2.
Points: Franzen and Datsyuk had 2 assists apiece; Hudler, Bertuzzi and Kronwall scored goals; Stuart and Zetterberg had assists.
Ice time: Lidstrom may be playing through a groin injury but he also led the Wings with 28:18 in ice time; White played 27:02; Franzen played 20:51;
Datsyuk played 20:24; Hudler played 19:22; Zetterberg played 19:08;
Stuart played 18:32; Kronwall played 18:13; Bertuzzi played 18:04;
Filppula played 17:57; Cleary played 16:39; Abdelkader played 14:31;
Ericsson played 14:28; Miller played 14:18; Kindl played 12:35;
Emmerton played 7:13; Conner played 6:47; Nyquist played 6:47.
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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.