Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Maple Leafs wrap-up: Lesson unlearned, unearned

There are games you circle on your calendar once you find out the extenuating circumstances surrounding them, and Saturday’s incredibly inefficient 4-3 loss to Toronto, once I found out that the Wings had scheduled both the Fathers’ Trip and a personal tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame around Saturday’s and tonight’s game against Chicago (7:30 PM EST, NBC Sports Network/WXYT), had, “Oh, man, I hope the Wings don’t get lulled into friendly warm fuzzies and fall on their faces in the first period” written all over it.

As it turns out, with their fathers and an international audience watching, the Wings did indeed inflict so many self-inflicted wounds upon themselves—and fired so many shots wide of the net or into Toronto players (the Wings took 40 shots on Jonas Gustavsson, but that represented a little less than half of their 85 shot attempts, with 20 going wide and 25 blocked by Leafs’ body parts—that Niklas Kronwall’s assist on Joffrey Lupul’s game-winner, which negated a fast and furious comeback, seemed all but pre-ordained.

So the Red Wings flew to Chicago now sitting in second place in the Central Division—behind both the Blues and Blackhawks—after having handed the Maple Leafs an inspirational win, Don Cherry’s mocking of Ken Holland (for Jimmy Devellano’s declaration that fighting has seen its day) and a gleeful Leaf press’s comments chasing Red Bird III’s contrails.

I’m not generally one to quote songs, but I think that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s “Not What You Wanted” might summarize the night for the Wings:

You know you’ve got a lot to learn,
You feel it but your heart won’t burn,
The fear is runnin’ every nerve…
You’re turning to the ones you’ve hurt,
And nothing ever satisfies….
You’re screamin’ but your tongue’s still tied,
Starvin’ but your love won’t feed
Nothin’ ever sets you free…

You know you’ve got a long way down,
You’ll feel it when you hit the ground…

It’s not what you wanted
It’s not what you came here for
This place just leaves you cold
Where nothing matters

As Toronto is a town where wins like this are talked about for the rest of the season, if not until and long after the next regular season meeting between the two teams, we’ll start with the queen of over-dramatic writing in the Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno, who discusses the exclamation point at the game’s start and winds an admittedly superb tale while not requiring a dictionary to extrapolate the breadth and scope of a vocabulary which is the antipode of patois (and I had to look that last one up, thus the hyperlink):

Deke-deke-deke-deke-deke-deke. Half a dozen shifts of the head, hips, shoulders — all of Phil Kessel’s significant body parts twitching, confounding the goalie, puck on his stick from the red line, beneficiary of a penalty shot awarded. Thinking . . . uh, nothin’ much.

“Thinking, hopefully I would score. I just kind of went down and took what I saw.’’

A near-replay of what had transpired just moments earlier, except without ex-Leaf Ian White on his tail hounding and pestering, denying Kessel the clear shot to which he was entitled on a breakaway off a gorgeous stretch pass to the tape from Tim Connolly. Kessel is one-for-two on career penalty shots now; whiffed it last time whilst still a Boston Bruin.

It was instant drama with just 4 1/2 minutes gone on this Saturday Night Special at the Air Canada Centre, the penalty shot still a thing of eye-widening spectacle, for all that the one-on-one challenge has been diminished, rendered common, by OT shootout gimmickry. And that was just the start of it — Toronto’s unanticipated manhandling of the mighty Red Wings, the best period of hockey they’ve played all season, worthy of that 4-3 final if decidedly limp and overwhelmed through the middle frame.

Fingers crossed there will be a replay of breathless Leafs-Wings hockey, in the great outdoors, come January 1, 2013. A well-placed league source tells the Star there is a “90 per cent’’ likelihood these forever rivals will be featured in next year’s Winter Classic, a cross-border, cross-conference al fresco showpiece. But, about last night . . .

Just four minutes after Kessel hot-diggedy-dogged it, Dion Phaneuf — face-struck mug encased in a bubble shield — ripped a zinger from the point for an unassisted power-play goal that froze Jimmy Howard, looking for the 100th W of his career. Still looking. A few more 60-second spins of the clock, after Jonas Gustavsson made some acrobatic blocks in the Toronto net and the play swung in the opposite direction, three Leafs swept down the ice, Kessel to Joffrey Lupul to David Steckel and bang-bang-bang, the Leafs have a 3-0 lead. On the Red Wings. Golly.

Lost the lead, yikes, got it back for keeps off Lupul’s backhand at 7:10 of the third and nail-biting through to the buzzer, with Howard on the bench and Gustavsson heroic.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson heaped praise upon Jonas Guavsson’s 37-save performance against the Wings, as the Toronto Star’s Mark Zwolinski noted…

“(Detroit) had some scoring chances, but that one with about 40 seconds left made my heart stop ... but he came up big and made the save. He should have been first star, to be honest with you,” Wilson said.
“They’re a great team and, let’s be honest, we knew they wouldn’t go away there. They were going to come back at us, but Lupul got us the (game-winner) and the Monster came up big again,” Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said.

That phrase coming up big has been repeated with regularity where Gustavsson is concerned these days. The win was his 12th of the season and he has won all three games in 2012 for a Leafs team that finished out 2011 with three straight losses to fall out of the playoff bubble in the Eastern Conference. While that turnaround reflects well on their playoff hopes, there was a question about the club’s goaltending after that three-game slide. Wilson decided to go with Gustavsson — nothing against James Reimer, just a gut feeling that his quiet and often shy goalie was carrying the hotter hand between the two goalies.

Enter Gustavsson, greatful for the opportunity but showing up with the kind of goaltending that should keep him between the pipes for now.

“I just love playing hockey. I’m having fun in practice and in games,” said Gustavsson, who is true to his word even if it sounds cliché at times. “I don’t think about all that other stuff. I’m playing and I’m happy to get an opportunity to play in the next game. And the team has showed me so many times they can score goals for me. That changed the game tonight. We weren’t good in the second period, but we scored right after they scored (in the third period) and that made the difference. I felt like if I could hold them off for the final 10 or 12 minutes, we’d have a good chance to win.”

Gustavsson was speaking of a “come back to earth” second period in which the Leafs were outshot 14-2 after taking a 3-0 lead in the first period. Detroit bagged a pair of goals and had Jiri Hudler tie the game at 4:32 of the third period. But Lupul scooped up a fanned clearing attempt by Zetterberg and stuffed a backhander into the top of the net at 7:10. The Leafs hung on and Gustavsson was solid all the way home to preserve the win.

Afterwards, Leaf players said they talked after the second period and vowed to come right back after Detroit, the way they did in the opening period. The Red Wings never relented and outshot the Leafs 30-8 over the final two periods. As much as the Leafs emerged triumphant because of Lupul’s continuing heroics and some sound coverage from their defensive corps, it was Gustavsson who had the last word.

Well, sort of, as the National Post’s Michael Traikos suggested…

“That one chance with about 40 seconds to go made my heart stop,” Wilson said of Gustavsson, who made a timely stop on Johan Franzen late in the game. “But the Monster came up big. In a situation like this, you need your goalie to have a great game. He should have been the first star to be honest with you.”

Gustavsson was not alone. The Red Wings had said that facing Kessel and Lupul — the NHL’s most productive duo — was going to be a challenge. And on Saturday night, the high-flying forwards showed why.

Kessel and Lupul, who had registered at least a point in 35 of the Toronto’s 40 games, combined for two goals and two assists against Detroit. Kessel’s goal came on a penalty shot, after he had been hooked on a breakaway attempt. Lupul, meanwhile, scored the game-winner after intercepting a pass at the side of the net and then beating a sprawling Jimmy Howard with a high backhand. Lupul’s goal saved what had been a disastrous second and third period, in which Toronto seemed to be chasing its own tail as Detroit played its patented puck-possession game.

Detroit got on the board when Todd Bertuzzi redirected a Pavel Datsyuk shot that had to be reviewed because it was close to being a high stick. With the Red Wings controlling the action, Bertuzzi almost had another. But looking like a modern day Johnny Bower, Gustavsson slid out of his crease and stopped Bertuzzi on a partial breakaway.

With less than five minutes remaining in the second period, Niklas Kronwall drove to the net and went unchecked by Phaneuf to bring the Red Wings to within one. In the third period, Jiri Hudler completed the comeback. Left alone at the side of the net, he banged in a rebound off a Brad Stuart point shot to make it 3-3.

“That’s a team of 20 pickpockets over there,” Wilson quipped of the Red Wings, who had 10 takeaways. “They should all be arrested. I don’t know what the law is in Ontario, but they steal pucks from you all the time. It’s a good team to watch play when you’re our kind of team to see how the game should be played all the time. Every one of their guys is relentless.”

Relentless but not particularly efficient—again, the Wings fired 40 shots at Gustavsson but sent another 45 attempts elsewhere—but that particular detail didn’t detract from the Leafs’ satisfaction with their win, as the Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan noted…

“It was just nice to beat a really good team playing at the top of their game,” Lupul said. “You know what you’re going to get when that team comes in: A puck-possession game. They are not going to turn it over, so to get two points is big for us.”

The Leafs’ first period was almost too good to be true. Phil Kessel scored on a penalty shot, the first for a Leaf at home since John Pohl scored against Minnesota on Dec. 26, 2006, Phaneuf then ripped a shot from the point on a power play and David Steckel converted a two-on-one pass from Lupul.

But the second period might have been the Leafs’ worst of the season. They had no answers as the Wings played about as high a level of keep-away as you’re going see. Toronto registered a season-low two shots and the Wings had two goals, by Todd Bertuzzi and Niklas Kronwall, to climb back into the game. An octopus landed on the ice as Bertuzzi’s goal was reviewed, and the longtime tradition that someone brought from Joe Louis Arena seemed to steer the Wings in the right direction.

The Leafs got a jarring check from Darryl Boyce on Jakub Kindl, and Gustavsson stacked his pads to thwart Bertuzzi on another attempt, but the Wings had the momentum in a tight grip. But even when Hudler got the equalizer, the Leafs refused to fold.

“It’s a good team to watch play when you’re our kind of (young) team, to see how the game should be played all the time,” Wilson said. “Every one of their guys is relentless. We took advantage of them in the first period, caught them a little lazy and sleepy, but after that, it was tough slugging.”

Yes, lazy and sleepy.

“I just felt like if I could keep the door shut for the final 10-12 minutes, we would have a good chance to win,” Gustavsson said. “I always believe in our team. (Hudler) scored and that changed the game, but we answered pretty quick.”

Lupul continued while speaking to the Canadian Press...

``This is where the stakes kind of go up,’’ said Lupul. ``This is the more fun part of the year. This is where you want to play your best hockey. We’ve put our team in the position where we can be a playoff team, but all we’ve done right now is set ourselves up.’‘

A look at the standings shows they can’t afford to slip at all if they want to end the NHL’s second-longest playoff drought. Toronto is tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference but remains among a cluster of seven teams separated by just four points. That’s what made Saturday’s victory over Detroit so big, especially after the Leafs built a 3-0 lead in the first period and let it slip away.

``I think we handled it really good,’’ said goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who made 37 saves. ``(Lupul) came up with a really big goal and we kept battling the whole game.’’
There was plenty of buzz around Air Canada Centre with a number of Red Wings fans turning up for the only meeting between the Original Six teams this season. The Leafs were fortunate that it was played in their building since Detroit has been virtually unbeatable at Joe Louis Arena and a pedestrian 10-12-0 away from it.

The odds were tilted more in the Leafs’ favour after a dream start, which saw Kessel convert a penalty shot at 4:30 before Phaneuf hammered home a power-play goal at 8:19. The exuberant Leafs captain was an unlikely contributor after taking a puck in the cheek on Thursday and having to play with a long visor to cover the big lump on his face.

``Once I knew nothing was broken, I knew I was going to play,’’ said Phaneuf.

As that particular recap’s taken from the Leafs’ website, here are a few “numbers” from the game as well…

21-15-5: Leafs’ record this season at the halfway mark. Last season at this point they were 17-20-4.
276-275-93: All-time record against [Detroit]
34: Hits for the Leafs.
7: Points for Joffrey Lupul in the last three games.
33: Times this season that Lupul and Phil Kessel have recorded a point.

And a quip from Wilson, too:

Ron Wilson on Jonas Gustavsson and the Leafs climbing up the standings:

“That one chance with about 40 seconds to go made my heart stop but the Monster came up big. In a situation like this you need your goalie to have a great game and he should have been the First Star to be honest with you ... we passed Pittsburgh tonight and Ottawa’s a point ahead of us, I think they’ve played one more game, but this is going to be a dogfight right to the end where teams are going to be sliding two or three places up, two or three places every night so it’s going to be fun.”

We’ll stick with stats and observations for a moment before heading back to Phaneuf and Wilson’s remarks, via the Toronto Sun’s Steve Buffery...

There’s no denying that the Phil Kessel-Joffrey Lupul unit has been playing out of their minds offensively. Against the Wings, both wingers had a goal and assist. But at least once a game, Kessel, Lupul, and whomever is playing centre, get caught running around in their own end before running out of gas. It’s a sure-fire recipe for failure. That happened twice in the second period and twice in the third against the Wings on Saturday night and on Detroit’s third goal early in the third, the line, and centre Tim Connolly in particular, just stood around as Jiri Hudler hammered home a rebound to tie the game. That line is there for offence, but if they don’t starting paying a little more attention to detail in their own end, the Leafs aren’t going anywhere.
Saturday’s win by the Leafs moved Toronto one game ahead of Detroit in their all-time matchups. Leading into the game, the two Original Six teams had played each other 643 times, and had each posted 275 wins (with 93 ties) ... On Tuesday, the Leafs were 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in a 7-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning and, Thursday, Toronto was 1-for-1 in a 4-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets and were 1-for-1 on the kill against the Wings. The PK is obviously, finally, coming around ... Dion Phaneuf has nine points in the past eight games ... Lupul has seven points in the past three games ... An octopus was thrown on the ice after Todd Bertuzzi scored in the second period for the Red Wings. No Waffle Man to respond.

No, but Ron Wilson was the one who brought up the waffle man in his post-game presser (see below), and, via the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle, coach Wilson fired off a Twitter post after the game, too…

Great to have #Brownbeaut and @mkomisarek back. Monster was great. Had my Uncle Johnny’s Leaf card and Dad’s rookie Red Wing card for luck

And it’s Mirtle who takes us back to the players’ takes on the game, starting with Phaneuf...

“We bent a little bit, but we didn’t break,” said Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, who played 24 minutes despite wearing a much bigger visor than normal due to taking a puck to the face – and sporting a grotesque lump as a result – in Toronto’s last game. “It was a real test for our group and we really responded in the right way. It’s a big win for our team.”

The Leafs surprised almost everyone in the building in jumping out to a three-goal lead just 11:36 into the game, with Phil Kessel, Phaneuf and David Steckel all scoring on an off night for Wings netminder Jimmy Howard. Detroit appeared overwhelmed, at least momentarily, but a young Toronto’s team speed, but at 3-0, Wings coach Mike Babcock called a timeout and that seemed to cue their charge back into the game.

“I told our team, the way the Red Wings finished the first period, they’re going to be even better in the second,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “We’ve got to be ready for it.”

Detroit then piled up a 14-2 lead on the shot clock in the second period, getting goals from Todd Bertuzzi (who deflected a puck with a stick high enough to bring on a lengthy review) and Niklas Kronwall to make it close and set up a wild final frame.

In the third, the Wings finally wiped out Toronto’s lead when Jiri Hudler beat Gustavsson to make it 3-3, but two and a half minutes later, Lupul picked off Zetterberg’s flubbed clearing attempt and put his 19th of the season past a sprawling Howard. The game was the continuation of a dream season for Lupul, who is only nine away from a career high in goals and sits tied for fourth in NHL scoring with 47 points at the halfway mark.

“Sometimes you’ve got to give the opposition credit,” Lupul said. “They hemmed us in our zone and they didn’t turn the puck over at all. It was pretty frustrating. But we found a way. It’s just nice to beat a really good team playing at the top of their game.”

And the Leafs did, as Wilson pointed out, shut down the Wings from there on out:

“But we got the job done,” Wilson said of the third period. “I thought we did a pretty good job keeping them on the outside. They had some scary moments – that one chance with about 40 seconds to go made my heart stop – but the Monster came up big. In a situation like this, you need to have your goalie have a great game. He should have been the first star, to be honest with you.”

NHL.com’s Neil Acharya shifts our point of view from that of the Leafs to the Red Wings, who were as annoyed with themselves as Gustavsson was delighted by his team’s result:

“With just a few seconds left, you don’t really think … I was fortunate to stop that one. That’s the best feeling, when you get a win and it’s so close,” said Gustavsson, whose club has scored four or more goals in each of his 12 victories this season.

Gustavssson was solid all night, getting himself in front of the puck by any means necessary. Several shots hit him in the mask, at one point even dislodging it, prompting a whistle.

“Even though some of the shots looked like they were screened, he was in the right position. He came out of his net a little bit to kind of cut the angle off. I thought he played really well for them tonight,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.
“It’s so important to get off on a good start on the road. I thought I needed to be a little bit better for the guys,” said Howard, who remains one win shy of 100 in his career. “You just take it one shot at a time out there. You try to make saves for the guys to try to get give them a chance to get back into it. I thought we did a great job at the start of the second making a game of it.”
“We weren’t happy with the way we came out of the gate. They kept capitalizing on our mistakes and they were playing really well offensively. I thought once we settled down in the second period, we took the game over and we even tied the game up before we had another turnover that they capitalized on,” Lidstrom said.

Meanwhile, Gustavsson was happy with his club’s play—not only from the outset, but also because they showed resiliency.

“It was a good test for us. We started really good, they came back into the game and that’s when it can get tough. They have all the momentum, but I think we handled that really good. We got a big goal, we kept battling and I think it’s really good for our team to know that we can do that,” Gustavsson said.

Wings coach Mike Babcock wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance, either, as noted by the National Post’s Noah Love...

Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock was fairly certain the math didn’t add up.

“We had the puck, let’s be honest, three quarters of the night,” he said after the Toronto Maple Leafs escaped Saturday night’s game at the Air Canada Centre with a 4-3 regulation win. “We had great opportunities, but the hockey gods treat you right. You don’t start on time, you don’t get a lot of chances to win.”

Who captured Lidstrom’s exchange with the media—and it should be noted that while Lidstrom looks to be playing through some sort of groin injury, that didn’t prevent him from playing a remarkable 28 minutes and 18 seconds and blocking 5 Leaf shots (Ian White played 27:07, had 3 shots and a total of 8 shot attempts):

Were you surprised by the Leafs’ jump tonight? “Not really. They’ve been playing well of late. I’m not happy with the way we started the game. We weren’t on our toes at all. We were sitting back and they were coming with speed and we didn’t respond to that.”

That seems to have been a problem on the road since that western Canada trip, and it hadn’t been a problem most of the season. “It’s something we’ve talked about and it’s something we have to correct. We haven’t been able to do that. We’re slowly getting better as the game goes along. We want to get back to get a better start to set ourselves up for a better second half. Now we’ve been chasing, coming from behind. Tonight we were able to tie the game up again. But they got the last goal.”

Considering how much you guys dominated over the final two periods, do you leave here feeling kind of empty? “It’s disappointing, especially coming back and tying the game up in the third. I thought we were playing well. We were rolling. And then we had another turnover and they scored on it.”

That would be Niklas Kronwall’s assist on a platter to Lupul, who circled the net and deposited the puck in the top shelf as Howard strangely chose to stack the pads. Babcock will start Ty Conklin tonight, and while Howard also made his share of saves that kept the Wings in the game when it was 3-0 and 4-3 to Toronto’s favor, he also bit on Kessel’s deke, and he’s looked very mentally tired of late. I’m not sure if he could have stopped Phaneuf’s wrister off the crossbar, or if he could have played Steckel’s goal any better given that Nicklas Lidstrom couldn’t block the pass to a Steckel who Henrik Zetterberg let slide past him. In any case, he needs a break pretty badly, and he’ll receive one tonight.

And as for Kronwall’s brain fart, he explained it to the Free Press’s Helene St. James thusly:

“It was a simple play,” Kronwall said. “I was going to just rim it around the boards to Fil and it never really made it anywhere. It was more of a pass to him than anything. We were playing pretty good there after the first period, and then to give it up like that, it’s very disappointing.”

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom was blunt after the Wings fell to 10-12 on the road as they headed to Chicago for tonight’s game, which will see Ty Conklin start in goal.

“We made too many mistakes, and you can’t do that against a good offensive team,” Lidstrom said. “We settled down late in the first, and I thought we took the game over and scored, got ourselves right back into the game, and then another mistake.”

The Leafs scored three times before 11:36. Phil Kessel converted a penalty shot at 4:30, granted a chance to do so even though he’d gotten a shot off as Ian White grabbed hold.

“I guess I’m not totally sure on the rules,” White said. “I thought the rule was if they get a decent shot, then it’s not a penalty shot. But the ref said it’s a pure discretionary call, and I gave him a pretty good hook.”

Danny Cleary missed clearing a puck on a penalty kill face-off, and Dion Phaneuf turned that into a power-play goal at 8:19. David Steckel made it 3-0 off a rush.

“I wasn’t happy with our start,” Lidstrom said. “We weren’t on our toes at all. We were kind of sitting back. They were coming with speed, and we didn’t respond to that. It’s disappointing, especially coming back and tying the game up in the third.”

Or, as Babcock told St. James...

Wing coach Mike Babcock: “I thought we started all right. We didn’t get it (the puck) to the bottom one time on a breakaway, and we fanned on a penalty kill face-off and they shoot it on our net, we’re down 2-0.”

Babcock continued while speaking to the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa:

“I thought we got real porous there for a period of time in the first period, gave up too many chances and we end up chasing the game,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You know, you could say we dominated tons of tonight’s game. And you could leave here saying we played real good — no we didn’t. We gave up too many chances. Howie didn’t have a lot of work, but he had some dangerous work. They had some two-on-one chances where they skated by us. That was un-Red-Wing-like. You can’t win every night in the league playing like that. So we’ve got to be better defensively, and we’re going to have an opportunity right away, again, tomorrow.”

A disputable penalty shot got the Leafs and their fans off to a flying start. When the Wings failed to push the puck deep into the Leafs zone, a long stretch pass sent one of the top offensive threats in the NHL, Phil Kessel, in alone on Howard, who appeared to make a fabulous save.

But Ian White, who skated back desperately to defend, was called for what looked like a hooking penalty.

The issue, however, was the fact that Kessel got away a good shot that nearly beat Howard. Usually, when a player victimized by a penalty on a breakaway gets a shot off, the penalty is called, but not a penalty shot.

“You know, I guess I’m not totally sure on the rules,” said White, who returned to Toronto, where he played for the Leafs, for the first time with the Red Wings. “I initially thought that if they get a decent chance, then it’s not a penalty shot. But the ref said it’s a purely discretionary call, so. I gave him a pretty good hook.”

Methinks a bulletin board version of the [sarcasm][/sarcasm] tag might have applied there.

Regarding the goal, Howard had to admit to MLive’s Ansar Khan that he bit on the deke:

Said Howard: “I thought I had him until my foot gave loose underneath me, and he made a great move and a great shot.”

Regardless of whether the Fathers’ Trip and the tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame had the Wings off their edge, whether they simply underestimated the leafs, listened to the Leafs’ press and the Leafs themselves lavish praise upon them (I recall that the Blackhawks did the same thing successfully prior to the teams’ first meeting, as did the Canucks recently) or just plain luck, the Wings remain two games below .500, they’re only four points out of first place in the West but are also four points out of eighth place, they’re starting to dig multiple-goal deficits for themselves again and they’ve displayed little to no consistency or efficiency during a month where they’re playing a little more than a game every other night from now till the All-Star Break.

Either the Wings make a push for the top of the standings now or they’re going to be in a dogfight down the stretch, and a team that has yet to show the Red Wings’ swagger we’re all familiar with can verbalize its issues very well, but it can’t seem to do anything to solve ‘em:

“We had great opportunity, but the hockey gods treat you right,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “If you don’t start on time, you don’t win that often in this league. We weren’t good enough.”

The Red Wings erased a three-goal, first-period deficit by overwhelming the Maple Leafs in the final 40 minutes, outshooting them 30-8. Detroit pulled Howard for the extra skater in the final minute, but Jonas Gustavsson made a great point-blank save on Johan Franzen to preserve the win, Toronto’s third in a row. The Leafs have beaten Detroit in five of their past seven meetings, including four in a row at Air Canada Centre, where the Red Wings have not won since Nov. 16, 2002 (2-1).
Detroit outshot Toronto 40-18 but fell to 10-12-0 on the road.

“That’s kind of been the story for us on the road,” defenseman Ian White said. “We know we can play with any team, and as soon as we turn it up we seem to almost play
The Red Wings made a tremendous rally to tie it at 3-3, but Lupul scored at 7:10 of the third period. Taking advantage of a turnover deep in the zone by Kronwall, Lupul lifted a backhand shot over Howard from close range.

“Simple play,” Kronwall said. “I was going to just rim it around the boards to Fil (Valtteri Filppula). The puck skipped a little bit just before I hit it, and it never really made it anywhere. It was more a pass to (Lupul) than anything. To give it up like that is very disappointing. ... It’s gifts really, if you look at it. They’re a heck of a team, but at the same time all the goals are pretty much breakdowns on our part.”

And it’s becoming far, far too predictable. It’s January now, and even my, “They’re a team in transition, trying to deal with the retirements of Draper, Osgood and Rafalski while searching for new leadership” spiel doesn’t hold much water anymore. These results are simply unacceptable now, and the flaws in the Wings’ scoring or forechecking depth (the Wings looked like a team that was desperately missing Tomas Holmstrom’s grit and power play pot-stirring abilities, as well as Darren Helm’s speed, as they went down to three lines in the third period, and boy howdy, could the team use Jan Mursak and Patrick Eaves’ forechecking abilities) and defensive reliability (even I have to admit that Ericsson’s gotten to the point that unless he’s playing with Mike Commodore, he’s a liability, and that blunts the fantastic steps forward Jakub Kindl has taken)...

So the Wings go into Chicago, where the Blackhawks are very literally and very vocally “pissed off” after losing 4-0 to Colorado on Friday, facing a must-win situation and a huge, huge test for Ty Conklin, who more or less has to state his case for serving as a reliable back-up to Jimmy Howard down the stretch as of tonight.


Highlights: TSN posted a 2:06 highlight clip which includes some comments from Jonas Gustavsson and Dion Phaneuf;

• Sportsnet posted a 2:48 highlight clip which includes some post-game comments from Toronto coach Ron Wilson;

• If you care to watch six minutes of Leaf-centric highlights from the Maple Leafs’ website, go ahead, but I’d suggest taking some solace in Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s call of the game as we won’t hear them again until Tuesday:

Post-game:  If you missed it, the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman said that the Red Wings were one of two teams whose NHLPA representatives voted to approve the NHL’s realignment plan during the Satellite Hotstove;

• TSN posted a 2:26 clip of the Maple Leafs’ post-game remarks and a clip regarding realignment which includes comments from Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall;

• The Maple Leafs’ website posted clips of Carl Gunnarsson, Matthew Lombardi, Jonas Gustavsson and Leafs coach Ron Wilson’s presser. I don’t think that he’s any more glib or charming than Chris Pronger; I think Wilson’s smarmy.

• Fox Sports Detroit posted Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s takes on the game…


<a href='http://www.foxsportsdetroit.com/pages/video?videoid=c08a522d-653c-4619-8033-17f250ff8df2&amp;src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='Recap: Red Wings defeated by Maple Leafs 4-3'>Video: Recap: Red Wings defeated by Maple Leafs 4-3</a>

• As well as a clip of Niklas Kronwall, Valtteri Filppula and Drew Miller talking about the loss…


<a href='http://www.foxsportsdetroit.com/pages/video?videoid=f3c678f2-8df4-4617-9158-aa15294fa9c2&amp;src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='Red Wings talk loss to Toronto'>Video: Red Wings talk loss to Toronto</a>

• And the Red Wings’ website posted a clip of Niklas Kronwall and coach Mike Babcock discussing the game:


And finally, at least there was Octopi (though Ron Wilson was a *#$%@& about it):


Photos: The Toronto Star posted a 13-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 14-image gallery;

The Detroit Free Press posted a 19-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted a 31-image gallery of AP and Getty Images photos, and Daylife posted another eight Reuters photos;

NHL.com posted a 41-image gallery;

And the Red Wings’ website posted a 30-image gallery and embedded an image in its website’s recap.


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.

Individual stats:

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.


Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


calquake's avatar

Babcock will start Ty Conklin tonight

Ruht roh…  Nothing against Conk but unless the Wings turn around their schizo identity on the road versus at home, we are looking at a better then 50/50 chance at losing tonight’s game.  Perhaps if Homer and Helm play that will help but nothing less than a 60 minute effort by the entire team will bring a win in Chicago.  Looking forward to another penalty shot based on only a penalty tonight. (sarcasm intended)

Posted by calquake from a.k.a. Uniquake, workin' on my manifesto on 01/08/12 at 02:57 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.