The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/05/12 at 09:18 AM ET
Updated 2x at 12:18 PM: The Detroit Red Wings spent Sunday morning flying to Phoenix probably feeling like Ales Hemsky did after he was very cleanly Kronwalled (and even the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples says the hit was clean)—probably a little dazed and confused as to how they’d managed to rally from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to take a 4-3 lead on the Edmonton Oilers…
And yet a three-goal third period wasn’t enough to overcome the team’s defensive miscues or its continued inability to score on the power play (the Wings went 0 for 4 and blew a full two-minute 5 on 3), and in their eighth shootout game, the Wings’ shooters got as cute as they did during the first 40 minutes of play, and as such, they dropped a 5-4 shootout decision to the plucky Oilers.
For Edmonton, which has won four of its past five games, witnessing Sam Ganger keep the good times rolling by registering 3 points in his follow-up to his 8-point game against Chicago and managing to rally from their own mistakes was more than enough reason to celebrate, as Gagner himself told the Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland:
“That was a big win for us, especially the way we did it,” said Gagner, who now holds the Oilers record for contributing to 11 straight goals.
The sizzling-hot forward became the first player since Mario Lemieux to have an eight-point night in the NHL in Thursday’s 8-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks - a performance that netted him text messages from Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey, the only two Oilers to have accomplished the feat. Unlike Lemieux, who had eight points one night, but was held to just two shots on goal the following game in April 1989, during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers, Gagner picked up where he left off when he got back on the ice.
He scored the opening goal in a first period that saw the Oilers score three goals on nine shots, chasing Ty Conklin from the Red Wings net. With starter Jimmy Howard sidelined with a broken finger, Conklin was replaced by AHL callup Joey MacDonald. After Gagner’s opening powerplay marker, he picked up an assist on Eberle’s even-strength tally, then he tipped a power-play slapper from Ryan Smyth. By the time the teams headed to the first intermission, Gagner had a hand in 11 of the Oilers’ last 11 goals over three periods. He then added a shootout goal, capping his recordsetting night. Gagner ‘s 11 points on 11 consecutive goals is a new Oilers record. Wayne Gretzky had a streak of 10 twice (Dec . 26-30, 1984 and Oct. 15-19, 1986).
“I knew I wouldn’t get another eight point night, but I wanted to make sure I was getting to the net and continue to try and create chances,” Gagner said. “I got some fortunate bounces in the first, but even after that I felt our line was creating and that’s big for us moving forward. I just feel way better. I want the puck, and that’s a big thing for me. I want to be that guy. Confidence is a huge thing for me and I just want to keep going.”
The first blemish on the Oilers scoresheet against the Red Wings was a short-handed marker that went in off the stick of defenceman Ryan Whitney. His botched clearing attempt was credited to Valtteri Filppula. Bertuzzi jabbed in the visitor’s second goal at 2: 18 of the third then, three minutes later, Drew Miller evened the score 3-3. Late in the third, Bertuzzi zipped up the wing, walked around Andy Sutton, who was going for the hit, and beat Dubnyk top shelf. Detroit, now 35-16-2 had won the first two games in the season series.
The teams meet again Wednesday in Detroit where there will be some scores to settle. Niklas Kronwall tattooed Ales Hemsky into the boards, sending the Oilers winger to the locker-room to ensure that his head was clear. The only penalty on the play was Corey Potter’s four-minute roughing minor. Hemsky returned late in the first. During the penalty kill, Ladislav Smid was sent off for boarding Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg and twice Ben Eager and Mike Commodore were mixing it up.
“I looked at the D but I was thinking he wouldn’t stand up. I got hit pretty hard but it’s my fault,” said Hemsky. “I have to be aware.”
Again, the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples had no qualms with the hit, either:
Did the referee get it right?
I think so. Hemsky had the puck. Kronwall didn’t bash him with his stick, didn’t appear to stick out his elbow, and didn’t target his head. In fact, he backed into him. Brutal hit, but a legal hit in hockey.
Yes, Hemsky’s head was down, but Copper & Blue blogger Derek Blasutti points to Rule 48: “A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted. However, in determining whether such a hit should have been permitted, the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit or the head contact on an otherwise legal body check was avoidable, can be considered.”
I can only scratch my head, however, at the Edmonton Journal’s John MacKinnon’s take on the events which transpired afterward:
No, it was also Corey Potter stepping up and roughing up Niklas Kronwall after the hard-rock Red Wings defenceman flattened winger Ales Hemsky with a massive bodycheck, catching the Oilers player with his head down coming up the rightwing boards.
Kronwall has managed to perfect a predatory high hit that still falls within the NHL’s legal guidelines. Hemsky suffered a bloody nose when hit by Kronwall and went to the locker-room, as per the league’s protocol, to be monitored for concussion symptoms. Hemsky later returned, but he was really shaken up on the play.
In the tribal world of the NHL, clean hit or not, you respond to one of your stars being clobbered by an opponent and the Oilers sure did that. Defenceman Ladislav Smid hit Henrik Zetterberg from behind into the corner boards, a blatant penalty, but payback nonetheless for the Hemsky hit.
Still in the opening period, Ben Eager engaged Mike Commodore in a fight, cuffing the gangly redhead soundly. Part of the NHL’s lore, too, is that the team-oriented penalty is easier to kill than the selfish one and this night, that proved out, too, dubious though that dictum might sound, on the surface.
Potter earned a double minor for smacking Kronwall and was joined by Smid for his infraction on Zetterberg.
The Wings didn’t score on their power plays, however, and as the Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones suggested, the “fun” Oilers came away smiling thanks to Gagner and his teammates:
Gagner didn’t stop. He scored the only Oilers goal in the shootout until Nugent-Hopkins sniped one in the fifth round (unbelievably, Renney selected Eric Belanger to go fourth!).
“I’m real happy for him,” The Nuge said of Gagner. “It was fun to watch.”
Gagner said it was a bigger night for the team than for himself.
“It’s a big one for us ... especially the way we did it, with Ebs scoring at the end. I knew I wouldn’t be having another eight-point night, but even after that first period, our line was creating. I just feel way better. I want the puck,” said the NHL’s automatic Player of the Week.
Funny what Gagner and the gang have done. Two weeks ago, an Oilers suite owner needed to contact six different people before he could find someone to take the 12 tickets for free. For another game the same week, the owner of a company with 60 employees that holds a draw for a set of tickets for each game, opened the box to draw a winner — and found there were no entries. Nobody wanted to go.
Suddenly, it’s back to being fun to be in Edmonton. With the back-to-back wins over the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, the Oilers have now won two more home games than they did last year and have taken nine of 10 possible points to move within 15 of the 62 they ended up with in in 2010-11. Suddenly, they’ve brought the fun back to Edmonton.
Want more mushy-gushy fun? The Edmonton Sun’s Derek Van Ziest offers up some more in a recap which loosely compares Gagner’s scoring exploits to having been touched by Tebow:
“My first chance was a quality one and I was able to put it in,” said Gagner. “Even after that, I just put the puck on net and (Jordan) Eberle makes a great play and gets a goal off of it. After that, the tip-in goal, I just wanted to get to the net and create as much as I can around there. It feels good to contribute to wins. There is still a long way to go in the season, I just want to find a way to keep it going.”
Todd Bertuzzi’s third-period performance nearly upstaged Gagner, who scored a pair of goals and added an assist as he ran up his consecutive points total, in on 11 straight goals for the Oilers, which is a team record.
Having tied another team record with eight points Thursday night in a win over the Chicago Blackhawks, Gagner picked up right where he left off, scoring the Oilers opening goal of the night, then picking up an assists on Eberle’s marker, before rounding out the frame tipping a Ryan Smyth shot past Wings goaltender Ty Conklin with time running out in the period.
“I can’t believe it,” Oilers head coach Tom Renney said of Gagner’s streak. “It’s just nutty. I guess we’ll keep playing him.”
Just over two minutes into the third, Bertuzzi cut into the Oilers’ lead, burying his own rebound after being set up by Zetterberg in front. Drew Miller then tied the game three and-a-half minutes later, finishing off a three-way passing play in front of Dubnyk. Bertuzzi put the Wings ahead, getting past Andy Sutton and firing a shot over the shoulder of Dubnyk. The Oilers sent the game into overtime as Eberle scored with 39 seconds left in the period, getting hold of a puck in front and sliding it past Joey MacDonald, who had come in to replace Conklin at the start of the second.
“We played a really strong 40 minutes and in the third period, we were a little hesitant and just tried to kill the clock,” said Eberle. “That can be fatal. They were able to get three and take the lead, but we were able to find another one, then win the game and that’s all the matters in the end.”
Before he delved into player-by-player grades, the Edmonton Journal’s Jonathan Willis chose to describe the game differently...
It’s the sort of game a fan could be forgiven for not expecting a lot out of. When the best team in the league takes on one of the worst, the expectation is often for a lopsided loss, a non-contest where the superior club effortlessly dismantles the inferior.
If the Red Wings thought they were going to waltz over the Oilers, they could not have been more wrong. In a superb game that had virtually everything anyone could ask for – lead changes, flashy offense, desperation defensive moves, big hits, fights, flashy saves – the Oilers eventually managed to pull out a shootout win as they elevated their game to the level of their esteemed opponents. It was a game well worth watching.
I’ve tried to become a more optimistic Wings fan, but even as someone who’s attempting to temper his fatalism, when the Wings came back, I kept on thinking, “Please don’t screw this up,” and they found a way to do just that.
If you want a game narrative, EdmontonOilers.com’s Ryan Dittrick provides one, and if you want to feel warm fuzzies about Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner still being friends, the Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland will provide that storyline to you, but I’d rather let EdmontonOilers.com’s Travis Knee slowly but surely get down to brass tacks…
Turning point: With Detroit having battled back to take the lead 4-3 in the third period, Jordan Eberle would once again come up big in the clutch. Eberle would find a loose puck at the side of the net with under a minute to play to tie it 4-4. For Eberle it was his 22nd goal of the season.
Play of the game: Sam Gagner would finish off an amazing two games with a beautiful goal in the shootout. Gagner would deke out Red Wings goalie Joey Macdonald multiple times before tucking it home for the first goal of the shootout.
The Unsung hero: Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney has quietly made an impact since returning from injury. Whitney was sharp with the first pass out of the Oilers zone tonight and was key on the powerplay. Whitney would finish the game with two points, assisting on both powerplay goals.
And allow the Canadian Press’s recap to give us some final perspectives from the Oilers...
“It’s a big win for us,” Gagner said. “Especially the way we did it, coming back at the end. I knew I wasn’t going to get another eight-point night. But even after the points kept coming our line was still creating. I’m just feeling way better about how I am playing. I want the puck. I want to be the guy.”
The Oilers blew a 3-1 lead in the third period but sent it to overtime when Jordan Eberle scored with 39 seconds left. Eberle ended up with a pair of goals for the Oilers, who have won three in a row and are 4-0-1 in their last five games.
“We were good for two periods and then sat around and watched them play in the third,” Oilers coach Tom Renney said. “That’s very dangerous against one of the best teams in the league. But we collected ourselves and played more intelligent and showed some character.”
Todd Bertuzzi had a pair of goals, and Valtteri Filppula and Drew Miller also scored for the Red Wings, who snapped a two-game winning streak and lost for only the second time in 11 games.
Detroit almost got on the board first before the game was 2 minutes old. Darren Helm had a short-handed breakaway, but Oilers starter Devan Dubnyk was able to come up with a clutch save. The Oilers made good on the power play a minute later as Gagner knocked the rebound of Ryan Whitney’s shot past Red Wings goalie Ty Conklin.
“Sam has been a lot of fun to watch,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “I’m really happy for him. It was a big character win for us.”
Before allowing NHL.com’s author-less recap to shift our focus from the Oilers’ comments to those of the Red Wings’ players and coach:
“I thought we got a lift when we scored in the third,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We gave ourselves a chance just by crawling back—and then, let’s be honest, we took the game over totally. We had a lot of chances to score, but then we gave up one.”
“Everyone stood up and made a decision to go out there and tie it up,” defenseman Ryan Whitney said. “Eberle has a thing for scoring those big goals.”
Both teams had glorious chances in overtime but couldn’t score, sending the game to a shootout—the sixth for the Wings in their last 11 games. Gagner beat Joey MacDonald, who had replaced Ty Conklin after the first period, with a slick deke in the second round of the tiebreaker. Bertuzzi blasted a slapper behind Dubnyk in the third round, but Nugent-Hopkins raced in and snapped a wrister past MacDonald in round six. Dubnyk ended the game by stopping Danny Cleary’s backhander.
“Every time you get picked for the shootout there’s nerves,” said Nugent-Hopkins, the first player taken in the 2011 NHL Draft, who was playing for the first time since a shoulder injury on Jan. 2 knocked him out of the lineup. “I thought if I could get one good fake in, I could beat him.”
Babcock, who swapped Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk out as centers of the Bertuzzi-Franzen and Filppula-Hudler pairings (Zetterberg had 2 assists; one was on Filppula’s goal in the second period and the 3rd was on Bertuzzi’s 3-3 goal) was willing to take the point…
“I always wish we had two (points),” Babcock said. “But the reality is that our guys battled hard to get us a point here. When you spot the other team three (goals) like we did, it’s a long way back. I didn’t think it was lack of preparation or lack of playing well, because they didn’t have much—we were able to fight our way back.”
But Nicklas Lidstrom wasn’t happy with his team’s start…
“I thought they had better jump than we did,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “I don’t think we came out with as much energy. It took us a couple of periods to get going.”
And Todd Bertuzzi, who scored his 300th and 301st goals on Saturday, wasn’t happy with the way he and his teammates played in front of Ty Conklin (3 goals against on 9 shots):
“If anything, we should be upset that happened to the goaltender who was starting tonight,” he said. “I think everyone took it on themselves to try to get us out of that hole.”
Bertuzzi was willing to accentuate the positive while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, but Babcock was less impressed with his goaltending:
“It didn’t look good in the first period, so we’ll take the one point,” said Todd Bertuzzi, who scored two third-period goals to spark a Wings rally.
The Wings (35-16-2, 72 points) climbed back from a 3-1 deficit after one period. Give credit to goalie Joey MacDonald for giving the Wings an opportunity to salvage a point. MacDonald stopped 22 shots after replacing Ty Conklin after the first period (three goals allowed on nine shots).
“He (MacDonald) did a good job obviously,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He made some saves and we needed some saves at that point of the game.”
Of Conklin’s performance, Babcock said “It wasn’t good enough.”
Babcock hasn’t decided on a starter for Monday’s game in Phoenix, but did say the backup job behind Jimmy Howard (out with a broken index finger) is wide open.
“Somebody has to win games,” Babcock said. “We have to win games. I’m not concerned about (MacDonald) at all. I’m not concerned with Conk. We’ll get it worked out.”
Babcock liked his team’s ability to rally from a 2-goal deficit via a 15-shot third period, as he told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“They hardly got in our end in the third period,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We did a real good job clawing our way back. I thought our worst period was our second period. We didn’t have much energy in the second period. I thought we had a pretty good first. The puck just went in our net.”
That was a fairly scathing indictment of Ty Conklin, who gave up two goals on four shots and three on nine. This night was supposed to be the start of him showing he can be a reliable backup - starter Jimmy Howard is nursing a broken finger - but it didn’t happen. Instead it was MacDonald, who only arrived in Edmonton at 7:30 p.m. Friday after flying in from Grand Rapids, who looked at home in the net. Babcock said he hadn’t decided who will start Monday at Phoenix, but it’s hard to think it won’t be MacDonald. The Wings can’t afford to lose ground in the standings.
Conklin admitted he was frustrated, especially with the third goal, a deflection by Sam Gagner in the last second of the first period. Gagner had also scored on a power play early in the period, and Jordan Eberle had made it 2-0. Valtteri Filppula made it 2-1 on a shorthanded goal in the last minute of the first period. Drew Miller tied the game early in the third period, and Bertuzzi niftily forwarded the puck through Andy Sutton’s legs before scoring top shelf at 16:19 of the third period. Eberle poked a loose puck behind MacDonald with 39 seconds to spare in regulation.
“I don’t like to see the goal go in the way it does in the end,” Babcock said. “It’s a backside goal, you know it’s going to go in that way, 6-on-5. We had our sticks on it and didn’t get it out, unfortunately.”
Lidstrom was both puzzled by the fact that his team went 0-for-4 on the power play and the fact that his team gave up 2 power play goals on 3 Oilers chances…
“That could have helped us to get into the game,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “On the other hand, they scored two power play goals to help themselves. So that could have been a different game if we get a goal there.”
MacDonald started off the second period with several good saves, instilling confidence in the Wings. Babcock moved Zetterberg to play between Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen in the third period, boosting the line’s effectiveness. Zetterberg set up Bertuzzi’s first goal, and the Wings looked more and more like the team that began this trip with victories at Calgary and Vancouver.
“We got a point,” Bertuzzi said. “We didn’t play very good in the first, second we came on a little bit, third we turned it on and played well. Tough last goal against, but, take the one point.”
But MacDonald, who stopped 22 of 23 shots but couldn’t stop the one that counted, tried to accentuate the positive—and he just happened to step into the crease during a period in which the Wings would be out-shot 13 to 10—while speaking to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
“They had a few good chances in the second period, right off the hop and got me into the game quick,” said MacDonald, who was seeing his first NHL action of the season. “I just tried to hold the fort; we knew we would comeback with these guys, these guys just never give up. And that’s what we did; we battled right to the end.”
This season, MacDonald has posted an 11-11-3 record with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage with the Griffins.
“I thought he did a good job, obviously with the situation, we called him up and he made some saves for us,” Babcock said. “We needed some saves at that point in the game so we could crawl back into the game.”
But MacDonald knows the routine with the Wings, where he has been called upon in the past to contribute in a backup role. His last relief appearance came last March when Howard suffered a shoulder injury in the third period of a game against Toronto.
“Things were going good down in Grand Rapids and I was playing a lot, 10-11 in a row,” said MacDonald, who chose to sign a one-year contract last July to stay in the Wings’ organization. “Whenever you play more and more the better you get. Same thing here, I just got in last night and I got an opportunity to hop right in tonight, so we’ll build on it and go from there.”
The Wings traveled to Phoenix right after Saturday’s game and the players have an off-day Sunday. Babcock said that he was undecided on who would start Monday’s game against the Coyotes and Jobing.com Arena.
The direct quote, from St. James via her Twitter account, went like this:
I asked Babcock if MacDonald will start Monday. “I don’t know. That’s what my plane ride is for tonight.”
Babcock also spoke to MLive’s Ansar Khan about his decision to swap out Zetterberg and Datsyuk...
“Standing on the bench we went back and forth on what to do,’’ Babcock said. “Did the change help them score or did they just decide? I don’t know.’‘
The game-tying goal…
Babcock said of Eberle’s tying goal: “I don’t like to see the goal go in the way it does, a back-side goal. You know it’s going to go in that way six-on-five (with Dubnyk pulled for the extra skater). We had our sticks on it, didn’t get it out.’‘
And, well, this:
The Red Wings went 0-for-4 on the power play, registering only four shots. They are 6-for-65 (9.2 percent) in their past 22 games.
“The five-on-three killed us,’’ Babcock said. “It was bad, it was slow, methodical, not dangerous, not smooth, so we got to fix it.’‘
MacDonald spoke about the loss philosophically…
“You knew these guys weren’t going to give up, keep battling to the end. They got kind of a cheesy goal with (39) seconds left. Then the shootout went six rounds, could have gone either way.’‘
As did Drew Miller…
“Going into the third, we’d be happy to get a point out of it,’’ forward Drew Miller said. “Now, looking back, we’re not that happy we didn’t finish it off there.’‘
I didn’t think that Conklin was bad by any stretch on any goal but the second one—he shouldn’t have kicked his legs out when the puck was underneath him—but I also can’t help but admit that on both the first and second goals (and the game-tying goal, too), 3 or 4 Red Wings players just stood around and let Oilers players poke pucks past Conklin (and MacDonald on the fourth goal).
On the last-second one? Sure, Conklin could have covered his five-hole a little better, but what the hell was Sam Gagner doing as the only player within 10 feet of the Wings’ goal with under 10 seconds left in the first period?
I’m not the coach, though, and Conklin seems to know it:
Said Conklin: “Certainly disappointing. You always want to play well. I didn’t.’‘
We know this much: between now and whenever Jimmy Howard returns, Conklin will either win or lose his job as Howard’s back-up. Depending on your point of view, he either didn’t do the job or didn’t get any help, or perhaps a combination of the two. In any case, the team didn’t get the job done against an opponent it will face again come Wednesday, and when the Oilers come to town, the Wings can’t afford to have a first-game-back-from-a-road-trip letdown, from the goaltender on out.
Highlights: TSN posted a 3:19 highlight clip which includes comments from Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins;
Sportsnet posted a 2:06 highlight clip;
Here’s the shootout as narrated by the CBC…:
And here’s a slate of game highlights narrated by Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy:
Post-game: TSN posted an abbreviated post-game clip talking about Sam Gagner‘s scoring, Ales Hemsky getting hit and Devan Dubnyk’s performance in the net, as well as a 2:56 clip of comments from Gagner, Ryan Whitney, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ales Hemsky and Oilers coach Tom Renney;
If you want to watch the CBC’s Kelly Hrudey rant and rave about Sam Gagner, do so on your own;
The Oilers’ website posted post-game comments from Ryan Whitney, Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, as well as Oilers coach Tom Renney’s post-game presser...
And post-game comments from Todd Bertuzzi, Nicklas Lidstrom and Mike Babcock:
And Fox Sports Detroit posted post-game comments from Babcock, Bertuzzi and Joey MacDonald:
Photos: The Edmonton Sun embedded a 14-image gallery in its website’s recap;
The Edmonton Journal posted 7 images in its “Oilers in February” gallery;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 6-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 14-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 17-image gallery;
Daylife.com’s Wings gallery posted 10 Reuters images from the game;
NHL.com posted a 16-image gallery;
And the Red Wings’ website posted a 16-image gallery.
Shots 39-32 Detroit overall: the Wings out-shot Edmonton 13-9 in the 1st, were out-shot 13-10 in the 2nd, out-shot Edmonton 15-6 in the 3rd and were out-shot 4-1 in OT.
The Wings went 0-for-4 in 6:00 of PP time, including 2:00 of 5 on 3 time; the Oilers went 2-for-3 in 5:17 of PP time.
Ty Conklin stopped 6 of 9 shots; Joey MacDonald stopped 22 of 23 shots; Devan Dubnyk stopped 35 of 39 shots.
The 3 stars, per Hockey Night in Canada, were Jordan Eberle, Henrik Zetterberg and Sam Gagner.
The Wings’ goals: Filppula (16) from Zetterberg (27), shorthanded;
Bertuzzi (11) from Zetterberg (28) and Franzen (23);
Miller (10) from Helm (12) and Cleary (15);
Bertuzzi (12) from White (19).
Faceoffs 40-34 Detroit (54% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 22-7 Edmonton;
Missed shots 14-11 Edmonton (total attempts 72-53 Detroit);
Hits 14-10 Edmonton;
Giveaways 21-11 Edmonton;
Takeaways 9-6 Edmonton.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 13-and-12 (52%); Helm went 10-and-7 (59%); Zetterberg went 7-and-8 (47%); Abdelakder went 6-and-5 (55%); Filppula went 2-and-0 (100%); Cleary went 1-and-1 (50%); Bertuzzi won his only faceoff; Emmerton lost his only faceoff.
Shots taken: Lidstrom led the team with 5 shots; Cleary, White and Bertuzzi had 4 shots; Miller, Zetterberg, Emmerton and Holmstrom had 3 shots; Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Helm had 2 shots; Commodore, Filppula, Ericsson and Franzen had 1.
Blocked attempts: Franzen had 4 attempts blocked; Lidstrom and White had 3 attempts blocked; Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Kronwall had 2 attempts blocked; Cleary, Hudler, Helm and Ericsson had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Hudler, Franzen and Holmstrom missed the net 2 times; Commodore, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Kronwall missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Stuart had 3 hits; Miller and Kronwall had 2; Abdelkader, Bertuzzi and Franzen had 1.
Giveaways: Ericsson had 3 giveaways on a pretty terrible night ; Bertuzzi and MacDonald had 2; Lidstrom, Cleary, Commodore and Kronwall had 1.
Takeaways: Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Stuart, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Emmerton had 1 takeaway.
Blocked shots: Datsyuk and Stuart blocked 2 Oilers shots; Lidstrom, White and Hudler blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Commodore took a major penalty for fighting and a minor penalty; Holmstrom took 2 minor penalties; Cleary took 1 minor penalty.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +9. Datsyuk and Helm finished at -1; Lidstrom, White, Bertuzzi and Franzen finished at +2; Zetterberg finished at +3.
Points: Bertuzzi had 2 goals; Zetterberg had 2 assists; Miller and Filppula had goals; Cleary, White, Helm and Franzen had assists.
Ice time: White led the team with 28:40 played; Lidstrom played 27:51; Kronwall played 24:11;
Datsyuk played 23:38; Franzen played 21:29; Zetterberg played 21:17;
Stuart played 21:15; Filppula played 20:21; Hudler played 18:22;
Bertuzzi played 18:14; Ericsson played 16:57; Cleary played 13:48;
Helm played 12:55; Miller played 11:12; Holmstrom played 10:25;
Commodore played 8:41; Abdelkader played 8:33; Emmerton played 6:54.
Part II: And now for something completely different: Remember how Dick Axelsson was supposed to be going to a team loading up for a Swedish Eliteserien title run in Modo Ornskoldsvik, where GM Peter Forsberg, owner Markus Naslund and coach Ulf Samuelsson essentially promised the Red Wings that they’d all help Axelsson finally round into form as an NHL-ready player?
Yeah, well things aren’t going so well, for Modo or Axelsson. Modo’s barely holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the 12-team league, and Axelsson, who had to have groin surgery earlier this season, has posted a very middling 18 points (9 goals and 9 assists) over the course of 31 games, which is good for sixth on his team in scoring.
After Modo dropped a 5-1 decision to AIK Skelleftea on Saturday, Expressen’s Sigge Dabrowski and Aftonbladet’s Malin Wahlberg report that coach Samuelsson swore and tossed his headset at the cameraman when Canal Plus’s commentators asked him whether Axelsson, who took a boneheaded cross-checking penalty at one point, had been out partying on Friday night.
Samuelsson said something to the effect of, “Stick to hockey and stay away from that shit, that’s for the tabloids!” and stormed off.
Axelsson told Expressen’s Henrik Sjoberg that the “incriminating pictures” involved two female fans asking him if he would pose with them while he was eating dinner and playing video blackjack, but Axelsson told both Sjoberg and Expressen’s David Olsson Jigglund that after 3 weeks’ worth of scoreless games, he knows he’s not living up to expectations, though Peter Forsberg told both journalists that he still believes in his player (who Sjoberg says has been sensationally linked to wanting a trade back to Farjestad).
Long story short? With about 10 games left in Modo’s season, Axelsson’s underperforming, he’s being harrangued in the press and by fans on Twitter and Facebook, and instead of going out and scoring, he’s taking penalties and smacking his stick on the glass when he sits down in the penalty box to show his disgust. He’s sort of become the Sean Avery of his league—without any actual carousing or substance abuse or anything more than online spats with fans and poor temper during games—and he needs to get out of Sweden and go somewhere where he won’t cause or instigate so much controversy…
But it’s clear that his brain isn’t on hockey, either, and while we’re not talking about major issues by NHL standards, his head’s still not on straight, and for some reason his team hasn’t taken away his phone or asked him to stop posting to Twitter and Facebook, or to stop acting out when he takes out his frustration on the ice and hurts his team in the process.
Fame ain’t easy for a professional athlete, and after Axelsson left Farjestad for Modo, he became one of the most hated players in the Eliteserien, but he’s not doing anything to give his detractors anything but ammunition.
And yes, if this seems weird, it might be hard to believe, but this tabloid-esque coverage is pretty normal in Sweden. There’s a reason that Henrik Zetterberg and Emma Andersson only return to Sweden for a few months out of the year and will probably pursue their post-hockey careers in Metro Detroit. If you’re anything other than Nick Lidstrom bland, if you have a celebrity girlfriend, if you do something controversial, you name it, the press will pounce with a ferocity that’s almost shocking.
Part III: In the AHL and ECHL, a Swedish Wings prospect who worries about hockey first had a superb Saturday night. Gustav Nyquist scored two goals and fellow top-of-the-heap prospects Brendan Smith and Tomas Tatar had 2-assist nights as the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 5-2, avenging a Friday night loss to the same team. The Griffins’ website provides the details thereof:
Following a scoreless and penalty-free opening period, the Griffins took advantage of the game’s first power play to strike at 8:27 of the second, with Francis Pare one-timing a blast past Nathan Lawson from the top of the left circle.
It was a short-lived lead, though, as only 22 seconds later the Bulldogs (20-20-1-4) burst up ice and evened the score when Dany Masse’s long wrist shot from the left side snuck inside the far post of [Griffins goaltender Jordan] Pearce, who made first start since Dec. 30 after recovering from an ankle injury.
The same frustrating sequence would recur later in the period. Grand Rapids tallied its second power play goal in as many opportunities with 2:56 left, as Nyquist’s shot from the point slipped through a sea of bodies and found the back of the net. But Hamilton made the Griffins pay 31 seconds later for a turnover in their zone and their subsequent failure to clear the puck. Andreas Engqvist found the carom of a long shot that banged off the end boards and beat Pearce, making it a 2-2 game at the second intermission.
The Griffins’ three-goal third period was sparked at the 4:53 mark, when Fabian Brunnstrom won a race to a stray puck at the left faceoff dot and quickly turned and fired a shot that sailed into the top of the cage. Grand Rapids then scored twice in a 33-second span to go ahead 5-2, as Nyquist—whose impressive week began with an assist in the Western Conference’s comeback victory in Monday’s AHL All-Star Game—scored his second off his own rebound at 9:41 before Mitch Callahan stormed the crease to pot Trevor Parkes’ feed into a wide-open net.
Robert Mayer relieved Lawson in goal for Hamilton, stopping the only two shots he faced over the final half of the period, while Pearce slammed the door to record his second win of the season and first since Nov. 11.
The Grand Rapids Press posted a quick recap (no Michael Zuidema is strange) and a quip regarding reasons why Griffins games are great to watch from Peter J. Wallner (Stadiumjourney.com ranked Van Andel Arena as its best minor league venue and #15 of its top 100 places to watch a sports game).
Part IV: Red Wings notebooks: The Free Press’s Helene St. James spoke to both Jimmy Howard and Wings GM Ken Holland about Howard’s prognosis given his broken index finger’s status as playable-throughable as soon as he can tolerate the pain of vibrations from shots hitting his stick…
“We just have to come up with protection for it,” said general manager Ken Holland on Saturday. “Once his hand has healed enough that he can take shots, then we don’t have to wait for it to heal. He won’t miss six weeks. The biggest thing is protection. Once he doesn’t feel any vibrations, we think he can come back within a few days.”
Howard stayed on the bench during the morning skate, then got in a workout for his legs.
“Hopefully, it’s only a couple of weeks,” he said. “I’m being optimistic. I don’t really know what the time line is, to be honest. Hopefully, I can be back even sooner.”
And she also talked to a few Wings about the team’s broomball tournament on Friday:
Cory Emmerton had a satisfying broom ball tournament Friday. For one thing, he was on the victorious team, which featured Todd Bertuzzi as general manager, a first-round pick in Jonathan Ericsson and second-rounder in Pavel Datsyuk. But even better, as one of four captains, Emmerton got to twice pass up good friend Mike Commodore in the draft, despite numerous threats.
“He said he was going to take me out during the games,” Emmerton. “But that didn’t happen. He couldn’t catch me. That was my favorite part. Commie was threatening my life if I didn’t pick him first round. Said he was going to kill me. But Bert was my GM, he said, ‘No, Big E and then Pavel.’ “
MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to Brad Stuart about his stint as a goalie, too. Khan reports that Stuart registered a shutout and was named the tourney’s MVP:
“I was just diving around, flopping around,’’ said Stuart, who played broomball once in gym class when he was 12 or 13. “The ball hit me a few times. My defense was great. I had assistant coach Bill Peters in front of me, clearing the ball away. When you get the chance to do something that normally you probably wouldn’t do on your own, and you have everybody involved, it’s fun.’‘
Emmerton credited his non-playing general manager, Todd Bertuzzi, for picking a winning team: in order, Jonathan Ericsson, Pavel Datsyuk, Stuart and Ty Conklin. Peters was assigned to the team.
“Stewie was MVP, for sure, fantastic in goal,’’ Conklin said. “Pav was pretty solid. Big E was out there throwing his weight around. We ran away with it.’‘
Conklin and Emmerton said the only downside was the resurfaced ice, making it slippery to run around in sneakers (fortunately no one was hurt). It’s usually played on used, choppy ice, for more traction. Datsyuk said he never heard of the game before, but he used adjectives like “awesome’’ and “unbelievable’’ to describe it.
“I played lots outside with no skates, with hockey stick and tennis ball, but broomball is kind of different, it’s fun,’’ Datsyuk said.
The unusually mild weather for Edmonton this time of year made it fun being outdoors.
“It was a beautiful day,’’ defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It was something new. At the same time it was fun to see how everyone’s so competitive regardless of what it is.’‘
• If you want to know the Wings’ Superbowl picks—they’re going to have a viewing party sometime today in Phoenix—the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness provides said info;
• Let’s stick with warm fuzzies for a moment, via the Edmonton Journal’s Robert Tychkowski, who notes that Ian White’s still floored by playing alongside Nicklas Lidstrom…
“It’s been a thrill so far, for sure,” said White, whose plus-29 rating was second best in the NHL heading into the weekend schedule (Tyler Seguin is first at plus-30). “He’s one of the greatest of all time. Getting an opportunity to play with him and practice with him, you learn so much. You get an extra boost of confidence every time you go out there knowing he’s your partner.”
And Tychkowski talked to Danny Cleary about the team’s self-perpetuating winning atmosphere:
“Individually, guys take it upon themselves to be ready and focused,” said veteran forward Dan Cleary, adding players have created a culture where everyone gives as much to the Wings as the Wings give to them. “Everybody has a lot of pride in playing here in Detroit; we all believe that we’re treated very well, there’s nothing that we don’t get or need, and we don’t like to take advantage of that.”
But for all of Detroit’s winning, they have “just” two Stanley Cups in the last 13 years, which goes to show how tough it really is to win that trophy.
“You ask anyone who’s won here in the last few years, it’s really hard, you need everything to go your way,” said Cleary. “You need all your best players to be their best, your role players to be the best role players, no injuries or timely bounces. It’s amazing how everything has to fall in line, but it’s certainly well worth the journey and the work that goes into it.”
• In more serious news, speculatory version: Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner weighed in on Ty Conklin’s “opportunity” to either keep his job or convince the Wings to find a replacement:
If there was one position that the Wings couldn’t afford a long term injury to it was goaltending; unless Conklin can become the goalie he was during his first stint in Detroit. During the 2008-09 season as a Red Wing, Conklin appeared in 40 games, compiled a 25-11-2 record with GAA of 2.51, a save percentage of .909 and 6 shutouts. He played so well that the Wings were outbid for his services in the free agent market by divisional rival St. Louis. Playing for the Blues the last two seasons, Conklin played well in his first year, but his second year was less than stellar – an 8-8 record, with a GAA of 3.22, a save percentage of .881 and 2 shutouts.
He was signed as a free agent by the Wings in the offseason, only after Tomas Vokoun jilted the Wings in favor of the Washington Capitals. At the time of his signing, there were whispers that Father Time may be catching up with Conklin and his play this season has done nothing to quiet those whispers.
After Saturday’s game in Edmonton and Monday’s in Phoenix, the Wings return to the Joe Louis Arena for a six-game homestand. Out of their final 28 games, 18 are at the friendly confines of JLA. Considering the Wings record at home, it appeared likely that Detroit would be in excellent shape to close out the season on a roll. With Howard being out for at least two and perhaps up to six weeks – the Wings roll could be all downhill.
It’s unclear how long Detroit’s brass will give Conklin to prove he can be the man between the pipes. My hunch is that it will depend on the severity of Howard’s injury, but conventional wisdom also indicates not too long. With that in mind, there are several veteran goalies with playoff experience that Detroit would love to pry loose from their current teams: Jose Theodore, Nikolai Khabibulin, Evgeni Nabokov and my choice, J.S. Giguere, just name a few.
Availability, however, along with contractual status, trade demands and a willingness among other teams to help out the Wings will all be major factors in acquiring a top shelf backup goalie. For now it’s all about Ty Conklin. If he can come through, then the goaltending issue is not an issue at all. If Conklin cannot response to the challenge, a possible dream season turns into a horror show on ice.
• In more serious news, non-speculatory version, part 1: Brad Stuart spoke to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan (who also discusses Jimmy Howard’s injury and the broomball tournament in his notebook) about his future with the team, and Stuart says he won’t make up his mind as to whether he’ll stay in Detroit until after the season ends:
“I don’t see anything happening (before then),” Stuart said.
How that will affect Stuart’s future with the Wings remains to be seen. It’s been well documented Stuart’s family lives in California (in the San Jose area) during the season. And that fact will be crucial when Stuart ultimately decides on a team for next season.
“I have more stuff to think about than just hockey,” Stuart said. “I love playing here (the Wings) and playing on this team, but I have to think about my family.”
General manager Ken Holland maintains Stuart is a player the Wings would like to keep this summer if there’s a contract agreement to be made. But Stuart isn’t making any predictions as to whether he ultimately will test free agency.
“I don’t know, you can’t make those predictions at this point,” Stuart said. “All I can say is it’s been hard for a few years on the family side of it. I’ve spent a lot of time away (from family) but that’s the way it is. Those are all things obviously I’ll figure out but they’ll be factors.”
• Ken Holland also just happened to, as We All Bleed Red on YouTube found, watch the game sitting across from Edmonton Oilers presiden Kevin Lowe. Holland told the Free Press’s Helene St. James that he is interested in attempting to improve his team via trade, but if there are no “fits” or prices are too high, he simply won’t make a move for the sake of making one:
“We’re trying to compete for the Stanley Cup, and given the way our team has played, we think we look like a playoff team,” Holland said. “I don’t worry about the East. In the West, we’re ahead of Vancouver, we’re ahead of Chicago. We’re in the top five in goals scored. We’ve improved defensively from last season—we’re in the top 10, just outside the top five. We like our team. We also know we’re in a very deep conference. Anybody that makes the playoffs can go for a run.”
Holland said he’s had “some conversations” with colleagues, but “nothing is imminent.”
Holland made a point of stating that Stuart, who is in the last year of his contract, isn’t on the market, because while he may opt not to re-sign in order to be closer to his family in San Jose, Calif., he is far too valuable to the Wings to move for the sake of moving.
“I met with Brad recently, and we’re going to talk at the end of the year,” Holland said. “That way, we can both focus on hockey. We’ll address his situation at the end of the year.”
Otherwise, as St. James suggests, the Wings have enough forward depth for their own liking, their defense has been fine, and while they’d like to add size and depth both up front and on defense, the Wings do have some players in Grand Rapids who could help the cause in the case of injuries, and given the fact that Ty Conklin’s playing for his job right now, that might change the team’s trade plans. However…
In goal, Ty Conklin will need to use these next handful of games with Jimmy Howard sidelined by a fractured finger to show he can be a reliable backup. Howard’s play, meanwhile, has been another huge positive. Holland thinks that by next season, “Howie will be one of the top five goalies in the game.”
All in all, the Wings are in a good spot. They’re in the toughest division, by far, in the West, as the Central is the only division to have four teams in the playoff picture. The Blues have gone almost undefeated since Christmas; the only team that’s beaten them in regulation? The Wings, who have done so three times.
“We’ll explore what’s out there between now and the deadline,” Holland said. “But I like our team. I think with the exception of a few stinkers, we’ve played very well, and have a nice mix.”
Part V: Also of Red Wings-related note: Since we’re talking about trades, the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch noted the following (please take with salt):
Ryan Smyth is getting plenty of interest as the trade deadline nears.
A looming unrestricted free agent on July 1 with 16 goals and 18 assists in 51 games with the Oilers heading into Saturday, Smyth is going to have to decide whether he wants to head to a contender before the clock strikes zero on Feb. 27.
Sources say there’s at least four teams — including the Rangers, Sharks, Bruins and Wings — that have expressed interest with Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini.
The college free-agent season will start in the next month and there’s going to be a lot of interest in Nebraska-Omaha D Andrej Sustr. The 6-foot-8, 21-year-old blueliner has been getting interest from all NHL 30 teams, but the Czech native — a sophomore — will likely return to school next year. That doesn’t mean some teams aren’t going to try to entice him to come out.
Talk won’t go away the Wings are going to add a forward. Sources say GM Ken Holland has held talks with the Oilers about RW Ales Hemsky, a pending UFA who will likely be dealt.
Several teams — including San Jose, Detroit, Boston and the Rangers — are waiting with baited breath to see what RW Teemu Selanne is going to do at the trade deadline. He has a no-movement clause, but sources say all four teams have expressed interest with Anaheim GM Bob Murray and are waiting to hear if Selanne, 42, has any desire to win one more Stanley Cup before the end of his career. The Sharks would be an attractive option because of San Jose’s proximity to his family in Anaheim. The Sharks want to add a veteran forward at a reasonable price before the deadline. Murray hasn’t given the go-ahead for offers yet
• The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons is doing Superbowl stuff this weekend and I think that Kevin Dupont is busy thinking about the Superbowl, and the New York Post’s Larry Brooks is trying to pitch Dan Girardi as a Norris candidate, but he also points out that the Tuomo Ruutu sweepstakes is getting silly. Between the fact that Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Ruthe
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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.