The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/14/11 at 12:52 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings may as well have been playing the Pittsburgh Penguins in April given the sandpapery grit and grind, vicious intensity, immense attention paid to detail by both teams and nothing less than a grudge match’s worth of effort as lines neutralized their opponents and, for a while, anyway, it looked like the game would only showcase Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk’s talents.
The Wings emerged with a 4-1 victory because Datsyuk played that much better with his linemates than Malkin, taking a lovely pass from Todd Bertuzzi to score his own goal and then handing Johan Franzen a goal of his own, because Jimmy Howard battled like nobody’s business to assuage for leaning too far to the left on Malkin’s almost-last-second goal in the first, and because the Wings finally played what was at times an ugly, mean and nasty road game with a leopard’s worth of spots of high-energy, high-speed puck possession hockey decorating a base coat of red and white work ethic.
The Wings selflessly blocked shots and passes with their bodies, absorbed bodychecks for the sake of getting the puck out of trouble, they flailed and dove to help out their goaltender, and of course, Howard made some fantastic saves, including this amazing seeing-eye glove save…
But on a night when Pavel Datsyuk literally threaded the needle against a Penguins team that possessed more than enough star power to counter even this kind of wizardry…
And “Give[ing] the Mule What he Wants” didn’t necessarily ensure victory…
One could very well argue that the Wings’ third and fourth lines were Detroit’s other difference-makers. Tomas Holmstrom continues to absolutely shine as a “grind liner,” out-eclipsing superb workmanlike performances from Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader, and the Danny Cleary-Darren Helm-Chris Conner line finally found its stride with a motivated Conner’s blazing speed setting up a fantastic 3-1 goal from Cleary with only 4:24 remaining in the game, setting the Wings up for four minutes’ worth of clock-killing hockey which Cleary salted away with an empty-netter of his own.
The Wings’ defense was equally up to the task, with Lidstrom’s elegant positional play and White’s Rafalski-like flash and dash balanced by gravelly performances from Stuart and Kronwall, who sometimes literally scratched and clawed the puck away from Penguins players, and a remarkably steady set of performances from players who’ve made themselves indispensable in the suddenly steady Jonathan Ericsson and a player who must drive Mike Commodore nuts in the emerging Jakub Kindl, whose strength and defensive poise belie an offensive flair which is slowly but surely giving the Wings’ third pairing a sprinkling of offensively adept intimidation…
And while they were more or less neutralized offensively, the penalty-prone Jiri Hudler and his sterling linemates, Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula, didn’t give the Penguins an inch while continuing to take their speed game from one end of the rink to the other (emphasis on the Penguins’ end, and Zetterberg was fantastic on the PK)...
The Wings’ first real “road game” of the season resulted in two hard-earned and well-deserved points on what is about to become a nasty set of road, road and more road games between now and the middle of January. It involved a total team effort, but given the return of a lightning-fast transition game, a stellar forecheck and perhaps Danny Cleary’s inevitable rousing from his offensive doldrums, giving the Wings the three-line offensive attack they’d been missing since Valtteri Filppula joined the Zetterberg line.
As individuals and as a team, the Wings probably needed to face the Penguins’ nemesis to finally elevate their road game to a level necessary to do more than break even over 10 of the next 13 games between now and January 10th, and even after Malkin’s goal negated a first period’s worth of excellent work, the Wings came out showing no fear from the drop of the puck, displaying none of their paper tiger’s worth of first-quarter confidence while standing tall, staring their opponent in the eye and then grinding them into pulp over game’s final forty minutes.
Here’s hoping that this game serves as a blueprint for many gritty road wins to come, starting with Thursday’s game in what can be a house of horrors, an incredibly difficult opponent to beat at home and a vexing, Wings-hexing goalie in Nashville, the Predators and Pekka Rinne.
Shots 26-25 Pittsburgh. The Wings out-shot the Penguins 8-6 in the 1st period, but were out-shot 12-5 in the 2nd period; they out-shot Pittsburgh 12-8 in the 3rd.
The Wings went 1 for 2 in 2:16 of PP time; the Penguins went 0 for 4 in 7:52 of PP time.
Howard stopped 24 of 25 shots; Fleury stopped 21 of 24 and the Wings scored into an empty net.
The 3 stars, per the Pens’ media corps, were Danny Cleary, Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk.
Not exactly fair given how great Maklin was (pardon the complement, sorry).
The Wings’ goals: Datsyuk (9) from Bertuzzi (8);
Franzen (14) from Datsyuk (21), power play;
Cleary (6) from Conner (2) and Helm (4);
Cleary (7) from Zetterberg (14) and Kronwall (7), empty net.
Faceoffs 27-25 Detroit (52% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 20-12 Detroit;
Missed shots 12-11 Pittsburgh (total shot attempts 58-48 Pittsburgh);
Hits 20-19 Pittsburgh;
Giveaways 6-2 Pittsburgh;
Takeaways 7-1 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 12-and-11 (52%); Zetterberg went 8-and-5 (62%); Helm went 4-and-5 (44%); Miller won 2 faceoffs; Filppula went 1-and-1; Abdelkader lost both the faceoffs he took; Franzen lost the only faceoff he took.
Shots: Cleary led the Wings with 6 shots; Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Franzen had 3; Bertuzzi, Filppula and Holmstrom had 2; White, Miller, Zetterberg and Kronwall had 1.
Blocked attempts: Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Kronwall fired 2 pucks into Penguins players; Kindl, Cleary, White, Miller, Filppula and Ericsson fired single shots into Penguins players.
Missed shots: White missed the net 3 times; Lidstrom and Datsyuk missed the net 2 times; Miller, Hudler, Conner and Filppula missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Franzen had 3 hits; Abdelkader, Stuart, Conner and Kronwall had 2; Cleary, Datsyuk, Miller, Hudler, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Ericsson had 1.
Giveaways: White and Holmstrom had giveaways.
Takeaways: Both Datsyuk and Miller had 2 takeaways; Stuart, Conner and Bertuzzi had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: White and Kronwall blocked 4 Penguins shots; Lidstrom, Stuart and Ericsson blocked 2 shots; Kindl, Zetterberg, Conner, Helm, Bertuzzi and Franzen blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Hudler took 2 minor penalties; Lidstrom and Franzen took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: Cleary and Datsyuk finished at +2; Kindl, Stuart, Conner, Helm, Bertuzzi, Ericsson and Kronwall finished at +1; Hudler and Filppula finished at -1; everybody else was even.
Points: Cleary scored 2 goals; Datsyuk scored a goal and added an assist; Franzen scored a goal; Zetterberg, Conner, Helm, Bertuzzi and Kronwall had assists.
Ice time: Lidstrom led the team with 23:56 played; White played 23:46; Stuart played 22:41;
Kronwall played 20:57; Zetterberg played 18:41; Filppula played 17:11;
Datsyuk played 16:59; Cleary played 16:33; Ericsson played 15:49;
Franzen played 15:19; Hudler played 14:56; Helm played 14:32;
Conner played 13:17; Bertuzzi played 13:12; Kindl played 12:26;
Miller played 11:05; Holmstrom played 10:35; Abdelkader played 10:05.
Update: Aww, “It stayed out”...
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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.