The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/12/12 at 01:33 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings never lost their nerve in a game whose officiating matched the penalty quota Chaiman Mao’s attendance required, but they certainly were out-lucked and perhaps out-worked in trenches in front of both goaltenders, and as such, Detroit lost Darren Helm to what is probably some sort of season-ending wrist injury (thanks to a skate cut by Alex Radulov) and lost road-ice advantage, if you will, in a 3-1 loss to Nashville.
At the end of the game, sure, Shea Weber reacted to a cross-check to the back by Henrik Zetterberg by punching Z in the back of the head, but that his penalty was the last of 17 called—10 to Nashville and 7 to Detroit, which scored 2 PPGs and killed 10:19 of Nashville PP time, but lost—after the fact is no surprise, and the bottom line during a wild and woolly game is simple:
The Wings couldn’t or wouldn’t go to the front of the net to obstruct Pekka Rinne’s field of view, steal rebounds or plain old run him over to back the big goalie into his crease, even if a penalty was to be taken in the process, and the Predators earned some bizarre luck in front of Detroit’s crease, negating a sterling performance by Jimmy Howard…In no small part due to the mistakes made by a player who seems to have his brain as well as his skates out of the door in Brad Stuart.
So Shea Butter and the media-darling Predators, whose exploits and surefire statuses as the Stanley Cup champs-to-be seemed to make the media panels on the CBC and CNBC require wardrobe changes after each intermission, managed to take out the player who was definitely the catalyst for the Wings’ moribund 3rd and 4th lines—at least until Justin Abdelkader and Danny Cleary tried to take the team on their backs—and may have gotten away with their robbery had the last play of the game not incensed what might have been an already ornery giant that didn’t seem to quite have tipped the playoff switch all the way to “on.”
Otherwise, I don’t know what to think of the game. As Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond are suggesting while I write this up, the Wings didn’t play poorly by any sense of the imagination, nor were Rinne and the Predators world-beaters, despite the usual 35-save performance by Rinne and the Predators’ hard-charging style. This one was weird as weird can be, and if there is to be a decisive advantage pushed in this series, it will be determined by what happens in Game 2.
The Predators may have a significant advantage in the race to 4 wins, but…I mean, the Wings fired 32 frickin’ shots on Rinne in the 2nd and 3rd periods, a team that went 7-and-15 in the faceoff dot in the 1st period ended up winning the faceoff battle 32-30 (despite Gaustad’s big wins at the end), the hits were listed as 18-18 in Nashville for a reason, Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen seemed to stir to life in the 3rd period, and the Wings are too veteran to be fazed, and the Preds are too predictable (sorry, turtle neck Trotzie) to not be exploited should the Wings finally choose to predate upon a team they played far too tentatively against far too regularly.
Regarding the game’s narrative:
The Wings came out tentatively, and Stuart made a terrible mistake early on. Just under seven minutes in, Paul Gaustad stole the puck from Brad Stuart behind the net, skated back toward the goal line, and as he cleared the goal line, he fired the puck back at the net. Stuart had retreated toward the top of Howard’s crease, and he ended up tipping Gaustad’s shot between Howard’s legs. No chance for Howard, 1-0 Nashville and a catfish on the ice with 13:01 left in the 1st.
The Wings then proceeded to kill off three of their four first-period penalties (four of the six called on them all night long), including 1:14 of a 5 on 3, and Howard was very strong otherwise, stopping 12 of 13 first-period shots. That’s better than the 11 of 13 he stopped over the game’s final 40 minutes, and he was pretty damn good then, too.
The Wings embarked upon their third power play of the game 1:10 into the 2nd period, and despite endless over-passing, when Henrik Zetterberg went to the net, he made his shot count. Off a strong faceoff win, Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall gave and went, Kronwall fired the puck on the net, and as Jiri Hudler played Tomas Holmstrom’s role, the rebound bounced to Zetterberg, who roofed the puck over Rinne’s glove. 17:49 left in the 2nd, Detroit’s tied 1-1.
With the Filppula-Zetterberg-Hudler line leading the way, Tomas Holmstrom being used increasingly regularly in spot duty and Justin Abdelkader and the hobbled Danny Cleary pouncing upon their promotions, the Wings killed two more penalties off over the course of the 2nd period, but yet again, the Predators struck on a fluky but earned play. With a little under 12-and-a-half minutes left in the 2nd, Matt Halischuk skated over the Wings’ blueline and just fired a puck toward the net, and as the puck met Brad Stuart and Gabriel Bourque, it clanked off the shaft of Bourque’s stick and knuckleballed over Howard’s shoulder before gently falling behind him into the net. 7:31 left in the 2nd, it’s 2-1.
The Wings then had some wonderful chances to tie things up but admittedly blew ‘em—especially when Patric Hornqvist took a high-sticking penalty with 6 seconds left in the 2nd period, giving the Wings about 1:55 and change worth of relatively fresh sand and gravel…I mean “seasonal” Nashville ice to set up upon after their 16-shot 2nd period, and the wings did little with it, and the same can be said of bookend penalties on Roman Josi. As such, Bertuzzi and Franzen started to roll, but instead…
11:35 into the 3rd period, Brad Stuart was pressured by Nick Spaling in the right corner, and instead of eating the puck to scrum things up, he quickly back-passed it to Henrik Zetterberg behind the net. Zetterberg was quickly overpowered by Spaling and Patric Hornqvist, who flittered a pass out from behind the net to an untaken Gabriel Bourque. Bourque roared in from the point to the slot sans Niklas Kronwall covering him, and he roofed the puck over Howard, who, again, had no chance. With 8:25 left in the 3rd, the Wings were down 3-1.
The Wings were then unable to capitalize on a 5-on-3 thanks to back-to-back penalties to Jack Hillen and Ryan Suter with about five and four minutes left in the 3rd period, respectively, but that 2nd penalty did bite Nashville eventually. As the Wings regrouped after their power play expired, Ian White carried the puck up for Jiri Hudler, both players were blocked at the Nashville line, and as White regrouped, he gave the puck to Kyle Quincey, Quincey roared up and in, gave the puck to Valtteri Filppula, got it back and fired a shot that Rinne stopped but was unable to corral. As such, the puck bounced toward the crease, and Tomas Holmstrom jammed the puck in. Detroit was down 3-2 with 2:07 left.
Detroit couldn’t close the gap as they pulled Howard (we’ll conveniently ignore whether Howard negated a late icing call) and had a late power play, and that was that.
If the Wings had been more decisive around the net, they would have made more of their 32 2nd and 3rd period shots on Rinne, but…They didn’t, and as such, they can’t really do much more than know that they were not ran into the end boards, they were not really out-worked, out-hustled, out-skilled, out-gritted or out-detailed, but they were out-lucked on an earned basis and they were, in the end, defeated by a plucky team and superb goaltender who must be brimming with confidence after essentially doing what Weber did to Zetterberg in the game’s waning seconds…
And getting away with it.
Via Paul, here’s the CBC’s slate of highlights (North America only):
And here are NHL.com’s highlights:
Shots 37-26 Detroit. The Wings were out-shot 13-5 in the 1st but out-shot Nashville 16-6 in the 2nd and 16-7 in the 3rd.
The Predators went 0-for-6 in 10:19 of PP time, including 1:14 of 5 on 3 time; the Wings went 2-for-8 in 12:14 of PP time, including 44 seconds of 5 on 3 time.
Pekka Rinne stopped 35 of 37; Jimmy Howard stopped 23 of 26.
The Nashville Media’s 3 stars were Paul Gaustad, Pekka Rinne and Gabriel Bourque.
The Wings’ goals: Zetterberg (1), unassisted, PPG;
Holmstrom (1) from Quincey (1) and Filppula (1), PPG.
Faceoffs 32-30 Detroit (Detroit won 52%);
Blocked shots 16-10 Nashville;
Missed shots 9-8 Nashville (total attempts 61-45 Detroit);
Giveaways 15-8 Nashville;
Takeaways an ugly 13-5 Nashville.
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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.