The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/15/12 at 04:27 PM ET
The Detroit Red Wings were beaten by two teams on Sunday—the Nashville Predators, who won a 3-2 decision, and the Detroit Red Wings.
The Wings bafflingly came out of the gate flatter than day-old pop in front of an electric Joe Louis Arena crowd, dug a 2-0 hole for themselves and then worked against the clock for the rest of the game, and while the Wings made a game of it and then some thanks to a Datsyukian deke, a near goal by Johan Franzen as time expired in the 2nd and a furious, 19-shot third period assault, the Red Wings’ power play went 1-for-4, on too many of the Predators’ odd-man rushes, pucks found their way through Jimmy Howard…
And now Detroit’s season more or less hangs upon a must-win on Tuesday because Nashville stole home ice back from a team that either couldn’t or wouldn’t play with any sort of passion, intensity, attention to detail, focus, desperation, or any sense of real urgency until they’d surrendered too much territory and scoreboard to their opponent—an opponent that they don’t seem to hate yet, and if you were to ask me what might cost the Wings this series, it’s the fact that they took all the anger pointed at Shea Weber in Game 2 and left it behind in Nashville.
Yes, the Wings rallied against themselves and the Predators, but this loss is immensely dispiriting because, well…The Wings are making Pekka Rinne into Dwayne Roloson, and for whatever reason, the Predators seem to have all the “puck luck” at both ends of the ice thanks to a forecheck that’s generating turnovers in Detroit’s zone, body position in their own end and a litany of blocked empty-net shots—Detroit had not only 43 shots on Rinne (who wasn’t forced back into his net nearly enough after Drew Miller ran him over) today, but they also fired 15 wide and 19 into Nashville Predators players for a total of 34 extra pucks not hitting Rinne or the back of the net, and 77 total attempted shots, perhaps most eloquently illustrating how incredibly inefficiently the Red Wings have played throughout this series.
They’re exerting far too much energy, blood, sweat and tears rallying from deficits (it seems that this is a “first goal wins” series) and battling against both their opponents and the same tendencies that cost them home ice down the stretch, and when you add in the fact that the Wings are, for whatever reason you want (discipline or referees’ discretion, depending on your point of view about all the hacks, whacks and interference the Predators are getting away with), taking too many penalties…
The Wings have dug an immense, immense hole for themselves, and I’m usually relatively optimistic about Detroit’s resiliency, but the Wings’ unwillingness to engage in anything less than catch-up hockey has me much more worried than the Predators’ play does. It’s not beating Nashville or Rinne that I think may very well spell a locker room clean-out if the Wings don’t win on Tuesday; it’s the Wings beating their own bad habits and beating their rather glaring lack of, as I continue to beat the dead horse into pulp, those extra faceoffs Kris Draper won them, those extra passes and shots from the point that are absent sans Brian Rafalski and that extra drive that just hasn’t manifested itself against, again, a team I don’t think the Wings hate nearly enough to want to not only defeat, but destroy and humiliate.
And you can’t win in the playoffs unless you want to kick the s*** out of a team you’ve got a healthy hate for.
The game’s narrative was too familiar. All of 1:35 into the game, Drew Miller was penalized for roaring into Pekka Rinne with the same kind of drive the Predators’ players have displayed going into Howard, and Nashville immediately deflated Detroit and their crowd on the power play. Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall couldn’t win a board battle down low—below the goal line, where the Wings are incredibly every spring, it seems—and Shea Weber and Ryan Suter did their “let’s play catch” thing, Pavel Datsyuk’s stick was broken as he blocked a Weber shot from the left point, the puck went to David Legwand along the left wing half boards, he gave it to Alex Radulov down low, Radulov tossed it to Kostitsyn, whose shot from the top of the crease was blocked, and because Kostitsyn was allowed to utilize Niklas Kronwall’s slight bump to throw Brad Stuart into Howard, Howard had no chance to stop Shea Weber sneaking in from the point and scoring all of 2:48 into the 1st period.
The Wings were more or less dominated in terms of possession and control of the puck, time of possession in the offensive zone and winger support during the first period, so the 11-9 shot advantage was deceiving and then some (as our friends on NBC kept reminding us in what seemed to be a Nashville Predators infomercial). The Wings managed to “kill off” the rest of the first period, but things did not start well in the 2nd, either.
After not capitalizing on a Jordin Tootoo penalty taken 1:21 into the 2nd, the Predators rebounded in a big way. Tootoo came out of the box, skated into his end to battle Jonathan Ericsson, Ericsson played the puck to Danny Cleary, he and Filppula tossed pucks around and Cleary fired a shot on net which was missed, Ericsson stumbled at the right point looking to switch to skating backwards, and as Brad Stuart attempted to stop Martin Erat and Kevin Klein on a 2-on-1, Stuart didn’t take away the pass, Klein charged in and beat Howard cleanly on the glove side despite Howard’s glove being up and in position. Howard should have had it, and he didn’t.
With 16:10 left in the 2nd, the Wings were down 2-0 (there was a delayed penalty during the play as well).
The Wings slowly but surely came on as the 2nd continued, despite taking penalties which resulted in a 5-on-3 via Franzen and Quincey infractions around the game’s halfway point, and the Wings rallied in a big way after killing 23 seconds of 5-on-3 time and almost four minutes’ of penalties…
But they couldn’t catch a break until Pavel Datsyuk made a characteristically Datsyukian play, losing a faceoff but skating deep, stealing the puck from Roman Josi behind his net and neatly tucking the puck past Pekka Rinne’s left toe with 4:57 left in the 2nd.
From then on, the Wings owned the puck, and they nearly scored in the 2nd’s waning seconds, on a power play, with Johan Franzen burying the rebound of a Tomas Holmstrom shot and an amazing sequence of passes to and from Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Regrettably, time expired when the puck was parallel to and going over Rinne’s torso, so the goal did not count.
The fact that the Wings didn’t convert on 1:49 of PP time to start the 3rd, on what was surprisingly good ice given the weather and Nickelback concert on Saturday night, hurt their chances, and the Wings absolutely kicked ass and took names as the Predators sagged, assaulting Rinne with a total of 19 shots…
But I had the feeling that the Wings were just waiting for that miraculous, last-minute comeback, and again, that lack of urgency, even when Detroit had finally established a forecheck, damned ‘em.
With 3:30 left in the 3rd period, Shea Weber chipped the puck down ice—in what should have been an icing call—and instead, Brad Stuart played the puck to Niklas Kronwall, he gave it to Henrik Zetterberg, Z skated up ice and gave a pinching Niklas Kronwall a nice pass, Kronwall pinched to take the shot and, well what do you know? The Predators capitalized on the fact that Valtteri Filppula, who was in Kronwall’s right point position, stood up, let Kevin Klein, Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn roar up ice, and Fisher fired the puck to Kostitsyn, he came up the same lane that Klein did, perhaps going a little wider to the left side, and he beat Jimmy Howard under the blocker in, again, a situation where Howard should have stopped the shot despite his intermittent 4-shot workload.
Henrik Zetterberg made a game of it again with 52 seconds left in the 3rd, scoring a gorgeous sniper’s goal off a drop pass from Pavel Datsyuk, sneaking a shot through Rinne’s glove, but the Wings otherwise were easily stopped at the Predators’ line or by the half boards, losing pucks to tenacious Predators defense, and the game ended perhaps predictably.
The Wings may have very well regained playoff form in this game, but they didn’t win it, and so Tuesday’s game may very well determine the post-season. If the Wings don’t win it and go into Nashville down 3-1 on Friday, the Wings might have not displayed the drive, urgency or again, hatred-fueled intensity early enough in this game or this series to prevent the media’s coronation of the Predators as their playoff darling…
And as bleak as I make this sound, there is no doubt in my mind that the Wings can—if they come out and score the first goal during a strong start on Tuesday—very easily split their home games, go into Nashville and win on Friday after a nice two-day break and beat the absolute snot out of the Predators both on the scoreboard and in the physical department, all while taking fewer penalties and ensuring that Pekka Rinne becomes very, very human in the process.
We saw that the Wings have the spirit, drive and desire to win in them during that 19-shot 3rd period, but what we didn’t see is results, and that’s the problem for a team that seems to be continuing to suffer growing pains during their playoff run.
Growing pains usually mean golf, and that’s why I am more than willing to admit that, this afternoon, I’m genuinely scared that the Wings are en route to ensuring that this is a rebuilding/transition year by defeating themselves. [edit: Do I still believe? Hell yes, but my faith isn’t blind, and I’m not ashamed to suggest that I’ve got my doubts while remaining firmly chained to the bandwagon. I wish the Wings despised the Predators as much as I do, frankly, because I want to see Nashville’s players curled up in a ball, crying for mommy, by this time next week.]
Shots 43-22 Detroit. The Wings out-shot Nashville 11-9 in the 1st period, 13-9 in the 2nd period and 19-4 in the 3rd period.
Nashville went 1 for 4 in 7:00 of PP time, including 23 seconds of 5 on 3 time; Detroit went 1-for-4 in 6:45 of PP time.
Pekka Rinne stopped 41 of 43 shots; Jimmy Howard stopped 19 of 22.
The 3 stars, per HNIC’s Kevin Weekes, were Pekka Rinne, Pavel Datsyuk and Shea weber.
The Wings’ goals: Datsyuk (1), unassisted;
Zetterberg (2) from Datsyuk (2) and Kronwall (1), PPG.
Faceoffs 32-26 Nashville (Detroit won 45%, mostly because Valtteri Filppula went 1-and-3 and Cory Emmerton went 2-and-4);
Blocked shots 19-9 Nashville;
Missed shots 15-10 Detroit (total attempts 77-41 Detroit, with Detroit firing 43 shots on Rinne and 34 near him);
Hits 34-28 Detroit;
Takeaways 7-4 Detroit.
Stats that stand out: 9 shots for Henrik Zetterberg, 4 for Lidstrom, Miller, and Kronwall, 3 shots and 5 hits for Johan Franzen, 6 hits for Brad Stuart, 4 from Ian White, 4 takeaways for Pavel Datsyuk, 2 blocked shots for Datsyuk and White, who ended the game playing alongside Nicklas Lidstrom, 1 shot, 1 blocked attempt and 2 hits for Gus Nyquist, who played with Datsyuk for a while, and a team-leading 24:34 in ice time for Nicklas Lidstrom.
Here’s a slate of game highlights:
And, from the CBC’s Justin Piercy, I liked this from Franzen, who got furiously angry when David Legwand grabbed his jersey from Nashville’s bench:
Update: Here’s a pair of player comments from the Wings’ website, starting with Kyle Quincey…
And continuing with Nicklas Lidstrom:
And Drew Miller:
And NHL.com just posted Mike Babcock’s post-game presser, but it wont’ let me embed it for some reason.
More video stuff: The Windsor Star posted clips of comments from Kyle Quincey…
And Jimmy Howard:
Here’s Henrik Zetterberg rom the Wings’ website, too:
Yet another video update: Here’s Babcock, finally, from the Wings’ website:
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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.