The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/16/12 at 07:11 AM ET
The Detroit Red wings’ 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Sunday afternoon has left me an angry man this morning, and I feel no need to hide it.
I’m angry because—and I mean this with no disrespect intended—I find it baffling that even the Craig Custances, Kevin Allens and Nicholas J. Costonikas of the media world, who I admire, merely lead the tip of a MSM spear whose thrust is, “Gosh, can you believe that Shea Weber was still dominant even though Red Wings fans booed him and he had to fight Todd Bertuzzi on Friday? What resolve!”
Regardless of whether the Red Wings rally and make something out of this series, I fully believe that the Weber gush-fest will remain a central storyline, and the fact that I’m supposed to somehow admire someone who tried to break Henrik Zetterberg’s face even more just because he remains what he is—superstar and because he’s a big-game player.
I’m angry because I think that the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper summarizes the state of affairs in this series, for both the Red Wings and Predators, via two very astute “post-game ponderings”:
Before the series, people asked about the Predators coming into this series in the uncomfortable role of favorite. My response? You’re going to have to be the favorite at some point in your franchise existence if you want to win. Nashville checked something else off its list today in beating the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena for the first time in Nashville’s playoff history. This is something that favorites do — they win on the road. In order to move onto the second round, the Predators needed to win at Joe Louis Arena. This should come as no surprise. Nashville is younger than Detroit, and they have greater depth. They were fully capable of winning one game here. The question now is, can the Predators put a stranglehold on a series? It’s something they’ve never done before. That will be the real test — to go up 3-1 on the Red Wings potentially Tuesday.
Pavel Datsyuk looked solid with a goal and an assist, but he was missing something again. Ever since his knee surgery he hasn’t been the same player. The stat line says Datsyuk has three points in three games this series, but he just hasn’t appeared dominant. His strip on Roman Josi was nice, but he wasn’t the same force in the offensive zone in which you’re constantly wondering what type of move he will make.
And I’m angry because, for the umpteenth time this season, the Red Wings fell completely flat in front of their paying fans, didn’t truly wake up until they were down 2-0, and seem to be missing the same “zip” that Datsyuk does as an individual on a collective basis. The Wings cannot rally and win 3 of the next 4 games if they simply do not possess the desire, drive, determination, focus, attention to detail, execution, discipline in front of bizarre refereeing (for three years in a row now, referees see red, and that’s all they see), and especially senses of urgency, desperation, and real and genuine disdain and hatred for their opponent which are almost completely absent from the Wings’ game.
I do not believe, as many of you do, that, should the Red Wings be clearing out their lockers on Saturday or Monday, this is somehow Mike Babcock’s fault. I don’t see a failure of leadership on his part, nor do I see Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall or Henrik Zetterberg not holding up their parts of the bargain.
What I do see is a team that was far too content to almost tie the game at the end of the 2nd period, a team that seems unable to overcome the losses of Darren Helm and, yes, Patrick Eaves in terms of its ability to start and sustain a forecheck, a team that does indeed seem to be missing Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and Danny Cleary’s “full strength” games, as well as the extra puck-moving Nicklas Lidstrom would be able to provide if he wasn’t genuinely hobbled by that bone bruise, and again, as I’ve said for months now, I see a team whose younger players haven’t been able to fill the voids left by faceoff specialist and defensive dynamo Kris Draper, elite puck-moving defenseman Brian Rafalski and the plain old calm arrogance, swagger and hunger that the pair and back-up and savvy locker room sage Chris Osgood once provided.
I see a team in transition, a team still trying to break in two new assistant coaches, and a team that’s just banged-up enough to not have the forces or horses necessary to hang tough against a team that was very specifically overbuilt this season to very specifically defeat Detroit in the playoffs. And I see a Detroit Red Wings team that could be up 2-1 if they weren’t so very busy defeating themselves…
And I think that the hard truth is that a healthy, overbuilt Predators team has a razor-thin edge over a banged-up Wings team that’s in a transition year, and when you add that to the self-confidence that’s been missing from Detroit’s players since February, well…Bad things happen in April.
What did the people whose opinions matter more than mine think? Let’s get the gushy Weber crap out of the way first, via NHL.com’s Brian Hedger...
Weber scored the game’s first goal on a power play, launched four shots on goal, delivered three hits and blocked three shots to earn praise from Nashville coach Barry Trotz after the Preds’ narrow 3-2 victory.
“He was a monster out there,” Trotz said. “He scored a big goal. Obviously, when he came to the rink, he knew he wasn’t going to be the most likeable guy in the arena. He made a big statement. He said, ‘I’m here to stay and nothing’s going to stop me from being a top player.’ He’s all about business, on and off the ice. I’m very fortunate that I can put him on the ice, night in and night out.”
And the Toronto Sun’s Rob Longley, who notes that Barry Trotz is trying to work the refs to call even more penalties against the Wings:
Trotz’s monster depiction included Weber counting the opening goal on the power play just 2:48 into the game, a huge momentum swing for the Preds in their quest to make an early statement and win their first post-season game here It included a game-high 27 minutes and six seconds of ice time spread over 33 shifts. And it included providing the key stability in front of the net that allows Rinne to do his superb thing.
“It’s a tough building to play in,” Weber said when asked about the reaction of the overheated Hockeytowners. “It’s part of it. Whatever. We’re focussed on the game and winning.”
It didn’t hurt that Rinne was a wall for most of the game, only beaten on a late desperation goal by Zetterberg in the final minute and on a second period Pavel Datsyuk marker that was all on Preds defenceman Roman Josi, who was stripped behind his own net. The Predators weren’t too thrilled about the traffic Rinne faced but given the style they play, the shots weren’t a big deal.
“We knew that if (our defence) can deflect things, keep things on the outside, they can have as many shots as they want,” Trotz said. “He doesn’t get phased. He’s used to (getting run). Everyone in the league seems to want to do that.”
The Predators also received huge contributions from defenseman Kevin Klein at both ends of the ice, as the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper (the CBC’s story about Klein is an alternate version of Cooper’s story) noted…
Kevin Klein took a feed from Martin Erat and zipped into the Detroit zone. And then he blacked out. At least that’s what Klein said his Predators teammates think happened. That was their only explanation for what ensued next. Klein beat Brad Stuart with an inside-out move and roofed a shot over Jimmy Howard. The goal gave Nashville a 2-0 lead with 16:10 remaining in the second period. It wasn’t the game-winner but it was an important score from an unlikely source.
“The goal was just a little out of my element,” Klein said after the Predators beat the Red Wings 3-2 on Sunday. “Glad I could put that one in for the guys.”
It wasn’t his only big play. Klein also made an important block with his stick on Cory Emmerton in the third period off a rebound from a Drew Miller shot. Goaltender Pekka Rinne was still scrambling from the Miller save and the net was open. After the play, Rinne went over to Klein on the bench and gave him a fist bump.
“I told him you saved my butt enough times I can chip in for one,” Klein said. “I saw him (Emmerton) coming in and I just tried to get something on it.”
The block stunned Emmerton, as NHL.com’s Brian Hedger noted:
Emmerton was about to cap a rush early in the third by putting home a rebound of Drew Miller’s shot into a wide open net when Klein somehow blocked the shot from the low slot with just the shaft of his stick at the last second.
“We had a good breakout there, I tried to beat my guy up the ice and [Miller] did a good job,” Emmerton said. “It was a tight spot to make a pass, so he passed up the pass and the puck went off the pads and I just tried to wire it. But the D-man just kind of did like a spin or something with his stick and I don’t know how, but I hit him right in the middle of the shaft. It’s unbelievable, but it’s a tough break.”
I’ll let USA Today’s Kevin Allen tell the game’s narrative from there…
Before the Weber goal, the Red Wings had killed Nashville’s first 12 power-play opportunities. The Predators ranked No. 1 in power-play efficiency this season in the regular season. After Klein scored, the Predators held their two-goal lead until Pavel Datsyuk swiped a puck from Nashville defenseman Roman Josi behind the Predators net and then stuffed it into the net before Rinne could react at 15:03.
“You have to know who you are out there against,” Josi said. “I just got to get rid of it. He’s great with his stick. That can’t happen.”
The Red Wings appeared to tie the game when Johan Franzen scored near the end of the second period. But replays showed conclusively that time had expired.
In the third period, with the Red Wings pressing for a tying goal, Niklas Kronwall got caught up ice and Sergei Kostitsyn scored on a two-on-one break to make it a 3-1 game.
“You gotta know who you’re out there against,” Josi said. “I just have to get rid of it, you know [Datsyuk] is great with his stick. That can’t happen. You have to know who you’re playing against.”
It was a reminder of just how skilled Datsyuk is and a reminder of his ability to change entire games in an instant.
“I knew he was coming from behind. It happened so fast,” Josi said. “He lifted my stick and got it. I have to get rid of it. He always does that and you have to know that.”
Because it’s the Tennessean’s Cooper who points out that the Predators’ killer 3-1 goal does not bode well for Detroit going forward, as it represented the Predators’ first line getting off a scoring schneid…
[W]hen [Sergei] Kostitsyn does shoot, he often scores. He proved it again on Sunday, electing to fire a blast on a 2-on-1 with 3:30 left in the third period. It proved to be the game-winner.
“Sergei has always been criticized for not shooting enough. He has a great release and is very accurate with it, “ Trotz said. “I have a lot of trust in Sergei. He’s really grown in Nashville.”
Kostitsyn’s goal answered some questions about the first unit, centered by Mike Fisher and also including Martin Erat. Going into the game, the trio was without a point. Erat and Fisher notched assists on Sunday.
And Cooper could very well have earned the “bottom line” tag for adding these quips to the mix:
“This year we have a little more depth with guys coming in and out and can contribute, and we have the experience from last year,” defenseman Shea Weber said. “We took a lot of things for granted and we’re trying not to do that this year.”
Weber’s power play goal in the first period gave Nashville a 1-0 lead and set the tone. If the Predators needed a faceoff win in their zone, they got it, winning 55 percent of their draws to 45 percent for Detroit. They outblocked Detroit, 19-9, including a big one by Kevin Klein on Cory Emmerton on an open net early in the third period. And when they needed a big save, Pekka Rinne was there with 41 total stops.
“We don’t have a long history as a franchise,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ve had good regular seasons and been a real competitive team, but there’s new experiences. If we had been in the league 100 years, we wouldn’t be talking about our first playoff win in Detroit, but we haven’t been around for 100 years.”
NashvillePredators.com’s Jay Levin offers an equally telling remark...
2011 Flashback – Today’s game was eerily reminiscent of Game 3 of last year’s Western Conference Quarterfinals Series. Last year after splitting the first two games, Nashville claimed an early 2-0 lead only to see Anaheim race back to tie the game and then the Preds scored early in the third period to re-gain the lead, only to see Anaheim respond moments later, before Mike Fisher netted the winner midway through the frame. Today Nashville again claimed a 2-0 lead before Detroit scored once and nearly netted a second at the tail end of Period 2, but much like last year’s game the Preds held off the surge for a one-goal win.
As do Trotz and Weber when speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan about Nashville’s start:
“Our power play has been taking some criticism,” Trotz said. “But we’ve been getting a lot of chances. We just haven’t finished. We could probably be sitting here with four or five power-play goals after the first couple of games here.”
Trotz said Weber’s goal helped Nashville get into the game and take the Red Wings crowd out of it a bit.
“I thought the first period, we did what we wanted,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a real hostile environment and it started right from the start. Our guys had real focus.”
And Il’ll happily break form and hop over to the Wings’ locker room again because ESPN’s Craig Custance provides very badly needed addition to the mix regarding what contributed to that terrible Red Wings start:
“The team that wins the draw ends with the forecheck and gets on top of the other team,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “That’s something we’d like to do better.”
Nashville won eight of the first 10 faceoffs in the game with Paul Gaustad his usual dominant self overall. Gaustad won 12 of 19 faceoffs in the game, with the Predators finishing with a 55-45 faceoff win percentage edge.
“In the first 10 minutes, we didn’t win any faceoffs [and] kind of got on our heels a little bit in the game,” Babcock said.
Instead, we’ll let NHL.com’s Brian Hedger give us the final word from the Nashville side...
“We knew that there’s pivotal games [in a series], this being one of them,” Trotz said. “[In Game 2], I thought we played well at home and probably deserved to win and we didn’t get the win. We had to respond. I liked our start. I didn’t like our finish ... but when the final buzzer went off, I liked that.”
And we’ll shift over to the Wings’ side for good (more on Weber, via MLive’s Brendan Savage? Read it on your own. George Sipple’s chat with Rinne about the Predators’ 19 blocked shots, Klein’s goal and the Preds’ PK to start the 3rd? Read it on your own? “Bonus Swedish?” Patric Hornqvist told Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom that scoring the first goal was huge, and that the win was important. The end.) via the rest of Hedger’s recap, because Henrik Zetterbeg’s suggsting that this series could go six or seven is premature…
“[It] looks like that,” he said. “It’s close games. All three games have been close, so I’m not going to be surprised if it goes all the way here. If you look, most of the series are tight. I think it’s good for hockey. You can’t really pick a winner in the first round. A lot of teams are playing good hockey. It’s nothing different with this matchup.”
It started early in this game, with Weber’s power-play goal—scored off a rebound from the low slot after Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk had broken his stick and didn’t have it to play defense. It was Nashville’s first power-play marker in the Preds’ first 13 attempts, but they went 1 for 4 overall and are now 1-for 16 with the man-advantage in this series—after finishing the season as the NHL’s top-ranked team in that category.
It also ended a string of 37 straight successful penalty kills by the Wings dating back to the last seven games of the regular season. Detroit also went 1-for-4 on the power play, but the Red Wings’ early penalties were again an issue—including the goalie interference call on Miller that led to Weber’s goal.
“We’ve got to be more disciplined, because they call this stuff,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We got to stay out of the box. You talk about flow of the game. If you’re going to be in the penalty box, that really makes it tough for you being in the box that much. You’re wearing out your players killing. Even though [our] penalty-killing has been good, you’re wearing yourself out.”
And I’ll let the AP’s Larry Lage try to scare the s*** out of us because we might very well deserve it given the number of bandwagon-jumpers after this one:
Just when it looked like the Red Wings were finished off for sure in Game 3, Zetterberg scored with 54 seconds left to pull the Red Wings within one, but they couldn’t force overtime. Detroit will need to win Tuesday night at home to avoid facing elimination in Game 5 at Nashville.
“We have to dig in and be really strong in Game 4,” said Red Wings star defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, who might retire after the season.
Kevin Klein gave the Predators a 2-0 lead early in the second and Pavel Datsyuk pulled the Red Wings within one midway through the period. The Red Wings thought Johan Franzen made it 2-all at the end of the second period, but video review showed his shot was sailing through the crease and short of the goal line when time expired.
“We knew before we left the bench,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Our video guy said it wasn’t in.”
Jimmy Howard stopped 20 shots for the Red Wings.
“I thought he kept us in the game,” Lidstrom said.
He did his best, but he can’t kill penalties on his own, and it’s there that we’ll start, via Hedger. Drew Miller’s interference penalty on Pekka Rinne seemed to shake the Wings up in, “Oh no, here we go again” fashion, and Miller didn’t agree with Trotz’s assessment that the Wings, or Miller himself, are trying to run Rinne:
“I for sure bumped into him, but it’s not on purpose,” said Miller, who went to the box and watched Shea Weber put the Preds up 1-0 at 2:48 of the first on Nashville’s first power-play goal of the series. “It’s skating as fast as I can down the ice to try to get to the puck and then shoot it at the net. So, I don’t know if I was pushed from behind a little bit or what, or hit him hard. I couldn’t even tell you.”
Regardless of intent, it was just the start of another penalty-filled game for the Red Wings—who wound up getting whistled for six infractions overall. Detroit finished the regular season behind only Nashville as the second least penalized team in the NHL, but suddenly has an issue with parading to the box. It’s starting to eat at the Red Wings, too—whether they’re taking their frustrations out on the calls or themselves.
“You’ve got to be more aware, but you can’t use your stick, you can’t tug someone [and] you can’t, you know, interfere with someone,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “You’ve got to be a lot smarter and you’ve got to think about it, too. Sometimes you’ve got to take a penalty to stop the scoring chance, but just be more aware of what they’re calling out there.”
The Wings are not happy with the calls going against them for the third year in a row, as they told MLive’s Brendan Savage...
To be honest (the penalties) can be a little frustrating some times,” said defenseman Jonathan Ericsson. “Some are kind of weak calls. We can’t do anything about that, but the inconsistency of the calls can be frustrating. We slashed the stick and it’s laying there and it doesn’t break (and we got called). They did the same thing to Mule (Johan Franzen) and no call is made. That’s the inconsistency from the refs.”
How frustrating has it been for the Red Wings? The five teams that have been penalized more than Detroit during the playoffs have been hit with at least two 10-minute infractions for misconduct, penalties that don’t result in power plays. So the Red Wings are getting hit with the more potentially costly penalties.
We got to be more disciplined because they call this stuff,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “We got to stay out of the box. Putting ourselves on a 5-on-3 was real tough. You talk about flow of the game. That really makes it tough for you being in the box that much. You’re wearing out your players. Even though your penalty killing has been good, you’re wearing yourself out.”
“I haven’t seen it but I for sure bumped into him,” Miller admitted. “It’s my penalty so it’s a tough one when you get a goaltender interference on a breakaway like that. I wasn’t trying to hit him, I was just going so fast trying to get across the crease. It’s a tough one to give up that early in the game, too. You want to play 5-on-5 and have a chance to gain momentum. You don’t want to be wasting your energy killing penalties the whole game. It’s tough but that’s the reality of what’s going on right now. It is what it is. We’ve got to play smarter and not put ourselves in position to take those kinds of penalties if they’re going to call it that way.”
And the Wings know that the inconsistency of refereeing is maddening, as they told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...
As long as they’re consistent,” Jimmy Howard said. “It’s give or take, some games he sees some stuff, sometimes it’s not (called), you just have to play through it.”
“It kills momentum in the game,” said Kyle Quincey, who was sent off for cross checking to cause the 5-on-3. “You watch all the other games in the league and I don’t know, you really don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know. It’s tough. Our penalty kill did a great job,” Quincey added. “We lost momentum but we got it back especially after those kills. I think we all want to play 5-on-5. Hopefully we can do that the next couple of games.”
“I think some of the calls are penalties, some are not,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “I think we don’t really know how we should play out there. It is the playoffs and then it seems like it’s not the playoffs. It’s tough to react and play.”
And while the Free Press’s Michael Rosenberg went into a lengthy and spirited discussion of the “bad calls” going against the Wings, while suggesting that both the team and their fans need to stop blaming others for what’s happening, is mostly blather…
This part isn’t:
The Wings have to adjust. They have no choice. As great as their penalty-kill has been lately, they struggle in a penalty-filled game. As Lidstrom said: “Just our rotation, our rhythm, trying to get four lines going, it kind of kills that rhythm a little bit.”
The fact that the team can’t seem to get going early is equally puzzling—and this is the only part of Mitch Albom’s “Legend of Pekka Rinne” article I’m going to use, because it’s the only relevant part:
They started flat, which you can’t do in your first home playoff game of a series. Joe Louis Arena was roaring. Fans were waving red light sticks. Two octopi hit the ice during the national anthem. And with all that, the Predators took it right to the Wings, had three shots and a couple of steals in the opening 60 seconds and won the first five face-offs.
“We were back on our heels,” Mike Babcock said.
And here we are this morning, right where you expected this series to be, 2-1, with each contest decided by a goal. Lose the inexperience talk, now that Nashville has won its first playoff game in Detroit. This is a fine team with a very hot goalie. And as Zetterberg said, “If you keep giving them chances, they will eventually score.”
And if you keep getting chances, you have to bury them. Maybe next time the blue light will be slower, or that defenseman’s stick won’t be so quick. After all, when a team has a giraffe/rabbit in goal, it doesn’t need any help.
The Wings’ starts haven’t just been poor over the past week, as the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness points out...
The Wings have fallen behind in eight of their last nine games and 16 of their last 20, including the playoffs. On Sunday, Detroit trailed 2-0 heading into the third period.
“It’s so much harder to score those goals and get those chances in the playoffs,” Lidstrom said. “They make it harder to get in front of the net. It just shows how playoff hockey is so different than the regular season.”
And that has at least one Wing puzzled, as Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji noted:
“For sure, this team’s way too good to be playing from behind,” defenseman Kyle Quincey said. “Great goaltending, whole team defense. I think the next game the biggest thing is try to get the first goal. We had the first goal in Game 2 and we were OK there. I think that’s a huge key for us.”
Finally, the Wings will have to win more faceoffs, especially in their own zone. They won only 45 percent of them in Game 3.
“I thought we had to win faceoffs at the start, we were 0 for 4, so they got on top of us,” Babcock said. “The team that wins the draw ends up on the forecheck, gets on top of the other team. The thing I find is the other team is trying, too. You’re trying to get off to a good start, they’re trying to get off to a good start.”
The Wings outshot the Predators, 43-22. The only times the Wings got to Rinne were when Pavel Datsyuk picked the puck from Roman Josi and snuck it in the right side of the net before Rinne recovered, and a late Zetterberg goal on the power play when he found the top right corner of the net with less than a minute remaining in the third period.
“I thought we did a real good job the first two periods in Nashville (Game 1),” Babcock said. “Last game we didn’t do it at all, kind of got on our heels in Nashville in the third period. Tonight, once we got our head around the fact you got to shoot the puck we were better. We got to shoot the puck to break them down. If we’re going to do that we have to have people going to the net. So I thought we did a pretty good job there. Let’s be honest, if we look at the game, the puck didn’t go in for us. It did for them. We got to fix that the next game.”
“The thing I find is the other team is trying, too,” Babcock said. “You’re trying to get off to a good start, they’re trying to get off to a good start. They got the power play early and made us pay.”
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom agreed with his coach and said that continually chasing the lead is no way to win in the postseason.
“It’s so much harder to score those goals [to tie it] and get those chances in the playoffs,” he said. “They make it harder to get in front of the net. It just shows how playoff hockey is so different than the regular season.”
To the “break” on Weber’s goal, via the Toronto Sun’s Rob Longley…
“I was a tough break when (Pavel Datsyuk) broke his stick on the penalty kill giving up a goal there,” Babcock said. “(If he didn’t break his stick) Pav would have just cleared the rebound.”
Veteran Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg figured it was just a matter of time before the Preds PP would connect, given all the chances they were given.
“In the regular season, we’re not really that kind of team,” Zetterberg said. “All of a sudden, in the playoffs we get a lot of penalties. Our PK has been good, but we knew it wouldn’t last forever. If you keep giving them chances, they will eventually score.”
The Franzen goal that almost counted, but didn’t, via the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan…
Forward Johan Franzen ‘s apparent power-play goal to end the second period was taken away when replays clearly showed he scored about .1 seconds after time expired. Instead of being tied, the Wings trailed 2-1 after 40 minutes.
“We felt we shifted the momentum,” Howard said.
With Pavel Datsyuk igniting the crowd with a slick goal just four minutes earlier to cut the Wings’ deficit to 2-1, Franzen’s goal clearly would have lifted the team heading into the third period.
“I thought it was a good goal,” said Henrik Zetterberg, who scored with 52 seconds remaining to pull the Wings within a goal. “I looked up at the clock and I thought it was time left but the official clock ran out. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the goal there.”
And Klein’s block on what would have been a 2-2 goal, via DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose...
“We had a good breakout there, I tried to beat my guy up the ice and Millsie did a good job,” said Emmerton, who scored his first career postseason goal in Friday’s Game 2 win. “It was a tight spot to make a pass, so he passed up the pass and the puck went off the pads and I just tried to wire it.”
With Rinne out of position, the entire left side of the net was wide open for Emmerton, who appeared to get plenty of stick on the puck. However, so did Predators defenseman Kevin Klein.
“I just hoped somehow that I could get a stick on it,” Klein said. “I saw (Emmerton) coming in and I just tried to get something on it.”
The bang-bang play prevented the Wings from tying the score with 5:41 left in regulation. A little over two-minutes later the Predators increased their lead to 3-1 when Sergei Kostitysn scored.
“The D-man just kind of did like a spin or something with his stick and I don’t know how, but I hit him right in the middle of the shaft,” said Emmerton as he sat dejected in the Wings’ locker room after the game. “It’s unbelievable.”
As well as the fact that, as Roose notes, for whatever reason, Pavel Datsyuk’s goal via robbery on Roman Josi, didn’t deliver more in the momentum department:
“For sure, that was ‘game-on’ after that,” said Quincey, referring to the goal that made it 2-1. “We had three or four chances on the 4-on-4 right after that too, so it could easily have been 2-2 going into the third.”
The Wings missed out on a golden chance at the end of the second period when Johan Franzen’s shot from the slot crossed the goal line about one-tenth of a second too late. The referees used video replay to double-check the validity of the goal, and when ref Tim Peel announced “no goal” to the non-partisan crowd, it came as no surprise to the Wings.
“We knew before we left the bench,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said, “our video guy said it wasn’t in.”
However, the momentum stayed on the Wings’ side throughout the third period as the home team peppered Rinne with shot after shot. But the 6-foot-5 Finnish goaltender made several huge saves.
“They came out and played really tight, especially when they get the lead,” said Henrik Zetterberg, who scored his second goal of the series with 54-seconds left in regulation. “I think second half we had a lot of chances, we played a lot in their end. Unfortunately they got an odd-man rush and scored the third one before we could tie. But we were closing in, we had a few pucks with a few seconds left that could have gone in.”
And I didn’t have a problem with this, but I can’t help but admit that the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa makes a wise point regarding what the CBC’s Justin Piercy noted (as did the Score’s Chris Lund, via RedWingsFeed) was a somewhat needless play by Johan Franzen:
Johan Franzen got two penalties while retaliating. A veteran playoff performer should understand the Predators are targeting him to get him off his game and off the ice. Whether it is Mike Fisher intending to agitate him or David Legwand grabbing his sweater while sitting on the bench, Franzen must learn how to respond.
Take a number. Hit them with a body-check later. Even better, score a goal and give Fisher a wink — or say something snide about his wife, Carrie Underwood. With Franzen in the box, Kyle Quincey joined him for a needless cross-checking penalty. The Wings were forced into a five-on-three.
Frequent penalties result in fractured play, reducing the Red Wings’ potent offense in a series saturated with one-goal games.
So where do we go from here? We know that, maybe from a wider perspective, the Wings really screwed themselves over in the third period, as the Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo suggests...
The problem is, they started to gamble. Down 2-1, Red Wings’ defenseman Niklas Kronwall pinched in and was caught up ice. It led to a 2-on-1 break for the Predators. One of their snipers, Sergei Kostitsyn, snapped a shot by Howard. The score was 3-1, and the game essentially over with less than four minutes remaining. The Red Wings did get a goal in the final minute — Zetterberg scored it. There was a push to the end. It has become standard procedure for the Red Wings to play frantic hockey at the finish of games.
If the Red Wings want to win this series, however, and have a deep playoff run — in a league that is as wide open as it has ever been in regard to teams with legitimate shots at capturing the Stanley Cup — they need to play with such urgency at the start of games rather than just the end.
The Red Wings had numerous good scoring chances, but Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne got into a rhythm. It was easily his best game of the series. Howard didn’t play poorly — the goals he allowed weren’t soft. But he didn’t match Rinne, either.
And even Babcock was willing to admit to Michigan Hockey Now’s Michael Caples that the third goal was the dagger...
“I thought the first ten minutes we didn’t win any face-offs, kind of got on our heels a little bit in the game,” coach Mike Babcock said. “It was a tough break when Pav broke his stick on the penalty kill, giving up a goal there. You know, the third goal, to be honest, is we got impatient. The guys stayed on the ice a little bit too long and we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit there. But we did lots of good things, their goaltender was good. We just have to come back and get after them at the start of the game to the end of the game, like we did tonight in the latter half.”
Though the Red Wings’ captain wasn’t willing to criticize Howard’s beatable nature on the Klein and Kostitsyn goals, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted:
Howard didn’t have a ton of work, seeing just 22 shots, and he probably would like Sergei Kostitsyn’s marker with 3:30 to go in the third period back, but overall, Howard had another strong outing. “I thought Jimmy played well,” Lidstrom said. “They had the lead pretty much the entire game, so I thought he kept us in the game. They were up 2-0, and even at the end, so I thought he played well for us.”
Where do the Wings go from here? Cory Emmerton of all people might have summarized the Wings’ frustrations best while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan…
“Today was one of those games where the crowd was so into it and you get down by two goals, it’s tough,’’ Emmerton said. “We battled hard and it’s just one of those things in the playoffs, you can’t give up those two-goal leads. It’s hard to come back from them, especially with these two teams playing so tight defensively. We’ll look for a better start on Tuesday.”
And his take on the Wings’ penalty-prone status is pretty damn astute, too…
“It was our own fault at some points sometimes for getting too emotional,” Emmerton said. “The building was electric and we weren’t able to feed off that. We came out a little slow and it cost us a bit.”
But perhaps the scariest part of Sunday’s loss, for any Red Wings fan, is that there are no easy answers, and the Wings know that if they don’t win on Tuesday, Nashville gets two days to rest up and prepare for a series clincher on Friday…But if they do win, the series resets, and everybody gets a day off on Wednesday to recharge and attack the Predators in earnest in the land of silly, ripped-off college hockey chants. As Jimmy Howard told the Detroit Free Press’s George Sipple, the Wings can only attempt to rebound…
“Right now, it’s just back and forth,” said Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard. “It’s part of the playoffs, is the ups and downs. Now we’ve just got to get ready for Tuesday.”
And while they remain frustrated with the results of the series thus far, as Jonathan Ericsson told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“We were better than them in the first game (a Nashville victory); they were better than us in the second game (a Detroit win),” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “It’s been like that because we were better than them today. It doesn’t really make sense, but it’s about scoring goals.”
The Wings hope to simply shrug this one off and ensure that they don’t stare elimination in the face after Tuesday night’s game, as they told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...
“He is good,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said of Rinne. “He’s one of the top goalies in the league. We have to have traffic and get those second chances. We have to stay on top of him. They’re tougher to get in the regular season so you have to earn them. You have to go hard at the net and dig in those second chances.”
“That’s playoffs,” Kyle Quincey said. “Every night any team can beat any team. It’s a matter of will and who wants it more. We came out pretty hard, but we didn’t get a few bounces. Next time we come back and do the exact same thing, and hopefully those bounces go in for us.”
“We worked so hard to get our chances,” Quincey said. “(Rinne) came up huge and so did Jimmy. They got that 2-on-1. We don’t give them anything in the third, probably one chance and they score. It’s playoff hockey. You have to tip your hat to them because they did a good job.”
“We were firing from all angles, that’s part of our game plan, to get the puck on net and shoot it,” Howard said. “You can see what we’re trying to accomplish out there and we have to stick to it.”
“I think second half we had a lot of chances, we played a lot in their end,” Zetterberg said. “Unfortunately they got an odd-man rush and scored the third one before we could tie. But we were closing in. We had a few pucks with a few seconds left that could have gone in.”
The Free Press’s Helene St. James...
“We wanted to win today, we knew it was going to be tough,” Zetterberg said. “They came out and played really tight, especially when they get the lead. I think second half we had a lot of chances, we played a lot in their end. Unfortunately they got an odd-man rush and scored the third one before we could tie. But we were closing in, we had a few pucks with a few seconds left that could have gone in.”
The Wings stuck it to opponents often enough in the regular season, winning games by taking over third periods. If they want to win this series, they had a prime lesson Sunday in how much more difficult it is to pull it off in the playoffs.
“Once we got our head around that you gotta shoot the puck, we were better,” Babcock said. “Early in the game we came in and tried to make a nice play all the time. Well they have five people back and doing a good job on the inside. We gotta shoot the puck to break ‘em down. If we’re going to do that we have to have people go to the net. I thought we did a pretty good job. Let’s be honest, you look at the game, the puck didn’t go in for us. It did for them and we gotta fix that for next game.”
Said Predators coach Barry Trotz: “I thought we were doing a real good job until Datsyuk scored. All of a sudden they’re back in it. They start coming at you, and you’ve got to sort of weather those storms. We were very fortunate that time ran out at the end of the (second) period.”
The Red Wings have outshot Nashville 32-13 over the final two periods in each of the games they have lost in this series.
“Once we got our head around the fact you got to shoot the puck, we were better,” Babcock said. “Early in the game we tried to make a nice play all the time, they had five people back and were doing a good job on the inside. We got to shoot the puck to break them down. If we’re going to do that we have to have people going to the net. So I thought we did a pretty good job there.”
Said Detroit’s Drew Miller: “We had some good chances and he made some good saves. (Rinne’s) D helped clear the puck, so we’ve got to find those second and third chances.”
Zetterberg admitted it is frustrating to lose games they dominate territorially.
“You will have that in the playoffs,” Zetterberg said. “We just got to get back at it.”
And the Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski earns the last word because the final sentences of his “spirit of the thing” column frame the Wings’ task going forward letter-perfectly:
When the Red Wings get going, they’re still very capable of grabbing hold of this series. Pavel Datsyuk scored a great goal off a stolen puck and Zetterberg tallied the final one, and led both teams with nine shots.
“You don’t really know how you should play out there,” Zetterberg said. “It’s the playoffs, then it seems like it’s not the playoffs. It’s tough to react and play, but we got chances too and we didn’t score. I think we did a lot of good things.”
It’s strange. The team that was outshot has won each time. The team that controlled play for two periods has lost each time. This still looks like a tight, long series, and the Red Wings are strongly advised to stop wasting time, right down to the last .00000001.
Highlights: ESPN posted a 56-second highlight clip
NBC posted a 1:15 highlight clip;
The CBC posted a 1:57 highlight clip;
TSN posted a 2:53 highlight clip;
And NHL.com’s highlights are the NBC version.
Post-game: NBC posted Brian Engblom’s interview with Pekka Rinne;
MLive’s Brendan Savage posted a slate of “pre-game sights and sounds”;
The Detroit News posted a 1:55 clip of post-game comments from Wings coach Mike Babcock, Kyle Quincey, Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Cory Emmerton;
WXYZ’s recap includes a post-game video report from Brad Galli;
The Detroit News posted a 48-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 58-image gallery;
The Tennessean posted a 19-image gallery;
Michigan Hockey posted a 23-image Flickr gallery;
MLive posted a 12-image gallery;
CBS Detroit posted a wallpaper-sized image of Weber and Zetterberg tangling;
NHL.com posted a 49-image gallery;
The Predators’ website posted a 46-image gallery;
And the Red Wings’ website posted a 48-image gallery.
Statistics: 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.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 10-and-11 (48%); Zetterberg went 7-and-9 (44%); Abdelkader went 5-and-5 (50%); Emmerton went 2-and-4 (33%); Filppula went 1-and-3 (25%); Franzen won his only faceoff.
Shots: Zetterberg led the team with 9 shots; Lidstrom, Miller and Kronwall had 4; Cleary and Franzen had 3; Stuart, Quincey, Filppula, Ericsson and Holmstrom had 2; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Nyquist, White, Hudler and Bertuzzi had 1.
Blocked attempts: White had 4 attempts blocked; Hudler had 3 attempts blocked; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Quincey and Kronwall had 2 attempts blocked; Nyquist, Emmerton, Ericsson and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Cleary, White, Hudler, Bertuzzi, Ericsson, Kronwall, Franzen and Holmstrom missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Stuart led the team with 6 hits; Franzen had 5; Ericsson and White had 4; Bertuzzi had 3; Nyquist and Hudler had 2; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, Miller, Quincey, Zetterberg and Kronwall had 1.
Giveaways: Ericsson had 2 giveaways; Cleary, Miller, Zetterberg, Filppula and Franzen had 1.
Takeaways: Datsyuk had 4 takeaways; Stuart, Quincey and Franzen had 1.
Blocked shots: Datsyuk and White blocked 2 shots; Cleary, Miller, Stuart, Kronwall and Franzen blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Franzen took 2 minors; Kronwall, Bertuzzi, Quincey and Miller took 1.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -6. Stuart finished at -2; Abdelkader, Hudler, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Ericsson finished at -1; Lidstrom and Datsyuk finished at +1.
Points: Datsyuk had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Zetterberg had a goal; Kronwall had an assist.
Ice time: Lidstrom led the team with 24:31 played; Zetterberg played 23:56; Datsyuk played 22:27;
Kronwall played 21:56; White played 21:38; Ericsson played 19:27;
Filppula played 19:25; Stuart played 17:22; Franzen played 17:16;
Hudler played 16:59; Quincey played 15:42; Cleary played 13:38;
Abdelkader played 13:06; Bertuzzi played 11:38; Nyquist played 9:17;
Holmstrom played 9:05; Miller played 8:08; Emmerton played 4:42.
Part II: Red Wings and Predators playoff notebooks: The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff and NHL.com’s Brian Hedger profiled Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis;
• Duff also spoke to Jonathan Ericsson about his promotion to Nicklas Lidstrom’s defensive partner:
“Nick is always Nick,” Ericsson said. “But the difference is that you’re playing against a bigger line, but of course he’s a big safety net back there, and I’m really confident in playing with him. If I can get the puck to Nick, he has the best pass in the world, so if I can give it to him and he can get it to the forwards, then we’ll be fine.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock especially likes what Ericsson has brought to the ice in a penalty-killing role, where the Wings have successfully killed off 37 consecutive infractions going back to the regular season, including all 12 opportunities the Predators, who were the NHL’s best power-play unit during the regular season, have been afforded through the first two games of this series..
“I think that has been real positive,” Babcock said. “The penalty kill has been so good since we got Big E and Howie (goalie Jimmy Howard) back (from injury) down the stretch. We feel real good about that part of our game, and we’re going to need against Nashville’s power play.”
• If you want to read a little controversy-instigating to get going this morning, Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner will happily oblige you by suggesting that the Wings are terribly, horribly disappointed by fact that Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler haven’t played super thus far:
t’s imperative to Detroit that Filppula and Hudler begin to light the lamp. Of Detroit’s 43 shots on net in Sunday’s game, Filppula and Hudler combined for three, one by Hudler and two by Filppula. That’s not enough shots from a duo that scored 48 goals between them (Hudler, 25, Filppula, 23) during the regular season. Only Franzen scored more regular-season Detroit tallies with 29.
For the series, Filppula has an assist, six shots and is a minus-2. Hudler hasn’t registered a point, has four shots on goal and is also a minus-2.
By comparison, Henrik Zetterberg fired nine shots on Pekka Rinne in just Sunday’s game. Sure, Zetterberg receives more ice time and that the quality of shots is far more important than the quantity, but Filppula and Hudler have been missing in action. They need to be more engaged and drive harder to the net. What makes their lack of production alarming is that each of them has made significant contributions during previous playoff runs.
Heading into this playoff campaign, Hudler had 31 points, including 10 goals in 63 career playoff games. Filppula totals are 50 points, including 17 goals in 88 playoff contests.
Babcock and the rest of Detroit’s brass may not publicly admit it, but they must be extremely miffed and concerned that two of their key goals scorers have become ice cold.
Part III: Also of Red Wings-playoff-related note: If you’re keeping
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