The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/11/12 at 09:11 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings flew back to Detroit on Saturday night for an abbreviated night of sleep in their own beds before embarking upon their last West Coast swing of the season starting Sunday night, and the Wings did so losing more than two hours in the exchange (due to heading back to the Eastern Time Zone and then losing another hour due to Daylight Savings Time): the Wings limped out of Nashville only four instead of eight points ahead of the Predators, and now trail the Blues by 4 points in the Central Division standings, thanks to a 3-2 loss to Nashville which represented a failed attempt to “lurk in the weeds,” as the Wings did in their comeback victory against the Kings on Friday night, against a far superior opponent.
So the Wings will head into Los Angeles for a rematch with said Kings on Tuesday, tangle with the spoiler-happy Ducks on Wednesday and then face what they can only hope is a potential first-round opponent in the San Jose Sharks next Saturday, because if the Red Wings don’t stop losing (Detroit’s lost 3 of its past 4 games), they’ll end up playing against the Predators in April, and may very well have to start the series in Nashville at this rate.
Just as the Predators warned the Red Wings on Saturday afternoon, Saturday night’s game marked the opportunity to avenge a 2-1 loss to the Wings on February 17th, as well as to start breathing down the Wings’ necks while letting Detroit know that, with both Kostitsyn brothers, Hal Gill, Paul Gaustad and a healthy team in tow, the reinforced Predators could indeed match up well with, if not easily defeat, the Wings.
The Predators dominated the Wings on special teams, going 2-for-4 on the power play and killing off 4 Detroit power plays, and while this subjective Wings fan happens to believe that he had an easy night in terms of the quality of shots he faced and his ability to see them coming toward him, Pekka Rinne stopped 17 of the 18 third-period shots he faced and 36 of 37 overall in a game where the Kostitsyns connected and David Legwand registered 3 assists. Strangely enough, the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper believes that the Predators are the ones who “survived” what he describes as a “trap game”:
If there was ever a time the Detroit Red Wings were a “trap” game for the Predators, it was Saturday. The Red Wings played at home the night before against Los Angeles and were without several of their top players including captain Nicklas Lidstrom, forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi as well as goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Yet they still found a way to claw back from a two-goal deficit in the third period and almost tie the game late before losing 3-2. Valtteri Filppula barely pushed an attempt to the side of an open net in the final minute of the game. Overall, Detroit fired 18 shots in the third period.
“They’re a team that works hard every night,” Predators defenseman Ryan Suter said. “They’ve always worked hard. They have some top guys out, but their younger guys stepped up. It didn’t surprise us at all.”
The Red Wings didn’t make excuses.
“It’s always tough coming into this building, especially on back-to-back nights,” Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said. “We knew they were going to come out hard, and we had to kind of weather the storm at first here.”
The Wings could weather the storm, but, as Cooper notes, not the Kostitsyns:
Sergei fed Andrei for two scores in Nashville’s 3-2 victory in front of an announced sellout of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena.
“I feel comfortable because I know he likes to pass to me, because he’s more of a passer than a shooter,” Andrei said. “I think (we both try to pass) when we see situations because every time is a different play. If he can, he will pass and if not, he is a shooter.”
Andrei notched his second goal with the Predators on the power play in the first period. He took a feed from Sergei, spun around and slipped it past Red Wings goaltender Joey MacDonald to make the score 2-1 with 8:01 left in the period.In the third period, Andrei took another pass from Sergei in front and pushed it past MacDonald to make it 3-1 with 15:26 left.
The two were criticized in Montreal for a perceived lack of effort. Those issues haven’t followed them to Nashville. Andrei has six points — including three goals — in five games with the Predators. In his past three games, Sergei has four points.
“I think they have a new sense of life out here,” said defenseman Hal Gill, who played with both in Montreal. “Andrei feels comfortable making plays and doing his thing. He has always been a good player; it’s just getting him in the right situation to be that player.”
The Nashville City Paper’s David Boclair found a little more boisterousness in the Predators’ locker room—and Boclair notes that the Predators might as well be only 2 points behind the Wings as they have a game in hand on Detroit:
“Who needs the Sedins when we’ve got the Kostitsyns?” left wing Colin Wilson joked. “It’s pretty fun. Those too, they’re obviously close, being brothers. I’m sure they know each others tendencies.”
The Predators had gone five straight games without a power-play goal before the elder Kostitsyn put them ahead to stay with 8:01 to play in the first period. That matched the longest such drought, in terms of games, this season. They also went five straight in late December. That one included 16 opportunities, which was twice as many as this time. They broke that slump with four conversions — twice as many as this time — in a victory over Carolina on Jan. 7.
“It was good, obviously,” center David Legwand, who matched his career-high with three assists, said. “We get a couple on the power play and they don’t get any [in four chances], we’ll take that.”
Pekka Rinne, who extended his franchise record with his 38th victory of the season, vouched for the fact that [the Kostitsyns’] two goals were not the result of any sort of fraternal understanding. They had more to do with preparation. The Nashville goalie, it turns out, had seen some of those very moves a day earlier in practice when he was the one forced to defend the Kostitsyns.
“It’s always fun to see when guys are working on those plays in practice and then actually execute those plays in the game,” Rinne said. “They go through things on the board and stuff like that too. They work on those plays. You can tell they have a lot of chemistry and they know how each other plays.”
Perhaps not all that surprisingly, Predators coach Barry Trotz was less than delighted with the Wings’ 18-shot outburst…
“We have to clean that up,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “We have to be better than that. That’s too many with that game at risk.”
NashvillePredators.com’s Jay Levin offers a few more quips and quotes, as well some pertinent observations…
Head Coach Barry Trotz on the Kostitsyn brothers…“They both made really good plays. I thought Sergei really made some good plays. The first one, obviously, was a redirect to Andrei and Andrei made a really good, poised move right at the net and put it in. The second one, Sergei again, we threw it down low and waited for their D to turn his head for one second and as soon as he turned his head, Andrei jumped back door and Sergei fed him a great pass.”
Pekka Rinne on his last minute save on Filppula…“It looked like I got it, but it hit the side of the net. But it was a good play, I kind of knew that he was coming – he was the only guy on that side. He got a good pass but we all read it pretty good and he didn’t really get that good of a shot.”
Peks Spectacular: Pekka Rinne was outstanding… again. He was a game-changer in the second period when the Red Wings out-shot the Preds 10-to-6, with a 22-to-9 advantage in shots attempted, keying Nashville’s penalty kill late in the middle frame. Detroit held the man-advantage for 3:50 at the end of the period, including a 10-second five-on-three (which was preceded by 12-15 seconds of six-on-four action during the delayed call). Rinne highlighted the kill with a stop when he fought thorough Tomas Holmstrom at the top of his crease to blocker away a dangerous shot and pushed the Wings power-forward out of the way to get back in position for the rebound attempt. But in the third period he was even better, turning aside 17-of-18 shots for the period.
The Legwand Effect: David Legwand was highly involved in the Preds offense tonight, creating all three of Nashville’s goals. The play on his first assist may have been his best of the night, winning a 50/50 battle for a loose puck just outside of the Preds defensive blueline, parlaying that into a two-on-one with Patric Hornqvist, and then sliding a puck under Klye Quincy to give Hornqvist an empty-net tap-in. Legwand had a momentum changing shift with Colin Wilson and Matt Halischuk in the middle of the second period after Detroit had four-to-five minutes of solid pressure in the Preds end, and then he, Patric Hornqvist and Andrei Kostitsyn drew Nashville’s first power-play of the third period with strong work in the offensive zone to force an interference call, drawing an assist later in the extended power-play.
Special Teams: The Preds won the battle of special teams, killing off all four Detroit advantages—including back-to-back power-plays late in the second period (going in the direction of the long change to the bench)—while converting on two-of-four power-plays of their own. Nashville used its second power-play opportunity to grab a 2-1 lead mid-way through the first period—a lead the Preds would never relinquish the remainder of the way. And then the Preds took advantage of back-to-back power-plays early in the third period to push the lead up to 3-1. Moreover, the Preds used the special teams situations to change momentum in the game, feeding off the goals in the first and third periods as well as the 3:50 kill late in the second frame.
And the Tennessean’s Cooper tossed off this pair of “post-game ponderings”:
Nashville had to win this game outright. The Red Wings were without Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard. They played the night before in Detroit. This game was tailor-made for Nashville The bottom line is that Nashville got two points, but it wasn’t all easy for the Predators. They allowed 18 shots to Detroit in the third period. Valtteri Filppula barely missed on the equalizer in the final minute. Either way, they beat a team when it was down, and that’s one of the most important developments of the evening. On top of that, Nashville is in striking distance of Detroit for the fourth seed — four points back with a game in hand.
The Predators needed this game. It was their last true home game of the month. The Predators have a four-game roadtrip on the West Coast. Then their home games are sandwiched between road games. Their final home game of March is the second part of a back-to-back. In order for the Predators to have a chance to move up in playoff seeding, their home points totals needed to be consistent this past week. In these three games, the Predators average 1.3 points total per contest. They average 1.42 points per home game. Maybe it wasn’t quite their usual pace, but they gained four points and gave up only two.
The Associated Pres’s recap offers a set of slightly different takes on the game while offering something of a narrative recap…
Both teams scored within a 13-second span in the first period. Legwand skated on the left side, and Hornqvist on the right on a 2-on-1 break. Legwand passed to Hornqvist, who scored on a wrist shot on a backdoor play that caught goalie Joey MacDonald too far out of the net at 7:30. Hornqvist leads the Predators with 21 goals, but it was the first of his career against Detroit.
“I didn’t really think about it, but it feels good to score against those guys,” Hornqvist said. “So yeah, it was nice to get it out of the way.”
Miller answered at 7:43 when he won a battle behind the net for the puck and then bounced a shot from the right side in off of goalie Pekka Rinne.
Andrei Kostitsyn scored on the power play at 11:59 of the first to put the Predators back in front 2-1. Sergei Kostitsyn made a short pass to his brother who did a spin-around move to beat MacDonald on the left side.
At 4:34 of the third period the Kostitsyn brothers connected again on the power play. Andrei scored from low on the left side off a pass from Sergei. It was Andrei’s first multiple-goal game of the season.
Rinne wasn’t surprised that the Red Wings put on the pressure [in the third period].
“When the game is on the line they always seem to have their best still left in the tank,” Rinne said. “But I think we still managed the game pretty well.”
And NHL.com’s John Manasso offers one more quote from the Predators’ players…
Andrei Kostitsyn has 3 goals and 3 assists in five games since arriving in Nashville.
With the two assists, Sergei has 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in his last 30 games. Trotz said he likes how the left wing has played and thought playing the Belarusian brothers together on the power play would help Andrei’s transition to the team.
“Obviously, they have some chemistry playing in the past,” said Predators center David Legwand, who had three assists, including the secondary assist on both of Andrei’s goals. “(Andrei) does a good job of making plays and creating things out there. That’s a huge thing. When he gets open, he’s going to bury pucks and that’s big.”
While transitioning us to the perspectives of a surprisingly upbeat Red Wings team, from their coach on out:
“I thought we did a good job,” Babcock said. “I didn’t like the two goals they got on the power play. They made nice plays, but we had bad sticks on both of them, to me. Those are tough goals to give up. Other than that, we controlled a lot of the hockey game. .. their goaltender was good. We didn’t help ours on those two goals. Those were freebees.”
Babcock put things slightly differently while speaking to the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa...
“I thought we did a good job, but you know I didn’t like the two goals they got on the power plays,” coach Mike Babcock said. “They made nice plays, but we had bad sticks on both of them. To me, those are tough goals to give up. Other than that, I mean we controlled a lot of the hockey game. We had a lot of opportunities. Their goaltender was good. And we didn’t help ours on those two goals — I mean, they were freebies.”
“I thought it was a pretty good hockey game,” Babcock said. “You don’t win all the time on the road, that’s just part of life.”
Justin Abdelkader agreed with his coach…
“I thought the guys worked hard,” said Justin Abdelkader, who scored the Wings’ second goal, at 14:35 of the third period. “On any night, it’s tough playing in this building, but especially on a back-to-back night.”
The Predators became the only team in the NHL to win at least 23 games at home in seven consecutive seasons, according to spokesmen for the team.
“We have some guys down,” Abdelkader said. “But for the most part, I thought our effort was there.”
And Krupa duly noted that Abdelkader basically started and finished a self-assist:
Flying down the ice, he was suddenly everywhere in the Predators’ zone, fore-checking their defense, thwarting passes and stymieing efforts to move up ice. It was gutsy hard-nosed play, right after some disappointment for the Wings, and it helped bring the momentum of the game back to the Wings in the third period. It also resulted in their second goal.
As Abdelkader prowled, the puck suddenly was loose. Gustav Nyquist, the promising, young Wings’ rookie, up from Grand Rapids, gathered it near the right corner and passed it deftly to the front of the net. There, Abdelkader waited. He fired it at the Predators’ outstanding goalie, Pekka Rinne, who made yet another terrific save. But as the Predators’ defense mauled Abdelkader to the ice, he managed to get his stick on the rebound to get off a second shot. It went over Rinne’s left shoulder, putting the Wings a goal behind with six-and-a-half minutes left in the game.
“Just out there and worked hard and tried to create some chances for us,” Abdelkader said after the 3-2 loss, when asked about the sparkling shift. “I think our power play did a lot of good things. It just didn’t get a break. I just wanted to go out there, bring some energy and generate some chances.”
It was Abdelkader’s eighth goal of the year, a career high, after scoring seven goals in 2010-11, the 25-year-old’s first full season with the Wings. Counted on for strong defense, penalty killing and leading the team in hits, Abdelkader now has five points, two goals and three assist in the past nine games. It comes at a key time, with the Red Wings continuing to press for secondary scoring with mainstays like Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Todd Bertuzzi injured and missing from the offense.
Abdelkader said at the start of the year that he hoped to break into double-digits this season in goals. He is in a position, with 13 games left, to make it.
“Just trying to keep it simple,” the former Michigan State Spartan said. “Just improving my game, each day in practice and in each game. I play with good players and just trying to make plays, and make the most of it.”
Abdelkader played a particularly strong game, but his teammates knew that special teams play continues to let them down, as they told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“The difference tonight, as it has been quite a few nights, is special teams,” Wings defenseman Ian White said.
Back after missing Friday’s game with a flu-like illness, Justin Abdelkader drew Detroit within a goal with 5:25 remaining in the third after gathering his own rebound in the low slot and flipping it over Rinne.
“We didn’t want to give up those two power-play goals, so that was tough,” Abdelkader said. “We had some chances late.”
The Wings went 0-for-4 on the power play and are 3-for-41 with the man-advantage over their last 11 games.
The Wings’ road record is perhaps equally poor, as MLive’s Brendan Savage points out...
The loss dropped the Red Wings’ road record to 16-18-1. They’ve lost two straight and five of their last six on the road. The game against Nashville was the first of four straight on the road for the Red Wings, who kick off a three-game West Coast swing Tuesday in Los Angeles.
The Wings looked on the bright side of a poor outing while speaking to Savage:
“We’re battling hard,” said goaltender Joey MacDonald. “When you’re down guys like Pav and Nick and Big E on the point, it’s tough. I thought the guys we have, the younger guys, are battling hard and we just have to learn from it. We have a lot of guys who are going to be back here in the next week or so. We just have to keep battling and stay afloat.”
“They’re always a good team, especially in this building,” Abdelkader said. “They’re tough to play again. They play hard and it all starts with their goaltender. They play well on home ice. We have to regroup. Just keep playing hard and go get some points.”
The Red Wings dominated the third period, when they outshot the Predators 18-6. But all they had to show for it was Abdelkader’s eighth goal of the season. Detroit held a 37-20 shot advantage for the game.
“We’re working hard,” said defenseman Ian White. “We generated some chances. The difference tonight, as it has been the last few nights, was the special teams. We’re moving it around pretty good, getting a couple of good looks, but we’re just not getting the goals. It’s never fun or easy to lose. But we put ourselves in a good spot by playing so well at home. We’ve got a couple of games left here on the road. A good road trip and try to get things clicking for the playoffs.”
The victory pulled Nashville (40-21-7) within four points of the second-place Red Wings (44-22-3) in the Central Division. The Predators have one game in hand.
“I think we’re going to be just fine to tell you the truth,” Babcock said.
I sure hope so, but given that the Red Wings played two games in two nights in the same equipment, and given the fact that the newly re-christened Red Bird III didn’t land in Detroit until 12:53 in the morning—or if you add in the Daylight Savings Time hour, almost 2 AM—and will head out West sometime early Sunday evening, I think that Paul Boyer and the Wings’ equipment staff might kill Babcock if the comment he made to Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson, via the Red Wings’ Twitter account, is true:
Babcock was asked about Howard’s status on Tuesday. “I have no idea. I know we have a lot of guys skating tomorrow morning.”
I don’t know what the Wings’ equipment staff was going to do to prevent the gear of the 20 players who skated in Nashville from getting extra stiff and stinky if left in the cargo hold of Red Bird III, or how the equipment staff was going to go and grab the bags of gear for the five guys (Todd Bertuzzi, Jonathan Ericsson, Jimmy Howard, Jakub Kindl, Nicklas Lidstrom) who are theoretically supposed to go on the Wings’ three-game West Coast swing, but if Sunday’s skate is anything other than an optional one for the players who would be lacing up skates for the fifth time in 36 hours, morning skates included.
The fact that—if you got a ticket for it at a Wings signing at Meijer, anyway, “Fan Day at the Joe” will occupy the ice from 11-4 PM today, makes Babcock’s statement even more confusing, but that’s not surprising given the conflicting signals the Wings gave on and off the ice on Saturday night.
Highlights: I get to say this because I’m a Wings fan: if you have to watch highlights of the game, try Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s version instead of Terry Crisp and Pete Weber’s, “Marbles in our mouths!” version:
Post-game: Fox Sports Tennessee posted a 1:34 clip of David Legwand speaking on the ice and Ryan Suter and Barry Trotz speaking off the ice after the game, as well as Pete Weber and Terry Crisps’s recap;
And Fox Sports Detroit posted Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s recap as well as post-game comments from Justin Abdelkader, coach Mike Babcock and goaltender Joey MacDonald:
Photos: The Tennessean posted a 12-image gallery;
Fox Sports Tennessee posted a 5-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 9-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 29-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 29-image gallery;
And the Red Wings’ website posted a 29-image gallery.
Shots 37-20 Detroit overall; Detroit out-shot Nashville 9-8 in the 3rd period, 10-6 in the 2nd period and 18-6 in the 3rd period.
The Wings went 0 for 4 in 6:00 of PP time, including 10 seconds of 5 on 3 time; the Predators went 2 for 4 in 7:05 of PP time, including 0-for-1 in 12 seconds of 5 on 3 time.
Joey MacDonald stopped 17 of the 20 shots he faced: Pekka Rinne stopped 35 of 37.
The 3 stars, per the “Nashville Media,” were Sergei Kostitsyn, David Legwand and Andrei Kostitsyn.
The Wings’ goals: Miller (13) from Cleary (9) and Stuart (12);
Abdelkader (8) from Nyquist (3) and Helm (17).
Faceoffs 34-32 Nashville thanks to dominating the 3rd period (Detroit won 48%);
Blocked shots 16-11 Nashville;
Missed shots 10-7 Detroit (total attempts 63-38 Detroit, with the Wings firing 26 wide or into Predators players);
Hits 18-15 Nashville;
Giveaways 12-3 Nashville;
Takeaways 13-5 Nashville.
Faceoffs: Zetterberg went 8-and-17 (32%); Helm went 12-and-4 (75%); Abdeklader went 3-and-10 (23%); Emmerton went 6-and-3 (67%); Cleary won 2 faceoffs; Franzen won 1 faceoff.
Shots: Abdelkader and Quincey led the team with 5 shots; Zetterberg and Franzen had 4; Filppula and Kronwall had 3; White, Miller, Stuart, Hudler and Helm had 2; Janik, Emmerton and Holmstrom had 1.
Blocked attempts: White had 3 attempts blocked by Predators players; Mursak, Helm and Filppula had 2 attempts blocked; Miller, Stuart,Hudler, Janik, Emmerton, Franzen and Holmstrom had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Smith, Cleary, Nyquist, White, Miller, Janik, Zetterberg, Filppula, Kronwall and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: White and Franzen led the team with 3 hits; Quincey, Janik and Kronwall had 2; Stuart, Mursak and Helm had 1.
Giveaways: Nyquist, White and MacDonald had giveaways.
Takeaways: Smith, White, Hudler, Janik and Franzen had takeaways.
Blocked shots: Kronwall blocked 3 shots; Stuart and Mursak blocked 2 shots; Miller, Helm and Filppula blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Stuart, Quincey, Janik and Holmstrom took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +5 due to the PPG’s they gave up. White, Quincey and Franzen finished at -1; Smith, Cleary, Miller and Stuart finished at +1; Abdelkader and Janik finished at +2.
Points: Abdelkader and Miller had goals; Cleary, Nyquist, Stuart and Helm had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 26:22 played; Stuart played 22:36; White played 20:32;
Zetterberg played 20:29; Filppula played 20:10; Quincey played 19:43;
Hudler played 18:22; Franzen played 17:41; Cleary played 16:55;
Helm palyed 16:53; Smith lpayed 16:17; Janik played 13:34;
Holmstrom played 12:42; Miller played 11:46; Abdelkader played 10:43;
Nyquist played 9:48; Mursak played 9:47; Emmerton played 9:23.
Part II: Red Wings notebooks: The Red Wings’ players told the Free Press’s Helene St. James that they fully believe that they can at least salvage some part of their 16-18-and-1 road record during their three-game swing and their six total remaining road games (the Wings have 7 more at home, and that’s the entirety of their 13-game schedule to come):
“Playoffs are coming up, and we’ve got some really difficult games on the road, so this could possibly be an opportunity for us to get our game more like our home game,” Darren Helm said. “It really hasn’t been good enough, and you can’t be a great team without winning on the road. And we’re not at that point yet.”
The Wings haven’t tended to start as well on the road as they have at home. They’ve also been more prone to turnovers and other mistakes. And when they fall behind, they don’t respond like they do at home, where they’re never rattled. In fact, in 34 home games, the Wings had scored 122 goals, compared to 86 in the same number of road games. For goals-against, it was 61 at home and 96 on the road.
“Most teams are good home teams, so when you go to their building, it’s going to be harder to beat them,” Johan Franzen said. “On the other hand, we’ve got to be a little bit smarter when we play on the road. You can’t give them too many goals, or it’s going to be really hard.”
The Wings aren’t alone in their road woes, most notably in company with St. Louis, a team that’s also contending for the top spot in the NHL. But other Western Conference rivals like Vancouver and Nashville have been very good on the road—something that’s needed to succeed in the playoffs.
“You could find yourself in a must-win situation on the road, so you’ve got to have that confidence that you’re going to be able to go in and play your type of game and find a way to win,” Brad Stuart said. “So that’s the biggest thing for us—we’ve got to get that confidence that we have at home, where if it’s a tight game, we know we’re going to find a way to pull it out.”
• The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa offers a solid anecdote about the delicate timing of octopus-throwing in his notebook…
With players on both teams lined-up in and around the face-off circle for a crucial draw with less than two minutes left, out came one of the eight-legged creatures.
Just 10 seconds earlier, it would have been perfectly timed, with players still milling about. But with 10 players on their haunches and the goalies in their crouches, it marred the moment, and it was unfair to the players.
But he does so only after going on a long meander (and my goodness, have I met my match in Krupa) about the Predators “winning” the trade deadline:
The Wings acquired Kyle Quincey at the trade deadline. And especially with the recent raft of injuries and with the likelihood that Quincey will remain on the Red Wings’ defense for sometime, it was a good acquisition.
But the Predators seem to have brought a wealth of reinforcements to their lineup. Andrei Kostitsyn scored twice Saturday and has five points in five games for the Predators. Nashville’s broadcast teams, including Stu Grimson, the former tough guy for the Red Wings, say Kostitsyn has come to town as a model citizen, even playing well on the back check.
Hal Gill, the veteran defenseman also acquired from the Canadiens, helped keep the Red Wings’ power play off the score sheet, as he continues to dominate his area of the ice with his size and enormous reach.
And while forward Paul Gaustad, acquired from the Sabres, had some difficulty in the face-off circle early in the game Saturday, he won some key draws as the clock wound down and the Red Wings’ pressed for the tie-breaker.
The reinforcements are making the Predators tougher to play down the stretch, and perhaps in the playoffs.
• To not end the notebook section on a downer, Niklas Kronwall stars in the Detroit Free Press’s “Fandemonium” picture of the week, and the Free Press’s Steve Schrader offers the following “Stevie Award” to Niklas Kronwall:
The “Keep Your Head Up, Kid” award
To Niklas Kronwall, who laid out Philly’s Jakub Voracek with one of the year’s top checks. Speaking of checks, the Saints said it’s in the mail, Kronner.
Part III: In the AHL and ECHL: The Grand Rapids Griffins dropped their second straight game in Texas, and they had the same trouble the Wings did on special teams, giving up 3 power play goals in a 5-1 loss to the Houston Aeros on Saturday night. Ty Conklin stopped 22 of the 27 shots he faced as the Griffins built up a 4-goal lead in a game which included 4 fights—and the teams meet again this evening, again in Houston, which should be…Interesting.
• In the ECHL, the Walleye are having an even tougher time than the Griffins on the road. They dropped their second straight game, losing 5-1 to the Elmira Jackals in an equally vicious game. The Walleye’s website, the Jackals’ website and the Toledo Blade provide recaps.
Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: I have some trouble understanding the dialect of Swedish used in Aftonbladet, but Per Bjurman spoke to both Andreas Hornqvist and Niklas Kronwall after the game, and Kronwall admitted that the Wings are indeed missing Bertuzzi, Datsyuk, Ericsson and Lidstrom in a big way offensively speaking. Bjurman also attended the game and chatted about it in his blog (he’s based out of New York and Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom is based out of LA, so expect some Wings talk in Swedish over the next week), but all I can tell you that might interest you is that Kronwal and Hornqvist were chatting with each other after the game, and that Bjurman thought that Tomas Holmstrom’s suit made him look like a matador;
• In Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette’s Justin Cohn reports that the Wings’ alums defeated the Fort Wayne Komets’ alums 8-5. You can check out a gallery from the game if you wish, and read about Cohn’s experiences as the game’s referee if you want to, too;
• If you didn’t already know it, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Adam L. Jahns confirms that one Barry Smith is helping the Hawks’ power play;
• Marginally Red Wings-related but worth a laugh, per the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson:
Teemu Selanne is going through the same dance - “maybe I’ll play another year, maybe I won’t, I’ll let you know” - as he always does in Anaheim, but why would he retire? He leads the Ducks in scoring and he’s 41. He’s got 15 more points than Bobby Ryan, who’s 24. His kids also love the fact they can hang around the rink with their dad. He’s probably taking his lead from Nick Lidstrom with the Detroit Red Wings. When Lidstrom finally hangs them up, so will Selanne, who still is quicker than players young enough to be his kids.
“We had a bag skate one day and I had trouble keeping up to him. Really. That’s how fast he is. It’s effortless for Teemu,” said Andrew Cogliano, one of the top 10 skaters in the game. “What can I say about him? He’s the nicest man I’ve ever met. On the ice, he just gets it done, he’ll find a way to score (or set somebody else up).”
• Utterly hilarious, though more NHL-related, from the Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont:
It’s a good bet the NHL GMs this week also will discuss tightening the rules on head shots and removing the trapezoids behind the nets. With interference all but erased as a tactic, defensemen are particularly vulnerable to big hits because their partners can’t aid in veering off charging forwards. If goalies were granted greater range to handle pucks behind the goal line, it might spare some defensemen from being rendered road kill.
Red line or no red line, I think there’s already been a mandate from the NHL to its referees to allow the game to “slow down,” because aside from horizontal stick fouls, trips and high sticks, we rarely see any sort of interference called anymore. It’s playoff rules and then some, and I think that the complete and total abandonment of the obstruction crackdown has not made the game any “safer.” No matter how much the GM’s try to muck things up or the league tries to muck things up, players skating into collisions at full tilt yields a physics equation that remains unchanged and forces related to the masses and accelerations of the players involved that will still produce concussions because players are bigger, stronger and faster than they’ve ever been—and because in the emerging science of diagnosing and treating concussions, the NHL now forces its players to actually be tested for head trauma if they admit to being “fuzzy.” Changing equipment (i.e. shoulder pads and elbow pads) and changing the ethic of “finishing” one’s check when the puck is not involved or simply to inflict physical punishment instead of going after the puck (which is something that not calling obstruction encourages) are going to be the game-changers;
• And this is plain cool, per CSN Philadelphia’s Sarah Baicker:
Claude Giroux’s teammates and coaches had plenty of words to use to describe his shootout goal that won the Flyers’ game against the Maple Leafs, 1-0, on Saturday: Dirty. Beautiful. Creative. Unreal. As it turns out, Giroux calls it something else entirely.
“The Datsyuk,” he said, referring to Pavel Datsyuk, the Red Wings’ center he idolized as a child. “I saw him do it a couple times, and he’s got some pretty sick moves. I saw him do it, and I’ve been working on it since I’m younger.”
Part V: Player assessments: I’m running on fumes off back-to-backs and a long week and my clock claims that it’s 6:10 AM EDT as I start this, so I’m gonna try to be brief. Here are one Red Wings fan’s subjective assessments of the performances of the Red Wings’ players on Saturday night, and they come via stat stuff and my eyeballs and brain. The “assessments” come in three flavors: Outstanding, Satisfactory and Needs Improvement.
#2 Brendan Smith: Satisfactory. Smith only registered a missed shot and a takeaway in 16:17 of ice time and registered a +1, but I could have sworn that it was Smith, not Brad Stuart, who dumped the puck in on Miller’s goal, and while Smith was quiet, again, on a night where defensemen’s mistakes caught the Wings in a big way, he didn’t make many, and when he’s required to not be a “wild stallion” and just play solid defense, he can do it. To me, the fact that he can be an asset and not a liability even when his offensive talents are not on display is the biggest reason why he’s NHL-ready.
#8 Justin Abdelkader: Outstanding. Jeebus, did the Wings miss him…and did he miss playing. He co-led the team in shots with 5, yeah, he went 3-and-10 in the faceoff dot, and he started and finished the play which led to his goal, finished at a +2 and he only played 10:43 and 7 seconds of power play time, so he wasn’t even at 100% given his ice time and given his strong, steady and sometimes viciously tenacious play. Fantastic return.
#11 Danny Cleary: Satisfactory. Cleary had an assist and a missed shot in 16:55 of ice time, and he was the guts of Miller’s goal. He had a rough go on Friday but bizarrely played much, much better in terms of his grit, grind and effectiveness on the second half of a back-to-back games with a bad knee that’s gonna be drained for the third or fourth time TODAY. Very satisfactory.
#14 Gustav Nyquist: Needs improvement. Nyquist made a fantastic play to get the puck out front to Abdelkader in a goal that looked quite a bit like Franzen assisting Darren Helm’s goal on Friday…But he got pushed around, he played only 9:48, had a missed shot, a giveaway, and he got pushed around, pushed off the puck, and made an absolutely horrible giveaway when Legwand and Hornqvist ganged up on at the offensive blueline, fumbling the puck away instead of chucking it out of trouble by dumping it deep, and did I mention that the Predators did their best to check him into dust? I mean, they beat the s*** out of him at every opportunity, and again, with the refs calling jack and you-know-what, they were rough with the boy, like prostate exam rough. To his credit, he was undeterred, and he kept going to the “hard areas” of the ice, but he put himself in vulnerable positions, too, and that’s something he has to wean himself from if he’s gonna succeed in the NHL over the long haul.
#18 Ian White: Satisfactory. White played 20:32, had 2 shots, 5 total shot attempts, 3 hits, a giveaway, a takeaway, finished at -1, and it’s the fact that he couldn’t close the gap on Kostitsyn’s stake-in-the-heart 3-1 goal that we’re gonna remember, but he was good. He and Quincey look very solid—they’re no Nick Lidstrom and Ian White—but he’s gobbling up minutes and he’s just doing the thing that Nyquist isn’t. He’s not tiring, and I think that’s fricking amazing.
#20 Drew Miller: Satisfactory. Though he scored a gorgeous goal and went +1, had 2 shots, 4 total shot attempts and a blocked shot, his effectiveness was limited because he only played 11:46. He did kill penalties along with Abdelkader, or attempted to, anyway, but his fearless determination and grit and jam were underutilized.
#23 Brad Stuart: Satisfactory. Had an assist, finished at +1, 3 total shot attempts, a hit on a night where the Wings were credited with 15 of ‘em, 2 blocked shots and he played 22:36, the second-most on the team. He was supremely solid. That’s his job, and he’s done it well for two games after a really terrible stretch for him.
#26 Jiri Hudler: Needs improvement. Remember how I said he looked like Shawn Burr on the Ysebaert-Fedorov line alongside Filppula and Zetterberg on Friday? Yeah, well the problem with “Skippy,” aside from the fact that the Wings were employing an NHL’er almost as pear-shaped as I am, is that as many times as Skippy was a forechecking dynamo, he stood around far too often, and while yes, Hudler went to the front of the net, all of that giving and going and being in place to receive passes and open up ice for Filppula and Zetterberg to skate part, that was missing. He played 18:22, had 2 shots and a takeaway, and he’s much better defensively these days than we give him credit for, but…He didn’t make things happen, and he needed to help Hank and Fil out given how relentlessly they were checked.
#27 Kyle Quincey: Needs improvement. Wait, you say, he played 19:43, TIED FOR THE TEAM LEAD in shots with 5, had 2 hits and somehow because he’s a -1 you give him a bad grade, despite the fact that you just said he fits in seamlessly with White? Yes, because he took a doofy penalty (dear God, he and Stuart took interference penalties, the elephants of the penalty world) and he was a frickin’ pylon on both the Hornqvist and first Kostitsyn goals. Got caught deep and didn’t skate back on the Hornqvist goal, and stood and enjoyed watching David Legwand and Sergei Kostitsyn make passes around and through him on the 2-1 goal. Not good enough.
#37 Doug Janik: Needs improvement. Big time. Janik somehow finished at a +2, played 13:34, had a shot and 3 total shot attempts, 2 hits and a takeaway, and he completely blew his coverage on the 3-1 Kostitsyn goal, spinning the wrong way and allowing Andrei to just spin and tap the puck into an open net, and on the Hornqvist goal? Play the pass, man, play the pass, do not try to take a knee and stop the shooter! That just an AHL play, and he’s not supposed to make those plays if he’s auditioning for a job here or somewhere else. He’s made a couple of bad guesses over the past two games, and again, when you don’t have the offensive ability to bail yourself out, you’re supposed to be invisible. On Saturday, he was one of the reasons the Predators were able to sustain their cycle as he chased after puck carriers instead of utilizing his positioning to stifle that shi…I mean stuff. He was part of the problem.
#39 Jan Mursak: Satisfactory. He only played 9:46 but had 2 shot attempts, a hit and blocked 2 Predators shots. I think that between his speed and his grit, he’s woefully under-utilized, and when he was back together with Emmerton and Holmstrom, he was excellent. That line knows how to keep things simple and the Wings made everything too complicated on Saturday.
#40 Henrik Zetterberg: Satisfactory. It’s hard to dominate when the opponent realizes that you’re a one-line team and chooses your line to check the hell out of. Zetterberg played 20:29, had 4 shots, 5 total attempts, went 8-and-17 in the faceoff circle (to his credit, no one won faceoffs in the third period), did his damnedest to create offense and didn’t get much help. He doesn’t get any bonus points for giving up more shots than he took, by a factor of two or three, to pass on the power play, but he still worked his ass off and was on the ice for key situations and was up to the challenge.
#43 Darren Helm: Outstanding. Helm keeps playing more and more and more. He had an assist, 2 shots, 4 shot attempts, a hit, a blocked shot and went a monstrous 12-and-4 in the faceoff circle while playing 16:53, and again, he and Johan Franzen are essentially the team’s second and probably peskiest line offensively. His work ethic is astonishing and on a night when the Predators did their best to clutch, grab and otherwise check the Wings into oblivion, you know who they were afraid of, and who they backed off to give time and space to? Darren frickin’ Helm.
#48 Cory Emmerton: Satisfactory. I would give him an outstanding if he played more. He only played 9:23, had a shot and another shot attempt, went 6-and-3 in the faceoff circle and he works pretty Helmish himself. I’m impressed as all hell get out with his positioning, his added strength and his puck-carrying abilities in terms of getting the puck out of trouble.
#51 Valtteri Filppula: Satisfactory. Skated into walls. Kept skating into them. Filppula woefully, woefully, woefully was the poster boy for over-passing despite taking 3 shots and 5 shot attempts overall and even blocking a Predator shot in 20:10 of ice time, and yes, he was amazing in terms of his speed and puck-carrying, but…He passed, passed, passed and passed some more, peeled off at the blueline, peeled off at the half boards, peeled off at center ice, dropped passes, dropped passes, and just did what Fil does when he’s not effective. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
#55 Niklas Kronwall: Outstanding. He played 26:22, had 3 shots, 2 hits, 3 blocked shots, and on a night when most of his defensive compatriots were liabilities, he was an asset. Yes, he did the over-passing and looping thingy, especially on the power play, but there is something to be said for the person who is the most incredibly focused, detail-oriented and determined to make a difference by channeling his play intelligently and astutely. On a night when his teammates played a dumbed-down of the lurk-in-the-weeds game on Friday, he played like somebody had to take control of the game that wasn’t named Helm or Zetterberg.
#93 Johan Franzen: Satisfactory. No, he probably didn’t play up to your expectations, particularly because he did the whole passy-passy thing, but he played 17:41, he had 4 shots, took two more attempts, had 3 hits, had a takeaway and more or less is starting to learn this whole, “You have to actually be engaged and work hard and get in and grind” thing from Helm, or at least he’s re-learning it. He’s becoming the player we missed in February, and there’s something to be said for doing that while not taking a step back in a game like Saturday’s.
#96 Tomas Holmstrom: Satisfactory. Homer took a penalty, had 1 shot and two attempts in 12:42 of ice time, and three of that came on the power play, but we know what he brings to the table as Homer, The Later Years, For Sure: he’s going to be equally defensively responsible and solid steadying Emmerton and Mursak as he is going to the front of the net on the power play and pissing off Pekka Rinne and Rinne’s pals on a night when nobody else did so. Homer played like Homer and did what Homer does. That’s exactly what he needs to do, and he keeps gettin’ the job done.
#35 Joey MacDonald: Satisfactory. He had a giveaway and stopped 17 of the 20 shots he faced. Did I like his leaning too hard on Legwand on the Hornqvist goal thing? No. Did I like the fact that he never closed the gap between his leg pad and/or blocker and/or stick on the second Kostitsyn goal? No. Howard would have tried to jab that frickin’ pass away. But in my opinion, he may have faced more genuinely difficult scoring chances in terms of sustained pressure, screens, tips and rebounds than the guy at the other end of the ice, and he did his best to keep his team in it while his defensemen sometimes did their jobs and sometimes made doofy mistakes. Could we use a little better rebound control and one or two less wanders out of the net? Yeah, but he didn’t get much help in the puck-moving department at times, either.
The reason I don’t grade harder on players, frankly, is because on nights when the team serves up stinkers on a platter, that does not necessarily mean that everybody played poorly on an individual basis…
And I’m sorry that I haven’t done more in the way of interviews. It’s been a hard year for me health-wise, February was a beast and at this point, I would love to be calling prospects or exchanging emails with managerial types, but as I finish this up at 7:10 in the morning on Sunday, I’ve gotta be honest, I’ve got my hands full keeping myself together some days, still, so I know I need improvement in a big way in terms of generating instead of just reflecting content, but I am doing the absolute best I possibly can given my health right now.
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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.