The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/27/11 at 08:00 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings flew back to Michigan around midnight with two very necessary points via what I thought was a relatively dominant 4-1 win over the Shea Weber-less Nashville Predators, allowing the Wings (minus Tomas Holmstrom, who suffered a groin injury) to face the St. Louis Blues tonight (7:30 PM EST, FSD/Versus/TSN2) still trailing the Blues by a single point in the Western Conference standings.
The Wings were out-shot 32-22 thanks to a somewhat lackluster 3rd period in which the Wings gave up 15 shots, but the Wings also killed off 5 Predators power plays, received a 2-goal performance from Valtteri Filppula and did more than simply pounce on a Shea Weber-less Predators team, displaying improvement in leaps and bounds as compared to their shaky play last week and progressing toward the kind of hockey the Wings need to play to beat the Blues and Blackhawks and gain ground in the Central Division,
The Predators viewed the game a little bit differently. As far as they were concerned, they overcame a gargantuan absence in their lineup to at least play as well as the Wings, and were perhaps robbed by Jimmy Howard and jobbed a bit on the goal which broke the game open, as Ryan Suter suggested to the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper:
The play was inconclusive on video, but the goal still counted. That was the explanation the Predators received for Pavel Datsyuk’s wraparound goal with 7:08 left in the second period.
According to Nashville Coach Barry Trotz, the referee didn’t see the goal, which was reviewed by the NHL in Toronto, but the linesman saw it. Though video couldn’t determine whether the puck had crossed the goal line, the linesman called it a score. That gave Detroit a 2-0 lead.
“That’s the whole point of the video review, to make sure goals are good or not good,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “They said it was inconclusive on the video, and when the ref says ‘no goal,’ that usually means no goal.”
Trotz explained the referees’ description of what occurred to NashvillePredators.com’s Brian Mullen…
A weird sequence took place at 12:52 of the second when Datsyuk attempted a wraparound shot on Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne. It appeared Rinne had stopped the puck, and one official pointed to the faceoff circle after the play stopped. But after a video review, it was ruled that a goal was scored.
Here is Trotz with the explanation: “The referee and linesmen communicated quite well. The referee came over and said he didn’t see the puck. Originally, you saw him pointing to the faceoff circle, so that was our first look. Any (official) if they see the puck go in the net, they can overrule that. One of the linesmen saw it in the net definitely, and they conversed with Toronto. I couldn’t see it, honestly. As I said to them, the puck was probably in, but I don’t know if it was conclusively in. They went through the procedure.”
As a Wings fan, I’d suggest that while the overhead camera has some pretty terrible lighting, a view from the on-ice camera showed that the puck snuck in, but I also believe that the linesmen and referees may have given some deference to Pavel Datsyuk as he immediately celebrated a goal without displaying any doubt as to where the puck ended up, and I can only shrug my shoulders and suggest that the Wings have had more than a handful of goals waved off in Nashville due to “conclusive” proof of goaltender interference which Pekka Rinne might have instigated.
The Predators told Mullen that they more than held their own against the Wings…
F Mike Fisher: “They’re a great team and they buried their chances. I thought we out-chanced them tonight, and (Jimmy) Howard stood firm. It wasn’t our night, but it was a decent effort.”
Barry Trotz: “I thought we responded pretty well. I think we played as well as Detroit, maybe even better. We held them to 22 shots and we had more chances. I think the star of the game was Jimmy Howard. He made key saves at key times.”
And they reiterated those comments to the Nashville City Paper’s David Boclair while noting that playing without Weber (concussion?) left them hamstrung:
“[Weber] logs a lot of ice time and he’s one of our best defense,” Ryan Suter, Weber’s regular defense partner, said. “Guys stepped up, though. I thought everyone played well. … We bared down defensively like we had to.”
“For the most part we moved it around pretty good,” center Mike Fisher said. “We probably didn’t get enough second and third opportunities. It happens. We had some good nights lately on the PP but you’re not going to get them every night. Unfortunately we didn’t [Monday].”
Without Weber, the Red Wings penalty killers noticeably collapsed around their own net and dared the Predators to shoot from the perimeter. Nashville attempted 15 shots (only five made it on net) on its three power plays. Eight of those, including all three on their last attempt, were from the defense. Perhaps the best chance was by forward Craig Smith, who rung a shot off the post on the final power play. He was out near the blue line when he did so, however.
“He’s such a threat when he’s lined up for a one-timer,” Suter said. “They have to respect that. I thought we moved it around great on our power play. We just couldn’t bury it.”
“I think there was probably an apprehension,” Trotz said. “We had a very good Detroit team coming in here and you didn’t know how you were going to respond — the matchups and all that. I thought we responded pretty well. I think we played as well as Detroit.… Hopefully [Weber] bounces back real quick here. Missed him [Monday] night.”
To Suter and the Predators, a sterling performance by Jimmy Howard separated them from a win, as the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper noted…
Nashville recalled defenseman Ryan Ellis for his NHL debut. Nashville’s defense included three players who were considered rookies.
Detroit got the early 1-0 advantage in the first period. But within the span of 13 seconds in the second period, the Red Wings blew the game open.
With 7:08 left in the second period, Pavel Datsyuk took a reboound and wrapped the puck around toward goaltender Pekka Rinne. The replay was inconclusive, giving the Red Wings a 2-0 lead because the call on the ice was a goal. Just 13 seconds later, Danny Cleary shot a wobbly puck past Rinne to make it 3-0.
Jonathon Blum scored the only goal for the Predators.
“(Weber) logs a lot of ice (time),” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Guys stepped up, though. We gave up 22 shots, so we beared down defensively like we had to. We just couldn’t get any pucks by (Detroit goalie Jimmy) Howard.”
Cooper also suggested that the Predators could have stifled the Wings had Weber played in his “Postgame Ponderings”:
Nashville really missed the intimidation factor that Weber brings. When he’s on the ice, he neutralizes the other teams he plays against. Through his hits, his shots and his positioning, Weber opens up his teammates and closes down opponents. Without him the Red Wings he’s normally matched up against had more room to roam. Pavel Datsyuk scored a goal. It felt like Henrik Zetterberg was dangerous every time he touched the puck. Last season, the Predators lost Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne for extended periods. Nashville combatted this with advanced depth. The Predators aren’t as deep this year, and if Weber is out for a while, it could seriously damage Nashville’s season.
The Associated Press’s recap allows us to pivot toward the Wings’ point of view, spearheaded by Jimmy Howard’s astute observation that the Wings sort of “shook the stupid” out of their game over the course of its first ten minutes:
“We did a great job of countering them in the first 10 minutes,” Howard said. “The Predators do a great job early, but we came out mentally refreshed. We didn’t look gassed or anything like that. We skated extra time during the morning skate to stretch our legs. The first 10 minutes here you just have to survive. We did a great job of counter punching.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz gave Howard the credit for getting the Red Wings off to a strong start.
“We had more chances than Detroit, but the start of the game was all Jimmy Howard,” Trotz said. “He made some key saves at key times. We had lots of quality chances but we just couldn’t convert them.”
In the second period, the Red Wings got two goals in 13 seconds. Pavel Datsyuk scored on a wrap-around as he squeezed the puck between the left post and Rinne with 7:08 left. The play was reviewed before the goal was officially announced.
With 6:55 to go in the period, Danny Cleary sent a wrister from the low inside edge of the right circle past Rinne glove side.
“It was key to get two quick goals, especially doing it on the road,” Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We got the first goal but I thought we didn’t slow down at all. We just kept playing our game and getting opportunities.”
I never quite know how to place Twitter quotes in context, so let’s just toss ‘em into the mix before delving into the Wings’ press’s recaps, starting with MLive’s Ansar Khan’s quips (including a few comments about the Wings-Blues game to come)...
That was Filppula’s second two-goal game of the season. Both have come against Nashville. Before season, he had 2 goals in 30 games vs. NSH.
Babcock on FSD: “I thought that was as good as Zetterberg has skated all season.’‘
Holmstrom has groin injury, unlikely to play vs. Blues Tuesday, says FSD. That means someone will be recalled from Grand Rapids.
Wings put 10-game home winning streak on line vs. Blues Tuesday. STL won first two meetings, both at home, 2-1 and 3-2.
Halak started tonight for STL, so Elliott likely to play Tues. 2-0 vs. DET, leads NHL with 1.55 GAA, T-1 in SO (4), T-2 in sv pct. (.943).
And continuing with a snicker-worthy quip from the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan about Holmstrom’s injury...
Holmstrom (groin) won’t play against St. Louis Tuesday; sounds like it’s day to day to day to day.
As well as a few more quips via the Wings’ Twitter account:
Cleary: We always talk about shifts after we score, so it was good to get that third one.
Babcock: I just thought our goaltending was really good and we obviously had a good penalty kill tonight.
Babcock: I thought Zetterberg has skated as good as he’s skated in a while, which is a real positive for us.
Babcock on Drew Miller: He’s earned the right to be there. He’s done a real good job for us.
Howard: We did a great job on the kill tonight and the guys did a great job forcing things for them.
The Wings were willing to acknowledge Shea Weber’s absence, as the Free Press’s Jim Diamond noted…
“They didn’t have Weber tonight, and he is a huge part of their team,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It made it harder for them.”
Entering Monday night’s game, Nashville had the NHL’s second-best power play with a 22.5% success rate.
Jonathon Blum’s wrister from the right point through traffic at 17:48 of the third beat Howard on the stick side, ending his bid for his fourth shutout of the season.
Tomas Holmstrom did not play in the third period because of a pulled groin, Babcock said. He will miss tonight’s home game against St. Louis. After saying Holmstrom would be out “for a while,” Babcock later clarified, “for tomorrow anyway, that’s awhile for me.”
But Howard’s superb goaltending…
Howard had to be sharp early as Nashville rookie Craig Smith had a clear look 90 seconds into the first period, but Howard was able to glove his wrist shot from the low slot to keep the game scoreless.
Just after the halfway mark of the second period and the Wings up, 1-0, Howard denied Martin Erat’s bid from in close with his blocker. Howard got a fortunate bounce when the puck went right into his catching glove off his blocker and play was stopped.
“Just sticking with him—he is slick, he can dance with the puck,” Howard said. “I just tried to stay patient and outwait him.”
And what the Wings felt was a solid full-game effort yielded no apologies from Detroit’s players, as noted by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“We stuck with our game plan for the whole 60 minutes and didn’t slow down, we kept playing our game,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We skated pretty well in the first period considering we didn’t skate for three days. It was good to get the morning skate in and once we got skating in the game, the whole team looked fine.”
Two goals from Valtteri Filppula to begin and close the scoring, and goals from Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary 13 seconds apart midway in the second period provided the Wings offense.
“We looked mentally fresh,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, who was denied a shutout when Jonathan Blum scored with 2:12 left in the game. “We didn’t look gassed like the end of the western Canadian swing. The first 10 minutes of the game, they usually get off to a good start in here, but we did a good job of counter-punching.”
Filppula opened the scoring at 10:57 of the first period, finishing a nice set up from Henrik Zetterberg. Filppula broke a six-game goal-scoring slump.
“That line was particularly good, and Zetterberg had a particularly good game,” coach Mike Babcock said. “It was a good bounce back (for Filppula). Now we need to get Mule (Johan Franzen) and Bert (Todd Bertuzzi) going again. You need guys going.”
Datsyuk’s goal, a wraparound that barely got tucked between the post and Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, was called a goal by on-ice officials but was ruled inconclusive by the video officials in Toronto.
Babcock told the Flint Journal’s Brendan Savage that the Wings’ penalty-killing unit made all the difference in a game which can at least take the two points, the improvement in their game, their clutch scoring and winning the special teams battle and run with ‘em:
“We had real good penalty killing, which was important,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “We had some good PKs tonight, no question about it. Guys did a good job. We got fortunate on a couple. That’s what you need, good goaltending and to be fortunate once in a while. They had a Christmas break, we had a Christmas break. There were two points on the line. They needed a win, we needed a win. Now, we go home and have to do it against St. Louis, a good team. They beat us at home, so now, it’s our turn.”
Filppula closed the scoring for Detroit early in the third as the Wings (22-12-1) moved five points ahead of fourth-place Nashville (18-14-4) in the Central while remaining one point behind St. Louis.
Nashville ended Howard’s shutout bid with 2:12 remaining on a goal by Jonathon Blum.
“It was a real important win for us,” said forward Darren Helm, one of the penalty killers who shut down Nashville’s power play. “We take pride in our PK. We have good days and bad days, and today was obviously a good day for us. We did a good job of keeping them away from shooting the puck. They have a lot of success when they put the puck on net and crash.”
And winning counts, regardless of how one might perceive that a team achieved its win. The Wings needed this one badly and now they’ll play an equally difficult opponent in the St. Louis Blues.
Highlights: Here’s the Red Wings’ website’s highlight clip, which is narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Something tells me you’ll be more interested in Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s takes on the game…
And FSD’s clip of post-game comments from Danny Cleary, coach Mike Babcock and Jimmy Howard:
The Tennessean posted a 15-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 19-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 16-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 31-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 43-image gallery;
The Red Wings were out-shot 32-22. The Wings were out-shot 8-7 in the 1st period, were even with the Predators at 9-9 in the 2nd period and were out-shot 15-6, in no small part due to two Predators power plays and a little bit of slacking off, in the 3rd.
The Wings went 0 for 2 in 4:00 of PP time and the Predators went 0 for 5 in 10:00 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 31 of 32 shots; Pekka Rinne stopped 18 of 22 shots.
The 3 stars, per the Predators’ media, were Datsyuk, Filppula and Howard.
The Wings’ goals: Filppula (11) from Zetterberg (16);
Datsyuk (11) from Bertuzzi (11) and Franzen (17);
Cleary (9) from Miller (5);
Filppula (12) from Abdelkader (6) and Emmerton (3).
Faceoffs 32-22 Nashville (Detroit won 41% of their faceoffs);
Blocked shots 13-9 Detroit;
Missed shots 12-8 Nashville (total shot attempts 57-39 Nashville);
Hits 15-14 Detroit;
Giveaways 8-4 Nashville;
Takeaways 12-5 Nashville (methinks those last two stats are skewed toward the home team just a little bit).
Faceoffs: Helm went 7-and-8 (47%); Datsyuk went 4-and-10 (29%); Zetterberg went 8-and-5 (62%); Abdelkader went 2-and-7 (22%); Franzen won his only faceoff.
Shots: Zetterberg led the team with 5 shots; Cleary had 4; Datsyuk, White, Commodore (who played very well), Helm and Filppula had 2; Miller, Bertuzzi and Ericsson had 1.
Blocked attempts: Filppula and Ericsson had 2 attempts blocked by Predators players; Abdelkader, Cleary, White, Kronwall and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Lidstrom, Datsyuk, White, Miller, Bertuzzi, Filppula, Ericsson and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Commodore led the team with 4 hits; Abdelkader, Stuart and Kronwall had 2; Lidstrom, White, Zetterberg, Helm and Holmstrom had 1.
Giveaways: Cleary, Datsyuk, Helm and Bertuzzi were tagged with giveaways.
Takeaways: Cleary, Datsyuk, Hudler, Zetterberg and Bertuzzi had 1 takeaway.
Blocked shots: Stuart blocked 3 shots; White, Miller, Zetterberg and Kronwall blocked 2; Abdelkader and Helm blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Emmerton, Ericsson and Franzen took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +15. White and Filppula finished at +2; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, Stuart, Zetterberg, Emmerton, Ericsson, Kronwall and Franzen all finished at +1.
Points: Filppula had 2 goals; Cleary and Datsyuk scored goals; Abdelkader, Miller, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Emmerton and Franzen had assists.
Ice time: White led the team with 24:29 played; Lidstrom played 21:48; Kronwall played 21:38;
Stuart played 20:44; Cleary played 18:01; Zetterberg played 17:54;
Filppula played 17:22; Datsyuk played 16:37; Ericsson played 16:43;
Bertuzzi played 16:13; Franzen played 15:44; Miller played 15:04;
Helm played 13:56; Commodore played 13:42; Abdelkader played 12:41;
Hudler played 12:29; Emmerton played 7:50; Holmstrom played 7:05.
Part II: Red Wings notebooks: Given the number of Red Wings players who’ve taken pucks in the mouth or face (see: Patrick Eaves, Ian White, Niklas Kronwall, Drew Miller and now Darren Helm), you’d think that the Wings might want to encourage their players to wear full face shields. The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted that Darren Helm played a very strong game...After taking 20 stitches to repair a busted lip thanks to a shot to the face during the Wings pre-game skate:
“Twenty stitches, it hurt a lot,” said Helm, who still played 13:56 and keyed a penalty kill that killed five Nashville power plays. “It was a puck right in the face. It’s disappointing coming back after being off (the holiday break) for a couple of days. Not the way you want to start obviously.”
Helm’s line accounted for another goal, also, continuing a recent hot streak with Danny Cleary scoring against the Predators.
“They’re all three strong skaters and they use it to their advantage,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Once they get going, they’re hard to pin. They’re good at cycling the puck and it was great to see them take the puck to the net like they did on the goal (Cleary scored).”
Helm wouldn’t divulge who shot the puck .
“I don’t know if I’m allowed to, I’m not going to sell out one of my teammates,” Helm said. “But he had a good game, though.”
Kulfan also noted that the Wings appreciated their holiday break…
“I wish we had it (the weekend off) a few more times every season,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “In the long run, the three days resting is so good. The small things that have been aching, those go away. It was real nice.”
And aside from noting Holmstrom’s injury and Mike Commodore’s superb game (13:42 of ice time, 2 shots, 4 hits and perhaps a robbed assist as he ripped the puck into the zone and then headed to the bench on the play which resulted in Filppula’s second goal), Kulfan also snagged a helluva quote from Babcock regarding the slightly bizarre pair of back-to-back games against Central Division opponents:
“They put them on the schedule and we play them,” Babcock said.
• Here’s what Babcock had to say about losing Tomas Holmstrom, as noted by the Flint Journal’s Brendan Savage...
“He’ll be out for a while, tomorrow anyway,” Babcock said, referring to tonight’s game against St. Louis at Joe Louis Arena. “That’s a while for me.”
And Savage provided an update regarding the Wings’ injured players from Ken Holland:
“We’re expecting and hoping the doctor will clear [Jan] Mursak and we expect him to go to Grand Rapids [today],” said general manger Ken Holland. “If we stay healthy, we keep him there for two weeks. If we have injuries, then we reassess.”
The Red Wings also expect to know more about forward Chris Conner after he sees a hand specialist Wednesday. Conner fractured his left hand Dec. 13 in Pittsburgh but has not missed any practice time. Holland said he expects Conner either to be cleared to play or to miss another week.
As for forward Patrick Eaves, Holland said there is no time frame on when he can resume skating. Eaves suffered a broken jaw Nov. 26, when he was hit in the ear with a slap shot by Nashville’s Roman Josi.
“He just hasn’t been able to do anything,” Holland said. “He’s not even working out. There’s been no conversations of him even coming back to practice. He hasn’t felt good enough to really train. He’s a ways away.”
As did DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
Mursak will have his left ankle seen by the team’s medical staff Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena, and if he’s cleared, the rookie will go to Grand Rapids for a five-game rehabilitation assignment with the Griffins, who play Wednesday at Lake Erie.
“We’re expecting and hoping the doctor will clear Mursak and we expect him to go to Grand Rapids,” general manager Ken Holland said. “If we stay healthy, we’ll keep him there for two weeks. If we have injuries, then we’re re-assess.”
Prior to the start of the season, it was expected that Mursak would compete for a forward spot on either the third or four lines. But that was before he suffered a fractured ankle in a preseason game in late September.
Meanwhile, Conner was making the most of his call up in early December after forward Patrick Eaves sustained a broken jaw against Nashville. Conner had three points in six games before he fractured a bone in his left hand at Pittsburgh. Conner, who has practiced while wearing a hard cast on the hand, will see a specialist on Wednesday; however, he might still be a week away from receiving clearance to return.
Given the Wings’ medical staff’s cautious ways, I’d guess that Conner won’t return until at least next week, if not two weeks from now, around the same time that Mursak should come back from Grand Rapids, and Eaves…My guess is early February at this point.
• The Free Press’s Jim Diamond spoke to Wings coach Mike Babcock about the Wings,’ shall we say slightly wobbly performance in their first time on the ice since December 23rd—which wasn’t during the game, but occurred during the Wings’ morning skate instead. The team flew from Detroit to Nashville around 9 AM and they were on the ice by 12 PM Nashville time:
“In our skate, we looked like we had three days off,” Babcock said. “We had pucks bouncing all over. But the competitive juices will get flowing (Monday night). They need the points, and we need the points. We dropped a couple of games before Christmas that we didn’t think we were good in, and it catches up to you fast. Pretty soon you are not in the playoff picture.”
And Diamond also spoke to Mike Commodore about the fact that he had to display a tremendous amount of patience before earning some regular ice time:
Defenseman Mike Commodore was back in the Wings’ lineup Monday. A healthy scratch for most of the season, Babcock had played Commodore on Thursday in Calgary, his fourth game of the season.
“It’s all about mental preparation,” Commodore said Monday before the game. “Guys have been playing all year. I am a little bit behind, but I just have to find a way to handle it. I thought I did an all right job last game, just focus on it shift to shift and do things to the best of my ability.”
• Also from Diamond:
Johan Franzen had one assist for the Wings, the 250th point of his career. ... Filppula needs four points to reach 200 for his career.
• And this isn’t necessarily Wings-related, but both the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper and the Nashville City Paper’s David Boclair noted that Babcock was very impressed with Ryan Suter’s defensive partner, one Ryan Ellis, who was making his NHL debut:
“The kid they brought up is as good as there is in hockey on the power play, so he’s no slouch,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “He doesn’t have the bomb that Weber has, but he has all those other things – he’s very deceptive, he really sees. He has ice water in his veins. He’s going to be dominant power play guy in the National Hockey League.”
The Wings were very impressed by the former Windsor Spitfires defenseman as he’s earned comparisons to Brian Rafalski, but they knew that Ellis wouldn’t be available by the time the Wings would pick 29th in the 2009 Entry Draft (the Wings traded that pick to Tampa Bay to choose Landon Ferraro and Tomas Tatar with two second round picks), and they were right: the Predators snapped up Ellis with the 11th overall pick in the draft.
Part III: Red Wings-Blues set-up: The Wings embark upon a two-game slate against the Blues, interrupted via Friday’s game against Chicago, tonight at Joe Louis Arena. The game will start at 7:30, and while it will air on Fox Sports Detroit and WXYT, if you live outside of Michigan and subscribe to GameCenter Live or Center Ice, you’re going to have to watch Versus or TSN2’s feeds of the game.
The Blues sit one point ahead of the Wings in the Central Division standings and will play without T.J. Oshie (wrist) and probably Jamie Langenbrunner (flu), but they’ve won 6 of their past 8 games after defeating the Wings 3-2 on December 6th, and the Blues beat Dallas 5-3 on Monday night.
Call-up Adam Cracknell scored a goal while subbing for Oshie, and based upon the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford’s Blues-Stars recap, it sounds like the Blues will head into tonight’s match-up with an extremely high level of self-confidence despite something of a defensive breakdown:
Monday’s third-period performance was a case of squandering a big lead, but Hitchcock wasn’t overly disappointed because it was a result of the Blues still competing. The Blues led 3-1 after two periods and 4-1 early in the third period, but the Stars answered with two goals to make it a 4-3 game with 5 minutes, 53 seconds left in regulation.
“We probably got a little too revved up toward the end,” [Blues coach Ken] Hitchcock said. “When it’s 4-1, we’re trying to make it 5-1. When it’s 4-2, we’re trying to make it 5-2. I love our compete level. We’re learning how to win. We did some things today that really showed we wanted to win ... then instead of getting it shut down, we got wrapped up. But we don’t even take periods right now, let alone shifts off. I think our players have fun playing this way.”
The Blues forechecked in the first period Monday like they had been pent up longer than 48 hours. They needed a soft goal against Stars rookie netminder Richard Bachman to get on the scoreboard, but once Stewart squeaked a power-play goal through Bachman’s pads, several Blues then got in on the act.
Adam Cracknell, who was recalled from Peoria early in the day, scored in his season debut, and Evgeny Grachev netted the first goal of his NHL career. Jason Arnott added a power-play goal, as the league’s 30th-ranked unit went a rare two for two with the man-advantage.
“It’s something we talked before the game,” Blues forward David Perron said. “We said if we’re going to make mistakes, we might as well make them shooting the puck. Some games we maybe get too fancy trying to get the seams. Tonight, we just shot at the net and two of them went in. I wouldn’t count them as great goals, but they were really good goals for our night tonight.”
The Blues had 38 shots on goal overall, seven of which came off the stick of [Anthony] Stewart. He got the Blues on the board, 1-0, with the only goal of the first period on a bad-angle shot that squeaked past Bachman.
Adding a Ryan Reaves to the lineup, the Blues iced the following players last night, per Rutherford’s game-day update…
Alex Steen-David Backes-Chris Stewart
Evgeny Grachev-Patrik Berglund-David Perron
Chris Porter-Jason Arnott-Matt D’Agostini
Adam Cracknell-Scott Nichol-[Ryan Reaves]
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo
Kris Russell-Roman Polak
(You can correctly assume that Brian Elliott will start for the Blues tonight, probably against Jimmy Howard)
And Rutherford sets up tonight’s game as follows…
Blues preview: The Blues are 2-0 against Detroit this season and play two games in a five-day span this week. Both Blues wins came at Scottrade: a 2-1 victory on Nov. 15 and a 3-2 win on Dec. 6. Captain David Backes will play his 400th NHL game tonight, becoming the 26th player in club history to reach the milestone.
Red Wings preview: The Red Wings will be facing the Blues at home, where they are 13-2-1 this year. Pavel Datsyuk leads Detroit with 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) this season, but in two games against the Blues he has no points and just three shots on goal.
What to watch: Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard had another incident with a player running into him recently. On Dec. 6, Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart pushed the Blues’ David Perron into Howard, but Howard still went after Perron and threw a few punches. Last Wednesday, Howard was upset after Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen crashed into him.
Injuries: Blues — C T.J. Oshie (wrist), C Vladimir Sobotka (foot), LW Andy McDonald (head injury), D Kent Huskins (ankle) and RW B.J. Crombeen (shoulder), out. Red Wings — RW Chris Conner (hand), RW Jan Mursak (fractured ankle) and RW Patrick Eaves (fractured jaw), out.
And NHL.com’s Pete Jensen offers a preview as well:
Season Series: Tuesday’s clash marks the third of six meetings this season between these Central division foes. St. Louis pulled out one-goal victories in each of the prior head-to-head matchups with Detroit at Scottrade Center on Nov. 15 and Dec. 6.
Big Story: Detroit hopes to avenge two road losses to the Blues as the season series shifts to Joe Louis Arena – where the Red Wings own a daunting 13-2-1 mark this season. Detroit, which trails St. Louis by a point in the standings, heads back home after snapping a two-game losing skid with a 4-1 win against the Nashville Predators on Monday. St. Louis, meanwhile, takes a two-game win streak into enemy territory after holding off the Dallas Stars, 5-3, on Monday.
Blues [team scope]: St. Louis, with three wins in its last four games, hopes to keep rolling under coach Ken Hitchcock after improving to 15-3-4 under his watch with a home win over Dallas on Monday. The Blues took a 4-1 lead early in the third period on Evgeny Grachev’s first goal of the season only to see Dallas score two unanswered to draw within a goal. But Chris Stewart notched an empty-netter, his second goal of the game, to close out the Blues’ sixth straight home win.
Jaroslav Halak defeated the Stars for the first time of his career, stopping 20 of 23 shots on the night. Adam Cracknell, who was recalled earlier in the day to replace the injured T.J. Oshie, scored his first goal of the season in the win.
Who’s Hot: Chris Stewart has compiled three goals in as many games for St. Louis. Perron has accumulated 10 points in as many games since returning from a concussion. … Pavel Datsyuk has reeled off three goals and nine assists in his last nine games.
Stat Pack: The Blues’ victory against the Stars helped St. Louis improve to 16-0-0 when scoring three or more goals in a game this season.
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan offers a Wings-tinged preview...
Outlook: The Blues have won both games against the Wings. ....In a strange piece of scheduling, they return to Joe Louis Arena for the New Year’s Eve game…G Brian Elliott has been a revelation for the Blues (league-leading 1.55 GAA, third with .944-save percentage), taking over the starting spot.
But I can only say “eew” to this stat from the Free Press‘s Jim Diamond:
The Wings have a winning record against five of the league’s six divisions, but the one division they have a sub .500 record against is their own—the Central. After beating Nashville, 4-1, on Monday, the first of four straight Central games, the Wings have a 3-4-0 record against their division foes.
The NHL’s media website doesn’t even have any game notes on its server as of the time I’m writing this (the middle of the night), so we’ll find out which referees will work tonight’s game a little later today.
Part III: At the World Junior Championships: Wings prospect Teemu Pulkkinen was held off the scoresheet but managed to finish at an even plus/minus rating despite the fact that Canada defeated Pulkkinen’s Finns 8-1. Pulkkinen told the Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland the following...
“The game was awful,” said forward Teemu Pulkkinen, obviously in the same frame of mind as his head coach. “We weren’t ready at all at the start of that game, at the start of all the periods.We weren’t ready, but we go forward.”
Outshot 42-25, the Finns were down 2-0 before the game was five minutes old. Helminen called a timeout, which seemed to settled down the push from Canada. The Young Lions even got a goal back when Alexander Ruutu, snapped one past Mark Vistinten’s left shoulder. After that, it was all Canada.
Finland faces the U.S. on Wednesday.
“We have our next game against the USA and we have to be ready,” said Pulkkinen. “This is a long tournament and we have to keep going. We have to check the mistakes we made today and go forward. I think we are going to do that.”
Today, Petr Mrazek and the Czech Republic will face Denmark at 8 PM EST and Marek Tvrdon, Tomas Jurco and Slovakia will tangle with Latvia at 10 PM EST. Only the Czech-Denmark game will be televised on TSN and the NHL Network U.S.
Petr Mrazek was expected to be the starting goaltender for the Czechs in 2011, and his absence left a hole. This year, he is expected to carry the load. The Detroit Red Wings draft pick from 2009 is the starting goaltender for the run-and-gun Ottawa 67’s, who are the leaders of the OHL’s Eastern Conference. At 16-7-5, Mrazek’s record is solid, although his goal-against average is 3.01.
And, according to NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale, another member of the Wings’ family will be assisting the Czechs’ cause:
“Last year, we had a tough time on the penalty-kill and had a lot of missed coverages,” Czech Republic assistant coach Jiri Fischer told NHL.com. “We did not advance out of the group, so we want to be a little more structured, more dedicated this year. We don’t go by name recognition, don’t go by draft status; we feel we’ve selected the best players [this year].”
Morreale then goes into the whole, “Oh, the Czechs can’t win because so many of their players leave for the CHL, which is terrible because Czech coach Slavomir Lener said so at the IIHF’s world hockey conference thingy in Toronto last year” spiel. It’s hard to feel any sympathy for the Czechs given that they simply don’t have any real major junior hockey programs—if you’re 16 and over, you either try to “turn pro” with Extraliga or first division teams, or you go to North America if you want to play with 16-to-20-year-olds instead of grown men.
And what Fischer’s talking about is the fact that Mrazek and other Major Junior Hockey-playing Czechs were “blacklisted” from the team last year, with the Czech Ice Hockey Federation demanding that the players either return to the Czech Republic to play for the teams that own their rights, or that the players pay huge amounts of money to the Czech IHF to get out of said contracts (I believe Mrazek was asked to pay around $200,000 USD to do so).
“We want to advance [to the medal round],” Fischer said. “While we did play tough opponents last year, we didn’t play to our capability and that hurt. Those three games [against Canada, Sweden and Russia] weren’t even close. Our realistic goals are to make every game competitive and advance. Obviously, having the U.S., Canada and a strong Finnish team will make this tough. This might be the strongest Finnish team we’ve seen in this tournament in a very long time. Of course, the Canadians and U.S. are always frontrunners.”
Fischer, a native of Horovice, was chosen 25th in the 1998 Entry Draft by the Detroit Red Wings. He’s currently director of player development for Detroit, where he played five seasons before deciding to call it quits after the 2005-06 season due to heart problems. He’s serving as an assistant for the Czech Republic for the second time in his career. Fischer feels the country is prepared to do whatever it takes to re-establish itself as a hockey power. Head coach Miroslav Prerost, in fact, has been incorporating new ideas that should aid in the turnaround.
“Miro is a pro coach for the Czech Federation and he had a lot of these kids at 16 and 17 years old, and now he moved up to WJC ranks,” Fischer said. “He’s working extremely hard in implementing concepts that we need to get better in. Over the summer, we added two five-day camps into the preseason development. We practiced, worked on individual skills and team concepts.”
• According to PuckWorlds’ Bruce Peter, Alexei Marchenko isn’t playing for Team Russia because he’s injured.
Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: Speaking of sour grapes, you know how the Wings felt downright thankful that they were able to fly home on the 23rd and have the night off instead of engaging in their usual routine of playing in Western Canada on the 23rd, flying home on the 24th and then leaving Detroit for a game on the 26th? Like the three-day weekend was a gift?
Well Dick Axelsson and Modo Ornskoldsvik had a Christmas break which started on December 11th, but after a 3-2 loss to Lulea HF in which he scored a goal, Axelsson told Expressen’s Tobias Bjorklund that Modo’s tired legs were to blame for falling down 2-0 early, and that it was “really shitty” that the team had to play the day after Christmas.
It’s a different world over there…
• Fellow Wings prospect and University of Notre Dame forward Riley Sheahan is heading back to South Bend, IN to play in a New Year’s Eve game, and he spoke to the Saint Catherine’s Standard’s Bill Potrecz about his offensive blossoming:
Riley Sheahan has arrived. The 20-year-old St. Catharines native is putting together his best season for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, scoring at a point-a-game pace with five goals and 13 assists through the first 18 games of the season, good enough for third on the team in scoring. After seasons of 17 points as a freshman and 22 last year as a sophomore, Sheahan is fulfilling the potential so many predicted for him when he committed to the university while still playing junior B.
“I think there’s maybe a little less pressure,” Sheahan said of his strong start. “The freshman year is always hard and last year I came in after the draft and trying to make the world junior team and I think I got it into my head a little bit that I needed to produce and there was a lack of confidence when I didn’t produce. This year, we have two guys on our team — T.J Tynan and Anders Lee — who are highly regarded and there’s a little more pressure on them to put up good numbers and maybe a little less on me.”
“I’ve got a lot more confidence now. I came into the season a lot bigger and stronger,” Sheahan said. “Matt helped me a lot. He pushed me pretty hard and I felt a lot stronger going into the season.”
Sheahan’s productivity is even more gratifying after a frustrating start to his sophomore season that began with a hernia and a prolonged slump, as well as the disappointment of being one of the last cuts from the 2011 Canadian Junior National Team.
“It feels way better,” Sheahan said with a smile. “Going through the whole first half of the season and not even scoring one goal, it got so frustrating. This year, to know you’re contributing on the scoreboard and getting points and setting up plays and doing good things, it’s a much better feeling. To help your team win in not only the defensive zone, but the offensive zone as well, it definitely builds up your confidence.This year I’ve become more consistent and trying to score a lot more. I’ve become a lot more confident making plays and being more comfortable with the puck.”
Here’s what Sheahan has to say about his relationship with the Wings’ scouts:
“They’ve been really good,” said Sheahan, who has not yet signed an entry level deal with Detroit. “They come to plenty of my games. I think at one game they had six staff members there, so they’ve been paying a lot of attention and have been happy with the year I’ve had. It’s nice to know they care a lot. They are totally down to earth. They barely even talk about hockey. They ask about family, but for the most part, it’s seeing how school is going. It’s nice to know it’s not always just about hockey.”
Sheahan’s a junior, and the Wings usually want their college hockey players to turn pro after their junior seasons, but given that Sheahan had difficult freshman and sophomore seasons, I’d imagine that the Wings will leave Sheahan at Notre Dame for his senior year.
• Interesting fact: according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, a year ago today, Chris Osgood earned his 400th NHL win;
• And finally, this isn’t necessarily Wings-related, but the Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe reports that all went very well at the Toledo Walleye’s hosted fundraiser for Kyle Cannon, a 17-year-old who was paralyzed during a high school hockey game three years ago. This part of Monroe’s story puts things in perspective, big time:
Cannon said being out on the ice with his senior teammates one more time was special.
“It’s pretty cool. I was friends with all the guys on the team even before I got hurt,” Cannon said. “It’s cool. A lot of them were messing with me. But they’ll get it back in school. I’ll just run them over or something. So it’s kind of funny.”
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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.