The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/03/11 at 12:36 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings weren’t going to play near-flawless hockey forever, and after steamrolling an injury-ravaged Buffalo Sabres in the first period of their 4-1 win, the Wings took their collective foot off the gas pedal, got a little casual and way too fancy after three straight penalties taken in under 10 minutes shook ‘em up a bit, and…
Well, as the Chief suggested, Jimmy Howard has been in, “I can bail you out, boys, no worries” mode all year long, and between Howard stopping 19 of 20 second and third-period shots against and the Wings’ ability to stifle the Sabres’ offense just enough to regularly expose the Sabres’ lack of depth, the Wings endured an honest-to-goodness road letdown without surrendering anything more than some pride (assuming that Justin Abdelkader emerged from the “quiet room” no worse for wear, anyway).
Seven straight wins never come easily, and while the Wings weren’t exactly running on all cylinders for minutes 21-60 of this game, their usual suspects set a fine foundation for victory over a team that couldn’t afford to drop a multiple goal deficit early—Kindl scored a knuckleball goal after a wonderful shift from the Miller-Abdelkader-Holmstrom line, which may have been the Wings’ most consistent and hard-working group of forwards all night long (they count as the “usual suspect” here, though Kindl’s been really steady all year long), a Nicklas Lidstrom shot-pass on the power play landed on Johan Franzen’s stick and he did what Franzen’s done regularly this season in finding the top shelf on the power play, and Valtteri Filppula scored a slick goal as he continues to dazzle with more offensive panache and confidence than he’s ever displayed prior to becoming a full-time winger.
Between the first intermission and Pavel Datsyuk’s empty-netter thanks to a pass from the King of Casual, a.k.a. Christian Ehrhoff, the Wings’ effort and execution were a bit spotty, but Howard continues to roll and while Vanek, Pominville, et. al. gave the Wings’ defense a workout, Chris Conner slid through checks in his Red Wings debut, Darren Helm worked his butt off, Bertuzzi and Franzen came on in terms of displaying the, “We’ll play defense by working the puck down low in the opposition’s end” defense Wings fans are familiar with and the Wings set themselves up for road tilts against Colorado (on Sunday) and St. Louis (on Tuesday) near the top of the Western Conference heap, ready to rebound from a mediocre 40 minutes with a harder, stronger and more consistent effort.
A month ago, I don’t think you or I would have assumed that the Wings could have held onto a one-goal lead without folding, never mind a three-goal one, playing the slightly scatterbrained and disinterested hockey they displayed over the final two periods against the plucky Sabres, but Detroit’s finally starting to establish its identity as a team full of leaders even absent the retired Kris Draper, Brian Rafalski and Chris Osgood, and December’s Wings know how to keep their stuff together even when their attention to detail is less than exquisite.
Stats and stuff: Shots 36-28 Detroit overall: the Wings out-shot Buffalo 18-8 in the 1st period but tied the Sabres 9-9 in the 2nd period and were out-shot 11-9 in the 3rd period.
Howard stopped 28 of 29; Enroth stopped 32 of 35 and the Wings scored into an empty net.
The Wings went 1-for-5 in 8:26 of PP time; the Sabres went 0-for-4 in 7:57 of PP time.
The 3 stars were Filppula, Howard and Franzen.
The Wings’ goals: Kindl (1) from Holmstrom (7) and Abdelkader (4);
Franzen (11) from Lidstrom (12) and Datsyuk (15), power play;
Filppula (8) from Zetterberg (9);
Datsyuk (8), empty net, unassisted.
Faceoffs 35-24 Buffalo (41% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 21-14 Detroit;
Missed shots 12-9 Detroit (total attempts 62-58 Detroit);
Hits 16-6 Buffalo;
Giveaways 10-4 Buffalo;
Takeaways 8-6 Detroit.
The Wings finished at a collective +10; Brad Stuart led the team at +2 and Kindl, Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Miller, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Holmstrom were +1. Everyone else was even.
Datsyuk ended the game with a goal and an assist for 2 points; Kindl, Filppula and Franzen scored goals; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Zetterberg and Holmstrom had assists.
Kindl, Abdelkader, Filppula and Kronwall took minor penalties.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went an uncharacteristic 10-and-16 (38%); Zetterberg went 7-and-9 (44%); Helm went 4-and-6 (40%); Abdelkader, Cleary and Franzen went 1-and-1 over the course of six total faceoffs (50%); Filppula lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Franzen led the team with 5 shots; Conner had 4; Datsyuk, White, Miller, Filppula, Kronwall and Holmstrom had 3 apiece; Ericsson had 2; Kindl, Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Cleary, Stuart, Hudler and Zetterberg had 1.
Blocked attempts: Zetterberg had 3 shot attempts blocked by Sabres players; White and Filppula hit Sabres shin pads 2 times apiece; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Miller, Conner, Bertuzzi, Kronwall and Franzen had single attempts blocked.
Missed attempts: Zetterberg missed the net 3 times; Cleary, White, Hudler, Helm, Bertuzzi, Filppula, Ericsson, Kronwall and Franzen missed the net once.
Hits: Stuart had 2 hits; Kindl, Cleary, Miller and Ericsson had 1.
Giveaways: Kindl, White, Hudler and Howard had giveaways;
Takeaways: Kindl, Cleary, Datsyuk, White, Zetterberg, Conner, Helm and Filppula registered single takeaways.
Blocked shots: Stuart blocked 4 shots; Datsyuk and Lidstrom blocked 3; Cleary and Kronwall blocked 2; Kindl, Abdelkader, White, Miller, Conner, Helm and Ericsson blocked 1.
Ice time: Lidstrom led the team with 23:29 played; Kronwall played 20:28; White played 20:17;
Zetterberg played 19:40; Ericsson played 19:03; Stuart played 19:02;
Filppula played 18:15; Datsyuk played 18:00; Franzen played 16:08;
Bertuzzi played 15:42; Helm played 15:17; Cleary played 15:05;
Kindl played 14:23; Hudler played 13:57; Conner played 13:39;
Miller played 11:31; Holmstrom played 11:02; Abdeklader played 7:05.
So Chris Conner had 4 shots, 1 shot attempt blocked, a takeaway and a blocked shot in 13:39 played over the course of 20 shifts. As many flashes as Brunnstrom’s shown of top-flight talent, here’s hoping that Fabian gets some consistent ice time in Grand Rapids and reestablishes his confidence on a more consistent level over the next week or two.
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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.