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Red Wings-Sabres quick take: if you’re gonna have a letdown, that’s the kind you want to have

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.

Individual Stats:

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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Comments

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1. Several posts in a row, no signs of panic/anxiety: he’s baaaaaaaaaaaaack.
2. 1 week ago, we groaned at Z getting pickpocketed. Well, he’s still not scoring, but defense always help, with the pickpocket for Fippula’s goal.
3. I just occurred to me that I don’t see the pass-shot often, maybe I just don’t pay attention, but coming from Lidstrom shouldn’t surprise me.
4. I hope the Wings don’t go back to “let’s turn on the switch now” mode.
5. I still can’t get over Datsyuk’s quote earlier in the week: “Now we have big road trip. December coming. Bold December. It was mustache November, now bold December.” Okay class, 500 word essay on what a mustache November is.
5. Win 5, lose 6, win 4, lose 2, win 7. How about no more losing streaks? If they can get 20 points in December, I’d be quite happy. In the meantime, I’m buying Dramamine in case.
6. My earlier worries about whether the defense would kick in and the new coaches gel this season? I think I said it around game 5 of the 6 game losing streak, that hopefully they’d get this figured out by Thanksgiving. Some dreams come true.
7. By the way, can we help all of the people with broken ankles back on the bandwagon? Thanks.
8. I still think Ken Holland has a trick up his sleeve for the trade deadline.
9. I’m not sure who will be the best team to challenge the Wings, but I’d love to see Boston-Detroit again.

Posted by bugsy on 12/03/11 at 01:04 AM ET

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1 minor correction: I realize most people are back on the bandwagon, but the comment has been in reserve for a while, and pulled it out before it became more stale.

One question: when do you get Conklin in? Next game?

Love the quotes tonight, in contrast to the losing streak where I think we all saw a team lacking confidence, indecisive/tentative. Babcock ain’t perfect, but I think the master psychologist helped right the ship again::

“We made a decision when we went out west not to be a mentally soft team,” Howard said. “We want to be mentally tough. This game is full of mistakes, so it’s how you respond after making them. We’ve gotten a lot mentally tougher since then.”

“We feel we have a good team when we play with tempo and we play right,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We have a lot of good players with a lot of experience, and have a good calmness about us. We don’t get too high or too low, we just keep on playing. We think we have a chance to be a good team, but only time will tell.”

“The confidence in the room right now is great,” Howard said. “And in hockey, confidence is everything.”

Posted by Bugsy on 12/03/11 at 01:21 AM ET

BrendonR's avatar

I think the boys taking their foot off the pedal is a tad overblown.  They’re on a big (and weird) road trip and they don’t need to win 7-1 and then lose the next game, they needed to grind this one out and save some energy for a real challenge.  Buffalo was just no match tonight, even with the slow down in the second and third, so no need to go all out, especially when Jimmah is playing the way he is.  Yet another reminder of the amazing GM we have and the incompetent ones that still have jobs around the league (the Ehrhoff and Leino signings were bad as soon as they were announced, but they looked really, really bad tonight).

Anyone who’s played hockey knows “the switch” is a natural phenomenon of any team - as long as they manage that switch at the right times, they’ll be fine.  Also, great to have you back and posting on a regular basis George!  Between you and The Chief, we’re quite spoiled here at KK.

Posted by BrendonR on 12/03/11 at 01:40 AM ET

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I see what you’re saying, Brendon, as long as they manage the switch properly, 10 out of 15 road games will take some pacing.

Posted by Bugsy on 12/03/11 at 01:48 AM ET

SYF's avatar

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.

I know nothing about this guy.  Hopefully, on Sunday, I’ll finally get the chance to see him play.  Lots of good vibes from the LB tonight about him.

Posted by SYF from Alana Blanchard's Bikinis and Surfboards on 12/03/11 at 04:35 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I’m not worried about Conklin. The Wings’ schedule is far too crowded this month for him not to play.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 12/03/11 at 04:42 AM ET

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i realy hope boston bruins will come back to their great years , this will be good for the all NHL and also for the detroit red wings

Posted by level sensors from usa on 12/13/11 at 09:45 AM ET

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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.