The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/17/12 at 01:24 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings knew that they could do more than earn two points against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night, but their 5-0 win over the Sabres involved trying to set up good work habits for a back-to-back slate which continues tomorrow in Dallas (8:30 PM EST, FSD) as much as it did with setting each other up for goal after goal against a defenseless Ryan Miller (with the emphasis on no defense in front of him).
Was there a blemish on the win? Sure. One. When the Red Wings did make history and win their 15th straight at home, they officially entered the record books in front of maybe half a rink’s full of spectators for whom traffic mattered more than being there for the actual, “Being part of history” part of the game.
Otherwise, the Wings absolutely steamrolled the Sabres, and while they did make things a little too interesting for Jimmy Howard on occasion and did fade a bit in the third, the Wings struck early and often, and by the time the Wings had chased Ryan Miller a little under five minutes into the second period, the game was most certainly over.
The Wings didn’t quite get off to a scintillating start, but they made up for it in a hurry. Henrik Zetterberg scored his first goal in something pretty close to forever 5:20 into the first period, deking, dangling and firing the puck top shelf against the grain over Ryan Miller’s glove, just after a power play expired.
After killing a penalty to Niklas Kronwall and trading some chances with the Sabres, the Wings really got on a roll via hearing-eye pass from Pavel Datsyuk to a Johan Franzen in full flight, roaring up ice on his way to depositing the puck behind Ryan Miller on a breakaway.
Under a minute later, the subject of the latest NHL 36 documentary snuck into the slot as Franzen, Datsyuk and Bertuzzi worked the puck off the boards, Bertuzzi took a shot and Lidstrom pounded the rebound past Miller. Thus the Wings ended the first period up 3-0.
A few minutes into the second period, Pavel Datsyuk made yet another steal against a turnover-happy Sabres defense and he found Todd Bertuzzi alone out front, and by spinning off against Jordan Leopold, Bertuzzi executed a spin-o-rama and chipped a low shot under Ryan Miller’s left pad.
All of 13 seconds later, Danny Cleary mucked the puck out of a scrum to Drew Miller, and he found Darren Helm wide open in the slot. 5-hole, 5-0, Ryan Miller headed to the bench and down the hallway, and he may or may not have returned, but not before taking things out on his stick (there is no mercy in this business once the puck drops, but Miller was anything but “Miller Lite”—his teammates regrettably left their goaltender to his own devices).
From there on out, the Wings had 35 minutes of hockey to play, and while Jimmy Howard had to earn his 27-save shutout, half the time he made absolutely remarkable saves and the other half, he picked cherries.
The Wings’ top two lines more or less put it on cruise control from the game’s halfway point onward (I guess another negative would be yet another 0-for power play; it went 0-for-4 in 6:22 of PP time), but the Miller-Helm-Cleary and Emmerton-Abdelkader-Holmstrom lines made up for the top players’ gilding by continuing to grind against a Sabres team that may have been as frustrated as Ville Leino’s hack-a-stick slash on Zetterberg indicated, if not moreso, and with the exception of Danny Cleary taking Paul Gaustad’s bait and taking a double-minor which allowed the Sabres to pile up an 8-0 shot advantage in the 3rd period, the Wings didn’t bite on the scrappy Sabres’ sandpapery bait.
Again, Howard had to make some saves that were a little too good for comfort, but the Wings pushed back hard on the Sabres, in no small part due to those third and fourth lines earning some power play time, and again, the only disappointing part of witnessing Jimmy Howard pitch another shutout, the Wings finish at a collective +25 and the Wings making history was that so few people actually hung out in the rink to see it.
[edit/update: the ones who stayed were loud!]
According to WXYT, the Wings will go with Ty Conklin against Dallas tomorrow, and here’s hoping that by this weekend, when (as Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels reported) the Wings’ amateur and pro scouts meet in Las Vegas—likely for free via the air miles they rack up—this Saturday for their pre-trade deadline draft and/or trade target discussion, the Wings will have rattled off another pair of wins and evened their road record at .500.
The big red machine is on a roll, led by the team’s best players and supported by a strong cast of secondary players, and slowly but surely, we’re starting to see the one thing that’s been missing all year long return, albeit in glimpses and shimmers: swagger.
This Red Wings team seems to believe that it can and will defeat its most difficult opponents via will and its lesser ones via skill, and will utilize equal amounts of both to beat the guys in between.
Nice work, Wings, and thank you for treating us to this wonderful run of home wins. Now keep ‘er going on the road.
[edit/update: Here are some NHL Tonight-narrated highlights:]
Shots 27-26 Buffalo overall. The Wings and Sabres tied each other 11-11 in shots in the 1st period, the Wings out-shot Buffalo 8-7 in the 2nd and were out-shot 9-7 in the 3rd period.
The Wings went 0 for 4 in 6:22 of PP time; the Sabres went 0 for 3 in 4:22 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 27 shots; Ryan Miller stopped 5 of 14 shots; Jhonas Enroth stopped 12 of 12 shots.
The 3 stars, per Michigan Talk Radio’s Rich Kincaide, were Jimmy Howard, Todd Bertuzzi and Pavel Datsyuk.
The Wings’ goals: Zetterberg (9) from Hudler (16);
Franzen (18) from Datsyuk (34) and Bertuzzi (13);
Lidstrom (9) from Bertuzzi (14) and Datsyuk (35);
Bertuzzi (9) from Datsyuk (36, Datsyuk’s 700th NHL point);
Helm (5) from Miller (8) and Cleary (11).
Faceoffs 34-27 Detroit (Detroit won 56%);
Blocked shots 13-6 Buffalo;
Missed shots 7-5 Detroit (total attempts 46-38 Detroit);
Hits 25-22 Buffalo;
Giveaways 9-7 Detroit;
Takeaways 7-2 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 12-and-5 (71%); Helm went 7-and-10 (41%); Zetterberg went 10-and-4 (71%); Abdelkader went 5-and-5 (50%); Cleary, Bertuzzi and Emmerton all lost the only faceoffs they took.
Shots: Bertuzzi and Franzen co-led the team with 4 shots apiece; Helm had 3; Kindl, Lidstrom, Cleary, White, Kronwall and Holmstrom had 2; Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Zetterberg had 1.
Blocked attempts: Kindl, Zetterberg and Franzen had 2 attempts blocked; Abdelkader, Stuart, Hudler, Helm, Emmerton, Ericsson and Kronwall had single attempts blocked.
Missed shots: Hudler missed the net 2 times; Datsyuk, Miller, Stuart, Zetterberg and Ericsson missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Ericsson led the Wings with 6 hits; Stuart and Kronwall had 3; White and Helm had 2; Kindl, Abdelkader, Cleary, Miller, Bertuzzi and Emmerton had 1.
Giveaways: Holmstrom had 2 giveaways; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Cleary, Hudler, Bertuzzi, Franzen and Howard had 1.
Takeaways: It’s okay for Homer because he led the team with 2 takeaways; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Miller, Filppula and Franzen had 1.
Blocked shots: Stuart and Kronwall blocked 2 shots; Kindl and Emmerton blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Cleary took a double minor; Kindl and Kronwall took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a remarkable collective +25. Lidstrom, Datsyuk, White, Bertuzzi and Franzen finished at +3; Kindl, Cleary, Miller, Stuart, Hudler, Zetterberg, Helm, Filppula, Ericsson and Kronwall finished at +1.
Points: Bertuzzi had a goal and 2 assists for 3 points; Datsyuk had 3 assists; Franzen, Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Helm and Franzen had goals; Cleary, Miller and Hudler had assists.
Ice time: Stuart led the team with 21:58 played; Kronwall played 20:27; White played 20:17;
Ericsson played 18:58; Lidstrom played 18:32; Kindl played 18:27;
Zetterberg played 17:40; Filppula played 17:27; Miller played 17:15;
Helm played 16:41; Hudler played 16:16; Cleary played 14:43;
Bertuzzi played 14:11; Franzen played 13:04; Datsyuk played 13:03;
Abdelkader played 12:23; Holmstrom played 12:13; Emmerton played 10:39.
One more thing for now: The Wings’ players may have to go without in-flight wi-fi tonight. They’re taking Red Bird II to Dallas. Red Bird III’s staying behind in Detroit.
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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.