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The Malik Report

Red Wings-Sharks Game 2 quick take: Inefficient

The Detroit Red Wings’ late rally against the San Jose Sharks came up short, and the Wings are heading back to Detroit down 2-0 via a 2-1 loss that was a case of too little, too late—and inefficient play by the Wings.

It’s not that the Wings can’t hang with the Sharks. It’s that the Wings are facing must-win games from here on out because they’ve played scatterbrained hockey, and sometimes they’ve plain old looked intimidated by a Sharks team that’s clearly transferred its playoff hex to Detroit.

It’s…Scary. Scary to watch the Wings’ forecheck be neutralized, scary to watch the Wings lose so many 50-50 battles for the puck, scary to watch the Wings try so hard and accomplish so very little, while the Sharks seem to be able to generate the kind of forecheck, sustained pressure shots, screens, tips, rebound retrievals and secondary scoring chances that the Wings are so very desperate to accomplish themselves, but are too tentative and skittish to achieve.

Jimmy Howard has been wonderful. Johan Franzen’s worked very hard. The Wings’ defenders have done their best, and Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk have obviously done a fantastic job. But Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary have disappeared, Brian Rafalski and Brad Stuart are coughing up the puck, and every Wings scoring chance was a one-and-done opportunity—with the Sharks getting a rush, shot or three and “o-zone time” and “grind time” on the Wings’ defenders…

So the Wings head home having to win Wednesday’s game, Friday’s game, and the rest against a team they’re truly matched up evenly against because the Sharks are executing and the Wings are not. It’s the Wings who, despite their physical flourishes on Sunday, don’t seem to want it as much as the Sharks do when the puck’s dropped and play’s underway.

I don’t know what else to say, other than that the Sharks have earned their results, as have the Wings…Who may very well be golfing by next week because the Wings haven’t screened Niemi or earned many rebound opportunities—I don’t buy this Niemi’s been fantastic BS when he’s rarely, if ever, seen Tomas Holmstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary or Johan Franzen’s butts in his face, nor have the Wings retrieved the rebounds that pump off his pads—haven’t gotten their forechecking and may have “one to grow on” after a fantastic third period, but…

A good effort doesn’t matter. It’s about results, and the Wings haven’t produced them. Without Howard, Datsyuk and Lidstrom [edit: and the shot-blocking machine that is Niklas Kronwall] in particular, the Wings would be in much more trouble, and there are clearly too many passengers, too much intimidation and too little focus, will, heart, and plain old swagger from a team that exploited the Coyotes but are being exploited by a team that simply looks better than Detroit, and better than it really is, thanks to s***ty special teams play and indecisiveness by the Wings’ players.

Uphill. Not vertical yet, but the Wings’ climb is steep, and the task ahead if going to be incredibly difficult.

When you give Niclas Wallin an end-to-end rush, there’s something wrong with your team’s confidence, and these Wings need a talking-to from both coach Mike Babcock and Lidstrom, because the Wings can come back from this deficit, but only if they have the will to utilize their skill and make their effort count.

Final Stats:

Shots 37-34 San Jose overall, breaking down as 12-7 Detroit in the 1st period, 19-9 San Jose in the 2nd period and 13-11 Detroit in the 3rd period.

Power plays: The Sharks went 1-for-5 in 8:22 of PP time; the Wings went 1-for-6 in 8:15 of PP time.

Howard stopped 35 of 37 Shots; Niemi stopped 33 of 34.

The 3 stars, per Dan Rusanowski, were Niclas Wallin, Ian White and Antti Niemi.

The Wings’ goal: Zetterberg (1) from Datsyuk (6) and Holmstrom (3).

Faceoffs 38-33 San Jose (46% won by Detroit);

Blocked shots 24-23 San Jose;

Missed shots 13-10 Detroit (total shot attempts 71-70 Detroit, with the Wings firing 34 on Niemi and 37 wide or into Sharks players);

Hits 31-19 Detroit;

Giveaways 11-5 Detroit;

Takeaways 15-5 San Jose—and those two stats tell you all you need to know about how often the Wings have coughed up the puck in this series.

Update: The press conference feed from San Jose broke up, but Babcock says that the team won’t practice on Monday.

Individual Stats:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 9-and-11 (45%); Filppula went 6-and-10 (38%); Helm went 5-and-6 (45%); Franzen went 2-and-4 (33%); Zetterberg went 3-and-4 (43%); Cleary went 3-and-2 (60%); Abdelkader went 4-and-1 (80%); Eaves won his only faceoff.

Shots: Zetterberg led the team with 6 shots; Cleary had 5; Filppula, Ericsson and Franzen had 4; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Zetterberg had 2; Rafalski, Bertuzzi and Holmstrom had 1.

Blocked attempts: Rafalski had 4 shot attempts blocked by Sharks players; Salei and Zetterberg had 3 attempts blocked; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Filppula and Kronwall had 2 attempts blocked; Cleary, Eaves, Stuart, Helm, Filppula and Holmstrom had single attempts blocked.

Missed shots: Datsyuk missed the net 3 times; Lidstrom and Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Eaves, Salei, Hudler, Bertuzzi and Franzen missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Abdelkader had 5 hits; Helm ha 4; Datsyuk, Miller, Bertuzzi and Ericsson had 3; Abdelkader and Filppula had 2; Eaves, Hudler, Rafalski, Zetterberg, Franzen and Holmstrom had 1 hit.

Giveaways: Ericsson had 2 giveaways; Abdelkader, Cleary, Salei, Rafalski, Zetterberg, helm, Filppula, Franzen and Howard had 1.

Takeaways: Stuart, Salei, Zetterberg, Helm and Kronwall had 1.

Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 7 shots; Stuart blocked 3; Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen blocked 2; lidstrom, Abdelkader, Eaves, Rafalski, Helm, Filppula and Ericsson blocked 1 shot.

Penalties taken: Bertuzzi took 2 minor penalties, as did Holmstrom; Abdelkader, Rafalski and Zetterberg took single minors.

Plus-minus: Abdelkader, Cleary, Salei, Bertuzzi and Kronwall finished at -1, so the team was a collective -5.

Points: Zetterberg had a goal; Datsyuk and Holmstrom had an assist.

ice time: Datsyuk led the team with 24:11 played; Lidstrom played 23;33; Zetterberg played 23:22;

Stuart played 21:50; Kronwall played 21:20; Rafalski played 21:17;

Ericsson played 18:55; Cleary played 17:34;Filppula played 17:01;

Holmstrom played 15:41; Franzen played 15:24; Helm played 13:38;

Salei played 13:07; Bertuzzi played 12:51; Hudler played 8;33;

Abdelkader played 6:33; Eaves played 6:32; Helm played 5:53.

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Comments

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Detroit had to have one of these games. Game 1 ‘got away’ and game 2 was never ours to begin with. Too sloppy, too passive…too little, as you said, George. I’m not holding out hope at this point, I just hope that Thornton never gets to touch the Cup.

Posted by godblender on 05/01/11 at 07:18 PM ET

Crow's avatar

You hit it on the nail, George.  Sloppy play, lazy passes and no drive to actually win the puck battles.  Aside from a few actual offensive pressure from the circus line, It’s like they don’t have any sense of urgency.  Cleary needs to be moved to the second line in place of Hudler and Helm needs to bury those break aways.

Posted by Crow on 05/01/11 at 07:28 PM ET

socalwingnut's avatar

The Helm line that looked so great in the Phoenix series is being neutralized. The defensemen routinely throw it around the boards blindly when they gain possession in their own end. They stop skating after the puck when there is competition for the puck and instead coast in leaning forward with their stick pointing towards the puck. They won the Phoenix series by outworking the other team and now they are getting horribly outworked. I think Helm plays a lot better with Draper on his wing, so hopefully we’ll see that lineup change at least. Hudler is invisible again. Personally, I’d like to see Drapes in for Miller and Modano in for Hudler. It can’t be any worse.

Posted by socalwingnut on 05/01/11 at 07:32 PM ET

socalwingnut's avatar

And maybe split up Pav and Z? Pav looked pretty good with Cleary and Franzen last series.

Posted by socalwingnut on 05/01/11 at 07:33 PM ET

EDJ's avatar

They have no swagger.

Posted by EDJ on 05/01/11 at 07:40 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

scatterbrained hockey

George, that’s the perfect phrase.  The Wings are being outworked. 

I wonder if Babs will ask the players if he needs to say something after this game?

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/01/11 at 07:43 PM ET

PuckRules's avatar

Sharks had 7:22 of PP time compared to the Wings’ 8:15 according to the nhl game summary.

Sharks played better than in game 1, especially Niemi who was great. Im a bit concerned with 37 2nd period shots in two games and nothing to show for it. Need to finish better.

See you guys on Wednesday, Go Sharks.

Posted by PuckRules on 05/01/11 at 07:44 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

Whats been frustrating is the fluky goals San Jose is getting.  So far I’ve seen one that didn’t come off of a lucky bounce or a weird deflection.  These were two angering games.  Hopefully the Wings pull themselves off the mat before we see them downed in five again.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 05/01/11 at 07:49 PM ET

EDJ's avatar

You don’t give up a flukey goal if you’re in the offensive zone.

Posted by EDJ on 05/01/11 at 07:50 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

They have no swagger.

Posted by EDJ on 05/01/11 at 06:40 PM ET

You’re right.  The Sharks have it.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/01/11 at 07:53 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

The truly weird thing to me is that the scores of these games have been so close.  We’ve been outplayed badly, yet the scores don’t reflect that at all.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/01/11 at 07:55 PM ET

EDJ's avatar

Jimmy Howard has been playing lights-out, besides the Wallin goal. If not for him, we’d be seeing 4-1, 5-1 games.

Posted by EDJ on 05/01/11 at 07:58 PM ET

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It’s hard to win puck battles when the other players are twice as big and twice as strong as you. It’s hard to gain the offensive zone and get the forecheck going when the guy backechecking you is way faster than you and you can barely skate the puck to the blueline before he catches you from behind.

I saw the following happen about 100 times this game, but the example I’ll use is the one I remember best. Setoguchi had the puck for San Jose, and he skated into the offensive zone, lost the puck,  and a Detroit player got it about 10-15 feet away from him, and started skating up the ice. Counter-attack, right? High turnover by Setoguchi, we get the puck, and it’s off to the races. Except no. Setoguchi just turns, follows the puck carrier, and two seconds later he’s got the body and the stick on him from behind, and it’s SJ’s puck again. This happened constantly with Thornton, Marleau, Setoguchi, Mitchell, Pavelski, even guys like Clowe, who are deceptively slow.

It reminded me of playing NHL 2011, when you try to make the game harder, so you turn down the game-speed just for your team, so the other team’s players are always like 1.5 your speed, and the only way to really get the puck up the ice is to pass it constantly. Because, them being 1.5 your speed always, they will always catch you from every angle. You can’t skate with the puck for more than a few seconds before you get converged on, so you have to pass it to the next open guy (if you can find one in time), and then he can sort of skate it another 10 feet before he gets caught, and then you have to pass it again.

That’s what it reminded me of. And it’s impossible. It’s like San Jose’s players have spent the last five years power-skating non-stop and we haven’t. Look at Doug Murray. Remember how slow he used to be? Now he’s flying out there, beating our guys to the outside. Niclas Wallin on that rush was going pretty fast. it’s deceptive because they’re so big and they don’t use a lot of strides, like Helm would or something, but they have those long, huge legs, and they can get going, especially the forwards. Thornton, Marleau, Heatley, Clowe, they are all these huge guys, and they have these huge legs, and they’re so powerful. They have such powerful strides. Setoguchi and Pavelski aren’t big, but Pavelski plays like it, and he also has those legs, and Setoguchi can fly whether he has Clowe’s redwood legs or not.

So that’s what I’m seeing. It’s like they’re all just much, much better athletes. Bigger, stronger, faster, especially their legs, they just have the big bulky, powerful legs, and they just catch our guys on the backcheck every time. There is always a defenseman and a backechecker trapping our winger when he tries to gain the zone. It’s impossible. I have no faith in us coming back. After watching game 1 for five minutes I predicted we’d lose in 4 or 5 and today just reinforced that. They may not be more skilled with the puck, or better at passing, or smarter, but they are overpowering us with pure canadian muscle, speed, and forechecking.

So, in my opinion, we’re done. And unless this SJ team gets completely dismantled, I don’t think we’ll ever win another Cup with this roster. That SJ team will be around for a few more years, and we’re never going to get passed them without big changes.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/01/11 at 07:59 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

What’s weird about it? Howard has answered the playoff demons and is playing lights out. The rest of the team hasn’t given him a damn thing.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 05/01/11 at 07:59 PM ET

Chris in A^2's avatar

It’s not that the Wings can’t hang with the Sharks. It’s that the Wings are facing must-win games from here on out because they’ve played scatterbrained hockey, and sometimes they’ve plain old looked intimidated by a Sharks team that’s clearly transferred its playoff hex to Detroit.

I disagree, the wings look like the team they’ve been for the past 2 seasons; thoroughly mediocre but with enough flashes of brilliance and big names to make you think they’re just saving it for the playoffs.  Maybe they just had a bad couple of games, or maybe they’ve just regressed back to the norm after a 4 game hot streak. Right now we’re losing the series only the first line has shown up for the wings, and the sharks are getting good play from everyone.  We’ve probably overrated our depth based on the great games they’ve had while ignoring the pile of throwaway games that have been accumulating for some time now.  Our best players need to be our best players, but our secondary guys need to show up.  Franzen took a shot at San Jose’s depth; the wings need to show up or shut up.

Posted by Chris in A^2 from Nyquist Puck Control on 05/01/11 at 08:00 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

What’s weird about it? Howard has answered the playoff demons and is playing lights out. The rest of the team hasn’t given him a damn thing.

Posted by mrfluffy from Long Beach on 05/01/11 at 06:59 PM ET

You’re right.  Jimmah has been awesome.  And you’re also right about the rest of the team.  And Jimmah can’t do it all by himself.

I hate to admit this, but I’ve been having thoughts similar to those of Johnson22, above.  Maybe small Euro players are just not going to get it anymore.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/01/11 at 08:04 PM ET

Chris in A^2's avatar

What’s weird about it? Howard has answered the playoff demons and is playing lights out. The rest of the team hasn’t given him a damn thing.

Posted by mrfluffy from Long Beach on 05/01/11 at 06:59 PM ET

Yeah, our goalie has been our best player, very unredwing like and it still probably won’t stop the goalie mafia fromcalling for his head if the wings lose this series.

Posted by Chris in A^2 from Nyquist Puck Control on 05/01/11 at 08:05 PM ET

Avatar

Sorry I meant deceptively fast not deceptively slow.

And bezukov, that’s just the way SJ scores their goals. They don’t play a pretty game. They haven’t scored a highlight reel outside of Boyle and… Ben Eager… in like a decade. They’re not going to score like Datsyuk does, or like Franzen did before he got injured. They throw it on net 90 times per game and “we like the percentages” (an old line from Mclellan in his early years in San Jose). You control the game, you dominate possession, you throw it on net a lot, and you’ll get a deflection, you’ll get a luck bounce. And if you’re facing a goalie who gives up soft goals, it suits that style even better. Howard has made a large quantity of saves, and some very nice ones, but the fact of the matter is 3 of the 4 pucks he hasn’t stopped this series have been soft. The 1st one tonight, he was way out of position, too far left in his net, and way, way too far back. If he’d just gone out straight and cut off the angle, only a corner shot beats him. That White shot would have hit him in the shoulder if he was just in normal good position. And the game winner was really bad.

Maybe the one way Detroit wins this series is if Howard makes those few nice saves per game on the hard chances (which a good goalie does. Not every good opportunity goes in against the average goalie even. Goaltenders usually have an advantage, even on the breakaways and what not), and he makes the ones he’s supposed to make. Making spectacular saves is great and all, but it doesn’t mean you’re standing on your head if you let in easy ones a few minutes later. You have to do both. In fact I would prefer he make the saves he should every time over what he’s doing now.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/01/11 at 08:10 PM ET

EDJ's avatar

Whatever Johnson22 is seeing is what the wings are seeing. It’s a matter of confidence. The wings can play smarter, faster and stronger on the puck but they aren’t because they’re scared. They don’t look like a team that’s rested for one and a half weeks. If they want to look faster and get on top of the sharks players backs, they have to skate faster and get on top of the sharks players backs. The sharks have built some confidence from winning a bunch of OT games, but some aggressive play and a win will shake them up and shake Niemi up. Once they hear those playoff demons sneaking around, they’ll hightail it back to San Jose. It’s disgusting to see the Red Wings play like they don’t have twenty years of playoff experience and players with one, two, four cups on their bookshelves.

Posted by EDJ on 05/01/11 at 08:10 PM ET

Avatar

Christina squared:

Agree completely. San Jose is way better. They were a little bit better last postseason. They were way better during this regular season (even though they weren’t playing their best hockey most the year), and now they are playing their best hockey, and they are way, way, way better. Everyone here assumed that when the Wings struggled late in the season, it wasn’t a talent problem, they just weren’t trying. Theyd turned off the switch. They were really way better than they were playing. The Phoenix series just exacerbated that notion. But, clearly, no. Phoenix was the perfect matchup for this team. San Jose isn’t.

And, really, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Why would we be any better than last season? The two big reasons why we were supposed to be way better this season, that top-6 forward, 70-point projected force in Jiri Hudler, and Mike Modano.

One is nowhere near as good as anyone remembered, especially in the playoffs where it’s physical (and he’s not a physical player), and the other isn’t even playing. This is essentially the exact same team that faced SJ last season, except we’re one year older, and they’re deeper on the blueline with Ian White, and deeper at forward with the underrated Kyle Wellwood. Oh, and Zetterberg and Franzen are slow. It’s no surprise we’re losing. Holland did nothing to improve this team over the offseason when it clearly needed improvement.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/01/11 at 08:19 PM ET

SolidTG7's avatar

I think Franzen belongs on the disappearing players list.  No shots or hits in game 1 and tonight wasn’t much better if at all.

Posted by SolidTG7 on 05/01/11 at 08:21 PM ET

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“If they want to look faster and get on top of the sharks players backs, they have to skate faster and get on top of the sharks players backs. “

How do you skate faster? They’re skating as fast as they can. Players can only skate as fast as they can skate. ‘If Thomas Holmstrom just decided to start skating as fast as Patrick Marleau, that’s how we win. He just has to start doing it. He’s scared to skate as fast as Patrick Marleau right now because he doesn’t want to break the speed limit. He already has two speeding tickets. Third one and he has to go to traffic school. But he just needs to forget those fears and just do it!”

Doesn’t work that way. They are skating as fast as they can. “As fast as they can” just so happens to be way slower than the Sharks can.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/01/11 at 08:21 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

And yet…  Martin St. Louis is small, very small.  But he is a scrapper, a play-maker, a game-changer.  He goes full tilt all the time.  Love that guy.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/01/11 at 08:26 PM ET

EDJ's avatar

Franzen and Zetterberg are both recovering from injury. Neither is skating as well as they could. Besides that, San Jose’s defense is certainly not deeper after losing an elite player in Rob Blake. This wings team has shown incredible talent and doesn’t need a drastic overhaul. When you make big changes in the salary cap era you usually make stupid changes, and Holland was very close to the cap. 

The wings are not skating as fast as they can, they’re being timid and not fighting for the puck. Tomas Holmstrom may not be able to skate much harder, but Bertuzzi and Abdelkader certainly can. Size isn’t necessarily an indicator of strength either. When Zetterberg has the puck he pushes his defender off of him, even if he has four inches and thirty pounds on him. Helm can barrel his way through any player. They just aren’t right now, and they’re definitely not tired after their nine or so days of rest. They need to stop being intimidated by a team that can’t match their experience and resolve when they put their will to it.

Posted by EDJ on 05/01/11 at 08:32 PM ET

sloaner's avatar

I think people have simply overrated this team.  I think I did.  For the bulk of the last 18 years, when the Wings lose a series you can’t understand what happened.  Goalies stood on their head.  Fluke goals.  Teams like Babcock’s Ducks would go into defensive shells and thwart the onslaught. 

This looks very different.  This looks, two games in and a series in the bank, to be a better team.  Bigger, stronger, fast and built for the playoffs.  I’m not hitting the panic button, I’m just watching my team play exactly like they did the year before when they were exhausted.  I don’t think health is an issue beyond Franzen.

A couple years ago, when teams started to forecheck the hell out of the Wings and forced them to start with all the blind dump outs instead of a controlled transition, the cracks started to show.  This team might have been made to win in the playoffs just 2 years ago, but it does not look playoff-tough now.

Howard is not the issue.  This should make me feel elated, but it’s a lot easier to change one goaltender than to tear down and reconstruct 2 lines in the off-season.  Especially when most of the guys are signed and there’s only one year of Lidstrom left (at least I’m praying there is).

Posted by sloaner from Los Angeles, CA on 05/01/11 at 08:32 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Yeah, our goalie has been our best player, very unredwing like and it still probably won’t stop the goalie mafia fromcalling for his head if the wings lose this series.

Posted by ChrisinA^2 from Michigan, home of the Old Wings on 05/01/11 at 07:05 PM ET

So true.  What I meant when I said I was surprised that the scores have been so close is that as badly as we are being outworked, as much as San Jose has controlled the puck, as much as they have created traffic around the net, I’m kind of amazed they haven’t figured out how to solve Howard.  Guess Jimmah has just played his best ever.  It’s a damned shame the rest of the team hasn’t won these games for him.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/01/11 at 08:32 PM ET

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This whole “it’s focus, they’re scared” etc, “it’s mental” argument doesn’t even make sense. Is their coach, Mike Babcock the scared type? Was this team scared when they played Anaheim two seasons ago in the playoffs, the team that had last beaten them in the playoffs? Let’s give these guys a little credit. It’s Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Babcock, Cleary, Rafalski… these are players who lack focus? These warriors are scared? They’re the ones who have won Cup/s, not San Jose. I highly doubt these esteemed leaders/champions/professionals are having a problem with focus and all that mental crap. They’re just being outplayed by a bigger and faster team.

If there’s any credence I would give to that argument, it wouldn’t be the whole mental thing. That argument is basically a cop-out because we don’t want to admit they’re better. We always want to think there is hope, and if we only just did this or that thing, the we actually would be better, and we can win. If you accept the whole they’re just better and faster and better argument, then there’s no hope. So the one thing I would say is, I don’t give the mental argument any credence, and I do think they’re just better. But, if they are performing even better against us than they are better than us… that is to say, if there is still potential to be better than them, I don’t think it’s focus, I think it’s the coaching, the tactics. Mclellan has really had Babcock’s number the last two seasons. Like I said in my other post, our players are getting trapped at the blueline constantly, they always have no puck support, they can’t gain the blueline cleanly at all, etc etc.

I do think a lot of that is just that the other team is way faster and is therefore closing every gap very quickly, but I do also think that Babcock is being outcoached. Rather badly, actually. You see the Sharks have about 10 set plays for every situation, and about 50 set plays to gain the offensive zone (on the powerplay especilly), and they all work like a charm about 80% of the time. They also have much better puck support. They’re just playing like a much more cohesive unit, always in the right place, always interchanging perfectly, whereas we are scattered and a mess. I’ve felt for awhile that Babcock has lost his touch with the ever-evolving game, and that seems to be continuing. He’s being outcoached.

With that said, even if Mclellan was the coach of both teams, or if Babcock was coaching SJ, and Mclellan was coaching Detroit, I think SJ is better no matter what. But the Wings could/could’ve at least have/had a chance if Babcock wasn’t being outcoached so badly.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/01/11 at 08:32 PM ET

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MsRedWinger-

Yes, but St Louis is very very fast. If you’re not bigger and stronger than your opponent, you better be faster. If you don’t believe me that size matters, the LA Kings and the Sharks are, i believe, the two biggest teams in the NHL. Detroit was 2-6 against them this season. Not the best sample size but, best I can do.

Even with St Louis, you can see that battle isn’t everything. He’s still fast, and skilled,and he battles, so he’s still a very good player. But he used to be way faster, and thus he was more dominant. He’s not quite as good now as he was in his heyday.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/01/11 at 08:35 PM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

Spot on George.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 05/01/11 at 08:37 PM ET

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EDJ:

Fair points, especially Abdelkader. I still think that when your #1 hope for hard forechecking is an undersized guy who gets 10 minutes of ice time (meaning Helm), you’re in trouble. He’s a good forechecker for his size, but I doubt SJ’s defenders feel the fear when he’s coming that Detroit’s do when Clowe is coming.

Anyway, maybe Abdelkader aside, i think what you’re talking about is playing harder, not necessarily skating faster. Bertuzzi can play harder, but he’s skating at full speed when he gets the puck and has room to go (which isn’t often).

And yeah as for Z and Franzen being injured, it just furthers my point. They are better than last year, and we are either the same, but older, or worse, given the aging and injuries to two key players. Franzen was always going to have to play like he did in 08 if we were going to win this, and he’s not even close. He is the one elite power forward on this team when healthy, in a league that is trending more and more toward the power game, the trap game, the backcheck game, the every-inch-of-ice-is-a-battle game. The Wings need/ed him and he’s not present.

But yes, some players can go harder. You just have to remember that SJ’s players are going hard too. I mean let’s say it’s Bertuzzi in the corner vs Doug Murray. Because Murray is way bigger than Bertuzzi, you not only have to go as hard as Murray, you have to go harder. If they both put the same amount of effort in, Murray’s muscle will win out. If Bertuzzi, the smaller man, puts in more effort, maybe he can win it. But what happens when the bigger man is putting in maximum effort? You can’t out-effort him if he’s putting in max effort. And they are. That’s a hard working team over there. That’s where the size advantage comes in. They’re bigger, and they’re giving 100%. You can give 100% too, but he’s still bigger. At best they have the strength advantage in every board battle and come out of them with the puck 60% of the time. At worst they have the strength advantage annddd they’re working harder, and they come out with it 75% of the time. Either way you probably can’t win the hockey game losing 60% of your battles at minimum.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/01/11 at 08:42 PM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

we have them right where we want them. 7 game series, breaking their little fish hearts in SJ. Babs is TWICE the coach jr. is, and we have better talent. NO WORRIES MATES.

Posted by Rdwings28 on 05/01/11 at 08:45 PM ET

EDJ's avatar

Johnson22,

We can argue over points like whether being bigger equates to being stronger, but at the heart of the argument is that I think the Wings are better and you think the Sharks are. I don’t see any way to disprove that if you think like Christina^2 that their moments of glory are just moments and not indicators of their potential.

Posted by EDJ on 05/01/11 at 08:56 PM ET

Chet's avatar

agree w/ most of Johnson22’s poinys, except the coaching issue. i think babs’ mind is the only reason (along w/ howard) these games have even appeared close. we’re getting worked by these guys. to win this series we need every guy at 100% of their potential, and for SJ to coast as they did at times vs. LA. so far, SJ is not coasting at all.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 05/01/11 at 09:04 PM ET

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As for a team analysis as a whole, I truly think the league is changing. The rinks are so small, and teams, every year, get better and better at defending, and gap control, things like that. Even Ovechkin can’t seem to scoer off the rush anymore. You used to see him beat defenders 1 on 1 all the time and score these highlight reel goals off the rush. Not anymore. There isn’t enough room for even the very best to create off the rush with finesse it seems. What I’m saying is, the league as a whole has become so great at defending the middle of the ice, there is no room anymore. The only place you have room to control the puck is along the boards.

This Detroit team is built as an undersized, finesse team. In 08, guys Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Filppula, Hudler, and so on could create in the middle of the ice. There was more room, and thus these finesse guys could create on the rush, make pretty passes, utilize stickhandling, and all that, and be dominant that way. But now they can’t, besides Datsyuk. Datsyuk is so good that he can still do it, but the others, especially Filppula and Hudler, can’t. It seems those kind of players are being phased out of the NHL, because the only room out there now is along the boards. And if you look at San Jose, that’s how they are built. Thornton is a cycle, boards player. He actually sucks in open ice on the rush. He’s never taken on a defender 1 on 1 in his life. Clowe is not a rush player. He is a cycle player. Even Marleau has become a cycle player, as has Heatley. These are big guys and they dump it in and cycle every time. And it works. Filppula’s game from 08 doesn’t so well. Neither does Hudler’s.

What I’m saying is, there seems to be a systemic problem with this Detroit roster. They have a finesse, on-the-rush roster in a league that does not allow for that type of finesse anymore. Look at the last Olympics. Russia vs Canada. That was suppose to be a good game. A clash of styles, but the elite end of each style. But one style beat out the other easily. And, in fact, it wasn’t the Russians who were the biggest threat to the Canadians, it was the much less skilled USA team, but a USA team that cycled, that played gritty, that played the Canadian style game, which is today’s NHL game.

I’d like to use the St Louis blues as an example. If you look at the top 6 forward group they are building there. David Backes. Chris Stewart. Even Berglund, Oshie. Berglund also has the big size and is good on the cycle, and Oshie is smaller but he’s very gritty, and he plays that Canadian way. For me, this is the future. In fact it’s the present. Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin weren’t the top 3 most productive players on a team (or most productive line, even though they didn’t play with each other much this season), it was Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan. Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, etc, they weren’t the top goalscorers this year, it was Corey Perry. Even the Sedins cycle like crazy. It was the year of the Kesler’s, the Perry’s. Basically, the canadian style guys, the guys with the combination of size, skill, muscle, and grit. You can see this trend everywhere, from the Olympics that I mentioned, to the top goal scorers, to the Detroit/San Jose series. If you look at the players having the most impact in the Vancouver series, it’s Burrows and Kesler. Grit, strength, speed, skill. It’s not the Filppula type player.

And that’s where I feel Detroit is really in trouble. They have the wrong type of roster for today’s NHL. Zetterberg and Franzen, healthy, are gritty enough, and can cycle well-enough (very well) to be good players in today’s NHL. But Filppula, Hudler, those are the type of guys who need to be replaced with David Backes types if this team wants to succeed in the NHL today. You can even see this trend I’m talking about with the small players. Look at the small guys who are successful now. St Louis, very gritty, real fitness guru. Brad Marchand, as much as a grinder as he is a skill guy, and he’s very strong for his size. Parise, also gritty, also can cycle.

If the Wings want to succeed next year, they need to transition to this new-new-NHL game very quickly. A big part of this roster needs to be gutted. Cleary, Holmstrom, and Bertuzzi can’t be your three power options after Franzen. You need big upgrades there, and over Filppula. I’ve always been a Hudler fan, and one guy like that, I still think maybe you can get some mileage out of him. But, in general, the NHL is all about power forwards again. You even saw it in round one, Shane Doan isn’t even a premier power forward, but it seems like those are the guys who win you hockey games now. Going into the season, Hudler was supposed to be a better player than Doan, and certainly more productive. But he wasn’t. There’s not much room for those strictly finesse guys anymore. For all Huder’s skill, his smooth skating, his smooth hands, his smooth passing, none of that did even half the damage that Doan did by just dumping it in, hitting people, cycling, etc etc. Even Datsyuk, he relies heavily on having that underrated strength, and great power/balance in his legs. You need those strong, sturdy, combination-players now like Backes, Kesler, Pavelski, Clowe, Doan, Perry, Getzlaf, Ryan, etc etc. And Detroit is really short on those types of players. If they want to get back to the top, they will need to change their philosophy and bring in these types of guys (either that, or get the NHL to increase the rink size).

Just my thoughts. Not even thoughts. It’s just what my eyes are seeing. It has to be there for me to see it.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/01/11 at 09:08 PM ET

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EDJ:

Fair enough again. Hey I want to believe the Wings are better. I’m just seeing nothing to that effect. I definitely thought they were better than they’re showing now a week ago though. That is to say, it’s like evolution or whatever, it makes sense, but they haven’t found every fossil from every stage of evolution. Like there are still black spots here, points of uncertainty, like how they could look so good against Phoenix and this bad against San Jose. That’s what makes me think it’s partially Babcock. Maybe the Wings are better than Phoenix, but Phoenix’s tactics suited the Wings so well, they played like they were way, way better. And then maybe San Jose is just a little better, or “better,” than Detroit, or in your opinion not better at all, but because Mclellan seems to have the perfect tactics (with the D always pinching and everything) to beat Detroit, they look way, way better.

That’s what makes me wonder if there’s more to it than just Phoenix is awful and San Jose is the greatest team of all time. Seems like there’s another element in there. I still think at the end of the day San Jose is much bigger and much faster, and it’s hard to overcome both of those things. If they’re bigger, you can beat themby being faster. If they’re faster, you canbeat them by being bigger and slowing the game down and wearing them down. But you can’t be smaller and slower. It’s a deadly combination in my opinion. But yeah if it makes you feel any better, I’m not claiming to know everything, or to have a complete explanation on what’s different from Phoenix to now.

Maybe their muscles weren’t used to the 9 day rest and completely shut down? You work like crazy all season, you play every 2-4 days, and then after months and months of that, a 9 day rest could do that thing where your muscles build up and get all sore and shutdown for a few weeks, and if you try to play again before they recooperate, your at like 3/4 speed always.

I was worried about this at first, but then someone made the point to me that they were sure the Wings would be lifting weights and working their muscles the whole time to avoid this phenomenon. Maybe not? You would have to figure.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/01/11 at 09:16 PM ET

Tuba Guy's avatar

I hate how similar these two games were to last year’s matchup against SJ. I don’t know why Babcock is being outcoached nor why he refuses to change lines and strategies that aren’t working, mid-game.

Posted by Tuba Guy from Royal Oak, MI on 05/01/11 at 09:23 PM ET

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Neither is skating as well as they could. Besides that, San Jose’s defense is certainly not deeper after losing an elite player in Rob Blake.

Ian White today is better than Rob Blake was last year.  Blake was nowhere near an elite player.

Posted by RoneFace on 05/01/11 at 09:25 PM ET

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We can argue over points like whether being bigger equates to being stronger, but at the heart of the argument is that I think the Wings are better and you think the Sharks are.

Based on what?  The Sharks are 9-2 (I think) against the Wings since the start of the second round last year.  That’s not about effort or officiating or bad bounces, that’s about one team being better than the other.  Maybe not a ton better, and maybe not better across the board at every position, but consistently better.

Posted by RoneFace on 05/01/11 at 09:34 PM ET

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Tuba-guy:

Agreed. I think Draper and Modano should both be in the next game. As good as the Wings PK has been the first two games, DET would have won game 1 and would have been tied in game 2 had they not allowed a powerplay goal in both games. Draper might help the PK and the faceoffs. He also adds much needed speed, as does Modano. Modano is really key for me I think he adds much needed offensive depth and just speed, skating. He brings a new element. The only downside of Draper to me is that he takes offense away from that bottom line, just because he’s so bad at finishing. Whenever there’s a good scoring chance and you see that it’s Draper, you just know it won’t go in. He can’t put in the corner for his life. Regardless he shold be in there for speed, PK, and faceoffs, and Modano in there for speed and offensive depth. Miller and Eaves for me have been mostly useless so I would take at least one of them out.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/01/11 at 09:34 PM ET

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Roneface:

Agree absolutely. The record doesn’t lie. The dominant play doesn’t lie in my opinion. But he’s entitled to his opinion so I’m trying to be respectful and agree to disagree. I posted my opinions and he posted his. But you’re right maybe hearing why exactly he believes that when everything seems to point to the contrary would be nice.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/01/11 at 09:37 PM ET

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