Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Sharks wrap-up and an update on the whole ‘Wings moving East’ thing from Devellano

The Detroit Red Wings managed to do something on Thursday that only the Red Wings could do, at least from this partisan fan’s perspective: the Wings expended even more energy than they did in their 2-1 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks while overcoming yet another “incidental contact” waved-off goal, an early 12-to-1 shot disadvantage, a 1-0 first period deficit and a furious assault from a very motivated San Jose Sharks team…

Before dropping a 3-1 decision thanks to a bang-bang play, a big boo-boo by Joey MacDonald and the kind of frantic, jittery and unfocused game—playing the Sharks’ game instead of slowing the pace of play down, establishing possession and control of the puck and using strong positional play and winger support to attack the Sharks’ net via sustained pressure and secondary and tertiary scoring opportunities. The Wings didn’t look quite like themselves for the second consecutive night, and they boarded an overnight flight to Phoenix sitting only 3 points ahead of the Sharks on a road trip that’s yielded a 1-1-and-1 record and enough bad breaks of the “earned” variety to drive the bleary-eyed fans who’ve stayed up to watch the Wings to the kind of distraction and agitation that the Wings have displayed on the ice of late.

The Sharks were very justifiably satisfied with themselves after winning their eighth straight game and earning a 3-and-1 season series record over the Wings while happily trading rushes, banging the Red Wings’ defenders to generate turnovers, efficiently moving the puck around by cycling it down low and relentlessly attacking Joey MacDonald. The Sharks spoke glowingly of their effort to the Mercury News’s David Pollak...

“It’s getting to the point at the end of the year that you can feel the fans getting excited,” Heatley said. “A team like Detroit, we notice it for sure.”

The victory extended the Sharks’ season-high winning streak to eight games and pulled them within three points of the second-place Red Wings in the Western Conference standings with each team having 17 games to play. San Jose is 17-2-1 in its past 20 games. The only time the Sharks had even a little breathing room came late in the third period on a misplay by Detroit goalie Joey MacDonald that gave San Jose a two-goal lead with less than five minutes remaining. The play began with Joe Thornton sending the puck deep in the Detroit zone with Marleau in pursuit. MacDonald came far out of his net to play the puck, but his stick and Marleau’s reached the puck simultaneously.

“I just got a little piece of it,” Marleau said. “He was shooting it at the same time, and it went off their d-man and into the net.”

In a game where Sharks coach Todd McLellan was relatively satisfied with his team’s effort…

“We got away from some of the things that we did well in the first 10 minutes, took some penalties, and I was worried it would be reminiscent of games in Detroit where they came out real strong and we ended up winning,” McLellan said. “Fortunately it didn’t end up that way.”

And, as Pollak notes, his line machinations, which forced Wings coach Mike Babcock to shake up his lines, pairing Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk together with Johan Franzen, dropping Jiri Hudler to the Darren Helm-Kris Draper line, adding Justin Abdelkader to the Mike Modano-Tomas Holmstrom line and returning Valtteri Filppula his natural center’s position between Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary:

When Detroit coach Mike Babcock moved Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg onto the same line, McLellan countered by moving Marleau alongside Thornton and Devin Setoguchi. The move seemed to work as the Sharks regained the edge in play, keeping the puck deep in the Detroit zone for extended periods of time.

McLellan had this to say to Pollak about his tweaks:

“They put Pav and Hank together and I’m obviously aware of how good they can be. It wasn’t that Logan [Couture] couldn’t do the job, but I liked the bigger bodies with Patty [Marleau] and he could really skate. He was having a heck of a night…. It was Jumbo and Patty against Pav and Hank and anybody else that was out there. I thought they did a really good job.”

Heatley, who was robbed of a hat trick by nothing more than poor aim when firing at the Wings’ empty net, noted that the Sharks “got started on time”...

“The last few times we played them, they really outplayed us at the start of the game and that’s something we wanted to change tonight.”
...
Heatley on his backcheck that broke up Detroit’s short-handed, odd-man rush:

“We know their forwards on the PK like to attack and they’re pretty good short-handed throughout, so you’ve got to be aware when those guys are out there.”

And then there was the “incidental contact” call which negated a game-tying first-period goal by Niklas Kronwall because Johan Franzen was, depending on your point of view, either preventing Antti Niemi from doing his job or simply doing his best to get out of the crease before Kronwall blasted a shot through Niemi:

Antti Niemi on the interference call against Johan Franzen that waived off an apparent Detroit goal:

“I didn’t know. I felt the puck hit my shoulder and I wasn’t sure at first. . . .  You can never trust that they call it, so you’ve got to try and stop it anyway.”

Heatley continued discussing the magnitude of the Sharks’ win in speaking to SJSharks.com...

“I thought we really came out hard in the first 10-15 minutes and took control,” Heatley said. “We took a couple of penalties and let them back in a little bit. That last bit of the second and third we dominated pretty well. The last few times we played them they really outplayed us at the start of the game and that is something we wanted to change tonight.”
...
“They are a good team and we are a good team. They are always good games,” Joe Thornton said.

And, as the Sharks’ website notes, San Jose won their seventh game over their past 9 tangles with the Wings in no small part due to a costly gaffe by Joey MacDonald, who was superb otherwise in the Wings’ crease, stopping 14 of the 15 shots he faced in the 1st period...

San Jose’s third goal was definitely a result of work, if not a conventional method. On the play, Patrick Marleau was driving on the forecheck and forced Joey MacDonald to rush his clearing attempt. Marleau got his stick on the puck and it went off an opposing blueliner and across the goal line.

“I just got a little piece of it and it went off their D-man and in the net,” Marleau said. “I hit the puck and at the same time as MacDonald. I knew I got a piece of it.”

McLellan felt that Marleau earned his bounce:

[Marleau’s goal] “Its funny what happens when you go hard. I know the guys were bugging Heater. He had a wide open net and missed and Patty didn’t even shoot it and he scored. Sometimes you’ve got to get them ugly. Usually the hockey gods take care of you at the end of the night if you put the honest effort in. It doesn’t always go your way but it likely will.”

The Dan Boyle-less Sharks reiterated their points of emphasis to the Associated Press’s Josh Dubow:

“It’s fun to play them,” Heatley said. “We really respect them. Tonight you could feel it in the crowd. The fans were really into it. It’s getting to that point at the end of the year coming toward the playoffs. You can feel the fans get excited. Against a team like Detroit, we notice it for sure.”
...
“We wanted to get a quick start knowing they played in Anaheim last night,” captain Joe Thornton said. “They’re a good team, we’re a good team. These are always good games. It really doesn’t matter who we play against right now, we have to get wins.”

The Red Wings, on the other hand, could only shake their heads at bad luck, bad bounces and an inconsistent effort:

Joey MacDonald made 25 saves, including a tough stop on Devin Setoguchi early in the third and another on a deflection by Jamal Mayers later in the period that kept Detroit in the game. But the Red Wings were unable to generate any strong scoring chances in the third before the Sharks put it away with a fluky goal. Patrick Marleau was chasing after a dump in when MacDonald came out of his net to try to clear the puck. But the MacDonald hit the puck off Marleau’s stick and it deflected off a defenseman and into the Detroit net for Marleau’s 25th goal of the season.

“One of those bounces,” MacDonald said. “It was one of those nights, a lot of bounces. Hey, we were in it right to the end. It was a 2-1 game.”

Ugly:

After going 1 for 9 on the power play Wednesday and failing to convert their first chance this game, the Red Wings finally broke through on the man advantage late in the first after Justin Braun was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass. Detroit had one goal waved off because Johan Franzen made contact with Niemi, but Holmstrom broke through when he tipped Mike Modano’s shot past Niemi for the equalizer.

“The bottom line is we have to skate better than we did tonight as a group,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Our big guys in particular have to skate better, but they played hard minutes last night. But the bottom line is we think we can skate better as a team and we can spend more time in the offensive zone. But I wasn’t disappointed in our effort tonight.”

Player comments aside, it’s important to take a gander at the game’s narrative, and the Free Press’s Helene St. James provides a superb recap of the game’s events for those of you who couldn’t stay up to watch the game:

IN THE FIRST: The Sharks owned the puck the first several minutes of the game and were rewarded for their relentlessness when Patrick Marleau circled the behind the net and nearly all the way to the blue line before dropping off a pass that Ian White sent to the net, where Dany Heatley completed the job, at 3:51. Five minutes into the game, the Sharks had a 9-1 shot advantage. The Wings thought they tied the game on their second power play when Niklas Kronwall’s shot sailed in behind Antti Niemi, but it was waived off because of a goalie interference call on Johan Franzen.

There was no such issue the next time the next time the puck went in San Jose’s net. This time, Pavel Datsyuk played the puck along the blue line to Nicklas Lidstrom, who found Mike Modano. Modano snapped a shot on net that Holmstrom tipped, making it 1-1 at the end of 20 minutes.

IN THE SECOND: Heatley scored again 3:54 into the second period and 40 seconds into a Sharks power play, when he deflected Joe Pavelski’s shot while stationed just outside the crease. The Wings outshot the Sharks, 12-5, in the second period.

The second goal was particularly ugly because Valtteri Filppula lost a faceoff at the right dot in the Wings’ zone, and as both Ruslan Salei and Jonathan Ericsson chased after the player Joe Thornton slid the puck to on a side-to-side play, and Filppula stuck with Thornton, Pavelski reversed the flow and slid the puck to Heatley, who tapped the puck between MacDonald’s legs before Justin Abdelkader could make his way from the right side boards to cover his man.

Heatley also snuck into the lip of the crease on his first goal and banged home a rebound while Pavel Datsyuk was subbing for an out-of-position Brad Stuart, leaving Heatley uncovered. Datsyuk and Lidstrom finished at -2, but didn’t necessarily earn their minuses as they were two of the Wings’ few consistent performers.

IN THE THIRD: The Wings were thwarted in the third period as the Sharks kept them to the outside while continuing to attack MacDonald. Patrick Marleau got credit for the goal with 4:12 left, which saw MacDonald come out to play the puck only to have it hit the stick of Marleau and redirect into an open net.

Statistics never tell the whole story, or even part of it, but Chris Chelios came down to speak with Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy after noting another out-of-character occurrence:

OUT OF BREATH: During one sequence in the second period, the Sharks had the Wings so hemmed into their own zone that Brad Stuart ended up being on the ice for 2:53, while Danny Cleary was on for 2:41 straight.

Valtteri Filppula also had a 2:35 shift in the second period, and the vast majority of the Wings’ players who don’t play 90-plus second shifts on the power play or PK stayed out for at or around the 90-second mark, sometimes on multiple occasions.

The Wings’ attention to detail was sorely lacking in many respects on Thursday, and their long shifts were merely part of the problem on a night where the Wings never seemed to gain their trademark poise with or without the puck. They spent most of the evening either losing one-on-one battles for the puck because no teammates supported them, fruitlessly attempting to skate through the neutral zone and attack the Sharks’ net—which they very rarely reached—as individuals instead of a team, trying to do far too much on their own (and the Wings missed Brian Rafalski’s puck-moving ability, big time, in terms of getting their transition game on track), and/or chasing the Sharks’ puck-carriers around the ice.

The Sharks sealed their slot and diffused the Wings’ play while forcing them to play the whole night, if not on their heels, than perhaps on the run, constantly chased down by a team that wasn’t bigger, stronger, or faster than the Wings per se, but was simply hungrier, more determined and more focused upon exploiting a Wings team somewhat mentally drained from their 2-1 OT loss to the Ducks on Thursday.

Babcock told St. James that he expected the Sharks to get the jump on the Wings early on:

“Any time you play back-to-back nights, you know the other team is going to come out flying,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we did a good job getting the power play goal to come back and make it 2-1, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t disappointed with our effort tonight.”
...
“I knew the first 10 minutes was going to be like it was,” Babcock said. “You’re trying to survive that and you’re hoping Joey is going to be able to hold up, and I thought he did a real good job for us. We got through that and then we got the power play going. I thought we played really well in the second period, took most of the second period over and played well. I thought we did a good job for back-to-back nights, I thought we hung in there real good.”

The Wings did out-shoot the Sharks 12-5 in the second period, but not only were out-shot 8-5 in the third period, but on a night where the Wings’ fit-and-finish simply wasn’t there, they went an ugly 25-and-37 in the faceoff circle and had 21 shots blocked and fired 12 wide (in other words, the Wings put more pucks into Sharks players or fired ‘em wide of the net than the 27 that hit or went by Niemi).

As St. James notes, the only time the Wings did look like themselves was on Tomas Holmstrom’s then game-tying goal near the end of the first period. Pavel Datsyuk won a faceoff at the right dot, the Sharks snagged the puck but Nicklas Lidstrom kept the puck in, tossed it over to Mike Modano and he fired a shot on the net that was tipped by Tomas Holmstrom:

I can’t fault the Wings’ effort as they did work their butts off, and Detroit’s players accentuated that hard-working positive (sometimes hard work gets you nowhere, no matter how hard you try, and the Wings looked like they were playing in quicksand at times):

“First period, they had the start, but I think we came back and played a decent first,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “Then after that, it was a back-and-forth game all the time. I think we battled, but unfortunately we couldn’t score enough goals.”
...
“I thought we battled hard,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “They got the 2-1 goal on the power play where it looked like they had a set play gong and we didn’t recover quick enough. But I thought we did battle hard.”

Brad Stuart “thirded” Zetterberg and Lidstrom’s assessments while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...

“We know we’re still a good team and they’re good team (too),” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “They’re playing real well right now. They’ve definitely played well against us and seem to get up against us.”

And after Joey MacDonald sighed about the dagger-in-the-heart goal, which also involved a defenseman who was channeling his inner Andreas Lilja again...

Marleau and Jonathan Ericsson went rushing for the puck, MacDonald came out to play it, but as MacDonald whacked at it, the puck batted off either the stick of Ericsson or Marleau and fluttered into the net at 15:48 of the third period.

“The three of us got there at the same time,” MacDonald said. “I got there first and shot it, and I don’t know if it hit our defenseman, or their guy, but it went into the net. One of those bounces.”

The captain did get down to brass tacks:

Both teams were 1 for 3 on the power play. But overall, the Wings would have preferred to have generated more traffic in front of Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (26 saves). Too often, the Wings played on the perimeter and made life a little easier for Niemi.

“The last couple of games we scored a goal each (game),” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We have to do a better job of driving to the net.”

We’ll head back to the Sharks’ website for a moment as it posted a slate of Babcock comments worth repeating:

“I thought we got through the first ten minutes. We got the game at 1-1. I thought we were better there than in the second period. In the end they scored a power play goal there to go up 2-1. But I thought it was a real good road game for us here tonight.”

“We were on back-to-back nights and I thought we did lots of good things. Unfortunately, that bounce there, I thought we were going to tie it up. In the end, that third goal made it harder.”

“Anytime you play back to back nights, you know the other team is going to come out flying. I thought we did a good job getting the power play goal to come back and make it 1-1, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

Babcock also addressed his line-tweaking while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan, who notes that Johan Franzen, despite extremely strong play of late, hasn’t scored a goal in 14 games:

“I just tried to get whoever’s playing, playing,’’ Babcock said. He liked the energy his third and fourth lines provided, but said, “The bottom line is we got to skate better than we did tonight as a group. Our big guys got to skate better. They played hard minutes last night on that bad ice in Anaheim, so I think that affects you, but I think we can skate better as a team and spend more time in the offensive zone.’‘

That’s the understatement of March, thus far, anyway.

Again, overall, the Wings tried to accentuate the positive before heading to Phoenix for what Babcock told Trevor Thompson would be a full day off—no practice, though the Wings may call up a defenseman from Grand Rapids in case Ruslan Salei’s wife delivers the couple’s third child—for a team that will play its fourth game in six nights against the Coyotes on Saturday:

“We did battle hard,’’ Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It was a playoff-type game, just like we had at home against them last week (4-3 loss on Feb. 22). You know these games are going to be tight and you have to play well defensively.’‘
...
“They’re a good team, they’re playing really well right now,’’ Stuart said. “When it comes down to it, I know we’ll be better than we were tonight. They’ve played well against us, they seem to get up for us.’‘
...
“Any way you look at it they’re seven (wins) and we’re two (since last year’s playoff series),’’ Babcock said. “We’ll have to have another little playoff series to figure that out.’‘

With only 17 games left before the playoffs, however, and a slate of incredibly inconsistent efforts over the past two months, even now that the team’s relatively healthy, the Wings need to sort themselves out and reestablish the kind of identity grounded in patient, poised and prototypical Red Wings hockey that the team displayed over the first quarter of the regular season. Hopefully, the Wings will start getting their collective head back together and their work ethic back in the right, focused place on Saturday against Phoenix.

If not, this sleep-deprived Red Wings fan who’s working on two hours over the last 24 thanks to ferrying a friend to a court date on Thursday morning will admittedly issue a few expletives, at least at the TV, before pretending that I’m biased but somewhat professional while cobbling the Wings-Yotes recap together on Sunday morning.


Multimedia:

Highlights: ESPN posted a 34-second highlight clip;

Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area posted a 1:41 highlight clip:

And NHL.com’s four-and-a-half minute highlight clip is narrated by Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy:


Post-game: Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area posted Todd McLellan’s post-game presser…

 

And interviews with Patrick Marleau…

 

Antti Niemi…

 

Joe Thornton…

 

And an on-ice interview with Dany Heatley:

 

To spare you from Flash overload, here are links to the Sharks’ website’s offerings, including McLellan’s presser, Joe Thornton’s post-game comments,
Dany Heatley’s media scrum and Patrick Marleau’s media scrum;

And Fox Sports Detroit posted Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy’s take on the game, as well as a 2:42 clip of Trevor Thompson’s interview with Wings coach Mike Babcock and the media scrums of Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller.


Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 12-image gallery;

The Mercury News embedded a 4-image gallery in its website’s recap;

NHL.com posted a 32-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted a 22-image gallery;

The Sharks’ website posted a 32-image Flash gallery and embedded an image in its website’s recap;

And the Red Wings’ website posted a 32-image gallery and embedded an image in its website’s recap.


Statistics: Shots 28-27 San Jose overall, breaking down as 15-10 San Jose in the 1st period, 12-5 Detroit in the 2nd period and 8-5 San Jose in the 3rd period.

The Wings went 1-for-3 in 5:10 of PP time and the Sharks went 1-for-3 in 4:40 of PP time.

MacDonald stopped 25 of 28 shots against;

Niemi stopped 26 of 27.

Our goal: Holmstrom (14) from Modano (8) and Lidstrom (39).

The 3 stars, per Dan Rusanowsky: Niemi, Marleau and Heatley.

Faceoffs: 37-25 San Jose (40% won by Detroit);

Blocked shots: 21-16 San Jose;

Missed shots: 17-12 San Jose (total attempted shots 61-60 Sharks);

Hits: 24-18 San Jose;

Giveaways: 12-9 San Jose;

Takeaways: 11-10 San Jose.

Individual stats:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 8-and-6 (57%); Zetterberg went 5-and-9 (36%); Filppula went 4-and-7 (36%); Modano went 4-and-6 (40%); Helm went 3-and-4 (43%); Draper went 1-and-1 (50%); Franzen went 0-and-2; both Abdelkader and Cleary lost single faceoffs.

Shots: Abdelkader led the team with 5 shots; Stuart and Kronwall had 4; Hudler, Helm and Franzen had 2; Kindl, Lidstrom, Cleary, Draper, Filppula, Ericsson, Modano and Holmstrom had 1.

Blocked attempts: Zetterberg and Bertuzzi had 3 shot attempts blocked; Lidstrom, Cleary and Franzen had 2 shot attempts blocked by Sharks players; Kindl, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Stuart, Salei, Hudler, Ericsson, Kronwall and Modano had 1 shot attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Stuart, Salei, Draper and Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Cleary, Hudler and Franzen missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Abdelkader led the team with 4 hits; Franzen had 3; Salei, Bertuzzi and Kronwall had 2; Cleary, Datsyuk, Stuart, Helm and Holmstrom had 1.

Giveaways: Joey MacDonald had 2 giveaways; Kindl, Stuart, Helm, Ericsson, Kronwall, Franzen and Holmstrom had 1 giveaway.

Takeaways: Filppula had 3 takeaways; Datsyuk, Stuart, Draper, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Franzen and Holmstrom had 1.

Blocked opponent shots: Stuart blocked 4 shots; Lidstrom blocked 3; Filppula and Kronwall blocked 2; Datsyuk, Salei, Bertuzzi, Ericsson and Holmstrom blocked 1 shot.

Penalties taken: Kindl, Draper, Kronwall, Franzen and Modano were tagged with minor penalties.

Plus-minus: Lidstrom and Datsyuk finished at -2; Cleary, Stuart, Hudler, Ericsson, Franzen and Holmstrom finished at -1, so the team was a collective -10.

Points: Holmstrom had a goal; Modano and Lidstrom had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 24:35 played; Lidstrom played 24:28; Stuart played 22:19;

Zetterberg played 19:25; Filppula played 18:58; Ericsson played 18:48;

Franzen played 18:44; Datsyuk played 17:51; Bertuzzi played 16:23;

Cleary played 16:13; Salei played 14:46; Modano played 13:34;

Holmstrom played 13:09; Abdelkader played 13:00; Kindl played 12:42;

Hudler played 11:25; Draper played 9:26; Helm played 9:26.


Part II: Red Wings notes: • You know how I mentioned Darren Dreger’s suggestion that the Wings could move to the Eastern Conference yesterday, suggesting that it was poppycock? MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to Wings VP Jimmy Devellano about the suggestion, and he responded as follows:

“I don’t foresee any shift of any franchises, based on what I know, and I’m in tune with what’s happening in the league,” Devellano said.

Reports out of Canada this week suggest that the Phoenix Coyotes or Atlanta Thrashers could potentially relocate to Winnipeg as soon as next season. A move by Phoenix would not affect the Red Wings. But if Atlanta were to shift to Winnipeg, a Western Conference club would move to the East, and that could be Detroit. But it’s moot, Devellano said, because no team is going anywhere.

“I think that’s pure Toronto media (speculation),” Devellano said. “It’s about getting another franchise in Canada. Let’s hope someday they do. (But) I’m told the Phoenix thing (Matthew Hulsizer’s deal with the city of Glendale to purchase the Coyotes) is just about done. I haven’t heard about Atlanta or anybody else (possibly relocating). As much as we would like to come to the East, there’s nothing to it.”

Mike Modano also offered a solution for the Wings’ sputtering power play (more on that below from St. James):

“Just shoot it,” Modano said. “If they want to block it, pound away. If they want to keep getting in front of it, just keep shooting and then things kind of open up, as far as back door and cross the seam. But if you look for that before the shot your percentage is going to be low.”

• The Free Press’s Helene St. James offers a much-needed update on the status of Brian Rafalski. Jakub Kindl’s done a fantastic job of stepping up to give the Wings a third dedicated offensive defenseman (alongside Lidstrom and Kronwall) recently, but nobody can replace Rafalski’s offensive talent, even with Brad Stuart rounding into form as a superb compliment to Lidstrom:

Defenseman Brian Rafalski, out since Saturday’s game at Buffalo because of back spasms, was sent home Thursday. “He woke up and wasn’t feeling great, so we sent him home,” general manager Ken Holland said. Holland said Rafalski, who missed a game in December for the same reason, might go see a specialist, but Rafalski “isn’t concerned it’s serious,” Holland said. “We just think he needs more rest.”

St. James also spoke to the Wings about their sometimes-sputtering power play…

The Wings’ power play has perplexed most of the season, seemingly ineffective on many nights – such as Wednesday’s 1-for-9 performance – yet it still ranks fifth overall in the NHL at 21.4%. Babcock has been very vocal about wanting his power play personnel to take more shots – or just any, really – but for the players on the ice, there’s a decision to be made whether to try a shot when a lane is blocked, or pass and hope a teammate has a clearer angle. “You don’t want to take the shot and have it blocked, because you can see you can’t get it through,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It’s hard when you’re standing there by the point and you’ve got to get it by two guys – the first forward, and then to have a D stepping out. It makes it harder to shoot from the point.” The Wings went 1-for-3 against the Sharks. “I didn’t love the power play, I thought it was OK, but I didn’t love it,” Babcock said. “But their penalty kill is good, too.”

And she both spoke to Brad Stuart about “battling” through his long shift and discussed the fact that Pavel Datsyuk’s posted 13 points in the 12 games he’s played since returning from a broken wrist. His teammates aren’t surprised at all by Datsyuk’s ability to both return to dominant form and resuscitate Jiri Hudler’s season:

“I think Pavel’s been great,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I mean, he’s been our best forward for sure this last while. Z carried us for a long time there, but since he (Datsyuk) has come back, he’s fresh and he’s jumping.”
...
“He’s huge for us, there’s no doubt about that,” Niklas Kronwall said of Datsyuk. “He’s a top player in this league, there’s no doubt about that. Just the plays he makes out there and the room that he creates for his linemates, it’s pretty remarkable to see every night.”

• Mike Modano agreed while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan about Datsyuk:

Since he has returned, Datsyuk has 13 points (eight goals, five assists). And there have been so many jaw-dropping plays. A beautiful goal against Los Angeles that featured great stickhandling before a dead-eye shot. Banking a shot off goalie Dan Ellis in Anaheim. Three goals in games against Tampa Bay and Anaheim where Datsyuk was unquestionably the best player on the ice.

“He’s just a world-class player,” Mike Modano said.

Datsyuk himself, however, thinks that he’s got some room for improvement:

“I feel OK but I think I can play better,” Datsyuk said. “It’s a long time. It’s (difficult) to come back in perfect shape. I’ve never had that before.”

Oddly enough, Modano, who’s given the Wings nothing less than fantastic play as a capable third-line center with size, superb speed, good faceoff-winning ability, still-healing wrist included, and a power play point man while helping Valtteri Filppula slowly regain his form offered a similar assessment of his play:

“Still pretty average,” said Modano of how he was feeling. “Not great. Just catching up to speed.”

Kulfan also offers a few slightly different quips from Babcock and Lidstrom about the team’s power play issues, but Brad Stuart’s comment about the fact that the Wings had to stay over in Los Angeles on Wednesday night and fly into San Jose on Thursday morning merits spotlighting:

“I kind of liked it,” Brad Stuart said. “We got back to the hotel last night and had a good meal and were able to get to bed a little earlier. You probably don’t skate (in the morning) on a back-to-back anyway. It’s a quick little flight (from Anaheim to San Jose) and we got in, had lunch. I liked it, actually.”

I like mornings as long as I’m allowed to watch the sun rise and then promptly go to bed after a productive night, so I’m not qualified to comment here.


Part III: Also of Red Wings-related note: I don’t want to bombard you with any more mandatory reading regarding the news from Boston University researchers that former Red Wings enforcer Bob Probert was suffering from a degenerative neurological condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. I thought that Dani Probert rather elegantly told the Windsor Star that, in fulfilling her husband’s wishes, she was not attempting to encourage the NHL to ban fighting, but instead to further discussions as to how to better diagnose head injuries and ensure that players are safer by talking about the issue

The link I just posted includes a few stories from the Detroit Free Press and New York Times, among other sources, and if you’re interested in Boston University’s note about the findings, the takes of the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc and the Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott, the Northwest Herald’s Rick Telander, or that of the Vancouver Province’s Cam Cole, a report by the Detroit News’s Rod Beard or a video from WXYZ, please do so on your own.

My only agenda mirrors that of Mrs. Probert—I suffered a severe concussion five years ago, and it took me a full year to recover from the symptoms, and all I received after 2 CT scans and a brief hospitalization was a pamphlet that, in effect, said, “Congratulations! You have a concussion!”

I’d like to see the NHL and all sports leagues do more to properly diagnose concussions, regardless of how a player suffers them, and I’d like to see the science of understanding concussions so that people can be actually treated for an injury that we simply cannot do anything to help save waiting for the brain to heal itself, if it chooses to do so. Whether that involves giving referees the discretion to call penalties on the kinds of gratuitous hits to the head that broke Brad Stuart’s jaw or something else, that’s not really my place to say right now.

• So let’s go with this as a closer, per the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa:

Mark Recchi tied Scott Stevens for sixth place on the NHL list for games (1,635). Recchi is scheduled to tie Dave Andreychuk (1,639) a week from tonight against the Islanders. Assuming good health, Recchi will tie Chris Chelios (1,651) for fourth place April 6 against the Islanders.

• As I always find something after I “finish” a blog post, maybe we can go with this from Nicholas J. Cotsonika instead:

Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland looks like a genius for signing goaltender Jimmy Howard to an extension with a $2.25 million cap hit just before the San Jose Sharks signed Antti Niemi to one with a $3.8 million cap hit. By convincing players to fit his salary structure, Holland has been able to keep his roster deeper than almost any other in the league. That said, Howard still received enough of a raise from the $717,667 he is making this year that Holland might have to trim a player next season.

That depends on whether the salary cap goes up, which it probably will, but one way or another, with Mursak and Emmerton coming up and Smith possibly following them, there will be changes to the roster this summer.

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Comments

Guilherme's avatar

Hey. I disappeared for a while, with the new job and those damn west coast games with games starting midnight.

Anyway, how many road wins we had in a row? Se7en? Well, the farthest you are from you last win, the closest you are to the next one. I won’t read much into our first road loss in a while, which happened on the second leg of a back-to-back against one of the best home teams in the league.

We need to straighten up at home, and that’s it.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 03/04/11 at 08:06 AM ET

cigar_nurse's avatar

The Wings look like it’s preseason again with Willa and Wally coming back in the lineup as linemates. It doesn’t help that Babs keeps juggling the lines. They look like a chemistry lab trying to come up with the right formula. You see many passes and moves not connecting and creating more lethal results we all are familiar with.Well 17 games to figure it all out with 10 in the Joe. It all starts in the desert on Saturday.

Posted by cigar_nurse from Greenville South Cakalakee on 03/04/11 at 02:42 PM ET

Avatar

I just can’t figure why Miller is taken out of the lineup in favor of Draper. Hasn’t he proven himself worthy of a roster spot yet?! He’s a superb penalty killer, and the Wings were playing a team that has killed them with the PP. Plus, he’s looked pretty sharp in the offensive zone lately as well. His balls-out effort certainly couldn’t have hurt last night.

As for JMac, prior to the gaffe that led to the third goal I counted no less than FOUR instances where he went to play the puck and gave it right to SJ. I mean litterally put the puck right on a Sharks’ players stick.

Piss on it. Go get em in the desert in front 10,000 Wings fans. 7 out of 10 points wouldn’t be too awful for a 5 game roadie.

Posted by godblender on 03/04/11 at 04:53 PM 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.