The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/18/12 at 08:27 AM ET
As the Detroit Red Wings’ players tucked themselves into bed in Phoenix after yet another very late flight on Red Bird II, they could, at least fore a few hours, anyway, prepare for their day of rest and recuperation knowing that their 5-0 win over Buffalo on Monday and their gritty 3-2 shootout win over Dallas on Tuesday placed the team in rare territory:
This morning, the Red Wings sit atop the Western Conference with 30 wins and 61 points, and until this evening, anyway, they also sit in second place in the NHL, only a point behind the New York Rangers. Now the Wings may very well find themselves in fourth or fifth place in the West and the league by the time they face off against Phoenix on Thursday (9 PM EST, FSD/FS Arizona/WXYT), but as the Wings prepare to grind out the rest of their pre-Winter Classic announcement schedule with 4 games in 7 nights prior to the All-Star break and resume their schedule with four games in three Canadian provinces and a return to Phoenix over six nights…You take what you can get and celebrate your achievements when you’re able to do so, no matter how fleeting one’s status as the king of the hill might be.
Some games are played like dogfights, but the Stars, absent Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro, played this one more like a fight between an enforcer and a non-fighter who knows well enough to keep his opponent as close to him as possible to prevent the enforcer from throwing anything more than short jabs. The Wings somewhat understandably had a rough go at times during the first period thanks to their emotional let-down after handily dispatching the Sabres to establish a new home-ice winning streak and the Stars’ physicality—I find it very hard to believe that, as the Stars’ statisticians suggest, Mark Fistric had 10 hits and Stephane Robidas supposedly had 5 of the Stars’ 29 hits (the Wings were credited with 9), but the Stars sure as hell tried to knock the Wings into next week every time they could—or their willingness to trap, trap trap and take advantage of the lax enforcement of obstruction by quite literally tackling and roping down the Wings’ players pretty regularly.
Things did go both ways in that department, but the Stars benefit more from that kind of game, and between their stifling defense, the Wings’ slow wakefulness in the offensive department and the Wings’ inability and/or unwillingness to get traffic on and retrieve rebounds from Richard Bachman as he faced 23 of the 32 shots the Wings fired on him (the Wings fired another 40 pucks wide or into Stars players!). Just as importantly, the Wings’ power play went 0-for-4 and is now a hideous 3-for-40 over the last 13 games, so the Wings’ inability to capitalize on two third-period power plays all but guaranteed overtime (and, thanks to the Stars’ trapping, a shootout) for a team that simply doesn’t possess the same confidence in their ability to score away from the Joe.
As I penned a sort of game narrative, the Dallas News’s Mike Heika (who names Loui Eriksson, Richard Bachman and Jiri Hudler his three stars) did the same thing and ESPN Dallas’s Mark Stepenski did, too, I’d prefer to skip the heavy, heavy doses of philosophy from the Stars’ personnel and skip to a game narrative narrated by its protagonists in DallasStars.com’s John Tranchina’s recap:
The Wings got on the board first when Tomas Holmstrom notched his eighth goal of the year at 6:41 of the opening period. Coming seconds after Conklin made a nice save on Sheldon Souray’s high wrist shot at the other end, rookie Jan Mursak dug the puck away from [Richard] Bachman behind the net following a Detroit dump-in. As Bachman scrambled back into his crease, [Jan] Mursak managed to outbattle [Stephane] Robidas and pass it out front, where a wide open Holmstrom wound up and blasted a one-timer past Bachman’s glove.
“The first one, he can’t play it until it gets to the trapezoid, so he kind of gets stuck there, the puck just doesn’t want to get over the line, so he’s kind of in no-man’s land,” [Stars coach Glenn] Gulutzan said of Bachman’s attempt to play the puck behind the net.
The Stars appeared to draw some energy from the setback and generated a few flurries of activity in the Red Wings’ zone over the next several minutes, eventually drawing an Ian White interference penalty at 10:30. It took Dallas just 29 seconds to capitalize on the power play, as [Brenden] Morrow recorded his eighth goal of the season. After Eriksson stripped Dan Cleary of the puck in the left corner, Morrow camped out in front, screening Conklin, while Goligoski drilled a slap shot from the point that nicked off [Morrow] and trickled through Conklin and over the line. The goal was a big one for the Dallas power play unit, which had been 1-for-22 over the previous seven games.
The Stars jumped ahead at 16:28 on a similar-style goal, thanks to Eriksson’s 17th of the year. This time, it was the ‘Hammer,’ Sheldon Souray launching a rocket from the left point that Conklin got a piece of, but with Eriksson stationed in front, the loose rebound was there for him to tap just over the line.
“We just got traffic in front and Souray shot it to the net and I was able to find the rebound there and it was nice to see it go in,” said Eriksson. “That’s the type of goals we need to score. We had two of those tonight and we need to keep getting those kinds of goals.”
Overall, it was a wildly successful first period for the Stars, outshooting the Wings 11-5 and taking a 2-1 lead into the second. Unfortunately for Dallas, after expertly killing off the rest of a Detroit power play, the Wings cashed in on a fluky bounce to tie it again at 2-2 just 1:43 into the second. On the rush into the Stars’ zone, [Jiri] Hudler attempted a cross-ice pass from the right face-off circle to [Henrik] Zetterberg, but instead it ricocheted off the back of Goligoski’s skate in front and sailed past Bachman’s blocker.
“Yeah, it’s a little deflating, but it was early on and it just tied the game, so you just kind of have to take it for what it is and keep going forward,” said Bachman. “It’s just an unfortunate bounce, it happens sometimes, and you wish you could do something different, but it happened. It was over and after that, I felt like I was able to get into a little bit of a rhythm, so that was good.”
It’s worth reiterating the fact that the Stars out-Winged the Wings in terms of generating traffic in front of Ty Conklin, who was superb in stopping 25 shots and all three Stars shootout shooters, as ESPN Dallas’s Mark Stepenski noted:
The Stars bounced back to tie, scoring on their first power play chance of the game. Brenden Morrow tipped in an Alex Goligoski shot from the point at the 10:59 mark. The Stars took a 2-1 lead with 3:32 left in the period when Sheldon Souray put a shot on net from the left point and Loui Eriksson put the rebound past Red Wings goaltender Ty Conklin.
“Those are the type of goals we need to score right now,” said Eriksson. “We need to get people in front and tonight we scored two of those goals.”
Detroit tied the game 1:43 into the second when Jiri Hudler center the puck from the right circle and it deflected of Goligoski’s skate and into the net. Bachman came up big in the third period, stopping 11 shots including quality saves on Valtteri Filppula, Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk.
“I felt good out there,” Bachman said. “We knew it was going to be a tight third out there, and I wanted to do whatever I could to give the team a chance to win. I would have liked to have seen things go the other, but the guys worked hard out there tonight.”
In terms of the Stars’ philosophical take on the game, I can’t tell you what the Dallas News’s Mike Heika penned in his main recap (I don’t have a subscription, but I can guess that, “The Stars learned” that Richard Bachman can do pretty damn well as Kari Lehtonen’s back-up), but here are some of the Stars’ takes on the game from ESPN Dallas’s Stepenski, who notes that the Stars earned one point over their own back-to-back slate against the Blues (a 1-0 loss) and Tuesday night’s game…
Stars coach Glen Gulutzan on the game: “You don’t want to give up points in your own building, but I have to judge everything by work ethic and if you look at these last two nights, we put in the work. Did we get the result? No. Did we put in the effort? Yes, both nights. That’s the positive for our group. When you put in that effort you’ve got to get points and we did tonight.”
Stars forward Loui Eriksson on playing against St. Louis and Detroit in back-to-back games: “It’s a challenge to win against those teams; they have been playing really well. Too bad we didn’t win, but at least we got one point today. I thought we played really well again today. It was probably the best back-to-back game we’ve had this season. We just have to keep working.”
Stars captain Brenden Morrow on getting one point in the game: “We did get a point and it’s better than nothing. Our last three games I’d like to say we’ve worked real hard and we’ve gotten one point out of a possible six. That’s not going to be playing us hockey in April and May. That’s the ultimate goal. We’ve got to just keep sticking with it. With a depleted lineup – our two big centermen out – this is the way we are going to have to play. We’re going to have to scratch and claw for 60 minutes and hope for breaks. We didn’t get them tonight and we didn’t get them last night. If we keep doing these things we’re doing, they’ll eventually come.
As well as a preview of the other side’s take…
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock: “I knew in general the kind of game it was going to be. You have to give them a lot of credit, two nights in a row [the Stars] really checked and battled hard. Gully had them organized and competing. Any time you’re missing your two best centers, that’s what you’ve got to do. They got good saves in the second half of the game out of their goaltender. Both teams played last night and traveling in late, that’s what you get. It was good for Conks (goalie Ty Conklin) because he hasn’t done a ton of winning this year, so good for him to get a win.”
And the Stars’ PR website posted a slate of post-game notes...
• Despite the loss to Detroit, the Stars are 10-1-1 when allowing two goals to the opposition.
• The shootout loss to Detroit was Dallas’ first against them in club history. They are now 3-1 against them all-time in the shootout.
• After going 0-6 in their previous six power-play opportunities, the Stars went 1-2 with the man advantage tonight.
• Dallas has not allowed a power-play goal in their last two games, killing off all eight opposition power plays in that span.
• This was Dallas’ first shootout loss to since Nov. 25, 2011 vs. Toronto. Dallas now has a 3-2 record in shootouts this season.
• Three of Dallas’ four assists tonight came from defensemen (Goligoski, Robidas, and Souray).
• Loui Eriksson’s goal now gives him points in nine consecutive games against Detroit (7g, 6a, 13pts.).
• The shootout tonight was Richard Bachman’s first of his career.
As did the Dallas News’s Heika...
The Red Wings become the first team in the NHL to 30 wins and their 61 points (30-15-1) leads the Western Conference.
Dallas gets the extra point and moves to 24-19-2 (50 points). They are now ninth in the West. one point behind eighth-place Minnesota with a game in hand.
Read: if the Wings don’t play a fellow Central Division team in the first round of the playoffs, they might be facing the Stars instead.
Detroit is 30-33 all-time in the shootout. The Red Wings rank 13th in shooting percentage at 34.1 percent and 17th in save percentage at .663.
Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk is third all-time in shootout goals at 28. His 49.1 percent success rate (28-57) puts him among the best shooters ever. Frans Nielsen of the Islanders has a 59.4 percent success rate.
Mark Fistric had 10 hits, seven in the first period. Dallas outhit Detroit 29-9.
Cough cough yeah right cough cough…
Steve Ott played 18:20 and was 9-3 in the circle.
The Stars are 0-6-1 on the second night of back-to-back games this season.
The Wings battled the Stars pretty well in the faceoff department, going 27 and 34 against both Ott and perennial Wings nemesis Vernon Fiddler, and had Henrik Zetterberg done better than 4-and-9, had Drew Miller won any of his 3 faceoffs and had Valtteri Filppula won any of the 4 faceoffs he took, the Wings would have done even better.
Heika also offered a pretty damning statistic via Twitter:
Not to rub salt in any wounds, but it came up in the press box. Ty Conklin now 8-11 in shootouts with .527 career save percentage.
That, and in case you haven’t seen it, Jiri Hudler’s game-winner, if you will, involved imitating the Henrik Zetterberg/Peter Forsberg/Kent Nilsson move:
Hudler took it and ran with it, as he told NHL.com’s Steve Hunt:
As Detroit’s second shooter, Hudler pulled Dallas rookie goaltender Richard Bachman to the right side of the goal before tucking the puck just inside the right post with one hand for the winner. Ty Conklin was perfect against All three Dallas shooters.
“It’s always nice when you score on a move like this,” Hudler said. “I faked a shot, the puck stopped for a little second and then there was an open net there. I thought he got the puck. He didn’t expect that, I didn’t, but I was lucky.”
Both teams played Monday night—Detroit at home against Buffalo and Dallas at St. Louis. Wings coach Mike Babcock said he wasn’t surprised that both teams seemed to lack some zip.
“I knew in general the kind of game it was going to be,” Babcock said. “You have to give them a lot of credit, two nights in a row they really checked and battled hard. Both teams played last night and traveling in late, that’s what you get.”
The Wings now have 61 points, one more than Central Division rivals St. Louis and Chicago, and also one more than Vancouver, which leads the Northwest Division.
In the first period, Dallas outshot Detroit 11-5. But in the final 40 minutes of regulation, it was the Red Wings who held a huge edge in that category, outshooting the Stars 23-13.
“I didn’t think it was a high-level game as far as two teams energized and ready to go,” Babcock said. “I thought the compete level was good from both teams that didn’t have a ton of energy.”
The Wings really came to life offensively during and after their power play at the seven-minute mark of the third period, but, again, they couldn’t finish their chances until Hudler got a somewhat fortuitous bounce; while the ice was dry-scraped for the shootout, it was still pretty torn up, which yielded a sticky puck.
As Babcock told the Associated Press, the Wings didn’t care as much about the “how’s” or “why’s” of their win as they did about winning on the road, period:
The Red Wings are an NHL-best 18-2-1 at home, and have won a franchise-record 15 straight at Joe Louis Arena. But Detroit is 12-13 on the road, and had gone 2-5 in its seven previous away games.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock wanted a more competitive road effort, and that’s exactly what he got.
“We talked a lot about that today,” Babcock said. “We’re averaging 1.7 (goals-against) at home and 2.7 against on the road. You can’t win without checking. It’s impossible. You can’t outscore your mistakes. You’ve got to be diligent without the puck if you’re going to have success.”
Conklin stopped 25 shots in his ninth game of the season, giving regular starter Jimmy Howard the night off. Conklin had started only three of the previous 20 games, but he was sharp against Dallas.
“I felt good throughout the game,” Conklin said. “You know your role on the team and try to control your mental errors. It’s nice to be able to contribute.”
Detroit won the first two meetings with Dallas this season by a combined score of 10-6.
Conklin held his ground on every shootout shot, and while I know that he’s about as popular with Wings fans as Jonathan Ericsson is at this point, Conklin’s let the Wings know that he can do the job of backing up Jimmy Howard pretty darn well, too.
Hudler made sure to thank “puck luck” for both his goals (yes, I know the second one doesn’t count) while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“The puck stopped and he (Bachman) didn’t expect it and I didn’t expect it,” Hudler said. “I was lucky.”
Zetterberg felt the bobble may have been the difference.
“It affected the goalie even more,” Zetterberg said. “He (Hudler) said he was going to take it (the Forsberg move) like that and he’s good enough. I saw him do it in the Czech, he knows what to do.”
As for the lucky regulation goal?
Looking for a quick spark to open the second period, the Wings received it from Hudler. Just after a Wings power play went nowhere, Hudler scored one of the more wacky goals of the season. He centered a pass that bounced off Alex Goligoski’s skate high into the air, and past Bachman, who couldn’t react quick enough to make the stop at 1:43 of the second period, Hudler’s 13th goal of the season.
“I saw (Zetterberg) coming in late and I was going to him,” Hudler said. “It came right off him (Goligoski) and it was a good bounce off the skate, almost top shelf. I was lucky. I like it.”
Hudler also emphasized the bigger picture while speaking to the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
“It’s always nice when you score on a move like this,” Hudler said. “I fake the shot, the puck stopped a little bit. He didn’t expect that. I was lucky. It’s great to win. I thought it was a good game, with both teams playing last night. It’s good to go to Phoenix with the two points.”
And St. James duly noted that the Wings played like what my friend Linda likes to call the, “Pod Wings” at some points of the game, truly offering rope-a-dope hockey at its best as they never seemed to be willing or able to take control of the game:
Holmstrom scored on a short slap shot at 6:41 of the first period. Then the Stars converted at 10:59, less than 30 seconds after going on a power play when Brenden Morrow tipped Alex Goligoski’s shot. The Wings barely got into the Dallas zone for long stretches after that, and fell behind, 2-1, when Eriksson flipped a backhand in at 16:28.
“At least we didn’t let them score that many,” Zetterberg said. “We knew the first period would be a struggle for us. We tried not to give them too many quality chances. We didn’t have any offense, but I think we came out and played a little better in the second.”
After getting little done during a power play that bridged a minute into the second period, Hudler provided a tying goal when he fired a shot that went in off Goligoski’s skate. That set up a much better second period, as the Wings enforced far better puck control and looked more like the confident team they are at home, firing a dozen shots Bachman’s way.
“We didn’t have our legs in the first period and we didn’t play the way we wanted in the first period,” Conklin said. “As the game went on, we got better and better. And then Huds tried to show up Z, and did a great job of it.”
Babcock agreed, as he told MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“I thought first half of the game we had no energy,” Babcock said. “We found a way to gut out two points. It was good for Conks because he hasn’t done a ton of winning this year.”
“I didn’t think it was a high-level game as far as two teams all energized and ready to go,” Babcock said. “I thought the compete level was good from both teams that didn’t have a ton of energy.”
On these kinds of nights, you need your goalie to play well, and Conklin held the Wings in the game at times:
“He played solid for us, especially in the shootout. He came up big and made himself big, made it hard to score on him,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Looked like he played with a lot of confidence.”
Conklin raised his record to 3-5-0.
“It’s nice to get Howie breaks, especially more often coming down the stretch,” Conklin said. “Certainly, big games he’s going to be in there, but they’re not going to put me in if I don’t play well. I felt good throughout the game, couple of deflection goals, not goals I’m going to lose any sleep over.”
Zetterberg put things a little more bluntly to Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman:
“There was no real pulse to the game for the spectators. Both teams played the night before and it showed. It was tough,” says Henrik Zetterberg after the final signa.
“But it was nice that we finally pulled out the longest straw, we need to win away from home, too.”
Since Vancouver lost in a shootout to Los Angeles at home, the Red Wings are, for the first time this year, the leaders in the Western Conference standings.
“Yeah, we’ve been good this year mostly because we’ve played strong at home,” says Zata. “But it doesn’t matter as much right now. Our division’s so incredibly even that after one or two losses we’re down in the shitter again, and listen, we know that it’s in the playoffs that we really have to perform.”
Last night the league leaders headed on to Phoenix—where they’ll get a day off in the heat today.
“I might spend an hour or two by the pool,” says Henrik Zetterberg, very gladly.
Highlights: ESPN posted a 55-second highlight clip;
You can watch the game’s highlights as narrated by Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy…
But if you want to watch the shootout, you’ll have to deal with the Stars’ announcers:
Post-game: Fox Sports Southwest posted clips of Darryl Reaugh and Ralph Strangis’s takes on the game…
As well as post-game comments from Stars coach Glenn Gulutzan, Stars captain Brenden Morrow and forward Loui Eriksson:
The Stars’ PR Website posted audio clips from coach Gulutzan…
And Wings coach Mike Babcock:
And Fox Sports Detroit posted Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy’s takes on the game…
As well as post-game comments from jiri Hudler, Ty Conklin and coach Mike Babcock:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 23-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 17-image gallery;
WXYT posted a wallpaper-sized image of the Wings celebrating Hudler’s regulation goal;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 7-image gallery;
The Dallas News posted a 17-image gallery;
Fox Sports Southwest posted a 6-image galler
Yahoo Sports posted a 31-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 37-image gallery;
32-27 Detroit. The Wings were out-shot 11-5 in the 1st period, out-shot Dallas 12-5 in the 2nd period, out-shot Dallas 11-8 in the 3rd period and out-shot Dallas 4-3 in overtime.
The Wings went 0 for 3 in 4:16 of PP time; the Stars went 1 for 2 in all of 45 seconds of PP time.
Ty Conklin stopped 25 of 27 for Detroit; Richard Bachman stopped 30 of 32 for Dallas.
The 3 stars, per the Dallas Morning News’s Mike Heika, were Loui Eriksson, Richard Bachman and Jiri Hudler.
The Wings’ goals: Holmstrom (8) from Abdelkader (7) and Mursak (1);
Hudler (13) from Filppula (23) and Zetterberg (25).
Faceoffs 34-27 Dallas (Detroit won 44%);
Blocked shots 22-10 Dallas;
Missed shots 18-13 Detroit—so the Wings fired 32 shots on Bachman and 40 shots wide or into Stars players for a total of 72 shot attempts, while the Stars had 50;
Hits 29-9 if you believe the Stars’ stat crew, who gave Mark Fistric 10 hits and Stephane Robidas 5;
Giveaways 15-4 Dallas (really?);
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 16-and-10 (62%); Zetterberg went 4-and-9 (31%); Helm went 5-and-6 (45%); Abdelkader went 2-and-2 (50%); Filppula went 0-for-4; Miller went 0-for-3.
Shots: White led the team with 7 shots; Filppula and Holmstrom had 4; Datsyuk and Stuart had 3; Mursak, Helm, Bertuzzi and Kronwall had 2; Commodore, Hudler and Zetterberg had 1.
Blocked attempts: Both Commodore and Franzen had 4 attempts blocked; Zetterberg and Helm had 3 attempts blocked; Lidstrom had 2 attempts blocked; Abdelkader, Cleary, Stuart, Hudler, Kronwall and Holmstrom had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: White missed the net 3 times; Zetterberg, Helm and Franzen missed the net 2 times; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Miller, Stuart, Hudler, Mursak, Filppula, Ericsson and Holmstrom missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader and Datsyuk were credited for 2 hits; Lidstrom, White, Miller, Bertuzzi and Holmstrom were credited with 1.
Giveaways: Cleary, Hudler, Zetterberg and Conklin had giveaways.
Takeaways: Helm had 2 takeaways; Commodore, Stuart, Hudler, Zetterberg, Filppula and Ericsson had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Stuart blocked 4 shots; Cleary blocked 2; Abdelkader, Miller, Commodore and Kronwall blocked 1.
Penalties taken: The Wings took a too-many men bench minor and White was tagged for a minor penalty.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +5. Lidstrom, White and Bertuzzi finished at -1; Stuart, Hudler, Mursak, Zetterberg, Filppula and Ericsson finished at +1; Kronwall finished at +2.
Points: Hudler and Holmstrom had goals; Abdelkader, Mursak, Zetterberg and Filppula had assists.
Ice time: White led the team with 27:06 played; Kronwall played 25:51; Stuart played 24:04;
Lidstrom played 23:11; Datsyuk played 20:27; Franzen played 20:12;
Bertuzzi played 20:04; Zetterberg played 19:48; Filppula played 19:20;
Hudler played 19:05; Ericsson played 15:54; Cleary played 14:41;
Helm played 13:26; Abdelkader played 12:33; Miller played 11:17;
Commodore played 10:58; Holmstrom played 10:08; Mursak played 8:03.
Part II: If you missed it, MLive’s Ansar Khan is reporting that the NHL will announce a Winter Classic held at Michigan Stadium, against the Maple Leafs, and some events at Comerica Park as an olive branch to the Wings, who would have preferred to hold the event in downtown Detroit.
Khan reports that the Wings will indeed host the Maple Leafs, and the NHL and Wings won’t make the details officially official until they return home from that four-game swing through Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Phoenix. The Wings will kick off a home six-game home stand against Edmonton on February 8th, so we should expect some press conferences to be held around that time.
Part III: In the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins almost rallied from a 5-2 deficit but dropped a 6-5 decision to the Charlotte Checkers on Tuesday night. The Griffins’ and Checkers’ websites provide recaps, as does the Charlotte Observer’s Kate Shefte, and the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema notes that Chris Minard scored two goals in his first game back from a year-long battle with post-concussion syndrome.
Part IV: Red Wings notebooks: In broadcast news, from the Free Press’s Steve Schrader, might we see a Stoney and Wojo reunion sometime down the line?
Freep.com blogger Jamie Samuelsen and Detroit News columnist Bob Wojnowski—both WDFN alumni—are teaming up for a new talk show, starting Monday on 97.1 (FM) the Ticket.
“Jamie and Wojo” will be on weeknights from 6 to 8 p.m. Pat Caputo and Dennis Fithian’s “Caputo and Fithian,” which did have that time slot, will move to 8, and also will air after Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons games.
• Every time I watch Jan Mursak play—and he registered two shots and an assist on Tomas Holmstrom’s goal by doing exactly what the Wings want him to do in 8:02 of ice time by forechecking and forechecking some more—I think that Mursak’s the answer to the Wings’ grinding needs, but Babcock told the Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. James that Cory Emmerton doesn’t have to worry about losing his job yet:
Since it was the second game in two nights, coach Mike Babcock opted to put forward Jan Mursak in for Cory Emmerton; Babcock made a point of saying it’s not a reflection on Emmerton. “One thing Cory Emmerton does all the time, he looks after his linemates. He’s real good down low. He’s a center even though he’s playing the wing. He looks after them. When you take him out, then you take a guy who’s good defensively, who covers up for other people running around. So we don’t have that tonight. We have different skill. Mursak is a fore-checker. He’s got to fore-check. That’s what he’s got to do.”
• In the job-taking vein, Darren Helm took Justin Abdelkader’s position on the Helm-Cleary line and didn’t give it back when Helm returned from his groin injury ten days ago against Chicago, and the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan notes that Helm’s starting to post some pretty solid numbers in the point-production department, too:
Since returning Jan. 8 from a groin pull that caused him to miss four games, Helm has supplied the speed the Wings were missing and Monday scored his first goal since his return, his fifth goal this season. Helm also has eight assists to bring his point total to 13 in 42 games this season. After scoring 12 goals last season, and 11 in 2009-10, Helm was hoping to add to those numbers.
“I wanted to have more this year, to improve on that area,” Helm said. “It was tough. I was playing real well and nothing was happening. I tried to do a little different thing and my game went downhill.”
Maybe getting away from those defensive-minded things Helm does best actually hurt him offensively.
“I got away from my game,” Helm said. “I just want to get back to having consistent nights and working and playing well defensively.”
The Free Press’s Helene St. James took note of Babcock’s comments about both Abdelkader and the next step he expects the Wings’ current fourth-line center to take this year:
“I think when you’re a young guy and you come into the league,” Babcock said, “you do what you’ve got to do to survive. And then you get to a point where you’re growing your game and you want to get to the next level, but you’ve got to figure out what the next level for you is. But what makes you effective, and what are you good at? You learn to figure out what you’re good at, and you do what you’re good at, and you expect the other guys on your line to do what they’re good at. That’s just the process he’s in right now. To me, it’s how he plays, how good he is defensively, how hard he fore-checks, how much pain in the backside he can be to the opposition.”
Helm entered the season intent on building on the career-high 12 goals and 32 points he had in 82 games last season. That didn’t translate as the season began, as Helm struggled to be as consistently effective at both ends of the ice. He righted himself in December, around the time he started playing with Miller and Cleary, and the three have formed a line that at times has carried the team.
“For some reason, we’ve clicked really well together, it seems like, and hopefully we can continue to play with each other and get a lot of chances and help out the team,” Helm said. “Something about both of those guys, I really enjoy playing with them. They bring a lot to the team, to that line. I’m pretty happy with that setup.”
• Abdelkader’s formed some chemistry of his own with Tomas Holmstrom, who may have been the Wings’ best forward over the first 50 minutes of play on Tuesday night, and here are a few Swedish tidbits about Holmstrom:
1. According to Expressen’s Magnus Nystrom, Holmstrom’s old team, Lulea HC, actually has a better home winning streak than the Wings, winning 23 at home in the 98-99 season;
2. The NHL 36 crew left Nicklas Lidstrom behind as the Wings flew from Dallas to Phoenix on Red Bird II (I’m guessing that Red Bird III’s getting some maintenance work done back home in Detroit—nice to have two team planes, eh?), but Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom spoke to Lidstrom while the crews were sitting in the backseat of what became a familiar vehicle on Monday—Tomas Holmstrom’s car. Nordstrom reports that Holmstrom took Lidstrom to the team’s morning skate after Lidstrom took his youngest son to school, drove Lidstrom and the TV crew back to his home in Novi to pick up his kids from school, and after taking Lidstrom down to the rink, Holmstrom ferried the Lidstrom and his two new best friends, Mr. Cameraman and Mr. boom mic man, to Metro Airport. Lidstrom told Nordstrom that Holmstrom’s excited about his status as a supporting actor
• Working our way up to the biggest notebook of the morning, Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels reported on Monday that the Wings’ amateur and pro scouts (some of the names you might be familiar with include Hakan Andersson, Joe McDonnell, Mark Howe and Kirk Maltby, and I’m sure that Chris Chelios, Chris Osgood and Kris Draper will attend the powwow as well) will meet this weekend in Las Vegas, talking about both the 2012 Entry Draft and, more immediately, the team’s trade deadline targets with Wings GM Ken Holland and assistant GM Jim Nill.
MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to Holland about the team’s philosophy going toward February 27th, and with Ken Holland being Ken Holland, that includes kicking every tire just to see what players’ asking prices might be in addition to targeting specific recommendations from the scouts:
“We’ll go over all the teams, we’ll go over our team, the real emphasis is on the trade deadline,” general manager Ken Holland said. “But there’s also free agency on July 1. We’ll go over what we think we need and what might be out there for the trade deadline and also free agency.”
The Red Wings are in the market for a goal-scoring winger and/or an abrasive third- or fourth-line forward. Money is not an issue. The Red Wings are $5.7 million under the salary cap. That gives them plenty of space to acquire anybody, since teams are responsible only for the remaining portion of a player’s contract.
It boils down to what the Red Wings are prepared to relinquish. It is doubtful they would move a core player, and it also is unlikely they would give up a top prospect for a rental (impending free agent). Detroit likely will be dangling draft picks, middling prospects and/or fringe players.
“We like the way the team has performed. A lot of people have had good first halves,” Holland said. “But the trade deadline is coming. We have a lot of cap space. We’ve done a lot of drafting and developing since 2005, saving our picks. I don’t know if we have to do anything, but certainly in the next six weeks we’re going to explore. Some teams are going to see in the next 4-5 weeks if they’re playing their way into being a buyer, a seller or sort of status quo. Last year, (deals) started to happen a month out, early February, so we’ll see.”
The Red Wings are more likely to add a complementary piece than a star player.
“Barring some (big) name becoming available ... we’re all looking for depth,” Holland said. “There’s the odd trade at the deadline that changes the balance of power, but at the end of the day, when I look at the Vancouver Canucks last year, they made some real nice trades at the deadline that gave them some depth, brought them some grit and were important players. Boston made two or three trades as well. They weren’t the big names, they were guys that were the perfect fit.”
“Barring some star player getting moved, the trade deadline is about adding the right pieces, complementary pieces to fill out your roster,” Holland said.
Read: the Wings probably want to find another Dallas Drake and maybe a scorer, but they’re not going to overpay, and if they don’t find a Brad Stuart-like fit in terms of an underperforming player or two who can come to the team for a modest price, Holland might put out exploratory feelers for players whose agents might be interested in signing with Detroit if their clients reach the open market instead.
Khan tosses off the usual names—Tuomo Ruutu and Ales Hemsky are the players we keep hearing about—and Khan points out that the higher-profile names probably won’t head to Detroit unless they end up hitting the market in July, because the Wings won’t be giving up the Mrazeks, McCollums, Tatars, Nyquists, Anderssons and Pulkkinens which other GM’s will obviously ask for in exchange for a top-tier forward, but he does offer a unique name that is possible in Teemu Selanne.
In this regard, I tossed these in the game-day update thread, but you might want to give ‘em another gander. He sounds like a GM who wants to do anything but make a big trade:
Ken Holland happeared on The Fan 590’s Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown—but they music-played him right off after six-and-a-half minutes!
Via RedWingsFeed, he was on NHL Live as well, and this is his full interview:
• This quip from USA Today’s Kevin Allen Mattias Backman reasserted his status as a potential late-round steal at the World Junior Championships, where he played as a second-pair defenseman for the gold medal-winning Swedes:
“He showed the coaches he could play and they went with him — he played more and more,” said Mark Leach, part of a contingent of Red Wings scouts that attended the tournament in Calgary and Edmonton. He gained confidence as the tournament went on, he gained the confidence of the coaches, and he achieved great success.”
The 6-foot-2 170-pounder finished the tournament with three assists, 14 shots and a plus-5 rating in six games. Backman, who the Red Wings nabbed 146th overall in last summer’s draft, played a mature two-way game, showcasing impressive mobility and smarts.
“The thing we liked most is that his skating ability is very, very good, and he’s always skating with his head up and making the right play at the right time and not over-handling it,” Leach said. “His decision-making under pressure was very good.”
Not only were Backman’s smooth skating and puck-moving ability on full display, he also made an impression with strong play in his own zone.
“He played a very solid and steady game defensively and he’s always in the right position at the right time,” Leach said. “He’s not a heavy banging defenseman but he can separate his man from the puck. He just puts himself in the right position and makes people go into bad areas.”
• If you’re interested in some trade chatter of Wings-related note, at least in the, “These dudes have been mentioned” sense, ESPN’s Craig Custance held a chat with hockey fans on Tuesday. Amongst his answers:
Matt (NYC) If for some reason the Devils don’t trade Parise, and aren’t able to re-sign him, what could they get back for contract rights?
Craig Custance: Matt - I’m starting to see this as a scenario more and more likely to happen. The Devils won’t trade Parise if they’re in the playoff mix and it’s sounding like they won’t regardless. They want to keep him. But if we get close to July 1 and they still don’t have a deal, they have to cut bait and try and get something return. If you remember, last year Christian Ehrhoff’s rights bounced around between the Islanders and Sabres and the going rate was a fourth-round pick. With the success the Sabres and Blue Jackets had in signing guys after acquiring their rights mixed with Parise’s value as a franchise forward, I would expect the value to be higher. Maybe as high as a conditional second-round pick if Parise signs.
George (portland, tn) What do you see the predators doing near the trading deadline?
Craig Custance: George - they’re the team I’m most interested in at the deadline. I wouldn’t be stunned if they try and add some offense in an attempt to strengthen their chance at contending and keeping both Weber and Suter. They’d still like to keep both defensemen but it’s a bit of a chess match right now. Here’s one scenario that could happen: If they can’t sign Suter, they trade him for a huge package and then spin those assets into a player who can help the team contend now. The important thing for Nashville is that they keep progressing forward. They can’t afford to take a step back in their development and expect to retain Weber.
Dave (St. Louis) Who do you have winning the Central Divisoin in Western conference? Runner up?
Craig Custance: 1. Chicago 2. Detroit 3. Nashville 4. St. Louis 5. Columbus—Central should get four teams in the playoffs. Best division in hockey.
Tom (Halifax, VA) Hurricanes look to be moving quite a few pieces in the coming weeks (Gleason, Ruutu, Allen, perhaps more). Do you think they are likely to get mostly picks as compensation and bring up prospects, or get other contracts extending past this year and young players?
Craig Custance: Carolina will be very active at the deadline and have some attractive pieces, including the players you mentioned. I a
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