The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/08/12 at 12:23 AM ET
Following up this afternoon’s off-day post: we’re (as in you and me are) going to talk about Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall escaping supplementary discipline regarding his hit on Flyers forward Jakub Voracek, and instead of sharing my opinion, as it’s not going to change yours—and trust me, in six years of doing this I’ve learned that people form their opinions when they see the hit, and no amount of video or discussion will change it, which is just the way things are—but there is news that no one can dispute as good here: Jakub Voracek told the Philadelphia Daily News’s Sam Carchidi that he’s feeling decently today:
Voracek was drilled in the face by an open-ice, second-period hit by Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall; he received stitches on the upper and lower part of his mouth. The winger may undergo a baseline test, performed for concussions symptoms, on Thursday. On Tuesday, Voracek passed a less-detailed concussion exam.
“I don’t want to say I feel too good, because every day is different,” said a subdued Voracek. “Hopefully, I can get back as soon as possible.”
Voracek did not fault Kronwall for the hit. Kronwall was not disciplined by the NHL.
“I think it was clean,” he said. “I had my head down…..I saw him standing on the blue line and I was kind of naive and thought he was going to back up. It was a tough hit to take, but I think it was a clean hit from my side. It was my bad, and I think those hits should stay in the game.”
Again, Voracek’s opinion might not be yours, and that’s okay.
Voracek said he has a stiff neck from hitting the ice. Asked if he felt foggy, he said, “I feel different, but I think anyone would feel different after that hit. Sometimes you can get slightly hit to the chin and be out a few months; sometimes you can get run over like I did and you can be back the next game. We’ll see.”
Voracek also spoke to PhillyBurbs.com’s Wayne Fish, as did Flyers GM Paul Holmgren about his team’s concussion protocols…
Voracek was already given a SCAT test after the game to see if there were any concussion symptoms. On Thursday, he has to pass a baseline test before getting the green light against the Panthers. Also, Voracek needed a bunch of stitches for mouth cuts but those won’t be a factor in the decision to play.
“He seemed OK today,’’ general manager Paul Holmgren said. “We’ll have to see how he is tomorrow (Thursday).’‘
There were some questions raised about the validity of the hit but Voracek said he had no problem with it.
“I think it was clean,’’ said Voracek (the NHL did not cite Kronwall for any discipline). “I had my head down. I have to be aware that Kronwall is standing on the blue line. I was at the end of a shift, focused on the puck and he’s very good at it (hitting opponents with their heads down). He got me off-guard. I was kind of naïve, I thought he was going to back up. My bad. I think those hits should stay in the game.’‘
Voracek reiterated his points to Comcast Sportsnet Phildelphia’s Tim Panaccio...
“The hit was clean,” said the Flyers’ winger, who remains questionable for Thursday’s game against Florida under a concussion watch.
The NHL obviously concurred on the hit being clean, as it did not fine or suspend Kronwall. Replays show Voracek had his head down and turned right into Kronwall’s shoulder.
“I had my head down,” he said. “I’ve got to be aware that Kronwall is standing there at the blue line. It was the end of my shift and I look up and he’s standing at the blue line and I’m focusing on the puck and he’s very good at it. I was kind of naïve to think he was going to back up, obviously. It was a tough hit to take, but it was a clean hit and from my side, it was my bad. Those hits should stay in the game.”
Asked how he was feeling, Voracek replied, “Not bad.”
“From what I saw last night, it was a pretty tough hit to take,” he said. “I survived it pretty good. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”
Voracek passed an initial SCAT concussion test Tuesday night, general manager Paul Holmgren said, but he must be re-evaluated and take a baseline test to play against the Panthers.
“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Voracek said. “It can change every day. I don’t want to say I feel too good. Like I said, every day is different. Hopefully, I can get back as soon as possible.”
And the Flyers’ website posted a clip of Voracek speaking to the press:
Regardless of the hit, here’s what I have to say about the player: I’m grateful that he’s in Philly because he haunted the Wings as a Blue Jacket. He’s a fantastic power forward and I’ve always respected him, and I hope that he’s going to play on Thursday. The Flyers are lucky to have him.
DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose offers a more-or-less official take on the hit from Detroit’s perspective. The team did not practice today, so this is what we’re going to get in terms of commentary—at least in terms of commentary not involving the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa’s old-school, “It’s totally the fault of the player if he gets hit in the head” BS:
Following Tuesday’s game, Kronwall said that he felt the hit was legal like many of his other trademark collisions this season against Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky, Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler and Flyers’ Daniel Briere. It’s hard to imagine Brendan Shanahan, the league’s vice president of player safety, levying supplementary discipline against Kronwall since he didn’t leave his feet to deliver the hit. And while the head was the first point of contact, Voracek appeared to be slumped forward at the time of the collision.
Even I’m going to admit that the hit looks bad because Kronwall’s feed did leave the ice after he hit Voracek, but from my perspective, the fact that he’s turning to keep his elbow down, his hip/butt as the center of his mass and that he’s not leaving his feet until after he drives into the hit are improvements in terms of making those “Kronwalling” hits while working harder to ensure that the principal points of contact are lower than his previous hits.
I will give credit to the player for attempting to consciously change his style, and I’m just sorry that, regardless of whether it was his “fault” or not, Voracek got hurt.
According to the league official, Voracek’s head might have been seen as the principal point of contact, but only because it was the initial point of contact, and not due to Kronwall targeting the head but in the nature that Voracek approached the Wings’ defenseman.
There still remain some hits in the league where a player’s head – by nature of the way the player receiving the hit – dips, ducks, turns or moves just prior to contact with a legal check. Kronwall did not leave his feet or lift an elbow, and he was not assessed a penalty for the hit, which according to the league was the correct call on the ice.
There have been no fewer than 17 players on a growing list of Kronwall victims that includes Dany Heatley, Teemu Selanne, Evander Kane, Radek Bonk, Vinny Prospal, Tim Jackman, and Ryan Clowe, who has been crushed on two separate occasions by the 6-foot, 190-pound blue liner. Then there’s the gigantic hit that turned Kronwall’s name into a verb when he knocked out Chicago’s Martin Havlat during Game 3 of the 2009 Western Conference finals.
On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Daily News called Kronwall’s hit on Voracek one of the “most gruesome hits in recent Flyers memory”, ranking it with Scott Stevens’ colossal brain-jarring shot on Eric Lindros in the 2000 Eastern Conference finals.
It’s tough, if not completely off base, to compare Kronwall to Stevens, after all, Kronwall has never been suspended in his 7 ½-plus season career. Instead of trying to find fault in Kronwall’s hits, when will opposing forwards learn to protect themselves and skate with their head up when he’s on the ice? Instead of reactively running at Kronwall after he’s already blown-up a guy, perhaps forwards need to be smarter about retrieving pucks along the half wall in their own zone.
Kronwall’s motive seems to be the same with every big hit: The opposition rims the puck around the boards and a forward tries to gather in the pass for a breakout of the defensive zone. But it’s usually when the forward looks down at his feet for the puck, and he’s pounded by an anticipating Kronwall who slides down from the point to drop a big, clean hit.
The one big bone of contention in terms of comments from Wings fans seems to be whether Kronwall should have to drop his gloves after he levies these kinds of hits. I’m not sure what to tell you about that because, again, that’s a matter of personal hockey philosophy and opinion.
• Regarding the Wings’ injured players, MLive’s Ansar Khan, the Free Press’s Helene St. James and the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness all spoke to Wings GM Ken Holland about the statuses of Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), Todd Bertuzzi (groin), Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Jimmy Howard (groin), Jakub Kindl (“upper-body”) and Jonathan Ericsson (broken wrist), and here’s what he told St. James...
• Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom: Sore ankle, still day-to-day, but feeling better every day.
• Forward Pavel Datsyuk: Knee surgery, is skating, still on track to return next week.
• Forward Todd Bertuzzi: Groin, day-to-day.
• Goaltender Jimmy Howard: Groin, day-to-day.
• Defenseman Jakub Kindl: Upper body, out 1-2 weeks.
The Wings sent Chris Conner back to the Grand Rapids Griffins this morning, so he could play with the team tonight. He won’t be needed in Detroit if Bertuzzi can go Friday, and the Wings are hopeful their groin-impaired players won’t be out long.
“The groin injuries, we’ve taken pictures, all are just strains,” Holland said. “We’re listing them as day-to-day, but we’re going to be cautious, because if we’re not cautious and push these guys and they tear their groins, they’ll be out three weeks.”
We’ll see (after Thursday’s practice) who we need to bring up,’’ general manager Ken Holland said. “(The Griffins) are fighting for a playoff spot. We assigned (Conner) back to try to give Grand Rapids a boost. We’ll assess tomorrow where Bertuzzi is at.’‘
Bertuzzi, defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom (bone bruise in ankle) and goaltender Jimmy Howard (groin strain) are listed as day-to-day. Center Pavel Datsyuk (knee) has been skating on his own but won’t be ready until sometime during next week’s three-game trip to California. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (fractured wrist) is skating on his own but is not due back until late March or early April.
Holland said defenseman Jakub Kindl most likely won’t play this weekend due to an upper-body injury that forced him to leave Sunday’s game against Chicago early in the first period.
“It’s a week or two injury, but I don’t expect him to play this week,’’ Holland said. “But he could come to practice (Thursday) if he feels good. It’s nothing significant.’‘
In a quick phone interview, Wings general manager Ken Holland had no updates to report on the injuries of Jakub Kindl (upper body), Nicklas Lidstrom (foot bone bruise), Todd Bertuzzi (groin strain), Pavel Datsyuk (knne) and Jimmy Howard (groin strain).
“No updates on any injuries, today was a day off,” Holland said. “We’ll have to wait till everyone gets here tomorrow.
“We sent (Chris) Conner back because (Grand Rapids is) in a playoff race and they play tonight and we have today off and don’t play again till Friday,” Holland added. “We’ll go to the rink tomorrow and asses everybody and if we need anyone back we’ll call them back tomorrow night.”
• The Red Wings, as Hockey’s Future‘s Andrew Sykes noted, have lost 4 of their past 5 road games, and the Wings are 2-4-and-1 (that’s 2-and-5, folks) over their past seven games, and Pleiness points out that the Wings’ undermanned power play has, um…stank on ice lately:
After going 0-for-4 with the man advantage Tuesday, Detroit is 0-for-13 in the last three games and has just three power play goals over its last 34 attempts.
“It’s been awhile since we scored on the power play,” Johan Franzen said. “It’s like we start thinking too much about it. It’s tough sometimes to be relaxed and do the right thing. You force stuff instead of just letting it happen,” Franzen added. “We need to get a goal soon and get the confidence back and that’ll loosen up a lot of guys and we’ll find a way to score more often.”
The Wings score just 16.6 percent of the time with the man advantage, which ranks them 16th in the league. Some of the power play deficiencies could be because a couple of key contributors – Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom – are out with injuries.
“I think when you’re in a stretch like we are with players out, your power play has to be good because you’re offensively more challenged,” said coach Mike Babcock. “But we haven’t been very good. We thought our entries have been real good, they weren’t (Tuesday), and yet we think we can shoot the puck more. We’re just not getting in, so the bottom line is we’ve got to get better on it. We’ve got a couple of days to look at it. It’s got to get momentum for your team. It doesn’t have to score all the time but it’s got to get momentum,” he added.
Before this recent lapse, Detroit had scored five times on the power play over a five-game stretch.
“First of all we have to enter the zone, with control, and start making some plays,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We have to find a way to get pucks to the net, that’s where goals are scored. It doesn’t matter if we pass it around or not, but enough talking now we just have to go out and do it.”
I think that the Wings’ power play has reached critical mass, as it did last season: regardless of what Jeff Blashill tries to do in terms of tweaking it, we’re so late in the regular season that it’s just going to be “what it is” for the balance of the regular season, and the Wings will hope that it re-sets in April.
Because the Wings don’t play until Friday against Los Angeles and Saturday in Nashville, however, I will duly note that we should expect the Wings to be about four points back of St. Louis, an equal number of points behind Vancouver, and only three or four points instead of the six points they’re currently ahead of Nashville in the Central Division standings.
Add in two “off-days” before the team’s back-to-backs in Los Angeles and Anaheim next Wednesday and Thursday, and two more “off-days” between those games and next Saturday’s final, “Have we learned our playoff lessons and adjusted accordingly?” match-up against the Sharks, and this team should be pretty damn healthy by the time the Wings face that barometer mark in San Jose, but in the interim, regardless of who is playing and who is not, the Wings have to get much better on the PP and PK in a hurry.
• From the Twitterverse, via the Wings’ official Twitter account: Patrick Eaves signed autographs at Meijer today and will do so at the Meijer in Livonia (the one on Middlebelt where Ladbrooke DRC used to be) tomorrow, and the Wings also sent a staffer to Hockeytown Authentics, where Joey MacDonald and Jimmy Howard signed autographs earlier this evening:
Joey MacDonald and Jimmy Howard sign autographs for charity at Hockeytown Authentics. http://t.co/z6ZyTdYO
Fans asking Howard to sign are also asking him if he’ll play on Friday. His response? ‘I hope so.’
Patrick Eaves signs for fans at Meijer. http://t.co/WtHDC3la
Joey Mac and Jimmy Howard sign autographs for charity at Hockeytown Authentics. http://t.co/as40LxFA
And here are some quips from the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff:
#redwings Zetterberg on Kronwall: “You know, back in Sweden, he nearly killed a couple of guys.”
Kronwall’s response to Zetterberg’s statement: “You shouldn’t believe everything Henrik tells you.”
@zfan16 Zetterberg is not someone who is given to hyperbole.
@zfan16 Zetterberg said there were stretcher cases involving Kronwall hits during games in the Swedish League.
5. DETROIT RED WINGS (43-21-3) The veteran club has been beset by injuries to key players like Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Jimmy Howard. (Last Week: 4)
• I’ll also re-post the following: Wharnsby posited a list of potential NCAA free agents, and the list includes more than a few players from Michigan-based universities, as well as the player everyone seems to be excited about in Western Michigan University defenseman Danny Dekeyser;
• And finally, here are some Wings-related comments from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun’s chat with ESPN readers this afternoon:
Tom (Chicago): Hi Pierre, what do you think about the Kronwall hit on Voracek and can you help to get Shanahan to put up a video explaining this hit whether it is a suspension or not?
Pierre LeBrun: I was fine with the hit. Voracek has to be smarter. Head down with puck coming out of zone. Right in Kronwall tracks. Gotta be smarter than that. OK the head was hit but it was a body on body hit. I agree with the league for not suspending Kronwall today. You take that hit out of the game and what do we have left?
sarah (michigan): Hey LeBrun, I just read your Hart Trophy picks and I really think that Datsyuk should be more than just an honorable mention for the MVP award. Just see how the team is doing w/o him on the ice.
Pierre LeBrun: Point taken. Lots of good candidates, though
GBK (Lincoln Park): Love Datysuk, but given the goals Philly got lost night and Chicago scored on Sunday due to turnovers from defensemen, I’d say Detroit misses Nik Lidstrom a lot more…
Pierre LeBrun: And that’s always been the issue in Detroit with splitting the vote on Hart… the point of the Hart is to single out ONE player that carries his team…
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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.