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Red Wings off-day news: It’s never too early to panic about goaltending

Updated at 9:05 PM: The Detroit Red Wings didn’t receive lights-out goaltending from either Ty Conklin or Joey MacDonald at key points during their 5-4 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday evening, but the team in front of him was as porous as activated carbon, standing around and allowing Oilers players to get sticks on loose pucks unobstructed on all four goals—and Sam Ganger’s tip-in goal was the only one where you couldn’t throw a blanket over the number of Wings players crowding their own goaltender.

Hiven Wings coach Mike Babcock’s comments about Conklin, who gave up 3 goals on 9 first-period shots against, it sounds like Joey MacDonald will start when the Wings face the Coyotes on Monday Night’s nationally-televised affair, and after Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner and MLive’s Brendan Savage pressed the “concern” button pretty hard last night and this morning, respectively, FSD’s Darren Eliot (via RedWingsFeed) offers his two cents on the, “Do the Wings need to replace Ty Conklin if he continues to struggle?” discussion on Michigan Hockey‘s website:

Early in the year, Howard missed a couple of games when his wife delivered their first child. Conklin did not seize the moment and the team went on to endure a six-game skid. He wasn’t the goalie of record in all, but his shaky showing played a part. The team has played so well since then that it is easy to forget that dark stretch of games.  Howard’s brilliance over the subsequent three months rendered Conklin’s role one of spot duty where he has fared better in random appearances.

Saturday night in Edmonton, though, it was all about establishing a base for playing a block of games as the go-to guy in Howard’s absence. It couldn’t have gone much worse, as Conklin and the Wings yielded three goals, trailing 3-1 after one period – with the third goal coming just after the Wings had pulled to 2-1 and just before the final tick of the clock sent the teams to the intermission at that score. The timing in both senses – that late goal and Conklin’s tentative performance – couldn’t have been worse given the big picture.

In the short-term, Joey MacDonald came in to begin the second, played with poise and confidence, allowing the Wings to come back and get a point after losing their first shootout of the season. He played exactly the way coach Mike Babcock was looking for from Conklin. Babcock’s quick hook of Conklin didn’t feel as if it was solely rooted in the moment. The body of work by his back-up hasn’t endeared the coach, thus the quick hook, with no thought of letting the veteran find his game by letting him start the second period on a short leash.

If what I sense is true, can the Wings truly keep their standing in the ultra-competitive Central Division and Western Conference with Howard out? Can, then, Holland not look at goaltenders available? My feeling is that the club will monitor the goaltending situation closely. We’ll learn a lot on Monday night in Phoenix when Babcock names his starter. If he opts for MacDonald, we’ll know that he sees a need in the short-term beyond who is on the roster. Then it becomes Holland’s decision to weigh the short-term merits of adding a goaltender against the long-term cost of dealing prospects, picks and/or players.


The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness took note of the comments Babcock made after the game as well:

Wings coach Mike Babcock would not say who would start in goal Monday night in Phoenix. He said he would make that decision on the team flight from Edmonton.

Ty Conklin was pulled Saturday night at the end of the first period after allowing three goals on just nine shots. Joey MacDonald, who was recalled from Grand Rapids on Friday after Jimmy Howard was injured, made 22 saves and sparked a Wings comeback after trailing 3-1 after one period.

“We needed some saves so we could crawl our way back in the game,” Babcock told reporters after the game.

Babcock also said the backup job is now an open competition between Conklin and MacDonald.

“(Conklin) wasn’t good enough,” Babcock said. “It was an opportunity for him, you want him to grab it. We need him to get confidence for himself and the guys, it wasn’t the way we wanted it to go.”

Pleiness also notes that Jimmy Howard expects to miss what we’ll cautiously say is at least a week and maybe longer, depending on his pain tolerance, after breaking his index finger in Vancouver last Thursday—realistically speaking, Howard will be re-evaluated by doctors in Detroit on Tuesday, and as he can’t re-injure his finger by playing with it broken, he’ll be “day to day” until he can tolerate the pain of pucks hitting his goal stick and sending vibrations up and down the wood paddle…

And Pleniess allows us to shift gears by sticking with the injury department, updating Patrick Eaves’ concussion status via Ken Holland:

“I don’t think he’s doing great,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. “We have no timetable for his return, but I’m not optimistic it will be anytime soon.”

Eaves, who has not been cleared to even workout off ice, was expected to be sidelined up to eight weeks due to the injury. He’s been out 10 weeks already.

“It’s got nothing to do with the jaw,” Holland said. “We told him there’s no need to come to the rink until you feel good.”

Almost as disturbingly, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan lets us know that the Red Wings’ power play on the road needs to be brought back from the dead…

This is an incredible statistic. Startling, even. With a team full of offensive stars, some future Hall of Famers, the Red Wings’ power play has been awful Particularly o. the road. The Wings are, brace yourself here, 1-for-41 on the power play over their last 15 road games.

Really. I’m not kidding. And to be honest, if you’ve watched the Wings on the power play over the last few weeks, more often than not it has been a futile exercise. They largely seem frozen, unwilling or unable to make a play.

Serious surgery has to be done to correct whatever it is ails them. But, seriously, one goal in 41 attempts. With this group? Ridiculous. And improbable.


Rather frustratingly, MLive’s RSS server is tossing out the URLs for Ansar Khan’s article about the Wings’ power play and goaltending to RedWingsFeed, but their new server and website design has done this on a pretty regular basis to all web search tools, so we know what’s in the pipeline for the next 12-16 hours, but can’t access the filed stories that have been “dated” to be accessible at a later time;...


So if you’re watching the game which involves the kind of tackling that used to be permissible in the NHL and seems to be getting back to that status again, the Wings spoke to MLive’s Brendan Savage about their self-comparisons to the New England Patriots, and the Free Press’s Jamie Samuelssen raved about the commitment of Detroit’s 3 sports owners to not make themselves spectacles of media coverage (agreed)...

But I’m not sure how to react to Paul’s link to “Open Ice Hitter’s insistence that the Red Wings are a horribly dirty team that’s getting personal favors given to them by the referees via Brendan Shanahan directly. I’m not going to earn his friendship—I’ll probably lose it, instead—by telling you that he’s the type of sports critic that sends a few sentences’ worth of sports observations to a dozen pundits and bloggers’ email addresses for no particular reason, and that I received a lecture from him regarding my journalistic standards as opposed to the Chief’s lamentable record in that regard recently, so…

I guess I can only critique the following quips as pot-stirring for the sake of doing so:

Interesting how the sports news crews and broadcasters refer vaguely to Patrick Sharp’s wrist injury …. Avoiding the mention of Jiri Hudler’s name, or the fact the Detroit Red Wing worm smashed Sharp’s wrist with a vicious slash …. Where is this going ? Yup. TO Brendan Shanahan … ex Detroit Red Wing …. Hudler should have been set down for about 5 games for that slash. It says right in the NHL rules that you can’t be swinging your stick at people. Or in the rules for most teams, anyway. I am beginning to suspect that the Detroit Red Wings, and the refs, have a separate book for calling Detroit penalties …. You watch a Wings game, and how much stick work they are allowed to get away with, it looks pretty bad …. Is it because they don’t dress a goon, because they have such a heavy European flavor, with big name European superstars ? Sure looks that way …. This isn’t to detract from the fact that the Wings are a premier team. Mike Babcock is as good a coach as you will find, but he is maybe overlooked for his contribution because he stepped in and kept the Wings amongst the top teams in the league. It is what is expected in Detroit. Nik Lidstrom is a quiet and classy player, squeaky clean, Hall of Fame bound. But ….. you watch that team play. Watch close, and even Wing fans, be honest about what you see. A lot of worms and a lot of stickwork. Zetterberg is given a lot of leeway with his stick. Hudler was allowed to bust a guy’s wrist with a blatant slash viewed by two zebras. When he was still playing, Kris Draper had an episode of spearing and stick swinging in Phoenix that would have gotten the likes of Dan Carcillo or Andy Sutton banned for life ….. As for Nik Kronwall, he goes airborne a lot, targeting players heads, and is never held accountable by the league …. Whereas a guy like Zac Rinaldo, an edgy player fast with his fists, he lays guys out with clean hits, but gets called for charging, roughing, etc ….. Hey, when even Bob McKenzie does a blurb on TSN defending Rinaldo and calling out the blind bat refs, you know you are getting railroaded … the point is, the Wings do have an advantage from the refs, and are getting a free pass from Brendan Shanahan …. And don’t bother with any “ What about Brendan Smith “ bs …. The kid has played what,two games in the big league ? To straighten this out, Shanahan has to sit down the likes of Hudler and Kronwall when they bust someone’s wrist or go airborne in an attempt to crush a guy and ring his bell … and as for the dolts in stripes that call the game on the ice, they need to get their heads out of their, ahem … you know … and call the Wings they same as they call the Bruins …

Um, every reporter from Chicago has claimed that Hudler’s slash was the reason Sharp broke his wrist for the last month, and I see lots of teams getting away with a ridiculous amount of obstruction and interference of late.

Honestly? I don’t like to use a word this harsh, but I think these kinds of, “It’s a conspiracy for the Wings!” suggestions are probably closer to the, “Dammit, every time Homer stands within 10 feet of a goalie, Gary Bettman calls goals off!” thoughts that some of us would like to admit, but at the same time, I’m not comfortable with the concept of someone soliciting Superbowl Sunday to ask somebody who spent a previous blog entry suggesting that it would be good for “fans” if the NHL “hammers the NHLPA and restore an Original Six-style world where there was no union, were no agents and players could be cut at any time simply because the PA balked at realignment is anything other than a reactionary who’s going to skate into a scrum after a whistle, drop a glove, punch somebody in the face and skate away.

That’s not open-ice hitting. It’s cheap, self-indulgent and self-important in the most insulting sense of self-expression.

And trust me, it’s way easier to be a professional curmudgeon than it is to try to come up with some observations that are thoughtful, novel, or at least less than reactionary, generally angry and usually designed to do nothing other than get a rise out of people.

For goodness’ sake, even Niklas Kronwall knows when to pick his spots. I don’t begrudge Mr. Hitter his opinions, nor his right to express them when and where he pleases, but there’s something to be said that I’m at least aware of this person’s history well enough to suggest that such comments are made as much for the sake of ensuring that as many people as possible react as strongly as possible to what he’s saying as they are to do anything else. I care very much about what you have to think about what I have to say, but I neither expect to do anything less than earn the right to start discussions, nor do I expect you to do anything less than lambast me if I start going “trolling.”

I’m far too busy to do that, and I also hold you in too high a regard to assume that my readers want to be exploited or badgered in such a manner.

Update: I’m nodding my head about at least one sentence from The Score’s Chris Lund’s take on the Wings’ broomball tournament:

It’s cool to see teams do stuff like this, if for no other reason, to make themselves look a little less robotic. A team like Detroit with a ton of big name players (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, etc.) doesn’t really have any notable personalities associated with them. That’s not to say they’re boring or anything, just that they’re behind a curtain to an extent.

• Consider this as a pleasant surprise: the Edmonton Journal’s Jonathan Willis gave Niklas Kronwall’s hit on Ales Hemsky a third glance and deemed in “clean” via frame-by-frame analysis;

• USA Today’s Kevin Allen confirms that the asking price for Tuomo Ruutu is sky-high in his Eastern Conference trade deadline primer;

• And the Columbus Dispatch’s Shawn Mitchell reports that Brett Lebda’s still got really, really, really bad luck.

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Comments

Little Redhead's avatar

Happy Birthday! smile

Posted by Little Redhead from the Engineer's chair on 02/05/12 at 11:01 PM ET

creasemonkey's avatar

Hope your b-day is what you wanted, George (or at least includes a lot of well-deserved rest). I’ll raise a Cheerwine in your honor.

I read most of the comments on KK ref that clownshoe’s article, but it’s not worth the loss of brain cells to read through the actual article. If I wanted a real critique of what’s wrong with the Red Wings, I can read a Wings fan’s diatribe due to how much fans expect the closest possible perfection, mostly because we know what the team is capable of skill wise. There is plenty that the Red Wings do that is bad, but dirty doesn’t really come close.

One thing that they do is play different in front of different goalies.  The past few seasons they played differently in front of Osgood and Howard. One could attribute it to the goalie requesting different things from their defensemen, but it also showed in terms of effort a lot of the time.

Off topic, I wish NBCSports would take a cue from how well their online streaming of football is going (very well, little buffering, only downside is the repetitive commercials) and carry it over to their hockey coverage. I know it won’t happen (because there is way less money in hockey coverage as opposed to football) but I can still hold out a sliver of naive hope that media companies will realize the potential cash cow that could be digital media.

Posted by creasemonkey from sweet home san diego on 02/05/12 at 11:04 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

And trust me, it’s way easier to be a professional curmudgeon than it is to try to come up with some observations that are thoughtful, novel, or at least less than reactionary, generally angry and usually designed to do nothing other than get a rise out of people.

QED

———————————————————-

Personally, I’m not very worried about the goaltender situation.  Sure Conklin hasn’t been great, but given the workload he has had this year, I’m willing to be patient since given the Wings position right now. 

Also, despite the fact of our sample size on Joey MacDonald this year, he looked pretty solid last night.  Jimmy shouldn’t be out long.  I’m not worried about this.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 02/05/12 at 11:27 PM ET

WestWing's avatar

It’s cool to see teams do stuff like this, if for no other reason, to make themselves look a little less robotic. A team like Detroit with a ton of big name players (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, etc.) doesn’t really have any notable personalities associated with them. That’s not to say they’re boring or anything, just that they’re behind a curtain to an extent.

Strangely, each Red Wing player who was questioned by reporters about their broomball performance was quoted as follows.

“I thought they had better jump than we did. I don’t think we came out with as much energy. It took us a couple of periods to get going.”

Seriously though, broomball is awesome and all, but I think next time they need a fun diversion, a good two hour special teams practice might be a fun novelty too.

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 02/06/12 at 12:46 AM ET

Avatar

It’s cool to see teams do stuff like this, if for no other reason, to make themselves look a little less robotic. A team like Detroit with a ton of big name players (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, etc.) doesn’t really have any notable personalities associated with them. That’s not to say they’re boring or anything, just that they’re behind a curtain to an extent.

Strangely, each Red Wing player who was questioned by reporters about their broomball performance was quoted as follows.

“I thought they had better jump than we did. I don’t think we came out with as much energy. It took us a couple of periods to get going.”

Seriously though, broomball is awesome and all, but I think next time they need a fun diversion, a good two hour special teams practice might be a fun novelty too.

hahahhaha

You win with this post.  Gold.

Posted by loojay on 02/06/12 at 01:08 AM ET

Avatar

The optimist in me says two weeks straight at home, with a “mini-training camp” and a chance to recharge physically and mentally will do wonders for them, including the power play. I hope. I think the two hour special teams practice sounds good in theory, but the team’s near the end of their brutal road stretch of over a month, and I have a hunch that the power play will take top priority then. The broomball is okay as part of their sanity check on this last stretch. Only one western trip after this, too.

Posted by Bugsy on 02/06/12 at 02:39 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

The Wings power play is oh, so predictable.  Same guys, same structure, not moving around, just pass, pass, pass.  Wait for a perfect shooting lane, hoping Homer will deflect.  And then a shot from the point.  Hello.  The other teams have this figured out.

I’d love to see the third and fourth liners out there, with the following instruction:  Win the face-off, take the puck and fly through the neural zone as fast as possible and shoot the puck at the net.  Everybody else get in there as fast as possible to pounce on rebounds.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 02/06/12 at 10:27 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Seriously though, broomball is awesome and all, but I think next time they need a fun diversion, a good two hour special teams practice might be a fun novelty too.

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 02/05/12 at 10:46 PM ET

LOL - yes.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 02/06/12 at 10:28 AM ET

cementslinger's avatar

I’m curious.  What about the trip on Pavel Datsyuk that cost the Wings a cup win in Detroit a few years back? No call.  And the Lidstrom testicle spear?

I don’t need to go on.  Most Wings fans know what the Wings have had to deal with in the past.  Maybe the Wings just learned how to play with the cards that it’s been dealt for so long.

Posted by cementslinger from Midland MI on 02/06/12 at 11:57 AM ET

Avatar

Looks like Howie will be out longer than originally thought. I like Joey as a back up, but what if Howie limps up in the playoffs? Conk has been known to do better when allowed to get in a groove for a few games, but I’m just not seeing the swagger this year. Who are our options without spending too much?

1-Nabby, he may come at the cost of a decent young player, but I think we’d be talking Emmerton class much more than Nyquist. The Isles need good grinders to fill out the bottom six.

2-Turco, yes we would risk another nabby situation, but there isn’t much to lose there. he’s having a decent season over seas, and wouldn’t cost anything.
        other over seas options- Hasek (kept in shape?), Gerber?

3-Lindback, of all the cheaper trade options, he may be the best. Nash. has no room for him, but will they trade within the division?

4-Griess

5- Is ozzie still in shape :0)

Posted by Mike from Edmonton on 02/06/12 at 01:16 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.