Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: the Wings’ brass weighs in on realignment and a Wings-Blues set-up

When the captain of the ship logged off last night (sorry for the non search engine-optimized first paragraphs, by the way), I said something about the realignment issue—DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose says that we can assume that the Red Wings will play in the “Central Conference” next season—that I’d like to proffer amidst the cornucopia of responses (and yes, we’ve got a Red Wings-Blues set-up to get to: the teams play tonight at 7:30 PM EST, and Versus and TSN2 will carry the game in addition to FSD and WXYT):

We’re gonna have to wait to see how this plays out over the course of a season or three before we can truly assess its pluses and minuses. At first blush, and from a totally subjective Wings fan’s perspective, this looks like a “big win” for Detroit as it means less travel, Original Six match-ups at the Joe every year and more road games in the Central Time Zone instead of Mountain and Pacific, but we don’t even know how the NHLPA will approve it, or quite frankly, whether fans will dig so many inter-“conference” playoff rounds (for the next five or ten years, the Wings have exactly six possible playoff opponents in the first and second rounds), the fact that teams which might have more points than those in other “conferences” won’t make the playoff cut, whether we Wings fans are going to miss those rivalries with the Sharks, Ducks and Avs when we’re reduced to home-and-homes with those teams down the line, or whether, over time, the format may seem as drearily divisional as the “eight games against your own division” schedule that came out of the lockout. We don’t know if we’re going to have a 2012-2013 season, either, or where Phoenix will play during that presumptive season, though that’s a story for later today.

The Wings’ brass, of course, reacted very favorably to the Board of Governors’ decision, as Ken Holland and Jimmy Devellano told MLive’s Ansar Khan...

“I’m so happy. It’s a dream come true for the Detroit Red Wings,” club senior vice president Jimmy Devellano told MLive.com from the NHL’s Board of Governors meetings in Pebble Beach, Calif. “For our fans, there will be far fewer games starting at 10:40 (p.m.), especially come playoff time. I like that for our fans and TV ratings. The second thing is our fans will get to see the (Toronto) Maple Leafs, Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh, the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. They’ll all visit on one occasion.”

General manager Ken Holland, also at the Board of Governors meetings, echoed those sentiments to MLive.com.

“When this process started 6-8 months ago when Atlanta moved to Winnipeg and we knew there was going to be realignment, our thought was we wanted to be in the East,” Holland said. “As the process went along and the four conferences were proposed, we felt there was going to have to be a compromise position. Four conferences made a lot of teams happy. Our fans want to see all the teams in the league at home once. More of our road games start between 7:30 and 8:30. With the playoffs within the conferences for the first two rounds, there’s less travel. More road games in the playoffs will be in prime time. Our fans should be excited and happy about it.”

Being in one of two eight-team conferences (there are two seven-team conferences), Detroit must compete with an extra club to make the playoffs.

“There’s always a fly in the ointment,” Devellano said. “It’s going to be tougher to make the playoffs. You got to be in the top four of eight. Some good teams will miss the playoffs. But (this format) was a no-brainer for us.”

The Free Press’s Helene St. James...

“We like this new format,” Holland said. “We get every team in the league in our building at least once. The first two rounds of the playoffs are within the conference. We don’t have to travel nearly as much.”

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom is a fan of playing more games in the Eastern time zone.

“I think that makes it easier,” he said. “You can be home by 12:30, so that’s a big difference compared to going to the West Coast. We travel a lot to different time zones to play, and that takes a toll on the body.”
“For us to be able to play more in our own time zone I think would be great,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said, “because just to be able to get home earlier, not spend as many days on the road, we’d get to see our families more.”
Per the NHL, in the seven-team conferences, teams would play six times—three home, three away. In the eight-team conferences, teams would play either five or six times in a season on a rotating basis. The first two rounds of the playoffs would pit the first-place team against the fourth-place team and the second-place team against the third-place within each conference. The four conference champions would meet in the third round, though it hasn’t been determined how those seeds would be formatted. For a team like the Wings, who, for example, spent the ‘07 playoffs making two trips each to Calgary, San Jose and Anaheim, this new format is a much welcome change.

“It’s a much better set-up for us,” Holland said. “It really cuts down our travel. We’re going to play many more road games in prime time, our fans won’t have to stay up till 10, 10:30 to watch us on the west coast. We’re very happy with this.”

The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...

“We’re happy,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “At the end of the day, every team had to give a little bit. We’d love to have been in the Eastern Conference but this set up made everyone happy. It’s as good as we can get.”
In seven-team conferences, teams will play each other six times. It’s a bit more complicated in eight-team conferences where teams would play each other five or six times in the season on a rotating basis. However, in all four conferences the top four teams from each make the playoffs.

“With the playoffs within the conferences for the first two rounds, there’s less travel,” Holland said. “More road games in playoffs in prime time.”

The first two rounds of the playoffs will be played within the “conference” with the winners of each moving onto the semifinals.

“The league has parity,” Holland said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in a seven or eight team division. It’s a lot better than the situation we had.”

“It’s going to be tougher to make the playoffs,” Devellano said. “You’ve got to be in the top four. Some good teams will miss the playoffs. But it was a no-brainer for us.

The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan and Gregg Krupa...

“We felt this plan was a lot better than what we currently have,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said.

In the new format, every team would see every other team in the league once at home and away.

“So our fans will see Toronto, Montreal, Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers, Vancouver, San Jose and everyone (else) at least once,” Holland said.

While teams in the west generally favored that arrangement, owners in the east were reportedly balking at their new expenses for travel, which some asserted could amount to anything from $2 million to $10 million in additional costs, per year. Holland was pleased about the playoff format, as well.

“In the first two rounds of the playoffs we are staying within our division, in prime time and more within our time zone, rather than traipsing to California every other day,” he said.

And DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose...

“It’s a dream come true for the Detroit Red Wings and its fans,” Wings senior vice president Jim Devellano told DetroitRedWings.com in a phone interview Monday night. “Our fans now will get to see every team in the NHL at least once every year. Our fans will have far fewer games starting at 10:40 at night, far fewer. And that will especially hold true in the playoffs because in the first two-rounds we will be playing teams relatively close to Detroit with Dallas or maybe Winnipeg being the furthest ones.”
“Six-months ago our thought was that we wanted to be in the east,” Wings general manager Ken Holland told the NHL Network. “But after looking at this alternative and the four regions, and after talking with Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch, and Jimmy D, and Tom Wilson and Chris Ilitch, we felt that this was a great compromise, and I would say that we’re happy.”

The Wings currently play 16 regular-season games in the Mountain or Pacific time zones. In the new alignment that number will be cut in half.
“This is better and it’s better for a lot of teams because it’s based on geography,” Devellano said. “You’re going to have more games closer to home and everybody kind of shares in the travel, because everybody’s got to go everywhere now. So it’s a good deal for the fans, it really is.”
[The playoffs are] where the Wings really like the ideal of not playing in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones, because there’s nothing fan-friendly about hockey games ending after the late local news. This season the Wings have 11 road games that start between 9 and 10:30 p.m. And only two of those are on a Saturday night, meaning fans either don’t stay up late to watch the games or to go work or school the next day exhausted.

“We’ll have a handful of West Coast games through the year, but just a handful by just going out there once and a few of them will be on the weekends, so the late start wouldn’t be so difficult,” Devellano said. “But at least we won’t be going out there twice.”
“We played a lot of road games last year in Phoenix and San Jose and the games are on at 10-10:30 at night,” Holland said. “I would talk to fans and they would watch one or two periods and they would wake-up in the morning to get the score.”

Devellano added, “Last year if we had beaten San Jose, we’d have had to play Vancouver. So we would have had in three consecutive rounds, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver. That’s awful. Now they’re only one time zone away and the games there will start at 8:30 (p.m. ET), not at 10:40. So we’re really, really pleased about that. I think the fans will like it. But anyways, those old days are done. A dream comes true and it all starts next October.”

Here’s Holland’s interview with the NHL Network…

And Devellano told Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika that plenty of legwork went into Gary Bettman’s ability to pass this very radical decision by a 26-4 margin:

“He’s the guy that came up with the plan,” said Jimmy Devellano, senior vice president of the Detroit Red Wings. “That was his plan. He put it all together because, you know, a lot of people had issues.”

Devellano said he spoke to Bettman about realignment almost every week for the last two months – and the Wings were one of the teams pushing for change. Bettman, no doubt, also had many conversations with clubs who like things just the way they are.

“There was a lot of work done behind the scenes,” Devellano said. “You can’t go to a meeting where there are 30 people and try to get two-thirds of the people to vote without doing things first, one-on-one, behind the scenes. It’s the smart thing to do. It’s the sensible thing to do. So a lot of work was done one-on-one with the 30 owners.”

Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch has long wanted to move to the Eastern Conference, because as a Western Conference team in the Eastern Time zone, the Wings have logged many miles traveling and started many games too late for their local TV audience. He said publicly that Bettman had promised him the Red Wings would move East if the opportunity ever arose. And the opportunity arose when the Thrashers became the Jets.

But Bettman couldn’t make that promise to Ilitch – realignment is up to the owners, not him – and other teams had their own problems.

Is there a negative to the plan? Sure, as Ken Holland told ESPN’s Scott Burnside (and if you dig even more repetition, NHL.com’s Corey Masisak, go ahead, and if you’re curious, Nicklas Lidstrom told Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom that the plan’s “interesting” because it means shorter road trips, and Henrik Zetterberg told Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman that a “real league” allows its home fans to see every team at least once, which he digs):

“More teams are going to have to do more travel. There’s things in there that everybody likes to a degree and some they wouldn’t like but ultimately it’s about compromise,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. “From the Detroit Red Wings perspective, we like it.”

I’ll happily grab a handful of Tums to hack up this one: I’ve got to give Bettman and the NHL credit for convincing the NHL’s owners to embrace what really is a radical change, and while we have to see how this plays out when teams actually play  for a few seasons under this new format before we can use our “Jump to Conclusions” mat, I’ve got to admit that I only have one beef with this schedule: I’ve got to learn to dislike the Winnipeg Jets, and that’s gonna be hard for me.


Let’s move on to the Red Wings’ game against the St. Louis Blues tonight. Again, the game starts at 7:30 Eastern, and will be on FSD (Matt Sheppard will fill in for Ken Daniels tonight), Versus, TSN2 and WXYT, and the whole “Versus and TSN2 picked this one up late” thing does mean that you can say the NHL’s still screwing Wings fans because this game will now be blacked out on Center Ice and GameCenter Online, so you’re stuck with Versus or TSN2 if you don’t live in Michigan.

Put simply, the Blues are a little scary. They’ve got an amazing record of late, as the Detroit Free Press points out, as Ken Hitchock’s straightened the team out and then some:

Two of the hotter teams in the NHL meet tonight as the Red Wings visit St. Louis. The Wings just had their seven-game winning streak snapped, and the Blues are 8-2-3 since Ken Hitchcock took over as coach. The teams have met once this season, with St. Louis winning, 2-1, at the Joe, about a week after Hitchcock took over. 7:30, Fox Sports Detroit.

The Blues are coming off a 5-2 loss to Chicago on Saturday, and they lost their previous game to Colorado in overtime, but their two-game losing streak ended a four-game winning streak to close out November, and all their overtime and shootout losses have added up to a simple statistic: the Blues can tie the Wings’ 33 points in the Western Conference standings if they win tonight.

They’ve received offensive reinforcements as well David Perron has finally recovered from a concussion, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dan ONeill reports that Carlo Colaiacovo and Evgeny Grachev will return for the Blues as well (which the Belleville News-Democrat’s Norm Sanders confirms), with Brian Elliott getting the nod in the net..But O’Neill says that the Blues have encountered only one problem under Hitchcock’s guidance, which seems to befuddle every team which learns to play Hitchockian hockey:

The Blues have scored exactly two goals in regulation during 15 starts thus far, and less than two goals on three other occasions. That makes 18 of 26 games in which they had a defensive error margin of less than two goals. That’s living on the edge.

Due to defensive diligence and outstanding goaltending, the team has lost only two of 13 games in regulation under new coach Ken Hitchcock, with three shootout losses. The Blues are the second stingiest team in the NHL, allowing 2.12 goals-against. Boston is slightly more suffocating at 2.08. The Blues captured only one four possible points over the weekend, and the shortcoming can be traced directly to its inability to extend leads.
“Getting David Perron back is one piece of the puzzle, and getting Andy McDonald back in the future will also help,” [Blues GM Doug] Armstrong said. “We’re going to need depth scoring, and we’ve had one line doing it lately, with (Patrik) Berglund’s line starting to chip in with some goals. We were going to be a true team this year, with team toughness, team scoring and team defense. But you saw the goal Perron scored the other night. He’s maybe one of only two, or he might be the only one on our team who has the patience and ability to put that puck where he put it. That’s a promising sign, and (Chris) Stewart got a goal as well. So we believe it’s here. Now if we get healthy and it continues to be an issue, then we’ll obviously look at what we need to do.”
The Blues aren’t loaded with scoring talent, but they are not without credentials. Eight forwards currently in the lineup have scored in excess of 20 goals in a season, some on numerous occasions. Two young defensemen, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, had more than 40 points in their first full NHL seasons in 2010-11.

Alex Steen, who has eight goals and a team-leading 18 points, is confident there is ample in-house skill to get the job done.

“We’re doing a lot of good things,” Steen said. “We’ve had some really good opportunities and ... we haven’t put them in. We need to bear down and put those in. We’ll be good. This is a group that can put the puck in the net, for sure. So, we know we’ve only been scoring two goals, but we’ll break out.”
A power-play epiphany would change the landscape. The Blues have eight goals in 87 power-play opportunities, a 9.2 percent success rate that is the worst in the league. The unit also has allowed three short-handed goals, making it plus-5 for the season.

Ken Hitccock, however, isn’t concerned about the Blues’ lack of scoring prowess, as he told the Belleville News-Democrat’s Norm Sanders, suggesting that David Perron’s return should translate into more confidence on a teamwide basis:

“I think the whole team feeds off of that stuff,” said Hitchcock, who feels Perron’s return can help in a variety of areas. “When you get a creative player back, then I think the puck patience that he shows leads everywhere else. We’re a different team with a guy like Perron in. I think that’s going to make us a lot different.”
“Right now we’re creating chances, we’re playing really hard,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve got to be careful about pouring more people into the pile here. I think we’ve got to trust the fact that if you just keep getting this many scoring chances of this quality, that you’re going to end up finishing.”

Finishing. That’s been a problem for the Blues on a variety of levels. Their power play still ranks last in the NHL with an 8-for-87 success rate, which is 9.2 percent.In addition, the Blues have scored two goals or fewer 16 times in their first 26 games. You have to go through 71 players on the NHL’s list of scoring leaders before hitting the first Blue, who is Alex Steen with eight goals and 18 points.

“That’s the one thing as a coach you can’t teach, you can’t teach finishing,” Hitchcock said. “I think we’ve just got to be careful how we deal with it. When you’re not scoring like you think you can and you’re still playing well defensively, it all recovers itself. But boy, when you start going and taking too many risks, then you end up trading that out on the other side.”
Hitchcock said something else that can help eradicate a scoring slump is creating more traffic in front of the opposing goaltenders.

“We’re kind of trying to tip the puck rather than screen the vision of the goalie,” he said. “That’s one area we want to do a better job at, taking away their vision. Taking away the vision creates a second and third shot, whereas if you’re trying to tip pucks if you don’t get your stick on it he sees it and it’s gone.”

“I think it’s a collective thing, a mindset,” Hitchcock said. “When you go the net, the players have to understand you’re sacrificing so that other people can get their second and third opportunities. You might be the guy that takes the beating and somebody else might put it in. I think you’ve got to have that mindset if you’re going to be successful.”

O’Neill sets up tonight’s game as follows...

Blues Preview:  In the big picture, the Blues have points in 11 of 13 games under coach Ken Hitchcock. In the more immediate picture, the team is coming off a loss to Chicago and a shootout loss at Colorado. Special teams have been an issue all season. The team remains mired in a power-play slump and is last in the NHL in power-play efficiency. In the loss to Chicago, the power play allowed a short-handed goal that turned around the game. The Blues’ penalty-killing unit also was victimized for two power-play goals against.
What to watch: The Blues have had difficulty scoring goals. They have scored two goals in their past eight starts and nine of their past 10. The team welcomed back forward David Perron on Saturday, as Perron had missed 97 games with concussion symptoms. He had a goal on his third shift of the game in the 5-2 loss to Chicago. Brian Elliott (10-2, 1.53 goals-against average) will start in goal for the Blues, while Detroit figures to go with Jimmy Howard. The tireless Howard had a stretch of 17 starts before the Colorado game. He leads the NHL in wins (15), with a 1.83 GAA and a .931 save percentage. Pavel Datsyuk has six goals and eight assists for Detroit in his past nine games.

Injuries: Blues — D Kent Huskins (ankle), F Andy McDonald (concussion) and F B.J. Crombeen (shoulder), out; D Carlo Colaiacovo (hamstring), day to day. Red Wings — F Jan Mursak (ankle) and F Patrick Eaves (fractured jaw), out; F Valtteri Flippula (cut on leg), day to day.

And NHL.com’s Dan Rosen offers a preview which allows us to shift focus from the Blues’ side of the story to the Red Wings’ perspective:

Season series: This is the second of six meetings between the Central Division rivals this season. The Blues beat the Red Wings, 2-1, on Nov. 15.

Big Story: The Red Wings seven-game winning streak came to an end Sunday in a 4-2 loss to Colorado. The Blues are winless in their last two games after reeling off four straight victories. Two points separate the Wings and Blues in the Central Division standings. They both trail the first-place Blackhawks.
Blues [team scope]: The Blues went 8-1-2 in their first 11 games under coach Ken Hitchcock, but they’ve dropped their first two games in December, including a 3-2 shootout loss to Colorado and a 5-2 regulation loss to the Blackhawks. The five goals the Blues allowed to Chicago were the most they’ve given up in their 13 games under Hitchcock.

The Blues allowed two or fewer goals in 11 of their first 12 games under Hitchcock. They had shutouts in three of those games. Their goals-against per game has dipped to 2.12 per game, which was second in the NHL behind Boston’s 2.08 heading into Monday’s games.

Who’s Hot: Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk has 5 points (2-3-5) in the last three games and 14 points (6-8-14) over his last nine games. Blues winger David Perron scored a goal on his first shot in his return game Saturday after missing 97 games with a concussion.
Stat Pack: Elliott has a 2.43 goals-against average in three career appearances against Detroit. Howard is 5-1-0 with a 2.49 GAA in his last six starts against the Blues.

The Red Wings’ focus on Monday involved the status of Valtteri Filppula, who is okay but a little sore after sustaining a cut to the front of his left leg, where his shin pad and the tongue of his skate meet, when Avs forward David Jones slew-footed him, and Filppula told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that he may or may not play tonight:

Filppula didn’t practice Monday in St. Louis but was walking around the locker room with ease and could be ready to play Tuesday against the Blues if protective equipment is ready and comfortable to wear.

“I feel OK, a little sore,” Filppula said. “It felt like I was tripped and I felt right on (a) skate at the same time, and I got cut.”

The cut — right above the ankle and just under the shin pad — wasn’t wide, but it was deep and required stitches.

“I don’t know (how many); it really doesn’t matter,” said Filppula. “No tendons (were cut) and that was a good thing. That would have made a longer stretch (of games missed).”

If Filppula isn’t able to play, Cory Emmerton would return into the lineup.

In theory, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James notes, the Wings’ lineup would only be shuffled in a minor fashion if Filppula can’t play...

If Filppula can’t play, it looks like, based on [Monday]‘s practice, that Danny Cleary would move into the left wing spot on the second line, and Cory Emmerton would move up to play in Cleary’s spot on the third line with Darren Helm and Chris Conner.

But it was a shuffle of a different kind—as in the fact that the Blues checked the hell out of the Wings, and all but beat them into submission (or at least indecisiveness) during their first meeting, as Wings coach Mike Babcock told St. James:

“I didn’t think our commitment to a physical game was there,” coach Mike Babcock said Monday. “It was almost a lot like last night—you skill your way around, you only get so far. The plan has got to be real simple here: They beat us last time. We want to respond.”

The Blues are 8-2-3 since Ken Hitchcock became coach Nov. 6 and regained the services of forward David Perron after a long concussion layoff. When they get their game established, they make it hard for opponents to get quality scoring chances; the Wings got a season-low 22 shots on net in that November game.

“They’re playing real well whether it’s in the offensive zone or neutral zone or especially their defensive zone,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “They just play a really solid system. They get on top of you when they can, and when they can’t, they make it hard in the neutral zone, and in their own zone, players are blocking shots. It’s hard to get shots through.”

Tonight is the first of three meetings between the teams this month, and for the Wings, it’s an opportunity to not only even the series but also get back to doing things right.

“When we play our best,” Babcock said, “we’re physical on the forecheck, on the grind, we’re wearing the other team out, our D are allowed to be up and active. If you want your D to play with their faces against the glass all night, I don’t know how they’re supposed to have any success and make any plays. So you’ve got a decision: Do you want your D to get worn out, or your want their D to get worn out?”

In other words, the Wings essentially have to play playoff-caliber hockey, at least in terms of their physical game, to not get checked onto their heels tonight, and after the Avalanche steamrolled the Wings in similar fashion over the final forty minutes of Sunday’s game, the Wings need to nip this particular issue in the bud tonight.

According to the NHL’s media website, Tom Kowal and Chris Rooney are scheduled to referee tonight’s game, with Tim Nowak and Pierre Racicot working the lines.


Part III: I hate power rankings: I’m sorry for all this first-person talk—when you don’t write for an extended period of time, even if you’re me, and I am pretty good at this, one tends to lose one’s voice—but as you know, I don’t dig power rankings. I think they’re low-hanging fruit, the kind of stuff that’s designed to generate debate via a cursory ranking of teams. But let’s delve into Monday’s crop regardless, starting with ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun’s complimentary take on the Wings’ play…

3 ([last week] 2) Red Wings [record] 16-8-1: Sunday night in Colorado aside, the Wings are generally humming along. Johan Franzen is on pace for a career season.

I’ll try to get some player assessments done on Wednesday, and I’ll spoil Franzen’s: regardless of whether he scores 40 goals this season or he continues to fade toward a 30-goal, 50-point pace at the high salary he’s earning, he’s engaged in every game, he’s demonstratively physical, he’s working hard and he’s emerging as a leader, and having the Mule play like the Mule every night is utterly fantastic, regardless of whether he scores every other night.

TSN’s Scott Cullen focuses on another player who’s finally fulfilling his potential in spades (apparently all he needed was to be freed of the defensive responsibilities of a center to roar to life)...

This Week 5 Last Week 5 Detroit Red Wings: Sunday’s loss at Colorado snapped a seven-game winning streak and cost the Wings C Valtteri Filppula, who has been on a roll, with seven points in the last six games.

And yes, now we know why the Wings were remarkably patient with Filppula as he hovered at the 40-point mark.

We’ll talk about a hidden gem via the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau‘s rankings…

4. Detroit Red Wings [last week] 5: Nicklas Lidstrom (plus-8) amazing once again, but surprisingly, Ian White leads team in plus-minus (plus-13)

Sometimes the best managerial moves involve picking up guys who’ve bounced around but always played lights-out hockey against your team, giving them a home and telling them to enjoy playing alongside a legend.

Sportsnet’s Luke Fox focuses on the Wings as a whole...

3 [last week] 2 Red Wings: Another decent week for the Wings, who lengthened their run of victories to seven before finally dropping one on the road to Colorado. Highlight of their week: trumping Steve Yzerman’s Lightning 4-2 in the Captain’s return to The Joe.

That one mattered a little more than we thought it would…

And finally, Fox Sports’ Joe Rosen focuses on a certain goaltender‘s dominance in his rankings:

2. Red Wings [last week] 3 [highest spot/lowest spot] 2/20: The Wings averaged four goals per game over their seven-game winning streak. Goalie Jimmy Howard had posted incredible numbers over his last 16, prior to Sunday’s loss (11-4-1, 1.78 GAA, .933 save percentage, 2 SO).

If you missed it, WRIF’s Meltdown’s produced a video introducing a pretty remarkable way to induce a last push to vote Howard into the All-Star Game’s starting lineup:

Here are the details of the bus tour on WRIF.com.


IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau, writing on her Left Wing Lock blog, touches upon one more “hot button issue (she weighed in on the realignment issue as well):

Ty Conklin had to wait 17 games before getting another chance to start for the Red Wings. Sunday’s 4-2 loss against the Colorado Avalanche did little to secure his standing with the Red Wings. Conklin previous two starts came in late October and included a 7-1 loss to the Washington Capitals and 4-1 lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Jimmy Howard, who’s sparkling 1.83 goals against is fifth best in the NHL, hasn’t made it easy for Conklin to earn starts with the Red Wings. Howard has been the teams undisputed most valuable player this season, but the coaching staff needs to be mindful not to over play the 27 year-old stopper. He’s already started 21 of the Red Wings 26 games this season

When the Red Wings signed Conklin as a free agent this summer, they thought they had found a suitable replacement for the retiring Chris Osgood. The 35 year-old netminder was coming off a sub-par season which saw his goals against sink to .889 in 25 starts with the St. Louis Blues. The Red Wings were hoping for a rebound that still hasn’t happened.

With Joey MacDonald the only viable option in the minors, the Detroit brass needs to address it’s goaltending depth quickly. A tandem of Conklin/ MacDonald might be an adequate short-term solution, but if Howard is sidelined for any length of time the Red Wings playoff hopes will likely be lost with him. Goaltending is typically in short supply once the season starts, but the Wings should make every effort to upgrade now and not gamble at the trade deadline. If they don’t upgrade, then their Stanley Cup hopes could be over before they start.

I’m just a wee bit worried about Conklin’s inconsistency as well, though his defense are also attempting to adjust to the fact that he’s the first Wings goalie since, well, Ty Conklin to not kick out hard rebounds, but we have to think about Ken Holland’s modus operandi when it comes to any potential trades—as well as his remarkable patience with both works in progress and veterans who have yet to quite find their stride—and if Howard gets hurt at some point, then Holland would probably see what Conklin and MacDonald (as well as Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce as both have to clear waivers next season, and Petr Mrazek will doubtlessly be signed next spring, so Holland’s got to see whether the youngsters can hack it at some point) could do before making a move.

Holland also tends to make trades closer to the deadline, regardless of when holes in his roster show up, though GM’s tendencies to make trades earlier in February might sway his hand. I think that the “concern” button switches to “worry” if and only if Conklin continues to struggle and something happens to Mr. Workhorse.

• Speaking of goalies, NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale made it officially official: Mrazek will play for the Czech Republic at the World Juniors, joining Sweden’s Mattias Backman and Finland’s Teemu Pulkkinen;

• Switching gears, the Grand Rapids Griffins have released an ambitious charitable agenda for their players and organization this week...

• Almost finally, the Wings are offering tickets to their New Year’s party at the Olympia Club for $95, doesn’t officially include the fact that Wings alums and sometimes players turn up at the shindig, but it’s still amenity-stuffed and then some, so take a gander and decide whether you’d like to go;

• And finally finally, I’ll be out of the office from around11:30 till, erm, 2 or 3 tomorrow as I’ve got to run the parent to an appointment and have one myself afterward, all a ways from home. If anything earth-shattering happens at the Blues’ or Wings’ morning skates, Paul will post the news.


Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


Forlorn in VA's avatar

Good Morning, George.

Posted by Forlorn in VA on 12/06/11 at 07:58 AM ET

Lucce's avatar

Excellent post!

Posted by Lucce from Kingdom of Zweden on 12/06/11 at 10:41 AM ET

scsgoal31's avatar

Are we just throwing out the Clarence Campbell Bowl and Prince of Wales trophies?  If not, and they do the re-seeding for semis, who plays for which?

Posted by scsgoal31 from Huntington Woods, MI on 12/06/11 at 12:25 PM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

Helene St. James notes, the Wings’ lineup would only be shuffled in a minor fashion if Filppula can’t play…
If Filppula can’t play, it looks like, based on [Monday]‘s practice, that Danny Cleary would move into the left wing spot on the second line, and Cory Emmerton would move up to play in Cleary’s spot on the third line with Darren Helm and Chris Conner.

This is how Babcock complicates every single injury by making it upset 2 lines instead of one.

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 12/06/11 at 01:53 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Nobody knows about the trophies yet. And I think it’s somewhat necessary to screw with two lines given that Fil’...Fil.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 12/06/11 at 02:22 PM ET

Behind_Enemy_Lines's avatar

I like the proposal but I would also like to see Detroit and Chicago swapped for the two Florida teams. F them anyways (sorry Stevie). Det, Chi, Bos, Mon, Tor, Buf, Ott sounds super awesome. And you know if I really want dreams to come true, swap Buf   or Ott for…...NYR woohooo.

Posted by Behind_Enemy_Lines from Evanston,IL on 12/06/11 at 04:03 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

Thanks George, its great to see you back in action sir.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 12/06/11 at 04:34 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.