The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/12/13 at 07:11 AM ET
Greetings, dear readers...I've been absent for the past three days and am just calming down at 6 AM for a reason that I'll get to in a minute...
But I was asked to weigh in on this past weekend's games to ground this entry in hockey observations, and all I can say is this: if the Wings miss the playoffs, we'll look at the Wings' bombs against Columbus as the reason--just as much because the Blue Jackets have provided a blueprint for opponents to defeat the Wings via mild annoyance as opposed to St. Louis Blues-style mashing and grinding into pulp.
To some extent, the Red Wings have always been vulnerable to a passive-aggressive game. Aggressive forechecking and checking wakes them up and shakes their fillings, which either results in a team playing on its heels all game long or a team that reacts in kind. The Blue Jackets most certainly play physical and sometimes punishing hockey--with Vinny Prospal rubbing it in all along the way--but Todd Richards has done an excellent job of merging the Hitchcockian trap, dump-and-don't-chase with the kind of every-third-shift offensive push that made a comparatively shorthanded Minnesota Wild so dangerous under his tenure with that team.
Essentially, the Blue Jackets play as much of a pull-and-tug, lull-and-push style as they're allowed on a given night by both their coach and the fantastically inconsistent refereeing that's plaguing this league on a night-to-night basis, and when things are called tightly enough that the Wings get a few power plays in addition to being hooked, held and grabbed, the power play's become so gun-shy (see: Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Damien Brunner and one of Johan Franzen or Danny Cleary are on the ice, but only Niklas Kronwall's allowed to shoot, and the only person who's allowed to enter the zone is whoever Kronwall drop-passes to at center ice) that it might get a point-salvaging goal, as it did on Sunday...
But other than Jordin Tootoo's fists (or Brendan Smith's, as it turns out), the Wings simply don't have an equalizer via man-advantage scored goals this year, and as the Blue Jackets displayed, playing aggressively only when necessary to sustain some offensive pressure still lulls the Wings to sleep. The difference this time around is that this team's confidence remains so very tracing-paper thin that if it doesn't score the game's first goal, or surrenders any kind of deficit, it's unlikely to rally.
There's no one player or coach or injury or personnel loss to blame in particular here: it seems that a combination of streaky scorers that can't get on the same page (see: bottom six OR top six scoring, not both), still-too-loose defense in front of Jimmy Howard (who's doing his best), poor special teams play and plain old inconsistent team-wide attention to detail, work ethic, effort and focus have yielded a Red Wings team that looks both incredibly vulnerable and increasingly easily exploitable.
I tend to try to be as positive as I can be when talking about the team I not only pretend to professionally cover, but also cheer for, but this past weekend...
I know we're supposed to buy the, "It's parity" excuse, and that we're supposed to understand that this Red Wings team is so very young and so very accurately engaging in a "rebuilding" and/or transitional year that involves simply seeing what its current players can do before allowing some to walk and re-tooling when the cap goes down and players hit the market via compliance buyouts this summer, but...It's COLUMBUS that's making the Wings look the most easily beatable of any opponent thus far, and with all due respect given to their remarkably resilient die-hard fans...It's *#$%@& insulting.
I hope this and the 0-3-and-2 stretch represent the low points of the Wings' 2013 season, and that this Western Canadian swing and the last two weeks' of the month's worth of odyssey to Anaheim, Phoenix and San Jose force the Wings to play with the kind of economic and sometimes simple blend of puck possession and "chip and chase" hockey that Mike Babcock's wanted this team to play since he took over in 2005, and that simply being away from home after such a JLA-heavy schedule will force this team to spend time together, to get down to playing an "uglier" but more effective road game, and that somewhere along the way, the Wings find the same shaman to rid the team of the injury bug and fix the power play, because this team is still at least a playoff team, even without any well-placed trade deadline additions...
But the 2013 Red Wings remain a team that rather desperately needed the one thing the lockout could not give them to iron out the crinkles and wrinkles we knew would result due to their roster turnover, the gargantuan skates which still need to be more consistently filled by committee and the identity-building and establishing that this team seems to only be able to find in fits and spurts, if and only if everything goes according to the game plan: this team needed an 82-game schedule like nobody's business, and instead, it has 22 more games to figure out who it is, what it can get away with, what works, what doesn't, who works and who doesn't fit going forward.
As for my adventures with technology--and this is the "short version!"
After my reconditioned HP laptop went kerplunk during the Wings' last West Coast swing, I received familial help to spend a huge chunk of change that I didn't have on a new HP laptop with all the bells, whistles and features I needed in a mobile desktop. I transferred the files from my salvaged hard drive to the new computer, got it up and running (it took about 14 hours to set it up due to learning Windows 8 and how to disable its features via Stardock software's Start8 program) and established a comfort level with the machine, but within five days of its purchase, I began to hear a shrill, skull-piercing whine which I assumed was coming from a cooling fan underneath the keyboard.
I hadn't been able to afford purchasing the computer and a warranty from Office Depot, so I tried to get the computer fixed through HP, and I shit you not, dealing with their technical support was like dealing with Peggy from "USA Prime Credit." Somewhere between eight and ten email-answering folks from the eastern hemisphere suggested that I clean the fans with compressed air (which I did), and when the whine consisted and became so painful to deal with that I started hearing tinny noises when the computer wasn't operating, I received the equivalent of: "We fix. Send to us. Three-to-four weeks."
This was repeated to me over the course of a full week. "We fix. Send to us. 2 to 3 days to get packaging to you, 3 to 5 days to receive it, 8 to 12 business days to fix it, another 3 to 5 days to send it back." I managed to find a U.S. tech support number and plain old begged while explaining my situation, and got a, "We can't send a tech out to you for this issue."
After a week of haggling, begging and pleading, I decided to call Office Depot, and this past Saturday, I was offered a second computer. So I backed everything up to my external hard drive, dropped off the defective computer, picked up the new one, and spent another ten hours installing everything...
Only to be greeted not only by the same shrill whine, but also a grinding, croaking sound from the hard drive. When I called Office Depot on Sunday, I got an, "I don't know what we can do."
I tried again on Monday morning, and when I apologized profusely for being a hassle, I received a simple reply: "We don't really care about the machines...We care about you being happy." I was told to come in to pick up the showroom model, and hoped that the third time was a charm.
The showroom model took forever to reset and reinstall its factory-default programs, and after about a two-and-a-half hour wait, the friendly service associate saw the blue screens of death popping up, checked out the system, and said, "The hard drive broke."
He then called another location to see if they had any HP models, and was told that each and every one of the computers that had been sold were returned due to defective hard drives. It turns out that the shrill whine wasn't coming from the fans--it was coming from hard drives that were in the process of failing, and HP apparently got a "bad batch" of hard drives and/or laptops.
The associate then offered me their next best option, a smaller Toshiba without the fancy audio hardware, a smaller hard drive, monitor and battery, with a pay-back-the-difference refund and a full warranty. I knew what the alternatives were, and given the overextended budget, I took what I could get. Then I came home, spent another ten hours setting everything up, and after somehow (mostly) keeping my shit together for the vast majority of the time, I started hearing a shrill tweet again while playing the Sims 3 to relax.
It turns out that the shrill tweet was coming from the game, and thus far, anyway, this little laptop's getting the job done nicely, but that last kicker was more than enough to yield a sleepless night.
So that's where I've been and my story is why I'm never buying an HP product again and plan on going to Office Depot on a pretty regular basis for technology and office supply needs going forward.
I'll be back...This afternoon, mid-to-late, I hope. I hate missing time, I dread inconveniencing you and I know the boss already keeps two or three dozen plates spinning on a daily basis.
Here's hoping that the Wings get their shit together, and that my adventures with defective laptops are behind me (knock on my empty head).
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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.