The Malik Report
Updated w/ Kronwall’s hit and Kesler’s knee on Z: The Detroit Red Wings came late to the party and found themselves devoured by their own mistakes—and what only Larry Murphy could call a “good play” on a ridiculous insurance goal—playing far too indecisively for far too long against a Canucks team with which they spent the morning complimenting, dropping a 4-2 decision.
If this makes any sense, I wasn’t surprised that the Wings’ players basically stood around and watched the Canucks make decisive and determined plays as Detroit’s forwards and defensemen cheated toward offense in the first period very specifically because of the game-day love affair.
Updated 4x at 7:29 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks prepare to face off tonight (10 PM EST, FSD/TSN/WXYT), the teams’ coaches traded compliments instead of barbs, as noted by the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“You always get really psyched up for these games,” [Canucks coach Alain] Vigneault said. “We always like the type of games that these are: fast-paced, lot of tempo, lot of skill on the ice. It makes for great hockey games for the players and for the fans.”
In discussing the Wings, Vigneault said: “They play to their strengths. Their strengths are speed, skill, great puck control. When it’s time to carry the puck in, they carry it in, when it’s time to chip it behind and go get it on the forecheck, that’s playing the right way. That’s what Detroit does well; they read the game real well, both offensively and defensively.”
The Detroit Red Wings face off against a Vancouver Canucks team (10 PM EST, FSD/TSN/WXYT) which is, in theory, anyway, a sort of “mirror image” of the team the Canucks trail by one point in the Western Conference standings. Both teams are on a roll—the Wings’ middling 3-2 win over Edmonton on Monday was their second straight, as was Vancouver’s 4-0 win over Minnesota—having won seven of their last ten game; both teams have won seven of their past ten games. Moreover, if you believe what you read, the teams preach the same kind of high-flying, up-tempo puck possession hockey that should make tonight’s game a match of near mirror-image skill versus skill, as the Vancouver Sun’s Elliott Pap suggests...
Detroit has 21 wins, 43 points and 107 goals scored. Vancouver has 20 wins, 42 points and 110 goals scored. Both teams’ top offensive players are European. Both teams’ top offensive defencemen are Swedish. Since Nov. 19, the Red Wings are 12-3-0. Since Nov. 20, the Canucks are 11-2-1. So there isn’t much to choose between them, which makes Wednesday’s game a rather appealing one.
“You’ve got two teams that, in our mind, play the right way,” Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault said Tuesday. “Detroit plays a high-paced game and they like to play fast. There are a lot of components to our game that are probably similar to theirs.”
Updated 2x with some very late-breaking stuff at 10:13 PM: Very briefly, for the moment, anyway, the Red Wings plan on returning to their dominant ways against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, as noted by the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
Wings just got done practicing here in Vancouver. No changes to lineup for tomorrow against Canucks. Wings say it’s good “measuring game”
Zetterberg on the Sedins: “They’ve been playing with each other for basically their whole lives, so they’ve got pretty good chemistry.”
And MLive’s Ansar Khan:
Update which supersedes all others for now: According to NHL.com’s Dave Lozo, Jimmy Howard leads All-Star write-in votes with approximately 144,000, but that still places him 5th among goaltenders. Nicklas Lidstrom has a better chance of leapfogging Kris Letang than Howard does of gaining any real ground in the ASG voting race.
Updated 3x at 1:17 PM: As we wait for some mid-afternoon (Eastern Time) updates from the Red Wings’ practice in Vancouver, the Edmonton Journal’s David Stapls gives us one more take on the Wings’ 3-2 win over Edmonton on Monday night via a rather elegant analysis of one of the Wings’ biggest systemic tweaks—-a layered screening of opposing teams’ goaltenders:
The Red Wings play a cagey game, with a masisve emphasis on making the most out of what the pro game will give you. It employs a screen-and-shoot attacking style, particularly a brilliant and highly-effective double-screen, the play that led to the winning goal against the Oilers.
What is the Detroit Double Screen? On [the Wings’ game-winner], the puck goes out to the point, most often to a d-man like Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom waits or moves to find a shooting lane. At the same time, one Detroit forward, usually Tomas Holmstrom or Daniel Cleary, stakes out a position right in front of the opposition goalie.
A second forward, usually a smaller skill player, moves out to the high slot, positioning himself in between the shooter, Lidstrom, and the net. Lidstrom then fires, with either the high slot screen man or low slot screen man having a chance to deflect the puck on goal.
The Detroit Red Wings didn’t exactly play an elegant hockey game in defeating the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Monday night, but the Wings managed to work just hard enough and play just well enough to bag two points before boarding a late evening flight to Vancouver, mostly because the Wings’ depth players delivered by doing the kinds of things that last year’s team didn’t when the team was less than in full flight—this year’s Wings continue to work the puck down low, find their way to the faceoff dots to take lateral or diagonal passes, tip pucks, and usually go to the net in numbers, providing both tips and screens which drive opposing teams’ defenses and goaltenders nuts.
So while the Wings weren’t necessarily happy with their up-and-down game, they earn bonus points because, to use a highly technical term, they frustrated the hell out of and plain old pissed off the Oilers, as noted by the Edmonton Sun’s Robert Tychkowski:
The Detroit Red Wings were neither perfect, nor did they deliver a particularly aesthetically pleasing game in their 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night, but for a team with a (now) 8-and-8 road record, style points just don’t count right now.
While out-shooting the Oilers badly at times, the Wings dominated in terms of puck possession and in terms of time in the opposition’s zone, but they just didn’t play particularly dangerous hockey when compared to Edmonton’s ability to cause havoc, scrambling and panic in the Wings’ end. That resulted in an uncharacteristically squeaky goal by Ryan Jones early in the second, countering Danny Cleary’s first-period marker, and after the Wings went ahead on a slick Hudler tip, the air went out of the Wings’ balloon in a hurry as they gave up a game-tying goal with half a second left in the second period, thanks in no small part due to a missed offside call…
The Red Wings wish fans a happy and safe holiday season on Red Wings TV, and, very casually, Johan Franzen steals the show:
Somewhere down the line, something tells me that Johan Franzen will open, “Al Sobotka’s Feed the Mule Cafe”...
Updated right before game—9:25 PM—time with some very, very, very late-breaking stories: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Edmonton Oilers tonight (9:30 PM EST, FSD/Sportsnet West/WXYT), the Wings are just wrapping up their morning skate in Edmonton, and given the workload to come in three games over the next four nights, no news is good news, per MLive’s Ansar Khan...
Everyone at the skate. Same lines 93-13-44, 51-40-26, 11-43-20, 48-8-96. 5-18, 55-52, 4-23
Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating fired off a pair of Twitter updates from the Wings’ morning skate as well…
The Detroit Red Wings embark on a stretch of their schedule which the players, coaches and training staff likely circled on their calendars with symbols like multiple exclamation points (!!!), question marks (???) or plain old WTF—which stands for, “Why Three Flights?” of course—tonight in Alberta as the Wings face the plucky Oilers (9:30 PM EST, FSD/Sportsnet West/WXYT) before flying to Vancouver on Tuesday for a mid-week meeting with the Canucks, and then the Wings head right back to Alberta for a Thursday tilt with the Flames before heading home, exhausted, for a three-day Christmas break.
Boasting a middling 7-8-and-0 road record, the Wings will toss off all the usual cliches about conserving their energy, trying to “focus on taking it one shift at a time” and insisting that they won’t take the re-tooling Flames, deep Canucks or tonight’s opponent, the young, fast and physical Oilers, as anything less than three opportunities to gain ground in a tightly-packed Western Conference while banishing a few lingering myths about the team’s age, supposed lack of toughness and goaltending (Ty Conklin’s bound to get a start here), but Wings fans will be breaking out the Visine and hoping that they’re humming, “Two out of three ain’t bad” instead of “The Road” early on Friday morning.
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