The Malik Report
Updated 2x with likely lineups at 1:47 PM: In theory, anyway, the Detroit Red Wings' uphill battle against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight (7 PM EST, FSD/CSN Chicago, AM 1270) was supposed to yield very little in terms of game-day news as NHL.com's Brian Hedger reported that neither team would hold a morning skate (the Blackhawks will be playing their sixth game in nine nights this evening, and the Wings aren't far behind as they'll be playing their second game in three nights and their fifth game in nine nights), but I rolled over this morning, checked RedWingsFeed's Twitter page on my phone, and could only shake my head at the following Tweet from Ken Kal:
Hockey players are hockey players, and while this late-riser's idea of a pleasant way to wake up for a hockey game does not involve 20 minutes of strapping and taping on one's hockey gear, skating for 20 minutes, spending 10 more minutes peeling off one's hockey gear, and then riding a bike for 30 minutes, the Red Wings' players seem to be pre-programmed to do just that, even if they've been told that they can sleep in. As such, the Red Wings' Twitter feed offers some pertinent game-day information...
A little under 48 hours after finding their footing against the Minnesota Wild, the hockey team in progress known as the Detroit Red Wings will find themselves in less comfortable surroundings. Tonight, the Wings will tangle with the Chicago Blackhawks (7 PM EST, FSD/CSN Chicago, WXYT AM) in the "Madhouse on Madison," and while the Hawks will be playing in their second game in two nights...
The Hawks are coming home after having secured a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, which translates as follows:
The Wings spent Saturday attempting to avoid aggravating injuries to Darren Helm (recovering from a back issue) and Valtteri Filppula (still bothered by a healing MCL), and hoping that Jonathan Ericsson (stepped on a puck, hurt his back) will return to the lineup tonight, talking about their goals of playing simpler, smarter hockey while taking fewer trips to the penalty box with the Wings media before flying off to Chicago.
The Detroit Red Wings took part in a light practice at Joe Louis Arena before spiriting off to Chicago, where they hope to catch the Blackhawks a little tired tomorrow night (7 PM, FSD, WXYT AM) as the as-yet-unbeaten Blackhawks will play in Columbus against the Blue Jackets this evening.
Wings coach Mike Babcock seems to have learned his lesson from the groin and shoulder injury-inducing unscheduled practice he held last Sunday. He kept Valtteri Filppula (sore knee, still recovering from sprained MCL) off the ice, he chose to send Darren Helm (recovering from a back injury) to the locker room early, and he told the Wings' beat writers that he plans on not holding a morning skate tomorrow to attempt to avoid unnecessary wear and tear, so we're going to hear a decent amount about the following parallel storylines over the next 24 hours:
First, as the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa notes, the Wings have taken far too many penalties over the first four games of this 2013 season, but they're not exactly alone in scratching their heads as to what constitutes a penalty under a revised "crackdown" on obstruction penalties--a literal "hands off" policy, this time around--that always seems to turn early-season games into special teams affairs (before fading away come playoff time):
Via RedWingsFeed, if you happen to have your evening free, the Detroit News's Lauren Abdel-Razzaq recommends that Wings fans might want to head out to the Troy Sports Center to catch the Red Wings Alumni team lending a hand to the Salvation Army's Bed and Bread program tonight at 7 PM:
Detroit Red Wings Alumni and members of three youth hockey leagues will take to the ice Saturday to raise money for the Salvation Army.
"Some people always dreamed of playing in the NHL and they didn't make it," said Major Monty Wandling of the Salvation Army Royal Oak. "But to get a chance to play with a lot of their heroes, it's a lot of fun."
Members of the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies, Troy Sting and Troy Youth Hockey Association have been gathering pledges for the event. On Saturday they will be joined on the ice by former Red Wings Ted Lindsay, Dino Ciccarelli, Joey Kocur, Ed Mio, Dennis Hextall and others.
Wandling says in years past, the event has raised as much as $30,000 for the Salvation Army Bed & Bread program.
"When you think of the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies and the Troy Sting, which are both travel groups, and the Troy Youth Hockey Association, there's hundreds of kids," said Wandling. "It's a win-win. They know they are doing something great and helping us feed something like 5,000 people a day, about 1.8 million people a year, and they are having a great time doing it."
Updated 6x with lots of video at 3:45 PM: Red Bird III is scheduled to take off at 3:12 PM today to ferry the Red Wings to Chicago, where they'll meet the Blackhawks on Sunday evening (7 PM on FSD and AM 1270). The Wings will have a wee bit of an advantage in terms of rest as the Blackhawks are playing in Columbus tonight, but the Hawks are also 4-and-0 going into their Saturday night tilt.
Thus far, it appears that little news is good news at Joe Louis Arena:
Update: Via RedWingsFeed, this is good news regarding one Jonathan Ericsson:
Grumpliy updated 2x at 9:53 AM: If you only watched the Minnesota Wild out-shoot the Red Wings 11-6 in the first period of what turned out to be an ugly but livable-withable 5-3 Red Wings victory, or watched the Wings take two of their eight(!) penalties within the first ten minutes of said first period, you would have been forgiven for assuming that the Wings were on their way to yet another predictable 2013 season defeat--in which they were out-shot, out-chanced, out-penalized and plain old out-played.
That had indeed been the case over the course of the team's first three games, with a team that didn't look anything like itself registering exactly one shootout win while chasing the puck and chasing play. But somewhere during Friday night's game, a Wings team strengthened by the returns of Darren Helm (back) and Todd Bertuzzi (flu) seemed to straighten up and fly right when it remembered a Red Wings axiom: regardless of the personnel that the team may or may not have in its lineup, when the Detroit Red Wings possess the puck and skate up the ice with speed, they dictate the pace of play, and tend to out-score their opponents.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo offers a story that's more than just cold comfort for Red Wings fans who still feel jilted by Zach Parise and Ryan Suter's collective decision to spurn offers from the Red Wings to play for the Minnesota Wild.
According to Russo, a certain Swiss Wing who scored a goal in Detroit's 5-3 win over Minnesota on Friday was more or less set up on a platter to sign with the Wild by his agent, Neil Sheehy, but instead, Damien Brunner decided to wait a year before hopping from the Swiss National A League to the NHL, and the Wings are reaping the rewards of Brunner's deicsion:
Two years ago, Brunner had a high ankle sprain and traveled to Minnesota to see a doctor with whom his agent Neil Sheehy set up an appointment. Blair Mackasey, the Wild's director of pro scouting, was a big fan, so the Wild invited Brunner to St. Paul for a meeting. General Manager Chuck Fletcher was willing to sign Brunner right on the spot.
"They said they had been following me for a year and I met with Chuck, but it was just too early for me back then," Brunner said. "I wanted to have a strong year in Switzerland and prove I was ready. It was great to meet with them. It was a good switch for my head, like realizing that there's an NHL team interested and it makes you think about it a little more. It made me work harder and made me more focused on that goal to make the NHL."
The Detroit Red Wings played like two different teams--or was it three or four?--en route to a slightly sloppy but particularly satisfying 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Friday. I'll write more about the game I described as, "Dating a fat girl who 'tries harder'" on Twitter in a minute, but I'd like to hear what you thought about what may or may not be an identity-finding effort by a team that seems to have learned that its personnel matter a little less than playing the puck possession system no matter what...Though Helm and Bertuzzi sure helped a helluva lot.
My more general take: The Wings were out-shot 11-6 in the first period, if we are to believe the statisticians at the Joe, they blocked a ridiculous 24 shots (9 in the first period alone!), and displayed a serious case of, "Stand around and watch-itis" over the first 20 minutes or so. They also took 9 frickin' penalties, and, after scoring 2 goals in 47 seconds, quickly surrendered that lead...
I've been out of the loop for a couple of days, first due to my illness flaring up on Monday night and then due to a familial issue, but it's been suggested that I offer my opinions on Wings-related issues a little more regularly, so here are a few "radon" thoughts...
- Now that Tomas Holmstrom's retired, I sure as hell hope that the Wings hire him to coach their power play. Holmstrom did two things particularly well, and the first may have been more important than the second:
a) Holmstrom had an uncanny ability to out-race and out-compete his opponents to rebounds or shots fired wide of the net, almost inevitably getting his stick or skates into a battle for the puck and coming out on top, retrieving the puck and shoveling it to a waiting teammate along the half boards or on the point;
Updated at 5:40 PM: As noted in the game-day update post, we're going to hear a significant amount of chatter regarding Ryan Suter and Zach Parise playing at Joe Louis Arena after having spurned the Red Wings' offers to come to Detroit this past summer, and while I don't really hold a grudge against Parise, and am...Mildly annoyed...at Suter, I didn't think that Wings fans would boo either player. The Detroit News's Terry Foster thinks differently, and he's endorsing a hearty booing of the pair every time that they touch the puck:
It will be interesting to see if Detroit continues to play the long standing role of jilted lover when the Red Wings play host to the Minnesota Wild tonight at Joe Louis Arena.
This will be the first time former free agent stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter come to town since turning down Red Wings money to play together in Parise's old hometown of Minneapolis. They were two free agents the Red Wings were hot after and expectations were for them to come here and become the spark that eased the franchise into the post Nick Lidstrom era.
Parise is a power forward in the stratosphere of former Wing Brendan Shanahan and Suter is the blue liner Red Wings fans have long coveted. Although Suter is off to a shaky start, the Wings certainly could have used him during that season-opening 6-0 loss to St. Louis that still is hard to swallow.
They are the difference from the Wings remaining Stanley Cup contenders and being playoff pretenders.
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