The Malik Report
According to MLive's Brendan Savage, the Red Wings have averaged 1.84 goals per game over their last 11 games, last night's 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues included, but Wings coach Jeff Blashill told Savage that he believes his team will get through its offensively-challenged stretch:
"Teams that score a lots but maybe aren't defensive enough are struggling," Blashill said. "Again, I think there's guys that have more scoring in them. Sometimes it ebbs and flows a little bit. It's been enough 5-on-5 for two years but I think we're going to score.
"We're going to keep working on it and getting better. There's no use dwelling on it more than that. Let's keep working on it and getting better, whether that's just simple things like making sure we hit the net in practice, whether it's doing drills to help our guys get in position to get shots off through traffic.
"We'll do all those things, we'll keep getting better and I believe we're going to score. I think we got lots of guys who are going to score more as we continue on here."
Savage continues, and the Red Wings had a relatively familiar night yesterday, statistically speaking: Detroit fired 30 shots on Brian Elliott and had another 24 attempts that missed the net or were blocked by Blues players.
To me, the most damning stat involved with the Red Wings' 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues is their home record--11-9-and-5.
After going winless in two post-West Coast road trip games at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings have played 25 of their 46 games at home, and they've won less than half of those games.
The Wings are a fine 12-6-3 on the road, but at home, Detroit's 11-and-14. That doesn't provide value for fans and it doesn't give the Wings any sort of home-ice advantage. Detroit may play only 16 out of their 36 remaining regular season games at home--including 1 of their final 3 pre-All-Star-break tilts--but the quality of the Wings' play at Joe Louis Arena has to be a genuine concern.
None of that matters in terms of the narratives surrounding Wednesday night's game, however, because things got...rhetorically interesting...after the game.
Our friends from St. Louis felt that they were vindicated after "rallying" to defeat the Wings despite only being able to dress 5 defensemen, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Tom Timmerman noted:
Of prospect-related note:
In the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins did two things that the Red Wings could not on Wednesday: they scored the game's first goal, and they rallied from a 2-1 deficit, defeating the Lake Erie Monsters 3-2 in OT on a goal by Ryan Sproul. The Griffins' website posted a recap...
Pierre McGuire made a bit of a boo boo on Wednesday evening:
The Red Wings had to make a statement against another big, nasty Western Conference team--January's theme, it seems--as they battled the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. Ideally, the Wings hoped they'd jump-start their offense with re-set lines and would manage to overcome Niklas Kronwall's absence by committee; more realistically, the Wings were opening a set of 4 games in 6 nights needing to earn two points by any means necessary.
Detroit didn't lay an egg per se, but the Wings' 2-1 loss was pretty damn close. Absent an ill Tomas Tatar, the Wings' offensive game was just "off," the passes, the shots, the breakouts, all of it was "off" by enough of margin of error that the Wings hamstrung themselves offensively...
And the Blues made the Wings pay on enough attempts that the Wings surrendered a 1-goal deficit and had a 2-goal deficit to climb out of in the final minutes of the 3rd. While Detroit's power play did convert, and Henrik Zetterberg, who had 5 shots, got one past Elliott, but it was too little too late.
Detroit's lost 2 straight at home--and the Wings' home record is now a very ugly 11-9-5, so it's not just goal-scoring that's the issue--but the Wings will continue their 4-games-in-6-nights stretch in Buffalo on Friday.
Of Red Wings-related note this evening:
1. First and foremost, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Tom Timmerman:
2. Red Wings GM Ken Holland spoke with Detroit Sports 105.1 FM's Matt Dery and Drew Sharp on Wednesday afternoon, discussing the state of the Red Wings and also addressing Steven Stamkos trade rumors over the course of a 22-minute interview:
I don't like to double-post things that Paul's already addressed as a rule, but this is particularly intriguing from a Red Wings perspective:
TSN's Bob McKenzie reports that Calgary Flames president Brian Burke wants to expand NHL rink surfaces from their current 200'x85' dimensions to 200'x90,' and McKenzie reveals that the Red Wings will build their follow-on rink with that capability:
"Brian and I are big proponents of the 90-foot-wide ice surface," said Jimmy Devellano, the longtime Red Wing senior vice-president. "I really believe it will help the NHL game with more flow, less congestion and maybe even a few less injuries.
"In Detroit, when we get our new rink, we'll have the capability to go to 90 feet,' Devellano added.
The Flames, of course, are trying to get a new building in Calgary - that's another story for another day - but should it ever happen, Burke said it will have 90-foot-wide potential.
Detroit and Calgary, it's a start.
"People like (Detroit GM) Kenny Holland more than they like me," Burke said, laughing. "If Kenny and the Wings are in favour of this, maybe others will be too, as more new arenas get built."
In light of the Brian McGrattan fight in which McGrattan ended up smacking his face on the ice, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff asked Justin Abdelkader about the future of fighting in the NHL, and he received a nuanced response:
“I think there could be a place for fighting as far as just policing the guys,” Abdelkader said. “It’s the after the whistle stuff, the different things that can go on. At the same time, no one really needs to fight anymore. I just think you’re seeing less and less of it. Players are more skilled and focused on playing (well) on the ice than going out and fighting. You’re not seeing a fourth line that’s full of guys that are going to go out and fight.”
In Detroit’s most recent game, no Red Wing challenged Philadelphia’s Ryan White after he was assessed a match penalty for a head shot on Detroit’s Tomas Jurco and Wings’ coach Jeff Blashill accepted that development as a reality of the way the game is played today.
“The refs obviously called the five,” Blashill said. “We’ve got real good refs in this league. We’ve taken a lot of the fighting out of the game, so the refs have to police the game and they did that in that case.”
Considering that McGrattan was stretchered off the ice, and even though he was pronounced to be fine later in the evening, Abdelkader figures that as hockey people continue to learn more from science in terms of head injuries and their long-term impact, he wonders about the shelf life of scraps.
Duff and Abdelkader continue...
Updated 8x at 2:52 PM: The Detroit Red Wings' "Rivalry Night" game against the St. Louis Blues (8 PM EST on NBCSN/Sportnset/TVA Sports/97.1 FM) has already yielded a multitude of game-related articles. Here are your post-morning skate summaries thereof:
The Blues' morning skate ended at 12:30, and the Blues' official Twitter account reports that Carl Gunnarsson will return to St. Louis' lineup this evening, but Colton Parayko may not play:
Hitchcock said Gunnarsson will return tonight: Parayko is sick and will be a game-time decision. #stlblues
Tom Timmerman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch confirms:
Parayko is sick. He'll be a game time decision. Jaskin is in but Hitch wouldn't say who's out. Reaves is still on ice
Dmitri Jaskin returning should mean that tough guy Ryan Reaves won't play against the enforcer-less Wings.
On the Red Wings' side of the ice, Free Press's Helene St. James focused on Alexey Marchenko and the Wings' goal of replacing Niklas Kronwall by committee in her game-day article:
Analytics proponents prefer to withhold judgment on a goalie until they face around 3,000 shots at the NHL level, a benchmark Mrazek won’t reach until next season, considering he’s at 1,871 shots right now.
But Blashill has the advantage of seeing Mrazek up close now for a few years, since Mrazek joined Blashill’s AHL team in Grand Rapids in 2011-12. There, he saw all the things that give Detroit hope the young goalie could be great: athleticism, consistency, a competitive edge, confidence, puck-handling.
In today’s NHL, the best, most consistent goalies are ones with a quiet game, and Mrazek has worked to settle his down. He's become less reliant on using his athleticism to make saves. He fills the net better. His depth management in the crease is better.
“Now, he plays at the top of the crease, no more [overly aggressive positioning] where it’s diminishing returns,” Blashill said. “So he can get to a lot more rebounds.”
His puck-handling has always been a strength, as are his instincts for knowing when to pass the puck and where. That will only get better as he gets more reps in the NHL and the timing becomes second-nature with the Red Wings defensemen and Blashill’s system.
“His ability to put the puck in good places efficiently and quickly has given us a lot less time in our zone,” said Red Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard. “Petr is very efficient, especially on his backhand, reading the plays. For a goalie, you have to know when the puck gets shot into your zone, know if they’re changing, if they have one or two guys on the forecheck. You’ve got to be able to read it.”
Custance continues, and we'll...talk...about the rest of the story.
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.