The Malik Report
The Red Wings won perhaps their most important hockey game played in November in a good ten years via a 5-0 win over a tired Anaheim Ducks team on Saturday night, and if the usual suspects played into the winning effort: Jimmy Howard stopped 22 shots and while padding stellar statistics and continuing to shine when the Wings’ confidence wanes; while he didn’t register an a point, Tomas Holmstrom stirred the drink on the power play via both superb screening, puck-tipping and rebound retrieval, and he added four shots and two takeaways to the Wings’ cause while continuing to prove his worth at even strength (who the hell knew that the Wings’ fleet-footed third and fourth-liners occasionally need a 38-year-old to slowly but authoritatively carry the puck up ice to slow down the pace of play?)...
And then there was the captain.
The Detroit Red Wings are very obviously in trouble. They’re playing indecisive, downright jittery hockey at times, with a confidence level so low that you can almost sense that when the opposing team either scores the first goal or ties the game up, all the air’s gone out of the S.S. HindenWing, and you might as well put the game in the “L” column and key up the cliches and roster tweaks (I think it’s Tomas Tatar’s turn in the rotation).
The 5-5-and-1 Red Wings are not, however, embarking upon the long downhill slide that the media’s been predicting for the past fifteen years, nor are they too old, too slow, too small or too ill-equipped to play by whatever the hell Evil Drew Sharp believes are the “new realities” of the NHL—which they’ve been dealing with for six seasons now.
As Paul noted this morning, a certain Red Wings defenseman who tends to knock his opponents into next week was picked Minnesota Wild captain Niklas Kronwall prior to getting near the puck via a shoulder to the head, directly resulting in the Wild’s game-winning goal, but MLive’s Ansar Khan thankfully reports that the only reason Kronwall was unavailable to the media after the game had more to do with the NHL’s concussion protocol than anything else:
Quick update from the start of today’s Detroit Red Wings practice at Joe Louis Arena: Defenseman Niklas Kronwall is skating and general manager Ken Holland said he is fine and will play Thursday against Calgary (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net Detroit).
Kronwall was shaken up in Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Minnesota, when he took a shoulder or elbow to the head from Mikko Koivu seconds before Devin Setoguchi’s overtime goal.
I’m not sure that I’d call Koivu’s hit on Kronwall an intentional head shot—maybe it was a gratuitous hit that didn’t need to be so high—but I do think it was a penalty as Koivu prevented Kronwall from getting to the puck by bumping #55 prior to the puck entering the players’ respective vicinities. The fact that Devin Setoguchi got tied up with Jimmy Howard by running him prior to scoring the game-winning goal didn’t help, either…
Update: One more thing, via a press release: Gustav Nyquist’s first go-round with the Wings was a short stint:
I’m gonna make this real simple for once and only once:
• No Draper, Osgood or Rafalski yielding a huge challenge in terms of filling leadership and moxie voids, to the point that you can almost feel the Wings’ players clutching up and clenching their sticks too tightly;
• Offense gone dry under a system of play that leans too heavily upon the puck possession standard that either Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters have yet to tweak or the players have yet to implement the suggestions thereof;
• Bad breaks and of course, as we all wear tinfoil around here, bad calls in addition to bad pinches, a dud of a power play and the kinds of fundamental mistakes that are as simple to correct as they are predictable for the Wings to make;
Why are the Red Wings a big “Work in Progress,” and why has their collective play dropped off so significantly after a 5-and-0 start? Going into tonight’s game against the Wild, it seems like the Wings’ players aren’t just on “different pages”—they’re on different chapters of their team’s new playbook, if they’ve read it at all, and I think I know why: after a very strong start, we’re witnessing the effects of Kris Draper, Chris Osgood and Brian Rafalski’s retirements kicking in.
You can see that in the fact that players like Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Jiri Hudler are waiting for that kick-in-the-ass, “Start engaging physically and getting ‘em mad at you!” speeches that Draper would give both in the locker room and on the bench, Osgood’s willingness to chirp at his defensemen if they weren’t demonstrative enough, and of course Rafalski’s calmness and passing abilities haven’t been matched—instead, the Wings are over-pinching on defense, with only Ian White having the excuse of not knowing how to play less aggressively, and Kindl, Ericsson and Stuart’s physical edges have disappeared as Kronwall’s attempted to adjust to the weight of that “A” on his right shoulder.
If the preseason is about implementing systemic tweaks, trying out new line combinations, giving rookies and new additions time to acclimate, if not shine, and slowly but surely rounding into regular season form while attempting to avoid injuries, rounding out the exhibition season with a three-games-in-three-nights slate makes very little sense.
That is exactly what the Red Wings have done for the better part of the last decade, however, and today’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins (5 PM EDT, FSD/WXYT’s AM station only/PCNC) either tends to demonstrate that even a fatigued and splintered Wings roster is more or less good to go, or it’s a game in which fans pay full price to watch the Wings mail one in—or worse, get bit one more time by the injury bug.
If you’re not watching the Tigers game, or might flip channels from time to time, we’re gonna live blog this one.
The Red Wings hopped on Red Bird III and flew to Toronto for tonight’s marquee match-up against the Leafs (at 7 PM EDT on the CBC, CBC Sports online in Canada and the NHL Network in the U.S.); hopefully someone will toss up a link to a stream to those who need it) going with what we’ll politely call the “B Team” against a due to a combination of injuries—Pavel Datsyuk (back), Mike Commodore (knee) and Danny Cleary (upper-body something) and Jan Mursak (ankle, out till January-ish) are sidelined—and the fact that the Wings inexplicably cap off their pre-season slate with a three-games-in-three-nights grind.
No Brendan Smith (suspension), no Pavel Datsyuk (back), no Danny Cleary (???), no Mike Commodore (knee) and a Joe Louis Arena whose crowd consists of die-hard Red Wings fans who are willing to miss a Tigers-Yankees games and a raucous band of Maple Leaf fans who appear like pot fiends during a rock concert, trading soccer chants and sometimes out-cheering the two thirds majority of Wings fans, and a back-to-back slate of games on Fox Sports Detroit (tonight at 7:30 PM) and then Hockey Night in Canada (tomorrow at 7)...
It all adds up to, as far as I’m concerned, anyway, one of the best rivalries in sports, sadly constrained to the pre-season because the NHL split two of the league’s most historic and bitter rivals, perhaps despite another empty promise of a reunion. These may be pre-season games, but the Wings and Leafs wage a war both on the ice and in the stands (expect a drunken brawl or three and arrogance galore from the blue and white-wearing crowd that believes its’ already won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967) under an international media spotlight and amidst a plain old fantastic atmosphere as both teams pare down their rosters to prepare for the regular season in earnest
The rivalry continues tonight. who will be crowned king of the pre-season?
Watch the game to find out- VERSUS 8:30pm ET.
Paul for George.
George asked me to put up a live blog for him so here it is.
Play hard and stay healthy boys.
Chicago’s lineup will be sprinkled with prospects like Saad, Beach, Kruger, Smith, Pirri, Olsen, Hayes and Connolly. Veterans making the trip include Carcillo, Bickell, Frolik, Mayers, McLean, Stalberg, Leddy, Lespisto and Montador.
Some of the Wings taking the ice today are Lidstrom, Franzen, Helm, Abdelkader, Bertuzzi, Ericsson, Kindl, Zetterberg and Miller. (Khan has the full lineup)
The game is televised on FoxSports Detroit beginning at 5:00pm ET today.
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.