The Malik Report
If you happen to believe that the Detroit Red Wings tend to raise and lower their level of play to their perceptions of their opponent (see: the Wings’ first two games against St. Louis as an example), tonight’s game against the New York Islanders (7 PM EST, FSD+/MSG Plus/WXYT) is the kind of game that might incite a wee bit of worry, especially given the potential emotional letdown the Wings may display after concluding their Fathers’ Trip with a 3-2 overtime win over Chicago on Sunday.
The Islanders remain the Islanders: they sit in last place in the Eastern Conference and are only ahead of the Blue Jackets and Ducks in terms of points; while they’ve split their last ten games, they’re coming off consecutive losses to the aforementioned Ducks and Coyotes in those cities; and instead of utilizing Wing for-a-day Evgeni Nabokov against the Wings, the Islanders recalled 21-year-old goalie Kevin Poulin, who has all of 11 NHL games under his belt, and will start him tonight.
The Detroit Red Wings flew to Long Island on Monday afternoon to wrap up their (technically speaking) four-game road trip against the Islanders, who, via the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff and Newsday’s Arthur Staple, will probably start Kevin Poulin, not Evgeni Nabokov, against Detroit on Tuesday. Tomorrow’s game marks the Wings’ 42nd, and as DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose notes, the Wings begin the second half of their regular season schedule miles removed from the team that lost six straight games in November:
Since losing a sixth straight on Nov. 3, Detroit has had an incredible resurgence, posting a 21-9-0 mark and ascending to the second-best record in the Western Conference, just two-points behind front-running Vancouver. For the sixth time in the Mike Babcock era, the Wings have compiled 53-points, or more, in the first half of a season. The only time the Wings didn’t meet that first-half points standard was 2009-10 – the only time they finished out of first-place in the division in 11 seasons.
We’ve talked quite a bit about the realignment issue as discussed by the Red Wings’ players and management in measured, reasoned tones, with both sides offering rational arguments as to why the NHL’s plan should or should not have been adopted by a “drop dead” date of January 6th without all the players’ concerns about increased travel and unbalanced conferences yielding playoff disparities addressed.
The CBC’s Elliotte Friedman revealed that Niklas Kronwall and the Red Wings’ PA members actually voted to go ahead with the plan, and, again, both sides offered very understandable and general BS-free comments about the contentious issue.
Today, however, the gentlemen who posted one press release which sounded like somebody made Geoffrey Fieger very angry, and another which dispassionately but thoroughly explained why the people taking the blame for this issue chose the “nuclear option,” with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, respectively, speaking to The Fan 590 about realignment.
Updated 6x with a must-read article about Igor Larionov and a question about Larry Murphy’s daughter at 3:03 PM: The Detroit Red Wings received Monday off to say goodbye to their fathers after their 3-2 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, but one Red Wing, Chris Conner, is instead saying goodbye to his parents in Westland and heading down to Grand Rapids for more playing time (as Jan Mursak’s about to come off the injured reserve list). Here’s the Griffins’ press release confirming Conner’s demotion:
The Detroit Red Wings on Monday assigned right wing Chris Conner to the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Conner, 28, was the Griffins’ leading scorer when he was originally recalled to Detroit on Dec. 1, with 23 points (7-16—23) in 20 games. He was assigned to Grand Rapids on Jan. 2 but was recalled last Wednesday before seeing any game action. The Livonia, Mich., native has skated in seven games with the Red Wings this season, registering one goal, two assists and a plus-two rating.
As MLive’s Ansar Khan suggests, The Wings’ roster crunch means Conner’s best served by earning regular playing time in the AHL:
The Detroit Red Wings earned a measure of redemption for two nights’ worth of self-inflicted wounds, to the tune of a pair of 2-0 deficits and two penalty shots called against the Wings in their loss to Toronto and Sunday night’s Fathers’ Trip finale, but the Wings team that shook off its poor start in Chicago was more willing to get its hands dirty in out-grinding and out-hustling their opponent, allowing them to earn a gritty 3-2 overtime win which had NBC Sports’ broadcasters steaming, or at least one Chicago Blackhawks employee named Eddie Olczyk…
And you know how there are occasions when Mickey Redmond’s bombast perfectly predicts the temperature and/or level of sarcastic snark we Wings fans are going to hear from coach Mike Babcock and his charges? Let’s just say that Mr. Olczyk’s temperament was equally indicative of a Blackhawks team which believed that the Red Wings very literally won dirtily, accusing the Wings of both intentionally injuring Patrick Sharp(the unspoken insinuation is that Pavel Datsyuk slashed Sharp above his left wrist before he scored the 2-0 goal) and receiving unearned favor from the referees on the plays which resulted in all three Wings goals, the Holmstrom-inflicted penalty shot, and more.
Dear Gord, that was bizarre. The Detroit Red Wings’ 3-2 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks, if we are to believe the NBC Sports network, was the result of nothing more than multiple un-called penalties to Tomas Holmstrom on the 2-1 goal, a penalty shot that may or may not have been a puck in the net by Chicago as Holmstrom was, bafflingly, the the last man back among Jonathan Ericsson and Mike Commodore, a hack by Valtteri Filppula on a Blackhawks defenseman on the game-tying goal, and, clearly a too-many men call during overtime which did not result in a clear penalty.
Sure, it’s gonna be interesting to hear the Hawks suggest that they were robbed, but I’m absolutely stunned that the Wings, who surrendered their third penalty shot opportunity over their last four games, did not earn a power play after the first period, fired almost as many shots wide or into Hawks players (26) as they took on Corey Crawford (27) and, once again, were turnover machines who made Ty Conklin…More or less extinguish any questions as to whether he’s good enough to back up Jimmy Howard, a very weak pair of early goals against included.
Updated 4x at 3:24 PM, and yes, Darren Helm and Tomas Holmstrom are playing tonight: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight (7:30 PM EST, NBC Sports Network w/ Emrick, Olczyk and McGuire/TSN2/WXYT), the Wings are still smarting from last night’s 4-3 loss to Chicago, and Ty Conklin will duel with Corey Crawford...With a reinforcement whose presence has been badly missed, via the Red Wings’ press release stating the following:
RED WINGS ACTIVATE TOMAS HOLMSTROM REASSIGN GUSTAV NYQUIST FROM GRIFFINS
Detroit, MI…The Detroit Red Wings today announced that forward Tomas Holmstrom has been activated from injured reserve. Holmstrom suffered a groin injury late in the second period of Detroit ’s 4-1 win at Nashville on Dec. 26, and has missed the last five contests. The Wings also assigned forward Gustav Nyquist to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League. Nyquist, 22, appeared in the last four consecutive games in his second NHL call-up, gathering one assist and going plus-1 while averaging just over seven minutes per game.
The Red Wings take on the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET at the United Center
(NBC and 97.1 The Ticket).
As the Hawks’ scribes have already posted their morning skate updates via Twitter and I don’t want to overwhelm you with repeats, here’s a summation of what the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers, the Chicago Daily Herald’s Tim Sassone, Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Tracey Myers and NHL.com’s Brian Hedger had to say:
The Detroit Red Wings head into Chicago to play the Blackhawks tonight (7:30 PM EST, NBC Sports Network/TSN2/WXYT) hoping to catch a pissed-off tiger by its jaws instead of its tail. Just as the Wings’ 4-3 loss to Toronto and their status as the third place team in the Central Division, as well as the fifth place team in the Western Conference heading into their 41st game, should have starter Ty Conklin and the Wings (who may or may not have Tomas Holmstrom and/or Darren Helm back in the lineup) at least a bit ticked off at themselves and particularly ornery heading into what was already a difficult outing to be in Chicago…
The Blackhawks are equally frustrated, which bodes well for those of you who want to witness a chippy, nastily-contested game tonight. They’ve lost three straight games, or in plainer English, every game since the Hawks nicked up the Wings on New Year’s Eve Eve, and the Hawks’ 4-0 loss to Colorado on Friday had the Hawks particularly down on themselves and gearing up to take their frustrations out on Detroit almost immediately after the Avs game, as noted by Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Tracey Myers...
There are games you circle on your calendar once you find out the extenuating circumstances surrounding them, and Saturday’s incredibly inefficient 4-3 loss to Toronto, once I found out that the Wings had scheduled both the Fathers’ Trip and a personal tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame around Saturday’s and tonight’s game against Chicago (7:30 PM EST, NBC Sports Network/WXYT), had, “Oh, man, I hope the Wings don’t get lulled into friendly warm fuzzies and fall on their faces in the first period” written all over it.
As it turns out, with their fathers and an international audience watching, the Wings did indeed inflict so many self-inflicted wounds upon themselves—and fired so many shots wide of the net or into Toronto players (the Wings took 40 shots on Jonas Gustavsson, but that represented a little less than half of their 85 shot attempts, with 20 going wide and 25 blocked by Leafs’ body parts—that Niklas Kronwall’s assist on Joffrey Lupul’s game-winner, which negated a fast and furious comeback, seemed all but pre-ordained.
So the Red Wings flew to Chicago now sitting in second place in the Central Division—behind both the Blues and Blackhawks—after having handed the Maple Leafs an inspirational win, Don Cherry’s mocking of Ken Holland (for Jimmy Devellano’s declaration that fighting has seen its day) and a gleeful Leaf press’s comments chasing Red Bird III’s contrails.
We know that the Red Wings’ players displayed a little moxie before tonight’s game as the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Niklas Kronwall, the Wings’ NHLPA player rep, was one of two representatives to actually vote to approve the NHL’s realignment plan, players’ and owners’ very valid concerns about the plan included.
Somewhere between Thursday night’s conference call, the team’s father/mentor-son/friend tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame and puck drop on Saturday night, the Wings’ focus on the ice waned, however, and it bit them in the ass in a big way on an international stage—with Kronwall delivering the fatal, self-inflicted blow in a 4-3 loss to Toronto.
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.