First Off: I have to say again that the Brad McCrimmon ceremony was very, very well done. Great job by the Flames. Such a tragedy. Ugh.
Sleepy Game: And it wasn’t all about the late start. Though it had its energetic moments, in general the tempo of this one was down as both teams eased back into their jobs like us normal people might do the Monday after a long weekend. That it was a late game did not help its watchability.
Jimmy: Looked very sharp, especially later in the game when the Flames were pressing for a comeback. A good start to the post-Break stretch run for him.
Hudler: He was the beneficiary of a great rush Â by Filppula, but he started that rush with a good breakout pass that Fil made golden. That’s three goals in two games for Huds, who could really use a strong stretch run himself as a means to really cement his status as returned to viable NHL player.
Filppula: Meanwhile, Fil’s continuing his breakout season, which is cool.
Fourth Liners: Nice to see all three combine on a goal to open the scoring. Emmerton probably bought himself another game after possibly looking at sitting in Vancouver if Holmstrom’s back.
Third Liners: Pretty sweet breakout by Helm and Cleary to set up Miller’s goal. They played give-and-go a couple times before Clear gave it to Miller for the finishing touch. With the big guns quiet on the points front, having that kind of scoring contribution was a good sign. Maybe the Wings are gearing up for a big finish, as Jeremy Roenick kept suggesting over the Break.
Commodore: Should sit Thursday on the basis of that “fight” alone.
Kipper: Had some bright spots or else the game could have been more lopsided, even as easy as the Wings were playing. The Flames are not good.
Important Points: The Predators won last night to pull ahead of Chicago (OT losers in Vancouver) and the Blues with 66 points. The Wings’ lead is at 3. It’s important that they maintain ground on the chasers and that picks up again against the Canucks tomorrow. The Blues are off until Friday, but the Predators and Blackhawks are both active tomorrow, too.
It’ll help if the Wings are sharper in Vancouver than they were in Calgary. They got their easing-in game out of the way and now it’s time to get back to business.
The Flames did a wonderful job with their ceremony honoring Brad McCrimmon last night. If you missed it or want to watch again, the headline link points to the tribute video. If you’d like to see the on-ice ceremony first, head here.
Thoughts so on Commie. Disappointing, though, about Jimmy. If they can’t start a backup the first game after their starter went to the All Star Game, when will they start him? - Matt
… This is the fourth and final matchup between the Wings and Flames this season. The Flames lead the series 2-1-0, with bookendwins in the three games played so far. The Wings won the middle game in late November.
… The Flames are 5-5-1 in January and 23-21-6 overall. That’s good for 11th in the West. But they’re just three points back of 8th place.
… Before the break, the Flames won two of their last three, but finished on a losing note at home against San Jose a week ago.
… Over the Break, they dealt Brendan Morrison to the Blackhawks, which is pretty good news for tonight, as he has 25 points in 43 career games against the Wings, but less than good news for the Central Division race.
… As George points out, the Calgary media’s putting some pressure on Mike Cammalleri, so watch him tonight.
… All Star Jerome Iginla crossed the 500 goal plateau earlier this month, but it hasn’t led to a real goal outburst, as he’s put the puck in the net just twice in 7 games since. Still, he’s annoying good against the Wings, with 54 points in 59 games, so he’ll be a threat tonight.
… The Flames will be without Derek Smith, David Moss, Alex Tanguay and Curtis Glencross.
… Presumably, Miikka Kiprusoff will start tonight for the Flames.
… The Wings will look to improve upon their 9-3-0 record in January and rebound from their awful showing in Montreal last week.
… And, as highlighted by mLive, the Freep, the News and thePress, the Wings will be looking to get their road record to a more acceptable place. Currently, it stands at 13-14-0.
… The Central Race stands thus: the Wings at 67 points, the Blues at 65, and the Hawks and Predators at 64. Every point counts, especially with St. Louis now getting healthier.
… Thanks to the time difference, there’s no lineup news yet apart from the fact that Lidstrom will be back in, but it’s reasonable to assume Jakub Kindl will be out in favor of Mike Commodore thanks to his awful night in Montreal. And because it was a loss, Jan Mursak may get in over Cory Emmerton.
… There was some discussion of resting Jimmy Howard tonight, so it may be that Ty Conklin will be in net. If so, he needs to start swimming. Enough of this sink crap.
… The Flames are honoring Brad McCrimmon tonight, which is going to be emotional. Just going to their site and seeing the background tribute there is emotional.
… The Wings got their break and time with their families. Tonight they need to get back to business and start making this road troubles stuff right, regardless of who’s in the net.
First, the effort in the last few minutes would have been unsustainable for the whole of a game, so saying “where was that the whole night?” misses the point. That was a special last ditch effort from a team that didn’t have much left in the tank but was still not that far out of striking distance on stealing a point or two anyway. It’s a mark of the Flames’ incompetence that it was close enough to allow for that kind of late push.
Clearly, the Wings need a break, or believe they need a break, because they look tired. I’m not sure what that means for them down the stretch as they face a fairly compressed schedule after an uncompressed one in the first section of the season, but here they are: a team that looked like it just wanted to get over the finish line to the Christmas Break.Â I want to believe it’s all about fatigue and that a couple days of overeating and interfacing with family will mean they’ll be ready to go Monday night, so I’m going to. Anything else is disturbing.
So, yeah, it was a total team failure. With a few exceptions (mainly Pavel’s line, and Drew Miller), everybody was flat. To single one guy out, the last two games were not Kronwall’s best.
But I need to point out that Ty Conklin is no more reliable than Chris Osgood ended up being. And because I don’t have Conklin-colored glasses like I did Osgood, I feel comfortable saying that I’m uncomfortable with him as backup. The Wings maybe still would have lost with Jimmy playing as First Crutch last night, but maybe not. Conklin, or any backup, obviously isn’t going to match Jimmy Howard but you like to think the assigned goalie gives you a shot at winning on a given night. When the Wings look to be in a posture of “well, we can’t play Jimmy every single night because he’d pass out, so I guess we have to prop Ty up in net” rather than, “let’s give Jimmy a breather, Ty’s ready to go”, it’s not good.
So the Wings get a break now and then get to play Nashville Monday night. The Preds just emphatically pointed out how horrible the Blue Jackets are, so they’re entering the holiday weekend on a high note. I hope they come out of it overconfident and ripe for a toppling by a Red Wings team that had better have its head on straight.
No full notes todayâ€”have to take care of some things on my lunch break.
A couple lineup notes:
Per Khan, it looks like Brad Stuart is a game-time decision tonight, as will be Johan Franzen. Franzen’s injury is a lower body one that he says won’t keep him out, but Eaves is waiting in the wings if he’s needed. If Stuart’s not able to play, Brendan Smith will be in. Otherwise, Smith will head back to GR (though likely not in time to play there tonight).
The Wings finished their road trip on a solid note, but tonight’s a decent test of their focus after a couple days off. The Flames have enough threats to make this an unpleasant night if the Wings decide not to show up.
I won’t catch the game tonight, since Megan and I are going to the Griffins game.
Welp, that’s six. The first time the Wings have dropped six in a row since 2008, as Ken Daniels so helpfully pointed out last night. We all know what happened in 2008 in the end. But here’s the difference: that team, the one in 2008 that dropped six straight in February? It was blown up by injuries at the time. This team? They’re short Jan Mursak. I doubt anyone would make the argument that Jan’s broken ankle is behind this.
Nope. We’ve got a roster at 99.9% health that’s just not getting the job done. A roster with some serious names on it that should rarely, if ever, lose a couple in a row, let alone six. It’s as if a switch was flipped in everyone’s head that took them from being good players to dropping their ability off a cliff. The fact that the makeup of the lineup is much the same as previous fairly successful versions of the Wings is encouraging in that it means they should eventually pull out of this. But it’s discouraging in that you’ve got guys who should be able to perform at a much, much higher level who aren’t, all at the same time. They have the tools to win. They’re just not using them.
I’m with George that a big part of this is breakouts and movement through center, which ties into something JJ mentioned: this does not look like a team right now. That’s another difference between this team and the 2008 squad. That group played like a team, like they were all in for each other. This group has too many guys trying too hard to make it all happen on their own, from Pavel Datsyuk to Drew Miller. Time to remember that success comes from cohesiveness, not individual efforts.
Jimmy’s valiant work in net is proof enough of that. Even playing as well as he is, he can’t single-handedly win games when his teammates are such dead weight. The Wings need to get their act together and get together on the same page, and it has to start tomorrow. There were encouraging signs in the third period, enough, I hope, to carry over to a game against the Ducks. There’s a long season ahead, but the longer they allow this to go on, the bigger the problem gets.
Update (12:49 PM): Custance follows up with a tweet that says doctors have decided no surgery is necessary after all. Good news. Stuart’s out 6 to 8 weeks, which puts him back on February 20th at the earliest, but more likely closer to the start of March. That’s obviously less good news. But this team has the personnel to cope with this pretty well, if they chose to do so.Â - Matt
Update (12:42 PM): Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) reports that the League asked for a “medical report” on Stuart, so it’s possible they’re considering some discipline. Still would have been a dirty hit without the broken jaw, but it’s an inescapable fact that the League factors in injury when considering these things.
By the way, the League reacted very quickly to the Eager sucker punch, handing out a four-gamer for an event that took place last night. That may be due to the Thrashers playing tomorrow. The Flames, for what it’s worth, are off until Tuesday, so they might take a little more time, if they do anything with Kostopoulos. Â - Matt
First Off: Stuart. This broke his jaw:
Completely unnecessary hit and a perfect example of the excessive violence that needs to be curtailed in the League today. Kostopoulos needs to display some measure of judgement and respect there. If he feels the need to lay the body on Stuart, there’s no reason to raise his elbow and rail him in the face. I’m with Mike Chen on this: it’s an issue of respect and something the PA needs to address.
Kostopoulos might have still been guilty of interference, since Stuart never actually touched the puck, but at least he wouldn’t have delivered a blindside headshot. Blindside shoulder to shoulder check, maybe, but those aren’t illegal. And I guess there’s some debate about whether this was a blindside hit by the NHL’s Booth/Savard Rule definition. Whatever. Kostopoulos came at Stuart outside of his line of vision, which is effectively blindside and if it doesn’t fit the new rule’s definition, there’s still room for supplementary discipline.Â I haven’t seen any word on that yet, though. It’s entirely possible the NHL will decide to do nothing.
Meanwhile, Stuart is out indefinitely, while the worst Kostopoulos faces is a few games of relaxation. The Wings have scheduled surgery in Vancouver for Stuart’s jaw today.
We’re going to be seeing a lot of Jakub Kindl. With Stuart out, this will be a great time for everyone to pitch in and bear down on defense. Make the most of the situation, eh?
4+: There was an interesting bit toward the end of the second intermission: Fox Sports Detroit talked to Babcock about the Wings’ recent need to score 4 or more goals to win games. Unsurprisingly, Babcock is not thrilled with this trend, saying he would have rather won 3-2 in Edmonton than 5-3, as an example. I assumed the Wings weren’t happy with their defensive play this year, and it’s been confirmed a couple times lately with public comments. So that’s encouraging. Now if they’d just do something about it.
Because last night wasn’t doing something about it. They started out flat all-around, from the net out to the forward corps and didn’t waste a lot of time in falling behind. The Flames’ first goal was a long time coming, and was a classic defensive breakdown coupled with a classic Detroit goaltender gaffe.
Goaltending: Fortunately, this wasn’t a goaltending battle, because Kiprusoff let in a weak one a few minutes later. And Jimmy let in another not long after that. And Kirprusoff let in another (deflected or not) not long into the second. That was soon followed by another somewhat soft one by Jimmy (last two: lateral movement a little slow). And so on. I won’t give Kipper flak for the Eaves goal because that was a heck of a pass across. But the second Rafalski goal was way weak.
Jimmy made up for some of his earlier stuff with a great finish to the game. If he can bring that play going forward rather than the scrambly, out-of-control crap we saw before the third, the Wings will be in good shape.
Franzen: Didn’t look all that great at center. I’d get on him, but George Malik pointed out to me that he’s still in the received recovery period for ACL surgery, so I’m going to have to try to lay off him a bit.
Bertuzzi: Scored the Wings’ only goal in the shootout this season. Of course, it was only their second go at it, but still. That’s a crazy stat. I’ll take it, though. The fewer shutouts the better. Though if we’re going to see more, Todd’s the guy to score. He has a perfect skill set for the shootout. Seriously. His hands and what he can do with the puck in close quarters are perfect.
Helm: Apparently, he’s juiced from scoring goals, because he’s elevated his game big time. He’s flying out there even more than usual and doing things with the puck that show he’s got some serious confidence now.
Next: The Wings face off against the NHL-leading Vancouver Canucks, who are coming off a 6-1 thumping of Edmonton last night. So it won’t be a battle for first place (Vancouver’s played one fewer game than the Wings), but the Wings can pull even in points with a regulation win.
Luongo sat out last night in favor of Cory Schneider so he could play tonight. He may be motivated, as he had a shutout ended with 10 seconds left in his last start. Not that even a motivated Roberto Luongo is that scary any more. But if the Wings bring the anemic version of their offense tonight (more likely with all these injuries), he could make things difficult.
Ryan Kesler’s on the rise these days, and should be feeling pretty good about himself with his hat trick last night. Between him and the Sedins, the Wings will have a lot on their hands. And it’ll be even more difficult with Stuart out. Again, this is a great time for the whole team to make a commitment to clamping down on defense. No better game to really kick off that effort than one against the Canucks.