The Malik Report
From the Oakland Press's Pat Caputo:
If the Red Wings don’t make the playoffs, much of the fallout will come down on first-year coach Jeff Blashill. You will undoubtedly hear Blashill, “couldn’t get the team to rally down the stretch like Mike Babcock did” from fans and media. But it’s difficult to see where Blashill could do more. He has shifted his lines and defensive pairings. He has tried to maneuver his goalies so the most effective one is on the ice.
It could just be the Red Wings’ talent has been overrated. That older players are aging, the former young guns are misfiring under the pressure of the expected and the current young guns are suffering growing pains.
It’s been awhile since Holland has made an impactful trade. Too long.
Hockey is perhaps the most unpredictable of the four major team sports. A bottom seed has a legitimate shot to win it all. Maybe this is just typical hockey drama - and the Red Wings will ultimately prove everything is OK.
There are nine games remaining. If the Red Wings get into the playoffs, anything can happen. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t reason to sound an alarm because, frankly, this doesn’t look good.
From NHL.com's Dave Stubbs:
Modere "Mud" Bruneteau scores at 16:30 of the sixth overtime, 116:30 into extra time, to give the visiting Detroit Red Wings a 1-0 win against the Montreal Maroons.
It remains to this day the longest game in NHL history, the equivalent of nearly three full games. It begins March 24 and ends at 2:25 a.m. the following morning in Game 1 of the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Semifinals.
Red Wings goalie Normie Smith, who loses 12 pounds of body weight during the game, makes 89 saves. Only Bruneteau's shot, the 67th for Detroit, gets past Maroons goaltender Lorne Chabot.
During intermissions players sip tea and coffee laced with brandy, then lie on their backs with their legs up on benches to improve circulation. The two referees, Ag Smith and Bill Stewart (the latter the grandfather of future NHL official Paul Stewart), stop taking their skates off, afraid they won't be able to lace up their boots over surely swollen feet.
Red Wings prospect and Victoria Royals defenseman Joe Hicketts was named to the WHL's First All-Star Team, he was named the WHL's Western Conference's best defenseman and was named the Western Conference's MVP yesterday.
The Victoria Times-Colonist's Cleve Dheensaw spoke with Royals GM Cam Hope and Hicketts himself about the honors:
“[Hicketts] took a group of young guys and pushed them to the top of the standings,” Hope said. “You can’t measure what Joe does for our organization. He’s one of those special guys.”
The Detroit Red Wings-signed Hicketts deflected the accolades back to his teammates, but reflected on what is also a significant personal achievement.
“It’s a huge honour to be mentioned among the great names that have come through the WHL,” said the undersized but mobile blue-liner. “It’s encouraging to see all the hard work has paid off. But I got a lot of help from my teammates. It’s never just one person.”
Meanwhile, Hicketts was the lone unanimous selection for the Western Conference first-all star team, which also included Ethan Bear of the Seattle Thunderbirds as the other defenceman, Hart in goal, Tyson Baillie of the Kelowna Rockets, Mathew Barzal of the Thunderbirds and Park Bowles of the Tri City Americans as the forwards.
NHL.com's Rob Vollman "handicapped" the Flyers and Red Wings' battle for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, and Vollman employed advanced metrics to spotlight the Flyers' power play and the Red Wings' defensive play:
Detroit's advantage: Defensive play
The fact Detroit is the superior possession-oriented team isn't clear using shot-based metrics. The Red Wings are No. 11 in the NHL with a shot-attempt percentage of 51.8 (meaning they take 51.8 percent of all shot attempts in their games), while the Flyers rank No. 16 at 50.0 percent.
When considering zone time, in the form of the percentage of faceoffs each team starts in the offensive zone relative to the defensive zone, the Red Wings' advantage becomes clear. They have a 54.0 zone start percentage, which ranks No. 2 in the NHL behind the Los Angeles Kings (55.5 percent); the Flyers are No. 20 at 49.4 percent.
For those of you who are too young to remember or have faint memories of the Red Wings' 6-5 win over the Colorado Avalanche on March 26, 1997, AWood40 posted a lovely 15-minute video that not only recalls the shenanigans of the evening, but also reminds us that the Red Wings won 6-5 in overtime, with McCarty scoring the overtime goal.
The Wings rallied from 4-2 and 5-3 deficits to win the game, and I'm sure in Avs fans' eyes, the fact that McCarty wasn't ejected for jumping Lemieux must lurk in the periphery of their hockey nightmares.
This was an incredibly exciting game, and it's over the course of the game, not just the fights, that the Wings came together and steeled themselves for a Cup run.
The Detroit Red Wings face a near-must-win situation against the Montreal Canadiens this evening (7:30 PM EDT on FSD/Sportsnet East/RDS/NHL Network U.S./97.1 FM), and if we are to believe what the Wings' players and coach had to say after Tuesday's 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay, the Wings at least have the blueprint for success within them.
Detroit begins a 3-game home stand with an eye toward the out-of-town scoreboard (MLive's Ansar Khan posted a guide to the remaining schedules of Boston, the Islanders and the Flyers) and the Wild Card standings, and Jimmy Howard perfectly summarized the Wings' situation to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
“It’s got to come from within here,” Jimmy Howard said when asked about the sense of urgency in the locker room. “There’s not going to be any knight in shining armor that comes over the fence here and through the door that’s going to get the job done for us. It’s got to come from within here.”
The Wings will face a Montreal Canadiens team that's 9 points behind the Wings and Flyers with 8 games to go to Detroit's 9 games and Philadelphia's 10, so the Canadiens would have to both win out and get some help to make the playoff cut.
Montreal is coming off a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, and they've split their past 4 games. The biggest Canadiens news story on Wednesday involved the almost ready status of PK Subban, who was stretchered off the ice on March 10th, as noted by Canadiens.com's Jared Ostroff:
Via RedWingsFeed, Hockey's Future's Sean Shapiro penned an article discussing Wings prospect and Grand Rapids Griffins defenseman Robbie Russo's stellar +46 ranking as a rookie pro:
Russo has established himself as one of the more reliable defensemen in the AHL. He has played on both the power play and the penalty kill, while he is third amongst rookie defensemen with five goals and 32 assists.
“He’s just so reliable,” Grand Rapids coach Todd Nelson said. “He makes quick decisions and doesn’t get rattled like a rookie or look like a rookie. I think that plus/minus number has grabbed him some attention from outside our locker room when he’s had attention within our organization all season.”
Russo’s performance this season has helped Grand Rapids surge up the Central Division standings. After a horrendous start back in October, the Griffins have found themselves with a 41-21-1-1 record in mid-March.
Grand Rapids has pieced together a pair of lengthy win streaks. Earlier, the Griffins won 15 straight games, while they recently had a 13-game win streak that was snapped by the San Antonio Rampage on Sunday.
“I think as a team, we really ride the momentum when we’re winning like that,” Russo said. “It’s a good group to be around. I think we have confidence from a streak.”
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
The Detroit Red Wings have been better at home since the All-Star break, going 7-2-1.
They might need to be even better during their final five games at Joe Louis Arena, perhaps as close to perfect as possible, in order to reach the playoffs.///
The Red Wings, with 83 points and nine games remaining, are tied with Philadelphia for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have 10 games left.
"We're not looking at it as a three-game homestand, we're focused on Montreal," Justin Abdelkader said. "It's two big points. We've obviously been comfortable at home, so we've just got to come out and play well. Montreal has nothing to lose so they're just going to come out and be a little looser. They always play us hard. It's a big game for us."
The Canadian Hockey League posted a clip of Joe Hicketts discussing his journey from an undrafted prospect to a Red Wings signing via his play with the WHL's Victoria Royals:
From Sportsnet's Luke Fox:
Helluva run, Hockeytown, but now it's coming to an end. Statistically, the Red Wings' chance of extending their playoff streak to 25 seasons is still above 50 per cent, but after much deliberation, we're giving the Flyers the nod here.
Momentum is a real thing. For all of its flaws, Philly has simply shown more fight down the stretch, and Jeff Blashill's recent flip-flopping between Mrazek and Howard indicates a lack of confidence in goal. Detroit's failing to score a goal at home versus an awful Leafs team last week and its thumping by Tampa Tuesday were particularly concerning.
This race will come down to the NHL's final weekend, but the Flyers will sneak in to earn a first-round date with Washington.
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.