The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/13/12 at 05:15 AM ET
As the Detroit Red Wings attempt to rebound from Wednesday’s loss to Nashville in Game 2 against the Predators tonight (7:30 PM EDT—take note that it’s not an 8:30 start, folks—FSD/FS Tennessee/CBC/CNBC/97.1 FM), we can make two easy assumptions:
Despite the NHL media, Wings’ press corps, the Chief’s, Don Cherry’s, Steve Rosenbloom’s and Jeremy Roenick’s (and my own) takes on the Shea Weber fine-but-not-suspension, Weber found himself more irritated by having to repeatedly dodge directly addressing the $2,500 dent in his wallet than anything else, so if the question is, “Message sent?” the answer is, “Who the hell knows, probably not”...
And both the Red Wings, who insisted that they simply cannot afford to engage in vigilante justice by engaging in retaliatory tactics which might send them to Detroit down 2-0 in the series, and the Predators, will likely find themselves engaged in the same sort of rule-testing physicality that they found themselves amidst with Gary Bettman in attendance on Wednesday, because if we’ve learned anything over the past two days, it’s that the standards of playoff officiating, both on the ice and in terms of supplementary discipline, are wildly inconsistent.
The Predators insisted to NashvillePredators.com’s Doug Brumley (by the way, folks, the Predators are trying to “Go Gold and Get the Red Out” by encouraging fans on the fence to turn in their Wings jerseys instead of beating up an Oldsmobile or the back of Henrik Zetterberg’s head) that they will attempt to clean up their collective games..
[T]he team was focused on trying to limit the number of penalties it commits going forward. In Game 1, Nashville was whistled for ten minor penalties and Detroit for eight. Predators head coach Barry Trotz said in his Thursday press conference that he was “a little bit shocked yesterday by the number of penalties on both sides.” During the regular season, Nashville and Detroit were the first- and second-least penalized teams in the league, respectively.
“I think the biggest thing is we have to stay out of the penalty box,” defenseman Ryan Suter said after Thursday practice. “You can’t give a team that many chances on the power play. I think that’s the main area of focus.”
The Red Wings tallied on 2 of their 8 opportunities with a manpower advantage in Game 1, while the Preds’ power play—ranked No. 1 for the regular season—went 0 for 6.
“We were undisciplined,” Shea Weber said. “We didn’t take a lot of penalties during the year and if we’re going to win this series we’ve got to be a lot more disciplined. I think you’re going to see that out of us tomorrow.”
Once again, defenseman Hal Gill did not participate in practice. “Hal is still day-to-day,” Trotz said. “He didn’t skate today. We did that on purpose a little bit. If he feels better tomorrow and he’s able to go, he’ll go.”
And the Predators told the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper and John Glennon, who took note of Paul Gaustad’s shut-down of Pavel Datsyuk (prior to the stick-swinging at the end of the game, anyway) and some supposed Babcockian goading which may or may not have motivated the Predators’ “bottom six” forwards to out-perform Detroit’s best, respectively, it’s Nashville’s own 0-for-6 power play performance in Game 1 that concerns the team which could boast the league’s best regular season PP percentage:
“They came at us pretty aggressively,” Predators defenseman Ryan Suter said. “We have to get back to getting pucks at the net and create off of that.”
In the postseason there is a premium placed on winning the special teams battle — primarily on the power play. If the Predators want to keep the series lead, they’re going to need to figure out a way to solve the Red Wings’ aggressive penalty kill.
A team playing aggressively on the penalty kill walks a very fine line. If you are too assertive, the opposition’s skill players will beat you with quick passes. If you are too passive, you lose the advantage that the assertiveness is intended to create. The Red Wings hit the right balance in Game 1.
“(It’s) being aggressive at the right moments so you’re not running around so they can find the open player and pass it around you,” Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We were just being aggressive as a group of four when we could. I thought the guys did an excellent job with that.”
“When you’re shooting the puck they can’t get too far away from the net,” Suter said. “That could be something we’re looking to change is get more shots and try to create off of that instead of trying to make plays away from the net and put the puck at the net.”
The Predators wouldn’t mind seeing Alex Radulov round into NHL playoff form, either…
“We have to get him around the puck a little bit more so he can get in those battles,” [Predators coach Barry] Trotz said. “That’s partly him, that’s partly his linemates. I can guarantee as the series goes on he’s going to get much better.”
And they insisted that their rink’s soupy ice, aided by the same kinds of outside dehumidification units that will be working overtime when the teams visit Joe Louis Arena on what’s predicted to be a 75-degree and stormy Sunday afternoon, is at least playable-onable:
“It seems the pucks aren’t bouncing as much,” Predators defenseman Kevin Klein said. “I’m sure the more we skate on it the better it gets. The dehumidifiers will help big time.”
NHL.com’s Brian Hedger does a fine job of bridging the gap between the Predators’ and Red Wings’ perspectives in his game preview, if not a little comic relief via having to tortuously toe the league’s line in his “big story”...
Big Story: Rather than talking about the big 3-2 victory for Nashville in Game 1, most of the off-day chatter centered on Predators defenseman Shea Weber ramming Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the end boards right after the final horn sounded. Many felt Weber would get a suspension of a game or two, but the League opted to fine him and let that stand as the lone punishment. The hit, however, now provides a bit of a side story for the rest of the series to see if the Red Wings try to exact some revenge physically or merely on the scoreboard. If they choose the latter option, as Game 1 showed, it won’t be easy. Pekka Rinne and Nashville’s defense were stout and the Preds won the opening game the way most figured they’d triumph this postseason—outmuscling Detroit and shutting down the Red Wings for most of the game.
Red Wings [team scope]: As if the Game 1 loss weren’t bad enough, Detroit also lost speedy third-line center Darren Helm with severed tendons in his left wrist—he’ll miss the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs—in his first game after an MCL sprain that kept him out of the final 10 regular-season games. After delivering a hit to Nashville’s Alexander Radulov, Helm’s arm came straight down on Radulov’s skate blade and he left immediately. Helm needed surgery to repair the tendons on Wednesday night and is expected to be ready for training camp next fall. However, that leaves Detroit with more holes in its lineup, both at center on the third line and on the top penalty-killing unit. The good news is that even without Helm, the Wings killed off 25 of 25 power plays in the last seven games of the season before fending off all six they faced against Nashville in Game 1.
“It’s tough for the kid,” Babcock said of Helm. “I mean, he’s a great kid. He plays hard, he’s an important part of our team. It’s the same thing as the Weber incident … this incident. What do you do? You move on and you get ready for another game. We’ve got to win a game here [Friday].”
Predators [team scope]: Nashville had to be breathing a big sigh of relief when it was announced that Weber wouldn’t be suspended for the incident against Zetterberg, for which he was assessed a roughing penalty for despite the game being over. The Preds’ top defense tandem of Ryan Suter and Weber was very good in helping Nashville contain Detroit’s attack, especially star center Pavel Datsyuk, who didn’t record a point and finished with a minus-1 rating. Meanwhile, Gabriel Bourque scored a pair of goals to lead the way offensively - including the eventual game-winner at 11:35 of the third.
Who’s Hot: Rinne stopped 35 of 37 shots to get the victory in Game 1, while Bourque scored a pair of goals and finished with a plus-2 rating to go with four shots on goal for Nashville. Veteran center Paul Gaustad, whom Nashville picked up at the trade deadline, also had a goal and won 12 of 20 faceoffs (60 percent).
Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom is two points away from tying Steve Yzerman for the most in Wings’ playoff history (185) and is two goals from tying Denis Potvin for most playoff goals in NHL history by a defenseman (56).
I wouldn’t mind letting you enjoy the whole Ansar Khan/Evil Drew Sharp/Bob Wojnowski/Art Regner etc. massive critique of the NHL’s decision to only fine but not suspend Shea Butter, I’d prefer to tell you that I disagree with CBS Detroit’s Eric Thomas’s suggestion that Wings fans shouldn’t “cry” or “whine” about what was very bluntly bizarre refereeing in Game 1, never mind Weber’s actions (I stand by my comment quote that, “Given the circumstances, this was, as much as it sucks big, hairy, sweaty donkey balls, probably the best outcome we could have hoped for” from the gents in charge of “player safety”), I’d prefer to let the players offer their reactions, via the Detroit News’s John Niyo...
“I heard he got fined,” Zetterberg said, shrugging. “I guess the bar is set.”
“I thought it looked bad (on the video replay), but I guess it wasn’t bad enough,” Zetterberg said when asked about Weber’s actions — and the league’s subsequent inaction. “We all know the playoffs is more physical, but you still gotta play within the rules. … Sometimes it is a tough decision, and sometimes its not.”
“I thought it was dirty,” he said. “I think it was directed toward my head, and if you look at what’s happened over the last few years with all of the head injuries, I think that shouldn’t belong in the game.”
Weber said he had a “good conversation” with Shanahan on Thursday morning. And he reacted a bit indignantly when asked if the fine came with a verbal warning, saying, “I think it’s pretty straightforward, you know? Play to the edge and not over.” Earlier, he’d been joking around on the ice with teammate Andrei Kostitsyn, who was playfully re-enacting the turnbuckle move along the glass with Weber playing the role of Zetterberg.
“It’s a quick game, things happen, and it’s an emotional game,” Weber said. “I’m just thankful he’s not hurt and now we can move forward.”
Where to, exactly? By turning this into an eye-for-eye system, aren’t league officials almost encouraging more of the gamesmanship they protest? You could argue the Red Wings would’ve been better off keeping Zetterberg under wraps Thursday and exaggerating the concerns about a possible injury just to try to draw a suspension.
“But I think that would come back to haunt you in the end,” Zetterberg said, shaking his head. “So you’ve just got to be fair about it.”
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
Coach Mike Babcock had no direct comment on the matter after the Wings’ practice Thursday.
“No thought,” Babcock said. “I already ran, worked out, burned out any kind of ill feelings I could have. I’ve moved on.”
Zetterberg’s teammates were disappointed with the lack of a suspension.
“The rules are the rules, and just try to keep that stuff out the game,” Johan Franzen said. “A two-and-half grand fine probably won’t do that, I think.”
Said Tomas Holmstrom: “You take a guy and hit him from behind, that doesn’t belong in the game, for sure. I was surprised. It is what it is and we can’t do anything about it.”
Predators coach Barry Trotz was relieved to hear Weber will be in the lineup.
“Shea is a big part of our team,” Trotz said. “The league does a great job all the time reviewing, nothing gets by them anymore. They handle it and they handled it in a very thorough manner.”
And the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
Johan Franzen smiled as he said, “it’s got to be a tough one,” for Weber to handle the fine. Asked if what Weber did isn’t something the NHL supposedly wants to get rid of, Franzen cut in, “shoving the head into the boards? Yeah, I heard something about that. The rules are the rules but, just try to keep that stuff out of the game. A $2,500 fine probably won’t do it, I don’t think.”
Tomas Holmstrom said, “you take a guy and hit him from behind, that doesn’t belong to the game, for sure. I was a little surprised, yeah.”
Nicklas Lidstrom, who normally is very reserved in his comments, said he was “somewhat surprised. ... You don’t want to see anything like that happen, especially when he could have gotten hurt, it could have been a lot worse than what happened. It’s always scary when something like that happens.”
Coach Mike Babcock said he went for a run before his news conference specifically to clear his mind of the topic. When asked if the Wings needed to not let thoughts of retribution be a factor for Game 2, he said: “Well, we don’t have the personnel to get back at Weber. So we might as well get on with that. This is the way our team is built, and it’s been built like this for a while. To me, it doesn’t matter what anybody does—when you win the game, that’s what it’s all about. So let’s get past any of that.”
In a statement, disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said one of the factors that went into the decision to limit punishment to a fine was that Weber’s action was reactionary. Asked if the fine came with a warning, Weber replied, “I think it’s pretty straightforward: Play to the edge and not over. It’s cut and dry.”
Weber said he was glad Zetterberg wasn’t hurt. Ryan Suter, Weber’s partner, said he saw the incident on TV and “I didn’t think he’d be in that much trouble—I didn’t think it was that bad.”
Because a Zetterberg comment noted by the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell was the most telling of the whole exchange...
Zetterberg said he doesn’t expect there to be any carryover regarding the incident into tonight’s Game 2.
“I think we’ve been through this before and it’s nothing new,” Zetterberg said. “Game 1 was Game 1 and they are up one nothing and we just have to prepare ourselves for Game No. 2. I think we did a lot of good things, just have to keep doing that and change a few of the things.”
And while I can’t quote too much of it as it’s a subscriber-only article, I think ESPN’s Craig Custance offers a fine final word on the situation:
Give the Red Wings credit in how they handled this. Coach Mike Babcock had two opportunities to criticize the hit and passed on both. On Thursday, he said he took a jog and got rid of any negative feelings he had about the league’s decision. Maybe it’s an offshoot of some of the criticism that has come the Pittsburgh Penguins’ way for their outspoken stance on head shots, but there was no politicking coming from the Red Wings. They also made it clear from the outset that Zetterberg wasn’t hurt, rather than drag that news out while the league investigated the hit.
“I couldn’t pretend that long. There’s a game tomorrow,” Zetterberg said. “I think that would come back to haunt you in the end.”
But even if he’s fine now, there’s no guarantee that Zetterberg doesn’t wake up Friday morning with a headache. Or maybe it’ll be a hit in Friday’s game that does more damage, beyond any damage done by Weber’s hit. Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews said he played in a number of games before he realized the seriousness of his recent concussion.
That’s the risk in tying supplementary discipline to an injury. With head injuries, the results aren’t always clear.
“They made a decision,” Zetterberg said. “We have to move on from there.”
The Wings will move on, and they have to start by trying to adjust to whatever standard of officiating is enforced on Friday, as they told MLive’s Brendan Savage:
“We have to adjust to what they’re calling,” said forward Justin Abdelkader. “Get off to a better start, try to stay out of the box. Obviously, the refs are calling it pretty tight. All around the playoffs it’s been pretty tight, calling all sorts of penalties. We have to adjust our game and stay out of the box, be disciplined, be smart.”
The Red Wings’ penalty killers have had good success against Nashville all season. In six regular-season games, the Predators were 3-for-17 (17.6 percent) on the power play vs. Detroit. That’s well below Nashville’s 21.6-percent success ratio against the entire NHL. Still, the Red Wings aren’t counting on keeping the Predators in check forever.
“You don’t want to be going to the box, especially against a team that has as good a power play as they do,” said goaltender Jimmy Howard. “The No. 1 power play in the NHL, you definitely want to limit their opportunities.”
The Predators are saying the same way about the Red Wings, especially after Game 1, when both of Detroit’s goals – by Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom – came on power plays. The Red Wings were 2-for-8 with a manpower advantage.
“It’s a lot to give up in one game,” said Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein. “They’ve got a lot of talent on the power play. Both of those goals we could have eliminated. One was a scramble in front of the net. The second one was off a rush and it was kind of a broken down coverage. Things we can eliminate and we’ll definitely work on them. Stay out the box, I think, is the main thing. Last night, in front of the home crowd, you’re amped up. We have to play controlled a little more. We don’t want to give them too many opportunities on the power play.”
The Wings wouldn’t mind continuing to score on the power play at a solid clip, but if they’re going to score at even strength, they have to—and I’m going to say this very delicately—not only finally engage the Predators with the kind of physical, harsh-edged forecheck that eventually buys the team room to work in the offensive zone, space to skate up through the neutral zone with the puck in transition (hopefully with speedy forwards backing up the Predators’ Trotzian Trap), and a little break from Nashville’s relentless and often deadly cycling game, but also stick butts in front of Pekka Rinne to obstruct his view, more importantly, retrieve rebounds to beat a goalie who essentially stops every shot he sees, and, although we won’t talk about this too much, occasionally run him to piss of the Predators’ defense and push the big, contact-initiating goalie back into his net.
The Wings’ two goals on Wednesday illustrated that Rinne is neither the Dominik Hasek-in-the-making that he’s purported to be, unbeatable on first shots and especially not invulnerable to rebounds squeaking through him or forcing him to overcompensate laterally, opening up some big, big holes in the net. Babcock was blunt about the essential nature of charging into the Predators’ zone with speed and going to the front of the net to generate secondary and tertiary scoring chances while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan…
Pekka Rinne is good enough that he doesn’t need any help. But the Red Wings felt they helped the Predators goaltender out in Game 1 by not establishing more of a net presence.
“We were too easy to play against,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said Thursday. “We have to get to the net more (in Game 2 tonight). We’ve talked about that. … It’s no real surprise. We didn’t do our part.”
Nashville, however, did a good job of boxing Detroit out, keeping it outside and forcing shots from the perimeter.
“We had a hard time getting to the net, we have to drive and stuff like that,” Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom said. “They kept us outside. When the shot came, we weren’t at the net. … You have to be your guy and be determined to get to the net.”
Said Red Wings forward Johan Franzen: “We just have to make it a little harder on the goalie and get in front of the net. Drive a little harder and push him back in the net and get more (room) to shoot on.”
And the Wings reiterated their points to the Free Press’s Helene St. James, who duly notes that the Predators’ worries about discipline don’t discount the major role that special teams will probably play in tonight’s game, never mind the other major plot point:
“I think we were at the net, but we had a hard time maybe to get to the net when we should go to the net and drive to the net,” Tomas Holmstrom said. “They kept us to the outside, so when shot come, we were on the outside. So that’s something we’ve got to work on. You’ve got to just beat your guy and be more determined that you’re going to go to the net.”
At 6-feet-5 and with agile feet, Rinne is hard to beat cleanly. Babcock called him a “second-shot” type of goaltender, meaning that, “you’re not scoring on him on the first one, and the only way you’re getting a second one is if you have a net presence. To me, we were too easy to play against in that way. We have to get to the net more.”
Rinne had reason to chastise his teammates, as he was the one who had to stop 14 shots during eight Detroit power plays. That two of those opportunities led to conversions has to encourage the Wings, because they entered the playoffs having succeeded with the man advantage only six times since early March, and four were against Columbus.
Still, Babcock wants more speed with the man advantage. Neither side believes there’ll be many power plays tonight, so the focus is on five-on-five play, and for Detroit, on having their role players more involved. All of the Predators’ goals have come from outside their top-six group, which is the kind of success the Wings are used to having.
No one expected this series to be short, and the Predators are well aware their opponent is the least likely to be rattled.
“They’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been through a lot of situations, and they have a lot of experience,” Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter said. “I think they’re going to come out just as hard as if nothing were to have happened.”
Something did happen, and it was bigger and far worse than Weber’s punch or Paul Gaustad’s attempt to slash Pavel Datsyuk’s arms and legs at the end of the game. The Wings lost Darren Helm for the rest of the spring after he had tendons repaired in his right wrist, and the worst thing I can say about Helm is that he is far, far more than the “bottom-end checking forward” that Greg Brady called him while piling on the supposed demise of the Wings. He’s the catalyst on the Wings’ third and fourth lines, a player whose speed and post-Draper status as the team’s go-to penalty-killer, defensive faceoff man not named Datsyuk or Zetterberg, and the guy you’re most likely to throw over the boards when the S.S. Red Wing needs to be righted from a sorry starboard list mean that he’s irreplaceable.
How do I know? Mike Babcock said as much while speaking to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose about losing Helm:
“It’s like all important players you miss[—]you don’t fill their role, you get someone else to do what they do,” Babcock said. “We’d like our bottom six to play more so ideally the game will be that way tomorrow that we can do that.”
Babcock was clearly heartbroken for Helm’s bad luck. He returned to the lineup Wednesday for the first time since missing 10 games with a sprained left knee suffered last month.
“It’s tough. We talked about him on the positive side yesterday and then we lost him last night,” Babcock said. “Tough for the kid, he’s a great kid, he plays hard, he’s an important part of our team. ou move on and get ready for another game. We have to win a game here, that’s what our focus has to be. I feel bad for Helmer. He’s a big part of our club. We’re very thankful there was no nerve damage and so I think that’s the most important thing, he’s going to get well and have a summer to train and get back at it in the fall.”
For now, the Wings will hope that the hobbled Danny Cleary and interim 3rd-line center Justin Abdelkader will repeat Wednesday’s inspired performances, and that adding Gustav Nyquist to the mix (while sending Drew Miller down to the fourth line to help Cory Emmerton and Tomas Holmstrom) will result in some much-needed offensive production:
While there are three games left to the AHL schedule, Nyquist leads the Griffins in scoring with 22 goals and 36 assists in 56 games as a first-year pro player. He also has a goal and six assists in 18 games with the Wings. He played in Helm’s absence at the end of the regular-season, collecting a goal and three assists in the final 10 games.
“He’s ready to play in this league, he shows that every time he comes in and plays,” center Henrik Zetterberg said. “He makes good decisions, skates well and is dangerous when he gets the opportunity, so it’s going to be fun to see him play playoff hockey.”
But Nyquist knows that the intensity of the playoffs will be different than anything he’s already experienced in his young NHL life.
“It’s a tight game. That’s what you see,” he said. “I don’t think we gave up a lot of chances for them. They did a pretty good job of keeping us out of the middle. That’s what we have to work on tomorrow. That’s playoff hockey. It’s pretty tight, not a lot of chances. If you get them, you have to score.”
Nyquist and his teammates made sure to tell MLive’s Brendan Savage that Helm can’t be “replaced,” and that they’re well aware of the fact that their remaining players have to step up in a big way…
“That’s a huge blow for us,” Nyquist said. “Obviously, he’s a huge part of our team, bringing in energy, getting in on the forecheck, and he’s one of the best skaters in the league. Everyone is going to have to dig in and play hard when he’s not in the lineup.”
In practice Thursday, Nyquist skated on the third line with Justin Abdelkader and Danny Cleary. Drew Miller was moved to fourth line with Cory Emmerton and Tomas Holmstrom to make a spot for Nyquist. Several Red Wings said one player won’t be able to replace what Helm gives them.
“He’s been a big part of our success all year,” Adelkader said. “It’s tough. We just have to come together. Everyone has to do their part, come together. It’s a tough deal. Bad break. But just come together as a team, everyone just doing their job, everyone pulling the rope together. I’m just going to play my same game, hopefully be effective and help the team as much as possible. Obviously, injuries are always great opportunities. It’s an opportunity. Hopefully, we’ll come together as a team and somebody will step up.”
“Anytime you see a guy going through that, first game back and three minutes in shift time, boom something like that happens, it’s awful,” said Howard, who was following the puck toward the middle of the ice when Helm was cut. “I just hope he makes a speedy recovery. This is where the depth of the organization steps up. It’s tough to replace Helmer, how he competes out there, how great of a job he does on the penalty kill. But this is an opportunity for guys to step up and play in his spot.”
[Niklas] Kronwall agreed.
“It’s definitely a good opportunity for one of the younger guys,” he said. “Abby will obviously get a bigger role than he already has. He’s been doing a great job since Helmer was out. I feel bad for Helm. He’s a huge part of our team but hopefully we can find some other bodies to step up.”
And there’s no small irony in the fact that Helm’s return from a sprained MCL was supposed to give the Wings the tenacity, speed and scoring they require to rally against a ridiculously stacked Predators’ forward lineup, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James points out:
Babcock heralded Helm’s return as the key to getting the entire bottom six of the forward group going again. Now Justin Abdelkader will move up to center the third line, with Nyquist and Danny Cleary on the wings, and Cory Emmerton will center the fourth line with Tomas Holmstrom and Drew Miller.
While the Wings lose Helm’s speed and forechecking, they gain a smart player with great hands in Nyquist—a guy who can sub in on a top line if needed. This is where some experience pays off—Nyquist, 22, played 18 regular-season games after being called up from the minors. He’ll at least have that to draw on when he jumps into the playoffs.
“It’s good for him to have a feel for what it’s like to play in the NHL, that he had a chance to play a little bit up here, but the intensity is going to be a lot higher than in the regular season,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “But I think he’s ready.”
Nyquist was excited about the opportunity: “I’m definitely looking forward to it. Looking back, I didn’t think I’d have a chance to play in the playoffs when I started the season.”
As it turns out, NHL.com’s John Manasso, who’s doing double time working for both the league’s website and Fox Sports Tennessee, found that the post-Helm Wings were talking about one particular subject more than anything else while discussing their hopes of returning to Detroit not staring a 2-0 deficit in the face—by getting in Rinne’s grill:
“We get some more minutes here and just got to make the most of it and play my game and be physical, be on the pucks, take pucks to the net,” Abdelkader said.
Over and over, the Red Wings and their coach sounded that theme. Nyquist seemed to get the message.
“We have to drive the middle hard and try to get on the inside of them and stand in front of [Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne] a lot,” Nyquist said.
Babcock referred to Rinne as a “second-shot goalie,” meaning Rinne almost always makes the save on the first shot, so Detroit needs to do more to score on rebounds. The Red Wings failed to score at even strength, getting both of their goals on the power play while all three of Nashville’s came at even-strength.
The Red Wings coach said two of Nashville’s goals did not bother him—one deflected off Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart’s skate and another deflected off the shaft of the stick of Preds left wing Gabriel Bourque—but Babcock thought the Predators’ third goal was the big one. It put Nashville up 3-1 with 8:25 left in regulation, as he said his team failed to execute on clearing a dump-in behind the net between goalie Jimmy Howard and a defenseman. Nashville had two men deep, won the puck and Bourque wound up wide open for the eventual game-winner. Babcock said Detroit got 17 shots on the power play in Game 1, a number that he felt would be “impossible” to duplicate.
“The reality is we’ve got to do more at even strength, which I’ve addressed already,” he said, “so, to me, we’ve got to put more pressure on their [defensemen] and their goaltender.”
The Wings can only delay the Predators’ media coronation as the belle of the playoff ball, if not completely derail that lovely “storyline,” by embodying some of Helm’s enthusiastic, high-tempo style while doing their damnedest to channel all their anger at Weber getting off with nothing more than a ding to his wallet for attempted cranial breakage in Rinne’s direction, all while eliminating those damning self-inflicted wounds in front of their own net.
Also: Pavel Datsyuk’s made the round of 32 in NHL’s EA Sports NHL 13 cover boy campaign;
• And on a personal note…God, I hate admitting this. I’m essentially going at 50% right now, and I hate it. The only thing that’s harder than putting in 14-to-16-hour days during the regular season and playoffs is not doing them, and I’m coming off a full two-week period in which I did absolutely nothing due to a depressive episode, so I am having an incredibly difficult time getting back to my prolific self.
I tried to suck things up on Wednesday for the sake of offering some playoff coverage instead of none, but my body is still sending depressed-brain levels of fatigue toward my brain. I’m having a very hard time getting going and I’m having a very hard time just giving you the limited information I’m giving you, and as there is no exact science as to when the effects of a depressive episode wear off (even for a “seasoned veteran” like myself), nor a prescribed number of days until my body and brain are ready to go full-tilt, I can only ask for your forgiveness for me giving you a “playing hurt” level of coverage that may appear half-assed despite a ton of help from Paul.
It’s probably not going to change soon, and it frustrates me to no end. I’d almost rather be like Dominik Hasek and shut things down if I can’t play through what is admittedly a lot of physical as well as mental pain (that “depression hurts” commercial? 100% accurate in terms of its depiction of the physical effects of depression), so for now, this is all I can give you. It sucks from my end and it feels terrible to not at least be able to attempt to do the whole one-stop-shop, up-to-the-minute thing, but I am gonna try my best to keep going, and all I can give you is my best effort. Today, aside from doing some pre-game stuff, my biggest priority involves going to talk to what the public health system equivalent of my therapist would be around 2, so I’m going to skip out in the middle of the time when the game-day updates roll in, but I’m trying to get healthy while regaining form, and the health part is a wee bit more important right now.
I’m really sorry. I never wanted to be a blogger who’s publicly dealing with depression, and I sure as hell didn’t plan on dealing with it publicly while being hampered by it to the point that I’m struggling to half-ass my way through a playoff series, but the worst thing I can do is lie to you about what’s going on, so it is what it is.
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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.