The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/11/11 at 04:31 PM ET
Updated 7x with more tarmac comments at 4:22 PM: As Paul and Alanah have already noted, the Detroit Red Wings boarded Red Bird II around 11 AM and headed west toward San Jose, where they hope to knock off the San Jose Sharks and complete a momentous comeback, having set a Fox Sports Detroit ratings record (with a 26 share and 368,000 or so homes watching Game 6) in the process.
The most interesting tidbit from their tarmac interviews involved the status of Johan Franzen, who the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy reports may very well play in Game 7 tomorrow night:
Teammate Niklas Kronwall [p]ractically guaranteed that “The Mule” will return for the winner-take-all Western Conference semifinals matchup.
“I think so,” Kronwall said of Franzen’s availability for the Game 7. “Definitely.”
Franzen missed Game 6 because of an ankle injury. Coach Mike Babcock clearly wants Franzen back, but expressed caution when asked if the scorer is ready for action. As Babcock walked to the team’s plane, he reminded reporters he’s got some time to decide on a lineup.
“We’ll be on this flight for about five and a half hours,” he said. “We’ll kick everything around. If Franzen is lobbying (to play) we’ll listen to that. We’ll try to make the right decisions, and the only way you know if you made the right decisions is if you win.”
The Wings suggested to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness that Thursday’s game will be more than just a toss-up…
“We certainly have good momentum,” Detroit forward Danny Cleary said prior to boarding a flight to San Jose at Metro Airport. “We’ve played well. Last game was probably our best effort. We’re getting contributions from different players and our goaltender is still playing great. That’s a good sign.”
In Game 6 Tuesday, the Wings scored three unanswered goals to remain alive in the postseason after a 3-1 win.
“Experience helped us last night, not getting down after they scored that first goal,” Cleary said. “We stayed the course. It was a huge game.”
They also scored three unanswered third period goals in Game 5, erasing a two-goal deficit in the process. Detroit had been swept in all but two of the series it trailed 0-3 – taking Toronto to seven games in the 1945 Stanley Cup Finals and last year extending San Jose to five games before their season ended after a 2-1 defeat.
“Everything is thrown out now,” Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi said. “It’s one game. Winner takes all. I like where we’re at. We just have to make sure to dictate the pace of play right off the hop and take it to them hard.”
And the Wings continued while speaking to DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples:
“Maybe more confident,” Datsyuk said. “It’s going to be a hard game and a tough game. But for sure, it’s more confidence for us with it 3-3 now.”
The Wings will be counting on the veteran leadership that has helped them win two of the previous three Game 7s. When he was asked about the perception that his team is very calm right now, captain Nicklas Lidstrom said his team hasn’t done anything yet.
“We also know we haven’t done anything yet,” Lidstrom said. “We haven’t won a series yet. I think our mindset is more of going out there to win a game, and not feeling that we’ve accomplished a whole lot. We haven’t. We haven’t won a series yet.”
“I think what we take to comfort is that a lot of guys have played in that situation and scenario,” Bertuzzi said. “It’s a pretty comfortable room to be in, and this is what we want. We wanted to push it to Game 7, and I like where our heads are at.”
“I think veteran leadership is a great thing, but determination is a better thing,” [Wings coach Mike] Babcock said. “Poise and understanding what you have to do, the key this time of year is just to do your part, and if you do your part, we have an opportunity to be great together.”
Babcock also told Caples that he felt that the team needed to get a good night’s sleep in their own beds, which was the reason the team chose to decline paying a $2,500 fine to San Jose International Airport for making a post-10:30 PM local time landing, and Jimmy Howard talked about the pressure he’ll face tomorrow night…
“You just go out there and play,” Howard said when asked if he would be nervous. “Give your best effort, and see what happens.”
And Justin Abdelkader spoke to the Free Press’s George Sipple about the fact that he can’t take the kind of third-period penalty he did on Tuesday:
“I gotta know better,” Abdelkader said today at Detroit Metro Airport, before the team boarded Redbird II for the trip to San Jose. “Can’t give them an opportunity to make a call like that. Obviously, you don’t want to put your team shorthanded in the third period when we’re up like that. You think about it and, hopefully, learn from it and not do it again.”
“It’s not a fun feeling, I’ll tell you that much,” he said. “It’s just a long two minutes.”
Abdelkader also took an elbowing penalty in the third period of Game 5, 63 seconds after Tomas Holmstrom gave the Wings a 4-3 lead. The Wings killed off that penalty, too, and Holmstrom’s goal ended up as the winner. Coach Mike Babcock said he has talked to Abdelkader “two games in a row now” about the ill-advised penalties.
“You gotta decide, are you going to be one of those guys your whole career that takes a penalty at the bad time or are you going to look after it?” Babcock said. “This is a great kid and a good teammate, and he’s going to get it looked after.”
Abdelkader also took a four-minute high-sticking penalty in overtime of Game 1. He led the Wings with 188 hits during the 2010-11 regular season and was plus-15 with seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 74 games. He has no points and is minus-4 in 10 playoff games.
Regarding playing Game 7 on the road after rallying from a 3-0 series deficit, Abdelkader said, “It’s just exciting. Any time you get to play in a Game 7, it’s pretty special. We’re all just looking forward to the opportunity. We’re going to go into a hostile environment there in San Jose, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
WXYZ’s Tom Leyden filed a tarmac report...
Just over 12 hours after they defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals, the Red Wings boarded their team plane and departed for California.
Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi summed up the mood of the team perfectly, saying, “It’s the first time I’ve seen guys that excited to get on a plane for seven hours.”
The concept of the Wings getting this far was foreign to a number of hockey fans and pundits who left them for dead after they lost Game 3 to fall into a 3-0 series deficit.
Head coach Mike Babcock and his players have remained focused on the team’s gameplan and tried to maintain a level of calm. The approach has clearly worked.
As well as a video which you’ve probably seen as Paul posted it:
Update #1: The Wings’ website just posted a video of Nicklas Lidstrom and Mike Modano on the tarmac…
The Windsor Star posted videos of Lidstrom…
And Todd Bertuzzi speaking to the media…
And WXYZ posted a longer video report on its YouTube channel:
Update #2: Here are the Twitter updates filed by Wings social media coordinator Jake Duhaime:
“We’re getting on it (the plane)”, Mike Babcock said before Game 6. Well, now that statement becomes reality. http://t.co/UZMLxGQ
Here is Mule, looking sharp as usual. http://t.co/PjBybOd
Abdelkader: It’s just exciting. Any time you get to play in a Game 7, it is special.
Abdelkader: I think we just take it one game at a time. We don’t worry about the history, we just go out and play our game.
Abdelkader: I didn’t think the crowd could top Game 4, but last night, the building was unbelievable.
Draper: We believe in ourselves. We want to get on that plane and make sure this keeps going.
Cleary: I don’t know if we care how we got here. We’re playing a Game 7 and that’s all that matters.
Datsyuk talking to the media here at DTW. http://t.co/ITf5Mzz
Duhaime also talked about the “Why Not Us?” phenomenon:
As Jimmy Howard admitted again last night, he borrowed the phrase from Curt Schilling and the 2004 Boston Red Sox, one of the four teams in the history of professional sports to accomplish such a comeback. It would have been a mere throwaway cliché in a press scrum had the 23 men in our dressing room not taken it to heart.
“I don’t think you would have believed it if you came in here and saw when we were down 3-0,” Howard said. “We were in here loose, joking around, laughing, being ourselves. I think that’s key when you dig yourself into that sort of hole.”
“The thing is, we weren’t kidding ourselves; we really felt we could do this,” Danny Cleary said. “We focused on one game, not thinking we had to win four.”
Why not let our fans feel the exact same way? We’ve spent the last few days having more fun than anyone else on social media. There was Travolta on the Facebook page after Game 4, Bon Jovi after Game 5 and ‘Throw Your Wings Up’, a music video submitted by some of our social media followers. We used the Animal House speech in between the second and third periods of Game 5. And we’ve spent the last few days celebrating the journey, rather than trying to take that one giant leap to victory.
Like #WhyNotUs. What happened on Tuesday throughout the Motor City wasn’t just exciting, but simply magical. It started with a pregame buzz and radiated throughout the city and the vast reaches of Hockeytown. There was an electricity that permeated throughout the building, surely felt by our players on the ice.
“I didn’t think the crowd could top Game 4, but last night, the building was unbelievable,” said Justin Abdelkader.
• Also per Duhaime, Dino Ciccarelli will appear at the Wings’ “Viewing Party” at the MotorCity Casino on Thursday;
• And the Detroit News’s John Niyo took note of the Wings’ pre-departure comments:
To a man, the Wings insist this was a flight they intended on making all along. Babcock had said exactly that Monday, telling reporters his team planned on making another trip to the West Coast, if not more.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Bertuzzi said. “Without a doubt. This is one of those teams that just never gives up. People had us counted out a long time ago. But we just kept battling, we kept doing it, and we’ve got big-time players stepping up.”
“To make it to a Game 7 after what we’ve been through, being down 0-3, it’s pretty awesome,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “But we know the job’s not done yet.”
“That’s all we’ve talked about: Stay calm, stay poised and do what you’re supposed to do,” Babcock said. “You do that and it’s amazing what can happen. But if you get all wound into the ground and you stop making plays, nothing good happens for yourself. So I think
if you’re down 3-0 in the series and you’re not playing any good, there’s no opportunity. but when you think you deserve better and you’re playing well, I think it’s easier to stick with it. And I think that’s what has happened.
“Well, it’s the first time I’ve seen guys that excited to get on a plane for seven hours,” Bertuzzi said. “This is what we wanted. We wanted to push it to Game 7. I like where our heads are at. … It’s Game 7. We’ve all been a part of them. It’s gonna be exciting. It’s gonna be in a tough barn. We’re gonna have our hands full. But like I said, I like where we’re at. I like where our game’s at. No we just gotta go out and do it.”
Update 2.5: The Wings engaged in a few radio interviews on Wednesday morning, with Patrick Eaves speaking to WDFN’s Matt Sheppard…
[edit: MLive’s Phillip Zaroo took note of Eaves’ points of emphasis:
“We weren’t out of those games or anything,” he said on WDFN-AM 1130 Detroit. “They were getting some good bounces there. We were right there, and we just knew if we stuck to the game plan, the tides would change. We’ve put ourselves in a position where we can win the series now. I think that’s due to the leadership, and the belief in each other and what we can do as a team.”
WJR’s Paul W. Smith...
Focusing on Jimmy Howard’s evolution, as noted by MLive’s Phillip Zaroo...
“I would say everybody in our organization – going back to a year ago when he was (nominated for) Rookie of the Year – we all knew that we had a real good, bonafide No. 1 goaltender,” Holland said on WJR-AM 760 Detroit. “Obviously the litmus test is the playoffs.”
Howard showed some signs of being able to handle the pressure of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year, when the Red Wings won Game 7 of their series against the Coyotes in Phoenix. Just like this year, Detroit played San Jose in the second round. Though the Sharks advanced to the conference finals, Howard played great in Game 5, turning away 30 shots in a 2-1 loss.
“Certainly he’s been a big reason, in this series, why we’re going to Game 7,” Holland said. “If you’re going to go anywhere in the playoffs, you need real good goaltending, you need timely saves, and Jimmy’s done all that for us. I also think as the series has gone on, you can see his confidence growing. He just appears to be more and more confident with every game.”
In the columnist department, the Sporting News’s Craig Custance spoke to WDFN’s Shepard as well…
Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner spoke to WDFN’s Ryan Ermanni...
And the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa spoke to WBBL:
Update #3: It’s time for columnists and opinion, opinion, opinion! 97.1 the Ticket offers Ken Kal’s game recap:
Wow what another exciting game. This series has been tremendous. This seems like the Stanley Cup Final and we’re only in the second round! These Red Wings never give up. Detroit threw all but the kitchen sink at Antti Niemi through two periods and he stopped everything.
Then early in the 3rd, a rather strange goal scored by Logan Couture gave the Sharks the lead. Couture slipped the puck between Jimmy Howard’s pads and it just slid over the goal line. When he was awarded the goal I thought to myself, the season can’t end like this. It didn’t. Detroit stormed back and netted the next three goals.
The series is tied and history can be made should Detroit win the next game in San Jose on Thursday. The Red Wings have never won a series trailing 3 games to none.
It seems like the Red Wings have the momentum on their side now. They’re feeling good about their game. With that said it all comes down to one game. That game will decide the winner of the series and the chance to meet the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Final. Anything can happen.
No matter what the outcome, I can say that this series is one of the best series that I’ve ever seen. Two outstanding teams loaded with talent going toe-to-toe. Only one team can win, but there are no losers when this series concludes.
The Red Wings have climbed the mountain defying the odds. Now all that’s left is to place the flag on the summit.
• Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner suggests that the crowd at Joe Louis Arena should have earned a place on the scoresheet because it played a large role in Tuesday’s win…
“I must say that the fans have been terrific this playoff here at home for us,” Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said after Game 4. “It was really loud, and its real helpful to keep us going.” At the end there, when we had the last timeout, it was really loud. I had goosebumps. That makes it easy to get extra energy.”
Zetterberg’s not alone in his praise for Wings fans. Every player has mentioned the crowd at one time or another during this current playoff run.
We tend to forget that hockey players are human beings. With the way the Wings can dominate, they sometimes resemble a high-precision machine, but they’re just like us—flesh and blood and ruled by emotions. When you have 20,000 people screaming their support for you and urging you to do whatever it takes, players become empowered. That’s exactly what occurred Tuesday night. Detroit was clearly the better team, but they trailed 1-0 nearing the midway point of the third period. As each second ticked away, the Wings were that much closer to elimination.
“The crowd was amazing tonight,” Wings forward Dan Cleary said. “It’s the loudest I’ve heard the Joe since I’ve been here. There was around 5 minutes left and there was a faceoff outside their zone and it was loud. Almost deafening. I couldn’t even talk to Z (Zetterberg). I had to go really tight to him. They really lifted us tonight. I really felt it honestly. You can talk about a crowd being loud, but they were uplifting for us.”
• The Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo suggests that the Wings are redefining themselves...
If the Red Wings do go on to capture the Stanley Cup championship this season - and that remains a big “if” at this point - their series against the San Jose Sharks will define them. As is, it epitomizes a franchise that is unrelenting in its competitive spirit.
Down in the third period, the Red Wings rallied once more to beat the San Jose Sharks 3-1 Tuesday. Once behind three games to none in the series, they have forced a Game 7 in San Jose on Thursday. Impossible became improbable, and perhaps now a reality.
It’s incredibly difficult to win a Game 7 on the road. Don’t believe it? Just ask the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. They rallied from a three games to nothing deficit against Vancouver in the opening round of these playoffs - and were beaten in Game 7 on the road.
It has been done before, though. Only three times in Stanley Cup history have teams rallied down three games to none to win a series. Two of those teams - the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 and the New York Islanders in 1975 - won Game 7 on the road. At this point, who doubts the Red Wings can do anything?
• Fox Sports Detroit’s Mike O’Hara’s questioning what might happen if the Wings win…
But if the Wings complete their magical run, where would that put this team in our pantheon of champions? There have been suggestions that climbing out of that 0-3 hole to win a Cup would put the Red Wings at least in the same neighborhood as the 1968 Tigers, for what a championship run would represent as an inspiration for a city and region struggling to reverse its economic and psychological decline.
Feel free to disagree, but in my mind, both are a stretch.
The 1968 Tigers, who won the World Series in seven games against the mighty St. Louis Cardinals after falling behind 3-1, were a unifying force in a city still smoldering from the riots of 1967. Those Tigers were embraced by a community that had been torn and divided. There are enduring memories of Mickey Lolich being activated for National Guard duty. Willie Horton, who grew up in Detroit and was a young legend at Northwestern High, toured the neighborhoods while wearing his Tigers uniform, seeking to bring calm.
If only for its sheer length, a Stanley Cup playoff run provides an exhilarating diversion. Consider this: Thursday night’s game will complete exactly one month of playoff hockey for the Wings. They won the first game of their sweep of Phoenix on April 13. Thursday night’s game is on May 12.
Vaughn Derderian is a long-time hockey fan and proprietor of the Anchor Bar, one of downtown Detroit’s most popular bars on hockey nights. As the series with the Sharks progressed, Derderian saw a mood change in fans who frequent the Anchor before and after games.
“I think they’re starting to move away from giddy,” Derderian said. “This is a comeback team now. It’s fun.”
• MLive’s Rob Otto, for once, makes a wise observation in pondering why the hell the Sharks tried to end Game 6 by instigating a brawl…
In a matter of seconds during Game 6, we saw the following from Sharks players:
* Scott Nichol cross-checking Juri Hudler on a face-off
* Joe Pavelski following his late shot in and falling on top of Jimmy Howard
* Dan Boyle following Pavelski in and jumping into the scrum in the goal mouth
* Joe Thornton coming up behind Henrik Zetterberg at the edge of the scrum and slashing Z’s ankle
It was certainly a physical game, but none of that was necessary. Had those thing happened earlier, rather than after the game was already decided, I could actually accept it a little more. At least the excuse could have been that they were trying to goad the Wings into making a mistake to get a power play.
Instead, San Jose couldn’t win fair and square, so they decided to try to inflict some damage on Detroit. It left me with one lasting impression.
The Sharks are punks.
• And the Detroit News’s Terry Foster says that there’s no doubt that the Wings will win:
“No surprise it’s Game 7,” Thornton said. “It’s been a great series.”
He looked like he’d seen a ghost when he said this — by the way. The Sharks are all saying the right things, shrugging and trying to play this off. They said they expected a seven-game series, although you know they really didn’t. They know the scoop. They are in a winner-take-all game a few days after they appeared to be the anointed team to face Vancouver in the Western Conference finals.
“Those are past teams. This is our team. We know what we have to do,” Dany Heatley said.
This is not a great Red Wings team, but they play with heart. There were too many times they were shoved off the puck like school children in this series and dominated. It happened in Game 6 where they feel behind by two goals twice, including the third period. Yet they surge and fight and scrap and somehow manage to be in games at the end. One important stat is in the last two games, the Red Wings have outscored San Jose, 6-2, in the third period. The Wings may not play well all the time but they know when to play well.
Now history is just a short time away. The Wings will not lose this series.
Roenick is sounding more and more like hockey’s answer to Charles Barkley. Like Sir Charles, Roenick is no stranger to controversy. He has been implicated in high-stakes sports gambling, publicly told fans to “kiss my ass” when many claimed the players were spoiled during the 2004 strike, and feuded with USA Hockey officials saying he was “blackballed” in being passed over for the 2006 Olympic team. Then again, in his last year in the league while playing for the Sharks, Roenick was a frequent guest on KGO (810 AM) and couldn’t have been more gracious.
NHL fans ought to send him thank-you notes for helping to move the Stanley Cup playoffs out of the shadows of Major League Baseball and the NBA playoffs. If only Marleau and Thornton would follow suit in Game 7, now that would be a headline long overdue.
• Here’s the Mercury News’s Tim Kawakami’s take regarding the Sharks’ key players stacking up against the Wings’ best…
Detroit is having no such issues with its most talented players–namely forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall. They’ve been the best four skaters on the ice, that’s all. In the Red Wings’ victories in Games 4-5-6, the cumultive plus/minus ratings and scoring for Detroit’s head-liners…
* Datsyuk: 0 goals, 5 assists… +3.
* Zetterberg: 1 goala, 3 assists… +6.
* Lidstrom: 2 goals, 1 assist… +4.
* Kronwall: 1 goal, 2 assists… +1.
Here are the cumultive scoring stats and plus/minus ratings for three of the Sharks’ headliners in Games 4-6…
* Thornton: 0 goals, 2 assists… -3.
* Marleau: 0 goals, 0 assists… -1.
* Dan Boyle: 1 goal, 1 assist… -1.
• While the Mercury News’s Mark Emmons has this to say…
That said, San Jose is 4-2 when it comes down to a Game 7. Here’s a brief look back when guys like Jamie Baker, Ray Whitney and even, yes, Jeremy Roenick became Sharks heroes.
April 30, 1994: Sharks 3, Detroit 2. Baker scored what still is regarded as the greatest goal in Teal history as the three-year-old Sharks upset the No. 1 seed Red Wings.
May 14, 1994: Toronto 4, Sharks 2. Wendel Clark had two goals and an assist to end San Jose’s storybook season in the conference semifinals.
May 19, 1995: Sharks 5, Calgary 4. Whitney scored the game-winner 1:54 into the second overtime as seventh-seeded San Jose knocked off the Flames.
April 25, 2000: Sharks 3, St. Louis 1. San Jose upset the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Blues with the help of a fluke goal by Owen Nolan from center ice that somehow eluded goaltender Roman Turek.
May 15, 2002: Colorado 1, Sharks 0. A game forever remembered when Teemu Selanne missed a wide-open net in the first period.
April 22, 2008: Sharks 5, Calgary 3. Roenick has his biggest moment in Teal, scoring two goals and adding two assists at the Shark Tank.
• And the Mercury News’s David Pollak suggests that the Sharks remain at least relatively confident in their chances:
Late last night, they were both saying the same thing using slightly different words and to the outside world, maybe it wasn’t all that convincing.
“We expected it to be a seven-game series so it doesn’t matter which way the wins go,” said a downcast Logan Couture, focused much more on the pass that got away than the lone goal he had scored for the Sharks in their 3-1 defeat in Game 6. “It’s three and three, and we’ve still got one game left to play for the season.”
His coach put it this way.
“We could be in the exact same situation we are right now by winning one, losing one, winning one, losing one,” Todd McLellan said. “Doesn’t matter how we got here, it really doesn’t. What matters is how it ends, and that’s how we’ll approach it.”
Buying that? No? It doesn’t matter. What matters is the players on the ice have to buy it so they’re not burdened by their potential place in history as one of only four NHL teams to take that commanding 3-0 lead and fritter it away.
Update #5: More stats from the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby:
Here we go again. After 36 years without a team able to overcome a 3-0 series deficit to knot the proceedings, the Detroit Red Wings have become the third team in two years to turn the trick.
The Red Wings hope to become only the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after losing the first three games. The Sharks will aim to match the efforts of the Vancouver Canucks in the first round last month, when they became only the fourth team in Stanley Cup playoff history to still win a series after surrendering a 3-0 lead.
Here are the results of the previous seven NHL playoff series that have seen teams play a seventh game after a 3-0 lead vanished.
1939 (semifinal) - Boston up 3-0 vs. N.Y. Rangers. After Rangers won three to tie series, the Bruins rally to take Game 7.
1942 (final) - Detroit up 3-0 vs. Toronto. The Red Wings drop four straight to lose series.
1945 (final) - Toronto up 3-0 vs. Detroit. The Red Wings win next three, but lose series finale to the Maple Leafs.
1975 (quarterfinal) - N.Y. Islanders down 3-0 vs. Pittsburgh. Islanders storm back for four wins in a row to take series.
1975 (semifinal) - Philadelphia up 3-0 vs. N.Y. Islanders. The Islanders almost pulled off the Cinderella story a round later, but lost Game 7.
2010 (quarterfinal) - Boston up 3-0 vs. Philadelphia. The Flyers get on a roll with four consecutive victories to win series.
2011 (first round) - Vancouver up 3-0 vs. Chicago. The Blackhawks win times in a row, but can’t make it four as the Canucks prevail in the series finale.
• ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun suggests the following:
It says here the Sharks may have already blown their chance at beating Vancouver and reaching the Stanley Cup finals. Sure, beating the Wings on Thursday would be gratifying; but by blowing three straight opportunities to bury the Wings, the Sharks will be a tired and beat-up team with only two days between rounds. But that argument is for another day, one the Sharks would gladly take on if they can finally dispose of the Wings.
A loss Thursday night will be a giant step backwards for a Sharks team that set a goal to reach the next level after a final four appearance last season. A win holds off the playoff demons they thought they chased away.
The Wings, meanwhile, are one win away from adding another milestone on a 15-year résumé that remains the standard in hockey, a modern-day dynasty that refuses to fade away.
Just three games ago, we questioned if Nicklas Lidstrom might retire if he thought the Wings had slipped a rung below the Vancouvers, San Joses and Chicagos of the world after what appeared to soon be back-to-back playoff exits in the second round. Oops. Hold that thought. Win or lose Thursday, the Wings must have proven to themselves that with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard at the helm, they will remain in the upper echelon for a few more seasons.
That’s why there’s so much more riding on Game 7 for San Jose. They can’t afford this kind of setback.
• The Hockey News’s Adam Proteau posted a list of ten fantastic players who delivered in Game 7 performances;
• The Sports Network’s Don DiScullo believes that Pavel Datsyuk may give the Wings the edge on Thursday:
Detroit’s trump card for Thursday’s Game 7 in San Jose is quite possibly the best all-around hockey player in the world, Pavel Datsyuk.
Datsyuk has been the best player for Detroit throughout the playoffs and he has certainly stood out in this memorable series against the Sharks. The Russian forward has dominated San Jose so far, posting a point in all six games of the series and recording one goal and eight assists along the way.
The 32-year-old Datsyuk is a rare talent who combines brilliant stickhandling and playmaking ability with the capacity to dominate a game on the defensive end as well. He’s won three Selke Trophies as the league’s top defensive forward and has somehow done that while playing the game with the “gentlemanly conduct” that has also helped him claim four Lady Byngs for sportsmanship.
But, it’s Datsyuk’s hockey I.Q. that makes him one of the best players in the world and that’s what will come in handy in Game 7 against the Sharks. While San Jose forward Patrick Marleau is fighting off accusations that he’s playing “gutless” hockey, Datsyuk is doing all the right things to help his club win.
“It’s going to be a hard game and a tough game. But for sure, it’s more confidence for us with it 3-3 now,” Datsyuk said of Thursday’s test in San Jose.
• Amongst ESPN’s Page 2’s David Fleming’s 50 reasons why he loves the NHL:
9. Tomas Holmstrom’s work in front of the net. I heard a TV announcer call him maybe the best-ever in that area in NHL history and I’m inclined to agree. Spend a shift watching him instead of the puck, it’s like a Family Circus cartoon on ice: bump, slash, elbow, slide, dig the puck out of the corner, slashed by the goaltender, nudged between two defenders, delicate touch on a tipped shot, scrum, wrestling under a pile of bodies, glove in someone’s face, chirping as he skates back to the bench ... and then, there it is, one more slash or bump for good measure. A thing of beauty.
&bull Speaking of which, from The Score’s Scott Lewis:
• The Score’s Rick Moldovanyi pondered Game 7’s legacy:
The Sharks are not able to get it done. The Red Wings are too experienced, too dedicated and too talented to be bested. That has been the story for over a decade now. Yes, there have been individual moments (such as last year’s series between these two teams) where the Sharks have succeeded and the Wings have struggled, but the overall trend remains the same.
Now the past is coming back to haunt these two franchises.
The NHL has marketed the playoffs’ sense of “history” for the last two seasons and now it is history that could be repeating itself.
Can the Sharks fight off their “choker” label and move on to the next round or will the Red Wings defy the odds and prove once again that they are the elite franchise in modern hockey? Will home ice benefit the Sharks or will they once again tank in the Tank?
• Independent journalist Greg Eno weighs in on the Wings’ win with cliches galore:
It’s now the thinkable. The Red Wings are Secretariat in 1973, the ’51 Giants, the ’78 Yankees. They’re the ’68-69 New York Jets, the 2004 Red Sox.
The tortoise has nothing on them, in that great race against the hare. Check the calendar for a month of Sundays. Charlie Brown might get that kick off, after all, out of Lucy’s hold.
This isn’t happening, but yet it is. Even Disney’s Mighty Ducks never pulled something like this off. The Red Wings are going to play a Game 7, which was a fantasy a week ago. Remember a week ago? A gut-wrenching overtime loss in Game 3? Devin Setoguchi with a hat trick, including a penalty in overtime and the game-winner shortly after he fled the box?
• For the record, MLive’s Chris Iott reports that Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko is cheering on the Wings;
• And the Jackson Citizen-Patriot’s Zeke Jennings reports that Jackson’s State Theatre will air the Wings game on Thursday.
Update #6: Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon offers five thoughts on the Wings-Sharks series, including the following:
2. Enough can’t be stated about what a difference Niklas Kronwall has been for the Wings. The last few seasons he’s battled injuries, defensive lapses in favor of making a statement hit, and grief for playing a reckless sort of game. Now he’s taken to playing alongside Swedish countryman Nicklas Lidstrom and he’s playing a smarter brand of hockey. Yes, the hits are still coming (just ask Ryane Clowe) but gone are the days of the defensively liable hit and in this new era for Kronwall he’s adding plenty of offense as well.
It was his big shot that Henrik Zetterberg tipped to get Game 6 tied up and he’s scored other goals in these playoffs. Generally when you’re thinking of offense from the Detroit blue line you’re thinking of Lidstrom. Now Kronwall is a factor that opponents have to account for on both ends of the ice.
• And this is interesting, per the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“We’re excited about the way we played all series long,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve been a good team and this series could have gone either way. They could have won all the games. We could have won all the games. That’s how tight it’s been.”
It seems unlikely that forward Johan Franzen, who aggravated a sprained ankle in Game 5 on Sunday, will play Thursday, but it hasn’t been ruled out.
“That’s the good thing about this flight,” Babcock said. “It’ll be about five and a half hours, and we’ll kick everything around, and I’m sure, if he’s lobbying, we’ll listen to that. We’ll see what’s available. We’ll try to make the right decisions, and the only way you know if you made the right decisions is when you win.”
Mike Modano played in Franzen’s place Tuesday, helping take face-offs (Modano won 6 of 9 draws, his 67% winning percentage the highest among those who took draws regularly) and registering three shots on net during 9:01 minutes of play.
“I thought it was good he got in a game,” Babcock said. “I thought he played well. He skated good, and he was competitive.”
“It’s not going to be easy,” said Lidstrom, who’s had an impressive series with 4 goals and 6 points. “We’re going to have to show up (Thursday) to get away with a win. You can’t think about (making history). Your focus has got to be the same approach we had in the last three games. We’re one win away from moving on, but we’re also one loss away from not playing anymore in the playoffs. We know what’s at stake, so our approach is going to be the same as the last three games.”
Star forward Henrik Zetterberg, who missed Detroit’s first series with a lower-body injury but is having a big series against the Sharks (2 goals, 7 points), echoed Lidstrom’s outlook.
“It’s still the first to four,” he said. “They won three, we won three. Now it’s one game that decides what team is going to move on. We’re going to embrace that challenge because it’s not often you have a chance to play Game 7s.”
Many thought the Blackhawks were in the driver’s seat after their overtime win in Game 6 at the United Center, despite Game 7 being in Vancouver’s Rogers Arena. Instead, the Canucks controlled most of that game and clinched the series on Alexandre Burrows’ overtime goal. The Red Wings expect no less of an effort from the Sharks on Thursday. What can the Red Wings do differently than the Blackhawks to come out on top? Howard just hunched his shoulders.
“Play,” he said following Game 6. “I mean, what can you do? You just go out there, play, give it your all and see what happens. That’s all that anyone can ask from you, so that’s what we’ve got to do—just go play and leave it all out there.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said that he would consider any lineup changes for Game 7 on the long plane ride to San Jose. That means there might be a chance Johan Franzen plays in Game 7 after missing Game 6 because of an ankle injury. Mike Modano played for him on Tuesday in Game 6 and might also be called upon. Veteran Kris Draper was also a healthy scratch in Game 6 after playing in the middle three games of the series.
“We’ll take these five-and-a-half hours on the flight to kick everything around,” Babcock said. “I’m sure (Franzen) will try lobbying and we’ll listen to him. We’ll try to make the right decisions, but the only way you know you’ve made the right decisions are when you win. We’ll try to make the right decision on the right players.”
It’s been almost 20 years since the Red Wings came back from a 3-1 deficit against the then-Minnesota North Stars to win a first-round series, but Mike Modano still remembers what it felt like to lose that series. He was asked on Wednesday morning about the mood in the Minnesota locker room as Detroit made its comeback, and might’ve offered an idea of what the Sharks feel after dropping three straight to erase a 3-0 lead in this series.
“Well, you’re a little nervous because you know they’re coming and their confidence is building,” said the 40-year old Modano, a Westland, Mich., native who was just 21 at the time. We knew at 3-1 we needed to play a spectacular, perfect game from start to finish. Otherwise, we were in trouble.”
“Just bad break after bad break, and we’re just looking for something to put a tourniquet on a hemorrhage because it was coming,” Modano said. “You could just feel it. It was just like an avalanche. Once they got going and their main guys started playing, we knew we were in trouble.”
In talking about playing Game 7 on Thursday and the excitement that comes along with it, Bertuzzi said: “It’s the first time I’ve seen guys that excited to get on a plane for seven hours.”
Then, when asked if he thinks the Red Wings might get injured forward Johan Franzen (sore ankle) back for Game 7, Bertuzzi quipped: “Who knows? I thought we were leaving yesterday, so it shows how much I know what’s going on around here.”
And Justin Abdelkader:
His latest troubling infraction came late in Game 6 on Tuesday with the Red Wings clinging to a 2-1 lead and needing the win to push the series to Game 7. He was called for holding and put Detroit’s penalty kill units plus goalie Jimmy Howard in a sticky situation. Detroit killed it off, but it was a long 2:00 in the penalty box for Abdelkader.
“I’m still thinking about it,” he said on Wednesday morning, before boarding the team plane. “You don’t want your team shorthanded when you’re up like that in the third period. You think about it and hopefully learn from it and won’t do it again. It’s not a fun feeling, I’ll tell you that much. It’s just a long two minutes.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he had another chat about committing penalties at bad times – the second such conversation the two have had in this series.
“I just told him, two games in a row now, ‘You’ve got to decide … are you going to be one of those guys that their whole career takes a bad penalty at the wrong time or are you going to look after it?’” Babcock said. “He’s a great kid and a great teammate and he’s going to get it looked after.”
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