The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/11/11 at 06:04 PM ET
Updated with the obligatory “History Will be Made” commercial, and if it matters, there’s no Clowe in San Jose: While the Toronto Star’s Cathal Kelly ponders the “safety” of Detroit as a hockey city and Ray Ratto’s ever-so-slightly worried about the state of Sa Jose Sharks’ fans’ stats of mind, the Red Wings landed in San Jose around 1:20 PM local time and began to prepare for Game 7 with oodles of experience on their side.
Ken Holland believes in retaining and bringing in veteran players very specifically because they’re not only steadying influences upon and example-setting mentors for the team’s younger players, but also because, in the playoffs, age and experience are assets, not liabilities. The 35-plus crowd tends to possess the rare combination of desire to win like there’s no tomorrow (because there might not be an NHL tomorrow for them) steely calm when it comes to dealing with the ecstatic highs and staggering lows of playoff hockey.
NHL.com’s Brian Hedger reports that the Wings have over seventy Game 7’s worth of experience to their credit, but one of the Wings’ most senior partners believes that it’s hard to discount the fact that the team’s young core has played in its share of elimination games, too:
“Our younger players have some serious experience, and I think that’s the great thing about it,” said Red Wings veteran forward Kris Draper, who has played in six winner-take-all games. “These guys can draw from it. They’ve played in Game 7s. They’ve played in elimination games. So if you’re talking about a player like (Justin Abdelkader) or (Darren Helm) or those guys, they’ve done that before and that’s something that’s great. There’s nothing like hands-on experience, and that’s exactly what those guys have.”
Detroit’s coach does, too. Mike Babcock is 2-2 in four Game 7s as a head coach, and when his experience is added to his team’s, it’s getting close to a full, 82-game regular-season schedule’s worth of seventh-game memories. Babcock, however, wasn’t exactly basking in that experience Wednesday.
“I guess until you do it the first time you just think you can do it,” Babcock said. “That’s where experience, I guess, comes in. Yet, you’ve got to do it again. That’s what you’ve got to do every time. You’ve got to find a way. Experience when you have none is overrated, and when you have it you think it’s great.”
Mike Modano was brought in from Dallas to supply veteran savvy and desire, and he suggests that veterans do help their teams “find a way”—while admitting to Hedger that Thursday night’s game involves a “first” for a player who’s been playing NHL hockey since the 1989-90 season:
The nerves are very high, obviously,” he said. “You just want to be quick, you want to be precise in what you do, you want to be very direct in your play as far as with the puck and without it. Ultimately you want to skate, you want to relax and take the plays that are there and not force the issue, especially on the road. I’ve never been in one on the road, so it’s just about playing smart.”
“Those Game 7s have a lot of drama,” Modano said. “Every shot, every save and everything that happens out there is magnified.”
So in the end, it turns out that Game 7, for the Wings, anyway, won’t be about experience as much as it’ll be about embracing the moment:
“I don’t know if we care how we got here,” said Danny Cleary. “We’re at Game 7. It can go either way. It’s going to be a fun game.”
Or, as Jimmy Howard told the Sporting News’s Craig Custance...
The Red Wings’ Game 6 win over the Sharks was just minutes old when goalie Jimmy Howard was answering questions about the game that evened up a series that was once a 3-0 San Jose lead. He paused after one of the questions and asked his own.
“It’s been a great series, hasn’t it?” he said, clearly enjoying the moment.
The Red Wings are loaded with Game 7 experience, including eight games each for Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. The two are a combined 11-5 in Game 7’s. San Jose’s Niclas Wallin is 4-0 in Game 7s.
The Philadelphia Flyers success last year in coming back from a 3-0 series deficit has apparently inspired other teams in the playoffs this season. The Blackhawks nearly pulled a similar feat off in the first round, before losing to the Canucks in overtime of Game 7. The Lightning overcame a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Penguins and now the Red Wings sit one win away from advancing to the Western Conference finals.
“We feel energized but you have to go in there and win a game,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said from the airport on Wednesday before leaving for San Jose. “That’s where experience comes in. You have to do it again, it’s brand new every time.”
Update: Via RedWingsFeed, bleh:
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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.