The Malik Report
from Travis Yost of TSN,
On Tuesday afternoon, the National Hockey League decided to suspend Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall one game for an illegal check to the head on Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov.
The decision expects to be impactful. As one might expect, it’s simply not an easy task to replace a defenceman who averaged almost 24 minutes a night over the season. For the most part this year, Kronwall – and common partner Jonathan Ericsson – have logged the tougher minutes for Mike Babcock’s team, and his absence means that each blueliner at Detroit’s disposal will have to be shuffled up in preparation for a decisive game seven.
What I think will be most curious is to see if Kronwall’s absence has an effect on the way Jon Cooper line-matches against the Red Wings with last change. Cooper and Babcock have been in a bit of a chess match on this front through the first six games of the series. Cooper, for example, has tried to get the Steven Stamkos line out against Detroit’s second and third pairings (DeKeyser/Quincey; Zidlicky/Smith). When Babcock has had last change, he’s given the Kronwall pairing the Steven Stamkos assignment, preparing some of the easier assignments for his second and third-pairings.
We can see this in the head-to-head data from the first six games. Compare Niklas Kronwall’s home/road deployment by common defensemen and common forwards, and note the differences. First, the defencemen:
continued with graphs to back up the talk...
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
Here are five keys for the Red Wings:
1. Compensate for Niklas Kronwall's absence
Niklas Kronwall might have been the player the Red Wings could least afford to lose. He logs more minutes than anyone of the team and will be tough to replace following his one-game suspension for charging Nikita Kucherov.
The Red Wings will need to shuffle their defense, likely splitting up Danny DeKeyser and Kyle Quincey, their steadiest combination this season. DeKeyser might join Jonathan Ericsson on the top pairing. Rookie Alexey Marchenko, scratched the past four games, figures to be inserted into the lineup, possibly paired with Brendan Smith.
Someone will need to replace Kronwall on the top power-play unit. Marek Zidlicky would move into the spot and DeKeyser onto the second unit.
2. Pressure Ben Bishop
After two strong regular seasons, the Lightning's 6-foot-7 goaltender is experiencing the playoffs for the first time, and his inexperience is showing. Bishop has been shaky, allowing some soft goals and not handling pucks well around his crease. He's been outplayed by rookie Petr Mrazek.
from Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune,
Tonight is another first for Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop: a Game 7. Win or go home. Actually, Game 6 in Detroit was like that, too.
This Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series with the Red Wings ends this evening, or early Thursday morning if they go overtime bananas.
There’s always that chance. There’s a chance for anything in Game 7.
The Lightning like their chances.
They like their goaltender.
It’s Game 7, the biggest game of Ben Bishop’s life.
“I don’t think their guy has played in one, either,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, referring to Detroit rookie goaltender Petr Mrazek. “Even playing field there. Both my Game 7s (in 2011) were 1-0 games. The goalies played great on both ends.”
Game 7s can be goalie nights.
It’s an important, exciting fork in Big Ben Road.
from John Niyo of the Detroit News,
Tonight's the night we find out a little more about rookie Red Wings goaltender, Petr Mrazek, as he tries to handle the Lightning and the thunder in a hepped-up, hostile arena. Ditto the young defensemen, Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith, who've run hot-and-cold but will need to play bigger — and better — minutes now.
It's also the night someone else can rewrite their own history, if only for a chapter. Take a vet like Marek Zidlicky, who has been mostly a liability of late. A critical power-play goal wouldn't change all that, but it sure would help. Same goes for Kindl, if he gets the call to replace Kronwall. Nyquist, still finding his way in the tight quarters of the playoffs, and Tomas Tatar, who finally might've found a spark in Game 6, could make amends for last year's rookie playoff flop.
Heck, even Babcock — coaching perhaps his last game behind the Detroit bench — has something to prove, trying to avoid a third first-round exit in four years. So what if he's playing shorthanded on the talent side? This'll be his eighth Game 7 in the NHL, while Cooper hasn't coached in one of these since junior hockey.
He reminded everyone again Tuesday this Game 7 is no surprise.
"I thought we were gonna be a real tough out," he said. "And I think we are. I also think we're gonna win tomorrow. But that's just the way I think."
Not much time to think now, though. Just enough time to do something about it, is all.
Jon Cooper met with the media today, a day before game 7.
Puck drops just after 7:30pm ET Wednesday and is on FSD, NBCSN, CBC, TVA2 and SUN.
If the Detroit Red Wings advance to the second round of the playoffs, their schedule against the Montreal Canadiens is below...
from Jordan Heath-Rawlings of Sportsnet,
Further, there are a few reasons why the Maple Leafs might not want to just hand over a blank cheque if Babcock expresses interest in the job.
We'll leave the reasoning here and let you judge for yourself.
1. Why would he want the job? Really, what can the Toronto job offer Babcock that he simply can't get anywhere else? The Red Wings have more talent, and more success, and more prospects in the pipeline. Other cities that will woo him have better core players, more cap flexibility and more easily retooled rosters. The two obvious Toronto attractions (clearly we can't know everything that will go into his decision...) are the highest possible salary, and the greatest possible profile. But think of the times the Leafs have paid huge money to high-profile free agents for whom coming to Toronto was a lucrative chance to up both their bank account and their brand. Hasn't always worked out so well. And if the Leafs are truly committed to a long-term rebuild, a coach with those motives might not be the best man for the job.
2. Babcock has never rebuilt anything. It doesn't mean he can't, of course, but he's never even had to try.
from Ken Campbell of The Hockey News,
If there is any sense of justice in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings will be without their best defenseman for Game 7 of their first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night. And if the Department of Player Safety doesn’t suspend Niklas Kronwall for his hit on Nikita Kucherov in Game 6, it might as well find a nice, warm beach somewhere to spend the rest of the playoffs.
Because if Kronwall does not sit out at least Game 7 of the Lightning-Red Wings series, the NHL will have officially confirmed what much of the first round has already proved, that it has no intention of suspending anyone for anything in this year’s playoffs.
Kronwall is the Scott Stevens of Sweden, easily the most devastating open-ice hitter in the game today. He has developed and patented a unique way of hitting players by lining them up, usually along the boards, then just before the time of contact, turns his back to his opponent and essentially jumps into him back-first. It’s so unique that it has it’s own name. To be hit like that means you’ve been Kronwalled. It’s a hit that straddles the edges of the NHL rulebook and it’s one the league clearly endorses, considering Kronwall has never been suspended. Wome of them will likely also provide some pretty compelling video evidence in that class-action concussion lawsuit the NHL will invariably face someday.
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.