The Malik Report
The Red Wings face three incredibly important games on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. To some extent, that's the plan, as they told MLive's Ansar Khan:
"The league, when they made the schedule, were probably hoping these would be some big games and they will be," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "These games are the fun games. I think a lot of guys here are real excited."
Said goaltender Jimmy Howard: "If you're not excited I don't know what would get your blood flowing around here. These are going to be very intense games. We're definitely looking forward to Wednesday night."
The Red Wings wrap up the season Saturday at the New York Rangers. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill doesn't view these games as obstacles, calling them opportunities.
"That's one of the reasons that we felt like we controlled our own destiny, even last week after the Montreal (loss), because we do have opportunities to play those teams and they could say the same," Blashill said.
Howard and Zetterberg told Khan that they're excited about the opportunities at hand...
As you probably know by now, Pavel Datsyuk didn't really address his future while speaking with the media after Monday's practice, as noted by WXYZ's Brad Galli in video form...
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff noted that Datsyuk did at least suggest that he wants to give back to Russian fans, which is a little worrisome...
The Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi sets up Wednesday's game between the Flyers and Red Wings from a Flyers pespective:
"We've forgotten quick about our losses, and to an extent, our wins," said right winger Wayne Simmonds, whose team's playoff fate will be determined in its final four games. "We try to stay even-keeled. You enjoy it or dwell on what you did quickly. That's what we're going to have to do."
The Flyers, on a 13-4-2 run, are in a tightly contested battle for the two Eastern Conference wild-card spots. Detroit is third in the Atlantic Division - the top three teams in each division receive automatic playoff spots - but it is just one point ahead of Boston, and it could drop into the wild-card chase.
As it stands now, the Flyers have the second wild-card spot; they are one-point ahead of Boston and have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have the top wild-card spot and were two points ahead of the Flyers heading into Monday's game against Tampa Bay.
Boston has three games left, all at home. The Bruins host Carolina on Tuesday, Detroit on Thursday (the Flyers do not want a three-point game), and Ottawa on Saturday.
The Flyers are tied in points with Detroit and have a game in hand on the Red Wings. Detroit ends its season by hosting the Flyers on Wednesday and then playing games at Boston on Thursday and at the Rangers on Saturday.
The Flyers - who end the season by playing in Detroit, hosting Toronto and Pittsburgh, and traveling to Brooklyn to face the Islanders - could solidify their playoff spot by beating the Red Wings.
"Every game is important," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "Obviously, that's a key one with where we sit in the standings, but every game has been critical for us over the last, really over the last two months. Do they get bigger as we get to the final week? You could say that. But yeah, obviously, each game that we have left is critical."
From NBC Sports:
NHL EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF CONTENDERS CLASH THIS WEEK ON NBC AND NBCSN WITH POSTSEASON BERTHS AT STAKE
Bruins, Flyers, Islanders, Lightning, Rangers and Red Wings All Appear on NBC and NBCSN This Week
Flyers Showcased Three Times – Wednesday Night Rivalry vs. Red Wings, NHL Game of the Week vs. Penguins, Sunday Night Hockey vs. N.Y. Islanders
Bruins Host Red Wings Thursday at 7 p.m. ET, Separated By One Point In Atlantic Division and Wild Card Standings
Coverage Begins Tomorrow with Lightning-Rangers at 7:30 p.m. ET
Former Flyers Head Coach Craig Berube Joins NHL Live as Guest Analyst Thursday
STAMFORD, Conn. – April 4, 2016 – NBC Sports Group’s NHL “Push For The Playoffs” showcases all six Eastern Conference teams battling for five remaining Stanley Cup Playoff berths in the final week of the regular season, highlighted by a pivotal Wednesday Night Rivalry showdown between Claude Giroux and the Philadelphia Flyers and Pavel Datsyuk and the Detroit Red Wings at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
The Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Flyers, and Red Wings are separated by just five points, and all six clubs will hit the ice on NBC and NBCSN this week.
The Flyers will be showcased three times this week on NBC and NBCSN as they look to complete their late-season push for the playoffs. In addition to Wednesday Night Rivalry, Philadelphia will host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on NBC’s NHL Game of the Week on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET, and travel to Brooklyn to face John Tavares and the New York Islanders on the final day of the regular season on NBCSN’s Sunday Night Hockey at 7 p.m. ET.
From an Insider-only entry by ESPN's Craig Custance, among his "10 takeaways":
6. Big area of concern for Detroit: The Red Wings worked their way into a playoff position during the weekend with big wins against the Wild and Maple Leafs, but you can’t help but notice the red minus-12 in goal differential next to Detroit in the standings. Last season, the Ducks had the lowest goal differential among playoff teams, at plus-10. The Kings missed the playoffs at plus-15.
The Red Wings have been overly reliant on winning one-goal games, and that goal differential suggests their hold on a playoff spot is tenuous at best.
Detroit plays both Philadelphia (at home) and Boston (on the road) this week in games that will determine whether or not the playoff streak survives.
Even with the Saturday win, one NHL scout thinks Detroit needs to find another gear against the Bruins and Flyers that the Red Wings didn’t show against the Maple Leafs.
“They won’t beat either if they play the same as [Saturday],” the scout said.
Custance continues, and if I may use a technical term, I'd say, "No s***, Sherlock" to the scout. The Wings will have to play much better than they did against Toronto--where they arguably "played down to the level of their competition"--to take out the Flyers and/or Bruins this week.
What scares me more than anything, more than the Flyers' seemingly unbeatable status and more than the fact that the Wings haven't won in Boston since Jonas Gustavsson relieved Jimmy Howard in the 2014 playoffs, is the back-to-back aspect of Wednesday and Thursday's games.
The Wings just won their first set of back-to-backs since November on Friday and Saturday, and beating both the Flyers and Bruins seems highly improbable given how incredibly inconsistent the Red Wings have played this season.
With the Wings dialed into a 3-games-in-4-nights situation to wrap up the regular season, Detroit's players and coaches are going to have to find levels of competitiveness, attention to detail, desire, poise and execution that they haven't displayed from games 1-79 to win games 80, 81 and 82.
I sure as hell hope they find those levels and exceed them. Otherwise we'll be talking about my extensive coverage of the Wings at the World Championships.
Update: We get another, "No s***" to this from NHL.com's Dan Rosen:
Red Wings GM Ken Holland spoke with WJR's Frank Beckmann this morning, discussing the Wings' goaltending, the playoff push, the Wings' up-tick in power play and offensive production, the Datsyuk story--which Holland states will be addressed during exit interviews--and much more over the course of a 16-minute interview:
If you missed it, Holland also appeared on The Fan 590 prior to the Red Wings-Maple Leafs game on Saturday...
The Red Wings held an optional practice on Monday, which was more than understandable given that the Wings wrap up their regular season with 3 games played over the course of 4 nights.
After practice, Pavel Datsyuk addressed the media regarding the Elliotte Friedman report that Datsyuk may be going back to Russia for family reasons, and he went into "Neither Confirm Nor Deny" mode, stating that he's focusing on the final 3 games of the regular season, and telling the beat writers that one "never know what will happen."
WJBK Fox 2 posting a video of Datsyuk's comments to the media, as well as those of coach Jeff Blashill, and I'm not surprised at how evasive Datsyuk was given that he's so protective of family information (as he plainly states).
I found his comments to the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa about not finding his form some four-and-a-half months after returning from his ankle injury to be more concerning, but that's just me:
From the NHL's Department of Player Safety:
Here's the NHL's press release:
Updated with Datsyuk stuff at 12 PM: The Red Wings hit the ice at Joe Louis Arena for an 11 AM practice, per the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa...
But MLive's Ansar Khan reported that it was an optional skate--which isn't a bad thing given that the Wings wrap up their regular season with 3 games in 4 nights...
Optional practice today for #RedWings. About a dozen skaters and both goalies on the ice.
As did DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose:
Of Red Wings-related note this morning:
1. The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness discusses the Wings' status as "in control of their playoff fate"...
“We knew that we had it in our own hands for the last week, so if we took care of business and win games we’d be in, just because we’re playing teams that are battling for those spots,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “But until we play them we have to win games, so those games matter. We’ve done that now and now we just had a nice day off (Sunday) and regroup on Monday.”
The two wins, both 3-2 decision over Minnesota and Toronto, also keeps the Wings away from having to worry about securing the final wild card spot, which is currently held on by Philadelphia.
The Flyers, who played Pittsburgh on Sunday, were tied with Detroit with 91 points but have one game in hand heading into the final week of the regular season.
“We knew we had to win games, whether Philly won or didn’t win we’ve got to win hockey games,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “We wanted to come into this weekend and win two to put ourselves into position where next Wednesday’s game matters and next Wednesday’s game is going to matter regardless of what Philly does. So let’s get ready to play Wednesday.”
The Wings and Bruins each have three games left in the regular season, one of which is at Boston on Thursday between the teams after Detroit hosts Philadelphia on Wednesday.
2. MLive's Brendan Savage notes that the Wings have played in a staggering 46 one-goal games this season:
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.