The Malik Report
The short and to-the-point story after the Red Wings' 3-2 shootout win over the Minnesota reads like this:
Detroit is now tied in wins, Regulation-or-Overtime wins and points with Boston, which defeated Toronto 2-1 in a shootout on Saturday, but Detroit has a game in hand on Boston, and Detroit remains 3 points ahead of the Ottawa Senators, who defeated Sunday's opponent, the Washington Capitals, 4-3 in overtime on Saturday.
The larger divisional-wild card-and-conference picture looks like this:
Prospect news: Nastasiuk’s junior career concludes; Bertuzzi, Hicketts advance; Griffins/Walleye win
Four of the Wings' Major Junior-prospects took part in playoff games on Saturday, and for one, it was the end of the line:
In the OHL, Tyler Bertuzzi didn't register a point and took two penalties, but his Guelph Storm defeated a scoreless Zach Nastasiuk's Owen Sound Attack 2-1, and as a result, Guelph will advance to the 2nd round via a 5-game 1st round win over Owen Sound...
And one of Jeff Blashill's favorite prospects will be heading to Grand Rapids within the next three to five days, if he isn't heading to Grand Rapids to join the Griffins as a pro try-out already.
In the WHL, Dominic Turgeon didn't register a point but his Portland Winterhawks defeated the Seattle Thunderbirds 5-3, taking a 3-2 lead in their first-round series;
And Joe Hicketts didn't register a point and finished at -1, but his Victoria Royals defeated the Prince George Cougars 5-4 in OT, advancing to the 2nd round in 5 games.
In regular-season play, in the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Toronto Marlies 7-2, and the game included an end-of-affair donnybrook in which Chris Bruton and Louis-Marc Aubry got into a donnybrook with Josh Leivo and Brad Ross.
Over the past five weeks, Red Wings Nation has been in a tizzy, and I wish I could say that I feel guilty for having not stepped in and said, "Don't worry fans, it's going to be all right, the Wings will make the playoffs, stop questioning EVERYTHING and whipping yourselves and each other with wet noodles of self-flagellation" for a simple reason: those of you for whom sports is an excuse to whip out the wet noodle were going to use it anyway.
The other thing, as I said on Twitter very late last night, is that I have an anxiety disorder, and I get being panicky, I get being scared, but the level of freakage outage among Wings fans is beyond my grasp, and my brain chemistry does freakage outage for a damn living. But it's a dangerous thing to criticize "how to be a fan," and that's not my job.
So I've tried to love my fellow Wings fan even if I did not understand them, and I hope you will understand that you need not fear as much as you're fearing right now because we are all along for the ride, but it's the Red Wings who are driving the roller coaster. They will determine where this ride goes and how it ends, and all we can do is cheer them on and be kind to ourselves and each other.
So the Red Wings headed to Minnesota hoping to reduce their "magic number" from 7 to 4--with a little help from the Capitals, who battled the Ottawa Senators on Saturday--and even I will shake my head and tell you that a team that can't get decent goaltening facing Devan *#$%@& Dubnyk was incredibly ironic.
The Wings won, gang. It was a batshit insane game, and a game that the refs appeared to want to hand to the Wild late, but Jimmy Howard was--get this--"money" in the shootout ,or at least enough money to get some help from his goalpost and some help from the WIld, the Wings' PK was MAJESTIC FUNK and Detroit FINALLY didn't flub the shootout, Detroit FINALLY didn't COMPLETELY flub a 1-goal lead, and DETROIT got an essential TWO points, NOT ONE, with Ottawa winnning and Boston and Toronto in a shootout.
Updated 4x at 3:10 PM: The Red Wings face a stiff challenge in their attempts to turn the S.S. Red Wing around as they face Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild this evening (7 PM EDT on FSD Plus/FS North/97.1 FM). The Wings also face a stiff task in competing against the Final Four, of course, but that's a different story...
Today's standings remain pretty much the same--and it should be noted that the Senators host tomorrow's opponent, the Washington Capitals, this evening, and the Boston Bruins host Toronto this evening
The Wild took to the ice before the Red Wings did...
via Dave Hodge of TSN,
Thumbs down to goaltending woes of the sort currently plaguing the Detroit Red Wings.
There couldn't be a worse time to wonder who should wear the big pads than just before playoff time, especially when the wrong decision could erase playoff hopes. However, the Red Wings' decision was made for them when Petr Mrazek fumbled Zach Trotman's harmless-looking shot and allowed Boston's winning goal late in Thursday's third period.
Detroit must sink or swim with Jimmy Howard, whose troubles have matched those of Mrazek, but who is supposed to be the Wings' playoff goalie. It comes down to that, to Howard's experience, and to the fact there is no alternative.
Not long ago, it was unthinkable, and perhaps still is, that Detroit could miss the playoffs. The schedule offers two remaining games against Carolina as the best hope for survival, but nothing is guaranteed if the goaltending is as bad as the Red Wings have received lately.
Mike Babcock's future might be up in the air, and now the team's, as well.
The Detroit Red Wings begin their quest to hit their "magic number" (any combination of 7 points gained by Detroit or lost by Ottawa = Wings make the damn playoffs) against the Minnesota Wild this evening (7 PM EDT on FSD Plus/FS North/City TV/97.1 FM), and while the Wings' situation looks like this going into the team's final 5 games...
The Wild's situation is very different. The Wild are 5 points behind the Blackhawks for 3rd in the Central Division with 5 games left, so at present, they're at the top of the Wild Card heap:
The Red Wings' prospects who took part in playoff games on Friday had (mostly) positive results, and in all three cases, the players will be skating in further playoff games due to Friday's action:
In the SHL, Axel Holmstrom scored the 3-2 goal in Skelleftea AIK's 3-2 loss to Linkopings HC (link --> highlights). Holmstrom played 18:05 an took 5 shots in Friday's game, and Skelleftea still leads their SHL semifinal 3 games to 1;
In the KHL's "Army Derby," SKA St. Petersburg, the injured Alexander Kadeikin's team, defeated CSKA Moscow 6-2 on Friday, and SKA now trails the KHL semifinal 3 games to 2;
And in the OHL, Jake Paterson stopped 31 of 34 shots as his Kitchener Rangers defeated the London Knights 6-3, and Kitchener now trails its first-round series 3 games to 2 as well.
from Keith Gave of FoxSports Detroit,
Complain all you want about inconsistent goaltending, inexcusable defensive breakdowns and giveaways at both ends of the ice, and specialty teams that have contributed to far more losses than wins lately.
There are two bigger reasons, however, why the Red Wings suddenly find themselves in a desperate race to make the playoffs.
Their names are Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk -- their two best players. One isn't producing, and the other isn't even playing.
That has to change in the final five games of the regular season or the Wings might well find themselves on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.
With 24 goals among 60 points in 59 games, Datsyuk is by far the team's most productive player, but was out of the lineup for the seventh time in nine games when the Wings lost a backbreaker, 3-2, Thursday to visiting Boston.
Zetterberg, the team's leading scorer with 61 points in 73 games, was held scoreless again and is in one of the worst slumps of his career.
According to the Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren, the Red Wings' "Magic Number" is the Senators' "Tragic Number"...
The tragic number for the Senators versus Boston and Detroit is seven. Any combination of points lost by the Senators or gained by Boston and Detroit adding up to seven eliminates Ottawa. If Ottawa wins all five remaining games, they would have 100 points. They could make the playoffs if Boston closed out the season 3-1-0 or 2-0-2 and/or Detroit finished with a 3-2-0 or 2-1-2 record.
And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose confirms:
Detroit’s magic number to clinch a Stanley Cup playoff berth is seven. Any combination of seven points gained by the Wings or seven points squandered by the Ottawa Senators will lift Detroit to its 24th straight playoff berth.
Detroit plays the Wild in Minnesota tomorrow, the Capitals on Sunday, they host the Hurricanes on Tuesday the 7th, head to Montreal on Thursday the 9th and close out the season in Carolina on Saturday the 11th. The Wings have a game in hand on Boston but not on Ottawa.
Updated 5x at 3:48 PM: The Red Wings practiced at Joe Louis Arena prior to flying to Minnesota for Saturday's game against the Wild, and the news was mixed: Pavel Datsyuk will probably play against the Wild, but Tomas Jurco and Erik Cole remain sidelined; Jimmy Howard will start Saturday, but he won't start for Sunday's game against the Capitals, and those of you who were hoping for line changes and defensive pair tweaks will be sorely disappointed to find that the coaching staff stuck to their guns in terms of personnel combinations.
The Wings third in the Atlantic Division (don't bother debating the geography; it's the NHL) after their loss. They hold a tiebreaker edge over the Bruins for that position; both teams have 93 points. And except for two games against the Carolina Hurricanes in the season's final week, they have difficult games to end the season.
(Detroit's schedule = @ Minnesota Saturday, vs. Washington Sunday, vs. Carolina on Tuesday, @ Montreal on Thursday, @ Carolina next Saturday)
The Wings are in danger of falling to a wild-card slot. The Bruins are in that position now. And the Ottawa Senators are three points behind. Winning both games against the Hurricanes is mandatory. Victory over the Wild is vital. Beating the Caps and Habs? Don't pocket those points until the games are over.
Part of the Wings' problem? Goaltending. Mrazek is 1-2-1 and started the past four games, shoving aside Jimmy Howard. And, The Detroit News reports, Mrazek likely will start Saturday.
"That would be my plan at this time," coach Mike Babcock said after the game.
The Wings also must find a cure for their power play, which was 0-for-7 before Stephen Weiss scored less than three minutes into the third period. It was the Wings' second man-advantage goal in 15 tries over five games.
And Sportsnet posited a video in which HockeyCentral at Noon discussed the possibility of the Senators taking out the Wings' slightly tenuous hopes of making the playoffs:
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.