The Malik Report
Among USA Today's 10 NHL predictions for the stretch run:
5. Detroit Red Wings will make it 25 in a row. George H.W. Bush was president and Jessica Tandy won best actress at the Oscars for Driving Miss Daisy the last time the Red Wings missed the playoffs in the 1990.
The consecutive playoff appearance streak will reach a quarter century, but not without worrying along the way. Goalie Petr Mrazek has cooled off, and the Red Wings’ power play has been ineffective. They will qualify, but they will have to look over their shoulder until the end.
Allen continues, and at this point, it looks like the Wings are a Wild Card team unless they go on a winning tear.
Griffinshockey.com's Mark Newman penned a supberb article about the Grand Rapids Griffins' goalie pipeline to AHL dominance and occasional NHL careers, speaking with Joey McDonald, Marc Lamothe, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek and goaltending coaches Jim Bedard and Jeff Salajko (among others) about the organization's philosophy regarding developing netminders:
With many netminders, patience is key since the development process is typically longer for goalies than skaters. The Red Wings – and the Griffins by extension – have been exceedingly patient with their prospects.
“They don’t rush their players, whether they’re goalies or forwards,” MacDonald said. “Look at guys like (Gustav) Nyquist, (Tomas) Tatar, (Riley) Sheahan and Brendan Smith – they’re skaters, but they all paid their dues. They all played two or three years in the American Hockey League. You look at other teams and it’s their first year – boom! Detroit doesn’t do that and that’s why they’re successful every year.”
Howard spent four seasons in Grand Rapids before he finally landed the starting job in Detroit. Tom McCollum, now in his seventh season with the Griffins, struggled for three years before he found his game. Jared Coreau spent parts of two seasons in Toledo before he solidified his spot in Grand Rapids.
“Grand Rapids is where I learned to be a pro,” Howard said. “I spent four years working on my game and learning about myself and what it takes to succeed day in and day out. It taught me how hard it is to not only get here but also how you have to work even harder to stay here. It allowed me to mature.”
Vice Sports' Down Goes Brown, a.k.a. Sean McIndoe, weighs in on the Red Wings' quiet stance at the trade deadline as it applies to the Wings' playoff status as a contender, pretender, or something in between:
In a way, the Red Wings' absence from the deadline day headlines seems fitting, since they've largely become one of the East's forgotten teams. We've paid plenty of attention to the conference's best teams, like the Caps and Lightning, and we shake our heads at the trainwrecks, like the Habs, Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs. The Red Wings? They're just kind of there.
"There" is of course a playoff spot, just like it always is with this team. The Red Wings are on pace to make the postseason for the 25th straight time, the longest streak in North American pro sports. They're no sure thing, holding down one of the conference's two wild-card spots and sitting four points up on the Flyers. But, then again, they're not out of the running for home ice, either, sitting five points back of the Panthers for second in the Atlantic.
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
Mrazek experienced the shortest stint of his NHL career Sunday, getting pulled 6:19 into the game after allowing two goals on five shots in a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.
Mrazek is 3-3-1 in his past seven appearances, with a 3.81 goals-against average and .868 save percentage.
"He's come off it," coach Jeff Blashill said. "Concern long-term, I don't have any. Long-term, I have tons of belief in Petr. But in the short-term he's got to make more saves than he did today and make more saves than he has recently. So I'm not concerned about his game, I'm concerned about the number of goals and he's going to have to find a way to shut the door."
Nobody expected Mrazek to maintain his January pace, when he went 7-1-1, with a 1.32 GAA and .952 save percentage. But he must be more consistent, especially for a team that has trouble scoring and has virtually no margin for error.
"I wouldn't say I play any different," Mrazek said. "It's just pucks go in and I have to find a way how to stop them, don't let those goals just go through me.
"I have to find a way how to stop those pucks. I thought all season long, the puck is hitting me and everything and now I just have to find a way to do the same thing as before."
Update: The Free Press's Helene St. James also penned an article about Mrazek's struggles:
Of prospect-related note:
In the QMJHL, Evgeny Svechnikov scored a goal, took 3 shots, won 2 of 4 faceoffs and finished at +3 in the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' 4-1 win over Drummondville.
Svechnikov has had a remarkable season: over the course of 47 games played, he's posted 32 goals and 42 assists for 74 points, with 89 penalty minutes to go along with that, and he and draft-eligible prospect Maxim Lazarev have been dynamite together. Svechnikov is likely to spend another year in the QMJHL, and he's only going to get better;
Elsewhere, Adam Marsh took a shot and lost a faceoff in the Saint John Sea Dogs' 4-3 OT loss to Charlottetown.
Marsh has had a good season, too, registering 23 goals, 19 assists and 42 points in 48 games, bettering last season. He'll remain in the Q;
And in the OHL, Vili Saarijarvi had an assist and 8 shots and finished at -3 in the Flint Firebirds' 8-2 loss to North Bay.
In his rookie season, Saarijarvi has registered 11 goals, 27 assists and 38 points over the course of 53 games played. Saarijarvi's future is uncertain after the Firebirds' coaching fiascoes (plural), but he's going to spend next year in the right place for him.
The Red Wings sit in the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference after Sunday's frustrating 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, and while Pavel Datsyuk's status as a late scratch with a flu-like illness didn't help the Wings' cause, the Wings had a day to rest and recuperate after Wednesday's loss, and then two days to prepare for Sunday's game.
There is no reason whatsoever that the Wings should have surrendered the first goal all of 21 seconds in, and there is no reason whatsoever that the Wings should not have been able to convert three power plays into the game-tying goal as Detroit trailed Chicago 2-1 for the vast majority of the game--a game whose second and third periods included a 26-15 shot advantage for the visiting team.
Just as importantly, the Wings shouldn't have allowed Chicago to go 2-for-3 on the power play in two successive games, and it's with special teams play that we start our examination of the Blackhawks' perspective, via the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus' recap:
The Red Wings' back-to-back game against the Chicago Blackhawks felt like one big trap going in. Facing a Hawks team that's coming off a bad loss to Boston, that dominates at home and has a goaltender with a .942 Sunday save percentage...Going into the game, the Wings appeared to be set up to fail, and to find its grip on a Wild Card spot more tenuous after a set of back-to-back losses.
When news hit that Pavel Datsyuk would be out with an illness, things got worse. Sure, Dylan Larkin was reunited with Henrik Zetterberg on the Wings' #1 line, and Teemu Pulkkinen drew in with Richards and "Double A," but Datsyuk's defensive dominance can't be replaced.
The game played out like we expected, which was very disappointing--mostly because Detroit had a fantastic 2nd period and 1st half of the 3rd period, but still lost 4-1 to the Hawks, with Petr Mrazek having been pulled after giving up 2 goals on 5 shots and the Wings surrendering 2 late goals to put the game away.
For the vast majority of the game, the Wings were down 2-1, and they got fine scoring chances and 3 key power plays, but they couldn't or wouldn't penetrate the Hawks' slot or obstruct Corey Crawford's sightlines, and the team's inability to penetrate the Hawks' slot, especially on special teams, doomed the Wings.
Now they go on to Columbus, and as the 2nd Wild Card spot-team, they've got to start winning regularly in a hurry.
From DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji...
And MLive's Ansar Khan:
The Free Press's Helene St. James reports that Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill made a declarative statement regarding his goaltending during his pre-Hawks game media availability. Blashill confirmed that he views Petr Mrazek as the team's #1 goaltender:
"I made the decision [to start Mrazek] right after the last game," Blashill said, referring to Wednesday's 5-2 loss to Chicago in Detroit. "Petr has earned the no. 1 spot."
That's as vocally definitive as Blashill has been on the goaltending situation since he began the season rotating Mrazek and Jimmy Howard. It's been clear since December, though, that Mrazek is No. 1, as his starts piled up while Howard struggled in his few appearances.
Howard is coming off two excellent starts (at the New York Rangers and at Dallas) and likely won't have to sit long.
"I believe you need two guys ready," Blashill said. "I think Jimmy has played great the last number of games and that gives me great confidence to put him in the next chance that we feel is the right time."
Of Red Wings-related note this afternoon:
1. Here's the Wings' Game Day Preview video:
2. The Wings also posted Jeff Blashill's pre-game media availability:
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.