The Malik Report
The New York Times' Joanne C. Gerstner spoke with several Red Wings regarding the team's playoff streak, including Dylan Larkin, Justin Abdelkader, and a surprising commenter in Pavel Datsyuk:
“Doing this is not easy; I think we have made it look that way at times over the years — but it is not easy, ” Datsyuk, 37, said. “Being in the playoffs is getting much harder and harder, and you must work hard every game to win. You cannot just say you will be in the playoffs, because so many things have to happen right. The last few years, it is definitely getting harder. I see that.”
Datsyuk held out his right hand flat and continued: “It is now like this in hockey, everybody is so even. Everybody is good. You cannot just assume you are in the playoffs. And we are not here to just be in the playoffs. That is not the right way to think. We are here to be in the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup.”
The Red Wings begin the most crucial part of the 2015-16 season against the Philadelphia Flyers this evening (8 PM EDT start on NBCSN/TVA Sports/97.1 FM), and the Flyers come into town on nothing less than a steamroller's pace.
Philadelphia's 6-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday was the team's first loss in 4 games, and according to CSN Philly's Jeff Neiburg, the Flyers are 16-6-and-4 since their last pair of back-to-back losses on February 7th and 9th. The Flyers haven't lost twice in a row since their dominant run began.
What matters to you and me is a picture larger than Philadelphia's (the Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi explains the Flyers' playoff situation in extensive detail), and as necessary as the Flyers are to defeat, they've got 1 game in hand on Detroit and 2 games in hand on the Boston Bruins.
The race is truly between the 40-28-and-11 Red Wings (91 points, 38 ROW, 79 games played) and 41-30-and-9 Bruins (91 points, 37 ROW, 80 games played), though the 39-26-and-13 Flyers (91 points, 36 ROW, 78 games played) still fare into the equation
The Bruins lost 2-1 to the Hurricanes in a shootout on Tuesday, denying the Bruins a Regulation-or-Overtime-Win, so the Atlantic Division and Wild Card standings look like this:
From the Windsor Star's Bob Duff:
What are a bunch of rec hockey players to do on their night off? Why, go to a hockey game of course.
When the Detroit Red Wings play host to the Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena in a game with huge playoff implications for both teams, the CARHA World Cup will be well represented.
“We’re taking about 1,100 people to Wednesday’s Red Wings-Flyers game,” said Reuben Greenspoon, co-ordinator of the CARHA World Cup, the world’s largest recreational hockey tournament, which is currently being contested in Windsor.
The Red Wings told Greenspon it’s the largest single-game group sale in the history of the franchise.
“That’s pretty exciting,” Greenspon said.
Those with tickets to the game share in his giddiness.
“I’m excited,” said Massimo Carpano of Cortina, Italy, here with the Italian team. “Why do you think I play hockey? Because of the best.”
The Boston Bruins lost 2-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night, yielding an Atlantic Division and Wild Card picture that looks like this:
Detroit, Boston and Philadelphia all have 91 points now, but:
Detroit owns 1 game in hand and a Regulation-or-Overtime-Win tiebreaker;
Philadelphia has 2 games hin hand but not a ROW.
MLive's Ansar Khan has posted the remaining schedules of all three teams, but here is the bottom line, per Winging It in Motown:
Boston can earn up to 95 points right now, while the Wings can earn 97.
Even if the Wings lose to Philly tomorrow, if Detroit earns a regulation win (2 points for Detroit, 0 for Boston) against the Bruins on Thursday, Detroit would have 39 ROWs, and Boston could not catch that even if they tie the Wings in points.
Update: This note from WEEI's DJ Bean is also quite important:
In suffering a 2-1 shootout loss to the Hurricanes that saw Noah Hanifin score the only goal of the skills competition, the Bruins ceded the ability to control their own destiny. Even if the Bruins win their next two games, including a regulation or overtime win against the Red Wings, Detroit can still reach the playoffs by winning its other two games in regulation or overtime.
Of prospect-related note:
In the SHL, Axel Holmstrom had 2 shots, won 45% of his faceoffs and played 14:42 in Skelleftea AIK's 2-0 win over the Vaxjo Lakers. Skelleftea leads their SHL semifinal series 2 games to 1;
And here's the Grand Rapids Griffins' weekly press release:
Several stories of Red Wings-related note popped up between my exit for an appointment and my return, and they merit their own topic in addition to today's practice article post, so:
1. Here's a fuller-context take of Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill's comment about the Wings' opportunity to enjoy themselves this week, as noted by the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
Wednesday’s game is arguably one of the most important regular-season games the Red Wings have had in recent years. Blashill feels it’s important for the Red Wings to simplify this game as much as possible.
“Let’s enjoy this, and enjoy the great opportunity ahead of us, and let’s focus on the process or what it takes to be successful,” Blashill said. “Enjoy the moment, it’s the time of year that’s fun. (But) every game matters. Game No. 1 mattered as much as this done does, it’s just that these games get magnified.”
Blashill doesn’t want the Red Wings to deviate from what’s been successful.
“Our approach needs to be what our approach has been in terms of what we’ve wanted to do all season long,” Blashill said. “We want to play a competitive 60 minutes, be on our toes, and get them on their heels.
“The momentum of the game, it usually goes back and forth a little bit, so when the momentum goes away from us we need to recapture it as soon as possible. We’re excited.”
2. MLive's Ansar Khan spoke with the Wings regarding the Flyers' particularly physical forecheck and handling the Flyers in front of a home crowd...
We're not supposed to make a big deal out of it, but today is Paul's 60th birthday, and I most certainly wish the boss a happy 60th!
Updated 4x at 2:30 PM: The Red Wings practiced with all players present and accounted for on Tuesday morning--no line changes for Detroit, Howard in the "starter's net"--while the Flyers practiced with the would-be injured Andrew MacDonald in the lineup in Philly.
After practice, Wings coach Jeff Blashill spoke with the media, as noted by MLive's Ansar Khan, and Blashill talked about "capturing momentum" against the Flyers via confidence in the players and system and delivering pucks and players to the net; as far as Blashill is concerned, tomorrow's game is also about enjoying the moment and having fun:
Fox 2 also posted a clip of Blashill, Jimmy Howard and Gustav Nyquist's practice remarks:
From Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman's "30 Thoughts":
17. Expect a large ovation for Pavel Datsyuk on Wednesday, as the Red Wings play their final home game of the regular season, a titanic matchup against Philadelphia. Datsyuk is considering the possibility of a return to Russia for next season, one year earlier than expected. Nothing would be final until a post-season meeting, and it would not be a surprise if Detroit offers him an extra year’s contract as an incentive to stay. If he does leave, the Red Wings’ cap situation could be alleviated if someone is willing to take his salary to get to the floor. (He’s to earn $5.5M in actual cash next season.) That’s a bigger number than we’ve seen so far, as Chris Pronger ($575,000 this year and next in Arizona) and Marc Savard (same situation in Florida) are much lower on the pay scale. But, we’ve all learned to expect the unexpected. Failing that, the Red Wings and/or the NHL could block Datsyuk from playing in Russia if they wanted.
The NHL and Russia have a "memorandum of understanding" regarding players with valid contracts, and the NHL could invoke the MOU to block Datsyuk from returning to Russia.
18. Dylan Larkin, 77 games played. Andreas Athanasiou 34 and Anthony Mantha 10. That’s the first time since 2001-02 three players under 22 appeared in at least 10 games for Detroit. Back then it was Jiri Fischer with 80, Sean Avery at 36 and Jason Williams getting into 25. One of the biggest surprises in Detroit is how much the Red Wings needed these young players to make offensive contributions, as the club is on pace to score its fewest goals since 1976-77. Sometimes, you’ve got to change your philosophy to survive. Larkin (23) could lead them in goals. Tomas Tatar is next with 21. Justin Abdelkader needs two, Gustav Nyquist three and Datsyuk four for 20.
Practice Tweets: ‘everyone present’ for last reg. season practice @ JLA; Howard likely to start Wed.
Updated 6x with video at 12:51 PM: The Red Wings hit the ice at Joe Louis Arena at 11 AM to prepare for their massively important match-ups against the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins, and DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose reports that a familiar face preceded the main group:
A sight for sore eyes: Drew Miller (knee) is on the ice skating in his own before the #RedWings practice at JLA.
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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.