The Malik Report
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:
Updated 2x at 12:59 PM--see the new headline: The Red Wings took to the ice at Joe Louis Arena shortly after noon, hoping to put their devastating 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins behind them ahead of a weekend back-to-back set against Minnesota (on Saturday, in Minneapolis-St. Paul) and Capitals (on Sunday).
MLive's Ansar Khan delivered good news of a sort...
Jurco and Cole (upper body injuries) only players not practicing today for Wings (not including Franzen).
And the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness confirmed:
Cole, Jurco and Franzen missing from practice. Everyone else is on the ice.
In the prospect department, it was too little, too late, but Axel Holmstrom scored the 3-2 goal in Skelleftea AIK's 3-2 loss to Linkopings HC, and Holmstrom played 18:05 an took 5 shots despite skating on the fourth line. Holmstrom and Skelleftea lead the semifinal series 3 games to 1. Holmstrom's put up some astonishing stats for a rookie:
Via RedWingsFeed, sometimes you need a little laugh, and Ken Daniels and Chris Osgood flubbing their Flagstar commercial, from the Wings, works just fine:
Amongst the pre-practice articles of Wings-related note:
ESPN's Scott Burnisde weighed in on the Wings' suddenly perlious grip upon a playoff spot in ESPN's daily "Pucks Central" survey of the previous night's games...
@ESPN_Burnside: Forget the suddenly fearsome Bruins. Maybe the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers should be setting their sights on the reeling Red Wings in their desperate bids to crack the top eight in the Eastern Conference. Both the Sens and the Panthers were winners Thursday -- Ottawa nipping the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 and Florida crushing the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1 -- but the interesting dynamic was Boston's 3-2 come-from-behind win (do they win any other way these days?) over Detroit at Joe Louis Arena, the fourth straight win for the B's. The win moves the Bruins into a tie with Detroit at 93 points, although Detroit has a game in hand. The Sens are three points back of both Boston and Detroit with five games to go. Florida's situation is bleaker, six back with four to play. If you're Ottawa, you have to be hoping Detroit continues to go sideways in their remaining games, which include dates with playoff-bound the playoff-bound Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens, although they do have two softies (on paper at, least) against Carolina. The Wings have one win in their last six games and play three of five on the road to close out the season, while the Senators are also on the road for three of their last five. Stay tuned, folks.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman proffered a trade rumor among three Wings-related "thoughts"...
Well here we are:
Detroit's 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday has yielded an absolute mess in the standings.
The Wings, who play the Wild in Minnesota on Saturday, the Capitals on Sunday, Carolina on Tuesday the 7th, in Montreal on Thursday the 9th and in Carolina on Saturday the 11th, need to make hay despite the thunder and rain.
With a game in hand on Boston and 4 Regulation-or-Overtime Wins on the Senators, the Red Wings absolutely must win the majority of their 5 remaining games to plain old make the playoffs, and they're going to "need some help" from Boston and Ottawa's opponents to finish 3rd in the Atlantic.
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