The Malik Report
The Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks face off tonight in the seventh and deciding game of their second-round series (9 PM EDT, FSD with a one-hour pre-game show/CSN Bay Area/Versus/TSN/WXYT) set to participate in what the media types will insist is one of the greatest spectacles in all of sport (singular)—for someone without a rooting interest, anyway—but the stark reality of tonight’s game is simple:
It’s win or golf for both teams, with the reward consisting of a place in the record books and nothing more than the halfway mark on what it hopes will be a truly special playoff run, with the rested Vancouver Canucks lying in wait to pounce upon a theoretically mentally and physically exhausted victor, and the penalty for defeat consisting of a summer and following regular season’s worth of potentially crippling doubt, questions about your team’s heart, lost place among the pantheon of playoff contenders and status as nothing more than a historical footnote. The NHL won’t make a trite, “History Will be Made” commercial about the loser, the media won’t laud the heart and composure of the team that winds up on the losing side of the scoresheet tonight, and the loser’s players and paying fans will have a full year to wonder why their team couldn’t capture that one game that meant much more than history; instead, tonight’s game is about survival. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Updated with the obligatory “History Will be Made” commercial, and if it matters, there’s no Clowe in San Jose: While the Toronto Star’s Cathal Kelly ponders the “safety” of Detroit as a hockey city and Ray Ratto’s ever-so-slightly worried about the state of Sa Jose Sharks’ fans’ stats of mind, the Red Wings landed in San Jose around 1:20 PM local time and began to prepare for Game 7 with oodles of experience on their side.
Ken Holland believes in retaining and bringing in veteran players very specifically because they’re not only steadying influences upon and example-setting mentors for the team’s younger players, but also because, in the playoffs, age and experience are assets, not liabilities. The 35-plus crowd tends to possess the rare combination of desire to win like there’s no tomorrow (because there might not be an NHL tomorrow for them) steely calm when it comes to dealing with the ecstatic highs and staggering lows of playoff hockey.
NHL.com’s Brian Hedger reports that the Wings have over seventy Game 7’s worth of experience to their credit, but one of the Wings’ most senior partners believes that it’s hard to discount the fact that the team’s young core has played in its share of elimination games, too:
FOX Sports Detroit will re-air a condensed version Game 6 Thursday from 6-8 pm… here’s our programming lineup for Thursday night:
6:00 PM – Replay, Game 6 Red Wings vs. San Jose (2-hour version)
8:00 PM – Red Wings Live Pregame (one-hour edition)
9:00 PM – Game 7, Red Wings vs. San Jose
11:30 PM (or when game ends) – Red Wings Live Postgame
12:00 AM approx. – Replay, Game 7, Red Wings vs. San Jose (2-hour version)
For the record, the NHL just posted a press release hyping the action, too:
Updated 7x with more tarmac comments at 4:22 PM: As Paul and Alanah have already noted, the Detroit Red Wings boarded Red Bird II around 11 AM and headed west toward San Jose, where they hope to knock off the San Jose Sharks and complete a momentous comeback, having set a Fox Sports Detroit ratings record (with a 26 share and 368,000 or so homes watching Game 6) in the process.
The most interesting tidbit from their tarmac interviews involved the status of Johan Franzen, who the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy reports may very well play in Game 7 tomorrow night:
Teammate Niklas Kronwall [p]ractically guaranteed that “The Mule” will return for the winner-take-all Western Conference semifinals matchup.
“I think so,” Kronwall said of Franzen’s availability for the Game 7. “Definitely.”
Franzen missed Game 6 because of an ankle injury. Coach Mike Babcock clearly wants Franzen back, but expressed caution when asked if the scorer is ready for action. As Babcock walked to the team’s plane, he reminded reporters he’s got some time to decide on a lineup.
“We’ll be on this flight for about five and a half hours,” he said. “We’ll kick everything around. If Franzen is lobbying (to play) we’ll listen to that. We’ll try to make the right decisions, and the only way you know if you made the right decisions is if you win.”
The Wings suggested to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness that Thursday’s game will be more than just a toss-up…
The Detroit Red Wings evened their second-round series with the San Jose Sharks at 3 wins apiece via a decisive 3-1 victory on Tuesday which was dominated in almost every aspect by the Wings, save the game’s first goal, anyway, and just as the Wings have rattled off three straight wins and appear to have a competitive edge over their opponents heading into the winner-take-all Game 7 on Thursday (9 PM EDT, FSD/CSN Bay Area/Versus/TSN/WXYT), the Wings have also shifted the tone of the series—from a grinding slate of games punctuated by moments of furious scoring or physical play which characterize the Sharks’ identity to the the sort of calm, controlled aggression and sustained stretches of puck possession, coming in almost endless and sometimes relentless waves, that is nothing more than nothing less than forcing an opponent to play the Red Wings’ game.
The Wings peppered Antti Niemi with 44 shots (the Wings’ 45th shot went into an empty net) and “won” every statistical category save faceoffs, asserting themselves as a team that won’t be denied, but as the Sharks have merely exhausted their margin for error, they spoke defiantly about their chances of advancing to the Western Conference Finals by winning a single game, as the London Free Press’s Morris Dalla Costa noted:
The first time a Red Wing seemed rattled all night, maybe all series, was in the Detroit dressing room after Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Goaltender Jimmy Howard was answering a question about how the Wings had come back and tied this second-round series, saying it had been business as usual and the guys had kept the same confident demeanor all along, when suddenly his voice trailed off.
“Good to see you,” Howard said.
Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey himself, had come to give his congratulations. They shook hands. Howard beamed, then returned to his interview. Or tried to.
Mike Babcock and Ken Holland let the hockey world know that the Detroit Red Wings would be returning to San Jose to play in Game 7, and between a furious assault on Antti Niemi, wonderful performances by Pavel Datsyuk, Valtteri Filppula, even Jimmy Howard and all the Wings’ principals…The Red Wings earned a 3-1 win and are going to San Jose to play Game 7 [(edit/update: which will occur at 9 PM EDT on FSD/CSN Bay Area/Versus/TSN/WXYT)], hoping to become the fourth team in NHL history to successfully rally from a 3-0 deficit.
I believe they can do it, especially given what transpired over the last ten seconds of play in the game. The Wings have the Sharks right where they want them, and even in the Shark tank…This team is on a mission—its fans at Joe Louis Arena sure as hell backed ‘em up—and it has the Sharks distracted and angry. Let’s make it distracted, angry, and stunned on Thursday.
Here’s Valtteri Filppula’s gamer (update and other highlights below):
Updated 3x at 7:42: the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky believes that Jiri Hudler will replace Kris Draper in the lineup: With an inordinate amount of Red Wings-Sharks game-day content having already fallen off the front page, it’s time to re-focus on the mid-afternoon storylines surrounding tonight’s game (8 PM EDT, FSD/CSN Bay Area/Versus/TSN/WXYT), starting with the fact that Wings coach Mike Babcock told NHL.com’s Brian Hedger that he’s put Mike Modano on notice: in replacing Johan Franzen, Modano will have no room to err toward the artistic
Perhaps offering a clue into his logic of not playing star veteran forward Mike Modano for the first five games of this series, Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he wants the 40-year old Modano to play a simple game and grind out wins in puck battles. Snazzy plays are not what interests Babcock – who is playing Modano in place of the injured Johan Franzen (ankle).
“He’s got to skate, he’s got to compete,” Babcock said of Modano, who grew up in nearby Westland, Mich.,but played the first 20 years of his 21-year NHL career with the Dallas Stars organization. “It’s racing out there. There’s mistakes being made defensively by both teams that you don’t see during the year, because the pace is so high. There’s no room. If you think you’re going to go out there and make a nice play, it’s not going to happen. You’ve got to go out there and grind and compete and work hard. If you do that, the offense is going to come off the cycle, not off the rush. We’ve got to find a way to get him involved in that.”
At the same time, the mood in the Wings’ room is relatively light while facing elimination and the improbability of pulling off a miraculous comeback. Tomas Holmstrom delivered the line of the day to Hedger and others in suggesting the following:
Updated 11x at 2:47 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks prepare to face off tonight (8 PM EDT, FSD/CSN Bay Area/Versus/TSN/WXYT), big news emerged regarding the absence of a particular Shark, as noted by the Detroit News’s John Niyo:
Ryane Clowe out for Sharks. Didn’t make trip. Talk of flu-like symptoms, but have to think its result of Kronwall hit in Gm 5?
Johan Franzen also skipped the Wings’ morning skate, as noted by the Red Wings social media coordinator Jake Duhaime, which means that Mike Modano’s in (more after the jump):
The Detroit Red Wings face off against the San Jose Sharks tonight (8 PM EDT, FSD or CSN Bay Area locally/Versus or TSN nationally/WXYT) still facing elimination and still hoping, at best, to force a seventh and deciding game in San Jose on Thursday, but the Wings still have nothing to lose but the series, and as such, Wings coach Mike Babcock and GM Ken Holland made a near-staggering set of proclamations when they stepped off of Red Bird II on Monday, as noted by the CBC’s series blogger:
“Oh, we’re getting on it,” Babcock said, looking toward the plane.
[Pavel] Datsyuk was also looking forward to adding to his frequent flier miles. “Why not?” he said. “I have good seats.”
Detroit GM Ken Holland felt it was that confident attitude which has got the Wings back in the series, when all seemed lost just a few days ago.
“When we were down 3-0, nobody wanted to go home,” Holland said. “We plan to be flying back for Game 7.”
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.