The Malik Report
It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon or tree scientist to know that anyone who volunteers to stand in front of projectiles, much less someone who volunteers to try to stop them with parts of their body, is crazy. I should know; I stupidly agreed to stop playing the instigator’s role while hacking and whacking my friends in high school and stepped into the crease, and was never allowed to leave it. Perhaps even more worrisome for me, I enjoy playing goal.
But when your entire position is based on a losing proposition—the puck is always going to get past you at some point, and you’re going to be the scapegoat sooner or later—you tend to manage the futility of your chosen job by utilizing superstitions, and the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek wrote a wonderful article about the fact that, in a very superstitious sport, goalies might be the best at coping with insanity by doing whatever works:
Managing performance is tied to superstition for some players, according to former New York Rangers goalie Dan Blackburn, who at 18 became the third-youngest player to win a game at the NHL level.
“The connotation of the word ‘superstition’ is that it’s negative,” says Blackburn, who coaches goaltending in the Dallas area. “I think that the way most goalies look at it is as habits – to be habitual about things and have positive habits, because when you do something repetitively and you do it all the time, that builds structure in your game.”
Throughout Saturday’s slate of practice updates, a theme’s slowly emerged from denizens of the Red Wings’ locker room, and it’s one of calm, quiet and self-assured determination as to Detroit’s ability to bounce back from a 2-1 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks when the puck drops at noon local time (3 PM EDT) on Sunday. I’d normally save the following pair of “late-breaking” Saturday night stories for Sunday’s game preview, but I think you and I need to read them now.
Why? Well, for one, the free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp of all people provides a jittery Wings fan base, myself included, with some very reassuring words from Wings coach Mike Babcock about his players’ understanding of the gravity of their situation:
“They’re big boys,” Babcock said. “We’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve had a lot of conversations with the players (Saturday). I asked do I need to say something and they told me that they already talked about it. That’s why we’ve won a lot. We know when we’re good and we know when we’re not very good. That doesn’t mean you’re not disappointed. We’re disappointed. But it’s over with now. It was sunny when I got up. It’s beautiful out here, isn’t it?”
Updated 9x at 9:09 PM with Justin Abdelkader selling a line: Not-so-super news from MLive’s Ansar Khan: Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk apparently didn’t practice with the team, but he’s going to play on Sunday:
Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk exercised his option not to skate Saturday, but coach Mike Babcock said he’ll play in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday against San Jose (3 p.m., NBC). Datsyuk was the only player who did not practice. He has taken a couple of practices off after games lately, after returning late in the season from a lower-body injury. Mike Modano filled in for Datsyuk on the line with Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom. Other than that the lines remain the same.
“I gave everybody the option of who was going on, who was going off and Pavel wasn’t going on,’’ Babcock said. “So you got to be ready to play tomorrow and not today.’‘
Asked if he is planning any lineup changes, Babcock said,“I’m not 100 percent certain. I haven’t decided yet.’‘
On the Sharks’ side of things, local hero Ben Ferriero spoke to the Mercury News’s David Pollak about the aftermath of scoring the biggest goal of his career:
After watching the Red Wings’ 2-1 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks, there’s definitely a part of me that would have liked to see the Wings attempt to shake themselves out of a second period’s worth of doldrums by getting into some shoving matches with the Sharks’ players that didn’t involve Jimmy Howard saying “hello” to Joe Pavelski, but that’s simply not going to happen. Before Friday’s game, Sharks coach Todd McLellan and Wings coach Mike Babcock insisted that their teams would engage in as businesslike a series as is possible, as noted by MLive’s Ansar Khan...
“Our skill set in scrums isn’t the same as some other teams, so there’s no sense being in them,” Babcock said Friday, before Game 1. “That’s a waste of energy right now. You need the energy to play between the whistles and compete hard.”
Sharks coach Todd McLellan, a former Detroit assistant, said there’s “ultimate respect” between the teams.
“Is there a hatred there? It’s a different type,” McLellan said. “Detroit isn’t about dropping the gloves and fighting and getting involved that way, so some of that emotion, that hatred doesn’t exist that way. But they can still play extremely hard on pucks, so can we. There’s a lot of action that happens in and around the blue paint. So those are real competitive situations.”
Perhaps there are four perspectives to consider while relating the disparate accounts of the San Jose Sharks’ 2-1 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings to the “average fan.” If you believe the media, the Sharks earned every bounce, power play and lucky goal because there’s nothing better than a great story, and when a part-time grinder can score the overtime-winner on his24th birthday, well, that’s the best story that can be written at a time when most sportswriters are headed to bed. If you believe the Sharks’ players, their victory was simply a matter of out-waiting the Red Wings, slowly waiting them down and capitalizing on their opportunities, with the results never in doubt.
If you believe the Red Wings’ players, they simply weren’t good enough, and while Jimmy Howard stopped an astonishing 44 shots, including 18 in the second period, his teammates didn’t do a good enough job of shifting play out of their own zone and into San Jose’s end, regardless of the fact that in both rounds’ opening games, it seems as if whatever the heck the “standard of officiating” is, it’s the Red Wings who are used as the example to explain to the rest of the league what that standard will be.
And if you’re a fan, like me, you don’t find these comments by Joe Pavelski, made to NHL.com’s Dave Lozo, ironic at all, because Pavelski may have exchanged a face-wash with Jimmy Howard and scored the game-tying goal on a weird bounce, but he also sold the call that led to it, big time:
Regardless of whether you’re a Wings fan, a Sharks fan, or any other sort of fan, you’ve probably been driven nuts by the fact that, over the course of the regular season and the playoffs thus far, linesmen have seemed so willing to herk-and-jerk the puck in an attempt to get one team’s player to flinch and then be thrown out of the faceoff circle, but not before offering a 30-second lecture to both the tossed out player and the one that replaces him. It’s as if the “hurry-up” faceoff has become the, “Hurry up and wait, and then listen to a lecture” draw—which is especially ironic given that the Jarrett Stoll stick-bouncers and players whose legs are spread so far wide that they may as well be attempting to do the splits are allowed to get away with that version of “cheating” on faceoffs—and it should come as no surprise that former referee Kerry Fraser defended his “lecture linesmen” while answering a reader question on TSN.ca:
The reason players are being ejected more frequently [in the playoffs]is due to a tightening of the standard imposed upon linesmen to reflect a zero tolerance for face-off “cheaters!” The linesmen take this element of their job very seriously, knowing full well the importance of conducting a fair face-off; especially in crucial areas of the ice. The last thing they want to do is impact the outcome of a game should a goal result from a bad face-off. In recent years additional markings on and around the end zone face-off dots have been added to ensure players line up square to one another and place their sticks on a white marking on the outer edge of their respective side of the dot.
Those lines are all but ignored, and every player tries to “cheat” in some way, but let’s allow the man to continue rationalizing:
Updated 9x at 8:56 PM: If there is a conflict on TV, FSD+ will air the pre-game show and possibly part of the game: Bullet points aside, the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks have finished practice ahead of tonight’s game (10 PM EDT, FSD/CSN Bay Area/Versus/TSN/WXYT), and both Sharks coach Todd McLellan and Wings coach Mike Babcock have decided to tweak their lineups.
The Mercury News’s David Pollak reports that former Wings nemesis (from his days as a Blackhawk) and forechecking demon Ben Eager will play for the Sharks…
Do not be surprised to see Ben Eager back at left wing on the fourth line tonight.
“Maybe” was Todd McLellan’s answer to the question of lineup tinkering and, no, he wasn’t going to share his thoughts on what he had in mind.
According to Red Wings social media director Jake Duhaime, the Wings have arrived at the HP Pavilion, “birthday boy” Mike Babcock included, so here’s a selection of bullet-pointed articles, audio and videos that didn’t make it into my game set-up but are worth your time as we wait for game-day skate updates:
If you missed any of yesterday’s late-breaking practice updates and are preparing to watch the first game of the Detroit Red Wings’ second-round series against the San Jose Sharks tonight (10 PM EDT, FSD/CSN Bay Area/Versus/TSN/WXYT), you might find yourself a little bit confused.
With the “experts” nearly split as to which team will prevail over what seems to be a long and drawn-out series in the making, there’s no doubt that the Red Wings will need to shake off whatever rust nine days’ worth of rest has deposited upon them by attempting to ratchet up their penalty-killing while surviving the first ten-to-twenty minutes of hockey at the raucous Shark Tank tonight, but whether the Wings’ and Sharks’ players will tangle in a series of two evenly-matched teams who will win or lose based upon which team does a better job of sustaining possession and control of the puck in the offensive zone, executing on their chances and working for an edge in special teams play, or whether we’re simply looking at a series where one of the teams hasn’t changed at all, but the other one has grown stronger, and that stronger team will prevail…
Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s brief career as NHL goaltender tells you almost all you need to know about his managerial style: Holland was an undersized but highly intelligent and hard-working back-up goaltender who believes that his initial call-up from the AHL came far, far too early in his development. His first NHL game, played as a goaltender for the Hartford Whalers, shattered his confidence in himself, as he tells the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle:
“I remember that first intermission, sitting in Madison Square Garden, thinking that I’d finally made the NHL and that’s where I belonged,” Holland recalled. “Then I can remember the second intermission, sitting in the locker room, thinking, ‘I’m never going to see the NHL ever again.’ ” Holland was so convinced he wouldn’t get another chance to play, he set his mind on enjoying every second of the third period, even on the wrong end of a 7-3 blowout. When a shot broke the glass behind him, “I thought ‘this is going to add 10 more minutes,’ ” he said, chuckling. “Everyone gets their time in the sun, their little moment, and this was mine.”
So, not surprisingly, Holland believes that the Wings’ decision to, as a rule, ask their prospects to take part in a one-to-three-year internship with the Grand Rapids Griffins, ripening, if not over-ripening, before being slowly worked into the Wings’ lineup isn’t just smart—it’s essential:
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.