The Malik Report
Updated 2x at 4:54 AM: The Red Wings hauled tail out of Phoenix on Saturday night, returning home to Detroit having taken the first 2 games of their 3-game road trip and both games of the "Fathers' Trip," defeating the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 on Thursday and the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Saturday.
The Wings' latest win, their 10th in the last 11 games, places the Wings in a tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning for 1st in the Atlantic Division and 1st in the Eastern Conference, and while the Wings have 2 fewer wins and 2 fewer Regulation-or-OT-Wins than the Lightning, the 31-12-and-9 Wings have played 52 games to the Lightning's 54.
The Wings' latest win, their 1,500th under Mike and Marian Ilitch's ownership, wasn't the prettiest victory, either, but it didn't have to be, and the fact that the Tatars, Sheahans, Helms, Marchenkos and Mrazeks stepped up during a quieter evening for the Datsyuks, Zetterbergs and Kronwalls was wonderful to see.
I'd be remiss if I didn't note that Wings coach Mike Babcock told both Fox Sports Detroit and the attending media that he wasn't quite sure what the Wings would do with Mrazek, and that the team would discuss their plans on the flight back to Detroit. That was at least...intriguing.
The Grand Rapids Griffins' players and coaches are currently taking part in the Great Skate, but they're not participating in the team's biggest charity event with gigantic smiles on their faces, because the Griffins split their 2-game series with the Rochester Americans, defeating the Amerks 5-4 in overtime on Friday, but dropping a 4-3 OT decision on Saturday.
The Griffins couldn't hold a 3-1 lead during Tom McCollum's return to the Griffins' crease, and while Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou scored goals, the Wings-depleted defense (see: no Xavier Ouellet or Alexey Marchenko) had a difficult outing, as the Griffins website's recap notes:
The Red Wings won a cookie, and in doing so, earned both a sweep of the Fathers' Trip on "home ice" away from the Joe, and the Wings--according to FSD--earned their 1,500th win under Mike and Marian Ilitch's ownership, defeating a pissy Phoenix Coyotes team 3-1.
The Wings are now tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for 1st in the Atlantic and 1st in the Eastern Conference (with two games in hand on Tampa Bay), and the Wings did a fantastic job of "sticking with" a game that it may have won despite its best efforts to make things too cute and too fancy.
This game was far from Detroit's best, and Phoenix's rampant hooks, holds, grabs, hacks, whacks, wrestling and rugby moves were so ridiculous and their lack of temper from Shane Doan on down so silly that this should have been a romp...
Prior to Saturday night's game action, Hockey Night in Canada aired a feature chronicling Gordie Howe's visit to Saskatoon to be feted at Friday's Kinsemen Club dinner.
The Sportsnet footage includes some behind-the-scenes footage, as well as commentary from Wayne Gretzky, Brett and Bobby Hull and both Mark, Marty and Murray Howe:
The Red Wings' coach did speak with the media, however, nd he informed them that he's quite wary of the pluck of a Connor McDavid sweepstakes team that's hosting red and white both on the ice and in the stands, as the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa noted:
"Now, this game tonight is a trap game, in lots of ways. Just look at their record," Mike Babcock said Saturday. "But they work. Dave Tippett coaches them, and they know how to play. So, we're in a situation here tonight where we've got to be dialed in and ready to go. It's an important two points for us."
Tippett's teams always play in a disciplined defensive style, and he emphasizes a strong north-south game of simplicity. What the Red Wings hope works is what has panned out in recent games: Other than the singular exception of the Lightning, 10 days ago, they are mostly back working their schemes and structures, thoroughly.
"There was a while there where we were cheating the system," Babcock said. "And it doesn't work. You have to straighten those things out, over time, and get things right. What I have liked about what we've done here of late is that we're back to the details of our game."
Krupa continues, and I'll let you read the coach's take on the conclusion of the Fathers' Trip on your own, but Babcock's damn right that the Coyotes will "check like crazy." It's what they do.
Also: MLive's Ansar Khan noted Babcock's praise for Alexey Marchenko before reminding us of the elephant in the room, I mean Keith Yandle...
The Hockey News's Ken Campbell penned 5 reasons why he believes Red Wings coach Mike Babcock will be the NHL's first $4+ million-paid coach, and Campbell did so by asking other coaches to discuss Babcock's strengths. Reasdons 1 and 2 invoke the "marketplace" and Scotty Bowman, and numbers 3, 4 and 5 are particularly intriguing:
3. HE KNOWS PLAYERS, HIS OWN AND THOSE ON OTHER TEAMS: One coach said Babcock knows fine details of all 10 skaters on the ice when watching a game. But more than that, he knows the breaking point of his own players and knows what buttons to push to get them going.
“Some of us are demanding with practice, and we stay out too long and that creates negative energy,” a coach said. “Mike knows exactly when to get on the ice and off the ice.”
4. HE SEES THE BIG PICTURE:: As much as Babcock is focused on winning, he also recognizes it is a process and never loses sight of that process.
“Good coaches don’t worry about the debris around them and the debris they create, and they never get wrapped up in the moment,” one coach said. “They know the end result isn’t the next day or the next week. They’re always moving the process forward. Mike does that as well as anybody.”
5. HE HAS A SENSE OF COMPASSION: As much as his players may cross swords with him, they know Babcock has their backs.
“If there was a player or coach in trouble and needed help, he’d make four phone calls and it would be settled,” a coach said. “I know of two players who needed help and he got it done before anybody could do anything about it.
Continued, and after the season is over and the playoffs are done, I fully believe that Babcock will re-sign with the Wings.
from Jared Clinton of The Hockey News,
While Gustav Nyquist has surfaced and been crowned an obvious heir to carry the Red Wings into the future when the aging twosome of Zetterberg and Datsyuk move on, Tomas Tatar is making his case as the other half of the dynamic duo that will be rocking Detroit for years to come.
The reason Tatar has flown largely under the radar is because he didn’t burst onto the scene the way Nyquist did. In his first real shot at the NHL, Tatar didn’t pot nearly 30 goals in 57 games like Nyquist. Tatar didn’t make a push for Calder Trophy honors in his first season. But this season, Tatar, not Nyquist, is Detroit’s leading goal scorer.
His 22 goals put him ahead of Zetterberg, ahead of Datsyuk (who has admittedly only played 40 games), and is one less than Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss, and Darren Helm combined. At 24, Tatar has found his place alongside Helm and Datsyuk on one of the team’s top two lines and there’s little doubt he’ll be there well into the future.
While his goal scoring output is one of the things that will endear him to the casual fan, what is more impressive about Tatar’s play is the possession aspect of his game.
From my perspective, anyway, it's been downright bizarre to have witnessed Wings fans go from talking about Anthony Mantha like the Next Wings Superstar during training camp to suggesting that Mantha's more valuable as trade bait than anything else after having learned that Mantha's not lighting it up in the AHL.
Mantha's dropped down prospect lists and his value's gone from, "30-goal-scoring power sniper" to, "Probably another Johan Franzen" in some Wings fans' eyes, and that just baffles me.
Updated 3x at 1:34 PM: The Detroit Red Wings will play a second consecutive "home game on the road" when they face the Arizona Coyotes this evening (8 PM on FSD/FS Arizona/97.1 FM), and while Phoenix is just taking to the ice for the morning skate, the Coyotes' website posted a clip of Keith Yandle, Andrew Campbell and Shane Doan discussing their desire to maximize their opportunity to earn bragging rights against the Wings.
When Shane Doan says that, "Obviously, we played them a few times in the playoffs, we played them four times in the playoffs, you've got a healthy dislike for the group, the team and, the group and the organization, you respect them for everything they've kind of done in the past, so yeah, there's a certain amount of you enjoying playing against them," you know it's gonna be a physical, intense affair to say the very least.
ArizonaCoyotes.com's Dave Vest posited a game preview from the Coyotes' perspective...
Sometimes a single Tweet is more than worth its own blog entry, and in this case, this one's most certainly worth it:
Pavel Datsyuk passed Sergei Fedorov for 5th in Red Wings assists on Thursday, registering his 555th helper, and as you might imagine, Datsyuk marked the milestone with "thank you's":
Pavel Datsyuk: классный dude.
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.