The Malik Report
The Detroit Red Wings and their fans have gotten used to the concept of the Wings playing the underdog and/or spoiler's role over the past season, but it's definitely a different and/or unfamiliar position for the team to be in, and ahead of Game 5 against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight (8 PM EDT, NBC/CBC/97.1, with post-game shows on FSD and WDIV), Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika spoke to two members of the Wings' powerhouse teams of yore. Sometimes it's best to begin at the end and suggest that you go back and start at the beginning:
“The Joe is rockin’ – like, stuff I haven’t heard in years,” Draper said. “I mean, how many times did you hear the ‘Jimmy Howard’ chant? … It’s, I guess, relishing the underdog role. Why wouldn’t Detroit rally around that? Detroit, people kind of kick it around. But I’ve been here 20 years now, and people are proud. Now you see the building and the atmosphere, and it’s awesome.”
“We were always an older team, older players, veteran, grizzled guys,” Osgood said. “I think the fans enjoyed that for a while, and now it’s changed. It’s younger guys coming up that the fans have grown to like and enjoy watching fly around the ice. It’s kind of the opposite end of the spectrum than it used to be, but it’s just as fun and just as enjoyable, if not a little more.”
Continued, and Cotsonika's article is worth your time.
On Friday morning, the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek began his NHL notebook by suggesting that the Chicago Blackhawks may have proved that, in the playoffs, running into a hot team on the wrong week can wipe out a shortened regular season's worth of unbeatable play, and in a very roundabout way, the Globe and Mail has posited two more articles discussing the Wings' resurgent play, yielding something of a, "How the Wings work" theme. The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle offers several reasons why the Red Wings' "demise has been greatly exaggerated"...
Five: Only five teams have had a better regular-season record than the Wings in the four seasons since they lost in Game 7 of the finals: Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington and San Jose.
Eight: Detroit is one of only eight NHL teams to make the playoffs in every one of those four seasons as part of an incredible 22-year postseason streak.
Thirty-nine: Including this year’s run, the Wings have now played in more playoff games (39) than 23 other franchises the past four years. And only the three recent Cup winners (Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles) and San Jose, Vancouver and Philadelphia have won more in the postseason in that span.
The Detroit Red Wings head into Game 5 against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight (8 PM EDT, NBC/CBC/97.1 FM, and FSD will air a post-game show) holding a 3 games to 1 series lead, but they face a strange and difficult opponent for several reasons:
First, as the Hawks repeatedly mentioned on Friday, they rallied from a 3-0 series deficit against the Vancouver Canucks in 2011, and forced OT in Game 7; and second, Jonathan Toews is, depending on how you read his lecture about what a great player he is and how he's going to break out tonight, either due for a stellar game or due to completely lose it on Saturday night.
While the Blackhawks held an optional skate and were downright verbose in insisting that the series is still theirs to win, not lose, the Red Wings didn't practice and arrived in Chicago in the evening, stating that they both have to play better and must approach tonight's game knowing that Chicago's going to bring their best.
As they told NHL.com's Brian Hedger, the Hawks are anything but down on themselves...
BEWARE: Auto-play highlight clips lurk within.
FYI and FTR from the get-go: Martin Frk and the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads will play against the WHL's Portland Winterhawks in the Memorial Cup Final on Sunday.
Meanwhile, in the AHL...
Prior to puck drop, the Grand Rapids Grifins and their fans stood with citizens of Oklahoma City, but once the first game of the AHL's Western Conference Final began, it was all business, and the Griffins defeated the Oklahoma City Barons 2-1 (in the first of a slate of back-to-back games at Van Andel Arena). The Griffins' website provides a superb game recap:
This gentleman (sorry, I don't watch PTI so I don't know who's who) apparently corrected himself after a commercial break.
Edit/clarification: I am not attempting to condemn ESPN's hockey coverage per se or Mr. Michael Wilbon. I'm glad that TMR readers state that Wilbon watches hockey in Chicago, and while we may slag on ESPN for its TV coverage, Barry Melrose and Steve Levy have been breaking down every game in 3-minute clips online, ESPN has been dispatching Pierre LeBrun and Detroit-based Craig Custance to games, Katie Strang provides strong Rangers coverage and was a stalwart during the lockout, ESPN Boston loves its Bruins and ESPN Chicago loves its Hawks (and the Bucci Overtime Challenge is a pleasant bane of my existence). ESPN's TV coverage of hockey sucks. ESPN's online coverage of hockey is the reason it's been my browser's homepage since 1996.
Put simply, especially because this guy's from Chicago, my reaction was, "HAHAHAHAHAHA."
Very briefly: the Red Wings didn't arrive in Chicago until the NHL announced the following...
"The starting time for a potential Game 6 of the series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, if necessary, has been set for 8 p.m. ET on Monday in Detroit."
But the Wings were very blunt about the concept that the pressure they face to take the Blackhawks out on Saturday night comes from within, and that they're well aware of the fact that the Blackhawks will not go down easily, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted:
“Pressure? No, pressure’s for tires, that’s the old saying,” said forward Daniel Cleary, while speaking to reporters at the Red Wings’ team downtown hotel Friday afternoon. “Our thing is it’s a race to four. Those guys are champions, they’re winners, they know the toughest game ever is to try and eliminate a team. We have to be ready. It’s going to be the hardest game we’ve played all season.”
from Paulsen of Sports Media Watch,
Game 4 of the Blackhawks/Red Wings second round Stanley Cup playoff series drew a 1.1 U.S. rating and 1.8 million viewers on NBC Sports Network Wednesday night, the highest rated and third-most viewed second round game ever on the network. Only Rangers/Capitals Game 3 last year (1.9M) and Sharks/Red Wings Game 2 in 2010 (1.8M) drew more viewers.
The strong numbers came despite competition from the other high-profile second round series — the overtime Game 4 between the Bruins and Rangers. Bruins/Rangers drew a 0.7 U.S. rating and 1.4 million viewers on CNBC.
The Blackhawks/Red Wings and Bruins/Rangers games overlapped from 8:00-10:00 PM ET, earning a combined 3.3 million viewers over the two-hour period. During those two hours, the Stanley Cup Playoffs was the top draw on cable in total viewers and the adults 18-49 demo....
Locally, Blackhawks/Red Wings Game 4 scored a 10.04 rating in Chicago — the market’s highest ever for a second-round game on NBCSN — and a 12.35 in Detroit.
a bit more on the ratings...
The Vancouver Sun's Cam Cole took note of the attention Jonathan Toews' shenanigans receieved from the Detroit press during and after the Red Wings' 2-0 win over Chicago on Thursday, as well as the after-the-fact comments about Toews losing his temper on Friday. So Cole attended the Blackhawks' Friday practice, and after asking Brent Seabrook whether he calmed Toews down when Toews was busting nuts regarding the third penalty he took (Seabrook did), Cole cast a sympathetic ear toward Toews:
Toews, to his credit, never ducks the spotlight, even when it’s unkind. He didn’t deserve the penalty that cost the Blackhawks the decisive goal, by Jakub Kindl. He was nabbed for high sticking, but in fact all he did was lift the stick of Justin Abdelkader, who lost the handle on his own twig and had the butt end of it hit him in the face. But he wasn’t complaining about it Friday.
“I mean, I understand that what happened in the second period wasn’t a good thing,” Toews said. “I don’t attribute it to me losing my temper. Obviously, I was a little bit careless with my stick and it ended up costing me, and costing my team. But when things go well for our team, sometimes maybe I get more credit than I deserve, and I think same goes the other way. And I understand that’s part of it. Our best players need to be our best players. We need to lead, we need to grab the rope and start pulling for the rest of the guys, and it starts with myself.”
But Toews, who insisted to the Hawks' press that his team should feel confident about themselves and upbeat going into what he and his teammates inisst will be the first of three straight wins starting on Saturday night, want to set the record, uh...Straight...That he's a great player, even when he's not registering points...
Updated 14x at 6:24 PM: While the Red Wings flew to Chicago on Friday afternoon, the Blackhawks practiced while trying to rebound from Detroit's 2-0 win on Thursday night, hoping to stave off elimination in Game 5 on Saturday night (8 PM, NBC/CBC/97.1 FM, post-game on FSD) while the Wings hope to advance to the Western Conference Final.
The Hawks' practice was sparsely-attended (and you'll have to excuse the Twitter roll call)...
Updated with one more audio interview at 1:43 PM: Prior to the Red Wings' 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, both the speculatory-minded and measured thinkers in the Detroit media corps suggested that, "Whoever wins Game 4 will win the series."
Wings fans might agree with that assessment, but the Score's Cam Charron suggests that no one should write the Blackhawks off heading into Game 5 on Saturday...
And that's just fine with the Red Wings. As the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek points out in his weekly notebook, Wings coach Mike Babcock readily admits that his team's playoff run seems highly improbable...
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.