The Malik Report
As the Detroit Red Wings took a much-needed day off to re-set their body clocks and hopefully clear their heads as they hope to climb out of a 2-0 series hole for only the second time over their past 20 playoff runs, and the San Jose Sharks raced across the country to join the Wings in preparing for Wednesday night’s game (which will only be “Joined in Progress” on Versus after the Bruins-Flyers game; more on that in a bit), the Wings’ press corps offered more than a few suggestions as to how the Wings might rectify their problems in attempting to play the Sharks on even ground, but the out-of-towners mostly focused on the obvious, easy angle:
Snow showers. The Detroit News’s David Guralnick found that the San Jose Sharks’ snowing of Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard make for fantastic photography, former NHL referee Kerry Fraser found them to be an easy topic to address, and the Sharks themselves, before departing for Detroit, insisted to the Mercury News’s Mark Emmons (David Pollak was busy jabbing back at Ken Kal’s parody of the Sharks’ fan base) that they’ll continue because it’s Jimmy Howard’s fault, and will continue:
The first is that they’re up against some serious-ass odds, especially given that the supporting cast has left Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Howard without support, as spelled out by NHL.com’s Brian Hedger:
Detroit is just 5-21 all-time when losing the first two games of a playoff series and only 2-6 when facing the same situation during the team’s remarkable 20-year run of postseason appearances. Also, after dropping the first three games against the Sharks in the same round last season, Detroit lost that series in five games. When you include the 2010-11 regular season, the Red Wings have lost 10 of the previous 12 meetings against San Jose and appear to be completely flummoxed. Also working against them is a middling record at Joe Louis Arena during the regular season, even being booed off the ice a couple of times.
Updated 2x at 6:48 PM, and I didn’t think that the Franzen no-goal via intent to blow was as big an issue as it is: The Detroit Red Wings didn’t practice on Monday as they didn’t arrive home from San Jose until midnight EDT last night and don’t resume their series against San Jose until Wednesday, but ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun headed down to Joe Louis Arena to speak to Red Wings coach Mike Babcock about his take on Sunday’s 2-1 loss and the Wings’ options going forward. Babcock apparently took another look at the game and then sought out advice from his usual cast of coaching friends (Joel Quenneville, Ken Hitchcock, Dave King, etc.) before offering this assessment of the Wings’ effort:
“We were better in Game 2, but in saying that, I still don’t think we skated at a high enough level,” the Detroit Red Wings head coach told ESPN.com on Monday. “To me, they’re skating better and winning more races and 50-50 puck battles than we are. They’re up 2-0 and they deserve to be up 2-0, I believe. We have to be better.”
“When I watched it again and looked at the scoring chances, we had more than I thought,” said the Olympic champion coach. “But we’re like a power play that’s one and done. In other words, you get a chance and then you don’t sustain it. They are getting chances and they’re grinding us. They’ve had a power play, especially in the second period, where after it’s over they then spend the next four to five shifts in your zone wearing on you, wearing on you and wearing on you, taking over the momentum of the game. As much as we had a few chances and hit a couple of posts, the reality is they’ve been better than us. Their five-man game is better, we’ve been more stretched out than they have been.”
Babcock is indeed considering lineup changes, but he’s not going to start complaining about the penalties assessed to his team, “snow showers” aside:
Updated at 5:59 PM: Todd McLellan and Joe Pavelski say nothing will change: The sidebar story of note regarding the Red Wings 2-1 loss to San Jose on Sunday involved the Sharks’ continued use of “snow showers” to annoy Jimmy Howard, and TSn analyst and former referee Kerry Fraser says that at least he’d call a penalty on the Sharks (which is a no-no, as we already know) for their antics:
Grab the shovel because you are bang on relative to the ‘snow job’ that Jimmy Howard is getting. As a referee, I wanted players to STOP before running into the goalie. The method and purpose here, however, is blatantly obvious. Action must be taken by the referees. Here’s how I would have handled the situation.
The second time it happened I would have approached the San Jose bench and had a direct conversation with coach Todd McLellan. Todd is a very intelligent coach and an excellent guy to deal with. I would have said, “Todd, we have a pattern here that you and I need to address. The next Shark player that stops hard for the purpose of deliberately throwing snow in Jimmy Howard’s face will receive an unsportsmanlike minor penalty! Can I count on you to take care of this please before I have to?”
Knowing Todd as I do I believe that would be all it would take? If, however it did happen again my greatest hope is that the act would be committed by the worst offender - Joe Pavelski! One call would take the snow plow off the road until next winter and justice would be served.
Continued, and he regrettably is equally demonstrative about the fact that “incidental contact” is a non-reviewable play…
The Detroit Red Wings left San Jose and landed at Metro Airport just after midnight Eastern time this morning knowing that they face a very steep uphill climb in their second-round series against the San Jose Sharks, who defeated the Wings 2-1 on Sunday, staking out a 2-0 series lead.
The Wings won’t practice on Monday, and the Sharks won’t arrive until Monday evening, because the teams won’t face off again until Wednesday, and while the Sharks can quite literally rest on their laurels if they wish, the Wings have quite a bit of thinking to do and adjustments to make, hoping that they won’t become the first team defeated in consecutive seasons since the 1999-2000 Wings dropped two straight playoff series to Colorado after dropping two games to a Sharks team that has simply out-hustled, out-worked, out-competed and out-played the Red Wings, on an almost man-for-man basis with the exceptions of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Jimmy Howard, in just about every aspect of the game.
The Wings have to win four of their next five games or they’re golfing, and the standard in Detroit and the standard for these Wings is higher than consecutive second-round losses.
The Detroit Red Wings’ late rally against the San Jose Sharks came up short, and the Wings are heading back to Detroit down 2-0 via a 2-1 loss that was a case of too little, too late—and inefficient play by the Wings.
It’s not that the Wings can’t hang with the Sharks. It’s that the Wings are facing must-win games from here on out because they’ve played scatterbrained hockey, and sometimes they’ve plain old looked intimidated by a Sharks team that’s clearly transferred its playoff hex to Detroit.
It’s…Scary. Scary to watch the Wings’ forecheck be neutralized, scary to watch the Wings lose so many 50-50 battles for the puck, scary to watch the Wings try so hard and accomplish so very little, while the Sharks seem to be able to generate the kind of forecheck, sustained pressure shots, screens, tips, rebound retrievals and secondary scoring chances that the Wings are so very desperate to accomplish themselves, but are too tentative and skittish to achieve.
Briefly updated at 2:17 PM: The Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks will face off today for a matinee game (3 PM EDT, NBC/TSN) which, if you believe Sharks coach Todd McLellan, pits an underdog team that nobody believes in against a dangerous opponent that it just happens to lead in the race to four wins and continues to earn power plays against, whether by hook or by crooked sell jobs that certain NHL officials bite upon.
If you believe the Red Wings’ players and coach, however, if the Wings’ forwards move their feet and inflict the kind of forechecking and cycling game upon the Sharks that San Jose utilized so successfully in Game 1, the series will head back to Detroit for a true re-set in the form of two days off tied at 1-1.
Therein lies the crux of this series—the Red Wings and Sharks aren’t as similar as anyone would like you to think, but they employ a similar style of play, and to be successful, the team that hopes to win needs to sustain possession and control of the puck in the offensive zone to generate scoring chances and wear down its opponent before the opponent grinds them down.
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:
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.