The Malik Report
Updated at 6:05 PM: The Detroit Red Wings may or may not be playing in the final game in which Nicklas Lidstrom, Mike Modano, Kris Draper, and Chris Osgood are members of an NHL team’s roster tonight, but USA Today’s Kevin Allen does not believe that Lidstrom will retire, and he employs five reasons to bolster his claim:
1. Although Lidstrom and his wife, Annika, look forward to the time when they can move back to Sweden, they aren’t in a rush to leave Michigan. Both readily concede it will be very difficult to leave a place that has been their home for almost two decades.
2. The relationship between Lidstrom and the Red Wings is probably as close to perfect as you could get. Lidstrom says he enjoys what he terms “fireside chats” with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland at the end of the season about the direction the team is heading. Essentially, the way contract negotiations between Lidstrom and the Red Wings work is Holland explains the Red Wings’ salary cap situation, and they ask Lidstrom what number he can live with. The Red Wings don’t play hardball with their captain. There’s a mutual respect. They understand his importance, and he knows his value.
Updated 5x with Chris Chelios on WDFN at 6:09 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks prepare to face off tonight (7 PM EDT, Versus/TSN/WXYT), MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the Wings have chosen to stick with the lineup which Mike Babcock employed on Wednesday, which means that Mike Modano might spend the final game of his career as a healthy scratch:
“Lineup’s on the board every morning,’’ Modano said. “So you just take a peek at it on the way to having a coffee.’‘
Forward Johan Franzen (left ankle) and defenseman Brian Rafalski (knee) did not skate this morning but both will play. Coach Mike Babcock said there will be no lineup changes. So Drew Miller will be scratched for the second game in a row. Modano is coming to grips with the fact that he likely has played his final game.
The Detroit Red Wings face off against the San Jose Sharks tonight (7 PM EDT, Versus only [not joined in progress, the whole game]/TSN/WXYT) facing stark odds, and, if they lose, uncertain futures for more than just Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Mike Modano and Chris Osgood. The Wings could be swept for the first time since 2003 and lose to the same team in consecutive seasons since the 1999-2000 season, when the Wings couldn’t solve the Colorado Avalanche, and had to regroup, change the team’s dynamic and build toward their 2002 Stanley Cup championship.
The Wings have already been written off by more than a few members of the media as a now-second-rate team and nothing more than broom fodder over the past few days, and put simply, if they lose tonight, they’ll get the weekend off…before posing for a team picture on Monday, cleaning out their lockers and facing a summer that’s far too long for a team which is expected to at least make the Western Conference Finals every year.
The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness paints a grim statistical picture regarding the Wings’ ability to pull off what would be nothing less than a miraculous comeback, though the Wings’ players insisted that they have only concerned themselves with winning Friday’s game:
The Red Wings’ 3-0 series deficit against the San Jose Sharks means the obvious for at least three Red Wings (if not four). As Nicklas Lidstrom told DetroitRedWings.com’s Jeff Sanford on Thursday, he will engage in the usual conference with his family after the season to determine whether he wants to play for at least one more season, but Mike Modano’s not totally sure whether he’s going to retire, either, and he’s not the only one.
The emergence of Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Patrick Eaves as dependable performers has started to push Kris Draper into riding a bike instead of sitting on the bench during the regular season, and Chris Osgood wasn’t able to return from what turned out to be extensive surgery to repair a sports hernia and his groin muscles in January—with enough setbacks taking place that the Wings tried to sign Evgeni Nabokov to help buy the team time as a goaltender who’s had significant groin injuries in each and every one of his post-lockout seasons with the Wings—and with Ruslan Salei nearly losing his job to Jakub Kindl, his future’s anything but certain, too.
The following stories intertwine somewhat, so there’s going to be repetition here and there, but we’re obviously going to start with Lidstrom, who told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness that he’s not going to tip his hat should the Wings’ playoff run end:
Oy, vey. Mike Modano spoke to the media after Thursday’s optional Red Wings practice, and, as NHL.com’s Brian Hedger noted, Modano, well hedged on his promises to retire:
Q: You wouldn’t say you regret this season, would you?
Modano: Your initial thought is a little regret because of what you went through, but no one can ever predict it would happen, the severity of the injury and what all took place. Maybe it was a sign that … I should’ve stayed away.
Q: Have you given any thoughts to what you’re going to do with your future?
Modano: Kind of mulled over it a lot, now that I’ve certainly got a lot of free time on my hands to think about it and what my plans are. A knee-jerk reaction is to kind of say ‘That’s it,’ and be done with it because the frustration level is fairly high at this point. So you’re able to make some quick judgments without really thinking it through. Let the dust settle a little bit and then make a decision on it.
Just about every indication suggests that Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom has at least one or two seasons left in his spry 41-year-old legs, but Lidstrom did admit to missing his eldest son, Kevin (who moved back to Vasteras, Sweden to play hockey) very much, and as such, DetroitRedWings.com’s Jeff Sanford’s kicking off the annual Nicklas Lidstrom watch with the usual Lidstrom take—regardless of what happens on Friday, Lidstrom will sit down with his family and decide what he’s doing after the season ends:
“It’s tough to answer, I hope not,” said Lidstrom, when asked if Friday would be his final game in an illustrious NHL career, which began in 1991. “I want to continue to play in this playoffs and just keep going with this team.
“I’m going to wait until this season is over and make a decision about what I want to do,” he said. “That’s one thing I haven’t put in my mind yet. I’m so focused on playing right now, so that’s something I want to start thinking about when we’re done playing.”
Lidstrom was optimistic about the team’s future, regardless of whether he will be in the lineup next fall.
“Looking at the lineup we have, and looking at the depth that we have and the core group of guys we have that are in their prime right now, I have no doubt they’re going to be a successful team,” Lidstrom said.
So there, no, “Oh no, they’re not a contender, he’s leaving” stuff. I’ll be crossing my fingers, toes and veins, and whatever else I can cross, about Lidstrom’s hopefully likely decision return, and while I’m guessing that he’ll be back, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Wings attempt to convince Lidstrom to stay in Novi instead of moving back to Sweden when his career does end. Lidstrom’s suggested that he’d like to get involved in coaching youth hockey when his career is over, but he’s at least entertained the possibility of working with the Wings in some capacity.
Updated 6x at 3:11 PM: Mike Modano’s hedging about retiring: The day after the Detroit Red Wings’ dropped a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Wings will attempt to put on brave faces after practice and insist that by taking things “one game at a time,” they can at least save some pride on Friday and push the series to a fifth game. The press corps, from both Detroit and outside the Metro Area, is pretty much split as to whether the Wings can overcome the team that’s become their mental roadblock and mount a miraculous comeback, or whether a second-round sweep and a summer shake-up (praying that Nicklas Lidstrom will come back for at least one more season included) is all but guaranteed after a handshake line on Friday.
The Grand Rapids Press’s MIchael Zuidema subscribes to the latter theory...
The Detroit Red Wings’ 4-3 overtime loss and 3-0 series deficit to the San Jose Sharks are the worst kind of deja vu for the team and its fans. A year to the day that a mentally and physically spent Red Wings team dropped the third of a 5-game series to the Sharks by a relatively slim margin—via another 4-3 OT loss—a deeper team with a bit more health, young players who took steps forward either in the regular season or playoffs and a raw rookie goalie turned near-MVP continue to find themselves unable to defeat the Sharks, albeit by a razor-thin margin this time around.
The end result, however, remains the same: unless the Wings can pull of a miracle, they’ll be shaking the hands of a Sharks team that seems to have an edge in terms of confidence and plain old puck luck before engaging in yet another too-long summer full of questions and possible roster revisions. Is there small consolation in the fact that, deflections off the Wings’ own players’ sticks and baseball-style bunting aside, the Wings could very well be leading the series? You bet, but consolation only helps when you’re winning, and are down 3-0.
If you’re a Wings fan, now’s the time to peel yourself off the ledge, believe in the tall tale that the Wings are telling themselves about being able to rally and pull off a miraculous comeback starting on Friday and know that there’s at least one Wings game left, a game in which the team will leave it all on the ice. If you’re a Sharks fan, or a member of the media, like the Hockey News’ Ken Campbell, you’re booking tickets for Vancouver, because you believe that the Sharks have learned from the lessons of playoff past. Sharks coach Todd McLellan suggested that the Sharks didn’t even play all that well on Wednesday:
The Red Wings rallied from a 1-0 deficit, got key goals on the power play, got to Antti Niemi, had their forecheck going, worked their butts off, played on even ground with the Sharks…and a fanned shot by Devin Setoguchi and a tip off Brian Rafalski’s stick…Yielded a 4-3 San Jose OT win and a very probable handshake line either on Friday or Sunday, thanks to one of their playoff nemeses in Devin Setoguchi, who had a hat trick.
The Red Wings face nearly insurmountable odds against the Sharks after losing yet another one-goal game and yet another overtime game after blowing a power play.
The Wings insist that they simply have to win the next game, but at this point, it feels like 1999-2000, when the Wings bumped into an “equal” team in the Colorado Avalanche, twice, and lost, twice. They endured another setback in 2001 before winning the Cup in 2002, and there’s no doubt in my mind that you’re simply not going to see many changes if the Wings are swept…But the puck luck hasn’t been with the Wings. The bounces haven’t been with the Wings. It’s tight but the Sharks are winning by that slim margin and it doesn’t look good right now.
This team won’t be scrapped if they lose. The personnel will largely return, with a few exceptions (Salei and Modano will exit, Mursak will enter, and who knows what the future holds for Draper or Osgood), and the if the Wings shake hands with the Sharks on Friday, you should assume that a very similar team will attempt to overcome the Sharks next year at this time.
I don’t want this to get buried in the game-day thread, because it’s absolutely stellar: Red Wings GM Ken Holland spoke to the Hockey News’s Ken Campbell about the Wings’ margin for error in the playoffs on a historical basis, as it applies to their series against the Sharks, which they trail 2—0 heading into tonight’s game (8 PM EDT, FSD/CSN Bay Area/TSN2/WXYT/“Joined in Progress” by Versus) :
He points to the 1995-96 Red Wings, a team that rolled through the regular season with 62 wins and 131 points, then lost in the conference final to the Colorado Avalanche. Then he jumps to the next year, when the Wings had 24 fewer wins and 37 fewer points, then went on to win the first of two consecutive Stanley Cups.
“We were playing keep away most of that season,” Holland says of the ’95-96 team. “One night we went into Calgary and we beat them 4-0, they had 14 shots on home ice. We had the ‘Russian Five’ and nobody could get the puck from us.”
So what does that have to do with Game 3 of the Red Wings second round series against the San Jose Sharks? Well, Holland tells that tale to illustrate how slim the margin is between winning and losing. Then he takes his pen out and draws an imaginary line at the top of the wall.
“People think the difference between the team that wins the Stanley Cup and everybody else is here to here,” he says, drawing another line about three feet below. Then he draws another about three inches below the top line and says, “It’s really between here and here. So what am I saying?” he asks, now putting his thumb and forefinger together. “The difference is about this much.”
Update: And speaking of the past, former Wing Darren McCarty engaged in a pre-game interview on WBBL’s Huge Show:
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