The Malik Report
The Detroit Red Wings face off against the Chicago Blackhawks at 11:30 AM local time (12:30 PM EDT, NBC/TSN/WXYT) knowing that no matter what happens today, they’re either going to face the Phoenix Coyotes or Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs. Given Detroit’s 7-7-and-4 record of late and the incredible stakes of a game whose result (and its interaction with the Dallas Stars-Minnesota Wild game which begins at 6 PM) may very well determine whether the Chicago Blackhawks spend this week defending their Stanley Cup championship or packing up their equipment and trading hockey sticks for golf clubs, you could argue that there’s no way in hell that a Red Wings team that dropped a 4-2 decision to the Hawks on Friday could find a way to match Chicago’s urgency or desperation today.
That may be, but the Red Wings definitely believe that the way in which they play during their last dress rehearsal before the “win or golf” games begin on Wednesday or Thursday (according to the Detroit Free Press, the NHL Network will announce playoff schedules at 10 PM EDT) matters and matters quite a bit, if only to reassure themselves and their fans that a team which now occupies the “Dark Horse’s Cup candidate’s” spot in the eyes of the hockey world isn’t a team that’s too mentally and physically worn down to reach May.
Because the deciphering the Western Conference standings practically requires calculus right now, and I bombed out of Calc III, I’ll let Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Chris Boden explain how the playoff math breaks down for Chicago…
The San Jose Sharks ’ 3-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night earned the Sharks second place in the Western Conference, and, according to MLive’s Ansar Khan, while the Western Conference Standings still look somewhat spaghettified, the 3rd-place Wings can only face one of two possible opponents:
Anaheim defeated Los Angeles 3-1 and clinched the fourth seed. The Red Wings will play the No. 6 seed in the first round of the playoffs, which will be either Nashville or Phoenix.
If Chicago defeats Detroit on Sunday (in regulation or overtime), the Red Wings will play Nashville. If the Red Wings beat the Blackhawks (regulation, overtime or a shootout), Detroit will face Phoenix.
If Chicago beats Detroit in a shootout, that will create a three-way tie between the Blackhawks, Predators and Coyotes for the fifth, sixth and seventh seeds (each club would have 99 points and 38 regulation/OT wins). Their standing would be determined by the season series tiebreaker, which Chicago would win, giving the Blackhawks the fifth seed.
The University of Michigan lost a 3-2 overtime decision to the University of Minnesota Duluth in the NCAA Championship game, suffering from a 10-4 penalty disparity and an “intent to blow” call that cost the Wolverines an early 1-0 goal. Shawn Hunwick stopped 38 shots for U of M, but consecutive icing calls doomed the Wolverines.
Updated 2x at 4:34 Blackhawks news, Axelsson talk and a Babcock interview posted in retrospect: Before hopping on Red Bird II for a short flight to Chicago, the Red Wings engaged in a short practice at Joe Louis Arena, and MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the Wings, who need a little help from the Phoenix Coyotes to earn second place in the Western Conference, insisted that there’s at least desperation and urgency to be answered stride for stride during tomorrow’s game against Chicago (12:30 PM EDT, NBC):
“That’s something we have to play for, potentially keeping them out of the postseason,’’ Detroit’s Brad Stuart said after Saturday’s practice. “They’re a big rival with us, it’s going to be a big crowd, should be an exciting game. All those things combined we should have no problem getting up for the game.’‘
“The atmosphere is going to be like a playoff game,’’ [Kris] Draper said. “And that’s fun and we have to respond to that and try to create a little momentum and take it into the playoffs.’‘
Coach Mike Babcock called it a Game 7 for the Blackhawks.
The Detroit Red Wings had the same, “What the hell just happened?” look on their faces that their fans did when the Blackhawks scored all of 27 seconds into what was ultimately a 4-2 loss to Chicago, but the Wings continued to allow the Blackhawks to cycle down low, chasing the Hawks’ puck-carriers and allowing them to build up a 3-0 lead by the time the game was all of 8 minutes and 44 seconds old, and, eventually, a 4-0 lead via Marian Hossa’s breakaway goal.
The Wings were booed off the ice after the first period, were spared from the same result thanks to a Drew Miller goal late in the second period, and saved from scoreboard frustration thanks to a Tomas Holmstrom goal in the third, but the Wings never really seemed to get back on track for anything other than isolated chances and rushes, leaving fans stunned and distressed and the Hawks a little closer to a playoff spot after their fifth straight win at Joe Louis Arena…In theory, anyway. As it turns out, the Hawks’ ability to avoid missing the playoffs as defending Stanley Cup champions still hinges upon Sunday’s game, as the Chicago Daily Herald’s Tim Sassone notes:
With one more dress rehearsal before the playoffs begin, the Detroit Red Wings’ 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks was most troubling not because of the Wings’ collective inability to keep the puck out of their own net, not because of their unwillingness to engage and match the competition, effort, urgency or attention to detail of their opponents or to contain Chicago’s superstars, and certainly not because of Jimmy Howard as he was essentially left out to dry by even Datsyuk and Lidstrom at times…
It was the fact that these kinds of multi-goal first period deficits and inattentive, almost disinterested efforts against any team that the Wings can give themselves an excuse for losing to over the last month-plus of the regular season…They’re predictable. Utterly and almost ridiculously predictable, especially at home and especially against potential playoff opponents.
It speaks poorly of everyone on the team from Mike Babcock on down that the Wings are less than a week away from the playoffs and boast an ugly 7-7-and-4 record since the beginning of March, have yet to get their defensive game, penalty-kill, power play, even strength scoring, offensive game, neutral zone play, etc. etc. back on track, and haven’t really stepped up their level of play since the middle of February.
More to come in the recap, obviously, but I think it’s necessary to press the “concern” button right now, because the Wings are, in the words of my father, “D***ing around” when it’s supposed to be time to round into playoff form.
Amidst near-calculus level equations and talk of Chris Osgood’s desire to continue playing, hype, Henrik Zetterberg panic-mongering and Mike Modano reiterating his wavering toward retiring, at least if the Wings go on a long playoff run, the Detroit Red Wings face off against the Chicago Blackhawks shortly (7:30 PM, FSD/CSN Chicago/Versus) knowing that they can either eliminate a potential playoff opponent or give the defending Stanley Cup champs all sorts of momentum while definitively losing home-ice advantage for the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Given the Wings’ very mediocre record since, um, January, the Red Wings can’t catch themselves worrying too much about their opponents or the implications of wins or losses for anyone but themselves as a team that still can’t shake the injury bug plays in its final two dress rehearsals before the playoffs begin.
Forget the hype, forget the pundits’ pre-playoff panic-mongering and make the Hawks’ playoff hopes a memory, Wings. That’s your job tonight and on Sunday.
I don’t want this to get lost in an absolutely ridiculous number of game-day updates (click for the latest iteration): Red Wings forward Mike Modano has reiterated his desire to retire if the Wings make the Cup Finals to the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky...
“If we go that far, if we get to the Stanley Cup Finals, it would be it for me,” he said after the morning skate Friday.
Even if the Wings don’t win the Cup…
“Yeah,” he said, “If we can get a nice, two-month run at the end here, I’d be happy with that. It would be worth it to have a nice long run to make this whole year worthwhile. It hasn’t gone exactly how we all printed it up.”
And Red Wings GM Ken Holland somewhat surprisingly admitted that the Wings don’t plan on using Modano in anything other than a complimentary role next week (though McCosky tries to play up the suggestion that Modano will be scratched regularly for shock value’s sake, which is silly):
Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch’s bid for the Detroit Pistons, the Palace of Auburn Hills and Palace Sports & Entertainment didn’t take, so Platinum Equity chairman Tom Gores purchased the team today. Ilitch issued a press release that’s a bit of a concession speech:
The following statement is attributable to Michael Ilitch, chairman of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. and owner, Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers:
“I would like to congratulate Tom Gores on the announcement of his agreement to purchase the Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment and the Davidson family on the pending sale of their businesses. We are very pleased that the Pistons will continue to call the Detroit area home. Even though we were only engaged in the sale process for a short period of time last year, I was truly amazed by all of the kind words and tremendous support we received from fans and the entire community. We are extremely fortunate to be part of one of the greatest sports towns in the world.”
From the Detroit Red Wings: On Saturday, the Ted Lindsay foundation for autism research will benefit from a significant event taking place at Kroger in Southgate, MI:
Customers attending Hockey Fest at the Southgate Kroger on Saturday, April 9 can meet hockey great Ted Lindsay and support autism research. Hockey Fest, held during National Autism Awareness Month, will feature the Hockey Hall of Fame traveling exhibit and interactive games, iincluding a mini hockey rink, foam puck shooting range and a fast shot radar cage.
Ted Lindsay will be present at the Southgate Kroger store between 12-2 p.m. EDT, with Hockey Fest running from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eddie Mio (11 a.m.-1 p.m.) and John Ogrodnick (2 p.m.-4 p.m.) will also be present. The Southgate Kroger is located at 13333 Eureka Road in Southgate, Mich.
As part of the event, MAGIC 105.1 FM (WMGC) will hold a raffle for tickets to a 2011-12 Red Wings regular-season game, Hockeytown Authentics gift cards, Detroit Zoo tickets, Kroger Gift Cards, Detroit Tigers tickets and more. Guests will rub shoulders with other former Red Wings players and can purchase a family meal deal, with all proceeds from food and raffle sales benefiting The Ted Lindsay Foundation.
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.