The Malik Report
The Phoenix Coyotes couldn’t have been faulted for thinking that they had the Detroit Red Wings exactly where they wanted ‘em at the 8:22 mark of the first period, when Nicklas Lidstrom joined Patrick Eaves in the penalty box and the Coyotes, who’d scored an early, sneaky goal via Kyle Turris and were peppering Jimmy Howard as the Wings kept going to the penalty box, began a 1:31 slate of 5-on-3 power play time.
Instead of opening what looked like a near-impossible-to-breach 2-goal lead against a Red Wings team that was still shaking off playoff rust, however, the Coyotes found themselves nearly completely shut down by the Wings’ penalty-killers—who ended up having to kill 9:07 of Coyotes PP time as the Wings were steadily sent to the box as an example of what Wings coach Mike Babcock said was an NHL-mandated crackdown on stick fouls—and Jimmy Howard, who stopped 10 of the 28 shots he’d face in the first period. The Wings rallied after killing three more penalties, with Pavel Datsyuk cracking Ilya Bryzgalov en route to a 4-2 win, but the Coyotes very readily admitted that the game pivoted on the Wings’ 5-on-3 kill, as NHL.com’s Brian Hedger noted:
The Detroit Red Wings’ 4-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of their first-round series was almost a little too familiar to Wings fans who’ve stuck with Detroit through its regular-season ups and downs.
The Wings got into penalty trouble early, gave up the game’s first goal and looked like they’d been both backed onto their heels and were hoping to somehow rally from yet another 2-0 or 3-0 deficit in the third period, with the built-in excuse for sloppy play that they’d been afflicted by yet another injury-induced absence in Henrik Zetterberg…
But after Jimmy Howard and the Wings’ PK’ers steadied the ship, the Wings went into the locker room, regrouped, got back down to basic attention-to-detail plays and the kind of focused work ethic that exemplifies playoff hockey—the kind of hockey where the Wings slowly but surely gain possession and control of the puck, possession and control of territory, support each other, start crashing and banging any opponent that insists it can back the Wings off by hitting ‘em into next week, a fantastic effort and fight by Todd Bertuzzi included…
Updated 4x at 6:20 with an intriguing quip from Jimmy: As the game-day post has fallen off the front page, here are some substantial “time-filling” articles that merit mentioning prior to tonight’s faceoff between the Detroit Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes (FSD/Versus/CBC/WXYT), starting with an article from WXYZ’s Don Shane which attempts to put Wings’ fans’ April, May and June expectations Into perspective:
Today just feels different around town. The atmosphere, the anticipation, the excitement of the NHL playoffs is in the air throughout the city and all of metropolitan Detroit.
Trust me it’s in the Red Wings locker room as well. The players know, and the fans realize there is regular season hockey, then there’s playoff hockey. It’s two different games, two different beasts, two levels of intensity and we have all felt that experience around here for the last 20 years.
As reported by the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema, the NHL’s chief developmental arm, the American Hockey League, chose to make several very significant alterations to its scheduling procedures during its Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday:
Under the new play, the following modifications will take place:
—The regular-season schedule will be reduced from 80 games to 76;
—The playing calendar will be extended by one week;
—All sequences in which teams play four games in five nights will be eliminated;
—The first round of the Calder Cup playoffs will be reduced to a best-of-five series.
[Griffins GM Bob] McNamara said the changes had been discussed since the Griffins first joined the AHL in 2001, and the moves will be good for both players and fans.
“With the four games in five nights, those games were hard on the players with travel and sometimes the quality of those games were not very good,” McNamara said. “I think it will be good for the fans from that standpoint.”
As reported this morning, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock made the difficult decision to scratch Mike Modano, who has yet to regain his pre-wrist-injury form, for tonight’s game against Phoenix (7 PM EDT, FSD/FS Arizona/Versus/CBC/WXYT). Modano spoke to ESPN Dallas’s Richard Durrett about his decision to retire after the Red Wings’ playoff run ends. I don’t want to sound overly harsh hear, but while Modano’s heart is in the right place, it sounds like he’s never really been able to find his “legs” after starting the season two steps behind the Wings in terms of physical conditioning:
“I’m excited about the playoffs,” Modano said. “I think it’s going to be my last one. I’m definitely trying to get as prepared and as excited as I can possibly be knowing it’s my last real run at something. It’s my last chance.”
The Wings start their playoff run Wednesday at home against the Phoenix Coyotes, but Modano, who turns 41 in June, won’t be on the ice. Reports said Wednesday that he’s a healthy scratch. The forward’s play has been inconsistent since he returned in February from a wrist injury that kept him out for half the season. That’s one reason he’s decided it’s time to step away from the game.
Updated 10x at 2:59 with Pang speculation, Modano and Franzen talk and WXYT video: Surprising news as the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Phoenix Coyotes tonight (7 PM, FSD/FS Arizona/versus/CBC/WXYT): the Free Press’s Helene St. James reports that Wings coach Mike Babcock has chosen to sit Mike Modano as a healthy scratch:
Modano, of Westland, was brought in by the Wings last summer specifically to make them more competitive in the playoffs, but his season was hampered severely by a devastating wrist injury. Since returning in late February, Modano’s play has been up and down, and now he’ll be on the sidelines until needed.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I just need to continue to do what I’m doing and you wait for the call, and then hopefully you take advantage of it.”
The Detroit Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes face off for Game 1 of their first-round playoff series tonight (7 PM EDT, FSD/FS Arizona/Versus/CBC/WXYT) in what I can only politely describe as a downright “weird” set of diametrically opposed positions.
As soon as the Red Wings started taking their equipment off after Sunday’s regular season finale against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Wings began to repeatedly state that they respect the heck out of the Coyotes, that they simply won’t take a team that the Wings’ players would argue doesn’t get enough respect lightly in any way, shape, or form, and the Wings have insisted that they’re well aware of the fact that the Coyotes are out for revenge, all while quietly suggesting that the mistakes made and glaring weaknesses exposed in their seven-game series against Phoenix a year ago were exploited by the Sharks in the second round, and that the Wings simply cannot expect to play the same way against Phoenix that they did last year if they plan on earning a hard-fought series win.
Edit/update: All the Coyotes’ reports and multimedia from today are available in the practice update thread, as is an interview with a bit of a jerk named Tyson Nash: Red Wings forward Mike Modano initially stated that he planned on retiring if the Red Wings made the Stanley Cup finals, win or lose, but the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff believes that Modano’s comments on Tuesday afternoon indicate that he’s going to retire regardless of how far the Wings’ playoff run goes:
“This is my one last chance at it, so I’m kind of excited about the opportunity,” Modano said of the upcoming playoffs. “I just hope to make the most of it when I’m called upon.”
Asked if he was definitely talking retirement, Modano nodded.
“I think it is time,” he said. “That’s kind of the way I look at it. The last little while, I’ve thought long and hard about it. I’m just going to try to put everything I have into this, and then that’s going to be it for me.”
Duff also spoke to Niklas Kronwall, who he notes will probably return on Wednesday, and he reveals that, in a perfect world, Henrik Zetterberg would miss at least another week, if not two, with what is probably a sprained MCL:
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the NHL’s Hockey Operations department had a little chat with every team to clarify the league’s points of emphasis in terms of rule enforcement:
The NHL’s hockey operations department issued many of the same reminders in its pre-playoff conference call on Monday with NHL coaches and general managers. The league once again stressed teams stay away from each other in the pre-game warmup, and warned all late-game message-sending will be disciplined.
Although there wasn’t a specific discussion on elbow-related incidents or elbowing penalties during the conference call, the trend of seven consecutive sanctions for elbows to the head in the regular season is a hot-button topic for some team executives. Are all elbows to the head suspendable in the playoffs? Should there be more tolerance or leniency in the playoffs, and if so, will this encourage players to embellish after getting hit?
In the final game of the regular season for Chicago and Detroit, Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader leveled Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook with an elbow to the face in the third period. No penalty was called on the play, even though, because of the NHL’s hard-line on headshots, some suggested the possibility of suspension or at least a fine should have been applied. It wasn’t.
After thirteen practice updates, I’m allowed to post a new Red Wings off-day thread, and we’ll kick it off by focusing on NHL.com’s Brian Hedger’s column. Hedger spoke to Niklas Kronwall (good to go?) and Chris Osgood (a ways away) about their recoveries from injuries, Jimmy Howard about the fact that he’s finally feeling comfortable in his own skin (there are a couple of stories about Howard in the practice update), and, mostly, Hedger took due note of the fact that the Red Wings hope to make Joe Louis Arena an imposing destination for their opponents after what can best be described as a frustrating second half of the regular season:
“You want to have your home rink be a place where opponents don’t really want to come,” center Valtteri Filppula said after Tuesday’s practice. “That’s been the case for a long time (here), and the last little bit we haven’t played as well at home as we’ve wanted. That’s definitely something we hope to get changed now that we’re in the playoffs.”
Overall this season, Detroit went 21-14-6 at home—which isn’t exactly bad, but isn’t the kind of home-ice domination fans here want to see. They also went 8-10-2 over the last 20 games at Joe Louis Arena. The struggles weren’t just caused by just one thing, either. The Red Wings have suffered from poor starts and lethargic play at times, as well as carelessness with the puck in their own zone. In a couple of games, it led to some disappointing and embarrassing results—including a 10-3 rout at the hands of the St. Louis Blues on March 30 and a 4-2 loss to the rival Chicago Blackhawks on April 8 in which the Wings were down 3-0 after the first period and 4-0 in the second. More of the same mistakes on Wednesday night against the Coyotes could be even more costly.
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.