Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

The overnight report: Red Wings-Lightning set-up and more Babblespeak

The Detroit Red Wings begin a stretch of 4 incredibly important games in 6 nights against the Tampa Bay Lightning this afternoon (2 PM on FSD/Sun Sports/97.1 FM), and while this game isn't necessarily as possibly playoff-trajectory-changing as Tuesday's 4-pointer against the Senators or Thursday's 4-pointer against the Bruins (both teams remain 5 points behind Detroit)--and unless the Lightning lose their last 7 games, and the Wings win their last 9 (see also: Wings have 2 games in hand on Tampa), Detroit's not likely to close the 9-point gulf separating its 90 points and Tampa Bay's 99...

But it would be nice if the Wings, who are now in a fight to earn the visitor's spot in an opening-round battle against either the Lightning or Canadiens (who have 100 points), haven't defeated the Lightning this season (last Friday's 3-1 loss was the Wings' 3rd loss of the season to Tampa and the Wings' 7th loss in their last 8 games vs. Tampa Bay), so it would be nice if the Wings skate into the playoffs having proven that they can defeat the Lightning at least once over what amount to three seasons' worth of losses-and-a-win-in-November-2011.

The Lightning are obviously in a different place than Detroit; they've won 4 of their past 5 games and 8 of 12 March outings (see also: Detroit, 3-7-1), and their 3-2 loss to Nashville on Thursday produced headlines like Bolts falls to Nashville, can’t seal playoff spot instead of, "Our goalie can't stop more shots than the other goalie this March...again..."

The Lightning spent Friday attempting to tweak their middling power play, as the Tampa Tribune's Erik Erlendsson noted...

It has been a mystery why the highest-scoring team in the league at 3.23 goals per game can have a power play that ranks below the middle of the pack, tied for 18th heading into today’s game at Joe Louis Arena. After the Lightning went 0-for-5 in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Nashville, when Tampa Bay had a power play with five minutes to go and never tested the Predators’ penalty kill, some frustration bubbled to the surface.

“Everybody in this room wants to correct it,’’ right wing Ryan Callahan said.

He said Thursday’s game “was a prime example of where it might have cost us some points. If we get one on the power play, you don’t know what is going to happen. Come playoff time, that’s going to be important and we have seven games to get it corrected and get the confidence going.’’

Ironically, the importance of a strong power play during the playoffs is often de-emphasized because officials more frequently overlook penalties during the postseason than during the regular season. And Tampa Bay is the top scoring team at even strength with 180 goals at either 5-on-5 or 4-on-4 play, which is 12 more than the next closest team, the New York Rangers.

Some recent Stanley Cup-winning teams have had less-than-stellar power plays in the postseason — Chicago won in 2013 with an 11.5 percent success rate, Los Angeles won in 2012 at 12.8 percent and Boston won in 2011 at 11.4 percent.

Yeah, that's the kind of tone the Lightning's press is taking these days. "Will this matter in May and June?" And...

In games in which the Lightning score a power-play goal, they are 30-3-1. In games that Tampa Bay fails to produce a power-play goal — that includes two games in which the Lightning did not have a man-advantage opportunity — the record is 16-19-3.

So the Lightning decided to add some muscle to their PP unit in the form of defenseman Bryan Boyle, as the Tampa Bay Times' Joe Smith reported:

There was 6-foot-7, 244-pound center Brian Boyle on the first unit, stationed in front of the net.

"The goalie can't stop what he can't see," wing Brenden Morrow said. "That's no secret."

The Lightning believes it'll offer a different look as it starts a five-game road trip today against the Red Wings. Assistant coach Steve Thomas said the power play, which entered Friday ranked 19th in the league (18.1 percent), is being "too cute," trying too many low-percentage seam passes. So the focus for the first unit — also with Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, Valtteri Filppula and Anton Stralman — will be quick shots, and they don't have to be the "bomb one-timer," Thomas said.

"When you have a big body in front, a shot from anywhere isn't a bad shot because you know (Boyle is) going to be there," Killorn said. "So I think it's going to help a lot."

The Bruins have used 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara in a similar role. "Big guys like that can take away your eyes," said 6-foot-7 goalie Ben Bishop.

...

Thomas said nothing is "written in stone," but the Lightning will give Boyle a try, with the second unit — Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Ryan Callahan and Victor Hedman — offering a different look with a more "playmaking" style. Boyle, who averages around two minutes a game on the penalty kill, wouldn't mind getting more involved on the power play.

"It's a chance to create offense," he said. "Scoring goals is the most fun thing to do in hockey."

Stopping them is the second most fun thing to do in hockey...I think...I can't remember...

According to Smith, Brenden Morrow may or may not play (with Slava Kozlov's nephew Vladislav Namestnikov possibly taking his place), but the Lightning got Cedric Paquette back from an "upper-body injury" on Thursday, and, according to NHL.com's Corey Long, here's the lineup they dressed on Thursday:

LIGHTNING

Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Jonathan Drouin

Nikita Kucherov - Tyler Johnson - Ondrej Palat

Cedric Paquette - Valtteri Filppula - Ryan Callahan

Vladislav Namestnikov - Brian Boyle - J.T. Brown

Victor Hedman - Andrej Sustr

Anton Stralman - Mark Barberio

Jason Garrison - Matthew Carle

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Nikita Nesterov, Brenden Morrow

Injured: Braydon Coburn (lower body)

Lightning broadcaster Dave Mishkin's "goals for the [Lightning's] 5-game road trip" do a fine job of summarizing how very different the Lightning's lot in NHL life is from Detroit's right now...

Clinch A Playoff Berth

Ok, this one may seem like a slam-dunk. The Bolts need only two points to secure a ticket to the postseason. Those points can come either from a Lightning win or a Boston regulation loss. But the Lightning haven’t clinched yet – and they’d like to nail that down as soon as they can.

Continue To Play “The Right Way”

This is a season-long aspiration. But since the All-Star Break ended, Lightning players and coaches have talked about honing their game as the postseason nears and “playing the right way”. The Lightning want to be hitting their stride when the playoffs begin and be “machine-like” in their game execution. For the most part, the Lightning have done it. Ryan Callahan commented during the recent six-game homestand that the Bolts “are playing their best hockey of the year right now”. In March, the Lightning are 8-3-1 and have only had, by my count, two bad games (March 1 at Florida and March 14 versus Winnipeg). In the other 10 contests, they’ve been able to execute their game-plan and carry play for much of the night. That includes Thursday’s loss to Nashville, a game in which they dominated puck possession despite the 3-2 defeat. It’s hard to play a perfect game – and the Lightning have seen their opponent surge at different points in these games – but for the most part, the Lightning are “playing the right way”. The Bolts are managing the puck well and, as a result, possessing the puck. They’re playing good team defense. They are getting excellent goaltending. And, as has been the case all season, they’re receiving balanced scoring throughout the lineup.

They’ll look to continue playing that way on the road trip. Executing well on the road will be a key to postseason success.

And Fox Sports Florida's Andrew Astleford's summary of the Lightning's 6-game home stand, in which they went 4-and-2, summarizes the near-arrogance in the water:

The whole playoff-clinching thing will come soon. In fact, thanks to the Anaheim Ducks surging late to beat Boston in overtime Thursday, Tampa Bay could have punched its ticket to Lord Stanley's dance with a victory over Nashville. But the Predators handed the Lightning their eighth home loss this season after Pekka Rinne made 28 saves, some of the human pretzel variety.

Truthfully, the Lightning played better in defeat Thursday than they did in snatching victory against the Panthers on Tuesday. Sometimes, those are the breaks.

Still, this homestand, with contender after contender on the slate, could have served as a giant pothole in Tampa Bay's drive toward the postseason. Instead, the Lightning cruised when it counted most.

This homestand, which became a giant X-ray to reveal what's inside a young-and-evolving team, could have served as a stiff blow to the gut. Instead, the Lightning survived by delivering swings of their own, and so many things -- clinching a playoff berth for the second consecutive season, possibly claiming the Atlantic Division title, a real chance to win the Presidents' Trophy -- stand before them glistening in the distance.

"We want to win every game," a frustrated Stamkos said late Thursday. "And we gave ourselves a chance. I mean, let's not kid ourselves. We played a good team tonight, and I thought we were the better team. That goalie made some big saves."

A 4-2 homestand included a bit of everything: Passion and emotion, a few letdown moments and some losses. But after the dust settled, what came between the bookends mattered most.

As for Thursday's tilt, the Tampa Bay Times' Joe Smith discussed the Lightning's 3-2 loss pretty succinctly, and he explains why the power play is such a sore sport...

The Lightning had the puck for what coach Jon Cooper estimated was three-quarters of the game. It killed off five power plays, including a double minor.

But goalie Ben Bishop was pulled in the second period after allowing three goals on 11 shots; Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who made 28 saves, said the first two of Nashville's goals were "fortunate." As a result, the Lightning (46-22-7) missed a chance to clinch a playoff berth — Boston held up its part by losing; the Lightning needed to win — and ended the homestand 4-2-0.

"If that's the way the team is going to beat you, getting lucky bounces like that, we'll take it," Bishop said. "We could have won the game 2-0 if we had some puck luck."

Or a better power play. The Lightning went 0-for-5, including being held without a shot on one with four minutes to play.

"I'm (ticked) off about our effort on the power play," Stamkos said. "It's pretty frustrating. We have a chance to get back in the game and we put that kind of effort, don't win any battles on the wall. It was embarrassing.

"Heading into the playoffs, special teams is such a big thing. We've got to figure it out because nobody else is going to feel sorry for us. We have to dig a little deeper."

The Lightning had to dig itself out of an early 2-0 hole, thanks to the Predators scoring twice in 40 seconds in the first period. Bishop said that on the first goal, the puck was heading "6, 7 feet wide" when it deflected off the leg of Nashville forward Mike Ribeiro in the left circle and beat him five-hole. The second came when Paul Gaustad batted in a rebound in midair off a rush. Nashville's third goal, which gave the Predators a 3-1 lead seven minutes into the second, was a seemingly innocent wraparound shot from Mike Santorelli that snuck inside the post.

And in lieu of going through more quotes--save pointing out the AP's recap--here are the highlights from Thursday's tilt:

 

Shifting from the Lightning's perspectives to those of the Red Wings and coach = happening now, via NHL.com's balanced game preview...

Season series: The Tampa Bay Lightning are trying to complete a four-game season sweep of the Red Wings. Ryan Callahan had the only goal of the shootout the last time they met at Joe Louis Arena. Steven Stamkos has four goals to lead all scorers. Ben Bishop has a 1.62 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in three starts.

Lightning team scope: Forward Brenden Morrow, who didn't play in a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday because of an upper-body injury, practiced Friday in a regular jersey. Morrow said he was feeling better and might be able to play, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The Lightning worked on their power play, using forward Brian Boyle in front of the net on the first unit with Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula, Alex Killorn, and Anton Stralman. Boyle scored his 15th goal of the season against the Predators. Despite leading the NHL in offense at 3.23 goals per game, the Lightning had the 19th-ranked power play entering games Friday at 18.1 percent. The Lightning are on the verge of clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season.

Red Wings team scope: This is the finale of a four-game road trip for Detroit, which has given up 11 goals in losing consecutive games to the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks, teams outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Forward Riley Sheahan, who is seventh on the Red Wings in scoring with 34 points, is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, the team announced Friday via Twitter. Goalie Petr Mrazek, who relieved Jimmy Howard after the first period of the 6-4 loss Thursday to the Sharks, will start according to MLive.com. Forward Pavel Datsyuk skated with Tomas Tatar and Darren Helm during line rushes Friday, but coach Mike Babcock wasn't sure if he would play. Datsyuk has missed the past five games with a lower-body injury.

And video preview...

As well as the AP's stat-based preview:

After falling short in the finale of a season-high homestand, the Tampa Bay Lightning will try to nail down a playoff berth during one of their longest road trips in 2014-15 and set a franchise record for victories. The Lightning will also attempt to clinch back-to-back 100-point campaigns for the first time while registering their first season sweep of the slumping Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

Tampa Bay (46-22-7) failed to wrap up a spot in the postseason Thursday when it lost 3-2 to Nashville to conclude a six-game homestand. The Lightning, winners of their previous four, outshot the Predators 30-19 but went 0 for 5 on the power play.

''We played pretty well (at home). Now we've got a big challenge,'' coach Jon Cooper said. ''We've got to face teams that are in the hunt and battling. We have to find a way to win on the road.''

Tampa Bay will play five consecutive road games in eight days and can secure a playoff berth in one of three ways in the first of those contests. The Lightning need a victory, one point and a Boston loss of any kind or just a Bruins regulation defeat.

Boston hosts the New York Rangers on Saturday in a game that begins one hour before the Lightning visit Detroit (39-22-12). The Red Wings are also rooting for a Boston defeat after seeing their playoff lead slightly diminish Thursday. The owners of the league's longest active playoff streak at 23 seasons, Detroit is five points ahead of the Bruins following a 6-4 defeat to San Jose and has a game in hand on Boston, which picked up a point with a 3-2 overtime loss to Anaheim.

Jimmy Howard was pulled after the first period in the Red Wings' eighth defeat in 11 games. Howard, who has a 4.13 goals-against average in his last five appearances, will take a seat while Petr Mrazek starts Saturday.

"We're giving up too many goals," said coach Mike Babcock, whose team has allowed 11 in the past two games. "Pete Mrazek has got to get himself ready to go. We're giving him an opportunity because we have to have that area fixed. It's amazing when you get a little confidence (on defense), we can all get settled down and start playing better again. We're going to get regrouped and we'll be back and ready to go."

Do we have to cover EVERYthing that was raked over the coals and stoked and reignited on Friday? Two practice posts and a crapton of articles full of frustration...Do you want to go through all of that again?

Let's go with a truncated version. Here's the Wings' lineup from MLive's Ansar Khan, as listed without Riley Sheahan, who has an "upper-body injury"...

Justin Abdelkader-Henrik Zetterberg-Gustav Nyquist

Darren Helm-Pavel Datsyuk-Tomas Tatar

Stephen Weiss-Joakim Andersson-Teemu Pulkkinen

Drew Miller-Luke Glendening-Tomas Jurco

Daniel Cleary rotated in.

On defense:

Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson

Danny DeKeyser-Kyle Quincey

Brendan Smith-Marek Zidlicky

Jakub Kindl rotating in.

Petr Mrazek (starting Saturday)

Jimmy Howard

Jonas Gustavsson

And here's the news regarding Sheahan and Datsyuk, from the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:

Sheahan suffered an upper-body injury during Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

“Obviously he brings a lot, but someone else gets an opportunity,” Babcock said of Sheahan. “I made a policy over the last few years, there’s no sense in talking about the guys who aren’t here. We’ll talk about the guys who are.”

Sheahan had played every game this season, totaling 12 goals, 22 assists and a minus-2 rating.

Pavel Datsyuk took part on line drills at practice, centering a line with Darren Helm and Tomas Tatar on wing. Babcock wasn’t sure if Datsyuk will play Saturday when the Wings host Tampa Bay. He’s missed the last five games with a lower-body injury.

Erik Cole also didn’t practice. He missed Tuesday’s game with an upper-body injury.

Jimmy Howard has a different sort of "upper-body injury"--and he told the press as much, per the Free Press's George Sipple...

And MLive's Ansar Khan

Howard explained his puck-tracking problems to CBS Detroit's Ashley Dunkak:

“After going over the video tape and talking with goalie coach Jim Bedard, it’s just following the puck with my eyes,” Howard said. “I think it’s just that simple. I think with a goalie, if you’re not following a puck to the best of your abilities and you’re behind that split-second, it can mean the difference.

“It’s key, especially with, you get big bodies in front, you’ve got to focus on that puck,” Howard added later. “You can’t lose sight of it. Pucks are going to go in in the NHL, we all know that. It’s just about brushing it off and trying to make that next save for the guys.”

Howard characterized his recent rough stretch as a minor hiccup, and he noted it is better to have it happen now than in the playoffs.

“No different than anyone else in the NHL – every person goes through this through the course of a season,” Howard said. “It’s just a little blessing in disguise that it’s happening right now and not two to three weeks from now.”

So he's sitting, and Petr Mrazek's starting today and probably tomorrow against the Isles, though he made sure to tell MLive's Ansar Khan that he believes the pecking order remains the same:

"I know Howie is still No. 1, I'm sure," Mrazek said. "He's proven himself for so many years. This year he's been great. Sometimes it's hard for goalies when nothing hits you and everything goes in. You come back. It's nice to see how he handles the pressure. I can learn from him a lot."

Howard didn't look comfortable during his 20 minutes on Thursday but he doesn't think watching a game or two will help.

"I want to be out there every single night, just like everyone else when you get to this level," Howard said. "One of the things that drives you is competing, it never sits well when I'm sitting on the bench. Coach feels I don't deserve it. When you're not playing well you're going to be benched. You can sit there and have the 'poor me' about it or you can get out there and get back to work and help your team."

Teammates said they can help the goalies by taking care of the puck.

"Fix that and we don't get as much pressure on (the goalie)," defenseman Kyle Quincey said.

Said Niklas Kronwall: "You win as a team and you lose as a team. We didn't do a very good job of helping out (Thursday), and neither did we against Arizona (Tuesday)."

The coach was equally blunt about both his expectations for the team and his expectations as to who might steal or not steal the starter's spot, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted:

“We all got to be better,” he said. “We talked about the fact that we got to be way better in net. We got to be better on the back. We got to be better up front. But the puck’s in our net all the time. We’ve scored eight goals in the last two games and we’ve chased both games from start to finish. Our urgency and our focus in all positions … it’s easy in life to blame everyone else. When you’re the coach you have to look at yourself. When you’re a goalie you have to look at yourself, and when you’re a D-man you have to look at yourself, or a forward. The bottom line is you got to trust one another. You all got to do your part. We got to do our part better.”

Babcock plans to start Petr Mrazek Saturday afternoon when the Wings host the Tampa Bay Lightning at Joe Louis Arena. Mrazek, who replaced Howard after the first period of Thursday’s loss, has given the Wings a lift at times during his recall stints from AHL Grand Rapids this season.

But Babcock isn’t ready to hand the keys over to the 23-year-old rookie.

“I like winning. That’s it. It’s real simple,” Babcock said. “Everybody in the National Hockey League knows that the best guys get to play and if you’re playing the best you get to play. Our players start each game knowing that. It’s no different. Anytime you’re struggling as a player it’s your job to work extra hard. When you get your opportunity it’s to seize your opportunity. So it’s no different for Pete Mrazek. He gets an opportunity. He’s got to seize it. We just watch and they decide who plays, not us. Everyone thinks the coach decides. All the coach does is observe, (it’s) no different than you do. He just does it from a different perspective. And then the guys who play the best get to play.”

Babcock did not say who the goaltender will be Sunday when the Wings face off against the New York Islanders for the last time at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders are moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season.

In his last two starts at Pittsburgh and Florida, Mrazek posted a 1-1-0 mark with a 2.01 goals-against average and .947 save percentage. Never short on confidence, Mrazek is anxious for a second chance against the Lightning.

“It’s a big challenge,” said Mrazek, who surrendered five goals tot he Lightning and was pulled after 40 minutes from his Jan. 29 start at Tampa Bay. “We’ve lost two games in a row at home so going into the third game, being starting goalie is nice, but it’s one game tomorrow and we have to go game by game and see what happens.”

Babcock and Quincey were equally blunt to Fox Sports Detroit's Keith Gave...

When the goaltenders catch a cold, the rest of the team catches pneumonia, suddenly threatening a promising season. The Wings were going so well, in fact, that even Babcock was entertaining thoughts of successful postseason run.

"I said it before, this is our best chance, in my opinion, since '09," [Babcock] said. "That hasn't changed since I said it two weeks ago -- but we have. We haven't done anything. Life's simple for me: When the opportunity is good, the preparation has to be good. And yesterday, when they score, what, 19 seconds into the game? You're not ready to play hockey. That's ridiculous."

His players couldn't agree more.

"We can see what's going on," defenseman Kyle Quincey said. "Playoffs or no playoffs, if we keep doing this, it doesn't matter."

And the Wings actually spoke about playing against the Lightning in conversations with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:

“They’re a real fast team and for whatever reason, we haven’t found our stride against them,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “A new challenge.”

It’s a challenge that’s likely not going to be easy. The Lightning is on a 7-2-1 run, but coming off a 3-2 loss Thursday to the Predators. While the Red Wings are simply fighting to keep their place in the playoffs, the Lightning is aiming to pass the Canadians and win the division.

“Good forwards, good defense, a real good goaltender (Ben Bishop), it’s hard to score goals against them,” Red Wings forward Darren Helm said. “It’s a good opportunity for us. A potential first-round matchup, we want to make sure and compete and play hard and get back on track. These next two games (today and Sunday on the road against the Islanders) are a stepping—stone for us to get into playoff mode. This is a good opportunity for us.”

I'll happily re-post Pleiness and Khan's clips of Petr Mrazek speaking with the media...

 

But Niklas Kronwall's comments to Pleiness were more interesting...

And as I don't have a horse in this race--I really like Jimmy Howard, but I think he's been playing awful hockey, and I really like Petr Mrazek as I got to know him when he was a prospect, but I think that he's struggled at times, too, so I'm as interested about watching and finding out who wins whose jobs as you are--I figure the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa's better-qualified to capture the "Spirit of the Thing" as it relates to the goaltending controversy, or the lack thereof...

As they discarded practice gear, Howard and Mrazek shared some private conversation. Any sense there is any tension between the men seemed remote, and likely to fall to the strong Red Wings tradition of established goaltenders helping the younger ones. What Mike Vernon did for Chris Osgood, Osgood did for Howard. And, now, it is Howard, 31, and Mrazek, 23.

"You know, it's a big challenge," Mrazek said. "We lost two games in a row at home, so going to the third game and starting as goalie is nice. But it's just one game, and we've got to go game by game and see what happens."

And this is plain old elegantly-put:

The Red Wings could use a good goaltender controversy just about now. At least they would be getting better goaltending.

As it is, if either Howard or Mrazek would assert himself, while Jonas Gustavsson continues to recover from his latest injury, it would help stabilize a stumbling team.

It is less about a controversy than the desire to get their season back on track.

And the goaltenders are far from the only problem.

"We keep talking about the same things, over and over," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "A lot of the goals, it feels like they started with the puck on our stick. We turn it over. And they got some chances way too easy I think if we had a simple answer to it, we would have stopped doing it a long time ago. We've just got to make sure that we're ready. When the puck's dropped, we have to be better than we have been. That's on me. That's on the rest of us, in here."

Krupa continues, but you get the picture. I sure as hell hope the Wings do.

 

 

Also of Red Wings-related note...Might Mike Babcock be available? Maybe, suggests The Sports Network...

MIKE BABCOCK - DETROIT RED WINGS

If Babcock leaves Detroit, it won't be due to a lack of success. Considered by many to be the best hockey coach in the world, he is the first man to join the Triple Gold Club from behind the bench, winning a Stanley Cup title (2008 - Detroit), an Olympic gold medal (2010, 2014 - Team Canada) and a IIHF World Championship (2004 - Canada).

But rumors of Babcock's departure from Detroit began before the season and are due to his contract status. He entered 2014-15 -- his 10th campaign with the Red Wings -- with just one year left on his contract and Babcock has said little about his intentions beyond this season. In fact, one of the few times Babcock broke his silence on the subject this season was back in December when he shot down reports that a contract extension with the Red Wings was imminent. Babcock called those reports "fantasy" and said he was not actively working on negotiations with general manager Ken Holland.

If Babcock leaves Detroit, there will be a long line of suitors looking to get him under contract, but it's likely only a few clubs will be able to afford his services. Numerous reports have suggested the Toronto Maple Leafs would be among them, as would the Philadelphia Flyers, presuming Philly lets go of current coach Craig Berube.

And might Mike Babcock be the problem? SI's Sam Page sure suggests as much in an article called, "NHL Power Shift as Contenders Fade":

While the San Jose, Boston and, potentially, the Kings are the most notable teams at risk of missing the postseason, the league’s powerhouse teams are also facing decline. The Blackhawks are rapidly approaching the third circle of cap hell, the one where they will have to pay Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane with oversized game-show checks. The Red Wings too—with an aging core, a terminal inability to attract free agents and a coach without an extension—seem destined for hockey mortality.

That’s not to mention that Detroit and all the franchises made in its image have lost their natural advantage: tactics. Advanced statistics have turned the rest of the league on to the puck-possession, volume-shooting game the Wings exploited to their benefit for years. Maybe one day the pendulum will swing too far towards their brand of freewheeling hockey, and L.A.’s insistence on big forwards and the dump-and-chase will serve as a valid countertactic, but in the short term Detroit-style hockey is still winning hockey.

Better player evaluation has also led to a better dispersal of talent throughout the NHL. Teams cannot mine a single foreign market as thoroughly as the Red Wings did (and still do) in Sweden (though teams maintain a legacy of credibility in countries that they have historically scouted more successfully than others). Similarly, consecutive top draft choices do not lead to the automatic rejuvenation of a franchise, e.g., the Oilers, nor does the presence of a single generational talent guarantee sustained dominance, e.g., the Penguins and the Capitals. The promulgation of good complementary players, combined with the salary cap, has made it harder to stack a roster and keep it stacked.

Bullshit, but Page is telling a story. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a better set of personnel right now, but the Wings' "fading stars" are still pretty damn good, and I'm not sure if Page has watched the Grand Rapids Griffins over the past three or four seasons, constantly and consistently churning out Tatars, Nyquists, Mrazeks, Marchenkos, etc.

The Wings will be fine as they transition from the 00's core to the 10's core, and Babcock's most likely not going anywhere, though I'm sure he and his bank account are adoring every monetarily useful moment of controversy and confusion about his future.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Add a Comment

Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.

Add your own avatar by joining Kukla's Korner, or logging in and uploading one in your member control panel.

Captchas bug you? Join KK or log in and you won't have to bother.

Feed

Most Recent Blog Posts

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.