The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/14/12 at 06:01 AM ET
As it turns out, regardless of one is a hockey player or a hockey blogger, playing at less than 100% of one’s capabilities…I don’t usually use this word, but it sucks, frankly. So in lieu of a recap, here’s what I can give ya: a sampling of Red Wings-related stuff subsequent to the Wings’ 3-2 victory over the Predators and Todd Bertuzzi’s dust-up with Shea Weber:
• When GM’s suggest that the salary cap has yielded parity, I find it strange that they ignore the fact that digital video scouting has become a near-instantaneous method for coaches and players to adjust on the fly, and ESPN’s Craig Custance provides an absolutely fantastic example thereof while discussing the Red Wings’ penalty-killing in game 2:
During the first intermission of Detroit’s 3-2 win over Nashville, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock gathered his penalty killers in the small office across the hall from their dressing room. Eleven players crammed into the room to watch video clips from the Nashville Predators’ power play that had just happened. One that looked different from Game 1.
The Predators entered the series with the NHL’s No. 1 ranked power play during the regular season but entered this game still looking for their first power-play goal of the series. There were no shortage of opportunities in the first period of Game 2. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard noticed the Predators trying to find teammates with passes across the seam, and the Red Wings dodged a goal or two when the Predators couldn’t connect on one-timers. Not burying those early opportunities would cost them.
As it was all happening, Red Wings assistant coach Keith McKittrick was in the coach’s office gathering video. He was noting the Predators’ adjustments and putting together a game plan to present Babcock and the penalty-kill unit during intermission.
“You saw tonight, their power play changed,” said Drew Miller, who joined Pavel Datsyuk as the first forwards over the boards on the Red Wings’ PK. “We adjusted to their changes on the fly. We’re ready for those kind of adjustments. That’s something you prepare for any team. When you’re playing this many times in a row, you’ve got to know the things they can do.”
When the Red Wings were faced with a second period in which they had four penalties and had to kill 30 seconds of a five-on-three, they were ready. A smart timeout from Babcock immediately before Nashville’s two-man advantage made sure of it. Their aggressive pressure on Shea Weber and Ryan Suter helped neutralize those shots from the point that were so successful for Nashville during the regular season. They stepped into shooting lanes and finished the game with 16 blocked shots to Nashville’s 10. Brad Stuart blocked four of them, two of which came from Weber, one of the game’s hardest shooters.
Custance’s story continues, and instead of going into a lengthy aside about the fact that Roger Neilson would be floored by the sophistication of computer programs which break down games almost automatically into immediately “teachable moments” which essentially negate any element of surprise or any tweaks that cannot be instantaneously assessed and broken down to the most minute detail…
We’ll continue the narrative by noting that the Wings’ twelve penalty-kills have not involved Nicklas Lidstrom for a very specific reason, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted:
The Wings have held top defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom off their penalty kill even during five-on-threes, because they don’t want to risk aggravating the deep bone bruise on his right ankle that cost him much of March.
“That ankle that he hurt is on the right-hand side of his right foot, and the way you play as a left D-man is you turn your feet sideways,” coach Mike Babcock said, indicating that Lidstrom was vulnerable to getting hit by a shot. “The first game he came back, as soon as we saw what he did, we knew that, so we talked to him about it and he made it very clear, he can’t be in the lane. He just can’t be.”
Via We All Bleed Red on YouTube, this is what Lidstrom’s wearing on his skate to protect his right ankle:
• If you’re keeping score at home, the Red Wings’ pundits and broadcasters have let us know that Nicklas Lidstrom, who leads active players in playoff scoring with 183 points, will soon pass Bryan Trottier and hit 9th place on the all-time list, and he’s only two points behind Steve Yzerman’s Red Wings record!
• At the other end of the active Wings and Predators scoring spectrum, per the Tennessean’s Joshua Cooper:
• The Nashville first line consisting of Martin Erat, Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn is minus-6 and has 0 points combined through the first two playoff games. They have been matched up against Pavel Datsyuk’s line — which has been held almost equally quiet — on mostly defensive assignments. But for a top unit you want some more scoring. The trio wasn’t exactly dominant heading into the postseason. Kostitsyn had 0 points in his previous nine games before the playoffs. Fisher had two points in five games before the playoffs. Erat had one point in his previous six contests before the postseason. As a top line, the Predators probably were hoping for better from the three.
• Through two games, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have just two points total. Both are also a combined minus-2. Oddly, this has been a series for the third and fourth lines so far. Will Datsyuk and Zetterberg get it going? Being in Detroit the next two games should help. The Red Wings will have last change, meaning they can match up both lines against whomever they want. Expect the production of both Datsyuk and Zetterberg to step up when they get back to Joe Louis Arena.
• We’ll keep the Predators stuff to a bare minimum, so if you want to read the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek’s incredibly thorough article about Predators coach Barry Trotz and GM David Poile’s belief that this could be the Predators’ “year,” you can do so on your own.
The Montreal Gazette’s Stu Cowan also took note of something I’m not about to dispute—Nashville’s status as an honest-to-goodness hockey town—and I can’t say that I disagree. Predators fans love hockey just as much as anyone else. I’m just not a fan of their sophomorish, stolen-from-college-hockey chants (the, “Sieve, sieve, it’s all your fault” and, “So and so is a sissy” chants are supposed to wear off once you’re no longer in college and/or watching a game half drunk, not be taught to your kids), nor do I approve of Vince Gill’s evening wear choices, but hey, they’ve become a real opponent and a bitter one, and I’m a Red Wings fan, so I don’t have to like ‘em to respect ‘em;
• It’s entirely possible that Brad Stuart made the wisest post-game comment in speaking to Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating about the fact that Shea Weber’s fight with Todd Bertuzzi removed Weber from the ice as the Predators went to a power play thanks to Johan Franzen’s retaliation for the first of many Nashville attempts to target his head. Mike Fisher left Franzen with a bloody nose and shiner under his right eye, and the Predators rather unwisely continued to poke the Mule for the rest of the evening, but when Franzen whacked Fisher, he headed to the box at the same time that Bertuzzi and Weber did. Thus, as Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji noted...
“It was a great time to get him off the ice,” Stuart told Keating. “They have a power play and Weber’s in the box for five minutes so it actually worked out to our advantage. It’s over and done with. I thought Bert did a real good job of not sacrificing anything for the team just to take out a vendetta against him.”
• MLive’s Brendan Savage also posted a follow-up regarding Darren Helm and his team’s concern for their fallen teammate, who underwent surgery to repair severed tendons in his right arm after Game 1:
“You should have seen his arm, it was out to here, or whatever,” Cleary said, demonstrating the swelling in Helm’s arm. “It was right at the end of the elbow pad but he doesn’t wear a (long-sleeve) shirt. Since Modano had his, we all wear those Kevlar wrist guards so I think these shirt-makers should come out with something from the elbow down, same around the feet area. We’ve got guys that wear those since (Valterri Filppula) had his episode.”
[Valtteri] Filppula was cut on the leg by a skate in December. According to Cleary, Helm’s spirits are down since he missed the final 10 games of the regular season with a sprained left medial collateral ligament before being cleared to return to the lineup a few hours before Game 1.
“How would you be, you know?” Cleary said. “He’s pretty down but at least he’s – in a way – healthy. There’s no nerve damage so it’s a huge thing. His loss will be a huge loss.”
Coach Mike Babcock said that while rookie Gustav Nyquist will take Helm’s spot on the third line, he won’t fill the void created by Helm’s absence.
“We’re disappointed for him,” Babcock said. “He’s a heck of a kid. He loves hockey and it shows in the way he plays. Disappointing that he came off an injury. We spent a day talking about how important he is and the next day talking about ‘let’s move on.’ It’s going to be tough for him but he’s a competitor. He’s got to dig and train real hard and he’ll be better next year.”
• And finally, the Grand Rapids Griffins are very likely hoping that the Wings can survive their series with Nashville and advance to the second round, because their seasons will end on Sunday, and after that, some “Black Aces” will be heading to Detroit, not the AHL playoffs.
The Griffins dropped a 7-5 decision to the Chicago Wolves on Friday, and the up-and-down game (the Griffins rallied from a 3-1 deficit to take a 5-3 lead, but imploded in the third period, giving up 4 straight goals) marked their home finale and the start of an ugly weekend of now useless back-to-backs in Hamilton on Saturday and Sunday.
The Bulldogs are out of the playoff hunt as well, and they and the Griffins don’t get along very well, so it’ll be interesting to see who the Griffins dress (amateur try-out Chad Billins Wings prospects and Vancouver Giants forward Marek Tvrdon and Peterborough Petes center Alan Quine didn’t play on Friday, nor did Adam Almqvist, who I’ve been told is likely headed to the Griffins on a full-time basis next season [not so for Teemu Pulkkinen or Swedish Eliteserien finalist-Brynas IF forward Calle Jarnkrok, not yet, anyway, says RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest), and whether the Griffins and Bulldogs take out their frustrations upon each other in the form of fisticuffs.
The good news? Well, as the Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner notes, Francis Pare became the Griffins’ second all-time leading scorer, and you should have no doubts that his 51 points this season have tossed the undersized forward right back into the “Red Wings prospect” mix.
If you’re willing to sit through the Griffins’ YouTube channel’s slate of interviews with Pare, Brendan Smith (-3 on the night) and Griffins coach Curt Fraser, his “death stare” tells you all you need to know about his desire to finally build a playoff team alongside Wings assistant GM/Griffins GM Jim Nill this summer as Grand Rapids has missed the playoffs for three straight seasons.
I wish I could give you more, but I just didn’t have the energy reserves to flush out a full-fledged recap or overnight report. I’m sorry again for all of this mess—depressive episodes are a pain in the ass, and very regrettably for me, just because I’m pulling my brain out of a difficult place doesn’t mean that it’s ready to stop sending my body messages insisting that I’m fatigued as all hell get out. I’ll round into form as I am able, but in the interim, cherry-picking is the best I can do. I’m sorry.
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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.