The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/12/14 at 01:41 PM ET
Updated 3x at 3:33 PM: If the Detroit Red Wings plan on rebounding from yet another frustrating outcome (see: Friday's 3-2 loss to Carolina and three of their past four games) when they battle the St. Louis Blues on Sunday (12 PM EDT--11:30 AM CDT local start--NBC/97.1 FM), the Wings had better pick up their individual and team games in a hurry.
In theory, the Blues represent "easy pickings": their 3-0 loss to Dallas on Friday was their 5th straight defeat, and Patrik Berglund may or may not have joined the following players, listed by Fox Sports Midwest's Nate Lasch, on the "too banged-up to play" list:
The Blues' list of scratches Friday night was quite lengthy: forwards David Backes (lower body), T.J. Oshie (upper body), Vladimir Tarasenko (hand), Vladimir Sobotka (undisclosed injury), Brenden Morrow (foot) and Derek Roy (undisclosed injury), defensemen Jordan Leopold (ankle) and Ian Cole (healthy scratch) and goalie Niklas Lundstrom (healthy scratch).
As the Belleville News-Democrat's Norm Sanders noted, just as the Wings need Columbus to drop their game in Florida today and the Wings need to win tomorrow to earn the 1st Wild Card spot, the Blues require assistance in order to avoid battling the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round:
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford reported that the Blues were looking toward tomorrow's game within minutes of dropping yesterday's game:
The Blues stumbled again Friday in a 3-0 loss to Dallas, their fifth consecutive defeat, opening the door for Colorado to clinch the division title with a win over San Jose later that night. But after the Avalanche fell to the Sharks 5-1, the championship will come down to Sunday, when the Blues play Detroit and Colorado plays at Anaheim.
Colorado would finish atop the Central with a win; an Avalanche loss and at least one point earned by the Blues would give them the division.
“We’ve got to get ready for Detroit — it’s like 30 hours we play Detroit,” Blues forward Alexander Steen said. “We’ve got to get ready for them right away.”
The Blues could be without yet another forward when they attempt to end their five-game slide — their longest encompassing all regulation losses since 2008. Patrik Berglund left Friday's game after being injured with under seven minutes remaining and didn't return.
Since building that nine-point cushion on Colorado, the Blues have gone just 2-6, possibly coughing up a second division title in a three-year span. The Avalanche are 6-1-1, including a 4-0 win over the Blues on April 5, after Friday’s loss.
For the Red Wings, Friday's post-game media scrums involved suggestions that a post-playoff-clinching let-down was expected but not excusable, as Wings coach Mike Babcock told MLive's Brendan Savage...
"No question. Might even expect it," Babcock said. "That's not an excuse. We have a good enough team to win tonight. We just have to play right. At one point we had a 4-on-3, they had a 3-on-1, we had a 3-on-2. That's not how we play. That's river hockey. That's not how we're going to have success. I was disappointed in the fact that we didn't stick to what we have to do to have success, but it's a good reminder for us, too."
But the Wings didn't like the fact that they suffered from "cute-itis" so very regularly while trading chances with Carolina instead of sustaining posession and control of the puck in the offensive zone:
"We had a lot of chances," said Johan Franzen. "It was like the last pass didn't really work out every time. I think we had enough chances to score but it didn't happen tonight. [Cam Ward] had some nice saves. He's an explosive goalie. He's really quick going across and he'll push on you when you're coming in for a chance. He's a tough guy to score on. You usually need a second chance."
De-facto captain Niklas Kronwall was particularly annoyed after the game...
"You can't be satisfied," said defenseman Niklas Kronwall. "Sure, it felt great the other day, no doubt. It was kind of a weird feeling. We didn't win the game but we did accomplish something we were thriving for. At the same time we wanted to get to the next (playoff) spot, see how high we could get in the standings before starting the playoffs. Tonight wasn't a very good performance the first two periods. I thought we got playing better in the third but we got to play more than 20 minutes to win games."
And if you took in this morning's Wings-Canes wrap-up, Kronwall, Franzen and Babcock all suggested that the Wings need to reestablish a detail-oriented blueprint to succeed going forward:
"We're sticking to our game plan," Franzen said. "We follow details and make it hard for the other team. That's what we have to do to win in the playoffs as well. We have to play as tight as possible and don't give them any freebies.
"Make it really hard on them and go from there. We gotta be patient out there. We don't really have to create anything right away. It's better to wait for opportunities that are given. Hopefully we can get ourselves back together here and start playing the way we want to before the playoffs."
The Wings reiterated their points of emphasis to the Toledo Blade's Rachel Lenzi:
"We had our fair share of chances,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said following Detroit’s final regular-season game at Joe Louis Arena. “We just couldn’t bear down when we got them.”
Gustav Nyquist’s point-blank shot 13 minutes into the game veered wide of the Hurricanes’ goal, and he missed again early in the third on a 2-on-1 opportunity against Carolina goalie Cam Ward.
Justin Abdelkader’s shot from the right circle off a rebound midway through the second went wide, and then Ward (28 saves) stoned Abdelkader with less than 10 minutes left.
Darren Helm couldn’t tie the game, either, with 8 minutes, 20 seconds left when he scooted past fallen Carolina defenseman John-Michael Liles and his shot bounced off Ward’s blocking glove.
“In the end, their goaltender was really good, and we didn’t make it hard enough on him,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t have enough net presence or second chances and then just intensity. We had wide-open nets to shoot in. If you’re focused and you’re dialed in, you shoot it in the net.”
“I don’t think we played very good through the first two periods,” Kronwall said. “Way too much up-and-down, up-and-down. You’re not going to win a lot of games playing like. That’s not the way we want to be playing, and that’s not why we made the playoffs.”
“I was disappointed in the fact that we didn’t stick to what we had to do to have success,” Babcock said. “But it’s a good reminder for us, too. I think tonight might have been a really good thing for us. You can’t cheat the system. It doesn’t work like that.”
If you wish to re-watch last night's post-game comments, the Wings Tweeted a refresher:
The Red Wings eventually took to the ice a little late this morning, and they did so for a reason, as the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa reported:
#RedWings practicing in one of the grosse pointes today because of cher in concert at joe louis arena. Loved MOONSTRUCK. Music, not so much.
In which George makes a scrunchy face:
No #RedWings in action tonight, but Hockey Night in Canada on the CBC should be fascinating, on Brendan Shanahan and #MapleLeafs.
HNIC's final regular-season broadcast involves two "early" games in Toronto vs. Ottawa (ha ha no playoffs for you) and the Rangers vs. Montreal, and the back-half of their doubleheader involves Vancouver vs. Edmonton (ha ha, no play...Wait, Franceco Aquilini might sue me).
No clue as to whether the plastic panels used to cover the ice at Joe Louis Arena are made of the same kinds of stuff lining Cher's nose and cheeks:
Speaking of stage dramatics, there but for the grace of Ryan Malone go the Red Wings, eh?
Aside from Darren Helm and Tomas Tatar being noisy neighbors, I rarely hear bad things about the Wings' players or prospects, neither through official nor unofficial channels, and I would like to think that the Sheahan incident work up both #15 (the topic is now off-limits in terms of media discussion) and the organization to the fact that their next generation of players were going to need consistent reminders that there's nothing wrong with having fun, but there's also a fine line between enjoying one's youth and being irresponsible.
Roll Call! The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness reported for duty...
Players are just beginning to arrive for the Wings' noon practice at Liggett. Cher in concert at JLA, which is reason for the move.
Goalies on the ice. Howard and Mrazek. No sign of Gustavsson, who injured his left shoulder in Wednesday's game at Pittsburgh.
OH GOD NO!
Daniel Cleary appears as if he's going to take part in a full practice.
Two guys missing from practice. David Legwand and Daniel Alfredsson.
Bertuzzi on line with Miller and Glendening. Andersson with Helm and Jurco.
MLive's Ansar Khan reported for duty, too:
Alfredsson and Legwand not practicing today for Wings. Andersson and Bertuzzi taking their spots on lines.
In, "Huh?" news, Yahoo Sports' Daryl Dobbs has declared Pavel Datsyuk to be a playoff "bust" in the making--because he's old...
Pavel Datsyuk – Detroit Red Wings: I know, I know. Adding Datsyuk to a “busts” list is akin to admitting you don’t really like puppies (why don’t you like puppies man!?). Firstly, I rather like puppies. They’re uber cute and make for endlessly entertaining youtube videos. Secondly, I absolutely like Datsyuk as a hockey player, but his fantasy value and name recognition are starting to outweigh actual production. Last year he finished with only nine points in 14 games. This season he has battled injuries and inconsistency to finish with only 35 points in 43 games. Is he still an incredible talent? Yes. Is he worthy of a top 15 or 20 pick at age 35? I don’t think so. This year I’d let some other manager gamble on Datsyuk's name in the early rounds.
Sportsnet's Pat Pickens takes a different tack in discussing the "Top 10 stories from the 2013-2014 NHL season)....
7. Gustav Nyquist catching fire: Nyquist was chosen in the fourth round by the Detroit Red Wings (120th overall) in the 2008 draft. That means every team passed him over three times, and some passed four times. He’s played with any number of linemates in the Wings’ injury-plagued season but leads the club in goals and is tied for second in points — all while playing in more games in the NHL than in his previous two seasons combined. What’s not to love?
USA Today's Mike Brehm spelled out the Wings-related significance of today's games...
Eastern seeds still up in the air: The Columbus Blue Jackets could pass the Philadelphia Flyers for third in the Metropolitan Division if they beat the Florida Panthers and the Flyers pick up one only point over their last two games.
That would mean a first-round matchup against the New York Rangers and we could revisit the Rick Nash trade.
That could also mean that the Flyers face today’s opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the first round. The Flyers swept a home-and-home series from the Penguins in March and beat them in a wild series in 2012. They’d make a tempting first-round opponent.
If the Flyers and Blue Jackets win, the Flyers would play the Rangers, the Blue Jackets would face the Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings would face the Bruins.
In the promotional department:
If you're interested in reading MLive's Lindsay Knake's report about Kris Draper's School Assembly Program visit to Sagnaw, you may most certainly do so...
In prospect news, part 1: Ben Marshall and the University of Minnesota will battle Union for the NCAA Divison I championship, tonight at 7:30 on ESPN...
In prospect news, part 2: I think Mitchell Callahan falls into the, "Beggars can't be choosers" category here:
Now it's time to get back to practice:
Cue a raised eyebrow, per Khan:
Lines: Franzen-Datsyuk-Abdelkader, Tatar-Sheahan-Nyquist, Jurco-Helm-Andersson, Miller-Glendening-Bertuzzi....
Gustavsson (shoulder) not practicing, so Mrazek remains here as Howard's backup.
Same D pairs: Kronwall-Smith, Quincey-DeKeyser, Lashoff-Kindl. Cleary and Samuelsson also skating, in black shirts as D-men for now.
Frankly, I figured that Babcock would give the Wings an "optional" skate as they've wrapped up a set of 3 games in 4 nights and will be playing their 4th in 6--and 6 games in 10 nights--on Sunday, but I guess he chose to keep riding 'em after last night's loss.
According to Krupa, the Wings then bused back to the Joe for media availabilities:
waiting for #RedWings at joe louis arena, now, after practice off-campus, and able to witness some preparation for cher's concert... 1/2
2/2 for a woman billed as "scantily-clad" there sure are a lot of clothing trunks around!
While the media waited for the players to arrive and change, Ken Kal noted that you have an alternative to the NBC Bozos...
Just a reminder that the Red Wings-Blues game tomorrow starts at 12:30pm. Hear the game @971theticketxyt
And DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose tossed off birthday wishes:
Happy birthday to former #RedWings Mike Bloom (61), Dave Hanson (60), Paul Woods (59) and Adam Graves (45). @RedWingAlumni
While the media waited for the team, the Wings' team plane, Red Bird III, also filed its flight plan, and given that it 's almost 1 PM as I write this, they'd better haul ass to Metro Airport to make the scheduled 2:41 PM take-off time.
I sure hope the Wings goofed around with this stuff...
Welcome to the visitors' locker room?
While I waited for the press to snag their snippets, the AP posted a Wings-Blues game preview (when there are lulls during practice days and morning skates, I try to keep working, because news is almost always hitting the wires somewhere):
The Blues (52-22-7) held a seven-point advantage over Colorado for the Central lead and the inside track to the Western Conference's top seed prior to losing their last five games. They're now tied with the Avalanche, who hold the tiebreaker over St. Louis by virtue of more wins in regulation and overtime. The first-place finisher figures to have a much more favorable first-round matchup against either Minnesota or Dallas as opposed to facing defending champion Chicago.
Poor goaltending has plagued the Blues, with Ryan Miller posting a 4.04 goals-against average and .856 save percentage in four starts during the slide. He was allowing 2.20 goals per game while going 11-4-1 over his first 16 starts after being traded from Buffalo on March 1. Miller is 2-8-2 in 12 career starts versus Detroit with a 3.41 GAA - his worst against one opponent.
The Blues also have just five goals in their last five games after previously ranking fourth in the league with 3.1 per game. Leading goal scorer Alexander Steen is without a goal while playing three times during the losing streak, though he has four goals and nine assists over his last 13 games against Detroit.
St. Louis was not shut out once before the Olympic break but has since been blanked five times, including twice in the past five games following Friday's 3-0 loss at Dallas. Injuries aren't helping the cause, as the Blues played without T.J. Oshie after he took a shot to the head from Minnesota's Mike Rupp in Thursday's 4-2 loss. They were also missing forwards David Backes, Vladimir Sobotka, Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow, and Patrik Berglund left with an arm injury in the third period.
The Blues will be looking to avoid their first six-game losing streak since a seven-game skid Dec. 26, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010. To do so, they'll have to notch a fourth straight win over Detroit for the first time since Jan. 26, 1991. St. Louis won 4-1 at Detroit on Jan. 20 in the only meeting this season after winning the final two last year when the Red Wings were still in the Central.
Detroit (38-28-15) is going to finish fourth in the Atlantic but is headed back to the playoffs. The Red Wings are battling for the East's top wild-card spot with Columbus, though a Blue Jackets win Saturday at Florida would lock Detroit into the eighth seed and a first-round matchup with Boston. Columbus would win a tiebreaker due to more wins in regulation and overtime.
While Daniel Alfredsson has five goals and seven assists in his last nine games versus the Blues, Jimmy Howard is 1-3-1 with a 3.82 goals-against average over his last five starts against them.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford also reported that the Blues are having an "off-day" today...
"@jc_knox80: @jprutherford Any word on Berglund's status?" ... Not yet and club is off today. He did not look good last night, thus Andronov
And Andronov refers to the Blues' recalling of Sergey Andronov from the Chicago Wolves.
Pleiness finally delivered some post-practice news, and it's less than superb:
Alfredsson's equipment not packed for trip to St. Louis. Good indication he's out against the Blues Sunday.
Babcock says Andersson in the lineup for Alfredsson. If playoffs, Alfredsson would have been available.
Babcock said Alfredsson not playing tomorrow but will be ready for start of playoffs. Andersson will take his place. Legwand is playing.
Babcock confirms Howard starting tomorrow vs. Blues.
And Fox Sports Detroit's Wakiji confirmed...
#RedWings Alfredsson out Sunday, Andersson in. Legwand didn't practice but will play, per Babcock.
#RedWings Babcock said Alfredssom will be ready to go for the playoffs.
And Pleiness posted a video regarding the Alfredsson-Andersson swap:
The Detroit News's Krupa also confirmed...
Alfredsson out against stl but fine for playoffs, babcock says. Andersson in. Legwand will play despite not practicing. Howard to start.
And the Free Press's Anthony Fenech posted an, "Off they go!" Vine video:
Update #0.5: Per Wakiji...
Not surprisingly, #RedWings Petr Mrazek has never heard of Cher. Even showed him a picture.
Jimmy Howard said he called it in Sochi, Ryan Miller getting traded to the Blues.
Update #1: Here's the Macomb Daily's Pleiness's practice report...
Daniel Alfredsson won’t play Sunday in St. Louis. Joakim Andersson will take his spot after being a healthy scratch the last five games.
“That was my first time ever being a healthy scratch,” Andersson said. “It’s tough, obviously. The guys have been doing good, made the playoffs. It’s going to be fun going into a series.”
“Andy’s been good,” [Wings coach Mike] Babcock said. “Andy just got in a situation where I tried something else, it worked. Andy’s a good player, plays hard for us, a smart, important part of our team. It had nothing to do with anything he did.”
Drew Miller may get another chance to face his brother, Ryan, Sunday as well.
“I’m always trying to score goals every game,” said Drew, who has yet to score a goal on his brother in the NHL. “Nothing really changes there. It would be cool to get one on him. Record wise I know I have him. Not sure what it is, but I know I have him pretty good I think. We’ll see if we can continue that. I’ve had a few shots, but nothing that I would say was a Grade-A chance,” Drew added. “Every game I just try and do what I do.”
“It went to seeing him maybe once a year, to having him in our division and then he leaves,” Drew said. “Then we play them two more times at the end of the year and he’s already gone from Buffalo. I guess that’s just the way it works sometimes. Any chance you get to play against each other it’s fun,” Drew continued. “You try and make the most of it. Most of it is off the ice, just getting a chance to see him.”
And from Fox Sports Detroit's Wakiji, on Twitter:
#RedWings Howard on Ryan Miller in STL: I called it in Sochi. I figured that’s where he was going. No surprise when we got back & saw that.
#RedWings Babcock: Andy's a good player, plays hard for us, a smart, important part of our team. It had nothing to do with anything he did.
#RedWings Babcock: Last time (STL) played us they manhandled us & we couldn't get into their bk end at all. They came in waves & crushed us.
#RedWings Babcock: I think it's the Mule's time of year.
#RedWings Babcock: We need (Mule) to really dig in & get to the next level for us & continue to shoot the puck & play w/grit &determination.
Update #2: Here's MLive's Ansar Khan's practice article:
If Philadelphia beats Pittsburgh this afternoon and Columbus wins in Florida tonight, the Red Wings would be locked into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. In that case, they would face the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs.
The Red Wings must finish ahead of either the Flyers or Blue Jackets – not necessarily both – to gain the first wild card spot. In that case they would draw the Penguins in the first round.
The injury-riddled Blues are reeling, losers of five in a row. They are tied with Colorado for first place in the Central Division with 111 points. The division winner will play Minnesota or Dallas in the first round, while the second-place team meets Chicago.
So Sunday’s game is important for the Blues.
Here are the lines the Red Wings skated with today at University Liggett High School in Grosse Pointe Woods, as Joe Louis Arena wasn’t available due to the Cher concert:
Johan Franzen-Pavel Datsyuk-Justin Abdelkader
Tomas Tatar-Riley Sheahan-Gustav Nyquist
Tomas Jurco-Darren Helm-Joakim Andersson
Drew Miller-Luke Glendening-Todd Bertuzzi
David Legwand and Daniel Alfredsson did not skate.
Brendan Smith-Niklas Kronwall
Kyle Quincey-Danny DeKeyser
Brian Lashoff-Jakub Kindl
Forwads Daniel Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson skated as the fourth defense pairing.
Jimmy Howard (starting Sunday)
Jonas Gustavsson hasn't practiced since hurting his shoulder in Wednesday's 4-3 shootout loss at Pittsburgh.
Update #3: The Free Press's Helene St. James posited a "Spirit of the Thing" column:
The Detroit Red Wings have earned the right to feel good about themselves after setting their destiny as the playoffs, and then steering straight ahead. Where other teams stumbled for lack of leadership, mental toughness and winning culture, like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals, the Wings emerged from a mid-March double date with Minnesota inside the playoff picture, and kept good to their word they’d control their own fate.
The Wings will play either Boston or Pittsburgh in Round 1; to them, it doesn’t matter.
“The way we’ve been playing down the stretch here,” Johan Franzen said. “I think any team that plays us has to worry about how to beat us.”
Those are bold words, but they’re backed up by a team that’s rolling four capable lines now that the medical room isn’t violating fire codes because of overcapacity like it was a month ago.
“I think we’re in a real good spot,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve got four lines and we’ve got a tenacity about us. We know how to play. We’re going to need really good goaltending, and the rest will look after itself.”
When — if — Zetterberg pops up as a viable candidate to play, the Wings are going to have a nice problem deciding who to scratch. The lines that have played this week have been the most effective four lines the Wings have had all season — Datsyuk with Franzen and Justin Abdelkader, Riley Sheahan with Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, Darren Helm with Tomas Jurco and Daniel Alfredsson, and Luke Glendening with Drew Miller and David Legwand.
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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.