The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/15/13 at 01:09 PM ET
The Detroit Red Wings begin their second-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight (8 PM EDT, NBCSN/CBC/97.1 FM, post-game on Fox Sports Detroit), and the Hawks took to the ice first at the United Center...
You may read the Chicago Sun-Times Mark Lazerus's "Slay the Dragon" blog entry on your own...
And the Wings' correspondents watched and waited...
Via RedWingsFeed, Pro Hockey Talk's Jason Brough noted that Wings coach Mike Babcock wasn't exactly spewing animosity for Chicago while speaking with the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek about the series to come...
“Chicago’s a great city,” began Babcock. “They’ve got great players. They’ve got five D who are flat-out great skaters. They’ve got a captain [Jonathan Toews] who’s a real good human being and a great leader. They’ve got lots of skill and good depth. They’re well-organized. The national anthem is fun. Good uniforms.They’re got nice restaurants. It’s a good spot. We’ll have a good time. We got a lot of reasons to be excited about playing them.”
Windows of championship opportunity are a frequent discussion point around the NHL, in precincts as diverse as Vancouver and San Jose, but with Detroit, they always seem to be open just a crack. The Red Wings are in the playoffs for a 22nd consecutive season, and next year, shift over to the Eastern Conference in an ambitious NHL realignment.
It means, if they ever face the Blackhawks again in a playoff series beyond this year, it’ll have to be in a Stanley Cup final. The two organizations have a long history against each other – this is their 16th all-time postseason meeting – but last played in the playoffs in 2009, when the Red Wings won in five.
Only seven Red Wings, plus the injured Darren Helm, are still around from the team that won the 2008 Stanley Cup, but Zetterberg – playoff MVP that year – is one of them, as is Mikael Samuelsson, who has seen the evolution of Zetterberg’s game over the years.
“I just take the hat off to him,” said Samuelsson. “It’s not like he is super fast or has a super good shot. But he’s a hell of a player, just the way he protects the puck. And his mental willness is huge. How, as a scout, can you see that at a young age? You never know how it’s going to turn out.”
Datsyuk is 34, Zetterberg 32, and there has been some speculation around the Red Wings this year that the former might play out the final year of his contract next season and then finish his career in the KHL. Of course, there was speculation like that around Nicklas Lidstrom through the final years of his career and Detroit kept coaxing him back, until last summer, when he finally decided to retire. At that point, Zetterberg received the “C” and was given the responsibility of helping to carry on the team’s winning tradition. The Red Wings were touch-and-go just to make the playoffs in the final 10 days, but have been on a roll ever since.
“It’s been a different year for us,” acknowledged Zetterberg, “the way we had to get in at the end of the year and play our way into the postseason and kept it going and won the first series.”
Zetterberg described Chicago as a team “stacked at forward. They’re stacked on the back line. They’ve got a good goalie. It’s going to be a tough series for us, but it’s going to be a fun one … and great for our fans. They’re a good team, playing well. They took care of business early against Minnesota, so it’s going to be a tough one for us, but if we play well and do our things, we have a chance.”
And as MLive's Ansar Khan noted, the Wings have one thing going for them--Hawks coach Joel Quenneville's 0-and-5 against Detroit in the playoffs, and in MLive's "Game Day" feature, Khan and Brendan Savage debated which Red Wings player faces the most pressure to perform this evening....
BRENDAN SAVAGE: Goalies can make a huge difference in the playoffs so I'm going with Howard even though he was nothing short of outstanding in the final two games against Anaheim.
He allowed four goals in each of the second and third games and the Red Wings simply can't have that against Chicago. Even if Howard doesn't get much support from the players in front of him, he has to find a way to stop the puck more often if the Red Wings are going to beat the Blackhawks.
Against the Ducks, Howard had a 2.74 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. Those are respectable numbers but not nearly good enough to beat the Blackhawks. Howard is going to have steal at least one game for the Red Wings to advance.
ANSAR KHAN: The Red Wings can't keep relying on Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to carry them offensively. They need some supporting players to step up.
No one has more room for improvement than Valtteri Filppula. He had a poor regular season and except for one key play -- his pass to set up Gustav Nyquist's overtime goal in Game 2 -- he did not factor much in the first six games of the Anaheim series.
In Game 7, he was reunited with Zetterberg and found some spark, picking up a goal and an assist.
And it may have taken seven playoff games, but the Wings finally posted their home-ice playoff opening video:
FTR, part 1, from RedWingsFeed:
FTR part 2, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner looked at points of emphasis ahead of Game 3 of the Grand Rapids Griffins-Toronto Marlies series, which is tied 1-1:
1. What, no 7-0? After back-to-back victories by stunning 7-0 margins (to Houston to end the first round, and at Toronto to begin the second), the Griffins were brought down to earth Saturday in a 4-2 loss at Toronto. How will they respond? They got the split they wanted heading back to Grand Rapids, but Toronto scored four times in the final two periods Saturday.
2. Coming home. Games 3, 4 and 5 will be held at Van Andel Arena with 7 p.m. games set for Friday and Saturday. The Griffins split a pair at home against the Marlies in the regular season, with the last meeting Dec. 29, a 3-1 Marlies victory. In the first round against Houston, the Griffins had a crowd of 4,683 for Game 3, followed by 4,190 and 2,290 for the final two games.
3. Amazing Mrazek. Lost in the Griffins back-to-back 7-0 blowouts was Grand Rapids rookie goalie Petr Mrazek. He became the first goal in franchise history to have two playoff shutouts, let alone in consecutive games. In seven games, he has 1.73 goals against average and .931 save percentage.
As we waited for the Wings to take to the ice...
Here come the Wings:
If you really, really, really want to read another Wings-Hawks preview, Pro Hockey Talk's Mike Halford penned another one...
And in text form, SI's Brian Cazenueve praised both teams before picking the Hawks in his series preview, but on video, he suggested that the Wings are an incredibly "old" team because they rely on Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Kronwall...
Let's see...No demeaning comments from Keith toward anyone in St. James' article...
"He's tricky," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "I'd say probably the toughest guy one-on-one to handle in the league. He's got a lot of different moves up his sleeve. He competes. I mean, I can't say enough good things about him. We always have our hands full when we play him, and we have to be on top of our game."
FYI, part 3, from RedWingsFeed:
And the post-skate comments commence:
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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.