Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Blackhawks Game 2 set-up and overnight report: time to see what the square wheel can do

The Detroit Red Wings will attempt to assuage a third-period meltdown as they face off against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 of their second-round series today (1 PM EDT to accomodate the Preakness Stakes on NBC, also on the CBC, 97.1, and WDIV and Fox Sports Detroit will air post-game shows in Michigan). If the teams' recent history (and the experts) are to be believed, as noted by the Chicago Daily Herald's Mark Lazerus noted, the Wings may as well give up now...

The Blackhawks have won eight consecutive games against the Red Wings. That’s their second-longest winning streak against the Wings in the 87-year history of the rivalry. The Hawks won 13 in a row during an 18-0-1 run from April 8, 1970, to Jan. 17, 1973.

The Hawks were 4-0-0 against the Red Wings in the regular season. Since 2005-06, teams that have gone 3-0 or better against an opponent in the regular season are 10-1 against that team in the postseason. In 2008, the Canadiens went 4-0-0 vs. the Flyers, then lost 4-1 to Philadelphia in the second round of the playoffs.

And Corey Crawford's record vs. Detroit in the regular season and playoffs is an equally scary 12-2-and-2, but the Hawks don't expect the Wings to give up easily. Instead, the Hawks told the Sun-Times' Mark Potash that they're expecting the Wings to literally and figuratively push back:

‘‘We expect a harder game,’’ Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘I’m sure it’s going to be more physical than the first game as you progress, and we found in the Minnesota series it was like that.’’

It’ll be interesting to see if the Hawks have learned from experience. They braced for a ‘‘push-back’’ from the Wild in Game 3 on the road but didn’t respond well in a 3-2 overtime loss. The lesson: You can’t brace for the push-back, you have to attack it.

‘‘Don’t wait for it to happen,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘Expect it to happen and be more proactive than reactionary. Let’s have that mentality going into the game.’’

...

The danger for the Red Wings is that while they present more problems for the Hawks than the Wild did, they might bring out the best in the Hawks more than the Wild did.

‘‘We have another level [too],’’ Hawks forward Daniel Carcillo said. ‘‘We know they’re a great team and they’re going to play fast. They have a lot of skill. We just need to step up our game. Even though [Game 1] was one of our better playoff games, we still haven’t reached our best. Everyone in here knows it.’’

And they reiterated their points of emphasis to ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers:

“We expect a harder game,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Friday’s practice. “Physically, I’m sure it’s going to be more physical than the first game. As you progress as we found in the Minnesota series, it’s like that. Don’t wait for it to happen, expect it to happen and be more proactive than reactionary. So let’s have that mentality going into the game.”

Quenneville and a number of his players called Wednesday’s win their best performance of the playoffs. Quenneville had called for his team to play with more energy after the Wild series.

The Blackhawks have now defeated the Red Wings in their last eight meetings, but the Blackhawks realize the series is far from over. They witnessed the fight in the Red Wings throughout their seven-game series with the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.

“I think we’re very confident,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. “I think right now we got to be careful not to get too ahead of ourselves and make sure we’re focusing in on the task at hand because all of the time that’s the best part of it. I think it’s a good start to the series for sure. From what we’ve seen from Detroit, it seems like maybe they were a little tired as the game went on. For us, expect a better effort for them. Knowing they’re going to give a better effort, we got to give a better effort, too. To say we have another level, I’m sure every team wants to say that, but it’s definitely a good start to the second round.”

The Red Wings would love to steal a win in Chicago on Saturday and take the series back to Detroit tied. For that happen, the Red Wings need to slow down the Blackhawks.

“It definitely would be good to come back with a win,” Red Wings forward Damien Brunner said on Friday. “We expect another hard game. We have to do a better job. In the second and third periods, they were all over us. So it’s up to us to do a better job, skate better and put them under pressure and don’t let them come out that easy, and hope they we have a good game.”

As Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers noted, two Blackhawks missed the team's Friday practice, and one more probably won't play today...

Duncan Keith and Michal Handzus did not practice on Friday but coach Joel Quenneville said both will be ready to go tomorrow when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on Saturday afternoon.

Keith is played a team-high 24 minutes, 19 seconds in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 victory over the Wings on Wednesday night. As for Handzus, this is the third time this postseason he has not practiced; Quenneville said “he’s fine.” Ben Smith centered the Blackhawks’ second line during today’s practice.

Viktor Stalberg was once again practicing in a white jersey today. Asked if Stalberg could play in Game 2, Quenneville said, “we’ll see.”

Like Quenneville the day before, Stalberg said reports that he was benched for complaining about power-play time, or lack thereof, were “not accurate.” But for Stalberg, the on-ice limbo could continue through Saturday’s game and beyond. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer, as he wraps up the final season of a two-year deal that pays him $875,000. But Stalberg didn’t think what was happening now would effect his status then.

Myers noted that Hawks are banking on strong performances from their third line...

Dave Bolland went after Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader, trading some pushes and shoves before Abdelkader flipped the Blackhawks forward on his back.

“He got me a little in the groan area,” Bolland said with his trademark grin on Friday. “It’s not a good area to get someone. It’s the playoffs, it’s the way things go. It’s part of the game.”

Fighting isn’t the biggest part of Bolland’s game but getting under opponents’ skin and anchoring the Blackhawks’ checking line is. And he did both of them well when he made his 2013 postseason debut in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 victory over Detroit on Wednesday night. For Bolland, it was another wait through another injury to get back into action. But he’s back at the time of year he thrives, and he shook off the rust on Wednesday.

“I think the first few shifts were a little bit of an eye opener; just getting back on the ice and into that playoff mode. But we came into our game pretty well,” said Bolland, who was back in his familiar third-line center spot with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw on either side. “The first period is always the worst. The speed, after being out for 2 ½ weeks, is a little different than in practice. But it’s just like getting back on the old bike.”

Teammates were appreciative of Bolland’s return, especially defensemen who get some help with his checking work.

“Center men are a defensemen’s best friends, and he was supporting all night,” Brent Seabrook said. “I thought he worked hard and played a good game.”

And, as the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc suggested, an "All-Star Lineup on [their] Power Play":

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp — players with a combined 14 NHL All-Star selections — are stacked on the top unit.

"It's the first time we've seen it all season with all of us on it together," Sharp said. "We've been able to score the last couple of games, and it's going to be big for us going down the stretch. We want to keep producing."

After a regular season during which the Hawks' power play was effective in short spurts, they have cashed in up a man in the last two games. They will look to extend that streak when the Hawks face the Red Wings in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Saturday at the United Center.

"Throughout the year it was myself and Sharp on the second unit, and as time went on it wasn't very successful, so they wanted to change it up," Kane said. "As long as we move and play with confidence and just trust the other guy and focus on that, we'll have success. It's all about work. Once we work, we have enough skill where we can make plays."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "In the past we've had more balance. We had two units ... capable of having the same kind of production. (Then) our power play had some stretches when it started to look like it wasn't where we wanted it to be. It's an ongoing thing that hopefully will be a key to our offense's success."

As you might expect, all is going well for Chicago, from Corey Crawford's appreciation of his team's backchecking, as noted by the Chicago Daily Herald's Tim Sassone...

Nobody appreciates how well the Hawks' forward backcheck more than goalie Corey Crawford.

"It's important with the amount of speed and skill today's forwards have, your defense can only do so much," Crawford said. "Our defense has done a great job this year, but it's even better when our guys are coming back and putting pressure on their forwards from the back end."

And nobody does it better than Selke Trophy candidate Jonathan Toews.

"He's one of our leaders," Crawford said. "He does everything well on the ice. He does it all. We follow that. He's our captain and leader in the room. He leads by example."

To the team's "grinders" discussing the competition for ice time with the Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton...

"It's more of a mental game than anything," Carcillo said as the team prepared for Game 2 on Saturday. "It's a day-in and day-out experience where you need to be sharp in practice, and especially during games. It puts the onus on you to kind of play a perfect game and help the team any way you can."

The granular winger would know, having been a healthy scratch for the first three games of the first round. Carcillo is essentially the last man in, logging a team-low 6 minutes, 4 seconds in Game 1. But some desperate play demonstrates how priceless that time is.

In the third period Wednesday, Carcillo charged hard and battled multiple Red Wings to knock loose a puck stuck to the side of the net. It made its way to Marcus Kruger for a critical insurance goal, a product of sheer effort from a player trying to prove something every shift.

"You just never quit," Carcillo said. "We don't get the most chances out there to provide offense, so it's especially nice to be able to chip in."

Not everyone can on a team as ocean trench-deep as the Hawks.

"Coaches go on a hunch on who they have in the lineup, and with the depth and skill that we have, it's not something you can get too bent out of shape about," said winger Brandon Bollig, whom Carcillo replaced last round. "You got to this point for a reason, you know what you have to do to get in and stay in the lineup. You can't worry too much about it. It's the coach's decision, and you have to respect it."

And you may take the Northwest Herald's Tom Musick's take on Pavel Datsyuk for what you will:

[T]he Hawks have an entire team that looks pretty scary to the rest of the league. They’ll look to increase their series lead to 2-0 today in the Western Conference semifinals when they host the Red Wings for a nationally televised matinee game.

The Hawks are smart enough to prepare for a Game 2 pushback from the Wings, who were dominated in Wednesday’s series opener while being outscored, 4-1, and outshot, 42-21. Remarkably, Datsyuk registered no shots on goal after recording 49 points in the regular season.

Another goose egg is unlikely from the talented Russian on Saturday. He had seven points in seven games against the Anaheim Ducks in Round 1 and has 101 career points in the playoffs. That’s why Hawks coach Joel Quenneville told his players to pay special attention to No. 13.

“Still dangerous,” said Quenneville, who coached the St. Louis Blues when Datsyuk entered the league in 2001-02. “I think that when you watch him play, there are so many things that he can do in the course of a game. He’s still a threat no matter what situation he’s presented with. He’s one of those players that does things nobody else can do. He does things that can wow you. So that’s an ongoing challenge.”

Of the Hawks’ forwards, Patrick Kane’s playing style most closely resembles that of Datsyuk. Both have the ability to weave through defenders, and both can fire a puck to the back of the net just as easily as they can snap a perfect pass to the tape of a teammates’ stick. Those similarities are no coincidence. Although Kane is a decade younger than Datsyuk, he studied the Wings’ playmaker during his formative years as a star prospect.

“He’s a great player,” Kane said. “He’s one of those guys that before I came to the NHL, any time the Red Wings were on TV, you’d try to watch because of the things he does on the ice.”

If you really wish to watch Patrick Sharp speak to the Tribune about the Hawks' points of emphasis for Game 2, Eddie Olczyk displaying a surprisingly Chicagoan accent while talking about both Game 2 and the Preakness Stakes on Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, or various Hawks experts discussing the Hawks' inevitable Stanley Cup Final run if they win Game 2 (seriously, they're certain that the Hawks are going that far), you may do so (oh, and many thanks to the Nashville Predators' website for forwarding me to NHL.com's Brian Hedger's "Hawks have finally eclipsed the Wings" article...jerks...) and the Wings' videos from Friday are available for viewing in the first and second off-day posts...

But NHL.com's Brian Hedger's game preview will serve as our pivot point between the Hawks and Wings' perspectives...

Red Wings [team scope]: Detroit got off to a decent start in Game 1 but was outskated and outplayed for most of the final 40 minutes. The game was 1-1 after two periods, but the Blackhawks turned up the heat even higher in the third period and scored three times, capped by Patrick Sharp's empty-netter.

Chicago's forecheck gave the Detroit defense fits and eventually turned a 38-save performance by goalie Jimmy Howard into another frustrating defeat. The Red Wings, who eliminated the Anaheim Ducks on the road Sunday with a Game 7 victory, were outshot 42-21 and hope that having two days between games puts more pep in their game.

"It was kind of like those games when you come home from the West Coast, the first home game [after a road trip]," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "That's how it kind of felt like. We were there, but we weren't really there, so it's nice to have a few extra days here, and now we feel ready to go."

Blackhawks [team scope]: Chicago's players and coach Joel Quenneville are saying all the right things, careful not to disrespect the Red Wings, a franchise the Blackhawks are basically modeled after. But Game 1 of this series looked a lot like their games from the previous few seasons against Detroit. The Blackhawks were faster, deeper and better on the defensive side of the rink. Will a couple of days off between games change it all that much? It's possible, but the Blackhawks don't appear to be interested in easing off the gas pedal anytime soon.

"We're very confident," forward Patrick Kane said. "We have to be careful not to get too ahead of ourselves, [and] make sure we're focusing on the task on hand. The biggest thing for us is to make sure we're playing with a lot of intensity and not just relying on our skill. If we're the hardest-working team on the ice, usually we'll have a good chance to win.''

Who's hot: Howard made 38 saves for the Red Wings while under siege the last two periods. Forward Damien Brunner scored a goal and nearly had a second one before Chicago's Brent Seabrook batted the puck away from the net out of midair before it crossed the goal line. … After scoring five goals in Chicago's Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Minnesota Wild, Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp added another and two assists in Game 1.

The Detroit News's John Niyo remained in Chicago while the vast majority of the Wings' press corps headed back to Detroit, and Niyo believes that the Blackhawks are going to exercise their mastery over the Wings to the point that the "student has eclipsed the teacher once and for all," if you will...

"We'd love to be that team," forward Patrick Kane said Friday as the Blackhawks prepared for today's Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Red Wings at United Center.

Kane recalls a different feeling four years ago when these teams last met in the playoffs. The Red Wings were the defending Stanley Cup champs, while the Blackhawks were in the playoffs for the first time in seven years.

"At that time, I think we were pretty happy with where we went," said Kane, who was only 20 years old and in his second season. "And it almost seemed like the Red Wings were — I don't want to say this — too good of a team to get through and beat. Especially when they beat us up a few games. And that kind of made it a five-game series like you saw. It was pretty intimidating. Especially myself, I was matched up against (Nick) Lidstrom. Watching a guy a like that, my whole life growing up, it's pretty scary going against a guy like that for a seven-game series. But it was a great experience."

And they learned from it, which showed in their Stanley Cup run the following spring.

But now the Blackhawks are trying to show they're something more than that, with a roster that's both young — only two regulars in the lineup are over 31 — and talented. Obviously, the Blackhawks aren't alone. The Kings are eyeing back-to-back titles. The Bruins are in the hunt to win a second Cup in three years. The Penguins went to consecutive finals in 2008-09 and have remained an elite team since, despite Sidney Crosby's health problems.

But in the last decade — including the 2005-06 season lost to the lockout — there have been nine champions and 14 teams playing in the Finals. Only Detroit, Pittsburgh, Anaheim and New Jersey have made two trips to the Finals during that span.
Impressive numbers

Now, perhaps, it's the Blackhawks' turn to join that group after rolling to the Presidents' Trophy. They started the season with a 24-game unbeaten streak, and have won five of six playoff games while posting an impressive plus-13 goal differential.

"We'd love to be a team where, if teams are facing us on any given night — in the playoffs, the regular season, whatever — they know it's gonna be a tough matchup for them," Kane said. "I think we kind of proved that throughout the regular season, and we're trying to do that now in the playoffs, too, after maybe a couple lulls in the playoffs the past two years."

But the Wings have something to say about that, and they're not counting themselves out of the series after one game, as they told the Free Press's Helene St. James...

Babcock dismissed talk that the Wings are in over their heads this series, saying, “I’ve seen us play before. That’s why I try to not to go on all these theories that I keep hearing about. The key for me is, that I will make up my own mind.

“We’ve played the ‘Hawks a number of times. They were flat-out better than us in the second and third period. I showed the players all the reasons why. But the first thing is, we didn’t skate. If we don’t skate better than we did, we have no chance. If we do what we do, then you can evaluate our team. We can’t even evaluate our team till then.”

Zetterberg echoed the caution to wait to evaluate the series until after today’s game. “We know we can play a lot better,” he said. “We did a lot of things that we haven’t done in a while. If we play the way we want, we have a very good chance of winning.”

The Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest...

"(Thursday) was a great day to get re-charged. We've got to move on from Anaheim and focus on the next game," Red Wings defenceman Kyle Quincey told the media in Detroit after practice Friday. "The next game is do or die for us pretty much. Chicago's probably the best team. I think they're rated No. 1. They had a great season and they're showing that it was no fluke in the playoffs. They're the real deal and we've got our work cut out for us. But it's a fun challenge for us and hopefully we rise to the occasion."

The Red Wings were outshot 42-21 in the opening game of the series and had it not been for the heroics of goaltender Jimmy Howard, they would have been run out of the United Center on Wednesday.

Howard kept the Red Wings in the contest until Johnny Oduya broke a 1-1 tie eight minutes into the third period. From there the contest was a foregone conclusion with the Red Wings not having the gas to fight their way back into the game, still recovering from a tough seven-game series against the Anaheim Ducks.

"It's a game within a game," said Quincey. "If you play the whole game in your zone, you're going to be dead. I don't care how good of shape you're in, if you had rest or no rest. We turned the puck over right from the first shift in the second and we couldn't get out of our zone. When you get hemmed in your zone for a minute or two, it takes a good five or six shifts to get it back."

The Red Wings had trouble contending with the Blackhawks speed up front. Heading into the series, they wanted to muddy the waters, trying to slow down their high-flying forwards. The strategy worked in the first period, but once the Blackhawks found their skating legs, they came at the Red Wings in waves.

"I think every time they put the puck in our end, we weren't there for the D so they just came wave by wave," said Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. "We couldn't really get any flow going, couldn't get through the neutral zone so it's tough when you don't spend any time in their end and they spend a lot of time in yours. Eventually they will score goals."

Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp combined for five points in the Game 1 victory. Sharp led the way with a goal and two assists.

"Their forwards are world class, it's a new challenge for us," said Quincey. "Hopefully after our day off we can skate better with those guys, get our gaps a little better and just try to eliminate time and space. They did a good job of turning the puck over and they had us in our zone. It's tough playing the whole 20 minutes in our zone like that. A lot of stuff we did in Game 1 was to ourselves. If we play our game the way we can, I think we'll be OK."

And MLive's Ansar Khan:

“We're going to do what we do and we're going to do it better and we're going to do it faster and we're going to make sure we got a good series,'' Babcock said.

A Red Wings team that looked worn down in the final two periods of the opener got a much-needed two-day break. It gave them more time to prepare for a game that some are approaching as a must-win situation.

“Two-nothing, you’re in trouble. We’re looking at it as do-or-die,'' Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey said. “If we can get a split, then it’s a best-of-five and we feel good about getting a couple in our barn.''

Said captain Henrik Zetterberg: “I think it would be tough to go down 2-0. We've got a lot of things that we want to change.''

Babcock said it boils down to this: His team didn't skate.

“If you don't skate better, you have no chance,'' he said. “We were very poor, we didn't execute at all, we didn't skate, so we're all spread out. There was no one for the D to pass to. We didn't play fast. We played fine in the first 20 minutes, after that we got skated into the ice.''

...

Red Wings forward Johan Franzen said his team needs to handle the puck better.

“We didn’t really have the puck at all last game,'' Franzen said. “(Forwards) need to do a better job of helping the D out.It’s small things that make them look a lot better – making a good first pass, being five feet closer to the left than the right. They came out too much in the middle with the puck. We’ve got to try to correct that.''

Brendan Smith agreed with his teammates, as he told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...

“I have to move my feet a little quicker in certain situations,” Smith said. “Maybe shoot a little more in some situations and then there are some things that I can look at with my D partner and we can collaborate so we can get better.

“If you watch our style of defense it’s all five of us,” Smith added. “You see that their defense is always into the rush and stuff, and they have great skaters. So it’s the cord. Why you get out of your zone is because everybody is in position and follows the structure. If you don’t follow your structure it won’t take care of you. So the whole thing is if we play by our system it will take care of us.”

The Wings had trouble getting the puck out of their zone after the first period of Game 1 and couldn’t establish much if any sustained pressure in the Blackhawks’ zone.

“If our forwards get back into the right places and we move the puck as quick as possible and don’t move it D to D and build it, because they will have their forecheck on top of you,” Smith said. “We need all of our systems to work and it will take care of us ultimately. It’s just not the D. I think we’re the last line of defense. We have to make better plays with the puck. It starts with the whole team coming back and making options for each other.”

But the Wings have some serious-ass work to do in terms of stemming third periods' worth of streams of goals against, as the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa suggested...

So far in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, third periods are not the Red Wings' best phase. The Blackhawks and Ducks have outscored them, 15-5.

But how much does it matter, and is there a specific cause? Through eight games, the Wings have scored more than their opponents in the third period only once. In Game 4 against the Ducks, they scored two — one by Brendan Smith to tie the game at 1-1 and one by Pavel Datsyuk to tie the game at 2-2 and send the game to overtime. The Wings won that game on Damien Brunner's wrist shot.

In two of the Red Wings' eight playoff games — Games 5 and 6 against the Ducks — they scored as often as their opponents in the third. In those contests, they were 1-1, losing Game 5 and winning Game 6. Of the remaining five games in which their opponents outscored them in the last frame of regulation, the Red Wings won two and lost three.

Asked about the situation Friday after practice, the Wings generally said they think the scoring imbalance in the third period is less important than addressing elements of their play, like providing their best effort, executing the game plan, taking care of the puck and skating hard.

"I haven't thought about it," said Henrik Zetterberg, who plainly has thought about a lot of other things, after leading his team to a first-round upset over the Ducks before losing in Chicago on Wednesday. "If you want to win games, I think it's better to score more goals than they do in the third," he said, underlining the logical and fairly obvious.

But, in considering the issue, Zetterberg talked about the Wings' efforts on individual goals, rather than addressing some trend.

"In Game 1 (against Chicago), I think the goal they got when the puck was kind of behind the net there, for a bit, that was kind of an easy one for them," he said, referring to Marcus Kruger's goal, which made it 3-1 Blackhawks, after the puck rested on the mesh on the back of the net.

Individually, obviously, Brendan Smith needs to rebound from a more than sub-par performance in Game 1, and really, both he and Kyle Quincey need to step up their levels of execution and as well as fit and finish as they've been an...Adventure...Every time they've taken to the ice together. The Free Press's Jeff Seidel pondered Smith's situation--and it's important to remember that the 24-year-old remains the Wings' top defensive prospect, even though he's going through some particularly costly growing pains...

“I saw a young guy try to make a bunch of plays and no one there to accept the pass on the other end,” Babcock said.

Smith said he did not think it was fair to be criticized so harshly.

“I don’t think so,” Smith said. “I talked to Coach about it. There is a thing where my speed will get me back to the puck first. I have to make better plays, obviously. I don’t think it’s a fair assessment. I think there were a lot of good plays that I made, and those are things that I’m going to build on.”

...

Say what you will about him, Smith is a stand-up guy. He sat in the Wings’ dressing room Friday and faced several reporters. He didn’t hide from the issue. He acknowledged that his friends told him that he was being bashed on social media, but he said that is already in the past. He said he is over it.

Captain Henrik Zetterberg said it was important for Smith to “flush” that game away. Like, well, something you would flush. Don’t forget. Smith is in a difficult situation. He’s learning a tough position, and he’s paired with Kyle Quincey, who also makes mistakes. It’s not like Smith is paired with a veteran who can help cover his mistakes.

“I don’t think (Smith) was that bad, as some people thought he was,” Zetterberg said. “I don’t think it really bothers him. He has played a lot of games and he knows what he has to do.”

Do the Wings have any shot to win this series? Shoot, forget the series. Think smaller. Do they have any shot to win one game? Are the Blackhawks gonna dominate them today like they did at the end of Game 1? Will the extra rest really make any difference for the Wings? What can the Wings do differently to move the puck against such a strong team?

“That little rubber thing,” Smith said. “It’s crucial in this type of game. We have to make sure we take care of it.”

I can only smile at what Smith Tweeted on Friday night:

And before the Free Press's Helene St. James spelled out the Wings' decision to keep Johan Franzen over Marian Hossa, she noted that Franzen, like Danny Cleary and Valtteri Filppula, must provide secondary scoring if the Wings are to attempt to match the Hawks' depth up front. St. James threw down something of a gauntlet in suggesting that, for this series, anyway, Franzen must out-perform Hossa:

[T]he Wings need Franzen to be their Marian Hossa. Hossa, like Franzen a big body with a scorer’s touch, converted on the Blackhawks’ first power play Wednesday and helped his teammates to a 4-1 victory. Franzen showed what a difference he can make in Game 2 of the last round, when he sent two pucks into Anaheim’s net and helped his teammates to victory.

Since that game, though, Franzen has been quiet. Too quiet. He found the back of the net again in Game 5, the only other time he’s scored these playoffs. Asked Friday afternoon if he feels pressure to score again — falling behind, 2-0, to Chicago would be almost insurmountable, Franzen was his usual blithe self.

“No, not till right now,” he said. “Thank you. These questions, every year, they’re funny. Maybe I score, maybe I don’t. Maybe somebody else score. You can’t order goals. Sometimes the puck is going to bounce the right way and sometimes they don’t.”

Asked if he recognizes that he’s being counted on to score, Franzen said, “one among 20, yeah, or 19.”

Except that number is off. By a lot. Franzen is a core player. He averages 20 minutes a game. Of late he’s gotten to play again with Pavel Datsyuk, with Justin Abdelkader on the other wing. How much more ideal can it get for a goal scorer? Abdelkader does the forechecking and puck retrieving and standing in front of the net, and Datsyuk is so amazing with the puck Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith called Datsyuk the toughest guy in the NHL to handle one-on-one. With the Blackhawks zeroing in trying darken Datsyuk’s shadow, there’s more room for Franzen.

“For him,” Jimmy Howard said, “it’s just about getting to the net and using his big body to his advantage. When he’s using his big body to open up the ice, he can get to those soft spots and there’s not too many people that can shoot the puck like him.”

As the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted, the Wings will most likely receive a boost on their fourth line in the form of Drew Miller, who's recovered from a fractured right hand (he'll probably replace Todd Bertuzzi, who is very evidently nowhere near 100% right now)...

Wings coach Mike Babcock has gone through various combinations on the fourth line without Miller, who provides consistency at both ends of the ice. Miller had four goals and four assists in 44 games with a minus-8 rating.

Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo also have had chances on the fourth line.

"If he's available and he is ready to help, then I'll put him in," Babcock said.

But Danny DeKeyser, who practiced on Friday, isn't "available" because he's one week removed from having a titanium plate and screws inserted into his right thumb:

"I was just waiting to see the doctor and after he checked it out, he said I could get at least get on the ice and keep the legs going," he said. "I'm doing every little thing I can to make sure it gets better as quick as it can."

DeKeyser was hurt in Game 2 of the first round against the Anaheim Ducks.

"It's terrible (watching)," he said. "It's not something that anybody would like to do, but stuff like this happens."

Overall, the Wings believe that the two days' worth of rest have allowed them to re-set their body clocks and brains after a draining seven-game cross-country series against the Ducks, as the Detroit News's Bob Wojnowski noted in yet another excellent "spirit of the thing" column...

"We couldn't even skate two practices ago, and that's not a big surprise for us," Babcock said. "When you actually look at the facts, they're only human, they can only travel so far and do so much and push so hard — we didn't have it in us, it was simple. So instead of me spending hours reinventing the wheel, we're just gonna do what we do, do it better and do it faster, and we're gonna make sure we got a good series."

...

"(Game 1) was kind of like those games when you come home from the West Coast — we were there, but we weren't really there," Zetterberg said. "We know we can play a lot better."

The Red Wings don't have the edge in many areas, but coaching could be one. Joel Quenneville won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010 but is 0-5 in playoff series against the Red Wings.

Babcock has done a terrific job in this transition season, although he doesn't have a lot of options left. He can put Drew Miller in now that he's healthy, but line-juggling is less effective against a Chicago team that goes so deep.

I asked Babcock if there are many tactical maneuvers he can make.

"Yeah a whole bunch, but I gotta spend a couple hours teaching you and I'm not gonna do that," he said. "I'm just gonna tell you, we weren't very good at any facet of our game and we expect to be way better (today), and we look forward to it."

The Red Wings have rebounded often this season and I expect they will again. Maybe they don't have enough to hang with the Blackhawks, but they certainly have more to show.

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff offered some hints of bravado from the Wings' players...

Losers by a lopsided 4-1 decision in Game 1 of the set on Wednesday, the Wings were the first to admit that they laid an egg for openers.

“We didn’t have enough jump, and we really couldn’t get going,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said.

They didn’t need to be reminded of it again, but hey, that’s my job, so what are you going to do? Couple that with the knowledge that people are already putting them down for the count and it’s no wonder the Wings were in a surly frame of mind Friday.

“Let them think that,” forward Johan Franzen said of the notion that the Wings are done like dinner. “That’s awesome. Who cares?”

...

“I’ve seen us play before so that’s what I base it on,” Babcock said. “That’s why I try not to go on all these theories that I keep hearing about. So I guess what I’m trying to tell you is, ‘Settle down, we’ll be OK.’”

The Wings were also dreadful in a 3-1 loss to Anaheim in their first-round opener, so there is basis in Babcock’s line of thinking.

“It’s the first to four (wins), not the first to one,” Detroit forward Patrick Eaves sought to remind us all.

And Babcock may have offered both his most damning assessment of the team's Game 1 performance while offering hope for today, as noted by Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji:

Although the Blackhawks proved to be the best team during the regular season and dominated the series opener, Babcock still believes in his team.

"I've seen us play before, so that's what I base it on," Babcock said after Friday's practice at Joe Louis Arena. "That's why I try not to go on all these theories that I keep hearing about. The key for me is, I'll make up my own mind. I'll watch it and make decisions based on that.

"... When we do what we do, then we can evaluate our game. We can't even evaluate our team until we play."

The Wings didn't do much playing on Wednesday, and even if they struggle today and face a daunting win-four-out-of-five situation against the mighty Hawks, they do have one thing going for 'em: the stacatto schedule between games 3 and 4 offer another re-set for the series and assurances that momentum goes nowhere unless the Wings win Game 3 and encourage Hockeytown to percolate instead of panic.

I don't know if the Wings can win this series, period...

And I don't know if the Wings can win this series specifically without DeKeyser giving the team two puck-moving defensive pairs (Kronwall-Ericsson and DeKeyser-Kindl), without Todd Bertuzzi in any sort of form to serve as a nuclear deterrent size-wise and to pitch in the occasional goal, or with the team leaning so incredibly heavily upon Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and Damien Brunner to serve as the team's clutch performers if Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Abdelkader are checked into the ground (dear Gord, I never thought I'd be saying that about the team's top line) and Cleary, Filppula and Franzen can't deliver (it'd be nice to see Smith, Quincey, Colaiacovo, Eaves, Emmerton and the suddenly-silent Kindl to contribute but that'd be a bonus at this point)...

But hell, stranger things have happened, and it's not as if the handshake line takes place today or Monday. There are games to be played and if the Wings show up for 'em, things might get interesting.

At this point, after a season that didn't appear to hold any hope of extending the team's 22-year playoff streak or, about a week ago, any hope of beating the deeper, smoother Ducks on that Gord-awful Anaheim ice, especially without Abdelkader in the lineup (again, I never thought I'd be saying that about the Human Log), so let's see what the Wings can do, and, hopefully, anyway, enjoy the ride, regardless of whether it ends this upcoming week or whether it rolls on haphazardly as the square wheel this year's Wings really are.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

stonehands-78's avatar

thanks, GJM.

” ...so let’s see what the Wings can do, and, hopefully, anyway, enjoy the ride, regardless of whether it ends this upcoming week or whether it rolls on haphazardly as the square wheel this year’s Wings really are.”

amen

L.G.R.W.

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 05/18/13 at 09:20 AM ET

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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.