The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/23/13 at 02:29 PM ET
Updated 5x at 4:46 PM, and Babs' game-day presser is below: As Paul's already noted, the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks exchanged the usual "all is well" sentiments as they prepared to face off in Game 4 of their second-round series tonight (8 PM EDT, NBCSN/CBC/97.1 FM, with a post-game show to air on FSD), and coach Babcock was in fine form during his game-day presser...
The NHL Network also filed a game-day report which includes comments from Babcock, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Justin Abdelkader...
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted an interview with Brendan Smith....
And the Free Press's Helene St. James posited a morning skate report as well:
Cory Emmerton told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that the Wings are well aware of the fact that they must brace for Chicago's best this evening as heading to the Windy City tied 2-2 as opposed to leading the series 3-1 would...Suck...
“We have to ready and play the same way,” Emmerton said. “If we do have a lead and we play like we did in the third (in Game 3) and just sit back we just have to keep going at them, but at the same time be responsible defensively.”
Chicago began the season 21-0-3.
“I don’t think we should talk too much about standings, but it’s still home-ice advantage,” forward Damien Brunner said. “If we can win in front of our fans again then it’ll put us in a really good spot.”
Game 5 is Saturday at 8 p.m. at the United Center in Chicago.
“We’re in a good spot, but on the other side of things we haven’t done anything,” Brunner said. “It’s good for a young group of guys to know that you can win some games so that definitely helps.”
The Wings will go with the same lineup they’ve used during their current two-game winning streak.
“The regular season is a wash,” Emmerton said. “Everything starts new. You find that out some way or another. This year I don’t think it’s been really any different as far as the playoffs are concerned. I think the season aspect of it, teams didn’t get the whole season to get playing their best hockey. They come on, playing strong at the end, and they just squeak into the playoffs. I can’t really tell you where we would have finished had we played 82 games. Maybe we would have been higher. You just don’t know. We don’t really think about that ever. We just focus on the now.”
Babcock was adamant that his team must produce a strong sixty-minute effort this evening, as the Free Press's Helene St. James noted...
"In Game 1, we didn't skate good," Wings coach Mike Babcock said after today's morning skate. "We thought we had a real good game in Game 2. Game 3, I liked us for the first 40 minutes. I didn't like us at all in the third period, when we got cautious and careful. You can't give this team space. As soon as you start backing up, they got too much space, and then they really make you look bad. You never get out of your zone.
"It's like anything, you're talking all the time and trying to improve and trying to get better. You look at lots of shifts, it looks like we've got a great forecheck going; suddenly, they're out. It looks like we got them, and suddenly, they're out. They're that good. They execute that good."
Game 5 is at 8 p.m. Saturday at Chicago. If needed, Game 6 would be Memorial Day back at the Joe.
Overall, the Wings told WXYZ's Brad Galli that they're going to have to keep the pedal to the metal to prevail this evening and take a 3-1 series lead:
"I can't imagine it," Brendan Smith said of the possibility. "It's kind of like a dream come true, being my first playoffs. That'd be quite exciting."
The Red Wings aren't putting the celebration before the battle just yet, though. It will take a complete 60 minutes to take Chicago down for the third straight game, and players in Detroit's locker room know they can't take their foot off the gas pedal.
"I don't think we should think about that too much, just focus on the game and keep playing like we did," Damien Brunner said after Detroit's skate Thursday.
"We have to play at our best if we're gonna have a chance to win. Look at Game 3 here, they had a lot of chances, hit a few posts, and the small things decided the outcome of that game," Henrik Zetterberg said.
If not for a disallowed goal that would have tied the score at 2-2 in Game 3, the series could have a much different tone.
"We've got to play good...play our game. We do that, we have a chance."
"I think we've been improving all year long, especially at the end here," Gustav Nyquist said after scoring the Red Wings first goal in Game 3. "We know we have to play as a team to be successful and that's what we're trying to do."
Galli also filed a video report from the morning skate:
The Wings definitely subscribe to the, "Don't get too high and don't get too low" theory regarding their comments, but the Windsor Star's Bob Duff snagged superlatives from Brendan Smith...
“This is a huge game, the biggest game of our season probably,” Saad said, tipping his cap to what the Wings have achieved thus far. “They’re a good team, so it’s exciting, it’s a fun challenge.”
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville of Riverside was anxious to see how his team would stand up to the first serious test of their mettle in these playoffs.
“I think we’re definitely disappointed,” Quenneville said. “We haven’t been in this position all year. We’ve quietly gone about our business. I think we’ve gotten our attention over the last couple of games. We’re looking to play our best game of the year tonight and we’re going to need it.”
The Wings fully expects the Blackhawks to deliver their A game and recognize to achieve success, they’ll need to respond in kind.
“They haven’t lost back-to-back games in quite some time,” Detroit defenceman Brendan Smith said. “They’re a great team, but anything can happen in the game of hockey. We’ve all seen that. I think we’ve been playing pretty well, but I don’t think we’ve played our best. I don’t think we’ve played a full 60 and if we do that, I think we can bump that adversity up even more and make it three games to one.”
And MLive's Ansar Khan noted that the Hawks believe that they must match the Wings' from-the-bottom-up push in terms of play from their third and fourth lines...
“We feel that a couple of lines there who scored the first two goals of the game (by Gustav Nyquist and Drew Miller) gave their team a lot of life and got the building going,'' Quenneville said. “We want to make sure that no matter who’s out there, we’ve got to be aware defensively, we’ve got to be committed to shutting them down. Let’s have respect that these guys can make plays. They’ve got quick sticks, they can one-on-one you. They play a real strong team game. You can’t discount who you are out there against. Every shift is important.''
The Blackhawks admit they haven't faced any adversity this season while racking up a league-best 77 points. They're facing it now, trailing the Red Wings 2-1 in the Western Conference semifinal playoff series heading into Game 4 tonight at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network, CBC).
“We haven’t been in this position all year,'' Quenneville said. “We’ve quietly gone about our business. I think we’ve gotten our attention over the last couple of games. We’re looking to play our best game of the year tonight and we’re going to need it.''
The Red Wings have outscored the Blackhawks 7-2 while winning the past two games. Chicago hasn't lost three in a row this season.
“You’re going to get tested along the way,'' Quenneville said. “It’s never a smooth road. There’s always obstacles and hurdles you’ve got to overcome.''
But the Wings are very wary of the Hawks...
“Game 3, to be honest, I liked us for the first 40 minutes, didn't like us at all in the third period when we got cautious and careful,'' Babcock said. “You can't give this team space. As soon as you start backing up they got too much space and then they really make you look bad, you never seem to get out of your zone.''
Said defenseman Kyle Quincey: “If we don't match their desperation it's not going to be much of a game, they're going to beat us pretty good. We still have so much respect for them and how good a team they are. We have to play a better game than we did last game to win.''
Who told the Detroit News's Matt Charboneau that they'll win their must-win game:
"This is about as close to a must-win that you can get in the series tonight," winger Viktor Stalberg said after the team's Thursday morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. "We certainly don't want to go back down 3-1. We've got to win tonight to tie the series, it's as simple as that."
It's a strange position for the Blackhawks, who lost only seven games the entire season and cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Red Wings in Game 1. But excluding the third period of Game 3, Detroit has been the team in control the past two games and has Chicago beginning to wonder for the first time all season.
Despite being behind in a series they were heavily favored in, the Blackhawks insist they never expected to run away with the series and remain confident they can rally and advance to the next round.
"We knew this would be a tough series against Detroit, so it's not really anything we didn't expect," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "We had a lot of momentum in the regular season and this seems to be the first time we've actually run into some tough adversity. There's nothing wrong with that; you have to embrace it come playoff time. You don't win a Stanley Cup without going through something like that. We have to welcome it and whatever they throw at us we have to smile and throw it right back in their face. That's what playoff hockey is all about."
There didn't appear to be any lineup changes in the works for Thursday night.
During the morning skate, rookie Brandon Saad was skating on the second line with center Dave Bolland and Patrick Kane while the top line included Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa on the wings centered by Toews.
"A game like that can go both ways, but we're not going to dwell on the last two losses," Toews said. "It's not the result we want, but we're not sitting here being negative about it either. We know we have to take this series one game at a time. It's a long ways from over."
Update: ESPN's Craig Custance offered a thorough analysis of the Wings' ability to shut down Jonathan Toews thus far, and his insider-only entry includes the following observations...
• Detroit has done a good job of making sure there's always a player between Toews and Howard. They know how dangerous he can be if he gets a step on anyone. "We've been diligent on him, making sure we're on the right side of him," defenseman Kyle Quincey said. "When he wants to take it to the net, which he's one of the best in the game at doing, you have to make sure you're between him and the net or you're in a lot of trouble. We've been good at that. Hopefully we can keep it going and not give him a chance. We know he'll make us pay."
• Howard deserves credit in this, as well. In Game 3, there were very few rebound opportunities for Toews to jump on. He has to battle through Ericsson and Kronwall just to get to the front of the net, so it must be disheartening when the goalie isn't giving anything up once he finally gets there.
• Cleary is another important factor. Detroit is neutralizing Chicago's speed and mobility on defense with a strong forecheck, and Cleary is in the middle of it. He's also been physical in the neutral zone, at one point hitting Toews in Game 3 to knock the puck loose and give Detroit another shot in the offensive zone. Defending Toews starts long before he gets close to Howard.
The Blackhawks cannot be happy with the way they’re playing after back-to-back 4-1 and 3-1 losses. Toews has zero goals and only three points in the playoffs, and it matters now because no one else is filling the void. Kane had their only goal in each of the past two games. The rest of the old core was blanked. So was their new supporting cast. Crawford was outplayed by Howard. Most alarming of all, the Blackhawks were hit and outworked too often.
Burish said something else back when the Blackhawks were unbeatable. He praised their skill and speed and depth. But in pointing out the 2013 Blackhawks were “probably a more skilled team” than the 2010 Blackhawks, he raised another issue – grit.
“When you get to a playoff series, it’s grinding,” he said then. “It’s hard.”
It’s grinding now. It’s hard now. And you can focus on whatever area you want – the baffling power play, the struggling Toews, the suddenly overmatched third line, Crawford – but the bottom line is the Blackhawks should be the better team. They should come back to win and move on.
To prove it, to do it, someone, anyone, needs to make the difference when it matters most. That’s what champions do.
“We’ve been in worse situations than this, so we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves,” Toews said. “We’re not thinking any negative thoughts. Stay with it. That’s what it takes to win playoff series and to win championships. You go through moments like this. It’s not going to faze us in the least.”
We’ll see. Now.
And the Oakland Press's Pat Caputo offered three keys to the game...
1. The Blackhawks are exceptionally talented overall, and they have been knocked on their collective heels by the Red Wings in the first three games of a Western Conference semifinal Stanley Cup playoff series. They will come out of the gate quickly, and likely carry play early in Game 4. The Red Wings must weather the storm, and strike back. Like always in the playoffs, getting the first goal is extremely important.
2. The Blackhawks aren’t going to goon it up. It isn’t their style. But look for them to play more physically than they did in the first three games. The Red Wings must be patient and not take foolish penalties in response.
3. Jimmy Howard must continue to play exceptionally well in Detroit’s goal. This is the type of series that may turn quickly because of an ill-timed soft goal.
As did Ken Kal, via the Wings' Game Day Blog:
Match Chicago's Intensity - We're going to see the best from the Hawks early on. They will be coming after Detroit hard. The Wings need to weather the early storm and compete hard from the opening face off.
Get Solid Goalkeeping - Jimmy Howard's save percentage in this series is .950; he needs to be sharp again and get help from his teammates defensively infront of him.
Get the Lead - It's far better to lead than to play catch up hockey. Score first and get the big crowd into the game. Don't give the Hawks any breathing room or any life.
Amongst Kal's game-day Tweets:
97.1 the Ticket's Jeff Riger posted an interview with Jonathan Toews and came to a rather bold conclusion...
After Thursday’s morning skate there is no doubt in my mind that the Blackhawks are shocked to be down in their series with the Wings and they truly love themselves.
If you expected any sense of urgency from Chicago going into what is essentially a must win game four for them then you might be surprised. Instead what you get is players and the coach talking about how good the Hawks are and how this is the first time this season they have faced adversity. I know you have to be arrogant and cocky if you reach the level of professional hockey player, but some of the comments bordered on ridiculous to me.
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews was asked about the mood of his team and how he expects them to respond being down two games to one? Toews replied, “There is a reason we have made it this far. We are a good team; we are a really good team. We have a lot of players with some great ability in this locker room and you put it all together and you play the right way and we’re an amazing bunch of guys.”
An amazing bunch of guys? You’re telling me that not just a bit over the top? Plus he said there is a reason Chicago has made it this far… Like making it this far, for a team that is expected to win it all is any accomplishment at all.
Here is another one for you…
Patrick Kane was asked about the team’s adversity and he responded by saying “I don’t think we have had any adversity really. This is maybe the second or third time that we have lost a couple of games in a row. It’s not something that we are used to in here.”
Michigan Hockey's Darren Eliot penned a column about playoff adjustments that is...Partially...Red Wings-related...
I don’t know about you, but playoff hockey always points out things about the game. For instance, the N.Y. Rangers insistence on playing the entire game along the boards is simply out of date. They break out ‘D-to-Winger’ almost every time. When they get it to the neutral zone, they get to the red line, dump it in and muck for it in the corner. They put it back to the point and hope for a screen, tip, deflection, or rebound. The middle of the ice is largely off-limits, both on offense and defense.
Now, that safe style of play was all the rage pre-lockout…2004. Not coincidentally, that is when current Rangers’ coach John Tortorella guided the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup. Well, the game has changed drastically since then, but obviously not for his team. The best teams – to counteract opponents taking away the boards – exit their zone through the middle of the ice and enter the offensive zone wide to ultimately create space in the middle of the ice.
All of that is predicated on mobile defensemen that can handle the puck close to their net on the breakout and get up the ice and be part of the attack. The Red Wings have long espoused this style of play and even with more inexperienced players on the blue line, they continue to use the entire ice surface to play the game. It is higher risk and leads to more turnovers and chances against, particularly when so much youth is in the mix. But it is how you have to play to be successful.
That is why we’ve seen this Red Wings team continue to get better – the players have changed but the execution expectations have not. What we’re witnessing this spring is a team getting better while at the highest level of competition. To play this way, skating is a priority over size. The day of the slow-footed player is over. Size still matters, but if you cannot skate, you can’t play. That is why rookies Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist and first-year player Damien Brunner have shown growth in their respective games over the last four months – they all can skate.
And the NHL Network's just posted a game-day preview from Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers:
From the Hawks' perspective, as the Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest notes, Adversity + Blackhawks = inevitable winning:
"Our group has been fine, I think we're definitely disappointed," Quenneville said. "We haven't been in this position all year, we've quietly gone about our business and I think our focus is in the right place. It's the biggest game of the year tonight and we're going to need it."
The Blackhawks were expected to dominate the series against the Red Wings, having finished so far ahead of them in the standings. Yet the Red Wings bounced back after a sluggish start to the series, with a couple of strong efforts that have given them the upper hand. They've made things uncomfortable for the Blackhawks who are accustomed to having things go their way all year.
"I think we're handling the adversity well," said Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad. "It's exciting, we're down 2-1, but everyone is upbeat and we're ready to play tonight. It's a big game, it's exciting and we're all looking forward to it. I think we played well in Game 3, we can take a lot out of it. With a loss it's always a little bit of a downer, but we can take a lot of good things from that game and take them into tonight."
Conversely, the Red Wings have been battling adversity all year. Trying to keep their heads above water throughout the regular-season, they needed to win four straight in order to just qualify for the playoffs. They then survived two elimination games against the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.
"It was like playoffs for us at the end of the regular season," said Red Wings Joakim Andersson. "We had to win four games just to get in even. We've been playing these kinds of games for a while now. We played seven games against Anaheim, so we've been battling for a month.
"I'm not sure what they were doing at the end of the regular season, obviously they were great all year. But we feel like we have a good group here. We have a lot of young guys, that have been getting better and better and I think that's we're a better team now. And obviously when the playoffs comes, guys like (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Pavel) Datsyuk, they're better when the big games are on the line."
Amongst the Blackhawks press's game-day offerings:
The Chicago Tribune's posted auto-play game-day videos of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane discussing tonight's game, and the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc noted that both have proclaimed that all is well in Hawk-land...
"The talk the last few days has been the adversity we're facing," captain Jonathan Toews said following the morning skate. "We knew it was going to be a tough series against Detroit. So we're not running into anything we didn't expect.
"Obviously, all year we seemed to just go in one game at a time and kind of maintain a sense of consistency almost, and nothing seemed to disrupt that. This seems to be the first time we're running into some tough adversity. There's nothing wrong with that. That's something you have to face come playoff time. You don’t win a Stanley Cup without going through something like that. We have to welcome it and whatever they throw at us, we have to smile and throw it right back in their face. That's what playoff hockey is all about."
Added winger Patrick Kane: "I don't think you can worry too much about making it 2-2 or being down 3-1. We have to go out and play the game like we want to win it. We're just trying to get better. That's a good team we're playing against and they're playing pretty well right now. It's going to be a fun game."
All Hawks were present and accounted for during the skate and it's likely coach Joel Quenneville will field the same lineup after the team fell to the Wings 3-1 in Game 3 on Tuesday night in Detroit. Rookie Brandon Saad was skating on the second like with center Dave Bolland and Kane during the morning skate while the top line was wingers Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa with Toews in the middle.
"We're in a good spot; we're confident," Toews said. "We know we did some great things last game. A game like that can go both ways, but we're not going to dwell on the last two losses. It's not the result we want, but we're not sitting here being negative about it either. We know we have to take this series one game at a time. It's a long ways from over. We're going to focus on (Game 4). We're a confident, happy group right now and we're excited to play (Thursday night)."
While the Tribune's Brian Hamilton posted videos of Gustav Nyquist and Kyle Quincey as related to an article noting that the Red Wings would prefer to not have the Hawks "smile and throw it in [their] faces":
"We know how hard they're going to come out, because we've been in that situation," defenseman Kyle Quincey said after the team's morning skate Thursday. "At the end of the day, if we don't match their desperation, it's not going to be much of a game. They're going to beat us pretty good. We still have so much respect for them and how good a team they are. Like (coach Mike Babcock) said yesterday, we're going to have to play a better game than we did last game to win. That's our goal."
"We never talked about being ahead or behind even before," Babcock said. "We just talked about the game we were going to play, and that's what we're doing here now. We say it all year long: When you win today, everything's OK. That's what the NHL is all about and that's what the playoffs are all about. Let's execute, let's focus on the process."
The Hawks were satisfied with their Game 3 effort, if not the result. But the fact that the Red Wings won regardless as imbued some confidence in them. So, too, has the notion that they have not mustered a complete game yet.
"I don’t think we've played a full 60 minutes," defenseman Brendan Smith said. "That's something we want to take care of and make sure that we do. We all know Chicago is going to come out blazing. It's such an important game. It seems like every game gets more important. It's unbelievable how that works. They're going to up their ante, and we're going to have to do the same."
The Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Potash noted that Viktor Stalberg believes that Toews will deliver a breakthrough performance this evening...
'I've got a feeling he'll probably score here tonight,'' Stalberg said prior to Game 4 of the Blackhawks conference semifinal series against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. ''He's usually that guy that when we need him the most he's going to find a way to get it done. So I wouldn't be surprised to see him have a big game here tonight.''
Though Toews is in a scoring slump, he has a history of making an impact eventually.
''He is like that. It's kind of remarkable to see,'' Stalberg said. ''I just remember my first year in the playoffs when we were down a goal to Vancouver in Game 7 -- shorthanded he finds a way to score. That's just how he is. When we needed him the most, in stretches when we neeed to win games he's been the best player. I'm sure he'll be even better and he'll find a way to get it done.''
Stalberg is a perfect example of how fickle fate can be in playoff hockey. In the Hawks' 3-1 loss to the Red Wings in Game 3 on Monday night, he had an almost certain goal hit the crossbar and stay out of the net, then had the tying goal disallowed for goaltender interference.
''Tough bounce, but it happens. You can't complain about it,'' Stalberg said. ''It's something we don't think about too much right now. We lost the game, so be it. We've got to be hungry tonight.''
And the Chicago Daily Herald's Tim Sassone noted that Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has called out one of his players:
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said the team needs more from defenseman Brent Seabrook starting in Game 4 tonight at Joe Louis Arena. Seabrook played less than 18 minutes in the Hawks' Game 3 loss and was minus-1. He let Gustav Nyquist go around him on Detroit's first goal.
"We're looking for more," Quenneville said after Thursday's morning skate. "Whether it's a matchup or the way the game is being played, how we're playing, how he's playing, I think reflects that," Quenneville said of Seabrook's reduced ice time in Game 3. "I think our defense has been pretty solid throughout most of the season, but we need everybody to be strong and we have to be comfortable with everybody against anybody."
ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers insists that the Hawks are in fact Chillin' and Illin' heading into tonight's game...
“I think it's pretty light in here," Kane said after the skate at Joe Louis Arena. “Everyone is excited about the game obviously, but still no difference than any other day in here, which I think is good. I think we're ready to play. Just watching us in pregame skate, seeing everyone out here just thinking and worrying about hockey. It's a good sign. Not too much has changed, but definitely a sense of urgency."
Kane admitted he considered the Blackhawks' current situation their first real adversity of the season, but he also didn't think that was a bad thing.
“I think a lot of people have said [this is our first adversity] the past few days," Kane said. “We all know that. But still think the mood is pretty good in here. We're excited about the game tonight and excited about proving what this group can do. It seems like maybe some people are counting us out right now, but I still think we have a great team that can come back in the series. It's exciting for us to even have the chance to be able to prove that."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville also made reference to his team being in an unfamiliar spot. But like Kane, Quenneville has liked how his team has responded in recent days.
“We know we haven't been in this position all year," Quenneville said. “I think we've quietly gone about our business, and I think we've gotten our attention over the last couple of games. I think the focus is got to be in the right place. We're looking to play our best game of the year tonight, and we're going to need it."
Kane thought it was important Thursday not to get too wrapped up in the big picture.
“I don't think you can worry too much about making it 2-2 or being 3-1," Kane said. “I think we got to go out, play the game, play like we want to win, play like we did in the third period the other night. Just worry about the game in itself, don't worry about what the score is going to be afterwards. Worry about the process, more than the end result."
Powers also offers five points of emphasis for Chicago, including the following...
1. Special teams: The Blackhawks and Red Wings both believe they're due for a power-play goal. If one team can break through, it could be the difference in a tight game. The Blackhawks are 1-for-9 on the power play in the series, and the Red Wings are 0-for-12. The Blackhawks' penalty kill hasn't allowed a goal on 29 tries in the playoffs. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville mixed up his power-play units during Wednesday's practice. One unit included Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell, and the other unit included Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Andrew Shaw. Dave Bolland and Michal Rozsival also rotated into the second group.
2. Toews & Saad scoring slump: Blackhawks forwards Brandon Saad and Toews have yet to score in eight playoff games this season after combining for 33 regular-season goals. Both have been close to scoring in recent games. Toews took a game-high seven shots on goal in Game 3, and Saad has 11 shots on goal in the series. Quenneville has tried to get both players going by altering his top two lines. Saad was moved from the top line to the second line and put alongside Kane and Bolland, and Sharp was moved to the top line beside Toews and Hossa.
And Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Steve Konroyd offers his keys to the game:
1. Big dogs have to show some bite: Chicago knows where it stands. Win this game and it’s a two-out-of-three series with home-ice advantage. Lose it and you have to win three of the next four. Drawing from past experience as a player with the Blackhawks in the playoffs, in the 1990 Western Conference finals we grabbed a two-games-to-one lead on the Edmonton Oilers with Game 4 at the Chicago Stadium. We felt confident in having won a game in Edmonton and then winning our first game back at home in Chicago. Mark Messier took it upon himself to change that series in one game. From start to finish, he was the best player on the ice in Game 4. They went on to win that game and the series and then the Stanley Cup in the next round. Chicago has a lot of Messiers on this team, and it’s time to stand up and be noticed.
2. Your power play must ignite your offense: I’m a strong believer in your power play getting your even-strength play going. Chicago has scored a total of two goals in its last two games against Detroit. Patrick Kane scored both, and they both came at even strength. The power play has not been a factor in the playoffs so far. Not only does it ignite your even-strength play, but the opposition is a lot less likely to play with an edge, which Detroit has done the last two games. They don’t want to be sitting in the box when the other team scores. Make them pay when they take a penalty. And try to be better than 1-for-7 on your faceoffs when you’ve got the man advantage. That’s what Chicago did in Game 3, and that helps the penalty killers.
3. Keep it low on Howie: The Blackhawks fired 40 shots at Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard, and unfortunately a lot where targeted at his belly and glove. Shots like that kill plays. Howard is great at absorbing shots in his midsection, and his glove rarely gives the puck back. Low shots have the chance to become rebounds. The Blackhawks have not scored many rebound goals in the postseason, and that has got to change.
In the multimedia department, the Blackhawks' website posted clips of Toews...
And Brandon Saad speaking to the media...
As well as Joel Quenneville's game-day presser...
And, via RedWingsFeed, here's an ESPN clip of Patrick Kane's morning skate scrum:
Update #3: The Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Potash penned a second game-day entry:
Jonathan Toews, mired in a playoff scoring slump with no goals and three assists in eight games, usually makes his presence felt eventually. And Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith knows it's coming.
''He's going to find his way on the board. It's something that we know,'' Brendan Smith said. ''We're going to try to keep him off as long as possible. These players, they're so competitive. They're so good that they'll find a way. It's something that we're just going to keep trying to eliminate. He's had some bad bounces where he's hit the post and stuff.''
The Red Wings have neutralized Toews with even more physical play than the Minnesota Wild did in the opening series. Toews responded with an outstanding effort in Game 3 -- all that was missing were the points.
"I think it's just being very aware of him and playing him hard,'' Smith said. ''I think just the will to battle. He's a very strong guy. He battles so hard. If you battle just as hard it'll help our whole game and that's what's been good for us in shutting him down.''
It seems unlikely that Toews will stay this quiet. The Wings just hope he doesn't break through at a critical time -- like when Toews had a hat trick and five-point game in a critical Game 4 at Vancouver in 2010; or when he scored the tying goal shorthanded with two minutes to go in Game 7 against Vancouver in 2011; or when he scored the winning goal in overtime in Game 6 against the Phoenix Coyotes to keep the Hawks alive in that first-round series in 2012.
''He's a great player. Don't get me wrong. We know it's going to happen,'' Smith said. ''We just have to make sure that we keep playing him hard and making sure that we're very aware of him because he is arguably their best player.''
The Vancouver Sun's Cam Cole took note of the Hawks' bluster heading into today's game:
“Things are tougher in the playoffs, but at the same time, you still want to play your game and stick to what you do best,” said winger Patrick Kane. “There’s no sense going through a regular season and playing the way we did and then changing it in the playoffs. It’s what made us successful, we just want to do it with a little bit more intensity, more drive and willpower.”
There is, however, some truth to the assertion that this is the first real adversity the Blackhawks have had all year.
“Yeah, it is,” Kane admitted, “and a lot of people have said that the last few days, and we all know that. But I still think the mood is pretty good in here. I think we’re excited about proving what this group can do. It seems like maybe some people are counting us out right now, but I still think we have a great team that can come back in the series.”
“There’s a reason we made it this far,” [Toews] said. “We’re a really good team and we have a lot of players with great ability in this locker room. You put it all together and play the right way, we’re an amazing bunch of guys.”
That said, he knows the breaks have not been kind.
“But if there’s a few bounces not going your way, you can’t just chalk it up as puck luck and say ‘Too bad.’ You gotta find a way to get it going your way. I think the harder you work, the more bounces you get … we’re working hard and we’re just waiting for that one break to kind of open the floodgates.”
We will keep Joel Quenneville's playoff record against the Wings quiet, but the Wings don't want the Joe to be quiet as USA Today's Kevin Allen reports that home teams are winning over 2/3rds of their playoff games:
"I wouldn't say home ice is a huge advantage, but it makes a difference when you have 20,000 fans cheering for you instead of against you," Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl said.
The No. 7 Red Wings knocked off the No. 2 Anaheim Ducks in the first round, and they are looking to raise their home playoff record to 4-1 Thursday when they play the No. 1 Chicago Blackhawks (NBC Sports Network, 8 p.m. ET). In theory, home ice should be a major edge because the home coach gets the advantage of the last line change.
"That's huge," Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey said. "For 60 minutes, a home coach can have every matchup he wants and on the road it's a guessing game."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he loved having the home crowd firing up his players and appreciated the advantage of the last line change.
"What I don't like, sometimes you get so fired up, with the crowd going, you lose your emotional control," Babcock said. "I think it's way easier to stick with your emotional control and stick to the game plan when you're on the road. Sometimes at home you try and do too much instead of trying to do your own simple little part and letting your team game take over."
Oddly, during this strong run by home teams, road teams won two of the three Game 7s in the first round. Anaheim lost at home to Detroit, and the Washington Capitals lost to the New York Rangers. The Toronto Maple Leafs also looked like they were going to win a Game 7 on the road but ended up falling to the Boston Bruins in one of the more memorable comebacks in NHL history.
"I still think that home ice isn't as important as it once was, because the teams are so close," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "But I think if you ask a player whether they would like to play at home or on the road, they would rather play at home."
And I highly recommend the Sporting News's latest gallery of Wings pictures from team photographer Dan Mannes, with his focus on the Wings' second-round series against Chicago.
Update #4: Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers has penned columns about the Blackhawks' desire to display the kind of energy they exhibited in the third period of Game 3...
"The start is important,” coach Joel Quenneville said this morning. “We want to make sure we’re on our toes, doing the right things. We talk about our overall game, but the speed of our game and keeping the puck out of our own end and getting on the forecheck is what we’re looking to establish. At the same time, a defensive approach is what we’re looking for.”
Patrick Kane agreed.
“It was a good period for us; we had a lot of chances, hit a couple posts, had a disallowed goal and got a goal. It felt like it had more action, too,” he said. “For us, we’re just trying to get better. That’s one of the main things throughout the series. They’re playing pretty well right now, so we’ll have to play even better than we did the other night.”
And she noted that the Nyquist-Andersson-Brunner line has been a huge difference-maker for the Wings:
“I think we compliment each other pretty well,” Nyquist said following Thursday morning’s skate. “Andy is a great center, a great two-way player who takes care of us defensively, and Brunner’s a great shooter. It’s been working well so far.”
“They like to play offense, so I just try to balance the whole thing and be smart defensively and read off them and what they’re doing out there,” he said. “I want to play with the puck as well, but I have to make sure we take care of the defensive part of the game as well.”
Sticking with the Wings, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted that the Wings hope to continue winning faceoff battles as they attempt to keep Toews and his teammates off the scoresheet...
There’s a been a lot of talk about the Red Wings having frustrated the Blackhawks in the last two games, both Detroit victories, including Monday’s 3-1 win at Joe Louis Arena. The ’Hawks’ frustration is beginning at the faceoff dot, and it’s their leader, captain Jonathan Toews, who is feeling the heat. Considered to be one of the league’s best drawmen over the last five seasons, Toews hasn’t had much luck against Detroit in this series.
Zetterberg is tight-lipped when speaking about his tactics in the circle, but he said, “It's always important, especially against this team. If you're chasing the puck for 30 or 40 seconds, you don't have energy to play in the offensive zone. If you have the puck from the start, it's easier.”
Toews finished the regular season ranked second with a 59.9 winning percentage in the faceoff circle. Through eight playoff games, he’d ranked seventh at 57.6 percent. But against the Red Wings, Toews’ numbers have dropped off to 46.8 percent (29-of-62), and more so against Zetterberg at 39.3 percent (11-of-28).
“I think both are good faceoff guys. Toews is top five, he’s a great, great faceoff guy,” said Wings rookie center Joakim Andersson, whose defensive zone faceoff win led to Nyquist's Game 3 goal. “But Zetterberg is so competitive. He’s not going to let Toews run a show in the circle. He’s going to dig in there and do whatever it takes to win some draws. Toews is so good and he’s going to win his share of faceoffs, but Zetterberg is going to make sure that he wins his part too.”
And NHL.com's Corey Masisak talked about the Hawks' spiel regarding embracing adversity and the Wings' response:
"We know how hard they are going to come at us because we've been in that situation," Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey said. "At the end of the day, if we don't match their desperation, it isn't going to be much of a game. They're going to beat us pretty good. We still have a ton of respect for them and how good of a team they are. I think we're just going to play like [Detroit coach Mike Babcock] said [Wednesday] -- we have to play an even better game than we did last game to win. That’s our goal."
Red Wings center Cory Emmerton said: "It is a little bit different, but we can't treat it that way. The biggest thing about being ahead is not getting complacent. We've got to have that killer instinct, have to have the urgency to play the same way."
One of the dominant themes of the 2013 playoffs in Detroit has been the play of the younger members of the Red Wings. There will be six players in the Game 4 lineup who either are in their first or second NHL postseason, and this will be a new experience for them. They have proven they can handle playing with desperation, but the young Red Wings also have thrived in the underdog role, and maybe that alleviates some pressure.
"I think what happened in the last series is we would win and get back to a tie in the series and kind of let up the next game," Emmerton said. "It wasn't until we were facing elimination did we kind of string together two must-wins. It is just going to be key for us to stick to the same plan and play the same way."
Update #5: Here's the Wings website's game-day preview:
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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.