The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/25/13 at 12:15 PM ET
Updated 13x at 3:49 PM: The Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks will tangle in a potential elimination game tonight in Game 5 of their second-round series (8 PM EDT, 8:20 PM EDT puck drop, NBC/CBC/97.1 FM, post-game on FSD and WDIV), and around the time that the Red Wings arrived in Chicago last night, the NHL announced the following:
The Hawks took to the ice first on Saturday morning:
Lest I forget that this is a holiday weekend for those of you that aren't hockey bloggers:
My high school held graduation in June and I didn't have a party (going to Germany with the German class in 1994 was my "senior year gift" for graduating in 1996), and I wrapped up my English degree during the spring term, so I didn't "walk" at Michigan Stadium...I just got my degree in the mail in July and celebrated by having a sandwich and taking a nap.
In the article (or at least non-Tweet) department, as the Red Wings' Game Day Blog notes that the Wings plan on taking the Hawks very, very seriously this evening...
Wings Look to Take Blackhawks Down: A lot of people didn't give the Wings much of a chance this series. They got smoked in Game 1 against the heavily favored Chicago Blackhawks. Then the magic happened; they ran off three straight in convincing fashion and now sit one win shy of putting away the Presidents' Trophy winners. The Wings know it won't be an easy task.
“We know that they're a desperate team,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I'd like to think that we'll be desperate as well. You want to be as prepared as the opportunity is important and we have to play that hard.” If Babs is right, and he usually is, you can expect the best of both teams tonight.
And it offers a historical note:
On This Day in Red Wings History...On May 25, 1995
The Red Wings defeat the San Jose Sharks, 6-2, in the Game 3 of the conference semifinals. The Wings scored six goals in all four games of the second round sweep.
MLive's Brendan Savage noted that, after a spotty start, it's turned out that Carlo Colaiacovo has become an asset while playing alongside Jakub Kindl, and the fact that Brendan Smith and Kyle Quincey are less of an adventure when the Wings toss them over the boards has Savage accurately stating that the Wings' "bottom four" defensemen have lent a significant hand to the team during its battle against the Hawks:
"He's been great," Kronwall said [of Colaiacovo]. "Ever since he came in, he's a really good puck-moving defenseman. At the same time he's solid in our own end. He's doing everything that's asked of him and more. So he's been great for us."
In four games against the Blackhawks, Colaiacovo has one assist and a plus-1 rating. Kindl scored the game-winning goal in Game 4 and also has an assist and a plus-2 rating vs. Chicago, Quincey has an assist and a plus-1 rating and Smith has a goal and an assist after a rough outing in Game 1.
"Kronwall and Ericsson, we think, are real good players and give us good stability, good matchup D," said coach Mike Babcock, whose club leads the series with Chicago 3-1 entering Game 5 tonight. "Then after that, Quincey's really kind of settled in, and Smith has gotten better for us this year, and Kindl has some good offensive skill and has played better.
"Carlo, who has been available to us pretty much all year has played much better once DeKeyser got hurt, and got an opportunity to go every day. So it's been a work-in-progress on the back end. We struggled to move the puck early in the year and we've gotten better at it. If you watched us last night in the first period you wouldn't think we couldn't move the puck, but we've done a pretty good job in this series."
"This year we had a lot of injuries," said captain Henrik Zetterberg. "A lot of guys have been in and out of the lineup. When they got the call to play they've been doing a good job, here in the playoffs as well. Colo came in and played really good for us. We need that. You need depth with your D, you need depth with your forwards. So far it's been good."
No. 5. The Young guys: Veterans Pavel Datsyuk (more on him in a minute) and Henrik Zetterberg are still driving the bus for this team, but there are some really impressive young players getting some important on-the-job training. Damien Brunner, Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith all look like they're on their way to strong NHL careers.
No. 4. Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson: No Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski to anchor the defense anymore? No problem. At least not now. The Red Wings had some issues on the blue line this season, especially early, but this pairing has been solid in the postseason, especially in round two going up against Chicago's top line. Kronwall actually had a really underrated season. He's known for his huge open-ice hits, but he had a great year offensively and stepped into the No. 1 role.
No. 3. Mike Babcock and Ken Holland: Breaking news! Mike Babcock is a good coach. And this might be his finest coaching job yet given the number of young players that he's had to work into the lineup and the holes that he's had to fill on defense over the past couple of years. And let's not forget that Ken Holland runs a pretty strong organization in the front office and has given the team the type of young assets needed to start writing a new chapter in the Red Wings' history book.
And the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner took note of the fact that the Griffins will battle the Oklahoma City Barons in Game 2 of their Western Conference series tonight.
Things got predictably quiet after the Blackhawks' morning skate wrapped up, so you may or may not want to make this wallpaper-sized picture of Pavel Datsyuk facing off against Marcus Kruger your wallpaper, but it's pretty spiffy.
Well, this stinks...But it means that the Wings will only have the, "We don't show up until 7:30 PM local time" excuse in place for 10 minutes:
The Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc took note of the "level of belief" in the Hawks' room...
"There's still a lot of belief in this room," Hawks winger Patrick Kane said after the skate at the United Center. "It's easy to say you can go on a three-game winning strea but that's not what we're looking at right now. We're looking at one game at a time. We have a great opportunity at home where we've been pretty good all year to win a game. That's all we have to worry about right now is Game 5 and try to get ourselves back in the series."
Added defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson: "It's always special to play these kind of games. If you lose, you're out of here. That's the games that I personally enjoy to play. But it's always nicer to be on the other end of it."
In an effort to jump-start the Hawks' offense, which has two goals in the last three games--all losses--coach Joel Quenneville appears to be reuniting Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews on the top line. The veterans skated together during the morning skate.
"We played a lot together my first couple of years in the league and just kind of developed some chemistry where it was pretty instant and had a lot of offensive chances," Kane said. "We just have to kind of remember how to play with each other. We haven't done it in a while. Hopefully, we can get a good first couple of shifts and get some chemistry back right away.
"We haven't scored much lately and that's really not what our team is all about," Kane added. "For us, it's all about getting chances and usually we don't have that problem worrying about scoring goals. I don't think we should worry about that again. Just worry about playing one hockey game and trying to get those chances. The biggest thing might be to not get frustrated if they aren't coming right away and stick with it because you know eventually you're going to get a couple of chances throughout a game to score. When we do get those, try to bury them."
And the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness offers the Wings' reactions to the Hawks' line changes and promises of strong performances:
“Your backs are against the wall, you can’t afford to lose a game,” forward Justin Abdelkader said Saturday after the Wings’ morning skate. “We know they’re going to come out with their best effort and they’re going to work hard. We have to match their intensity.”
The Wings can close out their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series with the Blackhawks with a win tonight. From the looks of the Blackhawks’ morning skate, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will be reunited, along with Patrick Sharp to form their top line.
“It’s their top two offensive players so we just have to play them hard and smart,” Abdelkader said. “They’re two highly skilled forwards. They’re probably going to try and mix and match all game. We’ll be ready for whatever they do. They’ve played separate a lot, but at the same time we’ll ready for it,” Abdelkader continued. “They’re going to try to move things and shuffle things around so we’ll be prepared for whatever they throw at us.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock wasn’t sure what line of his would matchup against Chicago’s new top line, but it’s a safe bet they’ll do everything possible to have Henrik Zetterberg on the ice. Zetterberg has shadowed Toews the entire series.
“Well I think if you mention those two on the second line they have two pretty good players there too, so you kind of pick your poison there,” Zetterberg said. “They’re such a deep team. They can put guys together on the first line and still have great guys on the second line, so for us we just try to focus on playing god defense and not focus so much on who you’re playing against.”
Michal Handzus will center the second line between Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell.
“You know he’s good on faceoffs, he’s strong on his stick,” Zetterberg said of Handzus. “You have to try to move a lot, skate a lot and try to find open spots. He’s been around the league for many, many years. He’s a good player and if that’s the case it will be a little different look for our line, but we’ll handle that in our way.”
Update #3: The Chicago Daily Herald's Tim Sassone's game-day update discusses the Hawks' line changes...
As for the Hawks' other forward lines, Michal Handzus will center for Hossa and Bryan Bickell while Andrew Shaw centers for Viktor Stalberg and Brandon Saad on the third line. Dave Bolland, minus-2 with no points in four playoff games, has been dropped to the fourth line with Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik.
The defense pairs were the same at the morning skate, but that doesn't mean Quenneville doesn't have something up his sleeve. On Friday he hinted Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith could be reunited.
"It doesn't really matter who I end up playing with," said Niklas Hjalmarsson, who has been Keith's partner throughout the playoffs. "I know the guy next to me is going to have a great effort. It's just a matter of focusing on yourself and your own game instead of thinking about what everyone else is doing out there."
As does Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers' game-day entry...
Desperate times are calling for desperate measures, as the Blackhawks look for ways to get any momentum, any edge and, of course, any goals. Chicago has just two of those in the last three games, which is why they’re on the brink of this postseason ending way sooner than they thought it would. So putting together a trio like this is just about [necessity].
And MLive's Ansar Khan's game-day article involves the Wings' response to the Hawks' line changes, noting that the Wings take Chicago's tweaks as something of a compliment for their defensive efforts:
“It's telling you you're doing something right in the series,'' Detroit's Daniel Cleary said....
“They're great players, you just try to compete with them, play as hard as you can on them,'' Cleary said. “I think Kane is one of the most talented players in the world. Johnny's got such work ethic and determination, Sharp's a great shooter, a smart guy.
“You're looking at three all-stars on a line. You play hard, you match their skating, their intensity, have good body positioning on them, take away their speed and you have a chance.''
Said Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey: “They’re skilled players and their job is to find time and space for themselves and our job is to take it away. So it’s a chess match. We’ve been getting the better of them so far but they’re not going to quit. They might have some moves we haven’t seen yet tonight so we’re on our toes and we’re ready for it.''
"If we do anything different, [Marian] Hossa and the other guys will just burn us," Quincey said. "It's status quo for us. Obviously, they're all great players and we have to respect them and keep their time and space to a minimum."
The matchups have gone the Red Wings' way this series. And Detroit coach Mike Babcock seemed unfazed by Quenneville's apparent decision to use the Sharp-Toews-Kane combination. After all, he's got two top-tier centers in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
"We've got Datsyuk on one unit and we've got Zetterberg on another unit," Babcock said. "And I assume Toews has to play against one of them -- I assume. And I assume [Michal] Handzus has to play against another one."
Quincey said the Red Wings are expecting "pure desperation" from the Hawks.
"They're going to come out hard and we're going to have to match it," he said. "They're going to be very desperate and we know how good this team is. We can't give them any life. This is a very important game."
Update #4: Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji offers some morning skate quips and quotes...
And Fox Sports Detroit's Dave Dye offers a unique perspective in his Morning Skate blog entry:
Mike Babcock and the Detroit Red Wings can knock out Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville one more time with a victory in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Without question, Babcock and the Wings are Quenneville's postseason nemesis.
• Babcock, in his eighth season as the Red Wings' coach, is 11-2 in playoff games against Quenneville.
• Babcock's team is on the verge of eliminating a Quenneville team for the third time in three playoff series.
• The last four times the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup -- 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008 -- they eliminated a Quenneville-coached team en route to the Finals.
• Quenneville is one loss from becoming the first NHL coach in at least 75 years to go 0-6 in playoff series against another team, according to STATS LLC.
Update #5: The Detroit Free Press's Helene St. James has filed her morning skate report, discussing the Wings' response to hearing that the Hawks have loaded up a "superpower" of Kane, Toews and Sharp:
Yawn, replied the Wings. The fact is, it’s a compliment to the opponent when a team has to make changes like that. “Yeah, it is, and we’ve been in that position, too,” Daniel Cleary said after the morning skate. “It’s telling you that you’re doing something right in the series.”
“They’re great players,” Cleary said. “You just try and compete with them, play as hard as you can. That’s all we’ve been doing. I think Kane is one of the most talented players in the world, and Johnny, he’s got such work ethic and determination, and Sharp, Sharp is a great shooter, he’s a smart guy. You’re looking at three All-Stars on one line.”
Whatever the Blackhawks do, the Wings plan on keeping Henrik Zetterberg on one unit and Pavel Datsyuk on the other. “I assume Toews has to play against one of them, I assume,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I assume Handzus has to play against another.” We’re just going to do our best to be prepared and play a good game. We were too loose the last game. We understand how important the start is here tonight.”
Babcock ended his presser by painting his team as the one that should be nervous, saying of the Blackhawks that, “I don’t know how they could be any more desperate or any more scared than we are. A little fear, I think is a wonderful thing to help you prepare to do your job in life.”
Zetterberg discussed the challenges the Wings face in shutting all four lines down while speaking with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, and Kulfan noted that the Wings are matching the Hawks, cliche-for-cliche:
"Take it one game a time and tonight is the first step," said Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad, echoing the mood of the Chicago locker room.
The Red Wings, of course, understand the importance of Game 5.
"Their backs are against the wall," forward Justin Abdelkader said. "You can't afford to lose a game. We know they're coming out with their best effort and we have to match that intensity."
Update #8: NHL.com's Corey Masisak switched things up and talked to the Wings about the Hawks' stretch passes...
"They're trying to get behind us with those long passes and stretch us out," Quincey said Saturday morning at United Center before Game 5 of a series the Red Wings lead 3-1. "They're making us skate with them. That's their skill set and we have to match it. It is tough. It is a lot of skating."
"You almost have to concede that pass and keep the guy in front of you," Quincey said. "If you try to jump in front of a guy and it bounces over your stick ... you know. With Kane's goal in Game 3, you just can't take anything for granted. Keith's on his backhand coming around the net under pressure and he still makes one of the best passes I've seen in a long time, so the defense are very good puck-movers and these guys are very dangerous when they get a chance."
Quincey saw a lot of Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne in the first round, and noted that the future Hall of Fame member liked to mix up where he would skate to as the Ducks tried to attack from their own zone. He said of the Blackhawks' forwards, "These guys just every time -- they're gone."
"They're skilled players and their job is find time and space for themselves, and our job is to take it away," Quincey said. "It is a chess match. We've been getting the better of them so far, but they're not going to quit and they might have some moves up their sleeves that we haven't seen yet, so we're on our toes and we're ready for it."
Coach Mike Babcock said one of Sharp's breakaways in Game 4 was excellent neutral-zone defense followed by a blown assignment. The plan to frustrate the Blackhawks, a team that wants to dominate possession of the puck, has worked quite well for the Red Wings. Given the talent and speed some of the Blackhawks' forwards possess, taking away Plan B could prove just as vital as the Red Wings try to complete the upset in Game 5.
"We have to keep them in front of us," veteran forward Daniel Cleary said. "You can't be fixated on the puck all the time, you have to watch where they are. They do that when they're trailing and then they've started to do that at the start of games. They've wanted to stretch us out. Just have to be aware of it, if you know someone is doing something, you should be able to match it. They play a fast game. The thing for that team -- they want to get the pucks in the forwards' hands as fast as they can. ... That's what their team relies on; we understand that and we have to limit their space, make their defensemen make a play they don't want to make."
And Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji took note of the Wings' desire to be better-prepared than Chicago and start "on time," if you will:
"We've shown that we can beat this team, obviously, we're up 3-1," Gustav Nyquist said. "The fourth one is always the hardest to get so we know they're going to come out hard, it's their home ice. But it's a big game for us. We want to win the fourth game as soon as possible, obviously, and it starts tonight. We know what to do to be successful against this team and we're just going to have to keep doing those things."
Update #9: The Free Press's Helene St. James posted a game-day video, too:
Update #10: ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers offers 5 things to watch for during tonight's game. Among them:
1. First scorer: The team that has scored the first goal has won three out of the series’ first four games. The only exception was Game 2, when the Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead and the Red Wings responded with four consecutive goals. The second period has also been vital in the series. The Red Wings have outscored the Blackhawks 5-0 in the second period.
3. Power play difference: The Red Wings scored their first power-play goal of the series in Game 4, and it decided the game. Look for special teams to potentially make the difference again in Game 5. The Blackhawks haven’t scored a power-play goal since the first period of Game 1 and have been shut out on their past 11 chances. The Red Wings are 1-for-15 on the power play in the series.
5. Faceoff edge: The Red Wings have continued to beat the Blackhawks in the circle. The Red Wings have won the faceoff battle in each game and are 131-112 for the series. Toews was the only Blackhawk to win more faceoffs than he lost in Game 4.
I'm not worried about the Hawks scoring the first goal tonight. The Wings have more poise, and even if they don't win tonight, they're going to out-discipline and out-work the Hawks. Chicago's nut's been cracked, and at some point, it's going to shatter.
Update #11: NHL.com's Brian Hedger duly noted that the Hawks haven't found an answer for the Wings' third line:
"Our third line is way better than we were two months ago, that's the biggest thing," Andersson, who was on the ice for that dominating Chicago shift in March, said after Saturday's morning skate at United Center. "We played Chicago earlier in the year and they just dominated us a couple games. Now, in this series, we've been playing against different guys a little bit. They've been switching up their lines."
The Red Wings' third-liners have the same exact approach -- only they're executing it. They're playing defense by trying to play offense, which is exactly what the Blackhawks got from their third unit almost all season.
"That's what you want to do," said Nyquist, who spent most of the regular season in Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League. "That's how you gain some momentum and energy for your team. We want to keep the puck as much as possible in their end, because all of their lines are pretty skilled."
Update #12: ESPN's Powers offers his take on the Sharp-Toews-Kane line, but the quotes have been bled dry.
Update #13: Here are Ken Kal's keys to the game:
Weather the Storm - The Blackhawks are a desperate team, they will be looking to get a fast start in today’s game. The Red Wings will have to match their intensity.
Good Goalkeeping - Jimmy Howard has been sensational, stopping 86 of 88 shots in the last three games. He needs to continue to be on his game tonight.
Limit Turnovers in the Defensive Zone - It’s important for the defensemen to get the puck up to the forwards and send them on their way. Can’t allow Chicago to get the puck down low and cycle.
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About The Malik Report
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.