The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/28/13 at 04:23 AM ET
The stats aren't pretty. The Red Wings have surrendered 3 of the 20 3rd-period goals they've given up this post-season and have now lost 3 straight games to the Chicago Blackhawks, dropping a 4-3 decision to the Chicago on Monday night (and I worked my butt off to post oodles of multimedia for your viewing pleasure), ensuring a melee at the "Madhouse on Madison" on Wednesday night.
Whether you place the blame for the Wings' loss on their mistake-prone young and depth players, the inability of their top lines to out-score the Hawks' altered personnel, their defense's inability to efficiently move the puck up ice, clear their own zone or move bodies out of Jimmy Howard's crease, the Wings' special teams struggles, their coach's inability or unwillingness to match his opponent's lineup changes, unseen and unreported injuries that are always a factor, the inconsistent and plain old poor refereeing that's plaguing every playoff game, an inability to execute, bad breaks or plain old playing a team that's had Detroit's number for far too long now...
Regardless of how Game 7 turns out, I will say this: we are witnessing the incredibly painful learning process that is giving experience and responsibility to younger, generally untested players and not filling the gap between them and unsupported stars during playoff series for the sake of re-tooling a team without rebuilding it.
21 years after Nicklas Lidstrom's Red Wings were swept by the Blackhawks in the second round, ending Lidstrom's rookie season, we're watching a Lidstrom-less Wings team perhaps inevitably succumb to the inequities between itself and an opponent that's been stacked and re-stacked for playoff runs via stink-till-you're-good rebuilding, and at least we are watching our Detroit Red Wings give the God-damn Blackhawks all they can handle...
And despite Smith's mistakes and the strange penalties and the Wings even more strangely choosing to attempt to run and gun against a team with an arsenal of offensive firepower instead of playing a close-to-the-vest knife fight, we are watching a very incomplete but in-progress Detroit Red Wings team let the rest of the NHL know that its rebuilding-in-progress status does not mean that its 22-year streak of playoff appearance is ending any time soon, and that even this Red Wings team is not far removed from rightly being called a contender a season or two down the line.
The inexperienced mistakes we're witnessing are why the Red Wings held onto the Drapers, Maltbies, Chelioses and Osgoods for so very long, sometimes at the expense of worthy successors, and the inexperienced mistakes we're witnessing are precisely why we must watch them--so the Wings' new core learns the hard way what works and what doesn't come playoff time, and so the Wings' management figures out how to better support both the 30-somethings who are in charge and the 20-somethings who will ultimately determine the course of playoff games and playoff series for the rest of this decade.
All of that being said, Monday night's loss felt like a kick in the heart, and ESPN Chicago noted that Captain Pork Chop delivered a proclamation to NBC after the game...
"We're going to come at them just the way we have in the last two games and lay it all on the line," Toews said on NBC after the Hawks hung on for a 4-3 win in Game 6 on Monday. "We're going to use our building as an advantage and we're going to have fun with it. We're going to give it everything we've got."
The Hawks, who had the best record in the regular season, are 5-1 at home in the postseason and are riding a wave of momentum after winning the last two games to force Game 7.
It did not come easy as the Hawks were down 2-1 entering the third period.
"They were flying in that second period, when they went up a goal, it's tough," Toews said. "It's a good building for them. We knew we were going to hang in there. We just needed one goal. Got that energy back and everyone responded, top to bottom. You definitely get emotional when you get in those situations where you're down a goal and it's do or die, your season might be over. And we just know we have a special group. We don't want to pass that up, we have a great opportunity this year. So we had to give it everything, and we did that in the third."
Toews described his team's effort as: "Relentless. We're not giving up."
The Hawks told the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc that they weren't surprised in the slightest by their ability to rally from a 2-1 third period deficit...
"We showed character (after) being down 2-1 after the second," said winger Marian Hossa, who kicked off the scoring with a power-play goal early in the first period. "To come back and score big goals, that's huge. Hopefully it gives us momentum for Game 7. We still know if you lose, it's all erased."
Hossa added an assist, while Michal Handzus, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik — on a penalty shot — also scored. The offense bailed out goaltender Corey Crawford, who had allowed the Wings to take a second-period lead on a shot he whiffed on with his glove.
"We just realized it was a do-or-die situation," said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews, who had two assists. "We weren't playing our best hockey and we were very conscious of that, and it was the toughest game of the series, especially when they went up 2-1. They were flying and got the crowd going, but credit to our guys for not getting fazed by that."
"It was just pure confidence," Toews said. "Our heads were in the right spot. We knew what we had to do and we weren't panicking. All our hard work is paying off. We're finding ways, we're doing the right things to score goals and we're confident when we get those chances that they're going to go in somehow."
Oh, did Toews ever continue while speaking with the Chicago Daily Herald's Barry Rozner:
"You definitely get emotional in that situation," said captain Jonathan Toews. "It's do or die and you know your season might be over. We just know we have a special group here and we don't want to pass that up. It's a great opportunity we have this year and we wanted to give it everything we had there."
Turns out, they did. After a terrible second period, during which you had to wonder if they fully understood their predicament while missing the effort necessary to stay alive, the Hawks came out and scored 3 goals in the first 9:43 of the third to take a 2-goal lead and then hung on defeat Detroit 4-3 at Joe Louis Arena, forcing a Game 7 at home Wednesday.
"Their focus was certainly that we were going to find a way," said coach Joel Quenneville. "Obviously, scoring early helps."
The goal to tie the game came only 51 seconds into the third when Niklas Hjalmarsson pinched 40 feet inside the Detroit zone and came up with the puck. He found Michal Handzus on the side of Jimmy Howard, who came out to play the shot. But Handzus showed great patience, waited for Howard to go down and then flipped it past him far side just inside the post, and the Hawks had new life.
"It was very positive between periods," said Bryan Bickell. "I know going out on the ice we had a spark and we knew we could do it. We got the first one and just carried on from there."
For the Blackhawks, the second intermission allowed them to re-set and rally around Corey Crawford, who they felt did a wonderful job of rebounding from giving up a knucklepuck goal to Joakim Andersson, as Crawford told ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers...
“Pretty much told myself, it can’t get any worse,” Crawford said. “Be strong, stop the next one and move on. ... I’m not going to lie, after the second one, it was a pretty tough moment there. I was able to settle myself down and keep battling and tell myself it’s not over, especially with our guys the way we can score. Just got to keep us in the game, a couple big saves and our guys took over.”
"I just ... I lost it. I lost it. That's a brutal one obviously, but I was able to rebound after that," Crawford said. "I just wanted to come up with the next save and build off that and keep going and keep us in the game."
That is exactly what happened. The game had been evenly played to that point, but the next few minutes were dominated by the Red Wings. Detroit poured 18 shots on Crawford in the second, but the knuckler from Andersson was the only one to get by him. By the time the Red Wings did solve him again, it was too late.
"It's a huge momentum shift," Crawford said of the goal. "Any time something like that happens, obviously the crowd got going and the team feeds off their crowd. Whatever. It happened. You just get past it and move on. [My teammates] have been great all series. It is a little bit of a relief when the guys can come back and play awesome and at the start of the third period like that. It feels good."
So the Hawks had a confab during the intermission, as they told the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus...
Some of the veteran guys stood up, one by one, and talked about how they’ve been here before, how they’ve done this before, how they’ve overcome more than this before. They might not have been Hollywood-quality speeches — “Duncs had a good one,” Bryan Bickell said of Duncan Keith — but the sentiment was there. And trailing by a goal in gut-wrenching fashion, the Hawks came out for the third period with one emotion. It wasn’t panic, it wasn’t desperation, it wasn’t even urgency.
“It was just pure confidence,” Jonathan Toews said....
“Everybody said the right things,” Handzus said. “You can talk, but you’ve got to do it on the ice. That’s what this team did. It [showed] a lot of character, but it’s over now. Game 6 is over. It’s a good feeling right now, so just enjoy tonight and get ready for a big Game 7.”
“We just talked about how everybody believed here, and there was no doubt,” Hossa said. “We came out strong.”
And quickly. Handzus took a great feed from Niklas Hjalmarsson and had all day all alone in front of Jimmy Howard’s crease, taking his time before ripping a shot on the far side to tie the game at 2-2 just 51 seconds into the third period. It was a stunning — and stirring — start for the Hawks.
"We were down 1 goal and usually we try to pinch as defensemen and throw the puck at the net," Hjalmarsson said. "He did a good job getting in front of the net there and waited for the goalie to go down. It was a huge momentum goal because we kind of took over the game for a little bit. I don't think any player has been alone for that long throughout the whole series."
Bickell outworked Brendan Smith in front for his fifth goal of the playoffs, swatting home a feed from Toews.
Bickell's goal may as well have been the nail in the coffin, and Bickell's Johan Franzen-like presence for Chicago's causing the Wings fits on the scoresheet. While Andrew Shaw scored 2 in Game 5 and Dave Bolland's gotten some press time, the Wings haven't been able to move Bickell out of their crease, and, as the Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton noted, Bickell scored another huge goal...
Jonathan Toews charged to the net to start the sequence, creating chaos in front of Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. Bickell took it from there, outmuscling a defender and then punching in a loose puck for his career-high fifth postseason score, breaking a 2-2 tie and charging up the Hawks bench.
"He's a big body, he's a great skater, got a great shot and he just goes to the dirty areas," center Michal Handzus said. "That goal he scored, he just overpowered the defenseman and got the puck and put it in. Obviously it was big for us."
Bickell continues to be big in every sense. Red Wings center Joakim Andersson joked Monday morning about the hit he absorbed from Bickell in Game 5, a blunt shoulder-to-chest detonation that had Andersson admitting he "lost my breath there for a couple seconds."
He scored a goal too, then another in Game 6. Both were point-blank rebound shots in traffic. Both were emblematic of Bickell heeding Quenneville's command to play with Handzus and Marian Hossa and change precious little.
But if there is any consolation about the Wings-Hawks series, it is that a team looking to add a big, strong goal-scorer may not have to look very far, as the Chicago Daily Herald's Sassone noted:
Bickell scored his fifth goal of the playoffs in the 4-3 win in Monday's Game 6, and he has been a physical force for the Hawks. Only Patrick Sharp had more goals with 6.
Not bad for the lowest-paid forward on the team with a salary of just $541,667. Teammates Brandon Bollig, Andrew Shaw, Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin, Jamal Mayers and Daniel Carcillo all make more than Bickell.
The Hawks have six unrestricted free agents in Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, Mayers, Michal Handzus, Michal Rozsival and Ray Emery. Nick Leddy and Marcus Kruger are restricted free agents.
The goal that put the game out of reach, however, came off the stick of Michael Frolik, who admitted to ESPN Chicago's Powers (who also penned a "rapid reaction") that whatever you want to call what Carlo Colaiacovo's tap or slash was was sold...
“I feel his stick on my hand,” Frolik said. “That’s why I lose the puck. The referee called it.”
And then Frolik, who told Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Myers that he'd worked on his shootout moves while playing in the Czech Extraliga during the lockout, made the most of a free breakaway, as the Chicago Sun-Times' Lazerus noted:
Frolik made a slick forehand-to-backhand move and roofed what proved to be the game-winning goal over Howard. In the process, he became the first player in NHL history to score two penalty-shot goals in the Stanley Cup playoffs (he scored one against the Canucks in 2011).
“Great move,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen that before. Great composure, great move.”
The Hawks told Myers that they were both pleased with their Game 6 win and not satisfied going forward...
The Blackhawks were truly on the ropes heading into the third period, the final 20 minutes between them and their season ending. Coach Joel Quenneville couldn’t have asked for a better response.
“It was important we call kept our focus from the goalie on out. The guys were staying with it,” he said. “We didn’t change too much. Commend them on doing what they did tonight. We got a lot of traffic and got big shots at the end of the night.”
The Blackhawks have evened this series, something that didn’t look likely when they went down 3-1 after Game 4. They’ve kept their composure, they’ve talked it out and they’ve remained focused. But their work isn’t done.
“Well, you can talk but you have to do it on the ice. That’s what this team did. It’s a lot of character. But Game 6 is over now,” Handzus said. “It’s a good feeling right now but enjoy it tonight and get rid of it and get ready for a big Game 7.”
As ESPN Chicago's Powers also noted:
"We definitely realized again it was a do-or-die situation," Toews said. "We played our best hockey when we're very conscious of that. It was a tough game. Obviously it was the toughest game of the series, especially when they went 2-1. They were flying. They had the crowd going. Credit to our guys not be fazed by that, hung in there. It was a huge third period by everybody. Had a couple power plays, a couple penalty kills, big saves by [Corey Crawford] in the third. Everybody bounced back and we found a way."
In "the spirit of the thing," the Chicago Sun-Times' Rick Morrissey is calling it: Hawks in 6:
In the end, the Hawks unleashed a third-period scoring barrage on goalie Jimmy Howard that led to a 4-3 victory and ended any conversations about Whose Head Will Roll.
Does it follow that the Hawks will win Game 7? I think it does.
Do you trust that they’ve righted themselves and made Detroit realize it’s the low seed it is? I think you should.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock doesn’t see it that way.
“They got what we gave them,’’ he said of the Hawks.
Despite Babcock’s odd worldview, it’s fair to say that everything is back to normal for the Hawks, who had gone down 3-1 in this series because of uninspired play. But the better team won. And the better team should wrap up this series Wednesday night.
Ditto for the Chicago Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom...
I was going to write about which players the Blackhawks should trade, and I still might.
But not now. Not after that third period.
The Hawks were down a goal, they were on Detroit ice, and they were 20 minutes from being booted from the Stanley Cup playoffs far short of the expected Stanley Cup championship.
The Hawks had scored two goals in eight periods in Joe Louis Arena, their top four forwards had combined for two goals in the last three games and they had wasted two early power-play chances Monday night.
I was going to write about which stars the Hawks ought to trade to win the Stanley Cup, and I still might. But not now.
Not after the Hawks’ most remarkable third period perhaps since Game 5 against Nashville in that magical spring of 2010.
CBS Chicago's Adam Hoge certainly believes...
About 90 minutes after their Game 6 loss, dejected Red Wings players (including Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen) left Joe Louis Arena with their heads down and very few words amongst themselves.
Meanwhile, the other team left for the airport beaming with confidence. The Blackhawks’ locker room was still business-like after the win, but it was also loose — much looser than it was back in Chicago in between Games 4 and 5.
“We’ve been playing desperate hockey ever since we were down three games to one,” Toews said. “We have to. I think we’re learning to really keep that poise and keep that control in really emotional situations. We’re harnessing that energy and we’re using it. We’ll see what happens.”
If they keep playing desperate hockey Wednesday night, here’s what will happen: A Blackhawks’ season once headed for bitter disappointment will be extended and the Stanley Cup will remain in reach.
And the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh, who wisely pointed out that the Wings' secondary scorers have been out-scored and out-hustled:
If you had to pick three guys most likely to save the Hawks' season, anybody guess Bickell, Michal Handzus and Michael Frolik? Anybody not related to them?
Everybody says the Hawks need their stars — not their secondary scorers — to beat the Wings. Yet the depth of the NHL's most talented team surfaced at the best possible time.
Handzus beat goalie Jimmy Howard with some Patrick Kane-like puck-handling 51 seconds into the period. At the 5:48 mark, Bickell continued a postseason that will make him a rich man during free agency by stuffing the go-ahead, rebound goal past Howard.
Finally, Frolik made the highlight reel that ruined Memorial Day in the Motor City by converting a penalty shot with a nifty backhand.
"Games like this, you'll remember the rest of your life,'' Handzus said.
The Detroit Free Press's George Sipple also covered the Crawford, Bickell and Frolik storylines, and the Detroit News's Matt Charboneau picked three Blackhawks stars, discussed their "role players'" successes and noted the Hawks' suggestion that they've made something of a playoff-run-defining statement, but I'd prefer to slowly but surely move us toward the Wings' perspectives via the out-of-towners' takes on the game.
Sportsline's Brian Stubits penned a recap of the only game in town and issued player grades; TSN's Jamie McLennan issued goalie grades, and Scott Cullen tossed out some stats in a de-facto recap; even Puck Daddy's Harrison Mooney felt that the Frolik call was soft, and he praised Pavel Datsyuk's performance in his 3 Stars; the Hockey News's Ryan Kennedy penned something of a recap; in Swedish, Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom spoke to Niklas Hjalmarsson after the game, and other than getting some, "We're going to stay positive" remarks from Henrik Zetterberg, Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman stuck to Hjalmarsson's take as well; and, amongst SI's Allan Muir's observations...
Colaiacovo had a few rough moments in the third, losing battles along the boards, getting caught out of position more than once and ending the night with a Corsi of -5, worst among Detroit’s defensemen. So why is it that he played just 2:55 in the second period but was bumped to 6:21 in the third, with his average shift going from 35 seconds to 54 seconds? He had three shifts where he was caught in his own zone way too long, each lasting over 1:12 — double his normal shift time — and each time he was back for his next go-around. Have to wonder about those decisions.
He's gone from "decent" to, "Where's Danny DeKeyser" again, and between Colaiacovo's play, Kyle Quincey's "mentoring" of Brendan Smith and the fact that the Wings need to buy out Mikael Samuelsson and make a decision about Jonas Gustavsson, the Wings may be making some trades as well as firing off their two cap-compliance buy-outs this summer.
In the narrative vein, the Edmonton Journal's Derek Van Diest noted that the Wings owned up to their defensive errors...
"Everything happens so fast out there," said Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall. "We lost guys in the D-zone coverage. But we lose as a team and we win as a team. We have to flush this and get ready and prepared for Wednesday."
The Blackhawks looked the better team at the start of the contest as the Red Wings, perhaps rattled by the urgency of their situation, trying to close out the series at home, kept turning the puck over.
Hossa scored on the power play just under four minutes into the game. The Red Wings eventually settled down and worked their way back into the period. They were rewarded when Eaves deposited a juicy rebound past Crawford.
In the second, things got intense and a bit out of control as officials seemed to turn a blind eye to the blatant stick work from both sides. Andersson gave the Red Wings the lead on the harmless-looking wrist shot from just inside the blue line.
The Vancouver Sun's Cam Cole noted that the Wings have had some pretty terrible third period performances since...Well, all damn season and playoff run long...
The Wings have now given up 20 third-period goals in these playoffs (the Blackhawks have surrendered only seven), but Detroit coach Mike Babcock was more interested in the ones that ended up in the Red Wings’ net Monday.
“It’s not like they came in and squashed us. They got what we gave them tonight. The goals they got were gifts,” he said. “They gave us one — the Andersson goal was a gift. I thought we did tons of good things, made some young mistakes in the third period and they ended up in our net. In the end, we didn’t handle it, whether it be pressure or execution, late in the third.”
USA Today's Kevin Allen noted that even Babcock admitted that the Wings gave the game away...
"It's not like they came in here and squashed us," Babcock said. "They got what we gave them. Period."
The Red Wings had the No. 1-seeded Blackhawks 20 minutes away from elimination with a 2-1 lead going into the third period. But Michal Handzus and Bickell scored goals in the opening six minutes to give Chicago the lead. Then, Michal Frolik scored on a penalty shot to give Chicago a 4-2 lead.
"We made some young mistakes in the third period, and they ended up in our net," Babcock said.
And the AP's Larry Lage noted that the Hawks believe that they've got momentum again...
"We're doing the right things to score goals and we're confident when we get those chances that they're going to go in somehow," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "We've got that momentum, we want to keep it."
As well as more balanced scoring up front and on defense (and I would argue that a lack of production from players not named Ericsson, Kronwall or Kindl's sinking the Wings' hopes, Smith's positive offensive forays included. The Wings look like they need a #3 defenseman who can lug the puck up the ice like Hjalmarsson can downright terribly):
"There's not a lot of room out there for top guys," Quenneville said. "We don't care who scores. We're all about being a team and contributing any way you can."
The Sporting News's Jesse Spector will give us the final words from both sides while suggesting that the Wings aren't getting any puck luck:
"I think we did an OK job," Zetterberg said. "On the goals, we had the puck, and it ended up on their stick instead of ours. That happens sometimes. You've just got to flush it out and move on."
Zetterberg was then asked the more narrative-friendly question about big-name players like him needing to come through with big performances in Game 7 the way that Jonathan Toews did for Chicago with two assists in Game 6. He was diplomatic, saying, "Guys have been through it before and it's nice that we've been through it this year, and I think that helped our team," but the truth is that Detroit had a fine chance to win Game 6 because of the efforts of its stars—it was just that Chicago made the most of its moments of advantage, which, like Zetterberg said, happens sometimes.
"Before the series, we said it was going to be six or seven games," said Marian Hossa, who opened Monday's scoring on a power-play goal in traffic. "It's not a surprise. It's two great teams playing against each other. It's tight out there and it's going to be exciting until the last game."
NHL.com's Corey Masisak brings us into the Wings' room, where the only player feeling really good about his performance was Joakim Andersson...
Joakim Andersson’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. Detroit defenseman Jakub Kindl intercepted a pass by Chicago’s Brent Seabrook in the neutral zone and got the puck to Andersson near the Red Wings bench.
Andersson skated into the zone and sent a soft shot toward the net that Crawford whiffed on with his glove at 10:11. Seabrook's stick was in the area of the shot, but even if he did touch it, Crawford had time to react.
"It was a knuckle puck; it's hard for the goalie to see those sometimes," Andersson said.
Because a very vocal Niklas Kronwall (see: the multimedia post) was preaching a, "We must stay on an even keel" message...
"I thought tonight actually, over 60 minutes, sure we made some mistakes, but all in all we made a lot of good things out there and we played a pretty good game," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "Sure we made some mistakes that cost us; that's the way the game is played sometimes. You just have to stick with it. Stay confident."
And Babcock was in full "sell job" mode, as Sportsnet's Mark Spector suggested:
“Well I’ll just say to you this,” Babcock began. “I thought we did tons of good things tonight. We made some young mistakes in the third period and they ended up in our net, but I liked their energy, I liked their focus, I liked how we did quite a bit. I thought we did lots of good things and in the end we didn’t handle it. Whether it be pressure or execution or whatever it was in the third.”
“I even think that tonight gives us a sense of confidence,” he began, in full hawker-mode. “It’s not like they came in here and squashed us or anything.
“If I would have told our whole team before this series, if I would have told Detroit, Michigan, before this series that we were going to play Chicago in Game 7, I think everybody would have been pretty excited about that. I love Game 7′s. I am excited about it. We got a chance to push them out of the playoffs. It should be a lot of fun.”
Two Detroit-based national columnists wondered where the Wings go from here, with Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika bluntly suggesting that the Wings "blew their chance" to eliminate the Blackhawks before engaging in the coin flip that is Game 7, with the strange penalty shot call serving as a controversial game-winner in a mistake-laden game for the Wings' defense...With Brendan Smith's mistakes taking the cake:
Smith left the building without talking to reporters, and his teammates protected him as best they could. They said they didn’t see the plays or needed to see the replays, almost as much as they said that had someone told them they would be going to Chicago for a Game 7, they would have taken it.
“We’ll try to learn from our mistakes,” Howard said.In an odd way, that’s what this season has been all about for the Red Wings. They lost three of their top four defensemen the past two years – Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart and, of course, Nicklas Lidstrom, a seven-time winner of the Norris Trophy. They have suffered injuries and other personnel losses, and so they have had to give more prominent roles to young players, living with their successes, dying with their mistakes, learning on the fly.
Andersson is a 24-year-old rookie. He scored the go-ahead goal. Smith is a 24-year-old rookie. He screwed up and put them behind.“Everyone wants to blame our youth all the time, but our youth is what’s got us here to where we’re at,” said Colaiacovo, a 30-year-old veteran. “We don’t use that as an excuse anymore.”
So be it. The Wings had a 3-1 series lead. They had two chances to finish off the Blackhawks. They failed to do it. But who knows what will happen next?
Of course, the rest of Cotsonika's recap, especially as it pertains to the Colaiacovo call, is worth your time, and I'll say the same for ESPN's Craig Custance's take on the game. Custance focused on the Wings' mindset going forward:
"If I would have told our whole team before the series -- if I would have told Detroit, Michigan, before the series, we were going to be playing Chicago in Game 7, I think everyone would have been pretty excited about that," Babcock said. "I love Game 7s. I’m excited about it."
And chances are, Babcock suggested to his players that they flush this game out of their system. That they flush the blown series lead out of their system, because that was a message repeated often by the players after the loss. Flush it.
"You’ve just got to flush it out," Zetterberg said. "It’s part of playoff hockey. It’s first to four. It doesn’t matter how you get there as long as you get there."
Said Niklas Kronwall: "We have to flush this and get ready and prepared for Wednesday." And Howard on the message to the team: "Take a step back and just flush it."
It’s the right attitude because otherwise the focus is instead on how they might have already flushed their best chance at ending the Blackhawks season.
We'll start our survey of the Wings' press corps with the Colaiacovo-Frolik controversy, because it's best discussed and gotten out of the way. Colaiacovo didn't buy it for a minute, as he told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
“It hit the guy’s hand as he was skating by and he had momentum,” Colaiacovo said. “I tried to catch him. I thought I hit him in the leg. I didn’t really think I impacted his hands too much. It was a questionable call. The ref, I think he was in a good spot to make it. Tough call to make at that point in the game but it is what it is. It’s unfortunate it ended up the way that it did but I was just trying to make a good play.”
Colaiacovo was penalized for slashing, but Frolik’s nullified the call.
“I was (surprised) a little bit,” Colaiacovo said. “But even talking to our goalie, he thought he had lost the puck before I touched him anyway. I don’t know. It is what it is. There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s unfortunate the way it ended.”
Howard wanted to see a replay of the call against Colaiacovo before making a comment but said he was "kind of" surprised it led to a penalty shot.
Coach Mike Babcock wouldn't comment either but captain Henrik Zetterberg had some thoughts after seeing it unfold from the bench.
"It looked weak from the bench," Zetterberg said. "I don't know if he had a good angle from where he was standing in the corner. Colo made a little poke on his glove and he lost the puck.''
Jakub Kindl's partner wasn't the defenseman who had the roughest night, however. As the Free Press's Helene St. James noted, Kyle Quincey's protege gave and took away yet again...
The tao of Brendan Smith got summed up nicely early in the Chicago series by teammate Henrik Zetterberg, who noted Smith is good at creating offense for both teams in a game. Smith overcommitted on the play that left Michal Handzus wide open to score and let Bryan Bickell get into position to make it 3-2 Monday.
The Wings are prepared to be patient with Smith, 24, who is only 13 games into his NHL playoff career. “He knows that we think he’s a good player,” Babcock said, “so when he makes mistakes and you talk to him about them, it’s not the end of the world. Smitty, when he makes a mistakes, they’re usually mistakes where he’s trying to make a play versus guys out there hiding and don’t want the puck. He’s not one of them. I just think he’s going to get better and better. I think he’s going to support the rush, I think he’s going to score like that. I don’t see him being a visionary on the blue line, being the top guy on your power play, but only time will tell.”
And Smith's mistakes made the Detroit News's John Niyo cringe:
The Wings set themselves up for another heart-stopping, winner-take-all game Wednesday night in Chicago with another third-period collapse Monday at Joe Louis Arena. And while the real culprit might've been a furious finish to the second period by Detroit that couldn't build a bigger cushion, the collapse didn't officially start until Smith lost his man just before the Wings lost their lead — and maybe the series — in the opening minute of the third.
There was Michal Handzus, alone in front of the net with the puck for what seemed like an eternity — thanks to Smith, the rookie defenseman who'd let him loose — before banking one in off the far post behind Jimmy Howard. Smith's immediate response was telling: A what-have-I-done glove to his own helmet as the Blackhawks celebrated the tying goal.
Nearly 5 minutes later, it was Smith again at the center of a Chicago celebration, after Bryan Bickell scored the go-ahead goal by getting position on Smith in front of the Wings' net and holding it a bit too easily. Afterward, Smith tried helplessly to pry his stick out from under Howard, and the goalie, clearly disgusted, eventually just tossed it aside.
It has been that kind of postseason for Smith, the 24-year-old playing a significant role in his first Stanley Cup playoffs. And not surprisingly, it has been that kind of postseason for the Wings, who are — by their own choice, it should be noted again — relying heavily on a handful of youngsters like Smith this spring.
The Wings couldn't deny that they collapsed in the third, as they told DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose...
“At times maybe we've relaxed a little too much. Maybe not so much tonight,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Especially against Anaheim early in that series when we were up a few goals and we thought the game was over and here they come. We were able to grind a few of those out anyway and get the win. Tonight, for some reason we started making some plays that we normally don't and got away from our game plan for a bit.”
The Red Wings have surrendered 20 third-period goals, the most by any team in the playoffs.
“Can’t explain it. Those are numbers that you guys point out,” defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. “We don’t really focus on that too much. At the end of the day you don’t want to give up goals in the third period and you want to protect leads and keep going. But don’t have an answer for it.”
And Roose offers some scary stats going forward:
The Wings last squandered a 3-1 series lead in the opening round of the 1991 playoffs, the first year of their 22-year run, losing in seven to St. Louis.
Chicago hasn't lost a Game 7 at home since the 1971 Stanley Cup finals against Montreal. Since then, the Blackhawks have won three straight Game 7s on home ice – against Toronto in 1995; and St. Louis and the Minnesota North Stars, both in 1990.
The Red Wings did beat Chicago 4-2 in Game 7 of their 1964 semifinal series at Chicago Stadium. Overall, Chicago is 4-2 in Game 7s played on home ice.
In terms of plain old recaps, Kronwall told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that the Wings essentially, "Are where they are"...
“We put ourselves in this situation,” Niklas Kronwall said. “If someone would have said we were going to seven games before the series I think everyone would have taken it. We have another chance coming up here on Wednesday.”
“We lost our composure there for a bit and made some mistakes and the puck ended up in the back of our net,” Kronwall said. “Over 60 minutes we made some mistakes, but we made a lot of good things happen out there. Sure we made some mistakes and it cost us, but that’s the way the game is played sometimes, stick with it and stay positive.”
Kronwall and Howard reiterated the team's points of emphasis to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
"They're a good team, let's get the facts straight," goalie Jimmy Howard said. "They weren't going to go down quietly. Now it's down to one game and we've already played one this year (a 3-2 Game 7 victory in Anaheim in the first round) and now we get to play in another. These are fun."
Said defenseman Niklas Kronwall: "If someone would have said we'll go to seven games, anyone would have taken it. We have another chance coming up here on Wednesday."
And the Free Press's Helene St. James took note of the team's "flush it" mentality...
"That’s how it goes sometimes,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We’ve just got to stay positive. Keep our heads high and refocus. Already what happened tonight is already history. We have to make sure we’re prepared and ready to go from the start on Wednesday.”
While it is worth noting that Carlo Colaiacovo wouldn't buy the, "Youth learning = mistakes are going to happen" line while speaking to Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji, and the usually-quiet Joakim Andersson expressed excitement about playing in Game 7, suggesting that the Wings have their previous win against the Ducks to build upon...
"That's an experience for sure," Andersson said. "It's the first time for me and a couple of guys that we can use in the future and already now. We won there earlier in the series so we know we can do it."
Wakiji called out Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and I'm glad that she did:
It was Zetterberg who set the tone for that Game 7 in Anaheim when he scored the first goal just 1:49 into the game. Justin Abdelkader had a shorthanded goal and Filppula ended up with the game-winner, assisted by Cleary and Zetterberg.
The Blackhawks' top players have kept the Wings' top players from scoring much in this series. Datsyuk has one goal and one assist in six games; Zetterberg has three assists; Franzen has one goal and two assists; Cleary has two goals and two assists; Filppula has one goal and one assist; Kronwall has one assist.
It's a lot to ask for those players to neutralize guys like Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith and score against them, but that's what they'll have to do to win in Chicago.
"We’ve had guys in this room who have won Stanley Cups," Colaiacovo said. "We like our chances."
There's a significant amount of "spirit of the thing" talk this morning, and the Windsor Star's Bob Duff will lead the way, suggesting that "Cinderella has lost her slipper," and that the Wings may have "run out of magic"...
For the young Wings, with five players in the lineup Monday who are participating in their first Stanley Cup tournament, these are teaching moments. And as is often the case with most of life’s lessons, they are learned the hard way.
For Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, a veteran of four playoff campaigns and about to start his fourth career Game 7, the message to the kids was that everything can still turn out all right.
“Just relax,” Howard said. “Breathe. Everyone take a deep breath. Take a step back and just flush it and get ready. The season’s down to one game. We’ve got to go out there and execute.”
With their backs to the wall in successive games, the Blackhawks got the job done.
“Our focus was, ‘We’re going to find a way,’” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville of Riverside said.
For the Wings, the focus is about once again finding their way, which they’ve suddenly lost. Just to make the playoffs, Detroit had to win its last four regular-season games. To remain in the post season, they must win their next game. It’s as simple as that.
The Oakland Press's Pat Caputo took a particularly gloomy view of the Wings' chances after blowing two straight games...
If the Red Wings weren’t “living on borrowed time,” then they were “playing with house money.” Or “living a charmed life.”
Many sports adages suggesting “in the midst of an upset” have been used to describe the Red Wings’ unexpected playoff run. It’s been better than anticipated. But a sense of doom set in Monday night. The mighty Blackhawks flexed their scoring muscle in the third period. The Red Wings capitulated to the moment.
Now, there is a strong possibility Detroit’s playoff run will end in as distasteful a manner as possible.
Up three games to one, and leading 2-1 in Game 6 on their home ice, rather than seal the series, the Red Wings, inexplicably, collapsed. Their 4-3 loss has set up a Game 7 Wednesday night in Chicago.
Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner wondered whether the Wings' captain could back up his rhetoric...
“Going in to this series if you would have said we’d have a chance to play a Game 7 in Chicago, we would have been pretty happy about it,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said after his team dropped a 4-3 decision Monday night to the Blackhawks, which forced a winner-take-all Game 7.
Zetterberg’s declaration about the series going seven games was a common theme throughout the Wings dressing room. Players and coaches were all talking up Game 7 and they were not dwelling on missed opportunities.
This is a team that has already been written off so many times that whatever is said or speculated about them doesn’t really rattle them one way or another.
“We’ve been here before,” said Zetterberg. “We played OK tonight. We just got to build on it and when we have a lead, we have to keep our composure."
The Detroit Free Press's Mitch Albom, who suggests that, "It's not fashionable" to criticize Brendan Smith, offered a slightly different take while declaring the series and the Wings' future, "Back to the brink"...
Now we’ll see who emerges. The fact is, faced with elimination, the Hawks have been getting star play from some stars players — Toews, awful in the first four games, enabled the first goal and had two assists Monday night — and the Wings need to get that type of production from guys like Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. None of them has scored in the last two games, only Datsyuk had a point Monday night, and you can’t keep relying on third-and fourth-line players to do unexpected things.
“Yeah, I think (it’s time for us),” Zetterberg said. “Game 7 is for guys who have been through it before.”
Someone asked him whether the Wings play best when they were behind and worst when they were ahead.
“Too strong words there,” he said.
Pick your own, he was offered.
“I think … when you’re behind, you have to go for the next one. That’s the mind-set we should have when we’re in the lead, too.”
And the Detroit News's Bob Wojnowski's column begins with the following...
It was gone in a hurry, in a furious flurry. The Blackhawks kept coming and the Red Wings kept retreating, and that's how a team gets caught.
The Wings lost their lead, their edge and possibly much more, falling 4-3 Monday night to send the series back to Chicago for Game 7. The Blackhawks were quicker to the puck and directly to the point. For the second straight game, they played like the heavy favorite they once were — and might be again.
The Blackhawks caught up, and make no mistake about it — the Wings' gaffes caught up with them. Too many penalties and too many giveaways, which allowed Chicago to reassert itself. The series will be over one way or another Wednesday night, and if the Wings were a dangerous underdog before, they're a desperate underdog now.
Do they still have a shot? They do, but not if they play this carelessly, not if the Blackhawks keep swarming. The stars are canceling each other out and the role players are taking over, and it's no secret which team is deeper and more experienced.
The Free Press's Jeff Seidel looked on the bright side...
[L]ooking back, as crazy as it sounds, that bad luck [in terms of injuries] was the best thing that could have happened to this organization, at least in the long run. The Wings were forced to bring up several young players. To test them out. Ten in all. Some came up and went back to Grand Rapids. Others came up and never left.
“The adversity was either really good or really bad thing, depends on how you want to look at it,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
Let’s look at it as a good thing. Because it gave so many young players a chance to prove themselves. Now, this wasn’t part of some grand plan.
“We were trying things because we were forced to do it,” Holland said.
Which brings us to Joakim Andersson. He played on the power play in Grand Rapids. He was a star, an alternate captain during the 2011-12 season, and he arrived in Detroit a month into the season.
For the Wings, he took a different role. He’s a checker. He’s a penalty killer, who wins draws and chips in some offense. His role is not to score. But there he was, scoring Monday night. A shot that tumbled through the air, like a poker chip that hit the table and paid off. And it found the back of the net.
Role players, taking new roles. That’s what this season has become. Young players growing. Sometimes, stunningly. Sometimes, painfully.
The ever-thorough Detroit News's Gregg Krupa offered this at the very end of an analysis of the Wings' loss that's as nuanced as it is long (and he's longer-winded than I am)
No one thought they would be there, and now they really have nothing to lose.
Babcock said after the game that if he had told the players or the assembled citizens of Hockeytown that they would play a Game 7 in Chicago against the Blackhawks for a chance to be in the conference finals for the first time in four years, all would have been joyfully pleased.
There is the opportunity. Seize it.
And bring your hammers!
I'd prefer to leave the last word to the players or coach, and Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples allows me to do just that:
Zetterberg agreed with a reporter’s comment that nothing has come easy for the Red Wings this season.
“Nope, it hasn’t,” the Wings’ captain said. “I think going into this series, we would say that we would have a chance to play a Game 7 in Chicago, we’d be pretty happy about it. We won three in a row, they came back with two here now, so I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a pretty good game in Chicago.”
I don't know if the Wings can stop the Blackhawks now that they're truly rolling again. Chicago has much more firepower than the Wings, their special teams are better, their defense is deeper in terms of puck-moving ability (sometimes it seems like Dunan Keith, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson do the bulk of the Hawks' puck-carrying, and that's neutralized the Wings' forecheck as much as anything else), and the Wings' "depth" and "secondary" players both up front and on defense have become more and more mistake-prone as the top two lines have neutralized each other (until the last two games).
But I do know that if there is a game in which teams that aren't as deep or talented as their opponents have an even chance of winning, even if it's in fluky fashion and/or in a method that fans and players alike deem that the winner "didn't deserve" its outcome, it's Game 7.
So why the hell not?
Shots 38-28 Detroit overall. The teams were tied in shots in the 1st, 10-10, Detroit out-shot Chicago 18-10 in the 2nd and out-shot Chicago 10-8 in the 3rd.
Chicago went 1-for-5 in 5:18 of PP time; Detroit went 0-for-3 in 4:47.
Howard stopped 24 of 28; Crawford stopped 35 of 38.
The 3 stars were picked by Nicholas J. Cotsonika, and he picked Andersson, Hossa and Bickell.
The Wings' goals: Eaves (1) from Miller (1) and Smith (3);
Andersson (1) from Kindl (4);
Brunner (5) from Datsyuk (6) and Cleary (5).
Faceoffs 36-23 Detroit (Detroit won 61%);
Blocked shots 11-10 Chicago;
Missed shots 11-11 (Detroit had 38 shots ON Crawford and 22 wide/blocked, or a total of 70 attempts);
Hits 29-16 Detroit;
Giveaways 12-3 Detroit;
Takeaways 5-4 Chicago.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 14-and-10 (58%); Zetterberg went 8-and-6 (57%); Emmerton went 6-and-5 (55%); Andersson went 8-and-1 (89%); Filppula lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Franzen and Datsyuk co-led the team with 6 shots; Zetterberg and Filppula had 4; Quincey had 3; Kindl, Cleary, Eaves, Brunner and Ericsson had 2; Smith, Abdelkader, Cleary, Nyquist, Miller and Andersson had 1.
Blocked attempts: Datsyuk, Ericsson and Franzen fired 2 pucks into Hawks players; Kindl, Cleary, Quincey, Colaiacovo and Kronwall had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Zetterberg missed the net 3 times; Franzen and Abdelkader missed the net 2 times; Smith, Filppula, Kronwall and Andersson missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Adelkader had 5 hits; Cleary and Emmerton had 3; Nyquist, Eaves, Miller, Filppula, Ericsson and Franzen had 2; Smith, Kindl, Datsyuk, Brunner, Colaiacovo and Zetterberg had 1.
Giveaways: Kindl had 4 giveaways; Franzen had 2; Cleary, Datsyuk, Nyquist, Zetterberg, Kronwall and Andersson had 1.
Takeaways: Brunner, Emmerton, Quincey and Zetterberg had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 3 Blackhawks shots; Miller and Colaiacovo blocked 2; Kindl, Datsyuk and Emmerton blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Kindl, Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at +5 collectively. Smith, Abdelkader, Quincey, Zetterberg and Filppula were -1; Kindl, Nyquist, Eaves, Miller, Emmerton, Colaiacovo, Kronwall and Andersson were +1; Brunner was +2.
Points: Eaves, Brunner and Andersson scored goals; Smith, Kindl, Cleary, Datsyuk and Miller had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 26:14 played; Ericsson played 23:25; Datsyuk played 20:26;
Franzen played 20:26; Zetterberg played 20:01; Cleary played 18:16;
Kindl played 18:15; Quincey played 17:19; Abdelkader played 16:44;
Smith played 16:29; Filppula played 16:26; Colaiacovo played 15:00;
Miller played 12:36; Brunner played 11:53; Emmerton played 10:55;
Eaves played 9:57; Andersson played 9:43; Nyquist played 7:48.
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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.