The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/30/13 at 05:16 AM ET
Red Bird III ferried the Detroit Red Wings back to Metro Airport for the final time of the 2013 season early on Thursday morning, a few hours after the Red Wings dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the teams' second-round series...
And as I write these while most of you are nuzzled up in bed, writing the wrap-up I've dreaded knowing I'd have to pen sooner or later, half of me is incredibly proud of the Wings team I follow, and half of me is still at a rolling boil given that the "objective" media types are still insisting that the hockey gods "owed" the Blackhawks an OT and series-winner after Stephen Walkom's call negated a Niklas Hjalmarsson goal.
In fact, much of the multimedia I sorted through includes so much vociferous insistence that a referee was incompetent and that the result of a hockey game was rightfully rendered that I'm wondering if the Blackhawks season-ticket sale department should be given a directory of the PHWPA and broadcasters to cold call this summer.
ESPN's Craig Custance explains the situation as the Blackhawks saw it...
With 1:48 remaining in the third period of a tied game, Hjalmarsson took a pass from Andrew Shaw and beat Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard in a sequence that would have been long remembered in Blackhawks lore if it were the game-winner. Now it will be remembered as part of the one of the most controversial calls of these playoffs.
The goal was waived off when referee Stephen Walkom called coincidental minors on Kyle Quincey and Brandon Saad near the Detroit bench. Quincey had shoved Saad into the Detroit bench, Saad retaliated with a swing at Quincey and the whistle was blown moments before Hjalmarsson’s shot hit the back of the net.
When the crowd realized it, the ice was showered with red Blackhawks rally towels to a loud chorus of boos.
“[I went] blank from there. I got so mad. I didn’t see the situation [that] happened there, but it doesn’t matter now,” Hjalmarsson said after the Blackhawks recovered to win 2-1 on a Brent Seabrook overtime goal. “We got the win, and Seabs scored a huge goal for us. If we would’ve lost, it would’ve been a tough one. But since we won, it doesn’t really matter much.”
Said Saad: “I don’t know what the call was, why he made it, but that was his decision. I’m just fortunate we got the goal in overtime. Obviously, I wasn’t happy. But it’s refocus in between periods, go into overtime and get the win.”
Quincey didn’t see the goal scored by Hjalmarsson, but he did hear the whistle before the goal horn sounded. He knew it was coming back. He might have been the first.
“[Saad]’s my guy, I went to finish him. I decided to try and throw him into the bench to eliminate any possibility of him getting it. I thought the puck was still at my feet,” Quincey told ESPN.com. “All of a sudden the horn goes. The whistle definitely went before. It could have gone either way. A penalty, coincidentals or no call at all. I think we got a break there.”
A break? Sure. But if you want to head over to the multimedia post, you can hear TSN's Mike Johnson insist and Darren Dreger agree that David Bolland's boarding of Gustav Nyquist at the Hawks' bench, which directly led to Brent Seabrook's goal, was the kind of call that may have been called in regulation or the regular season, but should not be called in overtime.
Hey, ref's discretion, right? Like Franzen getting boarded and Patrick Kane scoring as a result. Etc. etc.
There is no doubt that the refereeing was absolutely atrocious in this series, and that it's been atrocious for each and every playoff team thanks to radical inconsistencies and a complete and total lack of any sort of upholding of the standard of enforcement laid down during the penalty-filled first couple of weeks of the abbreviated season, save those stick-on-hand fouls.
There is also no doubt that the Red Wings did not lose this series because of refereeing. After all, they scored 1 power play goal on 24 opportunities. But the problem with that kind of, "Well, if Walkom hadn't made the Hjalmarsson call, maybe he would've called the Bolland one, but I'm glad he didn't because it's not fair in that particular situation" logic is batshit crazy.
And I can't tell you how much respect I've lost for each and every one of the media members who all but cheered Seabrook's goal as a restoration of faith in the hockey gods.
In any case, the call pissed Hjalmarsson off, as he told the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc...
"I don't know if you saw me, but it showed pretty clear — I almost threw my stick up in the crowd," Hjalmarsson said. "I got pretty mad. I got pretty happy when I scored, I was probably looking like a fool when I was celebrating in the middle of the ice. Kind of a roller coaster there."
And Saad protested his innocence to the Chicago Tribune's Adam L. Jahns...
“I didn’t do anything,” Saad said. “I don’t know why the coincidental was called. But it is what it is. I just grabbed onto the guy so I didn’t fall into the bench. . . . I was shocked when the linesman told me I was going to the box.”
Coach Joel Quenneville said he didn’t ask for an explanation from the officials, while Red Wings coach Mike Babcock contended afterward that there should have been a tripping penalty called on the Hawks, upon seeing center Henrik Zetterberg tumble to the ice. The only word from the NHL’s war room in Toronto was that play was blown dead.
“Seabs scored a huge goal for us,” Hjalmarsson said. “If we would have lost, it would have been a tough one. But now that we won, it doesn’t really matter too much.”
But the problem is that one play begat the other, for better or worse--separated by about 4 minutes of playing time--as Jahns noted:
What does matter is that the Hawks were able to put it behind them, a fitting ending to a series that saw them fall behind 3-1.
It might have helped the Hawks that the period ended shortly after Walkom’s call. Patrick Kane said the message during the intermission was “forget about it and move on.” It gave them a chance to refocus.
The call galvanized the Hawks, as Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers noted:
“[Jonathan] Toews said, ‘Stick with it. It’s our time,’” recalled Corey Crawford, who stopped 26 of 27 shots for the series victory. "We have to keep pressing, keep playing hard, keep making plays and we’re going to get one."
The Blackhawks apparently even found a way to have a laugh in it.
“It was pretty funny seeing [Hjalmarsson] hopping around like that,” said Dave Bolland, whose big hit on Gustav Nyquist along the boards came moments before Seabrook’s game-winner. “But we came in, we were calm and confident that, when we went out there for OT, we were going to come through. We know with the depth we have, we can do damage out there.”
Big hit along the boards. Sure.
And less than four minutes into overtime, Seabrook was inflicting that damage, a shot that looked like it deflected off Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall’s skate and past Jimmy Howard, who had a stellar series for the Red Wings. It was the ultimate vindication for Seabrook, who’s had his ups and downs in this series.
“I don’t know if I saw it go in to be honest. I just heard the horn going and the boys jumping out,” Seabrook said. “It was a pretty exhausting game, but I think I was more tired during the celebration with guys jumping and pushing me in the face and dragging me down. It’s exciting. You don’t get to do that too many times.”
Oh, was Captain Pork Chop proud, as he told the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc:
In the dressing room before overtime, Toews told his teammates, "We'll beat them 3-1."
"We were obviously pretty pissed off that the whistle blew right before that one went in," Toews said. "We weren't going to go away that way. It was frustrating at the time thinking that maybe when the time ticked out we should have won that game but that wasn't going to faze us. We were still focused on what we had to do going into the overtime."
Get your hankies out for Toews' intermission speech, as relayed to ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers:
“I said we’ll beat them 3-1,” he said, adding the disallowed goal to their total. “We were pretty [ticked] off the whistle blew right before that one went in. We weren’t going to go away that way.”
“We asked ourselves a question: How bad do we want it?” Toews said. “You got your answer right there. That’s a heck of way to pull out four wins in seven games.”
To understand how they did it is to understand how they overcame the controversial no-goal call. With leadership. Knowing they could win, even after a bad call, reflects knowing they could win even after falling behind 3-1.
“After Game 4, their approach, belief in the room, was there,” Quenneville said.
That belief can only stem from the things the Hawks accomplished all year long. Do you think the Minnesota Wild believed the same things when they were down 3-1 to the Hawks? Hope is different from belief. Everyone has hope. The Hawks believed, because after their Game 2 beating they actually played pretty well in the third and fourth games. Good play eventually gets rewarded.
“You want to be in control every step of the way throughout the series,” Toews said. “To be pushed to the edge like that, it really makes every guy check themselves.”
And Seabrook's goal was a thing of beauty and a redemptive one for Seabrook, or so the Hawks saw it, as the Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton noted:
It went through the Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall, and maybe off him a little bit. And then it slid by goalie Jimmy Howard and into the net. And Seabrook had the Game 7-winning overtime goal in a 2-1 victory that sent the Hawks to the Western Conference finals, the man who had been receiving messages sending one of his own.
"It's exciting," Seabrook said. "I tried to stay even keeled. Some days it was a little tough. But as a hockey player, as a professional, you try to support your teammates and be a good teammate. I thought I did a good job of that. It was nice to play a little more and help this team out."
Seabrook averaged 22 minutes per game during the season, as much a part of the Hawks' bedrock as anyone. By the end of Game 4 against the Red Wings, he was down to 12 minutes total, and down about nearly everything else, too. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville then reunited him with longtime partner Duncan Keith. Seabrook considered that more admonition than promotion.
"Putting me back with Duncan was pretty much all that needed to be said," Seabrook said. "I took that as, we expect more from you, and we need you to be better."
That's not necessarily the case, if we are to believe Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers...
“Half his goals, I think come against the Red Wings, most in OT. If you need a guy in OT against Detroit you put Seabs out there the whole time,” Bolland said with a grin. “You don’t come in here thinking things are going to happen and you’re going to be successful. We have to battle and play hard.”
And Seabrook told the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Potash that he was surprised at the room he had with which to work...
‘I’m a defenseman. So when I have that much room I usually screw up or trip or fall or something like that,’’ Seabrook said. ‘‘But Q harps on it all the time — put pucks on the net. Anything can happen. I think it went off Kronwall a little bit, changed direction a little bit. I don’t know. I just tried to get it on net, get it past Kronwall. I didn’t want to get it blocked.’’
Center Dave Bolland ignited the game-winning play with a hit on Gustav Nyquist along the boards that freed the puck for Seabrook. As Seabrook skated in, the Red Wings’ defense retreated, giving Seabrook enough room to shoot.
The Chicago Daily Herald's Mike Spellman also spoke to Seabrook about his resilient play, and Seabrook praised his teammates and his team while speaking to ESPN's Scott Powers (who also penned a "rapid reaction"):
"We're resilient," Seabrook said. "I don't think we played as well as we could have in the Minnesota [Wild first-round] series. I don't think we played very well in the first four games against Detroit. Give Detroit credit. They played us hard. They played tough and took us out of our element. But we've got to fight through that. Games 5, 6, 7, we really showed what we're all about and battled back and continued to work and play."
The Chicago Sun-Times' Lazerus's recap ends with the following...
Dave Bolland drilled Gustav Nyquist along the boards to spring Seabrook, and Seabrook capped his own personal comeback from a poor start — and his team’s — with what he said was the biggest goal of his career.
The Hawks leapt into each other’s arms after that, the mentally taxing, emotionally draining, physically exhausting series finally behind them — an uncertain offseason delayed, a crushing failure staved off in character-revealing fashion. After seven tense games, after facing three elimination games, after celebrating the game-winning goal twice, Hawks-Wings — the game, the series, the rivalry for all intents and purposes — was finally over.
OK, now. Halfway there. That’s the funny thing about apocalyptic, earth-stopping showdowns. It’s only the apocalypse for the loser. The earth keeps spinning for the winner. And by booting Detroit off to the Eastern Conference, the Hawks reached only the midway point in their quest to hoist the Stanley Cup.
And Lazerus gave Bolland's play a hearty boarding...I mean back-pat...
Brent Seabrook was the hero, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime. But Dave Bolland — an afterthought for much of the series, struggling and playing limited minutes on the fourth line — made it happen. His big hit on the Red Wings’ Gustav Nyquist along the boards triggered the play. Just as Seabrook found redemption after a poor start to the series, so did Bolland.
‘‘Yeah, it’s gratifying for myself,’’ Bolland said. ‘‘I had been struggling. I had been finding my game, but I had to help out the team. To help out that last game there was great.’’
But the Hawks and their media corps were willing to admit that the Wings pushed back hard in the third period, as noted by the Chicago Daily Herald's Tim Sassone (who also remarked on the "end" of the Wings-Hawks rivalry)...
The Red Wings dominated the third period after getting the tying goal from Zetterberg.
"They came flying out of the gate in the third period and made a nice play to get their goal," Crawford said. "It was just a matter of cooling down, not losing our cool or lose our heads."
Scoring the first goal, we were all told, would yield an unbeaten streak of something like 15 games for the Game 7 team that scored it, and Sharp and the Blackhawks scored it off a terrible, terrible change by Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson--and their forwards--that left Kyle Quincey in the lurch, as the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh noted:
In a sequence worthy of a highlight tape or an instructional video, the Hawks took the lead when center Michael Handzus passed the puck to Marian Hossa to begin a 3-on-1 for the ages. Hossa patiently waited to hit a racing Patrick Sharp. Sharp did the rest, elevating the shot past Howard at the 1:08 mark of the second period.
"That was a fun goal to score,'' Sharp said.
Sharp's movie-star smile to celebrate the score never has made more Chicagoans go gaga. The delirium lasted for nearly a period.
Just 26 seconds into the third, Henrik Zetterberg turned a Hawks mistake into the equalizer. Veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya, reprising the Game 7 role of Chris Campoli in 2011, made a poor decision that allowed Wings winger Daniel Cleary to beat him to the puck. Cleary advanced it to Gustav Nyquist, who found Zetterberg in a perfect spot to freeze Hawks goalie Corey Crawford.
Suddenly, the air was sucked out of a building that was full of Chicago celebrities and athletes. But the confidence wasn't.
Because Captain Pork Chop refused to be anything other than his cocky self, as he told ESPN Chicago's John Greenberg...
"It's not the way you want to win a series going down three games to one and having to come back like that," captain Jonathan Toews said. "Given the situation we were in three games ago, it's pretty amazing. It just goes to show the character that we have on top of the ability and potential that this team has. Looking forward, we need to use that ability and use that confidence that winning a series like this gives us."
The Blackhawks had it won in regulation when Niklas Hjalmarsson buried a shot with less than 2 minutes to play. But a referee blew a whistle before the shot, calling a double roughing call on Brandon Saad and Kyle Quincey for tussling in front of the Red Wings' bench. It was a curious call to say the least, especially since it looked like Saad got knocked around.
As the Blackhawks' excellent radio play-by-play man, John Wiedeman, said to me between periods, "If the Red Wings win after that call, they'll be talking about that call for decades. Decades."
And, as Bolland told Greenberg, he quite happily flattened Gustav Nyquist...
With a 914.4-meter stare and a flat Canadian accent, Dave Bolland talked about his season-saving hit that freed the puck for Brent Seabrook and led to the overtime goal that shook the United Center and reverberated through the NHL.
"That hit was something that made the play there, and Seabs followed it up and put it in the back of the net," Bolland said.
Or, as Bolland told the Chicago Daily Herald's Barry Rozner...
"Anything can change a game, even a little play,'' Bolland said. "Sometimes you can just make a hit to make a play, and that's the kind of thing we talk about in here."
Who saw the "non-call" developing as follows...
Facing a team that few would consider great, the Hawks appeared to have the game in hand with 1:47 left in regulation when Andrew Shaw found Niklas Hjalmarsson trailing late and Hjalmarsson blistered a shot past Jimmy Howard for what seemed at the time to be a 2-1 Hawks advantage.
But the goal was disallowed by one of the NHL's worst referees, Stephen Walkom, who consistently makes himself a part of the game — a la Joey Crawford or Angel Hernandez.
Walkom watched Kyle Quincey beat up Brandon Saad on the Detroit bench and throw him to the ice before Justin Abdelkader kicked Saad in the head, at which point Walkom blew the whistle, took away the goal and gave Saad and Quincey matching minors.
Saad's was apparently for receiving.
The Chicago Sun-Times' Rick Morrissey gave both teams credit in his "spirit of the thing" article...
There was so much at stake. If the Blackhawks fell, major offseason remodeling likely would be on the way. Maybe the general manager would get the ax. Maybe the coach would go. Who knew? It’s what happens when expectations reach their cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. It’s what happens when the three seasons after the 2010 Stanley Cup title end in two first-round losses and one second-round loss.
Who stays, who goes? But there was Seabrook to save the day.
‘‘[Coach Joel Quenneville] talks about putting pucks on net all the time,’’ he said. ‘‘Anything can happen in a tight series like this. We were talking about it in the room — it was going to take an ugly goal to win this, a bounce or something. Luckily, we got the bounce.’’
The Hawks seemed to have taken a 2-1 lead after Hjalmarsson blasted a shot past Howard with 1:49 left in regulation, but officials had called roughing penalties on the Hawks’ Brandon Saad and the Red Wings’ Kyle Quincey, whistling the play dead. The UC crowd seemed to be very anti-establishment at that point, in that it wanted to kill the refs.
But then overtime came around, full of hope and possibility, even if the Red Wings had outplayed the Hawks in the third period. Anything could happen now, and it did.
The Red Wings were a seventh seed that played like a No. 2 seed. They were every bit as good as the Hawks were.
It took a lot of character by all the Hawks. You can’t say enough about that. That record 24-game unbeaten streak in regulation to start the season gave the Hawks only one acceptable end to this season. For the longest time, it loomed as a taunt. The Hawks’ heart would have none of that.
And so, the jubilant and relieved Hawks move into the Western Conference final against the reigning champion Kings. They earned it.
But yet, after two weeks of emotion, frustration, celebration, aggravation, and ultimately celebration again in sudden death of a sudden-death game that capped a series worthy of a Stanley Cup Final, the Hawks are only halfway there.
As has become customary, the out-of-towners will transition us from the Hawks' to Wings' perspectives...
But it's hard to let them do so. The Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest's recap includes so many Twitter comments lamenting the Walkom call, his included, that it's obvious what storyline mattered to him; aside from praising Babcock's coaching, the Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger agrees with everything the Hawks press has said; before praising the hockey gods, Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski did note that Valtteri Filppula's services were lost to the Wings after a slew-foot from Andrew Shaw, but he let the Walkom call, Seabrook's goal and an awarding of 3 stars to Harrison Mooney; the Hockey News's Ryan Kennedy insisted that the Hawks both "should have won" on the Walkom call and that they "beat up the Wings" for most of the game; the Vancouver Sun's Cam Cole focused on the Seabrook angle; hell, in Swedish, Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman spoke to Niklas Hjalmarsson (though Niklas Kronwall also told him that the Wings have found a new identity) after taking the game in, and Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom spoke to Marcus Kruger after the game (though he also declared that the Wings have "nothing to be ashamed about").
Hell, if you're one of those people that believes that only Wings fans wear tinfoil hats, go over to CBS Chicago's Adam Hoge's recap for one helluva Walkom conspiracy theory that involves way more than waved-off goals.
SI's Allan Muir at least noted the following after lamenting Walkom's indiscretion...
• Henrik Zetterberg scored Detroit’s only goal of the night, a nifty mid-air conversion off a Nyquist cross-crease pass that Crawford had no chance on, but it was too little, too late from the captain. He wasn’t good enough tonight or in the series. Neither were Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. The Wings needed their star players to step up and only Howard responded, stopping 33 of 35 Chicago shots as he took another tough-luck loss. The Big Three? Each could manage only a single goal over seven games.
Maybe if they’d stepped up tonight it wouldn’t have mattered that the Wings were too sloppy in their own zone, struggled in transition and, for some reason, refused to drive the net as relentlessly as they had in previous games against the Hawks. But they didn’t. They kept looking for pretty when the answer was ugly, and it cost them.
This is a team in transition, and it’s still a few pieces away from returning to the ranks of serious contenders. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: if the Hawks don’t resign unrestricted free agent Bryan Bickell this summer, Detroit better be first in line with a contract offer in hand on July 5. He’s exactly the sort of presence they were missing in this series.
Jimmy Howard continued to prove that he's one of the NHL's top goaltenders, and now that he's signed to a long-term contract extension, the future of the position in Detroit is in solid hands. Considering that goaltending was usually a question mark in Detroit in the years leading up to his debut that's quite a shift for the Red Wings team structure.
Young players like Gustav Nyquist, Damien Brunner, Jakub Kindl, Tomas Tatar, and Danny Dekeyser started to establish themselves at the NHL level. Dekeyser was particularly encouraging, especially given the current makeup of the defense in Detroit, during his time with the Red Wings at the end of the regular season and in the playoffs before his postseason came to a premature end against Anaheim due to injury.
Veterans Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson stepped up and created a very formidable top pairing. Kronwall in particular had a great year for the Red Wings, taking over as their tough-minute, No. 1 defenseman that was given the responsibility of going up against other team's top players. Despite the difficult matchups he was still a guy that helped control play and put up some of the best offensive numbers of his career.
Unless you want to read TSN's Scott Cullen's statistical recap or Jamie McLennan's goalie grades, I'd honestly like to suggest that you may read NHL.com's Brian Hedger's take on the no-goal and Seabrook on your own--and I'd prefer to be done with the Hawks' comments, quite frankly--save this from the Sporting News's Jesse Spector (yes, he penned a sidebar story about the Walkom call)...
"They got our attention in Game 2," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Game 3, we progressed to play the way we have to, and I thought we captured the playoff intensity. We didn't win either one of those games (in Detroit), but I think as the series progressed, we got better and better to get to the right pace."
And we'll let Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika get the last word regarding the Hawks' controversial motivator:
Former NHL referee Kerry Fraser tweeted that Saad’s “weak” glove back at Quincey “did not equate as a coincidental minor. Play should have been allowed [to] continue.”
“We were pretty upset,” Seabrook said. “I was right behind Hammer, so I didn’t even see what happened. But it sucks when a goal like that with that much time left gets called back.”
The Wings showed something despite blowing a 3-1 lead in this series. They weren’t necessarily supposed to make the playoffs this season after losing all-time great Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement. They won their final four games and made the playoffs, anyway. They upset the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks in seven games and took the top-seeded Blackhawks to overtime of a seventh game. Refusing to fade away, the Wings showed they still have a future.
But they didn’t get the next goal. Seabrook did.
“Bullet dodged!” Fraser tweeted.
The bullet splintered and hit each and every one of Detroit's players in the heart.
So you can read USA Today's Kevin Allen talk to the Hawks about "believing in how good they can be" on your own. I'll let you read the Detroit News's Ted Kulan's conversation with Patrick Sharp about the credit due to the Wings and Matt Charboneau's 3 stars on your own, too, and we'll pull the Edmonton Sun's Van Diest out of his late night Tweet insisting that re-watching the Walkom call got him madder and madder to snag some quotes from the Wings' players, who were indeed devastated:
“It’s just empty right now,” said Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall after the 2-1 loss. “Losing always sucks. It’s something you can never get used to. You don’t want to get used to it. You want to have a chance of raising the cup.But (in Game 7) you win your one, you have a chance, you lose, you go home. It’s disappointing.”
The Red Wings gave the Blackhawks all they could handle in the series, and in the end, were beaten by a bad bounce as Brent Seabrook fired a shot that bounced off Kronwall’s leg and up over goaltender Jimmy Howard.
“Sometime to go all the way you need a lot of luck, you need to be healthy,” said Red Wings winger Daniel Cleary. “The last five teams to win the cup were still alive, there’s probably a reason for that. They’re a good team, tip your hat to them. They played well.”
The Wings feel terrible, and the player who "fell and injured himself," if we are to believe some commentators, limped out of the rink. While the Detroit News's Kulfan and MLive's Ansar Khan reported that Filppula suffered a "leg injury" during the game, but it was more than that, as the Free Press's Helene St. James noted...
General manager Ken Holland said Filppula suffered a high-ankle sprain. Filppula was injured during play along the bench, when he was roughed up by Andrew Shaw, though there was no penalty on the play. Asked if Filppula was slew-footed, Detroit coach Mike Babcock said to look at video.
After all of 1:28 of ice time, Filppula was slew-footed by Andrew Shaw, and as such, he left the rink in an ankle-immobilizing boot, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted, yet another victim of what we were told was a "good non call":
“You guys watched the video, you decide,” Babcock said.
Shaw was not penalized on the play.
“He’s a big big part of this team, but our forwards were all over the place, working so hard, making it tough on them,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “I thought everyone really laid everything on the line. It’s tough to come up short.”
Filppula made the Wings juggle forwards on and off the line with Zetterberg and Cleary.
“Losing Fil didn’t help us but I thought we found a way, we had different guys moving up with me and Z,” Cleary said. “We played well. (Jimmy Howard) played great for us. We had a great goalie. Z, Pav, it was a fun year. It was a great season.”
Gustav Nyquist played significant minutes with Pavel Datsyuk and even Joakim Andersson and Damien Brunner--who Babcock stated was injured after the game--skated as the top two lines were shuffled and re-shuffled.
But Filppula's injury didn't decide the game, either.
So the Wings gave the Hawks their compliments in the AP's recap...
"They're a very talented group," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I think we pushed them very hard in the series and had a lot of fun doing it."
"To go all the way, you need a lot of luck," Detroit forward Daniel Cleary said. "You need to be healthy to win. The last five teams that won Cups were still alive. There's probably a reason for that. They're a good team. I mean, tip your hat to them. They played well."
Cleary told NHL.com's Corey Masisak that the team could boast no excuses for losing, either...
"Win," forward Daniel Cleary said when asked what could have been done differently. "I don't know. I thought we played a good game, had a good third period. Listen, it is a good team we played. Guys should be proud and disappointed. We had a chance, three chances to close them out and we just didn't get it done."
This was the final time these two teams will meet as rivals in the same conference, as the Red Wings are moving to the Eastern Conference next season. Given the history these two franchises share -- this was the 16th playoff series between the two -- this final showdown proved to be a proper sendoff.
"Putting on the jersey today, you know, I wanted to give it as much as I can," said Cleary, who can become an unrestricted free agent in July. "I wanted to keep going. I thought we had a good team and a good chance. We were potentially going to get [rookie defenseman Danny] DeKeyser back. Just wasn't meant to be. That's all."
"It's tough. How can you get upset at someone who is sacrificing their body out there, blocking shots?" Howard said. [Kronwall] has been huge for us all year and you know, he doesn't deserve that luck."
The same could be said for Howard. Detroit's goaltender was fabulous in this series, a huge reason why the seventh-seeded Red Wings surged to a surprising 3-1 lead in the series and maybe the only reason the Blackhawks didn't embarrass the Red Wings in Game 1 or cruise to an easy win in Game 7. He made 33 saves in Game 7 on Wednesday, including 23 in the first 40 minutes while the Blackhawks carried the play for long stretches.
"[Howard] has been so good for us, not only last year, this year," Kronwall said. "I don't think I've ever seen him this good. Unfortunately we weren't able to get the win for him."
"That says a lot about him as a person," Kronwall said of Howard's gesture after the goal. "Everybody wants to win in here, you don't make a mistake on purpose. But it's hard. Obviously, you don't want to be in that spot. Unfortunately, it went off me and went in and we're going home.I wish we could have won that series for [Howard]. He really deserved it."
Wings coach Mike Babcock was neither offering excuses for losing the game nor doing anything less than making changes this summer to improve his team, and as Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Nina Falcone noted, that was somewhat surprising for a coach who was only a few minutes away from telling his charges that they'd done a "good job":
"Those dreams you have as a kid, in Game 7 you always score. The other team doesn't score," Babcock said. "I thought we did a lot of really good things here tonight. I thought our guys really stepped up. We had a really good third period. We had a glorious chance in the third period and [Corey] Crawford made a huge save right after we had scored. That's hockey.
"I think our guys played hard. I think we really competed. I say this all the time, maximize with what you've got and I think our group did that. I'd like to see a healthy [group] because I know we could be a way better team. We need to be better if we want to be in this position consistently. We've got some work to do as a group this summer."
To some extent, ESPN's Craig Custance also leads us into the "Wings press" portion of this entry by capturing the "spirit of the thing" perfectly:
Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard slowly packed the last of his goalie equipment into his bag following the Chicago Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime win over Detroit in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. He let out a long exhale, then got a pat on the back from Paul Boyer, the Red Wings' longtime head equipment manager. Howard nodded toward his gear and turned to Boyer.
“Just drop them into Lake Michigan,” Howard said.
It was settling in to Howard that he wouldn’t need these pads for a while, that the rival Blackhawks are the team that gets to keep playing while the Red Wings head back to Detroit haunted by knowing just how close they came to upsetting the NHL’s best team of the regular season. Close, but not good enough.
“I thought we did a lot of great things out there. I thought we did a great job. I’m really proud of the way this team carried itself this year,” said Howard, who made 33 saves in another outstanding effort. “Especially when a lot of people counted us out. A lot of people didn’t even expect this series to get past four games. … It sort of stinks it’s all over with.”
Babcock was proud of his team's effort, as he told the Detroit News's Kulfan...
"From the start to the end, we were a team that just got better," coach Mike Babcock said. "Our guys played real hard, they competed. Our guys hung in there and battled hard as they have all season long."
"If you look at Game 1 and 5 (another 4-1 loss) in here (United Center), we didn't play our best," Kronwall said. "Other than that, we played some good hockey. We stuck to our game plan and in Game 6, we should have won that one (a 4-3 loss at Joe Louis Arena as the Blackhawks rallied in the third period). Tonight was one of those games. Great goaltending at both ends and the puck went off me for the winning goal."
Defenseman Brent Seabrook's shot deflected off Kronwall and past goalie Jimmy Howard for the winner in overtime.
Coach Mike Babcock felt the series was as close as it could get.
"I didn't like our Game 5, but other than that, we played," Babcock said. "We didn't skate very good in Game 1 but we competed real hard. We had an opportunity at home (in Game 6), we had momentum, and made a couple of mistakes defensively. We did a lot of good things (in Game 7). Our guys really stepped up."
As well as Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji...
"You have to give the Red Wings credit, they’re a well-coached team, they keep coming at you," Sharp said. "Each game could have gone the other way. But we have to be proud of ourselves in this locker room for being able to battle back."
"We won three in a row, then they won three in a row," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We should have won the first one so we should have won four. We needed to win one more game. We had an opportunity at home. I thought we had good momentum in Game 6, but made a couple mistakes defensively and never gave our goaltender a chance to make the save because there was traffic at the net."
"I thought our guys hung in there and battled hard just like they’ve done all year long," Babcock said. "From the start to the end we were a team that just got better, better and better and they’re a very talented group. I thought we pushed them hard in the series and we had a lot of fun doing it. Those dreams you have as a kid of Game 7s, you always score and the other team doesn’t score. That’s hockey."
And the Free Press's St. James:
“I thought it was a good game,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I was disappointed we lost Fil early. We could have been a lot more dynamic. Our guys hung in there. They battled hard just like they have all year long. They’re a very talented group. We pushed them real hard in this series.”
As St. James noted, the Wings' awful power play may very well have cost them the series in more ways than one...
It didn’t help that the power play was nonexistent all series except for one goal. The Wings got two opportunities in Game 7, got good looks, but no conversions.
“Maybe if we score on there, it’s a different game,” Zetterberg said.
And Fox Sports Detroit's Wakiji noted that the Wings had far more sympathy for Walkom than anyone else did:
"The ref closest to our bench, right by our bench, blew the whistle at least five seconds before it went in," Nyquist said. "So they just kept playing. We knew it was blown off."
Wings veteran Daniel Cleary put the whole thing in perspective.
"Steve made a call that he thought was the right call," Cleary said. "I don’t think he saw Hjalmarsson coming down the slot. I mean, listen, referees are human. They make mistakes. I don’t know why everybody keeps getting on them for it. They try to do the best they can. It’s a fast game. Anybody can look from up top or look on TV and say shoulda, coulda. But you’re not the ice. You don’t know how it is out there."
As DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted, the Wings believed that they'd re-taken control of their playoff future in the third period...
“We thought we'd been playing good all game and came out strong in the third,” said Gustav Nyquist, who set-up Zetterberg’s goal. “Finally, we got one in. I think it gave us a lot of energy, I think we played a strong third period, had a couple chances. Overtime can go either way and unfortunately it went their way.”
The Red Wings started the third period in familiar territory, needing a few scores to move on the in playoffs. It was no different than when they had to win the last four games of the regular season just to make it into the postseason. Against Anaheim, they had to win the last two games of a seven-game series to advance to the conference semifinals. And then Wednesday at the United Center, Zetterberg, who produced 16 points in the seven must-have games, popped in the game-tying goal just 26-seconds into the third.
Zetterberg’s goal was set-up by a terrific play by Nyquist, who somehow, magically perhaps, slipped a cross-ice pass under a sliding Johnny Oduya to the waiting Red Wings’ captain, who fired a shot into the empty side of the net.
"Of course it was nice that we tied it up early in the third there,” said Zetterberg, who finished with a team-high 12 points in the playoffs. “After that we had momentum, we played well, we created a lot of chances. Unfortunately, we couldn't get one more past him.”
But it didn't last, as they admitted to MLive's Ansar Khan (who also penned a quote-less recap):
“Right now it's just empty,'' defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “I thought we played a pretty good game, stuck with it, worked really hard. To go out like that is a tough way.''
Said forward Daniel Cleary: “We had three chances to close them out, just didn't get it done.''
The Red Wings went 0-for-2 on the power play, 1-for-24 in the series against a team that has killed 40-of-41 opportunities in the postseason.
“If our power play would have been better we would have won the series,'' Kronwall said.
More Wings weighed in while speaking to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
“Right now it feels a little surreal,” Jonathan Ericsson said. “We were confident coming into overtime, had a good feeling in the room. We said we were going to go for it and then it just ends like that, the whole season just ends like that. Like I said it feels kind of surreal, empty right now.”
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Carlo Colaiacovo said. “I’m more in shock more than anything. We battled really hard and I thought with how hard we competed in the third period we had the momentum going our way and heading into overtime we felt pretty good about our chances. Then all of a sudden, one shot and your whole season is over. It’s tough to swallow now, but I couldn’t be more proud of a bunch guys. We battled hard and earned everything we deserved. It’s just unfortunate it’s got to end this way.”
Chicago, which trailed 3-1 in the series, takes the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series 4-3. Detroit last lost a series when leading it 3-1 in 1991, when it was ousted from the opening round by St. Louis.
The Blackhawks will host the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Saturday at 5 p.m. Los Angeles advanced after a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 7, Tuesday.
“Of course if feels really empty right now,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “I think we played a good game, we did a lot of good things, came back there forced overtime. You know, not surprised that they scored on kind of a fluke play there, it goes in when I think it hits Kronner’s skate and goes in.”
“It was a tight series, we played hard, it was a great Game 7,” Daniel Cleary said. “Guys should be proud of themselves. I thought we played a good game, had a good third period. It’s a good team we played. (I’m) proud and disappointed. We had three chances to close them out, just didn’t get it done.”
So where do the Wings go from here? And how do we measure their season given that they let the Hawks up off the mat?
The Detroit News's Bob Wojnowski believes that the Wings are due some serious credit for dressing six "playoff rookies" and a boatload of youngsters and b-and-c-grade free agent signings throughout their playoff run...
The Wings may have buckled in back-to-back losses, but they matched the Blackhawks' energy early in this one. These games usually come down to bounces and breaks (and stars and skating too), and the Wings got the first bad one. Valtteri Filppula was knocked to the ice by Chicago's Andrew Shaw in a scuffle near the bench and left the game, limping down the tunnel.
Filppula's absence meant more ice time for one of the rising rookies, Nyquist, and that actually proved beneficial. And of course Zetterberg, who practically carried the Wings to victories in Games 6 and 7 against Anaheim, was excellent again.
The teams skated through the heat and turned it into a goalie duel. Both sides had decent scoring chances, and Howard was matching Crawford. The Wings kept banging away but weren't cashing in, and when that happens, well, you know what happens. The Blackhawks went the other way, and 1:08 into the second period, they unleashed a spectacular passing play to beat Howard the only way they could.
Michal Handzus dished the puck to Marian Hossa, who slid it across to Patrick Sharp, who saw a wide-open net. Howard had no chance and the Blackhawks had a 1-0 lead, and sometimes that's all it takes to lift the tension for the home team, at least for a while.
The Wings couldn't close this out, but make no mistake, they started something this season. They filled out their roster nicely with a lot of previous unknowns, and the future looks bright. Now GM Ken Holland has to round it out with more scorers and more experienced defensemen.
The Wings made a significant transitional leap this season, and all sorts of young players gained 14 games of valuable playoff experience. They didn't have enough to finish off the Blackhawks, and that's today's news. The lasting news is, the Wings showed enough that it won't be a surprise if they're playing at this same high level, same time next year.
The Free Press's Mitch Albom posited the following...
Questions remain. What will they do with Filppula, who, as an unrestricted free agent, didn’t do himself any favors with a largely ineffective postseason — and a sad, injured ending. Cleary and Brunner also can sign where they want.
But for the most part, the growing pains the Wings suffered this year should pay off with new heights in the season to come. Kids like Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith gained invaluable ice time, and, with a healthier lineup, the fall looks promising.
But that is for later. For now, we tip a hat to a team that almost made it.
“Nick (Lidstriom) left, Homer (Thomas Holmstrom) left, Stewie (Brad Stewart) left, and we had some challenges earlier in the year,” Cleary said, summing up the shortened season. “With a week left … we won four in a row to get in. We won a Game 7 in Anaheim. Had a 3-1 lead against Chicago and we lose in OT in Game 7. …I thought our team showed a lot of heart, showed a lot of character.”
All true. And this loss will still hurt more Friday than it does today.
The smoke fades, and in the clearing, we’ll call the series this way: Chicago drew first blood, Detroit won three straight, Chicago won three straight — the last one going to overtime. Not the way it usually happens. But might as well go out with style.
No more first or second rounds for the Wings and Hawks. No more clawing through one another to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
Fight over. With the playing ghosts of Hull and Howe, Mikita and Lindsay, Yzerman and Savard nodding from above, the two teams skated past each other and shook hands, and the rivalry as we’ve known it — and this last entertaining series — was history. Ain’t gonna be no rematch. And that’s fitting. This one stands on its own.
And even the Oakland Press's Chuck Pleiness praised the team's consistent inconsistency...
The third period then took the look of a heavyweight fight with two sluggers trading punches in the center of the ring. The ebb and flow was incredible. The puck was either in one end or the other. The game was seldom played in the neutral zone - and each team was threatening. It was amazing hockey - the Stanley Cup playoffs at its very best.
The Red Wings thrilled us more than disappointed us. They were 7-7 in the playoffs against the best (Chicago) and the third-best (Anaheim) teams in the NHL during the regular season. It was more good than bad.
But Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner refused to spare the Wings from criticism, stating that last summer's goals of adding a goal-scoring forward and a top-three-or-four defenseman must be met--somehow...
During the course of their run, a false sense of security seemed to prevail over the hockey populace. Concern over Detroit’s lack of consistent goal scoring and a defensive corps susceptible to lapses and turnovers seemed to melt away with each playoff victory.
“We’re a team that’s getting better,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “But, to be at this level where we’re at right now, we have to improve our hockey club. This year we did a lot of good things, worked hard and things came together for us, but we need more if we’re going to be consistent out of this.”
Specifically, Detroit must acquire a top-six forward who can score goals. If there is one aspect of the Red Wings' game that has really fallen off, it’s their goal-scoring prowess. Adding a proven goal scorer along with a top-four defenseman will go a long way in keeping Detroit in the upper ranks of the NHL.
Because, will, desire, moxie and karma are all admirable traits, but as we saw Wednesday night in Chicago, when the season is on the line, the more talented team, the better team comes out on top.
And I guess I'll leave you with this from the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa, because I believe that there are more roster questions than roster answers at this point, and that, for the next couple of days, anyway, we should be grateful for the services of those who may have played their last game in the Winged Wheel:
Daniel Cleary had a tough season, at times. By the end, there was some talk about the importance of his grit, but doubt about whether the Wings will sign him again for next season. But when he took the ice in the third period, Cleary burned.
In a terrific display of intensity on the forecheck, he prevented the Blackhawks from leaving their own zone for the first 20 seconds. He and had them so bottled up, it forced the turnover that led to the Wings first goal and a tie game.
Now, his leadership was by example. For the much of the entire game until those opening moments of the third period, the Wings had not mounted much of a forecheck, or a backcheck. Their forwards seemed slow, perhaps listless and it allowed the Blackhawks to pour out of their zone, quickly through the neutral zone and in on Howard.
Cleary's shift not only produced the game tying goal, it signaled a huge switch in the game The Red Wings forwards were finally hard on the Blackhawks defense and, if that failed, back-checking their hearts out.
"Proud and disappointed," Cleary said, when it was over. "We went up 3-1 and couldn't close them out. This team worked hard all season."
Yes it did. But today or tomorrow, the players will clean out their lockers, begin exit meetings with the team and receive workout orders or surgery dates if they're particularly "banged up"--after all, it's two days from June, and during a regular year, we'd be talking about a team that had made the cusp of the Stanley Cup Final, so this off-season will be a short one--and then the coaches and front office will hold organizational powwows and prepare for the draft and free agency, which take place on June 30th and July 5th, respectively.
Some favorites will leave via free agency. A pair of players will be bought out. It is highly likely that some will be traded to either swap their rights before they leave to pursue bigger paychecks or will be traded because there's no room for them with youngsters making a hard push for permanent roster spots. And if all goes well, a goal-scoring forward and a top-three-or-four defenseman will find their way to Detroit.
But the fact that those events aren't that far off doesn't take away the sting that is knowing that the Wings brought bags packed for a Conference Final's worth of a four-day weekend out West back home still packed.
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