The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/21/13 at 12:18 PM ET
Updated 6x at 3:10 PM: The Red Wings aren't practicing today and I'm not sure whether the Blackhawks are skating thanks to the two-day break between games and the simple truths that a) practice for practice's sake doesn't necessarily register with players (less is more) and b) everyone is banged-up to some extent at this time of year, so "rest is a weapon," as Mike Babcock would say.
But there's a preponderance of Wings and Hawks-related news that either didn't quite make the recap or overnight report cut or plain old popped up during my four-and-a-half hours' worth of sleep. I will leave Sportsline's Brian Stubits, Yahoo Sports' Harrison Mooney and the Score's Justin Bourne's astonishment at a goofy comment by Glenn Healy to you (according to Mr. Healy, Pavel Datsyuk doesn't have all that much hockey god-given talent; Bourne, Grantland and Deadspin of all places offered analyses of last night's game as well)...Well, okay, here's Healy. Cue the jaw-drop:
Otherwise, we'll begin our mid-day survey of Wings-Hawks news with chatter from Chicago. The Chicago Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom calls out Jonathan Toews and offers several other suggestions as to why the Hawks have found themselves on the short end of the stick for two straight games...
Toews has been getting roughed up by every Wing at every opportunity. It’s what the Hawks should be doing to Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The Hawks responded Monday night with some of their own physical play in a game the officials were vaguely familiar with. But it was the Hawks’ tenacity and speed that created a couple power-play chances.
If only they could do something with it. The Hawks blew three chances with the extra skater -- three chances to take a lead and build on it -- before the Red Wings struck twice in 31 seconds.
Brent Seabrook got undressed on the first goal, Michal Rozsival committed a disastrous giveaway to create the second. Adversity was taking the body hard.
The Hawks entered the playoffs with a mediocre power play, and it’s killing them now. After failing at the end of the second period, the Hawks had missed eight straight times with a man-advantage. That kind of failure wrenches the Hawks in two areas: First, they aren’t scoring -- duh -- and second, the more they blow those chances, the more emboldened the Wings’ physical game will become.
But wait. There were couple things worse than the Hawks power play: the Hawks in the faceoff circle and their puck management.
The Hawks lost the battle at the dot for the third straight game and they were losing the puck more than they seemed to be getting blamed for statistically. Quick, someone tell the Hawks you can’t play a puck-possession game without the puck.
The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh also weighed in...
When superstars aren't playing like superstars and secondary scorers aren't scoring, this happens. The Hawks need more than just Patrick Kane to score.
They need Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa to show up offensively. They need better defense from Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith and everybody else on the blue line. They need goalie Corey Crawford to come through better than he did in letting Datsyuk's soft goal sail past his shoulder for the Wings' third, spirit-crushing score.
They need to remember how they won the Presidents' Trophy.
The Hawks team that opened the game certainly looked familiar. When Jonathan Ericsson went after Toews after the whistle early, the captain stood up in a way that showed the Hawks vowed not to get pushed around again. When Seabrook shoved Daniel Cleary into the crossbar and Bryan Bickell challenged Kyle Quincey, they sent the same message.
In an arena named after a boxer, the Hawks had come prepared to brawl.
The furious start resulted in the Hawks outshooting the Wings 15-9 in the first and holding the hosts without a shot on goal for the first 6 1/2 minutes of the second. Everything favored the Hawks until Wings center Gustav Nyquist made the type of move that always will trump tenacity.
Nyquist took an outlet pass, crossed over on Seabrook wickedly enough to make him lose his balance and waited patiently until Crawford committed. Somewhere in the upper level, an octopus squirmed.
As did ChicagoBlackhawks.com's Bob Verdi...
Again, these are not the Minnesota Wild that the Blackhawks brushed off a couple weeks ago. These are not the Red Wings whom the Blackhawks whipped four straight times during regular-season preambles, including 7-1 here on Easter Sunday. Red Wings things have changed, except for an exercise that you should not try at home.
The octopus throw! It is a callisthenic unique to Detroit, begun in 1952 when the owner of a local fish market, Pete Cusimano, tossed one of those slippery invertebrates onto the ice at the old Olympia. An octopus has eight legs—or more correctly, four pairs of arms—and back then, it took eight playoff victories to claim a Stanley Cup. Now, with four series instead of two, it takes 16 victories. There are no known octopi with 16 legs, or arms.
How this tradition continues is unclear, because security in and around Joe Louis Arena is properly snug. One can only imagine how man, or woman, and beast make it through to the seats.
Usher: “What’s in your backpack?”
Fan: “My cigarettes and an octopus.”
Usher: “You understand, of course, that there is no smoking in the building.”
An octopus is considered extremely intelligent and adept at problem solving, and gifted with long-term memory despite a short lifespan. Companionship appears to be a problem area. After mating, male and females expire within months.
Monday night, the Blackhawks opted for pizza, a favored account of Red Wings’ owner Mike Ilitch, then departed on their charter for home. They are not in a panic mode. They are halfway to being shocked into a sudden summer vacation.
“No negative thoughts,” insisted Toews, wistful about not seeing the back of the net lately. “I will not let this get the best of me.”
Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers also duly noted that the team which out-shot Detroit 40-30 did indeed believe that it all but accomplished its task in tying and winning the game save for that darn waved-off goal...
“We had a couple good shifts with some mixed-up lines there but we felt like we were pushing them back and close to getting one past (Jimmy Howard). But we couldn’t find a way to pass him in the beginning,” said Stalberg, who played his first game of this series after being benched the previous two games. “Then there’s a face-off win and we just don’t win the puck on it. We have to be ready and get hungry with those loose pucks on faceoffs. It’s going to be a big part of the rest of the series.”
Jimmy Howard was stellar in stopping 39 of 40 shots for the Wings. Corey Crawford stopped 27 of 30 in his second consecutive loss.
It was a frustrating night, but Duncan Keith said the Blackhawks will bounce back because, well, the alternative isn’t an option.
“We just have to,” he said. “There’s no thinking about it. It’s just a matter of going to work the next game”
The Blackhawks are facing some adversity now, something they faced very little of during this regular season. They got better from Game 2 to Game 3. They’ll need to be even better for Game 4.
“We had more predictability in our game and we didn’t get slowed down,” Quenneville said. “We have to be better than we were today, but we were certainly better today.”
And as I'm kind of grumpy and vindictive at this time of year, we'll wrap up our survey of the Hawks' press with this from the Northwest Herald's Jeff Arnold:
Jonathan Toews always expects himself to be at his best, but throw the Blackhawks captain into a scoring drought that has lasted seven playoff games and the pressure to get the offense going only grows.
But as anxious as Toews is to finally register his first playoff goal, he won’t stress too much over when it will happen.
“It’s one of those things I have to keep working, keep trying to find ways to score and eventually, it’s going to come,” Toews said after Monday’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. “Right now, I’m trying not to let it build up too much in my own mind. Sometimes, you start squeezing the stick and the rest of your game kind of goes downhill and I’m not going to let that happen.
“Sooner or later, something’s got to give.”
Toews, who was announced as a finalist for the NHL’s Messier Leadership Award on Monday, shared the team lead (23) for goals in the regular season with Patrick Kane. Kane, who like Toews did not score in the Hawks’ first-round series against Minnesota, finally scored in the Hawks’ 4-1 Game 2 loss Saturday, when the Red Wings overwhelmed the Hawks in nearly every phase of the game.
Toews said Monday that Detroit left winger Henrik Zetterberg had a lot to do not only with keeping Toews out of scoring chances, but the Hawks’ entire top line. Toews said he became frustrated by not being able to do much in Game 2 and suggested that “maybe it’s time to return the favor.”
Now we're going to move northeast, but not to Detroit yet, because the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner duly notes that the Grand Rapids Griffins have to take care of business tonight against the Toronto Marlies, who they lead 3 games to 2 in their second-round series, less the Griffins face a winner-take-all Game 7 situation tomorrow in Hogtown:
Game 6 is 7 tonight. If necessary, Game 7 will be 7 p.m. Wednesday.
In 2006, the Griffins closed out a first-round series in Toronto, and they hold an all-time playoff record of 4-1 in Ricoh Coliseum.
The challenge for the Griffins is to win in Toronto this year, where the Marlies had the best record in the AHL during the regular season at 26-8-1-3.
The Griffins split the opening two playoff games in Toronto. When the series went to Grand Rapids, the Griffins won the first two games and then could have eliminated the Marlies on Saturday but lost 4-1.
During the regular season in Toronto, the Griffins won 4-3 in a shootout on Oct. 21 and lost 5-0 on Dec. 16.
The Griffins’ special teams will be under the microscope. Grand Rapids scored on two-of-seven power plays in Game 1, but, in the past two games, it converted once in 10 opportunities despite overpowering Toronto in shots.
In five games, Grand Rapids has outshot Toronto 171 to 118, or 34.2 to 23.6.
Via RedWingsFeed, the Griffins posted a game-day preview:
In other prospect news, Martin Frk and the Halfiax Mooseheads will battle the London Knights in their 3rd round-robin game at the Memorial Cup (the Moosheads are 1-and-1) tonight at 8 PM EDT, and the game will air on Sportsnet in Canada.
In terms of Red Wings stories from within and in the vicinity of the Motor City, we'll begin with multimedia from Michigan Hockey (via RedWingsFeed), which posted a superb Wings-Hawks Game 3 photo gallery, as well as a quick video recap of last night's game from WXYZ's Brad Galli:
In the opinion department, 97.1 the Ticket's Eric Thomas asks a simple question: "Who Are THESE Red Wings?" (all-caps emphasis his)...
[T]his stands as Mike Babcock’s best playoff achievement as coach of the Wings, outside of winning the Cup. Babcock has done this before, helmed the underdog team on a run, but he hasn’t done it since he was the coach of the Ducks. The team has been well prepared, well coached and playing beyond themselves. If there was any question about Mike Babcock’s return next year, this deeper than expected playoff run settles it.
Game three against the ‘Hawks was Jimmy Howard’s signature playoff win. He’s had many saves in the past, had many great periods past, but this is his best playoff game since the shutout in his first season starting in goal. A few of his saves in game three were backbreakers, especially in the second period. Chicago their lost confidence as the game went on.
While we’re at it, that much maligned Detroit defense has put together back to back excellent performances. Brendan Smith has totally redeemed himself, Kyle Quincey has played strong. Even Johan Franzen has played well, and Detroit calls a truce for the rest of the playoffs.
It seems like some of the city doesn’t even know this is happening. Many maybe gave up when the Wings nearly missed the playoffs, turned off to the idea of watching a team with little chance to kiss the cup. Might want to wake your neighbors. The Wings have their skates on the neck of the best team in the West.
Ken Holland and Mike Babcock have to feel good about themselves. Fans have spent the season kicking and screaming, asking them to defend their actions. There wasn’t an attempt to make a move before the trade deadline; they stood on the sidelines all summer while other teams snapped up free agents. They struggled with injuries; poor play by Howard early in the season, lack of scoring…they largely struggled with everything this season and made the playoffs in the last week of the season.
It’s fitting revenge. For all the Red Wings’ cup successes, ignominious early playoff exits pockmark the memories of many fans. The Wings, when this happens, usually skate away shocked when some scrappy underdog beats them by surprise. The Blackhawks are primed for just that, so frustrated by the end of the game that several players had to be physically restrained.
Patrick Kane skated off with a truly disgusted look on his face. Earlier in the week defenseman Brent Seabrook shook off game two, he said, “its one game.” That was the case when he said it.
Now it’s two.
The Red Wings kind-of-sort-of sidestepped the issue as to whether Viktor Stalberg's goal should have counted last night, as Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji noted, but they also didn't make too big a deal out of the Niklas Hjalmarsson hit on Johan Franzen that resulted in Patrick Kane's 2-1 goal...
In the Chicago Blackhawks' minds, it was the turning point of Game 3 — an eventual 3-1 Detroit Red Wings win.
For the Red Wings, it was only fair. With the Wings leading 2-0 in the third period Monday night, Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson knocked Johan Franzen down along the boards in the Blackhawks' end.
While Franzen lay crumpled to the ice, the Blackhawks were headed the other way, with an odd-man rush. That rush resulted in Patrick Kane's goal, which beat Jimmy Howard five-hole at 4:35, cutting Detroit's lead to 2-1.
The Wings were livid that no penalty was called on Hjalmarsson.
"It should have been a two-minute penalty," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "This is the way I look at it. Those referees are trying to get to the Stanley Cup Final like the rest of us and it's fast. When I watch the replay and see it, it's a penalty. They don't get to watch the replay."
And instead, the Wings praised their penalty-killers and third and fourth lines for persevering through an incredibly long shift, as the Toledo Blade's Rachel Lenzi noted (she also penned a notebook):
After a scoreless first period that included several chippy moments, Chicago managed only two shots in the first five minutes of the second, despite holding onto the puck for the bulk of that time. Then the Red Wings answered with two goals in a span of 31 seconds.
“That was a long one,” Miller said of the first five minutes in which he played a 3-minute, 15-second shift. “When you get stuck like that it’s tough to get off [the ice]. Everyone was blocking shots and trying to get the puck out. Jimmy [Howard] was making big saves. You have to go through shifts like that. Then Gus made a big play and got the momentum going.”
Nyquist entered Chicago’s zone and stickhandled past Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook at the right circle, then pulled Crawford (27 saves) out of position from the left side of the net to give the Red Wings a 1-0 lead at 7:49.
Thirty-one seconds later, Drew Miller tapped Patrick Eaves’ rebound into an otherwise open net, giving the Red Wings a two-goal lead after they capitalized on a turnover.
“It ended up being huge on the scoresheet with Gus scoring his goal and Millsie scoring out goal,” Eaves said. “But we need all four lines in the playoffs. Everyone has a deep team at this point in the playoffs.”
Miller did his best to down-play his shift's significance, but MLive's Brendan Savage reports that Miller's teammates wouldn't let him off the hook...
"The biggest improvement we've seen with him in the lineup is our penalty kill," said defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo. "There was a shift there in the second period when I think he blocked five shots in a row. It was huge for that line to get a goal as well.
"Millsie is a guy who skates real well , he's a great checker, blocks shots, plays with that edge, finishes checks and he's been really key to us since he's been back."
Actually, Miller only blocked three shots during the marathon shift. It just seemed like more since nobody on either team had more than three for the entire game. Miller finished with four blocks while Nick Leddy led Chicago with three.
"I think all the bag skates he's been doing with one hand, it's been paying off," joked captain Henrik Zetterberg. "He's really good on PK for us. He skates well. He does all the little things right. You know that he will do everything right and it's nice to see that they scored a goal today, that line. It's huge for us."
Miller scored the game-winning goal 8:20 into the second, when he poked the puck past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford during a goal-mouth scramble. That gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead just 31 seconds after Gustav Nyquist opened the scoring for the Red Wings. It was Miller's first goal of the playoffs and fifth in 46 games including the regular season.
So which was bigger, the goal or the shift that seemed as if it would never end?
"I take pride in the penalty kill and I want to get it done and killed off," Miller said. "Scoring a goal is big, too. I'll take both. How about that?"
And MLive's Ansar Khan focused on the collective efforts of the out-of-gas penalty-killers, their goaltender included:
The Chicago Blackhawks had them hemmed in their zone, forcing them to take extremely long shifts. Jonathan Ericsson and Drew Miller were on the ice for 3:15, Niklas Kronwall for 2:46 and Patrick Eaves for 2:15.
“We were all just thinking 'get a whistle,' '' goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “With it being so hot outside and cramming 20,000-plus in here, it was warm out on the ice. I think we were all sucking wind there for a couple of minutes.''
Said Eaves: “We were pretty tired. They had a lot of skill on the ice and had the puck. But we weathered the storm there.''
They gained some momentum from it. Minutes later, Gustav Nyquist and Miller scored 31 seconds apart, and the Red Wings went on to beat the Blackhawks 3-1 in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals, taking a 2-1 series lead.
“That could have been a turning point if they would have scored on that power play and extended end-zone shift,'' Eaves said. “But with Howie back there, if we could keep them to the outside and knock any rebounds away, he’s going to do a good job for us.”
You probably already know that the Red Wings' "third line" has been its biggest difference-maker not including a Datsyuk or Zetterberg up front--both positively and negatively--and the Free Press's Helene St. James cast her spotlight upon the Gustav Nyquist-Joakim Andersson-Damien Brunner line:
Gustav Nyquist scored the game's first goal, at 7:49 of the second period. Joakim Andersson took the face-off against Andrew Shaw, and Brunner picked up the puck along the boards and forwarded it to Nyquist. Nyquist sailed through traffic and found an open net with Corey Crawford indisposed.
"Andy wins the draw off to the board, and Brunner gets it out, great job by him lifting it out," Nyquist said. "I'm crossing over, pushing the pace and try to make a move on the D. Went around him and faked a shot and tried to get Crawford down a little bit and then go around him. Fortunately, it went in."
Coach Mike Babcock likened Nyquist to Henrik Zetterberg in that Nyquist "is quick and he's smart. He knows how to play without the puck, so he gets good chances and he's real good at hanging on to the puck."
Brunner scored in each of the first two games of the series, and added an assist Monday that gives him eight points in 10 games. Nyquist and Andersson each have four points. Andersson doesn't have the offensive instincts of his wingers, but he's big and strong and responsible. "Gus is really quick and has a lot of confidence," Zetterberg said. "Both him and Brunner are doing a lot of good things, and then Andy is just looking after them. He's the brain on that line. He takes care of the other two.
"They’re smart kids. They’re playing their first playoffs here, but they really do the little things right, and they’re getting rewarded for it. It’s nice to see."
Going forward, as Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji noted, the Wings suggested that it's up to them to keep an even keel and remember that they are still playing a juggernaut:
"Let's be honest, we haven't done anything yet," Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
Like many of the younger players, Howard has elevated his play in the last few weeks, perhaps in answer to the critics who don't believe he can help a team win the Stanley Cup. But he knows that these Blackhawks are the same team that beat the Wings four times in the regular season and dominated them in Game 1 of this Western Conference semifinal.
"They were the best team in the NHL for a reason," Howard said. "We’re just going out there, sticking to our game plan, getting pucks to the net and getting on their D and trying not to give up too much on the transition. They’re a team the lives off the transition.Saying we’re better than (Chicago) is a stretch. It’s just hard work that’s paying off. Guys are paying the price to block the shots. We’re playing with a lot of heart."
"I didn't think we played the full 60 as much as we had the other night because we got careful at the end instead of just going after them like we did in their building," Babcock said.
He also said the Wings' power play, which was 0-for-5 Monday, needs to be better.
Nyquist believes the Wings have learned how they must play to be successful against top teams like the Blackhawks.
"If we start losing small battles, they're going to take it to us like they did in Game 1," Nyquist said. "They skated us hard and we weren't ready for them. We've shown up for Game 2 and 3, and that's how we're going to have to play. They're a great team and it's going to be tight throughout the whole series. We'll be ready again next game."
In the tangentially-Wings-related news department, if you are interested in reading DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's interview with Swiss IndyCar driver Simona de Silverstro or the Detroit News's Tony Augusty's interview with her, enjoy (she's a Hiller fan, not a Brunner fan)...
And in terms of out-of-town news about and regarding the Wings, with our perspectives moving from small-scale to larger-scale commentary, the National Post's Sean Fitz-Gerald spoke to Jonas Gustavsson about his up-and-down season...and career...
Detroit signed Gustavsson to serve a supporting role behind starter Jimmy Howard. But a pulled groin forced him to the sidelines in February, and he struggled when he returned to duty: “Things haven’t gone great for him this year, he’s been hurt all along, and it’s hard to get into a rhythm and get any confidence in yourself,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told reporters in March.
Gustavsson has another year left on the contract he signed with Detroit. He said some goaltenders find success as late bloomers, closer to 30 years of age. Gustavsson will turn 29 next season, and he still has hope he can translate his early promise into sustained success in North America.
“I don’t really think about, like, ‘OK, two years from now, I have to be a starting goaltender,’” he said. “Of course that’s in the back of my head. That’s still the dream that I have, to be a starting goaltender and to win the Cup. That’s the ultimate goal.”
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson offered scuttlebutt of a different kind, and his first quip isn't necessarily Red Wings-related, but I believe that it's worth noting given that you and I both expect the Red Wings to survey the cap-compliance buy-out market to add a goal-scoring forward and a top-three defenseman this summer:
The Minnesota Wild may want to rid themselves of a chunk — possibly two-thirds — of Dany Heatley’s $7.5-million salary with the amnesty buyout. But they can’t buy out an injured player, and Heatley recently had knee surgery. He’s essentially a secondary player making first-line money.
The Montreal Canadiens, meanwhile, will take about two seconds to use the buyout on defenceman Tomas Kaberle, who will make $4.25 million next season.
Former NHL GM Craig Button wonders if teams will try to sign free agents to one-year contracts so they can see where the salary cap goes in 2014-15. It’s coming down about $6 million from the 2012-13 season, but maybe it will go back up to $70-million-plus in 2014-15.
This is just my gut feeling talking, but I think that the Wings may very will ink whatever unrestricted free agents they ink to 1-year deals for the sakes of both minimizing risk and not insulting the players involved.
Matheson focused on the Wings in specific terms in his second Hockey World column:
PETAN MAY BE SMALL, BUT SO WAS DATSYUK: For people who say that Nicolas Petan, who had three assists for the Portland Winterhawks in Game 6 of the Western Hockey League final against the Edmonton Oil Kings, is too small for the NHL at 170 pounds, lest we forget Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk. He was tiny when he first arrived in Detroit.
Petan, who’s only five-foot-nine, might get to 180 pounds.
“I think Datsyuk was 155 pounds when he first showed up there,” said a veteran NHL amateur scout, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The Detroit guys were going, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Then he showed a couple of little (offensive) flashes and the players were going, ‘Whoa.’ Like (St. Louis Blues head coach) Ken Hitchcock says, too, for the first two years in the NHL, Datsyuk couldn’t win a faceoff. Now you can’t beat him.”
As you might expect, Matheson believes that the Wings should draft Petan...
FILPPULA A BIG TEASE: Red Wings forward Valterri Filppula teases you with high-end plays like his backhand goal in Game 2 on Saturday in a 4-1 Detroit win against the Chicago Blackhawks, but he’s done little to increase his value on the open market when free agency starts July 5. He has been outplayed by rookie Gustav Nyquist during the playoffs, giving Detroit lukewarm secondary scoring behind Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
Filppula makes $3 million. Is he really worth any more than that to another team off 17 points in 41 regular-season games and five in the playoffs?
At this point, again, gut feeling, but I'm assuming that the Wings will "flip" Filppula's rights at the draft, because there are definitely teams that would give a 40-point-scoring, 29-year-old forward with one 66-point season to his credit $4-5 million, but I don't think the Wings are interested in doing so--even if they fear Pavel Datsyuk's going back to Russia after next season--because the Wings rather desperately need another top-six forward who can score goals, and that's a much more worth investment of $4-5 million at this point (as is spending some of that money on re-signing Damien Brunner)...
And I'm gonna go with, "Duh" on this one:
ZETTERBERG LEADS RED WINGS LIKE LIDSTROM USED TO: Kudos to the retooling Red Wings, who keep confounding people with their playoff effort. They’re nowhere near the deep team they used to be, but they are getting yeoman work out of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Especially Zetterberg, who is leading like Nicklas Lidstrom used to.
I am going to raise an eyebrow, however, at ESPN's Craig Custance's latest insider-only blog entry, because he believes that Red Wings associate coach Tom Renney is one of the best candidates around for any of the NHL's vacant or contested head coaching jobs:
Tom Renney, Red Wings -- During the Red Wings' somewhat surprising playoff run, coach Mike Babcock is getting a lot of credit for the development and contributions of the young Detroit players. There's no doubt Babcock might be doing some of the best coaching of his career right now, but Renney's contributions can't be ignored, either. He's a guy known for communication and player development and has quickly endeared himself to the young Red Wings.
"The biggest thing is he's very approachable," said Red Wings forward Cory Emmerton. "I haven't had him as a head coach, but I can see him being the same way. If you ever have a question or concern, he's not afraid to tell you both ways -- the good and the bad. It's what you need."
Detroit players say Renney often leaves notes in their dressing room stall highlighting conversations and goals they've set for each player. When a guy knows exactly what is expected, it helps focus the performance.
"I've had a few of them where he'll come up to me and ask me, 'What are three things you want to look at getting better at, or some things you need to be successful tonight?'" defenseman Brendan Smith said. "He'll write it down, and it'll be in our stall. Just a little reminder. He's very easy to talk to, and that's what you really enjoy out of a coach like that. It's been a great person to have in the locker room and on the team."
I'm sure as hell hoping that the Wings will keep Renney around as he seems to smooth out some of Babcock's harshest edges...
And the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek closes our out-of-town survey with a...Unique...Red Wings-vampire comparison:
The Detroit Red Wings remind me of the protagonists in one of those cheesy 1950s-style Dracula movies. You know the kind. Someone has a chance to kill off the Count early, fails to do so – and all sorts of mayhem subsequently ensues.
The Red Wings were like that with a week to go in the regular season – on the cusp of missing the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. Somebody just had to come in and finish them off when they were down and out, and couldn’t. The end result is what you see right now, a team very much alive in the Stanley Cup playoffs and threatening to knock out the President’s Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks in the second round.
After eliminating the No. 2 seeded Anaheim Ducks in the opening round, the Red Wings pulled ahead in their series against the Blackhawks Monday night with a 3-1 win at the Joe Louis Arena in the only game on the schedule.
There were a couple of controversial moments in the game (more on that later), but the bottom line is, for the second game in a row, the Red Wings were the better team. Anaheim had them on the ropes in the previous series – up 3-2 – but Detroit won a pair of elimination games. After getting spanked in the opener, a loss that you could attribute mostly to the fatigue of going seven games in the opening round, the Red Wings have recovered nicely from that setback and look like the far more poised team.
As their younger players mature, the Red Wings look like a far better team now than they did in March. They haven’t been to a conference final since 2009 – two second-round defeats, plus a first-round loss last year to the Nashville Predators – but they are starting to look like a serious threat again.
“As the year’s gone on, we’ve gotten better,” said Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock post-game. “We’re got real good leadership ... and a bunch of kids that work hard. But let’s be honest, we haven’t done anything yet.”
No, but they’re halfway there, which is something you might not have thought possible with a week to go in the regular season, when the Columbus Blue Jackets were threatening to bump them from the playoff picture altogether.
And finally, the Hawks are holding a media availability session as I type this, and so far, so predictable:
And you may take this note from the Chicago Daily Herald's Tim Sassone for what you will:
"The first time I saw Hoss was in 1997 at the World Juniors," said Babcock, who was coaching at Spokane in the Western Hockey League at the time. "I came back and told our general manager in Spokane that we needed to get him, but we weren't willing to pay the 50 grand to get him. Portland got him and he played there and they won the Memorial Cup.
"I've followed him ever since and he's just gotten better and better. He's a great two-way player who makes plays and is a big body. He played well with us with the Red Wings, but we had to make financial decisions, as you know you have to. He's went to a good team and plays real well with (Jonathan) Toews."
Hossa played his first playoff game back in Joe Louis Arena on Monday since Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals when he was with the Red Wings and they lost 2-1 to Pittsburgh.
It was a painful defeat for Hossa.
"I believe everything pushes you or moves you a little further, you know, through the tough times," Hossa said. "It kind of pushes you to be better, not just as a player but as a person. I believe we learn from those losses, then when you win you appreciate it more."
Hossa didn't have a goal in the Finals and took some heat for it. What the Detroit fans didn't know was he played with an injured shoulder that required surgery after he signed with the Blackhawks as a free agent a few weeks after the playoffs.
"Those are things you don't control and it's behind me," Hossa said. "It was great playing here. I felt like we had a great season, but we were one game short and it was the most important game. It was painful, but you learn from that and move on."
Update #3: NHL.com's Corey Masisak profiled Damien Brunner:
In this postseason, the Red Wings' depth has stepped to the fore. After assisting on Nyquist's highlight-reel goal Monday, Brunner has four goals and eight points in 10 playoff games. He is tied with Franzen for the team lead in goals, and tied for second in points with Pavel Datsyuk. He scored a key goal in the Game 2 victory when he deflected a point shot in front of Crawford. He scored one of Detroit's three overtime goals in a first-round upset of the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks (Nyquist had one, too).
When Detroit coach Mike Babcock has been asked (on several occasions) about Brunner in this postseason, there is a common refrain at the start of every response.
"He scores," Babcock said. "He wants the puck and he scores. Anybody who wants the puck and has the speed he has is going to be valuable. He started the year in the top six and now is on the third line, and that's probably a better fit for him."
Brunner was an unknown quantity at the start of the season. He signed with the Red Wings in the summer as a 26-year-old free agent with 272 career games in the top league in his native Switzerland on his resume. He led that league with 60 points last season, and then added 57 points in 33 games this season for Swiss club Zug during the lockout, finishing third in the scoring race despite missing a third of the season to join the Red Wings.
Scoring in the NHL came pretty easy to Brunner as well at first. After a four-point game in late February against the Vancouver Canucks, he had 10 goals and 16 points in his first 19 NHL games. He went more than a month before his next goal, though, and had two in his final 25 games. Brunner now has settled in next to Andersson and across from Nyquist, and he is the highest-scoring player in this postseason who doesn't see top-six minutes.
"It's a new experience, also the travel, going back and forth and playing every other day," Brunner said of the playoffs. "We got used to that already during the season, so that helped a little bit. But it's fun. It's intense and all the fans are into it, so it's a lot of fun out there."
Brunner turned 27 in March, so he's not as young as the other "kids" in the Detroit dressing room. He does still have much to learn about playing in the NHL, and finding consistency will be a goal for the 2013-14 season. For now, he is enjoying himself and helping the Red Wings prove they are becoming a dangerous and deep opponent for the Blackhawks, one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
"He comes to the rink with a smile on his face, and when he's out there he's doing the right things," Howard said. "He's going to the net. When you're out there and competing like he's competing, pucks go in for you."
Update #4: Here's Hawks coach Joel Quenneville's off-day presser:
Update #5: The Hawks also posted clips of Niklas Hjalmarsson...
And Patrick Sharp speaking with the media:
The Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Potash also penned an off-day report:
'We're down 2-1, but it's not the end of the world,'' defenseman Michal Rozsival said Tuesday at the United Center. ''We're playing a good opponent. It's not over yet.''
After winning the series opener 4-1 at the United Center, the Blackhawks lost 4-1 at home in Game 2 and 3-1 in Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena on Monday night. They are undaunted by the prospect of going down 3-1 with another game at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night.
''It's gonna be a long series. I think we knew that going in,'' Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said. ''You never want to lose games, but you can certainly take positives out of it and build off things.''
The Hawks met the physical challenge of the Red Wings much more in Game 3 than in Game 2. But Hossa and Rozsival indicated they need to take it to another level with so much on the line in Game 4.
''We need to be a little more on the edge,'' Hossa said. ''I thought we had great intensity, lots of energy [in Game 3], but also you know you don't want to overboard and take bad penalties because you know they've got really good player on the power play. You have to be smart about it.''
''I think there's a little bit of anger ...with the way we played,'' Rozsival said. ''I think that's a good thing. It can give us a boost of energy. Playing with a little anger, it's not a bad thing. I think it's going to help us in Game 4. Obviously we have to play better and step up our game.''
But the way Game 3 ended, with Andrew Shaw drawing a misconduct penalty in the final minute, the Hawks know they need to be careful about going over the line.
Playing [angry] doesn't give us a green light to take unnecessary or undisciplined penalties,'' Quenneville said. ''I think there's always a discipline that goes behind everything we've talked about -- whether it's playing with a purpose, but the purpose is discipline's No. 1.''
Update #6: The Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest's off-day column involves the Wings' strong contributions from their "supporting cast"...
Tuesday was a day off for both teams as the Blackhawks returned to Chicago and the Red Wings relaxed at home in preparation for Game 4.
Having been written off more than once already this season, the Red Wings have a chance to take a stranglehold with another encounter at home Thursday, before the scene shifts back to Chicago.
"I think as the year has gone on we've gotten better," said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock following the win Monday. "You have to work hard enough and play hard enough, get some confidence in yourself and I think the group has done that. I've talked a lot about the fact that we're getting better even when we weren't winning on a regular basis, then we started to win."
According to Babcock, the key to the Red Wings success this year has been the development of their younger players and their third and fourth liners.
The Red Wings still have high-end talent, but it wasn't until the supporting cast got stronger that the Red Wings started winning on a more regular basis.
"We have really good leadership in (Henrik) Zetterberg, (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Niklas) Kronwall, (Dan) Cleary and those guys," said Babcock. "We also have a lot of kids that work hard and things are going in the right direction so far for us in this series. We've got to find a way to enjoy our day off, keep our mind right and get ready to practice and to play again."
And the Free Press's George Sipple noted a bit of Babcockian philosophy:
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock pushes his players hard. They sometimes might not like what he has to say, even when it’s something they need to hear.
“Steve Yzerman told me, when Scotty (Bowman) coached him here, he hardly ever talked to him,” Babcock said. “And then when he was working with me for two years, Scotty was talking to players all the time. Scotty Bowman loved the players. Absolutely loved them, but he had a job to do.”
Babcock said he loves his players.
“Sometimes when you’re pushing people who don’t want to be pushed, sometimes they don’t like it,” Babcock said. “I’m here to tell you, when you look at the group of coaches that are still playing right now, they’re pushing their people. That’s just the reality. Whether that’s perceived as positive or negative ... in my world, that’s positive.”
Babcock has always considered himself a teacher, whether he’s dealing with young players or veterans.“Young guys need a lot of work. You spend a lot of time with them, you share as much as you can with them,” Babcock said. “Ideally, they’re coachable.”
When it comes to the veterans, Babcock said he tries to give them space: “When we need to show ’em something, we show’em. But when we don’t, we leave them alone that way.”
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