The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/22/13 at 04:17 PM ET
Updated 5x at 5:18 PM: The first Red Wings-Blackhawks practice day post has run its course space-wise, so we'll begin a second slate of Red Wings and Blakchawks stories with coach Mike Babcock's very thorough off-day presser (which serves as a very nice compliment to his Fan 590 interview)...
As well as the Wings discussing the positive effects of their two two-day breaks between Games 1 and 2 and now 3 and 4 with MLive's Ansar Khan...
“It’s obviously nice to have a few days off between games,'' Detroit's Jakub Kindl said. “That first series, we played every other day. It was tough. All the traveling and the going out West, the three-hour time change. That wore us down a bit.
“Right now, it’s perfect, exactly what we need. Two days off between games, it’s great. Guys can heal the bruises up a little bit and enjoy the day off, too.''
Coach Mike Babcock had mixed feelings about the extra day off before Game 4, since his team had a lot of momentum following its 3-1 win in Game 3 Monday.
“No different than the players, when we had all that travel to Anaheim and the time change, you need to re-charge, too,'' Babcock said. “But, I wish we were playing today. I like playing every other day because I don't like to practice during the playoffs, I like the pregame skate and just go.''
And if you haven't already noticed that Daniel Cleary's playing like someone who wants to remain with the Red Wings after this season (unlike, say, Valtteri Filppula?), the Free Press's Helene St. James duly noted that Cleary is registering points and pestering opponents like the "Cleary of old":
“He’s not quite as heavy as he used to be, but in this playoff he’s gotten back to Danny Cleary of old, really skating,” coach Mike Babcock said today. “He’s doing a real good job right now. He’s playing in our top two lines, plays on the power play. He’s been real effective, and he’s a real good person.”
The last time Cleary was this effective in the playoffs, the Wings went all the way to the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. He’s 34 now, and has been through numerous knee surgeries and some back pain, but he’s aggravating and he’s productive and he’s having a blast.
“Certainly, a hatred is brewing between our two clubs,” Cleary said, smiling. “It’s only going to get more intense as we get going. I’m sure there are some guys who aren’t happy out there. You’re fighting for every inch. Sometimes it boils over.”
It boils over in his own dressing room, too. Jimmy Howard described Cleary as, “loud, opinionated and confident.” Also: Effective. “He’s hardworking, goes out there and skates, he’s huge for us.”
There’s a running joke among teammates that Cleary is the smartest guy in the room. “I think he thinks he’s the smartest one, anyway,” Niklas Kronwall said, laughing. “I wouldn’t put him up there at the top.”
Cleary is a talker, and it’s hard for him to hide that he’s well-read and watches a lot of TV and knows just a little about everything. He’s also a talker, before games, and during, and again this is where his effectiveness shows. “He’s got elite hockey sense and he’s a great competitor,” Babcock said. “He’s in our leadership group here. He’s demanding of our guys, on the ice, on the bench, in the room, and doesn’t mind telling people. I think he’s a huge part of our hockey club that way.”
St. James continues and wonders where Cleary stands with the team going forward--and I have my doubts given that, back surgery or no back surgery (the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan updated Darren Helm's status), Helm should be healthy next season, Tomas Tatar's earned a spot in next year's lineup, the Wings probabaly want to keep Todd Bertuzzi around for his size and strength, and both unrestricted free agent-to-be Drew Miller and the once-injured Patrick Eaves give a team looking for a goal scorer this summer some fantastic options in the grit-and-grind department...
But the Wings also tend to stick with who they've got, and with the cap going down this summer, it is entirely possible that the team may attempt to flip Filppula's rights, buy out Samuelsson and one of their defensemen (Quincey? Colaiacovo? "Coco's" been pretty good lately) and pursue a top-three defenseman (depending on who ends up getting bought out by other teams in cap trouble) instead.
In any case, Cleary and Johan Franzen have played pretty darn consistently during the post-season, and they and the remarkably invaluable Justin Abdelkader have allowed Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to separate lines. At a time when "now is all that matters," Cleary's stepped up in a big way, and St. James spoke to Cleary and his teammates on video...
And the Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest focused on Cleary's resurgent play in his off-day notebook, too:
Cleary, 34, has been moved up in the Red Wings lineup, playing on one of the top two units with Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula. He has two goals and four assist in 10 games so far during the playoffs. Only Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Damien Brunner have collected more points for the Red Wings.
"He's in our leadership group here, he's demanding of guys on the ice, on the bench, in the room," Babcock said. "He doesn't mind telling people. He's a huge part our hockey club that way and he's doing a good job for us right now. He's playing on our top two lines, he plays on our power play. He's been real effective and he's a good person."
"When guys get here the first thing they got to do, under Mike Babcock, like it was under Scotty Bowman, they gotta learn to check," said Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. "Dan Cleary, when he got here at 25 looking for work, he was a real offensive guy. Well, he had three goals in 79 games in '05-06, but he learned to check. Now, fortunately, our team's been good so other people did the scoring. And those guys did the checking."
Cleary provides extra muscle and defensive responsibility to the top half of the Red Wings lineup, and is doing his part in helping shut down the Blackhawks top two lines. He also provides a strong veteran presence on a Red Wings team loaded with youth, much of which are getting their first taste of NHL playoff hockey.
"He's a really good leader in this room, like all the other veterans," said Brunner. "He's there for the young guys to show us what we have to do. He jumps in and tells us things when he has to and other times just lets us figure it out on our own."
The proper meshing of the leadership core with the young group took time to achieve with the Red Wings. However having struggled through parts of the regular season, they seem to have found the right formula at the best time. Cleary has been instrumental in bridging the gap between the two different generations.
"He's been great, he's a hard worker, he goes hard to the net for those guys (on top line)," said Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader. "He's a good skater, good defensively, blocks shots. He's one of those players that everyone loves to have on their team. He can do everything, power play, penalty kill. He can play anywhere up in the lineup and contribute. He's been really good."
There's no doubt that Drew Miller has a future with the Wings despite his status as an unrestricted free agent-to-be, in no small part because his return immediately stabilized the Red Wings' penalty-killing, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted:
Since returning from a broken hand last weekend, the Wings’ veteran forward has made a big impact, particularly on the penalty kill, where he has logged 8-minutes of shorthanded time and blocked a team-best five shots in the last two games.
“I don’t think people realize how much he means to this team,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said following the team’s practice Tuesday. “He maybe one of those guys who doesn’t get the credit that he deserves, but I would put him up there as one of the best PKers in the league.”
Since returning in Game 2 of this series, Miller has spent 1/3 of his total ice-time killing penalties for the Red Wings. Of his shorthanded time, two-minutes plus came during a Brendan Smith holding minor in the opening minute of the second period in Game 3. It was a tremendous display of equanimity, not only by Miller, but the other three – Patrick Eaves, Jonathan Ericsson and Kronwall – who were stuck on the ice for the entire situation.
“Not all of it was penalty kill, but a lot of it, I mean, I was out there the full two-minutes, so yeah, it’s quite a long shift,” said Miller, who also scored the game-winning goal in Game 3. “The guys stepped up and got through it, (but) that kind of stuff happens.”
The last time the Red Wings allowed a power play goal with Miller on the ice was April 11 against San Jose. Since then, Detroit has killed 15 consecutive power plays with him.
“He’s just another one of the guys out there going that goes to work for us,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “He’s an extremely hard worker and he’s always in the lane blocking shots from the point, getting in the way so they have to shoot wide, so he’s a key for us.”
At 6-foot-2, Miller is tall and ranging. He uses that body type, and his great defensive instincts, to cause problems for opposing power play units.
“He’s not a big guy, but somehow he gets by you,” Kronwall said. “He’s always in the lane. He always wants to get hit by the puck. He makes sure that you can’t get it through.”
In the "more multimedia" department, NHL.com also filed an off-day video report from Detroit, and the Detroit News's David Guralnick posted a 21-image Wings practice gallery:
As noted in the first practice post (Hawks videos are available for viewing there), the news out of Chicago involved the team "embracing adversity" and shaking up its power play unit, which Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers notes involves adding an...Interesting...Player to the mix:
Bryan Bickell was on one of the Blackhawks’ power-play units and Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad swapped spots on their respective lines today as they prepared for Game 4 against the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night.
The Blackhawks were tinkering with their power play throughout practice; most involved players who have been on it already this season. This is Bickell’s first go at it in some time and he knows what he has to do.
“Our power play’s been struggling as of late. But we’re just emphasizing on getting the puck to the net,” he said. “You see [power-play] goals around the league: they haven’t been tic-tac-toe. They’ve been the 'greasy' ones, as we call them. We’re just looking to get some power-play time and getting something going.”
The Blackhawks’ third and fourth lines from Game 3 remained the same today, but Sharp was on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, and Saad was on the second with Dave Bolland and Patrick Kane. Coach Joel Quenneville wouldn’t say that was what he would go with for certain in Game 4.
CBS Chicago's Adam Hoge reports that the Hawks really believe that Bickell will help the Hawks' cause
Since scoring on their first power play of their series with the Red Wings, the Blackhawks have gone 0-for-8 since and haven’t had many quality chances. So with the Blackhawks down 2-1 in the series with the Wings, it came as no surprise Wednesday when head coach Joel Quenneville shook up the power play lines and inserted Bryan Bickell in front of the net on the top power play unit.
The Blackhawks were happy with their pace and intensity in their Game 3 loss to the Red Wings, but they’ve still struggled to find the back of the net. They drew iron three times and had a goal taken away by the refs. At this point, they just need to score goals in Game 4 in Detroit, no matter how ugly they might be.
“There were chances around the net,” Quenneville said. “I still think the quality is going to come from the traffic and the second opportunity. It doesn’t have to be a pretty goal against this team because they have been checking well. So you just have to be determined in those areas. If one or two slide through, that’s what you have to look for. But the pretty goals aren’t going to be there.”
That’s exactly why Quenneville decided to balance out his power play units a little bit. His previous top group of Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith might have been one of the most talented power play units, but that’s not an ideal group to come up with the ugly goals. Hossa, Sharp and Keith are now joined on the top unit by Bickell and Brandon Saad, while Toews and Kane slid down to the second unit Wednesday. It’s still a little unclear how the second group will shape up as Brent Seabrook, Michal Rozsival, Nick Leddy and Dave Bolland all got some time there at Wednesday’s practice, but Andrew Shaw will be the man in front of the net.
Meanwhile, it appears Patrick Sharp could stay on the top line in even-strength situations. He saw some time there with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa in Game 3 and that’s where he remained in Wednesday’s practice with Brandon Saad moving down to the second line. There were no changes to the third or fourth lines or the defensive pairings. Quenneville would not confirm if that’s how the lines would look in Game 4, but he’s evaluating everything as his team faces the most adversity it has seen all season.
“I think all year long we’ve been in a very favorable position,” Quenneville said. “I don’t think we’ve been against it in any areas as far as many stretches in games being down, and definitely in a series we haven’t been down. So it’s a great test for us. It’s a good challenge for us. The adversity we’re in right now, we have to find a way to overcome it. It will be a good challenge at the end of the day to find out about everybody.”
ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers reports that Quenneville also believes that goaltender Corey Crawford will elevate his game, and Crawford stated that he would prove his coach's estimations correct:
"I think he's always believed in me, but that's nice for him to back me up," Crawford said of Quenneville after Wednesday's practice. "I got to come in and play well. I have to give a little bit more. I have to play a little better, come up with a save in a key time to give our guys a chance to win."
Quenneville has been short and firm on expressing his support for Crawford since Monday's 3-1 loss. After Monday's game, Quenneville was asked about Crawford's performance and whether backup goaltender Ray Emery was a potential starter for Game 4.
"We're not talking about that right now," Quenneville said. "[Crawford] is fine."
Quenneville was asked to assess Crawford's recent play at a press conference on Tuesday, and Quenneville answered, "He's been fine."
Crawford is 5-3 with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in eight playoff games. He has stopped 205-of-220 shots in the playoffs. He and the penalty kill units haven't allowed a power play goal in 29 chances in the playoffs. Crawford said he will approach Game 4 as he's done every game this season.
"I just focus like I have all year, prepare myself like I have," Crawford said. "Just go out there and play hard."
If you missed it, the Red Wings have confirmed Matthew Wuest and the Production Line's reports that the team's signed Mattias Backman to an entry-level contract...
MLive's Ansar Khan penned an article about Backman, who Khan notes is 6'3" but rail-thin skinny, and will remain with Linkopings HC of the Swedish Eliteserien for at least one more season:
Selected 146th overall, Backman, like most prospects, needs to add weight to his 170-pound frame. He had 26 points (two goals, 24 assists) in 52 games for Linkoping of the Swedish Elite League this past season.
He is expected to spend another season in Sweden. Nill said last December that Backman is 2-3 years away from the NHL if he continues at his current pace.
Jiri Fischer, the Red Wings' director of player development, called Backman the most improved defenseman in Sweden under 21. Fischer said he is very excited about Backman, calling him fun to watch.
“In the current game, where defensemen have to turn back quickly and get the puck after a dump-in while being chased by a guy who’s 200 pounds and flying at 100 miles an hour, he is one of the few who can really handle that pressure, go back and get the puck and skate out of traffic,'' Fischer said. “He’s got that ability with the puck and he sees the ice. He can make plays under pressure.
“His personality on the ice from last year, because he was a late-bloomer, has gone from ‘I can’t make a mistake’ to starting to dictate the pace of the game.''
In the literal programming department, from WXYZ's Tom Leyden...
In a programming department of a different kind, via RedWingsFeed, 97.1 FM's Jeff Riger asked Jimmy Howard and his teammates if they're aware of the pressure they face in terms of expectations and criticisms from the Wings, Hawks and out-of-town press, and the players professed selective amnesia:
The team was back at practice on Wednesday morning as they prepare for game four of the series and Howard was the talk of the media session. After game 3, Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg wondered out loud to the media if people will now stop wondering if Howard can steal a playoff game as he stopped 39 of 40 Blackhawk shots on Monday night. I then asked Howard if he believed he stole the game and of course he gave credit to his team mates, something that you would expect him to say.
Today I asked Zetterberg how he feels about Detroit fans reaction to his net minder and he said “I don’t hear that much but I do hear some things, and most of the time it’s about our goalies in this city. I don’t know if it’s tradition here that you’re not really believing in your goaltending, but I don’t know what he needs to do to get people believing in him? We in here know he’s a really good goalie, he has shown that all year and he’s taking a step every game to becoming a better goalie.”
Head coach Mike Babcock also was asked about his team’s net minder and stated “from the time I’ve been here to now, we need better goaltending now than we ever did. He’s providing it for us. We don’t ever talk about out goaltending; you only talk about goaltending when it’s no good. We probably should talk about it more I guess because it is good.”
As for Howard; he is well aware of the criticism that comes with being a goalie in Detroit but he doesn’t let it faze him. Howard had Chris Osgood as his mentor, who taught him to never listen to what people are saying, especially on the radio. But does he? Does Howard sometimes tune in 97.1 The Ticket after a game to listen to the postgame show? “Yeah right do I turn you guys on! Not a chance! Usually the whole ride home is spent talking to my mom and dad.”
Do you believe him? I’m not sure I do! Listen to the entire Jimmy Howard interview during the first intermission of game 4 on 97.1 FM. Howard talks a lot about how it is to be a goalie in this town and deal with the criticism that comes along with it.
I can't imagine a player wanting to listen to a post-game show with fans calling in, critiquing the game. Hell, I cover the Red Wings semi-professionally, and I have to have my, "Get away from hockey" time.
We're not quite done with reporter Tweets...
Or reporters talking about the Wings, as it were, because Fox Sports Detroit's John Keating talked about the Red Wings on WBBL's Huge Show (I must admit that the interview's only half Wings talk, if that, and it's pretty testosterone-y as Bill Simonson flexes his journalistic muscles while speaking with Keating):
Thursday's game is on NBCSN and Saturday's game is on NBC, but Fox Sports Detroit is still doing post-game shows at the conclusion of Wings games.
And in something of a sports editorial, the Oakland Press's Pat Caputo duly notes that the Red Wings are matching the Blackhawks stride-for-stride despite engaging in a rebuilding process that does not involve Chicago's purposeful tanking to stockpile top-three draft picks:
In truth, the seeds of the “young” Red Wings were planted long ago with draft choices that have eventually hit. Gustav Nyquist was taken in the fourth round in 2008, Brendan Smith as the 28th overall selection in the first round in 2007. They added Joakim Andersson in the third round in ’07. The Red Wings had a solid draft in 2005. They took Jakub Kindl in the first round and Justin Abdelkader in the second.
Kyle Quincey, who left and returned after he was lost on waivers, was a fourth-round pick in 2003, Johan Franzen a third-round selection in 2004. Goalie Jimmy Howard, perhaps the most important piece to the puzzle, was the Red Wings’ first selection in the 2003 draft. It wasn’t until the second round. He was the 64th overall selection.
It’s a lot of productive players considering the Red Wings haven’t gotten a crack at the obvious top-end talent any of those years.
There was a stage, prior to the implementation of the salary cap, the Red Wings seemed content to try to buy titles. Their player payroll skyrocketed to $77 million at one point during the early 2000s (the salary cap was still set at just $70 million, pre-lockout, for 2012-13 season).
The cap forced the Red Wings to return to what had been their great strength — scouting and player development — along with more subtle, but effective, veteran acquisitions.
It’s a credit to the organization’s structure, particularly general manager Ken Holland. Also, Mike Babcock is an excellent head coach. This season he has proven what he can do with younger, developing players — and that his run in Detroit is anything but finished.
It not only bodes well for the Red Wings’ present — they have unexpectedly positioned themselves for a deep Stanley Cup playoff run — but their future.
Update #1: MLive's Ansar Khan discusses the fact that the Red Wings have yet to score on the power play against Chicago (it's 0-for-12), and are making necessary tweaks as a result:
“We had a run through and let the guys see what’s going on and we tried to make adjustments,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “Sometimes when you get real good looks and you haven’t scored you stop shooting. We need good net-front presence. Let’s pound the puck, let’s get it back, let’s throw it in there and create some chaos. We’ll get one. We’ll loosen up and get going. Right now our power play has to be a bigger factor than it has been in this series.''
Babcock mixed up the power-play units in practice, splitting Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, who had been playing with Johan Franzen. Justin Abdelkader joined Datsyuk and Franzen on the one unit while Zetterberg joined Valtteri Filppula and Daniel Cleary on the other unit, bumping Gustav Nyquist off the power play. So, they used their top two even-strength lines for the power play.
“If I get the opportunity I’m just going to do what I do, go to the net, retrieve pucks and be hard on the puck,'' Abdelkader said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. Things are constantly changing. If my name gets called I will be ready.''
The Blackhawks ranked third in the NHL on the penalty kill during the regular season (87.2 percent) and are 29-for-29 in eight playoff games.
“We have to find a way to get through their layers of players that they present when we decide to take the shot,'' defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We have to get the pucks in there. We haven't done a good enough job of that. We have guys in front that are doing a great job and we have to make sure we get the puck in there.''
Carlo Colaiacovo, who plays the point with Jakub Kindl on the second power-play unit, said: “They do a really good job of fronting shots with both forwards playing in behind each other and the D fronting shots. Sometimes the best thing is to just get it down there, whether it’s on net or not on net, and create some chaos with their penalty killers. When you’re retrieving pucks off rebounds or off chaos that’s when the penalty killers move and things open up.''
Update #2: DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's notebook offers updates regarding the power play, the Wings' signing of Backman and other tidbits:
BACKMAN SIGNS: The Red Wings have signed Swedish defenseman Mattias Backman to a three-year entry-level contract. The 6-foot-3 mobile blue-liner had a solid second season in Sweden’s top league, producing two goals and 24 assists with a plus-5 rating in 52 games for Linköping.
Last winter, Jiri Fischer, the Red Wings’ director of player development, called Backman the most improved defenseman in Sweden who is under the age of 21.
“In the current game, where defensemen have to turn back quickly and go get the puck after a dump in while being chased by a guy who’s 200 pounds and flying at 100 miles an hour, he is one of the few who can really handle that pressure,” Fischer said. “He’s got that ability with the puck and he sees the ice. His personality on the ice from last year, because he was a late-bloomer, has gone from ‘I can’t make a mistake’ to now, starting to dictate the pace of the game.”
It’s expected that the 20-year-old Backman will participate in the Red Wings’ development camp this July. Team officials also hope to have him at training camp in September. However, per the new IIHF transfer agreement, the only way Backman stays in North America next season is if he makes the Red Wings’ roster. He can't play in the AHL next season, so he'll spend another year in Europe.
PLAYOFF TIDBITS: When Johan Franzen assisted on Pavel Datsyuk's third-period goal in Monday’s game, it was the Swede’s first playoff point in his last nine postseason games at the Joe Louis Arena. … The Red Wings are now 25-0-2 in the regular season and playoffs combined when scoring three-or-more goals this year. Since 2011, Detroit is 10-0 in the postseason when scoring three-or-more. … Goalie Jimmy Howard has allowed just one goal in each of his last two playoff games. Prior to that, he had gone 14 consecutive postseason games allowing two-or-more goals. … The Wings have won their last seven home playoff games against the Blackhawks. Chicago's last postseason victory in Detroit came on May 4, 1992. … Howard is the first Detroit goalie in 26 years to face 40-plus shots and allow just one goal in a playoff win. The last Wings’ goalie to do it was Greg Stefan against the Blackhawks in 1987.
“Chicago does a good job blocking shots,” Abdelkader said. “We just have to find ways to get the pucks on the net, create second and third chances by getting pucks back. They’re a good penalty killing team and any team that’s that good on the penalty kill for that long is doing a lot of good things. I think just commitment to their system is why it’s working. We have to find a way.”
Chicago has not allowed a power-play goal this entire postseason, killing off 29 straight penalties.
“We need good net front presence, let’s pound the puck, let’s get it back, let’s throw it in there and create some chaos,” Babcock said. “We’ll get one. We’ll loosen up and get going. Right now our power play has to be a bigger factor than it has been in this series.”
“We have to find a way to get through their layers of players that they present when we decide to take the shot,” Kronwall said. “We have to get the pucks in there. We haven’t done a good enough job of that. We have guys in front that are doing a great job and we have to make sure we get the puck in there.”
Zetterberg feels the Wings are generating more chances early in games with the man advantage, but once they have to lead it changes.
“Later in games when we have the lead and we get the chance on the power play we’re a little too cautious,” Zetterberg said. “We just got to be on our toes, keep playing, go for the next goal. We’ve been better on 5-on-5 and now we’ve just got to do it when we get a power play, too.
“It shows that they’re doing something right over there, but it’s a challenge for us to get that first one and hopefully it will come (Thursday),” Zetterberg added.
Update #4: Excellent stuff from Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner regarding the Red Wings' leadership corps:
We’ve got all kinds of different personalities, and often times there are not a lot of things that need to be said,” Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said when asked about the Wings' leadership style. “Sometimes a guy needs a pat on the back, and other times, you need to say something.”
Kronwall pointed out that one of Detroit’s most inspirational leaders is veteran forward Todd Bertuzzi. Injured most of the year and in and out of the lineup during the playoffs, Bertuzzi has kept the Wings' room focused and balanced.
“He’s (Bertuzzi) been real helpful with our younger players,” Kronwall said. “He’s an older veteran guy, he’s been around a long time, and he has some great points when he talks to the guys."
Young Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith is one of the players who has benefited from having guys like Bertuzzi around.
After Game 1 against Chicago, Smith was lambasted for his poor play. Although several in the Wings organization came to his defense, it was Bertuzzi who took Smith under his Wing, so to speak.
“To have these guys behind me is huge,” Smith said. "Before Game 2, Bertuzzi came up to me and had a little talk with me. He told me a few things -- words of wisdom. Bert told me, 'Hey, don’t worry about these knuckleheads that don’t know what they’re talking about. Play your game and that’s what will make you successful.' It was a huge boost. It helped me out a lot.”
Update #5: NHL.com's Brian Hedger's Hawks off-day report involves the Hawks insisting that they will win their "biggest game of the year" because their leaders will lead them:
"Absolutely," said Duncan Keith, who won the 2010 Norris Trophy and helped the Blackhawks win that Cup. "This is the biggest game of the year, so I mean, we need everybody, but we also need the guys who are relied upon the most to be at their best."
Guys like himself and the seven others on this team's roster who also played big roles during that 2010 playoff run -- back when Chicago found itself in a similar predicament in the conference quarterfinals. The Nashville Predators held a 2-1 series advantage against Chicago with Game 4 at Bridgestone Arena only to watch the Blackhawks reel off three straight wins to close the series in six games.
If there's been any time to draw from the history of Chicago's core group of stars, it's probably right now.
"They know what it takes to move on," said forward Bryan Bickell, who played briefly in the 2010 playoffs but not enough to include himself in that core group of Cup winners. "I know they bring back stories from that time to tell the younger guys what it takes. I think to have those guys that went through it is huge, but we need all cylinders going to move on. We need a wide-awakening [in Game 4]. It's a must-win."
It's also time for the stars to shine. The Blackhawks' top five scorers are Patrick Sharp (six goals, four assists), Patrick Kane (two goals, six assists), Marian Hossa (four goals, three assists) and Keith (one goal, five assists), but it would help the Blackhawks' cause greatly if Toews, defenseman Brent Seabrook (no goals, no assists, minus-3) and center Dave Bolland (no goals, no assists, minus-2 in three games) caught the next elevator up soon.
"We need everybody," [Viktor] said following practice Wednesday at United Center. "I thought the appetite of playoff intensity and emotions [were] there in our third period [of Game 3]. I thought that's exactly the recipe going forward that we need, and at that level of pace and tenacity and speed. It all rolls hand-in-hand. We're not saying it's going to be one group [of players] or the other group. We need everybody, and I think that's what it's going to take to be successful here."
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness also took note of the Hawks' take on "adversity":
“I think all year long we’ve been in a very favorable position,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “I don’t think we’ve been against it in any areas as far as many stretches in games being down or definitely in a series we haven’t been down.”
The Blackhawks, who trail Detroit 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, needed five games to eliminate Minnesota in the first round.
“It’s a great test for us, it’s a good challenge for us,” Quenneville said. “The adversity that we’re in right now we’ve got to find a way to overcome it and it will be a good challenge at the end of the day to find out about everybody.”
Update #5.5: If you want to read ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers' story about the struggling Brandon Saad, enjoy.
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About The Malik Report
The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.