The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/29/13 at 11:18 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings will play for "all the marbles" in Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight (8 PM EDT, NBCSN/CBC/97.1 FM, with a post-game show airing on Fox Sports Detroit), and as many of you have told me, those of you without anxiety disorders are actually looking forward to this game.
Amongst this morning's pre-morning-skate news, with an emphasis on the morning skate being somewhat imminent...
- Pro Hockey Talk's Ryan Dadoun, the CBC, and Sportsline's Brian Stubits have penned pseudo-Game 7 previews (Stubits also penned as a list of 5 players who he believes will be difference-makers), and in case you were wondering about tonght's officials, from Pro Hockey Talk's Mike Halford:
The referees for tonight’s Western Conference semifinal Game 7 between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings are Stephen Walkom (#24) and Dan O’Rourke (#9).
Working the lines will be “she told me her name was Billy” Jean Morin (#97) and Brian “Killer Bee” Murphy (#97).
- If it matters, former Detroit Tiger and current Pittsburgh Pirates player Brandon Inge told both the Free Press's Perry A. Farrell and 97.1 FM's Jeff Riger that, should push come to shove, he'll be rooting for the Red Wings, not the Penguins;
- In other "celebrity fan" news, WXYZ reports that Good Morning America's Josh Elliott is...A Kings fan...Who's rooting for the Wings...
- In slightly more directly-game-related news, MLive's Brendan Savage took a hockey world pulse in a, "What They Are Saying" column...
- In directly Blackhawks-related news, the Northwest Herald's Tom Musick noted that the Hawks are excited about tonight's festivities, and so is Musick...
Welcome to Christmas morning, Hawks fans.
No, I take that back. Christmas morning arrives every year. The same cannot be said for the Hawks in a Game 7.
This will mark only the 11th Game 7 in franchise history for the Hawks, who have posted a 5-5 record in their previous Game 7s, including a 4-2 mark on home ice. Not since 1995 have the Hawks hosted a Game 7, when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-2, to advance to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Scanning the Hawks’ history books is fun, but the most important Game 7 statistic is one. That’s the amount of Game 7 experiences for most players on the Hawks. The result: A gut-wrenching 2-1 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.
[Jonathan] Toews remembered the adrenaline leading into that game and the emptiness that followed. He said the experience should help the Hawks this time around.
“It’s something about playing a Game 7,” Toews said, “that you want to go out there and you feel like every shift, every chance you get, there might be an opportunity to change the game in favor of your team. And you’re ready for that.
“I think whether it’s the first time for some of the guys in the locker room or not at all, I think everyone’s going to embrace that opportunity.”
- The Chicago Sun-Times' Steve Rosenbloom penned an early-Wednesday-morning article about Game 7, and he didn't accentuate the positive...
The Hawks’ season was saved by some afterthoughts. Their depth won a game they way a good team’s depth can. It makes for a great story, but it wouldn’t be a story without some teammates’ failure. If the Hawks are again expecting Michal Handzus, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik to carry them in Game 7, then they can start summer.
Actually, Bickell has been a Conn Smythe candidate in this series, if they awarded such things long before they actually give out Lord Stanley’s chalice, but the point is, big names show up in big games. It’s why they get all that money and all that ice time.
That might not be where this tale ends, but that’s where you start calling roll, and for starters, the Hawks top four forwards have two goals in the last three games. Combined. That ties them with Andrew Shaw.
Here’s an idea for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa: Meet the moment. They’ve done it before. Their names are on hockey’s Holy Grail. It would be nice if they could get their names on the goal sheet Wednesday night.
- On the Wings' side of things, Fox Sports Detroit's Dave Dye looked at 5 potential keys to a Red Wings win tonight, including the following...
4. Expectations soared for the Red Wings after they took the three-games-to-one lead in the series. Suddenly, they were supposed to advance to the conference final in a year they almost didn't even make the playoffs.
The Wings didn't handle that pressure too well, but now they can re-embrace the role of underdog.
The Blackhawks are prohibitive favorites in Game 7, and rightfully so. Almost nobody expects Detroit to go into the United Center and win this game and this series now. Maybe that will help take some of the pressure off.
5. Youthful mistakes, mostly by rookie defenseman Brendan Smith, were extremely costly for Detroit in the Blackhawks' comeback in Game 6.
If it happens again, the Red Wings will have no chance.
Detroit's youngsters and the other role players won't be expected to win this game. That's the job of Howard, Zetterberg and Datsyuk. But the young guys - particularly Smith, who has had a terrible series - can't lose it for them. Be solid, be responsible. Don't be a rookie.
- Via RedWingsFeed, part 1: MLive's Ansar Khan and Brendan Savage debated which player needs to step up their game most significantly for the Wings to prevail tonight...
BRENDAN SAVAGE: I'm tempted to say Pavel Datsyuk but instead I'll go with captain Henrik Zetterberg.
Zetterberg was the guy who led the Red Wings into the playoffs during the final week of the regular season and he was the one who stepped up his game in the fist round, when Detroit won two straight games to beat the Anaheim Ducks in seven games.
He's Detroit's unquestioned leader and if Zetterberg comes up with a big performance tonight, there's a good chance the rest of the Red Wings will follow.
It obviously wouldn't hurt if Datsyuk has a big game, too.
ANSAR KHAN: It's about time Johan Franzen made an impact. He's always capable of breaking loose. You just never know when.
The Red Wings know what they're going to get from Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. They might get held off the scoresheet, but they'll play hard and give a good effort. If Franzen contributes some offense, it'll take some of the burden off Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
- Via RedWingsFeed, part 2, ahem:
- Via RedWingsFeed, part 3, I don't know what to make of this:
- And as noted this morning, Red Wings director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell told NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale that he believes this particular Entry Draft's class is particularly deep, and here's what McDonnell had to say:
"I think it's real deep draft," McDonnell told NHL.com. "We just finished up our year-end meetings [on May 26] and know we're going to get a player if we're picking in the 18th spot or lower. We think we're going to get a real good player no matter where we're picking in the first round."
One would think stocking up on defense might be the way to go for the Red Wings. But there's always room for another goal-scorer, even if young players Nyquist, Damien Brunner, Calle Jarnkrok and Tomas Tatar are making their case to assume that role in the near future.
McDonnell said he believes forwards are the strength of this year's draft.
"You have your few high-end defensemen Seth Jones, Darnell Nurse and Nikita Zadorov, but overall I think it's a forward group," McDonnell said. "It's almost a what-are-you-looking-for type of draft. What do you need, and just pick one. I especially think that's the case for a team in the top 10. The players available are all so close and tight … even when you get past the top three, the list goes on and on."
McDonnell was quick to point out that though Jones of the Portland Winterhawks and Halifax Mooseheads teammates Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin are exceptional talents, they aren't heads and shoulders ahead of other players in this year's class.
"I wouldn't say the top three are miles ahead of everyone else," McDonnell said. "It's a tight group from No. 3 to No. 15 … it could be anybody. It's a good year if you have a certain need; there's probably someone there for you."
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.