The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/13/13 at 03:57 AM ET
The Red Wings can't seem to get their positives to outnumber the negatives dogging them lately, and that has Detroit fighting for its playoff life as the scene shifts to Nashville on Sunday.
On Thursday night, the Red Wings were able to eke out a point of a 3-2 shootout loss to San Jose--in a game that they didn't play very well--and despite a much, much better effort in terms of intensity, attention to detail, actually playing puck possession hockey and not only taking shots, but chasing pucks, retrieving rebounds, going to the opposing team's net to cause havoc while generating secondary and tertiary scoring opportunities, and really bearing down defensively after a lackluster first period...
The Wings still hopped on to that loaned Delta charter (Red Bird III's with the Tigers in San Francisco) at the losing end of another blown 2-1 lead and another shootout loss, this time a 3-2 decision to the Chicago Blackhawks, who triumphed their Central Division title and playof ticket sale on Monday, all while the Wings' efforts have earned them 45 points, 2 ahead of Dallas (which has a game in hand, and plays Detroit on the 27th), Phoenix and Columbus.
With seven games remaining (two against Nashville, a happy "spoiler" team) and three straight on the road, the Wings still need 10 points to reach that magical 55-and-you-control-your-fate number. They're going to have to score more than two goals a game to prolong their 21-year stretch of playoff appearances, and over the course of their last ten games, the Wings have scored 3 or more goals all of three times (and are 4-4-and-2 during that period of time).
While the Hawks' media was lauding what I regrettably learned was the Hawks' first season-series sweep of the Wings in 37 years (though 2 of 4 were decided by shootouts) and the team's all-but-certain status as the Wings' foe should the "rivalry that's dying" for the sake of the Wings moving East having absolutely dominated the series over the past two seasons (and some of you were as insistent that my, "Now that the deadline's passed, this is on the players" theory is daffy, which it may very well be), the Northwest Herald's Stan Musick reports that Captain Serious was taking it all in:
The Hawks clinched the division by preserving a tie score for the next 177 seconds to earn a point, but they tacked on an extra point for good measure by beating the Wings in a five-round shootout. Rookie Brandon Saad scored the decisive shootout goal, and goaltender Corey Crawford denied veteran Wings forward Johan Franzen to seal the victory.
None of that would have been possible without Toews’ hard-earned goal. That’s why Toews was the No. 1 star of the game. It’s why he stood in front of the Hawks’ bench for an in-stadium postgame interview in front of many thousands of fans who lingered to hear him speak.
“We’ve shown our confidence all year no matter what the situation,” Toews said, glancing toward the rowdy fans in the upper deck. “If we’re down a goal, here at home, in front of our fans, …”
Toews’ lips kept moving, but I couldn’t hear him anymore. The place had erupted again. The next question for Toews was about the Hawks’ intense rivalry with the Wings.
“When the fans get into it, chanting ‘Detroit [stinks]’… ” Toews said.
Toews’ lips kept moving, but I couldn’t hear him once again. A certain chant had broken out.
Before much longer, the postgame interview ended, and Toews turned around to join his teammates. The Hawks’ work is not finished – clinching the No. 1 overall seed in the Western Conference is next on their list – but they took a moment to celebrate the 15th division title in franchise history. And, finally, Toews had a chance to sit down and catch his breath.
ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers offered the following "rapid reaction" to the Hawks' win...
Player of the game: Toews came through in the clutch again. It was his 20th goal of the season.
What it means: The Blackhawks clinched the Central Division with Friday's victory and with the St. Louis Blues losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets. It's the Blackhawks' first division title since the 2009-2010 season. The Blackhawks also swept the season series against the Red Wings. They hadn't accomplished that since the 1976-77 season. The Blackhawks improved to 31-5-4 with 66 points. The Red Wings remained the Western Conference's No. 8 seed as they picked up another point and now have 45 points.
And he duly noted that the Hawks were moving on to bigger and better things...
"It's easy to say being in the position we're in, a team like Detroit is going to just walk away with two points," Toews said. "We want to keep working. When you have that confidence to come back in games like that, I think it's a huge thing going into the playoffs."
The Blackhawks can start to look further forward, but their attention isn't on the playoffs just yet. Next on that list of goals is to the clinch the Western Conference title. That isn't far away either.
The Blackhawks leads the conference with 66 points through 40 games, and the Anaheim Ducks are second with 59 points through 41 games.
"It means a lot (to win the division,) but I think we want to capture first place," Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford said. "It's been game by game all year. We're not going to change it now."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is of the same mindset. He certainly wasn't popping any bubbly after clinching the division. To him, it was just one more step to the ultimate goal.
"It's a nice achievement, but I still think we want to finish first in the other categories until the end of the year," Quenneville said. "I think that's our motivation. Let's keep pushing forward and look for more consistency in our game."
But not without some self-congratulatory talk, as noted by Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers:
Corey Crawford stopped 27 of 29 in regulation and overtime, and then four of five Wings in the shootout for his fourth victory over them this season. Crawford, who hadn’t started the past three games, said he didn’t feel right when he faced the St. Louis Blues in the shootout last week. He didn’t have that problem on Friday.
“I felt really good, actually,” said Crawford. “We watched some video and I was moving back too fast [last time]. I had more control and was able to move side to side pretty well.”
[Brandon] Saad also moved pretty well in the shootout. The rookie forward said he watched the Blackhawks’ previous shooters to get an idea of what to do. He focused on Toews, who wasn’t able to lift his shot past Jimmy Howard. Saad did the same type of move, but with elevation.
“I saw when Johnny made his move; if he got it up, he had him beat. So I just tried to do the same on the other side and it worked for me,” Saad said. “I’ve gotten a couple cracks at [the shootout]. Tonight it finally went in.”
Toews gave approval of Saad’s move.
“The new move, and a pretty one at that, too,” Toews said. “The kid’s got a lot of confidence, a lot of energy. He’s just got that sense about him that if he’s called upon, he gets a chance, he wants to be a difference maker. It’s a real good quality he has as a player. He’s been a big-time player for us, and proved it again tonight.”
Crawford was also big. While he’s had hiccups in recent starts, he’s been gold against the Red Wings throughout his career. Entering tonight’s game with a 10-2-0 record lifetime against them, Crawford added to it, even if it took him time to shake off the rust.
“There were maybe a couple of plays where I fumbled it behind the net, some other situations where I looked to the wrong side of a guy,” Crawford said. “But for the most part, I felt really good.”
The Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus found the game to be a fitting and "sweet" end to the regular-season rivalry between the Wings and Hawks, at least for the denizens of the Madhouse on Madison, suggesting that the Hawks owed themselves this win and owed this one to their fans...
Toews wasn’t happy with all the squandered opportunities the Hawks had, particularly early in the first period and throughout the third. A goal by Viktor Stalberg early in the second period gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead, but two goals in two minutes by the Red Wings’ Johan Franzen and Cory Emmerton — Franzen’s on the power play, ending the Hawks’ streak at 21 consecutive kills — put the Hawks down 2-1 entering the third. Toews kept chipping away and scored on a rebound of a shot by Johnny Oduya with 2:57 left in regulation to send the game to overtime.
‘‘I had been looking for one of those all night,’’ he said. ‘‘Had some great pressure in that third period. We knew if we kept that pressure up, we could find a way to tie things up.’’
With the division title locked up, the Hawks can look ahead to the top seed, the Presidents’ Trophy, then the playoffs. But the way the Hawks see it, there’s still plenty to work on in their last eight regular-season games, including a power play that’s has one goal in its last 24 chances.
‘‘We’re going to keep going,’’ Toews said. ‘‘We got our division, we got home ice in the playoffs and we just keep building. I think this really shows that we’re hungry and we’re really motivated to improve every single night.’’
If hockey karma decides to step into the play, the Blackhawks and Red Wings will have a date for the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Heading into Friday night's game at the United Center, the teams were positioned to do just that, though as Hawks winger Patrick Sharp said beforehand, "things are going to change 100 times between now and the end of the season."
A series pitting the Original Six rivals no doubt would result in terrific hockey, similar to the season series that ended Friday with the Hawks' 3-2 shootout victory before an entertained crowd of 22,191 at the United Center.
Surrounded in postseason-like atmosphere, the Hawks rallied for the triumph to complete their first season sweep of the Wings since the 1976-77 season. Brandon Saad scored the winner in the shootout's fifth round while captain Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg had goals in regulation.
The Hawks and Wings have not met in the postseason since the 2009 Western Conference finals.
"That would be fun, actually," said Hawks center Dave Bolland, who missed his fourth consecutive game with an injured leg. "It's always nice in the playoffs when you have that close team … and you don't have to have a four-hour plane ride or stay there an extra night. If it is them we'll be ready for it. They're still a good team and it's still a team that can change things up right away. They have a lot of good players you have to be aware of. It would be pretty cool if it did happen. We'll see how the cards (fall) here toward the end of the season."
The Blackhawks are full of belief. They've spent the past two seasons "rebuilding" from their Cup triumph and have a roster that was primed to go at the beginning of the season. So of course they'd welcome a post-season meeting with the Wings.
Detroit is the team that most desperately needed the NHL to come to a collective bargaining agreement that would have saved an 82-game season. The team's roster is still in flux, almost a year after the Nashville Predators eliminated them from the playoffs, it is still beset by injuries, inconsistency, young and veteran players alike who've been forced into prominent roles which yield mental and physical fatigue and uncharacteristic mistakes, and this team's far, far from truly establishing its post-Lidstrom identity.
That process will probably take a season-and-a-half, if not two, and most certainly not 48 games. I was most certainly wrong in thinking as much.
So while the Hawks puffed out their chests while speaking to the Associated Press, and whoever they employed to write their recap, being from Chicago, puffed out his or her chest...
With St. Louis losing to Columbus earlier Friday, the Blackhawks claimed the division crown for the first time since 2010 when they won the Stanley Cup.
Chicago also increased its lead to seven points over Anaheim in the race for the top seed in the West, but what the Blackhawks really want is home-ice advantage throughout the postseason. They lead the East-leading Pittsburgh Penguins by four points.
"This is a great building to play in," goalie Corey Crawford said. "There's a lot of energy when we play here. We want to play the majority of our games here in the playoffs."
The energy certainly was there on Friday, and with a packed arena, the Blackhawks gave their fans plenty to cheer about. The shootout was tied 1-1 when Saad beat Jimmy Howard with a backhand shot. Crawford then stopped Johan Franzen, sealing the win and giving the Blackhawks a four-game season sweep over Detroit.
The Red Wings told us things that we're sick of hearing:
Whether the Red Wings will get there remains to be seen. They are eighth in the West and are fighting to make the postseason for the 22nd straight season. It is an unusual spot for a franchise that has won four Stanley Cup titles during this run.
"To me, you know, strange is living in the past," coach Mike Babcock said. "You guys are talking about other teams. They wear the same sweaters, but other teams. You are what you are. This is what we've earned this year, and this is what our team is."
What they are is a team that is struggling to score goals. They have netted two or fewer in seven of eight games.
"(The Blackhawks) tied it up late there in the third," Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "After that it was kind of like a tight game all the way to the shootout. Unfortunately we couldn't score more than they did."
Perhaps the reality of the situation--regardless of whether you think my "it's on the players" theory is daffy, even though the ever-stubborn Babcock's changing line combinations, power play, penalty-killing and even overtime personnel on the fly in games, and swapping out defensemen as he sees fit even though he swore up and down to Fox Sports Detroit's Trevor Thompson that he doesn't want to do so, all after spending half-seasons pouring the same players over the boards...
Perhaps the reality of the situation is that, at least over these post-trade-deadline games, with 13 forwards, 9 healthy defensemen and 2 goalies forbidding the team from calling up any Grand Rapids Griffins players unless there's an injury-induced "roster emergency" (and would benching a Cleary or Franzen for an Eaves really benefit the team?), and with no roster help coming from a front office that is loath to make moves if it has injured players "coming back" during any sort of future timeline lest it burn assets it can't afford to lose down the line...
Perhaps the Wings are accentuating the positive because it's all they've got, aside from each other, and perhaps the fact that a team whose blueprint of puck possession hockey is still the only blueprint that seems to work in terms of generating the results, regardless of who does or does not or theoretically could dress for the Wings on any given night, are being talked about somewhat respectfully as they struggle to learn to walk again by the Blackhawks, as noted by the Chicago Sun-Times' Tim Sassone...
"You always think Detroit's been in the playoffs every year," Blackhawks canter Dave Bolland said. "They're a marquee team around the league, one of the top teams always. They've won all those Stanley Cups. It sort of lets you down when you see them fighting just to get in the playoffs because they're a great team with great players. We'll see what happens."
The Wings have been hit hard by injuries this season, not to mention all they lost with the retirement of all-star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom. Gritty center Darren Helm has missed all but one game with a back injury, Todd Bertuzzi (back) has appeared in only seven games, while Mikael Samuelsson (upper body) has played in just four games.
"They've had definitely some injuries this year in a lot of areas there, particularly up front," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "You miss a guy like Nick Lidstrom on your team and you have those injuries, those type of seasons can happen. We saw last year, basically two years in a row, life and death trying to get into the playoffs — that if you get in anything can happen."
If the playoffs started Friday the Hawks would draw the Red Wings in the first round.
"That would be pretty fun, actually," Bolland said. "It's not too far, only 45 minutes away (by air). It's always nice in the playoffs when you have that close team where you don't have to take a four-hour plane ride, stay there an extra night. If it is them, we'll be ready for it. They're still a good team with a lot of good players. You've got to be aware of them. They're a scary team."
And perhaps that's why Babcock delivered yet another groan-inducing but true statement to Sassone and the rest of the assembled media:
The Hawks swept the four-game regular season series from the Red Wings for the first time since 1976-77, although three of the victories were by 1 goal.
"The bottom line is I think over the last couple of years, every game (with the Hawks) has been a 1-goal game except for the blowout they had in our building," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "They're finding a way to score more goals more nights. They're a deeper team than we are no question about it. I didn't like the last goal they scored. I thought on the back end we weren't very good on that goal. We would have liked to get the second point, but we didn't, so let's get on the flight to Nashville and get ready for the next game."
There is no doubt this morning that the 2013 Red Wings are a "rebuilding" team, that this is as close as we are ever going to see the Wings' management lean toward "rebuilding" the franchise.
The coaches and front office have more often than not given its fate to its young players--albeit reluctantly, and only due to injuries--and maybe they're accentuating the positives out of both Thursday night's stinker and Friday night's frustrating-but-positive-laden loss because the people who are closest to the ice and the people who are actually on the ice, writing the team's future through their performances, kinda know their shit, even when it's hitting the fan.
NHL.com's Brian Hedger repeated Babcock's quotes in his recap...
"The bottom line is over the last couple years every game's been a one-goal game except for the blowout they had in our building," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose team is still in eighth place of the Western Conference standings but just two points ahead of the Dallas Stars, Phoenix Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets -- all of whom have 43 points. "They're finding a way to score more goals [on] more nights [against us]. They're a deeper team than we are, without any question about it."
Having to fight for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is an oddity for the Red Wings (19-15-7), who are usually a given for the postseason after qualifying for 21 consecutive seasons.
Yet again, another late goal by the Blackhawks sent it to overtime – this time scored by Chicago captain Jonathan Toews to knot it 2-2 with 2:57 left in regulation. After neither team scored in OT despite some great chances, it came down to the second shootout of the season between these teams.
Chicago won the first on March 3 in Detroit, after Patrick Kane tied it late in regulation and then scored the winner in the tiebreaker. This time it was Hawks rookie Brandon Saad who decided the game's second point with a pretty backhand over Jimmy Howard's shoulder in the fifth round. Is it strange for Babcock and the rest of the Red Wings to watch this happen against the Hawks time and time again?
"To me, strange is living in the past because you're talking about other [Red Wings] teams," Babcock said. "Same sweaters, but other teams. You are what you are. This is what we've earned this year and this is what our team is. We're no better and no worse than what we are. To me, we're just a team battling to get into the playoffs."
As Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Nina Falcone noted, and as you'll see in the Babcock presser below, Babcock was downright aggressive in responding to the media's questions about looking too far forward...
Following the game, Babcock was asked about his team's plan of attack as they battle to see playing time past April 27, but he didn't seem too fond of those questions.
"You mean, like, win games? Win a game, that's all," he responded when asked his team's big-picture plan. "To me, we take the same approach every year all the time. We're just trying to get better. When you win, everything's good."
The Stars recorded a win and Coyotes earned a point Friday as well, closing in on the Red Wings' eighth seed standing in the Western Conference. But Babcock wasn't interested in talking about other teams' performances.
"We understand the situation pretty well," he said with a rather firm tone. "You guys are talking about other teams; you are what you are. This is what we've earned this year, this is what our team is. We're not better and not worse than what we are, so to me, we're just a team battling to get in the playoffs."
And its leaders were talking about their only options given that they truly are in it alone but in it together between now and the 27th:
"We can't be feeling sorry for ourselves," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said following his team's loss. "I thought we did some really good things out there tonight. We just have to stay positive and stick with the program and just keep working hard. "
That program is all Detroit has left to lean on as the Red Wings fight to hang on to a playoff spot for dear life. Getting swept is a season is difficult enough, but in addition to all that, the Red Wings are desperate to earn every point they can as they remain in a tight race with Dallas, Columbus and Phoenix. In a matchup as close as Friday's was, the loss stings just that much more.
"Of course we wanted that extra [point], they tied it up late in the third and it was a tight game all throughout the shootout," forward Henrik Zetterberg said in a quiet Red Wings locker room. "Unfortunately we couldn't score more than they did. We got one point, but we wanted two. I think we played good enough to get two."
7 games left. 10 points to get. The Wings had 12 points to get as of Thursday afternoon, and it would be nicer to talk about how they need 8 over the course of 7 games than 10 points to somehow steal from other teams...
But 10 points is better than 12.
And that's where this team's head is at.
As Zetterberg told MLive's Brendan Savage (who also penned a quote-less recap as he's subbing for Ansar Khan like that nice chartered Delta Airbus A320 with the permanent flight number "DAL8955" is subbing for Red Bird III), the Red Wings aren't fighting for their playoff lives.
They've probably been playing playoff hockey for a good month now. And they aren't very good at the scoring more goals than you allow part.
The Red Wings (19-15-6) trail seventh-place Minnesota by one point and are two ahead of Dallas, Phoenix and Columbus. Minnesota and Dallas both have a game in hand on Detroit.
"The good thing is all the games matter," said captain Henrik Zetterberg. "We didn't do that before. We're playing playoff hockey right now. I think it's a good test for us."
The shootout loss to Chicago was the Red Wings second in as many nights. They led 2-1 late in the third period against the Blackhawks after seeing the San Jose Sharks erase a 2-1 deficit Friday night to win a 3-2 shootout at Joe Louis Arena.
And things aren't about to get much easier since the game against the Blackhawks was the first of four straight on the road. The Red Wings visit Nashville Sunday, Calgary Wednesday and Vancouver next Saturday before returning home for three straight.
"It's going to come right down to the wire," predicted defenseman Niklas Kronwall. "Every game is huge obviously. Tonight, I thought we did some good things out there. We got to keep our heads high and stay focused and positive on what we have to do. It is what it is. There's no time for feeling sorry for ourselves."
No, they don't, and nor does their goalie, who's all but bought them the first point of the last two games and all but given away the second--despite, as he told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, speaking with Chris Osgood after being pissed off about Thursday's shootout performance:
"It's frustrating, especially when you got the lead in the third period and they get a chance to tie it up and they do," said Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, who made 26 saves. "They end up getting an extra point. But we're still in the driver's seat and control our own destiny. Now, we got to look to get two points on Sunday."
So what now?
Shit happens. It's been raining "shit happens" all over the Wings for the vast majority of the seasons.
All they've got is mops. And they can't keep making messes by not showing up ready to play, as Zetterberg told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
"We got the one point, but we wanted two," Zetterberg said. "We played good enough to get the two points. The first 10 minutes, (the Blackhawks) were good and Howie came up big again for us. We worked ourselves back in the game (but) we couldn't find a way to win."
Chicago's Jonathan Toews scored at 17 minutes, 3 seconds of the third period on a scramble in front of Howard to tie the game at 2.
"We've lost two nights in a row in a shootout, but I'm not going to spend time worrying about that whatsoever," coach Mike Babcock said. "I didn't like the last goal they scored — on the back end we weren't very good on that goal — but we had a good game."
But Babcock should be worried about his team's offense, or the lack thereof. And his best players are the ones who most desperately need to check themselves before they wreck themselves:
Offense continues to be an issue for a Red Wings, though. Zetterberg hasn't scored a goal in 10 games, Brunner has one goal in his last 18 games, Valtteri Filppula has one goal in 12 games, and Nyquist one goal in 10 games.
"We're not executing when we get our chances," Zetterberg said. "We're creating chances but we're not putting the puck behind the goalie."
That's the bottom line here, and while the Wings are "trending upward," and the Free Press's Helene St. James (quote-less "notes and quotes" as well as main recap included), found that the Wings do see positives, but they told her that blowing another 1-goal lead in the 3rd period due to a lack of execution stings.
And it should.
"It is frustrating, especially when you've got the lead in the third period and they get a chance to tie it up, and they do," Howard said. "I thought we did a great job here, and with two minutes and some left, we got running around a little bit in our own zone, and you can't do that against their top line."
In dire need of points, the Wings opted to have Howard start his eighth straight game. Henrik Zetterberg, bothered by a sore groin, wasn't a go until taking pre-game warmups. He began the game on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Daniel Cleary, but had been reunited with Pavel Datsyuk before the first period ended.
Even with Zetterberg available, the Wings had a rough start. Howard had to make five saves alone during Chicago's first power play. Corey Crawford saw far less work. A mid-period power play generated some decent scoring chances, but the Wings, playing for the second time in 24 hours, spent more time chasing the puck and cycling it. They'd established a better presence by the end of the period, but had Howard to thank for not coming out of it with a deficit.
"I think we played good enough to get two," Zetterberg said. "They were sharper than us in the beginning. Howie came up big for us. Then we worked ourselves into the game, and it was a good back-and-forth."
Regrettably, the Wings kind of blew it when they clutched up during the perfect opportunity to build a 3-1 lead:
The Wings' [second period] surge forced the Blackhawks off their game, and they responded with sloppiness, getting called for too many men on the ice with 1:31 remaining, giving Detroit a short power play to start the third period.
The Wings did a solid job thwarting the Blackhawks' attempts to rally in the third period, blocking shots and denying shooting lanes to help out Howard. Ex-Wing Marian Hossa did get a point-blank shot, but Howard handled it with ease. The penalty killers were tremendous after Jakub Kindl went off for hooking with about six minutes to go in regulation, but Toews thrust a little dagger into the Wings when his shot sank into their net to tie the game three minutes later.
So the Wings got two points out of a possible four. And now they need to get...Well, if you believe Mickey Redmond, 8 points out of a possible 14, and Ken Daniels, 10 out of 14, the Wings will squeak into the playoffs and right into a meeting with the Blackhawks.
If they don't, they golf, and I start getting up at 5 AM to watch the Swedes and Pavel Datsyuk play in the World Championships.
I'm gonna quote Hedger here:
"It's always a great rivalry and it's always fun playing against [Pavel Datsyuk], [Henrik Zetterberg], [Niklas Kronwall] and all those guys who are really good players," Bolland said, breaking into a semi-sarcastic smile. "Now [we'll] only see 'em twice, I guess, when they move over, so … I'll be a little heartbroken."
The Red Wings and their fans will be the ones upset if Detroit fails to make the playoffs for a 22nd straight season. The Red Wings are teetering on the brink, coming into Friday in eighth place, two points ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes in ninth. After losing a home game Thursday night in a shootout to the San Jose Sharks, the Red Wings can feel the postseason streak starting to slip with eight games left in the regular season. Detroit also hasn't forgotten the 7-1 shellacking it took against Chicago on March 31 at Joe Louis Arena.
"You never forget something like that," Red Wings rookie defenseman Brendan Smith said. "That was just a frustrating game on our part … a lot of mental errors. The biggest thing for us [is] to come back and try to redeem ourselves."
They also wouldn't mind getting that eighth seed for the playoffs and matching up with the top-seeded Blackhawks in the first round.
"It's very possible," Smith said. "It'd be a lot of fun. I think everybody in the hockey world would love that. It'd be a lot of fun for us, the fans and everybody. We just have to focus on buckling down here and getting the two points every night."
The Wings will probably have an optional skate if they practice at all in Nashille on Saturday, coming off back-to-back games and preparing to play their 3rd in 4 nights.
Nashville lost 5-2 to Dallas, and NHL.com's John Manasso offers some glimmers of hope from a Wings fan's perspective in his recap of that game:
Nashville's late-season collapse continued. The Predators have scored six goals in five games since the trading deadline and lost for the eighth time in nine games (1-6-2).
Nashville coach Barry Trotz elected to rest No. 1 goalie Pekka Rinne, who leads the League with 39 games played. In his place, Chris Mason started for only the fourth time this season.
"I thought the intensity was fine," Trotz said. "Their intensity, I don't think, was a lot higher than ours, maybe out of the chute it was. … They got four goals on 11 shots. They're fighting for their playoff lives. We're not."
With 3:29 left in regulation, Nashville's Sergei Kostitsyn received a major for boarding for a hit on Matt Fraser. The play punctuated yet another frustrating night for the Predators.
"Everyone's got to take care of themselves," captain Shea Weber said. "I can't go around babysitting the other guys. It's a personal thing. At the end of the day you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say you are playing your hardest and you are doing everything you can to help the team win."
Words for the Wings to live by, Shea. Heads up on Sunday.
Highlights: Even the Red Wings website's highlight clip is narrated by the Hawks' announcers:
Post-game: Comcast Sportsnet Chicago posted a clip of Joel Quenneville, Corey Crawford and Jonathan Toews talking about winning the Central Division, Quenneville's 4:05 post-game presser, a 2:38 clip of Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad's post-game comments, and you can listen to a clip of Pat Foley and Ed Olczyk giggling and gloating if you wish to do so;
The Blackhawks' website posted clips of Quenneville's presser, Toews, Crawford and Saad speaking to the media, as well as Patrick Kane holding court on the Hawks' post-game radio show--for eight-and-a-half minutes...
If you want to watch the NHL Network's analysis of the game--you'll find out that the Hawks swept the Wings for the first time in 37 years, and that Quincey's helped surrender successive tying goals in his feet to Hawks players--and there's some blather about the rivalry between the teams that almost exclusively shows the Hawks scoring on the Wings, for your viewing pleasure, as well;
The Red Wings' website posted clips of Henrik Zetterberg...
And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media:
In a lighter moment...HockeyVideoHD shows us that Jonathan Ericsson got kicked in the groin, and emerged unscathed:
Several people have told me that, when Patrick Sharp skewered Nicklas Lidstrom in the 2009 playoffs, Lidstrom actually lost one of his testicles in the bargain. I cannot confirm or deny that.
Photos: The Chicago Tribune posted 14 images from the game in their "Blackhawks in Action" gallery;
The Chicago Sun-Times posted a 5-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 14-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 17-image gallery;
MLive posted 4 images from the game;
The Windsor Star posted 4 images from the game;
ESPN posted a 30-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted 25 images from the game in its Wings gallery;
Shots 29-28 Detroit overall. The Wings were out-shot 11-10 in the 1st, out-shot Chicago 10-7 in the 2nd, were out-shot 10-8 in the 3rd and out-shot Chicago 1-0 in OT.
The Wings went 1-for-5 in 8:08 of PP time; the Hawks went 0-for-3 in 4:29.
Jimmy Howard stopped 26 of 28 shots; Corey Crawford stopped 27 of 29.
The 3 stars were picked by the "Chicago Media," and they picked Viktor Stalberg, Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Toews.
Faceoffs 37-22 Chicago (Detroit only won 37%);
Blocked shots 17-13 Chicago;
Missed shots 12-9 Detroit (total attempts 58-50 Detroit, with Detroit firing 29 on net and 29 wide or into Hawks players);
Hits 31-29 Detroit;
Giveaways 11-4 Chicago;
Takeaways 13-10 Chicago.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 11-and-11 (50%); Filppula went 7-and-13 (35%); both Emmerton and Zetterberg went 1-and-4 (20%); Andersson went 2-and-5 (29%).
Shots: Zetterberg and Franzen co-led the team with 6 shots apiece; Cleary had 3; Kindl, Emmerton, Filppula, Ericsson and DeKeyser had 2; Abdelkader, Nyquist and Brunner had 1.
Blocked attempts: Franzen fired 4 shots into Blackhawks players; Kindl, Abdelkader and Ericsson had 2 attempts blocked; Datsyuk, Nyquist, Brunner, Emmerton, Quincey, Colaiacovo and Zetterberg had single attempts blocked.
Missed shots: Datsyuk, Colaiacovo and Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; Nyquist, Brunner, Filppula, Ericsson and DeKeyser missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Ericsson led the team with 6 hits; Colaiacovo had 5; Miller had 4; Abdelkader and Filppula had 3; Franzen had 2; Kindl, Cleary, Datsyuk, Nyquist, Tootoo, Zetterberg, Kronwall and DeKeyser had 1.
Giveaways: Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Brunner and DeKeyser had giveaways;
Takeaways: Kronwall had 2 takeaways; Datsyuk, Nyquist, Miller, Tootoo, Brunner, Emmerton, Zetterberg and Andersson had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Emmerton, Colaiacovo, Filppula and Kronwall blocked 2 shots; Kindl, Quincey, Zetterberg, Ericsson and DeKeyser blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Kindl, Cleary and Quincey took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -5. Kindl, Cleary, Tootoo, Quincey, Filppula and Franzen finished at -1; Brunner finished at +1.
Points: Emmerton and Franzen scored goals; Miller, Tootoo and Colaiacovo had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 27:57 played; Ericsson played 24:33; Zetterberg played 22:54;
Datsyuk played 22:22; Colaiacovo played 21:41; Filppula played 20:57;
Franzen played 20:11; DeKeyser played 19:49; Kindl played 19:23;
Cleary played 18:22; Abdelkader played 16:13; Quincey played 14:14;
Miller played 13:22; Brunner played 11:46; Nyquist played 11:42;
Andersson played 10:47; Emmerton played 9:26; Tootoo played 8:33.
In the prospect department, in playoff hockey, in the ECHL, Jordan Pearce stopped 33 of 35 shots and Willie Coetzee registered an assist in the Toledo Walleye's 3-2 OT win over the Cincinnati Cyclones. The Walleye's website provides a recap, and the Walleye still trail their first-round series 3 games to 1;
And in the BCHL, James De Haas did not register a point as his Penticton Vees dropped the first game of the BCHL final 5-2 to the Surrey Eagles.
In terms of post-season honors, from Red Wings Prospects on Twitter:
Jensen was named a first-team All-American for the Western Conference and Danny DeKeyser made the Western Conference's second team, and here's a little more about Jensen from the Saint Cloud Times' Mick Hatten:
Jensen, a junior defenseman from Rogers, had four goals and 27 assists to lead the team’s defensemen in scoring and played in all 42 games.
Jensen was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, which is the first time a St. Cloud State player has received that award.
Both [Drew] LeBlanc and Jensen excel in the classroom. LeBlanc, a math education major, was a four-time WCHA Scholar-Athlete. Jensen, a finance major, has been named a WCHA Scholar-Athlete twice. To be considered a WCHA Scholar-Athlete, a player must have at least a 3.5 grade-point average.
In regular season play, Mike McKee remains sidelined with an injury, but his Lincoln Stars defeated Tri-City 5-2;
Magnus Hellberg yielded just one goal on 32 Grand Rapids shots to steer the Milwaukee Admirals to a 4-1 victory over the Griffins on Friday at Van Andel Arena.
Milwaukee (37-27-4-3) posted its third straight win to remain in a tie for second place in the Midwest Division behind Grand Rapids (40-25-3-4), which still possesses a six-point lead with just nine days remaining in the regular season.
The Griffins, who have been stymied by a pair of hot visiting goalies this week – including Matt Climie in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Chicago – will continue their homestand on Saturday by hosting the Peoria Rivermen at 7 p.m.
The Admirals used a power play to strike just 3:32 into the contest, as Mike Moore’s wrister from the high slot was tipped by Zach Hamill into the top of Tom McCollum’s net.
After scoring on its first shot of the game, Milwaukee made it a 2-0 game on its third shot late in the period when Brad Winchester snapped a knuckler past McCollum from the top of the right circle at 17:41.
Grand Rapids tallied the lone goal of the second period to pull within one. Off a faceoff to the left of the Milwaukee net, Landon Ferraro won the draw back to Gleason Fournier, who slid the puck across to Brett Skinner at the right point for a long blast that beat Hellberg at the 2:09 mark.
But Kevin Henderson restored the Admirals’ two-goal advantage 4:22 into the final frame, finding some open ice in the high slot and teeing up a slap shot that sailed low to the ice, hit the left post and caromed across the goal line.
The Griffins continued to attack the Milwaukee net, finishing with a 32-26 advantage in shots, but their chances of a comeback were all but dashed when Luke Glendening was whistled off for slashing with 2:25 remaining. McCollum went to the bench for an extra attacker during the Admirals’ advantage, and Mattias Ekholm scored into the vacated net with 1:03 remaining for the final margin.
As well as a photo gallery and a slate of highlights and interviews...
“Definitely, it’s always on your mind, but we haven’t clinched a spot yet,” said forward Landon Ferraro. “We’re still trying to make sure we’re in a good position when we get in the playoffs, and having slow starts like this is not going to help you. And, if it drags on, it’s not something good going into the playoffs.
“So, we’ve had a rough two, and we just need to make sure we put it behind us and start fresh tomorrow.”
However, Griffins coach Jeff Blashill wants the team to avoid playoff talk altogether.
“Our singular focus, and maybe I need to make it more clear, is to try and win a hockey game,” Blashill said. “That’s what our focus has been every single night. We shouldn’t be wrapped up in anything else except winning a hockey game tomorrow night.”
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: MLive's Brendan Savage penned a Wings-Hawks rivalry article...
"We've had a good rivalry with this team for so long," said Detroit forward Darren Helm, who won't play tonight because of a back injury. "They're always fun games. If we're not playing them as much, it might disappear a little bit. But at the same time, it might be more tense because we don't play them as much. I love it. They're always really good games, high intensity games. Lots of scoring, lots of good skill out there. The fans are always in it. The atmosphere is great. It's just good hockey."
"I love the rivalry against Chicago," Smith said. "It's always a lot of fun. But we're going to get a lot of new rivalries and get back to the Toronto rivalry as well. It's going to a fun switch. It's going to help our travel schedule and everything because coming off the West Coast is hard travel.
"We're going to play them next year. We'll still have the home-and-home stuff. I don't think you can ever lose the rivalry. I guess it will just be heightened when we do play them the select few times we can. But it will be sad not to come back here and play the four or five times or whatever we play here."
And Savage noted that Jakub Kindl's found a regular spot on the Wings' lineup even though most of us thought he'd end up on the waiver wire when the season began. He's even earning time on the team's first power play unit with Niklas Kronwall:
"He plays a lot on our second unit," Babcock said. "We thought he was playing well on it. So we put him on the first unit and he was rewarded by a nice pass and a goal.''
Indeed, Kindl scored his first career power-play goal in the loss to the Sharks. He gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead 2:29 into the third period before San Jose tied it 91 seconds later on a goal by Logan Couture and then won it when Couture and Patrick Marleau connected in the shootout.
After playing more than 20 minutes just once in his first 11 games this season, Kindl has averaged more than 20 in his last five outings.
"It's nice when you get the opportunity but at the same time you got to do a good job ... otherwise you won't earn the minutes out there," said Kindl, 26. "I'm just focusing on every time I go out there to try to shoot the puck, try to create ... in front of the net. You shoot the puck, there's the rebound, next thing you know there's a lot of guys going to get the puck. Whenever I have the chance, I got to shoot. That's my focus.''
He led the Wings in shots on both Thursday and in Sunday's game against St. Louis with 4...He took 2 more and had a total of 4 attempts, had an assist and finished at -1 in 19:24 of ice time on Friday.
Holy *#$%@& we've got good news in the injury department! Sort of! The Free Press's Helene St. James reports that Todd Bertuzzi's feelin' a bit better...
Bertuzzi spent a good half hour skating with a rag-tag group of Red Wings Friday at United Center, as most of the regulars stayed off the ice in preparation for the evening's game. The Wings wound up losing, 3-2, in a shootout where they undoubtedly could have used Bertuzzi, who is one of their top performers one-on-one.
Bertuzzi hasn't been a regular since February 7, when he limped out of St. Louis because of nerve pain that extended from his back down through his right leg. Bertuzzi ended up hospitalized for three days.
Now there's just two weeks left in the regular season, but Bertuzzi isn't willing to concede those remaining seven games yet. The latest doctor he visited, "saw something a little bit different," Bertuzzi said. "We're just trying to take care of that right now. He feels pretty confident that we can patch up what's been the problem."
Surgery isn't on the horizon. Bertuzzi is bothered more by pain in his leg than his back - this was where he got into it with Samuelsson; when Bertuzzi said it is "pretty much 80% the leg," Samuelsson laughed and suggested 20% of what's wrong with Bertuzzi "is in the head." Bertuzzi negotiated it down to 10%.
That's probably about the same as the odds that he plays another game, given that he hasn't yet joined full-contact practices. "I'm holding out that I get back," he said. "I'm trying my best. I'm in a race trying to get back, but the way I felt today was probably the most positive sign I have had in a long time. Hopefully, it stays that way."
Apparently the Wings may or may not get Mikael Samuelsson (pectoral muscle issue) back before the regular season ends, too:
General manager Ken Holland said Samuelsson might be ready in a week.
In a different vein, the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan took note of Hawks coach Joel Quenneville's takes on the Wings' struggles, and...
… Defensemen Brendan Smith, Ian White and Brian Lashoff were healthy scratches for the Wings, while Carlo Colaiacovo re-entered the lineup (in place of Smith).
Colaiacovo looked okay, but Kyle Quincey looked like he needed a break and maybe the abiltity to eat some solid food, never mind see through those bars on his cage.
Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner chose to focus on the Wings' re-signing of Jimmy Howard, and got pretty philosophical...
This season, Howard has been Detroit’s best player, keeping his offensively challenged team in most games. He’s played in 34 games and posted a 16-12-5 record with two shutouts, a 2.39 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
For his career, the seven-year veteran -- four years as the Wings No. 1 goalie -- has played in 226 games and has a 126-66-24 record, 13 shutouts, a 2.41 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.
Signing Howard to such a long-term extension says a lot about where this team is headed. The Wings are about to go through a metamorphosis, a transmutation that they've fought for the last several years.
They lack proven, consistent goal scoring at the NHL level. And most of their forward prospects, with just a few exceptions, are rated as second- to third-line talent.
So Detroit’s fate rests with Jimmy Howard in net and a team that plays a scrappy brand of hockey.
If it works, the Wings will be competitive. If it doesn’t, the glory days of seemingly automatic playoff bids will disappear.
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