The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/13/14 at 10:43 AM ET
Updated 3x at 12:08 PM: Looks like Mrazek is starting:
As the Daniel Alfredsson-less Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues prepare to tangle at a bizarre time (12:30 PM EDT on NBC and 97.1 FM, 11:30 AM local start), no morning skate means no update as to whether Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet will play, but the Red Wings website's Game Day Blog believes that the pair will spell Danny DeKeyser and Niklas Kronwall.
The Wings also posted a 5-and-a-half-minute-long game-day preview video, whose thrust involves looking back at the biggest plays made during the 2013-2014 season...
On This Day in Red Wings' History...
On April 13, 1978: Right wing Bill Lochead scores one of the most memorable goals in franchise history as the Red Wings sweep the Atlanta Flames in a best-of-three opening round series.
And Ken Kal's Keys to the Game:
Work on the Details - This game doesn't mean anything in the standings for Detroit. They need to use this as a final prep for the playoffs.
Get Better as a Team - Play with structure and match the Blues' Intensity.
Play Hard, but Be Safe and Smart - Detroit needs to be ready for Game 1. Have a good game, but be conscious of the fact that you need to go into the playoffs healthy.
MLive's Brendan Savage asked readers a simple question with multiple correct answers in his game-day article...
They [made the playoffs] by overcoming a rash of injuries nobody will forget. Players who missed long stretches of time include Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson and Stephen Weiss.
The injuries gave opportunities to youngsters like Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening and Tomas Jurco, who proved they're legitimate NHL players. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar also emerged as potential NHL stars.
And who could forget the Winter Classic?
Of course, there were also moments that aren't necessarily memorable for the right reasons as far as fans are concerned.
There was the Daniel Cleary saga. It appeared as if the veteran forward was headed to Philadelphia as a free agent in the preseason before he re-signed in Detroit and proceeded to have one of the worst seasons of his career. Like Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson was also a huge disappointment.
And then there were the salary cap and roster issues that kept Nyquist in the minors leagues at the start of the season.
With all that in mind, what will go down as the most memorable moment – good or bad – during the 2013-14 regular season?
St. Louis’ stakes: Just a week or two ago, most people probably would’ve gambled everything that this would be a glorious scrimmage for the Blues and a do-or-die skirmish for the Red Wings. Instead, both teams are already guaranteed spots in their respective conferences … but that doesn’t mean this game lacks importance.
Simply put, the Blues face this consideration: finish Sunday with more points than Detroit’s old nemesis the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis wins the Central Division (and takes on the Minnesota Wild in the first round). Fall short or tie the Avs – Colorado holds tiebreaker advantages – and the Blues must thwart the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks to avoid a first-round exit for the third season in a row.
With all due respect to the Wild, that situation provides plenty of incentive for the Blues to earn a win on Sunday. (The Avalanche face the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night.)
Motivation to finish strong: Beyond that more pertinent motivation, the Blues and Red Wings would like to cut off recent struggles. Things are most glaring for St. Louis; they’re hoping to avoid finishing the season with a six-game losing streak in a 2013-14 campaign in which they don’t have any other losing streak that exceeds two contests. Detroit, meanwhile, has lost three of four games but finds itself firmly planted in a first-round series against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins.
To some, seeing all 16 playoff teams clinched already may seem anticlimactic. Yet, with such important seeding on the line, hockey fans should find plenty to enjoy beginning with this game on Sunday.
Via RedWingsFeed, Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski also noted that the Blues are extremely banged-up:
The Blues have lost five in a row, but they’ve lost so much more than that recently: Top forwards, the swagger of their goaltender and the confidence that had carried them through a Presidents’ Trophy contending season until a late-season skid derailed those hopes.
Specifically, the injuries: David Backes, Brenden Morrow, Vladimir Sobotka, Derek Roy, Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie are all banged up. The hope is that it’s for the short-term.
"We’ve been able to pretty much the whole year stay healthy," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said this week.
"We would have preferred better timing, but it is what it is and it’s all about who’s in now. You never know, everybody goes through this. We just got it at the end of year. You got to just stay focused on the guys you have.”
The injuries coincide with a perilous offensive slump: The Blues haven’t scored more than two goals in eight straight games, and have been shut out twice in their last five games.
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff took note of the Miller-vs-Miller aspect of today's game...
Detroit Red Wings left-winger Drew Miller wasn’t the only member of the family who travelled to St. Louis for Sunday’s game against the Blues. He was joined on the trip by his parents, sister and brother to watch him face brother Ryan, goaltender for the Blues.
“We’ll have dinner together,” Drew said. “If he plays, that will be great. It’s always fun to play against him. We’ll see how it goes.”
Just when the Miller brothers thought they’d be seeing more of each other when the Wings moved to the Eastern Conference and joined the Buffalo Sabres in the Atlantic Division, the Sabres dealt Ryan to the Blues just prior to the NHL trade deadline.
“It went to seeing him maybe once a year, to having him in our division and then he leaves,” Drew said. “Then we play (the Sabres) two more times at the end of the year and he’s already gone from Buffalo. I guess that’s just the way it works sometimes.”
While it’s a big deal when brother faces brother, especially when one sibling is a goaltender, for the Millers, it’s become less of a big deal over the years.
“It’s different,” Drew said. “From the first time I’ve played him to the last time, it’s really different. It’s not as big a hype for me. It’s just fun. Any chance you get to play against each other, it’s fun. You try and make the most of it. Most of it is off the ice, just getting a chance to see him. I just think it’s nice because I don’t get to see him much in the summer, because he’s out in L.A. now. Any chance we get to hang out and have dinner means a lot to us.”
And here comes the rest:
Quickie update #1:
Yes, the Bruins' press corps are aware of the Wings-B's match-up despite the fact that Boston has a game to play (against the Islanders) today, and Boston.com's Eric Wilbur weighed in on the match-up...
Oh, and &^$# you, NHL.
For the first time in more than a half-century, the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings will meet in the NHL playoffs beginning Thursday night at the Garden, and it’s safe to say that the matchup is not the one the NHL’s best regular season team was hoping for.
It coulda been the Blue Jackets. It coulda been the Flyers.
No. The hockey gods left the Presidents Trophy winners with one of the three most-threatening Eastern Conference squads (Montreal, Pittsburgh) to the Bruins’ long-term Stanley Cup hopes to face in the first round, leaving Claude Julien staring into the abyss of the postseason schedule like Indiana Jones into the Well of Souls, with the slithering threat of what lay ahead showing its face in the dim light.
“Detroit. Why did it have to be Detroit?”
That deal was sealed courtesy of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 3-2 win at the Florida Panthers’ Saturday night, when Nathan Horton’s (out six weeks with an abdominal injury) club clinched the No. 7 seed, locking the Red Wings in at No. 8. The Bruins were only 1-3 against the Red Wings during the regular season, outscored by a total of 13-12, but it’s indeed the Red Wings’ pedigree and talent that is most concerning in the franchise’s first run at the Eastern Conference title. As successful as the Bruins’ season was, the Wings were the only team to beat the Bruins three times in regulation, twice without Pavel Datsyuk. Oh, and did we mention he might be back in time for this series, along with Jonathan Ericsson and Henrik Zetterberg, all of whom are recovering from various injuries?
Apparently, that’s what you get for winning the conference. Have fun.
As did MassLive's Annie Maroon:
What to expect, in brief: The Bruins and Red Wings haven’t met in the playoffs since 1957, so first of all, expect lots of black-and-white shots of old-time hockey on the broadcasts.
The Wings have been depleted by injuries all year – Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have only played 44 and 45 games, respectively. Datsyuk recently returned, but Zetterberg, who had back surgery in February, is aiming for a return late in the first round or early in the second at best.
Fortunately for Detroit, 24-year-old Gustav Nyquist has broken out in a huge way in the absence of those better-known names. Though the speedy University of Maine product didn’t play a game until Nov. 21, he leads the Wings in goals by a considerable margin, with 28 in 56 games[.]
Wings goalie Jimmy Howard has had a down year, posting a .910 save percentage in 51 starts, though he did hold the Bruins to two goals on 35 shots when the teams last met on April 2. Detroit won that game 3-2 and took three of the four regular-season games between the two this year.
Quickie update #2:
Quickie update #3: Crain's Detroit Business's Bill Shea compared the respective public-vs-private financing breakdowns of the costs associated with Detroit's sports arenas, including the Wings' follow-on rink, and Shea discussed the partnership between the two construction firms building the rink at some length:
A contract between the joint venture and Olympia Development of Michigan, the arena developer on behalf of Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch, will be signed by April 30, said Alex Ivanikiw, senior vice president at Barton Malow and one of the executives overseeing the project. Olympia will manage the DDA-owned arena under a 35-year concession management agreement. Using a joint venture for construction is commonplace for such massive projects, said Ivanikiw.
"This is not something that's unusual," he said. "No single organization is going to have enough of the right kind of talented people to do a project of this size."
The joint venture will act as a stand-alone company to organize construction of the arena, he said. Staffers from each company will work on different aspects of the effort rather than each company handling specific portions. While Barton Malow's résumé includes many sports venues, it decided it needed help.
"We needed more sports experience, so we reached out to Hunt," Ivanikiw said. "We suggested to them we form a team."
White was added in late 2013 because of the firm's familiarity with working in Detroit, he said.
It's vital to have a firm such as White to help navigate local politics and understand the local practices and rate of availability of employees, said Irwin Raij, a partner and vice chairman of the sports industry team in the Miami office of the Foley & Lardner LLP law firm.
"That local tie really helps bring it all together. You've really got to know your market. This is local, sensible and consistent with industry practices," he said.
Quickie update #3.5:
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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.