The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/20/14 at 02:49 AM ET
I already posted one entry regarding today's game between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings (3 PM EDT on NBC, TSN and 97.1 FM), but there was so much "stuff" that popped up between "the evening" and "overnight" that I needed to pen a new entry. This one is a lot less about the comings and goings and a lot more about playing up a narrative.
The Boston Bruins' narrative is a surprising one given what's transpired thus far, and especially what was said regarding a certain Bruin's actions (or not said in the case of his coach). The Wings' narrative, thankfully, is mostly predictable, though there are a few surprises in store.
Long story long for me, it is physically impossible for me to keep up with the Bruins' 12+ outlets covering this series, so I'm scrambling and learning what it is to try to "not cover everything." That will continue this evening--the every-other-day pace of this series won't allow me to physically knock myself out of this puppy--but I guess I wanted one attempt to really "play to the narrative," as it were, and I hope this is it. After today's game and a little Easter dinner, there will be a nap and then a lot of work, so please enjoy this and know that the quality of content is going to go down from here
Is there more from Boston? Well, yes. The Boston Herald's Steve Conroy certainly wins the Headline of the Day award for stating, "Milan Lucic Spearheads Talk"--and it turns out that Mr. Smith was more than a little outspoken...
“I don’t think there’s a place for it. I guess he’s done it to Emelin before,” Smith said. “When I look at Lucic, he’s just a big, enforcing man. He’ll scare you in others ways instead of doing that. I’m not sure. Maybe it was one of those moments. . . . I don’t know if he’ll continue to do that.”
When the teams meet up in Game 2 today, the B’s would love for the Red Wings to get angry enough to get away from their tight defensive system that they played so well in Game 1.
“That stuff (like Lucic’s spearing), I don’t feel great about it because I don’t think there’s a place for it, but it doesn’t take away from how good those players are and the skill they have,” Smith said. “Obviously, they’re trying to do something to change the momentum and get something on their side. That’s what you do and you try to get an edge an anyone, whether it’s baiting someone into a penalty or what. Some players are great at it.
“You saw him do it last year in the playoffs against Pittsburgh, with (Brad) Marchand egging on (Matt) Cooke and then scoring that big goal (in the B’s sweep of the Penguins in the conference finals). They have to do what they (do) and that’s what they’re good at.”
That's actually an excellent point, Brendan. That's why you can't go to what people on Twitter call "your home," a.k.a. the penalty box, against the B's.
Conroy also took note of the Bruins' personnel machinations...
The Bruins got a sliver of good news yesterday when defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller, two of the flu sufferers who missed Friday’s Game 1, returned to practice at the Garden.
It was Bartkowski’s first time on the ice since playing the regular-season finale in New Jersey last Sunday. Miller, meanwhile, returned to practice on Thursday, but then was not able to go in the opener vs. Detroit.
Coach Claude Julien, however, was not ready to deem them as available for today’s pivotal Game 2.
“I don’t know yet,” said Julien. “This is Bartkowski’s first day practicing this week and Miller, it’s his second. It’ll depend on how they feel (today). We’ve got contingency plans here, whether they play or not. So confirmation, I can’t give that to you.”
Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter replaced them in Game 1. Neither Miller nor Bartkowski were available for comment.
And the Boston Herald's Stephen Harris let the "Subtle Interference" cat out of the bag--with help:
“We have to find ways to get through (the interference),” Julien said. “And if they are going to slow us down, if we’re skating, hopefully they’ll end up taking penalties. But we have to work through those kind of things and establish the forecheck that we feel is an important part of our game.”
In the interest of fairness, it’s worth nothing that it wasn’t just the Red Wings who got away with some uncalled infractions. Loui Eriksson got a free pass for a fairly obvious trip of Darren Helm in the second period. And there was that indiscreet and cringe-inducing whack Milan Lucic gave DeKeyser, which cost the Bruins winger $5,000 yesterday in an NHL fine. He was fortunate not to be suspended.
“Yeah, well, it’s playoff hockey,” Bruins president Cam Neely said as he watched practice at the Garden. “You’ve got to fight through everything.”
Oh good, so Cam Neely's in on it.
And that’s probably the bottom line for the B’s today in Game 2: After generating less than a half-dozen legitimate scoring chances in the opener, they have to find ways to engage the Wings physically and win the battles.
“They played a good defensive game,” Neely said. “But you know, I feel like we can be better throughout our lineup. I think we got away from our strength, which means if we can’t carry it in, we have to chip it in and get after it. We didn’t really sustain enough pressure in their zone like we normally can. They did a good job of countering that. But we have to be better at getting pucks in smart and winning battles. It was kind of like a chess match for the bulk of that game. I didn’t see us have too many good shifts one after the other after the other. A couple, but I didn’t see many.”
It’s a fair bet the Bruins will be alerting the Game 2 referees to the questionable defensive tactics of the Red Wings. An early interference call could be all it takes to force a change in behavior.
“The clutching and grabbing, that’s part of playoff hockey,” center Gregory Campbell said. “It’s not really up to us to worry about that. It’s in the referees’ hands.”
If you wish to read the Boston Herald's Steve Buckley's "Spirit of the Thing" worry about Game 2, you may, but this may aggravate you further: CSNNE's Joe Haggerty's now in on the Subtle Interference tick, to the point that he almost defends Milan Lucic's spear...
Krejci, Lucic and Iginla didn’t get their cycle game working, and they never had that long offensive zone shift where they pounded away at the Detroit defense on the forecheck. Part of the reason Lucic lost his cool before spearing Danny DeKeyser was clearly related to all of this. Lucic was just a step late on the dump attempts for the Bruins, and couldn’t arrive in time to lower the boom on most of the Red Wings defenseman corps.
There was little flow to the B’s breakout attempts, and both the spacing and speed during the rush up the ice were sloppy and far too easy for the Red Wings to slow down. Players like Iginla and Krejci talked about making adjustments after the defeat, but were intent on showing them in Game 2 rather than talking about it beforehand.
What isn’t a secret is what’s expected of the KIL (Krejci, Iginla, Lucic) on Sunday afternoon, and for the rest of an expectantly long playoff run.
Boston’s top line needs to fight through Detroit’s crafty methods to slow them down (obstruction is still alive and well in the NHL, and begin to impose their physical will in the offensive zone with increased puck possession. Krejci needs to hold onto the puck for that extra beat while doing a little better than 2-for-8 in the face off circle. That was not the stuff of playoff heroes, and he seemed to get a little discouraged by the Red Wings bouncing him around with some rough treatment.
So that's not good? Hm.
Lucic needs to harness his emotions into doing damage to the Detroit defensemen group, and make certain his linemates are dumping pucks to spots he can quickly reach in the corners.
Iginla needs to be the lethal goal scorer and big-bodied presence around the net that’s poised and ready to strike on rebounds around the net.
Those are the different skill sets merged together that produced so much goal-scoring success in the playoffs last year.
The Standard Times-Herald's Nick Tavares also posited something along those lines, albeit more optimistically speaking in terms of the Bruins' ability to change their own circumstances...
"Yeah I think it's two teams that play pretty solid systems and they stick to it," Patrice Bergeron said after Game 1. "There wasn't much on both sides of the ice. And that's it. We're going to have to expect that for the rest of the series and find ways to create some offense."
The play was tight enough on both sides that, as the second period came to a close with no score, it was clear that one small lapse could tilt this in one team's favor. Johan Franzen curled through the neutral zone and found a streaking Datsyuk, who had time for one clean shot near the top of the slot, and he nailed it.
"There were not a ton of scoring chances," goalie Tuukka Rask said, "and you kind of get that feeling that the one goal is going to be enough, and today it was them. Too bad for us."
And as Rask's naturally casual demeanor suggests, that's how it is. The first game was close, the Bruins did good things, the Red Wings did good things, and it came out in Detroit's favor. Put it in the can and queue up the next reel.
Strangely, history might be on Boston's side a little. In the first round in 2010, the Bruins dropped the first game on the road to Buffalo before winning that series in six. 2011 saw them lose the first two at home — including the second tilt without Chara — before winning that series in seven. They lost the first games against Tampa Bay and Vancouver that year before taking those sets as well.
It's a new team, but the same central cast — Chara, Bergeron, Lucic, Krejci, Marchand, Boychuk and Rask — have been together long enough to maintain cohesion and perspective. It was a tough path anyway, made slightly more vexing by a first loss at home. But it's nothing unfamiliar, and this is a team certainly capable enough to overcome adversity.
"We were ready for a tough and long series, and we're in for that," Bergeron said. "So we're fine with it."
And SouthCoast Today's Mick Colageo notes that the Red Wings' coach wasn't playing the Bruins' games:
"It doesn't matter what I think. They pay people to look at that stuff," said Babcock, who expects no lineup changes today (i.e. don't expect Henrik Zetterberg's name to come up at least until the Bruins win a game in this series). "I thought (Tomas) Jurco could have had a penalty for a free hand. I thought (the Bruins) could have had a number of penalties.
"They are what they are. I'm not interested in the referees solving any problems. I think the players are out there deciding who wins. I thought the game was officiated just fine (Friday) night, and both teams tried to be as disciplined as they could."
Somewhat ironically, Milan Lucic made some cogent points, too:
"From watching video and preparing, they play their system the exact way that we were expecting. Obviously, they played it really, really well (Friday) night and it gave them a win. We're going to have to find a way to find holes in their game and create more scoring chances and, obviously, get some by Jimmy Howard," said Lucic, who had one very close call late in the third period.
He redirected a shot that Howard deflected away from the left post. Johan Franzen sent it the other way, Justin Abdelkader took Dougie Hamilton out of the play and Pavel Datsyuk made a Guy Lafleur-like shot across the grain for the game's only score.
"If (my chance) kicks right — into the net — who knows what happens after that? But those are things that happen in the game. You can't let things like that frustrate you, and for us, I know for myself, just focus on Game 2 and what I need to do to be better and get one past him," said Lucic. "We've just got to do a better job of playing our game and establishing more time in the offensive zone. I think what's made us successful a lot of the times throughout the season is puck management. Obviously, that's going to be an important part of the series for both teams."
The truth of the matter is that the Bruins' game is Lucic's game as illustrated by his actions on Friday--and it's also the game that Haggerty hopes to see, hard-charging, player-pounding, cycling and bowling over goaltenders as they score.
They're the St. Louis Blues plus the Los Angeles Kings plus the Calgary Flames plus the Vancouver Canucks plus the Anaheim Ducks. Assembled together.
That's why the Red Wings have to stick to their game--otherwise they're gonna get ran into Boston Harbor, through the penalty box.
The MetroWest Daily News's Dan Cagen offered a few notes of note...
Power play/penalty kill
Red Wings: 17.7 percent (18th)/83.1 percent (T11th)
Bruins: 21.7 percent (3rd)/83.7 percent (8th)
Stat of the day: The Bruins famously came back twice from 0-2 series deficits to win the Stanley Cup in 2011. However, the odds are against rallies from that deficit -- teams are 8-32 in series over the last five years since trailing 0-2, and other than the Bruins' 2011 first-round series with Montreal, only the 2009 Capitals have come back after losing the first two at home (first round vs. Rangers).
Storylines: The Bruins look to create more offense after a 1-0 Game 1 loss on Friday night. … With attempted less than 44 percent of the shots, the Bruins had just 42 attempted shots in Game 1. … The top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla combined for four shots on net in the opener and didn't get going until the third period. … Defenseman Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller (flu for both) practiced Saturday and are questionable Sunday. … The series will shift to Detroit for the next two games after this.
And the Boston Globe's Mark Shanahan and Meredith Goldstein will lighten the mood considerably with this non-sequitur (No context? No place for it? Why not here?):
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and two of his assistants sat in the Kennedy booth at the Union Oyster House before Game 1 against the Bruins.
Please see the Boston Univeristy News Service's Ashley Paul's article about the booth.
As the Wings told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, skate away...
The Bruins appeared to want to get the Red Wings engaged verbally, get under their skin, but the Red Wings wouldn’t bite.
“We have to remember to skate away,” Howard said.
Said Howard: “It’s the playoffs, it’s a tough time of year to play. You just hope officials catch it. If not, you play through it. (But) it’s not fun when you get hit there.”
Howard did tell Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji that he was glad that, well...
"That's up to the league, what they want to do," Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "It's playoffs. It's a tough time of year to play. Stuff like that is gonna happen here. You just hope the officials catch it, and if not, you just gotta play through it. It's just a good thing Danny's not really injured by it."
And the Wings continued while speaking with the Free Press's Helene St. James:
“Against a team like this, which can be so lethal on the power play, you want to stay out of the box,” Justin Abdelkader said. “We’ll do what we can to try to do that, and play five-on-five. I think that’s when we’re at our best.”
Coach Mike Babcock said the Wings might have gotten away with a questionable play by Tomas Jurco, and it was lost on no one that the Wings should have gotten a power play after Milan Lucic speared Danny DeKeyser in the second period.
But Babcock noted, “I’m not interested in the referees solving any problems. I think the players are out there deciding who wins.”
The Wings didn’t retaliate for Lucic’s cheap shot — other than by winning, of course — and they don’t want to get caught up in anything between whistles today, either.
“They seem to thrive off that,” Jimmy Howard said. “They like to get in scrums. We just have to remember when we hear the whistle to skate away.”
DeKeyser said: “We need to just maintain playing our game and not get off our game by getting into any stuff. When we’re skating out there and making plays, that’s when we’re at our best and that’s the way we’re going to have to keep on playing.”
The Wings want to keep rolling the way they did in Game 1--by skating(!)--as they told Kulfan:
“It was real tight,” coach Mike Babcock said. “There wasn’t a lot of scoring chances. We had it (scoring chances) even at 9-9, there weren’t many chances really. I expect more of the same. Both teams will have to find ways to generate more.”
Doing so might be difficult. Both teams are good defensive teams that stick to their structure and rarely deviate from their system. The Red Wings, though, appear to have an edge, albeit slight, in terms of speed and quickness. If they can utilize their speed, the Red Wings could get some chances. In Game 1, they felt they did capitalize on their speed.
“We did a pretty good job of that,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “That’s the only way to have success against this team, to use our speed as much as we can. For stretches of the game, we did a pretty good job of that.”
But no one is taking anything for granted.
“It’s going to stay tight,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “Both teams, especially them, play real good defensively and we play structured. This is the type of games we’ll come to expect through this series.”
“We know they’ll make adjustments and hopefully we’ll counter those and make adjustments ourselves and get ready,” Abdelkader said. “It should be fun. Both teams were tentative at the start (in Game 1) but once everyone got settled in we did a lot of good things.”
The Wings don't plan on changing a thing, frankly, and that's good, because Babcock delivered the ultimate, "We haven't done anything...Yet"...
Some Boston media were ready to compare this Red Wings team to Babcock’s 2003 Anaheim team that upset the Red Wings in the first round and went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the New Jersey Devils. But Babcock wasn’t quite ready to compare the two yet.
“We had a heckuva team,” said Babcock of that Ducks team that had red-hot goalie J.S. Giguere. “That team lost in Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals. I don’t think you can talk about (this Red Wings team after one playoff game, in the same way.”
And the defacto captain had this to say to the Boston Globe's Nancy Marrapese-Burrell:
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall said it isn’t in the Red Wings’ best interests to take any liberties.
“We’ve got nothing to gain from getting into scrums and things like that after the whistles,’’ he said. “We have to do a good job of focusing on playing the game instead. Staying out of the box, obviously, is important because we know how dangerous their [power play] is.’’
Just as it turns out that Lucic had some cogent points, Brendan Smith delivered some particularly insightful commentary to Marrapese-Burrell.
He led them off by stating that Lucic wasn't doing anything...Out of the performance envelope:
“It doesn’t take away from how good those players are and their skill,’’ said Smith. “Obviously, they’re trying to do something and change the momentum and get something on their side. That’s what you do, you try to get an edge on anybody, whether it be baiting someone to take a penalty or whatever the reason is. Some players are great at that. You see Marchand be a great player like that against Pittsburgh last year, egging on [Matt] Cooke and then scoring that big goal to go up [4-1 in Game 2]. They have to do what they do and that’s what they’re good at.’’
If Friday night’s game was tight, Smith said look for Game 2 to be even tighter.
“I think both teams are really good,’’ he said. “The systems both teams play are really effective. They’ve done so well this year and we’ve done very good for the amount of injuries we’ve had, so it’s something we’re going to try to stay at and keep playing our system. I think the biggest thing is turnovers. The team that has [fewer] turnovers is the team that is going to be victorious.’’
Having said that, Smith believes the Red Wings are going to have to elevate their game well above what it was in the opener.
“It’s got to amp up every time,’’ he said. “If you watched our playoff series last year, every game was amped up to a whole other level against Chicago. That’s something we’re going to have to continue to do. I think the level of [the players’] competitive nature in everybody in this room and their room will rise. It might be a little bit faster, there’ll be probably more hits, and that’s something we’re expecting and something we have to be aware of and get ready for.’’
The "Put the Biscuit in the Easter Basket" award
To the Red Wings, who got the win they needed in Boston. Now all they have to do is just hold serve at home, as they say, and hope Henrik Zetterberg will be back for the second round (if there is a second round) or even late in the first round (if there is a late first round). Oh, and have Pavel Datsyuk put a few more puukks past Tuukka Rask.
I agree but I disagree.
Hold serve at home?
Sure, but not before stealing some eggs out of the Bruins' Easter basket, one relentlessly disciplined shift at a time, starting around 3 PM EDT today.
The only way the Wings are going to be able to "*#$%@& the Bruins" is to not let 'em be Big Bad Beasts of the East--or to at least skate through it, skate through the talk and the baiting, on and off the ice.
Shut 'em the hell up. Shut 'em up with good deeds done against 'em. Take the wind out of their sails and the cheers out of the crowd the way Pavel Datsyuk took the breath out of every person in the TD Banknorth Garden not standing directly behind the goal or on the Wings' bench when he scored.
If this shit's gonna get personal, let it get personal the "Red Wings Way." Don't turn the other cheek, but don't be stupid and let frustration and ego and getting "caught up in the moment" get in your path. Let the other team be the assholes, and exploit the holes in their team and individual games that open up when they stop playing and start reacting.
Multimedia: For the record, the referees for today's game are Chris Lee and Francios St. Laurent; Greg Devorski and Derek Nansen will work the lines.
The Bruins' website posted a 2:42 practice report (half Bruins, half Wings, Zetterberg going blueline to red line included, and please see the Detroit News's David Guralnick's gallery for more glorious Zetterbeard)...
The Red Wings' YouTube channel posted a boatload of videos, too, including three minutes with Milan Lucic...
And comments from Loui Eriksson...
And on the Wings' side of things, Brendan Smith...
And coach Mike Babcock:
Happy Easter if you celebrate it, happy Excuse to Eat Chocolte Egg Day if you don't, happy Passover if you celebrate it, any way you slice it, if you're having a holiday or not, travel safely, be good to yourself and your family and try to enjoy the game if that's possible.
Update: Mitchell Callahan spoke with WZZM 13 regarding the surgery that followed his sans-eight-teeth "selfie" and his attempts to get back onto the ice, and as the Grand Rapids Griffins prepare to open the playoffs in Abbotsford, BC after Saturday's regular-season-ending loss, the Grand Rapids Press's Jeff Chaney also caught up with Callahan:
“If I would have known how serious my injury was, I don't think I would have tweeted that out,” Callahan said. “I didn't know my jaw was broken, I just thought I needed a few stitches and I was going back out there. That (the tweet) just kind of took off, and it was really odd.”
It was a serious injury that required major surgery and recovery time.
“Two weeks of being wired shut,” said Callahan, who was the Griffins' second-leading scorer at the time of the injury. “Eating has been a real challenge, especially now because my teeth are still really sensitive and I can't chew any food. But it is getting better, and I have found a way to eat and get around it.”
As for a return date to the ice?
“We are pushing for me to be back by game three of the first round,” Callahan said. “That is what we are aiming for right now
“This won't change how I play, definitely not,” Callahan said. “I just think it was a freak accident. I was just falling down when the puck was coming, so the way it happened, it was just a freak thing. That's just hockey. I don't think I will ever change the way I play.”
Update #2: FTR, from the Free Press's Helene St. James:
Having claimed the first game did allow, for Saturday at least, the Wings to run the more pleasant practice because everything is easier when a job has been well done. Or, as coach Mike Babcock put it, “That’s why winning’s so much fun.”
Babcock is convinced that for every day these Wings practice and play — this group that’s healthier and younger and faster than the team has been all season — the better they are becoming.
Friday’s 1-0 victory was hardly a declaration of superiority, but it was a demonstration that the Wings can hold their own against the top team in hockey.
“I think at playoff time each and every year, it’s always enjoyable, and one of the reasons it’s enjoyable is because your players are all in,” Babcock said. “Lots of times during the year, it’s a grind for them and a grind for you, and that’s just the way the NHL is.”
Babcock’s colleague Claude Julien was asked about adjustments — the natural follow-up when a team has lost. He wasn’t going to bite, because playoffs are all about adjustments, within games and through practices.
“We, as coaches, we agree not to watch each other’s practices most of the time and in the playoffs, for those reasons,” he said. “For me to come out here and start talking about our adjustments — I know we have to get more pucks to the net, I know we need net front presence, that’s something that always needs to be done.”
(That's why assistant coaches and GM's and pro scouts watch practices in the playoffs, so that's a load of horseshit on Julien's part)
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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.