The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/23/13 at 02:08 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings at least nudged a little closer to the Columbus Blue Jackets and kicked off a stretch of four crucial games (with three remaining, against LA on Wednesday, Nashville on Thursday and in Dallas on Saturday) on the right foot via a 4-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night, a game in which the Wings' power play, goaltending and positional and/or puck support allowed the Wings to secure their first home victory in SIX, "Coming home from a West Coast swing" tries.
I'm getting a little tired of doing the who-sits-where-with-which-games-remaining math, but NBC Sports' James O'Brien postulated statistical permutations as Monday's game was an NBC affair (be warned, Wednesday's game is NBC Sports Network-only in the U.S.):
7. Minnesota – 51 points with three games left (20 regulation/OT wins)
8. Columbus – 51 points with two games left (17 ROW)
9. Detroit – 50 points with three games left (19 ROW)
10. Dallas – 48 points with three games left (20 ROW)
11. Phoenix – 46 points with three games left (15 ROW)
As you can see, this regulation loss doesn’t officially eliminate the Coyotes from the postseason, but it downgrades their shaky odds to a legitimate long shot. (They’d max out at 54 points and just 18 ROW if they won their final three without going to a shootout).
Detroit has a solid chance to leap the Blue Jackets and possibly even the Wild. In the case of Columbus, the Red Wings could hit 56 points if they win their remaining games while CBJ would max out at 55. (Naturally, things would get complicated if losses pile up in various forms.)
Here are the Red Wings remaining three contests:
Wednesday: home vs. Los Angeles
Thursday: home vs. Nashville
Saturday: at Dallas
The Red Wings aren't particularly concerned with their opponents' schedules--or at least that's what they're telling the beat writers--but the Coyotes are in desperate need of outside assistance, and Fox Sports Arizona's Craig Morgan noted that Monday night's loss punctuated a long fall from Phoenix's Western Conference Final finish last spring:
“Season of frustration,” said [Coyotes coach Dave] Tippett, who has been as visibly annoyed as anyone by his inability to find solutions.
The Coyotes knew they were up against the wall in Detroit. While unbridled optimists can still count this team among the living in the playoff chase, the Coyotes knew that this game was do or die against a club that is also competing for one of two remaining postseason berths.
The Coyotes played well in the first period, even carrying the play as they outshot the Red Wings 12-4. But an old nemesis, their power play – and a new one, their penalty kill -- came back to bite them as Detroit scored two power plays goals while Phoenix failed on its two chances in a 4-0 Red Wings rout.“The first period, I thought we played hard and did a lot of things well, 5-on-5, but specials teams were the difference in the period,” Tippett told FOX Sports Arizona's Todd Walsh. “Our power play couldn’t generate much and they capitalized on two chances. It was downhill from there.”
When the Red Wings got a third power-play goal in the second period on a short-side wrist shot from Valtteri Filppula, the Coyotes were all but done. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard turned aside all 34 shots he faced as Phoenix was shut out for the seventh time in 23 road games this season.“Their goalie played better than our goalie,” Coyotes netminder Mike Smith told Walsh. “For the biggest game of our year thus far, it was a mediocre performance on my part.”
The fallout from Monday’s loss was easy to understand. Phoenix has three games left yet trails Minnesota and Columbus by five points and Detroit by four for one of the final two playoff spots. The Wild need just one point to eliminate any chance the Coyotes have of catching them, while the Blue Jackets and Wings need just two (Detroit would win a tiebreaker with Phoenix based on regulation/overtime wins).
Smith lamented his team's probable fate while speaking with the Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan...
"After getting to the conference finals last year and having so much success, sitting where we are this year, it’s obviously a tough pill to swallow right now,” goalie Mike Smith said. “But it wasn’t out of a lack of try. We carried the pace for most of the game fiveonfive. It was unfortunate we weren’t able to capitalize on our power plays and they did, and that’s the difference in the game.”
Johan Franzen scored twice and Jimmy Howard had 34 saves to help the Red Wings move within a point of the Blue Jackets. They’re hoping to finish the last three games of the regular season strong enough to extend the franchise’s postseason streak to 22 years.
Detroit had won only one of its previous six games, picking up a precious point in three shootout losses during the slump.
Damien Brunner scored late in the first period and Valtteri Filppula had a power-play goal late in the second to help Detroit match its season high in power-play scoring. Franzen had an empty-net goal with 1:22 left.
The Coyotes lost for the fourth time in five games. Phoenix has been in the playoffs the previous three seasons, losing to Detroit in the first round in 2011 and 2010.
And Coyotes captain Shane Doan agreed while speaking to the AP's Larry Lage...
"Just got to find a way to win the next one and give ourselves a chance," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said.
Detroit scored on its first shot when Franzen redirected a puck past Mike Smith into the game on a power play. The Red Wings didn't let a shot get to Howard for more than 6 minutes. Meanwhile, they went 13-plus minutes without a shot of their own and needed Howard to make some key saves to keep the lead. He stopped Doan's shot on a power play midway through the first period and got his stick and pads on Radim Vrbata's one-timer with 6 minutes left in the first period.
"We had opportunities to score; we didn't, they did," Doan said. "That's the story."
"We didn't play well with the man advantage and that was the difference," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
But we'll shift perspectives from those of the Coyotes to those of the Red Wings with only the faintest hint of chest-puffing from Henrik Zetterberg...
"Of course, taking over the captaincy, it means a lot to me for this team to do well," said Henrik Zetterberg, who had three assists. "We've been doing good the past 21 seasons and we want to keep that going."
Detroit had won only one of its previous six games, picking up a precious point in three shootout losses during the slump.
"This was a huge game for us, where we are in the standings and coming off a disappointing road trip," Howard said. "We have our work cut out for us. One down and now three to go."
Because I'm going to change things up and go with some roughly translated "bonus Swedish" from Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman right off the bat, and Zetterberg's not exactly proclaiming the Wings deemed for the promised land just yet:
"Well, it was a really good game. But we've generally played well at the end [of games]. The difference is that we put some pucks in the net today, and that our power play worked. So we got two points instead of just one, like we have at the end of so many other games," says Henrik Zetterberg when we talk to him afterwards.
With three assists, he was one of the architects of the victory. The team's captain played brilliantly.
"There isn't much to choose from right now. We have to win all of them, and then you can say what you want," he says.
Johan Franzen also had a first-class game, including two goals (one into an empty net at the end).
"I think it went all right for a while, but now I'm starting to put pucks in the net, too. It's as if it's rubbed off, and if you keep going, things loosen up," said the Mule on the phone from his home.
The Wings remain below the playoff line even after this victory, but are now just one point behind Columbus and Minnesota, with one more game to play than the former team.
"Yes, we still have games in hand. As long as you have them, it's good," said Zata.
Next up are the defending champion Los Angeles Kings at home in the Joe on Thursday morning [Swedish time].
"We hope that they beat Minnesota in a tight and tough game the night before, so they're tired when they come here," chuckles Johan Franzen.
Niklas Kronwall spoke along the same lines while speaking with Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom:
"It was the season's most important victory," says Niklas Kronwall to SportExpressen.se.
"We have our destiny in our own hands. If we win our three remaining games we'll earn a playoff spot," said Kronwall.
How much were you charged up for last night's game?
"Of course we talked about the situation in the standings and we were pumped up. We need every single point we can get, and this was huge. We played solidly."
What do you have to say about Zata's game last night, with three assists?
"He was sick. The pass to Brunner on the 2-0 goal was masterful."
Are you getting used to this?
"If we keep on playing like this, maybe it's not so pretty, but it's working, so we have a decent chance to tweak it. Now we need to put all our focus on Wednesday's game against the LA Kings."
"It's a cliche to say it, but for us it's one game at a time, that's how it works right now. Nothing more. We've got to get into the playoffs, period."
Justin Abdelkader told Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples that the Wings are trying to get into the playoffs by playing playoff hockey now:
“It feels like a playoff-type game out there,” Justin Abdelkader said. “Intensity’s high, obviously we know what’s on the line, and that they’re only two points behind us. It was an intense game out there, both teams obviously wanted the points, and I thought it was good for us to come off that road trip and have a game like this tonight.”
When asked if the players understand how important the streak is, coach Mike Babcock said that’s never been an issue.
“Well they’re big boys,” Babcock said. “They understand what’s going on more than anybody. They make their living here, and they take a lot of pride in wearing the sweater. I think our commitment to details, our commitment to process, all that’s been very good. Just because people on the outside that don’t live here don’t think the same way doesn’t change the way we think. We’re a different team than we’ve been; that doesn’t mean we’re not working or competing.”
As the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted, the Wings were out-shot 12-4 in the first period, so the game wasn't necessarily a pretty one at times, but Jimmy Howard was superb in pitching a 34-save shutout, and after the game, he wasn't too particularly taken with his own performance:
"This was a huge game for us, where we are in the standings and coming off the road trip," said Howard, who moved into a tie for fifth place in team history with 128 career victories (tying Tim Cheveldae). "We had our work cut out for us."
With the victory, the Red Wings (21-16-8, 50 points) pulled within one point of Columbus of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Red Wings have played one less game.
The Red Wings continue this home stand with games Wednesday (against Los Angeles) and Thursday (Nashville). The regular season ends Saturday for the Red Wings in Dallas (48 points), which could essentially be a play-in game into the playoffs.
The Red Wings have reached the playoffs the last 21 seasons.
"They're big boys, they understand what is going on," coach Mike Babcock said. "They have a lot of pride wearing the sweater. Our attention to detail has been very good. Our goalie did a very good job in the first period until we got our legs back. Coming back from Vancouver we knew it was going to take a bit to get going. Our power play was outstanding."
"You have to go out there with confidence," Howard said. "Stay as loose as possible. We all know what is at stake. I've been saying for a while there's no panic."
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose focused upon one of Howard's saves in particular--one he made on Antoine Vermette in the second period, when the Wings were up 2-0, and a dump-in took a wild bounce off a steel stanchion separating panes of Plexiglas and landed near his feet:
The strange play began when Phoenix center Antoine Vermette rimmed the puck around the Wings’ net. As the puck scooted along the ledge atop of the dashboard it struck a stanchion that holds the glass in place. The jetted out to the right of Howard as Vermette and Phoenix captain Shane Doan crashed the net. Both Coyotes forwards registered shots on the play, but Howard managed to turn away Vermette’s attempt followed by Doan’s rebound offering.
“Anytime the puck's up on the glass in here, you gotta be careful, especially with the stanchions out there,” Howard said afterwards. “You never know what you're going to get off the Zamboni door, not only in this building but in any building. You just gotta be alert and I just try to stay in the net whenever it's up on the glass.”
Kronwall added: “It doesn’t happen too often here, but you never know. You have to be alert all of the time. You can’t read those plays. You just have to be aware and react.”
The formula for getting into the playoffs is simple, and the Wings understand the importance of the streak, which began in the 1991 playoffs, coach Mike Babcock said.
“They're big boys, they understand what's going on more than anybody,” he said. “They make their living here and they got a lot of pride in wearing the sweater. I think our commitment to detail and our commitment to process has been very good. Just because people on the outside who don't live here don't see it the same way doesn't change what we think. We're a different team than we've been. That doesn't mean we're not working and competing.”
It will also help to get more performances like Monday’s out of Howard, who must carry this team if they expect to be postseason qualifiers.
“He has to,” Babcock said. “It's not about 'can,' he has to. There's no option.”
One may very well argue that Valtteri Filppula has no other option than to play absolutely fantastic hockey over the final three games of the Wings' 2013 season to have any sort of prayer of remaining with the team. Filppula's in the last year of a 5-year, $15 million contract whose $3 million cap hit belies a $3.5 million salary this season, and he's supposedly asking for somewhere between $4 and $5 million as an unrestricted free agent-to-be...
But his 8 goals and 8 assists registered over the course of 38 games played aren't the stats of a $5 million-a-season player, even in today's NHL, and Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji noted that Filppula stepped up in a big way on Monday night (and, as usual, Wakiji posted a treasure trove of Twitter-based quotes):
Filppula's speed forced the Coyotes to take holding and tripping penalties and -- most shockingly -- he shot the puck and scored a power play goal on a bad angle in the second period to give the Wings a 3-0 lead. Filppula was credited with three shots but actually had more that went off the post.
"It's just great, get a goal, we needed him to get a goal, to be an important player, to be on the inside, shoot pucks, be dominant for us," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We count on him for that. Ideally, this goal (Monday) will help him take a step for us."
Every Wings player is well aware that their 21-season playoff streak is on the line with three games to go and that they can't afford to let two points slip away as they have been doing of late. Daniel Cleary, who played on a line with Filppula and Johan Franzen, noticed Filppula's jump at the morning skate.
"He was shooting the puck (Monday) morning," Cleary said. "It was different seeing Fil shoot the puck on 2-on-1s and stuff. I thought he played real well, probably could have had three (goals)."
"He's got a good shot, he's obviously a creative player and creative players like to pass, just like (Pavel Datsyuk), they like to pass first," Cleary said. "It's in him. Certainly when he starts thinking shoot the puck in on net, especially late in the season, it's where you're going to score goals. It's good to see because he's an important player for us."
Even after Monday, Filppula had just 71 shots on goal, fewer than players like Justin Abdelkader (9 goals, 89 shots), Cleary (9 goals, 88 shots) and even Jakub Kindl (4 goals, 73 shots).
There's no reason that someone like Filppula, with the ice time he gets, should not be in the top five on the team in shots. But if Filppula finds his groove and takes those shots this week and helps the Wings get back in the playoffs, he could make up for a lackluster season and remain a Red Wing.
It's all up to him.
I'm not so sure about that, but a ridiculous amount of things can change between now and Saturday, and while smartly focusing on the, "One game at a time picture" as opposed to the, "What happens this summer?" one, Filppula, Cleary and even Ian White are nothing but valued members of the Red Wings right now, and the Wings told the Free Press's Helene St. James that winning Monday night's game was all that mattered...
"We needed these two points," captain Henrik Zetterberg said, "and it was a nice way to get it."
Jimmy Howard made 34 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the season, but to him, "our power play was the star of the game," he said. "For them to go out there and get three power play goals for us, especially when the power play hasn't been all that great, for them to do that, hopefully they gain some confidence."
Niklas Kronwall had two assists. Brunner set up the first goal, giving him three points in the last two games and indicating he's coming out of his second-half dry spell. Filppula, too, had as good a game as he's had all season, taking the puck to the net and for a change, shooting more than passing.
"It was a good win," Filppula said. "I think we played well."
Even with so much at stake, Howard said that, "for me, it's just about going out there and having fun. You don't want to put too much pressure on yourself in these situations. You have to stay loose."
The Wings didn't get out of ninth place in the Western Conference, but they moved within a point of both eighth-place Columbus and seventh-place Minnesota. Importantly, the Wings' ROWs (Regulation or Overtime Wins) improved to 19, two more than Columbus, one less than Minnesota. The Blue Jackets have two games remaining; the Wings have three - at home Wednesday against the Kings and Thursday against the Predators, and then the season finale Saturday at Dallas. The Wings are trying to extend a 21-season playoff streak.
"Nothing was even said before the game," Daniel Cleary said. "We've got a great mix of leadership, veteran guys who've been in some big games. This was certainly a big one."
And they reiterated their points of emphasis to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
“This was a huge game for us tonight, with where we are in the standings,” Howard said. “We have our work cut out for us. One down, and now three to go. If we go out there and win, we control our own destiny.”
“Obviously, we can’t keep losing points,” Filppula said. “It was a good win. Howard played well too. It’s always easier when he doesn’t give up any goals. I should’ve had a couple more today. But we got the win, and that’s what’s important.”
Filppula was the beneficiary of a mesmerizing play by Zetterberg on the third Wings’ goal. The scoring play began in the neutral zone, where Filppula and Zetterberg worked a give-and-go. Zetterberg carried the puck into the Phoenix zone, then slid a pass down to Filppula, who one-timed it in from a very difficult angle near the goal line. Detroit’s third power play goal of the game was Filppula’s eighth of the season, at 16:09.
Detroit needed its captain to rise to the occasion, and Zetterberg definitely did so on Monday night. He worked hard at both ends of the ice, and seemed to internalize his team’s pride off the ice.
“Of course, taking over the captaincy, it means a lot to me for this team to do well,” Zetterberg said.
The win was just the first stepping stone on Detroit’s string of must-win’s to close out the regular season. Head coach Mike Babcock has a clear view of what his team faces, with the Kings, Predators and Stars still on the horizon.
“We can enjoy this for a minute, but all it does is give us another opportunity,” Babcock said.
And USA Today's Kevin Allen, who noted that Zetterberg took some umbrage with the, "Do you want to be the captain of the first Wings team in 22 years to miss the playoffs?" line of inquiry:
"It's something to (think about) when you are done playing," Zetterberg said.
But Zetterberg added "you don't want to be part of the team when the streak is done," and he and his teammates took steps to avoid that when they downed the Phoenix Coyotes 4-0 Monday to strengthen their playoff hopes.
The Red Wings remain in ninth place, but if they win their final three games against the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars, they would extend the playoff appearance streak to 22 seasons.
"The only thing we really care about is getting into the playoffs," Zetterberg said. "And we would have the same feeling if we hadn't made it last year."
Superstitious, much? Yes, actually:
It was the first time in a month that the team had scored as many as four goals in a game. The Red Wings have struggled to score of late.
"Let's not jinx anything," said Red Wings forward Dan Cleary. "It was obviously a good sign."
After the morning skate, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff asked Babcock about the team's playoff streak, and during a season of less than stock answers from the coach, Babcock offered a still-surprising answer given that he's the president of the team-first fan club (Duff posted oodles of Twitter-based quotes, too):
“I’ve always said it’s my birthday on April 29,” said Babcock, who turns 50 that day.
His Wings kept their Stanley Cup playoff hopes solidly alive with a resounding 4-0 defeat of the Phoenix Coyotes Monday at Joe Louis Arena.
“When you’re playing hockey on my birthday that normally means you’re in the second round of the playoffs,” Babcock said. “This year if you’re playing hockey on my birthday it’s a good thing, too.”
“The reality is the streak’s important because it’s impossible to do,” Babcock said. “All you’ve got to do is look at pro sports, it’s impossible. You didn’t know if could keep the thing going but we’ve been able to maintain it. Now, here we are, we’ve got three games left to keep it going.”
I don't remember him saying that before, but Duff spoke to some younger members of the team about said streak after the game, too:
“Everyone knows what’s at stake,” said Detroit rookie forward Gustav Nyquist, who was still in diapers the last time the Stanley Cup tournament was held and Detroit didn’t earn an invitation in 1989-90.
“We all know the position we’re in and obviously as a hockey player you want to be in a position where you control your own destiny,” said Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader, who like Nyquist was diaper-bound the last time Detroit failed to earn a spot in post-season play.
“We feel like we’ve played some really good hockey against some good teams, but at the same time we haven’t been playing really good hockey against some of the not great teams if you look at the standings,” Detroit defenceman Niklas Kronwall said. “We have to do a lot better to get points on a nightly basis. We’re in the standings where we’re at for a reason. We have to live in the now and make sure to find a way through it.”
As of the middle of the night, MLive's Ansar Khan's quote-less recap is all that's available from him, so we'll go with some "just the facts" stats...
The Red Wings (50 points) trail Columbus by one point in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Detroit still has one game in hand on the Blue Jackets.
The Red Wings opened a two-point lead on Dallas (both teams have three games remaining) and a four-point cushion on the Coyotes, who are just about out of it.
Brunner made it 2-0 with 36 seconds remaining in the period, firing in a pass from Zetterberg. It was Brunner's 12th goal, just his second in his past 22 games, however.
Filppula added to the lead at 16:09 of the second period, taking a pass from Zetterberg and firing in a shot from a sharp angle. It was his eighth goal, his first in eight games.
Franzen has five goals in his past five games and 12 for the season.
Which isn't a big deal given that three "Spirit of the Thing" articles hit the wires, and the Detroit News's Bob Wojnowski rather elegantly tossed around legacies and no-frills facts...
Have fans and players been spoiled by the Wings' postseason birthright? Sure. But the best time to stop taking something for granted is when it's in danger. Howard has played well, but two huge mistakes in a loss at Calgary hurt. Not shaken up, he stirred it up and kept his team in this one. The Coyotes carried the action for stretches and outshot the Wings, 34-22, but Howard sprawled to make terrific saves.
These Wings aren't nearly good enough to revisit the glory years of 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008, but there's no sense going all the way back to 1990, the last time they failed to make the playoffs. It's the longest streak in professional sports and it's worth fighting for, even literally. In the third period, Justin Abdelkader tangled with big Shane Doan, and while the scuffle was brief, it hit the mark.
Detroit practically eliminated Phoenix from playoff contention, and with two more home games against Los Angeles and Nashville, the Wings control their fate. Who cares if they'd probably face the bullish Blackhawks in the first round. What are the chances they could stun Chicago? Not very good, but I know they're better than 0.5 percent. That's approximately their odds of winning the NHL draft lottery, which includes all 14 non-playoff teams for the first time this year.
Besides, draft-order jockeying is a bit beneath the Wings, who have been humbled plenty. For all the big games here, this was an odd one, but it also should be invigorating for a team in transition. The Wings aren't the elite skilled group of their recent past, and you can see it in their shootout woes and inability to score. They began the week needing a four-game winning streak to ensure a playoff berth, but haven't won more than three in a row all year.
As the old saying goes, what doesn't kill your playoff chances only makes you stronger, right? Uh, yeah. Especially if Howard does what opposing goalies have done to the Wings and steal a few games. Zetterberg called Howard the team MVP, and the Wings backed it up with the recent six-year contract.
Asked if Howard can carry this team, Babcock's answer was short.
"He has to," Babcock said. "It's not about 'can.' He has to."
And what does Zetterberg have to say to motivate the "kids?"
"I don't have to say that much," Zetterberg said. "They're playing in playoff games right now."
The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa addressed the contributions of said "kids"...
Mike Babcock says it is the players, not him, who decide by their performance who plays. And so with Dan DeKeyser and Brendan Smith in the lineup and veteran late-season performers like Ian White and Carlo Colaiacovo out, it appears that DeKeyser and Smith's foot speed and quick puck movement trumped the veterans.
Jakub Kindl is a fixture. Joakim Andersson is out there constantly and responsibly, along with Gustav Nyquist and, of course, Damien Brunner, whose late first-period goal against the Coyotes Monday was critical to the big victory. Cory Emmerton almost seems like the old guard at this point.
Back in the pre-salary cap days, when Mike and Marian Ilitch were free to spend and Scotty Bowman scoured the Social Security lists for defensemen and spare forwards to add some seasoning, dressing such youth would have seemed seditious. Now, it might be the best thing the Red Wings accomplish this season.
For the Wings management to get this roster properly restocked, they need to know what their prospects can do. And doing it with intense pressure pumped into the situation, is a different, prime sort of "doing it," and all the more welcome. It also might engender some long term benefit. If management accomplishes the turnaround, it will be good to know guys like Andersson, DeKeyser, Emmerton, Kindl, Nyquist and Smith have appeared in games like they are playing this week.
Perhaps that is why Babcock and general manager Ken Holland seem so genuinely upbeat about their team, even as it labors mightily to finish eighth.
"I think it's fun to be in big games because players get to tell you how hard they compete, how much drive-train they have," Babcock said. "And, to me, those things all come in front of skill, this time of year. I'm excited to see how we do here."
And the Detroit Free Press's Jeff Seidel offered a take that may very well sum things up perfectly:
Wham! There was Justin Abdelkader smashing a Coyote into the boards.
What! There was Pavel Datsyuk, getting all physical. Pavel Datsyuk?
Wow. This really is fun.
“It felt like a playoff type game,” Abdelkader said. “Obviously, we know what’s on the line. They were only two points behind us. It was an intense game out there. Both teams obviously wanted the points.”
The Wings have 50 points, one behind eighth-place Columbus in the Western Conference. But the Wings have three games remaining, and the Blue have just two games. So it’s simple: If the Wings win, they are in.
The Wings play the Kings on Wednesday. The Predators on Thursday. And the Stars on Saturday.
“We have to take it one game at a time,” Abdelkader said, pulling out one of the most overused clichés in sports.
Only this time, it sounded totally fitting. One game at a time.
“We can’t look too far ahead,” Abdelkader said, pulling out another one, just to be safe.
Seidel continues, as does Krupa, and so does Wojnowski, but I'm gonna spare you long-form George and state something really plainly:
This morning, it feels good to know that the Wings secured themselves and their fans a little hope, if only for one morning. I can only cross my fingers and pray to the hockey gods that you and I feel the same way on Thursday morning, and that's as far as I'm gonna go in the, "Pondering our tomorrows" department for today.
Highlights: TSN posted a 1:17 highlight clip;
NBC Sports posted a 1:41 highlight clip;
And the Red Wings website's highlight clip is narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond:
Post-game: Before the game, WXYZ's Brad Galli spoke to the Wings' players and coach about their tenuous playoff footing:
Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted clips of Henrik Zetterberg...
And Jimmy Howard speaking to the media:
Fox Sports Detroit posted clips of Zetterberg, Howard, coach Mike Babcock and forward Valtteri Filppula speaking to the media...
Via RedWingsFeed, Fox Sports' YouTube channel posted Jimmy Howard's interview with Trevor Thompson...
And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Jimmy Howard...
And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media:
Photos: The Detroit News posted an 18-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 23-image gallery, including the following:
The Arizona Republic posted a 13-image gallery;
MLive posted a 9-image gallery;
The Windsor Star posted, uh, 2 images from the game;
Yahoo Sports posted 9 images from the game in its Wings gallery;
ESPN posted a 35-image gallery;
And then there's this:
Shots 34-23 Phoenix overall. Detroit was out-shot 12-4 in the 1st period, out-shot Phoenix 12-10 in the 2nd and were out-shot 12-7 in the 3rd.
The Wings went 3-for-5 in 6:34 of PP time; the Coyotes went 0-for-4 in 8:00 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 34 of 34 shots; Mike Smith stopped 19 of 22; the Wings' last goal was an empty-netter.
The 3 stars were picked by the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, and he picked Jimmy Howard, Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner, in ascending order.
Faceoffs 28-27 Phoenix (Detroit won 49%);
Blocked shots 11-9 Detroit;
Missed shots 16-10 Detroit (total attempts 55-48 Phoenix, with the Wings firing 23 shots on the Coyotes' net and another 25 wide or into Coyotes players);
Hits 31-21 Phoenix;
Giveaways 15-2 Detroit--12 occurred in the 1st period;
Takeaways 4-3 Detroit.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 9-and-8 (53%); Filppula went 8-and-8 (50%); Andersson went 7-and-6 (54%); Emmerton went 1-and-4 (20%); Franzen went 2-and-1 (67%); Zetterberg lost his only faceoff
Shots: Franzen led the Wings with 4 shots; Abdelkader, Zetterberg and Filppula had 3; Nyquist, Brunner and Andersson had 2; Datsyuk and Eaves had 1.
Blocked attempts: Filppula and Kronwall hit Coyotes players 2 times; Abdelkader, Cleary, Brunner, Emmerton and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Abdelkader missed the net 3 times; Datsyuk, Brunner and Andersson missed the net 2 times; Smith, Cleary, Nyquist, Eaves, Quincey, Filppula and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader led the team with 6 hits; Datsyuk and Quincey had 3; Cleary and Zetterberg had 2; Smith, Tootoo, Filppula, Ericsson and Andersson had 1.
Giveaways: Franzen had 3 giveaways; Filppula and Smith had 2; Cleary, Datsyuk, Nyquist, eaves, Brunner, Zetterberg, Ericsson and DeKeyser had 1.
Takeaways: Kindl, Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Nyquist had takeaways.
Blocked opponent shots: Kindl, Ericsson, Kronwall, DeKeyser and Franzen blocked 2 shots; Cleary blocked 1.
Penalty minutes: Smith and Cleary took 2 minor penalties; Abdelkader took 1 minor penalty.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +5. Cleary, Datsyuk, Ericsson, Kronwall and Franzen finished at +1.
Points: Zetterberg had 3 assists; Franzen had 2 goals; Kronwall had 2 assists; Brunner had a goal and an assist; Filppula scored a goal; Ericsson had an assist.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 23:22 played; Quincey played 20:25; Ericsson played 20:09;
Datsyuk played 20:07; Zetterberg played 19:25; Franzen played 19:05;
DeKeyser played 18:33; Filppula played 17:49; Smith played 17:21;
Kindl played 17:13; Andersson played 16:15; Cleary played 15:58;
Abdelkader played 15:48; Brunner played 14:15; Nyquist played 13:03;
Emmerton played 9:07; Eaves played 8:54; Tootoo played 5:11.
In the prospect department, in the OHL's Eastern Conference Finals, Andreas Athanasiou registered an assist as his Barrie Colts defeated Alan Quine's Belleville Bulls 5-4 in OT, taking a 2-1 series lead, and Quine was held off the scoresheet. Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager offers more from both sides if you're interested;
And ahead of the Grand Rapids Griffins' playoff-opener against the Houston Aeros on Friday (the Griffins' first home game will take place on May 1st), the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner penned a list of the Griffins' statistical leaders:
Goals: Landon Ferraro 24, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar 23
Assists: Gustav Nyquist 37, Chad Billins, Nathan Paetsch 27
Points: Gustav Nyquist 60, Tomas Tatar 49, Landon Ferraro 47
Games: Jeff Hoggan, Chad Billins, Brendan Evans, 76
Plus-minus: Jan Mursak, 15, Adam Almquist, Nathan Paetsch 13
Penalty minutes: Triston Grant, 196, Brennan Evans 148, Mitch Callahan 93
Shooting percentage: Landon Ferraro, 15.4. Francis Pare 14.3, Riley Sheahan 13.9
Games: Petr Mrazek 42, Tom McCollum 31
Wins: Petr Mrazek 23, Tom McCollum 18
Shutouts: Tom McCollum 2, Petr Mrazek 1
Goals against average: Petr Mrazek 2.33, Tom McCollum 2.63
Save percentage: Petr Mrazek 91.6, Tom McCollum 90.4
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: Yes, Danny DeKeyser earned 42 seconds of power play time. DeKeyser hasn't surrendered his spot in the Wings' lineup, ahead of not only fellow rookie Brian Lashoff, but also Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo and Kyle Quincey (at times), and DeKeyser's addition may very well have the Wings re-thinking their blueline plans going forward.
With Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson providing top-pair defense (albeit on an overworked basis), Jakub Kindl slotting and DeKeyser slotting into the 3-4 spots, Brendan Smith earning his keep and Brian Lashoff on a one-way contract next season--and the Wings' rather desperately needing a top-pair defenseman, and the team having Kyle Quincey (1 year remaining at $3.775 million) and Carlo Colaiacovo (1 year remaining at $2.5 million) under contract for next season, the Wings may have one or two defensemen too many on the roster. After Saturday, anyway.
The Free Press's Helene St. James took note of the Wings' oodles of praise for DeKeyser, who registered 2 blocked shots and a giveaway in 18:33 of ice time (in addition to 42 seconds of PP time, he played 3:23 on the penalty-kill, and he also tipped a sure Shane Doan goal away) from his teammates and coach:
“He’s awesome,” Daniel Cleary said. “I’ve been really, really impressed with him, probably more impressed with a young player than I’ve ever been.”
DeKeyser headed into Monday night having played one of his best games yet two nights earlier in Vancouver, where he demonstrated just how confident he is at handling the puck.
“I like him when he gets it into our forwards’ hands,” coach Mike Babcock said, “but he made a few good plays in the offensive zone in Vancouver, which I wasn’t counting on. He really did a good job.”
DeKeyser has delivered beyond what the Wings hoped when they wooed him in the hopes he’d pick them after his career at Western Michigan ended last month. He joined the lineup a week after signing and has stayed in over veteran options.
“He’s made us quicker, he passes the puck good, he really skates,” Babcock said. “He’s an elite skater. Can he keep going? I mean, the hockey is pretty good this time of year, it’s not like he’s starting in exhibition. He’s starting at a good level and he’s playing well and getting better.”
DeKeyser’s poise has impressed given that he just turned 23, and hadn’t played a game of pro hockey until April 5, when he made his debut at Colorado. Fellow defenseman Jonathan Ericsson remembers when he made the jump to the NHL. “You get better help out there from all your teammates,” he said, “but on the other hand, it’s a lot quicker. You don’t have time to make a play. You have to think quicker. Confidence is a big part of it.”
So far, so good...
And the Red Wings' other top defensive prospect told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that he's well aware that Saturday's match-up against the Stars and his brother Reilly may end up determining the Wings' playoff fate:
No one is looking ahead too far, especially the Smith brothers — Red Wings defenseman Brendan or Stars forward Reilly. But they have peeked.
After all, there's a chance Saturday's game in Dallas between their teams could be winner in, loser go home when it comes to the playoffs.
"It could be a huge game for us," Brendan Smith said after Monday's morning skate. "We've done a little chirping if one of us loses. He might say a little something like we aren't going to make it (the playoffs) for a 22nd (consecutive) time We're so competitive, neither one of us wants to lose."
But, first things first.
"It's a rush (thinking of what the game could be), but what I'm really thinking about is these next few games," Brendan Smith said. "But in the back of your mind, it could come down to that game against my little brother."
Kulfan offers more notes as well...
Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner wrote something of what I hope is a prescient column about the Wings' equalizer in the net given the team's lack of secondary scoring:
This is Howard’s week. Detroit’s goalie has been solid most of this season, but his lapses in concentration and inability to steal a shootout have made it imperative that he plays the best hockey of his life beginning Monday night against Phoenix.
Howard needs to play at a level that we haven't witnessed. He cannot be simply good or very good; he must be great.
It’s not a secret that Howard plays the one position that can influence the outcome of a game more than any other on the ice. He must emerge as an elite-level goalie this week, whether it's back-to-back shutouts, a goals-against average of under 1.00 or a game-winning save in OT or a shootout.
Howard is intensely competitive, and if you measured success with how a player feels, he’d be a superstar. But success is not judged on how you feel; it’s judged on what you do.
And Jimmy Howard needs to do more.
In other news, EA Sports' NHL 14 Cover Vote has begun with a slate of player-versus-player knock-offs this week (i.e. there are 60 representatives who may end up on the cover, 2 from each team, and this week's about pitting teammates against each other, with Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk vying to be the Wings' cover representative).
I'm no fan of the NHL's "fan" votes as the fact that voters have to register does little to nothing to dissuade the computer-savvy from ballot-stuffing, but Yahoo Sports' Greg "Puck Daddy" Wyshynski breaks down the "brackets" for you if you're interested, and Michigan Hockey's Shaved Ice column offered a gallery of State of Michigan-themed NHL 14 covers;
And finally, oh boy, it's time for power rankings! ESPN's Scott Burnside stated the obvious on Monday afternoon...
18.Detroit [record] Last Week: 14 The Wings have not won two in a row in almost a month. No wonder it's nervous time in Hockeytown while Detroit tries to keep its monumental playoff streak alive.
Ditto for Sportsline's Brian Stubits...
16. [Red Wings, last week 18] The pressure is mounting as the Wings remain below the playoff cut even if they have two games in hand on Columbus, one on Minnesota. Losing five of six isn't how you close when you're in ninth.
17 . Red Wings [down] 2 [highest/lowest] 9/18: The Wings could sneak into the playoffs and extend their postseason streak that began during the 1990-91 season. It’s no coincidence that defenseman and former captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who retired before the season, was around for the final 20 of that 21-season streak
The Wings didn't make the cut in NHL.com's Dave Lozo's "Super 16," either.
Update: Fox 2's Jennifer Hammond spoke to Daniel Cleary, Jimmy Howard, Henrik Zetterberg and Mike Babcock after the game:
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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.