The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/28/13 at 05:14 AM ET
Attempting to jam as much as possible into the Red Wings-Blackhawks recaps and multimedia posts yields some strange decisions for a very tired blogger who's been working since the game ended and finds himself with "tailings" and notebooks written just before the game to sort out at 4 in the frickin' morning.
I don't need the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Potash to remind me that the Hawks and Wings are playing tight-checking hockey, the Free Press's George Sipple's note that Bryan Bickell will be an unrestricted free agent for a team in some cap trouble doesn't ease the pain of watching him score another goal against the team I cheer for, and talk about the Wings insisting that they weren't going to waste Game 6's advantage in terms of being able to take out the Hawks without having to endure a winner-take-all Game 7, or being reminded that the Wings and Hawks' star players had been kept in check after Jonathan Toews registered two assists makes me cringe (and no, I don't feel much sympathy for a rejuvenated Team Canada hopeful in Brent Seabrook).
So we're going to start a "Wings-Hawks Game 6 tailings edition" with a story about a chain of fireworks stores outside Chicago and a long road trip from somebody who's put in his share of miles over the playoffs in the Sporting News's Jesse Spector. This has nothing to do with anything but it being 4 in the morning and having sympathy for a fellow grinder-outer:
As of 2008, there were 340 billboards for Krazy Kaplan's. Today, it seemed like that was just the total for any given mile-long stretch of highway. There were certain points along the road where six billboards were visible and five of them were promoting Krazy Kaplan's. They are located off Exits 1, 3 and 5, and depending upon which billboard you see, they offer 3-for-1 specials, and buy-one-get-six-free deals. That's crazy... or Krazy.
What also probably seems crazy is that I drove from Chicago to Detroit after spending Sunday night in Massachusetts, but that's also reality. I knew even before the Blackhawks won Game 6 on Monday that I would be going back to Chicago, either for Game 7 or for a postmortem on the Presidents' Trophy winners, so that's where I flew to pick up a rental car. It was a roundabout way to get from the home of Plymouth Rock to the home of the Plymouth Valiant, but it was going to be a good adventure, and I was up for it.
What I did not know was that the connecting flight from Minneapolis to Chicago would be delayed, resulting in a race against the clock to get to Joe Louis Arena before the puck dropped. Moments after I got to the Indiana-Michigan border, it started raining, and when I got to Kalamazoo, it really started pouring. It was going to be close, but I had about a 15-minute buffer by the time I got to Jackson, according to GPS data.
The advent of the GPS makes traveling alone a little more interesting, because you're always racing at least a little bit against the machine's projection for your time of arrival. Damn if some robot with space technology is going to tell me when I'm getting where I'm going. And, in this case, damn indeed, because about 10 miles from the arena, another machine had something to say about arrival time, that being the gas gauge on the Nissan Versa, which it turns out has just enough of a tank to get from O'Hare Airport to Joe Louis Arena, but who knows where there's a gas station near the rink that's open postgame? Not me.
So, there went the 10-minute buffer, although it was a blessing in disguise because the gas station had an ATM and I thought to myself, I have no idea where the media parking lot is at this arena, and I might have to pay for parking.
The Red Wings charge $15 to park for a playoff game, which is only $8 more than it cost the other day to leave my car at the Braintree garage to take the train into Boston for Game 5 of Bruins-Rangers. That's crazy.
Or Krazy. But that's what the playoffs are all about. I'll be back on the road in just a few hours, back to Chicago like I always knew I would be. The Red Wings will be there soon as they get ready for Game 7. If they'd like to do a little fireworks shopping along the way, I know a place.
Red Bird III remained nestled in its hangar at Metro Airport on Monday night, and from the Wings' post-game comments made on Fox Sports Detroit and 97.1 FM, it sounded like the team might hold an optional skate this morning, but will more likely watch some video, chat with the media that remained in Metro Detroit instead of scrambling to find flights, hotel accommodations and rental cars in Chicago for the next two-and-a-half days...
And if we are to believe both the Twitter scuttlebutt and Fox Sports Detroit's Ken Daniels' estimations during the FSD post-game show, the Wings will head to Chicago with their bags packed for a long road trip, because the NHL has supposedly decided to place the Eastern Conference Final between the Bruins and Penguins in its coveted Saturday night TV spot, requiring the winner of Game 7 to play in either San Jose or Los Angeles on Friday.
Speaking of broadcast news, the Free Press's Steve Schrader offered an Octopus Garden's worth of quips and quotes from the CBC and NBCSN broadcast of last night's game:
■ NBCSN’s Doc Emrick, with an octo-fact: “Al Sobotka clarified something today. The Department of Natural Resources says they can no longer walk across and deposit the octopi in the river, so the facts have gotten in the way of a good story. Oh, it’s the government.”
■ NBCSN’s Pierre McGuire, eavesdropping on the Wings’ bench late in the first period: “Mike Babcock very upset with his team right now. First time I’ve heard that in this series. ‘Too soft on the puck,’ he’s telling them, ‘Too soft in all the key areas. Start pushing back.’ ”
■ Brandon Inge, in town with the Pirates, redeemed himself. Inge, photographed last week in Penguins gear, was caught in the crowd by NBCSN’s cameras in a Wings jersey. His manager, Big Rapids native Clint Hurdle, went neutral with a Hawaiian shirt.
■ Olczyk, setting up a replay: “Our Crown Royal robo cam, Kronwall makes a heck of a play on Patrick Kane. Say that three times fast, Kronwall and Crown Royal.”
The Free Press is also holding a bracket-based contest in which readers will determine who is Michigan's best sports announcer.
In stories regarding Red Wings players, the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted that Jimmy Howard and Justin Abdelkader's 2013 regular season and post-season play may have placed them in contention for spots on the 2014 U.S. Olympic hockey team:
The play of Jimmy Howard and Justin Abdelkader has not only helped the Detroit Red Wings advance through the playoffs, it has also raised their chances of making the United States Olympic hockey team.
“It only can help him,” Abdelkader said of Howard. “He played good over there for us and he's played great here.”
Howard and Abdelkader both played for the United States in last year’s World Championships after they were eliminated in the first round by the Nashville Predators. Heading into Monday’s game, Howard had a 2.36 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.
“He's definitely making his case of why should be in serious consideration,” Abdelkader said. “He's a world class goalie and he's been there all year for us.”
Abdelkader’s play on the Wings’ top line has also aided his chances. Abdelkader had two goals and one assist through 10 games.
“I hope so,” Abdelkader said when asked if he thought he had a chance to make the team. “I guess we'll find out. We're less than a year out. I'm just trying to improve every day. That would be great to get an opportunity.”
I've made no bones about the fact that I'm a Joakim Andersson fan, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan offered a profile of "Andy" that compliments the Free Press's Helene St. James' story about the knuckleball-shot-firing, hard-checking rookie forward:
Andersson's promotion from Grand Rapids helped stabilize the third line, and indirectly the lineup. Andersson played 38 games with the Red Wings, with three goals and five assists, and a plus-2 rating. Heading into Game 6, Andersson had four assists and was plus-1 through 12 playoff games, while [Gustav] Nyquist and ]Damien] Brunner scored winning overtime goals in the Anaheim series, and have combined for three goals in the Chicago series (Brunner with two).
"It took a couple of games before we settled and found the chemistry," Andersson said.
Andersson is comfortable playing with the faster wingers.
"I don't have that kind of skill and don't have that kind of speed," Andersson said. "I have the hockey sense and with those guys, that's probably why the coach put me in that spot. My mind is at the same level as they are."
Playing with skilled wingers such as Nyquist and Brunner isn't new to Andersson. Coming up in the Swedish junior leagues, Andersson played on scoring lines with offensive players, and for the last two seasons in Grand Rapids, Andersson and Nyquist have been paired.
"I've always been playing with speedy, skilled players," Andersson said. "I enjoy it. They want to play hockey with the puck and I do as well. But at the same time, when we do, I have to be smart and be on the other side of everything."
As Pierre McGuire of all people noted on Monday evening, Andersson also spent two years with the Swedish Eliteserien's Frolunda Indians, and Frolunda's considered one of Sweden's hockey powerhouses, so he'd already played two years of professional hockey prior to his 2-and-change years playing for the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.
Jonathan Toews sat in a weary but victorious Chicago Blackhawks dressing room late Monday night, quiet except for the din of interviews and unspooling hockey tape. I asked if he knew how long it had been since the National Hockey League witnessed the occasion his team earned – a Game 7 between the Blackhawks and their Original Six rival Detroit Red Wings.
“No,” Toews replied. “How long? Do you know?”
1965, I told him.
“Oooh,” he answered, with a whoosh of air that conveyed three emotions:
1. I’m tired.
2. That’s a really long time ago.
3. This is going to be fun.
Fans from every country, province and state – except Michigan – may rightly view the Blackhawks’ 4-3 win in Game 6 as a parting gift straight from the hockey gods. The Red Wings will (happily) take leave of the Western Conference next season, reducing their travel significantly while enabling them to renew divisional acquaintances with their Original Six brethren in Toronto, Montreal and Boston.
Detroit assistant captain Niklas Kronwall stood in a somber dressing room after the defeat, lamenting the chances his team gave away. “We started making plays we normally don’t,” he said. “We made it hard on ourselves for a few minutes.” Still, he managed a modest grin when asked about the opportunity before his team Wednesday at the United Center.
“It’s special,” Kronwall said. “Original Six. The history and tradition behind it. To win tonight would have been even better, but now we’re in this situation. We’ve done it before. We played at Anaheim in Game 7. We played well. We were able to grind one out. We can do it again.”Told how long it had been since the last Game 7 between the teams, Kronwall sighed affably and said, “Oh, there you go. It’s been a while. It’s meant to be, huh?
The NHL's Red Wings-Hawks series blog took note of the Wings' "looking forward" post-game comments as well:
"If I would have told our whole team before this series, if I would have told Detroit, Michigan before this series, that we were going to be playing Chicago in Game 7, I think everyone would have been pretty excited about that," Babcock said Monday night, after it was made necessary. "I love Game 7s. I'm excited about it. We've got a chance to push them out of the playoffs -- should be a lot of fun."
"We just have to go to Chicago and play a good game," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg told Fox Sports Detroit. "As I said before, in the first series, it's not often you have a chance to play in Game 7. We're going to regroup here, we're going to stick together, we're going to come out and play a good game, and it's going to be a lot of fun."
The Red Wings also faced a string of must-win games to end the regular season, winning four in a row to secure a playoff berth.
"I think everything we've gone through this year has made us stronger and better," Zetterberg said. "It's not the first time now we're going to play a Game 7. We've done it already."
Detroit almost avoided the task, building a 2-1 lead halfway through Game 6. But Chicago scored 51 seconds into the third period to tie it, took a 3-2 lead five minutes later, and added an insurance goal on a penalty shot four minutes after that.
"It doesn't feel that good right now," Zetterberg said. "We played an all right game. We were up 2-1 after two, and they scored two quick ones there at the start of the third, and then they got that penalty shot. The momentum went over to their side there. I think all the way up to that I think we played a good game. I think we created a lot, and unfortunately we couldn't really stay composed there at the start of the third."
They must regain that composure in order to finish an upset of the Presidents' Trophy-winning home team on Wednesday.
"I think we are looking forward to the challenge, and just have to go and play a good game," Zetterberg said.
I hope so.
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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.