The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/12/14 at 03:08 AM ET
We've been looking at the standings since the tenth of never, it seems, so we may as well give 'em another glance after the Red Wings dropped a 2-1 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes in their regular-season home finale:
The Blue Jackets--who will end the year with more wins and more regulation-or-OT wins than the Red Wings no matter what happens--dropped a 3-2 decision to Tampa Bay, and they battle the Panthers on Saturday, but things get complicated from there:
The Blue Jackets and Red Wings are also tied with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Metropolitan Division's 3rd-place team, the Philadelphia Flyers, who also have 81 points, but 41 wins to Columbus' 42 and 38 regulation-or-OT wins to Columbus' 37.
If Philly loses their Saturday game against Pittsburgh and their Sunday game against the Hurricanes, and the Blue Jackets win Saturday, Columbus could still pass Philadelphia to earn 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division.
More than anything else, if the Wings want to earn that 1st Wild Card seed (and yes, the Bruins and Penguins' respective press corps are already sizing up the Wings), they need Columbus to lose on Saturday and the Wings need to win in St. Louis on Sunday--and the Blues and Avs are battling for home ice in the Central Division.
Worse, the Blues lost 5-0 to the Dallas Stars on Friday, and they're rather pissed off after having dropped 5 straight games--though they're also banged-up something terrible--so the Wings will have their hands full on Sunday...
When the game begins at 11:30 AM local time (12:30 PM EDT on NBC), and the Wings will be wrapping up a slate of 4 games in 6 nights and 7 in 12 days.
As for Friday night's game, did anybody have fun? The fans who got to interact with the players after the game most certainly did...
And DetroitRedWings.com's Andrea Nelson found that the Wings are genuinely grateful for their fans' support:
“I’ve always felt like ever since I got here that we have the best fans in the league,” said defenseman Niklas Kronwall. “Without our fans, we wouldn’t be much. And their support this year especially, we have had our ups and downs with all the injuries with all the injuries and things like that. It’s been great to feel the support from the fans whether that’s here at the game, people at home watching, if you go around town people are saying positive things. It means a lot and of course we appreciate them very much because we wouldn’t be much without them.”
Kronwall’s thoughts were echoed by every player in Detroit’s dressing room, including Gustav Nyquist.
“They’re always great here,” Nyquist said. “Every game I’ve played in this building has been great, it’s been a great atmosphere and you know we’re real lucky to have fans like this to support us no matter what and no matter how we’ve played. They showed that this year. We had a little bit of a losing streak at home I think earlier in the season, we’ve gotten better at home so it’s nice to see the crowd really sticking up for us.”
To celebrate the evening, the organization gave away hundreds of prizes to fans attending the game and following both the exclusive Fox Sports Detroit broadcast and Detroit’s social media channels. The giveaways included two 10-game plans, a preseason suite night, penalty box visits, Zamboni rides and a tour of the Fox Sports Detroit Call Sam Studio and broadcast truck during the upcoming 2014-15 season. Additional prizes such as a 60-inch television, an Xbox 360 gaming system, complete 2013-14 bobblehead sets and autographed copies of the limited-edition book “Five: A Salute to Nicklas Lidstrom.”
Along with the giveaways, 23 lucky fans were selected to take part in a post-game ceremony on the ice to receive a signed, game-used stick as well as a photo with that player.
“That was great, another chance to meet some of our season ticket holders and interact with them, take some pictures and have a brief chat with him,” Kronwall said. “Their support is very important for us.”
The Hurricanes had all the fun during the game, however, snapping a remarkably long streak of winless hockey at Joe Louis Arena, as Reuters' recap noted:
The Hurricanes lost 5-2 to the Washington Capitals on Thursday night in Carolina's final home contest of the season.
"Was kind of disgusted with our performance last night and wanted to play a better game," said Hurricanes center Elias Lindholm, who scored the winning goal.
It was the franchise's first win in Detroit since Nov. 14, 1989, when they were the Hartford Whalers.
"That's funny. We had an optional game-day skate and (assistant coach) Rod Brind'Amour told us about that," Ward said. "You feel good that we were able to erase that record and come up with a win."
The Red Wings had already clinched their 23rd consecutive playoff appearance.
Left winger Jiri Tlusty scored for Carolina (35-35-11).
"It was a sound effort. We needed to respond after the way we lost last night," Hurricanes captain Eric Staal said.
The Hurricanes' website went with a funky infographic in lieu of a recap (click to embiggen)...
And, strangely enough, the Canes' press corps chose to stay home, so NHL.com's Brian Hedger's recap will provide the balance of the Canes' takes on the game:
It was the franchise's first regular-season victory in the Motor City since beating the Red Wings 3-0 on Nov. 14, 1989, as the Hartford Whalers. Detroit had won 16 regular-season home games to go with one tie against the Hurricanes/Whalers franchise since.
"Wow, that's pretty cool," said Carolina forward Jiri Tlusty, whose goal at 18:24 of the first period ended up as the game-winner. "That's unbelievable, the stats, how far back they go, but we don't look behind us. It was just a good feeling for the group of guys we have in the dressing room. We stuck together, we played the right way as a team and we finished the game with two points."
Elias Lindholm scored the first goal for Carolina (35-35-11), which concludes its regular season Sunday at the Philadelphia Flyers. Ward picked up the win in his fourth start in the Hurricanes' past 10 games.
"It's a big win for us," Ward said. "Obviously, it would be nicer if we were talking like we were in the playoffs, but we weren't very pleased with the way we finished out last home game [Thursday] night, and it was important for us to rebound and put in a strong effort and be a professional about it."
Detroit was called for too many men on the ice to set up a Carolina power play, and Lindholm made the Red Wings pay on the Hurricanes' third shot of the game. Andrei Loktionov fed a pass down the left wing in the offensive zone to Lindholm, who did the rest at the left side of the net. After Howard slid over to cut off the short-side angle, Lindholm lifted a wrist shot to the far side that traveled just over the Detroit goalie's glove into the net for his ninth goal.
"I saw the [defenseman] was pretty high, so [Loktionov] made a pretty good play, and I just tried to put it at the net," Lindholm said. "It was good to see it go in. Usually, it's pretty closed on the [closest post], so usually I try to go far side. Luckily, it went in."
"I'm really pleased with our effort," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "Apparently, it's been a while since our franchise has won in Detroit, but it started with [Ward] making some great saves, and we really had just a hard-working team effort. It was a well-deserved [win] for us."
The AP's recap will shift our perspectives from those of the Hurricanes to those of the Red Wings' players and coach--and they weren't a cheery bunch:
After clinching a 23rd straight postseason appearance earlier in the week, the Red Wings lost a regular-season home game to the Carolina franchise for the first time since 1989, falling 2-1 to the Hurricanes on Friday night.
"You can't be satisfied," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "We want to get to the next spot -- see how high we can get in the standings before we start the playoffs."
"Their goaltender was good, but we didn't play right. When you don't play hard enough, you don't play right, you don't win," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "At one point we had a 4-on-3, they had a 3-on-1, we had a 3-on-2. That's not how we play. That's river hockey. That's not how we're going to have success."
Sheahan finally jammed the puck past Ward on a power play with 16:17 to play, but Ward made a fine pad save on Abdelkader with about 9:30 remaining, thwarting a 2-on-1 by Detroit and keeping the Hurricanes ahead.
Darren Helm's impressive open-ice move also went for naught when Ward stopped him in close.
"He's playing great and he's healthy," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "When he plays like that, you can see he's an elite goaltender."
"Looked like a little hangover from making the playoffs," Johan Franzen said. "That's what it was. We had enough chances to win, but we didn't really do all the small things right, like we've been doing to win all the games."
The Wings remain in the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Columbus also lost to stay at 91 points, but the Blue Jackets have the tiebreaker by virtue of more regulation or overtime wins. The Wings can do no better than a wild-card spot, which will pit them opposite either Boston or Pittsburgh in the first round.
There's strong belief within the locker room that the Wings are capable of doing damage in the playoffs, Friday's performance notwithstanding. Coach Mike Babcock didn't like it, but tried to find an upside.
"We weren't good enough," he said. "We had tons of chances, our goaltender was good, but we didn't play right. And when you don't play hard enough, you don't play right, and you don't win. I was disappointed in the fact we didn't stick to what we've got to do to have success, but it's a good reminder for us, too."
And I believe that Franzen almost admitted that he and his teammates got too cute:
"We had a lot of chances," Franzen said, "but that last pass didn't really work out."
Sheahan scored on the Wings' next power play. Tomas Jurco ripped a shot on net, where Sheahan was stationed. He hustled for the puck and knocked it past Ward, setting off a third period that saw the Wings outshoot the Hurricanes, 9-4. Ten minutes passed before Howard made his first save of the period.
The game was a blemish on what has otherwise been a stellar stretch for the Wings. "Hopefully," Franzen said, "we can get ourselves back together here and start playing the way we want."
Pavel Datsyuk wasn't impressed with his or his teammates' play, either, as he told Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji...
"Of course, we need to score," Datsyuk said. "We need to work on it. We have one more game and a few practice, maybe we work on it because every chance counts in the playoffs."
The Wings had two uncharacteristic too-many-men-on the-ice penalties and failed to bury pucks in open nets, both indications they weren't quite themselves.
"If you do good things, good things happen," Babcock said. "If you don't, you turn the puck over -- I don't know how many times -- needlessly."
Despite Friday night's misstep, the Wings still believe they're the team that fought for the playoffs and can do some damage no matter which opponent they face.
"The way we've been playing down the stretch, I think any team that plays us has to worry about how to beat us so that's a good thing," Franzen said. "We're gonna try to do what we've been doing but step it up one notch -- go a little bit faster and a little bit better."
And the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
“We tried to play well but maybe, a little bit, we were thinking about playoffs,” Pavel Datsyuk said. “(We were) a step away.”
Who noted that the Wings' other leaders weren't happy with the way they played at all:
“You can’t be satisfied,” said Niklas Kronwall, who agreed it could been a hangover from Wednesday’s emotional playoff-clincher. “I didn’t think we played very good through two periods. There was way too much up and down (the ice) and we’re not going to win many games playing like that. That’s not the way we want to be playing.”
Being Friday’s game was Fan Appreciation Night, it wasn’t the greatest way to end what had been an exciting home season, especially the second half of the schedule as the Red Wings charged into the playoffs.
“As a group we weren’t good enough plain and simple,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t have any intensity through two periods. In reality, we weren’t good enough. We had tons of chances but their goalie (Cam Ward) was good. We didn’t play right, and you don’t play hard enough, you don’t win.”
Babcock went several steps further while speaking with CBS Detroit's Ashley Dunkak:
Veteran Johan Franzen suggested the team suffered from a hangover effect after sealing its spot in the postseason. Niklas Kronwall agreed with that assertion, and so did head coach Mike Babcock. Though none of them condoned the letdown, they all recognized the possible cause.
“No question. You might even expect it, but to me, that’s not an excuse,” Babcock said. “We have a good enough team to win tonight. We’ve just got to play right. At one point I said to the guys in the second period, we had a four-on-three, they had a three-on-one, we had a three-on-two, that’s not how we play. That’s river hockey. That’s a different time. That’s not how we’re going to have success. I was disappointed in the fact that we didn’t stick to what we have to do to have success, but it’s a good reminder for us too.
“We turned the puck over I don’t know how many times, and needlessly, for no reason,” Babcock continued. “In the end, their goaltender [Cam Ward] was really good, and we didn’t make it hard enough for him. We didn’t have enough net presence and second chances, and then just intensity. We had wide-open nets to shoot in. If you’re focused and you’re dialed in, you shoot it in the net.”
“I didn’t think it was like we play,” Babcock said. “I thought we didn’t have that much intensity through two periods. I thought we had a good push, but reality is we weren’t good enough. I mean we had tons of chances, our goaltender was good, but we didn’t play right, and when you don’t play hard enough and you don’t play right, you don’t win. As a group, we weren’t good enough. That’s plain and simple.”
The Red Wings won five of their six games between March 29 and April 8, but Friday’s loss was their second consecutive defeat. The Red Wings play their final regular season game Sunday on the road against the St. Louis Blues.“We’ve been on a pretty good roll here lately, last few weeks we’ve been getting better, but I thought today we kind of took a little bit of a step back, so we’ll just forget about this one,” Gustav Nyquist said. “We turned the puck over way too many times, didn’t take care of the puck enough, didn’t get it deep. We had some chances, but we could have created more, I think, if we took care of the puck a little bit better, so we’ll forget about this one and move on to Sunday.”
Nyquist continued while speaking with Michigan Hockey's Stefan Kubus...
“I thought we turned the puck over way too many times, didn’t take care of the puck enough, didn’t get it deep,” Gustav Nyquist said after the game. “We had some chances, but we could’ve created more if we took care of the puck better.”
Drew Miller concurred with Nyquist, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted:
“I think we’ve been playing playoff type hockey to get ourselves in,” Drew Miller said. “It’s not really the time we shouldn’t be playing the way we should.”
With at least a point Friday Detroit would have vaulted in front of Columbus for the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference after the Blue Jackets fell to Tampa Bay.
In order to garner that spot now, the Wings need to beat St. Louis on Sunday and have Philadelphia get no more than one point in its last two games and have the Blue Jackets do the same in their final game.
Franzen told Pleiness that it comes down to details at this time of year...
“We had enough chances to win, but we didn’t really do all the small things like we’ve been doing to win all the games,” Franzen said. “We were a little loose. It happens. You don’t want to play like that. We don’t want to exchange chances like that, going up and down. We don’t want to play that type of game. It is what it is. Try to win the next one.”
“I didn’t think we played very good for the first two periods,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Way too much up and down, up and down. We’re not going to win a lot of games playing like that. That’s not the way we want to be playing and that’s not why we made the playoffs.
“We need to get back to playing more solid defensively. D-men got to get the puck to the forwards and forwards got to make sure we get through the neutral zone and get the puck deep and go after them that way. I thought we started playing better in the third but we had our fair share of chances, we just couldn’t bear down when we got them.”
Post-game: If you are interested in the Canes' takes on the game, their PR website posted audio clips of comments from Cam Ward, Hampus Lindholm, Eric Staal and coach Kirk Muller, and Fox Sports Carolinas posted a post-game interview with Ward;
Fox Sports Detroit posted comments from Gustav Nyquist:
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted a clip of Pavel Datsyuk speaking with the media...
As did Michigan Hockey's Stefan Kubus:
Johan Franzen very bluntly told the Free Press's Helene St. James that the Wings displayed "playoff hangover"...
And the Red Wings' website posted comments from Nyquist (different from FSD's video)...
And coach Mike Babcock:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 22-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 24-image gallery;
ESPN posted a 31-image gallery;
Shots: 29-19 Detroit overall. Detroit out-shot Carolina 11-8 in the 1st period, 9-7 in the 2nd period and 9-4 in the 3rd period.
Special teams: Carolina went 1-for-2 in 2:41 of PP time; Detroit went 1-for-2 in 2:45 of PP time.
Goaltending: Cam Ward stopped 28 of 29 for Carolina; Jimmy Howard stopped 17 of 19 for Detroit.
The 3 stars were picked by the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness, and he picked Riley Sheahan, Jiri Tlusty and Cam Ward.
The Red Wings' goal: Sheahan (8) from Jurco (7) and Tatar (19).
Faceoffs 27-23 Carolina (Detroit won 46%);
Blocked shots 8-8;
Missed shots 9-5 Detroit (attempts 46-32 Detroit; Detroit had 29 shots on the net and another 17 wide/blocked);
Hits 25-17 Carolina;
Giveaways 8-3 Detroit;
Takeaways 4-1 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 7-and-7 (50%); Helm went 5-and-7 (42%); Glendening went 2-and-7 (22%); Sheahan went 5-and-4 (56%); Legwand went 4-and-2 (67%).
Shots: Alfredsson, Datsyuk, Nyquist, Sheahan and Franzen had 3 shots; Abdelkader, Legwand, Miller and Jurco had 2 shots; Smith, Kindl, Tatar, Helm, Kronwall and DeKeyser had 1 shot.
Blocked attempts: Datsyuk, Tatar and Kronwall fired 2 attempts into Hurricanes players; Kindl and Sheahan had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Nyquist missed the net 3 times; Franzen missed the net 2 times; Kindl, Abdelkader, Lashoff and Glendening missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Glendening led the Wings with 4 hits; Datsyuk, Miller, Tatar and Helm had 2 hits; Kindl, Sheahan, Legwand, Kronwall and Franzen had 1 hit.
Giveaways: Howard had 2 giveaways; Kindl, Nyquist, Jurco, Lashoff, Quincey and DeKeyser had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Kindl, Abdelkader, Sheahan and Miller had takeaways.
Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 3 Canes shots; Quincey and Glendening blocked 2 shots; DeKeyser blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Quincey took a minor penalty; the "bench" took 2 too-many men minors.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at -5. Smith, Abdelkader, Glendening, Kronwall and Franzen were -1.
Points: Sheahan had a goal; Tatar and Jurco had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 23:32 played; Quincey played 21:36; Smith played 19:43;
DeKeyser played 19:23; Datsyuk played 19:06; Franzen played 18:02;
Kindl played 17:27; Nyquist played 16:53; Tatar played 16:23;
Sheahan played 15:24; Glendening played 15:20; Miller played 14:53;
Lashoff played 14:37; Abdelkader played 14:35; Helm played 13:23;
Legwand played 12:34; Jurco played 12:18; Alfredsson played 11:28.
Red Wings notebooks: As noted in the second game-day update post, the Wings' media corps was utterly fascinated by the fact that Tomas Jurco's still staying in a Detroit hotel some three months after being called up "for good," as MLive's Ansar Khan noted...
“I didn’t see the reason moving; I have two rooms connected, I’m good with that,” Jurco said. “I brought my Xbox. They brought a huge TV for me and I just set it up right in front of my bed. It’s just nice to leave for practice and come back and my bed is set up nicely.”
(Jurco's also stated to me that he really doesn't like "American food," so I'm not surprised that he's staying somewhere where the room service agrees with him)
But Jurco also discussed his attempts to mature into a more well-rounded player...
“I’m trying to get at the net and have some rebounds,” Jurco said. “I was trying to shoot more and I guess that I couldn’t score, so I just went to the net and tried to get some rebounds, so it’s going pretty well for me and hopefully it’s going to stay like this. I’m trying to get some nice goals, too. But there’s no reason to change anything now since it’s going in.”
Coach Mike Babcock wants Jurco to use his 6-foot-2, 193-pound frame to crash and bang more, not twirl around the perimeter with the puck.
“It’s really straightforward for Tomas, he’s got to play a simple game,” Babcock said. “He’s got to be physical on the forecheck and he’s got to be physical at their net. Then, everything else will happen for him. When he isn’t (physical) he’s just another player in the league. When he wants to get involved physically, he’s got such great pace, such great strength; he’s got great hands in tight that he’s going to be an effective player.”
And Jurco readily admitted that he's not treating his spot in the lineup as something that's guaranteed...
“My mind is always like I have to keep working hard otherwise I’m going to go down,” Jurco said. “I’m never good with what’s going on right now, I always want to be better, work hard to stay here. Obviously, I have more confidence now but I’m still trying to work hard.”
Though he told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he wants to steal some of the spotlight away from his teammates:
Jurco is skating on the third line with Darren Helm and Daniel Alfredsson.
“I’m trying to get some nice goals, but there’s no reason for me to change anything now since it’s going in,” Jurco said. “Obviously, it’s nice to score some highlight reel goals, like Gus does, but I’m going to take mine, too.”
“Good speed with Helmer and Jurco on it and Alfie gets to use his skill set which is his brain,” Babcock said of the line.
Again, Babcock made quite the comment to Pleiness regarding the team's veterans...
“I don’t to take anything away from (Pavel Datsyuk) or (Henrik Zetterberg) because they’re huge parts of our team, but (Niklas) Kronwall set the tone for this team this year because he did it every day, all the time. Alfredsson gave him another support guy, along with the Mule (Johan Franzen), in my opinion, because those other guys weren’t available to us.
“When you look at that group right there, to me they did the most of the work leadership wise,” Babcock continued. “That’s so critical. We all want to rave about our kids, but we don’t make the playoff unless Ken (Holland) makes that deal at the deadline. If we don’t Legwand we don’t get in the playoffs.”
And Babcock also issued the following to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, who also spoke with Jurco and one Daniel Cleary, who still believes that his season isn't necessarily over as he recovers from a knee injury:
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, like many other NHL analysts and fans, isn’t wild about the new playoff system. Babcock doesn’t feel it’s right that teams with over 110 points — such the Western Conference Central Division second- and third-place teams — will meet in the first round rather than face a lower-seeded team.
“When you do the math, it doesn’t add up,” Babcock said.
…Babcock believes the Red Wings have given themselves an opportunity to succeed in the playoffs.
“The great thing about the playoffs in our league, if you win one game of the (first) two on the road, you have home-ice advantage and everything they’ve done all year is gone. To me, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about putting pressure on the higher seed and grinding out wins. If we get good goaltending out of Howie, we’ll have an opportunity.”
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff focused on Babcock's playoff promise...
“I just told them after the Olympic break we were getting in (the playoffs),” Babcock remembered. “I told them that every day after we were getting in. I believe you have a plan and you execute every day on that plan. I told them if we just do it the Red Wing way we’re going to get in.”
And the way things unfolded as a result:
“Obviously, we’ve had a tough go,” Babcock said of the lengthy injury list that has cost his team 412 man games this season. “Everyone gets injuries. It’s just you can’t get injuries to too many of the wrong people and when we lost Pav (centre Pavel Datsyuk) and Z (captain Henrik Zetterberg) for so much of the year – I looked at it, those guys are going to play like 40 games (together) – that’s a chunk to have to play without your two best guys, but the rest of the guys have stepped up.”
Forced to recall a bucketful of players from their Grand Rapids AHL farm club, Detroit’s youth movement, made out of desperation, will pay dividends for years to come. As much as they sought to downplay it, the kids admitted they felt the pressure of expectations mounting during the stretch run.
“It was tough knowing that we were the young guys coming in and I personally didn’t want to be one of the reasons why we didn’t make the playoffs,” rookie centre Luke Glendening said.
The Detroit News's John Niyo took a different tack this morning, wondering about Daniel Alfredsson's decision to join the Wings for a chance at playoff glory:
And after teaming with Jurco and Darren Helm all week in a new line combination — paired with their speed, “Alfie gets to use his skill set, which is his brain,” coach Mike Babcock explained — the veteran winger was shifted to Datsyuk’s line for the third period in this one.
“(Alfredsson) is just so good with the puck,” said Jurco, who assisted on fellow rookie Riley Sheahan’s power-play goal in the second period. “He’s really smart. He’s got so much confidence and he makes plays. It just seems like he’s got more time with the puck than everybody else.”
It might seem that way, but Alfredsson knows he has precious little time left in his career. He is one of four active NHL players over the age of 40, and one of three that’ll be in the playoffs, along with Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne and Dallas' Ray Whitney. (New Jersey’s Jaromir Jagr is the other member of the over-the-hill gang.)
This’ll be Alfredsson’s 15th trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs, and possibly his last. He signed only a one-year deal with the Wings last summer, though if he’s willing, Detroit’s open to one more season after this.
Alfredsson's stated that he's going to take some time to make a decision, but he's tied with Niklas Krowall for 2nd in Wings scoring with 18 goals and 31 assists for 49 points registered over the course of 68 games played, and he's repeatedly stated that coming to Detroit really re-energized him. I expect him to be welcomed back as something of a player-coach:
“He speaks up when he needs to,” said Franzen, a fellow Swede who compared Alfredsson’s presence this year to Dallas Drake’s last-gasp Stanley Cup push when the Wings won it all in 2008. “He’s good like that. He’s not the guy who’s going to sit there and throw out clichés all night long. But if someone needs to step up and say something, he’s been doing it.”
Defenseman Brendan Smith calls it a “huge” bonus for the Wings’ younger set, players that can easily lose themselves in the energy of a game — and lose sight of the details.
“A lot of times it’s just little things that we’re not thinking about,” Smith said. “Sometimes it’s about turnovers at our blue line. Or maybe he’ll notice something about the goalie that nobody else will notice. Or talking about a D-man who’s having a rough night, telling guys to take him wide. Just stuff like that.”
Niyo continues, and the balance of his article's worth your time.
Finally--in terms of "local" stuff--the Oakland Press's Pat Caputo weighs in on the chances of the Wings surviving past the first round in a "Spirit of the Thing" column:
It’s not like the best team in hockey never wins the big prize. The Red Wings, for example, have won four Stanley Cup titles since 1997. Yet, even in their salad days, the Red Wings were knocked off in the first round as a No.1 seed (by Edmonton in 2006) and as a No.2 seed (by Anaheim, coached Babcock, in 2003). And both the lower seeds advanced all the way to the finals those years, not losing until Game 7.
In 2012, an eighth-seed, the Los Angeles Kings, won the Stanley Cup.
A puck is not perfectly round like a ball. It’s flat, has hard edges and takes as many odd as predictable bounces. The idea in the playoffs is to reduce mistakes and therefore take as much chance out of the equation as possible.
“You have to make sure you are solid defensively in the playoffs, and take care of the puck,” said veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall. “The focus has to be on us. If we do our best, we can win.”
Nyquist performed well for the Red Wings during the playoffs last season, led Grand Rapids to the American Hockey League title and participated in the gold medal game for Sweden during the Olympics. He has garnered much experience in big games in a short period, and hasn’t flinched. Zetterberg is the Red Wings’ undisputed leader. They could use him, but at least Datsyuk is back. Howard is playing better, and has displayed a tendency to turn in his best hockey, at least most of his career, during the playoffs. Certainly, that was the case last year.
The Red Wings don’t have much margin for error – and know it.
“We can’t cheat the system,” Babcock said.
Also of Red Wings-related note: Speaking of Alfredsson, the Hockey News's Ronnie Shuker wondered whether Alfredsson will hang 'em up:
4. Daniel Alfredsson Some shine came off Alfredsson’s otherwise spotless reputation when he bolted from Ottawa for Detroit. He covets that elusive Stanley Cup, which could bring him back for another season if the Red Wings don’t make an improbable run this spring. Hall of Fame? Good chance, but no guarantee.
(Oh *#$%@& his reputation. He's "ours" now)
If you are interested, the CBC posted an Infographic about the relative experience of this year's playoff-field goalies;
Speaking of "reputation," the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek doesn't pick the Jack Adams Award--the NHL's broadcasters do, and Ken Daniels readily admitted that he'd voted for Mike Babcock on Friday--but Duhatschek's word carries weight, and he's not picking Babcock as the coach of the year:
Winner: Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche, Runners-up: Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings, Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim Ducks.
Annually one of the most difficult to sort out because so many coaches did admirable jobs, from the ones who presided over unexpected turnarounds (Roy, Jon Cooper, Tampa) to the ones that kept good teams competitive again (Todd McLellan, San Jose; Claude Julien, Boston) to the ones who squeezed the most out of the talent at hand (Todd Richards, Columbus; Bob Hartley, Calgary). Boudreau helped the Ducks win the tough Pacific for the second year in a row, while Babcock extended the Red Wings’ playoff streak to 23 consecutive seasons, despite playing a heavily influenced Grand Rapids for much of the season after injuries felled the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. But Roy went into Colorado with his trademark swagger, backed up by some coaching chops learned in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Colorado had young talent to be sure, but as many teams can tell you (Edmonton, Florida, others), turning all that young talent into a winning and cohesive NHL team is harder than it looks. Roy made it look comparatively easy.
In Business of Hockey news, Forbes' Jesse Lawrence says that the Wings' first-round tickets cost 120% of the team's regular-season prices, which is middle-of-the-pack stuff...
Detroit Red Wings [playoff average price price] $182.11 [first-round tickets available] 9457 [regular-season average price] $82.53 [percent increase] 120.66%
And I have a massive grudge against the Toronto Maple Leafs, so I hope that Brendan Shanahan never wins a Cup with them, but Red Wings GM Ken Holland believes that Shanahan will do well, as he told the Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger:
“I recall Brendan saying during the one or two times I talked to him after his retirement that he wanted to run his own hockey team one day,” Holland said during a phone interview on Friday. “But he made it clear he had a lot of work to do and lots of things to learn before he ever got to that point.”
On Friday, Shanahan achieved his dream when he was officially named the president of the Leafs. Not only is the Mimico native now guiding an NHL team, he’s at the wheel of his hometown franchise.
With his Wings having reached the Stanley Cup playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season, Holland looks around the Eastern Conference and sees two of his former players directing rival franchises: Shanahan in Toronto and Steve Yzerman in Tampa, where he is the GM of the Lightning.
Both Shanahan and Yzerman played for the 2002 Red Wings team that won the Cup in what proved to be coach Scotty Bowman’s final season behind the bench. So, too, did Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper, who work for the Wings, and Sergei Fedorov, the GM of CSKA Moscow.
“Interesting how many of those guys from that ’02 team are still in hockey in some capacity, whether in a managerial role, whatever,” Holland said. “It shows you how much they learned from Scotty. He was a great mentor.”
Very thankfully, Maltby and Draper are quite happy in Detroit. Draper's probably assistant GM material already, and he provides wonderful material as an interview foil to the diminish-all-expectations mentality Holland brings to the table, exuding enthusiasm about the team's literal and figurative prospects.
Finally, Pavel Datsyuk may or may not let you catch the big fish in his charitable fishing trip that's up for bids as a fundraiser for The Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a conservation group which endorses catch-and-release fishing in Northwest Lower Michigan...
But he hammed it up with TSN's "Cabbie" Richards after receiving their 2013 Play of the Year award:
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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.