The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/25/13 at 02:56 AM ET
The theory goes something like this: as the Red Wings' 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings gives the 22-16-and-8 Wings both 52 points and 20 regulation-or-OT wins, if the Wings earn a win over the Nashville Predators tonight (7:30 PM, FSD/FS Tennessee/97.1 FM) and the Dallas Stars (48 points, 20 ROWs) defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets (51 points, 17 ROWs), the Wings will make the playoffs outright, and won't have to worry about Saturday's regular season-ending match-up with the Stars (and all three teams have 2 games left to play).
But the Red Wings don't want to count on anybody but themselves controling their playoff fate, especially playing on back-to-back nights against a spoiler-happy Predators team--possibly without the services of Johan Franzen--and especially given the way the Blue Jackets have been winng, Detroit still wants to "win out."
There's no doubt that the Wings received an assist from the NHL in the form of Dustin Brown's suspension before tanling with the Brown-less Kings, and it's Brown's suspension that the Los Angeles Times' Lisa Dillman's recap focuses upon...
Brown said he was "disappointed" by the decision and was asked if he thought the two-game suspension was overly harsh. He will miss the regular-season finale Saturday against the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center, with a possible chance to grab home-ice advantage in the playoffs hanging in the balance.
"Who knows? They've got to deal with a lot of different scenarios," said Brown, who loses $34,324.32 in salary because of the suspension. "I think no games would have been better, but I think every player will say that… It's disappointing not to be playing in these games tonight and on Saturday, especially when they mean so much for home ice. At the end of the day, I'll be back from Game 1. As a player, as a team, that's when the fun really begins."
Said Kings Coach Darryl Sutter, before the game in Detroit: "Brendan played the game ... and he played his off-wing the very same way Brownie played, if you think about it. He totally understands that too, but ultimately he's the guy making the decision. That's the way it goes."
Brown's usual linemates, center Anze Kopitar and forward Justin Williams, went pointless, combining for three shots on goal. The Kings goal came from the hard-working line of Kyle Clifford, Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis. Clifford scored at 5:28 of the second period to make it, 1-0, on a strong second effort in front and the assists went to Lewis and Stoll.
"You don't replace Brownie in your lineup," Sutter said. "But you know what, I look at it the other way: He's got two days, two games off. Get some rest for the playoffs."
But the Kings received absolutely outstanding goaltending from Jonathan Quick, they scored the game's first goal, and until the Wings un-tied the affair 5:42 into the 3rd period, the Wings' quiet determination and the crowd were the only factors suggesting that the Wings might prevail.
Anze Kopitar also spoke to LA Kings Insider's Jon Rosen after the game...
On the loss to Detroit:“We knew they were going to come out strong, and obviously they’re fighting for a playoff position, which makes it really important for them. I thought we weathered the storm pretty good, got the first goal, but then just couldn’t sustain the pressure and they were able to capitalize on a few chances.”
On how “strange” it was to not have Dustin Brown on the ice: “It’s been a while since we didn’t play together. It’s a little strange, but you pretty much have to work with what you’ve got. Did we miss him? Yeah, he’s one of our top players and one of the leaders on the team, but it is what it is.”
On whether the recent road play is a concern heading towards the playoffs: “No. I mean, once the playoffs start it’s a totally different story. Obviously it’s not encouraging to throw away points like that late in the year, but regardless – winning games, not winning games, we’re going to have to get to a whole different level during the playoffs. We all know that.”
As did Drew Doughty...
On whether it was a challenge playing a pair of desperate teams back to back: “Yeah, it was. Before the game, we were prepared for that. We knew that they were both going to be playing desperate. Even though they were, we should’ve been doing the same thing. It should be a desperate situation to get that home ice advantage, because that’s huge just being able to play back at Staples and sleeping in your own beds and things like that. It’s a huge advantage. Even though they were playing desperate, we should have been to.”
On whether playing desperate teams in a row prepares L.A. well for the playoffs: “Yeah, I think so. I think that last night especially was a poor effort. I thought tonight we were a little better. We still weren’t great, though. We need to get used to playing those type of games. We were good at themlast year, but it doesn’t make any difference because it’s a new season, new playoffs coming up. We need to step up our game and get back to focusing on the right things.”
And Sutter wasn't simply making stink-eye faces because his captain won't return until the Kings begin their playoff run.
The Kings still hold home-ice advantage over the San Jose Sharks in a prospective 4-vs-5 series, 26-25, and they've got the regulation-or-OT win tiebreaker by a signficant margin, 24-17, but the teams face each other in San Jose on Saturday, and the St. Louis Blues are a point behind both teams with more wins (27) and a game in hand.
So Sutter told Rosen that the Kings are playing for more than "seeding," regardless of whether home-ice advantage makes a difference...
On whether seeding doesn’t matter in the NHL playoffs “these days”: “I think since the salary cap came into place, that is ‘these days’, and that…makes everything an even playing field. Everybody has a chance. It’s funny, because even coming into Detroit…everybody’s talking about 21 years the Detroit Red Wings made the playoffs. Well, what’s the biggest accomplishment is what they’ve done since the salary cap. It’s not just about making the playoffs. It’s about what you do once you get there.”
But he wasn't about to give the Wings any quarter, either:
On what Detroit did well in the third period to “carry the intensity”: “I don’t think they did anything different than they did the whole game. We came rolling in here on our private jet at two this morning. I’m sure they had a good sleep last night.”
On Jonathan Quick’s performance:“Both goalies both games – last game and tonight – were outstanding for us, and that’s what we want. It was awesome.”
Kyle Clifford scored the goal for the Kings (26-16-5), who've lost two in a row and were fourth in the West coming into the game, tied with the San Jose Sharks at 57 points. Los Angeles has one game left, against San Jose, to make a bid for home ice in the quarterfinal round.
The Kings will again be without Brown, who was issued a two-game suspension by the NHL for elbowing Minnesota Wild forward Jason Pominville during Tuesday's game. Tyler Toffoli was called up from Manchester of the American Hockey League on Wednesday and played on the right side of center Anze Kopitar.
"I guess if you got [home ice], it would be important," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Last year we were hanging on for the eighth spot and [this year] we clinched sixth two or three games ago. That's the only difference."
Goaltender Jonathan Quick took the loss, making 33 saves and keeping the Kings in the game when the Red Wings dominated the action early. Jimmy Howard picked up the win by making 23 saves and thwarting several prime scoring chances in the first two periods that could've swung momentum toward the visitors.
The atmosphere in the arena was akin to a playoff game, which makes sense considering how vital each point is to the Red Wings.
And they did the same while speaking to the AP's Larry Lage, save this quip...
"We knew they were going to come out strong," Los Angeles center Anze Kopitar said. "They're fighting to make the playoffs."
So USA Today's Kevin Allen's recap will serve as our pivot point between the Kings and Red Wings' perspectives...
The loss was painful for the Kings because they are in an intense competition with the San Jose Sharks for fourth place in the Western Conference. The winner gets home-ice advantage in their anticipated first round matchup. The Kings played without captain Dustin Brown, who was serving the first game of his two-game suspension for elbowing Jason Pominville in Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to Minnesota.
"We missed him against a team like Detroit that really isn't a physical team,' said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. "He could've helped us tonight."
Johan Franzen scored Detroit's insurance goal, on the power play, with 6:26 left in the third period after a nifty spin-around move and pass by Henrik Zetterberg. Franzen has six goals in his past six games. But Detroit coach Mike Babcock said after the game that Franzen was not available to him in the last couple of minutes because of an unspecified medical issue.
"Don't know a whole bunch," Babcock said. "They made him sit on the bench. I couldn't use him down the stretch."
Defenseman Brendan Smith prevented the Red Wings from falling behind early when he made a well-timed dive to knock the puck away from Los Angeles center Mike Richards who was poised to score in the first period.
The Red Wings limited the defending Stanley Cup championships to four shots in the first period, and a total of 13 over the first 40 minutes. Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard ended up 23 saves. He has given up two goals in his past three starts.
"Our problem has not been giving up goals, it's been scoring goals," Babcock said. "For us to get three tonight is a real positive for us. For a long time, we were losing games because we couldn't get the next one."
That's very true, and while the Wings weren't complaining about the Kings' mental or physical fatigue, they told the Toledo Blade's Rachel Lenzi that offense from the fourth line helped their cause tremendously...
In a must-win stretch for the Wings, the contributions of players such as [Jordin] Tootoo and Detroit’s third and fourth lines have helped galvanize a team that has taken a playoff-type approach to the final week of the season, in which the Red Wings have balanced on the bubble of postseason contention.
“They’ve been playing really well for us as of late,” Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said. “They were probably our best lines when we were out on the West Coast and Canada, and they’ve continued to play well as a unit. We’re going to need that through the next two games. It takes a lot of pressure off our top two lines. You need secondary scoring.”
Tootoo said consistency has been the key for the Red Wings in this stretch.
“You do the right things, and the right things happen,” Tootoo said. “A little adversity doesn’t hurt. When you pull through it together, as a group of individuals, it’s always good in the long run. We have guys in the dressing room that have been through it all. You go through ups and downs in your career, and it’s about managing your game and making sure not only the younger guys but the other veteran guys are all on the same page.”...
Howard said, “We knew they played [Tuesday] night in Minnesota, and if we just continued to skate them and work their ‘D,’ and get on top of Quick, we did that. We stayed the course.”
And, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted, Patrick Eaves had a helluva game:
Eaves registered four shots on goal – the most he’s had since the night he suffered a broken jaw 16 months ago – and assisted on Jordin Tootoo’s game-winner in the Red Wings' 3-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena.
From the very first shift, Eaves and his fourth-line mates sparked the Wings in the offensive zone, creating several scoring chances against Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. And it was Eaves who made the most of his 2 ½ minutes of ice-time in the first period, collecting three shots on goal and missing another on five first-period shifts. While the teams took a scoreless tie into the first intermission, Eaves felt good about the early chances that he against Quick.
“He made a great stop on the first one when I was going across the crease,” Eaves said. “I think I got in a little too tight, but it just nicked his glove. I had a couple of good shots on him tonight, but he made some great saves.”
Eaves credited his shots on the time and space that he had in the middle of the ice.
“We were spaced out better,” said Eaves of his linemates Tootoo and Cory Emmerton. “We were there for support, but we weren’t right next to each other. That seemed like it was the key. Sometimes you get bunched up and you takeaway space from the guy with the puck. … Our spacing was better tonight.”
The fourth liners were rewarded for their efforts when Tootoo tipped Eaves’ slap shot from the high slot that beat Quick at 5:42 of the third period. Tootoo’s goal, his third of the season, gave the Wings their two-goal cushion.
“I tried to get a quick shot on net. Toots got a stick on it,” said Eaves, who had gone 15 games without a point. “Those high tips are really hard for goalies to pick up on. I got a lot on the shot so it was moving when he tipped it.”
Tootoo Tweeted about having raw beluga whale and caribou as a late-night snack on Tuesday night, and maybe he should snack on the stuff a little more often after tipping down Eaves' shot, as Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples noted:
“I thought we had a pretty good forecheck there,” Tootoo said. “Kind of made a couple plays out of the corner, Paddy had a nice hsot in the slot there, and we were just persistent on the puck, and when you go to the net hard, good things happen. Well any time you can contribute as a fourth-line player, it’s always exciting. You don’t get to do that too often, but when you do, you have to make the best of it.”...
Captain Henrik Zetterberg said he was pleased with the top-to-bottom effort from his team.
“Well I think everyone chipped in,” Zetterberg said. “We knew they would come out and be physical, and we responded well. We played with four lines and everyone did a good job.”
Howard told the Free Press's Helene St. James that he was very happy to see Tootoo be rewarded for his hard work...
“He works extremely hard out there,” Jimmy Howard said after making 23 saves. “He’s an energy guy. He’s not afraid to go out there and mix it up. It’s good to see him get rewarded.”
The Wings faced an opponent that had played the night before in Minnesota and took advantage of that. Jonathan Quick had to make six saves just in the first 4 minutes. But as often happens games where one team is wildly outshooting the other, it’s the quieter one that strikes first. Sure enough, at 5:28 of the second period, the Kings went ahead 1-0 when Kyle Clifford got a piece of Trevor Lewis’ rebound.
The Wings got even at 10:32, when Datsyuk schooled Drew Doughty. Sliding in from the left side, Datsyuk slid the puck around Doughty in a nano-second, leaving Doughty to collect his dignity and Quick to fish the puck out of his net.
“It was nice to see that the right guy got the puck there,” Zetterberg said, smiling. “Had some patience and put it in.”
Both teams played more cautiously at the start of the third period, but as the Kings’ tired legs slowed, the Wings pounced. Brendan Smith had the puck along the boards and sent a slick backhand pass back to Patrick Eaves, who had slid over from the left circle and fired a shot that Tootoo deflected.
“I thought we had a good forecheck there and Patty had a nice shot in the slot,” Tootoo said. “We were persistent on the puck When you go to the net hard, good things happen.”
"Absolutely," said defenseman Niklas Kronwall. "In situations like this, you need everybody chipping in and they came up with a huge one tonight. They've been playing well for us all season long. They played great for us. They're an energy line for us and tonight they came up with a huge goal for us. That's what they bring every night, a lot of energy and making it hard on their 'D' men. Get the pucks deep and just go to work."
In addition to his goal, Tootoo also brought the crowd to life early in second period when he laid a big open-ice hit on Jeff Carter, who skated slowly to the Kings' bench while Tootoo joined the play heading the other way.
"I thought that line was real good," said coach Mike Babcock. "The first shift, they dominated from the get-go. When you look at their fourth group, with (Dwight) King and (Jordan) Nolan on it, you think to yourself, 'It could be a mismatch in their favor.' They're heavy guys and they roam around. Patty Eaves and Toots had a good night. Toots had some huge checks, they were playing in the offensive zone, which was important for us."
The Wings told Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji that they're trying to keep their focus narrow...
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall said the Wings can't afford to think about the big picture.
"For us, we really don't have a choice right now," Kronwall said. "We have to stick to the plan. It might sound like a cliche and I know it's boring maybe to hear, but it's one at a time."
And their play efficient, which is incredibly important going into tonight's game against Nashville:
The Wings now face the situation the Kings were in Wednesday, playing the second of back-to-back nights. The rested Nashville Predators, out of the playoff race, come in with nothing to lose. The good news for the Wings is, they've been successful in back-to-back games, going 7-4-1 in the first game and 7-2-2 in the second.
"Not being cute with it, getting it in, just going to work, playing simple hockey -- I think that's been the key for us in back-to-back games this year," said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who confirmed he's playing Thursday. "We've been really good on the second night of back-to-backs. I think it comes down to making the safe play."
If the Wings continue to stay focused on the task at hand, make the safe, simple plays and get contributions from everyone, their playoff streak will continue. The Wings are not dwelling on that, but they know what's at stake.
"We have to get these points or we’re not going to be playing next week," Eaves said. "We just have to keep winning. That’s all we can do."
The Wings sounded similar notes while speaking with the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness about their tasks at hand...
“We’re looking at what the other teams are doing, but we have a chance to take care of this ourselves and that’s what we want to do,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “That’s where we belong (in the playoffs) and we need to prove we belong there as well.”
All the Wings need now are just three points over their last two games to make it 22 consecutive seasons in the playoffs. They could also get in with a Columbus loss in one of its two remaining games in regulation and by garnishing one more point over their last two games.
“For us, we really don’t have a choice right now, we have to stick to the plan,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It might sound like a cliché and I know it’s boring maybe to hear, but it’s one at a time. We have to focus on the next game. Right now we need to refuel, get a lot of fluid in us, get some sleep and be ready for (Thursday).”
Detroit hosts Nashville Thursday and end the season in Dallas on Saturday. Columbus is at Dallas Thursday before closing the season at home Saturday against Nashville. If the Wings and Blue Jackets tie are tied in points at the end of the season, Detroit will hold the tiebreaker, regular and overtime wins.
“It’s important to get the points, get wins and get them in regulation time,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “We got two games left, focus (on Thursday) and win that one and then move onto Dallas.
The Stars sit on 46 points and could still reach the postseason, but would need Detroit to lose its final two games.
“We’ve been playing good all year,” Zetterberg said. “The one thing we’ve been doing is working hard. We’ve got a lot of new faces but everyone has been working really hard every game. Maybe the details haven’t been superb every night, but that’s what happens when you got a lot of new kids, new lines. We’re finding the way to play now and just got to keep going.”
That point's also very savvy given that coach Babcock told MLive's Ansar Khan that the Wings' younger players have indeed made important contributions, especially on the blueline:
“I thought our back end in particular really moved the puck,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “We really feel we're a much better team than we were months ago just because our back end is so much better, not just the fact (Danny) DeKeyser's in, but Smith's an improved player, (Jakub) Kindl's a much-improved player. We feel we got three sets there that move the puck pretty good, so we play faster than we did before.''
While the Wings know that they essentially have to "win out" if they are to make the playoffs without help, which means getting their butts in gear from minute 1 vs. Nashville...
“I think we've done a great job the first two games and now we got to take care of business (Thursday),'' goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “It's just backs-against-the-wall and we're trying to crawl our way back into the playoffs. They've all felt like a playoff game here for a while.''
And, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted, the Wings will have to match the Predators' physical play in the same manner as they employed against Los Angeles:
"Everyone chipped in," Zetterberg said. "We knew they'd come out and be physical. We played four lines and everybody did their job. It was nice to see (Tootoo) get rewarded. He made some nice plays, good passes, and he was physical."
The Detroit News's John Niyo told Jordin Tootoo about the, "If Dallas beats Columbus in regulation and you beat Nashville and you're in" scenario...
"Well, now I know," said Tootoo, after he'd heard it spelled out.
But just so you know, his dismissive smile suggested he planned to forget it rather quickly.
"It's one game at a time," said Tootoo, who might've been the odd man out had Todd Bertuzzi returned to the lineup as expected Wednesday night. "This is playoff hockey for us. It's do-or-die."
As it turns out, the Wings are having fun engaging in games that are nerve-wracking endeavors for their fans...
"We've been standing here many years (where) the last 10 games hasn't really meant anything," said captain Henrik Zetterberg, who added two more assists Wednesday, giving him five in the two wins this week on home ice. "It's fun to play in these games."
But they're not taking anything for granted:
One more might be all it takes. Then again, it could require two, too. Just don't bother telling the Wings:
"No," Zetterberg said. "We know what we have to do here."
As for "seeding," the Windsor Star's Bob Duff asked the coach, a defenseman and the member of the organization who tends to receive the most criticism when the Wings lose about the team's somewhat remote possibility as ending up as a 7th versus 8th seed, especially given that the current stats have the Wings facing a Stanley Cup favorite in the Blackhawks. He received some interesting responses
“I think the regular season, it’s meaningful in the sense that you need to be in the top eight,” Detroit GM Ken Holland said. “If the regular season meant anything, we would have beaten Edmonton in (the opening round of the) 2006 (playoffs). We were the first seed, Edmonton was the eighth seed, they got a hot goalie (Dwayne Roloson) and they knocked us out.”
That was Detroit coach Mike Babcock’s first season on the job, but even though his team slipped back into eighth spot by a point over Columbus with Wednesday’s triumph, and his team appears to be rounding into form both offensively and defensively as the playoffs near, he seems disinterested in selling a bill of goods that if the Wings secure that spot, all will be healed and they will be ready to roll on a lengthy Stanley Cup run.
“Well I guess,” he suggested of any parallels between the Wings and L.A. of 2011-12. “I think the part we forget going into last year, they were picked to be one of the best teams and things didn’t go good. You don’t win in the end without talent, don’t kid yourself. They had a great team, really good size, great depth, really moved the puck on the back end. They’ve got a real good club.”
So Mike, what exactly are you trying to say about your club? The Kings won the Cup because they were imposing physically and simply wore down the opposition with their size.
“They have some big guys up there,” Detroit defenceman Jonathan Ericsson said. “Some heavy guys, and they play big, too.”
That element doesn’t exist in Detroit, and if the Wings were a high-skill club, well, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Their playoff spot would already been sewn up. This spring, like last year’s Kings, the Wings hope to utilize the playoffs to heal their regular-season wounds.
“I think when the playoffs start, you can throw all the statistics out in the garbage,” Holland said.
Only if you make the cut. If not, you spend the off-season crunching serious numbers trying to figure out how to get back into the "round of 16."
In the "bonus Swedish" department, Henrik Zetterberg all but repeated his, "The puck is bouncing well" and "this is fun" takes on the Wings' situation to Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom, and he and Niklas Kronwall a) praised the team's desperation, b) praised Franzen and assumed he'd play through any minor issues and c) suggested that the experience of playing in so many crucial games is great for them and great for their young players while speaking to Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman. The only paragraph that's intriguing was the last one Bjurman received from Zetterberg:
Are you inspired or just pressing? [this translates to something more like, "Are you impressed or just pressing?"]
"It's great. Oftentimes you have to press yourself through parts of the season, but now we're playing really important games already in the regular season, and these are the kinds of games you want to play in. It's good for our team, too, we have many young players who haven't experienced this before, and now they're learning thoroughly."
Highlights: NBC Sports posted a 1:49 highlight clip;
ESPN posted a 46-second highlight clip;
And yes, the Red Wings website's highlight clip is narrated by the NBC folks:
Post-game: The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted a clip of Jordin Tootoo's post-game comments...
And the Wings' website posted clips of Tootoo...
And coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media:
And here's Jonathan Ericsson speaking to the NHL Network via the "Cisco NHL Arena Cam" (which is a slightly disturbing, "The league can look in on anyone at any time" concept):
Photos: The Detroit News posted a 27-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 23-image gallery;
The Windsor Star posted, uh, 3 images from the game;
MLive posted a 10-image gallery;
The Macomb Daily posted a 9-image gallery;
ESPN posted a 35-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted 19 images from the game in its Wings gallery;
Shots 36-24 Detroit overall. Detroit out-shot LA 13-4 in the 1st, 13-8 in the 2nd and was out-shot 12-8 in the 3rd.
The Wings went 1-for-4 in 4:55 of PP time, including 1:22 of 5 on 3 time; the Kings went 0-for-3 in 4:10 of PP tie.
Jimmy Howard stopped 23 of 24 shots; Jonathan Quick stopped 33 of 36.
The 3 stars were picked by the Windsor Star's Bob Duff, and he picked Gustav Nyquist (3), Pavel Datsyuk (2) and Patrick Eaves (1).
The Wings' goals: Datsyuk (14) from Ericsson (10) and Zetterberg (33);
Tootoo (3) from Eaves (6) and Smith (8);
Franzen (13) from Zetterberg (34) and Datsyuk (29), power play.
Faceoffs 33-21 Detroit (Detroit won 61%);
Blocked shots 12-5 Los Angeles;
Missed shots 16-9 Detroit (total attempts 62-38 Detroit, with the Wings firing 36 shots on Quick and antoher 28 wide or into Kings players);
Hits 25-22 Los Angeles;
Giveaways 9-6 Detroit;
Takeaways 8-3 Detroit.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Filppula went 13-and-7 (65%); Datsyuk went 11-and-8; Emmerton went 5-and-4 (56%); Andersson went 4-and-2 (67%).
Shots: Datsyuk led the team with 7 shots; Nyquist had 5; Eaves and Franzen had 4; Abdelkader, Tootoo, Brunner, Kronwall and DeKeyser had 2; Smith, Kindl, Quincey, Zetterberg, Filppula and Ericsson had 1.
Blocked attempts: Brunner, Zetterberg, Kronwall and DeKeyser had 2 attempts blocked by Kings players; Cleary, Tootoo, Quincey and Franzen had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Brunner missed the net 3 ties; Kindl missed the net 2 times; Smith, Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, Nyquist, Eaves, Emmerton Quincey, Andersson, DeKeyser and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader led the team with 4 hits; Datsyuk had 3; Kindl, Cleary, Tootoo, Quincey and Kronwall had 2; Nyquist, Eaves, Ericsson, Andersson and DeKeyser had 1.
Giveaways: Smith and Datsyuk had 2 giveaways; Kindl, Abdelkader, Ericsson, Andersson and Franzen had 1.
Takeaways: Nyquist had 3 takeaways; Datsyuk had 2; Abdelkader, Emmerton and Zetterberg had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: DeKeyser blocked 2 Kings shots; Cleary, Quincey and Kronwall blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Quincey and Filppula took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +5. Nyquist, Brunner and Andersson finished at -1; Datsyuk, Eaves, Tootoo, Emmerton, Zetterberg, Ericsson and Kronwall finished at +1.
Points: Datsyuk had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Zetterberg had 2 assists; Tootoo and Franzen had goals; Smith, Ericsson and Eaves had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 24:00 played; Datsyuk played 21:02; Ericsson played 20:01;
Zetterberg played 19:52; Kindl played 19:30; DeKeyser played 19:13;
Franzen played 18:16; Smith played 18:15; Quincey played 17:59;
Filppula played 17:09; Abdelkader played 16:07; Cleary played 15:31;
Andersson played 14:49; Nyquist played 13:08; Brunner played 12:12;
Emmerton played 10:29; Eaves played 9:06; Tootoo played 7:22.
Red Wings-Predators set-up: Very briefly: The Nashville Predators are obviously not playoff-bound, but they ended the Wings' season last spring at this time, and they'd love to do the same this time around.
The Wings dropped a 4-3 OT decision to Nashville on February 19th and then won 4-0 on February 23rd and took a 3-0 win in Nashville on the 14th of this month (two-and-a-half weeks ago). Tonight, the Predators come into town having earned their second win of the month and their first since April 2nd via a 4-3 win against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday , breaking an 8-game losing streak.
The AP's recap of said game reads as follows...
[Austin] Watson and Matt Halischuk scored 1:23 apart in the third period to lead the Predators to a 4-3 win on Tuesday night.
Legwand and Nick Spaling had the other goals for Nashville, which ended the franchise's longest losing streak at eight games. Shea Weber added two assists.
"We won the game. We haven't won for a while, so we weren't quite sure what to do," Nashville coach Barry Trotz joked. "The guys have been working hard and they are not getting rewarded. Tonight it was good to get rewarded."
The Tennessean's Josh Cooper noted that the Predators will receive a signfiicant reinforcement for their second-to-last game of the season--and they finish up in Columbus on Saturday, so yay Nashville after tonight...
Predators forward Mike Fisher will probably return for Nashville’s Thursday game against the Detroit Red Wings. Fisher has missed Nashville’s last seven games with a hand injury. Overall, he has missed 10 games with the issue. Fisher sustained the injury March 28 when he blocked a shot against the Phoenix Coyotes.
“I’ll skate tomorrow, but the plan is to play tomorrow and Saturday,” Fisher said. “I’ve been feeling pretty good, but am excited to get back at it.”
Fisher’s return means forward Austin Watson will be sent down to Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. Watson, an Ann Arbor, Michigan native, scored his first goal of his NHL career Tuesday against Calgary. Thursday would have been his first NHL game at Joe Louis Arena, which is close to where he grew up.
Trotz said forward Patric Hornqvist (upper body injury) won’t play in Nashville’s last two games — ending his 2013 campaign.
He notes that the Predators' power play is awful...
[Injuries] in the last month of the season hammered Nashville’s man-advantage into a 3-for-35 spell over its last 14 games.
The Predators have scored 2.30 goals per game, which ranks 29th in the NHL and is their worst output since 2002-03. They ranked eighth in the NHL last season (2.83) and brought back almost the same forward group. They currently rank 18th with the man-advantage with a 17.0 percent success rate, down from last year, when they led the league at 21.6 percent.
Hat trick: 1. This is the final meeting between the Predators and Red Wings as Central Division rivals. With realignment next season, Detroit moves to the Eastern Conference. 2. This is the second game of a back-to-back for the Red Wings, who played the Kings on Wednesday. 3. Forward Mike Fisher is expected to return to the lineup after missing the past seven games with a hand injury. Fisher was injured March 28 blocking a shot against Phoenix.
Injuries: Predators F Colin Wilson (shoulder), F Paul Gaustad (shoulder), F Gabriel Bourque (knee), F Patric Hornqvist (upper body), F Taylor Beck (upper body) and F Brandon Yip (lower body) are out. Red Wings F Mikael Samuelsson (pectoral) and F Todd Bertuzzi (back) are questionable; F Drew Miller (hand) and F Darren Helm (back) are out.
Looking to avoid their first nine-game road slide since one of the same duration spanned the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, the Predators have dropped 14 of 15 (1-10-4) away from home.
However, Nashville snapped a franchise-worst eight-game slide (0-7-1) with a 4-3 win over Calgary on Tuesday. Austin Watson scored his first NHL goal in his sixth career game and Shea Weber added two assists for the Predators, who will miss the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
And NHL.com's Mike Battaglio's preview notes that the Predators' forced youth movement is paying off...Sort of.
Predators [team scope]: Nashville has seen three forwards -- Filip Forsberg, Keith Henderson and Austin Watson -- get his first NHL point in the past week. Forsberg, an 18-year-old acquired in the trade that sent Martin Erat to the Washington Capitals, had an assist in the 4-3 win against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, his fourth NHL game.
"If you close your eyes and listen to Forsberg's shot when he releases it, it has that snap to it," coach Barry Trotz told The Tennessean. "That's what I like. He likes to shoot the puck, he has a little extra zip on it, and he's going to be a real good player for us. I'm excited, as a coach, for his future."
The team's website points out the average age of the forwards who played Tuesday is 25, and five have played fewer than 16 NHL games.
"It's got to be tough, but at the same time I'm sure they're excited to be playing in the NHL," captain Shea Weber said. "... I think once you get up and into these games, I think their adrenaline's running and they're excited to be back up."
Red Wings [team scope]: After a 3-for-26 run on the power play, the Red Wings are 4-for-9 in the past two games.
Who's hot: Predators forward Matt Halischuk has four points in his past two games, and defenseman Shea Weber has three points. Forward Bobby Butler has four points in a three-game streak. Rookie defenseman Victor Bartley has four points in his past five games. … Zetterberg has five points in his past two games. Red Wings forward Johan Franzen has 11 points in 11 April games.
In the prospect department: Wings prospect Xavier Ouellet accomplished two remarkable tasks on Wednesday. First and foremost, he scored a hat trick, including the overtime game-winner, as the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada defeated Baie-Comeau 3-2 in OT to tie their QMJHL conference final 2-2.
Second, as Paul noted, the Armada and the Baie-Comeau Drakkar's players got into a HUGE BRAWL at the end of the game, and, somehow, Ouellet, who's registered 7 goals and 9 assists for 16 points over the course of 13 playoff games--and he's a defenseman, folks--didn't take a penalty while this happened:
Ouellet wears #16 and the captain's "C," but Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager believes that the protagonists in the fight will be suspended, but Ouellet didn't do much to hurt his knuckles, which is good. As for Ouellet's performance, per Sager's "3 Stars":
No. 2 star: Xavier Ouellet, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL): Has a playoff hat trick from a defenceman in a series-tying win ever been less of a talker? All anyone will remember from B-B's 4-3 Game 4 win over the Baie-Comeau Drakkar is the fracas after the final buzzer. That overshadowed that Ouellet (3G) was a two-way force. The Detroit Red Wings prospect and Armada captain gave the Drakkar more than they could handle when he jumped into plays to support his forwards. Ouellet scored the game's first goal to help the Armada gain confidence, then restored them to the lead with another goal with 4:16 left in the second period. Ouellet came up with another response goal in the third period, putting B-B on top to stay.
Ouellet has seven goals in these playoffs. No other QMJHL defenceman has more than three.
In the OHL, in another overtime decision and a Conference Final match-up, Andreas Athanasiou got in a fight and his Barrie Colts won the war, defeating the Belleville Bulls 4-3 in overtime, with Barrie taking a 3-1 series lead on the heralded Bulls. Wings prospect Alan Quine registered the game-tying goal in the 3rd period, but it wasn't enough for Belleville;
And in my backyard, the Plymouth Whalers are also facing a 3-1 deficit as the London Knights defeated Plymouth 6-4.
The Grand Rapids Griffins headed to Houston, where they will play the Aeros in a best-of-5 first round series starting with 2 games in Houston on Friday and Sunday (the series shifts back to Grand Rapids on May 1st), and before they left, Griffins coach Jeff Blashill and captain Jeff Hoggan gave the Griffins' YouTube channel something of a series preview...
And the Griffins dropped a teaser in the form of their in-rink "playoff intro":
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: Wings special assistant to the GM Kris Draper happened to appear on Hockey Night in Canada's Sirius on XM radio show, and while he was purportedly on the show to talk about Jimmy Howard's contract extension, most of the 10:59 interview involves Draper talking about the team holding its playoff fate in its hands and the state of the Wings' defense. [Edit: As it's auto-play audio, you can listen here].
Most of the game-day chatter involved Todd Bertuzzi's decision to not play against the Kings despite having been cleared to play. He practiced with the Wings' "bottom six" forwards (to keep things simple and trick the nosy observer, the Wings employ red practice jerseys for the "top six," white for the "bottom six" and black for the defensemen and goalies. There's also a gray no-contact jersey, but you rarely, rarely see anyone wear it), and he may end up replacing Johan Franzen, as MLive's Ansar Khan reports...
Franzen didn't play toward the end of Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings at Joe Louis Arena due to an undisclosed injury. Coach Mike Babcock and general manager Ken Holland said Franzen's status for Thursday's home finale vs. Nashville will be determined in the morning.
“He's been real good for us,'' Babcock said. "He didn't finish the game, but hopefully he'll be fine for tomorrow.''
Babcock added, “Don't know a whole bunch. They just took him off the bench, or made him sit on the bench. I couldn't use him down the stretch. I'll find out tomorrow.''
But Bertuzzi said he was ready to go, or ready enough that the fact that he chose not to play annoyed the hell out of Babcock. Bertuzzi told the Free Press's Helene St. James that he was just making sure that he's ready to push and shove after missing a huge chunk of time with back and leg nerve issues:
“I really wanted to play,” Bertuzzi said, “but I need to do one more skate. I need to be able to get pushing and shoving with the defensemen down low, I need to take a cross-check in the back, I need to be able to spin off and I need to be able to stop and start and take off with the puck.”
Babcock hedged when asked what Bertuzzi can bring, saying he watched guys come back for the Coyotes on Monday night and, “they were no good at all. So, unless you’re up to speed, I don’t know how you jump into an NHL schedule. You see guys who miss training camp, and it takes them six weeks to get going. So I don’t know at this time. That’s where the guy’s got to make the decision.”
Bertuzzi is cognizant of this; he has said numerous times he only wants to return if he believes he can help the team. He has reached that point.
“I just have to keep it simple, grind stuff out down low whether I’m on the fourth line or third line,” Bertuzzi said. “Coming in on a back-to-back day, it might be good for the team to get some fresh legs and an enthusiastic player.”
Otherwise, Drew Miller informed the media that he's out for at least four weeks after having broken his right ring finger against Vancouver on Saturday, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted, but one player will NOT play for the Wings for the remainder of the regular season, and his identity should not surprise you:
Babcock said forward Mikael Samuelsson (pectoral muscle) has been cleared to play but will not suit up against the Kings. Samuelsson hasn't played since March 31 and been limited to four games this season.
"It's not about myself (currently) it's about the team," Samuelsson said. "I'm ready whenever they want."
If you missed it, prior to the game, Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika penned a superb article about the Wings' playoff streak and the team's desire to keep it going;
I will also allow you to raise your eyebrow at the note the AP made before the game, as repeated by the Toledo Blade's Rachel Lenzi;
Yes, Sovetsky Sport's Pavel Lysenkov confirms that if the Wings do not make the playoffs, Russian national team GM Alexei Kasatonov stated that the Russian World Championship is holding a spot open for Datsyuk and a spot open for Ilya Kovalchuk;
And I don't mean to short-change the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa, but I'm not sure what to make of his article about the Wings' "lack of size" given Krupa's concern that the Wings won't be able to compete in a bigger, tougher Eastern Conference...
General manager Ken Holland long ago credited the criticism of his roster that it lacked in size. But that does not change quickly, especially when winning and enormous talent made change a low priority.
How much did Babcock want more size? Remember when Jonathan Ericsson was breaking into the lineup four seasons ago and the first five times his coach mentioned him, Babcock said, "He's big." The sixth time, Babcock said, "Have I mentioned that he's big?"
Brendan Smith lists at 6-feet-2, 198, and he left the dressing room at the end of the season last year vowing to "get bigger, but not slower." And, indeed, he looks bigger and just as fast this season.
Danny DeKeyser, listed as 6-3, 190, looks like he will benefit from the get-bigger-not-slower regimen this off-season. But DeKeyser's length, and those long arms? Anyone who saw him reach with his stick to flick a certain goal out of harm's way at a moment most critical against the Coyotes on Monday understands what size can mean in the NHL.
As the Red Wings move on with roster changes this off-season, next season and beyond, Holland and Babcock, make no mistake, will want skill. But watch for the trend of bigger containers to continue.
Mostly because I don't have good news for you: up front, other than Joakim Andersson, you've seen the best the Wings have to offer in Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar. Skill-wise, Calle Jarnkrok is elite and Teemu Pulkkinen ain't far behind,and Landon Ferraro is close to being ready for a cup of coffee, but he, like the aforementioned players not named Andersson, is under 6 feet tall.
Riley Sheahan has promise in an Abdelkader-like role and is 6'3," but the Wings' only "power" forwards are players like Tomas Jurco, Marek Tvrdon, and the projects that are Louis-Marc Aubry, Andrej NestrasilTrevor Parkes. "Power forward" Martin Frk is a stocky 6' and 190, but Mitchell Callahan's a Tootoo-sized scrapper, and the next prospect the Wings will sign in speedster Alan Quine is slight.
On defense, sure, for Adam Almqvist's 5'10," 150-something "package" and Xavier Ouellet's not-imposing 6-foot frame, there's 6'3"-or-4" Ryan Sproul, 6'2" Mattias Backman and Alexei Marchenko, the safe and steady 6'3" Lashoff and Max Nicastro, and gigantic Richard Nedomlel's at least 6'4," Nick Jensen's a solid six-and-nearly-200 and down the line, Mike McKee is all of 6'5" and at least 230 pounds as a raw project, but they only off-set so much.
And in goal, obviously, Petr Mrazek is wonderful, but he's 6'1" and maybe 180, the 6'2" Tom McCollum and Jordan Pearce aren't working out, and 6'5" behemoth Jared Coreau is a project, too.
If the Wings want size in the short term, or really in the next 3-5 years, aside from using their defensemen to crash and bang, they're going to have to import some "bridge" players, or count on heart and grit above height and weight, as they've done previously.
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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.