The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/23/13 at 10:53 AM ET
Now, one big win does not blot out the issues that have plagued the Wings for most of the season. First, they have been unable to get into a real groove when it's mattered, failing to win back-to-back games in nearly a month. The offense has been spotty at best, and Monday's outpouring of goals was the first time Detroit scored more than three times since March 22. On Monday, the Wings relied heavily on the heroics of netminder Jimmy Howard, who recently signed a six-year contract extension. Howard stopped all 34 Phoenix shots, including 12 in the first when the Coyotes outshot Detroit 12-4 but closed out the period down 2-0.
Howard will need to be stellar down the stretch, as the Wings' final three games don't represent any kind of walk in the park. Detroit will host the Los Angeles Kings, who are still battling for home-ice advantage in the first round, and the lowly Nashville Predators on Wednesday and Thursday before visiting the Dallas Stars in their regular-season finale Saturday. The Stars have three games remaining, as well, and were just two points behind Detroit, setting up a potential winner-take-all dynamic for Game 48.
As for the Coyotes, Monday's loss virtually erases any shot at making the playoffs for a fourth straight season. It seems inevitable that last year's Western Conference finalists will join last year's Eastern Conference finalists, the New Jersey Devils, on the sideline as this wacky, shortened season winds its way to a conclusion. Just as the Devils were unable to overcome the loss of Zach Parise to free agency, the Coyotes likewise sorely missed the veteran presence and timely scoring of Ray Whitney, who -- not coincidentally -- has been a catalyst for Dallas as the Stars have stayed in the hunt for a playoff spot.
As did 98.1 the Ticket's Doug Karsch:
Monday night’s 4-0 win over Phoenix was a combination of a hockey team playing with a sense of desperation that belies an organization with the heart of a champion. And while the product hasn’t been up to par around Hockeytown, it’s still a team with a Stanley Cup spine at the core of a weakened frame.
The Wings have struggled all year coming off west-coast trips going 0-4 in their first game home — until Monday night. Mike Babcock and company decided to flip the script and keep the Wings overnight in Vancouver Saturday night after losing in a shootout to the Canucks. That allowed for a full night sleep and made Sunday’s off day — a travel day. The plan appeared to work. The Wings connected on three PP goals, killed off all four Coyote power plays. In the offensive zone, the Wings looked dangerous throughout — with Damien Brunner and Valtteri Filppula breaking droughts and connecting on goals — and creating a number of other grade A chances. Johan Franzen still has the ability to score big, big goals in big, big games. And he did it again Monday. Franzen has five goals and five assists in his last ten games.
And what about that post-season berth that may still loom?
Well I can’t craft up a formula for an 8th seeded Wings team to upset the mighty Blackhawks, but I can’t count them out either. Too often I’ve seen the impossible upset pulled off against a top seeded Wings team. Whether it is Edmonton or Calgary or San Jose or whomever. It was unfathomably done. And in 2003 one of those heavily favored Wings teams lost to the 7th seeded Anaheim Mighty Ducks. A Ducks team coached by a guy named Mike Babcock.
And as noted earlier this morning, MLive's Ansar Khan's recap including quotes wasn't posted after the game, but it did hit the wires around 6 AM, so it seems only fitting that the players receive the last word as to what they did or did not accomplish on Monday night. Wings coach Mike Babcock told Khan that he had an inkling that the Wings' power play would break through after watching his players run through special teams drills at yesterday's morning skate...
“When we worked on it, they were flying, moving the puck and jumping,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “Who knows why? But they knew it was a big game, they had to produce and they did. I was very impressed with their practice, their focus and their details. We only went three reps for 40 seconds, but they were really good.''
Babcock said goaltender Jimmy Howard kept the Red Wings in the game early as the Coyotes outshot Detroit 12-4 in the first period only to head to the intermission trailing 2-0.
Johan Franzen scored 2:37 into the game and Damien Brunner made it 2-0 with 36 seconds remaining in the first period. Valtteri Filppula added to the power-play party at 16:09 of the second. Henrik Zetterberg assisted on all three goals.
“I thought our power play was the star of the game,'' goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “For them to go out there and get three power-play goals, especially when the power play hasn't been all that great … hopefully we gain some confidence going into Wednesday (vs. Los Angeles).''
It was the second time this season Detroit has converted three times on the power play (also in an 8-3 win over Vancouver on Feb. 24). The Red Wings entered the game ranked 17th in the league on the power play (17.3 percent).
“That was huge,'' forward Daniel Cleary said of the power play. “We spoke about it this morning. This is what can get us in (the playoffs), this is what can get us going. It’s an important piece of our team.''
"This was a huge game for us, where we are in the standings and coming off a disappointing road trip (0-1-1),'' Howard said. “We have our work cut out for us. One down and now three to go.''
According to Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski, the gents at SportsClubStats still estimate the Wings' chances of making the playoffs at 56.5%--which is pretty damn close to a "coin flip" (yeah yeah, I know, there are all sorts of probability fallacies associated with that kind of theory).
- Michigan Hockey "bent its rules" for naming its "Michi-Gamer" of the night in praising the Ogdensburg, NY-born-and-raised Jimmy Howard its best Michigan-tie-in-possessing performer for Monday. Technically speaking, Howard did spend his senior year of high school in Ann Arbor, MI, playing for the U.S. National Team Development program, and Michigan Hockey notes that fact:
APRIL 23 – JIMMY HOWARD
We’re bending the rules a bit, but let’s face it, Jimmy Howard’s become one of our own over the years, right? The U.S. National Team Development Program alum has now played nine years of hockey for Michigan-based teams, and with that new deal he just signed, he’s not going anywhere. Last night, the Red Wings’ goaltender stood on his head, turning aside all 34 shots he faced to lead the Red Wings to a 4-0 win over Phoenix. It was Howard’s fourth shutout of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Red Wings, as they desperately battle to keep their historic playoff streak alive. Howard’s record on the season now stands at 18-13-7, with a .921 save percentage and a 2.22 goals-against average. He could very well be the reason the Red Wings make (or don’t make) the 2013 NHL Playoffs next week.
- Via RedWingsFeed, the Score's Daniel Wagner offers five reasons why the Columbus Blue Jackets making the playoffs would be "awesome" in his estimation. I can think of about fifty reasons why it would be less than "awesome" in my estimation;
- The Hockey News's Adam Proteau penned a list of power rankings that didn't quite make last night's cut, and here's what he had to say about the Red Wings prior to last night's game:
19. Detroit Red Wings [last week]16: With just one win in their past six games, Red Wings’ streak of 21 consecutive playoff seasons is in serious jeopardy. Their last regular-season game this Saturday against Dallas could have win-and-in/lose-and-out implications.
- I'm not sure why it received so little press--perhaps because Jordin Tootoo wanted it to be so--but Tootoo and his Team Tootoo fund held a low-key evening to help raise awareness of and funds to help prevent suicide and substance abuse in both at-risk youth and the general public, and from what I was told, the reason you heard those Tootoo whistles last night involved families from Nunavut coming to town and spending a couple of nights with Detroit area hosts.
I know that a couple of my pals who are members of the Wings' For 'em Club and some who simply came across the Team Tootoo Fund's Twitter account volunteered for last night's event and took part in the meet-and-greet in the Olympia Club after the game.
The Team Tootoo Fund did Tweet one quip and one informative note...
Walpole Island is a First Nations community essentially across the river from Algonac, MI and is just west of Wallaceburg, Ontario, along the Saint Clair River.
- In the promotional department, from the Wings:
- And while Ken Holland has been in attendance for the vast majority of the Red Wings' post-trade deadline games, but there's a high probability that Wings assistant GM Jim Nill, capologist Ryan Martin and the Wings' amateur scouts are pictured in this Tweet from the IIHF's Szymon Szemberg:
The most amusing part of this picture? Every NHL scout has the same uniform: a black lightweight track jacket--usually emblazoned with an NHL team's logo somewhere on the black fabric--a pair of jeans or slacks, black sneakers or more regularly dress shoes, and a not-inconspicuous stack of game notes to write upon, but they act as if they're convinced that they are completely invisible.
- SIGH. I didn't expect this kind of news to pop up on a random Tuesday morning, but I guess we're going to end this on a bit of a depressing note, from WXYZ's Malcom Maddox:
Most adults have moved a household at least once. Its a huge undertaking. Imagine if you were told told you had 30 days to relocate; no questions asked.
That’s what’s happening to dozens, if not hundreds, of people living in three buildings on Henry Street in Detroit’s Cass Corridor.
Diane Gordon and her neighbors were given one month to find a new place to call home. They're down to 27 days now, which is longer than Diane has lived in her apartment. She moved in on April first.
“Friday was the first I heard of this. I'm unaware of what's going on here.”
Diane is not alone. There are more than 200 apartments between the three buildings. The only thing residents were told is that the buildings have been sold. The name of new owner hasn't even been disclosed, but some believe they're losing their homes so the Red Wings can have a new one.
It's no secret Ilitch is hoping to build a new multimillion dollar mixed-use facility that would be the new home of the Red Wings.
We called Ilitch holdings for comment. We're still waiting for a response.
Update: MLive's making up for lost time. Brendan Savage penned a sidebar story about Valtteri Filppula's offensive contributions, which seem like a bonus at this point, and the story just hit the wires:
[Monday's goal] was his eighth goal and 16th point in 38 games this season. The Red Wings were expecting for more production after the seventh-year veteran registered a career-high 66 points last season and Filppula knows he's been disappointing this year.
"It's always tough, especially when you don't get wins," Filppula said. "That's the most important thing, trying to help the team win. I'm getting a lot of ice time. You hope you can help the team more. It's frustrating. I feel like I've had good games but you need to produce when you get to play that much and that's definitely something I haven't been able to do. Hopefully that changes. Obviously, I don't think I've been playing as well as I should. Today, I got one goal so I'm happy about that. I felt pretty good about that. Hopefully I can keep it going."
The Wings need Filppula to shoot the puck as much as possible over the last three games, and getting Filppula to shoot is usually like trying to pull teeth:
"It's different seeing Fil shoot the puck on a two-on-one," said linemate Daniel Cleary. "I thought he played real well tonight. He probably could have had three, for sure. He's got a good shot, but obviously he's a creative player and creative players like to pass. Just like (Pavel Datsyuk) or (Henrik Zetterberg), he likes to pass first. It's just in them. But certainly when they decide to shoot the puck on net, even late in the season, that's when they're going to score goals. It's good to see it, because he's an important player for us."
Coach Mike Babcock agreed. With only two home games remaining – Wednesday against Los Angeles and Thursday vs. Nashville – before Saturday's season finale in Dallas, Babcock knows his team needs to score more than the 1.8 goals the Red Wings had averaged in the last month before beating Phoenix. Seeing Fippula score might be a step in that direction.
"We needed him to get a goal, to be an important player, to be on the inside, shoot pucks, be dominant for us," Babcock said. "We count on him for that. Ideally, this goal today will help him take a step for us.''
You could extend that, "Be on the inside, shoot pucks and be dominant for us" line of thinking to each and every Red Wings forward given their ineffectual offensive play of late.
Update #2: Interesting quip from SI's Allan Muir, via his "Top Line" slate of morning reads:
• Mike Babcock says rookie Danny DeKeyser is making Detroit a faster team. That’s not just a homer opinion, either. A pro scout told me this weekend that the Wings are more effective in transition since DeKeyser arrived last month.
Update #3: ESPN posted a set of statistical tidbits related to last night's game...
Red Wings 4, Coyotes 0
* Red Wings: 3 power play goals; 2-22 on power play in previous 6 games
* Red Wings: currently in 9th place in West, 1 point behind Wild and Blue Jackets
* Jimmy Howard (DET): 34 saves, 4th shutout this season (15th of career)
* Johan Franzen (DET): 2 goals, 1st multi-goal game since April 4th of last season
And, via RedWingsFeed, WXYZ posted a video accompanying Malcom Maddox's story:
Update #4: MLive's David Muller offers more rink news, or the lack thereof:
The first chance the public is likely to get any more details on plans for a $650 million Detroit Red Wings arena and entertainment district will come when the Downtown Development Authority is ready to take action on it, a spokesman for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation said Tuesday.
And even then, the plans will have a long way to go.
The project was first revealed near the end of last year when Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch's Ilitch Holdings said that that the development hinged on passage of state legislation that allows for use of Downtown Development Authority funds. That legislation passed in December, indicating plans could move forward.
The state legislation allows Detroit's DDA to collect about $12 million a year for the project.
“It spelled out that the DDA has this capability to collect this tax, and do this tax capture towards catalyst development,” DEGC spokesman Bob Rossbach said Tuesday. "So there would be some form of action taken by the DDA and that’s when there would be a public announcement."
Update #5: Via RedWingsFeed, he's no Red Wings prospect, but Griffinshockey.com's Kyle Kujawa penned a profile of Grand Rapids Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan, who's led his team superbly over the course of the Griffins' 2012-2013 season, and will have to help carry the team offensively when the Griffins' best-of-five first round series against the Houston Aeros begins on Friday:
Prrior to the start of the NHL season (Jan. 19), Hoggan was on pace for a decent year offensively – 14 points (5-9—14) in 38 games. In the team’s final 38 games, Hoggan rattled off 31 points (15-16—31) and ended up finishing fourth on the team in scoring.
“Believe me, if you can get points you need to take them,” he said. “I found some chemistry playing with [Luke] Glendening and [Jan] Mursak, with their great speed. We’re really jelling right now. For me, it’s the end result and the success of the team that matters. Being able to contribute is a bonus, but it doesn’t make a difference to me how many points I get,” he continued.
Grand Rapids carried a four-game losing streak through a late-season homestand and into the final weekend of the season. But the work the team put in throughout the season paid off, as they clinched a playoff berth in the second-to-last week of the season, giving the team a chance to rest some players in the final week of the regular season.
But with Milwaukee and Rockford nipping at their heels for the Midwest Division crown, it was Hoggan who came up big with two assists in a 3-1 win over Peoria to seal the division title, and he tallied two goals during a 3-1 victory in the season finale over Chicago to help the team enter the playoffs on a winning note.
“I believe in momentum, for sure,” said Hoggan. “You don’t just flip a switch. We want to be playing at a high level. Each guy has to take ownership of his game, really look in the mirror and say, ‘hey, I’m not really going as hard as I can be.’ Every guy needs to step it up, and know that all of these games matter. We want to be part of hanging a banner here. We want to leave a mark.”
Update #7: Grand Rapids' Fox 17 posted a clip of Hoggan speaking about his team's playoff prospects...
And the Free Press's Helene St. James pondered what's happened to Valtteri Filppula this season:
I had an interesting conversation last month in Anaheim with Teemu Selanne, Filppula's fellow Finn, a longtime NHL star and, according to Henrik Zetterberg, Filppula's idol. (Zetterberg once said, "Whatever Teemu does, Filppula wants to do.")
Selanne has known Filppula since he was a teenager, and Filppula has worked in the summers at Selanne's hockey school in Finland. Filppula might not have a bigger fan, a bigger booster, than Selanne. I asked Selanne what he thought about Filppula.
"It's all about confidence," Selanne said. "He needs a couple of really good games to get going and get the feeling that good things can happen. It's tough — but the guys who find a way to do it, even when they are not 100%, even they they are hurting, those are the superstars. They find a way to do the job. That's hard. Because you never feel good in this league, after 10 games. There's always something wrong."
To his credit, Filppula is the first guy to admit he isn't playing well. I should know; he has told me several times already this season. He said it again Monday night: "I don't think I've been playing as well as I should, but at the same time, I've been trying to do the same things. I'm happy I got one goal —hopefully, I can keep improving."
Filppula went on to admit that, for a guy who plays as much as he does, "You need to produce, and that's something I haven't been able to do. Hopefully, that changes."
Daniel Cleary, an on-and-off linemate of Filppula, is among the legions who would like to see Filppula shoot more. Filppula is a borderline stealth shooter; opponents don't even expect it.
"He's got a good shot, but obviously, he's a creative player, and creative players like to pass, just like Pav, just like Bert, they like to pass first," Cleary said, bringing up Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi. "It's in them. But when he starts thinking, ‘Shoot the puck, get in on net,’ that's when you're going to score goals. It was good to see, because he's an important player for us."
What the Wings have to decide is just how valuable Filppula, 29, is to them. He's in the last year of a contract, and some team out there — such as Calgary — will give him $5 million per year. Monday night's Filppula is worth that, especially because the Wings are worried that Datsyuk might return to his native Russia after his contract expires in the summer of 2014. But where has he been the rest of the season?
Update #8: And here is the Grand Rapids Griffins' weekly press release, which is frickin' huge (and the following paragraphs constitute under half of its bulk):
GRIFFINS SET FOR POSTSEASON CLASH WITH AEROS
Fri., April 26 - GRIFFINS at Houston Aeros - 8:05 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sun., April 28 - GRIFFINS at Houston Aeros - 6:05 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Best in the Midwest: The Griffins entered last week searching for some momentum to end the regular season, as they had tied a season high by losing four straight games. On Friday night, they ended that streak as well as a seven-game losing streak against the Peoria Rivermen, beating their division rivals 3-1 in the 10th and final meeting of the season. Brett Skinner and T.J. Hensick traded goals in the first two periods, as the game was tied at one until Tomas Jurco scored with 13 seconds remaining to put Grand Rapids in front. After an empty net goal by Jan Mursak, the Griffins captured the Midwest Division title – their first division crown since 2005-06. The following night in Cleveland, the Griffins ended up on the wrong end of a goaltender’s duel and fell 1-0 to the Lake Erie Monsters, after 29 saves by Calvin Pickard and 32 by Petr Mrazek. Jeff Hoggan helped the team end the season on a high note, potting two goals in a 3-1 win over Chicago on Sunday to seal the team’s 42-26-4-4 record, its highest win total since 43 victories in 2008-09.
Western Conference Quarterfinals: After capturing the Midwest Division title with Friday’s win versus Peoria, the Griffins were locked into the Western Conference’s third seed, as they were unable to catch Toronto. A 3-0 win by Oklahoma City over Houston on Sunday confirmed that the Griffins and Aeros would meet in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Grand Rapids and Houston faced off six times during the regular season, with the Griffins taking the season series 4-2. The series will open with two games in Houston – Friday at 8:05 p.m. EDT and Sunday at 6:05 p.m. EDT – before the series turns to Grand Rapids for Game 3 on Wednesday, May 1 at 7 p.m. Games 4 and 5 will also be at Van Andel Arena, if necessary, on Friday, May 2 and Saturday, May 3.
Thank You Fans!: With Friday night’s crowd of 10,829, the Griffins finished their home slate with an average attendance of 7,681 (291,892 total), giving them an increase for the third straight year and the sixth time in the last seven seasons. Hershey, which finished with an increase for the 10th straight season, is the only AHL team with a longer/better attendance trend since 2006-07. The Griffins finished fourth in the league in attendance, trailing only Hershey, Chicago and Providence.
Playoff Roster: The Griffins on Monday set their 2012-13 playoff roster. The following 28 players are currently eligible to suit up for the Griffins in the postseason: goaltenders Tom McCollum, Petr Mrazek and Jordan Pearce; defensemen Adam Almquist, Chad Billins, Brennan Evans, Gleason Fournier, Richard Nedomlel, Max Nicastro, Nathan Paetsch, Brett Skinner and Ryan Sproul; and forwards Louis-Marc Aubry, Mitch Callahan, Willie Coetzee, Landon Ferraro, Luke Glendening, Triston Grant, Jeff Hoggan, Tomas Jurco, Jan Mursak, Andrej Nestrasil, Francis Pare, Trevor Park es, Teemu Pulkkinen, Brent Raedeke, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar. Additionally, if assigned by the Red Wings, defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff and forwards Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist will be eligible for Calder Cup Playoff action.
Playoff Promos: Tickets for home Game A (series Game 3), which are included in Griffins full season ticket packages, are now on sale for $33, $27, $23, $19, $17 and $15 (additional $2 per ticket on day of game), reflecting a league-wide increase of $1 over regular season prices. Playoff tickets may be purchased in person at The Zone at Van Andel Arena and all Star Tickets locations, by phone at (800) 585-3737, or through griffinshockey.com. In celebration of the team’s return to the Calder Cup Playoffs, the Griffins are adapting their popular Friday promotion and will offer $2 beers and $2 hot dogs for all home playoff games, including Fridays, from the time doors open until one hour after the start of the game. In addition, the first 4,000 fans for Game 3 will receive a Griffins playoff poster, while t he first 2,500 will receive a playoff rally towel courtesy of Auto Value Parts Stores. Fans can also purchase a Playoff 4-Pack to receive four or more tickets to a playoff game of their choice to save $3 off of day-of-game pricing per ticket. Visit griffinshockey.com/tickets/specials for more info.
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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.