The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/14/14 at 02:20 AM ET
I try to stay neutral regarding the whole Detroit sports radio tangle, but let's just say that Terry Foster made an inflammatory remark as he, the Oakland Press's Pat Caputo and Fox 2's Woody Woodriffe debated what the Red Wings need to do to defeat the Boston Bruins in the first round:
The Detroit Red Wings are hoping to get Henrik Zetterberg from back surgery back by late in Round 1 of the playoffs or, more realistically, the start of Round 2 if they get that far. “He’ll be cleared for contact April 24 but what does that mean — Bumping into (wife) Emma in the kitchen?” Red Wings GM Ken Holland said jokingly. “Does it mean practice or games?” If it were regular-season, they could rough the captain up a bit in practice but teams hardly ever practise in the post-season. Could he step in and play a playoff game with no games since early in the Olympics? Defenceman Jonathan Ericsson should be ready the same time as Zetterberg. “He had cartilage detached in his finger,” Holland said of his second- or third-best D-man after Niklas Kronwall and Danny DeKeyser.
Meanwhile, in Boston, something tells me that Comcast Sportsnet Northeast's Tony Amonte is going to aggravate the hell out of Wings fans, with Mike Milbury of course running a close second:
Quoting CSN Northeast:
"The Detroit Red Wings also are not going to get in an alley fight with the Boston Bruins." said Haggerty, "They're not going to get involved in stuff after the whistles. It's going to be really difficult for the Bruins to sort of generate that emotional level and that hatred they need in this series,"
Tony Amonte countered Haggerty's comments by suggesting Niklas Kronwall of the Red Wings might get the Bruins emotionally into the series.
"I will hit on one guy for the Detroit Red Wings to try to rebut what Haggs just said… Niklas Kronwall." said Amonte, "He is dirty. He hits guys coming across the middle, he's not afraid to take some liberties. That's the guy that will spark the Boston Bruins."
Here's more from Haggerty...
Here's NESN's series preview--which includes comments from Bruins players...
Here's a shorter clip in which Loui Eriksson discussed the Wings...
And as NESN noted, the Bruins wrapped up their regular season via a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
The AP's recap's basic storyline is a little lacking in Bruins talk, so we'll go with the Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa's recap to note that the Bruins recalled and then demoted a gaggle of players...
Sunday’s regular-season finale, a 3-2 loss to New Jersey at the Prudential Center, had little meaning for the Bruins.
Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla, Daniel Paille, and Chris Kelly didn’t travel to Newark. The Bruins recalled Alexander Khokhlachev, Justin Florek, Craig Cunningham, and Matt Lindblad from Providence on an emergency basis.
Chad Johnson was in goal. Dougie Hamilton started as the fourth-line right wing.
But the bosses were watching closely. Assuming full health, the Bruins will carry one extra forward in Jordan Caron and two spare defensemen for the playoffs, most likely Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter.
Injuries are bound to take place in the playoffs. When they do, the Bruins will have to call upon their young players to help out.
“I need to get a good feel of those players moving forward,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’ve got one extra forward here when you look at our lineup being healthy. If we need to call some guys up, I think it’s important that I see those guys.’’
"The goal tonight was to have a good compete level, which I think we had, a decent showing, and give those guys an opportunity to play,” Julien said. “We did all of the above. Certainly not disappointed, although you always hope to come out of here with a winning outcome vs. a losing outcome.”
And NHL.com's Dan Rosen's recap will provide a better narrative:
Travis Zajac and Marek Zidlicky scored goals in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie. Jaromir Jagr assisted on those goals to move past Gordie Howe into eighth place on the NHL's all-time list for career assists at 1,050. He also tied Steve Yzerman for sixth place on the all-time points list at 1,755.
Zidlicky scored his first goal in 19 games when he took a pass from Zajac and curled behind the net before stuffing a shot inside the left post at 7:12 of the first period. The Bruins got even with 31.9 seconds left in the first on the power play when Eriksson capped a tic-tac-toe pass play from Marchand and Carl Soderberg.
Zidlicky's goal officially knocked the Bruins from contention for the William Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltenders for the team with the fewest goals allowed. The Los Angeles Kings ended the season with a League-low 174 goals allowed; the Bruins closed the season with 177.
Zajac broke a 1-1 tie when he scored his 18th of the season by tipping home a shot from the slot off a feed from Jagr in the left circle at 3:52 of the third period. Zidlicky scored his second of the game on the power play off a slap shot from the top of the left circle at 6:13.
Brad Marchand scored a power-play goal with 16 seconds remaining in the third to pull the Bruins within 3-2.Zidlicky scored two goals in the victory and Loui Eriksson scored a power-play late in the first for the Bruins. Backup goalie Chad Johnson made 28 saves.
The Boston Herald's Steve Conroy added a note...
Brad Marchand had just one power-play point (an assist) this season entering yesterday. He doubled that total with a nice assist on Loui Eriksson’s first-period score on the man advantage, which came off a brilliant, one-touch, cross-crease feed by Carl Soderberg.
Marchand wasn’t done. He also top-shelved a nice power-play shot with 0:16 left to complete the scoring for the Bruins. . . .
And then Conroy provided a short summary of the Bruins' injuries:
The entire No. 1 line — David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla — stayed home, as did captain Zdeno Chara, center Patrice Bergeron, wingers Dan Paille and Chris Kelly. Coach Claude Julien said Paille and Bergeron, both knocked out of Saturday’s game vs. Buffalo, were unhurt and are fine.
“(Paille is) doing really well,” said Julien of the winger, who was helped off the ice after a collision with Sabre Jake McCabe (who was assessed a nonsensical five-minute interference major). A concussion was feared, but Julien said, “We got some good news, he’s feeling great.”
He termed Bergeron’s problem as, “very minor,” and termed Kedlly day-to-day. “I can’t tell you how many days, because with a back you never know,” said the coach.
After the game, ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald offered 5 reasons why he believes the Bruins will win the Stanley Cup this year. Among them:
Goaltending: The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask is a top candidate for this season’s Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender. After signing an eight-year deal worth $56 million last summer, he said he wanted to be worth every penny and backed up his words this season, finishing with a 36-15-6 record, 2.04 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in 58 games. He also led the league with seven shutouts. After serving as the backup for Tim Thomas during Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup run, Rask helped the Bruins reach the finals last spring before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite playing an NHL career-high 58 games this season, Rask is healthy and primed for the Stanley Cup playoffs. He doesn’t lack in confidence and will be the backbone for Boston’s Cup run again this spring.
Experience/depth: With the core group from both Stanley Cup runs in 2011 and 2013 intact, the Bruins are a mature and experienced team. Led by captain Zdeno Chara and assistant captain Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins are built as a perennial Cup contender and know what it takes to win. Boston’s combination of size, strength and talent will be difficult for any opponent to stop this spring. Plus, coach Claude Julien’s ability to roll four lines and three defensive pairs on a consistent basis creates depth that most teams can’t match.
Getting Iggy with it: When the Bruins signed free-agent forward Jarome Iginla last summer, the team figured the future Hall of Famer would be a perfect fit on the top line, along with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Well, Iginla has performed as advertised and his presence is one reason why his linemates have both enjoyed the most consistent seasons of their careers. Iginla’s work ethic, both on and off the ice, has rubbed off on the entire team. He’s reached many milestones in his career, but a Stanley Cup championship has eluded him. His Bruins teammates are motivated to get him one.
Home sweet home: Since the Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy for the league’s best record, they will have home-ice advantage for the entire Stanley Cup playoffs. Boston finished the regular season with a 31-7-3 record on TD Garden ice. The 31 wins on home ice are the second-most in team history. The Bruins won 33 home games during the 1970-71 season and matched that in 1973-74.
If you want to read Patrice Bergeron's "diary" entry on ESPN Boston or oodles of praise for the Bruins captain's 30-goal season from BostonBruins.com's Caryn Switaj, or Comcast Sportsnet Northeast's Joe Haggerty (who also issued pluses and minuses and Talking Points from Sunday's game), you may most certainly do so on your own...
But as you might imagine, the Boston press--as noted above--doesn't really believe that the Wings will be much more than a stiff first-round challenge along the Bruins route to the Stanley Cup Final.
NESN's Mike Coyle fired off a list of Bruins achievements from the 2013-2014 season...
Here are just a few of the noteworthy accomplishments this team was able to achieve this season.
The Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time since 1989-90.
The Bruins won 54 games, which is tied for the second-most in team history.
The Bruins’ 117 points were the third-most in team history.
Their 31 home wins were the second-most in team history.
Only the Los Angeles Kings allowed fewer goals than the Bruins.
Boston finished the season with a plus-84 goal differential, which was 27 goals better than any other team.
The Bruins’ third-period goal differential was plus-48, which is better than the overall differential than all but four teams.
The B’s had an eight game home winning streak and a 15-game point streak at points during the season.
They also had a club-record nine-game road winning streak and a 16-game road point streak.
Just two teams scored more goals than the Bruins did this season. That’s despite the fact that just one Bruins player (David Krejci) is in the NHL’s top 30 in points.
CSNNE's Haggerty weighed in on the series at hand as follows...
The series against the Red Wings won’t be an easy one for Boston, and sets up a potential first two rounds where the President’s Trophy-winning Bruins face Detroit and Montreal after compiling a 2-5-1 record against them during the regular season. The Bruins didn’t care much earlier today when asked if there was a preference among their potential playoff opponents.
“As far as losing sleep over it, I mean, you just have to be ready for whoever you are going to play, whoever you are going to face and then that’s it,” said Zdeno Chara. “I think that if you want to move on, if you want to win, you have to win the series no matter who you are playing.”
The Bruins have lost two games to the Red Wings this season without Pavel Datsyuk in the lineup, and lost their most recent game vs. Detroit with both Datsyuk and Zetterberg in the lineup.
Datsyuk should be ready to play to start the playoffs, and Zetterberg is skating by himself with an aim at returning at some point in the first round series.
The Bruins are clearly the favorites in the series and should be able to wear Detroit down over the course of the playoff series, but the speed and skill of the Red Wings is exactly the kind of team that can exploit a bigger, slower Bruins team. Tomas Jurco, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist gave the Bruins defense a pretty fair amount of issues this season, and there is no shortage of Stanley Cup playoff experience up and down Detroit’s lineup.
There’s also the simple fact that the Bruins haven’t won a game in Joe Louis Arena since back in 2007, and have consistently had problems with the Red Wings over the years. For a team in the Bruins that earned the No. 1 spot overall in this spring’s playoffs, Detroit really seems to be a tough draw in the first round for a team of Boston’s stature.
And the players spoke with the Providence Journal's Mark Divver...
“They’re a great team and they beat us more this year than we beat them. (We) really have to put our best game together every night,” Boston’s Brad Marchand said on Sunday. “It’s going to be a battle in the postseason, so we know we have to play our best hockey.”
One thing that will be missing as the series opens is any history of animosity between the two teams. At least at the start, the hatred that marks the Boston-Pittsburgh or Boston-Montreal rivalries will be absent.
That’s because while the Bruins and Red Wings have been playing each other for 88 years, they have not faced each other in the postseason in 57 years. They hadn’t even played each other very often in the regular season until the Wings moved to the Eastern Conference this year.
The last time Boston and Detroit met in the playoffs, 1956-57, the Wings had finished first in the league as Gordie Howe took home the scoring title and the MVP trophy. The Wings were a powerhouse in the early 1950s, winning four Stanley Cups in six seasons, but the third-place Bruins upset them in five games.
While Boston is a clear favorite this time, they’ll have to be at their best against the underdog Wings.
BostonBruins.com's Jess Isner...
“It's really exciting, now that it's finally over, and playoffs is when the real fun starts,” said defenseman Dougie Hamilton. “Just to get through these last couple of games - it was tough when you were looking forward to the playoffs and you know what's coming.”
For a couple of weeks now, many of the B’s have lamented that that they wished the playoffs started tomorrow. Now, at last, the time has come to wipe the slate clean and start preparing for Detroit, a team that took three of four games from Boston during the regular season.
“I don't think they've performed to their standards of their team this year — I think their lineup is a lot better than where they finished,” Marchand said. “[It seems like] more of a second- or third-round matchup for sure, and we know that we're going to have a battle.”
“We know they're a great team and they beat us more this year than we beat them, so we really have to put our best game together every night.”
The Boston Herald's Conroy...
“They’ve got a lot of speed, a lot of skill and puck possession,” said defenseman Dougie Hamilton. “It’s kind of a Euro-style of game, where they don’t want to dump it in. When they do, they’re fast and get on you. I think we just have to push the pace against them instead of letting them take it to us. And, obviously, be physical. We should be fine.”
The Bruins had one stinker vs. the Wings, losing 6-1 Nov. 27 at Joe Louis. Other than that, the games have been close and competitive.
“The common theme is that they’ve all been hard-fought games,” said Julien. “It’s going to be a tough series. We know that. They always give us a good game. We had that one game in Detroit, but (the rest) have been hard-fought, close games. The team has a really strong system. They’re well coached. That was proved this year — with all the injuries they had, to be able to maintain their spot in the playoffs. They deserve a lot of credit for being able to accomplish that. I don’t know how many teams would have been able to (do that).”
The fascinating subplot to the series is that Julien was an assistant to Detroit counterpart Mike Babcock on the Canadian Olympic team — and roommates in the deluxe living quarters in Sochi. Needless to say, the two veteran coaches talked a lot of hockey. There won’t be many X’s and O’s secrets.
“There’s really never any secrets anymore with the video and watching teams play,” said Julien. “You don’t hide much. But the thing is, if there is a little bit of an edge, we both have it. . . . In order for us to be successful with the Canadian team we couldn’t hold back information. We made that deal that we would be as open as we could be. We’ll both know each other’s team well. We’ll both know our tendencies because of how we worked together. It’ll be an interesting series.”
And the Boston Globe's Shinzawa about their match-up:
The Bruins lost three of the four games against the Wings this season. The Wings blew out the Bruins at Joe Louis Arena Nov. 27, 6-1.
“I know that one game in Detroit, we didn’t play very well,” Julien said. “But they’ve all been close games. They play a real solid game. They’re a team that has a very strong system. Well-coached. I think that was proven this year with all the injuries they had. To maintain their spot in the playoffs is pretty impressive. I think they deserve a lot of credit for accomplishing that. I don’t know how many teams would have been able to do that in that situation.”
The Bruins will have the upper hand. They are the better and more complete team. Tuukka Rask is sharper than Howard. Zdeno Chara is a more blanketing shutdown defenseman than Kronwall. The Bruins’ defense is deeper and more physical than Detroit’s.
Up front, the Wings will have a hard time matching the skill, strength, and ferocity of the Bruins’ four-line machine. The Bruins have three lines that possess the puck regularly, wear out defensemen with their cycle game, and create offense with skilled plays. The fourth line has a playoff history of banging bodies and changing momentum.
Assuming good health, the No. 3 line of Eriksson, Chris Kelly, and Carl Soderberg will draw shifts against Detroit’s No. 3 defensive pairing of Brian Lashoff and Jakub Kindl. Even if Detroit can keep the Bruins’ top six forwards quiet, the strength of Soderberg’s line could be too much for the Wings to handle.
But the intensity of the first round can produce upsets. The Bruins almost learned that last year against Toronto.
“It’s more of a second- or third-round matchup for sure. We know that,” Brad Marchand said. “We’re going to have a battle. They’re a great team. They beat us more this year than we beat them. So we really have to put our best game together every night.”
If you did happen to miss the Wings-Bruins schedule, here it is:
|SERIES A - A1 vs. W2||TIME (ET)||vs.||NETWORKS|
|Friday, April 18||7:30 p.m.||Detroit at Boston||NBCSN, TSN|
|Sunday, April 20||3 p.m.||Detroit at Boston||NBC, TSN|
|Tuesday, April 22||7:30 p.m.||Boston at Detroit||NBCSN, TSN|
|Thursday, April 24||8 p.m.||Boston at Detroit||NBCSN, TSN|
|*Saturday, April 26||3 p.m.||Detroit at Boston||NBC, TSN|
|*Monday, April 28||TBD||Boston at Detroit||TSN|
|*Wednesday, April 30||TBD||Detroit at Boston||TSN|
* - if necessary
FSD and NESN will air the non-weekend games, but that's only in Michigan and Massachusetts.
In terms of the "Out of Town" takes that do not involve Bruins writers, do I really need to tell you that the Bruins are the favorite here?
CBS Sports' Brian Stubits, Chris Peter and Dennis Dodd are picking the Bruins in 7, 5 and 6 games, respectively;
The Hockey News breaks down the series as follows:
Bruins Insider Breakdown: I think it’s a foregone conclusion Boston is going to come out of the East. They’re playing almost perfect hockey. Jarome Iginla has been an extremely good fit, and they have depth and skill. They’re the team to beat. The only mitigating factor is whether Zdeno Chara can maintain his level of play throughout the playoffs. As we saw last year, he seemed to tire in the final. Coach Claude Julien knows what buttons to push with his players, and they have a template in place to win. Julien may be a hardass, but at the end of the day his direction is the right one for that team to go. - Jeff O’Neill, former NHLer and current TSN analyst. Follow him @odognine2.
Red Wings Insider Breakdown: With so many players out of the lineup – including their two best in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk – the job Mike Babcock and the Wings have done is impressive. They just seem to work their rear ends off and Babcock gets them to commit to his system, because they have no other chance to win with so many young guys coming up from the AHL. The pedigree of the Wings organization is as good as any, and if Datsyuk and Zetterberg can return, even at less than 100 percent, for the playoffs, there’s every chance the Red Wings exceed expectations and do some damage. – O’Neill....
Prediction: As crazy as it seems to pick against Boston, you can understand why someone would go with Detroit: they’re the Red Wings. Every time Detroit gets underestimated they stare down their naysayers and continue doing their business as usual. But with all due respect to Detroit, injury concerns will linger over some of their best players, while Boston enters playing some of the best hockey in the league. The Red Wings are always a dangerous upset team, but the Bruins will be the ultimate challenge. BRUINS IN 5
Sports Illustrated hasn't penned its first-round previews as of yet, but here's its Wings-Bruins "storyline":
Boston vs. Detroit:The underdog Red Wings looked comfortable in the role of giant killer last spring, knocking off the second-seeded Ducks in a seven-game opening-round thriller…and this year, they’re primed to do it again. While they’re up against a tougher opponent in Boston, they’ve given Bruins fits all year, taking three of four. More importantly, they’ve found ways to win games in which they were outplayed as they were in a 3-2 victory on April 2. They can’t match Boston’s depth or playoff experience, but they have a knack for hanging around just long enough to take advantage of an opportunistic offense. If they can steal one early, they might work their way into the heads of the Bruins.
The CBC's Justin Piercy also weighed in on the goaltending situations of every Eastern Conference team, including Detroit:
Detroit Red Wings: Jimmy Howard
Stats: 21-19-11, 2.66 GAA, .910 SV%
Through a catastrophic amount of injuries (including his own) Howard kept the Red Wings' post-season appearance streak alive, clawing out wins in crunch time at the end of the regular season.
Burning question: Will a banged-up group of Detroit skaters be able to keep up their desperate play up in front of Howard?
The Ottawa Sun's Chris Stevenson might offer the most representative preview...
Detroit Red Wings (Wildcard 2) at Boston Bruins (1)
Season series: Detroit 3, Boston 1
The Early Word: This series has so many great matchups, beginning behind the bench with the coaches. Detroit’s Mike Babcock and Boston’s Claude Julien are two of the best and Julien was on Babcock’s staff when they won gold with Team Canada in Sochi in February. The Wings have been banged up all year and you have to wonder how effective forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg (back issues, may be back at some point in first round) will be. Julien has defenceman Zdeno Chara and Selke favourite Patrice Bergeron to smother whoever he feels is the Wings’ biggest threat, which at this point is Gustav Nyquist (28 goals in 57 games). The Wings played the Bruins tough this season, but this is the Boston’s time of year.
Stevenson says: Bruins in six.
And both ESPN's Barry Melrose...
And Craig Custance previewed the series, with Custance naming a "Hero in Waiting" for both teams, with the obvious guy for Detroit being picked...
Red Wings: Henrik Zetterberg: The availability of Zetterberg will be a constant storyline in this series. He hasn't played since back pain forced him out of the Winter Olympics but is skating again and hasn't ruled out a return against the Bruins. It's asking a lot of Zetterberg to jump into the thick of a playoff series without playing a minute of NHL action since Feb. 8 and still be effective, but he's such a smart, savvy player that if he plays he will be a difference-maker. Before the injury, Zetterberg was producing over a point per game with 48 points in 45 games. With 12 points in 14 playoff games last year, he was a big part of Detroit knocking off the Ducks and nearly defeating the Blackhawks. If the Red Wings can manage a couple of wins without him and then plug him into the lineup, this series gets interesting.
He offers these "Fatal Flaws" for both teams...
They're the Presidents' Trophy winner, which didn't faze the Blackhawks last year when they became the first team since the 2007-08 Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup and the Presidents' Trophy. Since the trophy started being awarded in 1985-86, only one Eastern Conference Presidents' Trophy winner also won the Stanley Cup: the 1993-94 Rangers. Not only that, these Bruins have to deal with the additional burden of being the heavy favorite in the East. It's hard to find anyone who doesn't think the Bruins are significantly better than everyone else in the conference. They pass both the scout test and the analytics test. They are impeccably constructed by GM Peter Chiarelli, who stretched every dollar in a season the cap came down to assemble this team. With that comes pressure. The young Red Wings can play loose, and the longer the series goes, the more the heat increases on the Bruins.
Red Wings: Depth on defense
This is an area the Bruins can expose, especially with the way coach Claude Julien rolls four lines. Niklas Kronwall is a rock and anchors the Red Wings defense, but after that it thins out. DeKeyser has become an invaluable addition to the Detroit blue line, but he has played all of two career playoff games. Brendan Smith is a bit of a wild card who might end up helping both the Red Wings and Bruins at different points in this series. With Jonathan Ericsson's availability in doubt, a likely pair of Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff will be one Julien's targets to get an advantage on, which his deep forward group can capitalize.
And his prediction is this:
This wasn't an easy draw for the Bruins in the first round, no reward for finishing with the NHL's best record. But ultimately, Boston's experience, depth up front and edge in goal will win out. Bruins in 6
NHL.com posited a massive preview, breaking down the teams' forwards, defense, goaltending, coaching, special teams and "series-changers"...
Jimmy Howard -- If the Red Wings can get the goaltending they need, and certainly Howard has that capability, they will be a tough out. He is 20-22 with a 2.57 goals-against average, two shutouts and .918 save percentage in 42 playoff games. Howard need not be unbeatable, but just consistent. A few defensive lapses from time to time have contributed to his subpar season, but those are precisely the moments when Howard needs to be strong and confident in bailing his team out of trouble. The Red Wings rank among the bottom four in goals scored of the eight Eastern Conference teams that qualified for the playoffs, so Howard could be the key to a long and successful playoff run.
Before issuing a consistently bet-hedging conclusion:
Bruins will win if … Barring any unforeseen scoring slumps or disasters (like an injury to Rask), the Bruins' only concern in the postseason will be the young defensemen and how they respond to being key performers. Hamilton, Bartkowski and Krug filled in admirably last season, but there's a big difference between jumping fresh into a successful situation and facing teams that have had a year to scout for weaknesses. If the young defensemen continue to limit their mistakes, the Bruins should have enough offense and goaltending to advance.
Red Wings will win if … The young players continue to excel in pressure situations, Datsyuk and the other veterans pave a path for them, and Howard remains consistently sharp between the pipes. If Zetterberg can return from his back injury at some point, that would provide a shot of adrenaline throughout the lineup. Zetterberg ranks third among active players with 55 postseason goals, to go along with a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy. Alfredsson has 51 playoff goals in 121 games to rank fourth among active players; Johan Franzen has 42 playoff goals and Datsyuk has 36.
NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale did declare 28-goal-scorer Gustav Nyquist to be the team's "X-Factor' (NHL.com's going with Reilly Smith for Boston), with Nyquist insisting that he's not going to let up on the gas now that Pavel Datsyuk's returned...
"I don't think [Datsyuk] is going to come in and just save the whole team," Nyquist said. "We've still got to work. Obviously he's going to be our best player out there, but us other guys, we've still got to keep playing the way we've been doing."
Nyquist has been a regular on the highlight reels this season with his ability to make plays at top speed, and Babcock would prefer him playing left wing on the second line despite the temptation of having him ride shotgun with Datsyuk. It enables Babcock to spread the wealth and field four offensive lines.
"My thought process is Nyquist is playing great where he's playing, and so I don't want him deferring and giving the puck to [Datsyuk]," Babcock said. "I want him shooting it in the net. He's quick, generates offense, and has given us another skilled player to play on our top six."
Nyquist has had a six-game goal streak in November and a 10-game point streak (12 goals, 14 points) from March 16-April 2, the longest streak in team history since Zetterberg went 11 straight in 2011.
Nyquist is not only entertaining, but capable of leaving an opponent flat-footed. He did it to Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara earlier this month, capping a spectacular end-to-end rush that gave Detroit a 3-2 victory. He gave his teammates and coaching staff a sign of things to come in his debut on Nov. 21 this season, scoring two goals in a 4-3 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"I think he's really confident and really knows how to play all areas of the ice and not just scoring goals," veteran forward Daniel Alfredsson said. "He's been great at that, but I like his work ethic, his attention to details, and just being a young guy who is leading by example for everybody."
And NHL.com's Brian Hedger discussed Daniel Alfredsson's presence in what I suppose is a "human interest"-style story:
"He's been everything we hoped for," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "Unfortunately, some of the people we'd hoped he would play with, many or most of them [were injured]. We never really had the entire team together as we really projected it in the summer time. So, he's done a real good job."
On the ice, Alfredsson stepped right into the top power-play unit and contributed with a good shot from the right point. Alfredsson was among Detroit's leaders in shots, logged about 17 minutes a game and had no problem bouncing around in the lineup, playing the right side on each of the top three lines at different points.
"In Ottawa, we switched up lines all the time," Alfredsson said. "You've got to be ready. Today, everybody plays the same way. You know the breakouts, you know the faceoff plays ... it's not like, 'OK, I'm out here with two new guys, what do I have to do?' We all know what to do, so that has been no issue for me at all."
Getting acquainted with a new city, after moving his family from Ottawa to suburban Detroit, was more of a hurdle. It took a while to get used to the new surroundings, but Alfredsson said he and his family are now content and stronger for going through the change.
"Just trying something different or new, it opens up your eyes in a lot of ways," Alfredsson said. "On and off the ice, I think it's been great here. It's been challenging as well, and that's one way I was looking at it too, and how we were looking at it as a family. We were growing as a family. You've got to put yourself in situations where you don't know everything all the time. You kind of push yourself in that sense, and that's definitely been the case for us."
"I think everybody, wherever you play in today's League, you think you can win," Alfredsson said. "Pretty much everybody talks about, 'Make the playoffs and anything can happen,' and I think we definitely feel that with this team. We've been playing playoff hockey for the past little while and it's going to be the same going forward. I think that's going to be an advantage."
The Red Wings hope he's right. They also hope to hand the Cup off to Alfredsson for a long-awaited hoist.
"That's something everybody's thought about," Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith said. "That's the reason he chose to come here. That's a huge thing, so for sure he'd be one of those guys if you did win, he'll be the second guy to lift it; that kind of thing. It's just a little thing in the back of our heads, obviously. We're going step-by-step and game-by-game, but for sure that's something that would be pretty cool."
In terms of "local" stuff, aside from Foster's inflammatory comment, there isn't very much to go upon. The Wings were busy beating the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, wrapping up a set of 4 games played over the course of 6 nights, and then they flew back to Detroit.
They made most of their comments while preparing to return home, and as the Free Press's Helene St. James noted (she also took note of the last 5 playoff series between the teams, which took place a long time ago), the Wings are approaching their next task with a combination of confidence and humility regarding the magnitude of their goal:
“We used to be them,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said after Sunday’s 3-0 victory over the Blues at Scottrade Center. “We used to get into these playoff series, and all the pressure is going to be on them. They’ve got to win. We’re not supposed to. We’ve got to make it as hard as possible on them.”
It’s an Original Six springtime matchup that hasn’t occurred in nearly six decades, as the Wings and Bruins last met in the playoffs in 1957. Then, the Wings were the best team in the regular season and were upset by the Bruins. This season’s Bruins are as complete a team as there is, from a fantastic forward group led by Patrice Bergeron to an intimidating defense led by 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara to Vezina Trophy candidate Tuukka Rask.
“Bergeron to me is a good player that drags everyone into doing it right,” Babcock said. “He does everything right. Chara is a really good man. As good as players as those two are, they’re better people. That’s what you want from your leadership group.”
The Wings enter the series with four better overall lines than they’ve had all season. Most encouragingly is the way Pavel Datsyuk — who didn’t play the past two times the Wings beat the Bruins — looks more like his dangerous self six games after a long injury layoff. He wired a puck straight to linemate Justin Abdelkader on Sunday, the kind of tape-to-tape pass few in the league can match.
Chara is the largest part of Boston’s team, a guy best approached with laughter.
“He’s just a massive human being,” Jimmy Howard said, smiling. “You just pretty much have to find the puck, whether you pick a side or get down low and find it between his legs.”
“He’s just so big, he’s going to box you out, he’s going to play tough, he’s going to play physical against you,” Abdelkader said. “You’ve just got to get to the front of the net, and you’ve got to try to skate him. He’s a a big guy and can skate well, but you’ve got to move your feet as much as you can on him.”
Coach Babcock was skeptical of the value of the team's season-ending win, as he told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, but he wasn't in Abdelkader's "throw it all out" mode:
“They didn’t have their team and we didn’t have chunks of our team,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I don’t know if you can take much out of the game, but it’s always nice to win.”
Now, the important stuff begins.
The Red Wings open the first-round of the Eastern Conference playoffs Friday and Sunday for Games 1 and 2 in Boston (no official start times yet). Game 3 and 4 are in Detroit Tuesday, April 22 and Thursday, April 24.
The Red Wings defeated the top-seeded (and Presidents Trophy-winning) Bruins three of four games this season.
“It does,” said goalie Jimmy Howard about whether that gives the Red Wings some confidence. “But in the grand scheme of things, what’s done is done. When we head into Boston, they’ll be fired up and we have to weather the storm.”
Babcock actually made a bit of a funny, as MLive's Ansar Khan noted...
“We’re not throwing it out the window,” Red Wings coach Babcock said. “We’re telling our guys that’s what matters, that we dominated the series.”
He was joking.
“Obviously, it starts all over,” Babcock said. “But we feel real comfortable with our group. We feel we’re well-organized, and we know we’re going to compete.”
And Abdelkader seconded the second part...
Justin Abdelkader, who scored twice in Sunday’s season-ending 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues, said: “I think the regular season you just got to flush out. I think numbers, goals, points, everything kind of gets tossed to the side; it’s a new season. It’s a different brand of hockey. Matchups are more important, teams are making adjustments on the fly.”
Before Brendan Smith, Howard and Gustav Nyquist talked about their opponent:
“We play a system that does well against Boston and it’s something that we have to stick to,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “If we get away from that or get hindered in any sense, then we’ll struggle. I think the biggest thing for us is puck-possession, no turnovers, because they will put the puck in the back of our net.”
“They have scoring, they have physicality, they have puck-moving defensemen, they have arguably one of the best goalies; they have the makeup for a Stanley Cup team,” Smith said. “So does everybody else, but they might have it more than any other team because of their physicality, which is stronger than other teams.”
“They like to get in on the forecheck, they like to bang on you, wear on your D,” Howard said. “So we’re going to have to do a good job of cutting their forwards off and giving our D some time.”
“You have to be ready for their physical play for sure and I think our advantage is that we play pretty fast and we’re going to try to skate as much as possible,” Nyquist said. “We’ve shown we can play with them earlier this season and it will be a good (series).”
The Detroit News's Kulfan filed a list of "10 things to know about the Bruins," including the following...
Top-flight line: Arguably one of the best lines in the league this season has been David Krejci centering Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla.
Krejci is a player who usually comes comes alive in the playoffs, as evidenced by his leading playoff scoring two of the last three seasons.
Exiled from Calgary, Iginla has been revitalized by signing with a playoff contender and been one of the league’s most dangerous playoff scorers the second half of the season.
Lucic is a hulk of a wing whose physical style will be difficult for the Red Wings to match.
Special teams: As you’d expect with a Presidents Trophy-winning team, the Bruins dominate on the special teams. They went into Sunday’s games with the third-best power play (21 percent) and the eighth-best penalty kill (83.9 percent), efficient in both areas.
The power play, though, is one to watch.
A key figure on Boston’s power play is Livonia native defenseman Torey Krug (Michigan State) who is as dangerous on the point as anybody in the league, especially with the monstrous Chara screening in front.
In terms of player comments on video, I can only point you toward the following, and suggest that all of this stuff will get balanced out in a big way over the next four or five days.
The Free Press's Helene St. James asked Howard and Babcock about battling the Bruins...
And she asked Justin Abdelkader and Babcock about net-front goals as they might apply to beating Tuukka Rask:
And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Justin Abdelkader...
And coach Mike Babcock speaking with the media:
I'm going to try to lay low today as this damn cold front dragging its ass over Michigan's wreaking havoc with my sinuses, and 4 games in 6 nights ain't easy on me, either. Here's hoping we all get to catch our breath before the "fun" begins.
Do the Wings face long odds in attempting to beat the Bruins? You bet.
Do the Wings have a realistic chance of beating the Bruins? Yes.
Would I bet money on it? Not a significant amount of money.
The Bruins have four lines, they have a superb goaltender to the Wings' inconsistent one, and as Custance noted, the absence of Jonathan Ericsson may be more difficult to overcome than that of Zetterberg given the way Brian Lashoff's forgotten to be a steady stay-at-home defenseman, Jakub Kindl's vacillated between posting points and watching players skate through him, given Brendan Smith's continued growing pains, DeKeyser's still-inexperienced hiccups and Quincey's...Quincey-ness...
The blueline may tell the tale here, and if, in addition to blueline issues and spotty goaltending popping up like pimples on a sweaty, nervous teenager at the prom, the Kids do as much defensive "learning" in the first round as they did down the stretch, all the Wings' efforts since September will earn them in the playoffs is a locker room clean-out date of sometime between the 25th and 28th.
I would argue that there isn't anything that the Bruins can do to the Red Wings that the Wings haven't done to themselves over the course of this mistake-prone, self-inflicted-wound-making "learning experience" for both the younger players and veterans alike.
Can this team get all of its disparate parts running in the same direction before the Bruins run them over?
I sure hope so, because at my heart, I am a Red Wings fan, and the reason I'm going to be putting in 80+ hour work weeks over the next few weeks is the same reason I put in 60-hour work weeks when I'm healthy--because I love following this team and I love having the opportunity to make following them a little easier for you, the community of readers who read the links and occasionally pay attention to my blather.
It's more likely than not that we're about to witness the last 5 to 7 games of Red Wings hockey between now and the start of training camp, but I'm okay with that, because the Red Wings have to earn my trust, my time, energy, effort and monetary investment every year, and this not-so-ramshackle band of youngsters, blooming players, veterans and cap-induced dead weight has earned the right to climb the mountain battling the Beasts of the East presents.
That, and getting four days' worth of rest benefits the Wings more than it does the Bruins, because the Wings' nagging injuries (and just about every player is "playing hurt" at this time of year) are more pivotal in terms of this team's ability to compete than Boston's are concerning to the B's.
The experts will say what they will; so will I, a self-proclaimed expert-non-expert, but in the end, the players on the ice will author the storyline we're about to witness, and that's why we all watch hockey in the first place: nothing you, I or any columnist says matters once those skates, sticks and pucks hit the ice.
That's the beauty of this sport--it is a sport in which there is simply a disc-shaped puck that has no loyalty--and we Red Wings fans may as well enjoy the ride together, regardless of its outcome.
Update: While I was writing this, the NHL is going through each and every one of the 16 teams' playoff series and writing the "human interest" stories (David Krejci is the Bruins' Daniel Alfredsson, I guess) and "Why Team X Will Win the Stanley Cup" stories.
NHL.com hasn't gotten to the Wings yet, but Shawn P. Roarke explains why the Bruins will win the Cup:
The 2013-14 Boston Bruins are better than the team that lost the 2013 Stanley Cup Final in heartbreaking fashion.
In fact, these Bruins are playing better hockey than the 2011 edition, which defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to claim the organization’s first Stanley Cup since 1972.
Last spring, the Bruins were 76 seconds away from forcing a Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final only to see a comeback of epic proportions by the visitors turn a one-goal deficit into a 3-2 victory in a stunning 17-second span.
This spring, the Bruins are better than the team that trudged silently off the ice, casting furtive glances back at the improbable pig pile of Hawks at the other end of the TD Garden, cursing what could have been.
Now, they get to atone for the mistakes made last June and they have a team designed to do just that.
The 100-plus points in the standings, the Eastern Conference title, the long winning streaks, the road dominance all point to one undeniable truth. This is a team built to compete when the going gets tough in May and June.
They are loaded at each position necessary to find success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Here's hoping that "loaded at each position necessary to find success" doesn't matter--because it often doesn't.
Update #2: NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale had to write the "Why the Wings Wil Win the Cup" ditty (and this isn't all of it):
[Coach Mike] Babcock used 37 different players in lineups this season, and eight of those players made their NHL debut in 2013-14. Fourteen of the players came from the 2013 Calder Cup champion Griffins. Is that roster building a recipe for success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Time will tell, but the fact is the Red Wings won three of four games against the Boston Bruins, the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Former Griffins Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have been huge contributors on offense, each topping the 35-point plateau this season. Their solid play have enabled veterans to rest and overcome various ailments. Top-line center Pavel Datsyuk rejoined the team on April 4 after sitting out almost a month and appears ready for the postseason push alongside right wing Johan Franzen.
There's also a possibility that captain Henrik Zetterberg could return at some point in the postseason, and that will only strengthen the lineup.
The team has looked to veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall for leadership and some physical play along the back end, while Brendan Smith and Danny DeKeyser have excelled as second-year standouts on defense. The loss of Jonathan Ericsson (finger surgery) hurts, but the Red Wings have done a respectable job on the back end nonetheless behind the goaltending of Jimmy Howard.
After a patchwork regular season, it no longer matters who is in or out of the lineup. With the minor-league depth and winning attitude present throughout the organization, the Detroit Red Wings are in position to win another Stanley Cup under the tutelage of Babcock.
Cue the video, half-hearted Jamie McLennan included!
I don't believe his sincerity.
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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.