The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/09/13 at 03:20 AM ET
I'm sticking with Fox Sports Detroit's Ken Daniels on this one. The reason I lost my temper after the Wings-Blues game, and the reasons that Wings fans have been so frustrated while watching their favorite team continue to consistently drop "must-win games" down the stretch, all boil down to 55.
During an 82-game season, teams tend to earn playoff spots if they win 94-96 points on their own, and sometimes less if they receive "help" in the form of higher-ranked teams defeating their playoff-pack peers. By way of multiplying 95 by 48/82nds of a season, you get 55.609756 (with the 609756 repeating infinitely).
So the 39-15-and-5 Red Wings, who possess 42 points and sit in eighth place in the Western Conference (thanks in no small part to the Vancouver Canucks defeating 40-point-holding Phoenix and Anaheim defeating 39-point-holding Edmonton on Monday night), have 9 games remaining, and to reach that magic 55-point number and not need significant "help" from the Chicagos, Anaheims, Vancouvers and Minnesotas of the Western Conference, the Wings need to earn 13 points out of a possible 18.
Plain and simple, that means that the Wings need to win 5 of 9 and manage to earn a point out of another 3 games to control their own destiny, or, perhaps less realistically, win 6 games and earn a point in another or simply win 7 games.
Long story short, the Wings are probably the closest they've been to not making the playoffs down the stretch since they were decimated by injuries during the 2009-2010 season, and after their loss to the Blues, the Wings made it very plain to the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that the team is aware of its situation:
Six points separate the No. 7 team in the standings (Blues) and No. 13 (Predators), meaning the last two spots in the postseason are up for grabs. That means a 22nd consecutive playoff appearance for the Red Wings could be in jeopardy.
"We know what is going on," Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "We know we need points."
The Red Wings have nine games remaining, five on the road, where they're 9-8-2.
Fortunately for the Red Wings, however, no team behind them has made a charge the last few days. Columbus (39 points) lost to St. Louis and Minnesota, four points that could have tied it with Detroit. Edmonton (39 points) lost to Los Angeles and Vancouver. Nashville (38 points) has lost three in a row to divisional opponents.
"No surprise," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said of the standings. "We all knew it would be like this."
The team closest to Detroit is Phoenix, which beat the Red Wings at home last week.
Then there's Edmonton and Dallas. Edmonton has seven of its final 10 games at home, where the Oilers are 8-5-4. Dallas also has 10 games, with five at home, and is gaining momentum after winning at Anaheim and San Jose last weekend.
The Red Wings took Monday off as they'd just completed a slate of three games played in three cities over the course of four nights, and they'll repeat the task this weekend (hosting the Sharks on Thursday, traveling to Chicago on Friday and then playing against Nashville on Sunday), head out West for two games (in Calagary on Wednesday the 17th and in Vancouver on Saturday the 20th), and then the Wings close out the month with a wacky 4-games-in-6-nights slate (at the Joe against Phoenix on Monday the 22nd, against LA on Wednesday the 24th, against Nashville on Thursday the 25th and in Dallas on Saturday the 27th), so it's more than a sleep-deprived blogger speaking when I state that I hope that Mike Babcock and the coaching staff chooses to give the Wings more days off and fewer practices as...
You can only hammer in so many messages when you've reached Day 81 of the 48-games-in-99-nights demolition derby (today), and during an 82-game season played over the course of six-and-a-half months, every player is nursing multiple chronic injuries by this time of year, so while players seem to want to "get a sweat on" every day, it doesn't necessarily make much sense in the injury prevention department.
The Wings do have the luxury of not playing until Thursday, so they'll practice hard today and tomorrow and watch oodles of video.
The Free Press's Helene St. James believes that the Wings will most certainly wake up below the playoff-qualifying line on Thursday, and despite the old Babcockian "rest is a weapon" line, she's worried about the Wings' hard road ahead, too:
The Red Wings took Monday off to catch their breath after a hectic several weeks of travel. Unfortunately for them, they still have five games on the road, including another trip to western Canada.
The Chicago Blackhawks became the first team to clinch a playoff berth, doing so over the weekend, but it's safe to speculate on the identities of some of the others that will make it: Anaheim, Vancouver and Los Angeles, for starters. The Sharks, after trading Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe, have gone on a winning spree that has put them at 47 points, so they appear solidly in the picture, along with Minnesota. St. Louis is only one point ahead of Detroit, but the Blues have a supremely favorable schedule, with seven of their last eight games at home.
Counting those seven teams as in, that leaves one spot open in the West. Detroit, Phoenix, Dallas, Edmonton and Columbus are all within four points of one another. The Nashville Predators are at 38 points, but they've been playing so poorly they seem unlikely to forge a sudden turnaround.
When the season began, popular thought was that it would take 55 points to advance. The Wings have 43, meaning they'd theoretically have to get 12 points out of an available 18.
Even allowing for a few overtime or shoot-out losses, it's hard to believe the Red Wings will reach that level without winning at least five more times.
In addition to San Jose, the Red Wings play at Chicago, Nashville, Calgary and Vancouver, plus the season finale at Dallas, with the other home games coming against the Coyotes, Kings and Predators.
The Coyotes play six of their last nine games on the road, and the Blue Jackets have a six-game road trip ahead.
At least 12. Hopefully 13 or 14.
Riley Sheahan will not be among the Wings' ranks this morning as the Wings returned Sheahan to Grand Rapids on Monday.
As the Griffins are playing three games in four nights this weekend--home games against Chicago on Wednesday, Milwaukee on Friday and Peoria on Saturday**--and while the Griffins are in a better playoff position than the Wings are at present, Sheahan's 35 points over the course of 67 AHL games played (making Sheahan the Griffins' sixth-best scorer) should help the Griffins' cause.
He played decently during Sunday's game, substituting for Cory Emmerton as the Wings' fourth-line center (Emmerton played on the wing and Jordin Tootoo was scratched), but Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that Sheahan hadn't quite merited another game if the Wings' roster "emergency" had continued:
“He was OK, but he’s going to get a trip to the minors (Monday),” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s going to be a player for us, but he’s got to get quicker and he’s got to have more pace to his game.
Sheahan, who indeed was shipped back to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Monday, had just one shot on goal in his second appearance with the Wings. Last year he appeared in one game in Detroit, drew a double minor and had three shots on goal.
“When you’re ready and you come here, you show you’re ready,” Babcock said. “When you’re not quite ready, then you’re going to get caught.”
With the Griffins, Sheahan has 16 goals and 19 assists in 67 games. He’s also a minus-7 with 31 penalty minutes.
“I want to be here,” Sheahan said. “It’s every kid’s dream to be in the NHL. I’m just going to keep working hard from here and we’ll see what happens. You just have to be so much more sound with the puck (in the NHL),” Sheahan added. “Every time you have the puck, the point of possession is very important. You just have to focus on being hard on your stick and just try and win every battle.”
Sheahan feels comfortable with the defensive part of his game; it’s the offensive side of things he’s more focused on.
“My biggest concern is just keep putting points up offensively,” Sheahan said. “I think my defensive game has come a long way, I’m confident there, I just have to keep going offensively and right now I’m just looking at the present and not focused on what happens in the future.”
While the Wings will probably rotate two of Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff or Carlo Colaiacovo back into the lineup on Thursday, with Ian White and possibly Jakub Kindl or Danny DeKeyser ("Danny" pronounces it "duh-KY-sir," not, as Mike Emrick suggested, "DEL Keyser"), Pleiness noted that it certainly sounds like the 6'3," 180-to-190-pound defenseman's won his coach over thanks to two strong performances during Friday's win against the Avs and Sunday's loss:
“When you can skate like that…,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He made a few errant passes (Sunday), but I think that was more nerves than anything else. He can spin and go back in and pass it up the middle. I know our good players like D who can go get the puck and get it going, versus playing the zone coverage. I like watching him.”
DeKeyser made the jump from college hockey to the NHL after signing a two-year deal on March 29.
“I did the best I can to just be prepared and I got some stuff to work on, so just keep working every day and try to be the best I can,” said DeKeyser, a De La Salle grad.
Babcock’s confidence in DeKeyser is high, even playing the blue liner on the penalty kill.
“He’s putting faith in me so I have to come through in the clutch when it matters,” DeKeyser said. “It’s a quicker game, so it’s important to move your feet out there and get some speed going, so you can’t be caught flat-footed. If you’re caught flat-footed, you’re going to get beat. I just tried to have tight gaps in the neutral zone and get back to pucks as best I can. That’s my game, that’s what I try to do.”
The Free Press's St. James suggests that Damien Brunner will be good to go on Thursday, too:
General manager Ken Holland said Monday that he expects forward Damien Brunner to play Thursday, when the Wings host the San Jose Sharks.
Brunner has missed three games because of a sore hip flexor he said had been bothering him for several games before he last played April 1. His goal that night was his first in 16 games, but he's still second on the team with 11 tallies.
With Brunner's return on the horizon, the Red Wings shipped Riley Sheahan back to Grand Rapids on Monday.
And as we're looking ahead at the Wings' tasks at hand, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's "Week Ahead in Hockeytown" is worth re-posting as he's set up this week's trio of games:
THURSDAY – vs. SAN JOSE (20-11-7): The return of former teammate Brad Stuart to Joe Louis Arena will be overshadowed by the importance of this game to the Red Wings. This will be the third and final game of the year against the Sharks. The teams split the two previous games, but the Sharks are one of two teams that Detroit hasn’t scored a power-play goal against this season, going 0-for-3 with a man-advantage. It’s no surprise; the Sharks enter this week as owners of the best penalty kill in the conference, allowing 16 power-play goals in 120 attempts – that’s a kill rate of 86.7 percent. … Agitating forward Raffi Torres, who was acquired from Phoenix at last week’s trade deadline, had a busy first game with the Sharks. The 11-year veteran picked up two assists and a game-high seven hits in Sunday’s 5-4 shootout loss to Dallas.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Even when the Sharks were playing uninspired earlier in the season, goalie Antti Niemi always gave them a chance to win every night. San Jose has gone eight straight games without losing in regulation, mainly because of the work that Niemi has done by carrying this team for the last three weeks. He is the only goalie in the NHL to rank sixth or better in starts (34), wins (19), goals-against average (2.14), save percentage (.924), saves (892) and shutouts (5). … Niemi saves his best for the Red Wings, which is indicated through the 1.81 GAA he has against them in 13 career games. He is 9-2-2 with two shutouts all-time against Detroit.
FRIDAY – at CHICAGO (29-5-4): The Madhouse on Madison will be rocking Friday night when the Red Wings and Blackhawks finish their season-series in front of the 210th consecutive sellout at the United Center. … The Blackhawks, who became the first team to reach the 60-point plateau with their 1-0 win at Nashville on Saturday and clinched a playoff berth their a 5-3 over the Predators on Sunday, have been the story of this lockout-shortened season. They set an all-time league record by starting the season with at least a point in 24 straight games, and they’ve been the league’s best in one-goal games too, owning a 16-3-4 record in one-goal contests this season. … Patrick Kane continues to lead the conference in scoring and shares the team high with 12 multi-point games this season. The Blackhawks are 81-9-13 in his career when Kane posts a multi-point game, including a 11-1-0 mark this year.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Saad is one of the hottest rookies of late, playing on a dynamic line with Marian Hossa, who returned from injury last week, and captain Jonathan Toews. Saad, the former standout for the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit, has collected points in 14 of the last 19 games, including five goals, and is third among league rookies in points (23) and assists (15). He enjoyed the first multiple-goal game of his NHL career when he scored twice in Chicago’s 7-1 win at Detroit on Easter Sunday.
SUNDAY – at NASHVILLE (15-17-8): After a road-heavy first 30 games, the Predators began a stretch of 12 home games out of their last 18 on March 21. Nashville has posted a 10-5-4 record at Bridgestone Arena this season, and have been one of the league’s best home teams since the beginning of the 2005-06 season, compiling 191 home victories, tied for third most in the NHL in that span. Nashville is also the only NHL team to post at least 23 home victories in seven consecutive seasons. … Obviously, that streak ends with the lockout-shortened campaign.
PLAYER TO WATCH: The first-ever draft pick of the Predators’ franchise, Grosse Pointe native David Legwand leads the team in points this season. He has six points, including three goals in the last six games, and 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in his last 17 games. Nashville’s all-time leading scorer is just one goal shy of 200 for his 13-season career. … Always considered a clutch performer, seven of Legwand’s 11 goals this year have come in the third period; in 2011-12 he scored 12 of his 19 goals in the third period or overtime. Despite his goal that gave the Predators a 3-2 lead in the middle of the third period Sunday, Chicago charged back with three unanswered tallies to defeat Nashville 5-3.
As noted in Monday's "mishmash," the Marquette Mining Journal's Matt Wellens reported that Northern Michigan University goalie Jared Coreau flew from Marquette to Detroit to join the Wings on Monday, and while the Wings haven't made it official yet, RDS's Renaud Lavoie's report that the Wings have also signed Swift Current Broncos defenseman Richard Nedomlel (both Coreau and Nedomlel are 6'5"...Holy crap!) has been substantiated to some extent:
Capgeek.com now lists Nedomlel on the Wings' organizational chart, and according to Capgeek, Nedomlel will earn a $50,000 signing bonus for each and every one of his three entry-level contract years, an AHL salary of $60,000 and an NHL salary of $600,000.
Coreau got a little more from the Wings: Per Capgeek, Coreau's earning $92,500 in signing bonuses for each of his three entry-level deal years, he'll be paid $70,000 at the AHL level and--and I'm not making this up--whatever a per-game pro-rated amount of $792,500 equals if he plays in the NHL during the first year of his deal, $742,500 in his second year and $842,500 during his third year. Who knows, maybe the full value of his contract, $2,377,500, is his lucky number or something.
In the prospect department, in the QMJHL, Phillipe Hudon and his teammates were held off the scoresheet as the Victoriaville Tigres were shut out 3-0 by Baie-Comeau, and Baie-Comeau now leads the teams' second-round series 3-0;
Colts’ Athanasiou OHL Player of Week
Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Andreas Athanasiou of the Barrie Colts is the OHL Player of the Week for the playoff week ending April 7 after leading the league with six points in three games scoring two goals and four assists with a plus-minus rating of plus-5.
Athanasiou helped the Colts build a 3-0 series lead against the Oshawa Generals in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals picking up a point in all three games. In Game 1 last Wednesday night, Athanasiou had two assists including a set-up of Zach Hall’s overtime winner helping the Colts erase a 3-1 third period deficit to grab the 4-3 victory. Athanasiou recorded his third straight multi-point effort on Friday night in Game 2 of the series scoring once and assisting on two of Mitchell Theoret’s three goals claiming second star honours in the 4-1 win. In Game 3 on Sunday night, Athanasiou finished off a terrific individual effort scoring to give the Colts a 4-0 win and their seventh straight playoff victory.
Athanasiou, an 18-year-old from Woodbridge, ON, is playing in his third OHL season and first with the Colts after playing two seasons with the London Knights that included an OHL Championship one year ago. Selected in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL Draft by the Detroit Red Wings, Athanasiou had 67 points in 66 games during the regular season and now has 13 points so far in the playoffs with a seven-game playoff point streak.
In the ECHL, the Toledo Blade's sports staff pointed out that the Wings' decision to send Sheahan back to Grand Rapids may result in a hugely positive impact for the Toledo Walleye:
The Toledo Walleye will have their fourth-leading scorer back in the lineup when their playoff series against Cincinnati resumes today.
Forward Andrej Nestrasil returned to the team following his reassignment from Grand Rapids. Nestrasil was called up to the Griffins, Toledo's American Hockey League affiliate, on Feb. 13.
The native of Prague was fourth in scoring on the Walleye despite playing in just 40 games. Nestrasil has scored 11 goals to go along with 30 assists. He also has a plus-minus rating of plus 17 this season.
Nestrasil was promoted to Grand Rapids on four occasions this season. He appeared in 22 games with the Griffins, collecting three goals and three assists.
The 22-year-old played in 51 games with Toledo last season, collecting 29 points (7 G, 22 A).
Toledo trails the Cincinnati Cyclones 2-0 in the best-of-seven games Kelly Cup playoff series. The Walleye travel to Cincinnati for Game 3 of the opening-round series on Wednesday night. The series continues in Cincinnati on Friday and Saturday, if necessary.
And if you don't already know, Nick Jensen and the Saint Cloud State University Huskies will tangle with Quinnipiac on Thursday, April 11th in one of two Frozen Four NCAA hockey semifinals held at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Saint Cloud State-Quinnipiac game will air at 8 PM EDT on ESPN2, and it will be preceded by the other semifinal, in which Yale and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell will tangle for the right to face the SCSU-Quinnipiac game's winner. The Yale-UMass-Lowell game airs at 4:30 PM EDT on ESPN2.
As you might imagine, the Wings 1-and-2 record during their 3-games-in-4-nights swing did not help their standing in this week's first crop of power rankings. ESPN's Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun alternate weeks' worth of finding something snappy to say about 30 teams, and this week's Burnside's turn:
14. Detroit Last Week: 12 Offense once again deserts the Red Wings, who are 21st in goals scored per game after a 1-0 loss at home to St. Louis on Sunday. The Wings are now hanging on to the eighth spot in the West.
TSN's Scott Cullen offers a very different take on the Wings' fortunes...
This Week16 Last Week 19 Detroit Red Wings19-15-5
One regulation win in the last six games has left the Red Wings in bit of a precarious position. They hold a three-point lead on ninth-place Phoenix, but the Coyotes do have a game at hand. What could work in the Wings' favour is that some of the potential challenges, including Phoenix, Dallas and Nashville, already shed veterans at the deadline.
But I've got to admit that what Sportsline's Adam Gretz states scares me:
16 Red Wings [last week 12] Good news: Well, the Wings are still in a playoff position. Bad news: That position is very tenuous in eighth place, though they do have a game in hand. Right now they're paired with No. 1 Chicago in the playoff outlook.
I fully believe that the Wings can take the Ducks out. The Hawks? They win at the Joe all the damn time, and Corey Crawford has an Antti Niemi-good record against the Wings. The Hawks, as they are currently constructed, are scary as *#$%@&.
Fox Sports A.J. Perez went with the obvious...
15 Red Wings [down] 1 [highest/lowest] 9/18: The Wings have nine games left and enter play Monday in eighth place in the West. This is as precarious a situation as the Wings have been in over the last few seasons when it comes to their playoff streak, which currently sits at 21 seasons
And I'm stunned that the Wings still made NHL.com's Dave Lozo's "Super 16" list, but, uh..."Yay, inertia?"
13 [last week] 10 Detroit Red Wings: An even split of four games last week left the Red Wings 2-4-0 in their past six and just three points clear of ninth in the West. They don't play again until Thursday, and then it's back-to-back contests with the Sharks and Blackhawks.
And both are must-win games. In case you didn't already know.
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