The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/17/13 at 09:23 PM ET
The Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks will resume their "commuter" series (at least by Detroit-to-Anaheim-and-back standards) tomorrow at an early CDT hour (1 PM EDT, 12 noon CDT, on the CBC, NBC and 97.1 FM, with post-game shows on WDIV and Fox Sports Detroit), but if we are to believe everybody from Chicagoland's best to Jimmy Devellano, the Wings are down by more than a single game, and have a vertical climb in attempting to rally against the much-heralded Hawks.
NHL.com's Brian Hedger suggests that the Blackhawks have not only "surpassed" the Wings, but as their ascent has taken place amidst salary cap-era constraints, that the Hawks may in fact serve as the real model franchise going forward:
There are still teams in the NHL that get a little awestruck when they see the Red Wings, but the one that calls "The Madhouse on Madison Street" home isn't one of them. In fact, the Blackhawks seem to draw even more resolve when they play the Red Wings, especially in the wake of Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Chris Osgood, Tomas Holmstrom, Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper retiring since 2009.
[Corey] Crawford was still in the minors then, and Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were just getting their feet wet in the postseason. Marian Hossa, who plays alongside Toews on Chicago's top line, wore the winged wheel on his chest in his only season for Detroit in 2009, and the Red Wings had Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen at younger ages.
"At that time, I think we were pretty happy with where we went," Kane said. "It almost seemed like the Red Wings were, I don't want to say this, but it almost seemed like they were too good of a team to kind of get through and beat, especially when they beat us up a few games. It kind of made it a five-game series like you saw there. It was pretty intimidating."
"They were the measuring stick, for sure, when we were a younger team," said Sharp, who was traded to the Blackhawks in 2005 from the Philadelphia Flyers. "They were someone that we looked up to, everything from their coaches right down to their last player was great. I can remember even further back, playing for the Flyers, rolling into Joe Louis Arena and seeing Brett Hull and [Brendan Shanahan] and Chelios. I mean, it looked like an All-Star team."
To some extent, that's by design, and while some might suggest that the Wings should do what the Hawks chose to in tearing down the machine and tanking--which is exactly what Wings coach Mike Babcock believes made the Hawks so good--the Wings' brass is hesitant to embrace that model:
"The reality is they're good players, they've grown up," said Mike Babcock, who's coached the Red Wings since 2008, when they won their 11th Stanley Cup. "If you do a good job when you're a bad team, and you draft real well, you can probably ride that for eight to 10 years. You just have to be careful to be bad enough, long enough, so you get good enough."
There were snickers when he said that Wednesday, prior to Game 1 of this series, but Babcock wasn't joking.
"You may laugh at that," he said. "Your fans don't want to hear it, but if you get too good, too fast, you'll never be good enough. Stay bad enough long enough in the new world you have a chance to be real good … and that's what they did."
The Wings' braintrust fears that tearing down the machine (and charging fans top dollar to watch a team stink for an extended period of time) is a wee bit dangerous, especially if those top picks don't pan out the way Toews and Kane did...
So the reality of the Wings' situation, even with a cap compliance buy-out-bolstered free agency market likely to allow the Wings to add a much-needed--if underachieving--goal-scoring forward and top-three defenseman at relatively affordable salaries, probably involves another year or two of watching Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff, Danny DeKeyser, Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner experience ups and downs as the team banks on its up-and-comers to become key contributors going forward (see: Justin Abdelkader's proof that some players can surprise you by maturing in a hurry, and others, like Smith, may possess oodles of natural talent, but need more than 30-some NHL games to mature into less than mistake-prone players).
In terms of Blackhawk warm fuzzies, the NHLPA's website penned profiles of Patrick Sharp and Toews and Kane, and both NHL.com's Corey Masisak and the Northwest Times' George Castle rave about David Bolland, the New York Times' Ben Strauss raved about Corey Crawford, and the Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest spoke to Crawford about keeping the Wings' scorers frustrated...
"We're going to try and play the same game we have all season," said Crawford. "It's one of those things, our veteran guys and our leaders keep that ease on our team, even when things aren't necessarily going our way, where maybe we're not scoring on getting some back luck in our end and getting goals scored on us. It's just a matter of keep playing hard and keep our game going and not get frustrated."
Regardless, playing on a team that can fill the net, Crawford may only become a factor in the series if he gives up the occasional bad goal. He hasn't yet, which accounts for some of the Blackhawks success so far.
"Corey has had an outstanding year and he's a big part of where we are today," said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. "If you look back over his career, his rookie year a couple of years ago, he had an amazing finish to the season and a great playoff as well. But you have to commend him, last year he had a little bit more scrutiny when you have that role of being the No. 1 guy. He had a tough ending to our season last year, there was a lot of talk about our goaltending. I thought he approached the season in the right way, took on responsibility that was more challenging and he welcomed the challenge. I commend that approach and the consistency that he's shown all year long."
So far, the 28-year-old Montreal native has been solid, with a 5-1 record, 1.27 goals against average and .950 save percentage. Only Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has been better this post season.
"He has been unbelievable," said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. "You've seen him grow as a player. Two years ago, when he played in that series against Vancouver, maybe there wasn't as much pressure on him, being the backup all season. It's not an easy position to be in as a starting goaltender, as a young guy. He's grown up and has battled to be where he is now and I think he's in a good place. He's very confident and he knows that every guy in the locker room has that confidence in him too."
The NHL Network posted a Blackhawks-centric off-day report...
The Chicago Tribune posted clips of Bryan Bickell talking about Game 2 and the ever-charming Steve Rosenbloom (Chicago's Drew Sharp) very literally puffing his way through a game preview (Rosenbloom spent Thurdsay mocking the Wings and suggesting that Babcock take his young charges to Dairy Queen after making excuses for them) the Hawks' website posted off-day videos of coach Joel Quenneville...
And Corey Crawford talking about Game 2...
Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers offered an off-day update worth repeating...
Duncan Keith and Michal Handzus did not practice on Friday but coach Joel Quenneville said both will be ready to go tomorrow when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
Keith is played a team-high 24 minutes, 19 seconds in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 victory over the Wings on Wednesday night. As for Handzus, this is the third time this postseason he has not practiced; Quenneville said “he’s fine.” Ben Smith centered the Blackhawks’ second line during today’s practice.
Viktor Stalberg was once again practicing in a white jersey today. Asked if Stalberg could play in Game 2, Quenneville said, “we’ll see.”
The Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc's off-day notebook suggests that there's a bump and/or bruise involved in Handzus' absence...
Though he played in Game 1 and likely will play in Game 2, center Michal Handzus missed a third straight practice day Friday. A source said the veteran was resting a sore back going into the opener against the Red Wings, but Quenneville wouldn't bite when asked if this is an issue to manage all postseason.
"He's fine," Quenneville said.
And Blackhawks color commentator Troy Murray spoke with the Chicago Daily Herald's Mike Spellman about his expectations for Saturday's matinee affair:
Question: The Red Wings team that showed up Wednesday, was it just a tired bunch, were they overmatched or what was the deal?
Murray: I don't think you can put any measurement into that first game. The emotional series with Anaheim probably wore down the Red Wings and then they had to make a quick transition to come in and play Game 1 against the Blackhawks.
I thought by the end of that game the Blackhawks were the fresher, more energized team. Mentally, Detroit probably just didn't have it. (Goalie) Jimmy Howard was great, otherwise in that second period the score would've been a little bit different.
It's just 1 win and you expect a much more energized Detroit team mentally and physically in Game 2.
Question: Was that the Blackhawks' best playoff performance to date?
Murray: Absolutely. From start to finish the tempo was where it needed to be, the intensity was what Joel Quenneville was looking for and I don't think you saw that type of pace in any of the games against Minnesota.
Question: Any concerns heading into Game 2?
Murray: The concern is you can't think that you're going to dominate the Red Wings like you did.
They're going to have the rest that they needed and they're going to make some adjustments for what the Blackhawks did in Game 1.
The danger is looking at this game and thinking it's going to be similar to Game 1 — because it's not.
NHL.com's Brian Hedger offers something of a bridge between the Blackhawks and Red Wings' perspectives in a Game 2 preview...
Big story: The Chicago Blackhawks aim to hold serve on home ice and take a 2-0 series lead against the Detroit Red Wings before the series shifts back to Joe Louis Arena for Games 3 and 4. The Red Wings will be trying to end an eight-game losing streak against Chicago that includes a 4-1 loss in Game 1.
Red Wings: Detroit got off to a decent start in Game 1 but was outskated and outplayed for most of the final 40 minutes. The game was 1-1 after two periods, but the Blackhawks turned up the heat even higher in the third period and scored three times - capped by Patrick Sharp's empty-netter. Chicago's forecheck gave the Red Wings' defense fits and eventually turned a 38-save performance by goalie Jimmy Howard into another frustrating defeat. The Red Wings, who eliminated the Anaheim Ducks on the road Sunday night with a Game 7 victory, were outshot 42-21 and hope that having two days between games puts more pep in their game.
"It was kind of like those games when you come home from the West Coast, the first home game [after a road trip]," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "That's how it kind of felt like. We were there, but we weren't really there, so it's nice to have a few extra days here, and now we feel ready to go."
Blackhawks: Chicago's players and coach Joel Quenneville are saying all the right things, careful not to disrespect the Red Wings - a franchise the Blackhawks are basically modeled after. Still, Game 1 of this series looked a lot like their games from the previous few seasons against Detroit. The Blackhawks were faster, deeper and better on the defensive side of the rink. Will a couple of days off between games change it all that much? It's possible, but the Blackhawks don't appear to be interested in easing off the gas pedal anytime soon.
"We're very confident," forward Patrick Kane said. "We have to be careful not to get too ahead of ourselves, [and] make sure we're focusing on the task on hand. The biggest thing for us is to make sure we're playing with a lot of intensity and not just relying on our skill. If we're the hardest-working team on the ice, usually we'll have a good chance to win.''
While Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc previewed the game a little differently, suggesting that Brent Seabrook and Niklas Kronwall may steer the course of the series in their respective teams' favor:
Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook
2013 regular-season statistics: GP: 47; goals: 8; assists: 12; points: 20; plus-minus: plus-12; penalty minutes: 23.
Playoff experience: GP: 56; goals: 6; assists: 21 points: 27; plus-minus: plus-9; penalty minutes: 34.
Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall
2013 regular-season statistics: GP: 48; goals: 5; assists: 24; points: 29; plus-minus: minus-5; penalty minutes: 44.
Playoff experience: GP: 87; goals: 4; assists: 37; points: 41; plus-minus: plus-21; penalty minutes: 75.
Chris Kuc says: In a series filled with explosive offensive talent, both teams feature a defenseman who can deliver hard, clean hits. In Detroit, they call being leveled "Kronwalled," while Hawks opponents have learned the hard way how big a hit Seabrook can hand out. They also are adept defenders who can chip in offensively from the back end.
For the Red Wings, Friday's chatter involved Drew Miller's possible return to the lineup and Brendan Smith's defensive gaffes in Game 1, but TSN did post a 52-second clip of Wings coach Mike Babcock's off-day presser...
WXYZ's Tom Leyden filed an off-day report...
And the Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted clips of Henrik Zetterberg and Kyle Quincey speaking to the media:
The Detroit News's David Guralnick and the Windsor Star's Tyler Brownbridge posted superb photo galleries from the Wings' Friday practice as well (holy crap, Joakim Andersson's wearing new hockey gloves, the apocalypse is nigh).
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness addressed Miller's status...
“I think I’m ready to go, it’s up to the coaches,” Miller said Friday. “I think the last couple of days I’ve come along with the straightening of my hand and my wrist so I feel confident out there. I feel that I’m ready to go.”
Miller, who had the cast removed on Sunday, could be back in the Wings’ lineup for Game 2 Saturday afternoon at the United Center in Chicago.
Wings coach Mike Babcock said before Game 1 that he was worried about the strength in Miller’s right hand.
“He looks good now on the ice so we’re happy to see that,” Babcock said. “He’s definitely a big part of our PK. He plays in all situations. If he can go, it’s a plus for us.
As expected Miller is anxious to get back.
“It’s definitely tough (sitting out),” Miller said. “You just try to stay a part of the team, in for the meetings and be around for the pre-game stuff. You try to watch and learn as much as you can from atop. It’s a little different perspective, but I have to be ready. It’s tough mentally, but you just have to work through the bag skates and prepare yourself for when you get back in.”
Prior to the injury Miller led the forwards in blocked shots (41) and was second on hits (81).
“The training staff here had me doing a lot of stuff to make the bone grow and get back,” Miller added. “I wouldn’t say rush back, because you want the bone to heal right and be all right. It’s good to be back out there shooting the puck and getting ready to play.”
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan took note of Babcock's defense of Brendan Smith's gaffes (to be fair, it's not like Kyle Quincey's been a helpful partner for Smith)...
"Interesting, I heard all the stuff, the emotion from our staff, too, and I didn't see it like that," coach Mike Babcock said. "I saw a young guy trying to make a bunch of plays and nobody there to accept the pass at the end of it. What I did today was I showed him making a bunch of good plays and I said, 'Let me decide and you decide and nobody else decide.'"
Smith heard of the rumblings the day before and didn't feel it was particularly fair.
"I don't think so, actually," said Smith, who was credited with one giveaway in the game in 18 minutes, 56 seconds. "I talked to coach (Babcock) about it, and there's a thing where my speed will get me back to the puck first so I have to make better plays, obviously. That's one thing I want to do better at. But that's not a fair assessment. There are a lot of good plays I felt I made and those are things I will build on.Coach and I met this morning and went over things and it didn't come off like that. He said, 'I watched the game without the announcers and it's a totally different thing. Just build on the good things you did.'"
Babcock was mystified as to why Smith took the brunt of the criticism from analysts when the Red Wings as a whole struggled against the Chicago forecheck. In Babcock's view, Smith was hardly alone.
"If you're the defense, who would you pass the puck to?" Babcock said. "I heard about this defenseman and this defenseman turned it over, but who do you pass it to? There was nobody there to pass it to. That's my point. After I watch Game 2, I'll have a better handle of what's going on. Smitty fit in perfectly (with the rest of the team)."
As did DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose...
Smith’s friends made the Red Wings’ defenseman aware of the avalanche of criticism that he received after Game 1. It was his turnover in the Wings’ zone that led to Marian Hossa’s power-play goal that gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead early. There were other questionable breakout passes, but Smith isn’t the only culprit.
“There was no one for the D to pass to,” Babcock said. “We didn't play fast. We played fine in the first 20 minutes, after that we got skated into the ice. … In the playoffs, it's a bigger deal, especially when it's Game 1, it could be the series. But if you actually look at the facts and what's happened to us over the last while, they're only human. They can only travel so far and do so much and push so hard and we didn't have it in us. It was simple. So instead of me spending hours reinventing the wheel, we're going to do what we do and we're going to do it better and we're going to do it faster and we're going to make sure we got a good series.”
But at this point, all Smith can do is learn from the mistakes and move on to Game 2 Saturday afternoon at the United Center. As for the negative appraisals from Game 1, he disagrees.
“I have to make better plays, obviously,” Smith said. “It’s one of the things I want to do better at. But I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. There were a lot of good plays I felt that I made and there are some things that I have to build on.”
The majority of hockey prognosticators aren’t giving the Red Wings much of a chance in this series with the Blackhawks. But Smith has a contrasting opinion.
“We’ve been hearing that before the first game and everybody’s been counting us out,” he said. “I think everybody was counting us out against Anaheim as well. Hockey is an interesting game. Anything can happen. The pairity is so close, you see L.A. win it last year and they’re doing a great job right now, but anything can happen. Our team has been very good at adapting to different games so it’s just something that we have to work on.”
And while the Wings were offering a certain amount of "us against the world"-itis to the media, as Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji noted...
"I've seen us play before, so that's what I base it on," Babcock said after Friday's practice at Joe Louis Arena. "That's why I try not to go on all these theories that I keep hearing about. The key for me is, I'll make up my own mind. I'll watch it and make decisions based on that.
"... When we do what we do, then we can evaluate our game. We can't even evaluate our team until we play."
Babcock made sure to emphasize that his young defensemen weren't the only problem in the first game.
"I heard this all about the D, and this guy turned it over and that guy turned it over," Babcock said. "Who would you have passed it to? There was no one there for you to pass it to. That's my point."
Captain Henrik Zetterberg agreed that the responsibility of getting the puck out of their own zone lies as much with the forwards as it does with the defensemen.
"We weren't really in the right spot for them to give us the puck," Zetterberg said. "And when we were, they weren't really making the good first pass, either. It was kind of like those games when you come home from the West Coast — the first home game — and that's how it kind of felt like. We were there but we weren't really there. So it's nice to have a few extra days here, and now we feel ready to go."
And the Windsor Star's Bob Duff confirmed...
"Let them think that,” forward Johan Franzen said of the notion that the Wings are done like dinner. “That’s awesome. Who cares?”
Well, for one, the Wings had better care a whole lot more Saturday than they did in Game 1. Statistics never paint a 100 per cent true picture of what went on in a specific game, but there’s a couple of stats from Game 1 that tell a disconcerting tale for the Wings.
Detroit’s top two forward lines combined for 22 hits and six blocked shots. While the talking heads will rave on about how this displays the will and character of the group, it also tells us another significant point of interest. It means that they hardly ever had the puck. These guys get paid to create, not to create havoc, but it’s difficult to do the former when you spend the entire night chasing the game.
“We turned the puck over right from the first shift in the second (period) and we couldn’t get out of our zone,” was Detroit defenceman Quincey’s take on Game 1. “They wore us down. When you get hemmed in your zone for a minute or two, it takes a good five or six shifts to get it back. If you play the whole game in your zone, you’re going to be dead.”
Quincey offered another interesting take on Game 2. Should the Wings not come out ahead, he fears for their long-term playoff future.
“The next game is do-or-die for us pretty much,” Quincey said. “Two-nothing (down), you’re in trouble. We know that. We don’t want to come back here with our backs against the wall.”
Quincey's comments indicate that the Wings are taking tomorrow's task very seriously, as Quincey and Zetterberg told the Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest:
"It's a game within a game," said Quincey. "If you play the whole game in your zone, you're going to be dead. I don't care how good of shape you're in, if you had rest or no rest. We turned the puck over right from the first shift in the second and we couldn't get out of our zone. When you get hemmed in your zone for a minute or two, it takes a good five or six shifts to get it back."
The Red Wings had trouble contending with the Blackhawks speed up front. Heading into the series, they wanted to muddy the waters, trying to slow down their high-flying forwards. The strategy worked in the first period, but once the Blackhawks found their skating legs, they came at the Red Wings in waves.
"I think every time they put the puck in our end, we weren't there for the D so they just came wave by wave," said Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. "We couldn't really get any flow going, couldn't get through the neutral zone so it's tough when you don't spend any time in their end and they spend a lot of time in yours. Eventually they will score goals."
Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp combined for five points in the Game 1 victory. Sharp led the way with a goal and two assists.
"Their forwards are world class, it's a new challenge for us," said Quincey. "Hopefully after our day off we can skate better with those guys, get our gaps a little better and just try to eliminate time and space. They did a good job of turning the puck over and they had us in our zone. It's tough playing the whole 20 minutes in our zone like that. A lot of stuff we did in Game 1 was to ourselves. If we play our game the way we can, I think we'll be OK."
The Red Wings are desperate for a split in Chicago with the series shifting back to Detroit for Games 3 and 4, Monday and Thursday respectively.
"I think it would be tough to go down 2-0, so (Saturday) I think if we play good enough we have a good chance of winning," said Zetterberg. "We didn't do that Game 1 so we've got a lot of things that we want to change. We've gone through it today and hopefully we can pull it off tomorrow."
Zetterberg also told DetroitRedWings.com's Roose that the Wings expect more out of Johan Franzen, and they'll jab him in the usual fashion...
“He could be pretty mean but I think he's playing the best hockey when he's a little grumpy,” Zetterberg said. “I think maybe it's up to us to get him a little bit grumpy before the games.”
Maybe becoming a father for the second time has made the Mule a little less crotchety. Franzen's wife Cecilia gave birth to the couples' second son last Monday.
In eight playoff games this spring, Franzen has three goals – all on the power play in the first series against Anaheim. He also has a team-worst minus-7 rating.
Through his career, Franzen has always been a dynamic playoff performer, collecting 41 goals and 35 assists in 96 games. He was befitting of his nickname after Friday’s practice turning a little ornery when asked about the Game 1 loss the Blackhawks and what the Red Wings can do differently in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon at the United Center.
“That game is over. We don’t have to worry about that one anymore. We can focus on trying to make this one a little better,” Franzen said. “We need to handle the puck better. Come up with the puck and go from there so we can create some offense. We didn’t really have the puck at all last game. We need to do a better job of helping the D out.”
Oddly enough, USA Today's Kevin Allen reports that the Blackhawks will be expecting more from Franzen and the rest of the Wings' forwards in Game 2, regardless of whether Zetterberg annoyed Franzen by forcing him to buy dinner on Friday night...
In Game 1, neither Pavel Datsyuk nor Valtteri Filppula had a shot on goal, and Franzen only had one. The Blackhawks will count on seeing the ornery Mule in Game 2.
"He's always been a playoff performer, and scores a lot of goals," said Chicago forward Patrick Kane. "… sometimes you worry so much about Datsyuk and Zetterberg, you forget about the other guys. Maybe that's where he thrives and cashes in his chances. "
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford said he is not going to concern himself with what the Red Wings plan to do. He just wants his team to turn in the same defensive effort it did in Game 1.
"I was surprised (the Red Wings) didn't get off more shots," Crawford said. "We did a great job of shutting them down. I don't know how many shots Datsyuk got last game, but it seemed like we shut him down pretty good as well."
The Blackhawks said Friday they expect more push-back from the Red Wings in Game 2.
" We expect them to play hard and to bring their best game," Crawford said. "That's what we're preparing for."
The Red Wings are stressing good puck management as an avenue to a better performance in Game 2.
"(We have to) make sure we take care of that puck," said defenseman Brendan Smith. "That little rubber thing is crucial in this type of game, so we have to make sure we take care of it."
The Associated Press's Jay Cohen suggested that the Wings-Hawks series will hinge upon whether Pavel Datsyuk or Jonathan Toews display better two-way acumen...
The Blackhawks used a dominant final two periods to beat the Red Wings 4-1 on Wednesday night, shutting down Detroit’s leading trio of Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. Datsyuk played more than 21 minutes, but was held without a point and did not attempt a shot after he had two goals and five assists in the first round against Anaheim.
“He’s going to be a top player in this series. We know that. They know that,” forward Patrick Sharp said after Chicago practiced on Friday. “It’s just hopefully we can contain him in some way.”
Datsyuk had 15 goals and 34 assists in 47 games this season, helping Detroit reach the playoffs for the 22nd straight season. The three-time Selke winner also tied Toews for the NHL lead with 56 takeaways and won 55 per cent of his faceoffs.
The 34-year-old Russian centre, who was selected in the sixth round of the 1998 draft, is way more than just an offensive wizard.
“He can come out of nowhere and steal the puck from you and make a play, and before you know it, it’s in your net,” Toews said. “He’s as skilled as they come on both sides of the puck and obviously a tough guy. You’ve got to go out there and try to outwork him every shift, because it’s tough to outclass him any other way.”
Toews is coming off another solid season, when he tied Patrick Kane for the team lead with 23 goals and also contributed 25 assists in 47 games. The captain also had career-high plus-28 rating as Chicago captured the Presidents’ Trophy awarded to the team with the most points in the regular season.
“We play same type of game,” Datsyuk said. “We fight every year against each other. It’s not easy. When a good player plays against a good player every time they make each other better.”
And MLive's Ansar Khan offered five points of emphasis for the Wings heading into Game 2, including the following:
3. Break through on the power play: The Blackhawks' penalty killing is top-notch. They finished third in the NHL during the regular season at 87.2 percent and have been perfect in the playoffs (20-for-20). The Red Wings went 0-for-3 in Game 1 and are 1-for-18 in five games vs. Chicago. Detroit went 5-for-15 on the power play in four road games vs. the Ducks. It's no secret what the Red Wings need to do – get more shots on net (they had only four shots during six minutes on the man-advantage in Game 1) and get a better net-front presence from Franzen and Daniel Cleary.
4. Don't falter in the third period: The Red Wings have been outscored 15-5 during the third period in the playoffs. They blew leads in Games 2 and 6 vs. Anaheim but came back to win each game in overtime. They seem to run of steam at times in the third period. Having an extra day off before Saturday's game should help re-energize them. But, they also haven't responded well to adversity late in some games. Some of that could be due to their many inexperienced players.
5. Make goaltender Corey Crawford work harder: They could accomplish this, in large part, by getting the puck out of their zone quicker and by generating more chances on the power play. The Red Wings registered only 21 shots on Crawford, who is 12-2-2 against them, regular season and playoffs. They need to do to Crawford what they did to Anaheim's Jonas Hiller in Game 6 – when they had a net-front presence on all four of their goals.
Please don't hurt me for suggesting that the "x-factor" in this series centers Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner, and receives "undersung player" status from SI's Adrian Dater:
Joakim Andersson, center, Red Wings
Looking for an overlooked reason why the Red Wings upset the Anaheim Ducks in the first round? Look toward the face-off circle when Andersson, 24, lined up for draws. After winning just 46.5 percent during the regular season, he succeeded at a 53-percent clip against Anaheim. For a Wings team that still heavily relies on getting the puck first and playing its possession game, that was huge. In Games 6 and 7, he won 20-of-35 face-offs. Like a lot of other guys on this list, Andersson gets little of the sexy ice time, rarely starting a shift in the offensive zone. But as they always seem to do, the Wings have successfully incorporated another little-known Swede into their system. He's certainly not flashy offensively, but it looks like the Wings will have a strong checking-line center for years to come.
I would never use the word "sexy" and "ice time" in the same sentence, but that's just me, and Andersson's done more good than one would imagine in making space for Nyquist and Brunner...
And in the, "Oh hockey gods, why?" category, the defenseman who seemed to give the Wings the puck-mover they were unable to add at the trade deadline practiced today...With his right hand in a cast...As the Free Press's Helene St. James noted:
Danny DeKeyser joined practice and then he joined his first Detroit Red Wings barbecue. His right hand may be in a cast and that won’t change for at least another week, but a man has priorities: Work, and food.
DeKeyser got to be a part of Friday’s afternoon on-ice events, albeit in a limited way. He’s nowhere close to joining his teammates when they take on the Blackhawks on Saturday afternoon at United Center in Game 2 of the second-round series, but at least for DeKeyser, being able to hit the ice was a relief.
“It’s been awful to sit and watch,” DeKeyser said. He’s been sidelined since Game 2 of the Ducks series with a broken thumb.
“Today was my first day back out there,” he said. “I talked to the doc yesterday and he checked it out, I got a different cast on, and said I could at least keep the legs going. The last couple of weeks have been pretty tough. I haven’t been doing a whole lot. I’ve barely been in the weight room as it is. So it’s nice to get a little bit of clearance to skate and keep the heart rate up, get a good sweat going.”
DeKeyser won’t have full mobility in his hands for a while; the break was so bad, he is stuck with a permanent plate and screws imbedded in his hand. He vowed that wouldn’t impair him from joining what was his first taste of one of Zamboni drive and Grill Master Al Sobotka’s famous barbecues.
DeKeyser doesn’t have a window for a possible return, but Drew Miller needed four weeks to heal from his broken thumb, and that was without surgery. “I’ll try to do what I can without risking further injury,” DeKeyser said. “I want to come back as soon as I can, but I don’t want to hurt it any more. I’m just taking it week by week, seeing the doctor every five days or so, and then he’s checking it out, taking an X-Ray and all that kind of stuff.”
Before Friday, DeKeyser just about had reached the depths of what can be considered working out. “I’ve been using a rubber band,” he said, motioning with his thumb. “Just, small exercises to move my thumb.”
If I may be blunt, when I heard that DeKeyser was hurt, my internal monologue went something like this: "Oh, *#$%@&, we're one (round) and done."
I sure help that I'm wrong, but I think DeKeyser was the glue that held the Wings' defense together, and without him, things have gotten a little messy.
Brian Lashoff had no chemistry with Jakub Kindl and looked a little worn down after 80+ games of NHL and AHL hockey, and I'm not sure if Carlo Colaiacovo's been much better, and there's no doubt in my mind that the first word that comes to mind when you think of Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith coming over the boards isn't my, "Well, this is going to be an adventure..."
But the Wings have to find a way to get their second and third pairs' acts in gear if they are to move the puck out of their zone, up the ice and away from the Blackhawks' cycling forwards, and Kindl showed tons of promise as someone who can both make a superb outlet pass and someone who's unafraid to shoot the damn puck on the net during the Ducks series, so he's the player I'm hoping will step up and surprise Wings fans in a positive manner.
While I was writing this, an intriguing story from the Chicago Daily Herald's Tim Sassone popped up, so I'm just going to post it as it came in...
The Hawks expect a different kind of Game 2 on Saturday, mostly from a physical aspect.
"We expect a harder game and I'm sure it's going to be more physical," Joel Quenneville said. "For us, don't wait for it to happen; expect it to happen."
Detroit rookie center Damien Brunner says it's up to the Red Wings to come with a better effort.
"We have to do a better job," Brunner said. "In the second and third periods they were all over us. So it's up to us to do a better job, skate better and put them under pressure and don't let them come out that easy. There's a reason that they're first and they had a great record in the beginning of the season and they've beat us five times, so we know they're a good team."
The Red Wings flew back to Detroit after Game 1 and returned Friday.
"We really felt the break was going to help us," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "The way this series is set up, we have no reason not to be very good next game."
Looking back at Game 1, Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said his team turned over the puck too much.
"We have to take care of the puck," Howard said. "We turned the puck over way too much at our blue line. It seemed like we were almost out of our zone and then they were right back in. We have to do a better job of getting the puck out."
“We expect a harder game,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Friday’s practice. “Physically, I’m sure it’s going to be more physical than the first game. As you progress as we found in the Minnesota series, it’s like that. Don’t wait for it to happen, expect it to happen and be more proactive than reactionary. So let’s have that mentality going into the game.”
Quenneville and a number of his players called Wednesday’s win their best performance of the playoffs. Quenneville had called for his team to play with more energy after the Wild series.
The Blackhawks have now defeated the Red Wings in their last eight meetings, but the Blackhawks realize the series is far from over. They witnessed the fight in the Red Wings throughout their seven-game series with the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.
“I think we’re very confident,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. “I think right now we got to be careful not to get too ahead of ourselves and make sure we’re focusing in on the task at hand because all of the time that’s the best part of it.
“I think it’s a good start to the series for sure. From what we’ve seen from Detroit, it seems like maybe they were a little tired as the game went on. For us, expect a better effort for them. Knowing they’re going to give a better effort, we got to give a better effort, too. To say we have another level, I’m sure every team wants to say that, but it’s definitely a good start to the second round.”
The Red Wings would love to steal a win in Chicago on Saturday and take the series back to Detroit tied. For that happen, the Red Wings need to slow down the Blackhawks.
“It definitely would be good to come back with a win,” Red Wings forward Damien Brunner said on Friday. “We expect another hard game. We have to do a better job. In the second and third periods, they were all over us. So it’s up to us to do a better job, skate better and put them under pressure and don’t let them come out that easy, and hope they we have a good game.”
Physical play good. More skating good. Puck support good. Forechecking pressure good. Puck possession abso-*#$%@&-loutely essential.
Otherwise, the Wings' website posted some informative Tweets, including clarification regarding voting for Pavel Datsyuk as EA Sports' NHL 2014 cover athlete:
Again, if you live in Michigan, both WDIV (with Mickey Redmond) and Fox Sports Detroit (with Ken Daniels) will be airing post-game shows after the NBC/CBC game...
I will readily admit that taking some umbrage at Terry Foster's suggestion that he and Mike Valenti are begging fans to talk about the Red Wings on 97.1 FM during their radio show, so I didn't feature his, "What Happened to Hockey Town?" story--my answer regarding the lack of fan support is, "The lockout"...
And WXYZ's David Solano reports that there's a Red Wings fan in Garden City who believes she's the best Wings fan around--and he's got the lungs to prove it:
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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.