The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/28/13 at 04:04 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings face quite the task in attempting to both sweep their Western U.S. road trip against the San Jose Sharks tonight (10:30 PM EDT, FSD/CSN Bay Area/97.1 FM) and keep the Sharks off their backs for a simple reason: while the Wings spent Tuesday relaxing and Wednesday getting back to work, the Sharks did the exact same thing to Anaheim that the Wings did on Friday and Sunday:
The Sharks walked into Anaheim on Monday night and defeated the Ducks 5-3, and on Wednesday evening, San Jose began a 7-game home stand by handing the Ducks their fourth straight loss, dropping Anaheim by a 4-0 tally. The 15-11-and-6 Sharks now sit only 3 points behind the 5th-place, 17-11-and-5 Red Wings with a game in hand on Detroit.
Little did the Wings know when they flew to San Jose on Wednesday that they'd be facing yet another one of those pesky "statement games," at a rink that's nothing less than a house of horrors, no less, but that's what tonight's game is.
The Sharks received roster additions in the forms of Ryane Clowe returning from a shoulder injury and Radek Dvorak clearing waivers, and the Sharks just plain old steamrolled the Ducks--on both nights--despite dropping 7 of their previous 11 games, as Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area's Kevin Kurz notes in his "instant replay":
For the second time in two games against the Ducks, the Sharks jumped out to a 3-0 lead. It took less than 10 minutes on Wednesday.
Joe Pavelski scored for the second straight game just one minute in. Ryane Clowe, returning from a four-game absence due to a shoulder injury, pushed the puck deep into the zone and TJ Galiardi moved it to Pavelski behind the net. Pavelski, who had just one goal in his last 18 games before scoring against the Ducks on Monday, beat Jonas Hiller on a wraparound.
Less than four minutes later, Patrick Marleau’s shot from the slot deflected on its way past Hiller, with [Tommy] Wingels creating traffic in front of the net at 4:52.
The second power play unit made it 3-0 after Wingels drew a holding call on Sheldon Souray. Scott Gomez and Marty Havlat whacked away at a loose puck in front of the net, and it squirted out to Wingels, who helped push it to Burns for a one-timer. Burns’ fourth goal gave San Jose a comfortable cushion at 9:20, and came before the Ducks registered a single shot on goal.
Anaheim played better after falling behind, but couldn’t get anything past Niemi. Pavelski dove in front of an Andrew Cogliano shot two minutes into the second period, while Corey Perry fired high after dancing through traffic to the slot to get an open look later in the period.
Wingels’ shorthanded goal at 6:44 of the third, his third of the year, put the game away for San Jose after Couture brought the puck up the ice and sent a nice saucer pass to Wingels’ stick.
A pair of fights entertained the sellout crowd, too. Clowe went with Bryan Allen with the Sharks up 1-0, while Perry and Dan Boyle traded blows in the third when the game was already out of reach for Anaheim. Perry took a potshot at Boyle minutes before the fight on Wingels’ shorthanded rush that wasn’t seen by the referees.
The Sharks improved to 9-1-4 at HP Pavilion in what was the first of a season-long, seven-game homestand.
According to Kurz, the Wings' coaches took in the game, and, via RedWingsFeed, Winging it in Motown captured coach Mike Babcock grudgingly speaking to Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area:
As for the Sharks, their website deemed the team to be "winging it" based upon Wingels' performance, and the Sharks told NHL.com's Eric Gilmore that they want the good times to keep rolling down the stretch:
"Anaheim is a very, very good team," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Their last little streak here they've been on their heels a little bit to begin games, and we knew we had to get after them right off the bat. I think that first shift that (Pavelski) had scoring set the tone for the next 10 minutes. We took advantage of it."
Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller, who entered the game with a career 2.16 goals-against average against San Jose, allowed four goals on 29 shots. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau used his timeout after San Jose's three-goal, deja vu outburst. In their 5-3 win against Anaheim on Monday night, the Sharks jumped to a 3-0 lead on goals by Burns and Pavelski in the first period and one by Martin Havlat just 34 seconds into the second.
"Our focus is to start fast," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "We have been starting fast at home. Getting three goals early like that is huge. The game was pretty much over after that. I think we were moving fast. We were creating offense, getting in on their D, getting traffic in front of Hiller because he is a great goalie. I think it was a lot what we were doing."
The Sharks, fighting just to make the playoffs, have won two straight games for just the second time since Jan. 31 when they capped a seven-game streak to start the season with a shootout win against the Edmonton Oilers. They have 36 points and are tied with the St. Louis Blues for seventh in the Western Conference.
"We've beaten a team that's got a lot of points and is kind of running away with the division," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. "To beat a solid team like Anaheim and now to be able to start the home stand off that way and build on the last game is something we desperately needed, to put a couple games together and get that momentum going a little bit and put up some more goals."
The Sharks have played two of their best games of the season in their home-and-home series against the Ducks. Those wins came after San Jose traded veteran defenseman Douglas Murray to the Pittsburgh Penguins and just days before the April 3 trade deadline. Any connection?
"I hope not," McLellan said. "I hope that we just play because we want to play, but there is some relevance to that, obviously. But, as we move forward, I think everybody wants to keep the team together and everybody wants to remain a Shark. Maybe they're trying to show us that right now."
Arrogant Joe Thornton is arrogant? Maybe, per Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area's Kurz:
The Sharks won back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since Jan. 26 and 27, controlling nearly every facet of the game against a team that entered with a 10-point lead on the entire Pacific Division and sat in second place in the conference. And this one was decided quickly.
“Getting three goals early like that is huge,” Joe Thornton said. “The game was pretty much over after that.”
“This last little streak here they’ve been on their heels a bit to begin games, and we knew we had to get after them right off the bat,” Todd McLellan said. “I think that first shift Pav had scoring, set the tone for the first 10 minutes, and we took advantage of it.”
The Sharks improved to 9-1-4 at home in what was the first of seven straight at The Tank. Their grasp on the eighth spot in the conference got a little tighter, but more importantly the team is starting to get some of its swagger back with just 16 games left in the shortened season. Antti Niemi recorded his second shutout with 22 saves.
“We feel like our game has been getting better and better. Tonight was another good game by us,” Thornton said. "We're getting our confidence."
Wingels, who had a goal and two assists, said: “We’re going to have to string a few wins together. We know we’re capable of it, and no better way to do it than here at home.”
The Sharks are on a roll, as the Associated Press's Josh Dubow suggests...
With time running out on their season, the San Jose Sharks wanted to get off to a fast start to a crucial homestand that could determine whether they make it back to the playoffs.
Joe Pavelski scored a minute into the game to start a three-goal first period spree, Antti Niemi earned his second shutout of the season and the Sharks swept a home-and-home against first-place Anaheim by beating the Ducks 4-0 on Wednesday night.
"We were crisp," captain Joe Thornton said. "We know we got to win some games to get to postseason. Every game is going to be so important. We looked sharp early on. It paid off for us."
Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns also scored in the opening 10 minutes and Niemi made 22 saves for the Sharks, who have back-to-back regulation wins for the first time in two months.
Tommy Wingels added a short-handed goal and two assists to get San Jose off to a strong start to a crucial seven-game homestand. The Sharks moved into a tie for seventh place with St. Louis in the Western Conference.
"It's been a long time," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We're here at home for six more. We have to make a move. We have to win some games in regulation preferably. It was a good start tonight."
And, for the record, the Ducks are going to warm up the Red Wings' last opponent of the month for Detroit on Friday night:
The Ducks now must travel to Chicago for a rematch with the Blackhawks on Friday night. Instead of getting a day off Thursday after a long flight, Anaheim will now practice in Chicago to try to get out of this funk. The Ducks have been outscored 9-1 in the first period of the four losses.
Before the game, the Mercury News's David Pollak noted that the Sharks felt an inordinate amount of pressure to deliver during their 7-game home-stand...
“This is a huge, huge chunk of our season right now,” McLellan said. “It’s nice to start it coming in with a win on the road. But 14 points lie ahead of us here at home. If w’ere going to get to where we hope to get to, we’re going to have be very productive here. There’s no doubt about it.”
Clowe used similar, maybe even stronger language, to make the same point when asked how important he tought the next seven games were.
“It’s more than important,” he said, it’s probably crucial, the fact that where the standings are, where we sit and where this team wants to go. If you’re going to make a push, with the amount of games you have left is crucial. It’s probably a make-or-break homestand.”
Keep in mind that the Sharks have only one regulation loss in 13 homes games so far, though they have lost four times in overtime or the shootout. Also keep in mind that, strange as it may seem, a win will give San Jose the season series over Anaheim as this is the fifth and final meeting between the teams.
Mission accomplished? Maybe, as Pollak noted in his main recap...
"We were skating tonight. This team has some speed, and when we show it, we're very effective," said Wingels, who added two assists for the first three-point game of his career.
Coach Todd McLellan was pleased that his team followed the game plan against a Ducks team that has now lost four games in a row after starting the season
"Anaheim is a very good team. This last little streak here, they've been on their heels to begin games, and we knew we had to get after them right off the bat," McLellan said. "That first shift that Pav had, scoring, set the tone for the next 10 minutes, and we took advantage of it."
But he also knew his team has a tough task ahead 24 hours later when they face the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
"This was nice," McLellan said, "but back to work tomorrow."
The strong showing against Anaheim followed the trade of Douglas Murray to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and McLellan acknowledged that his players might be making a statement.
"As we move forward, I think everybody wants to keep the team together, and I think everybody wants to remain a Shark," he said. "Maybe they're trying to show us that right now."
In no small part due to balanced scoring, as Pollak noted in his post-game blog entry...
I asked McLellan about scoring balance after the Sharks got goals from players on three different lines, but he chose to answer by praising his fourth line of Scott Gomez, James Sheppard and Andrew Desjardins — none of whom picked up a point.
“I really liked the way our fourth line played tonight, if you want to call them fourth line. I thought Gomez and Shep and Desi had a huge impact on the game, played a lot of time in the offensive zone. The matchups, the way we used guys was productive.”
“We’ve won three of four now, including on the road against a good team. We should feel good about ourselves, but we’ll be tested tomorrow,” he said. “I think you earn the right to be confident, you earn the right to have a swagger. The last few games, we’ve worked hard, we’ve found ways to win. And if we can continue that, the confidence will go up.”
And why are the goals coming now when they weren’t for such a long stretch of the season?
“If I could answer that question we would have been doing it in February. Sometimes things just go your way. I think about the power play right off the bat. Burnzie, the puck comes to him and he just shoots it. How many times did that happen in February when the puck came to you and it bounced over your stick or you shot it a little bit wide. It’s going in for us now.”
Here's a slate of game highlights from the Sharks' website...
And you may watch Wingels, Thornton, Boyle, Clowe and McLellan speak to the media via individual clips from the Sharks' website, or a collective/composite one from Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, but I'd prefer to offer the Sharks' lines for Wednesday's game from NHL.com's Eric Gilmore...
Martin Havlat - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
Ryane Clowe - Joe Pavelski - TJ Galiardi
Andrew Desjardins - Scott Gomez - James Sheppard
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Jason Demers - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Brad Stuart - Justin Braun
Injured: Thomas Greiss (neck), Tim Kennedy (upper body)
Scratched: Michal Handzus, Adam Burish
And have you watch Wings coach Mike Babcock make his aforementioned appearance on CSN Bay Area instead--because this is worth your time and then some:
NHL.com's John Kreiser offers a balanced game preview...
Season series: It's the second of three meetings this season. Detroit beat San Jose 2-1 in a shootout at the Shark Tank on Feb. 28. They meet again in Detroit on April 11.
Big story: Two teams that are starting to put it together try to extend winning streaks fueled by victories against Anaheim. The Red Wings complete a four-game trip that included two wins in Anaheim before Monday night's 3-2 victory at Phoenix. The Sharks completed a home-and-home sweep of the Ducks on Wednesday with a solid 4-0 victory at home.
Red Wings [team scope]: It took a long time, but the power play has finally figured out how to score away from the friendly confines of Joe Louis Arena. The winning goal in the victory at Phoenix came with the extra man, and the Red Wings have scored a power-play goal in six consecutive road games -- after startong the season 0-for-37 away from home.
Sharks [team scope]: There were smiles all around after San Jose gave a full 60-minute effort to complete the home-and-home sweep of Anaheim. Joe Pavelski scored 60 seconds after the opening faceoff, Tommy Wingels had a goal and two assists, the defense limited the Ducks to 22 shots and Antti Niemi stopped them all. The Sharks led 3-0 and never looked back.
Who's hot: Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk scored the winning goal against Phoenix and has five points in the first three games of the trip. Johan Franzen has two goals and four points in those three games. … Joe Pavelski had goals in both games against the Ducks
Injury report: The Red Wings are still without defenseman Kyle Quincey (fractured cheekbone), as well as forwards Mikael Samuelsson (hand), Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Darren Helm (back). Only Samuelsson is anywhere close to returning. … San Jose is missing backup goaltender Thomas Greiss (neck).
And the AP's game preview adds more stats to the mix:
The Red Wings (17-11-5) own the fifth spot in the Western Conference, three points ahead of the Sharks, who pulled into a tie for seventh with St. Louis after Wednesday's 4-0 win over Anaheim. Three straight victories - and five in six games - have moved the Red Wings within striking distance of a top-four seed, with the team's improved power play a big reason why.
Detroit has notched a power-play goal in eight straight games, scoring nine times on 34 chances (26.5 percent). The club had 14 goals on 98 opportunities (14.3 percent) in the previous 25 games, and was 0 for 36 in its first 10 road contests.
The Red Wings, who are seeking their first six-game road winning streak since Feb. 11-28, 2011, had gone six consecutive games without a power-play goal prior to the current streak.
Detroit will be matched up against one of the NHL's best penalty-kill units, with the Sharks stymieing 86.6 percent of opponents' opportunities. They've been even better at home, killing off 91.7 percent of chances at HP Pavilion, where they're 9-1-4.
San Jose has also developed a healthy habit of quick starts, especially at home. The Sharks own a 29-17 scoring edge in the first period this season, the only period in which they're not being outscored. They've also tied or led after the first 20 minutes in all 14 home contests.
The Sharks have won six of eight meetings in the series but Detroit took a 2-1 shootout victory at San Jose on Feb. 28.
Logan Couture has tallied 10 points in 10 career games against Detroit, while Thornton has 16 over his last 11 contests against the Red Wings.
Detroit's Jimmy Howard, who is 6-1-2 with a 1.52 goals-against average in nine starts this month, has a 4.06 GAA in losing his last five starts against San Jose.
Erg. Even if the Sharks do drop the HP Pavilion name from their rink, I still dread every time the Wings head into the rink. I was absent from the last tilt due to computer issues (cough HP computer issues cough), but I watched the Wings flub their way to a 2-1 shootout win on February 28th just like you did, and it was a less than dominant performance.
As the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness notes, the Wings were in something of a reflective mood on both Monday evening and after Wednesday's practice, pondering whether the team's "turned the corner" recently...
“I don’t know about that,” Kronwall said when asked if he thinks the Wings have finally turned the corner. “There are a lot of things we can do better but we’re definitely moving in the right direction. We’ve just got to stick with it.”
“The big thing that’s happened, for a long time we didn’t win on the road, but we didn’t have (Valtteri) Filppula and (Johan) Franzen. Joakim Andersson had come up and it took him a while to become an NHL player and obviously our D’s gotten better,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It wasn’t our thought at the start of the year that these young defensemen would be playing. It’s just the way it worked. It took us some time. But I think it’s getting better and we’ve just got to keep finding ways to win games.”
The Wings’ current success on the road could easily go hand-in-hand with how hot their power play has been of late. Detroit has scored a power-play goal in eight straight games, six of which have been on the road.
“Our specialty teams in the first 10 games were awful both the power play and the penalty kill,” Babcock said. “We got a change in staff and also have a bunch of different players. So when you put it all together it takes some time. I thought it was coming but it never really went in the net for us and now it’s going in the net and it’s a big part of today’s game.When you’re shooting the puck and getting it back you have a way better chance,” Babcock added. “We had way more possession time.”
The Wings began the season 0-for-37 on the power play on the road.
“It’s more puck luck,” Zetterberg said of the Wings’ recent success with the man advantage. “The puck is bouncing after shots to our sticks instead of their sticks. We’re getting more retrievals. It’s just little things. I don’t think we’ve changed that much. It’s just that the puck goes in, you get more confidence and you make the right decisions.”
“I think we’ve been doing some good things, even before that,” Kronwall said. “Even when the puck wasn’t going in we were doing a lot of good things. Right now we’re shooting the puck and getting the pucks back. We’re entering the zone and we’re doing a lot of things right. We got good looks even though we don’t score on each and every one. It definitely feels like we got something going.”
“I’d like to say, one thing I’m noticing is we’re shooting a little more, the defensemen are thinking shots a little bit more and I think that we’re a little more aggressive in getting rebounds back,” forward Daniel Cleary said. “That’s been big for us, making sure we get a second and third opportunity.”
But there just wasn't much news from practice, which is actually a good thing given the way the season's gone for the Wings regarding sustaining injuries during practices. Mikael Samuelsson suggested to MLive's Ansar Khan that he might return from his broken left index finger as soon as Sunday, but Babcock immediately shot that down while speaking to MLive's Ansar Khan...
“We're not aiming for anything, going see how he is tomorrow,'' Babcock said. “There's no time (frame).''
It has been an extremely frustrating season for the 36-year-old who signed a two-year, $6 million free-agent deal on July 1. He tried to play through a groin injury from training camp and had a setback in the second game of the season, which idled him for 12 games. He returned for one game, on Feb. 17, and then suffered a broken left index finger during the morning skate in Nashville on Feb. 19. That will force him to sit out for the 19th consecutive game Thursday in San Jose.
“You come here again and really want to prove yourself,'' Samuelsson said. “Usually I'm in a good mood, but during this part it's been like, 'What's going on?' At the same time, what are you going to do? Just do the best of the situation and be ready. I'm not complaining, but it sucks to be injured, it's the worst part of the game. You want to get out there. You see after a couple of days how much fun it is. You want to be part of the team. You want to be in the mix to really feel respected. At night when you go to sleep, you feel like you've done something every day. If you're injured, it's not the same.''
Samuelsson said he believes his stick-handling and shooting ability is where it needs to be, but added, “at the same time it's like starting over a little bit, with the timing.''
Forward Todd Bertuzzi (back, leg) skated again at the start of practice, but left early, as planned.
“He's going to (go) slow, we're not in any race to have him go the whole thing,'' Babcock said. “There's no race for anybody, just gradually trying to get them to play.''
Babcock said Jimmy Howard, as expected, will start in goal on Thursday.
And the Free Press's Helene St. James reports that the Wings were mostly making fun of Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner for looking like lobsters after spending too much time in the Phoenix sun--before things got serious, fast:
"You share a bottle of sunscreen with Bruns," coach Mike Babcock said, laughing, after the Red Wings practiced Wednesday in preparation for tonight's game against the Sharks at HP Pavilion. They had the previous day off, and relished it all the more after starting this trip 3-0.
"Really good for the guys, just a mental breather," Babcock said. "We've had a good trip, but we've got a big game here."
The Wings are one victory from what would be their longest winning streak of the season and face a team that played Wednesday night.
"I said it all along, lots of people say we've been inconsistent," Babcock said. "I think we've been consistent with our preparation, consistently getting better with our effort, consistently getting better with our execution on the back. The group we have has to be a working group to be successful, and they know it."
Niklas Kronwall said: "It's taken awhile for us to learn how we have to play. Everyone knows their role now."
The Sharks look different from when the teams last met, having unloaded top-four defenseman Douglas Murray in a move seemingly reflecting a shift in philosophy from winning now to loading up for the future. Regardless, "when we play against them, they're always fast-paced, high-intensity games," Kronwall said.
Overall, as Kronwall told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, the Wings have "turned a corner" in terms of finally developing a level of familiarity with each other, and perhaps the start of establishing a post-Nicklas Lidstrom identity, thanks to their road trip (cue the: "There's a reason the Wings happily head on the road at the end of every October and don't return until mid-November)...
"It feels like we're all (pulling) in the right direction," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "When you get on the road, you spend a lot of time with each other. You get to know each other and develop chemistry. Anyone who has been involved in team sports would say the same thing, that when you spend time together, regardless of the situation, that's when you get to know each other instead of just in the locker room."
Babcock has referred to this trip as an ideal spring break on several occasions.
"That (bonding) happens but I also think when you're winning, it makes it nicer on the road, and the (nice) weather, you add it all together and it's like spring break for crying out loud," Babcock said.
And Jimmy Howard admitted to Kulfan that he's finally getting comfortable in his goalie gear after spending the lockout with his family instead of playing abroad (no pun intended):
"Let's be honest, it wasn't the easiest situation just practicing for a week and getting into games," said Howard, who Babcock feels has been more consistent lately. "It took several games to get going, and just the speed of the game was the biggest thing to get down as a goalie.
"I wasn't going to put too much pressure on myself (after the lockout), knowing it was going to be a difficult task. I just kept a positive attitude and continued to work hard in practice and knew everything would be fine in the end."
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: St. James also added these quips to the mix:
Babcock has dubbed this trip "spring break" for the Wings, and like any good person does when away from home, he's making sure his family knows he's thinking of them. "My wife's got two blankets and a big down coat on watching soccer a few days ago," he said. "I'm having lunch by the pool. I sent the picture. She sent the picture back." ... Howard spent his 29th birthday Tuesday with his wife and 17-month-old son, James, who were in Phoenix visiting friends. "It was nice and relaxing," Howard said. "I think James outlasted me."
In the signing and trading department--and that's what we're all thinking right now--TSN's Bob McKenzie posited the following Tweet in the middle of the night...
And apparently followed it up by saying that Bouwmeester would be a "good fit" for the Wings, HFBoards went ape about the suggestion, assuming it was trade fact instead of speculation.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan posted a 21-image photo gallery of potential trade targets, suggesting that everyone from Iginla to Roberto Luongo might be a "fit" in Detroit, but Wings GM Ken Holland told him that this year's Wings--i.e. a team in a transitional year, with decisions as to which players they want to re-sign (see: UFA's-to-be Jimmy Howard, Damien Brunner, Daniel Cleary Ian White and Drew Miller to decide upon, RFA's [per Capgeek.com] Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl to re-sign, room-making for Nyquist, Andersson and Tomas Tatar likely yielding only two of the team's three UFA's returning in a best-case scenario, some cap-compliance buyouts to weigh as that cap goes down from $70.2 million to $64.3 million [probably Samuelsson and Colaiacovo], and both free agency and compliance-buyouts to watch going toward July's wining-and-dining period prior to free agency on the 5th) and a youth movement to ride out--don't plan on making massive moves:
[In] this shortened season, with so many teams still on the cusp of contention, teams aren't ready to trade away valuable assets and give the appearance they're giving up the season — when a three-game win streak can quickly change the outlook.
"You look back about 15 years ago, there maybe were three or four teams in each conference who felt they could legitimately win the Stanley Cup," Holland said. "Now, last season, Los Angeles won (the Stanley Cup) as the eighth seed. You're just trying to get into the playoffs."
The Red Wings would like to add a top-six forward or depth on defense to bolster a team that has been improving rapidly. Three consecutive victories on this present road trip — the Red Wings end it Thursday in San Jose — have given the impression of a team gaining confidence. Injured players such as forward Mikael Samuelsson and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo are ready to return, while forwards Todd Bertuzzi and Darren Helm — both out with back injuries — are players the Wings still hope will return.
For the Red Wings, getting those players in the lineup would essentially be like adding players at the trade deadline. Colaiacovo, Helm, Samuelsson and Bertuzzi have combined to play 13 games this season (Bertuzzi with seven of those games).
Teams will be looking for prospects such as forwards Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson or Tomas Tatar, or goalie Petr Mrazek, or draft picks, when seeking a trade with Detroit. Or those valuable draft picks.
"Drafting and developing players is crucial these days," Holland said.
There are other roadblocks to making trades these days. Many teams are near the salary cap. In addition, 171 players have no-trade or partial no-trade contracts, according to CapGeek.com. And many teams aren't looking to add to their payroll since the cap will be lowered from a pro-rated $70 million to approximately $64 million next season.But in the next few days, certain teams will realize their chances of making the playoffs are slim.
"Separation (in the standings) creates conversation, which ultimately leads to player movement," Holland said.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm not expecting anything to actually happen, though it won't be a lack of trying on the management's part. If the team doesn't land DeKeyser, they may look at a Lubomir Visnovsky or Ron Hainsey on defense, and both Holland and Kris Draper have repeatedly stated that the team's interested in adding a big forward if they are able, but it's just hard for me to imagine this team doing anything less than seeing what its current players can do while attempting to retain as much roster flexibility as possible to sign free agents via cap-compliance buyouts during the summer.
This team is getting younger, for better or for worse, and its reluctant embrace of a youth movement seems to preclude loading up on veterans and salary at the deadline.
Sports Illustrated's Brian Cazenueve noted that the "new" Wings may not be as far-removed from a long spring in a non-lockout year as we think in a mailbag feature:
Mike Babcock likes to play the Canadian game and win games 3-2. I don't know why his players are from Europe. But 3-2 games do not work in the playoffs. You can run into a hot goaltender, bad breaks, etc.
-- Tom Zimmerman, Overland Park KS
The Red Wings have been one of the NHL's top two or three franchises during the past two decades and their success is due in large part to their contingent of European and Russian players. Think of Nick Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and, of course, the famed Russian Five (Igor Larionov, Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Viacheslav Fetisov). Detroit has always been a team built on discipline and skill, especially making teams pay for turnovers and mistakes. There was a time when you could never have used the term "finesse defense" to describe a hockey team's approach. Then came the modern version of the Red Wings. The problem is that every team gets old and slows down at some point. GM Ken Holland has done a fine job of refurbishing his roster, even as that task has become more and more difficult to do given the number of teams in the league, the draft and salary cap restrictions. The Detroit model has worked and I wouldn't be surprised if it yields another Stanley Cup sometime in the next few years.
I'll let you weigh in on the possible relocation of the Phoenix Coyotes at your leisure. The Score's Justin Bourne and Paul covered the news that the team may move this spring, which would obviously send the Wings back to the West and the new Central Division if the team moves to Quebec City.
In the prospect department, as previously mentioned, in Finland, Teemu Pulkkinen scored the game's first goal, added an assist on the 2-0 goal and scored the 4-2 goal in Jokerit Helsinki's 5-2 win over Lukko Rauma, dashing a 5-game series and climbing back into a 1st round dogfight Jokerit trails 3 games to 2.
Back over on this side of the pond, in the QMJHL, Martin Frk registered an assist as the Halifax Mooseheads swept the Saint John Sea Dogs via a 6-1 victory, advancing to the second round of the QMJHL playoffs;
Xavier Ouellet registered 2 assists and was named the game's third star in his Blainville-Boisbriand Armada's 4-1 win over Acadie-Bathurst, giving the Armada a 3-1 series lead;
And Phillipe Hudon didn't register a point in the Victoriaville Tigres' 1-0 win over Moncton, giving Victoriaville a 3-1 series lead;
In the OHL, Ryan Sproul scored the OT and only goal in the Soo Greyhounds' 1-0 OT win over Owen Sound, knotting the series at 2 games apiece.
Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager described Sproul's goal as follows:
Sproul's winner on Binnington 19:12 into extra time was the classic playoff OT goal, decisive action sprouting from chaos and entropy. The Greyhounds earned a power play late in the frame, which was a prime opportunity to end it since teams are more ragged toward the end of the extra period. Plus the penalty was on one of Owen Sound's best defencemen, sophomore Chris Bigras Owen Sound survived the first minute and change and Binnington stopped Brandon Alderson twice in a scramble situation. But defenceman Brayden Rose's rushed clear was trapped by the size-13E (guessing) skate of Sproul. The Detroit Red Wings pick has one of the hardest shots of any player in junior and he had infinity plus a minute to wind up and pick his spot.
You can watch the Greyhounds game's highlights on the Greyhounds' website (fast-forward to the 2:40 mark for Sproul's goal), and here's what Sproul had to say about his goal while speaking to the Sault Star's Peter Ruicci:
Ryan Sproul remembers little about the biggest goal of his life.
“All I remember is I got the puck back and I shot it,” said Sproul, who scored a power-play goal at 19:12 of overtime Wednesday, giving the Soo Greyhounds a 1-0 win over the Owen Sound Attack, while bringing an end to a drama-soaked, mind-numbing playoff game before 4,642 at Essar Centre.
It also capped off a tremendous goaltending duel between the Soo’s Matt Murray and Owen Sound’s Jordan Binnington. Most importantly for the Hounds, the outcome gives them new life in a best-of-seven, Western Conference quarter-final that goes to Game 5 in Owen Sound Friday tied 2-2.
Sproul’s initial shot was stopped by Binnington and Brandon Alderson’s rebound attempt from in tight was also turned aside. The puck went back to Sproul whose shot from just inside the left-wing face-off circle beat Binnington high to the blocker side.
“Probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced in my life,” a smiling Sproul said of his game-winner.
Andreas Athanasiou scored goals 4 and 5 (i.e. 2 goals) in the Belleville Bulls' 8-2 win over Kingston, sweeping Kingston and allowing Barrie to advance to the second round of the OHL playoffs;
In my backyard, the Plymouth Whalers also advanced to the second round by defeating the Sarnia Sting 5-2, yielding another first-round sweep.
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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.