Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Sharks wrap-up and Wings-Hawks set-up: out of the frying pan, into the self-made fire

The Detroit Red Wings couldn't take Red Bird III to Chicago as the plane just ferried the Tigers to San Jose, so it's my (and Jones36 on Twitter's) best guess that the Wings took a Delta charter to the Windy City facing a must-win situation against the Blackhawks this evening (8:30 PM EDT, FSD Plus/CSN Chicago/NHL Network U.S. w/ blackout of Center Ice/GameCenter Live included/97.1 FM) after dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.

The Wings gained a point--and a point is good--but the Wings' point gives them all of 2 points of breathing room over the Coyotes and three over the Stars and Blue Jackets--and regardless of whether you or I are thrilled with the lineup on a given night, it's the fact that the horses the Wings do have in their stable aren't getting the job done that worries me.

With eight games left, and tonight's game against the unbeaten-in-5 Hawks beginning a 4-game road trip, the Red Wings 44 points remain 11 shy of their "control your destiny" number (55 points), and the, "Surrender the game's first goal, rally and take a lead, and then not be able to sustain enough offense to hold the lead" formula is getting incredibly tiresome.

But that's what happened on Thursday night, and even if the Wings had wanted to dress Calle Jarnkrok and Tomas Jurco, who Fox Sports Detroit's Ken Daniels reported were in attendance, they didn't have a "roster emergency" that would have made an emergency recall legal, nor do they have NHL or Swedish permission to play Jarnkrok (nor do the Boston Bruins, as it turns out, because the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation's forbade Boston from adding Carl Soderberg to the roster)...

So while it's easy and simple to question what might have happened had the Wings dressed other players (I for one think that the team's desperately missed Jordin Tootoo's energy, but I'm not the coach), traded for other players, or as a certain radio host who spent Thursday evening trolling Wings fans had suggested, signed goal-scorers during the summer or had not chosen to very probably commit major dollars to their goaltender, well...

The Wings are in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1990, and if they do so, the players will have no one to blame but themselves. During this game especially, the Wings' coach did not stick to his predictable best in terms of pouring the same players over the boards, tweaking lines as necessary after having tweaked his lineup to prepare for the Sharks, the coaching staff placed Damien Brunner in the lineup sparingly (he only played 8:52) in attempts to conserve his energy for key moments, and the power play and overtime personnel even included Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson.

But the Wings' players aren't getting the job done, and, perhaps equally disturbingly, the Sharks were quite happy to suggest that bouncing back from a 4-0 loss to Columbus was relatively easy, as the Mercury News's David Pollak noted:

Well, he noted one bit of smarm in his first draft recap...

The Red Wings entered the game in unfamiliar territory -- eighth seed in the Western Conference and at risk of missing the playoffs after 21 consecutive appearances, the longest streak of any pro sports franchise.

The Sharks have the NHL's second-longest playoff streak going at nine seasons, but captain Joe Thornton didn't think there was any extra motivation in keeping Detroit out of the postseason.

"Not really," Thornton said before the game. "We realize how close they are to catching us, so I think just keeping them behind us is the bigger factor right now."

And a different kind of casual nature in the for-print version:

"Our road game has been lacking a little bit," said [Patrick] Marleau, who scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season after notching just one goal in the previous 11 games. "Especially coming off a bad game in Columbus, you wanted to come out with a strong performance."

While Marleau and Couture were providing the offense, goalie Antti Niemi had another strong effort. Forward Justin Abdelkader and defenseman Jakob Kindl did score for Detroit, but Niemi made 27 saves — several of them spectacular — and two more in the shootout to improve San Jose's record against the Red Wings to 8-1-1 in their past 10 meetings.

...

But it was the Sharks, whose streak of nine straight postseason showings is second best in the NHL, who took the early lead while short-handed at 2:35 of the first period. First, Joe Pavelski intercepted a pass deep in his own zone, then led the 2-on-1 rush capped by Marleau's shot that eluded Red Wing netminder Jimmy Howard.

For a while, Niemi was looking invincible, especially early in the second period when he robbed Cory Emmerton with a glove save as the Sharks goalie was tumbling to the ice.

"There was a crowd in front of the net and I fell on my back and I didn't see the puck," Niemi said. "Luckily I was able to look that way at that time."

But Detroit broke through at 9:51 of the second period when Abdelkader took a feed Johan Franzen behind the net and one-timed it under Niemi's pads to make it 1-1. And the Red Wings grabbed the lead at 2:29 of the third on a power play when Henrik Zetterberg found Kindl all alone in the slot. Ninety-one seconds later, however, the Sharks had a power-play goal of their own as Couture used his backhand to roof the rebound of a shot by Joe Thornton over the Detroit goalie.

"I know Howard's going to be on his stomach there, pads on the ice, so I was able to get it upstairs," said Couture, who had only one goal in his past 10 games before scoring his 16th of the season.

Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area's Kevin Kurz (who noted that a certain Brad Stuart was welcomed back with applause when named one of the Sharks' starters) duly noted that Logan Couture, who's from London, had a particularly enjoyable time contributing to the Wings' demise...

The Sharks’ biggest weakness throughout their struggles on the road – they improved to just 7-11-2 away from HP Pavilion – was the power play. Entering the game with Detroit, the Sharks were just 5-for-66 in the last 17 games away from home (7.6 percent). They didn’t look very good on their first three attempts, either, but finally came through at the most important moment in the game in the third period.

Thornton said: “We needed the goal in the third and got it back, and ended up winning the game. When the power play’s on, we’ve got a good team.”

“They got a power play goal, so we wanted to get one, too,” Couture said, referring to Kindl's goal. “We responded, and it was the difference between getting to overtime and not.”

Couture put things most succinctly to the Mercury News's Pollak in his post-game blog entry:

“It’s fun playing these guys,” he said. “You’ve got a smile on your face the entire game because it’s fun hockey. They’re such a good team with such world class players, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, playing against those guys. It’s nice playing against them and getting up for the occasion, and being from close to Detroit it’s always fun playing here, especially when we win.”

Regarding the shootout...

No doubt about it – Antii Niemi deserves as much credit for the win as Marleau and Couture. With the game on the line in Round 3 of the shootout, he made an amazing save on Gustav Nyquist, fully extending his right leg for the save after a spin-o-rama move that the Sharks goalie said should be banned.

“It was hard because I feel he is almost trying to push me away, too,” Niemi said. “He shouldn’t be able to push me and go the other way with the puck at the same time. I just tried to reach there with my leg. I didn’t even see the puck as it was behind him.”

The skills competition wasn't particularly pretty, as the AP's Larry Lage noted...

The Red Wings looked like they might get a much-needed win and two points when Pavel Datsyuk opened the shootout with a goal, but Logan Couture slipped a shot between Howard's pads to tie it. Damien Brunner then was stopped by Niemi and Joe Pavelski got a shot past Howard, but hit the post. Detroit's Gustav Nyquist made a nifty spin move but was stopped by Niemi, and Marleau followed with the winner on a quick wrist shot.

"Some of the saves he made were unbelievable," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "And the shootout saves were flat out brilliant."

The extra goal and save, and the additional point that came with the shot and stop, puts San Jose five points ahead of Detroit in the standings. McLellan, though, said his team can't be satisfied with the cushion.

"We're living day to day right now," McLellan said.

And for the Wings, who Lage says have won ONE of their past SIX at the Joe, things get tougher in a hurry:

The Red Wings start a four-game road trip Friday night at Chicago and return home to play three of their last four games of the regular season.

So the Sharks were happy to get the pair of points...

"It's huge," Marleau said. "But still a lot of room for error both ways."

While Henrik Zetterberg stated the obvious:

"Both teams played desperate," Zetterberg said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't really finish it off when we had our chances there in the end."

Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples' recap provides our pivot point between the Sharks and Wings' perspectives, and Caples noted the palpable frustration in the Wings' room, at least from the captain...

“Well of course we’re disappointed that we couldn’t get the two points tonight,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said after the game. “I think we had a terrible first period, but after that we came back good, and it was a, you know, a hard-fought game. I think both teams played desperate, and unfortunately we couldn’t really finish it off when we had the chances there in the end.”

Justin Abdelkader and Jakub Kindl scored for the Red Wings to help them overcome a first period in which they gave up a shorthanded goal and were outshot 11-5.

“Yeah I didn’t think we were very competitive in the first period, didn’t win enough battles,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we won a lot of battles and competed hard in the second and third period, gave ourselves a chance to win, you know, if you’ve been watching us, you know how we score. We don’t score that good, so we just have to keep grinding … I thought we put a good effort in, we’d like to have two points, we got one point, and we’ve got another game tomorrow. We’ll get on the flight, get something in us, and get ready to go.”

And the Free Press's Evil Drew Sharp of all people continues the narrative in a column titled, "Uncertainty Lends Red Wings Games a Playoff Feel"--because while you and I worry like hell about the Wings' playoff fate, Sharp says that the drama's exciting:

"Every point's important now," said captain Henrik Zetterberg. "We're not used to this, coming down to the last games to determine the playoffs. It's going to be a challenge for us, and I think we're doing a lot of good things right now. But we just have to take it a game at a time and get as many points as we can with the games we have left."

Coach Mike Babcock refused to call this final desperate push a playoff-like situation. But it is.

Hockey is the one sport where making a late charge to sneak into the playoffs can serve as a catalyst for a long run. How many times has Hockeytown fretted about a lower seed potentially stealing an early playoff series from the No. 1 or No. 2 Wings. Now it's the Wings potentially wearing the mask.

Do they have the goaltending necessary for such thievery? The announcement that Jimmy Howard agreed in principle to a six-year deal reportedly worth more than $31 million is a sign they're committed to Howard being the guy they can trust, especially in such a perilous season as this.

Howard isn't an elite goalie. And he's not getting paid like one. His $5.3-million salary next season ranks him 10th among the top-paid goaltenders. He's not Pekka Rinne, Jonathan Quick or Henrik Lundqvist, and he's not getting paid at that level. Howard knew he couldn't command a bigger deal than what he got from the Wings in the open market this summer.

Howard's reliable. He's competent, capable of incredible highs and unforgivable lows. This new contract is less a testament to him being that special player between the pipes and more a testimony to the organizational admission that the Wings' defense will be young and relatively untested for the next couple of seasons. They had better have a solid veteran in goal who they know will be good most nights.

He continues, but the players and coach's takes are more important, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan found that Zetterberg was willing to admit that the Wings kinda owed their goalie on Thursday night:

"You look at the standings and see every point counts," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "We're disappointed we couldn't get the two points. We created enough chances to get those two points. Howie (goalie Jimmy Howard) was good and gave us a chance to win. We just have to find a way to score more goals."

The teams traded power-play goals early in the third period Thursday, sending the game in extra time. Jakub Kindl put the Red Wings ahead 2-1 with a goal at 2:21 of the third period. Zetterberg gathered a loose puck near the corner and fed Kindl coming in from the point for Kindl's fourth goal. Tthe assist was the 400th of Zetterberg's career.

But the Sharks quickly answered after Brendan Smith was called for holding. Seconds after Howard made a nice glove save on Sharks forward Joe Thornton's one-timer, the Sharks' Logan Couture backhanded a Thornton rebound over Howard at the 4-minute mark for his 16th goal. Neither team could capitalize on opportunities at the end of regulation.

"We weren't very competitive in the first period, we didn't win enough battles," coach Mike Babcock said. "We competed hard in the second and third periods and we had a chance to win. (But) if you've been watching us and how we score, we don't score that good. We have to keep grinding. We put a good effort in."

The Red Wings' lack of offense is relatively easy to figure out this time of season.

"The league tightens up," said Babcock, "and some guys score and some don't and we have a lot that don't."

That's the problem, and, as Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness, they know it:

“Two points would have been a lot better, but we got one,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “But we gotta start winning games. We’ve got to get two points, we can’t just lose a couple, get one point. We gotta get those two-pointers, otherwise we won’t have it in our own hands anymore.”

...

“We weren’t up there,” Ericsson said. “We weren’t competitive enough in the first 20 (minutes). We got a little better as the game went on, but like we’ve said before we have to have 60 minutes to win these games and today we didn’t.”

The Wings, who play Friday night in Chicago, have eight games left in the regular season.

“We want to hit our high right now,” Ericsson said. “It’s a little bit frustrating for us, but we have to stay patient as well. We know we’re not going to play perfect games the rest of the way here, but we want to be able to compete as hard as we can out there.”

Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji noted that even Pavel Datsyuk could only manage one smile after the game, and it involved poking fun of the way the Wings stood and watched while the Sharks peppered Jimmy Howard with 11 shots in the 1st period:

"We enjoyed the atmosphere first period," Pavel Datsyuk joked.

After the game, the Sharks' Twitter account bragged about holding Datsyuk to one point in three games this season. These aren't the early 2000s. The Wings have a lot of great talent but they aren't more talented than many of the other teams out there. So one period of poor play can be enough to prevent them from making the playoffs at this point.

"When you look at the standings, every point, every game is huge for us," said defenseman Jakub Kindl, who scored his first career power-play goal in the third period. "We have to do all of the dirty things too, like going to the net, drive their D. So we have to do whatever it takes to score goals and win some hockey games."

Scoring goals, that would definitely help. At 101 goals, the Wings are ahead of only three teams in the Western Conference and 28 goals behind first-place Chicago, their opponent Friday night.

"If you've been watching us, you know how we score, we don't score, we don't score that good so we got to keep grinding," coach Mike Babcock said.

It should help that Damien Brunner is back after missing three games. Brunner is one of two players who has double-digit goals with 11 (Datsyuk has 13). He had three shots on net Thursday but did not score.

"I think we're doing a lot of good things," Zetterberg said. "The last game against the Blues, I think we played good. But we can't really score. And today we got two, one on the power play there but I think we had more opportunities. We gotta be better on special teams. If we do that, I think it will help us."

Positives? Sure, there was a positive in the game and a positive on the season, and DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose made sure to note that Jakub Kindl scored the team's power play goal and plain old looked good as he continues to--for better or worse--provide the most offensive pop of any defenseman not named Niklas Kronwall:

“He plays a lot on our second unit, but we thought he was playing well so we put him on our first unit,” said coach Mike Babcock, following the Red Wings’ 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks at Joe Louis Arena

The third-year defenseman responded by netting his first career power-play goal, which at the time put Detroit up 2-1 – its only lead of the game – over the Sharks. After the Sharks’ 6-foot-5 defenseman-turned-forward Brent Burns received a minor penalty for holding, Babcock sent Kindl out to play the right point opposite defenseman Niklas Kronwall, with forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen up front.

“We needed a score and Babs made the decision then he put me out there with the first unit and it worked out well,” Kindl said. “I got it in a perfect position there and I think anyone could score from that angle.”

...

Prior to this season, Kindl averaged just 47-seconds of power-play time in three partial seasons in a Red Wings’ uniform. This season, he’s logging the second-most power-play minutes among Red Wings’ defensemen, behind Niklas Kronwall, who averages 3:37 of ice-time per game.

Kindl now has four goals, which is his single-season best in the NHL, and the most he’s scored since netting six goals during the 2008-09 AHL season in Grand Rapids.

“Obviously it’s nice when you get the opportunity, but at the same time you have to do a good job, a great job, otherwise you won’t earn the minutes out there,” Kindl said. “So I’m just focusing, every time I go out there, just try to shoot the puck and try to create havoc in front of the net. … Whenever I have the chance I just have to shoot, that’s all, that’s what I’m focusing.”

He's registered eight shots over the past two games...

But both Kindl and his teammates continue to fire as many shots wide or into opposing players (on Thursday, the Wings fired 29 pucks at or past Antti Niemi and 30 wide or into Sharks players) as they do on the opposing goalie, and as MLive's Ansar Khan notes (he also penned his usual quote-less recap), this team's lack of offense is already biting it in the ass:

They didn't start competing on this night until after a sluggish first period. The game definitely had a playoff feel to it, with many tense moments that drew a reaction from a crowd that realized the importance of the two points at stake.

“You got to earn your right to say playoff games and we're in a dogfight,'' Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We'd have liked to get two points. We're going to keep battling, keep worrying about the process and doing good things, and in the end good things will happen to us. We just got to compete hard.''

The goaltending was strong on both sides. Jimmy Howard, who earlier in the day confirmed he is close to signing a six-year contract extension (it's worth $31.8 million), made 28 saves. But, Antti Niemi made one more save in the shootout, which was the difference. After Pavel Datsyuk scored on Detroit's first shootout try, Niemi stopped Damien Brunner and Gustav Nyquist, each of whom tried to get creative. Nyquist, in his first career NHL shootout attempt, tried a spin-o-rama move.

“It was bad on me not to put it in,'' Nyquist said. “I thought I had him pretty good.''

...

“We had a terrible first period, but after that, we came back good and it was a hard-fought game,'' Zetterberg said. “I think both teams played desperate. Unfortunately, we couldn't finish it off when we had our chances in the end."

Said Babcock: “We don't score that good so we got to keep grinding. The bottom line is I thought we put a good effort in. We got another game tomorrow (at Chicago), so let's get on the flight and get something in us and get ready to go.''

...

“The league tightens up,'' Babcock said. “Some guys score and some guys don't, and we got a lot that don't.''

Or, as Babcock and Zetterberg told the Free Press's Carlos Monarrez:

"I think after going in for the second," Zetterberg said, "we played better and we moved up our game and played more in their end and played more physical and we worked ourself back in the game."

...

"If you've been watching us, (then you know) we've had trouble scoring," coach Mike Babcock, whose team hasn't scored more than three goals in the past nine games. "We don't score that good, so we've just got to keep grinding. The bottom line is I thought we put a good effort in. We'd like to have two points. We got one point."

That's the theory, but the ever-active-on-Twitter Windsor Star's Bob Duff is worried about the Wings' playoff chances, and Duff isn't a worrier:

"Two points would have been a lot better,” noted Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, proving he’s adept at math.

Showing up for the puck drop would have been better as well, but has often been the case this season, especially on home ice, the Wings forgot to set their alarm clocks.

“It was a really bad effort in the first,” Nyquist said. “We didn’t compete hard enough.”

Chasing the game, trying to rally from deficits, is becoming a trademark of this team, but certainly not a product they should seek to patent. Too often the Wings are second-best in battles for pucks and in pursuit of loose pucks.

Likewise, failures at home have also become Detroit’s personal property. Of the 16 teams currently holding down playoff spots, only the New York Islanders (nine) show fewer home triumphs than the Wings’ 10. As they embark on a four-game road trip, the Wings face more must-win games Sunday at Nashville and Wednesday in Calgary.

“Wherever we’re playing, we have to find a way to win,” Detroit defenceman Jonathan Ericsson said.

They’ve let too many winnable games escape already. Detroit’s record against Columbus (1-3-1) and the Flames (0-2) will haunt the Wings if they come up short in their playoff pursuit.

“We’re still in the driver’s seat,” Howard claimed. “We still control our destiny.”

For now. I hope that the gents got into their hotel beds sometime after they landed in Chicago at 1:10 AM knowing that tonight's game simply is a must-win situation, because, as Babcock likes to say, "That's the facts."

Multimedia:

Highlights: The highlights are narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond...

And here's the shootout:

Post-game: Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area posted clips of Logan Couture speaking to the media and Todd McLellan holding his post-game presser;

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted a clip of Henrik Zetterberg speaking to the media...

Fox Sports Detroit posted a clip of Zetterberg and coach Mike Babcock speaking to the media...

Currich5 on YouTube posted clips of Gustav Nyquist...

And a very quick clip of Damien Brunner:

 

And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Henrik Zetterberg...

And Mike Babcock speaking to the media:

Photos:  The Detroit News's David Guralnick posted a 29-image gallery;

The Detroit Free Press posted a 25-image gallery;

MLive posted an 8-image gallery;

The Windsor Star posted...Uh...3 images from the game;

ESPN posted a 26-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted 14 images in their Wings gallery;

NHL.com, the Sharks' website and the Wings' website posted 17-image galleries.

Statistics:

Shots 30-29 SJ overall. San Jose out-shot Detroit 11-5 in the 1st, were out-shot 14-8 in the 2nd, out-shot Detroit 10-8 in the 3rd and shots were tied 1-1 in OT.

San Jose 1-for-4 in 7:06 of PP time; Wings 1-for-4 in 6:25.

Howard stopped 28 of 30; Niemi stopped 27 of 29.

The 3 stars were picked by Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji, and they were Logan Couture, Jimmy Howard and Patrick Marleau.

The Wings' goals: Abdelkader (8) from Franzen (16) and Smith (6);

Kindl (4) fro Zetterberg (28) and Datsyuk (26), PPG.

Faceoffs 38-28 Sharks (42% won by Detroit);

Blocked shots 17-10 San Jose;

Missed shots 15-13 San Jose (total attempts 59-55 Detroit, with Detroit firing 29 on net and 30 wide/blocked);

Hits 31-25 Detroit;

Giveaways a staggering 12-6 Detroit;

Takeaways 7-4 Detroit.

Individual stats, TMR style:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 10-and-10 (50%); Zetterberg went 5-and-10 (33%); Filppula went 7-and-7 (50%); Emmerton went 3-and-5 (38%); Andersson went 2-and-2 (50%); Franzen went 0-and-3; miller went 1-and-1.

Shots: Kindl led the team with 4 shots; Abdelkader, Brunner and Filppula had 3; Datsyuk, Emmerton Quincey, Kronwall and DeKeyser had 2; Cleary, Miller, Zetterberg, Ericsson, Andersson and Franzen had 1.

Blocked attempts: Filppula, Kronwall and DeKeyser had 2 attempts blocked; Smith, Kindl,Cleary, Datsyuk, Eaves, Emmerton, Quincey and Zetterberg had single attempts blocked.

Missed shots: Kindl, Datsyuk, Eaves and Filppula missed the net 2 times; Smith, Brunner, Emmerton, Zetterberg and Franzen had single attempts blocked.

Hits: Abdelkader was credited with 8 hits; Cleary had 4; Eaves had 3; Kindl, Datsyuk, Miller, Quincey and Zetterberg had 2; Emmerton, Ericsson, Kronwall, Andersson, DeKeyser and Franzen had 1.

Giveaways: Datsyuk had 2 giveaways; Kindl, Eaves, Miller, Brunner, Zetterberg, Filppula, Kronwall, Andersson and Franzen had 1 giveaway.

Takeaways: Nyquist had 2 takeaways; Smith, Cleary, Eaves, Brunner and Emmerton had 1.

Blocked opponent shots: Smith blocked 4 shots; Ericsson and Kronwall blocked 2; Miller and Emmerton blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Smith, Cleary, Eaves and Ericsson took minor penalties.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished even. Brunner, Zetterberg and Kronwall finished at -1; Smith, Abdelkader and Quincey were +1.

Points: Abdelkader and Kindl scored goals; Smith, Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen had assists.

Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 27:27 played; Zetterberg played 23:41; Ericsson played 23:27;

Quincey played 22:21; Datsyuk played 20:18; Smith played 18:47;

Franzen played 18:44; Filppula played 18:40; Kindl played 18:00;

Cleary played 17:06; Cleary played 16:49; Miller played 16:14;

Abdelkader played 14:38; Nyquist played 14:14; Emmerton played 13:02;

Andersson played 10:53; Eaves played 10:36; Brunner played 8:52.

 

Red Wings-Hawks set-up: Keeping things brief, the Hawks have won three of their past four and haven't lost in 5 games, with their most recent win coming in the form of a 1-0 win over Minnesota on Tuesday. According to Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers, the Hawks are all but healthy and are firing on all cylinders after falling into a predictable lull when their 24-game unbeaten streak was snapped (she reports that David Bolland's their only injured player), and Myers reports that the Hawks are starting their Wing-killer in the net:

Corey Crawford will get the start but Dave Bolland will be out again when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on Friday night.

It will be Crawford's first start since last week against the St. Louis Blues; Ray Emery has gotten the last three, two of which have been shutouts. Crawford has been stellar against Detroit throughout his career. He has a 10-2-0 record and 1.82 goals-against average (.944 save percentage) in 14 career games vs. the Red Wings.

Coach Joel Quenneville said he expects to go back and forth between Crawford and Emery through the rest of the regular season.

"We've got three sets of three games in four nights, so they're both going to play," he said. "Both have played well all year long."

Myers reports that the Hawks' penalty-killing unit has been particularly effective of late, too...

The Blackhawks have killed off 18 consecutive penalties, some of them at very critical times, and are once again among the league’s best. Entering Tuesday night’s games, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill was ranked fifth in the NHL at 85.7 percent.

And the only real controversy regarding the Hawks of late is whether Crawford or Emery will start for Chicago in the playoffs. The Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc, the Chicago Daily Herald's Tim Sassone, the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus and ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers (who also talked about David Bolland's sore foot) all insisting that there is no goalie controversy. Really.

Instead, the Hawks announced that they'd be selling playoff tickets on Monday, the Sun-Times' Lazerus reiterated Crawford's silly good numbers against the Wings...

While Quenneville faces a potentially difficult decision for the playoffs, Crawford was a pretty easy choice for Friday. Besides the fact that his last start was eight long days ago, April 4 against the St. Louis Blues — a 4-3 shootout loss — Crawford has owned the Red Wings. He’s 10-2-2 lifetime against them, with a 1.82 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. The Hawks have won six in a row against their hated rivals, with Crawford starting five of them. This season, he has allowed only one goal in each of his three starts against Detroit, stopping 94 of 97 shots.

And the Daily Herald's Sassone asked the Hawks what they thought of what may become an inevitable first-round match-up...

"It changes every day," Jonathan Toews said. "If it ended today we would play Detroit, but the season is not over yet. We're not going to worry about that."

"It's way too early to forecast that," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Things can change quickly. There are four-five teams that can still get in. I just look at the eight teams that are in the playoffs right now (and) they all think they are good enough to win."

The Red Wings will be at the United Center on Friday night for the last meeting between the two teams as division rivals. Detroit is moving to the Eastern Conference next season as part of the NHL's realignment and will play the Hawks only twice.

"I still think (the rivalry) will always be in place," Quenneville said. "Those games will be more exciting as you go along knowing they're only coming in here once a year. It's been a special rivalry throughout the years, and I still think it will be recaptured quickly when we do play them."

The fans certainly will miss the games with the Red Wings.

"Obviously it's a huge rivalry and the fans enjoy it," Corey Crawford said. "That's the tough thing about it, but I think the new divisions make sense. Detroit changes time zones every time they fly. I know the fans love our games, but it's something that had to change."

And it was the "loss" of the rivalry that the Northwest Herald's Tom Musick focused upon:

“I still think it will always be in place,” Quenneville said Thursday after practice. “Those games will be even more exciting as you go along, knowing that they’re only coming in here once a year and we go there once a year as well. It’s been a special rivalry throughout the years. I still think that it will be recaptured quickly when we do play one another.”

It’s kind of like when a friend moves away. You’ll keep tabs on one another from afar. You’ll still see each other every now and then. You’ll make new friends, or in this case, new rivals.

“It will be missed not having them in the conference,” Hawks forward Viktor Stalberg said. “It’s one of those fun games.”

Lately, the Hawks have played in a lot of fun games. A good rivalry has blossomed with Nashville in the past few seasons. The Blues’ recent revival has pumped some life into an I-55 showdown. Likewise, Minnesota could become a great matchup, especially with a feisty playoff series. Stalberg and his teammates will stay focused on what’s in front of them. They’ll embrace existing division rivalries more than they’ll miss an old one with the Wings.

“I think it’s bigger for the fans than the players sometimes because it’s been going back so far,” said Stalberg, who is in his third season with the Hawks. “Players come and go.”

Ah, a lovely rivalry where one team comes to town and fans boo some guy wearing #81, and where the other team's fans chant that the other city sucks. For the entire game. Memories.

The Tribune's Chris Kuc sets up tonight's game as follows (and, by the way, the Hawks are 3-and-0 against Detroit this year)

Team comparison

Averages per game (NHL rank)
HAWKS(30-5-4)   CATEGORY  RED WINGS(19-15-5)
3.18 (2)  Goals for  2.49 (21)
2.03 (1)  Goals against  2.54 (14)
16.7 (20)  Power-play pct.  18.1 (15)
85.7 (5)  Penalty-kill pct.  80.0 (21)

Statistics through Wednesday.

Storyline: The Hawks won their last three games behind goaltender Ray Emery, including a 1-0 victory Tuesday over the Wild. But the Hawks will reinsert Crawford, who started all three victories over the Red Wings this season. The teams will be playing their last regular-season game as division rivals. The Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference next season.

And NHL.com's Mike Battaglino offers a balanced preview (I'm assuming that Howard will start):

Season series: This is the fourth and final meeting. The Chicago Blackhawks won the first two, each by a score of 2-1, one in overtime and one in a shootout during their 24-game points streak to open the season. They also won 7-1 at Joe Louis Arena on March 31.

...

Big story: The Detroit Red Wings have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs 21 seasons in a row and enter this game holding eighth place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes. Chicago clinched its spot Sunday and holds a five-point lead over the Anaheim Ducks for the top seed in the West, with two games in hand.

Red Wings [team scope]: Detroit might be looking forward to the start of this four-game road trip, despite the difficult opponent. The Red Wings have lost five of their past six home games, including a 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

...

Detroit has two goals or fewer in regulation in four straight and six of seven games.

Blackhawks [team scope]: Chicago will start Corey Crawford in goal Friday after Ray Emery won three in a row, including two 1-0 victories.

...

Who's hot: Zetterberg has nine points in his past 11 games. … Toews has eight points in his past six games. Forward Patrick Kane, without a point Tuesday, has been scoreless in consecutive games once all season.

And, as the Detroit Free Press duly notes...

If the season ended today, the Red Wings would be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. But it doesn't, so they're playing them in a regular-season game at Chicago instead. The Blackhawks have won the previous three meetings, though just one in regulation (convincingly, by a score of 7-1 on national TV). 8:30 p.m., Fox Sports Plus.

You don't even want to look at the AP's stats for this one. They're scary.

 

In the prospect department: Nick Jensen didn't register a point as Saint Cloud State University gave up 3 goals in the first 11 minuts of the 1st period and lost 4-1 to Quinnipiac in the Frozen Four semifinal. Jensen took 3 shots and finished at -3, and after the game, he spoke to US College Hockey Online about the devastating loss (and yes, he's near tears):


In the OHL, Alan Quine registered an assist in the Belleville Bulls' 5-0 win over Sudbury, and Belleville swept their second round series. They'll face Andreas Athanasiou and the Barrie Colts in the OHL semifinals;

In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye face a 3-0 deficit heading into Friday night's game against the Cincinnati Cyclones, and they've barely dented the opposition despite their Wings connections, as noted by the Toledo Blade's Mark Monroe:

Leading scorer Willie Coetzee has not registered a point in the Walleye’s three straight losses to Cincinnati. Toledo finds itself in a deep hole, trailing 3-0 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

...

Coetzee led the team in goals (28), assists (40), and points (68) during the regular season. Coetzee, who also led the Walleye with 260 shots, has just four shots.

...

The Walleye also got a jolt when Andrej Nestrasil was reassigned to the team from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on Tuesday. Nestrasil had an assist in Toledo’s 5-2 loss to the Cyclones on Wednesday.

“Martin, Parkes, Coetzee, and now Nestrasil are very good,” [Cyclones coach Jarrod] Skalde said.

The addition of Max Nicastro, who was sent to Toledo from Grand Rapids on Wednesday, paid immediate dividends. Nicastro tied the game at 1 on Wednesday.

If you missed the pre-game mishmash, as noted by the Grand Rapids Press's Steve Kaminski, Gustav Nyquist was named to the AHL's First All-Star Team, and Chad Billins was named the Griffins' "Man of the Year" for his charity work;

And I'm going to skip the mishmash's stuff about Jimmy Howard's contract extension-to-be and Henrik Zetterberg's discussion of the Wings' struggles with Nick Cotsonika, but after tonight's Grand Rapids Griffins home game against Milwaukee and tomorrow night's game against Peoria, Wings fans won't be able to see Calle Jarnkrok play unless they get up early to watch World Championship games.

The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation has demanded that Jarnkrok be returned to Sweden because they're co-hosting the World Championships, with the medal rounds slated to take place in Stockholm, so Jarnkrok will play in Sweden before probably heading to North America. He attended Thursday night's game in person, however (as did Tomas Jurco), and DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose spoke to Jarnkrok about his experiences on this side of the Atlantic:

“It was a little bit harder than I thought it would be,” said Järnkrok, of making the adjustment to the AHL. “I expected smaller ice and bigger players, so I expected it to be pretty tough for me. It was, but I think I figured it out and it’s getting better and better for each game.”

Järnkrok has three assists with a plus-2 rating in seven games with the Griffins. He’ll finish up his stay in Grand Rapids this weekend with games at Van Andel Arena against Milwaukee on Friday and Peoria on Saturday.

Järnkrok and the Red Wings' first-pick in 2011, Tomas Jurco, were at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday to meet with assistant general manager Jim Nill, as well as Red Wings’ trainers to map out off-season strength and conditioning programs that the prospects can work on at home.

“I have to work on everything, but I think I need to work on my strength to be bigger and put some muscle on,” Järnkrok said. “I think that’s the biggest thing for me right now and this summer.”

Järnkrok is a skilled playmaking center with exceptional quickness, but he lacks size (6-foot, 176-pounds) and strength. Still, he has excelled at the professional level in Sweden where he has shown the ability to play through heavy traffic over the last four seasons. He produced 44 goals and 74 assists in 185 career games for Brynäs in the Swedish Elite League.

Not sure of what his future holds, Järnkrok hopes to be back in North America next season either in the NHL with the Red Wings or in the AHL with the Griffins. Asked where he thinks he’ll be next fall, said Järnkrok, who signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Wings last May. “I really don’t know right now, but we’ll see.”

Brynas IF, his Swedish team, is expecting him to leave for North America, and the SIHF can't protest his contract after the Worlds are over, so the Wings are very probably planning to bring Jarnkrok over for full-time AHL employment next season. At this point, like Teemu Pulkkinen, he's already got pro experience and experience as a leader on his team under his belt, and now he needs to learn how to play the North American game and how to train for said game.

 

Red Wings notebooks and of Red Wings-related note: From smallest to largest, starting with the Free Press's Carlos Monarrez's notebook:

BRUNNER BETTER: Damien Brunner returned after a three-game absence caused by a sore hip flexor that had been bothering him for several games before he last played April 1. He played 8:52 over 13 shifts and was minus-one.

SHORT STORY: Marleau's opening goal marked the third shorthanded goal the Wings have given up this season. That tied them for worst with Buffalo, St. Louis and San Jose.

IN AND OUT: As expected, defenseman Brendan Smith replaced Ian White for Thursday's game. Smith has struggled with turnovers and was a healthy scratch the previous two games. He was good with the puck and assisted on Abdelkader's goal, but he took the costly holding penalty that led to Couture's equalizer.

Mikael Samuelsson told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness that he's slowly recovering from a bruised pectoral muscle...

“I still don’t know when (I’m coming back),” Samuelsson said. “I will get in there. It’s just a matter of when.

“It takes some time,” Samuelsson added. “It’s bruised, but the bruise is starting to go down. That goes hand-in-hand. When the bruise is going down, you start to feel better, more mobile and you can move it around more.”

Samuelsson had just returned from a broken left index finger before suffering his latest injury.

“I don’t even want to guess,” Samuelsson said when asked if he knew when he’d return. “No guesses from me. At least it feels better every day.

Again, if you missed it, per the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:

The Red Wings host their annual NHL Prospects Tournament during training camp at Traverse City's Centre ICE Arena in September.

Eight teams (Detroit, Buffalo, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, New York Rangers and St. Louis) are scheduled to participate in the tournament, which runs Sept. 5-9.

The Red Wings open camp with the 14th annual Training Camp Golf Classic on Sept. 11 at Grand Traverse Resort.

The team will be on the ice for the first time Sept. 12 and continue daily workouts through Sept. 18.

More details are available here...

And despite the Free Press's Carlos Monarrez, USA Today and even Capgeek going official with the news, Jimmy Howard's contract extension with the Wings isn't official. But he still talked to Monarrez like it was a done deal, as did coach Babcock, and the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa joined the chorus of people behind computers who think that it's a good deal for the Wings:

Howard is not the best at controlling rebounds. He is not the best puck handler. But his positional play is among the best. It is Howard's greatest strength, and it makes him a fine first-stop goaltender.

His will to prevail takes care of much of the rest, and earns him the trust of his teammates. They know they have a battler in the nets and that he is among the best "gamers" around.

When it is on the line and the Red Wings need a big win, Howard either provides a performance on the ice or the leadership around the room that is often a key to their success.

Howard's ability to describe the reality of situations faced by the Red Wings places him alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall as a leader. Howard speaks directly, and what he says is sometimes a challenge to his team.

This is no enigmatic goaltender with a mystery personality. This is a personable, well-spoken player who defines responsibility and directs the team. The Red Wings never could have known that would come with Howard, too.

Krupa continues at length, and I will simply say that it's more than I would like the Wings to pay in both money and term, but regrettably, the "market" bears a $5.5 million salary for a starting goaltender these days, and I'm just gonna have to defer to Capgeek and remind you that the Wings will probably buy out Mikael Samuelsson's $3 million remaining salary and Carlo Colaiacovo's $2.5 million salary with no penalty via compliance buy-outs this summer...Mostly because, as far as cap hits go, even as much as he frustrates both you and I, Johan Franzen is a relative "bargain."

Via RedWingsFeed, I'd prefer to leave other roster speculation for another day, and suggest that it's up to the current players on the roster to make sure that we aren't planning to watch Jarnkrok and a crop of Wings players play at the World Championships in May:

Every point counts, but the Wings need to get more than one on a nightly basis. Starting in Chicago tonight, against a goalie who's never given up many goals against a team with more offensive pop than this one has.

It doesn't matter who does the scoring. The Wings have to play better, they've got to sustain possession of the puck regardless of their personnel and they've got to dent the back of the net repeatedly this evening. It's not going to be easy, but they've got no other choice.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

George Malik's avatar

One more thing: The Olean Times Herald’s Bill Hoppe reports that former Wing Matt Ellis has been demoted back to the AHL after two full seasons at the NHL level, but being a consummate pro, Ellis is taking it in stride.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/12/13 at 04:15 AM ET

Avatar

Pretty happy with one point.  Not sure why you’re so upset or frustrated or infuriated or terrified.  And no, tonight’s not “must-win” either.  You’ve been saying that for a month, and it’s rang hollow every time.

Posted by jkm2011 on 04/12/13 at 09:11 AM ET

gt500x's avatar

The Wings aren’t talented enough.  They probably won’t make the playoffs and that sucks but oh well—there’s always next year.

Posted by gt500x on 04/12/13 at 10:19 AM ET

redxblack's avatar

Burned by a skills competition. Again.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 04/12/13 at 10:26 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

At times, I feel like for all those years we had Lidstrom for the kids to watch and learn from…the only skill they try to emulate is his “Shoot wide on purpose”.  They do it way too much and they didn’t learn it well enough.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 04/12/13 at 11:16 AM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

Not sure why you’re so upset or frustrated or infuriated or terrified.

they got badly outplayed (again) last night and I don’t think they’ve gotten half the available points since the end of March.

Zetterberg says “both teams played desperate.” does he really believe this?  do the Wings really feel like they played desperate?  if so, I submit that there is a disconnect between reality and what they THINK they’re doing.  I can’t imagine a single Wings fan agreeing that they played desperate, until maybe the middle of the third period - which was really just desperation to NOT LOSE, and make it to OT.

 

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/12/13 at 12:30 PM ET

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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.