The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/14/11 at 07:43 AM ET
Not too surprisingly, my game recap is so long (surprise!) that KK’s blogging software is eating up my Red Wings notes and overnight report, so I’m posting them in a separate entry for the moment. We’ll start with an intriguing one-on-one interview with Pavel Datsyuk from NHL.com’s Brian Hedger…
Q: Your goal really seemed to get things going in the right direction. Can you take us back through it?
PD: It’s juist like our plan before the game … just throw everything at net and try to jam. I had the chance to jam and I just used it and thanked my guy.”
Q: It started to feel like after killing off all those Phoenix power plays, you guys were bound to score and swing the momentum. Did it feel that way to you guys?
PD: Yeah, and there was lots of pressure and lots of fans chanting for us at the beginning of the game and I felt a little bit nervous. After we killed (the) penalties, we feel confidence and just kept (coming) wave after wave and I was happy we scored. We kind of controlled the whole game at the end of the game.
But don’t believe this for a second:
Q: Did you guys hear any of the stuff the Coyotes were saying before this series about being very confidence they can win it?
PD: Maybe some guys hear it. I don’t speak English (very well). I don’t hear anything. This is good for me. Not as much pressure.
This video of a Nicklas Lidstrom scrum from before the game merits “notebook” status because a relaxed Lidstrom reminisces about the 2002 Stanley Cup run:
Mike Modano was a healthy scratch for Game 1, a day after he suggested that he’s ready to retire at the end of the Wings’ playoff push, and something tells me that Mike Babcock didn’t scratch Modano to penalize him—instead, he probably realized that a player who’s talking about retirement is a bit worn down (Modano has arguably hit a conditioning wall after returning from his wrist injury) and lacking in confidence. I expect him to come back in this series, but Babcock didn’t let on to any sort of reasoning behind benching Modano other than acknowledging that the decision wasn’t easy while speaking to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:
“It’s a huge decision with who he is and his career,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We brought him here for this.”
Modano missed 41 games this season after he lacerated his wrist on Nov. 26 in Columbus. He wound up playing just 40 games this season registering four goals and 11 assists.
“He’s out of Game 1 and he’s got to get himself ready for Game 2,” Babcock added. “I imagine it was very tough for Mike. It wasn’t easy for myself of the coaches to make this decisions either. But in the end it’s not about Mike Babcock or Mike (Modano) it’s simply about the Red Wings and we’re going to do whatever we can to help our self win.”
Modano accepted the decision, as he told the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
“It’s been a difficult year, difficult season,” Modano said. “I played a lot of catch-up in the spring, trying to catch up to these guys, but at that point the team was pretty solidified and the lines and everything was going, so you needed to do something extraordinary to get in there. If that chance comes, try to take advantage of it.You never know. Things happen. Injuries happen. Certain matchups that they don’t like can change things in the lineup. You’ve seen it a million times and you just try to be ready for the call.”
Modano said that he understood the decision, even if he didn’t like it, and that he had had a tough time coming back from the injury.
“I think your body doesn’t respond to things as well any more and then the mind slowly kind of gets into the equation,” he said. “It’s something you try to fight. I fought it all season long. You just try to hang in there for a little longer and take it day-to-day like I’ve done the last little while. You just push through those and hopefully something exciting and fun will be at the end of this.”
Modano put things bluntly to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
Modano hasn’t been sharp since returning on Feb. 26, following a 41-game absence due to wrist surgery. So coach Mike Babcock opted to play both Drew Miller and Kris Draper, players who have been rotated in and out of the lineup.
“I talked to Mike and he explained it to me. I totally understand it,” Modano said. “It’s up to me now if I get the opportunity to give him a reason not to take me back out.”
If Henrik Zetterberg, who missed Game 1 with a knee injury and is listed as day-to-day, returns in this series and the team has no other injuries, Babcock will need to scratch another forward. That will make it even more difficult for Modano to crack the lineup.
Again, this is just a gut feeling, but I don’t think that Z will be back on Saturday.
• The Detroit News’s Chris McCosky offered a rather scathing set of blog entries during the game, sparing no criticism for the Wings’ inconsistent effort early on, and he suggested that Tomas Holmstrom acted to draw a penalty, he jabbed at Jiri Hudler’s inconsistency, he expressed bafflement at the fact that Justin Abdelkader’s high-sticking penalty didn’t come from a high stick that connected, and he duly noted that the Wings are targeting Ilya Bryzgalov’s blocker, but this particular in-game blog entry—perhaps written while burning time before the game—was his most insightful one:
Nobody had to tell [Mike Modano] that he hadn’t been productive (four goals, minus-4) since coming back off the wrist injury. Nobody had to tell him that the team was playing crisper and more efficiently with the likes of Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves and Kris Draper rolling on the fourth line.
The other factor that nobody is really talking about is that Justin Abdelkader has really stepped up his game. Ken Holland told me two weeks ago that at the beginning of the season, the hope was that Modano would have solidified a spot on the third line. As for Abby, the thought was he’d again be fighting for minutes on the fourth line. Turns out, Abby enters as the second line center between Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary. And if you are looking for X-factors for the Wings in this series, keep your eyes on No. 8. His physicality seems to have lit a fire under Bertuzzi, as well.
But Abby’s growth pushed Modano further down the depth chart.
This certainly wasn’t the storybook ending Modano was looking for, but it isn’t over yet. He’s going to retire after this season, that much is evident. But you have to figure he will be called upon at some point in this series. Maybe he has one more bullet left in the chamber.
• Between his eight hits, wrestling move on Justin Abelkader and nasty demeanor, I’m finding this comment by Shane Doan, noted by Chris McCosky prior to the game, a little hard to believe:
So, you think the bruising power forward might have it in for the Red Wings? Just a bit?
“I never really thought of it that way,” Doan said, with a straight face, after the team’s morning skate Wednesday. “In the playoffs you just want to play and you are frustrated when you don’t get the opportunity to. Last year was disappointing.”
“I don’t know if there’s a real grudge, but at the same time, I wasn’t happy with the way the year ended,” Doan said. “This is the fourth time we’ve played them in the playoffs and we haven’t beaten them yet. I want to find a way.”
Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle’s praise for Nicklas Lidstrom, however, is very genuine:
” Nick Lidstrom is in a class by himself,” Yandle said. “You look at the guys up for the Norris and he’s still way ahead of everybody. To be 40 years old and doing what he’s doing — he’s probably among the top three of the best that’s ever played. I don’t think anybody is in his league.”
• Of statistical note from the Wings’ Bill Roose and Michael Caples:
71 With a goal and an assist Wednesday, Johan Franzen now has 71 points in 76 career playoff games since joining the Red Wings in 2005-06. He had a goal and six assists vs. Phoenix in the 2010 WCQ.
8 Pavel Datsyuk fired a season-high eight shots on goal in Game 1. His second-period wraparound goal jump-started the Wings’ offense. His highest SOG total prior to Wednesday was seven vs. Columbus in November.
4 The Red Wings held an 18-8 lead over the Coyotes in blocked shots. Ruslan Salei led the Wings with four blocks. He was third on the team this season with 109 blocks.
And non-statistical note…
“It’s just a totally different thing. Their practice, their business-like approach, their morning skate, everything’s totally different. And it should be different. And as you go on in the playoffs each round is different. So that’s what makes it exciting and older gentlemen younger and that’s what I think. That’s why you all cherish this time of year.”
- Mike Babcock on the difference between the regular-season and the Stanley Cup playoffs
• I’m going to agree with Steve Schrader regarding two points made in his “Octometer”:
3 octopi Euro Twin: How about that Pavel Datsyuk, who scored a goal and took at game-high eight shots? But with Zetterberg out, he knew he was shooting for two.
3 octopi Tweet!: The Wings really took over the game in the second period, eh? It’s amazing what happens when the refs stop wearing out the path to the Detroit penalty box. It kind of leveled the playing field. The Wings can take on the Coyotes, they can take on the refs, but it’s tough to take them both on at once.
• And also from Schrader:
Fox Sports Detroit’s Mickey Redmond, as Tomas Holmstrom was getting mugged, as usual, in front of the Phoenix net and the referees didn’t seem to want to get involved: “They just seem to be content to let that happen out there because he’s Tomas Holmstrom and that’s what’s supposed to happen.”
Niklas Kronwall, asked after the first period on FSD how much scoring the first goal meant to the Coyotes: “That’s a good question. Hopefully not too much.”
Kris Draper, who’s investing in a Hollywood coney restaurant, admits they’re not on his training table: “I have had them, absolutely. But with my offseason training and in-season training and diet, I don’t do it too often. I like a coney with cheese—I can’t do the onions.”
• The Hockey News named Rafalski, Howard and Datsyuk its three Wings stars of the night;
• In Swedish, from Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom: Nicklas Lidstrom says that he’s happy that he rebounded from the 2009-2010 season with more points, though he’s peeved off about his plus-minus rating, and…
Question: Do you think that this might be your last playoffs?
Lidstrom: I’m just not going into the playoffs thinking that way, but you never know. I’m getting older and my contract expires [after this season].
Question: What made you come back last fall?
Lidstrom: I wanted to prove to myself that I was better than last season’s play illustrated, and that I could contribute more to my team’s success.
Question: So what are the chances that Lidstrom will finish his season with a fifth Stanley Cup?
Lidstrom: We’ve got as much a chance of reaching the finals as any other team in the Western Conference. It’s an even league, look at how Philadelphia made it into the playoffs on the last day and made it to the finals.
Question: What’s Detroit’s case?
Lidstrom: It’s very important in the playoffs to have the depth that we have.
• In Swedish, part 2: Johan Franzen regrettably didn’t reveal anything new to Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman.
Also of Red Wings-related note: Dick Axelsson and Farjestads BK will play against Skelleftea for the Eliteserien championship today as they lead their series 3-1, and he’s probably going to be joined by the only other Wings prospects in playoff action soon as “done for the season.”
• In the WHL, Mitchell Callahan registered an assist but his Kelowna Rockets dropped a 4-2 decision to the Portland WinterHawks, and they trail their series 3-1;
• In the QMJHL, both Louis-Marc Aubry and Trevor Parkes were held off the scoresheet as the Montreal Juniors dropped a 4-1 decision to the Lewiston MAINEacs, and they trail their best of seven series 3-1 as well. Both the Rockets and Juniors hope to stave off elimination on Friday;
• And in the OHL, the Malik Report’s adopted team, the Plymouth Whalers, bowed out of the OHL playoffs via a 4-1 decision to the Owen Sound Attack, which swept the Whalers;
• WXYZ is asking fans to send in pictures of themselves in Wings gear, and the Free Press and Arizona Republic are holding a contest to determine which team has the better fans (seriously), as well as a Facebook photo contest;
• I can’t say that today’s moment on the Red Wings’ Twenty Straight website is my favorite;
• Yes indeedy, GM confirms that the Ren Cen will go red on Wings game days;
• At least the Calgary Herald’s George Johnson is voting for Norris Nick...
NORRIS TROPHY: Top defenceman ... Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings.
Nearing 41, with six of these mementoes already stuffing his curio cabinet, Lidstrom remains the gold standard for defencemen. Lubomir Visnovsky had a superb season in Anaheim, while Zdeno Chara bossed the Bruins blueline with customary dispatch. There’ll be much made of this being the first minus season (minus-3) in Lidstrom’s career, and Chara’s plus-33 led the league, all positions. At both ends of the ice, in every situation, though, the ageless Swede is still the master. He gets this vote to tie Doug Harvey’s Norris total and don’t bet against him targeting Bobby Orr’s standard of eight a year from now.
• Random equipment note: If you think that Jiri Hudler and Danny Cleary are using blacked-out Easton Stealth RS sticks, and you think that it’s kind of silly that Easton is blacking out the sticks’ logos on purpose to generate “buzz” for the sticks (either that or their new logo hasn’t been approved by the NHL), you’re right.
• Update: And I’m on a quest. Via my friend Benson, there’s a 9-part interview with Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson and Columbus Blue Jackets scout Kjell Larsson up on YouTube, and we’re looking for help translating the interviews, which were posted by SvenskTalang.com.
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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.