The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/14/11 at 08:29 AM ET
The Phoenix Coyotes couldn’t have been faulted for thinking that they had the Detroit Red Wings exactly where they wanted ‘em at the 8:22 mark of the first period, when Nicklas Lidstrom joined Patrick Eaves in the penalty box and the Coyotes, who’d scored an early, sneaky goal via Kyle Turris and were peppering Jimmy Howard as the Wings kept going to the penalty box, began a 1:31 slate of 5-on-3 power play time.
Instead of opening what looked like a near-impossible-to-breach 2-goal lead against a Red Wings team that was still shaking off playoff rust, however, the Coyotes found themselves nearly completely shut down by the Wings’ penalty-killers—who ended up having to kill 9:07 of Coyotes PP time as the Wings were steadily sent to the box as an example of what Wings coach Mike Babcock said was an NHL-mandated crackdown on stick fouls—and Jimmy Howard, who stopped 10 of the 28 shots he’d face in the first period. The Wings rallied after killing three more penalties, with Pavel Datsyuk cracking Ilya Bryzgalov en route to a 4-2 win, but the Coyotes very readily admitted that the game pivoted on the Wings’ 5-on-3 kill, as NHL.com’s Brian Hedger noted:
“That was the difference in the game,” a frustrated Tippett said afterward. “Our execution wasn’t good enough. We had a 1-0 game. We could’ve pushed the game along and we didn’t do that.”
Instead, the Red Wings stormed back into it with three second-period goals after having to kill off a whopping 7:09 of man-advantage time for Phoenix in the first 25 minutes of the game. Pavel Datsyuk scored at 7:38 of the second to knot it 1-1 before Johan Franzen and Brian Rafalski added markers for a 3-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
Mixed into those goals was a momentum-shifting fight between Todd Bertuzzi and Rotislav Klesla midway through the second that also contributed to the huge swing in Detroit’s favor. Looking back on it, the Coyotes were left grimacing less because of Bertuzzi’s fists and more because they couldn’t solve the Red Wings’ penalty kill units – who killed off all six power plays they faced by blocking shots, taking away shooting lanes and getting a great effort from goalie Jimmy Howard. The 5-on-3 in the first was particularly vexing.
“If we’d gotten a 2-0 lead there, it would’ve been big,” said Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle, who got only one shot on goal and had four blocked. “We’ve got good players on both units. We’ve got guys who can make plays. We’ve just got to simplify things. Instead of making backdoor tap-ins and stuff like that, just get pucks to the net.”
Ilya Bryzgalov of all people was particularly vexed by the fact that the Wings shut his team down…
“When you’ve got an opportunity like a 5-on-3, you must get a goal,” he said. “If we score a second goal, who knows how the game would turn? When you’ve got so many opportunities on the power play and you can’t create any scoring chances, it probably gets in your head. Everybody’s trying to do some different things, but they probably don’t have to.”
And while the Coyotes insisted that the two-day break between Game 1 and Saturday’s Game 2 would allow them to regroup and re-set the momentum meter, they weren’t happy with their performance on specialty teams, giving up not only a Wings PPG, but also the Datsyuk goal all of eight seconds after Martin Hanzal’s penalty expired:
“Hopefully it’s a kick in the pants for us and hopefully we can come back in Game 2 and get a win,” Yandle said. “We try not to get too frustrated (in the power play). We moved it around pretty well. We just didn’t get to score. We’ve just got to simplify things and get pucks to the net and get guys in front of the net.”
Coyotes captain Shane Doan, however, suggested that it wasn’t the 5-on-3 penalty-kill that changed everything. Instead, he suggested to the Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio that the Wings simply executed on their opportunities to score, and the Coyotes didn’t:
“They capitalized on their opportunities in the second period and found some holes,” Doan said. “In the first, when we were controlling the play, we didn’t find any. I had a breakaway and had the goalie beat, and I lost the puck. You can’t afford to do stuff like that. It (power-play failure) didn’t cause us to sag. It’s just the ebb and flow of the game. You know they are going to get their opportunities. That’s a good team over there. When they got their (opportunities), they capitalized. Maybe if we get two or three early, maybe we control the whole game.”
The game provided a chance for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to get back at Detroit for the 6-1 loss he suffered in Game 7 a season ago. He faced 36 shots and, although he played a strong first period, could not contain the high-powered Red Wings who took advantage of turnovers to score two goals. The Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard stopped 26 shots, facing the Coyotes on a night when execution was not their strong suit.
“When you’ve got so many opportunities on the power play, and you can’t create any scoring chances, it probably gets in your head,” Bryzgalov said. ” ‘What’s going on? Something’s wrong . . . ’ Everybody’s trying to do some different things, but they probably don’t have to.”
Despite the early failures on special teams, Tippett still liked his team’s chances as the game wore on.
“Yeah, we hung around,” he said. “We’re going to have to be much better. Our puck movement wasn’t near good enough. We just didn’t execute well enough to create an ‘up,’ and that’s twofold: That’s competing for loose pucks and executing under pressure and executing when you don’t have pressure.”
Tippett suggested to the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky that the Coyotes’ inability to convert on the power play let the game spiral out of control, as the Wings had already killed five of the seven penalties they’d incurred by the time Datsyuk scored:
“We could have extended that lead with our power play, we just needed better execution early on,” Tippett said. “We didn’t get the results we needed to push the game along and once they got the momentum in the second period, we couldn’t get it back.”
The Coyotes had one shot on goal out of the four consecutive penalties against the Red Wings.
“Give them credit,” Doan said. “Their specialty teams beat ours. That’s going to be the difference in this series for the most part. We have to find a way to at least tie the specialty teams battle.”
For once, it was the Coyotes, not the Wings, who suggested that they got “too cute” on a 5-on-3…
“We rushed a little bit instead of making plays,” Doan said. “It’s so early in the game and we had so much energy. Our energy worked against us there. We were a little jittery, starting with myself.”
Said defenseman Keith Yandle: “We try not to get too frustrated. We moved it around pretty well. We just didn’t get to score. We’ve just got to (simplify) things and get pucks to the net and get guys in front of the net.
And the Coyotes had to give the Wings credit, albeit reluctantly, for their superb penalty-killing work, 18 total blocked shots included…
“They are really good,” Yandle said. “They pressure hard and they’ve got their skill guys out there, too. They know what to do and know what you’re going to do, because they’re on the same page making plays for their team. Those guys can do everything.”
And Yandle gave Jimmy Howard a nod, too, as the Free Press’s George Sipple noted:
“Maybe in the first we should’ve had more than one goal, but (Jimmy) Howard played well for them obviously,” said Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle. “He’s a great goalie, and it would’ve been nice to get a few more in the first, but that’s how things are. We’ve got to play with the lead better.”
Asked what they could do better in another 5-on-3 situation, Yandle said: “I think just getting shots would be a big thing. We’ve got two more guys than them. Get a body on net and get some shots on net.”
And why didn’t they do that in the first period?
“Just beating the puck around too much,” Yandle said. “Kind of looked for the pretty play and the back-door tap-in instead of getting shots and getting it to the net.”
The Coyotes ranked 23th on the power play in the regular season (15.9%) overall and 24th on the power play on the road (14.3%).
Again, Yandle insisted that the Coyotes will rebound, as the Arizona Republic’s Gintonio noted...
“We try not to get too frustrated,” he said. “We moved it around pretty well. We just didn’t get to score. We’ve just got to (simplify) things and get pucks to the net and get guys in front of the net. Hopefully it’s a kick in the pants for us, and hopefully we can come back in Game 2 and get a win. You know, you want to get two wins when you come on the road, but if you split . . . that’s a successful trip.”
And Kyle Turris, who was arguably the most dangerous Coyote offensively, could only suggest that his individual achievement wasn’t worth much of anything in the end:
“It’s something where it’s nice to score, but at the same time, I’d rather win Game 1,” he said. “There’s stuff we’re going to build off and work on going over the next couple days and come into Game 2, hopefully, with the same start we had (Wednesday night), just carry it through to the end of the game.”
Execution derailed the Coyotes’ efforts as they were unable to hold the lead after Turris’ goal only 2:16 into the game and failed to score on six power-play chances.
“We need to capitalize on our chances on special teams, and that will help match the momentum with them and swing it more in our favor,” he said.
So PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest offers a slate of quotes and notes…
Dave Tippett: “Once they got the momentum in the second period, we couldn’t get it back. We hung around, but we’re going to have to be much better. Our puck movement wasn’t good enough.”
Shane Doan: “It’s one game. Obviously, no one is happy about it. We had our opportunities in the first period and we didn’t capitalize on it… and then they came out and had a couple of opportunities that they did capitalize on.”
• Forwards Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker, and defenseman David Schlemko all played in their first Stanley Cup Playoffs game on Wednesday. Turris scored a goal on his first shot.
• Defenseman Rostislav Klesla and Detroit forward Todd Bertuzzi fought briefly midway through the second period.
• Captain Shane Doan led all players with eight hits.
• Center Vernon Fiddler won nine of 11 faceoffs.
• Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris missed the game because of an upper-body injury. He is considered day-to-day.
Yeah, about those faceoffs—the Wings went 30-and-36, which isn’t great…
And the AP’s Larry Lage allows us to shift focus from the Coyotes to the Red Wings’ take on the game via an astute comment from Red Wings coach Mike Babcock:
Detroit coach Mike Babcock is glad he didn’t find out what would’ve happened if the Coyotes converted on any of those [power play] chances.
“The game would’ve been over,” Babcock said. “They scored right away and then we got four penalties. ... We weathered the storm.”
The Red Wings lost their postseason opener last year at Phoenix, but advanced with a Game 7 win there. They got off to a better start this time in large part because of the penalty-killing - including a two-man disadvantage.
“It was huge,” Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said.
The Red Wings seemed to get energized when Datsyuk tied it 1-1 at 7:38 of the second. He scored on a wraparound off an assist from Franzen, who then netted a go-ahead goal 4 1/2 minutes later on a wrist shot from just inside the blue line. Franzen, who scored in just two games over the last two months of the regular season, produced as he usually does in the playoffs. He has at least a point in 13 games since being scoreless in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup finals. He begged reporters to stop talking about the streak that began with that loss to Pittsburgh.
“We’re still counting that? Stop doing that,” Franzen said. “The team turns it on, and I’m just following along.”
Even before the game, Franzen shrugged off any suggestions that the post-season’s his time to shine, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted…
A playoff revelation the past few seasons, Franzen had a goal and assist Wednesday helping rally the Wings to a 4-2 victory in Game 1. Franzen had scored two goals in his last 27 games during the regular season. But that became old news as the second season began Wednesday. A season that’s thoroughly become Franzen’s time of year.
“The Mule loves this time of year, he’s been great this time of year,” said coach Mike Babcock after the morning skate.
Franzen can’t explain his playoff success.
“The whole team is stepping up and the games are tighter and it’s intense out there,” Franzen said after the morning skate. “I thrive on that and the team does as well. We play better and I play better.”
After the game, Babcock refused to suggest that Franzen simply scored on a desperation shot, as USA Today’s Kevin Allen noted...
“That was a rocket,” Babcock said. “That was not just put it on the net. There are not many guys in the league that can shoot like that.”
And Franzen, again, chose to try to defer credit whenever possible…
“I haven’t been worried about it,” Franzen said. “Sometimes, you feel like you’re taking shots to shoot, other times you don’t shoot, you tend to aim. That’s when you get frustrated in the moment. As long as you play all right, that’s what matters most.”
It probably helped Franzen to know the playoffs were coming because historically the Mule has been a horse in the postseason. With his goal and an assist, he now has a 13-game playoff point scoring streak. He had at least one point in every playoff game in 2009-10. In Franzen’s last 52 playoff games, he has 32 goals and 29 assists for 61 points. Two years ago, Franzen was breaking a playoff record that had belonged to the incomparable Gordie Howe.
“He’s got a great playoff record and he has got the great release and he can score from close to the blue line,” Lidstrom said. “I think it helps his confidence to know he can score from out there.
I know that Mitch Albom is a touchy subject around here, but I’m gonna be blunt here—the “Delicate Genius” is someone whose once-unprecedented access to the Wings (the kind of, “I practically lived at their houses at times” stuff that will never happen again) lapsed because, as Albom became a best-selling author, his interest in all sports waned, and his priorities shifted to writing fiction and nonfiction, plays, hosting a radio show and writing a Sunday column of platitudes and “shame on you’s” from an increasingly tall ivory tower.
In other words, he changed genres, and he got kinda bitter about the business of sports, so when he goes to one Wings game or one Pistons or Lions game and starts writing like he’s an expert in the subject because of the columns he wrote 15 years ago, he ends up sounding like a bit of an embittered fuddy duddy.
So I’m not quoting Mitch to quote Mitch here. I’m quoting Mitch because he quoted the Mule:
“How do you always turn it on in the playoffs?” someone asked Franzen after the 4-2 victory.
“We turn it on,” he corrected. “The team turns it on.”
“But you have a 13-game point streak in the playoffs.”
“You’re still counting that?” He grinned. “Stop doing that.”
“During the season,” he admitted, “you feel like you have something to play for, but it’s not the same. ... We do a good job of taking care of business, but some nights that’s all there is, just business.”
The Franzen goal would never have happened had the Wings not killed so many Phoenix penalties, however, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James suggested...
“It probably gave the whole team a boost when we had to kill off a minute-and-a-half of 5-on-3,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “They had a couple of chances, but we really had some guys bear down and block shots. I thought they were quicker than us in the first, and then we took way too many penalties to put ourselves in that situation. But we were able to kill them off, and I thought we really got going in that second period.”
Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Brian Rafalski made it 3-1 after two periods, and Jiri Hudler secured a victory with a goal early in the third period. Jimmy Howard gave up a goal to Kyle Turris in the first period, in which Howard faced 11 shots, and another to Radim Vrbata midway through the third period. The Coyotes scored the first goal of the series less than three minutes after it began. With Shane Doan and Ray Whitney rushing up the ice, pushing back Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, Doan went into the corner to retrieve the puck and slipped it to Whitney, who found Turris for a quick one-timer.
Five minutes later, they got a fantastic opportunity to double-up when a hooking call on Lidstrom left the Wings short two skaters for 90 seconds. That gave the Wings the jolt they needed, and they responded with a penalty kill so strong both Datsyuk and Darren Helm threatened on breakaways, and guys like Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall and Danny Cleary blocked shots.
“It was just hard work—the guys, they gave up their body tonight,” Howard said. “When guys are going down, blocking shots and getting in the way and deflecting shots, it’s great for the goalie.”
Johan Franzen agreed, as he told DetroitRedWings.com’s Jeff Sanford:
“I think that gave us the momentum swing we needed when we killed, especially, that 5-on-3 off,” Johan Franzen said. “And that gave us some confidence and we took it from there.”
The Wings’ penalty kill was remarkably strong all game. Despite being whistled for penalties seven times during the game — four alone coming in the first period — the Wings did not give up a single power play goal. But it was killing off that 5-on-3 that really made the difference. Detroit didn’t notch a goal until Datsyuk’s wraparound at 7:38 in the second, but after that, the game opened up and Detroit took over.
If Detroit played how they did in the initial minutes of the first and concedes a goal during that 5-on-3, Phoenix is up two goals and still on the power play. It’s a completely different game. But the Wings stepped up right when they needed to, and it earned them a sorely needed home win in Game 1.
Babcock was anything but puzzled about the officiating, as he told the Free Press’s St. James...
The Wings’ take: Coach Mike Babcock said, “They scored right away and then to get four penalties like that—obviously the standard they’ve set for the playoffs is way different than in the regular season as far as your stick.”
Jimmy Howard on winning at home: “I think it was very important for us. Things haven’t been going well for us at home down the stretch. It’s something that we needed to change.”
More on the second point in a minute. First, we’ll talk a little more about those penalties, because the Free Press’s Michael Rosenberg found that the Wings didn’t heed Babcock’s warnings...
“Obviously, the standard they’ve set for the playoffs is way different than it was in the regular season,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “That hasn’t been the standard.”
It seems ridiculous to change the enforcement of the rules at the most important time of the year. But the Wings knew this was coming.
“Babs, before the game, mentioned that we needed to keep our sticks low and down,” Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski said. “And we didn’t. And they called it. You’ve got to move your feet. Now we know what they’re going to look to be calling, and we’ve got to make that adjustment.”
Again: I think this was good for the Wings.
“We started slowly and there was lots of pressure in the beginning,” Datsyuk said. “But it’s much easier to talk to you after when we win.”
Datsyuk continued while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan, who found that the Wings were very grateful to an incredibly energetic, enthusiastic and loud home crowd—and if you were at the game, quite frankly, you should be proud of yourself, because the crowd at the Joe was amazing…
“We were a little bit tentative. We didn’t help ourselves a lot when we took those penalties,” Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk said. “(But) it’s hard to feel panic when you have the whole building cheering for you. We just keep going, keep rolling. Thanks to fans. Good support.”
And while Babcock growled about the refereeing, ever so politely…
“Obviously, the standard they set for the playoffs is way different than the regular season, as far as your stick,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “If we’re going back to the standard it was three years ago, then those are penalties for sure. They warned us, and we didn’t adjust and we took the penalties.”
Fortunately, their penalty killing, which was mediocre during the season, stepped up big. Goaltender Jimmy Howard, though not tested much during the PK, did his part by making 26 saves.
“The guys did a tremendous job in front of me, blocking shots, getting their sticks in lanes, being desperate,” Howard said. “It was hard work, guys gave up their body tonight. When guys are going down, getting in the way and deflecting shots, it’s great for the goalie.”
Khan duly noted a point that no one else seemed to mention—that Jiri Hudler’s 4-1 goal loomed large in the final result as the Coyotes closed the gap to 4-2 via a Radim Vrbata goal seven-and-a-half minutes into a third period in which the Coyotes lulled the Wings to sleep—until Vrbata scored, anyway…
Hudler made it 4-1 at 3:16 of the third period, taking a pass from Drew Miller, skating down the left wing and firing a wrist shot over Bryzgalov’s glove.
“He’s got that shot that can beat goalies, especially his wrist shot,” Lidstrom said. “He jumped on that puck and made a really great shot to pick that corner. He’s that sniper who can score goals like that.”
And I would be remiss to not note that Johan Franzen’s goal was immediately preceded by a rare playoff fight from Todd Bertuzzi, as noted by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
As he’s done at least two other times in recent weeks, Todd Bertuzzi energized the Wings, and the Joe Louis Arena crowd, with a brief fight against Phoenix defenseman Rostislav Klesla . The second period dust-up, right after the Wings tied the score, sent the Joe Louis Arena crowd roaring. The Wings went on to close the period with two more goals.
“I didn’t even have the puck and he took a run at me so (it’s) part of the game, whatever, I was ready to go,” Bertuzzi said. “Unfortunately, (I) kind of slipped. Not much really happened out of it.”
Said Babcock of the fight: “It’s a good thing. It gets the crowd pumped up. I think that’s the first fight in the playoffs the Red Wings have had in the six years I’ve been here.”
The Free Press’s St. James...
Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi had a good laugh Wednesday night when a reporter asked when was the last time he had heard his name chanted by fans at a game.
“Not in a bad way?” he replied, smiling. “Gotta be at least seven, eight years ago.”
Bertuzzi received a standing ovation from fans after a brief fight with Phoenix’s Rostislav Klesla during the second period of Game 1’s 4-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena. Bertuzzi was further rewarded with loud “Todd Bertuzzi” chants.
“It was pretty cool,” Bertuzzi said. “It probably would have been better if it was after a goal, but, it was neat. Good fans here.”
And, as both St. James and MLive’s Ansar Khan noted, the team perked up, too:
“They have fight,” Datsyuk said. “After, game little bit flipped. They have good fight. Nice. I watch too close. That’s exciting stuff.”
Here’s Khan’s Bertuzzi fight report:
Said Brian Rafalski: “Getting back tied was huge, that (fight) maybe was another spark. It put them down to five (defensemen) for a while. We were able to wear them down a couple shifts down there.”
“I didn’t even have the puck and he took a run at me, so I was ready to go,” Bertuzzi said. “Unfortunately, I kind of slipped, not much happened out of it, but we got two quick goals. I wish it was a little bit better (fight). More prepared next time.”
Bertuzzi said the notion that there is no fighting in the playoffs is a myth.
“I think you see it a little more than (people think),” Bertuzzi said. “It’s crunch time. We’re trying to win games. Whatever you can do to help out. I think all fans in general like that kind of stuff.”
“That’s Bert,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “He’s a big, tough guy, and he can move the puck and make plays. We need him to be a physical presence out there.”
The fact that Bertuzzi wasn’t suspended for hitting Ryan Johnson—who he apologized to after leaving his feet and charging the Blackhawks forward earlier this month—seems to have lifted a ten-thousand pound weight from his shoulders. He’s realized that the NHL will allow him to play physical hockey within the bounds of its rules again, and he’s become so much more effective over the past couple of weeks that it’s silly. He’s no longer just a “nuclear deterrent” (and those of you who are too young to remember need to know that the “nuclear deterrent” term means a weapon whose intimidation factor is so powerful that you never need to use it); Bertuzzi’s now an active physical force as well as a superb two-way player and streaky goal scorer, and boy howdy, is Todd Bertuzzi evolving from Todd 2.0 to Todd 3.0 at the right time.
Then the Wings got back to work, as the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell suggested...
“We got a boost when we were able to kill that (fifth Coyotes power play) off and get the puck in their end and work their D a bit down low,” Nick Lidstrom said.
And, after the fight, boom:
“It’s the playoffs, it feels like a fresh start,” said Franzen, who only had two goals in his final 27 regular-season games. “I felt good coming into this game. I picked the puck up in the middle and waiting for (Holmstrom) to clear the zone. I used the D as a screen, shot it between his legs and it took the goalie a second to find the puck.”
Detroit’s Brian Rafalski added a power-play goal at 18:16 and the Coyotes were in deep trouble down 3-1 heading into the third period.
“Detroit start to control the puck and playing (their) game and that’s how we became in trouble,” Bryzgalov said. “Finally they start scoring the goals, capitalizing on their chances. When we have our chances, we don’t even hit the net. That’s the difference tonight.”
Franzen made a very, very, very intriguing comment about his slight crisis of confidence over the second half of the season while speaking to the CBC...
“It hasn’t been bad, actually,” Franzen said. “We’ve got so many goal scorers on this team. I haven’t been worried about it. Sometimes, you feel like you’re taking shots to shoot, other times you don’t shoot, you tend to aim. That’s when you get frustrated in the moment. As long as you play alright, that’s what matters most.”
And after shaking off early rust and killing penalties, as the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness noted...
“We were a little sluggish at the start,” Stuart said. “We were a little tentative, a little nervous, I don’t know what. Those kills gave us a little momentum and in the second period we were a lot better.”
“That was huge for us,” Wings defenseman Brad Stuart said. “We killed off quite a few penalties there in the first and first part of the second and then the big kill in the third. That was probably the difference in the game.”
The Wings began to right their ship at home, and every Wing insisted that re-establishing home ice advantage was nothing less than essential…
The win made Detroit just 12-13-4 in its last 29 games at Joe Louis Arena, this after going 10-1-2 in the first 11 to start the season.
“It was important to win wherever we were playing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
“I think that probably the most important thing was just to make sure we established our home ice advantage,” Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi said. “It’s crucial in the playoffs, it showed that last year. It’s something that we wanted to make sure we take care of it right off the hop. It’s just one game and we’ve got to get ready.”
While pressing the re-set button in general, as Lidstrom told the London Free Press’s Morris Dalla Costa...
“We look at the playoffs as being a fresh start,” said Red Wings’ Nicklas Lidstrom who over the last few years has heard time and time again how the Wings have gone off the boil. “Look at the board and no one has any wins or losses. It’s start from scratch. That’s how we look at it. It’s the same for the power play and penalty killing. You start from scratch. You want a good start and we got it.”
The Wings were in trouble early with penalties, but the Phoenix power play was pathetic. It failed to score in six power plays, including an extended five-on-three. The Coyotes totalled just three extra-man shots.
“Killing the five-on-three was important,” Lidstrom said. “We didn’t quite have our legs but after killing those penalties it gave us a lot more confidence.”
And while Pavel Datsyuk insisted that winning Game 1 only gives the Wings room for improvement…
“It’s one game,” Datysuk said. “It was good start. But it is just a step by step.”
Penalty-killing aside—speaking of an aside, this comment from Lidstrom, made to the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa, is worth underlining..
“They came after us pretty good and we were spending way too much time in the penalty box,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We have to keep moving our feet and keep our sticks down.”
Datsyuk was the straw that stirred the drink, and was dearly needed to be the difference-maker, as Krupa duly noted:
Henrik Zetterberg was nursing his bad knee for the opener, and so often in recent years his critical defensive play against the star offensive players of the opposition and his timely goals have sparked the team in the playoffs. His stellar play at the most important time of the year is a hallmark of his career, and especially helpful when Pavel Datsyuk is less than completely effective in the playoffs. But with Zetterberg out, Datsyuk stepped right into the role of Mr. April, May and June.
He scored the Red Wings’ first goal to tie the score. He led the team with eight shots. He took away the puck three times.
“You look in the crowd and see all of those red shirts and you respond, too, you know?” Datsyuk said.
Datsyuk described his game-tying goal very simply to the Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski:
There he was, with the Wings down, 1-0, in the second period, grabbing the puck and sliding behind the Coyotes’ net. In a flash, Datsyuk zipped to the other side and tucked the puck behind Bryzgalov, who could not have seen it until he glanced at the replay. That quickly, the crowd was on its feet, the raucous chants began and the Coyotes were done, even though the game was only tied. This is what it’ll take for the Wings — help from everyone, and heaping plates of Pavel.
“It was like I planned before the game — throw everything at the net and try to jam it,” Datsyuk said. “Good things happen when you shoot a lot. After we scored once, we took control.”
“Pavel played great — he had the puck all night,” Franzen said. “He made Pavel Datsyuk moves.”
And how would you describe a Pavel Datysuk move?
“You can’t understand it, really,” said Franzen, just glad he was being asked about something other than his playoff scoring. No one ever wants to jinx positive streaks, and the Wings weren’t remotely giddy about this performance. More like relieved.
Relieved, and, to some extent, the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff feels that the Wings were vindicated. The Wings are now the “dark horse” candidate for the Stanley Cup, supposedly full of holes from the goal on out, but the Wings answered their critics, at least for one night:
“I don’t even pay attention to that,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said of the negative Nellies after Detroit rallied for a solid 4-2 verdict over the Coyotes in the opener of this best-of-seven series.
So many of Detroit’s alleged problem areas combined to give the Coyotes fits. Netminder Jimmy Howard, the supposed weak link in the Detroit chain, assembled a chain link fence across his goal crease during the first period, as the Wings fell behind and took four penalties.
“They don’t get the credit here, but we’ve always been fortunate to have good goalies,” Detroit forward Johan Franzen said. He played great.”
Those soft Europeans? They got three goals — one from a Russian (Pavel Datsyuk), one from a Swede (Franzen) and one from a Czech (Jiri Hudler). Datsyuk, who will need to loom large in Detroit’s scheme minus the injured Henrik Zetterberg, was out-of-this-world good in the opener.
Datsyuk was at his Yakov Smirnov best after Wednesday’s win, as clever with a phrase as he is with the puck. Yes, he nodded, he’s heard the doubts from the peanut gallery.
“Lots of guys saying that, talking about that,” Datsyuk said with that grin of his. “Maybe I don’t hear because I don’t speak English.”
Don’t believe that for a second. As Danny Cleary (who kept his butt in Ilya Bryzgalov’s face but not in the crease on Brian Rafalski’s goal) told Fox Sports Detroit, Datsyuk may not be any more elegant in expressing himself in English than Tomas Holmstrom, but he understands everything he hears, and that’s why his wry sense of humor is starting to come through more and more regularly.
As for the whole re-establishing home-ice advantage thing?
NHL.com’s Brian Hedger suggested that getting down to the business of playing playoff hockey, and playing dominant hockey at home, was the Wings’ underlying but overarching point of emphasis:
Once the Stanley Cup Playoffs are about to start, the place they call “Hockeytown” comes to life – abuzz with talk about Detroit Red Wings hockey, octopi, the team’s illustrious history and, oh yeah, the quest for the Motor City’s 12th championship.Wednesday night’s atmosphere inside Joe Louis Arena only heightened the excitement.
There was one giant, inflatable purple octopus that started things off, three more real octopi hitting the ice before the first puck drop and then the Red Wings coming though with a 4-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes – taking a 1-0 lead in this Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Detroit scored three second-period goals after killing off five early Phoenix power plays to take a commanding 3-1 lead into the third period and rolled from there. Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Brian Rafalski each scored in the second, while Jiri Hudler scored in the third for the Wings – who killed off six power plays in all and got a sterling performance out of goalie Jimmy Howard (26 saves).
“I think it was very important for us,” Howard said. “Things haven’t been going well for us at home down the stretch. It’s something that we needed to change.”
“You always have something to play for, but it’s not the same,” Franzen said of the regular season. “We win the games we need to, pretty much – but I think lots of guys have been waiting for this night. (In the regular season), you still have to take care of business, but some nights that’s all it is … business.”
And Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika agreed:
“When you start playoff at home, lots of fans chanting,” Datsyuk said in his thick Russian accent. “You come to the rink, it’s exciting. Everybody in red jersey. It’s kind of …”Extra.”
“We haven’t been playing like we wanted to before at home here, and we were well aware of it,” Franzen said. “But I think everyone is so used to this, coming into the playoffs and everyone stepping it up and taking it to the next level. I wasn’t worried about that. I knew we were going to come out and play a strong game.”
This is not to say the Wings have flipped the switch. Let’s wait and see if they win this series before we say that. These same Coyotes pushed them to seven games in the first round last year, and they didn’t seem intimidated at all in the first period Wednesday night. If anything, they seemed inspired.
“It’s different,” Franzen said. “You get a different mindset and everything. It’s just so much more intense.”
It’s the playoffs.
“Everything’s totally different, and it should be different,” Babcock said. “As you go on in the playoffs, each round is different. So that’s what makes it exciting, and that’s what makes older gentlemen younger, and that’s why you all cherish this time of year.”
As the title of this recap suggests, however, the Wings did not play picture-perfect hockey. They surrendered the game’s first goal, early in the first period, for the umpteenth time, they got into penalty trouble, they definitely fell asleep in the 3rd period and made life harder on themselves by giving up that 4-2 goal, and they certainly gave the Coyotes too many Grade A scoring opportunities, both on and off the penalty-kill. The Wings wouldn’t have won without some absolutely jaw-dropping saves by Jimmy Howard, and I don’t know about you, but I was a little worried when Howard gave up that early goal along the goalpost…
But Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji found that Jimmy Howard, second playoff time around version was not:
Howard was not bothered. He said all he was thinking was, “Good shot. It was a really good shot. I mean, hat’s off to him, so line up at center.”
Then Howard rocked the Coyotes, stopping, again, 10 of 11 in the first period and making sure that the Wings would not face a steeper deficit as the penalties mounted:
“He was huge, especially early on in the game,” Lidstrom said. “I thought they were quicker than us in the first and we took way too many penalties. I thought Howie played really well for us, especially in the first period when they had a number of chances.”
“They don’t give the credit here, but we’ve always been fortunate to have good goalies,” Franzen said. “He played great. Him and the penalty killers did a great job in the first period.”
The Wings need Howard to play like someone who’s got a year of playoff experience under his belt, and like a goaltender who can match, if not outplay, his more-heralded Coyotes opponent in Ilya Bryzgalov from time to time, and while Howard simply said that he was trying to “do his job” and “give [his] teammates a chance,” deferring credit to his penalty-killers…
“It was just hard work, the guys, they gave up their body tonight,” Howard said. “When guys are going down, blocking shots and getting in the way and deflecting shots, it’s great for the goalie.”
Brad Stuart offered a reassuring revelation:
“Game day, he’s almost like a different person,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “You try not to get in his way, he’s pretty focused. That’s a goalie for you. They gotta be on top of their game. There can’t be any mental errors or it’s gonna result in a goal. He’s always focused and really concentrating on what he needs to do.”
Howard made no mental errors on Wednesday, and as, again, the series will essentially re-set momentum-wise thanks to the two-day break, before settling into a game-every-other-day routine which includes cross-continental travel, the Wings will need Howard to be every bit as sharp going forward. As Nicklas Lidstrom suggested to DetroitRedWings.com’s Jeff Sanford, Wednesday night’s victory was and is nothing more than a good start:
“You know it’s going to be even tougher in Game 2,” Lidstrom said. “I think they’re going to come out with an even stronger effort. They came out hard tonight in the first period and they’re going to be coming out even harder, so I think we’ll have to try and respond to that.”
That’s the plan. Now the Wings need to spend the next two days cleaning up their game a little bit, continuing to focus on special teams efficiency, moving the puck through the middle of the ice with speed and without turnovers between the bluelines so that they can turn the physical forechecking tables on the Coyotes, sustaining offensive pressure and sticking bodies in front of Bryzgalov, and of course playing the kind of sound positional defense that helped Howard out and served as something of a relief after watching the Wings give up so many back-door-pass goals to their opponents after chasing puck carriers as they cycled in Detroit’s zone over the second half of the season.
This series is going to be a grind in the end, and the Wings will have to keep the Coyotes from “holding serve” on Saturday by out-detailing as well as out-working them. Keeping their sticks down and their legs moving as the NHL continues to make a penalty-calling example of the team in red included.
Highlights: ESPN embedded a 2-minute highlight clip, including analysis from Matthew Barnaby, in its website’s recap;
Sportsnet posted a 2:04 highlight clip;
Hockeyfights.com cuts to the chase in the Bertuzzi-Klesla fight:
The CBC posted a 1:20 highlight clip;
Fox Sports posted a 1:03 highlight clip;
TSN posted a 2:10 highlight clip
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 1:41 highlight clip;
And the Red Wings’ website posted a highlight clip narrated by Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond…
Post-game: Versus posted a 58-second recap from Darren Pang, made available by NBC Sports…
TSN’s post-game offerings include a 2:38 clip of Steve Kouleas and Mike Peca talking about the Wings’ 5-on-3 PK, a telephone interview with Brian Rafalski and Darren Pang’s 48-second interview with Pavel Datsyuk from Versus;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a clip of Wings coach Mike Babcock, Brian Rafalski, Jimmy Howard and Nicklas Lidstrom discussing the game;
WXYZ posted clips of Tom Leyden’s post-game report…
And a 36-second clip of comments from Johan Franzen and Mike Babcock:
The Windsor Star posted an extended clip of Johan Franzen’s post-game media scrum:
The Detroit News posted Mike Babccock’s post-game presser:
And comments from Nicklas Lidstrom, Johan Franzen and Jimmy Howard:
The Red Wings’ website posted post-game interviews with Brian Rafalski, Nicklas Lidstrom, Johan Franzen and Jimmy Howard…
As well as Mike Babcock’s post-game presser:
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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.