The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/16/11 at 07:30 AM ET
Update 12:04 PM: George cannot count at 5 AM: Given that there’s a new law on the books in the City of Detroit, civil infraction 38-5-4, known between you and me as the octopus-throwing rule ($500 fine), it seems appropriate to set up Game 2 of the Red Wings-Phoenix Coyotes series (1 PM EDT, NBC/CBC) by suggesting that Detroit’s players have a difficult task on their hands in both besting the Phoenix Coyotes and the Wings’ tendency to “go splat” whenever they play before 7:30 PM local time.
Now if you followed Friday’s various press updates, you’ll know that you can buy the Production Line’s “Free the Octopi” t-shirt online, and after the Red Wings will lift an inflatable Al the Octopus to the rafters at Joe Louis Arena prior to the game, and the Wings will continue to sell Al the Octopus merchandise to you, but the threat of a $500 fine from the Detroit Police is very real, and, as the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness (and others) noted, the Red Wings have chosen to not stand in the way of what appears to be the NHL stamping out Detroit’s octopus-throwing tradition by encouraging the City of Detroit to go on a cash grab:
It looks as if the NHL is trying to end a playoff tradition in Detroit that dates back to the early 1950s … tossing an octopus onto the ice. The Wings released the following statement:
“The throwing of objects onto the ice surface is prohibited by the National Hockey League and persons caught doing so may be subject to prosecution for violating local and state laws.”
“I don’t know anything about it,” Babcock said. “I like calamari as much as they next guy. I don’t like batter on it, but I like it spicy and cooked.
“It’s part of the tradition here,” Babcock added. “I just hope the guys that come on to scrape it off aren’t digging up the ice. I want it to be smooth.”
“I haven’t heard any opponents complaining about it,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “I like the tradition. It’s been going on for a lot of years. We feed off the crowd getting into it,” Lidstrom added. “Whether it’s an octopus coming onto the ice or goals being scored, it’s a big boost when our fans get into it.”
And Chris Osgood (yes, I’m posting this again) and the Wings are probably going to ensure that 27-year-old Todd Balish won’t pay a dime for his indiscretion…
You’re risking a $500 fine and the ire of the NHL if you attempt to throw an octopus yourself.
As the Free Press’s Kirkland Crawford and George Sipple point out, while the Wings’ refusal to do so much as let a peep out was kind of creepy, the Wings will face a $10,000 fine of their own if Al Sobotka retrieves one of your $500 octopus and spins it above his head before reaching the Zamboni entrance.
As for the actual game played on Joe Louis Arena’s ice, the Red Wings will remain without Henrik Zetterberg, they’ll need another big performance from the Kharlamov Trophy winner that is Pavel Datsyuk, and the Wings’ players repeatedly stated that getting up for a 1 PM EDT start, all before heading out West for 2 games played at 10 PM EDT, won’t affect them, as they insisted to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“It’s all about getting your head into it and getting ready,” said center Johan Franzen, one of those who prefers night games.
Hockey aside, though, there’s also the question of food. Most players will have a good, hearty lunch on game day — for night games. But for a 1 p.m. start, you’re essentially playing at lunch time.
“You get up a different hour and decide when to eat, when to do things at a certain hour, different from your routine,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.
The coach who gets up at 6:17 every morning, however, suggested that an early start will help the Wings catch a break in terms of overcoming inevitable jet lag (no word as to whether they or the Coyotes will practice on Sunday):
“Morning skates are a waste this time of year,” Babcock said. “It sets us up for Game 3.”
And I guess I might as well put this right here: I have absolutely no idea how the hell I’m going to write up any coherent recap for this game. Detroit’s press sources generally don’t update until the early morning hours (2-4 AM in the case of the News and Free Press, and later in the cases of the Macomb Daily and MLive), so while the Wings’ press corps will certainly have their stories filed and will be on flights to Phoenix this evening, their stories might not post till 12-plus hours after the game ends. I’m just gonna wing it and see what happens, but I will definitely take a short break after the game to digest it as a fan (that and take a nap as I’m back to 5 hours of sleep a night for the playoff run, and quite frankly, the local press’s updates come in bunches, usually starting 3-5 hours after the game).
The Wings did admit, however, that they need to improve upon their so-so start in Game 1, which involves staying out of the penalty box, first and foremost, as they told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“There’s no hiding that sooner or later, it’s tough to kill so many penalties game after game after game,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said Friday. “We can’t keep ending up with four penalties in the first period. That’s something we have to do a lot better job at.”
The Wings held the Coyotes to 0-for-6 with the man advantage Wednesday, but it came at the expense of rolling four lines and taxed heavy-duty penalty killers like Kronwall, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart. Now that the Wings have experienced how tightly NHL officials are going to call stick infractions, the onus is on players to heed the austerity measures. Being careful with their sticks, though, would undoubtedly come more easily if they had a lead. Slow starts have been a season-long issue, but while the Wings have shown themselves indefatigable when it comes to rallying, playing that way this time of year is risky.
“We all want to get off to a good start,” forward Johan Franzen said, “but we’ve been a slow-starting team all season. I don’t know what we’re waiting for. It seems like we’re waiting to see what the other team has got coming for us every night. That’s not good enough. We’ve got to be ready when the puck is dropped.”
As for the Wings’ tendency to drop 1-0 or 2-0 leads before slowly waking from in-game slumbers during the regular season? Well…
During the regular season, the Wings rallied 10 times when trailing after the first period and eight times when trailing after the second. Their resilience comes from knowing that if they work hard and keep shooting the puck, often enough they will win. But there is a smarter way to do it.
“Penalty killing is hard minutes, it’s not like the power play,” Cleary said. “We have groups of penalty killers, so if there’s a lot of penalties, a lot of guys are cold or the legs aren’t going. So to get into any type of rhythm, you don’t want to get into penalty trouble early, that’s for sure. We have to be more disciplined in that area and make sure our sticks are in good positioning and our bodies are, so we’re not taking penalties that are careless or needless.”
“After the first 10 minutes, we got our intensity back up and we got things going right, but at the same time, there wasn’t any flow to it,” Todd Bertuzzi said. “It was just kind of PK, penalty. It was just one of those games where you had to stay with it, but a lot of our guys did that. We didn’t play our best first period, but that happens. We’ve just got to worry about ourselves and take care of our business. They’re going to come in here and be hungry with the same kind of intensity. We’re just going to have to raise our bar up higher.”
The Coyotes will very literally come out of the gate going after the Wings hard in the physical department, and Coyotes coach Dave Tippett suggested to the Free Press’s George Sipple that the Coyotes need captain Shane Doan to set the tone for his teammates:
“He has to be physical,” Tippett said. “I like Doan physical because that’s who he is. When he’s a bull out there, that’s when he’s at his best. When he’s a bull in a china shop, that’s better than being a bull. The physical part of the game is a big part that he embraces. We all know he has an offensive capability also.”
Tippett said Doan led the way, but “we had too many players that weren’t physically engaged enough. We need our whole group to be physically engaged, not just a couple.”
Doan said players like Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Drew Miller came out ready to show they could be physical for the Wings.
“It’s playoff hockey,” Doan said. “Helm and Abdelkader and Miller want to try to prove they can be physical. That’s the way you want people to play. If they were on my team, I’d be loving that.”
The Coyotes continued while speaking to the Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio...
Taylor Pyatt, third on the team in hits, had only one in Game 1. He looks for the Coyotes to bring more a physical edge Saturday, and set a goal for himself.
“As far as my game goes, I know I’ve got to be a little more physical, try to finish more checks, get in on the forecheck more and just use my size to my advantage a little more,” he said.
The Coyotes were out-hit by only five, 33-28, but Tippett saw something beneath the surface.
“There’s some areas of the game we feel we could be more competitive in, that’s certainly one of them,” he said. “If you look at the stats, I think they had eight players with three-plus hits in the game, we had two. That’s not enough players on our side that were physically involved in the game. We’ll have to be better in that area.”
Shane Doan and Rostislav Klesla had eight and five hits, respectively, to lead both clubs. In Game 2, Doan said, the Coyotes have to match the Red Wings’ intensity.
“We better,” said Doan, who had a team-high 172 hits coming into the playoffs. “They obviously out-hit us, and as a group we got a bunch of guys that need to hit a lot more than that. We need to be more physical and have to get involved in the game.”
The Wings suggested to MLive’s Ansar Khan that they’ll hold their own...
“It’s the time of year when [physical play] becomes important,” Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart said. “That’s what wins, the second-effort plays, blocking the shots and finishing the checks. It might not happen in the first 10 minutes, but by the third period it’ll start to wear on other teams, and that’s when you’re going to see positive effects. Where we can do a better job is doing it right from the start.”
The Red Wings are bracing for more contact from Doan and his teammates.
“It’s going to be like that the whole series,” Todd Bertuzzi said. “They got a big, physical team. They like to play that way, and we got some guys who can throw their weight around, too.”
Abdelkader, who had a couple of run-ins with Doan, said he believes the series is going to get more physical but said that isn’t necessarily Phoenix’s style.
“They’re more of an up-and-down, skating team. But I think they’re going to try to be more physical and get in on our (defense),” Abdelkader said. “We have to protect our ‘D’ and stay above their guys and play in their zone.”
And Abdelkader and Helm, who were all but deemed heirs apparent to the Grind Line legacy, will most certainly be asked to do more than just provide a hard-checking response to the Coyotes’ aggression.
As the Free Press’s George Sipple points out, Abdelkader’s centering Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary on the second line in Henrik Zetterberg’s absence, which is just fine by Mike Babcock...
“At this point in his career, he’s not a gifted playmaker or anything,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “But he’s a big, strong, 225-pound, 230-pound guy. He’s very determined. He’s good in the face-off circle. Otherwise, we’re not as big down the middle. It’s great to have a heavy body in that spot.”
Abdelkader won 58% of his face-offs (10-for-18) and recorded a hit, a takeaway and a giveaway in 15:51 of a 4-2 win Wednesday over the Coyotes in Game 1.
And after offering the kind of statement you’d hope Abdelkader will make at this stage of his career…
“I’m never going to be satisfied,” Abdelkader said. “Even some of our older, veteran guys, if you ask them if they’re satisfied, they’re trying to get better each day. Nick Lidstrom’s trying to get better each day still. Kris Draper, all the time he spends (training) off the ice, he’s trying to get better. I don’t think you can ever be satisfied.”
He rather wisely suggested that the Wings are bigger and tougher than most people assume they are:
“I think we’ve got a lot of size,” Abdelkader said of his line. “I think we can wear on their (defensemen), be physical. That’s key for us. Hopefully create some scoring chances and hang onto pucks. They’re going to try to do what they can to come out with a win. If it’s being physical or whatever it is, they’re going to come out the first 5 or 10 minutes coming. We gotta be ready.”
The Coyotes also believe that they have an x-factor in Ilya Bryzgalov, however, who told NHL.com’s Brian Hedger that he plans on taking the Coyotes on his back today…
“I feel very confident,” Bryzgalov said after Friday’s practice. “Sometimes they find a way to score the goals. Sometimes not. It’s just hockey.”
And the Coyotes fully believe in Bryzgalov’s talents and resiliency (the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy’s reports of Bryzgalov sniffles included)...
“We don’t want to rely on just him, but he is our best player,” Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. “We do rely on him quite a bit, but having said that, we don’t want to put the onus on him to stop 50 shots a night to win us a game. We need to play well in all three zones and lighten the load off him.”
“We need him to respond well,” Tippett said. “I think he was like the rest of our group—probably not as sharp as he wanted to be (in Game 1). I think he’ll come back with a very strong game.”
“Hopefully Bryz takes it as a personal challenge to be better than their goalie,” Doan said. “I think he’s the best goalie in the League. I’ve said it over and over. When he’s on, I’d take him over anybody in the League. He’s our goalie and I’m pretty thankful for that. Hopefully he takes it personally.”
As well as his ability to use his height (6’3,”) to look around and sometimes through Tomas Holmstrom, Danny Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi and the Wings’ other crease-crowding specialists…
“It’s always difficult,” he said. “It’s never been easy if you ask any goalies in this League. This team, they have skills and they really go hard around the net. They drive the net. They always make my life miserable in front of the net—always somebody, one or two players in front.”
“It’s not only Holmstrom,” Bryzgalov said. “It’s other guys too, like (Danny Cleary) or (Johan Franzen). There’s always somebody there. You have to battle through and find the puck.”
Who Ed Jovanovski promised he and his fellow Phoenix blueliners, sans the still-injured Derek Morris, will take care of, as the Arizona Republic’s Gintonio noted:
“Just play him hard,” Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. “He’s a veteran player, it’s not his first rodeo. He’s a tough player to handle, but you got to eliminate him, try to move him, do it without the ref making any calls. They’re watching it closely in front. It’s your ground, you want to maintain that, try to box him out the best you can.”
Jovanovski said the Coyotes are “a little sour right now” after the Game 1 loss and are seeking improvement in Game 2.
“You look at every aspect, the bottom line is we lost the game, so you’re bitter about that,” he said. “But you look at every facet of the game, and there’s a reason they won the game.”
Therein lies the rub. Adrian Aucoin suggested to Gintonio that the Coyotes know how to shut the Red Wings down, period...
“They’re a skilled team, a puck possession team, so we have to do all we can to either get the puck away from them or keep the pucks on our sticks,” he said. “I think we did that early, we just didn’t sustain it, so that will be every team’s goal now. That’s just the way hockey’s played now. You’ve got to play as quick as you can but still under control.”
Low-scoring games give the Coyotes the best chance, and they have had that mentality all season. That game plan has not always been evident, but in the playoffs it becomes almost mandatory. With the Red Wings, it becomes more important since their skill level is such that several players have the ability to take over a game.
“We know it’s not one line or one player or anything, it’s really a team effort on our part because they have so many players that can put in the net,” Aucoin said. “They have a lot of skill, makes it that much more an effort from us.”
And they told PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest that this one’s all but in the bag:
“We have to win a game in this building,” Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler said. “We came here and realistically, you look at a split as maybe a good thing. We’re going to go after that second game. That’s no secret. We have to be much better and more physical, but I expect us to be much better the next game.”
Forward Radim Vrbata agreed.
“We know what we did right and what we did wrong,” Vrbata said. “We have to learn from it. We need to relax, if we start forcing plays or start to squeeze our sticks, that’s not going to work. I think you have to relax.”
Regarding the two-legged member of the Red Wings for whom the NHL changes the rules on a period-by-period basis, Babcock told the Free Press’s Sipple that the Wings are well aware of the fact that #96 is a marked man, and are making adjustments accordingly:
To combat the number of called-off goals, the Wings have a new strategy for the playoffs for net-front guys like Tomas Holmstrom and Cleary.
“We’ve got a 6-inch imaginary line there that we use,” Babcock said. “Making sure our guys are outside the paint. Yet, we want to be right there at the edge, making sure we are not disrupting the goalie’s play, but being there and being available for rebounds.”
And, mostly, the Wings suggested that before they pack up Henrik Zetterberg and head out to Phoenix (as the Free Press’s St. James suggested, the team’s medical staff’s going out West, so the player most likely to return from a no-longer secret 2nd degree MCL sprain in his left knee no earlier than Game 6 or 7)...
They need you and I, minus our octopi, to keep on rocking the Joe, as they told MLive’s Ansar Khan…
“I thought the crowds down the stretch, the last month, have been unbelievable,” Kris Draper said. “It’s something everybody in this dressing room has noticed. It’s been a great environment. Players love it. We hear everything they’re saying. It’s awesome. Keep it coming. The Joe’s rocking right now. It’s a fun place to play.”
Niklas Kronwall likened the crowd to “an extra player, almost. We’ve always had great fans here, even though we haven’t played our best hockey here, especially after Christmas,” Kronwall said.
The Red Wings started 10-1-2 at home, but went 11-13-4 in their final 28 games at the Joe. The excitement was rekindled on Wednesday, for players and fans, Bertuzzi said.
“The regular season just drags on and on and on and it’s kind of tiresome, not only for them but for us, too,” Bertuzzi said. “So it’s exciting when the playoffs are around.’’
And the Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski, who suggests that the crowd at Joe Louis Arena is the Wings’ answer to anything the Coyotes can throw at ‘em:
I can’t remember a more raucous Game 1 crowd than Wednesday, when the Red Wings won 4-2. Fans chanted the names of Todd Bertuzzi after he fought and Johan Franzen after he scored. It had a college-like rhythm, and my only concern is whether anyone will pull tongue muscles trying to chant Justin Abdelkader’s name. It’s a new-old atmosphere and it’s almost a bit strange, because the Red Wings were so lethargic at home this season, winning only 21 of 40.
“We haven’t played great at home, so maybe they were finally happy to see us do something good,” forward Danny Cleary said Friday. “They rewarded us, so that was nice. That was definitely an enthusiastic crowd, and this is a special building. And we have to get back to being hard to play against at the Joe.”
“Without a doubt, it’s as good as I’ve ever heard it here,” said Kris Draper, with the Red Wings since 1993. “It’s been awesome. I’ve had a lot of people comment on how loud it is, including my wife and kids after Game 1. There were times this season they booed us off the ice, and we absolutely deserved it. Right now, the Joe is rocking.”
“I don’t know, maybe they’re having a youth movement,” Draper said with a laugh. “Maybe you should check to see if beer sales are up. From all of us to all the fans — keep it coming.”
The Wings promise that they’ll hold up their end of the bargain, all while keeping their own heads up for Doan and the Coyotes’ other sledgehammers:
“He’s the heart and soul of their team, and he tries to provide physical energy for them,” said Abdelkader, who brings his own energy. “You just gotta keep your head up, because you know he’s gonna take a run.”
Per the NHL’s media website and the Wings’ game notes, Dennis LaRue and Kelly Sutherland will referee today’s game, with Jean Morin and Derek Nansen working the lines.
Also of Red Wings-related note: If you missed it on Friday, part 1, via me and the Production Line‘s Michael Petrella, on Twitter (if you don’t have a Twitter account, KK’ers, the hockey world runs on Twitter, says @georgemalik):
Per Red Wings release, this BADASS shirt will be available at Hockeytown Authentics and the Joe for a limited time http://twitpic.com/4l7clh
$5 of every purchase will be donated to The Kid Rock Foundation.
Here’s the Red Wings’ release:
LIMITED-EDITION ‘MADE IN DETROIT’ NICKLAS LIDSTROM T-SHIRTS FOR SALE DURING PLAYOFFS
… Five Dollars from Every T-Shirt Sold will Help Benefit the Kid Rock Foundation …
Detroit, MI… Throughout the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, fans of Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom will be able to obtain a one-of-a-kind apparel item donning the award-winning defenseman’s likeness, with a limited-edition Made In Detroit T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘Born in Sweden, Made in Detroit’ available for purchase at all official Red Wings retail outlets including Hockeytown Authentics in Troy and the Joe Louis Arena Store.
Retailing for $25 apiece, $5 from each Made In Detroit Nicklas Lidstrom ‘Born in Sweden, Made in Detroit’ T-shirt sold during the Red Wings’ playoff run will be donated to the Kid Rock Foundation, a philanthropic entity founded by Michigan-born music star Kid Rock.
• As the Free Press’s Steve Schrader notes, WDIV happens to be televising the game in Detroit, and that means a post-game show of sorts:
Don’t forget, NBC is doing today’s game (CBC, too). Yeah, it’s that time of year, when you have to get used to the national announcers and not the hometown call from Ken and Mick. But this is the only time it’s supposed to happen this round.
And never fear, you’ll still get a bit of Mickey Redmond, who’ll be on Channel 4’s postgame show with Bernie Smilovitz.
• If you missed it, overnight version: Mike Modano spoke to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Mac Engel about his decision to sign with the Wings;
• If you missed it, non-essential news version: According to Hockeykanalen.se, Axelsson hopes to head to the World Championships to play for the Tre Kronor, and after that?
“Number one for me is to go over to the NHL. Otherwise, the KHL’s a good option. I’ve watched it on television; it’s an incredibly good league with skilled players and a good game.
If you ever needed to know what makes Dick Axelsson tick, or why he’s a little…off…Expressen’s Carl Juborg reports that Axelsson’s footwear of choice for Farjestads BK’s Swedish Eliteserien championship reception in the center of Karlstad involved CCM shower sandals;
• Also in the prospect department, as Hat Trick Dick’s headed to the Worlds, where he’ll face off against Team Finland’s Wings prospect in Teemu Pulkkinen, the only Wings players who remain active in playoff action are Mitchell Callahan, Louis-Marc Aubry and Trevor Parkes.
Callahan scored the game’s first goal on Friday as his Kelowna Rockets defeated the Portland Winterhawks 2-1 in overtime (despite 55 Winterhawks shots on Adam Brown). The Rockets now trail their best-of-seven series 3-2, and will play against Portland again on Sunday;
As for Aubry and Parkes? Parkes scored one goal in the Montreal Juniors’ 5-4, double overtime win over the Lewiston MAINEacs, but Aubry scored a hat trick in the Juniors’ victory. Montreal still trails Lewiston 3-2, and the Juniors will, like the Rockets, hope to stave off elimination on Sunday, and someone who follows junior hockey much more closely than most anybody in Yahoo Sports’ Neate Sager had this to say about Aubry’s performance:
No. 1 star: Louis-Marc Aubry, Montreal Juniors (QMJHL): The Detroit Red Wings third-rounder doubled his playoff production in one night by scoring a natural hat trick during regulation time to help the Juniors force Game 6 with a double-overtime 5-4 Game 5 win over the Lewiston Maineiacs. Aubry scored twice in the second period to give the Juniors life and scored his second third-period go-ahead goal of the series with 5:41 left.
The 19-year-old Trois-Rivières, Que., native might have experienced some déjà vu when his big tally merely set the stage for the Maineiacs to tie the game in the final 90 seconds, since it happened exactly one week ago in the same rink. Lewiston won that time, but the Juniors held firm and prevailed on Dylan Anderson’s first post-season goal on their first shot of the second OT.
• Working slowly back to hard-hitting news, the Detroit News’s Kulfan provided an update regarding the hero of octopus-throwers and Gary Bettman-haters everywhere:
Goaltender Chris Osgood (sports hernia) keeps practicing, and hopes to dress soon.
“I just have to continue to take a lot of shots and keep getting a lot of work done,” said Osgood, who hasn’t played since Jan. 4. “I know that if needed, I could play without a doubt.”
• Former Wing Ray Whitney, who the Coyotes view as a sort of playoff guru thanks to his Stanley Cup title with the Carolina Hurricanes back in 2006, spoke to the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy about his time with the Wings during the 2003-2004 season:
“It was a Hall of Fame locker room, two goalies who didn’t care for each other at the time, a second-round loss to Calgary, and a not very happy Ken Holland,” he said bluntly.
Whitney, now with the Coyotes, wasn’t trying to sound bitter. He’s just over that period of his life and focused on resurrecting his team’s struggling power play. But before the left wing addressed questions about his current team after practice at Joe Louis Arena, he got peppered with inquiries about his season in Detroit, 2003-04.
One hot topic was Whitney’s thoughts on the Dominik Hasek-Curtis Joseph power struggle at goaltender that dominated headlines for much of that season. Did the decision by Holland, the Red Wings general manger, to keep Hasek and Joseph on the team cause major distractions?
“Not really, it was just kind of funny,” Whitney said. “Their stalls were separated by (Manny) Legace’s stall. One looked left and one looked right (away from each other) while getting dressed, so it was … a unique situation.”
And he continued while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“I think everyone had equal respect for both of them,” Whitney said. “Cujo played really well for us in the playoffs that year. They won a championship with Dom a couple years earlier, so they obviously had close ties with him.”
• Khan confirms the Zetterberg news:
Henrik Zetterberg (knee) skated before practice Friday but coach Mike Babcock ruled him out for Game 2. He continues to be listed as day-to-day but the team doesn’t expect him to be available until Game 6, at the earliest.
• In tales of healthier knees, Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner spoke to Niklas Kronwall (and Jiri Hudler), and the AP’s Larry Lage spotlighted Kronwall in a story about shot-blocking. The Detroit News’s Kulfan spoke to Nicklas Lidstrom, Mike Babcock and Kronwall in a story discussing Kronwall’s return to health after dealing with a sore shoulder at the end of the season…
“When he’s been healthy, we’ve seen what kind of player he can be,” Lidstrom said.
“He’ll be fine,” said coach Mike Babcock, who wasn’t worried about Kronwall missing those regular-season games. “You would have liked to have seen him play (those games), but you’re just waiting for him to be healthy. He’s been a real good player for us.”
As well as Kronwall’s maturation as a defenseman who seems to be just growing into his own skin at 30 thanks to an assortment of knee injuries of the very severe kind:
“I felt real good until Christmas and after Christmas, for some reason, I started making too many mistakes with the puck,” he said. “Just too many simple mistakes, passes, stuff like that, and it’s something I’ll focus on after the season ends.”
Still, as Kronwall saw his time increased late, with Babcock attempting to cut into the workload for Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski, Kronwall’s performance seemed to rise.
“His overall game has just gotten better,” the captain said. “One area, for sure, is just going back and getting the puck and making the first pass. He does a good job of avoiding the check and getting the puck going. But his entire game, his skating, he plays physical. We’ve known how good he is, how good he could be. But those injuries followed him around. He’s been able to come back from those and he had a real good year for us.”
• You’re allowed to find this utterly odd: the Montreal Gazette’s Red Fisher’s picks for “upsets” in the playoffs, in the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively? The Buffalo Sabres and…Detroit Red Wings...
Vancouver has gone into the playoffs as the heavy favourite to win it all - and there’s no argument there. Roberto Luongo appeared supremely confident shutting down the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 in Game 1. Luongo played as if he wore an MVP stamped on his jersey.
The Canucks’ defence corps was riddled with injuries throughout the regular season, but they’re back now. You know all about the Sedin twins and the season Ryan Kesler has enjoyed.
So, who’s out there capable of upsetting a team that has everything?
I like the Detroit Red Wings. Game in, game out, there are few better players than Pavel Datsyuk. The same can be said about Henrik Zetterberg once he’s fully recovered from a late-season injury. What’s there to be said about Nicklas Lidstrom, who at 40 once again is a Norris Trophy candidate? It’s a team blessed with offensive strength on every line.
If you plan on throwing an octopus onto the ice at the Joe today, take up a collection first. And prepare to be ticketed. Remember that the rule applies in Arizona as well, where a Wings fan not so dissimilar to Mr. Balish was literally thrown in jail and had to be bailed out by his friends after tossing an octopus onto the appropriately named Jobing.com Arena.
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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.