The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/17/11 at 06:56 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings scored like nobody’s business early, to the course of 4 straight goals, and held on late to emerge from Saturday’s game with a 4-3 victory and 2-0 series lead over the Phoenix Coyotes, and while the Wings’ effort was anything but neat and tidy, but between Pavel Datsyuk’s four-point performance, Johan Franzen’s display of supreme grit in returning from 23 stitches’ worth of cuts and a probable broken nose (to Don Cherry’s delight), and the Wings’ simple sticktuitiveness in refusing to relinquish their lead as the Coyotes received five of the game’s last six power plays…
I don’t need to tell you that the Phoenix Coyotes believe that the team that’s out-scored, out-hit (41-38 on Saturday), out-battled in the faceoff circle and elsewhere and has plain old out-lasted a team the Wings will readily admit is a formidable opponent, is still the Detroit Red Wings team that the Coyotes failed to take advantage of their opportunities to defeat last season…
Just as the Coyotes and Wings disagreed about the Shane Doan hit that took out Franzen (Coyotes: clean, Franzen’s fault vs. Wings: either “toe pick” or “in the numbers”) and the Darren Helm hit that gave Ed Jovanovski a game-ending “upper-body injury” (Coyotes: the kind of hit that the league needs to crack down on vs. the Wings: either a “hockey play” or unintentional), the Coyotes insist that all they have to do is “hold serve” at home and then win a couple at the Joe and, bang bang, on to the second round.
Or at least that’s what they sound like to this very partisan Red Wings fan. Nine playoff games into the Red Wings’ playoff rivalry with the Coyotes, I’m a little confused about this whole, “Who’s winning?” thing. Here’s what Shane Doan and Dave Tippett had to say to NHL.com’s Brian Hedger about their team’s superb effort versus the result of the game:
“No series starts until you lose the first one at home,” said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, whose pair of power-play goals in the third made it a one-goal game for the final 11:23. “You put yourself in a hole. You’ve got to find a way to dig out of it. We’ve got to find a way to pick up a win.”
[D]espite playing strong down the stretch in Game 2, the Coyotes are pressed up against the wall being down a pair. Detroit is 19-4 over their 20-year playoff appearance streak when winning the first two games of a series. The good news for Phoenix is the last time Detroit lost a series up two games going into game 3 was the 2009 Stanley Cup Final – in which the Pittsburgh Penguins eventually won the series in seven games. Any shreds of positive outlook at this point are good for the Coyotes’ psyche after coming into the Motor City talking tough and dropping both.
“Obviously, you have a hole to dig out of,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “You’re down two, but you know, basically what we’ve got to do is go home and defend our home ice. At some point, we’re going to have to win a game in (Joe Louis Arena). We’ve proven we can do that in the past, so we have to go home and think about defending our home ice now and we’ll get ourselves back in the series.”
“We know if we play a certain way we can play with them,” said Ray Whitney, who committed one of the first-period penalties. “We know if we play another way we can’t play with them. The second period, they had another five-or-six minute span where we couldn’t get out of our zone and when we play like that it doesn’t work. When we play like we did in the third, we have a little more success.”
They’ll also need Doan to keep playing like “a bull in a china shop,” as Tippett described his captain.
“That’s who he is,” Tippett said. “He’s a dominant player when he plays like that and he got rewarded with (two) goals (today). I just wish some of the other guys on our team would take the lead from that and jump in as hard as he does.”
It’s hard to argue with the suggestion that both teams have done anything less than put together a total of 3 good periods of hockey together apiece—just not 3 good periods of hockey over the course of 1 game—and there’s clearly much to be optimistic about for both teams regarding their power plays and refusal to back down from each other.
The Red Wings seem to get that, and have very readily and repeatedly stated that, if anything, they need to take fewer penalties while continuing to take their opponent very, very seriously. As for Shane Doan, and the whole Coyotes giving up 3 goals in the 1st period thing? It wasn’t a bad period, per se, he suggested to the Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio:
“Actually, we weren’t overly disappointed the way we played in the first 20 (minutes),” he said. “It was relatively pretty similar in all chances and everything. They found ways to get the puck through to the net, and they found some goals. I think it was tied in shots, but we got to find ways to stay out of the penalty box early.”
“Every game’s a little different with the way they’re going to call it,” Doan said. “They responded to the way that they were last game, they were calling the hooking and holding really early in this game, they’re trying to keep the tone of the game down pretty quiet. You have to realize what’s going on, and they did, and we didn’t.”
After a shaky start, goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov turned things around after allowing three goals in nine shots and ended with 27 saves. Jimmy Howard started strong, could not fend off the man advantages but picked up his second win in the series. Howard had the mental edge with a four-goal lead, but the Coyotes kept chipping away.
“I think maybe it was a little bit of we were too excited to play . . . maybe our heads early in the game didn’t get into it,” defenseman KeithYandle said. ” We just got to play like we did in the third period, and we’ll be OK.”
Yandle told Gintonio that his team’s leaders wouldn’t say die after the first period…
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “That starts with our leaders, guys likeDoaner and guys like Whit (Ray Whitney) andOakie (Adrian Aucoin), guys like that. They don’t’ let us quit and get out of games. There’s no quit in our group, that’s for sure. When we are down by that much, we work harder to get back, but try not to get ourselves in those holes.”
Ditto for being down 4-1 after 2 periods, Radim Vrbata suggested to Gintonio:
With the Coyotes down 4-1 after two periods, there was not a sense of panic in the locker room. The basic message was “just keep going,” said Radim Vrbata, who scored the second-period goal and had two assists.
“It’s the playoffs,” he said. “You can’t give up, you have to push back. In the third, we found a way how to play against them. We had no choice, it’s the playoffs. Even though we were down . . . we feel that we take this back and maybe build momentum for home games. We came close, but that’s not enough.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Wings’ penalty-killing unit gave up 3 power play goals (all with Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart on the ice, and two with Helm on the PK, disturbingly enough) because the Wings got passive on the PK, allowing the Coyotes to not only work the puck around them on the outside and at the point, but also allowing the Coyotes to crash the net (see Martin Hanzal’s right leg planted between Howard’s legs on the 4-3 goal) without far too few passes or shots blocked by smart stick positioning…
In other words, the Coyotes worked the puck around very well on the perimeter, and the Wings slipped back into their bad habit of chasing the puck carrier around, and they got burned as a result.
Dave Tippett was obviously delighted with what he witnessed, as told Gintonio…
“We got some pucks to the net, and we were able to find some of the pucks around the front,” he said. “I thought our intent around the neck was much better tonight. The 5 on 3, we had some more poise that we were missing in the first game.”
The Coyotes had 1:56 to work with on the two-man advantage, and Doan scored with two seconds left. Earlier on the power play, Tippett called timeout to go over strategy.
“It took awhile to get it done, but we finally got it done on that; that was a positive,” Tippett said. “We need to bring everything together and have our power play and our penalty kill work on the same page.”
Tippett told the Free Press’s George Sipple that the Coyotes did indeed exploit the Wings’ defense…
“We were able to find some of the pucks around the front,” said coach Dave Tippett. “You look at two of the goals, they came off shots that were rebounds. I thought our intent around the net was better tonight in the 5-on-3—we had some poise that we were missing in the first game. It took awhile to get it done, but we finally got it done on that. That was a positive. We need to bring our power play and our penalty kill together and work on the same page.”
Fixing the power play is a big boost, though.
“It would have been pretty disappointing if we couldn’t get it going,” said defenseman Keith Yandle, who assisted on all three goals. “Now we have some things to look back at and to feel good about ourselves. To show the heart and resilience we had to even come back in there just gives us something to build on for next game.”
Then came nothing less than a shocker—a shocker!-from Doan:
“If we could take the first period last game and the last two from this game, I think we’d be OK,” he said. “It’s just the combination. (The Wings) have the right combination, and we’ve got the wrong combination. Give them credit. They find ways to win here, and they’ve got some great players.”
As for Doan’s hit on Franzen? Well, according to Tippett, as noted by Gintonio, it wasn’t Doan who was at fault, and in fact, it was Franzen who should have been penalized for trading face-washes with Doan when he returned, 23 stitches and a plugged-up right nostril later:
“I think if you look at that close, Franzen face-washed Doan before Doan face-washed Franzen,” he said. “On the hit, it’s a hockey hit. Franzen’s off balance. That’s a scenario where I think players have to protect themselves better.”
(thanks to the Wings’ website for the clip)
“He goes into the boards really awkward,” [Tippett] said. “It was one of those (things), him and I are both trying to get back to the zone, and we hit about three or four feet from the boards. He went in awkward and . . . I didn’t think we hit that hard. I just think he lost his balance and went in hard.”
So Doan received a passing grade..
“He’s a dominant player when he plays like that,” Tippett said of Doan. “He got rewarded with goals tonight. I just wish there’d be a few other guys on our team would take a lead from that and chunk it in as hard as he does.”
And it was Darren Helm who should have been not only penalized, but also kicked out of the game, if not suspended, for his hit on Ed Jovanovski:
“Jovanovski got run into the board,” he said. “If you look at Franzen, he stops and turns back. He goes into the boards on his own. Doan never hits him. Doan doesn’t touch him while his body’s on the boards. He stops and spins and Doan hits him four feet in the middle of the ice.. . . Helm, running a guy into the end boards, big difference.”
So Doan went back to the “we just didn’t manage to tie it” line…
“You tie the game up, I think you feel really good, but you lose a game by one goal, you go back through the game and find things you could have done better,” he said. “Give credit to their group, they came out. And we battled back. We got to find a way to get the next one.”
And PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest offered the following points of emphasis:
Defenseman Ed Jovanovski suffered an upper-body injury in the second period after being hit into the boards by Red Wings forward Darren Helm. Jovanovski left the ice and did not return to the game. Afterward, Head Coach Dave Tippett said Jovanovski was day-to-day. Helm was called for boarding on the play.
Head Coach Dave Tippett ended his post-game press conference by praising captain Shane Doan for rallying the Coyotes from a 4-0 deficit. “That’s who he is,” Tippett said. “He’s a dominant player when he plays like that and he got rewarded with (two) goals. I just wish some of the other guys on our team would take the lead from that and jump in as hard as he does.”
The Coyotes outshot the Red Wings, 33-31, and had much better success on power plays (3-for-7) than they did in Game 1.
Defenseman Michal Rozsival delivered a team-high six hits and blocked a team-high three shots.
Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 27 of 31 shots, including all 10 he faced in the third period when the Coyotes made a game of it.
Keith Yandle: “There’s no quit in our group, that’s for sure… We’ve just got to play like we did in the third period tonight and we’ll be OK.”
Since I have yet to share an actual narrative of the game, let’s let the Associated Press’s Noah Trister relate the game’s goals:
Detroit scored two power-play goals later in the first. Datsyuk contributed the first on a wrist shot through traffic with 9:18 left. Then Rafalski made it 2-0 with a shot from just inside the blue line.
The teams were at even strength when Datsyuk broke in and set up Helm’s goal while trying for the spectacular finish. When the goal was announced, the crowd roared louder for the Russian’s assist than for the goal scorer.
Detroit led 2-0 when Datsyuk poked the puck past a Phoenix player in the neutral zone and skated in on goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. His trick shot from close range was saved, but Helm was there for an easy goal on the rebound.
Early in the second, Datsyuk stick-handled free in the slot and shot wide, but Holmstrom tipped in Valtteri Filppula’s shot seconds later to make it 4-0.
The Coyotes nearly came back by scoring three power-play goals - they had gone 0 for 6 with the advantage in the opening game. Vrbata scored with 12:58 left in the second, and Doan set up in front of Howard and backhanded in a rebound to make it 4-2 with 14:11 to play in the third.
Detroit then took a pair of quick penalties, giving Phoenix a two-man advantage. The Red Wings almost killed it off, but Doan scored from just above the slot with 11:23 to play to cut the deficit to one. Detroit showed more discipline after that and held on to win its 55th straight playoff game when scoring at least four goals.
As Trister also points out, it looked like at least one, if not two or three octopi hit the ice after the national anthem, but they weren’t the big ones the Wings have been allowing fans to throw from the bluelines over the past, oh, I don’t know, ten years, and there was no word as to whether the person or persons who threw octopi paid $500 tickets for their time.
As for the Franzen-Doan altercation? Doan obviously agreed with his coach, as he told NHL.com’s Hedger—and if you don’t take a gander at the notes below Hedger’s story, I’d suggest that you’ve missed out on some wonderful quips (I can’t quote everything, sorry):
“I didn’t hit him that hard,” Doan said. “I think he lost his balance. Him and I were both racing to get the puck. He sees me coming and he tries to hit me as much as I tried to hit him. Obviously it’s a bad situation the way he goes into the boards. You never want to see anybody get hurt.”
While Franzen viewed the situation very, very differently, though he started his post-game media scrum by defending Helm…
“From behind? Three feet from the boards?” he asked rhetorically of Doan’s hit. “Yeah, usually you get thrown out of the game for that, but I guess shoulder on shoulder like Helmer is worse.”
Before saying this about the hit that gave the Mule 23 stitches, what is probably a broken nose and a chipped right tooth:
“I don’t think me and him is anything,” Franzen said of he and Doan. “He plays hard and he’s out there trying to get their team fired up and trying to look for big hits. I have no problem with that. I have a problem with bad hits. He should be thrown out of the game. No question about it.”
Franzen said that he didn’t need to watch a replay of the hit to know what happened…
“No, but I felt where he hit me, my numbers,” Franzen said. “Really dangerous hit. I’m happy I just got stitches and nothing else.”
But it was Mike Babcock, surprisingly enough, who suggested that both plays were legal:
“Neither one should be a penalty,” he said. “Franzen toe-picked and Doan had kind of bumped him. In my opinion, no penalty. Then Helm self-chipped, went in, Jovanovski knew he was there. Helm hit him hard. No penalty.”
What was Babcock angry with? Franzen returning to play without a visor or cage:
“I was amazed he came back with no facial protection,” Babcock said. “He’ll probably have to get that fixed up. It’s important for us to have the Mule and he’ll be ready to go next game.”
I’ll give you one teaser from Hedger’s one-liners…
Franzen on how his face looks after stitches: “I don’t have any looks to worry about. I’m alright.”
And note that the Wings’ website’s Jeff Sanford approached the hit…delicately...
Franzen went down in the first after getting bumped from behind by Phoenix’s Shane Doan and colliding against the boards in a controversial play. He stayed down on the ice for a few minutes while Wings’ training staff assessed the damage. Franzen received 21 stitches while in the locker room, and routine concussion tests were performed before he was cleared to play again. There was no penalty call on the play.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock and Phoenix coach Dave Tippett both agreed after the game that the refs made the right call by not assessing Doan a penalty.
Despite the stitches and a stopper in his nose to prevent bleeding, Franzen said he felt “great” after the game, although he did mention it was “hard to breath out there.”
And even though he definitely looked worse for wear, he still found time to crack a few jokes.
“I probably should have stayed out. They played a lot better without me,” Franzen said, alluding to the three goals his team scored while he was getting stitched up.
As the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky notes, however, Franzen felt that Doan wasn’t the only player who should have been penalized on the play. Felt that Eric Belanger, who provided a Chris Pronger-Rob Niedermayer-on-Tomas-Holmstrom-style set-up for Doan, should have gone to the box as well:
It took 23 stitches — closing wounds to the forehead, nose and upper lip — and nearly a period and a half before he returned to the game. He also had to pass a 15-minute mandatory concussion test.
“One cut was from the (defenseman’s) stick and one cut was from the boards,” Franzen said. “He hit me from behind and they missed it somehow.”
Franzen and Doan became entangled again late in the second period and Doan drew the ire of several Wings by running his glove hard over Franzen’s fresh stitches. When asked if that violated a code between players — face-washing over new stitches — Kris Draper pointedly said, “Go ask him. Ask Shane.”
“He cross-checked me in the back and then he face-washed me and I responded,” Doan said. “If he doesn’t want to get rubbed in the face, don’t come cross-checking me and face-washing me. I didn’t go looking for him there, but if he wants to come in and create an altercation, I’m ready. I didn’t realize you’re not allowed to touch someone after they do that to you.”
Franzen agreed with Doan on only that point:
“That’s not going to hurt anyone,” he said. “The worst it’s going to do is open a stitch. It’s the other play (the hit in the back) that I am not happy about.”
Franzen’s teammates were simply happy that he was able to return to play, as they told the Free Press’s Helene St. James…
“It’s always scary when a player goes into the boards like that,” Jimmy Howard said. “But the fact that he came back in the second period and I saw that he was OK, it was a relief. He was a little bandaged up, but I’m sure you can’t do too much damage to that face.”
Babcock said Franzen will be fine for Game 3 but wants him to wear a shield for extra protection. Franzen, meanwhile, wondered if he should have come back at all Saturday since the Wings’ three-goal lead narrowed to one after he did so.
“I probably should have stayed out,” he said, smiling. “We played a lot better without me. They’ll think about that next time.”
And MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“Face look bad, shaped like a mess,’’ Datsyuk said.
Lidstrom felt Franzen wanted to make a statement by returning. “He played with a lot of speed, a bit of a grudge, too, late in the game,’’ Lidstrom said.
Said Brad Stuart: “Looked pretty bad. Anytime you see someone go down and have to be helped off, if they come back, it gives you a boost. I figured he might be gone for a little while.’’
Franzen registered 2 shots, 2 hits, a takeaweay and a lost faceoff in only 10:22 of play, but he also took one of the penalties that led to the Coyotes’ 5-on-3 goal, and it was a dumb cross-checking penalty that had nothing to do with the play.
Franzen refused to go much further than he did, however, in criticizing Doan…
Asked about the officiating, Franzen said, “I don’t know what I can say so I won’t say anything. You take my fine? I’m going to be quiet.”
And while Franzen tried to make light of the situation at times, as the Detroit Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp noted…
“When you go flying into the boards, (concussions) are always a concern,” he said. “I think (my) forehead is pretty strong, strong bone. Yeah, I used that thick head.”
“I don’t have any looks to worry about anyway,” joked Johan Franzen, his sutured face serving as another testament to the lengths hockey players will push themselves in the playoffs.
Given that Franzen’s OK, the Wings were much more concerned about the fact that they’ve given the NHL’s latest crackdown reason to call them for infractions, real or otherwise:
They took three third-period penalties within a minute and 20 seconds of each other, and a comfortable 4-1 cushion suddenly became a wobbly 4-3 edge.
“We’ve got to be better controlling our discipline,” coach Mike Babcock said.
Especially given that the Wings’ PK was so dominant in Game 1, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James suggested:
What the series has come down to, so far, is special teams. The Wings’ penalty kill won them Game 1 by going 6-for-6, and the Coyotes nearly rallied in Game 2 by going 3-for-7 on the power play.
“I would have liked to have buried them but we won the two games at home,” Mike Babcock said. “I thought our team played well. We took way too many penalties as the game went on. I see three here in the third and I see four here in the second. It’s hard to overcome all those penalties anyway you look at it. We have to be better controlling our discipline and we have to hope that we don’t take that many penalties, I guess.”
The Wings did several things well in Game 2: They had a better start, and got the first goal, which forced the Coyotes into taking some interference calls. Datsyuk was, again, brilliant. Holmstrom worked his behind off, setting a great screen to Rafalski’s goal. Todd Bertuzzi was physical and won his battles down low. But if they’re going to keep taking penalties even when they know how tightly the game is being called, this series is going be long and wearisome for them.
“Obviously, the standard they’re calling right now is pretty tough,” Brad Stuart said. “Anything that’s questionable they’re calling. We just hope it goes both ways. That’s all you can ask for. As players we have to do our best to adhere to the standard. No lead is safe. We’re seeing quite a few power plays both ways. But it’s all about finding a way to win the game. That’s what we did. We’ll forget about it, move on and work on what we need to work on.”
The Wings are such a good road team that winning in Phoenix isn’t going to be a problem if they play smart and physical. But their conga lines to the penalty box have got to stop, even if they do have a guy in Datsyuk who can dominate the way he did Saturday, which also saw him go 16-for-20 on face-offs, and register four shots, three takeaways, three blocked shots and two hits.
We’ll get to Datsyuk in a minute, because, as he so succinctly told MLive’s Ansar Khan, it’s a team game, and teams don’t win unless they’re disciplined:
“Hockey is nothing to do with the individual. I like more the team game,” Datsyuk said. “I like our line today, we have puck movement and lots of shots. We played well, whole team. Problem is we finished bad today. Have to stay strong.”
It was a lesson learned for the Red Wings.
“We have to be aware of keeping our stick down and moving our feet,” said captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who had two assists.
“I would have liked to have buried them, but we won two games at home,” Babcock said. “I thought our team played well. We took way too many penalties as the game went on. It’s hard to overcome all those penalties. So we have to be better controlling our discipline.”
They accomplished their goal.
“We came in here to win Games 1 and 2 and we did it,” Kris Draper said. “We know we have to be better going into their building.”
The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa, who penned a near-me-level (read: thorough) exhaustive recap and notebook, took note of the penalty parade as well:
[T]hrough two periods, even after the Red Wings saw Phoenix smash the face of Johan Franzen into the corner boards, the Wings kept their cool. But the start of the third period was different. The Red Wings took undisciplined penalties. During that time, Phoenix brought the game from 4-1 to 4-3, with two goals on the power play, including one on a five-on-three. Instead of an easy win, the Wings had to play smothering defense for the final 12 minutes of the game.
“We took too many penalties as the game went on,” Babcock said. “It’s hard to overcome those penalties, anyway you look at it.”
He seemed to indicate a bit between the lines that he is prepared — perhaps in a private conversation with Mrs. Babcock — to be less than fully complimentary about the officiating.
“But it does me no good to talk about that, you guys,” he told reporters. “So maybe you have something else to ask about?”
When Howard was asked about it, after the game, he sounded almost like a babysitting uncle, concerned about the unruly kids.
“Yeah, we were told before the series and before the game tonight that they were going to call stuff up around the hands; the hooking and the things like that,” Howard said. “It’s up to us to keep our sticks down around the ice and play a little more stick on puck.”
Krupa makes some astute comments about Brian Rafalski and Jimmy Howard as well, but again, I can’t quote everything.
And then there was Datsyuk, of course, who was the center of attention on the ice and after the game. Datsyuk received “oohs” and “ahs” from his opponents and teammates alike, as the London Free Press’s Morris Dalla Costa noted…
“The guy is disgusting,” Yandle said admiringly. “It is fun to watch him, but not fun to play against… It has to be a collective five-guy unit to take care of him because one or two guys, he’s going to embarrass.”
Datsyuk was also called “sick,” “wicked” along with the usual “terrific, outstanding,” etc., etc., etc.
The highlight of a 3-0 first period was a circus move by Datsyuk. He broke in on the right side, dragged the puck backwards between his legs, pulled it around his left leg and fired a puck that Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov managed to stop it with his pad. The rebound came out to Helm who made it 3-0.
“Maybe a handful of guys (would try that),” said Wings’ Nicklas Lidstrom. “He’s so good at it, whether the puck is behind him, he still tries to get a shot off and make those moves. We see him in practice all of the time, trying different things. He’s not shy to try them in games, either. It’s great to see. He’s skating with a lot of confidence and it’s hard to defend him when he’s playing like that.”
And while Datsyuk deferred credit for most of his puck mastery, as noted by DetroitRedWings.com’s Jeff Sanford...
As the first period was winding down, Datsyuk broke in on Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Feeling the pressure from an oncoming Coyotes defenseman, Datsyuk put the puck, along with his stick, between his legs and got the shot off. That’s right – he took the shot with the stick between his legs.
“Maybe it’s the fans cheering for us today,” Datsyuk joked. “It was a big help, maybe too much excitement. Stupid thing.”
Although he didn’t score on the play, Darren Helm grabbed the rebound and snapped it in, giving the Wings a 3-0 lead, and giving Datsyuk his third point of the night. The Wings’ forward ended with a four-point outing, helping the Red Wings to a 4-3 win.
Datsyuk’s first period was quite the response after Joe Louis Arena stood still early in the first from Johan Franzen lay on the ice motionless for an extended period of time. Phoenix captain Shane Doan hit Franzen almost four minutes into the first period. For a team that had already lost two-way forward Henrik Zetterberg with a lower body injury, losing Franzen’s power-forward presence would be devastating. Although the Mule returned later in the game, the Wings proved once again that they can overcome injuries. Just like Game 1, Datsyuk put the team on his back, being everywhere on the ice. It was as if the puck was following him, not the other way around.
“Yeah we played well today, but hockey isn’t individual, it’s a team game,” Datsyuk said. “We played well today, had lots of movement and lots of shots. We scored on a couple power plays and that was big help.”
And Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika found that there’s a bit of a league-wide Datsyuk fan club…
Datsyuk has a wicked sense of humor that comes through despite his heavy Russian accent. He has a tireless work ethic and well-rounded game. He’s strong on his skates and with his stick. For all his offensive ability, he has won the Selke himself – three times. He also had two hits, three takeaways and three blocked shots Saturday. He won 16 of the 20 faceoffs he took.
“To me, Pavel Datsyuk’s the most complete player in the National Hockey League,” Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz said earlier this season. “I marvel at his ability. He has so much joy in his game.”
“He’s a hockey player,” Trotz said. “That’s his passion. You can tell. That’s why he’s great. There’s a lot of very skilled people in our business that have a tremendous amount of ability. They have almost as much ability as Pav does, but they don’t have the heart. They don’t have the joy – that passion and that determination that separates him from a lot of guys.”
“If you’re going to look strictly on statistics and look on paper, you’re going to say Crosby probably, Ovechkin [are better],” St. Louis Blues forward David Backes said in December, when Crosby was reaching new heights and dominating the league. But you play against Datsyuk, and you see how tenacious he is on a backcheck and stripping pucks and doing the little things, killing penalties, winning faceoffs. He ends up such a complete package that’s really tough to find along with his offensive prowess and passing and puck skills. I think that’s why he gets a lot of attention from the players.”
“Mike must wake up every morning going, ‘I’ve got Pavel Datsyuk. That’s pretty cool, and I don’t have to worry. He can play against anybody in the world up front,’ ” Trotz said. “And most nights, he dominates anybody in the world.”
Datsyuk’s Red Wings teammates gave credit to #13 for using what he learns in practice during games, as USA Today’s Kevin Allen noted:
“The words that come to mind (for Datsyuk) are pure determination,” said Detroit center Kris Draper. “He put us on his back today and he was a dominant force at both ends of the rink.”
“Maybe a handful of guys (can make that move),” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Not more than that. He’s so good at it, whether the puck is behind him, he still tries to get a shot off and make those moves. We see him in practice all the time trying different things. He’s not shy to try them in games.”
Draper said the only time he has ever tried that move was “on my son in ball hockey.”
“Pav tries these things all the time, and you never know when he’s going to use them,” Draper said. “That’s why he is tough to play against because he has so many different things he can do. While his between-the-legs move seemed to dazzle everyone else, Datsyuk called it “stupid.”
“I maybe trying to do too much,” he said. “It was stupid thing. It worked though. Now it’s more confidence.”
He said he tried because he and Bryzgalov are friends from their time on the Russian national team. “He knows me well,” Datsyuk said.
Datsyuk continued while speaking to the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff...
“Maybe fans are cheering too much, and I am maybe trying to do too much,” Datsyuk said. “It was a stupid thing. It worked, though. Now it’s more confidence for me. Maybe next time, I try more easy way to score.”
Datsyuk did admit that he felt it necessary to keep Bryzgalov guessing, since the two Russians are so familiar with each other’s work.
“He knows me well,” Datsyuk said. “We play together lots. Lots of practice time together from Olympic team. I try to surprise him. Looked like he’s not surprised.”
No one is surprised to see Datsyuk taking over this series. He scored once and pounded eight shots on goal in Game 1. Saturday, besides his four points, he delivered four shots, had three takeaways and won 16 of 20 faceoffs.
And Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji, poking fun at Darren Helm in the process…
“He just today lots of skates and then make D wear and make them tired a little bit,” Datsyuk said. “This is good for us and he just . . . good rebounds. I’m little bit upset, because why he don’t shoot it between legs?”
Datsyuk was kidding, we think. Helm said he’d leave those kind of maneuvers up to Datsyuk as he recounted his view of the play.
“Just amazing things like always,” Helm said. “He kind of stole the puck in the middle, flipped it up one-handed, went down, and it happened so quick I wasn’t even thinking about doing something like that, going as fast as he did. I’d probably put myself in the net. He did a great job just getting it on net, pretty good shot, too, could have went in. Just popped out a juicy rebound for me.”
Datsyuk, being ever elegant, put his exploits all over the ice in perspective:
“We have a couple of bad penalties,” Datsyuk said. “But we win the game, and now we look forward to next two on the road. I hope there are lots of Red Wings fans there. The fans will be cheering for them, but I hope we have more fans cheering for us.”
He also deferred credit in the leadership department to Johan Franzen, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James pointed out:
MULE MAULED: Johan Franzen got several nasty cuts after sliding into the boards early in the first period after being hit by Shane Doan while off balance. Franzen required stitches and a bandage and a plug in his right nostril before returning to a standing ovation midway through the second period. “He have good heart, and he come back after many stitches,” Datsyuk said. “It’s big help for us.”
THE RED WINGS’ TAKE: Coach Mike Babcock—“We won the two games at home, held serve. I thought the other team played well. We took way too many penalties.”
So Datsyuk’s fantastic? You bet, both when he’s scoring and when he’s not, as the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema suggests (and yes, everyone else has pointed it out, so I will, too—the CBC showed footage of Zetterberg catching a rut at an early-morning skate-around with that damaged left knee and skating immediately off the ice. He’s not coming back soon. We know that):
There’s not enough space to list all of Datsyuk’s highlights from Game 2, but three stick out from the second period:
Less than 4 minutes into the second, Datsyuk hit the brakes and fed Valtteri Filppula for a wide-open shot.
Less than a minute after that, he picked off a pass intended for Kyle Turris and had his own point-blank shot.
Datsyuk capped the period with a crushing hit that knocked Phoenix’s Andrew Ebbett off his skates and drew another round of cheers.
None of the plays may have resulted in goals, but they do illustrate his relentless determination.
So Datsyuk is amazing, as Nicklas Lidstrom told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“He’s amazing with the puck,” said Nicklas Lidstrom, who assisted on Datsyuk’s and Helm’s goals. “It’s fun to play behind him and see what he’s doing, how he draws players and finds open teammates. His work ethic is so high, too.”
But the Wings are indeed still without the guy who tweaked his knee on Saturday morning…
“I miss him,” said Datsyuk of Zetterberg. “I hope he comes back soon and helps us. He had a good season and now he needs time to heal.”
And while Johan Franzen didn’t need to offer style points, nor did the Wings need to offer apologies for having to hang on late…
“It took a while. Stitch(ing) me up took a while and then we have to do the concussion test, took half the game,” Franzen said. “I don’t know how we played. I didn’t watch most of the game. It seemed all right.”
A win that wasn’t good for your or my blood pressure or anxiety levels is winning hockey for only one game, not winning hockey over the course of a series of games:
“We won the two games at home, our team played well,” Babcock said. “We took way too many penalties as the game went on. It’s hard to overcome all those penalties anyway you look at it. We have to be better controlling our discipline and have to hope we don’t take that many penalties.”
“We kept our composure and stayed with it,” Lidstrom said. “We really played well after they scored their third goal.”
Things are going to get harder from here, and the Wings know it, as they told NHL.com’s Brian Hedger:
“It’s an advantage, but this series is far from over,” said Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 30 saves. “They’re going to come at us Monday and we’re going to have to weather the storm the first 10 minutes there, too.”
Doan finished with a three-point game by also assisting on a power-play goal from Radim Vrbata that made it 4-1 at 7:02 of the second. Vrbata (1 goal, 2 assists) and Keith Yandle (3 assists) also had big games for Phoenix, while Bryzgalov made 27 saves and didn’t allow another goal after Tomas Holmstrom made it 4-0 just 1:11 into the second. The Coyotes also outshot the Red Wings by a slim 33-31 margin and had much better success with the man advantage (3-for-7 on power plays) than they did in Game 1. Their confidence is also intact.
“He’s not going to let us quit,” Yandle said of Doan, the Coyotes’ captain. “He’s going to put us on his back to make sure we don’t quit.”
Darren Helm put things particularly well to the Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo, who suggests that the Wings need to get this series over with as soon as humanly possible...
“Maybe we got a little too confident the way things were going,” Red Wings forward Darren Helm said. “We got away from what we do.”
The Red Wings quickly scurried out of Joe Louis Arena following the game for a flight to Phoenix. It’s the type of routine they’ll get used to if they advance deep into this postseason. It’s possible, perhaps probable, the Red Wings face three series against teams from the West Coast - or not far from it, in the case of the Coyotes. It makes it of paramount importance they get this series over as quickly as possible. This is a team with age, particularly along the blue line. They need as much down time as possible to get the ailing Henrik Zetterberg healed, as well.
Babcock doesn’t complain about referee calls. It’s a policy he has displayed consistently throughout his years as Red Wings’ coach. He didn’t on Saturday, either.
“We would have liked to have buried them,” Babcock said. “But we won the two games at home. I thought we took too many penalties as the game went on. It’s hard to overcome those penalties anyway you look at it.”
The Red Wings are in control, but often there are momentum shifts in Game 3. It only gets harder, never easier at this time of the year. The Red Wings would be best served not giving the Coyotes any notion they can comeback in this series.
The Coyotes already feel that they’re already poised for a comeback, despite the Detroit News’s John Niyo’s protestations to the contrary...
“It’s gonna be a hostile environment (in Phoenix),” Wings captain Nick Lidstrom said. “We have to respond and really bear down.”
Give the Coyotes credit for not letting Saturday’s game turn into a complete embarrassment. Bryzgalov was distracted early and better late, while Doan, the captain who should know better, finally started channeling his energy in the right direction. (OK, aside from punching a beaten Mule, that is.)
But give the referees a little credit, too, as the Wings somehow managed to get whistled for seven penalties after they’d built that 4-0 lead early in the second period. That included a pair of third-period calls 8 seconds apart that gave Phoenix a 5-on-3 advantage for nearly two full minutes. The Coyotes, who’d already scored twice on the power play to make it a game again, scored with 2 seconds left on the two-man advantage to pull within 4-3 with 11:23 left in regulation.
“Obviously, we took too many penalties, which is interesting in itself,” Babcock said in his postgame press conference, taking an unsolicited shot at the referees while answering a question about Datsyuk.
While I’ll duly note that Yahoo Sports’ Sean Leahy, SI’s Adrian Dater and the Hockey News gave our Wings kudos, and that Ted Kulfan gave Tomas Holmstrom a nod for his contributions (goal, assist, +2, screen, pest), and DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose and Michael Caples give us some numbers to chew upon in their breakdown (the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness wrote a superb sans-quotes recap, too)...
9: Saturday’s four-point performance was the ninth time in his career that Pavel Datsyuk had collected four or more points in a game. He had a goal and three assists in Game 2.
7: The Coyotes wanted a physical game and that’s what they got from the Red Wings in Game 2. The Wings held a 41-38 edge in hits, including seven by Niklas Kronwall.
16: Besides his four-points, Datsyuk was a beast in the face-off circle, winning 16 of 20 draws against the Coyotes. In all, the Wings dominated draws, winning 64 percent of the time.
I think that Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating merits the, “It’s the spirit of the thing” last word:
If there is a theme to the series that’s only two games old, it’s that Pavel Datsyuk is the best player on the ice, if not in the game right now. How many shooters will attempt to go five hole on THEMSELVES on their way to trying it on a goalie? He and Ilya Bryzgalov know each other very well, having lived in the same building in Moscow for a time. In fact, Datsyuk when asked about his relationship with the Coyotes goalie described for us, the Bryzgalov kitchen. Proof positive that he can do it all right now.
We love playoff hockey because there’s a thrill ride quality to it, which makes us all jittery. Like a good double-caramel latte. Served in the Bryzgalov kitchen.
And like a double-caramel latte, this kind of hockey is best served in moderation. I’m all for playoff thrills and chills, but a boring Red Wings-dominant win on Monday is just what our cardiologists are ordering.
Highlights: NBC Sports posted a 1:01 highlight clip, but the code is so ugly and takes up so much bandwidth that I’ll refer you to James O’Brien’s post regarding said clip and a Nicklas Lidstrom interview, and I’ll do the same for his Franzen interview. NBC/Versus—your coding is annoying for blogger use!
ESPN posted a 1:41 highlight clip which includes comments from Matthew Barnaby:
Sportsnet posted a 3:29 highlight clip;
The CBC posted a 1:28 highlight clip;
TSN posted a 2:53 highlight clip;
And here’s NHL.com’s highlight clip:
Post-game: The CBC posted a 3:38 post-game wrap-up from Kevin Weekes and Mark Lee, as well as seven-minute clip of the “After 40 Minutes” gang talking about the game and a little post-game musical montage;
The Detroit News posted a 3:32 clip of Johan Franzen’s post-game interview, Mike Babcock’s take on the hit and Pavel Datsyuk, Kris Draper and Jimmy Howard talking about Franzen’s resiliency:
The Detroit News also posted a 2:08 clip of Kris Draper, Johan Franzen, Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk talked about, well, Pavel Datsyuk:
WXYZ posted 3 clips from Tom Leyden: the first includes Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Dave Tippett and Jimmy Howard…
The second clip is an interview with Nicklas Lidstrom…
And the third clip is a montage of Babcock and Howard comments:
The Red Wings’ website posted Mike Babcock’s post-game presser…
As well as a post-game clip of comments from Franzen, Howard, Lidstrom and Datsyuk:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 39-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 43-image gallery which includes this beauty from David Guralnick:
Photo from the Detroit News’s David Guralnick
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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.