The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/19/11 at 06:58 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings didn’t exactly put on a clinic during their 4-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night, but as the Wings captured a near-stranglehold-inducing 3-0 series lead over Phoenix, at Jobing.com arena, the Wings’ combination of clutch scoring from their “support” players, superb goaltending from Jimmy Howard and excellent discipline while fending off a literal and figurative physical assault from Phoenix illustrated the fact that the Red Wings continue to improve on a game-by-game basis against a team that seems content to attempt to beat the heck out of the Wings’ players while giving the Wings’ a run for their money instead of simply focusing on beating the Red Wings on the scoreboard.
That being said, the Coyotes’ level of self-belief remains sky-high, and they insisted to the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan that they were simply the victim of some bad bounces early, and not may, but will win on Wednesday as the start of a near-miraculous comeback:
“We thought, we’re at home, hopefully we can get off to a lead because it’s no fun playing catch-up when you’re playing these guys,” defenseman Keith Yandle said. “When they score early like that, two early ones in the first, it’s a little deflating, but I thought our guys did a pretty good job working hard. Guys were finishing checks. It wasn’t for a lack of effort.”
They had plenty of effort but minimal execution. The Coyotes had been unable to come back in the first two games of the series, and were 12-21-7 in the regular season when their opponent scored first.
“We were there. We had the energy. We had the excitement,” said forward Ray Whitney, hailed by Detroit coach Mike Babcock as the best player on the ice for the Coyotes. “Obviously the two quick goals take the crowd out of it and the wind out of your sails. We fought hard to try and stay in it, but they’re a good hockey team over there and when they get the lead, it’s more difficult for you. It’s frustrating as a group. It’s frustrating when you have the fight in you and it doesn’t amount to a whole lot.”
Facing elimination in Game 4 Wednesday night is not the situation the Coyotes would have liked, especially on home ice, but perhaps that’s the jolt they need to turn that effort and fight into results.
“Now we just have to focus on one game because we lose we’re out,” Yandle said. “We just have to think of it that way and go one game at a time, one period at a time, one shift at a time and try and focus on getting a win here our next game. You can’t look down the road to Game 5, 6, 7. You just gotta focus on the next game.”
Dave Tippett focused on rebounding more than dwelling on their loss while speaking to the Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio...
“You’ve got to come out with that same desperation (Wednesday),” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “It was very disappointing what happened at the start. It wasn’t disappointing from an effort point of view . . . probably couldn’t have asked for any worse start because we had good energy, we were excited to play. You get kicked in the teeth like that early. We got lots of try, lots of will in that room. We just got to turn that will into having some success on the scoreboard.”
The first two Detroit goals, scored in the first 2:41 of the game, bordered on flukish. On one, the puck bounced in off the pants of Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt; the second glanced off the knee Red Wings forward Drew Miller. The Coyotes, whose deficit grew to three goals early in the second period, kept working and eventually cut the lead to 4-2 with seven minutes left in the game on a power-play goal credited to Ray Whitney. His shot bounced off goaltender Jimmy Howard, then bounced off Detroit defenseman Ruslan Salei into the net. In the past two games, the Coyotes’ power play has been sharp, scoring five times.
“We never got enough sustained forecheck or anything when going five on five,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. “That’s obviously been the problem the last couple games.”
The game was chippy, filled with plenty of pushing and shoving, a carryover from the two games in Detroit. It was also reminiscent of Game 3 of the 1998 playoffs - Detroit rushed out to a 2-0 early in the first period, and the Coyotes rallied to score a 3-2 win but lost the series in six games. The Coyotes were hoping to build on a second-period power-play goal by David Schlemko to mount a comeback in the final 20 minutes. But it took only 45 seconds jeopardize that hope - Johan Franzen scored on a breakaway, popping the puck over Bryzgalov’s glove to build the Red Wings’ lead to 4-1.
“You can give us credit for working hard and continue to try and stay in the fight, but it’s the fact that we’re trying to hang with them,” Whitney said. “They’re a pretty good defensive team. When they get the lead, it’s tough to generate a whole lot. Giving them a three-goal lead every game is very tough.”
A bit chippy? Sure, if Taylor Pyatt smashing Nicklas Lidstrom in the “valley of death,” Shane Doan then going after Lidstrom, Ed Jovanovski smearing Wings’ faces after trying to run them, Pyatt smashing an unsuspecting Patrick Eaves in the head with his stick and many Coyotes players focusing on attempting to literally injure the Wings, from Doan on down—but that’s the Wings fan in me talking, of course…
Kyle Turris suggested to Bob McManaman, McLellan and Gintonio that the team could have shown more poise after surrendering the “fluky” goals…
“It was definitely deflating, and it’s frustrating,” center Kyle Turris said. “But at the same time, there’s 58 minutes left in the game, so as tough as it is, you’ve got to realize the game just started and it usually takes more than one or two goals to win a game.”
But the Coyotes have mixed feelings about their power play, which scored twice in only three opportunities…
The Coyotes’ past five goals in the series have come on the power play, a good sign considering how bad the unit functioned in Game 1.
“Yeah, but we’ve got to get something five on five,” captain Shane Doan said. “We haven’t gotten a five-on-five goal, I think, since two minutes into the first game. That’s unacceptable.”
Even though the Arizona Republic’s Dan Bickley piled criticism on Ilya Bryzgalov, who’s been brilliant at times and plain old shaky at others, the Coyotes believe that “Bryz” will regain his status as the team’s “best player” going forward, as coach Tippett told Gintonio...
“The guys have to know when they go in, they have a plan for success how we’re going to win and one of the big parts of that is you have to have the effort and commitment to win, and we have that. Now we just have to find some execution, take a few mistakes out of our game, and we need our goaltender to have an all-world game.”
Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov will need to come up with a huge effort. He has not looked sharp, allowing ther 12 goals in three games.
Tippett, who said Bryzgalov is playing “just alright,” is not contemplating a change in net: “I think Bryz got us to this point, we’re going to try to rely on him to get us out of this.”
As well as the CBC’s series blogger:
There appears to be two Bryzgalovs in the playoffs: the one who plays against Detroit, and the one who plays against everyone else. In 11 career post-season appearances against Detroit, Bryzgalov is now 3-7 with a 3.23 goals-against average and an .897 save percentage.
In playoff action against other teams, Bryzgalov is 9-5 in 15 games with a 1.61 GAA and a .939 save percentage. He’s allowed four goals in each game of this series, and Detroit has won 56 straight when scoring four or more goals. Coyotes coach Dave Tippett described Bryzgalov’s performance as, “just alright.”
“There’s been some times when we could get some more help,” Tippett said. He confirmed he’ll stick with his No. 1 goalie with the season on the line Wednesday. “Bryz got us to this point, and we’re going to rely on him to get us out of this,” he said, adding: “We need our goaltender to have an all-world game.”
Shane Doan went so far as to tell ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun that criticism of Bryzgalov is unwarranted (we’ll come back to LeBrun in a little while):
“It’s not fair for Bryz,” Doan said. “He’s been our best player for two years. He’s been unbelievable and we count on him so much. Obviously, we have to help him out in some way.”
Agreed, let’s not pin all of this on Bryzgalov. There have been plenty of other passengers on the Coyotes in these three games. Doan once again Monday night worked his tail off and was terrific while linemate Ray Whitney was also strong. Overall, there were more contributors in Game 3 than the previous two, but it still felt short. There’s not enough of a sustained attack. Not enough puck possession. And certainly not enough of a test for Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.
“We’ve got lots of try and lots of will in that room, we just got to change that will into having success on the scoreboard,” said Tippett.
I’d argue that Howard was pretty damn good in stopping 28 of 30 shots and 11 of 12 in the second period, when the Coyotes were buzzing around the Wings’ net, but again, that’s just a partisan Wings fan talking.
Bryzgalov apparently chose to decline interviews with the press after the game, so Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan spoke to goalie coach Sean Burke in Bryzgalov’s stead:
“There were a couple opportunities where maybe a save turns the game around, but there was no lack of effort,” Phoenix goalie coach Sean Burke said of Bryzgalov.
Burke would not speculate on Bryzgalov’s mindset after three disappointing performances. All he could discuss was what he saw.
“As a goaltender, you have to be patient,” Burke said. “You have to let the play come to you. You have to play with confidence. Sometimes when you start struggling, you chase the puck a little bit, and he was chasing it a little bit today.”
The Coyotes reiterated their points of emphasis going forward to PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest...
Kyle Turris: “We had lots of momentum at times and we were buzzing in their end and had lots of chances but just couldn’t put it in. They found a way to do it early in every period.”
Ray Whitney: “Our 5-on-5 play was concerning. We’re not generating as much as we should. There was a lot of talk about how Detroit wasn’t playing well defensively this season, but I beg to differ in this series. They are a good defensive team, especially with a lead.”
“You pretty much have to do something in the next game or you don’t have a game after that,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “That’s plenty of motivation right there…We were excited to play tonight and you get kicked right in the teeth like that early. We’ve got lots of try, lots of will in that room; we’ve just got to turn that will into having some success on the scoreboard.”
Vest offered noted that defenseman David Schelmko returned from a “lower body injury” after being hit by Darren Helm (Schelmko tweaked his knee), and, for the first time in this series…
The Coyotes outhit the Red Wings 36-27. Forward Lauri Korpikoski led the way with six hits.
Overall, as Ray Whitney told NHL.com’s Jerry Brown, the Coyotes have to rebound after a “deflating” game…
Whitney said Filppula’s [3-0] goal – just moments after Phoenix defenseman Adrian Aucoin hit the post – was especially deflating.
“You put the work in, you put the effort in and get a post from making it a close game and a shift later the puck is in your net and you’re down three goals,” Whitney said. “It’s frustrating when you have the fight in you and it’s not amounting to a whole lot.”
But the Red Wings were equally pleased with their effort…
“They were coming pretty hard at us, but we got goals on our first chances and that’s always hard to come back from,” said [Johan] Franzen, who was a game time decision with an ankle injury suffered in Game 2 – on the same play when he went face-first into the Joe Louis Arena boards and needed 23 stitches of repair.
At 1:57, Darren Helm separated Ed Jovanovski from the puck behind the Phoenix net and fed out to Salei at the left circle for a one-timer that hit a Phoenix player and skidded by Bryzgalov on Detroit’s first shot of the game. Just 44 seconds later, Niklas Kronwall’s shot from the right point deflected off Miller’s right shin pad in the slot. Suddenly the Red Wings, who had a 4-0 lead 21 minutes into Game 2, had a 2-0 lead before the Coyotes had sent a single shot toward Howard.
“It’s one of those goals … some of the guys are laughing that I haven’t scored a goal by a shot yet this year,” Miller said. “But I’ll take whatever I can. Sometimes dirty, garbage goals are the fun ones.”
And while Howard felt that his teammates made his workload a little easier than Bryzgalov’s…
“We had a third man high all night long. We made them come the full 200 feet,” Howard said. “We’re doing a tremendous job keeping it simple, tying up sticks, allowing me to see the puck. When I can see it, I’m going to stop it.’‘
The Wings insisted to the Associated Press that the Coyotes gave them a incredibly stiff challenge for all 60 minutes:
“We came out and weathered their storm,” Miller said. “They came out hitting and we got two big goals quick. From there, we just kept going. Every time they came hard, we found a way to push back and keep going.”
“We wanted to get out to a good start,” Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We knew they were going to come out hard and put on a good forecheck on us, and it was great the whole team responded with two quick goals on them.”
Howard turned back several good chances late in the first period, including consecutive kick saves on close-range shots, and Filppula drained the life from the building 2:50 into the second, taking a few seconds to gather the puck before flipping a shot past Bryzgalov.
Schlemko added a little life by lifting a power-play goal past Howard late in the second period, giving the Coyotes at least a little momentum. Franzen, who was questionable after being bloodied by Shane Doan on a check into the boards in Game 2, took it right back, scoring on a breakaway before many of the fans had returned to their seats in the third.
“In that third period, we got one on the first shift and that kind of killed their momentum right away,” Lidstrom said. “It was huge for us to get that fourth one fairly early in the third.”
So while the Wings were pleased with their ability to get to the Coyotes early, as they told Fox Sports Arizona’s Matt Swartz...
“Any time you come into another team’s building, they’re gonna play with a lot of energy, and we handled that really well,” Kronwall said after a game in which he finished plus-3. “Instead of trying to handle their pressure, we wanted to get the puck in and pressure them.”
If that didn’t silence the White-Out-frenzied crowd, Drew Miller’s play less than a minute later certainly did. After helping to pressure Coyotes forward Lee Stempniak in his own end and force a bad clearing attempt that was intercepted at the blue line, Miller got to the front of the net and tipped in a blast by Kronwall to make it 2-0 and all but end any hope the Coyotes had of a momentum-changing victory.
The pressure was already squarely on the Coyotes after going down 0-2 in the series, and facing an early two-goal deficit was simply too much to overcome.
“It hurt them,” Red Wings forward Johan Franzen said of the backbreaking early goals. Franzen played despite a huge stitched-up cut on his forehead (courtesy of a Game 3 hit by Shane Doan) that he said never had him thinking of sitting out. He added, “We got goals on our first chances, and that’s always hard to come back from.”
The Wings were equally pleased with the fact that the Coyotes’ decision to focus all their energy, hitting the Wings into next week aside, on shutting down Pavel Datsyuk simply didn’t work because Ruslan Salei, Drew Miller and Valtteri Filppula scored, Darren Helm registered an assist, Niklas Kronwall registered two assists, Jiri Hudler and Jonathan Ericsson posted assists and, in other words, the Wings’ players not named Franzen, Holmstrom, Lidstrom, Rafalski and Datsyuk were able to carry the day:
“Helmer’s (Helm’s) and Fil’s (Filppula’s) lines were a real dominant force,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They skated real well, were on the puck, and in the end, that allowed us to ... take a little wind out of their sails.”
But the Wings also insisted to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun that they didn’t do anything more than hold serve, and have a hard task ahead of them in attempting to close out the Coyotes as soon as humanly possible:
“That’s key if you can to close it out when you have a chance to do it to give yourself a few days in between series,” Wings captain Nick Lidstrom told ESPN.com. “But it’s not over yet. They’re going to come out with even a better effort in Game 4.”
“The teams that win in the end play less games than everybody else,” Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said after his team’s big win. “Everyone talks about a best-of-seven, to me it’s a race to four. Why would you play more games than you have to?”
“We did what we had to do,” veteran forward Kris Draper said matter-of-factly.
Lidstrom and Babcock agreed that the Wings wouldn’t have been able to jump on the Coyotes without, again, strong performances from their secondary scorers...
Star center Pavel Datsyuk was held off the scoresheet Monday night after terrorizing the Coyotes for five points in the opening two games. The Wings didn’t need his offense on this night.
“The depth on our team really helped us tonight,” said Lidstrom. “We didn’t have to rely on Pav tonight.”
Valterri Filppula’s line had two goals, while Darren Helm’s unit also had one. It allowed head coach Mike Babock, who didn’t have a last line change on the road, to roll his four lines in confidence and not worry as much about avoiding matchups.
“And that’s what we did, we weren’t concerned at all,” said Babock. “We went Pav first and third [shifts] like we do lots and they went [Martin] Hanzal first and third. So we knew it was a hard match, but we didn’t worry too much about it. We got our people on the ice. I actually thought Helm’s line and Fil’s line, which you would consider a third or fourth, were our best two lines today. I thought they were all over the puck. That’s what good depth is.”
Perhaps most importantly, as DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose notes, even when the Coyotes attempted to unnerve the Wings while going after one of the few players in the league to whom an, “It’s understood that you don’t run him” rule tends to apply, the Wings simply chose to respond in an understated manner instead of giving into the temptation to deliver retribution:
“We’re not doing that; we’re just going to play,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “So I don’t think we were as physical as we were the first two games and didn’t spend as much time in the offensive zone as we did the previous games, but that’s how we’re going to be physical. It won’t be after the whistle. To me that’s wasted energy.”
With the Wings leading 2-0 on Monday, the Coyotes began to surge a bit late when Taylor Pyatt became Public Enemy No. 1. Pyatt laid out Lidstrom, who never saw the former first-round draft pick of the Islanders coming. Before the hit, Lidstrom was tracking Coyotes forward Lee Stempniak behind the Wings’ net when out of nowhere, came the 6-foot-3 Pyatt, who lower a right shoulder into the captain. A small scrum ensued when Kris Draper went after Pyatt. If nothing else, some felt that Pyatt should have received an interference penalty for hitting Lidstrom who did not have the puck at the time of the hit.
“I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say,” Lidstrom said.
The second time that the Coyotes went after Lidstrom they were penalized. This time Shane Doan acted irrationally when, after a whistle, the Coyotes’ captain cross-checked Lidstrom in the middle of the back.
“I thought we responded real well as a team,” Lidstrom said. “Facing a good team like that we knew that they were going to put a good forecheck on us and be aggressive. We were just trying to respond back and wait for our chances.”
Lidstrom went so far as to suggest that the Coyotes weren’t targeting him per se, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted...
“They were just trying to make contract on most of the forechecks,’’ Lidstrom said.
“Definitely, you try to take away the leader (Lidstrom) and go after him,’’ [Drew] Miller said. “They’re behind, trying to fight their way back in. They’re going to do what they can to get back into it.’‘
And Patrick Eaves managed to recover from what looked like a hit that would take him out of the game from Pyatt, who whacked Eaves in the head with both his stick and arm from what we’ll call an…angle in which Eaves did not see his opponent coming. Eaves did, however, have to engage in the NHL’s new 15-minute concussion protocol (I keep on wondering whether the “quiet room” has candy, a comfy chair, and sneak attacks by the Spanish Inquisition):
“They just have to do that protocol, memory stuff,’’ Eaves said. “I didn’t think I needed it, but that’s the way things are now. They’re trying to protect players.’‘
Said Babcock: “I must have asked the trainer 15 times if we had the slowest clock in the world. I’ll give them my clock tomorrow and It’ll be more like seven (minutes).’‘
The Wings reiterated the concept hat they didn’t necessarily take the Coyotes’ targeting of Lidstrom personally while speaking to the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“If we were playing against the best D-man in the league,” Kronwall said, “I think we would try to play as physical as possible as well.”
“I think it just comes with being a great player,” Jimmy Howard said after a 28-save performance. “They probably wanted to see if they couldn’t get under his skin, but you know Nick is a very calm person on and off the ice. Nothing much really bothers him.”
And instead, the Wings acknowledged the magnitude of their win:
“Today is a huge swing game,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Let’s face it, if you’re 2-1 or 3-0, like, 3-0 is tough. And as much as these guys are all mentally tough, you’re over there and you know it’s 3-0, and it’s a monster to climb. We knew if we could get off to a good start, it’d help us.”
So they did. Ruslan Salei scored 1:57 into the game, blasting the puck from the top of the right circle after Darren Helm put a crushing hit on Ed Jovanovski to knock the puck away. Niklas Kronwall assisted on that goal and set up the one at 2:41 when he hammered a shot from the blue line that Drew Miller tipped while fighting off Adrian Aucoin down low.
“Some of the guys were laughing and saying that I haven’t scored a goal that I’ve shot in this whole year,” Miller said, smiling. “Take them any way I can. Sometimes the dirty garbage goals are fun ones to look back on.”
Babcock also gave due credit to Jimmy Howard, as St. James noted in her Notes and Quotes article:
Coach Mike Babcock: “We got off to a real good start. I thought Helmer’s line and Fil’s line were real dominant for us, skated real well and were on the puck, and in the end, that allowed us to get off to that start and take a little wind out of their sails. I thought Howie made some big saves and I thought our team did a pretty good job – a real good job five-on-five, we gave up two power play goals which I didn’t like.”
Miller: “It was just a big game for our team. We came out and weathered their storm. They were coming out hitting and we got two big goals, quick. From there, we just kept going, and every time they came hard, we found a way to push back and keep going.”
Howard: “You could tell everyone in here before the game was really focused. It was a good feeling going out in warm-ups.”
Lidstrom gave credit to both Howard and suggested that Johan Franzen’s goal, which made the score 4-1 at the time, may have been the back-breaker, not Miller’s 2-0 goal, as he told MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“They were throwing a lot of pucks, had a lot of traffic in front of him. He really responded well,’’ Lidstrom said. “He deflected some of the shots to the corners and put them out of the danger areas.’‘
Howard credited a strong team defense.
“We had a third man high all night long,’’ Howard said. “We made them come the full 200 feet. When you just get it in, get it deep. It’s tough on them when they have to come the full 200 (feet). We’re doing a tremendous job keeping it simple, tying up sticks, allowing me to see the puck. When I can see it, I’m going to stop it.’‘
Franzen’s goal was the crushing blow, coming on a breakaway after an outlet pass from Jonathan Ericsson. That made it 4-1.
“It was very important, especially early in the third period,’’ Lidstrom said. “We knew they were going to come out with a strong effort and throw everything at us. To be able to score on the first shift was key for us.’‘
Howard told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that he’s just doing his job...
“I’m just trying to be on top of the crease and let the puck hit me. I’m not trying to do too much.”
And Kulfan took note of the game’s biggest off-ice story, regarding Wings coach Mike Babcock’s mind game with the press regarding Johan Franzen’s status. Babcock insisted that Franzen was a “game-time decision” due to his facial injuries and a slightly sore ankle:
“It’s one of those things we have to be sure,” Babcock said. “We’re in a good situation and can afford to be smart in what you’re doing. We had (Mike) Modano dressed in case he (Franzen) couldn’t go but obviously he felt good enough and scored a huge goal for us.”
“I thought I was going to play,” said Franzen, who added he felt “good.”
Franzen said he didn’t skate at Sunday’s practice because it was a “maintenance day.” He was on the ice for only a brief period at Monday’s morning skate because it was an optional, he said, and wanted to test his new visor.
“It was fine,” Franzen said.
Franzen told Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating that, at least in his mind, there was no question that he’d play, and he made an intriguing comment about his breakaway goal, as Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji noted:
“I had good confidence coming down there, that always helps,” a battered-looking Franzen told Keating about his goal. “If this would been two weeks ago, maybe I wouldn’t have put it in the net.”
And regarding Jimmy Howard’s play?
“I just feel good out there,” Howard told Keating. “I’m just playing, letting the pucks hit me. I’m not trying to do too much, just trying to give the guys a chance to win.”
Going forward, the Wings have no illusions about the old adage that the fourth game is the hardest one to win…
“It’s always very tough to close out somebody’s season,” Howard said. “We’re going to have to find a way.”
But Howard doesn’t want to hear the word “sweep” right now.
“We can’t think of that,” he said. “They’re going to throw everything at us here Wednesday night and we’re going to have to come out and match their start again. We did a great job here in the first three games of matching their intensity and it’s going to have to be the same thing.”
And while the Free Press’s Michael Rosenberg argues that the Wings are all but unbeatable right now, I tend to agree with Wakiji—the Wings have been very good for 30-40 minutes at a time but not great, with a still-too-porous defense that’s shaking off its late-season slump by giving up fewer grade-A chances and a penalty-kill that’s still puzzlingly ineffective because the Wings’ players continue to chase the puck carrier (though the goals the Wings gave up on Monday night weren’t anything more than a perfectly-placed shot by Schlemko and a bad bounce off Ruslan Salei’s butt).
Mostly, however, I simply believe that the Wings’ early-season fit-and-finish still isn’t there. Babcock and the Wings tend to believe that in the playoffs, because your opponent is so desperate and will get their chances, whether you win 4-0 or 4-3 or 5-4 in overtime, a win’s a win, and you can’t judge playoff wins on style points, but the Wings have all-too-consistently let the Coyotes off the mat by surrendering puck possession to Phoenix and still occasionally making some glaring turnovers while either getting too cute in the neutral zone or not bearing down hard enough on clearing attempts.
There’s still too much traffic in front of Howard, too, and while that’s to be expected, the Wings aren’t necessarily getting their sticks and legs in shooting lanes to block passes, nor are they on the “inside” of puck battles in their own zone so that they can tie up the sticks of the big bodies that will inevitably try to camp out in front of Howard.
All of that being said, the Red Wings are getting better over the course of every game. They’re learning from their mistakes, they’re playing more efficiently in the general sense of the term, and they’re more than matching their opponent’s intensity, urgency and desperation thanks to both offensive and defensive depth (Lidstrom only played 18 minutes on Monday, and only Niklas Kronwall, Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Stuart and Brian Rafalski cleared the 20-minute mark), fantastic first-stop goaltending from Howard and a level of composure that’s driving the hard-charging Coyotes to distraction on a sometimes near-comical level.
As Babcock told Rosenberg, the Wings want to get this series over with…
Babcock, who never takes his foot off the gas pedal, made it clear he is thinking sweep.
“Everyone talks about best of seven,” he said. “To me, it’s a race to four. Why would you play more games than you have to?”
And while the s-word is a dirty word to the Wings’ players, their points of emphasis, as noted by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, are worth repeating:
“We wanted to get a good start on them and we knew they’d come out hard,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It was a great way we responded. But we know we haven’t accomplished anything yet.”
“It was a big game for our team,” Miller said. “We came out and weathered the storm. They came out hitting but we got two goals quick and from there we kept going. Every time they came out hard, we found a way to push back.”
The Red Wings have clearly left behind their pattern of slow starts, which were so commonplace in their regular-season games. From the start, or the get-go, as they say around the NHL, the Wings were the more determined team. Shrugging off some big early hits by a Phoenix team that perhaps emphasized body-checking at the expense of positional play, the Wings continued to control the puck and push their attack.
Just under 2 minutes in, 190-pound Darren Helm knocked 230-pound Ed Jovanovski off the puck behind the Phoenix net, grabbed the puck and flung it toward the slot, where it found its way to Ruslan Salei, pinching from the point. Salei scored. Then, as the Wings continued to control the puck, Drew Miller tipped a shot from the point by Niklas Kronwall into the net at 2:41. Two minutes and 12 seconds before Phoenix would fire its first shot, the Red Wings led 2-0.
For the first 8:30, the Wings outshot Phoenix 8-2. They were at the head of the backstretch before Phoenix could respond.
The thing that amazes me about Helm is that as his fitness level’s ratcheted up to near-Kris Draper levels, he’s also taken a few lessons in leverage-making from Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, so while the 5’11” Helm isn’t nearly as big as Justin Abdelkader (6’1,” 212 lbs), he’s equally adept at using his speed and strength to push bigger opponents off the puck as if they were little guys.
And I’ll let a few stats and observations from DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose take us out:
By the Numbers: 11: Justin Abdelkader won 11 face-offs and lost only six in Game 3, leading the Wings’ centermen in face-off percentage, at 65 percent.
167: Tomas Holmstrom played in his 167th playoff game with the Wings tonight. That number ties him with Darren McCarty for fifth all-time in Red Wings franchise history.
4: Valtteri Filppula lead the Wings with four shots. Four players tied for second with three.
Grinder: Pavel Datsyuk had four points in Game 2. While he was held off the scoresheet in Game 3, he still made quite an impact for the Wings. Datsyuk had three blocked shots, three takeaways, two hits, one shot, and nine face-off wins in the 4-2 win. The Wings’ center finished plus-1 on the night.
Overlooked Stat: Four is the magic number for the Wings, after once again beating Bryzgalov four times. Detroit has won 55 straight playoff games, including the first three games of this series, when they have posted four or more goals.
Highlights: ESPN posted a 1:41 highlight clip which includes commentary from Barry Melrose;
TSN posted a 1:58 highlight clip;
Sportsnet posted a 2:08 highlight clip;
The CBC posted a 1:52 highlight clip;
NBC posted a 1:52 highlight clip;
And NHL.com’s highlight clip is narrated by Versus’ announcers:
Post-game: TSN posted a short clip of Craig Button and Steve Kouleas raving about Darren Helm;
The CBC posted a 36-second clip of Jimmy Howard’s big saves, as well as an 8-minute clip of the “After 40 Minutes” segment, Kelly Hrudey bashing Ilya Bryzgalov, a little pre-game musical montage and a 3:52 game wrap-up which includes an interview with Niklas Kronwall;
Fox Sports Arizona posted Jody Jackson and Tyson Nash’s recap, which includes comments from Kyle Turris, a 3:33 clip of Dave Tippett’s post-game presser and a 2:24 clip of Shane Doan and Ed Jovanovski’s post-game comments;
Yandle, Turris and Doan’s comments…
And Dave Tippett’s post-game presser:
Fox Sports Detroit posted clips of Johan Franzen, Jimmy Howard and coach Mike Babcock’s post-game comments and Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s recap;
And the Red Wings’ website posted Mike Babcock’s post-game presser:
The Detroit News posted a 35-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 17-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 13-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 41-image gallery;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 7-image gallery;
Shots 34-30 Detroit overall, breaking down as 13-9 Detroit in the 1st, 12-8 Phoenix in the 2nd and 13-9 Detroit in the 3rd.
The Coyotes went 2 for 3 in 4:47 of PP time; the Wings went 0 for 4 in 8:00 of PP time.
Howard stopped 32 of 34; Bryzgalov stopped 30 of 34.
The 3 stars, per the “Coyotes Broadcasting Network,” were Niklas Kronwall, Kyle Turris and Jimmy Howard.
The Wings’ goals: Salei (1) from Helm (1) and Kronwall (1);
Miller (1) from Kronwall (2);
Filppula (1) from Hudler (1);
Franzen (2) from Ericsson (1).
Faceoffs: 34-28 Detroit (55% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots: 15-13 Detroit;
Missed shots: 20-19 Phoenix (total shot attempts 66-65 Detroit);
Hits: 36-27 Phoenix;
Giveaways: 5-2 Phoenix;
Takeaways: 7-6 Detroit.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 9-and-9 (50%); Filppula went 8-and-8 (50%); Abdelkader went 11-and-5 (69%); Draper went 4-and-4 (50%); Eaves lost his only faceoff; Helm lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Filppula led the team with 4 shots; Miller, Salei, Ericsson and Franzen had 3; Cleary, Stuart, Rafalski, Helm, Bertuzzi, Kronwall and Holmstrom had 2; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Datsyuk and Eaves had 1.
Blocked attempts: Bertuzzi, Filppula and Kronwall had 2 shot attempts blocked by Phoenix players; Lidstrom, Eaves, Salei, Hudler, Draper, Helm and Holmstrom had single shot attempts blocked.
Missed shots: Eaves missed the net 3 times; Lidstrom, Cleary and Miller missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Stuart, Salei, Rafalski, Draper, Bertuzzi, Filppula, Franzen and Holmstrom missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Ericsson and Kronwall co-led the team with 4 hits; Helm had 3; Datsyuk, Eaves, Stuart, Bertuzzi and Franzen had 2; Lidstrom, Miller, Salei, Rafalski, Draper and Filppula had 1.
Giveaways: Only Cleary and Franzen had giveaways.
Takeaways: Datsyuk had 3 takeaways; Eaves, Stuart, Helm and Kronwall had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: Datsyuk blocked 3 shots; Bertuzzi, Ericsson and Kronwall blocked 2 Coyotes shots; Eaves, Stuart, Salei, rafalski, Draper and Filppula blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Abdelkader, Eaves, Miller and Holmstrom were tagged by minor penalties.
Plus-minus: Salei and Kronwall finished at +3; Miller, Hudler and Filppula finished at +2; Cleary, Datsyuk, Eaves, Rafalski, Draper, Helm, Ericsson and Franzen finished at +1.
Points: Kronwall had 2 assists; Miller, Salei, Filppula and Franzen had goals; Hudler, Helm and Ericsson had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 23:24 played; Rafalski played 21:32; Datsyuk played 20:45;
Stuart played 20:15; Ericsson played 19:45; Franzen played 18:52;
Filppula played 18:17; Lidstrom played 18:03; Cleary played 17:34;
Salei played 17:01; Abdelkader played 15:09; Bertuzzi played 14:05;
Holmstrom played 13:23; Helm played 11:38; Miller played 11:34;
Hudler played 11:19; Eaves played 10:32; Draper played 10:05.
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