The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/20/11 at 04:27 PM ET
Updated 9x at 9:38 with a clever take on the Chrysler 200 commercial: I don’t know about you, but as the Detroit Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes prepare to face off tonight (10:30 PM EDT, FSD/FS Arizona/CBC/Versus/WXYT), I’m feeling anxious and jittery. I want this series to be over as much as the Wings do for the sakes of recuperating from the injuries inflicted upon them by the Coyotes’ physical players, keeping their “air miles” down and plain old ensuring that when you’ve got an opponent down, you take ‘em out.
The Wings need to display extremely focused, determined and disciplined play against a team that’s insisted it will channel its ownership uncertainty into a “last stand” mentality, physically and otherwise, and given that they’ve all but guaranteed a win tonight, the Wings have an incredibly stiff task ahead of them this evening.
That being said, it wouldn’t be particularly bad for sleep-deprived Wings fans, their blood pressure and anxiety levels included, to witness a tightly-contested an extremely intense series reach its conclusion for a little fan R&R as well, and as I’ve woken up with an accelerated heartbeat and in an, “Oh shiznit, I’m sure I missed something!” panic every time I’ve succumbed to a few hours of sleep, I’m ready for this thing to be over as of yesterday.
In any case, while the Coyotes’ website just posted Tippett and Babcock’s game-day pressers, I got a head-start on this entry because I didn’t feel like sitting on the following stories. Thus, my good timing equals a smorgasbord of pre-game reading to alleviate your and my jitters:
• Via RedWingsFeed, we’ve got some early multimedia via NHL Blackberry All-Access’s game preview…
• Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner also spoke to WBBL’s Bakita and Grey about tonight’s game:
• Spiffier: here’s the video the Red Wings played in their rink prior to Original Six games:
• Steve Yzerman was named one of the finalists for the NHL’s GM of the Year award, and Wings assistant GM Jim Nill had this to say about the news to NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale:
“It comes as no surprise that Steve is a nominee for GM of the year,” Detroit VP/Assistant GM Jim Nill told NHL.com. “Throughout Steve’s career, whether on the ice or in the boardroom, he raised the bar in the NHL to the highest standards through his integrity, commitment and hard work. It is the Steve Yzermans who make hockey such a great game to be associated with.”
• On Wings of the present: MLive’s Ansar Khan focused upon the Wings’ leader in ice time and not-so-surprising #1C leader on the blueline in one Niklas Kronwall, whose donning of an alternate captain’s “A” toward the end of the season reflects the Wings’ belief that Kronwall is essential to the team both on and off the ice:
“Lidstrom and (Brian) Rafalski are elite players, but Kronwall’s a guy in the organization that has to come to the forefront,” Babcock said. “He’s capable of playing the most minutes — power play, penalty-kill, even strength. He can be the most active (joining the rush). He’s a physical guy who can really make plays and we think he’s an elite player.”
“He’s been great,” teammate Brad Stuart said. “He’s moving the puck well, skating well. He’s getting shots through, making good decisions. He’s always been a great player, he’s getting results right now.”
Lidstrom averaged two minutes less per game during the season (23:28) and has played even more sparingly this series (18:51), ranking fifth among the team’s defensemen.
“That’s been the plan, especially going into the playoffs,” Lidstrom said. “Hopefully, we’ll go for a long run and it’ll keep us fresher. The minutes have been more evened out, if you look at the six D, compared to the regular season. That’s been by design as well.”
The Wings feel that Kronwall’s become a much more vocal leader, too::
Said Lidstrom: “I think I seen that the last half of the season, where he’s been more vocal. I think he feels confident in that role, too. You hear more on the bench, just encouraging and pushing the guys.”
• On the Wings of the present, part II: Fox Sports Detroit’s Regner talked about the Kharlamov Trophy Winner, a.k.a. Pavel Datsyuk, in his blog today:
“He’s stronger than people think he is,” Lidstron said of Datsyuk. “He’s strong on his skates; he’s hard to knock down. You’ll see guys try to hit him and they fall down. He’s balanced and his legs are so strong. That’s what makes him so good. He has the great skills with the hands and he makes all the moves, but he’s very strong on his feet.”
Recently, Datsyuk was named the winner of the Kharlamov Trophy, awarded to the league’s most valuable Russian player. Every active Russian player in the NHL votes on the award, and the usually fun-loving Datsyuk was extremely moved to receive this prestigious honor.
“For me this is a big thing,” Datsyuk said. “I am very happy for this award. He (Kharlamov) was one of my hero players . Like Steve Yzerman, he not have a big body, but he play hard, hard, hard. When I think about him, he was really fast, smart, had a good hockey heart and hard to stop him.”
Valeri Kharlamov was not only one of the greatest Russian hockey players ever, he’s one of the sports all-time greats. Kharlamov was a complete player, combining intelligence, grittiness, agility and a goal-scoring touch that earned him a worldwide fan base. His play inspired generations of hockey players.
Tragically, Kharlamov was killed in a car accident along with his wife on Aug. 27, 1981. Kharlamov was 33. This summer in Moscow, Datsyuk will receive his trophy, and as happy as Pavel will be on that day, I believe that somewhere Valeri Kharlamov will also be smiling, knowing that his legacy is being preserved by another virtuoso on skates, Pavel Datsyuk.
• In the Wings of the future category, RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest asked Hakan Andersson, the Wings’ director of European scouting, to weigh in on a pair of prospects who the Wings hope will develop into solid offensive contributors down the line in the rail-thin Calle Jarnkrok (who won’t participate in the World Championships for Sweden as he’s recovering from a discloated shoulder) and Teemu Pulkkinen (who’s recovered from a kidney infection and will play for Finland at the Worlds):
“Jarnkrok [has the edge], for better work ethic,” Andersson said. “Pulkkinen has a lot of talent. He has a great shot that he doesn’t use enough, he’s got good sense, he’s a good passer — just like Jarnkrok — but Jarnkrok really gives it everything he has, every shift, which is something that obviously can be taught, but it’s really nice when a player has it from the beginning.”
That’s what the Red Wings look for perhaps more than anything else in prospects, and it’s the kind of thing that helps a player develop beyond the expectations of the masses. Look no further than Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg for Exhibits A and B. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound center led all junior-aged Swedish Elite League players in scoring this season, collecting 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points in 49 games with Brynas. He also had two goals and three assists in six games at the IIHF world junior championship in December and January. Andersson said Jarnkrok wore down a little bit late in the season due to his lack of strength and the high number of games played, but otherwise raved about 19-year-old’s upside as a potential top-six forward.
“I think he proved during the world juniors, he’s going to be a very good player,” Andersson said. “He’s got all the other stuff, like the hockey sense, the hands, and very good work ethic.”
In the playoffs, Jarnkrok had three goals in three games before separating his shoulder. It’s a big off-season setback for Jarnkrok, who “can’t do anything for three months,” according to Andersson. He’ll now spend the summer on rehab instead of advancement. As for Pulkkinen, all he did was average nearly a point per game in the Finnish SM-Liiga as a 19-year-old, producing 18 goals and 36 assists for 54 points in 55 games for Jokerit Helsinki. The 5-foot-11, 183-pound right-winger even broke Teemu Selanne’s 20-year-old single-season record for rookie assists.
“He had a hell of a year,” Andersson said.
• And here’s our first Coyotes game-day update in Coyotes coach Dave Tippett’s game-day presser from the Coyotes’ website…
As well as comments from Radim Vrbata…
And, thankfully, Babcock’s presser:
Update the first: Here’s The Hockey News’s game preview…
DETROIT RED WINGS AT PHOENIX COYOTES
Game 1: 4-2 Red Wings
Game 2: 4-3 Red Wings
Game 3: 4-2 Red Wings
Game 4: 10:30 Wednesday
Notes: If this is in fact the last series for the Coyotes three players involved share something in common: Shane Doan was a member of the Winnipeg Jets and Kris Draper and Nicklas Lidstrom were members of the Red Wings in Winnipeg’s final game… Ilya Bryzgalov’s 4.11 GAA is second-worst to only Dan Ellis… In his past two playoff appearances, Bryzgalov’s GAA has been more than a goal higher than his regular season mark… Phoenix has goals from five different players this series; Detroit had goals from four different players in Game 3… Brad Stuart is the only Wings defenseman without a point… Detroit has no minus players, while Phoenix has no plus players… Jimmy Howard’s .923 SP and 2.33 GAA is the best of all Western Conference goalies who have played at least one full game in the playoffs.
Quote worthy: “It will be the ultimate test of our mindset and how we’re going to deal with it. We talk about using it as a motivating factor, not as something that’s poor us. That’s been our mandate from Day 1 and that won’t change.” – Phoenix coach Dave Tippett on talk of the team moving to Winnipeg at the end of the season.
THN’s STARS OF THE SERIES
1. Pavel Datsyuk (6)
2. Jimmy Howard (6)
3. Shane Doan/Niklas Kronwall (2)
• And WXYZ’s Tom Leyden weighed in on Yzerman’s nomination for the NHL’s GM of the year.
• One more thing: tonight’s refs are Brad Watson and Greg Kimmerly, and Shane Heyer and Johnny Murray will be working the lines.
Update the second: Annotating Babcock’s comments, via the Wings’ Twitter account:
Babcock cited last night’s Blackhawks-Canucks game as good motivation for his team to get the job done tonight in his presser.
Babcock: The fourth game is always the hardest.
Babcock was asked about his fourth line: Helmer, Eaves and Draper do things right. And they do it right shift after shift after shift.
Update the third: MLive’s Ansar Khan says that the Wings won’t make a single lineup change tonight, and he offers a bit more from Babcock’s presser:
Coach Mike Babcock, after today’s morning skate, spoke of Helm’s impact in the series and his importance to the team.
“Helm’s an elite player, probably not a fourth-line player,’’ Babcock said. “Helmer and (Patrick) Eaves and (Kris) Draper do things right and they do it right shift after shift after shift. So when the game’s not going your way they do things right.’‘
Phoenix has a strong, puck-moving defense. But the Coyotes have been forced into making turnovers and are losing physical battles to Helm and other grinders.
“They hunt down the other team’s D,’’ Babcock said. “All you got to do is go down a few times with Helmer on your back and anybody’s who’s gone back for pucks doesn’t like doing that very often. He plays heavy, he’s big in the fact that he’s a fit guy and he makes you pay. I just think he’s a real good player for us. He’s gotten better and better as time’s gone on and we’re a much better forechecking team with him and (Justin) Abdelkader than we have been in the past.’‘
• Also: The Hockey News’s Adam Proteau gave Johan Franzen a nod as one of the best playoff performers on a single-game basis in history.
Update the fourth: Here’s Shane Doan speaking to the Coyotes’ website…
As well as Mikkel Boedeker’s comments:
Update the fifth: Per the Free Press’s Helene St. James, the Wings and Coyotes have very different focuses heading into tonight’s game:
Facing elimination, the Blackhawks hammered the Vancouver Canucks, 7-2. To Babcock, it was a stark message for the 3-0 Wings.
“I think, last night, to be honest with you, is better than any coach talking,” Babcock said. “Our players are smart guys. They watched. No team wants to lose. They want to keep their season going. They’re going to compete hard, and they’re going to lay it on the line. And if you want to beat them, then you have to beat them, you don’t just put your sticks on the ice. Anything I was planning on saying today, I thought it got said way better last night.”
From the Coyotes’ point of view, the inspiration comes from remembering how the Philadelphia Flyers came back from a 3-0 deficit in their second-round series against Boston last spring.
“Look at what Philly did last year; I guess that was the last time it was done,” Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. “You’ve got to make sure you just find a way to win the next period and then go from there. We’ve been written off a few times as a group, depending on what the situation was, whether or not we were going to find ways to win or finds ways to compete, and we’re still here as a team. Hopefully, we can draw on some of that.”
Update 5.5: Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson spoke to Hokeykanalen.se about what he’s up to at the Under-18 World Championships. In Swedish.
Update the sixth: From the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
If the Red Wings had any intention of letting up and coasting to victory, all they had to do was watch Vancouver (which led its series 3-0 before losing to Chicago 7-2) or Los Angeles (which blew a 4-0 second-period lead to San Jose) on Tuesday to realize what could happen to an overconfident team.
“Our players watched,” said coach Mike Babcock, whose Wings lead their series against the Coyotes 3-0. “No teams want to lose. They want to keep their season going, and they’ll play hard and lay it on the line. If you want to beat them, they you have to beat them. Anything I was going to say today, it was said better last night (with the results).”
A Phoenix victory would force Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena on Friday evening. Babcock said there will be no changes in the lineup tonight.
• Also, from the Wings’ Twitter account:
Get ready for Game 4 by downloading your official Red Wings Stanley Cup Playoff desktop wallpaper here: http://bit.ly/hlATSS
The wallpapers are really gorgeous.
Update #7: Here’s Dave Vest’s game preview from the Coyotes’ website:
“We’ve been able to win games before when we needed to and we need to find a way to win this next one,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said.
The Coyotes are hoping to use energy provided by another “WhiteOut” crowd to their advantage.
“You’ve got a lot of guys that really want to do well,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s one thing wanting to do well and another thing accomplishing your goal. That’s where we have to take it to the next step. You have to accomplish winning rather than just hoping to win.”
Ilya Bryzgalov, who has allowed four goals in each of the first three games of this series, will start in goal for the Coyotes.
“We just can’t give up,” Bryzgalov said. “We just have to step onto the ice and play hard and try to win the game. If we win we’re going to stay alive… You never know what’s going to happen. Maybe our luck is going to change and we’ll get fortunate bounces and will start to win some games. It’s a really thin line in hockey. Sometimes we hit the post and pucks go out and sometimes we hit the post and pucks go in… That’s why we have to continue to play hard and work hard and try hard.”
Update #8: From the Coyotes’ website, here’s Lauri Korpikoski talking about tonight’s game…
As well as an audio clip of Sean Burke talking to Dave Vest about Game 4;
WXYZ posted a game-day update:
And our Sean Baligian and Killer Kowalski both spoke to USA Today’s Kevin Allen about the playoffs…
As well as the wacky suggestion that Pavel Datsyuk could be a superstar of a different kind somewhere else…
• From the Coyotes’ side of things, Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan reports that prospective owner Matthew Hulsizer is going to tend the game;
• The CBC’s Series blogger took note of the fact that the Coyotes hold the advantage on special teams thus far...
After an 0-for-6 performance in Game 1, Phoenix’s power play took the heat for the loss, but in Games 2 and 3, the Coyotes have scored all five of their goals while enjoying the man advantage and are clicking at a 31.2 per cent success rate for the series.Now, it’s their 5-on-5 play that’s under scrutiny.
“Our special teams have been better than theirs in the three games,” Tippett said. “If you look at our 5-on-5 scoring chances, we’re getting as many as them, they’re just burying theirs. In Game 3, their first two goals came on what I wouldn’t even consider to be scoring chances. We had two or three great chances in the first period, they just didn’t go in. We have to bury some chances.”
And Kris Draper stated the obvious about his history as a Jet…
“I got drafted by them, I scored my first goal as a Winnipeg Jet, played my first NHL game there,” Draper said. “Those are the kind of things you’re always going to remember. The one thing that I’ve always said is that they could have kept me in the organization as a depth player. They felt I wasn’t in their plans and they moved me, and that’s something that I’ll never forget and will always be thankful for.”
In 1993, the Jets sold Draper’s contract to the Wings for one dollar.
“Imagine if they didn’t want to make that one dollar trade?” Draper pondered. “What would have happened? Coming here and being in the Wings organization since 1993-94, it’s been an unbelievable ride, and I just want to keep this thing going.”
• The Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen spoke to both a Coyote and a Wing about Detroit’s defensive play...
“There was a lot of talk about how Detroit wasn’t playing as well defensively, this season in general,” the Coyotes’ Whitney said. “I beg to differ.”
Safe to say the Winged Wheelers are up on the radar these days with their dominant start to the post-season. After three years in a row of making at least the conference final (lost conference final, won Stanley Cup, lost Cup final), last season’s second-round playoff loss was so un-Wheely.
“We’re not giving up as many scoring chances as we did last year,” perennial Norris Trophy candidate Nicklas Lidstrom of the Wings said before Game 4 of the Western Conference series against Phoenix. “We didn’t play as well defensively during the regular season. But we’ve tightened things up now in the playoffs.”
And they have begun to erase the memory of a team that ranked 23rd in goals against going into the Stanley Cup chase.
“You need to be that this time of year,” Detroit forward Kris Draper said. “There are no excuses for what went on during the regular season. We definitely weren’t as good in our own end as we should have been. Right now we’re a focused team, we’re playing desperate hockey and we’re doing a lot of good things in the neutral zone.”
• DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose posted a notebook which includes a chaat with Drew Miller as well as a big note about the physical onslaught the Wings are bracing for...
“No team wants to lose. They want to keep their season going” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They will compete hard and lay it all on the line.”
“It happens every year,” said [Nicklas]Lidstrom, referring to the physical abuse. “So I’m not surprised by it. That’s just the way playoff hockey is. They try to go after certain guys or try to finish checks and be physical. That’s part of playoff hockey and that’s why it’s fun too, and why you’re so excited about playing in the playoffs.”
The thing that the Wings can’t do is retaliate: “Just stay poised,” Lidstrom said. “Don’t throw the puck away unless you have to. You can make plays when they’re coming after you hard and you can make plays around them and find openings that way.”
Following Wednesday’s morning skate, Babcock was asked if he thought that a possible move out of Arizona was on the minds of players and coaches in the Phoenix locker room.
“If you’re Dave Tippett and you’re one of the best coaches in the league, hear that stuff it bothers you for a second, and you get on with your day,” Babcock said. “That’s what players do too. These players all have busy lives and things going on. When they come to the rink they’re businessmen. And they’re doing everything they can to win. To me it has no bearing on anything; you come here to play the game. And at the end they’ll tell them if they’re staying or not. … So to me, that’s what you do.”
• And in the “quick notes” department:
1. According to Sports.ru, it’s official: former Wing Dominik Hasek won’t play for Spartak Moscow next season;
2. And Mike Babcock’s sun wasn’t the only person with Wings ties drafted by a USHL team, as noted by the developmental league’s website:
The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders selected forward Michael Babcock in the fifth round (68th overall). He is the son of Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. Nine picks earlier in the fourth round, the Chicago Steel drafted defenseman Jacob McNamara who is the son of Bob McNamara, the general manager of the Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings.
Update 9.5: Salei still hates talking to the media, via Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News.
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About The Malik Report
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.