The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/21/11 at 02:46 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 6-3 on Wednesday night/Thursday morning (depending on the time zone you occupy), but the final score doesn’t tell the game’s story at all. The Wings had to overcome the kinds of bad bounces that the Coyotes endured over the first three games of the series, rallying from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits to tie the game, eventually go ahead and hang on against an out-and-out assault by an emotional and determined Coyotes team that may have given the Wings their toughest sweep over the course of their 20-year, 19-season playoff run.
The Red Wings were far from perfect in the first round, but as Scotty Bowman often said, the first round is the most dangerous round, and when you survive it while improving on a game-by-game basis, and then surviving the final game (especially without the services of both Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen)...
You’ve accomplished something important and something significant. You’ve taken the first step, and in the Wings’ case, you’ve taken the first step forward in what you hope will be the chance to earn a long playoff run in the shortest period of time possible so that you can rest, recuperate, heal bruises, as Jimmy Howard told John Keating, earn some rare family time at this time of year and hope that everyone else “goes long” and beats the snot out of each other.
For the Wings, a short series isn’t as much about age as it is about the players who were injured getting time to heal and the odometer on Red Bird II and the time changes the players have to endure being kept as low as possible early on. They might have to fear a little rust going forward, but it’s more than worth what the Wings will earn in the exchange in terms of time to recharge their physical and mental reserves.
As for the Coyotes? I have nothing but respect for the Yotes and their fans. I am indeed an old Jets fan, and I remember the Wings taking the Jets right out of the playoffs and Winnipeg, so at the same time, I have no sympathy for them in this case—what the Wings did was business, and the Coyotes and their captain, who might be classy but also tried to injure Wings players at every opportunity, were simply in Detroit’s way. Now the Wings get to stay away from Doan and move on, and the Coyotes…
Well, I remember how the media picked over their course and tore up the hearts of Winnipeggers in 1996, and the Canadian media’s doing the same thing to Phoenix fans right now, which I find nothing less than distasteful and borderline disgusting. I want to see a team in Winnipeg again, too, but I hope that it’s not Phoenix that ends up there.
Quite frankly, in no small part due to the fact that my respect for the Coyotes overrides my disdain for them. They’re a team that drives opposing teams’ fans nuts and I’m very proud of the Wings for not buying into the physical crap the Coyotes tried to lure them into biting upon. This series was short but intense, bitterly fought, incredibly physical and downright vicious at times.
The Wings out-lasted Phoenix, got the job done, and now a team that needs to work on its penalty-killing, making their superb goaltender’s job easier and get the PP going a little more regularly can boast, well, stellar goaltending, balanced play from all four lines and three defensive pairs, dominant play not only from Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard but also savvy from Niklas Kronwall, Valtteri Filppula, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Ruslan Salei of all people and the kind of calm poise, determination and swagger that we haven’t seen from a Red Wings team in the playoffs…
For about three years now.
Four down. Four down, a few days of rest, and then it’s gonna be the next race to four. Don’t look too far ahead, folks. Yes, we want sixteen, and we want sixteen to equal
twelve, but for now, it’s four down, a little time to rest and then time to prepare for the next race to four.
That, and like the players, we do get to enjoy this one for a little while, and given how hard the Yotes pushed the Wings last season, man, a sweep does feel effin appropriate. It’s the ultimate restraining order on Mr. Doan and the rest of ‘em.
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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.