The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/20/11 at 06:35 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes face off tonight (10:30 PM EDT, FSD/FS Arizona/Versus/CBC/WXYT) in a game which, depending on your point of view, may determine the future of the Coyotes’ franchise or simply lengthen a playoff series that is both an on-ice and off-ice grind due to its physical nature and extended travel between far-flung cities.
The Detroit Red Wings very simply stated on Tuesday that they’re hoping to finish off the tenacious, gritty Coyotes as soon as humanly possible for the sake of reducing the miles on their bodies that helped aid an early ouster in the second round against San Jose last spring.
The Coyotes, who remain masters of the art of self-belief, insist that they will do nothing less than head to Detroit after Wednesday night’s game as they build the foundation for a near-miraculous comeback-in-the-making, cuing up the classic “nobody believes in us but us” cliches while speaking to PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest:
“I’m sure there’s not a lot of hope outside of this room, but we’ve been a team that’s battled through a lot of adversity all year,” Coyotes defenseman David Schlemko said after the team’s optional practice on Tuesday. “…We’re just taking it one (game) at a time.”
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov echoed Schlemko when asked about the team’s approach to getting back into the series.
“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.”
Do the Coyotes have nothing left to lose? You bet:
“Sometimes, in (the) playoffs you get a little uptight, but I think we have nothing to lose now,” defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. “Our backs are against the wall, obviously, and we have to find a way to see another day. We’ll talk about what we have to do, but I think for the most part we all know what we have to do.”
And Shane Doan issued his best playoff bluster while speaking to the media, as did Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, as noted by the Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio:
“I don’t think we’re going to get too caught up in everything,” he said. “We’re gonna maybe focus on just trying to win a period … worried about winning a game after that. We’ve been able to win games before when we needed to and we need to find a way to win this next. And after that, you go into Detroit, and you hope you find a way one there, which we were able to do last year in the playoffs. You’re going to take the positives out of everything.”
Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who helped Anaheim win a Stanley Cup in 2007, has not been at his best in this series. Coach Dave Tippett said Bryzgalov knows what it is going to take to turn his game around, and he discussed the situation with goaltending coach Sean Burke on Tuesday.
“There’s some issues where he thinks he’s trying too hard on some stuff, so he’ll probably be like the rest of us,” Tippett said. “We’ve got to relax a little bit and just go and give every drop of energy we have, and it’s got to be constructive smart energy, not overplaying energy, and again you have to come down to find ways to win. Is it a big save? Is it a power play goal? Is it defending? It’s find a way to win. Actually if you look at how we played all year that’s kind of who we’ve been. You’ve got a lot of guys that really want to do well. 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.”
If you believe Twitter and Paul Bissonette, and I’d argue that even “BizNasty 2.0” isn’t necessarily a reputable source of information in the playoffs, the Coyotes’ resident enforcer will join the lineup to reinforce what the Coyotes insist is the core of their identity in physical play as part of Tippett’s line changes.
Tippett told NHL.com’s Jerry Brown that, aside from the Turris-Boedeker line, he plans on shaking things up...
“(The Turris line) has been pretty good in every game, Kyle especially,” Tippett said. “But you have to look at the circumstances of the games. We’ve been down in games, so Kyle’s gotten more time because we need offense. If we’d been defending a lead, maybe (Vernon) Fiddler’s line gets more.”
Taylor Pyatt had a strong Game 3, but Fiddler and Lee Stempniak continue to struggle mightily – not just in the playoffs, but for weeks. Stempniak, who has no goals and 2 points in 10 playoff games against the Red Wings over the last two seasons, played just eight minutes in Game 3 and might have to earn his time now.
“I wish I would have scored a goal, but you have to focus on getting shots and getting to areas where the puck is going to be. It’s what you have to do to break out of a slump,” Stempniak said. “We thrive on the forecheck, getting teams pinned in their end and getting second and third chances. It seems like there are a lot of shifts in this series where were we’re getting in, we one shot and they clear it out. That’s not how we score.”
Things got worse in Game 3, when Fiddler’s line was on the ice for both the Salei and Miller goals in a 44-second span – two more then that trio has generated in three games.
“The first goal goes in and they had just gone on the ice,” Tippett said. “So you think, ‘Do you yank them off and mess with their confidence some more, or do you leave them out there and hope they are mad enough that they’ll push back the other way?’ So you leave them out and boom, (Detroit) gets another one. So you didn’t just dent their confidence once, you’ve dented it twice. Now you’re behind and you’re chasing the game and that line doesn’t play as much.”
Again, while the Coyotes are down 3-0 to the Wings, their confidence is anything but shaken…
“You can’t win the whole series in one game,” Tippett said. “But the last time I looked you have to win four games to win a series. No one has won four yet.”
And Tippett insisted to the CBC’s series blogger that he still has faith in Ilya Bryzgalov...
The Wings opted for an optional skate Tuesday, while the Coyotes took to defending their much-maligned starting netminder. With a 4.11 goals-against average and an .861 save percentage, the facts of the matter are straightforward: Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov must be better to give Phoenix any chance of making a miraculous comeback in this series.
“We need him to respond well,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of his goaltender. “I think he’ll come back with a very strong game. He’s a solid player. He’s the backbone of our team. When he plays well, we usually fare well.”
“I think I need to stop the puck,” [Bryzgalov] said. “This is my job. The more I stop, the more chances we have to win.”
As well as injury replacement and rookie defenseman David Schelmko:
Tippett juggled his defensive pairings during Game 3, putting Adrian Aucoin with Keith Yandle and rookie David Schlemko with Ed Jovanovski. The result was an outstanding game from the rookie Schlemko. Only in the lineup due to the injury to Morris, Schlemko scored Phoenix’s first goal by diving down low on a power play and snapping the puck into the roof of the net behind Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. Earlier in the game, only a spectacular save by Howard on a point-blank drive kept Schlemko from scoring.
“He’s been pretty good,” Tippett said. “It’s not as if he hasn’t played this year. He’s played a lot for us with the injuries to our blue-line that we’ve had.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Adrian Aucoin and Tipett admitted to the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan and Gintonio that their #1 offensive defenseman, Keith Yandle, might be missing his partner, Derek Morris…
“You get so used to one guy, and you know his tendencies and where he’s gonna be,” Yandle said. “I’m playing with Adrian Aucoin, who is obviously a great player. There’s no excuses for that. It’s part of the game.”
“We miss his presence in there, but just because you’re not playing with a player doesn’t mean that your game should drop off,” coach Dave Tippett said. “We depend on him (Yandle) to be a good player for us whether he’s playing with Mo or not.”
But just as Ilya Bryzgalov believes that the Wings may have been more lucky than good over the course of the first three games, and especially so in Game 3…
“ do the best that I can right now,” he said. “They’re playing tough hockey; like last game, was unfortunate bounces. We hit the post, they hit the post and in - two deflected goals. It’s tough, but we got to continue to play hard and maybe change the luck, maybe (bounces) start going our way.”
He said his emotions were “a little bit curious,” adding, “It’s like a little bit maybe wondering, like, ‘How could this happen?’ Because we expect a little bit different . . . not be down 3-0.”
The Coyotes have begun to lean upon their uncertain future as another rallying point…
“I hope that we can extend the series first of all, and then even if we don’t we will be here next year and the year after, but that’s something we can’t control,” [Radim Vrbata] said. “We can control what we do on the ice, and I think we’ve been saying this for last two seasons, so I think nothing has changed.
Which is a point that they reiterated to the Associated Press’s John Marshall:
Along with focusing on the usual Xs and Os, [Tippett] plans to bring up the fact this could be the last game in Arizona, let his players know this is a chance to show everyone in the Valley of the Sun what they’re made of before possibly heading off for good.
“There’s been a lot of speculation, so here’s some speculation: the deal’s done, we’re staying,” Tippett said with a laugh Tuesday before turning serious. “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 tomorrow.”
Phoenix has a lot of work to do to go out, if this is it, with a win. The Coyotes need to play better 5-on-5, get more from goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and somehow find a way to slow down the Red Wings’ swarming-bees scoring lines.
“I always bet on us,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. “We’ve responded as well as we always could when we’re in a situation where it seems you didn’t have any help. You’ve got to count on that. We’ve done it over and over again, no matter what the situation is. We’ve always found ways to do something when we’ve really needed it, and we really need it.”
Bryzgalov agreed with his coach and captain while speaking to Gintonio (and some of this will be repetitive):
“I put this all on the side,” he said. “Just step on the ice and play hard and try to win the game. If we win, we’re gonna still (be) alive and go to Detroit and same thing, play hard and try to win another game. You never know what’s going to happen.”
But it’s more than goaltending. Tippett said there are some areas of the game that have been good but the team has not put it all together yet. The power play has rebounded, and the penalty-killing was “pretty good” in Game 3, he said, but the five-on-five play must improve.
“We’re looking at a situation where we have to put it all in place for us to be successful,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of guys that really want to do well. 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.”
So while Tippett and the Coyotes spoke about Game 4 as the start of something good…
“This is not a good predicament to be in, but the only way you can overcome challenges is to get started at it,” he said. ” . . . We keep our heads up.”
Eric Belanger told the Arizona Republic’s McLellan that the Coyotes plan on focusing on emphasizing more than simply better “five on five” play. There are two other areas in which they must apply pressure to expose potential weaknesses:
- Tight neutral zone. The Coyotes’ breakout and ability to generate speed through the neutral zone was an asset during the regular season, but organizing a rush between blue lines hasn’t been easy against the Red Wings.
“In the neutral zone, they play a really tight system,” Belanger said. “The defensemen have great gaps, so it’s hard for us to penetrate their zone with speed. Even when we dump pucks, the defensemen or forwards, they’re always close to each other. They make those little plays, and it’s hard for us to sustain pressure.”
- Constant pressure. Whether the Coyotes are attacking in the offensive zone or trying to organize in their own end, the Red Wings have done a solid job of limiting their time and space. That has curtailed the Coyotes’ effort at both ends of the ice, sometimes resulting in turnovers and less puck possession.
“Even in the defensive zone when you do have the puck, they’re coming hard,” defenseman Keith Yandle said. “They’re coming at you, and there’s no room for mistakes. You have to make a quick play right away and make the right play.”
Kyle Turris also told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that Phoenix simply can’t give up any more early-period goals:
The Red Wings deflated the Coyotes’ hopes early in Game 3, scoring quickly each period. Ruslan Salei and Drew Miller scored within the first three minutes of the first. Bryzgalov had no chance on either goal.
“It just seemed like right from the first minute or two in the first period they got a couple of breaks and scored a couple of goals to take the crowd out of it early,” Coyotes forward Kyle Turris said. “We got our chances, (but) we just didn’t capitalize on them. 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.”
NHL.com’s game review (which is uncredited at present) allows us to shift focus from the Coyotes to the Wings’ side of things:
Big story: It’s win or go home for the Coyotes, who’ve lost the first three games of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series to the Red Wings. Detroit has scored four goals in each game and used fast starts to get the drop on Phoenix in the last two, including a pair of goals in the first three minutes of Monday’s 4-2 win.
Coyotes [team scope]: Everyone wearing a Coyote jersey knows what’s at stake in Game 4.
“I think we can relax a little bit now. There’s nothing to lose, eh?” said Phoenix forward Ray Whitney, trying to inject a little levity into a tough situation. “You play as hard as you can in Game 4 and hopefully extend it and do the same thing in Game 5. It’s not a position you want to be in, for sure, but we’re giving what we can. The fight was there. The energy was there. The crowd was there. But we got a couple of unlucky bounces right off the start and it really took the wind out of our sails.”
Who’s hot: Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk has 5 points and leads all players with a plus-5 rating. … Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard is 3-0 in the series with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.
Stat pack: Phoenix has scored all five of its goals in the last two games on the power play. … Detroit scored all four of its goals on Monday within the first 2:50 of the start of the period.
The Wings didn’t need to watch Tuesday night’s “comeback” games by the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks to know that, should they let their foot “off the gas” and off a very live and angry snake, they’re going to get bitten, and Pavel Datsyuk, who took Tuesday’s practice off (as did Johan Franzen), told NHL.com’s Jerry Brown that the Wings’ short and long-term playoff hopes rest upon taking care of the Coyotes here and now:
“If we have extra time it’ll be much better,” said winger Pavel Datsyuk, who hasn’t taken part in the last three Detroit workouts and struggled in Game 2, not getting a shot until the third period. “Kind of remember last year, we had Game 7 there last year. It takes lots of time, lots of travel, take our energy away.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock went so far as to suggest that the Wings’ last championship run nearly went off the rails because they let the Dallas Stars off the mat in the Western Conference Finals, and especially given that the team’s hoping that they can give Henrik Zetterberg the necessary time to recover from his knee sprain without actually requiring him to play in any games (today marks two weeks since Z suffered a second-degree sprain of his MCL thanks to a nasty hit from Bryan Allen, and Zetterberg’s injury usually takes 2-3 weeks to heal):
“The guys that have been here understand,” said Babcock, harkening back to the 2008 Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Stars. “We were in this spot (up 3-0) with Dallas and had to go into Dallas and win a Game 6 to clinch the series. You just never want to let your foot off the gas. Why would you play more games than you have to?”
After fighting to the wire for playoff positioning in the regular season, the Wings could use the rest. Henrik Zetterberg is progressing, but is still at least a few days from playing on his injured knee. Johan Franzen is recovering from facial injuries and an ankle sprain, while Datsyuk and other Red Wings are stealing as much down time as possible between games.
“You want to give them as little hope as possible, as little life as possible,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “If we can come out with good push, it’s something we’d like to do and try to take the edge out right away. The sooner you can close out a series the better you’re going to be in the long run. Gives more days of rest.’‘
Babcock’s not completely happy with his team’s willingness to let the Coyotes wind up through the neutral zone and roar into the Wings’ end charging toward the net, however…
“We’ve got to get back to doing a better job on their entries,” Babcock said. “We gave up two entry goals (to David Schlemko and Ray Whitney in Game 3) where the sticks didn’t do the right thing. We’ll get that sorted out. We’ve got to be aggressive on the penalty kill.”
Babcock continued while speaking to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
“That’s positive,” said Babcock, of his team’s 5-on-5 defense. “Yet we gave up some opportunities yesterday that we didn’t like; our goaltender had to be better than we would have liked him to be. Our penalty-kill, we have to get back to doing a better job on their entries. We gave up two entry goals yesterday when we just … the sticks didn’t do the right things, so we’ll get that sorted out. And we have to be aggressive on the penalty-kill. All in all, we think we can do better without the puck than we were, and that will allow us to be better with the puck.”
[T]he Wings don’t expect that the Coyotes will concede the series. Babcock highly anticipates a very physical brand of play, much like it was in Game 3 when Phoenix out-hit the Wings, 36-27.
“I would expect so,” Babcock said. “And yet if we do a better job in the neutral zone and our own zone then we won’t have to worry about that as much. So a part of that was them and a part of it was us as well, not executing like we should.”
Datsyuk added, “Always when a team plays (at) home they are always more aggressive, more physical with their crowd cheering for them and it gives them extra energy.”
The Wings are 13-4 overall, and 11-3 on the road when taking a 3-0 series lead into Game 4.
Regardless of whether Mr. Bissonette joins the Coyotes’ lineup, the Coyotes’ willingness to violate the, “Don’t hit Nicklas Lidstrom” rule and attempts to injure several players (see: Patrick Eaves) on Monday gave the Wings a taste of what they believe will be an even more vicious physical assault, as they told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“More,” Pavel Datsyuk said when asked if he expects the Coyotes to increase the physical play. “That’s not a surprise. When a team plays at home, it’s more aggressive and physical. The crowd cheering for them gives them extra energy.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock believes his team was partly to blame for letting the Coyotes be so aggressive.
“If we do a better job in the neutral zone and in our own zone, we won’t have to worry about that,” Babcock said.
The Wings simply aren’t a team that drops the gloves on a regular basis, nor do they plan on giving into the temptation to go run a Coyote in retribution for hitting a Wing because that means giving up a power play opportunity against, as well as, in the Wings’ case, usually losing a very capable player for two, four, or five minutes, so there’s simply no point in asking Danny Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi, Justin Abdelkader or Jonathan Ericsson to do anything more than grind down the Coyotes physically, play good team defense and try to generate a little offense.
So what’s the Wings’ deterrent? Their power play, which went 0-for-4 on Monday:
“We need to score on the power play,” Datsyuk said.
Said Tomas Holmstrom: “We responded well as a team. We knew we were going to face that type of team. They were going to put in a good forecheck on us and be aggressive at times and we were just trying to respond to it and wait for chances.”
The Wings insisted after Monday night’s game that they didn’t take Doan or Pyatt’s targeting of Lidstrom personally, but they also stated that they fully expect the Coyotes to very specifically target Lidstrom and their star players, so the onus really is on the Wings to keep their heads up, give their teammates a “heads up!” yell from time to time and to simply respond by forcing the Coyotes to do what they did on Monday—drive themselves to distraction and the penalty box by getting carried away and starting to play rather carelessly at times.
Both Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart told MLive’s Ansar Khan that they simply hope to keep the Coyotes down and force them out of the playoffs:
This might be the final game for the Phoenix franchise. The ownership situation is unsettled amid reports the club might relocate back to Winnipeg. Ironically, the Red Wings eliminated Winnipeg in the first round of the 1996 playoffs in the Jets’ final season before moving to Phoenix. It could be an emotional night for players and fans. And the Red Wings anticipate facing a fired up team.
“You want to give them as little hope as possible, as little life as possible,” Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall said. “If we can come out with good push it’s something we’d like to do, try to take the edge out right away.”
Defenseman Brad Stuart expects the Coyotes to play their best game. But his team has plenty of motivation, too.
“It’s tough to play a seven-game series and jump right into another series, even emotionally a little bit,” Stuart said. “If you can get that little bit of a buffer in between, get some days off, just re-energize, that’s huge.”
It bears mentioning that Babcock wasn’t just focused on the team’s neutral zone play or PK issues. He believes that the Wings simply didn’t play a particularly solid game on Monday, so they need to improve all over the ice, with perhaps the exception of Jimmy Howard, who was nothing less than superb and sometimes spectacular:
“We didn’t play near as well (in Game 3) as we did the first two games,” Babcock said. “They came through the neutral zone too easy. We weren’t as good in our own zone as we need to be. So we have to get those things better and then everything will look after itself.”
As for this whole, “The Coyotes could be playing their last game in Phoenix before going back to Winnipeg” stuff?
Kris Draper (who began his career as a Winnipeg Jet), Chris Osgood and Nicklas Lidstrom were on the 1995-96 team that took the Jets out, and while they were willing to reflect upon their memories of playing in that series with the Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen, who’s essentially in Phoenix hoping to pick over the Coyotes’ corpse (which I’d argue is tremendously distasteful), Draper and Lidstrom told Friesen that the Coyotes are anything but alive, well, and kicking:
“Let’s talk when it’s all said and done,” Draper, ever the voice of caution, interjected. “There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
“The uncertainty they’re going through, that’s a big difference,” Draper said. “It’s gotta be tough. There’s a lot of unrestricted free agents here. And they’re not sure what’s going on, where they’re going to play, if they’re going to be here or in Winnipeg. You want to go out and just play hockey.”
Until now, the Coyotes have managed, posting two of the best seasons in franchise history during the turmoil.
“I’m sure it’s been hard the last couple of years with not having real ownership and having the league run it,” Lidstrom said. “But I’m impressed with the way they played, both last year and this year.”
Babcock may have put it best in a notebook from the Free Press’s Helene St. James which I’ll come back to later, saying this:
“The big thing is, it’s about focus, to me,” coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s about understanding what we want to do and the best way to do it, and the best way to do it is to play as few games as possible.”
The Wings deflated the Coyotes with two quick goals to start Game 3. Tonight the Wings want to crack down on being better without the puck, which “will allow us to be better with the puck,” Babcock said.
As of the time that I’m writing this, the NHL has yet to update its referees’ or linesmen’s assignments for tonight’s game. I’ll post them during the game-day update.
Multimedia: I posted a bunch of stuff very late on Tuesday night, so if you missed The updates, here’s the important stuff:
• The Coyotes’ website posted coach Dave Tippett’s off-day presser:
• And a Game 4 preview:
• The Wings’ website posted Mike Babcock’s presser:
Ken Kal and Drew Miller also spoke to WBBL’s the Huge Show:
• Also: The Detroit News’s David Guralnick posted a photo gallery from the Wings’ practice, as did the Red Wings’ website. It’s worth noting that Jimmy Howard, who tapes the butt end of his goal stick very sparingly during the regular season, now has a regulation-size, white-tape knob on the back end of his goal stick.
And no, there’s no way I could have written that without making most of you giggle.
Wings notebooks: As mentioned on Tuesday night, the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell and the Free Press’s Helene St. James, writing for USA Today, posted profilies of Jimmy Howard. The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan talked about Howard’s play as well:
“I felt pretty good down the stretch, playing good, but just not getting results,” said Howard, who made 28 saves in Monday’s 4-2 victory, including several dazzling ones in the first period to thwart the Coyotes. “I felt good and I was looking forward to this time of the season for the last month or so. Now that’s it’s here, I just want to give the guys a chance to win every night.”
Most analysts continue to point at Howard as to why the Red Wings may not win the Stanley Cup. They say Howard’s too inexperienced and inconsistent, and allows the occasional soft goal. But Howard has answered with an impressive three games.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” Howard said. “Wanting to win, especially. We have a very good team here and you don’t get this opportunity all the time. It doesn’t roll around very often. I believe there’s something special inside this locker room and I want to keep it rolling.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock liked what he saw Monday.
“He made two exceptional saves in the first period,” Babcock said. “The previous game he didn’t have much work, (Monday) he had way more work and (it) was a tougher game for him. They had better traffic at the net and they played in our zone for longer periods of time.”
• If you’re interested, the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff spoke to Ray Whitney about playing for the Wings during the Hasek-Joseph feud last weekend, and he noted that Danny Cleary suggested that there are…distractions…when playing in Arizona. He spoke to Ed Jovanovski (from Windsor, and a former Windsor Spitfire, thus the interest) about recovering from a broken orbital bone;
• DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose’s notebook also spotlighted Ruslan Salei, and both Roose and the CBC’s series blogger noted that Wings coach Mike Babcock and captain Nicklas Lidstrom had nothing but good things to say about Niklas Kronwall settling into a leadership role while spelling Lidstrom on occasion toward the end of games—which Lidstrom told Roose was #5’s plan:
While captain Nicklas Lidstrom is the Detroit Red Wings defenceman who gets most of the attention, the club’s other Nik on the blue-line—Niklas Kronwall—was huge in Detroit’s 4-2 Game 3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes, which put the Wings up 3-0 and on the brink of sweeping the Coyotes in this Western Conference quarter-final series. Kronwall was plus-3 and assisted on both of the early goals that gave the Wings a 2-0 lead before the game was three minutes old.
“Lidstrom and [Brian] Rafalski are elite players but Kronwall’s a guy in the organization that has to come to the forefront,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s capable of playing the most minutes—power play, penalty-kill, even strength. He can be the most active. He’s a physical guy who can really make plays and we think he’s an elite player.”
• I’ll let the Free Press’s Helene St. James cover Salei:
Ruslan Salei played a series-high 17 minutes in Game 3, scored a goal, got three shots on net and was a plus-3.
“Rusty’s been really good,” Babcock said. “Rusty was real good when he got here, and then things weren’t as good for him, and then obviously the playoff intensity is what we got him for and he’s played real well.”
• One more “If you missed it,” via St. James:
Forward Henrik Zetterberg (sprained left MCL) reported another day of progress after taking part in the entire practice, filling in for Datsyuk on a line that also had Mike Modano filling in for Franzen. (Bottom line: Tomas Holmstrom was the only one on that practice line who’s actually playing).
“He looks, to me, like he should be ready to go here in the not-too-distant future,” Babcock said. “We’re in a good situation right now that we can give him time.”
• What, you want new content? Well, all right…The Free Press’s Michael “Mini Evil Drew Sharp” Rosenberg wondered aloud why Johan Franzen comes to play so regularly in the spring, but is inconsistent during the regular season, all while accentuating the positive:
So what is so different about the playoffs? I asked Franzen and, like a true artist, he responded: “What do you think is different about it?”
Well, there are some obvious on-ice differences. Playoff games tend to be more physical, which makes it tough for the smallest, most skilled players. As Nicklas Lidstrom said Tuesday, Franzen “is one of those guys that goes hard to the net every time. You see that a lot more in the playoffs, where you have to earn your goals more.”
“It’s just different energy-wise,” [Franzen] said. “The atmosphere around games, the speed out there, adrenaline—you really get help building that up for a game during the playoffs. And that helps.”
Of course, most players get butterflies before big games. The difference with Franzen is that he loves them. He said even as a kid, “I probably always played better when you have that feeling before a game. Little butterflies, it usually brings the best out of you. More excitement.”
As his close friend, defenseman Niklas Kronwall, said: “He just goes out there and doesn’t think.”
• The Free Press’s Helene St. James also posted nothing less than a revelatory article about the Wings’ off-ice habits, off-day routines included, noting that the Wings tend to do similar things and hang out with the same friends when they’re on the road:
“You want to stay loose, stay status quo,” Bertuzzi said, “especially in the situation we’re in.” To that effect, Bertuzzi had his Tuesday afternoon planned out. “I’ll have lunch, stare out at the golf course for a bit, probably have a lay-down, then stare back out at the course again, and then have dinner.”
Helm wanted to do something along the lines of Sunday afternoon, which saw him hang at Dave & Buster’s with Datsyuk and Filppula before catching “The Lincoln Lawyer” at the cinema. “Me and Pav and Fil played basketball and some skee ball, and I dominated, as you can probably assume,” Helm said.
Brad Stuart had his sons, ages 3 and 4, come out from San Jose, Calif., for the games in Arizona. While they know their dad plays hockey and does so for the Red Wings, “they don’t really understand it’s the playoffs, so hanging around with them is great for keeping your mind off stuff,” he said.
And Chris Osgood’s apparently the team’s resident master of preaching the, “Hey guys, relax when we’re not playing games” mantra (which he, ironically enough, learned from Dominik Hasek):
“I’m not so sure I was very good at it earlier, because I was too quiet and too shy,” he said. “But I kept it inside for so long, now it’s all coming out at once. Now there are times my mouth won’t stop even when I want it to. I just think it’s important to be loose and have fun and still be serious when it comes time to play. You can’t be thinking about hockey 100% of the time even in the playoffs. You have to give yourself a break.”
And then there are the ranters:
Tomas Holmstrom is another good source for comic relief, and then there’s Danny Cleary. “Bear can get going sometimes,” Helm said. “Everyone knows he has his rants when he’s on fire. He’ll just start talking about something ridiculous and get fired up. It’s more of complaining, but it’s funny, and we enjoy it.”.”
• Of rather significant note from the Free Press’s Steve Schrader:
Another reason to root for a sweep: In five of Detroit’s last six trips to the Stanley Cup finals, the Wings had at least one sweep during the playoffs (including two in the finals: over the Flyers in 1997 and Capitals in 1998).
• In the prospect department, part 1: the University of Maine Black Bears’ website reports that Wings prospect Gustav Nyquist took a cross-continental flight to pick up an individual award during the Black Bears’ Department of Athletics Awards Night on Monday:
The Male Athlete of the Year went to men’s ice hockey junior Gustav Nyquist (Malmo, Sweden). Nyquist led the team in scoring for the third season in a row. He had 18 goals and 33 assists for 51 points. He was named to the Hockey East First Team, the All-New England First Team and named a Second Team All-American. For the second year in a row, Nyquist was one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top player in college hockey. Following the season, he signed a professional contract with the Detroit Red Wings.
• In the prospect department, part 2: The Montreal Gazette’s Randy Phillips spoke to Wings prospect Trevor Parkes and Canadiens prospect Louis Leblanc about the Montreal Juniors’ playoff ouster at the hands of the Lewiston MAINEacs, and the most interesting news from a “prospect development” perspective involves the fact that Parkes will be one of four 20-year-olds fighting for 3 “over-ager” spots on the roster, which means that he and fellow Wings prospect Louis-Marc Aubry might spend next year playing on different teams;
• In the prospect department, part 3: As mentioned on Tuesday, Eastern Iowa Sports and Recreation reports that Wings coach Mike Babcock’s son, Michael III, was drafted by the USHL’s Cedar Rapids Roughriders. If Michael II chooses to leave Novi Catholic Central to play in the USHL, he’d retain his college eligibility, and given that his father went to McGill University, I’d imagine that the Wings’ coach wants his son to take the college route;
• I guess this was going to happen: the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo suggests that the Wild might be interested in snagging Paul MacLean from the Wings in their attempt to find a new head coach;
• Okay, finally, I don’t know how to put this without stepping on toes, so I’m going to just speak bluntly—and I don’t care if The Chief covered it, because I’m gonna weigh in one way or another:
I’m a meat-eating omnivore who knows how the hamburgers I ate for dinner last night got on my table. I know that some of you aren’t, and if you’re not too cool with meat-eaters, that’s fine by me. We can agree to disagree.
But I’m not going to refrain from commenting on a comment a PETA spokesperson made to the Detroit Free Press, which of course posted her anti-octopus-throwing article on the website’s front page. She suggests that the Red Wings have to end the octopus-throwing tradition, ignoring the fact that the NHL has employed the City of Detroit to ensure that the only octopus you’ll see on Joe Louis Arena’s ice is Al, and that the 59-year-old tradition is nothing more than a memory and a merchandising moneymaker for the organization now.
She suggests that the practice is barbaric, akin to “throwing dead kittens” on the ice, and that the NHL should penalize the Red Wings’ team if an octopus is thrown on the ice anywhere.
Here’s the only argument I can make from a perspective that might make sense to vegetarians: it’s not like Wings fans are going out and finding octopi to sacrifice on a Wings-shaped altar for the specific purpose of boiling and throwing them. The octopi that Wings fans buy are not only already dead—they’re also part of the supply chain of octopi caught for seafood, and yes, while the Superior Fish Company and other fishmongers in Metro Detroit see an increased demand for octopi in the spring, the up-tick in demand is so minimal that there is no way in hell that more octopi than usual pass onto the next world because of the playoff tradition. The increased demand taps into an already-existing supply of seafood, so no more octopi are killed for the sake of Red Wings fans.
They’re seafood by the time they get to wherever people have bought them, and they would be seafood regardless of whether Wings fans purchased them or somebody else did. The NHL has effectively squelched this tradition by not only ensuring that Detroit Police earn an extra $500 if they spot a Wings fan tossing an octopus onto Joe Louis Arena’s ice, but as we already know, a fan was jailed in Phoenix for being caught doing the same thing at Jobing.com Arena last year, and fans are usually both thrown out of the rink and ticketed when they dare toss octopi in opposing teams’ venues.
Whether you agree with the tradition or not, a) the NHL’s killed it by offering Detroit Police an easy way to make a buck that doesn’t have to be accounted for, and b) either way, the octopi that are tossed are already part of the supply chain of seafood long before a Wings fan attempts to purchase one, so we’re not talking about picking a live lobster from the tank at Kroger for dinner here. We’re talking about dead seafood being wasted, more or less, instead of consumed.
One way or another, they’re dead, and, thanks to the NHL, so is the tradition. All this PETA person is doing is playing up shock value for the sake of getting a headline, and it’s a shame that the ploy succeeded. I wish I didn’t have to talk about it but I might as well suggest that it’s dumb.
• Update: Make that dumb and dumber. Sovetsky Sport’s Dmitry Vingovatov thinks that the Red Wings will defeat Ilya Bryzgalov and then sign him as an unrestricted free agent this summer if Nicklas Lidstrom retires.
If Nicklas Lidstrom retires, and I get the feeling that he won’t, Ken Holland will attempt to sign an unrestricted free agent puck-moving defenseman, not a goalie.
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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.