The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/19/11 at 07:11 PM ET
Updated 4x at 10:54 PM: Talk of the “No-hit rule” on Nicklas Lidstrom aside, the practice updates from the Detroit Red Wings’ and Phoenix Coyotes’ “off-day workouts” are starting to roll in, and the Free Press’s Helene St. James both confirms Mike Serven’s report that Pavel Datsyuk took practice off (as did Johan Franzen)...
No injury,” he said, smiling. “Why, you wish?”
And she says that the Wings are already preparing for an onslaught from the Coyotes as the Wings ready themselves to do their damnedest to get their series over with as soon as possible:
“The guys that have been here understand,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We were in this situation against Dallas and had to go into Dallas in ’08 and win a Game 6 to clinch the series. You just never want to let your foot off the gas. The other thing is, why would you play more games than you have to? We understand it’s going to be a big push from them. It was a good win for our team yesterday. We didn’t play nearly as well as we did in the first two games, 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 else will look after itself.”
It’s good to hear Babcock admit that the Wings didn’t play their best game on Monday, despite the 4-2 score...
And St. James also reports good news on the Henrik Zetterberg front:
Henrik Zetterberg (sprained left MCL) reported another day of progress after taking part in the entire practice, filling in for Pavel 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 is 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.”
Update the first: Here’s Coyotes coach Dave Tippett’s off-day presser:
Update the second: Here’s Ted Kulfan’s update from the Detroit News:
“Last year there was lots of travel and it takes your energy away,” Pavel Datsyuk said. “That’s more important now.”
Datsyuk and Johan Franzen didn’t skate Tuesday, as coach Mike Babcock gave the option to all his players of either skating in Tuesday or Wednesday’s morning skate.
“Nice sunny day in Phoenix,” said Datsyuk, while watching his teammates finish up at the Ice Den practice complex.
Franzen might still be nursing his facial lacerations and sore ankle, but he said that won’t keep him out of the lineup. Franzen had a goal in Monday’s 4-2 victory.
Babcock said there’s no reason to extend a series if there’s an opportunity to close it out.
“You never want to let your foot off the gas,” Babcock said. “Why play more games than you have to?”
Here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s update:
“Kind of remember last year,” the Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk said. “We had Game 7 here; take lots of time, lots of travel, take our energy away.”
“The guys that have been here understand,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We were in this situation against Dallas (2008 conference finals) 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. The other thing is, why would you play more games than you have to?”
“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.”
“It’s tough to play a seven-game series and jump right into another series, even emotionally a little bit,” [Brad] Stuart said. “If you can get that little bit of a buffer in between, get some days off, just re-energize, that’s huge.”
Datsyuk expects Phoenix to be physical again.
“When a team plays at home they’re more aggressive, more physical,” Datsyuk said. “When the crowd’s cheering for them it gives them more energy.”
Update #3: Via the Wings’ Twitter account:
Practice Update: Datsyuk and Franzen did not skate, but are good to go in Game 4. Henrik Zetterberg did skate and is still day to day.
The Wings’ website also posted an off-day photo gallery and Mike Babcock’s presser:
The Wings’ website posted a belated set of post-game comments as well…
Ken Kal and Drew Miller also spoke to WBBL’s the Huge Show:
Update #4: From the Coyotes’ side of things…
• No comment regarding Craig Morgan’s article about the Yotes’ ownership, per my policy;
• The Coyotes did talk to the AP’s John Marshall about a possibly miraculous comeback...
Coach Dave Tippett doesn’t want to shy away from the elephant dressed like a coyote in the room, though. Along with focusing on the usual Xs and Os, he 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.”
“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.”
“We’ve got to relax a little bit and just go give every drop of energy we have, but it’s got to be constructive, smart energy, not overplaying energy,” [Ilya Bryzgalov] said. “We just have to find ways to win.”
So while the Coyotes, or at least the one guy who doesn’t hit, is willing to admit that the Coyotes were a bit overeager, the Wings simply don’t care. They don’t want to do what the Vancouver Canucks have done in Chicago tonight. They want to get the series done, and in the Wings’ case, this is not personal:
“It’s important to keep the momentum going,” Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “That fourth win is always the toughest one. You face a team that’s facing elimination and they’re going to be a desperate team, so it’s going to be another tough game for us.”
Tippett told NHL.com’s Jerry Brown that as his team’s up against a bit of a wall, he may change up his lines, the Kyle Turris-Mikel Boedeker line excluded:
“(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.”
“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.”
Bryzgalov knows he needs to step up, too, but he plans on doing so while working from a clean slate:
“I’m wondering, ‘How can this happen?’” said Bryzgalov, who has allowed 12 goals in three games and has looked less and less confident as the series has gone along. “We expected it to be different, not down 3-0. I just want to win one game. We have to start with that.”
And a Game 4 preview:
The CBC’s series blogger duly noted that Tippet’s pleased with the play of Schlemko...
“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.”
“He’s a young player that’s come along and given us real quality minutes,” Tippett said. “We feel very comfortable with him. He’s a good puck-mover, smart player.”
But the Wings have had quite the answer for Schlemko in one Niklas Kronwall…
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.”
• And the Wings reiterated the fact that there’s nothing personal here—the Wings want to survive this spring, too, and that means winning the race to four right frickin’ 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.”
“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.’‘
The Red Wings also have parts of their game that need honing. After killing all six Phoenix power plays in Game 1, Detroit has watch Phoenix score five times on the power play in the last two games.
“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.”
Also of Red Wings-related note: TSN’s Scott Cullen offered a little take on the fantasy hockey implications of this series:
The supporting cast came through. After Pavel Datsyuk put on a show on Saturday, the Wings got points from Ruslan Salei, Darren Helm, Drew Miller and Jonathan Ericsson on their way to a 4-2 win and a commanding 3-0 series lead.
Niklas Kronwall was a difference-maker for the Wings, with two assists and a plus-3 rating in a team-high 23:24. Nicklas Lidstrom played only 18:03, a time on ice total that he came in under just once all season (Game 77 against St. Louis, when Lidstrom was minus-3 in a 10-3 defeat).
Phoenix score both their goals on the power play, making them 5-for-10 in the last two games with the man advantage. With the Wings up three games to none, it doesn’t appear that the penalty killing will be a serious issue in this series, but may need to be tightened up in future rounds.
Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov allowed four goals on 34 shots and, while it’s not terrible, it’s just not good enough for a Coyotes team that is looking to pull off a series upset.
Through three three games, Bryzgalov has an .881 save percentage, which is well below his previous playoff norms. Last year against Detroit, for example, his save percentage was .906 and while that doesn’t seem drastically different, in a series this close, an extra two or three stops would likely put the outcome in doubt. It’s not in doubt now.
• Steve Staios visited the NHL’s front office and took part in a conference call today, and he spoke to NHL.com’s Brian Hunter about the Western Conference’s playoff series:
“I’m maybe more surprised with Detroit-Phoenix,” Staios said. “Phoenix plays a very structured game and because they took Detroit to seven games last year, I thought maybe they had an outside chance of pulling an upset—and even if they didn’t upset, that it’d be a tighter series.
(3) Detroit vs. (6) Phoenix
As with the Sedins, every team has a game plan for trying to contain Red Wings’ superstar Pavel Datsyuk. And as anyone knows who watched him turn the Coyotes’ defense inside out during Game 2 with a highlight-reel play to set up a Darren Helm goal, having that plan is one thing. Executing it is another.
“Very difficult with him because he’s got really silky, smooth hands and he can play that real finesse game. And then if you try to go and get the puck off of him and bump him up, he’s maybe the most difficult guy to take off the puck in the whole National Hockey League,” Staios said. “He’s very, very strong, he protects the puck well and add that to the finesse that he has with the soft hands. … People don’t realize how good this guy really is. He’s never put up great numbers, but I think that’s because he sacrifices the offense to be a great defensive player as well.”
The Coyotes have also had their hands full dealing with Nicklas Lidstrom, who has three years on Staios but is showing no signs of slowing down with 2 assists and a plus-2 rating through the first three games of the playoffs.
“It’s all about having a passion for the game and being focused, staying fit and just love going to the rink,” he said, lumping another 40-year-old who’s still dominating, Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne, into the discussion. “They have a good situation where they have the respect of their coach and the organization, and they come in and have a passion for the game. You can’t even put a number on how long they can play because they’re still very effective players. And Lidstrom, with the type of poise he has as a defenseman, he still has all the tools to help that team out and be the leader back there.”
• The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff posted a story on Ed Jovanovski’s recovery from a broken orbital bone, and the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell focused on Jimmy Howard’s playoff maturation:
“I felt a little bit better out there than last year,” said Howard, who stopped 28 of 30 shots in Game 3. “Last year was a lot of nervous energy, not knowing what to expect. Being able to get that experience under my belt last year was good for me.”
“I think he gained a lot of experience being part of the playoffs last year,” Wings captain Nick Lidstrom said. “Knowing what it takes and that the pressure is there and you have to show up every night.”
Howard suggested to Waddell that he’s learned how to be more consistent on a save-by-save basis…
“Just how fine of a line it is out there,” said Howard of the most important thing he learned last spring. “How focused you really have to be.”
And Howard’s quite happy to say that he wants to play better than his opponent, which is pretty cool:
“Of course I am,” Howard said. “Every single time you step out there you have something to prove. I want to be an NHL starting goalie for a long time, so I have to prove myself every single night.”
That involves hacking and facewashing his opponents when necessary, which he feels is part of playoff action:
“I’ve always been like that,” said Howard of his desire to be involved in the most pressure-packed games. “I enjoyed when you broke off in districts and you had to play away in states. It’s win or go home. This time of the year it’s similar. It’s a race to four and you want to keep playing as long as possible.”
“I just want to go out there and give the guys a chance to win every night,” Howard said. “That’s key for me. Being back there, making saves when called upon and trying to throw in a real good one too.”
• The Free Press’s Helene St. James, in an article posted on USA Today, posted a profile of Howard as well:
“I’ve felt pretty good,” Howard said after Tuesday’s practice at the Ice Den. “I’m just trying to give the guys a chance every single night, just being aggressive and trying to also cover up as much as I can, take whistles just to allow us to get fresh guys out on the ice. Every game, you get a little bit more settled out there. You get more confidence under your belt and you feel better about yourself.”
Coach Mike Babcock said the Wings’ subpar play in the neutral zone and their own zone Monday forced Howard “to be better than we would have liked him to be.”
While that will need to be addressed Wednesday night, the skaters like knowing how much they can rely on their man in net.
“They had a push in the second, but Howie did a real good job of keeping his composure and that helps us,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “It keeps us from starting to run around and get out of focus when our goalie stands tall for us and makes good saves.”
Howard, 27, finished his rookie playoff experience last year after two rounds, going 5-7 with a 2.75 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He built on that with a strong first half this season, and, after a middling midseason stretch that mirrored that of his team, Howard had a strong finish going into the playoffs. It’s about what his mentor, Chris Osgood, expected.
“If anything, your first year can be a little overwhelming because the game changes so much,” Osgood said. “I think even one year makes a big difference. He’s just more calm and more consistent now. Now he just goes out and play. He realizes what he needs to do now every period to be good.”
• In the TV department, DetroitRedWIngs.com’s Jake Duhaime has bad news: NBC’s new deal with the NHL means that we won’t see Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond after the first round next season;
• And the Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen tried to pick on Kris Draper and Nicklas Lidstrom, who were around when the Wings took out the Winnipeg Jets in 1996, about the possibility that they could sweep the Coyotes right back to Winnipeg. Draper and Lidstrom did their best to simply not talk about the issue:
“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.”
“I just remember the whiteout,” Draper said of that final game. “And I remember when we were skating off the ice, the Winnipeg Jets stayed on the ice for a long time. That’s something that I remember.”
Oh, and of course, the Queen. Everybody remembers the giant portrait of Queen Elizabeth smiling down from the rafters of the old Winnipeg Arena.
“It was a great atmosphere to play in,” Lidstrom recalled.
The Wings are sympathetic to the Coyotes’ plight, at least off the ice:
“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.”
“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.”
Me, too. I’m not going to touch the issue till the series is over, either, and I’ve only got one complaint.
One more update: Bob Duff also spoke to Ray Whitney and Danny Cleary about playing for the Wings during the Cujo-Hasek feud and playing amidst distractions in Phoenix, respectively;
• According to the “Eastern Iowa Sports and Recreation” website, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock’s son, Michael II (Mike Sr. is coach Babcock’s dad, Babcock is a “junior,” and the youngest “Michael” is a “II”);
• And, amongst DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose’s notes, regarding Kronwall’s role…
“It’s something that I asked the coaching staff and it’s been planned, especially in the playoffs,” Lidstrom said. “We’re hoping for a long run and it keeps us fresher.”
The captain also recognizes an increase in Kronwall’s leadership.
“He’s been getting a bigger role on the team,” Lidstrom said. “And I think he feels confident in that role too. You hear it more on the bench, he’s just more encouraging. Pushing the guys.”
And Ruslan Salei being back in the playoffs with his old Anaheim Mighty Ducks coach in Babcock:
“These are really important games as far as making teams pay for mistakes,” Salei said. “You have to try to avoid making mistakes, because in the playoffs those mistakes are magnified.”
“But the big difference with us now from the end of the regular-season is commitment, Salei said. “The commitment to do the right things; the commitment to work in the system and do your part, and trust one another; it’s a team game.”
“It’s always nice to score a goal, and it’s always nice to score a goal in the playoffs,” he said. “Overall, I don’t think the personal things even matter in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter how many goals you score in the playoffs if you don’t go all the way to the top. Nobody is going to remember that. To me, I can try to help this team anyway that I can and if that’s scoring goals, or doing whatever it takes to help.”
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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.