The Malik Report
Red Wings-Coyotes off-day updates, part 2: Z’s out for a while, Yotes hope to rebound, Wings chatter
by George Malik on 04/14/11 at 11:30 PM ET
Updated with the Wings’ pre-game playoff in-rink entertainment: As the first crop of Red Wings-Coyotes off-day updates and multimedia fell of the front page...
Update: Whoah: MLive’s Ansar Khan snuck this into his Zetterberg report:
Publicly, the team continues to list him as day-to-day. Privately, the club has ruled him out for the first five games of the opening-round playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The earliest the team believes Zetterberg can return is Game 6 on April 24. Ideally, the Red Wings hope they can win the series without him and have him ready for the start of the next round.
Okay, after that: Red Wings prospect Hat Trick Dick Axelsson registered an assist as Farjestads BK defeated Skelleftea 4-1 to capture the Swedish Eliteserien championship. Axelsson already stated that he planned on breaking his contract with Farjestad in the 3 days subsequent to the SEL finals to either join the Red Wings or play in Russia or Switzerland, and he confirmed to Expressen and Aftonbladet that he’s played in his last game for Farjestad after posting 4 goals and 6 assists in 12 playoff games, but the Wings aren’t exactly going to do back flips to try and convince the mercurial forward to come over to the NHL as he remains incredibly inconsistent.
If you believe the Winnipeg Free Press’s Gary Lawless and everybody else who’s got a laptop these days, the Phoenix Coyotes may end up moving back to Winnipeg as soon as their playoff run is over. While I am admittedly an old Jets fan, I have chosen to ignore the rumors and innuendo regarding the Coyotes not only because they’re irrelevant to covering the Red Wings-Coyotes series—I also believe that it’s incredibly disrespectful to the Coyotes and their legions of die-hard fans. I’m a Red Wings fan, not a vulture, and I’m acknowledging and respecting the Coyotes’ right to exist as a stand-alone entity under new ownership as well as the Coyotes’ fans’ right to cheer for their team.
Besides, as the Sporting News’s Craig Custance notes, this series is about hockey, not off-ice BS, rumor-mongering or politics, and they’re doing a professional job of focusing despite the fact that rumors about their future pop up whenever big games appear on the schedule:
“Pretty interesting, four hours before Game 1 you get a report like that,” coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s interesting how that comes out like that.”
For a coach, it’s another thing to use as motivation.“A galvanizing factor,” Tippett said.
But among the players, it’s not discussed at all. In fact, bringing up Coyotes ownership instability is a good way to get in trouble among the players. They aren’t rallying around the news—they’re ignoring it.
“It’s almost a cardinal sin to bring it up in the locker room,” defenseman Keith Yandle said. “We’re playing in Phoenix, we’re playing for Phoenix … even if we did have a say, it wouldn’t impact the decision.”
On Thursday, the stream of news continued. The Phoenix Business Journal, a sister publication of Sporting News, reported that Glendale, Ariz., the Phoenix suburb where the Coyotes play, might have options to prevent a move to Winnipeg, including tapping a $400 million reserve fund. It also speculated that the NHL could buy municipal bonds to keep the Coyotes in Arizona. There are currently enough investors willing to buy half of the $100 million in bonds the city must sell to seal a deal with potential owner Matthew Hulsizer. Every day it’s a new story. Every day, it’s another story for the players to ignore.
“It’ll all take care of itself,” Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker said. “None of us in here is going to buy the team, so I mean, we can’t really do anything about it.”
The Coyotes actually joked about passing a hat around to cover the cost of keeping the team there, but the Coyotes (the Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio reports that Ilya Bryzgalov did not skate) practiced as usual and then talked to NHL.com’s Jerry Brown about coming out of Saturday’s game with a split instead of bond sales:
“It doesn’t matter which team goes up 2-0, they’re going to have a better chance of winning the series,” [Vernon] Fiddler said. “We have to win a game in this building. We came here and realistically, you look at a split as maybe a good thing. We’re going to go after that second game. That’s no secret. We have to be much better and more physical, but I expect us to be much better the next game.”
They’ll probably have to be, especially on special teams.The Phoenix penalty kill gave up a crushing power-play goal late in the second period of Game 1 that gave Detroit a 3-1 lead head into the third—and then there was the Coyotes’ power play, which definitely needs some tweaks after frittering away so many opportunities. During Phoenix’s practice session, the Coyotes worked on their special teams play, to nobody’s surprise. But not all of the blame can be placed around their necks. The Red Wings also played great on the penalty kill—especially during a 5-on-3 while trailing 1-0 in the first. Detroit blocked 18 shots in all to eight for Phoenix—and that’s a stat, along with being outhit 33-28, that’s gnawing at the Coyotes.
“At this time of year, that’s what it takes,” veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski said of blocking shots. “You’ve got to sacrifice your body, whatever it takes, to block shots. They had more of that than we did yesterday. You’ve got to pay the price this time of year.”
“It’s dangerous, but that’s how you win,” [coach Dave Tippett] said. “Simple as that.”
As Brown notes, the Coyotes were also out-hit in Game 1, and you can better believe that Shane Doan and the Yotes want to answer the Wings’ physical challenge…
“We’d better be [physical],” said captain Shane Doan, who led the team with eight hits in Game 1. “We have to be more physical and get more involved in the game.”
And the Coyotes very simply believe that, should they sustain the kind of play they did over the first period of Wednesday’s game, they’ll prevail:
“I think if we start the same way we’re going to be OK,” Doan said. “A good thing is we don’t think we played very well as a group. It’s different if you feel you played a great game and they just beat you. But we don’t feel like we played as well as we should have—and as well as we can.”
Bryzgalov told the AP’s Larry Lage that the Coyotes simply didn’t capitalize on their opportunities...
“When we have our chances, we don’t even hit the net,” Ilya Bryzgalov said. “That’s the difference.”
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett thinks he and his staff figured out the team’s problem when it had a one- and two-man advantage.
“You could tell our guys were a little anxious,” Tippett said. “We told our guys to calm down, make the plays we normally make.”
And the Red Wings readily admitted that, two day break or one day break, the series’ momentum-meter re-sets to zero on Saturday afternoon:
“That’s what we talked about this morning,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Thursday after an optional practice. “What happens is when one team loses, they get better, and sometimes the other team is so busy pumping their own tires that they don’t get better. We’ve got to be better if we’re going to win. The urgency goes up as the series goes on and the playoffs go on.”
Two weeks away from his 41st birthday, Detroit defenceman Nick Lidstrom agreed.
“We look at the playoffs as being a fresh start,” he said. “It’s start from scratch.”
I’m filing Craig Morgan’s story on playoff beards and the same can be said for John Marshall’s profile of Shane Doan, but it seems appropriate to end the Coyotes-only updates by pointing out that, as PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest found, sniper Kyle Turris grew up a Steve Yzerman fan, but had no butterflies whatsoever after making his playoff debut via a goal at Joe Louis Arena:
“We’re looking forward and not back, and realizing there are things we need to work on in the next couple of days to get ready for Saturday’s game,” Turris said Thursday.
“To have my first playoff game at Joe Louis Arena was a lot of fun because they have so much history in the playoffs and a lot of that history happened there,” Turris said. “The atmosphere - the intensity of the crowd, the octopus flying on the ice, and just how loud it was - it was all part of the fun and very exciting for me.”
“I like the pressure of (high-stakes) games,” Turris said. “That’s the most fun part for me. The games are intense and the crowds are loud. It just makes it that much more fun.”
Turris said he enjoyed quieting the crowd inside Joe Louis Arena with his goal, and that he is eager to play his first home playoff game on Monday night at Jobing.com Arena. First up is Game 2 on Saturday back at Joe Louis Arena.
“Everybody is ready to get back at it,” Turris said. “We had a good practice today and we’re back to the confidence level we were at when we got here. We’re ready to get Game 2 under way.”
Both teams told the CBC’s blogger that they’re going to have to be very careful to stick to the NHL’s new standard of officiating…
The NHL issued an advisory to all teams prior to the playoffs that officials would be cracking down on stick fouls to opponents’ hands, but the Wings apparently needed more time to hear the message, earning three hooking infractions in the first 25 minutes of Game 1.
“Both teams were aware that it was going to be tighter,” Cleary said. “We didn’t get the memo probably as quickly as they did.”
Coyotes captain Shane Doan felt the advisory from the league was something that has the potential to impact the series.
“It’s one of the those things we have to be conscious of,” Doan said.
Wings coach Mike Babcock was disappointed that his team didn’t take the notice to heart.
“We were warned before the game, we didn’t make an adjustment in the first period and we went to the box,” Babcock said. “That’s our problem and we’ve got to fix that problem.”
And the Wings reiterated those points to Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji...
“I think both teams were aware that it was going to be tighter,” [Danny] Cleary said. “Obviously, we didn’t get the memo probably as quickly as they did. I thought that our penalty kill really stepped up and did a good job. That was the important part, especially that 5-on-3. The game could have been out of reach maybe. So it’s a good lesson for us going into Saturday. I think for everybody they’re going to tighten up on stick infractions. We’ve got to stay out of the box, that’s for sure.”
“It’s something you have to adjust to,” Lidstrom said. “You have to get used to it and know that in the back of your mind that you can’t have your stick up around the waist. You have to keep it on the ice. You just have to have that approach.”
“I think we had a lot of jump,” [Niklas] Kronwall said of the penalty kill. “Of course, we don’t want to end up playing too much PK, but when we did, it felt like we knew what we were doing. We stuck to the game plan. When one guy put pressure, we all put pressure. In a lot of ways we made it tough on them just by staying on our toes.”
While stating that they’re well aware that shot-blocking is ridiculously essential if they do go to the box:
“I think you just gotta put yourself in a position where you’re between the puck and the net, obviously,” Kronwall said. “You always want to try to prevent that puck from getting through to the net because you can stop it on the way, there’s less chance of them scoring. I think it’s just as simple as that. You want to try to block as many shots as you can.”
“You don’t really think about it,” Kronwall said. “All you want to try to do is prevent that puck from going through.”
Wakiji says that, thankfully, the captain isn’t a big proponent of doing so himself (he prefers to use his stick to block shots and passes), but he appreciates what Kronwall, Salei, Stuart, Helm, Eaves, Draper, Abdelkader and Ericsson do…
“It takes a lot of courage because you’re not that close to the shooter,” Lidstrom said. “When you go down on one knee to block a shot, usually turning sideways, it takes a lot of guts to be able to do that.”
And if you haven’t already noticed, Niklas Kronwall loomed large in the conversation because he played quite a bit on Wednesday, as NHL.com’s Brian Hedger noted:
After missing the final five games of the regular season with an upper-body injury believed to be a shoulder issue, Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall returned to action in Game 1 and played a big role in the Red Wings’ 4-2 win. Not only did he log 21:21 of ice time—second only to Brad Stuart’s 23:25—but Kronwall spent 6:04 on the ice killing off Phoenix power plays. That was about two-thirds of Phoenix’s 9:09 of man-advantage time and the Wings didn’t allow a single power-play goal.
Kronwall also blocked two shots, which he didn’t have to think twice about doing despite his injury.
“You don’t really think about it,” he said. “All you want to try to do is prevent that puck from going through. It’s just as simple as that. You want to try to block as many shots as you can.”
The Wings’ other points of emphasis included...
• Johan Franzen, as noted by NHL.com’s Hedger:
His rocket wrist shot through the legs of a defenseman and past a stunned Ilya Bryzgalov was the highlight, but he also added an assist on Detroit’s first goal, logged five shots on goal, missed the net five times and dished out four hits.
He even blocked a shot and won the only faceoff he took. All that after being somewhat invisible during the final 27 games he played in the regular season—a span in which Detroit’s leading goal scorer potted just 2 goals.
The performance wasn’t exactly “ho-hum” for his teammates to see, but close.
“He’s been happier the last few days,” forward Danny Cleary said on Thursday. “He just hates the regular season, I think. When he’s going, he’s very hard to stop. He gets on this roll of just complete dominance, physical and skating. He can be so powerful, with and without the puck, and his shot is lethal. So it just continued on, him playing well in the postseason.”
• Some jabs at both playing in Phoenix and Todd Bertuzzi’s fight from Danny Cleary, via the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...
“I just think that Bert wants to win,” Babcock said. “It’s real simple to me. These guys who are getting into the later stages of their careers, they give you a focus and a drive. When they’re willing to sacrifice for the team, I think it makes everyone better. It can help make people accountable. He felt obviously that he didn’t have the puck and he got run and he didn’t like it very much,” Babcock added. “Bert had to be complimented with what happened last night (with the fans chanting his name).”
“I guess that’s what you’ve got to do to get your name chanted out there,” Danny Cleary smiled. “I told him I didn’t like it, because that’s five minutes where the lines are all messed up. He really wants to win. That part of it, he picks his spots, which is smart, and it’s a momentum builder for us.”
Here’s Cleary on playing for Phoenix, which he did…
“Playing for a winning team could be very fun there,” said Cleary, who had six goals and 11 assists in 68 games with the Coyotes that season. “Everyone enjoys the sun, but the other side of it is that whole hockey-weather aspect – cold weather, snow – keeps it more hockey-oriented, I think. The one thing about being out in shorts and sandals every day is that you’ve really got to get your mind in check, especially during the dog days of the regular season.”
As well as, well, two things, from Babcock, with the first being a sound plug for Nicklas Lidstrom’s Norris candidacy…
“You mean the 62 points he got playing on our team this year at age 40 when half the team was minus and we were like we were?,” Babcock said when asked if Lidstrom should be a finalist. “Every team has their guy they think should win. Obviously, I’ve coached Nick for a long time and I think he should win hands down. To do at 40 years of age what he’s done is absolutely phenomenal and incredible. I hope he wins.”
And a note about Chris Chelios and Jim Paek taking the reins during the Black Aces’ practice:
“I don’t know if Cheli’s a coach, or a scout, or a GM, or a vice-president. I don’t know exactly,” Babcock smiled. “He is probably whatever he wants to be. It’s just good having him around. He’s been down (in the AHL) helping those kids, watching their games.”
He’s a coach, a scout, a GM, a VP, a mentor, a fitness coach and a restaurateur. And that’s just for the Wings. The man gets four frickin’ hours of sleep a night and thrives on it, like Babcock…
• WXYT’s Jeff Riger posted the Wings’ other discussion-worthy locker room talk—and Riger says that the Wings were very, very even-keeled after the win:
-Both the players and Babcock understand that the game is being officiated even tighter then they thought it would be, so the focus now is to stay out of the penalty box. Detroit had to kill off 5 Coyotes penalties, including a 5 on 3 chance for one minute and 30 seconds before the game was even half way over.
-Jimmy Howard, while pleased that he outplayed Illya Bryzgalov in game one knows that if he keeps allowing the Wings to stick around in times of adversity then they have a good chance to win the series. Howard also letting on that he does feel that he has something to prove this playoff season.
-There was a lot of talk about Todd Bertuzzi and the fight he got into with Rostislav Klesla. A lot of people consider that fight to have been the turning point for Detroit in game one.
-Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen both did not talk with the media but were talked about by their teammates. Players and Babcock were amazed that Datsyuk finished the game with 8 shots on net and a goal. He was also a plus 2 on the night. As for Franzen, Mule was a plus one with 5 shots, a goal and an assist. Franzen has a 13 game playoff scoring streak and has 36 goals and 35 assists in 76 postseason career games.
-Babcock was asked if Nick Lidstrom has done enough to win his 7th Norris trophy considering he finished as a minus player. “You mean the 62 points he got playing on our team this year at age 40 when half the team was minus and we were like we were? I would say! (Yes) Every team has their guy that they think should win. Obviously I have coached Nick for a long time and I think he should win hands down. To me at 40 years of age to do what he’s done is absolutely phenomenal and he’s incredible and I hope he wins.”
Riger posted both a clip of Babcock’s presser, which the Wings’ website took care of…
As well as his own interview with Jimmy Howard…
WXYZ’s Tom Leyden filed an off-day report…
• If you’re interested, you can find the rest of the Coyotes’ audio in the Zetterberg post, but this interview with Griffins GM Bob McNamara, from WBBL’s Huge Show, merits, “Listen here and now” status…
• And then there’s Pavel Datsyuk, who NHL.com’s Brian Hedger was told to pay keen attention to by Danny Cleary:
“Very good sense of humor,” Cleary said of Datsyuk after the Red Wings’ optional practice on Thursday, a day after Datsyuk scored a goal and fired a team-high eight shots in a 4-2 win to open their Western Conference quarterfinal against the Phoenix Coyotes. “It sometimes takes him a while to spit it out, with the English and stuff, but if you listen carefully—he’s a real funny guy.”
Sometimes intentionally. Sometimes unintentionally. Good example: Datsyuk’s response to a question last weekend about a goal he scored against the Chicago Blackhawks that helped spoil the regular-season finale for the defending Stanley Cup champs. Datsyuk was asked about a pass that Cleary made to him from the seat of his pants, nudging the puck over near Datsyuk’s feet. Was he surprised by the puck just sitting there?
“I always surprised when I have puck,” Datsyuk said, smiling. “It’s not easy now, anymore, to get puck, and I’m happy so far.”
Datsyuk then unleashed the one-liner of the week—which was not only funny, but apropos considering his increased role with Henrik Zetterberg sidelined by a lower-body injury to start the playoffs.
“Not fun … to have no puck,” Datsyuk stated flatly, leaving the solitary thought to ruminate.
The Wings adore Datsyuk’s observant nature, intellect, sense of humor and his on-ice skills, too, but Nicklas Lidstrom told Hedger something revealing last night…
“He’s a funny guy to be around and he feels probably more comfortable now than he first did when he came into the League,” Lidstrom said. “He’s a leader in our locker room and he’s an [alternate] captain. He brings a lot to our team, not only on the ice but off the ice, as well.”
So Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell covered the on-ice stuff:
“I just know when Pav has the puck lots, we’re a better team,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “When he has the puck, we’re not playing defence and we feel better about ourselves. Anytime a guy gets eight shots on net, he must have done something right. He’s an elite, elite player.”
“He amazes us every single game,” said Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who admits to have being embarrassed many times by Datsyuk. “He does it in practice. He does it in games.
“The other night in Chicago, he stickhandled through four guys. You’re standing down at the other end and its, ‘Wow. Thank you he’s on my side.’ I usually give it to him, razz him a bit (in practice), after I actually stop him.”
As Waddell wisely suggests, the Wings desperately need Datsyuk to step up sans Henrik Zetterberg, and his teammates have no doubts whatsoever as to Datsyuk’s ability to lead them in the offensive department until Zetterberg returns:
“He’s very strong,” Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He can lean on guys and have one hand on his stick to fight them off for the puck. And his determination, they (other players) might hang onto the puck, but they won’t make that next play. He will. His awareness of where the puck should go. He’s just that special of a player.”
Even Datsyuk’s opponents have to respect his skills…and then some…
“He’s such a dynamic player,” Coyotes defenceman Ed Jovanovski said. “He’s strong on his skates and he’s got more moves than a lot of guys in this league. You have to pay attention to where he is at all times. Our job is to limit his time and space the best we can.”
And, given the fact that we’re gonna be talking about octopi and Henrik Zetterberg over the next two days, let’s give Z the last word, with Z insisting that his Euro-twin may be as understandable by those who aren’t familiar with his Swenglish (if you will) as Tomas Holmstrom, Datsyuk gets his points across off the ice, too:
“I think I understand him pretty good,” Zetterberg said. “He is a funny guy. He always has something smart to say. “He lights up the room.”
Hopefully the Wings will earn the right to play long enough that Mr. Locker Room Cliche (Zetterberg, when the media presses him, anyway) can do the same.
Update 11:03 PM: The Wings posted a clip of their pre-game playoff festivities:
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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.