The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/15/11 at 07:02 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes engaged in the kind of break which they hope they’ll only enjoy again due to television constraints—the start of a two-day pause between Game 1 and Saturday’s Game 2 is anything but normal in the NHL come mid-April. Usually, if you aren’t playing the night after your “off day,” it’s because you’ve been eliminated from the playoffs, so a two-day respite is nothing less than a little weird—arguably almost as bizarre as ticketing a Red Wings fan for throwing an Octopus at the Joe.
So both teams found themselves with almost a little too much time with which to engage in practicing (the Wings’ was an optional one) and then speaking to the media, and more than a few themes rolled in during the press’s mid-day and afternoon/evening updates, with the first and foremost involving a surprisingly frank addendum to MLive’s Ansar Khan’s report about Henrik Zetterberg’s status as having returned to the ice to skate…by himself…for fifteen minutes...
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.
“I feel better today than I did yesterday,’’ Zetteberg said. “It was fun to be out there, feel the puck again. I didn’t do any serious stuff, just go out and stick-handle a little bit and have some shots. I didn’t expect that a few days ago, even though I didn’t do basically anything out there.’‘
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.
That’s just the medical reality regarding a Grade 1 or Grade 2 MCL sprain, which is what the Free Press’s Helene St. James revealed the injury to be—two to three weeks, depending on the severity of the sprain and pain tolerance. The Wings’ medical staff wants to win Stanley Cup rings, too, but this is Detroit, not Philadelphia (see: Eric Lindros), so there’s no way that the Wings’ doctors will clear Zetterberg for a full-contact practice, never mind returning to play playoff hockey with a left knee that everyone knows is sprained, if doing so will risk Zetterberg’s health going forward. Once his knee’s healthy enough to withstand the rigors of play, he’ll return, and not before.
The other big story of the day technically involved what is supposedly the imminent sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to True North Sports and Entertainment in Winnipeg, but, as I stated on Thursday, I respect the Coyotes’ right to exist and their fans’ passions, so in the playoffs especially, when their players are choosing to continue doing what they’re doing—trying to beat the Detroit Red Wings—while keeping the off-ice distractions away from their minds, as Vernon Fiddler told the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy...
“We’re not worried,” Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler said. “We’re Phoenix Coyotes, the organization is letting us focus on hockey, and that’s what’s important right now.”
Speculation about a move intensified four hours before Wednesday’s faceoff at Joe Louis Arena, when various media outlets, including a Toronto radio station, reported a possible move to Winnipeg, Manitoba. When asked Thursday about the report, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett questioned its accuracy and timing.
“It’s interesting how it just came out like that (before the game),” he said, grinning. “We use it as a motivating factor, a galvanizing factor. What happens in the business world of hockey is inconsequential right now.”
“We want to be in Phoenix,” Fiddler said of the players’ perspective. “Everybody loves it there. Our fan support is getting better and better, we’ve made the playoffs, we’re winning.”
I’m choosing to ignore a topic that isn’t related to a Wings blog and to respect the Coyotes’ fans, players and coach. The team on the ice is trying to beat the our Red Wings, and that’s what matters.
In any case, the Coyotes approached Thursday’s practice, which the Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio stated was not attended by Ilya Bryzgalov (Derek Morris is still “day to day,” too), and their off-ice work with their focus squarely on reproducing their first-period performance in Wednesday’s game, hoping to turn the physical tables on Detroit come Saturday, as Tippett told the Free Press’s George Sipple...
They weren’t happy about being outhit, 33-28, in a 4-2 loss to the Red Wings in Game 1 on Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. Patrick Eaves, Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen each contributed four hits for the Red Wings.
“If you look at the stats, I think they had eight players with three-plus hits in the game,” said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett. “We had two. That’s not enough players on our side that were physically involved in the game. We’ll have to be better in that area.”
Shane Doan had a game-high eight hits, and Rostislav Klesla had five as they combined for half of the Coyotes’ hits.
“They obviously outhit us, and as a group we got a bunch of guys that need to hit a lot more than that,” Doan said. “Need to be more physical and have to get involved in the game.”
“We got a group that has to work hard and be intense,” Doan said. “They beat us in that category last night.”
And after the Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio reinforced the fact that Doan tends to take charge in the hitting department…
“We better [match Detroit],” said Doan, who had a team-high 172 hits coming into the playoffs. “They obviously out-hit us, and as a group we got a bunch of guys that need to hit a lot more than that. We need to be more physical and have to get involved in the game.”
Gintonio also noted that the Coyotes plan on matching the Wings’ 18 blocked shots as well, because the Wings’ blocked shots were key to killing off six Phoenix power plays:
“It’s dangerous, but that’s how you win, simple as that,” coach Dave Tippett said. “I thought we had some times when we attempted to block shots and didn’t get the job done. So there’s two sides of it - there’s one with the mentality of blocking shots and (two) getting the job done when you put your mind to it. Again, both areas where I think we can be better in Game 2.”
The Coyotes blocked eight shots in the opener, 10 fewer than the Red Wings. Defenseman Derek Morris, who led the team with 136 blocked shots in the regular season, was scratched (bumps and bruises). Center Kyle Turris had two against Detroit, the team high. Vernon Fiddler is at his best in critical, physical situations.
“We’ve got a lot of guys on our team that do it, it’s a good thing,” he said “It’s not always fun to take. It’s just something you have to do to win. It seems more teams that have that do that, they win more. . . . It’s just something you have to do when you’re my style of player.”
“This time of year, that’s what it takes,” [Ed Jovanovski] said. “You got to sacrifice your body, whatever it takes to block shots and they had more of that than we did. Our team, our forte, is strong defense, blocking shots, whatever it takes, limit those second and third opportunities. I thought we did that in the first period. We were chasing the game a little bit in the second and third, so you got to pay the price this time of year.”
So Tippett and Eric Belanger, the Coyotes’ resident playoff veteran, spoke to Gintonio about the fact that they’re going to take the positives out of their first-period dominance and apply some tweaks to sustain said play for 60 minutes on Saturday…
“That’s what is in the playoffs,” [Belanger] said. “You take the good things and the things you can correct, and you move on. You can’t get down on yourself, you can’t be negative. It’s easier said than done, but we battled hard all year, we have to stay together. We had a good first period (Wednesday), and I felt after that we were a little bit flat. (You) just take the positive and move on and get a win on Saturday and get back at home with 1-1.”
And the emphasis for Belanger and the Coyotes was on taking better advantage of their opportunities:
“I think it’s more us making the plays, it’s more executing what’s in front of us,” Belanger said. ” On the power plays, it’s the best example. It’s work, executing and making the right plays. You can do Xs and Os all you want, but you have to make the play when it’s there.”
Thus, Tippett worked his team through power play drills…
“We wanted our guys just to get out there and move the puck around a little bit,” [Tippett] said. “There’s some things that we can definitely improve on and first game of the series. First period, you get four power plays and a 5 on 3, you can tell our guys were a little anxious. We told our guys just go out and calm down, make the plays you normally make and things will work out a lot better than they did in Game 1.”
But Tippett really does believe that the Coyotes did everything but win, despite Wednesday’s 4-2 score:
“We talked about some areas where we feel we can improve in, but you look at the game, there’s some things we did well,” he said. We’ve been a pretty resilient group through the whole season ,and there’s been a lot of things thrown at us that guys kind of chuckle at, but you come out of Game 1 - we didn’t get the result we wanted - our guys were very upbeat (Thursday). We’ll be ready for Game 2.”
Fiddler agreed, suggesting that, the Wings’ 5-on-3 PK excluded, the Coyotes did their jobs pretty well:
“We didn’t give them a whole bunch of power plays, that’s where they get a lot of their momentum,” center Vernon Fiddler said. “It was kind of a 10-minute span when they momentum and rolled with it, and it cost us the game. In the playoffs, those are the type of things that win or lose you games. And it’s just one of those things right now that we can’t let happen. They’re such a good team, they have so much skill over there that when you do that they’re going to win games.”
“We know what we did right and what we did wrong,” [Radim Vrbata] said. “We have to learn from it. We need to relax, if we start forcing plays or start to squeeze our sticks, that’s not going to work. I think you have to relax.”
After Zetterberg and Wings coach Mike Babcock engaged in their obligatory dance with the media, as noted by the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...
“I was out there for 15 minutes,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “It was fun to be out there and feel the puck again. I didn’t do any serious stuff, just go out and stick handled a little bit and took some shots. I feel better than I did yesterday,” Zetterberg added.
“There’s always a chance (he’ll play),” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s day-to-day, that’s what I keep telling you.”
“It’s day-by-day,” Zetterberg said. “We’ll see how I react after today. We bumped it up a little bit in the workout room today. Just got to see how I respond. It was definitely fun to be out there,” Zetterberg continued. “I didn’t expect that a few days ago, even though I didn’t do basically anything out there.”
The fact that Detroit won Game 1 may help in letting the Wings not rush Zetterberg back in the lineup.
“Absolutely,” Zetterberg said. “It’s a lot easier to be on the side when the team’s winning.”
The Wings focused upon their most obvious point of emphasis on Thursday—the Wings nearly got burned because the NHL’s chosen to return to a near-lockout level of enforcing any horizontal stick fouls (after, in all honestly, getting laughably lax about letting everything but wrestling on ice seep back into the game in January and February) as part of its annual start-of-the-post-season-crackdown, and while the team in red was most certainly made an example of because it’s the team in red, the Wings told Pleiness that both teams were warned that the NHL’s referees had been told to execute an order, and the Wings nearly gave the game away because they didn’t listen:
“I was surprised as tight as it was last night and yet in saying that we were warned before the game,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said Thursday. “We didn’t make an adjustment in the first period and we went to the box. That’s our problem,” Babcock added. “We’ve got to fix it.”
“We were told before the series started they were going to clamp down on sticks parallel to the ice when you’re hooking someone or have a stick on someone’s glove,” Lidstrom added. “I thought they were (Wednesday) night and making those calls. You’ve got to keep your stick on the ice and try not to hook players or use your stick like that. It’s something you have to get used to,” Lidstrom continued. “In the back of your mind you have to know not to have your stick up around someone’s waist line. We just have to have that approach.”
“A penalty is a penalty,” Babcock said. “I’m all for that. Sometimes I don’t know why we change. We’ve made some great adjustments to the game a few years back and I think those should be maintained all the time. And like any of us we need to be reminded. These (refs) want to ref in the Staley Cup finals and in order to do that they’ve got to do whatever they’re told,” Babcock added.
They’re not going to call the kinds of charging, clipping and “reckless hit” penalties that are to blame for the up-tick in concussions, but that’s another story for another day—and I adored the way that Babcock snuck in the concept that the NHL’s done a lovely job of letting their standards of officiating ebb and flow, depending on what the refs are told to focus upon on any given night—and the Wings understand that it’s sticks down from here on out:
Hooking is Rule 55 in the NHL rules book and is described as the act of using the stick in a manner that enables a player to restrain an opponent. When a player is checking another in such a way that there is only stick-to-stick contact, such action is not to be penalized as hooking.
“Anytime the stick is lateral, the ref is going to call it,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We just have to work with our legs a little more, skate and put yourself in a position where you don’t have to reach with your stick. We can work a little smarter than we did in the first period.”
Danny Cleary agreed, as he told the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky:
Valtteri Filppula, Lidstrom, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm were all whistled for stick-related infractions in the first period. Filppula’s and Lidstrom’s penalties overlapped by 91 seconds.
“I think both teams were aware that it was going to be tighter,” Red Wings forward Danny Cleary said. “Obviously we didn’t get the memo as quickly as they did.”
Cleary wouldn’t have been nearly as flippant had those penalties cost the Red Wings home-ice advantage.
“These guys want to ref in the Stanley Cup Finals,” Babcock said. “And in order for them to do that, they have to do whatever they are told.”
Even if that means calling soft hooking penalties even when a skater’s forward progress isn’t impeded.
“I thought that our penalty kill really stepped up and did a good job,” Cleary said. “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.”
And while the Wings lauded their players’ fearlessness in blocking so many shots, as they told the Free Press’s George Sipple...
Twelve players were credited with blocked shots in the 4-2 Game 1 win over the Coyotes. Ruslan Salei had a team-high four, and Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart and Danny Cleary had two each. Blocked shots helped kill off a 90-second 5-on-3 in the first period.
“Kronwall and Stuie have been our best guys on the back all year long with that,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought Kronner had a real big block on the 5-on-3. We got a real good save out of (Jimmy) Howard on (Radim) Vrbata on the 5-on-3, and then we got a real good save off the backboard. ... As much as we did some good things, we got some good goaltending in those situations to make you look better than you probably were.”
In no small part thanks to the Lexan plastic “skate fenders” that just happened to be developed by some of Red Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer’s friends from his Lake Superior State University days…
“Now these plastic guards, you can put on your feet, too, for guys like Kronner and Stuart,” Babcock said. “The guys that get in front (of shots) that don’t have those on their feet, that’s a little different story.
“The bottom line is you gotta be willing to get hit with the puck, and most guys in the league are now willing to. It’s almost impossible to get the puck to the net. Obviously, courage is a huge part of the game at this time of the year right now. The reality is if you’re going to win, you gotta do those things. Their team is no different than ours in that way. They’re going to do all the little things to be successful, so we gotta keep doing it and keep getting better.”
The Wings hope to not have to expose their skaters to repeated shot-blocking impacts, nor expose Jimmy Howard to repeated secondary and tertiary scoring chances, as Lidstrom and Babcock suggested to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan and McCosky:
The Coyotes entered with the league’s 23rd-best power play and 26th-best penalty kill. The Red Wings were fifth on the power play, 17th on the penalty kill. The Red Wings lived up to their billing — and the Coyotes down to theirs — as Detroit had one power-play goal and killed all six Phoenix power plays (four in the first period).
“It gives us a confidence boost to kill off penalties,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “But you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you’re in the box a lot. You have to be smarter.”
Said Babcock: “As much as we did good things on the penalty kill, we got real good goaltending (from starter Jimmy Howard ) in those situations to make you look a little better than you probably were.”
After all, things only get more difficult from here, and the Wings know that they can’t play the way they did in Game 1 if they want to win on Saturday:
Danny Cleary , on what he expects from the Coyotes Saturday: “They’re going to come out harder. We have to come out and match it even harder than we played in Game 1.”
With that, we get to move to some rare flights of the sort of journalistic fancy that used to be commonplace when teams had more than one beat writer trying to do practice reports, recaps, notebooks, analysis columns and opinion columns at the same time.
The bulked-up media presence yielded profiles of two players who don’t get much bandwidth these days because they don’t want to do their talking off the ice.
Todd Bertuzzi’s been nothing less than a revelation in terms of his game-to-game level of intensity, energy and physical enthusiasm after realizing that when he was tossed from a game for hitting Chicago Blackhawks forward Ryan Johnson (to whom Bertuzzi apologized), he would not be suspended for simply incurring what would be penalties to every other player. The NHL’s resident “marked man” has played like he’s had a 10,000-pound weight lifted from his shoulders since then.
The Wings made sure to rub in the fact that they adored seeing Bertuzzi drop gloves with Rostislav Klesla, engaging in his second fight in only two weeks, to the delight of Joe Louis Arena’s raucous crowd, as they told the Free Press’s Steve Schrader:
“It’s a good lift, a good boost for the team,” Jimmy Howard said. “The crowd really enjoyed it. It was good to hear them chanting Todd’s name. It’s good for him, but it’s also good for the team because we feed off the energy. When you hear the crowd getting behind us, it makes us that much better.”
Are we that starved for fisticuffs—given that fights are rare in the playoffs and even more so for the Wings—because it really wasn’t that much of a scrap. Oh, well, guess it’s not the size of the fight, it’s the thought that counts. Danny Cleary teased Bertuzzi about it after the game.
“I said to him, ‘I guess that’s what you’ve got to do to get your name chanted around here,” Cleary said. “I told him I don’t know if I like it, because then he’s gone for 5 minutes, the lines are all messed up, but—he really wants to win, there’s no doubt about that. That part of it, he picks his spots at the right time, which is smart, and that was a good momentum-builder for us.”
Bertuzzi basically keeps to himself, and he likes it that way, though the Wings insist that the man with a perma-scowl and a Sasquatch-like stance is in fact an on-ice and off-ice leader who comes to work every day, works his tail off, and is actually a good teammate, but Bertuzzi doesn’t talk to the media precisely because the Detroit News’s John Niyo, in his profile of Bertuzzi, made sure to ask former teammate and now playoff foe Ed Jovanovski to weigh in on the burden we all know Bertuzzi bears on a daily basis:
“It’s good to see,” said Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski, Bertuzzi’s longtime pal and former teammate with the Canucks. “I mean, going through a tough time like that, it feels like it has dragged on forever — and from what I understand, it’s not over yet. You know, he’s got a big heart. He cares for his teammates. We had good times in Vancouver together and you just wish the best for him, because he’s been dragged through the mud quite a bit.”
I’m not even gonna say it. We all know what Bertuzzi did to Steve Moore, we all know that, just as the Coyotes are always about to be sold to Winnipeg or wherever when they play in a big game, whenever the Wings play a Canadian team, Tim Danson, P.C. tosses off a new tidbit about his intent to put the game of hockey on trial for Danson’s ego more than the sake of letting Moore get a nice chunk of Bertuzzi’s earnings and move on with his life, and…That’s long ago and far away, it’s something that Bertuzzi deals with every day, it’s something that’s going to probably take away something between a quarter and a third of the money he’s made, and that’s fine. That’s right and proper.
But he’s just Bert around here.
“I think that people are entitled to second chances,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
So let’s talk about the 40-point-producer whose penchant for superb defensive plays makes up for his frustrating tendency to try to make the kind of backhand dekes and spin-o-ramas that he can no longer back up:
“He’s not looked upon to be the guy to score 40 or 50 goals like he was in Vancouver,” Jovanovski said. “He can just go about doing his work. I think Babcock’s been really good for him, and the whole system in Detroit has been good for him.”
And, yes, as Holland notes, “The last month or six weeks, he has brought another element to his game that he did when he was younger. He’s dropping the gloves all of a sudden.”
Adds Babcock: “I just think that Bert wants to win — it’s real simple. I think these guys that want to win and are getting to the later stages of their career — I think Dallas Drake did the same thing for us (in ‘08) — they give you that focus and that drive. And when you’re willing to sacrifice for the team, I think that makes everyone better. … We’re fortunate he wants to win as bad as he does.”
So Bertuzzi the man, not Bertuzzi the monster, loves to play in Detroit, where fans ask for an autograph, shake your hand, maybe pose for a picture or have a conversation, and then let you on your way because that’s what Detroiters, Michiganders and Midwesterners tend to do.
And to hear the fans’ appreciation, well, Bertuzzi admits, “It’s great. Obviously, I love playing here. They’re very knowledgeable (fans) and respectful and they love their team here. And I think that’s why guys love to come here and play and play hard for them.”
That’s his job.
And that’s the job of the media’s more sparkling darling, who’s no less willing to lean on an old crutch that Tomas Holmstrom and even Nicklas Lidstrom used to employ, as noted by the London Free Press’s Morris Da La Costa (who also penned a schmaltzy piece about the Wings’ time almost being up because they’re so old, etc. etc.):
Even though his English is spotty, he never shies away from interviews. Detroit’s leading scorer, Henrik Zetterberg, is out with a knee injury and the Wings are considered by many to be a little too old to go on an extended playoff run.
Even though the Wings are still favoured against the Phoenix Coyotes, they have spent the run-up to the playoffs being asked their thoughts about predictors picking their opponent to pull off the upset. Datsyuk was asked the he cared.
“Lots of guys saying that. Lots of guys ask me if I hear (that),” Datsyuk said. “I say maybe some guys hear but I don’t hear because I don’t speak English.”
It comes out as Tomas Holmstrom-level Swenglish at times, especially because Datsyuk’s actually kind of shy (shh) and talks quietly (huh?), but Datsyuk’s Wings teammates know that someone who’s been with the team for almost ten years understands everything he hears. The Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell wrote a Datsyukian-level profile of #13, and USA Today’s Kevin Allen attempted to do the same by scouting the enemy...
“I think he’s the most dangerous guy we play in the Western Conference,” Phoenix general manager Don Maloney said. “You don’t know what he’s going to do next. He’s elusive. He can take pucks away. He turns up ice quickly. He’s remarkably strong for his size.”
In addition to being a masterful stick-handler, he’s the two-time defending Selke Trophy winner as top defensive forward. He likely will lose that title this season to the Vancouver Canucks’ Ryan Kesler. The race might have been close had Datsyuk not missed significant time with injury.
At 6-3, Kesler physically overwhelms his prey. Datsyuk, 5-10, is forceful as well as being a pickpocket. A quick lift of an opponent’s stick, and he is going the other way on a breakaway.
“He’s such a dynamic player,” said Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski. “He’s strong on his skates ... you have to pay attention to where he is at all times.”
As frightening as Datsyuk can be for opponents, he has never had more than 32 goals or reached 100 points. His best was 97, which he accomplished twice. But when the Red Wings won the 2008 Stanley Cup, he had 23 points in 22 playoff games.
“I don’t think he has ever focused on (points),” Maloney said. “But if he ever thought, ‘I’m going to get 120 points this year,’ he probably could. But he’s a great two-way center and he’s symbolic of what (the Red Wings) are all about.”
And the Free Press’s Helene St. James dangled through Datysuk’s teammates’ praises...
“He’s a special player with a great work ethic, and his talents with and without the puck, people around these parts have seen it year in and year out,” Danny Cleary said. “I think we should just all be thankful he’s on our team.”
“I usually give it to him a little bit, razz him,” Howard said. “I always try to talk a little bit when I actually stop him. He’s just so crafty with the puck. When he has it, you just sense the whole building holding its breath just watching to see what he does with it. He amazes us every single game. He does it in practice, he does it in the games, like the other night in Chicago in Sunday afternoon’s game. I mean, he stickhandled through four guys. You’re standing down at the other end and you’re just like, ‘Wow.’ Thank you he’s on my side.”
To reveal that, yes, even the Wings’ supposedly staid captain values Datsyuk for his ability to think several steps ahead of the play (cue Igor Larionov, or Lidstrom himself)...
“His skill level is so high,” Lidstrom said, “but he’s very strong, too. You can tell that he can lean on guys and have one hand on his stick and hold guys off, fighting guys off for the puck. So his strength, and I think his determination, too. Where some guys might hang onto the puck but they won’t make that next play, he can make that next play, with his awareness where the puck should go, or whether to pass it or shoot it. He’s that special of a player.”
As well as his leadership and wit:
“He makes a lot of jokes, especially in here in the room with the guys,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He’s a funny guy to be around, and I think he probably feels more comfortable now than he first did when he came into the league. He’s one of the leaders in our locker room, an assistant captain. He brings a lot to our team, not only on the ice but off the ice.”
The Wings (and Henrik Zetterberg especially) understand Datsyuk, and that’s enough to leave them in stitches, even if it’s on a delayed basis (like Holmstrom, though Homer’s more prone to keep talking, while Datsyuk tends to put his joke past you so fast that, even if he spoke perfect English, it’d take 30 seconds for you to register the fact that his humorous dangle is in fact behind you and has exited the back of the net):
“Very, very good sense of humor,” Cleary said. “Sometimes it takes him awhile to spit it out with the English and stuff, but if you listen carefully, he’s a really funny guy.”
“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.”
In fact, as the Free Press revealed, even one of Datsyuk’s opponents hopes to meet him…eventually…in Kyle Turris, who scored his first goal in his first playoff game at the Joe on Wednesday:
“Everything about it,” Turris said when asked what he liked about playing in the Joe. “The history of the arena. The crazy fans. The octopus flying on the ice. All red seats. Playing against Detroit and Pavel Datsyuk and guys like that.
“Stevie Y was my favorite, and as he retired Pavel came in and started to shine,” said Turris, 21, who scored Wednesday.
He said he has spoken to Yzerman, not Datsyuk.
“After the series I’ll hopefully get a chance to shake his hand,” he said.
That’s the theory. As a Wings fan, I’m hoping that it’s Datsyuk who’s saying, “Good job” and Turris who’s saying, “Good luck.”
I’m not usually a multimedia double-poster anymore, but here are the Wings-related clips of pertinent note from Thursday, starting with Babcock’s presser.
WXYT’s Jeff Riger’s interview with Jimmy Howard…
The Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell’s YouTube-formatted interviews with Danny Cleary…
And Nicklas Lidstrom (this is new)...
As well as WXYZ’s off-day report…
And something you probably haven’t seen in the Wings’ playoff-opening festivities from Wednesday, via the Red Wings’ website:
The Detroit News also posted a 12-image gallery of the Red Wings’ and Coyotes’ optional skates, as well as Chris Chelios leading the “Black Aces.”
Also of Red Wings-related note: Yes, the Free Press and the Arizona Republic are having a contest asking Wings and Coyotes fans which city has the best hockey fans, and the contest ends on Friday at 7 PM EDT;
A few weeks ago, he told Expressen’s Tomas Pettersson that he plans on signing with the Red Wings, a Swiss club or a KHL team, and while he insisted that he’d be willing to play in the AHL for a while if it meant a shot at cracking the Red Wings’ roster, Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson told both Pettersson and, prior to that, RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest that the team’s going to retain Axelsson’s rights, but they aren’t going to promise Axlesson a spot on the roster, nor are the Wings sure whether Axlesson’s really ready to come over yet.
In other words, we’ll wait and see what happens, but don’t expect “Hat Trick Dick” to be attending training camp in Traverse City next fall. Right now, Dick is probably legally intoxicated and celebrating the SEL championship in Karlstad.
RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau, writing for her Left Wing Lock blog, took note of Axelsson’s accomplishments:
Dick Axelsson has been called a lot of things in his brief hockey career, but now he can add Swedish Elite League Championship to that list. Axelsson, who plays for Farjestad, notched four goals and six assists through 14 postseason games.
The 6-foot-2, 188 pound winger has at times frustrated the Red Wings brass by some of the choices he has made both on and off the ice. Despite his ill-advised decision to leave Grand Rapids of the AHL in 2009 to return to Sweden, Axelsson seems to be finally taking a significant step forward.
The former second round pick in the 2006 NHL entry draft has NHL level skills and made a strong impression when he attended Red Wings training camp in 2009. Axelsson, who has been able to coast due to his high end talent, must improve his work ethic and consistency to have an NHL future. With a year remaining on deal (which includes an out clause) with Farjestad, it will be interesting to see when the newly crowned SEL championship makes another attempt to attend a Red Wings training camp.
• I do know where the Wings’ amateur scouts are right now, however, and it’s not Karlstad, Sweden. It’s Dresden, Germany, where the IIHF’s website reports the Under-18 World Championships are underway.
They’re preceding the men’s worlds in Slovakia, which will get underway starting on April 29th You can bet that Axelsson and several other Wings prospects (like Tomas Tatar) will take part in the Worlds, but the Wings are hoping that the members of their big club will be otherwise occupied next month.
Per Iltahleti, however, Wings prospect Teemu Pulkkinen is already taking part in warm-up games for Team Finland’s World Championship team, which is good news given that he was dealing with a kidney infection last month, and you can watch his two goals against Germany on YouTube;
• Shifting gears, the Red Wings’ “Twenty Straight” website wraps up its recollections of the past 20 years of Wings playoff hockey with moments from 2010 and yes, 2011;
• Per the Wings’ Twitter account, @nolanz4 noted that the Wings’ Playoff Wallpapers are up…
• And in semi-reassuring news, the Sporting News’s Craig Custance is endorsing Nicklas Lidstrom as his Norris Trophy choice:
Norris Trophy: “To the defense player who demonstrates who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position.”
1. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings. This isn’t a lifetime achievement award. This isn’t a nomination because he’s still kickin’ at 40. On a night-to-night basis, there’s still not a better defenseman than Lidstrom.
Nobody played against tougher competition this season (per BehindtheNet.ca), and Lidstrom constantly makes plays against high-end competition that win games. His offensive production tailed at season’s end, but he finished second among NHL defensemen with 62 points.
Consider these words from Keith Yandle, a Norris contender himself: “Obviously Lidstrom is in a class of his own,” Yandle said. “Even with the guys up for Norris, he’s still ways ahead of everybody.”
Why semi-reassuring? Custance is the second or third of the ten writers who’ve shared their ballots that’s backing Lidstrom. Custance is also picking Lidstrom for the Lady Byng Trophy, as most other writers are doing, but the pack seems to be split between Shea Weber or Zdeno Chara at this point, and the writers have already cast their votes. It doesn’t look good for Norris Nick right now.
Update: MLive’s Ansar Khan let Datsyuk speak for himself:
“Pav is Pav. He’s one of those magicians on the ice,” teammate Niklas Kronwall said. “He can do things that not a lot of other guys can. We need him to keep playing like that every night. He’s going to be a huge factor for us.”
It was the kind of all-around performance that is particularly important in the absence of fellow star Henrik Zetterberg, who is not expected to return until Game 6, at the earliest. Zetterberg, who skated for 15 minutes before Thursday’s optional practice, might even be out for the series because of a sprained left knee suffered April 6 in Carolina. If the Red Wings are to win this series without him, Datsyuk needs more games like Wednesday’s. Game 2 is Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.
“That’s going to be even more important to get those miles out of Pav and that he be the offensive threat that he is,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “And I thought he played a really strong game defensively.”
Datsyuk, as usual, downplayed his significance to the outcome and praised others.
“It’s one game,” Datsyuk said. “Now I am looking forward to next game. With guys like Nick and Rafi (Brian Rafalski), they have lots of experience and when we see how they play, it makes it much easier for us, too.”
“We need to shoot a lot,” Datsyuk said. “Things happen after shot.”
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