The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/07/11 at 06:18 AM ET
The Red Wings flew back to Detroit on Thursday night having accomplished none of their goals—in staying healthy, sharpening their special teams and continuing to round into playoff form—thanks to a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in which the Wings lost the services of Henrik Zetterberg (ankle) for the rest of the regular season, traded one-and-done chances with the Canes and both tried to get “too cute” on a 4-minute power play and gave up a goal as soon as Drayson Bowman finished serving his double minor for bloodying Danny Cleary’s nose.
Zetterberg (who’s suffered his second significant ankle injury thanks to nemesis Bryan Allen) and the Wings limped out of the rink only a point behind the 2nd-place San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference standings because the Sharks, who have a game in hand on Detroit, lost to Anaheim, and the Wings offered the all-too-familiar, “We played well, but they were more desperate” line to the press. It’s starting to sound more than a little hollow, while the Hurricanes, who are still two points behind the 8th-place Rangers in the East, were delighted with their effort.
Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, who stopped 42 shots, spoke to the Raleigh News & Observer’s Chip Alexander about his performance and the Canes’ mindset going forward, while duly noting that the Canes’ ability to both kill off the Wings’ 4-minute power play and extend their lead shortly thereafter essentially determined the game’s result:
“We’re still sitting two points back [of New York] but we did what we needed to do tonight,” Ward said after his 16th career shutout and fourth of the season. “There’s relief in the fact we won tonight but that doesn’t mean it will get any easier. We’ve got to win our next two games, facing two difficult teams in Atlanta and Tampa (Bay).”
[Jeff] Skinner scored his 30th goal of the season and defenseman Derek Joslin his first with the Hurricanes in the second period for a 2-0 lead. When Erik Cole rifled a shot from the right wing early in the third, it was 3-0. Canes’ captain Eric Staal assisted on the three goals and the Canes’ special teams got the job done. Rookie forward Drayson Bowman was called for a double-minor for high-sticking early in the third, but the Hurricanes killed off the two penalties and Cole scored moments later. The Red Wings were fourth in the NHL on the power play and had the second-best road power play.
“That’s a huge momentum-buster when you can kill off a four-minute power play against one of the best power plays in the league,” Ward said. “And then score immediately after definitely got this place going and got our team going.”
Cue special teams dominance and another…quick whistle…
Ward made 18 saves and Howard 15 in the first as both teams had quality scoring chances. The Hurricanes had two power plays and the Wings one in the opening period. The Canes did not register a shot on goal until Joslin’s shot at 5:27 during Carolina’s first power play. Ward stopped Mike Modano on a point-blank shot with four minutes left in the first. During a hardfought scrum that followed, the Wings finally banged the puck in the net but a whistle had been blown to stop play. Ward then turned back a stuff by former Hurricanes forward Patrick Eaves.
“He was just on,” Canes coach Paul Maurice said of Ward. “Even the scrums that the puck got loose you knew he was coming up with it. You could just feel it from the bench.”
Then things got worse for the Wings, and better in a hurry for Carolina, as Alexander noted in his main recap:
[Derek] Joslin, traded to the Canes from the San Jose Sharks in February, scored at 4:04 of the second period. It came after Skinner, bullish and aggressive around the net all game, forced a holding penalty on the Wings’ Justin Abdelkader.
Skinner then made it 2-0 with 1:13 left in the period. Grabbing the rebound of a Staal shot, he beat Wings goalie Jimmy Howard with a quick wraparound as the crowd of 17,602 thundered. Skinner became the second rookie in franchise history to score 30 - Sylvain Turgeon scored 40 in 1983-84. At 18 years, 325 days old, Skinner is the seventh-youngest player in NHL history to do it.
But it wasn’t over. The Wings (46-24-10) had put 29 shots on net in the first two periods, and when Bowman was called for high-sticking at 1:36 of the third, the NHL’s fourth-best power-play team had four minutes of power-play time. But the Canes’ penalty killers did their job, as did Ward, earning a standing ovation. It also was a relief for Bowman.
“The penalty kill came through great,” Bowman said, smiling. “That was great to see and built momentum.”
Cole took it from there, rifling a shot past Howard from the right circle for his 25th goal at 5:44.
“I’m really proud of the mental toughness to come back and beat a team like Detroit,” Maurice said. “That’s a pretty resilient group.”
As Fox Sports Carolinas Andrew Jones suggests, the game’s result seemed almost certain as soon as Joslin scored:
Derek Joslin’s first goal since being acquired in February from San Jose sparked the arena and the home team. And by the time 18-year-old rookie Jeff Skinner’s wrap-around goal – his 30th of the season – gave Carolina a 2-0 edge and Erik Cole’s “fast-break” goal off a nifty feed from Staal made it 3-0, hope permeated throughout the building. Heck, Cole’s goal came 11 seconds after the Canes killed off a four-minute power play for the Red Wings. It was Carolina’s night.
“I thought all the way through was pretty solid,” Staal said. “Up and down our lineup, our defense did a good job. They’ve (Detroit) got some pretty good offensive skill up front, especially on the power play – you’ve got to be aware and have good sticks and be in the shot lanes and passing lanes. We did a good job getting it done.”
It’s possible, however, and maybe even likely, that Carolina really only needed one goal to notch the victory. Ward was that good. He turned away 42 shots on the night, including 18 in the first period.
Canes coach Paul Maurice said his team was tight in the first period, as evidence by some sloppy puck handling and a parade of missed passes. But it’s pretty obvious that Ward’s command in net helped relaxed the team.
“That’ll do it. That will keep them from getting too tight,” Maurice said. “But that’s what your leader do. They could feel that he was just on and you could feel it in the net. Even the scrums and the puck got loose, you knew he was coming up with it. You could feel it from the bench.”
CarolinaHurricanes.com’s Paul Branecky notes that Ward deferred credit to his teammates, and Joslin was able to play the “redemption” card…
“It’s nice to get rewarded with a shutout, but I can’t take the full credit,” said Ward. “I thought our guys competed once again and we refused to give up. To be able to come and compete against a very difficult team in Detroit speaks a lot about character and a complete team effort.”
Ward’s ability to weather the storm paved the way for defenseman Derek Joslin to give the Hurricanes the lead on a power play early in the second period. Joslin, who is a plus-10 in 15 games with the Hurricanes since arriving via trade with San Jose, collected the puck along the wall, moved toward center ice and took a low slap shot that beat Jimmy Howard. The goal was Joslin’s first as a Hurricane and just the second of his 32-game NHL career.
“San Jose had a really deep team and I was in and out of the lineup, not playing many minutes and was maybe a little bit afraid to make a mistake,” said Joslin. “I come here and Carolina has been fighting for a playoff spot since February and every game has been intense and fun. I’ve got an opportunity to play and I’ve been able to show them what I can do.”
But the game hinged upon the Canes’ ability to stifle the Wings’ 4-minute power play, plain and simple:
The Hurricanes’ lead seemed as though it could be in jeopardy when rookie Drayson Bowman took a four-minute high-sticking penalty at the beginning of the third period, allowing the league’s second-best road power play ample time to get to work. However, the Canes killed it off, with Erik Cole notching his 25th of the season, his highest total since 2006-07, just after the man-advantage expired.
“If the game goes to 2-1 there with time on another penalty, it’s a completely different game,” said Maurice. “We’d probably lose a forward there because Drayson probably would have snuck out the back door and may not have come back to the bench.”
“That’s a huge momentum booster when you can kill off a four-minute power play against one of the best power plays in the league and then immediately score right after,” said Ward. “It definitely got this place going and got our team going.”
So the Hurricanes continued to savor their victory while speaking to the Associated Press’s Jody McCreary…
“I think we’re really coming into our own, playing good, five-man hockey,” said Eric Staal, who had three assists. “It’s the time of year when you’ve got to have your game going to get into the playoffs. We like to think we’re right there, and hopefully we can follow it up ... and be right where we want to be.”
And McCreary actually took a bit of a shot at the Wings while praising Ward—and she’s not off given that Howard got caught swimming on his knees on both the Skinner wraparound goal and on Cole’s deke:
As strong as Ward was in net, Detroit certainly could have used him. Ward entered 0-3 in his career against Red Wings with a goals-against average of 3.35 against them, but he was impenetrable in his fourth shutout of the season and 16th of his career. His most impressive sequence might’ve come when he made two saves - with defenseman Tim Gleason blocking another puck - during an early rapid-fire pileup in front of the net.
“A couple good point-blank saves on a few of us that turned the game and kept the game tight and in their favor,” Detroit center Mike Modano said.
Wings coach Mike Babcock suggested that it wasn’t necessarily Cole’s goal that hammered the final nail into the Wings’ coffin:
The highlight of the night came on Skinner’s goal, his fourth in five games. Staal unloaded a slap shot that bounced off Howard’s pads, and Skinner scooped up the puck near the right post, wrapped it around and tucked it between the left post and Howard’s glove to make it 2-0 with 1:13 left in the second.
“The (goal) at the end of the second killed us, kind of put a knife in us,” Babcock said.
But Modano disagreed, suggesting that Cole’s 3-0 goal left the Wings gassed:
“It took the wind out of you when you don’t take (advantage of) an opportunity like that, and they come back and score on the same rush, same shift,” Modano said. “It was a tough little sequence there. ... That could have definitely changed the game around.”
Instead, as both Tomas Holmstrom (on the 3-0 goal) and Brad Stuart (on the Skinner goal) got caught turning the puck over, Stuart had to admit to the Free Press’s Helene St. James that the Wings exhibited a disturbingly familiar case of “too cute”-itis in handling and perhaps over-handling the puck:
“We had a lot of chances, but we turned the puck over a few times, and that’s going to cost you,” Brad Stuart said. “I think the effort was there, but we need to be smarter with the puck. We’re still not handling the puck like we should be at this point in the season. I think this was just a minor setback for us. We’re not going to get too upset about it.”
Even without their leading scorer, the Wings didn’t lack for chances, pounding pucks regularly at Ward. The ‘Canes converted their third power play into a goal from Derek Joslin, and took a 2-0 lead with just more than a minute left in the second period after Tomas Holmstrom’s turnover led to a wraparound goal by rookie of the year candidate Jeff Skinner.
“That kind of put a knife in us,” Babcock said. “It kills you. It’s a gift.”
That gaffe aside, Babcock liked much of what he saw.
“I thought we did lots of good things,” he said. “I thought we had lots of opportunities. That part doesn’t disappoint me. The management of the puck, unless we get that looked after, and we talked about it all year long, that’ll be the part that kills you. You can’t win at playoff time turning over the puck.”
St. James offered a slightly different quip from Stuart (who looked pretty darn tired and helped Nicklas Lidstrom finish at an un-earned -2) in her “notes and quotes” recap:
Wings defenseman Brad Stuart, on facing a desperate opponent: “We knew they were going to come out like that. I thought we matched them pretty well from the start, but then we got a little too careless a few times and it ended up costing us—on their second goal especially. Their goalie played well, and they were a desperate team.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock, on the game: “I thought both goalies were good. Through 40 minutes, I thought it was an excellent game. ... We had the power play there for 4 minutes, we had a great opportunity, and I thought Ward was excellent on it.”
Wings forward Mike Modano, on Ward: “He made some point-blank saves on a few of us that kept the game tight and in their favor.”
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan put things slightly differently in describing an effort that I’d suggest was scatterbrained:
With the defeat, the Wings (46-24-10, 102 points) failed to leap past San Jose for the No. 2 seed in the West. But that didn’t hurt as Zetterberg’s injury, or the fact they failed to build on two impressive victories over the weekend. The Wings matched Carolina’s energy, which was a positive. But the occasional carelessness has to be cleaned up heading into the playoffs.
“The management of the puck, unless we get that looked after, and we’ve talked about it all year, that’ll be the part that kills you,” Babcock said. “You can’t win at playoff time turning over the puck.”
Babcock planned on throwing his lines into a blender even before Zetterberg got hurt, choosing to scratch Jiri Hudler while keeping the Drew Miller-or-Kris Draper scratch rotation going (with Miller sitting out), and things got a little more complicated very quickly:
The Wings announced after the period Zetterberg was out with a lower-body injury and wouldn’t be returning to the game after playing six shifts for a total of 4 minutes, 29 seconds. Zetterberg left the arena before the media entered the Wings locker room.
Said Mike Modano: “You hate to see those kind of deals this time of year when you’re trying to get everything fine-tuned.”
Modano continued while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“You hate to see those kind of (things), especially at this time of year when you’re trying to get everybody fine-tuned and up and running and trying to get a solid team thing going and build some confidence,” Detroit’s Mike Modano said. “So hopefully the rest will do him good and, in a few days, he’ll feel better and it’ll kind of settle down. Hopefully he’ll feel better in 4-5 days.”
Said captain Nicklas Lidstrom: “I didn’t see what happened, I don’t know what’s going on with him. But he’s one of our top players, a big part of our team, contributes both offensively and defensively.”
It showed. The Wings looked more distracted than usual after Zetterberg left the game, and, again, the Wings felt that turnovers bit them in the butt, but Stuart suggested that the Wings’ 5-2 penalty disparity indicated gave the Hurricanes’ power play more time than it needed to convert:
“We had a lot of chances, but we turned the puck over a few times,” Stuart said. “That’s going to cost you, and it did. We took a few too many penalties. We’re still not handling the puck like we should be at this point in the season. If we make those plays in the playoffs, they’re going to cost us games and, ultimately, a series.”
Jimmy Howard put things bluntly…
“They were most desperate, simple as that,” Howard said. “They were in a must-win, and played a great game. Cam played really well, give him credit. He came up big for them.”
And while I’ll give Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien the last word for the following pair of observations as he frames Zetterberg’s loss well in terms of the Wings’ back-to-back games against Chicago on Friday and Sunday quite well…
This isn’t necessarily awful news for Detroit – after all, they are wise to rest Zetterberg even if his injury is only minor – but it is fantastic news for the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are trying to hold off the Dallas Stars for one of the West’s final two playoff spots, so not having to deal with a two-way forward who leads the Red Wings with 80 points is a nice perk.
I’ll suggest that he’s got the wrong idea regarding his conclusion:
Detroit will likely still be a tough opponent for Chicago, but the bigger picture concern is obviously Zetterberg’s health going into the playoffs. Babcock said that the Red Wings’ doctors will take a look at Zetterberg on Thursday, so we might get a better idea about how serious the injury might be tomorrow.
We aren’t going to learn a thing, and I’m guessing that Niklas Kronwall (his “shoulder” injury is now being described in the press as an “upper-body” injury, and it was kind of amusing to read the beat writers tiptoeing around the concept that Zetterberg injured a specific part of his lower body while trying to update the situation during the game) won’t play this weekend, either. Ditto for Chris Osgood, who, as it sounds right now, may still not be ready to go next week.
So the Wings had hoped to finally stop the injury bug in its tracks and focus on detail work over the last week of the regular season, and going into two huge games against a team that seems to be getting its share of breaks (ahem), but instead, the opposite’s happening. The Wings are in full playoff rehearsal mode, at least in theory, and they can’t blame the Hawks’ desperation for coming up short over the course of games 81 and 82.
Highlights: The Red Wings’ website’s highlight clip is narrated by Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy:
Post-game: Fox Sports Carolinas posted videos of Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Derek Joslin and Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice’s post-game comments—and they’re incredibly long and complete clips—as well as a recap from John Forslund and Tripp Tracy, who deem the Canes’ win “one for the ages”;
ESPN’s Matthew Barnaby broke down the game;
The Hurricanes’ website posted audio clips of Staal, Skinner, Maurice and Cam Ward’s post-game comments, posted a “flavor of the game” clip whose soundtrack might raise the ire of Journey-loving Wings fans…
As well as a short clip of comments from Skinner, Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart, Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu, Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, Wings coach Mike Babcock and Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice:
And Cory Stillman spoke to “NHL on the Fly” after the game:
And in lieu of post-game comments, the Wings’ website posted a clip of one of Jimmy Howard’s now-patented toe saves:
Photos: The Raleigh News & Observer posted an 18-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 13-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 17-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 7-image gallery;
Statistics: Shots 42-32 Detroit, breaking down as 18-15 Detroit in the 1st period, 11-9 Detroit in the 2nd period and 13-8 Detroit in the 3rd.
The Wings went 0-for-3 in 6:00 of PP time; the Canes went 1-for-4 in 6:33 of PP time;
Howard stopped 29 of 32 shots against; Ward stopped 42.
The 3 stars were Derek Joslin, Eric Staal and Cam Ward.
Faceoffs 34-32 Detroit (52% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 16-15 Carolina;
Missed shots 21-17 Detroit (total attepmted shots 69-64 Detroit);
Hits 19-18 Carolina;
Giveaways 8-7 Carolina;
Takeaways 10-8 Carolina.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 10-and-13 (43%); Filppula went 8-and-4 (67%); Helm went 8-and-3 (73%); Draper went 3-and-4 (43%); Abdelkader went 1-and-5 (17%); Franzen went 1-and-2 (33%); Modano went 2-and-0 (100%); Cleary won his only faceoff; Eaves lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Datsyuk, Helm, Modano and Franzen had 4 shots; Kindl, Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Rafalski and Bertuzzi had 3; Cleary, Stuart, Zetterberg and Holmstrom had 2; Eaves, Salei, and Ericsson had 1 shot.
Blocked attempts: Helm had 3 shot attempts blocked by Hurricanes players; Bertuzzi and Franzen had 2 attempts blocked; Kindl, Lidstrom, Cleary, Datsyuk, Salei, Rafalski, Filppula, Ericsson and Holmstrom had single shot attempts blocked.
Missed shots: Datsyuk missed the net 4 times; Cleary and Modano missed the net 3 times; Lidstrom, Eaves and Holmstrom missed the net 2 times; Kindl, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Ericsson and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Draper led the team with 5 hits; Abdelkader, Cleary, eaves and Ericsson had 2; Kindl, Stuart, Salei, Rafalski and Filppula had 1.
Giveaways: Holmstrom had 2 giveaways; Abdelkader, Stuart, Rafalski, Filppula and Modano had 1.
Takeaways: Eaves had 2 takeaways; Cleary, Datsyuk, Rafalski, Helm, Bertuzzi and Ericsson had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Stuart blocked 4 shots; Kindl, Eaves, Rafalski and Ericsson blocked 2 shots; Salei, Helm and Franzen blocked 1 shot.
Penalty minutes: Abdelkader was tagged with 2 minors; Ericsson and Modano took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: Nicklas Lidstrom was -2 and it wasn’t his fault by any means, and Franzen and Holmstrom were also -2; Datsyuk, Stuart, Rafalski and Filppula were -1. The team was a collective -10.
Points: Nobody scored.
Ice time: Rafalski led the team with 22:02 played; Datsyuk played 22:01; Stuart played 21:21;
Lidstrom played 20:55; Cleary played 19:42; Ericsson played 19:39;
Bertuzzi played 18:36; Salei played 18:08; Filppula played 16:53;
Franzen played 16:53, too; Kindl played 15:39; Holmstrom played 14:56;
Abdelkader played 14:40; Helm played 14:20; Eaves played 12:00;
Modano played 11:04; Draper played 10:08; Zetterberg played 4:29.
Red Wings notebooks: Mike Modano registered 4 shots, 3 missed shots, a giveaway and 2 faceoff wins in only 11:04 of ice time on Wednesday, flying up and down the ice in just-before-his-injury form, and the Free Press’s Helene St. James took due note of Modano’s performance...
“I thought Mike played good all night,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He had lots of shots and lots of chances. He had a great chance in the slot, home free, had another one that Ward made a great save on with a pad, and another one he shot over the net coming down the pipe, so he had some good opportunities. Good for him. We need him to just be playing hard and digging in.”
“I felt good out there, finally got in some good areas where I worked hard to get open, just again, not putting them where I wanted to,” Modano said. “But all in all, you’re pleased with the opportunities and chances, they were up pretty high. All in all, I felt pretty good.”
As well as his mindset as an enthusiastic veteran who’s both ready for the playoffs to begin and, um, is coming off a game in which he was a healthy scratch:
“I think [the playoffs are] what you live to play for, especially if you’ve won and had success, you know what it’s all about and you know the excitement and the thrill that you have, the emotions that you go through,” said Modano, a Cup winner in ‘99.
Wednesday was Modano’s 38th game of the season and 1,497th of his career, a number cast into the spotlight when Babcock scratched Modano on Sunday against Minnesota, meaning, at most, Modano can reach 1,499 career games by this season’s end. Modano and Babcock discussed the decision several times that day.
“It was a good understanding,” Modano said. “He’s the coach. You can’t let it bother you. You’ve just got to come back and keep working and keep trying to prepare for next week. I think that’s the bigger picture here. It would have been nice, but I suppose I might have to come back next year.”
• The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan also spoke to Modano and Hudler about their statuses (as Babcock insisted that his line shake-ups and Hudler’s benching weren’t “personal”)...
“We’re close to the playoffs and everybody has to play,” Hudler said. “Everybody has to get ready.”
“It’s unfortunate to have missed the three months (to a lacerated right wrist) and 40 games, you’d have liked to have played more,” Modano said. “You feel like you feel short. But if the next two months is anything (like the Wings expect), that could equalize missing those four months.”
“It has nothing to do with anything,” said Babcock, of the choices to sit. “It’s like Mike Modano last game, we just keep moving them around and giving them an opportunity to play with different people and figure out what’s best for our team. It’s just a matter of a rotation going. We have extra players now and we’re figuring it out.”
There is one thing Babcock has decided on while watching the last few games. Modano will continue to play on a wing. Babcock likes the idea, for now, of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Darren Helm (or Justin Abdelkader) at center.
And he confirms that at least Babcock doesn’t expect to see Chris Osgood in the crease or on the bench this weekend:
“Unless something’s changed, (Ozzie) isn’t in the mix at this point,” Babcock said. “He hasn’t had a net (for practice). Last time he got a net for a couple of days, he didn’t practice. I don’t even think we’re thinking about that (Osgood playing).”
• MLive’s Ansar Khan also spoke to Modano and Hudler, but you’ll have to read his notebook for said players’ other comments (when Mike Modano’s gabby about Mike Modano, that’s a good sign) as he offers an update regarding the status of Niklas Kronwall…
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall missed his third game in a row due to an upper-body injury. Holland said if Kronwall can’t play Friday, he won’t play Sunday, but he is expected to be back for the first round of the playoffs.
And Khan offers a huge, gigantic and super important update regarding the Wings’ unrestricted free agents to be, including Jonathan Ericsson:
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he doesn’t anticipate signing anybody to a contract extension this week. He will resume talks after the playoffs. A source said the Red Wings offered defenseman Jonathan Ericsson a multiyear deal worth about $2 million a season in January but nothing came of it. Ericsson is in the final year of his contract, making $1.2 million, and the club still hopes to sign him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Captain Nicklas Lidstrom, like last season, won’t decide on his future until after the playoffs.
The other players in the final year of their contracts are forwards Patrick Eaves, Kris Draper, Drew Miller and Modano; defenseman Ruslan Salei and goaltenders Chris Osgood and Joey MacDonald.
I get the feeling that Ericsson’s future is all about how much money he’s going to ask for, that Osgood’s future obviously hinges on his groin, Modano’s going to decide what to do based upon the length of the Wings’ playoff run, and…
I’d say that Salei probably won’t come back, depending on how much the Wings feel that they need somebody to share the #6/7 spot with Jakub Kindl (I hate to say it, but Doug Janik’s a cheaper alternative, and his contract becomes a one-way, NHL-only one next season), and with at least Jan Mursak coming up on a full-time basis, and Cory Emmerton possibly competing for a job, too, the Wings might have to choose to keep one of Eaves, Draper or Miller. Obviously, the Wings tend to defer to veterans, but I don’t know what Draper’s plans are…
And it’s already become very apparent that fans are going to raise a stink about this, but I don’t think that Nicklas Lidstrom “owes” the Wings another discount in the salary department. The whole, “Well if he doesn’t play at a league-minimum salary or something close to it, he isn’t as good a captain or team player as Steve Yzerman was” spiel will get kicked up, but in addition to the fact that Lidstrom’s still the team’s #1 defenseman, while Yzerman’s knee limited his effectiveness late in his career…
The bottom line is that Lidstrom cannot give the Wings a gigantic discount, and it’s not because of pride or not being a great leader or anything like that. The CBA expires in September of 2012, and the NHLPA isn’t going to allow its players to take discounts that drop salary-comparable rates or encourage Gary Bettman to suggest that the players are being overpaid in general and that another across-the-board rollback is in order. Neither Lidstrom or any other marquee player can afford to buck the party line and play for peanuts going into a CBA negotiating year.
Also of Red Wings-related note: The Grand Rapids Griffins aren’t technically dead yet. They kept their playoff hopes at least flickering thanks to a 2-1 win over the Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday night. Cory Emmerton and Tomas Tatar scored the Griffins’ goals and Jordan Pearce stopped 31 shots.
The Griffins’ website, the Admirals’ website (which also posted 7 photos in its Admirals gallery) and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Dave Boehler provide recaps, and the Grand Rapids Press spells out the Griffins on-life-support playoff plight:
The Griffins technically remain alive for the postseason. They must win their final three games, then hope that Oklahoma City loses their last three—and then get a lot of help from four other teams.
In all likelihood, though, Grand Rapids will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season and third time in the past four years.
• In St. Paul, Minnesota, Red Wings prospect Riley Sheahan and the University of Notre Dame will face off against the University of Minnesota Duluth today at 5 PM in one of the NCAA’s Frozen Four semifinal. The UND-UMD game will air on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com at 5 PM EDT, and at 8:30 PM (all times Eastern Daylight Time), the University of Michigan will battle the University of North Dakota, with the winners of the two semifinals advancing to Saturday night’s final, which begins at 7 PM EDT;
• Two of the Wings’ other prospects who are still active in their teams’ playoff pushes will play on Thursday, with Mitchell Callahan and the Kelowna Rockets opening up their second round series against the Portland Winterhawks, and Dick Axelsson and Farjestads BK will play in the second game of the Swedish Eliteserien final against Skelleftea (which FBK leads 1-0) today as well.
On Friday night, Louis-Marc Aubry, Trevor Parkes and the Montreal Juniors will open their second-round series against Lewiston, and the official TMR-adopted Major Junior hockey team, the Plymouth Whalers, kick off their second-round series against Owen Sound tonight;
• If you’re interested, the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema conducted a “getting to know you” interview with Griffins defenseman Sergei Kolosov;
• I’m a hockey-only kind of guy, so I don’t have a subscription to Sports Illustrated. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Wings have earned a somewhat favorable playoff endorsement from SI:
SI likes the Red Wings’ chances—“deep lineup should thrive with return of injured playmaking center Pavel Datsyuk”—but only as far as the conference finals, where it says the Euro Twins will be ousted by Vancouver’s Sedin twins.
And then SI has the Canucks losing to Philadelphia in the Stanley Cup finals.
But to throw the Wings some individual bones, Pierre McGuire tabs Johan Franzen as one of the West’s five top potential impact players in the playoffs.
• The Sporting News’s Craig Custance duly noted that the Wings have a very obvious Achilles’ heel:
Detroit Red Wings
The issue: Goaltending depth. This isn’t a knock on Joey MacDonald, who has filled in admirably when given the opportunity to spell Jimmy Howard. OK, yes it is. Thanks to a setback in the recovery of Chris Osgood, if anything happens to Howard, the Red Wings are done. Howard tends to draw more than his fair share of contact at the top of the crease, which could lead to some tense moments for Red Wings fans.
• Quite conveniently, the Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski offered this take upon the Wings’ 20-year streak and 19 consecutive seasons of playoff hockey:
By now, we know the numbers. But do we ever fully understand or appreciate the numbers? The Red Wings are in the playoffs for the 20th consecutive season, by far the longest current streak in professional sports. They’ve topped 100 points 11 straight seasons and won nine division titles the past 10 years.
The Wings have kept winning through different coaches and different goalies and different eras, from free-spending days to salary-cap ways. They won’t be the favorite to win the Stanley Cup starting next week—Vancouver has looked the best all year—but they’ll absolutely have a shot, as they always do. Not many teams can say that for as long as the Wings have, a testament to a stable front office and a committed owner in Mike Ilitch. Ken Holland is the most-underrated GM in sports, the latest bright keeper of the Red Wing Way. The Wings have a plan they stick to, finding skilled players that fit. They love speed and smarts and stick-handling more than size and brutish play. It’s a system put in place by Ilitch, Jimmy Devellano and Scotty Bowman, and expertly maintained by Holland, Jim Nill and Mike Babcock.
What the Wings have done since Holland assumed his title in 1997 is remarkable, and I asked him if he ever takes the playoff appearances for granted.
“Oh no, never, because it’s getting harder and harder and harder and harder,” Holland said. “The way I look at it is, we’ve played our way into an opportunity. It’s a wide-open field. There are no weak teams in the West. And by Monday morning, we can all throw the regular-season statistics in the garbage.”
I know the NHL is different [from other sports leagues] and invites more teams to its postseason. But it also has the biggest upset-producing variable—the goalie. A great one can make an OK team good, but it’s not like the Wings have relied on goalies to steal playoff series for them.
It’s a collective effort and an unbending one. It continues because everyone knows what’s expected, and is given the tools to do their jobs. That’s a high standard when it’s considered a disappointment if the Wings don’t at least reach the conference finals. It’s also an admirable standard that won’t change anytime soon.
• One-time Wing and Wings assistant coach Mike Krushelnyski won a Cup with the Wings as a roving assistant to Scotty Bowman, and he made a surprising comment to the Sault Star’s Mike Verdone in comparing his Stanley Cup rings won as a member of the Oilers to the one he won with the Wings:
In addition to the three Cups he won as an Oiler, he also earned one as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997.
“That almost had more meaning because I had to take care of the power play, the penalty killing, the role players,” he said. “It was almost more rewarding as part of the coaching staff because you got a little piece of everything. I was very lucky.”
• As Paul already pointed to the story, I’ll just suggest that you read USA Today’s Kevin Allen’s profile of Donald Fehr on your own;
• And I posted some “pre-game reading” links in the A2Y live blog, and if you missed them, here they are:
• The Free Press’s Jamie Samuelssen states the obvious about the fact that the Red Wings don’t have any “easy” or “vulnerable” first-round playoff opponents anymore, and as such, he suggests the following:
f we’ve learned anything about the Wings this season, especially in the bizarre month of March, any success will have less to do with their opponents and more to do with them. How else do you explain losing to the Blues, 10-3, at home and falling behind Nashville on the road three days later, only to respond with four unanswered goals and a 4-3 win? It was the same scenario in February, when the Wings snoozed through a 4-1 home loss to the Predators. Babcock ripped the team after the game. Nicklas Lidstrom called the effort embarrassing. Then the alarm bells led to a five-game winning streak that included back-to-back wins over Boston and a win over Tampa Bay. The Red Wings don’t seem to raise or lower their game based on the level of the opponent. Instead, they seem to raise or lower their game based on their level of interest. And with every game counting just a little bit more next week, focus shouldn’t be a problem.
The problems lie in some of the disturbing trends we’ve seen all season. The two biggies are impossible to ignore:
1.) Home ice: The Joe just isn’t what it used to be. Blame it on the fans if you want, although the crowd noise has been louder in the recent string of sellouts. (The Blackhawks game on March 28 was the closest regular-season game to looking like or sounding like playoff game in years). But for whatever reason, the Wings just haven’t played well at home this season. They have 48 points with just one home game remaining. That’s the third-lowest total of any of the eight teams currently in position for for the playoffs in the West. You play all season for home ice, and home ice just isn’t the advantage for this team that it used to be.
2.) Defense: Jimmy Howard will be in the crosshairs from the opening face-off of Game 1. That’s just how it goes in Detroit—and in hockey, in general. But the Wings and the Ducks have allowed the most goals of any of the playoff teams in the West. That’s an alarming stat that doesn’t rest solely on Howard’s shoulders. Yes, he needs to be much more consistent, but so do the guys in front of him. The defensive corps has dealt with injuries all season (and some of the top defensive forwards have missed significant time as well). They’re all healthy now. That’s good. But they need to be better.
Babcock would never say who he’d hope to face in the first round, other than to say he’d love to stay close to home. The only team that fits that description is the defending Stanley Cup champion ‘Hawks. I’d prefer to pass on that matchup. The most favorable, ironically, is the team that’s farthest away: the Ducks. It may be a three-time-zone trip, but it probably gives the Wings the best chance to advance. Nothing is set in stone yet. Nothing is guaranteed. But in this sport, in these playoffs, in this conference, nothing ever is.
• SI’s Michael Farber penned a list of twenty “things to like about the NHL,” and among them...
10. I like assistant coaches, the conduits of information and insight. Ten minutes with Detroit’s Brad McCrimmon or Buffalo’s Jim Corsi or Nashville’s Brent Peterson are like masters classes in which presuppositions will be challenged or softheaded theories exposed. Because I resolve to stay positive, I won’t even mention how shortsighted it is for teams such as New Jersey, Chicago and others to make their assistants off limits to the media.
14. I like watching the Kings’ Ryan Smyth, the Wings’ Tomas Holmstrom and Ryan Kesler of the Canucks set up in front of the crease. The last person to work so effectively in tight quarters was Smokin’ Joe Frazier. They all seem to have had a GPS chip installed in their brains that makes them able to discern the blue paint without looking down. They obscure vision, blot out the sun for unfortunate goalies. They can score a goal even if they are trapped in a virtual broom closet.
18. I like watching Detroit’s Nick Lidstrom, who, although he is not as sturdy a one-on-one defender as he was a few years ago, is still a marvel of constancy into his 40s. He remains the right defenseman for the right era, as superb as he is understated.
19. I like GMs Brian Burke, Ken Holland and Ray Shero, who have convictions and are unafraid to speak out—even if they might be wrong.
• WDFN’s Sean Baligian spoke to two hockey personalities this afternoon, starting with USA Today’s Kevin Allen…
And continuing with Chris Osgood, who talks about playoff moments past, mentoring Jimmy Howard, and he says that he’s hoping to be ready to return to action this weekend:
• Finally, Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch will receive honorary doctorates in humanities at Michigan State University’s spring commencement, where Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak will speak. Something tells me that free pizza’s more likely than an iPad giveaway on May 6th (and I’m one of the rare people that isn’t fascinated by the iPad).
Update: from my email inbox:
DETROIT AND CHICAGO SET TO SQUARE OFF ON ‘FAN APPRECIATION NIGHT’ AT JOE LOUIS ARENA
… Entertaining Evening in Store for Hockeytown Faithful on Friday; Red Wings Set to Welcome 800,000th Fan of 2010-11 to The Joe …
Detroit, MI… The NHL Central Division Champion Detroit Red Wings will be looking to wrap up their 2010-11 home schedule in winning fashion on Friday, April 8, when they welcome the Chicago Blackhawks to the MotorCity for a 7:30 p.m. showdown at Joe Louis Arena (FS Detroit & 97.1 The Ticket). This contest will serve as the opening match of a regular season-ending home-and-home series between the regional adversaries.
Designated ‘Fan Appreciation Night’, several exciting giveaway items will be distributed to arena patrons throughout Friday’s game. Free squishy pucks compliments of Antonio’s Cucina Italiana will be given to the first 10,000 fans in attendance, as will Upper Deck ‘Original Six Rivalry’ trading card sets profiling past and present members of the Red Wings and Blackhawks. Cards featuring Detroit’s Mike Modano, Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Yzerman in addition to Chicago’s Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane and Stan Mikita will all be included in Friday’s set.
Meanwhile, every fan attending Friday’s game will receive:
- A free Red Wings poster compliments of Meijer and Coca-Cola
- A coupon redeemable for a free hair cut compliments of Great Clips
- A voucher for a complimentary game of bowling courtesy of SEMBCA
- A coupon for $5-off selected menu items courtesy of TGI Friday’s Restaurants
Furthermore, multiple lucky seat and row giveaways will be announced throughout the night on Friday, with fans of fortune set to win prizes courtesy of Fathead, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, AT&T, the University of Toledo, Carhartt, Andiamo’s Restaurants, Olympia Entertainment, Detroit Red Wings Authentics and the Detroit Tigers. The latest Carhartt Hardest Working Player of the Month will also be revealed prior to puck drop on Friday, while Red Wings players and management will acknowledge the NHL’s best fans during a series of pre-taped video segments.
The rare double block-quote. Fancy stuff…okay, not really.
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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.