The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/20/12 at 03:25 PM ET
Updated 7x at 7:05 PM: The Detroit Red Wings may or may not have received good news as they ready themselves to attempt to stave off elimination against the Nashville Predators tonight (8 PM EDT, FSD/SportSouth/CNBC/97.1 FM) as defenseman Hal Gill and Predators coach Barry Trotz offered conflicting takes on the 6’7” defenseman’s availability, as noted by the Tennessean’s Joshua Cooper:
Gill says he is a game time decision #Preds #NHL #RedWings
Trotz said Gill is out
Is this gamesmanship? Probably, as the Nashville City Paper’s David Boclair suggests:
Somehow I just don’t believe Predators coach Barry Trotz when he says defenseman Hal Gill won’t play tonight ... and he did say that.
Will Hal Gill play tonight or won’t he? That is the question. Predators Coach Barry Trotz said he didn’t “expect” Gill to play. When asked if Gill was out, Trotz said, “yes.”
When talking to Gill, he sounded like a player who could enter the lineup if needed. The big defenseman who has missed every game this series with a “lower body” injury skated this morning. He did skate for a long time, which would indicate he is out. Still, with Gill, all he needs to do is play maybe 10 minutes or so — more than Ryan Ellis or Jack Hillen have played in games so far this postseason — in order to be effective. Gill has taken part in all team practices and skates this week.
“We’re looking at a lot of things. Can I play? Yeah. Can I play well? Well enough? I don’t know. There’s a lot of decisions that need to be made,” Gill said. “There’s a lot of things that need to be taken into consideration and we have a lot of good players that have been doing the job.”
“I don’t know what’s going on so I’ve got to talk to the coaches and we’ll go from there,” Gill said. “Sorry, I wish I had more for you guys.”
According to Hockey Night in Canada’s Andi Petrillo, however, the Predators will be making one lineup change:
Gill skated hard this morning but still out. Halischuk out, Craig Smith in. First playoff game for him #hnic
Must be nice to have healthy bodies who were impact players during the regular season sitting out (see: Jordin Tootoo dropping F-bombs because he’s sitting). The Wings could use ‘em.
I just want to state, for the record—and this is completely off-topic—that Boclair was able to ask Predators fans where one might buy a catfish to throw on the ice at Bridgestone Arena (where the Predators held a lottery to allow 25 fans to buy $10 tickets) tonight. In Detroit, thanks to that lovely new civil infraction a certain professional sports league seems to have encouraged the City of Detroit to write on its books, Wings fans can no longer toss an octopus onto Joe Louis Arena ice after the national anthem without fearing that they’ll be fined $500 and charged with disorderly conduct, and the Wings continue to utilize Al the Octopus less and less these days (no tips from Superior Fish as to how one might o-fish-al-ly perform proper octoquette, either) because they don’t want their fans to get arrested.
Sportsnet’s praise for the Wings’ playoff tradition seems to mark the legacy of a slimy but fun (and tasty when cooked) tradition that will soon be a memory.
Anyway, MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the Wings are doing what most veteran teams during game days at this time of year (and Khan’s co-writer for this series, Brendan Savage, posted a very, very “late-breaking” story about Valtteri Filppula’s offensive ups and downs around the time I finally dozed off this morning)...
About a dozen Wings on the ice for an optional morning skate at Bridgestone Arena. Darren Helm watching from bench in street clothes.
The Wings’ Twitter account confirms via some mulitimedia...
When the ball is in play, you roam the hallway at your own risk. http://twitpic.com/9c0vd0
The view of today’s morning skate from the Nashville bandstand. #ripdickclark http://say.ly/hdQ37NW
You just can’t keep Darren Helm away from the rink. He’s watching today’s optional morning skate from the bench. http://twitpic.com/9c1na7
In terms of the morons who will referee tonight’s game, Bill Roose reports that Francois St. Laurent and Denis “Screw You” Larue will referee tonight’s game, with Steve Barton and Greg Devorski working the liens, and in terms of the “numbers” regarding the Wings’ chances of rallying to tie and win this series, the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle reports that the Predators’ home-ice advantage hurts the Wings’ chances of even extending the series to six games:
Historically speaking, that hasn’t helped, as they have come back to win the series only 8.1 per cent of the time (13-147) and have won Game 5 to extend the series only 35 per cent of the time.
MLive’s Khan’s late-breaker from this morning also points out that the Wings’ stumbles down the stretch seem to indicate that the team can’t quite—as SI’s Darren Eliot suggests—reclaim their identity before time runs out:
The Red Wings also need to tighten up in their own zone. They have limited Nashville’s opportunities – mainly because they’re spending most of the time in the offensive zone – but they also have experienced too many breakdowns, leaving players wide open in front of goalie Jimmy Howard. Detroit has a daunting task. Only 20 teams in NHL history have come back to win a series after trailing 3-1.
Including the 1987 and 1992 Wings…
“We need to believe we can turn this around, and it all starts with winning one game,’’ center Henrik Zetterberg said. “We know we can do it. We know we’ve been playing well. We’re a good team. We just have to keep playing like we did last game and eventually we’re going to score.’‘
The Red Wings were 41-17-2, with an NHL-best 84 points, on Feb. 19, following a 3-2 win over San Jose, which extended their league-record home winning streak to 23 games. Two days later, Pavel Datsyuk, their best player, had arthroscopic knee surgery. Injuries began to mount, and this team hasn’t been the same since.
Detroit is 8-14-4 in its past 26 games, regular season and playoffs. And it has scored only 17 goals in its past 10 games. But players are keeping the faith.
“Momentum can shift in a blink of an eye,’’ Howard said. “You never give up. You just keep pushing.’‘
What’s the mood like int he Wings’ locker room today? As light as ever, as the Wings’ Twitter account suggests...
Always a jokester, Holmer greets Howie by his stall by saying he looked good out there, then with an ear-to-ear grin ‘Don’t peak too early.’
Howard offered up a sarcastic laugh and a thanks. Everyone was cracking up.
The Wings are, however, very focused on winning tonight’s game…
Cleary: ‘We’ve got to play a hard simple game tonight. We just gotta grind.’
Babcock on the first 10 minutes: “I just think we get out, get started on time and get out there. There is no more desperate team than us.”
According to Mike Babcock, there will be no changes to tonight’s lineup.
Babcock on Lidstrom: “I don’t know what could possibly be more fun than playing hockey on a good team.”
Babcock: “And I know his (Lidstrom’s) wife and I know she doesn’t want him at home.” (laughs throughout the room)
Her’s a bit more from Babcock via MLive’s Ansar Khan:
Babcock: “I think Nick Lidstrom retires when he thinks he’s not a good player anymore. But I think he’s been a pretty darn good player.’‘
Babcock on Lidstrom: “I know his wife. She doesn’t want him at home for sure, so why wouldn’t you keep playing?’‘
The Wings aren’t one of the dominant powers anymore, but those other old dominant powers – Colorado, Dallas, New Jersey – all have had big dips. The Wings haven’t. They have posted at least 100 points for 12 straight seasons and 16 of the past 18 full schedules. Not only have they made the playoffs for 21 straight seasons, they are one of only two teams that has made the playoffs every season since the 2004-05 lockout. The Wings won when they could outspend everyone. Owner Mike Ilitch never wanted the salary cap that commissioner Gary Bettman brought to the NHL, and he certainly doesn’t like what has come with it. Ilitch told the Detroit Free Press before the playoffs: “You talk about parity. Mr. Bettman got his parity – deluxe.”
Still, the Wings have remained a deluxe team, if you redefine deluxe to mean they’re one of the teams with a shot at the Cup, the best for which you can hope in a cap system. Defying gravity the way the Wings have for so long is impressive under any system, but remaining in the mix under these circumstances is even more so.
There will never be another Lidstrom. It would be a near miracle if the Wings, who haven’t drafted high in forever, could unearth two more diamonds like Pavel Datsyuk (a sixth-round pick) and Henrik Zetterberg (a seventh-rounder). Without those two, who replaced stars like Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov, the Wings would have had to rebuild by now. But Datsyuk is 33. Zetterberg is 31. They aren’t exactly ancient. The Sedin twins – Daniel and Henrik, still shooting for their first Cup with the Vancouver Canucks – are 31. And though the Wings have some old players, they have several others that are still in their primes and some that are actually young. The Wings still have savvy scouting, smart management and lots of salary-cap space.
They still have some advantages. If all is equal, a free agent has to choose a team for reasons other than money. The Wings can offer Original Six tradition, a recent history of winning and a market where hockey matters but doesn’t matter too much. They don’t need to sign Ryan Suter and Zach Parise and every other top free agent that could come along in the next year or two or three. They just need to sign one or two or three, and they’ve got a good chance of doing that.
This will not last forever. Someday the Wings will miss the playoffs – a rash of injuries or a bad skid could be enough to do it in this league – and someday the Wings will have to rebuild, not just reload. But when that day comes, they will be able to point to an unparalleled run of success. They will be able to say the day came more than a decade after people started worrying about it.
In 2001, the Wings lost in the first round. At that point, the trend looked like this – Stanley Cup, second-round loss, second-round loss, first-round loss. I wrote the story for the Detroit Free Press. The headline: “PAST THEIR PRIME?” They acquired Dominik Hasek, Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull that summer and won the Cup the next season. Eventually it will end. But until then, if there is one team in the NHL that has earned the benefit of the doubt, it’s Detroit.
And here’s an FYI From Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating:
Nick Lidstrom joins me on the ice just before Wings-Preds gm 5 on RW Live at 7:30 on FSD #gottafindaway
Update #0.5: The Hartland Patch’s Tatum Ryan notes that tomorrow, regardless of whether the Wings win, there’s a charitable event going on which might pick up your spirits…
Soft Rock 105.1 will be hosting Hockey Fest at the Hartland Kroger this Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm. Come check out the Red Wing alumni, Soft Rock DJs, food, fun and activities for the whole family. Proceeds from the event go towards helping the Ted Lindsey Foundation to help cure Autism.
• any thanks to Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien for mentioning my Scotty Bowman article in his “morning skate”;
• And here’s a wallpaper-sized image of Henrik Zetterberg from CBS Detroit.
Update #1: The Nashville City Paper’s David Boclair says that the Predators, and defenseman Kevin Klein in particular, are trying to ensure that the Wings’ power play remains stifled by leaning heavily upon video scouting…
“Whether its power play or penalty kill it varies a little bit every day,” Klein said. “But we’re always watching a little film.”
That study has paid off thus far. Nashville enters Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinal series Friday (7 p.m. Bridgestone Arena) with a 3-1 lead and the opportunity to eliminate their Central Division rivals. The Predators have been outshot by an average of nearly 12 per game but have not trailed at any point in any of their three victories.
“In a playoff series, as you look at more tape that’s a big thing, learning more of their tendencies,” Klein said. “We definitely know a lot about them and they know a lot about us. … It’s one of those things where you learn a few things over the years.”
While Wings coach Mike Babcock offered less than staggering comments about his team’s attempts to break through Pekka Rinne’s force field:
This is Detroit’s 17th post-lockout playoff series and in each of the previous 16 it scored four goals or more at least once. As recently as last year it had four or more in six of its 10 postseason contests and in 2009 in swept a first-round series with Columbus in which it scored four or more every time. The last time the Red Wings failed to do so was 2003, when the got just six goals in four games and were swept in the opening round by Anaheim.
“I think we’ve gotten quite a few chances,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “We need to score some goals. How are we going to score some goals? To me, we need second chances on their goaltender [Pekka Rinne]. The puck’s not coming off him very much because he catches a lot of things. We have to figure out a way to get some second chances and bet determined.”
And the Predators’ website’s game preview provides the following factoids:
• Nashville is 1-0 all-time when face with the opportunity of closing out a series. It defeated Anaheim by a 4-2 margin in Game Six of the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals 48 hours after going up 3-2 in the series with a 4-3 overtime win in Southern California.
• This is the third Western Conference Quarterfinals series between Nashville and Detroit. The Red Wings have won both of the previous series – 4-2 in 2004 and 4-2 in 2008. Nashville has played more playoff games (16) against Detroit than any other team in their seven trips to the postseason.
• Thirteen of the 16 postseason games between the Predators and Red Wings have been decided by two goals or fewer.
Update #1.5: The Red Wings have released the details of tomorrow’s game between the Wings’ alums and “the Well Church in Brighton.
Update #2: The Tennessean’s Joshua Cooper reports that the Predators are offering the usual cliches in his game-day update—and so are the Wings:
It’s beyond cliche to say that the fourth victory of the series is the hardest one to win. We hear it over and over again in every sport. But really, it can be difficult. Two nights ago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia had a chance to sweep their respective series, and they both lost — LA to Vancouver and Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. The Predators, who are up 3-1 on Detroit with a chance to clinch the series tonight, have taken note of this and understand this game will be highly difficult.
“It just shows how hard it is to win, when a team is playing desperate it’s tough to beat them,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “We have to find a way to match their desperation and their energy.”
The Predators need to jump on the Red Wings early, feed off the crowd and get it into the game and never let them out of it. Detroit knows this, which is why a good start is paramount to their success. The team that has scored first has won every game this series.
“The key is not to think about having to win three games,” Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart said. “You have to win one game to give yourself a chance to win the next one. That’s really all you can think about at this point.”
Said Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock, “There can be no more desperate team than us.”
• Speaking of Babcock, TSN’s Darren Dreger had this to say about his future with the Wings in a mailbag feature on TSN:
Good morning Darren,
First, I would like to say that I love your work! Great job!
Now, I have a question regarding my Red Wings team. Of course, we have high expectations in Hockeytown, but that does not stop fans like me criticizing and dissecting the way the team plays. Recently, there has been a lot of ‘hate’ towards our coach. Fans are blaming him for the lack of effort and basically everything that is going wrong in the Nashville series. I would like your input on this situation. Do you think it’s age, or lack of leadership, or maybe Ken Holland’s absence at the deadline?
Thank you very much for your time,
A: Hi Nathalie. Mike Babcock’s resume speaks for itself and his accomplishments on the bench at all levels could fill this page. As a fan, you have the right to criticize and dissect your team and as you point out, Detroit’s history of winning makes the Red Wings a perennial favourite. Detroit had interest in a number of players are trade the deadline (including Rick Nash), but for the timing for this type of trade, a blockbuster wasn’t right and the cost to land the star winger both financially and structurally (because of the assets Columbus would have asked for in return) was simply too much. Holland will have money to spend in the offseason and provided Zach Parise and Ryan Suter go to market as unrestricted free agents, I’m sure the Red Wings will be among the top contenders. Land one or both and that should make the future look a tad brighter for Wings fans…no? Plus, let’s give some credit to the Nashville Predators. This organization has been incredibly loyal to its staff and patient in the development of the team we see today. In this series, Pekka Rinne has been the difference and as Babcock or any other NHL coach will tell you, a hot goalie can carry a team a long way.
• Here’s the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ game-day update, noting that the Wings want to get off to a superb start:
“There can be no more desperate team than us,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said this morning. “Let’s get started on time, let’s win some face-offs, let’s get our forecheck going. Territorial play and stuff like that hasn’t been an issue for us in this series at all, with the exception of the third period in Game 2. So we’ve got to keep doing what we’ve been doing in that area.”
The Wings had a great start to Game 4 but still wound up losing after allowing the first goal two minutes into the third period. On the Predators’ side, goaltender Pekka Rinne, who has been the star of the series, is hoping to see more from his teammates than in the last game, when they basically spent the first 40 minutes skating in their own zone.
“A lot of times, it starts from the momentum of the start of the game,” Rinne said. “If you have a good start to the game, that kind of carries over, and it gets everybody involved. So that’s our goal: have a good start and go from there.”
There are no lineup changes for Detroit. The Predators still won’t have big defenseman Hal Gill (lower body) available. The focus in Nashville’s room, naturally enough, is on doing what it takes to close the series.
“We’ve got to be ready, and we’ve got to be desperate,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “I don’t think we were quite desperate enough last game, and we just found a way to win the game. We’ve got to come with our best game if we want to win. We’re know they’re not going to just lay down. They’re going to come out with their best effort.”
Rinne said he expects the Wings “to keep crashing the net. They always have people in front of the crease. That’s their game. They shoot the puck, and they want to get to those rebounds and get some deflections. It’s in our hands, but you don’t want to let that feeling get into your head too much. Obviously, we realize the opportunity we have here, but at the same time, it’s going to be a battle. I’m sure it’s going to be the hardest game of the series.”
• Here’s the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan’s game-day update:
“There can be no more desperate team than us,” coach Mike Babcock said after the Wings’ Friday morning skate. “Get out, get started on time, and get after them. … Let’s win some faceoffs and get a forecheck going. Territorial play hasn’t been an issue for us except the third period of Game 2, so we have to keep doing what we’ve been doing in that area.”
The Wings have been getting plenty of shots on Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, but they’ve scored only eight goals in four games, and trial the series 3-1.
“We’ve been here before,” said forward Danny Cleary, who mentioned last season’s 3-0 series deficit to San Jose in the second round. (The Wings tied that series, 3-3, before falling in Game 7.) We have to play a hard, simple game and (keep) in our heads not to turn the puck over. We just have to grind.”
Babcock said he isn’t planning any lineup changes. Predators coach Barry Trotz said defenseman Hal Gill (foot), who has missed the entire series, will not be available Friday night.
• Here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s report:
“The first goal seems to be critical,’’ Detroit’s Danny Cleary said. “They play tight, they block a lot of shots. They got a good goalie. Tonight, our focus needs to be on a good cycle game, a good game around the net and try to get second, third, fourth chances on Pekka. They’re a really good defensive team, they’re disciplined. This is not a rush-chance opportunity series. There’s no two-on-ones, hardly any three-on-twos, they always got guys back. They’re blocking everything, they got like a wall built in front, so we need to come in from the sides. Right now, offensively, we’re a little stymied for sure.’‘
The Red Wings have scored eight goals in the series and have been outscored 9-3 five-on-five (they have one four-on-four goal).
“We get out and get started on time and get after them,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “There could be no more desperate team than us. Let’s win some faceoffs, let’s get a forecheck going. Territorial play hasn’t been an issue for us in this series at all, with the exception of the third period in Game 2, so we got to keep doing what we’ve been doing in that area.’‘
“He does catch everything, even if it’s on the ice,’’ Cleary said. “It’s hard, the game happens so fast, you put a shot on net. … We’re trying to get away from his glove. … He catches everything. Force him to kick out a rebound instead of gloving it. He’s a nice goalie.’‘
This is the third year in a row the Red Wings have trailed 3-1 in a series. They lost Game 5 in San Jose in 2010. They won three in a row against the Sharks last year, after falling behind 0-3, but lost in Game 7.
“We’ve been in this situation almost too frequently for our liking the last couple seasons,’’ Cleary said. “Here we are, on the road, facing elimination. Been here before. We need to play a hard, simple game. Get it in our heads to not turn any pucks over. We just need to grind.’‘
• And the Free Press’s St. James captured Babcock’s now-daily comments about Nicklas Lidstrom’s future:
This morning, Babcock suggested it’s almost certain Lidstrom will come back for a 21st season.
“I know his wife,” Babcock said, smiling. “She doesn’t want him at home, for sure.”
Babcock also wondered, “What could possibly be more fun than playing hockey at a high level on a great team?”
Lidstrom, who’ll be 42 a week from Saturday, won’t decide until after the season ends and he has had a chance to decompress. He addressed the topic Thursday, giving the same answer he has given all season and that he gave last season, leading up to announcing his decision in June. Everyone in the Wings’ organization, and most of the hockey world, in fact, is hoping he’ll come back, as he remains one of the game’s best defensemen. Had he not missed most of March with an injury, he probably would have finished as a finalist for the Norris Trophy.
On Thursday, Babcock said. “I’d be shocked if he retires, but I’ve been shocked before.”
Update #2.5: here’s a bit more from the Tennessean’s Coper:
Practice lines yesterday indicated that Craig Smith could enter Game 5 tonight on the fourth line. Smith played with Paul Gaustad and Brandon Yip. Matt Halischuk was with the scratches. This morning Smith seemed pretty focused — not nervous — but like a player wanting the game to start this afternoon rather than this evening. Smith, a rookie, has yet to play in the series.
“I think I’ve seen enough games for a while. I know what to expect and I’m ready to go,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a tough game. They’re against the wall, so they’re going to bring everything they have. You have to manage it, bottle my energy and focus on doing what’s best for the team.”
Nashville Coach Barry Trotz believes Smith can be ready if he’s in.
“He brings a lot of speed, he brings a lot of determination,” Trotz said. “He has a way of getting into that interior part of the offensive zone where he scores most of his goals and he has worked really hard.”
Update #2.75: The Detroit News’s Kulfan took note of Babcock’s comments about Lidstrom, too:
“Nick retires when he thinks he’s not a good player anymore,” Babcock said. “But I think he’s been a pretty darn good player. I don’t know what could possibly be more fun than playing hockey at a high level on a great team.”
But here’s the main reason, as far as Babcock is concerned.
“I know his wife, she doesn’t want him at home for sure, (so) why wouldn’t you keep playing?” Babcock said, eliciting laughter in the entire media room.
Babcock has answered the same question for all of his seven seasons now regarding Lidstrom’s potential retirement plans.
“I always say the same thing. He’s too good to quit,” Babcock said.
• Nashville Predators broadcaster Tom Callahan provides a game-day update video (no player video remarks but Callahan summarizes the morning skate comments):
• And as far as we know, the following lineups should look something like the following, per NHL.com’s Manasso:
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - David Legwand - Alexander Radulov
Andrei Kostitsyn - Nick Spaling - Patric Hornqvist
Brandon Yip - Paul Gaustad - Craig Smith/Matt Halischuk
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Francis Bouillon - Jack Hillen/Ryan Ellis
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Danny Cleary
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Todd Bertuzzi
Gustav Nyquist - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Brad Stuart - Niklas Kronwall
Kyle Quincey - Jonathan Ericsson
Update #3: Here’s Khan’s Lidstrom report:
“I think Nick Lidstrom retires when he thinks he’s not a good player anymore,’’ Babcock said. “But I think he’s been a pretty darn good player. I don’t know what could possible be more fun than playing hockey at a high level on a great team.’‘
He saved his best line for last.
“And I know his wife (Annika),’’ Babcock said. “She doesn’t want him at home for sure, so why wouldn’t you keep playing?’‘
The Predators top pair of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter has done a fantastic job in slowing down the Pavel Datsyuk line. Defenseman Kevin Klein leads all defensemen with two goals, including the game-winner in Game 4. And there’s goaltender Pekka Rinne, of course. But the play of defenseman Francis Bouillon has gone a bit under appreciated. He’s a plus-5 overall, which is not only the best in this series, but the best plus/minus in the entire postseason.
“I guess I’m just lucky,” he said on Friday morning. “Peks saved me a few times. I try to play a good game defensively. There’s a little bit of luck. I didn’t create much offensively in the series so far. Sometimes it’s being in the right place in the right moment.”
And the fact that Nickelback will play at the NHL Awards:
“I like their music. They’re pretty good. I don’t follow it too much but I like what they play,” [Brandon] Yip said. “They give support to the league, it’s a great thing.”(
Alberta-native Brad Stuart is a bit of a music connoisseur and said if he was picking, Pearl Jam would get the nod. His endorsement of Nickelback wasn’t exactly glowing.( “They’re OK, I guess,” he said. But he understands why the league opted to go with them as the entertainment for the NHL awards.
“Nickelback is a good choice because they have a lot of good songs everybody knows,” he said. “You can’t pick a band that has an obscure following.”
• This is interesting: the Wings’ website asked Valtteri Filppula and Tomas Holmstrom unique questions on Thursday, and as this might be Homer’s last game, here was their exchange with number 96:
DRW: Cosmo Magazine named Nick Lidstrom as one of the NHL’s most attractive players. Who else would be on your list?
TH: “I don’t know. I’ve never read it. Big E might be in there … Fabio.”
DRW: How do you get the puck past Pekka Rinne in Game 5?
TH: Rinne’s been playing great for them. We’ve had some close calls there with the post (Hudler) and the puck on the goal line (Franzen). We’re right on the doorstep. You just have to keep going, keep doing what we’re doing. We feel like this series could be 2-2 for sure with the chances we’ve had.”
DRW: Did having a day off on Wednesday help?
TH: “It was a good thing. We recharged the batteries. Sure, we’re disappointed to be down 3-1, but it felt good to recharge. We came back today (Thursday) a little bit fresher and we’re ready to go.”
DRW: Did you do anything special with the off day?
TH: “Not really. I just hung out with the family, spent time with them.”
• Fox Sports Tennessee posted a game-day update in which NHL.com’s Manasso and Predators broadcaster Terry Crisp talk about the game, but as Silverlight is clunky, I’ll leave that one in link form.
The first goal in particular has been critical in this series, as the team scoring it has won every game. Cleary was asked if Nashville plays any differently when it has the lead.
“Yes and no,” he said. “They’re a really good defensive hockey team and they’re disciplined. This is not a rush-chance opportunity series. There’s no 2-on-1s. There’s hardly any 3-on-2s. I mean, they’ve always got guys back and they’re blocking everything and they’ve got like a wall built in front, and so we’ve got to come in from the sides. It’s just a tight series. Right now we’re a little stymied, for sure.”
Part of the problem in creating second chances, Cleary said, is that Rinne “catches everything” with his glove, so the Red Wings need to be mindful of keeping the puck away from his glove hand, which is easier said than done.
Babcock said the Red Wings “can’t be impatient.”
“I don’t think we got too impatient last game at all,” he said. “I thought we stuck with it. To me, we need some second chances on their goaltender. The puck’s not coming off him very much because he catches a lot of things, so we’ve got to figure out a way to get some second chances and be determined and understand it’s going to be tight-checking and there’s not going to be a lot of room. ... We need to fight for seconds.”
“I think we got quite a few chances; I don’t think we’ve scored”, Babcock said of his team’s inability to put the puck in the net. “The big thing for me is, we need to score some goals. We can’t just be impatient. We need some second chances on their goaltender. The puck’s not coming off him very much because he catches a lot of things. We’ve got a way to figure out how to get some second chances. They’re confident in their goaltender, and they don’t mind giving you the chance. And they’re all going to sag to the net, so we got to fight for seconds.”
Detroit hasn’t been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs since 2006, when Edmonton shocked the hockey world. In Northern Alberta, there are still some people wearing the frozen stare—and it has nothing to do with the temperature there. Nashville knows if the Wings seem determined through the first four games of the series, Game 5 will present a much higher standard. Awaiting golf clubs can have that kind of an effect.
“Our players recognize that we’ve been in this situation ourselves”, Predators head coach Barry Trotz sad. “You just know, they’re going to come out and play their best game, and we have to play our best game. And at the end of the night, you just hope you’re on the positive side. We’ve got a lot of respect for the Red Wings. We know their history from last year with the Sharks. You guys have done our job so far real good. You’ve given us lots of ammo as coaches to throw at the players. It’s got to be a shift-to-shift mentality. It’s not about the game; it’s about shift to shift”.
• The Wings’ playoff blog offers some morning skate quips from the Wings’ players:
Drew Miller: “We have confidence knowing that we’ve done it before. I think we’ve just got to take it one game at a time and tonight’s the game you have to win. If you win tonight, you get another chance. If you don’t, you’re done.”
Justin Abdelkader: “We have a veteran group of guys in here, so we’re just going to take it one shift at a time, build off the last few games and try and correct our mistakes.”
Danny Cleary: “We’ve just got to play a hard, simple game tonight. We’ve just gotta grind.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz: “You know they are going to come out and play their best game and we’re going to have to play our best game. We’re hoping to be on the positive side of that. We have a lot of respect for the Red Wings and what they did last year against the Sharks.”
- Following practice, as Jimmy Howard was taking off his pads, Tomas Holmstrom, who has one of the stalls to his left chimed in with a “you were real good today Howie. Real good.”
“Thanks,” Howard replied, thinking that Holmstrom was serious.
After a brief pause, Holmstrom, who could double as the team comedian offered back the following retort with an ear-to-ear grin.
“Just don’t peak too early, okay?”
• And for whatever reason, the Predators’ website is incredibly delinquent when it comes to posting game-day videos, so here’s Pekka Rinne speaking to the press via NHL.com:
update #4.5: The Detroit News’s David Goricki offers us a slate of “Captain Obvious” comments:
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he expected a long series that included overtime games prior to his team’s Western Conference opening-round series with the Nashville Predators.
Well, Red Wings’ fans are hoping Holland is right. And, they wouldn’t mind watching the Wings play late into the night if it means winning an overtime game in Game 5 of the series tonight in Nashville.
The Red Wings need to find a way to get their power play going after connecting on just 1-of-6 chances in a 3-1 Game 4 loss Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings will try to continue their strong penalty killing tonight to bring the series back home to JLA for a Game 6 Sunday.
The Red Wings were 42 of 43 in killing off penalties dating back to their last 11 games before Grosse Pointe native David Legwand scored a power play goal during the final minute Tuesday. Nashville has two power play goals in 19 attempts during the series. The Wings have four goals in 20 attempts during the four games.
Update #5: Here’s the NHL Network’s Dave Strader’s Game 5 preview…
And his game-day report (both involve practice footage) includes some of Rinne’s comments, as well as quips from coach Mike Babcock and Predators defenseman Ryan Suter:
update #5.5: Here’s Babcock talking about Lidstrom from the NHL Network:
Update #6: Finally…Here’s Trotz’s presser:
Predators defenseman Roman Josi spoke to the press as well:
Update #7: More video: Here’s Ken Kal’s game-day preview…
Here’s Justin Abdelkader speaking to the media…
And finally, here’s Babcock’s presser:
Update #8: Let’s see here…I hope this is the final update.
• The Detroit Free Press notes that Gary Bettman’s defending Brendan Shanahan’s body of playoff work, Weber non-suspension included;
• Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski reports that the Predators were given a customized ping pong table by Brand Imaging Group of Antioch, Tenn, and, via RedWingsFeed, the Predators are using it to give their fans something to do before the game, says the Detroit News’s David Guralnick;
• An 8.73% chance of winning? Hell no! NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman says that the Wings have a 9.3% chance of rallying from a 3-1 deficit, and a 7.97% chance of winning in Nashville tonight. So there’s a chance!
• Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 reports that there were once real saber-tooth tigers roaming Nashville;
• We will kindly completely ignore another “Lindstrom” sighting;
• The Red Wings website’s playoff blog offers more, um, semi-inspirational quotes from Wings players…
Believe: Detroit had six winning streaks of three games or more during the regular season and that doesn’t count an NHL record 23 straight victories at home.
“We won three-in-a-row last year against the Sharks,” said Henrik Zetterberg about last season’s near record-setting playoff comeback. “We’ve just got to go down, play a good road game and get it back here for Game 6.”
One at a time: Rome wasn’t built in a day and you can’t win a seven game series in just one night.
“They still have to win one more game,” said Jimmy Howard. “I’m not the type of person to just roll over. I’m going to give whatever it takes in that next game and we’re just going to try and win one.”
• The Predators website’s playoff blog counters with the following:
“If we’re going to beat them we have to match the intensity,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “They’re going to be playing desperate. Obviously it’s a win or die situation for them and we know that. We have to come out and match it.”
Defenseman Hal Gill, who’s recovering from a lower body injury, skated longer than most of the Preds who hit the ice Friday and was not in attendance for the team’s penalty kill meeting. Those indications that he would not be returning to the lineup for Game 5 were confirmed when head coach Barry Trotz said Gill was out during his morning press conference.
In a funny exchange with reporters who were trying to glean any info they could before hearing from Trotz, Gill was asked if he would be able to play if the game were to start in 10 minutes. “I’m starving, so probably not,” Gill replied.
The Predators are confident that a sold-out and raucous Bridgestone Arena crowd can give them an opportunity to get an early jump on the visiting Red Wings. And they don’t want to give the Red Wings—who came back from a 3-0 deficit against San Jose last year to force a Game 7—any life in this series if they can help it.
“We’ve never had a 3-1 lead [in a playoff series],” defenseman Kevin Klein said after Thursday’s practice. “We need to capitalize on it [Friday] and take advantage of our home ice. Really come out in the first 10 and show them that we mean business. Detroit’s going to be good. We need to be better.”
• And finally, hopefully, DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose, took note of the Wings’ desire to score first tonight:
“The first goal seems to be critical,” forward Danny Cleary said. “They play tight; they block a lot of shots. They got a good goalie in net. Tonight, our focus needs to be on a good cycle game, a good game around the net and try to get second, third, fourth chances.”
In the 32 playoffs games that have been played through Thursday, 20 were claimed by teams that scored first, including in every game of the Wings-Predators and St. Louis-San Jose series. In contrast, the team to score first has lost each game of the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh series.
“We all know we need to score to win,” Cleary said. “We’re trying, just got to find a way to get a couple of dirty ones tonight.”
The Wings won more than 76 percent of the time (32-9-3) when they scored first in the regular-season. But now that they’re up against an elimination game getting the Predators out of their comfort zone will be very important if the Wings hope to bring the series back to Detroit for a Game 6 on Sunday.
“I think we get out and get started on time ourselves and get after them,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “There could be no more desperate team than us, so let’s get started on time, let’s win some face-offs, let’s get a forecheck going. Territorial play hasn’t been an issue for us in this series at all, with the exception of the third period in Game 2, so we got to keep doing what we’ve been doing in that area.”
“How are we going to score some goals? We can’t just be impatient, we got to be patient,” Babcock said. “I don’t think we got impatient the last game at all. … I thought we stuck with it. We need some second chances on their goaltender. Puck’s not coming off him very much because he catches a lot of things, so we got to figure out a way to get some second chances and be determined and understand that it’s going to tight-checking and there’s not going to be a lot of room. They’re confident in their goaltender. They don’t mind giving you the chance and they’re all going to cycle the net, so we go to fight for seconds.”
“We all know we need to score to win,” Cleary said. “We’re trying, just got to find a way to get a couple of dirty ones tonight. They’re a really good defensive team, they’re disciplined, this is not a rush chance opportunity series. There’s no two-on-ones, hardly any three-on-twos, they always got guys back, they’re blocking everything, they got like a wall built in front, so we need to come in from the sides. Right now, offensively, we’re a little stymied for sure.”
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