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Red Wings-Predators Game 5 wrap-up: early exit is unacceptable for Wings

The Detroit Red Wings boarded Red Bird III for one final flight back to Detroit after dropping a devastating, heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, earning the uncomfortable status as the first team to be eliminated from the playoffs while failing to meet their Western Conference Final-making standard for the third straight year.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock didn’t pull any punches about his team not being deep enough to make deep pushes into the playoffs anymore in his post-game press conference, and in the quick take, I know that many of you weighed in as to the direction you believe the team should take going forward, but while the Wings will clean their lockers out today or on Monday (probably today), and then undergo exit interviews…

In Nashville, Predators put second round playoff tickets on sale and, well, after slaying their dragon and self-made arch-rival in the Wings, they talked about their long-time franchise idols in the way a teenager who tore the poster of his favorite athlete off the wall when he succeeded him would: in the past tense, as Fox Sports Tennessee’s John Manasso noted:

“We got tested and we got measured by the Detroit Red Wings,” Trotz said of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2008 and played in the final in ‘09. “… They’ve got great experience. They’ve got great character. It hasn’t really sunk in in terms of that. We feel like we used to look up at Detroit because of feeling that we were a little bit inferior because of talent or whatever it may be, might’ve been a little bit in awe of them and I think we’ve grown to the point where we have a great respect for the Detroit Red Wings, but we’re not in awe of them and I think that’s the stepping stone that we’ve taken. Obviously, beating the Detroit Red Wings in the first round is a step in the right direction for us.”

When Predators All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter was asked what he would have thought if he were told before the series that his team would win in five games, he hardly seemed surprised.

“Well, I mean, we’ve got a good group of guys here,” he said.

He, like fellow All-Star Shea Weber, pointed credit in the direction of goalie Pekka Rinne, who only allowed nine goals in the five games and stopped 102 of 106 shots he faced in the last three games of the series. Some of the highest praise after the game came from the vanquished.

“They’ve got their top two [defensemen] are as good as — well, not many teams, I think they got three what I would call franchise players on their team in Pekka Rinne, [Shea] Weber and [Ryan] Suter,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “I don’t know one other team that in the National League [that has that]… Those guys are top players.”

Weber took Babcock’s comments and ran with them:

“Yeah, they’ve been a good team for so long,” said Weber. “They’ve been in the playoffs for I don’t know how many years straight” — 21, in fact — “Everyone always looks up to them as a successful franchise and we’re trying to build something special here and hopefully we can just keep getting there.”
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Babcock said such a short series could not be considered close. Weber was asked what it all meant. He believes the best is yet to come.

“It says how good our goalie is because I think we still haven’t played our best,” Weber said. “I think today was more of a step in the right direction. We played more of a solid complete game. As the playoffs go on we have to keep getting better because the teams are going to keep getting better.”

The Predators were more than willing to tell the Tennessean’s Greg Sullivan and Josh Cooper that their goaltender was their biggest difference-maker…

“Peks stole us a couple of games,” defenseman Ryan Suter said.

Asked whether eliminating the Red Wings in five games shows how good the Predators are, defenseman Shea Weber said: “It says how good our goalie is, because we still haven’t played our best.”

With a team as talented as the Predators, it’s tough to say that Rinne stole the series from a Red Wings team that was slightly outmatched up front and on defense. But it’s also tough to argue with the numbers. Rinne stopped 102 of Detroit’s final 106 shots in helping the Predators prevail. He was a difference again Friday in Game 5, stopping 21 of 22 shots.

“It definitely would help us if we could put some more pucks behind (Rinne),” Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “I think we created chances but couldn’t find a way to score.”

Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard was decent, but the Predators were opportunistic with their limited chances. Howard made 103 saves on 116 shots for a save percentage of .888 and a goals-against average of 2.64. Rinne’s numbers: .944 and 1.81.

As Sullivan notes, Alex Radulov tied the game, and seemed to be hitting his stride after a bumpy first round’s worth of ups and downs and adjustments to NHL-level hockey…

“It’s not time to celebrate; it’s only the first round,” said the 25-year-old Russian, who finished Game 5 with a goal and an assist. “I mean, yeah, we beat Detroit … but we want to win more.”

Radulov’s goal late in the first period, on a pass from David Legwand, gave Nashville a 1-0 lead. It was Radulov’s first NHL playoff goal since April 14, 2008, and was the sixth playoff goal of his NHL career.

“It was a huge play … Leggy passed it to me. All I had to do was shoot it and it went in,” Radulov said. “But I’m happy, yeah.”

But everyone on the Nashville side found it most appropriate that David Legwand, the team’s first ever draft pick and a Detroit native, scored the game and series-winning goal, as the Tennessean’s Cooper noted both in his employer’s newspaper…

Leggy was a guy I knew could break out at some point in the series and be a difference-maker, and today he was,” Predators Coach Barry Trotz said. “David Legwand had his ‘A’ game tonight.”
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Legwand carried his strong play into Game 5. Late in the first period, he forced a turnover deep in Detroit’s zone and fed the puck to Alexander Radulov, who made the score 1-0. Then on the first shift of the third period, Legwand took a feed from Gabriel Bourque and buried it just beneath the crossbar.

“It’s a play that happens during the course of the game, obviously a poke back out to the slot,” Legwand said. “Howard’s going one way, and I went the other way. I don’t know if it’s significant or not, but it feels good.”

At age 31, Legwand is a graybeard on this Predators team. And though he won’t admit it, his teammates understood the importance of this win to him.

“Leggy is a good player, he kind of flies under the radar here,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “He can skate, he can shoot, he can make plays.”

And in an article for the CBC which offers Legwand’s perspective on vanquishing the Wings:

“It’s special obviously to beat those guys. Great organization. Great team,” Legwand said. “They’ve had their fair share of wins and series wins and those types of things.”

For years, the Predators were a group that couldn’t close other teams out. They wilted under pressure. No play was more symbolic than Patrick Kane’s shorthanded goal late in Game 5 at Chicago two years ago to tie the game and send it to overtime. The Blackhawks won that game and clinched the series on Nashville’s home ice one game later. Now it’s the Predators that are 2-0 in clinching game situations.

“We feel like we used to look up at Detroit because of feeling we were a little bit inferior in talent or being in awe of them,” Legwand said. “I think we’ve grown to the point where we have great respect for the Detroit Red Wings, but we’re not in awe of them.”

Trotz absolutely gushed about Legwand’s role in vanquishing the Wings while speaking to the Nashville Examiner’s Todd Diamond...

“Leggy was a guy that I knew that at some point he would break out in the series and be a difference maker, and today he was,” Trotz said. “David Legwand had his a-game tonight. I think it is really fitting being a Detroit native and Detroit is the gold standard in the Central Division especially for us since I’ve gotten here. For David to sort of seal the deal tonight with the way he played, I thought it was great. He played with fierce competitiveness, lots of detail in his game, and he was using his assets and that’s that speed and his hockey sense. I thought him and Rad and Bourquey were dangerous all night.”

Trotz told the Nashville City Paper’s David Boclair that Nashville’s playoff experience finally added up to some poise and puck luck…

“We got the first goal and couldn’t get the second,” Trotz said. “We had tons of chances – we had posts, we had good lucks and all those things We just couldn’t get it done and then they scored. The great thing about that is in the past, with a few different teams we’ve had in the pst when they were starting to come and it was 1-1 there might have been … not a lot of confidence. [Friday] there was tons of confidence.”
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“Everybody was kind of feeling that this is how it’s supposed to be,” Rinne said. “Not being cocky or anything, but just the confidence level inside this room you could tell right away after the game — it wasn’t like it’s a big party time.”

Legwand agreed…

“They’re one of the top organizations in the league, obviously,” Legwand said. “They’ve had success for the last 25 years and growing, their core group is still there and they’re going to be there for a while. They’re a strong hockey team … and we took the series [Friday]. I think this might have been our best game.”

And the Tennessean’s Cooper pointed out that one Ryan Suter, who Wings fans are hoping might want to jump ship this summer, suggested that the Predators—unlike the Wings—had forged a regular-season identity and roster which was indeed very specifically designed and built, if not over-built, to defeat the Wings:

“Going into the playoffs we had the mindset of if we play the way we’re capable of … we have a chance to beat them,” Predators defenseman Ryan Suter said. “We came out and stuck to our game plan, and we were able to get the win.”

The Tennessean’s David Climer, who believes that Pekka Rinne’s ridiculous attempt to interfere with Tomas Holmstrom was nothing less than a message sent against a team surpassed along what Climer believes might be a Stanley Cup-winning spring:

From a historical perspective, no new ground was broken. The Predators won their first-round series with Anaheim last year, so reaching the Western Conference semifinal is nothing new. But perception is reality. And eliminating a legendary franchise such as the Red Wings — especially in five games — elevates the Predators in the national and international sports consciousness. The rest of the NHL will sit up and take notice.

“You can talk about the games being close, but 4-1 is not close to me,” said Detroit Coach Mike Babcock, whose team lost a first-round playoff series for the first time since 2006.

While Trotz dismissed the notion that the Central Division torch had been passed from the Red Wings to the Predators, it is clear that Nashville now has eliminated the gap that existed between the two franchises for so long. For years, the Predators used Detroit as a barometer. No more.

“They’re a big rival since the first day Nashville came into the league,” Predators forward Patric Hornqvist said. “They’ve always been better than Nashville. Now we’re better than them.”

And while Weber sounded like a Red Wing in suggesting that defeating in Detroit will benefit Nashville over a long playoff haul…

“It was a big game for us so now we can get some rest and hopefully move forward,” Weber said.

Hornqvist didn’t give a s*** as to whose toes he’d skated upon while speaking to ESPN’s Craig Custance about surpassing the Wings—and Custance agrees with Hornqvist’s assessments:

There’s no longer doubt. No longer doubt that the Predators are a better team than their rival. No longer doubt that the Predators are a legitimate Stanley Cup favorite.

“They were a big rivalry from the first day Nashville came to the league,” Preds forward Patric Hornqvist said. “They’ve always been better than Nashville. Now, we’re better than them.”

Hornqvist said the message from Trotz from the first game of the series was consistent. The Nashville players had to be in the faces of Detroit’s best players. They couldn’t give Detroit’s high-end skill guys any space on the ice. They succeeded wildly. Pavel Datsyuk finished with just one goal. To paraphrase the sign of a Nashville fan, one of the game’s most magical players disappeared. Johan Franzen was a nonfactor. His only goal in the series was off his skate.

Rinne, of course, shrugged off what Custance also thought was a message-sending move heard around the NHL in daring to wrestle Tomas Holmstrom out of his way…

“You never want to give an inch, an extra step for them,” Rinne said. “You want to hold your ground.”

And as Hornqvist patted Rinne on the back and praised the Erat-Fisher-Sergei Kostitsyn line for shutting Datsyuk down…

“Of course the big guy in between the pipes, he was unbelievable,” Hornqvist said. “If we keep playing this type of hockey, I think we’re going to go deep.”
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“They were the better top line,” Hornqvist said.

Custance noted that Predators GM David Poile, who most certainly “won” the trade deadline by adding Andrei Kostitsyn, Paul Gaustad and Alexander Radulov to his team to, as Babcock suggested, give the Predators more depth than Detroit had up front, let emotions get the better of him, too:

After the franchise-changing win, Poile was his usual conservative self on the elevator ride down to meet the team, only quietly shaking a couple of hands from those offering congratulations. But as he walked toward Keith Cash, a longtime security guard for the team, Poile broke away from his normal stoic persona. He shook both fists in the air for a brief moment, then offered up a fist for Cash to pound. Nine years Cash has been working these hallways, and he’s never seen anything quite like this.

NashvillePredators.com’s Jay Levin summarizes his team’s win thusly:

Closing Instinct – With an additional off day between Game 4 and Game 5, the Preds had two days to hear about how tough the Red Wings were going to be to finish off; that the fourth win would be the toughest. Nashville showed tremendous team growth finishing the series in its first try. And tonight might have been the team’s best performance from start to finish, never trailing all night and controlling the pace of the play for the majority of the time. Even post-game was zeroed in, last year the team was jubilant after knocking off the Ducks; this year it was business-like and focused.

I’m just not gonna comment on this quip from the Tennessean’s Cooper’s “Postgame Ponderings”:

Who do the Predators match up best with in their next series? Nashville has a winning record against the rest of their potential Western Conference playoff opponents except for Los Angeles. If the Kings defeat the Canucks, the Predators likely won’t play them until the Western Conference Final, if they get that far. Right now, it appears the Predators will likely play Phoenix. They’re a team that’s built similarly to the Predators, but doesn’t have the same top-end talent. We won’t say the Predators have an easy stretch to the conference final, but it seems like they will have a favorable match up at this moment.

The Associated Press’s Teresa M. Walker may or may not have gotten caught up in the moment in terms of her usually objective-as-can-be recaps, too:

The Nashville Predators need measure themselves against the Detroit Red Wings no more. David Legwand scored 13 seconds into the third period, and the Predators advanced to the Western Conference semifinals with a 2-1 victory over the Red Wings on Friday night.

The fourth-seeded Predators won the series 4-1, capping a season in which they finished ahead of their Central Division rival for the first time, and beat the Red Wings for the first time in three playoff series. Nashville made it even sweeter by handing the Red Wings their earliest postseason departure since a six-game, first-round loss to Edmonton in 2006.
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Legwand’s goal started the sold-out crowd counting down the final minutes, eager to celebrate this former expansion franchise’s biggest victory yet against Detroit. Fans even gathered outside the arena watching on a giant TV, and those inside gave the Predators three standing ovations in the third period during timeouts. Country singer Keith Urban and his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, also were on hand decked out in the free gold T-shirts for the home fans.

This is just the Predators’ seventh playoff appearance in eight seasons, but Nashville improved to 2-0 in elimination games by winning its second straight first-round series.

She describes the atmosphere after Radulov’s goal as follows:

In Nashville tradition, the first of at least a couple catfish was tossed on the ice in celebration with fans finally having a reason to cheer and release some of their pent-up emotions. That seemed to fire the Predators up even more, and rookie Craig Smith, making his playoff debut, had two chances late in the period. His shot from in front went just right of the post, and he chased down the puck, skating around the net and throwing it back across the crease.

Pent-up emotions, indeed. John Manasso’s recap for NHL.com will substitute for Walker’s in shifting our perspectives—for the last time this season—to the Red Wings’ locker room, but before we get there, Manasso noted that Babcock spared no criticisms of his team in his post-game presser:

“I thought [Henrik] Zetterberg’s line was good in this series,” he said. “I thought they controlled the most of it. I didn’t think we had enough other pieces going. We tried lots of combinations, as you probably saw and in the end I didn’t think we had a whole lot of help for Pavel (Datsyuk) for whatever reason. But let’s give Nashville some credit. They’ve got their top two [defensemen] are as good as – well, not many teams, I think they got three what I would call franchise players on their team in Pekka Rinne, [Shea] Weber and [Ryan] Suter. I don’t know one other team that in the National League [that has that]… Those guys are top players, so I though they made it hard on Pavel.”

It was the first time since 2006 that the Wings have been eliminated in the opening round. As close as each game was individually – only Game 4 was decided by more than one goal – Babcock said he thought that by losing in five games, the series was “not close.” He mentioned how the organization’s goal is to win championships, not simply to make the playoffs, and the front office will have plenty of time to assess what to do next.

“When you look at our group now, second-round knockout [in 2010] second-round knockout [in 2011] and a first-round knockout,” he said. “To me, that doesn’t look like you’re going in the right direction.”

I can only nod my head in agreement here:

In a season when Detroit established a League record for consecutive home victories, Zetterberg said falling short this early was hard.

“As I said, everyone in here believed we had a good team and we could do something this year and we didn’t,” he said. “When that happens, you’re frustrated and you’re disappointed.”

If you really, really want to read more about the Predators’ defensive adjustments or Francios Bouillon’s play via the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, but I’d prefer to make an exception to go back into Nashville’s room for this from the Free Press’s Helene St. James...

Nashville’s Ryan Suter said the Red Wings “have one of the greatest hockey traditions going,” and called them “one of the greatest franchises maybe ever.” The Predators lost to them in the ‘08 playoffs, but had a different mentality four years later. “For us,” Suter said, “it was a fine line of respecting them but not fearing them. I think that we’ve walked that line pretty well.”

Rinne said it’s still special to meet Detroit in the playoffs, though. “It’s a big, big organization and it’s one of the Original Six teams that has so much history behind them, and it’s become a little bit of a rivalry between us and Detroit.”

Because St. James gets down to brass tacks in stating the obvious: we know that the Red Wings seemed to lose their footing, if not their identity, down the stretch, and as St. James suggests, when the Wings finally welcomed Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and even Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Ericsson (surprise! He’s actually a good defenseman!) back into the lineup, the team kept losing, not because of poor goaltending, but because they seemed to forget how to score goals:

“We’ve had a good offensive team that plays well with the puck,” Danny Cleary said. “We’ve had our stretches where it didn’t go as well as we wanted offensively.”

That was the story of this series, as the Wings were frustrated by Rinne. Datsyuk, the leading scorer in the regular season, had one goal and two assists. Franzen, the leading goal scorer, had one goal, when a puck went in off his skate. Filppula, who had a breakthrough regular season with 66 points, had two assists. Jiri Hudler and Henrik Zetterberg led the Wings in scoring with two goals apiece. Coach Mike Babcock’s strategy was to emphasize the importance of being hard on the puck.

“Rush chances are few and far between,” he said. “It’s forechecks and grinds, and a lot of those are when you have the puck and you lose the puck and you fight to get the puck back and you get knocked down and you get up and it’s a grind to make it happen. No one is scoring a ton in this series.”

As the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa suggests, for some bizarre reason, once the Wings set their home-ice winning record, they never seemed to recover their desire to work on the details of their game…

In an enormously disappointing end to a once-promising season, the Red Wings are out of the playoffs after only five games, losing 2-1 to the Predators on Friday, in the fourth one-goal game of the series.

From Feb. 21, when they were the best in the NHL with a 41-17-2 record and Pavel Datsyuk went down with surgery on a bad knee, the first of a host of injuries, the Wings struggled to regain their best game. It never quite happened. They were 8-15-4 from that day on.

So, to no small extent, the bad habits which doomed them against the Predators were learned between the 21st and the end of the season. Lack of puck possession or a solid transition game? Check. Perimeter scoring chances without butts in front of goalies to generate secondary or tertiary scoring chances? Check. Horrible, horrible unforced errors and staggering, full-team defensive mistakes where the Wings would either give the puck away and/or over-commit to following one puck carrier, leaving one or multiple players wide, wide open for ppoint-blank, if not empty-net scoring chances? Check, by Gordie Howe, check.

What did the Wings do well in the series? Um, Henrik Zetterberg looked pretty good…

His contribution in Game 5 was such that it seemed he might will the Wings to victory all by himself. But Henrik Zetterberg, their stellar playoff performer, could not do it for them. In 21:47 of playing time, Zetterberg often led the Red Wings’ attack. His assist keyed their only goal, and as usual his defensive effort was laudable.

“I thought Zetterberg was fantastic in the series,” Babcock said when it was all over.

What was his reward? St. James offers the following:

Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg shook hands with Predators defenseman Shea Weber following tonight’s elimination loss, wishing Weber the best as the Predators moved on.

“Well played, good luck, see you next year,” Zetterberg said when asked what he told Weber. Just a little over a week ago, in Game 1, Weber ended that game by smashing Zetterberg’s head into the glass at Bridgestone Arena. Zetterberg called it a dirty hit and said the NHL “set the bar” low when Weber was only fined for the hit, not suspended. Todd Bertuzzi fought Weber in Game 2 to send a message that it wasn’t OK. After Game 5, Zetterberg said, “it’s part of the game. You get a lot of emotions. What happened, happened. I think Bert took care of it in Game 2 and then you just move on.”

That was it, that and answering hard questions from the Detroit News’s Kulfan:

We had a good enough team to do some damage,” said Zetterberg of his feeling heading into these playoffs. “It was tough. We played a tough opponent that played well. If we had scored two or three goals a game, we probably would have won the series.”
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“Maybe we didn’t do enough changes in the way we played,” Zetterberg said. “When you start losing games you try to make changes, but we didn’t do enough of them. The way they played, they played the same way the whole way. They didn’t make a lot of changes. But it’s easy to stand here right now and say we could have done different things.”
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“I don’t think we ever scored again (consistently) after we lost Darren Helm,” Babcock said. “We won a lot of games because our third line was flat-out better and wore down the other team. He’s a big part of our team. We’re not as deep as we used to be, and that’s apparent.”

Babcock obviously didn’t stop there, as Kulfan notes in his main recap:

For the Wings, it’s their earliest elimination since Edmonton knocked the Wings out in the first round in 2006. The Wings haven’t advanced past the second round in each of the last three seasons.

“To me that doesn’t look like you’re going in the right direction,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ll have a lot of time to figure it out.”
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“We created chances but we couldn’t find a way to score,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “When we made mistakes, they ended up in our net. We didn’t score like we normally do.”
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“We didn’t have enough depth up front and it showed in our scoring,” Babcock said. “We had pressure at times but that (lack of depth) hurt us for sure.”

Even the Wings’ captain didn’t understand why the hell his team kept shooting itself in both feet defensively…

“I didn’t think we had as many during the regular season,” said Nicklas Lidstrom, who will make a decision regarding his future in the coming weeks. “We had too many in this series, especially against a good team who doesn’t give up that many chances. You can’t do that against a good team”

And Babcock stated one fact that no one can deny:

“To me, this was our game of the series,” Babcock said. “We played lots of good hockey (in this series) but we weren’t good today. But give Nashville credit.”

Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji captured the Wings players and coach’s comments during their interviews with Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating and in their media scrums after the game, and they were...Obvious:

“It’s never fun to lose a playoff series, especially the first one,” Henrik Zetterberg told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating. “I believe we had a good enough team in here to do some damage. So it is tough. I think we played a tough opponent, they played well. They probably executed their game exactly like they wanted to. They have a good goalie and they play off that. I think (Ryan) Suter was really good for them. (Grosse Pointe native David) Legwand played really well and Pekka Rinne. I think those three were outstanding for them. So it’s going to be interesting what they can do in the future here in the playoffs. Unfortunately we can just sit on the side and watch.”
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After the All-Star break, Howard missed eight games with a broken index finger. When he recovered from that, he injured his groin, missed three games, came back and then aggravated the groin, missing four more games. Howard said the injuries didn’t bother him in the playoffs.

“No, those are non-issues,” Howard told Keating. “I was fine coming in. I thought I did a superb job the last four or five (regular season) games that I got to play in. It’s just things didn’t go the way I wanted. I could have played a lot better in Games 1, 3 and 4 to give our guys a better chance.”
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“I think our defensive breakdowns that we had. I don’t think we had too many in the regular season and we had too many in this series, especially against a team that isn’t giving you many chances,” Lidstrom told Keating. “They’re not going to have too many breakdowns defensively, they’re playing real well so you can’t have that against a very good team.”
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“I think we created chances but we couldn’t find a way to score,” Zetterberg said. “I think when we made mistakes, they end up in our net. We played against a good team but I think if we had scored like we normally do, we would have had a better chance.”
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“I think you’ve got to give them a lot of credit,” Babcock said of the Predators. “They played hard. I would say—and I don’t include (Gabriel) Bourque or (Nick) Spaling in the group—they have seven top-six forwards. They’re deeper than we are for sure up front and I thought they took advantage of us that way and they always found a way to get one more goal than we did.”
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“Coming into the series, I was real excited to be getting Helm back because I thought that allowed us to match up better,” Babcock said. “In the end when it didn’t go right for him, I thought that hurt us. You have to be deep enough to handle injuries. We obviously were not. The disappointing part for us as a group here and for me is that we looked like we were having a way better year that I anticipated. Coming in, I thought we’d be scratching and clawing to make the playoffs and I thought we did a ton of good things. We never really scored again after we lost. We lost a bunch of guys and we lost Helm, we never got to a level we’d like to have gotten to.”

For the record, when Babcock was asked about Franzen’s lack of production, he simply said, “You can ask him,” and as St. James notes, mostly, the Wings were kinda in shock and very disappointed in their effort:

“We couldn’t score enough, it’s as simple as that,” Niklas Kronwall said. “And we gave them too many easy ones. It’s disappointing. Everyone in here believed something completely different than what the outcome was. It’s just empty right now.”
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Once again, we had some defensive breakdowns that they scored on,” Lidstrom said. “It’s very disappointing.”

The Wings spent the first part of the second period trying to hold off the Predators, then got rolling in the second, and finally got rewarded with a goal at 13:45, when Zetterberg drew a defender to him as he strode up the right flank and angled the puck on net, where Filppula and Hudler were arriving. Filppula got a piece of the puck before it squirted through the crease for Hudler to find with his backhand.

The Predators retook the lead 13 seconds into the third period when Radulov jumped on the puck inside the blue line after the opening face-off. He threw the puck ahead, and Gabriel Bourque tipped it ahead to Legwand, who got a clear shot off from the slot.

“This game is funny sometimes—you go out there and you lay it on the line and it doesn’t go your way,” goalie Jimmy Howard said.
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“You want to keep playing,” Zetterberg said, “that’s why you play hockey. You play those 82 games, and you look forward to this. And it’s barely been two weeks, and it’s over. It’s tough. It’s frustrating for everyone. It wasn’t anything we expected.”

Cue more of the same, per MLive’s Ansar Khan (who also penned a quote-less recap)

“I think guys are pretty much in shock our season is over and we’re starting summertime,’’ goaltender Jimmy Howard said.

Defenseman Brad Stuart said, “I’m surprised at how quickly things can start going the other way for you. Things were going good for us to a point and then in the last month of the season, we weren’t as good. We just weren’t able to turn it on in the playoffs. We only scored nine goals in five games. It’s tough to win a series when you can’t seem to get anything going offensively.”

It might have been the final game for Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who said he will take a few weeks to decide on his future.

“I thought we had good pieces together,’’ Lidstrom said. “We didn’t play as well defensively as you have to. At times we played real well but then we had a couple of breakdowns and they got a good team, they’re going to capitalize on their chances and they did.’‘
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“If we could have scored 2-3 goals a game, we probably would have won the series,’’ Zetterberg said. “Maybe we didn’t do enough changes in the way we played. I think when you start losing you try to make changes, but maybe we didn’t do enough with them or find a way to get quality chances. A team like this, when they get one or two goals, they get even tighter and it’s tougher to get any chances.’‘

And it’s tougher to rebound from baffling plays, like the one which led to the game-winning goal:

On the winning goal, as Gabriel Bourque drew a crowd at the net, the puck squirted free to Legwand in the slot area. He snapped a wrist shot that caught the top corner of the net.

“I pushed across and I had two guys go in front of me and never saw the shot,’’ Howard said.

Said Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall: “We won the draw, didn’t get the puck deep and they chipped it off the wall. I tried to get back, tried to poke the puck away and it ended up right on Legwand’s stick.’‘

So what happens now? Well, I guess we’ll start with Kronwall’s defensive partner, as it’s hard to believe what he told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan is true:

“I haven’t thought about that,” said Stuart, an unrestricted free agent July 1, of the possibility this could have been his final game in a Wings jersey.

Stuart would be a difficult loss. At 32, he is still in the prime of his career, and his size (6 foot 2, 213 pounds) and bite on the defensive side would be a major loss. The prospect of free agency hasn’t weighed on Stuart’s mind.

“It depends on different guys; it may wear more on some than others, but I haven’t thought much about it,” Stuart said. “You think about it sometimes, sure, now and then. But it’s not something that has preoccupied me all the time.”

Nicklas Lidstrom? Pretty simple, as he told the Free Press’s St. James:

Following the 2-1 loss to the Predators at Bridgestone Arena, Lidstrom said he will decompress, then sit down with general manager Ken Holland and “go over things. So I’ll see what he wants to do and what time table he’ll give me to make a decision.”

Lidstrom told NHL.com’s John Manasso that he simply won’t make a decision right now, for a very good reason:

“It’s a lot of disappointment right now, especially only getting a goal each of the last couple of games,” the seven-time Norris Trophy winner said after his team was eliminated in the opening round for the first time since 2006. “We had some gifts, I thought, defensively. We had some defensive breakdowns that they scored on. It’s tough against a very good team like Nashville.”

Lidstrom will turn 42 next Saturday. His former teammate Chris Chelios played well into his 40s, but Lidstrom will have to decide if that is what he wants to do after playing in 1,564 regular-season games and winning the Stanley Cup four times—but finishing without a point in the five games against Nashville for the first time in 48 career playoff series. He said he’ll take some time before deciding if he’ll return for another season—as has been his custom in recent years while playing on one-year contracts.

“I’m going to take a few weeks here,” Lidstrom said. “I’m sure [GM] Kenny [Holland] wants to sit down and go over things as well. I’ll see what he wants to do and what timetable he’ll give me to make a decision.”

Asked if he was leaning one way or the other, Lidstrom replied, “Not right now. Right now, it’s just the disappointment of losing in the playoffs.”

As Michigan Hockey Now’s Michael Caples notes, Jiri Hudler, Ty Conklin and Tomas Holmstrom will also be free agents (Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Kyle Quincey will be restricted free agents), and while the Free Press’s Steve Schrader’s “Octo-Ticker” is chock full of great quips and quotes, I’ll stick with this from Holmstrom, who may or may not have a place on a team that wants to get bigger and younger up front:

Tomas Holmstrom, asked on FSD’s postgame show if he’d thought about his future yet: “You gotta be kidding, huh? No.”

MLive’s Brendan Savage also took note of the fact that Lidstrom wasn’t fully healthy...

“Not where I wanted to be” was how Lidstrom described his postseason health. “You want to be out there killing penalties. You want to be more in a rhythm but when you can’t do it, it’s hard to get that rhythm going. That’s not going to have an effect on my decision.”

And he asked Hudler about his status…

“Obviously, everybody knows how I feel about Detroit,” said Hudler, 28. “I like it, the fans. I don’t know. We’ll see. It’s a great group. It’s a great hockey team. It’s very disappointing. This is not fun. It’s tough. I don’t know what to say.”

And Stuart about what might happen to him, and his probable former teammates:

Stuart, 32, said he would know what the future holds for him “in the next couple of months” but that he wouldn’t be surprised if there are changes to the Red Wings’ roster regardless of what happens with him.

“Like every year, there will be some,” he said. “I don’t know to what extent those changes will be. But every year brings something different. I’m not in charge of that kind of stuff. But you have to think after kind of a disappointing end to a year, there will be a few changes I’m sure.”

The Detroit Free Press’s Michael Rosenberg, who points out that Babcock made the not-too-subtle statement that the series wasn’t “close” despite the Wings’ one-goal losses, offers the following assessment…

“When you look at our group now, we’ve had a second-round knockout, a second-round knockout and a first-round knockout,” [Babcock] said. “So to me, that doesn’t look like you’re going in the right direction.”

Understand this about Babcock: All he cares about is being the best. That’s it. In that way, he is the perfect coach for this franchise. It would have been so easy for him to point out that the Wings were one of the best teams in the league at one point this season, or that their injuries came at the wrong time, or that maybe if Johan Franzen had scored one-tenth of a second earlier in Game 3, the series would have been different, or that even the best teams lose early sometimes. Instead, he said: “I don’t think we’re very interested in scratching and clawing to make the playoffs.”

And: “We’re not as deep as we used to be. It’s very apparent.”

With a different matchup, the Wings might have won anyway. But not against a Nashville team that has arguably the best pair of defensemen in the league (Shea Weber and Ryan Suter) and a phenomenal goalie. Not without Darren Helm, who centered the third line and barely played in the series. Not with this depth.

Nicklas Lidstrom said he was disappointed by how many defensive breakdowns the Wings had in the series. But Henrik Zetterberg—the Wings’ best forward in these playoffs—and Babcock pointed out that the breakdowns looked bad because the games were so low-scoring.

“Obviously we didn’t score enough,” Kronwall said. “It’s a simple thing.”

A simple thing with no simple answer. The Wings will hope Lidstrom comes back for another season and try to retool this summer. No team in sports does it better. Some years, the Wings didn’t even seem to need it. This year, they do.

In other words, there is no way in hell that the Wings will even dare to think about “rebuilding”—when you tear down a team to “rebuild” it via high draft picks that sometimes don’t pan out, you never know if you’ll put your franchise back together again, and let’s be honest, folks, as paying fans of a team that’s made the playoffs for 21 straight seasons, we’re not going to accept that kind of philosophy, nor pay to watch the Red Wings stink.

And while revealing something particularly interesting about Lidstrom, the Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski offers his take on where the Wings go from here. First, regarding Lidstrom:

Lidstrom was still battling an ankle injury and took game-day injections to numb it, and it was noticeable. That certainly doesn’t mean he’s going to retire, but that’s the first big question awaiting the Red Wings.
...
And quickly now, the offseason obstacles will mount. Holland will have salary-cap space and prime free-agent targets, including Nashville’s own Suter, but first, Lidstrom must decide whether to give it another go. I always assume he will, and so does Babcock, but he is about to turn 42 and missed a month this season with the deep ankle bruise.

“I say this every year, and I always say the same thing,” Babcock said. “He’s too good to quit.”

Lidstrom says the same thing too, that he’ll spend a few weeks with his family contemplating retirement. Each year, the odds of him returning obviously slip a little, and one of these times, he won’t come back. Time is catching up to a few Red Wings, and opponents have caught up too.

The Predators were ready for their prey, and looked dead into the red eyes and didn’t blink. Detroit’s scorers had no keys to unlock Rinne. Everything was labored, nothing was easy, and this is the new NHL, where one-time powers can be humbled. The Red Wings had no answers, and that spawns a fresh batch of tough questions.

The Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo was the only one to extrapolate Babcock’s comments into naming targets...

The Red Wings need goal scoring — badly. They have genuine world-class forwards in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but neither is a pure goal scorer. It would be shocking if the Red Wings don’t take a major run at free agent Zach Parise of the New Jersey, who is a consistent 30-goal scorer. If Lidstrom goes, they will go after defenseman Ryan Suter of the Preds. They may anyway, depending on who they bring back and salary cap space.

For the first time, general manager Ken Holland, whose track record has been amazingly strong, is facing criticism. The Red Wings traded for Quincey near the deadline, but nothing after that. And he didn’t play well. The Red Wings were relatively quiet in free agency last summer, too. Essentially, Ian White replaced Brian Rafalski on the blue line.

The Red Wings were playing very well at the trade deadline — and then suffered an inordinate number of injuries. It’s Monday morning QB at its highest level to blast Holland for his lack of aggressiveness at the time. Yet, there is little doubt he will have to be more active this summer because the Red Wings’ margin for error is slim.

In the past, they could overcome falling behind 1-0 in game or a mistake or two. Not anymore.

Not this year, and in the long term, there is a simple bottom line: we’ll be analyzing the comments the Wings’ players and coaches make during their locker-room clean-out and over the next week or two very carefully, and then, we’ve got two months of waiting for Lidstrom, Holmstrom, Hudler and Stuart to make up their minds, two months of waiting until the Entry Draft, where we’ll find out if Holland can prey upon teams that aren’t going to sign key free agents-to-be but will take draft picks as compensation for acquiring their signing rights, and two-and-a-half months till we find out what Holland, Babcock and the Wings’ coaches and management plan on doing in terms of making significant changes this summer. We’ll have to see whether the Wings are finally willing to give up a prized prospect or three, if not a contributing roster player, to acquire a bigger name, too.

What I do know is that this team cannot afford to continue to make lateral moves, because the last three seasons’ worth of Todd Bertuzzi, Jason Williams, Mike Modano, Ruslan Salei, Ty Conklin, Ian White, and hoping and praying that the team’s younger players will somehow evolve into dominant players and leaders on their own hasn’t worked.

Multimedia:

Highlights: ESPN posted a 1:53 highlight clip;

The CBC posted a 1:47 highlight clip;

NBC Sports posted a 1:35 highlight clip;

TSN posted a 2:58 highlight clip;

And NHL.com’s highlight clip is narrated by the CBC.

Post-game: The CBC’s Mark lee and Kevin Weekes offered their opinions on the game;

NBC Sports posted post-game comments from Pekka Rinne and Alex Radulov;

TSN posted Barry Trotz’s 10:54 presser, a 9-and-a-half-minute clip of post-game reaction from Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Jimmy Howard and Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Eliot talking about the Predators’ forecheck and Nicklas Lidstrom, the TSN panel both gushing about Rinne, David Legwand and talking about Lidstrom, and Wings coach Mike Babcock’s presser;

NHL.com posted the handshake line, Nicklas Lidstrom talking about the loss on the CBC and Jamie McLennan pondering his future, the Predators entering their locker room, Trotz’s post-game presser, comments from Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne, an interview with Henrik Zetterberg and Babcock’s presser;

Fox Sports Tennessee posted Terry Crisp and Pete Weber’s recap, as well as a post-game interviews with David Legwand and Barry Trotz;

The Predators’ website posted clips of Shea Weber, David Legwand, Pekka Rinne, Alex Radulov and Kevin Klein‘s (to NHL Live) comments, as well as NHL Tonight’s analysis of the game;

Fox Sports Detroit posted clips of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s recap and post-game comments from Nicklas Lidstrom, Jimmy Howard and Mike Babcock (his interview here is with John Keating);

And the Red Wings’ website posted thank-yous from Red Wings TV and the team to all Wings fans;

Photos: The Detroit News posted a 34-image gallery;

The Detroit Free Press posted a 29-image gallery;

The Tennessean posted a 52-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted 10 Reuters images in its Wings gallery;

The CBC embedded a 10-image gallery in its website’s recap;

Fox Sports Tennessee and Fox Sports Detroit posted about a dozen images to their respective series galleries;

NHL.com posted a 43-image gallery;

The Predators’ website posted a 43-image gallery;

The Red Wings’ website posted a 42-image gallery;

And CBS Detroit provides one last wallpaper-sized image in one Henrik Zetterberg out-hustling Roman Josi to a puck.

Statistics:

Shots 25-22 Nashville. Detroit was out-shot 10-8 in the 1st period and 8-6 in the 2nd period, but they out-shot Nashville 8-7 in the 3rd period.

Detroit went 0 for 2 in 2:16 of PP time; Nashville went 0 for 3 in 4:16 of PP time.

Jimmy Howard stopped 23 of 25 shots; Pekka Rinne stopped 21 of 22.

The 3 stars, per the Nashville media, were Pekka Rinne, Alex Radulov and David Legwand.

The Wings’ goal: Hudler (2) from Filppula (2) and Zetterberg (1).

Faceoffs 29-19 Nashville (Detroit won 40%);

Blocked shots 17-12 Detroit;

Missed shots 14-10 Detroit (total attempts 52-48 Nashville, with Detroit firing 22 shots on Rinne and 26 wide or into Predators players);

Hits 32-22 Nashville;

Giveaways a hideous 11-8 Detroit;

Takeaways an equally poor 12-4 Nashville.

Individual stats:

Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 7-and-11 (39%); Zetterberg went 4-and-8 (33%); Abdelkader went 5-and-4 (56%); Emmerton went 2-and-3 (40%); Filppula went 1-and-1 (50%); Franzen and Cleary lost their only faceoffs.

Shots: White and Franzen led the team with 3 shots; Miller, Quincey, Zetterberg, Filppula and Kronwall had 2; Lidstrom, Cleary, Datsyuk, Hudler, Bertuzzi and Ericsson had 1.

Blocked attempts: Abdelkader, White, Filppula and Ericsson had 2 attempts blocked by Predators players; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Stuart and Bertuzzi had 1 attempt blocked.

Missed shots: Zetterberg missed the net 3 times; Lidstrom, Cleary and Nyquist missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, White, Stuart, Hudler and Bertuzzi missed the net 1 time.

Hits: Abdelkader and Quincey led the team with 3 hits apiece; Datsyuk, Stuart, Bertuzzi and Franzen had 2; Lidstrom, Cleary, Nyquist, Miller, Hudler, Zetterberg, Emmerton and Ericsson had 1.

Giveaways: Franzen had 3 giveaways; Stuart and Howard had 2; Hudler, Quincey, Filppula and Holmstrom had 1.

Takeaways: Kronwall had 2 takeaways; Lidstrom and White had 1.

Blocked opponent shots: Quincey blocked 4 shots; Stuart blocked 3; Lidstrom, Emmerton and Franzen blocked 2; Abdelkader, Cleary, Miller and Filppula blocked 1.

Penalties taken: Cleary, Ericsson and Holmstrom were penalized.

Plus-minus: The Wings finished at -5. Abdelkader, Miller, Quincey, Bertuzzi and Ericsson finished at -1.

Points: Hudler had a goal; Zetterberg and Filppula had assists.

Ice time: Lidstrom led the team with 22:25 played; Kronwall played 21:53; Zetterberg played 21:47;

White played 20:45; Stuart played 20:33; Filppula played 18:58;

Datsyuk played 18:30; Ericsson played 17:49; Cleary played 17:10;

Hudler played 16:52; Quincey played 16:34; Franzen played 13:45;

Bertuzzi played 12:49; Nyquist played 12:48; Abdelkader played 12:41;

Miller played 11;16; Holmstrom played 10:28; Emmerton played 8:10.

Part II: Bonus Swedish: According to Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom, Patric Hornqvist simply said that the Wings wished him luck, and neither Lidstrom nor Kronwall are considering playing for Sweden at the World Championships (expect Pavel Datsyuk, if he’s healthy enough, Valtteri Filppula and probably Jonathan Ericsson to head over to Stockholm and Helsinki), and while Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman became giddy thinking about Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen joining the Swedes, I’m not sure that Zetterberg, nor Franzen, who may have been hurt, want to play anymore.

Lidstrom offered nothing of note to Bjurman regarding his future plans, either, and he got the same story from Hornqvist.

FTR: Pavel Datsyuk told Yahoo Sports’ Dmitry Chesnokov that he’s not sure what he’ll do in terms of playing for Russia.

Part III: Red Wings notebooks: MLive’s Brendan Savage posted a clip of pre-game sights and sounds;

• The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan doled out three star selections;

• And Gustav Nyquist readily admitted to MLive’s Ansar Khan that he needs to get stronger physically if he is to battl

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

George Malik's avatar

One more thing that I ran out of space for, from the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek:

The Detroit Red Wings tied for sixth in overall NHL goal-scoring this season, but had a perplexing drop off down the stretch that has spilled over into the playoffs – and is the primary reason they were down 3-1 to the Nashville Predators heading into a possible elimination game Friday night. The Red Wings had eight goals in the first four playoff games, after scoring just 11 in the final six games of the regular season, or a 1.9 goals-a-game average over 10 games. Their two best offensive players, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, are far better playmakers than they are scorers. Johan Franzen led them in scoring in each of the past two years – 29 this year, 28 last year – which is telling. It’s not even that they don’t have a 50-goal scorer. They don’t even have a 30-goal scorer. They’ve been getting by with scoring by committee, but that can only carry you so far, and the past two years, it’s one of the big reasons they’ve lost in the second round. Recharging the offence, through free agency, will likely be the biggest off-season challenge for the Red Wings, unless Nicklas Lidstrom decides to retire, in which case the first priority would be filling a massive hole on defence. Lidstrom, who turns 42 next Saturday, is still averaging 23 minutes 27 seconds of playing time a night in these playoffs, after playing 23:46 in the regular season. Coach Mike Babcock is managing his ice time closely, something that began at the start of the 2010-11 season, when the Wings started cutting his minutes back. In his prime years, Lidstrom averaged between 27 and 29 minutes in the regular season, and that would be ramped up in playoffs (partly because of OT) to anywhere between 29 and 33. (In the 2002 playoffs, when he won the Conn Smythe, Lidstrom averaged 31:10 a game for 23 games).

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/21/12 at 07:22 AM ET

Chet's avatar

meh. i could write pages on my thoughts about this team and season but will try to keep it brief because a lot of it would repeat my thoughts of last year this time. my quick take:

there’s an element of truth to all of these descriptions of the 11-12 wings: aging. slower. soft. complacent. the core of this team is past its prime, was a year ago, and management has failed to address it meaningfully. i personally wouldn’t invest the time or money to watch substantially the same team next season. what’s that saying about the definition of insanity? trying the same thing and expecting different results? all these pundits saying the wings need high end scoring are stating the obvious.

personnel-specific thoughts:

- watching franzen coast through parts of the season and this series was maddening. it’s gone too far.

- cleary and bert are signed for 1 and 2 seasons more, respectively. oops.

- datsyuk has been my favorite player since 19 retired. hoping he comes back as his usual self.

- the quincey trade was clearly a bust. is he worth keeping for depth? maybe, but the money and term have to make sense.

- ericsson keeps improving. ericsson needs to keep improving.

- bye, homer. we love you.

- bye, stuie. we like you a LOT.

- welcome back, cap. the stall next to you will say “suter” on opening night.

- bye, huds? we are ambivalent, but you are a midget.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 04/21/12 at 08:14 AM ET

Tuba Guy's avatar

As many gaffs as Stuart has (and he had some big ones, including a miscue leading up to the second goal last night), he will be a big loss. Assuming Lidstrom comes back, losing Rafalski one year and Stuart the next is pretty hard to recover from.

Any chance NJ will trade Fransen for Parisse’s early negotiation rights?

Posted by Tuba Guy from Royal Oak, MI on 04/21/12 at 08:51 AM ET

w2j2's avatar

What I do know is that this team cannot afford to continue to make lateral moves, because the last three seasons’ worth of Todd Bertuzzi, Jason Williams, Mike Modano, Ruslan Salei, Ty Conklin, Ian White, and hoping and praying that the team’s younger players will somehow evolve into dominant players and leaders on their own hasn’t worked.

This.

Posted by w2j2 on 04/21/12 at 09:44 AM ET

BrendonR's avatar

Just look at what Bourque did for the Preds this series. Relying on veterans and ensuring your prospects are ‘over-ripe’ has worked for awhile, but the League is too fast these days.  We need guys like Jurco and Nyquist on the team next year.  And hey, how about that Mrazek kid?  Kenny just needs to get over himself a bit and let the kids play.  There are enough vets on the team to cover their mistakes.  A little more hunger and jump for a team that has more reason than any other to be complacent.  I mean, Pav was going for his 3rd Cup, Z for his second Conn Smythe.  We need guys who have more to play for.

I read a review of a recent Devils game that said Parise played “like a man possessed” and not only hit everything in site from the puck drop but also scored a key goal.  I wonder why?  Maybe because he’s never won a Cup and knows his chances will be limited? I never, ever buy the Wings are too old and too slow line, but I’m now ready to say that our depth is too old and slow.  Charlie Buckets, Bert, Huds…...none of them really fit on this team.  Well, maybe I should give Bert more credit, and it’s great to have someone who is money in the shootout.  Regardless, let the kids play!  I went to see the Griffs play the Marlies a few weeks ago and my friends all commented on how fast the Griffs were.  Speaking of which, what about Fabian?

Posted by BrendonR on 04/21/12 at 11:03 AM ET

Red Winger's avatar

I never, ever buy the Wings are too old and too slow line, but I’m now ready to say that our depth is too old and slow.

My exact thoughts.

I am so pissed right now, because I know for certain I am more upset and pissed today than 1/2 of the Detroit Red Wings players.

That is UNACCEPTABLE

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 04/21/12 at 11:14 AM ET

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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.