The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/02/11 at 08:19 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings open a weekend’s worth of afternoon games by tangling with the Nashville Predators today (3 PM EDT, FSD/FS Tennessee/WXYT) hoping to both rebound from a 10-3 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, a 4-game losing streak at Bridgestone Arena and losses in five of their last six games…
But there’s more than pride at stake today because the Wings’ losing streak and awful 5-5-and-4 March record has placed them at the tip of the “playoff pack” iceberg in the Western Conference standings: the Wings’ 98 points are good for 3rd place in the Western Conference, only one point behind the 2nd-place Sharks, but with five games remaining, the Wings are all of 3 points ahead of the 4th-place Coyotes and 4 points ahead of both the Los Angeles Kings and today’s sixth-place opponent (though the Wings have a game in hand on Nashville).
If the Wings lose today and tomorrow, it’s not just conceivable that they could lose the Central Division title; they could also find themselves battling for playoff positioning with everybody from the Sharks to the 8th-place (with 92 points) Blackhawks, who the Wings face twice to close out the regular season. Things could get ugly, or, as coach Mike Babcock might say, “sporty,” very quickly.
The Predators, who are both coming off a 3-2 win over Colorado on Thursday and a second-half-of-March streak in which they won 9 of 11 games, certainly understand that the Central Division title’s in play if they win this afternoon, as they told the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper—and Cooper points out that the Predators’ streak started when they defeated the Wings 3-1 on March 19th:
“We realize the situation,” forward Mike Fisher said. “That’s going to make us be our best because [their 10-3 loss] was kind of embarrassing for them. They’re going to come out flying in our building, and especially the last few times we’ve played them too, we’ve beat them. We’re going to expect their best and that means we have to bring our (best) game.”
Though the Red Wings have one game in hand on the Predators — and have 40 regulation and overtime wins to the Predators’ 36 — if Nashville wins Saturday it could pass Detroit in the final week of the season. Detroit’s final four games include three against teams fighting to make the playoffs — two against Chicago and one against Carolina — and Minnesota, a team that will most likely not make it. Detroit is Nashville’s final test against a team destined for the postseason. The Predators face Atlanta and Columbus at home and finish at St. Louis on April 9.
“We’re not in yet, but we’re knocking on the door,” Fisher said. “That’s what good teams do — when the chips are down and they’re pressed up against the wall and they know they have to win, they come out on top. That’s what we’ve managed to do and that’s what we need to continue to do.”
The Predators have never captured the Central Division, finishing second for three straight seasons beginning with 2005-06. A residual benefit of winning the division would be home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and possibly beyond. The Predators have never advanced past the opening round of the postseason.
“They call it home-ice advantage for a reason,” Fisher said. “... We’ve been really hard to play against at home.”
While the Red Wings go into today’s game relatively healthy, with Jimmy Howard returning from a shoulder injury to start opposite Wing-killer Pekka Rinne, and Mike Modano having recovered from a slight groin pull, Detroit remains without perhaps its most important forward in two-way dynamo Pavel Datsyuk.
There is good news regarding the Wings’ physical battle against the Predators, however—and as a Wings fan, I have to be honest and state that I genuinely believe that the Predators go out of their way to not just physically punish the Wings in Nashville, but also literally hurt Detroit’s players, and they’ve done so since the days of Scott Hartnell pulling a Joffrey Lupul and running into and/or falling on Manny Legace, Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek—because Cooper reports that one of the Predators’ instigators is iffy for today’s game:
There wasn’t a lot going on in Predator-land today. The Predators did hold a full practice, though it was light — about 45 minutes.
Nashville Coach Barry Trotz listed forward Jordin Tootoo as “questionable” for tomorrow’s game against Detroit. Trotz said Tootoo’s issue was a neck/back problem.
Not hearing those damn Tootoo train whistles wouldn’t hurt, either…
As is his wont, NashvillePredators.com’s Kent Wilson’s cobbled together a game preview so thorough that I’m betting it serves as the team’s “game notes” for both the visiting and home team’s radio and TV crews, both recounting every game in the teams’ season series, offering just about every Predators milestone, record and/or achievement of note and tossing in more than enough stats to make anybody’s head spin. Of particularly pertinent note from his preview…
Having already claimed the 2010-11 season series (four games to one), the Nashville Predators are looking to win five games in a season against the Detroit Red Wings for the first time in franchise history tonight, the last of six meetings between the Central Division rivals. Since dropping the first meeting of the teams on Oct. 30 in Detroit (5-2), the Preds have reeled off four straight victories – just the second time they’ve ever done it – with two coming at Bridgestone Arena and two at Joe Louis Arena. Nashville has never won five straight against the Wings, and only once (April 18, 2006-Feb. 24, 2007) has it claimed three straight on home ice
Since the start of the 2008-09 campaign, Nashville has picked up a point in seven of eight home games against Detroit, going 5-1-2 while, outscoring the Wings 25-13 in those eight games. Special teams have been crucial to Nashville’s success this season against Detroit, as the power play has gone 3-for-17 (17.6 percent) and the penalty kill has extinguished 18-of-20 chances against. Nashville has outscored Detroit 15-9 through five games despite being outshot 175-147.
[Pekka] Rinne has started four of the five games against Detroit this season, posting a 3-1-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage. For his career against Detroit, the Kempele, Finland native has gone 8-2-2 with a 1.98 goals-against average, a .941 save percentage and three shutouts. It is his highest win total against any NHL team, one of just three he has posted three shutouts against (Phoenix and Minnesota) and one of four Western Conference foes he has a sub-two goals-against average when playing (Anaheim, Phoenix and Vancouver)… Kostitsyn leads all Predators in points vs. Detroit in 2010-11 with six (3g-3a) in five games. His one-goal, one-assist effort on Feb. 9 put him over the century mark in points for his career… Ryan Suter has four assists in his last three games against Detroit to go along with a +5 rating in the season series. Suter’s defensive partner, captain Shea Weber, notched his 200th career point with an assist on Feb. 9, giving him three points (1g-2a) and a +5 in the season series… Though he is pointless in five games this season, Shane O’Brien has eight points in 16 career games against Detroit – his highest point-per-game ratio against any team (.5). On Oct. 18, 2006 as a member of the Anaheim Ducks, the Port Hope, Ont., native scored his first career goal on netminder Dominik Hasek… J-P Dumont has more career points (10g-21a-31pts, 42gp) and more points as a Predator (7g-17a-24pts, 31gp) against the Red Wings than any other team.
The Predators are 8-2-0 in their last 10 home games, and 22-9-7 on home ice for the season, making them one of just three teams (with Washington and Vancouver) to have fewer than 10 regulation losses on home ice. Tonight, the Predators will be looking to be the only team to post at least 23 wins on home ice for the sixth time since 2005-06. Nashville has the second-most home wins (153) behind only the Red Wings (157) in that span.
Much of the Predators home success is due to its defense and penalty killing. The Predators have the League’s best goals-against average on home ice (2.11), allowing more than three goals only six times through 38 games on Bridgestone Arena ice. Last time out, the penalty kill was a perfect five-for-five against the top power play in the League (Vancouver), and the home PK ranks third (87.2 percent).
The Tennessean’s Cooper fills in the injury picture for both teams in his preview…
Season series. The Predators are 4-1-0 against the Red Wings.
Red Wing to watch. At age 40, D Nicklas Lidstrom is having another stellar season with 61 points in 77 games.
Red Wings injuries. F Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) and G Chris Osgood (hernia) are out. F Mike Modano (groin) and G Jimmy Howard (shoulder) are probable.
Predators injuries. F Matthew Lombardi (concussion), F Cal O’Reilly (broken fibula), D Francis Bouillon (concussion), F Marcel Goc (shoulder) and F Steve Sullivan (groin) are out. F Jordin Tootoo (neck/back) is questionable.
On the Forecheck’s Marc Torrence provides us with the Predators’ probable lines…
One has to think that with Matt Halischuk’s play on Thursday night, Trotz will keep him in the lineup and make JP Dumont the healthy scratch.
And NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale’s preview serves as a sort of bridge...
Last 10: Detroit 5-3-2; Nashville 8-2-0
Season series: This is the sixth and final meeting between these Central Division rivals. The Predators have won four straight against Detroit to grab a 4-1 lead in the season series, including a 3-1 victory in the most recent meeting on March 19 in Nashville. The fact Nashville has killed 20 of Detroit’s last 22 power plays in the series has certainly played a big part in their recent success against the Wings.
Red Wings [team scope]: It isn’t often the Red Wings are booed by the hometown faithful at Joe Louis Arena but that’s precisely what happened on Wednesday. The rout by the Blues marked the most goals given up by Detroit since Oct. 9, 1993, when the Los Angeles Kings also posted a 10-3 victory. It certainly wasn’t the way the Wings would have liked to end a five-game homestand, during which they finished 1-2-2.
Predators [team scope]: The Predators, 9-2-0 in their last 11 games and 11-3-2 over their last 16, are sixth in the Western Conference with 94 points—one ahead of seventh-seeded Anaheim and just four behind Central Division leader Detroit. The Preds, on the verge of their sixth playoff berth in seven years, scored a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. The team has won 18 straight games when it has scored at least three goals and is 39-4-1 overall when scoring three times this season.
Who’s hot: Nashville left wing Sergei Kostitsyn owns an eight-game point-scoring streak (3 goals, 10 points) and has produced 3 goals and 6 points in the five games against Detroit this season.
Stat pack: Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has started 38 of the team’s last 42 games and has allowed two or fewer goals 26 times this season.
Shifting our perspective toward what the Wings had to say about the necessity of turning their ship around on Friday. As the Free Press’s Helene St. James notes, whatever happens over the course of the Wings’ last five games, nothing short of a total collapse will prevent them from clinching a playoff spot as they only need one point to make the cut for good, but they’re just as aware of the Predators’ “opportunity” and their struggles in Nashville as they try to learn from what was essentially two days’ worth of trying to perform an autopsy on their 10-3 loss, as Todd Bertuzzi told St. James:
“As much as you want to throw Wednesday under the carpet and get rid of it, it’s something that we’ve got to figure out from,” Todd Bertuzzi said Friday. “That was just an absolute stinker. I think it’s a similar scenario to before we had the Boston series and when we went to Florida. We were playing crappy, and we needed to turn it up.”
St. James says that Mike Modano’s injury involved a hip flexor, not a groin (we may not know for sure at this point!), and she took note of the Wings’ “theme of the day”—that Saturday’s as much about sending a message to the Detroit Red Wings as it is about reminding the rest of the NHL that the Wings aren’t playoff doormats in the making.
That’s not an easy thing to accomplish, however, against a team that’s notorious for driving the Wings onto their heels via hard forechecking and a cycle game that seems to wreak havoc upon the Wings’ defense:
“They hang behind,” Howard said. “Just when you think you’ve got a rush up the ice, guys like Sullivan, they’ll hang behind and the next thing you know, they’ll have a 2-on-1 or an odd-man rush of some sorts. You’ve got to be aware of the guys behind you.”
“That building has been tough for us to play in, and that team,” Modano said. “It’s a great environment, great atmosphere. The crowd really seems to be into it when we come there, but it’s more about how we should play and do the things that we’ve done in the past that gave us success.”
With five games remaining, only four points in their past six games and the Predators looming as a possible first-round opponent, the Wings need to send a message heard loudest of all by themselves.
“We haven’t been playing good hockey here for a while, and I think we expect more out of ourselves,” Howard said. “We’ve got to go out there and prove it to ourselves more than anybody else.”
The captain agrees, as he told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:
“It’s going to be an important game, especially after coming off a game the way we had,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We want to play better, especially defensively, and have a more sound game heading into the playoffs. When you’ve lost to an opponent four straight times you want to beat them,” Lidstrom added. “But we know the details of our game have to improve for us to have any success in the playoffs.”
While coach Babcock offered the usual suggestion that the Wings have an opportunity (there’s that word again) to respond to adversity, he also pointed out that the Predators have a very Red Wings-like ability to cycle the puck down low and then pump the puck back to the point for long bombs from at least two cannon shots:
“I think (Ryan) Suter and (Shea) Weber, to me that’s the biggest thing on the back end,” Babcock said. “They’ve done a real good job. Those players have come of age. They’re a dominant group on the back end, they get the puck going real well, they’re hard to forecheck and spending time in their zone is the big thing.”
Weber is tied for the team lead with 46 points. Suter is sixth in scoring with 41 points.
“They play solid, they’ve got a good back end and they work hard,” Wings forward Johan Franzen said. “They don’t give up much, and when they do they have a goalie that’s 6-7 or whatever he is. You can’t score. It’s hard to score against. You’ve got to be patient. They wait for us to lose patience. You’re not going to score a lot of goals on them. It’s a big game for us,” Franzen added. “We’ve got to find our game. They have our number most of the year. You got to have a good game against them. I forget about the (St. Louis) game already.”
As you probably remember from the whole, “Rinne checks Holmstrom = Kronwall goal waived off” situation the last time the Wings went to Nashville, Rinne doesn’t just like to look around the Wings’ net-front men—he also likes to bump them, give ‘em a few hacks and whacks and come out to challenge them body-on-body, and because he’s got such a large wingspan (the man’s all arms and legs, it seems), it’s the only time that he really gets out onto the top of his crease. Otherwise,
Rinne likes to use his glove to snag every puck that he can and gain a stoppage in play whenever possible, so the Wings will have to both make sure that they don’t lose faceoffs and do their best to sustain pressure and tempo in their game, because the Predators, again, probably since the days of Hartnell and Tomas Vokoun, have been notorious for doing their damnedest to break up the game and stifle whatever flow the Wings are trying to establish via puck possession.
Put not-too-simply, while coach Barry Trotz may be a master tactician and a man who seems to know exactly how to defeat the Wings when they’re on the road, his game plan is also utterly predictable, and sustained puck possession in all three zones, efficient passing and speed through the neutral zone, sound positional defense in their own end (to break up the Predators’ cycle, one must resit the temptation to chase the puck carrier) and, perhaps most importantly, lateral passing off retrieved rebounds are the points of emphasis necessary to force the Predators’ hand and get Rinne moving around in the net. The one fatal flaw of big butterfly goalies is that they tend to overcompensate when pushing across the net, over-committing to shooters and occasionally sliding off their angles, so the Wings’ best opportunities to put the puck past instead of through Rinne will come from ensuring that it’s Tomas Holmstrom who’s the best-positioned goalie in the Predators’ end of the rink today.
MLive’s Ansar Khan offers both a slate of likely lines and a superb quip from Babcock via his off-day update (pardon the repetition):
Here are the lines they skated with today, which, of course, will be different for the game now that Datsyuk has been ruled out. Now word yet on who will be scratched:
Franzen-Datsyuk-Holmstrom (Modano working in)
“Any adversity you face in your life you want to respond to it. I think we’ve had enough,’’ Babcock said. “It appears we’re starting to get healthy, that’s a real plus. But the reality is we have five games left and it’s very important we take a step.’‘
And the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy attempted to interpret what’s going on with Datsyuk—to no avail—and it’s an educated guess but probably a safe one to suggest that he’s not going to play against Minnesota because the Wings’ doctors will remain true to form and emphasize caution…
Today’s game marks the seventh consecutive without Datsyuk, who is third on the team in scoring and points (22 goals, 35 assists). Datsyuk declined to say how he felt immediately after practice — or if he could return to the lineup soon — and left the locker room quickly for what he said was a meeting with a team doctor. Datsyuk appeared to skate without pain, and was at one point on a line with Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom.
“I can’t tell you,” Datsyuk said, when asked if he felt any pain during practice. “You don’t work for the Red Wings.”
And after referencing a Jimmy Howard quip which I can only say is best watched instead of described (via the Friday update, which has more than a few videos and commentary from practice)...
Lacy also gives an update on Chris Osgood’s status:
Goaltender Chris Osgood believes he is healthy enough to serve as Howard’s backup. But the veteran admits it probably would be best if he rests his surgically repaired groin for at least a few more days so he can try to regain a full range of motion in the crease.
“It’s difficult to decide when to push it and when to not,” he said. “It’s just an unknown (timetable for recovery).”
Osgood, who’s played in only 11 games, hopes to hear good news from team doctors [next] Wednesday. He hasn’t played since Jan. 4.
We can only hope that he’s going to get a game in next weekend against Chicago.
As for today’s game, per the NHL’s media website, Tim Peel and Ian Walsh will referee today’s game, and Mike Cvik (who tosses guys from the faceoff circle very regularly) and Ryan Galloway will work the lines.
You’re gonna hear this song quite a bit this month: Fox Sports Detroit announced the winner of its “April in the D” song contest on Friday, with a rap-rock group winning the contest:
Detroit-area band B-Dab has been voted the grand-prize winner of FOX Sports Detroit’s APRIL IN THE D Song Contest for 2011.
Their tune will be used to promote APRIL IN THE D, FOX Sports Detroit’s fourth annual month-long campaign to celebrate the city’s passion for sports and the welcomed arrival of springtime. APRIL IN THE D programming is highlighted by approximately 40 telecasts among the Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings.
Following a month-long call for entries, the network trimmed a field of 50 submitted music videos down to 20. A guest panel comprised of local music experts (including Kid Rock) and pro team representatives determined 10 semifinalists. Then, an initial round of fan voting at Foxsportsdetroit.com pared the survivors down to three finalists. A final period of online voting resulted in B-Dab finishing ahead of runners-up Panic Trigger and Johnny Lawrence.
B-Dab wins $5,000 and a live performance at The Fillmore in downtown Detroit on April 8, prior to the Tigers’ home opener, in addition to having its song used as this year’s APRIL IN THE D theme in on-air promos running on FOX Sports Detroit. B-Dab was a runner-up in the 2010 contest.
Via YouTube user “jieuxarmeni,” here’s their song:
Red Wings prospects in the playoffs: The playoffs ended for the Wings’ prospects in the QMJHL not named Trevor Parkes or Louis-Marc Aubry (of the Montreal Juniors, who’ve advanced to the second round) on Friday. Andrej Nestrasil’s PEI Rocket were eliminated by the Shawinigan Cataractes, who defeated PEI 4-1. The Rocket dropped the series by the same game tally.
Nestrasil had an assist on the Rocket’s only goal, and he finished the playoffs with a goal and five assists for six points over the course of five games, and the Charlottetown Guardian’s Charles Reid reports that his Nestrasil led the Rocket in scoring.
The Wings have to make a decision as to whether to sign Nestrasil (who posted 19 goals, 51 assists and 70 points over the course of 58 games in 2010-2011) to a contract, and while the 6’3,” 206-lb forward could develop into a power winger, I’m not sure what the Wings will do with him.
• And Gleason Fournier didn’t even play in the Rimouski Oceanic’s 4-1 loss to Gatineau, which won the series by the same margin. Fournier registered a goal and an assist over the 4 games he did play in.
Fournier’s under contract, so he’ll “turn pro” with the Griffins or Walleye next season.
• No Wings prospects play for the Plymouth Whalers, but they’re my local team, and they will play a sixth game against the Kitchener Rangers after dropping a 6-4 decision to Kitchener, who they still lead 3 games to 2.
• And the Ottawa Citizen’s Don Campbell offers a post-mortem analysis of the Ottawa 67’s, who were supposedly poised for a Memorial Cup run before losing to the Sudbury Wolves, noting that the 67’s won’t be as stacked next year, which means more work for Wings prospect Petr Mrazek, who has one more season of junior eligibility remaining:
If every winner is built from the net out, the 67’s have a lot of the pieces in place. Will Mrazek top his .920 save-percentage next year? Probably not. And he shouldn’t face 40-plus shots as often either. Mrazek made 40 or more saves in 13 games this season and 30 or more saves in 35. He played in 52 games, so do the math. Little wonder he was second in the league in saves with 1,684.
But should Mrazek and the reliable Shayne Campbell, both 19, return, they represent the best 1-2 goaltending tandem in the league, with better long-term results expected should Mrazek play fewer games and get more rest.
Also of Red Wings-related note: There simply isn’t any good prospect news this morning.
The Grand Rapids Griffins dropped a 4-2 decision to the Abbotsford Heat on Friday, with Thomas McCollum giving up 4 goals on 22 shots against before being relieved by Jordan Pearce. Both the Griffins’ and Heat’s websites and the Abbotsford News’s Dan Kinvig provide recaps, as does the Canadian Press, which provides a few comments from Griffins coach Curt Fraser...
“You got to give Abbotsford some credit too, this was a must win game for them and they took advantage of it and we didn’t,” said Griffins head coach Curt Fraser. “I don’t care if the score is 1-0 or 4-0, we weren’t getting any scoring opportunities. They won the game because of hard work and physical play. We lost because we weren’t firm or hard enough on anything tonight.”
McCollum, who was returned to the Griffins after surrendering three goals on eight shots with the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, was pulled after allowing four goals on 22 shots. Jordan Pearce made 16 saves in relief.
The loss extends the Griffins losing streak to four games.
With the two points, Abbotsford tied Grand Rapids with 80 points in the tight North Division playoff race and remain five points out of a playoff spot.
And the Grand Rapids Press spells out the Griffins’ dire playoff straits:
Grand Rapids (35-30-2-8) is in fifth place in the North Division with 80 points. The Griffins would need at least 90 points to make the playoffs—and that’s if the team’s closest competitors go .500 the rest of the way. Grand Rapids dropped eight points behind the North Division’s final playoff spot with the loss.
The top three teams in each division automatically make the postseason, with the fifth-place team in the West Division making the playoffs if it finishes with more points than the fourth-place team in the North.
It didn’t help the Griffins that Peoria, the fourth-place team in the West, beat San Antonio 3-2 in overtime while Hamilton, the third-place team in the North, beat Lake Erie 4-1 Friday. Toronto, the fourth-place team in the North with 81 points, was idle.
The Griffins have now lost four games in a row after going 13-3-1-3 in their previous 20 games.
The Griffins play against Abbotsford again on Saturday before playing four more games—road games on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday against Milwaukee, Rockford, and Milwaukee again, with a home finale tossed in next Friday against the Heat for good measure.
The Everett Herald’s Nick Patterson reports that the Griffins might not get to add Landon Ferraro to their lineup, however, as his groin injury persists, and as the Wings’ doctors were the ones who repaired his sports hernia, I can’t imagine that they’ll want him to push it for five games’ worth of pro experience. Ferraro spoke to Patterson about his frustrations regarding his injury-marred season with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips:
Landon Ferraro, acquired in a trade that sent Byron Froese to Red Deer, managed just 10 goals and 17 assists during an injury-plagued season. Josh Birkholz, who arrived from the University of Minnesota, notched just 18 goals and 11 assists. Froese by himself outscored Ferraro and Birkholz combined by 25 points. Also, veteran returners Clayton Cumiskey and Scott MacDonald were unable to build upon last season’s efforts.
“We were getting quality scoring chances, but they weren’t going in,” Ferraro said about Everett’s offensive woes. “Personally, it was frustrating because that’s what I was brought here to do, to help with that. Only getting into 41 games and getting 10 goals wasn’t exactly what Doug (Soetaert, Everett’s general manager) was thinking when he traded for me. You get into a slump and you start gripping your stick too tight and start missing easy shots you normally wouldn’t. It kind of compounded.”
• The Toledo Walleye are out of the ECHL’s playoff picture, period, but they finished out the home portion of their schedule with a 6-2 win over the Elmira Jackals on Friday. Neither Willie Coetzee, Sebastien Piche or the Wings prospect who the team hasn’t signed and probably won’t sign, Bryan Rufenach (he’s on the Walleye via a pro try-out contract) registered a point, and the Walleye’s website and the Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe provide recaps;
• In case you missed it, yes, Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux are really signing autographs together at the Gibraltar Trade Center Mt. Clemens today from 2-4 PM;
• Ditto: The Wings gave $10,000 to the USO on Friday (pretty spiffy);
• The Wings are also holding a viral video contest for the playoffs, asking fans to capture their “Don’t Miss a Moment,” uh, moment, and my A2Y and Malik Report pals on Twitter have already suggested a Stress Train theme.
Our idea, thus far, anyway, involves a line of anti-anxiety, blood pressure and heart medication, alcohol and empty bags of snack food, and that’s as far as we’ve gotten. Got any suggestions (and yes, I’ll share my anxiety meds)?
• The first bit of “new news” isn’t exactly earth-shattering, as the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson penned 12 points of notebook material which included a rather off-handed comment about the Wings’ loss to St. Louis...
The Red Wings gave up 10 goals this week to St. Louis. So what? They only lost by seven. The Oilers were humiliated 11-0 by the Whale in Hartford the year they won their first Cup in 1984. Lots of goals and the Oilers had to hear the Brass Bonanza 11 times, which is overkill. Oilers’ coach Glen Sather bag-skated his players the day after the embarrassment. So did Mike Babcock in Detroit. The Whale? They were basking in their brightest moment of a year in which they had the fifth worst record in the league.
• And you could list the Ottawa Citizen’s Wayne Scanlan’s ramble about a potential Wings-Canucks Western Conference Final match-up as blather as well…
Vancouver vs. Detroit: These teams haven’t met in nearly a decade, and we could be in for a treat if this is the year.
Sedin & Sedin vs. Datsyuk & Zetterberg. Kesler vs. Franzen.
Two of the silky smooth puck-moving teams in the NHL going head to head, perhaps with a trip to the Cup final on the line.
Now that’s the kind of conference final any fan could sink his or her teeth into. Will the Red Wings goaltending hold up to get them into a later round matchup with the Canucks?
• I won’t say the same, however, regarding this from Eric Duhatschek...
The Red Wings had a wake-up call of sorts in a recent 10-3 shellacking by the St. Louis Blues, but it requires one – and probably two – large asterisks. First, they essentially relied on their one-two minor-league goaltending tandem of Joey MacDonald and Thomas McCollum, neither of whom was sharp, both of whom were pulled. Secondly, they are still forging along without Pavel Datsyuk, the type of no-quit forward with a defensive conscience who might have inspired his teammates.
Still, it will serve coach Mike Babcock’s purposes quite well: To remind the Red Wings again that mailing it in at home, even against a playoff also-ran such as St. Louis, can result in embarrassingly one-sided defeats. It was the most goals the Wings surrendered in almost two decades (a 10-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the first month of 1993-94). Thankfully for the Red Wings, the regular starter, Jimmy Howard (shoulder), has been cleared to play Saturday against Nashville.
• As for this comment from Yahoo Sports’ Ryan Lambert...
This concept that the real teams are separated from the pretenders during the postseason is of course ridiculous. You know that. There’s never been a conversation about a mediocre playoff team with a good goalie where you haven’t said, “…but he could steal a series.”
“Steal” being the operative word, as it implies that the series and indeed the playoffs themselves rightfully belong to the league’s best teams at their core.
And players with amazing regular-season numbers but so-so playoff stats? Chokers. Joe Thornton is a choker. Can’t possibly be one of the best players on the planet. That makes sense. Because Proven Playoff Warriors like Pavel Datsyuk or Bill Guerin have never had stretches of seven or 10 games in their career where they weren’t particularly effective.
A Wings-related compliment from Lambert? Scary.
Update, still the middle of the night: Oof, I’m not gonna like waking up for a matinee after not going to bed till 6:30 (insomnia and antibiotics will do that to you). Anyway, remember Dmitry Chesnokov’s interview with Evgeni Nabokov, who still won’t call the Islanders to receive permission to play in the World Championships, never mind Team Russia’s exhibition games prior to April 9th?
Well, as it turns out, Sport-Express’s Igor Larin reports that the Islanders are refusing to return the Russian Hockey Federation’s calls or send written permission to the FHR and IIHF, despite the fact that the Russians have been trying to secure said permission to play since Monday. Nabokov says that his agent is also trying to speak to the Islanders, who he insists he has no intention of harming by refusing to call them himself.
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About The Malik Report
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.