The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/08/11 at 03:58 PM ET
Updated 7x at 6:23 with refs’ assignments and announcers [Versus won’t inflict CSN Bay Area on us]: MLive’s Ansar Khan says that, per Wings GM Ken Holland, both Datsyuk and Franzen will play tonight, as does the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, and ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the Wings did not speak with the media this morning, thus the confusion: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the San Jose Sharks tonight (8 PM EDT, Versus/TSN/WXYT): the Free Press’s Helene St. James reports that both Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen may not play tonight:
The Red Wings may be without forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen as they try to avoid being eliminated by the Sharks in Game 5 tonight. Both will be game-time decisions following warm-ups.
Franzen has struggled all series, nearly immobilized by a sprained ankle suffered in Game 2 of the first round. Datsyuk is dealing with a sore wrist, which forced him to miss Saturday’s practice, the Free Press has learned.
Coach Mike Babcock said he’s told both Mike Modano and Drew Miller to be on stand-by in case either or both are needed.
[edit/update: again, MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that, per Ken Holland, Datsyuk and Franzen will play in tonight’s game]
St. James says that the Wings are well aware of the fact that they’re facing both an uphill battle and a very hostile environment tonight:
“It’s always been a very loud building that the crowd can really get going in the first 10 minutes,” Wings defenseman and former Shark Brad Stuart said. “It can be a good advantage for you. So yeah, as an opposing team, you’ve got to come in and be prepared for that and just get through it, not sit back, and try to be aggressive yourself.”
The Sharks, on the other hand, simply told the Mercury News’s David Pollak that they wish to use the boost their home fans will give them to end the series as quickly as possible...
“We normally do in our own building,” McLellan said when asked about the need for a good start. “We capture that energy that’s given to us by our fans and we can take it and run with it. But they’ve got some veteran D-men, they’ve got some poise on their blue line. They have the ability to settle things down and bring the puck out. But we’ll do everything in our power to have a good start and then maintain it from there. We can’t play a 10-minute game, we have to play the full 60 and see what happens after that.”
As far as avoiding the need for a Game 6, Boyle addressed a couple of the national NHL writers who were on early morning flights Saturday from Detroit to SFO.
“We don’t want to prolong this any longer,” Boyle said. “You guys flew all the way here. You know it’s not any fun to go across country and have to play a couple days later. We’re not looking past this game at all.”
And after the players grumbled about the fact that a 5 PM local time start means no morning skate—thus the uncertainty about Franzen and Datsyuk—McLellan said that he focused on emphasizing adjustment-making during his team meeting this morning:
“They made some adjustments on their forecheck and on their stand at the blue line,” McLellan said. “We obviously have to adjust and make sure that if they do throw that at us, we’re a little more prepared. But the way the game was going and the power plays coming so late,” he added, “I don’t think we engaged ourselves enough early to be sharp in those situations.”
The Sharks coach was asked if he was going to make any adjustments on his lines after the Red Wings began scoring more goals with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on separate lines in Games 3 and 4.
“There are some potential adjustments, but I’m not sure that it goes as deep as tinkering with lines and moving people on and off,” McLellan said. “It’s more about our play and our battle commitment. Our play around the blue paint in both ends can certainly get better. If need be we always have a plan for some juggling, but we’ll likely start the same way we ended.”
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the Sharks focused on special teams, with Patrick Marleau stating the obvious:
“Yeah, they changed a little bit and we have to be ready for anything they throw at us tonight,” said Marleau. “There’s different things we can do better.”
LeBrun believes that McLellan’s “potential adjustments” may involve swapping out a fourth-liner for Jamie McGinn. He also brought up the fact that Patrick Marleau’s struggled to produce offensively during the series…
“It would be nice to get on the board, but I think I’m doing some things to help the team win,” said Marleau. “Got to stick with it and eventually it will come.”
“He has to eventually hit the score sheet, and he will,” said McLellan. “He’s done some good things away from the puck, the faceoff circle and the penalty kill. He’s used his speed in this series to get to some loose pucks. But eventually, he’s got such a tremendous shot, we rely on him to score some goals.”
And the fact that the Sharks believe home-ice advantage will yield a better first-period performance…
“For whatever reason, we’ve been outscored in the first period and I don’t think it’s from lack of being prepared,” veteran blueliner Dan Boyle said Sunday morning. “Just for whatever reason, we’re not putting the puck in the net. We’re just looking for a strong, controlled start tonight. We’re going to come out with a lot of energy tonight, but we need to be smart with that energy and not get out of position or out of control.”
“It would be nice to be able to do that and play a different game late in games,” Sharks forward Patrick Marleau said. “Being up a couple of goals would be nice and close it out that way.”
Which will help them finish the Wings off:
“It would be nice to get some rest for the guys,” said Marleau. “But we know it’s going to be hard-fought tonight and we have to try and take care of it tonight.”
Also: MLive’s Ansar Khan took note of the Wings’ desire to reduce the Sharks’ ability to score goals via “freebie” chances:
Defenseman Dan Boyle has burned Detroit for goals on back-door passes from Kyle Wellwood in each of the last two games, as first Darren Helm and then Jiri Hudler, lost containment. In Game 4, Ruslan Salei was caught in no-man’s land, enabling Dany Heatley to be wide open in front of the net for the tying goal.
“How does Dany Heatley end up in front of your net by himself?’’ Babcock said. “Those are freebies. We can’t be doing that. We just got to clean up our own zone, be poised in there, be patient. They’re a team that doesn’t appear to need as many chances as we do to score.’‘
Said Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom: “I think we just made some costly mistakes in our own zone. Whether it’s not playing your coverage, kind of looking at the puck a little too much and getting drawn to the puck and then that’s where they found their open players.’‘
Update #2: NHL.com’s Dave Lozo attempted to read the injury tea leaves:
Johan Franzen has been visibly hampered by an ankle injury he suffered during the first round against the Phoenix Coyotes, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise should he sit Sunday night. Datsyuk, meanwhile, has been Detroit’s most dangerous player throughout the series, which the Sharks lead 3-1. Datsyuk was in good spirits following Saturday’s practice and did not avoid reporters.
If Franzen and/or Datsyuk can’t go, Babcock will likely turn to Drew Miller and/or Mike Modano. Miller has been a healthy scratch since Game 2 of this series while Modano’s only appearance during this postseason came in Game 4 against the Coyotes, which was the one game Franzen missed during these playoffs due to injury.
“(Miller’s) a real good player, and so is Mike Modano,” Babcock said Saturday. “I’m not going to hesitate. Both of them are on stand-by and both of them will be gametime decisions.”
Babcock did not say who those players would replace in the lineup if they were pulled from the press box and placed into action, but how all four players look during warmups could go a long way in deciding who is in and who is out.
Update #3: Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Ray Ratto ponders the Sharks’ special teams issues:
The Sharks met this a.m. to talk about their so-so power play, which has been even more so than usual in the postseason and especially since Detroit tinkered with its penalty kill and especially how they stand at the blue line when the Sharks try to enter the zone.
“They made some adjustments on their forecheck and on their stand at the blue line,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “We obviously have to adjust and make sure that if they do throw that at us, we’re a little more prepared. But the way (Game 4) was going and the power plays coming so late, I don’t think we engaged ourselves enough early to be sharp in those situations.”
Therein lies the real problem for the Sharks, even more than being 2 for 22 on the power play home in this postseason. It’s the starts they get.
They dropped another three goals in the first period Friday night, and are now being outscored 13-4 in the 10 games they have played so far. But while they outchanced the Kings in the first round and outshot them overall, 84-42, they have been considerably less involved against Detroit, barely behind on goals ()5-4) and shots (50-48) but much further behind in possession time and general efficacy.
“We normally do in our own building,” McLellan said when asked about first period play. “We capture that energy that’s given to us by our fans and we can take it and run with it. But they’ve got some veteran D-men, they’ve got some poise on their blue line. They have the ability to settle things down and bring the puck out. But we’ll do everything in our power to have a good start and then maintain it from there. We can’t play a 10-minute game, we have to play the full 60 and see what happens after that.”
• CSN Bay Area filed a few game notes...
Who’s Hot: Ryane Clowe had three assists on Friday and now has five assists in the last three games. Boyle has two goals and three assists in the first four games vs. Detroit. Douglas Murray led the Sharks with four hits in Game 4.
Lidstrom, still on top of his game at age 41, already has four goals in this series. Henrik Zetterberg has four assists in his last two games. Justin Abdelkader registered five hits on Friday night to pace the Red Wings.
Storylines: The longer this series goes on, the more pressure will fall on the Sharks’ shoulders. Only three teams in NHL history have come back from a 3-0 series deficit. The Red Wings certainly have the talent to win four straight against the Sharks, but for San Jose - a team with championship aspirations - it will be critical to end this series as quickly as possible.
Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Clowe are among the Sharks who have yet to score in this series. Sure, San Jose is up 3-1, but a little more offense from this trio couldn’t hurt.
The Sharks are a perfect 5-0 this postseason when scoring first. In Game 4, they allowed three goals in the first period to dig themselves into a quick 3-0 hole. San Jose is also 5-0 in overtime this postseason.
• The Sharks’ website posted Todd McLellan’s game-day presser…
And Dan Rusanowsky talking about tonight’s game with Marc-Edouard Vlasic:
• The Sharks also spoke to their website’s staff about killing off the Wings as soon as possible…
“We want to finish them off tonight and get some rest,” Kyle Wellwood said. “They know they aren’t that far away from making a Game 6.”
“You never want things to linger and give hope,” Devin Setoguchi said. “They’re a great hockey club, we know that. Any sort of life you give teams, especially a skilled hockey club like that, momentum can shift.”
“Nobody likes to play more games, especially when you’re looking at a long flight there,” Wellwood pointed out. “They are tough in their building, they played us (tough) both games in Detroit and we were fortunate enough to get the split.”
And their desire to dominate the Wings on the forecheck:
“They talked about our D men having some easy nights the first two, I think we need to punish their guys a little bit more than we have the last couple of games,” Boyle said. “Be in their end wave after wave.”
They would ideally like to limit Detroit to one goal as they did as well in the first two games.
“We have to defend from the inside out and deny them the second and third opportunities,” Jason Demers said.
• San Jose Sharks broadcaster Jamie Baker filed a Game 5 preview as well:
The keys to game 5 for San Jose are:
Physical with Discipline: The Sharks are the bigger team and on home ice. They can wear down the Red Wings with physical play but need to stay out of the box, especially early in the game.
Inside the Dots: If the Sharks are bigger and should have an advantage on board battles, then they need to control the game inside the dots. To do that you need to get in the lanes, influence with your stick and constantly re-establish body position. Forcing Detroit to play outside the dots is controlling the game inside the dots.
Relentless & Resilient: Be the aggressor all game, right from the drop of the puck and continue it until the game is over. The Sharks should swarm the Red Wings shift after shift by playing fast, wining battles, and supporting each other all over the ice.
BIG UPDATE: MLive’s Ansar Khan says that both Datsyuk and Franzen are playing:
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said today that forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen will be in the lineup tonight for Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.
Franzen, who’s been nursing a sore ankle, and Datsyuk both sat out practice on Saturday. There was no game day skate today.
“I just talked to (coach) Mike Babcock,’’ Holland said this afternoon. “We expect them both to play.’‘
Babcock said on Saturday that Drew Miller and Mike Modano are on “standby’’ just in case.
Update 3.5: TSN’s Jermain Franklin filed a game-day report;
• And NHL.com’s Eric Gilmore focused on both Marleau’s struggles and the Sharks’ desire to come out roaring:
They’ve been outscored 13-4 in the first period in the playoffs, and they fell behind 3-0 in the opening period of a 4-3 loss to Detroit in Game 4.
“I think the first period’s going to be crucial for us, and we’re really going to have to feed off our fans here,” Sharks defenseman Jason Demers said. “We’ve got to come out hard in the first period and sort of just take away their will.”
The Sharks’ first-period struggles are still a mystery to defenseman Dan Boyle.
“Again, for whatever reason we’ve been outscored a lot in the first period, and I don’t think it’s from lack of being prepared,” Boyle said. “For whatever reason we’re just not putting the puck in the net, and it’s in ours. Just looking for a strong start tonight. Controlled emotion. I think we’re going to come out with a lot of energy, but we need to be smart with that energy and not get out of position, out of control.”
The Sharks watched Saturday as Nashville went on the road to Vancouver and beat the Canucks on their home ice, forcing a Game 6. San Jose, obviously, wants to ends its series tonight and avoid another trip to Detroit.
“Yeah, we prefer to do that, but there’s a mighty obstacle in the way, and that would be Detroit,” McLellan said. “They’re not going to go away. We’re going to have to elevate our game a little bit. We’re going to have to be better in a lot of areas, and we’re going to have to push them. We know they’re going to come out hard, they’re going to have their push, their storm, if you will, and we have to respond appropriately.”
“Nobody likes to play more games, especially when you’re looking at a long flight there,” Sharks forward Kyle Wellwood said. “You know they’re tough in their building. They think they outplayed us both games in Detroit and we were fortunate to get the split. We want to finish them off tonight and get some rest.”
Update #4: MLive’s Khan duly noted that the Wings believe that they’ve finally started to figure out how to score on Niemi:
“We’ve been getting more shots and we’ve been getting there for rebounds, too,” said Nicklas Lidstrom, who has four goals in the series. “We’re finding openings and getting the puck at the net. Sometimes they’re doing a good job of blocking us out and blocking shots and pushing us to the outside. That’s why you got to find a way to get it through.”
Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said Niemi is good at taking away the lower part of the net.
“He’s got those long legs,” Howard said. “It’s almost like you got to pass it off him and go upstairs with it on the second shot.”
And then there’s this:
Players called Friday’s game a good first step as they hope to continue chipping away, making their original 0-3 deficit seem less insurmountable after every game.
“We got too many guys who care in the room and guys that want to win,” Bertuzzi said. “So we’ll give the same kind of effort (today).”
• The Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema’s baffled at the NHL’s crackdown on the octopus-throwing tradition and the “green men,” and he offers some other suggests for Gary Bettman in terms of playoff traditions which might be banned:
• Now more playoff beards. They could scratch someone’s eye out.
• For the love of god, no fighting. What are we barbarians?
• This should be a given, but a hat trick should only draw polite applause now. Keep your lid on.
• No touching the glass. Fish don’t like it when you bang on an aquarium, so imagine how the players feel.
• From now on the Zamboni will be called the “Ice Tractor.” Too much potential for word play with the old term.
• Nicknames should no longer be derived by adding a Y or S to someone’s last name, ala Smitty or Drapes. Nicknames are for mobsters, Air Force pilots and Chris Berman.
Update: Per the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
Although both Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk are hurting, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock expects them to be in the lineup for tonight’s Game 5. Franzen is bothered by an ankle injury, Datsyuk has an undisclosed injury.
Babcock has told Mike Modano and Drew Miller, healthy scratches in Games 3 and 4, to be ready to play just in case.
Franzen has been hampered by a left ankle he rolled in Game 2 of the first round against Phoenix. He missed Game 4 against the Coyotes, but has been able to play in the San Jose series despite missing several off-day practices.
Datstyuk, arguably the Wings’ best forward in the playoffs, has been sitting out random practices since the playoffs began. Datsyuk broke a bone in his right wrist in December and suffered a lower body injury in March, missing 26 games total.
Update #6: If you want to read the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch’s take on Dan Boyle’s performance, enjoy;
• Ditto for the CBC’s series blogger’s take on Patrick Marleau’s scoring struggles;
• And the CBC’s series blogger also took note of the Wings’ comments about their attempts to crack the Sharks’ defense:
“I think we’re getting more down low time, we’re on the puck a little more,” Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi said. “We’re a puck-possession team and we’ve had periods where we’ve done a little more chasing than we want to.”
The Wings feel they are making life more difficult for Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, getting traffic in his face and leading to rebound chances.
“We’ve been getting more shots and we’ve been getting there for rebounds, too,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We’ve been trying to shoot the puck more, get more second chances on him. We weren’t able to do it as much the first couple of games.”
Lidstrom admitted that’s not an easy task against the big, physical San Jose defence.
“It’s about finding openings and getting the puck at the net,” he said. “Sometimes, they’re doing a good job of blocking us out and blocking shots and pushing us to the outside. That’s why you got to find a way to get it through.’‘
• The Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Filakov believes that Wings assistant coach Paul MacLean should be on Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon’s short list of possible candidates to become the team’s next head coach…
Red Wings assistant Paul MacLean: If Tallon wants a coach who knows how to put the puck in the net and teach offense, then the former power-play specialist with 324 goals could be ideal on the offensively challenged Panthers. The Mike Babcock disciple reached the Stanley Cup finals on the Ducks’ coaching staff in 2002-03 and then won the Cup with the Red Wings’ staff in 2007-08.
• I can’t confirm this without a link, but posters on HFBoards report that Mike Babcock and Ken Holland suggested to the Finnish sports magazine Urheilu Lehti that Ilari Filppula probably won’t remain with the organization. I can confirm, with a story and link, that the elder Filppula plans on leaving the team. From the way-back machine:
This doesn’t come as a surprise, but Iltahleti is reporting that Grand Rapids Griffins forward Ilari Filppula plans on returning to Europe, and, very specifically, he’s got his sights set on joining Lugano in the Swiss league, though he’s supposedly going to entertain offers from the KHL and Swedish Eliteserien (an aside: I find it baffling that European players’ agents are so willing to very publicly tell news agencies where their players plan to play next year while their current employers’ regular seasons, or worse, playoff runs are underway).
The 29-year-old has posted 62 points over the course of 72 games thus far, good for sixteenth in scoring in the AHL, and, put simply, while Filppula may harbor dreams of playing for an NHL team, and perhaps alongside his brother, as someone with zero NHL experience, he’d have to take a contract that would be worth much less than he can earn in Europe.
• And in a very different familial vein, the Subury Star’s Ben Leeson spoke to Todd Bertuzzi’s nephew, Tyler, about being drafted by Todd’s OHL team, the Guelph Storm.
Update #7: Small consolation from Puck the Media’s Steve Lepore:
Your Announcers and Open Thread For Day 26 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Detroit vs. San Jose, Game 5, 8:00 p.m. ET
National TV (US): VERSUS
Play by Play: John Forslund
Color: Daryl Reaugh
Inside the Glass: Brian Engblom
National TV (Canada): TSN
Play by Play: Chris Cuthbert
Inside the Glass: Ray Ferraro
• And per the Game Summary, Tim Peel and Chris Lee will referee tonight’s game, with Derek Amell and Pierre Racicot working the lines.
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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.