The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/30/11 at 08:14 AM ET
After watching the Red Wings’ 2-1 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks, there’s definitely a part of me that would have liked to see the Wings attempt to shake themselves out of a second period’s worth of doldrums by getting into some shoving matches with the Sharks’ players that didn’t involve Jimmy Howard saying “hello” to Joe Pavelski, but that’s simply not going to happen. Before Friday’s game, Sharks coach Todd McLellan and Wings coach Mike Babcock insisted that their teams would engage in as businesslike a series as is possible, as noted by MLive’s Ansar Khan...
“Our skill set in scrums isn’t the same as some other teams, so there’s no sense being in them,” Babcock said Friday, before Game 1. “That’s a waste of energy right now. You need the energy to play between the whistles and compete hard.”
Sharks coach Todd McLellan, a former Detroit assistant, said there’s “ultimate respect” between the teams.
“Is there a hatred there? It’s a different type,” McLellan said. “Detroit isn’t about dropping the gloves and fighting and getting involved that way, so some of that emotion, that hatred doesn’t exist that way. But they can still play extremely hard on pucks, so can we. There’s a lot of action that happens in and around the blue paint. So those are real competitive situations.”
That can cause tempers to flare.
“I don’t think agitation is a big deal, but I think the penalties are a huge deal,” Babcock said. “Last year in this series, we had three guys on the ice for three or four (power-play) goals against. You can’t be in the penalty box. And some of our penalties last year, especially in this building, were your stick flips and you hit a guy. It has nothing to do with the game and it costs your team big time. You can’t take penalties. As soon as you put your stick horizontal and you recover with your stick instead of your feet, you’re going to the box.”
And the Free Press’s Helene St. James, who spoke to both teams’ players about scrumming it up:
“What does it really do?” Todd Bertuzzi said. “It’s a waste of time, waste of energy. I see all these guys fighting and jockeying for position on face-offs—are you kidding me? Just get in your lane and be ready. Why waste energy on immature stuff like that? I think that says something about our veteran team. We play hard between whistles.”
Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said the Wings “like to initiate and they’ll finish their hits and they’ll battle, but they usually don’t retaliate and they’ll skate away from the stuff around the net or cheap shots or a little bit of trash talking. They don’t really get involved in that stuff.”
That stuff, the Wings know, isn’t what wins games this time of year.
“We’re just not that kind of a team,” Niklas Kronwall said. “For us it’s all about what happens when the game is on. When the whistle blows, we’ve got nothing to win, nothing to gain. So we just try to focus on keeping the energy for the game.”
It’d be nice to see the Wings display more fire between the whistles on Sunday.
• As I’m not too keen on suggesting that the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jake Leonard’s story about Joe Thornton’s up-tick in defensive play is anything other than supplemental reading, we’ll move on to this wise quip gleaned by the Free Press’s Steve Schrader:
Mickey Redmond, watching officials deal with a second-period scrum in Friday night’s Wings-Sharks opener: “So, are they going to call penalties or just wave their arms around a little bit and try to guess who’s on first?”
• Speaking of which, Niclas Wallin, whose beard appeared free of any sort of wound after drawing a four-minute high-sticking penalty on Justin Abdelkader during overtime, claimed to Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom that the cut took five stitches to repair (despite the fact that you can go back to the game recap post and see that Wallin looks just fine…
Wallin also told Nordstrom that winning the first game’s “damn important,” and that the Wings may have been rusty, but there was no rust in this little tidbit, courtesy of the fact that Versus has decided to grace national viewers with Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s take on the Wings-Sharks series…which makes about as much sense as airing Fox Sports Detroit’s telecast nationally.
As such, NHL.com decided to glean this “highlight” from CSN’s broadcast:
• Moving on to a much more substantial storyline, I really do believe that Valtteri Filppula is playing for his job this spring, and if he can recapture some of the form he displayed against Phoenix, the Wings won’t have any reason to look at Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm’s performances and wonder whether they can spend the $5.78 million in cap space the Wings are currently using to accommodate Filppula and Jiri Hudler’s salaries toward players who can deliver more bang for Detroit’s capped buck.
The Wings’ players have taken note of Filppula’s superb play on a game by game basis, as they told the Free Press’s Helene St. James...
“I think he’s emerged, big-time,” Niklas Kronwall said. “During the first round, he was all over the place, making plays at both ends of the ice. I think everyone has always felt like he’s a great player, but the way he’s playing right now, he’s got so much potential. He’s playing really well right now.”
Filppula, 27, is in his fifth season with the Wings. It was clear from his first training camp he’d be an NHL player because of his skating, passing and commitment to playing defense. A few years ago, the coaching staff arranged the seating in the locker room at Joe Louis Arena so Filppula would sit next to and learn from Zetterberg, but Filppula has benefitted just as much over the years from being around Datsyuk.
Filppula said he has “learned a lot from watching from Pavel, because he’s such a great player. He’s the only one who can do what he does, but I do try to learn from him.”
Datsyuk, in typical joker mode, said the two aren’t friends because “I have no friend on ice,” but is delighted with how Filppula has developed. “He play more better, make better decisions in tough situation, and he skate strong. He good player for us. I like him because he is funny guy.”
Datsyuk and Filppula often duel at the end of practices, going head-to-head on face-offs. They hang out off the ice when the Wings are on the road, which is cool with Zetterberg, Datsyuk’s longtime close friend on the team, who sees right through it.
“That’s been going on a long time,’ Zetterberg said, smiling. “But Pavel is just using him a little bit, to go to movies and dinner and stuff.”
Datsyuk and Zetterberg are the team’s Euro twins, a moniker bestowed on them nearly a decade ago when their blossoming friendship fed the chemistry they had as linemates. Can Filppula be another brother? Datsyuk shook his head and smiled. “He not there yet.”
And Filppula himself spoke about rebounding from a somewhat disappointing 39-point season while talking to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“I should have (contributed more offense),” Filppula said before Game 1 on Friday at HP Pavilion. “I got to play the minutes that you (need) to do more, but that didn’t happen. Playoffs are another season. Hopefully I can do more for the team now.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock criticized Filppula a couple of times during the season for not going hard to the net and playing more on the inside. But he liked how Filppula played in the opening round. Now, Filppula must do it against a tougher matchup, whether it’s Logan Couture or Joe Pavelski. Filppula might even find himself playing against stars Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
Filppula, 27, has always been reluctant to shoot and doesn’t have the finishing touch players like Couture and Pavelski do. But he can be difficult to play against because of his speed and defensive ability.
“If you have a guy playing center on your third line who can skate with the puck and make plays and play good defensively and get points, chip in on the power play, that’s important,” Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart said. “It means you have good depth, and this time of year that’s very important. Like we all have to do, (Filppula) is raising his intensity level a bit. Guys that can do that seem to stand out in the playoffs.”
“He’s always been a real good player, but I think the first round really showed another intensity level in his game,” Niklas Kronwall said. “He was all over the ice making plays—offensively, defensively, strong on the puck, making good decisions. It’s easy to get overshadowed on this team when you have guys like Pav and Hank. Fil is probably one of the more underrated players in the league.”
“He’s very strong on his feet, very strong skater,” [Nicklas] Lidstrom said. “If you give him time, he’s going to make plays on you.”
• And let’s end this little jaunt with one note regarding a player who, I’d argue, was sorely missed on Friday, via the CBC’s series blogger...
Not many teams can opt not to dress the active Stanley Cup goal-scoring leader—Mike Modano with 58—and a guy who has suited up for 218 career playoff games—Kris Draper—but they were the healthy scratches at forward for Detroit in Game 1 as Henrik Zetterberg (sprained knee) and Franzen (ankle) returned to action.
It’s the first time since Draper joined the Wings during the 1993-94 season that he’s been a healthy scratch from a playoff game. He missed one game in 1996 due to a shoulder injury, three games in 1988 with a knee injury, and 15 games in 2009 because of neck and groin injuries.
Babcock doesn’t tinker with a winning lineup, but the Wings didn’t win on Friday, and Draper seems to give Darren Helm an extra half gear…
But then there’s this other guy who’s also a veteran, and is pretty good in his own right:
Lidstrom’s goal was his 51st in Stanley Cup play, moving him past Sergei Fedorov into third spot on the Red Wings career list. Only Steve Yzerman (70) and Gordie Howe (67) have scored more playoff goals in a Detroit uniform.
“No surprise,” Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg said of Lidstrom’s latest accomplishment. “The season he had this year is unbelievable. That a guy that age  should be able to play like he does, it’s pretty remarkable.”
Here’s hoping that Nick gives the boys a little chat and makes sure they come out with their guns blazing, so to speak, on Sunday.
Update: The Wings’ website didn’t update its own video page to accommodate this video, but the Wings’ Twitter account revealed its existence. Here’s a clip of Jimmy Howard and Nicklas Lidstrom speaking to the press after Friday’s game:
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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.