The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/30/11 at 08:10 AM ET
Perhaps there are four perspectives to consider while relating the disparate accounts of the San Jose Sharks’ 2-1 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings to the “average fan.” If you believe the media, the Sharks earned every bounce, power play and lucky goal because there’s nothing better than a great story, and when a part-time grinder can score the overtime-winner on his24th birthday, well, that’s the best story that can be written at a time when most sportswriters are headed to bed. If you believe the Sharks’ players, their victory was simply a matter of out-waiting the Red Wings, slowly waiting them down and capitalizing on their opportunities, with the results never in doubt.
If you believe the Red Wings’ players, they simply weren’t good enough, and while Jimmy Howard stopped an astonishing 44 shots, including 18 in the second period, his teammates didn’t do a good enough job of shifting play out of their own zone and into San Jose’s end, regardless of the fact that in both rounds’ opening games, it seems as if whatever the heck the “standard of officiating” is, it’s the Red Wings who are used as the example to explain to the rest of the league what that standard will be.
And if you’re a fan, like me, you don’t find these comments by Joe Pavelski, made to NHL.com’s Dave Lozo, ironic at all, because Pavelski may have exchanged a face-wash with Jimmy Howard and scored the game-tying goal on a weird bounce, but he also sold the call that led to it, big time:
Question: How surprised were you to get the roughing penalty after that play with Howard? Did you think both of you were going off?
Pavelski: I didn’t think anyone was going off. It just happens. I clipped him in the head there.
Question: Did the penalties you drew that led to the power plays turn out to be as valuable as a goal itself?
Pavelski: When you get them, you have to get one eventually. We were able to find one. I think we created a bit of momentum there in overtime with the four minutes. Guys went out there and kept the momentum going.
The Red Wings were called for the game’s final five penalties, including a double-minor in overtime whose pressure and fatigue inflicted upon the Wings more or less led to Benn Ferriero’s game-winning goal, and after the game (as you’ll see below), the man who drew the four-minute call, Niclas Wallin, almost giggled with the media while insisting that there was “blood somewhere” in his beard when Justin Abdelkader accidentally high-sticked him.
Pavelski also tossed off this exchange with the Mercury News’s David Pollak:
Before Ferriero’s heroics, the focal point of things on the San Jose side was obviously Joe Pavelski, from the three penalties he drew to the roughing encounter with Jimmy Howard to the power-play goal that enabled Ferriero to be the overtime hero. The goal, by the way, started with a set play where Pavelski leaves the puck for Thornton near the blue line and heads to the net. The part about batting the rebound into the net was improvised, but Pavelski resisted the usual notion that childhood baseball training came in handy.
“Maybe ping-pong,” he said.
So the Red Wings’ most recent playoff nemesis rather casually described the Sharks’ game plan while speaking to SanJoseSharks.com’s Tony Khing...
After Todd Bertuzzi was called for boarding at 9:41, San Jose struck 41 seconds later. In the neutral zone, Dan Boyle made a pass to Pavelski on the right wing. Pavelski brought it into the Detroit zone and dropped it behind himself to Joe Thornton just as Pavelski and Drew Miller collided. Thornton went parallel to the net and fired a slap shot that glanced off Howard. Meanwhile, Pavelski stayed on his skates, fought past Miller, drove to the net and made defenseman Niklas Kronwall spin like a top in front of Howard. Pavelski saw the puck, batted it down in mid-air and it went into the open net to tie the game.
“We knew we had to get traffic there (in front of Howard),” Pavelski said. “It was good to see one deflect (into the net). When you get that many opportunities, you’ve got to get one eventually.”
“We had a lot of good looks and a lot of pucks bouncing around,” Boyle said. “You score most of your playoff goals in tight. For the most part, they (Detroit) did a pretty good job in clearing rebounds. We got some good looks and were finally rewarded.”
Pavelski didn’t get the game-winner, but when it comes to getting the key goals in postseason, his name always seems to appear. Of his 19 playoff goals, six have been game winners. No. 6 came in overtime of Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Los Angeles. Pavelski has a point in all five of San Jose’s 2011 playoff wins. Pavelski’s overall game pleased Coach Todd McLellan. In almost 21 minutes, he had five shots. But those stats alone don’t tell the whole story.
“He was pretty darn good,” McLellan said. “Everything about Pavs game we liked. He had a little more command of the power play at the top. He didn’t have many turnovers. He was a very key piece in tonight’s win.”
As for going 1-for-6 on a ridiculous 10:41 of PP time, compared to the Red Wings’ 0-for-2 on 4 minutes of PP time? Just taking care of business, one chin fake or shaken hand bleeding beard at a time, the Sharks’ players told their website’s staff:
“We know it’s going to be a special teams’ battle,” said Sharks Captain Joe Thornton. “We feel like both teams have very good special teams and it got us back in the game there with Pavelski’s goal. We had a good chance to win in overtime with the four-minute penalty, but we couldn’t do it. So you create momentum off that.”
“It’s going to be big,” said Sharks center Logan Couture about how special teams will play into the series. “Both teams are good five-on-five as well. But when you get a power play, you want to create momentum or score a goal.”
The Sharks had six power play opportunities in Game 1 and converted on their fourth attempt when Pavelski batted in a rebound at 10:22 of the third period. The goal was Pavelski’s fourth of the playoffs. In overtime, Niclas Wallin drew a four-minute power play when he was high-sticked by Patrick Eaves. After wearing down the Wings defense, Benn Ferriero was able to score on the first shift after the man-advantage.
“When you get that many opportunities, you’ve got to score one eventually,” said Pavelski. “We were able to get one and I think we created a bit of momentum there in overtime. When you get four minutes in overtime like that – you saw in the last series what it can do. But the guys went out there and kept the momentum going. We didn’t lose it by any means.”
Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock expressed concern with how often his team ended up in the penalty box. During the regular season, Detroit ranked fourth in the NHL in penalty minutes, averaging only 9.2 a game. However, during the playoffs, the Red Wings rank ninth overall, with 12.6 minutes per game. That doesn’t bode well for a team that also ranks 14th in the playoffs in penalty kill percentage (70.8).
“We took too many penalties,” said Babcock. “You can’t get in the penalty box and expect to survive. They had 14 power play shots. That was a huge factor. They scored on the end of that power play,” continued Babcock. “They wear you out for four minutes and then they ended up winning the game that way.”
The Sharks also missed the net 19 times and had 27 attempts blocked by Wings players, for a total of 92 shot attempts—to 57 Detroit attempts (25 on Niemi, 32 blocked or wide)—so as SanJoseSharks.com’s Cecile Nyugen suggests, Antti Niemi, who was supposed to be the Sharks’ weak link, didn’t have a difficult night by any stretch of the imagination:
“We played well both offensively and defensively,” Niemi said after the game. “Overall, we played a really good game.”
“Traffic comes off a cycle,” Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock said. “Traffic doesn’t come off as much when you’re on a rush. If you’re not going to spend a lot of time in the (offensive) zone, you’re not going to have a lot of traffic.”
“He was able to see the puck a little bit more and settle in,” McLellan said. “It’s nice for him to only have one (goal) against. It’s nice for him to get the win.”
A little bit of luck played into the game on several occasions and Niemi was quick to admit that some of the shots he partially blocked serendipitously didn’t end up in the net.
“I remember one early in the game.” said the Finnish netminder. “It hit my shoulder after it was tipped in the middle of the ice. I didn’t know where it was for a little bit but saw that it went over the net. There was a little bit of luck.”
Instead, Howard worked his tail off, but he couldn’t stop everything, and with the Wings’ offensive confidence diminishing to the point that the team looked like it was playing no the penalty-kill from the halfway mark of the second period on, Pavelski could chip away at the Wings’ lead, and in overtime, as the Mercury News’s Mark Purdy notes, birthday boy and usual healthy scratch Benn Ferriero played the hero:
As the overtime progressed and the Sharks received a four-minute power play opportunity that was not yielding much offense, Ferriero received his first tap on the shoulder in maybe half an hour of real time. Thirty seconds later, he jumped onto the ice to finish out the last part of the power play. About 50 seconds after that, he was staring at the puck along the boards, where the Sharks’ Logan Couture and the Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader were fighting for it. As fate had it, Couture played on the same line as Ferriero on the Sharks’ farm club in Worcester during the 2009-2010 season. Thus, when Couture heard a voice, it was a familiar one.
“I heard him calling for the puck,” Couture said. “I somehow got it out of there, and he kept his head up and shot. He can score from anywhere. Look at his goal totals in Worcester. The guys’ a goal scorer.”
Well, he’s no Sidney Crosby. But Ferriero did score 18 goals for Worcester and five for the Sharks this season. He likes that spot near the faceoff dot where Couture fed him the puck. Ferriero turned and fired it at Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who had been spectacular all night. Happy birthday. On the way toward Howard, the puck deflected off the shaft of Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart’s stick and dove down between the legs of Howard. Confetti in the air. Loud roar. Ferriero swamped by his teammates. A lucky goal? Sure. But he still had to aim the puck in the right direction at the right time.
“In the overtime, you’ve just got to shoot it when you can,” Ferriero said.
The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch would argue that Ferriero’s goal was simply one of many pleasant surprises for the Sharks:
Lucky to even get a shift after playing only a total of 4:58, Ferreiro called his shot that bounced off Mark Stuart’s stick and through Howard’s five-hole at 7:03 of OT the biggest goal of his career. No kidding.
“I hadn’t been out on the ice in a while,” said Ferreiro. “I got a headsup that I was going out there. We had just gotten off a four-minute powerplay and I was getting a chance in the third group there. Like I say, you’ve got to make the most of your opportunities. When you’re playing in a series like this against Detroit, you’re going to need a lot of guys contributing. I was just trying to fill my part.”
“It’s nice to get the first win,” said Sharks captain Joe Thornton. “We haven’t been playing well at home and hopefully we can get some confidence playing here.”
Outshot 45-25, the Wings wouldn’t have made it to OT without a standout performance from Howard. It looked like the Sharks were going to be frustrated, but Pavelski scored his fourth of the playoffs to break Howard by knocking in a rebound of a Thornton shot at 10:22 of the third to tie it up 1-1 on the powerplay.
“It was a little bit of a lucky bounce but it was nice to get that one,” said Pavelski. “We haven’t really done the job with the powerplay and we have to get it done.”
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Jake Leonard states the obvious:
With it, San Jose improved to 4-0 in playoff overtime games this postseason, with Ferriero joining Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi and Joe Thornton in the overtime-goal club. Those other three are usual suspects, even if Thornton hasn’t always been so clutch in the past. Just being on the ice was unusual for Ferriero. He played 4:38 during regulation after being a healthy scratch throughout the first round.
Then after Detroit had killed a four-minute penalty, committed by Justin Abdelkader 2:32 into overtime for high-sticking and drawing blood on Niclas Wallin, with all of San Jose’s top forwards winded from the extended power play, Sharks coach Todd McLellan called on Ferriero.
Had San Jose not scored soon after the penalty expired, McLellan said, “It could have been a huge momentum swing against us.”
McLellan was able to joke with the media, too, telling the Mercury News’s Pollak that he didn’t choose to put Ferriero on the ice for a specific reason:
“It wasn’t a genius move, I can tell you that,” McLellan said. “We just felt, looking at their lineup and the way their third and fourth line played, we needed certain ingredients in it. We’ve liked Benny Ferriero’s game when he’s come up and contributed.”
Detroit talked about the need to survive the first 10 minutes of the game and did more than that, taking a 1-0 lead at 9:30 on a sequence that began with a giveaway by Dan Boyle. Pavel Datsyuk came away with the puck, then found defenseman Lidstrom cruising into the high slot. Lidstrom’s one-timer from 39 feet away beat Niemi low on the glove side. Neither team scored in the second period, with the Sharks getting the better chances as they outshot the Red Wings 18-9.
Then the Sharks chipped into the Wings’ lead into the third, and from there, it was about earned bounces:
“Sometimes the bounces go your way,” [McLellan] said. “You can’t always count on them, but we’ve been fortunate so far.”
If there’s anything to be concerned about as a Wings fan, our team’s passive play aside, it’s how calm the Sharks were in talking about dismantling the Wings:
San Jose finished the game with 46 shots on net, 21 more than Detroit as both Antti Niemi and Howard frustrated shooters on both sides. It was the fourth time the Sharks have gone to overtime this postseason and San Jose has won each game. And, yes, players have noticed the trend.
“For whatever reason, we’re getting the bounces now,” Thornton said. “In between periods, you can tell guys are relaxed. We’re pretty positive. We just get our breath and we feel like we can get it done.”
There was neither calm nor urgency on the Wings’ side, nor much fire, so McLellan was able to roll his lines, Ferriero and Couture included, into overtime, as he told the Sharks website’s staff:
“It was great to see Benny find a way to get the puck to the net,” McLellan said. “Fortunately his first shift out in overtime he ended it and we didn’t have to continue to tax the three big lines.”
“We didn’t use him a lot in the game,” McLellan said. “As it wore on and we felt overtime was looming once we scored, we talked at the intermission of overtime about getting people involved. Benny was one of them.”
The Sharks have now won four of their five playoff games in an extra stanza.
“Last shot wins and we’ve been fortunate,” McLellan said. “You go back to the games against L.A., they had their chances, we had ours. Sometimes the bounces go your way, you can’t always count on them.”
Since Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Ray Ratto puts their broadcasters—and again, I’m a Wings fan, so I’m more than a little ticked off that our dear friends at Versus believe that it’s fine to hear the Sharks’ take when there are only four playoff series going on—to shame in terms of his bombast, and he suggests that Ferriero’s goal gave the Sharks a win that signified the Sharks’ “best playoff game in years”:
The goal ended a sensational game, one dominated by the Sharks with presence and persistence, but dominated even more by the spectacular work of Howard, the Detroit goalie who was blamed by many for the Wings’ exit from the playoffs last year at the hands of the Sharks. Howard was nicked for only a Joe Pavelski open-aired swat at 10:22 of the third period of the 45 shots he saw before Ferriero’s, and was as good as Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick had been in the Sharks’ first series.
But the game truly turned in the overtime, in a four-and-a-half minute swing that nearly blew up on the Sharks. It began when defenseman Niclas Wallin blocked Abdelkader’s shot on a 4-on-1 rush toward San Jose goalie Antti Niemi, and as the two headed to chase the puck in the corner, Abdelkader’s stick caught Wallin “somewhere in the beard,” he laughed. Wallin’s beard bleeds, then, because Abdelkader went off on a double-minor for high-sticking, and though the power play did not go well for San Jose (three shots, none of them truly worrisome and nine clears), it did not take them long to re-establish the Detroit zone as base camp. That’s where Couture came in battling Abdelkader for a puck along the wall to Howard’s right.
“I just sort of got body position on him, and got in on his stick and knocked the puck to Benny,” Couture said. “That was about it.”
Ferriero collected the puck, took a stride and leaned into a left turn and then did the one thing that makes the most sense in such chaos. He threw a shot at the net from the top of the faceoff circle.
And it was an OK enough shot, just nothing great, until it clipped Stuart’s stick. It also looked like it might have caught fellow defenseman Niklas Kronwall, but all he did was help obscure Howard’s view from the puck that changed directions so radically. When the puck went in, at 7:03, Stuart hurled his stick with one hand into the netting behind the glass in disgust. The Sharks exploded with glee at their fourth overtime win. And McLellan breathed a sigh of relief.
“They did such a good job killing the penalty, and maybe if Bennie shot doesn’t go in, now they’ve got momentum,” he said, ever the worrying type. “We would have had to regroup, settle ourselves, because you don’t convert on something like that, you sometimes tend to droop a little.”
“We were trying to throw pucks to his feet all night long,” Ferriero said of Howard. “I turned out of the corner, threw it to the net and took a good bounce and ended up in the back of the net.”
For 2 ½ periods, it looked like Howard was going to be the hero. He made 27 saves through two periods and 44 overall, not looking the slightest bit rusty despite not playing since the Red Wings completed their first-round sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes on April 20.
Almost lost in the shuffle of the Sharks’ victory was the performance of Antti Niemi, who wasn’t nearly as busy as Howard but had to face his fair of share of quality chances. Niemi faced just one shot in overtime, but stopped three shots in the two minutes following Pavelski’s trying goal.
“I thought Nemo settled in well,” McLellan said. “There were a lot of pucks clanging around in feet around the net, and he found it. It’s nice for him to only have one against and nice for him to get the win. I’m sure his confidence will grow from there.”
Going forward, McLellan also insisted that his team won’t have any cobwebs to shake off on Sunday, when NBC’s wisely decided to demand that a playoff game start at 12 noon local time:
“The good thing about that game is we practice at 11 or 12 every day,” McLellan said, “so our bodies and our minds are prepared to show up and think hockey and play hockey at that time. Leadership will be important. Coaches will have to prepare the team properly. But we’re both going to play the game at noon, and we got to play the game regardless of what time it’s at.”
And Wallin? Well, to cut a long story by the Mercury News’s Gary Peterson short, he was all smiles:
“It’s somewhere in the beard here,” Wallin said with a twinkle in his eye as he rubbed his chin in a futile attempt to locate the wound. “It’s still bleeding. I’m going to go get it stitched up.”
I don’t think that I need to tell you that the Sharks felt that they simply played too lackadaisically on their four-minute power play, nor do I need to tell you what happened right after it expired.
The national pundits adored this game, with the Sporting News’s Ray Slover, SI’s Adrian Dater (via his “Three Stars”), Yahoo Sports’ Sean Leahy (ditto), Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien (who continues to insist that the Wings’ defense is old, tired and breaking down), the Hockey News weighed in with this assessment...
THN’s Take: San Jose took it to the Red Wings all night, outshooting Detroit 39-24 in regulation (and the Wings would have had 18 if not for a frantic last minute of the first). But even though the Sharks controlled the play for most of the night, the Red Wings led on the scoreboard until the final half of the third period. Surprisingly, this rivalry got off to a bit of a slow start as the game lacked significant emotion outside of a Jimmy Howard/Joe Pavelski dust up after a second period whistle. The crowd noise picked up after Todd Bertuzzi’s third period boarding penalty and erupted after the ensuing tying goal. Even though Howard was confidently on top of his game all night, you just had the feeling San Jose was going to score in overtime at some point with all the chances they had been getting - and that’s exactly what happened when Benn Ferriero safely tossed the puck at the net and got a lucky bounce for the winner in his first career playoff game. The Wings had a long layoff after their first round win and Henrik Zetterberg didn’t look quite himself in his first playoff game of the season. Expect a more productive Detroit team in Game 2 - one that will jump all over Antti Niemi, who continued to have trouble finding the puck.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun offered several observations as well:
A sensational shift by Logan Couture’s line with Ryane Clowe and Dany Heatley early in the second period set the tone for what would be utter dominance by the Sharks in the middle frame except where it matters the most—the scoreboard. The Sharks outshot the Wings 18-9 and had several Grade A chances, but Couture was dynamite and effective with his rebound control. That was one of San Jose’s finest periods of the playoffs so far despite the lack of a goal. Couture’s line had another similar shift late in the third period, buzzing all around the Wings’ zone. Detroit will need to find a better matchup for San Jose’s second line. Smart move by Sharks coach Todd McLellan to begin overtime with Couture’s line, and Clowe got a scoring chance right off the bat in extra time.
Star centers Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were loaded up on the same line with Tomas Holmstrom to open the series. Wings coach Mike Babcock has done it before, but he’s more confident in doing it now given the development of Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm, who along with Valtteri Filppula give the Wings all kinds of options down the middle. Detroit’s top line matched up mostly against San Jose’s top unit of Joe Thornton between Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi. It was a fairly even matchup in Game 1, but the Wings’ top line scored, Datsyuk finding Nicklas Lidstrom in the slot in the first period for a one-timer.
But the CBC’s blogger, who we’ll get back to in the notebook entry, offered this assessment:
The Sharks played a solid, strong game and spent the bulk of the evening pressing the Wings in their own end, which is what the Wings are used to doing to others. The right team won, based on the run of play, but the run of play doesn’t always prove to be a strong indicator of anything other than a handy alibi when that team loses. Howard ended up making 44 saves against the playoff shot leaders, and was on the verge of turning the game into a marathon when Ferriero cheated the odds by throwing a puck blindly and hoping for the best. And getting more than that.
San Jose is now 5-2 in the post-season, with four of those wins coming in overtime. Indeed, Ferriero was called upon at that moment because coach Todd McLellan was starting to think he needed to widen his three-line strategy for the longer haul.
But Ferriero saved him the trouble, and hit quite the fantasy quinella - first game, second shot, and blah blah blah. We’re not sure what story he will tell his grandchildren, but the truth was pretty remarkable even without a granddad’s embellishment allowance.
With that, let’s slowly but surely shift focus to the Red Wings’ takes on the game, via the Associated Press’s recap:
“You never know who the hero is going to be,” Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. “You never know where it’s going to come from. That’s just a prime example of just shooting, just putting it at the net in overtime. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Joe Pavelski scored the tying goal on the power play in the third period for San Jose. Antti Niemi made 24 saves as the Sharks won their fourth overtime game of this postseason. Nicklas Lidstrom scored in the first period for Detroit the day after his 41st birthday. Howard made 44 saves, including three during Justin Abdelkader’s double minor for high-sticking, but had little chance on Ferriero’s deflected game-winner.
“It’s very disappointing, especially after leading for most of the game,” Lidstrom said. “We were able to kill off that four-minute penalty in overtime. They kept coming at us; our guy was coming out of the box and it was still a scramble in our zone. This is what happens in the playoffs. You’re going to have those momentum swings.”
Jimmy Howard may have been sensational in the nets for the Wings, but he was incredibly blunt and perhaps harsh when assessing his 44-save performance in speaking to NHL.com’s Randy Phillips:
“Not enough,” Howard said as he sat in the silent Wings dressing room following his team’s fourth loss in five games against the Sharks this season. “It doesn’t matter. All that matters is wins right now.”
“I saw most of (the Sharks’ shots),” Howard said. “My guys did a really good job in front of me, tying up sticks, and if there was a rebound, helping me clear it out.”
Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said, “We knew they were going to throw a lot of picks at the net. For the most part I thought we did a good job pushing them to the outside but they still had a lot of shots at us.”
It was on a rebound that the Sharks evened the score midway through the third period. With the Sharks on a power play, Pavelski got behind defenseman Niklas Kronwall and batted home the rebound of a shot by Joe Thornton. It was the only one of the Sharks’ 14 power-play shots that eluded Howard.
“I thought Howie was good tonight,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I think the penalty-killing was good, and a huge part of penalty killing is goaltending.”
“I just want to give the guys a chance to win every single night,” Howard said. “That’s my job.”
That didn’t happen, and as such, as Phillips noted, Mike Babcock was very angry—at his own team:
“They were better than us, especially up front,” Babcock said. “I didn’t think we skated very good.”
Babcock’s team lost three of four regular-season meetings to the Sharks and was ousted by San Jose in a five-game second-round series a year ago. Clearly, he doesn’t want to witness a repeat. In order to avoid that, he said, the Wings’ forwards will have to be a lot better – and a lot harder on the Sharks’ defense.
“(The Sharks’) defense had the night off,” Babcock grumbled.
Much was said before the series about the need for both teams to stay out of the penalty box as much as possible. Babcock was not pleased that his team was short-handed six times Friday, though the Wings did kill five of those power plays.
“We took too many penalties,” Babcock said. “You can’t be in the penalty box and expect to survive.”
Babcock continued, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted:
Coach Mike Babcock: “The bottom line is, we weren’t good enough. I thought Howie was good, period. I thought our penalty kill was good, and a huge part of your penalty kill is your goalie, so I thought he was good. He gave us a chance. … We never had the puck in their zone. Traffic comes off a cycle, off a grind. Traffic doesn’t come as much when you’re on the rush. If you don’t spend any time in the O zone, you’re not going to have any traffic.”
Defenseman Brad Stuart: “There were some positives. We had a chance to win. It was just a bad bounce, that’s all it came down to.”
There weren’t many worries on the Wings regarding the individual “rust” potential of Henrik Zetterberg or Johan Franzen. Zetterberg registered 3 shots, 2 blocked attempts, 2 shots wide of the net, a hit, a blocked shot and a 2-and-4 faceoff record in 19:36 of ice time. Johan Franzen wasn’t bad, either, registering 2 faceoff wins and 4 shot attempts (2 blocked, 2 wide) in 15:32 of ice time.
Zetterberg told NHL.com’s Phillips that he felt okay in returning from a two-and-a-half week absence due to a sprained left MCL:
Question: How did it feel to be back out there after not playing in the opening round?
Zetterberg: I was a little rusty. It was nice to be out there again. It was fun to be playing a playoff game again. I can definitely be better.
Question: You killed off a four-minute penalty in overtime before allowing the winner by the Sharks’ Benn Ferriero. Did you think you were out of the woods after killing the penalty?
Zetterberg: It was a lengthy power play for them in overtime. Our guys got a little tired and the puck ended up in our net. It was a tough call. (Justin Abdelkader’s) stick got caught behind him and hit (Niclas Wallin’s) face. That happens sometimes. I think we killed it off good, but the guys got a bit tired.
Question: The Red Wings had not played in nine days. Were you satisfied with the team’s start?
Zetterberg: I think maybe the first two, three minutes we came out a little on our heels but I think we came back and played a real good first period.
Question: Any other thoughts on falling behind in this series?
Zetterberg: I don’t think anyone thought we were going to sweep them. There’s a pretty good team over there.
If you’re a Wings fan, this is where you need to stop and take a deep breath. The media’s about to tell you, over the course of the rest of this recap, that the Wings deserved their result, and that the penalties were earned, regardless of whether Wings fans liked them or not.
As I’m a Wings fan like you, I thought that the penalties the Wings were called for were at least equaled (see: several Sharks’ runs on Justin Abdelkader, hooks, holds and blatant interference, Pavelski’s pick/trip on Drew Miller on the way to scoring his game-tying goal), if not exceeded, by the Sharks, but those of us who are biased think that the Sharks sold and sold and solid every slight, from Pavelski’s jerking back of his head to Wallin’s “bleeding beard” to the, “Oh no, I’ve been slashed!” stumble by Joe Thornton in his own end, you name it, the Sharks sold it. The only person who didn’t try to sell a penalty was Devin Setoguchi, it seemed, and whenever the Sharks were slighted, the Wings went to the box, whereas the Wings were expected to “fight through” the Sharks’ slings and arrows and hacks and whacks.
That being said, I think we can also agree that, by the time Howard and Pavelski exchanged pleasantries, the Wings started to play as if they were on a permanent penalty kill.
Instead of attempting to generate and sustain puck possession in the Sharks’ zone via efficient passing, forwards skating through the neutral zone with speed and a sustained and hard-charging forecheck that results in turnovers and backs off the Sharks’ defense, allowing the Wings to set up, cycle the puck down low and start getting shots and secondary scoring opportunities on Niemi.
Instead, the Sharks seemed to spread out their closed-down slot to their defensive zone, and the Wings just lost their…As Austin Powers would say, they lost their mojo. The Wings stopped pushing back because they were afraid of what might happen if they made a demonstrative play and got called for whatever incidental contact that might result, and the Wings retreated further and further into that, “Let’s just hope that Jimmy can keep ‘em off the board and burn clock” mentality. The Wings disagreed, as they told the Free Press’s St. James....
We did a lot of good things,” Zetterberg said. “We created a lot of chances, it was a back-and-forth game. I think we played a real good first period. Overall, it was a good game.”
Howard nearly stole the game for his teammates, especially during a phenomenal second period that saw him deliver 18 saves. He took a roughing call during the stretch when he went after Joe Pavelski after Pavelski sprayed him, but Howard said it was “just emotions, let’s leave it at that.” Pavelski was sent off for roughing, too. Pavelski went on to score midway through the third period on a power play when he knocked in Joe Thornton’s rebound. The Sharks had a 39-24 shot advantage after three periods.
“They had a couple of flurries where they got a bunch of shots and padded the total, but I don’t think overall we really gave up a whole lot,” Stuart said.
But how many times did the Wings make Niemi or the Sharks’ defenders sweat after the game’s halfway mark, at least in regulation? And didn’t it seem a little weird that the Wings could clear the puck out of their own end decently, but, for some bizarre reason, the hard-charging Cleary-Abdelkader-Bertuzzi line couldn’t get anything going in the offensive zone, Jiri Hudler seemed like the Wings’ most demonstrative player on the Hudler-Filppula-Franzen line, Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller were only good up to the red line, and only Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Holmstrom seemed to generate any quality scoring chances?
“I thought they were better than us,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Especially up front, I didn’t think we skated very good. I thought they were quicker than we were. I thought Howie was good. Actually, I didn’t mind my back end at all, but they had way too much wear and tear on them and their D had the night off. We didn’t touch them. We never got into them. We weren’t physical in the O zone. It was a night off for them. We looked, to me, up front, legless.”
Ever so politely, Lidstrom, now 41, agreed with his now-48-year-old coach, as he told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“It’s always disappointing,” Lidstrom said. “We did a lot of good things and we can take that into the next game. We can be harder on the second chances and create more traffic.”
Instead, the Wings found themselves lamenting the bad bounces on both goals, especially Ferriero’s…
“We killed it (the penalty) off but it’s taxing on the guys who play it (penalty kill) and that was the most frustrating part of it, for them to score on a deflection shortly after,” Stuart said. “But that happens. This game is about bounces sometimes and they got it.”
Howard kept the Wings in the game with 44 saves and enabled the Wings to get into overtime despite limited contributions up front.
“They were better than us,” said Babcock, who was celebrating his 48th birthday. “We didn’t skate very good. They were quicker. We took too many penalties. You can’t be in the penalty box and expect to survive. Traffic (in front of the goalie) comes off the cycle and grinding and doesn’t come as much off the rush. To me, it’s being physical and hanging onto the puck and that didn’t happen. We looked to me, up front, like we were legless.”
Legless. Not spineless, but legless. Without jump. Without urgency or resolve or grit. That much is true.
So the Wings had to admit that they ended up playing far too much hockey on the penalty-kill, as they told the Free Press’s St. James:
“We took too many penalties,” coach Mike Babcock said after the 2-1 loss at HP Pavilion Friday. “You can’t be in the penalty box and expect to survive. They had 14 power play shots. I thought that was a huge factor in the game, even though at the end, I don’t think they scored there on the power play. But they wear you out for four minutes on the power play and ended up getting the winner that way.”
Benn Ferriero scored 20 seconds after the Wings had battled through being down a skater for 4 minutes, the result of Justin Abdelkader accidentally high-sticking Niclas Wallin. The Wings were still sorting out their coverage when Ferriero’s shot went in off Stuart’s stick.
“We killed it off, but it’s taxing on the guys that play it,” Stuart said. “Probably the most frustrating part is to kill it off and then have them score on a deflection like that shortly after.”
Joe Pavelski scored during a power play midway through the third period, after Todd Bertuzzi was slapped with a boarding call for hitting Pavelski.
“It’s a rebound, he whacks it out of the air, it was just a hockey play that you can’t really defend,” Nicklas Lidstrom said of Pavelski’s goal. “But besides that, I thought we did do a lot of good things on our penalty kill.”
Were the Red Wings rusty? Hell no. Not in the first period, anyway.
“We had our legs early, we got into it,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We were rolling four lines and spending time in their zone. I think the start was something we wanted to have.”
But that didn’t change the result, as Stuart admitted to the Detroit News’s Kulfan. Stuart whacked his stick into the boards very heavily after Ferriero scored, and even as Howard tried to shift focus to what is nothing less than a must-win situation on Sunday, he had to admit that it was the Sharks that forechecked, the Sharks that got their deadly cycling game going, and the Sharks that wore down the Red Wings’ defenders—and sometimes we forget that forwards defend, too, and when they’re tired or worried about taking penalties, they become tentative…
“We have to put this behind us and concentrate on Sunday,” said Howard, who made several brilliant saves. “They did a better job of getting on top of us through the neutral zone and getting on top of our defense. That was the difference. It’s going to be a see-saw battle.”
That wouldn’t have been a problem if the Wings’ forwards didn’t spend the second half of the second period and then the entire third backing into their own zone, allowing the Sharks to wind up in their own zone, charge through the middle of the ice and set up in the Wings’ end, if not dump the puck in and try to run a Wings defenseman legally.
In fact, it may have been a minor miracle that Lidstrom, Stuart, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Ruslan Salei and Brian Rafalski avoided as many attempt-to-injure checks from Clowe, Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, Setoguchi, etc.
The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa spends most of his “5 keys” column telling fans to shut up and take their penalty medicine, but he makes two cogent points:
Game 2 is crucial for the Wings. They could still win the series if they lose the first two. But only about one in seven teams ever accomplishes that throughout the history of the playoffs. And San Jose is too good to let them get too far ahead.
San Jose turns tables: After a first period in which the Wings accomplished nearly all of their objectives, the talented Sharks simply turned it all back on them, from the beginning of the second. They controlled the puck in the Wings’ zone for long stretches. Their speed and size can be absolutely daunting for a team less talented that the Wings. They continually kept the Wings in a defensive mode, looking for clear-outs instead of plays up the ice.
It implicates a scary possibility. Do not be surprised if throughout this series San Jose remains resilient regardless of how well the Wings play for long stretches. The Sharks are that good and do not fade as they once did.
That’s not scary. That’s reality. So is this:
From the puck drop at the start of the second period, the Wings failed to play enough in the San Jose zone It was not as if San Jose was all over them for the last two periods. But the Wings squandered a great start. Some worried that after eight days off the Wings would have gathered rust.
But, in the first period, they were Rustoleum. Later in the game, the intensity that allows a team to attack, attack, attack, simply ebbed. Not that the Wings played poorly. But they had been all over the Sharks. They need to be all over them again in Game for a longer period of time.
On that much, we can agree.
The Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski argues that the Wings very obviously need to give Jimmy Howard a hand here...
Howard was brilliant, especially in the second period, when the Sharks unleashed profound pressure. That’s when Howard truly stood up for himself with a couple feisty fists. It was fitting, because when the Wings really needed him, Howard stood up all game long.
The Sharks took their shots, plenty of shots. And Howard stopped most of them, and delivered his own. He flung his hands in Pavelski’s face after the Shark delivered a snow shower to Howard’s face. Both got penalties. But the Sharks kept coming, and that has to be the concern for the Wings. This is how it often is in road playoff games, and your goalie is needed more than ever. The crowd was irate after Howard’s mini-fracas with Pavelski and chanted the goalie’s name in derision. The mild-mannered Howard is a curious choice for villain-hood, but if that’s what the Wings need, that’s what he’ll do.
He shook off the final goal and tried to laugh off the nasty chants. But he also knew he had a chance to steal the game, and it didn’t happen.
The Wings fed off Howard’s saves, but they didn’t do enough with that energy. This is a tough place to play, obviously, and the Wings did have a 1-0 lead midway through the third period. They did good things, so this is not some irreversible trend.
But they took much more of a pounding than they delivered. Henrik Zetterberg (knee) was a bit rusty in his return, and other big forwards didn’t do enough. Neither Johan Franzen nor Dan Cleary had a shot on goal, and the Wings spent too much time retreating. So when that final shot took a detour off a wayward piece of equipment, Stuart was so aggravated, he flung his stick down the ice.
“Probably the most frustrating part is to kill off the penalty, then have them score,” Stuart said. “It’s a game of bounces sometimes, and they got it.”
And while Evil Drew Sharp focused part of his poison pen on the fact that Howard, especially in channeling “emotions” into Pavelski’s face, earned derisive chants from the Sharks that Howard insists have been outclassed by a wide margin by college kids…
“In college,” he said. “I heard worse things at Boston University and New Hampshire. I couldn’t repeat those things without using those punctuation marks that block out the actual word. It just shows you how emotional this series is going to be when you’ve got two very good teams playing each other.”
But it’s this part of Sharp’s column that seems most pertinent:
Babcock said afterward that the Wings desperately needed that eight-day layoff for their physical well-being. They got Zetterberg back for the first time in these playoffs. Johan Franzen played though still nursing a bad ankle and he was non-existent on the ice.
But he rightfully attacked the lack of offensive aggression. He said the team gave the Sharks’ defense the night off. He was right. They didn’t apply enough pressure on San Jose goalie Antti Niemi, who got yanked twice in the previous series against Los Angeles because of inconsistency.
Eight days off didn’t diminish Pavel Datsyuk’s wizardry. Once again, he was the best skater on the ice. He toyed with San Jose’s Scott Nichol on the game’s first goal. Datsyuk got the puck near the left circle, patiently waiting. Nichol looked lost wondering what Datsyuk would do with the puck. Then Datsyuk perfectly send a cross-ice pass onto Lidstrom’s stick and the “old man” rifled it past Antti Niemi for his first goal of the playoffs. Datsyuk almost made it 2-0 in the second period. He got a takeaway in the neutral zone and maneuvered into the slot for a wicked wrist shot that Niemi barely stopped. That was one of the few choice scoring opportunities the Wings mustered in the second period. They only had two shots on goal through the first 10 minutes of the period as the Sharks pretty much kept the play in the Detroit zone, hovering just under the surface waiting for that chance to strike quickly.
It’s just one game, but it’s already looking like your standard Stanley Cup playoff series. The team that works the hardest and creates its own good fortune usually survives. This could have been a huge opening blow for the Sharks had the Wings hung on late. But instead, it’s the Wings who must respond. Maybe Sunday they can raise their game to the level of their goaltender.
And again, while the Wings insisted that there were and are positives to focus upon going forward, Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji shifted focus back not to the goaltender who seemed to break in a slightly stiff catch glove by using it on Pavelski, but instead, the captain and coach who insisted that their team has to do a better job on Sunday:
“It’s always disappointing,” captain Nick Lidstrom said. “They’re throwing the puck at the net, trying to get a rebound or trying to get something happening and it went off, I think it was Stuie’s stick. Kind of a lucky break for them. But we did a lot of good things tonight and I think we can take that with us to Game No. 2.”
“I had a problem with lots of the penalties,” Babcock said. “We shouldn’t have took them. They’re penalties, what are you going to do? You can’t take penalties. You’ve got to look after your stick. The team that has the puck the most is going to take the least penalties.”
“We never had the puck in their zone,” Babcock said. “Traffic comes off a cycle, off a grind, traffic doesn’t come as much when you’re on the rush. If you don’t spend any time in the ‘O’ zone, you’re not going to have any traffic. To me that’s being physical, that’s hanging onto pucks down low, that’s working their D and that didn’t happen for us tonight. We looked, to me up front, legless.”
A little repetitious? Yes. Are the words worth repeating? Yes.
And while MLive’s Ansar Khan also spoke to the Wings’ players about bouncing back...
“I think we played an overall good game,’’ Zetterberg said. “We created a lot of chances. I think it was a back and forth game. The Sharks will spend some time in our end. We’ll spend some time in their end. It was a lengthy power play for them in overtime. Our guys got a little tired, the puck wound up in our net.’‘
Said Stuart: “At the end of the day we had a chance to win, just a bad bounce. I don’t think overall we were giving up a whole lot.’‘
“We got off to a great start, took the lead in the first period, things were looking good,’’ Howard said. “As the game continued on they kept funneling pucks to the net, putting it deep and going in and hitting our D, making it tough on our D.’‘
I very luckily had Fox Sports Detroit, so I didn’t get to see what exactly Brad Stuart did after Ferriero’s shot went off his stick and over Howard’s blocker. Khan clarifies that situation while revealing enough of a spark to give me some hope going forward:
“Lucky roll for them,’’ Stuart said.
He was so angry he flung his stick about 50 feet after the goal.
“I was pretty (ticked) off, that’s what happens when you lose on a (crappy) goal like that,’’ Stuart said. “We’ll get over it.’‘
I was pretty pissed off after seeing my team lose on a s***ty goal like that, and I hope the Wings not named Brad Stuart were angry, too.
The Wings may be a businesslike team, but they need to come out angry on Sunday, and they need to channel that anger into focus, determination, urgency, and resolve, the kind of emotion that fuels sixty minutes of ruthlessly and viciously efficient, high-tempo, puck possession hockey that the Wings need to play to return to Detroit nothing less than tied in the series and feeling good about some earned momentum instead of pissed off about unearned penalties.
DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples takes us out with three astute observations:
Grinder: Pavel Datsyuk tried to do whatever he could to lead the Wings in this one. The Wings’ talented forward led all forwards in ice-time (22:32), and during that time recorded an assist, four shots, a team-high six hits, three takeaways, and 11 face-off wins – a game-high total. His assist was an impressive saucer pass over a Sharks defender’s stick to find Nicklas Lidstrom in the slot.
Overlooked Stat: Captain Nicklas Lidstrom’s goal now gives him 51 playoff goals, breaking a tie with Sergei Fedorov to put him in third place all-time for Detroit goal-scorers in the playoffs. Only Steve Yzerman (70) and Gordie Howe (67) have more goals in the playoffs than Lidstrom.
Wake-up Call: In the closing moments of the second period, Brad Stuart took a shot from the far blue line, which Antti Niemi stopped it and fired the puck towards the side boards. Justin Abdelkader went over to pick up the puck with Douglas Murray on his heels. Instead of picking up the puck, Abdelkader shifted directions, and put his shoulder into Murray, sending him flying as the buzzer sounded to end the period. It was an exclamation point on the pressure the Wings generated in the closing moments of the second.
The Wings need more of that on Sunday, much, much more of that kind of play. It’s time to get a little angry, play a little aggressive and respond to a heartbreaking overtime loss by kicking the Sharks in the teeth.
Highlights: The CBC posted a 2:08 highlight clip;
ESPN posted a 2:49 highlight clip;
Sportsnet posted a 1:46 highlight clip;
TSN posted a 2:08 highlight clip;
And NHL.com’s highlight clip is, of course, narrated by the Sharks’ announcers (you can watch CSN Bay Area’s clip directly on their website if you wish):
Versus’ clips are now only available on NBC Sports’ website, and they take up half a page’s worth of code, so I’ll simply refer you to their main highlight clip and suggest that you go from there.
NHL On The Fly’s panel analyzed the game;
CSN Bay Area posted Ferriero’s interview and post-game comments from Joe Pavelski—and Pavelski didn’t think that Bertuzzi would be called for boarding!—Niclas Wallin and Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom:
Photos: The Mercury News posted a 72-image…Flash gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 24-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 28-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 39-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 43-image gallery;
Fox Sports posted a 16-image combined gallery from Friday night’s two playoff games;
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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.