Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Sharks Game 2 set-up: Throw the calf or he’ll throw you

Briefly updated at 2:17 PM: The Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks will face off today for a matinee game (3 PM EDT, NBC/TSN) which, if you believe Sharks coach Todd McLellan, pits an underdog team that nobody believes in against a dangerous opponent that it just happens to lead in the race to four wins and continues to earn power plays against, whether by hook or by crooked sell jobs that certain NHL officials bite upon.

If you believe the Red Wings’ players and coach, however, if the Wings’ forwards move their feet and inflict the kind of forechecking and cycling game upon the Sharks that San Jose utilized so successfully in Game 1, the series will head back to Detroit for a true re-set in the form of two days off tied at 1-1.

Therein lies the crux of this series—the Red Wings and Sharks aren’t as similar as anyone would like you to think, but they employ a similar style of play, and to be successful, the team that hopes to win needs to sustain possession and control of the puck in the offensive zone to generate scoring chances and wear down its opponent before the opponent grinds them down.

It’s do unto others lest it be done to you, and the Sharks don’t plan on allowing the Wings up from under their skate boots Sunday, as they told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser:

“That’s our plan,” Sharks winger Devin Setoguchi said when asked about his team’s effective forecheck Friday night. “With their (offensive) skill, we want to keep them on defense as long as possible. We want to get picks in deep, win battles, and make them work in their zone as much as possible.”

Asked the key to San Jose’s Game 1 win, Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said, “For the most part, puck possession. We had it more than they did.” The Sharks did a good job entering the offensive zone, they passed the puck well, fought hard along the boards and shot the puck and collected rebounds - and then did it all again.

“I know as a defenseman, that wears you out,” Boyle said. “It’s tough to get going the other way.”

The Red Wings’ defense was superb on Friday and Jimmy Howard was nothing less than stellar, but when you face 46 shots, a few are bound to get by. The Wings aren’t amused by the fact that the Sharks seem to be able to draw penalties at will, but they also understand that the officials aren’t going to adjust to make their lives easier:

Some of the Red Wings indicated Saturday that they didn’t feel all the penalties were warranted (“You saw the calls. ... You can blow on someone’s neck, and it’s a penalty,” Detroit center Johan Franzen said), but Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader said, “I think we know what penalties are going to be called. We’ve just got to keep our sticks down and be a lot smarter.”

“It was definitely unexpected for them to take seven penalties,” Setoguchi said. “They did a really good job on their penalty kill, but them killing off that four minutes in overtime gave us momentum - you could tell they were a little tired.”

And then came the game-winning goal by Benn “History Will be Made” Ferriero (I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty sick of that little piano ditty and the faux yellowed-black-and-white footage).

So the Sharks say they’ll be prepared for the battle to come…

We expect them to be ready to play. They obviously don’t want to go down 2-0,” Setoguchi said. “We’ve got to be prepared.”

Despite the fact that, as Slusser noted, the Wings and Sharks will start the game at 12 PM local time:

Today’s game at HP Pavilion is at noon, and Dan Boyle isn’t a fan of the start time. There’s no morning skate, no customary afternoon nap.

“I’ll be honest - I don’t like noon games at all,” the San Jose defenseman said. “I haven’t quite figured out what the routine will be, but we’ll figure it out. I’m sure I’ll be ready to go by game time.”

Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi said, “We didn’t play one noon game all year, but we ask for them because we know when we get in the playoffs, NBC gets the noon game. But it will be no different to get excited to play in front of our home crowd.”
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Sharks coach Todd McLellan made a similar argument for why the earlier time won’t be too disruptive, saying it’s when San Jose usually practices, so being on the ice at noon should seem normal.

Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Ray Ratto sounded the only slight hint of alarm on Saturday, noting that the Sharks’ power play hasn’t been fantastic…

The topic of the day was the San Jose Sharks power play, which was a life-saving yet still sorry 1-for-6, and 3-for-29 this postseason. That’s 10.6 percent, which is damned bad. That makes them the owners of the second-worst power play of the teams left in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, ahead of only Boston, which is an even shabbier 0-for 26. That’s 0 percent, in case you needed additional math.
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And if you’re waiting for the benefits of momentum to send the Sharks to Detroit with a stranglehold on the series, better to keep your powder dry there as well. Momentum does not exist; the Sharks had all the momentum there is to have Friday night and could have just as easily have lost the game, as they did in Game 5 of the Los Angeles series.

As in, to quote Todd McLellan, “If we don’t score that one power play goal, we could be standing here talking about a 1-0 loss instead of a 2-1 win.”

So it’s Ratto who’s ever-so-slightly worried about the Wings’ ability to bounce back from a 2-0 deficit…

The previous four times a team took a 2-0 lead at home and lost the series took 26 years and 65 series. In other words, something that is now a 1-in-4 shot used to be a 1-in-16 shot.

And in other other words, that means that the Sharks and Red Wings enter Sunday’s second game knowing nothing more since the end of Friday’s first game. The two teams may not be identical in form, but they are in substance, and as a result the series may as well still be tied.

And you can add Sharks broadcaster Jamie Baker to the mix. He argues that the Wings simply didn’t match the Sharks’ levels of urgency or desperation after a week-and-a-half off…

The Sharks played great in Game 1 as they out-skated and out-battled the Red Wings. The scoring chances were tilted in San Jose’s favor and if it wasn’t for Howard the Sharks could have won in regulation, probably by two or three goals. Give Detroit credit though, they hung in there and almost won the game despite playing un-Wing like. Expect Detroit to be much better in game 2.

Here is what Mike Babcock had to say about game 1. “The score flattered us. We looked like a team that had been off for a long time. We did everything we could to get going. I thought they skated way better than we did. I thought we weren’t going to skate in the first 10 minutes and we’d get better as the game went on. We can’t do anything unless we can skate and we didn’t skate very good last night.”

It’s not that Detroit was rusty, it’s they lost that edge, that desperation and panic mode that comes with playoff hockey. At the end of my career I played for the Chicago Wolves of the IHL. We won the Turner Cup that year, beating the Detroit Vipers in 7 games. Prior to the Finals however, our team had 9 days between games. Even though it was the finals, it took us a couple of games to get that edge back. I would compare it to someone who has very intense meetings for a few days, goes on vacation for a week while everyone else stays at the meetings and then when the vacation is over, re-joins the meetings. I think that first day would be pretty tough as everyone else is in ‘intense meeting mode’ while you are trying to get out of vacation mode.

And as such…

Since the lockout, there have been 83 completed series (includes the 8 series from round 1 of the 2011 playoffs) and the team that wins game one of a series has a record of 55 – 28, which is 66.3%. Like I said, it doesn’t guarantee you anything but temporarily gives you the momentum. Including the LA series, the Sharks are 8-4 all-time (67%) when they win the first game of a series and they are 4-9 all-time (30.8%) when they lose the first game.

In conclusion, I thought Detroit had lost their edge coming into game 1 which played to San Jose’s advantage. San Jose took advantage and I am relieved they pulled off the victory because I think Detroit is only going to get better. They are now the desperate team! San Jose has to match or better Detroit’s desperation, that is the challenge for game 2.

The Mercury News’s Mark Emmons chose to suggest that a confident Sharks team might be channeling the San Francisco Giants instead, with their four overtime wins hinting at the kind of ability to deliver clutch performances that lead to championships:

[T]he Sharks are demonstrating a resiliency and ability calmly to deliver when the stakes are the highest. They were the better team for most of Friday night, and yet were still losing midway through the third period. But they found a way to rally.

“It shows that we can handle a pretty high-pressure situation,” defenseman Dan Boyle said. “When you get into overtime, you know that every play matters and that one mistake can cost you a game, and even a series. You have to experience situations in the playoffs before you get better at it.”

And it may very well happen again Sunday afternoon at HP Pavilion in Game 2. Consider the Sharks just played perhaps their most complete game of the postseason. They dominated the puck Friday, flinging 46 shots at Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard and drawing seven penalties. Antti Niemi stopped 24 shots, and the defense did a solid job of containing the twin puck-handling wizards of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Yet they still needed a fortunate deflection as Ferriero’s goal ricocheted off the stick of Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart to win. It was just further evidence of how San Jose and Detroit are so evenly matched.

“We could have had the game-winner, too,” Zetterberg said. “I don’t think anybody thought we were going to sweep them. That’s a pretty good team out there, and they played well.”

San Jose has been doing that a lot against Detroit—winning nine of the past 11 meetings between the teams dating to Feb. 11, 2010. The Sharks will have to keep finding a way to beat the Red Wings if they intend to follow in the Giants’ path.

Mark Pudy followed in the steps of the vast majority of the media—to the tune of two separate off-day videos from TSN, a decent amount of focus from NBC and Versus’ broadcasters and a three or four articles from the off-day crop—in exchanging a little playful banter with Joe Pavelski about his tip-down before suggesting that Pavelski’s playoff dominance will do in the Wings for the second consecutive year:

“I don’t like to bunt,” Pavelski revealed exclusively to the Bay Area News Group.

Maybe not. But he’s pretty good at it. Pavelski’s play was actually even more impressive than a baseball bunt, because as he made contact with the puck, he was gliding at a pretty good clip across the ice. It’s still more ammunition against those folks who say hockey players can’t match the athletic skills in other sports. Let’s just see Ichiro Suzuki try to bunt a baseball while on roller blades. Pavelski’s hand-eye coordination isn’t what earns him the respect of his teammates, however. It’s his ability to find a way to put his stick in a passing lane and steal a puck on defense, or to find space in the offensive zone for a scoring chance.

“He’s very determined,” said Kyle Wellwood, one of Pavelski’s linemates. “I think that it’s his best quality—he’s determined to make a difference. Sometimes, he’s not flashy out there. But he works at it.”

And here he is once more, giving Detroit fits. Last spring, just as he did Friday, he scored the first Sharks goal of Game 1 against the Red Wings. He went on to score three more goals with two assists in the five-game Sharks series victory. The goalie then, as now, was Howard—which may have played into that Game 1 exchange of words and elbows between Pavelski and Howard that resulted in penalty minutes for both.

There was other good Pavelski stuff Friday, too. He scored his goal after a penalty that he had drawn. He had a couple of takeaways, blocked a shot. His only shortcoming was in the faceoff circle, where he lost six of eight draws. He knows he has to get better at that. He knows that he and his teammates have to sustain Friday’s subscription.

“We saw what could happen in the L.A. series if we didn’t do that,” Pavelski said. “Friday night is over; it’s thrown out the window. There’s no momentum. Game by game in each series, you’ve got to create your own momentum.”

And penalties by jerking your head back, I suppose, but what do I know…I’m biased.

The Sharks also believe that Mike Babcock might be making their jobs a little easier by keeping Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk on the same line. McLellan suggested to the Mercury News’s David Pollak that Babcock’s decision to play Zetterberg alongside his “Eurotwin” as #40 gets his conditioning back after a three-week lay-off allows the Sharks, if only involuntarily, to simply rotate their three defensive pairings instead of searching for a specific match-up (though McLellan wants to keep the Thornton line out against Datsyuk whenever possible):

At some point during Game 1, each of the Sharks defense pairings faced the challenge of shutting down Detroit’s top forwards, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. That wasn’t by design.

“It sort of played out that way, especially in the second period when you’ve got the long change and your players get caught on the ice, as did theirs,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.

Defensemen Jason Demers, for one, said he welcomes the challenge of going against a top player such as Datsyuk.

“I’m not nervous. It’s taken awhile, but I have a chance to prove I can play with a guy I grew up watching who’s an unbelievable player,” he said. “Not taking anything away from him, but it’s a fun challenge to go out there and say, ‘All right, let’s see if I can stop you’ and play hard on him.”

And then there was a bizarre statement from McLellan that certainly proves that he’s cut his ties with the Wings.

Despite the fact that the Sharks are the media’s Western Conference darling not named Vancouver, and the fact that the media was pretty evenly split in their predictions as to who might win the series, McLellan insists that his team is the consummate underdog:

“We all read clips—we say we don’t, but we do—and there’s not very many people picking us to win,” McLellan said. “That may work in our favor. It takes the pressure off and puts it more on them, the way they had the rest and that type of stuff.”

Ah yes, “Nobody believes in us but us.” It’s the tritest cliche in the book, and it’s baffling. Maybe McLellan is engaging in a little oblique referee-bating or something, but I really have no clue why he’s invoking something that, well…Nobody believes but McLellan and the Sharks.

Before we shift perspectives from the Sharks’ locker room to the Wings’ side of things, I’m going to introduce you to exhibit A as to why Versus may be making a McLellan-like statement by choosing to cut costs by simply piggybacking CSN Bay Area’s coverage:

I can’t imagine any broadcasting entity getting anything less than laughed at for tapping Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond on the shoulder as their choice for “objective” coverage.

Are Drew Remenda, Randy Hahn and Brodie Brazil capable broadcasters? You bet. Are they “fair and balanced?” Hell no.

NHL.com’s Dave Lozo’s preview gives me as good an excuse as any to shift our focus from the Sharks to the Wings’ perspective, so let’s try to frame today’s game semi-objectively:

Big story: There was a time when the Sharks were the team that was chasing the Red Wings, always coming up short. But lately, the script has been flipped. With Friday’s 2-1 overtime victory in Game 1, the Sharks have won of 9-of-11 against the Red Wings, including a five-game victory in last year’s conference semifinals. But it’s not as lopsided as it sounds—six of those victories have come by just one goal.
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Sharks [team scope]: Devin Setoguchi said in the morning before Game 1 that the Sharks’ recent success didn’t mean much, but it would mean that if the Wings got on top early, it wouldn’t matter. The Sharks have proven they can beat the Wings in the playoffs, so they wouldn’t hang their heads. He was right. The Sharks got better and better as the game progressed and they eventually tied it on Joe Pavelski’s third-period goal and won it in OT on Benn Ferriero’s tally. They’ll need that same mindset if the Wings bring a more complete effort in Game 2.

“I just expect them to be much better. I don¹t know how they¹re going to change things,” said Boyle. “I don¹t see us getting six power plays again this series. They had some players who were on top of their game, but I just don¹t think they had everybody. Everybody is going to be better.”

Who’s hot: Pavel Datsyuk has 2 goals and 5 assists in 5 games for Detroit. … After failing to register a point in the first two games of the playoffs, Sharks captain Joe Thornton has 2 goals and 4 assists in his last five games.
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Stat pack: Teams that won Game 2 during the first round of these playoffs went 5-3 in their series.

Let’s get this out of the way: Kevin Pollock and Kelly Sutherland will referee today’s game, with Brad Lazarowich and Jay Sharrers working the lines (again).

It’s SanJoseSharks.com’s Tony Khang, oddly enough, that provides us with the Wings’ take on a game Babcock believes the Wings were out-played by a significant margin:

“The score flattered us,” Head Coach Mike Babcock said. “We looked like a team that had been off for a long time. We did everything we could to get going. I thought they skated way better than we did. I thought we weren’t going to skate in the first 10 minutes and we’d get better as the game went on. We can’t do anything unless we can skate and we didn’t skate very good last night.”

The Wings’ players agree with their coach:

“We have to spend more time in their zone,” right wing Johan Franzen said. “We have to come in with more speed. I think we played too much in our end and it’s hard to get into a rhythm.”

“Our main focus is making sure the puck is in deep,” center Darren Helm said. “We have to get in there and play hockey in their zone.”

The Red Wings need to put more pressure on Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi, who made 24 saves. “We can’t be one and done,” left wing Justin Abdelkader said. “We have to get some rebound chances, get in front of him (Niemi) and screen him. That’s going to be important throughout the series.”

Two other things concern the Wings. First, the shots on goal, or as Babcock said, the chances for shots. San Jose had 46 shots – but also 27 shots blocked and 19 missed shots—in the game. Thus, the math shows 92 attempts on goal! “I’m not concerned about their shots as I am with chances,” he said. “They had too many chances.”

That problem will be solved if the Red Wings can keep the puck in the San Jose zone. The strategy is simple. “We’ll be in their zone more and they won’t be in our zone,” Babcock said.

So it’s do unto others before it’s done to you, and focus on your own damn self (you have to be over 30 to get that reference, sorry), as Abdelkader suggested to the Detroit Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp:

When asked if he thought a preoccupation on taking penalties made the Wings a little less aggressive, Babcock empathetically said “No.”

“It’s all on us,” said Abdelkader. “We know that we could have played much better and that we have to play much better. They took it to us. We have to tilt the ice back into our favor. But this is a team that’s been through it so much before that there’s no reason to read more into this than what it is. This is just Game 2 in a seven-game series.”

Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen still aren’t right physically. Babcock thought Pavel Datsyuk and Jiri Hudler were his most punishing forwards in Game 1—not exactly a good sign when they’re your power forwards.

We’ve come to expect energy and physicality from Darren Helm so much so that when we don’t see it—as was the case in Game 1—it stands out. Todd Bertuzzi’s main contribution was a third-period boarding penalty—and, yes, it was a justified call—that led to the Sharks’ game-tying goal on a power play. The Wings will almost certainly throw more traffic at San Jose goalie Antti Niemi than they did in Game 1 when he could have taken a little snooze in the crease during the second period.

But the Sharks have now won eight of their last 10 meetings against the Wings, including five of their last six playoff games. They’re growing more confident that they can answer whatever response the Wings throw at them today.

Babcock was willing to admit that, just as McLellan’s not necessarily rolling his defensive pairs by design, he’d rather have Zetterberg and Datsyuk on separate lines if Zetterberg wasn’t getting back into game shape:

“If Z was totally healthy, if he’d been back for a while, it’d be a different thing,” Babcock said.

Datsyuk’s incredible skill can take some of the pressure off Zetterberg while he recovers. The Sharks opted to use their top line of Joe Thornton, Devin Setoguchi and Patrick Marleau against Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom, along with nearly every defensive pairing. It’s the only way to try to contain the two superstars, the Sharks believe.

“They’re two dynamic players and when you put them together, they’re dangerous all over the ice,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “I thought Pavel himself was maybe the most dangerous player on the ice (Friday), as he is most nights. When they’re together it doesn’t alleviate the pressure from the other lines, but you have one less guy to worry about.”
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Datsyuk was the only Wing to take the option of not joining Saturday’s practice at HP Pavilion, but then he was also one of just two forwards whom Babcock said played well in Friday’s 2-1 overtime loss. The other was Jiri Hudler.

“There was a whole bunch of guys with no hits and no shots and Pav had a whole bunch of shots and a whole bunch of hits,” Babcock said. “Him and Huds were our forwards.”

Babcock doesn’t believe that Johan Franzen’s fully healthy, either, as he told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...

“Not even close,” Babcock said, when asked if the pair was close to 100-percent healthy. “But they’re on their way back.”

Babcock will not split Datsyuk and Zetterberg, who were on a line with Tomas Holmstrom in Game 1, because playing with Datsyuk lessens Zetterberg’s work load, for now. Zetterberg admitted he could be sharper.

“A little rusty, but it was nice to be out there again and fun to be playing a playoff game again,” Zetterberg said. “Definitely can be better.”

And Babcock told Kulfan that he wasn’t quite sure as to whether he’d swap out a forward (think Drew Miller) and add Kris Draper or Mike Modano to the lineup:

“I’m not 100-percent certain,” Babcock said of possible lineup changes. “I haven’t decided yet.”

Babcock does know his team has to be better and more engaged than it was Friday.

“We have to skate first,” Babcock said. “We can’t do anything until get skating. We didn’t skate very well. They skated way better than we did. We looked like a team that had been off for a long time (the Wings hadn’t played in eight days).”

The Wings’ players offered more positive takes on their performance on Friday and the areas upon which they believe they can improve, as they told both Kulfan...

“I don’t think anyone thought we were going to sweep them,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “They’re a good team, too. It’s a race to four (victories). They won (Game 1) and we now have a chance (to win Game 2). We could have had the game-winner as much as they did. We created a lot of chances. Now we refocus and we come back for Game 2.”
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“We have to be better obviously,” Justin Abdelkader said. “They out-shot us and took it to us for a majority of the game. We have to be better and we know we have to be better. It’s just one game.”

The Wings were close in Friday’s game mostly because of the work of goalie Jimmy Howard. Continuing a string of fine playoff performances this spring, Howard made 44 saves and nearly stole a game for the Wings.

“Our goalie was real good,” Babcock said.

Now it’s up to the Wings to take whatever positives there were and apply them to what should be a raucous HP Pavilion. More than anything, the Wings just have to look more like the Red Wings.

“You’re going to have those momentum swings in the playoffs,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We did a lot of good things we can take into the next game. We can be harder on the second chances and create a lot more traffic. He (Niemi) was seeing a lot of shots.”

And the Free Press’s St. James, with whom they were a little more willing to share admissions of shaky points in their game:

“If we skate and help out our D and get back quickly we can get out of our zone easier and skate in their zone and stay in their zone longer,” Danny Cleary said. “I always believe it’s us. It’s never the other team. We’ve got to force the defense to make plays they don’t want to make. Certainly it was a lot harder on our defense than it was theirs in Game 1.”
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“We were sloppy in our own neutral zone and weren’t getting sustained pressure in their zone,” Justin Abdelkader said. “That was a problem for us. We just can’t be one-and-done. We’ve got to get some rebound chances, get in front of [Niemi], screen him. That’s going to be important throughout this series.”

Johan Franzen said he thought they had “some really good chances. We could have scored more goals than one. I thought we had a lot of quality chances, actually,” but that didn’t mesh with Babcock’s assessment.

“I’m not as concerned about the shots as I am about the chances,” Babcock said. “They had too many chances because they just skated better than we did. Their D had the night off and our D is in a grinder. If you put the D in a grinder again and again, pretty soon your team speed is no good, because your team speed comes out of your ability to move the puck. I might be totally wrong, but we’re going to skate way better tomorrow than we did last night. We’ve got to skate. We can’t do anything unless we get skating.”

As Babcock suggests, it’s all about doing unto others before it’s done to you:

“That was some of our success against the first series against Phoenix, getting to their D and making it hard for them to go back and get the puck,” Drew Miller said. “We had some shifts where we were hard on their D, but I don’t think we were hard enough. That’s something we can improve on.”

The Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski believes that the Wings need to be physical in the hard-forechecking, turnover-causing hits that, as he wisely points out, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Danny Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen were issuing in the first round. In doing so, he also reveals the end of Babcock’s statement, which might be the most important comment he made on Saturday:

“We can’t do anything unless we get skating,” Babcock said. “We looked like a team that had been off for a long time. I knew Game 1 was gonna be tough, but when your goalie plays like he did and your D is hanging in there, you got hope. But I’m not big into hope. I like knowing.”

So are the Wings’ players when it comes to penalties, and as I’m a Wings fan first and foremost, I really don’t understand why the media loves to hound every hockey fan (and especially Wings fans) for daring to suggest that referees are ever in error, even if their calls are egregious mistakes—it’s sort of like reading reports about gas prices going up and reading the “experts” insisting that it’s the fault of the consumer for doing stupid things like driving cars—and the Wings do want to know what the hell the standard of officiating might be on a game-to-game basis, but they can’t use it as an excuse, obviously.

Nor can they do anything but adapt to what at least seems like a becoming-obvious theme over the last three playoff runs in that the Wings are used as the example for whatever the NHL might be telling its referees to call on a given evening (or in this case, afternoon). For better or Joe Pavelski’s jerk-your-head-back worse, the Wings have to focus on taking it to the Sharks, though it’s refreshing to hear that they’re as pissed off about this crap as we are:

“You saw the calls, you make the call,” Franzen said. “It’s tough to know what you’re allowed to do out there. You can get your head cut off in one sequence, and then you can blow on someone’s neck and you get a major.”

For the record, there should be no neck-blowing in Game 2. No ear-nibbling, either. The Wings’ forwards must pound the Sharks’ defensemen, which theoretically is San Jose’s weak point. Franzen and Zetterberg aren’t fully healthy yet, that’s apparent, and Datsyuk and Jiri Hudler were the only forwards to earn any praise from Babcock. That doesn’t mean the Wings played poorly overall. I mean, they did lead most of Game 1 on the road.

That’s largely because Howard was excellent, the defensemen were sturdy and Datsyuk was his usual remarkable self. Datsyuk also missed games late in the season with an injury, so if he can skate hard and hit often, how about a few others?

“He’s our leader, and last night he led by, well, doing everything—handling the puck, hitting, finishing checks,” Helm said. “You name it, Pavel did it. We need everybody doing that, no matter who you are.”

Damn straight.

In the video department, via RedWingsFeed, the Wings’ website posted an it’s-so-late-it’s-early “Game Day” feature with Ken Kal, who speaks to Drew Miller, Ruslan Salei and Tomas Holmstrom about today’s must win (for sure):

And if you need something to pump you up for today’s game, or at least make you smile after all this serious talk about today’s must-win affair, Wings social media director Jake Duhaime posted a light-hearted video of the Wings’ players practicing in San Jose and chatting about hockey, video games and goofing around in the locker room:

 

Also of Red Wings-related note: The Free Press’s sports department issues an almost-laugher in suggesting that today’s game is going to be a little painful to watch at times:

The Red Wings and Sharks face off in San Jose for Game 2 of their second-round series. The game is at 3 p.m. on NBC, which, of course, is a double-edged sword for some fans. You know they like their boys being on national TV, but they just don’t trust the network announcers to treat them fairly.

Ahem.

• The Free Press’s Steve Schrader also posted an “Octopus’ garden notebook and mentioned a “souvenir of the week, but if you’re looking for a free one, via the Wings’ Facebook page, Amway’s giving away an autographed puck after every playoff game, in exchange for the usual marketing information, of course;

• In the prospect department, it turns out that Teemu Pulkkinen didn’t make the cut for Finland’s World Championship roster, so Belarus’s Sergei Kolosov, a stay-at-home defenseman, is the only Wings prospect playing in the tournament, and he has 10:20 of unspectacular play to his credit in a 5-1 loss to Canada on Friday;

• Also in the prospect department, Landon Ferraro, who’s turning pro with the Grand Rapids Griffins next fall, made Hockey’s Future’s Glen Erickson’s list of the WHL’s ten best centers, if only barely so:

10. Landon Ferraro, Everett Silvertips: Ferraro burst on to the WHL scene two seasons ago with 37 goals on a Red Deer Rebels team that failed to earn a post-season berth. Despite the lack of team success, the Detroit Red Wings made Ferraro their second round selection at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Following his selection at the draft, an early season knee injury slowed the native of Vancouver, B.C. last season, then hernia surgery this past winter pretty much put a damper on his 201-11 WHL season. Although signed by the Red Wings, the untapped potential during the past two seasons will be remembered in both Red Deer and Everett.

In 41 games with Everett this season, Ferraro scored 10 goals and added 17 assists. Moving forward, Ferraro does have potential to become a high-end skater. He is well-spoken, but on the ice will have to prove he can be a durable performer.

• I’m going to just shrug my shoulders and suggest that Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien’s take on Antti Niemi’s up-and-down play during the playoffs thus far (knock on wood, a “down” is coming today) is an “optional reading” article;

• The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson made a few Wings-related observations and offered a here’s-octopus-in-your-eye comment from Predators coach Barry Trotz in his weekly “Hockey World” column:

The Red Wings have now lost eight of their last 10 games to the Sharks, going back to last spring’s playoffs. That’s not a good sign. They were lucky to get it to OT behind goalie Jimmy Howard on Friday. Other than Pavel Datsyuk up front, most of their big guns created zip.
...
51 Playoff goals for Nicklas Lidstrom, who is third in Red Wings history behind Steve Yzerman and Gordie Howe

And here’s Trotz’s quip, with a questionable framing sentence by Matheson:

Why does nobody in the NHL home office think throwing catfish onto the ice in Nashville is a health hazard like the octopi at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit?

“One of these days, we’re going to collect them all and have a feast afterwards,” said a joking Trotz.

The catfish are easier on the eyes than the eight-legged octopi.

“I remember one time in Detroit, Jordin Tootoo grabbed one off the ice and brought it over to our bench and threw it in the garbage can. The whole place went nuts. Toots said later, ‘You know what I should have done? I should have taken a big bite out of it.”

Yes, health hazard. Let’s go with that.

• And I’ll end with a programming note: I absolutely despise sitting on my hands, figuratively or literally, while news stories roll in, but aside from a “quick take” recap which I’ll try to add to with multimedia and a few quips here and there after today’s Wings-Sharks tilt, it’s very, very difficult for me to write a full recap before Monday morning.

Why? Well, to put it simply and bluntly, the media’s going to file their stories within a few hours of the conclusion of today’s game, but aside from the fact that it’s nearly impossible to write a coherent recap of any sort while stories hit the web and the search engine wires in almost random fashion, the Mercury News doesn’t update its website with stories from the previous day until pretty close to midnight EDT, and the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and MLive won’t post everything related to today’s game until the wee hours of Monday morning.

Believe me, it would be easier for me to cobble together an all-in-one-place recap for you quickly, and I would be much happier doing so for both the sake of not sitting on information (which drives me nuts), seeming like I’m lazy (see the previous parenthetical comment) or not having to stay up until 5 AM on Monday and then pop right back up at 11 or so because the Wings and Sharks may very well be practicing at Joe Louis Arena at that time.

Things just don’t work out that way, however, so I’m sorry in advance for leaving stuff on the table. I hate afternoon games for both the, “The Wings tend not to show up before 7:30 PM Eastern Time” reason and the fact that I spend an evening gritting my teeth as all the notes and quotes come in, but there’s nothing I can do about the fact that the full story from the Wings’ perspective won’t be revealed until Monday morning.

If you’re keeping score at home, thus the title of this entry, which is a lyric listed from the Tragically Hip’s “Twist My Arm.”

Update: MLive’s Ansar Khan posted stories about Babcock’s points of emphasis and a notebook which includes two interesting tidbits:

Brad Stuart believes the shot discrepancy, 46-25 for San Jose, was misleading.

“They had a couple of flurries where they had a bunch of shots, kind of padded the total,” Stuart said. “But I don’t think overall we were really giving up a whole lot.”
...
The Red Wings realize they must limit their penalties (they had two power plays to San Jose’s six).

“Just have to be a little smarter,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “You can argue (about the calls) however much you want but the game is history. We have to be a little smarter next game to get away from the penalties.”

• Mark Malinowski’s interview with former Wing and long-time Islanders coach Al Arbour is just plain weird...

• And, according to the Wings’ Twitter account, it’s Patrick Eaves’ birthday today.

• One more update, via RedWingsFeed: It’s McLellan versus Babcock, analyzed by the NHL Network’s Rob Simpson and Bill Clement:

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Rdwings28's avatar

good morning George. Go Wings.

Posted by Rdwings28 on 05/01/11 at 09:19 AM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

“Tonight…....we .....shut….them…......down….....Because we CAN!” Herb Brooks.

Posted by Rdwings28 on 05/01/11 at 10:07 AM ET

CC Moor's avatar

George thanks for your report and all good stuff.  I am always intrigued by stats that involved “expected probabilities” based on past events.  E.g., your noting that of 83 playoff series since the lock-out, the winner of Game 1 is 55-28, so now there is at least a two-thirds likelihood the Sharks win the series.  I also read last year that in the NHL, the last several years, the team that scores first wins 70% of the time.

Thus the importance of starting well, and to state the obvious, whether the odds of winning decrease to one in four or more like the historical one in sixteen after being down 0-2, the Wings would be in a very tough spot, losing again here today.

Similar to this kind of data, I wonder, do you have any knowledge of what is the winning percentage of teams that get penalized LESS, than their more-penalized opponent?  I’d love to see that stat, as my guess is, in any infividual game, the lesser-penalized team wins by a BIG margin, more so than the 70% victory likelihood to whoever scores first.  I have to guess it is more like 80% if not 90%. 

Proving Mike Babcock’s thesis that they have to stay out of the box.  Look forward to your wrap-up after the game George and thanks!

Posted by CC Moor from Washington DC on 05/01/11 at 10:24 AM ET

Avatar

You know, one of the hundreds of reasons I’ve always loved the Wings so much is that we’ve always been above the diving and embellishing that other teams so lovingly embrace…

But after Friday night, I’m starting to think maybe we need to just get with the times and we’ll get more calls. Clowe’s hit on Abdelkader (he hit him square in the numbers) in the first period was far worse than Bert’s shoulder to shoulder hit on Pavelski…but no call on Clowe, and I can only imagine it’s because Abby got right back up and re-joined the play, whereas Pavelski looked like he was having a seizure.

He dove on the Hudler penalty too.

Hopefully someone instructs the officials to look for diving for once, or we start doing what we need to get a few more calls, because in a fairly played game, we’re the better team.

Posted by Erinabeth on 05/01/11 at 10:51 AM ET

WingsFanInBeanLand's avatar

Hopefully someone instructs the officials to look for diving for once, or we start doing what we need to get a few more calls, because in a fairly played game, we’re the better team.

I know it’s beneath the man to do so because he’s the epitome of a classy hockey player, but Lids should go up to the refs today and whisper in their ear, “Watch how they dive.” and just skate away.

Would they ignore him or would they head the advice of the best player of the past 20 years?

Posted by WingsFanInBeanLand from where free agents no longer dare. on 05/01/11 at 11:53 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Agreed about the diving.  I do wish someone would call them out, but I don’t expect that to happen.

And the Wings need to be all over Pavelski today.  He was a burr in the Wings’ hides during last year’s playoff series too.  So… Wings… if you get close to him, nail the SOB!  You’re going to get a penalty if you so much as breathe on him anyway, right?

I mean, keep your sticks down and all that, but if you’re going to take a penalty, make it a good one.  Their power play sucks.

LET’S GO RED WINGS !!!!!

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/01/11 at 02:23 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

This:

That problem will be solved if the Red Wings can keep the puck in the San Jose zone. The strategy is simple. “We’ll be in their zone more and they won’t be in our zone,” Babcock said.

+19,000 this

L.G.R.W.

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 05/01/11 at 02:37 PM ET

calquake's avatar

You’ve got little to nothing to lose by diving.  How many times have you seen only diving called?  It usually ends up, if it’s called, that both parties go off.  Diving should be called as a stand-alone penalty.

Posted by calquake on 05/01/11 at 03:30 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Similar to this kind of data, I wonder, do you have any knowledge of what is the winning percentage of teams that get penalized LESS, than their more-penalized opponent?  I’d love to see that stat, as my guess is, in any infividual game, the lesser-penalized team wins by a BIG margin, more so than the 70% victory likelihood to whoever scores first.  I have to guess it is more like 80% if not 90%.

I don’t know that stat. I’m sure that it’s high, at least in the 2/3rds range.

As for the diving issue?

Have no fear, if it continues today, Babcock will make another, “You’re from Western Canada, don’t pull that crap” observation about someone other than Devin Setoguchi, and the Wings will push the refs in some shape or form.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/01/11 at 04:29 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.