The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/11/11 at 07:36 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings evened their second-round series with the San Jose Sharks at 3 wins apiece via a decisive 3-1 victory on Tuesday which was dominated in almost every aspect by the Wings, save the game’s first goal, anyway, and just as the Wings have rattled off three straight wins and appear to have a competitive edge over their opponents heading into the winner-take-all Game 7 on Thursday (9 PM EDT, FSD/CSN Bay Area/Versus/TSN/WXYT), the Wings have also shifted the tone of the series—from a grinding slate of games punctuated by moments of furious scoring or physical play which characterize the Sharks’ identity to the the sort of calm, controlled aggression and sustained stretches of puck possession, coming in almost endless and sometimes relentless waves, that is nothing more than nothing less than forcing an opponent to play the Red Wings’ game.
The Wings peppered Antti Niemi with 44 shots (the Wings’ 45th shot went into an empty net) and “won” every statistical category save faceoffs, asserting themselves as a team that won’t be denied, but as the Sharks have merely exhausted their margin for error, they spoke defiantly about their chances of advancing to the Western Conference Finals by winning a single game, as the London Free Press’s Morris Dalla Costa noted:
“The No. 2 and 3 seeded team, you expect a seven-game series,” said Sharks centre Joe Thornton.
Even when you take a 3-0 lead?
“I’m sure you guys will write about history,” said Sharks centre Logan Couture. “But I’m not thinking about it and I don’t think any other player in this dressing room is thinking of history. We have one game to save our season and we’d better play better than we did (Tuesday.)”
The Sharks argued what the Wings might have had if they’d been out-shot as badly as Detroit was on Sunday—that they can shrug off a one-sided loss and regroup, as Douglas Murray suggested to NHL.com’s Dave Lozo:
“You can’t take much out of this game other than Nemo was great,” Sharks defenseman Doug Murray said. “We put up an embarrassing effort. It’s nothing to do with X’s and O’s. It’s about whatever it takes to get yourself ready. We weren’t skating, we weren’t making quick plays, we weren’t doing anything right.’‘
Despite all that, Logan Couture gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 3:54 of the third period. After goaltender Jimmy Howard, who made 24 saves and wasn’t tested all that much, stopped a shot from Dany Heatley, the rebound popped into the air, where Couture quickly deflected it through Howard’s legs. The puck crossed the goal line by just inches, but a video replay confirmed it was a good goal. But for the second game in a row, a goal by Couture woke up the Red Wings.
Now the Sharks are the team facing a true test, much like the Vancouver Canucks were after wasting a 3-0 lead during the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks before a dramatic overtime win in Game 7. Sharks captain Joe Thornton said the last thing anyone in his dressing room is thinking about is pressure.
“Just ask Detroit—they lost three in a row and their confidence wasn’t frayed,” Thornton said. “We’re a confident group, still. You work 82 games to get home ice in these Game 7s. Now we just have to make it work.”
Thornton basically brushed off the defeat while praising Niemi’s work in his all-too-casual manner while speaking to NHL.com’s Brian Hedger....
“He played super,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. “He gave us a chance to win. We just couldn’t win it, but it was just a fantastic performance.”
Did they think he was about to swipe another one from the confounded Red Wings?
“Yeah, when a goalie plays like that you do,” Thornton said. “You score that goal (by Logan Couture in the third) and you thought it might be enough, but it wasn’t, so whatever.”
And the normally quiet Niemi suggested that the game was mor or less business as usual:
“I felt pretty good today, so I want to keep doing that (in Game 7),” Niemi said. “Everything affects how you see the puck. How they play, how our (defensemen) play, so I think those things went pretty well.”
“It’s kind of easier when you get shots all the time,” he said. “You stay in the game. You don’t have time to think about it.”
“We’ve got to have more energy in our home rink,” said Niemi, who admitted it felt like they’d steal Game 6 when leading with 10 minutes left. “You never know what’s going to happen. It’s one game and I think we’re able to win one game. I don’t think it’s anything too big. It’s great to get a game at home and I think we’ll be better. We have the puck more at home, so I think it’s a big advantage for us.”
Niemi went a step further while speaking to the Detroit News’s Tom Markowski:
“I don’t know if they played that well or we didn’t play that well,” Niemi said
“You just never know what happens (in a Game 7),” Niemi said. “It comes down to one game.”
“You work hard all year to get home ice in these (Game 7) games,” he said.
Logan Couture suggested the same to NHL.com’s Hedger:
“It’s tough to lose three straight, especially with a chance to put ‘em out every time,” said Couture, who despite scoring the lone San Jose goal was also on the ice for the goals by Zetterberg and Filppula. “But they’re a tough team. Coming in, we expected it to be a seven-game series. So, it doesn’t matter which way the wins go: three and three. We’ve still got one game to play for the season.”
“We didn’t play very good,” Couture said. “The score should’ve been 5-1 or 6-1. ‘Nemo’ gave us a chance to steal one and we let him down. So, we’re gonna have to move on from this. We’ve got one way to save our season – to continue to play. I know no one in this room that wants to end their season next game, so we better fight a lot harder than we did tonight.”“
Sharks coach Todd McLellan wasn’t exactly delighted with his team’s play, telling the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch that he had a simple message for his team:
“I just told them let’s get out of here quick,” said McLellan after a 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 6 Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“The performance was disappointing,” said McLellan. “One team skated. The other team did not skate at all and that was pretty evident right through the first two periods. We’re fortunate our goaltender even gave us a chance to be remotely involved in the game in the third period. From that perspective it’s disappointing.”
Nonetheless, McLellan suggested that his team was in pretty decent shape while speaking to USA Today’s Kevin Allen...
“We could be in the exact same situation as we are right now by winning one, losing one, winning one, losing one ...” McLellan said. “It doesn’t matter how we got here. It really doesn’t. What matters is how it ends.”
So after McLellan got his complaints out of his system, as noted by Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Ray Ratto (who says that Ryane Clowe ‘s upper-body injury will be “reevaluated” by the team’s doctors on Wednesday and Thursday)...
“Ahead in the third period?” the Sharks coach said when asked to refer to Logan Couture’s goal at 3:54 and how it might have resembled the leads they blew in Game 5. “We were very fortunate to still be in the game in the third period. We could have been down 4-0 or 5-0.”
[T]he Sharks did have their lead, on a neat little goal by Couture not quite four minutes into the third period. He followed a Dany Heatley shot with a seemingly pedestrian shot at Jimmy Howard, San Jose’s 16th of the night, that trickled between the goalie’s leg pads and just barely over the line. It needed a long look from the gargoyles in Toronto who review all dubious goals, but they saw what the goal judge did not—that the Sharks had defied the run of play and taken a 1-0 lead.
And that was the end of San Jose’s highlight reel. Detroit regained the play and kept it through the auspices of third-line center Valtteri Filppula. He created one goal with a 100-foot rush and a pass to defenseman Niklas Kronwall at the top of the right circle that Henrik Zetterberg deflected home at 10:38. Then he scored the game-winner himself by standing in the way of a Couture clearing attempt, finding the magnificent Pavel Datsyuk who in turn found him at the side of an open net (Niemi failed Tuesday to consistently be in four places at once) for the winner at 12:32.
“That was a bad play by me,” Couture said, owning up to the painfully evident. “I was trying to put it up the boards and have Mitchie (Torrey Mitchell) skate onto it, and I put it right to (Filppula). That can’t happen in the playoffs. I wish I could go back and do it again differently.”
Dany Heatley and the Sharks suggested that they simply need to throw out the game tape and get back to playing Sharks hockey, as he told the Free Press’s George Sipple...
“Obviously, we deserved what we got,” said Sharks forward Dany Heatley. “We didn’t play hard enough. They played harder than us in most areas. Nemo held us in for most of the game, obviously. We gotta win—bottom line—Game 7, at home in front of our fans. We just gotta go back to winning battles, doing what we do well. We know what makes us successful. We gotta get back to it.”
And McLellan would neither suggest that Patrick Marleau’s disappointed him, as noted by the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran…
“We need him to play effectively, shift in shift out. I think there’s more there. I know that he knows there’s more there. We’ve got to find a way to get it out of him,” said the coach. “He’s going to have the stage now. A lot of our players will have the stage in Game 7. We’ve been taught a lot of lessons along the way. The stage will be theirs. It’s an opportunity for them to answer the bell.”
Nor that the Sharks’ players have anything less than more than enough to draw upon in terms of mental and physical reserves, as noted by Sportsline’s A.J. Perez…
“As far as confidence goes, each player has a toolkit, a skillset (and) a commitment level he has to bring to the rink,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said.
Nor that the Sharks have anything less than an advantage in their back pocket, as he told the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts...
“A lot of you asked before the series what home ice meant,” he said. “I guess we’ll find out now. The stage will be theirs. It’s an opportunity to answer the bell.”
Simply put, the Sharks told their website’s staff that they’ll be heading home and to deliver a full-value performance in front of their paying fans:
“We worked hard to get it at home,” Couture said. “We have the home ice advantage. Our crowd is going to be loud. We’re going to need a better effort than we had tonight. One game at home and we’re looking forward to having a chance to step up and continue to play.”
San Jose is in the exact same spot their potential opponent in the next round was in during Round 1. Vancouver led the series 3-0 before Chicago captured three straight to tie things up. Vancouver used a home Game 7 to eventually prevail.
“It’s too bad we didn’t finish tonight, but we’re going to try and do it in front of our home fans,” Thornton said. “You work 82 games to get home ice for these Game 7’s, now we have to make it work.”
“Anybody that’s been in our building understands the noise level and the rabid fans that we have,” McLellan said. “The support level we get in San Jose is remarkable. We’ll have it in Game 7 and we’ll have to make sure they leave the rink happy. That is our job.”
Just as the Red Wings never lost their confidence after the losing three straight, the Sharks know a similar effort to Game 5 could bring a victory and put the last three contests behind them.
“Just ask Detroit, they lost three in a row and their confidence wasn’t (lost). We’re a confident group,” Thornton said.
Aside from Ratto, only the Mercury News’s Mark Purdy raised alarm regarding the Sharks’ situation, despite Joe Pavelski’s protestations to the contrary:
“I think you saw how, in the last two games, home teams came out and skated really well,” Pavelski said. “No one’s giving up yet.”
The Sharks also have a pretty good record through the years in Game 7 decisions, winning four of the six in franchise history. Pavelski thinks the team can draw on that. “We want everything on our side that we can get. But regardless, we’ve got to play the game. And it’s going to be a fun one,” he said.
Hmmmm. Let’s revisit that thought come Friday morning, shall we? But at least Game 7 is at The Tank. During the regular season, the Sharks finished ahead of Detroit in the Western Conference standings by just one point—the margin of one overtime or shootout victory. And because of that one point, the Sharks will be playing at home Thursday night.
All those things people have said over the years—that the Sharks have lacked a killer instinct to get them over the hump into the Stanley Cup finals (guilty here)—will come back into play. When the Sharks made it to the conference finals a year ago, they thought those demons had been vanquished. Hi, there, demons. You’re back. With a Thursday 6 p.m. faceoff. One more chance not to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
For the Sharks themselves, however, and again, via the Mercury News’s David Pollak, bygones are bygones, and any talk of “demons” simply doesn’t matter:
“There’s no doubt in my mind and there shouldn’t be any doubt in any of the players’ minds,” Couture said. “I’m sure there’s doubt in the media or whatever, but that’s the outside world.”
In the “out-of-towners” category, The Hockey News’s staff, Yahoo Sports’ Joe Yerdon, Sports Illustrated’s Adrian Dater, TSN’s Scott Cullen, Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski, who posted a recap and notes that three teams that have rallied from 3-0 deficits have lost Game 7’s in his “3 stars,” all weigh in…But I’ll make an exception for the, “I’d prefer to let the players tell the story” policy because I have to show you this: as it turns out, as Wyshynski notes, once Joe Thornton got that nasty no-look shoulder in on Pavel Datsyuk, he made sure that Thornton knew who he was hitting:
The AP’s Noah Trister allows us to shift focus from the Sharks’ side of the story to the Wings’ version of events...
“I think you have to believe all the time, whatever the score is, even if you’re behind, that you can come back,” Filppula said. “Believing we can, it’s definitely a big part of it.”
San Jose must defend home ice to avoid becoming the fourth NHL team to lose a best-of-seven series after leading 3-0. Logan Couture scored early in the third period for the Sharks, but Zetterberg tied it with 9:22 remaining, and Filppula scored the winner with 7:28 left. Darren Helm added an empty-net goal. Every other game in the series was decided by one goal.
“I didn’t think we should have been down 0-3, we could have won them all, so could they,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “That’s how tight this has been. Not much to pick between the teams.”
Detroit scored the last three goals of Game 5 to win 4-3. The Red Wings are the second team this season to erase a 3-0 series hole. Chicago did it in the first round before losing Game 7 at Vancouver. Philadelphia came all the way back last year in the second round, winning the final four games against Boston. Those recent successes make the task now seem much less daunting.
“One of the things we’re fortunate to have is the leadership and the calmness of the guys who are a bit older,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “They have been around. There’s no panic at any time. We just stuck to the game plan for 60 minutes. That’s the only way you can do it. If you don’t believe, then you’re done.”
The Red Wings spent most of their time with the media alternating between insisting that they never stopped believing in themselves and repeating their positive, calm and collected individual and collective mindsets to the game. Jimmy Howard, who stopped 24 of the 25 shots he faced over three periods, but gave up a goal on the 12 he faced in the third, told the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch that the team simply wasn’t fazed when a 32-13 shot advantage after 2 periods disappeared into a 1-0 deficit on the scoreboard:
“Nobody felt bad about being down (1-0). We weren’t about to hang our heads either,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, who only faced 25 shots. “We just kept fighting, we stuck to our game plan. We kept getting pucks in and we were finally able to get a couple. This team has worked extremely hard here and nobody was feeling bad about being down 3-0 in the series. Even though we were down 3-0, there was still confidence around this team. We just looked around the room and went to work for each other.”
Danny Cleary agreed, as he told NHL.com’s Dave Lozo:
“We didn’t get frustrated even when they went ahead,” Danny Cleary said.
“It shows that we don’t give up,” Lidstrom said. “We didn’t open ourselves up defensively. We tried to go after them even more. It paid off for us. We’re getting pucks at the net at the tight time. We got guys there for tips and screen and rebounds. It was a hard fought game for us.’‘
After winning three consecutive games that might as well be Game 7s, they’ll play a true Game 7 on Thursday night in San Jose. The Sharks say they’re confidence isn’t rattled. The Red Wings are showing they’re confidence is doing just fine.
“You’d be lying if you didn’t think about (the history),” Cleary said. “We believed that we can and that’s the one thing. If you believe you really, really can, and you’re just not kidding, yourself then you’ve got a chance.”
“It would be a tremendous feeling to come out on top,” Howard said. “But there’s still a game to be played. It’s probably going to be just as close a game as the first six games have been.”
Before the Wings broke down the game, however, they pointed out that they’d approached their 0-3 series deficit in piecemeal fashion, as Nicklas Lidstrom told ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, who painted the Wings’ status in NHL history already in stark terms…
Teams that forced Game 7 after trailing series 3-0 (Stanley Cup playoff history)
2011 - Red Wings vs. Sharks (result ???)
2011 - Blackhawks vs. Canucks (Chicago lost Game 7)
2010 - Flyers vs. Bruins (Flyers won Game 7)
1975 - Islanders vs. Flyers (Isles lost Game 7)
1975 - Islanders vs. Penguins (Isles won Game 7)
1945 - Red Wings vs. Maple Leafs (Wings lost Game 7)
1942 - Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings (Leafs won Game 7)
1939 - Rangers vs. Bruins (Rangers lost Game 7)
And the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, who snagged the full quote:
Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, “The pressure has been on this whole team. We’ve been taking the one-game at-a-time approach since we were down 3-0 and that’s going to be our same approach for Game 7. We’ve just got to go out there and win one game. That’s it. That’s totally our approach. We can’t relax because every game has been so tight and so close. We’re not done yet. That’s going to be the same approach for Game 7.”
The Wings vacillated between their own extremes, as noted by the Sporting News’s Craig Custance...
“We’re not worried about putting something in history. That’s not what we’re here for,” Red Wings forward Dan Cleary said. “We’re here to win a game. We’re here to move on. We all know we want to win at the end.”
It’s about Stanley Cups, we know that. But by carving a story for the ages, this one has the potential to be more special than some of the rest. The fans in Detroit felt it. With 9.5 seconds left, and the outcome settled, a frenzied Joe Louis crowd cheered as the lyrics “California, California, here we come!” blared over speakers. The Red Wings were headed back to San Jose for Game 7 on Thursday. Usually it’s Eminem or Kid Rock firing them up, not theme music from The O.C. But it was fitting. They were witnessing history. Potentially, at least.
“It was fantastic,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “You know what? I don’t think it’s been as loud since I got here.”
“We haven’t really done anything yet,” Zetterberg said. “It’s first to four. You have to go in and play a good Game 7 and win that. If we don’t do that, no one will remember us.”
And the CBC’s series blogger:
“We still believe,” Wings centre Pavel Datsyuk said. “Simple as that.”
“That’s the only way you can do it,” Kronwall said. “If you don’t believe, then you’re done.”
Added Cleary: “We believe that we can. That’s the one thing. If you believe you really, really can, if you’re not kidding yourself, then you’ve got a chance. Experience is a factor for sure, but we’ve got a lot of will and a lot of skill. Beyond that, we’ve got a good team, a good structure. We believe in each other. Everybody likes each other, respects each other. For us, being down 3-0, we believed in ourselves, believed we’d get to Game 7.”
That’s all well and good, but just as the media was quick to record and then type out the players’ exclamations, the game involved more than its fair share of expletives from a Wings fan’s perspective. Minus Johan Franzen (ankle) and Kris Draper (healthy scratch), and with Mike Modano and Jiri Hudler playing around ten minutes (Modano cleared ten and made an impact with 3 shots and a 6-and-3 faceoff record in only 9:03 of ice time, while Hudler registered 2 hits but was a -1 and took a penalty in 10:22 of ice time), the Wings roared out on the shot clock, but not the scoreboard, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted:
They owned the game from the start, outshooting the Sharks, 11-2, midway through the first period. Howard had to make a close save when Benn Ferriero got in on a breakaway, one of just six shots the Sharks got all period.
“We started real well tonight, we were on top of them from the get-go,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
For all their work, the Wings couldn’t get anything past Niemi. He made 18 saves in the opening 20 minutes, four fewer than the 22 shots he faced all of Game 5.
Danny Cleary nearly made it 1-0 in the second period, when he erupted out of the penalty box having served a call on Datsyuk, caught the puck and sped off, veering to the left. Cleary had a good chunk of open net after deking, only to bang the puck off the post.
“That would have haunted me for the whole summer, I think,” Cleary said. “I thought it was the right move. The puck just moved an inch.”
Instead, Logan Couture scored 3 minutes and 54 seconds into the 3rd period, and the Wings had to respond—in the form of Valtteri Filppula, as St. James duly noted:
Filppula did a great job setting up Zetterberg’s goal, carrying the puck into San Jose’s zone, turning around Jason Demers and finding Niklas Kronwall, whose shot was deflected glove side.
“I just feel good that we won,” Filppula said. “That’s the main thing. During these games when we’re winning, it doesn’t matter who gets the goals. I’m happy to help the team. That’s good.”
On his own goal, Filppula kicked the puck out to Pavel Datsyuk and went to the net, dropping to one knee in the left face-off circle as he flicked in Datsyuk’s pass.
“Yeah, it was a really good pass,” Filppula said. “That’s the way he plays. He makes those really amazing plays. When you’re out there with him, there’s always a chance you’re going to get it. Luckily it went in.”
Datsyuk, a close friend of Filppula, said, “he played well today. He every game play better and better, more confidence. Today he just like leadership and he play well. That’s why he scored on the assist. He just control whole puck whole game.”
Before the game, Wings coach Mike Babcock called Filppula out, and, as the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky noted, Babcock was satisfied with the result of his message-sending:
“He was excellent,” Babcock said. “He was a guy we needed more from. He’s an important guy for us and he hadn’t had a point in this series. I am sure he feels good about himself now and that’s going to help us in Game 7.”
Filppula set up the winner with a strong defensive play at center ice, then worked a pretty 2-on-1 with Pavel Datsyuk. He intercepted a pass from Logan Couture.
“He shot it at me and it stung a bit in my hand,” Filppula said. “I was just glad to get it.”
Filppula passed the puck off to a streaking Pavel Datsyuk. With the Sharks caught up ice, Filppula sped to the net, received Datsyuk’s pass and buried a shot on the short side to give the Red Wings a 2-1 lead.
Datsyuk did indeed get credit for the play, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted...
“(Datsyuk) has got that long stick, so he lays it out farther than the D thinks it’s going to go and that’s how he’s able to get it over,” Cleary said. “And he buried it and here we are, Game 7.”
The play prompted Sharks coach Todd McLellan to say of Datsyuk: “If he isn’t the best player in the world, he’s got to be in the top three.”
Filppula stepped up in the absence of Johan Franzen (sore ankle). If Franzen can’t play Thursday, the Red Wings could use a similar effort from Filppula.
“We know what he can do for us, both offensively and defensively,” team captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “I think he’s that hard of a player to play against. He can protect the puck, he can hang onto the puck. He can make you work hard, whether you’re on the offensive or defensive side. We’ve had different guys step up at different moments in different games in this series. This time, it was Fil’s turn. He had a great game offensively and defensively, making things happen.”
Again, Babcock was pleased with Filppula’s performance, as DetroitRedWings.com’s Jeff Sanford noted…
“I thought he was excellent,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, referring to Filppula. “He’s a guy we need more from, and he really stepped up tonight. He made some good plays. I thought on the goal, he kicked it out to (Pavel) Datsyuk then drove to the far post, I thought it was a great play by him. He was an important guy for us. He hadn’t scored in the series, and he probably feels great about himself, which is great as we prepare for Game 7.”
But it wasn’t all dekes and dangles, either. The Wings out-hit the Sharks 30 to 27 and have actually out-hit the Sharks for the vast majority of the series. As DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose points out, whether it was Tomas Holmstrom pulling a Marian Gaborik somersault when he was tossed head-over-heels by Torrey Mitchell, or whether it was the Sharks—Mitchell and Thornton included—trying to goad Datsyuk into fighting or piling onto Jimmy Howard with only 10 seconds left in the game, Tuesday night’s tilt was tremendously physically charged:
“Well I just think that’s the way it’s going to be,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “The longer you get in a series, more emotions come out and the more physical it will get.”
Another big hit occurred on the first period when San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray wrapped Danny Cleary head-first into the dashboards near the Sharks’ bench. Cleary skated back to the bench, where it looked as if he was a little woozy.
“Yeah it was physical,” Cleary said. “Both teams realized what was at stake. San Jose knows if you go seven it’s anybody’s game while we’re just fighting for our lives. It was a big win for us, to say the least.”
But the bottom line for the Wings was simple—keep shooting, keep pressing, keep utilizing puck possession and those waves of pressure to eventually break through Niemi, as the Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski noted…
“You don’t really have any choice,” Zetterberg said. “And I think we’ve been there many times. Many times we made the other goalie look really good. You just keep going, keep going.”
“You just keep pouring shots on, and you’re gonna score,” Danny Cleary said. “We kept saying, ‘We can do this. Pressure, pressure, shoot, shoot.’ And the crowd was amazing. I think that’s the loudest I’ve heard the Joe since I’ve been here.”
The result gave Wojnowski cause for a slightly uncharacteristic level of bluster…
A series that had shifted suddenly now suddenly has shifted back, with the Wings doing all the skating, and the Sharks just trying to hang in. When the Wings pulled off that 4-3 miracle in Game 5 in San Jose, they were outshot 42-22. Jimmy Howard saved them in that one. Niemi was trying to save the Sharks in this one.
Attrition? That’s what it is, always. It’s what makes the Stanley Cup playoffs brutally and consistently great. Both teams were missing power forwards with injuries — Johan Franzen for Detroit and Ryane Clowe for San Jose. Both teams were skating with an assortment of other wounds, from damaged limbs to battered prides. The Wings shook off their wounds and inflicted a crushing one on the Sharks. Anything can happen in a Game 7, but the way the Wings played on this night, you have to think history is calling.
And the Free Press’s Michael Rosenberg, for once, offers a spot-on analysis of how the game seemed to be unfolding from the seats that people pay for or all but float upon while watching at home:
This looked like a classic devastating playoff loss: Dominate the game, give up an infuriating goal and lose. The Sharks’ Logan Couture poked the puck between Jimmy Howard’s legs, and it barely trickled over the line for the goal. It was a goal by ... 1 inch? Two? It couldn’t have been more than 3. And the Red Wings seemed doomed.
But this is what we have discovered during this wonderful, impossible three-game stretch: These Wings never think they are doomed. They just keep hammering away.
“What do you mean, don’t give up?” Pavel Datsyuk asked afterward. “Never give up.”
So what were they thinking when they had less than 10 minutes to score a goal to save their season?
“We’re telling ourselves, ‘Stick to the game plan. Don’t open ourselves up defensively,’ ” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Said Wings coach Mike Babcock: “You say to yourself, and say to the guys: ‘Stay poised, stay calm. We did a ton of good things.’”
And, as the Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp accurately suggests, it’s only going to get more nerve-wracking from here on out:
“It is about not stopping believing in ourselves,” said Valterri Filppula, who re-emerged from the offensively vanishing at the right time, setting up the tying goal and then scoring the game-winner nearly 12 1/2 minutes into the third period. “We never once thought that we didn’t have a chance at coming back. And now that we’ve got it back to 3-3, we have to keep the same mind-set that we took into the last three games. We still have to play with a sense of desperation because we still have one more game to go to win four.”
If a playoff series ever deserved a Game 7, this was it. Two evenly matched foes. Five games decided by a single goal, the sixth with an empty-netter. Both goalies tapping into the supernatural, inspiring shock and awe with amazing saves when nothing else would suffice. Bodies colliding. Emotions spilling. The late tension through every game proved so numbing that the NHL could have made a fiscal killing selling oxygen at the concessions. Forget for a moment any parochialism. If you’re simply a fan of the drama that comprises playoff hockey, how could you not want a decisive final game with the stakes equally high for both teams?
“The intensity of these games has been incredible,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It’s been a great series, an emotional series, and now it’ll all come down to one game.”
The pressure was on the Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Despite their constricting feeling around their throats, the Sharks still could afford one more loss. But now the noose is firmly pressed against the San Jose collars. The Sharks could become the fourth team in Stanley Cup playoff history to blow a series after taking a 3-0 lead. Boston had the most recent collapse—a year ago in the Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia. The Bruins choked away a 3-0 lead, losing the next four. But they got vindication this year, appropriately finishing off the Flyers in a four-game sweep. Does anyone in Boston really care about that choke 12 months later? It’s unlikely.
“I still think there’s just as much pressure on us than there is on them,” Filppula said. “You don’t want to come this far and not finish it. But I’m sure it’s going to be another great game, another close one.”
And it wouldn’t have been close, despite the shot totals, without Howard doing the job that’s put so many goalies in Detroit on a fast train or plane out of town—stay focused, stay with the puck, watch it as the Wings dazzle and dangle with it on the blades of their sticks, and oh yeah, by the way, stop it when the other team comes your way, as Howard told MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“(Niemi) was getting absolutely peppered down at the other end, just making save after save, and I was going through periods of time without seeing pucks,” Howard said. “It was key for me to keep focusing on the puck no matter where it was on the ice surface, not losing sight of it. So when they had the opportunity, my mind was in the right place.”
As Howard suggested to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, the Wings’ collective mindset was in the right place, too…
“We kept our poise,” Howard said. “We kept at it.”
But all their toil brings the Wings closer to nothing than a coin flip whose outcome they hope to influence, as Danny Cleary told the Macomb Daily’s Pleiness:
“We’ve got a lot of will and a lot of skill, combine that and you’ve got a good team,” Cleary said. “We believe in each other in this room. For us, being down 3-0, we believed in ourselves that we could get this to a Game 7. You’d be lying if you didn’t think about (the history),” Cleary said. “We believed that we can and that’s the one thing. If you believe you really, really can, and you’re just not kidding yourself then you’ve got a chance.”
Babcock made sure to point out that, if the skate was on the other foot, the Wings might feel the same way that the Sharks do, as he told the Free Press’s St. James...
Coach Mike Babcock: “I didn’t think we should have been down 0-3. We could have won them all. So could they. That’s how tight this has been.”
As Cleary suggested, it’s only now that the Wings are starting to think about history—as in making it—which is what Howard told the Detroit News’s Kulfan...
“How can you not?” said Howard of allowing himself the chance to think about making a historic comeback. “I’ve thought about it since we were down 3-0. It’s down to one game. It should be a lot of fun.”
But the Wings remain grounded and calm very specifically because they’ve had so many players who’ve experienced the highs and lows of playoff victories and defeats, as Howard told Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji...
“I think it comes from the leadership within the dressing room,” Howard said. “You look around the room, you look at Kris Draper, you look at Nick Lidstrom, you look at Pavel, you look at Z (Henrik Zetterberg), you look at Rafi (Brian Rafalski) . . . you look at these guys, and they all have that calmness across their face. You know they’re all relishing the moment and having fun, and I think it just trickles down throughout the whole team.”
And Niklas Kronwall told the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff:
“One of the things we’re fortunate to have is the leadership and the calmness of the guys who are a bit older,” Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall said. “They have been around. There’s no panic at any time.”
They believe. Simple as that.
“That’s the only way you can do it,” Kronwall said. “If you don’t believe, then you’re done.”
The Wings believe, to the point of mild disgust whenDatsyuk was asked about the Wings’ resolve, as noted by the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell:
“It’s simple, both good teams that play same hockey, almost similar hockey, just more passion, more working,” said Datsyuk of how Detroit has fashioned this historic opportunity to become the fourth team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven.
When asked by a reporter how the Wings managed to avoid giving up after such a difficult start to the series, Datsyuk nearly took the lumber out for some post-game scrumming.
“What do you mean?” Datsyuk said. “Don’t give up? What locker-room you come to? Never give up.”
Indeed, different Wings have stepped up at different times in each of these three straight wins. However, the one common theme that’s emerging is Detroit has had a superior will to win in the third period of each of these games.
“The season was on the line,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “You don’t want your summer to start. We found ways to get playing. We scratched and clawed our way back.”
Now they’re even, as Filppula told NHL.com’s Lozo...
Q: What does this second straight comeback win say about your team?
A: I think it tells you a lot. We have a really good group. We’ve been playing better every game since th e playoffs have been going on. That’s the main thing. Hopefully we can keep it going for one more game this series.
Now what? Well, the Wings chose to stay home overnight to a) rest, b) avoid the $2,500 fine for landing at San Jose International Airport after 10:30 PM local time and c) because Red Bird II ferried the Tigers to Minneapolis, and won’t arrive back in Detroit until 8 AM or so, but once they get on the plane, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun has an inkling as to what both the players and their general manager will be talking about:
“Listen, we’ve got a group that’s won together, we’ve got a good core here and been together a long time,” Cleary said in a pumped-up dressing room. “The thing is, we weren’t kidding ourselves; we really felt we could do this. We focused on one game, not thinking we had to win four. Just win one, win one, win one—and now we’re going to Game 7 and it’s going to be a fun game.”
We had a similar chat after Game 3 with Ken Holland. He didn’t want to be quoted at the time, but the wily Red Wings GM truly felt his team had the wherewithal to make this a series.
“When you look at what Chicago did against Vancouver and what [did] Philadelphia against Boston last year, when you see Tampa winning the last three against Pittsburgh, I think it’s going to happen more now because there’s just so little to choose between the teams,” Holland told ESPN.com on Tuesday night.
Highlights: ESPN posted a 3:04 highlight clip with analysis by Matthew Barnaby;
Versus posted a 2:52 highlight clip;
Sportsnet posted a 2:52 highlight clip;
The CBC posted a 2:43 highlight clip;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 2:28 highlight clip;
And NHL.com’s highlight clip, or at least the Wings’ version, is narrated by Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond;
Post-game: TSN’s offerings include a 4:02 panel discussion of the game, a 1:24 clip of Danny Cleary, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard providing the Wings’ reaction, a 1:15 clip of Dany Heatley and Logan Couture providing the Sharks’ reaction a one-on-one interview Valtteri Filppula (there are other one-on-ones but they’re “Canada only”), Steve Kouleas and Ken Daneyko talking about “Valtteri Fil-pew-lah” (???) and coach Mike Babcock’s full 2:52 presser and coach Todd McLellan’s full
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean spend 3:00 breaking down the game;
Fox Sports Detroit posted a 3:45 clip of Mike Babcock’s post-game presser and Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard speaking to John Keating, as well as a short clip of Valtteri Filppula’s comments (you can watch Zetterberg’s interview on YouTube, too);
NHL.com posted clips of Joe Thornton, Antti Niemi, Nicklas Lidstrom Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard’s post-game comments, the Valtteri Filppula TSN interview, Henrik Zetterberg on FSD and Niklas Kronwall on Versus, as well as these two (you can sing along with Don’t Stop Believin’ on your own):
And the Red Wings’ website posted clips of Babcock’s presser...
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 47-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 58-image gallery;
The Mercury News embedded a 52-image Flash gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 52-image gallery;
The CBC embedded a 19-image gallery in its website’s recap;
As usual, there are some Reuters images in Daylife’s Wings gallery;
Shots 45-25 Detroit overall, breaking down as 18-6 Detroit in the 1st period, 14-7 Detroit in the 2nd period and 13-12 Detroit in the 3rd period.
The Sharks went 0-for-4 in 5:25 of PP time; the Wings went 0-for-5 in 5:35 of PP time.
Antti Niemi stopped 42 of 44; Jimmy Howard stopped 24 of 25.
The 3 stars, per Chuck Pleiness, were Filppula, Niemi and Datsyuk.
Detroit’s goals: Zetterberg (2) from Kronwall (4) and Filppula (5);
Filppula (2) from Datsyuk (11);
Helm (3), unassisted, empty net.
Faceoffs 32-22 San Jose (41% won by Detroit);
Blocked shots 17-12 Detroit;
Missed shots 15-10 Detroit (total attempts 72-42 Detroit)
Hits 30-27 Detroit;
Takeaways 9-3 Detroit.
Faceoffs Zetterberg went 8-and-15 (35%); Modano went 6-and-3 (67%); Helm went 3-and-4 (43%); Filppula went 1-and-3 (25%); Datsyuk went 2-and-2 (50%); Cleary lost 3 faceoffs (0%); Abdelkader went 1-and-1 (50%); Miller won his only faceoff; Eaves lost his only faceoff.
Shots Cleary led the team with 6 shots; Lidstrom and Holmstrom had 5; Helm had 4; Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, Filppula and Modano had 3; Eaves, Miller and Salei had 2; Abdelkader, Rafalski, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1.
Blocked attempts Salei and Bertuzzi had 2 shot attempts blocked; Lidstrom, Cleary, Datsyuk, eaves, Zetterberg, Helm, Filppula and Modano had 1 attempt blocked by Sharks players.
Missed shots Lidstrom and Rafalski missed the net 3 times; Eaves and Bertuzzi missed the net 2 times; Abdelkader, Cleary, Miller, Stuart and Filppula missed the net 1 time.
Hits Datsyuk, Miller, Stuart, Helm and Ericsson had 3 hits; Cleary, Salei, Hudler, Bertuzzi, Kronwall and Modano had 2; Abdelkader, Filppula and Modano had 1 hit.
Giveaways Lidstrom, Cleary, Stuart, Salei and Zetterberg had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways Datsyuk ahd 3 takeaways; Miller, Hudler, Rafalski, Zetterberg, Helm and Filppula had 1 takeaway.
Blocked shots Stuart and Rafalski blocked 3 shots; Ericsson and Kronwall blocked 2; Lidstrom, Eaves, Salei, Hudler, Zetterberg, Helm and Filppula blocked 1 shot.
Penalties taken: Datsyuk took a double minor; Abdelkader, Cleary, Stuart, Hudler, Kronwall and Holmstrom were tagged with minor penalties.
Plus-minus: Abdelkader and Hudler finished at -1; Lidstrom, Miller, Stuart, Salei, Helm, Filppula, Kronwall and Holmstrom were +1; Datsyuk and Zetterberg were +2.
Points: Filppula had a goal and an assist for 2 points; Zetterberg and Helm had goals; Datsyuk and Kronwall had assists.
Ice time: Lidstrom led the team with 21:29 played; Zetterberg played 21:16; Rafalski played 21:01;
Kronwall played 20:12; Stuart played 19:33; Datsyuk played 19:25;
Salei played 18:32; Ericsson played 18:18; Filppula played 18:02;
Cleary played 17:22; Bertuzzi played 13:57; Holmstrom played 13:12;
Helm played 13:08; Abdelkader played 12:31; Miller played 11:51;
Eaves played 10:48; Hudler played 10:22; Modano played 9:01.
Red Wings and Sharks notebooks: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan picked Henrik Zetterberg, Antti Niemi and Valtteri Filppula as his 3 stars;
• The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa does note that, regrettably, Justin Abdelkader took another dumb third period penalty;
• The Macomb Daily’s George Pohly took note of Filppula and Cleary’s deference to Datsyuk and took it in a substantive direction:
“Every time he’s on the ice, he’s making things happen,” Lidstrom said. “He’s an amazing player. He’s got the offensive skills, but it’s the hard work that really comes out in a game.”
“I think Pavel, if he isn’t the best player in the world, he’s got to be in the top three,” McLellan said. “I’ve seen him up close, and he does so much well.”
Asked about the game and his play in it, Datsyuk did what he usually does – deflected the questions into a completely unrelated topic: his love for the fans.
“Lots of fans cheering helped us,” Datsyuk said. “Thank you very much for helping. Now we go to San Jose. We still believe. It’s simple.”
• The Free Press’s Steve Schrader looks at the broadcast and Twitter world through a Red Wings red-tinted lens in his Octopus Garden, and the Toronto Sun’s Steve MacFarlane does the same via a TSN and anti-Howard-tinted lens;
• MLive’s Ansar Khan found that Jiri Hudler had a positive attitude regarding being scratched and then hopping back into the lineup…
“Whatever the team needs to win, everybody is OK with it,” Hudler said before the game. “This is playoff hockey. There is not time to be frustrated or shocked or things like that. You’ve just got to go with it and be prepared to jump in whenever Babs need you in the lineup.”
And Mike Modano was equally classy regarding his status as a healthy scratch turned Johan Franzen’s injury replacement, and a nervous one at that:
“It was tough last night sleeping, knowing that I was playing and there was no mystery about it,” Modano said. “It wasn’t coming here and waiting and seeing after warmup or whatever. In some sense, that’s good. In some sense, that’s bad. I mean, you get kind of restless sleep, but then again you have time to really think about what you want to do and what’s expected of you.”
Johan Franzen was scratched because of a sore left ankle that has hampered him since Game 2 of the first round against Phoenix.
“This time of the year, for Mule to do what he did, it’s pretty honorable,” Modano said. “Everybody’s trying to suck it up for your teammates to win and eventually move on from series to series. He did what he could, he played hard, but I’m just excited to get an opportunity.”
As Modano’s teammates suggested, he played very, very well.
• I think we can all agree with DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples, who suggests that Valtteri Filppula was the “Hockeytown Hero” in his Breakdown:
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