The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/12/11 at 02:50 PM ET
Updated 9x at 7:13 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings and SanJose Sharks prepare to face off tonight (9 PM EDT, FSD preceded by a one-hour pre-game show/CSN Bay Area/Versus [edit: also preceded by a one-hour pre-game show]/TSN/WXYT), the Mercury News’s David Pollak reports that the Sharks are treating Ryane Clowe’s status like a state secret:
As promised, Ryane Clowe is on the ice right now at HP Pavilion.He’s skating and passing the puck with assistant coach Jay Woodcroft as the rest of the team — except for goalies, Jamie McGinn and Justin Braun — is not going to be out there this morning.
And after the skate...
However Ryane Clowe is feeling after his 20-minute skate this morning is his secret at the moment. Oh, the organization probably knows, but the team did not make Clowe available to the assembled media horde — and this time, there really is one, after his workout.
Which leaves us with observations There was no evidence of any physical ailment, no hitch in his stride or his shot. He didn’t seem to be going full tilt at any point, more or less testing his comfort level. He didn’t crack a smile, at least while we were watching. He rarely looked up
Via CSN Bay Area’s Brodie Brazil...
http://yfrog.com/h2shzqij Clowe still a gametime decision. #sjsharks
McLellan on Clowe: ‘He’s feeling pretty good’. Decision made by Ryane, Trainers, and the impact he could make on game. #sjsharks
McLellan: we’ve been kicked hard this year, and always responded well. #sjsharks
Johan Franzen on the ice for #redwings http://yfrog.com/gzjs3zsj
And ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:
Clowe on the ice for the optional this morning http://yfrog.com/h417blakj
McLellan says Clowe a game-time decision. “He’s feeling pretty good.”
They’ll talk to Clowe tonight and see how he feels…
Franzen on the ice at Wings skate http://yfrog.com/hs79bcuj
And the Sharks’ website:
Clowe skating in the optional. Still a game time decision.
Look who’s on the ice with Assistant Coach Woodcroft for AM skate? Ryane Clowe! http://yfrog.com/gy63tprj
Red Wings social media coordinator Jake Duhaime confirms that Franzen is skating...
Tonight’s hashtags - The @NHL is using #NHLPlayoffs and #SJSDet for this series. We’ve also got #WhyNotUs for our historic comeback attempt.
The Red Wings are skating at HP Pavilion, including Johan Franzen. #NHLPlayoffs #SJSDet #WhyNotUs
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Suan Slusser...
Franzen on ice for #RedWings, like Clowe likely to be game-time decision. Datsyuk looks to be using time for maintenance. #SJSharks
And NHL.com’s Dave Lozo confirm:
Now Franzen is on the ice for the Red Wings. Looks pretty mobile.
Update #1: Kirk Maltby spoke to The Fan 590’s Jeff Blair this morning…
• The Wings’ Facebook page is asking fans to share their superstitions;
Drafted by the Wings in the first round (29th overall) of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Detroit’s brass has always had high expectations for Kronwall. Without coming right out and saying it, they hoped he would become the Nick Lidstrom for his generation of Red Wings.
“I try and not think too much about it (taking over for Lidstrom),” Krownwall said. “That’s up to other people to judge and decide what’s going to happen. For me, it’s about going out there every night and playing the best that I can, and we’ll see what happens. But we’re going to try and keep him (Lidstrom) around for as long as we can (laughs).
Being the heir apparent to Lidstrom is certainly a lofty level for Kronwall to reach. After having a series of freakish injuries, especially early in his career, he’s remained relatively healthy this season. During the regular season, he appeared in 77 games and had 37 points on 11 goals and 26 assists and was a plus-5. In 385 career games, he’s accumulated 181 points—34 goals, 147 assists—and is a plus 53.
Kronwall’s playoff numbers are impressive for a defenseman. He’s played in 73 games, tallying 38 points—four goals, 34 assists—and he’s a plus 28. This playoff run, he’s played in 10 games and has six points—two goals, four assists—and is a plus-6.
In Detroit’s last two playoff games, he has a goal and two assists, but more important, he’s become a physical presence on the ice. San Jose has been a different team since Kronwall began to step up and through the Sharks. Tonight in San Jose, history could be made if the Red Wings complete their improbable comeback of winning four straight over the Sharks after being down 0-3. If that does occur, thank Detroit’s deluxe hitter because he paved the road to playoff success with fillet of Shark.
• And, via the Wings’ Twitter account, surprise:
According to Mike Babcock, Johan Franzen will be a game time decision. Datsyuk and Rafalski did not skate but will play.
Update #2: The Sporting News’s Craig Custance posted a game preview:
Top storyline: The Red Wings are trying to join the rare group of teams that have battled back from a 3-0 series deficit to advance. They’ve managed to stay calm despite the historic nature of what faces them tonight.
“No sense getting yourself worked up,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “With leadership as calm as Nick’s (Lidstrom), it’s easy to follow in the footsteps.” In what has already been a close, tense series this should be the tightest game. The Sharks are determined to shake the label of playoff chokers and could send a message by ending the Red Wings miracle run. The Sharks earned the right to home-ice advantage and they must capitalize. “We’ve been better at home,” said Sharks goalie Antti Niemi.
• The Hockey News’s panel blathered on about Game 7;
• MLive’s Ansar Khan noted that Babcock wants Justin Abdelkader to stay out of the penalty box, that the Wings hope to bring Franzen back into the lineup tonight, and this in his notebook:
Tampa Bay general manager and former Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman has been closely watching the Detroit-San Jose series while waiting for his team’s Eastern Conference final series vs. Boston to begin.
“It’s very exciting. I’ve been watching and enjoying it,” Yzerman said Wednesday during a teleconference. “I appreciate how hard they work, how skilled they are. Being down 3-0 to a very good San Jose team, to battle back just to 3-3, there’s so little margin for error in those three games.”
He called it tremendous hockey.
“It’s been great for our league,” Yzerman said. “Knowing the coaching staff, knowing the entire organization and the players, I’m very happy for them. They’ve really competed hard. Every time somebody wants to write them off as the end of an era, or they’re too old and that’s it, they just come back stronger than ever.”
Khan’s main game preview article focuses on, well, the Wings’ points of emphasis going into tonight’s game:
“First of all, it will be lots of fun,” Datsyuk said. “We need to push more. We know it’s not easy, but (we) just have to play simple, nothing special. Maybe it’s a little bit pressure for both teams. It might be more confidence (for his team), but we know it’s going to be a hard game, a tough game.”
Cleary said the key is getting off to a good start by weathering an inevitable strong push by the Sharks.
“Be poised with the puck, make a play when you got to make it,” Cleary said. “Don’t get frustrated, don’t take stupid penalties. When you shoot, hit the net. Little things like that can really turn it.”
Update #3: More on Clowe from the Mercury News’s David Pollak...
Not a surprise: Todd McLellan says the decision on whether Ryane Clowe plays in Game 7 will be made at game time. And what will be the determining factors?
“Ryane Clowe, the trainer and the impact he can have on the game, positively and negatively,” McLellan said.
Later, the coach elaborated:
“First of all, it’s important that we take care of the individual as far as health goes. We don’t want to put him in a situation where we run that risk. Secondly, obviously in Game 7 it’s do or die and we’ve got to play for a win. How does his ability to play the game properly affect us positively or negatively? Then we go from there.”
McLellan did not get into line combinations if Clowe does not play, but he did note that the Sharks picked up their play in the third period when everything went back to what have become the standard lines, the only change being Benn Ferriero in for Clowe alongside Couture and Dany Heatley.
As well as SanJoseSharks.com’s Tony Khing:
“He’s feeling pretty good,” Coach Todd McLellan said. “It’s important that we take care of the individual as far as heath goes. We don’t want to put him in a situation where the run that risk (of aggravating the injury).”
“He’s one of our best players,” Logan Couture said of Clowe. “I’m happy that he was skating. I won’t know and no one will know if he’s playing until later today. We’ll see what happens.”
“Game 7 is do-or-die,” McLellan said. “So how does his ability to play the game properly affect us positively or negatively? And we go from there.”
• Here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s morning skate update:
The status of Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen and the San Jose Sharks’ Ryane Clowe both will be determined at game time tonight (9 p.m., FSD),
Both players skated this morning. The Sharks had an optional practice. Most Red Wings skated. Detroit coach Mike Babcock would not reveal any potential lineup changes, whether or not Franzen plays.
• The Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek just filed a Sharks morning skate report:
“He’s feeling pretty good,” said McLellan, who nevertheless acknowledged how difficult the decision will be to put Clowe in, given that it’s a deciding game and the Sharks do not want to risk further injury, in case they advance to the next round against the Vancouver Canucks. Clowe did not skate particularly hard and McLellan was not on the ice for what was an optional workout. “Mike (Babcock, the Red Wings’ coach) is facing the same issue with the Mule (Johan Franzen) on the other side. First of all, it’s important that we take care of the individual as far as health goes. We don’t want to put him in a situation, where we run that risk. Secondly, in Game 7, it’s do-or-die, so you’ve got to play for a win. So how does his ability to play the game properly affect us positively or negatively? Then we go from there.”
Clowe is the Sharks’ leading playoff scorer with 13 points in 11 games, and he is the mainstay on the de facto No. 2 line with Logan Couture and Dany Heatley. In his absence for Game 6, McLellan shuffled his lines a number of different ways, but ultimately went back to the ones they ran most of the year, with Benn Ferriero subbing in for Clowe on that line; leaving Joe Thornton to play with Devin Setoguchi and slumping Patrick Marleau, who has yet to score a point in what has been a compelling series thus far. San Jose won the first three games and Detroit the last three. In four of the six games, the team that trailed in the third period eventually won the game, either in regulation or overtime. Altogether, the teams have played a total of 376 minutes and 24 seconds. In that time period, they have been either been tied or one team has led by a goal for 90 per cent of the time - 336 minutes and 43 seconds. It has been that close.
“If you look at it on paper, power play and penalty killing are a wash,” said McLellan. “They’re identical. We’ve each scored the same amount of goals - 15, I think. Save percentage is identical. Goals-against average is identical. Faceoff percentage is basically identical. We’ve won three, they’ve won three. There are so many similarities in the series and it comes down to one game. All along, when you listen to both of us talk, Mike and myself, the difference is moments. The difference is having that will and desire at the right time. We both believe in our teams. This is a great opportunity, and a great stage for these players to participate in. I really believe ours will rise to the occasion.”
“I think you try to keep everything as normal as possible,” said Thornton, who said the goal tonight would be to “feed off the energy that this crowd is going to give us. I remember a couple of years ago against Calgary, we fed off the energy early on and we played well that night. We want to score the first goal, get the first hit and get the first shot and so get early momentum. They’re a good team. They’re not going to go away.”
The Red Wings are the second team in the 2011 playoffs and the eighth team overall to turn a 3-0 deficit in a 3-3 tie in a series. It happened once last year too, when the Philadelphia Flyers rallied from three games down to defeat the Boston Bruins. McLellan thinks it may happen more often.
“When you look at the teams involved in the final eight and the point differential, there is a one-point shootout win difference. They are just so evenly matched. I think nowadays, because of the history and teams doing it more often, that teams believe a little bit more too - and I think we’ll see more of it.”
• Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Ray Ratto also confirms Clowe’s status, suggesting that Clowe’s harboring a concussion…
Clowe’s workout included tight turns, one-timers on goalie Antero Niittymaki and general awareness. There didn’t seem to be a lot of truly taxing work or skills that required quick head movements, but that’s indicative of nearly nothing. If it helps at all, Clowe never evidenced a thumbs-up or a smile to indicate that he was symptom-free, or so symptom-light that he knew he’d be good to go.
He was also coy about whether he would revert to his normal line arrangement, with Joe Thornton between Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi, Logan Couture between Dany Heatley and Clowe (or Benn Ferriero), Joe Pavelski between Kyle Wellwood and Torrey Mitchell, and Scott Nichol between whomever and whomever else. He did, however, acknowledge that the normal lines were better in the third period of Game 6 when Couture was returned to center as opposed to playing on the left side of the Thornton line. In other words, his lineup decision may be as simple as Clowe or Ferriero to Couture’s right.
• And, amongst Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s game-day stories:
One week ago, Ken Holland walked into his office with a smile. It was a beautiful May day in Detroit, and Holland was in a good enough mood to joke that the sun had come up even though he wasn’t sure it would. He seemed remarkably relaxed for the general manager of a team facing a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series.
“I don’t know when we’re ever going to get a chance to be down 3-0 in the second round in a series that’s as even as this,” Holland said then, sitting behind his desk at Joe Louis Arena. “Let’s see what we can do with it. I’m not worried about winning the series. We’ve got to win a game. We’ve just got to win one game.”
“I’m not surprised that Philadelphia came back from 3-0,” Holland said last week. “I’m not surprised that Chicago came back from 3-0 to go to overtime in Game 7. It’s parity.”
Should anyone be that surprised then, at least in retrospect, that Detroit has come back from 3-0 to force a Game 7?
“It’s a wide-open league,” Holland said last week. “I look at our sport a lot like the NFL now. In the NFL, there are good teams. The New England Patriots have been able to be a playoff team every year, and a few years ago they had a dynasty. But sometimes they advance, sometimes they get upset in the playoffs, and it’s the same. You just want opportunities.”
When the teams are this close, it could come down to character traits such as poise and will. “I think we both know our systems so well that we know how to play,” Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It’s a matter of outbattling other guys out there.”
Update #5: Here’s Helene St. James’ morning skate update:
he Detroit Red Wings’ Johan Franzen and the San Jose Sharks’ Ryane Clowe both skated this morning at HP Pavilion, but both are game-time decisions for Game 7 tonight. The forwards’ availability depends on how effective they can be. Franzen is dealing with a sprained ankle. Clowe has an upper body injury.
“That’s all it’s about—can he go, can he compete in a one-on-one battle, can he get the puck out, can he get it in?” Wings coach Mike Babcock said in regard to Franzen. “Can he get going or can he not get going? They tried something different with him today, so if that can help him, then great. If not, we’ve got lots of guys hungry to go.”
Mike Modano played in Game 6 for Franzen, but Modano said this morning he didn’t know whether he is playing tonight. Kris Draper was a healthy scratch last game, and Jiri Hudler the game before, so the Wings have plenty of options at forward if Franzen can’t play.
The Ottawa Sun’s Garrioch confirms Babcock’s comments:
The Wings are going through the same process in their room with Johan Franzen. The Mule missed the last game with an ankle injury that has hampered him through the playoffs, but was on the ice and looking good during Detroit’s morning skate.
“I don’t know for sure. I’ll talk to the trainers and we’ll decide at game time what we’re doing,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “Can he go? Can he compete on a 1-on-1 battle? Can he get the puck out? Can he get it in? Can he get going or not going? We tried something different with him. If that can help him then great, if not we’ve got lots of guys hungry to go.”
Update 5.5: Via Duhatschek:
As for Babcock, he was slightly more optimistic about Franzen’s availability. After noting that it too would be a game-time decision, Babcock revealed: “They tried something different with him today. If that can help him, then great. If not, we’ve got lots of guys hungry to go.’’
Babcock went to reiterate McLellan’s point, that “we’ve got two good teams (and) there’s a fine line. We didn’t skate good early in the series, I think we’ve skated better and better with every game. As we skate better, you make it harder on the opposition. Today is another game we have to skate. The puck has to go north-south, you gotta skate. But I think today’s game is all about opportunity and enjoying yourself. I mean, you look back at your career, how many Game 7s have you been involved in? So enjoy it. Enjoy the day leading up to it and play.’’
• And this is interesting, via the Mercury News’s david Pollak:
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is facing a similar lineup decision as far as right wing Johan Franzen, who missed Game 6 with an ankle injury.
“I don’t know for sure,” Babcock said when asked Franzen’s status. “I’ll talk to the trainers and we’ll decide at game time what we’re doing.”
The Detroit coach said the training staff “tried something different with him today. If that can help him, then great. If not, we’ve got lots of guys hungry to go.’’ Babcock inserted veteran Mike Modano into the lineup for Game 6, but didn’t make that same commitment this morning, and Modano said he had no idea if he’d be playing.
“I have to wait nervously all day,” he said.
Update #6: Brr, Red Bull for Terry Foster. Taurine is a wicked beast;
• Here’s the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan’s morning skate report:
Franzen went through the drills but didn’t appear to be skating at full strength.
“I don’t know for sure,” coach Mike Babcock said Thursday regarding Franzen’s availability to play. “I’ll talk to the trainers and we’ll decide at game time what we’re doing. They tried something different today and if it can help him, great. If not, we have a lot of guys hungry to go.”
Mike Modano, who replaced Franzen in the lineup for Game 6, said he wouldn’t know his status until game time.
Update #7: Barry Melrose has previewed tonight’s game;
• Wise words from Babcock and Lidstrom, via the CBC’s series blogger:
Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom did admit the chance to make Stanley Cup history was intriguing, but not a priority in their game preparation.
“You can’t think about that,” Lidstrom said. “Your approach has to be the same as it’s been the last three games. It ranks right up there, being down 3-0 and being able to come back and play a Game 7, but we’re not thinking like that. We’re thinking, ‘We have to go out there and win one more game.’ Be ready to come out that first period and play hard. That’s totally got to be our mindset. Not thinking too much about anything else.”
Keeping their cool and their focus has worked well for the Wings during third-period rallies in Games 5 and 6 and it will be their stance as they take the ice for Game 7.
“That’s what we’ve talked about,” Babcock said. “Just stay calm, stay poised and do what you’re supposed to do. If you do that, anything can happen. If you get all wound into the ground and you stop making plays, nothing good happens for yourself. I think if you feel like you’re playing good, it’s a way different thing.”
“Maybe more so this year than any of my previous years here, we’ve been kicked hard in some not so good spots and we’ve responded well,” McLellan said. “You can call it resiliency, you can call it whatever you want, but our skin has grown a little bit thicker, we’ve handled ourselves a little bit better, we’ve held each other accountable a little bit more in all of those situations. We have to see that come out tonight.”
The Sharks could be feeling the weight of their three straight losses to Detroit as well as that of past postseason failures. For all its success during the regular season, this is a franchise that has yet to reach a Stanley Cup Final.
“It is what it is,” Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. “We’re in a different year. We’ve taken some steps last year. We’re in the process of taking another step. Yeah, there have been failures in the past. It’s a good challenge for us to step up. It’s a good stage to step up and show what you can do. The pressure just brings out your skills, gives you a good test to show you where you’re at as a professional, as a player, as a person. It’s exciting. We just have to come out and play. That’s what they’ve done. They showed up and they’ve played hard, they’ve played loose, and we can maybe take a page from their book.”
Just three years ago, the Sharks faced a Game 7 at HP Pavilion in the quarterfinals against Calgary, and won it 5-3 thanks in part to Pavelski’s go-ahead goal. Joe Thornton remembers taking full advantage of their home-ice advantage and high-decibel crowd that game.
“We fed off the energy early on,” Thornton said. “We played well that night. So just feed off the energy and stay within yourself.”
“They’re so loud,” rookie forward Logan Couture said of Sharks fans. “It feels like they’re right on top of you. I’ve got some friends from around the League, they tell me how intimidating it is to play in this rink, and the fans are so loud and so crazy. We feel that on the bench, and I’m sure the opposing team feels that.”
• For the Red Wings, Franzen’s uncertain status has Mike Modano admitting to NHL.com’s Dave Lozo that he’s nervous….
“You wait and see,” said Modano, who probably will play in Game 7 if Franzen can’t go. “I’m just going to approach it like I’m playing. We’ll see how (Franzen) feels tonight at the game. Now I have to nervously wait all day.”
Modano admitted if the Red Wings are eliminated Thursday, it’s probably the end of his Hall-of-Fame career.
“This probably will be it for me,” Modano said. “You savor a lot of the games at this point. You relish the moments you have now because it goes fast and it’s over before you know it.”
Modano has had a lot of success playing at HP Pavilion. In 39 career games here, he has 37 points.
“It goes back to even before that in the Cow Palace days,” Modano said of the Sharks’ original home. “It’s a division team (when he played in Dallas), and sometimes you get comfortable coming here and get used to the building. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s loud all the time. The sights are good, the lighting is good. It’s just one of those buildings where you get a comfort level right away from the day it opened.”
• NHL.com’s Kalan also notes the following...
Thursday’s Game 7 already holds some significant historic clout as just the eighth time a team has forced a seventh game after facing a 3-0 deficit, and regardless of whether San Jose survives or Detroit completes its daunting task, the result will be a noteworthy one in NHL annals.
However, a win by the Sharks would present an interesting quirk that would leave one of the League’s wildest historical trends on the chopping block.
After Vancouver went through its nerve-wracking seven-game win over Chicago in the first round, many pundits were left to wonder if the emotional win over the Hawks would leave the Canucks ripe for a second-round letdown or perhaps too spent to chase after the Cup. But in the midst of the talking head chatter, not only did the Canucks manage to get past Nashville in six games, but many glossed over the fact that Vancouver was just the fourth team to take a 3-0 lead, get pushed to a Game 7 and still win the series.
The other three? They all won the Stanley Cup.
There are few omens better than a 100-percent success rate, but if the Sharks can get past Detroit Thursday night, not only will they become the fifth team to join that exclusive club, they’ll also render that tidbit of history suddenly irrelevant. A victory would pit San Jose and Vancouver against one another in the Western Conference Finals and due to the obvious fact that someone will have to lose, that perfect Cup winning percentage will have to come to an end.
Of course, if the Red Wings win Game 7, the whole quandary will be moot and Vancouver can still keep the streak going. That said, winning the Cup would still require the Canucks to go through Detroit, and given the Wings’ recent past, that may be a bigger obstacle than any peculiar factoid.
• If you’re interested, and I’m not, Sharks broadcaster Jamie Baker spoke to the Sharks’ website about the Sharks’ chances and his status as a Game 7 hero for scoring the game-winning goal that knocked the Wings off in the first round back in 1994;
• Both the Wings and Sharks’ players spoke to NHL.com’s Lozo about Game 7 memories and expectations:
A Game 7 is always something special that few players get a chance to experience, even a successful veteran like Heatley. For Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk, who has had his fair share of Game 7 experience, he went all the way back to his rookie season of 2002 to discuss a Game 7 memory.
“Most of the time I was on the bench watching how good everyone played,” said Datsyuk, who had 1 goal in 11:49 of ice time when the Red Wings beat the Avalanche 7-0 to win the Western Conference Final in seven games. Datsyuk’s goal was scored in the third period with the game out of hand. “When it was 6-0, they put me on late just to skate around.”
“It’s come down to one game,” Setoguchi said. “There’s no turning back now. Whatever happened in the last six games is over with. You get one chance, one opportunity to seize the moment that you’re in and get the win to win the series.”
“I think you try to keep everything normal, keep your rituals the same,” Thornton said. “In your head, just go over what you usually do in the 82 games you played. You have to keep it as normal as possible.”
This series has been about as even as it gets. The teams have been tied or separated by one goal for 90 percent of the time (336:43 of 376:24). Every game has been decided by one goal except Game 6, which the Red Wings won 3-1 with the help of an empty-net goal by Darren Helm. That performance has put the Red Wings on the cusp of history. Only three teams have won a series after trailing 3-0. Of the 167 teams who have faced a 3-0 series hole, only 1.8 percent have accomplished the comeback. The Red Wings have taken it the clichéd one game at a time. But it’s a cliché that has taken them from the abyss to the fifth Game 7 of this year’s postseason.
“I’ve said the same thing all along—I think we have two good teams and there’s a fine line,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I think we’ve skated better and better every game. I think today’s game is all about opportunity and enjoying yourself. When you look back at your career, how many Game 7s do you get to be involved in? It helps to enjoy it. Enjoy the day leading up to it and play.”
• 97.1 the Ticket’s Jeff Riger both posted a game preview and says that he’ll be working the late shift to take game reaction calls after the game;
• Ken Kal posted a Game preview:
Now, how do we analyze this game? It’s difficult because the Red Wings and the Sharks are two evenly matched teams. The Red Wings certainly have momentum on their side, winning 3 straight elimination games. The Sharks need to find a way to change that momentum and get it back on their side. Easier said than done.
The Red Wings penalty killing has been terrific. They haven’t allowed a power play goal in their last 3 wins. The Sharks scored 4 power play goals in the first 3 games. So staying out of the penalty box will be key.
One thing I know in game 7′s is that someone who you least expect usually comes up big to score a goal or make a play that turns the game around. Also, anything can happen in a game 7. A bad bounce could determine the outcome as well.
From a broadcaster’s point of view, these are the games that I look forward to the most. The players enjoy playing in these games as well. There is no room for error. It’s all about winning your battles, taking it one shift and one period at a time.
Both teams skated at HP Pavilion this morning. There was a quiet confidence in the Red Wings locker room and a business-like approach. The players were calm, relaxed and eager to compete tonight.
This has been a terrific series and there will be no losers when it’s all said and done. It’s been great hockey between two great teams.
• Fox Sports Detroit points out that the last time Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander pitched a no-hitter, the Wings defeated the Sharks;
• Greg “Puck Daddy Wyshynski posted a fantastic tidbit, reporting that a Sharks fan gave the Red Wings some octopus sushi yesterday night;
• Via RedWingsFeed, Ken Kal spoke to both Justin Abdelkader…
And Mike Babcock…
• Also in the multimedia department, CSN Bay Area posted a clip of Clowe skating this morning;
&bulll; TSN’s Jermain Franklin posted a 4:16 game-day update video which includes comments from Todd McLellan, Mike Babcock, Logan Couture, Nicklas Lidstrom, Mike Modano, Devin Setoguchi, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Niklas Kronwall;
• And ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun posted a slate of keys for both teams to focus on should they hope to win tonight’s game:
2. Couture back to center: Logan Couture shifted to the wing for the start of Game 6, playing alongside Joe Thornton, but we didn’t like the way that looked. Couture has played wing in the past, but he’s mostly played center all season, and that’s where he’s most comfortable.
“Yes, I do prefer it at center, but I’ll do whatever is necessary to help the team,” Couture said Thursday morning.
4. A quick start: Like Vancouver in Game 7 against Chicago, a strong start is paramount. It gives the team confidence and makes the crowd part of the game.
“It’s important,” Thornton agreed with us Thursday morning. “We want to score the first goal, we want to get the first hit and the first shot in. Getting early momentum is going to be important, yes.”
2. The Zetterberg effect: Henrik Zetterberg’s line with Daniel Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi has really come on in the latter part of the series. In particular, Cleary has raised his game, scoring a big goal in Game 6. It’s no coincidence that the line has become more effective as Zetterberg has felt better physically. He missed the first round with a knee injury and didn’t look right in the first two games of this series.
“I thought Zetterberg by Game 4 was really going,” Babcock said. “He was determined by Game 3, but he was really going by Game 4.”
5. Detroit has edge in experience: The Wings are a veteran team with players who have played big games and delivered clutch performances, and they are approaching Game 7 with confidence.
“I think today’s game is all about opportunity and enjoying yourself,” Babcock said. “I mean, you look back at your career, how many Game 7s have you been involved in? So enjoy it. Enjoy the day leading up to it and play.”
• And, among other issues, ESPN’s EJ Hradek ponders, via video whether this will be Nicklas Lidstrom’s last game.
• Ken Holland spoke to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch about the parity factor:
“Teams are close,” Holland said before the puck was dropped Thursday. “The other thing is the more it gets done, the more other teams believe it can be done. When teams were up by 3-0 (about) 20 years ago, the team that was up 3-0 was probably a way better team than the team that was down 3-0. There was no chance for that team to come back. Look, Tampa was down 3-1 to Pittsburgh (in Round 1) and (the Lightning) won three in a row. If you can win three in a row, and you’re down 3-0, you’re in Game 7. It doesn’t mean you’re going to win the series but I think you’re going to see more teams that get down in a series come back.”
Teams that lost the first three games in 112 NHL playoff series from 1976 to 2010 were unable to force a Game 7. It has become vogue with the Wings becoming the third team in the past seven chances to make it happen. The reason is simple: Parity. Not much separated the top eight teams in the Western Conference this season. The Sharks and Wings were ranked No. 2 and No. 3 respectively. It shouldn’t be any surprise this went the distance.
“I believe we will (see it more),” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “It’s so evenly matched. When you look at the teams that are involved in the final eight in the West, you look at the point differential and it’s so even. Nowadays, because of the history and teams doing it more often, teams believe a little bit more.”
It’s all about parity, Holland said. “We had eight more points than Dallas and they were in ninth place. We were a win every six weeks from being out of the playoffs. When other teams do it, you know it can done. There’s so little to choose between these two teams. The first six games of this series were all decided in the last 10 minutes. It’s a tough series.”
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon posted a round-up of PHT’s Wings-Sharks stories;
• And in the multimedia department, Dan Boyle spoke to SanJoseSharks.com’s Dan Rusanowsky...
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