Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Sharks Game 7 wrap-up: Wings face long summer after comeback falls short

The Detroit Red Wings chose to take an overnight flight back to Detroit after dropping a 3-2 decision to the San Jose Sharks in the seventh and deciding game of their second round series, and it’s the kind of loss that the Wings, and quite possibly their fans, will probably lose sleep over. The Wings surrendered the game’s first two gaols and lost two players to concussions in Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi, and while the Wings tried to mount a furious comeback but couldn’t manage to tie the Sharks in no small part due to the fact that the shorthanded team went 0-for-4 on the power play, and via another classically “fluky bounce,” a third goal early in the third period. That goal, scored by Patrick Marleau, wound up being the game-winner, and, put simply…

Injuries, the law of averages, bad ice, bad bounces and giving a team four opportunities to knock you off added up to a handshake line and the status of a historical footnote for a team that never dreamed it would be defeated by the same opponent in back-to-back playoff meetings for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. The WIngs quite literally played in the tightest playoff series ever, according to the Elias Sports Bureau—six of seven games were decided by one goal and both teams scored a total of 16 goals—but the Wings will have to gather at Joe Louis Arena on either Saturday or Monday to clean out their lockers, engage in exit interviews and start to ponder the futures of Kris Draper, Mike Modano, Ruslan Salei, Chris Osgood, Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves, Jonathan Ericsson and of course Nicklas Lidstrom as the Wings’ management spends a long summer making tweaks to the roster, hoping for a better result a calendar year from now.

Put simply, the Wings have a standard of performance that they hope to achieve—making the Western Conference Finals every season—and this team, as wonderful as it was, didn’t achieve that task, so there will be changes, and this one’s going to sting both us and the Wings themselves for a long, long time.

Now that the series is over, and because I’m a Wings fan and am admittedly devastated by this loss, I’m going to state the obvious—if the Wings are known for class, the Sharks and Vancouver Canucks make the perfect Western Conference Final opponents because their constitutions are more like those of divas than hockey teams. The Sharks spent the vast majority of their post-game media availabilities displaying the kind of comments that reveal who they really are, stating the kinds of things that Dan Boyle offered the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch (and the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan):

“We just stuck together,” said Boyle. “There’s a lot of people that did not want us to win this game. Detroit’s got the ... They’ve got their little aura, I don’t know what the word is but I’m sure a lot of the hockey world wanted to see Detroit come back and win this series. They wanted to see Detroit in the final four. We just stuck together. Certain teams have that thing about them. Some of the guys they have over there with (Nicklas) Lidstrom, (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg. I think a lot of people want to see the Sharks lose. That’s something we’ve just got to come together and rally.”

Ryane Clowe, who returned from an “upper-body injury,” agreed, as he told the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek...

“We played Detroit and we expected it to go seven games,” said Clowe. “Let’s go look at the predictions. A lot of people picked Detroit in seven or six and maybe one guy in 10 picked us. So we knew we were in for a long series, but we knew we were the better team. I said this before the series, if we put our game on the ice, we’re going to win. We put our game on the ice and we won.”

And his coach backed him up:

“I think a lot of people watched this game and you hope for a comeback,” said McLellan. “The casual fan would like to see the comeback and we were aware of it, but we did a good job of eliminating that from our mindset.”
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Thornton provided a staunch effort in the early going, when the Sharks needed to reverse the momentum of an ugly loss in Game 6, in which they were in it to the end only because of goaltender Antti Niemi’s strong play. Thornton was inspired - in the face-off circle, around the net, on the attack. He made plays - setting up Setoguchi for the game’s opening goal, on the power play; putting Dany Heatley in alone for a point-blank chance - all in the first period.

“We were on a pretty even keel all year,” said Thornton. “I think it showed now. We go up 3-0 and we didn’t panic or anything being down 3-0 in the last three games. We just came out and played. That’s what we did tonight.”

Much of the focus from the Sharks’ side, of course, involved Marleau proving Jeremy Roenick wrong and Joe Thornton’s dominant play, but while praising the Sharks’ moxie, the Mercury News’s Tim Kawakami pretty much sums up Thornton and the Sharks’ take on themselves...

“He’s been battling—he knows he has to be better,” Thornton said of Marleau. “I’m sure that (the goal) took a lot of weight off his shoulders. Now he’s ready to go. I’m sure everybody in this whole Bay Area is pretty happy for him.”

It probably should be mentioned that Detroit was missing key forward Johan Franzen and lost Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary during the game, which left the Red Wings with only eight healthy forwards. That put this game, for the Red Wings, almost entirely in the hands of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Datsyuk and Zetterberg still almost won it.

But the Sharks held on, and they held on thanks mainly to Marleau and Thornton, who get almost all of the blame when they lose, and deserve the full credit when they succeed. What does Thornton think about those who believed the Sharks were destined to collapse in Game 7, after giving away the 3-0 series lead?

“I really honestly believe half you guys don’t know anything about our sport,” Thornton said, “so I don’t care about anything you (say).”

You can go ahead and read NHL.com’s Dave Lozo’s Q and A with Thornton on your own…

Other Sharks offered more balanced takes on the game, as noted by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, who spoke to the Sharks about both “questions” regarding their reputation and withstanding the Wings’ third-period rally…

“There’s always going to be the question mark until we actually win the Stanley Cup,” Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi said.
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The Sharks had allowed three unanswered third-period goals in each of the previous two games, making the final period Thursday extra tense.

“We said we have 20 minutes to win the game and win the series,” Setoguchi said. “We’re up one goal, at our rink, it’s Game 7 to go to the conference finals. They pressed hard, but I thought we showed a little bit of poise.”

San Jose did give up a goal with six minutes to go, when Red Wings magician Pavel Datsyuk lofted a backhand shot from the right circle over goalie Antti Niemi’s right shoulder, but that was the final blow struck by Detroit. The Red Wings, who were trying to become the fourth team in NHL history to come back to win a series after dropping the first three games, gave it a good effort with four shots in the final 1:52, and they also had two shots that were blocked.

“They were coming hard, and we had to be calm,” Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said.

And the Sharks also talked about their third-period poise with SanJoseSharks.com’s Allison High..

“I think the message was to just go out there and don’t be afraid of mistakes,” said defenseman Dan Boyle. “If you’re afraid, that’s when you’re going to make the mistakes. They always make the baseball analogy: take a swing at it. So I thought we did a good job of that.”
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“In the third, we grabbed the puck in our own end under pressure, settled down and made some plays,” said right wing Ryane Clowe. “We had some two-on-ones, had a three-on-two. Obviously Detroit is going to try and make a push so they had their D pinching and we capitalized on an odd-man rush.”

There was one other element that allowed the Sharks to gain momentum in the first period: they scored the first goal of the game. When Devin Setoguchi notched his power play goal at 12:20 of the first period, it gave the Sharks momentum. Not only had they scored their first power play goal in three games, they did it on their first opportunity. Doing that built confidence within their team and within their home crowd.

“You never want to say it as a coach because if it doesn’t happen, you can’t always recover from it,” said head coach Todd McLellan when he was asked about the importance of getting on the board first. “But I thought the first goal was going to be really important. It kept the fans in it.”

It was just that, as the Mercury News’s David Pollak noted, because it allowed McLellan and the Sharks to calm down…

“Your heart gets going and it gets revved up,” McLellan said. “I remember winning the cup, how anxious you get. And I felt that this round. We’re going to need a little more poise, a little more composure moving ahead, because those feelings are going to come back a lot quicker now.”

Until about nine minutes into the first period Thursday night, neither team showed signs of mounting a sustained offense. But at that point, the Sharks seemed to take over and were rewarded with a 2-0 lead at the end of the opening 20 minutes. With Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson in the penalty box, Joe Thornton found Setoguchi all alone in the left faceoff circle, and his 34-foot slap shot found the back of the net at 12:20. That was a good omen, as power-play success translated into wins for San Jose in this series. The Sharks were 0 for 10 in the three losses, 5 for 17 in their four victories.

San Jose’s second goal came on an impressive solo effort by Couture. First he hounded Zetterberg into coughing up the puck deep in the Red Wings zone, then the Sharks rookie zipped a 39-foot wrist shot that beat Howard at 19:01.
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Detroit found its legs in the second period, outshooting the Sharks 17-6 and controlling the puck in the San Jose zone for extended periods of time. The one goal the Red Wings picked up, however, came when Zetterberg capped off a 3-on-2 rush with a 21-foot backhand that beat Niemi on the stick side at 13:10 to make it a 2-1 game.

Marleau’s goal gave the Sharks another two-goal margin, but it took the Red Wings only 1:46 to narrow the gap again as Datsyuk lifted a backhand shot that somehow found the top shelf in the far corner above Niemi’s shoulder.

Couture’s goal was a plain old stunner—and a bit of HP Pavilion gift because the puck fluttered off Henrik Zetterberg’s stick on very slushy ice—but Logan Couture took it, as he told SanJoseSharks.com’s Tony Khing...

At 19:01 of the first period, San Jose was fighting hard for the puck to the left of Detroit’s net. Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg came out with the puck to the right of the net, but had Couture chasing him. Zetterberg avoided him and tried a backhand pass from the goal line to Brian Rafalski on the left wing. But there was Couture in the circle to intercept the pass and he threw a quick wrister to the right corner of the net and past Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard.

“Zetterberg turned the corner, turned it over and he made a mistake. He doesn’t make many,” Couture said. “It was right on my tape and I shot it before Howard could get set and went top corner. I was surprised,” he added. “I shot it as quick as I could. I’ve tried to shoot glove on Howard this entire series because I think I can beat him there.”

And while there’s no doubt that Ryane Clowe’s return made an impact—he refused to tell the Mercury News’s Mark Emmons or the San Francisco Chronicle’s Slusser what was wrong, but he definitely wore on the Wings, especially after Todd Bertuzzi ended up concussing himself while hitting Dany Heatley in the first period, and Jiri Hudler ran over Danny Cleary early in the second period, dropping the Wings down to 10 forwards…

“Every time he’s in the room, it’s a big lift for us,” Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi said. “The intensity, you can see it in his eyes. That was a huge morale boost.”

Clowe played 19:26 and registered four hits, second only to defenseman Douglas Murray’s five.

“When you’re out there 18-20 minutes, that’s quite a bit, so you’ve got to make an impact,” Clowe said.

But it was the Sharks’ penalty-kill which truly disrupted the Wings’ flow, as SanJoseSharks.com’s Jim Sparaco noted (in an article praising Antti Niemi):

[T]he Sharks were perfect on the penalty kill, successfully killing four Detroit power plays in the game including two big penalty kills in the third period including a slashing penalty against Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell at 14:57.

“The difference tonight is a power play goal and our penalty kill,” added Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “I thought we had a pretty good plan tonight. They beat us with a drop pass a lot in the series so we adjusted a little bit. We felt that if we didn’t allow them any free entries into our zone we’d have a better opportunity of killing it. We did a pretty good job of that. They really didn’t get set that much. The penalty killers came up big.”

Between that and Patrick Marleau’s insurance marker, which, as the Sharks’ website notes, either accomplished something special or awful, depending on whether you bleed teal or Red Wings red…

When the Red Wings tied the series at 3-3 and outsiders were questioning the Sharks and some directly Patrick Marleau, the team took the high road. They let their actions speak for themselves and as a result, they toppled Detroit 3-2. For the second straight year, Marleau’s winning goal vanquished the Red Wings from the round of eight and showed his value to the hockey world.

“He was a difference maker tonight,” Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan began. “The way we played him in the series and the amount of minutes he got, we obviously believed in him immensely. For him to end up with the winning goal it pretty special for our team and for him. I think the monkey will be off his back and he’ll be that much better the next series.”

The Sharks were able to withstand the Wings’ final push, which had more than a few Sharks nervous, Marleau ended the Wings’ season officially, as noted by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jake Leonard (and you can read more about Marleau via NHL.com’s Dave Lozo)...

It was the loudest sigh of relief you’ll hear. It was exhaled by Sharks forward Patrick Marleau as he corralled a loose puck in the final seconds Thursday, wheeled around and cleared it from the defensive zone. And it was breathed in unison by his coaches, teammates and every San Jose fan. The result was deafening, decibels not previously heard at the Shark Tank. Fitting for what might be the most important win in franchise history.

“Getting the clear, hearing the crowd, then just watching as the final few seconds went off the clock ...” Marleau said, trailing off. That was his sigh-of-relief moment. That was the moment that will really stick with him.

That gave Antti Niemi cause for celebration, too, as the Mercury News’s Pollak—who reports that Gary Bettman attended the game—noted:

“They had the puck in our end, and I lost it a couple seconds before. Then I saw it sliding at the middle of ice,” said Niemi, who had 38 saves. “That was relief as I knew it was only two seconds to go.”

With 28.3 seconds remaining, Niemi got his glove on a 41-foot slap shot by Pavel Datsyuk that seemed to be aimed at the goaltender’s head. Earlier, Datsyuk somehow beat the Niemi with a shot that seemed to float over his shoulder and into the net.

“It was a great, great backhand,” Niemi said. “I don’t think I’ve seen that before. I felt bad after that—but I want to see it again.”

And the Sharks celebrated, deservedly so, as the Ottawa Sun’s Garrioch noted...

“It’s awesome. Look at these fans, they’re going nuts,” said Marleau. “It’s crazy. It’s just great to be a part of it. Detroit is a great team. They battled hard right to the end. We can learn a lot from this series moving forward but we’ve got lots of work to do. The job is not done.”
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“This is a dream come true. This is the kind of stuff you think about when you’re a kid,” said Setoguchi. “Game 7, the crowd, the atmosphere. This is the kind of situation you want. To score a goal feels good as well. You have to have confidence when you’re playing these games. You’ve got to believe in yourself and believe in your team. If anyone had a negative thought, it’s negative energy. It started with (Joe Thornton). He was rah-rah and telling everyone to stay positive.”
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“It’s a different game out there in the playoffs, especially in Game 7. There were times on the bench I caught myself shaking was I was so nervous,” said Couture. “We’ve got some guys who’ve been there and they understand. We had some poise down the stretch, we made some plays and we were able to win this one. It was an unbelievable series for the fans watching and the players playing in it. It was entertaining.”

Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Ray Ratto argues that Marleau and the Sharks simply learned their lessons in Game 5, in which they also surrendred a 2-0 lead…

Marleau, who had been livelier than he had been in any other game, was presented with his can’t-miss-this—one goal with the work of Thornton at the other end and Setoguchi’s intrepid work at the goal front. The Sharks regained their two-goal lead. Also like Game 5.

Only unlike Game 5, the Wings had only seven minutes and change, not 19 and change, to steal the game, and though Pavel Datsyuk did pull them back to within one with a backhand that goalie Antti Niemi could not shoulder out 1:46 later, and though the Sharks had to kill one final penalty, from Mitchell for slashing Ruslan Salei, they did the one thing they hadn’t done for nearly a week.

They survived. Now they face another team that spun gold into straw and back into gold in Vancouver. A different team, with different modus operandi, the deepest and best talent coupled with the crushing weight of a city’s demanding and unfulfilled expectations.

But both the Mercury News’s Cam Inman and Mark Purdy just gushed…

[T]he Red Wings kept coming. They are one dogged and admirable hockey team. It’s why the series stretched to the limit. During Thursday’s game, they lost two of their fiercest players—Todd Bertuzzi to a suspected back injury and Dan Cleary to a friendly-fire body blow administered accidentally by teammate Jiri Hudler in an open collision—but the Red Wings kept coming. In fact, even as they were going through the post-series handshake line at center ice, you were wondering if they might still come back and tie the game and send it into overtime.

But they couldn’t. They were in the handshake line because they lost and the Sharks won. It was official. And the Sharks became just the second team in the past 20 years to defeat Detroit in back-to-back playoff series, joining the Colorado Avalanche of 1999-2000.

There had been people who questioned whether the Sharks were ready for this sort of stage. Perhaps forgotten was that five players in the Sharks dressing room had played in a far more tense game than the one Thursday—the overtime gold medal Olympics game at Vancouver in 2010. Thornton, Marleau, Boyle and Dany Heatley played for Team Canada, which won the gold in overtime. Pavelski was a member of Team USA and played terrific in defeat. Nothing could be more pressurized than that, could it? Thursday night almost was. But in the end, it all came out just fine for our beloved Los Tiburones. They deserve every ounce of praise available.

Amongst the out-of-town takes on the game, the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran posited a recap from afar, the Star’s Damien Cox lamented the Wings’ age, TSN’s Bob McKenzie praised the Sharks’ depth and Scott Cullen raved about Marleau and Thornton, pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon penned a “big picture” recap, Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski praised Marleau and issued a Three Star selection, as did SI’s Adrian Dater, Sportsline’s A.J. Perez provided a Sharks-perspective recap while his counterpart, Brian Sutbits, pondered the possible end of a Wings era, and the Hockey News absolutely gushed about the Sharks;

So we’ll allow the Associated Press’s recap to shift our focus from San Jose’s version of events to the Red Wings’ take on a loss that was and is nothing less than devastating:

San Jose avoided becoming the fourth NHL team to lose a series after winning the first three games. A franchise known for its playoff flops avoided a colossal one and now heads into its second straight Western Conference final.

“There’s a lot of doubters who said we probably couldn’t do this,” captain Joe Thornton said. “But that’s two years in a row we beat a pretty good team. We’re a pretty good team now, too.”

The Sharks get two days off before beginning the conference final Sunday in Vancouver against the Canucks, who also won a Game 7 after blowing a 3-0 lead in the first round against defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg scored for the Red Wings, who fought valiantly to the end but were unable to complete their bid for an historic feat. Detroit furiously pushed for the tying goal in the frantic final minutes, but couldn’t beat Niemi again - even after getting a late power-play chance.

“It’s not easy being down 3-0 and having to win four games,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “I felt like we had the upper hand. But you never knew the outcome of any game until the end. At the end, it’s still disappointing to win three games and come back here with a chance to win or tie it in the final minutes and then fall short.”

As the Sporting News’s Craig Custance suggests, the outlooks for the Sharks and Wings couldn’t be more different at this point:

“We have to give them credit, they’re a good team,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said after the game. “I thought this series was a good series, it was entertaining, it was fast.”

It was also reputation-changing. Thornton was the best player on the ice. And Marleau? All he did was score the game-winner. There’s the guts Jeremy Roenick questioned. Thornton was stellar throughout the series, and even through Marleau struggled during the semifinals to find the game critics demanded, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he never lost faith in Marleau.

“We obviously believe in them immensely,” McLellan said. “For him to end up with the game-winning goal is pretty special for our team and for him.”

With the win, the Sharks advance to the Western Conference finals for the second consecutive season, this time against the Vancouver Canucks. Game 1 is at 8 p.m. ET Sunday in Vancouver. With the win, they also put a stop to the Red Wings’ bid to become the fourth NHL team in history to advance after losing the first three games of a series. And they keep alive their hopes of winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The loss raises questions for the future of a few Red Wings veterans. Mike Modano is expected to retire after rarely being used during the postseason by the Red Wings. He’ll go down as one of the best Americans ever to play the game. Kris Draper might also consider retirement.

We’ll get to that in a minute. First, we’ll talk about the game, and the fact that the Wings admitted to NHL.com’s Eric Gilmore that they could not have done a more Regular Season Red Wings-Trademarked thing than to have come out so very flat in the first period…

“We fell behind in the first period and we had to battle to get back in the game pretty much from that point on. I thought we battled hard, but we had a couple of breakdowns where they scored,” Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “They took advantage of it. They’re that good of a team that they’re going to score on their chances.”

San Jose had gone 0-for-10 on the power play while losing three straight games to Detroit, but the Sharks capitalized on their first power play of the night to take a 1-0 lead at 12:20 in the first period on Setoguchi’s goal. The Sharks made it 2-0 when rookie Logan Couture swiped the puck from Zetterberg deep in the Wings zone and snapped a shot high to the short side past Jimmy Howard from the right circle with 59 seconds left in the period.

“We knew they were coming,” Zetterberg said of the Sharks’ furious start. “We were prepared, we wanted to go out and take charge, but instead I think they took the momentum and we ended up a little bit on our heels from the beginning.”
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“Even when we were down 2-0, I kept saying to our guys, ‘Just stay with it. We’ll get one here,’ Babcock said. “I thought we were in the driver’s seat, to tell you the truth. Just because we were coming after them. When we gave up that third goal we scored right away, and I thought we still had lots of opportunities. It didn’t go in.”
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“It doesn’t matter how you cut it, it’s disappointing losing,” Lidstrom said. “Coming back the way we did, being down 3-0, playing real hard and believing in ourselves, finding a way to force it to a Game 7 and just coming up short by a goal—it’s hard.”

And the Wings were equally puzzled by their inability to score on the power play—or perhaps even get a shot off—as Gilmore also noted:

Detroit went 0-for-4 on the power play Thursday night and scored four power-play goals in the series. The Sharks went 1-for-3 and finished with five power-play goals.

“Didn’t get ‘er done for us in the end,” Babcock said after Thursday night’s 3-2 loss. “They scored one more power-play goal in the series than we did – and tonight it was enough to win the game for them. So when you look at it, they won the specialty teams battle tonight. We had some opportunities but not good enough, and we had an opportunity down the stretch when the game was on the line and didn’t’ get it done.”
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“Yeah, it hurt us,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “They scored the first goal to be ahead 1-0 on their power play, and we didn’t respond. Late in the game we had some better power plays, we had some chances, but early on we didn’t execute well at all.”

Babcock told NHL.com’s Dave Lozo that he fully believed that his team could pull off the improbable…

“We gave up the power-play goal, and I thought they took over for the rest of the first period,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We pushed the issue though, and got back in it, to say the least. Their goaltender was outstanding. We had 40 shots on net, they blocked another 25. That says we had a lot of rubber going their way.”

And while he was obviously disappointed with the result…

“We’ve got to give them credit,“Babcock said of the Sharks, who eliminated the Wings in the conference semis for the second straight spring. “They’re a good team. It was a good series. It was entertaining, it was fast, it was hard for any team to lead the other one. It was just one of those series. It was good.”
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“I’m pleased with the effort,” he said. “I’m pleased with the growth of our young players. Our high-end forwards, Datsyuk and Zetterberg, were fantastic in this series and showed great leadership qualities. You’re disappointed because you think in your mind you’re winning for sure and moving on and having an opportunity in Vancouver. I thought the team that came out of this series would have a real shot at winning. You get very few chances to win, and you have to make good on your opportunities.”

He reiterated that statement to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun..

“Our guys came here and fully expected to go on to Vancouver without any question,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “In the end, they’re the team that’s going to go and that part is disappointing, but I don’t think we left anything out there. I thought our guys played as well as they could.”
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“Even when we were down 2-0, I told our guys, ‘Stay with it, we’ll get one here,’” Babcock said. “I thought we were in the driver’s seat, to tell you the truth, just because we were coming after them. We gave up that third goal but got one right away and thought we still had lots of opportunity, but it didn’t go in.”

But while Nicklas Lidstrom suggested that the series couldn’t have been tighter…

“I can’t remember being in this close of a series, every game basically a one-goal game,” Lidstrom said. “I’ve never been part of such a tight series.”

Jimmy Howard may have put it best while speaking to NHL.com’s Eric Gilmore:

Q: Talk about the disappointment of not being able to move on.

A: You know, it stinks. We put in another great effort tonight. Tonight they found a way to win. They got off to a great start.  We knew that coming into this building that they were going to be fired up, they were going to be ready to go. It’s tough when you’re playing behind in this League.

The Wings did their best to insist that losing Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi weren’t crippling blows against a fully healthy (or nearly so) Sharks team, as noted by the Free Press’s Helene St. James...

“Those are two big guys, good at hanging onto the puck and guys that are good at grinding it down low,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “They’re missed when that happens, especially when you have to juggle the lines and find different combinations that you haven’t seen a whole lot of in this playoffs. It made it harder on us.”

Jimmy Howard said: “Those were huge blows. But our ... guys, we just pulled even closer together. It’s tough when you lose two guys like that that are key to your lineup, but there’s no quit in our locker room. I’m extremely proud of our guys.”

Johan Franzen missed a second straight game because of a sprained ankle. Mike Babcock confirmed Pavel Datsyuk had a sore wrist, which was why he hadn’t been taking faceoffs.

And MLive’s Ansar Khan noted…

“We’d like to have had some minutes out of those guys, but that’s hockey,’’ coach Mike Babcock said. “You miss those guys, but it was an opportunity for other guys to step up. I thought our guys did a real good job filling in and playing hard and competing. I thought we were on the puck, so I’m proud of our group. Our group worked real hard.’‘
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Bertuzzi and Cleary both appeared woozy and needed some assistance walking out of the dressing room after the game. They would not have been ready for the start of the next round had Detroit advanced.

“It’s tough to replace anybody in the playoffs, especially those two,’’ Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “They play a lot of minutes, they play a lot of tough minutes, but I think the guys that came in and played instead of them played well.’‘

But the Wings had to admit the obvious to the Free Press’s St. James, who also penned a superb notebook...

“I thought we battled hard,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “But it’s disappointing losing no matter how you cut it. Coming back the way we did, playing real hard, believing in ourselves and finding a way to force it a to a Game 7, and just coming up short—it’s hard.”

The Wings lost the first three games of the series only to stretch it seven, leaving them one victory from becoming the fourth team in NHL history to come back from such a deficit.

“It was a tough test for us but I think we battled hard,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “Unfortunately I think we lost the game in the first period.”

Zetterberg continued while speaking to Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating, as noted by FSD’s Dana Wakiji...

“Of course we believed in ourselves and we gave ourselves a chance to play this game and we didn’t have a good start,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We were a little bit too loose from the beginning and they took advantage, but we battled back and had a lot of chances to tie it up but it wasn’t enough.”

And Babcock agreed, to some extent…

“I thought they skated better in the first than we did,” Babcock said. “I looked up, 10 minutes had gone by. I thought we were doing a pretty good job. Gave up the power-play goal and then I thought they took over for the rest of the first. We pushed the issue for the rest of the game, to say the least. Their goaltender was outstanding. We had 40 shots on net and they blocked another 25 and we missed the net, it says 11 times. They’re a good team. I thought the series was a good series. It was entertaining, it was fast, it was hard for any team to leave the other team.”

But the goal that the Wings really hung their heads about was Marleau’s…

“He (Setoguchi) shoots it, goes off me, goes right on to Marleau’s stick,” Howard told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating after the game. “After it hit the ice, I lost track of it there in the scramble. You can’t do that as a goalie.”

And Niklas Kronwall felt that he screwed up, too, as he told MLive’s Ansar Khan:

“Right now it’s just an empty feeling,’’ defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “I made a huge mistake on the third goal; it was tough for us to come back from that. We knew we were going to get one (after falling behind 3-1), tough to get two. The third goal kind of broke our back.’‘
...
“We did some good things, but it’s tough when we have some injuries,’’ Zetterberg said. “The first game they were better than us but otherwise it was small things that decided whose team’s going to win. It’s two good teams. I think San Jose will do some damage.’‘

They certainly did to the Wings, for whom dropping a 2-0 and 3-1 deficits were fatal, as Jimmy Howard also suggested to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:

“We put in a good effort, it’s just tough when you play behind in this league,” Jimmy Howard said. “It was an extremely gutsy effort the entire series.”

I hate to give Evil Drew Sharp one of the last words here, but he makes a few pertinent points...

We got even with them,” Zetterberg said, “but we just couldn’t push ourselves that last little bit to get past them. It’s disappointing. Despite losing the guys that we did and falling behind like we did, we all thought we would still find a way to win.”

Their 3-2 Game 7 loss doesn’t take away from the determination they exhibited, turning what seemed their certain demise just eight days earlier into a serious flirtation with hockey history.

“It’s very disappointing that we didn’t finish it out like we wanted,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said, “but it’s impossible not to feel good about the character and heart that we showed to even get ourselves in this position where we could take four straight.”

One last game brought with it one last cruel twist. They only got five shifts out of Todd Bertuzzi in the first period before a collision sidelined him with a concussion. And then they lost Danny Cleary in the second period on one of those unfortunate flukes that often decide climactic moments such as these. Jiri Hudler inadvertently smacked into Cleary. He had to be helped off the ice, another victim of a concussion. Add to those losses an injured Johan Franzen missing his second straight game with a bad ankle and an already sizeable obstacle for the Wings became Herculean. But they never once deviated from the simple strategy that worked the previous three games when desperation served as fuel. Keep skating. Keep pushing. Keep believing.

“It just got to a point,” goalie Jimmy Howard said, “where it was just too much to overcome.”
...
“It was an extremely close series,” Lidstrom said, “and they did just enough.”

As does the Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski:

Every point counts, and when these teams collide, every play and every second matters. Six of the seven games were decided by one goal. The problem with launching multiple comebacks is, there’s not much margin for error. For a week, the Wings teetered on that edge, and then in the first period of this one, they fell over it. One penalty. One turnover. Two goals.

The Sharks swarmed as if their reputations were at stake, which made sense because they were, especially sometimes-maligned captain Joe Thornton. They forced the action and reveled in the crowd, just as the Wings had done back in Joe Louis Arena during their Game 6 victory. The “Beat Dee-troit!” chants reverberated, as if the specter of this particular foe weighed heavily.

Hockey is a game of containing mistakes, and the Wings didn’t do it early. Zetterberg tried to lift a pass out of his zone and San Jose’s Logan Couture intercepted, and practically in one motion, fired it past a startled Howard. That gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead, and pushed the Wings back where they’d been all series — in comeback mode.

You can’t keep doing it. The toll mounted, with Johan Franzen already out with an ankle injury. Then Todd Bertuzzi left in the first period with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. There was more, when Dan Cleary collided with teammate Jiri Hudler and dropped to the ice and had to be helped off. There’s always a toll, and the Wings inflicted their share this series and this season. But not enough, just barely not enough.

And that’s the truth.

Multimedia:

Highlights: ESPN posted a 3:28 highlight clip—with Barry Melrose arguing that the Wings’ dynasty may be ending;

TSN posted a 3:56 highlight clip;

Sportsnet posted a 3:28 highlight clip as well;

The CBC posted a 3:12 highlight clip;

NBC Sports posted a 4:23 highlight clip;

Fox Sports posted a 1:21 highlight clip;

CSN Bay Area posted a 2:54 highlight clip;

And NHL.com’s highlight clip is narrated by Versus’ announcers.

Post-game: Sportsnet’s post-game clips include Sharks coach Todd McLellan talking about Patrick Marleau and the usual amount of praise for Joe Thornton;

TSN’s post-game clips involve praise for Patrick Marleau, Devin Setoguchi and Logan Couture, a 3:12 clip of Bob McKenzie, Aaron Ward and Michael Peca talking about the Sharks’ victory, a 4:01 clip of the Sharks’ players’ comments, a 2:20 of the Wings’ players’ comments (Henrik Zetterberg, Brian Rafalski and Jimmy Howard) and both Sharks coach Todd McLellan’s post-game press conference and Wings coach Mike Babcock’s post-game presser and an earned jab at Jiri Hudler;

NBC Sports posted Pierre McGuire’s post-game interview with Joe Thornton and the Versus crew’s 4:01 recap;

Fox Sports Detroit posted Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond’s final 4-minute game recap and analysis, as well as John Keating’s interviews with Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard and part of Mike Babcock’s presser;

CSN Bay Area’s clips include Sharks coach Todd McLellan’s post-game presser, Wings coach Mike Babcock’s post-game presser and post-game comments from Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, as well as on-ice interviews with Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle;

The Sharks’ website posted clips of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle speaking to Pierre McGuire and Dany Heatley calling NHL On the Fly, as well as locker room clips of Devin Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton;

And NHL.com posted clips of the handshake line, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg speaking to John Keating, coach Mike Babcock’s presser, coach Todd McLellan’s presser, and NHL on the Fly’s analysis.

Photos: The Detroit News posted a 29-image gallery;

The Detroit Free Press posted two fan-centric galleries and a 34-image game gallery;

The San Francisco Chronicle posted a 12-image gallery;

The Mercury News posted a 61-image gallery;

NHL.com posted a 70-image gallery;

Yahoo Sports posted an 88-image gallery;

Daylife’s Wings gallery includes several Reuters pictures;

Fox Sports Detroit posted a 12-image gallery, and Fox Sports posted an 11-image gallery;

The CBC embedded a 23-image gallery in its website’s recap;

The Sharks’ website posted a 55-image gallery and embedded an image in its website’s recap;

And the Red Wings’ website posted a 72-image gallery and embedded an image in its website’s recap.

Statistics:

Shots 40-30 Detroit overall, breaking down as 17-11 San Jose in the 1st period, 17-6 Detroit in the 2nd period and 12-7 Detroit in the 3rd period.

The Red Wings went 0-for-4 in 7:14 of PP time; the Sharks went 1-for-3 in 4:26 of PP time.

Howard stopped 27 of 30 shots; Niemi stopped 38 of 40.

The 3 stars, per Dan Rusanowsky, were Pavel Datsyuk, Devin Setoguchi and Dan Boyle.

Faceoffs 33-33 (50%);

Blocked shots 25-20 San Jose;

Missed shots 11-6 Detroit (total shot attempts 76-56 Detroit);

Hits 27-24 Detroit;

Giveaways 13-11 Detroit;

Takeaways 8-5 San Jose.

Individual Stats:

Faceoffs Zetterberg went 16-and-14 (53%); Filppula went 11-and-8 (58%); Helm went 4-and-6 (40%); Draper went 2-and-1 (67%); Abdelkader went 0-and-2 (0%); Cleary went 0-and-1 (0%); Miller went 0-and-1 (0%).

Shots Datsyuk led the team with 8 shots; Helm had 4; Miller, Zetterberg, Filppula and Holmstrom had 3; Lidstrom, Cleary, Eaves, Stuart, Rafalski and Kronwall had 2; Abdelkader, Salei, Bertuzzi and Ericsson had 1.

Blocked attempts Eaves had 4 shot attempts blocked by Sharks players; Datsyuk, Stuart, Hudler and Zetterberg had 3 blocked; Helm had 2 shot attempts blocked; Lidstrom, Salei, Rafalski, Filppula, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1 shot attempt blocked.

Missed shots Stuart and Zetterberg missed the net 2 times; Lidstrom, Cleary, Eaves, Hudler, Helm, Kronwall and Holmstrom missed the net 1 time.

Hits Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk and Kronwall had 3 hits; Miller and Salei had 2; Lidstrom, Eaves, Stuart, Rafalski, Draper, Zetterberg, Helm, Bertuzzi, Filppula, Ericsson and Holmstrom had 1 hit.

Giveaways Zetterberg had 3 giveaways; Abdelkader had 2; Lidstrom, Stuart, Salei, Hudler, Filppula, Kronwall, Holmstrom and Howard had 1 giveaway.

Takeaways Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Hudler, Zetterberg and Filppula had takeaways.

Blocked opponent shots Kronwall blocked 4 shots; Stuart blocked 3; Rafalski and Filppula blocked 2; Lidstrom, Abdelkader, Cleary, Eaves, Miller, Salei, Hudler, Zetterberg and Ericsson blocked 1 shot.

Penalties taken Datsyuk, Ericsson and Kronwall were tagged with minor penalties.

Plus-minus Cleary, Hudler, Rafalski and Kronwall finished at -1; Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Stuart and Filppula finished at +1.

Points Datsyuk and Zetterberg had goals; Stuart, Filppula and Ericsson had assists.

Ice time Lidstrom led the team with 23:46; Zetterberg played 23:39; Kronwall played 21:57;

Datsyuk played 21:41; Rafalski played 21:32; Stuart played 21:27;

Filppula played 21:06; Holmstrom played 17:06; Hudler played 17:01;

Salei played 16:42; Abdelkader played 14:43; Ericsson played 14:41;

Helm played 14:15; Eaves played 13:42; Cleary played 10:43;

Miller played 10:09; Draper played 8:09; Bertuzzi played 3:53.

Nicklas Lidstrom: Lidstrom was blunt about the fact that he’ll sit down with his family and decide what to do regarding playing next season when he spoke to the media after the game, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted:

“I’m going to take my time and make a decision here next little while,” Lidstrom said after the 3-2 Game 7 loss Thursday at HP Pavilion. “I’m sure we’re going to have our year-end meetings and go from there.”

Lidstrom was announced as a finalist for the Norris Trophy after the regular season, giving him a chance to collect what would be his seventh such award.

“I’m hoping he wants to come back,” general manager Ken Holland said. “I don’t assume he’s looking to make a decision any time soon. We just need to know before July 1.”

The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan also took note of Lidstrom’s comments…

“I’m going to take my time on my decision here in the next little while,” said Lidstrom after Thursday’s 3-2 loss. “I’m now sure how long it’ll take but we’ll have our year-end meetings and go on from there.”
...
“I want to take everything into account, the regular season and playoffs,” Lidstrom said.
...
“We all do (hope he returns),” Henrik Zetterberg said. “He has a lot of hockey left in him. In my eyes he’s the Norris Trophy (winner) and it would be great to see him back in a uniform next season.”

General manager Ken Holland hasn’t spoken to Lidstrom regarding the future. Holland said he’ll let Lidstrom take his time, as has been the case the last few years, and let Lidstrom come to a career decision.

“Hopefully he comes back for another year,” Holland said.

MLive’s Ansar Khan noted Lidstrom’s comments, too...

I’m going to take my time and make a decision in the next little while, not sure how long it’ll take,’’ Lidstrom said after Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 7. “I’m going to take everything into account, whether it’s the series or the regular season or just the whole year.’‘

Many in the organization believe he will return for a 20th season because he’s still playing at a high level, he’s healthy and the team will continue to be competitive.

And ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun noted both Lidstrom and his coach and teammates’ comments..

“We all do [hope he returns],” Henrik Zetterberg said. “He has a lot of hockey left in him. In my eyes, he’s the Norris trophy [winner], and it would be great to see him back in a uniform next season.”

“He’s a family guy, and he’s got kids and a wife,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I imagine he’ll make a decision. But talking about this stuff right now, we haven’t had any time to think about this, so I can’t tell you much.”
...
“It’s a disappointing loss,” [Lidstrom] said. “Coming back the way we did, we played real hard and we believed in ourselves, and then just coming up short. It’s real hard [right now]. ... We battled hard when we were down 3-0 and forced a Game 7. And to just come up short, it’s disappointing. I’m real proud of the way the guys battled.”

As well as Ken Holland’s take on the Wings’ other vets:

What now for the Wings? Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Jonathan Ericsson, Drew Miller, Mike Modano and Patrick Eaves are all unrestricted free agents. You also wonder how back-to-back second-round exits will affect Holland’s thinking.

“You know what, when we won the Cups, we won games by a sliver,” Holland said Thursday night after his team’s defeat. “And when you lose, you lose by a sliver. I think all seven of these games, any team could have won any of them. Unfortunately, we got behind 3-0. If we could have won one of the first three, who knows what would have happened. But I think you just keep doing what you do. We’ll have to make some moves, but we’ll see.”

Wings and Sharks notebooks: Ted Kulfan’s pre-game notebook about the Wings’ players’ takes on making a difference in Game 7’s based on past performances just seems ironic now, he noted that the Wings obviously believed even before the game that the Sharks make a helluva rival, and that Babcock simply decided that he couldn’t risk playing Johan Franzen, and his three stars were Marleau, Datsyuk and Thornton;

• The Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski also penned a pre-game notebook noting that the Wings hope to both extend Lidstrom’s career by not over-working him on the penalty-kill while grooming Niklas Kronwall to wear an “A” on a full-time basis:

It’s not really accurate to say a 30-year-old is being “groomed,” although with the experienced Wings, that’s the way it works sometimes. Kronwall, their first-round pick in 2000, actually has been very good for a while, although dogged a bit by injuries. Healthy now, Kronwall scored a career-high 11 goals in the regular season and was a force in the playoffs. Get this juicy little statistic: In 74 career playoff games, he’s a plus-29, which puts him on pace with his storied predecessor. In 258 playoff games, Lidstrom is a plus-61.

“The good thing about Kronner is, he’s good with the puck, good without the puck, a dynamic open-ice hitter, active on the breakouts and the rush,” Babcock said. “He’s an elite player, playing the most minutes for a reason. He’s kind of the next generation for us, but he’s been an elite player for a long time.”

• I think the Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp has it wrong in suggesting that it’s Gary Bettman that we have to thank for exciting Game 7’s and rallies from 3-0 deificts:

The Sharks stopped circling, stopped swarming in the third period of Game 5 with a 3-1 lead. That will be remembered as the turning point of this series, converting what should have been a definitive five-game series statement in this young franchise’s Stanley Cup evolution into a seven-game nail-biter that had everyone in this town Thursday afternoon sweating profusely. Ten years ago, a two-goal third period lead was safe. You didn’t have to take chances. You could sit back, luring the opposition into a defensive trap, placing the onus exclusively on the trailing team.

Admit it. It was boring. The game deliberately slowed to a crawl.It’s difficult saying this, but Gary Bettman got it right this time. The new rules have worked, rewarding those players who could score or hit, as long as they could skate.The NBA playoffs have generally lacked the edge-of-your-seat dramatics, unless you’re a Lakers hater and found their four-game surrender against Dallas stimulating. But these NHL playoffs have been an overtime-laden, can’t-turn-your-eyes-away-for-an-instant spectacle with the Wings and Blackhawks, in a span of a couple weeks, taking their respective series to the very last opportunity possible despite losing the first three games.

Yeah, but the rules were proposed by Brendan Shanahan and the joint NHL-NHLPA competition committee during the “Shanahan Summit,” and approved by the GM’s and the NHL’s Board of Governors, and only after a lockout which was preceded by Bettman insisting that the league would do “something” about its product when its current CBA ended. This game isn’t his baby—he just gets the credit for it;

• WXYT’s Jeff Rige

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

sjketcheson's avatar

You’re the man George. Good to know that if there’s a story out there this summer, you can bet it’ll be noted here on TMR!

Posted by sjketcheson from the floor of the Hasek on 05/13/11 at 11:17 AM ET

eyesris's avatar

George, thanks so much and I’m really glad you are here at KK. Between you and Master Chief there are no other blogs a Wings fan needs. Thanks again!

Posted by eyesris from Asheville, NC on 05/13/11 at 11:55 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

George, I don’t know how you managed to make yourself put this together after such an emotional night. Yep, this stings (and stinks, as Jimmah said). I’m not ready to think about next season yet, but I sincerely hope you keep on doing what you do, because you are amazing. Thanks for all your great work.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/13/11 at 11:57 AM ET

Avatar

” I don’t know how we can do it, but I’d love to hear some suggestions as to how we can thank them for a wonderful season and playoff run.”

oh my god you make me sick, fanboy.

there’s a reason you’re a blogger and not a journalist.

Posted by jmb on 05/13/11 at 12:01 PM ET

Twig's avatar

amazing how a guy can go from zero to hero by standing in the right spot at the right time. that’s hockey.

Posted by Twig from Houston, TX on 05/13/11 at 12:05 PM ET

BettmenSucks79's avatar

Anyone else feel like SJ thinks this is it, that they did it, etc.?  They only just made the west final—and it sounds like they won the damn cup.  Not much mention of, yeah, we won, but now we gotta do it again.  The tone of the interviews is just different than when the Wings give them.  If the outcome had been different, how many times do you think we’d have heard “We did it, but now we have to enjoy it tonight and start preparing for Van tomorrow”  I bet SJ ends up down 2-0 vs Van.  I guess that would be the difference between organizations that have been there before, and those that are thinking they just wanna be there.

Posted by BettmenSucks79 on 05/13/11 at 12:21 PM ET

Twig's avatar

Posted by BettmenSucks79 on 05/13/11 at 10:21 AM ET

they did the same exact thing last year. “exercised their demons” by beating detroit, then got swept by chicago. we’ll see if they actually learned a thing.

Posted by Twig from Houston, TX on 05/13/11 at 12:55 PM ET

MsRedWingFan's avatar

Thanks George ..

I hope the Nuck sweep them ...  (classLESS Captains give the NHL a bad rep and I am so glad I didn’t have to listen to the VS announcers gushing over him last night)  then I hope the Nucks get swept by TB

Posted by MsRedWingFan from West Michigan hometown of Abdelkader on 05/13/11 at 01:21 PM ET

Forlorn in VA's avatar

George, I don’t know how you do all that you do.  Thank you.

Posted by Forlorn in VA on 05/13/11 at 01:26 PM ET

joedaiceman's avatar

I’m damn proud to a Red Wings fan. We skated circles our those bastards last night after the first period without 3 of our best forwards. Now I know what Pavel means when he said never quit.

Posted by joedaiceman on 05/13/11 at 03:30 PM ET

CC Moor's avatar

George,

Dittos to what others have said:  Thanks for great reporting this season.

It’s kind of heartbreaking but it was great hockey, and you play all season to try to play on home ice as much as possible this time of year.  I feel as though had we had 106 points instead of 104, we would be moving on….. but we had a mediocre 2nd half to say the least.

So much parity in the NHL now!  Our time will come again…..thanks again.

Posted by CC Moor from Washington DC on 05/13/11 at 03:56 PM ET

Sal's avatar

I hope Babs uses this series loss next year when the team starts to coast through the end of the regular season and concedes a higher seed to another team again.  Home ice might have made all the difference in this series, and not just less travel and home crowds.  Better quality ice makes a difference to a puck control team.

I’m proud of how they fought to get back into the series.  A valiant effort, but I can’t help but think that this series was lost in February and March when they were putting in lousy efforts against teams like the Preds and the Blues allowing the Sharks to take 2nd in the West.

Posted by Sal from the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains on 05/13/11 at 08:39 PM ET

Slumpy's avatar

Bob Duff picked the Sharks to win the SC, lol. No way Niemi becomes the first goalie to win back to back SC’s with two different teams.
I’m predicting Boston or Vancouver wins it.
Make this team younger, bigger and faster for next season Kenny.

Posted by Slumpy from Detroit on 05/13/11 at 09:11 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.