The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/07/11 at 06:28 PM ET
Updated 4x at 6:39 PM: The Detroit Red Wings flew to San Jose after Friday night’s elimination-staving 4-3 win over the Sharks, incurring a $2,500 fine for landing at San Jose International Airport far after its 10:30 PM local time curfew—Red Bird II didn’t touch down until 1:44 AM PDT, or 4:44 AM Eastern time—but the Wings still practiced today and spoke to the media bout tightening up their defensive play after surrendering a 3-goal lead, as Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“They’re a team that doesn’t appear to need as many chances to score,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “That’s what teams that score, do. I think they’ve got seven 20-goal scorers, and so the puck just seems to find a way in. And yet in saying that, I think for us, we gave them the first goal. And in my opinion we gave them the second goal. And then the third goal, how does Dany Heatley wind up in front of your net by himself? Those are freebies. We’ve just got to clean up on our own zone and be poised.”
Both Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen opted to stay off the ice. Datsyuk said he felt fine and Franzen isn’t practicing because he’s got a sore ankle, but Babcock said Franzen will play again Sunday and doesn’t anticipate making any lineup changes.
MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the Wings don’t plan on making any personnel tweaks on Sunday…
Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen (ankle) did not skate today, but coach Mike Babcock said both are expected to play in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against San Jose Sunday at HP Pavilion (8 p.m., Versus). Babcock said he is not planning any lineup changes “at this time.’‘
That means Drew Miller and Mike Modano will be scratched.
“(Miller) is a real good player and so is Mike Modano. So I’m not going to hesitate to ... both of them are on standby and both will be game-time decisions tomorrow,’’ Babcock said.
Franzen played nearly 20 minutes in Game 4 but appeared to be laboring. He does not have any points in the series.
SanJoseSharks.com’s Tony Khing also noted the comments made by the Wings’ players after Saturday’s practice, focusing on the Wings’ desire to continue to pepper Antti Niemi with shots…
“We’ve been getting more shots and we’re getting there for rebounds,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We’ve been trying to shoot the puck more and get more second chances. That’s been something we talked about when this series started. We weren’t able to do it in the first couple of games but we’ve been doing a much better job in the last two games.”
“We have to continue to do it,” Detroit Coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought a lot of pucks came off (goaltender Antti Niemi). Part of the reason pucks came off was because you get there and you have pressure. That’s what we hope we continue to do.”
Detroit’s power play has been solid over the last three games. They’ve scored four of their eight goals over the three on the power play. The Wings have converted on nearly 27 percent of their man-advantage chances during this period.
“We need a little more of the 5-on-5 scoring,” said Todd Bertuzzi, who scored a goal in Game 4. “We can’t sit back and rely on the power play. We have to start scoring 5-on-5. Hopefully, it’s a chain reaction here.”
It goes without saying that Game 5 will be the biggest game of Detroit’s 2010-11 season. In fact, every remaining game in this series will be the biggest game of Detroit’s 2010-11 season. But as long as they keep creating opportunities, Detroit will always have a chance.
“We knew what we had to do last night. We had to win,” Lidstrom said. “We have to have the same approach tomorrow night. We have to come out, play solid and win another game. We can’t worry about anything else but that game tomorrow night.”
“It’s a stupid cliché, but we just have to worry about tomorrow,” Bertuzzi said. “If we give that same kind of effort to our system, we’ve got the recipe for success.”
In a before-I-fly-back blog entry, the Mercury News’s David Pollak provided the Sharks’ takes on two specific issues from last night’s game…
*****The Red Wings first goal came when [Dan] Boyle attempted a one-timer, only to have the puck go virtually nowhere off his stick. The Red Wings took advantage of that and the play headed down the ice in the opposite direction, with Todd Bertuzzi showing more finesse than many might give him credit for by spinning away from Dany Heatley and launching a backhand shot that beat Antti Niemi from 33 feet out.
“That was one of those hockey plays,” said Boyle. “Zetterberg’s got his stick right there, it’s two sticks coming in there. that’s just a hockey play. That happens all the time. I usually blame myself for a lot of things, but that was just a hockey play. We’ve got to do a better job of getting back into our own end.”
*****[Coach Todd] McLellan said the Red Wings did a better job of getting to loose pucks than the Sharks. So was that because Detroit was a step faster than it had been, or because the Sharks slowed down a bit?
“A combination of both,” he said. “Those are the best legs they’ve had in the series so far and that widens the gap a little bit. And then our lack of legs and lack of execution widens it even more. We’ve said all along it’s going to be a play, it’s going to be a bounce that makes a difference and when the gap gets a little wider, one team takes advantage of it.”
While the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness took note of the Wings’ up-tick in penalty-killing proficiency…
The Wings had a feeling the next penalty being called was going on them after having four straight power play opportunities after two periods. It happened.
After Dany Heatley scored early in the third period to tie the game, the Sharks went on the power play three minutes later. They had another just past the midway point of the period. The Wings killed both of them off.
“We just kind of changed our forecheck a little bit to give a different look and I think it did pretty well,” Patrick Eaves said. “It causes a little bit more havoc for them.”
San Jose had scored a power play goal in each of the first two games of the series, including two in Game 3.
As well as this little bit of contention:
Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader and San Jose’s Ryane Clowe were each given double roughing minors at the end of Game 4.
“Oh, just a little scrum,” said Clowe, who got a nice punch in on Abdelkader. “I wish it was (Niklas) Kronwall lining up against me. That’s alright.”
Paul asked me if I caught that this morning, and I mentioned something that you might not have noticed in the marginalia—while Dany Heatley and Kronwall have been going at it long before Heatley was “Kronwalled,” Douglas Murray told Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom that he’d hoped to drop the gloves with Abdelkader if the Sharks managed to take a multiple-goal lead on Friday, so the Sharks aren’t particularly discreet about the fact that they’re targeting two players who’ve gotten under their skin.
Update #2 Aside from stating the obvious—that Franzen’s skating remains a bit labored—I thought he did a pretty good job of getting into scoring areas last night, though he did pass when he should have shot, and he seems to be adjusting to his visor. He might not be at 100%, but his conditioning’s coming back and he’s learning to compensate for his lack of turning and flat-out skating speed;
Helm’s line: Darren Helm’s fourth line with Kris Draper and Patrick Eaves had some real jam Friday night.
“I thought that Helm line played real well for us tonight,” said Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom. “They used their speed, they were getting the puck behind the defense and playing real solid offensively.”
“We got some faceoffs in their zone and it felt like we were able to create some pressure and gain some momentum,” said Eaves. “We got that goal and that was huge.”
Helm got the winner with 1:27 left.
“Helmer was due,” said Wings head coach Mike Babcock. “He turned the puck over for the first goal. He’s a real good player and it didn’t go his way in the last game.”
Todd Bertuzzi gave us a flashback to his heady Vancouver Canucks days with a spin-o-rama backhand goal to open the scoring Friday night.
“I just got a good pass up by Bear, then just tried to take it to the inside, got him moving the right way and got around him, tried to get a good, hard shot on net. It was nice to see it go in,” said Bertuzzi.
• If it matters, you can check out Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s latest episode of “Late Night Confidential” or post-game clips of Ryane “I hate Kronwall” Clowe…
• And NHL.com’s Brian Hedger noted the Wings’ response to finally winning a one-goal game against a Sharks team that’s racked up seven playoff wins against Detroit via one-goal margins:
“I thought it was important, especially the way they came back in the game and tied it up,” said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who scored twice in the first period to up his goal total to four in this series. “We stuck with our gameplan and we were really desperate late in the game, too, whether it was getting the puck in deep or hanging onto it and taking a lot of shots late in the game. It was nice to finally get rewarded the way we did.”
The reward? Well, aside from the obvious—an extension of the series to Game 5 on Sunday at San Jose’s HP Pavilion—the Red Wings also answered some questions about playing the Sharks in the postseason of late. It was Detroit’s first one-goal win against San Jose in the last 10 postseason meetings between the two—after San Jose ran its streak of one-goal playoff victories against Detroit to eight Wednesday, dating back to Game 3 of their 2007 series. The Red Wings wouldn’t fully admit it, but they needed Game 4 of this series to play out the way it did, if for no other reason than to muzzle those who claimed they couldn’t outlast the Sharks in a close game. Those eight one-goal postseason wins against the Wings set a League record—which was previously seven by the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Montreal Canadiens between 1947 and 1959. No wonder the look on goalie Jimmy Howard’s face was one of sheer relief.
“Winning a tight one?” Howard said, when asked if blowing the big lead could actually be therapeutic. “Yeah, why not? Now we just need to use this and get ourselves going again here on Sunday. We’re going to keep being in the same situations and we have to fight and claw for every inch out there—it’s just live to see another day.”
Speaking of which, the Red Wings are already deep into their “one-game-at-a-time” approach—so much so they didn’t even want to talk about the lift that would surely come from a Game 6 back in Detroit.
“That would give us a big boost, but we’re just focusing on (Game 5),” Lidstrom said. “We can’t be thinking too far ahead.”
“Some guys may not be back, this might be one of our last chances to have a really good team, so yeah you want to win and play hard for everybody in here,” Helm said. “It’s about the logo on your chest. There’s a lot of pride in this dressing room. Guys knew it was a desperate situation and they didn’t want to be embarrassed by being swept.”
Update #2: Detroit Hockey Weekly’s Paul Harris filed a game report;
• And the AP’s posted yet another placeholder story:
The fact that the Detroit Red Wings were skating in San Jose on Saturday offered a small glimmer of hope that maybe they might add a little more drama to the franchise’s storied history.
At this point, they’ll take anything they can get.
The Red Wings took an overnight flight to California after Game 4, landed in the wee hours of the morning and were back practicing before noon despite little sleep and worn-down bodies.
No time to rest now.
Only three NHL teams have overcome 3-0 deficits to win a best-of-seven series. After avoiding the embarrassment of being swept on home ice, Detroit will have to do something it failed to do last postseason to stay alive: win Game 5 at San Jose on Sunday night.
Update #3: The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch penned a practice article...
“They want to win a game and we want to win a game,” said Babcock Saturday. “Right now, they’re (up) 3-1. They’re in a different situation than our situation. The reality is, as you know, as these things go on, if a team can crawl back in it, these things get tighter and tighter.”
The Sharks are breathing easy at the moment. But, don’t think for a second everybody here isn’t talking about the way the Chicago Blackhawks were able to close a 3-0 gap on the Vancouver Canucks to tie the series and send it to Game 7 in the first round. The Wings and San Jose both made the long trek to Southern California immediately after Game 4 and had skates in the late afternoon at the Sharks’ practice facility in the suburbs. There was nothing taxing for either team.
“This is the big one,” said Wings’ centre Kris Draper. “I think Game 5 is huge. We’re coming into their building and they obviously want to end the series. We’re doing everything we possibly can to force Game 6. We’re going to lay it all on the line.”
At this point, Detroit is just happy to be alive. They stared elimination in the face, pulled out to a 3-0 lead in Game 4, nearly blew it, but were able to keep enough composure to get the winner from Darren Helm late in the third. The approach is simple: One game at a time. The Wings aren’t really much better off than they were 48 hours ago. They’re still down in the series, San Jose is still in control and Detroit needs three straight victories. The Wings took the play to the Sharks from the start, but slowly allowed San Jose to creep back in it when Dany Heatley tied it up in the third. Detroit has yet to play a full 60 minutes in this series and that has to be a concern.
“We know we have to come out and win the next game as well,” said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom. “You do whatever you have to do to win the game. We’ve got to have the same approach going into (Sunday). We know they’re going to play better. They’re going to come after us playing at home. They’ll be a desperate team. We knew what we had to do (Friday), we had to win. It’s going to be the same approach (Sunday).”
The towel had pretty much been thrown in on the Wings’ season when they dropped a 4-3 OT decision in Game 3 in Detroit. The club hadn’t been swept since 2003 and the Wings refused to just hand over the series. The thinking in the Detroit room: The players have come this far why not force another game?
“Guys were just happy to get that first win. We just have to go from there and try to get another one. Who knows?,” said Wings’ defenceman Brad Stuart.
• WXYT’s Ken Kal filed an early-morning take on Game 4...
Just arrived in San Jose. (5:30 Detroit time) Just thought I’d share a few comments about last night’s 4-3 win before I get some sleep.
Wow what a game and what a finish! The crowd was outstanding at Joe Louis Arena. The fans stood and cheered on the Red Wings from the last tv commercial break to the end of the game and I truly believe the cheering inspired the team. Then when Darren Helm fired that puck into the net for the go ahead goal, the building shook!
Let’s not forget Patrick Eaves. He made a beautiful pass over to Helm who fired the puck past Antti Niemi for the game winner. The Red Wings are still alive! Now they must build on this win and carry this momentum into Game 5 on Sunday. It will be a hornets nest at HP Pavilion on Sunday, but I don’t think that will bother Detroit at all. Keep in mind the Red Wings were one of the best road teams in the NHL during the regular season. They know how to win away from the Joe. This is another reason why I believe the Wings aren’t done yet.
San Jose is a very good team. It looked like the Red Wings were going to roll after taking a 3-0 lead in the first, but the Sharks inched their way back to tie the game. The Sharks found ways to win in the first three games of the series, but it was the Red Wings that found a way to win in game 4.
The team is getting some much needed sleep as I write this after about a 5 1/2 hour flight. They will practice at 12 noon (3pm Detroit time) and get prepared for game 5. As for me, I’ll get a few hours of sleep, go to practice, watch the Kentucky Derby, get some dinner and tune into the Vancouver-Nashville game.
• The Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo weighed in on Friday’s game;
• According to the Chatham Daily news’s Mark Malone, former CCHA announcer Fred Pletsch has been named the CCHA’s commissioner;
• And the Guelph Mercury’s Tony Saxon reports that the Guelph Storm, Todd Bertuzzi’s OHL alma mater, drafted his nephew, Tyler, in the OHL bantam draft.
Update #4: Per Garrioch:
Todd McLellan didn’t read the riot act to the Sharks Saturday.
“It was an easy day,” said McLellan. “I didn’t have to tell them a lot, I showed them a lot.”
It wasn’t pretty. The Sharks arrived home early Saturday after a 4-3 loss to the Wings in Game 4 of the Western semi-final Friday at the Joe Louis Arena and McLellan sent a message the effort has to be better if they don’t want to return to Detroit.
“We weren’t close enough. We weren’t good enough to win that game (Friday) and we probably weren’t good enough in Game 3 (Wednesday) as well,” said McLellan. “I thought the gap got a little wider in Game 4 and we have to close it. The Wings) intensity level went up and we didn’t meet it. They did a lot of good things in our zone, throwing pucks at the net and getting second opportunities. Those are things we were doing well in Game 1 and Game 2 and we’ve got to get back to do some of that ourselves.”
• And NHL.com’s Lozo took note of the depth players providing key goals for both teams:
The Wings played their two best games of this series in Games 3 and 4, when Helm and Eaves connected for 2 goals and 2 assists.
“Knowing you can go out and play and offensively chip in, it’s going to be tough for the other team to beat you,” Draper said. “It’s huge. You look at any team that wins the Stanley Cup, you look a third, fourth lines, they contributed. You always know going into a game, the big guys are going to be the big guys. It’s almost like they cancel each other out. If the third, fourth lines can step and score goals, that’s usually going to be the difference.”
The Sharks might have the most talented third line remaining in the playoffs, with Torrey Mitchell, Joe Pavelski and Kyle Wellwood combining for 6 goals and 11 assists in 10 games. Pavelski scored the OT winner in Game 1 against the Los Angeles Kings during the first round and sees a lot of time on the power play, something not many “role players” can boast. With snipers Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau combining for just 5 goals so far in the postseason, getting goals from the third line—and an OT winner from Ferriero in Game 1 against the Red Wings—takes the pressure off them and gives them time to find their scoring touch.
“Pavs, Torrey and Welly have been good since January,” said Devin Setoguchi, who broke out for a hat trick in Game 3 against the Red Wings after going five games with just one assist. “We need to have that secondary scoring. That’s what makes a difference in the playoffs. That’s how you take pressure off the top lines. It’s harder to control us as an opposing team when you have everyone scoring.”
“It’s very important to have the depth and not having the top two lines scoring the goals for you,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “I think it makes you harder to play against. If you have more lines that can score goals and chip in defensively, this gives you more of a chance.”
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