The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/29/11 at 05:22 PM ET
Updated 9x at 8:56 PM: If there is a conflict on TV, FSD+ will air the pre-game show and possibly part of the game: Bullet points aside, the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks have finished practice ahead of tonight’s game (10 PM EDT, FSD/CSN Bay Area/Versus/TSN/WXYT), and both Sharks coach Todd McLellan and Wings coach Mike Babcock have decided to tweak their lineups.
The Mercury News’s David Pollak reports that former Wings nemesis (from his days as a Blackhawk) and forechecking demon Ben Eager will play for the Sharks…
Do not be surprised to see Ben Eager back at left wing on the fourth line tonight.
“Maybe” was Todd McLellan’s answer to the question of lineup tinkering and, no, he wasn’t going to share his thoughts on what he had in mind.
But Eager was off the ice after this morning’s optional skate with the lineup regulars, usually the sign of someone who will be in action that same night. And when I talked with Eager, he sounded like someone who is about to get another chance.
While we’re speculating, there could be another change as well. Benn Ferriero, too, came off the ice before both Jamal Mayers and Jamie McGinn. Again, there’s subterfuge all the time. But it looks as if the Sharks lineup starting the Detroit series won’t be the same one that finished up against Los Angeles.
For the Wings, Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating reports the following:
#RedWings Draper and Modano healthy scratches for GM 1 vs SJ tonight.
#RedWings Mike Babcock’s bday. today. “if I’m coaching on my bday, it’s a good yr. Daughter texted: impress me. Coach on My Bday-June 2nd”
And Wings social media director Jake Duhaime confirms:
Bertuzzi: I think the situation, playing those guys (San Jose) again is exciting.
According to Mike Babcock, Modano and Draper are healthy scratches tonight. Hank and Pavel will warm up and are expected to start together.
Babcock said he received a ‘Happy Birthday’ text from his daughter this morning. Said she’d be happy if they were playing on her BD (6/2)
Babcock also stated that it wasn’t worth it, especially in a warm building, to waste energy in scrums after the whistle.
Brian Rafalski addresses the media after practice. yfrog.com/h0e3ldsj
From the Sharks’ side of things, from CSN Bay Area’s Brodie Brazil:
Jamal Mayers one of the last regulars on the ice for #sjsharks meanwhile Eager already done skating.
Relatively busy day in #sjsharks dressing room. http://yfrog.com/h7w1bnakj
McGinn, Huskins, Braun last #sjsharks off ice.
McLellan: “We’re not going to advance unless we play better defensively.” #sjsharks
Pavelski: “Against #redwings, you can’t take liberties or dumb penalties, have to play the right way” #sjsharks
Update #1: Mlive’s Ansar Khan confirms:
Veterans Kris Draper and Mike Modano are the healthy forward scratches for the Detroit Red Wings tonight in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the San Jose Sharks (10 p.m., FSD), coach Mike Babcock said after the morning skate at HP Pavilion.
Babcock said he’ll start the game with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the same line and see how it goes.
“We’ll see what happens,’’ Babcock said. “Just like who’s playing good and who’s not playing good. We start with a plan and that plan’s usually good until the first or second shift and then you’re ready to adjust. Whoever’s playing the best gets on the ice. If it’s working good you keep them together, if it’s not working good, keep them apart.’‘
Here is Detroit’s lineup:
Update #2: Of kinda-sorta-Wings-related note from ESPN’s talking heads:
1. Which player is your Conn Smythe front-runner so far?
Burnside: Danny Briere, Philadelphia. He delivered the goods in the first round when it looked like the Flyers were going to be upset by Buffalo. He was the Flyers’ best forward a year ago during their march to the Stanley Cup finals and hasn’t missed a beat in this year’s playoffs so far.
Hradek: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit. Did you watch the first round? He was silly good against the Coyotes, taking his game to yet another level. He was by far the best player in the opening round.
LeBrun: Datsyuk. He played only four games in the first round because he was the single-biggest reason his Red Wings swept the Coyotes. He terrorized Phoenix with dazzling offensive plays and, just as importantly, his usual standout defensive work. He’s my man through one round.
7. Which team has the best one-two punch?
Burnside: I think it’s Briere and Claude Giroux of Philadelphia. Both are creative and driven, and they should have a field day against a slow Boston defense.
Hradek: I’ll go off the board and take the Predators’ top defense pair of Weber and Ryan Suter. There’s not a better defensive duo in the league. The Preds don’t make the playoffs without those guys, both entering the prime of their careers.
LeBrun: Up front, it’s Detroit’s Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, no question. They do it all at both ends of the ice. But on defense, the best one-two punch is Weber and Suter. There is no better pairing in the NHL right now. They can shut down the opposition’s top threats, plus contribute offensively.
• And my Q and A with Sharkspages.com’s Jon Swenson was just posted. No big whoop or any real revelations from me, but the plug is greatly appreciated.
• Speaking of awkward, per the Griffins’ blog:
The leading point producer and top goal scorer from the Griffins’ last Calder Cup run in 2009 are making their presence felt in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ville Leino and Justin Abdelkader led Grand Rapids to its first and only playoff upset two years ago, toppling Hamilton 4-2 in the AHL’s North Division Semifinals. The pair put on a clinic the likes of which have rarely been seen during the Griffins’ lengthy postseason history.
All of the dynamic duo’s 21 combined playoff points were registered during that six-game series against the Bulldogs. Abdelkader’s six goals set a Griffins record for a single playoff round, while his four-game goal streak fell one shy of the franchise playoff mark. Meanwhile, Leino’s 10 assists tied the Griffins’ single-series record, while his 13 points fell one short of the team’s standard. In addition, he set a franchise playoff record with a six-game assist streak.
Last spring, Leino transformed the City of Brotherly Love into Villedelphia, setting an NHL record for playoff scoring by a rookie and tying for sixth in the league with 21 points. His seven goals also established a Flyers franchise record for goals by a rookie in a single playoff season.
Leino’s gone right back to his old tricks this year, currently tying for first in the NHL in shooting percentage (37.5) and ninth in goals (3). In addition to scoring the overtime winner in Game 6 against Buffalo, he tallied Philly’s fourth goal in Game 7 that chased heralded netminder Ryan Miller from the crease and, eventually, the postseason.
As for Abdelkader, evidence of his impact can also be found on the stat sheet, but just not under the scoring columns. While centering Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi on the third line, he leads Detroit and ranks among the NHL’s elite by winning 61.1% of his faceoffs, and his average ice time of 15:46 ranks fourth among Red Wings forwards. He’s more than earned the trust of Detroit’s coaching staff with his physical, dependable play.
One more thing for this update: The Wings posted the details of their viewing parties for tonight’s game:
The Red Wings and Absolut Vodka will be hosting a pair of viewing parties for the first two games of Detroit’s Western Conference semifinals matchup versus the San Jose Sharks this weekend. Citizens of Hockeytown are invited to attend both of these parties, where they’ll be able to enjoy great food and drink specials, play interactive games and have the chance to win autographed merchandise as well as playoff tickets all while enjoying the unparalleled excitement of post-season hockey in a fun-filled environment.
Here are the times and locations for both of this weekend’s viewing parties:
Game 1 vs. San Jose – Friday, April 29: Puck Drop @ 10 p.m.
Hamlin Pub – 55076 Van Dyke Avenue, Shelby Township, Mich.
Featuring Special Guest, Red Wings alumnus Brent Fedyk
Game 2 vs. San Jose – Sunday, May 1: Puck Drop @ 3 p.m.
Hockeytown Café – 2301 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Mich.
In the event that the Red Wings’ series with the Sharks goes to a fifth game, a viewing party will be held at MotorCity Casino (2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit, Mich.) on Sunday, May 8 (puck drop – 8 p.m.). Additional information on all Red Wings/Absolut Playoff Viewing Parties can be obtained by visiting DetroitRedWings.com.
Update #3: Via the Sharks’ website, here’s Todd McLellan’s game-day presser…
And Logan Couture speaking to Dan Rusanowsky:
Update #4: Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Ray Ratto offered an evil Drew Sharp-like game day observation:
The argument that the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks are mirror images of each other is probably a mythlet—not quite true, and not quite false. But hours before the two sides resume their mutual-respect-a-thon, seeking their differences may be the key to understanding the series.
For one, Detroit is a bit quicker, even though their best players have slowed a bit. The magnificent defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom likes to advance the puck more and carry it less, and the Wings don’t mind a good dump-and-chase as much as they used to. But over the past three seasons, the Sharks have clung to the Wings as their raison d’etre, and only now, after beating them in the conference semifinals a year ago and three of four times this season, are they willing to separate a bit.
“Systematically, we’re both a bit different now,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “Their game has evolved, and our game has evolved. You have to (evolve). You can’t stand still, or you get worse.”
Further, the Sharks’ roster is different, and don’t be surprised if there isn’t yet another tweak coming tonight. Ben Eager may well resume his place to Scott Nichol’s left on San Jose’s fourth line because of Detroit’s size advantage on its fourth line of Darren Helm, the speedy center, and wingers Kris Draper and Justin Abdelkader.
McLellan didn’t say anything, but McGinn stayed on the ice a good deal longer than Eager did, which is often a hint that someone is conserving energy and the other is getting extra work in. This probably has little to do with McGinn’s penalty oin Game 6 of the Kings series, and his reappearance will hinge mostly on which fourth line does more in its appearances.
It’s not a series-changer by any means, but two teams that still are more alike than different are really restricted to minor turns with the spare roster parts. This series will be owned by performances rather than planning.
• NHL.com’s Dave Lozo confirmed the obvious:
Getting nine days of rest has paid off in a major way for the Detroit Red Wings, who will welcome back Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen to the lineup for Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal-round series with the San Jose Sharks.
Zetterberg didn’t play during the Red Wings’ first-round sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes due to a knee injury he suffered against the Carolina Hurricanes on April 6. Franzen missed Game 4 against the Coyotes due to an ankle injury.
Coach Mike Babcock said veterans Mike Modano and Kris Draper will be the healthy scratches.
Zetterberg will be reunited on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom to start Game 1, once again giving the Red Wings one of the most formidable units in the League. Zetterberg and Datsyuk combined for 139 points in 136 regular-season games and benefit from the space created by the crease-crashing Holmstrom.
The Red Wings were lacking in depth last season, Babcock said, forcing him to put Zetterberg and Datsyuk on different lines. As long as it’s working, that won’t be the case this season.
“They feed off one another and the guys like playing together,” Babcock said. “Holmstrom goes to the net and gets out of the way for them so there’s more room on the ice. They’re starting together, so we’ll see what happens.”
• Here’s the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch’s game-day update:
As they prepare to face each other for the second consecutive spring at HP Pavilion in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal, the Sharks and Wings sounded as if they were exchanging pleasantries at Friday’s morning skate. If any hate has been built up it didn’t show.
“These guys work hard and (the atmosphere) can always change in a hurry, but I think both groups understand you have to win games,” Sharks centre Joe Pavelski said. “You have to get to four wins before the other. We’re here to play the game. They play hard. They don’t engage in too much of the extra stuff. You can’t take liberties.”
The Sharks were reminded several times they knocked off the Wings in five games last spring. The Sharks message: Forget about it. Doesn’t mean a thing.
“We’ve turned the page on that. We’re a much different team and they’re a much different team,” San Jose defenceman Dan Boyle said. “The past is the past. We’ve had success against them this year. Nobody wants to talk about that. It’s a whole new series. There are no secrets. Both teams know what each other is going to do. It’s just a matter of who is going to do it better.”
• The Sharks continued that line of thought while speaking to NHL.com’s Lozo:
“I think mentally, if you’re ever down in a series, it’s in the back of your mind that you have beat them before,” forward Devin Setoguchi said. “You’ve been in these situations and there’s definitely that belief that we can win.”
“I do know is that it’s very important for our team to separate last year from this year,” [Sharks coach Todd] McLellan said. “If we keep referencing it, it will come back to bite us. There are a lot of differences between the two series and we want to be very, very careful about bringing last year into the mix this year.”
The biggest difference can be found in Detroit’s locker room, and it has nothing to do with players and everything to do with rest and experience. The Red Wings entered last year’s postseason on the heels of making two straight trips the Stanley Cup Final and needed seven games to beat the Phoenix Coyotes before facing San Jose. The Red Wings finished their sweep of Phoenix this season on April 20, giving them more than a week’s worth of much-needed rest. Henrik Zetterberg (knee) and Johan Franzen (ankle) are 100-percent healthy after Zetterberg missed the entire series against the Coyotes and Franzen was forced to sit for Game 4. Sometimes coaches aren’t fans of an extended layoff during the playoffs, but Mike Babcock doesn’t believe there is such a thing as too much rest.
“I would take the time off any day over getting beat up and more injured,” Babcock said. “This way we got a situation that we needed and it worked out perfect for us.”
Throw in the fact that Jimmy Howard, Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader all have a second full NHL season under their belts, and the Red Wings are icing a far more formidable opponent this time around.
“Our young guys have had to contribute more throughout the year, and they’ve done that,” defenseman Brian Rafalski said. “I think they’re ready to be a bigger factor this year than they were last year.”
“These guys are hungry and ready for us,” Setoguchi said. “They’ve been sitting there for the last week watching us play. They’re going to be prepared and we need to make sure we’re ready as well.”
• The Free Press’s Helene St. James’s game-day update involves Babcock the birthday boy:
Mike Babcock began his morning with a text from one of his daughters that put just a little more pressure on the Detroit Red Wings as their second-round series against the Sharks gets under way tonight.
Today is Babcock’s 48th birthday, and as he pointed out himself, “I tell people every year that if you’re playing on my birthday, it’s a good year,” since it means it’s the playoffs. But it is early in the playoffs, which is what the message drove home.
“My youngest girl texted me this morning and said, ‘impress me a little bit, be playing on my birthday’,” Babcock said. “That’s June 2. We’ll see.”
The Red Wings have made their way to HP Pavilion, where Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal gets underway in a few hours. You know the various storylines; San Jose beat the Wings in the playoffs 12 months ago, only to lose to Chicago in the Western Conference Final. There’s revenge, vindication, all of that good stuff to be had.
“I think if anything, it fires us up a little bit more,” admitted Justin Abdelkader. “We’re excited to get out there and play better than we did last year.”
After talking to many of our players this morning, the mood is very calm. Most simply grabbed a bite to eat and relaxed in their rooms last night. Unlike the regular season, where travel is a hustle-bustle type of thing, the playoffs offer more road downtime. One of the reasons why, during the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, the team packed up and left Pittsburgh for a nearby resort, merely to escape it all between Games 3 and 4.
A few line items to tell you about …Credit our PR Coordinator Rick Bowness Jr. for this one. The Red Wings are 1-1 on days in which a Royal Wedding of the British Monarchy has taken place. The victory came over the Islanders on November 14, 1973, as Princess Anne married Mark Phillips. The loss happened on the day the Duke of Kent married Princess Marina of Greece on November 29, 1934. That was to the Montreal Maroons.
So as Kate Middleton prepares to enter the House of Windsor as a Royal, a team that started its NHL legacy in Windsor, Ontario will add to that historic stat. Who knew?
• Here’s a morning skate video from Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area…
As well as a game-day interview with Logan Couture…
• Aside from noting Babcock’s suggestion that Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm’s respective progressions are the reasons why he’s starting Zetterberg and Datsyuk together, here’s what the Mercury News’s David Pollak took from today’s coaches’ pressers:
“I think there’s ultimate respect — from our way toward theirs and I’m sure it’s reciprocal,” Todd McLellan said. “Is there a hatred there? I think it’s a different type. I know Detroit isn’t about dropping the gloves and fighting and getting involved that way,” the Sharks coach continued, “so some of that emotion, that hatred if you will for lack of a better term, doesn’t exist that way. But the fact of it is that they can play extremely hard on pucks and so can we. There’s a lot of action that happens around the blue paint and those are real competitive situations.”
A Detroit reporter made the point that the Red Wings aren’t involved in as many scrums as some other teams and asked Babcock if that was something he preached or just the natural order of things.
“Our skill set in scrums isn’t the same as some other teams so there’s no sense in being in them,” he responded. “Saying that, to me that’s a waste of energy right now. We need the energy to play between the whistles and compete hard.”
“I don’t think agitation’s a big deal, but I think the penalties are a huge deal,” he said. “Last year in this series, if I’m not mistaken we had three guys on the ice for three or four of their goals. You can’t be in the penalty box and some of our penalties last year, especially in this building, were where your stick flips and you hit a guy. It had nothing to do with the game and it cost your team big-time.”
Along those same lines, McLellan talked about the need for the Sharks power play to be a lot better than the meager 8.7 percent success rate it had against Phoenix.
“LA, one of the top penalty kill units going into the playoffs, did a really good job so we have to give them some credit,” McLellan said. “But I also thought we were a little slow and a little lethargic as far as the thought process went. We spent more time thinking than reacting. When you do that you’re a fraction slow and the penalty kill becomes better,” he continued. “We can’t play like that in this series. We’re going to have to rely on our power play for some of our offense. Do I expect it to get better? Absolutely.”
• And the Detroit News’s David Guralnick posted a game-day skate gallery.
Update #5: The CBC’s series blogger believes that the Sharks will dress the following lineup...
San Jose lineup
Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Devin Setoguchi
Dany Heatley-Logan Couture-Ryane Clowe
Torrey Mitchell-Joe Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood
Ben Eager-Scott Nichol-Jamal Mayers
Douglas Murray-Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Jason Demers
Ian White-Niclas Wallin
Here’s what Babcock very, very wisely had to say about the evolution of Abdelkader and Helm into second and third-line-worthy centers…
“We’ve got good growth from our younger guys,” Babcock said. “That’s a good thing for us. Helm and Abdelkader have given us good depth down the middle, we don’t have to play Z down the middle or Fil in the middle if we don’t want. We play our fourth line more minutes than their guys do. Our fourth line plays 10-12 minutes every night. Our team’s forechecking as good as we’ve had since we had Dallas Drake in ‘08, so that’s a positive thing. Last year, we were in Phoenix [(playing Game 7] and came right here, didn’t have the same opportunity to prepare.’‘
Babcock confirmed that Osgood won’t back up Howard…
“He hasn’t played in any games,” Babcock said. “I don’t know what we can do about that. There’s no schedule to get him in.”
And he reiterated his insistence upon not wearing Nicklas Lidstrom out by playing him on the penalty-kill:
“Nick doesn’t play on the penalty kill for us right now when we’ve got everyone on deck, that’s wear and tear on Nick Lidstrom,” Babcock explained. “He’s unbelievable on the power play, unbelievable on the puck, so why would you wear him out doing that [killing penalties]?’‘
And The Score’s Rick Moldovanyi is picking the Wings in seven.
Update #6 5:04 PM: Finally! Here’s Babcock’s presser from the Wings website:
Brad May offered a game-day preview on the CBC, too;
Update #6: Jimmy Howard and Carey Price are currently competing for a pool win in TSN’s play of the year showdown;
• The Mercury News posted a chat transcript of columnist Mark Purdy’s Q and A with Sharks fans;
• And DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples posted a fantastic profile of Darren Helm:
Obviously he’s using his speed,” [Kris] Draper said. “He had some big, big checks that led to goals, and that’s something where he gets going so fast. He has a great center of gravity, he’s so strong on his skates, and he had some big hits that were big turning points in the Phoenix series, and we’re going to continue to need it from him, for sure.”
When asked where Helm’s ability to play at such a high pace comes from, [Patrick] Eaves said he’s been trying to figure it out for two years now.
“I’m wondering the same thing,” Eaves said. “I’m trying to find out where he gets it, because I want to pick some up. He’s got it, seems like every day. I’m out there chasing him around every practice, and I think he’s making me a better player every day, and I think that’s great.”
“I don’t know what it is, but he’s been hanging out a lot with Drapes,” [Niklas] Kronwall said. “It seems like over the last few years, I think he’s learned a lot from Drapes. He really plays like it’s the last shift every night, and we’re happy to have him on our team.”
Helm said that Draper, his locker stall neighbor, has been a tremendous influence in his early career development, especially on how to control his speed during games.
“Making sure that I’m using my speed effectively and not just flying around, you know, being fast just for the sake of being fast,” Helm said. “It’s great to have him around. Obviously there are tons of other players in this locker room who have a lot of experience, a lot of talent, a lot of knowledge, and they’ve all spoke up and said little things to me here or there. I’ve tried to take what I can from them, and use them in my game, and hopefully it’s made me a little bit of a better player, and hopefully I can continue to take in what they tell me.”
Quickie update: Chris Chelios spoke to WDFN’s Sean, Terp and Killer today:
And, via RedWingsFeed, this “sights and sounds” clip from this morning’s game-day skate is plain old interesting:
Update #8: Here’s Sportsnet’s game-day preview, which includes comments from Henrik Zetterberg, Babcock, Joe Thornton
And via RedWingsFeed, here’s Nicklas Lidstrom’s morning skate scrum:
Hopefully the final update: If there are any conflicts between the Detroit Tigers’ game and the Wings game tonight, I believe the pre-game and part of the game may air on FSD+.
• Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski posted his series preview, picking the Sharks to win;
• Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area posted Todd McLellan’s presser…
• The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch asked a stupid question and got some polite answers while suggesting that the Sharks are still seen as playoff chokers;
• The Mercury News’s David Pollak filed a pre-game notebook:
****There was an off-handed mention in an earlier post that this morning’s skate was optional for the Sharks, but I neglected to note who didn’t take part: Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Douglas Murray and Niclas Wallin.
Now because those four routinely opt out of an optional skate, I didn’t think anything of it. But I mention it here now to basically try and cover my posterior in case any of the four aren’t in the lineup tonight.
****Todd McLellan was asked if he was concerned about Antti Niemi’s performance against Los Angeles or did the coach think the team and the goalie could put aside events from that last series.
“I believe we can and I know he can,” McLellan said. “If you reflect back to the series last year between Chicago and Nashville, he didn’t have a smooth run of it at all. But once he settled back, he played extremely well against some very good hockey clubs. He’s had that bounce back quality all year,” the coach said. “Very calm, very cool. You don’t see him being over-emotional, which is sometimes a trigger point for worry.”
*****Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom was asked about the penalty trouble the Red Wings got into during last year’s series and he quickly turned it into a discussion of what his team needed to do when the Sharks have the man advantage.
“When we do kill penalties, we can’t get spread out against them,” Lidstrom said. “They’re so good of a passing team that if we get spread out, they’re going to find openings and find the lanes. I think we have to play a little tighter as a group, but then be aggressive with them.”
• The Sharks’ website’s staff took note of the fact that there are two “Newfies” in this series in Danny Cleary and Ryane Clowe, and their staff asked the Sharks an interesting question: are the Wings a truly hated rival?
“Not yet,” Joe Pavelski said. “That can change in a hurry. I think both groups understand you have to win games and you have to get to four wins before the other team.”
“Against Detroit, it’s just line up and compete,” Ryane Clowe said. “There are no secrets system-wise.”
Part is a mutual respect for the other side and that both clubs are very smart about this stage of the playoffs. Detroit’s style also doesn’t lead to too many physical altercations. They play hard and are physical, but in a controlled way. The good news is the Sharks can play that style as well.
“Detroit is a little different than an L.A. They like to initiate their hits and battle, but they don’t retaliate or they will skate away from the stuff around the net,” Clowe said. “The cheap shots or the trash talking, they really don’t get involved in that stuff.”
“They’re pretty veteran crew. They know they aren’t going to win the series by sitting in the penalty box. We know exactly the same thing,” Scott Nichol said. “We’re (both) really conscious of the special teams.”
“It’s a physical battle, but not by dropping the gloves and fighting,” Nichol said. “It’s physical because you’re in your own end because they protect pucks well. Or our big players are so heavy that they wear their D down. That’s where the draining is. Not so much doing the 10-foot run to hit guys.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” Dan Boyle said. “It’s going to be a hard fought series.”
• The Mercury News’s Gary Peterson suggests otherwise;
• I may have mentioned this, but the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek is picking the Sharks...
• TSN posted a game-day update...
• And I can only highly recommend reading the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff’s profile of Tomas Holmstrom:
“Nobody wanted to go in front of the net when I started playing hockey,” Holmstrom recalled. “I was smaller than everybody else, and I played with guys who were three years older, but I didn’t mind to go in front of the net even then.”
Friday, as the Wings and San Jose Sharks embarked upon their Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal series with Game 1 of the best-of-seven series at HP Pavilion, many storylines were expected to emerge. The one which may ultimately decide the issue is which team is able to most successfully populate the area around the blue paint of the other team’s goal crease. The line is uttered frequently, as much a part of the playoff lore as the inscriptions on Lord Stanley’s mug. Get more traffic to the net. This ancient cliche is the root cause of Stanley Cup triumph.
“During the season, you have those bang-bang plays,” said Holmstrom, a four-time Stanley Cup winner. “In the playoffs, everyone is more careful with the puck, playing more defensively, making good decisions. You usually see a bunch of goals from around the net. I think it’s always been that way.”
“Rob Blake punished me for many years in front of the net,” Holmstrom said of the former Sharks defenceman who retired at the end of last season. “He got me good.”
An old-school performer, Holmstrom prepares for the attack that come his way in old-school fashion, lining the backs of his legs with yellow foam that looks as if it was carved out of the interior of a used-up sofa.
“It never really bothered me to go in front of the net,” he said. “I don’t even think about it. That’s where I go.”
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