The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/02/11 at 07:49 PM ET
Updated 2x at 6:48 PM, and I didn’t think that the Franzen no-goal via intent to blow was as big an issue as it is: The Detroit Red Wings didn’t practice on Monday as they didn’t arrive home from San Jose until midnight EDT last night and don’t resume their series against San Jose until Wednesday, but ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun headed down to Joe Louis Arena to speak to Red Wings coach Mike Babcock about his take on Sunday’s 2-1 loss and the Wings’ options going forward. Babcock apparently took another look at the game and then sought out advice from his usual cast of coaching friends (Joel Quenneville, Ken Hitchcock, Dave King, etc.) before offering this assessment of the Wings’ effort:
“We were better in Game 2, but in saying that, I still don’t think we skated at a high enough level,” the Detroit Red Wings head coach told ESPN.com on Monday. “To me, they’re skating better and winning more races and 50-50 puck battles than we are. They’re up 2-0 and they deserve to be up 2-0, I believe. We have to be better.”
“When I watched it again and looked at the scoring chances, we had more than I thought,” said the Olympic champion coach. “But we’re like a power play that’s one and done. In other words, you get a chance and then you don’t sustain it. They are getting chances and they’re grinding us. They’ve had a power play, especially in the second period, where after it’s over they then spend the next four to five shifts in your zone wearing on you, wearing on you and wearing on you, taking over the momentum of the game. As much as we had a few chances and hit a couple of posts, the reality is they’ve been better than us. Their five-man game is better, we’ve been more stretched out than they have been.”
Babcock is indeed considering lineup changes, but he’s not going to start complaining about the penalties assessed to his team, “snow showers” aside:
“Whether you think as a player, as a coach, as a fan, that they’re getting better calls than you … none of that means anything to me,” said Babcock. “You got to be more disciplined. And I’m not just talking discipline in terms of not taking penalties, but also in terms of composure. It’s a waste of time to be yelling at the ref.”
Babcock believes that, again, the Wings played, “Good, but not good enough”...
“Was it a good hockey game? Yes,” said Babcock. “We’re not really interested in good hockey games. We’re interested in one thing only. We need to win on Wednesday and then it’s series on. They held serve at home and we got to respond here. That’s the facts.”
And staring a 2-0 series deficit and a must-win game on Wednesday in the face, he offers this take on his team’s mentality going forward:
“When you’ve been around like I have, and you’ve gone through it a number of times, you’ve got lots of experience to go back on,” said Babcock. “Now, what does that mean really? It must just be hokey. But I remember being up 2-0 on Calgary [in 2007] and coming home 2-2. I remember being up 2-0 on Nashville  and coming home 2-2. I remember being up 2-0 on Pittsburgh  and losing Game 7. There’s lots of hockey here. But we got to be better. I’m not taking anything away from San Jose, I think they’ve been good, I really do. They’ve played well and they’ve played hard. But we can be better, so let’s be better.”
In the multimedia department, Sportsnet’s HockeyCentral at Noon crew suggested that the Wings need to bring Mike Modano and Kris Draper back into the lineup….
• TSN posted an off-day clip from San Jose;
• The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa spoke to WBBL:
• And the Wings’ website posted a clip of Todd Bertuzzi scoring on a “trick shot” at practice on Saturday:
Update: Aside from James Jahnke noting that the NHL chose not to review Johan Franzen’s wraparound jam on Antti Niemi, the Wings’ media mostly focused on yesterday’s quotes, with the Free Press’s Helene St. James wondering aloud whether Mike Modano might help the Wings’ power play get back on track…
The Wings have one power-play goal after two games, scored late in Sunday’s 2-1 loss. They finished the game 1-for-6 with the man advantage, and are 1-for-8 in the series, which they trail, 2-0. The most egregious waste of a power-play situation came six minutes into Game 2. Trailing, 1-0, the Wings had the extra skater for four minutes but barely even got set up once.
“We’ve got to be a little more sharp with the first passes,” forward Johan Franzen said. “We came in, and then we gave away the puck and had to start all over again. Then you try to stay out there too long, maybe, you try to do so much, instead of getting off the ice and letting the next group do their job and come with good speed. We have to be a little bit sharper and make sure we get set up in their zone and get some shots off.”
The Wings don’t lack skilled forwards to put on the power play—Todd Bertuzzi isn’t getting any minutes, and Danny Cleary is only seeing spot duty—but they’re stretched thin on point men. Basically, they have a rotation of Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and more Lidstrom. Coach Mike Babcock used defenseman Brad Stuart in the role Sunday, but he hardly has gotten to play with the puck at all since the Wings acquired him three years ago, and it’s not a role that plays to Stuart’s strengths. A better option sits on the sidelines in forward Mike Modano, whose ability to play the point was heralded by the Wings when they signed him last summer.
He has been unable to crack the lineup in the playoffs, other than to substitute for an ailing Franzen in Game 4 of the first round, but Modano might get an opportunity Wednesday. Babcock was going to think about it, anyway.
“I might as well watch the tape without emotion,” he said, “and figure that out.”
• DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose took note of the few visitors to the Joe…
After arriving back in Detroit in the early morning hours after Sunday’s 2-1 loss in Game 2, Monday was an off-day for the Wings with only a few players reporting to The Joe for treatment. The team will practice Tuesday in preparation for Wednesday’s pivotal Game 3.
Before noting that the Wings’ two areas of emphasis, power play aside, involve discipline-because the Wings continue to take penalties on an alarmingly regular basis—and maintaining puck possession…
“That’s the way it is,” Babcock said. “We just have to find a way to keep battling to get involved and be as disciplined as we can. The penalties that I don’t like that we take are when we take the high-sticking ones and the sticks on the hands. To me those are freebies that you giveaway and you can’t take any of those.”
Another area of concern for the Wings is puck possession. The team that has the puck most often stays out of the penalty box, which is why winning face-off battles is paramount. The Sharks lead all playoff teams with a 54.7 face-off winning percentage.
“We have to be harder on pucks,” Babcock said. “We win D-zone face-offs, we have to execute on them and be harder on the puck in their zone. And the more of those 50-50 pucks you win the more you’re going to have the puck; both teams want the puck.”
Roose mentioned that Tomas Holmstrom passed Kirk Maltby for fourth on the Wings’ all-time playoff games played list with 170 games played, he posted an ugly slate of stats, too:
In their history, the Red Wings have come back to win a playoff round five times when faced with a 0-2 series deficit. The most recent occurred in 2002 when the Wings rebounded with four straight victories in a Western Conference quarterfinals series win over the Vancouver Canucks. The Wings are 5-21 in all-time playoff rounds when they’ve lost the first two games of a series. Here are the five series wins with the number of games it took to decide the outcome of each (in parentheses):
1945 – Stanley Cup semifinals vs. Boston (7)
1963 – Stanley Cup semifinals vs. Chicago (6)
1987 – Norris Division finals vs. Toronto (7)
1992 – Norris Division semifinals vs. Minnesota North Stars (7)
2002 – Western Conference quarterfinals vs. Vancouver (6)
• The Associated Press’s Larry Lage took note of comments made by both teams on Sunday, focusing on the Sharks’ take on the situation…
“We’re going to expect two desperate teams to be playing - we want to be one of them,” said San Jose coach Todd McLellan, a former Red Wings assistant. “We know it’s going to be a tough task in Detroit. They’re a proud organization and proud franchise. They believe in what they’re doing and we’ve been there before to experience it.”
The Red Wings have lost the first two games of a series seven times during their two-decade postseason streak and they’ve rallied only once, beating Vancouver in six games of the first round in 2002 before going on to win the Stanley Cup. Detroit took Monday off as the Sharks flew to the Motor City. Both teams planned to practice Tuesday.
“They’re obviously desperate now,” said San Jose’s Ian White, who scored the first goal of Game 2. “They have nothing to lose. They’re going to come out hard. They’re comfortable in their own barn. They’ve done some good things there in the past. We’re going to have to match their intensity level and raise our game even higher.”
The Red Wings may have the sinking feeling that this postseason is playing out like the last one. They got past Phoenix in the first round for the second straight year and then fell behind with narrow losses at San Jose. The Sharks won the first three games of last year’s second-round series - all by 4-3 scores - lost the next game by six goals at Joe Louis Arena and ended Detroit’s season with a 2-1 win in Game 5.
“We feel good, but their backs are against the wall,” [Joe] Thornton said. “They have home ice. They are going to try to take advantage of us. They’re going to be sharp and try to take it to us Wednesday.”
• NHL.com’s Dave Lozo focused upon the hate factor, “snow showers” included:
The Red Wings are notorious for refusing to get into scrums following whistles, but they found themselves in a quite few during Game 2. A lot of it stemmed from players being upset about the snow showers received by goaltender Jimmy Howard. In Game 1, Howard received one from Joe Pavelski; he reacted by shoving Pavelski in the face. Both received a roughing penalty. In Game 2, there were a few more snow showers sent Howard’s way. What was once a mutual respect on Friday morning has turned into a feud just two days later.
“They get right in there with a couple of guys, whether it’s getting in on top of our goalie or whacking at the puck. That’s how most scrums start,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “That’s something we have to adjust. You can’t get sucked into penalties and spending too much time on our PK. Thats something we have to get away from.”
Are those penalties born out of frustration?
“I don’t know. It could be,” Wings defenseman Brad Stuart said. “I don’t know what it is, we’re amped up or we’re trying to play with an edge. We have to find a balance of playing with an edge but not going over it.”
“Hatred, I don’t like that word,” McLellan said. “It’s a competitive, hard series between two very good teams. Hatred…everybody gets a little (ticked) off at the opponent at certain times for whatever reason. There’s a ton of emotion in the game, and that’s what makes it great. I don’t see it going away at all.”
“We’ve played each other both years in the postseason and with good teams, there becomes a little bit of hatred in the game,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. “There’s nothing really cheap, but guys are playing hard and that’s what you expect during the playoffs.”
A year ago, reporters were asking the Sharks why Joe Louis Arena had been such a House of Horrors for them. At the time, San Jose had won only eight times in 44 games at The Joe. But that’s all changed. The Sharks went on to split two games in Detroit before closing out the Western Conference semifinals in Game 5 back at the Shark Tank. The Sharks also won both games at The Joe this regular season. Sharks players and coach Todd McLellan, though, had little interest in discussing history –- either of the distant or recent kind.
“I think we’ve played better there of late,” Joe Pavelski said. “But the next game is going to be fresh and there’s not going to be any thought of previous games. They’re going to be good and come out harder than they did in Game 2. We know that, and we’re going to have to play harder in Game 3.”
Added McLellan: “I don’t think the past has anything to do with the present. It’s a tough building to play in. They believe they can win there. We know the task ahead of us is a difficult one. If we let our guard down, they will make us pay for it.”
The Joe is known for the peculiar bounces the puck can take off the boards.
“Everybody knows that their boards are different and Detroit always uses that to their advantage,” Ryane Clowe said. “They play those banks off the boards pretty well. But we’ve played there enough that we’re used to them as well. Still, it’s a good rink for them. They feel there are things they can do there that they can’t do on the road.”
Well that’s arrogant. That’s the, “They keep their canjoes at home” jab.
Update #2: Via the Sharks’ website, Todd McLellan, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski spoke to Dan Rusanowsky, who refused to name Jimmy Howard one of the stars of the game on Sunday:
“You turn around and go home now and get ready for the next game,” Nickals Lidstrom said. “That’s how you have to approach it. You can’t be feeling sorry for yourself or thinking that we blew a chance. You just have to recover as a team and regroup and get ready for the next game.”
“I don’t know about getting in your head,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “When they beat you they beat you. I think our belief in ourselves and our plan, the execution we have, I don’t question that whatsoever.
“I thought they were better than us (Friday) night,” Babcock added. “I thought the game was more even (Sunday). They still won more 50-50 pucks. We’re going home, we’ll have our crowd, we’ve got to do something with it.”
“It’s exactly the same, down 2-0,” Brian Rafalski said. “Going home we got to find a way to win Game 3.
“It’s definitely doable,” Rafalski added. “You see some of the things that happened in the first round. Just got to focus on that game, you win one game and it puts a little pressure on them.”
And the fact that the Wings’ secondary scoring has disappeared:
“We need to score more than one goal a game, that’s for sure,” Detroit forward Johan Franzen said. “We’re having chances, that’s not a problem. We’ve just got to get it in back of the net. They’ve been doing a good job boxing us out and we haven’t really gotten to the second chances.”
Thus far through the postseason, the Wings have yet to find that go-to scoring threat. In the opening round, the Wings got 18 of their goals from 13 different skaters. Nicklas Lidstrom and Zetterberg have the goals for Detroit against San Jose. Each was their first in this year’s playoffs. Of the skaters that have played in all six games in the playoffs, just Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Ericsson and Brad Stuart have yet to score. Abdelkader and Stuart are the only two to have yet to register a point.
The Wings’ power play has not helped them through the first two games, connecting on just 1-of-8 chances. Early in Game 2, Detroit had a four-minute power play that they had trouble even setting up in the Sharks’ zone.
The Wings’ power play, which ranked fifth in the regular season, ranks sixth in the postseason, but has just five goals in six games.
Detroit is also not getting enough shots on goal. The Sharks have out shot the Wings, 83-59.
• Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner argues that Todd McLellan’s all but patented the blueprint for defeating the Wings, which he feels Mike Babcock must counter in short order:
My concern is, how do the Red Wings gain control of this series? Well, that will only occur if Wings coach Mike Babcock can devise a game plan that will throw McLellan off. This is the moment when coaching can win or lose you a series.
Any time you hear the Sharks speak, they talk about playing the same system as Detroit and how the team that executes better will come out on top. They pay homage to the Wings and then go out and beat them up.
Babcock has to throw McLellan’s Sharks off their honed-in scent of Red Wings hockey. In short, Babcock has to come up with a way to beat his own team. This may sound like sheer lunacy, but it’s the truth. Have you ever witnessed a team so comfortable playing against Detroit? There isn’t a shred of panic in the Sharks’ game.
Remember, San Jose used to be notorious chokers during the playoffs. Versus Detroit, it might as well be Happy Hour on their bench. If they were any more relaxed, they’d be skating with slippers on.
The Red Wings have to make their game much harder for the Sharks to play against. They have to force San Jose to be the team looking over its shoulder and playing not to lose. The Wings must think outside of the box and force McLellan out of his coaching comfort zone. Until that happens, that old saying, “We have met the enemy and he is us,” will be the Red Wings’ playoff lament.
• Yahoo Sports columnist and Wings antagonist Ryan Lambert praises the Sharks as the “better team,” too;
• USA Today re-posted Helene St. James’ article about the Wings’ spate of penalties;
• The CBC’s series blogger offers both a suggestion that the Sharks need to toss Ben Eager...
The new issue is Ben Eager, who seems simply too geeked up for play. He played only 1:10 Sunday, and in his ten seconds of the second period, he took a minor penalty and a misconduct in engaging Detroit’s Todd Bertuzzi, effectively reducing San Jose to 11 forwards.
McLellan said nothing incendiary about Eager’s performance in Game 2, but after playing 13 minutes in the first two games of the Los Angeles series, he has played fewer than nine in the other four, and was scratched for Games 5 and 6.
There are speculations that Jamal Mayers, who played all six games of the Kings series but has been a scratch for both Detroit games, would get time in Game 3. In addition, Jamie McGinn, who took a bad penalty in Game 5 as his chief contribution, is also a possibility.
And he took note of the fact that Valtteri Filppula’s fallen off the map:
Several Detroit players were held off the scoresheet during the first two games of the series, and one of those who will look to step up in Game 3 is centre Valtteri Filppula. Toward the end of Game 2, Babcock flipped his second and third-line centres, moving Filppula between Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary, while dropping Justin Abdelkader in with Johan Franzen and Jiri Hudler.
After a disappointing regular season in which he produced 16-23-39 totals in 51 games, Filppula contributed 1-4-5 totals in the first-round sweep of Phoenix.
“I should have [contributed more offence during the regular season],” Filppula admitted. “I got to play the minutes that you [need] to do more, but that didn’t happen. Playoffs are another season. Hopefully I can do more for the team now.”
• In that vein, Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji offered advice for every Wing going forward:
Justin Abdelkader: Abdelkader has taken a couple of critical penalties in the first two games. He can’t take another. It would also help if he could use his size to help counteract some of the big Sharks forwards and pressure their defensemen in the offensive zone in his limited minutes.
Danny Cleary: Cleary hasn’t been bad and he did have five shots on goal in Game 2, more than anyone else except Henrik Zetterberg. All he needs to do is spend more time in front of Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi, which of course requires the team being in the offensive zone for more than five seconds.
Brian Rafalski: If the Sharks can get goals from Wallin and Ian White, the Wings should be able to get some goals from defensemen as well. Rafalski has a good shot and needs to keep shooting, just not over the glass.
Johan Franzen: Franzen is not himself, it’s obvious. The ankle is hampering him. He was better in Game 2, when he had four shots as opposed to none in Game 1. But if he isn’t healthy enough to pressure the Sharks in the offensive zone, maybe he needs to sit.
Tomas Holmstrom: Holmstrom needs to be the main man in front of Niemi without getting called for a penalty. It’s tough work being Holmstrom with all the abuse he takes in front of the net from both the goalie and the defensemen, but he can’t retaliate. No more penalties. The guy has great hands and he needs to score.
Mike Babcock: Babcock has won the Stanley Cup and Olympic gold so there’s no question he’s one of the best coaches in the league. He needs to find a way to make the Sharks uncomfortable. Because right now, the Sharks look like they’re in perfect control.
As for Sunday’s Red Wings/Sharks Game 2, the broadcast on NBC drew a 14.0/27 in the Detroit market, and a 4.3/14 in the San Jose/San Francisco/Oakland “Bay Area” market. The numbers in Detroit are well up from the 11.9/25 for Game 2 of Red Wings/Coyotes on April 17th, which was also available on CBC. As for the Bay Area, the most recent numbers we have for comparison is the 5.6 the Sharks drew in the market for Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against Chicago last year, as well as the 4.4 the market drew for Game 4 of that very same series. Overall, a pretty good weekend for all four areas.
• The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff offers this take on the Wings’ precarious situation:
When the Wings were down 1-0 to the Sharks, it was no big deal. Detroit had rallied to win three of its last six and six of its last 10 playoff series after losing the series opener. Falling behind 2-0 is an entirely different matter.
Detroit is 5-15 when trailing a series 2-0 and has been swept in 10 of those 15 setbacks. Detroit’s five rallies from a 2-0 deficit are as follows: 2002, six-game win over Vancouver in the opening round; 1992, seven-game win over the Minnesota North Stars in the opening round; 1987, seven-game win over Toronto in the second round; 1963, six-game win over Chicago in the semifinals; 1945, seven-game win over Boston in the semifinals.
The 1963 comeback against Chicago, which saw Detroit win in six games, marked the only time the Wings won when down 2-0 after losing the first two games on the road.
• If you’re interested, Wings social media director Jake Duhaime weighed in on the Sharks’ market;
• Again, via RedWingsFeed, Ottawa 67’s goaltender and Wings prospect Petr Mrazek was named to the OHL All-Star Team;
• And at least this Tweet from the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle is good news of a sort:
Pavel Datsyuk hasn’t been on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal against in 95 minutes ice time in the playoffs.
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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.