The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/09/11 at 04:14 PM ET
Both the Detroit Red Wings (who wil land at Metro Airport around 3:30 PM EDT) and the San Jose Sharks (who the Mercury News’s Mark Emmons reports have just left San Jose) are spending today in the air, traveling back to Detroit to prepare for Game 6 on Tuesday—and the game will start at 8 PM and will be aired on Fox Sports Detroit, CSN Bay Area, TSN and Versus—so today’s Wings and Sharks updates are mostly rhetoric-based, especially given that the beat writers are making cross-continental trips as well.
Let’s go through ‘em on a mostly bullet-pointed basis, starting with the Sharks’ hubbub:
• The Sporting News’s Craig Custance, Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon, USA Today’s Mike Brehm and Yahoo Sports’ Ryan Lambert, among others, have weighed in on Jeremy Roenick’s comments about one Patrick Marleau, who hasn’t produced points in the seires but has played pretty darn well in my opinion. Marleau inevitably discussed the issue with the Mercury News’s Emmons before the Sharks left for Detroit:
“Someone told me about them this morning,” Marleau said. “I can’t control what people say. I have to focus on what I can control and that’s what I’m going to do.”
He then proceeded to say the same thing about five different ways. Marleau, who is scoreless in this series, did add that he feels like he’s ready to break out of the scoring slump.
“I do feel points are going to come,” he said. “I’ve been all around it, close to the net and getting some good chances. It’s bound to happen.”
“Broadcasters have the microphone and the opportunity for the last comment, and J.R. had that,” [Sharks coach Todd] McLellan said. “He expressed his opinion of an individual. I don’t see it that way. I see last night as a team loss.”
But McLellan then said of Marleau: “He needs to be better. It’s as simple as that. We need him to be better offensively and defensively. But he’s one individual. There’s others on that line. There’s a D pair on the ice. There’s a goaltender. There’s a number of people who have to pick up their play.”
Added captain Joe Thornton: “Patty has scored a lot of big goals for this team. We realize that it’s a team sport and we all have to be better. That’s just the bottom line. The good news is we’re still in control of the series and we just have to win one game to advance.”
It wasn’t Thornton’s decision to, ahem, “embellish” after the play that ticked me off. It was the fact that his corkscrew-like “can opener” on Franzen tweaked the Mule’s ankle and was the reason that Franzen ended up sitting out the third period. Thornton wasn’t penalized for a play that was old-school obstruction at its best. That’s what angers me.
• The New York Times’ Christopher Botta, Sportsnet’s Mike Brophy (who points out that Ian White and Niclas Wallin were a combined -6 on Sunday, and then suggests that Pavel Datsyuk is an obvious Conn Smythe candidate), Sportsnet’s Chris Nichols (in the fantasy hockey vein) and Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon all offered opinions on yesterday night’s game, with Yerdon’s comments offering the most pertinent takes:
1. In a playoffs where we’re seeing unknown guys get a lot of the headlines while some superstars get ripped for not showing up enough, there’s one guy that continues to amaze and solidify his legacy as one of the best in the NHL. Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk continues to do things with the puck and play the sort of game that just brings you out of your seat when he rushes up the ice with the puck. During last night’s 4-3 Game 5 win over San Jose, Datsyuk was supposedly playing with a hurt wrist. He wasn’t doing his normal part in taking the bulk of faceoffs but instead was dazzling Sharks defenders with his ability to wheel out of a cluster of players and help set up the game-winning goal in the third period. His assist on Tomas Holmstrom‘s game winner was his third assist of the game.
While Detroit is still down 3-2 in the series, should they find a way to get past the Sharks and deeper into the playoffs, his case for the Conn Smythe Trophy should write itself. For now, he’ll need to keep doing his superhuman things to try and force a Game 7 at the least.
3. Detroit needed Jimmy Howard to play huge in Game 5. They didn’t necessarily need him to steal them a game, but they needed him to play huge. They got just that from him as he again faced over 40 shots (42 this time) and made 39 saves, many of them spectacular to get the win. The Sharks have been throwing tons of shots at the net in these playoffs and while Jon Quick suffered from that in the first round, Howard has thrived. Now that he’s getting the offensive support, the Wings are winning. With each of the games in the series being decided by one goal, it’s performances like last night that make all the difference.
4. The psychological mettle of the Sharks is something that many bring into question over time thanks to their episodes of playoff failure. They showed last year that they could get over such things when they struggled with Colorado in the opening round but ultimately won out before beating up on Detroit in the second round. Getting swept by Chicago in the West finals wasn’t a shock considering how good they were. This year, the script started the same struggling a bit with the Kings. Now they’re fighting with the Wings and while still one win away from moving to the West finals again, dealing with the Wings is never a simple matter. These Wings, unlike last year’s, aren’t gassed from just making the postseason. The Sharks have a handful of players who show no mental blocks. Guys like Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture are too new to be affected by anything in the past. Still, the rest of the team tightens up a bit when things start getting tough. How they handle things going ahead is worth paying attention to closely because if Detroit keeps hitting them where it counts, history leads us to believe that’s really bad for the Sharks.
5. How the series between San Jose and Detroit might pan out could hinge on how some of the depth defensive pairs work out for both teams. We saw some bad play from Brad Stuart and Jonathan Ericsson for the Wings and from Ian White and Niclas Wallin for San Jose. Teams have taken advantage of those matchups and you’d better believe that Mike Babcock and Todd McLellan will be juggling things around to get their top guys out against them. It’s worth paying attention to in Game 6.
• Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski suggests that several Wings Cup finals scenarios would make for compelling TV;
• More locally, 97.1 the Ticket’s Ken Kal posited a recap of Sunday’s game as he called it from afar:
I wonder how many fans turned off their TV or radio after Logan Couture scored 54 seconds into the 3rd period, said this game is over and went to bed? I wonder how many of those people woke up this morning, flipped on The Ticket to hear Stoney, Bill and Sarah talking about the great Red Wings comeback and said, “what do you mean the Red Wings won?” The bottom line here is that you can’t give up on this team. They have too much pride to just give up and call it a season. They are going to battle to the bitter end. Last night, when their playoff lives were on the line, they stepped up their game and found a way to win. San Jose played perhaps their best game of the series. They outshot Detroit, they had great scoring chances but the Red Wings found a way to get the job done. Dan Cleary played like a man possessed. Pavel Datsyuk put on a passing clinic. Jonathan Ericsson scored his first goal of the post-season. Tomas Holmstrom tipped in a Nick Lidstrom shot for the game winner and Jimmy Howard stopped 39 shots to give his team a chance to win.
We’ve got a series now. Game 6 will be Tuesday in Detroit and the Red Wings have a great opportunity to tie up this thing. Think about that for a moment. Just three days ago many fans were pronouncing this team dead. Now Detroit has a chance to tie the series then force a deciding Game 7. That’s how quickly things can change in the NHL. That’s playoff hockey! Professional sports are filled with great comebacks and fantastic finishes. This series isn’t over yet. The Joe will be rocking on Tuesday. I can’t wait for game 6!
• I’m not taking the Detroit News’s Terry Foster at his word given that he penned, “I’m here at the funeral for the food”-level depressive comments regarding the Wings’ “zits” and “blemishes” in their play after games 3 and 4, but Foster claims that he never stopped believing in the Wings:
When the Red Wings fell behind 3-0 in the Western Conference semifinals against the San Jose Sharks, my radio partner wanted to talk about changes Detroit needed to make for next season. I did not.
“The Red Wings will not lose this series,” I said at the time.
I stood by those words, and now the impossible is a little closer to happening after the Wings won Game 5, 4-3, on Sunday night in San Jose. That sets up Game 6 on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena for a game many thought we would never see.
But the NHL postseason has been strange. The Chicago Blackhawks rallied from a 3-0 deficit to Vancouver to force overtime in Game 7. If not for a horrific turnover, the Blackhawks could have pulled it off. We also have seen San Jose rally from a four-goal deficit to beat the Los Angeles Kings, a slew of one-goal and overtime games, and games decided by luck of the draw.
The Sharks have been a little better in this series. They’ve also been a lot of lucky also. It was simply time for lady luck to shine on the Wings and it happened when the Wings rallied from a two-goal deficit to make this a series again.
• The Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo offers this take on the game:
The collective psyche of the Red Wings and Sharks are on opposite ends of the spectrum. You can sense the lack of killer instinct on behalf of the Sharks, whose desperation, even up two games in the series, was measured Sunday by the antics of their captain, Joe Thornton. Not only did he slash the Red Wings’ Johan Franzen on his injured ankle, but he flopped to the ice like he was withering in pain after Franzen tapped him on the shin guards in retaliation.
Once called the greatest player in the world by the self-proclaimed patriarch of manly-man Canadian hockey, Don Cherry, Thornton is supposed to symbolize toughness and grit, the so-called Gordie Howe hat trick (goal-assist-fight) about to happen. Instead, it was as if he was trying to draw a yellow card. He’d better hope the tape of the incident is not allowed across the border for hockey fans from “across Canada and Newfoundland” to see, otherwise the next time Thornton plays for the Canadian national team, they’ll insist he don a pink maple leaf on the front of his sweater and change his name on back to “FIFA. Can you imagine what Cherry’s response would be if the roles were reversed and Franzen, a Swede, did that to Thornton? Can you imagine Nicklas Lidstrom or Steve Yzerman, the Red Wings’ captains the last two decades, resorting to such tactics? You can’t tell me karma after that incident did not come back to haunt Thornton and the Sharks.
In the process, the Red Wings’ have truly found their goaltender. It is the toughest position in Detroit sports. Fans in this town inherently don’t trust goalies. Howard is changing that perception. He was the biggest reason the Red Wings won Sunday. He made many brilliant saves early on, allowing the Red Wings to remain close enough to eventually rally.
The Red Wings are hurting a bit, and it will make the task of beating the Sharks more difficult. It’s hard to envision Franzen playing again for awhile - he was laboring mightily before he was sat for the remainder of Sunday’s game. Pavel Datysuk also isn’t himself.
The Red Wings are very good at picking each other up, though. Henrik Zetterberg, who missed the opening-round sweep against Phoenix because of injury while Datysuk carried the team, is starting to hit full stride. And the Sharks should know better than to put their head down with Niklas Kronwall on the ice. In the last two games, nobody was accusing Ryane Clowe or Dany Heatley of diving after Kronwall pounded them with punishing checks that were remindful of Vladimir Konstantinov.
No longer is anybody looking at this series as the Sharks beating the Red Wings at their own game. The Red Wings are back.
• MLive’s Rob Otto’s take is a little less gushy:
The series continues Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena, and now the onus is on the Sharks to finish it off immediately. The last thing they want is to allow Detroit to force a Game 7 because then the weight of NHL history will be on their shoulders. We have all heard ad nauseum that only three teams have ever allowed an opponent to skate back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. Nobody wants to be the fourth.
If the Wings extend their winning streak to three games on Tuesday, the entire city of San Jose will start holding its breath until Thursday. That’s not a very good way to play hockey. So it all comes down to Game 6, with the San Jose pressure-cooker set on high.
The Red Wings have authored dozens of signature wins in this remarkable 20-year run, but I can’t think of a gutsier effort when the cards were stacked against them. I put that question to Ken Daniels this morning. He mentioned coming back from a 2-0 deficit against Vancouver in 2002 on the way to the Stanley Cup, but in terms of one game, he agreed that the effort in the third period Sunday night was as good as he could remember. These guys, almost to a man, have rings. Some have two, three or even four in their jewelry boxes. Datsyuk was banged-up. Johan Franzen couldn’t go in the third. It would have been almost understandable for them to pack it in after falling behind 3-1. But they didn’t. They refused to die. And they loudly restated what we all knew going into the series: The Sharks might have the edge in terms of talent, but between the ears, nobody can touch the Red Wings. Nobody.
So realistically, can the Wings pull this off? There’s a major factor against them, and one in their favor.
Going against them, obviously, is health. On the ice, the Sharks are a deeper team—which only increases if Franzen sits out Game 6. Add to that Datsyuk’s wrist injury, which prevents him from taking face-offs, and you’re talking about two of the Wings’ top three forwards handicapped in a must-win game. The good news is that Datsyuk showed no ill effects with his stickhandling. The better news is that even without Franzen, the Wings were the best team in the third period Sunday. The dreadful news is that the Sharks will make every effort to make Datsyuk’s wrist VERY uncomfortable in the early stages of Game 6.
And speaking of Game 6, the factor in the Red Wings’ favor is mental health. They have it. The Sharks don’t. You’d think that all the pressure would remain on the Wings because they have to win at home just to earn the right to travel back into a hostile HP Pavilion for Game 7. But there has to be some element of doubt creeping into the minds of the Sharks after failing twice to close out the series. This is a team known for playoff failure for most of its history. It has had great players and very good teams, yet never has made it out of the Western Conference. San Jose did replace head case Evgeni Nabokov with Cup winner Antti Niemi in goal. That helps. But once again, a guy such as Patrick Marleau is coming up totally empty at the most important time of the season.
I thought of this as the clock wound down last night: The Wings know they can win a Stanley Cup, the Sharks think they can. That differential could be played out in the next 72 hours or so.
• Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner was more emphatic...
The Red Wings could have packed it in. They were down a forward, with Johan Franzen on the bench with a tender ankle. Their best face-off man, Datsyuk, couldn’t take face-offs. And twice they fell behind by two goals. Somehow, someway, the intangibles—heart, desire and will—took over.
This was clearly evident when each time San Jose went up by two, the Wings answered quickly. And once they tied the score, their stars—Datsyuk, Nick Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom—combined to score the winning goal.
Patience and guts won this game for the Detroiters. Like the city the Red Wings represent, they have a resiliency that is astounding. However, the Wings are still down in the series, 3-2, and their margin for error is none. Being on the road could be the elixir that San Jose needs, since the choke label will be mentioned often leading up to Game 6. The Sharks know full well that the “same old Sharks” label has suddenly resurfaced. They will be a determined hockey team Tuesday night.
As far as the Wings, the effort will be there and the crowd will be completely bonkers. But how healthy will Datsyuk and Johan Franzen be? Will Mike Modano be inserted into the lineup if Franzen can’t go? Or will it be Jiri Hudler? Can Jimmy Howard continue to hold off a relentless Shark attack? Will Nick Lidstrom play more than 46 seconds on the penalty kill?
Based on what we’ve witnessed thus far, it’s tough to go against the Wings in Game 6. They proved on Sunday in San Jose that it’s going to take quite a punch to knock out the Red Wings.
• The Detroit News’s John Niyo chose to revisit some comments made by Wings GM Ken Holland about the “compelling” nature of playoff hockey before the dance began…
He all but guaranteed a first round full of series going the distance, noting the parity in the regular-season standings and saying, “That’s the beauty of the league.” And of the wild, West shootout he also saw coming, Holland added, “Whoever comes out of the West will have played unbelievable hockey for six weeks.”
Unbelievable? Yeah, that pretty well sums it up thus far. I’m not sure who could’ve believed we’d be talking about a Game 6 between Detroit and San Jose for much of Sunday night’s contest. But the Wings believed, obviously. And this time of year, that’s all that seems to matter, so long as you’ve got the skill to match the desire, which the Wings—and particularly their best players—most certainly do.
“I think the hockey playoffs are as entertaining a sport as you can find,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “It’s hard, it’s physical, and it can turn in a moment. You can feel how tense it is.”
“Back in the ‘90s and early 2000s, prior to this rules package, it was a different game,” Holland said. “In 2004, when Tampa Bay and Calgary were in the finals, whoever scored first won the Cup. There were no lead changes in the third period. That’s not the case today.”
f there’s a patented play in today’s NHL, it’s teams making a soft dump-in at the blue line and then trying to create havoc in the attacking zone, which is far more exciting for the fans than the alternative.
“We used to be able to play some of the game in the neutral zone by running interference and flipping (the puck) in and flipping out,” Holland said. “But by making the offensive zones a little bit bigger and all the rules that come into play now, you’re either playing in their zone or they’re playing in your zone.”
• And Detroit Red Wings social media coordinator Jake Duhaime Jake Duhaime gauged the blogosphere’s reaction to the game, noted that there’s a Darren Helm-signed puck in the offing in Amway’s latest giveaway, and, well, revealed that there’s a “History Will be Made” commercial from Sunday’s game:
With all due respect, it’s pretty cool that the Wings finally won’t have to simply have to watch the Jamie Baker scores in 1994 commercial on Tuesday, but…
I’ve grown to loathe these commercials. From the little piano ditty to the faux black-and-white-turned-yellowed film to the canned dramatics, they drive me nuts. That’s why this morning’s game recap was titled, “History can go [bleep] itself.” It’s not about history being made—for the Wings, it’s about earning a tomorrow, one shift at a time, and affecting their present and future. It’s not history that matters now.
• And in the radio department, Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels did speak to Samuelssen this morning…
• And Gregg Krupa conducted an interview with WBBL...
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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.