The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/11/11 at 05:20 PM ET
Updated 5x with St. James at 4:19: TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the Wings have placed Derek Meech on re-entry waivers: Detroit Red Wings vice-president Jimmy Devellano and GM Ken Holland spoke to the PostMedia News’s Dave Gross about the fact that, at least this spring, much of the playoff talk in the Western Conference involves the Vancouver Canucks as the favorite to win the Stanley Cup, and Detroit as something of a playoff afterthought, suggesting that there’s nothing wrong with not having to face the kind of pressure to succeed that’s been placed squarely on the Canucks’ shoulders:
“We’ve been a first seed on a number of occasions and in two or three occasions, the eight seed upset us. Edmonton did it to us, San Jose did it to us, and it can happen again. Doesn’t happen often, but it can happen,” said Devellano, Detroit’s senior vice-president and a management veteran of 44 NHL seasons.
If the Canucks are to run the table - as expected by most prognosticators - they’ll have to plow through clubs like the Wings. Teams that are battle-tested, experienced and prepared. The Wings have won four Cups since 1997 and have made the playoffs 20 straight seasons. Words of advice from Detroit general manager Ken Holland?
“You need depth on defence. You need depth up front and you need balance. You need scoring up and down your lineup,” said Holland. “There’s some nights when your best players don’t score, and for us, obviously, 1997, ‘98 and ‘02, you think about the (Kirk) Maltby/(Kris) Draper/(Darren) McCarty line, not only did they chip in the odd goal, but could play against the other team’s best line. They all could kill penalties. They could eat up some minutes and they could take minutes off our best players.”
The Wings aren’t particularly concerned about the usual suggestions that they’re too old to succeed this spring:
“There’s no question that our team is up there in age, but for the 11th straight year it’s continued to be a 100-point team,” said Devellano.
Also of Red Wings-related note this afternoon: The Red Wings’ website confirms that Fox Sports Detroit will cover every game but Game 2 of the Wings-Coyotes series;
• Speaking of which, WDIV will carry every NBC game, and as such, they’re offering their customary room full of furniture in a playoff contest;
• Amongst NHL.com’s off-day offerings: John Krieser mentions the Wings’ 2003 defeat to the Anaheim then-Mighty Ducks, their 2006 loss to the Edmonton Oilers and the Wings’ loss to San Jose back in 94 as examples of the necessity to “get started on time”;
• In an Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference article by Dan Rosen, former Calgary Flames GM Craig Button suggested that the Red Wings’ style of play exemplifies the Western Conference’s higher level of overall skill:
“The Red Wings play a north-south game and so do the Vancouver Canucks and Blackhawks,” Button told NHL.com. “But teams like Chicago, Detroit, Vancouver—they don’t want to give up the puck.
“The Detroit Red Wings will dump the puck in, but they’re not dumping the puck in to physically get you—they’re dumping the puck in thinking that’s their best way to get the puck back, whereas teams like the Bruins are dumping the puck in to wear you down. I prefer the precision, thinking with the puck and how to work in a five-man unit rather than getting the blue line, getting the red line and grinding it out.”
News: Detroit Red Wings center/wing Henrik Zetterberg will miss the start of the postseason.
Views: If Pavel Datsyuk can play the way he did against Chicago on Sunday, the Red Wings will miss Zetterberg less. But Zetterberg is crucial to the hopes the Red Wings have of going deep into the postseason. The return of Niklas Kronwall will help the Red Wings, who were up and down in the final month of the season.
Star Power - 5
Secondary Plotlines - 7
Hate Factor - 4
Controversy Quotient - 5
Arena Atmosphere - 8
Game 7 Probability - 8
Beard-o-sity - 5
FINAL SCORE: 42
Outside of Shane Doan and Ilya Bryzgalov, the Phoenix Coyotes are an interchangeable lot to most observers, playing Coach Dave Tippett’s system to perfection with stunning results. The Red Wings, meanwhile, have the star wattage in this series, from Datsyuk to Zetterberg (should he play) to Lidstrom. Plus they’re, you know, the Red Wings.
These teams met in a fascinating seven-game series last year that saw the Wings play inconsistently and the Coyotes play well through six games before getting hammered at home in Game 7. The Wings now have home ice this go-‘round; but if Coyotes fans were throwing snakes last season, what will they do for an encore?
The biggest subplot is, well, where the Coyotes are headed, both in the postseason and for their franchise. The notion that this team’s sale still isn’t completed and the Coyotes are asking local fans to buy into another postseason with the team’s future unstable is an embarrassment to the NHL. That said, we’d love to know who Winnipeg’s pulling for in this one.
As far as on-ice controversies go … well, we know there are going to be a few goalie interference penalties that won’t sit well, right?
The beard factor is powered by Todd Bertuzzi’s playoff face, which could take over an entire arena like a fungus if the playoffs continued through August.
• The Ottawa Sun’s Chris Stevenson suggests that one of the biggest “storylines” surrounding this spring’s playoffs involves simply watching Nicklas Lidstrom do what he does best:
Nick Lidstrom. The ageless Detroit Red Wings defenceman remains the face of the club and the standard bearer for the franchise’s playoff excellence. Lidstrom enters this post-season with 247 playoff games, just 19 behind former Wings defenceman Chris Chelios for the most playoff games played all-time. He is currently tied with goaltender Patrick Roy for second place on the list. Lidstrom’s all class.
• And finally, for the moment, anyway, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness posted a slate of regular season grades for the Red Wings’ players. Here’s a sampling thereof:
Valtteri Filppula (B-/B/B-/C+) — 16 goals, 23 assists. Has yet to find his scoring touch like the Wings had hoped coming out of camp. That will have to change in the playoffs with Henrik Zetterberg on the shelf.
Jiri Hudler (D/D+/C+/C-) — 10 goals, 27 assists. After finally getting his plus/minus to zero, he has been a combined minus-7 over his final five games.
Jonathan Ericsson (C/C+/ C+/C-) — 3 goals, 12 assists. Had a career-best 15 points this season, but has just one assist in the final quarter of the season. He has also been a minus-5 in that stretch.
Jakub Kindl (D/D/D+/D) — 2 goals, 2 assists. Coach Mike Babcock saw enough out of the rookie defenseman that he put him the running for the sixth spot on defense.
Jimmy Howard (A+/B+/ B+/C+) — 37-17-5, 2.79 GAA, .908 SV%. Struggled over the last quarter of the season, going just 7-7-2.
Let me know if you want me to pen a quick set of grades…I’ll have to do it this evening as tomorrow’s gonna be nuts.
• Update the first: Every ESPN talking head is picking the Wings to prevail over Phoenix.
Update the third: From the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan’s notebook:
Brad Stuart mentioned it a couple times after Sunday’s victory in Chicago, following a game that took away the ugly thoughts of the loss to the same team about 48 hours earlier. No more “do-overs,” said Stuart, and everyone knew what he meant.
The Wings have done this a few times, especially during the second half of the season. Too often for their liking, ultimately. Follow a bad loss, or losses, with the type of all-around game that produces victories. Sunday’s tidy and hard-working WIN made everyone in the Red Wings’ locker room feel good. But now they have to do it game after game in the playoffs.
“There isn’t doubt in any of our minds we can do it,” Stuart said. “The problem for us has just been doing it consistently. We’re in a position now where there are no do-overs. We’ve got to make sure we’re bringing it form Game 1. This is when it matters.”
In the playoffs, a team can’t afford a multi-game slump. That will end a season. Poor starts, an inability to win consistently at Joe Louis Arena, and a lapses in defensive coverage plagued the Wings late in the season. It’s not the way any team wants to head into the postseason. Sunday’s victory, in a hostile environment and with the Blackhawks playing for their playoff lives (at the time), was a good indication the Wings had figured things out.
“If we play the right way, we can win,” Danny Cleary said. “It was time (Sunday) for us to get going.”
Update the fifth (thanks to McKenzie): Per the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom finished a regular season with a minus rating for the first time in his incredible, Norris Trophy-filled, Stanley Cup-stacked career, but there’s no doubt in my mind he was the NHL’s best defenseman yet again, and I’m not alone in thinking so.
It’s a small sample—a dozen voters, including me—but Lidstrom finished as the top defenseman in the season-ending USA Today power rankings. Of the six panel members who will be casting ballots for the NHL awards this week, Lidstrom had four first-place votes, a second and a third.
Lidstrom, a six-time Norris Trophy winner, led all colleagues with five first-place votes. His top competitor was Anaheim’s Lubomir Visnovsky, who got two. Visnovsky finished first among defensemen with 18 goals and 50 assists for 68 points in 81 games, and was plus-18. Lidstrom had 16 goals and 46 assists for 62 points in 82 games, and was minus-2.
Here’s the breakdown of the votes:
Nicklas Lidstrom (5) 50
Lubomir Visnovsky (2) 32
Keith Yandle (2) 29
Shea Weber 26
Zdeno Chara (3) 17
Kris Letang 11
Drew Doughty 5
Dustin Byfuglien 4
Christian Ehrhoff 3
Tobias Enstrom 1
Daniel Girardi 1
Dan Boyle 1
I’ve never been a fan of the plus-minus rating, because all it takes is for someone else on the ice to make a mistake, and every skating teammate gets a minus (or dash, as Wings coach Mike Babcock often calls it. “Dash-two,” he’ll say). While not infallible, Lidstrom rarely makes a mistake. He’s one of the smartest players in the game, and even as he’s about to turn 41 later this month, his level of play barely has tapered off. He’s definitely getting my vote for the Norris.
The last defenseman to win the trophy with a minus rating was Rob Blake at minus-3 in 1998.
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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.