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Red Wings’ comfortable with Detroit’s status as a ‘dark horse’ (and off-day news)

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;

• In terms of playoff previews, the New York Times’ Christopher Botta is picking the Wings over Phoenix in seven games, while Sportsnet’s Mark Spector is picking the Coyotes in six;

• The Hockey News’s Ken Campbell’s picking the Wings in five, but, more importantly, he spoke to Jimmy Howard recently about his playoff preparations;

• 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.”

• Several Red Wings playoff moments are also up for voting in NHL.com’sHistory vs. History” contest;

• Shifting gears, we’ll go with USA Today’s Kevin Allen’s take on the impact of Henrik Zetterberg’s injury over that of one Yahoo Sports columnist Ryan Lambert:

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.

• Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski did, however, post a note-worthily quirky set of first-round previews, with a gratuitous shot of the Wings’ Stanley Cup rings added for good measure:

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 second: Shane Doan suggested to KTAR’s Doug and Wolf that the Coyotes a) should have defeated Detroit last year and b) have the best player in the series in Ilya Bryzgalov.

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:

Defenseman Pts.

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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Comments

SpaceCityHockey's avatar

Things the Wings have going for them this year:

Injuries have given some guys a lot of “rest”, and despite the injuries the team did not have to play their asses off to make the playoffs this year (unlike last). 

Despite the injuries there has been a very even distribution of minutes across the team with the younger guys getting a lot more experience. 

We have seen the Wings “throw the switch” several times this year when they wanted and they still coasted to over 100 points when they didn’t.

20 years of playoff experience.

Posted by SpaceCityHockey from Houston, TX on 04/11/11 at 04:36 PM ET

Andy from FightNight's avatar

Would love to see some grades George!

Posted by Andy from FightNight on 04/11/11 at 05:05 PM ET

SK77's avatar

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.

Yes, please.

Posted by SK77 on 04/11/11 at 05:15 PM ET

Crater's avatar

Jakub Kindl (D/D/D+/D)”

Is that a joke? Kindl has been much better than D or D+. We all know that. Even without taking the fact that he is a rookie into account he deserves a bit more leniency than that.

Posted by Crater from SoCal on 04/11/11 at 05:50 PM ET

SpaceCityHockey's avatar

@Crater

Totally agree.  He wasn’t supposed to be putting offensive numbers this year.  They wanted him working on his defensive game, which I think he has been playing pretty damn well.  Deserved a better ranking than that considering how he graded Big Rig.

Posted by SpaceCityHockey from Houston, TX on 04/11/11 at 06:02 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

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.

This is very interesting to me, because Stuie is a man who doesn’t speak much, especially to the press.  Maybe his simple “no more ‘do-overs’” was a powerful message to his team mates.  Sounds like a playoff slogan to me!

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 04/11/11 at 06:23 PM ET

Nate A's avatar

Posted by Crater

Agreed. Call him a solid B in the last half anyway, despite the lack of points.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 04/11/11 at 06:43 PM ET

Chet's avatar

already, kindl sees the ice better and makes better plays getting the puck up ice than ericsson. he makes one or more of meech, janik, rig, and salei irrelevant next year.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 04/11/11 at 06:55 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Meech placed on re-entry waivers?  What does this mean at this time of the season?  Can’t he just come up and play during the playoffs?

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 04/11/11 at 06:58 PM ET

perfection's avatar

i’m really eager to see who Babs goes with at the 6th D to start the playoffs. Based on the last few games, I think it should be Kindl without a doubt. Salei was a turnover machine in Chicago the other night.

Something tells me though that any time we lose a game, both the fourth line and the 6th D spot may be changed up. Babs definitely is one to start fiddling and… well, Coaching when the team isn’t winning.

And as good as Bryzgalov can be, even HE would admit that he’s no Pavel Datsyuk… or Nick Lidstrom for that matter. Best player in the series my ass…

re. plus minus, while it’s true that it takes only one player to mess up to earn a minus, i also takes one person to make a stupendous individual play in order to get everyone on the ice a plus. I think the assumption is that those more or less cancel each other out over the course of a season. Whatever weight you give plus/minus, Lidstrom has been a perennial league leader in this category even in years where he didn’t win the Norris. He ended up far below his lowest ever. That means SOMETHING. It can’t simply mean he was on the ice with mistake prone players SOOOO much more often than he ever has been before. The Wings have ALWAYS paired struggling players with Lidstrom in order to get their game in check. This year didn’t seem much different. I would still give Lids the Norris because plus/minus aside (I don’t give the stat all that much weight), he is hands down the best overall defenseman in the league… I don’t think there’s really a doubt about that. Statistics are almost irrelevant in this particular case. Simply watching Lidstrom play is generally evidence enough.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 04/11/11 at 07:55 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

@perfection

I kind of wonder if putting Lidstrom with Rafalski instead of Ericsson made Lidstrom relax and end up with the both of them caught out of position more.  he likely had less of the “I’ve gotta watch out for the kid” mindset, playing with Rafalski.

I still cannot understand why Babcock seems to have permanently gotten away from the Lidstrom/Rafalski, Stuart/Kronwall combo that worked so well for a few years.

Lidstrom and Rafalski together are a good duo of stay-at-home and offensive skill, play well off of each other with the blue line side-switching, etc.  Kronwall and Stuart, again, are a good duo of stay-at-home and offensive skill with the added bonus of plenty of Kronwalling.

I wonder if the single biggest reason Babcock won’t use those combos is it leaves him with Ericsson and Kindl/Salei…which would be turnover city.

I like the sound of Ericsson and Meech better, or hell maybe Meech and Kindl.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/11/11 at 08:20 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

I kind of wonder if putting Lidstrom with Rafalski instead of Ericsson made Lidstrom relax and end up with the both of them caught out of position more.  he likely had less of the “I’ve gotta watch out for the kid” mindset, playing with Rafalski.

sorry, replace each instance of Rafalski with Stuart in that paragraph.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/11/11 at 08:26 PM ET

Avatar

Rafalski is not good enough defensively to pair with Lidstrom against the other team’s top line.  It’s been painfully obvious for three seasons. 

Playing Kindl against this team would be a big mistake.  Wings need guys that can clear the front of the net.  I’m hoping Salei has been saving himself for the playoffs and gets back to playing the way he did two years ago, a tough, solid, stay-at-home d-man who hits people and kills penalties expertly.  None of that is Kindl.  The kid might be of use in the following rounds, should they get there, against faster, non-checking teams though.

Posted by jkm2011 on 04/11/11 at 09:52 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

Rafalski is not good enough defensively to pair with Lidstrom against the other team’s top line.  It’s been painfully obvious for three seasons. 

am I mistaken that they played together during the 2008 Cup and 2009 Finals runs?

The kid might be of use in the following rounds, should they get there, against faster, non-checking teams though.

good point, speed is not Phoenix’s strong suit.  this is going to be a chess match.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/11/11 at 09:55 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I agree that Kindl is better than that grade he was given.

And I also agree that Lidstrom/Rafalski and Stuart/Kronwall are our best defensive pairings.  Before Salei got distracted (missed some games) several times around the birth of his child and was playing well, he was a good partner for Kindl or Ericsson.  I remember Uncle Mike giving him kudos for helping Kindl along. 

So in the best of all possible worlds - like Salei starts playing better again - those are the pairings I’d like to see.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 04/11/11 at 11:12 PM ET

Avatar

Wheres meech been all year?  I assumed he was in GR but it doesn’t look like he has any stats on their site

Posted by Npietran on 04/11/11 at 11:23 PM ET

Neznarf's avatar

@paulinmiamibeach

Hey Paul, quick question.  I’m going to be in Miami for 7 days (20-27th), are there ANY bars that carry the FSD feed?  Assuming you live in Miami, and the fact that you post on Kukla’s Korner, and are a red wings fan I’d think you’d know.  Thanks!

Posted by Neznarf on 04/11/11 at 11:43 PM ET

Avatar

Posted by Npietran on 04/11/11 at 10:23 PM ET

10 goals, 27 assists in 74 games with the Griffins.

Posted by Garth on 04/12/11 at 12:08 AM ET

PDXWing's avatar

RE: Meech. He’s been in GR, as Garth noted above. I don’t get to see any Griffin games, so I can’t comment on his play, but, I thought it was interesting that on a couple of different occasions, Brendan Smith pointed him out as a great role model and mentor. In one interview, he puts him as the best defensemen in the league (AHL).  I know they’re teammates, but I thought that was telling of Meech’s ability.  I was surprised that he didn’t get more of a shot given how well he played when he filled in last year during that disastrous stretch when everyone was out. Maybe I’m mis-remembering, but I thought he was solid. With him, I think his skill set is best used as a top 4 dman, and if he can’t crack that, then he doesn’t match up as a good shut down guy (sort of like the forwards in the minors who play a skill game and aren’t suitable as bottom 6 guys).  That’s my theory, I have no idea if it has any merit.

Posted by PDXWing on 04/12/11 at 12:24 AM ET

SYF's avatar

I totally dig the title of this entry, George.  It’s definitely going to be the my mindset for the playoffs since everyone in the MSM is drooling over VAN in the West.

Definitely would want Kindl as the sixth defenseman to start the playoffs.  My pairings would be:

TPH/Rafiki
Kronner/Disco Stu
Salei/Kindl (with E rotating in - I don’t care how so I’ll leave that up to Uncle Mike)

Posted by SYF from The Revenge of Johnny E on 04/12/11 at 01:54 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

I love how these vultures descend at the last minute to predict playoff outcomes.  It isn’t the freaking March Madness bracket.  Shut up, buckle up, and get ready for some playoff hockey, you sons of hookers.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 04/12/11 at 02:19 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

btw - in it for the room full of furniture if Bill Bonds himself will deliver it to my house in Portland.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 04/12/11 at 02:23 AM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

@paulinmiamibeach

Hey Paul, quick question.  I’m going to be in Miami for 7 days (20-27th), are there ANY bars that carry the FSD feed?  Assuming you live in Miami, and the fact that you post on Kukla’s Korner, and are a red wings fan I’d think you’d know.  Thanks!

Posted by Neznarf on 04/11/11 at 10:43 PM ET

the only place I can think of that might have it is NMB Ale House (NMB = North Miami Beach). 

http://www.millersalehouse.com/N MIAMI.htm

great place for football, drinks, good food.  I can’t say for sure they have the games, but with their satellite system I’d be surprised if they wouldn’t be able to show everything from hockey to the Japanese thumb wrestling championships.

oh, wait…I know another place.  It’s a bit north of Miami Beach, but it’s a bar/restaurant owned by some guys from Chicago.  I used to go in there to watch the hockey games a few years ago.  good crowd.  wear your Wings gear…they’ll appreciate it grin

http://caponesflickerlite.com/

email me, maybe we can meet up to catch a game or two.  paul at ubeek dot com

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/12/11 at 12:03 PM ET

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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.