The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/18/12 at 12:47 PM ET
Updated 3x with a partial transcript of the interview from Sportsnet at 11:53 AM: Red Wings special assistant to GM Ken Holland (that’s his title) Kris Draper spoke to The Fan 590’s Greg Brady and Jim Lang this morning, splitting a nine-and-a-half-minute interview between discussing his steadfast belief that the Wings are not, as suggested by several pundits in the recap cycle, cooked geese, and then assessing the levels of violence and player disrespect taking place during this year’s playoffs in an incredibly, incredibly eloquent manner.
Draper’s just as baffled by the explicit intent-to-injure plays and blatant head-shots, illustrating some sort of fundamental lack of respect between players and disregard for the NHL’s ham-handed disciplinary procedures, as the rest of us are:
Inline update: Sportsnet thankfully provides us with a partial transcription of the interview:
“I have no idea what’s going on,” Draper told Brady & Lang on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Wednesday morning. “It’s getting dangerous right now. (Hossa) is a friend of mine and I saw that hit and it’s pretty scary.”
So far head shots and suspensions have been the story of the NHL playoffs and it continued on Tuesday night after Chicago Blackhawks Marian Hossa left the game on a stretcher after a vicious hit from Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres. The former Red Wings forward has been through the grind before and said he understands the amount of grit and toughness needed for a Stanley Cup run. But Draper believes the players have gone too far and the dirty play has gotten out of hand.
“I know what’s at stake and what’s on the line and I know you want to compete and do everything you can to win the Stanley Cup,” Draper explained. “But this stuff is crazy with crosschecks to the face, elbows to the heads, leaving your feet and targeting heads. I don’t know what to make of it.”
Like many former players have expressed in the past, Draper echoed the sentiment that the lack of respect between players remains a prominent issue in the NHL and said Shea Weber’s hit on Henrik Zetterberg was another clear example.
“I think that’s the players right now—the respect isn’t as great as it should be,” he said. “You can seriously hurt people and that’s the unfortunate thing of what’s going on right now. . . . You have to respect the opponent and it seems now more than ever that guys are going right for the head. Somebody might get hurt here and we’ve got to stop this. Shea Weber tried to hurt Henrik Zetterberg. It was clear cut. He tried to punch him right in the head. He didn’t get enough of him so he grabbed his head and slammed him in the boards. He just got a fine.”
Draper, who played in 1157 career NHL games, made it clear that the league needs step in before it goes too far and someone suffers a serious injury.
“Something’s got to happen, there has to be something greater or something bigger to settle everything down,” he said. “I know (Shanahan) is trying and doing the best that he can but with the way that it’s going . . . this has to stop. Unfortunately we’ve had these kind of incidents and that’s always the lead story in the U.S.”
And if you lost sleep over last night’s loss like I did, here’s a little morning reading offering both sides of the optimism/pessimism equation:
97.1 the Ticket’s Jeff Riger remains a steadfast believer in the Wings’ chances of salvaging some pride against the Predators, to the tune of offering five reasons why the team is not, to quote the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff, “Done Like Dinner”...
But fellow Ticket pundit Eric Thomas believes that it’s not Jimmy Howard’s fault (article via RedWingsFeed, and it includes a nice wallpaper-sized image of Howard making a save; Riger’s article’s image is a little more indicative of the day-late-dollar short defense which the Wings have exhibited thus far) that a team which might be either too…advanced in age and/or too thin in terms of clutch offensive performers to compete with Pekka Rinne’s goaltending needs some tweaking over the summer.
Update: And, again, via RedWingsFeed, MLive’s Josh Slaghter notes that the Wings haven’t exactly rallied from 3-1 deficits to win playoff series, um, ever, and that such events are incredibly rare throughout the course of NHL history.
Update #2: Optimism? The Wings can has it, from NHL.com’s Brian Hedger:
“You can’t look at the big picture,” said 41-year old Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who like most of his teammates has been in this position plenty of times before. “You’ve got to break it down and look at that one game [on Friday]. We’ve got to win one game and that’ll be our mind-set. We can’t look any further than that or we’re done. We know we just have to keep our mind on that next game.”
If they let their minds wander, only bad things can come of it. Despite the Predators being on the verge of clinching, it’s been kind of a weird series. An argument could be made that each of the first four games was won by the team that got outplayed for much of the game, including Detroit’s lone victory in Game 2 at Bridgestone Arena—when the Red Wings won 3-2 despite putting only 17 shots on goal.
Conversely, in all three losses they have outshot Nashville by wide margins and controlled the puck for long stretches of time. Rinne, however, has been outstanding. The Preds defense is also putting up hockey’s version of a soccer “wall” in front of him—continually collapsing into a cluster in front of the 6-foot-5 Rinne, who’s still able to see over them just fine. Nashville has blocked 61 shots through the first four games of the series and the Predators defensemen are usually positioned close enough to the net that they’re in great position to clear out any rebounds. It’s left the Red Wings only one frustrating option to try and score more goals than the eight they’ve potted on a whopping 138 shots.
“Their goalie is making saves,” Detroit’s Drew Miller said. “We just have to find a way to score. We’re out there working hard and it shows that we want to win. We just have to keep putting shots on net and eventually they’re going to go in.”
“[Lidstrom] said we’ve got to go to Nashville and just try to win one … then win another one when we get back here,” said Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who’s currently on the losing end of the goaltending matchup against Rinne by a sizable margin statistically speaking. “We have to start with Friday and not get ahead of ourselves. We’ve been in this situation before and we know what we’re capable of. Sometimes when you feel like you’re outplaying them, [but] you don’t always win. You have to remain positive.”
As Howard pointed out, that’s the main message from Lidstrom, Detroit’s legendary captain. He’s not only hoisted the Stanley Cup four times, but Lidstrom has now played in 262 NHL playoff games during his 20-year career.
“It’s disappointing when you’re not getting rewarded on the chances you’re getting,” Lidstrom said. “You can’t get discouraged. That’s playoff hockey. You have to battle through it.”
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