The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/11/11 at 08:03 AM ET
So we know that the Detroit Red Wings will face off against the Phoenix Coyotes starting on Wednesday. Overnight and this morning, more than a few pundits have weighed in upon the stories pertaining to and potential outcome of said series, and here’s a roundup thereof, as well as a slate of “overnight report”-style Wings notes:
PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest offered the first Coyotes’ take on the Red Wings’ rematch against the Phoenix Coyotes, which begins on Wednesday at 7 PM, suggesting that revenge will be on the mind of both the Coyotes and their fans after Detroit’s Game 7 victory over Phoenix a year ago:
After playing three games in four nights, Coyotes players were given a day off on Sunday. They will reconvene on Monday for a closed-to-the-public practice in Scottsdale. I’m guessing many will be quoted after practice about how eager they are to play the Red Wings again and how they’d like to even the score after what happened last season.
General Manager Don Maloney is looking forward to the series.
“Anyone who even remotely follows NHL hockey knows how strong Detroit has been for many years,” Maloney told me on Sunday. “However, we feel good about our team and believe we will be up to the challenge. I expect this to be a fast, hard played, exciting series.”
One change from last season is that the third-seeded Red Wings will have home-ice advantage over the sixth-seeded Coyotes. If last season’s series is any indication, that will mean little; the road team won four of the seven games in the 2010 series, including the final three games.
The Coyotes pushed the Red Wings to seven games last season playing without captain Shane Doan for four of the seven games. Doan suffered a separated shoulder in Game 3 after tumbling into the end boards to avoid a collision with Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. Doan ranks 13th on the franchise’s all-time playoff points list with 14 in 35 games and ranks tied for eighth with seven playoff goals.
• The Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio offers this take on the series to come:
There is a bit of extra incentive for the Coyotes, who were on the doorstep of advancing to Round 2 last season for the first time since the franchise moved to Phoenix for the 1996-97 season. At Jobing.com Arena, the Coyotes were pummeled 6-1.
As emotional as this series will be for the Coyotes, it will take on added meaning for captain Shane Doan. Frustrated since 2002 with no playoff appearance until the team’s stunning run a year ago, he was knocked out of action in Game 3 in Detroit when he tried to avoid goaltender Jimmy Howard and rammed into the wall, injuring his shoulder. There is another subplot developing with each team’s top defenseman. Keith Yandle is an up-and-coming player who is a leading candidate to win the Norris Trophy while Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom has pocketed the honor six times.
A strong defensive effort is needed by the Coyotes. Doan is their only 20-goal scorer, and playing in a style to win games 1-0 is a big part of the team’s mind-set.
Home-ice advantage might not be a key factor for either team as both have better records on the road. The Red Wings were 26-11-4 away from Joe Louis Arena, and the Coyotes fashioned a 22-13-6 road mark. Both teams won 21 home games.
The Red Wings, 11-time Stanley Cup champions, are a handful for any team, but the Coyotes match up well against them. In four games this season, the teams split with each winning once on the other’s ice.
• The Republic also posted a breakdown of the series from Coyotes color commentator Tyson Nash (who of course says that the Coyotes have the “mental edge”)...
• And the Coyotes’ website posted NHL on the Fly’s series preview:
As for the Red Wings’ take...
The Red Wings told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, who suggests in his series preview that the Wings will prevail in six games, that there’s no way in hell that the Wings will underestimate their opponent:
“They’ve obviously a good team and well coached,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s going to be a good test for us. They have good depth and they know how to play, they skate well. In the playoffs, most teams’ stars cancel each other out, so it’s the other guys who make the difference. It should be fun.”
“They have a lot of depth, they can roll four lines that can play, and they play a good system,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “They don’t open themselves up defensively.”
While the Wings can swarm teams with a talented collection of offensive talent, the Coyotes rely more on defense and the goaltending of Ilya Bryzgalov. Forward Shane Doan was Phoenix’s leading scorer—with 20 goals. The Wings had four players go over 20. But the Coyotes did have 11 players go over 10 goals (the Wings had 13) and have a level of skill going through all four lines.
“They’re a good team and don’t let anybody fool you,” Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “They’ve played us tough all year and they played us tough last year in the playoffs.I’m sure they’ll want revenge.”
“You look at their lineup, nobody jumps out at you but they play solid as a team and they have good goaltending,” Brad Stuart said.
Danny Cleary suggested to Kulfan that the fact that the Wings get Monday off and start at home matter and matter quite a bit:
“It’s the little things that sometimes matter,” Cleary said. “It’s going to be good to come home and rest some rest. Starting at home is important. Some people would probably like us to start out on the road considering our record (26-11-4 on road, 21-14-6 at home), but home ice is an advantage.”
• The Free Press posted capsule previews of every first-round series, as well as a “Meet the Coyotes” gallery, and the Wings’ players and coach told the Free Press’s Helene St. James, who believes that the Wings can take Phoenix in five games, that their 5-4 shootout loss to Phoenix in their most recent meeting still stings:
“Last time we played them, we were up, 4-1, and gave up the lead, if I’m not mistaken,” coach Mike Babcock said. “They’re a good team. They’re well coached. Good back end, real good goaltending in Bryzgalov. It’s going to be a test for us.”
Even without Zetterberg, the Wings are loaded with talent up front. Pavel Datsyuk scored an important goal Sunday, his first in the four games since returning from an injury. Danny Cleary had a goal and an assist. Todd Bertuzzi had two assists. The Wings do need Johan Franzen to get going. The real advantage for the Wings, though, likely will come from the fact that they have one of the best fourth lines in the NHL. In whatever combination—Darren Helm in the middle, with Kris Draper or Drew Miller, or possibly Mike Modano on one side and Patrick Eaves on the other, the line can skate, check and score.
The Coyotes are led up front by Shane Doan, who had a team-best 20 goals and 60 points in 72 games. The Wings limited him to one assist in three games. Keith Yandle headlines the defense, and veteran Ray Whitney ranks third overall in points on a team capable of rolling four lines.
“They’re a tough team to play against,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “I think they have a lot of depth.”
As the Wings suggested to St. James, Sunday’s win over Chicago serves as a good starting point:
“There’s no doubt in any of our minds that we can do it,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “The problem for us has just been doing it consistently. So now we’re in a position where there are no do-overs. We’ve got to make sure we’re bringing it from Game 1 and bringing it every night, because this is when it matters.”
• DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose offers the team’s official take on the series at hand:
For the ninth time in franchise history, the Red Wings will open the playoffs facing the same Round 1 opponent from the previous spring. Last season, the Wings needed seven games to eliminate the Coyotes in the opening round.
This is the fourth time that these franchises will face-off in the playoffs – all in the opening round. The Wings needed six games to dispose of the Coyotes en route to winning the Stanley Cup in 1998. Two years earlier, the Wings defeated the then-Winnipeg Jets in six games. The following season the Jets moved to Phoenix.
During the regular-season the teams split the four-game series, with three games being decided by one-goal. The Coyotes’ offense may not put much fear into some, but they still have much of the same building blocks in place, led by veteran captain Shane Doan, who once again is the Coyotes’ leading scorer, reaching the 20-goal plateau for the eighth time in his 15 NHL seasons.
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has been shape and is once again upon the league’s best shot-stoppers. He’s seven shutouts this season is just one less than he had all of last season.
Meanwhile, the Red Wings will again counter with four 20-goal scorers in forwards Johan Franzen (28), Danny Cleary (26), Henrik Zetterberg (24) and Pavel Datsyuk (23). Yet, it’s still unknown how much Zetterberg will be able to contribute since he’s listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury suffered last Wednesday in Carolina.
On paper, it’s easy to think that the Wings have the advantage over the Coyotes in this opening round series. The Wings’ special teams were superior to Phoenix’s and they outscored the Coyotes, 257-226. However, winning face-offs will be pivotal
The Red Wings were third in faceoff winning percentage, led by center Darren Helm, who won 52.6 percent of his draws. Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula were also over 50 percent in faceoff wins.
But the Coyotes’ centermen will be formidable in the face-off circle. They’re led by Eric Belanger who was No. 12 among league centers with a 55.3 percent success rate. The Wings will also need to be aware of Vernon Fiddler (53.9) and Martin Hanzel (50.3), particularly when beginning penalty-kills in their own zone.
And about those playoff previews: I didn’t put too much stock in the inordinate amount of previews and predictions published by the out-of-town media at my previous place of employment, and I’m not going to do things any differently here.
Why? In all honesty, while I’ve been blogging and trying to make a living out of it for the past five years, I started putting in the kind of effort to compile stories and cover the media obsessively on message boards since 1999, and I’ve found that playoff previews are, in most cases, more “power rankings”-style low-hanging fruit than they are particularly revealing or predictive. More than a few pundits tend to make bold predictions for the sake of stirring things up and generating discussion and/or controversy (which is great for web traffic and still sells newspapers), so I’m just going to reference most of the previews that roll in over the next few days and suggest that you read ‘em on your own. I’m much more concerned about what the players and coaches have to say and what actually happens on the ice, and no amount of what I say or anyone else says will change the fact that the length of the Wings’ playoff run will be determined by the players themselves.
With that being said, here’s the first crop of playoff previews:
• ESPN’s Craig Button, in an “Insider-only” article, suggests that age and the neutral zone are the ways by which the Wings can be “exploited,” but as I’m not an ESPN Insider, that’s all I can tell you about his take. ESPN’s Scott Burnside posted a very substantial preview before predicting that the Wings will prevail in seven games;
• The CP’s Chris Johnston posted capsule previews of every series;
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon took a look at each of the Western Conference’s first-round match-ups;
• Ditto for Sportsline’s AJ Perez;
• The Sporting News’s Craig Custance posted a few quips from Red Wings players before suggesting that Ilya Bryzgalov will power Phoenix over Detroit in seven games:
“It’s going to be a tough battle,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It took us seven games to beat them last year. They’re a tough team to play against. They’re very structured. They play a good system. Very seldom do they open themselves up defensively.”
And the moment you underestimate the Coyotes, they surprise you.
The Red Wings will be ready, and the Coyotes have plenty of motivation after Detroit started their summer with a humiliating 6-1 loss in Game 7 of the first round last year.
Who knows? One more good series, and this rivalry could climb up the rivalry charts.
“This is how rivalries are built,” Red Wings forward Danny Cleary said.
• The Hockey News’s playoff previews predict winners for every series, and THN suggests that the Wings will defeat Phoenix in 5;
• The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff, writing for NBC Sports, suggests that the Wings will prevail in Wings sweep;
• The Ottawa Sun’s Chris Stevenson is going with the Wings in six;
• The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox is going with the Wings in six;
• The Sports Forecaster is going with the Wings in seven;
• And the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby is going with the Wings in seven.
• NHL.com offers the most substantive preview by far, with an un-named author writing a gigantic and comprehensive take on the series, NHL.com’s Brian Compton arguing why the Coyotes could win the Cup, NHL.com’s Dan Rosen presenting the Red Wings’ case, and, via NHL.com’s Red Wings-Coyotes match-up page, Jerry Brown offers a feature story on Lori Korpikoski, and I can only strongly, strongly recommend that you read Dan Rosen’s story about Danny Cleary.
Veteran forward Kris Draper has been nominated for the 2011 Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Draper, 39, was nominated by the Detroit chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association for a nearly two-decade career highlighted by his 17 seasons with the Wings. The winner, determined by the PHWA, will be announced at the NHL awards show June 22.
The last Wing to win was Steve Yzerman in 2003.
I’m not sure where to put this quote, but it’s worth noting, via St. James and from Mike Babcock:
OVERHEARD: Coach Mike Babcock, on how tight the playoff race has been, “That’s how they want it to be—they want it to be like the NFL and on the last Sunday everybody is still in the playoffs and they figure it out. That’s what the league set up with the extra point.”
• The Free Press posted a list of the Wings’ final regular-season statistics;
• For the record, the Wings’ playoff moment on their “Twenty Straight” website for 2004 involves their first-round win over the Predators; their 2005 moment is elegant—LOCKED OUT—and their 2006 moment involves Steve Yzerman‘s decision to retire;
• I’m guessing that at least ten Grand Rapids Griffins players will make the trip down I-96 from Grand Rapids to Detroit on Monday evening or Tuesday morning, but the Griffins wrapped up their season with a 4-1 loss to the Milwaukee Admirals. The Griffins’ and Admirals’ websites provide recaps, as does the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Dave Boehler, and the Grand Rapids Press’s recap spells out the Griffins’ late-season collapse in stark detail:
After pulling to within two points of first place the third week of March, the Griffins lost eight of their final nine games, including a five-game losing streak from March 23 to April 2 that all but eliminated them from the playoffs. Four of the losses in the final eight games were by two goals or fewer.
Grand Rapids finished the season 36-34-2-8 and out of the American Hockey League playoffs for the third time in four years. Grand Rapids finished with 82 points and in sixth place in the North Division.
• In the WHL, Red Wings prospect Mitchell Callahan was held off the scoresheet as the Portland Winterhawks defeated Callahan’s Kelowna Rockets 6-3, tying their second-round series at 1-1;
• No comment about Mike Brophy’s, “Onoes, the Redwingz kan haz bad goaltending!” comment in his regular-season wrap-up. No comment about the Canucks telling the Vancouver Sun’s Ian MacIntyre that they’re going to win the Cup this year because they have “nothing left to learn,” either;
• Not good: the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek has joined the chorus of writers who plan on giving the Lady Byng, but not the Norris, to Nicklas Lidstrom, with Duhatschek suggesting that Shea Weber, not Zdeno Chara, should win the Norris Trophy;
• In the business vein, Ilitch Holdings CEO of sports and entertainment properties Tom Wilson named Craig Turnbull the organization’s “executive vice president of Marketing”;
• And I’ll leave you with a few quips from Babcock, via Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika, talking about the playoffs and the Chicago Blackhawks’ rough task ahead in defending their Stanley Cup championship:
There’s one big difference between the NHL’s parity and the NFL’s parity, long considered the standard in sports. The top teams don’t get a break at the beginning of the postseason.
“You want a first-round bye,” Babcock said. “You don’t want to play anybody. They’re all too good. They don’t give you a bye, though. That’s the problem.”
“People have no idea how hard it is to win the Cup and bounce back and be good in today’s world,” said Babcock, whose Wings came within a game of repeating in 2008-09. “This ain’t 20 years ago, because every team’s gunning for you, and the league is this close.”
Babcock pinched his fingers in front of his face.
“There’s no way to get your guys engaged early,” Babcock said. “How do you get a team to play in September or October where the games – in your mind as a player, no matter what you say to yourself – don’t mean anything compared to what you just played in June? That’s the facts. I mean, that’s a good hockey team, a real good hockey team. But they only let you in the tournament in the end if you get enough points.”
Update 8:13 AM: MLive’s Ansar Khan waited until this morning to post his Wings notebook, which includes some quips from the Red Wings about the Blackhawks game as well as an initial assessment of their imminent playoff series against Phoenix:
“Don’t let anybody fool you, they’re a solid club.” Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “They played us tough all year and they played us tough last year in the playoffs. It’s going to be a battle again this year. I’m sure they’re going to want revenge.”
Sixth-seeded Phoenix finished with 99 points, five fewer than the Red Wings. Each club can claim the season series (Detroit went 2-1-1 from its perspective; Phoenix went 2-0-2 from its perspective). The Coyotes earned six points, the Red Wings five. Phoenix is a balanced offensive team with no big scorers. Shane Doan led the way with 20 goals and 60 points. Keith Yandle, a potential Norris Trophy finalist, was third among NHL defensemen with 59 points. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is the Coyotes’ best player (36-20-10, 2.48 goals-against average, .921 save percentage, seven shutouts).
“You might look at their lineup and think no one really jumps out at you, but they play solid as a team, they got good goaltending, their structure’s good,” Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart said. “They play a patient game and we’ll have to do the same.”
“They’re a good team, they’re well-coached. A good back-end, real good goaltending,” Babcock said. “It’s going to be a test for us. They got real good depth, know how to play, skate well.”
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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.