The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/01/11 at 07:01 AM ET
Much of the Detroit Red Wings players’ talk on Thursday involved “penance-making” after their 10-3 loss to St. Louis, all while gearing up for a weekend’s worth of back-to-back tilts against Nashville and Minnesota, and the Wings’ horrible record of late started biting them in the standings last night:
The Canucks officially clinched the President’s Trophy, the Sharks passed the Wings to take second place in the West, and the Wings’ 98 points now give them a slim 3-point lead on Phoenix, a 4-point lead on Saturday night’s opponent, the Nashville Predators—and a five-point lead over the seventh place Ducks.
So, technically speaking, the Wings have to get their butts in gear, or they’ll find themselves playing on the road in the first round. The Wings seemed to understand the realities surrounding their 5-5-and-4 (that’s 5-and-9 March record by admitting culpability, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, who notes that the Wings enjoyed a pseudo-bag skate at the end of Thursday’s practice:
“We have to wake up, the games are winding down,” said Niklas Kronwall, noting there are five games remaining before the playoffs. “The playoffs are coming around the corner and the way we’re playing, we’re not going to win a lot of games.”
“Effort-wise we know we have to do a lot better job,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “If you don’t show up for work, you’re going to lose. We were embarrassed about what happened. It’s not fun to be booed at home, and we deserved it the way we played.”
Coach Mike Babcock offered two and only two reasons why the Wings lost to the Blues—and why the Wings have been, with the exception of the Leafs game last Saturday, terrible lately:
“Compete and work, that’s all it was,” Babcock said. “It was just a penance day, basically.”
Two areas the Red Wings want to address are the defensive breakdowns and the difficulties at Joe Louis Arena. Wednesday’s loss ended a 1-2-2 home stand. Detroit is 10-12-4 at home since its 10-1-2 start.
“It’s definitely not good,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “(We) have to do a lot better. We’ve got to score more goals and win more games in the playoffs. Otherwise we won’t last long.”
Kronwall also admitted to the Free Press’s George Sipple that talk without action is less than worthless for the Wings’ players:
“The way we’re playing right now, we’re not going to win a lot of games,” Kronwall said. “If we keep playing like this, it will be a short run for us in the playoffs. We just have to get back to basics and start working hard, getting the pucks deep and just doing the little things right. The work ethic hasn’t been there and execution hasn’t been there. There’s a lot of things we have to do better.”
Kronwall said “enough with the talking.”
“We can say whatever we want,” he said. “But it’s a matter of doing it out there. That’s what’s going to show.”
Babcock seemed genuinely baffled about the Wings’ 1-2-and-2 (read 1-and-4) record on their five-game home stand, too, which isn’t good:
“Our stretch run at home was set up perfectly on our schedule to do well and we didn’t do well,” Babcock said. “The big thing for us is we’ve been a good road team. We haven’t been as a good at home. We’d like to rectify that and you gotta win at home in the playoffs for sure.”
As Sipple notes, the news is mixed on the injury front. Mike Modano skipped practice with what he suggested was a minor groin injury, and while Jimmy Howard believes that he’ll play on Saturday…
Goalie Jimmy Howard said he’s “good to go” for Saturday’s game. Howard, recovering from a left shoulder sprain, sat out Wednesday’s game as a precaution. “One more night letting it heal up and getting treatment on it,” Howard said. “It feels good now. Felt good today in practice. The stiffness is pretty much all gone. Looking forward to getting back out there.”
But Pavel Datsyuk’s mysterious “lower-body” injury hasn’t healed enough that Datsyuk’s been cleared to play on Saturday, though MLive’s Ansar Khan notes that Datsyuk practiced regularly among revamped set of lines:
Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body injury) practiced like he is going to play Saturday, but Babcock said his status will be determined after Friday’s practice. Goaltender Jimmy Howard (sprained left shoulder) is ready to play and will start.
Here are the lines they skated with today:
However, Khan says that Chris Osgood at least took some shots, which is good (I think):
Osgood, who’s eligible to return from long-term injured reserve on April 8, shared one net with MacDonald.
I’m neither going to mince words (more than a few columnists and sports talk radio types pondered what are either fatal flaws or serious issues which the Wings can still fix between now and the middle of the month), nor do I feel like making some sort of smart-ass remark predicting gloom and doom or a miraculous return to the Wings’ October-November-dominant form.
I’m with Kronwall. The gents have to back it up on the ice. The rest is just talk, and as the Wings will probably begin the playoffs on the 13th, 14th or 15th of this month, the Wings essentially have two weeks and five games in which they must turn the ship around.
Red Wings prospects in the playoffs: Things went badly for both of the Wings’ prospects participating in playoff action on Thursday. Goaltender Petr Mrazek and the Ottawa 67’s dropped a 5-3 decision to the Sudbury Wolves, and were swept from the OHL playoffs despite their status as Memorial Cup favorites.
Mrazek gave up 4 goals on 37 shots (the last Sudbury goal was an empty-netter), and he posted an ugly 5.63 goals-against average and .868 save percentage, but he faced an average of 39.75 shots per game over the course of four games, so, in plain English, he was hung out to dry and peppered. The Ottawa Sun’s Trevor Burke and the Ottawa Citizen’s Don Campbell sum up the magnitude of the 67’s ouster (and yes, I know that I’m using quite a few multi-syllable words today. I’m not sure why):
The 44-win season, the .684 winning percentage, the scoring champion and 57-goal scorer, and the drive to the East Division pennant are no longer what the 2010-11 edition of the Ottawa 67’s will be remembered for.
It’s the season’s final chapter that defines a team. That’s the cruel reality of life in sports and the 67’s will have a summer at least a month longer than anyone expected to fix the shortcomings in time for 2011-12.
The upstart Sudbury Wolves, who started their Ontario Hockey League season with five wins in their first 20 games, completed the unlikeliest of playoff upsets, with a sweep to boot, in bouncing the 67’s from the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in front of 6,047 at the Civic Centre Thursday night.
The 67’s were less than 15 minutes from forcing a fifth game Saturday before the Wolves turned it on in the third as they did in each of the four games, outscoring the 67’s 11-3 in third periods alone, and, of course, 2-0 in overtimes. The 67’s had third period leads in three of four games and were tied in the other. They just couldn’t finish the job.
• The Wings’ other prospect suffered a similar fate. Landon Ferraro and the Everett Silvertips dropped a 6-2 loss to the Portland Winterhawks, and were swept from the WHL playoffs. Ferraro was ejected at the end of the second period for what the Everett Herald’s Nick Patterson suggests was an after-the-whistle affair…
Everett captain Landon Ferraro received a major penalty for cross checking and a game misconduct for an incident following the second-period horn.
And Patterson notes that the Silvertips were also, in theory, supposed to contend for the WHL title.
Ferraro posted 3 assists over the 4-game sweep while battling his way back from both a groin injury and sports hernia surgery, but his lack of discipline…I don’t know how to put it politely, so I’ll just say it: he is his father’s son in only one aspect in terms of his play—when he gets frustrated and/or his pride is wounded, he lashes out and tends to take stupid penalties via hacks, whacks and cross-checks after the whistle.
It’s something he’s got to work on as he turns pro—and the Grand Rapids Griffins may very well sign him to an amateur try-out to get him into a few pro games, as they’ve done with Gustav Nyquist—because his frustration level, both with himself and others, is really his biggest flaw. He lets scoring slumps eat at him, he loses focus and does the kinds of things that you’d expect a 19-year-old to do, but as far as I know, his junior eligibility has just expired as he’s played in the WHL for five seasons, and as a very young man who’s highly-regarded, he’s got to do a better job of dealing with the ups and downs of hockey existence, instigators who like to bait skilled players into taking penalties included.
• So that leaves Mitchell Callahan’s Kelowna Rockets, Trevor Parkes and Louis-Marc Aubry’s Montreal Juniors, Riley Sheahan and the University of Notre Dame and Dick Axelsson and Farjestads BK as the four teams that harbor title hopes going forward. Both Gleason Fournier’s Rimouski Oceanic and Andrej Nestrasil’s PEI Rocket face 3-1 series deficits.
The Grand Rapids Griffins essentially have to win out to make the playoffs, and the Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe reports that the Toledo Walleye’s 5-4 loss to Wheeling eliminated them from playoff contention in the ECHL. Wings prospect Sebastien Piche scored a goal and Willie Coetzee registered an assist in the loss, and the Walleye will wrap up their season with games on Friday and Saturday.
Also of Red Wings-related note: Sticking with prospects for a moment, Mitchell Callahan’s posted 7 points over the course of only 4 playoff games thus far, and his 54-point performance during the WHL’s regular season earned him a nod as the 10th-best winger in the WHL per Hockey’s Future’s Glen Erickson…
10. Mitchell Callahan, RW, Kelowna Rockets (DET) Originally a pugilistic forward in the WHL, Callahan is perhaps the most improved forward among our top 10 ranking.
Selected in the sixth round, 180th overall, by the Detroit Red Wings at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Callahan has been a prominent contributor in Kelowna this season both on the scoresheet and as an energy forward with a penchant for physical play. This season, Callahan has scored 23 goals and 31 assists, both career highs, while cutting his penalty minute totals from the previous two seasons in half.
His disciplined, productive play and leadership has contributed to improved performances in Kelowna by 2011 eligible forward prospects Shane McColgan and Zach Franko.
Callahan, from Whittier, California, was one of two WHL players named to Team USA at the 2011 WJC, where he scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Switzerland during the playoff round.
While fellow Wings prospect Teemu Pulkkinen cracked the top 40 in Hockey’s Future’s list of the top 50 prospects (it’s an ongoing feature, so prospects 1-29 have yet to be named):
Landing at #34 is Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen, a prospect of the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings have been second-to-none at mining the Nordic countries for top talent, with the rapidly developing Pulkkinen looking like another sage selection for that club. The 19-year-old is playing like a veteran in Finland’s top league, with Pulkkinen also turning in a good performance at the 2011 WJC.
• If you read Dmitry Chesnokov’s snippets from a Sovetsky Sport interview with Evgeni Nabokov, you might be interested in reading Pavel Lysenkov’s full interview with Nabokov if you can handle the garbled Russian. Nabokov calls the Red Wings a “special team” that’s “first-class and often wins, and is always a contender for the Stanley Cup,” suggesting that Marian Hossa’s comment that learning from the Wings’ superstars (Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Lidstrom) is a big reason why players come to the Wings is very accurate;
• According to the Vancouver Province, the Canucks honored Griffins coach Curt Fraser during their game against LA on Thursday. The Canucks’ website posted a feature story on Fraser, who’s in British Columbia as the Griffins will play two games against the Abbotsford Heat this weekend;
• In the “general interest” category, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan focused on the Canucks in his weekly NHL notebook, and the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell reports that Windsor Spitfires goaltender and Dallas Stars prospect Jack Campbell earned serious praise from a member of the Wings’ management…
While Campbell comes across as a relaxed, friendly fellow who Detroit Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill describes as one of the most impressive and well-grounded juniors he’s ever met in his long career, there’s a competitiveness that is hidden behind that calm demeanour.
• And I hate to end on a negative note, but the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper spells out the implications of Saturday afternoon’s game between the Predators and Red Wings (the Wings play in Nashville at 3 PM EDT on Fox Sports Detroit; Sunday’s home game against Minnesota is slated to start at 5 PM EDT, and will air on FSD+), and they’re not pretty if the Wings continue to lose at a rink that has been nothing less than a house of horrors for Detroit over the past two or three seasons:
In the past we’ve tentatively said on this blog that the Predators could start thinking about the postseason. Take away any timidity from the previous statement. Now, we really believe the Predators have unofficially punched their ticket to the playoffs after their 3-2 victory over Colorado. Tonight everything broke Nashville’s way. They won, Dallas lost in regulation, and for seeding purposes Los Angeles lost. Nashville now improbably finds themselves past a battle to make the playoffs and in a fight for the Central Division. If the Predators beat Detroit in regulation this upcoming Saturday, Nashville will be only two points back of the Red Wings. Detroit would also have a game in hand, but it would still be a big deal for a Predators team that almost two weeks ago wasn’t in the top-eight of the Western Conference.
Because I used so many five-dollar words in this entry, I’ll leave you with a one-syllable reaction to Cooper’s story: Yuck!
Update: My best creative writing teacher in college taught me that essays, stories, poetry, whatever we write is never a “finished copy,” no matter how many times we revise it—it’s always in-progress, and we’re always going to want to revise it. I don’t do any pre-writing or really edit myself, save a word here or there for clarity’s sake, but I know I make mistakes and appreciate when they’re pointed out (that’s why you’re not going to find many bloggers who point out reporters or other bloggers’ “boo-boos,” because we make ‘em, too).
I thought it was amusing, however, that neither the Wings’ beat writers nor Mike Babcock made the mistake of saying that Pavel Datsyuk’s status would be determined, “At the morning skate” prior to the Wings’ afternoon game against Nashville. Babcock said that the Wings would decide whether Datsyuk could play, “On the morning of the game,” which is pretty impressive given that morning skates are so ingrained into hockey’s consciousness that you’d expect somebody to slip up and let the words “morning skate” slip out.
These are the kinds of things that I think are witty and worth sharing at 6 AM.
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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.