The Malik Report
Red Wings overnight report: Who where and when, the anti-Krupa and Filppula’s job-saving performance
by George Malik on 04/25/11 at 07:14 AM ET
The pertinent questions for the Detroit Red Wings regarding their next playoff series involve three “W’s”: who, where, and when. The last point is most easily clarified with a probable answer of “Wednesday or Thursday,” because several first-round series will end on Tuesday, and it would seem to make the most sense to set the Wings up for a Saturday afternoon game on NBC, thus yielding a Thursday start. The “who” and “where” remain unanswered, however, save the Kings or Canucks, as noted by MLive’s Ansar Khan:
The earliest Detroit will learn its opponent is late Tuesday night (early Wednesday morning, technically) following Game 7 of the Chicago-Vancouver series. The Blackhawks have won three consecutive games and are trying to become only the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 0-3. San Jose has a 3-2 series lead on Los Angeles and will try to close out the Kings Monday night in Game 6 at the Staples Center. If there’s a Game 7, it will be Wednesday in San Jose.
Here are the possibilities:
—If San Jose and Vancouver win, Detroit will play the Sharks.
—If San Jose wins and Vancouver loses, Detroit will play the Predators.
—If Vancouver wins and San Jose loses, Detroit will play the Predators.
—If San Jose and Vancouver lose, Detroit will play the Blackhawks.
In terms of match ups, Nashville’s best might be Detroit right now. There’s such a thing as being too rested and the Red Wings were the only team Western Conference team to sweep their first round opponent. But I don’t think anyone wants part of Pavel Datsyuk who had six points in four games.
The Kings might work, simply because Anze Kopitar was a bit match-up problem for Nashville. He won’t play in that series.
In regards to the Canucks, we’ll see how they come out on the other side of Game 7. The Predators finished 2-2-0 against them this year, but the Canucks might be an emotional train-wreck after Chicago came back from a 3-0 deficit.
I am not, however, going to touch this comment from the Los Angeles Times’ Chris Foster:
Looking north, seeing Detroit as “Hockeytown,” they proclaimed Nashville “Smashville.” Red Wings fans throw octopus on the ice, a symbolic gesture dating to the days when it took eight victories to win the Cup. Predators fans started throwing catfish, symbolizing that they have catfish in Tennessee.
But the Predators stepped out of the wannabe category Sunday, on the strength of their defensive stability and offensive relentlessness.
• I am absolutely delighted to inform you that whatever Bill and I had to say about Mr. Gregg Krupa’s apologist article regarding the NHL’s crackdown on octopus-throwing through the Detroit Police Department, Flash game included, has received an eloquent response from the Detroit Free Press’s Mike Thompson, who provides both a sarcastic Flash animation regarding other hockey traditions that Gary Bettman and the NHL might like to squelch, as well as this take on the situation:
Every city has its traditions. People who aren’t from a given city can’t really grasp the importance of its’ traditions, nor fully understand why folks in a city get peeved when an outsider messes with their local traditions. So it’s no wonder that metro Detroit, a region that has lost so much in recent decades and has seen so much upheaval, has reacted angrily to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s decision to mess with one of our cherished local traditions. Our traditions ground us; they connect us with the past and help bring us together during rough times, and no place in America has been through rougher times than Detroit.
Traditions are important, traditions matter, and for Bettman to suddenly and capriciously announce that he wants to effectively end one in a city where the local hockey team’s success has been one of the few bright spots, smacks of pettiness.
I’m sure this controversy sounds like much ado about nothing to people who aren’t from metro Detroit – especially considering all the problems confronting our region and the world. But those problems are the reason we seek the stability that traditions offer.
Exactly. And, despite PETA’s protests, it’s about as wasteful as tossing what would already be seafood anyway anywhere else (and with all due respect to vegetarians, octopus is nothing less than delicious).
• A programming note: the Red Wings will get back to work today and I’ll go back to losing sleep over worrying about missing stories, with the former happening sometime between 10 AM and 12 PM.
I’m going to defer to Paul regarding the NHL’s announcement of the Norris Trophy finalists today—and there’s no doubt that Nicklas Lidstrom will be named a finalist—and I have to let you know that a familial ferrying obligation (I have to drive my mom to a doctor’s appointment) will mean that I’ll be gone from about 3-6 PM EDT today. If any big news happens, Paul will look after it, and when I come back I’ll post a slightly belated report regarding anything I miss between 3 and 6.
What I will say already about the Norris nod is that while Lidstrom’s got a 50-50 chance of actually winning it due to the fact that so many writers have suggested that Zdeno Chara or Shea Weber are their picks, Lidstrom’s going to be refreshingly honest about his nomination: he’ll be honored and proud and all of that stuff, but he’s also going to tell the press that he wants to win it.
After all, you can’t be a truly “perfect human,” or at least something close to it, without admitting that you do have a pretty healthy ego.
• Danny Cleary happens to be the Red Wings’ representative for the NHL and NHLPA’s “Beardathon” to benefit Canada’s Heart and Stroke foundation, and Cleary also happened to speak to NHLPA.com’s Chris Lomon about the Wings’ first-round victory over Phoenix, the fact that his family and friends in Newfoundland were up even later than we were to watch games in Phoenix (90 minutes ahead of Eastern time) as well as the Wings’ break and their points of emphasis going forward:
“I know everyone back home was staying up late, later than most of the country, to watch our games in Phoenix,” said Cleary, a native of Harbour Grace, Newfoundland and Labrador, one of the oldest towns in North America. “I know how excited they are when it comes to hockey and especially at this time of the year. I’m glad we were able to wrap it up.”
The veteran forward certainly put his stamp on the outcome. Cleary banked in the game-winning goal with 6:19 left in regulation, breaking a 3-3 tie and sending the Red Wings to a 6-3, series-clinching win at Jobing.com Arena. He also added an assist and skated off with first star honours. Most importantly, though, Cleary played a major part in giving the Red Wings some valuable time off before they meet their second-round opponent.
“It’s so good for so many reasons,” said Cleary, who was selected in the first round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, 13th overall, by the Chicago Blackhawks. “We played a good series against a good team. But no matter how many games it takes, it’s a grind both mentally and physically. To have some time in between rounds is a great thing.”
It allows Cleary and his teammates to root for the puck, too:
“I think all of us will be tuning in to watch the games and see what unfolds,” said Cleary, who brought the Stanley Cup back to his hometown on July 1, 2008, for a Canada Day celebration that included a parade and a concert that attracted an estimated 27,000 people. “You appreciate the days that you’ll have to tune in and see just what’s going elsewhere throughout the league. But you know what lies ahead and you have to be focused on what’s upcoming.”
Regarding that focus…
“We played extremely well against Phoenix, but we know we’ll have to be even better next round,” said the 32-year-old. “It’s been an interesting year for us. We played great for the first 20 games, then we were up and down after that. We’ve been playing well of late, we have a good system and we have confidence.”
“When you are missing someone as talented as (injured) Henrik Zetterberg, you have to adapt and I think we have,” offered Cleary. “We’ve had great goaltending and every guy has been dedicated to doing something positive. That’s just what you want.”
• In light of the fact that so many other teams have battled goaltending issues over the course of the first round, the Free Press’s George Sipple took note of the fact that the Wings have full faith in Jimmy Howard’s abilities to steer the ship in the crease, despite his limited workload:
Nobody is questioning the Wings’ goaltending now after the way Jimmy Howard outplayed Phoenix’s Ilya Bryzgalov. Howard has a 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in four games.
“The way he’s playing is not a surprise to anyone in our locker room,” [Red Wings GM Ken] Holland said.
Cleary immediately brought up Howard’s name when asked what the Wings did best against the Coyotes.
“Jimmy Howard is playing really well,” Cleary said. “That’s important. A real key factor is your goaltending. Our special teams was good, especially early in the series, the penalty kill and then the power play. The other thing is our depth really shined through this series.”
• The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan also spoke to Howard and several Wings, and spotlighted Howard’s goaltending while asking his teammates about the benefits of their long break (and he also mentions the fact that the Selke Trophy finalists will be named on Wednesday, with Pavel Datsyuk an almost certain pick as one of the league’s best defensive forwards):
“It’ll be a nice break,” said Howard, who was an underrated star in Detroit’s 4-0 series sweep of Phoenix.
Howard’s simply feeling good about himself after having a rocky rookie playoff season a year ago at this time:
“I just feel more experienced, to be honest with you,” Howard said. “Last year was a whirlwind. This year, I know what to expect and how fine of a line it is. We got series down and another to go.”
Early in Game 4, Phoenix was able to take a 2-1 lead in the first period. Both Coyotes goals were scored on shots that caromed off the skates of Wings defensemen and past Howard. The goaltender had no chance on either. But instead of dwelling on the misfortune, or beginning to falter, Howard instead took his game to another level.
“It’s just important you keep a right mind frame and continue to battle,” Howard said. “You have to make saves for the guys. Anything can happen.”
Said Nicklas Lidstrom: “Having been there (the playoffs) last year and knowing what it feels like in pressure situations, it helped him (Howard) in this series.”
• Heading back to Sipple, let’s be blunt here: with Mike Modano retiring and both Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader displaying second or third-line proficiency in terms of their ability to generate offense while playing with the Wings’ top six or top nine forwards, it’s not a stretch to suggest that the Wings most likely to lose their jobs include Drew Miller (due to the fact that the Wings are probably going to re-sign Patrick Eaves ahead of Miller, and the fact that Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton have to clear waivers next season), possibly Ruslan Salei (if the Wings feel that Jakub Kindl’s good for full-time duty) or Kris Draper (if he can’t out-compete Mursak or another Wings forward for a regular spot on the roster during training camp)...
And with Danny Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi all but cementing their status as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg’s interchangeable wingers, possibly two higher-salaried players who simply didn’t deliver consistently in Jiri Hudler (per Capgeek.com, he has one year remaining on his salary at a cap hit of $2.875 million, but his actual salary increases to $3 million next year) or Valtteri Filppula (two years remaining at a cap hit of $3 million, but he’ll actually receive $3.5 million in salary).
Those “actual salary” prices make the pair of 27-year-olds a little…complicated…in terms of re-signing at those kinds of prices, that Hudler’s 10 goals and 37 points are his “new normal” levels of production, and that Filppula’s 16 goals and 39 points have become pretty much average numbers for a player that was expected to post 20 goals and 50-70 points, and Filppula took a bit of a step back in that the Wings’ usual second-line center looks far more offensively engaged while playing on Pavel Datsyuk’s wing than he does as a center.
That being said, Filppula may be in the process of saving both his and Hudler’s job via his playoff performance. He may have been the Wings’ best forward not named Datsyuk during the first round, as Sipple notes:
Filppula scored the game-winning goal in Game 3 and chipped in four assists in the Red Wings’ sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round. His scoring streak began with an assist in the Wings’ 4-3 victory over the Blackhawks in the regular-season finale April 10.
“It was good that first series, as a line and as a team, to capitalize on those chances,” said Filppula on Friday, attempting to deflect attention about his performance.
Filppula finished 1-for-9 (11%) on face-offs in the first game of the series but won 57% (26-for-46) over the final three games. Filppula said he was having fun playing with Hudler and Miler. Miller said what he noticed right away about Filppula was his ability to skate and to move the puck:
“I think our line played well and I think a lot of it had to do with him working hard and making a lot happen on the ice for us, giving us a lot of extra room with his speed and his ability to make plays.”
If Filppula continues to produce points, I’d argue that he might have Ken Holland and Mike Babcock considering building a third line consisting of Filppula, Abdelkader and Hudler next season, with Helm, Eaves and whoever wins the battle between Mursak, Emmerton, and/or Miller and Draper for their fourth line winger’s spots rounding out the roster up front.
In any case, even if the Wings fall flat on their faces in the next round, I wouldn’t expect any drastic changes going forward. I’m not sure whether the Wings will re-sign Salei given Kindl’s rookie year and Brendan Smith and Doug Janik’s respectively strong AHL seasons, or whether Chris Osgood can return from sports hernia surgery (unless Jonathan Ericsson asks for the moon and stars and a Brett Lebda-like salary increase, the Wings will probably re-sign him as they’re higher on him than most fans are on Andreas Lilja’s successor in the whipping boy category), but aside from Salei, Modano, Draper and Miller, it’s probably likely that Filppula and Hudler will be given one more season to prove that they’re worth their salaries.
The bottom line is pretty simple for the Wings: while fans may want to see the Wings bring in a replacement for Modano, another top-four defenseman and a new back-up goaltender, the Wings believe in keeping their veterans for as long as they can contribute and mentor younger players, and the Wings also believe in roster stability. Keeping as stable a roster as possible while slowly working young players into the mix has served the team well for the last 15 years, and it’s not likely that Ken Holland will make changes for the sake of change going forward.
• The Free Press’s Steve Schader also took note of the following:
Pop culture Web site theawl.com has ranked each of the 30 NHL teams’ goal horns and posted corresponding clips. The Red Wings’ came in sixth. Atlanta’s goal horn tops the list, even though it’s not terribly different from the sound that emanates from Joe Louis Arena when the home team scores.
Check out the Web site and judge for yourself, especially since it’s been awhile since the JLA horn has been heard.
I’d describe the Wings’ goal horns’ sound as multi-layered, deep and “throaty.” The Wings seem to use several horns and possibly a buzzer, so it doesn’t necessarily sound like the Wings’ old “car horn” prior to the 92-93 season, but it doesn’t necessarily sound like a train’s or boat’s horn, either.
• If you don’t read the Production Line’s posts, you should, and Stevie Roxelle’s depiction of Easter at Kris Draper’s house is a must-click;
• And finally, per both Aftonbladet’s Anders Forsberg and Expressen’s Anders Borgstrom, this shouldn’t come as a surprise: Red Wings prospect Dick Axelsson has been left off the Swedish World Championship team’s roster, though it’s assumed that he’s missing the tournament due to an injury.
Update: For the record, Evgeni Nabokov told Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov that he chose to not report to the New York Islanders because he didn’t want to play for six weeks for a team that had no playoff chances whatsoever. Nabokov tells Lysenkov that he’s willing to attend training camp with and play during the following season for the Islanders.
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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.