The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/27/11 at 01:07 PM ET
Updated 8x at 3:43 PM Brodie Brazil reports that Versus might claim “exclusivity” rights for Game 1; Franzen and Salei are good to go for Friday: Per the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, the Selke Trophy finalist and SI-profiled forward Pavel Datsyuk and the Detroit Red Wings have one big piece of the playoff puzzle answered ahead of their cross-continental flight to San Jose:
The Wings and Sharks will start their Western Conference semifinal series Friday night at the HP Pavilion.
Game 2 will be Sunday.
Game 3 and 4 will be in Detroit next Wednesday and Friday.
MLive’s Ansar Khan confirms:
Game 1: Friday night at San Jose.
Game 2: Sunday at San Jose, 3 p.m. (presumably on NBC)
Game 3: Wednesday, May 4 at Detroit
Game 4: Friday, May 6 at Detroit
As does the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan.
Update: Per the Wings’ Twitter account:
Wednesday’s practice at JLA, the last at home before the second round gets underway. http://t.co/uTcVa6F
Pavel Datsyuk has been named a finalist for the Selke Trophy, awarded annually to the forward who demonstrates the most defensive skill.
Pavel is also the subject of a feature story in this week’s Sports Illustrated. You can check it out here: http://bit.ly/g85ELw
Just Ted Lindsay and Nick hanging out. One legend just asked another for an autograph. http://t.co/gCHpbpH
Lidstrom: I think the rest will help, especially with our guys and a couple of injuries that have been able to shake themselves out.
Datsyuk on SJ: They have a good team, good forwards, they compete and have a good defense as well.
Datsyuk: I’m proud and I am happy to be nominated for the award.
Ted is wishing the boys good luck as they head to the West Coast.
Zetterberg: You don’t need to think all the way back to last year to fired up. It is going to be a great matchup and a good series.
In the audio department, Ken Daniels spoke to WCSX’s‘s Jamie Samuelssen this morning…
Wings coach Mike Babcock spoke to WJR’s Paul W. Smith this morning…
And both Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating…
And Ilitch Holdings CEO of sports and entertainment properties Tom Wilson spoke to WDFN’s Matt Sheppard this morning.
Update #2: Good news on the Johan Franzen front from Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji:
#Wings Johan Franzen on the ice for practice. He looks pretty good. Imagine he’d play Game 1 unless there’s a setback. #NHLPlayoffs #SJSDet
• MLive’s Ansar Khan posted an article about the Wings’ penalty-killing unit a few hours ago:
“I didn’t like what we did and felt we didn’t have the same kind of puck pressure that we’ve had when we’ve been real good,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve worked a lot on it the last few days. We’re going to be ready to go and we’re going to be very aggressive.”
The Red Wings don’t like to sit back in a box while killing penalties. They prefer to apply pressure to the puck-carrier, particularly at the points.
“Bottom line is, we have to be more tenacious on the puck, blocking shots. If we get the opportunity to get that puck 200 feet, we have to do that,” forward Kris Draper said. “Couple times we had the puck on our sticks and didn’t get it all the way down. We’re a determined group, and guys realize that it’s going to be big part if we’re moving forward.”
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall said their structure was good, but they were experiencing small breakdowns.
“We need to win faceoffs and just clear the puck every time we get a chance,” Kronwall said. “You just have to bear down and make sure the other team doesn’t get that momentum going. Phoenix got a few goals and they were just rolling. We couldn’t figure out how to stop it.”
• The Wings’ website’s BIll Roose recapped this year’s Wings-Sharks games:
Here is how the Wings fared against the Sharks in the regular-season:
Nov. 30, 2010 at HP Pavilion
Red Wings 5, Sharks 3
March 3, 2011 at HP Pavilion
Sharks 3, Red Wings 1
SWEPT AWAY: Since 1967, the Red Wings are 2-2 in playoff series that immediately followed Round 1 sweeps.
In their two Round 2 series wins, the Red Wings defeated Toronto (in 1987) and Anaheim (2009), but were pushed to seven games in both cases.
Detroit started out well in 1999 and 2000 with opening round sweeps of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Kings, but didn’t do well enough in Round 2 series losses to Colorado both years.
Since the NHL’s expansion in 1967, here’s a look at the Wings’ record in the best-of-seven Round 2 on a game-by-game basis:
Round 2 Appearances (1967-2010)
Game 1 – 9-7
Game 2 – 12-4
Game 3 – 6-10
Game 4 – 10-6
Game 5 – 5-8
Game 6 – 5-3
Game 7 – 3-1
• The Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo weighed in on the series:
Three reasons the Red Wings should defeat the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference semifinals of the Stanley Cup playoffs:
1. The Red Wings, with their veteran leadership, are geared better than any other NHL team to play on the road in the playoffs. It should minimize the Sharks’ home ice advantage in the series.
2. The Sharks have never won the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings have won it four times since 1997. When the going gets tough in the series, confidence will be on the Red Wings’ side.
3. Pavel Datsyuk is the best hockey player in the world – and will prove it in this series.
• The Detroit Hockey Examiner’s Pahul Harris filed a quick report about the Wings’ takes on the Sharks:
“They beat us last year in second round,” Detroit veteran crease crasher Tomas Holmstrom said. “For sure we’ll have to give it to them. We got some rest this time and have had a chance to heal up.”
Henrik Zetterberg, who missed the first round with a sprained knee but will be ready for the Sharks, and Johan Franzen - whose ankle is improving – are benefiting most from the rest.
San Jose finished second in the Western Conference during the regular season, one point ahead of Detroit. The Sharks also beat the Red Wings three out of four games during the season.
San Jose presents a plethora of talented and skilled forwards with the likes of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, Calder Trophy finalist Logan Couture and Devan Setoguchi.
“When you’re playing against talented guys like that you have to be prepared,” Red Wings’ defenseman Brad Stuart said. “... If you’re not prepared, that just makes them that much tougher to play against.
It’s hard to argue with a first-place finish in the Central Division and third-place finish in the Western Conference, but the Detroit wasn’t as stingy on defense as people have come to expect from the Red Wings.
The team allowed 2.94 goals per game during the regular season, good for just 23rd among 30 teams in the NHL.
The defense wasn’t lights-out, but certainly clamped down a bit and showed some consistency during Detroit’s first-round playoff series against Phoenix. The Red Wings allowed just 2.5 goals per game to the Coyotes, who was averaging a shade under three goals in the regular season.
“We always talk about hitting that switch,” winger Justin Abdelkader said on WDFN-AM 1130 Detroit. “It’s playoff time, we have to be playing better.
“I just think we made a conscious effort that last 10 games or so to do better defensively. Obviously, we were winning some games by scoring five or six goals a game, which is not going to happen in the playoffs. That’s not how you’re going to win. We knew we needed to step our defense up. I think we made some strides toward the end of the season and, obviously, the first round of the playoffs.”
Update 2.5.: Per WDIV’s Katrina Hancock:
Franzen skated this morning and says he will play in Game 1 vs. San Jose. Zetterberg skated as well and he’s good to go too!
Update #3: Per the Macomb Daily’s Pleiness, here are several Wings weighing in on Pavel Datsyuk’s candidacy for the Selke Trophy:
“No surprise there,” said Kris Draper, who won the award after the 2003-04 season. “We definitely know in this dressing room what a dominate two-way hockey player he is. It’s amazing what he does on both ends of the rink. To us and to me he’s the most complete hockey player in the NHL.”
Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews are the other finalists.
Datsyuk could become the first player to win the award for four consecutive seasons since Bob Gainey of the Montreal Canadiens won it the first four seasons it was presented, from 1978 through 1981. Datsyuk ranked 11th in the League in takeaways with 71 despite being limited to 56 games due to injury.
Datsyuk tied for second on the Red Wings in plus-minus with a +11 rating and was the club’s top face-off man, posting a 54.6-percent winning percentage. It was his seventh consecutive season posting a face-off winning percent of over 53.
“We all see it everyday and appreciate it,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “For him to get the recognition is great, he deserves it.
And for him to get it even after missing a few games is every more remarkable. He’s just a special player, Stuart continued. “When you have your forwards that can make defensive plays, stripping pucks away from guys that just helps us on defense. Pav is one of the if not the best in the league.”
Update #4: MLive’s Ansar Khan offers a Sharks scouting report from Wings coach Mike Babcock and great news about Johan Franzen:
The Detroit Red Wings have basically the same team that lost to the San Jose Sharks in the second round of the playoffs a year ago. But coach Mike Babcock believes they’re a better team, a deeper, more battle-tested team. And one of the reasons is their ability to forecheck and wear on opposing defenses. Babcock said they will be one of the keys to this year’s series against the Sharks, which starts Friday at the HP Pavilion.
“I like the way we played in the first round (vs. Phoenix). I like the way we forechecked,’’ Babcock said after Wednesday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena. “I think we’re a better forechecking team and a harder team up front on their D than we have been in a number of years. Now we got to do it again against a different team. If you’re not on their D, they’re going to be on your D, so you have to decide where you want to play.’‘
Johan Franzen got in his first full practice since hurting his left ankle in Game 2 vs. Phoenix and said he’s ready to play in Game 1. Ruslan Salei returned to practice after sitting out on Tuesday.
Babcock also practiced Datsyuk and Zetterberg together, with Holmstrom, and had Filppula centering a line with Franzen and Hudler. The Cleary-Abdelkader-Bertuzzi line is the one unit that has stayed intact over the last several practices.
Update #5: Via RedWingsFeed, here’s babcock’s off-day presser—and it’s six minutes long:
Update #6: Datsyuk was at his best while discussing the Wings-Sharks series with the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“I don’t remember anything,” Datsyuk said after practice Wednesday, speaking of the series the Sharks won in five games. “New page.”
The Wings, at least, hope it’s a new script when they begin the second round of the Western Conference playoffs Friday; time remains TBD. While Detroit was sweeping Phoenix in the first round, it took San Jose six games to eliminate Los Angeles. But the Sharks defeated the Wings three of four games during the regular season.
“Good team,” Datsyuk said. “A complete team. They have good forwards who compete and are good defensively. It’ll be a challenge for us.”
The Sharks also have home-ice advantage, although the Wings have been a good road team all season.
“The best scenario would be to start at home,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “But if you’re going to success in the playoffs you have to win on the road.”
Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon just posted a series preview, too:
After seeing a handful of rematch series in the first round, it’s only fair we get one in the Western Conference semifinals. This time around when San Jose faces Detroit, we’re expecting things to be a bit more even between these teams this year. Last season, the Sharks took out the Red Wings in five games as the Sharks soared through the round after getting past Colorado while the Red Wings had to fight tooth and nail to get past Phoenix in the opening round.
This year, the path to their match-up is similar in that the Sharks had to fight with the Kings to get out of the first round. This year, Detroit was able to cruise past the Coyotes with little trouble at all. One thing Detroit didn’t have in that opening series with Phoenix was Henrik Zetterberg and it’s shaping up that he’ll be ready to go against the Sharks. With Zetterberg joining Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom once again, it’s scary to think of what the Wings might be able to put together with a healthy compliment of players. While Johan Franzen is still dealing with his facial and head injuries after going face first into the boards, the Wings’ first round performance was enough to leave us intimidated.
The Sharks, meanwhile, looked strong at most positions on the ice with one glaring exception in goal. Antti Niemi had a bit of a rough go of things against the once offensively challenged Kings. How he handles himself against the Red Wings is more than worth watching because it could boil down to how both he and Jimmy Howard can handle their opponents potent attacks. The Sharks got clutch work out of Joe Thornton in the first round while the real hero was Ryane Clowe leading the Sharks in scoring. Those guys along with Logan Couture, Dany Heatley, and Patrick Marleau will need to be huge. Red Wings thorn in the side Devin Setoguchi sets up to be a major factor as well. Go ahead and just ask Wings fans for their opinion of him.
How does the series shake out? We’re expecting it to be a memorable one destined to go six or seven games.
Update 6.5: Here’s Datsyuk on his Selke nomination, via the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“It’s nice to be nominated, now I’m going to try to win it,” said Datsyuk, whose chances could be dimmed by the fact he only played 56 games because injuries. “I have good competition almost every year. It’s harder and harder. I’m happy for the nomination, that’s the first step.
Datsyuk would become the second player to win the award four consecutive seasons. Bob Gainey of the Montreal Canadiens won it the first four seasons it was presented, from 1978-81.
On several occasions this season, Datsyuk has talked about Kesler’s development and his breakout season (40 goals, 80 blocked shots, 124 hits, 57.4 percent face-offs won).
“Actually every year he has gotten better and he’s been unbelievable this season,” Datsyuk said.
Updated #7: Via the Wings’ website, here are the players’ comments, or at least Lidstrom, Bertuzzi, Franzen and Zetterberg’s, about the Sharks:
And here’s Bill Clement’s take on the Selke Trophy finalists:
Update 7.5: Guess which player made the top of Adam Proteau’s list of clutch playoff performers?
1. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit
Five of the Wings’ top six time-on-ice beasts against Phoenix were defensemen. The sixth – and fourth overall on the squad – was Datsyuk, at an average of 20:01 per game. The two-way menace also had a whopping 10 takeaways for Detroit; only Chicago’s Jonathan Toews (13) had more in the opening round.
• And as noted by @Lolabythebay, Darren Helm made Pierre LeBrun’s list of Selke nominees;
• And via Dvaid Guralnick, here’s Daniel Mears’ practice gallery from today’s festivities.
Update 7.75: Here are a few quips from the Detroit Hockey Examiner’s Paul Harris regarding Datsyuk’s Selke candidacy:
“I’m very happy. Now, I try to win. I have good competition,” Datsyuk said after practice on Wednesday. “Every year, it gets harder and harder. It’s hard to explain, but I am proud.”
Red Wings’ defenseman Brad Stuart talked about his spectacular teammate.
“We all see it everyday and appreciate it. For him to get the recognition is great, he deserves it. And for him to get it even after missing a few games is every more remarkable. He’s just a special player,” Stuart said. “When you have your forwards that can make defensive plays, stripping pucks away from guys that just helps us on defense. Pav is one of the if not the best in the league.”
Update #8: The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness confirms that Franzen will play:
Johan Franzen took part in a full practice Wednesday and ruled himself ready to play in Game 1 Friday in San Jose.
“It’s going to take him a little bit to get up to pace but I think by the time he’s done practicing (today) he’ll be ready to go,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
Update 8.5: DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples focused on Darren Helm’s development today:
He’s awesome,” Eaves said when asked about Helm. “That’s the first word that comes to mind. He’s a really good friend of mine. Obviously as a player, he’s a very special player with the ability to change games. We have a good chemistry, and he makes it fun for me to come to the rink every day and play. That’s all you can ask of a linemate.”
“Helm is an elite player, probably not a fourth line player,” Babcock said. “I don’t know if we have a fourth line, we just play our guys. Helmer, Eaves and (Kris) Draper do things right and they do them right shift after shift after shift. So when the game’s not going your way they do things right and get them back on balance.”
Not the biggest guy on the Wings’ roster, the 5-foot-11 Helm, pound for pound is probably one of the toughest. Never one to back down from a hit, Helm has a great center of gravity that he uses to his advantage.
“The other thing they do is hunt down the other team’s D,” Babcock said. “All you have to do is go back on D with Helmer on your back, and anybody who has gone back for pucks doesn’t like doing that very often. He plays so fast and he’s heavy. He’s big in the fact that he’s a thick guy, who makes you pay. So I think he’s a good player for us and has gotten better and better as time has gone on. We’re a much better forechecking team with him and (Justin) Abdelkader than we have been in the past.”
“Making sure that I’m using my speed effectively and not just flying around, you know, being fast just for the sake of being fast,” Helm said. “It’s great to have him around. Obviously there are tons of other players in this locker room who have a lot of experience, a lot of talent, a lot of knowledge, and they’ve all spoke up and said little things to me here or there. I’ve tried to take what I can from them, and use them in my game, and hopefully it’s made me a little bit of a better player, and hopefully I can continue to take in what they tell me.”
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