The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/27/11 at 02:04 AM ET
Updated 3x at 1:59 AM: The Detroit Red Wings will head to San Jose to play against the Sharks in the second round of the playoffs.
We’ll find out shortly whether the NHL is nuts and wants them to fly to San Jose today for a Thursday night start, or whether they’ll give the Wings a break and let them start the series on Friday.
A Calgary colleague watching tonight’s games says that CBC is reporting it’s a 99 percent certainty that Vancouver-Nashville series will open Thursday night, giving the Hockey Night in Canada crew it’s preferred Saturday night start without back-to-backs. And that makes Sharks-Detroit that same 99 percent certainty to open at HP Pavilion on Friday night with Sunday the logical time for Game 2.
The NHL won’t be announcing anything until tomorrow and nothing from the Sharks until that happens. Still, there’s an early heads-up. But nothing set in granite and nobody should be booking any flights just yet.
As the Wings’ beat writers had to pack for a possible trip to San Jose as well, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness spoke to the Wings about their opponent and posted a short series preview…
The Sharks won the season series with Detroit, 3-1. The Wings won the first meeting, 5-3, and then dropped the next three straight, 5-2, 4-3 and 3-1. San Jose finished one point ahead of the Wings during the regular season to earn the second seed. The Sharks beat the Los Angeles Kings in six games in the opening round, winning three of their four games in overtime.
“They’ve got good talent up front, some guys with good speed and guys that can put the puck in the net,” Wings defenseman Brad Stuart said. “They’re a fast team, play a fast game, similar to what we try to do.”
All four of San Jose’s wins in last year’s meeting were by one goal. The Wings beat the Sharks in Game 4 to avoid a sweep, 7-1. The Wings won the season series from the Sharks 3-0-1 last season.
“We’ll be fresh and ready,” Wings forward Jiri Hudler said.
As did MLive’s Ansar Khan:
Unlike the Coyotes, the Sharks are loaded with talented forwards who have size, speed and scoring ability. It’s a group that features stars Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley and a supporting cast that includes Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture.
“You know the big star players they have,’’ Detroit’s Kris Draper said. “A team that always plays us hard. Big bodies, real strong on the puck. Very good cycle team, puck possession team. You look at what they did against L.A., being down 4-0 (in Game 3), no quit, they just kept coming and ended up winning that game (6-5 in overtime). It was a big reason they moved on. It’s a team that believes in themselves and it certainly showed in that series.’‘
Said Red Wings forward Patrick Eaves: “They can put five guys out there that are very talented. We need to make them deviate from their set plan as much as possible.’‘
“We were coming off a seven-game (series) [last year],’’ Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi said. “Hopefully this time around we’ll have all our guys back and we’ll be well-rested. And we’ll be a lot more prepared.’‘
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who they play, Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler said, because, “These days, if you want to go far, you’ve got to go through everybody.’‘
The rest was vital for Detroit, which will welcome back Henrik Zetterberg, their leading scorer in the regular season who missed the opening round due to a sprained left knee. The break also gave high-scoring forward Johan Franzen more time to heal his sore left ankle.
Update #2: here’s Helene St. James’ early take from the Detroit Free Press:
“San Jose just has so much talent,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “They’ve got so much skill. They’ve got a good goaltender who won the Cup last year with Chicago. They’ve got Dan Boyle, who is all over the place for 30 minutes a night. It’s tough to defend a guy like that. And then up front, obviously they’ve got some big guys there, some guys that can really do some damage. It’s going to be a big challenge.”
The Sharks are one of the few teams that can match the Wings’ depth up front. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton highlight a cast that includes support from Dany Heatley, Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture.
Antti Niemi joined the Sharks last summer after backstopping the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup, but he had a shaky playoff debut with his new team, finishing with a 3.99 goals-against average and .863 save percentage against the Kings.
With Zetterberg back in the lineup after missing Round 1 with a knee injury, the Wings should be able to make life tough on Niemi, or Antero Niittymaaki, his back-up. The Wings can roll four lines that all have scorers and hitters, and as much as the best players will have to emerge the deeper the playoffs go, having Darren Helm on the fourth line wearing down opposing defensemen was a huge benefit in Round 1. He went after both Ed Jovanovski and Keith Yandle.
The Wings will have to improve on the penalty kill, which fared poorly against the Coyotes, and Phoenix didn’t even have that good of a power play. The Sharks can decimate with theirs, so the Wings have to watch taking penalties in the first place.
Give the Wings the advantage on defense and goaltending (call it even up front), and the prediction is Wings in six.
And here’s the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan’s take…
The Red Wings finally know who they’ll play in the second round of the playoffs. And it’s a familiar foe, the San Jose Sharks.
That fact finally became clear early Wednesday morning when the Vancouver Canucks staved off one of the biggest upsets in NHL history by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 in overtime. Alex Burrows scored the winner 5:22 into overtime with his second goal of the game.
San Jose and the Wings played last season in Round 2, with the Sharks winning the series in five games.
[T]he No. 2 seed Sharks (who defeated Los Angeles in six games) and the No. 3 Red Wings (who swept Phoenix) are expected to open the second round on Friday in San Jose, although the league has yet to officially announce the schedule.
The Wings continued to struggle against the Sharks this regular season. San Jose won three of the four games.
The Wings will practice Wednesday morning at Joe Louis Arena before flying to San Jose, Calif., later in the day regardless of the upcoming schedule.
Update #3: Here’s the Mercury News’s David Pollak’s take:
Next up: the Detroit Red Wings.
The Sharks learned Tuesday night that their prize for disposing of the Los Angeles Kings is a second-round rematch with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom after the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 in Game 7 of their first-round Stanley Cup matchup.
This will be the fifth postseason showdown between San Jose and Detroit with each team having eliminated the other twice. A year ago, San Jose won the series in five games to advance to the Western Conference finals as coach Todd McLellan matched wits with Mike Babcock, the coach he served under for three years as a Detroit assistant.
San Jose was 3-1 against Detroit during the season, splitting two games at HP Pavilion and winning on both trips to Joe Louis Arena.
And Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Ray Ratto weighed in…
SAME OLD FACES, SAME OLD PLACES
The only true differences between these Red Wings and the ones the Sharks beat last year are health and rest. The only real issue is whether Johan Franzen, normally the right wing on the Pavel Datsyuk line, will be available after injuring his ankle during the Phoenix series. Franzen is hugely important to the Wings for both his skill and his flint, and if he can’t play, Mike Modano won’t be able to replace his game. On the other hand, the rest of the old faces – Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Valtteri Filppula, Dan Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi, Justin Abdelkader, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and former Shark Brad Stuart.
SAME OLD GAME
They like possession. They like to cycle, they like to outshoot you by a factor of 2-1, they like to clog your net with their people, and they like to win draws in your end, and they like doing this even though you know they’re coming, because they’re also good at all of these things, night in and night out. Sound familiar? Well, Todd McLellan worked for the Wings before he got to San Jose,. Draw your own conclusions.
SAME OLD GOALIE
Jimmy Howard had a so-so year as the undisputed atarter, and his backups, the redoubtable Chris Osgood and Joey MacDonald, saw about 15 percent of the available minutes this year. People have been waiting for that breakout year for awhile now, and this wasn’t that year, but the options don’t seem to excite head coach Mike Babcock all that much.
SAME OLD BRAINIAC
Mike Babcock can do this drill in his sleep, so loaded with familiar faces is he. He is like Todd McLellan, only more animated, and he is matter-of-fact-snarky when answering questions, as he was when someone asked about defenseman Ruslan Salei’s injury: “He has a boo-boo.” He’s done this his way long enough that it has become the players’ way as well, so he can allow his veterans more rope. If Franzen is healthy, he will have the team he had three years ago, and it will be well rested after routing Phoenix in the first round.
And the Sharks’ website is like its team—a little cocky, reminding fans that the Sharks have won seven of their last nine regular and post-season meetings with Detroit:
Last year the Sharks dispatched the Red Wings in five games in the conference semifinals in moving to the Western Conference Final. They will have to take the same path to reach the Western Conference Final in 2011.
During the regular season, the Sharks captured three of four games against Detroit. On November 30, Detroit won the season opener between the two by capturing a 5-3 decision at HP Pavilion. Jimmy Howard bested Antero Niittymaki that day.
In the first game at Joe Louis Arena on December 6, San Jose earned the first of three consecutive wins against their Western Conference rival as they came out on top 5-2. Antti Niemi toppled Howard between the pipes. In the return match in the Motor City, Team Teal brought home a 4-3 win. This was another victory for Niemi against Howard in what likely would be the playoff goaltending scenario.
The fourth and final matchup was at HP Pavilion and the Sharks against prevailed, this time 3-1. This time Niemi was victorious against Joey MacDonald.
Offensively, San Jose scored 15 goals in the four games and they were paced by Dany Heatley who scored four goals against the Wings. Ryane Clowe, Joe Thornton, Devin Setoguchi and Logan Couture contributed two goals apiece.
Detroit on the other hand was led by Danny Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg who each contributed three goals in the series. Tomas Holmstrom found two other tallies.
The NHL will be releasing the second round playoff schedule as soon as possible and the Sharks television schedule will follow.
Put simply? The last series with business. This one is personal, and Jimmy Howard’s no longer a young rookie trying to learn how hard it is to “bring it” on an every-save basis. I like revenge.
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