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The Malik Report

Red Wings’ veterans believe in embracing Game 7’s moments

Updated with the obligatory “History Will be Made” commercial, and if it matters, there’s no Clowe in San Jose: While the Toronto Star’s Cathal Kelly ponders the “safety” of Detroit as a hockey city and Ray Ratto’s ever-so-slightly worried about the state of Sa Jose Sharks’ fans’ stats of mind, the Red Wings landed in San Jose around 1:20 PM local time and began to prepare for Game 7 with oodles of experience on their side.

Ken Holland believes in retaining and bringing in veteran players very specifically because they’re not only steadying influences upon and example-setting mentors for the team’s younger players, but also because, in the playoffs, age and experience are assets, not liabilities. The 35-plus crowd tends to possess the rare combination of desire to win like there’s no tomorrow (because there might not be an NHL tomorrow for them) steely calm when it comes to dealing with the ecstatic highs and staggering lows of playoff hockey.

NHL.com’s Brian Hedger reports that the Wings have over seventy Game 7’s worth of experience to their credit, but one of the Wings’ most senior partners believes that it’s hard to discount the fact that the team’s young core has played in its share of elimination games, too:

“Our younger players have some serious experience, and I think that’s the great thing about it,” said Red Wings veteran forward Kris Draper, who has played in six winner-take-all games. “These guys can draw from it. They’ve played in Game 7s. They’ve played in elimination games. So if you’re talking about a player like (Justin Abdelkader) or (Darren Helm) or those guys, they’ve done that before and that’s something that’s great. There’s nothing like hands-on experience, and that’s exactly what those guys have.”

Detroit’s coach does, too. Mike Babcock is 2-2 in four Game 7s as a head coach, and when his experience is added to his team’s, it’s getting close to a full, 82-game regular-season schedule’s worth of seventh-game memories. Babcock, however, wasn’t exactly basking in that experience Wednesday.

“I guess until you do it the first time you just think you can do it,” Babcock said. “That’s where experience, I guess, comes in. Yet, you’ve got to do it again. That’s what you’ve got to do every time. You’ve got to find a way. Experience when you have none is overrated, and when you have it you think it’s great.”

Mike Modano was brought in from Dallas to supply veteran savvy and desire, and he suggests that veterans do help their teams “find a way”—while admitting to Hedger that Thursday night’s game involves a “first” for a player who’s been playing NHL hockey since the 1989-90 season:

The nerves are very high, obviously,” he said. “You just want to be quick, you want to be precise in what you do, you want to be very direct in your play as far as with the puck and without it. Ultimately you want to skate, you want to relax and take the plays that are there and not force the issue, especially on the road. I’ve never been in one on the road, so it’s just about playing smart.”
“Those Game 7s have a lot of drama,” Modano said. “Every shot, every save and everything that happens out there is magnified.”

So in the end, it turns out that Game 7, for the Wings, anyway, won’t be about experience as much as it’ll be about embracing the moment:

“I don’t know if we care how we got here,” said Danny Cleary. “We’re at Game 7. It can go either way. It’s going to be a fun game.”

Or, as Jimmy Howard told the Sporting News’s Craig Custance...

The Red Wings’ Game 6 win over the Sharks was just minutes old when goalie Jimmy Howard was answering questions about the game that evened up a series that was once a 3-0 San Jose lead. He paused after one of the questions and asked his own.

“It’s been a great series, hasn’t it?” he said, clearly enjoying the moment.
The Red Wings are loaded with Game 7 experience, including eight games each for Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. The two are a combined 11-5 in Game 7’s. San Jose’s Niclas Wallin is 4-0 in Game 7s.

The Philadelphia Flyers success last year in coming back from a 3-0 series deficit has apparently inspired other teams in the playoffs this season. The Blackhawks nearly pulled a similar feat off in the first round, before losing to the Canucks in overtime of Game 7. The Lightning overcame a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Penguins and now the Red Wings sit one win away from advancing to the Western Conference finals.

“We feel energized but you have to go in there and win a game,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said from the airport on Wednesday before leaving for San Jose. “That’s where experience comes in. You have to do it again, it’s brand new every time.”

Update: Via RedWingsFeed, bleh:

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Hippy Dave's avatar

Can someone mail me a bottle of antacids?

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 05/11/11 at 07:29 PM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

That commercial coulda waited.
I’ll borrow your newly minted expression… “History can go &^% itself”.
One game boys, one battle & one shift at a time.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 05/11/11 at 07:32 PM ET

Wings_Fan_In_KC's avatar



9 to 12.

Posted by Wings_Fan_In_KC from ...somewhere southwest of The Motor City... on 05/11/11 at 07:42 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

I read the no Clowe link above. So the sharks flew home last night and had a practice this afternoon that everyone (except the injured Clowe) attended?

The game ended about a quarter to 11pm EDT (8pm PDT), so they likely left Metro just before 1am EDT (10pm PDT). That is a 5-7 hour plane ride in the middle of the night (don’t know if their jet has the range to do it non-stop, Redbird 2 does not), getting to SJ between 6-8am EDT (3-5am PDT) and to bed an hour later. Then they had to get up around noon for an early afternoon practice (the story was posted at 2:05pm PDT).


WTF are McLellan and Co. thinking? Could any of you function on that schedule, even when you were in your 20’s? How well could you sleep in an airline seat (even a bus. class one) after playing in that hard hitting of a game compared to getting a nice night’s sleep in a 5star hotel?

I hope their travel decisions come back to bite them in the ass

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 05/11/11 at 08:48 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

compared to getting a nice night’s sleep in a 5star hotel?

getting home and into your OWN bed by 4am gives you 7-8 hours of sleep in time for an early afternoon practice.  and it gets the travel out of the way.  then a good night’s sleep in their own beds the night before the game.

I traveled a lot, and no matter how nice a hotel was, it was never like home.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 05/11/11 at 09:10 PM ET

perfection's avatar

so over at mlive there is a breakdown of each individual player’s game 7 experience from both teams. it totals wins, losses, goals, assists, etc.

so many players on the Wings have a ‘1’ in the game 7 loss category. unfortunately, i know exactly what game that 1 refers to. i know some have moved on (namely Hossa…) but it still pains me deeply to think about.

that night was my die-hard-wings-fan grandfather’s 80th b-day and we all planned on celebrating double. needless to say, the night ended in silence.

sorry… i realize it’s absurd to rehash these memories when we have tomorrow night to look forward to, but that breakdown was a brutal reminder and this seemed about the only place where i might find people who can relate.

anyway - back to this year…

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 05/11/11 at 10:08 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Yes, history can do what you guys said.

All that matters right now is one game.  Tomorrow night.

Believe it.  Expect it.  Do it.


Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 05/11/11 at 10:18 PM ET


We’re gonna lose!  I can feel it. 

We have a chance.

but somethings gonna go wrong.

but I have faith in the Wings.

Ahhh, no time for blind homerism, we’re going to lose!

Posted by gt500x on 05/11/11 at 11:07 PM ET

calquake's avatar

We’re gonna lose!  I can feel it. 
We have a chance.
but somethings gonna go wrong.
but I have faith in the Wings.
Ahhh, no time for blind homerism, we’re going to lose!
Posted by gt500x on 05/11/11 at 09:07 PM ET

Nice try troll… and if you are a Wings fan?  Shame on you for having so little faith.

Posted by calquake from a.k.a. Uniquake, workin' on my manifesto on 05/11/11 at 11:56 PM ET

cigar_nurse's avatar

I hope Uncle Mike keeps showing that interview after game 3 when Setogucci and Couture talked about what goal celebration they were going to use if they scored. What really makes them douches is that they were going to imitate soccer players. Frickin soccer players? They have the diving down pat tongue rolleye

Stellar write-up as usual George. Don’t know where I’d be without you , and the Master Chief.

Love the MR Hockey article. And what legendary player do the sharts have in the locker room after a game? Roenick?

It will be a restless night sleep tonight . 22 hours to go bitches. We won’t just survive tomorrow. WE WILL PREVAIL   Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Don’t bogart it Cal

Posted by cigar_nurse from On The mend for next season Greenville Pylons on 05/12/11 at 12:52 AM ET

CC Moor's avatar

Perfection, you have brought up a painful memory!  A win Thursday night would be historic…. but we cannot count on anything and they’ll have to play it out.  Home ice is such a huge advantage and they will have 18000 fans screaming for them.

If they played this game ten times out there San Jose would win 7 of them, and if they played Game 7 ten times in our barn, Detroit would win 7 ..... there is no daylight between these teams.  Great defense wins (on the road, especially) so we need one more big game from Howie.  I think this is the best he has played in a stretch for his NHL career…..and he needs to do it one more time.  He is due for a bad game but let it be up in Vancouver Sunday nght; let’s get over the hump tomorrow on this one.  How about a shut-out tomorrow from Howie?

I do think whoever scores first tomorrow will win the game.  It will be a huge emotional lift to score and strike first tomorrow.

Posted by CC Moor from Washington DC on 05/12/11 at 03:00 AM ET


Every Wings fan should read this, and I hope someway somehow this key ‘insider information’ or whatever you want to call it makes its way to the Wings coaching staff and players, and quick, as I believe it could make an amazing difference in game 7.


Everyone should read that, and then find their own way to the highlights he talks about, since he doesn’t know how to link it directly.

Also, if you have a Winging it in Motown account, I do not, you should repost this as a fanpost there, as many people read that site. The most important thing is that this information gets out there, and fast, so if you have anywhere you can post it, your twitter, your facebook, another other Red Wings sites or forums, please do it. Unless someone personally knows someone in the Wings organization and can relay this information directly, our only hope that it gets to them is if it gets posted everywhere so that they finally see it. Please!

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/12/11 at 03:06 AM ET

datsyukdanglesyou's avatar

Nothing matters but this game. Not the first 3, not the last 3, nothing. Right now. Win this game. Play smart, play fast, play tough, but MOST of all, make them play YOUR game. 9 to 12, LGRW.

For anyone who needs something a little more organic and not league produced pump-up material that has a soundtrack to match a butterfly documentary, check out this podcast courtesy of 97.1 FM, WXYT Detroit.  T-Foster never lost faith, and neither have we.


Posted by datsyukdanglesyou on 05/12/11 at 03:16 AM ET



Gordie Howe believes.  Game on.

Posted by SaraD on 05/12/11 at 05:32 AM ET

Chet's avatar

i’m making the LA -> SJ trip w my gf. one more 19 sweater in the house tonight.


Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 05/12/11 at 05:43 AM ET

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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.