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The Malik Report

There ain’t no easy way for the Red Wings in the first round

Updated 3x with 2:07 with…t-shirt news?: This morning/afternoon’s “late-breaking” stories subsequent to the Red Wings’ 3-2 OT loss to Chicago include a recap from the Macomb Daily’s George Pohly, who received a classic, “Stating the obvious” quip from Henrik Zetterberg about a possible Wings-Hawks playoff series…

“That would mean short travel,” Zetterberg said. “There could be a lot of games between us.”

And, aside from Elliotte Friedman’s note about Pavel Datsyuk and the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts’s double tribute to Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne, today’s focus involves the fact that the Red Wings could indeed face the Blackhawks, Nashville Predators or Anaheim Ducks, among others, in the first round of the playoffs. That means a tough road ahead for the Wings, as the Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo suggests:

Nashville has never won a playoff series. Ever. Yet, last season the Predators came within a whisker of defeating the Blackhawks, who went onto the win the Stanley Cup championship. Predators’ defenseman Shea Weber is one of the most underrated players in the world. When Nashville beat the Red Wings recently, he owned the ice. He is built like an NFL outside linebacker — and is just as mean. He could have an impact on a series not unlike Chris Pronger did for Edmonton, an eighth seed against the top-seeded Red Wings, during a playoff upset. The Predators also have one of the better goalies in the league — Pekka Rinne — and just a gritty team. The Predators have much to prove. You’d think in a close series, the Red Wings would have the edge in swagger and confidence — and talent. But the two teams are division foes. Let’s put it this way — the Preds won’t be intimidated by the aura of the Red Wings.

The Blackhawks, who visited Joe Louis Arena Monday night, present the greatest paradox. While they captured the Stanley Cup last spring, the salary cap era hasn’t been kind to the Blackhawks. Two players, in particular, who seemed to cause the Red Wings all kinds of problems, Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg, are gone. The Blackhawks still have more than their share of highly skilled players, such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith, but there isn’t the physicality there to the same degree with Nashville and Anaheim.

If the Red Wings are vulnerable to anything, it’s bigger players who knock them around. That is especially true of teams with bigger forwards, who forecheck effectively and pound on their defensemen.

Corey Crawford has played very well in goal for Chicago and was a second-round draft pick. He was slow in developing, but has come on strongly this season — a classic example of how it often takes a few years for a goalie to develop. Then again, he has played 16 minutes in one playoff game. It does make Chicago’s goaltending an iffy proposition in the postseason.

Anaheim has some terrific players, and perhaps hockey’s best line with Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry. Teemu Selanne is having a remarkable season for a 40-something player. He is still smooth as silk and can fire the puck with the NHL‘s best wingers. Farmington’s Cam Fowler, a defenseman, has been one of the NHL’s best rookies. Jonas Hiller is a goalie who can get hot and carry his team in a series — as the Red Wings are only too aware from a close scare in the playoffs during 2009.

Long story short, as Caputo suggests, the West is so tightly-packed full of teams that can at least make a two-round playoff push that there won’t be an intimidation factor for Detroit this time around, nor will the Wings likely face a series that would go fewer than six games.

Update: Also of Wings-relate note: the Red Wings’ playoff mini-site’s memory of the day involves the 1992 playoffs, when video review of goals was employed for the first time in the post-season. Sergei Fedorov scored a goal over Jon Casey which popped in and out of the top shelf of the net, and Rob Shick chose to ask to have the goal reviewed. It was the overtime game-winner as the Wings defeated the North Stars and advanced to the second round…where they were swept by the Cup Finals-bound Blackhawks;

• If you’re interested, both ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside weigh in on the NHL’s decision to not suspend or fine Todd Bertuzzi for his hit on Chicago Blackhawks forward Ryan Johnson;

• The Wings’ website wants to remind you that Nicklas Lidstrom is up for the Mark Messier Leadership Award, which fans vote upon…until Mark Messier decides who wins the award, anyway…

• The New Baltimore-Chesterfield Patch’s Christy Arboscello reports that Red Wings play-by-play man Ken Kal is in is going to read to students today at Green Elementary in L’Anse Creuse;

• And then there’s this:

Update #2: Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika asked several Wings and Hawks to directly address a possible first-round match-up:

What if the Blackhawks finish seventh and face the Red Wings, currently second in the West? They lost to the Wings the night they raised their Cup banner at the United Center. Since then, they have beaten them three times in a row. They finish the season with a home-and-home series against them that could lead right into the first round.

“For us, we’ve got confidence against Vancouver,” Blackhawks winger Troy Brouwer said. “We play Detroit six times a year, so we know their style of play. We’ve had a couple real good games against them this year so far. So you get confidence, and you take that into the playoffs, and you just have that mindset where you’re going to win.”

No one picked the Blackhawks to repeat. No one has repeated in the NHL since the 1997-98 Red Wings, though the 2008-09 Wings came within a game of doing it.

Everyone knows the obstacles defending champions must overcome – a short summer, a lack of motivation, a target on your back – but no one fully understands until he goes through the experience himself.

“You go through all the playoffs, all the celebrations, all the emotions, and then all of a sudden, boom, it’s Game 1 again,” Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “All the other teams are real fired up to play against you, and some nights you might not have that fire that you usually have.”

Said Wings coach Mike Babcock: “Emotionally, to get the game in September to be like it was in June, it’s not possible. It’s impossible. To get your guys to re-engage and get going, that makes it hard.”

Update: If you’re interested….

DTE ENERGY AND THE RED WINGS ARE GOING GREEN! … The First 5,000 Fans in Attendance for Tomorrow’s Home Game Versus St. Louis will Receive a Free Commemorative T-Shirt …

Detroit, MI… Wednesday, March 30th is DTE Energy Going Green Night at Joe Louis Arena, with the first 5,000 fans in attendance at the Detroit Red Wings’ home game versus the St. Louis Blues (7:30 p.m. – FS Detroit & 97.1 The Ticket) set to receive a special t-shirt commemorating the occasion. In keeping with the evening’s ‘green’ theme, over 50 groups from environmentally-conscious organizations will be in attendance, as will 500 individuals who won tickets through a variety of DTE Energy-sponsored contests. Furthermore, energy experts from DTE Energy will be on the arena concourse (outside section 115) distributing free information on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“We want to help customers take control of their energy use and save money,” says Kim Huffman of DTE Energy. “We’re happy to be partnering with the Red Wings to bring energy efficiency and renewable energy information to their fans.”

Last night’s Detroit-Chicago showdown marked the 20th consecutive sellout for an NHL game at Joe Louis Arena. Currently averaging 19,649 fans-per-game, the Red Wings have played before a capacity crowd at The Joe a total of 26 times this season.

DetroitRedWings.com’s Jake Duhaime also asked the Wings’ players about their superstitions:

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SYF's avatar

Really wish this season was over already.

Posted by SYF from #GORDIEHOWEARENA on 03/29/11 at 03:06 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Oh, and also, the Wings aren’t very good this year. Don’t forget that part.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 03/29/11 at 03:16 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 03/29/11 at 01:16 PM ET

And for the record, I obviously hope they prove me wrong. I’d love to see them flip the switch and say STFU like they did in ‘09. But this team has appeared mentally soft since early December—BEFORE the injury bug hit. The Wings haven’t had a team that was mentally weak since Babcock’s first season. The core hasn’t changed much. So I have to wonder, why does this year’s team seem that way?

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 03/29/11 at 03:17 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

Caputo conveniently left off an assessment the LA Kings, whom nearly every Campbell squad is hoping to draw following the season ending injuries for Kopitar and Williams.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 03/29/11 at 03:20 PM ET

John W.'s avatar

It really doesn’t matter who you play anymore, or who is seeded where.  Any of the teams can beat any of the other teams.  You get who you get and just have to find a way to beat them.

Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 03/29/11 at 03:20 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

I"ve been thinking lately we don’t seem to have a Toews in the orginization and Toews reminds me of Stevie Y.  When they asked Jason Williams what it was like to be with the Wings a second time, he said a lot less sarcastic without Stevie.. There’s no intense great player who will hold others accountable on the team like Stevie would/could.  I feel like everyones on their own page a lot of nights and there’s not one person who can really bring everyone onto the same page when they are stumbling..  They just kind of grind it out until everyone gets tired of losing… 

I used to believe I was just getting myself worked up for nothing.. but over the past couple years (Granted they’ve had issues with the cap and defections) I feel the Wings aren’t the same Wings who used to be able to flip a switch and take command of a game.  Our third liners from 3 years ago, 2 years ago could tic-tac-toe into the net.. crisp tight quick passing used to be a pillar of Redwing style hockey.. now we have 12 guys trying to be like Pavel and stickhandle the blue line every rush.. we used to be able to pass and stack the line and leave it for the guy with all the speed against the flat footed defenders and once we had the zone, we had quick passing and people finding open spots and passing lanes.  Now I see a guy get it and force a pass that’s not there or try to stick handle the two guys that are on him..

I think everyone talking about how skilled they are have gone to their head and I don’t feel like the whole team works with that blue collar work ethic Stevie used to bring.  Accepting sometimes it wont be pretty and you gotta battle but when he battled everyone else started battling.. who do we have that can do this for the team now?  Closest I think is Homer… right?... I’ll be glad to have some fresh new high talent blood in the lineup next year that will be truly hungry for winning.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 03/29/11 at 03:21 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Oonagi Nathan.. I think you more aptly described what I was trying to say.  They seem mentally weak, can’t get on the same page and take control of a game when they are down like they used to.  I really feel that the new mentality is the regular season doesn’t matter, just make the playoffs.  I feel like they really think they’ll be able to just turn it on in the playoffs without having practiced how to do it right all season.  I’d really hoped by now they’d be winning tight games, scoring the clutch goals, instead they’ve let a commanding lead slip away over the past 2 months by a team that was all but scratched from the playoffs halfway through the season when mighty joe was a -18… we’re tied now… or close.  We haven’t practiced being great, we’ve just practiced getting by.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 03/29/11 at 03:29 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

The Wings have always had their usual amount of fatal flaws going into the playoffs over the past decade or so…I’m not particularly concerned about their mental fortitude. I’m worried about the way they’re playing right now and that’s about it. The honest truth is that we won’t know whether the boys have the mental moxie to flip the switch till the playoffs begin.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/29/11 at 04:01 PM ET

SolidTG7's avatar

Last year they were riding the crest of a wave for a long time in order to get them into the playoffs at all.  Once there it crashed down and they were tired.  My hope is that this year they ride that crest during the playoffs instead since that is when it really counts.

Posted by SolidTG7 on 03/29/11 at 04:18 PM ET


It really doesn’t matter who you play anymore, or who is seeded where.  Any of the teams can beat any of the other teams.  You get who you get and just have to find a way to beat them.
Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 03/29/11 at 01:20 PM


Posted by BigRedOne on 03/29/11 at 04:20 PM ET

Mandingo's avatar

“That would mean short travel,” Zetterberg said.

It would also mean a short post-season.

The only two teams the Wings have a chance to beat in the first round are LA and Phoenix.

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 03/29/11 at 04:51 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Wow, no offense, everybody, but talk about a fatalism alert…

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/29/11 at 04:54 PM ET

Mandingo's avatar

I think the fatalism is pretty well justified, for once.

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 03/29/11 at 05:05 PM ET


Fatalism alert…..yes indeed. I am looking at the Wings schedule….I try not to be pessimist..last night game was all about…MAC!!!! If he wasn’t in the net, you can forget our 1 point! No offense to Howard, but I am not even sure he would do better. We cannot play like this….Nashville has our number..and now Chicago….and we all know what might happen on Wednesday “ah…st Louis…they won’t make the playoffs….let us conserve our energy…”.........I agree with the statement above….we don’t have wonder boy anymore and I really miss the “energy” we used to have…..and Babcock is right..talent WILL NOT win you games…it can help..but you need the full 60 minutes….other teams got the memo.

Posted by Meg on 03/29/11 at 05:35 PM ET

joedaiceman's avatar

This is the Wings dammit - of course they will turn it on for the playoffs !

Posted by joedaiceman on 03/29/11 at 05:53 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

There’s nothing one way or another that’s going to convince the two sides to come together on this.

I’m instead going to bide my time praying that Datsyuk and Howard’s injuries are really nothing and that nobody else gets hurt in the last games running up to the playoffs.

At least we can all agree that more injuries would suck.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/29/11 at 05:55 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Wow, no offense, everybody, but talk about a fatalism alert…

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/29/11 at 02:54 PM ET

C’mon, George, you’ve been around the game long enough to see the warning signs are justified right now.

This isn’t a Red Wing-thing, per se, but an overall hockey issue; and the itemized issues are:

1) lack of a killer instinct
2) stable, but unproven goaltending
3) atrocious defensive-zone play
  3b) way too many turnovers

Now that’s not to say there haven’t been some positives. The play of the ‘secondary’ players comes to mind. Great hustle; good offensive zone pressure. And if they are not exactly lighting up the scoreboard, still they are getting themselves into scoring position and creating chances.

But the negatives far outweigh the positives right now.

Let’s be honest: any team heading into the playoffs with the issues the Red Wings have would be a team most of us would probably dismiss, as far as going deep in the post-season.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 03/29/11 at 06:02 PM ET

SYF's avatar

I’m instead going to bide my time praying that Datsyuk and Howard’s injuries are really nothing and that nobody else gets hurt in the last games running up to the playoffs.

At least we can all agree that more injuries would suck.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/29/11 at 03:55 PM ET

Same here, J.J.  And I would like to add that with the Central locked up (just about), the worst the Wings can place is third when the playoffs start and I think the Wings would want home ice for at least the first two rounds.

Posted by SYF from #GORDIEHOWEARENA on 03/29/11 at 07:05 PM ET

Chet's avatar

Let’s be honest: any team heading into the playoffs with the issues the Red Wings have would be a team most of us would probably dismiss, as far as going deep in the post-season.

i agree, but let’s keep in mind a few factors:

1) they know they’re in the playoffs with at least one round of home ice (barring an 0-6 finish or whatever, anyway), so the motivation to coast and rest injuries is probably huge;

2) datsyuk really does make this team go most nights, so of course they look vulnerable when he’s out. although it was ugly, we still played chicago relatively tight despite some very mysterious calls and non-calls last night;

3) in the playoffs, i hope and expect this team to show up as they often do. no more third passes from 33 and 26 on one side of the slot, no more of 52 standing still all over our zone (i will sacrifice a chicken to make this happen if need be), no more of 44’s backhand giveaways in the neutral zone instead of getting it deep, etc.

4) helm and filppula are impressing me with their play while getting added minutes. that confidence should translate to strong performances, giving us that secondary scoring we need.

especially as to this third point, babcock may need to assert some control over this team and tear a few a-holes or cut minutes. the fourth point is a semi-pipe dream, but what the hell…

i’m not worried, yet.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 03/29/11 at 07:16 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

You make some good points, Chet.

Believe me, I hope you’re right.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 03/29/11 at 07:42 PM 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.