The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/29/11 at 03:03 PM ET
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;
• 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.”
SELLOUT STREAK CONTINUES IN HOCKEYTOWN!
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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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.