The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/12/11 at 08:19 PM ET
Updated 4x at 8:22 PM FSD’s John Keating says that Franzen is out, Modano is out and Draper is in, and CSN bay Area reports that Clowe is in for the Sharks: After a day spent posting oodles of game-day updates, I find myself getting edgy and jittery an hour-and-a-half before puck drop, but unlike Paul, I think I’ll keep the eating to a minimum till after the Red Wings and Sharks tangle tonight (don’t forget that both Fox Sports Detroit and Versus will air one-hour pre-game shows leading up to the 9 PM faceoff, and the game will also air on CSN Bay Area, TSN and WXYT). All that either team could possibly have said either substantively or in the cliche department has been said, and aside from updating you on the statuses of Johan Franzen and Ryane Clowe (which I’ll post here), RedWingsFeed provides the perfect NHL-produced Game 7 teaser to tide us over until the game begins:
Updated 2x at 7:59 PM with a great Jimmy Howard story: Of rather random note for your pre-game reading enjoyment:
• ESPN’s Vince Massi compares the Wings’ and Sharks’ franchises’ levels of experience in Game 7 situations:
Detroit is playing in its 22nd Game 7 all-time, which is tied with the Montreal Canadiens for the most in NHL history. Conversely, the Sharks will be hosting a Game 7 for just the second time in their history, and first since 2008 when they beat the Calgary Flames.
This will be San Jose’s seventh Game 7 all-time, with a 4-2 record in the previous six. For most of the players on the Sharks’ roster, this is fairly new territory. Only four Sharks have even recorded a point in a Game 7, and neither of the Sharks’ goalies (Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki) has ever played in a Game 7.
The key for the Red Wings in this series has been their penalty killing. In Games 1-3, the Red Wings allowed at least one power-play goal. In Games 4-6, the Red Wings have killed all 10 power plays against them.
If Detroit gets four goals you can pretty much say game over. The Red Wings have won 59 straight playoff games when scoring at least four goals.
If the Sharks are going to advance to the conference final, they must do a better job closing games out. The Red Wings have outscored the Sharks 6-2 in the third period of the past two games despite being outshot 24-19.
• In the alumni department, the Traverse City Record-Eagle’s James Cook reports that former Wing Dallas Drake, who’s a member of the ownership of the Traverse City North Stars, will become an assistant coach;
• And WXYZ’s Tom Leyden’s asking fans to weigh in as to which of the Wings’ most recent Game 7’s are our most memorable ones.
Update the second: Wings GM Ken Holland spoke to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch about his theory that parity means that 3-0 series deficits are no longer insurmountable:
“Teams are close,” Holland said before the puck was dropped Thursday. “The other thing is the more it gets done, the more other teams believe it can be done. When teams were up by 3-0 (about) 20 years ago, the team that was up 3-0 was probably a way better team than the team that was down 3-0. There was no chance for that team to come back. Look, Tampa was down 3-1 to Pittsburgh (in Round 1) and (the Lightning) won three in a row. If you can win three in a row, and you’re down 3-0, you’re in Game 7. It doesn’t mean you’re going to win the series but I think you’re going to see more teams that get down in a series come back.”
Teams that lost the first three games in 112 NHL playoff series from 1976 to 2010 were unable to force a Game 7. It has become vogue with the Wings becoming the third team in the past seven chances to make it happen. The reason is simple: Parity. Not much separated the top eight teams in the Western Conference this season. The Sharks and Wings were ranked No. 2 and No. 3 respectively. It shouldn’t be any surprise this went the distance.
“I believe we will (see it more),” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “It’s so evenly matched. When you look at the teams that are involved in the final eight in the West, you look at the point differential and it’s so even. Nowadays, because of the history and teams doing it more often, teams believe a little bit more.”
It’s all about parity, Holland said. “We had eight more points than Dallas and they were in ninth place. We were a win every six weeks from being out of the playoffs. When other teams do it, you know it can done. There’s so little to choose between these two teams. The first six games of this series were all decided in the last 10 minutes. It’s a tough series.”
• And NESN’s Jeff Howe spoke to University of Maine coach Tim Whitehead about Jimmy Howard:
“We had a good hunch that he had a bright future in the NHL,” Whitehead said with a laugh, as he knew he was stating the obvious. “He was certainly one of the absolute best players I’ve ever coached in my whole life, just a fierce competitor, just loves to play the game, loves to compete, has a burning desire to win whatever competition he’s in. Whether it’s a game, of course, or a shooting drill after practice, he wants to win it. If it’s a little three-puck shooting competition, he wants to win it. He’s a great kid. He comes back to Maine every summer because he met his wife, Rachel, at the university. They both attended Maine, and his house is on Green Lake up in Maine. He trains at the Shawn Walsh Center every summer, so I’ve stayed quite close with him, text him off and on, congratulate him after great games and that type of thing. I’m very happy for Jimmy.”
Whitehead was hoping that next text would be Thursday night after the Wings-Sharks game. When reminiscing about Howard’s glory days at Maine, Whitehead brought up the Black Bears’ classic postseason run in 2004. Howard helped Maine stave off UMass in a 2-1 triple-overtime marathon in the Hockey East championship, beat Wisconsin 2-1 in the NCAA East Regional finals, knock out Boston College 2-1 in the Frozen Four and then fall 1-0 to Denver in the national championship at the Garden in Boston.
“He was in some classics,” Whitehead said. “That run, from the Hockey East championship game all the way through the national championship game really was a memorable season, and Jimmy certainly was tremendous for us the whole way.”
Howard left after his junior season in 2004-05 and had to wait it out in the Detroit organization. He played for Grand Rapids of the AHL for four seasons before taking over for Chris Osgood in 2009-10. The Red Wings knocked out the Coyotes in a seven-game series in the first round before getting bounced by the Sharks in a five-game series in the Western Conference semifinals, which gives Howard a shot at redemption Thursday night. The pressure has always been there for Howard, whether it came during his college hockey run, or for the U.S. Junior National Team, or as Detroit’s latest starting goalie, which is one of the most prominent jobs in all of sports after Osgood and Dominik Hasek owned the net for nearly two full decades. Howard has a heck of a long way to go before he gets to that level, but he’s got a tremendous chance to take that next step Thursday night against the Sharks.
“I think Jimmy’s personality is the perfect fit for that type of pressure situation. I think some guys that aren’t as mentally tough as Jimmy might have trouble with it, but he’s such a fierce competitor. He’s always been,” Whitehead said. “He’s always played in big games, and he always rises to the occasion. He’s one of those rare competitors that, the bigger the game, the more he focuses in. I think it’s really a perfect fit. He’s obviously still a young goalie, and he’s still going to have challenges along the way. But I firmly believe he’s just going to get better and better with age for Detroit.”
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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.