The Malik Report
As noted in the game-day update thread and as mentioned this morning, Southeastern Michigan's expecting temperatures to peak around 90 degrees this afternoon and evening, and the local weatherpeople are forecasting a significant possibility of severe thunderstorms, so while the Chicago Blackhawks gushed about playing on the "fast ice" at Joe Louis Arena yesterday, the Detroit News's Matt Charboneau notes that the ice might not be so nice after all:
It was a common refrain around Joe Louis Arena on Monday as the Red Wings and Blackhawks prepared for Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals: The ice in Detroit is among the best in the league.
But even the playing surface inside Joe Louis Arena suffers when the temperatures outside are in the upper 80s and the humidity is high.
"It is good ice here," Chicago's Viktor Stalberg said after the team's morning skate. "But it didn't feel great this morning maybe because the heat outside. It usually is one of the better surfaces, that's for sure. It makes the game a little quicker and the puck tempo better."
The Red Wings bring in gigantic dehumidifiers that they park outside the Joe to aid in removing moisture from the air, but you can only do so much to aid a 34-year-old building's cause when you open the doors to let 20,000 people in, so the Wings and Hawks alike should expect the ice to be slushy and wet in the 1st period and hopefully improve as the game goes along. Al Sobotka and the Wings' building crew definitely have their work cut out for them tonight.
Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika wrote one helluva profile of Wings coach Mike Babcock, and like Babcock himself, it pulls no punches while leaning heavily upon the impressions Babcock has made upon Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl:
The Wings made the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive season, winning their last four games to get in. They upset the second-seeded Ducks in the first round, coming back from 2-1 and 3-2 series deficits to win in seven games. They entered Monday night tangled in a 1-1 tie with the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks, responding to a 4-1 loss with a 4-1 win.
“He’s one of the best coaches in the NHL for a reason,” said defenseman Jakub Kindl.
It’s not because he’s warm and fuzzy. It has been an open secret around the Wings that Babcock has clashed with players for years now, from the top to the bottom of the roster. He has clashed with management this season, too, about how certain players are used and the composition of the roster, often issuing public reminders of how much less he has at his disposal. But is that a negative? Or is that a positive? Or does your perception depend on the results?
Two of the three stories which follow are in the Red Wings-Blackhawks Game 3 update thread, which will continue to be updated this afternoon, but these three stories also merit specific mentions:
Topic 1: I happened to wonder aloud whether the Chicago Blackhawks' hatred for the Red Wings is analgous to that of Ohio State fans' hatred for everything related to the University of Michigan, and the website Alternative Hero provided a merchandise-hawking answer...
FYI, Red Wings fans:
You can't vote by way of hashtags on Twitter anymore: you have to go to http://covervote.nhl.com regis,ter, and vote there.
Updated 13x at 3:46 PM: The Detroit Red Wings took to the ice at Joe Louis Arena to prepare for Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight (7:30 PM EDT, NBCSN/CBC/97.1 FM, post-game on FSD), and the Wings' morning skate was relatively uneventful:
from Craig Custance of ESPN (paid subscription),
The best playoff teams have that element of size and strength in their top-six, and it's something Abdelkader provides for Detroit. Over the course of a long series, his physical style against the Blackhawks' best players can potentially chip away at their will and wear them down....
And Ericsson has settled in as a reliable partner with Niklas Kronwall, developing into a player Babcock can trust completely. With the Red Wings' season on the line in Game 7 against the Ducks, he played 26:10, the most ice time he has gotten in any game this year that didn't go into overtime.
"He's playing like a No. 2, that's a major progression for him," the NHL scout said. "He has size. He plays like a stopper and he can move the puck. He wants to do more with the puck, he thinks he can and he's getting there."...
If Detroit is a split second late, Chicago will blow right by them. It's why the Blackhawks are the best team in the league right now and why it's hard to put together back-to-back efforts like the Red Wings did Saturday against them.
When the Wild beat the Blackhawks in overtime in the first round, Chicago responded by scoring eight of the next nine goals to end Minnesota's season.
That's what a championship team does and there's no reason to believe the Blackhawks won't find that same effort tonight in Game 3. Whether or not Detroit matches it will go a long way in revealing just how much they've closed the gap.
Sportsnet posted quite the clip hyping the "Red Wings and Henrik Zetterberg vs. Jonathan Toews' frustration" angle heading into Game 3 between Detroit and Chicago this evening (7:30 PM EDT, NBCSN/CBC/97.1 FM, post-game on FSD). Toews! Zetterberg! Babcock!
The Detroit Red Wings will face literal and figurative heat tonight as they attempt to carve out a 2-1 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 PM EDT, NBCSN/CBC/97.1 FM, post-game on FSD). The Hawks are going to make a lineup change in adding Viktor Stalberg, they're still determined to make this series a short one, and the local weatherpeople are forecasting temperatures of 85-90 degrees in Southeastern Michigan for this afternoon, so Al Sobotka's has his work cut out for him ensuring that both teams aren't skating on gravel, too.
This game is obviously a little different if you happen to believe that momentum transfers from game to game: just as there was a two-day break between Games 1 and 2, the Wings and Hawks won't play Game 4 until Thursday and Game 5 on Saturday (at 8 PM EDT), and as you already know, Jonathan Toews' complaints about a lack of hooking and holding penalties called will probably fall upon rabbit ears, not deaf ones, so it's going to be an uphill climb for the Wings...
In no small part because the Blackhawks have absolutely owned Detroit at Joe Louis Arena of late--they swept the Wings in two games this season and have absolutely dominated the Wings at home over the course of the last couple of regular seasons, with the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc pegging Chicago's record at JLA at 9-1-and-1 since the 2010-2011, so the Hawks told Kuc that home ice is what you make of it...
Team Sweden captured the World Championship today, defeating Switzerland 5-2, and while Niklas Kronwall's definitely proud of his brother Staffan (who captained the team) having won the first Swedish gold on home ice since 2006, and Damien Brunner's probably paying some lost bets this evening...
One Wings prospect did take part in the Worlds, and he shared a gold-filled post-game dinner with lapsed Wings prospect Dick Axelsson:
from Corey Masisak of NHL.com,
"The growth of Smith and Kindl has been huge for us," Babcock said. "Ericsson has gotten much better. We seem to have people rounded into playing in spots that suit them better.
"I talked about when DeKeyser came, he helped us immensely. Whenever we got confidence or got playing better, we were able to maintain it when he left to a certain level -- we still don't move the puck the same, but I just think we're a better team. We weren't a good team at the start."
Another big move for the Red Wings was the rise of forward Justin Abdelkader. He was one of the kids when Detroit made back-to-back trips to the Cup Final in 2008 and '09, but Abdelkader had seemed to settle in as a bottom-six forward.
That changed when Babcock tried him on a line with Datsyuk, and he's now a critical element of the team's top trio.
"He's been a dominant physical guy for us and made us a better team," Babcock said. "It took us a long time to figure out where everybody fit best. There were lots of changes, new guys that we brought in that didn't fit the way we thought they were, or were better than we thought they were. We've just kind of watched it happen."
much more from Babcock...
About The Malik Report
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.