The Malik Report
The Detroit Red Wings head into Chicago to play the Blackhawks tonight (7:30 PM EST, NBC Sports Network/TSN2/WXYT) hoping to catch a pissed-off tiger by its jaws instead of its tail. Just as the Wings’ 4-3 loss to Toronto and their status as the third place team in the Central Division, as well as the fifth place team in the Western Conference heading into their 41st game, should have starter Ty Conklin and the Wings (who may or may not have Tomas Holmstrom and/or Darren Helm back in the lineup) at least a bit ticked off at themselves and particularly ornery heading into what was already a difficult outing to be in Chicago…
The Blackhawks are equally frustrated, which bodes well for those of you who want to witness a chippy, nastily-contested game tonight. They’ve lost three straight games, or in plainer English, every game since the Hawks nicked up the Wings on New Year’s Eve Eve, and the Hawks’ 4-0 loss to Colorado on Friday had the Hawks particularly down on themselves and gearing up to take their frustrations out on Detroit almost immediately after the Avs game, as noted by Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Tracey Myers...
There are games you circle on your calendar once you find out the extenuating circumstances surrounding them, and Saturday’s incredibly inefficient 4-3 loss to Toronto, once I found out that the Wings had scheduled both the Fathers’ Trip and a personal tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame around Saturday’s and tonight’s game against Chicago (7:30 PM EST, NBC Sports Network/WXYT), had, “Oh, man, I hope the Wings don’t get lulled into friendly warm fuzzies and fall on their faces in the first period” written all over it.
As it turns out, with their fathers and an international audience watching, the Wings did indeed inflict so many self-inflicted wounds upon themselves—and fired so many shots wide of the net or into Toronto players (the Wings took 40 shots on Jonas Gustavsson, but that represented a little less than half of their 85 shot attempts, with 20 going wide and 25 blocked by Leafs’ body parts—that Niklas Kronwall’s assist on Joffrey Lupul’s game-winner, which negated a fast and furious comeback, seemed all but pre-ordained.
So the Red Wings flew to Chicago now sitting in second place in the Central Division—behind both the Blues and Blackhawks—after having handed the Maple Leafs an inspirational win, Don Cherry’s mocking of Ken Holland (for Jimmy Devellano’s declaration that fighting has seen its day) and a gleeful Leaf press’s comments chasing Red Bird III’s contrails.
We know that the Red Wings’ players displayed a little moxie before tonight’s game as the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Niklas Kronwall, the Wings’ NHLPA player rep, was one of two representatives to actually vote to approve the NHL’s realignment plan, players’ and owners’ very valid concerns about the plan included.
Somewhere between Thursday night’s conference call, the team’s father/mentor-son/friend tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame and puck drop on Saturday night, the Wings’ focus on the ice waned, however, and it bit them in the ass in a big way on an international stage—with Kronwall delivering the fatal, self-inflicted blow in a 4-3 loss to Toronto.
From the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein and Stu Hackel, Red Wings GM Jimmy Devellano is not exactly on the same page as Brian Burke regarding fighting:
“I would abolish fighting, like today,” Devellano, the Red Wings’ senior vice president, said on a podcast for the New York cable network SNY. “I would eliminate it immediately. I can do without it. I don’t need it.”
Devellano is widely known as a progressive N.H.L. executive on topics like fighting and checks to the head. Although it is often said that many hockey executives would say privately that they would outlaw fighting, Devellano is perhaps the only one who will actually say so, publicly and unequivocally.
“I’m in the minority among my peers,” Devellano said. But he said he had held this view “since Scotty Bowman took over our team as coach” in 1993-94. “He really didn’t care for having what you would call that five-minute player who just goes out and fights[.] And we had good teams and we had skilled teams, and the teams were very interesting and good to watch. I can do without fighting. I don’t think the game needs it. I think the game is beautiful when you see the skill that’s displayed by our better players.”
Updated 6x with video, realignment talk and other good stuff at 5:28 PM: As the Detroit Rd Wings prepare to face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight (7 PM EST, FSD/CBC/NHL Network U.S. [no Center Ice or GameCenter Live Online]/WXYT), the only personnel news of note thus far comes from the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle, who reports that the Leafs will probably scratch Jake Gardner, but there’s no point on sitting on stories due to a lack of news about who’s in and who’s out, so we’ll kick things off with this quip from Mirtle…
Wings’ NHLPA rep Nik Kronwall says unfairness of playoff format was a big part of what he didn’t like about the proposed realignment.
And we’ll offer a less than surprising Wings personnel update from the Canadian Press’s Chris Johnston....
Mike Babcock: “No Helm, no Holmstrom. Let’s go.”
Before diving into the Wings’ Twitter account’s multitude of updates:
On the kind of morning where the party that went with the nuclear option regarding realignment offers far more rational, reasoned and sane explanations as to why the other side more or less posted a press release calling it a total doo-doo head for daring to ask for a thorough analysis of a very literally radical realignment (a certain grumpy Red Wings member of the Board of Governors included), the Detroit Red Wings and their fathers find themselves in the place where this kind of stuff is everyday parlance, playing a Toronto Maple Leafs team tonight (7 PM EST, FSD/CBC/NHL Network US [i.e. no Center Ice and/or GameCenter Live tonight]/WXYT) that is anything but a doormat anymore.
With the Chicago Blackhawks watching and waiting Sunday’s match-up after an ugly loss on Friday, the Red Wings, fathers in tow, have to keep their heads level and their focus on playing a smart and simple road game against a team which may aspire to play like Detroit, but in fact will tangle with the Wings—with the international spotlight and/or spin machine shining brightly down—while displaying both puck possession skill and a healthy amount of “truculence.”
On a slightly lighter note given that the NHL has all but declared war on the PA via their realignment press release (no hockey next October, folks? Ken Holland told the Free Press’s Helene St. James that he’s just as bummed out about this news as we are), given what Brian Burke had to say about the demise of the enforcer yesterday and Mike Babcock’s rebuttal thereof (which you can listen to via the off-day updates, or, more simply, at The Fan 590), something told me that we were going to get a Canuck-press-like, “No, the Maple Leafs aren’t a Burkeian team, in fact, Burke’s building them to be more like the Red Wings”...And here’s that suggestion from someone who sat through Burke’s lament, one Mike Brophy:
[W]hile Brian Burke rants about ‘rats’ ruining the game and bemoans the fact he had to send enforcer Colton Orr to the minors, the truth is the Leafs GM has done a nice job of following the Detroit model when constructing his team. And that will get the Maple Leafs back to the playoffs eventually.
The Red Wings opened the season with five straight wins, but then lost six in a row. However, as of late, the Wings have found the consistency in their game that has been their calling card since they went to the Stanley Cup final in 1994-95 and then won back-to-back Cups in 1996-97 and 1997-98.
Updated 5x at 4:25 PM: As the Red Wings prepared for Saturday’s game against the Maple Leafs (7 PM EST, FSD/CBC/WXYT) in Toronto on Friday, Wings coach Mike Babcock didn’t deliver encouraging news regarding the states of Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm’s respective groins while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“They haven’t been made eligible to us at all, so I don’t know when they’re going to play, but they’re not going to play this weekend, probably,’’ coach Mike Babcock said after practice today at the MasterCard Centre. “I don’t know if they’ll play in Chicago, but I doubt it. If they’re not playing tomorrow, why would we play them the next day?’‘
Both players skated for the second day in a row Friday and both said they felt better and hoped to play Sunday.
“They feel I shouldn’t play back to back games coming off a groin injury,’’ Helm said. “I’m hoping (to play Sunday). It felt really good today.’‘
Updated with a Babcock interview at 9:50 AMThe Red Wings face something of a running of a gauntlet of difficult opponents and media maelstroms in their back-to-back games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks this weekend, but Wings coach Mike Babcock chose this weekend as the team’s annual Fathers’ Trip to both shake off mid-season doldrums and ensure competitive performances against the Leafs, Hawks, and, on Tuesday, the New York Islanders. The Red Wings received a private guided tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame on Thursday evening, and the players all but gushed about the opportunity to impress their fathers, mentors and friends this weekend, as the Free Press’s George Sipple noted:
“[My dad]‘s excited, for sure,” Abdelkader said. “It’s awesome. They’ve been there for our whole career, pretty much, have done so much and been such an influence, so it’s great to bring them on a trip and see how the daily routine works.”
How about his mom? “My mom, she is lobbying for a mother’s trip, for sure,” he said.
Updated 3x at 12:34 AM on Friday: If you check out the Red Wings’ Twitter account this evening, you’ll find out why the team chose to fly to Toronto over two days prior to their match-up with the Maple Leafs on Saturday night: the Wings’ Fathers’ Trip is beginning with a little guided tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame prior to what will likely be a leisurely day of meetings, practicing and a team dinner in a location other than a simple hotel buffet room with the players’ fathers and mentors on Friday night. MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to the Wings about the non-business portion of their road trip prior to the team’s departure:
“I think it’s good for the dads to get a chance to see that, and I think it will be good for us too to share that with our dads,’’ future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Said center Darren Helm of Lidstrom: “He’s got his own section, probably. He should have a lot of stuff there. We have a lot of history here. It’ll be interesting to see the history throughout the league.’‘
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.