The Malik Report
Not everybody is quite done playing yet today--Dominic Turgeon's Portland Winterhawks are still skating in their regular season finale [Edit: Turgeon didn't register a point but Portland defeated Tri-City 5-3 /end edit]--but just about every Wings prospect save Axel Holmstrom (whose Skelleftea AIK are waiting for the SHL's first round to finish) and those skating for the Grand Rapids Griffins (who lost 4-1 to Adirondack today) and Walleye (who defeated Florida 2-1 in a shootout) know who they're going to be playing in the playoffs and/or the next round thereof, so:
In the KHL, starting this Thursday, March 26th Alexander Kadeikin and SKA St. Petersburg will battle CSKA Moscow in the KHL's Western Conference semifinal. As Sergei Fedorov GM's SKA, I may or may not be rooting against Kadeikin.
In NCAA hockey, Ben Marshall and the University of Minnesota will be battling Minnesota-Duluth in the Northeast Regional on Friday, March 27th at 5:30 PM, in Manchester, NH, and David Pope and the University of Nebraska-Omaha will be battling Harvard in the Southeast Regional on Saturday, March 28th at 7:30 PM, in South Bend, IN.
In Major Junior hockey:
Updated 2x at 12:05 AM:
The Detroit Red Wings' 2-1 OT win over the St. Louis Blues was a welcome occurrence and a breath of fresh air for a Wings team that remains 4-and-7-for-March, but the Red Wings aren't likely to earn much praise for the win outside of Detroit because many folks in the "hockey world" believe that Justin Abdelkader's game-winner shouldn't have counted:
Ken Hitchcock was one of them, of course...
But if you're a Red Wings fan, this Tweet from DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose is a thing of beauty...
The Red Wings faced an uphill climb against the St. Louis Blues, and with the Boston Bruins closing to within 4 points of the Wings and the Senators 5 points behind, Detroit also has Atlantic Division opponents breathing down their necks.
Minus Pavel Datsyuk, it looked like the Wings were going to drop their 8th game out of 11 March tilts...
And taking on a Blues team that had dropped a 6-3 decision to Minnesota on Saturday didn't make the winning equation seem to be any easier to accomplish.
It wasn't easy--given the even-ups, weird calls/non-calls and the intensity of the Blues' checking, forechecking and shooters' poise, the rope-a-doping Wings had their hands full and had their heads spinning due to not really knowing what was legal, but that was true for St. Louis, too, and the Wings slowly, slowly, very very very very slowly but surely rallied from a 1-0 deficit, scored a clutch game-tying even strength goal...
And Detroit may or may not have gotten a huge break as Justin Abdelkader's game-winning OT goal was scored with a broken stick, but given Detroit's now 4-and-7-for-January, and given how incredibly viciously (to their credit) the opponent played, "earning breaks" of their own included...To hell with St. Louis, let the controversy and complaining about Detroit "cheating"--Eddie Olczyk's theme for the day, as per usual--"stand."
Detroit needed the two points, the Blues got one, and not everybody needs to be happy here.
Also from Khan...
Holland said Gustavsson (concussion on March 8) has been on the ice a little but doesn't feel good and there's no telling when he'll return.
You know how the Red Wings have spent the past two weeks telling us that everything is fine and that the team will be just peachy? Over the next two weeks, the Wings will put their fans' faith to the test.
A "trust game" played on ice will take the form of 12 games played over the course of 21 days, starting with today's matinee against the St. Louis Blues (12 PM EDT on NBC/Sportsnet 360/97.1 FM), and the Wings are certainly asking quite a lot of their fans these days:
Thanks to the Boston Bruins' 2-1 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers and the Ottawa Senators' 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, the 38-21-and-11 Red Wings sit in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division with 87 points and 35 Regulation-or-OT wins. As such, the Wings are looking up at the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens, and looking very closely behind them at the Bruins, who are 3 points behind Detroit, the Senators, who are 5 points behind, and the Panthers, too, as Florida's 7 points behind the Wings.
As you will notice, the Red Wings have 1 game in hand on Ottawa, 2 games in hand on Boston, Tampa Bay and Florida, and 3 games in hand on Montreal, but Detroit also possesses a 3-and-7 March record, and the Wings' inability to even earn an overtime or shootout loss point on so many occasions this month = there is at least some real possibility that Detroit will fall out of the Atlantic race and find itself battling for a Wild Card--and the race there is pretty damn fierce:
Prospect news: Larkin’s Wolverines drop Big 10 title game; Griffins lose, Major Junior playoffs near
The good news for fans of the University of Michigan Wolverines and Wings prospect Dylan Larkin is this: Michigan had a superb 2014-15 regular season and solid playoff run. Larkin ended his Freshman campaign with some incredibly impressive stats, as Winging It in Motown's Kyle McIlmurray noted:
The bad news is that Larkin was held off the scoresheet as the Wolverines lost the Big Ten Title on Saturday, dropping a 4-2 decision to the University of Minnesota (whose Ben Marshall was also held off the scoresheet). According to the Free Press's George Sipple, we'll find out which teams make the cut on Sunday at 12 PM, but the Wolverines are out of the running.
Marshall's the last of the Wings' college hockey-playing prospects who will continue on to the NCAA regionals.
It just wasn't a very good night for Michigan hockey teams. The Plymouth Whalers dropped a 5-1 decision to the Erie Otters in their final game at Compuware Arena, and the Whalers are not playoff bound, so we'll next see them playing out of Perani Arena as the Flint Firebirds;
Mid-day news: Wings insist they’re in no danger; on Sawchuk, Coreau & FSD’s tribute to Matthew Wuest
Updated 2x at 6:45 PM: The Red Wings "got Florida swept" via last night's 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay, a loss that represented Detroit's 7th in 10 March games, and as understandably upset as Wings fans are with their under-performing team and their suddenly precarious spot in the Atlantic Division playoff race, the post-game comments made by a team that's now dropped 4 of its past 5 games were just as exasperating.
As MLive's Brendan Savage noted, the Wings insisted that they're fine, from the goaltender on out...
[W]ith 12 games remaining in the regular season, the Red Wings are simply shrugging off the slump. Sure, they know they have to get better to keep their playoff streak alive but they also look at the skid as something that happens from time to time during a long and grueling season.
"Sometimes you go through things like that," said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who was outstanding in the loss to Tampa Bay. "I don't think there's really any panic button being pushed around here whatsoever. Like we said after the game in here, I thought we played a much better game than we did last night in Florida. It just came down to they got a bounce."
And Henrik Zetterberg's comments were surprising given that the Boston Bruins sit 4 points behind Detroit and Ottawa 6 in the "hunt" for the Atlantic Division's 3rd playoff spot..
"We're not hunting," he said. "Teams are behind us and we're still ahead. Little bit more concern before the Pittsburgh game, in my mind. The way we played in the last three, we've been doing a lot of good things. Obviously you want the points. That's important. If we keep playing like this we'll be fine."
As were those of his coach:
The Red Wings flew back to Michigan having gone 0-for-Florida ahead of Sunday's matinee game against the St. Louis Blues, and after having played so very lethargically over the course of 120 minutes of play in Thurdsay's 3-1 loss to the Panthers and Friday's 3-1 loss to the Lightning, perhaps it's a better thing that the Wings aren't practicing on Saturday, because the 3-and-7-for-March Wings have looked absolutely exhausted--mentally and physically--throughout the first 20 days of March.
The Wings' most recent setback ensures that Detroit won't be able to close the 8-point gulf between the Wings and 2nd-in-the-Atlantic Bolts over Detroit's final 12 games, but it also makes the possibility of the Boston Bruins, who are 4 points in arrears of Detroit, or the Ottawa Senators, who are 6 points behind the Wings, possibly clambering up over the Wings and pushing Detroit from the 3rd and final Atlantic Division playoff spot and causing them to tumble into a furious battle for one of 2 Wild Card spots.
It's going to be Wings prospect vs. Wings prospect in the BIG TEN ice hockey championship at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night (8 PM on the Big Ten Network).
And Larkin's Wolverines will face Ben Marshall and the University of Minnesota. Marshall registered an assist as Minnesota defeated Ohio State 3-0 on the strength of a 39-save effort from goaltender Adam Wilcox. Whichever team wins the game will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Hockey tournament, but it's pretty safe to assume that both teams will get nods.
In regular season action, in the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins played in a Wings-like "squeaker" of a game, but they came out on top, defeating the Milwaukee Admirals 3-1. The Griffins' website posited a recap...
The most popular theme leading up to the Red Wings' [x-x loss/win against/over] the Tampa Bay Lightning among Wings fans reflected Tampa's 6-of-7 record against Detroit of late and 2 wins by a combined 9-4 goals-for record: Wings fans were expecting a 3rd straight loss, and they were expecting an ugly loss at that.
That theory wasn't out of line by any stretch of the imagination, and looking at the Wings' March record as a whole, Fox Sports Florida apparently agreed:
They weren't wrong. Detroit managed to rally from a 1-0 deficit to take a hard fought 1-1 tie into the 3rd period, but Detroit laid another 3rd-period egg and-a-half, allowing Alex Killorn to score the gamer off a DREADFUL Gustav Nyquist turnover at the Bolts' line, and the fact that Stamkos' empty-netter came off a fantastic clearing attempt by Ben Bishop--on a night that Jimmy Howard played out-of-his-mind good to try to win the damn 2 points himself--made this one sting all the worse.
2-and-8 3-and-7, Detroit is no longer in the business of attempting to catch the Lightning for 2nd in the Atlantic. Now they've got to worry about the Bruins, who are 4 points behind Detroit for the 3rd and final spot in the Atlantic Division, and the Senators, who are 6 behind.
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.