The Malik Report
The Detroit Red Wings face a do-or-die situation against the Tampa Bay Lightning this evening (7 PM EDT on FSD/FS Florida/MSNBC/CBC/97.1 FM). If the Red Wings win, their series against Tampa Bay will continue on Sunday; if the Wings lose, they're out of the playoffs and face a long summer of change and preparation for the 2016-17 season.
The Lightning and Red Wings took very different approaches to their "off day" on Wednesday, with the Red Wings engaging in all but a spat with a stiff-questioning media corps after an optional skate, and the Lightning engaging in a coach-and-two-players conference call after choosing to truly take the day off.
The Lightning did speak with the media about the strength that they've drawn from their penalty-kill, as NHL.com's Corey Long noted...
The Grand Rapids Griffins posted a video preview of this weekend's first-round, best-of-five series between the Milwaukee Admirals and the Griffins:
I don't agree with about half the decisions that the Red Wings' coaching and managerial staff make, just like you, but my support of the Red Wings isn't conditional upon agreement with the team, so I soldier on.
The Free Press's Drew Sharp penned a column suggesting that this playoff round could prove that hiring Jeff Blashill to replace Mike Babcock could have been a mistake, and I think that's overly harsh. I don't know if anyone can expect a new coach to suddenly have all the answers that his predecessor did not, and the fact that Blashill makes so many Babcock-like decisions only surprises those who forget that Babcock hired Blashill and spoke with Blashill almost every day while the two were in Detroit and Grand Rapids.
This has been a learning year--a year of both the mostly formerly AHL-employed coaching staff learning hard lessons about working in the NHL, the team learning about its coach, and both parties learning about the organizational weaknesses that no new coach would be able to fix.
The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reports that Anthony Mantha's struggled a bit since being sent back to the Grand Rapids Griffins, but Mantha hopes to round back into form for this weekend's playoff games against the Milwaukee Admirals:
Griffins coach Todd Nelson acknowledged the challenges that confront a player who has been sent down for the first time. It may have been tougher since Mantha, the Red Wings' No. 1 pick in 2013 (20th overall), scored twice on the power play in his 10 games, a stat that has been dissected since Detroit's power play has struggled mightily in the playoffs (1 for 17).
"Anytime you go up to the National Hockey League and come back down it's always a tough adjustment coming back down," Nelson said. "It just is. You're playing more minutes and it is different. And Anthony is a big component to our success in the playoffs."
Mantha scored twice on the power play in his first eight games with the Red Wings, but his production tailed off in his last five games (four total shots) as his ice time decreased.
"It's pretty hard to get called up and then go back down," Mantha said after Wednesday's practice. "These past three games weren't the ones I wanted them to be."
The Red Wings held an optional practice on Wednesday, and after said practice, the Wings held media availabilities in which the team addressed its power play, penalty-killing and the players and coach's takes on what it will take to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
Jeff Blashill was very specifically asked about Anthony Mantha's absence and the power play going in the tank, and MLive's Brendan Savage posted a video of Blashill speaking about the power play:
Blashill was asked some hard questions--which is a good thing--at his presser, and it's good to know that he's not just getting blow-back from the press:
The Free Press's Helene St. James noted that coach Blashill isn't planning on using the recalled Xavier Ouellet for anything other than insurance at this point, either:
The Red Wings hit the ice at Joe Louis Arena just after 11:30 AM for an optional practice the morning after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and a new face joined the group, as DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji noted:
Of Red Wings-related note this morning:
1. According to MLive's Ansar Khan, there's a chance of the Wings coming back and winning their serie with the Bolts. It's just not a big chance:
The Red Wings have trailed 3-1 in a series 20 times and come back to win only twice – in the first round in 1987 (vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs) and in 1992 (vs. the Minnesota North Stars).
Detroit has never rebounded from a 3-1 deficit when two of the potentially three final three games were on the road. Game 5 vs. the Lightning is Thursday at Amalie Arena (7 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit).
The NHL average for such comebacks is 10.1 percent – it has happened 28 times in 277 series that stood at 3-1. However, the frequency has increased – it has happened nine times since 2009.
I ws around for the North Stars series, and the rally, capped by a Sergei Fedorov goal that was the first playoff goal confirmed by video review, was one of the best memories I have of this team.
2. Via RedWingsFeed, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff wrote a rather depressing recap of the Wings' loss to Tampa Bay, suggesting that this team is removed from being the darling of the "self-proclaimed Hockeytown"...
From the Red Wings:
Update: From the Free Press's Helene St. James:
Update #2: Here's the Wings' press release:
from Brendan Savage of Mlive,
Go ahead and blame the power play for the big hole the Detroit Red Wings find themselves in during the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Nobody will argue.
The power play has been brutal with one goal in 21 chances after getting blanked in four opportunities Tuesday in a Game 4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But as much as anything, undisciplined play and poor penalty killing hurt the Red Wings in a 3-2 loss at Joe Louis Arena that left them on the brink of elimination.
Tampa Bay scored all three of its goals on the power play, getting the game winner with less than three minutes remaining after the Red Wings battled back from a two-goal deficit to tie in the final seconds of the middle period.
The Red Wings could not complete a rousing comeback over the Tampa Bay Lightning due to a terrible power play and a less than spectacular penalty kill in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Bolts, and now the Wings find themselves facing a 3 games to 1 deficit going into Thursday's game in Tampa Bay.
Detroit has to find a way to bring the series back to Joe Louis Arena for Game 6, because this may have been the last time that Pavel Datsyuk left the ice at the Joe:
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tuesday's win was, to some extent, a case of "team see, team do," as USA Today's Kevin Allen noted:
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.