The Malik Report
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
The Red Wings have been fluctuating between the first and second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Their main objective is to stay ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers, who are within two points.
Here are five things to watch this week:
1. Mrazek must bounce back
The team needs Petr Mrazek to show the resiliency he did last season, when he bounced back strong every time after being pulled for a poor performance (four times).
Mrazek was cruising along, on a tremendous run in January. Now, suddenly, he is facing some adversity, having gone 3-3-1 in his past seven appearances, with a 3.81 goals-against average and .868 save percentage.
Jimmy Howard, particularly strong in his previous two starts, gets the call for Tuesday's game at Columbus. If Mrazek doesn't play Thursday vs. Winnipeg, he is certainly to get one of the starts on the weekend – either Saturday against the New York Rangers or Sunday vs. Toronto.
The Red Wings face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday evening, hoping to snap a two-game winless streak (7 PM EST on FSD/FS Ohio/97.1 FM) but it's not going to be easy.
While the Blue Jackets are highly, highly unlikely to climb back into the playoff hunt, they're coming off a 6-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, and they've won 3 of 5 games since the Wings' 2-1 shootout win over Columbus back on February 23rd.
DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji spoke with Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill and forward Pavel Datsyuk about the team's power play woes, and after addressing the power play during Monday's practice, Blashill and Datsyuk said all the things you hope to hear from a team whose entries suck and a team that can't penetrate the front of the net to get shots through:
"I thought we had entries yesterday where we should have been in the zone and didn’t have good enough support, so we want to make sure we have proper support," Blashill said. "And two, doing a good job in terms of pressure, being able to retrieve pucks and not just retrieve them and maintain possession but attack off of that. So those were the two areas we focused on. There’s been nights it’s been good, there’s been nights it hasn’t been as good. I always look at the process of it but in the end we have to get more results off it."
Datsyuk said the game has changed because more teams and played are focused on blocking shots than when he first came into the league.
"It's shocking when they show team blocked shots and they say after almost 60 games, we have 1,000 blocked shots," Datsyuk said. "It's not like hockey anymore, it's like volleyball with blocked shots or something. We'll see where it goes. Maybe not (for) fans not exciting, looking to block shots. Looking to score or something."
Last season, the Wings were second to the Washington Capitals with a 23.8 percentage.
"Last year be more on the same page, which is shooting, follow puck and rebound," Datsyuk said. "Lots of confidence. Where does the puck go, we know exactly. Now with the change, we need to come back to our style, shoot, delivery of puck. Of course we need to be fast around net, follow rebound. Sometimes we no have second chance. But it's now every goalie's big, we need second chance."
The Red Wings had both of their goaltending coaches in attendance for Monday's practice in Columbus, with Jim Bedard and Jeff Salajko working with Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard before coach Jeff Blashill announced that Howard will start on Tuesday against Columbus.
After practice, Blashill spoke with MLive's Ansar Khan regarding his decision...
"I have unbelievable belief in Petr. I think he's an elite goalie in this league," coach Jeff Blashill said. "I also think Jimmy's proven through numerous different occasions in his career that he is an elite goalie in this league. I think we have the luxury of having two guys that I tons of confidence in.
"I think you're going to go through times in the year where you're playing great and you're going to go through times where the puck's going in. Sometimes it's your fault, sometimes it's situational. Jimmy has played very well. We're going to put him in and hopefully get a win tomorrow night against Columbus. In terms of Petr, I think he's going to be a big factor for us moving forward the rest of the year."
And Howard spoke with Khan about his status as an interim back-up turned interim starter:
Updated 4x at 2:43 PM: Howard starts on Tuesday.
The Red Wings headed to Columbus on Monday morning, having stayed the night in Chicago after their 4-1 loss to the Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon.
The Wings took to the ice around 1:10 PM, per DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji...
Among USA Today's 10 NHL predictions for the stretch run:
5. Detroit Red Wings will make it 25 in a row. George H.W. Bush was president and Jessica Tandy won best actress at the Oscars for Driving Miss Daisy the last time the Red Wings missed the playoffs in the 1990.
The consecutive playoff appearance streak will reach a quarter century, but not without worrying along the way. Goalie Petr Mrazek has cooled off, and the Red Wings’ power play has been ineffective. They will qualify, but they will have to look over their shoulder until the end.
Allen continues, and at this point, it looks like the Wings are a Wild Card team unless they go on a winning tear.
Griffinshockey.com's Mark Newman penned a supberb article about the Grand Rapids Griffins' goalie pipeline to AHL dominance and occasional NHL careers, speaking with Joey McDonald, Marc Lamothe, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek and goaltending coaches Jim Bedard and Jeff Salajko (among others) about the organization's philosophy regarding developing netminders:
With many netminders, patience is key since the development process is typically longer for goalies than skaters. The Red Wings – and the Griffins by extension – have been exceedingly patient with their prospects.
“They don’t rush their players, whether they’re goalies or forwards,” MacDonald said. “Look at guys like (Gustav) Nyquist, (Tomas) Tatar, (Riley) Sheahan and Brendan Smith – they’re skaters, but they all paid their dues. They all played two or three years in the American Hockey League. You look at other teams and it’s their first year – boom! Detroit doesn’t do that and that’s why they’re successful every year.”
Howard spent four seasons in Grand Rapids before he finally landed the starting job in Detroit. Tom McCollum, now in his seventh season with the Griffins, struggled for three years before he found his game. Jared Coreau spent parts of two seasons in Toledo before he solidified his spot in Grand Rapids.
“Grand Rapids is where I learned to be a pro,” Howard said. “I spent four years working on my game and learning about myself and what it takes to succeed day in and day out. It taught me how hard it is to not only get here but also how you have to work even harder to stay here. It allowed me to mature.”
Vice Sports' Down Goes Brown, a.k.a. Sean McIndoe, weighs in on the Red Wings' quiet stance at the trade deadline as it applies to the Wings' playoff status as a contender, pretender, or something in between:
In a way, the Red Wings' absence from the deadline day headlines seems fitting, since they've largely become one of the East's forgotten teams. We've paid plenty of attention to the conference's best teams, like the Caps and Lightning, and we shake our heads at the trainwrecks, like the Habs, Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs. The Red Wings? They're just kind of there.
"There" is of course a playoff spot, just like it always is with this team. The Red Wings are on pace to make the postseason for the 25th straight time, the longest streak in North American pro sports. They're no sure thing, holding down one of the conference's two wild-card spots and sitting four points up on the Flyers. But, then again, they're not out of the running for home ice, either, sitting five points back of the Panthers for second in the Atlantic.
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
Mrazek experienced the shortest stint of his NHL career Sunday, getting pulled 6:19 into the game after allowing two goals on five shots in a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.
Mrazek is 3-3-1 in his past seven appearances, with a 3.81 goals-against average and .868 save percentage.
"He's come off it," coach Jeff Blashill said. "Concern long-term, I don't have any. Long-term, I have tons of belief in Petr. But in the short-term he's got to make more saves than he did today and make more saves than he has recently. So I'm not concerned about his game, I'm concerned about the number of goals and he's going to have to find a way to shut the door."
Nobody expected Mrazek to maintain his January pace, when he went 7-1-1, with a 1.32 GAA and .952 save percentage. But he must be more consistent, especially for a team that has trouble scoring and has virtually no margin for error.
"I wouldn't say I play any different," Mrazek said. "It's just pucks go in and I have to find a way how to stop them, don't let those goals just go through me.
"I have to find a way how to stop those pucks. I thought all season long, the puck is hitting me and everything and now I just have to find a way to do the same thing as before."
Update: The Free Press's Helene St. James also penned an article about Mrazek's struggles:
Of prospect-related note:
In the QMJHL, Evgeny Svechnikov scored a goal, took 3 shots, won 2 of 4 faceoffs and finished at +3 in the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' 4-1 win over Drummondville.
Svechnikov has had a remarkable season: over the course of 47 games played, he's posted 32 goals and 42 assists for 74 points, with 89 penalty minutes to go along with that, and he and draft-eligible prospect Maxim Lazarev have been dynamite together. Svechnikov is likely to spend another year in the QMJHL, and he's only going to get better;
Elsewhere, Adam Marsh took a shot and lost a faceoff in the Saint John Sea Dogs' 4-3 OT loss to Charlottetown.
Marsh has had a good season, too, registering 23 goals, 19 assists and 42 points in 48 games, bettering last season. He'll remain in the Q;
And in the OHL, Vili Saarijarvi had an assist and 8 shots and finished at -3 in the Flint Firebirds' 8-2 loss to North Bay.
In his rookie season, Saarijarvi has registered 11 goals, 27 assists and 38 points over the course of 53 games played. Saarijarvi's future is uncertain after the Firebirds' coaching fiascoes (plural), but he's going to spend next year in the right place for him.
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.