The Malik Report
Updated 4x at 6:39 PM: The Detroit Red Wings flew to San Jose after Friday night’s elimination-staving 4-3 win over the Sharks, incurring a $2,500 fine for landing at San Jose International Airport far after its 10:30 PM local time curfew—Red Bird II didn’t touch down until 1:44 AM PDT, or 4:44 AM Eastern time—but the Wings still practiced today and spoke to the media bout tightening up their defensive play after surrendering a 3-goal lead, as Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“They’re a team that doesn’t appear to need as many chances to score,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “That’s what teams that score, do. I think they’ve got seven 20-goal scorers, and so the puck just seems to find a way in. And yet in saying that, I think for us, we gave them the first goal. And in my opinion we gave them the second goal. And then the third goal, how does Dany Heatley wind up in front of your net by himself? Those are freebies. We’ve just got to clean up on our own zone and be poised.”
Both Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen opted to stay off the ice. Datsyuk said he felt fine and Franzen isn’t practicing because he’s got a sore ankle, but Babcock said Franzen will play again Sunday and doesn’t anticipate making any lineup changes.
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom earned his fair share of praise for a two-goal performance in the Red Wings’ 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on Friday, but the most intriguing talk about a player who was at least willing to admit to NHL.com’s Dave Lozo that he “feels good” at 41 years of age, some of the best came from the mouth of Wings GM Ken Holland, who had this to say to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun about Lidstrom’s leadership…
“He’s a special competitor. In an elimination game, he’s our best player and steps up and led the way tonight,” Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com just outside his team’s dressing room.
Retire? Heck, this guy showed again Friday night why he can play a few more years—if he chooses to.
“There’s no doubt he has lots of hockey left in him. Lots of hockey this year, and I think lots of hockey beyond this year,” said Holland, who might have been crossing his fingers when he said that to us. I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of players who other people looked at the birth certificate, players like Steve Yzerman, Igor Larionov, Dominik Hasek, Chris Chelios; Nick Lidstrom is right there at the head of the class,” added Holland. “Age is only a number. He’s just so great, so focused, so committed, so determined that the birth certificate is just a number.”
The Detroit Red Wings will end up paying a $2,500 fine (five octopuses’ worth of disorderly conduct tickets) to San Jose International Airport as the Wings chose to head west on Red Bird II despite long after the airport’s 10:30 PM curfew—the Wings landed in San Jose at 1:30 AM PDT—after defeating the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Friday night, staving off elimination and reminding the ever-confident Sharks that the supposed speed bump along the Sharks’ way to a Stanley Cup championship isn’t ready to roll over and die just yet.
So the Sharks are putting tickets for Sunday night’s Game 5 on sale today at 10 AM PDT, and while the Sharks rallied from a 3-0 deficit and pushed the Wings very, very hard, Dan Boyle told the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch that it wasn’t that Nicklas Lidstrom stepped up and scored two goals, nor that the Wings’ crowd helped lift a team that looked to be on the ropes, or at least attempting to win in rope-a-dope fashion, to a much-needed, confidence-building win against a team that’s become a boogeyman. No, instead, the Sharks failed to complete their first playoff sweep because they came out flat, surrendering three goals:
A line from Wings coach Mike Babcock’s post-game presser stuck with me and stuck with me good, summarizing the Red Wings’ elimination-staving 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on Friday. Here’s what Babcock said to a few members of the press corps about their broaching of the retirement question with Lidstrom:
“You guys did a real good job by talking to him about retirement yesterday, and answered that pretty good.”
Lidstrom scored two goals, the Wings got goals from depth players for the first time in this series, they earned their literal and figurative bounces, their penalty-kill was finally good in limited action and while the Wings stopped skating in the 2nd and appeared gassed at times in the 3rd…The crowd picked their Red Wings up. The crowd at Joe Louis Arena did nothing less than a masterful, Datsyukian job of injecting the Wings with the energy and belief they needed to finally eke out a one-goal victory over the Sharks via a workmanlike goal from Darren Helm, and perhaps Red Wings Nation imbued the Wings with enough self-belief to ensure that Friday night’s game wasn’t the last one at the Joe.
Updated at 6:05 PM: The Detroit Red Wings may or may not be playing in the final game in which Nicklas Lidstrom, Mike Modano, Kris Draper, and Chris Osgood are members of an NHL team’s roster tonight, but USA Today’s Kevin Allen does not believe that Lidstrom will retire, and he employs five reasons to bolster his claim:
1. Although Lidstrom and his wife, Annika, look forward to the time when they can move back to Sweden, they aren’t in a rush to leave Michigan. Both readily concede it will be very difficult to leave a place that has been their home for almost two decades.
2. The relationship between Lidstrom and the Red Wings is probably as close to perfect as you could get. Lidstrom says he enjoys what he terms “fireside chats” with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland at the end of the season about the direction the team is heading. Essentially, the way contract negotiations between Lidstrom and the Red Wings work is Holland explains the Red Wings’ salary cap situation, and they ask Lidstrom what number he can live with. The Red Wings don’t play hardball with their captain. There’s a mutual respect. They understand his importance, and he knows his value.
Updated 5x with Chris Chelios on WDFN at 6:09 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks prepare to face off tonight (7 PM EDT, Versus/TSN/WXYT), MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that the Wings have chosen to stick with the lineup which Mike Babcock employed on Wednesday, which means that Mike Modano might spend the final game of his career as a healthy scratch:
“Lineup’s on the board every morning,’’ Modano said. “So you just take a peek at it on the way to having a coffee.’‘
Forward Johan Franzen (left ankle) and defenseman Brian Rafalski (knee) did not skate this morning but both will play. Coach Mike Babcock said there will be no lineup changes. So Drew Miller will be scratched for the second game in a row. Modano is coming to grips with the fact that he likely has played his final game.
The Detroit Red Wings face off against the San Jose Sharks tonight (7 PM EDT, Versus only [not joined in progress, the whole game]/TSN/WXYT) facing stark odds, and, if they lose, uncertain futures for more than just Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Mike Modano and Chris Osgood. The Wings could be swept for the first time since 2003 and lose to the same team in consecutive seasons since the 1999-2000 season, when the Wings couldn’t solve the Colorado Avalanche, and had to regroup, change the team’s dynamic and build toward their 2002 Stanley Cup championship.
The Wings have already been written off by more than a few members of the media as a now-second-rate team and nothing more than broom fodder over the past few days, and put simply, if they lose tonight, they’ll get the weekend off…before posing for a team picture on Monday, cleaning out their lockers and facing a summer that’s far too long for a team which is expected to at least make the Western Conference Finals every year.
The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness paints a grim statistical picture regarding the Wings’ ability to pull off what would be nothing less than a miraculous comeback, though the Wings’ players insisted that they have only concerned themselves with winning Friday’s game:
The Red Wings’ 3-0 series deficit against the San Jose Sharks means the obvious for at least three Red Wings (if not four). As Nicklas Lidstrom told DetroitRedWings.com’s Jeff Sanford on Thursday, he will engage in the usual conference with his family after the season to determine whether he wants to play for at least one more season, but Mike Modano’s not totally sure whether he’s going to retire, either, and he’s not the only one.
The emergence of Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Patrick Eaves as dependable performers has started to push Kris Draper into riding a bike instead of sitting on the bench during the regular season, and Chris Osgood wasn’t able to return from what turned out to be extensive surgery to repair a sports hernia and his groin muscles in January—with enough setbacks taking place that the Wings tried to sign Evgeni Nabokov to help buy the team time as a goaltender who’s had significant groin injuries in each and every one of his post-lockout seasons with the Wings—and with Ruslan Salei nearly losing his job to Jakub Kindl, his future’s anything but certain, too.
The following stories intertwine somewhat, so there’s going to be repetition here and there, but we’re obviously going to start with Lidstrom, who told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness that he’s not going to tip his hat should the Wings’ playoff run end:
Oy, vey. Mike Modano spoke to the media after Thursday’s optional Red Wings practice, and, as NHL.com’s Brian Hedger noted, Modano, well hedged on his promises to retire:
Q: You wouldn’t say you regret this season, would you?
Modano: Your initial thought is a little regret because of what you went through, but no one can ever predict it would happen, the severity of the injury and what all took place. Maybe it was a sign that … I should’ve stayed away.
Q: Have you given any thoughts to what you’re going to do with your future?
Modano: Kind of mulled over it a lot, now that I’ve certainly got a lot of free time on my hands to think about it and what my plans are. A knee-jerk reaction is to kind of say ‘That’s it,’ and be done with it because the frustration level is fairly high at this point. So you’re able to make some quick judgments without really thinking it through. Let the dust settle a little bit and then make a decision on it.
Just about every indication suggests that Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom has at least one or two seasons left in his spry 41-year-old legs, but Lidstrom did admit to missing his eldest son, Kevin (who moved back to Vasteras, Sweden to play hockey) very much, and as such, DetroitRedWings.com’s Jeff Sanford’s kicking off the annual Nicklas Lidstrom watch with the usual Lidstrom take—regardless of what happens on Friday, Lidstrom will sit down with his family and decide what he’s doing after the season ends:
“It’s tough to answer, I hope not,” said Lidstrom, when asked if Friday would be his final game in an illustrious NHL career, which began in 1991. “I want to continue to play in this playoffs and just keep going with this team.
“I’m going to wait until this season is over and make a decision about what I want to do,” he said. “That’s one thing I haven’t put in my mind yet. I’m so focused on playing right now, so that’s something I want to start thinking about when we’re done playing.”
Lidstrom was optimistic about the team’s future, regardless of whether he will be in the lineup next fall.
“Looking at the lineup we have, and looking at the depth that we have and the core group of guys we have that are in their prime right now, I have no doubt they’re going to be a successful team,” Lidstrom said.
So there, no, “Oh no, they’re not a contender, he’s leaving” stuff. I’ll be crossing my fingers, toes and veins, and whatever else I can cross, about Lidstrom’s hopefully likely decision return, and while I’m guessing that he’ll be back, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Wings attempt to convince Lidstrom to stay in Novi instead of moving back to Sweden when his career does end. Lidstrom’s suggested that he’d like to get involved in coaching youth hockey when his career is over, but he’s at least entertained the possibility of working with the Wings in some capacity.
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