The Malik Report
As the Grand Rapids Griffins prepare to re-set themselves after a long layoff, facing the Lake Erie Monsters in the second round of the AHL playoffs starting on Thursday and Saturday in Cleveland, a renewed emphasis will be placed upon the Red Wings' top prospects, and the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa's focus for today involves a player who's hard to get a read upon.
Robbie Russo isn't the biggest or fastest defenseman in the Wings' system, but he's a player who seems to seamlessly get into the right place at the right time and make the right offensive play in the proper situation. Russo's superb sense of timing yielded a
3-year 2-year entry level contract with the Red Wings and a fine rookie pro season, as Krupa notes:
Russo, 23, was the second-leading scorer in the nation among defensemen for Notre Dame one season ago. As an American Hockey League rookie this season, the 6-foot, 190-pound right-handed shooter led Grand Rapids’ defensive corps with five goals and 34 assists in 65 games. His league-leading plus-minus rating of 47 tied for the highest in the minors in 23 seasons. And, he was named a second team All-Star and to the all-rookie team.
Scouts project him as second-pair defenseman with offensive impact.
His first regular season as a pro is a success. Playoff hockey, with Grand Rapids beginning the second round after sweeping Milwaukee, is another step. Training camp in September in Traverse City will be a yet another.
“I think it’s gone really well for him,” Griffins coach Todd Nelson said. “Anytime a first year player comes into this league there’s an adjustment period, and I thought Robbie adjusted very well and I saw more confidence in his game as the season went on.”
A full career with the Fighting Irish under coach Jeff Jackson provided longer preparation than many minor league players need. But the Wings believe Russo benefited.
“The thing that makes him good and why he’s doing so well is he’s got great poise with the puck,” said Nelson, who was interim coach at Edmonton last year for half the season. “He’s able to find options on breakouts, so he keeps his end clean with that. One thing that’s getting noticed with his plus/minus in this league is plays very good positional hockey, where he never puts himself in a bad spot. He plays a simple game. He jumps up in the rush when needed, but he’s just playing solid hockey with us.”
Krupa continues, speaking with Russo, Nelson and Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer...
It wasn’t what Tomas Tatar was hoping to achieve.
The Red Wings’ forward had far higher expectations for this third NHL season, especially since he was coming off such a successful second full campaign in Detroit the previous year.
“Obviously could be better,” Tatar said last week. “My goals were way higher than they end up but it was different stuff this year than it was last year. It was different position for me, so I guess what the numbers are saying is the way it is now.”
Any other year 21 goals and 24 assists isn’t terrible production. But it was for Tatar, who produced career-highs for goals (29), assists (27) and points (56) in 2014-15.
Tatar said he felt pressure to increase his offensive role, knowing that he and Gustav Nyquist would be counted on to pick up some of the secondary scoring for aging stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
But it was difficult to reach those goals with less ice time.
“I don’t mind to be in that position. I felt (the) year before I was there,” said Tatar, who saw his average ice time drop from 16:13 minutes per game to 14:21.
Of disparate Red Wings and Griffins-related note this evening:
The Grand Rapids Griffins posted a "Best of April" video...
And Hockey's Future's Sean Shapiro discussed the Griffins-Lake Erie Monsters series in his AHL Western Conference Notebook:
Here's the Grand Rapids Griffins playoff scene-setting press release ahead of this week's series against the Lake Erie Monsters:
GRIFFINS BATTLE MONSTERS IN CENTRAL DIVISION FINALS
2016 Calder Cup Playoffs
Central Division Finals – Best of Seven
Game 1 Thu., May 5 GRIFFINS at Monsters 7 p.m.
Game 2 Sat., May 7 GRIFFINS at Monsters Noon
Game 3 Sun., May 8 Monsters at GRIFFINS 4 p.m.
Game 4 Tue., May 10 Monsters at GRIFFINS 7 p.m.
*Game 5 Sat., May 14 GRIFFINS at Monsters 7 p.m.
*Game 6 Mon., May 16 Monsters at GRIFFINS 7 p.m.
*Game 7 Tue., May 17 GRIFFINS at Monsters 7 p.m.
* If necessary
All times Eastern and subject to change
All games on ESPN 96.1 FM and AHLLive.com
How We Got Here: Entering the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs as the fourth seed in the Central Division, Grand Rapids swept division champion Milwaukee in the division semifinals. The Griffins outscored the Admirals 9-3 and completed their first sweep in 13 years. Second-seeded Lake Erie also made quick work of third-seeded Rockford, outscoring the IceHogs 15-6 during a three-game sweep that saw the Monsters celebrate the franchise’s first-ever playoff series win. As the regular season wound down and with Milwaukee clinching the division, it appeared the Griffins and Monsters were on a collision course for a first-round playoff matchup as the teams jockeyed for second and third place in the division. However, a five-game losing streak to close the season by Grand Rapids coupled with a 6-1-1-0 stretch by Lake Erie and a 4-2 mark by Rockford saw Grand Rapids fall into the fourth spot and Lake Erie claim the second.
Setting the Stage: The Griffins qualified for the postseason for the 14th time in their 20-year history with a 44-30-1-1 record, claiming the fourth seed in the Central Division and finishing 12th overall in the AHL. Grand Rapids will face the second-seeded Lake Erie Monsters (43-22-6-5, 97 pts.) in the Central Division Finals, marking the first time the teams have squared off in the postseason. Grand Rapids won the season series against Lake Erie by way of a 7-4-0-1 record, including a 4-2 tally at Van Andel Arena. Lake Erie returned to the playoffs for the second time in the franchise’s nine-year history, with its lone appearance in 2011 resulting in a Game 7 loss to Manitoba in the North Division Semifinals. Grand Rapids is 8-2 in playoff series over the last four years, while Lake Erie is 1-1 in series over its nine years of existence.
From the Grand Rapids Griffins:
GRIFFINS SIGN SANTOS TO 2016-17 CONTRACT
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins have signed forward Mathew Santos to a standard player’s contract for the 2016-17 season.
Santos, 21, has spent the last four seasons competing for the North Bay (Brampton) Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League. The 2015-16 season proved to be the most productive for the 6-foot, 209-pound forward as his 69 points (29-40—69), 29 goals and plus-29 rating all ranked second on the team. Santos’ seven shorthanded goals placed fourth in the league.
Santos also appeared in 11 games in the 2016 playoffs for North Bay, registering five goals and six assists as the Battalion advanced to the second round.
A native of Etobicoke, Ontario, Santos has played in 251 games for the Battalion since 2012, accumulating 127 points (53-74—127) and 186 penalty minutes. In 53 career playoff contests, he has totaled 23 points (13-10—23).
If you're interested in a little lunchtime hockey in the U.S., YLE is airing a Finnish-language broadcast of a USA-Finland exhibition game taking place in Helsinki, and Teemu Pulkkinen's scored the Finns' goal, while Dylan Larkin got a breakaway chance that went off the post.
You can watch the game with US IP's here: http://areena.yle.fi/1-3441702
Gustav Nyquist gave a Twitter shout-out to his namesake horse today...
And Fox Sports' Sam Gardiner spoke with "Nyquist's" owner, Paul Reddam, about his Red Wings fandom...
The Grand Rapids Griffins are holding Watch Parties at Grand Rapids' Peppinos while the Griffins play iin Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, and the Griffins posted a video previewing the Griffins-Monsters series as well:
from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
The Detroit Red Wings defenseman is exploring ways to improve the left knee he had scoped in January. General manager Ken Holland told the Free Press today that Kronwall "is getting opinions."
Kronwall appeared hampered by the knee down the stretch and through the five-game playoff series against Tampa Bay that saw him produce just one point. When he spoke last week, after the Wings gathered for a team photo, Kronwall described his knees as "all right."
"What's done has been done," he said. "We're looking at some different options now to try to take care of that fairly soon. I'm glad we had it done. Now we know what's going on. Let's find a way to solve it and move along."
Via RedWingsFeed, I don't think that Brad Richards has a future in Detroit, but DetroitRedWings.om's Dana Wakiji spoke with Richards regarding his future career plans on locker room clean-out day:
Richards, who turns 36 today, said he hadn't started thinking about his next move when he spoke after the Red Wings cleaned out their lockers last Monday.
"Going to go get away and relax for a bit," Richards said. "Three teams in three years, a lot of hockey, so I think mentally I think I need to just go recharge the batteries."
Richards won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks last season and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals the season before with the New York Rangers.
"I've been fortunate the last two years to play 'til June and you get spoiled," Richards said. "Watching playoff games now and there's nothing like that time of year.
"As far as playing for the Wings and wearing the jersey, all that stuff's been an honor. But obviously the season didn't go the way I wanted it to or the team wanted it to."
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.