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Griffins news: A Crunch-y Calder Cup Final preview and ‘official’ business

Of Grand Rapids Griffins-related note:

1. TampaBayLightning.com's Bryan Burns posted a superb Griffins-Syracuse Crunch series preview from the perspective of the Tampa Bay Lightning's AHL affiliate:


1. Can the Crunch slow down Grand Rapids' deadly power play?: Syracuse will have its hands full dealing with Grand Rapids' power play, which was the best in the AHL during the regular season and remains at full throttle in the playoffs. The Griffins set a franchise record for power-play efficiency (24.4 percent) during the regular season and have continued to connect on the man-advantage at a similar rate (24.1 percent ) in the postseason, converting a league-best 14-of-58 playoff chances.

Grand Rapids is currently on a run of 11-straight games scoring a power-play goal, establishing another franchise record.

Matthew Ford has been the Griffins' best power-play weapon, scoring an AHL-best five power-play markers this postseason.

Meanwhile, Syracuse's penalty kill has been decidedly mediocre, killing off just 79.7 percent of the power plays it's faced in the postseason, tied for the fifth-worst penalty kill efficiency among AHL playoff teams. The Crunch also haven't been the best most disciplined team in the playoffs either as they have a penchant for finding the penalty box.

The Crunch will have to be better in both their discipline and their penalty kill if they wish to defeat Grand Rapids.

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Traverse City Will Once Again Host The Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT – Detroit Red Wings Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland today announced that the Red Wings will return to Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, Mich., to host their annual Development Camp, NHL Prospect Tournament and Training Camp, as well as the 19th Annual Training Camp Golf Classic at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme, Mich.

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The strangest and possibly coolest ‘Hockey Game Marriage Proposal’

I saw something that I've never seen before during last Saturday's Grand Rapids Griffins game: one of the Griffins' Zamboni drivers happened to have his girlfriend as a passenger on his Zamboni, which he stopped at center ice...

And the gentleman got out, got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, who said, "Yes"...

After which he went back to resurfacing the ice:

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Griffins post massive series preview ahead of Calder Cup Final

This is a long one, so it's all going in the "Continue Reading" part of the entry: the Grand Rapids Griffins posted a massive Calder Cup Final preview ahead of Friday and Saturday's Games 1 and 2 against the Syracuse Crunch, and here it is for your reading pleasure. My thanks to Paul for the formatting:

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On Tyler Bertuzzi and Evegeny Svechnikov

Of Grand Rapids Griffins-related note this evening:

1. Tyler Bertuzzi spoke with the Sudbury Star's Bruce Heidman about the Griffins' playoff run thus far:

“Coming into this year, we knew we had a team that could go all the way and now we have an opportunity to play in the finals,” Bertuzzi said. “It is big time exciting. I won the OHL championship (with Guelph in 2014) and I'm looking for my first pro championship.”

Bertuzzi had 12 goals and 37 points along with 37 penalty minutes in 48 games played during the regular season, but he has ramped up his play in the playoffs, where he is 11th in league playoff scoring with six goals and seven assists for 13 points in 13 games played, to go along with a plus-four rating and a 30 penalty minutes for the always gritty forward.

“I have been playing pretty good hockey, and with a good team like we have, you have good linemates and we are playing good as a team, and if you play good as a team the points are going to come,” said Bertuzzi, who is fourth in team scoring in the playoffs. “The physical part is still going to stay the same for me, and playoff hockey is harder and tougher to play, but I like that.”

Heidman continues...

2. And the Free Press's Helene St. James spoke with Evgeny Svechnikov and Grffins coach Todd Nelson regarding Svechnikov's learning curve in his first year as a professional hockey player:

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‘Three Things’: On Libor Sulak, famous sporting nicknames and Tweets of note

Of Red Wings-related note this afternoon:

1. The Windsor Star's Bob Duff took note of ken Holland's comments regarding the signing of defenseman Libor Sulak:

For sure it’s a roll of the dice, but the way Ken Holland looks at it, what have they got to lose?

That’s the attitude with which the Detroit Red Wings are approaching their recent addition of free-agent defenseman Libor Sulak. The Wings signed the 6-3, 207-pound Czech defender to a two-year entry-level contract, and see him as a late bloomer with the potential to perhaps develop into an NHL defenseman.

“I was at the world championship,” Red Wings general manager Holland said. “(Detroit scout) Jiri Fischer . . . he was involved with the Czech team and there was a number of two or three players that we were looking at on that team. Some signed with other teams.”

A left-hand shot, Sulak played last season with Orli Znojmo, a Czech team that performs in Eishockey Liga, Austria’s top pro division. He finished fourth on the team in scoring with 10-18-28 numbers and led the club with a plus-19 rating. Sulak scored a team-best three goals in the playoffs, leading to his debut with the Czech Republic national team at the recently-completed world championships in France and Germany, where he collected one assist in two games.

“He’s 23 years of age,” Holland said. “He’s a real good skater.”

Duff continues...

2. If you're interested, MLive's Brendan Savage did a fine job of summarizing a wide swath of Detroit sports nicknames, including many members of the Red Wings;

3. And on Twitter:

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MLive’s Wallner scouts the Griffins and stickhandles with Tangradi

Thanks to the AHL's unbalanced schedule, the Grand Rapids Griffins and Syracuse Crunch will meet for the first time this season during Friday's Calder Cup Final.

As such, both teams are working overtime to familiarize themselves with unknown foes, and the same is true to some extent with the Griffins and Crunch's fan bases...

So the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner spoke with the Syracuse Post-Standard's Brent Axe regarding the Griffins, and Wallner's Griffins "scouting report" is an intriguing read for Griffins fans as well:

What, if anything, is the same about Grand Rapids from the 2013 Calder Cup team? Completely new group, save three holdover skaters in winger Mitch Callahan and defensemen Nathan Paetsch and Brian Lashoff. Todd Nelson, in his second season as coach, has navigated the challenges of replacing Jeff Blashill and made his own mark.

The Griffins, like the Crunch, have been great at home in these playoffs. What kind of atmosphere should the Crunch expect in Games 1 and 2? It will be electric. The Griffins are 7-0 in the postseason and averaging 7,500 for 10,800-seat Van Andel Arena. The minute the horn sounded to end the Western Conference Finals, the Griffins PA announcer started  touting tickets sales for the finals and there were lines. Griffins officials on Wednesday said it will close to a sellout.

What is the view from Grand Rapids on this Crunch team? With such limited exposure to the other conference, it's tough. A Griffins assistant coach has been breaking down film on them since the conference finals. The general view is the teams share similarities with speed up front and size on the blueline.

Also of Griffins-related note: Wallner posted an article regarding Eric Tangradi's pre-game stickhandling routine:

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Keep Mrazek And Chris Osgood On The Goalie Tandem In Pittsburgh

from Jared Clinton of The Hockey News,

What complicates things for Holland this summer isn’t just that Mrazek was so dreadful, though. It’s that while Mrazek was struggling Howard played well, albeit in limited time. In between stints on the injured list, Howard started 24 games and turned in a 10-11-1 record while posting a .927 SP, 2.10 GAA and one shutout. It was far and away the best performance of any of the three Red Wings goaltenders. In fact, of goaltenders to play at least two dozen contests, Howard’s SP mark was second-best in the league, behind only potential Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, while the veteran netminder’s GAA ranked fourth behind Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer.

So, you can see where the trouble lies for Holland. 

However, despite Mrazek’s poor season and a year in which Howard turned back the clock, Holland shouldn’t be looking to change his course of action. The speculative plan heading into the past season was to let Howard walk and hold on to Mrazek, and that’s exactly what Holland should be looking to do as he heads towards one of the most important off-seasons of his tenure as Red Wings GM.

The reasons why it’s Howard and not Mrazek that should be on the move are twofold. First, there’s the ever-present salary cap impact that has to be taken into account. As Detroit heads into the summer, Holland has roughly $5.9 million to work with, according to CapFriendly. And while that’s a good chunk of change, it’s not near enough to improve a roster that’s in need of some serious improving, especially on the backend.


from Ben Arledge of ESPN,

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Griffins post video of Dylan McIlrath discussing Games 4 and 5 of San Jose series

The Grand Rapids Griffins posted a 4-minute video in which Dylan McIlrath discusses Games 4 and 5 of the Griffins-Barracuda series, as well as his status as having "found a home" in Grand Rapids:

Meanwhile, in the locker room...

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Kulfan speaks with Ken Holland regarding the draft combine

The Red Wings' entire amateur scouting staff took in last Wednesday's Griffins-Barracuda game, and it was an intimidating sight to see thirteen men in suits take in the game from a suite.

This week, seventeen and eighteen-year-old kids who have completed their hockey-playing seasons will conduct interviews with over a dozen such accumulations of haberdashery at the draft combine in Buffalo, and for each and every team, the interviews represent opportunities to discover whether a player is a "fit" for an organizational worldview--and vice versa.

The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan spoke with Red Wings GM Ken Holland regarding the interview process as the Wings prepare to make 11 picks at the draft in Chicago:

“We get to know them, what they think, what’s important to them,” general manager Ken Holland said. “We get to know them a little better, and they get to understand us.”

Each team gets up to 20 minutes with a list of players they wish to interview.

Holland estimates the organization talks to about 10-12 players each day – they began talking to some players Monday and last through Friday – and will take about 10 or 12 prospects who could be around the Red Wings’ No. 9 overall pick for dinner.

Overall, the Red Wings are likely to interview 60-70 prospects by the end of the week.

With the extra picks in June, especially in the third round, this week’s combine is a good opportunity to sift through candidates.

“You want to gather as much information as you can,” Holland said. “You want to know about them, their families. You want to see how they react in these types of situations.”

Kulfan continues, adding a little expansion draft trade talk to the mix.

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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.


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