The Malik Report
From the Grand Rapids Griffins:
PEPPINO'S SOUTH TO HOST GRIFFINS WATCH PARTY FOR GAME 5 ON SATURDAY
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Saturday’s watch party for Game 5 of the Central Division Finals between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Lake Erie Monsters will be held at Peppino’s South, located at 1515 Eastport Drive SE near Kalamazoo Avenue and M-6. The event was moved from Peppino’s Sports Grille in downtown Grand Rapids, site of the watch parties for Games 1 and 2, due to Saturday’s Garth Brooks concerts and the anticipated parking shortage.
With the puck dropping at 7 p.m., join fellow Griffins fans and watch the action live from Quicken Loans Arena alongside the play-by-play of Bob Kaser. For fans who do not purchase an AHLLive subscription, Peppino’s offers the only way to watch the Griffins on the road as they continue their quest for the Calder Cup.
The Griffins return to Cleveland following their dramatic 5-4 win over the Monsters at Van Andel Arena on Tuesday, when they overcame a 4-1 deficit by scoring four times in the final 21 minutes, tying the greatest playoff comeback in franchise history. Grand Rapids is trying to become the fourth team in AHL history to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-0.
Team USA battled a significant underdog in Hungary today, and they came out on top, winning 5-1. The third goal came from Dylan Larkin, and it was a classic Larkin marker--shot from below the goal line on the left side, purposely fired off Adam Vay's knee and into the net.
Larkin had a strong game, registering a goal, 5 shots, a +3 and 1 penalty in 16:10 of ice time. I'll post the game highlights as soon as the IIHF's YouTube channel posts them, and that should be within the hour.
Update #2: Here are the game highlights:
Of Red Wings-related note this morning:
1. The Grand Rapids Griffins posted a "Hype Video" ahead of tomorrow night's Game 5 against the Lake Erie Monsters (7 PM EDT start on the AHL Live and ESPN 96.1 FM), and it's very slick...
2. And you don't usually get an agent discussing contract strategy as an addendum to an interview, but Petr Mrazek's agent, Rober Spalenka, spoke with Sport.cz's Marek Burkert regarding his and his client's take on where contract negotiations are going to go with the Wings (and this fits in very nicely with the pair of Czech interviews Mrazek gave yesterday). What follows is roughly translated, but it's intriguing:
From MLive's Tom Mitsos:
Last season, [Gustav] Nyquist and [Tomas] Tatar continued to show growth and improvement since being brought up to the Red Wings full time. Nyquist had 27 goals and 27 assists in 82 games, and Tomas Tatar had 29 goals and 27 assists in 82 games during the 2014-15 season.
The 2015-16 season was set up to be a breakout season for Nyquist and Tatar, especially considering Blashill helped develop both players in Grand Rapids.
However, both players regressed during Blashill's first season. Nyquist had 17 goals and 26 assists in 82 games, and Tatar had 21 goals and 24 assists in 81 games.
Their roles under Blashill were similar with Babcock, including seeing significant time on the power play. So why did both players regress?
Both players struggled on the power play.
Updated at 10:13 AM: Petr Mrazek returned to the Czech Republic on Thursday, and he promptly gave 2 interviews, one to iDnes and one to iSport. They're extremely similar in terms of content, so while Czech is a particularly problematic language to try to translate, the differences get smoothed out to a large degree by the reader's (your) ability to compare and contrast the takes of Karel Knap and Miroslav Horak, respectively.
What follows are very rough translations of said interviews, starting with his chat with iDnes's Karel Knap:
The Grand Rapids Griffins posted a video in which Andreas Athanasiou narrates the Griffins' rally from a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Lake Erie Monsters 5-4 in Game 4 on Tuesday. Athanasiou scored the game-winning goal:
Datsyuk has all sorts of chemistry going with Sergei Moyzakin, posting 2 primary assists on Mozyakin's goals, and he finally looks like he's got his wheels underneath him again after plodding through the first couple of games...
And in addition to showing more of an offensive flair--which is wonderful to see given that Marchenko can increase his value exponentially if he puts up the occasional goal or assist--Marchenko was out there blocking shots on the Russian PK, even when the Russians were up by 8 or 9 goals.
Datsyuk had 2 assists, a shot and finished at +1 in 15:10 of ice time; Marchenko had a goal, took 1 shot, finished at +1 and played 16:01, and I counted at least 2 blocked shots. His goal was really good, too, a slap shot through some traffic to open the scoring.
Update: Here are the game highlights:
Of Red Wings-related note this afternoon:
1. The Free Press's Helene St. James suggests that the Dallas Stars' goaltending problem could alleviate the Red Wings' Jimmy Howard problem...
They rode Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi to 50 regular-season victories, but neither proved worthy in the playoffs. The Stars started the playoffs with Lehtonen, switched to Niemi for Game 4 against Minnesota, rode him two games, then went back to Lehtonen. Niemi relieved Lehtonen after the first period of Game 2 in the second round, but Lehtonen was back in net by the second period of the next game. Lehtonen was chased in Wednesday's elimination game after allowing three goals on eight shots, finishing the playoffs with a 2.81 goals-against average and .899 save percentage; Niemi was at 3.29 and .865.
This is where the Wings could benefit, because they are looking to move Jimmy Howard now that Petr Mrazek is the No. 1 man in net. Howard makes $5.3 million, entirely too much for a backup (and Mrazek, a restricted free agent, is due a new contract). Dallas general manager Jim Nill formerly was the assistant general manager in Detroit and knows Howard well from having drafted him in 2003 through seeing him work his way up to starting.
Howard, 32, has had a turbulent 18 months, but he had All-Star numbers in January 2015 and bailed out the Wings the last two months of this regular season, after Mrazek faltered. He earned the start for the first two games of the playoffs. (Being replaced by Mrazek for Game 3 was a reflection of needing to shake things up, not how Howard had played.) In 48 career playoff games, Howard has a 2.58 GAA and .918 save percentage.
St. James continues, suggesting that the Red Wings could acquire Niemi and his $4.5 million salary and then flip Niemi to another team...
[Edit: For what it's worth, the Dallas News's Tim Colishaw provides a look at the anti-Lehtonen perspective in Dallas /end edit]
And in perhaps more tangible news, we've got our first look at the heir to the Zetterberg throne, as it were:
Larkin had 2 assists, took 1 shot, finished at +1 and played 17:13 for Team USA, and this was one of his quieter games in terms of dominance on ice, so 2 points in a "quiet game" is pretty impressive.
I'll post the game highlights when the IIHF uploads them to their YouTube channel.
Update: Here are the highlights:
The St. John's (Newfoundland) Telegram's Robin Short penned another profile of Daniel Cleary, part of the leadership group in Grand Rapids:
Daniel Cleary was making another drive across Michigan’s Interstate 96 this week, a two-hour run from his home north of Detroit to Grand Rapids — “like my buddies back home are saying, just like going to Bull Arm” — resisting the urge to mutter to himself why, after 15 straight years riding National Hockey League charters and a Stanley Cup ring, is he back bothering with the minors?
“Yeah, I’ve had those talks with myself,” Cleary chuckled. “More than once, too. But the drive from home, that’s the easiest part. Man, I’ve gained a lot of respect for the American Hockey League, and the players in the AHL.
“To say it’s demanding in terms of travel may be an understatement. We had one trip, a nine-hour bus ride from Grand Rapids to Iowa. I’m like, ‘Boys, I don’t think I’m gonna make it.’
“And then the bus broke down. So in many ways, it’s been tough, but a lot of fun in a lot of other ways. And I’m still having fun.”
During his latest tenure in the AHL, he’s seen how players react when they’re called up, and when they don’t get the call. He has seen how some players are older than their years, while others — first- and second-year pros — still have some growing up to do.
“It’s been eye-opening, a great experience,” he says. “I tell every one of them that you have to be patient. You have to be ready to play in the NHL, and to do that, you have to do the work down here first.
“We have guys here who will play 10 years in the NHL. Others will play two or three. Some won’t play at all. Balancing those three in the room is unique. I’m excited to be part of that experience.”
Update: Short also spoke with Cleary regarding his post-playing-career plans:
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