The Malik Report
The Grand Rapids Griffins faced a must-win situation in their last of three straight games in Oklahoma City, OK (the AHL utilizes a 2-3-2 playoff format), and tied 2 games to 2 with the Oklahoma City Barons, the Griffins stood up and delivered a command performance, defeating the Barons 3-0 and taking a 3-2 lead in the AHL's Western Conference Final--with Petr Mrazek pitching a 37-save shutout and Joakim Andersson registering 2 assists.
The Griffins now head home and will host the Barons on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday, with the winner of this series slated to battle the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL's Calder Cup Final.
The Grand Rapids Griffins' website provides a superb recap:
This morning, the Free Press's Helene St. James pondered where Jordin Tootoo fits into the Red Wings' lineup going forward, pointing out that Wings coach Mike Babcock both lauded Tootoo's regular-season performance and stated taht Tootoo's essentially not the kind of player who's going to find himself skating during the playoffs lest he take an unnecessary penalty. Tootoo chose his words wisely while speaking about his situation with St. James, and he also did so while speaking to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
“Playoff hockey is very intense and that’s my kind of game,” Tootoo said after cleaning out his locker at Joe Louis Arena on Friday. “Obviously you’ve got to make sure what you think is the right combination of guys in the lineup to win, and obviously I wasn’t part of that combination. But you never know, guys go down, things happen, there are a lot of ups and downs. Mentally, physically, I was prepared to be thrown into the battle.”
As Pleiness notes, Tootoo didn't play during the Predators' playoff win over the Wings during the 2011-2012 season (and he was benched after taking a costly penalty in the first game of the Wings-Ducks series), and issuing frustration-based comments regarding his benching helped pave his way out of town. Tootoo bit his lip a slightly while telling Pleiness that he more or less dealt with not playing as best as he could:
A little under two days removed from the Red Wings' locker room clean-out day, a pair of pundits are already looking toward next season, when the Red Wings will move to what we've been told is a bigger, meaner but more "open" Eastern Conference.
Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner spoke with several Wings players and the Wings' coach about, as Mike Babcock likes to put it, "Learning how to play in a whole new league," which is especially appropriate given that there was no inter-conference play this past season:
The Grand Rapids Griffins and Oklahoma City Barons spent Friday night hunkered down in a parking garage, waiting out tornadic weather in the Oklahoma City area, and on Saturday night, the Barons may have hoped that the Griffins had left Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist and Petr Mrazek under the rink. The Griffins tied their AHL Western Conference Final series at 2 games apiece via a convincing 4-0 win, Andersson scored the only goal that would count as the gamer, and Mrazek pitched a 40-save shutout.
The Grand Rapids Griffins' website relates the game's details via a superb recap:
This may be one of the few times a Red Wings fan agrees with Sidney Crosby. I know this isn't Red Wings-related per se, but I've been outspoken in my criticism of the lack of a standard of officiating--for any and all of the NHL's teams and playoff teams to have to operate within since the trade deadline--and I'm baffled by the amount of cheap shots, interference and plain old dangerous stuff that they're letting go on all sides, and it's my blog, and I'm allowed to write about whatever I feel needs to be said. So I'm going to do just that.
Aside from calling stick-on-hand penalties and worrying far too much about evening things up via make-ups for missed or messed-up calls (see: Walkom calls off Hjalmarsson goal, Bolland boarding infraction yields series-winner that counts in OT, and every NHL analyst from TSN to Fox Sports Detroit's Ken Daniels agree that what Bolland did was a penalty but would never be called due to what transpired in regulation time), the refs are more or less "letting 'em play" to an extent that it's gotten downright silly.
Yesterday we received some strong indications of where the Red Wings' players, coach, possible soon-to-be alumni and the Wings' beat writers believe the team is headed, and this afternoon, MLive's Ansar Khan provides words of cautious optimism from the team's captain...
“It's a fine line here,'' [Henrik] Zetterberg said. “But, it feels better to stand here and look to the future than it did last year. You're a lot more positive. We know we have a good group of guys. We'll make some additions and keep building on what we have. We know we're going to do good things."
As noted in an update to the overnight report, MLive's Brendan Savage posted a few more comments from the Red Wings' unrestricted free agents-to-be--Valtteri Filppula, Drew Miller, Daniel Cleary and Ian White--and White sounded exactly as disgruntled as you'd expect him to be.
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness spoke to White as well, and if Wings coach Mike Babcock's, "We wish him luck" is any indication, the Wings have as much desire to bring back a player who went straight to the media stating that he hadn't asked for a trade yet after being benched and then playing crappily when he did get a chance to proveh himself (okay, that was a very long and rambling "who/what-used-as-a-prepositional phrase" clause) has to remain a Wing:
Updated with some UFA talk at 7:07 AM: The Red Wings cleaned out their lockers on Friday afternoon, with Pavel Datsyuk stating that he'd like to sign a multi-year contract extension over a year before his current deal expires, the Wings' free agents-to-be crossing their fingers about returning to Detroit, Darren Helm speaking about his back issues and the team as a whole reflecting on a season whose late-season and playoff progress, somewhat ironically, will yield much less change than fans had hoped would take place this summer.
Friday's final formal set of media appearances will serve as the fodder for at least another week's worth of "empty out the notebook" stories , and as we slowly but surely read and occasionally listen to the players, coaches and management's reflections on the 2013 season and the playoff run that was perhaps a few breaks from a Western Conference Final appearance...
The Wings' players and management will be a busy bunch down at the Joe.
When I'm not making heated comments about Red Wings games on Twitter, I try to at least keep a professional demeanor and stay away from sensationalism, but as a human being as much as anything else, it was very, very hard to just keep my damn mouth shut both on social media and here while reading WOOD TV8's Larry Figurski, Fox 17's Steve Amorose and the Grand Rapids Griffins' Twitter accounts deliver a terrifying play-by-play on Friday evening.
The bottom line? A day after the Griffins' front office helped with clean-up efforts in Moore, OK, another tornado formed near and passed close to the Cox Convention Center (among several tornadoes that hit the Oklahoma City area), where the Griffins were supposed to be battling the Oklahoma City Barons in Game 4 of the AHL's Western Conference Final.
Instead of taking in a hockey game or playing in it, the fans, the media, the players, coaches and Red Wings executives had to take shelter in the parking garage under the rink, and when they returned to the rink, severe flooding delayed Game 4 until Saturday and pushed Game 5 from Saturday to Sunday.
Scary stuff from Oklahoma City, per the Grand Rapids Griffins:
Tonight’s Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Oklahoma City Barons has been postponed and rescheduled for Sunday due to severe weather conditions in downtown Oklahoma City.
Game 4 of the series will be held on Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT, and Game 5 will now take place on Sunday at 5 p.m. EDT. Both games will be held at the Cox Convention Center, before the series turns back to Grand Rapids for a potential Game 6 on Tuesday.
I'll have more later, but WOOD TV's Larry Figurski and Fox 17's Steve Amorose reported that EVERYBODY--the Griffins, the Barons, their fans, the media, the rink staff--was evacuated from the rink, and the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reports that there's been significant flooding in the building.
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.