The Malik Report
If you're unable to head over to http://www.AHLLive.com (you have to register and use the promo code "CALDER2013" but can leave credit card info blank) to watch the Grand Rapids Griffins and Syracuse Crunch battle for the Calder Cup (Game 2 takes place tonight at 6 PM EDT; Games 3, 4 and 5 take place this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Grand Rapids), the NHL's SiriusXM Radio channel is broadcasting the most of the games as well. Per the AHL:
The American Hockey League has announced that SiriusXM NHL Network Radio will be airing select games from the 2013 Calder Cup Finals, beginning with coverage of Game 2 this evening.
The Calder Cup Finals are pitting the Eastern Conference champion Syracuse Crunch, top development team of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, against the Western Conference champion Grand Rapids Griffins, top development team of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.
The following games will be heard on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio:
The Grand Rapids Griffins will attempt to take a 2 games-to-none lead over the Syracuse Crunch in Game 2 of the Calder Cup Final this evening (6 PM EDT, AHLLive.com, NHL Network Radio, Time-Warner Cable in NY), and the Crunch's website has posited a Game 2 preview...
Griffins Scouting Report: The Griffins are led by left wing Tomas Tatar (11g-5a-16pts), right wing Jan Mursak (8g-5a-13pts), right wing Tomas Jurco (7g-6a-13pts), and center Luke Glendening (5g-8a-13pts). Jurco had his three game goal-scoring streak snapped in Game 1. Gustav Nyquist rejoined the team after a playoff stint with the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL. He has three points in five playoff games with the Griffins, including one in the Calder Cup Finals, and he now has goals in back-to-back games.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan and the Free Press's Helene St. James have weighed in with their end-of-season player grades, and DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose offered an alternate angle on the season-in-review via player, coach and GM's quips regarding player performance. Today, MLive's Ansar Khan offers a slate of player grades, splitting regular season and playoff marks and offering contract numbers as well (cue George's 8,589,354th Capgeek.com's Wings organization chart reference). I'm gonna reference a couple of "ouch" grades and let you read the rest of his take on your own--and then ask you to weigh in.
Valtteri Filppula (D/D): Curiously disappointing season from start to finish. Rarely showed much spark or competitiveness after a career year, which was surprising since he was playing for a contract.
Contract: Unrestricted free agent.
Johan Franzen (C+/D): His statistics (14 goals, 31 points, plus-13) don't reflect how inconsistent he continues to be. He's a non-factor for several games and then suddenly dominates for a stretch.
Contract: Seven years at a cap hit of $3.95 million.
On defense, Khan did indeed zero in on the...Let's call them "interesting" pair...
Readers beware: auto-play highlight clips lurk within (5 of them, sorry. And no, there was no way to just post *#$%@& links, which is annoying as hell for me as well as you).
The AHL out-paced the NHL in terms of holding the first game of its championship series, and, perhaps not too unexpectedly, an NHL-style controversial call by the referees shaped the outcome of what would wind up as a 3-1 Grand Rapids Griffins win (that link goes to my recap; the scoresheet's available here) over the Syracuse Crunch in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Final (Game 2 takes place at 6 PM EDT today, and it will stream on http://www.AHLLive.com and a,ir on Time Warner Cable in NY State).
It reads like Tomas Holmstrom-era Red Wings tale in reverse: the Griffins were nursing a 1-0 lead late in the second period, and were killing their third straight Syracuse power play when Crunch forward (and Tomas Tatar's BFF) Richard Panik tipped a shot past Petr Mrazek.
As the play developed, Mrazek backed into his crease on his own, splaying with his toes spread post-to-post, and at the same time, Syracuse's Brett Connolly wandered into the crease.
The Detroit News's Jerry Green rarely fires up ye olde computer these days, and when he does, he tends to reflect somewhat biterly upon a changed sports landscape. This morning, he relates an exchange with Chicago Blackhawks advisor Scotty Bowman from Bowman's days as the Red Wings' coach and GM,and it's absolutely wonderful:
Scotty Bowman pushed through the pack, ignoring all of us and walked into an inner sanctum in the back of the dressing room in Joe Louis Arena.. The interview duties were turned over to his assistants, Barry Smith and Dave Lewis. Scotty just didn’t care much for the nuisance of revealing tidbits to the slavish workers in the media.Moments later, he flashed a signal, a slight wave of his hand, and indicated “c’mon back.”It was a rare invitation to the reporter-proof room where the Red Wings' coaches viewed videos and designed strategy.
There he sat. This secret, often-silent man — an enigma — the classic curmudgeon and the classic coach who had won championships and who would win more, and even now might be attached to another.
And we spent the next hour or so gabbing about hockey. The game. The people. Our boyhoods.
"I grew up on a street, two of the boys became safecrackers," Bowman said of his days growing up in bilingual Montreal. "They would crack safes. In banks. One ended up in prison in Vancouver, and the other ended up in the big job (big house) in Boston. They became bank robbers. Armed robbery."
Continued, and you'll find out why Bowman might have some conflicted loyalties come Wednesday.
The Grand Rapids Griffins' 3-1 win over the Syracuse Crunch in Game 1 of the AHL's Calder Cup Final was what you might expect from a team that was coming off a seven-game series (Grand Rapids) playing against a rested-to-rusty team (Syracuse): a bit of a rope-a-dope win involving some superb goaltending by Petr Mrazek (29 saves), some clutch goals and a bit of luck.
The Griffins received a 1st period goal from Mitch Callahan thanks to a hard net-front-crashing presence by Callahan, Landon Ferraro and Jeff Hoggan with a puck relay back to assist-makers Brennan Evans and Chad Billins...But after that, the Griffins basically played a Wings-like solid defensive game and relied very heavily on Petr Mrazek to stop a ton of first shots as Grand Rapids cleaned up most of the rebounds.
Every year at this time--or within two weeks of the Stanley Cup Final in a non-lockout year, anyway--we tend to hear the media insist that whichever team wins the Cup will shape the game for years to come as each and every one of the 29 defeated teams will obviously completely alter their teams' player personnel and coaching trajectories to emulate the champ.
This doesn't always pan out, though there's no doubt that the last couple of Cup champs are very big, very hard-checking and very defensively-minded teams. The previous three were more slanted toward high-skill and up-tempo hockey, though, and as such, the National Post's Cam Cole duly notes that even if the Blackhawks prevail against LA and upset the mighty Bruins, Chicago's "blueprint" is going to be hard to emulate (that, and thanks to the declining salary cap, like so many championship-caliber teams, it won't last in its current guise):
These Blackhawks have the most of the most: better top-end talent, better scoring depth, better speed throughout the lineup. Size, too, in forwards like the aptly-nicknamed Hoss, Marian Hossa, and Jonathan Toews and playoff stud Bryan Bickell, and a deep blueline that was comfortably able to compensate for the loss to suspension of their best defenceman, Duncan Keith, in Game 4 Thursday.
Updated 3x at 3:39 PM: As Paul noted, the Calder Cup Final between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Lake Erie Monsters begins tonight (7 PM EDT, AHLLive.com; Game 2 takes place tomorrow at 6 PM EDT), and the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reports that no gnus is good gnus (with Gary Gnu) from the Griffins' morning skate...
The Grand Rapids Griffins held a final late-morning skate at War Memorial Arena before tonight’s start of the Calder Cup Finals against Syracuse. The routine game-day light skate went for about an hour, and followed a similar short workout by the Crunch.
The teams meet in Game 1 at 7 p.m. Game 2 will be 6 p.m. Sunday before the series moves to Grand Rapids.
from the Grand Rapids Griffins,
It All Ends Here: After 1,140 regular-season games and three playoff rounds, only the Grand Rapids Griffins and Syracuse Crunch are left standing, and they will battle for the Calder Cup after winning their respective conferences. The Griffins advanced to the Calder Cup Finals after defeating the No. 5 Oklahoma City Barons in a thrilling seven-game series, capped off with a wild 5-4 victory at Van Andel Arena on June 5. The third-seeded Griffins, who won the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as Western Conference playoff champions, also defeated No. 6 Houston in five games and No. 2 Toronto in six games. Fellow third seed Syracuse beat the same seeds in sequence: No. 6 Portland (3-0), No. 2 Springfield (4-0) and No. 5 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (4-1) to capture Richard F. Canning Trophy as champions of the Eastern Conference.
The Grand Rapids Griffins begin their Calder Cup Final series against the Syracuse Crunch this evening (7 PM EDT on http://www.AHLLive.com--you have to register to watch the games but you don't have to fill out credit card info; Game 2 takes place tomorrow night at 6 PM EDT, and the series shifts to Grand Rapids for three games starting next Wednesday), and to some extent, the Red Wings' management hopes that the Griffins players' progress complicates their off-season plans...
But there's no doubt that the fact that full-time Red Wings-to-be Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and Danny DeKeyser (who's been cleared to play and will play tonight) have taken part in 2 NHL playoff rounds and will have taken part in 2 more at the AHL level is "a good thing," as Wings GM Ken Holland told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:
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.