The Malik Report
Tomorrow, the Grand Rapids Griffins will head to Syracuse, New York to begin to prepare for a hopefully Calder Cup-clinching Game 6 of their AHL Final series against the Syracuse Crunch (Game 6 will take place on Tuesday and an if-necessary Game 7 would take place on Thursday, with both games held at the Onecenter War Memorial Arena).
As the Griffins attempt to rebound from losses in Games 4 and 5, they won't have to repeat their 12-plus-hour bus ride around Lake Erie's southern shore and into Upstate New York in a pair of sleeper buses (and it should be noted that the Crunch spent Saturday night and Sunday morning busing back to Syracuse).
According to the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner, the Griffins will traverse the 480-or-so miles between "GR" and Syracuse in a little over an hour thanks to an assist from the Red Wings:
Updated 3x at 1:37 PM: Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall is one of the Grand Marshals at the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. He bluntly assessed the Cup Final and his lingering bitterness regarding the way the Wings' bowed out to Chicago in the second round:
Updated 2x at 9:25 AM. Bleh, why am I still awake? The Red Wings' AHL team so closely resembled its NHL counterpart on Saturday night that I was waiting for Larry Murphy to emerge from the ether, pop up on the AHL Live broadcast and inform me that the Grand Rapids Griffins' 33 shots over the first two periods of their 5-2 loss to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night resulted in exactly 4 scoring chances.
It's not that Cedrick Desjardins has been anything less than spectacular as the Crunch walked into Grand Rapids and both averted a sweep on Thursday and forced the series to move back to Syracuse via their 5-2 win (despite being out-shot 42-22), or that Petr Mrazek's been anything other than ordinary at the other end.
It's that the grit, grind and jam that involves going to the net and staying there, obstructing a goaltender's field of vision and driving the other team to distraction while doing so was so absent from the Griffins' penalty-prone, flashy-but-futile efforts on Thursday and Saturday were so absent both an agitant and net-jamming grit that I wonder whether Tomas Holmstrom can suit up for Game 6 on Tuesday or a possible hopefully not necessary Game 7 on Thursday in Syracuse.
The Grand Rapids Griffins ran into a goaltender playing otherworldly hockey in Cedric Desjardins, but also battled against a pair of soft goals given up by their own goaltender (a bizarrely shaky Petr Mrazek), poor defensive play and, despite the wild disparity in shots--42-22 for Grand Rapids--a staggering an inabilty or unwillingness to reduce Desjardins' field of vision as the Syracuse Crunch stuffed the Griffins and took a 5-2 win (Mrazek gave up 4 goals on 21 shots) in Game 5.
I don't have much to say about this one because...It was simply so incredibly difficult to see the Griffins work so very hard for so very little in the Crunch's end, but to play so terribly poorly when they had power plays, to surrender a pair of power play goals against, and to essentially spend their second game in two nights letting a team largely comprised of last year's Calder Cup-winning Norfolk Admirals regain control of the series.
The Grand Rapids Griffins get a second chance to close out the Syracuse Crunch tonight (7 PM EDT, AHLLive.com/WOOD TV8 in Grand Rapids/WOOD Radio), and they'll do so minus Adam Almquist but including Gustav Nyquist, who the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reports was not suspended for whatever happened between Nyquist and Richard Panik last night.
The Crunch expect to have defenseman Radko Gudas back in their lineup, aiding the Crunch's transition game and already physical bite, and as we wait for the game to start, here are a few noteworthy items to tide you over:
2. If you happen to be heading to the Quicken Loans 400 at the Michigan International Speedway tomorrow, Niklas Kronwall will be the Grand Marshal;
3. In a very different participatory vein, the Syracuse Post-Standard's Don Cazentre reports that the mayors of Syracuse, NY and Grand Rapids, MI have made a sudsy bet regarding the team that will capture the Calder Cup:
from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
Will Daniel Cleary be back for an encore with the Red Wings?
Talks to that end will heat up in the coming days, about three weeks ahead of July 5, when Cleary can become an unrestricted free agent. The Wings want Cleary back, and Cleary has said he wants to come back, but given the money that gets thrown around every summer once the market opens, Cleary may well opt to look around.
He’s coming off a five-year, $14 million contract, and made a solid case for his value in the playoffs, when he finished second on the team with 10 points, ahead of Pavel Datsyuk.
On top of that, Cleary was the leading scorer in the Blackhawks series, with five points. He’s 34, healthier than he has been in years, and a big body who repeatedly has demonstrated a willingness to go to the hard areas.
All those are reasons why the Wings want him back, of course. They need a big man to provide a net-front presence on each of the top two lines. Justin Abdelkader showed he could be one of them this past season. It’s not a role that Johan Franzen performs well. Todd Bertuzzi is an option, but it’s hard miles on the body, and Bertuzzi is 38 and has a history of back problems.
The Grand Rapids Griffins will attempt to rebound from a difficult 3-2 loss to the Syracuse Crunch on Friday night when they battle Syracuse in Game 5 of the Calder Cup Final this evening (7 PM EDT, AHLLive.com/WOOD TV8 in Grand Rapids/WOOD Radio), and at the present moment, it appears that the New Holland Sentinel's Alan Babbitt's "insider" report that Gustav Nyquist wouldn't receive a suspension for his "spear" on Richard Panik is in fact accurate.
As the Crunch attempt to force the Griffins to endure another bus ride to Syracuse for Games 6 and 7, the Syracuse Post-Standard's Lindsay Kramer reports that Syrcause will add another physical player to their lineup in the previously-injured Radko Gudas, and he also reports that Adam Almquist remains sidelined with a Panik-induced concussion:
The Grand Rapids Griffins' 3-2 loss to the Syracuse Crunch in Game 4 of the Calder Cup Final is not the end of the world. It sets up a Game 5 on Saturday night (7 PM EDT, AHLLive.com/WXSP in Grand Rapids/WOOD Radio), and to some extent, it was predictable given that the Griffins are such a young team that had never been on the cusp of a championship.
They took the Crunch too lightly, blowing power plays and getting caught up in the rough-and-tumble stuff involved when a team that's accumulated 1 playoff loss in three previous series' worth of play is essentially attempting to defend a title that the majority of its roster captured as members of the Norfolk Admirals a year ago.
But it was incredibly hard to watch.
Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk was in New York, NY to take part in a photo shoot for Reebok and the 2014 Winter Classic, and he spoke to NHL.com's Tal Pinchevsky about playing in the first of six outdoor games scheduled for 13-14...
"I like it for the Red Wings and Toronto. Original Six, will be a good game between a Canadian team and American team," Datsyuk told NHL.com Friday. "Also for Michigan, the people need it now. The economy is low. Kids will see, and parents can explain how they played outside. I think it's unbelievable."
The big game at the Big House will be a special event for everyone involved, but particularly for young Red Wings Damien Brunner, Gustav Nyquist and Danny DeKeyser, who experienced a trial-by-fire this season. Datsyuk, having participated in the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field in Chicago, will play a large role mentoring those players into the fabric of the team.
"We have a younger team now. But we're still a good team. When I came 11 years ago, there were a lot of veteran guys. Now the team is younger, younger, younger. But I'm older, older, older," Datsyuk said.
Thankfully, Datsyuk told Pinchevsky that a certain player who played into his 40's was an inspiration early on--in one Igor Larionov:
I had a bad feeling about tonight's Grand Rapids Griffins-Syracuse Crunch game as all the veteran leadership in the world can't prevent a very young team from getting a little over-eager when up 3-0 in a championship series...
And I was right. The Grand Rapids Griffins' power play and a six-minute stretch in which the Griffins dropped a 2-1 lead and ended up losing 3-2 to the Syracuse Crunch, including a spear-that-was-a-not-a-spear yielding Gustav Nyquist tossed (5-minute major and a game) because Richard Panik got a stick on a hand and dove...
Well, to put it politely, the Griffins got ahead of themselves, and they forgot that the fourth win is the hardest against a team that had lost one playoff game prior to its series against Grand Rapids in the hard-charging, big, physical and downright mean Crunch.
But when mean is effective--Panik had a goal and an assist--the game-tying goal was a softy from an otherwise superhuman Mrazek (who channeled his innner Hasek at times, drawing an even-up on the major and getting called for diving once), and the power play stinks, you're not going to sweep your opponent (late-third-period flourish included as Cedric Desjardins hugged the post), and as such, the Griffins need to win tomorrow night's Game 5 (7 PM EDT, AHLLive.com/WXSP/WOOD Radio) lest they face another bus ride to Syracuse for a potential Game 6 or 7.
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.