The Malik Report
Of prospect-related note:
In the KHL, Alexander Kadeikin had an assist and finished at +1 in 14:12 of ice time as SKA St. Petersburg defeated Spartak 5-0;
In the FInnish Liiga, Julius Vahatalo had an assist and finished at +1 in 15:33 of ice time as TPS Turku lost 4-3 to SaiPa;
In Swedish HockeyEttan, Hampus Melen didn't play in Morrums GoIS IK's 4-1 loss to HC Dalen;
In the USHL, Chase Pearson scored a goal and added 2 assists in the Youngstown Phantoms' 6-5 OT win over Muskegon. Pearson was named the game's first star;
And in the QMJHL, Adam Marsh and the Saint John Sea Dogs did not play the Acadie-Bahthurst Titan as the game was postponed, presumably due to weather.
Updated 3x at 5:17 PM: Of Red Wings-related note this afternoon:
From the Red Wings:
RED WINGS TEAM UP WITH U.S. MARINE CORPS RESERVE FOR ANNUAL TOYS FOR TOTS COLLECTION
… Team to Collect New Children’s Toys at Dec. 3 and Dec. 5 Home Games …
DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings are hosting their annual Toys for Tots collection during two home games this week at Joe Louis Arena. Fans are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys (no stuffed animals) to home games on Thursday, Dec. 3, against Arizona at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 5, versus Nashville at 7:00 p.m.
Representatives from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve will be on hand at each entrance of Joe Louis Arena to collect toys, which will then be distributed to needy children throughout Metro Detroit during the holidays. All monetary donations will be used to purchase additional toys.
Fans are encouraged to bring toys suitable for children ages one to 12. Toys should cost no more than $30 to ensure all the children receive comparable items.
I don't believe that the Red Wings have a "goaltending controversy" in any way, shape or form--at least not yet--but the Wings' platooning of Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek higlights ESPN's Sean McIndoe's list of "Six goaltending controversies in the Eastern Conference":
Detroit Red Wings: Jimmy Howard vs. Petr Mrazek
In this corner: Howard is a former All-Star who had been Detroit's starter for six years before being overtaken by Mrazek in time for last season's playoffs.
And in this corner: Mrazek is a 23-year-old who would make spot appearances in Detroit for two years before earning the backup job last season. He got the start in all seven playoff games against the Lightning, and he played well.
The results so far: It was a mild surprise when the Wings went to Mrazek last spring, and some suspected that the departure of coach Mike Babcock would mean Howard getting the job back. But new boss Jeff Blashill has treated it as an open competition, and so far Mrazek has been better, posting a .928 save percentage to Howard's .914 and earning 15 of the team's 26 starts.
That's a whopping 57% of the starts, with Jimmy Howard scheduled to play in game #27 on Thursday
Prediction: Mrazek's grip on the job is getting firmer. Howard hasn't been bad by any stretch, but he's being outplayed by a younger, cheaper option. If that continues, what happens next could get tricky; Howard remains signed through 2018-19 on a contract that carries a $5.3 million cap hit, and he would become yet another questionable long-term contract in Detroit. Mrazek is earning $738,000 this season, after which he'll be a restricted free agent.
Howard's not going to be moved this season, at least if Ken Holland and Jeff Blashill are to be believed, and it's hard to say whether the Wings may end up being one of those teams that spends $8-10 million on their goaltending and is comfortable with that situation. For the present moment, there isn't a controversy going on.
The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner spoke with members of the Grand Rapids Griffins regarding their rather remarkable turnaround from a 1-and-7 start to a team riding a 6-game winning streak:
"It has been a combination of things," said coach Todd Nelson. "We were close before and I remember telling the guys, 'Look, we're to the point where we have to accept each other. We're a team that has been together and a coaching staff that's different.'
"I think they accepted us, we trusted them and we've gone forward and playing more like everyone believes we're capable."
The run has them at .500 (8-8-0-1) for the first time, with their longest winning streak since nine in a row Feb. 14-March 4 last season.
To build more confidence, the streak has come against some of the (previously) hottest teams. The Griffins broke a 10-game point streak by Rockford on Nov. 18, thumped division-leading San Diego on Nov. 20 and blanked Central-leading Milwaukee on Nov. 27 to end its 10-game winning streak.
The month ended with at 7-2-0-1, the franchise's second most successful November in the past 10 years.
Along the way, the Griffins finally found the scoring touch. Try this: In seven games in October they had 10 goals total. In 10 games in November, they had 35.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland appeared on the NHL on XM Sirius Satellite Radio's Gord Stellick and Charlie Simmer show this morning, discussing the Wings' play for almost 19 minutes...
Of Red Wings-related note this morning:
1. Justin Abdelkader spoke with MLive's Brendan Savage regarding his Gordie Howe hat trick against the Buffalo Sabres:
[It] was impossible for anyone to overlook what Abdelkader did for the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena. He scored twice, assisted on another goal and got into a fight to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick in a 5-4 shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
Abdelkader snapped a seven-game goal drought with his first multi-goal game since bagging a hat trick in the season opener vs. Toronto.
"It feels good," Abdelkader said. "At the same time, I feel like I've been getting opportunities and chances. The puck just hasn't been going in. That's how the game works sometimes. When those things happen, you just got to keep working hard and stick to the simple things, help the team out. It's not always going to be points. You've got contribute some way."
2. In the prospect department, the Victoria Times-Colonist's Cleve Dheensaw spoke with Victoria Royals defenseman Joe Hicketts about his invitation to Team Canada's World Junior selection camp:
The Red Wings' 5-4 OT win over the Buffalo Sabres didn't come easily and it didn't come prettily, but even after blowing yet another third period lead--and this time surrendering a go-ahead goal to Buffalo--the Red Wings managed to eke first one point and then two out of a game that really should have been theirs all along.
To quote my aunt, "Should'ves and could'ves are words we don't use, they only depress us and give us the blues," and gathering from the mood of the fan base lately, there's been a whole lot of should've/could've usage recently.
The bottom line here is that the Wings got two points in what was most assuredly a "learning experience" game, and perhaps more importantly, the Wings at least verbalized having learned from their mistakes in their post-game remarks.
For the Sabres, Rasmus Ristolainen's 3 (changed post-game from 4) assists served as a bright spot, as the Buffalo News's John Vogl noted:
Prospect news: Ties in the Champions’ League; Hicketts, Turgeon assist; Griffins file weekly release
Of prospect-related note:
In the Champions Hockey League, Julius Vahatalo had 4 shots in TPS Turku's 3-3 tie with Lukko;
Axel Holmstrom had 3 shots and finished at -1 in Skelleftea AIK's 1-1 tie with Davos;
In the WHL, Joe Hicketts had an assist in the Victoria Royals' 3-1 win over Medicine Hat;
Dominic Turgeon registered an assist in the Portland Winterhawks' 3-2 loss to Prince George;
And in the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins filed their weekly release:
Despite coming into tonight's game having lost 2 of their past 3 in overtime, the Red Wings entered their match-up with the Buffalo Sabres on a seven-game "unbeaten" streak, hoping to hold a lead for the first time in four games as the Wings battled Jack Eichel's prospect-packed Sabres team.
In theory, Tuesday's game should have meant a relatively easy path to two points. In practice, the Red Wings gave up another third-period lead in devastating fashion, surrendering a 3-1 lead to trail 4-3 for ten very long minutes in the 3rd period, but the Wings salvaged a point with Justin Abdelkader's second goal of the game (and Gordie Howe Hat Trick +1) and nursed the game to a shootout, where Detroit prevailed 5-4 thanks to Brad Richards' marker.
It wasn't a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination, offensive forays included, and from a Wings fan's perspective, it was downright ugly to watch the Wings blow another 2-goal lead, but it certainly wasn't worth the boo birds trying to stifle, "Let's go Red Wings" chants when the team was down for 10:09 of elapsed time.
In the end, the Wings got the 2 points, and they got 2 ugly ones at that, but if this is a learning curve game, by the amount and mangitude of mistakes made, the Wings must have done a tremendous amount of learning in this one.
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.