The Malik Report
The Toledo Walleye fell short of their Kelly Cup dreams as their season ended on Wednesday night, but it wasn't for a lack of trying.
The Walleye dropped a 1-0, TRIPLE overtime decision to the South Carolina Stingrays in Game 7 of the ECHL's Eastern Conference Final--via a goal against that was offsides by five feet--but the fact that Toledo rallied from a 3-games-to-none deficit to force a 7th game is nothing less than a remarkable achievement.
Toledo played in its longest game ever, and after the game, the Walleye reflected upon its 105:35-long game and season, a year removed from finishing as the ECHL's worst team
The Walleye's website posted a recap:
The Grand Rapids Griffins stories just kept coming this evening, so there was no point in storing them up for an overnight report. Regrettably, this morning's news offers somewhat slim pickings, so this is a bit of a lean entry.
First, Gustav Nyquist's 28 seconds' worth of puck possession is one of a pair of final entries in the TSN Play of the Year quarterfinal, going up against a Jordan Eberle goal, and if you don't vote for this goal, salty ham will follow your descendents like salty...cured pork...
Because this goal is just inferior:
Updated at 10:18 PM: It's a Grand Rapids Griffins evening on TMR, and just before NHL game time, WOOD TV8's Larry Figurski has posited an article in which Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, captain Jeff Hoggan and players Tom McCollum and Nick Jensen weigh in on the early returns for one Dylan Larkin, a Red Wings prospect who'd endured a helluva whirlwind in traveling from Ann Arbor to Prague, back to Metro Detroit, and now New York and Grand Rapids as his professional career's taken flight:
“The guys have been pretty good and welcoming and made me feel pretty comfortable right way,” Larkin said after his first home practice on Wednesday. “That’s probably been the biggest help. The coaches have done a great job teaching me the system and how we play.”
It was just eight days ago that the Michigan Wolverine and Big Ten ‘Freshman of the Year’ decided to turn pro.
“I drove home, signed the contract, faxed it in, started packing, had dinner and then left for Grand Rapids,” Larkin said. “So it’s been pretty crazy.”
Though he’s only 18 years old, Larkin spent the previous several weeks overseas playing for Team USA with and against a host of NHL players at the Hockey World Championships in the Czech Republic.
“I learned a lot from all the pros overseas and how to handle yourself and how to be a pro,” Larkin said. “That was a great experience for me.”
Figurski continues, interviewing the aforementioned narrators, and there also happens to be a video attached to the story:
I've met some strong leaders in my time as a hockey blogger and reporter of sorts, and one of the most intense, dedicated and determined leaders I've encountered hasn't played an NHL game in 5 years.
Grand Rapids Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan is the perfect hard-edged, hard-nosed veteran to lead a rotating corps of future Red Wings and future minor pros brought together for the same cause, and this evening, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner tells the story of how Hoggan became such an integral part of the Griffins' game-winning-and-player-developmental machine:
How important has Jeff Hoggan been in the Griffins' emergence as a top AHL franchise the past three seasons? When coach Jeff Blashill was asked if the Griffins would have won the Calder Cup Trophy in 2013 or reached the conference finals this season without Hoggan, he shot back:
"Not a chance."
Hoggan is the intermediary. He can walk the line when necessary - take the coach's message and relay it in player-speak and still be respected by both. Hoggan is still productive. In the regular season he had 14 goals and 31 points and was the only player on the Griffins to play all 76 games.
Roll those together, add in a work ethic that causes young twenty-somethings to take inventory, and the oldest skater in the league may also have its biggest heart.
"He leads by such an example that he brings the culture of your work ethic to such a level that everybody improves," Blashill said. "Everybody gets better as a hockey team because of the way he carries himself."
Wallner continues, telling quite the tale...
Update: And Fox 17 profiled Hoggan, Brennan Evans and Nathan Paetsch, too (warning, auto-play after-you-play-it video).
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RWBill stated that Mike Babcock's interview with Mitch Albom last Friday was not to be missed, and while it took a full five days for WJR to post the interivew, I agree that this offers a different perspective on Babcock's decision-making process and his perspective after having made media appearances in both Tornoto and Detroit. This is a little more reflective Babcock, and that's intriguing...
We received a "very disappointed" from Jimmy Devellano when Keith Gave asked the Red Wings' vice president about Anthony Mantha's rookie-season struggles, and today, Devellano spoke with Gave regarding Dylan Larkin, urging caution regarding an 18-year-old (he doesn't turn 19 until July 30th) who still has the developmental curve ahead of him--because the Wings have the depth to be patient with Larkin:
[Y]es, with Pavel Datsyuk (who turns 37 on July 20) and Henrik Zetterberg (35 in October) on the back nine of their careers, the Wings are desperate for a star to emerge in the next couple of years. They're privately as delighted as fans are by what they've seen from Larkin over the past year, but all the front-office optimism comes with a healthy dose of caution, as well.
Larkin, who grew up in Waterford Township, is just 18, after all. It's hardly necessary that the club puts him on a fast track to Detroit that they know spoiled the potential careers of other prospects in the formative years of a team that has qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for 24 straight seasons.
"There's a big difference between now and where we were in the '80s, when I was the general manager," said Jim Devellano, the team's senior vice president. "We had been so bad and the cupboard was so bare. And when your team's not good, the coaches get impatient."
That's now how the Wings run any more, and as Ken Holland told Gave, if Larkin can prove that he's NHL-ready in training camp, that's one thing, but it's also not an expected outcome:
This is no surprise, especially given the insistent nature of Jeff Blashill's "no comments" to the media today:
This entry is more than a litte offbeat, so:
1. You might want to vote for Henrik Zetterberg in TSN's "Play of the Year Showdown," where he's in tough against Carey Price...
2. And the Globe and Mail's Beppi Crosariol reports that the NHL Alumni Association has collaborated with Chris Chelios on a "pale ale" that is only available in Canada:
Updated 3x at 4:39 PM: Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill either met Ken Holland yesterday or will speak with Holland today regarding the Wings' vacant coaching job, but he insists to the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner that a "no comment" line is best for himself and the Griffins as they remain locked in a Western Conference Final battle with the Utica Comets:
Blashill, who has the Griffins in the Western Conference finals against Utica, was to meet with general manager Ken Holland either Tuesday or Wednesday, according to sources. But even if he is targeted as the next coach – and all signs point that way - no formal announcement is expected until after the Calder Cup Playoffs, or mid-June.
"I owe it to our players to make sure my sole focus is on trying to win this series," Blashill said after practice Wednesday, adding that he will not comment on it further during the series.
The third-year coach said it is not difficult to separate between his job interest and the playoff pursuit.
"No, it's not difficult for me and that's why I choose not to comment right now because it's real easy for me to focus on the task at hand," he said.
Wallner continues, and the Griffins play home games against Utica on Thursday and Friday at 7 PM and Sunday at 5 PM.
Update: Wallner also posited a set of Griffins notes:
Red Wings fans might not know too much about the Toledo Walleye or the Wings now-singularly-affiliated NHL team, but coach Derek Lalonde and his charges are pulling off quite the playoff feat.
The Walleye fell into a 3-game deficit against the South Carolina Stingrays in their Eastern Conference Final, but they've rattled off 3 straight wins since going down 0-and-3; on Tuesday, the Walleye rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat South Carolina 5-4 in overtime, and as such, the teams will play a 7th and deciding game in Toledo on Wednesday.
Going from the ECHL's worst team a year ago to a team that's a win away from advancing to the Kelly Cup Final is a story in itself; rallying as they have against South Carolina is another damn good one.
Martin Frk didn't register a point and Richard Nedomlel finished at -2, but the Walleye prevailed, as their website's recap notes:
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