The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/12/13 at 10:46 AM ET
Updated 4x at 1:40 PM: The stories regarding Game 3 of the Grand Rapids Griffins' Calder Cup Final series against the Syracuse Crunch this evening (7 PM EDT, AHLLive.com/WOOD Radio) got shoved to the bottom of the overnight report, but the Griffins' Twitter account is quite busy this morning with Grifins status updates, including a notice that tickets are going VERY fast for tonight's game, as well as Friday and Saturday's Games 4 and 5...
I happened to find an interview that Griffins coach Jeff Blashill gave to WDFN's Matt Sheppard yesterday...
If you missed the stories posted yesterday:
2. WOOD TV's Steve Amorose discussed the Griffins' desire to keep playoff momentum on their side;
3. And the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner noted that the Griffins' checking lines are checking and out-scoring the Cruch's high-scoring forwards, but the Nyquist-Andersson-Tatar line's been bottled up;
4. And as noted last night, Columbus Blue Jackets play by play man Bob McElligott and Cleveland Cavaliers John Michael will be doing play-by-play on Time-Warner Cable's broadcast--which is the one AHLLive.com is picking up (again, you need to sign up for the service using the code "CALDER2013" to watch the game, but you can leave your credit card info blank), and the Crunch were the Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate for the vast majority of their existence, so if you're assuming that you'll hear less Crunch cheerleading, well...Not gonna happen
5. The Griffins' excellent video crew also posted something of an inspirational Calder Cup Final recap/promo video...
Somewhat ironically, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter Wallner's morning skate update involves surveying the Crunch's press...
And I'll conclude this slate of game-day updates and/or story reviews with a new one:
HockeysFuture's Adam Schepp notes that the Red Wings' coaches and management are quite happy to see their future roster picture complicated thanks to the immense amounts of playoff experience the team's top prospects are accumulating while playing for the Griffins, though three of the Wings' future core players did pretty damn well for themselves at the NHL level...
NHL: Gustav Nyquist played like an NHL veteran during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He netted the game-winning goal in overtime of game two of Detroit's first round series with Anaheim and continued his stellar play in the second round against Chicago. Nyquist played in only 22 regular season games but became a bigger cog in Detroit's offense as the playoffs wore on. This was evident not only by his five points (one less than his regular season total), but also in being utilized in all 14 of Detroit's playoff contests.
Joakim Andersson made the kind of contributions that pay dividends in the playoffs, excelling in the faceoff circle. Andersson won 55.9 percent of the 177 draws he took. Andersson's five points (like Nyquist, close to his regular season total of eight) were beneficial to a team that did not expect Andersson to make the NHL roster this season.
Brendan Smith was a more polarizing figure, as he was able to contribute on the offensive end but struggled repeatedly defensively. Smith scored his only two goals of the season during Detroit's playoff run, but he also was frequently caught out of position in front of the net.
AHL: Petr Mrazek has continued to be the lynchpin in Grand Rapid's success. Mrazek has been outstanding in the Calder Cup Playoffs, posting a goals against average of 2.21 and a .921 save percentage.
Tomas Tatar has seen his torrid scoring pace carry over from regular season to postseason, as Tatar has scored 17 points in 20 playoff games.
Tomas Jurco has shown growth in his game, as it appears he has finally settled in at the AHL level. Jurco has eight goals in 20 playoff games, including an outstanding series-clinching goal in game seven of the Western Conference Finals that sent the Griffins to the Calder Cup Finals.
Riley Sheahan and Landon Ferraro have also been keys to Grand Rapids' Calder Cup run, with each contributing a great deal offensively. Sheahan has 15 points in 20 games, including 12 assists and an impressive plus-seven plus/minus rating. Ferraro has 13 points in 20 playoff games, including a more evenly distributed five goals and eight assists. Ferraro's offensive prowess has carried over from the regular season and puts to rest speculation that his game was trending downwards.
Schnepp continues while noting that Willie Coetzee had a great run with the ECHL's Toledo Walleye, that Andreas Athansiou and the turning-pro-next-season Martin Frk played very, very well for the Barrie Colts and Halifax Mooseheads, respectively, and that the Wings signed a total of FIVE prospects over the past couple of months in Nick Jensen, Danny DeKeyser, Jared Coreau, Alexei Marchenko and Mattias Backman. Only Backman will remain with his current team, Linkopings HC of the Swedish Eliteserien; the rest either have (in DeKeyser's case) or will (the rest) play for Grand Rapids, as will the aforementioned and already-singed Frk...
As will Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Teemu Pulkkinen, Marek Tvrdon and possibly Calle Jarnkrok, assuming that the almost-NHL-ready Jarnkrok doesn't crack Detroit's roster.
That's a total of nine potentially "new" guys playing for Grand Rapids, with Brent Raedeke, Tom McCollum, Francis Pare, Jan Mursak, Jordan Pearce and probably the still-signed Gleason Fournier rotating out of the mix, the AHL-only-signed Luke Glendening and Chad Billins' respective futures in limbo and no guarantees of AHL employment for Max Nicastro, the aforementioned Coetzee, Trevor Parkes and Andrej Nestrasil, who are still in the Wings' prospect pipeline for now.
Well, scratch that, the Syracuse Post-Standard is posting updates from the Crunch's morning skate, reporting that defensmean Radko Gudas may be back out of the lineup tonight:
Update #2: The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner offers three positives and three negatives regarding the Griffins' status as up 2-0 in the Calder Cup Final. I'd prefer to accentuate the positive:
A 2-0 lead headed home. Not only a 2-0 series lead, but accomplished in Syracuse before two hostile crowds in an old and loud arena against a Crunch team that had pounded their opposition (48-23 goal differential) in the two previous series, winning 11 of 12. Now, the Griffins have three home games, needing two wins, to hoist the Calder Cup Trophy at home.
Superior play. The Griffins have maneuvered inside the Syracuse zone, something no one has done this season, and, conversely, kept top Crunch players – like league MVP Tyler Johnson and playoffs scoring leader Ondrej Palat – under wraps. Johnson had one shot last game, three in the first and has two power-play assists to show so far. A little frustrated. Um, yeah.
Spread the wealth. The Griffins have nine goals from nine players in the series, and all four lines have been active. Landon Ferraro has a goal and two assists in and Riley Sheahan is off to a good start with a goal and assists in the first two games. Syracuse changed up and went with seven defensemen in Game 2, and the result was six Griffins’ goals.
Update #3: Fox 17 posted a trio of videos discussing coach Jeff Blashill's superstitions and players' superstitions, an interview with the Calder Cup Keeper, a discussion of Triston Grant's status as his own equipment manager;
And WZZM 13 posted an interview with the Calder Cup Keeper.
Update #4: Here's the Syracuse Post-Standard's Lindsay Kramer's morning skate report:
The Syracuse Crunch's best defensive defenseman is getting incrementally better while the team itself will try to keep its season from slipping away in much larger chunks. Radko Gudas skated before the morning skate on Wednesday butl did not participate in the regular workout and will miss Game 3 of the Calder Cup Finals against Grand Rapids tonight in Van Andel Arena.
"He said it felt OK. We'll go from there,'' Syracuse coach Rob Zettler said after practice.
The Griffins lead the best-of-seven series two games to none, and, without Gudas on patrol in the Crunch defensive zone, have dominated puck possession and avoided the turnovers that usually ignite the Crunch attack.
Zettler said the Syracuse lineup will remain the same as Sunday's, with Evan Oberg in as the seventh defenseman.
"They had a lot of time to make some plays,'' Zettler said of the Griffins. "We have to eliminate that time. Just because he (Gudas) isn't out there doesn't mean we can't do it.''
Zettler said even after his team lost 6-4 Sunday, he sensed a confidence in the Crunch locker room.
"We've got a lot of pride in there,'' Zettler said. "We've got guys who will step up to the plate. It's going to happen tonight.''
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