The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/16/14 at 05:30 PM ET
Tonight at 7 PM EDT, the Grand Rapids Griffins will attempt to break their 2-games-to-2 deadlock with the Texas Stars at Van Andel Arena (on WOOD Radio and the AHL Live; box score will be available here) and Anthony Mantha's Val-d'Or Foreurs will open the Memorial Cup by battling the host London Knights at the same time (on Sportsnet and the NHL Network U.S., though some of us receive neither network; it'll be streamed online for a fee; box score likely to be available here).
If you wish to weigh in on one or both of the games taking place tonight, here's an open post to suit your needs.
Regarding the Griffins game, Fox 17's Steve Amorose provides lineup news...
And here are some of the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner's "10 storylines to watch" regarding the Griffins game:
•Tomas Jurco’s availability. Just a day after coach Jeff Blashill extolled the virtues of Jurco, the right winger left after the first period in Game 4 on Wednesday and didn’t return with an upper body injury. He did not participate in a team-optional practice Thursday – in which many players were absent – and is considered a game-time decision.
Jurco missed two weeks in March with the Red Wings with a broken rib.
• What to fix. Blashill, asked after Game 4 where he wanted to see improvement, said:
“We have to break out of our end much better than we have … We have guys who are more capable of making more plays. We got to make sure we make the plays that are there, balanced against not turning the puck over.”
• Andrej Nestrasil’s play. The third-year forward developed nicely in the second half of the season for the Griffins, and that trend has continued in the playoffs. He is third on the team in points (4-2-6) and filled in admirably after Jurco went out in Game 4. He switched to wing on the first line with Riley Sheahan and Mitch Callahan and chipped in a goal.
• Jordin Tootoo. The veteran forward played in Game 4, his first game since he suffered a lower body injury in the first game of the playoffs against Abbotsford on April 25. He looked rusty, took a big hit in the third period and his effectiveness for Game 5 is unknown. Besides his toughness, he does provide versatility that Blashill likes by playing either wing.
• What are the odds? In 125 all-time seven-game AH series that have been tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner has won the series 101 times, or 80.8 percent.
For Griffins-specific, they last faced a scenario where they trailed 2-0 and then tied it 2-2 back in 2009 in the North Division semifinals. They won the final two against Hamilton to advance.
And regarding the Foreurs-Knights game and the Memorial Cup as a whole (Tyler Bertuzzi's Guelph Storm battle the Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday at 7 PM), the Hockey News's Brian Costello offers "10 things to watch for at this year's Memorial Cup," including the following:
The best sniper in junior hockey. Val-d’Or’s Anthony Mantha scored 57 goals in 57 regular season games (he missed a bunch of games while at the world juniors) and 24 more in 24 QMJHL playoff games. The 20th overall draft pick by Detroit in 2013 was ranked 10th in THN’s Future Watch 2014.
First-round picks galore. The list includes Mantha from Val-d’Or, Max Domi, Michael McCarron, Nikita Zadorov and Bo Horvat from the London Knights, Griffin Reinhart, Curtis Lazar and Henrik Samuelsson from the Edmonton Oil Kings, and Jason Dickinson and Kerby Rychel from the Guelph Storm.
A ton of other NHL draft picks and future NHLers. The list includes: Tristan Jarry, Mitch Moroz, Scott Kosmachuk, Brock McGinn, Matt Finn, Tyler Bertuzzi, Zac Leslie, Nick Ebert, Justin Auger, Ben Harpur, Chris Tierney, Josh Anderson, Brady Austin, Gemel Smith, Anthony Stolarz, Ryan Graves, Antoine Bibeau.
2014 draft prospects. Four Memorial Cup participants are projected by The Hockey News to be selected in the first two rounds of the June 27-28 draft in Philadelphia. They are: Robby Fabbri, Guelph, ranked 20th in Draft Preview; Brett Pollock, Edmonton, ranked 33rd; Dysin Mayo, Edmonton, ranked 48th; and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Val-d’Or, ranked 60th. Other 2014 draft prospects include Aaron Irving, Edmonton, ranked 75th; Christian Dvorak, London, ranked 88th; Puis Suter, Guelph; Marc Stevens, Guelph; Matthew Mancina, Guelph; Phil Baltisberger, Guelph.
The dark horse team. The Val-d’Or Foreurs may be the least likely of the four teams to be here, but they were built to win, starting with defense. The Foreurs beat a first-place team (Baie-Comeau) and the defending Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads en route to claiming the QMJHL title. It all starts with super-scorer Mantha, but Val-d’Or picked up some important pieces during the season to bulk up. Veteran forward Louick Marcotte and 18-year-old defenseman Ryan Graves and goalie Antoine Bibeau have been sensational additions. The Foreurs defense is led by QMJHL all-stars Randy Gazzola and Guillaume Gelinas.
Storm clouds. The Guelph Storm were the cream of the crop in the Ontario League this season – 52-12-2-2 record, two points up on Erie. They’re considered the Memorial Cup favorites in some circles, but those closer to London claim home-ice advantage is worth a lot in a four-team round-robin tournament.
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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.