The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/06/13 at 10:20 PM ET
The Grand Rapids Griffins enjoyed a 10-hour bus ride to Syracuse, New York ahead of Games 1 and 2 of the Calder Cup Final against the Syrauce Crunch, which begins with a pair of back-to-back games on
Friday and Saturday Saturday and Sunday, and MLive's Ansar Khan reports that the Griffins will have a significant addition at their disposal as Red Wings prospect Danny DeKeyser has been cleared to return from the broken thumb he sustained during Detroit's first-round series against the Ducks:
DeKeyser, out since May 2 with a broken right thumb, has been cleared to play and will be in the lineup for Game 1 Saturday at the Syracuse Crunch, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
“It's great experience for Danny DeKeyser to play against Syracuse,'' Holland said. “It's a great way for him to finish out this season and go into next season.''
Khan continues with praise for DeKeyser from the Wings' locker room clean-out day, but he also offers significant news regarding Calder Cup programing that must be mentioned:
The AHL announced that the Calder Cup finals will be available for free live streaming. Using promo code CALDER2013, fans can register and log in at http://www.ahllive.com and watch all of the action.
The Syracuse Post-Standard's Lindsay Kramer confirms...
The American Hockey League and NeuLion, Inc., announced today that as a thanks to its fans, video streaming the 2013 Calder Cup Finals will be available at no charge on AHL Live.
Using promo code CALDER2013, fans can register and log in at http://www.ahllive.com and watch all of the action of the 2013 Calder Cup Finals, from the first puck drop until the AHL's 77th champion is crowned.
The 2013 Calder Cup Finals will begin on 7 p.m. Saturday and will pit the Eastern Conference champion Syracuse Crunch against the Western Conference champion Grand Rapids Griffins.
2013 Calder Cup Finals
Game 1 - Saturday - Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7 p.m.
Game 2 - Sunday - Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 6 p.m.
Game 3 - Wednesday - Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m.
Game 4 - Fri., June 14 - Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m.
*Game 5 - June 15 - Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m.
*Game 6 - June 18 - Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7 p.m.
*Game 7 - June 20 - Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7 p.m.
UPDATE: YOU DO HAVE TO REGISTER with a user name and all of that shit using the Calder2013 code at http://www.ahllive.com but I, left my credit card info blank and was able to complete the registration process without any problems. You also have to have Microsoft Silverlight installed to watch the games.
And Kramer spoke to Griffins coach Jeff Blashill (who coached DeKeyser at Western Michigan University) about DeKeyser's availability--and he's going to play, but it's unclear who he'll replace in the Griffins' lineup:
"We expect that he'll be able to have a real good impact,'' Blashill said. "He's an extremely efficient d-man. He doesn't take a lot of risks, yet he's a very good puck-mover. He has a long reach. I think he proved to be a really good player in the NHL in the time he was there already.''
DeKeyser signed with the Red Wings on March 30 after completing his junior season at Western Michigan University, where he was named an NCAA second team All-American and the CCHA's Best Defensive Defenseman for the second straight season. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound blueliner picked up 49 points (12-37-49) and 107 penalty minutes in 118 games with the Broncos over three seasons.
DeKeyser, 23, made his NHL debut on April 5 at Colorado and went on to register one assist and two penalty minutes in 11 games with Detroit, then appeared in two playoff games before breaking his thumb on May 2.
Blashill didn't think there'd be any adjustment problems for DeKeyser jumping into a new lineup.
"The one thing I'd say with Danny is he isn't a touted player coming out of college or juniors,'' Blashill said. "He's a guy who's already played in the National Hockey League. He, to me, is just another piece of the puzzle amongst many good pieces.''
Kramer also noted that the Crunch are wary of the Gustav Nyquist-Joakim Andersson-Tomas Tatar line...
"These guys probably have the most skill of any of the top lines we've played so far,'' [Crunch head coach Rob Zettler] said. "They are pretty creative.''
Sounds like a job for Mike Angelidis, J.T. Brown and J.T. Wyman. The home of the Calder Cup for the next season will likely depend upon who wins their multi-game tug-of-war.
Western Conference winner Grand Rapids takes on Eastern Conference champ Syracuse in a best-of-seven tiff starting Saturday in Syracuse. Zettler will likely have his third-line grinders trailing the Griffins' game-breakers from the moment they hit the city limits.
"We're very prepared from a knowledge and understanding standpoint,'' Wyman said after practice on Thursday. "We know what we're up against. We can't give them opportunity. We have to take away time and space and be physical with them.''
The Griffins' Western Conference Final against Oklahoma City was turned around when parent club Detroit got eliminated from the NHL playoffs and returned Nyquist and Andersson to reunite with Tatar. Nyquist produced 23 goals and 37 assists for the Griffins this year while Andersson was 10-17 in 37 contests.
Since returning to the Griffins, the two have combined for two goals and four assists in four playoff games. Tatar, meanwhile, has 11 goals and five assists in 18 playoff games after producing 23-26 during the regular season.
"They've got lots of chemistry together,'' said Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill. "They feed off each other. All three of them are very skilled. They are a very dangerous line.''
Kramer continues, and he suggests that the Crunch also have a weapon at hand in possessing both a rested lineup and a level of unfamiliarity that the Griffins may struggle to get its head back on its shoulders after emptying the tank in a seven-game series against Oklahoma City:
Eastern Conference winner Syracuse hosts Western Conference champ Grand Rapids in Games 1 and 2 Saturday and Sunday as a rested and settled team against a Griffins' squad that has to adjust on the fly.
Syracuse has been off since beating Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday; the Griffins didn't push out Oklahoma City in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals until Wednesday.
The Crunch has breezed through the playoffs in 12 games, one shy of the minimum to this point. Grand Rapids has battled through 18.
Perhaps most importantly, Grand Rapids is barging into back-to-back games in an unfamiliar barn whose smaller rink size often vexes opposing skill teams. The Griffins haven't played here since the 2008-09 season.
The Crunch easily paces the postseason with an average of four goals a game and is second with a goals-against of 1.92. Grand Rapids is fourth with 3.22 goals per game and third at 2.44 goals allowed.
"I do feel confident in that (his team's versatility). But that doesn't change the fact we don't want to let them dictate the pace,'' [T.J.] Wyman said."I'm not comfortable giving up a lot of goals. No coach is,'' Zettler said. "But we're capable of scoring. This is going to be more of a challenge for our guys, without a doubt.''
The Crunch got some good news on Thursday when top-line forward Richard Panik returned to full practice and skated with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. But blueliner Radko Gudas remained out with an undisclosed ailment. Zettler said he remains hopeful Gudas, the team's most physical defenseman, will be ready for Saturday.
Shifting focus back to the Griffins, the Free Presss Helene St. James spoke to coach Blashill about Andersson and Nyquist's respective impacts...
The trio provided an immediate injection into the re-scheduled Game 4, with Nyquist setting up Andersson on a first-period goal. Andersson has four points in the four games he has played, and Nyquist, two.
Their time with Detroit paid off the most Wednesday night, when they parlayed prowess from playing Game 7s at Anaheim and Chicago into helping lead the Griffins past the Barons. Nyquist scored a goal, set up by Andersson.
“Both of those guys, when we went into our Game 7, showed good leadership,” Blashill said Thursday. “That experience they had with Detroit was very important for us.”
Andersson and Nyquist were key for the Wings throughout their playoff run, with Nyquist providing creativity on the third line opposite fellow winger Damien Brunner. It was Andersson, though, who made the line work, thanks to a relentless attention to detail in his own end. Blashilll expected nothing less after seeing Andersson thrive all season before being called up in February.
“He’s got better skill level than he gets credit for,” Blashill said, “and he’s one of the better human beings around. I’m not surprised he’s had really good success. The difference I see in him is, he’s gained confidence and experience.”
St. James confirms that DeKeyser can play for the Giffins if they wish to use him...
Another sizable piece should fall into place this weekend, as DeKeyser is ready to return after healing from a broken right thumb suffered in Game 2 of the Anaheim series.
And in the multimedia department, Nyquist spoke to ESPN 96.1's Sean Baligian this afternoon...
As did Blashill:
Update: The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner took note of the Griffins and Crunch's...Divergent...paths to the final:
They play harder then anybody we've faced all year," [Griffins coach Jeff Blashill] said. "They forecheck you real hard ... maybe with a little nastier edge to them. They go to the net hard and make it very, very difficult on you. So it will be a hard-, hard-fought series and we'll probably have to do a better job than (the Oklahoma City series) of breaking out of our own zone."
Winger Tomas Jurco, who delivered the game-winning goal Wednesday, likes the Griffins' chances.
"We know they're a great team," he said. "We just have to play our hockey game. If we play our best hockey, we can win against anybody in this league."
The Crunch were the top-scoring team in the AHL during the season, averaging 3.25 a game, and have increased that in the postseason to 3.83. They averaged 4.0 goals in the three games in the first round against Portland, 4.5 in four games against Springfield, and 3.2 in five games against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Left winger Ondrej Palat leads with 20 points (5-15-20) in 12 games. Center Tyler Johnson has 17 points (9-8-17).
Impressive as they are, sizing up the Crunch's stature is a bit complicated since 10 players on the team were with Norfolk, which won the Calder Cup a year ago. But, in the offseason, the Tampa Bay Lightning moved the affiliation from Norfolk to Syracuse.
Norfolk ripped through the postseason last season with 15 wins in 18 games with the likes of Palat and Johnson. This season, the Crunch has continued the trend, winning 11 of 12. That's about as far as Blashill would go with the underdog thing.
"That's just a stat," he said. "The only stat that matters to me is the series is 0-0. They're a great team, that's why they're in the finals ... but I think we're shown throughout the playoffs that we're a real good team, too."
And as an FYI:
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