The Malik Report
Red Wings afternoon news: on Andersson bolstering GR’s playoff run, Bickell, Helm and Tweets of note
by George Malik on 06/03/13 at 01:10 PM ET
Updated 2x at 1:49 PM with Ian White lamenting his status: Amongst this afternoon's Red Wings-related news stories:
- First, foremost and for the record, the Detroit Free Press's readers named Fox Sports Detroit's Ken Daniels Michigan's best sports broadcaster, and I think MLive's readers got it right in naming Jimmy Howard the Wings' MVP (hell, even Lambert praised Howard today);
- Second, the Grand Rapids Griffins haven't rolled along as much as they have "roared" along since the Red Wings sent Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Anderson down to bolster the Griffins' scoring. Andersson registered a goal on Saturday (assisted by Nyquist) and two assists on Sunday, whens the Griffins took a 3-games-to-2 lead over the Oklahoma City Barons in the AHL's Western Conference Final, and, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose notes, the Griffins' power play has shifted out of neutarl:
Nyquist, Andersson and Tomas Tatar formed the Griffins' top line during the lockout, and the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner duly notes that the Griffins are both grateful for the additions and know that the line will form Detroit's 3rd or 4th line next season:
Andersson scored in the first period in his first game back, on an assist from Nyquist. Andersson had two more assists in Game 5 on Sunday - one shorthanded, one on the power play. Of the Griffins seven goals the past two games, Andersson, Nyquist or Tatar had a hand in three of them. The shots have increased to 53 the past two games.
"Those three have been able to jump back in and have good chemistry right away," Blashill said. "They have played lots together, so they haven't skipped a beat at all. Obviously, you're inserting two real good players into the lineup, two real good pieces of the puzzle amongst other real good pieces."
The combination has all the right pieces. Andersson is a rugged 6-foot-2, 207-pound center who is hard to move in front of the net and a deft passer around it. He anchors the line flanked to the left by the intensity and energy of hard-working Tatar, and the finesse and skill of the touted Nyquist on the right.
The stats last season: Nyquist, 22-36-58 in 56 games; Tatar, 24-34-58 in 76 games, and Andersson, 21-30-51 in 73 games. Nyquist and Tatar tied for the team lead.
The numbers were headed for a repeat until the NHL lockout ended and injuries in Detroit prompted all three to spend time in Detroit. The numbers this season: Nyquist, 23-37-60 in 58 games; Tatar, 23-26-49 in 61 games, and Andersson, 10-17-27 in 36 games. In Detroit, Andersson and Nyquist joined with Damien Brunner on a third line that was productive in the playoffs as Andersson and Nyquist each had five points. Tatar, meanwhile, had been targeted – and getting pounded – by Oklahoma City as the primary offensive threat.
“ … If they want to play against me, then Andy and Gus can score pretty much every time,” Tatar said after Game 4. “So if they want to take away me … now they have to focus on a whole line.”
Andersson welcomed the reunion.
“We’ve played so much together from this season during the lockout, and last year, too, so we know what we have with each other,” Andersson said. “I enjoy playing with those two guys. They’re quick and skilled, so, yeah, we’re having fun being here.”
The Grand Rapids Griffins are one win away from their first trip to the Calder Cup Finals. Thanks to some stellar goaltending from Petr Mrazek, the Griffins shut out the Oklahoma City Barons on back-to-back nights, posting 4-0 and 3-0 wins on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, to take a 3-2 series lead. Now, the series shifts back to Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Arena for Games 6 and 7, with the Griffins needing just one win to advance to the final round of the AHL playoffs.
Speaking of Mrazek, his outstanding play between the pipes forced us to bend the rules for Michi-gamer a bit, and he kicks off this week’s list. Click this link to read why, and you’ll quickly understand.
If you’re within driving distance to Van Andel, we urge you to go to Game 6 tomorrow to support the team.
The Grifins would play the Syracuse Crunch in the Calder Cup Final if they beat the Barons on Tuesday or in a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday, as Wallner notes:
If the Grand Rapids Griffins make the Calder Cup finals, they will open Saturday at Syracuse.
The American Hockey League announced Monday the finals will begin Saturday, June 8, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena in Syracuse, N.Y., home of the Eastern Conference champion Syracuse Crunch.
The Crunch, in the finals for the first time in the franchise's 19-year history, will host the Western Conference champion in Game 1 on Saturday, June 8, at 7 p.m. (EDT), and in Game 2 on Sunday, June 9, at 6 p.m.
The Crunch's roster is comprised of a significant chunk of last year's Calder Cup champions, the Norfolk Admirals, as the Tampa Bay Lightning switched AHL affiliations last summer.
Games 3, 4 and (if necessary) 5 of the best-of-seven series will be at the home of the Western Conference champion, currently contested between Grand Rapids and Oklahoma City. Those dates were not announced.
Syracuse would host Games 6 and 7, also if necessary.
The AHL employs a 2-3-2 series format, thus the schedule...And there has been no news as to whether Danny DeKeyser will play for Grand Rapids after receiving medical clearance to return from his broken thumb tomorrow night.
- In news regarding the Griffins' parent club and a potential addition, Pro Hockey Talk's Jason Brough duly noted that, when ESPN's Pierre LeBrun pondered the emergence of Blackhawks forward and highly likey-to-leave unrestricted free agent Bryan Bickell, Bickell received a surprising endorsement:
"Big body, heavy wrist shot; doesn't mind finishing his checks," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock told ESPN.com via text message Sunday, his team having just witnessed what Bickell can do in the previous round.
"He's a force for them and it's what that team needs," a rival Western Conference executive told ESPN.com. "He's really come on for them. It's going to be interesting to see if they can re-sign him."
Oh yeah, that. It just so happens that Bickell is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 5. It's believed that the Blackhawks and Bickell's camp spoke in February, but those talks weren't serious in nature. The real stuff will have to wait until after the season is over.
"Bryan's complete focus is on winning playoff games and contributing to the success of the team in whatever way possible. Contractual issues will be dealt with at the appropriate time," Bickell's agent, Todd Diamond, said via email on Sunday.
The Blackhawks have tough decisions to make with the salary cap set to go down from $70.2 million to $64.3 million this offseason. Chicago will also have free-agent business this summer with Viktor Stalberg (unrestricted), Marcus Kruger (restricted), Nick Leddy (restricted), Michal Handzus (unrestricted), Michal Rozsival (unrestricted) and Ray Emery (unrestricted). Should the Hawks decide to buy out Steve Montador they would shed his $2.75 million cap hit, but that still leaves little wiggle room.
"I think we've got some plans in place, we got an idea where we're going to go with things," Bowman said last week in his pre-series news conference. "If you look back, really every team, they always have some new faces every year," Bowman said. "You don't have all the information yet. You can't have just one plan. You have a few different things that you're working on. We're all prepared. We understand what we want to do."
It could be an interesting year for power forwards on the July free-agent market with both David Clarkson and Ryane Clowe set to become unrestricted free agents.
If we are to believe MLive's Ansar Khan and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness--and I do--Bickell's at the top of the Wings' list in terms of adding a semi-affordable forward who can go to the front of the net, stay there, screen the opposing team's goalie and bang in rebounds...
- And in terms of a player who the Wings hope will serve as a significant roster reinforcement from within the organization, Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji took note of the comments made by Darren Helm during locker room clean-out day:
Helm, who injured his back lifting weights before the lockout-shortened season started, was limited to one game, Jan. 25 against the Minnesota Wild. Wings general manager Ken Holland said Helm had seen four doctors, and none of them found anything structurally wrong with his back.
"We're taking it a lot slower," Helm said after the Wings cleaned out their lockers Friday. "Before we had timelines on when I wanted to be healthy and get out there and play. Now I have a few months to work with and get healthy and ready for training camp."
Helm, 26, said he has not been on the ice lately and will hold off on that until he believes he's fully ready. Helm expressed confidence that he would be ready for training camp.
"It’s got to turn around," Helm said. "I’ve talked to a lot of people who have said it just takes time and you have to say positive and you have to hope it gets better."
Coach Mike Babcock did not sound quite as sure.
"He's a young man; we need him," Babcock said. "There's no one more sick to his stomach than Helmer over Helmer not playing. But two years in a row, we didn't have him at playoff time. We need him at playoff time. But we don't know what's going on. So here we are today, he's no closer today than he was at training camp this year. That's not a good sign. The optimist in me says he's a young man, they got to find (the cure), the medical profession is pretty good. We got to figure this out, and he's got to get back and playing."
- One more FYI:
Somewhat ironcially, CSKA Moscow's being particularly aggressively run by GM Sergei Fedorov this summer. Fedorov's been given the green light by the team's sponsor, Russian oil and natural gas giant Rosneft, to spend to re-establish CSKA Moscow's status as a gold standard of Russian hockey, and Sport-Express has reported that Fedorov's more or less completely overhaul the team's front office and coaching staff to build a team in his image, and he's oved very aggressively as CSKA's GM thus far.
- And in the Twitter department, it sounds like Jimmy Howard was one of the Wings' first players to engage in this week's set of exit interviews with the coaches and management today as the Wings posted the following from Howard...
Michigan Hockey may have been down at the Joe as well...
Ditto for Justin Abdelkader...
And while Cory Emmerton, Abdelkader, Danny DeKeyser, Jordin Tootoo, Brendan Smith and Pavel Datsyuk took in the Detroit Grand Prix this past weekend, Jakub Kindl was busy hanging out with a local celebrity you may or may not have heard of:
Update: It's incredibly easy to play All-Knowing Draft Expert in retrospect, so I don't like lamenting the players the Wings could have drafted in past entry drafts, but it is worth noting that NHL.com's trying to build a "dream" draft, and they suggested that Mike Green, who the Washington Capitals picked with the draft pick Detroit sent to the Capitals in the Robert Lang trade way back in 2004, is the best 29th overall draft pick ever.
Almost ten years later, even given Lang's contributions to the team during its 2007 playoff run, and even given Tomas Fleischmann and Green's injury issues, that trade looks way way way more painful than, say, surrendering Shawn Matthias for Todd Bertuzzi, or sending Sean Avery, Maxim Kuznetsov and the draft pick that would turn out to be Jeff Tambellini to Los Angeles for Mathieu Schneider...Or even the draft pick that became middling goalie prospect Andreu Vasilevski to Tampa Bay for Kyle Quincey.
Ian White played for four different teams in just two seasons before arriving in Detroit, where he thought he found stability. Instead, his tenure ended on a sour note this season. The defenseman who turns 29 on Tuesday will be on the move again.
“It’s real disappointing to have it end this way,'' White said. “When I came here, and after last year, I thought I might be able to have a long future here.''
He added, “I love playing here, it’s unfortunate that I didn’t get to play (regularly) this year. It’s probably somewhat doubtful that you bring back some guy that you’re not going to play. The most unfortunate part of our business is moving around all of the time and switching teams, but that’s the nature of the game.''
White won't be re-signed. If that wasn't obvious when he was scratched for the final nine regular season games and all 14 playoff games, coach Mike Babcock made it crystal clear during locker clean-out day Friday.
“It didn't go the way Whitey wanted it,'' Babcock said. “Whitey's a real good person, a real good man. We wish him luck.''
White's season started going downhill following a six-game stretch from Feb. 15-24 in which he posted a minus-6 rating. He was a healthy scratch the next six games. White appeared to re-establish himself, playing from mid-March to early April. But, after rookie Danny DeKeyser made his debut and immediately secured a regular spot in the lineup, White was the odd-man out again.
“I thought I was playing pretty well,'' White said. “I played seven games in a row and I was on the ice for one goal against. I scored a goal too. Not letting goals in is what I’m paid to do. For whatever reason I wasn’t in the mix. Sometimes that’s how it goes.”
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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.