The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/23/14 at 04:39 PM ET
Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha will be in the spotlight tonight as the Val-d'Or Foreurs' Memorial Cup semifinal game against the Edmonton Oil Kings (at 7 PM EDT, on Sportsnet and the NHL Network) is the only hockey game taking place this evening.
Val-d’Or’s biggest offensive weapon is slumping, by his standards. Five of the eight times he was held without a goal in back-to-back games this season, he bounced back with a multi-goal game. He will need a hat trick to return to his goal per game pace after two goalless games.
“If I get a hat trick, the chances that we win could be great,” he said Thursday.
Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart will be tasked with making it three straight games without a goal for his former world junior teammate. It’s a matchup of No. 8s that was only partly successful for the Oil Kings on Tuesday. Mantha may not have scored but he stole the puck from Reinhart in Edmonton’s defensive zone and created the tying goal.
“He’s a heck of a player,” Laxdal said of Mantha. “He’s a big, strong kid that’s got a knack for the net and he’s got deceiving speed for a big man and he’s got that kind of sneaky compete on pucks. He made a great play on their third goal.”
King continues with non-Mantha-related Val-d'Or vs. Edmonton notes.
Regarding the team that's waiting for the winner of tonight's game in Sunday's final (4 PM EDT on Sportsnet), the Guelph Mercury's Tony Saxon reported that Tyler Bertuzzi didn't practice with his Guelph Storm teammates today, but that may have something to do with the knee-on-knee hit he absorbed during Wednesday's win over the London Knights...
The Storm held its final full practice Friday in preparation for Sunday's Memorial Cup final against the winner of Friday night's semifinal between the Val-d'Or Foreurs and Edmonton Oil Kings.
Saturday the Storm will practice, but it will be a lighter pre-game day affair.
Two players, Ben Harpur and Tyler Bertuzzi, didn't practice Friday, instead getting treatment for minor ailments rather than skate at the freezing-cold rink at Western Fairgrounds arena. Both players will be fine for Sunday's big game.
And, in addition to discussing what the Storm are doing to keep their players out of trouble during their break between games, Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager suggests that Bertuzzi the younger is a legitimate candidate for the Memorial Cup's MVP award, much to the chagrin of his opponents:
It takes all kinds to win a Memorial Cup. The Guelph Storm with the strongest case for tourney MVP is Bertuzzi, who's scored five goals in three games and might have made several London dentists richer with all the jaw-grinding he caused in the Knights' season-ending loss. Bertuzzi has 19 potential answers to where he gets booed the most in the OHL — "Maybe North Bay in Game 4 (of the final), I got beer and popcorn spilled on me" — but hit the high note on Wednesday.
Bertuzzi flailed on the ice after being kneed by London's Nikita Zadorov in the second period, turning the rink into Boooooooodweiser Gardens every time he touched the puck. Then he went top shelf for his second goal of the night to restore a two-goal margin. That summed up how far the Detroit Red Wings second-round pick has come across three years in the OHL. As a rookie, he left the impression of being an undersized fighter, getting in 16 fights (which would now incur a suspension). Now he's sniping.
"My rookie year, I just needed to show what I could do whether it was fighting or being an agitator," said Bertuzzi, who will play in the final even though the run-in with the 6-foot-5, 228-pound Zadorov left him limping around. "It's fun, though. You get the guys going, you get the team going, you get the other team going. It makes the guys excited and it gets them energy."
Given Bertuzzi's rep, many eyebrows shot up when he went from a hobble-off on Wednesday to returning after missing only 70 seconds of action. He was hurt, just not injured: "There was only a period left and I knew we'd have three days off before the final."
And Sager reports that Bertuzzi is...different...
Following Game 3 of the OHL final, it was impossible to tell if Bertuzzi was acting or actually angry while he was absorbed in rooting through the trainer's case for a hair tie. The next night, after the 10-1 win where he got the beer dumped on him, Bertuzzi stood outside the rink by the idling bus meeting with family and friends. When the calls of "get on the bus Bert!" accumulated, he obliged, while leaving his equipment bag sitting in the arena hallway. Junior players are responsible for loading their bag on to the bus. Fortunately for the Storm, someone was able to retrieve it.
"That was funny," Dickinson says. "We thought we were going to have to turn around, and leave him there with the bag.
"He's a different character," adds Dickinson, who came to the Storm at the same time as Bertuzzi in 2011. "He's one of those guys where you got to let him do what he does and not even question it. He's just spacey. You never know what you're going to get with him, honestly. It's always something different."
Bertuzzi acknowledges he comes by that image honestly.
"I just like joking around," says the Sudbury, Ont., native, who's sprouted up to 6-foot-1 and 187 pounds. "I'm not really a serious guy."
Sager continues, and it sounds like Bertuzzi's a slightly speedier version of Mitch Callahan--the kind of player you love having on your team and hate having as an opponent.
On the other side of the Atlantic, tomorrow at 7:45 AM EDT, Russia will battle Gustav Nyquist's Swedes in one of the World Championship's two semifinal games in Minsk, Belarus, and Jakub Kindl's Czechs will participate in the other semifinal, battling Finland at 11:45 AM.
NBCSN will air the latter game, and its Live Extra website promises to stream the Russia-Sweden game.
The tale is similar for Sunday: Live Extra sates that it will air the Bronze Medal game at 9:30, but NBCSN will air the Gold Medal game at 2 PM.
I haven't seen too much Swedish-language stuff regarding tomorrow's Russia-Sweden game, but the Associated Foreign Press did speak with Nyquist regarding tomorrow's challenge:
[World Championship] title-holders Sweden will have to pass a tough test to retrain their crown for first time since 1992 in the Saturday's semi-final against 2012 winners Russia, who are seeking redemption for their Sochi Olympic flop.
The Swedes, who came to Minsk with a squad including ten players making their world championship debut, struggled throughout the preliminary round before winning a place in the last four by edging hosts Belarus 3-2.
This hard-fought win seems to have boosted the Scandinavians' confidence ahead of the dangerous semi-final confrontation with the Russians.
"They have those two superstars of course, but also a great team," Detroit Red Wings right winger Gustav Nyquist said of Russia and their leaders Alexander Ovechkin and Yevgeny Malkin. "But we're good too and have shown what we can do. It'll be a tight game. The results in the quarter-finals goes to show that any team of the four remaining can win this."
Russia, the only team with a perfect record at the event, look favourites to win with strong performances in all areas of the ice, including defense, allowing just seven goals in eight matches.
As for the goalies, Sergei Bobrovsky, Russia's only Vezina Trophy winner, given to the best NHL goaltender of the year, has been shining in net and providing a source of quiet confidence for his teammates in the dressing room. Russian manager Oleg Znarok has named Bobrovsky the starter for the remainder of the championship.
I'm guessing that the IIHF will announce Justin Abdelkader's suspension tomorrow to have as many eyes on that suspension as possible. On Friday, they announced that the 2018 Worlds will take place in Denmark.
Otherwise, from Twitter, the Joe Kocur Foundation is preparing for its August celebrity softball game...
And the Grand Rapids Griffins' 2014-2015 schedule won't be announced until late July or early August, but the AHL did give the Griffins a heads-up as to when their home opener will take place:
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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.