The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/17/13 at 04:32 AM ET
Updated 2x at 5:30 AM with Hockeysverige.se's Uffe Bodin's conversation with Hakan Andersson about Calle Jarnkrok, Adam Almqvist and other top prospects:
The Detroit Red Wings flew out to Calgary after a brief practice and the announcement of Jimmy Howard's contract extension on Tuesday, and tonight they'll tangle with a team they simply must defeat in the Calgary Flames (9:30 PM EDT, FSD Plus/TSN/97.1 FM).
I'm sure the Wings did some scoreboard-watching on Tuesday evening, and while the 20-15-and-7 Wings remain in 8th place in the Western Conference with 47 points and 18 Regulation-or-Overtime Wins, the St. Louis Blues pushed themselves to the 50-point mark via a 2-1 shootout win over Vancouver (St. Louis now has 24 wins and 20 ROWs), the Minnesota Wild hit 51 points via a 5-3 win over Edmonton (Minnesota has 24 wins and 20 ROWs), and both the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings earned points in San Jose's 3-2 shootout win (San Jose now has 53 points, 23 wins and 16 ROWs; LA has 53 points, 24 wins and 22 ROWs).
Now here's where things get tricky: the Wings continue to have a game in hand over Columbus (which has 47 points, 20 wins and 15 ROWs, 43 games played) because the Blue Jackets play in Anaheim tonight, but the Dallas Stars (45 points, 21 wins, 19 ROWs), Blues (again, 50 points, 24 wins, 20 ROWs) and Phoenix Coyotes (43 points, 18 wins, 15 ROWs) will have games in hand when the Wings play game 43 this evening.
And oh yeah, by the way, LA's in 4th place, San Jose's in 5th place, Minnesota's in 6th place, St. Louis is in 7th place, Detroit's in 8th place, Columbus is in 9th place, Dallas is in 10th place and Phoenix is in 11th place.
Long story short, the race for 8th has come down to St. Louis, Detroit, Columbus, Dallas and Phoenix, and 2 of the 5 teams are going to get in. The fact that Columbus and Phoenix have fewer ROWs than the Wings do (18 to 15) helps, but it hurts in the case of the Stars (19) and Blues (20).
The fact that the Wings' remaining games stack up as they do (@ Calgary tonight, @ Vancouver on Saturday the 20th, vs. Phoenix on Monday the 22nd, vs. LA on Wednesday the 24th, vs. Nashville on Thursday the 25th and @ Dallas on Saturday the 27th) is the reason the NBC Sports Network usurped the season finale against Dallas (and no, we don't know whether they've stolen the game from Fox Sports Detroit as well).
As noted in the practice post, the Detroit Free Press's George Sipple posted a video of Wings coach Mike Babcock's take on the Wings' situation...
As did MLive's Brendan Savage...
And the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa took note of Babcock's comments (while noting that Howard starts tonight and that the Wings brought Todd Bertuzzi on their trip)...
"What's tougher to play?" Babcock asked. "A team that knows they're in? A bunch of kids that are up trying to impress? A bunch of guys who are trying to fight for their job? I don't know the answer to any of those things. I just know we have a game against Calgary, and we have a good preparation day here today and we fly there, get up and get something to eat and then get after her."
Niklas Kronwall said the general attitude is play the games as they come, as best as they can be played.
"I think at the end of the day, if we look after our own business, we should be in good shape," Kronwall said.
While they are one of seven teams competing for the final five playoff spots, the Red Wings like their chances.
"More than anything, I think we understand the position we're in," Babcock said. "We're set up good in that we can control what's happening to us. I think the team's really engaged. I think we've played real hard here, of late. The last game I didn't like was in Phoenix (April 4); other than that I think we've played real well."
As did the aforementioned MLive's Savage...
"We've had that [urgency] for a bit of time here, understanding the position and that the position changes on a nightly basis whether you're playing or not playing," Babcock said. "We're set up good where we can control what happens to us. We've played real hard here of late. The last game I didn't like was in Phoenix. Other than that, I think we've played really well. Do we always come out on top? No. We've lost in shootouts. But the team has played hard. I like the way we're going and obviously we have a huge game in Calgary."
After facing the Flames, the Red Wings will visit Vancouver Saturday before playing three straight at home against Phoenix, Los Angeles and Nashville. They'll close the season April 27 in Dallas.
Vancouver and L.A. are both holding down playoff spots while Dallas (21-18-3) trails the eighth-place Red Wings (20-15-7) by two points in the Western Conference with Phoenix (18-17-7) four back of Detroit.
Babcock isn't worrying about the schedule.
"We still got to play," he said. "What's tougher to play, a team that knows they're in (or) a bunch of kids that are up trying to impress, fighting for jobs? I don't know the answer to any of those things. I just know we have a tough game against Calgary."
Emphasis on tough, mostly because the Flames have handed the Wings losses in both of their previous meetings, handing the Wings a 5-2 loss at the Joe on February 5th and a 5-2 loss in Calgary on March 13th.
Despite having traded Jarome Iginla away, the Flames rebounded from a 4-game winless streak at the beginning of the month and have gone 3-and-2 since, alternating wins and losses. On Monday, with NCAA free agent signing Ben Hankowski in tow, the Flames dropped a 4-3 decision to the Wild, and almost all went well on Monday, as the Calgary Herald's Vicki Hall noted:
In storybook fashion, Hanowski ended up collecting his first NHL goal in his first NHL game on his first day as a pro.
The only downer of the day? The final score. In spite of a spirited showing from the fuzzy-faced youngsters, the Flames fell 4-3 to a Wild team battling for playoff position in the tight Western Conference.
“It’s good to see the kids come in and gets some points, get some goals,” said assistant captain Curtis Glencross. “We’re building. It’s the little things that we’re working on right now that are going to make us better down the road.”
From a coaching perspective, the Flames played too loose in their zone against a trapping Wild team known to pounce on any opportunity.
But in the bigger picture, the 28th-place Flames gave their fans reason to be happy on a couple different levels. The kids showed promise, but the team failed to gain two points in the standings – two points that could prove costly in Calgary’s quest to pick first overall at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Strange times, indeed.
“We have plenty of young players,” said head coach Bob Hartley. “What’s the sense in calling them up if we’re going to keep them on the bench and not put them in some key situations? We want to invest in our young players. What’s (better) than for them to show what they’ve got?”
CalgaryFlames.com's Torrie Peterson described the game as follows...
Trying to rally from a three-goal deficit late in the third period, Calgary's comeback fell just short as the Wild downed the Flames 4-3 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday. The loss snaps Calgary's two-game winning streak, taking three of a possible four points away from the Phoenix Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers -- significantly hampering both teams' playoff aspirations.
The Flames almost managed to put a dent in Minnesota's with a strong third period. Trailing 2-0 heading into final frame, Jiri Hudler capped a nifty three-way passing play from fellow Czechs Roman Horak and Roman Cervenka, redirecting the puck behind starter Niklas Backstrom at 3:42.
That goal, however, sparked Minnesota. Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored 11 seconds later, while Jason Pominville added his second of the game at 5:06 to give the Wild a 4-1 lead.
With his first career NHL goal, Ben Hanowski cut that lead to 4-2 at 11:19, sliding the puck through Backstrom during a crease scramble.
With Joey MacDonald on the bench for an extra attacker, Sven Baertschi converted a cross-crease pass from Mike Cammalleri with 39 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to one, as close as Calgary would come.
Desperate for two points in a tight Western Conference playoff race, the Wild wasted no time putting the puck behind MacDonald, scoring their first opportunity of the game.
Mikko Koivu put Minnesota up 1-0, burying a Zach Parise rebound just 2:1 into the game.
Pominville extended that lead to two in the second period, corralling Ryan Suter's wide point shot off the far post and tucking it across the goal line before MacDonald could get across.
And while MacDonald's performance in the Flames' crease (7-7-and-1 with a 2.91 GAA and a .900 save percentage) earned raves from both CalgaryFlames.com's Aaron Vickers and one of the best in the business in the Calgary Herald's George Johnson, who both believe that the 33-year-old MacDonald will earn a contract extension with the Flames going forward...
Miikka Kiprusoff will oppose Jimmy Howard tonight (it's not exactly holy crap the NHL is going to have six outdoor games in 2014 scene-stealing news, but it certainly changes the narrative), and as the Flames have only one more home game after tonight--they host the Ducks on Friday and end the season with a 4-game road trip--and, as the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak notes, those who watch the Flames believe that this might be "Kipper's" last start in the Saddledome:
Kiprusoff is pegged to start Wednesday's clash with the Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m., TSN, Sportsnet 960), with the very real possibility he'll retire after this season, it may be his last game before the Sea of Red.
"Yeah, I've thought about it, especially now when you bring it up," Kiprusoff said after Tuesday's practice. That decision, 'What I'm going to do for the future?' I'm going to make it in the summertime."
The general consensus is Kiprusoff, who has one season remaining on his contract, has already decided he will call it a career after this NHL season, meaning the clash with the Red Wings and possibly Friday's tilt versus the Anaheim Ducks would be the swansong in the Stampede City. Nobody is saying it's 100% certain Kiprusoff, an intensely private person, will skate off into the sunset, but those around him are bracing for a goodbye and noting fans should, too.
"A little finality, him saying he will for sure retire, would make it more special," said Flames goalie coach Clint Malarchuk. "But I think we have to treat it like a farewell."
Conroy added: "Nine years of amazing here for us. I want everyone to say goodbye."
Kiprusoff wouldn't confirm or deny whether the last six regular-season games will be his last in the NHL. One one hand, even with the disappointing season for both himself and the Flames, he still has the skills to play at least another year or two. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine a netminder who will turn 37 years old in October would want to be part of a rebuilding team.
"Those things are more for the summer. We can talk about it in the summer if you fly over," said Kiprusoff, who's known for disappearing from sight in his native Finland for the off-season. "I don't think it's the right time right now to make any decisions. We'll see after the season is over and go from there."
So the Calgary Sun's Eric Francis paid tribute to Kiprusoff, the Sportak named two of Kiprusoff's playoff performance against the Wings among his Kipper's "Top 5," the Calgary Herald's George Johnson asked Kiprusoff's long-time goalie coach, David Marcoux, to weigh in on Kiprusoff's legacy, the Calgary Herald's Scott Crucikshank spoke to Clint Malarchuk, Craig Conroy and Martin Gelinas and Kiprusoff's current teammates about Kiprusoff's legacy, and the Calgary Herald's George Johnson very eloquently both paid tribute to Kiprusoff while breaking the situation down to brass tacks:
Deep down, in his heart, you sense, he’s made the call. With a year left on a contract that dips to $1.5 million next season, faced at 36 with the drawn-out pain of an organizational rebuild, dissatisfied with the season he’s suffered through and his workload since returning from a month-long knee injury, there seems no way back now.
The timbre of Kiprusoff’s voice, his very body-language belies the political correctness of the “wait-until-summer” mantra he’s adopted since trade-deadline day. When he says “I don’t think it’s the right time to make any decisions” it can be interpreted as “I don’t think it’s the right time to announce my decision.”
Two starts remain at the Scotiabank Saddledome before the Flames embark on a four-game road junket to play out yet another string of another season gone wrong. Kiprusoff, after three games perched on the end of the bench modelling ball caps and nursing a suspicious “twisted arm” injury, gets the call Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings.
Friday against the Anaheim Ducks is, well, anyone’s guess.
“Mac (Joey MacDonald) has been red-hot,” said Kiprusoff diplomatically. “He’s playing so well. They don’t want to change the goalie that’s playing that well. But I’m getting my chance (tonight) and I’ll try to do my best.”
So that's swell and all, Kipper's playing tonight. That's "the story."
But what else do you need to know about tonight's game from a Wings fan's perspective? Swiss Flames prospect Sven Baertschi will play opposite Damien Brunner tonight, and the Calgary Sun's Scott Fisher says that Baertsch's rounding into everyday player form. CalgaryFlames.com's Aaron Vickers reports that Matt Stajan will probably play tonight...
For the first time since suffering an upper body injury against the Colorado Avalanche that forced him out of the past four games, Matt Stajan returned to practice without a non-contact jersey, indicating a return could be near for the veteran. That return could be as soon as Wednesday when the Calgary Flames host the Detroit Red Wings at Scotiabank Saddledome.
"I got to take a regular shift in practice today so, play like I'm going to play and hope everything feels good tomorrow and I can go," Stajan said.
Coach Bob Hartley's plan is to have the 29-year-old back in the fold against the Red Wings, but a decision on Stajan hinges on the medical staff.
"I'm quite hopeful he's going to be in the lineup tomorrow," Hartley said. "The medical staff, I'm looking whether this afternoon or tomorrow morning, he should give me the green light unless something bad would happen. We'll just have to wait and see."
Stajan has five goals and 23 points in 38 games this season.
And the Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank believes that the Flames will dress the following lineup this evening:
* S.Baertschi M.Stajan L.Stempniak
* C.Glencross M.Backlund J.Hudler
* M.Cammalleri R.Horak B.Hanowski
* S.Begin M.Reinhart T.Jackman
* M.Giordano C.Sarich
* T.J.Brodie D.Wideman
* C.Butler B.Carson
* D Derek Smith (knee), LW Alex Tanguay (knee), RW Brian McGrattan (shoulder)
NHL..com's Tal Pinchevsky sets up the game via a balanced preview...
Last 10: Detroit 4-4-2; Calgary 3-7-0
Season series: This is the third and final meeting this season between these teams. The Calgary Flames won the previous two, including a 5-2 win at the Scotiabank Saddledome on March 13. These clubs split the four games they played last season.
Red Wings [team scope]: Three straight Detroit losses last week, coupled with hot streaks from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars, suddenly placed the Red Wings outside of the top eight in the West. After being a League powerhouse for roughly two decades, this Red Wings team would have to battle to qualify for the postseason.
The mission to do that started in Nashville on Sunday for the second contest in a four-game road swing that started Friday with a 3-2 shootout loss in Chicago. Against the Predators, Detroit started out on its heels, allowing 13 Nashville shots in a fast-paced first period. Goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped all of them, giving Detroit a chance to open the scoring in the second when Henrik Zetterberg beat Pekka Rinne, giving recent college free-agent signee and Detroit native Danny DeKeyser his first NHL point.
Flames [team scope]: Calgary effectively ended its season by dealing captain Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Trade Deadline. The Flames lost five straight games immediately after trading the longtime face of their franchise, but won three of their next four before hosting the Minnesota Wild on Monday.
Who's hot: For Detroit, Zetterberg has six points in his past six games while Franzen has scored in each of his past two games. Pavel Datsyuk has five points in his past five games. … Flames defenseman Mark Giordano has five points in his past six games while Hudler has three points in his current three-game point streak.
Injury report: Red Wings forwards Darren Helm (back), Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Mikael Samuelsson (upper body) are all out. … Flames wing Alex Tanguay is out for the remainder of the season with a knee sprain while forwards Matt Stajan (upper body) and Brian McGrattan (shoulder) and defenseman Derek Smith (lower body) are questionable.
The AP's game preview adds stats to the mix...
Though the Flames are all but assured of missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season, they're not laying down. They've outscored Detroit 9-3 in winning both meetings this season.
Calgary (16-22-4), despite dressing mostly young prospects due to trades and injuries, had won three of four prior to a 4-3 loss to Minnesota on Monday that began a three-game homestand.
Curtis Glencross had an assist after missing Saturday's win over Edmonton with the flu. Glencross has scored in each meeting with Detroit and has six goals and four assists in his last six games versus the Red Wings.
Though Miikka Kiprusoff has a 4.12 goals-against average while losing his last six starts, he's been solid against Detroit. Kiprusoff made 19 saves through two periods before suffering a sprained MCL that would keep him out more than a month in a 4-1 win over Detroit on Feb. 5. He then stopped 36 shots in a 5-2 victory over the Wings on March 13.
Howard has a 3.13 GAA in his last six starts versus the Flames, who have won four of the last six overall meetings. Detroit had taken five of six matchups in Calgary prior to the defeat last month.
And, strangely enough, CalgaryFlames.com's Aaron Vickers scouts the Wings thoroughly enough that he provides us with our first "Red Wings perspective" on tonight's game:
JOHAN FRANZEN: Scoring goals in back-to-back games, recording points in three straight and with seven points in his previous seven games, Franzen is helping Detroit's march toward a 22nd consecutive playoff appearance. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound winger with a penchant for productive playoff performances is heating up at just the right time for the Red Wings and has nine goals and 25 points in 35 games this season.
NIKLAS KRONWALL: Though he's third in scoring for the Red Wings this season behind Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, Kronwall is pointless in his past four outings despite averaging over 25 minutes of action over that span - the longest drought he's had since a five-game stretch in February. Still, Kronwall's contributions run deeper than just offense, though the 6-foot, 190-pound rearguard does have 21 assists and 26 points in 42 games this season
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
JUSTIN ABDELKADER: Abdelkader's contributions to the Red Wings goes well beyond his 11 points in 42 games this season. The pesky 26-year-old leads Detroit in hits with 104. Despite the shortened season, the Muskegon, MI product has already set a new career high in goals with nine, eclipsing his mark of eight in 81 games a year ago.
PAVEL DATSYUK: Arguably the top two-way center in the National Hockey League, Datsyuk has continued his assault at both ends of the ice this season. The 34-year-old leads the Red Wings in goals with 13, points with 41 in 41 games as well as plus/minus with a plus-15 mark. Datsyuk currently sits 14th in the league in points.
JORDIN TOOTOO: A perennial disturber, Tootoo has frustrated Detroit opponents to no end this season. No stranger to sticking up for himself after causing a disruption, Tootoo has team-leading eight fights this season, while his 78 penalty minutes is also tops among teammates.
Of all people, Valtteri Filppula spoke to DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose about Franzen's production...
The Wings have earned points in three straight games, including Sunday’s 3-0 victory at Nashville, where Johan Franzen scored a goal in the second consecutive game. The Mule now has seven points in the last seven games, 16 points in the last 23 games since returning from a hip injury in February.
“He’s a great player, big, strong and quick on his feet. Plus, he’s got a good set of hands,” said Valtteri Filppula, who along with Daniel Cleary has played a wing position on Franzen’s line recently. “He’s been important for us, scoring some key goals down the stretch and everybody knows how he plays in the playoffs, so it’s a good start that he’s playing well right now.”
The postseason has definitely been the Mule’s time of year. He is among the top 20 players in the league with 73 points in 88 career playoff games, and last week, Babcock referred to him as the team’s X-factor heading down the home stretch.
Besides Franzen’s recent point outburst, Filppula likes that he’s playing hard in the corners and making it quite difficult for the opposition to get the puck away from the team’s biggest forward. But Filppula also credits all four forward lines for stepping it up lately.
“I think we’re been playing well with the four lines going good and being able to spend more time in the opponent’s end, and I feel that when you go to a seven-game series, even if you don’t score, you’re wearing down the other team and that becomes very important,” Filppula said. “I think that’s definitely one thing that we’ve tried to focus on, have four lines going and making it harder for the opponent.”
Whether it will pan out for Bertuzzi this year remains to be seen. The big forward, whose finesse with shootout attempts only adds to the reasons the Wings miss him, said that he had nothing new to report on the condition of his back — an extreme soreness that weeks ago migrated to his upper right leg.
He does look big, of course, and aggressive on the ice in practices. There is some chance Bertuzzi will return to the lineup next week.
Darren Helm practiced Tuesday, but Babcock said he is unlikely to play this year. Mikael Samuelsson worked out after practice.
Today's "story" involves the fact that the Wings chose not to send Brian Lashoff down to Grand Rapids, because while Lashoff told MLive's Brendan Savage that he's not particularly comfortable with playing only once since Danny DeKeyser joined the lineup twelve days ago, he wants to be with the Wings--who wouldn't have been able to recall him unless they couldn't dress six defensemen...
"It's a tough thing," Lashoff said. "I wasn't really thinking about it. Obviously I wasn't in the lineup. It comes across your mind. I was told (Sunday) morning I was going down and I prepared to go home the next day and go to GR then they told me that night I was staying. Things can change in a day. That's just the way it is.
"This is where I want to be, in the NHL, and obviously I want to play, but I'm biding my time and waiting for a chance to get back in the lineup. Ultimately I want to be in the NHL and I want to be an NHL player. It's a tough situation with rules and stuff like that, but at the end of the day I really can't worry about that.
"I've just got to prepare to play and hopefully I'll get back in the lineup here and get another opportunity. My goal is to stay and get another opportunity."
It's his coach who's kind of pissed off about the fact that Lashoff, Carlo Colaiacovo, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith and and Ian White haven't been able to sort out which player merits dressing as the team's 6th defenseman on a game-by-game basis, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted:
“Right now I’ve got five guys that seem to be in on a nightly basis,” Babcock said. “It’s been a rotation. I don’t want a rotation.”
Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Kyle Quincey and Danny DeKeyser are in, while Brendan Smith, Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo and Lashoff are competing for that sixth spot.
“I want somebody to grab it and keep it,” Babcock said. “I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do in Calgary.”
In the prospect department, the Red Wings' ECHL affiliate, the Toledo Walleye, looked like they were going to force a 7th game in their first-round series against the Cincinnati Cyclones...Until five seconds remained in Game 6.
The Walleye surrendered 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 leads with game-tying goal scored at 19:55 of the 3rd period, and the Walleye gave up the series-winning goal all of 3:10 of play later, dropping a 4-3 OT decision to Cincinnati which ended Toledo's season.
I'll let the Walleye's website tell the story...
The Walleye came within five seconds of forcing a Game 7. The Cyclones scored in the final moment to tie the game at three and force overtime. A Cincinnati goal three minutes into extra time ended the Walleye season as they Cyclones took the series, four games to two. Thank you for a great season Walleye fans!
Both teams played a back and forth first period with the Walleye having several scoring chances. Trevor Parkes would finally break the 0-0 tie with just 26 seconds remaining in the opening period after he lifted a puck into the back of the Cincinnati goal. Joey Martin and Adam Hobson would collect the helpers on Parkes’ third goal of the playoffs.
Walleye goaltender Jordan Pearce remained solid in net, stopping the eight shots on goal he faced.
Toledo and Cincinnati continued their strong play in the second period, with the Walleye recording 18 shots on goal and the Cyclones putting 17 shots at Pearce. Cincinnati climbed back in the game at the 16:22 mark of the middle period after Michael Pelech scored a goal from behind the Toledo net, tying it up at 1-1.
The Walleye would pull ahead by a goal 2:50 into the third period after Andrej Nestrasil took a pass from Byron Froese and rifled a shot behind Michael Houser. Willie Coetzee also assisted on the power play goal. David Pacan would answer right back for the Cyclones, tying the game up at 2-2.
Toledo would take their third lead of the night, once again on the power play. Martin slammed home a rebound to the side on the Cincinnati goal to take a 3-2 lead at the 10:34 mark of the third period. Parkes and Froese each picked up assists on Martin’s third goal of the playoffs. Cincinnati would tie the game up at 3-3 with 5 seconds to play in the third period from Garrett Wilson.
Cincinnati would score 3:05 into the overtime period to lift them to a 4-3 win and take the best-of-seven series four game to two.
The Walleye's YouTube channel posted a highlight clip from the game...
And the Toledo Blade's Mark Monroe tells the tale with quotes:
The Toledo Walleye were five seconds away from extending their season but instead saw it end in stunning fashion on Tuesday after the Cyclones rallied for a 4-3 win in overtime in an ECHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
The Cyclones three times rallied from one-goal deficits before a crowd of 4,333 in Game 6 at the Huntington Center. Cincinnati's Mathieu Aubin ended Toledo's season 3:05 into overtime. The Cyclones won the series 4-2.
With the game tied at 2 in regulation, Joey Martin put Toledo ahead with a power play goal with 9:36 left in the game. But stunningly — with their goalie pulled — Cincinnati tied the game up at 3 with 5.1 seconds left in regulation.
“That was a kick to the stomach,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “Some of those were just lady luck goals. We played hard and well. We had guys trapped out there. It's frustrating and disappointing. But that's what makes this game so great.”
In the waning moments, Walleye goalie Jordan Pearce was on his back, then belly, and finally on his knees as the Cyclones desperately pressed. Garrett Wilson shot the puck from behind the net and it deflected off of Toledo’s Max Nicastro and into the net.
“It's devastating especially when we had the game and they scored a fluke goal to tie it,” Martin said. “But I'm proud of everyone. We battled right to the end. Not much you can do now. Lucky bounces are part of playoff hockey.”
Jordan Pearce and Trevor Parkes talked to the Toledo Free Press's Vincent D. Scebbi about the game as well:
“You always want to go out fighting,” Pearce said. “Honestly, it was a tough situation but when you’re back’s against the wall, you have nothing left to do but go out there and play as hard as you can … we almost forced a Game 7.”
With a minute to play, the Cyclones pulled Houser for the extra attacker and kept the puck deep in Toledo’s defensive zone. During a scramble in front of Pearce, the puck moved back behind the goal. There was a delayed penalty was called on Martin, most likely for boarding. Wilson came behind the net from the left side, picked up the loose puck and sent it off Nicastro’s leg.
“Sometimes the puck just has eyes and three-out-of-four of them you don’t even know they go in, but they go in,” Pearce said. “It’s unfortunate, ending our season that way.”
Parkes said if Toledo would have held on and won the game in regulation, there was “no doubt” the Walleye would win Game 7 and move on to the next round.
“Momentum comes if we would’ve come back from three straight; it would’ve been in our hands,” he said. “Tonight was in our hands. We had all the confidence, everything was going our way.”
The Cyclones face the Gwinnett Gladiators in the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs with the series beginning April 19. As for Toledo, Pearce said he hopes the team can learn from it going into next season.
“A lot of these young guys, hopefully they take it as a lesson and never give up and some of the older guys that are done, we had a great season,” he said. “It’s nothing to be disappointed about.”
Parkes, Andrej Nestrasil and Willie Coetzee will probably join the Grand Rapids Griffins' ranks, but Pearce may or may not be done playing professional hockey, as the Toledo Blade's Monroe noted:
Pearce, who is at the tail end of a two-year minor league contract with the Detroit Red Wings, has stepped up his play in the postseason. A Notre Dame graduate, Pearce majored in pre-med and anthropology and plans to become a physician after he hangs up his skates.
The native of Anchorage, Alaska, has not reached the highest level. He had his best year in 2010-11 with Grand Rapids when he went 20-15-5 and had a 2.89 goals-against average. He got off to a hot start this season with the Walleye before struggling at times later in the season. He had a 15-11-3 record with a 2.76 GAA.
Rookie goalie Kent Simpson got hot down the stretch, and Pearce had not started since March 29 when he was pulled from that game after one period. Pearce gave up four goals on 12 shots at Wheeling and was replaced by Simpson. Simpson started six straight games in early to mid-March. Pearce left the team briefly to attend his brother’s wedding during the span.
Pearce was solid in a 3-2 win in double overtime in Game 4 and was phenomenal in a 3-1 victory in Game 5. Entering Tuesday’s game, Pearce was third in the ECHL with a 1.18 goals-against average.
“I’m not sure what Jordan is going to do,” Vitucci said. “He has a great education to fall back on. We have a lot of guys in our locker room that we don’t know whether they will retire or not.”
Pearce has said after his pro career is over, he plans to go back to medical school and perhaps become an orthopedic surgeon.
“I'd take him back with open arms if he’s a free agent goalie,” Vitucci said.
That may be his only option given that the Wings have Petr Mrazek starring in Grand Rapids, given that they've signed Jared Coreau and given that Tom McCollum's future with the organization is just as murky as Pearce's--but Pearce is going to be 27 in October, whereas McCollum's 23, Coreau is only 21, as is Mrazek, and Jake Paterson, who's practicing with Grand Rapids but won't play for them, will turn 19 in May.
"Not only do I think he's a really good goaltender, for our organization, it's stability," general manager Ken Holland said. "It's a really, really important position. We've got a player that wants to be here, that's grown up through our system, has gotten better every year."
Holland said Howard is in the prime of his career.
"If you look at the contract that we signed, we're going to wake up in a year and maybe there's going to be eight or 10 goaltenders that are going to make more than Jimmy Howard," Holland said. "We got a number that Jimmy felt comfortable with, that we felt comfortable with. ... This deal for us and for Jimmy gives him security, gives us security, stability.
"In the next year, we're going to wake up and it's going to be a real good cap number in relation, a fair cap number, in relation to what other people in the league are making."
That is the truth--it's market value--and here's what Niklas Kronwall had to say about his teammate's payday while speaking to the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
In each of Howard’s first two full seasons in Detroit he recorded 37 wins, becoming the only goalie in Wings history to win at least 35 games in each of his first two seasons. He struggled in his first postseason with the team, but then rebounded the following year in the playoffs, which coincidentally was the same season he worked out a new two-year deal with the team.
“He’s been so stellar for us, the backbone of our team,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall. “He’s been nothing but great for us all year and given us a chance to win every night. You can’t say enough good things about him. If you watch enough of our games you can see that he means so much to our team and organization. We’re definitely happy to have him with us.”
In charitable news, the Windsor Star's Taylor Renkema notes that the 3rd Annual Bob Probert Ride has named its "Ride Captain":
Former Chicago Blackhawks right-winger Tony Amonte has been named honourary ride captain for the third-annual Bob Probert Memorial Ride. A former NHL star known in Windsor for his time with the Detroit Red Wings, Probert died in July 2010 of heart failure while boating with his family on Lake St. Clair. He was 45.
Probert’s daughter Brogan announced Tuesday morning that Amonte would be the captain for this year’s ride on June 23.
“Tony, together with his wife Laurie and their children are very important to our family, and we couldn’t be more pleased that he will be at the ride this year,” she said.
The ride is held in partnership with the Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital Foundation, and CAW locals 444 and 2458, to help raise awareness and money for the hospital’s angioplasty program.
Bill Marra, president and executive director of the Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital Foundation, said the first two rides generated more than $210,000. That total doesn’t include any donations so far this year, he said.
The Windsor Star posted a video of the announcement:
As an FYI, part 1: TSN's Bob McKenzie says that a poll of 25 of the NHL's 30 coaches had Pavel Datsyuk finishing just behind Jonathan Toews as the Western Conference's Selke Trophy winner;
As an FYI, part 2: I'm not going to comment on the latest, "We are the REAL Hockeytown" article, this time penned by the Duluth News Tribune's Rick Lubbers, other than to say that I'm not making an entry out of it;
As an FYI, part 3: Fox Sports' A.J. Perez penned a set of power rankings on Tuesday night, and here's his take on the state of the Wings:
15 Red Wings: Detroit is cutting it close in its bid to make it into the postseason for a 22nd consecutive season. Working in the Wings' favor is the fact only two of their final six opponents (Vancouver and Los Angeles) are currently playoff teams.
And in the real life category, the Free Press's George Sipple spoke to Patrick Eaves and Mike Babcock about what happened in Boston...
Detroit Red Wings forward Patrick Eaves played hockey at Boston College, making Monday's bombing at the Boston Marathon hit home a little more.
“It was tough,” Eaves said today about the incident that left three dead and more than 170 injured.
Eaves said he had good memories of being in Boston for “Marathon Monday.”
“School was shut down that day, the whole city shut down,” Eaves said. “It’s a historic event. A lot of people come in from out of town and enjoy the city.”
As did the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
“It makes you sick to your stomach,” Babcock said after practice Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. “The people there are preparing to have one of the greatest days of their lives. I remember when my wife ran her first marathon. The jubilation at the end there in L.A. was unbelievable. You’re there for a family event and then you hear an 8-year-old boy lost his life. The whole thing is enough to make you sick.”
The bombs, that exploded seconds apart, were set up near the finish line, and killed three and wounded more than 170.
“It’s hard to believe that this could be caused by human beings because you wouldn’t think a human would be involved in something like this,” Babcock said. “The reality of the situation is, the great part about living in the free part of the world, is that it’s free so people do things that sometimes you would rather not happen. The reality is you’re not going to let them get in the way of something you love to do and I’m sure the government and the state, everyone involved, is going to do whatever they can to try and be as safe as we can. But it was a tragic and horrible day.”
Babcock feels NHL security is good, but something could still go wrong if someone wanted it to at a league arena.
“NHL security does what they can,” Babcock said. “Things can go wrong. It’s part of living in the free part of the world, there are going to be things that go wrong, but in saying all that you can’t let people, I don’t believe anyway, get in a way of what you love to do.
“Our thoughts and our prayers go out to those families that were involved,” Babcock continued. “It’s a sickening, sickening thing. In saying that I assume they’re really going to heighten security right now. You’d like to think things like this would never happen again, but you and I know that won’t be the case. It’s sad.”
What he said.
Update: at 4:35 in the morning, HockeySverige.se's Uffe Bodin posted an interview with Hakan Andersson...And I guess I have to translate it. Roughly translate, anyway, and I'm skipping the lead-up to his Q and A...Because I'm really tired. Here goes...
The first thing he mentions when we discuss this year's season is the injuries that have befallen the team. Players like Mikael Samuelsson, Carlo Colaiacovo, Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm and Brendan Smith have had their seasons significantly cut.
"Someone told me that we had the most 'man games lost' in the entire league. It's been a pretty extreme situation, and of course it's affected the outcome to some extent," says Hakan Andersson, who still believes that there's a deep-rooted optimism on the team.
"The locker room believes that it's going to be able to do something good now that it's just getting healthy. We played on even terms with Chicago and several of the other top teams, so it could be interesting if we only get into the playoffs."
"We may not belong to the list of absolutely top teams like Chicago, Pittsburgh and Anaheim, but Los Angeles went all the way after the came into the playoffs as the eighth-place team, so we can do it."
The extreme injury situation has paved the way for many younger players. In the absence of the injured, more and more young men were called up from the AHL and took more prominent roles than they were intended to take.
"At least for some forwards--Joakim Andersson, Tatar, Nyquist, and so on--they've proceeded a little faster than they were supposed to. These guys have received invaluable experience this season, and that's good for next season. It happens a little quickly, a little bit on 'fast forward,' but in the long run it will benefit our team. These players have bright NHL futures," says Hakan Andersson when I reach him in a traffic jam outside Stockholm.
"For the defensemen, it's been somewhat similar. There have been several younger guys who look exciting, but above all, I think we will have a pretty damn good back end in a few years when guys like Mattias Backman, Danny DeKeyser and especially Alexei Marchenko are ready."
Marchenko was drafted in the seventh round in 2011, and he's a player Andersson's passionate about.
"He's a 1992-born Russian who flew under the radar a little bit because he just missed participating in the World Junior Championships last year. We've gotten a guy who's been a regular in the KHL, was offered a very good contract (by CSKA Moscow) but wants very much to come to America and play for us, so he took a shorter KHL contract to do just that." kkkkkkkkkkk"But it goes with defensemen like it does for goalies. It takes a little longer to develop and refine them. But I really like the talent we've got coming."
While he was on defensemen, I was excited to ask how it's gone for Adam Almquist. The young defenseman left HV71 for North America last fall and has posted a respectable 30 points as an AHL rookie. So Hakan Andersson made a little surprising, but somewhat logical comparison.
"I've read reports and read that Adam has done well in Grand Rapids. What many people don't realize is that he's closer in to Erik Karlsson in terms of playing style than you might think. Adam also has a very well-developed hockey sense, but he doesn't have the same mannerisms of Erik. While Erik is a, 'Give me the puck' type, Adam is a, 'I give you the puck' type. That's a big difference in attitude, but I still think that Adam's become better as an individual player.When he was with HV71, he was even more reserved in terms of his play."
On Almqvist's lack of height and weight: "Adam's problem is that it still gets difficult when a forward who's 190 centimeters [6 feet tall] and 95 kilograms [200 pounds] wants to push himself toward the net. Then he has a hard time stopping that player," says Hakan Andersson, who is nevertheless optimistic.
"In terms of his game with the puck, he's been really good and has produced a lot in the AHL. I think he can have a good summer and might be a few kilograms of muscle from his NHL debut."
Another Swede the Wings have high hopes for in the future is Calle Jarnkrok. The Brynas center recently played in 9 games for Grand Rapids in the AHL and posted 3 assists. Hakan Andersson's lyrical about the 21-year-old's development and does not hold back in his comparisons.
"I see a Zetterberg-like player within him," he says firmly. "The similarity is based upon his work ethic, hockey sense and creativity. Calle is a player who makes those around him better."
This last season in Brynas didn't go so well, but Hakan Andersson believes that adversity for the team could be beneficial for Jarnkrok over the long haul.
"He was pulling a heavy load for Brynas,. Some say he had a worse season this year than the last, but for me, there's no doubt that he'd improved a lot," he says.
"He took the heaviest load on the Brynas team. It wasn't only in terms of playing power play and five-on-five, but he also played a lot of short-handed time. He's had to take stern responsibilities. There aren't many 21-year-olds who've had to take such big responsibilities at that level."
As is the case for Adam Almquist, his physical conditioning needs to improve, but Jarnkrok's about to take the next step and become a reliable NHL player.
"During a season that runs for 60-70 games there's a big difference for a player who weighs 81 kilograms [178.54 pounds] and a player who weighs 90 kilograms [198.46 pounds] in terms of who gets fatigued earlier from all the wear and tear. I think that was why Calle didn't produce in Grand Rapids--he's pretty tired out right now. Three or four kilos for him [6-8 pounds] would make a pretty big difference," says Hakan Andersson.
I hope that half hour's worth of translation and transliteration was worth it.
Update #2: Ken Holland and Jimmy Howard on Howard's extension via Fox Sports Detroit:
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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.