The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/29/13 at 03:11 AM ET
The Red Wings' 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night yielded both a "series split" in the teams' home-and-home exhibition-ending tilts (on Friday, Detroit defeated Toronto 5-2 in a battle of NHL lineups) and what I can best describe as mixed signals from the Grand Rapids Griffins-heavy lineup battling an almost equally green Leafs team.
As I noted in the quick take, you could expect Mikael Samuelsson to look like, well, himself, but witnessing not only Drew Miller and Jakub Kindl, but also Cory Emmerton, Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff mail in their performances was downright odd, because that trio has very little job security.
To some extent, the rest of the roster's play mirrored the stuff you've heard throughout training camp and the exhibition season, save the fact that the first two periods involved a ton of Petr Mrazek bailing out turning-pro teammates who were going, "ZOMG We're Playing The Leafs at the Air Canada Centre This Is So Intimidiating!" and the third period involved a significant amount of youngsters stepping up and playing very strongly in front of Jared Coreau (both goalies had zero chance on the goals they surrendered--and the contrast between the acrobatic Mrazek and the big-and-patient Coreau was intriguing as hell to watch).
Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan look like players who emptied their tanks playing their hearts out at the prospect tournament. They look a little fried from the long playoff run and then having to give their all so very early in the preseason. But they'll be OK.
Luke Glendening, as Mike Babcock's stated, looks like someone who's going to play for the Red Wings sooner than later.
Jeff Hoggan was gushy about how much he loves hockey and how happy he is playing where he's playing and getting some exhibition time with the Wings on the CBC, and he was a strong checker, and Nathan Paetsch continues to look like the no-frills puck-moving defenseman that the Wings will ink to a 2-way deal once they've alleviated their roster crunch so that they've got a veteran to call up in a pinch.
Despite having a rough game, Tomas Tatar certainly tried hard, and Gustav Nyquist far and away the player who played the most like his ass is in Grand Rapids unless he impresses the hell out of the coaching staff.
Ryan Sproul was solid but a bit jittery, understandably so because he's from the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, but he made those daring but well-timed pinches, fired big booming shots, mostly into Leafs players, and made good passes; Xavier Ouellet displayed fine, fine form, and while he, like Sproul and every other dang turning-pro prospect, has been guilty of winding up for a slap shot and finding that the half-second one has to wind up in non-pro leagues doesn't exist at the NHL level...He was smooth as can be, smart, assertive and barely noticeable in the best senses of the term.
In terms of the trio of forwards who have very different gifts to provide the Wings with, Mitchell Callahan not only scored a goal, but also displayed a tamer-but-tenacious forechecking and backchecking game befitting a player who understands that he's going to get his ass kicked if he fights people given that he is still growing into his 6' and about 185-190-pound frame, and instead, he's starting to play the kind of gritty defensive game once displayed by one Doug Brown (and you will find that George believes that fewer players were more useful than the Swiss Army Knives that were Doug Brown and Bob Rouse); Calle Jarnkrok still gets bumped around pretty heavily, but by the third period, the slight forward was blazing up and down the ice, poking pucks away from opponents not used to Jarnkrok's stealthy puck-stealing ways, he was making plays in transition and beating his defensemen back to pucks and/or lurking in the slot like a third defender; and while he got smoked a few times, Teemu Pulkkinen bounced back up or bounced off hits and unleashed wicked blasts toward the net, and he retrieved pucks and sent them to players in better positions, too.
The guys who looked bad, again, were surprises. Drew Miller kind of gets a pass for mailing it in because he gives his all 99 times out of 100, and the same can be said--at least after last season--for Jakub Kindl, who was OK but not good. I guess we've all come to expect Mikael Samuelsson to frustrate us, and he did just that, but I don't know if he has this whole, "If I keep playing like this, Babcock won't hesitate to sit my $3 million-earning ass in the press box" concept down.
The most worrisome performances came from Brendan Smith, who was at his playoff-worst in terms of making bad pinches, continuing to pass when he has open lanes to clear the defensive zone, and doing a better job of screening his goalie than cleaning shooting or passing lanes; Cory Emmerton was overpowered along the boards by the Leafs' farmhands, and he didn't look like somebody who's battling for his job on a team that has too many forards; and Brian Lashoff's had a rough preseason, period, despite having insisted that he'd show an extra half-step in terms of skating and smarter and more efficient play. Lashoff's one of the nicest human beings I've met, period, but I don't know if the push from Almquist and Ouellet in particular makes keeping Lashoff around a good idea over the long haul.
Worst of all, the Wings' vets were supposed to provide an environment in which the team's younger players could come into Toronto and at least not feel completely intimidated for the first 40 minutes, and the vets didn't do anything in terms of stabilizing the ship, never mind providing leadership.
Why did I blather about performances that, in theory, anyway, don't really matter for so very long?
None of the Torontonian press gave a shit what the Red Wings had to say or think about the game (and it should be noted that it's a shame that the CBC did not post Elliotte Friedman's fantastic interview with Stephen Weiss online).
They talked to the Leafs about their progress made over the preseason and Toronto's roster crunch--though the Leafs' $216K cap overage looks like child's play compared to the Wings' $2.3878 million in cap space to clear (and yes, yes indeedy, it appears that the Wings will sidestep the fact that they've got 26 bodies on their roster by placing Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves and Jonas Gustavsson on the long-term injured reserve list today, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan suggested).
The Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno focused on John-Michael Liles' status as a likely cap/roster crunch casualty for the Leafs in his recap, offering only the following about the game...
When the Toronto Marlies and Grand Rapids Griffins open the AHL season next week, the rosters should look similar to the ones the Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings put on the ice Saturday night at Air Canada Centre.
This was an NHL preseason game, the finale for both teams, but it wasn’t much of a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Two dozen players expected to start in the minor leagues helped decide the Leafs’ 3-1 win.
Goaltender James Reimer’s spot in the opening-night lineup isn’t so secure even after a strong preseason that wrapped up with 24 saves on 25 shots against a Red Wings team that dressed one over the minimum amount of veterans required for preseason games. Competing with Jonathan Bernier for playing time, Reimer finished the exhibition season with a .923 save percentage.
The National Post's Sean Fitz-Gerald took note of the biggest hit that Pulkkinen had to bounce back from (and he shrugged the hit off), mirrored the Liles narrative and pointed out that Ron MacLean spoke with the Leafs' skating coach...
Defenceman Andrew MacWilliam tried to leave a last-minute impression with Toronto’s coaching staff on Saturday night, leaving his impression on at least one Detroit player. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound hopeful drilled Red Wings prospect Teemu Pulkkinen with a solid shoulder to the chest in the second period.
Pulkkinen beat MacWilliam in a race to the puck later in the period. MacWilliam drove his smaller opponent (5-foot-10, 194 pounds) to the ice in the corner, and the Leafs emerged with possession.
“It’s just the way I’ve got to play,” MacWilliam said. “That’s an aspect of my game that I can use. It can kind of give me an advantage over some guys. It doesn’t matter who it is, I’m just going to try to finish the body as much as I can.”
The Toronto Sun didn't even offer a dedicated recap, tasking Rob Longley with penning a feature column on James Van Riemsdyk and tasking Terry Koshan with tossing off a "spirit of the thing" notebook...
Leivo tipped a Franson point shot past Wings goalie Petr Mrazek at 14:19 of the second period for a 1-0 Leafs lead. Less than three minutes later, John-Michael Liles hammered a shot behind Mrazek during a Toronto power play. Was it enough to ensure Liles makes the team? We hope he would have to have shown a lot more than scoring on a goalie who wouldn’t be around if Jonas Gustavsson was healthy. Liles induced cringes when he had his pocket picked by Mitch Callahan. Seconds later, Callahan ripped a shot over Reimer’s left shoulder, at 16 minutes of the third, for the Wings’ only goal. “Wish we could have got Reims that shutout,” Liles said. “It was a little mental error there by me.”
Leivo used an NHL-level shot to score high on goalie Jared Coreau at 9:48 of the third for his second of the game.
And after the Toronto Star had Mark Zwolinski write a story about James Reimer, they let Damien Cox be Damien Cox. Which can be wonderful and terrible at the same time--and the ENTIRE COLUMN needs to be prefaced and ended with a [sarcasm][/sarcasm] font warning:
Detroit GM Ken Holland anxiously rubbed his hands together before Saturday’s game, talking about the necessity of getting off to a good start in his team’s first year in the Eastern Conference, about the need to win six of every 10 games, about the need to beat Buffalo Wednesday in the season opener. A must-win game on Oct. 2. Oh my.
Similarly, the Leafs-Habs tilt the night before has the feel of a biggie, as well. Heavens to Harry Howell, the hometown heroes got a standing ovation for Saturday night’s exhibition triumph.
The Leafs and Wings, of course, are inextricably bound together this season by not just their history, but by the fact they will be the contestants in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, a remarkably successful gimmick the NHL is curiously looking to dilute by having five other outdoor games this season. The selling of that game at the Big House in Ann Arbour has been going on for months, and it was going on some more at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday, and it’s going to be going on for the next three months, non-stop.
Beyond that, something suggests that when folks in these parts try to analyze the possibilities of the Leaf season, part of that answer has to factor in the Wings.
Will the Leafs make it? Well, it might depend on how good the Wings are going to be, and how bad the Sabres will be in the Atlantic Division. If the Wings, who barely made the playoffs last year, find the Eastern Conference more challenging than some believe they will, and the Sabres are as terrible as it’s been suggested, then sure, the Leafs can make the playoffs. But if the Wings are immediately one of the best teams in the conference and Buffalo turns out to be surprisingly competitive, then the Leafs could be in trouble.
As teams, the Leafs and Wings don’t have much in common, but where they might is on the blue line. Neither’s defence corps would rank among the most talented groups in the league right now, and that’s partially because most of the solid organizational depth both franchises have accumulated on the back end isn’t ready yet.
Well, some of it is. Jake Gardiner, not great in the pre-season, will begin the season in Toronto’s top six, while Dan DeKeyser, injured at the moment after being a college free agent signee last season, may be in Detroit’s top four.
The Wings, meanwhile, are very excited about the likes of Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul and Nick Jensen, but they’ll need time to work their way into NHL jobs. Similarity, Saturday night was a chance to see Morgan Rielly (23:42 of playing time), smooth Stuart Percy and Andrew MacWilliam (eight hits) playing defence for the Leafs, and all three look to be solid bets to be in the NHL soon, but perhaps not now or this season.
Why is this tolerable reading, if not insightful reading? Because I didn't quote the parts of hockey's Evil Drew Sharp's column that openly mock the CBC, Hockey Night in Canada, the Leafs' owners, the NHL rebounding from the lockout and fan fervor while declaring, "Maple Leafs fans lap up 'meaningless' win over Red Wings."
Recap? A real recap? The Wings' website offered an approximation of one...
James Reimer isn't making the decision about a starting goaltender easy for Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. Reimer, who led the Maple Leafs into the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season for the first time since 2004, is battling offseason acquisition Jonathan Bernier for the starting job. He didn't hurt his chances Saturday night by making 24 saves in a 3-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings at Air Canada Centre.
"I think both of our goalies have played well," Carlyle said when asked about a starter. "I think that's probably to be our toughest decision."
Josh Leivo scored twice and John-Michael Liles had the other goal for the Maple Leafs, who visit the Montreal Canadiens in their season-opener on Tuesday night.
Mitch Callahan had a third-period goal for the Red Wings, who open their season on the road against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
And MLive's Brendan Savage receives bonus points for writing a real one:
The Detroit Red Wings finished the preseason Saturday night by losing 3-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Mitch Callahan scored the only goal for Detroit, which finished the preseason with a 3-5 record after losing four of its final five games.
Toronto, which got two goals from Josh Leivo, ended 5-2-1.
[hates the Leafs with a passion] It's okay, everyone, because Toronto will miss the playoffs. [/hates the Leafs]
The Red Wings went with a youthful lineup as they only had eight NHL players in uniform. They recalled eight players from Grand Rapids of the AHL after Fridays' 5-2 victory over the Maple Leafs to make the trip to Toronto. The NHL players in the Red Wings lineup were Mikael Samuelsson, Jakub Kindl, Drew Miller, Cory Emmerton, Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Brian Lashoff.
After a scoreless first period, Toronto connected twice in less than three minutes late in the second to a take a 2-0 lead to the final frame.
Leivo opened the scoring with 5:41 left in the second, when he deflected a shot from the point past Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek. Toronto made it 2-0 with 2:51 left, when John-Michael Liles scored just four seconds after Detroit's Xavier Ouellet was sent to the penalty box for hooking.
Mrazek made 16 saves while playing the first two periods. He was replaced at the start of the third by Jared Coreau, who stopped eight of nine shots.
Leivo made it 3-0 early in the third before Callahan got the Red Wings on the board with four minutes remaining to end James Reimer's shutout bid.
So yeah, preseason over. Last game surprising. Makes you wonder what would happen if Lashoff didn't have a one-way contract, the Wings weren't at the 50-man roster limit and had 26 players inked to 1-way deals, including the immovable object that is Mikael Samuelsson. Mrazek was great, Coreau was very solid, and most of the youngsters looked good. The ones who were supposed to show up and lead didn't, however, and the "more veteran" players in the lineup not named Miller seemed unaware of the proximity of the Glendenings and Ouellets to their jobs.
The Wings will take Sunday off and get down the business of preparing for the regular season on Monday.
Highlights: The Red Wings website's highlight clip is narrated by the CBC's announcers:
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 21-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 23-image gallery;
The Windsor Star posted, uh...3 big photos from the game;
The Red Wings' website posted a 28-image photo gallery and two Tweets of note:
The Maple Leafs' website posted a 28-image gallery;
And Michigan Hockey posted a photo gallery from Friday's Wings-Leafs game.
While we're at it...
Shots 27-25 Toronto. The Wings out-shot Toronto 10-8 in the 1st, the teams tied 10-10 in the 2nd and Detroit was out-shot 9-5 in the 3rd.
The Wings went 0-for-1 in 2:00 of PP time; the Leafs went 1-for-2 in 2:04 of PP time.
Petr Mrazek stopped 16 of 18; Jared Coreau stopped 8 of 9; James Reimer stopped 24 of 25.
The 3 stars were picked by the media in attendance, and they picked Andrew MacWilliam, James Reimer and Josh Leivo.
The Wings' goal: Callahan (1) from Jurco (1) and Kindl (1).
Faceoffs 34-26 Toronto (Detroit won 43%);
Blocked shots 16-15 Detroit;
Missed shots 16-14 Detroit (total attempts 57-56 Toronto, with the Wings firing 25 shots ON Reimer and 31 blocked or wide);
Hits 36-33 Toronto;
Giveaways a baffling 24-18 Toronto;
Takeaways 10-9 Detroit.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Glendening went 9-and-9 (50%); both Emmerton and Jarnkrok went 6-and-8 (43%); Sheahan went 5-and-7 (42%); Miller and Tatar lost their only faceoffs.
Shots: Pulkkinen led the Wings with 4 shots; nyquist, Emmerton and Glendening had 3; Jurco, Sproul and Callahan had 2; Kindl, Miller, Tatar, Paetsch, Ouellet and Jarnkrok had 1.
Blocked attempts: Sproul fired 4 shot attempts into Leaf players; Lashoff and Pulkkinen had 2 attempts blocked; Sheahan, Tatar, Emmerton, Callahan, Ouellet, Jarnkrok and Hoggan had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Nyquist missed the net 3 times; Kindl and Sproul missed the net 2 times; Smith, Sheahan, Lashoff, Paetsch, Glendening, Pulkkinen, Ouellet, Jarnkrok and Hoggan missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Callahan led the Wings with 5 hits; Lashoff had 4; Smith, Jurco and Samuelsson had 3; Kindl, Miller, Paetsch, Emmerton and Glendening had 2; Pulkkinen and Hoggan had 1.
Giveaways: Nyquist had 3 giveaways; Smith, Kindl, Lashoff, Sproul, Pulkkinen and Mrazek had 2 giveaways; Sheahan, Emmerton and Ouellet had 1 giveaway.
Takeaways: Smith, Paetsch and Callahan had 2 takeaways; Nyquist, Tatar, Samuelsson and Glendening had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: Smith, Kindl, Paetsch and Pulkkinen blocked 2 shots; Nyquist, Sheahan, Lashoff, Paetsch, Samuelsson and Jarnkrok blocked 1 shot.
Penalty minutes: Kindl and Ouellet took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -5. Emmerton and Samuelsson finished at -2; Smith, Miller, Jurco and Ouellet finished at -1; Sheahan and Callahan finished at +1.
Points: Callahan scored a goal and Jurco and Kindl had assists.
Ice time: Ouellet led the team with 23:08 played; Smith played 22:42; Kindl played 20:27;
Sproul played 20:26; Tatar played 18:37; Nyquist played 18:18;
Glendening played 17:01; Paetsch played 16:44; Emmerton played 16:41;
Sheahan played 16:17; Lashoff played 16:07; Samuelsson played 15:41;
Miller played 14:27; Pulkkinen played 13:51; Jurco played 13:49;
Jarnkrok played 12:37; Hoggan played 12:08; Callahan played 10:25.
Red Wings notebooks: First and foremost, in the injury department, from the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness:
Defenseman Danny DeKeyser (knee) skated Saturday and said he’s ready for Wednesday’s season opener at home against the Buffalo Sabres.
– Stephen Weiss (groin) didn’t skate after leaving Friday’s game early.
“It’s more of a maintenance thing,” said Weiss, who didn’t need tests done to determine the extent of the injury. “Let it settle down a bit and take a couple of days and get back after it on Monday.”
– Jordin Tootoo (shoulder) skated, but didn’t take part in drills.
– Wings coach Mike Babcock’s impressions this preseason, “I don’t have a whole bunch of themes. I’d like to see the power play be dangerous. Last night with (Daniel) Alfredsson on it that was really important. Other than that we’ve worked on trying to get better at moving the puck. We still make some poor decisions on the back end with reads and that comes with experience, that’s why you play those kids so much in exhibition. Like any year we’re a work in progress. You’re concerned, are you going to be good enough? We feel the same way every year at this time.”
Both Pleiness and the Free Press's Helene St. James focused on Joakim Andersson's status as a third as opposed to fourth-line center for their sidebar story:
“Andy’s done a real good job for us,” coach Mike Babcock said Saturday, the day after Andersson scored to lift the Wings past Toronto, 5-2, at Joe Louis Arena. “He’s a good, big player, knows how to play. He’s earned everything he’s gotten. We don’t have as good a finish or as good a run in the playoffs last year without Andy. He’s come back quicker and stronger and really, really fit, so good for him.”
Andersson, 24, joined the Wings a few weeks into last season, more than capably filling the hole created by what ended up being a season-long injury for Darren Helm. There still is no timetable for when Helm may play.
Andersson took advantage, earning a larger role and now returning as a regular.
“If you can do things without the puck, you buy yourself time to start doing stuff with the puck,” Babcock said. “If you can’t do anything without the puck, though, we start getting nervous and when we get nervous, you don’t get on the ice. So, to me, it’s a real comfort thing for sure, with young players.”
Given the likelihood he’ll have a couple of scoring-capable wingers, Andersson is excited at the prospect of more puck time. “I want to be involved as much as I can offensively,” he said. “I want to do as much as I can with myself. It gives you confidence when you get your minutes out there on the ice, so I'm happy with that.”
Pleiness noted that Andersson's not one for self-promotion, but he is proud of the fact that he's earning regular ice time...
“It gives you confidence when you get your minutes out there on the ice,” Andersson said. “I’m happy with that. I feel better and better each game in the preseason.”
His faceoff proficiency improved from the regular season to the playoffs. He won 46.4 percent of his draws during the lockout-shortened year and raised it to 55.9 percent in the playoffs.
The Wings rewarded him with a two-year $1.465 million contract extension in August.
And Andersson's willing to admit that his skating is still a work in progress:
“Skating-wise, I’ve taken small baby steps every year since I was 12,” Andersson said. “I’ve been told I have to work on that. I’m getting better at that. Getting better at reading the game and being good defensively and trying to get better on faceoffs and all the small things I need to do.”
In Friday’s 5-2 win over Toronto, he was between two veterans – Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Cleary.
“They’re good, they’re strong on the puck, they helped me out a lot, great experience, two good players,” Andersson said of Bertuzzi and Cleary.
Most of the preseason, Andersson centered Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist.
“That should be my strength, reading the game,” Andersson said when pointed out how well he fits in with veterans and younger forwards. “If I can read the game it doesn’t really matter who’s out there. I just have to read the strengths the players have.”
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan spoke with Stephen Weiss about the status of his groin and the status of his linemates:
"It was more of a maintenance thing," said Weiss, who didn't skate Saturday morning in Detroit but expects to be ready for Monday's practice. "Let it (the groin) settle down a bit and take a couple of days (off) here and get back after it Monday.
The Wings flew to Toronto later Saturday for a game against the Maple Leafs.
"There was something going on (in the groin area) and I figured just be smart for once and let it settle down a bit, so be ready for Wednesday."
The line of Weiss centering Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson was together for two periods Friday, its first time together all exhibition season other than intrasquad scrimmages before Weiss was forced out.
"We had some chances, moved the puck and created some offense," Weiss said. "For the first time together it was a good start. We just need to build on it. There's not much you can do about it. Alfie was out for a while (groin injury), and Mule was out for a while (hip flexor), but like I've said before, it's three guys who've been around a little bit and we'll make it work. It was important to at least feel some sort of good things happening (Friday), and it gave us confidence moving forward."
Franzen likes what he has seen from his new linemate, signed as unrestricted free agent in July.
"He plays with a big heart, and he's a hard nosed player," Franzen said. "He's really eager to learn how we play and really working hard on that. It's good to see."
And MLive's Ansar Khan spoke with both of the Wings' coaches about the team's middling power play--literally and figuratively--and the coaching staff and players' hopes that adding Daniel Alfredsson and a healthy Mikael Samuelsson (snerk) will provide more pop:
“If we score a couple of goals against Chicago in the playoffs, maybe we win,'' Babcock said. “We couldn't handle their pressure, never got any pucks back. That's an area we got to be better.''
They're counting on newcomers Daniel Alfredsson, with his blistering one-timer, and Stephen Weiss, with his playmaking ability, to lead the revival. The power play looked good Friday, converting three times in a 5-2 preseason victory over Toronto.
Assistant coach Tom Renney expects the man-advantage to be more dynamic.
“There are fundamental parts that are incumbent with any successful power play -- net presence, the shot and getting pucks back,'' Renney said. “A good power play that doesn't score but has good looks gets the puck to the net, gets it back and can create momentum even if you haven't scored. The last thing you want is a power play that sucks the momentum out of your squad.''
That's what the Red Wings had at times last season. They went 0-for-37 on the road before scoring on March 13. They went 1-for-24 against the Blackhawks in the second round of the postseason, losing in overtime of Game 7. They finished 15th in the NHL at 18.4 percent during the regular season. They would like to get into the top 10.
Babcock likes having right-handed shooting forwards at the point on each unit. On the first, he has been using Alfredsson at the point with Niklas Kronwall while keeping his top line of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader (net front) intact. The second unit has featured righty Mikael Samuelsson, out most of last season with injuries, and Jakub Kindl at the points, with Weiss, Johan Franzen and Daniel Cleary (net front) up front.
“Alfie is an experienced NHL player with a right-hand shot that can navigate the whole end zone and give you more options off of that,'' Renney said. “Stephen's a convertible type player because he can play up and play the point on the power play. There are guys that have good touches and get good looks that I'd like to see shoot more. What it comes down to is a successful power play to me is all about retrievals and there's no retrievals if you're not shooting. The bottom line is we need shots, we need net presence, we got to get the puck back. You do that to put the opponent under duress, create chaos.''
In the prospect department: The Grand Rapids Griffins held an exhibition game against the Lake Erie Monsters in Plymouth, MI, and the Griffins prevailed in a shootout. Per the Griffins' PR department:
Behind Tom McCollum’s sturdy shootout performance, the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Lake Erie Monsters 3-2 Saturday at Compuware Sports Arena.
Lake Erie opened the scoring late in the first period, despite a distinct shot advantage (15-7) for Grand Rapids. With 18:11 remaining in the first 20 minutes of the game, Andrej Nestrasil provided Lake Erie with a power play opportunity after being called for hooking. The Monsters capitalized on their one-man advantage when defenseman Gabriel Beaupre fired a shot from the blue line that wound its way through traffic and past McCollum's glove.
The Monsters carried their 1-0 lead into the second period until exactly five minutes in when Griffins center David McIntyre fed a low pass to Martin Frk, who quickly buried the puck past Monsters netminder Kieran Millan. With 9:09 remaining in the second and the score tied at one, Lake Erie shifted gears between the pipes when they swapped Millan with goaltender Kent Patterson.
Marek Tvrdon gave the Griffins their first preseason lead at 3:51 of the third period, wristing the puck top-shelf in the right corner, unassisted.
Later in the period, defenseman Brennan Evans’ elbow found its way to the face of a Lake Erie defender just outside of the play. Monsters left wing Vincent Arseneau responded by rushing to center ice where the two exchanged a flurry of fists. The scrum resulted in shared fighting penalties, with Evans receiving an added five-minute major and game misconduct for interference.
Just over a minute into their power play, Lake Erie center Mitchell Heard identified a break between McCollum and the post, feeding the puck into the back of the net at 15:59. The second powerplay goal for Lake Erie tied the game at two-a-piece, and it remained knotted for the remainder of the third.
Following a scoreless overtime, the Griffins triumphed over the Monsters 3-2 in a sudden death shootout. Frk blew open the door on scoring for Grand Rapids in the fifth round after four failed scoring attempts by Gleason Fournier, Tvrdon, McIntyre and Nestrasil. Lake Erie had one final opportunity to prolong the game as Heard rifled the puck towards the net, but McCollum remained steadfast as he blocked the closing chance.
McCollum earned the victory with 36 saves, stopping all five of the Monsters' shootout attempts. Lake Erie’s Millan and Patterson both prevented 18 of 19 shots between their split time in the net.
Grand Rapids will close out their preseason play when they take on Lake Erie tomorrow at 7:05 p.m. at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario. The Griffins open their 18th regular season on the road against the Rochester Americans on Friday, Oct. 4 at 7:05 p.m., followed by another road game against the Toronto Marlies on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 3 p.m.
The Lake Erie Monsters' website posted a recap, too, and post-game interviews with former Whaler Mitchell Heard and coach Dean Chynoweth, but no highlights.
In the QMJHL, upon hearing about this, many Wings fans pointed out that the Quebec League is a high-scoring one, and that's very true. But Anthony Mantha still had a remarkable performance on Saturday night, scoring 4 goals and adding an assist in the Val-d'Or Foreurs' 11-2 drubbing of Quebec. Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager provides some English-language context in naming Mantha his #1 star of the night (and Mantha was the first star of the game, obviously):
No. 1 star: Anthony Mantha, Val-d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL): Mantha has a propensity for massive nights at that mecca of major junior hockey, Colisée Pepsi in Quebec City. The 6-foot-5 finisher nonpareil had his second career four-goal game, with an assist thrown in for garnish, to help the Foreurs embarrass the Quebec Remparts 11-2.
When Willy Palov writes that you're supposed to do something, well brother, you step to it. It's almost like Mantha (4G-1A, +3), the Detroit Red Wings first-rounder who already has one hat trick on the nascent campaign, read that he's the favourite for the Q scoring crown and got down to business. The 19-year-old scored 42 seconds after the opening faceoff. Then he went on a binge in the second, getting three goals and a primary helper on a tally by Guillaume Gélinas.
What else can one say? When Mantha's on, he's hard to stop; this was his seventh hat trick since the start of 2012-13. Mantha's teammates Gélinas and Louick Marcotte each enjoyed four-point games
Mantha's registered 5 goals and 8 assists for 14 points over his first 5 games.
Elsewhere, there's no news as to why Phillipe Hudon sat out the Victoriaville Tigres' 5-2 win over Rouyn-Noranda;
Andreas Athanasiou didn't register a regulation point but posted a shootout goal in the Barrie Colts' 4-3 shootout victory over Sault Ste. Marie;
In the WHL, Marc McNulty was held off the scoresheet as his Prince George Cougars beat Kamploops 3-1;
And Michell Wheaton's shoulder is still healing from surgery, so he didn't take part in the Kelowna Rockets' 3-1 win over Victoria;
In the BCHL, David Pope scored a goal in the West Kelowna Warriors' 5-3 win over Trail, and Pope's scored 4 goals over the course of 6 games thus far. He didn't take part in the prospect tournament as he's college-bound (he's committed to Clarkson University);
And on the other side of the pond, in the Swedish Junior-20 SuperElit league, Hampus Melen didn't register a point in Tingsryds IF's 2-1 loss to Sodertalje;
And big Rasmus Bodin didn't play in Linkopings HC's 7-1 win over Vaxjo;
Finally, in the Swedish Hockey League, Mattias Backman registered an assist in Linkopings HC's Elite league team's 5-4 overtime win over Brynas.
Also of Red Wings-related note: The Los Angeles Times' Helene Elliott's Eastern Conference Preview has the Wings finishing second in the Atlantic Division...
2. DETROIT: 2012-13: 24-16-8 (56 points), 7th in West
General Manager Ken Holland deserves infinite credit for infusing youth into the lineup and keeping the Red Wings competitive. Goalie Jimmy Howard, a contender for the U.S. Olympic team at Sochi, was their glue. Ageless wonder Pavel Datsyuk remains their leader. They added depth by signing center Stephen Weiss, and luring winger Daniel Alfredsson from Ottawa should remedy their scoring problems.
And she asks the following "question" about the Wings...
3. How much will Detroit benefit from moving from the West to the East?
Probably a lot, thanks to less travel and more games in or near their time zone. Their fans will be grateful, too, because they won't have to stay up late nearly as often to watch West Coast games.
Sports Illustrated's Allan Muir's Atlantic Division preview offers depth charts, additions, losses, "vital signs" and the following brass tacks:
Outlook: Forget the talk that suggests the Wings, unencumbered by their ferocious Western Conference rivals, will run roughshod over the underwhelming East. That won't happen, but Detroit will bring a new and exciting dynamic to the conference. The forward corps is deeper than ever thanks to the additions of the Cup-craving Daniel Alfredsson and a player in Stephen Weiss who, despite being 30, still seems to have a top gear that he hasn't reached. Outside of Pittsburgh, it's as good a group as there is in the league and it should help the Wings improve on last season's 2.54 goals-per-game average. That said, Detroit might be in tough to maintain a top-five defensive rating. They have a solid group of six blueliners, but they relied on career years from some of them last season. Is there still room for growth there, or was that their peak effectiveness? Jimmy Howard , always a steadying presence, could be a difference maker with an Olympic berth on the line. Expect him to compile a brilliant first half.
Among CBS Sports' Brian Stubits' "50 things to watch for and ask for" items...
21. Detroit's demise was greatly exaggerated: GM Ken Holland said before last season that it might be the year the Wings' incredible postseason streak came to an end. He was almost right but then a funny thing happened; the Wings found their stride just in time and were within an eyelash of knocking off the Blackhawks. Valtteri Filppula left, replaced by Stephen Weiss and the add Alfie. They get a lot of charges of being old but they have a young D corps and are injecting some youth up front. The Wings are still primed to make noise.
22. Daniel Alfredsson vs. the Senators: Daniel Alfredsson's decision to say good bye to Ottawa before what many expect is his final season was a total shocker, the fallout somewhat ugly for a franchise icon. By going to Detroit, Alfie stays in the division so he's going to get a lot of chances to play his former team. It will be weird seeing him in anything but a Sens sweater and while the respect will remain, Alfie becomes an enemy in Ottawa. What a strange world.
The New York Post's Larry Brooks offered a "review" of the 2013 season in terms of the money the NHLPA's members had to return to the NHL...
PA executive director Don Fehr — you all remember him? — informed membership last week “to expect little or no return” on last season’s 16.26-percent escrow deduction.
This means the players wound up with approximately 49 cents on the dollar for their work last season, already having lost a large chunk of dough to the 48-game season.
So we received a press release about Proskauer-Rose’s role in the sale of the Panthers, and we can all rest easy knowing the new ownership will be the first to know the details of the next lockout.
And as a follow-up...Mike Commodore is definitely going to sign with the Admiral Vladivostok:
Far Eastern Federal University is indeed in Vladivostok.
And finally...The Detroit Free Press decided to get a jump on the fact that the NHL season starts on Tuesday by posting its NHL and Red Wings preview(s) today.
The series kicks off with a video from Helene St. James...
As well as an article discussing the Red Wings' potential to build upon their fourteen-game push into the playoffs last spring with a slightly more savvy and slightly deeper roster:
“Potential,” coach Mike Babcock said, “is like a dirty word. The expectations for this team are higher than last year, and that depends on our back end, without any question.”
When the Wings began the lockout-shortened 2013 season in January, they did so with a defense unlike one they had seen in two decades: With no Lidstrom, the seven-time Norris trophy winner regarded as one of the best defensemen ever to play. On top of that, workhorse Brad Stuart was gone. If ever there was doubt about making the playoffs, this was it.
Then Jakub Kindl emerged, displaying new-found confidence. Brendan Smith settled in. Danny DeKeyser joined the effort after finishing up at Western Michigan. Brian Lashoff came up from the minors and proved valuable. A defense that had relied for years on guys mostly in their 30s was suddenly nourished by a bunch of 20-somethings.
“It just goes to show if you’re determined and you play together and you play hard, anything can happen,” Babcock said. “Now we’ve got to get that same determination back and that same structure back and that same work ethic back. It doesn't carry over from year to year. You’ve got to re-establish it.”
DeKeyser, 23, is upbeat about avoiding the so-called sophomore slump. He likes the idea of playing much more often than in college, where “having a week off, for Friday games, I would feel like it was too long of a layoff. I like playing every other day. I feel like it’s better for me.”
She continues at extended length in a really fantastic article, but let's give the coach the last word:
“It looks to me like we’ve got some young kids that are ready to help, which is positive,” Babcock said. “Our back end should be better than last year. Our goaltending should be better than last year. So when you go through it, we should be a better team, but I’ve been in this a long time — should, could — you’ve got to go out and do it. I feel the same way every year at this time: Not scared to death, but close.”
As you might expect, Evil Drew Sharp is the one Free Press writer who believes that the Wings won't improve upon last year's results, George Sipple spoke with Stephen Weiss about the Wings' Atlantic Division opponents, St. James listed 6 teams that could "stand in the Wings' way," and St. James' feature articles profile Weiss, the 30-year-old who the Wings hope will provide a solid second-line center's presence behind Datsyuk and Zetterberg...
Weiss replaces Valtteri Filppula, who fell short of expectations and who only really thrived after he was moved to the wing. The two could have waved to one another in the air: As Filppula flew south to join Tampa Bay, Weiss flew to Detroit.
“The first few years you want to do well personally to try to stick around, and make sure that you have a job,” Weiss said. “Then after you establish yourself, you want to win a Stanley Cup. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do that in Florida, and having the opportunity to be a free agent this summer, to come here, was a big thrill.
“I like the history of winning here. I’m familiar with the area from playing junior here. I like the coaching staff. Playing with Pavel and Henrik, getting to watch those guys every day, I hope to learn from them and try to better myself as a player.”
Coach Mike Babcock has Weiss penciled in to play between fellow newcomer Daniel Alfredsson and Franzen. The line would feature a left-shooting goal scorer, a center with a history of 30-40 assists per season, and a right-shooting goal scorer. Weiss, in short, is a promising addition.
“He’s got a lot of good seasons behind him putting up points,” [Johan] Franzen said. “He’s a good passer, and he reads the plays out there really well. Hopefully, we can start finding each other. He’s a really skilled guy, and I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
And St. James also profiles Weiss's linemate, Daniel Alfredsson, who left Ottawa at age 40 with fire still in his belly, courted by the Wings between July 1st and 5th and choosing to make a new start after an obvious rift formed between Alfredsson and the Senators' management:
“I looked at a few things,” Alfredsson said. “There were a few teams that were interested and I had some discussions with the family. We had been in one place so long, and loved the team, loved the city. It was about a new challenge, both on and off the ice.”
Alfredsson talked to Zetterberg and to coach Mike Babcock and to general manager Ken Holland. One by one, they sold him on the program. He ended up signing for one year and $3.5 million, with $2 million in bonuses.
“It was looking at the team, the tradition this organization has, the history it has, the way they play,” Alfredsson said. “I like their style. And then also family-wise, I heard a lot of good things about the suburbs of Detroit, good schools, good sports programs for kids. All of those were factors that affected the decision to make such a tough choice for me.”
[J]oining a team in which numerous guys know how much it takes to win the Stanley Cup — among them, Zetterberg, Kronwall, Pavel Datsyuk — appealed to Alfredsson.
“Knowing that this team has a lot of guys that have been there before, that know the grind and have lifted the Cup, I think that is very valuable come playoff time,” he said.
Zetterberg and Datsyuk were key factors in Alfredsson’s decision, offering an opportunity to shine as a secondary scorer after years of holding the lantern aloft.
“I had a big role in Ottawa, I was the captain for the long time,” Alfredsson said. “Here, they have a veteran leadership group that has been learning from the best before them. They’ve been around a lot of the best players in the world for a long time. I come in, and I’m not ‘the guy.’ I’m at the end of my career, and this is a great opportunity for me to try something different and challenging.”
I plan on taking things very slowly today, but if the Wings can't place players on the LTIR before complying to the 23-man roster limit, as Elliote Friedman claimed on Hockey Night in Canada (WHAAATTT?), that may change.
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