The Malik Report
Red Wings mid-day news: Griffins on the bus, end-of-season prospect rankings, tales of playoffs past
by George Malik on 06/06/13 at 02:56 PM ET
Updated 3x at 3:30 PM: How the AHL is not the NHL, chapter 1: the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Oklahoma City Barons in dramatic fashion last night and advanced to the AHL's Calder Cup Final (which begins with games on Friday and Saturday in Syracuse, NY; Games 3, 4 and 5 take place in Grand Rapids next Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, respectively, and no, there are no plans for FSD to pick up any games as of yet), but the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reports that the Griffins' players were...Let's say encouraged to curb their post-game festivities...Because there is no Red Bird III available for use by the Red Wings' AHL affiliate:
The Griffins departed via two buses shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday en route to Syracuse to prepare for the Crunch and the franchise’s first visit to the Calder Cup Finals.
There’s no practice scheduled today. The Griffins played four games in five days, with the day off coming Monday following the return from the Sunday night game at Oklahoma City. Their scheduled game in Oklahoma City on Friday was postponed following a tornado in the area.
[Running on] Fumes? You bet.
“I would tell you, I think the guys spent everything they had out there,” Blashill said after the game.
The team also had to deal with the emotional roller coaster of a Game 7 after failing to close out the Oklahoma City series at home Tuesday in Game 6.
“I think we just had to forget about (Tuesday) night,” forward Gustav Nyquist said. “We know how to be successful. We showed that down in Oklahoma when we took two in a row, so we said we’ll just do what we’ve been doing and said, ‘Why change that?’”
There's some good news and some bad news about the Griffins' opponent:
Syracuse, meanwhile, has been idle since Saturday, following a 7-0 victory against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to close the Eastern Conference finals series in five games. The Crunch, the No. 3 seed, have won 11 of 12 games in the postseason.
The Syracuse Crunch's roster is largely comprised of players from last year's Calder Cup Champion Norfolk Admirals--the Tampa Bay Lightning swapped affiliations last summer, and as such, the Bolts' prospects (former Wings prospect Artem Sergeev and Tomas Tatar's best pal, Richard Panik, included) moved from Virginia to New York--and if you are interested in their side of the story...
The Crunch's website reports that the Calder Cup is touring Syracuse this week; the Syracuse Post-Standard's Brent Axe spoke to Crunch owner Howard Dolgon about his team's achievement, the Post-Standard's Axe spoke to Crunch play-by-play man Dan D'Uva about his journey, and the Post-Standard's Lindsay Kramer offered 10 tips for fans hopping on the Crunch's bandwagon, including some topics that are worth noting regardless of banwagoneer status:
Can you name three players to watch in the coming series?: As it usually goes in hockey, everything revolves around the goalie. Syracuse's Cedrick Desjardins has three shutouts this postseason, a franchise record.
Syracuse forward Ondrej Palat leads all postseason scorers with 20 points (five goals, 15 assists). And linemate Tyler Johnson, the 2012-13 league MVP, is right behind with nine goals and eight assists.
Why is Tampa Bay the parent club of the Crunch?: Like many good relationships, this one started with a breakup.
Syracuse had been affiliated with Anaheim the past two seasons, a deal that both parties originally envisioned lasting longer. But things quickly started souring on the Crunch's end for a variety of reasons, most importantly a lack of commitment by the parent club to winning at the minor-league level.
Syracuse wriggled free from the clutches of Anaheim after two years. At the same time, Tampa Bay's deal with Norfolk was expiring. The Lightning had a record of putting a quality AHL product on the ice, stocking the 2011-2012 Norfolk Admirals with enough good players to win 28 games in a row and then the Calder Cup.
Tampa Bay wanted to move from Norfolk to an area more populated with AHL teams, such as the Northeast. The Lightning's dynamic leadership -- led by GM Steve Yzerman and assistant GM Julien BriseBois -- plus their proven knack for fielding good prospects was a natural fit for Syracuse owner Howard Dolgon.
So what does the Calder Cup do during the summer?: The prized chalice is very busy. The winning team is allowed to keep it until early July. Then players have a chance to sign it out during the summer.
The championship franchise is then permitted to showcase the trophy throughout the next season for promotional and fan events.
In terms of the Michgander press's reaction to the Griffins' win, Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples posted one more recap from last night's wacky win, in which the Griffins rallied from 3-1 and 4-3 deficits...
Grand Rapids forward Tomas Jurco used his flashing breakaway speed to take a puck and slip it past Danis with 6:52 to go and seal the game at 5-4. The breakaway game-winner seemed fitting as Jurco missed a chance to win Game 6 with a penalty shot. The Game 7 goal was Jurco’s seventh of the playoffs.
“It’s a great feeling,” Jurco said, shortly before taking a shaving cream pie to the face in a celebratory locker room. “I guess I got a little lucky, maybe a little was skill, I don’t know. I was just happy it went in.”
Blashill said Jurco was too hard on himself following that miss.
“I know he felt real bad about that he didn’t score (on the penalty shot the night before),” Blashill said. “He takes things hard. He wants to be a winner and so it was nice to get that retribution. It was great for him.”
Just as it was one play of many, the Calder Cup is just another step according to Blashill.
“It’s a great next step for the team,” Blashill said. “It was obviously a grueling, hard series with two even swings both ways. We feel very fortunate and excited to compete for the Calder Cup championship.”
The championship series will begin Saturday in Syracuse, N.Y., in a 2-3-2 series, as Syracuse finished the regular season with more points. The Crunch have won 11 of 12 games in the playoffs, but that’s just a stat on the stat sheet to Blashill. Ten players on the roster were part of the Norfolk team that won the Calder Cup last season.
“The only stat that matters is the series starts 0-0,” he said.
And Michigan Hockey's Shaved Ice column offered the series' schedule:
Mark your calendars – Game 1 of the AHL Finals between the Griffins and the Syracuse Crunch will take place on Saturday, with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. in New York. Here’s the full schedule:
Game 1 – Sat., June 8 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7:00
Game 2 – Sun., June 9 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 6:00
Game 3 – Wed., June 12 – Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Game 4 – Fri., June 14 – Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sat., June 15 – Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 6 – Tue., June 18 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 7 – Thu., June 20 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7:00
If you're getting tired of watching the Griffins' YouTube game highlight clip...
We All Bleed Red on YouTube spent the $11 that the AHL somewhat ridiculously charges fans to watch games "live" (oh, illegal streams, we will be sharing your URLs this weekend), and he offers Tomas Jurco's goal (and yes, it's herky-jerky)...
As well as end-of-the-game excitement:
In other Red Wings prospect news, RedWingsCentral's Matthew Wuest has offered up his end-of-the-2012-2013-season ranking of the Wings' top prospects. Among them:
1. Calle Jarnkrok (–), C, Brynas (SEL), 53-13-29-42, minus-2, 136 shots.: Jarnkrok was one of the best players in the Swedish Elite League but he didn’t produce much during a nine-game AHL stint or in 10 games with Sweden at the IIHF world championship. Regardless, he’ll have a chance at an NHL job in the fall if he gets stronger in the off-season.
4. Tomas Jurco (–), RW, Grand Rapids (AHL), 74-14-14-28, plus-6, 119 shots.: Ignored in The Hockey News’s top-10 team ranking, Jurco came into his own late in the season — 14 points in his final 22 games — despite being one of the AHL’s youngest players and has been absolutely clutch in the playoffs. He has star potential and could be a top AHL scorer next season.
12. Andreas Athanasiou (+5), LW, Barrie (OHL), 66-29-38-67, plus-13.: Slowly but surely, Athanasiou has found the swagger that had many touting him as a potential top-15 pick a year before the 2012 draft. The blazing fast winger tied for fifth in OHL playoff scoring and is starting to look like a fourth-round steal. He’ll return to the OHL in 2013-14.
18. Mitchell Callahan (NR), RW, Grand Rapids (AHL), 71-11-9-20, minus-3, 136 shots.: Callahan did everything that could have been asked of him as an AHL sophomore, establishing himself as a regular in Grand Rapids with his grit and energy and chipping in with timely offense. He has a chance at a grind-line type NHL role similar to Jordin Tootoo.
Wuest ends up ranking 25 total prospects, so his list is both concise and incredibly thorough.
Shifting focus back to the parent club, first tangentially: If we are to believe reports out of Russia and/or Bruce Garrioch, Sergei Gonchar will not be an option for the Wings in terms of bolstering their blueline, and RSport reports that a certain former Red Wing who runs a KHL team brought his now-32-year-old "younger brother" to Moscow;
Sports Illustrated's Allan Muir offered 20 reasons why the NHL playoffs constitute "the best postseason in sports," and they include several Red Wings-related items (and the video embeds are his):
8. Intense rivalries: Bruins-Canadiens, Rangers-Islanders, Blackhawks- North Stars — There’s nothing like a little bad blood to spice up a series. And in a sport defined by its greatest rivalries, there’s no bloodier feud than the one that came to a head in 1996 between the Avalanche and the Red Wings. Fueled by a vicious hit from Colorado’s Claude Lemieux on Kris Draper that left the winger needing 30 stitches to close up a massive facial wound, the hostilities escalated to define these two championship-caliber clubs for the next decade. And while the players have changed, and the animosity has cooled, both sides know it only takes one spark to reignite hostilities.
16 years later, with Darren McCarty living in Florida to aid his attempts to stay sober away from, "You're our cult hero, can we buy you a drink?" pressures in Detroit, and with Claude Lemieux building a resume as a successful player agent, it still amuses me to no end that both combatants will happily sit at the same table, trade stories and take people's money to autograph pictures of their scrap(s) despite the fact that neither of 'em can really stand each other.
13. Awe-inspiring goalies: There may have been better performances over the years, but has any goalie ever looked as unbeatable as Jean-Sebastien Gigure did in 2003? Beginning with a 63-save, triple-OT win over the defending champion Red Wings, Giguere carried a nondescript Anaheim club to within one win of the Stanley Cup with his five shutouts, a 1.62 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage. His heroics earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, just the fifth player in history to win it as a member of the losing finalist.
Puffy shirt. Goalie wearing a puffy shirt chest protector and gigantic leg pads and pants. For a team that was just downright mean, and whose coach was as merciless then as he is now (ironically enough).
18. Oh, the infamy: The Red Wings built up a 3-0 lead over the Maple Leafs in the 1942 Final and appeared certain to capture their first title in five years. But the Leafs weren’t quite ready to see their rivals skate with the Cup. Toronto took Game 4 by a score of 4-3, then cruised to 9-3 and 3-0 wins to send the series to Game 7. Detroit took a 1-0 lead on Syd Howe’s goal into the third period before allowing three goals in the final 13 minutes to become the first, and only, team ever to be defeated in a Cup Final after holding a 3-0 lead.
I sat and stood seven rows behind the Wings' bench in 1993, when the team dropped a Game 7 decision to the Leafs in the 1st round...And at that time, the Wings were on the rise and the Leafs were dominant, so the rink was at least a quarter-to-a-third Leafs fans as damn Nikolai Borschevsky tipped a Bob Rouse shot (oh, how Rouse became indispensable to the Wings' 1997 and 98 Cup teams) past Tim Cheveldae, and I still remember the dejection on the Wings' bench, the Leafs' trainer spraying water like it was champagne and just the utter humiliation of attending my first playoff elimination game and witnessing what felt like the end of the world.
Somewhat ironically, as far as I'm concerned, that series marked the end of the line for coach/GM Bryan Murray, and the team's new coach and GM for the 1993-94 season (which also ended in first-round disappointment against the San Jose Sharks), Scotty Bowman, was neither particularly enamored with the concept of going with Yves Racine and Steve Chiasson as the team's top-pair defensemen (hello, Paul Coffey and Nicklas Lidstrom taking more prominent roles); he brought in some guy named Mark Howe to help the team's puck movement from the point; although the trade backfired in a big way, he tried to address the team's goaltending by sending Dallas Drake, Tim Cheveldae and Paul "Rocketman" Ysebaert to Winnipeg for Bob Essensa and a defenseman with a pack-a-day habit in Sergei Bautin, and when Essensa bombed, Bowman started a raw kid named Chris Osgood...
And Bowman also gave youngsters like Martin Lapointe and a pair of call-ups in Kris Draper and Darren McCarty significant ice time, all before deciding, during the 1995 season, that he might want to flip Chiasson to Calgary for a better #1A goaltender in Mike Vernon; that Bob Probert's divorce from the team necessitated bringing in Stu Grimson from Anaheim; that Slava Fetisov might compliment Howe and help the team move the puck (by then we're talking about a defense constituted of Lidstrom-Coffey, Howe-Konstantinov and Fetisov-Rouse as Mike Ramsey fell out of favor)...And after the team was swept in the Stanley Cup Final by New Jersey, Ray Sheppard was expendable for the sake of bringing wing-killer Igor Larionov aboard, that Shawn Burr and Dino Ciccarelli committed unpardonable errors during the Cup Final, and that signing Dougie Brown and trading for Kirk Maltby might give the team more bite.
Cue the 95-96 season, the beginning of the Wings-Avs feud, and the bad blood with Keith Primeau and Paul Coffey that yielded the Shanahan trade, Coffey's departure as well as Howe's retriement yielding the team eventually bringing in Larry Murphy and Jamie Macoun, and the incredibly underrated one-year move that was sending Greg Johnson to Pittsburgh for an aging but big and mean Tomas Sandstrom, all resulting in a Stanley Cup win.
Anyway, back to Muir:
20. Bizarre rituals: Is there a stranger, more beloved tradition in sports than stuffing a deceased cephalood into one’s pants, smuggling it past security and then waiting for the perfect moment to hurl it onto the ice at a Detroit Red Wings playoff game? The symbolism is obvious: eight legs per octopus, eight wins to capture the Stanley Cup … at least, that was what it took when Pete and Jerry Cusimano chucked the first one at the Olympia back in 1952. The practice took on new life when the Wings returned to prominence in the 90s, when it wasn’t uncommon to see a dozen or more splatter onto the playing surface over the course of a playoff game.
According to the Wings, the record was a 50-pounder tossed during the 1996 Conference Final. Fortunately, that one made it to the ice. Not all of them do, as plenty of goo-spattered fans sitting in the lower bowl at Joe Louis Arena can attest, but as long as there is playoff hockey in Detroit, there’ll be diehards ready to test their arms for the sake of hockey’s wildest tradition.
Some of you think it's barbaric. I happen to think that it's a waste of seafood that was already dead long, long, long before it was sold to Michigan fishmongers. Al Sobotka is no longer fined $10,000 for twirling them, but there has been no word as to whether the Detroit Police have stopped enforcing the $500 fine, charging of a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct, requiring $100 bail and a court appearance if one is to contest the misdemeanor and/or avoid court costs, fines and probation.
And finally, via RedWingsFeed, I noted in the overnight report that Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill made some comments that could be perceived as threatening to the Wings or complimentary, depending on whether you view the Stars as a threat to poach Jeff Blashill or whether you view Nill's status as in charge of Dallas' draft after spending almost an entire year working as the man in charge of the Wings' amateur scouts, and RedWingsFeed found Stars advisor Mike Modano issuing downright gushy praise for Nill while engaging in a radio interview (as transcribed by the Dallas News's sports staff):
On if he likes the direction the Stars are heading in: “Jim Nill has been sought after for a long time from a number of teams in the league. How we got him to agree to come to Dallas, no one really knows. I think he was excited about the opportunity to start fresh somewhere else. He’s one of the masterminds behind the Wings for 25 years, him and Kenny Holland. He knows everything about the game. He knows personnel. He knows everything that’s going on. He’s so prepared and diligent with what he does. I think we were very fortunate and lucky. If you’re saying you landed a free agent, the most available free agent, we got him as a GM. I think it all starts there. I think he knew it was going to happen with (Glen) Gulutzan. I think any GM that comes in kind of gets his own guy and creates his own team. But Jim is a very smart guy and has free range to do what he wants to do to get this team back to where we expect and those good times we had back in the day.”
Update: Spiffy alumni news from Michigan Hockey:
Update #2: Amongst the Grand Rapids Griffins' player Tweets from this morning, regarding their 532-mile ride to Syracuse, NY:
And, regarding the whole Jagr non-call issue: TSN's Kerry Fraser exonerated the referees by suggesting that no official had a good view of what happened, NHL.com's Shawn P. Roarke insists that Jagr "somehow" stole the puck from Evgeni Malkin, and Sportsnet's Luke Fox channeled Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire in deeming it to be a "GOOD NON-CALL!"
Update #3: Just speculation on my part, but I thought this pair of Tweets from Sportsnet's Mark Spector, relating the words of Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish, were interesting:
Maybe it's the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson getting to me, but if the Oilers were to eat half of Ales Hemsky's $5 million salary, he could indeed fill Filppula's role--if the Wings don't want to go the grit-and-size route--and this is just MY fantasy, but if the Wings are looking for a veteran back-up and/or have soured on Jonas Gustavsson, there're worse goalies to tab as back-ups than Khabibulin, who's a UFA this summer.
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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.