The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/16/13 at 10:13 AM ET
Updated 3x at 1:37 PM: Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall is one of the Grand Marshals at the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. He bluntly assessed the Cup Final and his lingering bitterness regarding the way the Wings' bowed out to Chicago in the second round:
Kronwall spent eight minutes speaking to Duff, Lenzi and Sipple, and Duff posted what is nothing less than a wonderfully honest interview with someone who's earned the "A" on his jersey. Playoff thoughts? DeKeyser's upside? Valtteri Filppula's future? His defensive partner next season? Moving East? Jimmy Howard's maturation? Does the offseason get harder as he gets older? Not watching a damn playoff game? Check, check, check, check, check, check, check, and check.
Update: the ever-industrious Duff has already filed his Kronwall article:
At MIS Sunday to serve as grand marshal of the race, the man who will make the call, “Drivers, start your engines,” Kronwall took time to reflect on the Red Wings’ season and even picked a Stanley Cup winner.
“I think Boston is going to win in six,” Kronwall said. “I just think they’re stronger and heavier, they play more of a structured game. Chicago, on the other hand, is more skilled all through their lineup, but I think the structure of the Boston Bruins is going to win.”
Not that Kronwall can bring himself to view the final, mind you.
“Just knowing how close we were, I haven’t really watched any of the games,” Kronwall said of Detroit’s second-round exit against Chicago when the Wings squandered a 3-1 series lead. “I see highlight clips here and there and read about how they’re doing. With the situation we were in, being up 3-1, Game 6 being up and (going to) OT in last game, it’s a tough way to go out, but it’s a part of sport. I try not to watch. Just knowing what it feels like to win it, anytime you see another team lifting the Cup, you just feel like that should have been us.”
While admitting to being a racing fan, Kronwall also acknowledged that this was his first time at an actual race.
“I’ve always been a fan of speed, but I’ve never been a part of anything like this,” Kronwall said. “I’ve never been to a NASCAR race and I’ve never really watched much on TV, to be honest with you. I’m very excited to learn more about it, how much goes on behind the scenes. There’s so much more that goes into it than drivers trying to fly around the track.”
Kronwall told Duff that rally car racing is much more popular in Sweden.
Detroit Red Wings alternate captain Niklas Kronwall will serve as the grand marshal for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn; Olympic gold medalist swimmer Tyler Clary, who trained at University of Michigan. will serve as the honorary starter for the race; and Seth Gold of Detroit’s “Hardcore Pawn” will serve as pace car driver.
MIS President Roger Curtis said he’s excited to have these three people start the race Sunday. He said he follows each of their careers, and they were chosen because he believes they are some of the most popular Michigan figures and they elicit pride for the state.
“We’ve tried to pick people who are somewhat iconic with the state,” he said. “And hockey is just a natural fit for us, period. Hockey fans and NASCAR fans are just one in the same.”
Kronwall, who will command of the drivers to start their engines, said he has never attended a race like this but is excited to be part of the experience. He said what he has seen so far has been “spectacular,” especially seeing how many people come from all over the country to support the drivers.
“I’ve always been a fan of speed,” he said. “I’m very excited to learn more about it and how it works behind the scenes. There’s so much more that goes into it than just the drivers.”
Update #3: The Detroit News's David Goricki focused on Kronwall's hockey-related remarks:
Kronwall is optimistic with the Wings' future.
"Absolutely, just over the course of the year we had a lot of injuries this year and the younger guys that came up were given a chance and they really made the most of it," Kronwall said. "You look at it, just (Tomas) Tatar, (Joakim) Andersson, (Gustav) Nyquist, (Brian) Lashoff and (Danny) DeKeyser when he came in, even (Petr) Mrazek did a great job when he came in so we know there's more to come in the minors, and the younger guys have really proven they can play at the top level, and just the experience they get alone in the playoffs have been great."
A number of players are still getting experience, including Nyquist, DeKeyser, Lashoff, Andersson and Mrazek who are all competing for Grand Rapids in the Calder Cup for the AHL championship, leading Syracuse 3-2.
Kronwall is very impressed with DeKeyser who signed a free-agent contract "I don't think there's a limit to how good he can be," said Kronwall of DeKeyser. "I don't think people realize what he did this year, coming in from college and playing like he did. I don't know if he should be able to do that, to have that big of a presence to be honest with you. I was very impressed with how he handles himself both on and off the ice. He has great work ethic, great attitude. The sky's the limit for this guy, that's how good he is. He never puts himself in trouble. I kind of felt like he kind of played a little bit like Nik Lidstrom that way. He was just very smart and just read the situations. He was able to find solutions to situations out of the blue and not a lot of guys can do that coming straight out of college, just really impressive."
Kronwall hopes the Red Wings re-sign unrestricted free-agent Valtteri Filppula.
"I hope he's going to be back," Kronwall said. "Fil's one of those guys you don't want to lose. He's a puck possession guy, a real good player and a great person. He works hard and has all the tools. Hopefully we'll be able to keep him,"
And, of the Wings moving to the Eastern Conference next year, Kronwall replied: "It will be different for sure, a different type of game, probably meet some big, heavy teams like the Boston Bruins for example. I'm sure it will be a little different, but at the same time hopefully we can just just kind of keep trying to play our structured game and that should give us some success."
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