The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/09/13 at 02:01 AM ET
The differences between the Red Wings prospects' 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues' prospects and a game between the teams' NHL rosters involved the names on the backs of the jerseys and the venue.
Otherwise, if you've seen a game between Ken Hitchcock's Blues and Mike Babcock's Red Wings, you've seen this one. There were 27 penalties, remarkably, only one fight (Tyler Bertuzzi got the takedown, but it was close otherwise), instances in which the Wings' puck possession system overwhelmed a gigantic, hard-hitting Blues team, instances in which the Blues could not break through the Wings' defensive wall, and instances in which the Blues' forecheck did indeed hammer the Wings into submission, and the team hung on for dear life.
As usual--at least when the Wings beat the Blues--Detroit bent but did not break under the Blues' relentless pressure, while they only scored one power play goal, they managed to land on top of the penalty parade (and 11-6 power play advantage tells that tale) because the team was poised at the right times and pugnacious only when necessary.
The Wings also scored some clutch goals to break a long-standing deadlock: With 2 minutes and 5 seconds left in the 2nd period, Xavier Ouellet took a cross-ice pass from Zach Nastasiuk and ripped a one-timer past Blues goalie Francios Tremblay, and seventeen seconds later, Zach Nastasiuk tucked a gorgeous backhander through both Tremblay and the Blues' defense.
Halfway through the third period, while playing on the power play, Blues forward Sebastian Wannstrom put a hard shot off of a diving Richard Nedomlel's left foot, and the puck deflected into the top shelf over Jake Paterson, but with 5:58 left in the 3rd, on a Red Wings power play, Tomas Jurco elegantly blasted a slippery wrister through Tremblay from the right wing faceoff circle, and things appeared to be over...
But the Blues kept pushing, pushing and pushing some more, and Jake Paterson's cool, calm demeanor allowed Paterson to pluck pucks out of the air with his glove, blocker dangerous shots away, occasionally venture out of the net to help his defensemen and especially to smother rebounds when, all of a sudden, he had ten friends standing over him, whacking and hacking away.
The game was mean, the game was nasty, and it was the kind of test the Wings needed to pass to move on to tangle with the Buffalo Sabres for the tournament championship--a title Detroit has never captured--at 7:30 PM on Monday night.
The Wings will hold an optional skate this morning at 11, and as the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau noted, Jared Coreau will start for Detroit.
If you're headed to the rink today, Lindenau posited the schedule for the final day of the tournament:
Monday, September 9
10:00 – 10:45 am Columbus (David’s) / Dallas (West Rink)
11:00 – 11:45 pm Buffalo (David’s) / Detroit (West Rink)
3:30 pm 7th place – New York / Minnesota (David’s)
4:00 pm 5th place – Carolina / St. Louis (West Rink)
7:00 pm 3rd place – Columbus / Dallas (David’s)
7:30 pm Championship – Detroit / Buffalo (West Rink)
Again, the Red Wings posted some Twitter-heavy pictures from the game, as well as a photo gallery from Sunday's practice...
And Lindenau posted a photo gallery from the game, too.
None of the Wings are among the scoring leaders for the tournament, with Teemu Pulkkinen tied for 8th with 4 points over the course of 3 games, and Jake Paterson's stats are going to remain as they are--2-and-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .955 save percantage...
But I dug this stat from MLive's Brendan Savage, because it speaks to how the team has played under Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill and assistants Jim Paek and Spiros Anastas (with Toledo Walleye coaches Nick Vitucci and Dan Watson looking on over the past two games):
The Red Wings out-shot their opponent in all three games while finishing with a 95-63 edge in the shots department. The 23 shots they allowed the Blues were the most in any of their three victories.
Here are my interviews again:
Zach Nastasiuk was brief but focused and on-point...
Richard Nedomlel flashed his dry sense of humor while sounding as cool a cucumber as he is in general...
Jake Paterson also fielded questions from myself and Sarah Lindenau like he does shots--calmly...
If you aren't a Phillipe Hudon fan after this interview, well, there's something wrong with ya...
And Jeff Blashill somehow found a way to give NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale and myself nearly ten minutes of his time:
Lots of penalties = lines in a blender, but this is how they started the game (by the end of the game, every forward had played with every forward, every defenseman had played with every defenseman, and the vast majority of the 18 skaters earned both power-play and penalty-killing time, though the one-d-and-Jarnkrok or Tvrdon on the point equation was true for the first two periods):
#26 Tomas Jurco "A"--#15 Riley Sheahan "A"--#56 Teemu Pulkkinen
#42 Martin Frk--#70 Calle Jarnkrok--#39 Anthony Mantha
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi--#62 Zach Nastasiuk--#63 Phillipe Hudon
#60 Marek Tvrdon--#72 Andreas Athanasiou--#64 Jordan Maletta
#61 Xavier Ouellet--#48 Ryan Sproul
#77 Richard Nedomlel-#58 Max Nicastro "A"
#75 Marc McNulty-#47 Alexei Marchenko
#36 Jake Paterson, starting, #68 Cam Lanigan, back-up
#75 Michal Plutnar, #76 Rasmus Bodin, #84 Barclay Goodrow and #31 Jared Coreau
I should also note that in addition to Walleye coach Nick Vitucci and assistant coach Dan Watson, Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby watched the game with the scratches;
The suite where the Wings' management was so crowded that it was silly. Ken Holland, Ryan Martin, Mike Babcock, Chris Chelios, the vast majority of the pro scouts (including Mark Howe) and amateur scouts (Jeff Finley, Tyler Wright, etc.) were there, and even Hakan Andersson was in attendance.
So the Wings' players put on a show, but I'm not sure whether it was the show they expected.
I'm going to do my evaluations on a line-by-line basis, and I'm going to keep them short as it's a) already 12:41 as I'm writing this, b) the Wings' prospects practice at 11 in Traverse City, and the big club will practice at the same time at the Joe and c) Today's going to be very, very, very busy.
This needs to be said, too: keep in mind that this is a tournament between the top prospects of 8 NHL teams. That includes some sure-fire NHL'ers, seasoned AHL'ers and some remarkable new stars-to-be, but this isn't necessarily 18-to-24-year-olds playing against 18-to-40-year-olds, even in preseason play. This tournament cannot be kept in isolation as it is the best of each team's tomorrows against other teams' top prospects, but it doesn't stand alone as the be-all-end-all predictor of who's going to hold up over 80-game pro seasons, either.
#26 Tomas Jurco: Jurco was angry during this game, and perhaps Jurco's goal reminded us that he can indeed deke, dangle and unleash hard slap and snap shots and just vicious wristers.
The fact of the matter is that both Jurco and his coach have stated that #26 has to prove that he's more than an offensively-inclined player, and against players that make the 6'2," 195-pound winger look like a pipsqueak, Jurco's proven that he can be used as a penalty-killer, that he is in fact strong enough defensively to essentially "swap" positions with Riley Sheahan as needed, that he is in fact nearly as good a playmaker as he is a natural scorer, and that he can play reliable, consistent and even "safe" hockey when necessary.
He and Sheahan are showing their coach that they deserve to succeed the Nyquist-Andersson-Tatar line as the Griffins' go-to players, and they're showing the Red Wings that the pair belong among the Landon Ferraros at the top of the call-up heap, too--and they've accomplished their mission in spades.
The best part of Sunday night's game was watching Jurco go and slug Dmitri Jaskin right in the face after he leveled Martin Frk near the end of the second period.
#15 Riley Sheahan: If the Sheahan of a year ago was a slightly unfocused player coming out of college who thought that he could muck and grind his way into an offensive role, a year of finding out that it doesn't work that way lit a fire under a much more mature and determined player. Sheahan has been the unquestioned leader of the Wings' prospects in every aspect of the term, clearly communicating with his teammates, winning faceoffs, blocking shots, going hard to the net, competing harder in the corners, killing penalties, keying power play offense by making the simple play on a team full of, "Let's make the extra pass" artists, hitting and taking hits like a man possessed and just balls-out playing like the best player on his team. It's been fun to watch him.
#56 Teemu Pulkkinen: Coach Blashill told me that Pulkkinen has both bulked up and, like a Finnish player, he said, likes to work out and do weight-training on game-days, which is rare for North Americans. I made a snarky comment on Twitter that he's kind of like the Honey Badger--hit Pulkkinen really hard and Pulkkinen don't care, he just bounces off the hit or sneaks out from under it and keeps going--and that's honestly true. He's utterly fearless despite his smaller size and status as a target, and he doesn't absorb hits as much as he bounces off whatever contact has been done unto him like a pinball instead of a pinata.
Is the "holy slapper" off because North American angles are different, and because he's still adjusting to a faster-paced game? Definitely, but it turns out that he's a helluva passer and loves to give-and-go, too, and that his little waterbug-like skating stride is incredibly efficient. He just chugs up and down the ice, takes hits to make plays, unleashes an utterly furious wrister, slapper or one-timer and has no fear of players nearly a foot taller or a hundred pounds heavier than he is.
#39 Anthony Mantha: Mantha came into the tournament on a different kind of mission--to prove that he can in fact compete--and while he remains underpowered for his massive 6'4," arms-and-legs size, he is indeed proving that, when he wants the puck, he can get it. He and Martin Frk keep making two or three passes too many, but it's not as if they're not scoring often for a lack of trying, skill or effort. They work hard, as it turns out, at both ends of the rink, and Mantha is slowly but surely finding consistency. That's what he's got to continue doing for the rest of training camp and his season in Val-d'Or.
#70 Calle Jarnkrok: Jarnkrok is almost frustrating to watch because he does so many things well but so few things spectacularly that the casual observer would not assume that he is far and away the most important player on the ice for the Red Wings, but he is just that. Jarnkrok is smooth and elegant in his passing, shooting, playmaking, positioning, skating, faceoffs, he's reliable defensively, he plays on the point on the power play like someone who actually understands that such a role involves actually wanting to shoot the puck, and he roams around the ice like a quarterback at times. He is having some problems adjusting to the North American-sized rink and he is not going to immediately be able to beat 6'6," 240-pound players in one-on-one battles for the puck, but I can assure you that he will be worth the wait as an elite and possible top-line center.
#42 Martin Frk: Frk is working his ass off, but he's making two or three too many passes, and that's limiting his ability to bulldoze his way to the net and to use that whippy short stick to unleash his main offensive weapon. Unlike Mantha, his "compete level" is never an issue, but his understanding of the concept that being a possible 30+-goal-scorer involves not making the passes to prepare to find an even better shooting position. He's got to shoot, shoot and shoot some more, and he can't keep demurring to his peers.
There's going to be a Jurco-like learning curve for the affable, gap-toothed "Frky," because he's coming out of a league where he was on the dominant line on a dominant team dominating a league of 16-to-20-year-olds, but he'll figure it out.
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi: Again, Bertuzzi is a superb player when he gets out of the way and plays, but he's very young and still maturing. He ended up taking a 10-minute misconduct and throwing the Wings' lines into greater disarray because he chose to oblige Dane Fox in both fighting and taking of his helmet, which was a 2-minute "equipment violation." He got his licks in, and thereafter, he did a superb job of holding his temper, but the fight was kind of inevitable--and it was inevitably going to be him who fought. He's a speedy skater with solid playmaking skills, he keeps his head up and he's got a good shot, but he can't go running around the ice wondering who he's going to hit next instead of who he's going to pass to and who he's going to cover defensively (though he did play on the PK).
#62 Zach Nastasiuk: Nastasiuk had a "monster" game. He was gritty, sometimes mean, but controlled in choosing when to hack and whack after the whistle and when to simply stand and watch the dimwits take shots at him. He also made sure to show that he's working on his skating--I'd say he's gained half-a-step to a full step over the summer--and that he promises to be more than simply a Kirk Maltby clone. Nastasiuk can in fact deke, dangle and score on occasion, and it's the, "I can do more than grind" aspect of his game that might be essential to earning a pro contract. As an 18-year-old, he's quite mature and he's very professional.
#63 Phillipe Hudon: Phillipe didn't necessarily stand out, but that's not his job. As a big but not overly big and a skilled but not overly skilled defensive winger, and especially as someone who was getting into his first game against the scrappy Blues, Hudon didn't play quite as much as his teammates who had more game experience, and that's no fun for someone who's been a healthy scratch for two straight games.
When he wasn't short-shifted due to little PK experience, however, he was indeed rock-solid in his own zone, mucking, grinding, out-working and out-competing his opponents for loose pucks, he blocked some shots here and there, he hauled ass and hauled puck out of trouble in a hurry, and he chugged up and down the ice looking to make hits and serve as a reliable outlet. He's climbing up a near-vertical hill in terms of having two years to finally establish himself as something of a force in the QMJHL and then to earn a pro deal, but he's a brilliant kid and he's going to work two tails off to attempt to accomplish his goals.
#60 Marek Tvrdon: I have to be doubly or triply careful as to what I say about Tvrdon because he's played so very little hockey, but he really looks like he's starting to feel comfortable in that huge and broad-shouldered body again. He's shown much more pace in his skating and some downright slickness in terms of his ability to move the puck up ice himself and then either dish it to teammates or fire off a hard shot, and he knows how to lurk in dead zones or to skate an extra stride here or there to make himself open--which is something Frk does when he's not too worried about passing. I can only hope that the Wings send Tvrdon to Grand Rapids instead of Vancouver, because playing against men is what he needs to do to really reclaim his status as a product of the Slovakian Power Forward Factory.
#72 Andreas Athanasiou: Athanasiou took a bit of a step back against the heavy, physical Blues, in no small part because they were targeting him. Even the supremely-gifted natural athlete can't skate through four or five big bodies stacked in a line leading to the net, so Athanasiou's self-made rushes were fewer, and he really is still learning how to use his teammates. He's gotten "better and better" at being a passer and a patient penalty-killer as the tournament's gone on, but as promising as this fast and furious center may be, he's got a ways to go in terms of making the players around him better, and he at least seems to understand that.
#64 Jordan Maletta: Again, it's hard to say what Maletta's got and what he doesn't. At times, he looks like a much bigger and heavier Nastasiuk, hacking, whacking, slashing and pounding opponents into the boards, skating particularly well for someone who's "big and heavy," and making very solid passes, and sometimes I forget which player wears #62 and which one wears #64, and that's not necessarily good given that Maletta's 6'3" to Nastasiuk's 6'1" and over 210 pounds to Nastasiuk's 193. But I've only seen him play two times, and I've never seen him play before this week.
#61 Xavier Ouellet: Ouellet needed to rebound from a difficult outing against Dallas, and he did just that, head-manning the Wings' offense with equal puck possession time to his more readily apparent and bombastic teammate, Ryan Sproul, slickly sliding pucks up to forwards or carrying the puck up ice himself to key breakouts, firing rockets toward the net, giving and receiving and then giving back passes as he used his superb lateral mobility to roam around the offensive zone or to get back on defense and take out opponents without having to smash them into smithereens, and he didn't get walked around, which is huge given that the transition point between forwards and backwards skating is Ouellet's weakness, using his poke-check to perfection this time around. He was nothing less than a leader against the Blues, and that was great. He's going to take some time to mature, but he's going to be an incredibly important defenseman that you'll barely notice.
#48 Ryan Sproul: Sproul was solid, if a little less spectacular than on Friday, mostly because he shouldered the physical load as Ouellet did his thing. I guess that's a reminder for those of us (sometimes including me) who think that Sproul is some sort of right-handed version of Chris Pronger in the making--he is in fact a very large and powerful man coming out of an OHL where he was among the biggest and strongest, and even at 6'4" and a little over 200 pounds, he's not going to be the biggest or strongest guy every night in the AHL.
He and Ouellet remain the Wings' top two defensemen and have been used in all situations, and his blistering slap shot, great heads-up passing and puck-rushing, his surprisingly deft skating and his physical panache remain incredibly promising. He took no guff and played very well, and despite the small drop-off in results, he was still very, very good.
#77 Richard Nedomlel: Nedomlel was nursing some ice bags after the game but smiling, as he always does, and I thought that Richard was in fact the most important defenseman on the ice, because the Blues had chosen to chirp at him most regularly and to attempt to engage him in fights, and while Nedomlel got into some scrums, he wasn't biting on any of their bullshit. In a game which featured 27 penalties, Richard did finish with 2--shots--and instead of letting his temper get the better of him, the massive 6'6," 230-pound defenseman assuaged for the shot-block-turned-Blues goal with rock-steady defensive play, smart positioning, good, "Get the puck out of trouble" passing to Max Nicastro and some boomers of his own. Like Ouellet, although at the other end of the "my role is to do X" spectrum, he can get walked around, and when he does, he gets grabby, and tonight, he didn't clutch or grab. He was just in the right place at the right time, he made heavy hits, and he was reliable as could be, all while showing the restraint any player who hopes to earn a job playing for Jeff Blashill or Mike Babcock must display.
#58 Max Nicastro: Like he did on Saturday night, Nicastro flashed his natural offensive abilities, head-manning plays on occasion, making well-timed passes and taking smart shots, and even chugging the puck up ice himself, and he really serves as a perfect foil to Nedomlel because he's the player who another stay-at-home guy wants to get the puck to to get it out of trouble. In his own zone and the neutral zone, he blocked shots, blocked passes, blocked lanes and laid out some hits of his own, and he just keeps playing like someone who knows that the "A" on his jersey means one thing--lead and you might find yourself in the AHL instead of the ECHL. He's been a fine leader.
#75 Marc McNulty: McNulty looks young, but he doesn't play young. With just silly mobility and skating speed for someone who's 6'6," he can actually join the rush and use that toe-taped-blade to rifle fluttering passes from tape to tape or unleash some rising slap shots at the net...Or he can go toe-to-toe with his opponents despite the fact that he is an incredibly light and gaunt man at maybe 190 pounds, not getting overpowered in the corners and even taking a jab to the balls and responding with a hack but not by going ape. Very young, very big, very skilled (and, like Ouellet, he's a left-shooting defenseman, which is becoming rare in the prospect pipeline!).
#47 Alexei Marchenko: Marchenko straddles the line between ready for AHL duty and in need of a little bit of seasoning. He is big, he's stacked physically, he's obviously played against professionals and he is a skilled puck-moving defenseman with a smart stick and a big brain. He's just struggling with the pace of the game and with the fact that the rink is much smaller, yielding a game that is nothing like the KHL's soccer-on-ice, and he may be tiring a bit after playing 3 games in 4 nights. He worked very hard and he played very smart hockey, and his chemistry with McNulty is fantastic, shifting between the "safe guy" and the offensive playmaker at will, but you can see him translating the game in his head, and that occasionally leads to hesitation.
#36 Jake Paterson: Again, nearly flawless. Paterson was as calm and cool as could be while lurching out to grab pucks that were loose in the slot or playing them to his teammates with his superb puckhandling skills, all while facing pressure and very regularly three or four very hungry Blues players, and when all five Blues skaters and all five Wings skaters piled in his crease, he just kept holding onto the puck before extricating himself from the pile.
His glove hand is excellent, his blocker hand is superb, his toes are speedy, he plays a smooth and fluid hybrid style that isn't too butterfly-driven and is neither too passive nor aggressive, and he loves keeping the play moving when possible. He isn't that big a goalie by today's standards at 6'1" and 185-ish pounds, but there are few holes in his game, and he rarely gets flustered.
The Wings' goalie pipeline went from dry-pond small to fairly deep when the Wings signed Coreau after watching Paterson blossom into a strong goalie at the OHL level, and a year from now, the Wings may be three deep in Grand Rapids.
Otherwise...The Left Wing Lock's Lindneau happened to pen a profile of Paterson, who's hoping to avoid playing in an outdoor game at Comerica Park this December as the Saginaw Spirit goalie would rather be tending Team Canada's World Junior nets...
Despite [a] four game sweep in the OHL playoffs, Paterson has a lot to be proud of including being named to Team Canada’s World Junior Championship squad. He didn’t see any game action, but the experience was invaluable.
“Being the third goalie I had a lot of time to soak up as much as I could,” he said. “It was a great experience and looking forward to this year it is a big goal of mine to make it on the roster again.”
If Paterson’s play at the 2013 NHL Prospects Tournament is any indication, he is destined to have the type of year that could help his chances. In two tournament games, the Mississauga, Ontario native has stopped 42 of the 44 shots faced and posted an impressive 1.00 goals against and .955 save percentage. He is currently listed as the second best goalie in the tournament behind Dallas’s Maxime Lagace. He nearly had a shutout in tonight’s game against St. Louis, but an unfortunate bounce off of Richard Nedomlel led to a third period goal for the Blues.
“I thought it was a pretty good game though it would been nice to get the shutout,” he said. “It was more important that we won and secured a chance to play in the championship game. It meant a lot and I am really excited we have a chance to try and win the tournament tomorrow.”
With the prospect tournament winding down tomorrow night, Paterson is excited about participating in the main camp which starts later this week. Due to the NHL lockout and cancellation of training camp last season, this will be his first opportunity to skate with the Red Wings.
“It’s my first main camp,” he said. “I am looking forward to be on the ice with all the Red Wings and learning from them. I had a chance to skate with the Griffins last year and it was a great experience so I expect this to be even better.”
The Free Press's George Sipple penned a profile of the best Wings prospect who wasn't allowed to play here in Danny DeKeyser, who didn't get to enjoy a day with the Calder Cup as he was in Florida during his "day":
“I never got a chance to pick it up,” DeKeyser said. “I was a little disappointed. It’s always fun to win, especially when you’re joining a team late in the playoffs. It doesn’t happen too often like that. It was an awesome experience.”
DeKeyser also was invited to USA Hockey’s Olympic orientation camp last month. DeKeyser, 23, is now preparing for his first full season in the NHL.
After three seasons at Western Michigan, he signed with the Red Wings as an undrafted free agent and made a big impact in 11 regular-season games and two playoff games.
“I’m just going to try to take it up another notch,” DeKeyser said. “Just going to try to have a good season. It’s a long season. Eighty-two games will be a bit of a grind. Just have to battle through that and have a good season.”
And in the Twitter department...
Immediate update: Via RedWingsFeed, Red Wings TV's Dan Mannes snagged inside-the-locker-room interviews with Jake Paterson...
And Andreas Athanasiou:
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About The Malik Report
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.