The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/07/13 at 03:33 AM ET
As noted in the "initial thoughts and audio" post, the Red Wings prospects' 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars didn't secure the team a berth in the prospect tournament final, but it was as close to a giant-slaying as you could get.
The "new" crop of Red Wings prospects has been built purposefully to possess size and some snarl, but compared to the Stars' prospects, they looked downright small, and the Radek Faksas, Andrei Nicushkins, Alex Chiassons and Patrik Nemeths were supposed to have their way against a team with all of three non-rookie AHL'ers in Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Max Nicastro and two European pros in Teemu Pulkkinen and Calle Jarnkrok..
Games are not played on paper, however, and while there were some very tense moments as the puck-possession teams traded chances, and the Stars were a crossbar and some very fine goaltending (the shots were listed at 29-19 Detroit, but I think Jared Coreau faced at least five more pucks) away from breaking through late in the 3rd period, the Wings stuck with the Jeff Blashill/Mike Babcock defensive system that they've been working on since the development camp in July, and as you might expect from a Red Wings team, patience, poise, physical sacrifice and attention to detail won the day.
With no games scheduled for Saturday, knowing that Sunday's tilt against St. Louis can assure the Wings of a spot in the tournament championship game, and mostly out of an abundance of concern for players' physical and mental wear and tear, the coaches chose to cancel Saturday's practice and give the players time to recharge.
The players will play in another slate of two games in two nights regardless of whether they win or lose on Sunday, and as Jim Paek suggested, a two-day break precedes six days' worth of working with coach Mike Babcock at the main camp, and each and every player will need to be at their best to keep up when Babs takes charge.
Speaking of which, Michelle Osgood of Slapshot Photography, LLC, was kind enough to lend a gigantic photographic hand on Friday night--posting a huge slate of images from the game--and this is what the suite the Wings' executives use looks like during games:
Image courtesy of Slapshot Photography, LLC
(Shh, if you click on the picture, you'll see Mike Babcock's reading glasses!)
And this is what his bald clone looks like at work:
Image courtesy of Slapshot Photgraphy, LLC
I'm generally not the narrative recap type, so I'll let Dallas Stars Inside Edge's Mark Stepneski tell the tale of the tape for Jim Nill's team...
Dallas goaltender Philippe Desrosiers, a second round pick in this summer’s NHL Draft, stopped 25 of 28 shots.
The Stars found themselves pinned down early in the game and unable to generate much in the way of offense. The Red Wings opened the scoring at 7:14 of the first period when Martin Frk scored from close range off the rush.
The Stars had a couple of chances to tie. Cole Ully had an open side of the net, but the puck bounced over his stick. Alex Chiasson had a shot ring off the post late in the first.
Detroit made it a 2-0 game when Riley Sheahan tallied on the power play at 11:39 of the second.
Sheahan put a backhander in while being pulled down. It was awesome.
The Stars scored less than four minutes later when [center Taylor] Peters forced a turnover on the forecheck and set up Paulovic, who scored from the slot at the 15:34 mark of the second period.
The Red Wings got their two-goal lead back early in the third period when Teemu Pulkkinen scored off a blast from the right circle off the rush.
“That was a bad goal,” said Desrosiers. “Stuff happens.”
Bad goal or beautiful goal, depending on your point of view.
The Stars had a great chance to cut into the lead a couple minutes later when Detroit took back-to-back penalties, giving the Stars 35 seconds of five-on-three power play time. The Stars couldn’t cash in on the two-man advantage, but they did score on the five-on-four to make it a 3-2 game when [Jamie] Oleksiak’s blast from the point deflected off traffic and into the net with 11:32 remaining in the game.
This was bugaboo and a half. The Wings did a superb job of cutting off the Stars' down-low pass, but John Klingberg, Olesak and especially Rinat Valiev were fantastic at firing hard shots that found their way through traffic after playing a Wings-like lateral puck moving game.
The Stars' top line of Nicushkin, team captain Alex Chiasson and Faksa was outstanding, barely edging the Tomas Jurco-Riley Sheahan-Teemu Pulkkinen line in terms of dominance and time of puck possesion, but obviously not productivity.
The Stars couldn’t get the equalizer. Matej Stransky took a cross-checking penalty with 1:45 left in the game, leaving the Stars shorthanded. The Stars did pull Desrosiers late in the game to make it a five-on-five situation, but Detroit was awarded a goal when Dallas forward Curtis McKenzie pulled down Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou as he had a clear breakaway on the empty net.
Those count as goals.
I was asked to talk about the Stars' players a bit, so I'll say this: Chiasson is a big, mobile puck-moving center who was dominant. Nicushkin comes as advertised, NHL-ready and huge, Faksa was slick, Brendan Ranford was an excellent second-line center, and while Patrick Nemeth, Klingberg and Olesak were good, the less-heralded Valiev was the star of the show on defense, really working the puck around like only Ouellet and Sproul can do.
MLive's Brendan Savage didn't attend the game, but he penned a pretty solid narrative recap as well:
The victory left the Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres as the only teams with 2-0 records after the first two days of the event in Traverse City.
The teams lead their respective divisions, the Howe and Lindsay ones...
The Red Wings led 2-0 midway through the second period after goals by Frk and Sheahan before Matej Paulovic tallied for Dallas. Pulkkinen and Dallas' Jamie Olesiak traded third-period goals to make it 3-2 before Athanasiou scored into an empty net while on the power play with 22 seconds left.
Goaltender Jared Coreau got the victory for the Red Wings.
The Red Wings were 2-for-4 on the power play while Dallas was 1-for-4.
You can do your own stat-keeping via Pointstreak's box score and game sheet: Coreau stopped 17 of 19; Ryan Spoul had 2 assists; Teemu Pulkkinen registered a goal and an assist; Martin Frk and Andreas Athansaiou (empty-netter) scored goals, and Marek Tvrdon (holy crap, the Wings scored a power play goal!) and Anthony Mantha had assists.
And yes, Tyler Bertuzzi nearly got in a fight, but his teammates and the linesmen got the better of him, after he'd doffed one glove.
In the multimedia department in terms of "non-inline" stuff, the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau posited a fantastic photo gallery of her own, and if you missed my interviews...
Here's Ryan Sproul...
Try-out Barclay Goodrow...
And Wings' prospects and Grand Rapids Griffins assistant coach Jim Paek:
Teemu Pulkkinen's stick bending as it got caught in Riley Sheahan's pants...
Alexei Marchenko taking no guff...
Michal Plutnar preparing for a faceoff while wearing the only pair of "skate fenders" on the team...
Martin Frk's ever-present tongue...
There is, of course, the ever-present bench shot...
And is Jared Coreau big?
He's frickin' huge:
All images courtesy of Slapshot Photography, LLC
The Wings dressed the following lineup, rotating out Marc McNulty and Rasmus Bodin, scratching Phillipe Hudon for the second straight game and scratching try-out goaltender Cam Lanigan for the second straight game--though Lanigan is going to have the opportunity to deliver a tournament-final-clinching win on Sunday...
#26 Tomas Jurco "A"--#15 Riley Sheahan "A"--#56 Teemu Pulkkinen
#39 Anthony Mantha--#70 Calle Jarnkrok--#42 Martin Frk
The bottom two lines were juggled like nobody's business, but they were initially...
#60 Marek Tvrdon--#72 Andreas Athanasiou--#64 Jordan Maletta
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi--#84 Barlcay Goodrow #84--#62 Zach Natasiuk
The defensive pairs were as follows--except when Plutnar occasionally found himself sitting on the bench:
#61 Xavier Ouellet--#48 Ryan Sproul
#77 Richard Nedomlel-#58 Max Nicastro "A"
#47 Alexei Marchenko-#75 Michal Plutnar
And in goal...
#31 Jared Coreau, with #36 Jake Paterson serving as back-up.
On the power play, Goodrow took Jarnkrok's spot on the 2nd line ass Jarnkrok played on the point alongside Ouellet or Sproul, and Marek Tvrdon played the other point;
On the PK, Sheahan and Goodrow played significant minutes at center, as did Jarnkrok, rotating with Bertuzzi, Athanasiou, Jurco and Nastasiuk--with Blashill employing 3 and sometimes 4 PK pairs of forwards--and the defensive pairs remained the same.
There were portions of the game where Nicastro or Sproul were double-shifted with Marchenko.
In terms of individual performances, on a line-by-line basis...
#15 Riley Sheahan: The Jurco-Sheahan-Pulkkinen line scored two goals, but wasn't nearly as dominant as they were in Thursday's game because the Stars line-matched the hell out of them. That being said, Sheahan's transformation from something of a complimentary player to a leader, a real two-way center with great faceoff skills, grit, jam, a helluva playmaker's touch, good passing and playmaking skills and very vocal head-manning of coverage in all three zones is wonderful to see. He's taken to the "A" like nobody's business and knows that it's his job to set the tone, and he is doing that through incredibly hard work.
Image courtesy of Slapshot Photography, LLC
#26 Tomas Jurco: Jurco's been a bit of a puzzle. He's not scoring at all, and he's not necessarily threatening as a scorer, but that's not for a lack of dominant and stand-out play that doesn't involve music. Jurco and Sheahan readily trade off defensive positioning as the "low man" or third forward, he's a superb give-and-go passer, it turns out that his playmaking vision is fantastic, and he's grinding, hacking, mashing and jamming his way through and into traffic to create time and space for his teammates in the offensive zone and to help his teammates out in the defensive zone.
He's just not scoring, and that's weird. To some extent, he's proving that he's capable of all the other parts of his game. He's just not in the spotlight this time around.
Image courtesy of Slapshot Photgraphy, LLC
Teemu Pulkkinen #56: I asked Michelle to spotlight Pulkkinen, and her gallery does not disappoint--nor has Pulkkinen. While his one-timer finally got on target tonight, the undersized waterbug surprises and amazes because, without being physical, he is an unbelievably tenacious forward who will bounce off of check, shake off high sticks and all sorts of physical punishment to keep cycles going, to grind out pucks and to give as well as receive the kinds of passes that result in goals scored. He's also got some hustle in his own end, but mostly, it's his fearlessness that gives his "holy slapper" bite (and thanks for the reminder, Whoabot).
Images courtesy of Slapshot Photography, LLC
#39 Anthony Mantha: Slowly finding his game. Mantha and Frk put their, "Holy shit it's pro hockey!" games behind them and played much better on what was the Wings' most dominant line of the night, with Mantha setting up a gorgeous Frk goal and the 6'4" all-arms-and-legs giant displaying the grit and competitiveness he lacked in the first game. Mantha has a crapton of work to do both physically and mentally, but he is both an elite scorer and a superb passer who looms and lurks up the wing with surprising mobility. Young and full of promise.
Image courtesy of Slapshot Photgraphy, LLC
#70 Calle Jarnkrok: Again, smoother than glitter on a sweaty stripper. Jarnkrok, like Pulkkinen, is undersized and very wiry in terms of his build, but having played for three seasons in the SHL, his adjustments to the North American-sized rink in terms of both its dimensions and especially its pace of play are going to pay off. He skates superbly, his defensive abilities are wonderful, he's a good faceoff man, he's a playmaker of the first order, he's got a good shot, his positioning in general is excellent and he may be quiet, but he leads by example.
He's the real deal, and it may take him some time to both simplify his game and some years to fill out, but he is going to be a superb NHL player.
#42 Martin Frk: Mr. Sticks His Tongue Out More Than Pulkkinen did indeed shake off the jitters and score a top-shelf beauty, but it's Frk's willingness to not just use that short, whippy 75-flex stick and his feet to shoot and kick pucks up the wall and flick them on net that intrigues me. The Hunchback of Halifax chugs up and down the boards and kicks and whacks pucks in his own zone, too, and you can see the effort on his face when he's really engaged. It's keeping that level up that is key as he really is an awfully slow starter in every sense of the term, but when he's on, he's a power forward with goal-scoring ability like nobody's business.
#60 Marek Tvrdon: Tvrdon remains something of a puzzle, mostly because he sometimes looks incredibly uncomfortable out there, and sometimes, especially when playing on the point on the power play, he looks like he really did come out of the Slovakian Power Forward factory, and is in fact something of a rich man's Tomas Kopecky. Big booming shot, solid pass, good mobility for a massive man whose shoulders are incredibly broad, and he can drive to the net. But he's barely played.
I know that the Vancouver Giants are keen to keep him, but I think he'd honestly be much better-served playing in Toledo--and Walleye coach Nick Vitucci and assistant coach Dan Watson were watching tonight, by the way.
#72 Andreas Athanasiou: If Frk is all hunched-over freight train, Athanasiou is a straight-up cannonball, using those remarkably powerful legs that the good hockey gods graced him with to absolutely fly up and down the ice. He can in fact serve as a solid faceoff man, and does in fact pass very well, but it's those end-to-end or blueline-to-net rushes and his burning desire to put pucks in the net that's his draw--and it's his "ultra-competitiveness" over every square inch of the rink that's what lasts, at least when he's on. If he has one weakness, it is his fantastic confidence, because he can get caught trying to do far too much on his own.
#64 Zach Nastasiuk: With Kirk Maltby actually standing nearby, it was weird to watch a player who might ultimately be his successor. Nastasiuk is competitive in a very different, very much so grittier and more team-oriented way than Athanasiou, hunting down pucks, banging bodies, forechecking, backchecking, head up, moving pucks out of trouble, head up, shooting pucks at the net, stick up, going into lay a hard check or to defend himself with some snarl.
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi: Again, he is a player who, when he gets out of his way, is in fact a speedy and tenacious terrier, with superb skating skills, a good outlet pass, a hard shot and an all-round awareness of his surroundings that could allow him to be much more than an instigator if he ever got it in his head to be more than an instigator. He's been really solid on the third and fourth lines, even taking a PK shift and acquitting himself well, but it is that preoccupation with pursuing things after whistles and instigating when not necessarily wise that get him into trouble.
Image courtesy of Slapshot Photography, LLC
#84 Barclay Goodrow: Speaking with Goodrow after the game was very necessary because he's off-ice demeanor is a little prickly, at least with me. I hope it's the chip on his shoulder, because he was very honestly stating that what his goal involves is earning the opportunity to play with the Grand Rapids Griffins this season. Again, as something of a "power center," he is most certainly earning consideration, chugging up and down the gut like Trevor Parkes pursues the wings, crashing and banging and hounding and mucking pucks to his teammates before going to the front of the net and trying to stay there. The fact that he's earning PP time as a net-front guy and PK time speaks to the fact that he's starting to earn Jeff Blashill's trust, and that's very important given that Blashill may soon be his coach.
#64 Jordan Maletta: Maletta finally got into a game, and the 6'3," 215-pound winger looked like a frickin' Nastasiuk clone--just bigger. No fuss, no muss, he's not a bombastic hitter, nor is he a particularly vicious player, but he will grind, he will hack, he will whack, he will annoy and he will get the dang puck out of trouble, and for his size, he skates really well. I've only seen him play once and practice twice, so I can't say that much about him other than that he was really solid and that he was not short-benched.
#61 Xavier Ouellet: Mr. Smooth had a rough night. Ouellet was really pounded by the Stars' forwards, and when he got hit off the puck, or when he got caught turning from forward-skating to skating backwards--which again, is his weakness--a few Stars just blew past him because there are times when that elegant poke-check does not work, and when his subtle positioning is less than magnificent. Maybe this was his, "Oh shit, guys are so much bigger at the pro level, and I was dominating against 16-year-old kids!" game, because he really got bumped around.
All of that being said, he was still fluid, he was, for the most part, worry-free and his slick slick slick passing and/or puck-carrying skills, his sneaky shot and his all-round elegance make him a wonderful foil for Ryan Sproul. He just needs to kick up his "compete level" and remember that simpler is always better.
Image courtesy Slapshot Photography, LLC
#48 Ryan Sproul: Then there is the big lunk, who admitted that he's learning how very little time, space and margin for error he's going to have at the pro level. He's chugged the puck up ice as a puck-carrying, risk-taking defenseman whose gambles have almost all paid off, he's unleashed that booming shot, he's sealed and smashed opposing players, he's made just awesome awesome awesome diagonal seam passes to players for goals--this time setting up Pulkkinen's one-timer--and he blocks shots and kills penalties as a minute-muncher as well.
Can he keep it up over the long haul? Can he minimize his mistakes? I'd like to think so.
#77 Richard Nedomlel: Big Richard had a rebound game. After getting walked around by faster and bigger opponents, someone who is used to pushing junior-aged kids around as a 6'5," 230-plus-pound behemoth started standing up to players who were just as big and just as strong as he was, and he seemed to embrace the challenge of being challenged. He was much more sound defensively and much smarter and spare in his puck-handling, choosing to slide passes to Nicastro or to forwards instead, to block shots, to occasionally rifle blasts of his own and to mostly be mean without being utterly nasty and to be a dick without being a *#$%@&.
#58 Max Nicastro: Nicastro does have some Sproul-like tendencies, but what he's embracing at the pro game is, again, a sort of Maltby-and-Draper-like, "Okay, I'm not going to be able to skate up the gut and score like I did in college and like I did when I was 6' and 170 pounds instead of 6'3" and 225, I've got to embrace what I've got and prove that I'm a #5 to Richard's #6 defenseman, with top-four abilities in a pinch" mentality.
Long story short, he has the skill set to do more, but his body done got real big, and he's chosen to use it to his advantage. He is massive, he can be utterly menacing, he's got the good passing skills, sometimes Ouellet-Sproul-like vision and overall sense of what's happening on the ice to move the puck up to the forwards or head-man it himself when necessary without putting himself or his partner--or his goaltender--in trouble. In his own zone, he's near rock-steady and he's very hard to play against, plain old hard. It is evident that he's taking the "A" on his chest as a message, and he's heard it loud and clear: time to lead or you're gonna be in Toledo.
Image courtesy of Slapshot Photography, LLC
#47 Alexei Marchenko: Whether it was a lack of chemistry with Richard Plutnar or simply playing a team that was finally NHL-sized, Marchenko took a step back on Friday, starting to make the kinds of mistakes that defenseman who are big and strong on 200'x100' ice in a more soccer-or-football-style KHL make when getting ran down and ran over at the North American professional level. He's very mobile, very smart, just plain old bright, he's got a playmaker's pass, a heavy shot and he sees the ice very well, and he is generally very comfortable on the right side...So playing on the left against a team whose average size must have been 6'2" and 205 pounds was very hard for him. He will learn.
#74 Richard Plutnar: It was incredibly hard to get a read on Plutnar. At times, the 6'2," 175-pound defenseman wearing skate fenders was a superb foil for Marchenko, using his stick to jab pucks out of trouble and to shimmy up and down the ice with speed and pace. He kept up with the pace of the game quite well, but his ice time started to dwindle as Nicastro was double-shifted in his stead late in the game, and while it is evident that Plutnar's skill level in all aspects of the game is very high, I'm not sure if he can cracked a stacked Grand Rapids/Walleye blueline.
#31 Jared Coreau: Coreau evidently struggled at times, which is saying something given his overall performance. His lateral movements were herky-jerky at times, he wasn't as confident with his glove hand (using another pro goalie's "leftover" catch glove) as he'd like, and he was downright awkward puckhandling at times (and he is not a puckhandling goalie). But he was also incredibly efficient at other times, booting the puck out of danger with his long legs and smart toes, blockering it away or using his big body to deflect pucks while generally staying very square and very sure of his position in the net--which is something given that he hadn't played since March, and given that the Stars were intent upon banging him around.
He's not a puck-mover like Paterson, and he's not a goalie who becomes acrobatic when he's turned around like McCollum, but he's also not an athletic goalie like Mrazek, either. He is there, with a big head on his shoulders and a massive frame at his disposal, rarely panicking and simply playing efficiently. He doesn't go down too early--he made a couple of stand-up saves--he doesn't panic when spun out, and he doesn't get angry.
What he does need to work on is to not get caught between standing up and the butterfly, where he can be beaten, and while he does not get rattled in traffic, sometimes he scrunches too much of his big blocking surface down.
But it was one game and his first game in six months, after having rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder.
“Pulkkinen has great offensive ability, but he’ll have to continue to learn the defensive aspects,” Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill said. “The thing I like about him is he cares a ton and he wants to be a player and he wants to win. He’s got a great attitude and he’ll continue to get better.”
The 22 year-old showed off his offensive flair during the Red Wings 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars at the NHL prospects tournament in traverse City, MI. Pulkkinen, who is tied for first in team point production along with Andreas Athanasiou isn’t satisfied with his play heading into Sunday’s contest against the St. Louis blues.
“It’s good that we won the game of course, but I wasn’t that good today,” he said. “I was way too slow and I made a couple of mistakes, but the good thing is that we won the game. It’s nice to score, but honestly I could have been better and I hope to have my best game next time.”
Pulkkinen will never win any skating competitions, but he’s worked hard to improve his speed and leg strength in order to help him play a full season in the smaller rinks. Having spent the end of the season with the Griffins and getting a chance to play 2 regular season games and 14 playoff games helped understand what he needed to improve coming into this season.
“It’s a lot of help for me to be in Grand Rapids so that now I know how it works,” he said. “It helped me get used to the smaller ice and get to know the people. It was good to be there and learn from those guys.”
“We’ve been talking since July 5,” Cleary said Friday as he joined a number of his former teammates at Joe Louis Arena for an informal skate. “We’ll see this weekend. I’ll make a decision Sunday. I’m talking to three other teams. It won’t be an easy decision to make. We’ll see how it goes.”
The Wings are already two over the roster limit of 23 as they head into training camp next week in Traverse City and $637,000 over the salary cap.
“I’ve got options,” Cleary said. “I just want to make the right call for my family. I’ve talked to Kenny (Holland) and we all know what he’s trying to do. We’re all in agreement that I want to come back, they want me back so we’ll see.”
Cleary did add he has a “serious” offer from one team, but would not be more specific.
“I want to stay in Detroit,” Cleary said. “I think I’ve made that pretty clear. I’ve been pretty patient. I’ve had other opportunities to leave and just didn’t want to leave. I’ve just tried to wait as long as I could for Detroit to make the right moves, I guess. That’s all I can say right now.”
Cleary did admit picturing himself back in Detroit was a tough call. [Ken] Holland has extended Cleary an invitation to training camp on a pro tryout, but with no guarantee of a contract. Coincidentally, that’s how he began his career in Detroit in 2005.
“I’m not so much concerned about signing a deal,” Cleary said. “I’m going to go to camp with a deal agreed on. I hope it’s here. If it’s not I have other options.”
And some of his comments were eyebrow-raising, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted:
Cleary said he received a contract offer from the Red Wings on July 3.
“I just felt it wasn’t what I deserved and he (General Manager Ken Holland) agreed and we went forward,” Cleary said. “As days went by, we kept talking more and more.”
So, how does forward Todd Bertuzzi feel compared to the end of last season?
“A thousand times better,” said Bertuzzi, who was limited to 13 games (seven in the regular season) because of a bad back. “I’m happy with where I’m at. I feel strong and I’m skating better right now. I haven’t had any issues in the morning or evening and that’s a plus for me.”
But this is just weird:
Defenseman Danny DeKeyser missed his chance to spend a day with the Calder Cup this summer.
The day he was scheduled to receive it — DeKeyser helped Grand Rapids win the American League title in June — he was on vacation in Florida.
Again, the Calder Cup and the Stanley Cup will be making appearances at the Osgood Brewing Company in the Grand Rapids suburb of Grandville, MI today:
As the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reported:
The Stanley Cup, which belongs to the Chicago Blackhawks, will be in the possession of Blackhawks equipment assistant Jim Heintzelman, who formerly worked with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and will be on site from 4-8 p.m.
The Calder Cup, making one of its many West Michigan appearances following the Griffins’ first AHL championship, will arrive around 5 p.m. with host Brad Thompson, the Griffins' equipment manager.
Pictures with the cups will be available for a donation to a charity to be determined. A professional photographer will also be on hand.
And Jimmy Howard was absent from the NHL's media tour on Friday, so his new divisional rivals made some, well, at least marginally interesting comments about the Wings' new home, as noted by NHL.com's Dan Rosen:
The Eastern players admittedly are leery about the odds not being the same for both conferences even though the format for getting in is the same: The top three teams from each division make the playoffs, then the field in each conference is filled out by the next two highest point-earning teams regardless of division.
"It's a little bit skewed, but it's good for the game to bring Detroit over [to the Eastern Conference] and move Winnipeg over [to the Western Conference]," Spezza said. "Geographically it's not fair to those teams that have to travel just for the sake of travel, but I do look at only my division and it's gotten tougher."
There's no debating Spezza on that point.
The same five teams that represented the Northeast Division (Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres and Senators) now have to deal with the Red Wings, plus the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning in the new Atlantic Division. The Red Wings have made the playoffs a record 22 straight seasons.
"They're a powerhouse," Buffalo forward Steve Ott told NHL.com.
It's 3:27 AM. I've been up since 9 on Friday, and was running on six hours of sleep then. I am going to be VERY quiet today as there are two jam-packed days of hockey at the prospect tournament...
A "travel day" and a "golf day" for the Wings...
And then SIX days of training camp activities.
I need to take advantage of what rest I can get, but I hope I'm earning my stay. I will take a low profile today as necessary and will cover practice news sparingly.
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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.