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Red Wings playoff prospect news: Bertuzzi masterful in agitator’s role as Guelph eliminates London

Updated significantly at 1:38 AM: What a strange tournament. For Anthony Mantha and the Val-d'or Foreurs, the Memorial Cup's about learning how to deal with a spotlight that playing in Northern Quebec has never exposed the team to, and for Mantha in particular, getting the snot checked out of him as the OHL and WHL's best teams chase him up and down the ice.

For Mantha, a goal and an assist in 3 games is fantastic, as is the fact that they'll play the Edmonton Oil Kings in Friday's semifinal;

For Tyler Bertuzzi, however, the tournament's a very different animal. He's been able to piss off the Oil Kings, the Foreurs, and tonight, Bertuzzi and his Guelph Storm played against a very, very familiar foe in the host London Knights--and the shift disturber was downright dominant in terms of scoring (2 goals, the 3-1 marker and the 4-2 goal) and driving a team full of players whose buttons he could push and fans he could aggravate batty.

Bertuzzi's Guelph Storm got some fine revenge on their frequent OHL rivals, sending the host London Knights--the team Guelph defeated in the second round of the OHL playoffs--to the offseason via a 7-2 thrashing on Wednesday, and now Guelph will wait to play in Sunday's final.

Amongst Bertuzi's exploits:

Bertuzzi drew Zach Bell into the penalty box in the first period, but took a penalty for diving himself, and he wrapped up the first with off-setting minors;

In the second period, Bertuzzi scored only 2:23 in, and hammed it up, so it wasn't surprised when Bertuzzi was kneed by Nikita Zadorov some 8 minutes later.

Bertuzzi dropped and stayed down, and as far as the refs were concerned, it was fluffernutter--so Zadorov got a 2-minute minor, Bertuzzi hobbled his way to the bench, and six minutes later--three shifts after he'd returned to the ice to a chorus of boos--he grabbed a puck in the neutral zone, skated in and shot a high shot over Jake Patterson to snag his second goal of the night.

In the third period, Bertuzzi crashed the net on the 5-2 goal, occupying the Knights' defenders, he kept blocking shots and stealing pucks, he threatened to score a hat trick, and he got into the Truculent Knights and their fans' heads so thoroughly that it was masterful--though his ass was nailed to the bench late.

Bertuzzi now has 5 goals in 3 games played, and his team has already booked a spot in Sunday's final (they'll play the winner of Friday's Oil Kings-Foreurs game), so Wednesday night was all about the pleasure of eliminating the host Knights from the tournament, and they did just that, with Bertuzzi very willingly playing an effective villain's role.

Is he displaying the kind of potential that might suggest that he can be a Super Booger on a scoring line instead of a checking line? Yes.

Does Bertuzzi's performance thus far, as compared with Mantha's, suddenly mean that the 18-year-old Bertuzzi's suddenly jumped past Mitchell Callahan in terms of gritty grinders, and that he should turn pro and be given the same chance to play for the Wings that Mantha may be afforded?

No. If you watched the Mantha-vs-Bertuzzi video, Ken Holland states the obvious: Mantha's ready to turn pro and will be given a long look during training camp and the exhibition season (again, he won't play in Detroit unless he takes a top-six role), while Bertuzzi's still a scrawny 6 feet tall and maybe 175 pounds; he's also graduating from high school shortly, and it's one thing to display scoring acumen while playing on the tournament's deepest team (they entered the tournament as the favorite and remain as such).

It's another to try to lead a top-heavy QMJHL champion that plays in a league where goalies' goals-against averages are in the 3's and you can get away with giving up 40 or 50 shots, and both Mantha and his Foreurs teammates have had their hands full playing a very different style of hockey and playing against some very unfamiliar opponents.

If Bertuzzi can grow up a little bit and focus a little more on between-the-whistles stuff and a little less on flopping and flailing, his skating, his superb shot, passing skills and reliability on the PK give him all the chance in the world to play a third-line role as an absolutely miserable opponent (and as so many have pointed out, yes indeedy, the Wings traded down from 18th to 20th, snagged Mantha, and used their "bonus pick" to grab Bertuzzi)...

But if Bertuzzi tried any of the shit he's done tonight at the pro level, he'd get his ass kicked all the way to Sudbury. Repeatedly. He's not big enough, not strong enough and not smart enough (yet) to know when to embellish and when to suck it up. Some 30-year-old defenseman who's 6'6" and 230 pounds would run Bertuzzi into next week the third or fourth time he flopped, flailed or chirped after the whistle, removing teeth and rearranging face.

Gordie bless him for being such a dreadful pain in the ass, but he's got a ways to go in terms of learning to pick his spots and to suck it up instead of picking every fight he can pick. That's gonna take at least another year in junior.

He's taking part in a very different kind of learning experience. It's neither better nor worse, neither harder nor easier, but being an efficient *#$%@& and being an efficient scorer and big-time difference-maker when you're playing a completely different style of hockey than you're used to, with a completely different spotlight upon you.

This is nearly home turf for Bertuzzi, under the spotlight in Ontario, pissing off his opponents and then surprising them with his scoring ability. He's in his discomfort-for-others zone, and if he stops the flopping and flailing, boy howdy, he's gonna be a pain in everyone else's ass....

And he may very well have played the "game of his life" on Wednesday.

Thank goodness "he's ours."

Here's that Mantha-vs-Bertuzzi video to shake your memory:

Update: FYI, per Octopus Thrower's Peter Fish:

Update #2: Time for serious-ass recaps.

The MasterCard Memorial Cup's website posited a recap which includes a game summary, a photo gallery, and non-embeddable game highlights, a post-game coach's presser, comments from broadcasters RJ Broadhead and Sam Cosiento (lots of Bertuzzi talk) and post-game comments from two Storm players:

The Guelph Storm eliminated the host London Knights with a 7-2 win on Wednesday night in the final game of round-robin competition at the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup.

With the victory, the OHL Champion Storm are a perfect 3-0 in tournament play and on a roll heading into the Championship Final set for Sunday afternoon at 4pm Eastern.

“It’s an exciting time, we want to play and we want to win, we want to get the pucks to the net and score the goals that we do,” said Storm captain Matt Finn on his team’s success.

“To be honest with you I thought the players played a heck of a game today,” said Storm Head Coach Scott Walker as six of his players posted multi-point games.

The Knights struggled to get their offense going the past three games, only scoring four times in that stretch.

“We’re not happy, that’s for sure,” said Phoenix Coyotes draft pick Max Domi. “We outshot a team every single game, and it’s a bad time to get cold offense.”

Guelph would strike first with a goal 5:56 into the first period as Brock McGinn would set up Scott Kosmachuk, who was left alone in the slot to put the Storm up 1-0.

Then at the 12:44 mark of the first, Kosmachuk would get his second of the night as he would pick up the loose puck and put it between the legs of Knights goaltender Anthony Stolarz for a two goal lead.

London would respond and pull within one at 17:55 of the first period as Brett Welychka pinched in from the blue line, on the power play, to notch his first of the tournament.

Detroit Red Wings prospect Tyler Bertuzzi's hot hand continued in the second period when he bounced the puck off the end boards and off of Stolarz, restoring Guelph’s two goal lead. That goal would mark the end of Stolarz’s night, being replaced by Jake Patterson.

The Knights battled, capitalizing off a neutral zone turnover, with Josh Anderson jumping on a rebound in tight to pull London back within one.

From there Guelph’s high octane offence would take over for good, as Bertuzzi notched his second of the game and tournament leading fifth goal, putting the Storm up 4-2 after 40 minutes.

The Storm scored three unanswered goals in the third period including Kosmachuk's hat-trick tally helping him earn first star honours.

Justin Nichols made 45 saves in the win.

The loss for the Knights signals another disappointing outcome at the MasterCard Memorial Cup making their third straight appearance in the tournament following a Semi-Final loss in 2013, and a Championship Final loss in overtime in 2012.

The Storm will face the winner of Friday's Semi-Final between the WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings and the QMJHL champion Val-d'Or Foreurs. The Foreurs beat the Oil Kings earlier in the week with a 4-3 double overtime win. The semi-final can be seen on Sportsnet at 7pm EDT.

The Storm's website also offered a sans-quotes recap, as did NHL.com's Mike Morreale.

As you might imagine, the London Free Press's Ryan Pyette's recap (which includes an embedded photo gallery) focused on the Knights' takes...

"Just didn't get it done, but we wanted to get it done,” London head coach Dale Hunter said of a high-scoring offence that managed a meagre four goals in three games. “There's a lot of battle in them. It's one of those things that you get beat by a team that's very good. I've been on both sides of it in my career.”

Lately, he has only seen the down side of it.

This three-year run, so special in franchise history, has lost its lustre with repeated failures against the best of competition.

“You're losing a Memorial Cup at home and you can't even get a win,” Domi said. “There's nothing really glorious about that. It sucks. But three straight years of being in the Cup is pretty special. London can say that. Every year's been different and I love every single guy I played with.

“This is the best place to play in junior hockey.”

Pyette also wondered why the Knights hosted the tournament but ended up winless in a "spirit of the thing" tale...

The Knights are done, the second Cup host to be booted from its own tournament without a single win after an embarrassing 7-2 loss to the OHL champion Guelph Storm before 8,863 Wednesday night.

They're out of it, joining the 2003 Quebec Remparts in infamy with an 0-3 record in their own backyard.

This is the only franchise in modern Cup history, which begins in 1972, to go to three events in a row and not reach the mountain top.

It's, in the words of head coach Dale Hunter before this whole thing started, the

The Storm, who ushered out London from the playoffs in the second round, did a number on them again.

If any team has looked the part of the powerhouse Knights heroes of 2005, it is Guelph. The Storm are one Sunday afternoon win away from their perfect Cup.

And London?

This is the most disappointing of their four trips to this big stage.

As did the London Free Press's Morris Dalla Costa:

Mark and Dale Hunter did what they could to make the team better and they did. They remade their defence and made a trade for Gemel Smith. When it came to the real tough sledding, the pressure-filled games, it didn’t come to fruition when they wanted it to . . . during the playoffs and the Memorial Cup.

Yes, the Knights were stricken with injuries especially in the second half of the season and the playoffs. They were hurt by suspensions.

They crashed out of the playoffs and spent almost 40 days practicing.

When they finally got to play for real, it was safe to say that they didn’t catch any breaks in this tournament.

But it’s just as safe to say they did nothing to help themselves either. Too many missed chances, too many undisciplined penalties and too many players who had failure to launch when the time came to lift off.

Full credit goes to the Guelph Storm, Val d’Or and Edmonton. They came up clutch when they had to.

The Storm wanted badly to eliminate the Knights and they did it twice this year.

They delivered the goods.

The Canadian Press's Donna Spencer's recap offers comments from both teams:

The Storm were the first team since the Windsor Spitfires in 2010 to go 3-0 through the preliminary round. The OHL champions had already secured a berth in Sunday's championship game after their second win.

"It gives us confidence to know we can beat every team in the tournament," Storm forward Scott Kosmachuk said.

The Val-d'Or Foreurs, 2-1, and the Edmonton Oil Kings, 1-2, meet in Friday's semifinal in a clash of the Quebec and Western league champions. The winner faces the Storm for the Cup.

Kosmachuk is a Winnipeg Jets prospect and led Guelph with a hat trick. Detroit Red Wings draft pick Tyler Bertuzzi scored twice. Marc Stevens and Dallas Stars prospect Jason Dickinson added a goal apiece for an explosive offence that's churned out 18 goals in three games in the tournament.

The Storm's Justin Nichols held off London when they pressed late in the first period and midway through the second. He made 45 saves for the win.

...

"This team is a team that once they get this city and this building behind them, they can really do some damage," Guelph captain Matt Finn said. "We didn't want to let them back in because they're a dangerous team. We wanted to be the team that was 3-0 and knock London out of this tournament."

Sportsnet's Patrick King got to the heart of the matter...

Why the Storm won: With their finals berth already in their back pocket, the Storm made the most of the opportunity to eliminate a threat from coming back to haunt them by dispatching of the Knights. The Storm played with the same urgency as they had in the other two previous games and established a strong cycle and wall presence.

Their first goal less than six minutes in was a direct result of the cycle game creating the offensive opportunity that was put away by Scott Kosmachuk. Two Knights stood between Jason Dickinson and Tyler Bertuzzi on the wall and Dickinson simply chipped it high enough to get to Bertuzzi, who would score on the ensuing two on one.

Guelph won because they owned the wall, won the puck battles and cashed in on their opportunities.

“It comes down to detail,” Storm captain Matt Finn said. “You have to be willing to win the battles and off the cycle win every inch of the ice. In the playoffs and (at the MasterCard Memorial Cup), that’s when it really matters.”

...

Player of the Game: Tyler Bertuzzi is playing some of the best hockey of his career right now. An agitating presence, the nephew of Todd scored twice and ran the screen on the fifth goal for the Storm. His second goal, which gave the Storm a 4-2 lead, was the first nail in London’s coffin. He was booed lustily by Knights fans for rolling around in agony after Nikita Zadorov’s knee-on-knee hit.

“Every team needs a guy like that and he’s not only an agitator, he can put the puck in the net as you guys have seen all tournament,” Storm forward Scott Kosmachuk said.

Quote of the day: Zadorov was only assessed a two minute minor for an apparent knee-on-knee hit on Bertuzzi after Guelph forward Zack Mitchell had been given five and a game for a similar play earlier in the game. Asked what he thought of it, Guelph head coach Scott Walker said, “I think the ref thought Bertuzzi was smiling but he was actually grimacing. He got a pretty good bang there. It’s hard to decipher sometimes when Bert’s grimacing and smiling.”

And the Guelph Mercury's Tony Saxon offered both a blog-based set of observations, photo gallery included...

Fans were all over Tyler Bertuzzi, notably for laying on the ice after a nasy leg on leg hit by Nikita Zadorov.

Fans apparently didn't like Bertuzzi laying on the ice. Thought he was faking because he came back out two shifts later.

So did [London's Dakota] Mermis.

As well as a conventional recap:

On two separate occasions the Knights were able to narrow the Storm's lead to one goal, but some ill-timed penalties — an atomic elbow by Matt Rupert on a prone Bertuzzi, and a check from behind by Josh Anderson at centre ice — either led to Storm power play goals or sucked the life out of any momentum London had.

"I thought it was one of the most entertaining games so far: hard, fast, on the edge of dirtiness. But that's what hockey's about. It's a tough game at both ends of the ice," Storm coach Scott Walker said.

London coach Dale Hunter tipped his hat to Guelph.

"Give credit to Guelph, they're a very good team and their goalie was outstanding," said Hunter, whose team managed just four goals in three games at the tournament. "It was one of those things where you get beat by a team that was very good."

It wasn't all good news for the Storm. Overage winger Zack Mitchell received a five-minute kneeing major and game misconduct in the first period after a leg-on-leg collision with London defenceman Dakota Mermis.

Mermis was tended to on the ice, but stayed in the game.

The play will be reviewed by the Canadian Hockey League operations department Thursday to see if any suspension is warranted. The fact that Mermis stayed in the game should help Mitchell's case.

Saxon offered a few Tweets, too:

I must regrettably inform you that Sportsnet's highlight clip, coach Scott Walker's post-game interview with Sportsnet's panel, a set of "sights and sounds" and a post-game interview with Scott Komaschuk are all geo-blocked, but Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager delivered a superb recap:

The Storm scored seven goals despite Walker having to shuffle lines after Zack Mitchell got a kneeing major/game misconduct in the first period. Kosmachuk took Mitchell's spot on Robby Fabbri's line and scored three. Tyler Bertuzzi moved up to the second unit and sandwiched two second-period goals around a presumed acting job being tripped by Nikita Zadorov. (Walker's explanation for why Zadorov got away with a minor penalty was called was, "With Bert it's tough to decipher whether he's grimacing or smiling.")

When Bertuzzi returned after missing a whole 70 seconds of game time, he was booed every time he touched the puck. The Detroit Red Wings pick promptly sped away after taking an off-the-glass pass from Jason Dickinson and beat Jake Patterson for a 4-2 lead.

A classic heel move. Something you might have seen from a London player in another time and place.

"It's been with us all year, that swagger," said Dickinson, who had three points. "To play London again and knock them out again, that's what we wanted. That's what every team wants."

It's the first time since 2008 that a CHL team has eliminated the same club in both the playoffs and the Memorial Cup. The last instance involved the powerhouse Kitchener Rangers, a host team, beating out the small-market Belleville Bulls. The optics were a wee bit different.

"We knew exactly what was the line and we were really excited to knock them out for the second time this year," said Mitchell, who's played the Knights 41 times in his career.

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Comments

SYF's avatar

This is nearly home turf for Bertuzzi, under the spotlight in Ontario, pissing off his opponents and then surprising them with his scoring ability. He’s in his discomfort-for-others zone, and if he stops the flopping and flailing, boy howdy, he’s gonna be a pain in everyone else’s ass….

Every single, “YES” in the world, G.  That guy is a heckuva revelation.

Posted by SYF from Alana Blanchard's Bikinis and Surfboards on 05/21/14 at 09:21 PM ET

Avatar

He’s got to fill out, no doubt. He could be very useful, especially if he maintains or improves upon that scoring touch. I’ve always bagged Ken Holland for taking him in the second round - I thought that was a huge reach. That said, Ken Holland and the Wings’ brass obviously liked him a lot and there may have been information available to those guys that Bertuzzi likely to get taken before the Wings’ third-round pick.

We’ll see what happens.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 05/22/14 at 08:36 AM ET

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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.