The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/08/14 at 11:07 PM ET
The Red Wings' prospects mostly had a good day/evening Tuesday, but we may be engaging in another, "Will he or won't he come over?" situation regarding one player:
In Sweden's SHL, Linkopings HC lost a 7-3 decision to Skelleftea AIK, losing the series 4 games to 1, and Skelleftea now advances to the SHL final to defend last year's title.
Mattias Backman finished at +2 with a shot and 2 assists 23:45 of ice time, and the defenseman was on loan to LHC, so he may do what Mattias Janmark did last night in heading to North America to finish out the year with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
In North America, in Major Junior Hockey:
In the QMJHL, Antony Mantha scored the 1-1 and 5-2 goals in his Val-d'Or Foreurs' 5-2 win over the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Val-d'Or leads the second-round series 2 games to 1. Mantha has 7 goals, 4 assists and 11 points in 7 playoff games played;
In the OHL, Andreas Athanasiou registered an assist as his Barrie Colts took a 2-1 decision over the North Bay Battalion, allowing Barrie to climb back into a second-round series they trail 2 games to 1. Athanasiou has 3 goals, 6 assists and 9 points in 8 playoff games played;
Tyler Bertuzzi had an assist as his Guelph Storm took a 4-2 decision over the London Knights. Guelph leads the second-round series 2 games to 1, and Bertuzzi has 4 goals, 2 assists and 6 points in 6 playoff games played;
And in the WHL, the Kelowna Rockets currently lead the Seattle Thunderbirds 1-0 in a game that's still taking place as I write this. I'll update the score--Kelowna leads the second-round series 2 games to 0--as well as Marek Tvrdon and Mitchell Wheaton's stats.
Update: Kelowna defeated Seattle 5-4 to take a 3-0 series lead: Tvrdon had 2 assists (he now has 4 goals, 5 assists and 9 points in 8 playoff games played) and Wheaton registered an assist (he has 4 assists in 8 playoff games played).
Finally, the Grand Rapids Griffins posited their weekly press release:
GRIFFINS LEAD MIDWEST DIVISION BY SIX POINTS HEADING INTO FINAL FOUR GAMES
This Week’s Games
Thu., April 10 GRIFFINS at Charlotte Checkers 7 p.m. WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sun., April 13 GRIFFINS at Charlotte Checkers 1:30 p.m. WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Last Week’s Results
Wed., April 2 Iowa Wild 1 at GRIFFINS 6 44-20-2-4, 94 pts. (1st, Midwest Division)
Fri., April 4 Hamilton Bulldogs 4 at GRIFFINS 1 44-21-2-4, 94 pts. (1st)
Sat., April 5 Hamilton Bulldogs 1 at GRIFFINS 2 SO 45-21-2-4, 96 pts. (1st)
Wrapping Up: Only four games remain on the Griffins’ regular season schedule after last week’s three-game home stand, in which the Griffins took four of six possible points to maintain their reign over the Midwest Division. On Wednesday, the Griffins strong-armed the Iowa Wild, 6-1, with Trevor Parkes earning his first two-goal game of his AHL career and Cory Emmerton chipping in a goal and two assists. On Friday, the Hamilton Bulldogs charged into Van Andel Arena to earn a decisive 4-1 win over the Griffins. David McIntyre tallied an early first-period tally before the Bulldogs notched three unanswered goals in the second period and an empty-netter in the third period to finish off Grand Rapids. On Saturday, the Griffins bounced back with a 2-1 shootout win over the Bulldogs. In the 10th round, Nathan Paetsch put the puck past Hamilton’s Dustin Tokarski in the top-left corner, and Tom McCollum blocked Morgan Ellis’ shot to secure the victory. McCollum’s nine-save performance in the shootout earned him his first such victory of the season.
Midwest Playoff Race: Both the first-place Griffins (45-21-2-4, 96 pts.) and second-place Chicago Wolves (40-20-5-5, 90 pts.) have clinched playoff berths in the Midwest Division. The Milwaukee Admirals (34-23-6-7, 81 pts.) rank third and currently hold the sixth Western Conference playoff spot. The fourth-place Rockford IceHogs (33-28-5-4, 75 pts.) fell out of a playoff spot after dropping two contests to Abbotsford last weekend, while the Iowa Wild (27-33-6-4, 64 pts.) rank fifth in the division and have been knocked out of playoff contention all together. The Griffins have scored the most goals (231) in the Midwest while allowing the fewest goals (175). In addition, the Griffins squad has the fewest number of penalty minutes (910).
Playoff Path: Last Saturday, the Griffins secured at least a top-four playoff seed and home ice in the upcoming Western Conference Quarterfinals. Now, as the Griffins aim to clinch the Midwest Division title, they will face the lightest opposition of any team in the Western Conference. Their remaining opponents, the Charlotte Checkers and the Lake Erie Monsters, combine for only a 0.500 winning percentage. The Griffins’ magic number for claiming their second straight Midwest Division crown is six points over Chicago. In terms of the Western Conference, Grand Rapids ranks second to Texas and has a magic number of 14 points to secure the first-place spot over the Stars.
Team Leaders: Rookie Teemu Pulkkinen (30-25—55) continues to lead the Griffins in scoring with a team-high 30 goals, but defenseman Adam Almquist (4-48—52) is hot on his trail with the help of his 48 assists, which rank third among league scorers and first among defensemen. Mitch Callahan (26-18—44) ranks third and owns a team-high plus-23 rating. Both Pulkkinen and Callahan have rifled off 194 shots, the highest amount on the team, but Pulkkinen’s 15.5 shooting percentage edges out Cory Emmerton’s 14.9% and Callahan’s 13.4% for first place among active shooters.
Goaltender Prowess: Both Tom McCollum and Petr Mrazek have ranked among the league’s top goaltenders for the duration of the season. The netminding duo has reached its highest point yet, as Mrazek’s 2.03 goals against average ranks first and McCollum’s 2.32 GAA ranks third. Sandwiched between the two is division rival Jake Allen of the Chicago Wolves, who sports a 2.09 GAA. Mrazek, in particular, has been on a tear of late, posting an 11-2-0 record in his last 13 games since Feb. 22 vs. OKC and, overall, owns a 0.927 save percentage. In a 2-1 shootout triumph over the Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday, McCollum turned away nine shooters in a 10-round skills competition to earn his first shootout win of the season. Together, the McCollum and Mrazek pairing has allowed 152 goals while turning away 1,818 shots, for a combined 0.923 save percentage.
Fans Turn Out: Saturday’s attendance of 10,006, combined with the pre-sale for the Griffins’ April 18 home finale, guarantees that Grand Rapids will finish with its highest average attendance since the 1999-00 season (8,819) and its first 8,000-plus attendance since 2000-01 (8,022), which was its final season of IHL membership. Grand Rapids, which has also eclipsed the 300,000 mark in total attendance (301,521) for the first time since 2000-01, currently ranks second in the 30-team AHL with an average attendance of 8,149. The Griffins have secured an attendance increase for the fourth straight season and the seventh time in the last eight years.
Helping Hands: Since returning from the Detroit Red Wings on March 25, center Cory Emmerton has regularly contributed to the team’s scoring, chipping in eight points (1-7—8) in six games from March 28-April 5. In 49 contests with the Griffins this season, Emmerton has earned 43 points (15-28—43), a plus-16 rating and only 14 penalty minutes. In addition, Emmerton’s 14.9 shooting percentage ranks second on the team among active shooters. The St. Thomas, Ontario, native has also appeared in 18 games with Detroit, notching two points (0-2—2), four PIM and 22 shots on goal. In 260 career games with Grand Rapids, Emmerton has tallied 154 points (49-105—154) and 80 PIM.
Calder Cup Cavalry: At least one member of the Grand Rapids Griffins’ 2013 Calder Cup team has scored a goal in 14 consecutive games for the Detroit Red Wings. Last year’s AHL champs have accounted for 24 of the Red Wings’ 39 goals during that span (Gustav Nyquist 12, Tomas Tatar 5, Tomas Jurco 2, Riley Sheahan 2, Joakim Andersson 1, Danny DeKeyser 1, Luke Glendening 1), helping Detroit to an 8-5-1 record.
Nyquist Named NHL’s Second Star of the Month: On April 1, the NHL named Gustav Nyquist as the “second star” for the month of March. Upon being named second star, Nyquist ranked second in the NHL with 12 goals and tied for fifth with 18 points to help the Red Wings go 7-6-2 and move into the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference (35-26-14, 84 points). He found the back of the net in nine of 15 games, including a six-game goal streak March 16-25 (9-1—10), the longest by a Red Wings player since Daniel Cleary had an equal run Nov. 5-17, 2010 (8-2—10). Nyquist posted a career-high four points (1-3—4) on March 7 vs. NJ and added three two-goal performances: March 18 vs. TOR, March 23 vs. MIN and March 25 at CBJ. He also chipped in his team-leading fifth game-winning goal of the season March 22 at MIN. The 24-year-old Halmstad, Sweden, native led the NHL with 22 goals in 27 games since Jan. 20.
Points Comparison: As the 2013-14 regular season draws to a close, many of the 13 remaining Calder Cup champions on the Griffins’ active roster have exceeded their performances from last year. In comparison:
Jaw Breaker: Left wing Mitch Callahan, who ranks third on the Griffins in scoring, took a slapshot to the face late in the first period in a 6-1 victory over the Iowa Wild on April 2. Callahan left the ice and was taken to a local hospital, where he underwent successful surgery to repair a fractured jaw. Callahan is expected to be out for the duration of the regular season, but may return during the playoffs.
Walleye World: The ECHL’s Toledo Walleye (21-43-3-2), who are out of the ECHL playoff race, dropped all four contests last week, splitting their losses evenly between the Wheeling Nailers and the Fort Wayne Komets. Trevor Parkes (17-17—34), who is currently with the Griffins, ranks second on the team in scoring, while forward Travis Novak (11-21—32) ranks third and Alden Hirschfeld (9-20—29) ties for fifth. Hirschfeld is currently signed to a professional tryout with Grand Rapids. Toledo (47 pts.) ranks fifth in the North Division, 24 points behind the fourth-place Evansville IceMen.
Thu., April 10 at Charlotte Checkers (36-33-1-2) – Time Warner Cable Arena – 7 p.m.
Sun., April 13 at Charlotte Checkers – Time Warner Cable Arena – 1:30 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:40 p.m (Thu.) and 1:10 p.m. (Sun.). Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 3-7-0-0 Overall, 1-3-0-0 Road. Season Series: 1-1-0-0 Overall, 0-0-0-0 Road. Third and fourth of four meetings overall, first and second of two at Time Warner Cable Arena. NHL Affiliation: Carolina Hurricanes. Head Coach: Jeff Daniels (3rd season). Notes: Charlotte is tied with Rockford for ninth place in the Western Conference at 75 points, just one behind Rochester in the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot…The Checkers have lost three straight games, all on the road, on the heels of a four-game winning streak…Left wing Zach Boychuk (35-35—70) is the second-highest scorer in the AHL and has scored the most goals (35) in the league…While Boychuck ranks first on the team in scoring, he is followed closely in second by left wing Chris Terry (28-39—67). Right wing Aaron Palushaj (22-35—57) ranks third…Charlotte is strong on the power play, tied for second overall at 22.4%, but ranks 22nd for its penalty killing (80.6%).
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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.