The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/19/13 at 01:51 AM ET
The Grand Rapids Griffins had the kind of night you'd expect from any championship-winning team raising a banner during their home opener--a night of mixed results.
The Griffins sent their banner to the rafters of Van Andel Arena, Triston Grant dropped the gloves 1:48 into the game, and the team took 1-0 and 2-1 leads over the Milwaukee Admirals...But they were out-scored 2-0 in the second period, and the emotionally-spent team couldn't manage to rally, eventually dropping a 3-2 decision to Milwaukee.
The banner-raising part? Well, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner and WOOD TV8 (embedded in a story about the Griffins' very healthy bottom line) posted clips of the banner-raising, and it was pretty dang cool...
WZZM posted a video of the banner-raising, too, but it's one of those classic auto-play clips.
The 10-by-14 foot red banner was carried out onto the ice and hoisted to the rafters along the south end of the arena as part of a 10-minute pregame ceremony at the team's home opener on Friday, Oct. 18.
The banner was carried out by four members of the Griffins Youth Foundation along with Mark Izzard, a member of the Grand Rapids Owls; Don McSween, the Griffins' first captain; Mike Fountain, a member of the Turner Cup final team in 2001 when the Griffins were affiliated with Ottawa; Darren Helm, a former Griffin with the Detroit Red Wings, and Kirk Maltby, representing Detroit.
“This is one of those experiences that you never forget,” said Dick DeVos, co-owner of the Griffins. “I was telling Dave (Van Andel, the other co-owner), it’s sort of the last page of this chapter, and now we’ll begin another chapter.”
“This is a lot like opening night 17 years ago,” added Van Andel. “We were down here in this exact spot and looking around at a full arena like tonight and watching the start of the Griffins. Same great feeling.”
The banner will be relocated along the third-level concourse, along with two others representing the Midwest Division title and the Western Conference championship.
The Admirals scored twice within 47 seconds in the second period and Marek Mazanec turned back 20 shots in the second and third periods to spoil the night.
"I don’t know if it was that we ran out of gas – just had that high and just went back down and we just couldn’t sustain it for whatever reason,” said Jeff Hoggan, who had one of the goals. “It was tough because it was a great crowd.”
The opener also included the return – albeit brief – of Darren Helm. The veteran Red Wings center, in what’s expected to be a two-game conditioning stint with Grand Rapids, played in his first game since January and second in 18 months following a series of injuries. He missed on two short-handed breakaway attempts.
The pregame ceremony was barely over when Gustav Nyquist scored a 1:20 of the first period. After Milwaukee’s Anthony Bitetto tied it at the 12-minute mark, the Griffins regained the lead on goal by Hoggan off a feed from Cory Emmerton.
But the lead vanished quickly in the second. The go-ahead goal came 49 seconds after Colton Sissons scored with the Admirals on a power play after Ryan Sproul had gone off 19 second earlier for holding. Bitetto scored his second on the night against Petr Mrazek.
“I thought in the second period they poured it on a little bit and I thought we stopped skating as far as coming back and supporting our defense,” said coach Jeff Blashill. “We ended up playing more time in our end and we took too many penalties.”
In the final minute, the Griffins pulled Mrazek and then got a power play for the final 11 seconds. Emmerton hit the post just before the buzzer.
The Griffins left after the game for Rockford for a game Saturday against the IceHogs.
And Michigan Hockey's Pat Evans (whose recap includes 3 images):
“We showed right away the guys were excited and we had a lot of jump,” Hoggan said. “We came out exactly the way we wanted to.”
Grand Rapids continued its polished play in the first period, save for a short-handed stint when Andrej Nestrasil went to the box for interference 10:52 into the period. Milwaukee defenseman Anthony Bitetto sent a long shot from the top of the left circle past Mrazek to knot it up.
Teemu Pulkkinen slipped a pass across the crease for Hoggan to slap into the net to move the Griffins ahead 2-1 with 4:27 left in the period.
“Pulkki found a great spot, stole the puck found me backdoor,” Hoggan said. “Just right spot right time, I managed to get the puck in. you get up one early and that one goal lead, really put them on their heels, couldn’t get her done tonight.”
The Griffins remained a goal up for much of the second period. The Admirals, however, acted with fury late in the period. Center Colton Sissons buried a rebound past Mrazek with 2:04 left in the period to tie the game. About a minute later, Griffin defenseman Ryan Sproul was called for holding, giving Milwaukee a man advantage.
Bitetto made the Griffins pay just 16 seconds into the powerplay with his second goal of the game to give the Admirals a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.
The second period was a huge swing of momentum from the game that started on a high note for the Griffins.
“We made some mistakes, but then we figured we go back and improve on some things, but we actually took a step back,” Hoggan said. “I don’t know if we ran out of gas, hit that high and go back down, we just couldn’t sustain it for whatever reason.”
The official game narrative goes like this, per the Griffins' website:
While the final score of Friday’s home opener wasn’t what the Grand Rapids Griffins wanted, they began their 2013-14 slate of home games with the same result as their 2012-13 debut at Van Andel Arena: a 3-2 loss to the Milwaukee Admirals.
And things turned out pretty well for the Griffins last season.
In fact, the Griffins celebrated their 2013 Calder Cup championship with a pre-game ceremony and banner-raising that had the capacity crowd of 10,834 – Grand Rapids’ 18th consecutive home-opening sellout – on its feet and roaring long before the puck dropped.
Fueled by the emotion of those pre-game festivities, the Griffins took only 80 seconds to score their first home goal of the new season. From the bottom of the right circle, Gustav Nyquist attempted a pass that deflected off a Milwaukee defenseman and eluded Marek Mazanec, marking his third goal and seventh point in just four games.
Milwaukee (2-0-1-0) tied it during a power play at the 12:46 mark, with Anthony Bitetto blistering a one-timer from the right faceoff dot past Petr Mrazek. The Griffins (2-1-1-0) answered with their own power play goal less than three minutes later, as Jeff Hoggan tapped home Teemu Pulkkinen’s centering feed at 15:31 to stake Grand Rapids to a 2-1 lead at the first intermission.
The Admirals scored twice in the final 2:04 of the middle frame to jump ahead 3-2. Colton Sissons slapped a loose puck behind Mrazek at 17:56, before Bitetto struck for his second power play goal 49 seconds later, popping a rebound into a gaping cage from the right circle.
Despite a 20-13 advantage in shots over the final 40 minutes, the Griffins were unable to get anything more past Mazanec, who finished with 24 saves. Grand Rapids nearly forced overtime in the closing seconds with Mrazek pulled for an extra attacker, after beginning a power play in the Milwaukee zone with 11 seconds remaining, but Cory Emmerton’s shot clanged hard off the left post and out of harm’s way as time expired.
Mrazek stopped 17 of 20 shots for the Griffins, who will look to build upon their impressive 2-0-1-0 road start when they pay an 8 p.m. EDT visit to the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday.
Notes: Playing just his second game in a span of 19 months due to a string of injuries, Detroit Red Wings forward Darren Helm began his conditioning stint and donned a Griffins jersey for the first time since April 11, 2009. He had a pair of shorthanded breakaways while taking a regular shift and finished with three shots.
Three Stars: 1. MIL Bitetto (two power play goals); 2. GR Nyquist (goal); 3. GR Hoggan (power play goal)
Regarding Mr. Helm, he very literally had an up-and-down night, as noted by Michigan Hockey's Evans...
Aside from two short-handed breakaways, Helm was far from the player fans recognize in a 3-2 home-opening loss to Milwaukee. In those breakaways, Helm didn’t take advantage of his opportunities.
“The first one, I had a feeling my stick was broken,” Helm said. “Second one, I just didn’t think I had as much time as I did in the first one.”
There were flashes of the speed he is known for, but he also stumbled more than a few times, likely due to his fatigue.
“I kinda lost the edge out there,” he said. “The speed of the game is a lot faster than I remember. Probably more (minutes) than I could handle. I was sucking wind pretty hard there at times.”
He took a hard hit against the boards in front of the Griffins bench in the second period and shanked a one-timer in the third. At first, he admitted he was glad to be back on the ice, he even went as far to describe it as fun. But he also mentioned some some “aches.”
“A little sore, nothing I need to be worried about,” Helm said. “All in all, feels pretty good.”
And the Grand Rapids Press's Wallner:
"Not the best," he said after playing about 15 minutes Friday with the Grand Rapids Griffins in just his second pro game in 18 months following a series of injuries. "I think I kind of lost my edge out there. The speed of the game is a lot faster than I remember and I have a lot of room for improvement. That said, I thought I did some good things and things to build off."
Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, who had Helm paired with Riley Sheehan and Landon Ferraro, saw some glimpses and some room for improvement.
"I thought Helm did a good job..." he said. "You can't replicate that kind of bumping and grinding and so you get tired fast. I think he would say he had a lot more energy at the beginning parts of his shift than the end. But that's expected in his case. And hopefully tomorrow's even better."
On Saturday, the Griffins are at Rockford. Helms' top priority is to improve defensively.
"I struggled in that," he said. "Just getting pucks in the wall, getting my feet moving when I get the puck and keeping my head up. I thought I was a little soft in that area."
It's not surprising that Helm displayed a healthy coat of rust on his game, and maybe we "needed to be reminded" that Helm's not going to be "himself" for a while, as Red Wings GM Ken Holland told USA Today's Kevin Allen on Friday afternoon (as noted by Evans):
Helm has only played one NHL game in the past 19 months because of a back injury. He will now play two AHL games this weekend with the expectation of returning to Detroit’s lineup Oct. 26 against the New York Rangers
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Detroit general manager Ken Holland.
Although Helm isn’t a star, he is considered a crucial player in Detroit because he is one of the league’s fastest players. His eye-catching speed changes the look of the Red Wings’ offensive and defensive attack.
Holland said he would attend tonight’s game in Grand Rapids to gauge Helm’s sharpness after the lengthy absence from competition.
“He’s probably going to be 20 or 30 games from where we want him to be,” Holland admitted. “This is the NHL. He will need to play some games. But he has been an important player for us, and he’s only 27. He brings some speed and other ingredients that makes us better. We have our fingers crossed that there are no more setbacks.”
I'm cautiously optimistic about Helm returning to form, too, but I expect him to struggle for the first dozen or so games as well, and I get the feeling that Helm's going to end up playing 8-10 minutes a night for a significant period of time before we can say that the Red Wings officially have two "third line" centers in Helm and Joakim Andersson.
In other prospect news: in Sweden, Mattias Janmark scored a goal in AIK Stockholm's 5-2 loss to Lulea, and DRW Prospects on Twitter noted that Janmark's team is struggling mightily (and taking significant flak because of it) because the team's leaning so very hard on Janmark:
The other player DRW Prospects refers to is Mattias Backman, who did indeed play 19:02 in Linkopings HC's 3-1 loss to HV71.
Janmark's been very vocal about his team's struggles, speaking with Expressen's Jesper Sanberg about the team's loss...
"They were better than us and punished us severely when we took penalties," says Janmark.
Janmark, who continues to score, was disappointed after the game. Especially during the second period, which may have been the decisive one. AIK's Fredrik Svensson got into a spirited battle in front of the goal with Lulea's Per Ledin.
Svensson took 2 and 2 for roughing while Ledin only got a 2minute penalty, and in the ensuing power play, Lulea went up 3-1.
"They go out in the papers and criticize the players who don't show any passion or emotion. And then there's a real scrum, and we get six minutes in penalties. I think that's wrong," says Janmark.
ButJanmark, whose 1-1 goal gives him 10, wasn't slow to recognize that they lost to a better team. Even Linus Klassen praised Janmark's display:
"You have to bend and not break. Everyone knows that he's a good player and it's great when we can get him off the ice."
Marie Hallman reports that Janmark challenged his team to be better on AIK's website prior to the game, but AIK's 6-and-8 record has them tied for 9th in the 12-team SHL, and given their status as one of the biggest markets and biggest spenders, that's not acceptable for their fans. Or the Stockholm-based media corps.
On this side of the Atlantic...
In the QMJHL, the Val-d'Or Foreurs are having a rough week. After being named the Canadian Hockey League's player of the week for posting 10 points in 2 games, Anthony Mantha didn't register a point on Thursday, and he registered an assist and went -3 in Val-d'Or's 5-2 loss to Halifax on Friday.
He still has 29 points (16 goals and 13 assists) over the course of 11 games played, and ESPN's Corey Pronman raved about Mantha's play in an Insider-only entry--which was clearly written prior to last weekend's games:
Anthony Mantha, LW, Detroit Red Wings (Val-d'Or-QMJHL): Mantha has gotten off to a quick start in his final QMJHL season, with 11 goals and 18 points in his first seven games. He leads the league in goals, and is second in overall scoring to Panthers prospect Christopher Clapperton.
Mantha's a very toolsy forward who is fun to watch. It's not often you see a 6-foot-4 forward who can skate and make plays with the puck at an above-average level. With his steady physical development, Mantha looks ready to dominate the QMJHL offensively.
However, Mantha's two-way game has shown some improvements from last season, too. He's being used on the penalty kill with moderate effectiveness, and given his speed, that makes him a threat for short-handed goals. Detroit's first round pick in 2013 is a leading candidate to be the QMJHL's MVP this season.
In the OHL, Owen Sound Attack captain Zach Nastasiuk registered 2 goals and an assist, finished at +3 and was named the first star of the Attack's 4-2 win over Sarnia on Friday;
In the WHL, Marc McNulty didn't register a point in the Prince George Cougars' 5-4 shootout win over Seattle;
In the BCHL, David Pope didn't play in the West Kelowna Warriors' 3-2 loss to James de Haas's old team, the Penticton Vees;
Ben Marshall scored a goal in the University of Minnesota's 6-3 win over Bemidji State;
And Mike McKee didn't register a point in Western Michigan University's 6-2 win over the University of Alaska Anchorage. The game was played in Anchorage, so WMU's website didn't post any stats for the very late-starting game, but UAA's website did post stats, and here's all you need to know about whether the scrappy McKee held his temper in check:
Prd Player Team Min Offense Time
1st Mike McKee WMU 2 SLASHING 07:50 PP
1st Mike McKee WMU 5 CHECKING FROM BEHIND 10:32
1st Mike McKee WMU 10 GAME MISCONDUCT 10:32
That's bad. McKee's playing under theever-strict and NHL-seasoned Andy Murray, and Murray didn't mention McKee's penalties in speaking to the Kalamazoo Gazette's David Drew, but I can imagine that he's not happy with McKee's lack of discipline.
At 6'5" and 245 pounds, McKee is a literal monster on ice, but RedWingsCentral duly noted that McKee's biggest problem is his penchant for dropping the gloves (which he can't do without getting a game misconduct and a 1-game suspension in college hockey) and taking bad penalties.
His NCAA career is just beginning, but McKee may soon find himself benched for his inability to control himself, just as he was repeatedly while playing for the USHL's Lincoln Stars--even when he was team captain last season.
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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.