The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/27/13 at 04:29 AM ET
The Red Wings' prospects got back to work on Thursday, and while Anthony Mantha's hat trick for Canada at the World Junior Championship stole the show, the Wings' Swedish and AHL prospects were busy on Thursday, too.
For the Grand Rapids Griffins, Boxing Day was an unpleasant day. The Griffins dropped a 4-1 decision to their nemesis, the Milwaukee Admirals, and Tom McCollum got pulled after giving up 4 goals on 16 shots, Teemu Pulkkinen both scored a goal and absorbed a thundering bodycheck, and putting things delicately, the Griffins opened up a two-games-in-two-nights slate (they play in Rockford tonight and then host the Toronto Marlies at Comerica Park this upcoming Monday before going back indoors to tangle with Toronto on New Year's Eve) losing to a bitter rival.
The Milwaukee Admirals put a damper on the Grand Rapids Griffins’ holiday spirit when they defeated the Griffins, 4-1, on Thursday at BMO Harris Bradley Center.
For the first time this season, the Griffins (21-7-1-1) lost back-to-back regulation games, but they still hold a strong lead over the Midwest Division with 44 points. The Admirals (15-7-5-1) follow in second place with 36 points.
The teams played a scoreless first period, despite the Griffins leading 12-7 in the shot column. However, the second frame made up for the lack of scoring in the first as the Admirals scored three quick goals and Teemu Pulkkinen scored the Griffins’ only tally.
Just 44 seconds into the period, Joe Piskula sent a shot toward Tom McCollum and Taylor Beck was at the top of the crease to redirect it into the net.
Joonas Jarvinen fed a pass to Colton Sissons at the left post and Sissons tapped it in to double the Admirals’ lead at 6:41. Sissons has found success against the Griffins this season, scoring four of his 11 goals against Grand Rapids.
Less than two minutes later at 8:02, Miikka Salomaki entered the ice from the penalty box after a slashing call. He found himself on a breakaway, and he backhanded the puck over McCollum’s catcher hand to make it 3-0.
With 3:25 remaining in the period, Pulkkinen put the Griffins on the scoreboard. Cory Emmerton won a faceoff in the Admirals’ zone and sent the puck back to Pulkkinen, who buried a one-timer.
At 1:56 of the third period, Austin Watson sent a shot sailing over the net, and the puck rebounded onto the stick of Kevin Henderson. Henderson scored, and Jared Coreau took the net in relief of McCollum. McCollum made 12 saves.
Coreau stopped 8 of 8 shots in the loss, and Scott Darling turned away 29 shots.
The Griffins return to the ice at 8 p.m. ET on Friday at BMO Harris Bank Center against the Rockford IceHogs.
Three Stars: 1. MIL Henderson (goal, assist) 2. MIL Darling (W, 29 saves) 3. MIL Beck (goal)
And the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Dave Bohler duly noted that this win was sweet for the Admirals:
[T]he Admirals are one of the few teams that also know how to beat the reigning Calder Cup champion Griffins, as they came away with a 4-1 victory Thursday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
"We've talked a lot since I got here last year about our teams being very similar, and if we can compare ourselves to the Calder Cup champions, then obviously it's a good thing," Milwaukee coach Dean Evason said. "I think we play the same way. Some nights they catch the breaks and some nights we do. But I think for the most part, although the scores look a little lopsided, they're entertaining games and they're very competitive."
Kevin Henderson recorded his first two-point game of the season, as Milwaukee won its fifth straight home game and atoned for 3-2 and 5-0 losses at Grand Rapids on Dec. 13 and 14.
"It was an eye-opener for our team," said Henderson, as the Admirals (15-7-5-1) have gained seven of a possible eight points since that weekend. "It goes up and down against this team. We're both good teams and it could go either way any night."
Grand Rapids (21-7-1-1) entered the game with the second-most points in the AHL and had won 19 of its previous 22 games until a 3-2 loss at Chicago on Saturday. With their third loss of the year to the Admirals on Thursday, the Griffins have their first two-game losing streak (in regulation) of the season.
"I think Milwaukee has been as good a team we've played all year," Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill said. "They're extremely well coached, they make it very hard to create offense against, and I think every game we played against them has been really tight regardless of the score."
On the other side of the pond, the Swedish SHL got back underway with an every-team-plays slate of games, and one prospect's team won and the other's lost.
Mattias Backman somehow didn't fare in the scoring in Linkopings HC's 7-1 win over HV71, finishing at +1 in 19 minutes of play;
And Mattias Janmark took 5 shots in 18:42 of ice time but didn't fare in the scoring as AIK Stockholm dropped a 3-1 decision to Leksands IF.
Hockey's Future's Chapin Landvogt posted part of Mantha's post-game media scrum...
And again, Mantha continues to be dogged with suggestions that he's not competitive enough outside of goal-scoring, and Team Canada coach Darryl Sutter told the Toronto Sun's Terry Koshan that the QMJHL's scoring leader is indeed a work in progress:
“I know in the short period of time we have been doing this, he is a better player than he was 11 days ago,” Sutter said after Mantha’s hat trick paced Canada to a 7-2 drubbing of Germany in the opener of the 2014 world junior championship.
“As a group, we really felt his offensive ability was something we could use here. It was just getting him to learn to become a better competitor and be a responsible player in all three zones. Those are things we need to continue to work on with him. That’s having one-on-one conversations and making sure he understands that he’s not going to get on the ice if he’s just going to be a power-play guy. He needs to be more of a dependable player.”
Mantha, undoubtedly taking to heart the chats he has been having with Sutter, put it on himself to have a sharp game against a Germany, a country Canada has manhandled in the history of the world junior. The Canadians are 12-0 against the Germans and have outscored them 67-18.
“Personally, I had to get a big game going,” Mantha said. “Little details came up, and I had to play one of my best games if I wanted it to carry on during the whole tournament. I had to make an impression. Not every player was guaranteed a spot and I had to battle through.”
“He can’t just be someone who is going to play on the offensive side,” Sutter said. “He has been a sponge to it and we’re going to continue to work on it. (Against Germany) he was rewarded because he can shoot the puck and he is good offensively but he also did some good things in our own zone that I liked that earlier on he was not as sharp at, but he is getting better. We need him to grow and get better as we do with everybody on this team. Things happen very quickly here. Tomorrow becomes the next biggest thing and we get ourselves ready for the next game.”
The Canadians will play next on Saturday against the Czechs, with the game airing at 11:30 AM on TSN, and Sutter wouldn't state whether Paterson or Montreal Canadiens prospect Zach Fucale will start.
Update: The Toronto Sun's Terry Koshan spoke with Jake Paterson about adjusting to Olympic-sized, 100-foot-wide ice surfaces...
Jake Paterson might have been a little busier than he was anticipating. Canada’s goalie faced 24 shots in a 7-2 victory against Germany, with some challenges mixed in. But Paterson was sharp after Germany took a surprising 1-0 lead.
“There’s nothing you can do when it is past you,” Paterson said. “I just tried to re-group, focus, and it was nice we got one pretty soon after that. It was a little different on the bigger ice. The game is more spread out compared to playing back in the CHL (where Paterson tends goal for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League).”
Said coach Brent Sutter: “There were some saves he had to make and he made them. I thought he settled in after that first goal, probably like the rest of the team.”
Will Paterson again start over Zach Fucale in Canada’s next game, against the Czech Republic on Saturday?
“You guys will find that out on game day,” Sutter said.
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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.