The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/29/13 at 03:36 AM ET
The Red Wings prospect who accomplished the biggest feat may have done the least to aid his team's cause. After sitting out yesterday's semifinal game, Mike McKee played as a fourth-line forward (and a 6'5," 250-pound one at that) but didn't register a point as his Western Michigan University Broncos took the Great Lakes Invitational title at Comerica Park, defeating Michigan Tech 1-0 in overtime.
The Kalamazoo Gazette's David Drew, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose, the Detroit News's David Goricki (with photo gallery), Michigan Hockey's Stefan Kubus (ditto), the Detroit Free Press's George Sipple (gallery embedded in story) and Western Michigan University's website all posted recaps of the game.
As noted on Saturday afternoon, however, the "biggest prospect story" of the day involved someone probably losing his starting goaltender's job due to the his team's necessity for nothing less than perfection. Anthony Mantha had 2 assists and Jake Paterson stopped 24 of 28 shots as Team Canada's World Junior team lost 5-4 to the Czech Republic in a shootout, and the Canadian Press's Bill Beacon noted that Paterson's teammates' assistance in racking up that high score didn't matter--lose at the World Juniors, which rarely happens to Canada, and the goalie wears the horns:
Brent Sutter had never lost a game as a coach at the IIHF World Junior Championship. It seems there is a first time for everything. Canada battled back four times from one-goal deficits only to lose 5-4 in a shootout to the Czechs on Saturday in their second group stage game.
“It's irrelevant,” said the 51-year-old coach, whose record at three World Junior tournaments, including gold medals in 2005 and 2006, is now 13-0-1. “That has nothing to do with why I'm coaching here. It's about giving these kids an opportunity to succeed.”
It was a game that saw 16-year-old phenom Connor McDavid (Newmarket, Ont./Erie, OHL) benched in the third period after taking two minor penalties that led to Czech goals, then waste a chance to redeem himself by losing the puck on Canada's final shootout attempt.
And it prompted Sutter to hint strongly that Zachary Fucale (Rosemère, Que./Halifax, QMJHL) will get his first start in goal against Slovakia on Monday after Jake Paterson (Mississauga, Ont./Saginaw, OHL) allowed four goals on 29 shots, and two more in the shootout.
Drouin scored on the first shot, but David Pastrnak scored and Dominik Simon won it by beating Paterson with the Peter Forsberg move – a cut to the left and a reach back to tuck the puck in.
“He did a pretty solid move there and unfortunately, I couldn't stretch out quite enough,” said Paterson. “I wasn't too sure what these guys' moves were, but I don't think you can blame the loss on that. In a shootout, you do the best you can. But the focus now turns to our next game.”
The Toronto Sun's Terry Koshan duly noted that the Canadians expect nothing less than perfection at the World Junior Championship...
"When you put the Canadian jersey on, you are expected to win every game, but the reality is, you are not going to," Sutter said. "It's how you deal with it and how you handle it, and it's going to make us a better team for what happened here. It's a good learning tool, a good lesson for us."
Canada hadn't lost to the Czech Republic in 14 previous games in the world junior championship, going 12-0-2 while outscoring the Czechs 66-20. But that changed before a mostly pro-Canadian crowd (with kudos to the small but boisterous group of Czech supporters) of 3,011, when undrafted Dominik Simon used a nifty deke to beat goalie Jake Paterson in the shootout.
The challenge is clear for Sutter and his coaching staff.
Will the game be a one-off, or is it an indication of what's to come? This is the second-youngest group of Canadians, collectively, to represent the country in the world junior, with an average age of 18 years, 10 months and 25 days.
Only the outfit in 1987 was younger, and that was the year the lights went out in Piestany, when Canada and the Soviet Union brawled their way right out of the tournament.
In the game's immediate aftermath in the bowels of the Malmo Isstadion, the players were saying the right things. But we won't know until the puck drops Monday against Slovakia to what extent the words will be backed up.
He also noted that Zach Fucale will likely replace Paterson...
Coach Brent Sutter hinted following a 5-4 shootout loss to the Czech Republic Saturday that he will make the switch to Fucale from Jake Paterson.
"You have to assume you are not going to use the same goalie three games in four nights," Sutter said, "so you have to think something is going to change there."
Canada's only non-game day in this span is Sunday. It plays Slovakia Monday and the United States Tuesday night. If Fucale is in net against the Slovaks and does well, he could start against the U.S.
Paterson didn't shine against the Czechs.
"I'm not saying he had his best game, I don't think he did," Sutter said. "There are others who didn't play to the level they should have for 60 minutes either. But we can't just key in on one position. I'm not going to do that. He is a good goalie and I am sure he would like to have a couple of those goals back, which is what all goalies do."
Did Paterson like the effort in front of him?
"I don't think you can blame the loss on that," Paterson said. "It didn't work out for us, but in the dressing room, it's done."
And Paterson's comment also referred to the shootout winner, as the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix's Daniel Nugent-Bowman noted:
Simon’s goal was the difference. He tucked a deke around the Canadian keeper after faking to the forehead much like Peter Forsberg’s famous move in the 1994 Olympics.
“I did it this way because I knew it was the last shootout (attempt) so the goalie’s going to be scared of my first move,” Simon said.
“I’ve seen it done before, but I wasn’t too sure what these guys’ moves were,” Paterson said. “I don’t think you can blame the loss on that.”
Paterson preached a team-first mentality while speaking with IIHF.com's Andrew Podnieks...
"It's done," Canadian Jake Paterson said. "Now our focus shifts to the next game. I've seen that kind of move before, but I'm not going to blame the loss on that."
And Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager noted that Paterson's loss is not necessarily a harbinger of doom for his World Junior career:
One can foresee Sutter playing backup Zach Fucale for Monday's game vs. Slovakia to allow Paterson to focus on the Team USA game the following day, which wraps up the round-robin. It could be reasonably claimed that was the plan all along, regardless of the result vs. the Czechs.
On the other hand, with four points halfway through the round-robin rather than the anticipated six, there might be pressure to stick with the best available goalie. All along, though, everyone associated with the Maple Leaf has mouthed 'we're confident in either guy' cliché, so why not put Fucale in the barrel and come back with a refreshed Paterson for the more difficult and must-win game?
The Sporting News's Sean Gentile found a Czech highlight clip from the game, shootout included, CBS Sports' Chris Peters posted the shootout winner, Sager noted that former Wings prospect camper Richard Pluntar got away with leveling a linesman, and as you might imagine, TSN posted a 3:49 highlight clip, TSN's Bob McKenzie and James Duthie broke the game down, TSN posted a 1:57 post-game clip, Jamie McLennan spent 1:51 breaking down Paterson's play and Paterson also engaged in a short post-game interview.
Also in Sweden, in the SHL, one Red Wings prospect trumped another as Mattias Backman had 2 assists and finished at +2 in 18:30 of ice time as his Linkopings HC defeated Mattias Janmark's AIK Stockholm 5-2, with Janmark registering an assist in 21:50 of ice time;
And in Davos, Switzerland, Sergei Fedorov did end up playing for CSKA Moscow during the course of its 5-4 loss to Swiss team Geneve-Servette, and the Spengler Cup's website reports that the 43-year-old isn't out of tricks yet:
[S]uperstar Sergei Fedorov drew attention to himself for the first time. With a man advantage, the 44-year old General Manager of the Russian club lit the lamp with a skillful shot.
Back over on this side of the pond, the Griffins took the day off before practicing this morning (per the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner) ahead of a "family skate" at Comerica Park and tomorrow's AHL tilt against the Toronto Marlies...
So the Red Wings' highest-playing affiliate on Saturday consisted of the ECHL's Toledo Walleye, who put the "ugly" in their "Ugly Christmas Sweater night" by dropping a 7-3 decision to the Fort Wayne Komets.
The Wings' prospects who took part in the game did not post pretty stats: Trevor Parkes went scoreless and finished at -2, taking 3 shots; Louis-Marc Aubry finished at -1, taking 2 shots; Richard Nedomlel finished at an ugly -4 with 1 shot; and Max Nicastro had the best night, finishing with an assist, an even plus-minus rating, 2 shots and 4 penalty minutes.
The Walleye's website posted a spare recap...
Cincinnati raced out to a 3-0 first period lead and never looked back beating Toledo 7-3 in front of a standing room only crowd of 8,200 at the Huntington Center Saturday night. Toledo has an overall record of 8-15-3-0 and is 5-6-0-0 at home this season.
Cincinnati forward Logan Shaw slapped in the game’s first goal at 5:52 of the first period on the power play. The Cyclones would strike for two more before the period ran out as they out shot Toledo 14-12.
“Our attention to detail in our own zone was awful tonight,” said Head Coach Nick Vitucci. “We were a step behind all night in the defensive zone. You can’t do that against a really good team like Cincinnati.”
The Cyclones would continue what they started in the first period with a goal by Jonathan Hazen at 2:58 of the second. Toledo would dent the scoreboard at 5:52 of the second when Alden Hirschfeld collected his 4th goal of the season. Cincinnati’s Jack Combs would score twice before the second period came to a close.
Toledo would score twice in the final period. David Gilbert collected his 5th goal of the season at 9:35 on the power play. The power play would also get a goal from Max Shalunov (2nd) of 19:59 of the third.
Walleye Notes: Goaltender Hannu Toivonen made 30 saves on 37 shots in net for Toledo. Toivonen has a record of 3-7-0-0 this year. Toledo finished the game two for six on the power play.
The Walleyes YouTube channel posted a slate of highlights which includes an interview with coach Vitucci...
And the Toledo Blade posted both a photo gallery depicting the ugly sweaters and a recap with a similar theme from Mark Monroe:
"We were 3-3 in our last six games [before Saturday], and even those three wins we picked up were a waterfall in the desert — it was a mirage,” Vitucci said. “Hannu Toivonen has won us games single-handedly because those breakdowns continue through wins. You can’t ask a goalie to keep bailing you out by stopping high-quality shots over and over again.”
Toivonen finished with 30 saves, but Cincinnati poured in three more goals in the second period to lead 6-1.
“I thought Hannu was above-average [Saturday], and still he allowed seven goals,” Vitucci said. “That shows you how bad we were in front of him.”
Meanwhile the Toledo offense took time to get rolling despite adding forwards Pat Mullane and Max Shalunov from Rockford of the American Hockey League, while Trevor Parkes and Louis Aubry were added from from Grand Rapids.
“We were hoping the four new forwards would give us some puck possession time with their size and strength, and that would alleviate some the problems on the defensive end,” Vitucci said. “Unfortunately it’s not ‘add water and get instant success.’ ”
You've heard this at the NHL level this year:
“Our fans are so great, so supportive, they deserve way better than this,” Vitucci said. “This has been going on for a while, and we’ve tried different approaches – and none of them are working. It has been very frustrating.”
Despite the fact that players like Mantha are missing due to the World Junior Championships, Major Junior Hockey teams are back at work, and in the QMJHL, Mantha's Val-d'Or Foreurs took a 5-4 overtime decision from Rouyn-Noranda;
Phillipe Hudon took 2 shots and had 4 hits but didn't fare in the scoring in the Victoriaville Tigres' 5-3 win over Shawinigan;
In the OHL, Zach Nastasiuk didn't register a point but finished at +1 in the Owen Sound Attack's 6-2 win over Niagara;
Andreas Athanasiou had an assist and finished at -1 in the Barrie Colts' 4-3 loss to Mississauga;
And ahead of today's Comerica Park tangle with the Windsor Spitfires, Jake Paterson's Saginaw Spirit lost 4-1 to the...Windsor Spitfires...indoors.
In the WHL, Mitchell Wheaton didn't register a point in the Kelowna Rockets' 4-2 win over Vancouver;
And Marc McNulty finished at -2 in the Prince George Cougars' 5-2 loss to Victoria.
One more Wings NCAA-playing prospect did play on Saturday: James de Haas took one shot and finished even in the Clarkson Golden Knights' 3-2 loss to Vermont. Clarkson will play against UMass-Lowell on Sunday as they are taking part in the Catamount Cup.
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