The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/08/14 at 04:45 PM ET
While Anthony Mantha's been scoring oodles of goals and catching Mike Babcock's eye as the Val-d'Or Foreurs battle the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the QMJHL's championship series, a slightly less-heralded Wings prospect's racked up a point per game as his team's closed in on a Memorial Cup berth.
The Guelph Storm can wrap up the Ontario Hockey League's Robertson Trophy and a spot in the Memorial Cup on Friday, at home, as last night's 10-1 rout over the North Bay Battalion gave the team a 3-games-to-1 lead in the OHL's championship series.
The team didn't expect Tyler Bertuzzi to be available--period--as he missed the latter half of this past season battling recurring back and neck issues, but Bertuzzi returned just before the playoffs began, and he's posted 10 goals, 7 assists and 17 points over the course of 17 games.
He's in sixth place in team scoring, and his neck issues probably mean that pursuing a career as a fighter/instigator would be foolhardy, but the Guelph Mercury's Tony Saxon reports that Bertuzzi's still doing his best to annoy his opponents (and their fans), all while re-casting himself as a scorer who happens to be a pest instead of a pest-and-or-undersized fighter who can occasionally produce offensively:
Someone threw what was left of their box of popcorn on Tyler Bertuzzi as the Guelph Storm left the ice Tuesday following their remarkable come-from-behind victory in Game 3 of the Ontario Hockey League Championship Series.
Seconds later, Bertuzzi was named third star of the game and fans screamed insults at him as he did his celebratory semi-circle back on the North Bay Memorial Gardens ice. Bertuzzi's response was to take his time, hold his gloved hand high in the air and give an exaggerated wave to the stands: all with a huge smile on his face.
"It's my game. I like getting under people's skin," said Bertuzzi, a second-round draft pick of the National Hockey League's Detroit Red Wings. "It gets the game moving and it gets the guys going. Gives us some momentum."
Friday at the Sleeman Centre, Bertuzzi and his Storm teammates will all be hoping to have big smiles on their faces following the game as they attempt to capture the OHL championship with a win over the North Bay Battalion. Game time is 7 p.m. Guelph leads the best-of-seven series three games to one. The winner advances to the Memorial Cup in London starting Thursday.
Bertuzzi doesn't mind that his game irks people in the stands at opposing rinks as much as it does players in opposing sweaters.
"It's just the way I play," he said.
Saxon continues and argues that Bertuzzi's status as a player used in all situations, including the penalty-kill, may have earned him team playoff MVP status...
But I can tell you that it was Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill who figured out that Bertuzzi's skating and defensive abilities were good enough to throw him over the boards on a regular basis. Bertuzzi did well enough that he stopped simply running around trying to annoy people and started to play hockey.
It turns out that the speedy Bertuzzi, who's only about 6' tall and is very generously listed at 187 pounds (he's a wiry 175), is in fact a superbly speedy skater with a playmaker's flair, and again, the neck, back and concussion issues suggest that this Andrew Shaw in the making might not want to toss gloves like he's Mike McKee (please see: 6'5," 250 pounds of muscle and still growing into a body with maybe five pounds of fat on it)...
But he's still going to annoy the hell out of his opponents, and as Mitchell Callahan faces a make-the-roster-or-clear-waivers situation next fall, the Wings rather desperately needed to add another instigator to the mix.
Update: As the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa reminded me, I should note that the back and neck issues probably aren't hereditary given that Tyler is Todd Bertuzzi's cousin. Moreover, Tyler was assisted by both his mother, a chiropractor, and specialists from the Univeristy of Michigan, recommended to Bertuzzi by the Wings.
Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager penned a story about that chapter of Bertuzzi's recovery:
Even though the code is to not discuss injuries during the playoffs, it would have been remiss not to let people in on how close the nephew of veteran NHLer Todd Bertuzzi was to being shut down until next season.
"I had a big smile on my face," Storm GM Mike Kelly told Rogers TV Guelph. "We were just about to the point where Tyler didn't look like he was going to play again this year. Lo and behold, we took one last shot at it and took him down to Detroit. The Red Wings were able to connect him with some specialists down there at the University of Michigan.
"The doctors did wonderful stuff. If you could imagine, the medical doctors were actually on the ice with him — okay? — going through drills, feeling how he was going, et cetera. They did some manipulations, they did some work. They told us to be much more aggressive with his rehabilitation. There were going to be time periods where he wouldn't feel quite right. That was normal. We pushed through all that and he's pushed through all that and here's what we see. When I think of how close he was to calling it a season... he's been a key to our success throughout the first few playoff games."
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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.