The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/18/12 at 07:46 PM ET
Updated at 10:55 PM: For the record, Fabian Brunnstrom tells Helsingborgs Dagblad that he’ll re-sign with Detroit: Now that the NBC Sports Network has had its fill of the World Championships—if you want to watch Tomas Tatar’s Slovaks take on the Czechs tomorrow at 7:30 AM EDT, or Pavel Datsyuk’s Russians take on Valtteri Filppula’s Finns at 11:30 AM, you’ll have to do so online, and the same is true for the Gold and Bronze medal games at 9 AM and 1:30 PM EDT, respectively, on Sunday (though NBC Sports will broadcast the Gold game on a delayed basis Sunday night)...
For Red Wings fans, that means a chance to glimpse the last moments of top prospect Tomas Jurco’s career as his Saint John Sea Dogs—the tournament’s prohibitive favorites—attempt to defend last year’s Memorial Cup win, starting on Saturday night.
My coverage of Jurco’s Sea Dogs defending their QMJHL championship has remained back-page stuff, and I’ll probably be blending the Memorial Cup stuff into World Championship news until the weekend is over, but, as noted in the overnight report, Jurco received attention from DetroitRedWings.com’s Rick Bouwness, who penned a fine profile of a player who’s highly, highly likely to “turn pro” with the Grand Rapids Griffins next season…
“Winning a second straight Memorial Cup would be a great accomplishment,” said Jurco, in an exclusive phone interview with DetroitRedWings.com. “Our team has a lot of talent and a lot of character and it is amazing being a part of such a special group. Hopefully we can play well at the tournament again this year and win another title for the city of Saint John.”
After winning 50 games and earning their third straight QMJHL regular season title, the Sea Dogs blew away the competition in this year’s President’s Cup playoffs. The Port City’s major junior squad went 16-1 in the postseason en route to repeating as league champs and earning a berth in the four-team Memorial Cup tourney where they’ll battle the OHL’s London Knights, WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings, and the Shawinigan Cataractes – tournament hosts – of the QMJHL for junior hockey’s ultimate prize.
Despite missing time with an upper body injury, Jurco tallied 13 goals and 16 assists during Saint John’s recent playoff run, good for fourth place on the star-laden squad in scoring. In the QMJHL championship series against Rimouski, Jurco registered five goals and five assists during an impressive four-game sweep of the Oceanic.
Jurco’s coach, former Red Wings sniper Gerard Gallant, has been impressed with his skilled winger’s postseason performance.
“Tomas played really well in the playoffs and was outstanding for us in the Q finals,” Gallant said. “He put up good offensive numbers but he’s been a good all-around player as well. He was one of our best forwards at the (Memorial) Cup in Mississauga last year and we’ll be looking for him to step-up with another big performance this time around.”
This past season, Jurco recorded 30 goals and 38 assists in only 48 regular season appearances for an average of 1.42 points-per-game – by far the best numbers of his CHL career. Turning 20-years-old later this year, Jurco will be eligible to play in the American Hockey League next season. While a promising professional career awaits, the 6-foot-2, 193-pound puck magician is first intent upon ending an incredible three-year run with Saint John in historic fashion later this month.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playing at the next level in the future, but right now my focus is on playing well the next couple of weeks in Shawinigan,” the dynamic playmaker said. “I can’t think of a better way to wrap-up my junior career than helping the Sea Dogs win another title.”
And the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff penned a profile of Jurco as well:
The Saint John Sea Dogs, with former Windsor Spitfires coach Mike Kelly and ex-Detroit Red Wings forward Gerard Gallant in charge, will seek to emulate the Spitfires by winning back-to-back titles as the Memorial Cup tournament gets underway Friday in Shawinigan, and if that is to happen, a Red Wings prospect figures to play a significant role.
Tomas Jurco, a left-hand shooting right-winger from Kosice, Slovakia selected 35th overall by the Wings in the 2011 National Hockey League entry draft, posted 30-38-68 totals for the Sea Dogs in just 48 regular-season QMJHL games, and followed that up with 13-16-29 numbers in 16 playoff games. Regular-season and playoffs combined, he was a plus-70.
A slick puckhandler and skater, the 6-2, 193-pound Jurco’s puck skills have been compared to current Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk. “He had a good world juniors and he’s had a great year in Saint John,” Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “They’ve got a good team and he’s one of the main go-to guys there. Gerard Gallant is his coach and I keep in touch with Gerard all the time. He’s very high on him. He’s starting to play a strong two-way game now. He’s got high-end skills.”
While the Sea Dogs will be looking to repeat, a once-familiar Memorial Cup presence is once more back in the tournament for the first time in 40 years. The Western Hockey League champion Edmonton Oil Kings aren’t the same Oil Kings who were a Memorial Cup force back in the day – they relocated to become the Portland Winterhawks in 1976 – but they still carry the Oil Kings’ legacy into this year’s tourney.
The Oil Kings will be appearing in their 11th Memorial Cup, tying the Oshawa Generals for second overall in total appearances, trailing only the Regina Pats (14). But they hold one Memorial Cup record likely to never be shattered – seven consecutive appearances in the tournament final from 1960-66. Edmonton also played in the 1954, 1971 and 1972 Memorial Cups. They lost the final to Guy Lafleur’s Quebec Remparts in 1971 and were part of the first tournament format the following spring.
If you want to read “Spuddy’s” take on the series, Sea Dogs coach Gallant did speak to the Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island) Guardian about the series (no author’s name is given, sorry)...
On the other side of the Atlantic, you already know this, but but the World Championships are reaching their conclusion this weekend, and NHL.com’s Tal Pinchevsky penned a preview thereof. The Czech Republic-Slovakia game is obviously particularly intriguing given their numbers of younger and/or slightly unknown players, but they’re the under-card to the big Finland-Russia match-up:
The Russians rolled through the preliminary round, going a perfect 7-0-0 while posting a plus-19 goal differential, second only to Canada. And that was before receiving reinforcements courtesy of the Washington Capitals.
With the Capitals eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Russian Hockey Federation extended an invitation to star wingers Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, both of whom accepted and joined their national team for its 5-2 quarterfinal victory over Norway. Playing on a line with Pavel Datsyuk, Semin and Ovechkin connected for a goal just 7:26 into their first appearance at the 2012 Worlds.
Throw in the dominating play of Evgeni Malkin, who is tied for second in tournament scoring with 15 points in eight games, and a stingy defense that has allowed just 10 goals in eight games, and the Russians are clearly the team to beat. But they’ve drawn a tough matchup in the semis.
After losing back-to-back games to Canada and the United States in the preliminary round by a combined score of 10-2, the co-host Finns are looking to return to the form that helped them capture the tournament last year in Slovakia. They gained some measure of revenge by eliminating the Americans in a thrilling quarterfinal in which Jesse Joensuu netted the winner with just nine seconds remaining.
To beat the Russians, Finland must control the pace with a tight forecheck and get some timely saves from Petri Vehanen, who leads the tournament with a sterling .955 save percentage and 0.97 goals-against average. Finland doesn’t showcase the star power of the Russians—then again, who does?—but will rely offensively on the top line of captain Mikko Koivu, Jussi Jokinen, and Valtteri Filppula, all of whom rank among the tournament’s top 20 scorers.
Let’s just say that Tomas Tatar’s Slovaks are a little more likely to engage in a low-scoring affair, even though the Finns employ the trap almost religiously:
While the Finland-Russia semifinal is a matchup between two contrasting styles, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are practically mirror images. Both relied on timely scoring and tight defense to make it to the final four. Czech goaltender Jakub Kovar (1.77 GAA, .938 save percentage, one shutout) and Slovakia backstop Jan Laco (1.86 GAA, .928 save percentage, one shutout) even posted stats that were almost identical.
Both teams also featured among the tournament’s most successful penalty killing units, but the Czechs have some statistical advantages. Eight games into the tournament, the Czech Republic has shown impressive scoring efficiency and a power play that is scoring at a 32-percent clip. The real X-factor for the Czechs should be Martin Erat, who has scored three goals, all on the power play, in just four tournament games. With five goals, Ales Hemsky is tied for third at the 2012 Worlds.
In the world-spanning land of the internet, Pavel Datsyuk is tangling with John Tavares in EA Sports’ NHL 13 Cover Vote between today and May 23rd, and as part of their Twitter/Facebook multimedia campaign, the Wings produced a video of one Joey MacDonald talking about facing the living video game character…
And, very locally, the Wings just released this bit of info about Joey MacDonald:
RED WINGS GOALTENDER JOEY MACDONALD TO APPEAR AT CHARITY HOCKEY GAME
… Waterford Township Fire Department and Police Department to Faceoff in Third Annual Guns & Hoses Charity Hockey Game on May 19 at 5:00 p.m. …
Detroit, MI… Waterford Township’s Fire Department and Police Department will take to the ice on Saturday, May 19, in the Third Annual Guns & Hoses Charity Hockey Game at Lakeland Tri-Arena in Waterford.
Red Wings goaltender Joey MacDonald will be on hand to drop the ceremonial puck with representatives Jeremy Grundy from the fire department and Ed Ketzler with the police department. Following the puck drop, the two teams will pose for a group photo on the ice with MacDonald before the teams face off for charity.
A $5 donation will get fans a ticket to the game and the ability to participate in the fundraising activities, including a 50/50 raffle as well as a “Chuck-a-Puck” competition. Children five-years-old and under get in for free.
Proceeds from the hockey game will go to help cover FD Captain John Lyman’s medical expenses. Lyman was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is currently receiving chemotherapy treatment at the Cleveland Clinic.
Who: Goaltender Joey MacDonald
What: Ceremonial Puck Drop with Waterford Township Fire Department and Police Department
When: 5:00 p.m.
Where: Lakeland Tri-Arena
7330 Highland Rd.
Waterford, MI 48327
Why: To raise money for FD Captain John Lyman’s medical expenses
In the “strange but true” department, the Detroit Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp actually defused the whole Ken Holland-Mike Babcock supposed rift BS (I’m looking directly at you, with a sideways glare, those of you who insist that the ship is sinking because the coach and GM do not say the exact same things)...
And Finally, For the Moment Anyway (FFTMA), I thought this was interesting given that we assume that Jim Nill is this supremely cerebral judge of talent and all-round hockey guru (which he is), but he was actually a pretty tough customer during 524 NHL games played in St. Louis, Boston, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and at the very end of his career, the Red Wings and their AHL affiliate, where he happened to make Ken Holland’s acquaintance…
But most of what Nill did in the NHL involved something that you find on YouTube that has nothing to do with, say, stickhandling in a phone booth like Jurco. Instead, you’re going to find Nill’s YouTube reel evenly split between speaking as a hockey executive and, well, a left-handed, third or fourth-line winger doing this:
Nill, and Grand Rapids Griffins coach Curt Fraser, went to the 1982 Stanley Cup Finals with the Vancouver Canucks, and Nill, Fraser and several other Canucks shared their playoff memories with the Vancouver Sun’s Chris Taylor today, and Nill offered this observation about playing against the then-dominant Los Angeles Kings:
“We even had a theme song by that point: ‘Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye.’ We always had music in the dressing room before we went out for the start of games, and at the beginning of playoffs, someone grabbed it and put it on, and we all liked it. Then they began playing it in the arena, and on radio stations, too. We were very superstitious, so it became our rallying song and went with us the rest of the playoffs, and we’d crank it up real loud. It was a big part of our journey.” — Jim Nill.
Update: One more thing: the Grand Rapids Griffins posted a season-in-review video on Vimeo today, and it’s pretty spiffy:
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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.