The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/20/12 at 01:16 PM ET
Updated 2x at 1 PM: Well, Red Wings prospect Petr Mrazek was able to learn from Czech pros and NHL’ers, hang out with his buddy Jakub Stepanek (who is dating Mrazek’s sister), and earn a Bronze medal, anyway.
The Czech Republic defeated Finland 3-2 today to capture Bronze at the World Championship, in no small part due to the goaltending of Stepanek and a superb Czech defense, but the Finns didn’t “get started on time” once again, goalie Petri Vehanen got caught swimming two too many times, and while the play of the line of Wings forward Valtteri Filppula, Mikko Koivu and Jussi Jokinen was nothing less than admirable, the Finns didn’t really show any backbone until they were down 3-1 going into the 3rd period, and they finally engaged the Czechs, physically and otherwise.
When the Finns did show up, they pounced upon the stupidity of defenseman Jakub Nakladal, who took three penalties in the 3rd period alone, with Jokinen scoring a gorgeous near-breakaway PPG, but the Finns just couldn’t break through the Czech defense or Stepanek, in no small part due to their persistent desire to play perimeter hockey on 200’x100’ ice, and they simply ran out of time.
Filppula played 21:14, and while he registered only 2 shots and finished at a -1, he deked and dangled with such Datsyukian/Zetterberg-like form that the Czechs plain old backed off and watched him do his thing, lest they get sucked in and embarrassed, Fil went to the net with gusto and occasionally tossed some pushes and shoves back as he received a significant amount of abuse, and he was strong along the boards, speedy as hell skating in that hunched-over-on-his-thighs, Sergei Fedorov-like style, and he played like someone who is going to continue to blossom and continue to flourish as a scoring winger going forward, so there’s that. Filppula will never be more than a poor man’s Datsyuk/Zetterberg, but watching him show up, compete and play the way he has against the top teams and NHL-like levels of competition is extremely positive…
But watching while pulling for the Finns, especially after Vehanen and his teammates laid an egg in an awful 6-2 loss to Russia on Saturday, it was disheartening as all hell get out to watch the Finnish crowd spend the vast majority of the game wondering what the hell went wrong.
Some of it was personnel-related as the Finns had only one real scoring line (Filppula’s), some of it—maybe a lot of it—had something to do with Jukka Jalonen’s trap-happy coaching style and passive demeanor, and some of it had to do with poor goaltending, mediocre special teams and just plain old lackadaisical starts, but, when your fans drop hundreds of Euros to see the home team salvage some pride, coming out the way the Finns did was inexcusable.
If you’re interested, Pavel Datsyuk’s Russians will try to steamroll Slovakia to take the World Championship at 1:30 PM today. There are tons of online streams to peek at if you’re interested, and I’ll share what I can via Twitter. I’ve had good success with—and please beware the spyware, ad-ware and pop-ups involved with adding a http colon slash slash to these links—livetv.ru/en and firstrowsports.eu throughout the tournament.
Update: Filppula makes an appearance in IIHF.com’s post-game comments:
Update #2: Filppula didn’t shy from the microphones in Finnish, either, and while my Finnish is terrible...
• He told Iltahleti that the Finns obviously didn’t meet their expectations, and while their final push was solid, they didn’t score, and the Czechs did convert their chances;
• He told STT that he was very disappointed, and while he played through some sort of foot injury, he didn’t feel that it hampered his play;
• But he did tell YLE’s Timo Uusitalo that he enjoyed playing for Finland, though he felt that his 4 goals and 6 assists didn’t really matter in the end.
Update: TSN posted a 4:17 extended highlight clip from the game.
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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.