The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/20/12 at 06:56 AM ET
Today represents the last day of competition at the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, and from a Red Wings fan’s perspective, three of the Wings’ four remaining participants in Russia’s Pavel Datsyuk, Slovakia’s Tomas Tatar, Finland’s Valtteri Filppula and/or non-playing prospect Petr Mrazek will come home with medals, though only one might come home satisfied with his team’s performance. Here’s how today’s games shake out:
Sunday, May 20th:
• 9 AM EDT: Bronze Medal Game: Finland (Filppula) vs. Czech Republic Mrazek)
• 1:30 PM EDT: Gold Medal Game: Russia (Datsyuk) vs. Slovakia (Tatar)
NBC Sports will televise the Gold Medal game on tape delay, at 9 PM EDT
While Tatar’s Slovaks may be playing inspired hockey while honoring the memory of Pavol Demitra, I would be absolutely stunned if the Russians didn’t prevail. Despite almost losing his services when he fell into the boards, left hand first, Evgeni Malkin scored a hat trick as the unbeaten Russians steamrolled Finland by a 6-2 tally.
Valtteri Filppula played very well on the Finns’ top line, alongside Mikko Koivu and Jussi Jokinen, but the Finns were basically built with one scoring line and three lines trained to trap, and when goaltender Petri Vehanen let a few squeakers by, the Finns simply didn’t have the scoring power to outpace their mistakes, and eventually, the big Russian Machine just browbeat the hosts into submission.
Statistically, Pavel Datsyuk played 17:03 and went 7-and-6 in the faceoff circle, took a shot and finished even, and Filppula took a shot, won a faceoff and managed to stay even in 18:00 of ice time.
After the game, Datsyuk spoke to IIHF.com’s Lukas Aykroyd...
Early on, it looked good for the Finns. They set a fast, intense tone. At 7:28, Finland drew first blood when Niskala accepted a Petri Kontiola pass at the centre point and fired a howitzer, which tipped off the stick blade of Russian forward Denis Kokarev and high past Varlamov.
Russia took the game’s first penalty at 11:06 as Alexei Tereshenko rushed to the net and stuck out his right leg to trip Vehanen. It was nothing doing for the Finnish power play, however. With plenty of Russian fans on hand, competing chants of “Shaibu!” and “Suomi!” rained down from the Hartwall Arena crowd of 13,239.
“We knew we still had lots of time to play,” Pavel Datsyuk said about the goal. “We just had to calm down and keep playing.”
Malkin tied it at 1-1 at 15:33, snaring the rebound from a Nikita Nikitin blast to Vehanen’s left and firing it home from a bad angle with traffic in the crease.
As the clock counted down, the arena resounded with triumphant shouts of “Molodtsy!” (“Good fellows!”) from the Russian fans.
“We know they’ve been playing well and it’s their home arena. It was tough. The fans helped them a lot,” Pavel Datsyuk said. “We can still play better, I think. But those details are secret.”
And I’ll let the Free Press’s Helene St. James spoil the secret here:
In an IIHF video of post-game interviews, Datsyuk displayed his irrepressible humor when reporters positioned their microphones very near his face. “Not too close,” Datsyuk said. “It’s not ice cream, guys.”
Datsyuk credited Malkin with “playing well today. He scored important goals. We try to control more, play our game. ... We need to think about more details. Details, details, details. Keep playing our hockey.”
Russia will face Slovakia and Wings prospect Tomas Tatar in the gold medal game today. Finland plays the Czech Republic for bronze. No host has won the world championship tournament since the Soviet Union in 1986.
And here’s a slate of game highlights from the NHL Network:
Especially given the additions of Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin to the Russian team, their opponents have found out that you can either shut down Malkin or Datsyuk, but not both, and the team’s just too deep, too strong and receiving far too strong a goaltending performance from Semyon Varlamov to not prevail…
In the undercard game, if you will, Tomas Tatar (who was limited to a near-goal that trickled through relief goalie Jakub Stepanek’s legs and went wide, mostly playing a checking role, finishing at -1 in 15:21 of ice time and taking 1 shot on the 3rd line) and Slovakia defeated the Czech Republic 3-1, advancing to play the Russians, and I’ll tell you this much: the Branko Radivojevic-Michal Handzus-Tomas Kopecky and Miroslav Satan-Libor Hudacek-Tomas Surovy line (Satan scored two goals for the Slovaks) give Slovakia quite a bit of offensive punch, and goalie Jan Laco has been nothing less than spectacular.
There’s at least a chance that the Slovaks could upset the Russians given that it’s a single-game elimination format with a 20-minute OT and shootout determining who wins Gold. If it was a playoff series, there’d be no contest, but it’s one game.
I swiped this IIHF.com video highlighting both games fromMLive’s Brendan Savage...
But I found this highlight clip on my own:
Hockey’s Future’s Champin Landvogt spoke to former Wing Tomas Kopecky about facing off against Datsyuk…
HF: Will it be extra exciting for you to face Pavel Datsyuk?
TK: He’s a great player and I’ve now played against him in the league. I learned a lot from him back in the day in Detroit, just watching him and practicing with him. He was one of those guys who I just focused on and watched what he would do. Everyone sees that he’s so skilled, but what not everyone sees is that he works so hard to be able to do what he does./
HF: Tomas, be it Detroit, Chicago, even Florida and now here, wherever you go, you seem to be part of a winner. What’s the secret?
TK: I don’t know. I have been really fortunate to be on some really good teams and most especially in Detroit, I learned a lot from the older guys. Now I’m that older guy and I try to pass along that experienced I gained in Detroit and what I learned in Chicago, that it’s a tough game and one of mistakes. Right now we are enjoying this and we have some great chemistry. We have a bunch of young guys and a bunch of veteran guys. Some are in that middle-aged group. The goaltenders are playing well and the confidence is very high. We try to live in the moment and don’t try to look too far ahead.
HF: Do you like to play with young guys like Tomas Tatar?
TK: Yep, I mean, he’s a very talented player and he’s from my home town, so these guys like him, when I talk to them, they need to hear that this is a game of mistakes. We’re at a stage right now where one little mistake can cost you the game and thus, the gold medal. You know, they’re learning and I’ve been there and I’ve done that. We try to help them as much as we can and try to stay positive as much as we can. I think kids like him are doing a great job. Once they become the older players for Slovakia, I hope they too will then pass along all this stuff they’re learning now.
SME.sk posted a photo gallery from the game.
In terms of the Bronze medal game, the Finns will be playing against a Czech team minus the services of Martin Erat, who suffered a concussion on Saturday, your guess is as good as mine. The Finns are a bit more skilled and a bit grittier than the Czechs, but the Czechs are a very proud team that won’t take getting beaten by its “little brother” lightly, and while their goaltending has been just as spotty as the Finns’ netminding, Jakub Stepanek can come in and steal a game, whlie Petri Vehanen…Has been shaky and may continue to be shaky.
I only found a little blurb from Filppula via Ilta Sanomat, which quotes him as saying that the Russians got off better shots, but that’s…Even in extremely roughly-translated Finnish, that’s being kind.
And yes, if you’re asking, I did my usual going through just over 40 websites in Swedish, Czech, Slovak, Finnish and Russian, and what I could find is what I could find.
Speaking of scuttlebutt from the Worlds, the ladies and gents at HFBoards have taken note of my confirmation that there is at least scuttlebutt regarding the Red Wings’ interest in 26-year-old Swiss forward Damien Brunner…
But when I scrolled over to EliteProspects.com’s profile of the 5’11,” 187-lb sniper, and its suggestions that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars are also interested in the free agent forward, I headed over to their link, a German-language newspaper called Tages Anzeiger, and I couldn’t find a damn thing about him while searching the website’s sports section in my marginally passable German.
HockeySverige.se’s Uffe Bodin also took note of the interest in Brunner…
Strong NHL interest in Swiss star
Three teams reportedly chasing Brunner
He’s the goal-scoring king in the Swiss league and also registered the most points for the Swiss World Championship team. Now Zug’s star forward, Damien Brunner is on his way to the NHL.
Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman confirmed to the St. Petersburg Times the other day that they have interest in the creative forward. The same applies to the Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars, according to tagesanzeiger.ch.
Brunner registered 60 points (24 goals and 36 assists) in 46 games for Zug this past season, and was named the league’s top forward. He also led the league in playoff points with 14 (3 goals, 11 assists) in 9 games. In the World Championship, where the Swiss couldn’t get to the quarterfinals, he posted 7 points (3 goals and 4 assists) in 7 games.
All I could find here was the obvious in Yzerman’s conversation with the St. Petersburg Times’ Damian Cristodero:
Part of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s summer to-do list is to find a top-six forward. That is why general manager Steve Yzerman, at the world championship in Helsinki, Finland, is keeping a close eye on Swiss forward Damien Brunner.
“Highly skilled and fast,” Yzerman wrote Tuesday night in a text message, adding Tampa Bay isn’t the only team interested in the 5-foot-11, 187-pound right-handed shot.
Brunner, 26, has three goals, seven points and is plus-2 in seven games at the world championship. He had 24 goals, 60 points and was plus-17 in 45 games for Zug.
So I’ve got to shrug my shoulders here and scratch my head. It’s possible, sure, but just as Fabian Brunnstrom knows that he’ll have to take a two-way contract to remain with the Wings’ organiization, I’m not sure that someone like Brunner would want to join a team that would almost invariably require him to spend some time playing at the AHL level. The Swiss league isn’t exactly the KHL, but some of its bigger clubs pay bucks near on on par with the Swedish, Finnish and Czech leagues (and the travel is obviously fantastic as Switzerland is pretty damn small for a hockey-mad country), and I’d imagine that he’d only leave home if the Bolts or Stars were promising him a strong chance of making their NHL roster.
In the actual Red Wings prospect department, you have an advantage over me in that you probably receive the NHL Network, which my stupid cable system, Broadstripe, does not (I’m sure that Charlotte, MI is a lovely place, but it’s on the West side of the state, and yet it’s somehow the only cable provider in my town despite the fact that I live 38 miles from Detroit. Grr!), and they’re simulcasting Sportsnet’s coverage of the Memorial Cup.
Tomas Jurco’s Saint John Sea Dogs have three round-robin games to play in in order to earn a chance to play in the semifinals and defend their title as Memorial Cup champs, but they got off on the wrong foot on Saturday, losing 5-3 to the London Knights while taking 11 minor penalties.
Jurco took one of those penalties and finished at -1 while taking 2 shots and registering a hit, and while the Memorial Cup’s website’s recap is tame, and the Sea Dogs’ website‘s recap is polite, the Canadian Press’s recap indicates that coach Gerard Gallant kinda lost it…
Coach Gerard Gallant went ballistic on the bench and got a bench minor, giving London a two-man advantage they used to put the game away on Namestnikov’s second of the game. Gallant later acknowledged his top players didn’t work hard enough and that London deserved to win, but his frustration spilled out toward the officials. He said his team has been a target as it dominated the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League the last three seasons.
“I’ve been complaining for three years that we always get the short end of the stick and I’m tired of it,” he said. “I’m not taking anything away from London, they were the better team, but I’m so tired of that. You show your frustration at the end of the game. I don’t want to do that, but it’s been over and over again, so I’m tired of it.”
Gallant said the bad ice at the Bionest Centre that has plagued the most skilled players was not an excuse because his best should have worked through it.
“We weren’t good,” he said. “The only time we worked hard was on the penalty kill. It was a pretty disappointing performance, but we’ve still got a couple of games to battle back. London played a great game. They frustrated our guys. That’s not typical for the Sea Dogs. We didn’t get our game going at all.”
And you can take a gander at the London Free Press’s Ryan Pyette’s recap, Sportsnet’s Patrick King’s recap (which includes highlights that only work if you live in Canada) and Yahoo Sports’ Neate Sager’s take on Gallant’s meltdown if you wish.
Slightly closer to home, but in a different vein, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan spoke to one Kyle Quincey about his former team’s playoff success…
As good as they looked against Vancouver, the Kings have looked unbeatable since. Then again, well, they haven’t been beaten. The Kings swept No. 2 seed St. Louis and are on the verge of doing the same thing to Phoenix (Game 4 is at 3 p.m. Sunday).
Whoever comes out of the Eastern Conference, whether it’s New York or New Jersey — the Rangers lead the series, 2-1 — is going to be hard-pressed to disrupt the Kings.
“They know how to win,” Quincey said of the Kings. “Some of those guys were in Edmonton when they had that great run (in 2006). Jarret Stoll (part of that Oilers team that upset the Wings in 2006) is one of my better buddies there and I’m happy for him. I’m glad for their success. I played in that system and got to know it. You live and die by it a little bit.”
The system Quincey referred to is more of a defensive system that’s been tweaked by new coach Darryl Sutter, who has opened things up a little bit and constructed a lineup that’s as deep as could be in the salary cap era.
In the “Sunday scuttlebutt” category, the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson provides a nice counterpoint to the, “Hey, Alex Semin is a decent pick-up if the Wings can’t snag Zach Parise” theory in his Hockey World column:
Most people can see the New York Islanders taking a run at Washington’s Alexander Semin on the free-agent market, warts and all, because they’ll have to spend money to get to the salary-cap floor, which could be $53 million next season.
Let’s face it, Semin is 28, too old for a leopard to change his spots. He’s never going to become a complete player.
The talk of the offensively-challenged Detroit Red Wings taking him if they don’t get Zach Parise in free agency seems ludicrous to me. The Wings pride themselves on two-way, work-hard-all-the-time guys. I can’t see Mike Babcock being a fan, but maybe I’m wrong.
It’s worth noting this because, at this time of year, Matheson’s had a bead on the Wings’ tendencies, and if he says Semin’s not a fit, he’s probably not a fit.
If you find yourself between Michigan’s thumb and forefinger this week, the Saginaw News’s Hugh Bernreuter takes note of a certain Red Wings alumnus’s presence at Wednesday’s Great Lakes Loons game:
Upcoming: After the Loons finish their three-game series at Dayton Monday, they get a day off Tuesday before beginning a seven-game series Wednesday at Dow Diamond. The Loons’ game Wednesday against Bowling Green is the first of the Detroit Red Wings Legend Series, with the first 1,000 fans receiving Dino Ciccarelli bobblehead dolls.
And finally, via RedWingsFeed, I’ve enjoyed the World Championships, but between the lack of sleep, foreign-language translation in the middle of the night and the fact that international hockey’s…different…I won’t necessarily miss it that much, especially given that it doesn’t involve competing for the Stanley Cup, and I hope that I won’t have to cover it at all next year. Amongst its sillier rules, via We All Bleed Red on YouTube…
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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.