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Wallner: New and old faces will help the Grand Rapids Griffins defend their Calder Cup championship

The Grand Rapids Griffins spent yesterday traveling from GR to Abbotsford, BC as they'll begin their 5-game first-round playoff series against the Abbotsford Heat on Friday and Saturday. The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner wrote a fantastic, comprehensive article (and this excerpt is just part of it) which sets up the series by asking both last year's Calder Cup Champs and this year's new faces how they plan on defending their title.

Wallner duly pointed out that several of the Griffins' biggest early-season contributors are in Detroit now, and he did note that Anthony Mantha may eventually join the cause if Mantha's Val-d'Or Foreurs continue to get ran over by the QMJHL's defending champion Halifax Mooseheads:

“I think you draw upon all of your experiences,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “One of those is the emotional roller coaster than we went through a year ago. I don’t know if that’s an advantage, because, no matter the experience or how you’ve been playing, it’s how you execute on Friday that matters the most.”

The most consistent – and regularly available – player has been Teemu Pulkkinen, who led the Griffins with 31 goals and 59 points during the regular season. A year ago, the right winger from Finland got into 14 playoff games before the arrival of the Detroit players put him on the bench.

Pulkkinen said the experience on and off the ice will help this playoff run.

“It was great to see it,” he said. “It was fast and it was physical and I expect it to be the same this year.”


As for the goalies, Blashill would not say how he plans to use Petr Mrazek and Tom McCollum, who each have had extended starts this season. A year ago, Mrazek started every playoff game.

“We’ll make that decision as we move forward,” Blashill said. “We didn’t make a conscious decision to start Petr every game last year. He just did a good job of winning the games … We think we have great depth in net and that’s a great thing to have.”

Wallner also reports that Mitch Callahan hopes to eventually join the lineup, but that he isn't quite ready to play.

If you missed it, the Griffins' first-round press release issued this schedule...

Game 1 – Fri., April 25 -    GRIFFINS at Heat – 10 p.m.
Game 2 – Sat., April 26 – GRIFFINS at Heat – 10 p.m.
Game 3 – Wed., April 30 – Heat at GRIFFINS – 7 p.m. (season ticket Game A)
*Game 4 – Fri., May 2 – Heat at GRIFFINS – 7 p.m. (Game B)
*Game 5 – Sat., May 3 – Heat at GRIFFINS – 7 p.m. (Game C)

And while they were making that great Jordin Tootoo video, the Griffins also posited a largely Blashill-narrated playoff preview, and it's fantastic, especially because it notes that the departures of Jurco, Sheahan, Nyquist and Glendening have yielded new faces stepping up and new players joining the mix as their major junior and pro teams were eliminated (see: Athanasiou, Backman, Janmark, Nastasiuk, and ina roundabout way, Toledo call-ups Parkes, Nestrasil, Frk and Nicastro). BE WARNED--the ticking clock background is a wee bit annoying, but it's not you, it's the video:

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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.