The Malik Report
Updated 4x with Mrazek called “disgusting” by Team USA’s Jason Zucker at 8:32 PM: You might be wondering who the masked man who just stopped 52 of 54 shots and helped the Czech Republic defeat Team USA 5-2 (link to recap which includes embedded highlights) at the World Junior Championships might be.
Petr Mrazek currently tends goal for the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, and while his goals-against isn’t exactly pretty, he’s won 16 times while backstopping a team that admittedly plays “run and gun” hockey—kind of like the hockey the Czechs played against the Americans—and the Red Wings very astutely picked Mrazek with the 141st overall pick of the 2010 Entry Draft. The Wings were already planning
on signing Mrazek and
having him turn pro with the Grand Rapids Griffins next season, but today’s performance might have added a bigger rookie bonus to the contract
he’ll ink sooner than later
he’s already signed .
The level-headed and ever-smiling youngster actually didn’t play on last year’s Czech World Junior team because he’d been “blacklisted” by the Czech Republic’s Ice Hockey Federation for choosing to play in the CHL instead of playing for HC Vitkovice in the Czech Extraliga (one might recall Slavomir Lener’s rant about the CHL being the damnation of the Czechs’ junior program at the World Hockey Summit, and Mrazek being requested to pay several hundred thousand dollars to buy his way out of his rights-holder’s contract had something to do with that speech), so it speaks to Mrazek’s maturity that he let bygones be bygones and jumped at the chance to play for the Czech Republic this time around…
But Red Wings director of player development and Czech junior team assistant coach Jiri Fischer made an ironic comment about Mrazek’s status as an unheralded goaltender going into the tournament while speaking to the Score’s Justin Bourne:
Mrazek hasn’t gotten the attention that the goalies of other top countries have, but asked if his abilities weren’t being properly recognized at the tournament Fischer was succinct: “We know the strength of Petr and whatever everybody else thinks that’s their decision.”
I guess “everybody else” thinks that he’s pretty decent after today’s performance.
Update: The Edmonton Journal’s Mitch Goldberg was thinking the same thing:
Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika wrote a phenomenal article about Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom that’s so good that, well, we ought to start at its beginning and go from there:
The calendar is about to flip to 2012, but when it comes to Nicklas Lidstrom, the Detroit Red Wings are already thinking ahead to 2013.
Lidstrom is 41. He is playing on his second straight one-year, $6.2 million contract. He will turn 42 on April 28, and he will evaluate his future after the Wings’ season ends, not before. His teammates respect that. But they can’t help themselves. They see how Lidstrom’s greatness remains undiminished, making him a candidate to catch Bobby Orr in the record book and win his eighth Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. They seize every opportunity to tease their captain about coming back in 2012-13.
Take Tuesday night. With the Wings facing a 2-0 deficit, Lidstrom scored to spark a 3-2 comeback victory over the St. Louis Blues. That gave him eight goals this season, tying him for second among NHL defensemen. That gave him 1,131 points in his career, moving him into the top 50 NHL scorers of all-time.
“It’s good … for next year,” said teammate Henrik Zetterberg with a smile and without prompting. “You always think for next year.”
Continued, and the article’s really, really, really worth your time…
Updated 6x with Wings talking about the Winter Classic and the 24/7 phenomenon at 7:31 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight (8:30 PM EST, FSD Plus/CSN Chicago/WXYT),Wings coach Mike Babcock has chosen to slide Justin Abdelkader into the injured Darren Helm’s (groin) third line centre’s spot, and as such, the Free Press’s Helene St. James reports that the Wings will ice a fourth “kid line” of Gustav Nyquist, Cory Emmerton and Joakim Andersson tonight:
With Helm out, the lines have been adjusted as follows:
Helm said he “felt it after the St. Louis game, but I didn’t think it was anything major. And then the day off (Wednesday), I didn’t do anything, really, to provoke it or feel it. Then in practice, it just slowly started coming on.”
As the media’s continued to insist that the NHL is experiencing a concussion epidemic of unprecedented proportions, I’ve kept thinking a simple thought: “Yeah, but wasn’t anyone paying attention from the late 90’s till around 2008 or 2009, when somewhere between 7-15 players would very quietly retire due to post-concussion issues, and we simply didn’t talk about it as if concussions were a ‘problem?’” Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos believes that, to some extent, advances in sports medicine and a more progressive and preventative slate of concussion-diagnosing procedures are simply revealing that, obstruction or no obstruction, red line or no red line, NHL players have simply been suffering many more concussions than we’ve ever assumed they were over the past ten to fifteen years, and that it’s entirely possible that the short-term fears we have for an All-Star team’s worth of concussed players sitting on the sidelines might translate into longer careers for the Crosbys, Webers and Gagnes over the world:
s it an epidemic or is it just the knowledge and education getting the best of us. Don’t think for a minute I’m undervaluing the importance of identifying head injuries, but you can’t deny that just a short while ago we rarely saw this many players diagnosed with concussions or “concussion-like” symptoms. ]
Why? Because back then, as players, we didn’t know any better. We didn’t have the concussion education today’s players have, so we played through the symptoms. The last thing in the world we wanted was a teammate, coach or general manager looking at us thinking we were soft. Just as many players likely had concussions, they were just never properly identified.
Today is much different. Now GMs are more sensitive to concussions than ever before and teams are more willing to shut a guy down for seven to 10 days just to be on the safe side.I think if the grade of concussion were made public, we’d see many of these guys out with Grade 1 concussions. I am not saying these aren’t legitimate concussions, but I am saying there is a difference between these five-, six- and seven-day concussions and the more serious ones suffered by Sidney Crosby, Marc Staal and Chris Pronger.
Three-time U.S. Olympian and women’s hockey stalwart Angela Ruggiero could and did keep up with men in terms of her physicality, competitiveness and downright viciousness, and in competition with women, she evoked comparisons to Chris Chelios in terms of her ability to balance scoring ability with physical intimidation (even in a no-checking game). Today, USA Today’s Kevin Allen reports that the California-born, Harvard-educated and Michigan-raised Ruggiero has chosen to retire at 31 years of age:
“I think I’ve done as much as I can to prepare for this day,” Ruggiero told USA TODAY. “It’s going to be really hard, but I’m also really excited about what lies ahead.”
In 1998, Ruggiero was the youngest player on the U.S. team that won the first women’s Olympic hockey gold medal at the tournament in Nagano, Japan. Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, said Ruggiero was the female version of former international and NHL standout Slava Fetisov.
“She has not only been the best defenseman in the last 15 years, Angela Ruggiero has defined this era of women’s hockey,” Fasel said.
Updated 4x at 4:13 PM: Good news on the injury front after the Red Wings’ 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues: the Wings have officially cleared Jan Mursak to play and assigned him to Grand Rapids, result in a 2-week conditioning stint which should yield more speed and depth on the fourth line when Mursak and Chris Conner (broken hand) return from their respective injuries. Here’s the Griffins’ press release confirming Mursak’s assignment:
The Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday assigned right wing Jan Mursak to the Grand Rapids Griffins for conditioning.
Mursak has not played this season after breaking his ankle in a Sept. 25 preseason game versus the Chicago Blackhawks. The 23-year-old forward skated in 54 games with the Griffins last season, recording 35 points (13-22—35). He also appeared in 19 games for the Red Wings, notching his first NHL goal on Jan. 10 versus Colorado. The Maribor, Slovenia, native has registered 86 points (39-47—86) in 184 career games with the Griffins from 2008-11.
As MLive’s Ansar Khan notes, the Wings can recall Mursak early if necessary:
For the first 38 minutes of the Red Wings’ “statement-making” win over the St. Louis Blues, it looked like the Wings were playing from an all-too-familiar script. The Wings were pushed around by a bigger, stronger Blues team as they dug a 2-0 deficit for themselves for the third time over the past four games, and as the Wings seemed somewhat intimidated by the Blues’ physicality and determination, Jimmy Howard more or less kept the Wings in the game at times, quite literally standing on his head to make one save…
The Detroit Red Wings dug a 2-0 deficit for themselves for the 3rd time over the past 4 games, and after Stephane Auger yielded what had seemed to be yet another case of an unearned break by finding a way to not give a goaltender a quick whistle in a game where the Blues had hacked, whacked, hooked, held, cross-checked, grabbed and groped their way to a no less unearned and seemingly unassailable lead (in a game which they eventually won 3-2)...
Mickey Redmond tends to say that games with the kind of playoff flavor that the Wings have aren’t places for nervous people. As I am biochemically inclined to be nervous, I popped half an anti-anxiety medication and prepared for what the game appeared to be as they were out-shot, out-worked, out-hustled, out-checked and quite possibly out-talented over the first 33 minutes and 8 seconds thereof: yet another case of a Wings team that’s more talented than just about any other simply not working hard enough or playing efficiently enough to earn the kinds of breaks the Wings did against the Predators.
With the Red Wings-Blues game-day updates and news regarding Johnny Wilson’s passing (both updated around 6:30 PM) haven fallen off the main page, here’s a little ditty which surprised me: according to IIHF.com’s Szymon Szemberg, the World Junior Championship’s chairman, long-time hockey exec Al Coates, once laced up the skates for former Red Wings owner Bruce Norris’s first attempt to establish a European arm of the Red Wings’ franchise—so the Wings’ long association with Europe as a place where it invested in talent, as it turns out, kinda started backwards:
[F]rom the international perspective, it is his pioneer days with Detroit’s European farm club London Lions that are the most intriguing. You see, the 1973-74 edition of the classic British team (the original Lions existed 1924-33) was unique in the history of hockey. Can you name any other team that played 72 exhibition games during a “season” and then folded?
Background: Detroit owner Bruce Norris wanted to create a European pro hockey league in the early 1970s, and he had the London Lions tour the continent as promotion for those ambitions. For European NHL fans the London Lions were as close as you could get to watching a real NHL team on a regular basis. Apart from Swedes Ulf Sterner, Tord Lundström and goalie Leif “Honken” Holmqvist (all IIHF Hall of Famers), all players were North Americans, the jerseys almost a replica of the Red Wings’ and the logo a winged lion.
Updated 5x at 6:18 PM: Very sad news for the hockey world from Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson:
My uncle, Johnny Wilson, passed away this morning at 82 yrs.He was a warrior thru & thru, right to the end.Our family will miss him dearly.
Uncle John played for Wings, Hawks,Leafs& Rangers. 688 gms. 4 Stanley Cups. Coached 7 seasons, LA, Det, Colorado, Pitt. Ironman-560 gms.
Update: The Canadian Press is confirming, and while they’re not sure of the cause of death, I can tell you that it was very quietly stated that Wilson was very, very ill over the past year. He was in dire straits for a long time, and it wasn’t a question of “if” as much as “when” he’d succumb to his illnesses.
Update #2: From the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff:
Former #redwings, #leafs and #spitfires F johnny Wilson, uncle of #leafs coach Ron Wilson, died today at 82 from lung disease.
Update #3: Here’s the Red Wings’ official press release regarding Wilson’s passing:
About The Malik Report
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.