The Malik Report
Harris speaks with Wings coach Jeff Blashill and Larkin himself about #71's rookie year, and even Larkin admits that his performance has surprised him:
"Yeah, I am [surprised],” he said. “Last summer I worked as hard as I could to try and put myself in a position to make it hard on them in training camp. I worked hard, and I had a pretty good camp. When I originally got this opportunity they said it was going to be 10 games and they’d see how it went. But I was able to take advantage of it.
“I’m having a blast and every game is awesome. I’m just hoping I can stay hot and have some more fun.
“With guys like Hank (Zetterberg) and Pav (Datsyuk) and Kronner (Niklas Kronwell), and the coaching staff, these guys have so much experience. It’s hard not to walk around with open ears and try to learn as much as you can.
“I think that learning comes from passion. I want to be one of the best and I want to win. You do that by learning. But with the guys we have in this room, it’s hard not to learn a lot.”
The Free Press's attempting to make their Sunday edition a print and online destination again, and their sports section is no exception.
This is a good thing for Michiganders looking for intriguing "Sunday long reads," and this morning, the Free Press's Shawn Windsor delivers a superb "long read" while profiling Dylan Larkin as a hometown hero in the making:
He came from nowhere fast, a blur ripping across the ice, from the edge of the right face-off circle to a spot behind the net. Once there, Dylan Larkin swiped the puck from a defenseman, then squirted out toward the left corner. What happened next? A spin, a no-look centering pass, a goal. But really, what we're talking about here isn't a way to catalog a scoring chance. We're talking about something more kinetic. We're talking about the movement of the most electric hockey player to come out of this region in years. Here was a sequence built on speed, anticipation, photographic memory, touch and vision. He is that good already. The team knows it. His teammates know it. You know it. At least judging by the decibel spikes when the announcer mentions his name. And judging by the number of "Larkin" jerseys popping up on the backs of fans standing in their seats.
Larkin's popularity has risen so unexpectedly and so rapidly that during last week's game against the Arizona Coyotes his jersey was sold out.
"I hear we're having trouble keeping up," said Ken Holland, the team's general manager, who drafted Larkin with the No. 15 pick in June 2014.
The team can't make his jersey fast enough, partly because he's young — Larkin is 19, the first teenager on the Wings' roster since Jiri Hudler in 2003 — and partly because he grew up in Waterford and played at Michigan. Which is to say … he's one of us, which makes for a better story.
Of prospect-related note:
In the AHL, Anthony Mantha made a statement in his return to the Grand Rapids Griffins' lineup after being a healthy scratch last Saturday.
Mantha scored a goal and registered 2 assists, Eric Tangradi had a goal and an assist, Andreas Athanasiou had a goal and Jared Coreau stopped 38 of 39 shots as the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Rockford IceHogs 4-1, yielding the Griffins' 10th win in a row. The Griffins' website posted a recap:
There are two themes in tonight's overnight report: goaltending and a discussion of the Wings' overtime record.
Thus far, the Red Wings' coaching staff has stuck to a near-perfect rotation of the team's goaltenders, and as of yet, the coaching staff feels no need to go away from that rotation, as Jeff Blashill told the Free Press's Helene St. James...
"I'm 100% comfortable with putting both guys in position to feel confident, which I think they have been," Blashill said after Friday's 3-2 shoot-out loss at New Jersey, in which Howard made 35 saves.
Howard has not made consecutive starts since one stint in mid-October. Mrazek has done so four times, the most recent time at the start of December.
Their stats reveal why Blashill is comfortable with the plan. Howard has started 14 games, going 7-4-3 with a 2.29 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. Mrazek has started 16 games (and played in 17, as he subbed into Nov. 8 Dallas game when Howard had an injury scare), going 9-4-3 with a 2.38 GAA and .924 save percentage.
"They haven't done much looking over their shoulders," Blashill said. "There's been enough competition to spur good play, but with that said, I do think they are in confident situations."
And MLive's Brendan Savage:
Dominic Turgeon registered the game-tying goal and an assist on the gamer as his Portland Winterhawks rallied from a 4-2 3rd period defict to defeat the Prince George Cougars 5-4, and TSN's BarDown blog posted a .Gif video of the assist Turgeon had on the game-winning goal:
The Hockey News's Ryan Kennedy suggests that the Red Wings "were right to rush Dylan Larkin" To NHL duty:
[If] he’s good enough for Detroit’s brass and good enough to start the season on a line with Henrik Zetterberg, then yeah, there may be something there. “He’s a two-way, 200-foot player,” said Detroit GM Ken Holland. “He has a lot of will, a lot of determination and he’s got a big motor.”
Larkin was the Big Ten’s rookie of the year last season, posting 47 points in 35 games for Michigan. A state native who relished the chance to play in Ann Arbor, the young center admitted it wasn’t an easy decision to leave the Wolverines after just one season. Having seen Larkin play so well at the world juniors, Team USA’s brass invited him to play for the men’s World Championship squad in the spring. “That was a whole experience itself,” Larkin said. “I thought I had a pretty good World Championship, and after skating with those guys, I knew I wanted to be a pro.”
Larkin played a checking role on a team that won a surprise bronze medal, shutting out Jakub Voracek, Jaromir Jagr and the host Czechs 3-0. For Holland, it was a tipping point: his shiny prospect proved he could thrive in any role. “I told Dylan and his parents that whatever decision he made, we were good with,” he said. “He’s a unique player for me in that he can play top-six or bottom-six. He’s going to be able to do lots of things that can be used by the coach.”
Kennedy continues, and you aren't rushing someone when they prove that they're up to a task slowly and systematically, through NCAA, World Junior Championship, World Championship, AHL playoff and NHL training camp and regular season play. That's simply giving a player a set of challenges that he consistently meets, not "rushing."
Update: TSN's Scott Cullen gave Larkin heady praise:
The coach's challenge in the NHL has slowly but surely evolved into the equivalent of a "flag thrown" in the NFL--it's become something of an experimental endeavor, not only something done for strategic purposes, like earning an extended timeout after a goal, but also to simply determine if there's any chance that the referees might overturn a goal that's still probably legal.
As a goaltender and a subjective Wings fan, I thought that Sergey Kalinin's tip-and-touch on Jimmy Howard's blocker was an obvious no-goal last night, but the refereeing crew felt differently, in no small part because Kalinin tipped the puck a few milliseconds before he touched Howard's stick...
And Wings coach Jeff Blashill readily admitted that his 3rd coach's challenge was a nothing-to-lose challenge, as he told the Free Press's Helene St. James:
from Brendan Savage of Mlive,
"We were playing well," said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who finished with 35 saves. "We were doing a lot of god things out there. We were playing a good, solid road game and we let it slip away.
"We still got the point tonight but it's tough being on the road and having a two-goal lead and not coming out on top. It's tough to swallow but on the bright side we did get a point here. When we continue to keep getting points it's a good thing."...
Coach Jeff Blashill sees good and bad aspects in playing so many OT games.
"Well, there's frustration," he admitted. "I guess it depends which way you look at it. As I said in the room, I'm glad we've had lots of leads. I don't really look back a lot. We just got to keep getting better as a team. We found a way to be up in a lot of those games.
"I think we're scoring more, which has put us in a good spot. We got to find a way to continue to minimize our mistakes. We made too many mistakes in the last little bit and we got to get as many points as we can.
"It's the National Hockey League. They're trying real hard, too, and we've got to continue to get better."
Of prospect-related note:
In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye celebrated the return of Jeff Lerg to the team by leaning on him, and leaning hard, but the Walleye received a superb 33-for-34-save performance and a trio of shootout saves en route to a 2-1 shootout win over the Wheeling Nailers on Friday night. The Walleye's website posted a recap:
This should have been more than enough offense for the Red Wings on Friday night...
But this was unsuccessful...
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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.