The Malik Report
From the Toledo Blade's Mark Monroe:
The intensity will ratchet up tonight as the “second season” begins for a Walleye team that was one shot away from reaching the Kelly Cup finals last year.
Toledo has eight players back from last season’s team that endured three Game 7s and reached the conference finals only to fall in triple overtime.
A tight series once again is expected in the ECHL Eastern Conference quarterfinals that pits No. 1 seed Toledo (47-20-5) against No. 8 Reading (36-26-10). Game 1 is set for a 7:35 p.m. faceoff on Friday at the Huntington Center.
Walleye veteran goalie Jeff Lerg will start for Toledo in the best-of-7 series. Lerg, the team’s diminutive (5-foot-6) and ultra-competitive netminder, started in 15 of the 21 playoff games last season and went 7-4-4 with a 2.12 goals-against average.
“Everything gets amped up a level. The light switch goes on,” Lerg said. “We’re excited to elevate our game to another level against a real good opponent. This is what it’s all about. Hopefully we’ll have a comfort level [in the playoffs] because we’ve been there and done that.”
Monroe continues at extended length...
From NHL.com's Dave Stubbs:
Earl Robertson will never be confused with legendary goaltender Terry Sawchuk, a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Detroit Red Wings, or with Dominik Hasek, another Hockey Hall of Fame member who won the Stanley Cup twice with the Red Wings.
Robertson didn't have the pedigree of Chris Osgood, the Detroit goalie whose name was engraved on hockey's ultimate team trophy three times.
But no Red Wings goalie ever played a more important or more unlikely role for his team than did Robertson in the 1937 Stanley Cup Final. On April 15, 1937, the 26-year-old's magnificent work carried Detroit to its second consecutive NHL championship that season, marking the first time a U.S.-based team had won the League title in two consecutive seasons.
"The Stanley Cup now rests in an American city for the seventh time in its 45-year history and for the fourth time in the last five years," a Montreal newspaper reported the morning after the Red Wings' successful defense.
With the Red Wings for so brief a time that virtually all NHL photos of him show him in later action with the New York Americans, Robertson shut out the Rangers in the final two games after having surrendered one goal in a 1-0 Game 3 loss.
Pressed into emergency service in relief of injured Vezina Trophy winner Normie Smith, Robertson not only survived the pressure of the Final, but he thrived in his first NHL action.
Updated at 2:07 PM: The Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning held uneventful morning skates on Friday, and it appears that both teams will dress the same lineups in Game 2 (7 PM EDT on FSD/FS Florida/CNBC/CBC/TVA Sports/97.1 FM).
For the Lightning, that means that Ryan Callahan's good to go despite nursing a "lower-body injury," as the Tampa Bay Times' Joe Smith noted...
Callahan, who missed Thursday's practice due to body maintenance, skated this morning and said he's good to go for Game 2. Callahan may have to play with some pain, having missed the final three regular season games with a lower-body injury. "Day by day," he said. It looks like the same lineup for tonight, with RW Erik Condra, RW Jonathan Marchessault and D Matt Taormina scratched. G Ben Bishop is in net.
And the Lightning discussed their success in clamping down on defense with TampaBayLightning.com's Bryan Burns:
Updated 4x at 12:52 PM: The Detroit Red Wings hope to even their series with the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 this evening (7 PM EDT on FSD/FS Florida/CNBC/CBC/TVA Sports/97.1 FM). Both teams held morning skates at Amalie Arena this morning, with the Lightning hitting the ice first.
Tampa Bay took an optional morning skate, as noted by TampaBayLightning.com's Bryan Burns...
Ryan Callahan, who had a body maintenance day yesterday and didn't practice, is on the ice for today's #TBLightning optional morning skate.
Hockey's Future's Ryan Womeldorf examined the Red Wings' NCAA and European-playing prospects, and suggesting that the group is no longer a "source of strength" for the organization. This player may be the Wings' best European prospect:
Axel Holmström, RW, Skellefteå AIK (SHL)
Drafted 7th round, 196th overall, 2014
Holmstrom continues to show why he may be a diamond in the rough in terms of the Red Wins overseas prospects. On loan to Skelleftea AIK, he acquitted himself well on what was the best team in the SHL this season. With eight goals and 23 points, he found himself among the top 10 scorers on a team that featured two of the top 10 and four of the top 33 scorers in the league. Holmstrom and his team now look to seal the deal in the championship series against Frölunda. He is off his torrid scoring pace from last season, but has a respectable six points in ten playoff games.
At 19, Holmstrom still has time to improve in Sweden before even considering a jump to North America. Perhaps another full season with Skelleftea, with improved ice time, could see him make a huge jump in the Red Wings rankings.
Womeldorf continues, and my understanding is that Holmstrom will play another year with Skelleftea.
Among Sportsnet's Luke Fox's "Top 36 RFA's to watch":
Age on July 1: 24
2015-16 cap hit: $737,500
The stats: Excellent .921 save percentage and 27-16-3 record, with three shutouts.
The situation: Mrazek heisted the starting role in Detroit from Jimmy Howard last spring and looked solid in his first season as a No. 1. Howard’s contract — four more years at $5.3 million per — and no-trade clause means the American will be difficult to move, and Detroit might not want to pin its hopes on Mrazek just yet. He faltered a bit down the stretch, and Howard became the playoff starter. Smart move might be to get Mrazek to ink a bridge deal.
Age on July 1: 26
2015-16 cap hit: $2.187 million
The stats: Has grown into a top-four presence in Motown. Though he didn’t meet last season’s 31 points (a career high), DeKeyser did put up 20 and is playing more responsible hockey.
The situation: A case of a 20-something D-man taking a bridge deal and proving his worth. Now it’s up to the Red Wings to commit.
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
The rookie forward for the Detroit Red Wings logged a season-low 11:30 in ice time in his team's 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1.
Larkin, who led the team in goals (23) during the regular season, had no shots on goal and posted a minus-1 rating.
"The biggest thing we talked about ... just about being OK with nothing happening some shifts and making sure you take what's given," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.; "When you get opportunities, do everything you can to score, but try not to force opportunities out there.
"As a young player, you've got to balance that. You want to attack but you don't want to force. Anytime you force things it usually ends up bad. That balance is critical for a guy like Dylan to understand. When there's opportunities to make plays, make plays. And if there aren't opportunities to make plays, live another day.
"I thought he did a good job of that (Wednesday). I think he got a quick taste of how physical the game is. That increases as the games go on, but that stuff doesn't bother Dylan at all. He's got a great, great toughness to him."
The Detroit Red Wings hope to earn a road split as they battle the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday evening (7 PM EDT start on FSD/FS Florida/CNBC/CBC/TVA Sports/97.1 FM), and there's a definite theme going on in the Red Wings' slumping offensive players looking to solve Tampa's stifling defense, and for Tampa Bay, keeping the good offensive times rolling as Detroit hopes to clamp down.
Neither team really thought that the nastiness after the whistles was anything other than "playoff hockey," but it will be interesting to find out whether the officiating crew gets instructions to clamp down on what was at times a long skirmish interrupted by spates of skating, shooting, checking and scoring.
For the Lightning, the good times are indeed rolling, and Jonathan Drouin's redemptive story is front and center, as noted by the Tampa Bay Times' Joe Smith...
added 3:49pm, Blashill added below too...
via Helens St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
Coach Jeff Blashill said he "believes" everyone is available for Game 2, but that he'd know more Friday, when the Red Wings will try to even their first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
One of the healthy scratches has been defenseman Brendan Smith, who is one of the few Wings who jumps into frays to defend teammates.
Smith can be guilty of risky decisions, but his competitiveness is never in question. Asked about his possible insertion, Blashill said he'd announce lineup decisions Friday. Smith last played March 26. He and Mike Green had good chemistry earlier in the season, though it does pair two risk-takers together.
As for the physicality of Game 1, which featured scrums including one that saw rookie Dylan Larkin entangled with 6-foot-5 Braydon Coburn, Blashill said, "Brendan brings a toughness that can be an element in those situations. I'm not worried about guys pushing each other back and forth. That doesn't do much. In fact, I thought the refs did a great job of policing that.
"What we need to do is make sure that we're taking hits to make plays, that we're making it hard on them."
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.