Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Wakiji, Regner set up the Griffins-Barracuda series

Tomorrow, the Grand Rapids Griffins will battle the San Jose Barracuda in the AHL's Western Conference Final, and DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji and Art Regner spoke with the team about the long travel, Tyler Bertuzzi and Evgeny Svechnikov's offensive performances, Dylan McIlrath's intimidation factor and more:

The Grand Rapids Griffins are traveling far to try to win a Calder Cup. The team flew to San Jose Thursday so they could have a couple of days to acclimate to the time change before beginning the AHL's Western Conference Finals Saturday against the San Jose Barracuda. The 1,947 miles traveled is 128 more than the Griffins have ever gone for a playoff series.

Instead of a 2-2-1-1-1 format, the Griffins will play two games in San Jose, then return to Grand Rapids for three games, if necessary. If the series is not decided then, they will return to San Jose for Games 6 and 7.

"I don't mind the 2-3-2 format," Griffins coach Todd Nelson said. "I think it's not as big an advantage for the higher seed versus going 2-2-1-1-1. The travel is going to be the same for both of us. The biggest thing is the time change for me."

Rookie defenseman Joe Hicketts pointed out the advantage in this series to the 2-3-2 schedule.

"I think it's good for travel, obviously," Hicketts said. "It would be tough to go back and forth four times or whatever. I think you go into the first two games hoping for a split and then you have an opportunity to come home and play three and get some momentum. Then if you have to go back out there, you're hoping that you carry that momentum from home and the home crowd to the road."

Wakiji and Regner continue...

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Wallner: Svechnikov hitting the right notes in the playoffs

Evgeny Svechnikov sits second on the Grand Rapids Griffins in playoff scoring with 3 goals, 6 assists and 9 points registered over the course of 8 games played--one point behind Tyler Bertuzzi's 10. Ahead of the start of the Griffins-San Jose Barracuda series tomorrow night, the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner profiles the even-keeled forward:

"He's producing for us, playing a team game," [Griffins coach Todd] Nelson said. "What's nice about this series (coming up) is you can't pick one line and try and shut it down. We're both deep. And Svech is a big part of it with us (with Kyle Criscuolo and Matt Lorito)."

Svecnhnikov's performance is raising his stock with the Detroit Red Wings. His  chances of making the team out of camp are slim, given the Red Wings would want him on a top two line, but he should get a call-up at some point similar to this season. He appeared in two games in April for his first exposure to the NHL.

"Oh, I'd say so, for sure," Nelson said of his improved stock. "He's playing his best hockey right now."

"Everyone in the room knows he has a really bright future," Bertuzzi said. "He's a really good guy in the room and his skills on the ice are next to none. I've been with him (on a line during the season) and he makes it really easy because of his skills."

The 20-year-old Svechnikov has enjoyed it so far.

"I think I've played good," he said. "First two games (against Chicago) I don't think I was at my best but after that, especially the last two games, I think myself and our line did our best so far."

Wallner continues...

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Where To Find A Defenseman?

Ansar Khan of Mlive answered a few questions from the fans...

Q: Should the Wings be keeping close tabs on the Wild for a potential move, considering their protection problem for the expansion draft?

A: There’s a few teams with potential protection issues on defense, including Minnesota, Nashville, Anaheim, Winnipeg and the New York Islanders.

If the Wild opt to protect three defensemen, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon surely will be two of them. That leaves one spot for either Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba or Marco Scandella.

Dumba’s name surfaces in more trade speculation than the others.

Nashville is another club with a decision to make. The Predators might elect to protect four defensemen (P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm) and just four forwards. If not, they’ll need to move a good defenseman.

The Jets might opt to protect four defensemen as well, unless they make a trade. Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom have no-movement clauses and Winnipeg isn’t going to expose Jacob Trouba or Tyler Myers.

The New York Islanders might need to move a defenseman, perhaps Calvin de Haan, who is rumored to be on the Red Wings’ radar. Johnny Boychuk must be protected due to his no-movement clause (unless he agrees to waive it) and the two other spots could go to Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic.

The Ducks have a plethora of defensemen. They figure to protect Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, assuming Kevin Bieksa waives his no-movement clause (he might as well, since Vegas won’t take a 35-year-old). That would leave Josh Manson exposed.

more Q & A...

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Despite Team USA’s loss at the Worlds, Howard was superb all tournament long

Despite Team USA's loss at the World Championship today, Jimmy Howard played excellent hockey in Team USA's crease, pitching a 1.86 GAA and a .9197 save percentage. Prior to today's game vs. Finland, NHL.com's Brian Hedger penned a notebook article about Howard's attempt to extend his 2016-17 campaign for as long as possible:

After missing 33 games for the Red Wings with an MCL sprain, the 33-year old veteran wasn't ready to begin the offseason in April.

"Jimmy wanted to come to this tournament," said Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, who ran the bench for the U.S. "He made that known early in the process, once we were eliminated from the playoffs. I just think for his own sake, he'd played so well until he got hurt, and he played very well when he got back. He just wanted to keep playing hockey."

Larkin saw that desire as far back as last summer, when Howard put in a lot of work to sharpen his game.

He hasn't stopped working since, despite the injury and the work that required to rehabilitate it.

"Even with the injury, he's had a really good season," Larkin said. "He kept us in a lot of games in Detroit, and then to have the injury, everyone was feeling for him. He hasn't taken any time off. He didn't even take the bye week off in Detroit. He was still skating and stayed for the All-Star break, rehabbing. Then, after the season, he skated all the way up until this tournament. You can see it paying off for him, too. You look at that game against the Russians, he kept us in it."

Hedger continues, and even though the Americans won't be playing for a medal, Howard took another step forward at the Worlds--as did Dylan Larkin, who posted 2 goals, 8 assists and 10 points in 8 games played for Team USA.

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Get ready for the Memorial Cup

As noted by the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan, the Memorial Cup is coming to Windsor this weekend, and it's worth a trip across the bridge to the WFCU Centre:

Local hockey fans have an opportunity to catch the best in junior hockey the next couple weeks. Cross the bridge (or go through the tunnel) to Windsor, as the Spitfires are hosting the 2017 Memorial Cup May 19-28 at WFCU Centre.

The Spitfires, Erie Otters (Ontario League champion), Seattle Thunderbirds (Western League champion) and Saint John Sea Dogs (Quebec champions) are involved in the four-team, round-robin tournament determining the championship of the major junior hockey season.

The lone Red Wings draft pick competing in the tournament is Erie defenseman Jordan Sambrook (2016, fifth round).

But there’s still a definite Michigan flavor to the event. Erie also has forward Alex DeBrincat (Farmington Hills), a Chicago Blackhawks first-round pick who scored 65 goals in 63 games this season.

Forward Cade Robinson (Jackson) and defenseman Ivan Lodnia (Novi) are also on the Otters.

Local players on Windsor are forward Luke Boka (Plymouth) and defenseman Jalen Chatfield (Ypsilanti).

The tournament opens Friday with Windsor facing Saint John at 7 p.m.

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Red Wings at the Worlds: Mrazek’s Czechs, Team USA eliminated in Quarterfinals

Updated 6x at 8:16 PM: It was a puzzling day for the Red Wings' representatives at the World Championship in Paris and Cologne.

In Paris, the Czechs chose to start Pavel Francouz instead of Petr Mrazek for the Czechs' Quarterfinal match-up against Russia, and the Czechs lost 3-0;

And in Cologne, the Americans looked like what they are--incredibly, incredibly young--as Finland eliminated the U.S. from medal contention with a 2-0 shutout.

Dylan Larkin was near-heroic in winning faceoff after faceoff and earning grade-A scoring opportunities; Jimmy Howard was as good as he could possibly be in keeping the Americans in it, and Danny DeKeyser was pleasantly invisible, but a U.S. team that had won 6 straight games blew its opportunity to advance to the Semifinals.

I don't even blame Blashill for this one; the Americans just didn't have an answer for the FInnish Trap, and they got jittery.

Update: Statistically...

Continue Reading »

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‘Top 20 Greatest NHL Teams’ include two Wings Cup-winners

Two of the fan-voted "NHL's Greatest Teams" are Red Wings teams. Per the NHL:

NHL UNVEILS TOP 20 GREATEST NHL TEAMS, AS VOTED BY FANS

Top 20 Voting Now Open; Fans to Determine the NHL’s Greatest Stanley Cup® Championship Team

NEW YORK / TORONTO (May 18, 2017) – Following two rounds of voting, the National Hockey League today unveiled the Top 20 teams remaining in the Greatest NHL® Teams. An interactive digital and mobile program that is part of the League’s Centennial celebration, the Greatest NHL Teams features all of the NHL’s 96 Stanley Cup® winners since the League’s inaugural season in 1917-18 competing head-to-head, with fans determining the NHL’s Greatest Stanley Cup® Championship Team of all-time.

Twenty teams remain from the original list of the NHL’s 96 Stanley Cup® champions, and the third and final round of voting starts today at http://NHL.com/GreatestTeams Votin.g officially closes on Thursday, May 25, and the Top 10 will be announced during the 2017 Stanley Cup® Final, with the Greatest NHL Team unveiled during Game Four of the 2017 Stanley Cup® Final.

The Top 20 Greatest NHL Teams (in reverse chronological order), as voted by the fans, are as follows:

·        2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins
·        2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks
·        2001-02 Detroit Red Wings
·        2000-01 Colorado Avalanche
·        1997-98 Detroit Red Wings
·        1993-94 New York Rangers
·        1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins
·        1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins
·        1988-89 Calgary Flames
·        1987-88 Edmonton Oilers
·        1986-87 Edmonton Oilers
·        1984-85 Edmonton Oilers
·        1983-84 Edmonton Oilers
·        1982-83 New York Islanders
·        1981-82 New York Islanders
·        1979-80 New York Islanders
·        1977-78 Montreal Canadiens
·        1976-77 Montreal Canadiens
·        1975-76 Montreal Canadiens
·        1969-1970 Boston Bruins

Continued

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Prospect news: Walleye lose in OT to Eagles in Game 3 of Conference Final, held to 12 shots

Of prospect-related note:

In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye received a goal and an assist from Matt Caito, goals from Tylor Spink and Kyle Bonis as the Walleye lost 4-3 in overtime to the Colorado Eagles.

Colorado held Toledo to only 12 shots, and the Eagles now lead the ECHL Conference Final series 2 games to 1.

The Walleye's website posted a recap...

Continue Reading »

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Toledo Walleye coach Dan Watson frames his team’s playoff narrative

The Toledo Walleye open their Conference Final series against the Colorado Eagles tonight (9 PM EDT), and ahead of the team's third-round playoff match-up, DetroitRedWings.com's Art Regner spoke with Toledo Walleye coach Dan Watson to set up the Walleye's playoff narrative:

It has been an outstanding season so far for the Walleye, who have already captured The Brabham Cup, which is awarded to the league's regular-season champion and gives Toledo home ice throughout their playoff run.

Some may be surprised by the Walleye's success, but Watson is not the least bit shocked by what his team has accomplished.

"Right from the start when we had a bunch of guys wanting to return to Toledo," Watson said when asked when he knew his team was championship caliber. "They're doing it for the right reason -- they want to win, they want to do it together, they've been together now, some of them for three years, which is almost unheard of at this level.

"So the care level for each other is what makes it so special and so, right at the start of the year when we got going I could see the type of team we were going to have and we brought in some great leadership too.

"We could see it right from the beginning, but we wanted to make sure that we got off to a great start, which we did and then our special teams, first overall in power play and penalty kill, and also our goals for per game and against per game were first overall in the entire league, which is the first time that's happened to lead in those four major categories in one season in the ECHL ever."

Regner continues...

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The Off-Season Plan For The Detroit Red Wings

from Scott Cullen of TSN,

Off-Season Game Plan looks at a Red Wings roster that has some talent, but now has to actively try to get younger because the core of older players isn’t good enough to maintain what they had been doing for more than a generation.

This isn’t necessarily going to be an easy process, either, because Detroit has committed some long-term contracts to players who aren’t very productive, so it’s going to take time to get out from under all of those commitments. 

But, the approach is what matters. If the Wings can start the process of shedding some of their pricier deals and replenish the prospect pool, then they can start looking to the future with some sense of optimism. 

The challenge in doing that is that it will require moving out players that the organization has been committed to for a long time and while that loyalty has been a strength in the past, it’s part of why the Red Wings are in the position that they find themselves now.

HEROES

Henrik Zetterberg – The 36-year-old centre had 68 points, his most since 2011-2012, and had strong possession numbers on a weak team. 

read on (covers all the bases)....

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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.

 

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