Kukla's Korner

Prospect news: Grand Rapids Griffins advance to Calder Cup Final with win over San Jose

Blog: The Malik Report By George Malik

Of prospect-related note:

In the AHL's Western Conference Final, the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the San Jose Barracuda 4-2, advancing to the AHL's Calder Cup Final in five games.

The Griffins scored only 24 seconds into the game as Brian Lashoff blasted a heavy shot past Troy Grosenick, Matt Ford scored off a great cycling job from Dominic Turgeon and Colin Campbell some 16 minutes later, and while the Barracuda were able to snap Jared Coreau's shutout...

Coreau was otherwise TREMENDOUS, affording Matt Lorito the chance to score the game's 3rd and 4th goals despite overwhelming Barracuda pressure as the San Jose Sharks' AHL affiliate played tremendously desperate, balls-to-the-wall hockey, scoring a late goal to keep things competitive.

Coreau stopped 39 of 41 shots, and Grand Rapids will now play the Syracuse Crunch in a rematch of the 2013 Calder Cup Final.

Update: Here's the AHL's website's recap:

Continue Reading »

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Tonight’s Hockey Notes

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

fom Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

- The essence of the Stanley Cup final: The best centres in hockey, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin vs. the best defence in hockey. Nashville has beaten the Blackhawks, Blues and Ducks on the way to the championship. The Preds are 12-4 through three series. They aren’t favourites against Pittsburgh. They probably should be.

- Subban may lead the NHL in magazine covers, documentaries, TV features, smiles, fan debate, discussion, fun and attention, but where does he really rank among league defenceman? On my list, I’d take Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Josi, Ryan Suter, Alex Pietrangelo and Aaron Ekblad ahead of him. That’s puts him around No. 10 in the NHL. And that’s not including Kris Letang, who is hurt again or Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the veteran national teamer, who is a perfect fit-in piece or Ryan McDonagh or Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who rank alongside Subban as equals.

- . Poor Randy Carlyle. Biggest game of his season. Having to start Jonathan Bernier in goal. Like he hasn’t been there before.


Filed in: NHL Teams, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Saturday Night Hockey Thoughts

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet,

- No post-elimination injury revelation sent bigger shockwaves than Anaheim’s. When GM Bob Murray revealed torn labrums will knock out Hampus Lindholm four to five months and Sami Vatanen potentially longer because his is “worse,” the number one question coming from other teams was some variation of, “How much longer is ‘worse?’”

With the expectation that Cam Fowler is working towards an extension, the Ducks have decisions to make. (Very) Informal polling among Murray’s peers indicates most don’t think it will be Lindholm. “A stop sign goes up whenever you ask about him,” one said.

They have real potential to hit a home run with this deal, but if you need one of Anaheim’s defencemen to help you make the playoffs next year, are you willing to wait a month into the season for him? What if it’s two, or three?

- What are the Blue Jackets looking for? “A sniper in the key moments,” GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Friday. “You’re always looking for a No. 1 centre. Collectively we score enough, we’ve got firepower through all four lines. Cam Atkinson is our best scorer, but we need to finish with a better percentage. We’re going to look internally and externally.”

That led to an interesting conversation about shooting percentages, regression and how much he pays attention to it. The short answer: a lot.

“You know if someone is shooting 30 per cent, it’s hard to sustain that. We know that if a player had an unusually low number, there is a chance the next year he comes out of it. We go through an exercise where we predict how many goals we think we are going to score as a team next year. We look at every player.”

He is hopeful last season’s third-overall choice, Pierre-Luc Dubois, can help. “I watched him pretty much every game. He is getting better and has a good chance to be here.” He’s also excited about Keegan Kolesar, who had 31 points in 19 playoff games for WHL champion Seattle. But he may not be ready for the NHL next season.


Filed in: NHL Teams, | KK Hockey | Permalink

A bit about the Wings’ signing of Libor Sulak

Blog: The Malik Report By George Malik

DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji spoke with Red Wings GM Ken Holland about the signing of defenseman Libor Sulak to a 2-year contract:

This past week the team signed Czech defenseman Libor Sulak to a two-year entry-level contract, a player general manager Ken Holland saw at the recent IIHF men's world championship in Europe.

"Jiri Fischer was involved with the Czech team and there was two or three players that we were looking at on that team," Holland said during the first intermission of the Grand Rapids Griffins-San Jose Barracuda game Friday at Van Andel Arena. "He's 23 years of age. He's a real good skater. He's already signed a contract to play in Finland.

"We're going to bring him over to the development camp in July and then we'll assess whether we want to bring him over to the main camp or to let him go to Finland and have another year of development. But Fisch and I think he's a player that has a chance to be an NHL defenseman. He needs more time, more experience to learn to play his position."

Sulak has spent the last two seasons with Orli Znojmo, a Czech team that competes in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga, the top professional league in Austria. Sulak was the rookie of the year in 2016, collecting six goals among 18 points in 62 games.

This past season, Sulak was fourth on the team with 28 points (10-18-28) and had a team-best plus-19 rating.

Wakiji continues...

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Khan clarifies the ‘Mrazek rumor’

Blog: The Malik Report By George Malik

MLive's Ansar Khan clarifies a bone of contention:

Holland denied telling Grand Rapids Griffins radio announcer Bob Kaser that he intends to trade Mrazek. A clip of their interview is making the rounds on the Internet (and posted below). Kaser, while off the air, asks Holland about trading Mrazek. Kaser didn't realize his microphone was on.

"When the radio interview ended, he said to me, 'I'm hearing a rumor you're trying to trade Petr Mrazek,' " Holland said. "I didn't say anything. I didn't respond."

Kaser said likewise.

"Kenny didn't say a word, plus his microphone wasn't even on," Kaser said. "Even if he would have said something you wouldn't have heard it.

"I asked him, 'Is there any truth to the rumor you're going to trade Petr Mrazek?' He had no response, which I didn't expect him to. My relationship with him is good enough to where I felt comfortable asking him that, but it was more to get a reaction out of him. He wouldn't have answered anyway, certainly not in that setting.

"I listened to it, too, and I could see where people would hear it and think, 'Maybe there's something going on here.' But there's nothing to it at all."

Khan continues...

Update: Here's a bit more from the Windsor Star's Bob Duff:

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‘Two Things’: Griffins post Game-Day Preview; AHL offers Griffins-Barracuda notes

Blog: The Malik Report By George Malik

Of prospect-related note this afternoon...

1. The Grand Rapids Griffins posted their Game-Day Preview ahead of tonight's game against the San Jose Barracuda (7 PM EDT on ESPN 96.1 and the AHL Live)...

2. And the AHL posted a "Morning Skate's" worth of notes regarding the Griffins-Barracuda series:

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Too Much Wear And Tear On The Players Plus Waiting On The Anaheim Ducks

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe,

If the owners considered the long-term benefits, they would lop off a dozen games to promote better player health and more competitive action, both in the regular season and the playoffs. Of course, given the dough involved, the chances of that happening are slimmer than the MBTA running on time.

So it is up to the coaches to take action. They are the ones, after all, who have to deal with the consequences of their best players coming to work on crutches. Most of them did a good job this season scrubbing practices and morning skates because of the absurdity of the compressed schedule, thanks to the World Cup and the five-day breaks required of each team.

They can do better.

If a player has guaranteed himself a roster spot, he should play no more than once in the preseason. These are meaningless games, meant more for evaluation than to simulate in-season play.

During the regular season, the coaches should study their NBA counterparts and consider giving star players entire games off. Leaguewide parity makes this a tough job. No coach wants to be responsible for missing the playoffs by one point because of a loss in which a go-to player was granted a break. The length of the season, however, demands that such nontraditional personnel moves be considered. 

more plus other topics like...

With less than one month before the expansion draft, teams are waiting on Anaheim’s decisions before making their own. Nashville, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay are among the clubs that are projected to lose good players. But no team has as many pieces to protect as the Ducks.

If Anaheim chooses the 7-3-1 model, general manager Bob Murray will have to leave at least one good forward and desirable defenseman unprotected. The first issue Murray has to figure out is Kevin Bieksa, the aging stay-at-home defenseman with a no-movement clause. If Bieksa declines to waive his clause, it would leave Murray with two protected slots to divide between four defensemen: Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, and Josh Manson.

The outlook doesn’t look much better for Anaheim using the eight-skater protection format. 

Filed in: NHL Teams, NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Sidney Crosby, Top 5 All-Time?

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Andrew Bottomley of Sportsnet,

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has been one of hockey’s most prized possessions ever since his early teenage years.

After his recent Eastern Conference Final win earned him a ticket to a second straight Stanley Cup, the question begs: Where does Crosby rank among the NHL’s greats?

“Crosby could be the leader of the first team to win back-to-back Cups in the cap era and it would be his third Stanley Cup overall,” said Dan Riccio, on Sportsnet’s Hot Stove. “He is, at least, starting to chisel his face into the Mount Rushmore of NHL Players.

“On that Mount Rushmore would be Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and probably Gordie Howe. Is Crosby there yet?”

Crosby, who is still only 29 years old, has already compiled an outstanding NHL career.

In just 782 career regular-season games, he has recorded 1,027 points composed of 382 goals and 645 assists, good enough for 77th all-time. His points-per-game is off the charts -- especially considering that he is doing it in an era when scoring is generally down -- at 1.31, good enough for sixth most in the history of the league.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Pittsburgh Penguins, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: sidney+crosby

St. James speaks with Jeff Blashill regarding the Worlds, Wings’ top prospects

Blog: The Malik Report By George Malik

The Free Press's Helene St. James spoke with Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill regarding the World Championship and the performances of the Wings' top prospects playing with the Grand Rapids Griffins:

On playing Dylan Larkin at center throughout the [World Championship] tournament: “Dylan played very well at center with the Wings the last month of the season, so it made sense for him to continue playing that position at the World Championship. He did excellent. He was very good in the defensive zone, played against the other team’s best payers and won the matchups. It was an excellent tournament for him, I think it will be a real positive leading into next year. He’s an important piece for us. He learned valuable lessons. He was great on face-offs, played power play, penalty kill. He was one of our top forwards. I coach him, so it’s one thing for me to think that, but that was universal among the coaching staff.”


On seeing how well Wings prospects Tomas Nosek, Tyler Bertuzzi and Evgeny Svechnikov are doing in the AHL playoffs: “I don’t know what all the pieces will be for us next season, but certainly Nosek made us confident he can be an effective NHL player. Bertuzzi and Svechnikov, they are making a statement as well. They are becoming elite players in the AHL playoffs, and those are statements you want to make. We’ll look at them in camp and make our decisions based on who is going to make us better.”

St. James continues...

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Griffins want to ‘take care of business’ vs. Barracuda

Blog: The Malik Report By George Malik

The Grand Rapids Griffins spent last night's post-game media availability suggesting much more than, "The fourth win is the hardest" when addressing the state of their foes, the San Jose Barracuda, ahead of tonight's possibly Western Conference Final-clinching game.

Instead, the Griffins insisted that the Barracuda were still a force to be reckoned with, and as a result, the Griffins are heading into tonight's Game 5 (7 PM at Van Andel Arena, on ESPN 96.1 FM and the AHL Live) with a bit of desperation to close out a series that would shift cross-country if the Griffins lose. DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji and Art Regner took note of the Griffins' comments to that end:

"Our mindset all along was to try and take care of business at home," said Eric Tangradi, who had a goal and two assists Friday. "We put together a good 40-minute effort so I think that's somewhere we can grow. They're a desperate hockey team, they're playing for their season (tonight) so we got to make sure we're ready to rock when the puck drops."

The Griffins are expecting the Barracuda to play their best game of the series tonight.

"We know how good they are," Griffins coach Todd Nelson said. "They're so dangerous. (Tonight) we have to come out and play hard and try to put doubt in their minds. But I don't think it's going to be the case at all. They're a very proud group over there, they're very good and they're very dangerous so it's going to be a battle."

Van Andel Arena has certainly been the friendly confines for the Griffins as they have won a new franchise record six straight playoff games there and are looking to extend that streak.

"We've taken a lot of pride in defending our home ice," Tangradi said. "The people that have come out here, the crowds, the energy, it's been amazing. It's very important to us to make sure that whenever the puck drops in the the Van Andel, we're ready to go and it's straight business."

Wakiji and Regner continue, discussing both the Griffins' desire to "take care of business" tonight and the presence of Dylan McIlrath as an intimidating presence in the Griffins' lineup...

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink

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