THE WINGS WIN! THE WINGS WIN! THE RED WINGS ARE THE NHL PROSPECT TOURNAMENT CHAMPTIONS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TOURNAMENT HISTORY!!!
The first period wasn’t the Wings’ strongest period, there were several minutes prior to and during the Sabres powerplay that was played mostly in the our zone. Buffalo had sustained pressure, and Jared Coreau had to make some difficult saves. The Sabres were all over the wings like flies on stink, and we also got lucky when Buffalo had a couple great scoring chances and just missed the net. The Wings never stopped working and battling though, and were rewarded with the only goal in the first period when Anthony Mantha scored from Alexei Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet. The Wings out shot Buffalo 13-4 in the first period.
In the second period, Anthony Mantha again scored the only goal in the period from Ouellet and Marchenko to give Detroit a 2-0 lead. Ouellet shot the puck from the point and Mantha was in front of the net to tip it in. Those development camp drills are paying off already! Tomas Jurco had a couple beautiful chances, but they just wouldn’t go into the net. Jared Coreau stopped a point blank breakaway and had to be sharp all period. He stopped all 18 shots he faced in the period. Athanasiou had a couple breakaways that he wasn’t able to convert on.
The third period was back and forth and it was obvious that both teams were exhausted after playing 4 games in 5 nights. The Sabres scored first in the period when Roy put the puck over Coreau’s glove on a 2-1. Never fear, Zach Nastasiuk is here! He scored a beauty from Mantha and Pulkkinen to give the Wings another 2 goal lead. Two and a half minutes later Buffalo scored their second goal that happened so fast we were all dumbfounded. They pulled within one goal of tying up the game. We needed an insurance goal, and who better to come through in the clutch when the pressure is on, than Tomas Jurco? Jurco potted an empty net goal and sealed the Wings win. The final shots on goal were 40-25 in favor of Detroit.
During warm-ups, in addition to the usual routines, the Wings players ran through the 5 man passing and cycling drills Blashill taught them during practice Sunday morning. The exercise gets the 5 players on the ice to work together as a team, communicating with each other, and helps facilitate team chemistry.
The transformation in some of these individual players over the last week has been incredible, and the transformation from a bunch of guys who have never played together, to a single cohesive team is no less remarkable. The fluid manner in which all five guys on the ice would work together a unit was impressive. There are a lot of skilled, talented players, but Coach Blashill deserves full credit for bringing them together as a team. He did the same thing in Grand Rapids last year and is a huge reason they won the Calder Cup. Blashill knows how to get through to each player and get them to completely buy into the team and the system. In all the excitement and deserved praise for the players, Blashill and his assistant coaches deserve a ton of credit for their success.
1st Wings goal PP (Mantha from Marchenko and Ouellet) is at 25:07
Second Wings goal PP (Mantha from Ouellet and Frk) is at 1:34
1st Buffalo goal (Roy from Lepkowski and Gauthier-Leduc) is at 4:48
3rd Detroit goal (Nastasiuk from Mantha and Pulkkinen) is at 15:21
2nd Buffalo goal (Peter from Nelson and Jacobs) is at 21:18
4th Detroit goal EN (Jurco) is at 32:35
- It was a 3 point night for Anthony Mantha, who had 2 powerplay goals, an even strength assist and a team leading 7 shots on goal. It took him a few games to find his game, but whoo mama did he find it! In just 5 days, Mantha went from looking lost on the ice, to a 3 point night, being dominant on the ice, and looking like a first round draft pick.
- Martin Frk got an assist on Mantha's second PP goal, some great chances, and a couple goal posts, including one early in the third when I though it went in; I even celebrated with a "Frk yeah!"
- Riley Sheahan impressed the hell out of me all week long. Put the "A" on his chest, give him more responsibility, and watch him go to town! He played a ton of minutes, played in every situation, was good in all 3 zones, played smart and physical, and set a great example for the rest of the players. The difference between now and last season is incredible. I'm very impressed.
- Tyler Bertuzzi reportedly got some advice from his Uncle Todd this week to use his head. I think he may have taken that advise to heart because outside of a bad goaltender interference penalty, he kept his nose clean.The penalty happened early in the third when after getting the puck and carrying it into the zone through all 5 of the Buffalo players, he drove to the net and amid the scrum of players, ended up trying to skate through the goalie. Several times I heard Buffalo players trying to goad him into doing something stupid, but he kept his cool and this was the best I've seen him play so far. He was good on the PK, make smart plays and kept his focus.
- I do believe Calle Jarnkrok was taunting his opposing centermen in the faceoff circles. I couldn't hear him, but I saw his lips moving and he was looking at the other centerman and tapping his stick on the ice. If looked so strange coming from him, but I loved it. I just imagine him saying very quietly while tapping the ice "see here, this is where I'm gong to take the puck from you, *tap* Tap* right here...You're not even gonna touch it... It's mine..." Maybe he'll earn that "Iron Hook" nickname after all.
- Alexei Marchenko got his first point of the tournament when he assisted on Anthony Mantha’s first powerplay goal, and he looked good for the most part, but there was a time in the 3rd period he tried to clear the puck, and no sooner had I uttered the words "smart Alexei" he missed the puck and barely got it out of the zone to a forward.
- Xavier Ouellet had 2 assists on the night and at times it seemed like he was everywhere on the ice, in a good way. It was his shot from the blue line that Anthony Mantha tipped in for the Wings' first goal. That's the second time that his shot from almost the same spot has resulted in a goal (He got the goal Sunday night and the assist Monday night). Boy do I love a defenseman with a knack for scoring goals from the point. *ahem*
- The more I watch Richard Nedomlel, the more I like him. He's big (6'5", 231), strong, isn't afraid to be physical, is good with and without the puck, and while he's not flashy, he's responsible and seems to be very smart about when to hang back and when to jump up. He's also entertaining to watch and I get the impression he's a great guy to have in the locker room who facilitates team bonding and chemistry.
- Jared Coreau was magnificent. He stopped 23 of 25 shots, and quite a few of those shots were quality scoring chances, or breakaways. He never got flustered or rattled, just a model of consistency and efficiency.
The experience gained from this tournament is invaluable for these young prospects and for those players on the Griffins roster this year, it gives them a great head start. Red Wings training camp starts Thursday, and some of (possibly all, I'm not quite sure yet as the rosters haven't been released yet) these guys will be skating with the big club and gaining more experience and knowledge. The Griffins won the Calder Cup, and our prospects just won the Prospect Tournament. There's a lot to be excited about in the Red Wings' future.