Going into the tournament, pretty much everyone said that Dallas was the team to beat. They're big, strong, and stacked with talent. The Wings came out last night, outworked them, outlasted them, and beat them. It was a tough game, both physically and mentally, and by midway point of the third period is was obvious that the Wings prospects were running out of steam. The Wings have one of the youngest, most inexperienced teams at the tournament and it's a great testament to their character and skill that even when they had little left by the end of the game, they found a way to hold on, push back, and win.
The Wings lead the tournament with 6 points and if we win against the Blues tomorrow, or Dallas loses their game, then the Wings clinch their place in the championship game. This is the most exciting group of prospects we've ever had.
The lines were as follows:
The bottom 6 lines were juggled a lot and the defensive pairings were mixed up a little when Plutnar was occasionally benched and Nicastro and Sproul were double shifted with Marchenko.
PP units were, for the most part
I broke the video down by periods this time and noted when the goals occurred. Enjoy!
1st goal (Frk from Mantha and Sproul) is at 9:09
2nd Wings goal- PP (Sheahan from Pulkkinen and Tvrdon) is at 17:00 1st Stars goal (Paulovic from Peters) is at 24:10
3rd Wings goal (Pulkkinen from Sproul) is at 3:26 2nd Stars goal - PP (Olesiak from Ranford and Ritchie) is at 11:14 4th Wings goal - PP EN (Athanasiou unassisted) is at 27:35
- Martin Frk didn't play poorly in the Wings' first game, but he wasn't a standout performer either. He was much better in the second game and got a goal to show for it. What I love about Frk isn't just his scoring abilities, nor his playmaking abilities, nor the fascinating way he chops and whacks at pucks, nor the way he uses his feet to kick the puck, nor the way he so often sticks his tongue out like he's concentrating really hard, nor the fact that he's an incredibly determined hard worker... It's that he's all of those things at once, and he's ours! Frk Yeah!
- Marek Tvrdon looks like he shaking off the rust from missing most of last season. He not nearly as stiff as he was in development camp, and he actually has pretty good mobility to go along with that big powerful shot and skilled passing.
- Riley Sheahan didn't really impress me much at any point during his season with the Griffins. He wasn't terrible or anything, it just left me disappointed and wondering if he would be able to live up to his projected potential. At the start of the tournament I took a "wait and see" attitude towards him because I hadn't seen anything from him so far in his pro career that gave me cause to get too excited. Though we've only played 2 games so far in the tournament, this very well may be Riley Sheahan's coming out party. He played heavy minutes, including a lot on the PK. He's not a flashy, jaw dropping offensive dynamo who's name generates the same buzz as names like Tomas Jurco or Martin Frk; but he's impressing me. Sheahan is centering the top like, flanked by Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen, facing the toughest competition, winning faceoffs, playing physical, working his butt off, and he's stepped up and become a leader on the ice. I think coming out of the shadow of so many older, more skilled players like the Griffins has last year, has been great for Sheahan.
- Calle Jarnkrok played well and looks like he's starting to adjust, slowly but surely. I get the impression that he'll be slow to adjust but once he does, look out NHL. He's smooth, smart, seems to be good at faceoffs, and he's defensively sound. He's got all these skills and a ton of talent, he needs to continue working on becoming physically ready, and adjusting to the size and speed of the game, and when he does. Prepare for awesomeness!
- Andreas Athanasiou... I don't want to keep repeating myself about all the wonderful attributes AA has, but every time I watch him I'm in awe again. He still gets a little to fancy at time, or tries to do a little too much on his own; but he's driven, skilled, talented, motivated, hard working, and he wants to win.
- Ryan Sproul played better in this game, taking fewer risks and playing a simpler, smarter game. His reward was 2 assists and an all around better, more impressive game. I like that he took what he learned and experienced int he first game and made adjustments to how he played. I absolutely don't fault these players for looking like rookies, since they are rookies. Seeing them learning, improving, and making progress, especially game to game, is what it's about.
- Xavier Ouellet had a rough night, and it seemed like the Stars players hounded him for most of the game. For the most part he was still smooth, elegant, and effective, but there were a few times he got beat that made me cringe.
- Alexei Marchenko didn't fare as well as he did in the first game. He was paired with free agent tryout Richard Plutnar and I think they maybe didn't click and that contributed to his difficulties. He was also playing on his off side and that combined with the fact that this was only his second game against competition this big and tough, and in a game this fast, probably all contributed to a tough night for Alexei.
- Jared Coreau, stopped 17 of 19 shots, but he wasn't at the top of his game. This was his first game back after shoulder surgery though, and though his overall performance was very good, he struggled at times that were, I believe, uncharacteristic of him. Let's go ahead and get the obvious out of the way. He's big, and he looks big in front of the net. He's very good at using his big body, long legs, and wide reach to block pucks. He's not a puck handling goalie like Paterson, and he's not really acrobatic. He's big, he's there, and he efficient. He kind of makes the minimal moves necessary, recovers, stays composed, and doesn't let things get to him.