Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 1 at the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament: Dallas vs. Detroit

The second half of the day in Traverse City featured the team most everyone in the stands were here to see, the Detroit Red Wings. After all, they are the hosts of the tournament, and Wing-nuts everywhere are getting quite excited about Detroit’s training camp here in T.C. next week. The Wings faced off against the Dallas Stars in the evening tilt on the Huntington Bank Rink at Centre ICE.

The matchup appeared to have the makings of a great American goaltender’s matchup on paper, with Dallas’ top pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Jack Campbell (he of the gold medal winning Team USA at the 2010 World Junior Championships and the USNTDP’s U-18 squad, bound for the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires this coming season) pitted up against Thomas McCollum (the former Guelph Storm and ’09 Team USA WJC backstop who spent last year in Grand Rapids of the AHL).

If only that’s how this would’ve played out.

The Red Wings’ relentless offensive attack peppered Campbell early and often, and they were able to solve the 11th overall pick in June’s draft as slick Slovak winger Tomas Tatar (Grand Rapids – AHL), free agent tryout Trevor Parkes (Montreal – QMJHL), and rearguard Travis Ehrhardt (another Griffin from G.R.) all scored within a span of 55 seconds to put Detroit up 3-0 just six minutes in. Dallas seemed dumbfounded by the slow start, and continued to be frustrated by missed opportunities, such as Ondrej Roman (Vitkovice – Czech) broke his stick on a scoring chance, and Matt Tassone (Swift Current – WHL) being stopped at point blank range on a breakaway chance by McCollum. Tomas Vincour (Vancouver – WHL) was able to put a loose puck past McCollum after a scramble in front of the Detroit net to get Dallas on the board with 8 ½ minutes to play in the first. But a goal by Brooks Macek (Tri-City – WHL) – on a crisp tic-tac-toe play from fellow fourth-liners Darren Archibald (Barrie – OHL) and Louis-Marc Aubry (Montreal – QMJHL) restored Detroit’s three-goal cushion, as the Wings entered the lockerroom with a 4-1 lead at the first intermission. Despite only a slight edge in shots (9-7), the Wings easily outchanced the Stars throughout the frame.

Dallas’ struggles against the suffocating Detroit defense continued in the second stanza. The Wings seemed one step ahead of the Stars’ offensive rushes as they smothered and covered all passing lanes and any glimmer of daylight whenever Dallas tried to enter the Detroit zone. Sean Backman (Yale – ECAC) couldn’t quite keep control of the puck trying to dangle on one particular Dallas rush, while Scott Glennie (Brandon – WHL) fired several pucks into Detroit defenders’ shin pads, making McCollum’s job quite easy (though he was sharp in net when tested). Dwtroit D-man Sebastien Piche (Toledo – ECHL) and grinder Stephen Johnston (Belleville and Windsor – OHL) were particularly devastating with some thunderous hits. The Wings seemed shockingly in-sync with one another (considering this entire unit had only once practiced together yesterday). Meanwhile, the offensive chemistry between the top blueline unit of Ehrhardt and Brendan Smith (Wisconsin – WCHA) was apparent through most of the evening (the two defensemen finished a combined +9 for the game). Ehrhardt scored his second goal of the game with just under 12 minutes to play in the second to extend the Detroit lead to 5-1. Campbell continued to be peppered with shots as the Red Wings outshot Dallas 17-5, but showed the poise and agility that he demonstrated in Saskatoon last December and January in catching the eyes of the junior hockey world (an impressive recovery when you consider the shaky start to the game).

Detroit did not let up off the accelerator in the third, and Dallas’ frustrations started to show. Tassone (easily the most energetic Star today, as the majority of Dallas’ skaters seemed tired and sluggish) became more noticeable thanks to his chippy play. Meanwhile, pint-sized Mitchell Callahan (of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, measuring in at 5’11”, 175 lbs) did his best Tomas Holmstrom impersonation, parking himself in front of Campbell on Red Wing power plays throughout the game. Aubry capped the scoring halfway through the third, padding the Detroit lead by a count of 6=1. Tassone was issued an unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty late in the game (along with Callahan and Dallas’ Luke Gazdic – of the AHL’s Texas Stars – drawing matching delay of games on that whistle, resulting in plenty of colorful banter between the boxes).

For the game, Detroit outshot Dallas 38-18. The Stars never really seemed to develop much chemistry on either end, and the Wings clicked on all cylinders, getting contributions from all four lines and all three D-man pairings.

FINAL SCORE: Detroit 6, Dallas 1

Next door, St. Louis doubled up on Tampa Bay by a score of 4-2. St. Louis’ Brett Sonne (Peoria – AHL) notched two goals (including the eventual game winner with just over a minute left in the second period), while tough guy Anthony Peluso (Alaska – ECHL) and Tyler Shattock (Kamloops and Calgary – WHL) added single markers for the Blues. While in a losing effort, Tampa’s Brett Connolly (Prince George – WHL, and their 1st round pick this June, 6th overall) tallied both Lightning goals, skated well with linemates Carter Ashton (Lethbridge and Regina – WHL) and James Wright (Vancouver – WHL), and seemed to have few (if any) ill effects from the hip injury which derailed him for most of the 2009-10 season. Blues rearguard Ian Cole (Notre Dame – CCHA) flashed his two-way play with some super stick work as well standing up to Lightning offensive rushes in the brief look-ins I could break away to see between periods, while the Lightning’s Radko Gudas (Everett – WHL) was also especially physical, though he left the ice favoring his left shoulder after delivering an open-ice hit to a St. Louis skater (we’ll see if this is a severe injury tomorrow).

So here are your standings after Day 1:

Howe Division

Detroit 1-0-0, +5 goal differential
St. Louis 1-0-0, +2
Tampa Bay 0-1-0, -2
Dallas 0-1-0, -5

Gretzky Division

NY Rangers 1-0-0, +1 goal differential
Minnesota 1-0-0, +1
Columbus 0-1-0, -1
Carolina 0-1-0, -1

Tomorrow’s schedule has me calling Dallas vs. St. Louis in the afternoon (2:30 EDT face-off) and Detroit vs. Tampa Bay at 6. I’ll also be popping in for brief look-ins of Columbus vs. Minnesota and New York vs. Carolina between periods of the games I’m working.

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