Griffins: Scouting the Enemy

The more I look at this photo, taken earlier this season, the more I smile. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Grand Rapids Griffins enter today’s game with a record of 42-20-2-4 (90 points). They are leading the Midwest Division and are second in the Western Conference. On Friday night the reigning Calder Cup Champs were able to clinch their spot in the playoffs.

Today will mark the tenth meeting of the season between the Griffins and Admirals. The season series so far has gone as follows:

Oct. 18 @ Grand Rapids: W, 3-2
Nov. 13 vs. Grand Rapids: W, 2-1
Nov. 20 @ Grand Rapids: L, 5-0
Dec. 13 @ Grand Rapids: L, 4-2
Dec. 14 @ Grand Rapids: L, 5-0
Dec. 26 vs. Grand Rapids: W, 4-1
Feb. 1 vs. Grand Rapids: L, 3-2 (SO)
Feb. 23 @ Grand Rapids: L, 1-0 (SO)
Feb. 26 vs. Grand Rapids: L, 5-1

Admirals, 3-4-0-2 (8 points), goal differential from open play -11 (14 GF, 25 GA), and 155 penalty minutes. Griffins, 6-3-0-0 (12 points), goal differential from open play +11 (25 GF, 14 GA), and 137 penalty minutes.

I feel as if the Admirals in this match up tend to do one of two things. (1) play above the level of the Griffins compete levels and earn one of their best results of the season or (2) get completely outskated by the hyper-skilled team that are the Griffins.

The top scorer in this match up, for either team, is Teemu Pulkkinen. He has played in each of the previous nine games this season and has averaged a point per contest: 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists). The 22-year old Finn has a wicked slap shot and leads all AHL rookies in goal scoring this season with 28 goals. The lone player to edge him in the rookie scoring race? Curtis McKenzie of the Texas Stars (59 points) who has 6 more points than the Griffins right winger (53 points).

Adding to all the glam from the skaters are two great goaltenders: Petr Mrazek and Tom McCollum. Mrazek has played five games against the Admirals this season, won four games, 1.17 GAA, 0.949 SV%, and two shutouts. McCollum has played four games against the Admirals this season, won two games, 2.18 GAA, 0.924 SV%, and has a shutout to his name as well.

Mrazek played last night for the Griffins in their 4-1 win against the Rockford IceHogs. McCollum was in net Friday for the Griffins 5-4 loss in Rockford. It’s always fun to see just how coaches work goalies in a three-in-three scenario. The rested man will be McCollum but the go-to-guy would be Mrazek for this meeting… expect he played last night in Grand Rapids… late travel night… back-to-back starts. It will be an interesting decision.

The Milwaukee Admirals are now 32-21-6-7 (77 points). They remain in third place of the Midwest Division and sixth place in the Western Conference -yet- this recent string of games has really strengthened that position.

Yesterday’s hot news from the Twitter-verse was that Mark Van Guilder will be recalled. The news first came from an agent and was then retweeted by the Nashville Predators Director of Player Development, Scott Nichol. At the time I’m writing this, 1:15 am CST … I am the night, there has still yet to be an official confirmation from the team. It would appear that myself, and media buddy Dave Boehler of the Journel Sentinel, were the lone people to dive in on the social media buzz. By the time I wake up – perhaps we’ll have an official confirmation from the Predators. Look for Kevin Wilson on Twitter if that ends up being the case.

In the less “is this legit or not” news, I can give full confirmation that the Ads are in incredible form this month. 8-2-0-1 (17 points) from eleven games. It’s almost sad to think that today’s contest will be the final contest in March.

Yet, I feel they have finally found their identity at the right time of the season. Today’s game included: there are ten games remaining in the Admirals season. When the Predators season ends – expect to see reinforcements arrive on Monday April 14th – just in time for two more regular season games – and then we’re into Calder Cup Playoff season.

With that sort of mindset. Today’s game should be taken exactly as it is for the Admirals: like a playoff game. The Ads are currently on a four-game point streak, 3-0-0-1 (7 points). The Griffins, who claim to be pesky these days, are 6-3-0-1 (13 points) from their previous ten-games. I am expecting a tightly contested game tonight.

How do you feel the Admirals will play against the Griffins? What are your expectations?

6 thoughts on “Griffins: Scouting the Enemy”

  1. This game is the third of three for Grand Rapids. In Rockford (267 miles) Friday night a 5-4 loss,,.to Grand Rapids (another 267 miles) for a game last night vs. Rockford a 4-1 win. Back on the bus to Milwaukee (268 miles) for today’s game. Over 800 miles by bus . I don’t care who you are the hours on the bus has to take your legs from you a bit.

    I look for the Admiral’s to go hard after GR right from the start.

  2. Looking ahead, our schedule is actually going to be fairly tough:

    3/30 vs Grand Rapids
    4/1 @ Chicago
    4/4 vs Iowa
    4/5 @ Chicago
    4/8 vs Rockford
    4/11 @ Rockford
    4/12 vs Chicago
    4/13 @ Iowa
    4/18 vs Charlotte
    4/19 @ Chicago

    Going on the 86 points guarantees a playoff spot number, we need 5 wins. We should win 4/4, 4/8, 4/11. 4/13 @ Iowa should be a win, but it’s the third game in a 3-in-3 with a bunch of travel. Charlotte is playing very good hockey right now and Chicago is always tough to beat. This is going to be a tough two-and-a-half weeks to close out the season, especially without guys like Scissons, Jarnkrok and MVG. Lets hope we can pull it off!

  3. If they play tonight like they did in the first period against Lake Erie on Friday, they will get thwomped, no matter how tired Grand Rapids is. The Ads did get it together eventually on Friday, but if you treat Grand Rapids the same way you treat Lake Erie, you will be in for a tough night. If the Ads come out fast and hard they could deflate the Griffins before they get a chance to get into the game. The Ads need to tilt the ice in their favor early and heavily. Stop looking for the perfect pass…Shoot when the shot is there. Having Ford, Wathier, Liambas, and maybe Tousignant (the winner in my “hardest accent to navigate ever” award contest) toss their weight around early and get the crowd…excited will help a lot.

    The one thing that has bothered me all season is the Ads power play. Specifically, how stationary they are. I don’t know if that is how coach Dean wants them to be, but the guys hardly move when they are away from the puck. There’s no attempt to screen the goalie, no movement to get the PK’ers chasing around…just pass, pass, shoot or look for the perfect one-timer. The Ads have more than enough talented forwards to be able to have a power play that can move around and find the openings…I just don’t know why they don’t. That could make them lethal on the PP.

  4. I wouldn’t say our PP’ers are stationary. They stick to their zone. Coach explained how the power play setup is supposed to work at the holiday party for season ticket holders. They gave a demo and explanation of the system in the locker room (including video). It was a neat new feature they did at the party, and I hope they do it again! With a different type of offense this year, I don’t mind the setup. We have much more offensive minded forwards this year versus previous years. The idea is get the puck down low to the man on the goal line. He then has several options – pass to the guy cross-ice, pass to the guy in the center, pass to the guy on the side wall… Having only one guy up top manning the blue line has hurt us plenty of times this year, but our PP is not turrible (as Charles Barkley would say). We’re currently 14th in the league. Sure I’d love it to be higher, but there’s plenty of good teams who have worse power plays (I’m glaring at you Chicago, who is dead last). The PP has improved since the beginning of the season. We’ve been able to control the PP in the offensive zone mostly which is a big improvement over the start of the season.

  5. I guess it’s a matter of preference. I’ve never been a fan of a zone PP. No, the Ads PP isn’t terrible, but I would like it better. The Ads have the players to make a deep run in the playoffs (even more when Sissions, Jarnkrok, and Van Guilder come back after the Preds season) I just want them to make the most out of their talent.

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