Griffins: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)
The Grand Rapids Griffins are currently the hottest team in the AHL. Can the Milwaukee Admirals return the favor and snap their winning-streak with a road win? (Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

The last time the Milwaukee Admirals faced the Grand Rapids Griffins it was an all-around bad time. The Admirals franchise record ten-game winning streak came to a thunderous halt with a 6-0 shutout loss on home ice. Were the Admirals feeling the impact of copious amounts of Thanksgiving tryptophan? Was the roster too thinned out? Or were the Griffins simply that much better on the night? Let’s re-watch some of the game highlights and analyze.

~When Last We Met~

In the first period, the Griffins limited the Admirals to only four shots on goal while registering ten shots with two beating Marek Mazanec in net. The Griffins really took the game straight to the Admirals from the opening face-off. The won the draw, tilted the ice through their puck control, smooth and crisp passing, and their goals solid reflections of an Admirals team playing frozen stiff.

Andy Miele going coast-to-coast? Great individual effort and an even better finish but he should never have been able to carry the puck in so far where he is one-on-one with Mazanec.

Admirals on the penalty kill? It’s been so much better than the early few games of the season but the puck watching that not only let Eric Tangradi have a free shot on the back post setup but, even worse, get a follow up chance after messing up his initial effort and then scoring from it was simply unacceptable. Kristian Näkyvä was too committed to playing tight on Miele that he left his assignment to the left side of Mazanec, Tangradi, all alone. Puck pressure is a great thing. It’s part of what has been making the Admirals attacking mentality on the penalty kill so good as of late. Switching off mentally once the puck has passed off is an issue and it means there is space on the ice where there shouldn’t be. A team as sharp as Grand Rapids isn’t going to miss exploiting that.

For me, that was a major root problem of the Admirals night in general. They were caught out puck watching. Offensively, the Admirals were being shoved to the outside to fire deep perimeter shots and that allowed for an easy night in net for Jared Coreau. The Griffins were then turning defense into offense and their offense poured it on until the absolute final seconds of the game.

Was it hair-pullingly frustrating to watch Louis-Marc Aubry scoring with 0.6 seconds left in regulation? Yes. Wouldn’t you want the Admirals playing with that same sixty-minute commitment level? Yes. You have to anticipate a Griffins team that is polished enough to punish Admirals mistakes and not stop even when a white flag is up in the air. The Admirals need to be bringing that same level of competitiveness with them and even more so a game that will limit mistakes and turnovers. The Griffins will be getting their chances enough as it is. To sit back, puck watch, or play half-hearted offense that flips the ice back into the Griffins’ favor isn’t going to result in anything other than what happened in Milwaukee after Thanksgiving. The more detailed the Admirals can play the better their chances will be at bagging points out of this game.

~The Road So Far~

The Griffins enter tonight’s game with a record of 10-8-0-1 (21 points). Their 0.553 points percentage has them in fifth place of the Central Division and seventh in the Western Conference.

That doesn’t sound all that great now does it? Here’s the catch: the Griffins are currently on an eight-game winning streak.

After such a rough start to the season the Griffins are back to playing their traditional style. They’re an experienced, well-rounded, polished hockey team that has been playing solid defense during this winning streak: outscoring teams 33-12 in eight games and going 91.4% (32/35) on the penalty kill.

Interestingly enough, it isn’t entirely as if the Griffins are blowing teams clean out of the water. The scoreline total over those last eight-games will bring out the whites in your eyes but so will the fact they’ve been outshot 266-244 during this winning-streak. The last game they played they won 4-1 despite the Lake Erie Monsters outshooting them 42-17. It’s almost bizarre but when you think of the Griffins scoring chances it ends up coming down to quality over quantity.

Can the Milwaukee Admirals return the favor by snapping the Grand Rapids Griffins winning-streak with a solid road performance? What did you think happened to the Admirals during the first game this season against the Griffins? Is this current setup with PTO contracted players and Cincinnati call-ups better suited to playing a more defensive styled game to match up against the Griffins than if the Admirals had a full-slate of offensive guns at their disposal?

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