The Grand Rapids Griffins open their first-round, best-of-five playoff series against the Manitoba Moose tomorrow and Sunday in Winnipeg (both 3 PM EDT starts, on The AHL Live and ESPN 96.1 FM), and ahead of the series, three Wings pundits penned articles about the Griffins.
1. DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji wrote an article about the Griffins’ regular-season turnaround…
The Grand Rapids Griffins had to fight to make the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs and they know it will be an equally difficult battle to defend their title.
On Dec. 21, the Griffins were five games under .500 at 10-15-1-3 and in seventh place in the Central Division, 23 points behind the first-place Manitoba Moose.
“Definitely there was a Calder Cup hangover,” Griffins coach Todd Nelson said on The Red and White Authority podcast on DetroitRedWings.com. “I think at the start of the year, the first two months we were trying to win games easy, not paying the price. Just stuff like that, not playing the game the right way, trying to take the easy way out. You pretty much expect that after a championship run but I didn’t expect it to last so long. But a few things happened. We were a bit banged up, we had guys out with injury, and at the middle of December we started to get guys back, they were healthy. Because during that span Ben Street was hurt, (Eric) Tangradi was hurt, (Matt) Puempel was hurt, key players to our offense. With that being said, right after that 21st game in Chicago, we lost, I think we were up in the game 3-0 and we lost, it was a tough pill for us to swallow.”
Wakiji continues, and she sources much of her material from Nelson and Griffins captain Matthew Ford’s interviews with Arthur J. Regner…
2. The Grand Rapids Griffins filed a comprehensive Griffins-Moose series preview, and the Free Press’s Helene St. James wrote an article which serves as a sort of “mini preview,” focusing on the Wings top prospects’ possible roles in the Griffins’ playoff push:
Can Hronek keep shining? Defenseman Filip Hronek shined in his first full year of pro hockey, scoring 11 goals among 39 points in 67 games and finishing second in scoring among AHL rookie defensemen. He ran one of the Griffins’ power play units, a good sign especially considering he is 20 years old. Can he keep doing it in the playoffs? He played only twice during last year’s run, so he doesn’t have much experience in the AHL playoffs.
X factors: The Griffins have reached at least the second round of the playoffs five years running. … One key returnee from last year is goaltender Jared Coreau. He went 15-4 in the 2017 playoffs, with a .909 save percentage and 2.84 goals-against average. In 12 games against Manitoba since 2015-16, Coreau is 8-3 with a 1.50 goals-against average. He shut out the Moose both times the Griffins played in Manitoba in February.
3. And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan focuses on the fan support of the Griffins in the playoffs, when “Hockeytown West” comes alive:
For what was an already great hockey market, last season’s championship run only solidified the Griffins’ standing in west Michigan and made the postseason party time around Van Andel Arena.
The weather helped, too.
“It was 80 degrees; this year’s there’s snow (outside),” defenseman Joe Hicketts said earlier this week.
But excitement over the possibility of another long playoff run trumps any kind of weather.
“We felt that fan support,” said Hicketts, a Griffins defenseman who was promoted to the Red Wings late in the season. “Whether it was the banners on restaurant walls or being recognized around town, this is a city that really supports its hockey, just like Detroit.”
And if you missed it, here’s the Griffins’ playoff preview video: