The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/24/15 at 02:52 PM ET
The Grand Rapids Griffins posited a video preview setting up the Griffins-Utica Comets series, narrated by Griffins play-by-play man Bob Kaser, and it includes an interview with coach Jeff Blashill in which he parries a question about his potential future job status:
Also: the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner posited a list of "5 Things to Know About the Series":
Rested vs. battle tested. The Griffins needed all five games to outlast Toronto in the first round of the playoffs, and then jumped into the second round three days later. At the time, coach Jeff Blashill said it was an advantage because they were "battle tested" over Rockford, which was coming off a three-game sweep and seven days off.
Now the Griffins have had a week off since ousting Rockford on May 17 in five games, while Utica comes in "battle tested" with just four days off. Blashill, in turn, has tried to make practices competitive but not taxing. It is, as he said, a good opportunity to let their bodies heal after two rounds.Utica, meanwhile, is either battle tested of fatigued. The Comets have gone the series limit the first two rounds.
Matchup to watch: Teemu Pulkkinen drove Toronto and Rockford crazy with his scoring proficiency. The right winger has a playoff-leading 13 goals in 10 playoffs games. Of those, five are on the power play. If he gets open space, his slap shot has proven deadly – and he's not afraid to use it. He has 47 shots in those 10 games.
How will he fare against Comets goalie Jacob Markstorm, one of the best in the league? Markstorm, who had a shutout in Game Seven against Oklahoma City last game out, had a sparkling 1.88 goals against average and .934 save percentage during the regular season. In all 12 playoff games so far, those numbers are 1.85 and .930.
Pulkkinen, by the way, has 31 career playoff points, 10 away from Derek King's franchise record. He already holds the team record for goals with 21.
And the AHL posted a set of factoids in its "Morning Skate" post and a "Tale of the Tape" Tweet:
The Western Conference Finals open tonight as top-seeded Utica hosts second-seeded Grand Rapids at the Utica Memorial Auditorium... The Comets were pushed to the limit in the first round by Chicago and again in the second round by Oklahoma City... The Griffins, who rallied from 0-2 down to defeat Toronto in the conference quarterfinals, took care of Rockford in five games in the conference semis... Alexandre Grenier (4-6-10) is Utica's leading playoff scorer after putting up 4-3-7 in the second round, including the overtime winner in Game 2 and the only goal in a 1-0 win over Oklahoma City in Game 7 on Wednesday... Jacob Markstrom (7-5, 1.85, .930) has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of his 12 playoff starts, and on Wednesday joined Johnny Bower as the only goalies in AHL history to post a 1-0 shutout victory in a Game 7... Teemu Pulkkinen (13-2-15) had 7-2-9 in five games vs. Rockford last round... Tyler Bertuzzi (6-3-9) leads the AHL with four game-winning goals this postseason... Tom McCollum (7-2, 2.68, .913) has won seven of his last eight starts in the Grand Rapids crease... The Griffins were the top-scoring team in the AHL during the regular season averaging 3.28 goals per game, and they have bettered that production this postseason with 37 goals in 10 playoff matches (3.70)... The teams split their two meetings during the 2014-15 regular season... Utica was just 1-for-23 on the power play in the conference semifinals, and is now 6-for-47 for the postseason (12.8 percent)... Grand Rapids is 9-for-41 (22.0 percent) with the man advantage.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.