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Grand Rapids Griffins-Syracuse Crunch Game 2 game-day updates: Griffins must play sharper, smarter

The Grand Rapids Griffins will attempt to take a 2 games-to-none lead over the Syracuse Crunch in Game 2 of the Calder Cup Final this evening (6 PM EDT, AHLLive.com, NHL Network Radio, Time-Warner Cable in NY), and the Crunch's website has posited a Game 2 preview...

Griffins Scouting Report: The Griffins are led by left wing Tomas Tatar (11g-5a-16pts), right wing Jan Mursak (8g-5a-13pts), right wing Tomas Jurco (7g-6a-13pts), and center Luke Glendening (5g-8a-13pts).  Jurco had his three game goal-scoring streak snapped in Game 1. Gustav Nyquist rejoined the team after a playoff stint with the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL. He has three points in five playoff games with the Griffins, including one in the Calder Cup Finals, and he now has goals in back-to-back games.

Grand Rapids also got Joakim Andersson and Danny DeKeyser from the Red Wings.  DeKeyser made his AHL debut last night, after playing in 11 regular season and two playoff games with the Red Wings. Andersson has 43 regular season games of NHL experience under his belt over two seasons.  He had eight points (3g, 5a) in 38 games with Detroit this season, along with five points in 14 playoff games. He has points in two straight games.

In goal, Petr Mrazek has played in all 19 games for the Griffins, posting an 12-7 record with a 2.12 goals against average and a .924 save percentage.  The rookie has four shutouts, including a pair in the Western Conference Final against the Barons.  No other goaltender in Griffins history has more than one shutout in the playoffs. In allowing a third-period goal to J.P. Cote Saturday, Mrazek had his playoff road shutout streak at 216 minutes, dating back to the first period of Game 3 of the Western Conference Final against Oklahoma City.

Crunch Scouting Report: Saturday night's game marked the first postseason contest where Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik all failed to register a point. The line-mates had combined for 45 points through the first 12 playoff games. Palat's four-game point streak was snapped. He remains tied for the playoff lead in scoring with 20 points (5g, 15a) despite playing in four less games than Oklahoma City's Mark Arcobello (12g, 8a). Johnson still sits third in points with 17 (9g, 8a) and in goals, behind Arcobello (12) and Grand Rapids' Tomas Tatar (11).

Richard Panik returned to the line-up Saturday night after missing games 4 and 5 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Defenseman Radko Gudas missed his second game of the postseason with an undisclosed injury. He left game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final after the second period and did not return.

J.P. Cote became the 16th different Crunch player to score a goal this postseason. His goal with 6:41 left in the contest was his second career post-season goal, and first since May 17, 2012 in a 6-1 win for Norfolk over St. John's. Cote is now plus-13 in the Calder Cup Playoffs, bested only by Matt Taormina's AHL-leading plus-16. Cote is now plus-26 in 53 career AHL playoff games.
By the Numbers

The Crunch went 0-for-5 on the power play in Game 1 last night.  They are now tenth in the league on the power play in the AHL playoffs at 15.9%.

The Crunch penalty kill was 3-for-4 against the Griffins, with the only goal allowed coming with an empty net.  The Crunch are sixth in the playoffs on the penalty kill during the playoffs at 85.5%. Grand Rapids now has scored power-play goals in five straight games, after going 1-for-4 in Game 1 last night.  The Griffins have moved to fourth in the playoffs on the man advantage at 21.4%. After going 28-for-30 on the penalty kill in the Western Conference Finals, the Griffins were a perfect 5-for-5 in Game 1.  They are now at 87.3% on the PK in the playoffs.

The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner spoke with Griffins coach Jeff Blashill and defenseman Chad Billins after the team's morning skate...

As well as the opener went for the Griffins, the turnaround is short. The teams meet 6 p.m. Sunday at War Memorial. What to work on?

“I thought we turned too many pucks over,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “It’s a team that you don’t want to turn the puck over against. We have to make sure to do a better job at that. Obviously, they’re going to create a lot of chances themselves so we got to make sure we’re not giving them any more chances by turning pucks over.”

That was most evident on the power play. Syracuse had some of its best open looks against [Petr] Mrazek when shorthanded. The Griffins also were whistled six times, including three in a row in the second when the Crunch outshot them 11-5.

“We just have to clean up puck movement; we got run around a little bit,” said defenseman Chad Billins. “But we’ll stick to our game plan, get stops on pucks and make the easy plays and we’ll be OK.”

Meanwhile, the Crunch have been here before. In the Eastern Conference finals, they lost Game 1 at home to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4-2 and then tore through the next four with a 16-4 goal advantage. As for the odds, the Game 1 winner has gone on to win the Calder Cup 75 percent of the time (57 of 76).

After Sunday's game, the Griffins plan to bus back to Grand Rapids overnight, where the next three game would be played. Game 3 will be 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, in Van Andel Arena.

And the Griffins' YouTube channel posted a game-day preview:

Griffinshockey.com's Mark Newman penned a feature story about the Griffins veterans' attempts to make the most of a very rare opportunity, too:

Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan won a Calder Cup with the Houston Aeros during his first professional season. That was 10 years ago, and he has never had another crack at a championship until this season.

“You think it’s not easy, but you figure there will be more to come,” Hoggan said. “This is the one I’ve been waiting for. I’m 35 and there might not be many (chances) left.”

Fellow veterans Nathan Paetsch, Brennan Evans and Triston Grant can attest to the challenge.

“It’s never happened to me in my whole career – juniors and pros, so that’s 14 seasons that I’ve never made it to the finals,” Paetsch said. “It’s extremely special.”

“This is my 10th year (in the pros) and it’s my first crack at it,” Evans said. “That’s the one thing that we want the young guys to know. This definitely doesn’t come along every day. You don’t want a chance like this to slip away.”

“This is the farthest I’ve ever made it. I’ve never played in the finals,” said Grant, who has played 13 seasons in junior hockey and the pros combined. “It’s super exciting.”

The story continues...

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SYF's avatar

Swear to hockey gods, Balls Hill and Uncle Mike are brothers if you close your eyes and hear them speak side by side.

Posted by SYF from A tall cool pint of Guinness on 06/09/13 at 04:01 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Grifs might have been fortunate to get a win in that one.

Good to have the video link but the broadcast crew is from Syracuse, and sometimes so involved in their own conversation they don’t pay attention to the game.

You can stream audio from WOOD radio from iheart radio, but it’s maybe one or two minutes ahead of the tv stream.

Go Grifs.

Posted by RWBill on 06/09/13 at 04:01 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I admire Blashill, but his commentary explains why the Wings hired Tom Renney to be the “nice guy” and player buffer between the Wings’ players and Babcock, because Blashill and Babcock sound like “Pete and Repeat.”

As for the announcing, I didn’t think that the Syracuse guys were terrible, but it was evident that the AHL rules for announcers state that you don’t have to have any idea who’s on the opposing team’s roster…

And you can TOTALLY TELL that Mike Emrick spent a significant chunk of his formative broadcasting years in minor-league hockey, because there’s no Ken Daniels-Mickey Redmond, “When I tap your shoulder or I wiggle my finger, STOP TALKING because a play is developing” signal. It’s frickin’ Story Time With Mr. Announcer over half the time, and even if a goal’s about to be scored, he’s going to finish his story about Fred-Bob McGloughlin of the East Poughkipsee Teetotalers, who played on two wooden legs in nineteen ought-six.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/09/13 at 04:26 PM ET

Bugsy's avatar

I liked Fred-Bob, remember getting his autograph as a kid wink

Posted by Bugsy on 06/09/13 at 04:31 PM ET

KelseyAnn's avatar

I’m watching the game via the AHL feed, definitely a bit of a jumpy feed but I can get used to it (plus it’s graciously offered at no cost, so I can’t complain too much)

I have to say I am impressed with the Griffins’ ability to not get caught up in the Crunch’s shenanigans. They are already trying to instigate but the Griffins are just sitting back and letting them get the hissy fits out of the way.

2-1 Griffins with about 5 minutes left in the first. Goals from Tatar and Grant.

Posted by KelseyAnn from Ahwatukee, Arizona on 06/09/13 at 06:35 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

The refs actually calling penalties seemed to help calm down the shenanigans. NHL needs that kind of reffing!

The Griffins did an OK job. 2 goals and conscientious defensive play are great. 8 PK’s and 43 shots against over 4 periods are not so great.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/09/13 at 06:56 PM ET

SandysWingingit's avatar

My feed is actually better this evening than last night! Sadly, the announcers are not, lol!

Posted by SandysWingingit on 06/09/13 at 06:59 PM ET

KelseyAnn's avatar

The Griffins did an OK job. 2 goals and conscientious defensive play are great. 8 PK’s and 43 shots against over 4 periods are not so great.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/09/13 at 06:56 PM ET

I think I jinxed it a bit oh oh

Posted by KelseyAnn from Ahwatukee, Arizona on 06/09/13 at 07:13 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.