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The Malik Report

Griffins have to board the bus back to Syracuse after dropping Game 5

The Grand Rapids Griffins ran into a goaltender playing otherworldly hockey in Cedric Desjardins, but also battled against a pair of soft goals given up by their own goaltender (a bizarrely shaky Petr Mrazek), poor defensive play and, despite the wild disparity in shots--42-22 for Grand Rapids--a staggering an inabilty or unwillingness to reduce Desjardins' field of vision as the Syracuse Crunch stuffed the Griffins and took a 5-2 win (Mrazek gave up 4 goals on 21 shots) in Game 5.

I don't have much to say about this one because...It was simply so incredibly difficult to see the Griffins work so very hard for so very little in the Crunch's end, but to play so terribly poorly when they had power plays, to surrender a pair of power play goals against, and to essentially spend their second game in two nights letting a team largely comprised of last year's Calder Cup-winning Norfolk Admirals regain control of the series.

It was distressing, disturbing and just painful to watch the Griffins inflict so many wounds upon themselves during last night's 3-2 loss and this evening's game, and now the Griffins are in deep, deep shit with Games 6 and a possible--and seemingly more probable by the second--Game 7 slated to take place on Tuesday and Thursday back in Syracuse, NY.

The Griffins are in a boatload of trouble, and they have no one to blame but themselves for their predicament. It's gut-check time, and each and every one of the Griffins' players, from their NHL returnees who haven't re-adapted to the AHL's chaotic, sloppy level of execution to their top prospects and savvy veterans, all have to raise their level of execution in the offensive zone while bearing down on the defensive side of things against a very, very angry snake whose neck has been released from under the Griffins' boot.

Suddenly, it's the Griffins that are having trouble finding their breath, and it's coming from their own hand on their throat under the Crunch's grasp. Syracuse has simply withstood the Griffins' attack and hammered their mistakes into the back of Grand Rapids' net, and I do not know why the Griffins have yet to grasp the game the Crunch are playing or why it's been so effective.

Perhaps the worst part of it was watching the Griffins indulge in mucking it up at the end. Sure, it was nice to see Mitchell Callahan attempt to pull Panik out of a pile and fight, though Panik declined and whined his way to the locker room, but the team cannot match the character--or lack thereof--of the Crunch team.

Both teams have earned their breaks and wins, despite an absolutely disgusting display of refereeing for both teams to deal with, and the Griffins look like the Red Wings did against Chicago, minus the depth, determination and moxie necessary to out-score and, perhaps more importantly, out-execute their mistakes (it's as if Richard Panik's concussing of Adam Almquist robbed Grand Rapids of their secret Crunch-defeating weapon).

We'll find out who's got a champion's worth of heart on Tuesday and probably Wednesday at this rate...

And in the interim, the Crunch's coach and players will openly mock the Griffins for giving them the opportunity to "win three," and while I'm sure their fans are very nice people in real life, my goodness, online, they're Panik-y chirpers. The Crunch remind me of that 93 Maple Leaf team that upset the Wings in the first round of the playoffs, and you'd never imagine that the team or their fans would be such an arrogant bunch, but they've really added insult to injury--and the injuries have been severe to both Wings and Griffins fans' pride and the Griffins players' Calder Cup hopes.

Here's hoping that the team that's gotten sucked into Syracuse's game starts finding itself in a hurry. Hopefully the bus ride will remind the Griffins that they're doing it the hard way, and that it's been more than hard enough already.

Kill the snake. Please.

[Edit/update: As Nick Jones on Twitter duly noted, the Griffins' over-reliance on Mrazek may have yielded exhaustion for the young goalie tonight, but the team looked mentally and emotionally spent as well, and when a championship is on the line...You can't forgive those kinds of errors, despite what your humanity suggests you should do. It's a championship, and you have to be merciless to win one.

Maybe that's what the Griffins have to learn. How to play merciless and mean. Like the Crunch.]

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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.