Griffins Watch: February 4th

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The Grand Rapids Griffins had a bit of an All-Star Break of their own this week (us too, apparently; Griffins Watch typically goes up on Tuesday), but not before playing three games. Unfortunately, as we predicted the last time we did GW, it was a rough week for the team, who were swept by their opponents. Here’s how it all went down.

The Games

January 27th vs. Toronto Marlies (4-0 Loss)

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The AHL-leading Toronto Marlies made it a long afternoon for the Grand Rapids Griffins in their annual matinee game on Wednesday, using 39 saves by Garret Sparks to push their winning percentage to an even .800 with a 4-0 victory at Van Andel Arena.

The Griffins, who lost 2-0 to Rochester on Saturday, have been shut out in consecutive home games for just the second time in their 20-year history, the first coming on Nov. 10-19, 2010. It also marks the fourth time Grand Rapids has failed to score in back-to-back games overall, with the most recent occasion happening on Dec. 14-16, 2012.

Grand Rapids, which has gone without a goal over the last 122:07 of its current three-game home stand, will get another shot at the Marlies on Friday in a 7 p.m. rematch at Van Andel Arena.

The Marlies (35-8-2-0) took advantage of a giveaway inside the Griffins’ blue line to strike first. Mark Arcobello took a pass from Casey Bailey and skated into the left circle before scooping a backhand past Jared Coreau’s glove at 12:45 of the opening period.

Toronto pushed its advantage to two exactly 95 seconds later off a faceoff in the left circle, as Arcobello won the draw over to Matt Frattin, whose wrister from between the circles cleanly beat Coreau on his blocker side.

The beat rolled on for the visitors 6:25 into the second period, when Connor Brown finished off a Toronto rush by connecting on a short-side shot from the right circle.

With 6:02 remaining in the game, Toronto was called for too many men and the Griffins pulled Coreau to give themselves a 6-4 edge in skaters. Grand Rapids couldn’t capitalize during the two-minute power play, and Frattin scored his second of the game into an empty net at 16:22 to seal it.

The Griffins (24-15-1-1) failed to take advantage of a significant 39-23 advantage in shots, as Coreau stopped 19 of 22 while his teammates were unable to solve Sparks. Coupled with his 38-save effort in a 6-1 win over the visiting Griffins on Oct. 30, Sparks has turned aside 77 of the 78 shots he’s faced from Grand Rapids this season.

January 29th vs. Toronto Marlies (4-2 Loss)

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

The Toronto Marlies scored three goals over the game’s final 6:22 on Friday to steal a 4-2 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena.

The Griffins held a 2-1 lead over the AHL’s top team thanks to a goal byAnthony Mantha six minutes into the third, but Justin Holl tied it at 13:38, Zach Hyman potted the go-ahead tally at 18:08 and Brendan Leipsic added an empty netter with 60 seconds left to lift the Marlies to their 12th win in their last 13 outings.

Grand Rapids, which is 0-4-1-0 at Van Andel Arena since posting its franchise-record 14-game home winning streak, will look to snap a four-game skid with an 8 p.m. EST visit to Milwaukee on Saturday. The Griffins will then have four days off for the AHL All-Star break while Jeff Hoggan and Xavier Ouellet participate in the Sunday-Monday festivities in Syracuse.

The Griffins (24-16-1-1) entered the night having been shut out in consecutive home games for just the second time in their 20-year history, but Andy Miele snapped their scoreless streaks at 139:24 overall and 96:59 versus Toronto with a shorthanded, unassisted goal late in the opening period. After stealing a pass deep in the Griffins’ zone, he bypassed a defender by quickly passing the puck to himself off the left boards, creating a 2-on-1 with Eric Tangradi. Miele patiently waited for his opportunity and faked a slap shot atop the left circle before putting a wrist shot past Antoine Bibeau at the 17:17 mark.

Grand Rapids carried the lead and the momentum into the second period after having outshot the Marlies 16-7 during the opening 20 minutes. But Toronto’s T.J. Brennan netted the equalizer with 7:24 remaining in the frame, taking a feed from William Nylander and snapping a shot from the left circle that beat Tom McCollum.

Mantha tallied the Griffins’ second unassisted goal of the evening 5:55 into the third to put the home squad back on top at 2-1. He collected a Nylander giveaway at the Toronto blue line and raced in on Bibeau, and although he couldn’t get a shot off, he circled behind the net and ramped the puck off the blade of a Marlies defender, off Bibeau’s back and across the goal line.

Again the Marlies (36-8-2-0) answered with Holl’s goal that tied it at two with 6:22 remaining, as he burst wide around the left circle, went hard to the net along the goal line and took a shot that went off and over McCollum. A frantic, nearly non-stop pace continued and led to the game-winner with less than two minutes left, with Hyman poking a rebound home from just outside the crease.

Bibeau backstopped Toronto to the win behind 38 saves, while McCollum finished 24-of-27 between the Griffins’ pipes in just his second game since returning from injury.

January 30th @ Milwaukee Admirals (7-3 Loss)

Release from GriffinsHockey.com

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Admirals scored five second-period goals – including three in a 3:17 span – as the Grand Rapids Griffins saw their losing streak extended to five consecutive games, falling 7-3 on Saturday at BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Louis-Marc Aubry netted a pair of goals in a middle frame that saw both sides combine for eight goals from seven different goal scorers. The result also extended the Admirals’ point streak to five.
 
Jimmy Oligny started the scoring for Milwaukee (27-13-3-0) 1:07 into the opening period. Jakub Kindl’s clearing attempt around the boards from behind his own net was kept in at the left point by Oligny, who sent a wrist shot through traffic past the glove-side shoulder of a screened Jared Coreau
 
The Admirals continued to control the play to start the second period, with Pontus Aberg adding to Milwaukee’s lead at the 2:16 mark. Kristian Nakyva’s wrist shot from the left point was deflected in front by the stick of Aberg for his 13th of the campaign.
 
Viktor Arvidsson made it a three-goal advantage just 42 seconds later. Max Gortz’s pass from the left circle found Arvidsson in the high slot, who fired a wrist shot from the edge of the right circle that snuck between Coreau’s right arm and body.
 
Cody Hodgson gave Milwaukee a four-goal cushion 5:33 into the middle frame. Kevin Fiala fed Hodgson in the neutral zone, with Hodgson gaining the zone on the right wing and firing a slapshot from the top of the right circle off the crossbar and in. That proved to be the end of the night for Coreau, who was replaced by Tom McCollum
 
Aubry put the Griffins (24-17-1-1) on the scoresheet at the 7:39 mark. Jamie Devane’s wrist shot from the left point went wide and onto Aubry’s stick at the Griffins’ blue line for a 2-on-1. Using Colin Campbell as a decoy, Aubry blasted a slapshot from the top of the left circle inside the far post.
 
Fiala restored the Admirals’ four-goal advantage on a wraparound with 10:59 remaining. Pontus Aberg found Fiala behind the net to McCollum’s blocker side, with Fiala winning the race to the far post.
 
Jeff Hoggan took advantage of a defensive-zone turnover to make it a 5-2 deficit with 7:30 left. Taylor Aronson’s clearing attempt from out of the left corner up the middle set up the Griffins’ captain for a one-timer at the left circle.
 
After the Griffins were unable to convert on a 5-on-3 power play lasting 1:54, Joe Pendenza added a sixth with 4:28 to go. Devane’s backhanded clearance found Felix Girard coming out of the penalty box to set up a 2-on-1 with Pendenza. Girard’s pass from the left circle found Pendenza racing towards the net, who redirected the puck underneath McCollum.
 
Aubry responded with his second of the night with 2:22 on the clock. After receiving Kindl’s pass at the left half-wall, Aubry moved towards the left circle with a toedrag to escape pressure from Johan Alm, beating Mazanec with a wrist shot to the short side for his seventh goal in six meetings with the Admirals this season.
 
Devane added a seventh with 3:59 left in regulation. Pendenza and Devane teamed up for a 2-on-1, with Devane lifting a shot from the bottom of the left circle top shelf to the short side.
 
The Griffins’ penalty kill was a perfect 3-for-3, while the power play was unable to score on three opportunities. Mazanec stopped 23 of 26 shots to earn the victory, while Coreau stopped 19 of 23 shots in a losing effort before McCollum turned aside 10 of 13 shots in relief.
 
Grand Rapids starts the second half of the campaign with a home-and-home weekend series against the Rockford IceHogs. The Griffins will travel to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Friday at 8 p.m. EST before returning to Van Andel Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m. 

The Stats

No Name GP G A P +/- Sh PIM
G 30 T. McCollum 3 0 0 0 0 0 0
G 31 J. Coreau 3 0 0 0 0 0 2
D 4 N. Paetsch 3 0 0 0 -3 2 0
D 5 R. Russo 3 0 0 0 -2 6 0
D 7 R. Sproul 2 0 0 0 -6 5 0
LW 8 A. Mantha 3 1 0 1 -6 6 0
RW 9 M. Zengerle 3 0 0 0 -7 6 0
LW 10 J. Hoggan 3 1 0 1 1 4 2
C 12 A. Athanasiou 3 0 0 0 -5 7 0
D 14 N. Jensen 3 0 0 0 -4 2 0
RW 15 M. Callahan 3 0 0 0 -3 7 2
D 16 X. Ouellet 3 0 0 0 -4 9 2
D 18 B. Lashoff 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
C 19 T. Nosek 3 0 0 0 -3 8 2
C 21 A. Miele 3 1 0 1 0 3 0
C 22 L. Aubry 3 2 0 2 0 6 0
LW 26 E. Tangradi 3 0 0 0 -7 9 4
RW 27 M. Frk 3 0 0 0 -2 7 0
LW 39 T. Bertuzzi 3 0 0 0 -2 7 2
RW 45 C. Campbell 3 0 1 1 1 7 4
D 55 J. Kindl 2 0 1 1 -1 4 0

The Griffins saw their full-season estimated Fenwick Close dip a few points to 50.48% this week, which ranks them 13th in the league. Their goal differential took a colossal hit as well, dipping to +12 on the season. The Griffins continue to be one of the highest event teams in the league, averaging the third-most shots per game while giving up the seventh-most against.

This wasn’t a particularly great week to be a Griffins goaltender either, despite it being the team’s strongest position this year. Jared Coreau stopped 38 of 45 (0.844) in two appearances, and Tom McCollum wasn’t much better as he stopped 35 of 41 (0.853).

Player of The Week

This wasn’t a good week for the Griffins on the ice. Like, at all. It’s almost impossible to find a redeeming quality in any of their games. So with that said, I’m awarding Player of the Week to Jeff Hoggan and Xavier Ouelett for how they represented the team during All-Star Weekend.

Looking Ahead

The Griffins are looking to snap their five-game losing streak as soon as possible, but it’s not going to be easy for them this week. They have two games against the Rockford IceHogs ahead of them on Friday and Saturday. Rockford, who are the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, are one of the hottest teams in the AHL right now, with points in their last seven games and the second-best points percentage in the Western Conference. Needless to say, the situation could get worse before it gets better.