Grand Rapids Griffins win Game 1 over Milwaukee

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Photo Credit: Grand Rapids Griffins (GriffinsHockey/Flickr)

Last night, hockey fans around the world were enthralled by Philadelphia’s win over the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of their Stanley Cup Playoffs series. Despite being outshot 44-11, the Flyers managed to pick up a 2-0 win and stave off elimination for one more night, proving that victories don’t always go to those who deserve them. As Jakub Voracek said after the game, “I’d rather have five shots and win the game than have [effing] forty shots and lose.”

While it wasn’t quite as lopsided, a similar occurrence happened in Milwaukee last night. Thankfully for the Grand Rapids Griffins, though, they were the benefactors and took a 1-0 lead in the opening round with a 3-1 victory.

You can argue that the Griffins’ first warning sign was the fact that they were being outshot, but a potential probably really came apparent when Xavier Ouellet headed to the box for cross-checking twelve minutes into the first period, only for Nathan Paetsch to follow him a few seconds later. Being without two of your best defencemen for a 5-on-3 penalty kill doesn’t exactly sound ideal, and reality proved that to be the case as 20-year-old sleeper prospect Trevor Murphy blasted a one-timer past Tom McCollum to open the game’s scoring.

As I said in our series preview, the Griffins would have to get some fantastic goaltending to be able to excel in this series, and thankfully McCollum was lights out for the rest of the night. He would need some goal support if this ship were to be righted, though. Thankfully, the Griffins were quick to give it to him. Martin Frk’s effort to beat Juuse Saros approximately two minutes later was unsuccessful, but Tyler Bertuzzi was at the doorstep to pick up the rebound. 

Those two young forwards, along with defenceman Ryan Sproul, set the tone for the rest of the game. Midway through the second, Sproul dangled around a sprawling Vladislav Kamenev and set Frk up for a one-timer that put the Griffins up. Four minutes later, Sproul began a give-and-go zone exit with Frk, and while Sproul’s scoring chance was denied, his quick thinking allowed for him to chase after the deflection, spin around, and find Bertuzzi for the insurance tally.

The Griffins were outshot 12-5 in the period that followed, but McCollum’s fantastic night continued. Outside of the point-blank, double-shorthanded one-timer in the first period, the 26-year-old netminder was flawless and dragged a team that was outshot 33-22 to a victorious position. Most importantly, it was the players who have potential NHL futures who were littering the score sheet. The Griffins will hope that that continues to be the case, but that their veterans also give them a bit more help in the games ahead, if only because being outshot by 11 isn’t really an effective victory strategy.

Game 2 will be played tonight in Milwaukee. Puck drop is at 8:00 PM.

Roster Update

Per Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, the Griffins could be getting some additional reinforcements after all. Andreas Athanasiou’s leave for personal reasons isn’t as extended as many were led to believe, and he’ll be joining the team by the end of the series.

As well, 2015 first-round pick Evgeny Svechnikov will join the team shortly. Svechnikov’s season with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles was ended on Wednesday after the team was eliminated by Saint John in the QMJHL playoffs. This year, Svechnikov scored 36 goals and added 58 assists in 63 regular season and playoff games.