As per usual, the Grand Rapids Griffins showed tremendous heart this weekend against the Belleville Senators. With a few players, Wade Megan and Filip Zadina, returning to the lineup, the Griffins’ roster is getting back to normal. Grand Rapids has split almost all of their back-to-back home games this season so far, so statistically, dropping Friday’s game would result in a win Saturday.
Much to the joy of all the Zadina super-fans, he had himself a big night Friday, tallying three points. A huge effort from the Griffins forced overtime and a shootout, once again. Earning a point but still coming up a bit short, Grand Rapids barely held onto their third place spot in the Central Division.
Grand Rapids did their homework and came back a more determined team Saturday. The scorers did their jobs and drove a commanding 5-2 defeat over the Senators. Turner Elson, Matt Puempel, Wade Megan and Axel Holmstrom all added to their growing stat sheets. Defenseman Vili Saarijarvi tallied his second of the season with his signature slap shot.
As a result of earning points in both games and a few losses from others across the league, Grand Rapids has claimed the first place spot in the Central Division for the first time this season.
Notable: Brian Lashoff was reassigned by Detroit to Grand Rapids. Dylan Sadowy was reassigned to the Toledo Walleye. Chris Terry has been selected for the AHL All-Star team and was voted player of the month.
Player of the Weekend: Wade Megan
Many will likely disagree and wish the oh-so-wonderful Filip Zadina has the player of the weekend. However, in terms of consistent play-making and effectiveness, Wade Megan takes the cake this weekend. As a veteran skater with now a substantial amount of NHL experience, he brings mature decision making and presence. All weekend long, he was in the right place at the right time. Grinding it out at the net, setting up guys in the slot, you name it. Every time he hit the ice, something good happened and as a result, he earned himself a few points this weekend. He’s a promising player and was an effective leader this weekend.
Play of the Weekend: Terry’s Impeccable Timing… Again
Saturday was a blowout for the Senators, unfortunately. Belleville goaltender, Filip Gustavsson, was exposed which resulted in an unfortunate loss for them. Friday’s game-tying goal courtesy of the ever-amazing Chris Terry was the play of the weekend. With 3:10 remaining in regulation, Terry took a pass and didn’t delay even a second. Launching a shot right past the Senators’ defensemen, Gustavsson didn’t have a chance. Terry’s goal ensured a point on the game but gave the Griffins’ a chance to resurrect their waining energy.
Keys for the Future: End it in Regulation – Finish Your Checks
Though they dropped Friday’s game, they redeemed themselves on Saturday. The constant push to overtime is encouraging, to see the fight they have to pursue it till the very last second, but it’s exhausting the team. No one knows this better than the players. In back-to-back contests, playing with that level of desperation in the third, followed by overtime and then a shoot-out (which isn’t preferred by the players), becomes increasingly tiring – especially when they have to take the ice the next day. They’re pros – it’s their jobs. However, somehow the Griffins need to find a way to consistently end the games in regulation. Saturday’s was a prime example of this. Control the puck, the play, and the result all the way through. No OT necessary.
One other point of irritation that is relatively new, is some players not finishing their checks. It may be minor in the grand scheme of things, but it will be important, as Western Conference teams start making their way into the Griffins schedule, for the younger rookies to be playing their best physical game. Finishing checks opens the ice up and gets the puck out but it also adds energy to the team.
Other than that, the Griffins looked in good shape and are on the right track as the playoffs get closer into view.