Grand Rapids Griffins Drop Both Games of Weekend Back to Back
The road woes of the Grand Rapids Griffins have continued into 2019 as they dropped both games of their back to back this weekend. This puts the Griffins' overall record at 19-12-3-3 which drops them down to third in the Central Division with 44 points behind the Chicago Wolves (46 points) and the Iowa Wild (47 points). This also drops their road record to 7-9-2-1 on the season.
The Griffins lost the first game 3-2 in a shootout to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Right Wing Ryan Haggerty opened the scoring just 17 seconds into the game. Matthew Ford of Grand Rapids responded just three minutes and 28 seconds later when he fired a shot directly off a faceoff that found its way past Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. Both teams would each add a goal in the second period and be held scoreless through the third period and overtime. The Griffins were not able to put any pucks past Jarry in the shootout as he stopped all three shots he faced. He finished the game with the win and 28 saves on 30 shots. Patrik Rybar stopped the first two shots he faced in the shootout but was beaten by Joseph Cramarossa in the third round to end it. Rybar finished the game with a very solid 31 saves on 33 shots faced.
Grand Rapids got off to rough start in game two of the back to back, finding themselves down 3-1 after the first period against the Hershey Bears on Saturday night. The Griffins fell behind even further after Hershey put up two goals in the first seven minutes and five seconds of the third period to increase their lead to 5-1. Grand Rapids rallied to score three goals in the last 13 minutes of the game but would ultimately fall by a score of 6-4. Grand Rapids special teams failed to click as they went 0 for 4 on the powerplay and only 1 for 3 on the penalty kill. It was a disappointing night for Griffins goalie Harri Sateri as he allowed six goals on 31 shots. Bears goalie Vitek Vanecek recorded the win as he stopped 35 of the 39 shots he faced.
The Griffins' powerplay has struggled mightily this year. They are converting at a rate of just 12.5% on the season which is good for last in the entire AHL. Dating back to December 28, the Grand Rapids Griffins have just one powerplay goal in their last 25 attempts. This lack of production on the powerplay has, without a doubt, contributed to their struggles on the road as their powerplay drops all the way to just 8.9% when away from Van Andel Arena. It is absolutely vital that Grand Rapids figures out their powerplay as they have had 160 opportunities with the extra man so far this season which is good for the eighth most attempts in the league.
Grand Rapids' penalty killing has also been shaky as of late and has surrendered 12 powerplay goals in their last 48 attempts. Overall they sit in 20th in the league in penalty killing at 80.1%. Although this percentage is not great it is currently passable as Grand Rapids has only been on the penatly kill 136 times this season which is seventh fewest in the league. The danger, however, is if that number of penalty kills starts creeping up to the league average. Grand Rapids currently takes just 3.68 penalties per game compared to the league average of 4.24. If the Griffins start getting closer to that average their 80.1% penalty kill will become much more apparent.
Zadina returns from the World Junior Championship this week and will be with Grand Rapids in time for their January 9th match-up against the Milwaukee Admirals. This should be a good boost for Grand Rapids as even when Zadina is not scoring he is drawing a lot of attention from opposing defenses and opening up space for his line mates. He has 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 27 games including three powerplay goals, which is tied with Matt Puempel for the team lead.
The Griffins will travel to Milwaukee to face the Admirals on January 9th. The Admirals (18-12-5-1, 42 pts) sit in fourth in the Central Division just one spot and two points behind Grand Rapids. These teams have met four times so far this season and Grand Rapids has a 2-1-0-1 record in those meetings.