Grand Rapids Griffins face toothy opponent in AHL conference final

Detroit Red Wings prospects are back in action against an opponent that has had their number.

The Grand Rapids Griffins begin their AHL Western Conference final on Saturday at the San Jose Barracuda. Game 2 is Sunday. The Griffins have been off since May 13, when they won their best-of-7 second-round series against the Chicago Wolves in five games. They swept their best-of-5 first-round series against Milwaukee.

The Barracuda, who is affiliated with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, could pose a bigger danger,  even as the Griffins have aced their first two Calder Cup challenges. The Barracuda won both regular-season meetings with the Griffins, 4-1 in Grand Rapids and 1-0 in a shoot-out in San Jose.

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Barracuda goaltender Troy Grosenick helped the Barracuda finish first in the Pacific Division in the regular season with a 2.04 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 49 games, turning in a league-high 10 shutouts. He has 2.21 GAA and .920 save percentage in the playoffs after a five-game first-round series with Stockton and a five-game second-round series with San Diego.

The Barracuda’s top playoff scorers – Ryan Carpenter (seven goals, 13 points), Barclay Goodrow (five assists, nine points) and Buddy Robinson (four goals, eight points) all went undrafted. Their roster does include Mirco Mueller, who was drafted 18th overall in 2013 by the Sharks.

Wings’ prospects Tyler Bertuzzi (five goals, 10 points) and Evgeny Svechnikov (six assists, nine points) lead the Griffins in scoring. Goaltender Jared Coreau, who spent three months with the Wings this season, has a 2.64 goals-against average in the playoffs, and a .908 save percentage. 

The Griffins stack up well in special teams – their power play is at 22.2% in the playoffs, compared to 20.5% to San Jose. The Griffins also have a better penalty kill, at 88.6%, to San Jose’s 86.5&. The Griffins have scored 34 goals in eight playoff games (a 4.25 average) while the Barracuda has scored 35 (a 3.5 average).

Defensively, the Griffins allow 2.75 goals per game, while the Barracuda gives up 2.5. 

The series moves to Van Andel Arena for Game 3 Wednesday and Game 4 May 26. If needed, Game 5 is May 27, also at Van Andel Arena (the AHL uses a travel-sensible 2-3-2 format in this series). Games 6 and 7 would be in San Jose. 

Contact Helene St. James: hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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Article Grand Rapids Griffins face toothy opponent in AHL conference final compiled by www.freep.com

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