I made it out to my first Grand Rapids Griffins game last night, making sure that the only hockey game I watch this weekend will be one with some meaning. I won’t pretend to know what’s happening with the Griffins this season but here are a few thoughts on the game against the Quad City Flames…
Grand Rapids played a lot like Detroit has this season. Seemingly little effort through the first 40 minutes only to turn it on for the third period and get the late win (this one in a shootout).
The game was very sloppy even compared to a bad Wings game. Former Wing Garret Stafford (now with the Dallas organization but assigned to Grand Rapids for a second year) had a horrible time holding the puck in at the point.
I have to wonder how much the ice conditions were affected by the extra intermission activities that you see in lower-tier leagues. The 17-minute intermission and two zambonis are supposed to be used to get the ice set for as long as possible before the start of the next period but when you use that time for other things you’re going to get bad ice.
The Griffins played a solid game defensively, they allowed a lot of shots but most of them were low-quality chances. Even the one goal against barely snuck through Daniel Larsson.
Larsson proved why he’s an AHL All-Star, stopping 34 shots and all three chances he faced in the shooutout.
Mattias Ritola has been labeled as “lazy” in the past and there were a few shifts last night where it showed. In the third period there was a chance for him to go to the front of the net but he stayed back in the corner, meaning he was out of position. He scored in the shootout, though, for a little bit of redemption. He also had an apparent goal in the second period that turned out to have gone off the post.
Ville Leino was the best skater on the ice. It looks like he might be having trouble in traffic but he was moving the puck well and getting to where he needed to be. He scored the Griffins’ only regulation goal by being in the right spot to put home a rebound chance on a power play. His shootout goal was beautiful.
Aaron Downey looked out of place for most of the game but it seemed like he was ready to drop the gloves with Kris Chucko. Chucko was running people and getting his elbows up all night. A third period elbow by Chucko that went ignored combined with a bad missed interference call on Quad City goalie Matt Keetley convinced me that AHL refs can be just as bad as NHL ones.
Malik also has some notes on the game.
My photos from the game have been posted to the multimedia section.