The Griffins kicked off their Calder Cup defending playoff run by winning both games in Abbotsford with a 2-1 double OT win on Friday and a 7-2 explosion on Saturday. They'll head back to Grand Rapids for game three on Wednesday, picking up several reinforcements before looking to sweep the Heat and move on the the 2nd round. Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, Xavier Ouellet, and Mitch Callahan will all re-join the team in Grand Rapids.
Both of the "Highlight" videos below are from Abbotsford and are pitiful, so I've included links to the Griffins goals I've been able to find.
There were 99 minutes of hockey played in game one, and a total of three goals scored. The only reason the game wasn't 7-1 in favor of the Heat by the end of regulation was the stunning out of this world performance of Petr Mrazek. He faced 56 shots and turned away 55 of them, and a large quantity of those shots were quality scoring chances. Petr Mrazek made saves no one has any business making and Bob Kaser said after the game that it was the best goaltending performance he's ever seen. The only goal Mrazek allowed in the game came as the Heat finally put the puck in on the third attempt, with Mrazek making two great saves before Brett Olson got open on the opposite side of the net and put the puck up and over Mrazek.
Mattias Backman earned his 1st point as a Griffin when he scored the game tying goal mid way through the 2nd period when he made a nice toe drag to get around a Heat player and scored the Griffins first goal off a great set up by Andreas Athanasiou. With 33 seconds left in the 2nd OT, Ryan Sproul scored the game winner. Andreas Athanasiou picked up his 4th point (1G 3A) in his 4th pro game, and Zach Nastasiuk picked up his 1st pro point (an assist).
Adam Almquist was hit from behind in the corner by Max Reinheart after the whistle on an offsides play in the 1st period and had to helped off the ice. It appeared to be a leg/knee/ankle injury, as Almquist was unable to put much, if any, weight on his left leg. He didn't return to the game, so the Griffins had to play most of the double OT game with only 5 defensemen. There's no word yet on Almquist's injury, the severity, or how long he'll be out of the lineup, but he was absent from game 2 as well.
There was another scary moment in game 1 when Mrazek came out to the top of the right circle to play the puck after Sproul got beat by Heat D-man who would have had a breakaway. Mrazek got to the puck along the boards and Sven Baertschi hit him. Mrazek fell down and laid o the ice for a little bit. The Griffins net was wide open (obviously) but Nick Jensen stayed to cover it, dropped to his knees and stopped the puck, recovered with control, and passed it up ice to a teammate. Great coverage and poise by Jensen. Mrazek eventually got up and back to the net but was in obvious pain. Play continued for what seemed like an eternity before a whistle and the trainer could come out and check on Petr. Mrazek shook off whatever the issue was and continued to steal the game.
The Griffins decided they didn't want to play any extra time on Saturday so they decided to score 7 goals on the heat, chase Ortio out of the net, and put the game away in regulation with a 7-2 win.There were a lot of penalties in this game, most of them by Abbotsford, and watching the Griffins on the ice, I never would have guessed they had played 5 periods the night before.
It was a 3 point night for Teemu Pulkkinen (1G A), Ryan Sproul, 1G 2A), and Andrej Nestrasil (2G 1A) while Mattias Backman picked up his 2nd point as a Griffin (an assist), and Mattias Janmark picked up his 1st (an assist).
- Mattias Backman moves the puck so well, so smoothly, with poise, and makes it look effortless. He's been projected to be a defensive defenseman who doesn't put up a lot of points, but from what I've seen so far, he has good offensive instincts and more shots and scoring chances than I was expecting.
- Andreas Athanasiou is a fast mother frker and great hands. He used his speed to give the Heat grief all night and had a couple breakaway chances that he was absolutely robbed on. He also used his speed to draw at least one penalty and a penalty shot in game 2. Unfortunately he lost the puck and didn't get a shot off on his PS, which is extra disappointing because he had the goalie beat and would have had a sure goal had he, you know, got a shot off. He does a great job of getting to the inside and also going to the front of the net on the PP and looks completely comfortable doing it. Sproul's power play goal in the 3rd period came with Athanasiou screening the Heat goalie. Screener's assist for Dobule A. Athanasiou also played center for part of the 3rd period and 2 OT's, rotating at the position with Andrej Nestrasil. Athanasiou is listed as a winger, but has played quite a bit of center. Blashill had him at C during the Prospects Tournament last summer, and Athanasiou, from what I've seen, is very good at faceoffs; probably one of the best, if not the best out of all the guys that were at camp.
- Mattias Janmark picked up his 1st point as a Griffins when he assisted on Trevor Parkes' goal in the 1st period of game 2. Janmark made that goal happen on a great effort using his speed. Speaking of his speed, he's a surprisingly fast skater and used his speed to draw two penalties, from two different Heat players at the same time. He was streaking to the net in game two and beat both heat defensemen, forcing one of them to hold him and the other to slash him in an attempt to stop him.
The lines were pretty much the same for both games. Martin Frk was a scratch in game 2 and Trevor Parkes took his place. Triston Grant came in for Jordin Tootoo, and Fournier came in for the injured Almquist. Don't pay much attention to the lines I listed on defense. With Almquist injured in game 1, playing most of the game with 5 D, then Fournier coming in for game 2, distinctions such as "top pairing were almost non-existent, and difficult to follow. I listed the pairings, but the rank is more arbitrary.
|Teemu Pulkkinen||Andrej Nestrasil||Andreas Athanasiou|
|Martin Frk/Trevor Parkes||Landon Ferraro||Jeff Hoggan|
|Zach Nastasiuk||Cory Emmerton||Mattias Janmark|
|Jordin Tootoo/Triston Grant||David McIntyre||Colin Campbell|
|Ryan Sproul||Nathan Paetsch|
|Brennan Evans||Adam Almquist/Gleason Fournier|
|Mattias Backman||Nick Jensen|
After losing so many players to Detroit call-ups, trade, and injury this season, I'm imagining Blashill going through his roster notes for Wednesday, laughing maniacally, throwing them up in the air, then diving through them, Scrooge McDuck style. In addition to the reinforcements already on their way, Marek Tvrdon and Mitchell Wheaton's Kelowna Rockets were eliminated from the playoffs over the weekend, and Anthony Mantha's team is down 3-2 in their series, and if they lose on Monday, Mantha should join the Griffins as well.
Game 3 is Wednesday in Grand Rapids, puck drop is at 7:00 PM.