The Griffins went 0-2 on their West Coast trip this weekend, falling 1-0 to the Bakersfield Condors on Friday and losing 4-2 to the San Diego Gulls on Saturday. The start to this season is eerily similar to last season's start, shut out in the opener, unable to generate much offense at all, and things just not clicking right away. With a new head coach and coaching staff this year, it'll take the team a little bit of time to adjust.
Saturday night in San Diego featured drama of the sort that I've never seen before. The Gulls shot off fireworks in their pre game ceremony and one of the Griffins training staff was almost hit by a rouge projectile. Just before puck drop the lights went out in the arena (they went out for a few seconds mid game in Bakersfield as well), so there was a delay starting the game. The ice was clearly in poor condition, with temps in the low 90's that day,it was exceedingly warm in the arena. As a result of climate inside the arena, there was a fog on the ice that grew increasingly dense and dangerous as the game went on. Here are a few screen shots taken from the game.
That last picture is of the Gulls scoring their 4th and final goal. How Jared Coreau could see the puck in all that fog is beyond me. Mid way though the 2nd period the referee blew his whistle mid play and halted the game due to safety concerns. AHL President David Andrews were in the building and was summoned down to the ice to confer with the referees and determine if it was safe for the game continue. After a lengthy discussion, play did continue, though the fog and ice conditions continued to get worse. During each tv timeout, all the players would come off their benches and skate around, trying to dissipate some of the fog. Players were falling down all over the ice, and even exceptions skaters such as Nick Jensen and Andreas Athanasiou had difficulty on the terrible ice. It wasn't as bad as the 1975 Stanley Cup game between the Sabres and Flyers, but it was a challenge nonetheless.
Lines And Player Impressions
The BAM line (Bertuzzi - Athanasiou - Mantha) was split up for the Griffins 1st game, but were reunited for the 2nd. Here's how the lines looked for most of the game, before Nelson shook things up in the 3rd period.
|Eric Tangradi||Andy Miele||Mark Zengerle|
|Tyler Bertuzzi||Andreas Athanasiou||Anthony Mantha|
|Martin Frk||Tomas Nosek||Mitch Callahan|
|Jeff Hoggan (C)||Louis-Marc Aubry||Colin Campbell|
|Nathan Paetsch (A)||Nick Jensen|
|Xavier Ouellet||Robbie Russo|
|Brian Lashoff (A)||Ryan Sproul|
|Mitch Callahan||Tomas Nosek|
|Nick Jensen||Nathan Paetsch|
|Andreas Athanasiou||Colin Campbell|
|Xavier Ouellet||Brian Lashoff|
|Louis-Marc Aubry||Eric Tangradi|
|Mitch Callahan||Tomas Nosek||Andreas Athanasiou|
|Anthony Mantha||Xavier Ouellet|
|Tyler Bertuzzi||Andy Miele||Mark Zengerle|
|Martin Frk||Nathan Paetsch|
Through two games I've been very, dare I say very very impressed with Anthony Mantha. He's continuing right where he left off in training camp and he's playing with confidence, using his size to knock people off the puck and protect the puck, he's staying engaged and actively involved in the play (rather than staying on the perimeter like he used to do), and he's playing like the Mantha we've been waiting to see. Andreas Athanasiou is dangerous as always, getting breakaways, shorthanded scoring chances, and drawing penalties. Tomas Nosek has been given 3rd line center duties and lesser skilled linemates than he had last season, yet he continues to make his line offensively dangerous regardless of who's on it. On the back end, Xavier Ouellet and Nick Jensen were rock solid. Tom McCollum had a very good game against the Condors, making numerous huge saves including a penalty shot by last year's 3rd overall pick Leon Draisaitl. Jared Coreau had a rougher game, but given the fog he had to play in it's really difficult to judge his performance when even seeing the puck was sometimes a challenge.
It's easy to see the players are still trying to get used to the new coaching staff, system, and style, but even through two losses, the players you'd expect to be the best, essentially were.
The Griffins are off until this Friday and Saturday when they play their first home games at Van Andel in Grand Rapids.