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Griffins Face First Three-Game Week Against Wild And Monsters

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Anthony Mantha Of The Grand Rapids Griffins
Anthony Mantha Of The Grand Rapids Griffins
Griffins Hockey

To say the The Grand Rapids Griffins are having a rough season, would be an understatement. The Griffins are 1-7-0-0 and sit at the bottom of the league with a pitiful 2 points through the first 8 games of the season. There are many factors that have combined to result in the Griffins' lack of winning, including an ridiculous shooting percentage, awful luck, poor player usage, and difficulty executing the new game plan.

The Griffins have more shots on net per game than any other team in the AHL, averaging 35.63 shots for per game, yet have a league low 11 goals. That equates to a shooting percentage of 3.86 which is laughably, unsustainability low; the average is usually around 9% or 10%. The Griffins also have a league bottom PDO (percentage driven output) of 92.97, which indicates the have piss poor luck. PDO combines a team's shooting percentage and save percentage, and if they equal 100, that's normal or at least indicates the team is about where they deserve to be in terms of luck. Any deviation above or below 100, even a single percentage point is significant, and the Griffins have a ridiculously low PDO. You can look at more of the AHL stats that Josh Weissbock has compiled at CHL Stats. It's kind of been the perfect storm of awfulness that have led the Griffins to the bottom of the league, but the good news is that the underlying stats show they're fighting an uphill battle, and it won't last forever. They have the 6th best estimated Fenwick% [ (shots on goal for  + missed shots for) - (shots on goal against + missed shots against) ]  in the AHL in close situations with 53.20%, so there's at least hope that the foundation isn't garbage. There's plenty that needs to be improved but there's still hope, just as long as the hole the team is in doesn't get too deep to dig out of.

The Griffins are back in action tonight and will finally be in a groove of actually playing games, having Thursday night off before getting right back at it Friday and Saturday night. The Griffins have had a sparse schedule so far, playing only 8 games while a couple of teams in the league have already played 14. Getting in regular action will be good for the team to help them get out of the basement.

The Griffins take on the Iowa Wild tonight at 7:00 PM. Here's a great preview of this week from the Griffins.

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Shots Up, Still Down: Another significant shot advantage failed to pay dividends for the Griffins last Friday in their lone game of the week, as they fell 4-1 to the Rockford IceHogs at Van Andel Arena. Despite outshooting their guests by a hefty 41-22 margin, the Griffins were unable to halt a frustrating early-season trend. Rockford, meanwhile, exacted a measure of revenge in the teams' first meeting since the Griffins' four-games-to-one triumph in the 2015 Western Conference Semifinals. The Griffins' offense found a spark just 2:44 into the contest on Martin Frk's team-high third goal of the campaign. From behind the net, Tomas Nosek chipped the puck out front to a waiting Frk, who popped the bouncing biscuit past Michael Leighton at the left post. Rockford answered exactly four minutes later off a rush into the Griffins' zone, when Ryan Hartman gathered a loose puck at the right point and skated into the circle before snapping a shot behind Tom McCollum, giving him goals in four consecutive games. A giveaway by the Griffins during a second-period power play led to a 2-1 lead for the IceHogs. Pierre-Cedric Labrie picked up the forfeited puck in front of Grand Rapids' bench, carried it into the Griffins' zone and angled down the slot through three defenders before putting a backhand home for a shorthanded goal at the 7:44 mark. Despite holding shot advantages of 16-3 during the second and 27-13 through 40 minutes, the Griffins still found themselves trailing by a goal entering the third period. Early chances by Anthony Mantha and Mark Zengerle managed to stay out of the net, and the IceHogs eventually pulled away on a power play goal by longtime Chicago Blackhawk Bryan Bickell at 8:31 and a nightcap by Nolan Valleau - his first professional goal - with 5:17 remaining.

Griffins Leaders: Defenseman Ryan Sproul sits atop the Griffins' scoring leaders with five points (1-4—5) in eight games, followed by center Andy Miele (1-3—4) in second and Martin Frk (3-0—3) and Eric Tangradi (1-2—3) in a tie for third. Frk's three goals are the most scored by any skater on the team, while Sproul leads the way in assists. Center Louis-Marc Aubry is the most penalized player on the team with 18 penalty minutes in eight games, with Tyler Bertuzzi in second with 16 PIM.

Threshold: In Friday's 4-1 loss to Rockford, Grand Rapids became the last AHL team this season to score a first goal, as the Griffins had fallen behind 1-0 in each of their previous seven outings.

Bertuzzi Suspended: Left wing Tyler Bertuzzi was suspended for two games as a consequence of a match penalty for slew-footing assessed in a game at Toronto on Oct. 30. Bertuzzi missed last Friday's game versus Rockford and will also miss Wednesday's matchup against Iowa, but he should return to the lineup for Friday's game at Lake Erie.

McCollum Boomerang: While both Tom McCollum and Jared Coreau have been exchanging services in net for the Griffins this season, McCollum manned the pipes in Friday's 4-1 loss to the Rockford IceHogs. The game marked the seventh-year Griffin's fifth loss in a row (Oct. 9-Nov.6), a streak that similarly plagued McCollum last season when he lost five consecutive games from Nov. 28-Dec. 13. Following his losing streak last season, he went on to compile a 14-3-3 record to finish out the regular season, earning points in 17 out of 20 games.

Head-Scratcher: The Griffins currently suffer from a baffling inconsistency in terms of shots and goals. Grand Rapids fires off a league-leading 35.63 shots per game but averages an AHL-low 1.38 goals per game (30th).

Frk On The Up: Right wing Martin Frk is the only Griffins player with more than one goal this season. He has accounted for three of the team's 11 tallies.

Athanasiou's Big Day: After being recalled by Detroit on Saturday, Griffins center Andreas Athanasiou made his NHL debut with the Red Wings in Sunday's 4-1 loss to Dallas at Joe Louis Arena, becoming the 151st Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL. After only having had two players graduate to the NHL last season who once played for the Griffins (Andrej Nestrasil and Stephen Weiss), four players have made that leap already this season: Mattias Janmark (148), Dylan Larkin (149), Kevin Porter (150) and Athanasiou (151).

Sixty Minutes or Less: The Griffins and Portland Pirates are the only teams in the league to have not played into overtime.

Walleye World: The ECHL's Toledo Walleye began last week with a 2-1 shootout win over the Cincinnati Cyclones but dropped both of their games on Friday and Saturday. Friday saw goaltender Jake Paterson turn aside 29 of 32 shots as the Fort Wayne Komets blazed to a 4-1 victory, adding an empty-netter with 3:39 to go in the game. Forward Zach Nastasiuk, who was reassigned to Grand Rapids on Sunday, scored Toledo's lone goal in the game. Saturday marked the Walleye's home opener at the Huntington Center, where the hosts were shut out by the visiting Adirondack Thunder, 1-0. Despite the result, Toledo outshot Adirondack 31-16 in the contest. This weekend, the Walleye will travel to Manchester for a Friday-Sunday three-in-three against the Monarchs.

Scouting Report

Wed., Nov. 11 vs. Iowa Wild (3-8-1-2) - Van Andel Arena - 7 p.m.
Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:35 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 5-2-0-0 Home, 12-2-0-0 Overall. Season Series: First of eight meetings overall, first of four at Van Andel Arena. NHL Affiliation: Minnesota Wild. Head Coach: John Torchetti (2nd season). Notes: The Iowa Wild rank sixth in the Central Division, 12th in the Western Conference and 27th overall...The Wild are led in scoring by the tandem of Michael Keranen (2-4—6) and rookie Christoph Bertschy (2-4—6)...Veteran blueliner Maxime Fortunus ranks second among Iowa defensemen in scoring with four points (1-3—4) in 14 games. Fortunus spent the last six seasons with the Texas Stars, highlighted by captaining the squad a Calder Cup in 2014. In those same playoffs, the Stars eliminated the Griffins during the Western Conference Semifinals by a 4-2 margin. Fortunus is one of four skaters to register a positive rating on the Wild (+1)...Iowa is currently on a four-game losing streak, while the Griffins are on a three-game losing streak...The Wild own a 1-3-0-0 record on the road...The Griffins won all four games in their season series against Iowa in 2014-15, including a perfect 2-0 record at home...Overall, Grand Rapids has won its last seven meetings against the Wild, including its last three at home dating to the 2013-14 season.

Fri., Nov. 13 at Lake Erie Monsters (6-2-0-2) - Quicken Loans Arena - 7 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 14 at Lake Erie Monsters - Quicken Loans Arena - 7 p.m.

Radio: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:35 p.m. (Fri.) and 7 p.m. (Sat.) Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com, free audio available through woodradio.com. All-Time Series: 13-10-2-5 Road, 31-20-3-6 Overall. Season Series: First and second of 12 meetings overall, first and second of six at Quicken Loans Arena. NHL Affiliation: Columbus Blue Jackets. Head Coach: Jared Bednar (1st season). Notes: The Monsters rank second in the Central Division, fifth in the Western Conference and eighth overall...Monsters head coach Jared Bednar is a former Griffin. Bednar played for the team during the 1998-99 season (IHL) as a defenseman and racked up 21 points (3-18—21) and 220 PIM in 74 games...Rookie goaltender Joonas Korpisalo ranks second among league goaltenders with a 1.65 goals against average, alongside a 2-0-2 record and a 0.942 save percentage, while Lake Erie's other goaltender, Anton Forsberg, ranks 12th with a 2.18 GAA, in addition to a 4-2-0 record and 0.910 save percentage...Left wing Kerby Rychel leads all Monsters scorers with 10 points (4-6—10) in eight games, while also owning a team-best plus-five rating...Last season, the Monsters and Griffins traded wins every game during their 10-game set, with the Griffins earning the final win of the season series 6-4 on April 16 at Quicken Loans Arena.