After an incredible season that was filled with so many great memories, franchise records set, and a special group of player who stole our hearts, the Griffins were eliminated from the playoffs. They fell 2-0 in game 6 of the Western Conference Finals to a very good Utica Comets team. It was a matchup between the best offensive team in the league and the best defensive team in the league, and the comets shut down defensive abilities won out. Jacob Markstrom was the stellar goalie we knew he was, and he led his team every step of the way.
This season was such a great journey to be a part of, with a special team that's going to see a lot of big changes on the roster and behind the bench. It's been a pleasure to be a part of this wild ride and nothing will ever be quite like this again. We've see Teemu Pulkkinen's last game in a Griffins jersey after another record setting season. Xavier Ouellet and Alexey Marchenko should be in the NHL next year. Dylan Larkin won't stay long in the AHL before moving up, and Andreas Athanasiou won't be far behind. Jeff Blashill is all but guaranteed to be named coach of the Red Wings and he may choose to take an assistant or two with him. The Griffins will have a very different look next season.
This team has meant so very much to me, and they've been my escape, my happy place all season long. I looked forward to every trip to Grand Rapids, every chance to watch Andreas Athanasiou streak down the ice, turn defenders inside out and make goalies look foolish, every chance to see the Pulkcannon unload and hit the back of the net so fast the goalie didn't even have time to react. I've loved every moment of watching Tyler Bertuzzi grow into a smart, skilled player who's more than ready to take the next step in his career, and watching Dylan Larkin do what Dylan Larkin does. I have so many special memories that this team has given me, and it's difficult to sort out all the feelings so soon.
We'll have lots of continued Griffins and prospect coverage over the summer, including development camp and the prospect tournament, so don't think this is goodbye. The future is very bright and I think we could be on the verge of something very special for the Red Wings.
This is a tough end to a great season. Here's how the final game of the Griffins 2014-2015 season went.
UTICA, N.Y. - Cory Conacher's goal early in the second period was all the Utica Comets needed in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday, as they claimed a berth in the Calder Cup Finals with a 2-0 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The Comets will now face the AHL's regular season champions, the Manchester Monarchs, for the right to hoist the Calder Cup, with Game 1 in New Hampshire set for Saturday.
The Griffins' third-ever foray into the month of June ended largely due to the goaltending of Jacob Markstrom, who made 21 saves to backstop a Utica defense that limited Grand Rapids' opportunities while blocking shots time and again.
Not surprisingly, a tightly contested first period saw little in the way of scoring chances for either team, despite a pair of power plays per side and the Comets' 9-6 edge in shots. Tom McCollum was very good when called upon, though, sticking out his left pad to make a stop with just over six minutes remaining, then denying both a redirection and a try at the right post in the final minute of the frame.
Conacher put the Comets on the board 3:16 into the second, scoring from the top of the right circle on a shot that knuckled past McCollum's glove into the near corner of the net. A few minutes later, the netminder stood strong after a giveaway in the Griffins' end led to a flurry of three saves in short order, keeping the visitors within a goal.
A subsequent Griffins power play expired without a shot, leaving the Griffins with just seven at the halfway point of the contest, although Markstrom's leisurely night was a result of the active and frequent shot-blocking by his teammates. Another Grand Rapids advantage in the final minutes of the period generated a pair of shots from close range, but still the Griffins went to the locker room with that 1-0 deficit on the scoreboard and just 10 shots to Utica's 22.
McCollum, who had been 4-0 this postseason in games following a loss, continued to stop everything else that came his way, finishing with 27 saves before departing for an extra attacker with two minutes remaining. The Griffins spent 30 seconds simply trying to escape their own zone against an outnumbered but ferocious Utica forecheck, and Alexandre Grenier scored into an empty net with 1:14 remaining for the final margin.
Grand Rapids had been 3-0 this postseason and 5-1 all time under coach Jeff Blashill when facing playoff elimination.
Notes: Each of Grand Rapids' captains - Jeff Hoggan and alternates Brennan Evans and Nathan Paetsch - appeared in his 50th playoff game as a Griffin, a milestone previously reached only by Travis Richards (59). The trio did it in only three postseasons, while Richards' accumulated his games over seven playoff runs, hitting the half-century mark in his sixth cup chase.
Three Stars: 1. UTI Markstrom (W, SO, 21 saves); 2. UTI Conacher (goal); 3. UTI Grenier (goal)