AHL Playoffs Round Two: Grand Rapids vs Texas
The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas!
After drudging the Abbotsford Heat three games to one in dominant-like fashion, our Grand Rapids Griffins set their cross-hairs on the Lone Star State to face the AHL Regular Season Champion Dallas Stars affiliate, Texas Stars. Texas finished their regular season with 106 points and a record of 48-18-3, and were the least penalized team in the entire AHL. A daunting task for our Griffins, indeed. Their top-scoring player, Travis Morin, finished his regular season with 88 points (32 goals, 56 assists) in 66 games. Grand Rapids' top-scoring rookie, Teemu Pulkkinen, finished his regular season with 59 points (31 goals, 28 assists.) The difference in this series is going to be air-tight defensive systems, and goal-tending. Petr Mrazek has his hands full with this score-happy team in front of him, as Dallas finished 2nd in the AHL for goals scored behind the Binghamton Senators.
The Texas Stars swept the Oklahoma City Barons in the first round. The first two games of the series were won in overtime in OKC, and the last was a 4-2 win on home-ice. The key for Grand Rapids in this series is to take at least one of two games from Dallas on their turf to take the advantage, I think.
As I said before, I think this is going to be largely a goal-tending duel. Here's the stat breakdown so far.
Grand Rapids Goaltending:
Petr Mrazek is pretty much amazing, and was the first star (in my opinion) for Grand Rapids in the first round. I expect for him to hopefully repeat his greatness and help his team provide an upset over the Stars, who are the favorite in this match-up. I think Mattias Backman will continute his greatness and help big time on blue-line as well. He had a great series, and showed that he has serious potential to QB the power-play. I was blown away at how good he actually is. The return of Adam Almquist should surely help offensive production as well, he was one of the top-scoring players for the Griffins this season.
Here is a look at both team's possession thru the regular season. Data and work provided by @joshweissbock.
As you can see, Texas soared during the mid-season before coming back down to earth, while Grand Rapids started picking it up towards the end stretch. As we all know here at WiiM, GRG was without their best players for most of the season.
Here is a look at the schedule:
Western Conference Semi-Finals
#1 Texas Stars vs. #4 Grand Rapids Griffins
Game 1 – Thu., May 8 – Grand Rapids at Texas, 8:30
Game 2 – Sat., May 10 – Grand Rapids at Texas, 8:00
Game 3 – Tue., May 13 – Texas at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Game 4 – Wed., May 14 – Texas at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 5 – Fri., May 16 – Texas at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sun., May 18 – Grand Rapids at Texas, 8:00
*Game 7 – Mon., May 19 – Grand Rapids at Texas, 8:30
I think the Griffins have their work cut out for them here, and it's not going to be easy, but I think they can do it. Grand Rapids went 3-1-0 against Texas this season with a goal differential of +6. In those four games, Petr "MrHasek" Mrazek made only one start, and had allowed 4 goals on 25 shots. The one loss Grand Rapids suffered against Texas was credited to Jared Coreau (go figure). Anyways, I think we're looking at a long hard-fought series of good goal-tending, chippy play, and supreme coaching strategies. Griffins in six, BOYEEEEEE!!!
How many games will this series go to?