Griffins vs Comets Western Conference Finals Preview

The Western Conference Finals kick off tomorrow night when the Griffins face off against the Utica Comets. They split their two game regular season series, with each team winning on home ice. There's not much history to look back at between the Griffins and Comets, since this is only the Comets' 2nd season in the AHL, and their 2 meetings with Grand Rapids this year were also their first meetings.

The Griffins beat the Toronto Marlies in the 1st round after going down 2-0 on the road and then winning 3 straight at home. They then had 3 days to rest and prepare for the Rockford IceHogs, and proceeded to dispatch them in 5 games. Their last game was Sunday May 17th, and they've had almost a full week off to rest, practice, and prepare for the Conference Finals. The Griffins spent half that time preparing to face two different possible teams, since the series between the Utica Comets and Oklahoma City Barons went the full 7 games, and wasn't over until last Wednesday night. For the Griffins, it's usually better to have no more than a few days in between games. With more time off than that, they look slow and a little discombobulated in their first game back. Coach Blashill and the players will have to overcome the challenge of 6 game-less days and come out flying against a very good Utica team.


Fresh Face:

Dylan Larkin signed his three year entry level contract with the Red Wings last week, and he'll make his AHL debut Sunday against Utica. Larkin had a mind blowing season at the University of Michigan in his freshman year, racking up 15 goals and 47 points in just 35 games. He was 2nd in scoring in the nation among freshmen; only some kid named Jack Eichel had more with 26 goals and 71 points in 40 games. Larkin also played in the IIHF World Junior Championships and IIHF World Championships this year. Signing his contract with the Wings is very exciting, and I'm very much looking forward to his AHL debut. Coach Blashill said earlier this week that Larkin would start on a line with Andreas Athanasiou, thereby revealing his strategy of having so much speed on one line that no Utica player would be able to keep up or touch the puck. Athanasiou will most likely move over to the wing, and Anthony Mantha may remain with AA, or Blash may put someone else on that line who could better keep up with those two. We'll have to wait until game one to find out for sure.


Who's hot:

Teemu Pulkkinen continues to be a dominant force for the Griffins. He has a league leading 13 goals for a total of 15 points in 10 playoff games. In game 5 against Rockford, he scored his 30th career playoff point and 8th power play goal, which tied him with Derek King and Tomas Tatar for most in Griffins franchise history. He's already 2nd all time on the Griffins playoff scoring list with 31 points (Derek King has 41) and his 13 goals are half of Bill McDougall's AHL record 26 goals in a single playoff. Pulkkinen could very well break that AHL record as well as continue setting Griffins records. He's unbelievable. The Griffins are 11-5 all time in the playoffs when Pulkkinen scores and he has 4 multi-goal games so far through two rounds. Since the 2013 playoffs, Teeny Pokemon has played 34 playoff games and has 21 goals and 31 points. That's incredible.

Tyler Bertuzzi may only have 10 professional games under his belt, but he's been absolutely fantastic for the Griffins so far. Making an immediate impact in the AHL straight out of juniors is a tall order, but Lil Bert's been up to the challenge. He missed the first two playoff games with the stomach flu, but in the 8 games since returning, he has 6 goals, 9 points, is 3rd on the Griffins in scoring, and tied for 11th among post season AHL scorers. He had an incredible series against Rockford, scoring both of their game 4 goals, including the OT winner just 13 seconds in (the 4th fastest OT goal in AHL playoff history). He also leads the league in game winning playoff goals with 4, and is closing in on the AHL record of 6.

Goalie Jacob Markstrom is a significant reason for Utica's regular and post season success. He was the 2nd ranked goalie in the AHL regular season with a 1.88 GAA, .934 SV% and 22-7-2 record. In 12 playoff games he has a 1.85 GAA and .930 SV% and a 7-5-0 record.


Regular Season Stats:
47-20-7-2, 103 pts. (1st North, 2nd AHL) Overall Record 46-22-6-2, 100 pts. (1st Mid., T3rd AHL)
48-for-298, 16.1% (T18th) Power Play 48-for-283, 17.0% (T15th)
234-for-271, 86.3% (7th) Penalty Killing 229-for-265, 86.4% (6th)
2.88 avg. (11th) Goals For 3.28 avg. (1st)
2.39 avg. (5th) Goals Against 2.43 avg. (T6th)
Brandon DeFazio (21) Goals Teemu Pulkkinen (34)
Cal O'Reilly (51) Assists Andy Miele (44)
Cal O'Reilly (61) Points Andy Miele (70)
Bobby Sanguinetti (+24) Plus/Minus Nick Jensen, Tomas Nosek (+30)
Darren Archibald (107) Penalty Minutes Chris Bruton (124)
Alexandre Grenier (11) Power Play Goals Teemu Pulkkinen (10)
Grandon DeFazio (3) Shorthanded Goals Landon Ferraro, Tomas Nosek (3)
Bobby Sanguinetti (6) Game-Winning Goals Teemu Pulkkinen (6)
Joacim Eriksson, Jacob Markstrom (22) Wins Tom McCollum (19)
Jacob Markstrom (5) Shutouts Jared Coreau, Petr Mrazek (3)
Jacob Markstrom (1.88) Goals Against Avg. Jared Coreau (2.20)
Jacob Markstrom (0.934) Save Percentage Jared Coreau (0.927)


Playoff stats through 2 rounds:
7-5-0 Record 7-3-0
28 Goals Scored 37
26 Goals Against 31
12.8% Power Play 22.0%
80.0% Penalty Kill 86.5%
130 PIM 160
Alexandre Grenier (10) Point Leader Teemu Pulkkinen (15)
Alexandre Grenier (4) Goal Leader Teemu Pulkinen (13)
7-5-0 Starting Goalie Record 7-2-0
Jacob Markstrom .930 SV% Tom McCollum .913
1.85 GAA 2.68


Game Date Time Location
Game 1 Sunday, May 24th 7 p.m. Utica
Game 2 Monday, May 25th 7 p.m. Utica
Game 3 Thursday May 28th 7 p.m. Grand Rapids
Game 4* Friday May 29th 7 p.m. Grand Rapids
Game 5* Sunday, May 31st 5 p.m. Grand Rapids
Game 6* Tuesday, June 2nd 7 p.m. Utica
Game 7* Wednesday, June 3rd 7 p.m. Utica
* If necessary

Griffins Game Day Promotions:

Thursday & Friday the first 2,000 fans at the Van will receive playoff rally towels. All three home games will also feature $2 beer and $2 hot dogs


Other Notes:

The Griffins re-assigned Alden Hirschfeld to Toledo last week and he'll help the Walleye avoid elimination against the South Carolina Stingrays in the Conference Finals. The Griffins also re-signed rookie Mark Zengerle to a 1 year contract extension. Dominic Turgeon was also released from his ATO and has returned home for the summer. Zach Nastasiuk remains sidelined with a concussion sustained from a hit in the 1st round against the Toronto Marlies.