This Week’s Games
GRIFFINS vs. Toronto Marlies // Fri., Nov. 10 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena
GRIFFINS vs. Toronto Marlies // Sat., Nov. 11 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena
Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 7 p.m. on Friday and 6:45 p.m. on Saturday
Season Series: First and second of four meetings overall, first and second of two at Van Andel Arena
All-Time Series: 35-34-5-2 Overall, 20-15-3-1 Home
NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs
Noteworthy: John Gruden was named head coach of the Toronto Marlies this past offseason after serving as an assistant coach in the NHL from 2018-23. A member of the Ferris State University Athletics Hall of Fame, he suited up as a defenseman for the Griffins from 1999-2002, helping Grand Rapids win three consecutive division titles and amassing 47 points (10-37—47) in 141 regular-season games. He earned a spot on the AHL’s 2001-02 First All-Star Team and represented the Griffins in both the 2000 IHL All-Star Game and the 2002 AHL All-Star Classic. Friday’s game will mark Gruden’s first at Van Andel Arena since April 21, 2002.
Take the Under: Thanks to solid goaltending from rookie Sebastian Cossa and veteran Michael Hutchinson, the Griffins have allowed just 2.88 goals per game. However, Grand Rapids has struggled to score itself, as it ranks 26th in the league with an average of 2.38 goals per game. The Griffins have scored more than three goals just once and have been held to two goals or less in four of the eight games. In the past three games, Grand Rapids has averaged 1.67 goals. On the defensive side of the ice, the team has allowed more than three goals twice out of eight games and has kept its opponents to two goals or less in three outings. In the past three contests, the Griffins have allowed an average of 2.67 goals.
Thou Shalt Not Pass: Goaltenders Sebastian Cossa (.923) and Michael Hutchinson (.919) have had strong starts to the campaign, as both show a save percentage well above .900. Cossa has also registered a 2.50 GAA, while Hutchinson possesses a 2.52 GAA. Cossa ranks sixth among rookie netminders in GAA and fourth in save percentage. Combined, the goaltenders have a 2.51 GAA and a 0.921 save percentage. The Griffins rank 15th in the AHL by allowing 2.88 goals against per game.
Power Moves: The Griffins’ power play has had a strong showing to start the season. Through eight games, Grand Rapids sits in sixth place with a power-play conversion rate of 25% (4 for 16). The Griffins have been on the power play just 16 times this season, which ranks last in the AHL by four. During the 2022-23 campaign, Grand Rapids finished 25th on the circuit with a power-play rate of 17.8% (52 for 292).
The Climb: Dominik Shine is just the third player in franchise history to reach eight seasons of service, while Tyler Spezia is the eighth player to compete in his sixth campaign. Shine is tied with Mitch Callahan for third with 365 career games played for the Griffins and stands 10th with 408 penalty minutes. Taro Hirose also continues to climb the Griffins’ all-time leaderboard, as he is currently ranked 10th in points (172) and sixth in assists (129).
A Tale of Two Cities: The Griffins garnered their first road win of the campaign last Saturday, beating Milwaukee 2-1. Despite the victory, Grand Rapids has looked vastly different when playing at home compared to road cities. At home, the Griffins are on an active three-game point streak with a 2-0-1-0 record (.833) and have outscored their opponents 10-7. However, on the road, Grand Rapids is 1-3-0-1 (.300) and has been outscored 16-9. The Griffins’ power play has also faltered on the road, showing a 1-for-6 mark (16.7%) compared to the 3-for-10 ledger (30%) at home. The road penalty kill has been the lone bright spot for Grand Rapids, as it is 13 for 16 (81.3%).
Shoot Your Shot: After allowing an average of 39.75 shots in their first four games, the Griffins allowed an average of just 24.5 shots in their last four outings. In its last game on Saturday, Grand Rapids held Milwaukee to just 16 total shots, which was the fewest allowed all season. However, the Griffins still rank 26th in the league with an average of 32.1 shots allowed per game. Grand Rapids has also struggled to put pucks on net, as it places 26th out of 32 teams at 27.6 shots per game. The first period has been the killer, as the Griffins have been outshot 97-64 in the opening frame. In the second period, Grand Rapids has been outshot 86-74 but it has outshot its opponent in the third by a slim 76-71 margin.
Milestones: Last Saturday, Dominik Shine
tied Mitch Callahan for third on the Griffins’ all-time games played list with 365 games and Eemil Viro competed in his 200th pro contest.
Zach Aston-Reese—Four points from 50 in the AHL
Jonatan Berggren—One game from 250 as a pro
Josiah Didier—One game from 400 as a pro
Taro Hirose—Two goals from 50 as a pro, one assist from tying Derek King for fifth on the Griffins’ all-time assists list
Jared McIsaac—Two points from 50 as a pro and as a Griffin
Dominik Shine—One game from claiming third on the Griffins’ all-time games played list
Tyler Spezia—One goal from 50 as a pro
William Wallinder—One assist from 50 as a pro
Photo by Toronto Marlies