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Now We Wait

Apr 02, 2024
Written By: Andrew Streitel

This Week’s Games

GRIFFINS (32-19-8-4) vs. Chicago Wolves (22-32-4-5) // Wed., April 3 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena

Listen: 96.1 The Game at 6:45 p.m.

Watch: AHLTV

Season Series: 3-1-0-1 overall, 2-0-0-1 home. Sixth of eight meetings overall, fourth of four at Van Andel Arena

All-Time Series: 99-85-2-8-5 Overall, 48-38-2-6-4 Home

NHL Affiliation: None

Noteworthy: The Griffins are in search of their 100th regular-season win over their rivals from Chicago. Grand Rapids has only reached the 100-win plateau against the Milwaukee Admirals.

GRIFFINS vs. Rockford IceHogs (32-23-5-2) // Fri., April 5 // 7 p.m. // Van Andel Arena
GRIFFINS at Rockford IceHogs // Sat., April 6 // 8 p.m. EDT // BMO Center

Listen: WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM at 6:45 p.m. on Friday and 7:45 p.m. EDT on Saturday

Watch: AHLTV

Season Series: 5-2-2-0 overall, 1-1-2-0 home, 4-1-0-0 road. Tenth and eleventh of 12 meetings overall, fifth of six at Van Andel Arena, sixth of six at the BMO Center

All-Time Series: 66-45-11-11 Overall, 39-15-7-5 Home, 27-30-4-6 Road

NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks

Noteworthy: The Griffins are five points ahead of the IceHogs in the Central Division standings. If the Calder Cup Playoffs were to begin today, the second-seeded Griffins would have home-ice advantage against the third-seeded IceHogs.

The Promised Land: On Wednesday, the Griffins clinched their 18th playoff berth in 28 seasons with a 5-2 victory over the Cleveland Monsters at Van Andel Arena. The Griffins return to the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2019, ending a drought that included two postseasons (2020 and 2021) that were canceled due to COVID-19. This marks the team’s earliest clinching date since 2017, when the AHL’s eventual Calder Cup champions secured their spot on March 26. Clinching a spot with 25 days remaining in the regular season also marked the earliest the Griffins have clinched relative to the date of their finale since 2006, when the AHL’s regular-season champions locked up their berth with 34 days to play. Exactly three months prior to clinching, the sixth-place Griffins were tied for the fourth-lowest points percentage in the AHL, bringing a 9-13-3-1 record (.423) into their first game after the Christmas break. They’ve since posted a 23-6-5-3 mark (.730), solidifying their hold on second place in the Central Division and becoming the fourth of now nine teams to secure a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Back to Our Old Self: After enduring a season-high five-game winless skid from March 2-12 (0-2-2-1), the Griffins have returned to form with points in four of their last five contests (3-1-1-0). The Griffins’ active 17-game home point streak (12-0-3-2) is a new franchise record, beating out the previous mark of 16 games that was established from Jan. 9-Feb. 27, 2004 and is also longest run in the AHL this season. The Griffins saw their 18-game point streak (13-0-3-2 from Jan. 13-March 2) come to an end on March 4 in Cleveland, which was one game shy of tying the franchise record of 19 contests (Feb. 4-March 20, 2015 15-0-3-1) and is the second-longest run in the AHL this season. Grand Rapids’ nine-game road point streak (8-0-0-1) from Dec. 27-Feb. 17 was their longest since an 11-game run (9-0-1-1) from Jan. 29-March 12, 2015 and is tied for the second longest in the AHL this season. The Griffins have secured at least a point in 33 of their last 40 contests (24-7-6-3). The Griffins are 23-6-5-3 (.730) since Christmas and have had a trio of winning streaks of five or more games in the same season for the first time since 2013-14. Grand Rapids has points in 23 of its last 27 games (18-4-3-2) inside Van Andel Arena and has points in 14 of its past 19 road appearances (10-5-3-1). The Griffins have been solid at home with a 20-6-4-2 mark, outscoring their opponents 101-73. Grand Rapids has battled on the road this season, earning points in 13 of its last 17 games to move to 12-13-4-2 away from home.

Records are Meant to be Broken: The Griffins have rewritten the record book in multiple categories this season. Now 11-0-6 since Jan. 19, Sebastian Cossa holds the franchise record for the longest point streak by a goaltender at 17 outings, beating Marc Lamothe’s previous record of 15 games (9-0-4-2 (W-L-T-OTL)) set from Oct. 19-Nov. 30, 2002. Grand Rapids set a new franchise record with a point in its 17th straight home game on March 27, breaking a 16-game record that was established more than 20 years ago, from Jan. 9-Feb. 27, 2004. The home point run is the second franchise-record streak that the Griffins have tied in the last three months, piggybacking their seven-game road winning streak from Dec. 27, 2023-Feb. 2, 2024. The Griffins also rattled off an 18-game point streak from Jan. 13-March 2 (13-0-3-2), which was one game shy of tying the franchise record of 19 contests (Feb. 4-March 20, 2015 15-0-3-1). Finally, the Griffins have had a trio of winning streaks of five or more games in the same season for the first time since 2013-14.

Black Magic: As the regular season inches closer to its completion, the Griffins have clinched a playoff berth and a winning record, and they are in second place in the Central Division with a 32-19-8-4 record and 76 points with just nine games remaining. They now have a magic number of 28 to clinch the division, trailing Milwaukee’s 10.

TeamPointsPCTGames LeftHomeRoadOpp. Points %GR Magic # OverMagic # Over GR
1x - MIL85.67593

6

.53728

10

2x - GR76.603945.500----
3RFD71.5731055.5771624
4TEX66.516862.548729
5MB61.484945.5054

34

6IA54.42285

3

.589----
7CHI53.421945.558----

x - Clinched Playoffs

Sea Bass Fishing: Sebastian Cossa is on a franchise-record 17-game point streak from Jan. 19-March 30 (11-0-6), beating Marc Lamothe’s previous record of 15-games (9-0-4-2 (W-L-T-OTL)) set from Oct. 19-Nov. 30, 2002. Since returning from the holiday break on Dec. 27, Cossa has a 13-1-6 ledger with a 2.07 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. Prior to the holiday break, Cossa possessed a 4-6-3 record with a 3.18 goals against average and a .897 save percentage. The former 15th overall pick by the Red Wings in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft has allowed more than two goals just six times in his past 20 games. Cossa’s 11-game home point streak (7-0-4, Jan. 24-March 27) is now two shy of tying the franchise record of 13, which is held by Jared Coreau (2015-16), Daniel Larsson (2008-09) and Mike Fountain (bridging the 1999-00 and 2000-01 seasons). Cossa is also on an eight-game road point streak (6-0-2) from Dec. 27-March 30), which is two shy of tying the record of 10 held by Jimmy Howard (2005-06). Through 33 contests, Cossa is 17-7-9 with one shutout to go along with a 2.51 goals against average and a .912 save percentage. Cossa ranks fifth among rookie goaltenders in goals against average and tied for fourth in save percentage.

Straight to the Pros: On Saturday, Emmitt Finnie made his professional debut against the Milwaukee Admirals. The 18-year-old became just the 23rd player to make his Griffins debut the season after he was drafted. Finnie was selected with the 201st overall pick by the Detroit Red Wings in the seventh round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Of the players to make their debut the season after they were drafted, only Toni Dahlman (OTT: 286th in 2001) and Konstantin Gorovikov (OTT: 269th in 1999) were selected later than Finnie. Also, among all Red Wings draft picks who’ve played for Grand Rapids, only eight were chosen later than Finnie. Finnie recently completed his third season with the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL, totaling 59 points (19-40—59) in 62 games in 2023-24.

Johnny Bravo: Jonatan Berggren is on an active seven-game point streak (4-6—10) from Feb. 24-March 27 and has 24 points (12-12—24) in his last 20 games from Jan. 13-March 27. Berggren also has 30 points (13-17—30) in his last 25 outings and 33 points (15-18—33) in his last 28 contests from Dec. 15- March 27. The 23-year-old leads the roster in points (20-28—48), assists (28) and goals (20) through 44 appearances this season. The Enkoping, Sweden, product became the seventh-fastest player to reach 100 points as a Griffin, doing so in just his 106th game on Jan. 26 against Belleville. Berggren has a combined 119 points (45-74—119) in 121 career AHL appearances from 2021-24, collecting an assist during his 100th game as a Griffin on Jan. 10 against Milwaukee. During his rookie season with the Griffins in 2021-22, Berggren broke Grand Rapids’ rookie single-season scoring record with 64 points (21-43—64) in 70 games, five more points than the previous record held by Teemu Pulkkinen (2013-14).

Matty Ice: On Feb. 21, Matt Luff made his season debut after rehabbing an injury suffered in training camp that kept him sidelined for the first 45 games of the season. Luff enjoyed a seven-game point streak from March 15-29 (4-5—9), and now has 13 points (6-7—13) in his last 13 contests. Last season, the 26-year-old posted 25 points (8-17—25) and six penalty minutes in 28 games with the Griffins on top of producing four points (2-2—4) in 19 outings with the Detroit Red Wings. The Windsor, Ontario, native has 158 points (63-95—158) in 215 career AHL outings from 2016-24.

It’s Taco Time: Taro Hirose enjoyed a three-game assist streak from March 12-16 (0-4—4), which was one game shy of tying his season-high assist mark set from Nov. 17-27 (0-5—5). Hirose, who is in his fifth season as a Griffin, has 10 points (2-8—10) in his last 12 outings. The Calgary, Alberta, native has logged a total of 34 points (8-26—34) in 47 appearances this season, after having missed 12 straight games from Dec. 29-Jan. 27 due to rehabbing an injury. On Wednesday, the 27-year-old passed Tomas Tatar for sixth place on the Griffins’ all-time points list with 198, and his 150 assists rank third in franchise history. Hirose is now six points from claiming fifth place on the team’s all-time points list, as Derek King (203) currently holds the position.

Age is Wisdom: Veteran forwards Zach Aston-Reese, Joel L’Esperance and Dominik Shine have found a groove as of late. Aston-Reese is on a three-game goal streak from March 20-27 and now has 10 points (6-4—10) in his last 14 games. L’Esperance tallied an assist in both games from March 20-23 and has eight points (3-5—8) in his last 15 appearances. Finally, Shine enjoyed a season-high six-game point streak (2-6—8) from March 15-27 and has nine points (3-6—9) in his last 12 outings. Shine has set a new career high with 33 points, while also setting a new career best with 23 assists. Combined, the trio has amassed 422 points (212-210—422) in 839 AHL games over 18 campaigns.

Thou Shall Not Pass: The Griffins’ defense has been much improved since the holiday break, allowing an average of 2.49 goals per game from Dec. 27-March 30. Prior to the holiday break, Grand Rapids allowed 3.31 goals per game from Oct. 13-Dec. 20. The Griffins have allowed a total of 178 goals through 63 games this season, which ranks second in the Central Division and tied for sixth in the AHL. Grand Rapids is also ninth on the circuit with 2.83 goals against per game, which is second in the division trailing only Milwaukee (2.63, 4th). Netminders Sebastian Cossa (2.51) and Michael Hutchinson (2.78) each possess a goals against average below 3.00. Defensemen Wyatt Newpower (+9), Albert Johansson (+9), Antti Tuomisto (+7), Simon Edvinsson (+5), Eemil Viro (+5), Radim Simek (+4), Josiah Didier (+3), Brogan Rafferty (+2) and William Wallinder (+1) all have a positive plus-minus rating.

Clutch Hutch: Veteran goaltender Michael Hutchinson has been solid for the Griffins this year, posting a 14-12-3 mark with two shutouts in 30 games to go along with a 2.78 goals against average and an .896 save percentage. The 33-year-old enjoyed a seven-game point streak from Jan. 13-March 1 (5-0-2). Since returning from the holiday break on Dec. 27, Hutchinson has accumulated a 9-5-2 record with one shutout, an .897 save percentage and a 2.63 goals against average. The Barrie, Ontario, native has an all-time AHL record of 120-83-23 with a 2.61 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Hutchinson has also appeared in 154 NHL contests, showing a 2.94 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.

Like Father, Like Son: Recently acquired center Curtis Hall is the son of former Griffins center Mike Hall, who played seven games for Grand Rapids during the 2000-01 campaign, scoring one goal. They are the third father-son duo to have played for the Griffins, joining Chris (2008-09) and Jake (2018-19) Chelios, and Derek (1999-01; 2002-04) and D.J. (2021-22) King. Family ties have been a common theme throughout the franchise’s history, as five sets of brothers have suited up for the Griffins: Sheldon (2001-03) and Wade (2001-02) Brookbank; Valtteri (2005-07) and Ilari (2010-11) Filppula; Kevin (1999-00; 03-04), Kelly (1999-00) and Kip (2000-02; 04-05; 06-07) Miller, along with cousin Drew (2016-17); Todd (1996-98; 99-00; 01-02) and Jeff (1996-97; 03-04; 05-06) Nelson; and Givani (2016-17; 18-21; 22-23) and Gemel (2021-22) Smith.

No Need for Extra Bodies: Last season, the Griffins used a franchise-record 49 players, which included a franchise-record eight goaltenders. The 49 players last campaign beat out the previous record of 48 set during the 2021-22 season. However, it has been much different this season, as the Griffins have not had a single skater compete on a professional tryout. Grand Rapids has used just four goaltenders this season, with two of them suiting up for just one game (John Lethemon & Ville Husso). The team has also used just 31 skaters throughout the season, a drastic change from the 49 and 48 players used in the past two seasons, respectively.

Crunch Time: The Griffins have excelled during the third period of games this season, as they have outscored their opponents 77-51 in the final frame and outshot their opponents 588-552. Grand Rapids has six wins when trailing after the second period, which is tied for fourth in the AHL. The Griffins also have a 38-26 shot advantage in overtime this campaign. However, Grand Rapids is just 5-12 in games decided past regulation (3-8 in OT, 2-4 in SO). The Griffins’ 19 regulation losses this season are tied for the third fewest in the AHL, while their eight overtime defeats are tied for the third most and four shootout losses are tied for the fifth most.

Oh, It’s You Again: The Griffins are in second place in the Central Division with a 32-19-8-4 record and 76 points and have clinched a playoff berth for the 18th time in 28 seasons. All of Grand Rapids’ remaining nine games will be against the Central Division. The Griffins have done well against their division rivals, as they are 25-12-4-2 (.651) with a plus-18 scoring margin against the Central Division. Grand Rapids is undefeated this season against Iowa (6-0-0-0). Chicago and Rockford will be the Griffins’ most frequent opponents down the stretch, as there are still three meetings remaining against each franchise.

Pucks on Net: The Griffins have done well when outshooting their opponents this season with a 17-3-5-4 (.741) record compared to a 14-15-3-0 (.484) mark when they are being outshot. Grand Rapids is 19-5-4-4 (.719) when producing at least 30 shots and 23-10-6-2 (.659) when it keeps its opponents under 29 shots. The Griffins rank 19th in the AHL with 29.3 shots per game, while they concede the seventh fewest in the league at 28.0. The Griffins are averaging 28.0 shots per game in their last 12 outings, while giving up an average of 26.3.

Under Three is Key: Unsurprisingly, the Griffins have done well in games where they have scored four or more goals, going 23-1-2-0 (.923). Although, when scoring three goals or less the team is just 9-18-6-4 (.378). Grand Rapids has reached the four-goal mark in eight of its last 17 outings. On the flip side, Grand Rapids is just 8-16-7-3 (.382) when allowing at least three goals, compared to a 24-3-1-1 mark (.862) when allowing two goals or less. In their last 17 appearances, the Griffins have allowed three or more goals eight times.

AHL Leaderboard Tracker
Sebastian Cossa
—2.51 GAA places fifth among rookie netminders and 12th among qualified netminders, .912 save percentage is tied for fourth among rookie goaltenders
Simon Edvinsson
—Eight goals are tied for 16th among defensemen, three game-winners are tied for fourth among defensemen
Carter Mazur
—Six power-play goals are tied for eighth among rookies, 15 goals are tied for 15th among rookies
Antti Tuomisto
—Five goals are tied for eighth among rookie defensemen, one power-play goal is tied for ninth among rookie defensemen, two game-winners are tied for second among rookie defensemen, plus-seven rating ranks 10th among rookie defensemen
William Wallinder
—Three goals are tied for 16th among rookie defensemen

Milestones
Taro Hirose registered his 150th assist as a Griffin on Saturday at Milwaukee and Brogan Rafferty appeared in his 250th AHL game.
Jonatan Berggren—One game from 300 as a pro
Josiah Didier—Two games from 450 as a pro
Taro Hirose
—One goal from 50 as a Griffin, one point from 200 as a Griffin
Marco Kasper—Two assists from 50 as a pro

Photo Nicolas Carrillo/Griffins