Opening Night in Hockey Town West
As I was sitting in my seat early Friday night at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids my mind was in full motion thinking of the upcoming game and season for the Grand Rapids Griffins. How would the team look this year? With players during the summer signing up overseas and the looming NHL lockout what were the Griffins going to look like and how would they perform?
Leading the team this year is new head coach Jeff Blashill who was assistant to Mike Babcock. Looks like he is trying some new techniques with the Griffins. He seems to be communicating more with the team during the game.
With the lockout in effect the Griffins were able to retain #13 Gustav Nyquist, #7 Brendan Smith, #18 Jaokim Anderrson and #27 Tomas Tatar. All were slated to possibly fill some voids with the Red Wings this year.
There are many new faces in the lineup this year:
#4 Nathan Paetsch Defense
#10 Jeff Hoggan Left Wing
#14 Chad Billins Defense
#17 Max Nicastro Defense
#23 Triston Grant Left Wing
#28 Tomas Jurco Right Wing
#44 Brennan Evans Defense
The team looked a little unsettled in their first two games of the season. Everyone was trying to find their spot and at times that spot was already filled by another. Several times during the games the players seemed to be almost fighting against each other instead of working together.
The special teams are looking good. The Griffins on both nights had to fight off 5 on 3 disadvantages and did it. #29 Landon Ferraro scored his first goal of the season shorthanded on Friday night. The power play is looking pretty good the team is starting to calm down and move the puck around before just flinging shots at the net.
Goaltending is still a question with #1 Jordan Pearce and #30 Tom McCollum in net. Pearce has had up and down years and is not always healthy. McCollum is young and still trying to find himself. Both played a game each and had some good saves but could not keep enough out of the net.
The starting line of #27 Tomas Tatar, #13 Gustav Nyquist and #18 Joakim Anderrson looked very good together and did make some good offensive moves but could only get the puck in the net once when Andersson scored Friday night. At times during the games #28 Tomas Jurco was rotated into the line and all seemed to mesh. They should be a major threat as long as they stay healthy.
#21 Trevor Parkes looks real strong this year. Playing right wing on the second line on Friday and the first line on Saturday Parkes was not afraid to make plays on the puck. He does not hesitate to throw his muscle around and is picking up the loose puck and making the right moves. Scoring his first goal of the season on Saturday, he is showing that he can play smart hockey. I look for him to really grow this year and be one of the team leaders.
Turnovers and some bad calls from the stripes led to the team loosing on Friday night against the Milwaukee Admirals 3-2. On Saturday the Griffins came back from a 2-0 deficit and tied the game at 3 in the third period to force overtime and then a shootout against the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Griffs could not get anything past the Hamilton goaltender in the shootout and lost in the final round.
The Griffins are away this week and then back home for another Friday Saturday show. I look for them to continue to improve and start winning games in the near future.