The Grand Rapids Griffins and San Jose Barracuda fight for a spot in the Calder Cup final.
The Griffins find themselves in the Western Conference Final for the second time in the past three seasons.
The San Jose Barracuda, winners of the Pacific Division, reached the Western Conference Final for the first time in their young history, having moved to San Jose last season. A year ago, they lost to the Ontario Reign in the opening round.
Let’s take a look at the matchup that begins Saturday at San Jose.
Game 1: Sat., May 20, Grand Rapids at San Jose, 6 p.m.
Game 2: Sun., May 21, Grand Rapids at San Jose, 5 p.m.
Game 3: Wed., May 24, San Jose at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Fri., May 26, San Jose at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m.
*Game 5: Sat., May 27, San Jose at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m.
*Game 6: Tue., May 30, Grand Rapids at San Jose, 7 p.m.
*Game 7: Wed., May 31, Grand Rapids at San Jose, 7 p.m.
How Did We Get Here?
- The Griffins swept the Milwaukee Admirals 3-0 in the opening round.
- The Barracuda needed all five games to beat the Stockton Heat in their opening round. The teams traded wins, with San Jose taking the first, third and last matchups.
- The Griffins beat the Chicago Wolves, who finished the regular season one point ahead of the Griffins and won the Central Division, 4-1. Grand Rapids won three straight games after Chicago tied the series at 1-1, winning two of those games in Chicago.
- After losing the first game to the San Diego Gulls, the Barracuda won four straight games to win the Pacific Division Final.
- Tyler Bertuzzi is second in the AHL with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in eight playoff games, followed by Evgeny Svechnikov’s nine points (three goals, six assists) in eight games.
- Bertuzzi notched six of his points against Chicago, scoring two goals in Game 5 to help the Griffins clinch the series in a 5-2 win.
- Ryan Carpenter leads the AHL with 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 10 games. Barclay Goodrow has nine points (four goals, five assists) in 10 games.
- Carpenter did not register a point in San Jose’s series-clinching win against San Diego, snapping a five-game point streak.
Calder Cup Playoffs – Between the Pipes
- The Griffins’ Jared Coreau hasn’t been at his best this postseason. In the loss to Chicago, Coreau surrendered seven goals in a 7-3 loss, making just 24 saves. He has a .908 save percentage in the playoffs with no shutouts.
- San Jose’s Troy Grosenick has been more consistent, sporting a .920 save percentage in 10 games. Grosenick has allowed more than three goals just twice in the playoffs and has two shutouts.
Jan. 27: Barracuda 4, Griffins 1
March 11: Barracuda 1, Griffins 0 (SOW)
- In the first game, San Jose’s Nikolay Goldobin scored twice, and Grosenick made 43 saves in the win.
- Svechnikov scored the lone goal for the Griffins in the first game, and Cal Heeter made 24 saves in the loss.
- In the second game, Grosenick made 22 saves in the shutout win. Kevin Labanc and Daniel O’Regan scored shootout goals for the Barracuda.
- Coreau made 31 saves for the Griffins in the loss.
High-Charged Power Plays
- The Griffins and the Barracuda are the top two power-play teams from the regular season, as Grand Rapids led the way at 24.4 percent and San Jose finished second at 23.8 percent.
- Both teams have continued that power-play success in the postseason, with the Griffins in third (22.2 percent) and the Barracuda one spot behind them in fourth (20.5 percent).
The Griffins have plowed their way through the Calder Cup playoffs, losing just one game and sporting a plus-12 goal differential. However, the Barracuda are flying high as well, winning their past four games to reach the Western Conference Final with a plus-10 goal differential.
Special teams will be the deciding factor in this series. Both teams sport lethal power plays, and whichever team can cool down the opposing power play will have the advantage.
On Wednesday, the Detroit Red Wings assigned defenseman Vili Saarijarvi to the Griffins, after Saarijarvi’s Mississauga Steelheads lost to the Erie Otters in the OHL final.
— Grand Rapids Griffins (@griffinshockey) May 17, 2017
Saarijarvi is a finalist for the OHL’s defenseman of the year after scoring 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists) during the regular season and leading all Steelhead defensemen in points with 15 (five goals, 10 assists) in 20 playoff games.
There’s no word on whether Saarijarvi will see playing time, but he adds depth should one of the Griffins’ regular defensemen go down with an injury.
This series has “high-scoring affair” written all over it; the goalies will be tested.
Prediction: Griffins win series, 4-2
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.