We all knew that the Grand Rapids Griffins were good. With their bench that is good from one end to the other, their solid goaltending, their ranking in the Western Conference, their tenacity for playing prototypical Red Wings defense – all are marks of a very potent American Hockey League team. If the Barons are the great measuring stick that teams in this league use to prove their worth, then the Griffins are an elite squad in the West – at least in 20 minute spasms.
On Friday night, the Grand Rapids Griffins would net five straight goals in the second frame to dispatch the Oklahoma City Barons with an eventual 5-2 score. Anton Lander and Justin Schultz were your Barons scorers.
The evening began a tad sluggish for both clubs. The early goings were slow for both goaltenders, and this meant that each team was tirelessly playing through a feeling out period of sorts. Three penalties the entire period, two for OKC and one for Grand Rapids, along with five combined shots by both clubs, left me wondering when each team would pop open the smells good salts for a quick jolt. Ironically enough, Anton Lander would score the lone goal of the period for either club as Teemu Hartikainen won a strong battle on the boards to set the puck free. Lander would knife across the shooting lane, and OKC would take a 1-0 lead.
The Griffins would score five straight goals in the second period (three at even, one short-hander, one power play) amidst a really ugly defensive spurt for the Barons. I’ll spare you the gory details (because I’ve already written about them here), but four different GR players scored on five goals that just sucked any life remaining from the OKC players. Yann Danis would get plastered with 16 shots as his opposition went wherever and whenever they pleased. The period would end with a 5-1 lead for Grand Rapids.
Then things cooled down, the Barons played smarter. Justin Schultz netted a late game power play goal. Olivier Roy came in to mop up the carnage, played well, but didn’t get challenged enough to dub him “better” than Danis. In all the game was over when the third goal was scored by GR. Once OKC got stung they remained dizzy from the blowback, unable to fully recover.
Well done by the home team’s starting goaltender and rookie prospect, Petr Mrazek, whom appeared to be the real deal. The AHL is tough on rookie players, but particularly rough on rookie goaltenders. He’s only lost three games all season, and he might not lose too many more before the All-Star break hits.
It’s been a few games since anyone other than Eberle, Hall, or Schultz has scored the team’s opening goal. Tonight, Lander did score the first goal. Thinking back, Lander may have had the last instance of a 2nd line or below opening goal. Taylor Fedun had one as well if my memory serves me correctly. And the discussion about secondary scoring continues. Because even the greatest of players will disappear from time to time, and someone deeper in the roster will have to pick up the slack. Teemu Hartikainen was the only high minute forward on Friday that didn’t end the game with a negative +/-. Not sure how much I should read into that, but he did stand out among a forward core that completely fell off a cliff.
Another day. Another game. No time to dwell on this debacle. The Barons make a quick trip to Milwaukee for a game against the Admirals on Saturday night. The team will look different, I have no doubt. They’ll play better. They have to.