Griffins continue 'special' playoff run
The Grand Rapids Griffins want to bring back the Calder Cup.
The team is closing in on the goal as it’s facing the Utica Comets in the American Hockey League Western Conference Finals. The Comets and Griffins are the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the Western Conference.
The series is tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven series after two games in Utica, N.Y.
Games 3 and 4 are in Grand Rapids this Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena.
Game 5 will be in Grand Rapids this Sunday at 5 p.m., and the series will return to Utica next Tuesday and Wednesday for Games 6 and 7.
Tickets for the games are on sale. Students with college IDs receive upper-level tickets for $18. Playoff 4 Packs include a savings of $3 per ticket, plus no service fees. A Playoff Pass also can be purchased to guarantee the same seat in a pay-as-they-play method.
All playoff home games include the regular season Friday $2 beers and $2 hot dog promotion. The first 2,000 fans on Thursday and Friday will receive a rally towel.
The Rapid also offers free rides to and from the game with a valid ticket.
The road traveled
Grand Rapids saw a two-game deficit in its opening series against the Toronto Marlies, losing both games on the road. The team came back and won three straight games at Van Andel Arena to knock off the Marlies in the best-of-five series.
The team then took care of the Rockford IceHogs in the conference semifinals, winning the best-of-seven series 4-1.
No coaching change, yet
Griffins Head Coach Jeff Blashill remains behind the bench, despite speculations he will become the next Red Wings coach, with Mike Babcock heading to Toronto for an eight year, $50-million contact.
Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland has said Blashill is the leading candidate, expecting an interview some time during this week.
Blashill will remain with the Griffins until the season is finished, but said he would like to be the next Red Wings head coach.
Blashill won the Calder Cup in his first season as Griffins head coach in 2013, and the franchise has a playoff series record of 7-1 with him leading the way.
“I just try to live my day not worrying about what might be or what could be," Blashill told the Detroit Free Press. “As I told our guys this morning, we are worried about what is right now. We have a special opportunity here. I believe in special moments. We are one of four teams left in the Calder Cup playoffs. Let's focus on trying to get to that special moment that some of us were able to get to two years ago."
Griffins’ right wing Teemu Pulkkinen was the top goal scorer in the AHL this season, despite spending 31 games in the NHL with the Red Wings.
He’s continued the scoring through the playoffs, with 14 goals in 11 games. He’s second all time in Griffins playoff scoring with 30 points.
Larkin from U-M
Heralded Detroit Red Wings prospect Dylan Larkin has joined the team for the series, following his decision to leave the University of Michigan prior to his sophomore season. Larkin scored twice in Monday's 4-2 Game 2 victory against Utica.
The center was the Red Wings’ first choice in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft at No. 15 overall.
He signed a three year entry-level deal with Detroit last week, following a successful stint with the bronze medal-winning U.S. team at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship.
During his freshman season this year at U-M, he scored 15 goals and tallied 32 assists and earned Second Team All-American honors, as well as Big Ten Freshman of the Year, First Team All-Big Ten and All-Big Ten Rookie Team.
Prior to his time at U-M, Larkin spent two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team in Ann Arbor.
Left wing Tyler Bertuzzi, another Red Wings’ prospect, joined the team following the two losses in Toronto and has scored seven goals and added three assists in nine games.