AHL Conference Finals in full swing
Crunch and Barons take 2-1 series leads; Help on the way for the Griffins
By Matt Alber
The Syracuse Crunch and Oklahoma City Barons both hold 2-1 series leads as they look to advance to the Calder Cup Final, and the Grand Rapids Griffins will get a big offensive boost in the form of two players rejoining the team after finishing their own playoff run with the Detroit Red Wings.
The most recent Crunch win, a 22 save shutout by Cedrick Desjardins coupled with a second period goal from Vladislav Namestnikov that held up as the game winner, Syracuse was able to knock off the WBS Penguins by a 2-0 score. Syracuse now holds a 2-1 series lead headed into game 4 on Friday.
The story of this series has been goaltending. Desjardins (SYR) and Brad Thiessen (WBS) have been stellar. After allowing four goals in game 1, Desjardins has stopped 38 of the 40 Penguins shots in the last two games. On the other side, Thiessen has been even better for the most part, despite the losses. He has stopped 78 of 84 shots in the series, sporting a .928 save %. Thiessen also still leads all goalies this postseason with a 1.24 GAA and .958 save %.
Scoring has been done by committee for Syracuse. They have seven goals in the series, from seven different goal scorers. After a powerplay goal in game 1, Crunch leading scorer Tyler Johnson has now been kept point-less in two straight games, much credit due to the WBS defense. For the Penguins, only Alex Grant has multiple goals in the series, both coming in the 4-2 game 1 win.
This has been a very low scoring series thus far with the teams combining for just 4.3 goals per game. Taking back home ice advantage, the Crunch will look for the commanding 3-1 series lead on Friday night as they take on the Penguins on the road in game 4. The Penguins will need to start scoring more than they have in the last few games, or this series may very well end this Saturday night. They need to get some goals at even strength. Three of the six goals they’ve scored in this series have been on the powerplay, meaning they only have three even strength goals in three games. That’s nowhere near good enough to beat a great team like Syracuse.
Game 1- Sat., May 25- W-B/Scranton 4 at Syracuse 2
Game 2- Sun., May 26- W-B/Scranton 2 at Syracuse 3
Game 3- Wed., May 29- Syracuse 2 at W-B/Scranton 0
Game 4 – Fri., May 31 – Syracuse at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 EST
Game 5 – Sat., June 1 – W-B/Scranton at Syracuse, 7:00 EST
(If Necessary) Game 6 – Mon., June 3 – Syracuse at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 EST
(If Necessary) Game 7 – Wed., June 5 – W-B/Scranton at Syracuse, 7:00 EST
The Oklahoma City Barons have taken a 2-1 series lead over the Grand Rapids Griffins after defeating them by a 4-1 score on Wednesday. After being held to one goal in game 1, the Barons have exploded for eight goals in the last two games. The Barons have eight different scorers of the nine goals, including leading scorer during the playoffs Mark Arcobello, and ex-Shark Jonathan Cheechoo.
Powerplays have not mattered much this series. OKC is 1-11 and Grand Rapids is 0-9 for the series. The Griffins have had trouble scoring all together, with only five goals in the three games. However, they will get a huge boost to their offense in the coming days.
After the Detroit Red Wings were eliminated Wednesday night in game 7 to the Chicago Blackhawks, forwards Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson will rejoin the Griffins in Oklahoma City, and should be available for game 4. The Griffins could use the boost of offense up front, as they only have 43 shots in their last two games, and have been outshot in eight straight periods, not to mention the lack of goal scoring.
Nyquist was one of the Red Wings best players during their postseason run, and really seemed to having a personal coming out party in Detroit late in the year. He will rejoin the Griffins playing arguably the best hockey of his career. Nyquist, Andersson and Damian Brunner were a great third line for the Red Wings, and the Griffins are hoping that those two can carry over their production into the rest of the AHL playoffs. Nyquist and Andersson both had five points in 14 games for the Red Wings this postseason.
While in Grand Rapids this season, Nyquist was the team’s leading scorer with 23 goals and 60 points in 58 games. Anderson only played 36 games for the Griffins, but had 10 goals and 27 points. The Griffins should be able to go back to their top line of Andersson, Nyquist and Tomas Totar, which they used a lot throughout the early part of their season.
This offensive boost will be much needed for the Griffins, who after dropping back to back games to the Barons need a win in game 4 to avoid going into a 3-1 series hole. They absolutely must score more than one or two goals a game if they want to extend this series out against the high-scoring Oklahoma City team.
Game 1- Fri., May 24- Oklahoma City 1 at Grand Rapids 2
Game 2- Sat., May 25- Oklahoma City 4 at Grand Rapids 2
Game 3- Wed., May 29- Grand Rapids 1 at Oklahoma City 4
Game 4 – Fri., May 31 – Grand Rapids at Oklahoma City, 8:00 EST
Game 5 – Sat., June 1 – Grand Rapids at Oklahoma City, 8:00 EST
(If Necessary) Game 6 – Tue., June 4 – Oklahoma City at Grand Rapids, 7:00 EST
(If Necessary) Game 7 – Wed., June 5 – Oklahoma City at Grand Rapids, 7:00 EST
The Syracuse Crunch and the Oklahoma City Barons will look to take strangleholds on their series this weekend. Will the Penguins find their 5 on 5 offense against Desjardins and the Crunch? Will Thiessen continue to keep the Penguins in every game with phenomenal play? Will Nyquist and Andersson revitalize the Griffins offense? We’ll find out, and you can watch all the action live at AHLLive.com!