Griffins and Crunch to meet in the Calder Cup Finals

Griffins and Crunch to meet in the Calder Cup Finals
 
By Matt Alber
 
The Grand Rapids Griffins and Syracuse Crunch will battle for the Calder Cup beginning Saturday night in Syracuse, with both teams looking for their first Cup win in team history.
 
2013 Calder Cup Finals (best-of-seven)
Syracuse Crunch vs. Grand Rapids Griffins

Game 1 – Sat., June 8 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7:00
Game 2 – Sun., June 9 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 6:00
Game 3 – Wed., June 12 – Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Game 4 – Fri., June 14 – Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sat., June 15 – Syracuse at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 6 – Tue., June 18 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 7 – Thu., June 20 – Grand Rapids at Syracuse, 7:00
  *if necessary... All times Eastern
 
How the Crunch advanced:
Eastern Quarterfinals: Defeated Portland Pirates in 3 games
Eastern Semifinals: Defeated Springfield Falcons in 4 games
Eastern Finals: Defeated Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in 5 games
 
How the Griffins advanced:
Western Quarterfinals: Defeated Houston Aeros in 5 games
Western Semifinals: Defeated Toronto Marlies in 6 games
Western Finals: Defeated Oklahoma City Barons in 7 games
 
 
Let’s take a look at some of the numbers and storylines surrounding the teams…
 
Syracuse Crunch:
·         After knocking out WBS in five games, the Crunch are now 11-1 this postseason, including 5-0 on the road.
·         The Crunch easily pace the postseason with an average of four goals a game and are second with a goals-against of 1.92.
·         They outscored the Penguins by a 18-8 margin in the five game series, getting goals from 12 different players.
·         Twelve players on the roster were a part of the 2012 Calder Cup Champion Norfolk Admirals.
 
 
Grand Rapids Griffins:
·         Over the final four games of the Western Finals, the Griffins special teams caught fire. Their powerplay scored on 6-14 for 43% and their penalty kill stopped OKC 18 of 19 times for 95%.
·         The Griffins have scored 15 goals in their last four games, due large in part to getting Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson back from the Detroit Red Wings after they were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks.
·         Grand Rapids scores 3.22 goals per game and ranks third with 2.44 goals allowed during the playoffs.
 
 
 
Key Players:
 
Syracuse:
·         Tyler Johnson (Forward): The AHL MVP has picked up right where he left off during the regular season, leaving the team with nine goals during the playoffs.
·         Ondrej Palat (Forward): Palat has led all players in the playoffs with 15 assists playing alongside Johnson on the Crunch top line and the powerplay.
·         Brett Connolly (Forward): The highly touted prospect and 2nd line forward was second on the team in points during the season, but has just three goals in 12 playoff games so far.
·         Mark Barberio (Defense): Leading all Crunch defensemen with three goals and 10 points for the playoffs, Barberio continues to produce. He also led the defensive corps with 42 points during the regular season.
·         Cedrick Desjardins (Goalie): Sporting a 1.86 GAA and .920 save %, Desjardins gives the Crunch a great chance to win every night. With three shutouts in the 12 playoff games thus far, he’s also shown the ability to steal some games by himself. He’s stopped 82 of 86 shots since the game 1 loss vs. the Penguins.
 
Grand Rapids:
·         Tomas Tatar (Forward): The team’s leading scorer, Tatar has a team high 11 goals and 16 points during the playoffs. He has two goals in four games since being reunited with wingers Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson.
·         Tomas Jurco (Forward): The unsung hero for the Grand Rapids team, Jurco had only 28 points in 74 regular season games. After scoring the game winning goal against OKC, he now has 13 points in 18 playoff games, second most on the team.
·         Jan Mursak (Forward): After missing most of the regular season with a collarbone injury, he is second on the team in goals during the postseason with eight.
·         Brennan Evans (Defense): The former Worcester Sharks defenseman has been a key to holding down the fort for the Griffins. His tough and solid defense has helped the Griffins shut down some powerful offenses and will need to continue his high level of play against the offensive minded Crunch.
·         Chad Billins (Defense): Their leading point scorer from the back end during the season, Billins has continued to chip in the offense in the playoffs. He leads the Griffins defense with 9 assists and 11 points.
·         Petr Mrazek (Goalie): Mrasek has been solid the entire playoffs, with a 2.18 GAA and .921 save %, including stopping 138 of 146 OKC shots in games 4-7. The spotlight will be directly on him this series against the high powered Syracuse offense.
 
 
Prediction: Syracuse in 6. Revitalized by some familiar faces returning to the team, the Griffins should put up more of a fight than any team has to Syracuse thus far. The Griffins have played 18 games in the postseason, compared to just 12 by the Crunch, and fatigue may catch up to them here. They have the offensive firepower in Nyquist, Andersson and Tatar to keep up with the high scoring Crunch, however this Syracuse team is on a roll right now. Having won 11 of 12 games in the postseason, I just can’t pick the Crunch to lose this series. Syracuse has a definite edge as far as offensive depth, and I think this will be a high-scoring series. I do feel that Grand Rapids will keep these games close, but the Crunch will eventually prevail.
 
 
Either the Griffins or Crunch will hoist the Calder Cup for the first time in team history in the coming days. Will it be the Griffins hot powerplay and strong goaltending that ends up leading them to a series win? Or will Syracuse’s experienced postseason bunch continue their tear through the playoffs and defeat the Griffins for the Cup? You can catch all the action on AHLLive.com.



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