The city of Grand Rapids has grown accustomed to seeing their Griffins play hockey into the month of May. By beating the Chicago Wolves in five games, the upcoming series against the San Jose Barracuda will mark the third time in five years the Griffins have made it to the Western Conference Finals.
The Griffins will open up the series this Saturday when they travel to San Jose for games one and two. The Barracuda play inside the SAP Center and share the arena with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, the Barracuda’s parent club.
When the Barracuda travel to Grand Rapids for games three, four, and five (if necessary), it will mark the first time that they have had to play outside of the state of California during the postseason. San Jose beat in-state rivals Stockton Heat in five game during the first round and also beat the San Diego Gulls in five games in the Pacific Conference Finals.
The Griffins are back in the Conference Finals by sweeping the Milwaukee Admirals for a second consecutive postseason and then went on to beat the Chicago Wolves four games to one in the Central Division Finals. By winning the series in five games, the Griffins finished with a 12-3 record against Chicago this season.
The Griffins and Barracuda have many similarities when it comes to statistical categories. The Griffins finished first in the league in power play efficiency at 24.4% while San Jose finished right behind them at 23.6%. Both teams remain over 20% during the postseason. The Griffins are leading all playoff teams with a 4.25 goals per game average over eight games.
During the two regular season matchups, Grand Rapids finished 0-1-0-1 against the Barracuda. On January 27th, San Jose went to Grand Rapids and beat the Griffins 4-1. The second matchup on March 11 was much more contested with the Barracuda beating the Griffins in a shootout 1-0 in San Jose.
Grand Rapids comes in as one of the hottest teams in the AHL. Including their last three games and the postseason, the Griffins have won 10 of their last 11 games. The power play is regaining its power having netted goals in the last six games. The production is being spread out rather evenly with eight players averaging at least a point per game. Tyler Bertuzzi leads the team with 10 points (5-5-10).
The 1,947 mile trip the Griffins will be making to San Jose marks the furthest they have ever had to travel for a playoff series.
Jared Coreau and Barracuda goalie Troy Grosenick have played in every postseason contest for their respective teams. Coreau comes in to the series with a goals against average of 2.64 and a save percentage of .908. Grosenick led the AHL with 10 shutouts and has two so far during the postseason.
Since winning the Calder Cup in 2013 the Griffins are 10-3 in playoff series. Despite losing in the playoffs during the last three seasons, all three teams have appeared in the Calder Cup Finals with Texas winning in 2014, Utica losing in 2015, and Lake Erie winning in 2016.
The Griffins own a 2-6 record when facing off against a top seeded team. They won their first ever series against a top seed last season when they swept the Milwaukee Admirals and did it again by beating the Wolves in five games this postseason. Grand Rapids is heading to the Conference Finals for the seventh time in franchise history and will go up against a top seed for the third time. The last time they played a top seeded team in the Conference Finals was in 2015 when they were defeated by the Utica Comets in six games.
While the Griffins and Barracuda meet for the first time ever in the postseason, the Red Wings and Sharks have met five times with the Sharks winning three of the series.
The series will begin tomorrow night in San Jose with a 9 p.m. puck drop. All fans can tune in on ESPN 96.1 or catch the game on ahllive.com.