With Matt Puempel and Matt Lorito finishing up their time at the All-Star game, and the first half of the season in the books, i’ll cover how the Griffins have done thus far before their push to the playoffs.
Coming into this season after celebrating a championship brought a lot of excitement for the organization and its followers. After moving out a good portion of veterans, welcoming in five rookies, and dealing with injuries to two of their top forwards, Grand Rapids had a very lackluster start to their year. October (3-5-0-1), November (5-5-0-1), and December (6-5-1-2) are the epitome of roller coaster starts. Before entering the new year Grand Rapids had a pair of 4-game and 3-game losing streaks. Also being unable to post anything better than a 3-game win streak in 2017, left a lot of questions for how the remainder of the season might play out.
As the calendar changed to 2018, so did the results coming from the Griffins. They would cruise through January winning 8 of 11 games. Grand Rapids would come into January on a 3-game win streak and extended it to 5-games before losing their first game in the new year. The Griffins also posted two additional 3-game win streaks book-ending their two other losses of the month. These results leave the Griffins sitting 5th (out of 7) in the Central Division with 49 points. Barring a miracle it seems winning the division might be out of reach. The Winnipeg Jets AHL organization, the Manitoba Moose, have the top honors. At 29-10-3-2 (63 points) they have been on quite a tear. Grand Rapids does have the edge on the division leaders in the season match up 3-2, but also the rest of the Central hasn’t been nearly as hot as Manitoba. Even sitting in 5th they’re still only 3 points out of a playoff spot with still plenty of games to make a push.
Leading the offense is not-so-newly-acquired Matt Puempel. His team leading 38 points have been a real catalyst in turning things around for Grand Rapids. Following behind him; Eric Tangradi (34), Ben Street (33), Matt Loritio (31), Matt Ford (29), it really shows a balanced attack where scoring can and has come from everywhere in the lineup. Further proving that point, there are only six current roster Griffins that are below the 10 point mark. With the offense doing their job, its made things easier for the goal-tending tandem of Coreau and McCollum. Jared Coreau has really cemented himself as the number one goalie in Grand Rapids, playing in 30 of 45 games, posting a 2.68 GAA and .908 SV%. With Jared playing the majority of the games its been tough for McCollum to get into a similar groove and bounce back from a poor start.
With things coming together, as those closer to the team have said this type of second-half surge is very typical of Todd Nelson run teams, and the Wings preparing for the trade deadline, it certainly is going to be an interesting stretch for Grand Rapids and us fans. Hopefully resulting in a deep playoff run as the Griffins look to defend their title.