The playoffs are unpredictable, blood curdling and heart stopping all at the same time. In a nutshell, you should have a Life Alert on you at all times. Saturday’s game was the essence of the playoff hockey spirit.
After an embarrassing loss to Chicago Friday (pardon the brashness), the Griffins came home to Grand Rapids with high hopes of taking the series lead and putting Friday behind them. The hometown crowd, ever faithful and supportive, was more than happy to encourage the demise of Chicago and spur on their boys. In decisive fashion, the Griffins tallied 3 goals in the first period courtesy of Street, Ford and Bertuzzi, stunting the Wolves momentum from the previous match. Despite a Chicago goaltending change (Husso replaced by Binnington), the Griffins held the 3-0 lead until a shocking turn of events in the third period.
The Wolves, a very capable team, did not take long after the puck dropped in the third period, to reassert their playoff finesse. A poor turnover resulted in Chicago’s Butler, making a statement of his own and followed shortly after a one-time shot from MacEachern. Blindsided by the sudden turn of events, the Griffins determined to take the game back into their hands. Firing everything that touched his stick, the Griffins’ Joe Hicketts decidedly took control of the game and netted a powerhouse slap shot – sealing the fate of Chicago.
Coming into the game, admittedly, I was anxious but like any hockey fan, hopeful. I know the team I’ve watched grown and mature through the season, could take the disappointment of loss and make it work to their advantage. Grand Rapids goaltender, Jared Coreau, played the best I’ve seen him play in this playoff run. With a strong glove hand and many key saves, he stopped 27 shots and stood his ground – defying any idle chatter in regards to his performance the night before. I am often a naysayer when it comes to goalies, as are many hockey fans, and I can be perhaps a little hard on them, but Coreau has shown to be a dominating figure between the pipes and has been living up to his “The Big Man” nickname.
As expected, the second round of these Calder Cup playoffs has proven to be significantly more physical and grueling. The unmistakable Chicago-style of play will only increase as the series trickles along, and the Griffins will be ready for the challenge.
Game four is scheduled at the Freezer on Fulton Monday evening. Though the Griffins lead the series 2-1, its too soon to relax just yet. Its the playoffs – anything can happen.