Guest Writer: Jenae
Who has two thumbs and is psyched about playoff hockey? This girl. As a die-hard hockey fan, playoff hockey time is a new breed of the sport. Tensions are higher. All of the sudden this team you’ve beaten eight times in regulation and over-time combined stands between your team and the Calder Cup. The Grand Rapids Griffins have proven they are the team to beat in this post season. Boasting a sweep of the Milwaukee Admirals in the first round, the Griffins are hungrier than ever to get that cup back to the Freezer on Fulton. As in any playoff series, every player is anxious to be the difference maker. Every facet of the team is important. From the equipment manager to the goaltender – they all bring either success or failure to their team. Is there one that stands out from the rest these two series? To me, there are many. With such deep talent in the Griffin’s team, standing out is a task in itself. For me, the most valuable player of the Grand Rapids Griffins of these two series has been my personal favorite Tyler Bertuzzi.
What makes a player stand out in the American Hockey League? What is it that makes them the star of the game or the one that is noticed by coaches and teams around the National and American Hockey League? Three things can help a player stand out: well-rounded playing style, being a play maker and defensive offense. Personally, I remember watching Tyler Bertuzzi’s Uncle, Todd Bertuzzi, with the Detroit Red Wings. He was a rough and scruffy forward we acquired first from Florida in 2007 and then from Calgary in 2009. Naturally hearing number 39 (Bertuzzi) came from such genes is a great start already. Tyler Bertuzzi has often been heralded as “the guy looking for a fight.” In the beginning of his first professional season he gleaned 133 penalty minutes and 30 points in 71 games. Coming into the 2016-17 season it seems he was focused on shaping his game more when his penalty minutes reduced to 37 and points in 48 games raise to 37. Being the primary affiliate of the Red Wings, Griffins fans are accustomed to a gentleman’s team (even the Wing’s Grind Line of the 90’s had their class). While the hockey fans only watching for the fights let out a deep *sigh* we remember Griff’s players don’t throw the first punch, but will defend their club to whatever end. Bert has not only contributed 8 points through these seven games of the playoffs, but has accrued 16 penalty minutes thus far. Bertuzzi has matured his playing style. He isn’t the goon, but he isn’t going to sit and let his face get beat in. He gets the goals, assists and penalty minutes.
I am my loudest at a game when Bert gets on the ice. I’m sure the fans surrounding me get annoyed with my constant and monotonous, “Bert…Bert…BERT!” fan-girl chanting. How can I help when he’s always all over the ice making plays happen? First he’s on the left, then he’s in the middle, then he’s screening, then he’s hitting, then he’s going to the sin-bin on a bogus call (well, sometimes bogus). Whatever the play and whomever the team, Bertuzzi is constantly on the puck. Certainly his five assists and three goals so far speak for themselves. He is the player that an opposing team dreads facing and if he weren’t a Griffin he’d be the player the Griffin’s fans dreaded. If the other team wants to clear their zone, if they want a point, if they want the puck – they have to go through number 39 (Bertuzzi) first.
Like all MVP’s, one needs to be careful to remember that there is always improvement. No one is where they want to be with their game and the Griffin’s tireless work ethic suggests that fact already. A team that has advanced to this championship cannot be overlooked. Speaking in regards of my MVP and the team as a whole, the biggest fact the Griffins need to remember is to keep the opposing team out of their head and their game. Some teams (ahem, Wolves) are always going to bully and distract from the game. Points win, not penalty minutes. Defend yourselves and your team. Get that Lindbohm (14), Sterling (29) and Agozzino (9) – but get those points too.
On a final note to you, our Griffins and for all you crazy Griffin’s fans out there to chant wherever you are…BEAT. THE. WOLVES.