Anyone who was under the assumption that this would be an easy series is likely second guessing their assumptions – as well they should. Grand Rapids and Syracuse faced off at the Van twice so far this weekend and each game bore markedly different atmospheres. Game 1, held on Friday, packed a healthy crowd of 8,857. Game 2, a remarkable 10,834 die-hard Griffins fans swarmed the Van Andel – amplifying the Hockeytown West craze. Grand Rapids was crawling with festival goers and hockey fans, making it next to impossible to find a parking spot. Its a small price to pay in light of history being made. Here’s a little break down of said history…
Game 1 – Peeve, Play and Player of the game.
Peeve – Defensive breakdown. Allowing a short handed goal is bad enough – but to allow one in the finals is a concern. Allowing Syracuse to simply walk through our defense was a little upsetting to say the least.
Play – The Captain strikes again. Taking an assist mid-way through the 2nd period from Bertuzzi and Campbell, the ever-patient Paetsch was ready and waiting at the top of the right circle. An effortless wrist shot tied the game and recharged the waning Griffins.
Player – The Man. The Machine. His name is Bert. Earning two assists game one, Bert is making his presence known and no doubt, catching the eye of the big wigs in Detroit. Bertuzzi was everywhere, throwing his body into every shot and masterfully controlling the puck. For more, check out my guest writer’s player review The Man. The Machine. The MVP.
Game 2 – Peeve, Play and Player of the Game
Peeve – Dump and chase is my nemesis and all too familiar to Detroit fans. Not only does this style of play exhaust the players, but in game two, it made it impossible for the Griffins to get to the puck. Syracuse has proven to have exquisite board play and speed – whenever the puck was dumped, the Crunch got their first almost every time.
Play – It goes without saying – Tangradi to Street in the double overtime winner. Using his enormity, Tangradi carried the puck into the Syracuse zone with Street tailing him at center. In a bam-bam play, Tangradi flicked a backhand pass to Street who hammered it home to end the almost 5 period game. The deafening volume of the crowd likely paled in comparison to the relief felt by the Griffins.
Player – His name is Ben. Street had two goals and an assist in game two – including the game winner. Bumping up to 6 post season goals, Street’s on-ice authority is unquestionable. His speed is uncanny as is his ability to be ever-present in critical moments such as double overtime.
Game two was frustrating to say the least. Likely more so for Syracuse, who immediately evacuated the playing surface after overtime ended. They out-skated and out-played the Griffins the entire game and after delivering 55 shots on goal only to lose is disappointing. They will be in search of retribution upon their return home.
Heading back to Syracuse will put the Griffins at a disadvantage and they will need to clean up their play prior to faceoff on Wednesday. They know this better than any of us and I have no doubt that they’ll meet the challenge head on. Until Wednesday, we all can breathe.