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Griffins Playoff Chase Hits Final Stretch
Competition for Last Playoff Spot May Go Down To The Wire...
By Jason Kasiorek

The Griffins find themselves in unfamiliar territory heading down the back stretch of the season, holding onto the last playoff spot by a scant one point margin over Iowa. Thanks to the unbalanced divisions in the Western conference, finishing 4th isn't good enough to guarantee a playoff berth. If the fifth place team in the West Division has a better record than the fourth place team in the Northern Division, that team crosses over and bumps the fourth place finisher out.

Grand Rapids has thirteen games left to nail down the last spot or spend the off-season pondering what went wrong.

Current AHL Western Conference Standings (as of 3/21/07):

Western Conference
1 Manitoba Moose 68 39 18 7 4 89 0.654113
2 Hamilton Bulldogs 67 37 23 3 4 81 0.604107
3 Rochester Americans 66 39 26 1 0 79 0.598107
4 Grand Rapids Griffins 67 33 25 6 3 75 0.560101
5 Syracuse Crunch 67 26 31 3 7 62 0.46388
6 Toronto Marlies 66 26 34 2 4 58 0.43986
1 Chicago Wolves 69 40 22 2 5 87 0.630109
2 Omaha Knights 66 39 22 4 1 83 0.629111
3 Milwaukee Admirals 68 34 22 4 8 80 0.588104
4 Peoria Rivermen 66 33 26 2 5 73 0.553101
5 Iowa Stars 68 35 29 3 1 74 0.54498
6 San Antonio Rampage 69 28 36 1 4 61 0.44283
7 Houston Aeros 67 23 35 3 6 55 0.41081

Barring a complete collapse, the Griffins should have no problem locking up fourth spot in their own division, but probably will not have enough gas to catch Rochester for 3rd. The magical number to clinch 8th in the conference is 24 points. The Griffins need a combination of Iowa (or Syracuse) losses or GR wins to equal 24 points. With only 13 games left on the schedule, that is a pretty tall order to expect them to do on their own. Using the Griffins win % so far this season they would post a record of 6-5-1-1 good for another 14 points. Applying the same math to the Stars record yields a 6-5-1-0 record good for 13 points. This would give Grand Rapids the last spot by a two point margin.

The Good:
The team has played reasonably well lately despite missing a lot of key players. The emergence of rookie Tardif and the elevated play of Oulahen and Campbell have helped. Reinforcements are on the way in the form of Matt Ellis, Derek Meech and Darryl Bootland who should soon be back in the lineup.

The Bad:
Not much of a margin for error, another multi-game losing streak could spell the end of this teams playoff hopes. Only four of their last 13 games are at home, and 8 of those games are against teams ahead of them in the standings.

The Ugly:
The powerplay is the worst in the AHL and has fallen steadily in the last few months. If the Griffins are to have any chance to advance in the playoffs, this weapon has to start producing. Grand Rapids has scored 48 goals in 396 chances, only connecting on 13% of their chances.

With all the changes, we have yet to see a full lineup with the players currently on the roster, and don't know what they are capable of. More players may be on the way with the possibility of the next group of up and comers joining the team after their junior seasons end. Names like Jakub Kindl, Cory Emmerton, and Darren Helm among other could be added to the lineup.