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March/April 2010 Grand Rapids Griffins Report
Late surge not enough to escape basement...
By Jason Kasiorek
April 16, 2010

The curtain finally fell on the Griffins playoff chances, but it did not go easily. The team dug deep and turned in its best stretch of the season to keep itself in contention until the bitter end. Several players solidified their standing in the organization during the run including Justin Abdelkader, Mattias Ritola and Jakub Kindl who showed they were ready for NHL duty. Sergei Kolosov, Logan Pyett and Jan Mursak among others took the next step in their development. At the other end of the spectrum Brian Lashoff, Willie Coetzee and Landon Ferraro represent the future of the organization and got their feet wet at the pro level.

Grand Rapids finished up the season with a 9-6-1-2 run, bolstered by the additions of Abdelkader, May, Owens, Armstrong and Tollefsen and the snarl that was infused into the lineup. This late season surge helped them avoid setting franchise records for fewest losses and points, but their 34 wins and 75 points still landed them in the North Division and Western conference basements, 13 games out of the last playoff spot. This didn't discourage fans however as they boasted the leagues fourth best attendance record at 7016 per game.

The following is a review for March and April:

OFFENSE - With the team mired in last place and still sliding, management pulled the plug on several players, in an attempt to shake things up. The number one line of Justin Abdelkader centering Mattias Ritola and either Jeremy Williams or Jan Mursak was white hot the last month and a half of the season posting 44 points in 18 games. Brad May has been playing with Cory Emmerton, flanked either by Mursak or Williams, and have been providing offense as well with 12 goals and 17 assists. The third line has Tomas Tatar and Frankie Pare on the wings usually with banger Riley Armstrong between them. They accounted for 9 goals and 9 assists the last stretch. The defacto fourth line has been very potent at both ends of the ice with speedy John Vigilante centering captain Jamie Tardif and newcomer Jordan Owens on an energy line that also posted 5 goals and 16 assists. As is the custom, the team added several college and junior players at the end of the season, so Brandon Wong, Willie Coetzee and Brendan Ferraro also got into a couple of games apiece filling in throughout the roster.

Final Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Jeremy Williams 17 12 7 19 16 3 48Veteran Scorer Gets hot.
Justin Abdelkader 17 6 7 13 49 5 42Return from NHL showcases complete game.
Mattias Ritola 18 5 7 12 45 46Slick winger has a torrid finish.
Brad May 17 5 5 10 40 1 34Veteran provides a presence and an unexpected touch.
Jan Mursak 18 4 6 10 2 23 25Slovenian Sniper finishes strong.
Cory Emmerton 17 3 6 9 6 0 36Development stalled for lanky forward.
Jamie Tardif 17 3 6 9 25 1 34Gritty Captain does it all.
Francis Pare 18 3 5 8 8 1 31Offensive dynamo still trying to regain touch.
John Vigilante 18 1 6 7 8 3 20Hard working speedster sparks 4th line.
Patrick Rissmiller 6 4 2 6 4 -3 0Broken wrist sidelines veteran center.
Tomas Tatar 12 3 2 5 2 0 27Hard work not showing up on the scoresheet.
Riley Armstrong 17 3 2 5 2 0 27Gritty vet brings an edge to the team.
Jordan Owens 17 1 4 5 22 -1 28Speedy grinder still trying to find his game.

DEFENSE - The defense underwent an amazing transformation the last 6 weeks of the season due to a series of personnel changes that added depth and removed a disgruntled piece. The underachieving Andy Delmore was dealt to Calgary by the parent wings, ending weeks of speculation about his status as a healthy scratch. Physical blueliner Ole-Kristian Tollefsen joined the lineup after the Olympics and brought a snarl that had been missing this season with his gritty game. Returning with him was 6'4 Sergei Kolosov who was paired with Logan Pyett to form a standout defensive pairing. Tollefsen played with steady vet Doug Janik on a shutdown unit that was not afraid to mix it up. Jakub Kindl played with a variety of partners until rookie Brian Lashoff joined the Griffins following the conclusion of his junior season. Kindl had been playing well prior to being matched up with Lashoff, but took his game to new heights and played his best stretch as a pro showing a glimpse of his potential after the move. Enforcer Paul Crosty and rookie Travis Ehrhardt also saw limited time during the last six weeks of the season.

Final Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Doug Janik17 09930 5 36Steady vet continues strong play.
Jakub Kindl 18 0 9 9 6 4 45Finally finding stride as a pro.
Sergei Kolosov16 1 3 4 12 -1 23 Raised game a notch after Olympics.
Logan Pyett 18 1 3 4 14 3 27 Offense tailed off in the last quarter.
Brian Lashoff 6 0 2 2 2 5 3Bright future for steady rookie.
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen13 1 0 1 40 0 11 Keeps opposing forwards looking.
Travis Ehrhardt 5 0 0 0 6 1 3Improving before being pushed down depth chart.
Paul Crosty 13 0 0 0 35 -2 10 Lost regular spot in the lineup.

GOALTENDING - Daniel Larsson rebounded to turn the last part of his season around. He posted a 6-3-1-1 record in his last 11 decisions and a 2.52GAA with a .909 save percentage. The second year man looked much more like the promising prospect he was last season, thanks in part to a better team in front of him. Rookie Thomas McCollum pulled out of his three and a half month tailspin, notching his first win since mid December en route to a 3-3-0-1 record the last stretch. He posted a decent .903 save percentage, but his goals against average was still over 3 during that stretch. He should be recalled to Detroit during the playoffs for some work with goalie coach Jim Bedard and come back next season ready for a better season.

SPECIAL TEAMS - Grand Rapids' special teams for the most part continued to be their downfall. The powerplay unit fell to 17th overall with a 17.1% success rate (56 for 328), with both the home and road units dipping as well. At home they clicked along at an 18.5% rate (31 for 168), good enough for 16th, while away from the friendly confines of Van Andel arena they were 18th at 15.6 % (25 for 160). Williams continued to lead the way with 14 powerplay goals, followed by Rissmiller with 9, Ritola and Tardif 6, Mursak 4, Pare and Tatar 3 and Pyett with 2.

The penalty killing has been very Jekyll and Hyde with the 10th rated PK unit at home (85.4%, 140 of 164), and an abysmal last place road rating 75.3% (134 for 178). Over all they sit 26th at killing off the man advantage at 80.1% (274 for 342). Normal penalty killers include Ritola, Abdelkader, Vigilante, Tardif, Rissmiller, Armstrong, May, Janik, Pyett and Kolosov. Pyett leads the way with two shorthanded markers, while seven other players were tied with one.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH - It would be tough to overlook the offense contributions of Jeremy Williams, but this month must split the player of the month designation. Williams is clearly the offensive player of the month, notching 12 goals in 17 games along with 7 assists for 19 points. We would be remiss however if we did not recognize the defensive contributions of two-way forward John Vigilante. The co-player of the month, Michigan native Vigilante has been one of the few constants this season. He gives 100% every game no matter what the score, and was particularly noticeable down the stretch, setting up captain Jamie Tardif for some big goals and posting 7 points and a +3 in 18 games. His speed and hustle make him an ace penalty killer and his ability to play all three positions up front have made him a valuable contributor to this team.

ROOKIE WATCH - Ehrhardt has continued his steady improvement, turning in a solid defensive game in limited action. Netminder McCollum broke his epic losing streak, dating back to December, and was rewarded with several starts at the end of the season. Tatar has continued to work hard and create chances but has not been rewarded much on the scoresheet.

CURRENT INJURIES - C Ryan Oulahen, Hip - Indefinite... Patrick Rissmiller, Wrist - Out for the season...

NOTABLE MOVEMENT - C Kris Newbury Traded by Detroit (NHL) to New York Rangers (NHL)... LW Jordan Owens Acquired From Rangers and assigned by Detroit... D Andy Delmore traded by Detroit (NHL) to Calgary (NHL)... RW Riley Armstrong Acquired from Calgary and assigned by Detroit... C Evan McGrath reassigned to Syracuse (AHL)... F Brandon Wong Signed to ATO by Grand Rapids (AHL)... RW Willie Coetzee assigned by Detroit (NHL)... C Landon Ferraro Signed to ATO by Grand Rapids (AHL)... D Brian Lashoff assigned by Detroit (NHL)... Lashoff reassigned to Kingston (OHL)... Coetzee reassigned to Red Deer (WHL)... Ferraro released from ATO... LW Tomas Tatar reassigned to Slovakian National Team... D Ole-Kristian Tollefsen reassigned to Norwegian National Team... RW Jan Mursak reassigned to Slovenian National Team... Wong released from ATO... G Daniel Larsson recalled by Detroit (NHL)... D Jakub Kindl recalled by Detroit (NHL)... D Doug Janik recalled by Detroit (NHL)... LW Brad May recalled by Detroit (NHL)... C Justin Abdelkader recalled by Detroit (NHL)... LW Mattias Ritola recalled by Detroit (NHL)...

KEY STATS - Jeremy Williams finished 8th in the AHL in goals with 32... Williams was also tied for 4th with 14 powerplay goals...He was also tied for 7th with 7 first goals... Jan Mursak was tied for 14th with 6 first goals... Cory Emmerton was tied for 11th with 3 unassisted goals... Emmerton and Tomas Tatar were also tied for 4th with 3 empty net goals apiece... Mursak was tied for ninth with 2... Daniel Larsson was 7th in games played... Larsson was tied for 17th with 23 wins... He was also 4th in losses with 24... Larsson was also 9th in shots against with 1395 and 9th in saves with 1260... Doug Janik finished tied for 21 in defense scoring with 37 points... Jan Mursak was tied for the 7th longest goal streak of the season at 5 games... Justin Abdelkader was tied for 13th with an 8 games point-scoring streak...

IN THE PIPELINE - Jordan Pearce wrapped up the regular season with the Toledo Walleye, posting a 4-3-1 record with a 3.48 GAA and .899 save percentage. Consistency seems to be his big downfall right now as he played well enough to win the ECHL's goalie of the week in that span, but also got lit up for 5 or more goals 3 times. Sebastien Piche scored 9 assists in his last 12 games with a +2 and 20 shots to close out the regular season, showing he was making some steps in the right direction. Unfortunately, the former QMJHL powerplay ace has also found it much tougher going as a pro, finishing the season with a 17 game goalless streak, and some rather pedestrian numbers for the season.

NHL ALUMNI WATCH - Clay Wilson suited up for a game with the Florida Panthers to become the latest Griffins alumni to play in the NHL this season. Current stats as of 04/16/10:

PlayerGP G A PTS PIM +/-
Justin Abdelkader, Detroit5033 6 35 -11
Sean Avery, Rangers69 11 20 31 160 0
Sheldon Brookbank, Anaheim66 0 9 9 114 10
Pavol Demitra, Vancouver28 3 13 16 0 3
Mark Eaton, Pittsburgh79 3 13 16 26 5
Matt Ellis, Buffalo72 3 10 13 12 -1
Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit62 4 9 13 44 -15
Valtteri Filppula, Detroit 55 11 24 35 24 -4
Aaron Gagnon, Dallas 2 0 0 0 0 0
Alexandre Giroux, Washington9 1 2 3 4 3
Darren Haydar, Colorado1 0 0 0 0 0
Darren Helm, Detroit75 11 13 24 18 -2
Shane Hnidy, Minnesota 70 2 12 14 66 -6
Douglas Janik, Detroit 13 0 2 2 18 -3
Ryan Keller, Ottawa 6 0 0 0 0 -1
Chris Kelly, Ottawa 81 15 17 32 38 -7
Jakub Kindl, Detroit 3 0 0 0 0 -1
Tomas Kopecky, Chicago 74 10 11 21 28 0
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit 48 7 15 22 32 5
Brett Lebda, Detroit 63 1 7 8 24 -2
Ville Leino, Detroit/Philadelphia 55 6 5 11 10 -8
Brad May, Detroit 40 0 1 1 66 -5
Derek Meech, Detroit 49 2 4 6 19 -12
Glen Metropolit, Montreal69 16 13 29 24 -1
Chris Neil, Ottawa68 10 12 22 175 -1
Kris Newbury, Detroit 4 1 0 1 4 1
Scott Parse, Los Angeles59 11 13 24 22 13
Kyle Quincey, Colorado 79 6 23 29 76 9
Mattias Ritola, Detroit 5 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Spezza, Ottawa 60 23 34 57 20 0
Danny Syvret, Philadelphia21 2 2 4 12 1
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, Philadelphia18 0 2 2 23 1
Todd White, Atlanta 65 7 19 26 24 -11
Jason Williams, Detroit 44 6 9 15 8 -7
Clay Wilson, Florida 2 0 0 0 0 -5

PlayerGP W-L-T GAA SV%
Jimmy Howard, Detroit 62 36-15-10 2.27 .924
Patrick Lalime, Buffalo 15 4-7-2 2.87 .905
Daniel Larsson, Detroit 0 0-0-0 0.00 .000
Joey MacDonald, Toronto/Anaheim 6 1-4-0 3.20 .892

UP NEXT - The offseason should see a host of changes for a team that missed the playoffs. Ritola, Abdelkader and Kindl will graduate to the NHL, while prospects like Brian Lashoff, Willie Coetzee and Brandon Smith should join the pro ranks full time.