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November 2010 Grand Rapids Griffins Report
Offense hits the skids as home-ice becomes disadvantage...
By Jason Kasiorek
December 1, 2010

Home ice advantage has been a particularly brutal myth for the Griffins so far this season. November saw the team post a 1-6 record in seven games at the Van Andel Arena, adding to their 1-3 start in October to give them a stunning 2-9 record at home. Add to that the fact that the team was outscored 23-14 during that 1-6 stretch including a pair of shutouts. It looks even worse when you see that they only managed 5 goals total in the last 5 home games.

The biggest question in this losing streak is where did the offense go? This team was among the highest scoring the first month, and nearly everyone has gone quiet at the same time. The one bright spot last month was the road game explosion against the Wolves that saw the Griffins put up 10 goals on the way to a 10-8 victory. The win broke or tied over 10 franchise records including Tomas Tatar’s 7 point night (2 goals + 5 Assists).

The coaching staff has their work cut out for them as the team seems to have sprung several leaks. The special teams, especially the powerplay, have fallen from the top ten to the bottom half of the league. Another contributing factor has been the shaky goaltending of Thomas McCollum in the absence of Joey MacDonald. Add in the prolonged scoring slumps of veterans like Jamie Johnson and Chris Minard among others, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Grand Rapids sits in 5th place in the North Division, 8 points out of first with an underwhelming 22 points in 22 games for a .500 record. That record also leaves them 12th in the western conference and 22nd in the AHL. They do occupy the top spot however in one category, a very uncharacteristic penalty minutes. In 13 games in November the Griffins managed a 4-7-0-2 record, giving them an overall record of 9-9-0-4 in 22 games this season. Grand Rapids offense has slipped to 17th in the AHL (62 goals) while the defense has fallen to 21st (67 goals against).

The following is a review for November:

OFFENSE - After scorching through the first month of the season with a red hot offense, the team became mired in a slump of epic proportions. At one point the Griffins had been shutout 3 times in 5 games and scored 5 goals total in a 7 game span. The number one line continues to feature the dynamic duo of Cory Emmerton at center, and Jan Mursak on the wing. For most of the month the other spot was occupied by Ilari Filppula, but after the talented Finn went down with an injury, Tomas Tatar moved up to take his place. The result was a record setting night for Tatar and a 14 point night for the trio. From there things get a little sketchy as players were moved around to try and jumpstart the offense. Frankie Pare was moved to center from the wing, flanked by Willie Coetzee and the slumping Jamie Johnson, and the line had some good chances with Coetzee going to the net and taking passes from Pare. Jamie Tardif was also moved to center, flanked by speedy Jordan Owens and veteran Chris Minard to form a banging and crashing line that was surprisingly dangerous with the puck. The fourth line remained fairly intact with Brent Raedeke centering Brandon Straub and a variety of players including Brian Lashoff, Travis Ehrhardt and Joakim Andersson.

November Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Tomas Tatar 13 4 8 12 7 4 27Broke out of slump with record game.
Jamie Tardif 13 4 3 7 31 2 34Off to a great start offensively.
Jan Mursak 13 3 4 7 17 2 32Slumping sniper still contributes.
Cory Emmerton 13 2 5 7 8 6 24 Two-way center continues breakout season.
Chris Minard 13 2 4 6 13 -7 30Working hard, but goals still not coming.
Ilari Filppula 10 2 4 6 6 0 19 Slick scorer felled by blindside hit.
Frankie Pare 13 3 2 5 21 -5 47Versatile forward fills many roles.
Jordan Owens 12 1 3 4 21 -2 16Speedy forward shows glimpses of finding game.
Brent Raedeke 13 1 1 2 0 1 15Defensive gem provides energy and consistency.
Jamie Johnson 13 0 2 2 0 -8 12 Struggling veteran running out of time.
Willie Coetzee 7 0 2 2 4 0 9Talented rookie shows signs of breaking out.
Brandon Straub 8 1 0 1 50 2 1Enforcer adds first career AHL goal.
Joakim Andersson 12 0 1 1 4 -1 17Big center moved to the wing to jumpstart game.

DEFENSE - Injuries and ineffectiveness have led to this group being rotated around a lot as coach Fraser looks for the right combinations. As of late the first pairing has been steady Doug Janik flanking impressive second year man Travis Ehrhardt. Brendan Smith has been on the second duo with a variety of partners including Sergei Kolosov, Derek Meech and most recently Brian Lashoff. The third pairing has been Logan Pyett and veteran Greg Amadio. The Griffins also dressed 7 blueliner’s a number of times last month, with Ehrhardt and Lashoff also seeing time up front on the wing. Lashoff missed most of the month due to a separated shoulder, while Meech missed the last few games with what is described as an illness.

October Thumbnails:
Player GPGAPTSPIM+/-ShtsNotes
Doug Janik 13 1 4 5 15 4 26 Steadying influence on return from NHL.
Logan Pyett 13 2 2 4 16 -6 24Powerplay point man working on defense.
Brendan Smith 13 2 2 4 26 -3 29 Rookie phenom playing better than numbers show.
Derek Meech 11 2 1 3 29 -1 22 Puck mover plays a lot of minutes.
Travis Ehrhardt 5 1 1 2 10 7 4 Two-way defenseman impressive in limited action.
Greg Amadio 13 0 1 1 49 -6 4 AHL warrior gives his all.
Brian Lashoff 4 0 1 1 11 2 4 Returned to form after injury woes.
Sergei Kolosov 9 0 0 0 8 -1 6 Struggling to regain last season's form.

GOALTENDING - Grand Rapids goaltending took a major league hit when ace netminder Joey MacDonald was recalled by Detroit, where he stayed for the entire month. Thomas McCollum had a couple of strong outings, and then fell apart, posting a 2-6-1 record. His 3.01 GAA was buoyed by a 1-0 shutout loss he suffered at the beginning of the month. The good news was third stringer Jordan Pearce, who was summoned from Toledo (ECHL) and turned in a 2-1-1 record. He looked strong between the pipes, and the team seemed to have more confidence playing in front of him. One of his wins was a franchise record breaking 10-8 victory over the Chicago Wolves that saw the team rally back and score 7 second period goals.

SPECIAL TEAMS - The Griffins powerplay took a big dip in November falling from #1 in the AHL at 28.2% to 17th at 16.2%. As a matter of fact, the team only scored 6 goals in 66 chances last month, a 9% conversion clip. On the road, the man advantage units fell from 1st to 17th, only managing 2 goals in 34 chances (6%). The home powerplay went from 10th to 18th scoring 4 goals in 32 chances (12.5%). Emmerton and Mursak lead the way with three powerplay markers apiece, closely followed by Filppula, Smith, Pyett and Meech with 2 each.

The penalty killing has plummeted as well, from 6th place (88.9%) to 12th place (83.9%), stopping 56 of 70 shorthanded opportunities (80%). The road efficiency took the biggest hit, tumbling from 2nd (96.9%) to 5th (87.5%) stopping 32 of 40 powerplay chances (80%). While at home things actually improved slightly from last month, climbing one spot from 24th to 23rd (78.8%), killing off 24 of 30 (80%). Mursak, Emmerton, Raedeke, Owens and Tardif continue to be regulars while down a man.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH - Jamie Tardif. The captain narrowly edged out Tatar and his record setting 7 point game for the honor this month. In November, Tardif posted a very respectable 4 goals and 3 assists for 7 points, good for second on the team. But those numbers only tell part of the story, as a lot of his value can’t be measured that way. He is involved every shift, every game giving 100% effort and leading by example. During a very trying month for the team, he was one of the hardest workers in all three zones, and was one of the few players who brought a consistent physical game.

ROOKIE WATCH - Coetzee had a place in the Griffins record book until a post game scoring change took away one of his three assists. The first year forward has started to show off some great moves around the net, including a couple of spin-o-rama’s that he just lost the handle on. Pearce played as strongly as he has as a professional, outplaying McCollum last month, and serving notice that he is ready if called on again. Lashoff returned from the injury list a new man, having lost the rookie jitters and returned to the form that turned heads the last few springs. Smith continued to play a strong game, despite his scoring totals dropping. He looked frustrated at times, which no doubt played into his offensive drought. Raedeke is speed and effort every night, but looks more skilled than his meager offensive totals would indicate. His defensive game is on line, and it would not be a surprise to see his offense take off in the second half. His line has done a great job of keeping the puck deep in the opponent’s zone and working the cycle despite less than talented wingers.

CURRENT INJURIES - Ilari Filppula – Concussion – Day-to-day… Derek Meech – Undisclosed Illness – Day-to-day…

NOTABLE MOVEMENT - D Sebastien Piche – Assigned to Toledo (ECHL)… D/RW Brandon Straub – Released from PTO… Straub Signed to 1 yr contract…

KEY STATS - Brendan Smith is tied for 15th in defenseman with 13 points… Smith is also tied for 16th in rookie scoring… Jan Mursak is tied for 5th with 2 shorthanded goals… Greg Amadio is 8th in the AHL with 68 penalty minutes… Cory Emmerton is tied for 3rd at +12… Brian Lashoff and Joakim Andersson are tied for 6th with 1 shorthanded assist… Frankie Pare is 13th with 72 shots… Joey MacDonald and Thomas McCollum are tied for 9th with one shutout each… McCollum is 12th in minutes played… Emmerton has the fifth longest assist streak on the season at 6 games (9 assists)… Mursak has the 4th longest point streak at 8 games… Emmerton has the 12th longest point streak at 7 games (12 points)… Mursak and Brent Raedeke are tied for 3rd with 2 unassisted goals…

IN THE PIPELINE - Defenseman Sebastien Piche was assigned to Toledo this month and put up an impressive 7 points in the 11 games he saw action in. His -7 defensive rating is more indicative of the team in general, and not an indictment of his improving defensive game.

NHL ALUMNI WATCH - Garrett Stafford and Matt Ellis were both recalled to the NHL for stints last month. This brings the number of Griffins alumni to suit up in the NHL this season to 29. Current stats as of 12/1/10:

PlayerGP G A PTS PIM +/-
Justin Abdelkader, Detroit 123 4 7 15 8
Sean Avery, Rangers 25 1 9 10 84 4
Sheldon Brookbank, Anaheim 18 00 0 38 -6
Mark Eaton, NY Islanders 22 0 0 0 6-4
Matt Ellis, Buffalo Sabres 6 0 0 0 0-1
Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit 12 1 0 1 19 2
Valtteri Filppula, Detroit 20 5 6 11 6 4
Aaron Gagnon, Dallas 1 0 0 0 0 0
Darren Helm, Detroit 20 1 4 5 2 3
Jiri Hudler, Detroit 17 1 5 6 6 -5
Douglas Janik, Detroit 7 0 0 0 7 -2
Chris Kelly, Ottawa 25 3 3 6 22 -3
Jakub Kindl, Detroit 11 0 0 0 12 -3
Tomas Kopecky, Chicago 26 312 5 26 -6
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit 20 4 6 10 6 4
Brett Lebda, Toronto 11 0 0 0 8 -10
Ville Leino, Philadelphia 25 5 14 19 8 10
Chris Neil, Ottawa 25 1 4 5 72 0
Scott Parse, Los Angeles 5 1 3 4 05
Mattias Ritola, Tampa Bay 15 1 3 4 6-6
Kyle Quincey, Colorado 15 0 0 0 12 -2
Jason Spezza, Ottawa 20 6 8 14 8 1
Garrett Stafford, Phoenix 2 0 0 0 0 0
Danny Syvret, Anaheim/Philadelphia 6 1 1 2 4 -3
Todd White, Rangers 13 1 1 2 2 0
Jeremy Williams, Rangers 1 0 0 0 00

PlayerGP W-L-T GAA SV%
Jimmy Howard, Detroit 18 14-2-2 2.52 .913
Patrick Lalime, Buffalo 5 0-4-0 3.03 .891
Joey MacDonald, Detroit 1 0-0-0 3.00 .875

UP NEXT - The Griffins face a slate of 14 games in December including 10 at home in the not so friendly confines of the Van Andel Arena. The team opens the month on the road against Milwaukee before coming home with a pair against the San Antonio Rampage. Next up is a rematch with the Admirals at home followed by a meeting with the Texas Stars. Mid-month features a short trip to Peoria, then back home to face the Houston Aeros, Texas Stars and a home-and-home rematch with Peoria. The last few contest’s, should bring some exciting games as the Griffins will faceoff with the Toronto Marlies twice and the Chicago Wolves once. The last time the Griffins and Toronto played, it resulted in a franchise record with 105 penalty minutes for GR and some unfinished business thanks to a dirty hit on Ilari Filppula that left the forward on the injury list. The Wolves will also be looking for a little payback after being the victim of a record setting 7 goal second period en route to a 10-8 victory at the end of November.