Apparently, the Griffins prefer to save their best games for the road. They won games 1 and 2 on the road in Hamilton, by scores of 4-3 and 3-1. They came home to Van Andel Arena with an unexpected two games to nothing lead, and we hoped they would finish it off at home. In their first game of these playoffs at home, the Griffins let in 5 goals, losing 5-4. They followed that up on Wednesday with a disappointing 4-3 loss in OT, having lost a 3-0 lead in the last ten minutes of the game. This was apparent inspiration for the Griffs, who came back big on Friday night. They won 4-1 after dominating almost the entire game and allowing only three shots in the third period. For the first time this season at home, they played a full sixty minutes.
Game five gave fans a lot of confidence as the Griffins headed to Hamilton to hopefully finish off the Bulldogs. I did not get to see the first two periods because of Internet problems, but did catch the third. The Bulldogs got on the board first, very early. Stewart, who had just returned to Hamilton on Friday from Montreal, scored just nine seconds into the game. That’s all they managed for the whole game. Griffins captain Darren Haydar scored at 5:25 on the powerplay. Justin Abdelkader scored the only goal of the second period, and Cory Emmerton put the game away 13:45 into the third. Ville Leino chipped in an empty netter with 38 seconds remaining. The Griffins won by a score of 4-1 again (the magical score for both the Wings and Griffins these playoffs).Â Â The Griffins only had two shots in the third, scoring on both. The Bulldogs only managed three shots that period, and the final shot numbers were 23-18 in favor of Hamilton. The Griffins went 1-4 on the powerplay, while the Bulldogs went 0-2.
Justin Abdelkader was easily the MVP of the series for GR. He scored 6 goals, 8 points and was +4. He was also a huge energy player, replacing the hits that left with Darren Helm. He could have spent a little less time in the penalty box (15 minutes), but a lot of that time was from post-whislte fights. Leino was targeted by the Bulldogs all series, and finished with 12 points, including 3 goals. Jimmy Howard was apparently good in games 1 and 2, but looked shaky in games 3 and 4. He returned to form in game 5, though he wasn’t challenged much. I didn’t see a lot of him in game 6, so I can’t speak for where he’s at right now. Darren McCarty finished the series with 2 goals and 1 assist, while Aaron Downey had 1 assist and 13 penalty minutes.
The Griffins will now face the Manitoba Moose, who finished off the Toronto Marlies in six games. The series will start in Winnipeg, with games one and two on Friday and Saturday. The Griffins will again have a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule at home. Then the series shifts back to Manitoba on the following Sunday and Tuesday. Full schedules can be found here.