The Afternoon Shift – March 8

Will the Griffins' final month be a Cliff Hanger?

The Griffins have closed their deficit in the race for a guaranteed playoff berth to just six points (behind Toronto), and they hold from one to three games in-hand over their four fellow combatants for that coveted third spot in the North Division standings. That’s the good news.

The bad news is, the AHL’s schedule maker may have been crossed off the Griffins’ Christmas card list forever.

Despite membership in the North Division, the Griffins will ultimately play more games this season against the West Division (46) than their own division rivals (34). By way of comparison, every other North Division squad except Abbotsford (36) will play at least half its schedule — 40 games — within the division, with Hamilton (50) and Toronto (48) leading the way.

The Griffins have clawed their way to a 6-1-0-2 record over their last nine games, seven of which were against North Division teams. But only six of their final 17 games (35%) will be played against the teams they’re directly battling for a playoff spot, while every other North Division team will play more than half of its remaining schedule within the division (Abbotsford 13 of 15, Hamilton 13 of 18, Lake Erie 11 of 15, Rochester 11 of 16, Toronto 9 of 14, and Manitoba 9 of 17).

So why is any of this significant? At this stage of the season, it’s all about points, specifically those you earn and those not earned by your rivals.

Intradivision contests are known as four-point games, since you have the opportunity to earn two points for yourself while directly preventing your rival from earning two. So, the more division opponents you face, the faster you can climb in the standings. Conversely, the fewer of those games you have, the harder to have to work to make up ground.

Compounding the challenge for the Griffins is that, while they will be off playing the majority of their games against West Division teams, the North Division squads that currently reside above them in the standings will be playing each other frequently. (For example, third-place Toronto and fourth-place Lake Erie will square off four times.) So, on any given night, there could be up to two teams they’re chasing that are guaranteed to earn two points. And in games that go to overtime or a shootout, even the loser will still pick up a point.

It’s enough to make you forget that seven of the Griffins’ final eight games will be on the road.

Of course, the Griffins’ players and coaches can’t worry about any of this, and instead must focus on what they can control: the outcome of the next game on their schedule…which certainly hasn’t been a problem lately. Tonight they’ll be in Peoria, looking for their third straight win over the Rivermen and fourth straight victory overall.

Today’s Griffins links:

AHL/opponent links:

Alumni news and notes:

Video – NHL alumni goals

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s