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:
- Griffins announce Clear Day roster (Griffins)
- All hands on deck (Griffins)
- Beyond com-Pare (Griffins)
- Group effort (Griffins)
- Choosing stick over scalpel, for now (Jordan Pearce) (AHL)
- Griffins’ Clear Day roster contains no surprises; Adam Keefe signed to standard contract (MLive)
- Griffins’ Travis Ehrhardt eager to pick up where he left off before injury (MLive)
- Joakim Andersson hitting stride in rookie season with Griffins (MLive)
- Francis Pare takes ribbing from Griffins’ teammates after fan reaction to hat trick in win (MLive)
- Griffins hold off late charge by Rochester Americans, climb out of last place (MLive)
- Jordan Owens leaves Griffins game after breaking arm (MLive)
- Monsters coach David Quinn likes makeup of current Griffins team (MLive)
- Pare’s hat trick helps rip Rochester 5-2 (Griffins Central)
- Griffins hang on to beat Amerks 5-4 (Griffins Central)
- Video: Griffins – 03.05.11 (Fox 17)
- Star Wars fans help hockey youth (WZZM 13)
- Rivermen caught short at a bad time (Peoria Journal Star)
- Listless Texas Stars fall to Syracuse (Austin American-Statesman)
Alumni news and notes:
- Whale sign Lemieux to AHL contract (Connecticut Whale)
- Jonathan Ericsson shows plenty of improvement in second year with Red Wings (MLive)
- Oilers recall Alex Giroux (Edmonton Oilers)
- Barons ink Helmer to two-year deal (Oklahoma City Barons)
Video – NHL alumni goals
- DET Darren Helm – March 5 at PHX
- DET Valtteri Filppula – March 5 at PHX
- EDM Alexandre Giroux – March 5 at COL
- NYR Sean Avery – March 3 vs. MIN