On Sunday evening, for the first time since Nov. 18, the question that begins “If the playoffs started today…” had a positive answer for the Griffins. And for the first time since Veterans Day, Grand Rapids now sits just two points out of first place in the North Division.
The Griffins’ 5-3 win over Rockford on Sunday vaulted them over Hamilton and into third place — the final guaranteed playoff spot in the North — for the first time in four months. The Bulldogs have two games in hand on Grand Rapids, but it’s the Griffins who own all the momentum.
Grand Rapids is 9-1-1-0 in its last 11, 11-2-1-0 in its last 14, 12-2-1-2 in its last 17, and 13-3-1-3 in its last 20, having played the last quarter-season’s worth of games at a 0.750 clip. Hamilton, meanwhile, has lost two straight, three of four and four of six, while missing Curtis Sanford, the AHL’s No. 2-ranked netminder who’s out for the season due to a shoulder injury, along with their top five scorers, who are all with the parent Montreal Canadiens.
Remarkably, Grand Rapids needed just 10 games and 17 days (March 4-20) to move from seventh to third in the North, leap-frogging over Rochester, Abbotsford, Toronto and Hamilton. Since sitting in last place, the Griffins have fired off an 8-1-1-0 record during their “March” to the Calder Cup Playoffs.
With 80 points, the Griffins (35-26-2-8) stand just two points behind North Division co-leaders Manitoba and Lake Erie, but also only one point ahead of Hamilton, two ahead of Toronto and three in front of Abbotsford. They’ll conclude their five-game, eight-day homestand Wednesday against the Marlies, in another of a seemingly endless string of critical contests. After that, Grand Rapids will play seven of its final eight regular season games on the road.
Before signing off, a quick tip o’ the hat to Joey MacDonald, who entered last night’s Red Wings game in the second period with Pittsburgh leading 4-0 and stoned the Penguins the rest of the way, enabling Detroit to rally for a point in a 5-4 shootout loss. Counting back to the waning minutes of a 3-1 loss at San Jose on March 3, MacDonald has posted an impressive shutout streak of 94:04, stopping all 47 shots he faced during that span.
Today’s Griffins links:
- Griffins keep on climbing (Griffins)
- Right back on the horse (Griffins)
- Griffins sign Brown, release Poderzay (Griffins)
- Monstrous result (Griffins)
- Griffins assistant coach celebrates American citizenship (MLive)
- ‘Dusted’ Griffins defeat Rockford IceHogs, move into third place (MLive)
- Griffins’ goalie rebounds from blowout loss, leads Grand Rapids back to fourth place (MLive)
- David Brown latest goaltender signed by Griffins to back up Jordan Pearce (MLive)
- Lake Erie Monsters overpower Griffins at Van Andel Arena (MLive)
- Tatar leads Griffins over Amerks 3-1 (Griffins Central)
- Monsters crush Griffins 7-2 (Griffins Central)
- Video: Griffins v IceHogs – 03 20 11 (Fox 17)
- Video: Griffins v Americans – 03 19 11 (Fox 17)
- Playoff Primer: March 22 (AHL)
- AHL Weekly: East races charge to finish (AHL)
- Leafs dip into NCAA talent pool again (Globe and Mail)
- Leafs sign forward, send him to Marlies (Toronto Sun)
- Rallo’s hat trick helps Stars stomp Manitoba (Austin American-Statesman)
- Texas Stars notebook (Austin American-Statesman)
Alumni news and notes:
Jiri Hudler is feeling better, says he’s day-to-day (Detroit News)
- Video: A helping hand…and stick (Niklas Kronwall) (Red Wings)
Video – NHL alumni goals:
- DET Valtteri Filppula – March 21 vs. PIT
- PHI Ville Leino – March 19 at DAL
- OTT Jason Spezza – March 19 vs. TB