Wolves’ have no bite early, can’t stay with high-flying Griffins

Yes, young Anton – SHOOT! (Photo: Chris Jerina/AHL in Photos)

Everyone knows how the Red Wings know how to draft and how to develop those draft picks. In case that’s ever forgotten, watching the Grand Rapids Griffins is a good reminder of this fact. It’s a lineup that features talent from top to bottom, even if they haven’t had the greatest start to the season. 

The Wolves themselves have shown that they can score, but the powerplay remained an issue. The goaltending has been there, but the penalty killing has been inconsistent to say the least.

The Wolves’ powerplay actually clicked for once, but the penalty kill couldn’t keep the puck out of the net at the end of the game, as the Griffins grabbed the victory 3-2 in overtime.

On to the game…

– We’ve raved about Zack Kassian’s game so far this season, but this was probably his weakest effort of the season. He did manage three scoring chances of his own, but was invisible for much of the game. He started the game on a line with BIll Sweatt and Jordan Schroeder but Darren Haydar was skating in his place by the latter stages of the second period. Very little of his power game was in evidence and no one from Grand Rapids challenged him at all physically.

– Alex Friesen picked up an assist on Kevin Connauton’s second period power play marker. It was Friesen’s best game as a pro and he picked up ice time as the game progressed. His appearance on the power play was no fluke. It’s the kind of game that will keep him in the lineup, especially in the current 27-man squad.

– Jordan Schroeder got better as the game went along, but he’s got to start bagging his chances. His two chances came in the game’s final six minutes; the second was a great power play chance on a cross-crease pass. Schroeder took the puck facing the left of the net, but his quick shot was robbed by Grand Rapids goalie Tom McCollum

– Like Schroeder, Anton Rodin has got to start putting the biscuit in the basket. We are noting how well he’s playing and is creating chances, but his shots need to be better. He was credited with two tonight, but he’s only got seven on the season. He know he can dangle, but in the end, it is about results.

– Andrew Gordon’s second period goal came off of great patience by Mike Davies, who had rushed down the ice to collect Brett Sterling’s long-bomb pass. The two Griffins defenders splayed on the ice, but Davies stayed focused, let them slide past and then fed a perfect pass over to Gordon, who one-timed the puck into the net.

– Mike Davies, recalled from the CHL on Friday, had his second straight strong game. His speed is his strength and he clicked well with Schroeder and Sweatt last year. He’s bounced around the lineup this season (when he’s been in the lineup), but just like Friesen, play like this will keep him in the lineup.

– Playing as Schroeder’s sidekick, Bill Sweatt’s fast skating is still noticeable. He made some strong moves to get to the net on Sunday, but unlike Anton Rodin, he is shooting. He got four shots on net tonight (two of which counted as scoring chances) and he’s got 18 shots on the season. Like Jordan Schroeder a year ago, if Sweatt keeps up his offensive efforts, the results will come.

– The Nathan Longpre-Steve Pinizotto duo continues to click. They combined for five of the Wolves’ scoring chances.

– Defensively, the Wolves had a hard time getting up to speed, yielding seven chances in the game’s first five minutes. This was one of Kevin Connauton’s weaker defensive efforts of the season – paired with Zack Miskovic, it may have been a case of unfamiliarity as much as anything.

– Peter Andersson played a sound game, throwing a couple big checks and generally being steady with the puck. But his mobility is a concern; one third period effort by the big Swede was compared by the Wovles’ TV crew to a 747 making a turn above O’Hare Airport, so laboured it was in appearance

– The chance count was running against the Wolves all game. Grand Rapids won the first 10-4, the second 9-6 but lost out int he third 8-6. OT ran 4-1 in favour of the Griffins; overall it was 29-19 in favour of Grand Rapids. 

– Canuck-who-never-was Nathan Paetsch played a strong game for Grand Rapids and also scored the game’s first goal, 5:27 into the second. He finshed up a 4-on-2 rush that had started as a 2-on-1, showing the patience of a guy who’s played a game or two in the NHL. Also impressive for Grand Rapids were Tomas Tatar (the next great Wings forward?) and his linemates Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Anderssson, as well as Vancouver-native Landon Ferraro. Yes he’s the sone of *that* Ferraro. He’s a TV commentator or something.

– The Wolves limited Grand Rapids to just four chances on the powerplay, but three of those came on the crucial game-ending overtime powerplay. Chicago managed four powerplay chances of their own.

– The Griffins won the even-strength chance count 19-10. Playing their third game in as many days, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that the Wolves chase the game as much as they did, except for the fact that the Griffins were running the same schedule.