Syracuse Crunch vs. Grand Rapids Griffins preview: AHL Calder Cup Final Game 1
The writer tries desperately to keep it together while writing.
The bottom line: Syracuse Crunch vs. Grand Rapids Griffins, game 1
There’s a lot of narratives that could go with this series. Many of them will be retreads from 2013, which was the year the Crunch and the Griffins met for the first time in the Calder Cup Final. Hell, that narrative right there - rematch? revenge? - is a juicy one alone.
The 2017 #CalderCup Finals will be a rematch of the 2013 series, which saw Grand Rapids defeat Syracuse in six games for the championship.— AHL (@TheAHL) May 29, 2017
I’m not going to focus on any of that. Both teams are very different now. Both teams have new head coaches behind the bench. Both teams have taken different paths to get to this point, not only different from each other but different from the paths they took in 2013.
Instead, this is all I’m going to say:
The Crunch have been in the league for 23 seasons. The front office has hosted the All-Star game twice, put on the first AHL outdoor game in league history, made attendance history with a huge game at the Carrier Dome, and have become fairly synonymous with creative, outside-the-box marketing. Their players, especially the ones associated with the Tampa Bay Lightning, are arguably some of the most prepared out there to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL.
In the past five years alone, Syracuse has earned two division championships, two conference championships, and two trips to the final round.
The franchise has done a lot to earn those things.
Very little in this league is given just because it’s deserved. Championships aren’t given because they’re deserved. Championships are earned. End of story.
That’s what this current group of players are charged with: earning that championship.
So, go out and do it, guys. This city is behind you. We believe.
Are you ready @SyracuseCrunch fans?! Here's your Calder Cup Finals schedule!! #FIN15H #SyrCrunch #CalderCup pic.twitter.com/ExAu3taT2x— Destiny USA (@destinyusa) May 30, 2017
Pre-game reading, listening, and viewing:
- Make sure you didn’t miss the photo gallery from all of the Crunch’s home games from the last round vs. the Providence Bruins.
- Speaking of photo galleries, the AHL has one of their own up on Facebook of the action from the Crunch’s side of round 3.
- Be sure to revisit Brandon Curtis’ celebration of the Crunch’s round 3 victory.
- Did you see Roland’s Eastern Conference championship graphic?
- You need to see this gif of Crunch goalie Mike McKenna celebrating the team’s conference championship win:/
Today, we are all @MikeMcKenna56.#CalderCup Finals bound! #FIN15H pic.twitter.com/SOlkeQWRSE— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) May 28, 2017
- Speaking of McKenna, everyone on the Crunch apparently loves him as much as the fans do.
- Narrative: Home ice was crucial for both teams in the past three rounds. What will it mean now?
- Is history on Syracuse’s side for winning a championship this year? It just might be.
- Round preview and schedule from Winging It In Motown.
- The Crunch’s SoundCloud is a great place to go for player interviews and tidbits.
- ESPN Syracuse has an Audio Vault that has a lot of quality Crunch stuff from the past few days, including interviews with Head Coach Ben Groulx.
- Be sure to check out Syracuse’s YouTube channel if you’re looking for highlights, interviews, and recaps.
- You can find more coverage from the team’s beat writer and others, including our friend Brent Axe, over at Syracuse.com.
- Speaking of Brent, he caught up with Pete Wallner for a look at the Griffins.
- This is either encouraging or terrifying (pending tonight’s outcome):/
In #AHL history, teams that win Game 1 of the #CalderCup Finals have gone on to win the championship 61 of 80 times. pic.twitter.com/1SNHf5yDee— AHL (@TheAHL) May 30, 2017
Game night essentials:
- The pre-game radio broadcast with Dan D’Uva will start at 6:45 EST on ESPN Syracuse. You can stream the game in its entirety for free.
- If you’re local to the Syracuse area and want to visit Taste of Syracuse and listen to the game, you’re in luck:/
You can listen to games 1 & 2 of the Calder Cup Finals & Cheer On The @SyracuseCrunch at @tasteofsyracuse. Stop the NYS Craft Beer Tent.— ESPN Radio Syracuse (@ESPNSyracuse) May 31, 2017
- You’re also in luck if you’re local to Syracuse and want to go to a watch party:/
Join us at @TullysGoodTimes this Friday and Saturday to cheer on your #SyrCrunch in the #CalderCup Finals. #FIN15H → https://t.co/IK2x0Zdk5v pic.twitter.com/lSiB5lLECu— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) May 31, 2017
- Puck drop is at 7:00 ET in Grand Rapids.
- AHL Live has an amazing special deal this round: watch for free!/
AHL Fans: Stream the 2017 #CalderCup Finals between @griffinshockey & the @SyracuseCrunch for free at https://t.co/H4S6BaaGAM! pic.twitter.com/2r9XZmraL3— AHL (@TheAHL) May 28, 2017
- Full media information can be found here: /
Here’s how to watch and listen to the 2017 #CalderCup Finals between your #SyrCrunch and @griffinshockey. #FIN15H → https://t.co/Hu8E0sEPwh pic.twitter.com/rilwOhdF9n— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) May 30, 2017
Team Comparison Chart
The charts above are based on the regular season and as we noted prior to the last series, the Crunch were a good 5v5 team but not as good on special teams. And their main weakness this season was goaltending. Strong 5v5 play is a good sign for the playoffs because the officials tend to call less penalties.
If that holds true, this should be a close series between two evenly matched teams. The key for Syracuse is likely to be goaltending. Their depth of forward talent overwhelmed Toronto in the last round and the Griffins will struggle to deal with it as well. So if McKenna can hold up in the net, Syracuse should have a good chance in this series.
Potential lines and pairings for Syracuse:
Michael Bournival - Yanni Gourde - Cory Conacher
Adam Erne - Gabriel Dumont - Joel Vermin
Tye McGinn - Matthew Peca - Erik Condra
Kevin Lynch - Byron Froese - Mitchell Stephens
Potential defensive pairings:
Matt Taormina - Dominik Masin
Slater Koekkoek - Ben Thomas
Jake Dotchin - Mathieu Brodeur
-Daniel Walcott was hurt during round 3’s game 2. He has not played since. He is currently listed as day-to-day.
Potential lines and pairings for Grand Rapids:
Tyler Bertuzzi - Tomas Nosek - Martin Frk
Eric Tangradi - Ben Street - Mitch Callahan
Evgeny Svechnikov - Kyle Criscuolo - Matt Lorito
Matthew Ford - Dominic Turgeon - Colin Campbell
Potential defensive pairings:
Brian Lashoff - Robbie Russo
Nathan Paetsch - Joe Hicketts
Dan Renouf - Dylan McIlrath