Moose aim to muscle speedy Griffs
Regular-season splits show second-rounders evenly matched
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/05/2009 (4851 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’ll be a little thick to suggest that the Manitoba Moose need to put away their brass knuckles and bring out their skill for the second round of the AHL playoffs.
The focus of Manitoba’s first-round triumph over Toronto was, for a long time, on physical play, but the next round against the Grand Rapids Griffins, which starts tonight at the MTS Centre (7:30 p.m.) may well be a case of who makes the better plays.
The teams split their four regular-season games down the middle, 1-1 in each other’s building.
"We’re pretty evenly matched teams," said Moose centre and leading scorer Jason Krog, whose Griffins counterpart is former teammate Darren Haydar. "I think both are pretty quick. As far as team speed, I think they’re probably one of the fastest teams we’ve played all year. They have mobile defencemen and are similar to Detroit, in that they have five guys up and down the ice together and their D are jumping.
"That’s going to be a good test for us. Physically, hopefully we have the edge there in size and we’re going to have to focus on that, wearing down some of their smaller D, finishing on them and making it hard for them. It should be a fun series."
Moose coach Scott Arniel, who put his team through a brief but final full practice Thursday at Gateway Recreation Centre, also couldn’t paint much in the way of dramatic differences.
"No real advantage one way or another," Arniel said of the regular-season series. "Both won in opposition buildings. And where we usually see them eight times, this year we only saw them four.
"They’re a team we always have spirited games with and it’s going to be a high-pace game that should be very exciting with two strong goaltenders at the top of their game. I don’t imagine it’s going to be over very quickly. I hope we’re putting our best foot forward right away."
Here are three spin zones where the teams might believe in an edge:
1. A key regular-season match. The Moose gave one of their best performances of the year Jan. 16 in Michigan, blowing out to 4-0 and 6-1 leads in a 6-4 game that pushed them into sole possession of first in the division and conference. The Griffins responded Feb. 20 on home ice with a 4-1 win, snapping the Moose’s eight-game undefeated streak, a message that though Manitoba had gotten away in first place, the Griffins weren’t waving any towels.
2. This head-to-head match used to be heated. Not so much anymore, as this season there were just four regular-season games.
But in two previous playoff meetings, the series went seven games each time, with the home team winning the final game. In 2006, the Griffins prevailed. In 2007, the Moose won the last two on home ice.
Only a combined six players remain and only five will be able to say they’ve participated in all three series: Grand Rapids goalie Jimmy Howard (his teammate, Ryan Oulahen, is injured) and Moose skaters Jason Jaffray, Mike Keane, Max Fortunus and Nathan McIver.
3. Playmakers may decide it. By this, we mean all the way to the back of the net. The Griffins had 16 more goals during the regular season and continued to score them against Hamilton in the first round. The likes of RW Darren Haydar, LW Ville Leino and rookie C Justin Abdelkader were active participants in sending Hamilton packing. Manitoba’s leading scorer, C Jason Krog, attracted much attention in Round 1 but still produced, and the Moose had key plays and a ramping-up offence from RW Guillaume Desbiens and LW Jason Jaffray as well as C Mark Cullen the farther along things got against Toronto.
Insert cliché here
Global’s Joe Pascucci was doing a light-hearted look at playoff clichés on Thursday. "Is there a difference between a playoff cliché and a regularseason cliché?" responded Moose winger Jason Jaffray, who claims to like newer clichés. "I like hearing coaches’ quotes talking about lower-body, upper-body, that sort of thing."
Beware of overtime
If overtime is a factor in the series, each team will have demons to overcome. The Griffins were 2-6 in OT during the regular season and 0-1 against Hamilton in the first round. The Moose are 1-9 in their last 10 overtime playoff games.