The coolest part of the Detroit Red Wings AHL Affiliate

In the coming years, hopefully these Grand Rapids Griffins players can bring this with them to their parent club, the Detroit Red Wings.
Detroit Red Wings vs Montreal Canadiens
Detroit Red Wings vs Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

This past weekend, the Detroit Red Wings’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, saw some anticipated lows and surprising highs.  

As a Detroit sports fan, I’m used to emotional and spiritual hurt. 

With the playoffs quickly approaching for the Grand Rapids Griffins, I suspected home ice advantage to be a thing that was too far gone.

After losing Friday night to the Iowa Wild, it was almost certain that my beloved Grand Rapids Griffins, saviors of the ice hockey season in Michigan, wouldn’t have the much-needed home ice advantage.

The Grand Rapids Griffins players love their fans, and it has to be one of the coolest things I’ve seen in sports. Their response to their fans is what the Detroit Red Wings players attempted to achieve but fell just shy of this campaign.

Please note that this isn’t so much a recap as it is my takeaways from this weekend. For highlights, I definitely recommend the Iowa Wild and Grand Rapids Griffins YouTube videos:

Buium’s Debut:

Sunday’s Win:

Focusing on the positives from Friday’s 4-1 loss, Shai Buium made his pro debut.

As a long-time Buium fan, I’ll admit I hadn’t seen much of his play this season. I saw his Frozen Four run, but that was about it. 

It was incredibly fun to watch Buium again with even bigger stakes on the line.

He looked much bigger than I remember. Every facet of his game seemed to kick up a notch. His confidence (with and without the puck, in between whistles, keeping opposing players away from Sebastian Cossa, etc.) to puck protection to his poise with (and without the puck) were very entertaining.

The fact that it was his first game and he didn’t look out of place is remarkable. Interestingly enough, the Grand Rapids Griffin's head coach, Dan Watson, felt comfortable enough to put Buium on the ice at the beginning of a four-minute power play.

Buium ended the night even with no shots on goal. Considering the Grand Rapids Griffins coach played Buium regular shifts/normal minutes, and he wasn’t on the ice for a goal against (with four opportunities, as the Griffins surrendered four goals), I’m impressed.

To me, Buium should have played both games. He could have stayed on the sidelines due to travel,  illness,  or for rest purposes. Alternatively, maybe Coach Watson wanted to see other players to assess his lineup for the upcoming playoffs.

To me, without question, Buium is a top-9 defenseman on this Grand Rapids Griffins roster. With an overflow of defensemen, they might also be determining any possible odd men out (who might head to the Toledo Walleye to help them with their playoff run).

Simon Edvinsson’s return saw him as assertive and confident as in the Detroit Red Wings uniform. At times, during both games, Edvinsson tried to do a bit too much. With a player of his caliber and style of play, however, I’d much rather have to reel in his play than try to pull more out of him. Eventually, Edvinsson will find his sweet spot of how much to risk, when to pinch, and how to drive the net effectively.

In the offseason, aside from strength and conditioning (tale as old as time with young players), I think a focus on improving his shot would help his game tremendously. He has the smarts, knowing where to be and where to shoot. Just tinkering a bit might do wonders for his scoring output.

Sunday Night’s Game:

I shall dub this the Albert Johansson takeover game.

Rumor has it that Johansson was the leader of the party train after his team in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) won a championship. 

Patiently, I had waited to see this leadership quality come out in Johansson’s game. There have been flashes–similar to Lucas Raymond in some ways (not stylistically or in actual play, but the fact that you can see the potential greatness inside).  

The third period especially, I saw Johansson taking over, as did other fans.

I’m so excited to see where these next games take Johansson and if he can elevate his game. 

Hopefully, he can gain confidence for the fight of his career next season as he looks to steal a roster spot in the Detroit Red Wings’ opening night lineup.

Cossa stopped 21 of 22 shots. His night wasn’t all that difficult, as he points out in his postgame interview, but he made the stops he needed to and kept his Grand Rapids Griffins in the game. That’s all we can ever ask from our goaltenders.

My favorite thing about this Grand Rapids Griffins organization is the love they have for their fans. The coaching staff, players, and personnel seem to emphasize the importance of their fans and city.

In the second intermission, the Grand Rapids Griffins learned that at least one point was needed to secure a home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Jonatan Berggren, Cossa, and Coach Watson emphasized that they knew the fans had waited years for this chance in their post-game interviews. Boy, the Grand Rapids Griffins did not disappoint.

It might seem obvious or unimportant to some people, but to me, it’s kind of the coolest thing I’ve heard and seen. 

My heart breaks at times for the Detroit Red Wings players, especially captain Dylan Larkin, when we know he wants to bring the playoffs to his city so badly. In the coming years, I hope that players like Berggren and Cossa will get the opportunity to help push the Detroit Red Wings back into contention on their road to building a National Hockey League (NHL) dynasty.