GRAND RAPIDS -- The Grand Rapids Griffins made an incredible run just to get into the playoffs but in the end they couldn't sustain that pace and move on to defend their Calder Cup championship.
The Manitoba Moose won the deciding Game 5 in the first round, 5-1, at Van Andel Arena on Monday night.
The Griffins were without some of their key offensive players, including veteran Eric Tangradi, who was suspended for the game because of a cross-checking call in Game 4; Matt Lorito, out for the season after knee surgery; Dominic Turgeon, out for the season with thoracic outlet syndrome; and Axel Holmstrom, who was injured in Game 2.
Matt Puempel (power play) scored for Grand Rapids while Patrice Cormier, Cameron Schilling, Mike Sgarbossa, Brendan Lemieux and Chase De Leo (empty net) scored for Manitoba.
1. Filip Hronek: If there was one player who took a huge step forward this season, it was defenseman Filip Hronek. The Wings took Hronek in the second round, 53rd overall, in the 2016 draft. At the time he was drafted, the young Czech Republic native weighed about 160 pounds and spoke little to no English. Hronek spent the 2016-17 season with the Saginaw Spirit and earned team MVP honors while leading the team in assists and power-play points. He also was the captain of Team Czech Republic at the 2017 World Junior Championship. Hronek is now a still-svelte but more robust 178 pounds and he is comfortable doing interviews in English, although perhaps not as comfortable as he is running the power play. In 67 games with the Griffins this season, Hronek had 11 goals and 28 assists and was named to the AHL's All-Rookie Team on April 4. Hronek had the primary assist on the Griffins' only goal in Game 5, his first career playoff point. As Detroit's defense corps is looking to add young talent in the near future, it is likely that Hronek will get an opportunity to make the team in training camp this coming fall. Like many of the Wings' prospects, Hronek will need a big summer in the gym to add more strength.
Quotable: "The start of every season, when you have young players and you're blending them in, he wasn't a regular at the start. Then once Ryan Sproul got traded, that made room for him to step in. He steadily improved and just when I thought maybe in February that he capped out with his improvement, he took it to a whole different level. It was a tremendous first season for him. Really put himself on the map with the organization. Jeff Blashill's been here, Ken, Ryan, they've been watching a lot of our games and he's putting himself in a good opportunity to play some National Hockey games next year, maybe this season, I don't know. It'll be up to him at training camp to see where he's at. He exceeded my expectations. I knew he was going to be good but I didn't think he'd develop as quick as he has." -- Griffins coach Todd Nelson
Quotable II: "I learned a lot. Big thank you for (Brian) Lashoff and Tommy McCollum, they helped me a lot. They learned me how to be pro." -- Hronek
Quotable III: "He's had a really good season. You don't make All-Rookie team in the American Hockey League by accident, so he's had a really good season. Running one of the best power plays in the AHL as a rookie, so it's a credit to him. We've surrounded him with a lot of great players, a lot of veteran leadership-type guys. He's really taken it all in. So it's a credit to him and it was a joy to watch him progress this season." -- Joe Hicketts
2. Jared Coreau : Coreau did not get the start in the first three games of the series but delivered a 3-0 shutout in Game 4 in his first postseason start this year. Coreau had 25 saves in the game that tied the series, 2-2. But last year's magical run was not meant to be for Coreau and the Griffins. Just 1:49 into the game, Cormier scored on a backhand shot for the early lead. Although the Griffins tied the game late in the first and held their own through most of the second, Schilling's goal with 13.1 seconds left in the second turned the momentum in Manitoba's favor. Coreau, who was the AHL goaltender of the month for February, was called up to Detroit when the Red Wings traded Petr Mrazek to Philadelphia. Coreau went 0-5-1 with a 4.26 goals-against average and an .867 save percentage in seven games. Coreau is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Quotable: "I always love hearing about guys that go with one organization from start to finish, that's awesome. I think the majority though, I think a lot of guys change organizations. I don't know what to expect, I don't know what's going to happen. I'm grateful for the opportunity that I got here if I don't come back. It was a world-class organization. I was really excited to sign with the Detroit Red Wings out of college. It'll be tough. I've been in Michigan for eight years with Northern. I've developed friendships here, even outside of the teams. I got friends in Detroit, I got friends in Grand Rapids, even some in Toledo during my time there. So it'll be tough if I go somewhere else. But always look at it positively. If I go somewhere else, it's a fresh start somewhere else. But you never know." -- Coreau
3. Joe Hicketts: After having an excellent 2016-17 campaign as a first-year pro in Grand Rapids, in which he amassed 34 points, including seven goals, in 73 games, Hicketts had a checkered sophomore season patrolling the Griffins' blueline. In 67 games, Hicketts' point production was three goals, nine assists and 32 penalty minutes. Like many of his teammates, Hicketts seemed to be the victim of a Calder Cup hangover, beginning the year slowly and finding his game midway through the season when Grand Rapids began its astounding playoff push. On January 22, Hicketts played his first game as a Red Wing at New Jersey, but was reassigned to Grand Rapids after the contest. He was called up again on March 26 and picked up his first NHL points with two assists on March 27 against Pittsburgh at Little Caesars Arena in a 5-2 Detroit victory. Hicketts appeared in five games for the Wings, registering three assists, two penalty minutes, was plus-5 and his average ice time was 17:20 per game. In an odd statistic, Hicketts led the Red Wings in plus-minus this year. According to the Wings' hierarchy, Hicketts will be given every opportunity to make Detroit's roster next season.
Quotable: "That was my goal (to impress the Wings), especially in training camp. I had the idea that … it doesn't take a genius to look at the numbers and the salary cap to figure out what's going to happen, but I thought I gave myself a really good opportunity, left a mark there, got into five games this year and thought I played really strong. I had a really good playoffs down here. That all adds up to something in their minds. Go home to have a great summer, try to get in the best shape of my life and come into training camp next year with that goal of not getting reassigned to Grand Rapids." -- Hicketts
4. Evgeny Svechnikov: Like Hicketts, Svechnikov experienced a slide during his second year as a pro in Grand Rapids. In 74 games as a Griffin in the 2016-17 season, he had 20 goals among his 51 points and during his 19 playoff games, Svechnikov had 12 points, including five goals. Based on those numbers, expectations were extremely high for him as he entered his second year as a pro. After missing the first four games of the Griffins season due to injury and another 12 after being called up to Detroit on March 8, where he played 14 games for the Red Wings, Svechnikov appeared in 57 games for Grand Rapids this season. He had seven goals among his 23 points and accumulated 58 penalty minutes. With the Griffins being thin up front through injuries and suspensions during their playoff run, Svechnikov had just one goal in five games. In the deciding fifth game of the series, he failed to register a point and was minus-2. In his 14 games with Detroit, he had two goals, two assists, was minus-2 with eight penalty minutes and his ice time average was 8:49 per game.
Quotable: "It's a season to save. Your guys that were scoring goals or was killing PK was out, it's just kind of excuse but you have to find a way to find guys to step up. We did for a little bit but I think we could have done a better job. I had a chance to step up and I never done it. Just frustrating. I think I could have scored a couple more. It would be different series or game. It's very frustrating. I think I could have done way better job to step up and use my chance. Tonight, I had a chance to score a goal and didn't." -- Svechnikov
Quotable II: "(Hicketts) and Svechnikov had very similar seasons, they were up and down. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride. I don't know if it was a sophomore thing or what. But I think they just have to go through those times to make them stronger. I'm sure that they'll both be ready for a good season next season. Both guys are very similar, they had up and down seasons." -- Nelson