Barracuda, Griffins Clash In AHL Western Conference Finals

Barracuda, Griffins Clash In AHL Western Conference Finals
Photo: © John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
The NHL's San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings had disappointing ends to the 2016-17 season, but their AHL affiliates, the San Jose Barracuda and Grand Rapids Griffins, respectively, are within sight of a championship.

The teams will kick off the Western Conference Finals in San Jose, CA, on Saturday as the Barracuda look to keep their impressive season going.

San Jose finished with its best win percentage in its 11-year AHL history, dating back to when the team was previously known as the Worcester Sharks between 2006 and 2015.

The Barracuda are entering their first-ever third-round series and are likely facing their toughest opponent yet. The Griffins have made it to the third round for the third time since the 2012-13 season, when they won the Calder Cup.

San Jose's strong season saw it finish first in the Pacific Division and second overall in the AHL. As the No. 1 seed, the Barracuda have lived up to expectations so far, defeating the Stockton Heat and San Diego Gulls.

The Barracuda went 2-0-0 against the Griffins this season, with a 4-1 win in the first meeting at the hands of two Nikolay Goldobin goals, who was dealt at the NHL trade deadline for the Vancouver Canucks' Jannik Hansen. The Griffins lost 1-0 in a shootout during their second matchup.

San Jose's Ryan Carpenter currently leads all postseason skaters with seven goals, 13 points, and a plus-8 rating. The 26-year-old scorer has become an unlikely MVP candidate for the Barracuda's playoff run and carried his injury-riddled team over San Diego in round two.

Undersized Rourke Chartier posted 17 goals and 35 points in his 67-game rookie year with San Jose. While the 21-year-old is without a goal this postseason, his six assists are tied for second. He missed San Jose's last three games against San Diego but is expected to be ready for Game 1 against the Griffins.

Grand Rapids' Tyler Bertuzzi was built for the playoffs. The 22-year-old's 11 points and 1.25 points per game are second to only Carpenter for players who have skated in at least four postseason games. In 31 playoff games over the past three seasons, Bertuzzi has 19 goals and 30 points alongside a plus-16 rating. 
Since returning from his two-game stint with the Red Wings, Evgeny Svechnikov has been nearly a point-per-game player for the Griffins. Drafted No. 19 overall in 2015, the 6-foot-3, 20-year-old winger is learning fast in the AHL. Wrapping up a strong rookie season can help him earn a full-time spot with the Red Wings next season.

Grand Rapids visits San Jose on Saturday, May 20, for Game 1 at 9 PM ET and Game 2 the following day at 8 PM ET.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.
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