Utah Grizzlies: final three home games determine playoff seeding
Tom Smart, Deseret News
The Grizzlies return home for the final three games of the regular season with huge playoff implications on the line as they aim for the third seed in the Western Conference. Utah opens play Wednesday against Las Vegas, and then plays Idaho on Friday and Saturday. All games start at 7 p.m.
The Grizzlies essentially need two wins this week to secure the third spot and control their own destiny in that situation. Utah’s final two games with Idaho will decide the third seed in head-to-head action Friday and Saturday with the other almost assuredly being in the fourth spot in the conference.
Utah’s next win will give the team 37 wins and its most wins in a season since the 2002-2003 season.
If the Grizzlies are able to go unbeaten in three-straight games this week, they will tie the fewest home losses in team history. The Denver Grizzlies in 1994-1995 only lost six times at home in regulation. Utah already shattered a record from that same team by going unbeaten in 11-straight home games from Dec. 28-Jan. 29.
Unless they allow 53 goals in three games this weekend, the Grizzlies will shatter the all-time team record for fewest goals allowed in a season as well. Utah has currently allowed 167 goals in 68 games for an average of 2.45 goals per game allowed, which ranks third in the ECHL. Utah previously allowed 220 goals each in 1999-00 and 2000-2001 for 2.68 goals per game allowed during the 82 game IHL schedule.
Goaltender Igor Bobkov was recalled by Anaheim and assigned to its AHL affiliate in Norfolk following Friday’s game as he and Aaron Dell previously alternated five-straight starts. Bobkov (17-8-2-2) leads the ECHL with a 2.04 goals-against average. Dell (17-7-0-2) is third among active goaltenders with a 2.21 goals-against average.
Charles Sarault has three goals and three assists in five games with Utah, having scored in four of five games since being assigned to Utah on March 27.
Utah’s second leading scorer, Danick Paquette, has a career-high 20 goals this season and has 13 goals in the final 36 games of the year. His previous season highs were 13 goals apiece in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons.
Utah’s off weekend in Stockton was very out of character for the team, but something was bound to happen over the course of its remarkable 44 game run. It marks only the second time in the last 44 games Utah has lost two straight, with Saturday’s 5-2 loss being the first time since Dec. 21 that the Grizzlies have lost by more than a goal, excluding empty-net goals. It was Utah’s first losing week in its last 16 and marked only the third time in the last 16 weeks the Grizzlies did not improve their winning percentage over the course of the week.
Utah allowed five goals on Saturday, marking the first time since Feb. 21, the first time in 16 games, the second time in the last 31 games and only the fourth time in its last 39 games the Grizzlies have allowed more than three goals in a game. It also was the first time in the last 40 games the Grizzlies have allowed more than three goals in a game and actually lost. Utah had previously been 2-0-2-0 in its last four games when allowing four goals or more.
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