Update (11:19 PM): You can read the Grand Rapids Press recap of the game here. - Matt
Darren McCarty's first game in front of a packed-out Van Andel was a big one. The former Red Wings bruiser scored a hat trick and added a late assist on his way to being named the arena's first star. He was a huge hit with the crowd, which took every opportunity to cheer him.
His first goal was an easy redirect of a Darren Helm pass on the Griffins' second shot. His second came on the power play in the second period was he stuffed it between the feet of the Lake Erie goalie from the side of the net. He finished the trick with a blast from the right circle that beat the goalie blocker side, just inside the left post. In addition to the goals, Mac dealt out a few big hits and provided just the spark the Griffins needed to overcome two Lake Erie leads.
I was definitely impressed with him. He's obviously still not in tip-top shape, but he looked good. I was only disappointed he didn't get a natural hat trick. It's too much to expect him to contribute three goals every night, but I think his presence in the lineup had the Griffins playing closer to their potential. They certainly looked better than they had in any of the other games I've been to and heard about this season. That's the value he brings to the Griffins and if he can draw crowds like he did tonight, the franchise will do better as a whole.
Because the Monsters are the primary affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, it was interesting to see how chippy the game got as it went on. There were two all-out fights involving Jamie Tardiff and plenty of post-play scrums that got pretty nasty.
I went into the game with the aim of focusing on Jonathan Ericsson as well as McCarty. I was impressed with the big young Swede was well. He's got great size and has a booming shot to go with a good defensive sense. His goal was a perfectly-placed snapper, just below the crossbar. He looked steady out there and definitely earned the second star. I look forward to seeing him in the Winged Wheel.
Jakub Kindl, on the other hand, was a disappointment. He definitely needs more experience before he'll be NHL-ready.
I do not regret passing up the Wings' embarrassing loss to Columbus in favor of Darren McCarty's home debut and three-goal night. It was a great game and I'm glad I got to see it.