The San Jose Barracuda will look to gain their first series lead with a win in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals over the Grand Rapids Griffins tonight. San Jose has not yet lost a Game 3 this postseason, and has done so away from the friendly confines of the SAP Center in each of the previous two rounds.
As the Western Conference’s top overall seed, the Barracuda have held home ice advantage in each round during the Calder Cup Playoffs. Yet it has not provided much of an edge, as the Barracuda are just 4-3 at home this postseason.
The road has treated them far more kindly. San Jose is 4-1 on the road in the playoffs, including wins in all three road games against the San Diego Gulls last round.
It’s a trend that’s continued from the regular season. San Jose tied for the league’s fourth-best points percentage away from home during the season, and tied for seventh in road wins despite playing four less games than all but one of the teams that won more.
The Barracuda and Griffins only played in Grand Rapids once this regular season, when Troy Grosenick stopped 43 of 44 shots he faced en route to a 4-1 San Jose win on January 27th. The players in front of Grosenick will need to be much better this time around, as Grand Rapids outshot San Jose 44-28.
Yet tonight’s matchup will likely once again come down to the special teams battle. In three of four match-ups between San Jose and Grand Rapids across the regular season and playoffs, the team that scored more power play goals won the game.
That’s not too surprising, given that the Griffins and Barracuda ranked first and second in power play percentage, respectively, during the regular season. Both teams are converting at a high rate on the man advantage this postseason, so the team whose penalty kill rediscovers their regular season form (SJ: 8th, GR: 11th in penalty killing during the season) first will gain an upper hand.
A Barracuda loss tonight would not be a major setback, as San Jose needs to win just one of the next three games to regain home ice advantage and ensure the series heads back to the SAP Center next week. Given their road success this postseason, though, there’s probably no place the Barracuda would rather be.