Author’s note - Before I get started and preview the Toronto Marlies first playoff game this season, I’d like to thank the team at MLHS for bringing me onboard. A little bit about myself for those of you who don’t already know me. I’m the creator/founder of Adamonsports.ca. I provide in-depth coverage of the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. I’m a college graduate with a diploma in Radio and Television Broadcasting and have always had a passion for writing. So here I am. I hope you all enjoy my articles, and as always, I encourage you to comment with your feedback whether it be good or bad.
TORONTO - With the Maple Leafs out of the post-season, Leafs nation has turned their attention to the Marlies, and for good reason. Toronto had another strong season despite a rash of injuries and call ups to the big club. The Marlies clinched their third consecutive Sam Pollock Trophy as North Division champions this year becoming just the sixth team in AHL history to do so. Tonight, the Marlies are set to take on the Milwaukee Admirals in-game #1 of the first round. For those of you unaware, the AHL recently changed their first round playoff format to a best of 5 rather than a best of 7. Even though Toronto clinched their division and were the higher seed, the higher seeded team can decide whether or not to start the series at home or on the road. This decision also is based on any pre-scheduled events happening in the two team’s arenas. Tonight, WWE wrestling takes over the Ricoh Coliseum hence why the series starts in Milwaukee.
Here’s my take on the matchup at hand:
Toronto and Milwaukee only faced each-other twice this season, with the Admirals getting the upper hand in both games. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Marlies prepare for this series. The past two years, Toronto has faced their familiar foe in the Rochester Americans. The Admirals are a very quick team. They showed their speed and ability to create turnovers in their 5-1 victory over the Marlies at Ricoh in March. After that game Steve Spott admitted he went for a more skill first style lineup, rather than a balanced attack and acknowledged that it backfired. Look for the Marlies to balance their lineup tonight, even with the number of injuries they have. Physical guys like David Broll, Tyler Biggs, Jamie Devane and maybe even Brad Staubitz and Frazer McLaren could slot into the lineup during this series to keep the Admirals tough guys in check. Milwaukee is a strong defensive team and are great at keeping teams to the perimeter. Toronto usually has their way with their opponents when it comes to setting up plays. The Marlies can work from the outside but are usually very quick to get the puck in tight and tend to have a lot of success around the front of the net. That being said though, T.J. Brennan has a laser of a shot from the point and could be a very useful player in this series. The goalies are expected to be Drew MacIntyre and Marek Mazanec. MacIntyre has put the team on his back this year in goal. The veteran finished the year with a record of 29-15-3 but at the same time, the offence has been full steam ahead all year. Marek Mazanec led the Admirals with 18 wins. He split duty with Scott Darling for the majority of the season. Toronto will have success if they can keep their heads cool. We’ve seen it all season long. Steve Spott has said it numerous times that he expects his players to be disciplined. Pick your spots and make good choices.
Matthew Tousignant and Michael Liambis are the two toughest players on the Admirals roster. Liambis is a name that you may remember for a few reasons. 1. He nearly ended the career of Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ben Fanelli in 2009 with a highly controversial hit. 2. He attended the Maple Leafs rookie camp back in 2009 but was cut. Both Liambis and Tousignant are great at getting under the skin of their opposition and could easily be effective for the Admirals if Toronto isn’t careful. It’s going to be interesting to see the lineup Steve Spott elects to go with for the opening matchup.
3 keys to victory
- Stay out of the box. I know it sounds cliché but in a matchup like this, the Marlies need to play their game, on the edge but not over.
- Solid goaltending – Toronto’s goaltending struggled towards the end of the season. Drew MacIntyre, Garret Sparks and Christopher Gibson have all had their fair share of struggles this season but are a key part of this series. The two games versus the Admirals this year, Garret Sparks and Christopher Gibson were the goalies, while Drew MacIntyre served as the backup for the Maple Leafs when Jonathan Bernier suffered a groin injury. Game footage is always available but in order for Toronto to take this series, MacIntyre needs to be on top of his game.
- Use speed to your advantage – The Admirals are not a slow team by any measure, but the Marlies are very quick. If Toronto can use their speed to get in tight and create in close opportunities, they should be golden.
- Carter Ashton missed the final two games of the Marlies schedule with a minor knee injury he suffered playing up with the Maple Leafs. Steve Spott said he should be good to go for game #1 tonight.
- Peter Holland is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury but is expected to dress tonight.
- Spencer Abbott has been out since March April 4th with an upper body injury and did make the trip to Milwaukee. Abbott isn’t expected to play in game #1 but he has been back on the ice skating and shooting. Possible he dresses is game #2
- Andrew MacWilliam has been out since March 31st where he suffered a concussion. He’s day-to-day and did make the trip as well and could suite up for game #1 tonight.
Here’s an image the breaks down the entire series. It can be found on the AHL’s website – theahl.com
You can watch the game live on LeafsTV tonight at 8pm