For the first time ever, the Toronto Marlies have swept a playoff opponent.
Give the players and coaching staff full credit, too. Sometimes when a team mounts a big lead in a series it rests on its laurels, relaxes a little, and takes the pedal off the gas just a tad, enough for the opposition to maybe take a game or two. But the Marlies came out like a team who had no interest in playing any more games than they had to against Rochester. They clearly wanted to end the series last night and were very business like in their efforts to do so.
Here are some notes from the game, which I watched online via AHL Live.
– With Carter Ashton hurt, Jerry D’Amigo was bumped up to the second line to play with Joe Colborne and Matt Frattin, while Marcel Mueller slotted in D’Amigo’s old spot with Nicholas Deschamps and Phillippe Dupuis. Otherwise, the rest of the roster remained the same as it has for the first two games.
– Ben Scrivens didn’t have a great first two games statistically and let in some goals he definitely wants back. Honestly, though, I talked to him at length after both games and he wasn’t bothered at all by it – some guys get really caught up in their numbers, especially goalies – he was simply happy that they won and that was all he really cared about. Scrivens also had a bit of a quiet confidence that he would step up when the team needed him to. Low and behold, that time came in the second of period of game three, where Scrivens turned aside 15 shots as the Americans poured it on but couldn’t beat him. Even though the Marlies put 11 shots on net of their own, they were outplayed in the second period and Scrivens completely shut the door. In hindsight, that was probably the closing of the coffin on Rochester’s season (Kadri’s beautiful goal early in the third was the nails).
– With that, it was easily his best game of the series as he was locked in and focused, and clearly did not want to hang around Rochester any longer than he had to.
– The power play went 0/5 on the game, but they were creating opportunities. The first unit power play has been consisting of Gardiner playing the top of the umbrella, flanked by Kadri and Zigomanis at the top of the circles, and Dupuis and Hamilton down low. Dupuis hit Kadri cross ice for a pretty open net on a power play in the first, but Kadri didn’t get everything on the shot.
– The majority of the power play was running through Gardiner of course. Their zone time and puck possession was strong, but they weren’t creating high end scoring chances (they did go 0/5 after all). Much like Saturday, there was a lot of power play time spent between Gardiner, Zigomanis and Kadri passing it back and forth with a lot of fake slap-shot attempts from Gardiner. The Rochester Americans caught on and eventually started sagging off of Gardiner because he wasn’t shooting. On top of that, there was a complete lack of movement overall from the five players on the ice. Everybody was stagnant in their spots and the players were passing from point A, to point B, and so on. The power play has been a problem all season, but now that they have the power play quarterback, and encompassing talent, it should start producing.
– On the series they were 2/14, or 14%.
– To Gardiner’s credit, he caught on in the third period that coverage was sagging off of him, so he began shooting due to the extra space. He doesn’t have a bomb from the point but he can launch good, low, hard shots for rebounds and tip-ins, he’s also shown when he gets a hold of a one-timer that he can absolutely kill it.
– Overall, the power play isn’t a huge concern from my view yet. As I said before: The Marlies are better than Rochester and they knew it. But eventually they’ll need it to win them a few games if they want to win this thing.
– For what it’s worth, I don’t think Eakins will change up who he’s using on his primary power play unit yet, but it will be something to monitor moving forward.
– Conversely, Rochester went 1/12 on their power play opportunities. That’s not surprising at all, the Marlies had the best penalty kill in the league this year and are simply continuing that on into the playoffs.
– Nazem Kadri officially got on the board with two points, including a highlight reel goal in the third period, but if you’re taking anything away from Kadri this series it should be that he was an impact player even without putting up points. The best contributors are ones that can impact games in multiple ways, and Kadri was mixing it up, throwing hits, taking hits, getting under Rochester’s skin, and was still creating scoring chances on a regular basis. As was mentioned before, when you create, it’s only a matter of time, and he finally cashed in.
– You could also tell Kadri really wanted some points and he was pushing maybe a little too hard to do it, but when he scored he celebrated in extreme jubilation with both arms out stretched.
– The fact that Kadri demanded so much attention speaks volumes to how much other teams respect his abilities and game plan against him. He played against Rochester’s top players all series and they consistently went after him. It’s also worth noting that Kadri was playing with two players who are a little more defensive in Zigomanis and Hamilton, in comparison to playing with a guy like Frattin. Overall, you have to be encouraged by Kadri playing a solid two-way game, taking the body, being a presence on the ice and finally scoring.
– When Rochester crossed the line with Kadri, Jay Rosehill came in and protected him. Always respect players who stand up for teammates. In the NHL this year, Rosehill didn’t dress much, and to me it doesn’t make sense to not a dress guy for long stretches and then put him in and tell him to fight and stick up for his teammates. Things like that have to be done organically and you either dress the guy consistently and let him do his thing, or don’t waste his time altogether.
– Joe Colborne wasn’t very noticeable last night, but I think it’s safe to say his sliced finger is affecting him and he isn’t feeling well. He didn’t look comfortable carrying the puck, the few times he did. No matter what you can usually count on Colborne to hold possession, but he wasn’t very strong in that department last night.
– Nicholas Deschamps and Greg Scott both hit the post on breakaways in the third period.
– After Kadri scored to make it 3-0 in the third period the Marlies sent one forechecker inside the blue line and then had the four remaining players trap in the neutral zone, with two forwards around the center ice line and the two defensemen on their own blue line. Rochester couldn’t beat it, and they only had six shots on net in the third period.
– Eakins has been mainly using a combination of Holzer, Fraser and Gardiner on the backend, and Zigomanis, Scott, Dupuis and D’Amigo up front when in the dying minutes to protect a lead. What we haven’t seen is who he puts out there when the Marlies are down and need a goal. Eventually it will happen and that will definitely be interesting.
– Have to give some credit where it’s due because I haven’t really mentioned him: Nicholas Deschamps has been impressive. Even more than that, he’s been consistent – a big knock on him in the past. He has the size at 6’2, and he definitely has the hands. Along with consistency, what’s usually come into question with him is his hockey sense, but he’s fit in very well with this Marlies team, putting up 30 points in 40 games in the regular season. He had three points in the three-game sweep. I’m intrigued to see what he does next season with the Marlies and if he continues trending upwards.
In essence, there’s not much you can complain about after a sweep – and really, it would be ridiculous to complain about anything – but I do think the Marlies can take their game to another level, and I’m sure they will as the competition gets tougher. When that happens, I’ll be excited to see who steps up and seizes the moment.