TORONTO – On Friday night, the Toronto Marlies will continue their quest for the 2014 Calder Cup as they drop the puck in game #1 of the Western Conference Final against the Texas Stars (8:30 p.m. EST start in Texas). The Marlies are an impressive 7-0 in the playoffs heading into Friday’s matchup, but things are about to get serious.
While the Milwaukee Admirals and the Chicago Wolves weren’t supposed to be ‘easy’ opponents, the Marlies made quick work of both. Toronto swept Milwaukee in three games and the Wolves in four, but it would be a shock if the same thing happened a third time. This series will be a true test for Toronto. The Marlies and Stars have a lot in common, which should make for an exciting series. Here’s what you need to know:
- Finished 1st in the AHL with 106 points (48-18-3-7).
- A high-scoring offensive team, the Stars tallied 274 goals for this season, second in the league behind the Binghamton Senators (276).
- Travis Morin and Colton Sceviour led the Stars in scoring. Morin finished 1st in the AHL in scoring with 32 goals and 88 points.
- Split the season series with Toronto 2-2. Maxim Fortunus and Chris Mueller were the Marlie killers during the season series. Mueller registered 3G and 2A in the season series while Fortunus notched 2G & 3A.
- The Marlies have outscored the Stars in the post season (4.3 goals/game to the Stars’ 3.66) and have allowed less goals against (2.11 GA/game to Toronto’s 1.57 GA/game) thus far.
- Their head coach is Willie Desjardins – the man who is reportedly at the top of the list for the vacant Vancouver Canucks job. At the 2010 World Junior’s, Spott was Desjardins’ assistant coach.
- Very fast paced offence and a very disciplined game is how the Stars win. Texas was the most disciplined team in the league, taking a total of 923 penalty minutes.
- Blue chip goalie prospect Jack Campbell is out with an injury, so Christopher Nilstorp will get the call in the series. Nilstrop is 5-1 in the playoffs with a .934 save percentage.
- 7-0 in the playoffs.
- Jerry D’Amigo leads the team with 12 points in 7 games.
- The powerplay, which had struggled at times during the regular season, has looked pretty good in the post-season. Toronto has converted on 9 of 36 man advantages (25%).
- Drew MacIntyre once again gets the call for Toronto. He started all four games versus the Stars during the regular season.
- MacIntyre is riding a ridiculous .949 save percentage over his 7 playoff starts.
- Spencer Abbott and Peter Holland have been dominant since their return and will need to play a big part in the series.
- Andrew MacWilliam suffered an injury last round versus Chicago but is expected to be back in the lineup on Friday.
KEYS TO VICTORY:
- The NHL-ready leaders of this Marlies team will need to elevate their games and find that next gear knowing the competition they’re up against.
- Toronto can’t get too ahead of themselves if they want to win this series. The Marlies have been the “underdog” all season long and are on quite a roll; if they can stay in that mindset, this is a winnable series.
- The Marlies amassed more penalty minutes than any other playoff team by a large margin, while the Stars took the fewest and scored 82 powerplay goals in 76 games this season (25.2%, 1st in the AHL). Disciplined, structured, physical, hard-working Marlies hockey between the whistles will be required.
- Head coach Will Desjardins: “They’re showing their experience. They know they can’t take a lot of penalties. It’s going to be a physical game. They like to be in your face.”
- Dustin Jeffrey: “The Marlies are a little more physical than the teams we have played. We aren’t going to change though.”
- More Desjardins on the Marlies: “Lots of concerns when you look at their team. They do lots of things well. They are balanced through their four lines and have defense that can jump up and score.”