In previous rounds, I would have been already talking about the Toronto Marlies sweeping their opponents and being bored at practice. This time around, the blue and white need to win back to back games in hopes of winning. I talked about two major issues the Marlies had going into this series in my preview ahead of Game 1, and here’s how they’ve played out:
I hyped up that Toronto needed to have a better shot gap against the Stars in the playoffs than they did in the regular season. The Mariles had taken 42.6% of the shots in four games, 39.1% if you remove a single period.
Through five playoff games, the Marlies have been outshot 193-117. That’s a 37.7% Shots For Percentage. Remove the strong opening 30 minutes of Game 4, and it goes to 184-99, or 34.9%. There is no way to stress how badly this team is being dominated. So much so that it goes beyond “well fix that” as a solution, but they need to find ways to cut it down if they want a realistic chance to win this series.
I suggested that the key to this series for Toronto was to remain disciplined. After all, the Stars have a wicked powerplay unit and are the least penalized team in the league, whereas the Marlies have their moments of inexperience and play a very chippy game. As you can see, the brightest moments for the gap are early into Game 1 (which they won) and throughout Game 4 (which they also won).
Just for laughs, let’s overlap these two graphs.
Call me crazy, but I think the Stars may be taking advantage of Toronto’s mistakes.
Now, as for why they’re this close in the first place? The same reason that they started off 8-0; crazy percentages. Drew MacIntyre, despite allowing 13 goals in 5 games and being down in the series, has a 0.937 SV% in this round, and hasn’t finished a game at a series total lower than 0.931. Mean while, Nilstrop is still looking to crack 0.900, currently sitting on an 0.894 (aka Andrew Raycroft’s long and torturous first season in Toronto).
The reality is though, these things won’t last forever. I’m not a wizard strategist, but it’s pretty clear that if they don’t find a way to close the shot gap and stay out of the penalty box, their next appearance in Toronto will be for Locker Room Cleanout Day, not the Calder Cup Finals.