Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
It almost felt like the offseason was upon us, but as it turns out, sweeps just give you a lot of free time. Now that the dust has settled and the organization is a bit richer after the Draft Lottery Win and signing Nikita Zaitsev, eyes head back to the Toronto Marlies as they prepare to take on the Albany Devils in the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Toronto won this series 4-2-0, but it wasn’t an easy one. Two of the games were won in overtime (October 17th and November 1st), and the Devils outshot the Marlies in all of the last five matchups. Toronto also had significant trouble shutting down Mike Sislo at the start of the year; the 28-year-old winger scored a powerplay goal in each of the first three games, though he was also a minus player at even strength in four of five appearances.
The last game of the series, played at Times Union Center on April 10th, was probably their luckiest win of the year. Eric Faille and Rich Clune each scored powerplay goals while Zach Hyman added an empty netter in a 3-0 shutout, despite the fact that Albany outshot them 35-18. Needless to say, they’ll be coming in hot and hungry.
Teams At A Glance
As we know, the Marlies got through round one with little concern, though Game 3 was a bit tense with Toronto trailing 4-1 before Connor Carrick decided to go Super-Saiyan. Nonetheless, they made quick work out of Bridgeport as expected and got plenty of collective opportunity to rest. The Marlies will look to William Nylander in hopes that he heats back up and goes back to the above point-per-game pace that he displayed during the regular season, including against the Devils (four points, seven shots in three games). They’ll also be hoping that Josh Leivo (no points, 14 shots in four games), and Sam Carrick (no goals and two assists, nine shots in four games) will snap their struggles against the club.
The Devils, who were also one of the league’s top teams this year, continued their nearly as impressive run with a 3-1 series victory over their Northern New York rivals in the Utica Comets. In that series, Reid Boucher led the team in scoring with three goals and three assists in four games while Damon Severson followed up with five assists in the same time frame. Most impressive so far though might be left winger Blake Pietila; he only dressed for Game 4, but despite only picking up 17 points in 58 regular season games, he exploded for two goals and two assists on that series-clinching night.
The New Jersey organization is probably very excited to see the kids step up, particularly after employing an older-than-average team throughout the year. Seven of Albany’s eight top scorers were 25 or older at the start of the season.
|Toronto Marlies||Albany Devils|
|Wins||54 (1st)||46 (3rd)|
|Expected Wins||51 (1st)||46 (2nd)|
|Est. Fenwick Close||52.82 (6th)||55.77 (1st)|
|Goals Per Game||3.82 (1st)||2.76 (14th)|
|Goals Against Average||2.50 (4th)||2.17 (2nd)|
|Goal Differential||+103 (1st)||+45 (3rd)|
|Goals For Percentage||60.42 (1st)||56.0 (3rd)|
|Shots Per Game||32.49 (4th)||29.75 (16th)|
|Shots Against Average||29.71 (11th)||24.38 (1st)|
|Shot Differential||+211 (7th)||+408 (2nd)|
|Shots For Percentage||52.23 (7th)||54.96 (2nd)|
|Shooting Percentage||11.17% (2nd)||9.09 (14th)|
|Save Percentage||0.918 (3rd)||0.914 (8th)|
|PDO||102.96 (1st)||100.48 (12th)|
|Penalty Kill||84.0% (12th)||87.2 (3rd)|
|Special Teams Efficiency||101.4% (12th)||105.5% (3rd)|
|Penalty Differential||+40 (2nd)||+12 (11th)|
Unlike the Sound Tigers, the Devils have a lot more going for them on paper. Toronto may have gone on one of the best runs in league history, but they’ll be facing a team in this series that, if nothing else, knows how to keep the puck away from the net and puts just enough of them in the direction of the opposing goalie to carry on during most nights. Like in a few games during their season series, the Marlies offence is going to have their work cut out for them just a little bit more than usual for the next week or two.
Between The Pipes
Both teams are in a bit of a weird situation in net. Albany has Scott Wedgewood, who is very much being looked to as, at the very least, a “backup of the future” for Cory Schneider. He’s been great in these playoffs, posting a 0.922 in the series against Utica, but Toronto has scored four goals on 36 shots (0.889) in two games against him this year. Not that Yann Danis, who played the other six games, was much better, though; his SV% against Toronto was 0.889. Even when Toronto has been limited to as few as 17 shots, they’ve found a way to score two.
On the other side of the coin, it wouldn’t be insane to suggest that Garret Sparks could get the lion’s share of the series, or at the very least, the Game 1 start. After all, he posted a Shutout in Game 2 of the First Round and stopped all 12 pucks he faced in relief of Bibeau in Game 3. Bibeau, on the other hand, had a less than stellar series finale, but has been largely great for the past few months and has stopped 98 of 102 shots (0.961) that the Devils have fired at him in the previous four games, including a pair of shutouts. It’s going to be a tough call for Sheldon Keefe, to say the least.
|Wednesday May 4th||7:30 PM||Toronto||TBD||TBD|
|Friday May 6th||7:30 PM||Toronto||TBD||TBD|
|Sunday May 8th||5:00 PM||Albany||TBD||TBD|
|Tuesday May 10th||7:00 PM||Albany||TBD||TBD|
|Thursday May 12th||7:00 PM||Albany||TBD||TBD|
|Saturday May 14th||3:00 PM||Toronto||TBD||TBD|
|Monday May 16th||7:30 PM||Toronto||TBD||TBD|
This series might be the biggest threat that the Marlies will have all postseason. With that said, it’s hard to bet against a team that continued to push through its season series even when devoid of players, especially when they’ve just swept a round after posting the third-best record in league history.
This will be a hard-fought series, but much like the regular season, I see Toronto taking this in no more than six games. It’s going to be tough to bet against the club until they give a good reason to.