Many expected the Toronto Marlies to steamroll every opponent in their path on their way through the Calder Cup Playoffs. That was an unrealistic expectation, particularly once Toronto drew the Albany Devils as their second round opponent. But these last two games have shown why people believed in the team to that extent. Hot off the heels of a 7-2 blowout, the team went from series trailers to leaders with another runaway 5-1 victory.
While the first period was quiet, the Marlies once again made the most of Albany’s penalty struggles in the second. Five seconds after Joseph Blandisi was penalized for sending the puck over the glass, Marc Arcobello won the offensive zone faceoff straight to Connor Carrick, who shifted over to the side and wristed home his fifth goal of the playoffs. Five minutes later, with Damon Severson in the box, Connor Brown added to the madness with his 5th of the postseason.
You could see, however, that the Devils continued to be unhappy with the world around them beginning to fall apart. Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, known by many as Albany’s enforcer, landed a dangerous hit on Justin Holl along the boards and, upset with receiving a penalty, slashed William Nylander on the other side of the ice.
Toronto didn’t respond to this play directly, but a few minutes later, they struck again. This time, Ben Smith’s work along the boards gave Rich Clune a great opportunity to set up Nikita Soshnikov for the cross-crease one timer, putting the Marlies comfortably ahead. Paul Thompson did manage to break Antoin Bibeau’s shutout before the period ended, but it was very clear at this point that the Marlies were in control.
In the final frame, Toronto had little left to accomplish but plenty of opportunity to extend their lead. They did just that; a weird bounce off of an official led to Josh Leivo having the puck on his stick behind the net, which he used to feed Brendan Leipsic for an easy goal. Leivo himself then added an empty netter.
Graham Black goes for the elbow to the head of Brendan Leispic, misses, so Paul Thompson shoves Leipsic anyway. pic.twitter.com/OHMDRztepB
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) May 13, 2016
What I found interesting about this game is, despite Dan Kelly’s suspension, the Devils didn’t let up with their more curious hits. I genuinely don’t believe that these hits are part of Rick Kowalsky’s playbook; more than anything, I wonder if these are simply the reactions of frustrated players who aren’t used to being regularly beat on the scoresheet. It’s hard to say for sure, though, seeing as this series isn’t Albany’s only stretch of, shall we say, “aggressive” play.
In any event, the Marlies have an opportunity to put an end to it if they can close out the series. Their first chance will come on home ice as the two teams return to Toronto this weekend. Game 6 will be played at Ricoh Coliseum on Saturday afternoon; if the blue and white can keep scoring as frequently as they have over the past few days, there might not be a need for Game 7.