The Toronto Marlies began their best of five series with the Albany Devils tonight, in front of a somewhat existent crowd at Times Union Center. The first round’s shortened format and option for an interesting game location format makes for a proposition of risk if you’re the favourite; a single win or loss is that much more valuable, and the 2-3 schedule gives the underdog a chance to build serious ground.
That’s what happened in this game, as the Marlies gave up goals in all three periods and dropped Game 1 by a score of 3-0.
John Quenneville makes it a 2-0 game for Albany on a Devils powerplay pic.twitter.com/aFHGvMO0NS
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 21, 2017
Ben Thomson opened the scoring with four minutes remaining in the first period, capping off a shift where the Devils dominated their offensive zone, riding the momentum of a powerplay that they hadn’t quite succeeded on moments prior. The did, however, manage to convert a couple of powerplays later, after Toronto had squandered three opportunities to tie the game; who of which combining to be a 5-on-3. In this case, John Quenneville easily drove past Brendan Leipsic and made no mistake in beating Garret Sparks to add insurance for his team.
To Sparks’ credit, he was far from the reason that the Marlies failed to win this one, stopping 20 of 22 shots, including many odd-man rushes and breaks. But the fact that Toronto had been giving so many of those opportunities up, to begin with, was cause for concern, and something they’ll be looking to tighten up on ahead of Game 2. Besides that, it never seemed like they were able to establish consistent zone presence at even strength, having bright spikes at times but mostly on their five unsuccessful powerplay opportunities. A couple of standout players from tonight include Mike Sislo, who fired at any opportunity on the powerplay, and Brendan Leipsic, who mostly controlled the neutral zone and led the team with four shots. Neither, however, were able to contribute to the main scoresheet.
It’s hard to say whether this is just simply an off night, or if Toronto needs to come into Game 2 armed with a whole new strategy. But in some way, shape, or form, they’ll have to look like a different team. That came will come on Saturday night at 5:00 PM, and you can catch it on LeafsTV once again. Hopefully, with less flickering and glitching than Game 1’s scoreboard feed brought.