It must be said that the Marlies had chances to score, and keep their head above water, in this game. It must be said that goaltender Ben Scrivens did all that he could in not allowing Norfolk to hit double-digits on the scoreboard with some of his spectacular saves. But it mist also be said that the Admirals literally sucked any and all life out of the Marlies when it was clear that the Marlies weren't quite clicking on all cylinders.
The Admirals, playing their aggressive style, were penalized sixteen times in this game, ten of which resulted in shorthanded situations. That number alone would give most coaches an aneurysm, but the Admirals showed why they were the best team in the AHL this season as they killed all ten man-advantages that Toronto received, and actually generated a few shorthanded chances while they were at it. If we put this in perspective, Toronto played an entire period with an extra player, and the score remained 0-0 after the twenty minutes had elapsed.
Teams have won before without scoring on nearly a dozen powerplay chances, though. The Marlies just needed to find a way to break through Norfolk's wall of defence while keeping their own zone protected from the waves of attack that the Admirals like to send in. Norfolk outshot Toronto in each period to finish the game with a 42-24 margin in shots. Again, Scrivens was excellent in the Toronto net, but his defence needs to slow down the Admirals' guns or at least start taking bullets for their goaltender.
In Toronto's defence, they had a goal called back because of Philippe Dupuis' interference with goaltender Dustin Tokarski, but you can't really credit a goal to the Marlies if Tokarski wasn't able to make the save. The Marlies beat Tokarski again, only to have the puck ring off the goalpost and stay out. It's not like they can't beat Tokarski, but it's a matter of finding the twine legally when they do.
The 3-1 final score in Game One included a late empty-net goal by the Admirals, but it goes back to their amazing poise with one-goal leads. They are 5-1 in the playoffs in one-goal games so far, and won nine games during their 29-game winning streak by one goal. This is a team that ferociously defends the lead once it has it, and isn't afraid to bury more pucks if given the chance when their opposition starts to open up to try to even the score.
Norfolk's Cory Conacher, Tyler Johnson, and Mark Barbeiro led the way with 16 shots between them - eight less than all the Marlies - and they combined for two goals and three assists on the first two Norfolk goals. They have speed, they have skill, and they play tenaciously. Conacher and Johnson finished one-two in points this season for the Admirals, and both are rookies! The Admirals are getting contributions for their snipers, but the Marlies are struggling just to get shots. That doesn't bode well for the rest of this series.
Toronto needs to win on Saturday in order to make this into a series. Norfolk, for what it's worth, is 6-1 on the road on the playoffs, and has shutout the opposition in its building three times. Toronto's lineup has been ravaged with injuries, putting them further behind the eight-ball against its toughest opposition, but goals have to come from unlikely sources at any time in the playoffs. Whether it be fourth-liners, defensive defencemen, the popcorn vendor, or ANYONE in the stands, the Marlies need to find some goal-scoring sooner than later in this series.
If they don't, the Calder Cup could be awarded to the Norfolk Admirals on Toronto ice as early as June 9. The most dominant team in the AHL this year doesn't look like it's going to let up, so the Marlies will have to step up. Especially since no one likes seeing their opposition celebrating a championship on your home ice.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!